“Your mother needed a holiday herself after what has been a difficult summer” Marie Alexandra heard her father say as they carried their bags from the microbus into the house. “She is at a spa in Switzerland and doesn’t want to be bothered.”
He had not elaborated further and had pointedly refused to answer any questions that Marie had. Sophie and Angelica had just shrugged in response. The two of them were a bit more inured to the unexpected if she had to guess.
Angelica was excited about starting at a new school, it was simple enough for her. Sophie though, she angered Marie when she decided that then was the perfect time to ask Poppa if she could attend a Bicycle Repair Course at the nearby Folk School that was on the Humboldt Campus. It was an adult class, and they all knew full well that the odds were rather high that Momma would have said no, Poppa was a different story. The opportunistic nature of Sophie’s question was galling. That made what Marie said next extremely easy.
“Did Sophie tell you about her boyfriend?” Marie asked with a smirk and Sophie gave Marie a dirty look.
“Really?” Poppa asked in reply.
“Sepp is a boy, but I would hardly call him a friend” Sophie said, “I hardly know him.”
“She was out by the hedge talking to him all the time over the holiday” Angelica interjected in that odd sing-song way she said things. While Angelica could be absolutely infuriating when she did that, it was sort of fun to watch her happen to someone else.
“What else should I know this Sepp?” Poppa asked, clearly amused.
Sophie’s face turned beat red as she tried to find an answer.
“I… I said I hardly know him” Sophie blurted out, “He didn’t tell me much about himself.”
“Did you ask?” Poppa asked.
“I tried” Sophie replied, “But he always just changed the subject.”
Sepp’s father had told him that when the neighborhood had been being constructed on the land that the old Tempelhof Airport had been located on, he had gotten the small plot of land on the southern end of the project for a steal, and he had built a house on it. It was just a question of minding that the several extremely active railroad and S-Bahn lines passed within a few meters of the back fence and A100 was just beyond. As a child, Sepp had enjoyed watching the trains and lorries as they had sped by. That was before he had realized that there was a reason why his father’s house along with the others on the block were all rundown even though the neighborhood was less than two decades old. Anyone who lived here didn’t really care about appearances, if they could afford to move anywhere else, they did. The particulates that hung in the air and coated everything in crud certainly didn’t help matters. However, it did mean that Sepp didn’t have to walk far when he had gotten off the S-Bahn train that had taken him from the Central Station.
Sepp’s father was a Carpenter, in theory, when he was employed. Most of the time he worked whatever job he could get but was hampered by having a terrible reputation. Usually, the odd jobs his father could get were with low pay and there was always the specter of his father blowing through his weekly pay packet before he made it home. Sepp’s mother worked, but the subject of money had been a source of contention between his parents.
The television of blaring when Sepp opened the front door. The smell of something burning hung in the air as he walked back to the room that he shared with his brothers without being noticed. Dropping his duffel bag onto his bed, he steeled himself for what was ahead as he walked to the kitchen. His mother was going through the monthly bills on the kitchen table, Sepp was uncomfortably aware of how many red and yellow envelops there were. She looked at least a decade older than her actual age, something that Sepp had grown increasingly aware of lately.
“Good, you’re back” Sepp’s mother said as soon as she saw him. “Didi was using the toaster again. Please, keep an eye on him.”
Sepp tried not to groan when he heard that. His youngest brother Dieter, who everyone called Didi, was a seven-year-old terror who liked to put slices of bread into the toaster with jam already spread on. It was a wonder that he had not managed to burn down the house or destroy the toaster by doing that. Didi gave him a look, that basically was a dare for Sepp to try and stop him from doing anything. Hagen, the middle brother was nowhere to be seen, but Sepp had the knowledge from a lifetime’s experience that with was not cause for comfort. Hagen’s behavior had always been such that Sepp didn’t dare turn his back to him. It didn’t matter that Sepp was three years older than Hagen. Hagen had always been pure evil, something that his parents had never done anything about.
