Chapter 1: Welcome to Berlin
Thursday, July 23rd, 1931 - 7pm
Warm sunshine fell on the front of Berlin’s Hotel Excelsior, highlighting the stucco on the arched facade framed by numerous pillars.
In the main hall, proudly named ‘The Hall of Free Thought’ in large letters above the doorway, Wynonna Earp stomped through the lobby, passing stain-glass windows featuring popes, religious founders as well as Greek and Jewish philosophers, but she didn’t care. She was busy readjusting her black trouser suit that she had spent hours sewing, just like her grandma taught her, which was now torn on the left shoulder seam. Her long, wavy dark hair was tousled, and she had a fiery glint in her dark eyes.
A young man at the entrance, wearing the hotel staff uniform, saw her. His eyes grew wide but he hastily opened the door just in time for Wynonna to storm through, and even managed to wish her a nice day.
She left the hotel, still cursing under her breath turning around she looked up to the window on the fourth floor from where she just come.
She had just exposed a scam artist who tried to take money from his clients with fake séances, and instead of thanking her, that rich bitch and her friends had kicked her out of the room.
She finally turned around and an elegantly dressed elderly man almost ran into her. “Look out where you’re going!” he said in a grumpy voice looking her over with disapproval. She mumbled an apology, her ice blue eyes glued to the street.
“I swear, people here get mad just because they love to get mad.” She grumbled while pulling her jacket straight. Sewing her own clothes, especially trousers, was her way of rebelling, which made her even more furious about that snob tearing her beloved clothes. During the ruse in the hotel room she had even lost her hat, but there was no way she was going back inside.
Holding her head high, Wynonna went to the tram station at Potzdam Square. She would never get used to this city. Even after almost six years of living here some things were still strange to her. Nonetheless, Berlin was the best choice she could have made for herself and her sister. Even if it was just a temporary refuge, not a home.
They were helping the Black Badge Society to unravel supernatural incidences. Most of them were swindlers, but some were real threats that had to be stopped. She wouldn’t have believed it if she hadn’t seen these things with her own eyes. Looking back, maybe she shouldn’t have announced the existence of demons out loudly, repeatedly. It would have spared her time spent in the institution for hysterical women, as well as the merciless rumours back in her small hometown in Canada. When Juan Carlo, the mysterious founder of the Black Badge Society, offered to get the two of them to Germany, she didn’t think twice.
She made a living with her sewing, but since the recession she got less and less commissions. Luckily the pay from the Black Badge Society had kept them above water.
Her sister Waverly fell in love easily with the city and the love seemed to be mutual. She learned the language in no time and quickly adapted the local dialect, which the people here loved to hear. She dragged Wynonna to numerous theatres, of which there were forty-nine in the city. Wynonna had counted them. Not to mention the music halls, operas and cabarets. Lucky for her, Waverly had soon found Nicole for these activities.
The tram was full of people, there was no place to pass through, so the conductor yelled at the new passengers to show their tickets. Wynonna knew the drill by now. She showed her ticket to the nearest passenger who confirmed it to the conductor in the front. Strange people.
About half an hour later she crossed Herrman Street and entered the cemetery of the Jerusalem and New Church, passing numerous graves and signal poles for the new airport in Tempelhof.
In the graveyard stood a small shack. Just above the entrance big letters announced ‘Zauberkönig‘ which translates to ‘King of Magic‘ in English.
Wynonna knocked on the backdoor of the closed magic shop. Arthur Kroner opened the door, “Wynonna, good to see you,” he said with a friendly smile. Arthur was a chubby man in his mid-fifties. He and his wife Charlotte inherited the shop from Charlotte’s father, the great magician Josef Leichtmann. They were also members of the Black Badge Society, so their shop had quickly become the meeting point for them all. In contrast to Wynonna, they didn’t go out on missions.
All members of this secret society knew that supernatural creatures existed and that they could be dangerous. They only called each other by their first names in case anybody overheard the seemingly crazy theories they used to discuss - one of the rules Juan Carlo had laid down as security for them. Also, something about how names are powerful, but Wynonna never fully understood that part.
“Good evening Arthur,” she answered as she entered the cosy room in the back of the shop. It wasn’t luxurious, but more than they had in many other places, with a small fireplace, a couch and a table, surrounded by enough chairs for everyone.
Waverly and Nicole stood close by the fireplace and talked vividly. The fire lit up Nicole’s long red hair as she smiled down at Waverly in adoration, whose cheeks looked red in the light of the fire. Their slim figures almost seemed to be one with the backlighting. They didn’t even realise that Wynonna had entered the room. She was used to that by now and would tease her sister for her behaviour later. Those two could forget everything around them.
Tonight, the society had some important things to discuss. Headquarters had even sent a member from Canada over for that matter. A letter from the society a couple of weeks ago described the theft of a manuscript that contained instructions on how to summon a dangerous demon.
Suddenly the door burst open and a man was dragged into the room. His fine suit was ripped, and his dark skin glistered with sweat and blood. He was heavily bruised and barely conscious. To his right was a man with a prominent moustache, with blue eyes fixed on the injured man, and to his left was a smaller, younger man with tanned skin and curly dark hair. They helped him to the nearest chair. All eyes were set on the trio. “At least he can sit on his own,” the smaller man commented with a light British accent, what do you think, Doc?” Doc, the man with the moustache, shrugged and inspected his condition.
“How on earth did you manage to get into a street fight? I truly don’t know who of them hit you the hardest. You are lucky Jeremy and I got you out of there before they killed you,” Doc grumbled to his patient. “Jeremy, please go to Rosita’s and get some drugs for his pain and some bandages.” Jeremy nodded and with one short look around the room he quickly left.
As soon as Wynonna unfroze, she went to the chair and kneeled down to have a better look at the injured man. Without the swelling bruises on his face he was handsome, the tornup shirt gave her a glimpse of defined muscles “Who is he?” she asked.
The man on the chair managed to crack a smile despite the pain. “I’m Xavier Dolls. Please call me Dolls, everyone does. The Black Badge Society sent me with information, but I clearly chose the wrong road to get here.” Dolls smiled at her and Wynonna couldn't help but smile back.
“He'll be fine” Doc said, laying a hand on her arm in a familiar gesture. Wynonna looked at the mustached man, trying to find the hidden message in his eyes.
Waverly interrupted the tense moment, “It’s nice to meet you, Dolls. We prepared the couch for you, that should be more comfortable than the chair.”
With that said she helped lift Dolls from the chair and onto the couch, which was now covered with a sheet. Waverly might be small, but she was surprisingly strong. Dolls grunted in pain as they lifted him onto the sofa.
Nicole had left the room and came back with Charlotte Kroner, who was almost 50 years old, with a friendly round face and her dark hair pinned up. They carried a bucket of fresh water and some clean towels to wash the wounds of their newest guest.
Soon after Jeremy reentered the room behind a small woman with long, curly, dark hair and slightly tanned skin, who carried a basket full of bandages and some flasks. “What happened to him?” she asked without a greeting. Rosita wasn’t a member of the society, but she helped them out occasionally.
Doc answered without looking up, “He was on his way to meet Jeremy and me. When he didn’t show, we got worried and then we heard the chanting and fighting. We got there as fast as possible, but he was already in the middle of a street fight between the KPD, the SA and the police. The police used batons, so I just hope he has no internal bleeding. Broken ribs for sure, and we need to clean this nasty cut on his leg. The other injuries seem to be just bruises, nothing too serious.”
Dolls let his head fall back in defeat. “The way you talk, it seems these street fights are nothing out of the ordinary.” He shook his head, “These gangs just showed up, I didn’t fully understand what they were shouting, and before I knew what happened they started fighting and both chose me as the target. When the police arrived, they thought I was part of the gangs, and did not ask questions before they struck.” He looked up at Jeremy and back to Doc, “I think I owe the two of you my life.”
Jeremy answered “Just be more careful when you’re able to walk on your own again, will you?”
Dolls grimaced, “I’ll try, but I still don’t understand. What are the KPD and the SA? Does this happen often?”
Jeremy looked a little guilty and explained, while Rosita and Doc bandaged Dolls’ wounds. “Well, maybe we should have warned you before, but it’s so common. A fight like this happens every week. The KPD is the Communists Party, the SA is the paramilitary wing of the NSDAP, the National Socialist Party. Sometimes the workers’ movement or the red front fighters league are involved in these fights as well, and the police are not squeamish, especially with the communists.”
Wynonna watched silently as Doc and Rosita patched up Dolls. Berlin could be dangerous these days. Since the depression people have gotten increasingly angrier and more aggressive.
Just one hour later Xavier Dolls looked quite impressive as he stood in front of the small group, despite his injuries. “I’m here because we got information that a group is preparing to summon the demon Marzaniok into this world. The scrolls that describe the ritual were stolen from the society’s archives three weeks ago. The trail leads to Berlin, but from there we lost track. That demon is extremely dangerous and has the ability to change reality as we know it.” He looked everyone in the eye for a moment, “The notes in the society’s archives state that they’ll need five magic items to connect to the demons’ realm, as well as a vessel to summon the demon into, and a special star constellation. It’s powerful magic to call a mighty demon from another realm into this world without a prior bond. That is way too much power for anyone to use. We have to stop this!” He looked around again. “Has any of you found any clues since our last correspondence?”
Jeremy eagerly stood up and began to speak. He was nervously fumbling with his pen. “Last night I overheard three people at a bar. I knew they were up to something when I saw them entering and I sat close to them, without attracting their attention.” He smiled brightly and seemed proud of his accomplishment. “I overheard them saying that this week, during the new moon, they needed to act. That they have the plans and the tools to accomplish their goal. So tomorrow night they’ll meet at the opera, but they didn’t say which of the three operas in the city.” Once again he fumbled nervously with the pen as he looked at everyone in the room “I know, there is a slim chance that these are even the people we’re looking for. I’ve spent every evening since we got your message in numerous locations with connections to mystics and spiritually inclined folk, but have obtained no helpful information. On the other hand, I can tell you a lot about my future, the star’s influence on my life and how I will meet my true love now.” He grinned almost apologetically.
“Thank you, Jeremy,” Dolls said softly, “We need to follow every lead at the moment, and there are enough people here to split up into all three locations if necessary. Anything else?” Jeremy shook his head and sat down.
Wynonna looked to her sister who nodded and shared a brief look with Nicole, who was sitting next to her. They were in agreement. Nicole gently pushed Waverly’s lower back to help her stand up. Waverly smiled at the gesture and took Jeremy’s place in front of the small group. “As you all know, I work as a telephone operator. Since we learned about the demon, I started looking out for dubious calls that could have a connection to the summoning.”
She took a deep breath and opened her notebook. “About a week ago I overheard a suspicious call about a clearly secret meeting in Kronstadt Pub, a Russian bar in Nürnberg Street, between Stephan Schulz, a politician of the national conservative party DNVP, and someone I couldn’t identify. The call came from the bar. The meeting will take place next week Friday at 8pm. That’s all I have for now.”
She looked up to Dolls, who listened intently. “Thank you, Waverly.” He wrote something into his notebook and seemed surprised when Nicole stood up.
“I looked through newspapers and found a couple of encoded messages in them. The most promising to our case is one by the ‘Sons of the Sun’ as they sign it. They scheduled a meeting next Sunday at an art exhibition of Paul Cassirer in Viktoria Street.”
“How did you know where to look, Nicole? There are over forty newspapers published in this town every day!” Jeremy asked.
Nicole smiled, “I work as a type setter and therefore have been observing what gets printed for a couple of years now. You’d be surprised how many secret codes are embedded in them. By now I’ve learned what to look for and where to search for it.” She smiled and sat back down.
Next Arthur cleared his throat. “I looked in our books. During the last two months nobody purchased any items you would use for a summoning ritual.”
Wynonna looked at Dolls and, like everyone else in the room, waited for his estimation.
It had been a long day and Dolls clearly needed to rest soon, but he managed to stand up again and summarised, “Thank you all for your research. We have three suspects and can't rule out any of them at this point. Let’s determine how to observe all three operas tomorrow. Where can we meet tomorrow afternoon to work out a course of action?” He quickly sat down again.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur said, “we need this space for a customer’s meeting tomorrow.”
After a short pause, Waverly said, “The Hirschfeld Museum and Institute is close to all the operas, and we won’t draw too much attention there.” They all agreed and soon left the magic shop.
Wynonna made sure that Dolls got back to his rented room in one piece to get some rest, before she headed back to the apartment she shared with her sister and Nicole.
Chapter 2: Three Operas
Following the first lead. Stake-outs are allways fun, right?
