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IM sah house
Matt gives an ultimatum to Luise and her group . . . instalment three of our serial
By JON CLEARY
DISASTERS plague the group of Jews led by LUISE GRAZ as they escape from Germany by a series of safe houses to a ship for Palestine. BEN KEPPEL, contact man for the Jewish organisation Bricha, has killed the camp director bringing his brother, MAJOR MATT DUNLEAVY, in pursuit. The Jews have arrived at their third safe house In Merano, Italy. Meanwhile, Spinne, a German or- ganisation helping Nazis to South America, has also brought DR KARL BESSER, former SS officer who sent Luise's mother and Keppel's brother to the gas chambers. Besser, reunited with his wife, ILSE, learns she has been unfaithful. Later as the train leaves Merano, Luise calls to him by name. Leaving the station, she Is confronted by Dunleavy, who, being in love with her, offers to let the Jewish party go free If she tells him where Keppel ls. Her colleagues decide Keppel must go on alone, while they are taken In a truck driven by two British Army Jewish sympathisers. NOW READ ON:
DUNLEAVY WAS NOT TO KNOW IT. but his quarry had already fled. When he had let Luise Graz go this morning he had not tried to follow her at once. Merano was a small town; he felt pretty certain he would soon pick up her trail again.
He had left Charlie Lincoln in the jeep, walked up a side street parallel to the one Luise had taken, turned
down the next cross street and seen her turn in the same direction a block ahead of him. After that it had been
easy to keep her in sight. She was an amateur at trying
to lose a tail.
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Each time she looked back he had
slipped into a doorway or a lane; she telegraphed when she was going to look back, slowing her stride in mid-block or pulling up dead at a corner.
At last he had seen her walk up the long
road toward the convent and from the side lane at the bottom of the hill had seen her admitted. When she did not re-appear in the next hour he knew where she and the rest of the DPs were hiding. Whether Keppel, too, was there was anyone's guess. What to do? He could go back into town, look up the British Field Security men
and have the convent raided.
That might or might not mean capturing Keppel; it would certainly mean
that Luise and the rest of the DPs would be
sent back Germany or be confined in one of the camps here in Italy. And he couldn't bring himself to being a party to that.
Banking on the DPs not leaving the convent in daylight, he went back into
town, found Charlie Lincoln and the two of them drove back to the side lane and settled down to watch. He sent Charlie
down to the town to get them lunch, then again later for more food and hot coffee.
This time Charlie had been gone less than ten minutes when a British army truck went up the road. Dunleavy got out of the jeep and watched it as it slowed at the top
of the hill. He heard the short hoot of its
horn: a moment later it disappeared into
the walls of the convent.
Soon, in the deepening dusk, he heard the truck coming down the hill, in low gear and without lights. He got back into the jeep, waited till the truck was almost opposite the end of the lane; then he switched on the headlamps and drove out
into the road.
The truck jerked abruptly to a halt as Dunleavy, pistol in hand, got out of the jeep and stepped quickly up to the driver's
side of the cabin.
"OK, out! Both of you!"
"Blimey, mate - " Sergeant Katz switched off the engine. "Righto, Mickey,
come and see what the Yank wants. You're a bit outa your territory, ain't you mate?"
Private Engels, hands up, came round the front of the truck and joined Katz as the latter got down.
"There's nothing in this lot worth
pinching mate." He, too. had a Cockney
"Knock it off," said Dunleavy testily. "Let's go round the back. OK, move!"
The back of the truck was soon emptied. Luise and the others, the children huddled close to their mothers, stared silently at the frustrated and angry
"Fraulein Graz, where is he? Keppel, I
"1 told you this morning - I don't know. This night air is cold Major - may the children get back into the truck?"
"They can get back in with their
Then Charlie Lincoln, hands full of food and coffee, came up the road. "How about that, Major? You got 'em all, huh?"
"No. The guy we want isn't here."
"You want me go downtown, get them
British officers? I seen their office. Field
Security, ain't that it?"
"There's no need for that." Katz said.
"It's a fair pinch, sir. But if you hand us over to those blokes down in town, it's going to cause a lot of trouble. All round."
"Tell me where I can find Keppel and there'll be no trouble for anyone. Except him." Dunleavy said.
"I dunno where Keppel is, sir, and that's the truth. My orders was just to pick up twenty bods. When we got up here this evening, there was just this lot. Twelve of 'em. Hardly worth the trip."
"Who gave you your orders to pick them up?"
"I'm afraid that's all I'm going to tell you, sir."
Then Luise said, "Are you offering us an alternative, Major Dunleavv0"
"I wasn't aware that I wa, don't have
"Your mother? Just what does she
any alternative, except to follow you all the way to where you're going."
"You think that will lead you to Herr Keppel?"
"It might or it might not. But I don't see any other way of picking him up."
"Will the major be in the way if he
follows us?" Luise asked Katz.
"He's not going to be any help."
"If we hang about here, with those headlights blazing," said Mickey Engels, "we ain't going to help ourselves, either. We got no option. Fred. We take him with us."
"Where are you going?" said Dunleavy.
"You'll find that out when we get there, sir," said Katz. "But if you wanna change your mind, it's over three hundred miles
Dunleavy waved the pistol. "I'm coming with you. I don't intend to kill any
of you, but I won't give a second thought about putting a bullet into the leg 0f anyone who gets smart."
A minute later the two-vehicle convoy started down the main road that led through town and on south. Dunleavy drove while Charlie Lincoln ate the now-just-warm tortelloni he had brought up from the town and drank the hot coffee from the flask he had bought. When it was Dunleavy's turn he ate at the wheel, driving one-handed.
At midnight the truck ahead pulled up and Katz and Engels got down as the jeep pulled in in front of them.
"Let everybody stretch their legs," said Katz. "We've got some sandwiches in there if you'd like some sir."
"Next time. What's our route?"
"You're really coming all the way with
"All the way."
Katz sighed, looked at the group as they got down from the back of the truck.
"Why persecute them? Don't you think they've been through enough?"
"All I want is the guy who killed my brother and my driver. 1 think these people should be allowed to go anywhere in the world they want to. But I don't think that gives them the right to murder two Americans, one of them who was doing everything he could to help them.
"Would Private Engels here just shrug and turn his back if one of them put a bullet into you?"
Katz shook his head. "OK. sir. I think
you're on our side - up to a point. But if we meet up with that bloke Keppel, don't expect me and Mickey to help you take
Dunleavy nodded. "Now which route
do we take?"
"We're by-passing Genoa. There's a blitz on down there - they're looking for an SS Nazi named Eichmann and a couple
of others who worked with him."
"Tve heard of Eichmann." He remembered the name from the latest Wanted list that had been sent to the Provost Marshal's office only a month ago. There had been an accompanying page, marked Confidential, that had shown Eichmann as a monster whose crimes Dunleavy, case-hardened though he was.
found difficult to believe.