“Is that Sepp?” Sepp’s father bellowed from the parlor.
“Yeah!” Sepp’s mother yelled back.
What followed was like a car wreck. You wanted to look away, but with sickening inevitability, you had to watch as the collision occurred. Sepp’s father, walked into the kitchen wearing a stained undershirt that might have once been white and trousers that badly needed washing. It suggested that Sepp’s father was digging ditches again. His father usually was surly when he was just home from work. Today was different though.
“Our boy has been a hit with the girls” Sepp’s father said with a grin, “Like a chip off the ol’ block.”
Sepp knew better than to disagree with his father. It was so rare that his father was happy with him. It was then that he became aware that he could smell the alcohol on his father’s breath and the death glare that his mother was giving his father.
Hopefully Kat is checked in under a phony name for security purposes but also to allow her the freedom of not being Katherine von Mischner: The Furstin of Berlin and the Tigress of Pankow and that way maybe she can open up more about her mental state.
Did Sepp’s father score four goals in his whatever the equivalent of high school in Germany for the City Football Championship Match?
It was a spa town and the private clinic advertised itself for its complete discretion. Even so, pains had been made to keep Kat’s presence and identity secret even from the clinic staff. Because she was here on a voluntary basis Kat could leave at any time. She was aware that she would pay a very high personal price if she left early though.
“My children are preparing for a new academic year at this very moment” Kat said, “And I am here doing nothing.”
“My understanding is that your children are mostly older, as in teenagers or in their twenties” Doctor Cremonesi replied, “Not much point in getting too excited Frau Müller.”
That was a reminder that Kat was here as Mia Müller, an anonymous housewife from Berlin who was here for nervous exhaustion and suicidal ideation. It was because of that last part that anything that could possibly be used as a weapon or to harm herself had been taken away from her when she had arrived. Peter Holz had not told Doctor Cremonesi who she was or what she was capable of. Otherwise, the Swiss Doctor might have handled things differently.
“Angelica isn’t” Kat replied.
“Your youngest foster daughter?” Cremonesi asked, “She is what? Eleven?”
“Yes” Kat said, “And starting at a new school.”
Cremonesi spent a minute scribbling on his notepad before asking, “You think that is important?”
“I made promises to her father, that I would give her the sort of stable home that she lacked before.”
“That bothers you?”
“Wouldn’t you have broken those promises” Cremonesi asked, “If your plan had worked as intended.”
“I don’t know what exactly Doctor Holz told you, but it wasn’t a plan the way you think it was” Kat replied, “It is a game that requires sacrifices, the kind I am tired of making.”
That caused Cremonesi to scribble some more. In that moment Kat wanted more than anything to knock the notepad out of his hands but thought better of it.
“We’ll get back to what you call a game later” Cremonesi said, “I am curious about your children, I understand that you have three of your own as well as three who you have fostered? You mentioned them yesterday. That you think your oldest biological daughter is making the same mistakes you are.”
The first few days here Kat had not left her room, hardly noticing that there was always someone around to keep a close eye on her. They had spoken to her about mostly inane things, but she had inadvertently revealed more than she had thought she had. Something that she probably knew better than anyone was that among the best methods of interrogation was just listening. Most people wanted to tell their stories and Kat was no better than anyone else in that regard.
“I had a great deal of experience with those who Tatiana has fallen in with, before and during the war” Kat replied, “They have no value of Tatiana as an individual, most certainly not as my daughter. They see her as a potential asset, nothing more.”
Cremonesi didn’t start writing in his notepad that time. He didn’t ask just who Tatiana might have fallen in with either. That suggested that none of that was new information to him. Kat had no idea what the name of the equivalent of the BND was in Switzerland but wouldn’t be shocked if Cremonesi was connected. Or was she being paranoid? It was the reason why she had hated Schultz and continued to dislike his successors. There was no way of knowing what was real when you had dealings with them.
