Monday, April 12, 2010


Chapter 4
A light rain began to fall and streaked the windows on the outside. Miles was nodding off next to me as I looked at the passing countryside separated with hedgerows and populated with sheep and cows. England was so very different from Germany. But both countries would spend many years rebuilding after the destruction of the war. The differences between Miles and me were becoming more acute also. College educated in Berlin, sandy blond hair with green eyes, I was a direct contrast to Miles’ dark hair, blue eyes and uneducated background. His skin was smooth and white and when he blushed or exerted himself, his cheeks became a rosy red. My skin was tan and pink and I was hairy all over with short blond hairs, while Miles had little to no body hair. Although he had memorized Wordsworth, his working class roots were apparent in his speech and demeanor, and though charming in some situations, he would have a hard time with the upper middle and upper classes of both England and Germany.
The room was filled with handsome lieutenants and colonels in their uniforms; the elite of the SD, the security and intelligence division of the SS. It was a hot September day and I longed to be far from this stuffy smoke filled room. I had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel two months prior because of my good work and affiliations with Dr. Franz Arthur Six, from the University of Berlin. He had been my economics instructor and later the Dean of the faculty of Economics. A fanatic, Professor Six had recruited me into the Nazi Party and then moved me into the German Army High Command and the SD, where we immediately set to work on Directive 16 and the invasion of Great Britain.
The air was somber after we had just been informed that Hitler had postponed Operation Sea Lion until the spring or summer of the following year; 1941. Hitler had shifted his focus to the Soviet Union and Professor Six had already moved into a position commandeering Operation Barbarossa.
Dr. Six and I worked together on creating a list of 2,300 persons who would be arrested and brought back to Germany after the invasion. The names for the most part came from a list previously compiled by Walther Schellenberg, who had been Heinrich Himmler’s personal aide and was now working with Reinhard Heyrich. Heyrich had been the first to suggest to Hitler that he invade Great Britain. Among those on the list were prominent politicians like Winston Churchill, scholars such as Bertrand Russell and Sigmund Freud, (although he had died in September of 1939), Freemasons, Jehovah Witnesses and Boy Scouts. We also made the plans for the Einstatzgruppen, the six death squads who would invade Britain and destroy all anti-Nazi elements, civilian resistance members, and of course Jews. They would target London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Edinburgh or Glasgow.
In July, thirteen divisions of soldiers had been moved in preparation for the first wave of the invasion. I was never convinced it would work and was relieved when the order came down to delay. The Luftwaffe was set into motion to continue bombing London and bases throughout England to demoralize the nation until the right time to invade would be decided upon.
I had just finished a brandy and was preparing to leave the meeting when I was approached by Schellenberg. He was a handsome man with a charm about him that unsettled me. I suspected he was a homosexual, but had no proof. His lips were full and sensual and when he smoked, he inhaled though his nose, making a big production of exhaling the smoke just past your face. In November 1939, Schellenberg played a major part in the Venlo Incident, which led to the capture of two British agents. Because of my knowledge of English, I had worked with him on the project. He had just returned from Portugal to intercept the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and tried to persuade them to work for Germany. The mission was a failure; Schellenberg managed only to delay their baggage for a few hours, but earlier I overheard him bragging that he had almost convinced them.
“So, Huber, what will we do now that we are not to invade England?” He smiled at me and took a drink of his brandy. He held my gaze with his brown eyes.
“I suspect you have something up your sleeve.”
“As a matter of fact, I would like to discuss a very interesting little proposition with you. You and I worked well together on the Venlo Incident. Do you know the name Kitty Schmidt?”
“Isn’t she the madam who was arrested at the Dutch border trying to escape to England?”
“Yes. We’ve converted her brothel with bugs and tape recorders. Madame Schmidt has been very cooperative. Did you know she had bank accounts in England and smuggled money out of Germany with Jews she helped escape? Yes, she has been very cooperative indeed.”
“I imagine she has.”
“I’ve hand selected twenty prostitutes from hundreds we interviewed and trained them to help us spy on military personnel and foreign diplomats who frequent her establishment. Psychiatrists, doctors and university professors have helped us decide which of the girls were emotionally unreliable and unfit for the job. I need someone to train the girls in codes and deciphers and help them with their English. Do you think you’re up to it?”
“Anything I can do to help,” I replied. My palms began to sweat and I felt the sweat on my back drip down past the waistband of my trousers. Walther took another drink of his brandy and licked his lips.
“I realize you would be making a great sacrifice, Huber.” Schellenberg took a drag off his cigarette.
“What do you mean?” I tried to stay as calm as possible.
“Well, let’s just say that I know you’ve probably never been to a house of ill-repute before.” He smiled and winked as he blew smoke past my face.
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean?”
“Oh, come now, Stefan, no need to play coy. Your little secret’s safe with me. Perhaps we might even share some secrets with one another if you’re not too busy.”
