Chapter Fifty-Three

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Schwarzwald, Germany — Saturday 4 December 1915

Early on Saturday morning, David drove the lorry across the border with Georg and Franz on the seat beside him and Greg, Fred and Hans in the back. At the German gate, David explained they were going to begin pruning Frau Eberhardt's vineyard, pointing across the field as he did.

"Ich habe drei Männer in den Rücken und mehr Kartoffeln für den Markt... I have three men in the back and more potatoes for the market."

The guard smiled and signalled for the gate to be opened.

"They didn't even bother to check the back. They're getting complacent with us," David said as he turned off the road into the narrow track that ran past the rear courtyard of Bethia's former home and along to the vineyard. "Ground's much more solid now. No rain the last few days. This will be easier that I had thought." He manoeuvred the back of the lorry to within five metres of the hut.

David climbed down from the cab and opened the rear doors "Right, let's load those four packs." He looked across at the border post and blew out a breath. "We're under their noses. The guard is watching, so let's work at setting up for the pruning." He keyed the hut door open as the three climbed out of the back of the lorry.

A few minutes later, after studying the border hut, he said. "Now! The guards are busy with two departing automobiles." They quickly transferred the four packs from the hut to the lorry and closed the rear doors. "Right, now you three begin pruning, and we'll go sell potatoes. We'll be back to pick you up mid-afternoon. If we don't arrive before the church bell strikes five, lock the hut and walk back through the border. It closes at six."

David drove with Georg and Hanz down to the Watuch then followed it upstream to the road to Donaueschingen, through the city and onward, up the valley to Triberg. He glanced at his watch. "Eight fifty-six. Big crowd at the market, but not many vendors." He continued past it and out of town another two and a half kilometres, where he pulled to the side of the road.

The three of them climbed down and walked to the rear of the lorry. "I'll drive slowly past here at noon." He glanced at his watch again, "Nine eleven. That should give you plenty of time."

The three of them stood silently looking at each other, then shook hands. Georg and Hanz each took one of the larger packs and headed into the trees. David closed the rear door, turned the lorry around and drove down the hill to the Triberg market. Such strange feelings, it all coming together like this.

He blew out a big breath, then climbed down from the lorry and walked through the small market looking for potatoes for sale. He saw none. Thirty should make it quick. He set up his table, scale and sign, and at eleven twenty, he sold out. What are they going to eat through the winter? The market looks so sparse.

He shook his head and loaded the table, scale and sign, plus the remainder of the empty bins into the lorry, then drove out of town, glancing at his watch as he started up the narrow valley. Quarter hour early. Maybe they're also early.

He drove four kilometres along, then turned and started back. Georg and Hanz were on the side of the road, thumbing a ride as he approached. "We saw you go by," Georg said after they had climbed in. "We were relaxing, and you caught us by surprise. Took less than two hours to get up there, set the charges and come down. The detonator cords are all connected and coiled at the bottom of the crack. Franz will easily find it, and it's very quick to deploy when we're ready."

"Great! Let's head over to the Hell Valley."

David stopped in a lookout pull-off near Hirschsprungfelsen. "I'll drive down to Freiberg, then back up, so I don't look suspicious. Are you sure two hours is sufficient? We have a bit more than that."

"Two's plenty of time."

After looking around to see they were alone, Georg and Hanz unloaded the other two packs, put them on and headed into the bushes. David watched the slopes for a while, trying to spot them, but couldn't. He smiled to himself, then pulled back onto the roadway and continued down the hill through the narrow, high-walled canyon.

In Freiburg, he filled the lorry's gasoline tank, then drove to the aerodrome and watched the aeroplanes taking off, doing oblong circuits, landing and then taking off again. So this is the training Maria was talking about. God! That seems so long ago. Guess it is, it's six months now. I do hope she hasn't started bleeding. He continued eating his packed lunch while he thought of her as he was entertained by the flying.

After a long while doing this, he shook his head. Back to here, to now. Glancing at his watch, he thought, Need to check for a gasthaus in Waldkirch on the way back up. Wonder what projects R has in mind. He shook his head again. Don't worry about those, David. Focus on getting this one completed first. The Pigtail will be the tough one.

Forty minutes later, Georg and Hanz stepped out of the bushes as David pulled to a stop in the small viewing place. They climbed into the cab with broad smiles on their faces. "Looks like it went well."

"The charges are all in place, connected and covered with duff and debris," Georg said. "The detonator cord is coiled and hidden at our triggering site. Less than ten minutes to make the final connections."

"And the escape route? You've plotted that?"

"Yes, a clear scramble up the slope through large trees all the way to the ridge top. As fine as with the one at Triberg."

They continued to talk as David drove down the valley to Titisee, through the village, around the shore and followed the stream to Schluchsee. He pointed up at the ridge above the long, narrow lake. "Has Rachel told you about the hot springs up there?"

"Yes, her sprained ankle, Maria's nursing and your care. She wants to take me in there to enjoy it when this damnable war is over."

"You've grown close. It warms me to see you interact."

"Too close. It's been many years since I've allowed myself to become this close to a woman." He blew out a deep breath. "Now I'm torn about leaving here, leaving her, when this is over. That's getting closer, and it's becoming more difficult to —"

"I went through the same thing with Maria when we crossed into Switzerland. I was internally torn for weeks until I came up with how to present this sabotage idea to the Army." David looked at Georg and nodded. "I've been told I'll be staying on here — new projects — I could find out if we can fit you into them..." David paused and looked at Georg again. "I'm being presumptuous here. Would you want to stay?"

"She certainly wants me to." Georg pursed his lips. "Hell, let me be honest. I want to stay also. I have nothing but a lonely barrack room back at the Engineering School in Chatham."

"Let's see what I can do."

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