Berlin: Fall 1943
SS officers Hans Kroner and Martin Ulricht paced nervously in the wide hallway. They were anxious and on the edge of panic. The man who had summoned them to Berlin, to the Reich Main Security Office at Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse No.8 was Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. The former art museum was now used by the Gestapo to torture and murder enemies of the Reich. Kroner and Ulricht had been on the Russian front interrogating captured Red Army officers and Communist officials. They didn’t understand why they had been suddenly, in the middle of the night, ordered back. Fear gripped them. When Himmler directed you to appear before him, it was usually not pleasant, many times deadly. They knew officers who had been similarly summoned by Himmler and were never heard from again. Kroner and Ulricht were going over any possible mistakes they could have made.
A heavy door opened and a Gestapo guard led them to Himmler.
The Reichsfuhrer stood up and came around his desk. At that moment he had that petite, effeminate gait to his walk, like a held back little skip. In Russia, over dinner just the other night, several officers had joked about Himmler’s sometimes-funny little walk. Kroner and Ulricht had laughed along with everyone else. Was that what this was about? One of Himmler’s SS cronies had snitched on them?
Himmler didn’t look angry or upset. He did not have his usual glassy face; actually he looked friendly. Good sign, Kroner thought.
Himmler slapped his palms together and said, “I have chosen you two to be my gardeners.”
Kroner and Ulricht looked at each other quizzically. But they did not ask why or inform Himmler that they knew almost nothing about gardening.
Himmler said, “The Third Reich has a big garden. It has expanded and grown into other countries. There are a lot of weeds in our garden of Endlosung, the Final Solution. An abundance of weeds. They must be removed and burned. Weeds have to be burned or they will come back. This is our private operation. Just the three of us. You will weed the garden of the Reich and burn all the weeds. Alle unkraut aus. All the weeds out. Especially the Totenbuchs. They are the worst of all the weeds. Target the Totenbuchs. They are your bullseye.”
Then Himmler explained the contents of a Totenbuch and that if any camp commandant, of any rank, does not have them or does not turn them over, their names are to be reported to Himmler immediately.
Soon after, Kroner and Ulricht felt relieved as they left Himmler. They mulled over Himmler’s verbal order named “Operation Weed the Garden.” It was a top secret operation entrusted only to Kroner and Ulricht, putting them on a personal mission for Heinrich Himmler. They and Himmler were the only three men who knew about this operation, so Himmler had indicated.
Over the next several months, they would drive to every garden of Endlosung, concentration camp, and collect all the weeds, the camps’ paper and photographic records and especially the Totenbuchs, the precise number of human beings eliminated in the camp.
When all the concentration camp records of the Final Solution were collected, they would burn them. That was Himmler’s specific directive for “Operation Weed the Garden.”
A smiling Ulricht slapped Kroner on the back, “This is a nice little job. Much better than Russia.”
Kroner said, “Oh yes, Martin, much better. Until it’s over. When we finish and all the weeds are collected and burned, Himmler is going to have us shot. You do understand that, Martin? We will be tortured first and then shot. Do you know why, Martin?”
Ulricht does not answer.
“You see, we are the weeders, we will have seen and touched all the weeds. We will be as contaminated as the weeds. We cannot remain in Himmler’s weedless garden of the Third Reich. So, my friend, alle unkraut aus. All the weeds out. That includes you and I.”
Ben yanked the gearshift into reverse to avoid the wooden boat whose pilot appeared oblivious of the impending impact.
They didn’t crash, but it was close, only a collision of spray and foam. As the careening wooden boat sped away, Ben’s eyes were drawn to the name inscribed on the boat’s transom, partially obscured by the kicked up wake. He couldn’t believe he had seen that name with that distinctive lettering, here on this lake? Had he read it correctly? He tried to read the name on the transom again, but the boat was too far away. That name convoked the loathsome, terrifying past, but here it was on Lake George in upstate New York not on the Elbe River in Nazi Germany. He was positive he had seen embellished spirals on the first and last letters, the M and the A, spinning little twirls at the beginning and end of each of those letters, exactly as they were blazed in his memory, precisely as they were on those same letters as they appeared on the transom of the boat he had sailed as a boy.
He had to see the name again, make sure he had read it correctly. Ben pushed the throttle forward and followed the boat. If it was the name he thought he had read, who was the pilot of the wooden boat? That was what drove him. Was the pilot that murdering bastard? A glimpse of the pilot had revealed nothing identifiable. Of course he had not seen the pilot’s face, only the back of his white-haired head.
