THE WHITE KNIGHT
Kriminalkommissar Saxon lingered in his office. It was well past the end of the working day, but he was reluctant to abandon his familiar desk and his comfortable chair. He preferred the gloom of the police station to the glaring evening sunshine. A cold half-chicken was the only comfort waiting for him in his apartment.
For two years the streets of Munich had been calm, the sounds of rampaging SA squads and the screams of their victims replaced by raucous laughter from the beer cellars. He preferred the creak of familiar floorboards and the ticking of the clock on the wall to Bavarian oompah music.
He still had plenty of work to keep him busy. Arson was a continuing problem. The most serious recent case had cost the lives of four members of one family; only the father had survived, and he was being held in a cell as the primary suspect.
“Glad I caught you, Kommissar.” The skeletal figure of Kriminalrat Glasser hovered in the doorway. “What are you working on?”
“The Kluge fire.”
“Any progress to report?” Glasser’s position was complicated. Having been promised a position with the Gestapo, he had assumed the vacant role of Kriminaldirektor as an interim measure.
“None. I’m hoping the father will confess if we hold him overnight.”
Glasser smiled his rictus smile. “And if that doesn’t work, you can always beat him to a pulp.”
Saxon straightened his back. He would never tolerate strong-arm methods in his police station.
Glasser swayed toward him, waving a palm. “Joking. I was joking.”
Glasser must have been at the schnapps. He never joked.
Reaching the safety of Saxon’s desk, Glasser used it to prop himself up. “I’ve had a call from the SS.”
“What do they want this time?”
Glasser responded with a shake of his head. “Not the Munich SS, Berlin headquarters.”
The dreaded Gestapo office! He had never been there, but every policeman had heard the horror stories. “Are congratulations in order?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Saxon. They want you up there for a special job.”
“The SS in Berlin want me? What for?”
“They didn’t say. They asked for you by name, so it must be important.”
His immediate reaction was to resist. But his mind went numb. He needed time to think, to formulate a rational objection.
Glasser turned to leave. “You’re to report to SS-Standartenführer Karl Ulman.”
“How long will the posting last?”
Would I have to move out of my apartment? He thought.
“Ask the Standartenführer when you arrive. They want you on station by Monday 8:30 am sharp. Leave the arson file on my desk.” And Glasser was gone.
He had four days! His mind was racing now. The thought of his name being bandied about at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse gave him goosebumps. And what could be so urgent that they needed him in Berlin at such short notice?
Piper Strasse was a playground that evening, full of laughing children enjoying the warm evening, many on bicycles. The apartment was unbearably hot. He opened both windows. Then he took the cold chicken from the larder, added two slices of yesterday’s bread and sat down to his meal. A couple of bluebottles flew in through a window, heading straight for the chicken. He swore and flapped at them to keep them away. They backed off but hung around.
The food disappeared quickly. He tidied up and lit a cigarette. Then he steered the flies back outside before closing both windows.
Watching the children in the street below, it struck him that he had few ties in Munich. A trip to Berlin might be just the tonic his flagging career needed. What would it matter to Ruth and Samuel where he was stationed?
He found some paper and pen, took a photograph of Ruth and Samuel from his wallet, placed it on the table, and began to write.
Piper Strasse, June 18, 1936
I hope you and Samuel are well and enjoying the Austrian summer. I miss you both, of course.
I have been assigned to Berlin. I won’t know what the job is until I get there on Monday next, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to return to Munich before too long.
I will write again as soon as I can.
Take care. Kisses for Samuel.
Your loving husband,