It was four o'clock in the morning when they ran into the road block. They came round a bend and there were two desert
buggies blocking their way. The truck slammed on its brakes and the jeep almost
ran into the back of it.
Dunleavy jumped out and hurried forward, shaking his head warningly a' Luise as she looked out of the back of the
truck's canopy. A boyish British Lieutenant, a corporal and two privates moved forward as Sergeant Katz got down and joined Dunleavy.
"Good morning." said the lieutenant politely. "What have we here?"
.'A load of Eyetalian slave laborers, sir," said Katz quickly. "They've been in Germany and we're taking 'em down to Livorno for dispersal back to their homes."
The lieutenant looked at Dunleavy. "I don't wish to be rude, sir, but what is an American officer doing with this lot?"
"fm on my way to Rome to join our Liaison staff there." Dunleavy tried to sound plausible, "these people were in my area at Garmisch in Bavaria and I was
asked to escort them."
.'Then you won't mind awfully if i look at their papers?"
Bloody British politeness, thought Dunleavy. They can make you feel so goddam uncivilised.
"I have all our papers here." Luise appeared out of the darkness, held out a small bundle of papers. The lieutenant glanced through them perfunctorily. "Who are you, signorina?"
"Where from?" said the lieutenant in
"From Rome." Dunleavy had to admire the way Luise immediately dropped into the other language. "I was taken to Germany in 1943 because I was suspected
of anti-Fascist activities."
"And the others?"
"The same. But they don't all come
m me truck, tne winter cmid began to
cough. The Lieutenant paused, listening, then he handed back the papers. "Rightio, you may go."
Dunleavy stood by the lieutenant while the road was being cleared. "Why the road
"The French have been letting Jewish DPs through over their border and they've been using this road. I'd be careful when you get down to La Spezia."
"How's that?" Dunleavy was sudden Iv aware that the lieutenant liad dropped his
mai gin is no more italian tnan l am. But if you want to risk your neck for them, then it's no business of mine - I'm going home in a week. But down in La Spezia they're awfully stuffy about the Jews on their way to Palestine. Cheerio."
The two vehicles drove on and eventually came down the winding road into La Spezia. They drove through the bombed port area, then they were out of the city, passing through several villages, finally coming to a loop that led round a
small bay. A newly painted sign said |
Dunleavy saw the castle on the headland above the village, the strip of beach below the promenade, the long stone jetty with the fishing boats crowded against it. Then they were following the truck UP a winding road that led out of the Vlllage, and finally came into a lane that fan between stone walls bordering olive
groves on either side.
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They pulled up outside big ornamental gates set in high crumbling wall. Chipped and barely distinguishable letters carved in the wall said this was the Villa Fontana. Mickey Engels got down, opened the gates and the truck and jeep drove through.
A winding drive led up past a small guest house, shuttered and unwelcoming to any guest, through overgrown gardens, and finished suddenly in a wide patio in front of a huge four-storied villa that looked like a small palace. A big dry fountain stood in the middle of the patio, a final commentary on the rundown state of the
Dunleavy got out of the jeep, went forward to help the women and children down from the truck. Everyone, including Dunleavy, looked around them in puzzled surprise.
"It could do with a coat of paint," said Dunleavy, "But it beats Camp 93."
"I was born in a house bigger than this," said Luise matter-of-factly. "It was still no protection."
A wide flight of chipped and broken steps led up to a terrace that ran right along the front of the villa. A grey-haired woman, plump and short, stood there.
"You'd better come up and meet the Contessa," said Fred Katz. "She's wondering what's going on. I don't blame her - bringing a coupla Yanks with us. No offence, major."
When they reached the woman Dunleavy saw that she was not as old as she had appeared from the patio. She could not have been more than forty, if that; her'skin was unlined and her full pretty lips were as soft as a young girl's. But her figure was matronly; buried under the layers of flesh. She spoke English with just a slight accent, in a voice a little below
"Are you under arrest, Sergeant Katz?" "No, Contessa." Katz had obviously been here before. He took the woman's
hand and clumsily, perfunctorily, kissed it; then introduced Luise and Dunleavy. "The Major is sort of a friendly escort - you don't have to worry about him. The Contessa Fabolini, your hostess."
"Won't you come in?" she said. "I'm afraid you will all be quartered in the cellars, but we have to be as discreet as possible." Dunleavy wondered how anyone with a voice as loud as hers could °e discreet. "The English officers sometimes pay me a visit, so my guests must remain out of sight."
Dunleavy looked at Katz. "What happens to you now?"
"I'll come back tonight when I find out what the final plans are. I don't even know ^ the ship has arrived yet. TU see your driver puts the jeep away outa sight."
He went down the steps, began ushering
the others round a side door that led down to the cellars.
Up in the big shabby over-furnished salon where she had led them, the Contessa Fabolini was saying, "You understand that no one is to come up out of the cellars unless I give permission. It is much too risky."
"What about your servants?" Luise said. "I have only two. They have been with me for years and they keep their mouths
shut. I couldn't trust others if I had them
here - that is why my house is neglected." She beamed at Dunleavy.
"I saw you looking at it. major. But if I had workmen here cleaning up the place, I couldn't do what I'm doing now.
This house was SS headquarters in the last year of the war - I was in Rome for- tunately. There was a three-day battle in my gardens before the SS men sur-
"Then it's a sort of poetic justice that the villa should be sheltering Jews, isn't
"Yes, yes." She ignored Luise, turned into a heavyweight coquette. "Major. I don't think there is any need for you to spend all your time in the cellars. The English won't be look for you. will they?"
"Why do you have the English here, Contessa? Isn't it dangerous?" Luise asked.
"Oh, they invite themselves. They just
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telephone and say they'd like to visit me. After all, they are the conquerors." For just a moment the plump pretty face hardened.
"But it is always nice to have men around. If one keeps them in their place, of
Then an elderly man, gnarled and scruffy, came hobbling in on bent legs. "Scusi, signora -"
The Contessa waved him out of the room ahead of her. There was an animated
conversation out in a large entrance hall,
the Contessa's voice this time was reduced
to a hoarse whisper. Dunleavy gazed about him, at the peeling paint on the walls, the flaking gold on the picture frames, the
worn and faded silk on the chairs and couches.
"Some of them never did care much about their houses," said Luise. "It is the middle classes who worry about the good image."
"The Contessa doesn't strike me as
upper class. I wonder where the Count is?"
"He was killed in the war, in Libya," said the Contessa, coming in from the hall. "No, I'm not upper class. Major. My husband found me in the chorus at La Scala. He liked music and pretty women - he got both in me. I was pretty once," she said challengingly.
"I'm sure you were," said Dunleavy.
