Chapter Twenty-One

57 18 26

David and Maria lay under the duvet cuddling, caressing and gently shifting their hips as they reviewed the day. "From my chair, I could see you in the foyer with Herr Grünmann and the man in uniform. What was that about? You seemed rattled after they left. Who was the uniformed man?"

"Wachtmeister Schwarz, that's like sergeant in British ranks. He's in charge of the police in this area of Schaffhausen. I assumed from what was said, that it's a tradition for local authorities to make Christmas calls on their neighbours. Could be an election coming. That's the only time we see them in Canada."

"Schwarz looked suspicious. I thought that at any moment, he'd rush into the drawing room and start questioning us."

"I also sensed that, but Jacob's arrival, and then Bethia's, seemed to calm him. He was more at ease after that."

"So, was it an innocent call? Or do they suspect something here?"

"Jacob said Karl, Herr Grünmann, is opposed to the Kaiser's actions, so I think his visit was innocent. He said, though, that Heinrich Schwarz is a strong and often vociferous supporter of the Germans."

"Maybe that's your next spying mission. Find out if either of them has any suspicions about the goings on here."

"Karl told Bethia he was pleased to see she was saving the estate from dereliction and that it was being restored. It seems he's a close neighbour. They might both be. I'll ask Jacob in the morning." He gave a long, gentle thrust. "We should finish here and get some sleep. It's been a full day."

"Roll onto your back, David. Let me make it an even fuller day for you."

Monday, 27 December 1915

After lunch on Monday, David helped Michael carry cartons of wine from the cellar and load them into the Lancia, most in the boot but a few in the rear footwell. "That's a lot of wine," David said as they placed the last ones.

"We usually buy forty or fifty dozen each year to maintain the cellar, so this is only a small part of it." He chuckled. "We need to keep up with our consumption."

"That bottle of 1900 Clos de Bèze you served in June? I can still taste it in my mind. Have you many old wines like that?"

"We've many hundreds of bottles a decade or two old and several dozen which are older. The great wines improve as they mature, so we must lay away more than our annual consumption to allow them to age. I'll give you a tour and explain it when we take these down into the cellar."

They loaded the luggage on top of the wine in the boot, then while David started the engine and began warming it, Michael went in to thank Bethia again and to tell Mary and Maria they were ready to leave.

A while later, as they drove past a small farmhouse, David pointed. "I think this is the one which Jacob meant Heinrich Schwarz owns."

"Must be nearly two kilometres from Sonnenhang, so he can't just casually snoop," Maria said.

David glanced at the odometer. "We've come one point eight."

"I'm getting better at judging distances. Strange, though, what Opa said. Heinrich's been warned about false accusations. It seems he suspects everybody as being dishonest."

"That's usually a good indicator of a dishonest person," Michael said. "He sees the trait in himself, and he transfers it to all others."

"How do people like him get into positions of power? Wait, let me theorise." Maria held up her finger and wagged it as she paused and thought. "They likely do it through manipulation and coercion. Honest people don't normally suspect others, so they'd be easily used."

Mary nodded from the back seat. "You're very perceptive, Maria, and you've become rather wise for your age."

"I learned a lot by watching the manipulations by some of the girls in school. I soon found ways to avoid being used in their games, and I ended up being called names and having stories told about me. But at least I felt good about myself. I always wondered how they felt."

The four carried on a rolling conversation as they drove. The snow had melted from the roads, and there were large bare patches in the fields. They soon arrived in Schaffhausen, and as David slowed in the line of traffic heading toward the bridge across the Rhine, he nodded at the windscreen. "Looks as if something has happened; everyone is stopping ahead."

"Maybe a car collided with another," Maria said.

After they had stopped and started a few times, David opened the door and stood on the running board to gain a better view. Then back inside, he said, "The police appear to be checking papers."

Maria tilted her head. "Why would they check here?"

"They do routine checks from time to time," Michael said, "and we always travel with our papers. But here, I would think they'd be more frequent with the war. The relative ease of crossing from Germany both here and at Basel are among the border security concerns. You'll learn about things such as this when you do your training, David."

"I've driven across this bridge in both directions many times without seeing checks." He patted his breast pocket, then turned to Maria. "Have you your passport?"

"I still have it in my clutch from our London trip."

The line of cars slowly moved forward, and after several minutes of stopping and starting, they arrived at the border guard. David slid his window open and handed the four passports to him.

"Where have you been? Where are you going?"

"Home to Zürich and Bern. We were visiting with my great aunt for Christmas." David turned and pointed toward Mary. "My grandmother's sister."

The guard examined the passports. "I've seen only training samples until now. I was wondering when I'd see the first of them." He looked through the rear window at Michael and Mary, then handed the passports back to David. "Thank you. I'm told the road is clear of snow all the way to Zürich."

As David drove across the bridge, he said, "That makes sense. Ours were among the first issued, and few would have made it up to this remote corner of the country." He ran his fingers through his hair. "I hope the men had no trouble with the guards. They had been talking of driving to Zürich."

Watching FritzWhere stories live. Discover now