“Bejabbers!” Startled by the hand unexpectedly placed on his shoulder, Richard recoiled and stumbled into the seat ahead of him. At first, all he took in was the SS uniform. Shocked into thinking the jig was up, an emotional numbness set in while he gathered together the pieces of the scene. Captain Hall and Queenie stood on either side of the officer who peered at him with a Cheshire cat smile. “Bloody hell, Pavel, you scared me half to death.”
Elsa was awakened by the commotion. “What’s going on? Have I missed something? Why have we stopped? Well?! From your expressions, it looks like you’ve seen a ghost. What are you looking at?” She gazed out the window. Her shoulders slumped. “No! This can’t be happening.”
Pavel stepped closer. “Don’t be afraid. There’s an easy explanation.”
Elsa shrank from him.
Richard glanced at the others and was surprised to discover them in whispered conversation. “Hey! Is there something I’m missing?” He glared at them until he had their attention. “Because if there is, I’d like to know what the hell it is.”
“You remind me of my drill sergeant, Antonov Balytsky,” Pavel chuckled, “just before he gave me a dressing down.”
Elsa thrust her chin out. “This is no damn laughing matter, Pavel!”
“No, it isn’t. You’re right, Elsa.” Captain Hall stepped in front of Pavel. “But we expected this to happen.”
“You expected?! I sure didn’t. And I’m damn certain none of my family did. Don’t you understand? Failure for us is fatal.”
“We do understand,” Captain Hall replied.
“Do you?! You’re not a Jew. How could you? You should have apprised me and my family of all of your expectations.”
Pavel sighed. “Perhaps. But hope is everything, don’t you ag...