Have a wonderful day everyone! Today is my birthday and I love to share more of this story with you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Friday, July 24th 1931
The next morning, while eating breakfast in the apartment’s kitchen, Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole discussed the events of last night. With their earnings combined they could afford an apartment with a kitchen, personal rooms, a bathroom and a spare room to use for Wynonna’s sewing and their Black Badge research files.
“I feel sorry for Dolls. It’s horrible that he had to run into this street riot. Could we have done anything to prevent this?” Nicole asked.
Wynonna took a deep breath. “I don’t know. I can’t think of anything. We didn’t know what time he was arriving, and those fights are just unpredictable. I just hope he recovers soon.” She took a sip of her coffee. “Until then, we better prepare for the surveillance, because that man is very determined about his mission and I wouldn’t want such a strong, handsome man to be mad at me.”
She grinned, but Waverly rolled her eyes in response. “Really, sis? What about Doc?”
Wynonna shrugged, “his family doesn’t approve of me anyway.”
After breakfast, Waverly stood up and carefully laid a map of Berlin on the table. She marked the three opera houses with onions. “We have to observe these three locations. The State Opera in Charlottenburg and two operas at Unter den Linden. Those are about 5 kilometres apart, with the Tiergarten in between. I doubt anyone can switch locations fast enough if anything happens. That means we'll have to split into two groups.”
Wynonna nodded. “At every Opera we must position people strategically to have everything in sight. No easy task with such a small number of people.” She spread five grains on the map.
The Black Badge Society had never been big in numbers and Berlin was a newly founded branch created only to observe a suspicious increase of supernatural activity.
A couple of hours later they sat in a parlour built in the 18th century. The parlour belonged to the famous Hirschfeld museum. The room was mostly populated by elderly ladies and amicable young men. It was located at the north end of the Tiergarten park and lay in the middle between the three operas they had to survey later this evening.
Dolls still had to recover, which left only five of them to watch out tonight. Jeremy was the last to arrive, while Doc sipped on his third coffee. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t leave work earlier,” Jeremy said and took a seat next to Doc. He worked as a researcher at the Emperor Willhem Institute of Chemistry and you just can’t leave when Otto Hahn, the head of the institute, schedules you for a meeting.
“Don’t worry,” Doc answered, “It’s a nice location. I’ve never been here before, but I adore the decor. As apparently do many ladies.”
He looked comfortable, which made Jeremy chuckle nervously. He leaned closer to Doc and said, “You do know, that these are not really women, right?”
Doc looked irritated and Wynonna tried to stifle her laughter.
“The Hirschfeld museum of sexuality belongs to the 1918 founded Hirschfeld Institute that examines sexuality in different forms. So this quickly became a meeting point for men with certain,” Jeremy hesitated “shared interests.” He spoke in a low voice while he closely watched Doc’s reaction.
“Oh,” was all he said at first, “I didn’t know that,” as he looked around curiously. “Impressive what they can do with make-up and clothes.”
“We thought it’s a good meeting point,” Nicole explained, “Nobody asks too many questions around here.”
Wynonna punched Doc’s arm, “It’s impolite to stare. Now let’s talk about tonight. We have to split up in two teams. Metropol Theatre and the Prussian State Opera are close enough to act as backup, but the Municipal Opera is in Charlottenburg.”
“Jeremy and I will look out at the Municipal Opera then. The three of you can support each other at Unter den Linden,” Doc offered.
“Good,” Wynonna answered, “We will meet again tomorrow evening at the Zauberkönig. Who else wants something to drink?”
Later that night, they split up. It’s unexpectedly tough to sit around at one place for a long time and still look inconspicuous, Wynonna thought while she sat on a bank across the street of the Metropolitan Theatre. She wished she had a newspaper with two holes in it to look through. The electric lantern would even emit enough light to read. Actually, it was just plain boring. Wynonna sat there for hours and tried to stay alert, but nothing had happened so far. She sought out eye contact with Nicole, who stood on the other side of the street. She shook her head. Nothing.
It was 3am when Doc saw two men sneak towards the opera building. The opera was an impressive, huge building in the architectural style of historicism, with pillars that lined the main entrance. The figures vanished around the back of the opera. Slowly, Doc left the corner where he’d been hiding for the last couple of hours to follow them. Just as he looked around a corner, he saw one of them holding a hand lantern, while the other tried to free parts of the drain pipe with a crowbar.
Surprised and angry Doc took two steps forward and yelled, “What are you doing?” The men jumped backwards with shock. The lantern fell on the ground while the man who had held it sprinted away as fast as he could. The one still holding the crowbar stared at Doc in confusion. As Doc took another step towards them, the guy also turned around and ran.
Doc sprinted after the fleeing thief. The man looked back, estimating how much lead he had over his pursuer, when Jeremy jumped in his way. They collided and rolled over the asphalt as Doc arrived and pinned the thief down with all his weight. “What were you doing?” he asked angrily.
“Get off me,” the man on the ground exclaimed. He tried to free himself from Doc’s grip, but he was thin and not very strong. He realised that he didn’t stand a chance and pleaded instead, “Come on, it’s just some copper drain pipe. They’ll replace it in no time and my family is starving. I just got back on my feet after the fucking inflation only to lose my job again. Damn black Friday! All I wanted is the rain gutter from the opera where the elite,” he spit the word more than he said it, “enjoys their Saturday evenings. I don’t want to be in the poor house again!” He squirmed and kicked as he spoke, but Doc’s grip was strong.
“Then why don’t you use your energy to look for an honest job?” Doc growled.
“Why the new moon?” Jeremy interrupted, after he had gotten back to his feet, after all they weren’t chasing thieves. “What’s so important about it?”
The man on the ground stopped moving and looked irritated at Jeremy. “It’s darker than usual. Even with the modern electric lights in the city, it makes a difference. In some places.” He even had smeared dirt on his face in order to darken it to be less visible at night, Jeremy just realised. “What a flop!”
“What shall we do with you now?” Doc asked the man on the ground, who started squirming again. “Maybe I should drag you to the police.
“It’s not worth the trouble,” Jeremy stated, “You know it doesn’t look good. The wealthy fund poor houses as a hobby because so many people are still struggling since the recession of ‘29. Just let him go.”
Doc didn’t look happy, but reluctantly he let go of the man, who didn’t hesitate to run until the night absorbed his figure. Absently Jeremy rubbed his left arm. To Doc’s questioning look he answered, “That staff I got hit with yesterday wasn’t made of rubber. It still hurts.”
Doc shook his head, “You’re tougher than you look. Let’s call it a night.” They walked home in silence, both lost in their own thoughts.
The same evening at the apartment in the worker district Neukölln, Wynonna sat in her room sewing while Waverly and Nicole sat at the kitchen table cutting some onions, Good-King-Henry and peeling potatoes for dinner.
“I set an article yesterday about the female police looking for officers.” Nicole mentioned nonchalantly.
Waverly sensed there was more to that statement than informing her about Nicole’s workday. “Really?” She asked waiting for Nicole to go on.
After a moment of silence Nicole went on, “did you know they investigate cases involving children and sexual assaults? Also, cases that involve young women up to the age of 21. The criticism that some cases need a more empathetic approach has finally paid off.”
“Was this all part of the article?” Waverly asked patiently softly stroking Nicole’s arm.
“No,” Nicole looked guilty, “I visited Inspector Nedley, you remember him? He helped me when I was a kid and my parents were too high on cocaine to care for me. He also gave me my first job doing secretary work for the police department.”
“I remember him but wasn’t his name Nedler?” Waverly asked now fully facing Nicole.
“Yes, it is, but everyone calls him Nedley. He promised to one day share the story behind it.” She shrugged.
“Why didn’t you stay at the department in the first place? You liked the job, didn’t you?” Waverly asked further.
“Well, it was always a day job, then you have to apply again every day against two dozen other women to get hired. It’s not an income I couldn’t rely on without a husband who supports me, you know,” she winked, “as a typesetter I knew I have a job every day and they prefer to hire women, because we make less mistakes.” She grinned at that.
Waverly quizzically looked at her, “but now, you want to become a police officer?”
“I didn’t think it was possible. You know I grew up among my parent’s artist friends in pubs and cabarets of questionable reputation, with aunts and uncles whose love was forbidden, but I’d love to help people, especially those most vulnerable.” Nicole confessed, “but Inspector Nedley said I stand a chance and that he would help me.”
Waverly gave her a kiss on her cheek “I think that’s wonderful. Tell me if I can support you somehow.”
Nicole’s smile grew wide “I will.”
Saturday, July 25th, 1931
The next evening, they met again in the magic shop. Even Dolls was there to ask what they had found. “Nothing,” Wynonna said with a discouraged face, “How about you?”
Jeremy let his shoulders sink. “We surprised some copper thieves, that’s all. Nothing supernatural and clearly not the demon summoning wizards we were looking out for. I misread their intentions.”
Waverly patted his back, “No worries. You couldn’t read their minds. It was a good lead though,” she said.
“We prevented them from stealing the rain drain from that beautiful building. That’s not nothing,” Doc added. He still seemed unhappy that he had let the man get away with it.
Dolls listened in silence and nodded. “Well, nobody said this would be easy. Next we will go to the tea house where Arthur Scholz is meant to meet someone secretly. We should follow him too, in case the venue changed.” Dolls seemed eager to do something. The rest of the group didn’t seem as happy for more hours of waiting to see if anything would happen.
The selection of veggies was a little different back then. Good-King-Henry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blitum_bonus-henricus
Chapter 3: Russian affairs
This week we'll follow up on the suspicious call of a politician and someone in a Russian bar. What is it about?
Again thanks to Michele for fixing my mistakes.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Friday, July 31st, 1931
It was pouring rain when Jeremy parked his car, a Ford Model A, close to Mr. Schulz’s house but not in front of it. Nicole sat on the passenger seat, eyes locked on the entrance. “Is it safe to leave your car here? In case he doesn’t drive,” she asked, glad to sit inside the car where it was dry. She admired the car every time she rode with Jeremy. He had even taken his friends to the international motor show the year before.
“Sure, in case he changes the meeting point. What do you think he’s up to? Maybe he is seeking supernatural help to win an election,” Jeremy speculated as he ate some nuts. He had prepared for a long wait and offered Nicole some as well.
“No, thank you,” Nicole said, as she watched the door intently. “I don’t know. Maybe he wants this political chaos in the parliament to end. Only a miracle could achieve that.” She cracked a smile.
“You mean he’d walk into parliament and make all 15 parties work together?” Jeremy retorted, “stop governing solely by emergency decrees?”
“Give millions of laid off workers their jobs back, end the still increasing poverty, and stop France from occupying the Ruhr area again!” Nicole added with enthusiasm.
“Why just in Germany?” Jeremy asked. “Just end the Great Depression worldwide. End poverty, stop the attack on welfare, give independence to India.” He grinned, satisfied with his picture.
“Wait, how does independence for India fit into that?” Nicole asked, but they didn’t have time to speculate further. The front door opened, and a sly, tall man appeared with a briefcase in his hand. He folded the collar of his coat up and quickly ran to a nearby parked car. The rain poured off his hat as he entered the car, driving off.
Jeremy and Nicole followed him for some distance, but there were other cars on the streets that disguised their chase. Most of the cars were black, and as Henry Ford had once said, “You may have our cars in every colour as long as it’s black.”
They almost lost Mr. Schulz's track when he took an unexpected left turn, but Jeremy kept his cool blindly turning onto a parallel street, hoping to catch up.
Kronstadt Pub, Nürnberg Street
In the meantime, Dolls, Wynonna, Doc and Waverly sat at different tables in the bar and observed people going in and out. Wynonna had insisted on staying with Dolls, who still shouldn’t have be moving too much. Waverly's language skills would be helpful in the Russian pub. Many of the guests were Russian descendants who had come to Berlin after the great war and lived in this neighbourhood.
At about 6pm Wynonna saw a chunky man in his fifties, with a briefcase in his hand and a white scarf hanging loosely around his neck, coming into the tea house. The man hung his coat and hat on a rack and underneath he wore an indigo suit. He was clean-shaven, his hair dark and full. Many of the guests greeted him as he walked past to a table in a corner of the pub. The table was strategically placed - just far away enough from everyone else that it was impossible to overhear a conversation when the place was well attended. He lit a cigar and ordered a vodka while he set his view on the entrance.
Half an hour later Stephan Schulz entered the pub; his wet overcoat clinging to his slim figure. He hung the mantle and bowler at the entrance, wiping his thin moustache, before he looked around. His eyes found the chunky gentleman in the corner as he went over to him. The man stood up and greeted him with a handshake and a tiny bow of his head that Mr. Schulz returned.