But the Contessa had something more on her mind than her lost looks. "I'll have to ask you to stay down in the cellars after all Major. There has been some complica-
Luise said sharply, "Has something gone wrong with our arrangements?"
"Not with yours, no, no. All you have to do is stay out of sight till your friends come for you. Please go down to the cellars now. Giulio will show you the way-"
Dunleavy bowed slightly to the Contessa, stood aside for Luise to go out of the door ahead of him. But she paused. "I'd like a word with the Contessa, Major. If you don't mind. - ?
Dunleavy hesitated, then he nodded and followed the old man down a corridor
toward some back stairs. Luise waited till
he was gone, then lowered her voice to a whisper. "Contessa, if Herr Keppel should
"Herr Keppel?" The Contessa dropped her voice. "I was wondering why he didn't come with you."
"He has been here before?"
"Several times. A dangerous boy, too headstrong. The English are looking for
him - "
"So is Major Dunleavy. If he comes don't bring him down to the cellars. Tell him the major is here, that he must go
Besser stood at the train window for at
least twenty minutes after the train left
Merano. At last Ilse came out and stood beside him.
"Something is worrying you, Karl. Who was that girl?"
"I don't know."
He was still racking his memory, trying to place her . . . And then behind Isle's shoulder, he saw the Vuitton suitcase on the luggage rack.
"What's the matter, darling? Are you
"No. no." He brushed off her solicitous
hand. "I'm all right, I tell you!"
"For a moment I thought you were going to faint."
"Ilse - M He wanted to reach out for
her, to brush away all the bitterness he felt;
all at once he felt insecure, almost afraid.
But then Paul came out. "Father, come and play cards with us."
Cards, reading, sleeping filled in the time as the train, stopping at every station, rumbled on toward Milan. There they changed to another train for Genoa.
"We change again at Genoa, for La Spezia."
"ls that where we board the ship.
'Perhaps. We shan't know till we get there."
"Nobody seems to know anything. Was it always like this father, I mean before
"No, everything was almost perfect in those days. Hans."
"Then why did the Fuehrer start the
war?" asked Hans.
Out of the mouths of babes and innocents could come betrayal.
"Just be quiet for a while, Hans. Until we are on the ship just pretend you are Hans Ludwig from Innsbruck and you've
never heard of the Fuehrer."
The train was an express, but half an hour before it was due in Genoa it suddenly began to slow. Besser saw the small country station, felt the train bump to a halt. Hans and Paul were already out in the corridor, heads hanging out of a
"Policemen and soldiers are getting on' English soldiers!"
"Come back in here!" Besser's voice was so sharp that the two boys whipped back into the compartment and sat down quickly. Ilse looked at him but said nothing.
It was twenty minutes before the carabinieri and the British soldiers, three of each crowding into the corridor, came to the Besser's carriage. Besser heard them moving down the corridor and it was all he could do to keep in his seat.
Hans after a cautious glance at his father, stood up and looked out the compartment door; Paul, also watching his father warily, stood up and joined his
Besser was about to order them to sit 1
down again, then realised it would look more natural if the boys were allowed to
show their curiosity. They didn't want to be 1 sitting here like a weíl-drilled German family when the British came to their
"Your papers, please." A British captain stood at the door, a British corporal and a carabinieri sergeant just behind him.
"Why are you searching the train, Herr Captain?" Hans asked. Besser could have killed his son on the spot; even Ilse looked ready to slap him across the mouth.
"We are looking for a monster, my boy. One who is disguised as a man named Adolph Eichmann.
"I don't believe in monsters," said
"Stay that way," said the captain and looked down at Besser. "A charming innocent boy, Dr Ludwig. How are you
going to protect him from the truth?" He handed back the papers, nodded to the soldier and the carabiniere, and they went on to the next compartment.
But it was another half hour before the
train got under way again. By then Hans
and Paul were once more out in the corridor.
Ilse closed the door deliberately, said quietly. "You knew the man they were looking for. I saw it on your face."
"I met him once - in Berlin."
"Who was he? A monster, like the Englishman said?"
"Yes." At least he couldn't hide the truth from her. "He was the one in charge of the - the extermination of the Jews."
"Oh God!" Then she said in whispered
bitterness, "And you are horrified by my
"That was different. It was personal - between you and me -" But he knew it was no real answer, could tell by the look
on her face.
The hour's delay of the train resulted in their missing their connection at Genoa. He had been given no Spinne man in Genoa to contact; he had to make his own arrangements for the night's stop-over in a small pensione. It was a simple task that, uncharacteristically for him, became a
They caught a train for La Spezia the text afternoon and arrived there just at
nightfall to learn from the British officer who checked their papers that they had missed their ship.
"If you are going to remain in La Spezia longer than twenty-four hours, you must report to the police." The officer saluted and walked off. swagger stick tucked up under his arm, a conqueror in the first year of the new world of peace.
"What do we do?" Ilse was suddenly on the edge of panic. "Where do we go now?"
"Let's get out of here first." Besser tried to sound calm. Then as they walked out into the street, a man moved up beside
"Herr Ludwig? No, don't look at me - just in case we are being watched." He spoke in heavily accented German. "Go down to the first corner on the left, turn into that street. There is a taxi waiting outside the Bar Sport. The driver is expecting you." He slid away into the
The taxi was standing outside the bar. The driver got out as soon as he saw them turn the corner. He held open the door of the taxi, waved them in like a man herding slow sheep into a pen. "Quick! Quick!"
Ilse and the boys were pushed into the back seat, the luggage was flung on to the roof rack and tied down with rope, Besser got into the front seat beside the driver and they were off. tearing down the narrow
Then, after what seemed like miles of headlong driving they were speeding along
a road that bordered the sea. As if he were
no longer afraid of pursuit, the driver at
last looked at Besser.
"What happened to you, Herr Ludwig?" he said in good German. "You should have been on the early train this morning,"
Besser explained what had happened. "Has the ship really gone? An English
officer at the station said -"
The driver nodded. "It left. Don't ask
me why - we have no control over the ships." He was a young man, short and thickset, with thick dark hair. "My name is Ricci, Giovanni Ricci. It used to be Richter - my father was German. He was killed in the air raids. My mother, too. She was
"Where are you taking us? What do we do about another ship?" Besser asked.
"I don't know about the ship - I'll have to find out. Tonight you will be staying just along the gulf here. In a way it was fortunate you did not arrive this morning. The place we were going to take you to while you waited to board the, ship was raided by the English."
Ricci slowed the taxi, fell in behind a convoy of six British army trucks.
"They were looking for Jews," he went on. "There's a ship out in the harbor the
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Fede, that's supposed to be waiting to take a load of them on board for Palestine. The English have been raiding all the likely safe houses. Including ours."
"Will we be safe where you are taking
"The safest house for miles around, so
long as you stay out of sight. We've used it before, but only for VIPs." He speeded up the taxi, cursing in Italian as the convoy ahead kept him back.
