Thank you for coming back to read yet another episode of FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE. That's a real vote of confidence.
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We begin in Berlin in this chapter -- to attend Heinrich Himmler's soiree. Then, von Kys takes Petersholme on an all night car ride deep into Prussia.
The copyright to Flight belongs to me. It cannot be reprinted in any medium without my express permission. If you're under 16-18 yos, you shouldn't be reading stories from the Nifty archives -- however, this story will not lead you into orgasmic prurience (mum and dad can read it over your shoulder, in other words). If you enjoy reading stories stored at Nifty and are desirous that they remain free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that those stories will continue being free to you.
If you have been following this story, you may like another, more modern political thriller/romance that has begun to appear in the Scifi/fan folder -- DARK ANGEL.
Corporal Jorsten was standing at my door as I returned from the closing ceremony of the conference. I watched as he pulled himself instantly to attention the moment he espied me leaving the lift, the movement as fluid and graceful as a cat's. He stared straight ahead as I started down the corridor towards him and my room beyond, but I felt him watching me out of the corner of his eye.
"I am to have your luggage placed in Graf von Kys' motor car," he told me as I came abreast of him.
"I'm ready," I told him as I unlocked the door to my hotel room. He followed on my heels. "Or nearly so. The Graf's instructions didn't mention if I should dress formally for this little soiree this evening."
The lad appeared perplexed for a moment and, then, smiled. "The party at Reichsführer Himmler's home begins at 1700 hours, Herr Baron. You should dress for it before we leave the hotel."
"And should I dress formally, Corporal?" I asked as I led him into the room and shut the door behind us.
"The Graf will wear his dress uniform," he offered slowly and my suspicions of the lad's class origins dropped to the lower bourgeoisie -- or, possibly, the working class. It was brutally obvious that he had no idea of the difference in functions and a gentleman's need to dress accordingly.
Standing in the centre of the room, I sighed and hoped my assumption of a black tie affair would not make me too overly dressed for Janus' introduction of me to his Party people.
"The lights in the auditorium were hot and you have perspired. Shall I draw you a bath, Baron?" he asked and I saw that he was studying me, a slight smile pulling at his lips. I nodded and guessed that von Kys, like Molloy, had not given up his tastes when he returned to Germany and married. I told myself sharply that I certainly didn't intend to give Corporal Jorsten even the slightest hint of my similar tastes.
* * *
"I hope that I'm not overdressed," I told von Kys as I slid into the car seat beside him. "Your corporal seemed unsure of what was required."
He smiled as the youth supervised hotel employees placing my luggage in the boot of the car. "As usual, you have a perfect sense of attire, Petersholme."
Von Kys leant back in the seat and closed his eyes. "Only this morning, I learnt that Himmler has decided to tack on dinner to the small soiree to which I invited you. The conference's functions had begun and I did not wish to interrupt your enjoying them." He smiled at what I was sure was intended to be a joke. "I could only send the boy to you."
A cycle-mounted guard before us and one behind us, the grizzled sergeant major and the young corporal in the front seat, we drove along the Kurfürstendamm through central Berlin and turned northward towards the Wannsee, traffic-directing policemen halting traffic and directing us through. After nearly four days of the perception of normality at the Hotel Metropole, I was again confronted with the new face of Germany.
Both cyclemen had Mausers strapped to their backs. Horst and young Dagold in the front seat of our car had Lugers on one side of their waists and ornamental daggers on the other. I didn't doubt that any of the four of them would hesitate to use their weapons were we to be set upon.
But who was there to attack us here in the Capital of Nazi Germany? I could not fathom the guard that protected us and kept us securely from any contact with the people.
I turned to von Kys and, studying him, wondered momentarily if he was asleep. "What's this thing we're going to?" I asked tentatively so as not to wake him if he indeed had fallen asleep.
