Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Speer at Glucksburg, the Night Before His Arrest

Manni helped Speer back to his room. Speer sat down on his bed while Manni rummaged through a dresser and found a pair of pajamas for him. “Do you need help getting into them?” he asked.

Speer shook his head. “Sit down, Loerber. Let’s have a last drink,” he said pointing to a nearby chair. Manni sat down while Speer brought out a bottle of schnapps and two glasses from a bedside table. He poured some into each glass and handed one to Manni. He raised his glass to Manni. Manni did the same to him.

“Happy Days,” said Manni.

“Happy Days,” answered Speer.

They drank. Manni drained his glass and set it down. Speer held on to his almost-empty glass and looked hard at Manni. “Am I a fool, Loerber?” he asked.

“Herr Reichsminister?” asked Manni.

“I mean it, Loerber. Tell me the truth. Do you think I am a fool?”

Sitting in his chair, Manni brought himself respectfully to attention. “Yes, Herr Reichsminister, I do think you are a fool.”

“Please tell me why?”

"Herr Reichsminister, is there any point?”

“Just tell me the truth.”

“Because you expect the whole world to see it your way,” said Manni. “You think that all you have to do is explain it to them, factually, in a helpful, reasonable voice, and the world will lose track of what you’ve done. Because you act candid, you assume they’ll accept your explanation that all you were was just a talented technocrat doing his job, no different from all the other people just like you who are doing the same thing all over the world. You think your reason and your irony is enough to keep the shit from touching you when the fact is you’re already up to your ears in it.”

Manni thought for a second, then added, “But beyond that, of course, I think you’re a great guy to work for.”

“And that’s why you’re still here?” Speer asked.

“That’s right.”

“You’re a spy, aren’t you?” said Speer.

Manni Loerber smiled like he’d just been paid a compliment. “And when did you come to that conclusion?” he asked.

Speer slowly shook his head. “In the Ruhr,” he said.

“You knew back in March and you haven’t done anything about it until now? I feel good about that.”

“You are a spy,” said Speer again. “Who are you working for?”

Manni answered proudly. “Herr Reichsminister, it was my honor to serve His Majesty, the King of England.”

Speer didn’t say anything for a while. Then he quietly muttered, “I guess I ought to be relieved it wasn’t the Russians.”

“Well I wouldn’t be too relieved,” said Manni. “It is my unfortunate understanding that all the best information got siphoned off by Soviet counter-spies and sent to Moscow.”

Speer thought about it. “Either way, Germany died.”

“I gather the Allied prognosis was that it was necessary to kill Germany in order to save it,” answered Manni.

“And your prognosis, Herr Loerber?”

“I don’t have one,” answered Manni. “I’m just glad it’s over.”

Speer smiled bitterly. “And I thought you were my friend. You betrayed me.”

Manni shook his head. “No Herr Reichsminister, it wasn’t betrayal.”

“It wasn’t? What was it?”

“It was serving two masters, Herr Reichsminister. And if I hadn’t served you well, we might have had this conversation sooner.”

Speer looked away, fuming with anger and humiliation.

Manni remained standing at attention. “Do you know what this is now?” he asked. “Herr Reichsminister, it is the end of the line. We are at the moment before the axe comes down. I heartily recommend you get some sleep. If you get up early enough, maybe you’ll get to eat breakfast before they come for you.”

Speer looked back up at Manni. “So what did the British pay you?” he asked bitterly.

“Thirty pieces of silver, what do you think? Listen, I’m a Jew, I’d have done it for free.”

“Suddenly everyone’s a Jew,” said Speer.

“I’m sorry,” offered Manni.

“Don’t be,” said Speer. “I’m sure I’m going to hell anyway.”

“Goodnight, Herr Reichsminister.” Manni turned to leave.

“So you’re a Jew?” asked Speer.

Facing Speer again, Manni smiled and gave a curt bow.

Speer shook his head angrily.

“If it’s any consolation, Herr Reichsminister, you almost succeeded in killing us off,” said Manni.

“So that’s what it is now?” said Speer. “You’re blaming me for that? You know I didn’t have anything to do with that.”

“Please, Herr Reichsminister,” said Manni. “Welcome to the rest of your life.”

“So what will become of me?” asked Speer.

“I don’t know,” said Manni. “I doubt they even know what they’re going to do. Ultimately these things tend to take on a life of their own.”

“Unless of course they just decide to kill me on the spot,” suggested Speer.

“That is always a possibility,” accepted Manni. “I don’t know anything other than it’s the Kibosh.”

“Kibosh?” asked Speer.

“It’s one of those American words,” said Manni.

“Ah,” said Speer.

“So what will become of you, Loerber?” asked Speer. “Will you go to London?”

Manni let out a short laugh. “I hope not,” he said. “I’d like to return to Berlin.”

“There’s not a lot there, you know,” Speer pointed out.

“Oh, I know,” answered Manni. “I’m not in that big a hurry. I’ve still got lots of friends in Hamburg. Some of them must be alive. I’m sure I’ll find something there.”

“So you’ve got it all figured,” said Speer.

“Only for the next day or so,” said Manni.

“I guess I should sleep,” said Speer.

“You’ll thank me in the morning, Herr Reichsminister.”