“You also said you have no worries about your son” Cremonesi said, “While your youngest biological daughter seems reluctant to grow up, and…”
“Is this leading somewhere?” Kat asked.
“I notice that your children are growing older and don’t need you as much” Cremonesi said, “Do you think that your present problems might be the result of no longer being consumed with the pressures of your family?”
“I also have a career” Kat replied, practically daring him to say something stupid.
“That is a hypothesis” Cremonesi said, “I take it that you were an Auxiliary during the Soviet War.”
“I was in the Fallschirmjäger” Kat replied, “And I wasn’t an Auxiliary.”
Cremonesi gave her a look and Kat knew that once again she had said more than she wanted. There were very few women who had had been active combatants in the Soviet War on the Allied side. If Cremonesi didn’t know who she was, it would only take about five minutes in a library to look that up. And that was if he didn’t find her biography.
“You mentioned you were treated for Traumatic Stress back the 40’s” Cremonesi said flipping through his notes, “Psychedelic therapy, which was experimental at the time. Do you remember how effective it was?”
“It helped me process a few things” Kat replied, “My problems didn’t go away though.”
“I don’t imagine they would” Cremonesi said as he started scribbling again. “These things are a process.”
“Do you say that to all your patients” Kat asked, “You do know the reputation of places like this?”
“I like to think that my patients get from this place what they put into it, Mia” Cremonesi replied, “If they are just here for a vacation escape or a bit of experimentation in a controlled environment, then that is what they will get. If they actually want help, then we shall do our best.”
That was pretty much all one could do at the time and that was talking. Experiments with LSD were OTL sharply shot down (so if that would help or not is up for stomachfeeling which in itself is a bad idea in medical matters)
and Serotonin and its role in the brain were at that time basically unknown.
Not going into the discussion whether brain chemistry not working properly is the sympton of depression or the other way around (there are flame wars out there about it) but all agree that treating the brain chemistry is a must.
So unless someone invocs a magical bullet Kat will have to live with it (and some Prozac) for the foreseeable time.
An effective treatment for depression is electric shock therapy and it is nothing like the movies, when my Grandmother was in a depressive state it worked for her.
Now when my Grandmother was in her manic state they used to at the State Hospital throw her in a tub of iced cold water, haul her out of it and then throw her in a tub of the hottest water possible that wouldn’t scald her, and keep on doing it until her mania was over and this was in the days before she was medicated with lithium.
Although the POD is very early, mood stabilizers like Lithium salts and probably Valproate could very well be available at this time, as far as medication goes. ECT is generally not a very common treatment for anything but major depressive disorder (although there are exceptions, of course). This being the 70s, even if with more advanced technology/science, where ECT was OTL declining in popularity due to problems with its application, I don't see it being a common treatment.
Dr. Cermonesi is someone who has been vetted by Peter and while he doesn't have the actual files for Kat he does have all the relevant information from her mother's death, the brutal rape and beating at the hands of Marten Beck when she was 12 and the subsequent abortion afterwards.
He also have all the records of any medication Kat has taken.
Dr. Cermonesi at this point is probably the best person to challenge Kat as she built up an ungodly number of defensive measures and and deflecting evasions over the years and that is why Peter is no longer effective in treating Kat and Dr. Cermonesi who has been specializes in treating women who also has been using the same tactics that Kat is using knows how to defeat them.
It seemed like a thousand years had passed since Kiki had been this way. It was the final leg of the journey that had seen the Epione go all the way to Moscow and the White Sea. That had been her intention all along, the adventure. The diplomatic aspect had been a secondary concern. When Nancy Jensen had come aboard in Stettin, she had told Kiki that this trip was being considered a wild success. It was something that Kiki found that completely absurd. She had a lot of time to think about that as she watched the lights of the towns on the Oder pass by as she sat in the saloon, her book forgotten. The others were around the table playing a card game or watching the television, which had the Evening News on.
