NOTE: I’m seeking your reaction to a series of chapters I excised from THE MOUNTING STORM, to make it one in the Kate Conway series instead of a stand-alone novel about a Nazi who has infiltrated the U.S. publishing industry.
Rolling Hills West, 1945
Stirling didn’t sleep at all. Several hours before daybreak he rose and walked the grounds, hoping the cold spring air and a wild moon would clear the fog in his mind, but returned after having been nearly mauled by a brace of Dobermans, their trainer Luther behind them, waving a pistol before apologizing.
He took a hot shower, put on a dressing gown, and was having coffee on the south veranda, a gray twilight beginning to show over the hill to his left. The bird chatter that had been so peaceful was now an obnoxious frenzy, and his head swam in a sublime, bleary-eyed ache as the events of the last month swirled around him. To be truthful, he was almost glad the book was closing on one of the most incredibly sad chapters in the whole history of Mankind.
Today was Gotterdammerung! Today the noose pulled tight around the necks of his comrades in arms, the boys he had gone to school and to camp with, what remained of his family in Munich, the nation he had grown up belonging to and so proudly believing in. For days even his own newspapers had been blaring the ominous headlines and showing unbelievable photos of the grim destruction, the grisly corpses.
Hitler and Eva Braun dead, both suicides in Berlin: He by a revolver in the mouth, she by cyanide, both bodies dumped into a shell hole outside their bunker, along with their dog, doused with petrol, and burned to a crisp like strips of bacon. Goebbels, always the wiser and more methodical, simply poisoned himself, his wife, and their six children.
The list of prisoners or soon-to-be prisoners included Goering, Ludtke, Himmler, Strudel, von Ribbentrop, Funk, Speer, Streicher, Raeder, and the cowardly deserter Hess. He had a brief thought as to the fate of his father, the retired general, who had chosen to disown him for his beliefs and whom Margaret had been told was dead.
Doenitz was to sign the armistice today.
Through his sources in the Pentagon, Stirling knew the Americans had the bomb that Goebbels had described in such vivid detail, the one the Germans were supposed to have had first. It turned out that Hitler had scrapped the project; Goebbels either didn’t know or was hanging onto a false hope.
The Americans had been smart bringing in all those Jew scientists from pre-war Germany, brains like Teller and Oppenheimer, to work on their version of the bomb. Even smarter was the way they got the super-Jew Einstein to talk Roosevelt into making it in the first place. They will probably be too timid to use it on the Japanese. They lacked the desire and the will it took to follow through to the end.
He had heard that while most of Wernher von Braun’s production team was captured by the Russians, the famous scientist managed to steal a train so he could surrender to the Americans. If the story was true, the Americans would win the battle for missile superiority.
He would now be willing to make a giant admission—that he has had second thoughts these last few years about the ability of der Feuhrer. So many mistakes. So weak on strategy. So heavy-handed in regard to the Jews. So clumsy in his treatment of all those under him, especially of Goebbels, who must have hated the man more than he ever professed. Perhaps—perhaps after all the bloodshed, the killing, the hatred, the upheaval of civilization, perhaps it could now be said that der Feuhrer was not the person after all to lead them in their mission. He used to feel stabs of guilt for thinking such thoughts.
And fear—he looked up at the sky and smiled at the realization he hadn’t been struck by lightning.
But what did it really matter? Germany lay in ruins, everyone dead or a prisoner. He felt the ugly emptiness in his gut, the pain in his head. He should have insisted on returning with Goebbels on the U-boat. He could have killed at least a dozen or so Russians. No poison for him, he would have kept shooting right down to the instant they rammed the bayonet through his spleen. He should have been with them in the Hell of Berlin, damn it. He should be dead!
Margaret appeared on the veranda, looking strangely out of place at this early hour. She poured a cup of coffee and sat beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. Her robe opened just enough for him to see the left breast hanging loose in her nightgown, round like an apple, the nipple looking lonely, neglected, anxious to be useful in the manner that God intended.
She stared at him. His look was drawn, his eyes like coals that have burned out and are beyond re-igniting. She leaned forward and gave him a kiss. “It’s terrible what has happened to our friends in Germany, my darling. But you must not give up.”
He rose and walked to the wall of the veranda, staring out at the meadow, its blurry edges just beginning to take form in the early twilight. Somewhere a new day was dawning, but not here. And not now, with all this grief.
