Read The Losing Role Online

Authors: Steve Anderson

Tags: #1940s, #espionage, #historical, #noir, #ww2, #america, #army, #germany, #1944, #battle of the bulge, #ardennes, #greif, #otto skorzeny, #skorzeny

The Losing Role (33 page)

BOOK: The Losing Role
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Servus
,” Winkl said, sticking to the
Bavarian greeting. He sat on the corner of a crate as if crouching.
He had a sturdy face and stout neck that the long shadows of my
overhead lamp couldn’t narrow. I offered him a Lucky. He shook his
head at it, the first German to do so.

I told Winkl about the corpses and the four
officials’ reaction.

Winkl began to speak. He stopped.

“Well, what is it?”

“Your Abraham, sir. He could have been from here.
But in the end, in the last few years, there was no one like that
here in town that I know of.” Winkl’s eyes searched the room.

“There’s something else? Take your time.”

Winkl began again: “Sir, in the last days, when the
SS were still here, some Heimgauers disappeared.”

The local SS stuck it out to the end in many towns,
always expecting some miracle that would keep them in their showy
uniforms, some sacred immunity that would let them play the bully
forever. But that was always before our troops passed through.

“No, this is different,” I said. “What I saw, it
happened later. Their blood was fresh.”

“That’s all I can tell you. You ask me. I tell
you.”

So the man was wary. Who wouldn’t be? I could play
along. “You know what I think? You don’t stand for hokum, do you?”
I said. Winkl shrugged, waiting for my hokum to end. I continued:
“I am the Public Safety Officer for Heimgau, you see. And it’s come
to my attention that you were a policeman here, before.”

“Yes, that is true. But it was well before. Before
the Nazis.”

“How long have you served City Hall? A good twenty
years, counting the cop work? Seen a lot of change here, have
you?”

Winkl snorted. “One could say that, ja.”

“And you’ve become a keen judge of how things
operate around here.”

Winkl eyed me, his lips tightening, face hardening
up. “I would not feel comfortable, unlike others, informing like
that—”

“It’s not informing, and it’s not a question of if
you decide to or not. Still, I’d prefer that you agree.”

Winkl said nothing. He looked down, at his strong
hands.

“Go on,” I said. “We’re just talking here.”

“You’re not a specialist at this, are you? The
Public Safety is new to you.”

One smart guy, my man. I had to chuckle. “We don’t
always get what we want, do we? Look, I’m doing this my own way. I
don’t want you to spy. This will be just between you and me, a
partnership based on trust, not rules. There’s no politics here, no
. . . ideologies. No ‘isms’ at all. Think of it like this: You’re
not going to the enemy or to the 
Amis
 or whatever
we are to you. You’re going to me.”

Winkl’s eyebrows raised.

“You come straight to me and only me when you think
something’s fishy, and I’ll do my best to correct it. Promise. What
do you say? I’ll throw in a carton of Lucky Strike for good
measure.”

Winkl dared a grin. “And a couple bars of the
Hershey’s?”

“Done.”

“Then I agree.”

“Good.” So far, so good.

“Tell me something about you,” Winkl said. “You are
an 
Ami
, that’s certain, but you are also German, yes?
Your accent’s too good to be from school lessons.”

“My parents are German. I was born here.” I stopped
there. I didn’t want any local buttering me up and especially not
on account of my Deutsch. Colonel Spanner himself had warned me of
that. “Good? Clear on that?”

“Yes.” Winkl looked to his lap.

“Let’s just keep this moving, shall we? Now, my
directives say I have to ask this: Have you ever been a member of
the National Socialist German Workers Party or any other affiliated
organization?”

Winkl laughed, shooting spittle. “The pigs threw me
in Dachau for weeks back in ‘37. Morons mistook me for my brother
Udo, who was a Communist. Go and put that in your notes.”

“Excellent. I mean, you know what I mean.” I stood
and held out a hand. “
Herr
 Winkl, congratulations. I am
appointing you Temporary Police Chief of Heimgau.”

Winkl’s face paled. He shot up, knocking over his
crate.

“It’s only for a few weeks. You’ll help me announce
curfews and proclamations till the major finds a
full-time 
Bürgermeister
. Then we’ll find a new chief.
Short-time gig is all it is.”

Winkl kept shaking his head. He trudged in a circle,
in and out of the light, glaring at his toppled crate like he
wanted to stomp it to splinters.

Of course, it was not the response I wanted. But
then I recalled my backgrounders: Heimgau’s geographic isolation
had always spared her that influx of outsiders who deluged a town
in times of trouble. This time, though, Hitler’s fine mess would
bring in the newcomers and Heimgauers had to dread it like they had
the plagues of centuries before.

“Otherwise?” I added, “I’ll have to run things
myself until we find someone who’s qualified. Say, some German
refugee Joe Stalin expelled from the East, or what we in English
call a ‘Displaced Person.’”

“A what? What’s that?” Winkl tried the English word,
but only sputtered his P’s and S’s.

“A Dis-placed Per-son. DP for short. Get used to
that word. That’s what my authorities are calling all those your
Führer brought into Germany and imprisoned here against their will.
Maybe you’ve heard of them. Concentration camp inmates, to be sure,
but nearer to Heimgau what we have mostly are men who were being
worked to death. Former forced laborers. Slavics, mostly, Russians,
Yugoslavs. And not too happy about it either. Many we’ll be
repatriating—sending back home—but that could take a while and
meanwhile? Not too happy.”

Winkl’s eyes had glazed over with worry. He righted
his crate and sat back on it. “If it’s like you say. But for a few
weeks only.”