Suddenly he swung out, dangerously overtook the convoy on a much-too-short stretch of road, cutting in front of a military policeman on a motorcycle to avoid a car coming in the opposite
Then they were coming into a village, and starting to climb. They went up a narrow side street, turned into a lane, finally coming to some tall ornamental gates. As Ricci got out. pushed back the gates. Besser caught a glimpse of the chipped letters cut into the wall.
"Who owns the Villa Fontana?" he said.
From the cellar, Luise heard the car come into the courtyard and drive round to the back of the villa. The cellars underlay the whole of the villa and part of the courtyard: a series of dark rooms, connected by archways, in which the junk of two centuries had been dumped.
The main cellar, in which Luise and the others had settled down to wait, contained three huge wine vats and several rows of empty racks. It was furnished with a couple of dozen rough wooden beds, covered with mattresses and army blankets, a long table and two long benches. Two dirty electric globes threw a light as weak as the Contessa's charity.
In an inner cellar, a rough toilet had been set up, its smell lost in the general dankness of the whole big basement.
"We'll have to get you out of here," Dunleavy said. "This is no place to keep kids cooped up."
"We? You're on our side now?" She
smiled at him.
"I don't know," he said, only half-smiling.
They had spent most of the day together and, leavened by the presence and occasional remarks of the others, they had eased into a relationship where suspicion had finally evaporated. When they heard the car arrive and drive round to the back, Dunleavy held up his hand and everyone
"The English?" Luise whispered.
"Could be." Dunleavy stood up, head cocked. "But why the back of the house?"
"The Contessa has given us away!" Anna Bork almost strangled herself trying to keep her angry voice down.
Luise could see the group moving closer together, congealing into a mood of half-fear, half-resignation. She took command, even of Dunleavy. "Go upstairs and find out what's happening. You're the only one who has a legitimate right to be
Dunleavy grinned. "That an order?" But he went across to the steps at once.
Upstairs, he began moving through the main floor of the villa, at once cautious and casual. But each of the rooms he wandered through was deserted and he knew now that the newcomers, whoever they were, were not the British come to
arrest the Jews down below.
As he moved into each large room he
turned on the lights; gradually he brought the whole main floor of the villa alight in a blaze of chandeliers. The great shabby house glowed like a memory of past glory. He wondered how long ago that time had been, if it had been in the days when the Contessa had been young and slim and
She came into the furthest room of the
house, as ablaze with indignation as her chandeliers with light. "What are you doing? Who gave you permission -?"
"No one, Contessa." He wasn't disturbed, he felt he could handle her. "I
was just looking around, admiring what! you have here. It's a beautiful house. You '1
must have enjoyed it before the war."
She calmed down, taking his I
admiration of the house as some sort of I compliment to herself. She was dressed in j a purple dinner gown, with four strands of I pearls. Her fingers were small chandeliers I
in themselves; he had never seen a woman 1 who wore so many rings. The English might still be the enemy, but when her eventual surrender came it would be in style.
"Il Duce came here several times - he
loved our balls."
Dunleavy wondered how many other heroes the big house had survived.
"Perhaps some day we'll have them J again," she said and the wish glowed If pathetically in her face like a child's ';
They had begun to walk back through! the rooms, the Contessa turning off thel lights as they went. They passed the big I dining-room and Dunleavy nodded at thel
elegantly set table.
"Are you having someone to dinner?" I "The English officers telephoned. invited themselves again."
"I heard a car -"
If he hadn't been watching her sc I closely he might have missed the sligh hesitation. "Just - just a tradesman frorr the village."
"I didn't hear him drive away," he said 1
"He sometimes stays and has a drink
with Giulio. You know what servant« are -"
"Of course," said Dunleavy. But now I they were in the big entrance hall anc someone was clanging the heavy knockei
on the front door.
"Oh. there are the English! Giulio! I
Rosanna!" She was no more than ten fee I from thé door but she couldn't open i
herself, she had to greet her guests as a |
Dunleavy followed her into the bit. J salon, found her hastily arranging hersel: like a giant purple seal on the green velve rocks of a chaise-longue. The Enghsl
officers came into the house in a babel o high light voices.
Then they were in the doorway of thc j salon, Three young men and an older man assured and confident but not arrogant They're on their own, thought Dunleavy they'll never worry about the warmth o their welcome outside England. N< wonder they had made such a success o empire-building.
"My dear Contessa -" Then they sav j
Dunleavy, an American, and they pullec up, all at once cautious, even suspicious.
The Contessa raised a fist of diamow I
knuckles. "Gentlemen - my house guest j Major Dunleavy. Major Shell, Captaii I
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Miller, Lieutenant Bankhead, Lieutenant Updyke."
Major Shell was younger than Dunleavy, in his late twenties, a handsome man with a light pleasant voice and the public school accent that Dunleavy sometimes had difficulty in catching.
"We're Field Security," said Shell.
"You're from -?"
"Then you're the guy I'll be coming to see in the morning." Dunleavy explained who he was, why he was here, only leaving out that one of the murdered men had been his brother. All he had to do was play it straight with these Englishmen. "Maybe you can help me."
"With Keppel? We've been after him
for three months now."
The Contessa shouted to Giulio to bring in drinks. A moment later the old man, now wearing a white jacket and white gloves, wheeled in a large double-decker tray, handed out drinks that had the potency of secret weapons. Dunleavy coughed on his Scotch, but the Englishmen seemed unaffected by theirs.
"Giulio is rather heavy-handed," Miller, the older man, remarked. "The Contessa has a jolly good source of supply."
"Where does she get it?"
"Black market. The Jewish Brigade - chaps who were always in our hair - they used to levy their chaps a bottle a week from their issue, sell it to finance their smuggling of the DPs. Shouldn't be surprised if this is some of it." He held his glass up to the light. "But good Scotch always tastes the same, black market or
The Contessa and Shell meanwhile had drifted toward the other end of the roorp. Dunleavy sized up Miller as a talkative type and invested some time in him.
"What's with her? Was she a Fascist?"
"Oh, absolutely. But she's useful to us, she knows everyone for miles around. And. of course, it's jolly nice to come up here once a week or so for a spot of gracious
Bankhead and Updyke joined them nodding agreement at Miller's opinion of gracious living. They were both younger than Shell, eager-looking and Dunleavy wondered if either of them had seen anything of the war, if they were not late postings here to Italy.
"We've been frightfully busy all day. Raids all over town, looking for the
damned Yids," Bankhead said.
"There's a ship out in the gulf, y'know," said Updyke. "Had our eye on it ever since it put in here a week ago."
"Hundreds of Jews around La Spezia." Miller sipped his drink appreciatively.
"'We've been picking 'em up all day. Poor blighters."
Then the Contessa and Shell drifted back. "Let's go into dinner," she shouted as if bursting into an aria.
