During his service, Hank befriends a German prisoner-of-war, Max, who tells Hank of his twin sister, Roberta, also in captivity. An unlikely romance buds between her and Hank, leaving Hank conflicted between his allegiance to the American Army and his love for Roberta. Hank decides to break out Max and Roberta, and together they make a desperate flight through war-torn Germany where they witness first-hand the destruction post-war Europe has endured. Leaving Max behind in Switzerland, they make their way to the port city of Trieste, where they board a ship and depart to the seas, dealing with pirates, facing adversity, making new friends, and desperately seeking a safe refuge in a place where their love can flourish.
Follow Hank and Roberta on their intense and captivating journey from country to country as they seek refuge. Read as they make their way through bombed-out cities filled with dead bodies, giving a rare glimpse into the tragic consequences of war, as they remain together bound by love.
Read an Excerpt
“Hank, this is what I want you to do.” Captain Stein stepped closer and looked Hank squarely in the eyes with a very serious look, as if to say, this is damn important to me, so listen carefully and do what I tell you to do. He had Hank’s attention anyway with everything he revealed without Hank making any effort to find out for himself. All this information was just ‘falling into his lap’.
“Yes, sir. What can I do?” Hank was anxious to know what Stein had in mind for him to do.
“I want you to meet with the girl, Roberta. Get to know her first; don’t get in too much of a hurry. We don’t want to spook her into keeping her mouth shut. Use your friendship with Max to get her confidence; she’ll want to know everything about him. Use that to find out what you can about how much she knew or Max knew about what Schoellkopf was doing. Find out who he was talking with and meeting with. They should know who was coming to the house. She probably knows what they did with the records from his office. We need everything, every scrap. Get any clue you might be able to schmooze out of her that could help us find the bastards who are still on the loose out there.”
Hank was dumbfounded---speechless---couldn’t contain his angst. He felt the heat rising on his skin and knew he was turning a bright red. He felt like he had unexpectedly been caught in a devious plot---couldn’t run forward or backward---couldn’t do anything to get out of the plight thrust upon him.
“What’s the matter, Hank, you look like you just saw a ghost?”
“Ah, ahhh, nothing, sir. Ah…I…ah, just never imagined I would be doing this kind of thing. You caught me off guard. All I ever wanted was to be a farmer. I never in a million years thought I would be chasing criminals in Germany. I don’t know the first thing about this kind of work.”
“You’ll do fine, Hank. I saw how you befriended Max and that makes you uniquely prepared to meet with his sister; his twin sister no less. You’re just looking for information. Get to know her; gain her trust. You are a good man, Hank, just be yourself. At any rate, none of us chose to be where we are now, but we have to do what we have to do, and this is what our country wants us to do right now. I know how much you love America, and I know you’ll get this job done for all of us. Now, pull yourself together, man, and get to work. Go see her right now.”
Hank silently chaffed at the sound of being called a “good man”, which he certainly wasn’t feeling at the moment. He was trapped in his own plot, thinking, Why in the hell did I ever agree to meet with Oliver and Max. Now look at the fix I’m in. I should have let well enough alone and never seen them again. Gain her trust? What about Max’s trust? Hank felt dirty and didn’t see his way out of his mess, so he did the only thing he could think to do in the moment.
“Ok, if that’s what you think I should do, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“Those are my orders, Corporal.”
The ride out to the Displaced Persons Camp, the DPC, wasn’t nearly as long as Hank would have liked. He needed time to think, but within minutes, the Army Jeep pulled up in front of the impoundment surrounded by a tall wire fence with barbed wire strung along the top. He showed his identification papers and they drove into the compound. Max had a sick feeling in his stomach and his hope that something would happen to keep his meeting with Roberta from happening was fading fast. He had no alternative but to see his job through. He felt like he was losing his integrity---felt ashamed.
The detained SS Officers and those related to them were being held apart from the displaced persons, the officers in one row of former Army barracks and the women and children in separate barracks, divided by another wire fence. His meeting with Roberta had been arranged in a small building nearby that was formerly used as an office for the commander of the former German Army facility.
The guard escorted Hank into the building where Roberta was waiting in a small interrogation room in the rear.
“I’ll lock the door behind you. Knock when you are finished.” The guard instructed as Max entered the room.
Roberta sat on a straight backed wooden chair at a small table in the center of the room. The late morning sun streaked through the barred window at the rear casting its golden glow across the floor and onto the black prison gown she wore, forming the image of the bars from the window. It struck Hank as a very sad scene. He saw Roberta as a victim caught up in an evil situation. Hank was more excited than he even imagined he would be---his breathing elevated and everything around him seemed to disappear except the vision of Roberta seated with her head down, eyes fixed blankly on the table. He was still uncertain how he would begin, and awkwardly pulled his chair out and sat down without speaking, quietly looking at her as she sat still with her head hanging down---sadly, he thought. The sight of her and the sadness evoked a flow of empathy in him. He decided to sit quietly without speaking and wait for her.
