Chapter Sixty-Seven

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Donaueschingen, Germany — Wednesday 15 December 1915

David arrived in Donaueschingen shortly past noon on Wednesday, having had to wait for the ice to melt on the winding hills between Gütenbach and Furtwangen. He stopped at the same gasthaus he and Georg had used the previous week, and after he had registered for the night, he sat in the dining room for lunch.

As he ate, he read the thick packet of information Hans had given him. So that explains why the dials on the samples are plain. Allowing merchants to have their own name added. Rolex is stamped on the back. He returned to his lunch and continued musing. I wonder how adding my own brand would be accepted. Maybe Rolex Wehr... Rolex Army or better, Rolex Führer... Rolex Leader. He shook his head and continued reading and eating.

It took a little longer for David to gain admittance to the Kaserne than it had in Freiburg, but he was set up in the reading room of the Officers' Mess in time to greet the first officers as they arrived for afternoon coffee. Again, he attracted interest, and besides selling watches to officers for their own use, he sold five ladies models as Christmas gifts, two square and three round. I should have suggested the gift idea yesterday.

Again, he engaged the interested officers in light banter in addition to expounding on the qualities and merits of the watches. Among other things, he was told of a third rail line disrupted by saboteurs, and he played dumb as he pulled more information. "Ich wollte das Tal aus Blumberg fahren, um in die Schweiz zurückzukehren. Ist das noch möglich?... I wanted to drive the valley from Blumberg to return to Switzerland. Is that still possible?"

"Ja kein Problem. Nur das Viadukt wurde beschädigt und muss nun ersetzt werden... Yes, no problem. Only the viaduct was damaged and must now be replaced."

"Das sollte lange dauern... That should take a long time."

"Die Schätzung beträgt fünf Monate. Eine große Beeinträchtigung... The estimate is five months. A great disruption."

David nodded as he turned to an officer who was examining the silver model with the Roman numerals, and asking the price.

"Einzelhandel, diese sind hundert und dreißig. Für Sie hundert und fünfzehn... Retail, these are one hundred and thirty. For you a hundred and fifteen."

The officer nodded, pulled out his wallet and looked in. "Bist du später hier? Diesen Abend?... Are you here later? This evening?"

"Ja, bis halb acht... Yes, until half past seven."

David took a deposit, gave a receipt and set the watch aside, then turned to the next customer. I'll need a larger stock the next trip.

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After breakfast on Thursday morning, David drove to Blumberg, then turned down the road toward Fützen and stopped in the pullout above the Biesenbach Viaduct. He surveyed the terrain below for a few minutes before he continued down the hill and turned onto the narrow track to Epfenhofen. From the village, Biesentalstraße led him back toward the viaduct and gave him a close look at the smouldering train wreckage and the soldiers guarding it. They haven't begun clearing it yet. How will they get equipment in here to do it?

He took his camera from the satchel, got out of the car and walked closer to capture the scene, exposing all ten shots. He fit in well with several other curious people, some of whom had ventured even closer and were being waved back by soldiers.

The acrid smell of burnt rubber dominated the mix of other odours as David returned to the car. Still smells fresh. Wonder how long the fire lasted.

He continued down the valley and up the hill to Erzingen, where he crossed the border and drove to Sonnenhang, arriving at nine forty. When he walked into the kitchen, Bethia startled and looked up in surprise from stuffing sausages. "I didn't hear you arrive."

"The new auto is much quieter than the lorry." He stepped across the room and hugged her. "I want to use the darkroom to develop a roll of film. Please tell the others I'll join them for coffee."

"Railway pictures?"

David nodded and smiled. "Yes, but not as pretty as the others in the files."

"How long are you here?"

"I'll leave as soon as I've printed these. Maria's last exams are this afternoon, and we want to celebrate this evening."

"I'll make you some sandwiches for the drive."

A quarter hour later, David sat with the group in their Mess and shared his information on the success of the mission and conveyed the congratulations he had received from the Ambassador and the Prime Minister.

He scanned the eyes of the group. "The past two days, in both Freiburg and Donaueschingen, I sensed an air of confusion in the officers with whom I spoke. They're blaming the damage on French sympathisers in Alsace and Lorraine. You've all contributed to the success of this mission, and we will have more missions and more successes in the New Year."

He paused for a sip of coffee. "Speaking of New Year, you're all off duty until then. Unofficial leave until the third of January. You may remain here, or you may travel." He chuckled. "Remember, though, stay in Switzerland. No missions on your own. When I return tomorrow, I hope to have identification papers for the rest of you, as well as maps and advice on things to do and see."

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