Bill Todd -- Klaus: A Railway Novel
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 Chapter 20

Arrival in Heissen

On Board the Lusitania, September 27, 1937

The Seydlitz party included, in addition to Klaus and Charlotte, Mr. and Mrs. Harold Vandermeer. Mr. Vandermeer had, until quite recently, been assistant to Otto Jabelmann, the head of locomotive design for the Union Pacific Railroad. He had subsequently been hired away, at some expense, to be in charge of locomotive design at the Heissen Works in Germany.

Vandermeer had been chosen over a number of other candidates, all of whom surpassed him in many traditional virtues. The reason for his choice had partly to do with the Union Pacific and partly with his own personality.

More than any other railway in the world, the sky was the limit at the UP. Stretching from Omaha to the Pacific, it encountered every kind of terrain. At one end of the route was the endless prairie, which seemed to swallow up the fastest train. And then came the Rockies, the deserts, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascades. Any man or machine good enough for the UP was good enough anywhere.

Deep in the mountains of Wyoming, between Cheyenne and Laramie, there lay the ultimate test, Sherman Hill. A long steep grade whose summit seemed to get farther away as a pounding locomotive gradually lost its momentum, it constituted a greater obstacle to the movement of tonnage than anything anywhere. Many engineers and locomotives had failed outright, and had been forced to back down and try again. No engineer ever reached the summit without a sigh of relief. Until recently, it had been assumed that there was nothing for it but to add additional locomotives to the trains and inch them up the grades. Then, with its usual daring, the management had decided to try for something better. There was put out a requirement for a steam engine of immense capacity which, instead of resting on concrete and being encased in brick, could hit seventy.

At age thirty, Vandermeer could claim a role in the design of UPs Challengers, the locomotives that had been built to satisfy the requirement. Arrogant to begin with, he had taken this accomplishment to heart. Even Vandermeer's boss, benefactor, and patron, Otto Jabelmann, was rumored to have found him hard to take at times.

In the end, the choice had come down to one between Vandermeer and Charles Kelvey, a quiet man who combined thorough competence with a subtlety and understanding of people totally alien to the other. As Klaus had put it to Charlotte,

"If we hire Kelvey, we'll have to take him in on the secret. He'd guess it otherwise. He'd do a good job of acting, but Vandermeer's perfect as he is. No actor could emulate him."

Charlotte had replied,

"If Vandermeer is so intelligent, won't he catch on too?"

"No. I don't think so. He's brilliant, but blind. He'll never guess that a few very inconspicuous little changes are to be made in his designs during the tooling stage. And, of course, he'll be back in America by that time."

Charlotte had replied,

"Won't he then object to building up the rail system of a potential enemy?"

"He has boundless personal ambition and no sense of loyalty whatsoever."

Klaus had learned a good deal about Vandermeer the first time he met him. It had been at lunch with a third man, a railway executive who knew Vandermeer only slightly. Even before the soup arrived, the young man had casually told a story about Otto Jabelmann. It was salacious, malicious, and untrue.

Klaus had found it extraordinary that a man in Vandermeer's position would so malign a man to whom he owed everything. Not only that, he had done it in the presence of men who were almost complete strangers. Klaus had found this episode, and others that followed it, highly suggestive. Indeed, almost from that first moment, he had suspected that Vandermeer was the man for the job.

Subsequent events had only confirmed Klaus in his opinion. On the other hand, Klaus and Charlotte found it increasingly difficult to be around Harold and his wife, Janice, for protracted periods. Now, having just finished lunch, they said they were going to their cabin for a nap. They instead made their way furtively to an obscure location on the boat deck.

Having pulled her deck chair to a convenient position, Charlotte peered around the ship's enormous funnel and said,

"I think we really have shaken them this time."

"I hope so."

There was a silence of some minutes before either spoke again. It was Charlotte who broke it.

"Did you notice that strange thing that happened at lunch?"

Klaus nodded as he replied,

"Harold's American tourist. Yes."

The saving grace about Harold Vandermeer was that he had a talent for observing people closely and describing them vividly, generally in quite unpleasant ways. That morning, he had sat near an American woman who chattered incessantly and compulsively in a particularly aggressive voice. He even imitated such speeches as,

"I said to Mabel, I said to her, "You can't wear that dress in Paris. The French wear black, you've got to have black, or at least brown, but really black. Now, I've got a lot of blue, more blue than anything, but I won't wear it in Paris. I've got two black dresses, a black...."