He chuckled from his side of the car and said in English: "It was decided that you should see the party hierarchy at play. They believe that you have ties to the uppermost echelons of your government, Petersholme -- the misguided souls hiding there who would rend the Aryan race into two parts and throw us into war with each other. The Reichsführer-SS and his advisers want to get Germany's message past your Jewish press to the ears which should hear it." He shrugged. "So -- tonight, you shall see us at play."
We rode in silence as the city about us became residential. Finally, we slowed along a dark stretch of roadway and turned onto a gravelled drive. I saw nothing but the outline of fir trees as we started along the drive. I was curious that we were come to such an out-of-the-way place but forced myself to relax as my host was doing.
Von Kys, however, knew me better than I thought. He chuckled. "The Reichsführer is known to like his privacy, Petersholme. This house and the properties on either side of it belonged to Jews under the old regime."
"And he bought them?"
Von Kys' laugh was a bark in the cabin of our car. "Whatever for? Jews are an inferior race. The new Germany does not allow for social miscegenation, Petersholme -- nor the possession of things of value by inferior races inside the Fatherland. The properties were confiscated under the racial purity laws Adolf Hitler gave us in 1935. The State gave them to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler as a token of appreciation for his service to the party and to Germany."
"I see," I offered noncommittally. I didn't, but I thought it less than politic to voice my doubts in the very heart of this new Germany. I sat back and waited for us to reach Herr Himmler's racially purified house. I attempted to reconcile my very British concept of property rights with what I had just been told of the thousand year Reich's.
Anyone, regardless of race or religion, could own property anywhere in Britain. Both government and law protected a man's right to that possession. Even condemned criminals retained that right, their property passing on to their legal heirs after their execution.
British law also favoured no race or religion over another -- except in the matter of Royal succession. Of course, there were still some daft people who put biblical interpretations on race and religious relations but they were in no position to influence reality. We had done away with that more than a century ago.
I had to wonder if Bedlam had been let loose upon Germany when the people were not looking. And I wondered how my friend had come to accept such insanity; after all, von Kys had been schooled in England at one of our finest universities.
As our car rounded a bend in the drive, a manor every bit as large as Bellingham Hall came into view, garishly lighted by Klieg lamps against the twilight sky. I heard the music of Johan Strauss wafting towards us through the autumn woods. "We're here," von Kys said.
* * *
A short, plump, bespeckled ugly man wearing glasses in dress Waffen-SS uniform stood centred within the great hall. Von Kys marched the two of us directly up to him and, clicking his heels as he saluted, introduced me to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.
"Herr Baron Petersholme," Himmler greeted me, clicking his own heels together and bowing slightly, "we are honoured to have you visit our country." His accent was brutishly Bavarian and I remembered that he had been a chicken farmer before the Nazis were rich enough to pay him to keep order within the party's ranks.
"Thank you. It's my pleasure," I answered before von Kys could propel me past the little man. I consciously did not click my heels or bow to him as had my friend and I guessed would have been diplomatically proper. I still remembered the young lad shot before me at the railway station and knew enough of Nazi structures now to know that the Gestapo was an appendage of this man. I had every reason to suspect that I neither liked nor respected Heinrich Himmler.
Von Kys introduced me to his wife and I was more than slightly surprised. While Janus was handsome in a somewhat effete, yet aristocratic way, the Gräfin von Kys, to put it kindly, tended towards a bovine appearance. Large, limpid eyes stared out at me from a round face, her nose large and almost snout-ish. Her figure was decidedly Rubenesque, to put it gently. My first impression of her physically was that of a dour matron in a frumpy ball gown -- and definitely over-dressed from what I saw of the other women present. Even had my friend from university been a gigolo, I could not understand how he had ever come to be interested in the woman he had made his wife.
Von Kys took me from small knot to small knot of people collected in the hall and waiting for the Reichsführer to lead them into the dining room. I met black SS uniforms, brown party uniforms, and feldgrau Wehrmacht uniforms. Only two names from the men to whom I was introduced stayed with me after I left them -- both of them in their early to mid-forties.
