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  1. #11
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Gerhard Einsbrect

    'Could she be right?' The axe bit into the cell door, the broken lock shattering. 'Is there really a way out?' His boot knocked the morgue door sufficiently off its hinge. 'But can I risk it? Pistol finally released from its holster as he bounded up the stairs. 'Can I keep on living if I do not?'

    "You there! Intruders! Sound the alarm!" Gerhard was sweating now, shouting at the guard who had let him down minutes before. His voice rang in the hallway, soldiers dropping their glasses and running toward him. What he had set in motion, he now had to live with. His lot was cast.

    Kraus made to run by him and Gerhard grabbed the man's shoulder as though to stop him. "Herr Doctor, it is not safe! There are too many of them...Herr Doctor." Kraus didn't stop, as Gerhard knew he wouldn't. He could only hope that it wasn't suspicious to be staying up on the main level while soldiers poured into the basement. Of course, they had automatic weapons, and he...he was only the half-blind clerk with a pistol. No, Gerhard would be safe enough to stay up here. He didn't want to see Kraus' face when he made the discovery.

    He heard the soldiers pour out into the street, the cars roaring to life, sirens blaring. There would be a mad hunt now - hopefully he had given the woman enough time to make her discreet departure. Soon enough he would be interrogated as to who exactly he had seen in the basement and Gerhard needed to be ready. His story was well rehearsed before a superior officer finally approached him for his statement. How lucky to be known for being stoic and straightforward - his report was taken down without additional questions and he was free to go.

    Free...in more ways than one.
    Winner of the dubious Vaarsuvius Award for Verbousness!

    I support altruism.

  2. #12
    Hermann Kraus

    Kraus barely registered the clerk's hand on his shoulder as he brushed past. The corner of his brain that noticed the social faux pas made a mental note to apologize later, maybe buy the young man a beer as compensation. For the moment, though, the doctor was utterly focused on the emergency in the basement. He barreled down the stairs, hoping against hope that what he was hearing might not be true - but that was not to be. All the wishful thinking in the world couldn't deny the broken doors and the empty cell.

    He kicked the door angrily, and let loose a brief but intense antisemitic tirade that left even the officers startled at his vehemence.

    How could this have happened? He was so close to a breakthrough! So many German lives could have been saved.

    Kraus rubbed his hands through his hair in a gesture of helplessness, and sighed. "Selfish," he muttered under his breath. "So selfish, that they would steal this from us."

    "Excuse me, Herr Doctor?" the door guard ventured. "You should know that the woman may have been around here too. I think I saw her. But then... I don't quite remember after that."

    "What woman?"

    "The young blonde that you... erm... gave the tour to. In your office."

    Kraus laughed, his residual anger turning it into a bitter bark, though he was genuinely amused. "Her? She had nothing to do with it. Trust me on that. She's just a silly girl, and she worships me. She told me she was curious about my work; she must have wanted to see it for herself. Focus your investigation in a more sensible direction. Clearly this was the work of the Jews."

    "Clearly," the guard agreed, somewhat relieved to be pointed at a less complicated target. It was easier to blame the usual scapegoat.

    Kraus joined the soldiers in the search, but hours passed without a sign of his escaped experimental subject. Finally admitting temporary defeat, the doctor went to get very drunk.
    "Sleep to dream, and we dream to live..." -Great Big Sea

  3. #13
    Gilda Engel and Isaac Fishblatt

    Gilda encouraged Isaac to rest after he had eaten. He still had a lot of healing to do, and sleep would help him recoup the energy he was expending on recovery. While he slept, she tended to a few household chores before sitting down to read. At some point, she needed to leave to have some unwelcome conversations. She needed to tell Marco that she had disobeyed his orders; he would be furious, and she had toyed with the idea of simply not telling him, but she needed help to get Isaac out of Germany to put him truly out of danger, and that meant she couldn't keep the Resistance in the dark. She also needed to find Kraus, to gauge his reaction about the events last night and allay any suspicions he might have about her. The thought of seeing him turned her stomach, but it couldn't be helped. To avoid him after her performance last night would raise questions with no good answers.

    For now, though, she thought it was best to stick closer to home. Isaac seemed to be out of the woods, but he still needed a lot of assistance, and she didn't think he was ready to be alone. Besides, she had impulsively invited Gerhard Einsbrect to her home in the heat of the moment the night before, and she needed to be there to receive him.

    Thoughts of the awkward forthcoming conversations were pushed from her head when Isaac began to stir. He trembled violently in his sleep, breathing heavily, then cried out and raised his arms as if to ward off a blow.