“Excellent.” I handed Winkl a list. “Now, pass these
rules on to the townsfolk. Make up some nice big signs for them,
post them around. First, though, gather all keys for the jail and
the police station—”

The cellar door flew open. Major Membre plowed down
the steps. Winkl sprung to attention, his face pale. Membre had a
riding crop that he held out as if to strike Winkl.

“What are you doing down here?” Membre said to
me.

“Interviews, sir, for Public Safety.”

“And you?” Membre shouted at Winkl, who looked to me
to interpret.

“He would be the one being interviewed,” I said to
Membre.

“That man needs to be out manning the courtyard, and
p.d.q.. We need new tallies. I’ve got a proper cameraman out
there.” That morning Major Membre had instructed Winkl to gather
every icon and object of Nazism inside City Hall and pile them up
outside for destruction. They already had a great mound of party
pins and armbands, SA standards and tin SS daggers, swastika clocks
and even kids’ play-sets of Himmler, Goering, and Goebbels. Out
there, throngs of Heimgauers were battling hunger and jitters and
nostalgia to please their new Major-Conqueror in his Nazi Kitsch
Destruction Drive. It was one way to get the people back out on the
streets. Not to be outdone by their zeal, the major was sure to add
tally tables and graphs and glossy photos to his report of the big
event. “We’re losing the moment,” Membre went on. “Don’t you
see?”

“One moment, sir.” I told the major about naming
Winkl Temporary Police Chief. There was no one else. So find
someone else to play junk collector, I wanted to add.

“That right? Ha!” Membre slapped the crop against
his thigh. “You should like that,” he said to Winkl as if Winkl
understood. “Folks here been kicking you around long enough.”

Winkl could only grimace. I dismissed my new chief,
and he gave me a hurried half-bow on his way out.

“Hey, lookie there. I think he likes you.” Major
Membre bounded over and, to my surprise, lit the fresh Lucky
hanging from my mouth. “Custodian becomes Police Chief. Rags to
riches. It’s a swell angle.”

“Thanks. I saw the troop truck. What’s new up
there?”

“That Sergeant Horton is such a front-line ruffian,
but he knows the drill. He says that CIC agent of ours will pass
through any day, to check in. Spanner’s the name? Say, speaking of,
let’s give his men a poker game tonight after curfew. Set it up,
will you?”

“Spanner is the name. Yes, I will.” Because I sure
have nothing better to do, I wanted to add. I also realized I could
bank a few points with CIC Agent Spanner by hosting his men.

“Swell, then.” Membre went over to a high cellar
window and, gazing out, released a deep and satisfied moan, like
that of an aching and grimy man sinking into a hot bath with suds.
“Ah, yes. You never asked where my billet is. You know where my
billet is? Bet you’re just dying to know. Aren’t you?”

“Okay. Where’s your billet?”

“The castle. There’s fine quarters up there, just
swell. You’d think it’s all old cold stone and dust up there, but
no. Oh, no.” Membre wagged a finger at the window as if talking to
his castle, which I knew from our backgrounders: Hohenheimgau
Castle, high above Heimgau Town, had once housed a respected
bishopric, including seminary, monastery and chambers. By the 1930s
only the small monastery was still operating up there, the few
aging monks remaining aloof from local Nazi authority, never
blessing yet never challenging while down below in town the brown
priest Plant was spiking his many sermons with increasing doses of
vitriol. “But there’s so much more, more of the church up there,
more everything,” the major added.

This day, I had to admit, was suddenly a long one
and my patience thinning fast. Sure, Major, I was thinking, you got
your schön little town, and on top of it, practically crushing it,
sits a humongous, stinking, deadly gorilla with the curiously long
name of Catastrophic Nazi World War. And the gorilla’s latest
newborn bastard? Those three dead tortured you could give a hell
about.

“This town’s like a museum, it really is,” Membre
droned on. “All of it. A lovely, sumptuous exhibit, chock-full of
fine art. This is an artisan town. Did you know that?”

“It says so in the backgrounders.”

“The what? It’s different when you see it all. It
really is, I must tell you. You have to understand . . .” Membre
paused. He turned from the window showing hard, dark eyes. “Now you
listen, Kaspar. These here people here, they brought this on
themselves, and we don’t owe any of them a damned thing.”

 

More
about
Liberated: A Novel of Germany, 1945
(Kaspar Brothers #2)

 

***

 

Introducing
Lost Kin: A
Novel (Kaspar Brothers #3)
:

 

Reunited brothers confront a secret Allied betrayal
in postwar Munich.

 

Occupied Munich, 1946: Irina, a Cossack refugee,
confesses to murdering a GI, but American captain Harry Kaspar
doesn’t buy it. As Harry scours the devastated city for the truth,
it leads him to his long-lost German brother, Max, who returned to
Hitler’s Germany before the war.

 

Max has a questionable past, and he needs Harry for
the cause that could redeem him: rescuing Irina’s stranded clan of
Cossacks who have been disowned by the Allies and are now being
hunted by Soviet death squads—the cold-blooded upshot of a callous
postwar policy.

 

As a harsh winter brews, the Soviets close in and the
Cold War looms, Harry and Max desperately plan for a risky
last-ditch rescue on a remote stretch of the German-Czech border. A
mysterious visitor from Max’s darkest days shadows them. Everyone
is suspect, including Harry’s lover, Sabine, and Munich detective
Hartmut Dietz—both of whom have pledged to help. But before the
Kaspar brothers can save the innocent victims of peace, grave
secrets and the deep contempt sown during the war threaten to damn
them all.

 

More
about
Lost Kin: A Novel

 

www.stephenfanderson.com

 

 

 

BOOK: The Losing Role
6.56Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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