It was really a very good imitation, and made them all laugh. But what was strange was that it was also a dead accurate portrayal of Janice. Even the tone of voice and the gestures were right. Charlotte now asked,

"Do you think there really was such a woman, or was he just getting at Janice in that mean way of his?"

Klaus replied thoughtfully,

"I think he did actually see such a woman. On one level he doesn't recognize that Janice is just the same. Of course, on another level .."

Charlotte laughingly cut him short.

"There you go with Freud again. I thought Janice looked a bit uncomfortable, though. She's actually not dumb, contrary to all appearances."

Klaus ponderously moved his deck chair to a better angle. Their secret retreat had the disadvantage of providing little shelter from the thirty knot breeze that swept the deck. To partially make up for it, the funnel radiated heat. But one needed exactly the right adjustment. Having attempted it, he picked up the previous conversation.

"I must confess that I have little understanding of Janice, and I would have no idea whether she is uncomfortable at any given moment. I have noticed, however, that she is seldom motionless. All during lunch, she twisted her shoulders back and forth and seemed to bounce forward and backward as she gestured and spoke. I can't recall ever seeing anyone with such sudden movements."

Charlotte tossed her head dismissively as she replied.

"Some of that's affected. She has a good, if rather thin, figure, and she was wearing a rather revealing white silk blouse. That wiggling was for your benefit, and probably that of every man in sight. She does another thing I've never seen anyone else do. When she's wearing a dress that's at all loose waisted, she holds the skirt with both hands, keeping it still, and twists inside the dress. It looks almost like a dance. Then, when that's done, she keeps her body still and twists the skirt back and forth around her legs and hips."

"You make her sound like a human corkscrew. Where the rest of us move mostly forward and backward, Janice rotates around her vertical axis. Some of that must just be nervous energy."

"You were away, Klaus, the time I first met her, that time when she came to lunch at our house. I don't think I ever told you about it. At first, I thought she was the most nervous and insecure person I'd ever met, even allowing for the fact that she was meeting the boss' wife. But, then, after she started on one of those awful monologues without giving me a chance to speak, I changed my mind. She's highly aggressive and dominating. She was probably raised as a lower-middle class princess. She described everything in the house, including what I was wearing, as if I'd never seen it before. For two cents, she would've given me a tour of my own home."

Klaus chuckled,

"I hope she doesn't start giving tours of the ship and discover us here."

As he spoke, he put his hand on Charlotte's, which was resting on the arm of her adjoining chair. She removed it briskly and said,

"Klaus, just because we've finally figured out how to have sex, don't get all gooey and sentimental. Incidentally, it's only because of some of our own recent discoveries that I can interpret some of the things Janice does."

Charlotte broke off briefly to crane her neck and peer aft around the funnel. She then said,

"When that awful lunch finally ended, I took Janice out on to the back terrace. I thought that, if she were going to describe her immediate environment in detail, I might as well start her on the garden. I guess she didn't know anything about flowers and shrubs because she gave one of her little bounces and wanted us to try on each other's dresses. It sounded juvenile and undignified to me, but I was about to lead the way upstairs when she suddenly had her dress over her head. It was the quickest bit of disrobing I'd ever seen."

Here Charlotte broke off to ask, seemingly irrelevantly,

"How many times a day would you say that she wiggles and jerks? Perhaps ten thousand?"

"Excluding time spent sleeping, that would be a wiggle and jerk approximately every six seconds. Yes, I should think that she's easily capable of that."

"Well, let me tell you, she probably doesn't have complete control of her hands, and all it takes is one sort of wiggle and jerk to remove her dress. It could happen anytime. You could be walking beside her down the promenade deck, look over, and discover her naked. I can just imagine the distinguished Mr. Seydlitz explaining to all those present that the lady with him, while regrettably naked, is actually the respectable wife of a brilliant young engineer in his employ."

Klaus grew pink, as he always did when teased in this way, but he urged Charlotte to return to her account. The latter did so.

"Anyway, there was Janice wiggling around in her skimpy little slip. I had no idea where Martin and the gardener might have been. She was waiting for me to give her my dress. If it had been anyone else, I would have invented an urgent appointment elsewhere. But I knew a lot might depend on her. So I gave my best schoolgirlish giggle and handed over my dress. Instead of putting hers on, I called for Lotte to bring me another. That gesture seemed to be lost on Janice. She next wanted to try on my whole wardrobe. By that time, I realized that, if I let her into my bedroom, she might not emerge for months. So I took her back to the living room and had Lotte bring down a few things for her. When Harold arrived to pick her up, she was wearing one of my dresses and rushed up and flung herself on him. I didn't much want the dress after all that, so I gave it to her. Harold got all stiff and proper and refused. But he wasn't too Victorian to help her off with it. Then, interestingly enough, once it was off, he let her accept it and put it back on."

