Sonnenbrucke glittered like a seashell in the morning sun, a fairy tale chateau with spiral towers and stone battlements. Surrounded on three sides by soaring granite peaks, it stood alone in a lush meadow at the head of a valley deep in the Bavarian Alps, ten kilometers from the Austrian border. A jewel, thought Devlin Judge, as he viewed the castle from a road high above the valley floor. Worthy of a prince, not a scoundrel.
Finding Ingrid Bach had proven easy. Her father, Alfred, stood high on the United Nations War Crimes Commission's list of war criminals – ranked sixteenth among the first twenty-two to be tried that fall in Nuremberg – and his capture in April had made front page news. GERMANY'S CANNON KING CORRALLED, read one rag. BACH BUSTED! screamed another. Too senile to be put in the dock, he was being held under house arrest at his hunting lodge in the mountains. His daughter Ingrid was there too, though of her own volition, acting as his nursemaid and caretaker.
Judge held his breath as the Jeep squealed around yet another hairpin curve. The road was in miserable condition, hardly more than a rocky furrow carved from the mountainside. Two feet to his right, the track crumbled and fell away. He had only to extend his head over the Jeep's chassis to stare down a thousand-foot precipice. This part of the country had been dubbed the "national redoubt." In these mountains, it was rumored Hitler had constructed analpenfestung – a mountain fortress into which his loyal soldiers could withdraw to marshal their strength for one last stand against the Allied forces. If true, he had chosen well. The dense forest and rugged terrain made the area impenetrable.
Judge glanced at his driver, an eager corporal supplied by Seventh Army HQ. Despite the hazardous road conditions, he seemed perfectly at ease, humming "We'll Meet Again", as he shifted through the gearbox in preparation for another one hundred and eighty degree turn. Honey had begged off the trip, wanting to meet with sources of his own he claimed might have information about Seyss's whereabouts. No doubt, men of Altman's ilk.
The nose of the Jeep dipped as it came around the curve. A rear tire dug into a pothole. The vehicle bucked, then shot down the road. Gasping, Judge fell back into his seat. He would never complain about Manhattan's streets again.
Fifteen minutes later, he arrived at Sonnenbrucke.
A pink granite driveway wound for a mile through waist-high grass. They passed a gazebo overlooking a pond slick with algae and a fractured dock extending from the shores of a small lake. Two Jeeps were parked half a mile from the lodge. Several GIs, all with mitts, stood in a square playing catch. Apparently, Alfred Bach posed little threat of escaping the bonds of his house arrest. The driver slowed and gave Judge's name to the nearest soldier. The GI threw a fastball to his buddy in left field, then waved them on.
Judge waited until the Jeep had come to a complete halt and the engine extinguished before getting out. He hadn't thought about his ribs or his tailbone for the last two hours. It was his legs that were killing him, rigid as pistons and still braced for the expected tumble off the cliff. A loud bang in the woods beyond the lake made him duck his head. The sharp crack was followed by another, and then another, until it sounded as if someone were blowing off a string of firecrackers.
An elderly manservant in a black frock coat and striped trousers opened the door before he could knock. "May I help you, sir?" His English was impeccable; Oxford or Cambridge or wherever all the snobs in merry old England lived.
"Devlin Judge, here to see Miss Bach." As he spoke there was a commotion behind the door. The butler took a step back and whispered something about "being polite," and "it not being her place," then stalked off. In his place stood a slender blonde woman wearing a sleeveless brown dress.
"We've really had quite enough of your chums coming onto our land and acting as if they can take as much game as they please," she began, in the same faultless English. "Morning, noon, and night, that's all one hears. Pop. Pop. Pop. It's absolutely dreadful. Father detests it. He jumps in his bed every time a rifle goes off. He's very ill and needs all the rest he can get. That means peace and quiet… " she paused long enough to study the insignia on his shoulders "…Major. And as for the chamois they're butchering, I shouldn't be surprised if the forests will soon be empty of them. One doesn't use a bloody machine gun to kill a small antelope. Wouldn't you agree, Major… "
"Judge," he answered. "Devlin Judge. Judge Advocate General's Corps." He winced at his mistake. "Excuse me, Provost Marshal's Office." In the course of her speech she had moved onto the landing, so that she stood only a few inches from him. She wasn't beautiful, at least not by New York standards. Her hair showed dirty roots and fell in an uneven tide onto her shoulders. Her face was too angular and bore not a trace of makeup. A universe of tiny freckles dotted her nose and cheeks. Her lips were dry and, in places, cracked. Why, then, was he so insistently cataloguing her faults?
