CURVE BALL

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Chapter Sixty-Eight

“Guard. Guard,” Pytor yelled clutching the cell bars. His shouts were ignored. It didn’t surprise him. He was becoming numb to the unending brutality of the Nazis. In the months awaiting charges the nightly beatings and screams were his bedtime music. Fear was their currency. Humanity had gone to hell. He went to the back of the cell and sat next to Grossman. “Which one of us is better off?” He studied the dead man’s face. Who was he? He never asked Grossman why he was there. What crime did he commit? Pytor stopped himself… other than being a Jew. He sighed.

“Grossman, maybe you have something in your pocket. A cigarette?” He was about to reach in, but stopped. What if the bastards saw him go through them? He walked to the front of his cell and looked down the corridor. It was clear. The Nazis were most likely enjoying their hassenfefer for lunch. When was the last time he ate? He didn’t remember. The food wasn’t worth remembering…. stale bread and a bowl of something that resembled soup. He sidled back to Grossman. He dug his hands into Grossman’s front pants pockets—not even a crumb. He stared at the body. He noticed Grossman’s hands. They weren’t on his lap, but dangled—one in front of him and the other near the wall. “Grossman your face, you’re hiding something.” He reached behind and felt a packet in between the wall and the bench. He wrestled it from its hiding place and went to another darken corner and opened his palm. He held a bundle of Reichsmarks in 50’s and 100’s. He was about to count it when he heard a door open.

Shit. He thrust his hand into his pocket, but realized that was stupid. He undid his pants and put the bundle in his underwear. He zipped up quickly and ran to the front. “Help, help, a man is dead.”

A guard he hadn’t seen before approached the cell.

“What did you say?”

“I said, “there’s a dead man in the corner.”

“A Jew… dead in the corner?” he asked.

The news didn’t seem to have an effect. The guard shined his flashlight. “Hmm, he grunted. “What is his number?

Pytor’s mouth went dry. “His number?”

The guard directed his question to the corpse. “Your number? Wie wirst du genannt? What are you called?”

There was no response.

“Excuse me,” Pytor said and pointed to Grossman, “he is dead and cannot answer.”

The guard grabbed Pytor through the bars and rammed his forehead on the steel. “We’ll clean up the mess after we are done with you.”

Pytor was led out of the cell and marched into the courtroom. The guard pushed him into a cage. The front of it had a door with steel mesh. Inside was a small chair.

“Sit” the guard ordered then slammed the door.

A few minutes later, Herr Brach came to the cage carrying an armload of papers.

“Herr Brach,” Pytor, said and rushed to the door.

His lawyer held up his hand. “Don’t talk, listen. You’ve been charged with race defilement (Rassenschande). The Government accuses you of having sexual relations with Freida Weber at the Kabarett Musikspaß.”

“What?”

“Quiet. The punishment is imprisonment or death.

The prosecutor, Herr Schmidt has advised me that their witness identified you and there are witnesses to the identification.”

“But, she…”

Brach put on his reading glasses and read from a paper. “She told Herr Schmidt, there was no doubt in her mind, it was you. She remembers because the night it happened the Kabarett burned down. She managed somehow to escape from your grasp after you had forced her to submit.” He pointed to her signature at the bottom of the page.”

He took off his glasses and turned to Pytor. “Do you have something to say?”

He took a breath. “For God’s sake, Herr Brach, this is all made up. None of it is true. Believe me.”

His lawyer’s eyes twinkled and his lips formed a half smile. “I thought Jews were smart. Apparently you must be the few who are dumb. What is your evidence? Your word? The word of a Hebrew?” He shook his head. “In the Reich’s eyes you are guilty. They don’t have to prove it. You have to show your innocence. If you force this case to trial you will be signing your death warrant. Your life is in your hands.”

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