Bill Todd -- DANDERTON: A Novel of the Thirties and Forties
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 Chapter 5

Yo-Wen and Missy

Next for Sam was a visit to Tso Yo-wen in Zurich. Apart from wanting to see her, he thought that her help might be useful in his work. She had already written him that General Tso, anticipating an eventual communist victory, had paid off his soldiers and advised them to disappear into the countryside. He then cashed in all his chips and conveyed his wife and some fifteen dependants to Zurich.

Although they were rich, even by Swiss standards, the general had insisted on a quiet and undemonstrative life style in a large but relatively unpretentious house on the outskirts of the city.

Seething with unused energy, General Tso was besieging his favorite daughter, now his tutor in all things European, with questions, plans, and strategies. It was a mercy, Yo-wen wrote, that he recognized that he couldn't conduct guerilla warfare in Switzerland, or ambush the express luxury trains as they came out of tunnels. What Sam didn't know was how much the general might know of his friendship with Yo-wen, and what attitude he might take toward it.

Yo-wen was at the station. Now twenty two and dressed in the height of Parisian fashion, she was still beautiful, but in an entirely different way. Sam knew from her letters that she had come to think of men as the natural victimizers of women, mostly through the institution of marriage and childbirth. Sam could readily believe this to be true of Chinese women, but Yo-wen thought that victimization in the west only took on a more subtle form. She herself was determined not to marry, still less to have children. She said that she would do whatever victimizing needed to be done herself.

It all showed in Yo-wen's face and posture as she greeted Sam warmly, but with a certain distance. She told him triumphantly,

"Since my father knows nothing of Europe, he relies on me for everything. To all intents and purposes, I have money and power."

"You also look as if you could drive those long red finger- nails into someone's throat."

Yo-wen was delighted.

"That's just the look I want! Many people are afraid of me."

"How's it going at the university?"

"My German isn't terribly fluent, so I mostly do mathematics. But not your sort of mathematics. I'm learning to be a statistician."

"It's very useful for the social sciences. And it may be helpful if you end up investing and managing money."

"We're trusting the Swiss banks for the time being. I think their currency will appreciate if there's war."

They were in Yo-wen's car by this time, and, apropos of nothing, she said,

"I suppose you're wondering if you can play with me the way you used to."

"I can already see that the answer is negative. But you used to play, too."

"I was only seventeen!"

"And older than I in some ways."

"So you don't admit guilt for molesting a child?"

"Certainly not."

Yo-wen laughed, again pleased, and said,

"Good. I had hoped that you'd deny guilt. But we can only be friends now."

This was the second lovely woman to declare herself off limits to Sam within a short time. But it wasn't as bad. There had been intimations in Yo-wen's letters. Moreover, there was no other man. Anne, at this moment, might well be naked in the arms of her husband. Thoughts like that came as sudden and unexpected jolts, and it took Sam a short time to reel and recover. When he had done so, he asked,

"What does your father think of our friendship?"

"He carefully didn't ask for any details. He knows that we need knowledgeable non-Chinese friends, and I told him that you know more about more things than anyone."

The Tso family entirely filled the large house. In addition to the many young adults, there were grandchildren who swarmed in a little squad. They had a military look to them, and they systematically searched for anything in the way of loot.

General Tso, a small thick man with a broad smile, had already been told that Sam spoke some Chinese. Moreover, from his past experience with Yo-wen, Sam was at least familiar with the particular dialect. It also helped that he was now with a military rather than a literary person. The general's remarks were quite notably down-to-earth, and they found that they could converse quite well.

General Tso, surprisingly for a man of his age, had learned enough French and German to make some sense of the newspapers. As he told Sam in Chinese,

"I can read the papers intended for the masses. In the good papers I can read only the first sentence in each article."

It was, Sam recalled, a convention among many journalists to start each piece with a strong simple declarative sentence. He soon found that he was expected to supply the information that would be contained in the bodies of those articles. After a bit, Yo-wen intervened and said,

"My father has a curiosity equal to your own, Sam. Later, you can get him to tell you about his campaigns. He's brought his maps with him."

General Tso was nothing if not interesting. But, the more Sam talked with him, the more he realized that Yo-wen had somewhat mis-estimated the situation. The general was dependent on her in many ways, but not totally so. He was developing his own sources as fast as he could. Conversely, Yo-wen, far from having de facto power and wealth, couldn't do anything without his being there. If Sam was going to have her cooperation in any enterprise, he must have that of the general as well.

