David had nearly finished printing the photos when there was a knock on the door and Georg's voice asking whether it was safe to come in.
"Give me half a minute. I'm under red light. How was your reconnaissance? Your meeting?"
"Both were useful. Many possibilities. And we even caught some fish."
"When we drove across on the way to the market, we saw many fishing along both banks of the river."
David unlocked and opened the door and greeted Georg. "Come in. I've two more negatives to print, and then I'm done."
Georg took the film from his camera. "I'll develop this while you print."
"Pictures of the bridge?"
"Images from upstream and down on both sides. While Rick and Franz sold potatoes, I explored the market, searching for fishing equipment and asking what was most successful." He laughed. "You would not believe the amount of contradictory advice I received."
"I would believe. I've seen it along the wharves in Vancouver. So many different theories." David finished exposing the sixth print, and he moved them all to the developer tray. "Two minutes here and then to the stop bath for a short while before we can turn on the white light."
Georg completed the developing, rinsed the film and hung it to dry, then he examined David's prints in the stop bath. "What are these?"
"Three are enlargements from photos in a BASF marketing booklet I swiped from an officer's mess library, and six are shots along the Rhine across from the site. My hope is we can determine which buildings are new and most likely to house the ammonia synthesising reactors."
"Looks like you were busy."
"Most of it was driving there and back. Over six hundred kilometres and two tyre punctures."
"Rick spotted your flat tyres, and he has Dolf and Hans repairing them." He tilted his head. "Wouldn't it be easier to go by train on trips such as this?"
"I need to move around once I'm there, and a taxi driver would become suspicious. I drove over fifty kilometres as I investigated the plant and its surroundings. I like Rick's sharpness and initiative."
"What about hiring a car?"
"I investigated that in Freiburg and Donaueschingen last month. None was available without a driver."
Georg laughed. "A driver doesn't fit at all with the covert aspects of this, does he?"
David flipped on the white light and switched off the red, then he removed the enlargements and placed them between sheets of blotting paper and under the heavy wooden slab. "We'll let those dry and flatten for an hour or so." He motioned toward the door. "Let's have a glass of wine as you tell me about your adventures."
They sat in the withdrawing room as Georg recounted. "Remember how poor the potatoes were in Blumberg in November? They would have won prizes in Mulhouse. We had by far the finest, and they went quickly at 36 pfennigs the kilo. We sold the last of them shortly past eleven, then we went fishing."
Georg took another sip of wine. "The soldiers have set up guard posts and barricades alongside the approaches on each side of the river, and they have patrols up on tracks. There were dozens of people fishing along the river banks; mostly old men, but a few women."
"That would be a great place for you to study the structure. Blend in innocently among the crowd."
"It's a long bridge, standing on four piers, one on each bank and two in the river. Marcel told us later that it's about three hundred and thirty metres. I shot some photos to show the complex frame truss construction. We'll need a lot of carefully placed shaped charges to collapse a span."
"So, Marcel? He the leader of the Alsatian group?"
"More their technical and history person. He's a retired school teacher, and he remembers the Germans building the bridge in the 1870s, shortly after they had taken Alsace and Lorraine. The line from Müllheim to Mulhouse was built as a strategic link between the networks on both sides of the Rhine."
Georg continued recounting details from the reconnaissance and the meeting, and after half an hour, he said, "The film should be dry by now. We can print some shots so you can better see the unusual truss structure, and also see the security problem we face."
Six minutes later, David flipped on the white light and examined the wet prints as he lifted them from the fixer tray.
"I see what you mean by the security. They realise how important this is to them."
"Marcel said it was hastily put in place after we had blown the three lines in December. That's why we've decided the best approach is from one of the piers out in the river." Georg pointed to the bridge truss. "You can see the high density of the verticals and diagonals, about two metres apart. With their smaller cross-sections, they'll be easier to cut, but we'll have to do many more to be effective."
"Yes, I see it's wise to send one of these prints to Chatham and let the Engineers design an effective charge pattern. I'm not familiar with this truss pattern either."
David placed the enlargements between sheets of blotting paper and under a weight, then he separated the ones from Mannheim and pointed to the door. "Let's spread these out on the dining table and try to identify any new buildings."
Ten minutes later, Georg shook his head in response to David's statement. "Neither do I. No difference from the 1911 photo."
"The synthesisers must be in one of the existing buildings. I have no idea what size they'd need to be, and in attempting to sort it out, I've been trying to visualise how they would cause the reaction. The formula is NH3, so a compound of one nitrogen molecule with three hydrogen ones. Their nitrogen source is air, and hydrogen would be by far the easiest to liberate from natural gas. A reactive catalyst of some sort and likely high heat and high pressure."
"I know little about chemistry, so I'm of no help with this."
David pointed to the long lines of railway tank cars. "Two separate lines of them, one down the centre of the complex, and the other along the eastern side. I wonder if one brings in natural gas for their hydrogen and the other takes ammonia somewhere to be made into sulphuric acid or whether they make it there."
"I can have some of the team track where the tank cars come from and where they go."
"I was going to suggest that, Georg. I already have several places identified, but it would be great to confirm them and find others." David looked up and smiled. "So, you caught some fish?"
"Three large trout." He held his hands about forty centimetres apart. "And four smaller perch. We're all having trout for dinner."
YOU ARE READING
Watching FritzHistorical Fiction
This is the third sequel to my award-winning Wattpad Featured Story, 'Posted As Missing', an intense adventure/romance set in the turmoil of World War One Europe. I've grown tired of blood-and-guts war stories, so I've written this series to examin...