“I’m sure I won’t,” said Speer. “Do something for me, will you?”


“There’s some reports on my desk on the left-hand pile. Bring them to Galbraith. I’d like him to see them. Do this for me, Loerber.”
(Another chapter left out of the published version of Germania, Simon & Schuster, 2008; Kindle copy available here).

Friday, January 9, 2015

Texas Bluesman Explains Why He Won't Gun Down Everyone Who Pisses Him Off

I walk straight through the house without looking at anything, past the dining room all set up for supper, and the living room with all the golden chairs and couches and lamps and all the historical paintings of Brinkley and his dick. I can hear the Mexican servants hurrying to catch up. One of them runs past me to get the door open before I get to it. As he pulls it open for me, a glass door opens in one of the ante-rooms next to the circular staircase. Two heads cautiously peek out. It’s Rose Dawn and The Great Koraan. The moment he recognizes me, his face reddens. Then I hear Rose Dawn cry out, “Herbert?” But I don’t stop., the night air is cool and sweet. The dark sky is bright with a sliver of moon and thousands of stars. My mind goes back to all those ancient-pretending paintings of Brinkley and it almost feels like what I just walked out of was Babylon itself. For a moment, I think about Hamer and find myself wondering if it was a mistake to have left him with those people. But that thought only lasts a moment and then I’m just glad to be away from them.

She called me Herbert in front of her husband and the Mexican servants. No telling who else knows it now. Great. This thing is starting to happen even faster than I’d expected. As I walk along the road toward town, I notice someone walking towards me from the opposite way. Even before I can make him out, I guess who it is. It’s that other guy. He sure does have a way of showing up.

I try to walk past him, but he keeps trying to block my path. For some reason he’s boiling angry. “You fucking asshole,” he shouts in a high-pitched voice. “What’d you have to do that for? I hand it to you on a fucking silver platter. Couldn’t you just let it happen? We’d have won. You’d have walked free. But you couldn’t do it. Why? Didn’t you see his pain? Don’t you see how the man was suffering? Why couldn’t you just let him do himself? Why do you have to play God.”

Fuck you,” I say. “I don’t believe in God.” That gets me so ticked off, for a second I actually consider taking out Old Lucky and going back and shooting him. But I don’t. If I shot everybody that pissed me off, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of people left. I don’t really hear what he says after that, except that I shouldn’t expect the next round to be any walk in the park.

By the time I finally get home to the rooming house, Jack is asleep on the rocking chair out front. As gently as I can, I pick him and carry him inside and put him down on his bed. Then I sneak into the kitchen to see if Mrs. Gruner might have put anything aside I could eat.
(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle)

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

German Navy Rusts in Flensburg Harbor

At the edge of the park was a hillside that overlooked the harbor. Ziggy lit a cigarette and stared out at the ships anchored there. Apart from all the U-Boats, there were destroyers, corvettes, minesweepers, patrol craft, and even a cruiser. And in all of them, probably not more than a few dozen crew still aboard. They were dead ships, the German Kriegsmarine was a dead navy. The victors would divide them among themselves. A few ships might live on a few years as workhorses or testing vessels. The rest would be broken up for scrap, used for targets or just sunk.

Then he realized the flying boats were gone. Cremer must have already got them towed up to the cove. Manni definitely had a clever idea. Had the flying boats remained there in plain view, they’d quickly stop seeming special and simply fade into the mosaic of rusting, derelict warships. But now, having been revealed and then promptly hidden, their mystique would exert itself deeper into the imagination, making the prospect of flying away in one all the more tantalizing. And that is precisely how they wanted Himmler to react. He wondered when he’d hear again from Manni or Westerby.

Ziggy remembered Franzi’s face in the car window. He looked a lot worse than that night in Ploen. Since then, the SS had completely disappeared. There were reports of large numbers of them still hiding in nearby forests and the British were wary of spreading themselves too thin to go on any extensive searches.

So where was he right now? Could he feel his way toward him? Once it had been easy to do, but he hadn’t done any of it in so long that he no longer even knew where to start. Ziggy kept trying to imagine Franzi somewhere, in a forest or a house or inside a vehicle, but each time he did, the idea failed to grow into anything real. He knew he was going about it the wrong way.

Was it possible he’d lost his ability? And what was that ability anyway? What were the mechanics of perception? Perhaps if he just focused on one thing, Franzi, was he far or near? What were his eyes seeing? What was he thinking? What did his skin feel? Warmth or cold? Cold or warmth? Cold. Dry or damp? Dry. What was he smelling? Cooked cabbage and tinned beef, cold and greasy on a plate. Cigarette smoke, open window and a night breeze, smell of pine. Pine trees outside the window, the wind blowing through them. They were in a farmhouse, inland, but still close enough to smell the sea. They were keeping within reach of Flensburg. There was a forest nearby, men hiding inside it. Lines of kubelwagens hidden under camouflaged tarps. They were staying put, waiting for something to come. Inside everyone was tense.

Ziggy opened his eyes. A bluebird was looking at him from a nearby branch. It chirped and then flew away. Ziggy went back to the office.
(Excerpt from Germania, Simon & Schuster 2008, Kindle download available here).