CURVE BALL

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Chapter Thirty-Nine

He must get rid of that letter. Throw it in the garbage. Bad enough to pretend to study the German treatment of Jews, but to risk one’s life for a woman he barely knew? Crazy. Pytor walked down the street, replaying the close call he had in the bakery. He came to a corner and stepped into the street. A car nearly crushed him. He jumped back on the curb. Death could come from anywhere. Enough. He patted his pocket. Yes what he was doing was absurd. It brought more danger than he needed. But he was a man of his word. To be in Berlin was in itself ridiculous. He’d deliver the damn letter the sooner the better. He took out his tourist map. He looked up from the guide and turned 90 degrees. The Brandenburg Gate was four blocks away and towered over the other buildings. The Adlon hotel was on the other side of the Gate across the Pariser Platz. He moved with the crowd. As he got closer to the hotel, he wondered if he had been followed. He turned his head slightly. No one seemed to pay him attention. He closed his eyes for a second. Gott in himmel, God in Heaven. What was he doing? What did he know of these kinds of things? He took a breath. Good music required subtleties and depth. They would want to see where he went and to whom he spoke. He might as well make it interesting. Instead of going directly to the hotel he decided to be a tourist. He strolled around the Platz and took in the magnificence of the Gate. Between each of its six columns hung huge red Nazi flags. On top was a quadriga statue of the goddess of victory bearing a symbol of peace. He stared at it. He then retraced his steps toward the hotel. At that hour in the early evening, there were men in army uniforms strolling with their girlfriends, others sat on the spacious benches. He scanned the people as best he could, but didn’t notice anything unusual.

The doorman of the Adlon saluted. “ Heil Hitler. May I help with your valise?” He held the door open.

“Thank you, not at the moment.”

“Very well, velcome to the Hotel Adlon. Reception is through the hall to the right. Libations are down the corridor and to the left.” He clicked his heels and resumed his position at attention.

Pytor arched his eyebrows. “Libations,” he said to himself. That wouldn’t have happened at the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw. “Thank you again,” and entered the marble hall. There was a crowd of uniformed men. Some wore the khaki of the Wehrmacht and others wore black with an SS pin on their coat lapels. The women on their arms were in formal gowns. He went back to the doorman.

“On second thought, would you be kind enough to check my bag?”

“Of course.” The doorman again saluted and with German efficiency produced a claim check for the valise. “Enjoy the evening.”

“I will.” Pytor shoes clicked on the marble floor leading into the hall. This must be a convention or a dinner. He was pushed along by the gathering to the Grand Ballroom.

“Champaigne, Sir?” A waiter handed him a glass.

“Danke,” and took a sip. Of course it was delicious.

The doors to the ballroom opened and seven violinists launched into Beethoven’s Emperor’s March followed by a parade of waiters. They carried silver trays loaded with hors d’orves.

“Don’t you love these events?” A tall woman with shoulder length dark hair asked. She was dressed in a silver gown. “One of the Fuhrer’s favorite composers.”

“Really. Are there others?”

“Wagner and Bruckner.”

“Of course. I was just testing,” Pytor said, and snagged pate’ on a cracker off a tray.

“Tonight, will be spectacular. Rumor has it the Fuhrer will make a surprise appearance.”

“Really, but if it is known then it won’t be a surprise.”

The woman’s smile never left her face. “Well, eh, not everyone knows.”

Pytor sipped his champaigne. “I will not tell a further soul.”

“You are a comedian. It will be our secret.” She put her finger to her lips.

“May I get you something to drink?” He asked.

“Of course. I’ll wait here.”

He searched for the attendee with the champaigne. He found him encircled by several ladies.

“Excuse me,” Pytor said, “May I?”

The women parted to allow him to reach for a glass. The one dressed in green commented on his clothes. “Does he think he is at a market? She asked. “Ach, a peasant.” The other women laughed.

He should have been embarrassed. His clothes were shabby compared to the tailor-made uniforms and slinky gowns.

“Excuse my appearance, frauline,” he said, “but I travel in circles where it is best to blend with the people and not stand-out. We all do our duty for the Reich. Heil Hitler.”

He couldn’t believe he had come-up with the line. The women stood open-mouth and the face of the one dressed in green turned red.

“Mein Herr, I am sorry to have caused you discomfort. It was wrong of me and I apologize. We all believe in helping Germany. Heil Hitler.”

“Entschuldigen akzeptiert apologies accepted. Enjoy the evening.”

“One moment, please, can I introduce you to my friend Major Faber. He’s the one in the black jacket talking to General Kurtz behind us.”

Pytor felt as if he had been kicked in the stomach. That couldn’t be the same Faber from the train. He tried not to stare but the Major had his back to him. He returned to the woman in green. “I’m sure it would be an honor, but they are in conversation, and I wouldn’t want to disturb. Besides, my guest is waiting for her champaigne.” Pytor pointed in her direction.”

“Very well,” the woman in green held out her hand, “nice to have met you Herr…?”

“The same for me.” He shook her hand clicked his heels and with all the fortitude he had left made his way to find the woman in silver.

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