"So here’s the plan, Ziggy,” he said. “According to your brother, Himmler and his bunch will show up at the castle sometime shortly after 10:30. By now Manni should already be hiding inside and we’re supposed to position ourselves at the southeast corner of the moat. There is an escape tunnel that comes out at the castle wall twenty meters up from the stone bridge. He’s going to bring Franzi out there and they’ll swim across the moat to where we’re waiting.”
Ziggy nodded and stared out at the gray and black mosaic of fields and woods. He didn’t like any of it.
Cremer went on. “Speer’s own security is a joke. But of course there will be Himmler’s boys and we already know what they’re like. Manni thinks we should be able to pull it off without getting into a gunfight with them. I guess as long as we’re on different sides of the moat it shouldn’t get out of hand. But he said that if anything else starts up, we should stay out of it, except for providing covering fire.”
"What do you think he meant by that?” asked Ziggy. “Who else could show up?”
Cremer shrugged. “He didn’t say.”
"Great,” said Ziggy.
They drove through a forest where everything was pitch black, slowing down to make a succession of turns. A minute later they emerged again and there was the castle, Schloss Glucksburg, standing silently at one end of a lake. White walls and four towers glowing faintly under the sliver of a moon. The lake was pitch black, returning no reflection, with only the dark grey ribbon of the stone bridge running over the water, connecting the castle with a forecourt on the opposite shore. Everything was completely still; not a leaf rustled, not a tree branch groaned, nor the sound of a wild animal going through the brush.
They hid the kubels and spread out along the bank, keeping low to the grass. Someone handed Ziggy a pair of night binoculars and, propping himself on his elbows, he began examining the walls and the bridge and the spot where the secret passage was supposed to let out.
He lowered the glasses and exchanged a glance with Cremer. “Two minutes,” Cremer whispered.
Two minutes to what? wondered Ziggy. Manni was playing his games again, manipulating things and people like they were billiard balls. Two minutes until something happens that is going to cause Himmler to decide to come here with Franzi in tow, right to the spot where Manni just happens to be waiting for them. Manni was an embodiment of the random and irreproducible. When they were kids, he could always figure out what Ziggy and the others were about to do, because, as he once explained to Ziggy, every seemingly spontaneous action was actually the confluence of established habits and patterns.
Then they heard explosions in the distance. Ten times louder than thunder; high explosive, a lot of it. They saw a flash in the northeast, followed by the crackle of smaller ordinance going off. For a second the thought went through his mind that something had gone wrong and it was all over. But then he realized he could sense Franzi at that moment, inside a car, cold air blasting at him through a shot-out windscreen and Himmler babbling on and on about Speer’s treachery.
“That was 10:30 on the mark,” said Cremer.
A few minutes later they heard the roar of approaching automobiles, racing up the road as if the devil himself was chasing them. Then they came out of the woods. Two Mercedes and a Horch, all three incredibly shot up. They careened up the road and into the castle’s forecourt, and then reappeared as they went over the bridge. Looking at them through his glasses, Ziggy swore he could make out Franzi in the back of the Horch sitting next to Himmler. Then suddenly everything was silent again.
“Well, so much for that,” said Cremer. “Now we wait for Act Two.”
They settled back into their surveillance. The minutes ticked by, five minutes, ten, fifteen. Then they heard more vehicles approaching. Not as loud, but a lot more of them.
Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008, ebook version available on Kindle here.