She had set a hand on her hip and was nibbling at a chewed fingernail. "So?"
Inclining his head, he asked slowly, "So what?"
"So what are you going to do about the ruckus? Just because we lost the war doesn't mean you can step allover us. The shooting is driving us mad. Forget about Papa. I'm going to kill myself if it doesn't stop soon."
Judge needed a moment to recover from her verbal barrage. Making a half-turn, he stared out at the forest and, as if sensing his attention, the shooting stopped.
"Congratulations, they've taken another chamois." Her triumphant grin stank of sarcasm. She looked over his shoulder, but not before he noticed that she had a chipped front tooth. "I should bloody well charge for them. Twenty dollars a head. That would solve things."
"I assume you are Ingrid Bach," Judge said, finally, his patience wearing thin.
"Go to the top of the class, Major. If you don't mind, though, I prefer my husband's name. Von Wilimovsky. Ingridvon Wilimovsky. These days Bach is about as bad as Hitler. Pity us, don't you?"
Pity wasn't the word he had in mind. Disdain and scorn were more like it, and if she continued rambling on like a broken phonograph, he'd add despise to the list, too. He hadn't expected her to be overtly contrite, but Christ, she could at least play at humility. Instead, she was just one more rich girl waiting for the favors she was owed.
She stepped into the entry and motioned for Judge to follow.
He was inside a medieval lair, a wood-paneled great room that could swallow his one-bedroom apartment whole. A minstrel's gallery circled the perimeter, and below it hung enough portraits to fill the Met. The paintings were spaced at three foot intervals. Here and there, however, one was missing, leaving him with the impression of a decaying set of teeth. A great fireplace yawned at the far end of the room, dark, unlit, and tall enough for a man to step into.
Seyss, you here? Judge thought to himself. In a place this big, he could keep himself hidden for years. Maybe he should have taken Honey's advice and brought along a few men to search the premises.
"I expect you're here to see Father," she said. "He's no better than last week. The doctors call itzweite kinderheit. Second childhood."
Judge saw no reason to disabuse her of the notion. "Keep 'em talking" was the interrogator's cardinal rule. She led him into a small parlor, with throw rugs and easy chairs and lace-curtained windows looking onto the lake. The horns of a dozen small mountain goats and, he guessed, chamois, decorated the paneled wall. Sitting down, she freed a cigarette from the folds of her dress.
Judge tucked his cap under an arm, drawing a Zippo from his pocket. He'd given up smoking, but experience had taught him that good manners opened doors as well as loosened tongues. " Allow me."
"An officerand a gentleman," she said, guiding the lighter to the cigarette. "How pleasant."
Judge lowered himself into an armchair opposite her, gazing at the lake, then at the imposing mountains. Not a bad place to pass the war. On the table next to him was a petite green porcelain vase. A second glance revealed a glass cabinet against the wall filled with similar pieces.
"_Schön Dresden_," he said, speaking German to satisfy an unannounced urge to impress her.
Ingrid Bach brushed the vase with her fingertip. "Meissen is my one true love. Did you know that King Augustus thought it would prevent him from growing old? ' An antidote to decay: he called it. When he died, they counted forty thousand pieces of porcelain inside his palace."
"My mother was a collector, too," said Judge, looking to establish a common ground.
"Well, not exactly. She had two pieces."
Ingrid laughed, then caught herself. "That's a start anyway. Why didn't you say you were from Berlin?"
"My mother was from Berlin," he said. "I'm from New York." He never volunteered Brooklyn.
"My cousin is from New York, too. He's in the Foreign Service. I believe he's traveling to Potsdam as we speak. His name is Chip DeHaven. Do you happen to know him?"
Judge raised a disbelieving eyebrow. Most recently, Carroll "Chip" DeHaven had served as an aide to President Roosevelt at Yalta and Teheran, but he had made a name for himself as First Secretary to the US Embassy in Moscow. During the first years of the war, he'd been a vocal supporter of Lend-Lease and one of the few to call for America's early entry into the war. Judge couldn't imagine that she was related to such an East Coast blue blood. "Your cousin is Chip DeHaven?"