“Strange that your family has an American minding your public image” Vasily said, interrupting her thoughts. She had agreed to take Svetlana and Vasily aboard in Saint Petersburg, part of the olive branch that was being extended in an effort to try and repair some of the lingering animosity after the Soviet War decades earlier. Having two of the children of one of the worst despots in history as her guests was a part of that.
“Nancy is extremely good at what she does” Kiki replied, “And there are times when she can be objective where few others would be. Like telling my brother that he is full of shit.”
That caused Vasily to raise his eyebrows. Despite the reforms that had been put in place in Russia, few would dare to tell someone in a leadership position such a thing. Since the end of the Soviet War and the death of his father, when he had been thrust into an unlikely leadership position, Vasily had avoided politics. Instead, totally involving himself in Ice Hockey as a Coach of all things despite having little talent in the sport himself. For the Russian Government that must have seemed like a simple way to have him do something harmless out of the public eye. They had not anticipated that the Russian National Side would become dominate in the 60’s earning Olympic Gold in the process. Somehow, Vasily had gotten there from being little more than a mascot a couple of decades earlier.
“I don’t know if the current Czar has anyone like that” Vasily replied.
“That would be a problem” Kiki said, “As a Physician, I find that people being too scared to tell you the truth causes a lot of problems.”
“You really are a Physician, that isn’t just for public consumption, is it?” Vasily asked.
“I work every day in a Teaching Hospital’s Emergency Department” Kiki replied, “People are often surprised when they see that I am the one treating them and the surgical suite aboard this boat isn’t just for show.”
Vasily sat for a long moment in silence, clearly thinking about something troubling.
“I guess that much of what was said about you and your family was incorrect” He finally said, “During the war that is.”
Kiki was aware of how she along with her brothers were demonized by Soviet propaganda. Labeled as Romanov adjacent parasites who would suck blood from the people of Germany their entire lives unless they were stopped. The way that they had lived their lives in the years since had proven it to be completely wrong. They had grown up to be a Lawyer, a Soldier, an Emergency Physician, a Sailor, an Activist, and a soon to be Phycologist. Though Nella and Nan were still students, they were shaping up to be far more than that.
“The funny part is that I knew that I wanted to be a Doctor or a Nurse from the moment I was given a picture book as a small child about the workings of a hospital” Kiki said, “The war was still going at that point.”
“I see” Vasily replied, “It must have been nice to have that sort of certainty. I was ignored and shuffled from school to school, with no real expectations when I was a child.”
“That sounds bleak” Kiki said.
“Being my father’s son was hardly a picnic” Vasily said, “I likely would have drunk myself into an early grave if your Hellcats hadn’t grabbed my father and he had remained in charge. I was well on my way there at the time. Then he was hung, and I was free of him.”
That was something that Kiki had not expected. She had always assumed that Vasily had lived a privileged existence and echoed his father’s beliefs to a degree. How else could he have he inadvertently ended up in charge of the Soviet State? However briefly that had been.
“You aren’t still drinking, are you?” Kiki asked, wondering if she needed to be testing his liver function. He was on her boat and that made him her responsibility.
“I haven’t had a drink in almost thirty years” Vasily said, “On the day that I surrendered Moscow, I was sitting there hung over and feeling like shit when I had Field Marshal von Wolvogle look me in the eye and say that I no longer had anything to prove to anyone, having made an impossible choice in a shitty situation. Then he ordered me not to have another drink.”
“And that stuck?” Kiki asked in disbelief.
“I wouldn’t believe it either” Vasily said, “But that is sort of what happened.”
Kiki had heard stories about how reality tended to warp around the old General and found them increasingly farcical. Many of the stories had built Manfred von Wolvogle up to being almost super-human with retelling. The truth was that Vasily had probably wanted an excuse to quit and was provided a great story.