Authors: Harold Robbins
Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure
The most scandalous, most riveting novel from America’s master storyteller…
“Harold Robbins is a master!”
“Robbins’ books are packed with action, sustained by a strong narrative drive and are given vitality by his own colorful life.”
The Wall Street Journal
Robbins is one of the “world’s five bestselling authors… each week, an estimated 280,000 people… purchase a Harold Robbins book.”
“Robbins grabs the reader and doesn’t let go…”
Copyright © 2014 by Jann Robbins
Cover art, special contents, and electronic edition © 2014 by RosettaBooks LLC
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
Cover design by Alexia Garaventa
ISBN Mobipocket edition: 9780795341106
Many thanks to the man who wears the hat, Bradley Yonover.
THIS NOVEL IS DEDICATED WITH LOVE TO
WITH GRATITUDE FOR THE FAITH, LOVE AND SUPPORT SHE HAS SO FREELY GIVEN TO ME, BOTH AS A NOVELIST AND AS A HUMAN BEING THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
He was nervous. She could see that in the way he paced around the room, occasionally going to the window and lifting the lace curtain to look out at the rain-swept Geneva street. He turned to look at her. “The Frenchman isn’t here yet,” he said in his harsh Bavarian German.
She did not look up from her knitting. “He will come,” she answered.
He walked back to the sideboard and poured himself a schnapps, swallowing it in one gulp. “It wasn’t like this in Paris. Then he would come running whenever I snapped my fingers.”
“That was three years ago,” she said calmly. “The Germans were winning.”
“We were never winning,” he cried. “We only thought we were. The minute America came into it, we all knew in our hearts it was over.” The faint sound of the doorbell came from downstairs. “He’s here now,” he said.
She rose to her feet, laying the knitting on the table next to her chair. “I’ll bring him right up.”
She went down the staircase to the foyer. He was already in the house, the maid taking his coat. He turned, hearing her footsteps, his small white even teeth showing in a smile when he saw her.
He advanced toward her and took her hand, raising it to his lips. She felt his thick moustache prickling the back of her fingers. “
, Anna,” he said. “You are as beautiful as ever.”
She returned his smile and answered in the same language. “And you are as gallant as ever, Maurice.”
He laughed. “And the little one?”
“Janette is five. You would not know her now, she is so big.”
“And beautiful, like her mother.”
“She will have a beauty all her own,” Anna said.
“Good,” Maurice said. “Then since I cannot have you, I will wait for her.”
Anna laughed. “You might have to wait for a long time.”
He looked at her strangely. “Until then I shall have to content myself with what is available.”
“Wolfgang is waiting in the library,” she said. “Follow me.”
He waited until she had gone up a few steps before following her. And all the way to the top of the stairs he was aware of the sensuous movements of her body delineated by the clinging silk of her dress.
The two men shook hands, Wolfgang clicking his heels, with a nod of his head. Maurice, very French, with a slight bow. They spoke in English, a neutral language that each thought he spoke better than the other, since neither would give the other the advantage of speaking his own language.
“How is Paris?” Wolfgang asked.
“Very American,” Maurice answered. “Chocolate bars, cigarettes, chewing gum. Not the same.”
Wolfgang was silent for a moment. “At least the Russians are not there. Germany is finished.”
Maurice nodded sympathetically without answering.
Anna, who had been watching, turned toward the door. “I’ll get the coffee.”
They waited until the door closed behind her. Wolfgang went to the sideboard. “Schnapps? Cognac?”
Wolfgang poured Courvoisier into a snifter and handed it to him, then took the schnapps for himself. He gestured to a chair and they sat down opposite each other, the small coffee table between them. “You brought the papers?” he asked.
Maurice nodded and opened the small leather briefcase he carried with him. “They’re all here.” He placed the blue paper documents with the official
seal in three stacks on the coffee table. “I think you will find everything in order. All the companies have been placed in Anna’s name, as you requested.”
Wolfgang picked up one of the papers and looked at it. It was the usual legal gibberish which rarely made sense, whatever language it was written in.
Maurice looked at him. “Still sure you want to do it? We can burn the papers and it will be as if it was never done.”
Wolfgang drew a deep breath. “I have no choice,” he said. “There is no way the French will allow me to keep those companies, even though I acquired them legitimately during the occupation. The Jews will come back, screaming that I forced them to sell.”
Maurice nodded in agreement. “Ungrateful bastards. It would have been better if you were not so honest. There were others who not only took the companies but sent them to the camps as well. At least you let them get away with their lives.”
They were silent for a moment.
Maurice looked at him. “What are your plans now?”
“South America,” Wolfgang said. “My wife and children are already there. I can’t stay here much longer. It’s only a matter of time before my name comes up, then they’ll want me back for trial in Germany. And the Swiss will suddenly find me persona non grata.”
“Does Anna already know?”
“I told her. She understands. Besides, she is grateful to me for saving her life and the life of the child. When I found her in Poland, she was already on the way to the camps, her husband, the young count, was dead on the battlefield, the rest of her family gone in the blitz.”
He paused, remembering the day he first saw her, almost five years ago.
