Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-One
19th September 1973
Of all the insane things that Sjostedt had imagined happening, having the Medical Service sending a helicopter to transport him from Flensburg to Berlin was not high on the list of probabilities. The fact that they had conducted major surgery on him soon after the helicopter had landed on the roof of the University Hospital wasn’t particularly high either. Now, having been cut open and having had his insides rearranged, he was laying in his hospital room with more wires and tubes coming out of him than he had thought possible.
“It just goes to show how important you are Uncle Piers” Nizhoni had said. She was still living with her husband and daughters in Wunsdorf-Zossen so coming here wasn’t too far of a trip. Nizhoni’s daughters wanted to visit him in the hospital and as even with as much as he cared for his grandnieces, their presence would be daunting. Nizhoni being here was also a reminder that her mother, Sjostedt’s sister Nina, had returned to Flensburg after the death of Walter Horst. It was a painful memory for Sjostedt, Horst had been like a brother to him long before he became his brother-in-law. Walter Horst had died relatively young at the age of sixty and that was after they had lost Augustus Lang a decade earlier. Though they had not set out to do so, the boys who had survived the meat grinder of Verdun had gone on to conquer the world. Getting old and dying one by one had come much later.
Had that been the beginning where Coyote told him that he had unfinished business? Sjostedt didn’t know and it hardly mattered because he could hardly move. The most rational theory was that it was his own subconscious, which took the form of Coyote, who felt that way. If so, what was he forgetting about Verdun? It seemed impossible because everything about that Hellscape from the smells to the feeling of rats crawling across him in his sleep was blasted into his memory in such a way that he couldn’t forget if he wanted to…
That was when a woman who seemed impossibly young to be wearing the white lab coat of a Physician, entered the room. That was somewhat offset by her hair having wide curls and pulled back into a messy looking ponytail. She started looking at the chart and the television monitor that showed his heartbeat and blood oxygen. Nizhoni had told him all about it, having apparently questioned the Nurse during the hours that had followed his surgery while they had waited for him to wake up.
“My best friend and little sister both asked me to look in on you” The woman said, she spoke in an aristocratic manner, which was hardly a surprise and she seemed very familiar to Sjostedt though he had never met her before. “I took the liberty in speaking to Doctor Favaloro and he told me you were an excellent patient. He expects that you will make a full recovery, eventually.”
All Sjostedt could do was stare at her and wonder it that was a demented joke. Excellent patient? He had just suffered a heart attack and had little choice in the matter. He supposed that he should be thankful to this Doctor Favaloro, but his earlier melancholy had returned.
“I am of course, Doctor von Preussen” The woman said with a smile.
Then Sjostedt knew who she was, Princess Kristina. That meant that Marie Cecilie of Galicia-Ruthenia and Marcella, Emil Holz’s daughter must have asked her to look in on him.
“You can tell your sister… Emil… and this Doctor Favaloro… That they have my heartfelt gratitude” Sjostedt managed to get out.
“They will be happy to hear that” Kristina said, “I knew that getting my father to convince René to come here from Argentina was a good idea.”
With that, Kristina left the room and Sjostedt wondered exactly that was all about. Argentina?
“See” Nizhoni said, “I told you that you were getting the very best of care.”
Ziska insisted that they try something new today and go out for lunch. It was so that they could also go about doing their studies without the distraction of the younger girls. Sophie had tried to suggest that going to Ziska’s house was a viable option, but she had not been interested. Sophie had no doubt that Petia would have a few choice words about her doing this. The Russian woman had made it clear that any food that wasn’t prepared in a proper kitchen, usually meaning her own, wasn’t worth eating.
“Why are we here?” Sophie asked as they were waiting in line.
“I’ve wanted to try this place since it opened” Ziska replied.
It was an American style fast-food restaurant that promised the sandwiches absurdly called hamburgers, and what were referred to as french-fries served with Coca-Cola. The place smelled of hot grease, which didn’t seem particularly appetizing to Sophie. Certainly not worth waiting in line for. Soon enough, they made it to the front of the line and Sophie ordered a burger with cheese and fries, no tomatoes.
“No tomatoes, but you don’t mind ketchup?” Ziska asked as they carried the plastic trays to an empty table.
“I’ve always hated the feel of raw tomatoes in my mouth” Sophie replied as they sat down.
“Whatever works for you” Ziska said before she removed a copy of the book that was their assigned reading from her satchel bag. A boy started collecting trays off of a different table and throwing the paper that the food came wrapped in into a plastic bin. As he turned to face them Sophie saw that he was Sepp Deisler, and a look of recognition crossed his face.
“I am going to kill you” Sophie said to Ziska who gave her a smirk in reply.