    "Isaac, it's just a nightmare," Gilda said gently, sitting beside him on the edge of the bed. "Wake up! You're safe now. No one is going to hurt you anymore."

    He opened his eyes, but began scanning the room fearfully, and his breathing remained rough and ragged.

    "It's alright. You're safe. It's just me. Just Gilda." She opened her arms to him and wrapped him in a hug, and he leaned his head against her. His breathing slowed until it was in time with hers. She gently stroked his back, a soothing motion of the fingers to calm the frazzled nerve endings of a traumatized body. "You're safe. I promise."

    "I'm safe," he repeated - to convince himself, not to her. "Just a dream."

    "You're free of them now. You're in my home. And when you've recovered, you can leave Germany for good."

    He was rational again, thinking clearly, and that made him pause. "Actually, I... I was thinking I might stay and help. I know that sounds crazy. I'm not a fighter. But I could still help the Resistance."

    "Isaac, you don't have to," Gilda said seriously. "There were no strings attached to this rescue. You're free to put all this behind you."

    "I know," he replied. "I know I don't have to. It doesn't feel right leaving other people to fight my battles for me, though. I want to be part of it. I don't want to just run from them. I want to help stop them. There are things I could do. I could copy documents or write codes. I could send messages and create fake documents. I know how to use a radio. You need those things too, don't you? Not just people on the front lines?"

    "We do," Gilda said truthfully. Much as she didn't like the idea of Isaac putting himself in danger again, she understood why he wanted to. "We'd be grateful for your help."

    Speaking about the Resistance brought up another subject. One she hadn't been eager to address with him, but that she couldn't avoid forever.

    "Isaac, you need to know that I wasn't the only person who helped you last night," Gilda said in a carefully measured tone. "One of them let us go. If he hadn't, we'd both be dead. He's not in the Resistance. But... I don't think he wants to be a Nazi, either. I think I can convince him to switch sides."

    Isaac was silent for a long time. Finally he said, "I think you should try. Is he coming here?"

    Gilda nodded. "You don't have to speak to him, though. He doesn't even have to know you're here. If you want, I'll close the bedroom door and not so much as mention you."

    He paused again, and then said, "No, I need to talk to him."

    "Are you sure?" Gilda asked, worried. "It may be... difficult. I told him not to come in uniform - that's the last thing you need to deal with right now - but for now he's still a Nazi."

    "I'm sure." His voice was steadier now, more certain. "He helped me. I owe him thanks for that."

    "Isaac..."

    "I do. He treated me as a human being, and I owe him human courtesy in exchange. Maybe that will help."

    "You are the bravest man I've ever met," Gilda said frankly.

    In that moment, Gilda had the problematic realization that she was attracted to Isaac. Not that it mattered. Nothing could come of it. He was a good man. He was kind. He still had clean hands, despite the horrors of their time. In short, the kind of man she could never hope to deserve. Gilda was confident that if she said anything, the rejection would be scrupulously polite. But why put him in that position? It would be easier for both of them if she kept such wayward thoughts to herself.

    "Shall I read while we wait?" Gilda asked in lieu of more difficult conversation. She pulled The Rubaiyat off the shelf - he'd quoted it earlier, so it must be one he liked - and let the complicated, mystical rhymes of the poetry enfold them.
    Last edited by Monkey Kitty; 07-30-2019 at 04:43 PM.

  4. #14
    Paladin Quaxo9 is offline Quaxo9's Avatar
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    Gerhard Einsbrect

    It was a restless night spent walking the streets, lost in thought. The morning light found him on a bridge staring into at the retreating moon. So many questions. So many possibilities.

    If he did take Gilda up on her offer, his sister's life could be at risk. Of course, the way things were going, if anyone found out about her health...her life was already at risk. In the end, if they survived, would he not rather see her face look up at him with pride instead of disgust? That thought in particular finally caught him off guard. It was different than all the logical reasoning and fearful whispers because it was the first thought he had had about the future. What did HE want that future to look like?

    Showered and in his only casual civilian clothes he owned, Gerhard sauntered down the street, though his body underneath was tense and rigid. He couldn't quite manage not to march, but every able man was a soldier these days and so he doubted that he'd stand out. At least not as much as she likely did, a woman of her beauty...and with her reputation.