When the wooden boat slowed down near the opposite shore, Ben shifted into neutral, grabbed the binoculars and focused on the letters on the boat’s transom making sure he had read them correctly. He had. There was the name: MANNY A. A name as familiar to him as his own name. He threw the gearshift into forward and headed for the MANNY A, then abruptly yanked the shift back and stopped. Ben knew that it wouldn’t be wise, even dangerous to just pull up to the MANNY A and ask the pilot how it got its name and if the pilot of the MANNY A had named it and the why and who and how of everything associated with the name. He couldn’t do that because the name on the transom was linked to one man. Hans Kroner. SS Colonel Hans Kroner. A name that made Ben’s blood run cold. Ben shuddered at the prospects, at the reawakened loathing of Kroner’s name at the astounding possibility that Kroner might be alive, as his friend Nazi hunter Hannah Zar insisted.
Ben watched the pilot, who had put on a yellow rain slicker, hoping he glanced back so he could see his face, but the man’s eyes were fixed straight ahead. The only telltale that evoked a memory was the man’s stance at the wheel of the MANNY A, a raised chin looking down upon the vanquished in disgust. That’s what Ben remembered about Kroner. Kroner was a cold-blooded, cold-hearted murdering son of a bitch who always looked down on everyone.
Before long the MANNY A turned around and backed up along a dock on the protected steep east bank of the lake. Through the binoculars Ben watched as the man in the yellow slicker stepped onto the dock and tied off the MANNY A. Then the man walked up to a storage shed near the dock. Shortly the man returned to the boat with a red five-gallon gas can. After what appeared to be a refueling, the man zippered and snapped on a canvas mooring cover to seal off the wooden boat from the weather. Ben studied the man’s movements carefully. He only saw the profile of the man’s head now wearing the yellow slicker’s hood half on. Ben thought he detected a limp as the man walked down the dock. The limp was a possible connection to Kroner especially after their violent confrontation on Christmas Eve in 1944 when Ben had failed to kill him.
It was seven p.m. Ben would find out more about the man and his boat as soon as it was dark. He turned his boat out to the middle of the lake. Until that time, he’d go fishing.
Ben yanked the landing net out of the holder and peered down into the black waters. After a fifteen-minute struggle, the lake trout had surrendered and slid alongside. “Give up, fish.” Ben saw the fish roll over, saw its girth and flank, guessed that it was close to thirty pounds. He lowered the net and slid it under the fish. As he lifted the net, the big trout shook its head in one last desperate attempt. Half of the fish was inside the net when it flopped and rolled trying to get free. Ben plunged the net down into the water again, got under the heavy fish and lifted, but the lake trout’s powerful forked tail dug for traction, paddled, twisted, turned, lunged and pushed the rim of the net away and slid off into the lake. Ben hung over the side, stretched and reached with the landing net, but the fish shook its head and snapped the line and dove. Off the hook. Gone. “Damn it,” Ben yelled staring into the black water holding the unsprung rod.
In the dim illumination of the cockpit light, off the lake trout’s green and silver flanks, ricocheted a memory.
Ben saw a silver broach on the woman’s green velvet Yom Kippur dress and a silver skull and bones on the man’s green-gray wool uniform. Green and silver, the raiments of the meek, the livery of the powerful. Out of the blood of World War II leeched a dark feeling, ruthless, uncompromising and deadly. There was the lost face of his mother, there was the failure of all failures, there was the murder he failed to prevent and the murder he failed to render, and fixed in the darkness was the specter of Hans Kroner.
Ben stowed the fishing gear, turned off the running lights and focused on the LORAN LCD screen. When he was at the longitude and latitude coordinates of the stored waypoint, he turned east and cut his speed to 2 m.p.h. Piecemeal, he started to make out shapes on the dark lakeside. Night’s deviance altered the normal shape and color of things. It took a while, but he found the MANNY A.
He cut off his motor and carefully slid into the empty dock south of where the MANNY A was tied up. He glanced at his watch. It was almost 10 p.m.
He made his way through ankle deep water along the rocky lakeside, using his penlight in quick flashes to find solid footing. The bank dropped off very quickly; he had to hold onto trees and protruding roots. Immediately he went to the MANNY A’s transom and saw the black raised letters, probably teak or mahogany, carved in a Gothic style. The boat was named the MANNY A. Repressed, bitter memories spewed up as he stared at the Gothic letters of MANNY A, letters exactly as he remembered them.
