Bill Todd -- DANDERTON: A Novel of the Thirties and Forties
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 Chapter 11

Some Nazi Attitudes

Communications with Jack Morris had become increasingly difficult with the possibility that Sam's incoming mail was being opened and read. Indeed, it was possible even that outgoing mail addressed to America from Rosbeck was being opened. When he wrote to Jack, Sam took the precaution of going to Hamburg, making sure he wasn't being followed, and only then mailing the letter. He hoped that the volume of mail from Hamburg would be sufficient to prevent close inspection. Even then, he used a kind of rudimentary code he and Jack had devised. It wouldn't defeat a cryptologist, but it didn't look enough like a code to be handed over to one for analysis.

There had just been time to put Brenda in touch with Jack before her departure. She had accordingly gone to Cincinnati to pick up a letter for Sam. It was obviously hastily written, and was supportive of the elimination of Hokensen. But Jack said he couldn't imagine how Sam could do it without greatly endangering himself. He suggested instead that he, Jack, might manage to hire an assassin who, guided by Sam's information, could do the job. In any case, he was coming to London, and a meeting was arranged.

It appeared that Jack had warned Brenda of the dangers of any sort of association with Sam in Germany, but she now said,

"I made it pretty clear that I was going ahead, no matter what, and he seemed to relax a bit. We had a good talk about you. Among other things, I think I convinced him that you'd be safer in my hands than running loose on your own."

"He seems pretty worried in the letter."

"Oh, he is. But we can talk it out in London."

During this period, Sam continued to take Missy out to dinner with Brenda's blessing. Missy, whatever she might surmise concerning the relation between Sam and Brenda, asked no questions. By this time, it was obvious that she wasn't going to reveal any secrets, but she discussed the day to day routine of her organization in some detail. It was useful to know, among other things, that the staff members brought sandwiches on Fridays for a lunch-time seminar. These were sometimes attended by visitors from the ministries and the armed services, and Missy often volunteerd comic descriptions of those gentlemen. Sam laughed loudly at them, and was getting to the point where he might be able to ask, some Wednesday, who would be visiting them that week.

Sam also noted a change in Missy's remarks about Hokensen, who seemed to be as obsessed with her as ever, indeed, if not more so. She no longer made fun of him and sometimes had lunch with him. It seemed that he was thinking of leaving his wife, but Missy, in the rather ludicrous role of a mature defender of traditional values, urged him to be patient and understanding.

When apprised of these developments, Brenda responded,

"She's trying to keep him on a string, resisting too much intimacy, but keeping him in tow. Except that it won't work."

"Why not?"

"If she's letting him tell her about his troubles with his wife, she's letting him get too close."

"Can't she keep on telling him to be a good boy and stay with his wife?"

"She doesn't really think that he should. That'll become apparent eventually, and a woman who encourages her married friend to break free is likely to end up as the new girl friend. Surely, he'll want to spend his first evening of freedom with her. She may then have trouble getting him to leave at midnight."

Sam wasn't entirely convinced, but he was uneasy enough to bring the matter up with the Tso family. The general liked Missy, and wanted to protect her. He was always ready to round out his entourage with the adoption of an additional pretty daughter. Shih-ninh, of course, wanted to seduce a genuine princess. Yo-wen, on the other hand, saw no compelling reason why they shouldn't blow Missy up with the building.

Partly in order to slow down the Tso family, Sam told them about his sponsor, without actually naming him, and mentioned their scheduled meeting in London. The general seemed rather impressed, apparently by the fact that another rich older man was involved in the plot. Indeed, he suggested to his children that youthful zeal should be held in check until men of greater wisdom had had their say. Sam responded,

"I'm sure that my sponsor will have some useful suggestions, and his influence with the American government may also turn out to be helpful."

Yo-wen was particularly keen on having good relations with the American government because of their plans for immigration. As she said,

"My father assumes that America will welcome us with open arms, but I'm not so sure. We'll do things in such a way to please this influential sponsor of yours."

During this period, General Tso maintained his interest in European politics. The Poles were resisting the German pressure over Danzig, and the general remarked,

"At this point, the Poles would do best to give Hitler exactly what he wants. Then, even he won't have any pretext for attacking them."

Sam replied,

"In that case, Germany might more or less take over Poland."

"They'll find it indigestible, and will eventually insist only on having bases in Poland. Life could go on as before."