Down in the cellars Luise stood with
her back against one of the huge wine vats. They had heard the clanging of the
knocker on the door, then the Contessa's shout for Giulio. She knew now that some
English had arrived; she could hear their
voices. But who had arrived in the first car?
She shook her head warningly at Judith Winter as her daughter began to cough.
Judith led the child into the darkness of the
inner cellars. Luise, watching them disappear into the blackness, said softly, "Sometimes I wonder if we should be putting the children through this."
"Kids have more stamina than you think. You'd know, if you'd had any."
Luise had not been aware of who was
standing next to her: it annoyed her to find
"Seems as though he must have forgotten to buy toothpaste again!"
that it was Anna Bork. "Where are your
"Dead." said Anna Bork. "Both of
them. When I got to Birkenau they took them away from me. We got off the train and there was Besser -" Suddenly she began to' weep, the tears streaming down
It was so unexpected that Luise acted automatically: her arm went round the other woman's thick shoulders. They stood together, like sisters sharing a common grief. Then Luise became aware of the rest of the group staring at them.
But she did not draw her arm away, tried to put silent sympathy into the pressure of her hand on Anna's shoulder.
It was Anna who broke the momentary bond between them. Her eyes cleared of tears and she abruptly stepped away from
Luise let her arm drop, kept her voice calm. "Was that why you said nothing yesterday when I told you I'd seen Besser?"
Anna wiped her eyes with a tattered ^
"When the War Crimes people came to the camp I gave them his name, but 1 never heard any more. I hoped he was dead!" she said savagely. "I hoped the Russians had
got him and killed him horribly! Don't you
wish he was dead?"
"I don't know - yes, I suppose so. Unless, of course, they catch him -"
"Who? Who wants to catch him? Those upstairs?" she jerked a contemptuous thumb at the roof of the cellar. "All thev
are interested in is us."
"We should let them know he is alive. I should have told Major Dunleavy about him. Perhaps he could tell them."
"What's he doing up there anyway?" Suspicion clouded Anna's face again. "He's been gone a long time. Surely he's not having dinner with that bitch and the
"Why not? Perhaps he can learn something -" But Luise herself was curious: what was going on upstairs? "Tell everybody to keep quiet. I'll sneak up there and see if I can find out what's going on."
She went cautiously up the steps then slipped out through the door into the long narrow corridor that led from the
entrance hall to the kitchens at the back of the house.
There was a sound of laughter and she moved quickly and quietly toward it, then stood in the shadows, looking through the high archway into the big dining-room.
The Contessa sat at one end of a long narrow table, Dunleavy at the other end and four English officers, two on either side, in between them. Light was reflected
from the lace snow of the table-cloth,
glittered on the crystal glasses and the cutlery. It was years since Luise had seen such a scene and memory came back pricking her like a thorn.
The Contessa picked up a small silver bell and rang it, just as Luise remembered her grandmother doing. Then she heard Giulio coming down the long corridoi toward her, wheeling a trolley. She ran up the stairs, and slipped into an alcove on the landing.
lhere she lound herself in a small
musicians' gallery that looked down on the dining-room. Rusted music stands stood ic a dark corner, sheet music was stacked oe the floor, yellowed and dusty. Luise hidden by faded red drapes, looked dowr at the dinner party below.
"I'd love to go back to La Scala to sing,' : the Contessa was saying, "but I'm muct too old to start all over again."
"Oh, I don't know," said 'one of the young English officers. "Don't open singers go on and on?"
"How gallant you English are," said the Contessa. "I envy Englishwomen. Thougr I wonder why you keep looking at youi
watch, Major Shell? That is not ver) j gallant, when we are only at the sour
"Force of habit," said Shell. Then he and the other officers suddenly sat up straight in their chairs.
Luise heard the trucks drive into the courtyard. Major Shell put down his soup spoon and stood up; the other three officers did the same. Dunleavy and the Contessa remained seated, the former relaxed but watchful, the latter suddenly
stiff and frightened.
"I'm sorry, Contessa," said Shell. "We have to search the villa. All right chaps, get
The other three officers hurried out of the dining-room. When they opened the front door Luise heard the clatter of boot-heels out in the courtyard, the rattle of rifle bolts, some shouted commands.
She sank down, huddling closer into the dusty velvet, stared down through the marble railings of the gallery at Dunleavy, the Contessa and Major Shell in the room
"We knew you were up to something, Contessa, but we thought it was just buying on the black market. It never occurred to
us that you might be a Jewish sympathiser -you were too much of a Fascist for that."
"I don't know what you are talking
about." The Contessa hadn't moved from
her chair. "This is insulting, Major - "
"How do you know there are Jews here?" Dunleavy was still sitting relaxed at his end of the table; but Luise caught the strain in his voice. "I've been in the house all day."
"They got here less than an hour ago," said Shell. "A taxi passed one of our convoys on the way out from La Spezia, and came up here. One of our MPs who was with the convoy followed it on his
motorbike - he wanted to tick the taxi
driver off for overtaking the convoy the way he did.
"Then he got suspicious when he saw it coming in here - the Jews have been spreading their people all around town. He ; went back and waited for us till we came
1 through the village - he knew we were
coming here for dinner." He looked at the Contessa.
"That was why I kept looking at my
watch -1 sent him back for those men who
have just arrived. Sorry about that."
"Just one taxi full of Jews?" said
Dunleavy. "It's hardly worth the bother, is
"There'll be more of them. There always are."
Besser held up a warning hand, :: silencing the boys as they began a
low-voiced quarrel. Ilse, lying on the bed, ' sat up, looked inquiringly at her husband í as he switched off the attic light. The
Italian, Ricci, crossed to the narrow
| window, pulled back the thick black
? curtains and looked down into the ' courtyard below.
I Three trucks were parked there, lights I blazing directly at the front of the villa.
Soldiers, heavy boots hammering on the stone pavement of the courtyard, were running to take up their positions all
around the house.
Then a voice shouted, "Righto, Sergeant-Major - search the house!"
"I thought you said, when those English officers arrived, that there was nothing to worry about?" Besser said to Ricci. "That they came out here all the time."
"They do - they have. Something's gone wrong - they've never raided this place before."
"That woman downstairs. I knew she couldn't be trusted," Ilse said.
Ricci shook his head. "She is only interested in money. What would she make out of informing on you?" He opened the door of the attic, stood listening. "I'll go down, find out what's happening?"
"What if they grab you?"
"I'm an Italian. I've brought some things out from La Spezia for the Contessa
"Well( in fact, my name is 'Emperor of
Wallenburg', but just call me 'Wally'!"
in my taxi. They have nothing on me - my
record is clean."
"It's a pity your taxi is still down there." When the taxi had pulled round to the back of the villa and they had all got out. Besser had looked up at the big house towering above them and marvelled at the variety of Anlaufstelle that Spinne had managed to organise.