After a while, Sam raised the question of Germany's warlike intentions in Europe. General Tso knew all about them, including the possibility that Germany, in invading France, would violate Swiss territory by swooping south of the Maginot Line (which ended on the French-Swiss border). As he said to Sam,

"That would give the Swiss army a wonderful chance to come down out of the mountains and attack the German flank."

The general's eyes glistened, and Sam asked,

"Is the Swiss army capable of such a counter-attack?"

He got a more complete answer than he expected. Sam was amused when he heard that the general had instructed Yo-wen to befriend Swiss army officers in order to find out about their army. His conclusion was,

"It's a professional army, but it hasn't fought in hundreds of years. The officers don't, for example, understand the shock effect of an ambush at night."

Stating the obvious, Sam said,

"I imagine you'd like to lead the attack, general."

The general threw up his hands and smiled.

"But I'm Chinese. They don't know me, and I can hardly speak their language. If I were richer, I'd raise and train my own force to do what they might not be able to do."

Yo-wen offered Sam a guest room, but, noting the children charging around with toy bows and arrows, the latter of which were released with some considerable velocity, he chose a hotel. He would also get a chance to talk with her as she drove him there.

Driving with Yo-wen was exciting, but Sam managed to explain his mission. He ended by saying,

"The odd thing is that it isn't very secret. I'm not breaking any laws, and, since I'm only working for a private citizen, my government couldn't be embarrassed."

"You may not think you're breaking German laws, but the Nazis wouldn't care. You should see what they did to a young American who declared himself a communist."

"Well, I'll certainly be careful. I understand you've been spying on the Swiss army."

"It's my father's eternal curiosity! I'm now having trouble getting rid of young Swiss officers who want to be my boy friend."

"Why don't you and your father help me spy on German scientists?"

Yo-wen looked not at all surprised and replied,

"I'm not sure he understands how important scientists can be. There's hardly any tradition of science in China, you know."

"I bet you could explain it to him."

Yo-wen, missing a pedestrian, smiled and said,

"We used to have our adventures with my climbing out windows at night. I can see that you want some more excitement."

"With your father included this time."

The hotel was humorously overdone in some ways, but Sam slept soundly in a bed that seemed to engulf him. Yo-wen bounced up to his room the next morning in flat heels and a more utilitarian costume, looking hardly older than the schoolgirl she had been. She announced,

"It's done. He's driving me crazy, and I can't get away from him. But it'll be better if he has something to do. Since the Germans and Japanese are friendly, we'll pretend to be Japanese."

"Neither of you look Japanese to me. Nor does Chinese sound like Japanese."

"Not to you, but Germans won't know the difference. They study the ancient Greeks, but they have utter contempt for anything to the east. Besides, when we translate for my father, we'll do it in an undertone."

"When you meet people, you'll have to know things about Japan."

"I do know about Japan. I've also fought the Japs. I'll imitate them."

Yo-wen then gave Sam what she took to be a Japanese smile. It was strange and not at all reassuring. Sam asked,

"I'm being an American. Why don't you want to be Chinese?"

"If we do something naughty, we'll be less likely to be suspected."

Returning to Rosbeck late, Sam collapsed fully dressed on to his bed. An hour or so later, he woke, got organized, and went back to bed. Arising about nine the next morning, he sat at the window overlooking the main square with the coffee his cleaning woman had brought up. There were lots of people down below, making their way over the cobblestones, gossipping with one another, and entering the shops. While a couple of the women looked quite sophisticated, perhaps the wives of professors, most were rather quaint, almost country bumpkins. No one looked at all Nazi.

Continuing to sit there, Sam wondered whether such a population could possibly produce an atomic bomb. But, of course, it wouldn't be the people he saw. There were wormy little men in lab coats who'd be doing that. How many of them would it take?

People like Einstein, working alone, had made great discoveries in theoretical physics, but technology wasn't like that. There were no overarching principles that moved everything else. Problems sub-divided into other problems which themselves sub-divided. Such a project might start with a dozen people, and then involve hundreds at the end. He would have to look for a sizable group that had a tendency to multiply. Hokensen's group might, or might not, turn out to be the one.

Sam was also impressed with the fact that Yo-wen, no alarmist, thought that he was engaged in a dangerous business. There might, for examples, be Nazi spies in the student cafes. Otto, with his loose talk about rocket propulsion, might be denounced. Sam had done no more than listen, but he himself could be marked down as one who listened too hard too often to the wrong things.

It was essential to continue to go to the cafes, the Nord in particular, but Sam tried to look a bit more like one of the old students, the ones no one took seriously. His wardrobe became more expensive and fashionable. He often tried to appear a little drunk, and he paid considerable attention to the ladies, as if he were trying to find a girl friend. These characteristics, displayed too frequently or fervently, might have caused him to be rejected by the very people he wanted to meet, but he found that he could calibrate the effect to a nice degree.

