“What is her name?”

“Greta Neumann.”

“She will do what you tell her?”


“And how would this plan of yours work?”

“We would take the Slovak from the castle,” I said. “Without firing a shot. We would go in after him and take him out and no one would be the wiser.”

“Do you know how well the place is guarded?”

“I just know of the three guards outside. How many others are there?”

“In the daytime,” Haim said, “dozens. At night, considerably fewer. The three which you saw, and one on post outside Kotacek’s cell, and two at the foot of the staircase. If only we could get Kotacek to cooperate, there is one plan we might try. You know how sick he is. Everything in the world is wrong with him. Diabetes, his heart, catalepsy – whatever that is.”

Catalepsy is a form of epilepsy, except the victim doesn’t thrash around during a seizure. He lies like a corpse, and usually wears a little silver tag around his neck begging undertakers not to embalm him by mistake.

“Everything wrong with him,” Haim went on. “So if he could pretend to be sick, and then one of us went into the castle carrying the little black bag of a doctor-”

“I don’t think it would work,” I said.

“No, we have abandoned it.” He shrugged. “If your plan is workable, we ought to hear it. What is it?”

I told them.

“I don’t know,” Zvi said. “It sounds… I don’t know. Do you really think it could be done?”


“And the girl?”

“She is perfect for the part. You will be convinced when you meet her, but for now you may take my word for it. She is ideal.”

“And she would do it?”

“She will cooperate in every sense of the word.”

“She is here in Prague?”

“Yes, at a friend’s house.”

“You can bring her here?”

“She will be here tomorrow night. We can put the plan into operation immediately.”

“Let’s go over it again,” Gershon said. “I would like to hear it one more time.”

We went over it several more times. I wanted to get an idea of the position of our quarters in relation to the castle, so Ari took me upstairs to the attic. He carried a flashlight with a very thin beam. We climbed the stairs in silence, moved to the attic window. From there we had a perfect view of the front of the castle.

“When we planned to take the castle with a direct assault,” he said, “we thought of posting one man here with a rifle. But there are so few of us, that would leave just three to storm the place. It is a good view, is it not?”

It was an excellent view. He handed me a pair of binoculars and indicated Kotacek’s cell, in the left rear tower. From our angle I could see the light in his cell window but nothing more.

“We’d better go now, Evan. We all need sleep. There is an extra bed on the first floor, if you need it.”

“I slept most of the day. I’m not tired.”

“You’ll be leaving, then?”

“I could stand guard, if you’d like. I want to go for the girl, but I can’t get her until morning.”

“We usually stand guard in two-hour shifts.”

“I could take the whole night, as long as there’s something to read.”

“You wouldn’t fall asleep?”

“No. I’m not at all tired.”

We went downstairs, and they discussed it. They decided that they were all very tired and would be delighted if I would stand guard and let them sleep uninterrupted. I was glad of this, not because of any mad passion for guard duty but because I read their decision as a sign of trust. It was vital that they trust me. Otherwise I would have a devil of a time in betraying them.

They all slept in the basement, on mattresses which they had lugged down from various second-floor bedrooms. The house evidently belonged to some important Communist Party functionary who had been sent somewhere as ambassador. I sat in the same chair I’d been tied up in, facing the cellar stairs and reading with the aid of the pencil-beam flashlight. The basement windows had been so well masked off that I couldn’t even tell when dawn broke. My companions awoke one by one, and we had breakfast together, and then I left to collect Greta. It was midmorning by the time I reached Klaus Silber’s bungalow.

He let me in, wreathed in smiles. “So we finally meet, Mr. Tanner. I have so greatly enjoyed your articles and letters. And there is much that I would wish to discuss with you.”

I wanted to talk at length but had no time to spare. Still, I let him persuade me to have a cup of tea and some rolls. We had a good talk. I asked about Greta, and he told me that she was fine. “But nervous, Tanner. A nervous girl.”

“She’s been sick.”


I went upstairs and collected Greta. “You should have told me the man was insane,” she said. “I was afraid you would not come back for me. Such a man to leave me with!”

“He’s a fine old gentleman.”

“He’s out of his mind.”

We returned downstairs after I’d had a look through the two suitcases from the bridal couple’s car. Greta had been right about the bride’s clothes. They were too small for her, and not especially attractive anyway. “You’ll go shopping today,” I said. “I want you to buy the most exciting dress you can find. Cut very low in front, and tight, and provocative.”

“Then you ought to take me to Paris.”

“Can’t you find anything in Prague?”