Ben snapped open the mooring cover and looked underneath. No fishing gear, no electronic equipment, only A lapstrake Lyman from the sixties, about an eighteen footer, perfectly restored, with polished bright work and even the scent of new marine varnish.
To kill the shivers, he trotted up the terraced stone stairway that led to the house. His feet squished in wet socks inside his sneakers, but the shakes came from the anticipation, not the raw chill.
The house had a light on in one room downstairs. He peered through the window and saw the back of a white-haired man sitting by a writing desk looking through a photo album. The man had bony shoulders and a long neck. He moved his head slowly, deliberately from page to page, massaging the back of his neck several times as if it was stiff or in pain. It was the same man he had seen in the boat, but he needed to see his face to identify him.
Ben watched him leaf through the album, wanted to detect something familiar, something recognizable. He remembered steel blue eyes and straight blonde hair. This man had white hair combed straight back, a short, neat, chalky beard. The man poured clear liquor into a tumbler and took a sip. Then the man dropped his head into both of his hands and planted his elbows on the table. After a long moment, he stretched, yawned, glanced around the room and turned out the light and got up. For a split second Ben saw a bony face, deep dark eyes looking for something in the subdued light. Ben didn't move as the face stared in his direction, illuminated by a dim light descending the stairway. He couldn't see the color of the narrow eyes. The short silvery beard disguised the true shape of the jaw. In the darkness he imagined a phantom with a haunted wintry face with a skeletal shape that glanced around the room like a stalked animal.
The man walked tentatively, hobbled slightly, tottered, listed and leaned on the newel post at the foot of the stairs, grabbed the railing with one hand and with the other flipped the switch to turn on the light at the top of the stairs. Ben slid away from the window and pressed his back against the cedar shingle siding. He saw the light from the window illuminate the top of the Norway spruce a few feet from the house. A few minutes later the light went off.
Ben walked out to the road. The name on the mailbox was Van Meer. He flipped down the box’s access door. Empty.
The only house Ben had ever broken into had been the last house he had built. He had to jimmy a double hung window to get in so he could get the truck keys he had left inside.
Van Meer's cottage had two doors. He tried the back first. It was locked, so was the front. With his pocketknife, he cut two slits in the bottom of the window screen so he could slide open the latches and raise the screen; he slid the blade between the upper and lower sash, opened the lock and pushed up on the sash. It was tight. He cut the screen out completely and gave the window a hard push. It opened. He crawled inside.
He walked quietly across the room to the writing desk and took out his penlight.
He opened the album and leafed through it. There were family color photos of a Christmas, a graduation, a wedding, a child, and a teenager and the man with the beard. He had small eyes, pale skin. His expression was grim, tarnished perhaps, even slightly pathetic, definitely not the pitiless, unfeeling facial cast of SS Colonel Hans Kroner.
Ben closed the album. On the desk were open letters, bills, all addressed to Pieter Van Meer. There were envelopes in the letter cubbies. He took one out. The return address was San Diego. He scanned the words.
-----Mom has been dead five years now-----you shouldn't be alone-----."
Mandy? Probably short for Amanda.
At this momentBen thought he should abandon the break-in. Get out before the man woke up and called the police. The guy was not Hans Kroner. Accept it. But Ben didn’t move to leave.
Ben opened the single drawer in the center of the desk. Pencils, paper clips, business cards, instruction booklet for an answering machine and a small envelope. Inside was one old black and white photograph of a six or seven month old baby sitting on a lawn, with a German shepherd puppy standing by his side. When he turned the photo over and saw November 14, 1931 written on the back, he froze and held his breath. He flipped the picture over and studied it closer, looked at the trees in the background and the striped ball on the grass. He slid the picture in his shirt pocket and let out his breath.
Ben leafed through the album and found a packet of pictures that had not been displayed. He found a photograph of the man when his beard was dark, when the man looked vigorous, youthful, smiling through porcelain white teeth, standing proud on a boat in a turtleneck sweater and a white captain’s cap. August 1964 was the date on the back of that picture. Ben slid that picture in his shirt pocket along with a more recent photo where the man was sitting in a rocking chair by a window looking out to a snow-covered frozen lake. The branch of a pine tree weighed down by the snow hung in front of the window. Clamped between the man’s teeth was a pipe, and he was wearing a black turtleneck. In the branches of the reflected pine tree, Ben could make out an almost kaleidoscopic reflection of the person taking the picture, a wide face cut up by light and shadow and blurry overlapping reflections.