"The Villa Fontana," Ricci had said with a flourish. "It belongs to the Contessa
"One of us?"
"Up to a point," said Ricci. "She is paid
A door opened and an old man, scurrying toward them on bowed legs, came out of the house. He said something to Ricci in Italian in a croaky whisper, grabbed two of the suitcases and hurried back to the house, jerking his head for
them to follow him.
Besser took two of the other suitcases and Ricci picked up the Vuitton.
"Why the whispering?" Besser said.
"Who else is here?"
"There's an American officer and his
driver. The Contessa is having to billet them. She can't pick and choose all the time, Dr Ludwig."
The old man led them through the kitchen, along a narrow corridor and up a wide flight of stairs. They caught glimpses of huge rooms, climbed another flight of stairs, were led along another corridor then climbed a final flight of narrow winding
stairs to the attic.
Besser had not been inside a house as
big as this since he had left Berlin: Ilse and the two boys had never been in anything like it. Hans kept whispering, "Father, it's so big! Who lives here?"
"A great lady," said Ilse, hushing him to be quiet.
They were in the attic only a minute or two when the great lady came puffing up
the stairs, and walked in on them. She waved a beringed hand in front of her flushed face, gasped for breath. I was wrong. Ilse thought, this is no great lady.
"You must be quiet!" the Contessa
hissed after Ricci had introduced the Bessers. "And don't leave this room!"
Besser bridled: he was not used to being given orders by a woman. "Why have we to be so quiet. Is it because of the American? Why is he here?"
The Contessa smiled at the boys, patted Paul's head. "Such healthy-looking boys! I have no children -" She looked up at Besser. "In Italy, Herr Doctor, you will do better as a German not to ask questions. Herr Ricci should have warned you. Just stay up here till I tell you it is safe to come down. There will be other visitors tonight - English officers."
"You seem to run a League of
Nations," said Besser.
"So long as they have the price," said
The Contessa gave him a killing stare,
then turned and went out of the room.
"She's no longer on our side," said Besser. "You've just made her an enemy."
"Money will always win her over," said Ricci. "She'll never hate any of us as much as she hated the idea of being poor ..."'
But now, as he prepared to go downstairs and find out why the soldiers were here at the villa, he paused and
looked back at the Bessers.
"Just in case - I mean, if she has betrayed us - don't mention anything about the organisation. All this was a personal deal between you and me." He went out of the attic, closing the door after him, and Ilse sat down on the bed, all the strength gone from her.
When Topp, the Spinne man, had come for her and the two boys, told her that they must now start their journey south to join Karl, he had warned her that there might be danger ahead. She had accepted the
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 135
thought of danger as possible imprison- ment for Karl if he were caught.
But she had come, reluctantly, to realise that if Karl was captured, he might be
sentenced to death.
She had been shocked, like most Germans, when the Nuremberg trials had begun and the death penalty had been demanded by the prosecutors. Karl was not a war criminal in the class of Goering and the others, but she knew the extent of the need for revenge by the enemy. Karl might die, if he were captured: the thought
Suddenly there was a commotion down in the courtyard, the cry of a child and the
scream of a woman. Besser leaned out of
the window, peered down at the scene
Soldiers were pushing a group of civilians down the front steps, men, women and children, not treating them brutally but acting with that brusqueness of men who were doing a job that was distasteful to them. The civilians were bundled up into the waiting trucks, the soldiers lifting up the children.
"What is it?" Ilse stood up.
. "They are taking away some civil-
A woman's voice came up from one of the trucks, shouting abuse. Ilse looked at Besser, frowning. "They're German!"
"I don't understand it -" Then the door
opened and Ricci came in, pushing a girl
ahead of him.
"I found her hiding downstairs in a music gallery. I don't know who she is. The
other lot down there are Jews -"
"Dr Besser and I have met before," said. Luise calmly.
Dunleavy had seen Major Shell look at his watch even before they had sat down at the table. He had sensed that something was wrong, that Shell and the other British officers had not come out here tonight for »just their usual spot of gracious living.
So he felt no real surprise when he heard the trucks drive into the courtyard and Shell and the other officers stood up; only distress at what was going to happen
to Luise and the other Jews and his
inability to do anything to help them. They would be back in Germany or Austria
within the week.
For a moment he and the Contessa were left at the table alone. He saw the
woman suddenly age. But he could feel no sympathy for her.
He stood up, moved down to her. "I'm staying on here, Contessa. Fm still your guest - don't forget it."
Then he went on out to the entrance hall, stood at the bottom of the wide stairs
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 137
and waited for Luise and the others to be brought up from the cellars.
The hall and the long corridor running off it echoed with the footfalls of the soldiers and the shouted commands; he was impressed with the efficient way the British soldiers went about their business, as if cleaning out the cellars of large villas was a routine job they did every day.
A carabinieri lieutenant and two carabinieri stood just inside the front door, looking like reserves who knew they would not get into the game and were glad.
"Your men look as if they're used to this sort ofthing," he said to Shell standing beside him.
"It's not the first time we've had to do
it, probably not the last, either. Personally, I don't think it's soldiers' work. I don't like playing policeman."
"Would you let the Jews go if you had your choice?"
Shell looked at him out of the corner of
his eye. "Are you trying to make some sort of bargain with me?"
"Why would I want to do that?" said Dunleavy, heavy innocence on his face.
"You've known all evening those Jews
were down in the cellars. There's more of
them than just the lot who were spotted in
"You're wrong about the taxi - whoever was in it, they weren't Jews."
"What's your connection with the
Dunleavy chose frankness again: this Englishman was no fool. "They are my only lead to Keppel. They were with him when he killed our two guys."
"If you do catch up with him, we may still have first call on him - ah, here they
The women and children came down
the long corridor first. They stood in a tight group, staring across at Shell and Dunleavy; some soldiers brought their suitcases and bundles and placed them beside the group. Dunleavy looked for Luise, frowned, then looked at Anna Bork.
"Who told them we were down there.
Major? Her?" Anna nodded viciously at the Contessa, who had come to the door of the dining-room.
"I don't think so. Frau Bork. They followed you out here."
"Then why did they wait all day to
come and get us?"
Dunleavy looked at Shell. "You were Wfong about that taxi. That must have Drought someone else here."
"Sergeant-Major!" Shell called.
Sir!" A tall muscular soldier came to
chUdre°n beSÍde friShtened women and
"Is that taxi still here?" Shell said.
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nie safe house
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 139
jk "Out the back, sir. It's a La Spezia "gration."
k "'Search the rest of the house.
lathing worrying you. Con tessa?"
I The Contessa. still standing in the
jorway, still looking old, shook her head. tothing except these people, Major Shell. )'eel I've let them down."