Sam was gradually accepted by Otto's group. He also mingled freely with other young intellectuals, including the classicists and some economists. His immediate object was simply to be recognized as one graduate student among others, foreign and more moneyed than the others, but, still, a familiar figure in the cafes. He occasionally mentioned his particular interests, but was pleased when one man mistook him for an archaeologist.

The first real break came, not through Otto, but in connection with his sister, Annaliese. That young lady, who kept saying that she had a boy friend somewhere, also had a female friend, a Lithuanian princess, who was headed for trouble.

It rather surprised Sam that he had acquired a reputation for sagacity. It was probably a result of his not saying a great deal and greeting the ideas of others with appreciative noises. He was also considered handsome and eligible. And so, when a pretty princess without much practical sense appeared, it was natural to introduce her to him. Apart from fulfilling her need for male companionship, it seemed to be assumed that he could guide her away from dangerous shoals.

The introduction was, in fact, quite informal. Sam took the only remaining seat at a large round table, and Annaliese called across it,

"Sam, that's Missy next to you."

Sam had been told about Missy, but asked questions in the ordinary way. She told him that she had been in town only two weeks, but had met Annaliese the first day. They had struck up a friendship quickly, and Annaliese even managed to find Missy a job as a secretary.

Missy's previous job had been in the Reich Propaganda Ministry, and she described its termination.

"The word came down that we should issue news releases more critical of the British. As a joke, I wrote a release which said that the Coldstream Guards had revolted and hung King George in front of Buckingham Palace. Through a mix-up, it was put on the radio in a broadcast beamed at South Africa."

"Did they fire you for that?"

"No, but my boss was rather upset. He wasn't much fun to begin with, so I quit."

Sam happened to know that the Lithuanian aristocracy and that comprising the Junkers of East Prussia were extremely close and extensively inter-married. She would have many influential connections in Germany, and probably some money of her own. The surprising thing was that she worked at all, as a secretary no less.

As the conversation became general at the table, Missy participated at the usual break-neck speed, evidently without inhibition. She was an educated girl, probably with little scientific understanding, who seemed to find excitement and interest in the interactions between people. There was no snobbery about her, but Sam supposed that it was because she was a princess that she assumed that she could get away with saying, or doing, almost anything. Yo-wen might do outrageous things, but she knew how to plan, and she had the ability to execute her plans. This girl did and said things without any plan at all.

A little later, in answer to a question, Missy said,

"My new boss looks like a failed movie actor. He flutters his eyelids the way Rudolf Valentino used to, and he gives me quite peculiar looks."

As Missy imitated the looks, someone said,

"He's probably in love with you."

"Oh no. He has a very attractive wife."

There was general laughter at this piece of naivite, and Otto asked,

"Hokensen is your boss, isn't he?"

As Sam suppressed a start, Missy nodded and Otto continued,

"He stands very well with the Nazis just now. I suppose he must feel that he's entitled to at least one mistress on the side, particularly if she's in a position to give him admiring looks all day long."

Missy replied,

"He must make a very good Nazi. The strutting would come easily, and, at party rallies, he'd enjoy mingling his voice with the others as they shreik like castrati at the Leader's words."

Only Annaliese laughed. Everyone else looked profoundly uneasy. Sam said quietly to Missy,

"As an American, I'm a little at sea. But isn't it dangerous to say things like that?"

"People tell me so, and I'm getting better. At least, I didn't say that Hitler is a castrati."

This last was said in a whisper, for which Sam was thankful. He remarked in as casual a way as he could,

"If Otto knows your boss, I suppose he must be a scientist."

"Yes. Everyone in the group is. I can't understand much of what they say, and I'm always making typing mistakes because I don't know the meanings of the terms."

"I have a background in science, and I might be able to help you."

"Really? That would be wonderful. It might keep me from getting fired!"

It might not have occurred to Missy that she'd have to show him some correspondence in order to get help in spelling certain hastily scrawled words. And, of course, once he taught her certain rudiments of atomic science, she'd need help in relating it to the material she encountered at work.

Two days later, Sam and Missy had their first "science" session over dinner. Missy obviously thought that the science was just an excuse to take her to dinner. And then, since she was delighted to be taken to dinner, the science was no longer necessary. It was, in fact, the last thing she wanted to talk about.