Klaus asked,

"Why was that?"

"He wanted to undress his wife in front of me. It was an act dripping with sexual symbolism. They're both extremely sexy people. That nervous energy has nothing to do with insecurity."

Klaus looked sceptical, but Charlotte added,

"I think Harold will get along well with the Nazis. They're also sexy. All those boots and the marching, to say nothing of the mass meetings at night with torchlight. It's a bit like the more primitive religions at home, the ones who have orgies, part religious and part sexual."

Klaus said nothing, perhaps finding the analogy a little forced. Charlotte also paused a minute, and then asked,

"I suppose it must be great for teen-agers. I wonder what would have happened if we had let Hans come with us."

"Probably nothing very bad. He'd excel in the Hitler Youth and not be touched by it."

"He's just beginning to be aware of girls, and might be more sensitive and impressionable than you think. The Nazi idea of healthy puberty would probably be to enroll a boy in a sado- masochistic men's society."

Klaus laughed,

"The Nazis are still Germans, and we aren't as bad as that. But it's probably as well that we left him home."

Klaus and Charlotte again tried to adjust their chairs so as to get better shelter from the cold wind. Klaus summed up,

"It seems that we can either hide in our cabin, expose ourselves to the elements up here, or suffer Janice. I'm not at all sure which is to be preferred."

"Neither am I. I'm glad it's a fast ship."

Heissen, Bavaria, October 3, 1937

It was a railway town, pure and simple. Everything that happened was dedicated to the production of an unending string of steam locomotives. When Charlotte first saw it, she groaned.

"It's the most horrible place I've ever seen, Klaus. There's nothing but grime and steam."

Klaus, delighted by the prospect, was uncharacteristically jocular.

"There are also some beer halls."

Klaus knew more about Heissen than could be seen from the train as they rolled into town. It was, in its way, a comfortable town. The atmosphere wasn't that of a continual struggle for a little more power for the grade. No one would be fired because a new locomotive couldn't hit the summit faster with a heavier load than the competitor's engine.

The German railways mainly ordered locomotives to replace others as they wore out. There were improvements, of course, but they were seldom radical. Nor did they have to be. The system had been running smoothly for the best part of a century, and had functioned well during the war. Much of Germany, particularly the industrial part, was flat. The countries that were likely to be occupied in time of war were also mostly flat.

Until one got to Russia, the distances weren't great. Traffic was dense, but so was the network of lines designed to carry it. The system had to be well run and organized, as it was. But the locomotives didn't have to be anything special.

The Main Office of the Heissen Locomotive Works, October 5, 1937

On previous visits Klaus had come to know both Franz Kaler, the works manager, and Herr Ludwig Borstmann, the majority owner and president. The engaging Kaler had started in the company as a boy, and had worked himself up to the highest position open to him. Borstmann's father had been one of the founders of the company. As it happened, the two founders had together produced only one son. He had naturally taken over when the partners were dead.

During the negotiations leading to the purchase, it was a matter of courtesy to begin by calling on the ponderous and phlegmatic Herr Borstmann before getting down to details with Kaler. Each time, Klaus had found Borstmann sitting alone in his large office with his cigar. Apart from his desk, there was, almost literally, nothing else in the room. It was the only office Klaus had ever seen without bookcases or filing cabinets, and with no sign of any papers anywhere. There was, indeed, not even a telephone to interrupt the polished surface of the mahogany desk.

The image Borstmann seemed to wish to project was that of one who sat contemplating higher things in the intervals between making decisions. In fact, it hadn't taken Klaus long to learn that Herr Borstmann really made no decisions at all. The financial ones were made by a banker who had a minority interest in the company. The operational decisions were made by Kaler.

Of course, these matters were brought to Borstmann with no little ceremony. He then considered them with great care. However, as far as Klaus could discover, Borstmann had always given his assent. It did occur to Klaus that Kaler might take into account little clues, such as the relative speed or hesitation with which the assent was given, and thus only recommend to Borstmann actions with which he would be comfortable. But it was much more likely that Kaler simply recommended whatever course of action seemed most profitable, confident that his boss had no real views of his own.

Borstmann was now gone, and Klaus had installed himself in the large office. He was really too modest a man to, so to speak, fill the office. However, he realized that, if he meant to exercise power, particularly in Germany, certain gestures were necessary.

