Bill Todd -- DANDERTON: A Novel of the Thirties and Forties
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 Chapter 16


It was a hastily arranged lunch date, but Missy accepted readily enough. Sam took her to the tourist hotel a little way down the coast, and was able to convey her, not in the dump truck, but in the car Otto had left for him in his hasty departure. He already knew that Missy liked riding in the sporty little car, and he saw that she was wearing rather glamorous sun glasses in honor of the occasion. She could, in fact, look rather like a movie star.

The hotel made much of its location on the beach, but, since the beach was mostly mud with barnacle encrusted rocks that ripped the feet, trade was light. Still, there was more luxury in the dining room than Missy had been used to recently. As she settled down in obvious comfort. Sam remarked,

"If you eat well today, perhaps you can endure the lunchtime seminar with sandwiches tomorrow."

"Oh, I'm not expected to attend those. I'll do the preparations, and then leave for lunch as usual."

"You don't have to actually make the sandwiches, do you?"

"No, those are delivered by that caterer down the street. I just set the table."

Sam, relieved that there had been no change in arrangements, pointed out a newspaper left on a nearby table and said,

"It looks as if war will break out any day. You're a little too young to remember the last one and its aftermath, but I imagine you've heard stories."

Missy had heard lots of stories, mostly featuring the loss of property by her family and relatives. One woman had even lost all but one of her fur coats. It was hard not to laugh, but Sam replied,

"It'll be much worse this time. And I dare say that the news about you and Sigmund is just about now getting to your mother."

Missy seemed to already have distanced from Sigmund, and perhaps even from the likelihood of scandal, but Sam had brought it back with a jolt. After allowing her to emote briefly, Sam said,

"The rest of us are leaving for America tomorrow, and you could come with us. Duck the war and your mother at the same time. I can get you a much better job in America than the one you have now. No obligation to anyone, and you can come back if you don't like it."

Missy gave Sam a look of amazement. She then replied,

"It sounds wonderful in a way. But tomorrow! I couldn't possibly ...."

"Frankly, the reason for haste is that we're all in trouble with the authorities, you as much as anyone. We could be arrested at any time. We should really be going today, not tomorrow."

"All right. I do trust you, Sam. Don't I need papers?"

"Not the way we're going to do it. It's unorthodox, but it'll work. The thing is, though, you can't bring hardly anything with you. It musn't look as if you're packing up and leaving."

"So all three fur coats have to be abandoned?"

"I'm afraid so. Just the clothes you'll be wearing and all the jewelry you can stuff in the pockets. Anyhow, most of America is too warm for fur coats."

Missy did laugh, and Sam could see that he had engaged her spirit of adventure. She asked,

"Do you really think I'm about to be arrested?"

"Of course. We spotted that police agent in the Cafe Nord long ago. You must have said a hundred anti-Nazi and anti- Hitler things in his hearing. This regime doesn't really like the aristocracy very much, and it's a wonder you've been allowed to go free as long as you have."

"Could we go tonight?"

"I'm afraid not. The arrangements have already been made, and it's set for tomorrow. Go to work in the morning, but tell them you don't feel well at eleven and go home."

"I'll get everything set up for the lunch seminar first thing in the morning."

"That's good. I'll be across the street from your apartment watching. But I'll have to leave at five after noon."

"I understand. I won't let anything delay me."

For the rest of the lunch, they talked about life in America. Missy asked briefly if Brenda would mind her inclusion, but Sam replied,

"She first suggested it. Once we get to America, she can give you advice on dealing with American men."

"That is, men like you?"

"Not entirely. I'm not terribly typical."

"Anyway, I do think I'd like a change."

After dropping Missy off, Sam went immediately to the Tso apartment. Everyone was there, including the children, and the scene was reminiscent of their home in Zurich. Everything they did was multi-generational and seemingly chaotic, but the children had already learned, like the others, to anticipate the general's desires and attitudes.

Sam, speaking English, told Yo-wen of the outcome with Missy. She then translated into Chinese for her father. After a brief discussion, they decided to again pose as gardeners, hiding the detonators and timing devices in their paraphernalia. Then, at nine thirty, they would duck into the basement and set the charges for a quarter to one. The seminar was to begin at twelve thirty, and they agreed that no German was likely to be more than fifteen minutes late. Sam concluded,

"The rest of you should be in the boat soon after ten, and Missy and I'll be there by the time the bomb goes off. I have no idea how she'll will react, but we'll certainly be able to control her."

