Gratitude
green eyes as either, and the same red blood, the slouch of the tall, a similar chuckle (though it is true his squeaked idiosyncratically on occasion), the same frown, but a whiter white—the white of the eye, eyes used to acting in self-defence.
    Yes, he was dispossessed. Yet in the dust of this very place, this Sweden on Minerva Street, on Gellert Hill, in Buda and in Pest—in the dust of this place blew the molecules of his forebears. These indiscriminate particles as they commingled were more advanced, more civilized than the integrated whole they’d fallen from. Was there a better defence?
    Paul had to challenge someone to act. They wouldn’t do so of their own accord. Though he didn’t know for sure what he wanted, he wanted someone to share his concern. A young girl had stumbled into Budapest after everyone had been taken from her town. Surely, someone could be stirred by such a revelation. It was true Hungary had gone about its business for five long years while much of Europe burned. Germany’s Jews had been evacuated; France’s; Poland’s; Czechoslovakia’s; Greece’s. It was true Paul was a slow learner. But the steel roulette ball had finally settled in its slot.
    He couldn’t wait any longer. He stood and turned, adjusted his suit and shirt cuffs. A Swedish guard wearing a white cap and gloves appeared by the door the receptionist had passed through, but Paul merely smiled at him. Elegant as he was and mannerly, Paul hardly looked the part of the assassin, so he simply went on smiling, opened the guarded door gently and stepped in.
    The young woman, the receptionist, was nowhere to be seen inside. Was there a back door? Had the man sitting at the imposing cherry-wood desk conspired with her to keep Paul out?
    The man stood and offered his hand. “I’m Tomas Holmstrom,” he said in German.
    Paul shook the man’s hand and told him his name before taking a seat opposite him.
    “Ah, yes,” the man said. “The distinguished lawyer.”
    “Now a distinguished outlaw,” Paul said and smiled. But then he jumped right in before explaining. “I met a man a couple of days ago at Gerbeaud, a Swede, Raoul Wallenberg.”
    “Oh, yes,” Tomas Holmstrom said. “I know him. He stopped by here, too. He comes from a well-to-do Swedish family. He seemed concerned about the government the Germans are about to set up in Budapest, maybe as soon as tomorrow. Wallenberg asked our Mr. Anger quite a few questions.”
    Paul found himself staring at a formidable letter opener on the desk. It stood like a dagger sheathed in a black onyx pedestal, with an ornate ivory handle carved with writhing jackals and a lion at its crown.
    “It’s from the Belgian Congo,” Holmstrom said. “A gift for the ambassador. On his visit there.”
    “Nice,” Paul said. He rubbed his hands together.
    Then the Swede said, “You said you met Raoul Wallenberg in town.”
    “Yes, I did. Mr. Wallenberg mentioned that your government might be willing to convert Hungarians into Swedes, if their lives were in danger.”
    “What sorts of Hungarians?”
    “Jewish ones.”
    Holmstrom sat back. “I don’t know if that will be necessary or possible.”
    “It will certainly be necessary, but I’m here to ask about your willingness to help. Mr. Wallenberg’s idea is ingenious. The Germans obey rules. They’ll leave Swedes alone.”
    “Who knows?” Holmstrom said. “It seems to me more fanciful an idea than ingenious. Who knows if the Germans would fall for such fakery?”
    “Yes, who knows? What I’m asking is whether you think it’s worth a try.”
    It occurred to Paul just then that he might walk out of this building empty-handed. He realized how easily he might hate this man across from him. The era of civility in Hungary had come to an end. Paul could convert his fear and anger into strategic disobedience, or he could go underground and become a killer, at least as long as his own life lasted. He found his hands trembling and

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