Nicole and Jeremy entered ten minutes later and joined Waverly at her table.
The men sat down and talked too quietly to be overheard in the crowded bar. Dolls stood up and went towards the washrooms. He overacted his injury and walked slowly, passing close to the table where the two gentlemen were talking secretly.
Wynonna quickly understood a gaze from Dolls and followed a couple of minutes later, slowly passing the table. She got a short glance at a photo that the unknown guy was showing Mr. Schulz. Everyone took turns to stand up and walk around, each one passing by the table of the politician and the businessman to eavesdrop on parts of their conversation.
One by one they gathered at Waverly’s table to exchange information. Wynonna and Doc made a point to greet everyone over enthusiastically, clinking glasses and toasting loudly until Dolls forced them to tone the show down to draw less attention.
“The other man is Alexander Ulanow. He is a well-respected businessman, who earns his money with imports mostly from Russia,” Doc explained in between toasts.
“You mean the extreme clean-shaven man without an Adam's apple?” Waverly said with a laugh. Dolls almost chocked on his beer “What? Are you sure?” He looked at Doc, who was left speechless.
“Yes,” Waverly, Jeremy and Nicole answered in unison. Jeremy explained “Her disguise is amazing, but you can see through it when you know what to look for. Most people just don't pay that much attention. They see what they want to see.”
Wynonna took a deep sip from her beer to disguise her grin and said, “I saw a photo of a vase that Mr. Ulanow showed Mr. Schulz. Did anybody hear what that was about?”
“I’ll go get some more beer,” Dolls exclaimed walking to the bar again, slowly passing the conversation in the corner. “You’re right, Waverly. Cheers!” he said when he returned to their table.
“They were talking about police presence in this neighbourhood when I walked by, but it sounded like a more general topic,” Nicole said.
“They talked about custom fees earlier,” Jeremy said, and Nicole confirmed, “I think Mr. Ulanow wants Mr. Schmidt to help get this vase Wynonna saw to get through customs.”
Wynonna stood up and walked to the bathroom. When she came back, she saw that Mr. Schulz had stood up and grabbed a briefcase, but not his own. The briefcases stood next to each other and the table hid them from most angles, but Wynonna had made sure to recognise the similar looking items when they first sat down. It took some willpower to walk back to their table without rushing.
“They just switched the briefcases. I knew it!” she whispered with enthusiasm without sitting down. Behind her Stephan Schulz put on his coat and hat and left the bar.
“Should we follow him?” Jeremy asked, but Dolls shook his head and looked at Wynonna, who still leaned on their table with both hands.
“We gonna ask this gentleman some questions. Come with me Wynonna, I look intimidating, you ask the questions.” He grinned at her. Wynonna clapped her hands once and grinned back. This time they walked directly to the table. Wynonna took the seat opposite of the businessman, while Dolls took a chair from a neighbouring table to sit down. His hands crossed over his chest.
“Good evening Mr. Ulanow,” she said emphasising the title. She leaned closer, both arms resting on the table.
“Excuse me, do I know you?” Ulanow said with a smoky voice, Russian accent and an annoyed intonation. He sat back in his chair as if he wanted to get some distance from these unexpected guests.
“You don’t know us, but we know that you just made an illegal deal with the gentleman who just left, and that you’re not as male as you try to appear. So why don’t you just tell us what this is about, before we tell anybody else about it?” Wynonna said in a low but threatening tone.
Ulanow’s eyes widened in fear, just for a moment before he regained his composure. “We talked about some art that I want to import. Why would that bother fine people like you?”
Wynonna grinned like a jackal. “The vase, we know. Tell us why we shouldn’t go and talk to customs? Also, a woman leading a business sure does not sit well with many customers. What do you think?”
With a sudden movement the businessman leaned in. His face only centimetres away from Wynonna's and hissed, “Shut your mouth! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Wynonna didn’t flinch, she just grinned and the man sighed in defeat. “I built all of this up to keep my family safe. To keep this community safe. I make transactions and keep contacts. Legal imports and I procure things that people can’t get otherwise. In exchange, nobody claims an interest in the Russian immigrants and this neighbourhood,” she said in a slightly higher voice than before, “I could not do this as a woman, but Alexander Ulanow is a respected man and we all agreed that nobody asks too many questions about him. Do you understand what you’d destroy if you told people my secret?” She looked Wynonna straight in the eye while she spoke, and Wynonna understood the message only too well. They could reveal the secret, but she would pay with her life for the attempt.
“Look,” Wynonna said, “We don’t want to hurt your community, just tell me why this vase is so special and we’ll leave. Your secret is safe with us.” She took a deep breath and added, “We are trying to stop a crime that could hurt many people in this city. Our leads so far are this vase or Paul Cassirer’s art gallery.”
The businessman's face softened a little. “Fine. The vase is an old antique from Russia. The seller claims it’s centuries old and of course priceless. Personally, I think, it’s hideous, but the client is king, so I don’t care.” She shrugged “Mr. Cassirer opens a new exhibition on Sunday. I’ll get you two invitations to the event, so nobody will stop you from investigating. But your friend here is quite,” she looked him over, “eye-catching.” She said derogatorily. Dolls didn’t move but silently followed the conversation without changing his expression.
“He’s irreplaceable,” Wynonna answered. She didn’t like the way her counterpart talked about Dolls “I’m Wynonna and this is Dolls.” She tried to change the tone of their exchange. This woman had impressed Wynonna.
“You may call me Mr. Ulanow,” the disguised woman said in a low, stern voice. Leaning back in her chair, “You can come here on Saturday and get your invitations from the owner, Mr. Koshin. He is the man with the pointed beard and glasses behind the bar. I’ll leave the names blank, just in case you change your mind. Now, please excuse me. I have some business to attend to.” She emptied her glass in one go, took the briefcase and stood up. “I’m sure we’ll meet again,” she said and left the pub.
“An impressive person,” Wynonna said when they sat back at the table with their friends. She summed up their talk and took a sip of her beer.
“Maybe the invitations will help us on Sunday,” Jeremy said, but he didn’t look convinced.
“You can’t give up so easily,” Dolls said. “It’s not easy to find a lead in a city like Berlin. It’s a needle in a haystack. We’ll need to remain patient.
“Dolls is right,” Nicole said, “but tonight we can celebrate his quick recovery. Who wants more beer?” All hands went up. Nicole stood up and ordered a new round of beer for the table. Together they would find the scrolls for sure, but tonight they had to teach Dolls to look every person in the eye that he clinked his glass with.
It's hard finding a lead in a big city with so much going on. I hope you like exploring it with me.
You can find a historic map of the city here: https://tools.wmflabs.org/historicmaps/berlin/
After the Russian Revolution in the 1920 Berlin was a temporary home for more than 400.000 russian immigrants. They shaped the culture in the city, opened businesses, publishing houses and newspapers and many russian artists lived and worked there.
Chapter 4: City of Art
An ecrypted text from a newspaper leads them to an art gallery auction.
As always thanks to Michele for beta-reading.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturday, August 1st , 1931
Once again, they met in the back room of the ‘Zauberkönig’.
They heard voices before they entered the room. One voice belonged to Jacob Kroner, Arthur and Charlotte's 17-year-old nephew. He raised his voice, “Those friends of yours hate Jews! Why can’t you see that? They hate me!”
Another boy, around 16 years old, stood close to Jakob and answered, his hands laying on Jacobs shoulders, “They don’t hate you. They’re talking about these rich people who throw expensive parties while the men on the street have lost their jobs and can hardly survive after the inflation destroyed all their life savings. Those rich Jews that undermine our politics and manipulate it to their will; that’s not you!”
Jacob shook his head in disbelief, “They treat me as if I’m not even German! How can’t you see this? How could you become a member of the NSDAP Youth, Paul? How could you?”
Paul took a step back as if Jacob had slapped him, but then his face hardened. “You’re just biased. If you gave them a chance, you’d realise that they’re nice. Sure, they’re a little rough sometimes, but those are just words, you can’t take everything they say seriously. Come on.” He stepped closer to Jakob and spoke softer, “They helped us when my family had a hard time. They were there for me and even got us medicine and extra food! Imagine that! We desperately needed it and they made it happen. You are my best friend, Jacob, but they’re my friends, too. I just want you all to get along. Is that too much to ask?”
Jakob visibly deflated, “Fine, I’ll try, but I still don’t trust them.” In a placated voice he added, “Let’s go to the bar and you tell me everything about this beautiful girl you can’t stop talking about.” He put his arm around Paul’s shoulder, pulling him to the exit. Paul smiled brightly. The boys greeted the visitors as they left.
“We don’t trust his new friends, either,” Charlotte Kroner said after her nephew and friend were gone. “They’re hateful people.”
The group sat down at the table. Wynonna placed two DIN A54 papers with a golden border and fine letters that stated:
Invitation to Cassirer Art Gallery Auction
Sunday, 2nd of August 1931 at 6pm
Viktoria Street 35, Berlin
An auction about the triumvirate of German Impressionism
The artists Max Liebermann and Max Slevogt will personally attend
A line in the middle was left empty to write the guest’s name on it.
“Who will be going? Also, what’s impressionism?” Wynonna asked.
Doc cleared his throat and sat taller in his chair, a proud smile on his face. “Well, Impressionism is a relatively new art movement. Painters started to create their works outdoors to capture short-lived impressions. Hence the name, and that’s why they put emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities. It’s also characterised by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, an open composition, ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.” It sounded like a quote from a textbook*.
Dolls grimaced and rubbed his temples. “I didn't understand half of what you just said, Doc. Maybe you should just go. A high society art auction is not my preferred scene.”
Doc straightened his posture and looked to Wynonna. “I'd love to attend the auction with a beautiful lady by my side.” He held his arm out for Wynonna to grab.
She hesitated only for a moment, then a smile spread on her face and she said in a fake lady-like voice, “What a charming invitation from such a gentleman. I'd love to join you.” She affectionately put her hand on his arm, leaning towards him. Dolls’ eyes followed her movements.
“We don’t know much about the intentions behind the message,” Nicole had entered the room silently after them, with some newspaper cut-outs and a notebook, “The decrypted text reads: ‘Sons of the Sun, next art auction at Cassirer, take A3947’.” She gave her notebook to Wynonna. “I also wrote down some information about the gallery and its owners for you. The founder, Mr. Cassirer, took his own life five years ago. Now the gallery and publishing house belong to Walter Feilchenfeldt and Grete Ring, who bought it from his daughter. Grete Ring is related to the artist Max Liebermann, who the gallery represents.”
Wynonna took the notebook. “We’ll see what we can find. I’ll have to sew an appropriate dress for the occasion,” she changed her posture, “to blend in with the rich art lovers.”
They laughed at her depiction of an upper-class lady.
Sunday, August 2nd , 1931, 4pm
Wynonna and Doc stood at the entrance of the Art Gallery, Doc in a well-fitting tuxedo and Wynonna wore a fine, formfitting gown she had just finished last night. Actually, she had made some adjustments to an existing dress, but the men wouldn’t question it anyway and she enjoyed the thought of her superpower being able to sew a stunning dress in just one night. It was black at the hem, softly flowing around her legs. A belt out of the same fabric accented her waist, above that the front was full of embroidered, golden patterns, ending in narrow straps with a deep V-cut at the back.
They showed the invitations to a young man in formal attire at the entrance. “Welcome to Cassirer's Art Gallery,” he said. “The auction will start in about an hour in the upper hall. Until then you can examine the paintings in the exhibition rooms on the first and ground floor.”
Thanking him they entered the lobby.
While they roamed the rooms of the gallery, they looked for anything they could link to the information Nicole had encrypted from the newspaper.
When they entered the roof-lit hall on the second floor, Wynonna tugged on Doc's arm and dragged him towards a painting of flowers in a blue bucket. “Isn’t this our number?” she asked in a low voice and pointed to a small sign next to the painting.
“I think it is indeed,” he answered softly in her ear. “This is the number under which this painting will be auctioned off. But what does a flower painting have to do with a summoning ritual?” He raised his eyebrows looking at Wynonna. Maybe this was another false lead and the Sons of the Sun were just enthusiastic about nature paintings.
A man with short ash blond hair and broad shoulders in a badly fitting suit approached them. “I wouldn’t bid on this one. It’s not one of Slevogt's masterpieces. On the contrary, there are much better artwork around, trust me.” He sounded friendly and casual, but waited until they thanked him and moved on, skipping a couple of the exhibits to get some distance from this stranger.
