Siegie eased away from Gunther. He moved back toward where Mom and I stood. Gunther turned around to face the SS officers. I couldn't see what was on his face or tell what he was thinking. I saw him put his hands at the top of his hips above his pistol belt.
Siegie stopped beside me. He whispered, "I'm going over to the other side of this truck to see if there is any ammunition for those weapons piled up on it."
I nodded and eased backward to reach the running boards. I climbed up on my side of the truck. Mom stepped back behind her car door. She put Luther in the back seat. She acted as if she were sitting down in the driver's seat. I saw her pull the machine gun from under the pillow. She pointed it out of the door.
Siegie reached the other side. His head popped up over the side boards on the truck. He called softly across the truck to me, "I see some uniforms and stuff, and here's a rifle, but it has no ammunition. Do you have some bullets?"
I called softly back to him, "Let me look ... all I can see now are some rifles without bolts and some Army boots."
I looked again in the heap. I pulled out a pistol and said, "Wait! Here are some pistols."
I tossed one across the truck bed to Siegie. He caught it with both hands.
I asked, "Do you see any ammunition? Are you sure you don't see any?"
Just the same, he cocked his pistol and I cocked mine. We both turned to look at Gunther. The first SS officer stopped in front of him. He gave a Hitler salute. He said, "Heil, Gunther." Gunther stood still with his knuckles resting above his pistol belt.
The second and the third stopped in front of him the same way. Both did the same thing the first had, "Heil, Gunther."
The fourth walked up to Gunther. He was smiling. I looked at him as I tried to figure out if he was happy that he had caught us or if he was happy about something else. He didn't seem intimidating. There was something familiar about him. I looked across the truck at Siegie. I asked, "Siegie, doesn't that guy on the right look familiar?"
Siegie looked at him for a few seconds. He said, "I think I saw him In Oberhof."
"Nah. That's not possible."
The fourth SS officer stopped in front of Gunther. He said, "Heil, Kurt."
Siegie said, "Manny, Gunther's smiling."
I looked at Mom. I whispered across the space at her, "Gunther's smiling."
Mom looked from us to Gunther and back again. Her brow furrowed in confusion.
Gunther dropped his hands to his sides. He looked at all of them. He said, "You can take that 'Heil’ business and stick it where it will do the most good."
He stuck out his hand to shake hands with the SS officers. They laughed and shook his hand. They slapped each other on the back and laughed. They called him "Kurt."
Mom eased the machine gun back under the pillow. She got out of the car and stood by the door. Siegie and I tossed our empty pistols back on to the truck bed. We walked back to stand beside Mom. Gunther stood for a few minutes talking with the four. When they left, he saw us standing together by the car. Our mouths hung open.
He came over to us and asked, "Are you alright?"
Mom said, "What's going on, Gunther? They're SS and they didn't try to arrest you. They called you 'Kurt:"
He grinned. He said, "They called me 'Kurt' because Kurt is my name. Gunther is not my name. It's the name on my papers."
He gestured toward the SS officers, "They're friends of mine. They're not SS."
Mom asked, "Not ... SS?"
"No. And neither am I."
"But ... what ...?"
"Give me just a minute, and I'll explain it to you. But first let me meet with these men."
We nodded at him and watched him walk away. Mom took Luther out of the car. She made him hold her hand. She, Luther, Siegie and I walked to the front of the fire truck to watch Gunther, or Kurt, talk to his friends. He gathered with about nineteen or twenty of them who had come out of various buildings in the castle compound. They stood in a circle around him. They appeared to be making plans. They all shook hands and drifted apart. As they left the circle they took their coats off and threw them down.
Siegie said, "Manny, I remember some of those guys from Oberhof. But I ...