Max sighed as he leaned against the cold cement wall. Question after question raced through his head. Where had the Nazis come from? Why had they used the old dirt road and not the new one that had just opened? But the one question that haunted him was How was Helena? How she had fallen he still wasn’t sure. But one thing he was sure of. She had been hurt. Badly hurt. The ditch that ran along the road had never been deep, but this time someone had dug a hole. Why he didn’t know. But it had been deep, deep enough to cause more than scratches and bruises. Why didn't we notice the hole before? This had all gone totally wrong. First, why had they been captured by the Nazis? And why had there been spies? Austria was not at war with Germany. On the contrary, the Anschluss had been signed just the night before, uniting Germany and Austria as allies. This is what father and the others were worried about. The Anschluss has already broken the Treaty of Versailles. Who knows what else Hitler Is planning to do.
Max sighed and reached into his pocket. The folded slip of paper was still there. Taking it out, he opened it. “Ack, this isn’t the right one. This is that lousy report card” he exclaimed reaching once more into his pocket, taking out the right paper, he turned it over and looked at it. He had been told not to read it. Only that it was important and that it must not fall into the wrong hands. What was so important? Making a decision, he opened it and read the few words printed on the inside.
Contact says Hitler is sending spies into Austria. There is also a plan to kill all those against Hitler by the end of the month. Everyone must be warned.
Max felt his heart beat faster. The end of the month. Today was March 13, the day after the Anschluss. There were only 18 days left. They have to be warned! This message must get to the captain!
Placing the paper back in his pocket, he sat back down on the wooden chair. He had to think. There must be a way to get the message delivered.The door opened and the Major walked in.
“Vell, Peter, or should I say Max, How has your stay here been?” he asked, seating himself in the empty chair.
Max narrowed his eyes. “That’s not my name.”
The Major laughed. “You can’t fool me. Your friend asked vhere you vere. . .” he leaned forward. “And she used the name Max.”
Max lowered his eyes.
“So, Maxwell Autenburg, why were you and your friend out last night?”
Max looked up, startled. “How do you know my full name?”
The Major smiled slyly. “I know quite a lot about you and your friend. In fact, I even know vhy you were out last night. Please, hand me the paper in your pocket.”
“I have no paper, sir.”
The Major gave him and annoyed stare. “You and Helena really enjoy these games, eh? Vell, to be quite frank with you, I don’t. Give me the paper.”
Max didn’t move.
The Major glared at him. “Now I’m curious. Must be a pretty important paper if you are so reluctant to let me see it.”
Slowly Max reached into his pocket. Suddenly he remembered his report card. Carefully he shoved the important paper to the bottom of his pocket and drew out the folded report card, which he handed to the Major.
“”Ahhh, thank you.” The Major placed it in his pocket and stood. “Have you eaten since ve brought you here last night?”
Max shook his head.
“Well, that will shortly be remedied. I’ll will see to it that you are brought some food and water.”
“Please, sir. Where is Helena?”
The Major opened the door and turned. “She is in good hands.” He then exited the room and closed the door behind him.
Once alone he sighed. This wasn’t getting easier. “Someone has taught these kids vell.” he muttered.
“Private Ralph” he called to the man who sat in the lobby. “See that the boy gets some food. Now.”
Ralph saluted and hurried off to do the Major’s bidding.
Suddenly remembering he had left Helena in the room alone. He hurried down the hallway.
Putting the key in the lock he chuckled to himself. “She can't even sit let alone walk, and I locked the door?”
Opening the door he saw that the breeze from the open window had scattered the paper and his desk and over half of them lay on the floor.
Helena appeared to be sleeping, her face turned away from him.
Walking over to his desk he closed the window, then began walking around the room and picking up the papers that had been scattered by the wind. Gathering them all he sat once again at his desk. Carefully he sorted, and folded the papers. When he was finished he looked over them once again, startled. It had been on his desk when he left. Where could it be now?
Once more he sorted everything, not finding it he walked around the room, this time looking under the bed, chair and table. As he stood he realized his riding whip was missing from the table. Maybe I set it in the drawer. Opening it he gasped, yes, the riding whip was there, but so was the missing map.
Lieutenant Wilhelm opened the door and ushered Max inside. Entering the room, Max saw the Major sitting at his desk, and Helena was laying down on a small cot.
