CURVE BALL

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Chapter Twelve

Pytor said nothing to his two escorts, Pawal and Jan. He stood between them and watched a stream of people hurry to catch their trains. Occasionally Pytor’s gaze met his guards, but then he looked away. A small crowd formed around them. He could hear snippets of conversations, women chuckling over something clever. Several men smoked. Pytor reached into his coat pocket. His two escorts slid their hands toward the inside of their coats. After Pytor extracted a pack of cigarettes his guards relaxed and grinned.

Amerykański papierosy, American cigarettes—Camels.”

“Da, yes. An uncle of mine sent them. You want?” Pytor shook out the pack and offered. The two took several and stuffed them in their pockets.

“You can get more?” Pawal asked.

“Pytor shrugged. “Don’t know, but when I get back I’ll ask.”

Pawal slapped him on the back. “You a good Joe.”

Pytor rolled his eyes and thought the man had watched too many Amerykanski films.”

Jan only smiled.

Pytor looked at his watch. “The train should arrive in about five minutes. I want to buy some newspapers.” He pointed to a stand fifty yards away. “It’s a long trip. Don’t worry I’ll come back.”

The two guards exchanged words. “Okay,” Pawal said, “we’ll wait here.”

He came back with several German and Polish newspapers among them was Der Sturmer. Jan pointed to the German paper. “I read that every day. Streicher understands the Jews well. He knows what to do with them.”

Pytor nodded. “I’ve heard Herr Streicher the publisher of the paper has a large following. I’ll need to catch up.”

The train pulled into the station. Pytor’s two escorts led him to the third car. The first two were for first and second-class.

“You are travelling in style---third class,” Pawal laughed and pushed Pytor forward. “Here take. Vodka. It’s a long journey.” He tossed him an old flask.

Dziękuję, thank you.” He climbed the three steps into the car and pushed his way down the aisle. The window seats were all taken. Where did all these people come from? Finally, he saw an aisle seat next to a woman. Another was unoccupied next to a large man with a bow tie.

Przepraszam jest to miejsce jest zajęte, Excuse me. Is this taken?” Pytor asked.

The woman turned from the window. She gave him a quick glance, picked up a box from the seat and placed it on her lap. Then she looked away.

Pytor thanked her. There were no porters in third class to help with the valise Pawal returned to him. He glanced at the shelf above the seats. It was crammed with suitcases.

“Sit,” she said, “and put your valise underneath, like this. It will be easier for you at the border.”

He must have looked puzzled.

“The Germans search everyone and everything. They are very thorough, but impatient. The more you are in order, the less trouble you will have.”

“Oh.” He reached into his pocket for his Camels.

“But.” She turned again. He had a full view of her face. Black hair peeked out from under her wide brimmed hat. Her skin color was milky white and round dark eyes set off her face. Bright red lipstick outlined her petite mouth.

“But what?” he asked.

Her eyes widened. A small smile played around her lips. She leaned toward him and whispered, “Too much in order, and the bastards will cart you off and hold you for questioning. Your paper, Der Sturmer won’t save you. Get rid of it.”

Was this a trap? Who was this woman? He thought of the man with the bow tie whose seat he didn’t take. Maybe he should have.

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