A Traitor's Loyalty: A Novel (10 page)

At first she only looked at him. He waited silently. “Garner has a—a girlfriend, I suppose,” she said at last. “Gertrud. She’s a professor of medieval literature at Friedrich Wilhelm. Every once in a while she comes to a
Weisse Rose
meeting. That’s where they met. She wasn’t at the meeting last night. I don’t think they’re much more than good friends, but if anyone knows where he’s gone, my guess—and I don’t know either of them
very well—is that she does.”

“Do you know where she lives?”

She shook her head, but not in answer to his question. “She won’t talk to you. But she
talk to me.”

“No,” Quinn said. “You shouldn’t be involved in something like this. This could very quickly get very dangerous.”

She held up a cautionary finger. “I’m afraid I
involved. I have no choice, at least not till I’ve satisfied myself that you really aren’t betraying Germany.” Her expression as she gazed at him was not defiant or challenging, but neither did it look open to argument.

Quinn sighed and nodded. “All right.”

“Good.” She flashed a smile. “She lives on the other side of the river. We can leave in just a few minutes if you’d like.” Her forehead creased slightly in the mildest of frowns as she looked him up and down. “But first,” she decided, “you should shower. And shave.”

ELLIE WAS half listening to the solemn voices intoning the Roman Catholic mass on Gertrud’s television, instead gazing out at the peaceful suburban street. Ellie herself lived in the city, where the residents were unmarried; there the flats were tiny, as were the windows, forcing the occupants to rely on electric lighting to provide illumination, and the walls were made of plain concrete. It was all designed to encourage the inhabitants to do their duty to the Reich, find a mate and receive a nice home like this, in the suburbs.

For in the suburban communities public housing projects could be quite imaginative and inviting; a newlywed couple, young and ready to start providing the Führer with the litter of strong, healthy Aryans he expected of them, applying to the Reich for a home might expect to be assigned a thatched, whitewashed Tyrolese cottage like this one, straight out of Hansel and Gretel, situated in a pleasant, tree-lined avenue of two dozen identical such cottages.

The street of happy little cottages was deserted, a combination of the Day of National Remembrance and the unpleasant look to the overcast sky, which, just for good measure, rumbled threateningly every quarter of an hour or so. Quinn’s Focke-Wulf was parked by the opposite curb; its windows were tinted and she couldn’t see him waiting in the driver’s seat. The two of them had taken the U-Bahn to retrieve it from where he had left it, a few streets over from Jürgen Denlinger’s flat, before they came here. She had wanted to go knock on Jürgen’s door, but he had said that it was too dangerous. She thought about insisting, but decided not to. In the first place, he was right; the flat was sure to be under surveillance, and if the Gestapo really had been there looking for Quinn last night, they probably still had a man or two they had left behind to detain anyone who showed up subsequently. And in the second place, even if they were just detaining Jürgen and releasing him, they probably still wouldn’t have finished processing him yet, and would still have him in custody.

Ellie turned away from the window and back toward Gertrud’s living room. The room was furnished with some of the finer things the Reich government had made available to its middle class: Italian furniture, Persian rugs, Spanish oranges in a bowl on the coffee table. Photographs of Gertrud and her late husband—who, as Ellie understood it, had also taught at the university—crowded the ornate mahogany mantelpiece. The Reich strongly encouraged all its citizens to spend their leisure time in travel, and the pictures had been taken at sites throughout Germany—Saint Stephen’s in Vienna, the Old Town Clock Tower in Prague, and the Kremlin in Moskau—and in several of the major cities of the European satellite states. Ellie recognized Paris, Rome, Budapest, and one or two others.

She returned her gaze to the screen just as the remembrance mass for the Führer was concluding. “This mass is ended,” the cardinal archbishop intoned solemnly. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”

“Thanks be to God,” the congregation responded ritually, and then, as the Reich required all religious ceremonies to conclude, added, “and God bless our Führer, Adolf Hitler.”

Tinny organ music replaced the sound of voices, and the assembly of attendants surrounding the cardinal archbishop at the altar began to proceed down the cathedral’s aisle. Gertrud, about forty years old with dark hair that was just beginning to grey, sighed, rose from her chair, and turned off the television.