Roberta didn’t move. Hank was struck by how small she was, much smaller than Max, but with the same dark brown hair, almost black. Her skin was silky smooth and her hands were so tiny and looked so innocent. Hank realized he hadn’t looked at a woman seriously, really looked at a woman since he left Wisconsin. It had been four months. He was enjoying their silence.
After what seemed to Hank a very long time, Roberta slowly raised her head, revealing the dampness of tears on her cheeks; she had been crying for a very long time. Then she raised her sad silver-blue-green eyes to meet his. He was startled at how beautiful she was and her look seemed to penetrate right through him as if she could see all the way to his heart. He was momentarily mesmerized; the golden glow of the sun seemed to shimmer, and his heart beat faster---he had not expected this. It took a few moments before he realized they had not spoken. He felt awkward.
“Hello, my name is Hank.”
“Do you know who I am?” She quietly intoned just those few words, but they were music in his ears, like the wind blowing gently through the pines atop the bluffs at home. They beckoned him, made him feel warm.
“Then you know why I am here?’
“Yes, I do.”
“Are you going to help me?”
“Well, I don’t know?” Hank was taken aback. He didn’t expect her to ask for his help, but deep inside he knew that’s what he wanted to do. It was his natural instinct to help. He had no idea what she had been told of his visit. “What do you think I can help you with?”
“They broke into my home and took me away. I have not done anything wrong. I am innocent. I had no idea what my father was doing in the SS. I only know that he is a very generous and kind man who is fair and just. Why have you imprisoned me?” Roberta spoke pitifully from her broken heart. It was obvious she was suffering greatly in her circumstances. “Are you here to interrogate me too? Like the others? Do you want to force me to say things that are not true? Should I tell you lies so you will leave me alone? They told me my father is dead, that he killed himself that he didn’t really care about me. How could they be so cruel? Why? Why? Why?” Roberta began sobbing uncontrollably, and Hank felt the full emotional burden of her pain, reacting how he would to any person in need; he reached his arm around her shoulders and comforted her.
“It’s OK. It’s OK. I understand. Go ahead and cry. I don’t mind. There, there.” Hank was drawn to her as if by a spiritual force, not a magical or religious experience, but a feeling he understood her and felt her pain intensely.
It was several minutes before Roberta could compose herself. Hank withdrew his arm somewhat reluctantly. She felt really good to him.
“No, Roberta, I am not here to interrogate you. I’m not going to badger you, threaten you, or abuse you in any way. I am very sorry about your father. I’m sure he was a very good man and he loved you very much. I need to get to know you better so I can understand how I can help you. There is nothing I would like better than for you to be able to get out of here and go home. This war has been miserable for all of us.”
“Home? Home? I have no home. My home in Munich was given to the Nazi’s. The British have taken my home here in Hamburg. My mother is dead, now they tell me my father is dead, and my brother was taken prisoner by you Americans and I don’t know if he is alive or dead! I have nothing, nothing, and no one!”
Hank was startled. It was enough that Roberta began sobbing again, but he was surprised to learn she had not accepted that her father was dead, and she didn’t know about Max either. Hank felt an incredible sadness for her, but he thought better of telling her that Max was alive and he knew where Max was, and that Max was looking for her. These were things he could use at the right time to get Roberta to cooperate and maybe even to forge a friendship. He would need time to decide how to proceed, and just when to tell her these things. He needed to get out of there for the time being and come back prepared the next day. At that moment his head and his heart were at odds with each other. He needed time to get his emotions sorted out, and didn’t know for sure what he wanted for himself. The words his father spoke to him the last night they were together rang in his ears… sometimes your special moments will grab you unexpectedly. No matter how they come, you have to be ready. Hank wondered if this was such a moment. His heart seemed to be immersed in ecstasy, but his head was pulling him back---trying to discern the wisdom of his father’s words. The moment and its illumination necessarily had to pass, but the conviction it etched in his heart would remain forever.
About the Author: Glen graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, then earned a Masters of Business Administration at The University of Wisconsin at Madison. He served in the US Air Force on the Manned Orbiting Laboratory space exploration program and on the design phase of the development of the F-15 fighter aircraft. After leaving the Air Force, Glen returned to Wisconsin and became Vice President of the largest bank in his home state, First Wisconsin National Bank. In 1979, he moved on to become President and CEO of several real estate development and management companies. Glen retired in 2009 to devote full time to his grandchildren and his writing. Glen is the author of Honor and Innocence, We Had to Live: We Had No Choice…, and Thoughts From Yesterday: Moments to Remember.
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