“That guy’s intimidating. Have you ever seen him before?” Wynonna asked Doc. “Or do you know anything about the artist? Slevogt?”
“He is indeed,” Doc replied as he looked back. “That poorly dressed man is showing no interest in any other painting.” He pulled Wynonna to stop in front of another picture. “About Max Slevogt, I know that he is an impressionist best known for his landscapes. This gallery represents him and he’s even here tonight.”
They looked around and Doc pointed to an elderly man with glasses and wildly standing up white hair.
“Excuse me, Mr. Slevogt,” Wynonna approached the painter, “may I ask you some questions about your flower still life?”
The man turned towards Wynonna with a curious look, “Of course Miss. What would you like to know?” he said with a Bavarian dialect and a grandfatherly smile.
“Thank you.” She smiled back politely. “Is there anything unusual or outstanding about this painting of yours or its history?” She consciously avoided using the term supernatural.
He nodded, then faced the painting in question, but his eyes were unfocused, “I was assigned as a war painter at the west front during the great war. There was this painter in Düsseldorf, Bertram Köhler was his name. A weird person as I heard. He disappeared during the war and his possessions were auctioned off. He had painted a dreadful and hideous picture in various brown tones. It looked like hell on earth with obscure symbols all over it. I bought the canvas and painted those peaceful flowers over it. For me this is a symbolic way of healing after the horrors of war.”
She hardly listened after he had mentioned the symbols. “Can you remember what those symbols looked like? Could you write them down for me?” She nervously reached for a pen and the small notebook in her purse, holding them out to him.
Max Slevogt slowly turned back to her. For a long moment he looked at her as if he could find answers to unasked questions in her face. Finally, he shrugged and took the pen and notepad. With closed eyes and furrowed brows, he stood still before he started drawing the symbols. Time and again he stopped to close his eyes again. Wynonna concentrated on every line, while Doc looked around and hoped the man who was practically guarding the flower painting wasn’t paying attention to them.
It took a couple of minutes until Mr. Slevogt handed Wynonna the notepad back. “That’s all I can remember. Did you know Mr. Köhler?”
Wynonna briefly looked at the symbols and quickly put the notepad in her purse, out of sight. “Thank you very much.” She thought of an answer, “Ah, yes Mr. Köhler was well known for his symbolic art. It was so unique. I have no words to describe it. Thank you again for your help.” She quickly withdrew them from the conversation, avoiding further questions she couldn’t answer.
“I think that’s it,” she whispered excitedly into Doc’s ear. She didn’t understand the symbols, but they seemed close enough to those she had seen in Waverly’s research materials. This couldn’t be a coincidence. “We have to find out who’s so interested in this painting.”
Doc agreed, “Let’s stroll around and have a closer look at the guests, my dear.” As always, he was familiar, safe. Wynonna relaxed in his calm presence.
Ten minutes before the auction, the owners of the gallery, Walter Feilchenfeldt and Grete Ring, addressed their guests and asked them to take their seats. The auction was about to get started.
Grete Ring presented the paintings in a good temper and gave a short introduction to every piece. Cleary she knew what she was doing, given she was an art historian.
While Doc listened intently, Wynonna took out the notebook and wrote down what they’d just learned. After a while she started doodling. When the flower still life was brought up Wynonna straightened her posture, sat alert and watched the bidders.
Even the starting bid was more than Wynonna or Doc could afford, so all they could do was watch the bidding.
The work wasn’t in much demand. Only three different people bid on it. An elderly chubby woman with so much jewellery on her that it seemed to weigh her down. She sat in the front row and had bid on almost every painting. A tall, slim man with the stiff posture of a soldier, dark thick hair and a circle beard, also bid. He sat in the middle and had only bought one other painting at this point. A man with broad shoulders, grey hair and sideburns, who constantly had a grumpy look on his face was also bidding. He sat in the last row and had bought two other paintings. On a closer look, the woman next to him seemed to give him instructions. She was about his age, around 70 years old, had pinned up her long grey hair in an orderly bun, and emanated authority.
In the end, the soldier was the most persistent and won the flower painting.
Doc leaned in, “That’s Friedrich von Liegnitz, a distant relative of the emperor. He’s known to be charitable and a proper aristocrat.”
After the auction had ended, they saw the aristocrat speaking to the intimidating man who had approached them at the flower painting earlier. They shook hands and both stiffly bowed to each other, then parted. Friedrich von Liegnitz paid for his paintings and left the gallery, followed by two employees of the gallery who carried his safely packaged paintings to his car.
Wynonna and Doc met the rest of the group back at the ’Zauberkönig‘. Wynonna laid the notebook on the table while they told them about the auction.
“Bertram Köhler?” Dolls asked, “I heard about him. He gambled with black magic, but suddenly disappeared. We didn’t get much more information during the war though.”
Wynonna opened the notebook at the page that showed the symbols, and everyone leaned forward to get a better look at the drawn markings.
“These are the ancient alchemist’s symbols for sun and moon,” Jeremy said,
“Look at that pentagram. If that’s not magic stuff, I retire,” Wynonna called out pointing to the page.
“Those are Cyrillic letters,” Waverly added, “Hard to read, but I think it says,” she squinted and turned the page a couple of times, “Mrzanok?”
“Marzaniok!” Wynonna exclaimed. “Son of a witch, we got you!”
“This means, a group that calls themselves Sons of the Sun tried to summon this demon. They just retrieved one artefact that they can use as a focus. We know that this Friedrich von Liegnitz belongs to this group,” Nicole summed up taking notes. “Now we can observe Mr. Von Liegnitz. We should also have a second look through the newspapers to find out if this group has used this way of communication more than once. But I need some volunteers for that, it takes too much time for me to go through all of it alone.”
Everyone agreed to help.
“We can take my car and get the papers right now,” Jeremy suggested.
The members of the society were excited to finally have a lead. Motivated to find more, Nicole and Jeremy left and came back about an hour later with a huge stack of paper in their hands.
Nicole took the newspaper she first found with the code of the Sons of the Sun.
The group patiently listened to her explanations on the code and what to look for. “We should work in temporal order, starting from the date when I found the announcement for the art auction. We should first search the papers that were printed after that date, then go backwards and see if they used this code before.” Nicole took the smaller stack of papers and handed them out. Wynonna groaned in annoyance. This was going be a long night.
They worked mostly in silence, only the rustling of newspapers filled the room.
Suddenly Waverly looked up from the paper in front of her. “I remember now why I know this name! Some time ago I met a young woman named Christina. She told me, that she was the housemaid of Mr. Von Liegnitz!” Waverly said with wide eyes, happy to finally remember the connection, “she seemed nice, maybe she’ll help us.”
“That’s great, do you know where she lives?” Wynonna asked eagerly, hoping to get away from this boring task.
“Yes, she has a small room under the roof of Mr. Von Liegnitz city house.” She answered.
“In that case, we should observe the house until she goes out, starting tomorrow.” Dolls decided.
They didn’t find any messages after the auction announcement, so they started retrospectively.
The room was quiet again, everyone sat crooked over an article, when suddenly Jeremy jumped up.“I’VE GOT SOMETHING!” he exclaimed. Doc fell off his chair and Arthur,with the hand on his chest, looked like he’d just had a heart attack.
Nicole went over to study the article that Jeremy had read. “He’s right. This reads‚ ‘Sons of the Sun. Glory at the soup kitchen in Bellevue Palace’,” She deciphered slowly. “The soup kitchen opens every Sunday in Bellevue Palace since the emperor lives in exile. This article was published just two days after the scrolls were stolen.”
“Right, Bellvue Palace was the emperor’s residence until after the Great War.” Waverly added, “but why there?”
“Clever bastards!” Dolls growled, “Who would suspect anything at a soup kitchen? Let’s see if there’s more before that.”
Arthur and Charlotte excused themselves at midnight. Doc’s snoring filled the room. Wynonna lay on the table; her breathing was even and peaceful. When Waverly fell over, Nicole caught her and said, “We should go home. There's nothing we can find like this. Come on, sweetie.” She helped Waverly stand up and rubbed her back.
Dolls agreed, “You're right. Let's call it a night.” He and Jeremy took the papers and sorted them into different boxes while the rest woke Wynonna and Doc up.
Waverly snuggled into Nicole’s side on their way home. The streets were empty at this time of night, and nobody cared about the three women walking home.
*Because it is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impressionism
Chapter 5: The Housemaid
The team observes their suspect, but it's not that easy to get a hold on the aristocrat.
As always thanks to Michele for beta-reading.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Monday, August 3 rd , 1931
On Monday morning the society started observing the three-story city house of Friedrich von Liegnitz.
He left his house early in the morning, and Dolls followed him.
Wynonna sat on a bench in front of the house for several hours. Nothing happened. She had read the newspaper in her hands ten times by now.
She slouched over the bench, watching people walking by while her eyelids became heavier and her head fell on her chest. In order to find something to keep her awake she went to a nearby kiosk. She didn’t want another newspaper, so she bought a penny dreadful instead. Anything other than politics, even something she would normally never read. Desperate times, desperate measures she thought.
Back on the bench she was just a few pages in, when a middle-aged woman sat down next to her “Fräulein, you read them too?” She said with a rich Berlin accent “People tell me it’s a waste of time, but the stories are so beautiful and lovely. Don’t you think?”
Wynonna looked irritated but said nothing. Which didn’t bother the other woman at all. She kept going on about how wonderful the stories were.
A couple of minutes went by where Wynonna listened to gushing summaries of penny dreadfuls when another woman came up to them. “Matilda, what are you doing here? We’re going to be late!”
“Just five minutes, it’s nothing.” The woman replied, wiping the comment away with a wave of her hand.
“Five minutes early is German politeness!” The other woman stated indignantly, before she practically dragged her friend away from Wynonna.
“Just wait till the end, you’ll love it.” The woman said before she left Wynonna alone and followed obediently to wherever she was going.
In the late afternoon a slender woman with long dark hair and a friendly round face left the house. According to Waverly’s description this had to be Christina.
Wynonna followed her to a narrow two-story building. In a window on the ground floor, the well-lit room cast shadows on the curtain that seemed like a well-attended gathering of some sort. She saw the woman knock, the door opened, and she went inside.
“I guess it’s worth a try,” Wynonna mumbled to herself. She followed Christina’s lead and knocked as well. The door was opened and a scraggy face, surrounded by long white hair of an old woman appeared in the doorway “May I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like to join in.” Wynonna said with a hopefully convincing smile.
“Of course,” the woman stepped out of the way and fully opened the door “did you see the advertisement or one of our flyers? Welcome to our little club, it’s always nice to see new faces,” she gestured to the room behind her, “you’re just in time for the speeches. I’m Helena and you are?”
“I’m Wynonna. Nice to meet you.” She said and stepped inside the salon. She mirrored Helena’s behaviour in an attempt to blend into whatever gathering she had just invaded. About twenty women stood there in small groups and talked. She saw a speaker’s desk upfront and rows of orderly arranged chairs. There were some flyers on one of the tables. As soon as Helena turned away from her, she went for an inconspicuous look at the handouts. Big letters announced ‘Join the Federation of German Women's Association and change your future!'.
Christina stood in a corner and chatted with some of the other women. Wynonna could not get near her before Helena clapped her hands and asked everybody to sit down.
Wynonna sat down one row behind Christina, who waited in silence and listened attentively to the speaker. Of course they were all women, and judging by their appearance, they were all part of the working class.
One speaker told a fiery speech about the necessity of women in parliament and in positions of power. It’s only the start that women may vote, they should have a say in the decisions as well.
During the long and dull lecture Wynonna examined the other women in the room. She saw a woman in her 50s, well dressed, with short dark hair, that she couldn’t place, but she seemed familiar. The woman caught her staring when a mixture of fear and anger washed over her face. She quickly turned back to the speaker in order to face away from Wynonna.
“ What is that all about? ” Wynonna thought.
After the speaker ended, the social part of the evening began. Wynonna walked up to a desk were Christina stood with some other women. They were chatting without taking a break, their language full of slang and colourful descriptions that Wynonna had a hard time following. She felt clumsy in her attempt to start a conversation, and it took her forever to finally introduce herself. She also failed to get Christina to talk about her employer. Christina loved to talk, and she was passionate about feminist causes, so Wynonna mostly listened.
Later that evening, she realised that the woman with the short dark hair always seemed to be as far away from her as possible.
As the crowd slowly left, Christina turned to Wynonna, “It was so nice talking to you, Wynonna. Will you come again to the meeting next week?”
