NINE - Klara
I grab the clothes that he thrusts at me, automatically. He obviously expects me to go and change. But although I have agreed to go with him and stay as far away from my family as I can, I still need to know where he is taking me.
“Where are we going?” I ask.
He sits down on the bed with a sigh. I open my mouth to explain why I need to know, but he puts his hand up, indicating for me to stop talking.
“You agreed, no hysterics,” he says.
“I just need to know where we are going from here.”
“That is being hysterical.”
“You are being ridiculous. I have a right to know where I am going.”
“At the moment, fraulein, you have no rights. You just do as you are told. Now go and change.”
I narrow my eyes at him and try to figure out how to get him to talk. It does not take long for me to realise that it is a lost cause. So I turn around and go into the bathroom. The dress that he has procured for me is the uniform for the hotel employees. It is not a bad fit, considering that the concierge hardly got a look at me. It is a plain black dress that comes up to my knees, with a white lace collar and a white sash at the waist. I am glad to be out of the party dress finally. I see my face in the mirror and am horrified to see the blue and purple bruises on both my cheeks. They are going to take weeks to clear out. My left eye is swollen and nearly shut. My lips are swollen also, from the cut. I splash some water on my face and gently dab it dry. There is nothing to be done to fix my face. It is going to look like I have been in a brawl for a few days. I brush my hair and braid it to keep it under control.
When I step out, I see that Gunter has a suitcase ready to go by the door of the suite and he is sitting by the desk, reading some document. He looks up as I enter the room, and nods as if approving the outfit. I bristle at this high-handed behaviour. But at the moment, there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I need to get my story straight for the interrogation that is surely coming.
What I cannot imagine is, what is he planning to do with me? Is he going to hand me over to the Gestapo? Seeing that he sort of rescued me from Fuchs, that option would sort of defeat the purpose. But then what? He mentioned something much bigger. Was that a ruse to confuse Fuchs?
Is he actually going to help me escape?
Why would he do that?
I do not know why he did what he did back at the castle. But I need to find out soon. Until I find his reasons for helping me (I am going to assume that he is helping me), I cannot decide how much to tell him of our plan.
He clears his throat, and I realise that he has said something to me, which I completely did not hear because I was busy musing about how much and what to lie about!
“Are you ready to go?” he asks. I am sure this is the second or third time he has had to ask this because he sounds irritated. I nod. He gets up, picks his suitcase, opens the door and stands to the side, indicating for me to precede him out. I do. He closes the door behind us and with a hand on the small of my back leads me towards the Pasternak. We ride it down to the lobby and within a few minutes, we are outside waiting for his car. It is not here yet. We wait silently for a couple of minutes and the car still has not arrived. He looks at his watch, mutters a curse under his breath and we wait some more. It has not been long, but he is restless and it is making me irritated. Finally, I cannot stand his fidgeting anymore and say, “It has not even been five minutes since we came out. I am sure your driver will be here soon.”
He looks at me as if I have just said something in a foreign tongue and then says, “He was to be here five minutes ago. I had told him precisely at what time I expected to be here.”
I shrug. What can I say? Maybe he had an urgent nature’s call. But I am not going to point it out this man. Suddenly, he grabs my hand and starts walking. I am still wearing the ridiculous heels from the party, so I almost lose my balance when I am jerked after him. I scramble to keep upright and luckily manage it. we walk through the parking empty and dark parking lot and get to his car. His driver is kneeling beside it.
“What is the matter, Joachim?” Gunter demands. The driver, Joachim, clambers to his feet and snaps out a salute.
“Someone slashed out all the tyres, Generalmajor,” he hurries to explain.
“What?” roars Gunter.
He seems furious. I can almost see fumes coming out of his ears. Almost.
“Have you sent someone to get replacement tyres?” he asks the driver.
“Yes, sir. I replaced the one spare that we had and I have sent one of the hotel employees to the depot to get additional tyres.”
That seems to pacify the Generalmajor a bit. He bites out, “Come and get us when the car is ready, We will be in my suite.” Then he abruptly turns around and we are marching back to the hotel. This man seriously needs to learn to walk a bit slowly, but I am not going to be the one teaching him. We go straight back to his suite.
He closes the door behind us, motions for me sit in one of the plump, brocade chairs in the sitting room of the suite and says, “Alright then, Klara. We seem to have some time right now. Tell me what you were up to at the castle. Do not leave anything out. I need to know everything and everyone who was involved.”
Here it is, the moment of reckoning. I take a deep breath and look up at him. I seem to have run out of time and I still have not decided what or how much to tell him. I could try bluffing the same way I tried with Fuchs, but I am sure that it will not go down well. But I decide to run with it. The least it will do is buy me some time to appraise Gunter and his motivation behind his actions tonight. So, I repeat the same story that I told Fuchs.
Gunter looks at me and says, “So, your father and your sister knew nothing of this?”
This one is easy. Papa truly had nothing to do with this, so I am able to keep my face straight and lie through my teeth, “Yes.” At least, it is the truth, partially. I can see from his face that he does not believe me. Well, too bad for him. If he won’t tell me what he is planning to do with me, I won’t tell him the truth either. It is only fair.
He states the obvious, “I do not believe you.”
“Well, you have not told me what you plan to do with me. How can you expect me to tell you everything?” I reply, frustrated. “You are a German soldier. If you are going to give me away to the Gestapo, don’t expect me to make your life easier.”
He again subjects me to his intense glare, one which seems to burrow right inside me trying to get to the truth. I am having none of it. I simply lower my gaze and find some fascinating views on the back of hands.
“I think by now it is quite obvious that I am not going to give you away to the Gestapo. As for what, precisely, I am going to do with you, I will tell you that when I have the full story from your side. Be assured that I am not going to hand you over to the Gestapo or to Fuchs. I want to help you.” “God help me!” he adds under his breath, but I hear it.
I want to believe him, but I cannot. I have not seen one German in the last two and a half years who wants to help. So, I say, “I am sorry that you do not believe me, Herr von Hallerstein. But it is the truth. No one other than myself knew of this.”
He throws his hands up, “Ok. As you wish. But if it is one of your friends who has sabotaged my car, God help them!” he threatens.
I desperately hope I have done the right thing by not trusting this German. It is the logical thing to do after all. But now that he mentions it, I am also wondering who could have sabotaged his car? I would not have put it past Ester. But she is home, unable to walk, much less bicycle. Otto had strictly ordered everyone to stay away from the castle tonight. So, it could not be one of us...could it?