CURVE BALL

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Chapter Forty-Fiv e

“I left my valise with the doorman,” Pytor said as he and the woman strolled toward the doorway.

A uniformed guard with an SS insignia had replaced the stout man who had been there.

“You’ll come back for it. I told you the surprise of the evening. Das Fuhrer will be arriving. We must leave before they lock the doors.”

“But…”

In an instant a warning look came over her face that disappeared quickly as they neared the guard. She leaned her head on his shoulder as a lover would.

The guard snapped to attention. “Papiere,” he demanded.

The woman slipped her hand in her pocket and presented what looked like diplomatic papers. The guard glanced from the documents to her.

“And him?” he asked.

She smiled and moved close to the guard. She spoke in rapid German.

The official looked from her to him and back to her. He nodded then smiled.

“Guten Abend,” he said and opened the door. He saluted, “Heil Hitler,” and clicked his heels.

They returned the salute and caught the night’s air.

“What was that about?” Pytor asked. “What did you say to him? Who are you?”

“Shh, keep walking. He is watching.”

He wanted to turn his head, but did as instructed. They walked toward the Brandenburg Gate.

“My name for your purposes is Ana Bilik. I work in the Czech embassy. Katalyna Paternoskov, the woman you met on the train is a currier for us. Besides Katalyna there was someone else on the train who followed you.”

Pytor stopped and looked in all directions.

“We are good at what we do,” she said, “you will never see who it is, if you do we’ve failed.”

He had trouble breathing. “I…I…” he stammered.

“It’s okay, come. Hitler’s motorcade will soon be here.”

He followed her lead. They walked to the Tiergarten District. The street was crowded. People were everywhere even at 11 on a Tuesday night. They walked passed nightclubs called the Atrium, Das Beste, Scala and outdoor cafes. The sounds of hot jazz spilled out onto the street along with Germans who smelled of beer and schnapps.

Ana leaned towards him. “All this will be gone soon. Hitler wants to outlaw jazz the Charleston, anything to do with America, Jews and Negroes.”

Pytor stopped to take in the scene.

“Keep going,” she said, “do not make eye contact with anyone.”

They came to a corner and crossed the street. A café was ahead. The patrons must have moved some of the tables making it difficult to walk past. Pytor’s side touched someone’s arm.

His beer spilled on the table. “Schwein,” the man shouted.

Pytor stopped. The middle-age man was red faced and large. He started to get up.

Ana tugged on Pytor’s sleeve.

“Warum sind sie zu fuß mit einer hure sie Jude bastard?” ( Why are you with a whore you Jew bastard?).

There were two women and another man at the table. The woman to the large man’s left mopped up the beer.

“It’s alright Heinrich. No harm,” she said.

Too late, the man stumbled toward Pytor and threw a wild punch.

Pytor stepped back and the man lost his balance.

“Heinrich,” the woman screamed. He fell face forward on the sidewalk.

Ana grabbed Pytor’s arm and pulled him away. “We must leave—now.”

Pytor saw blood gushing from his face. There wasn’t time to argue. The women rushed to the fallen man. The other man went toward his fallen friend and then yelled, “Halt, come back.”

Pytor and Ana walked at a near run and caught up with the night’s crowd. They were two to three blocks away before they heard sirens and saw police cars and ambulances fly down the street.

“We need to get to the other side of the Spree River. There’s a safe house on HotzmarkstaBe,” she said.

“How far is that?”

“About a kilometer.”

He looked over his shoulder and saw a car about a block and a half away coming slowly towards them. Its spotlight aimed at the partiers on the sidewalk. He looked ahead. There was no one on the next block. The restaurants and bars ended at the corner.

“We must get off the street,” he said, “the police will see us.”

“They look seedy,” she said.

He checked behind him. The car was closing in.

“Here.”

He excused themselves to a couple and pushed Ana toward the club. He pulled open the door and glanced down the street. The car was a half a block away. As he stepped in he caught the neon sign on the brick wall. “Kabarett Musikspaß und mehr. (Music Fun and more.)”

“Gott und himmel” he said to himself, “what is this place?”

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