He opened some of the other drawers but didn't find anything of interest. The photographs, except for the baby, the dog and the shocking date,1931,struck nothing familiar or identifiable. He’d have to mail the pictures to Hannah Zar who’d compare them to the photos of Kroner in her organization’s records. Quietly he pushed the chair back and got up.
He stood at the bottom of the stairs and heard the steady rain on the metal roof. He wanted to go up the stairs then decided against it. He turned to leave, but when he heard what sounded like snoring, he placed his foot on the first step.
The stair treads were covered with a dark carpet runner dotted with small iron gray crosses. He came to the top step and saw that the room the man was sleeping in was right in front of the landing. He stepped up to the doorway. The rain falling on the metal roof was louder upstairs. The man snored erratically. The room smelled of pine. The only light in the bedroom came from a night-light plugged into an outlet near the floor. The man slept on his back with his hands across his chest, like someone in a casket. As Ben stepped closer to look at the man's face, he saw a black pistol on the nightstand. The man's breathing was rough and phlegmy. There was an anguished expression on his face. Possibly the expression was a telltale of the man’s character. Of his life as a killer.
Ben glanced at the pistol as he moved closer. It was a large Caliber, perhaps a .44 or .45. It wasn’t a Luger pistol that Ben had used as a boy. He remembered the weight and feel of that Luger, could still feel its recoil, the smell of the exploding powder and his own ultimate failure to use it. Also on the nightstand were a glass of water and a container of pills. Ben picked up the pills. Valium.
He glanced at the man’s hands, the interlocked fingers resting on his chest. He stared at the white hands and leaned closer. An unidentified smell sent a ripple of nausea through him.
Instinctively, he reached for the pistol. As his fingers curled around the crackled grip, he froze and stared at an artificial leg propped up against the nightstand.
He tiptoed down to the foot of the bed still holding the pistol. The blankets were tucked in tightly under the mattress, military style. Where the right leg should have been, the blanket was flat to about the knee area.
The man stirred and rolled over on his side. Ben stopped, waited, and aimed the pistol at the man. Then the man was still again, breathing heavily. There was nothing familiar about the sleeping face. Ben had to hear the man speak, see him with his eyes open in the accuracy of daylight. Quickly and quietly he replaced the pistol on the nightstand, backed away and went down the stairs, lowered and locked the window and went out the door. He walked around the house and picked up the cutout screen and took it with him.
Daylight. Ben needed the light of day to see the man’s face up close, to hear his voice, to see how he moved, how he stood, then he’d know if he had found the supposedly, reportedly deceased SS Colonel Hans Kroner.
The wind had died; it was cooler and a fog was descending on the black water. A dim and shadowy night lay ahead. He wanted to look inside the MANNY A one more time. He stepped into the boat, crawled under the mooring cover and looked around, opened a storage compartment in the helm area and scanned it with his flashlight. There was a small plastic covered notebook. He flipped through the pages; all were blank.
Ben glanced around the boat and decided on a plan that would start by siphoning gas from the MANNY A into his boat.
Thirty minutes later, Ben untied his boat, Drifter, boarded, pushed off and paddled out. In the fog, visibility was about ten yards. When he was about one hundred yards out, he started the trolling motor and moved out on the lake another three hundred yards. Then he turned off the motor and dropped anchor. The depth finder read thirty feet. Ben glanced around and could see no more than ten feet in any direction. He crawled into the cuddy where he kept a sleeping bag and a change of clothes.
Dry in the sleeping bag, the boat gently swinging on the anchor rode, he fell asleep as the black night and fog enclosed him.
The SS officer pushed the boy into the filthy swimming pool. The boy sank to the bottom, where, suspended above the slimy floor was a woman in a green dress with her face turned away from him. Just as the woman started to drift towards him, started to turn her face towards him, the boy floated up from the bottom and again he didn’t see her face. When he broke through the surface, the boy gulped a quick mouthful of air and dove in again. The boy swam down to the bottom and looked for the woman. He wanted to see her face if only for a split second. He saw her shape in the murky water for an instant then she floated out of sight and the boy swam up for more air. The SS man snagged the boy under the armpit with a long metal hook, pulled him out of the stagnant pool and flopped him down on a concrete slab and held him down with his shiny black boot. As the boy lay on the concrete, he saw a looming wall of fire, choking smoke, a girl with immense blue eyes swelled with tears and an ashen- faced boy with rolled up sleeves running through a burning city with an Alsatian by his side. Then someone faceless who could have just witnessed a murder was fleeing through a snowstorm on a motorcycle.