“What did you have in mind?” I was sweating profusely.
He finished his brandy and set down the glass. “Come with me. Let me show you what we’ve been up to. Besides, it’s way too hot in here. I can see the perspiration on your face.” He led the way and soon we were in the back seat of his car.
“Kittys.” He commanded to the driver.
The train pulled into the Milford Station in the late afternoon. Everything was wet from the earlier rains as Miles and I made our way to the platform. We inquired at the station about making our way to the manor. We were informed that there was only one cab in town and he had just left the station and should return in about an hour. We found a local pub to get something to eat. Miles was in a dark and brooding mood. His moods seemed as changeable as the weather.
“Is something bothering you, Miles?”
“What’s to become of us?”
“How do you mean?”
“Look at us, a couple of vagabonds.”
I ordered us some shepherd’s pie and two pints. Miles ate in silence as I considered my future with him.
“Try not to take things so seriously, Miles.” He smiled and took a drink of his beer. I continued, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, you know. I believe the manor has not had anyone caring for it in the four years since my mother died.”
“Did you know her?” He asked.
“I never knew she existed until about five months ago. Never knew my father either. He died when I was only four years old. I was raised by my grandparents. They died in the fire bombings.”
“We’re they married?”
“My grandparents?”
“No, silly, yer mom and dad.”
“I always thought they were.”
“I’m sorry. Well, it looks like we’re a couple of vagabond bastard orphans.” He wiped his bowl clean with a piece of bread and finished his beer. “We should go look for the cab.”
I paid the barkeep and we walked the few blocks back to the station. The cab was waiting at the curb.
“Are you the blokes what needs a lift?” The cabbie shouted as we approached.
“Yes, Reid Manor. Do you know it?” I asked.
“Sure, out past Windley about thirty minutes.”
We climbed in and soon the Midlands countryside was flashing past the car windows.
“Nobody goes out there much these days,” the driver remarked. “Not since her Ladyship passed away, ‘bout four years ago I think it was. His Lordship died just before the start of the war. Beautiful grounds, but no one’s been tending them properly in years. They tried to keep up with it, but gave up after his Lordship died.”
“Did you know them, Lord and Lady Reid?” I asked.
“No, they had a driver for their car and I usually picked folks up and drove them out to the Manor. Just saw them a few times here and there,” he replied. “Heard plenty though. Are you related?”
“Yes. I’ve inherited the estate.”
“Good Lord, I had no idea they had children.”
“I’m her son from a previous marriage.” I smiled at Miles who was grinning.
“Well, congratulations. You’ve certainly got yer hands full.”
We turned off a country road, passing through a gate with a sign on a brick post that read, “Fair Oaks.” The long gravel driveway took us past fields and forests until we arrived at an imposing three storied building made of limestone with several chimneys and covered in ivy. The entrance had a gothic arch as did all the windows facing the outside. Large oak trees surrounded the manor on all sides and one particular oak towered over the south wing. As we pulled up to the doorway, a middle-aged woman in a black dress stepped down the entrance stairs towards the car. The driver got out, made his way to my door closest to the house and opened it for me. I stepped out as he got our luggage from the boot.
“Welcome, home, sir,” she said to me and shook my hand.
“Mrs. Sellers?” She nodded, “Thank you. This is Miles Sheffington, the friend of mine I wired you who would be staying with us.”
Mrs. Sellers looked over my shoulder as Miles got out of the cab and put her hand over her mouth.
“Is something wrong?” I asked.
“It’s uncanny,” she replied.
“Mrs. Sellers, are you alright?”
She stood with her hand over her mouth and her eyes began to tear. Miles was looking around him and had not noticed her reaction or pretended not to at least.
“I’m sorry, but the resemblance..” She wiped her tears quickly with a handkerchief that seemed to appear out of nowhere and straightened her dress.
“I’ll show you to your rooms, dinner is ready if you would like to freshen up.” She looked at Miles who nodded to her and then turned and walked up the stairs to entrance. I paid the cabbie and Miles grabbed our luggage.
“I can carry my case,” I said.
“On no, yer Lordship. Gotta start earning my board and keep sometime.”
“Miles, please. Let me..”
He charged up the stairs passed me and followed Mrs. Sellers into the house. The foyer was stark and devoid of any accessories.
“I’m afraid the house is not what it used to be,” Mrs. Sellers said as she reached the center of the room, turning towards Miles and me. “Many things had to be sold to pay debts her Ladyship had acquired during her illness. She left me in charge of the place and it’s been my privilege to remain here and care for Fair Oaks. It’s just me and Lettie, the cook now. I’m afraid the place has gone to rack and ruin.” She was staring at Miles the entire time she spoke. She still had not smiled. She turned and walked to the staircase. “Please follow me to your rooms.”

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