Fatherland by Robert Harris

Book: Fatherland by Robert Harris Read Free Book Online
Authors: Robert Harris
Max, you're missing the historic dimension of the occasion."
    "Screw the historic dimension of the occasion. I'm thinking about my sleep. The bombs are already going off like firecrackers. Look at this:"
    Jaeger swung his legs off the desk and rummaged through a pile of folders. "While you were playing around by the Havel, some of us were having to do some work."
    He picked up an envelope and tipped out the contents. It was a PPD file: Personal Possessions of the Deceased. From a mound of papers he pulled out two passports and handed them to March. One belonged to an SS officer, Paul Hahn; the other to a young woman, Magda Voss.
    Jaeger said, "Pretty thing, isn't she? They'd just married. Were leaving the reception in Spandau. On their way to their honeymoon. He's driving. They turn into Nawener-Strasse. A lorry pulls out in front of them. Guy jumps out the back with a gun. Our man panics. Goes into reverse. Wham! Up the curb, straight into a lamppost. While he's trying to get back into first gear—bang!—shot in the head. End of groom. Little Magda gets out of the car, tries to make a run for it. Bang! End of bride. End of honeymoon. End of every fucking thing. Except it isn't, because the families are still back at the reception toasting the newlyweds and nobody bothers to tell them what's happened for another two hours."
    Jaeger blew his nose on a grimy handkerchief. March looked again at the girl's passport. She was pretty: blond and dark eyed; now dead in the gutter at twenty-four.
    "Who did it?" He handed the passports back.
    Jaeger counted off on his fingers. "Poles. Latvians. Estonians. Ukranians. Czechs. Croats. Caucasians. Georgians. Reds. Anarchists. Who knows? Nowadays it could be anybody. The poor idiot stuck up an open invitation to the reception on his barracks notice board. The Gestapo figures a cleaner, a cook, someone like that, saw it and passed on the word. Most of these barracks ancillaries are foreigners. They were all taken away this afternoon, poor bastards."
    He put the passports and identity cards back into the envelope and tossed it into a desk drawer.
    "How did it go with you?"
    "Have a chocolate." March handed the box to Jaeger, who opened it. The tinny music filled the office.
    "Very tasteful."
    "What do you know about it?"
    "What? The Merry Widow ? The Führer's favorite operetta. My mother was mad about it."
    "So was mine."
    Every German mother was mad about it. The Merry Widow by Franz Lehár. First performed in Vienna in 1905: as sugary as one of the city's cream cakes. Lehár had died in 1948, and Hitler had sent a personal representative to his funeral.
    "What else is there to say?" Jaeger took a chocolate in one of his great paws and popped it into his mouth. "Who are these from? A secret admirer?"
    "I took them from Buhler's mailbox." March bit into a chocolate and winced at the sickly taste of liquid cherry. "Consider: you have no friends, yet someone sends you an expensive box of chocolates from Switzerland. With no message. A box that plays the Führer's favorite tune. Who would do that?" He swallowed the other half of the chocolate. "A poisoner, perhaps?"
    "Oh, Christ!" Jaeger spat the contents of his mouth into his hand, pulled out his handkerchief and began wiping the brown smears of saliva from his fingers and lips. "Sometimes I have my doubts about your sanity."
    "I am systematically destroying state evidence," said
    March. He forced himself to eat another chocolate. "No, worse than that: I am consuming state evidence, thereby committing a double offense. Tampering with justice while enriching myself."
    "Take some leave, man. I'm serious. You need a rest. My advice is to go down and dump those fucking chocolates in the trash as fast as possible. Then come home and have supper with me and Hannelore. You look as if you haven't had a decent meal in weeks. The Gestapo has taken the file. The autopsy report is going straight to Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse. It's over. Done. Forget

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