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Chapter 41

Some time toward dawn, Ingrid and Judge left the main road and navigated a series of dirt lanes, ending up in a small wood where they parked the Jeep in a copse of birch trees. The night was silent, the air warm and misted with a fragrant dew. Ingrid was happy for the rest. Her bottom was sore from three hours of hard driving over untended farm roads. They'd stopped twice already, laying up for a quarter of an hour in torn up barns, watching for any sight of Patton's thugs. An hour ago, they'd met a paved thoroughfare and they'd been on it ever since, passing through the towns of Hochheim and Walldorf.

Shifting in her seat, Ingrid faced her self-appointed savior. She was ready to inform him that she was leaving here and now, that whatever wild intentions he harbored, he could no longer count on her participation, that she missed her son very much, and finally, that she was tired, hungry, and in a most unpleasant mood altogether. But before she could manage a word, he was leaning toward her, one arm beckoning her to come close, his commanding brown eyes imploring her to solve some unspoken misunderstanding.

"Major," she said, crushing her back against the seat. "I beg your pardon."

Judge eyed her queerly. "The map," he said. "I'm sorry, but I can't reach it. Do you mind?"

Ingrid averted her gaze, embarrassed at her misperception, though not as relieved as she'd expected. Reaching beneath her seat, she found a well creased map. Judge unfolded it, using her lap as well as his own as a table.Damn him for not asking, she cursed silently. There were numbers scribbled everywhere: this army, that corps, compass headings, phone numbers, she couldn't tell what. The only legible marks on the whole bloody thing were the fat black lines dividing her country into four pieces.

"We've got to get to Berlin as quickly as possible," he said, finger already tracing some imaginary course. "That's where he's headed."

"Go," she said. "But don't expect me to come with you. I have a family. Pauli must be worried sick about me."

"Pauli has Herbert and your sister. He'll manage fine until you get back."

"It's not a question of managing," Ingrid responded tartly. "Everyone in our country has been 'managing' for the last three years. Managing without enough sleep, without enough food. Managing without a husband or a brother or a sister. I am his mother. I will not allow him tomanage without me."

"If you go home, that's exactly what he'll be doing. And not for a day or a week, but for the rest of his life."

Frightened by his strident tone, Ingrid chose for her own one of a measured reserve. The clear-minded skeptic. Reason before emotion. Kant over Nietzsche. "You're being a bit dramatic, aren't you?"

"Am I?" Judge shrugged his shoulders, but his voice guarded its urgency. "You're my only proof that Seyss is alive. Whoever strung that concertina wire across the road knows it. It wasn't me they were after. It was you."

She'd been party to his facts and suppositions. She'd borne terrified witness as his suspicions were proven correct, first in Heidelberg, then Griesheim. Still, she was unwilling to accept his conclusions, even if deep down she knew they were true.

"Are you saying they'll be watching Sonnenbrucke? Don't forget we already have our own bodyguard, father's personal jailers."

Judge fixed her with his gaze, his brow knit in earnest incomprehension. "You just don't get it, do you?"

"How can you be sure he's going to Berlin? Maybe he's up and left the country?"

Judge shook his head as if he'd delivered the coming rejoinder a hundred times. "If he wanted to leave the country, he never would have gone to Munich, or to Heidelberg, or to Wiesbaden. Whatever his plan is, he's stuck to it despite knowing we're looking for him. Why should he quit now?"

"Guessing. Guessing. Guessing."

"Then why are we hiding here? If Erich Seyss had left the country, no one would give a damn if you were alive or dead. No one would have killed von Luck. Those poor nurses would still be alive right now."

"Erich has caused me enough pain," she said. "I won't allow him to interfere with my life any further."

"Then why do you still care about him?"

"I don't," she parried reflexively. "Not a wink."

"I see how you light up every time you talk about him," Judge said. "How you sit a little straighter, how your voice jumps a notch."

"Nonsense!" she said, and catching the accusatory cast to his eyes, saw she'd struck a jealous chord. She recalled his words on the drive up to Heidelberg. That he could believe for a moment that she still had feelings for Seyss enraged her. "Do you know why we never married? Do you?"

"No." It was a whisper. He had offended. He was sorry.

"When an SS man wishes to marry, he must submit his intended spouse's name to the SS Office of Race and Resettlement. There, the woman's genealogy is laid out on a family tree going back five generations. In my case, three was enough. My great-grandmother was a Jew. That makes my blood one-eighth Semitic – enough for the SS to classify me a Jew. They refused to grant Erich's request to marry me on the grounds that our offspring would tarnish the racial purity of the thousand-year Reich and he obeyed. Rather than transfer to a regular army unit where an officer is permitted to marry anyone he chooses, he obeyed. That's what he does, Major. He obeys."