Then there was a noise down the corridor
id the Jewish men were pushed up out of e cellars. Dunleavy leaned forward, oking for Luise; then he looked at Anna jrk again, querying her with his ?ebrows. But the red-headed woman just
ired back at him.
The men, carrying their own bundles, ere hustled out through the front door;
m the women and children were told to
mw them. The two small groups moved th long-accustomed obedience,
trherc was no pushing or shoving by the lldiers; they looked as if they did not «sh the job they had. Little Ruth Winter arted to cough and one of the soldiers
ung his rifle over his shoulder, picked up ,e child and carried her down the steps.
|As the last of the group went out the Blt door the sergeant-major barked an
der and half a dozen soldiers went
Imping off through the house, three
ward the back rooms, the other three
lng up the stairs to the upper floors.
Shell crossed to say something to the -irabinieri lieutenant, who still looked as if
I did not want any of this to be his asiness. Dunleavy moved over to Charlie jmcoln, who had followed the last of the pish men up out of the cellar.
I "Charlie, where's Miss Graz?"
I "I dunno, sir. She come up here about n, fifteen-minutes ago. I ain't seen her
; "OK, keep it quiet. If they don't know bout her, they aren't going to go looking
U In a few minutes the soldiers who had
one upstairs came clattering down again, lunleavy was watching the Contessa
|osely. He saw the mixed look on her face
Belief? puzzlement?) as the men came own empty-handed.
I "Nothing upstairs, sir," the sergeant
I The other three soldiers came through tam the back of the house. "Not a thing, ir. The bloke who drove the taxi musta kipped it over the wall when he heard us |irive up."
f. Shell hid his disappointment well. "You i'ad better get your coat, Contessa. I'm Afraid you will have to come in with us for luestioning."
[ "Why? What have I done wrong?" The Pontessa wasn't going to give in without a fight. "These are just ordinary people -
they are not criminals. All I've done is give them shelter. After all they have been through, isn't that the least one can do?"
She even makes her charity sound convincing, Dunleavy thought. And he had heard a lot of good liars in his time.
Shell must have heard some, too: he looked unconvinced. But there was no
mistaking the reluctance in his voice as he
"Indeed they have been through an awful lot. But the fact is. Contessa. they are prohibited aliens in this country. I'm sure we'll find they are travelling on false papers and that is an offence. Will you please get your coat?"
"I am an Italian citizen -"
"That is why Lieutenant Taviani has come along." He indicated the carabinieri lieutenant he had been speaking to.
Taviani said something in Italian that Dunleavy didn't understand; whatever it was, the Contessa knew she had lost for the moment. She tossed her head and made for the stairs. Shell nodded at the
sergeant-major, who at once fell into step
The entrance hall cleared, leaving only Shell, Dunleavy and Charlie Lincoln. Halfway down the long corridor Giulio and his wife stood flattened against the wall, faces turned fearfully toward the
front of the house.
But Shell was not interested in them,
they were only servants doing what their mistress had told them to do. He put on his cap and trenchcoat, his evening of gracious living finished.
"I can get you a billet back tn La Spezia -"
'i'll stay here." said Dunleavy. "It's
comfortable and those servants back there
can look after me and my driver. Besides, there's always the chance that Keppel will come looking for his friends."
Shell nodded, but there was a hint of suspicion in his face. "You'll be in to see me in the morning? I shouldn't want you starting any independent action of your
"Strictly according to the letter of the law." said Dunleavy.
'i'll be leaving four men to keep an eye on things. If Keppel should turn up. you can call on them for any help you need. Remember, he's our pigeon first. After we've plucked him, you can have him. Ah. here comes the prima donna."
The Contessa. a rich purple cloak about her, came down the stairs, head high, hand
held out at a distance on the arm of her
escort, the sergeant-major. She swept past Dunleavy and Shell and went out the front
"Poor old trout." said Shell. "She might have been better off if she had stayed in
A minute later the British trucks drove
off and Dunleavy and Charlie Lincoln,
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The safe haust
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 14
except for Giulio and his wife, were lei alone in the big house. Or were they?
Dunleavy led Charlie down the corrido and stopped in front of Giulio and the ol* woman. "You speak English. Giulio?"
The old man shrugged. "Pom "
"Do you speak German?" Dunleavi ;
said in German.
"I speak German better, sir. I worke<|
for the Germans here in this house."
"Who came in that taxi out back there?' | "I do not know, sir?"
"Come on, Giulio! The Contessa said ii i was a man delivering something, someon1 you know."
"lt was a man named Ricci, he brough i a German family to the house."
"Have you had any other Germans her|
in the house? Lately, I mean."
"German one week, Jews the other weeli
It has been like that for six months, sir."
"Where did you hide the Germans?"
The old man jerked his head, then 1er Dunleavy and Charlie to the top of thd house, flung open the door to a large atti<|
and switched on the light.
"We always brought the Germans url here and put the Jews in the cellars."
"Someone's been sitting on thc bcd.'
said Charlie. "Look how the cover r
"OK, they were here all night. Bu where are they now? And where's Frauleir Graz?" Suddenly he was afraid for Luise He spun round on Giulio. "Take u; through the rest of the house! And don''
miss a room or a hole in the wall!"
Ben Keppel stood in the shadows of the guest house at the end of the drive and
watched the trucks and then the staff cai
come down and pass out through the gates. Sergeant Katz came out of the darkness.
"Did you hide your truck.
"It's in an olive grove down the lane. What's happened?"
"I caught a glimpse of the back of one of the trucks. They've got our people. Where do they take the people they round up?"
"There's a camp over near Sarzana -" Keppel's trip down from Merano to La Spezia had been simple and without incident. The British were not looking for single men but for groups.
Only when he had reached La Spezia had he received a setback. He had reported
to the local Bricha man.
A confrontation with the British had been decided upon: a ship was going to sail openly from La Spezia with a full complement of immigrants for Palestine: world opinion, it was felt, was on the side of the Jews and the British would have to face it.
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The sale house
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 142
Meanwhile Keppel would have to look after his own small party, get them to their ship which, he was told, was in a small cove just south of the La Spezia gulf.
"Righto," said Katz. "But if you're j thinking of busting into that camp over at Sarzana. forget me, matey."
"You'll do what Bricha says," said Keppel.
"Don't start giving me orders, sonny.!
You've caused enough trouble as a is."
"I must see the Contessa -"
"Righto then." Katz softened his tone;! he recognised he was dealing with a kid here. These concentration camp ones were all the same: they were always so bloody desperate. Sometimes he wondered liow they were going to fit into Israel when the) finally got the new country started.
It took them a few minutes to locate the
pickets. Three were sitting in a taxi at the back of the villa; the other, rifle slung over his shoulder, was slowly circling the house.
Then as the picket came ambling rounds the front door opened, light flooded out into the courtyard. An American officer
stood silhouetted in the entrance hall behind him.