For Sam, with his quite varied experience, the dinner conversation was nevertheless new and different. Despite Missy's tendency to make irreverent remarks about Nazis and others, their talk took a civilized turn. Nothing was discussed with much analytical rigor, but there were ideas, often put forward with humor, and the overall tone was quite pleasant. This, thought Sam, must be the way in which German aristocrats whiled away their leisure time.

Missy's idea seemed to be that, on an evening out with a gentleman, as opposed to a discussion with students over coffee, it would be boorish to talk about work. There wasn't a mention of Hokensen or his minions, and it looked as if there might not be for a long time to come.

It remained only to escort Missy back to the apartment she was sharing with another girl. Sam doubted that it was good form to kiss a princess after a first date, perhaps not after the tenth one. In the event, he found a white shapely hand with long fingers extended to him. Considering that an American would hardly be expected to bend and give it the pretend kiss of a European gent, he shook it warmly.

Missy went out with other young men, and was engaged most evenings. She seemed always, however, to be able to make time for Sam. On subsequent outings he found out more about the Junkers, who, he discovered, had not all been militarists. Missy was equally curious about what, to her, was the utterly bizarre world of major league baseball in the United States. She didn't think, as Yo-wen once had, that each team consisted of guerilla warriors. But she couldn't make out why some people cared so desperately whether other people, none of them their relatives, won games.

Sam did try to introduce science into their conversations now and then, but found Missy more adroit than anyone he had ever known at avoiding certain subjects. He sensed that she would react in a similar way if asked about the other men she went out with.

In a way, it all made sense. Missy wasn't supposed to marry a student, or, for that matter, anyone she might meet in Rosbeck. She consequently maintained a large and pleasant circle of acquaintances without getting close enough to anyone to be compromised in the eyes of a genuine suitor produced by her parents.

Some three weeks after their first meeting, Sam and Missy, on a non-date night, were seated with their friends at a large table at the Cafe Nord. Otto said, with some concerrn,

"Missy's boss is absolutely besotted with her."

Missy denied it, but Otto replied,

"People who work with him say that he makes ridiculous excuses to come to your desk, that he can't keep his eyes off you, and that he follows you when you leave work. Pretty soon, he'll come here instead of the Cafe Rosbeck."

It was common knowledge that the Cafe Rosbeck was much more Nazi. The Cafe Nord was filled with young intellectuals who, secretly, weren't Nazis at all. But they had developed sensitive antennae and were made uneasy by things that would have been subjects of humor in another country. No one needed to be told that Hokensen was a prominent Nazi, and that, within reason, prominent Nazis could have what they wanted.

The overwhelming consensus was that Missy should quit her job immediately and leave Rosbeck. As Annaliese said,

"It's not as if you had a good job you wouldn't want to lose. You have nice friends here, but you'll make friends wherever you go."

Sam, on the surface, was non-committal. He didn't, after all, know enough about the local situation to pretend to be able to give advice.

Missy resisted the advice of the others, claiming that nothing could happen to her. Otto replied, gently,

"It's been six years now. I don't understand how anyone who has been in or near Germany most of that time could fail to appreciate the danger of the underlying situation."

That was as much as he could say without unduly risking his own neck. It was obvious that Missy still didn't appreciate the danger, and Sam wondered why. He himself had blundered into the Third Reich somewhat blindly, but, even though he had come from farther away, he didn't disregard warnings from people like Tso Yo-wen and Otto.

It was a patient group, and it didn't simply abandon Missy to her foolishness. The question then arose of whether someone in Hokensen's position could have a person followed and spied on for strictly personal reasons. A friend of Otto's suggested,

"Even if he could, it would be demeaning for a man to go to the Gestapo and tell them to investigate a woman he hopes to make his mistress."

Someone else replied,

"But he could tell them that his secretary has access to secret material, and that he wants to know who her friends are and what she tells them."

That caused a certain alarm to spread through the group, no member of which wished to be investigated. It also put pressure on Missy not to get her friends into trouble. Sam, feeling uncomfortable himself, saw that young people in modern Germany might be forced to drop friends who came under suspicion for any reason whatever. In this case, if they did investigate Missy and came upon reports, probably exaggerated, of some of the things she said, the consequences could be serious for anyone seen with her.

Missy could hardly fail to respond to that kind of pressure, and replied,

"I'll go out to lunch with him the next time he asks. Then, if it looks like too much, I'll quit and leave."

It wasn't exactly the response the others wanted, but it somewhat mollified them. Hokensen probably wouldn't put the dogs on her or her friends as long as he thought he was making progress.

Bill Todd -- DANDERTON: A Novel of the Thirties and Forties
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