CURVE BALL

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Chapter Twenty-Eight

The train was about to pull out of the station at Szczecin. Katalyn’s seat was empty including a half dozen others. He had watched the soldiers shove her out the door. Unlike the older man who fell she kept her balance as well as composure. Pytor looked out the window and followed their movement. He heard orders barked and the doors clanged shut. He stared at the outside scene. “What will become of her?” Where will those animals take her? He was so lost in thought that he jumped when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Herr Faber leaned over the empty seat. His face inches from him.

“Forgive me, Herr Docktor for startling you. Words of advice if your desire is for a Jew whore have more discretion. I happen to like you so you do not have to worry, but next time you may not be so lucky. Enjoy Berlin it’s a beautiful city. Heil Hitler.” He gave Pytor’s shoulder a pat and marched off the train.

Pytor glared at Faber’s receding back. If his eyes were weapons that little man would have been annihilated. A minute or two passed and he lurched in his seat as the train began to accelerate. The soldiers standing in groups at the station soon became specks. “Good-bye Katalyna,” he said softly, “I pray for you.” He took out a handkerchief and wiped his eyes.

A conductor entered the car. He wasn’t the same one who announced their arrival into Germany. Even the uniform was different. He took out a heavy gold watch from his waistcoat. In a clipped German accent he informed the passengers in German, French, and English they would arrive in Berlin in about two hours. Polish and other Slavic languages didn’t rate. The conductor left. The passenger’s silence of a few minutes ago was replaced by escalating whispers and then full-blown conversations. The people in front of Pytor spoke in a tone loud enough for him to hear. They thanked their God and then suggested Katalyna was not just a Jew but also a spy. He caught a few glances in his direction. When he looked they averted their eyes.

He sat back in his seat. He should also be thanking his God, his Jewish God, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. He was spared this time, but for how much longer. The future had become the present, and it was getting darker by the minute. Europe was finished. Poland was only a step or two behind Germany in its policies toward the Jews. He and his family had to get out and leave this madness. There was no safe place, maybe France or England, but neither had a history of welcoming Jewish refugees. He could feel his heart pound. He stomped on the floor of the car. He visualized shaking his fist at God and in exasperation said to himself, “Gott in himl, God in heaven, what have You done?” His foot struck something underneath his seat. Without being obvious, he moved the object to where he could reach down and grab it in one quick motion. It was an envelope. He put his hat on his lap and placed the packet inside. The writing was in French. He silently thanked Chopin for his life in France. “Veuillez livrer immédiatement. Please deliver immediately.” A note that must have been written in Katalyna’s handwriting was on the side of the envelope. “Pytor, “Je suis placer vous en grand danger, mais vous devez fournir cette lettre. La liberté en dépend. Tchécoslovaque en dépend. Que Dieu soit avec vous---que d’un non croyant. I am placing you in great danger but freedom depends on it, Czechoslovakia depends on it. May God be with you—this from a nonbeliever.”

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