The trouble, they agreed, was that, since the death of Marshal Pilsudski, no Polish statesman had the standing to offer such terms. The general concluded,

"The Poles are weak in the air and still use cavalry on horses. When the war comes, they may last a month."

Most of Rosbeck probably agreed with the general. Moreover, it turned out that even fairly liberal intellectuals wanted Danzig back and didn't much like Poles. While they didn't want war or an invasion of Poland, a lot of people in the Cafe Nord thought that Nazi bluster might have its uses now and then. Missy, as a Lithuanian, remarked,

"The Poles are grotesque mis-shapen little people who make odd noises. No one even knows where they came from, and it's a scandal that they have Vilnius. One of my cousins lost his estates there."

This was too much for Otto, in particular, and he pointed out that Polish mathematicians and logicians were among the best in the world. It turned out that Missy had no very high regard for mathematicians and logicians, and she was even doubtful of the merit of the Polish Joseph Conrad. But, then, she did a spontaneous and amusing imitation of Hitler in his last radio speech. There was some nervous, and rather subdued, laughter around the table.

Sam already realized that Missy expressed contempt for anything she took to be vulgar or common, be it Polish or Nazi. However, it did surprise him that the others tolerated either her dangerous sedition or her underlying loyalty to the old Kaiser. But, then, pretty princesses could get away with so much, even among people who didn't think that there should be such things as princesses.

Later that evening, Sam was left with just Annaliese and Otto. They carefully didn't mention Missy, but Annaliese was quite agitated over something else. Two of their friends from the Classics Department had been denounced by other graduate students in the department for feigning infirmities to keep them out of the army. That seemed to have happened several days previously. Since then, Hans and Klaus had simply disappeared. Hans' landlady said that he had been taken away late at night by men in plain clothes, and no one knew anything about Klaus. Sam, who had known both casually, wondered if they were being tortured. He asked,

"Could they just have been taken away and put in the army?"

Neither Annaliese nor Otto seemed to think that very likely. She said,

"If so, we'll get letters from them."

After a brief silence, Sam said,

"I thought your department upstairs of Hokensen was a peaceful little island in the middle of the storm."

"Not in the least. It's been thoroughly Nazified."

That was almost as surprising to Sam as the denunciation, and Otto said,

"Konrad Lorenz discovered that doves can be more cruel than birds of prey."

Annaliese replied,

"In this case, the denouncers are quite proud. They're being congratulated by other students and faculty members. I made quite a scene, and was ushered out of the building by the old bitch of the secretary. I'm not going back."


"Except to the trysting place."

That drew a laugh from the others, but she continued, in all seriousness,

"It's all because of Heidegger."

Martin Heidegger had been a fairly ordinary German academic, one who specialized in ancient Greek philosophy. Having built up a certain scholarly reputation, he suddenly become a violent Nazi. Annaliese said,

"He's one of those wormy little men that no woman would want, and so he was tremendously repressed sexually. But the Nazis, with all the boots, the marching, and the leather, are tremendously sexual. So here's this horrid little man out there at night chanting in unison in a torch-lit parade and masturbating in his knickers."

Otto remarked,

"It's odd that so many other classicists and philosophers would follow him in this."

"Well, they don't everywhere. But Rosbeck is a little backwater, and the people here have nothing to lose in attaching themselves to something fashionable. And, then, our professor here is himself a stupider version of Heidegger."

Finally, Sam asked,

"How does Missy get away with so much when Hans and Klaus did so little."

Otto replied,

"The regime is vicious, but badly organized and haphazard. There are criminals who hardly bother to hide, but shopkeepers who disappear after selling a book by Thomas Mann."

Sam began to explore the haphazard side of the Third Reich when he went to Hamburg to buy a van. There were not thousands upon thousands of such vehicles in a German city, and only a handful of used ones were for sale. Sam went around, answering adds and looking at vehicles.

He soon found that small tradesmen operated in a sort of black market underneath the engorged bureaucracy. Barter was the order of the day, taxes were avoided and evaded, and vehicles were registered under the names of people long deceased. All payments were made in cash, and Sam had to go to the bank before he could be taken seriously.

Almost as important as the condition of the vehicle was the lettering on its sides. Hokensen's institute wasn't very likely to require deliveries of poultry or sausages, nor were they likely to be able to consume a truck load of fruit before it spoiled. Nor was anyone in Rosbeck likely to have such things sent all the way from Hamburg.