"Father's sister's second son. Just don't call him Carroll. He positively hates that name." And when she saw his continued skepticism, she shot him a nasty glance. "511 Fifth Avenue. Corner of 62nd. Just up from the Sherry. We used to visit when I was a little girl."
She meant the Sherry Netherland hotel, of course. Suddenly he found her smug delivery overbearing. He knew why, even if he didn't care to admit it. She was the rich girl lording it over her poor guest. Every bit as annoying as the Yalies who infested the US attorney's office. "The Sherry" as if she owned the place. No doubt she'd crossed on theHindenburg.
"Actually, I'm not here to see your father," he said, sitting straighter to signal that the pleasantries were over. "I'm an investigator with the Third Army. That's General Patton's outfit. I came to speak with you."
Ingrid Bach's face lost its color. "Me? Whatever for? Shouldn't you be chasing down my brother? I mean he's the shit of the family. I'm just a nurse and widow."
Judge had never seen a guiltier response. The shifting of focus off herself; the hands grappling at one another; the voice jumping half an octave. She was up to something. The only question was whether it was harboring a fugitive war criminal.
"We're looking for a man who we have reason to believe may have visited you recently."
Her glib tongue had suddenly grown tired. "Oh?"
"His name is Erich Seyss."
"_Erich Seyss_?" For a moment longer she stared at him with wide eyes. Then, her shoulders dropped and she let go a sigh of relief. "Do you mean to tell me you've come all this way to ask me if I've seen Erich. Whatever for? I'm sorry to ruin your day but I've neither seen nor heard from him in ages."
"When exactly did you see him last?"
"Twelfth October 1939,exactly. My twentieth birthday. He told me he couldn't marry me. A lovely gift, wouldn't you say? It beat the hell out of anything Papa gave me."
She stubbed out her cigarette and pulled back a curtain to look over the lake. He could see that her mind was moving on to matters of greater importance. He was no longer a problem to be dealt with, just one to be dismissed.
"Has your father had any contact with Seyss?"
"Papa?" She kept her gaze fixed on the lake. "The only person Papa has contact with is me."
It was evident to Judge that she was telling the truth about Seyss and about her father – but something compelled him to force the issue, maybe her brusque dismissal of his visit, maybe her unquestioned confidence, or maybe because after Ingrid, he didn't have any place left to turn. "I'd still like to ask him myself."
She jerked her head from the window, her attention once again where it should be. "Papa is very ill. He does things to himself. I'm afraid I cannot permit you to see him."
But Judge was already rising from his chair and moving past her into the great hall. Nothing conveyed authority better than motion, even if he didn't have any idea where old man Bach was laying up. "I'm sorry, but I can't return to HQ without having questioned him about Seyss. Can you please show me to his room." It was not a request.
She stood at his shoulder, glaring at him with undisguised contempt. "Follow me." She led him across the hall and through a large kitchen.
A basket of wood sat next to a cast iron furnace. A half-plucked chicken lay splayed on a cutting board large enough for a slaughtered buck – which he realized was what it had been intended for. A bolt of silver fabric was draped across a chair, a needle and thread placed on a table nearby. Behind a glass partition, a wine rack ran from floor to ceiling. Only a few bottles remained. For such a wealthy family, the kitchen looked downright barren.
Ingrid walked ahead with a watchman's deliberate pace, not saying a word. Her silence dug at him like a pick-axe. Part of him wished he hadn't asked to see her father. He could tell her right now he'd decided it wasn't necessary; he could apologize and go back to Bad Toelz. But each time he began to speak, the words died stillborn on his tongue. A stronger voice reminded himself that he was just doing his duty as a police officer. He wasn't there to be her friend.
Alfred Bach lay asleep in a large bed in a sunlit room on the second floor of the lodge. A white comforter had been drawn up over his shoulders so that only his mottled face and wispy gray hair were visible.