"Let's go," said Keppel. "We can't go in]
the house now. Not while the American isl
"Where clo we go?"
"To the camp at Sarzana. I've still got] to get that group of mine to our ship."
"Not tonight, mate. The British will stay ]
on guard with them there tonight, j Tomorrow maybe they'll leave it to thc] Eyeties to keep an eye on 'em - that'll bel the time for you to go in."
Keppel looked up at the big house.
"Dr Besser and I have met before," said J
Luise. She sounded calm, but inside she
was a whirlpool of shock; far down belo» I she could hear the British soldiers as the) j ran through the ground floor. She kne*
now that the group down in the cellan I
When she had recovered from thc j
intitial shock of the arrival of thc truckloads of soldiers, she had slipped ou', of the music gallery and had just reachec the main gallery at the head of the stain when the entrance hall below was floodec with light.
She stumbled back into the darkness o:
the corridor. Right into the arms of thc stranger who. clamping a hand over he.'
mouth and pushing a gun into her back j
had brought her up here to the attic.
"Why did you bring her up here?' Besser was demanding of Ricci.
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CONTINUED FROM PAGE 144
^ 'What else was I going to do with her?
fcV v is she, anyway?"
it doesn't matter -" Besser went to ¡de door, listened to the noise down K s(Jirs "We have to find a way out of I \ house as big as this there must be k( some back stairs!"
.i, josser grabbed three large suitcases,
f u,ccj took up the others; then he M prodded Luise in the back with the gun "C [D<j she followed the Bessers out of the 18 J A and down the narrow winding stairs.
! Ricci conducted them down by a back
< ia) through a dark cellar and out into
He hurried them across it to a side gate,
j then out into a narrow lane and on up a
long stepped alley.
They climbed a hill through olive . es. then Ricci pushed open a rusted ¡ate and they were climbing a flight of
t igh steps to a low stone cottage.
Ricci knocked on the door, then opened ¡ Ùand almost pushed the others in ahead of I him. He closed the door and faced an ;, elderly couple.
They are my mother's parents," Ricci explained to Besser as his grandmother took Ilse and the two boys under her care. "They are not on our side, but I'll have you out of here by morning. I'll go and ? « our friends, get new instructions on \ you, but I'll leave you the gun."
"The gun? Why?" said Besser.
"My grandfather is a Communist. He fought against the Germans. All you have
io do is watch him - I'll be back in an hour, two hours at the most."
He handed the gun to Besser, who took it reluctantly. Then he crossed the room, feed his grandmother's cheek.
"Remember my mother. Grandmama," hesaid quietly. "You owe her something."
It was something secret between Ricci a"d his grandmother: vet Luise if not the olhers. knew somehow it guaranteed their
Ricci left, repeating his promise to be back in no more than two hours. The old man glared at the door as it closed on his grandson, then he jerked his head at Besser and made for an inner room off this big kitchen where they all stood.
Besser stuffed the gun into the pocket of his coat. Then he picked up the suitcases
and nodded to Luise. And for the first time she gestured at the Vuitton case.
"You've looked after it well, Dr Besser. My mother would be pleased - if there was any way of her knowing."
Luise went into the room, a small
bedroom, and he followed her and put
down the suitcases.
Besser then turned to Luise. "I am SOrry if something happened to your
mother. But orders were orders. And ¡t's all past now - "
"lt's not! It can't be rubbed out. like
some dirty mistake - " She looked beyond him, saw his wife and two boys staring at her. Suddenly she began to weep for the first time in years.
Besser hesitated, then he went out of the
room, leaving the door open. Luise lay back on the narrow bed. wept as she had not wept since she was a small girl.
She must have dozed off then. Someone was shaking her gently.
"I want to put the boys down. Do you mind? They are so tired." Frau Besser said.
She stood up and Ilse put the two boys, still dressed but for their shoes, down on the bed and drew the big quilt over them.
Luise sat on one of the stiff-backed
reed-bottomed chairs and Ilse sat opposite her; through the open door Besser, eating
at the table tn the kitchen, watched them.
"You knew my husband?" Ilse said at last; she bit her lip as if afraid to ask the next question: "At Auschwitz?"
"You should get your husband to tell you about it. Frau Besser."
"He won't. I don't know that I want him to - does that sound cowardly?"
"Yes. But natural."
"I knew about the camps. We all did. But we never thought they were - were as
bad as -"
Why should I spare her? "He sent my mother to the gas chambers. Her. and I don't know how many others. That was in October 1941. Then he left Auschwitz and what he did after that - " Her voice trailed off; she couldn't bear the look of agony on
the other woman's face.
"If they catch him, will you - will you testify against him?"
"I should have to. You see. I loved my
Ilse stood up. awkwardly. "I'll help you get away."
"You can't buy me, Frau Besser. I'd still testify if they wanted me as a witness."
"They have to catch him first. What I don't want is for you to testify in front of my two boys. I don't know how you can get away - you will have to take the chance when it comes. But I promise you - I shan't let my husband come after you. But you will have to go before Herr Ricci
comes back. 1 don't trust him."
'Try and get him outside, find some
excuse, i'll run for it then.*'
Ilse went out to the kitchen, taking hold
of the door to close it behind her. But
Besser rose from the table, pushed the door wide open again. "Leave it."
"I don't want the boys disturbed - "
"Leave it! They'll sleep - " He looked huge, threatening, but his voice had a frayed edge to it. "I don't even know your
name - "
"It doesn't matter, does it?" Luise did
something she thought she would never do. pulled back her sleeve and showed the tattoo on her arm. "We were all just numbers, weren't we?"
"Don't try to escape!" he snapped and
went back into the kitchen.
Luise pulled a chair to the doorway and
"Do you have to sit there?" Besser said. "I don't trust you, Dr Besser." "Don't joke. Fraulein -"
"Oh, I'm not. I gave up joking some years ago. October 1941. to be exact. The day you took that suitcase away from my
mother and me -"
She nodded back at the Vuitton case, a
gravestone, standing on the floor beside the bed where the boys slept.
"That bag," said Ilse. "Was it yours?"
"My mother's. A birthday present from my father. I hope your husband didn't give il to you for your birthday."
Ilse suddenly stood up, dragging on her husband's arm. "Lets go outside - please, Karl!"
Besser stood up, looked at thc old man in the corner, then took the gun out of his pocket and gestured with it.
The old man snarled in Italian and Luise smiled.
"What did he say?" Besser whirled on
"He said lo shoot yourself with it."
Besser clutched Ilse's arm and led her
out of the cottage, leaving the door open
behind them. He and Ilse stood beneath
the grape arbor, cut off from Luise's view by the door; but she knew from the old man's hard hateful stare that he was being watched by Besser.
To be concluded
(C) Sundowner Productions Pty Ltd 1975 Published by William Collins Sons & Co