The first gentleman was a tall and handsome man in Wehrmacht grey, middle-aged but didn't look it. His insignia showed Alfred Jodl to be already a Colonel General in the regular army. I was surprised that someone only forty-eight and not from a noble family could have been promoted so quickly.
"He's brilliant," Janus told me as we left Jodl's group and moved slowly towards another. "He's been attached to the Waffen-SS to supervise its development into a true military arm."
"Then, he's mostly a Party man?"
"A very strong Party man -- but he's also a military genius. A very forward thinking man -- he has the complete confidence of both the Party and army."
I thought I understood General Jodl's success as we reached the next group of party-goers.
The other man who caught my attention and whose name I remembered was in the next knot of people. He was attired in Waffen-SS black and wore the insignia of a captain. The moment I heard Josef Mengele speak, I knew he was Viennese, the lilting cadences were so different from the harsh tones of Prussians, the hodgepodge of Rhinelanders, and the garbled patois of rural Bavarians.
Tall and handsome, Mengele was olive-skinned and had black, gleaming hair. I thought of Slavic ancestry and was curious that the Nazis would allow a man of a race they considered inferior to join them, much less become an officer in their elite army.
As we formed a queue behind the Reichsführer Himmler and a Waffen-SS officer opened the doors to the dining room, von Kys explained Josef Mengele's importance. "He's a medical genius, Petersholme. He was teaching advanced research techniques at the medical school of the University of Vienna until it became legal for an Austrian to be a National Socialist earlier this year." He smiled at his avoidance of mentioning the Anschluß that had made Austria a part of Germany. I suspected my school chum was quite aware there were men in and out of the British government who felt that Mussolini-brokered agreement was Neville Chamberlain's worst foreign policy mistake.
"But he doesn't appear to be especially German, old lad."
Von Kys nodded. "He's not of our class, of course. Lumpenproletariat, you know. But three of his grandparents are of thoroughly Teutonic stock, the other being Magyar -- quite acceptable." He smiled. "I know the chap who approved him for the Waffen-SS."
"What does he do in your Party's army then?"
"He heads up a research group that will prove our racial theories." His smile broadened. "Once there is irrefutable proof, even you English will have to accept that you and we are superior to everyone else. You will have the best possible justification for your great Empire, Robbie -- and will, of necessity, have to agree to us having ours. As equals."
"And this Mengele is going to provide that proof?"
Von Kys snorted. "Science will provide the necessary proof, my friend, and Mengele will be its instrument."
I decided his comment didn't need a response from me. I disagreed with him. Even were science to prove somehow what I remembered from biology courses to be impossible, I still thought the concept of law and justice being sovereign over race, gender, and everything else was much more acceptable than what I had seen of German law. I liked the high level of civilisation law provided our way of life.
The house of Heinrich Himmler in the Berlin of 1938, however, was neither the place nor time to engage in such a discussion. I suspected now, as did Molloy, that we would soon be having that discussion. And it would not be over a dinner table, either -- a battlefield, more like. It was definitely time for Britain to begin arming itself. Because the appearance of that discussion was not a matter of "if", it was a matter of "when".
The dinner was lavish. Two suckling pigs, a number of pheasants, and two deer. Three German wines. Young men in black livery with the double lightning bolts on the collar serving it. The music of Strauss, pérè et fils, reached us from the ball room next door. There were perhaps fifty of us. British tables had not seen anything like Himmler's dinner since the depression had begun nine years before, not even King George's. I suspected even the Duke of Windsor when he had still been Edward VIII had not dared to be as ostentatious as Reichsführer Himmler was being.
Heinrich Himmler seemed quite enchanted with medieval motifs. The dining room was much as I imagine a High King's dining hall would have appeared -- circa the thirteenth century. At the raised head table sat Herr Himmler and General Jodl. The rest of us faced them. Von Kys, his wife, and I sat at the second table from the Reichsführer.