Margaret came up from behind and, holding the coffee cup in one hand, reached her other arm around him, pulling him into her soft breasts, her warm flank. Her hand tugged at the belt around his robe, loosening it until it finally fell open. “How can I make things better for you?” she said. “Please tell me, Stirling dear. I can’t stand to see you suffering this way.”
He turned around and—seeing the sorrow and hopefulness in her eyes, the soft, welcoming flesh—arrived in a flash at the realization of what he wanted. He must have an heir. It would represent perfection—a perfect blend of Anglo-Saxon beauty and intelligence with Aryan strength and will. But Stirling Winship will not be the father of this specimen Margaret will bear. No, the father will be Helmut von Ramstedt. “Give me a child,” he said, pulling her into him, rubbing his erection against the white of her belly. “For God’s sake, give me a child, Margaret.”
A grin crossed her face. She put the cup of coffee down. Taking his hand, she led him upstairs to the bedroom.
+ + +
He left her exhausted on the bed. The pounding he had given her was an act of rage at losing the war. It had nothing to do with love and tenderness, the feelings associated with wanting to conceive a child. Rising in a half trance and without even casting a glance at Margaret’s splayed body, he threw on his hiking clothes and boots. He walked in firm, measured steps to the garage and took the keys to the Bentley from a reluctant Kurt. The man knew Stirling’s limitations as a driver.
He gunned the engine and released the clutch. The car lurched forward, wobbling, and tore down the drive. Circling the pond, the tires skidded off the wet bricks and dug long trenches into the berm. He braked too late as he swerved to the right to get on the road, the rear fender on his side scraping against the wall of the gatehouse and waking the sleeping guard.
His mind was clearing now. His grip on the steering wheel was steady and confident as he ripped along the country roads, deserted at this hour with the sun still hiding behind the hills in the cold, gray mist of morning.
When he arrived at the Parkway, he veered south and accelerated the engine up to sixty, seventy, eighty, the thrumming of the powerful pistons like a transfusion, pumping new life through his veins. He could feel the tension lessening, the pain and grief dissolving. His mind was seizing control.
He felt himself soaring upward like a bird, a beautiful bird, white and glowing. He was riding a winged stallion, flying silently above the world as if in an astral dream. He glided through a cloudbank lined with bodies staring at him with pleading eyes, their screams and wails all the more agonizing in the rush of air. He recognized many of his friends, Goebbels and his wife and children, Doenitz, Rommel, Speer, even der Fuerher with two women on their knees, clinging to his trousers and sobbing. He wished he could linger, deposit flowers, utter a condolence . . . “so sorry to hear of your loss . . . please accept my deepest sympathy.” But it was no longer necessary.
THEY WERE DEAD. HE WAS ALIVE.
The first rays of sun burst from between the hills, and now he could see everything quite clearly. The world suddenly belonged to him alone. He was Siegfried, all-powerful, all-knowing Siegfried, the man of destiny. Armed with a message—and the power to change the way people behave according to his ideas, his way of thinking.
He possessed a network of newspapers; he was adding more radio stations. He lived in a nation that was all-powerful, along with Russia, but a nation, unlike Russia, that had escaped destruction and where he was free to do what he pleased.
The heroic strains of Richard Wagner pounded through his body, confirming what he now knew to be true. He was the legend, the survivor, the source. He was free at last to do things his way.
He was Siegfried. And he was unchained.
+ + +
The mist dissolved, and he realized he was driving like a madman down an open highway at a speed of ninety-seven miles per hour. Ahead of him a huge truck was lying on its side and straddling all four lanes, its guts like the underbelly of a giant caterpillar.
He slammed on the brakes, but he couldn’t stop. The Bentley swerved around the truck and crashed through a guardrail. It sailed across a ditch and landed on all four wheels, plowing through the embankment and climbing an upgrade until it smashed through a web of green, wooden slats. Seconds after the Bentley ground to a stop, the structure for an advertising board came crashing down, entangling car and driver in a red, white and blue painting of Uncle Sam. His hands were outstretched, pleading with the public to help end the war by buying U. S. Defense Bonds.
+ + +
Margaret received the call from the state police an hour later; she ran and got Kurt to drive her to the hospital. When they arrived, Stirling forced a little smile. He wore a neck brace and had a bandage on his forehead, where it had struck the windshield. Other than that he appeared quite healthy. In fact, he seemed a different person.