    He felt the flowers would provide suitable cover. Surely he wasn't the first man she'd invited to her apartment and Gerhard was hoping that was exactly what any nosy housekeeper would see when he approached the door - a hopeful lover. The posies were cheap, but more than he felt he could afford. Swallowing, he rang the bell. There was no point in hesitating - he'd passed the point of no return in the hospital basement last night. He briefly wondered where the Jewish man had ended up before Gilda opened the door.

    "Fraulein Engel," he bowed slightly, holding the sachet of flowers before him as if they were a shield, "may I come in?"

  5. #15
    Gilda Engel and Isaac Fishblatt

    Gilda didn't leave Gerhard lingering on the doorstep for long. She had deliberately chosen the building for the indifferent fellow tenants - a nosy neighbor could have caused significant problems, in her line of work - but even so, in such times it wasn't wise to take the risk of drawing undue attention.

    "Herr Einsbrect, I'm so glad you decided to visit!" Gilda said in a carefully modulated politely pleased tone. "And flowers? Such a lovely gesture. Come inside, and I'll put them in some water."

    Unlike the last time Gerhard had seen her, today Gilda was not dressed to impress. Her hair was pinned back, and her dress was clean but a trifle faded and many times mended. There was little space for privacy in the tiny apartment, but when she had changed into it earlier, Isaac had courteously turned his back without her having to ask. Gilda was so used to men viewing her as community property, she was pleasantly surprised that it had occurred to one that she might still value a moment of modesty. It had been rather refreshing.

    Once the door closed behind Gilda and Gerhard, she said, "The flowers really are a nice touch. You may have some instinct for this sort of thing after all."

    By which, of course, she meant the Resistance, not his amorous charade... but any remaining listening ears would have had no way of knowing so.

    Gerhard had missed his guess about one thing: Gilda had never willingly invited a Nazi into her home. A handful of times she had acquiesced after very persistent requests, but only grudgingly, and she would never have initiated it. Her excuse was that her place was too small, too shabby and dingy. It truly was all of those things, and most of the men she went after had little objection, preferring the more posh surroundings of their own homes or - if married - of a nice hotel. That wasn't the real reason, though. As little attachment as she had to this apartment per se, Gilda needed some small corner of her life to remain uncontaminated. For her home to be the one place she could go to be free of them. A small respite from their oppressive presence everywhere else. It was only then that she truly felt like herself.

    Having Isaac here was different, of course. His presence was a welcome one, a reprieve from the solitude. With him, she found that she could still be herself.

    Gilda led Gerhard through the narrow entry hall and opened her apartment door for him. "The flat's not much," she warned him. Though on what was surely a modest salary, she doubted Gerhard had anything better. "This is my friend Isaac," she said mildly as she put on the tea kettle and rummaged through her kitchen cabinets for something to use as a vase. "Isaac, this is Gerhard. The two of you crossed paths last night, as you both know."

    Isaac was sitting at the kitchen table; Gilda had assisted him to his place there before Gerhard's arrival. The difference in him between last night and now was significant. Not that he was at his best again, of course. He was still painfully emaciated, the clothes hanging loosely on his frame. The effects of starvation would take time to pass. He was still bruised, still scarred from the torture he had suffered. He was alert, though, and clearly no longer at death's door - a major improvement in just a few hours.

    As soon as the door opened, Isaac felt his stomach knot in panic, the familiar fear washing over him knowing that he was in the presence of a Nazi officer once again. In the abstract, this had all seemed like a good idea. When it was a hypothetical, Isaac had imagined himself calmly navigating the situation, rising above...

    Now it was real, and that wasn't happening. Isaac's heart pounded, and he felt blood rushing in his ears. He wanted nothing more than to run, to escape - but it was too late for that. This man was in the room with him. And Isaac was terrified. He cast about for what to do.

    Above all, he couldn't provoke this man, he knew. He probably wouldn't survive another beating. Even more important, there was Gilda to consider. Isaac couldn't put his rescuer in harm's way.

    So what to do? He would do what he had done before, he decided. He had learned these survival skills already. He just had to stop panicking and use them.

    Deference. That was what they liked. They thought you were subhuman, and it calmed them to be proven right. To see that you understood that they were above you. No eye contact. Head bowed. Allow the shoulders to hunch. Stare at the floor at approximately the location of the left boot. Show them you're nothing, and they'll have no reason to hurt you...

    "Sir, I'm very grateful for your help last night," Isaac said, keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the ground.

    There. He had done what he'd set out to do. Maybe not as courageously as he'd imagined he would, but at least it was done.

    Gilda moved to stand by Isaac, and gave his shoulder a squeeze. He didn't dare look up to acknowledge her, but it made a difference, knowing she was there.

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