TEN - Günter
I had hoped to get the real story from Klara. I have a story from her now, but I know it is not the real one, or at least, it is not the complete story. This situation is incredibly frustrating. I simply cannot seem to get the entire picture, which means that there is no way for me to plan the next steps.
I pace the room like a caged animal, while Klara is sitting on the couch. Just as I am about to threaten her again in an attempt to get the truth behind tonight’s drama, there is a knock on the door. Logically, it has to be Joachim. But if it is indeed him, then the tyres must have arrived in very little time, and he has completed the works in record time too. This does not sit well with me. The timing is not right.
So, I am particularly alert when I open the door. As soon as the door latch disengages, the door is pushed open with a force. Had I not been expecting something like this, the door would have caught me full on the face, and given whoever is on the other side of the door the upper hand. As it is, I am standing further away from the door and am able to bar it before it smashes into me. The person on the other side, however, is expecting more resistance to the door as it smashes into me. He is, therefore, taken by surprise and nearly falls into the room.
The next instant, I have him pinned to the ground.
“Tomas!” Klara gasps.
So, she knows him! Now I have the perfect opportunity to force the truth from her.
“Close the door,” I order her. She obeys.
I pull out my gun from the holster and say, “Tomas. I am going to let you up. I have a gun trained at your skull. Get up and stand with your back to the door.”
I pat him down quickly before letting him up. He has a knife stuck up his sock. I confiscate it. I wonder why he is here. What did he hope to achieve by this stupid, obviously not well thought out, action? The man gets up gingerly and looks around, an interesting mix of defeat, defiance, fear and apprehension painted on his face.
He looks at Klara and asks, “What happened? Why are you here? With him?"
Before Klara can respond, and say, “Tomas. I am going to be the one asking questions here. Think very carefully before you answer.”
The fear and apprehension on his face are gone, leaving only defiance tinged with defeat. He knows there is only one way this conversation ends without spilling blood. I am a soldier; I kill men who will undoubtedly kill me if I do not kill them first. But, violence against unarmed men? I abhor that. He does not know that, though. He only sees me as a German, as a conqueror. I will use this to my advantage.
First things first. I need to confirm my suspicion that he is the one who sabotaged my jeep.
“Why did you slash the tyres on my jeep?”
He looks at Klara, then back at me. He seems to weigh his response and finding that not much is to be gained by lying in this instance, nods his head. Smart man. He is choosing his battles. I am curious to know how far I will have to go before he spills the truth.
For half a moment I wonder why I do not just take the girl with me and be done with it. No matter what comes out of this, the fact remains that Fuchs will not let up his search for her. And when she is caught, she will suffer. That outcome is unacceptable to me. I want to protect her. But she is a powder keg and I do not know how long the fuse is! That is why I must know the truth.
“How many were involved in this plan to kill Fuchs? Where are they?”
The man spits out a laugh. There is no mirth in it. He does not answer. But his answer is clear. He is challenging me to coerce a response from him. There are so many ways I can twist his arm. I look at him, as I consider my options. He seems young, at the most twenty. I am not going to particularly enjoy what I will be doing next. But it has to be done.
Tomas is standing with his back to the door, just as I have ordered him. After he is situated where I want him, I moved away to give myself some room. Klara is hovering somewhere between the two of us. She clearly wishes to be closer to Tomas. But she is too afraid of me to openly declare where her loyalties lie.
I extend my arm, grab her wrist and pull her into me. I then place my gun at her temple. That should do the trick.
“How many are you willing to kill, Tomas?” I ask the young man. The defiance is wiped off his face, leaving defeat in its place.
He sighs and says, “Let her go. I will tell you everything.”
“Tomas! No! I died the moment Fuchs caught me. Please...save the others,” she pleads.
The woman is brave, although she comes in the unlikeliest of packages for a warrior. I must admire the matter of fact way she treats her life....and death.
“I can’t watch you die, Entchen. I am sorry.”
He then looks at me and says, “I will tell you everything. Let her go.”