“Helena, are you alright?” Max rushed over to her bedside and gave her a concerned look. “Why are you laying down?”
Helena gave him a weak smile. “I’m alright. I can’t sit without help, but I think I’ll be okay. You’ll have to ask the Major, he hasn’t told me what’s wrong with me yet.” she whispered.
“So, you’re both here. Vell, are ve done talking?”
‘Sir, What happened to Helena?” Max asked.
The Major stood and walked over to them.
“Helena vell be fine in a couple of veeks. Her ankle is sprained and she injured her back vhen she fell and broke one of her ribs. But it vill heal and it vill be fine.”
“Fine? It will be fine? This is all your fault!” Max exclaimed, his anger showing clearly in his eyes.
The Major raised his eyebrows. “My fault? Vas I the one climbing trees vhen I should have been delivering a message?”
Max gave the Major a confused look. “What message?”
The Major grinned. “Well it certainly wasn’t and message of failing grades I’m talking about.”
“I don’t understand what you mean about any message. I gave you the paper in my pocket and you saw it. It was just my report card.”
“Yes, you have been taught vell, really vell.” But you can’t play games with me. I vant the real message.”
Max gave him a blank look while Helena still looked confused.
The Major glared at Max. “I vant that message, and I’ll get it. Now--”
A knock on the door interrupted the Major. “Wilhelm stepped in, saluting the Major. “Sir, One of the spies has just returned. The Captain is requesting you in his office. I’m supposed to stay with them.” he said, motioning to Max and Helena.
“Ack! I just started here and I’m called away.” He stood, his anger showing in his eyes. He turned to Max. “I’ll be back. Don’t you doubt it!” With that he hurried out, closing the door behind him. The moment the door clicked shut, Wilhelm hurried over a took the Major’s chair.
“You are Max Autenburg. Correct?”
Max nodded cautiously. “How does everyone here know my full name?”
“The Major knows everything! The only reason I know, is because I am your contact. I gave the message to Helena’s father who said he would have a young man named Max Autenburg deliver it. When you were brought in last night, I assumed you were that boy. No one else would have been out last night. When I saw you I was sure. Has the Major gotten the message from you? Have you told him anything?”
Max shook his head. The message is safe, but not for long. The Major is getting frustrated.”
“Do you have it with you?”
“Max nodded and patted his pocket.
“Give it here. Quick, before the major gets back!”
Max put his hand in his pocket to draw it out, then hesitated. “How do I know you’re telling the truth? Not just someone trying to help the Major?”
“My real name is Daniel Wilson.” he said taking the hat off his head and brushing his black wavy hair down over his forehead.
Max eyes opened wide. “Daniel? This is where you have been?”
Helena interrupted. “Who is Daniel Wilson, Max?”
Max turned to Helena. “Him and my sister, Lisiel, are engaged. You remember last year, when we visited Vienna? I told you about him.”
Hemela nodded. “You look just like the picture Lisiel showed me.”
“Anyway, I need the message, Max. Now, before the Major returns.”
“Max handed him the message, which Daniel hurriedly tuck inside his shirt.
“When the Major returns act as though you still have to message. If not He’ll know something is up. “
Max nodded. “I think I can handle the Major as long as I really don’t have what he’s after.”
“Be careful” Daniel warned him. “The Major will stop at nothing to get the information he wants. When he knows you don’t have what he’s after, I’m not sure what he’ll do. “
“Daniel, I saw the Major’s map. Are the Nazi’s really after all those poeple?” Helena asked.
“You saw the map? Does he know you saw it?”
Helena bit her lip. “I think so.”
Daniel shook his head. “That can’t be good. I answer to your question, yes, Hitler calls those people a “danger to future of the Reich” so they will be gotten rid of. I’m just trying to do whatever possible to stop it.”
The Major’s steps were heard in the hallway. Daniel hurriedly put the hat back on his head.
“Remember, If either of you ever see me, you don’t know me. And if for any reason you have to address me, my name is Wilhelm.”
Both Helena and Max nodded.
“I’ll try to let your parents know that you are here.”
The door opened and the Major entered the room.
“Vell, are ve ready to get back to business?” The Major asked. “How vere they, Wilhelm?”
“They just sat here, sir. I didn’t have any problems.”