It was a small house in the fashionable residential area on the outskirts of Warsaw. Small in comparison to the houses that most of the other high-ranking German officers chose to occupy during their stay, but Wolfgang was another breed. He had no reason to display himself or assert his importance, coming as he did from an old, impeccably aristocratic industrial family. His basic concern was not military or political; it was his job to see that local industry was absorbed into the Reich war industry. The job, here in Warsaw, was mainly a cleanup operation, the preliminary studies and work already done. It would be up to him to make the final decision on the disposal and integration of the various companies and industries. He estimated that it would take him between a month and six weeks to complete his assignment, then back to Berlin to await a new assignment. Only thirty-four, he had already been given the temporary rank of General Major to enable him to deal with his Wehrmacht counterparts on an equal level. His personal secretary, Johann Schwebel, was made a sergeant so that he could accompany him.
It was Schwebel who saw her first. He was standing in the doorway of the small house when the truck pulled up in front and the women began to climb down from it. He stood there, marveling at the efficiency of the S.S. It had been just yesterday that they asked procurement to locate a housekeeper for them, one who spoke German as well as Polish so that there would be no language difficulty in running the house; and now six women were getting out of the truck for him to make a choice. They stood nervously in the yard as the guard with a machine pistol on a sling over his shoulder came up to the doorway.
The guard stopped in front of Schwebel. “I’ve got the women here for you to make your pick,” he said flatly.
“Do you have their papers?” Schwebel asked.
The guard nodded and took them from a pouch. “Here they are.” He noticed Schwebel looking over his shoulder and turned.
A seventh girl was getting out of the truck. There was something different about her. Certainly it wasn’t the clothing. They all wore the same drab gray prison dress. But it was something that she did with it. Maybe it was the way she carried herself. Straight and tall. With an air of indifference, of pride. Her hair, long and chestnut brown, brushed neatly, fell just below her shoulders with not a strand out of place. She glanced around coolly, then stood there next to the truck, waiting. She made no move to join the other women, who had begun to chatter nervously among themselves.
“That’s the princess,” the guard said.
“That’s the name they gave her in the camp. She came there ten days ago and I don’t think she’s spoken a word to any of the other girls in the whole time. She keeps to herself. And you know how Polish girls love to fuck. The minute you take it out they start coming and when you stick it to them they go crazy. This one, zero. After fifteen of us fucked her already and it was the same with every one of them. She laid there without a moment until it was over. Then it was as if nothing had happened. She would wipe her cunt without saying a word and go about her business.”
“Which paper is hers?” Schwebel asked. “I’d like to see her first.”
“The one with the red band on the corner and the A in a circle. She’s already scheduled for Auschwitz next week. We don’t need girls like her around.” The guard laughed coarsely. “My advice is not to bother with her. She pisses ice water.”
Schwebel sat at the small table in the foyer which served as his desk, the files in front of him. He opened the folder with the red band.
Tanya Anna Pojarska b. Kosciusko, 7 Nov. ’18, Warsaw. Widow, husband ded. Count Peter Pojarska, Capt. Polish Army in Jan. 1940. One child, daughter, Janette Marie, b. Paris, France, 10 Sept. ’39. Rel. Catholic. Father, Professor of Modern Languages, Univ. Warsaw, ded. All known family, ded. Educ. B.A. Univ. Warsaw, Mod. Lang. ’37, M.A. Sorbonne, Paris, Mod. Lang. ’39. Fluent Pol. Fre. Eng. Ger. Rus. Ita. Spa. All family assets and properties forfeited to State, 12 Oct. ’39. Guilty treason, subversion. Gestapo file Warsaw—72943/029. Sentenced labor camp #12. Perm. gtd. for daughter to accompany.
Schwebel finished leafing through the other folders. He had already come to the conclusion that she was the only one qualified for the job. The others were ordinary. Despite the fact that they had some knowledge of German, they had very little in the way of educational background to offer. When he looked up, she was standing in front of his desk.
“Sit down, Frau Pojarska,” he said in German.
” She sat down quietly.
He continued in German. “Your duties will consist of running the house and keeping order. You will also be asked to assist in the translation and writing of certain documents. Do you think you’re capable of this?”
“I think so,” she nodded.
“It will be for six weeks only,” he said.
“In these times,” she said, “six weeks can be a lifetime.” She took a deep breath. “Am I permitted to bring my daughter with me?”
“She will not be any trouble,” she said quickly. “She is really a very quiet baby.”
“I can’t make that decision,” he said. “It is up to the general.”
Her eyes met his across the desk. “I will not leave her there,” she said quietly.
He was silent.
“There are still ways I have to show my gratitude,” she said quickly.
He cleared his throat. “I will do what I can. But it will still be the general’s decision.” He rose to his feet. “Wait here.”
She watched him go up the stairs to the general’s room. A moment later he came out on the landing. “Come up here.”
He opened the door for her and she entered before him. The general, who had been standing near the window, looking at her folder, turned to her. Her first thought was one of surprise. He was so young. Maybe thirty-five. Not much older than Peter.
Schwebel’s voice came from behind her. “General Major von Brenner, Frau Pojarska.”
Wolfgang looked at her. He felt a tightness come into his gut. He could sense the woman beneath the drab prison dress. His voice was suddenly hoarse. “Schwebel thinks you can do the job, but there is a complication.”
Her voice was clear. “It does not have to be one.”
He continued to look at her silently.
“I promise,” she said. Her voice suddenly grew strong. “I cannot leave her there to die.”