Judge approached the bed, staring hard at the wrinkled countenance. Conducting his preliminary research into Goering's wartime activities, he'd come across the Bach name time and time again. It had been May in New York and while everyone's eyes and ears were tuned to the horror stories coming from Dachau and Auschwitz and Buchenwald, he'd been reading the testimonies of foreign laborers who had toiled in Alfred Bach's myriad factories. Sixteen-hour work days on unheated factory floors with no breaks given for lunch or dinner. Failure to meet daily quotas punished with flagellation, pummeling, and withholding of meals. Questioning a command, the same. One Russian laborer who had failed to properly arm a bucket of fuses was made to hop the length of the concrete floor (over one hundred yards) on his knees. When a kneecap fractured and he could no longer move, he was beaten with a rifle butt, then removed to the infirmary, where he was given neither medical care, food, nor a bed. He died the next day. One Bach factory mandated a particularly creative form of torture to inspire their lethargic "employees". The offender was placed in a wooden box two feet wide and four feet high while cold water was dripped onto his head. The punishment lasted between two and twelve hours. Pregnant women were not excluded. Such barbarous treatment was the rule, not the exception.
Conditions outside the factories were no better. Workers were housed in dog kennels or public urinals or made to sleep in open trenches in camps with no running water and
no medical attention. They received two meals daily, a thin soup with rancid vegetables in the morning and a chunk of bread with a slathering of jam at night. Five hundred calories maximum. The men who supervised the factories and camps, the brutes who carried out these punishments, were not generally members of the German military but employees of Bach Industries assigned to the company werkschutz or factory police. The average "work expectancy" of a newly arrived laborer was "three months until exhaustion". Three months, then death. For each slave, Alfred Bach paid the Reich Labor Ministry four marks per day. Naturally, the workers received nothing.
There he lay, the man himself, Alfred Bach, eyes sunken, skin waxy, looking as harmless as any old man preparing to die. Stories abounded about his predilection for patrolling the factory floors, overseeing the smallest matters of production. While he'd never struck a man himself, he had known what went on inside his factories. He had condoned it. If nothing else, it had been his responsibility to contract with the SS or the Labor Ministry for adequate numbers of impressed foreign workers – read "slave labor" – to maintain his factories at maximum output. How else could he interpret his factory managers' constant demand for additional workers? How else could anyone?
"Mr Bach, can you wake up for a few minutes?" Judge asked. "I' d like to ask you some questions."
The cannon king stirred. His eyes opened and he gazed first at Ingrid, then at Judge. "Good morning," he said. His voice was strong.
"Good morning," said Judge, heartened. "I'm sorry to disturb you, but it shouldn't take very long. My name is Devlin Judge and I'd like to know if-"
"Good morning," Alfred Bach repeated. He was smiling now.
"Yes, good morning, Mr Bach." Judge looked across the bed to Ingrid, who stood with arms folded over her chest, her face vacant of any expression. "Now then, if I might ask you-"
"Good morning." Judge patted the man's arm.Be patient, he told himself.Give the old timer a minute to wake up. He smiled at Ingrid to show he was understanding of her father's condition, that he wasn't the brute she took him for. A second later, a nugget of phlegm slapped him in the face.
"Thief!" cried the old man. "Think you can take my company from me, do you? I won't permit it. No son can rob his father. I am a holder of the Golden Party Badge. The Fuhrer will not permit it!" Alfred Bach lunged forward, swinging a gnarled fist at Judge. He missed wildly and the motion carried him halfway out of his bed. He was naked, his chest crisscrossed with scratches and scabs. Judge leapt forward and grabbed hold of one arm, then the other, guiding him gently back onto the bed. Ingrid patted her father's head, whispering for him to calm down. Suddenly, the old man wrestled free, swinging his arm in a wide arc that battered Ingrid's head. She paid the blow no attention, taking hold of the offending arm and fixing it to the bed with a pair of cloth restraints. Following her example, Judge fell to a knee and took hold of the straps extending from beneath the mattress. A minute later, Alfred Bach was restrained.
Judge cleaned his face and rushed from the room. After a minute, Ingrid joined him. They stood in the half-light of the hallway eyeing one another. "I'm sorry," they said in unison.
"No," said Judge, "let me apologize. I should have taken your word."
"Papa is very old and very angry. Thank you for being gentle with him. It's easy to lose one's temper."
"A little too gentle." Judge ran a finger along the edge of is tooth. "Did he do that?"
Ingrid mimicked the motion, tracing a chipped incisor. "Yes. He's rather strong for an old man, isn't he?"
Just then, a little boy came running down the hallway, excited by the commotion. At the sight of an American uniform, he stopped short, dashing behind his mother's legs for cover.
"Pauli. Don't be shy. Say hello to the Major."