“Gut. You may excuse us now. We are going to finish our little chat.”
He resumed his seat in the chair.
“Vell, Where were we? Oh, yes, the message. Give it here.” he put out his hand expectantly.
Max crossed his arms. “I’ve already told you.” I have nothing else in my pocket.”
The Major narrowed his eyes. “No, you never told me that. Not until now. You merely said you had given me the message.”
Max’s heart began to beat wildly as he realized his mistake. I just did what Daniel warned me about! He can’t get into trouble.
“So,” the Major continued. “Vhere is the message now? Perhaps Helena has it? Or you hid it somevhere else?”
Max shook his head, praying the fear didn’t show in his eyes. “I don’t have it. The paper in my pocket was the one I gave you. The report card.”
The Major, clearly losing patience, stood up and grabbed Max roughly by the shoulder. “Ve’ll se about that!” He shoved his hands in Max’s pockets. Finding nothing, he knelt down still he was at eye level with Max. “Tell me now! Vhere did you hide it?”
“I hid nothing!” Max exclaimed, trying desperately to pull away from the Major’s iron grip. “And I didn’t give it to Helena, or hide it anywhere. As I told you before, I gave you the paper!”
The Major took a deep breath as he let go of Max and slowly stood. “Vell, that’s rather unfortunate. See, if you had had it, ve vould have just taken it and let you go. But ve can’t let you go now. Not vithout knowing vhat you know.”
He walked over and opened the door. “”Whilhelm!” At his shout, Daniel appeared almost instantly. “Take this young man back to his room.” he said, motioning to Max “And make sure he is comfortable. After all” he chuckled “Ve are not at var and they are not prisoners. Whilhelm nodded as Max was ushered out the door. Suddenly the Major turned “Heil Hitler!” he said, with a salute directed at Max. Max looked at him, puzzled. The Major grinned. “Oh, I seem to have forgotten. You are now a part of Germany. It is mandatory for citizens to reply to their superior vith that salute.”
He raised his eyebrow and glared at Max.
Max reluctantly raised his arm in a salute. “Heil Hitler. But not for long.” He muttered to himself.
“Vhat was that you said?”
“Oh, just es lebe Deutschland .”
The Major glanced at him curiously. “And I agree. Long live Germany!”
The Major once again entered his office and closed the door firmly behind him.
“Such children. Are they telling the truth?” He muttered as he closed the door.
He turned to Helena “Your friend speaks german vell. You two are really remarkable. But now that it is just you and I, ve must talk, about this.” He pulled the map from his pocket.
‘And this.” he placed the riding whip on the table.
“It’s a handsome riding whip.” Helena acknowledged. “Do you ride often?”
“Yes, quite a bit, actually, but that is not vhat I vant to discus. I found this in the drawer along vhith the map vhen you vhere sleeping. You vouldn’t happen to have any idea how it got there, voud you?”
What should I say? How much does he know? Helena wondered.
“It blew off your desk. The window was open and there was a breeze. I thought you would not want it to get lost and I put it there for you.”
“Vell, that is interesting, especially since vhen I Came back to the room none of the papers that vhere on the floor vhere close to the bed. And ve both know you can’t valk. But the papers vhere close enough that you night have reached them vhith this.” He held out the whip.
Helena sighed. He knows everything! And I’m at his mercy. He knows I can’t move without his help.
As if reading her thoughts, the Major smiled. “Don’t worry. I vill not hurt you. I simply vant to know the truth. Did you read it?”
“It’s in German.”
“I think ve both know that vouldn’t stop you. What did you see?”
Helena swallowed. Best to just tell the truth. He already knew enough.
“I saw some of the neighborhoods here in Innsbruck. Some of them were marked with an X”
“And vhat else?” the Major leaned forward. “Vhat else did you see?”
“I saw one word at the bottom.”
“And vhat did it say?”
“Ausrotten,” Helena whispered.
The Major leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “So you do know. I thought as much.” He stood up and paced the room before stopping by the door. “It’s supper. Are you hungry? I vill bring you some food vhen I come back.”
Helena looked up, startled. That was all? No yelling, no shouting? Just. . .supper?
The Major smiled. “bitte schön.”
Then he walked out, closing the door behind him. For the second time that day, Helena heard the lock turn in the door.