A half mile from the American command post, they had disappeared into a dense forest with a canopy so thick as to block out every sign of the sparkling night sky and the late rising moon. It was the forest his mother had described sitting on his bedside reading the Brothers Grimm. A deep, dark, living thing, scented of pine and oak, and teeming with hobgoblins and fairies and, yes, even werewolves though they looked more like the half-starved DPs crowding every road in Germany than any fanciful creature. It was the forest where Hansel and Gretel had gotten lost, but instead of a gingerbread house, there was a ruined flak tower, a crippled ten-storey superstructure where Hitler had positioned his anti-aircraft batteries to discourage the marauding hoards from raining destruction upon the capital of his thousand year Reich. It was the forest where Tristan wed Isolde, but all traces of its magical incarnations had disappeared, probably hauled off by the Russians, along with everything else.
The pair of headlights had expanded to a second, then a third, and Judge felt as if the entire army were after them. Two minutes into his fool's run, his head start had been whittled down to three hundred yards and with every passing second was growing shorter. Rounding a sharp corner, he shot a glance over his shoulder. A bank of begonias momentarily blocked his view of the pursuing Jeeps. Spotting his chance, he steered the Jeep away from the security of the gravel walk and doused the headlamps. He was driving among the trees now, weaving in and out like a skier negotiating a slalom course, sure to keep a ninety degree heading away from the walkway. Beneath branches sagging with a summer's bounty of nuts and cones, the ground was feathered with a crop of knee-high grass, and with every unseen rut and gully, he grunted, all the while accelerating madly. Abruptly, he cut the engine and coasted to a halt a hundred yards on.
Ingrid raised herself in the seat, staring into the dark wood. "Who are they?"
"Shh," Judge cautioned, ear tuned to the highly revving engines. Their insistent whine grew, and suddenly he could make out the trace of their headlights. Wheels skidding on the clay and gravel, the Jeeps rounded the begonias. He held his breath, expecting the lights to bob as they, too, left the path, and a moment later to be illuminated in their beams. But the Jeeps roared on, advancing on a phantom prey.
"Who are they?" Ingrid demanded.
Judge answered as he restarted the engine, irritated by her obstinacy. "The same folks who arranged for the detour in Heidelberg. The fellas who want us to think Erich Seyss is dead. Is that good enough?"
Ingrid tucked in her chin, taken aback by his sharp response. "I suppose it has to be."
Judge pushed the Jeep pell-mell through the trees, the howling engine a pitch-perfect echo of his own anxieties. Every few seconds, he turned his head to scout the encroaching dark. He saw nothing, but still his neck bristled. Overnight, he'd become the hunted, not the hunter, and the new role fit him as poorly as the lice-ridden clothing he'd picked up that morning. But there was more. At some point during the last twenty-four hours, he'd crossed over an interior meridian into unknown waters. He'd abandoned the rigid structure of his previous life, renounced his worship of authority, and forsworn his devotion to rules and regulation. He'd tossed Hoyle to the wind and he didn't care. Yet it was this very betrayal of his past that confirmed his most closely held beliefs. That the rules man made were subordinate to those made for him. And when it came to choosing, a man had to use his heart not his head.
Fine summation, counselor, he added, mockingly.Tell me one thing, then. If you're so damned sure of yourself why are you shaking in your boots?
Five minutes later, the curtain of forest parted and they came to a large clearing. A cafe was visible to their right, and next to it, a large man-made pond, the kind where he would have launched a sailboat with Ryan. Judge swung toward the squat building, dodging a line of birch trees, as Ingrid read the sign above the entry.
"Rumplemeyer's," she announced. "If we follow the path leading to the cafe, it's only a few hundred meters to Zehlendorf."
"You mean the city?"
"Yes, a residential quarter in the southwest corner of town."
"We need a place to stay, somewhere reasonably safe. We can't risk sleeping outside again tonight. It's your city. Got any ideas?"
"Just our house in town and some of Papa's friends."
"Not good enough." The presence of Honey in Berlin made it impossible for he and Ingrid to seek refuge in any of her old haunts. If Honey was working with Patton and Patton was close to Egon Bach, then Judge had to consider all those addresses blown. "Isn't there someplace only you know about? At one of your old girlfriends maybe? A boyfriend, even?"
"There is a place I know," Ingrid said haltingly, "an apartment not far from the university where I lived while a student there."
He could read what was coming next. "But Seyss knows about it?"
"He was the reason I took it. It was our hideaway."
"That was six years ago," Judge said sternly. "Don't you think they've found a new tenant by now?"
It was her turn to offer a rebuke. "No, Major, you don't understand. I didn't rent the place. I bought it."
"And Egon? Does he know about it, too?"
"No," Ingrid replied adamantly. "It was our secret. Erich's and mine."
Judge mulled over their options. Even if Seyss was in Berlin, the odds were against him hiding out at his and Ingrid's old love nest. The UN war crimes dossier stated he'd been stationed at Lichterfelde Kaserne before the war. If Egon hadn't already fixed him up with a place, he'd have a dozen of his own in mind. While Judge desperately wanted to find Seyss, the idea of getting the drop on him in the middle of the night without a weapon wasn't what he'd exactly had in mind. Still, it might be an unexpected opportunity. Catch Seyss on the sly. Have him wrapped up and in custody by morning. To his realist's eye, it sounded too pat. Either way, they didn't have much choice.
"How far to this place?"
"Eichstrasse is in Mitte. I'd say eight kilometers."
About five miles. Fifty city blocks in Manhattan. A breeze if they could stay clear of the Trophy Brigades Mahoney had warned them about. Cocking his head, he listened for the retaliatory growl of his frustrated pursuers. The night was silent.
"Can you walk it?" he asked Ingrid. "Once in the city, we'll stand out like a sore thumb in this Jeep. The first American patrol we see will either shoot us or have us arrested."
Ingrid smiled with the knowledge of a secret strength. "Yes, Major, I believe I can."
Judge slowed the Jeep and when she'd stepped out, drove it a little ways into the forest. He found a dense grove of bushes and nosed the vehicle slowly into its embrace. Sliding from the wheel, he freed the crushed branches until the Jeep was partially hidden from view. Hardly a masterful job of camouflage, but it would do until morning.
Rubbing sap from his palms, he jogged back to Ingrid.
"Alright, Pocahontas," he said. "Lead the way."
The building on Eichstrasse was standing and, except for a fractured chimney and a couple of broken windows, undamaged. They'd circled the block twice before approaching, checking alleys and doorways for signs of surveillance. The neighborhood wasn't deserted; it was dead. Not a lamp burned from a single paneless window. Not a soul walked the streets. Neither a German, an American, or for that matter, a Russian was in sight. The feared Trophy Brigades had taken the night off.
Ingrid's apartment was on the third floor. "Just a studio," she had warned him, forgetting for a moment that they had more important concerns than the size of her apartment. They climbed the stairs quietly and when they neared her door, Judge signaled for her to remain behind. He approached as stealthily as he knew, rolling his shoe from heel to toe, easing his weight onto the distressed floorboards. In his hand he carried a bent crowbar he'd picked up on the street; fine, if he wanted to brain someone, but it wouldn't hold up long against a loaded pistol. Reaching the entry to her apartment he checked for signs of recent intrusion. A sheen of dust coated the brass doorknob. Cobwebs hugged the doorframe. Laying an ear to the door, he listened. Nothing. If Seyss had been by, he'd kept his presence well hidden. Cautiously, Judge turned the knob to the right. Locked. Finding a rusted nail, he played with the keyhole until he'd picked the lock.
The apartment was empty. Even more surprising, it was untouched and as she'd left it six years before. Sitting squarely in the Soviet zone, maybe the Reds figured they'd get to it in their own due time.
"Just a studio" meant just that: a large corner room with an armoire and chest of drawers set against one wall, a king size bed against the other, with a couch and a coffee table in between. A mantle of dust an inch thick covered the furniture. Ingrid immediately tore off the bedspread and threw it into the corner. A few steps took her to the closet where she opened a Vuitton steamer trunk and removed a set of clean sheets.
"Don't just stand there," she said. "Get on the other side of the bed and give me a hand. It must be after two. I'm exhausted."
Judge did as he was told and in a few minutes the bed was made. He asked for another sheet and laid it atop the sofa, taking a few lap cushions into the hallway and pounding them until they were rid of dust. A quick check confirmed the absence of running water. Making use of an iron cleaning bucket, he went downstairs and found a spigot in the interior court of the building next door. A sign had been posed above it reading, "For washing only."
"Thank God, a little water," said Ingrid, seeing the full bucket.
Judge set it in on the john. "You can't drink it until it's boiled."
"I wouldn't dare, but I do need to clean up a little. Would you excuse me?"
"Sure." Judge walked around the apartment, yawning, stretching his arms, trying hard not to think of what had gone on here six years ago. The duvet Ingrid had laid on the bed was embroidered with the Bach family crest. He sat down on the bed to read the Latin motto.
"In peace, strong. In battle, strongest," Ingrid recited, sitting down next to him. "Charming, isn't it? Now you know why I kept it hidden."
"Better than mine."
"Oh? You have a crest as well?"
Judge dropped his head and laughed, but only for an instant. That was his Ingrid. The lady to his manservant. By now, he knew her well enough to know that her remark carried no condescension, just surprise and genuine interest. Even without a penny in her purse, she would always be an aristocrat.
"Not a crest, no, but at least a motto. '_Nunc est torpus ad bibendum_ – Now is the time to drink'. The old man was Irish. What do you expect?"
Ingrid grinned half-heartedly and when Judge looked closer he saw she was shivering. "You're cold?"
She shook her head. "I'm scared."
Judge put his arm around her. He tried to muster his most confident smile, but managed only a slight peaking of the cheeks. Any rousing words would prove hollow encouragement. "Me, too."
"I wouldn't know it. You look like you were cut out for this type of thing."
"Me?" the thought of himself as a hardened soldier made him laugh. He looked at the crusts of dirt blackening his fingernails and cringed. "The only battles I fight are in the court room. It's a pretty placid affair, a few guys arguing with each other. Sometimes we even raise our voices. When it's over we go out and have lunch together."
"I saw how you struck General Carswell. You liked it."
"No," Judge retorted, picking out the sliver of derision in her voice. "I didn't." But even as he made his denial, his anger faded. She was right. He had liked it.
"I'm sorry," she said, laying her head on his shoulder. "I'm upset. I miss my son."
For once, Judge couldn't think of anything to say, so he remained quiet. Stirred by her presence, he drew her closer. It was a reflex, an instinct. No, he admitted to himself. It was desire, something he'd wanted to do since he'd first seen her; something his predetermined prejudices against the Germanvolk, in general, and the Bachs, in particular, had prevented.
He brushed his nose against her vanilla hair, smelling her, wanting her feminine scent to flush the omnipresent sting of charred wood and raw sewage from his nostrils. A delicate hand inside his shirt caused his breath to catch. Fingers skipped over his ribs, caressing his chest.
Judge tilted his head toward hers, and saw in her eyes the same desire that had gripped him at Jake's Joint and, he now knew, that had consumed him ever since. He kissed her softly, tasting her lips. She moaned, and pressed herself against him, and for the swiftest of moments, he thought,I'm kissing a German, andI am kissing the enemy, then he felt her mouth open to his and he knew she was simply a young woman who needed to be loved; a soul not so different from his own.
He kissed her long and deep, and she responded, searching hungrily for his tongue, her hands exploring his body, grasping, massaging him. Pent up for so long, his desire throbbed and grew hot inside him. Abruptly, he raised his head from hers, and for a moment they both stared at one another, a look of bemused surprise brightening their faces.
With a finger he traced the curve of her neck and her shoulders. He'd forgotten the silky feel of a woman's skin and his fingertips sent small currents of electricity dancing along his arm. "We're like a couple of teenagers."
She brushed his hair back from his forehead, drawing her hand gently across his cheek. Suddenly, she laughed huskily and pushed him flat onto the bed. "I never did this when I was a teenager."
"Patience, Major Judge, and you'll find out."
Drawing up her skirt a notch or two, Ingrid guided a perfectly formed leg over him and straddled his chest. Slowly, she unbuttoned her blouse, freeing one arm, then another, from her sleeves. Slipping a hand behind her back, she unclasped her brassiere and dropped it onto his belly. Posture erect, breasts bathed in the waning moonlight, she placed an ivory hand in his lap and began kneading him, moving her palm in slow circles as he lifted his hips to meet her. He guided his finger to her nipple and brushed it gently back and forth until it was erect, and Ingrid quivered with anticipation. His body was suffused with a liquid warmth, an encompassing heat that pulsed in time to his heart. When he ran a finger over her lips, she shuddered noticeably.
"Now," she said.
Judge lifted her with his hands and guided her onto the bed next to him. For a few seconds, they stared at one another, intimate beyond their time together, each inviting the other into their soul. Eyes open wide, lips trembling with anticipation, Ingrid looked vulnerable and supreme, eager yet frightened.
He moved slowly at first, tenderly. He kissed her shoulder and her neck, seeking diversion from the heat building in his loins. It was she who quickened their rhythm, she who rose to meet his thrusts. She was passionate and uncontrolled, and the volatile combination eclipsed anything he'd ever experienced. Her face grew flushed, her breath low and vibrant. She bit into his lip, fighting to stifle her moans.
"Devlin," she whispered, "_Halts-du nicht. Halts-du nie_." Judge tucked his face into her neck, aware that his movements were no longer his own. All of him – his hopes and dreams, his fears and worries – was concentrated into a white-hot core at the center of her being. He closed his eyes and, as he let himself go, he realized that his ardor for her extended beyond a physical craving and that Ingrid had rekindled in him the desire to love.
"What will you do?" she asked afterwards.
"I'm going to find him," Judge said evenly. It didn't matter that he'd never been to Berlin before, he added for his own benefit, or that he didn't have so much as a scooter to get around, or that his own police were looking for him.
"Berlin is a big city," she said. "We walked for three hours to get here and we didn't even cross a quarter of it. He might be anywhere."
"If he were hiding, I'd give up. I'd say it was impossible. But he's not. He's out and about. He's got a job to do and he's figuring out how to do it. Actually, I'm optimistic."
Smiling, Ingrid sat up on an elbow and ran a finger over his lips. "Optimistic, even?"
"Didn't you hear Sergeant Mahoney? President Truman is visiting Berlin today. All we've got to do is find out where and when and I'm betting Seyss will be there."
"I hope you'll let me go with you."
"The police'll be looking for the pair of us traveling together. We used up our ration of luck last night. Besides, there's something else I need you to do. I want you to get in touch with Chip DeHaven. You told me he'd written you that he'd be in Potsdam for the conference. Did he ask you to come up for a visit?"
"Well, yes, but I'm sure he was just being polite."
"Then let him show you his manners. He's your cousin. He'll have no choice but to see you when he learns you're in town. As a counselor to the President, I imagine he's quartered in Potsdam. Probably with Truman himself."
"I can't just go to Potsdam and tell Chip I'm here," Ingrid protested. "It belongs to the Russians now."
"That's true. We have to find someone to let DeHaven know you're in town."
"I'm afraid we're a little short of friends at the moment. Who do you propose?"
Judge asked himself who in Berlin might share his distrust of authority. The answer came in an instant.
Leaning closer to Ingrid, he ran a hand through her hair and whispered it in her ear.