Ben woke up with a start; he was drenched in sweat. He crawled out of the sleeping bag and out to the deck. Had he screamed? There had been that recurring dream. Immediately after the dream, he felt loss, failure and hate. And one more emotion. Murder. He always thought about the murder he could have prevented and the murder he failed to deliver.
Everything in the dream had happened. Not in the order that it came in the dream, but it all had happened. Almost everyone was familiar. At this moment, he saw blue-eyed Erika Mueller the clearest, felt her crushing sorrow, then the image shifted to the cold-blooded SS man Martin Ulricht. The boy with the rolled up sleeves was Manny Kroner, but the face he wanted to see the most, the woman under water, never materialized. His predominate reason for reconstructing the dream was to see her face, but she never looked at him. He had no photograph of her, and he knew no one who had known her, who could describe what she looked like. She was never discernible. Never beheld. He had lost her forever. It was his mother’s face and he couldn’t remember what she looked like.
The wind and rain had ceased. He saw that a thick fog surrounded him.
He turned on his depth finder and saw that he was still in about thirty feet of water. His watch read 1:33. He had only slept an hour. He couldn't see more than ten feet in front of him. At night the lake gave him a creepy feeling. His wife Isabel had said, “Day or night, there’s something frightening about this lake that I just can’t explain. Maybe it’s just too deep.” He had always been awestruck by its blue-green winds, it’s girdling mountains, its pine and rock islands, as many as there were days in the year.
He and Isabel were on a turbulent river, approaching a fork, one calm, the other wild. Eventually they would come together again. That’s how he saw it and believed it. The current would unite them, as long as there was movement and flow; eventually there would be convergence in calm reconciling waters.
A breeze pushed across the black waters and his boat drifted into the open full moonlight. In the platinum light, across the glassy water, he could see the shore. He was about three hundred yards out. He could see the steps leading down from Van Meer's cottage to the dock. That's when he detected a light moving along the shoreline. There was someone looking inside Van Meer’s boat. It was a man in a white shirt and an orange vest. Was it Van Meer?Because the bow of his boat was near the edge of the fog, Ben feared he would be spotted if the man glanced out at the lake. He pulled at the anchor rope, which pulled the boat into the fog. When he was almost out of sight, he quietly pulled up the anchor and started to paddle his boat deeper into the fog. As his bow retreated into the white mist, a paddle stroke slapped and splashed the water and Ben wondered if the man in the MANNY A had glanced in his direction. Ben didn't think he could be spotted; his boat was shrouded by the fog. Starting his engine would give him away. Hidden in the fog, he waited.
Onshore an engine started. He immediately tried to start his, but it wouldn’t catch. He stopped trying and listened. He couldn’t see, but he believed a boat was moving slowly back and forth along the wall of fog. Then the engine shut off, and Ben saw a yellow beam of light probe the fog. Quietly he paddled deeper into the fog and out of reach of the light beam. Then he stopped and waited. The engine started again. He saw the yellow beam of the fog light. The other boat was coming into the fog, looking for him. He tried his ignition again. The motor kicked on. Slowly he backed away from the light. He knew he would be heard if the other boat suddenly turned its motor off. Quickly he swung around and headed north, staying in the fog. He knew the lake. He knew the shoals and rocks and could navigate it blindfolded. Twenty minutes later he turned west and broke out of the mist into the moonlight.
The lake gleamed like polished coal. In the girdling black mirror of the water, a stalking moon slinked along, a tracking sentry on his starboard flank. He looked back regularly to see if he was followed but saw only the wake of his boat dip under the wall of behind him. He tied off at the Hague public dock, scrambled into his cuddy, crawled into his sleeping back and once again tried to fall asleep, but seeing the owner of the Manny A face to face broke his sleep into fitful segments. Could the man be Hans Kroner? That’s all he thought about as he tried to sleep. Over and over, he tried and tried, but sleep did not come. Was Van Meer Kroner?
Over the past several years Ben had traveled to South and Central America and just three weeks ago he had gone to Mexico because the Israeli Nazi hunters said they had cornered “Kroner” and they needed Ben to make the identification before they snatched Kroner and hauled him off to Israel to stand trial for war crimes. Every trip had ended in failure. The suspected “Kroner” always dodged abduction. Ben had unceasingly believed Kroner was dead, but Hannah Zar had repeatedly unfurled evidence that Kroner could be alive. And now Kroner had possibly shown up in Ben’s own backyard. And if it was Kroner, if it was, the abstentia death sentence of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal that Kroner had escaped, Ben might be forced to deliver?Ben could have called Hannah Zar and she would have come with her entire Israeli team, but this time he wanted no help. He wanted to do this alone.