The boy stepped around his mother and extended a hand. He had straight blond hair that fell to his eyebrows and pale blue eyes. It was obvious to Judge he was ten pounds too thin. "Good morning, sir," he ventured in accented English.
"I always knew who would win the war," Ingrid Bach whispered to Judge, then in a louder voice, "May I introduce my son, Paul von Wilimovsky."
Judge gave the boy's hand a firm shake. "Are you taking good care of your mother?"
"Yes, sir. I gather the wood and clean Grandpapa's bedpan."
"Pauli!" Ingrid tousled the boy's hair. "He's the man of the house. And you? Children?"
Judge was taken aback by the encroachment on his private sphere. Usually, he would say "none", and move on to another subject. No one liked to share a passing acquaintance's bad news, especially when it concerned a six year old boy who had died of polio myelitis. Frankly, it was easier not to say anything. Still, something about the way that Ingrid looked, child hugged to her waist; her broken life on unapologetic display, made him feel that lying would be harder than telling the truth.
"A boy," he said. "His name was Ryan. He left us three years ago."
Ingrid reached out a hand to touch him even as she hugged her boy to her waist. "My dear Major, I'm so sorry." He was unable to look at her as he spoke. The immediacy of her grief threatened to reawaken emotions over which he had no control.
"Pauli came three weeks early. For the first few days he refused to nurse. He was so fragile, so…" she let the words drop off. "I don't know how I would've managed without him. He's everything to me."
Judge looked at the hand on his arm, acutely aware of its insistent pressure and its assumption of intimacy. He and his wife never touched after Ryan's death.
"You haven't had another?" she asked. The question was spontaneous, a gesture of hope.
"I wanted to, but it didn't work out. Anyway, we're not married any-" He cut himself off midstream, realizing he'd said too much already. Her sincerity, however unquestioned, was an invasion and had no place in the day's conversation.
Whatever empathy he felt toward Ingrid Bach, he had to remember whose blood flowed in her veins. "No," he said, curtly.
Ingrid dropped her hand from his arm, retreating to the opposite side of the corridor. She led him down the back stairs, through the kitchen to the great hall. Pauli took off down the driveway as soon as she opened the front door and in a moment was lost in the high grass leading toward the lake. Judge spotted his driver playing ball with the other GIs. He placed two fingers into the corner of his mouth and whistled loudly, signaling for him to bring the Jeep around on the double. Waiting, he turned to look at Sonnenbrucke's imposing gray façade. Veins of crystal swarmed inside each cut stone. No wonder the place glittered like a diamond.
Ingrid stood beside him on the brick portico, gazing down the valley. "Why are you looking for Erich?"
"He killed two men escaping from a prisoner of war camp. One was an American officer."
Judge thought it funny how the deaths of two men didn't sound like anything too urgent and wished he could add to it. He remembered Altman's words, the sly suspicion that Seyss had some ulterior motive for escaping other than simply to gain his own freedom. "One last race," according to Corporal Dietsch. "Kameraden." Would Judge ever find out what it was?
"I thought most of our soldiers had already been released from your holding pens," said Ingrid.
"Most have. But Seyss was a special case. He was being held as a war criminal."
She averted her eyes and Judge could see a shiver rustle her shoulders. It was a subject about which she knew too much, already. " And how did you learn about us? I mean Erich and me – that we were engaged to be married." Judge looked over her shoulder, willing the goddamned driver to get his ass over here. Seeing the Jeep approach, he returned his eyes to her. Christ, she was a mess. Her knees were bruised. Her dress bore greasy stains near her waist where she wiped her hands when cooking. And she could do with a little makeup. He forced himself to imagine her together with the man whose picture he carried in his pocket. Seyss, the Olympian; Seyss, the owner of two Iron Crosses; Seyss, the man who'd murdered Judge's only brother and seventy more defenseless Americans.
She's a Bach. Remember that.
"I'm sorry," he answered, "but I'm not at liberty to say." Behind him, the Jeep arrived with a screech of the brakes. He climbed in, offering the slightest doff of his cap. "If you'll excuse me, I'll be getting back. It's a long ride to Bad Toelz. I thank you for your cooperation. Goodbye, Miss Bach."
Somehow von Wilimovsky didn't suit her, and this time, she didn't correct him. She bobbed her chin, then turned and walked back inside the lodge.