There were no vehicles lettered for booksellers or auctioneers, and the few closed vans were incapable of carrying the tons of explosive that they would be using. The vehicle most obviously capable of that was an old dump truck belonging to a stonemason. The lettering was old and hard to make out, particularly the address in Hamburg, but it was easy to believe that a mason's services would be required to maintain the old stone buildings of the university.

The drawback was, of course, that the truck was open. They could hardly allow the explosive to get wet in the frequent rains, and anyone who wished could climb up and inspect the load.

The alternative, on the other hand, seemed to be that of having to make more than one trip, both in picking up the explosive and in taking it to the target building. That seemed to Sam to be even more dangerous. They could keep the load dry with many tarpaulins, and they could constuct a locked wooden cover for it, perhaps disguising it with masonry rubble.

The mason was an older man who was obviously very anxious to sell. Sam found it easier to explain being American than being a healthy young German who wasn't in the armed forces. The mason asked no questions, but explained only,

"For such a cheap price, you'll have to expect some problems. But you Americans are so mechanical!"

Sam was sure that there would be problems, and hoped that he was sufficiently mechanical. The mason, pleased with the cash, said that no paperwork would be required, adding,

"I'll be gone from the country in a few days."

It turned out that he had a Jewish grandmother. That hadn't yet become a major problem, but it could easily in the future. He finally added,

"Europe is old, sick, and dangerous. I have a daughter in Canada, and I'm going to her."

Driving off without further ado, Sam quickly discovered that the truck was also old, sick, and dangerous. The connection between the steering wheel and the front wheels was less than perfect, and, in a vehicle which would be loaded with explosive, that could be a problem.

Sam was happy that he had some experience with dump trucks. At his prep school, the standard punishment for mischief was a requirement to help the buildings and grounds crew on Saturday mornings. Most of the boys didn't really mind doing that, and the most prized assignment was that of driving the dump truck over the fields and around the buildings. The high point was, of course, backing up to the dump and pulling the lever. There was then a satisfying roar as the load of debris and trash descended.

It probably wouldn't be a good idea to dump explosive, but Sam had learned other useful things. One was that such a truck needed to be double-clutched. That is, one had to push the clutch down, shift to neutral, let the clutch up, put it down again, and then shift to the next gear. This truck had the same need, and he found himself accelerating around corners with force and continuity. However, just as he was leaving the outskirts of Hamburg, the motor died.

Sam had also had some experience with the school's old Ford Model A truck. The problem there was that the gas tank, immediately in front of the cab, filled from the top and had its outlet, protected by a strainer, at its bottom. It was almost impossible to clean the tank thoroughly, and, in the older vehicles, the rust and dirt in the tank regularly clogged the strainer. This truck was much larger, but it had its gas tank in the same position, probably with the same consequences.

Having rolled to the side of the road, Sam got out, opened the side of the hood, and disconnected the gas line to the carburettor. He then put the end of the line in his mouth and blew as hard as he could, hoping to dislodge the debris from the strainer. At first, nothing happened. Then, after a supreme effort, the jam broke. Sam wound up with a mouthful of gasoline, and, as he spat it out, a passing workman laughed. The problem, and the procedure, seemed to be a common one.

After a good deal of cranking, the engine started. But, amid sputterings, it died again. Groaning inwardly, Sam got out and went back to the motor. Blowing back cleared the gas- tank strainer, but there might also be, and probably was, gunk in the carburettor. Short of disassembling it and cleaning it, there was another procedure, that of sucking up.

This time, the disassembled fuel line spewed gasoline on the hot engine. There was fortunately no fire, and Sam put his thumb over the end of the line. He then put the line leading to the carburettor in his mouth and sucked as hard as he could. Gunk came out slowly. Filling his mouth, he spat, and went back for more. After a few repetitions, he closed up the line and went back to the cab. The engine started and was gunned without showing any signs of stalling.

Back on the road, Sam wondered how far he could go before the process would have to be repeated. He also wondered if he had yet done anything illegal. There were undoubtedly forms that should have been filled out in the course of transferring a vehicle, and, very likely, taxes that should have been paid. But, much more important, what could he possibly say if the Gestapo picked him up and asked him why a visiting American student would buy a stonemason's old truck? The only answer he could imagine was that he collected old vehicles, and was planning to take this one back to America. People did normally take him to be an eccentric. Would that satisfy a man in a tight black uniform who smiled sadistically?

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