Ingrid Bach stood naked before the full-length mirror, carefully studying her body for clues to her ruinous behavior. Her eyes were clear, if pouchy from lack of sleep, her shoulders sunburned from her excursion to Inzell several days before. Her breasts were full and if no longer as firm as she would have liked, still round and high on her chest. Her legs were taut and slender and, except for a patchwork of bruises – medals from her campaign to keep Sonnenbrucke in working order – those of a woman in her prime.
But she saw none of this.
Staring at her reflection, she recognized only a succession of her failed selves. The teacher, the actress, the doctor, the painter she'd sworn to become and hadn't. The jilted lover, the ungrateful daughter, the false wife, the inadequate mother – the possibilities stretched before her like an endless tapestry of her own weaving. She was an embarrassment. To herself, to her family, and – harking to the far-away cry present in every German's soul- to her country.
Behind her, the sun continued its evening descent, its last rays burning the sky a fiery orange. In its wake, the shadows of Furka and Brunni, the hooded peaks that held Sonnenbrucke in their eternal purview, lengthened and grew obscure, menacing her in a way her own conscience never could.
Turning from the mirror, Ingrid crossed the bedroom.
An antique oil lamp rested on her dresser and next to it a box of matches. The basement was full of the lamps, leftovers from the days before electricity ventured so deep into the mountains. Sonnenbrucke had belonged to the Hapsburgs then. Franz Josef himself had built the lodge in 1880, his idea of a cozy family retreat. Foreseeing the need to gild his family's flight into exile, he'd sold the property to Papa sometime during the Great War. An aphorism about one man's misfortune being another's luck came to Ingrid's mind. She wondered whether Papa was a scavenger or a savior. She decided both, which given her current uncharitable mood, was worse than being either.
Removing the lamp's glass veil, she struck a match, then fired the tattered wick. She waited for the flame to catch, then, lamp in hand, padded to her dressing room. Seated at her vanity, she was confronted once again by her own damning stare. How could she account for her recent behavior? Exposing herself to Ferdy Karlsberg in exchange for a few quarts of ice cream; dating the scoundrel Carswell as a prelude to requesting increased rations. And if he'd balked, she asked herself, if he'd whispered that he could only give these things to his mistress, then what? Would she have slept with him? Would she have compromised her body as she already had her spirit? "Never," she declared vehemently. But part of her remained unconvinced.
After washing her face, Ingrid returned to the bedroom.
Off came the decorative pillows, off came the bedspread. The window was open and a cool breeze swept her body, leaving her skin prickled with goosebumps. Walking to the sill, she thrust her head into the night. Ten minutes after the sun had dipped below the mountains, the valley lay hidden beneath an impenetrable shroud. She dropped her eyes to the brick portico twenty feet below. One push and she would be free. Free of her guilt, her worry, her shame. Free of the cursed name which haunted her from morning till night. The Bachs – bankrupt whores of a broken Germany. They'd whored for the Kaiser, for Weimar, for the Fuhrer. Who was next? Why, the Americans, of course. Ingrid, with her platinum hair and ruby-red nail polish, was only continuing the family tradition, if on a smaller scale.
Which brought her face to face with Devlin Judge. He hadn't asked her to dance solely to apologize for having disturbed her father. He'd wanted information about Erich, she was sure of it. Another American seeking to exploit her company for his own interest. Still, she couldn't scold the man, not after what he'd done to Carswell. She had little doubt that he was under military arrest. She couldn't, imagine what would happen to a German officer should he I" strike a Field Marshal. A firing squad? Twenty years hard labor? She shuddered at the prospect. Her Erich would never do such a thing. Any objection he harbored toward Carswell ' s behavior, he'd deliver during a private moment, if at all. He was a soldier to the core. But Judge was an attorney, likewise acquainted with the consequences of disregarding regulation. Why did one obey his superiors and the other his conscience?