“Yes, it was lovely. Maybe I’ll bring along some friends.” She said . '
‘Waverly ,’she thought, ’ she’s so much better with people . '
Dolls had found out that Mr. Von Liegnitz was meeting with political friends all day long. Nothing pointed to his plans about summoning a dangerous demon into this world. They took turns observing the man, depending on their work schedules.
The following days weren’t fruitful. On August 9 th everyone in town talked about the Büclowplatz murders the day before, when two policemen were shot, but Friedrich Von Liegnitz seemed unaffected by the event. He had nothing to do with the communist party and their increasingly violent fights with the police. He hardly left the house and when he did, his appointments didn’t point to further plans of the Sons of the Sun. Doc had brought up the idea to search his house in order to find something, but the house lay on a busy street, which made it almost impossible to break into it without being seen. Picking the lock would simply take too long. Christina was not the only employee in his household, but the only one who also lived in the house.
“Sons of the Sun. What a stupid name is that anyway?” Wynonna asked frustrated while she walked around the neighbourhood with Waverly. It was Sunday and they had found nothing yet.
“I don’t know.” Waverly shrugged, “at least we can go to this Suffragettes gathering tomorrow and grill Christina for information.”
Monday, August 10 th , 1931
The next day, Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole knocked on the door to join the women's meeting.
This time the woman who spoke condemned masculine sexuality and its suppression of women. She addressed an apparently earlier discussion about the spread of illness and prostitution with the suggestion of a woman named Asenijeff . “Emancipated women who want to invent things could best help other women by inventing a coin-operated automat that would satisfy the ten-minute love of man.”
Wynonna snorted out loud at that remark. She got some looks of disapproval but didn’t care.
This time, during the social gathering, Wynonna let Waverly and Nicole talk. Her eyes were wandering through the room and again she caught the woman staring at her, who she was sure she knew somehow. Again the woman looked away quickly when Wynonna caught her staring.
Waverly and Nicole got Christina to talk about her employer, but it was apparent that she would not rat on him. She told them, that he was a conservative man, who believed in the monarchy and mourned the loss of the emperor. In her words, he was a man of honour, the patron of many charities and he wasn’t cruel. Apparently she had a good job, that she wouldn’t risk for some strangers.
They parted again with the promise to come back the next week.
Monday, August 17 th , 1931
Another week passed by without another promising encounter. Again they took turns in observing the nobleman, but he was too cautious. A new course of action was overdue.
Monday evening they sat in the women's association and listened to the passionate speech of a tiny woman with a surprisingly loud voice.
“We won’t be silent. We won’t retreat.” She declared. “For the woman power and strength are characteristic…” Wynonna zoned out at this point till the end of her speech.
While Waverly and Nicole once again engaged a passionate conversation with Christina, Wynonna faked a faint and grabbed for Christina’s dress to hold herself up."I’m so sorry,” she uttered,I just need some fresh air. Excuse me.” She quickly went outside, while Waverly and Nicole were holding people back who tried to follow her.
She could feel the weight of the keys in her hand as she rushed out to get some air, fighting back the victorious smile on her face until she walked out the front door. The warm air of an August evening fanned her as she walked down the street to meet with Dolls and Doc on a side street. “Here is the house key. Hurry up, we only have two more hours before she’ll go home.”
The two men nodded and swiftly went over to a red Ford, where Jeremy waited for them.
Lucky for them Friedrich von Liegnitz was a creature of habit. He met his political friends every Monday and never came back home before midnight.
The house was empty, silent and dark. The second key Dolls tried opened the front door. They split up, looking for the study. Every time the lights of a car illuminated the rooms, they froze.
They didn’t have much time but didn’t want to get caught either. On the second floor Jeremy whisper-yelled “I found it, the study!”
There was a big, solid oak desk dominating the room. It had a thick vanished tabletop with a leather edge. The walls of the room were decorated with packed bookshelves.
Hastily the three man quickly searched the space, careful to put everything back the way they found it. “No traces!” Dolls had impressed upon them.
Suddenly they heard a car in front of the house, but it didn’t pass by. The car lights lid up the room and all three ducked holding their breaths. The light went out, they heard muffled voices in front of the house. Dolls sneaked to the window and looked down. He saw a man and a woman entering the house next door.
Relieved he breathed out, “The neighbours came home. We need to be careful when we leave. Now go on!”
They went on to the desk, but none of the drawers revealed what they were looking for. “There could be a secret drawer,” Jeremy said, “my dad has a couple in his desk. Feel if there's a button under the desk. The spot usually feels a little smoother than the surroundings.”
“I think, here's something.” Doc said, and with a silent click a secret storage appeared out of the thick desk. Doc pulled it all the way out “Here, I got it! A calendar!”
“Jeremy, close the curtains, I need more light.” Dolls ordered. He lit up a candle and copied every appointment into his own notebook. “I got it, now we need to get out of here, time is almost up.”
Jeremy opened the curtains again, Doc put the calendar back in the drawer and they left the house without a trace.
Back at the women’s meeting, Jeremy lit up the car lights three times. Shortly after, Nicole came out taking the keys back. “I started getting nervous, guys. Did you find anything?”
Doc smiled proudly “We found his schedule. Next Monday he’ll be at the Philharmonic to a Concert of the Comedian Harmonists.”
Relieved Nicole went back inside, and discreetly handed the keys to Wynonna. Wynonna maneuvered them back into Christina’s pocket, who had been trying to leave for the last ten minutes at this point, only to be stopped by yet another question from Waverly. With a wink to Waverly she smiled and said goodbye to Christina.
After Christina left, they grinned at each other, relieved that everything went according to plan. “What are you up to?” Asked a strangely familiar voice with a slight Russian accent behind them. They turned around and saw the older woman with short, dark hair and a distrustful attitude that Wynonna noticed at every meeting, who had seemingly tried to avoid her.
“Nothing.” Nicole answered way too fast, in a too high voice.
“I don’t know what you want from poor Christina and I frankly don’t care, but if you want to support our movement, you have to do more than listen to our speakers with a bored face.” She looked directly at Wynonna “So, will I see you at the protest on Saturday?”
All three nodded dumfounded and stared at the woman in front of them. To fill the uncomfortable silence Nicole spoke up “Oh, I heard there is a Comedian Harmonist Concert in the Philharmonic soon. Should we go?”
The dark-haired woman laughed “They sold out weeks ago. See you on Saturday!” Without further ado she turned around and left.
A couple of minutes later they were all squished together in Jeremys car. “How do we get into a sold-out concert?” Nicole asked.
“I don’t know. Black market? Sneaking in? Maybe they still look for helping hands?” Wynonna suggested and shrugged her shoulders. “We’ll find a way.”
Jeremy drove all of them home. Their successful today gave them confidence for what was yet to come.
Saturday , August 22 nd , 1931
“Why are we here again?” Wynonna asked for the fifth time this morning.
“Because,” Waverly answered patiently,“ “we promised to support this women’s rights march. It’s also a good thing to do.”
They meet with the women’s group at the east end of Tiergarten . There were maybe fifty women gathering around the woman with the short black hair and the Russian accent. Some of the women bought signs with them. They saw Christina as well, listening to the older woman giving instructions.
Waverly went to the group and asked Christina, “Who is that?”
“Oh, that is Lara Oparin. She is one of our fearless leaders, she isn’t afraid of anyone,” she answered with admiration and shining eyes, while another woman shoved a protest sign in Wynonna’s hands, who passed it on to Waverly without even looking at it.
Marching down the street they loudly cascaded their demands: ‘Same work, same payment!’ or ‘Send girls to school!’
When they got near the parliament, they saw a group of men blocking the street.
“ Scheiße !” one woman next to Wynonna cursed, and slowed her pace.
Their route led them right towards the group that was waiting with threatening postures, standing tall and with the certainty of superiority on their faces. On the sidewalk stood small groups of women yelling at them to stop.
But the suffragettes would not stop. With Lara Oparin in the front row, who made no attempt to slow down, nobody else did.
They stopped directly in front of the men. Most of them stood in a wide stance, arms crossed, and shit eating grins on their faces. “How did you get away from the oven?” one yelled at them.
“This is a permitted demonstration. Please leave the street!” Lara declared in a loud clear voice standing tall in front of them. Silence followed her declaration. Some of the men looked at each other, unsure of their next move as if they hadn’t expected any resistance at all. The other women were fixated on the group in front of them, afraid of what might happen next.
“HUSSIES!” shouted the man that spoke before and rushed forward. His hand clenched into a fist he aimed at Lara with a wide punch. Lara still appeared calm. She took her sign and rammed the handle into the stomach of the man approaching her, ducking his punch. But the others had already followed his lead. Most women in the front row tried to run away but they collided with other women behind them. Screams filled the air. Wynonna instead tried to get to Lara, Nicole, Waverly and Christina behind her, but she had to push through the crowd fleeing in terror. On her way, Wynonna picked up one of the protest signs someone had carelessly dropped. Nicole and Christina followed her example.
By the time they got to Lara she stood isolated, surrounded by the men attacking her. With commitment, the four stood protectively around Lara, showing their support, the signs in front of them like swords, ready to fight. That stopped the men in their tracks, Lara was not an easy target anymore. She didn’t look at her new supporters, but a smile appeared on her face while a little blood dropped from her split and swollen lip.
But the frozen state of indecision didn’t last long. A tall and muscular man decided to throw a punch towards Lara again. Others quickly followed his example and pushed forward.
Wynonna didn’t wait for a hit as she swung the sign like a baseball bat and hit one man in the head. “Take that opinion, asshole!” She shouted out. He stumbled back but right away another took his place.
Waverly rammed her sign in one guy’s impressive beer belly before he had the chance to get too close. He collapsed and stumbled backwards, pushing several of his friends back with him. The men needed precious seconds before they could regroup.
Nicole blocked punches, using her sign as shield. She had just diverted a man’s arm who had aimed at Waverly, letting the cardboard with the words “the future is female” fall into his face as another man with short blond hair aimed for Lara’s blind spot. Nicole saw the attack in the last moment and tried to block his punch with her arm sliding between the man and Lara, but she was a split second too slow. She slowed his punch down but his fist still hit the side of Nicole’s neck. She stumbled backwards, holding her head, her face distorted with pain. Waverly witnessing the scene while yelling in shock, running to catch her.
At the same time a sharp whistle cut through the air. The Police! With some force they pushed between both groups to separate them.
The pulsing pain in her head made Nicole dizzy, but there was no time to attend their wounds, they had to quickly leave the place before the police started to arrest protesters and attackers alike.
They got away with only got some scratches and Nicole had to lean on Wynonna and Waverly on their walk home.
After they got away far enough, Lara said: “Thank you a lot for your help. I won’t forget that you stood next to me. I underestimated you.”
“Anytime.” Wynonna grinned, “but we have to get this one to a doctor first.”
“No, I’ll be fine.” Nicole insisted, “I just need some rest.”
“Goodbye and stay safe.” Lara said and left. Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole went home.
For the womens meetings I used historical quotes.
If you have any questions, ask away. I have tons of historical sources that I worked into the story.
Chapter 6: A friend, a good friend
Their suspect goes to a sold out concert of the Comedian Harmonists.
As always thanks to Michele for Beta-reading.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Saturday, August 22 nd , 1931, 7pm
Nicole went to bed as soon as they arrived in the apartment. She felt exhausted and had a horrible headache. Waverly made sure she got everything she needed, before she joined her sister in the living room.
The sisters sat down and drank to their victory. Winning this fight made them feel alive and their spirits high.
“Let’s be real, you loved the protest. You've always been a rebel, Wynonna.” Waverly laughed, “No need to deny it.”
Wynonna set up a shocked face “Me? I don't know what you mean. I've always been an innocent angel.” she grinned and took a sip of the Whiskey bottle in her hand.
Waverly shoved in her side “Sure. Remember, when you encouraged me to explore myself and learn what I preferred, before I dated anyone? I was so embarrassed!” both sisters giggled “And then you gave me that monstrous machine that you stole from the institute6 and just said 'Have fun’.” The memory tinted Waverly’s face red.
“I told you I cleaned it.” Wynonna replied, “Hey, they used it to treat hysterical women. It’s practically medicine!” She stated.
She gave Waverly the bottle, who took a deep sip. Wynonna tried her hardest to keep a straight face but failed. “It's not my fault that women are not meant to have a sex drive. How on earth are you supposed to have great sex if you don’t know what you enjoy? Society is the one acting ridiculous here, not me!”
Waverly chuckled “Well, I'm thankful that you forced me to talk about it, but it is a scandalous topic nevertheless.” She looked around in case somebody could overhear them.
Wynonna put on a shocked face, “Just talk? No skill without practice.” She winked. “What’s family planning for? Not that you need that.”
They kept talking and laughing like that for hours before they finally went to bed as well.
Sunday, August 23 rd , 1931
The next morning, a grey envelope lay under the front door. Waverly was up first and inspected the mailer, when the other two joined her at the kitchen table.
Wynonna unceremoniously took the envelope out of her hands and opened it. She took three pieces of paper out. All of them smiled with disbelief. She triumphally held up three tickets for the Comedian Harmonists concert next Monday. Nothing else was in the envelope, and not a single clue who had sent it.
Waverly smiled, looking at the tickets, none of them could fathom their luck, when they heard a sharp knock on their door. Looking at each other, Wynonna shrugged. Waverly made a curious face and Nicole shook her head. None of them were expecting a visitor.
Wynonna opened the door and there stood Inspector Nedley in a long light brown coat and hat, his mouth, surrounded with light stubble, was just a tight line, with a disapproving frown on his forehead. “I’d like to talk to Miss Haught, please,” he said in an official tone.
Wynonna stepped aside and let him into the small apartment. He went inside and sat down at the kitchen table opposite to Nicole and Waverly, putting his head down on the table.
“You were seen at a women’s march, Miss Haught. One that got quite a bit out of hand and ended with a fight none the less,” he said reproachful.
“Shit!” Nicole cursed, “they attacked us without provocation, Sir.”
He paused and looked at her with a frown, “You can’t join the police if your record isn’t clean, and you know even rumours can finish your chances to join the force.”
Nicole’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise, her voice a pitch higher than normal. “It wasn’t our fault, we only defended ourselves!”
“This time,” he said with a gravel voice, “I made sure this incident won’t haunt you, because I’m convinced you’ll make a good addition. But I won’t do that again. You should be more careful about who you’re seen with in the future.”
“Wait,” Wynonna interrupted ignoring the Inspector “You want to become a police secretary? Why?”
“Not a secretary, Wynonna, a police officer.” Nicole corrected her crossing her arms.
Wynonna looked from Nicole to the Inspector “Can she do that?”
The Inspector relaxed his posture and smiled leniently, his round face softer now, “well, there is a female force for sexual assault and cases involving children. On top of that, I would occasionally discuss my cases with her and get her exceptional insight.” He took his hat and placed it back on his head, “That’s all I wanted to say. Enjoy your Sunday, ladies,” he said and left them alone.
Monday, August 24 th , 1931
On Monday afternoon they left the tram at Potsdam square and went to Bernburger Street. The monumental building with the number 22 dominated the short street.
Waverly showed their tickets to a young concierge at the entrance. The hall was located in a rear building, in the biggest of the three music halls. To get in, they first had to go through a kind of colonnade, leading into an open courtyard. Crossing the courtyard, they entered the actual hall building.
They went through a simple foyer to the rectangular, elongated concert hall.
“Wait, that was just the lobby?” Wynonna asked stunned, after they finally entered the concert hall.
Nicole chuckled lightly “Well, the house had been rebuilt a couple of times. Originally it was a roller-skating rink.” She gestured to the hall they were standing in. Free-standing wooden chairs stood in neat rows divided into four blocks. In between the blocks were wide paths to all three entrances. Most of the seats were already occupied by guests dressed in Sunday attire. On the left and right long sides of the hall were two storeys of roofed loges with chairs and tables.
On the first floor more loges surrounded the hall with heavy curtains behind the seating. Above everything Wynonna saw medallions with portraits of composers attached to the walls. Two roof lights lit up the room in addition to the electric lights on the walls.
They didn’t go directly to their seats but walked around and observed the other attendees.
The music hall had seating for 2500 guests. It wouldn’t be easy to find a single person in such a big crowd. Lucky for them Friedrich von Liegnitz was noble and proud of his status. So of course he had a loge on the first floor. He sat in the company of what appeared to be an elderly couple talking animatedly.
Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole swiftly went to the first floor, acting like they belonged. Nobody stopped them. They found the door that led to Mr. Von Liegnitz loge, but too many people were walking by in the hallway. Even when they slowly walked along the door, none of them heard a single word from the other side.
The sound of a gong announced the time for guests to take their seats. The performance would begin soon. They went back to the hall and took their seats. The wooden chairs, without any cushioning, pressed hard and uncomfortable against their backs.
“I swear, Germans just love pain. That’s the only explanation for these chairs!” Wynonna scolded.
A man with a white full beard sitting behind them leaned forward and said with a heavy Bavarian dialect, “Only the Saupreiß .”
“The what?” Wynonna asked back in surprise. She never heard that term before.
“The Prussian Pigs.” He clarified. “They all have sticks up their asses, no sense of humour and think all achievements have to be painful.” He grinned at her and winked, settling back into his seat where he was sitting comfortably on a red cushion.
After the third gong, six men in tailcoats entered the stage. One of them sat down at a piano, the rest of the group stood like a choir. Their songs were harmonic and light hearted with titles like 'My little green cactus', which Wynonna liked for the idea of throwing the plant at people she didn’t like.
The first part of the performance ended with the wonderful song 'A friend, a good friend'.
During the break, the guests went to the entrance hall. They lost sight of Mr. Von Liegnitz when he left his loge, while the elderly couple remained in their seats. “They must have better chairs”, Wynonna said to the other women as they stood up and tried to find their suspect in the moving crowd.
In the courtyard employees handed out canapés and champagne, while the guests gathered in small groups. The three women roamed the place, looking for their suspect, when Wynonna unexpectedly saw the chunky stature of Alexander Ulanow standing in a group of people. They locked eyes and Alexander Ulanow winked at her. He had a nasty cut on his lower lip. Wynonna stared in disbelieve. It took a moment to wrap her head around the newfound information, puzzling the pieces together. Then she pulled herself together, smiled back and went on to search for the man she was actually looking for.
She spotted Nicole, who gestured her to come over. When she closed the gap, she saw Waverly looking at the other end of the room where Friedrich von Liegnitz just went up the stairs. Wynonna wanted to follow him, but her sister held her back. “Wait, I know a shortcut.”
As Waverly led the way Wynonna asked, “how can you afford tickets for this place?”
“I can’t, but remember the cooking contest I attended?” She smiled brightly, “That was held here.” They sprinted up the stairs, but slowed their pace on the first floor to draw less attention. Nicole first spotted their suspect. They managed to follow him but had to fall back when he went to a less crowed part of the building. He disappeared behind a curtain, where he was greeted by another voice.
“You keep watch.” Wynonna pushed Nicole toward the entrance, then followed her sister through the curtain.
“Germany will get its place in the sun after all.” A dark, unfamiliar voice said proudly.
“Don't get ahead of yourself. We'll need four more foci for the ritual to be successful,” the aristocrat hissed, “Right now, all we have is the painting.”
Wynonna shifted her weight to get a little closer.
The dark voice spoke again, “Fine, but soon we’ll have all we need. We have one foot in the door of Pergamon Museum and wednesday at the market, I’ll meet with a marketeer for another focus.” He sounded self-satisfied.
“Don’t be rash,“ the noble man said, annoyed, “go meet the man at Spittelmarkt and come to my house afterwards. If you’re successful, we can celebrate, but not before that.” They heard rustling behind the curtain. “Don’t lose the money and remember, I don’t give second chances.”
The footsteps were barely audible due to the thick carpet, but Waverly and Wynonna were quick on their feet. They were almost around the next corner when the two men left the hidden room. Wynonna looked back to see a small man, maybe 25 years old with a lean figure, light brown hair and a neatly trimmed beard standing next to the aristocrat. Their eyes met. He had seen her!
Hurrying, they went back to the music hall. There was no need to waste the concert tickets and it gave them the opportunity to vanish in the crowd. On their way back the sisters explained to Nicole what they heard, and Wynonna gave a description of the man she saw.
“But I think, he saw me as well. He might recognise me.”
She was interrupted by the sound of the gong. They sat back down and enjoyed the rest of the concert. Afterwards they’d have enough time to plan their next move.
Later that evening, the group sat again around the table at Zauberkönig.
“Wednesday is a weekly market, there are almost always the same marketeers present. I doubt he’ll meet with a greengrocer or fruit merchant.” Waverly ended their roundup of the evening events.
“Well done,” Dolls said, “we should pick and observe the likely contacts and maybe have an eye around the market too. How many people can make it on Wednesday?”
“I’ll be there!” Wynonna exclaimed. She could sew the commissions any other day, but Waverly was concerned. “Should you be there? The man saw you at the music hall. You said yourself that he might recognise you.”
“I’m also the only one who saw him, and I’ll stay in the background, I promise.” She said holding her hand over her heart, but her face said she wouldn’t miss this chance.
“We need everyone we can get to survey the whole marketplace,” Dolls said, “just please be careful, Wynonna.”
Jeremy had some meetings at the institute that day, but Doc would close his practice for the day and Waverly and Nicole would switch their work shifts.
I hope you enjoyed this little musical journey.
Chapter 7: Shopping
What will they learn at the market?
Wednesday, August 26 th 1931
The market lay near the river Spree and was surrounded by residential and commercial buildings. Most of them fairly new, five-storey houses built about 40 years ago in the typical historicism style of the German Renaissance. The houses looked like piled up arcade passageways with occasional turrets on top. Tram rails split the market into two parts.
It was a nice but cloudy summer day. Doc sat outside a cafe at a table and observed a travelling antiques merchant. Dolls went around the market selling flowers, while he looked out for their suspect. Wynonna and Waverly went around giving out pamphlets they got from the suffragettes' movement and Nicole pretended to do her weekly shopping, with a wicker basket strategically half full with groceries.
The market was well attended. Mostly women from all walks of life strolling along market stalls, chatting with merchants or other customers. The calls of the traders who advertised their goods echoed through the market place along with the sound of trams crossing. Fragrances spread from different stalls, like fish, a strange mixture of spices and freshly cooked food.
They started their surveillance as the market opened in the morning. In the afternoon Wynonna finally spotted the man she saw at the Philharmonie the day before. He wore a fine, light grey suit with a matching fedora, and was surrounded by five young men, also all dressed in suits. He was the smallest of the group, but the others clearly looked up to him.
She quickly went to Waverly, who gave out flyers not far from her . “Look over there,” she said “you stay on their heels and I’ll let the others know.”
Waverly nodded and directed her steps towards the group, while Wynonna went quickly in the other direction. Waverly continued handing out flyers, while she kept her eyes on the group of men. The group was engrossed in their conversation, making their way through the crowd of market visitors.
A couple of minutes later Doc, Dolls and Wynonna joined her at a distance, scattered around the place to look unobtrusive. Waverly tried to make eye contact with Wynonna hinting her to stay back, but Wynonna was fixated on the men.
They went towards a stand full of old books and used household goods. Before the man they saw at the Philharmonie addressed the merchant he looked around and his eyes found Wynonna and he barked something at the men who surrounded him. Their heads rocked around, found Wynonna and sprinted towards her, shoving away people in their way. One of them, who reminded Wynonna of a bulldog, drew a knife out of his jacket. Wynonna’s eyes went wide. “Shit!” She cursed, as she turned around and ran, as did Doc and Waverly. They didn’t think, pure instinct urged them to run as the men chased after them.
Wynonna stopped abruptly and squeezed in between two market stalls, Waverly still on her heals. They just got away in front of an oncoming tram. The tram rang angrily and the tram driver yelled after them. Wynonna almost fell over some boxes, but Waverly caught her, and they didn’t stop until they reached a small alley to hide in.
Anxiously the sisters looked around, but their persecutors were nowhere to be seen. Neither were Doc or Dolls. Wynonna leaned against the brick wall, while she caught her breath, closing her eyes. Thankful, they got away, with nothing more than some scratches, although still worried about their friends.
Waverly leaned forward to breathe easier, while her eyes still searched the crowd.
“No worries, we got away.” Wynonna tried to calm her little sister, “We would’ve heard them fight if they’d caught up.”
Waverly shot a look to her “I’m not worried about us, but I need to find Nicole. She’s the only one they haven’t seen.” She looked over the people walking by on the market. Suddenly she stood upright. “There she is! Wait here.” Without waiting for a response, Waverly was on her way to Nicole.
She walked past Nicole and whispered “Follow me with some distance.” The taller woman reacted quickly. Out of the corner of her eyes she noticed the direction Waverly was going and had a look at some displayed goods before she turned around and followed Waverly’s path.
Waverly led them to another narrow alley, making sure they went in far enough that nobody could see them. As soon as Nicole stood in front of her, she pulled her into an urgent kiss. The wicker basket from Nicole’s hand hit the ground.
After the kiss broke, Nicole looked concerned “What happened?”
“They noticed us and one of them drew a knife. It was scary. We ran, but the man from the concert recognised us for sure.” Waverly shivered and Nicole drew her closer and lay her arms around her, as if she wanted to protect Waverly from these people.
Waverly relaxed in Nicole’s arms and sighed, “You’re the only one they haven’t seen. The man from the Philharmonie was just at the stall with used household goods at the east end of the market.”
“I’ll follow them,” Nicole said, but Waverly hugged her tighter.
“Promise me, you’ll be careful,” she said against Nicoles neck.
“I promise,” Nicole answered while she calmly caressed Waverly’s back. “Meet me at 5pm at the Star Cinema-Palace and don’t go home alone, in case they try to ambush you.”
Waverly took a deep breath and nodded “Okay. Wynonna is waiting for me.” They stepped apart and Waverly let Nicole leave first before she took the basket from the ground and went back to Wynonna.
Nicole easily spotted the man that fitted Wynonna’s description. He seemed so sure he scared his persecutors away, that he almost appeared careless. He radiated confidence. There was something about him, that seemed familiar, but Nicole couldn’t place it. She had the feeling that she’d seen him before.
He didn’t even look around once. It was almost too easy to get close to him. He had purchased an old book, the cover out of brown faded, cracked leather, the pages yellow and dry, when Nicole approached the marked stall and pretended to look at the goods. She could only read the authors name engraved in fractured gold letters on the spine:'Rasputin'. That name rang a bell, but she couldn’t remember why.
The small man stowed the book in a leather case and said his goodbye to the merchant. Nicole took a moment, counting to ten in her head before she followed him with some distance. Three other men soon joined him in his tracks, laughing and in high spirits. All dressed in expensive attire, they boasted about their chase.
Nicole disliked them more with every passing minute.
She followed them along the market stalls, when suddenly one of the men stopped at a fruit merchant. Nicole quickly turned going to the closest stall and looked at about twenty different types of breads and buns. A small, elderly woman looked at her expectantly, “hello my Dear, what can I do for you?”
Nicole glanced over to the fruit stall, where the man still waited to be served. So she decided to buy some more time ordering their usual Sunday breakfast: “I’d like five bread rolls, one rye, two wholegrain with sunflower seeds, one poppy-seed roll and one regular, please.” Wynonna always complained about the German bread that was way too hard and why they needed so many different types.
The saleswoman put the buns in a paper bag while she ordered. “Anything else? Today we offer ten percent off of wholegrain spelt, Berlin county and raisin bread.”
Out of the corner of her eyes Nicole saw the men were on the move again. “No thank you, how much is it?” The saleswoman tried to start some small talk, but Nicole rudely cut her short, paid in a hurry and grabbed the bag. Already on the move she scanned the crowd for the group.
She remembered what Dolls told them earlier. “ Memorise their clothing, colours that stick out, hats if they wear them. That’s how you can spot people faster in a huge crowd and don’t lose their track.”
She spotted the grey hat and white shirt of the tallest of them about fifteen metres ahead of her. The group walked slowly through the other customers, eating apples and chatting without a hurry.
She made her way through the crowd as quickly as possible without crushing into anyone in order to get closer. Soon they left the market behind. Nicole followed them through less crowded streets using every opportunity to take cover in shadows and observing them through mirroring surfaces when possible. They didn’t hurry. A couple of times she thought the smaller man was looking around, but it didn’t seem like he spotted her.
They crossed Gendarmenmarkt, a huge open square with lawn surrounded by the French Cathedral, German Cathedral and the King’s National Theatre, but no place to hide. She just hoped to appear as someone out for a stroll. When they left the square and turned into smaller streets,she breathed a sigh of relieve.
After half an hour the small man turned, gazed in her direction and without stopping went right, followed by the rest of the group. She caught her breath, apparently he hadn’t noticed her.
Nicole quickened her pace. When she glanced around the corner, she saw them standing close at the entrance of Friedrich von Liegnitz house. She tried to eavesdrop their conversation leaning against the wall, the baked goods pressed against her chest. Then she realised how conspicuous this must look. Looking around she saw only a handful of people passing by. She took a bun from the bag and ate it as if she was pausing from a walk. She still felt stupid, but it was the best she could do right now.
A raised voice from the group of men brought her attention back to them. “September twelfth you say? In the evening at Kurfürstendamm ?”
“Not that loud!” A deep annoyed voice interrupted him. “But you’re right. We meet there for some important business. Remember everyone, the evening of September twelfth. Keep quiet now. We’ll discuss details soon enough.” Nicole heard the hard clicking sound of their shoes disappear into the building. When she glanced around the corner again, they were gone.
Nicole didn’t go home in case someone had seen her and she was being followed. Instead she took the subway to Berlin Neukölln , where she would arrive in time for the afternoon screening of the new Marlene Dietrich film 'Hearts in Flames', the original English title was 'Morocco'.
Usually they went to the Mercedes Palace Cinema, which was just a little further down Hermann street and always had affordable tickets, but they went bankrupt last year as a result of the depression.
The Star Cinema-Palace was a small film theatre located in a rear building hall. The wide entrance area consisted of the ground and first floor of the house. Next to the entrance door were showcases with the screening program. Nicole entered the lobby, her shoes clacking on the dark wooden paneling that formed a distinct contrast to the strong blue and gold ceiling. The walls were decorated with film posters. She bought two tickets for the film screening from a bored young man, leaving the building to wait for Waverly in a nearby café.
Nicole sat at a table of in front of the café enjoying the afternoon sun, when she saw Waverly approaching. Their eyes met and both smiled wide, relieved that the other was healthy and in one piece.
Waverly sat down at her table. They had about fifteen minutes before the film would start. “Have you bought tickets already?”
Nicole just nodded. “Did everyone get home safe?”
“Yes.” Waverly hesitated and looked around, then shook her head as if she tried to shake off her worries, “Dolls guided us. There were two of the men following us, but we went to the subway, got into a full train and hopped off just before it departed. We also took some extra turns on our route home, so did the others.” Nicole was relieved. She paid for her coffee and they went into the cinema. Passing along dozens of film posters that decorated the walls they showed their tickets and entered the screening room. There were a lot of empty seats, which gave them some privacy. The red chair’s cushioning was comfortable.
“I didn't learn much.” Nicole whispered, “he bought a book written by Rasputin. And afterwards they went straight to Friedrich von Liegnitz ' house, but apparently they’re planning something in the evening of September 12 th at Kurfürstendamm . It’s possible though that they saw me and Kurfürstendamm is a trap, I have a bad feeling about it.” Waverly listened silently but her mind was spinning about the events of the day.
Soon the lights went out and the silent clacking noise of the projector indicated the start of the film.
On the big cinema screen, they watched Marlene Dietrich as singer Amy Jolly in a smoky cabaret in Morocco, performing in a man’s tuxedo with top hat, white tie and tails. At one point she kissed a female patron squarely on the lips. It was scandalous but exciting. Waverly and Nicole never expected to see something like this so publicly. They locked eyes both smiling and blushing. No words were needed. After a reassuring look around, Waverly kissed Nicole briefly. Nicole took Waverly’s hand in hers and they watched the rest of the film holding hands, feeling bold and free with pondering hearts and smiles on their faces.
When they left the cinema, they walked along another wall full of film posters. Suddenly Nicole stopped and stared at one of them. “Now I know where I’ve seen him before!” she said to an irritated Waverly. Waverly looked at the poster and the small man they followed at the market looked down to her with piercing blue eyes.
“Konrad König,” Nicole read aloud, “He’s an actor! And now we know his name.”
Waverly was flabbergasted. She took a closer look at the poster. The film premiered about a year ago. She took a pencil from her purse and wrote the names and production company down on her ticket “There are 37 film studios in and around Berlin, someone has to know him! I’ll do some research.”
During the following week Dolls took over the surveillance of Friedrich von Liegnitz , while the others asked their friends, family and acquaintances about the actor Konrad König.
Chapter 8: Moving pictures
The group is sneaking into the famous Babelsberg film studio. What will they find?
Friday, September 4 th 1931
Friday evening they met again at the magic shop. Rosita had brought some schnapps and Charlotte gave shot glasses to everyone. Rosita was in an exceptionally good mood and poured some for everyone, raising her glass. “Let’s celebrate. I pulled some strings and called in some favours. A friend of a friend knows someone who works at the Ufa costume department. His name’s Michael, and he told me that Konrad König is working on a new film project at the Babelsberg film studio. On September 8 th , they'll have scenes with lots of extras, and that’s when we’ll slip in.”
Wynonna raised her glass. “Let the planning begin. So, how do we get on a film set?”
“Wait a moment,” Waverly said, “he knows everyone of us, except Jeremy and Rosita. I don't want to repeat our mistake from the market.”
Rosita smiled bright “Well, that's why Michael will come to us with wigs and make-up before we go. He’ll work some magic so your own mother won’t recognise you,” but she admits, “sneaking in will be a challenge though.”
There was a moment of silence while everyone sipped on their glasses.
Then Wynonna's eyes went wide, and she smiled brightly. “Waves, do you remember Gregor Büttelsen ? That really nice man with the poltergeist?” She asked, “didn’t he work as security guard for the Ufa in Babelsberg?”
“Yes, I remember him. He was so thankful after you made sure his home was a safe place again.” Waverly smiled at the memory. “Such a nice man. I’m sure he’ll do you a favour .”
“I’ll contact him. See if he’s willing to help us.” Wynonna said hiding a smile.
They decided to go when the casting for extras would start, sneak away from the casting in small teams and search for Konrad König’s dressing room or other opportunities to get information about him.
Saturday, September 5 th 1931
Nicole had invited the group to dinner at Lutter and Wegner, a restaurant located in a historic cellar.
It was pouring rain all day. Their dripping coats hung on the coat rack next to the entrance. Doc was the last to arrive, “I’m sorry the last appointment was a difficult one.” He sat down.
Nicole had been nervous to finally share her news with everyone.
“You know, ever since I heard a speech of Josephine Erkens I wished I could join the new female police force. She built up a female criminal investigation department in Hamburg where men and women serve under female leadership. Can you imagine?” Nicole’s eyes shone and she smiled excitedly, “even Prussia decided to install a female police force in Berlin under the leadership of Friederike Wieking. She led the woman community work before building up a police department and,” Nicole paused, “she accepted my application! I start next year.”
The group needed a moment to process the news. Waverly was the first to react. She hugged Nicole and said, “Congratulations! I’m so proud of you!”
The rest congratulated her as well and toasted to her new career, only Jeremy sat there in silence looking at his fingers.
“Are you alright, Jeremy?” Nicole asked him concerned taking in his reactions or the lack thereof.
He met her eyes his was voice flat “ Must I expect you to arrest me anytime soon then?” He was referring to §175, the law that punishes ‚obscene acts between two men, with up to 6 months in prison.
“No, no, Jeremy, absolutely not! The department investigates cases with minors and sexual offences with women. Also, you know the chief of police mostly investigates cases of black mailing by prostitutes and doesn’t hunt down men who love men.” Nicole tried to reassure him.
“That can change.” Jeremy said his head low like talking to his coffee cup.
Nicole reached out placing her hand on his arm “Listen, loving the company of men isn’t illegal otherwise many pubs in this city would go out of business right away. And you are my friend. I would never hurt you and if anyone asked me, I’d tell them you’re a virgin.” She smiled at him holding her hands up in a ‘I know nothing’ gesture.
Jeremy smiled back and finally hugged her. “Congratulations. I hope this job is all you wish for.”
Tuesday, September 8 th 1931
The famous Babelsberg film studio was located in Potsdam not far from Berlin. Notable films like 'The Blue Angel', the film that made Marlene Dietrich famous, 'Metropolisl and 'Woman in the Moon' were all produced here.
Gregor Büttelsen sat at the entrance of the studio right under the arch that announced 'Studio Babelsberg'. He was a friendly looking man in his sixties with some grey streaks in his light brown hair, stubble around his moustache and the beginnings of a paunch under his watchman uniform. The friends were surrounded by a steady flow of people heading towards the entrance.
Gregor didn’t recognise them at first, which was a good sign. Michael did a great job with the wigs and make-up. They went up to him, and it took a moment until his face showed recognition. Wynonna had filled him in about their mission to go undercover and, once again, stop supernatural forces. He was eagerly willing to help, his own problems with the poltergeist had made a lasting impression on him and his view of the world.
“Impressive disguise,” he said in a low voice, “The casting of extras will start in a couple of minutes at the large sunlight studio. They’ll start filming as soon as the sun is high enough around 7am.” He took a map from his pocket, and showed them the locations. “As you can see, the studio area is about 460.000 square meters, it’s easy to get lost here. Changing rooms are here, the stars dressing rooms over there. Don’t bother with the casting, with the high unemployment numbers all around they’ll have way too many applicants anyway,” he lowers his voice to whisper. “Good luck stopping this demon.”
They entered the studio area and followed the path to the large studio at first. There were few film studio employees overseeing the masses of potential extras. After they were out of sight of the employees, they split up to different directions.
Waverly and Nicole went in the direction of the film studios they knew Konrad König would be working. Waverly spotted the actor leaving a building ahead of them. Out of reflex, she pushed Nicole around the next corner in fear that the actor would see them. Nicole automatically hugged the smaller woman. She placed a kiss on the top of her head, when suddenly a woman with a dog appeared around the corner. Surprised they jumped apart staring at the slender woman with long brunette hair and an adorable dog on a leash.
“No worries, “the woman said with a dimpled smile and a wink, “your secret is safe with me. May I help you? You seem a little lost.” The couple remembered to breathe again and nodded. When they didn't speak the woman calmly continued “It's nice to meet you. I'm Katharina, I'm an actress and who are you?”
“I'm Nicole and that's Waverly.” Nicole finally answered. She stood directly in front of the actress, who looked at her with friendly brown eyes and an open expression. Nicole realised they were about the same hieght.“ “You’re Katharina Fass! I’m a huge fan,” Nicole said pleasantly surprised. “It's such a pleasure to meet you. We're a little lost, we're here as extras today. Could you point us to the right direction, please?” she smiled hopefully while repeating their cover story. An uncomfortable knot formed in her stomach about the blatant lie she just told her idol.
“Oh no problem, just follow me, I’ll show you to the costume department.” she talked to them about the film and even gave them some tips to get along. On the way they met a muscular man with short dark hair, smiling at them. “Rainer honey, could you please take our dog, I show these nice ladies to the costume department,” the actress said and gave him a quick kiss.
Rainer smiled and took the leash, “Sure, I'll be at the trailer.”
They arrived at a small building and Katharina opened the door for them. “Good luck, I'll see you around.”
Waverly and Nicole had no other choice, but to go into the building that was buzzing with people. They thanked the friendly actress and went inside, with chatter filling the room all around them.
“We should leave through another door.” Waverly said as they went through corridors made up of hall-stands full of costumes. They squeezed their way through other extras, all too busy to pay them any attention.
A mandatory voice cut through the chatter: “Everybody move, we’re filming the market scene in ten minutes in the daylight hall. Get dressed and nobody leaves until I come and get you!”
They were trapped. Waverly’s heartbeat sped up but she spotted Michael and dragged Nicole in his direction. He looked surprised but quickly recovered. “Well, now you’re gonna be extras. Follow me.” He went along a rack full of fur coats gently brushing over them, before he continued to another rack and gave them two costumes. “Put this on. Just follow the others, keep your heads low, and follow the orders of Mrs. Andreas,” he instructed them. Waverly got a white blouse and dark grey skirt. Nicole got a green summer dress. They changed quickly and followed the other extras out of the dressing room.
The daylight hall was huge and had a glass facade. It was warm in there, but it became hot once the spotlights added to the warmth of people and the sun.
Mrs. Andreas yelled out orders until everyone knew where they should stand and go and what to do. Microphones were hidden everywhere, like in huge bouquets of flowers and other overly big props.
They overheard a young man who just hid a microphone in a wicker one of the actors had to carry in the scene. “We have a recording studio, the most progressive in the world, why don’t we use it?” The actor asked impatiently.
The sound technician answered with the same impatience in his voice: “It’s all used for 'The Congress dances' so we’ll have to work with on-set recording only. Please make sure you hold the wicker high enough, this is all I get to work with. Audio of a film is art too, you know? You cannot just record every sound around. You need to highlight the important things for the audience and that’s why I have to figure out how to hide microphones everywhere!”
The actor raised his hands soothingly “ I’m just saying it would be easier with a recording studio.”
“It would be less expensive as well. This way we have to shoot every scene in all languages planned for a release. I thought that’s in the past.”
They rehearsed the scenes until the director was satisfied, then the camera would roll. Three times they had to get it right. Once in German, in French and in English. Some actors did all three languages, others came in for their language version. Waverly and Nicole did the same movements in the background again and again while they witnessed in awe how a beautiful actress with amazing dark hair managed to carry the scene and at the same time make everyone around her shine brighter. They tried to stay hidden in between the other extras, unnoticed from Konrad König.
Two hours later at another part of the film studio Doc and Wynonna were looking out for their suspect, when a voice called them: “Hey, you! What are you doing there?”
They turned around and saw two men with a heavy looking camera and lightning equipment. “Come on, don’t be lazy help us with the equipment! This all goes to studio 3.”
They helped load some boxes on a handcart while the men continued a passionate discussion. “Mr. Schmidt, my point is there is so much changing, the possibilities are progressing every year. Within the last four years, the industry switched from silent films to sound. Directors finally realised that film is more than a theatre play, that the camera is an artistic instrument itself!”
“Don’t forget the lighting,” Mr. Schmidt added passionately, “The lighting is an integral part of expressionist films like M with its deep shadows and high contrasts. Lightning can change the mood dramatically!”
Wynonna and Doc helped unloading the equipment in studio 3, a huge hall with three studios inside, that was built for the filming of ‘Metropolis' four years ago*. The huge crowd of people who auditioned here in the morning were gone now. Instead, there were many people building impressive sets, setting up technical equipment and measuring distances. Nobody paid much attention to them. They searched the three studios that bordered directly onto each other without any luck.
In the meantime, Dolls, Jeremy and Rosita also posed as helping hands and just carried some props from a transport car to another studio set.
“Don’t put it that close to the floodlights! I can’t have any props on fire today,” a stern voice called them out. Under the watchful eyes of the woman, they repositioned the items.
“Don’t worry, she just makes sure everyone is safe. It’s nothing personal.” A woman with ear long red hair and a long blue dress appeared behind them, “but you should avoid the back room for now. Trust me.” There was a muffled but clearly upset voice coming from a door nearby, that they were just about to check out.
“Thanks for the warning,” Rosita answered, “We need to deliver a package to Mr. König’s dressing room. Could you tell us where to go?”
“Sure,” she said with a smile, “just follow the main road to the second building on your left. The security guards are overly strict sometimes. Just tell them Daniela sen t you, if they ask.”
Rosita was relieved “ Thank you Daniela, that’s kind of you.”
They found the building, but a middle-aged security guard at the door stopped them, asking what they wanted. He had broad shoulders and a severe look on his face.
“Daniela sent us, we need to get a package to Mr. König.” Rosita said with convincing impatience, “Now,” she added when the guard didn’t move immediately.
“All three of you?” He asked raising an eyebrow.
“We’re not just tasked with one thing, this is just the first stop. Can we go on now, please?” It was the most annoyed ’please‘ Dolls had ever heard.
The guard sighed and stepped aside, motioning them to go on.
According to a plan they snitched from a notice board, he was filming scenes at the other end of the studio area. They went down a corridor with doors left and right. On one door the name 'Konrad König’ was painted on a sign in big, black letters. It wasn’t locked so Jeremy and Rosita slipped inside while Dolls stayed outside to warn them if anybody came.
The actor’s private clothes where neatly folded on a chest of drawers. Michael warned them that the length of a shoot was pretty much unpredictable. There was no way to know how much time they’d have before the actor might return.
They searched the small room quickly and Jeremy found a small notepad in a pocket of his jacket. He leafed through it quickly while Rosita peeked over his shoulder.
There were many notes about his acting and the film he was just working on, but one page stood out. There was just one term “Chest of Ningiszida’s jewellery” with a circle around it.
Rosita wrote it down and Jeremy put the notepad back. Just in time as they heard three sharp knocks at the door. Dolls’ sign that they had to wrap it up and leave.
The door just closed behind them, and they were only a few steps away when they heard footsteps and a deep voice coming closer. Neither of them turned around as they walked straight to the exit.
* Today called Marlene-Dietrich-Hall
I just couldn't stop myself with the cameos. I hope you had as much fun with it as I did.
Chapter 9: Rosh Hashanah
Following the conversation Nicole overheard the group goes to Ku’Damm. Is it a trap or will they find out more on how to stop the demon?
This chapter includes a heavy topic. Maybe wait with reading if you're feeling down.
Emotions are all over the place because of 412 and I thought about postponing, but you know best what you're feeling up for. I hope you'll enjoy reading.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Wednesday, September 9 th 1931
The group gathered again at the Zauberkönig discussing their adventures at the film studio. Doc was sipping on some Whiskey, Wynonna looked skeptical, while Waverly talked about this amazing actress they saw. Nicole smiled adding some more details, Jeremy fumbled with a piece of paper, Rosita wrote down some notes, Dolls listened silently and even Arthur joined them this evening.
“I didn’t realise it takes so many people to make a film!” Waverly said at the end of her story.
Jeremy nodded thoughtful “In the meantime Rosita and I found Mr. König’s notebook with this entry.” Jeremy laid a piece of paper on the table with the words 'Chest of Ningiszida’s jewellery‘ on it. “We don’t know what it means yet, but it sounds like an artefact the cult could use.”
Waverly copied the words in her own notebook “ I have some ideas for where to look, but I’ll need some time.”
“We’ll all go research,” Dolls said, “but what are we going to do about Saturday?”
“I have a bad feeling about it,” Nicole said, “they were too obvious about it, I’m not sure. Is there anything special about this date?”
Arthur, usually a silent ally at their gatherings, spoke up “well, it’s Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We’ll be at the service in the synagogue Pheasant Street that evening.”
“Isn’t that a side street of Ku’Damm?” Nicole asked and Arthur nodded in response.
The table fell silent for a moment.
“Maybe they’re planning something,” Wynonna assumed, “we sure can’t leave you alone if something is going to happen, Arthur!” She straightened her posture and pointed her finger on the table underlining her determination in this point.
“Well,” Arthur replied, “if I see anything suspicious, I’m sure I can send someone with a message to you. You could enjoy some cake at Café Reimann, I know the owner, he’s really nice and if anything happens, I know where to find you.”
“It’s settled then,” Dolls decided, standing up. “We’ll go there, but this time we’ll be prepared. Everybody stand-up, let’s start with some self-defense training.”
They moved the table and chairs against the wall making just enough room for simple exercises.
“First rule,” Dolls started, “if you can get away then run! You don’t gain anything by getting hurt in unnecessary fights.” He waited, his arms crossed in front of his broad chest, until everybody acknowledged the first rule.
“Good. I’ll show you some easy to learn techniques that don’t require much strength. You can use these to get away and don’t get hurt.”
He asked Doc to pose as attacker and showed them some weak spots to hit, as well as how to free themselves from various clutches. They trained every move with each other, often switching partners to learn to defend against different body types and fighting styles. Soon the room was hot and the air stale. Charlotte came from the stockroom to see where the noise was coming from and wrinkled her nose and wordlessly opened a window.
“In this position it’s easy to dislocate his wrist, elbow or shoulder.” Dolls explained another self-defense technique.
“I’ve seen this one in a Pathé News film about self-defense for women.” Waverly said excited.
“Please, tell me this is the last one.” Wynonna complained, “with the muscle pain coming my way, I can’t even defend myself against a duck sized horse.”
Dolls looked at her quizzically. Then he sighted, “fine, we’ll meet again tomorrow evening and resume the training.”
“I know a place with some more room.” Jeremy offered, writing down the address for everyone. “Is 7pm fine?”
They agreed and Dolls announced they would practice every evening until Saturday. “We should have done this earlier, but now is the next best time to start. Right?” He stood tall and looked over the group like an officer at a group of Rookies. The answers he got were less than enthusiastic.
Saturday, September 12th 1931
The Kurfürstendamm , mostly referenced as Ku’damm by locals, was a famous shopping street in the centre of Berlin. After the Great War the Ku’Damm changed from a distinguished residential district to a pulsating centre for shopping, entertainment and cultural communication in a short couple of years.
The group met there in the late afternoon seeing masses of people strolling along the busy street alone or in groups, looking at the displays or sitting in one of the many cafés or bars located along the street.
They saw a young family, the small children with their mouths open and eyes wide, walking along next to some tourists with the same expression on their faces. