CURVE BALL

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Katalyna stared into Pytor’s eyes and then looked away. “Don’t say anything, Professor, but we both know. Your behavior betrays you. The others on this train care less about the Germans, but you do from the moment you sat down.”

He opened his mouth, but there were no words. He heard the whoosh of the train passing through the countryside.

“I know these things,” she said.

He wanted to ask how, and act offended, but he wasn’t skilled in duplicity, particularly when he lived a lie. “Think whatever you like Pania Paternoskov,” he said, his voice strained.

“I won’t inform on you, Professor. It is our secret.”

He rubbed his chin with his hand.

“You don’t need to say thank you either,” she said, “You’re probably married and have children. I do it for them.”

“How do you know such things about me? Are you with the policja, (police)? Spy?”

“None of them, but I’m right, yes Professor?”

He had never encountered such a woman. Forceful, smart, independent, and he had to admit pretty. Her dark eyes complimented her angular face. It was not Slavic even though she had mentioned she worked for some cultural organization from Czechoslovakia. It was more French or perhaps Germanic. How can he be thinking such things when sitting next to him was a dybuk, an evil spirit? He reached for a last shred of argument.

“Pania Paternoskov.”

She gave him a frosty stare.

“I mean Katalyna. I am not what you think. My last name is spelled with an ‘i’ not a ‘y’, Rakowski.

“Then you have misspelled your own name. Listen to me, when the Germans board this train, I am sure Herr Farber will point to us.”

“Us?”

“To him we are a couple.”

“My God.”

“There are worse things, my Professor.”

Her face was animated and became more beautiful as she revealed her plan.

“We are traveling to Berlin for a conference on music and culture. You are the guest speaker who will discuss great composers including Chopin, Liszt…”

“Mahler?”

“Mahler is Jewish. He is not part of your speech.”

“I’ll discuss Beethoven, instead.”

She smiled. “There is hope for you yet.”

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