Franz Kaler differed totally from Borstmann. Small and clever, he was a businessman to beware of when he smiled. The purchaser of a locomotive who got a complete tour of the works, and perhaps a ride in a cab, was almost certainly paying too high a price. Klaus had at first wondered whether Kaler was honest. It would have been so easy for him to have taken graft, or even pirated the company funds, right under the nose of Borstmann.

An exhaustive study of the books and a number of discreet inquiries in the town had eliminated that possibility, and had also earned Kaler a good deal of respect from Klaus. He was, among other things, an expert bidder. Time and again he had estimated, almost to a mark, the highest price Heissen could charge, and still get the order. When the vast majority of a firm's business depends on bidding for government contracts, the man who puts the bid in the sealed envelope is responsible, in very large measure, for success or failure.

Considering Herr Kaler's importance, it was surprising that he didn't have a private office. However, when Klaus offered to have one partitioned off for him, he refused. With his sly smile, Kaler replied that he preferred his desk at the back of the main office. He could keep a better eye on things, he said, from that vantage point. Indeed he could. Klaus came to realize that, if he wished to make a profit, he could do no better than to follow Borstmann's example and leave matters entirely to Kaler. Alas, matters were not so simple.

In their first interview after Klaus' taking over he saw that Kaler understood that changes were on the way. Why else, the latter implied, had Klaus brought Vandermeer with him as chief designer? There had actually been a vacancy, due to retirement, in that position, but the ordinary Heissen procedure would have been to promote the assistant. Now, as they talked, Klaus was aware of Kaler's rather subtle attempts to search out the changes that were in the wind. Klaus left him in no doubt.

"Mr. Kaler, we intend to produce far more powerful locomotives than those presently in use in Germany."

Saying no more, he waited to see how Kaler would respond to the obvious difficulty. Heissen didn't ordinarily produce locomotives of original design which they then attempted to sell. The designs were largely determined by the state railway board, and they only bid on a contract to produce a particular quantity of a given type. Kaler responded gently,

"We have built locomotives on speculation, but not recently. If we did it now, the railway board might question our use of resources."

Klaus almost laughed at the understatement. Under the Nazi syndicalist system, industries which had anything to do with defense were closely aligned with various government boards and bureaus. The profits were still private, but no major decision could be taken without approval at various levels.

In effect, Heissen would be allowed to squander its money, but not the steel which would otherwise have gone into guns and tanks. Having paused to let that sink in, Kaler told Klaus what he wanted to know.

"The railway bureaucracy has no straight line of command. There are quite a few domains that overlap in various ways. But there's still a definite order in which someone such as myself would be expected to approach the officials with a proposal such as yours."

"Would you meet with success?"

"Almost certainly not. The first layer of officials wouldn't even consider it seriously. Nor would they allow me to take it to higher authority. But I'm not an industrialist. And, as a German citizen with no special connection to the party, I wouldn't carry much weight. You, sir, might do better."

"I may be an industrialist of sorts, but I'm a foreigner. I don't see why officials who'd reject a proposal from you should accept the same one from me."

"People like Gallenstein and Heidkamp probably wouldn't. They're railway men who think they understand what kinds of locomotives are needed. However, ..."

Kaler gave his quick little smile, and then continued,

"A foreign gentleman, even one of German origin, couldn't be expected to know intimately the structure of the bureaucracy. He might inadvertently skip a level and talk with men in the transportation ministry who have as much to do with roads as railways. To them the notion of more powerful locomotives might be more appealing. The idea has a certain glamour."

The implication was clear. Men who didn't really understand the needs of the railway system might automatically assume that more powerful locomotives would be better ones. Klaus nodded and broached a sensitive subject.

"It's my understanding that there are really two administrative structures that operate in parallel, that of the government and that of the Nazi party. Would one in my position normally deal with both?"

"Most of our dealings have been with government officials. Borstmann wasn't a Party member, and I've just recently become one. We weren't in a position to appeal for better priorities in material or men in that direction."

Kaler then began to speak in a more familiar way, as if he had decided that Klaus didn't have to be accorded the ceremony that Borstmann would have insisted on.

"Besides, the low level Party officials that I could go to are a very poor affair. They're all right if you want to denounce your neighbor, but, in questions of policy, no one of importance would pay any attention to them. Here again, you're different, sir. There aren't many Americans investing in German industry in such an overt way. You could probably get a meeting with Herr Reinhardt in Berlin just by telephoning his secretary and asking for an appointment."