“I didn’t know you were Catholic,” Ellie said.

Gertrud nodded. “For those of us who reject the German Faith and still cling to the old churches, National Socialism doesn’t encourage us to make too public our religion.” She shrugged and changed the subject, forcibly brightening her tone. “I thank you for letting me finish watching the mass, but you’ve allowed me to be a poor hostess. Would you like something to eat?”

Ellie shook her head, indicating the teacup sitting before her on the coffee table with a nod of her head. “No, but thank you. The tea is fine.”

“Are you sure?” Gertrud pressed.

“I’m sure.”

Gertrud nodded in acceptance and sat back down again, taking her own teacup up from the table and sipping at it, then holding it in her lap. An awkward silence followed. Suddenly, her look turned wistful once more and she glanced at the television again. “You know,” she said, “I’m surprised. I’ve spent most of my life disagreeing with the Führer, wanting the National Socialist government removed and an end to the constant war he has brought on our borders. But still—he’s
. It feels so strange, no?”

Ellie nodded. She understood just what the other woman meant. She asked, “Are you old enough to remember before he was in office?”

Gertrud chuckled. “Bless you, dear, I may look it to someone of your age, but I’m not
old. I was eighteen months old when President von Hindenburg appointed the Führer Chancellor, far too young to remember.” She considered Ellie. “But then again,
not even old enough to remember the war itself, are you?”

Ellie blushed and shook her head.

“How old are you, my dear?” Gertrud asked.

She hesitated, then admitted, “I’m twenty-four.”

“Why bless!” Gertrud said. “I bet you’ve never even seen a Jew, have you? A
Jew, I mean, not just pictures.”

“Once,” Ellie said. “When I was very young, and my father was stationed in the East.”

Gertrud nodded. “The East. Of course. I would imagine they were around for longer there.” She set her empty teacup down. “But talking like this makes me feel old, and I’d like to think I’m still young enough not to feel that way.”

Ellie understood the subtext:
Obviously you haven’t come here to talk about this. So what have you come to discuss?

She took a breath and said, “I’d like to ask you about Richard Garner.”

Gertrud’s face had been open, friendly; now all of a sudden, it became a closed, blank mask. “What about Richard?” she asked.

“You know he’s disappeared?”

“No,” Gertrud said, quickly. “No, I hadn’t heard that.” She rose and turned, about to step away, then seemed to be unable to think of anywhere to go, and stopped. Instead she turned back around and bent over the coffee table, gathering the teacups and teapot onto the tray to take them back into the kitchen. But Ellie’s cup, sitting on the table, was still half full. Gertrud’s hand hovered over it, as if she was unsure how to proceed.

Ellie leaned forward and gently placed the teacup in her hand. Gertrud glanced up at her, smiled gratefully, and deposited the cup on the tray. Then she straightened, leaving the tray where it was on the table.

“I—I understood something was wrong,” she conceded, “though I didn’t know that it was anything drastic. What do you mean, ‘disappeared’? Ellie,” she leaned forward, her eyes narrowing, “you don’t know Richard. He’s not a concern of yours. Who are you here for? There have been some in the group who’ve said that a Gestapo worker shouldn’t be allowed among us, that it’s too dangerous, but I’ve always believed you when you’ve told us that your employers don’t know where your sympathies lie. But if you’re here for them—”

“No, no. Gertrud, no.” Ellie shook her head, leaning earnestly forward in her chair. “Gertrud, this has
nothing to do with the Gestapo.”

“Then who
it have to do with, Ellie?”

Ellie sighed. “I’m going to have to tell you.” She pursed her lips, then went on, “Honestly, Gertrud? It’s the English.”

“The English?”

She nodded. “He’s vanished. They’re trying to find him.”

“And what does that have to do with you?” Gertrud asked.

“It’s a long story. I’m—I have a friend who’s trying to find him. For the English. Not for the Gestapo, Gertrud. They have no idea I’m here, or that I even know who Richard Garner is. They’re not going to come looking for you about him, at least not from me. I swear it.”

Gertrud regarded her suspiciously for several long moments. At last she sat down. “What do they think has happened to him? The English? Do they think the Gestapo have got him?”

