Laughter echoed off the walls of the Harnack apartment. With various degrees of expertise, everyone had joined in to attempt the schuhplattler. Some ran out of steam early while others with more grit hung on until they too had to step aside to catch their breath. Standing or sitting, those on the sidelines clapped them on. Oohs and aahs encouraged the youth to greater free-style dancing in their attempt to outduel each other and demonstrate their prowess.
A fear so thick you could cut it with a knife blanketed the room in silence. Knocking fell heavily against the apartment door. It was followed by silence. Frozen in place like statues, they waited and listened, barely able to breathe. Their eyes screamed out a shared message they did not want to receive.
Libertas gathered the more senior from the group and ushered them into the second bedroom and closed the door. Mildred filled glasses with schnapps and handed them to the younger ones who remained.
Harro reorganized his disheveled appearance into one more conducive to a Luftwaffe officer in the Third Reich. Buttoning his jacket, he added his hat for the finishing touch. Then he took in a deep breath and crossed the room to the door. He waited. Two hard knocks followed by two soft ones. Still he waited. When it repeated, he opened the door. “What the hell!”
Adam Mikler barged in, pushing his two companions ahead of him. “We need to talk.” He flicked his hand to dismiss his compatriots further into the room.
Libertas marched across the room to join them. “I told you, Adam, to stay in our apartment until I fetched you. Why didn’t you do what you were told? Anyway, how did you know to come here?”
“You need to watch your back. You were easy to follow.”
Harro glared at his wife before turning his attention to Adam. “How did you know the sequence of knocks?”
“I listened from the landing below. And, if you’re worried, I was followed—” He peered at Libertas—“don’t be, I can assure you I wasn’t.”
“Why do I not feel reassured?” Harro watched Libertas wonder off to introduce the newcomers. The bedroom door opened and the elders filtered back into the room.