I remove the pistol from her temple and slightly loosen my grip on her. I won’t let her go entirely. She is likely to do something foolish like try and attack me. Besides, I do not like Tomas addressing her with endearments. How that has anything to do with this scenario, I do not wish to dwell upon. So, I simply make a statement by locking her wrist in my hand.
I nod to the man, indicating for him to start talking.
“Only after you let her go,” he declares.
I realise now that he thinks he will talk only after I have let Klara leave from here. I almost smile at the man’s audacity.
“She is not going anywhere. Start talking before I lose my patience and punch a hole through her,” I say harshly. It is very convincing. He gulps, looks at Klara once again and starts talking.
“No Tomas. Listen to me. Don’t fall for his threat. Th.....” she starts.
"Du hältst jetzt den Mund!” I am so furious, I almost roar at her.
Fortunately, he knows nothing about me and so will not believe what Klara was trying to tell him. She has me figured out to the extent to be confident that I will not really resort to mindless violence.
Tomas looks at her, his eyes entreating her to understand the position he is in, and then proceeds to tell me everything. The names of the three men involved in the plot other than himself and the two girls. Understandably, they have limited the number of people who are actually involved, or even aware of the plot.
As he starts telling me the whole thing, I motion for him to sit in one of the armchairs in the room. I guide Klara to the couch and sit down beside her. By the time Tomas is done telling me the story, Klara is so furious, she is trying to fly off the couch. Most likely to hit Tomas. I hold her down.
Now that I have the complete picture, I am shocked at how simple, yet how perfectly plausible their plan was. Until one of them betrayed it to Fuchs. It is clear to me that they need to find out who that person and secure him. Otherwise, they are all going to die in the next few hours. What I need to determine at this point is whether not I tell Tomas about the betrayal. Could he be the one? Klara seems to think not. But then, I can bet that she will just as adamantly sure of everyone else in their group.
There is only one way to find out whether or not Tomas is the traitor. I am going to ask him outright and let his reaction speak for itself. However, the decision is taken out of my hands when Klara spits out, “Tomas, Fuchs knew! He knew I was there to poison him tonight.” The shock and surprise on Tomas’ face are very real and very deep.
I have my answer. It is a safe bet that Tomas is not the traitor. That leaves the other three men. I tell him, “You need to find out who the traitor is, and secure him. If you fail to do that, you will all die within the next few hours.”
That certainly throws him off. He expects a lot of different reactions from me, but this is not one of them. He narrows his eyes and says, “Why do you care?”
A fair question but I cannot really tell them that I hate Fuchs and would love to see him removed entirely from the scene. In most likelihood, they are going to get caught and I do not want them telling the Nazis that I condoned this action. Though I doubt they will believe me, anyway. So, he is not going to get an explanation from me. His back is against the wall right now, figuratively and literally. He has no viable options other than to do as I say.
“Now, before you go, I want you to help my driver Joachim fix the tyres that you destroyed. After that meet your friends, find the traitor and secure him,” I order and dismiss him.
He does not know how to react to this again. I am not letting him get a read on me which is frustrating him. But he also has a gun trained on him, so he cannot vent his frustration. His eyes go back and forth between Klara and me.
“What about Klara? Can she go with me?”
“No.” She is safer with me and they are safer with her being away from them as she is the principal person of concern for Fuchs. There is no sense in telling him this though. He is hardly going to believe me.
He is reluctant to leave Klara with me, and I am losing my patience with the man.
“Leave. Now,” I order him. I have yet to meet a man who does not obey when I use my Generalmajor’s voice. He turns and opens the door a sliver, but turns back to look at Klara before leaving.
I am surprised that she has managed to keep quiet for so long. My outburst earlier must have really scared her. I am not sorry. A healthy dose of fear may keep her from trying something foolish. And then she opens her mouth!
“It’s okay Tomas. Take care of mama and Ester until papa comes back,” she says softly.
Well, at least this time she is making sense. The door closes softly behind Tomas just as the telephone in the room rings. It can only be one person. I answer the phone, “von Hallerstein.” There is a pause as Hitler’s secretary puts him through.
"Heil, mein Führer!"