"Yes, easily. We can tie her up, gag her, and hide her in the bottom of the boat."

"I did paint a rather rosy picture of life in America for her. She isn't expecting to be bound and gagged."

"A woman often doesn't need to be gagged. Her arms and skirts are lifted over her head with her elbows being bound together. She can't see out through the clothing, and generally makes only muffled sounds. If she thrashes around too much, her underclothes can be tied around her knees and ankles. You might find the process amusing, Sam."

Yo-wen always joked with a perfectly straight face, but Sam had, by this time, learned to recognize the jokes. He winked at Brenda, who was just learning.

There was still no consensus on whether it would be better to row out in daylight or wait for night. But, even if they waited, it was agreed that they would be safest in the boat, virtually hidden in the disused lock.

The next morning, there was pandemonium in the town square. In response to an alleged Polish invasion, German troops had crossed into Poland. Britain and France were demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities, but Hitler was hardly likely to be deterred.

Sam's first thought was that the Hokensen institute might declare some sort of holiday and dance in the streets. However, even though there was a good deal of euphoria in the town, it was clear that the Germans were still going to work. And, of course, defense work would be more important than ever.

Sam and Brenda, out walking, saw Missy go off to work. She gave them a little wave and nod, as much as to say that everything was still on. A little later, Brenda took charge of the children as Yo-wen and her father went off. People dressed as gardeners didn't ordinarily live in such an expensive flat, but the townspeople were much too excited about the new war to notice such things.

Sam, having prepared and provisioned the boat the evening before, had nothing to do. The children, who never asked about their mother in Sam's hearing, seemed to ask about everything else. Brenda had extraordinary patience, and, at one point, said to him,

"If you read to Johanna, the time will go faster. Make lots of mistakes in grammar and pronounciation, and she'll be amused."

Johanna, actually quite a cute little black-haired girl, perched on the arm of his easy chair. The book was about a duckling, one Erhard Entchen. When appropriate, Sam made duck sounds. If, instead of saying "quack, quack", he went "guack, guack", the little girl was convulsed with laughter. Sam himself liked the sound and maximized what he supposed was the glottalization. Brenda gave him a sidelong look of scepticism, but she proved right. The time did go faster if one guacked. Just then, Yo-wen popped in cheerfully and said,

"It's all set. Let's head for the boat."

The general had a look of quiet satisfaction, as if he had just had executed some particularly difficult and irritating prisoners. When they moved off with the children, the adults carrying picnic baskets, Sam still had an hour to kill.

There really wasn't any reason to go back to his apartment. Dressed in the fairly cheap German suit he wore around Rosbeck, he looked through a couple of bookstores. There were books he would have bought if he didn't want to be encumbered. Then, changing his mind, he bought one just for the look of the thing. It was almost eleven when he finished, and he took up position in the little sidewalk cafe opposite Missy's apartment.

Sam had taken only a few sips when Missy came speeding along on the other side of the street. It always seemed to him that women were more attractive, in this case more beautiful, when they hurried. He couldn't say why. Finally taking his eyes off Missy, he saw that she was being followed by Hokensen. She had apparently been trying to outdistance him, and she now turned her head to speak angrily. Whatever she said, it didn't work. He kept right after her.

When Missy opened the door to her building, Hokensen forced his way in after her. Sam actually spilled some coffee in his own state of confusion. But, anyway, it was a clear case for intervention. Hokensen had obviously lost all control, and, whatever happened with Missy, he might not go back to his luncheon seminar. Besides, they couldn't afford to waste time.

The entry door had been left ajar, and Sam went quickly up the stairs. He could hear the argument raging upstairs through the apartment door, which had also been left open.

Sam, adopting the stance of Missy's lover, went straight for Hokensen. The Swede, surprised, backed a little. But, being in a purple state of rage, he raised his right fist threateningly. Noticing that Hokensen's collar was rather loose, Sam easily ducked inside the badly thrown punch to apply a standing choke hold. It wasn't a highly recommended judo maneuver, to be applied only on an inferior opponent, but this was the time for it.

Sam slid both his hands inside the shirt collar in a cross-handed grip. The sturdy fabric, quite apart from the necktie, was almost as good as a judo gi for constricting the neck. Sam pulled the neck toward him as he scissored hard with his wrists. Hokensen made a feeble attempt to knee Sam in the groin, but the standing choke hold had the great advantage that the recipient passed out on his feet without making much noise or kicking the floor in the manner of a man lying on his back. Sam was actually holding him up as he casually said to Missy,

"Check downstairs and outside to see if anyone's taken notice."

