Chapter One Thousand Eight Hundred Twenty-Eight
6th January 1967
After the staggeringly disappointing ending of New Year’s Eve, her and Ben on the floor trying to find her glasses while everyone around them had no idea what was going on. Kiki had decided that she needed to find different company before she lost her mind. Spending a couple days with her youngest sister and the sisters of sorts who had joined her had been nice, but then Charlotte had decided they needed to talk and that had upset the applecart. Presently, Kiki was in the company of someone she knew would listen attentively and not try to offer unwanted help in return.
“So, Poppa is traveling to Vietnam to celebrate the Tet Holiday with the Emperor of that country” Kiki said, “Vicky is accompanying him this time so we will have the house in Jena all to ourselves.”
Rauchbier looked up at Kiki with his ears perked up because she was talking to him, wagging his tail happily. He was wearing his red sweater and had boots on his paws the way he did every winter. It was something that caused everyone they encountered to talk about what a handsome boy he was. Kiki had gone running in the Tiergarten and had taken Rauchbier with her, the cold winter air had been invigorating as she had run through the park. Eventually taking a break, Kiki was sitting on a bench talking to him. Her bodyguards were keeping a respectable distance, the First Foot had gotten wise to her and had shifted their tactics to make it a lot more difficult for her to outpace or otherwise ditch them.
Tomorrow, Kiki was celebrating Orthodox Christmas because the Metropolitan of Berlin had made a point of inviting her. The next day she would be heading back to Anhalt to resume her internship. She had five months until the second State Examination and would be one step closer towards meeting her ultimate goal. Charlotte had asked her what she planned to do once she got her Doctorate and was licensed to practice medicine. And Kiki didn’t have the faintest idea. For decades that singular goal that had consumed everything. Charlotte had suggested that she had a year or so to come up with something and it was rather likely that Benjamin would ask her to marry him around that time. Kiki’s stepmother saying that idea aloud had caused her brain to completely fuzz out.
All the things that she had not thought about because they were all off in the future were approaching with alarming speed. For the last few days Kiki had walked around feeling like she was on the verge of panic because of that. She wished that she could be like Rauchbier, he only existed in the eternal now and seemed a lot happier for it.
Near Michałowice, Poland
After the events in Lwów, where rioting had been put down a week earlier, the Government was taking no chances. A column had been dispatched to Krakow to help the police prevent a recurrence. The Interior Minister had issued a public statement that the Prime Minister had endorsed on New Year’s Eve that was hardly controversial. The gist was that Poland belonged to the Poles and Government policy should reflect that. The result had been days of violence, which no one Bogdan talked to seemed to understand. All that Kapral Bogdan Gajos understood was that he was tired of sitting on a bench seat in the back of a lorry as it slowly made its way south. It seemed like the driver of the lorry knew as much about driving as a dog knew about playing a trumpet, so the men in back had been thrown around. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t freezing cold as well. The canvas cover over the bed of the lorry did nothing to keep them warm.
That was when the lorry slammed on the brakes, throwing everyone into the back of the cab. Bogdan could hear the others cursing at the driver even as they untangled themselves. Looking out the back, he saw the Kapitan running down the column shouting about something before looking at him.
“You lot, out now!” The Kapitan yelled.
For lack of anything better to do, Bogdan got out of the lorry followed by the others. Up the column he could hear the Kapitan yelling at someone up front. Walking up to the front of the column, Bogdan saw that the road had been cut. It wasn’t just torn up either, where the road had been was a ditch a few meters wide and several meters deep that continued in both directions on either side of the road into the forest.
From what the Kapitan was yelling, they were supposed to be doing something about this. Though Bogdan wasn’t sure exactly what besides turning around and going back the way they had come. It was then that he heard several loud cracks and saw several trees drop onto the road behind them. This caused the Kapitan to become completely red-faced as he demanded that the Radio Operator come forward that instant so that he could get reinforcements to kill the dogs who were bedeviling them. It was then that Bogdan noticed that they were between two hills and there was a low overcast. The radio was useless here. Whoever was out there chose this place for a reason.
Then Bogdan had an intrusive thought. The radio was useless for them, but for marking out an Officer and a Radio Operator it was excellent. It was then that he heard what sounded like the buzzing of hornets and the low thuds as the Kapitan was struck by several rifle bullets. Not waiting to see what happened next Bogdan dove for the nearest ditch as the crack of rifle shots filled the air and there was pandemonium throughout the column. He could see that others were attempting to shoot back into the forest. After a few minutes, it slacked off as they realized that they couldn’t see what they were shooting at.
And it was starting to snow.