NINETEEN - Günter
I have yet to decide how to deal with the situation she has got herself into. But, I have decided one thing; I am not going to give her up. I get to the house assigned to me and immediately look for her. I am surprised that the action feels so natural to me.
I do not hear her, nor do I see her anywhere. Has she run away? She is stubborn enough to do that! It makes me furious that I can’t seem to control this woman at all. I am practically controlling the entire army of Germany, and this small woman thwarts me at every turn!
“Klara,” I roar. Nothing!
I am about to storm out when I hear a door closing softly. I glare in the direction of said door and see her step out of the bathroom. She looks at me, a small smile gracing her lips and says, “Gunter!” I am floored. Before I can collect my scattered wits, she continues, “There is still time before I need to hide, isn’t there?”
“He will not be coming. My work here is done.” I realise there is a lot more snap in my voice than I intended, but I am not used to people flustering me with just a look or a word or a smile! The smile slides off her lovely face. Now I feel like an ogre. She is going through a hard time and I am not making it any easier on her.
She is now standing there, in what is a sort of no-man’s-land, between the sitting room and the passage which leads to the bathroom. When I came in, I wanted to see her straight away, but now she is here, I need space to clear my thoughts. The hurt and questions in her eyes are not allowing me to think. I take the easy way out, “Can I please get a coffee?”
I sit on the chair by the desk after she leaves and take a deep breath. Perhaps, it is best if I take her to Trugenhofen, my house in Dischingen. I have not been there in the last five years and no one will think of looking for her there. I will keep her there until things cool down. My mind made up, I go to the kitchen where she is, indeed, making coffee.
I watch her from the door. This girl is getting under my skin too fast for my liking. She turns around with the mug of coffee and walks right past me, thunking the mug on the small table in the sitting room. A chuckle escapes me unbidden. She ignores me, the fiery one. She did not like that I snapped at her and she is making her displeasure known!
I follow her out and stop her just as she is about to leave the room. “Wait. Sit down.”
That earns me a glare, but she obeys me. I pick up the coffee while waiting for her to settle on the couch.
“We will leave at 20:00. I am taking you to Dischingen. I have a house there, where you will stay until things calm down,” I inform her.
To my surprise, she says nothing, though I note the indignant jut to her chin. She is clearly not in agreement with the plan. No matter. I will see what I can do to help her mother and sister, but she is staying away from trouble.
The tension in the room is shattered by a bang at the door. She jerks up and her wild eyes find mine. I nod to the bedroom and she hurries inside. I open the door to see Weber standing there, dripping sweat. Behind him, I see another half a dozen soldiers.
I glare at Weber and demand, “What are you doing here, Weber. You were to report here at 17:00.”
“Herr Generalmajor, Sir,” Weber starts, but he is interrupted by a captain among the soldiers behind him. He steps forward, snaps a salute in my direction and says, “Herr Generalmajor, Sir. Rottenführer Koch, Sir. Minister Frank sent us to take the woman with you into custody and bring her to Prague.” He extends a letter for me and adds, “He sent this for you, Generalmjor.”
I take the letter and note that it has Hitler’s seal on it, unbroken. This is going to be difficult. Nevertheless, I need to see what’s in the letter and see how much wiggle room I have. The letter is quite clear. The woman who tried to assassinate Fuchs is to be apprehended and questioned for the whereabouts of her co-conspirators. The Czechs need to be shown beyond doubt that such traitorous acts will not go unpunished. The letter is signed two days ago.
I have a very slim chance here. Now that Fuchs’ deceit has been uncovered, he is no longer Hitler’s pet. In fact, Hitler is furious with Fuchs right now. This may allow me a small possibility of getting out of this.
“I will speak with the Führer first,” I declare and start for the door.
Koch speaks up, “Herr Generalmajor, I request you to please take the woman with us to the office.”
He has a mulish expression on his face. I do not wish to look as if I am trying to protect the girl. Doing that will only put her in a bad light. So I call out to her, “Klara!”
She comes out and stands beside me. Her body language screams trust and I sincerely hope that I deserve it. I take her elbow and start walking. She hurries to keep up with me, while the soldiers fall behind me. The Commandant’s office is not more than fifty meters from where we are, so we get there within minutes.
I go straight to the phone and put a call through to Hitler. The conversation goes exactly like I had feared it would. Hitler is a blood thirsty zealot. He is like a hellhound. He needs to spill blood. And unfortunately, after Fuchs’ betrayal, he is looking to re-affirm his power. Klara and the others present the perfect target for Hitler’s power play.
Hitler is volatile at the best of times. After Fuchs’ debacle, I understand that if I resist too much, he may go berserk and start questioning my motivation for shielding Klara. If I lose my influence with Hitler, I will be in no position to help her. So, I make one of the hardest decisions of my life.
I am aware of Klara’s eyes on me at all times. She looks like a rabbit cornered in a pack of hyenas. I end the phone with Hitler and look at Koch and Weber. Weber simply looks lost. His Commandant has just been arrested and then these soldiers turn up from Prague looking for a girl he had no idea was here until I called her out!
Koch is looking at me expectantly. He seems like a straight sort, unlike the sadistic bastards that Fuchs surrounds himself with normally. I take a deep breath and finally look over at Klara. Her eyes are trained on me. I do not have to look at her to know that; I can practically feel the heat.
“I am also heading back to Prague, Rottenführer. She will be in my car.”
Koch simply asks, “When do we leave Generalmajor?”
“Now.” No point in delaying the inevitable.
I don’t look at Klara as I lead her back to my car. Joachim is ready, as always. I open the door and urge her inside. She does not protest as I slide in next to her. She is quiet. I look at her to gauge what is going on in her mind. She feels my eyes on her and looks up at me. Tears are swimming in her deep green eyes but she is still not saying anything. Her gaze wavers from mine and finds some spot on the floor of the car.
Her silence is worse than any insults she might have hurled at me. It is telling me, loud and clear, that this is exactly what she had expected of me. That I’d hand her over to the SS at the first opportunity. I want to explain my thinking to her. I want to tell her that if I resist too much, Hitler may have me order me away from Prague altogether. I will not suffer much, as Klara undoubtedly will, but I will be unable to help if I am not in Prague.
“Klara.” I have to break the silence. For the first time in my life, I hate silence.
She looks up at me and says softly, “I know you tried to help me, and I thank you for that. But I am ready, now, to face the consequences of my actions.”
For the second time within an hour, this small woman has floored me. Her strength and bravery astonish me.
After that, we have nothing to say to each other as the car roars towards Prague.