She, looking more excited than bewildered, did so. Then, as Sam was slowly lowering the inert Hokensen to the floor, she reported,

"The people downstairs are away, and all that shouting is from a parade forming up."

"Okay, get whatever you can together, and put on some good walking shoes."

As Missy went to the bedroom, Sam sat Hokensen up and put a different choke hold on him with his arm across the front of the neck. This one was lethal.

The parade outside turned out not to be a real parade, only an enthusiastic patriotic demonstration by all the town layabouts. There were a few brass istruments in the small crowd, and they were playing independent tunes.

They took Missy's bicycle, borrowing the next one in the rack for Sam. The demonstration was moving in the right direction, so they simply joined it, walking the bikes and shouting enthusiastically. Then, when it turned left, they kept going straight and started riding. Sam had feared that the owner of his bike might recognize it, and he had been prepared to buy it for several times its value. However, they were now clear, riding fast.

Sam wasn't sure whether Missy realized that he had killed Hokensen. Indeed, it was only then that it dawned on him that, apart from facilitating their escape, he had accomplished one of their main objectives. The body wouldn't be found, probably for days, and the members of the institute and the guests would remain in the building, waiting for their host. People usually waited a good while before mounting a search for someone who hadn't shown up.

When they turned off the road on to the bumpy dirt path, Sam called out to Missy, explaining that they were going to row his boat out to an American vessel waiting for them. She, busy negotiating the ruts, showed no particular surprise. She was surprised only when they arrived at the lock and looked down to see Sam's large rowboat loaded down with five people, including the two children. Checking to see that they weren't being observed, they threw the bicycles into the lock, where they disappeared in the murky water. Missy managed the ladder without help, and was welcomed by the general in his rather comical German.

The boat was heavily loaded, but it had been designed to carry heavy nets, and they soon had it trimmed properly. Missy was given an old shirt to put on over her dress, and a large nautical hat effectively disguised her. While Sam hadn't seen any women fishing in Rosbeck, he hoped that no one would get close enough to see their faces.

It was the general who decided to start immediately. As he said, in Chinese,

"We're in very good time. It'll be more than an hour before there's any reason to hide, and we can be well out to sea in that time."

Sam translated for Brenda, and Missy looked puzzled, but asked no questions.

The lower gates were already partly open to admit the high tide, and they were able to slide out into the harbor. Only one other boat was in sight, headed out, and they followed it. Sam urged Yo-wen and her father to row gently, so as not to create amateurish splashes, while he supplied most of the power. Hans sat alone in the bow while Brenda and Missy shared the large stern seat. Johanna was settled on some blankets on the bottom of the boat at Sam's feet. She showed signs of untying his shoelaces as he braced them on a thwart to row, but was discouraged from so doing.

They made good progress across the harbor. The local fishermen must have been used to seeing the boat with Sam and one or two others, but only once had one of them waved to him. They had more people on board this time, but the other boat was a half mile ahead of them, and he doubted that anyone on shore was the least interested in them.

Rounding the breakwater, they ran into a little more chop than usual. There was a little spray, but no one complained. Sam could tell when Yo-wen, right behind him, paused in her stroke to look at her watch. She then told him that it was just after twelve. After a few more minutes, Sam asked her if she could see any sails. She replied that she could see the smoke of two ships, but no sails.

The tension inevitably mounted as the time approached a quarter to one. Sam estimated that they were four miles from Rosbeck, and wasn't sure how noticeable the explosion might be at that distance. It occurred to him to alter course slightly so that Missy would have her back directly facing Rosbeck. He also got her talking about the reaction of her family to her disappearance, and she was in mid-sentence when there suddenly burst above the city a large cloud of smoke. It was dramatic in its size and the rate at which it expanded, and, a moment later, there was the low rolling boom. Sam said quietly,

"They seem to be bombing the dunes for practice. The airplane's over to the right."

Missy looked in the indicated direction, but Sam explained,

"It's above the clouds now."

In the event, Missy never did turn all the way around to look at Rosbeck.

Although they were still some distance from the rendezvous, there was now a sail in sight. However, the two ships were closer, and, when Sam turned to look, he saw that the nearer was a destroyer, probably a German one.

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