I understood the dinner was meant to impress -- me as well as the Party faithful -- but I could only see it as a table for gluttons.
It was far too easy to extend the excess of the dinner to anticipated excesses elsewhere. Molloy and his clique at Whitehall were definitely on to these scoundrels; Britain needed to arm itself -- and quickly.
"You are my husband's friend, Robbie?" the Gräfin asked, turning to me and fixing me with her bovine gaze. I acknowledged that I was -- as formally as I could. Only my dearest friends, my most intimate friends, called me "Robbie" -- it was disconcerting that this fugitive from a pasture would consider herself one.
She nodded, the tip of her tongue tracing the edges of her slightly parted lips. Her knee pressed against my thigh. "It was good that he had such a friend as you to keep him reminded of his duty while he was in your country." She smiled. "He is so easily guided -- or misguided. It is sometimes quite difficult to control him."
I was unsure where she would carry our conversation but I knew where her knee pressed against my thigh would take us if I did not defuse the situation quickly. I shifted in my chair in order to face the Gräfin von Kys -- and ensured my legs were well out of her reach. "Janus has spoken so glowingly of you," I told her. "It must have been love at first sight between you."
She giggled. "More my father's money than me, Robbie. The estate was in disrepair; Janus' father had mismanaged it badly for several years before his death. Our marriage ensured that von Kys survived into the modern age. My connections within the party continue to guarantee that our name and position prosper in the Reich."
I raised my brow in question. On occasion, a noble family had fallen upon misfortune. Even Churchill's father, Lord Blenheim, had had to marry the daughter of an American industrialist, presumably to keep his estate. Such things were not unknown in Britain. They remained most emphatically unmentioned, however. Especially by the wife who had so fortunately elevated her position by having money.
"I'm sure you brought yourself to the estate and have lent it your personality," I offered as diplomatically as I could.
She giggled again. "My dear Robert, I'm a working woman. I have no time to be shut out there in nowhere."
"The farm is almost two hundred kilometres from Berlin. Dear God, Janus' holdings straddle the Polish border!"
"I see." I didn't. "You said you were a working woman?"
I watched her face begin to glow with pride. "My work is in the party headquarters. I head up the Bund Deutscher Mädel. I report directly to Rudolf Hess, the deputy Führer." She looked over my shoulder and smiled. "Dinner is here."
I glanced around to find one handsome servant fork venison onto my plate as another poured a red wine in my goblet. I smiled and nodded to the Gräfin as I opened my napkin and spread it across my lap. I noticed that von Kys studied the first server speculatively for several moments before making his face blank.
As dessert dishes were picked up, I saw Himmler call one of the young servers to him. Moments later, the lad was whispering to von Kys and the Reichsführer had risen and was moving slowly towards the door with Jodl beside him.
Janus pushed back his chair and stood. He pulled back his wife's chair and helped her to her feet. He turned to me and smiled. "There seems to be no rest for the weary, Petersholme. The Gräfin and I have been asked to join the Reichsführer." He shrugged. "I should not be long. Make yourself comfortable and enjoy the intelligent conversation you'll find all around you."
I nodded and reached for my wine goblet. I watched von Kys and his wife move quickly to join Himmler and Jodl. Sipping at the wine and making no move to join the exodus now beginning to queue up at the door, I studied the room about me.
The bottom quarter of the room's walls were painted a dark forest green, the sideboards white. The upper three quarters of each wall was papered with something I suspected was fuschia. The doors to the hallway were mahogany. Behind where Himmler and Jodl had sat was what I had come to accept as mandatory, an oversized colour photograph of Adolf Hitler gazing down on us. I allowed myself to wonder who did the Reichsführer's decorating as I rose and started towards the door to the corridor. I suspected I would not be pleased with the aesthetics of the rest of the house.