Ellie shook her head. “I don’t know. But I
know that they have no idea where to look. At the moment, you’re our—you’re
only hope.”

Gertrud looked at her uncertainly. “If it’s the English who are looking for Richard, then they wouldn’t hurt him, would they? He’s one of theirs, after all.”

Ellie shook her head.
No, they wouldn’t hurt him
. She couldn’t bring herself to agree aloud.

Gertrud took a deep breath, then admitted, “There had been something wrong for a while. We only see each other once every two or three weeks, but the last couple of times I could tell there was something bothering him. I never asked him about it. We didn’t talk about . . . about his work. Then, a few days ago—” She hesitated.

Ellie leaned forward and laid a comforting hand on her knee. Gertrud smiled.

“A few days ago,” she continued, “I got a call from him. He said—he said that we weren’t terribly close, and I probably wouldn’t be in any danger. He said he thought they would leave me alone. But he said that there was a chance they wouldn’t, and that if anything happened I should—he gave me a number I should call.”

“Can I have the number?” Ellie asked.

Gertrud pressed her lips together, but, after the briefest of moments, nodded.

QUINN SAT drumming his fingers against the top of the steering wheel and staring out the window at Gertrud’s quaint little house across the street. He had turned the car radio off some time ago; he was on edge quite enough as it was, and the constant stream of Wagnerian opera and Bruckner concertos only exacerbated his tension.

The girl’s—Ellie’s—involvement had come as a surprise, and he didn’t think it was a good idea. He had now more than satisfied himself that she knew nothing about Garner or the elusive Columbia-Haus protocol beyond scraps of rumor that might make their way around Prinz Albrechtstrasse. It was true that she was both Gestapo and
Weisse Rose
, either one of which would be enough to turn her into a potentially useful source, but on further analysis, all she really amounted to was a minor clerical worker who attended meetings of a student Resistance group that sat around and expressed intellectual dissatisfaction with the Nazi Regime while doing absolutely nothing to change it. She would have made a useful investment, well worth his time and energy, when he had been working long-term in British service. But not now. Now he just needed to find Garner, complete his mission and get back to the Med.

But she was troublesome. He had been too open with her last night, told her more than he should. He still had not won her over, and he was well aware of it. By speaking so freely with her, by trusting her now to talk with Garner’s girlfriend, he was placing himself in her power, and she could turn around at any second and betray him to the Gestapo. She had evidenced an obvious distaste for him and his work. He suspected that, at least initially, the only thing that had stopped her from notifying the authorities about him would be that then she would have had to explain that she was a member of the
Weisse Rose
. Yet the more time he spent with her,
the more sure he became that, even if she decided to turn him away, she would tell no one else of him.

He was rusty; he hadn’t been a spy in a long time. He knew what Isaac would have said. He would have tutted, just as he had during the long and painful hours he had spent teaching Quinn football, or how to ride his bicycle, and said,
“You need practice, little one. Take your time, think about what you are doing. You’re letting yourself get in over your head.”
Quinn hated being called
little one;
that was why Isaac did it.

Unbidden, his older brother’s image came into his mind, the way he had appeared the last time they had seen each other: Quinn had been nine, Isaac had been seventeen, dressed in his new private’s uniform, standing at the garden gate, ready to march off to North Africa. Their mother had been crying; their father had somberly shook Isaac’s hand and clasped him on the shoulder without saying a word. Sarah, only four years old, had been clutching her Peter Rabbit doll and crying, nominally over a bruised knee but, Quinn suspected, in reality because it was Isaac who was getting the attention rather than she. Quinn, wanting to be accepted by the grownups, had aped his father’s solemnity, but inside had been seething with excitement because his brother was going off to be a
. The possibility that he might not come back had never crossed his mind.

Motion glimpsed in his side-view mirror brought him back from his reverie with a start. Ellie had just exited Gertrud’s front door and was hurrying across the street. A middle aged woman with dark hair that had started to turn the color of iron—Gertrud, he presumed—had seen her to the door, but did not wait to watch her cross the street. He watched through the mirror as she came around the back of the car, opened the door, and climbed into the passenger seat.

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