Somewhere along the way she'd lost her reserve. Emotion had won out over reason. She'd been foolish to believe her heart could harness her head. And when Judge spoke next his voice had assumed the calm she'd abandoned.This is what he does, she thought.He's a lawyer. He persuades people.

"Tell you the truth I don't want to go to Berlin either," he said. "Five hours ago, I went officially absent without leave. Patton doesn't have to make up a reason to have me arrested anymore. I've done it myself. Any chance I have of returning to the IMT is shot and so is my job back home. Attorneys with an arrest record aren't generally welcomed before the bar. You don't like Seyss. Fine. I hate him. But it's beyond that, now."

Ingrid railed at his self-control, feeling her own slip another notch. "You can't hate him. He's done you no harm. To you, he's just a shadow."

"No," said Judge, all emotion drained from his voice. "He's hardly a shadow. Erich Seyss killed my brother."

Ingrid stared at him, a floodtide of hate and disbelief and terror burning her cheeks. "I don't believe you."

"When I told you about the crimes Seyss was wanted for, I left out one detail: my brother was among the men he had killed. My brother was a priest, Ingrid."

Eyes locked on Judge, Ingrid felt her stomach climb inside her chest, her breath leave her. The world shrunk around her until she heard only the panoply of arguments desperately jockeying for position inside her mind. The man she had loved was a soldier, not a murderer. Things happened in war. Terrible things. He was only following orders. There had to be an explanation. Hurriedly, she tried to scrape some words together on his behalf. The jilted lover would not be made a fool of a second time. But any defense she hoped to offer died stillborn in her throat, slain by the ice in Judge's voice. Her chin trembled, then fell. "I'm sorry."

Judge raised his face to the night sky and blew out an exaggerated sigh. "Don't be. He ruined your life, too. Hell, he's still doing it."

"I'm not apologizing for Erich. I'm apologizing for myself. For my country."

He looked at her, puzzled. "But you didn't do anything."

The words stung more than she'd expected. "That's the point, isn't it?"

Judge's silence granted her the sense of guilt she'd been longing for. "Is that why you're going to Berlin?" she asked. "For your brother?"

"No," said Judge. "It's not about Francis. Not anymore, at least. I'm going because I don't have any other choice. Hell, even if I wanted to stop, I'd be arrested as soon as I showed my face at my billet. But it's not a question of that either. Offer me the chance to go back to Paris, no questions asked, I'd turn you down flat." He laughed a little, the moonlight casting a melancholy pall across his attractive features. "What I always liked best about the law was the black and white of it. You either did something wrong or you didn't. You broke the law or you didn't. Same thing now. If I don't do anything, it would be like committing a crime." He raised his head and Ingrid felt the power of his gaze. "Seyss is going to Berlin. I know it and goddammit, I'm going, too. Don't you see? I can'tnot do anything."

"I suppose not."

"But, I need you to come too. I don't have time to learn my way around Berlin. You know Seyss, where he might go, where he might hide. You have a house there, don't you?"

"Two. One in the city. One on the lake in Babelsberg."

"And I imagine you spent some time there with him?"

"Yes." The admission left her feeling dirty; the more so because of the respect with which Judge treated her. God, how he was different to Erich and Bobby. Neither of them would have asked her to go to Berlin, they would have bloody well ordered her. The comparison to her former lovers coupled with his close physical proximity made Ingrid see Judge in a new light, and she found herself wondering what a future with someone like him might be like. All she'd had to look forward to with Bobby was a role as loving wife and doting mother, a life no different than her mother had lived, and her mother before that. It was an existence built on her family's wealth, standing, and service to the country – none of which counted for a damn any longer.

Feeling a desire to touch him, Ingrid leaned over and kissed his unshaven cheek. "I haven't thanked you for saving my life."

Judge brushed the spot, the hint of a smile lightening his anxious mien. "Does that mean you'll go to Berlin?"

Ingrid bit her lip, wanting to say yes but hesitating and hating herself for it. Here was the chance her wounded conscience had dreamed of, the opportunity to act not as German, but as a woman true only to her herself, and she was afraid to say yes. Staring into Judge's eyes, she drew from him the courage she didn't have herself.

"I can'tnot do anything," she said. And as the words escaped her mouth, she understood that responsibility was something one took even when one didn't want to.

"So, I convinced you?" he said.

Ingrid laughed softly. "Yes. But I've no idea how we'll get there."

Chapter 40 | The Runner | Chapter 42