The unexpected entry of Erich Seyss into her intimate thoughts thrust Ingrid back in time. She saw herself standing in the window of her apartment on Eichstrasse, her secret lovers' nest in the heart of Berlin. She felt Erich steal in behind her, his fingers waltzing up her legs, over her belly, caressing her breasts. "_So, Schatz_," he said in his dead-on imitation of Adolf Hitler, "only ten more children until you receive the gold medal of German womanhood. This is no time to rest. We must work, work, work!"
That was the Erich she had fallen in love with: the unannounced visitor, the wild and tireless lover, the trustworthy confidante who had encouraged her to take an apartment unbeknownst to her family, the adroit mimic ready to lampoon even the most sacrosanct of subjects. Her best friend.
But even as they fell to the bed, giggling mischievously as they raced to undress each other, part of her mind remained on guard. There was another side of him, too, one she'd begun to see with disconcerting frequency: the hidebound soldier, the slogan-hurling party man – "_Kinder, Kirche und Kuche_"; "_Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuhrer_"; "_Deutschland Erwache_,Jude Verreck!" – the vitriolic anti-semite. In short, the ideal Nazi every Aryan aspired to become.
And in the heat of their lovemaking, when he was deep inside of her, arms pulling her to his body, when they were as close as man and woman could be, she looked into his eyes and asked herself which of these men he truly was.
And the absence of an answer frightened her.
A sudden breeze cooled the room. Catching a chill, Ingrid rushed to her bedside and wrapped a hand knit afghan around her bare shoulders. She returned to the window, eager for the scent of cooling pine and night blooming jasmine. Her thoughts of Erich faded and she found herself, instead, thinking of Devlin Judge. If she'd learned anything from Erich, it was to distrust her instinct.
She wondered if she'd been hasty in ascribing ulterior motives to Judge's actions. With a guilty smile, she acknowledged that he hadn't only been thinking about his investigation. Pressed so closely to him, it had been impossible to ignore his desire. Any stirrings she'd experienced in return were purely reflexive. Still, she couldn't help but remember the feel of his body, his confident hands, the scent of his neck. He'd smelled of scotch and sweat and temper and decision. How long had it been, anyway? One year? Two? No, it had been longer. She hadn't slept with a man since April of forty-two when Bobby went east. Three years, she whispered, both aghast and amused. She'd never have guessed she could go so long without companionship. It couldn't continue like this forever.
But she would never consider someone like Judge. He was just another victorious soldier eager for his foreign fling.
In the distance, a kingfisher let go his mournful call, a scratchy bellow that accentuated her melancholy and forced her lacerating eye back on herself. If she was to question Judge, why not herself? What made her think he would consider her, even for a moment? Whatever longing he felt was no doubt as reflexive, as instinctive, as her own. He was a lawyer and an investigator. He knew full well the crimes of which her father had been accused. He would never want a woman who carried the tainted blood of a war criminal.
The question of her own guilt in the matter arose daily.
Upon her demand, her father's lawyer, Otto Kranzbuehler, had slipped her a copy of the indictment. The stories were difficult to comprehend, let alone believe. 25,000 workers had perished in the Essen facilities alone. Beatings, starvation, murder – the charges described a litany of brutality beyond her imagining. Yet how was she in any way responsible? She hadn't set foot in any of her father's plants for ten years. Business was never discussed at home and the Bach women were not encouraged in their interest of the family's affairs. Still, part of her refused to relinquish her guilt. She was a German. As a citizen, was it not her duty to know what was happening in the country of her birth?
Ingrid searched the ink black night for an answer and found none. For the second time that night she found herself examining the portico below for a solution to her problems.
The driveway was miles away, the cut brick hard and unforgiving. She imagined her fall – the sudden drop, the rush of air, the terrible thud. But her problems would not perish with her. How would Pauli eat tomorrow? Who would look after Papa? How would Herbert manage?
Frightened by her mere consideration of the idea, Ingrid spun from the window and rushed to her bed.
One more day, she promised herself.One more day and things will be better.