Germany, October 7, 1937

Herr Hans Reinhardt was something that would have been impossible in a democracy, a high government official who was also a charismatic leader.

By day he was driven by his chauffeur from ministry to ministry, solving a problem here and settling a dispute there, always with an eye to keeping arms production at the highest possible levels. Running a wartime economy in peacetime was no small trick, and it took an unusual man to keep everyone at the required pitch without the adrenalin of war.

It was therefore not so surprising that the same man could, at night, put on the uniform of a Standartenfuhrer of the SS and march at the head of his unit. The soldiering was purely ceremonial, but it was dramatic for all that. There were bellowed commands, stamping feet, and the unison shouting of blood-curdling maxims. Then, whole units would wheel in formation and close up with their standards massed. No one would have recognized the government official as he inspected his troops.

Back in the office the next day, the lawyer-like Herr Reinhardt would carefully draft proposals, often without depending much on his aides and assistants. The proposals could range from a solution to a case of disputed administration to an improved system for the letting of government contracts. Alternatively, they might concern the new locks for the Kiel Canal or the further development of the Siegfried Line. Whatever the subject, reasons in favor were laid out and numbered, as were the objections to the proposed action.

Another man might have balanced these considerations against one another, and then been content to show that the pros outweighed the cons. Reinhardt was seldom satisfied with that. His trademark was the Hegelian synthesis in which the objections, when seen from the proper perspective, turned out to be still more powerful arguments in favor of the recommended action. It was Herr Reinhardt's good fortune that many in the higher bureaucracy were acute enough to follow some of his reasoning, but not quite facile enough to express clearly their reservations.

Sometimes, of course, not even the best written and argued cases could overcome the entrenched rigidity which had somehow found its way into the officialdom of the Third Reich. In those cases a continuation of policy by other means was necessitated.

Standartenfuhrer Reinhardt had long found that a particularly favorable atmosphere prevailed after Party rallies, even local ones. Everyone would be exhausted, both emotionally and physically. The speakers and other leaders would retire to drink together in an atmosphere of comraderie and largely unspoken brotherhood.

It was the sort of thing that might even have embarrassed some of them in other circumstances. After all, they weren't refugees from the old brawling homosexuality of the SA. They were new clean Nazis, the pillars, not only of the SS, but of an emerging intelligentsia which combined art, science, and politics. Even so, there were those moments when a word dropped to a senior Party member would be accepted, not only uncritically, but as the basis for an act of faith. One didn't do this often, but, when one did, the results could reach the levels where Party and government were combined.

Herr Reinhardt, the industrious and meticulous civil servant, could then count on the removal of any obstacles which stood in the way of his duty.

Klaus planned elaborately for the meeting, and learned all he could about Reinhardt. He decided to take Harold Vandermeer with him. Harold didn't speak enough German to communicate without a translator, but that was just as well. Klaus could adjust whatever Harold said in the course of translation.

More important, Klaus was going to promise a railway miracle. He didn't flatter himself to the extent of thinking that he looked as if he could himself produce one. Harold, on the other hand, had all the marks of brilliance, even if one couldn't understand what he said. He would be just the right sort of right-hand man.

The next decision was to take reams of paper. There would be statistics on all sorts of locomotives, a detailed analysis of German freight operations, and a projection of what could be expected with more powerful locomotives. Reinhardt, it seemed, was a man who loved facts. He did, indeed, have the ability to take in a prodigious amount of information in a short time. However, this talent had become a legend.

In order to perpetuate his legend, Reinhardt would have to pretend to be able to master an absurd amount of technical detail. He would be particularly inclined to show off in front of a foreigner. And, of course, he would convince himself in the process. After all, having mastered all those facts, he could hardly dispute the conclusions to which they so clearly pointed. To do that would require the asking of questions which might seem naive. Klaus was sure that Herr Reinhardt was never naive.

When Klaus explained this reasoning to Charlotte, she objected,

"Someone in his position would be crazy to claim to understand every detail in all the areas he deals with."

"Some men are vain enough for that. For example, I have trouble imagining Harold admitting ignorance of anything whatsoever."

"So you think Reinhardt is similar?"

"He sounds as if he has at least that in common. Of course, he's ten years older and smoother. Probably more versatile too. He's apparently never had a real setback. If we're in luck, he's by now convinced that he can't make a wrong move."

"And you'll help him make his first big mistake. By the way, why is it wrong for them to have more powerful locomotives?"

