FOUR - Günter
I nod to the girl, who I assume is the hurt one’s sister, although the two are nothing alike. They are both incredibly beautiful, but so different from each other, it is difficult to imagine them as sisters. In fact, they may not even be sisters. It is just a guess based on the chemistry I observed between the two. I cannot be certain. What I can be certain of, though, is that they are up to something...something that is not good. Call it a soldier’s instinct, or just a man’s gut feel. I am unsure of what to do about this suspicion. I am now realising that these two girls have, within the space of less than an hour, managed to plunge me into a web of uncertainties. I rarely, if ever, find myself in such a situation.
Nevertheless, I am in Prague for a short period and do not have the time to wonder about pretty women who seem bent on getting into trouble. So, as we reach my hotel, I put these thoughts aside. I need to concentrate on getting through this evening. The farce of a party that Fuchs is throwing. The man is a zealot of the first order. I have only heard tales of what he has done in this country, of which he is the Protector, and I cannot stand the man. No wonder the blonde one hated me. She thinks all Germans are like Fuchs. I am surprised and irritated that these women are invading my thoughts at will.
I get back to the Art Nouveau Palace Hotel. It used to be one of our family’s homes but was sold off sometime in the 19th century. It has been a hotel since the early 1900s. Whenever I am in Prague, this is where I stay. I am again tempted to simply not go to the party. I have to get back to the front soon. I really do not have time for this stupidity. But sometimes, being a soldier is not enough, especially when you are the head of a family, and would have been a Grand Duke if not for the aftermath of the War. One also has to play the politician. In the last few years, there have been too many scandals involving members of the old German and Prussian nobility in the Wehrmacht. This party may give me some insights into the latest thinking of the National Socialist Party. So, I ask Joachim to come back in thirty minutes and go up to my suite.
An hour later, I find myself with a glass of very good brandy and very bad company. Fuchs has made himself the right-hand man to the Führer’s right-hand man. Obviously, he has the elite of the Nazi party lining up to please him. I also see a few local Czechs among the crowd. They are all German, of course, but more importantly, they are all significant because they own/operate businesses strategic to the empire. I am actually glad to see this side of Fuchs. He may not be a soldier, but he is using his position to help the men on the front lines. There is enough gossip among the senior party officers to put a gaggle of women to shame, but all in all, I realise that this was a wasted effort. I am not learning anything of importance, other than the fact that most of these men are impulsive. It looks like, for the most part, their actions are based on impulse, a reaction to external factors, rather than a strategy.
Fuchs, for all the disdain he shows towards the nobility, seems incredibly attracted to its members. And as the second in command of the Heer and also a Grand Duke (although merely in name), I find myself talking almost exclusively to Fuchs*. As I sit there, listening to him go on about his, soon to be implemented, Final Solution to the Jewish problem, and contemplate leaving, I feel his attention drawn to the door of the hall. I look up and see the red-haired girl walk in with an elderly man, her father, I assume. She looks stunning in her black dress. Her hair is neatly put together in what seems like a painfully complicated do. The father is a broad-shouldered, stocky fellow, with a confident demeanour. The girl, on the other hand, looks like a lamb that has walked into a lion’s den, which is not too far from the truth. I wonder why the man felt the need to expose his young daughter to this notorious bunch.
The girl looks around, her large eyes growing larger still at the grand spectacle that is the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle. As she walks in behind her father, she looks around, possibly at the men and women in the room. It does not take long for her to notice us. Her mouth opens in a soft gasp, I can almost hear it, and her step falters. Beside me, Fuchs is droning on. “....isn’t she?” I catch the tail end of whatever he is on about. I realise he is talking about her, and am instantly furious. I glare at him, but Fuchs seems to lack any instinct of self-preservation because he merely smiles. That smile is a study in malice which takes even a predator like me by the throat for a moment.
Fuchs then turns towards me and says, "Herzog von Hallerstein, pardon me, but I must leave you for a little while.” He then strides off purposefully toward the girl and her father. I observe the three as they are talking and note that Fuchs is taking a special interest in the girl. This upsets me at a level and to a degree that I do not care to analyse. The girl’s father is speaking respectfully, but confidently. I am beginning to admire the man. He seems neither broken nor ready to lick Fuchs’ boots, as is the case with a lot of Czechs that I have seen in the last day and a half. The girl (I wonder once again why I did not ask her name; it is getting tiring to keep referring to her as the girl) seems to have settled herself down and is smiling pleasantly when spoken to, and generally being a lovely companion to the two men.
Fuchs is not a man who will go out of his way talk to someone. He is too full of himself. So, I am curious to know what his game is with these two people. I see Frank Weber join the group. He is the minister for industries in Czechoslovakia. Within a few moments, Frank is leading the girl’s father away. The girl is panicking, but doing a fairly good job of hiding it. I am sure Fuchs does not realise this. He is more busy staring down her dress. I want to remind him where her face so he can look at it when talking. I know something is going down that involves the girl. I get up from my seat and amble towards the door of the hall, speaking to a few people on the way. As I had expected, a few moments after her father left, Fuchs is leading the girl, her hand on his arm, towards the exit. I note that although outwardly Fuchs simply has her on his arm, his grip on the hand resting on his arm is solid. The girl seems to be quite willing to follow him though.
This is it. My soldier’s instinct is screaming at me. I follow the pair at a discreet distance. I will be close enough to interfere if I wish to.
* In fact, in 1940, Hitler issued the Prinzenerlass decree that prohibited all members of Germany’s formerly reigning royal houses from joining or participating in any military operations in the Wehrmacht. I am afraid I am going to ignore this little piece of fact and call it author’s license.