Ben still found it incredible that Kroner had been living on a lake that he regularly fished over the past few years.
Ben stared at the brightening open hatchway of the cuddy and saw that the fog had lifted and the morning would be calm and sunny. His thoughts were a blur; a swirl of dissolving images from the dream sank into the irretrievable abyss of his subconscious.
Ben switched on the cuddy light and searched for something to eat. There was a Snickers bar lying across one of the dividers of an open tackle box. As he ate it, Ben removed from his shirt pocket the three photographs he had taken from Van Meer’s cottage. On top was the photo dated 1963, of Van Meer in a black turtleneck sweater standing on a boat. Ben convoked an image from his youth: a man with flinty eyes, straight blonde hair, leathery lips, a combative voice and an unidentifiable emollient or balm on his skin. The dark-haired man in
the picture looked nothing like the man Ben remembered. He tried to imagine the face without the beard and with his hair blonde, but the image didn’t match his recollection.
He scrutinized Van Meer’s face on the photo dated 1975, just three years ago and compared it to the photo dated 1963. Except for the age difference, it was the same man, but there was no likeness to the face Ben had last seen on a cold Christmas morning in 1944.
He studied the picture of the baby and the puppy and speculated on who they were. He had stolen that photo because the date on the back, November 14, 1930, was his one year birthday, and the puppy looked like Rumpel, the grey and black Alsatian he had known as a child, whose lineage was the same as Hitler’s shepherd Blondie, a bloodline he had been reminded about recurrently.
From outside he heard a familiar voice, “Hey, Stone Heart, drop your frog and hit the deck.”
Ben slid the photos inside his shirt and crawled out of the cuddy.
On the dock was his friend Tommy Heno, a local building contractor and fishing partner, standing there grinning under a FORD THUNDERBIRD baseball hat out which hung a long black ponytail.
“Not yet,” Tommy cracked a smile with his askew teeth lined up like abandoned tombstones, “Caffeine trumps liquor at this time of day.” Tommy handed Ben a Styrofoam cup, “Got some real jolt for you, buddy. It ain’t that kappogino crap you city sports eat with a silver spoon; this is real jumper wire American.”
“Thanks,” Ben took the coffee and a Saran-wrapped peanut-buttered hard roll.
“Hey, you are one crazy sonofabitch, goin’ out yesterday. Saw you comin’ in and then do a one eight zero and go back out after that slick mahogany hull that almost rammed you. What happened?”
Ben glanced around and saw that the sky had cleared up, unlike Tommy’s lined face, which looked like a smashed windshield.
Tommy lifted a veiny arm tattooed with a winged skeleton sitting on a Harley riding up the cleft of a fat lady’s behind and pointed at the lake, “Why did you chase that guy? What were you gonna’ do when you caught the mother, sink him for having poor marine etiquette?”
“I just wanted to find out where he was going? Ever see him before?”
“Yeah, over to Dale’s Diner. He’s new. Owns a camp over on the east side. Usually has a fat guy with him. Tall skinny guy with fat guy tailing along. Get the picture. Never talked to either one of them. Mary over at Dale’s says he always leaves a nice tip. GQ type, you know, clean fingernails and ascots, the type that gives me the Technicolor yawn. Maybe they’re a couple old fairies who slap each other’s monkeys. And they ain’t native sons either. Talk funny. Foreign funny. Don’t ask me from where. Don’t make no difference to me. Everybody, but the redskin native is a foreigner to me.” Tommy took off his baseball hat, scratched his thick black Mohawk hair, and looked out at the lake, “What’s going on out there on my waters?”
Ben picked up the binoculars and looked across the lake, “I don’t know what’s going on, Tommy. Not yet,”
Ben said as he peered through the binoculars, found the camp on the east shore of the lake. He saw the limping man walk down to the lake and climb in the MANNY A.
Ben said, “Untie the lines, Tommy. Push me off.”
“Need some company?” Tommy smiled as he pulled out a pint of Southern Comfort, screwed off the top and poured a gurgle into his coffee.
“I’ll catch you later.” Ben cranked over the motor as Tommy threw the lines in the boat. Ben pulled away from the dock. He looked across the lake and saw the MANNY A coming in his direction. He’d meet the MANNY A out there in the middle of the lake to discover the truth. Or uncover a lie. Was Van Meer really Hans Kroner, the Nazi war criminal who had murdered Sarah Henkel, Ben’s mother?