"You can defeat a system in various ways. One way is by trying to saddle it with obsolete equipment. But that's too obvious. There's nothing we could do to convince the Germans to go back to the locomotives of the nineties. The other way to defeat a railway system, or any kind of system, is to give it equipment that's too advanced for it."

Klaus paused and gestured, as if to paint a picture in the air. He then spoke with unusual animation.

"Imagine something like a Union Pacific Challenger on the head end of a German freight train. At the very beginning of the run it would require much more fuel and water than their facilities are designed to provide routinely. But let's suppose they eventually get it steamed up.

The engineer hardly has to open the throttle to get the train moving. He reaches the speed limit for goods trains before the engine even begins to steam efficiently. Then, because of the size and weight of the engine, he has to slow below the normal speed for bridges of any size. Finally, he reaches his destination no better or faster than a German engine. But he's consumed much more fuel, and the steel that went into the engine could have built a dozen or more tanks."

Charlotte asked,

"Won't they then start hitching them to longer trains and running them faster?"

"Yes. When they do, they'll encounter some problems that are familiar to American engineers, but not to them, at least on the same scale. One is slack action. When a freight slows down, or goes down a grade, the train bunches up behind the engine. Then, when it speeds up, or goes up a grade, a progressively greater shock is transmitted to each car in turn as the slack is taken out of the couplers. With short German trains and small engines it's not much of a problem, even with their inferior couplings. A Challenger, run at anything near full power, would tear the train apart in very short order."

Klaus paused to see if Charlotte understood. When she seemed to, he continued,

"Then there's another thing. The Germans really have no way of knowing how hard such an engine is on the track. Their track isn't up to UP standards, but the results will be subtle and gradual. When they do get into a war and run the engines harder, they'll need several times as much maintenance as they bargained for. And there'll be many more derailments. Probably they'll have to set aside the new engines and go back to the old ones. By then, our plant will be tooled up for the new engines. Whatever they do then will be extremely expensive and wasteful. It's really a great disadvantage to have American engines if you don't have the rest of the American system."

Charlotte cocked her head on one side and replied,

"I hope it doesn't backfire. My own efforts are much more modest, but I hope they'll have a certain effect. You may have noticed that I've been entertaining all sorts of wives lately, both here and in the only thing that can pass for a grand restaurant in town."

"I noticed about a dozen of them here for lunch the other day. I snuck into the kitchen and had Frieda fix me something."

"That was good of you. They aren't ready to deal with men yet."

"They looked quite convivial. I take it you're trying to win acceptance for us."

"Not exactly. I'm applying the same principles to the local social system that you're using on the railway system. I'm changing part of it without changing the rest of it. I hope to sow discord and unhappiness in the homes of men who'll be under great stress as Germany moves toward war."

Klaus asked exactly who the husbands were. When he was told, he replied,

"You have there a considerable portion of the men responsible for the day-to-day management of the most important industries here. The ethics of your strategy apart, it might also backfire. The men, faced with trouble at home, might just immerse themselves in their work."

"The only defense against the trouble I have in mind will be divorce. And I don't think these are the kind of people who get divorced."

Charlotte's plan was rather unpleasant. First, she would dazzle the women with glimpses of a much more expensive life than they had previously encountered. The house Charlotte and Klaus had taken was really a small castle complete with servants and elaborate furnishings. The food was international and impressive, but the most important element was the wine and liquor.

In addition to the usual things, Charlotte had laid in every variety of sweet alcoholic concoction flavored with peppermint, almonds, chocolate, and a dozen fruits. They were deceptively strong to begin with, and had been judiciously laced. Charlotte hoped, quite frankly, to get these women drinking. With luck, some of them would move from occasional heavy drinking to true alcoholism.

Charlotte then planned to encourage in these women an enhanced interest in Parisian clothes, antique furniture, and all manner of fine things. In time, they would come to demand more and more in material goods from their husbands. In the course of this expansion of horizons, those husbands would be made to feel that they were inadequate. They would be compared invidiously to the husbands of other women. With luck, some of the women might start having affairs with each other's husbands.

Whether they actually did or not, Charlotte thought that she could materially increase the amount of bad temper displayed by the men, both at home and at work, and perhaps sow seeds of discord among them.

Klaus hardly knew what to say. It certainly wasn't what he had in mind. On the other hand, who could say that it might not succeed? Good working relations among the men were delicate, and had often been destroyed by less than this. He hoped only that his wife wouldn't succeed too much with Frau Kaler.

Bill Todd -- Klaus: A Railway Novel
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