“I will see. Why? What is this all about?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

I found that I could squeeze into the groom’s clothes, but most of them did not seem worth the bother. I put on fresh socks and underwear but kept my own shirt and pants and sweater and cap. We closed the suitcases and left them in the closet.

As we left, Klaus shook hands warmly with each of us in turn. “Be very careful,” he said. And, smiling, “Don’t fall off!”

We left the house. Greta said, “Do you know what he meant by that? ‘Don’t fall off’?”


“He meant don’t fall off the end of the world.”

“I know.”

“He believes the world is flat. Like a great big pancake, he said, only he said that the pancake was too simple, that it was more complicated but that I probably could not grasp it. Do you know what he was talking about?”


“He thinks the earth is flat. He says he is a member of something, and that you are, too. I forget the name.”

“The Flat Earth Society.”

“Yes. Are you?”


I finally persuaded her to change the subject. I told her I had been to the castle, and that I had figured out a way to rescue Kotacek. “It may be very difficult,” I said. “I met some men who will help us. They are Israelis. Zionists.”

She gasped. “They will kill us!”

“No, they’ll help us.”


“It’s very complicated,” I said. “You’ll have to play a very important role in the proceedings. It may be dangerous.”

“No danger is too great for the glory of the Fatherland.”

We stopped at a café, ordered cups of coffee with cream. I went over the plan with her from beginning to end. Her eyes flashed as she took it all in. Twice she started to giggle.

“It is a wonderful plan, darling.”

“Do you think you can do your part?”

“Yes. I like my part. Tell me. These four boys – what are their names again?”

“Ari and Gershon and Haim and Zvi.”

“Such beautiful names. Like music, do you know? What do they think I am? A Jew?”

“No. A sympathizer.”

“Ah. What are they like? Are they handsome?”

I described them. Her eyes went that gas-flame blue again. “I should like to meet them now,” she said.

“Later. First we’ll have to buy a dress for you, something to fit the part.”

“And then I’ll meet your Stern Gang friends?”


“I can hardly wait.”

Chapter 9

The fence was not electrified. Gershon had determined as much that afternoon by giving a young boy a few copper coins to run up and touch it. The urchin raced to the fence while Gershon stood watching him, waiting to see if the lad would be electrocuted. He touched the fence, turned, waved to us, and darted away. Gershon was not entirely satisfied; he thought it likely that they might turn on the electricity only at night. So before we went over the fence he padded up to it carrying a gray and white alley cat in a sack. He unbagged the cat and tossed it gently at the fence. The cat bounced off, miaowed, looked hatefully at us, and took off hell for leather in the opposite direction.

So much for that. Haim had brought a stepladder from our basement. He set it up alongside the fence. Greta, her pure Nordic beauty resplendent in the sexiest dress available in Prague, kissed each of us in turn. One by one we ascended the ladder, cleared the ominous spikes, and dropped more or less soundlessly to the ground below. When the five of us had made the trip, Greta folded the ladder and carried it off out of sight.

We waited silent in the darkness. I crawled toward the front of the castle to keep an eye on things. After an eternity, I heard the tapping of Greta’s new high heels on the sidewalk. She walked to the entrance at the front gate. She spoke with the lead guard and told him what she wanted. He said something, she said something, she leaned forward, his eyes crawled down the front of her dress, and he spun around and walked back quickly to confer with his two comrades at the castle door. The three of them whispered furiously to one another.

The lead guard returned to Greta. She pressed up against him, kissed him. He looked around vacantly, and Greta took her arm and pointed to where the five of us lay in waiting. He patted her bottom. She giggled appreciatively.

“I won’t be long,” he assured the other guards.

“That’s your problem,” one answered him, and the other laughed.

They approached us, walking quickly and purposefully across the thick carpet of grass. Twice the buffoon stopped to take her in his arms and kiss her. “Hurry,” she panted gloriously. “I can’t wait.”

They reached us. She turned her back to him, and he unhooked her dress. She stepped out of it. “Now take off your clothes, my darling,” she suggested.

He peeled off his uniform in great haste. They embraced, kissed. “Ah, heaven,” the guard said, and Zvi dented his skull with a length of lead pipe. The naked Czech collapsed in Greta’s arms. She drew reluctantly away from him and he slipped gently to the ground.

“You might have let him finish,” she whispered.

“No time,” I whispered back.

She shrugged philosophically, and her bare breasts bobbed in disappointment. Ari stripped off his clothes in the darkness and put on the uniform which the guard had so considerately taken off. It was a good touch, that; it saved us the trouble of undressing an unconscious man, which as every drunkard’s wife will attest, is no mean task. Zvi and I tied up the guard, bound hands and feet, fastened gag in mouth.