Dieter Sprenger was ebullient. It certainly wasn’t the weather that buoyed his spirits. Clouds hung low overhead, he bent his head against a biting wind blowing in off the Baltic, and the acrid smell of torched buildings still etched his sinuses.
But Dieter was well pleased by his successful night. Informed of the national action after midnight, he had taken it upon himself to rally Brownshirts and Hitler Youth to hit targets in the southern district of the city. Now, as he strolled through the streets and took in the devastation to shop fronts and plate-glass, he congratulated himself on his personal contribution to this spontaneous outpouring of hatred on such short notice. He anticipated praise and perhaps more when he arrived at Gestapo headquarters.
He had returned home to change his clothes, the stench of smoke deep in the fabric of suit and topcoat. Strangely, he wasn’t regretting missing a night’s sleep. The adrenaline had not worn thin. His dear Anneliese had prepared a hearty breakfast, supplementing the usual fresh rolls and coffee with soft-boiled eggs, slices of Tilsit and Edam cheese, and some fresh liverwurst from Heinlen’s on the corner.
Before he left home he peeked in on the children. Liesl had decided to keep them out of school today because of the destruction in the streets. She didn’t want to unduly upset them. They were both a bit young yet to understand the real danger posed by the Jews, she felt. And there was always the chance that they might encounter some residual protests on the walk to school, or cut themselves on broken glass. Both Little Dieter and Leni still slept peacefully. Liesl had mentioned over breakfast that the loud cries and breaking glass during the night had disturbed their rest. Dieter kissed each on the head. Ah, the soft fragrance of well-scrubbed children. He then gave his wife a quick peck and a big hug before setting out into the cold.
Dieter Sprenger knew the day’s work schedule would be full. Hundreds of Jewish agitators and political targets had been rounded up in the early morning hours. His role in operations would now give way to hours of interrogation in the basement cells, extracting confessions and finding links to other enemies of the Reich. It would be good, satisfying work. Liesl had once asked if it bothered him to use extreme measures on the detainees. He had laughed at the thought. He told her this Dreck would destroy her and the kids given half a chance. His work was for the cause of German purity and national pride, and she and the children should be proud of him in turn.
His spirits high, Dieter wrapped his woolen scarf a bit more tightly around his neck and pulled his hat down to keep the brim from catching in the wind. Only a few vehicles moved through the neighborhood, even though it was past mid-morning. He chose his usual shortcut along an industrial boulevard. The street, bordered by warehouse buildings, was nearly empty of life. He took little notice of the few vehicles parked along his customary route.
The one most important in the life of Dieter Sprenger was a dark Horch sedan. It rolled quietly from the curb just after he passed. He barely noticed the movement, his thoughts on an anticipated promotion for the night’s work. As the car gained momentum he heard the unexpected revving of the engine and turned his head in time to see the massive headlamps and grill just meters from the small of his back. His morning went dark.
Warmth flowed down his face and pooled around his head where it rested on the pavement. He smelled the ocean, the beach on a warm, sunny day. His eyeglasses were gone and his vision blurred, but he sensed a fire hydrant pressed against his body and considered the perverse notion that he was somehow embracing it. He heard gushing water, waves pounding on a distant shore.
The Horch shifted gears and its right tire backed over his legs. The gears meshed once again and the sedan rolled up over his back as it sped away. He realized then that he had no feeling in his limbs.
The day was far less glorious now. Dieter felt his mind graying, losing itself in the overcast. He thought of his wife, cleaning up the breakfast dishes. He thought of his children, still tucked in their warm beds. The taste of the fresh liverwurst lingered at the back of his mouth. As he lay dying, there were no thoughts of the many detainees he had questioned so thoroughly in the basement rooms. Certainly no recollection of the old pastor whose wracked body had made such a mess of his table. He would never link that interrogation to this unfortunate end.
(This is the third and final installment from my novel, at least for now. Watch for Europe travel ideas coming soon. All work is copyrighted.)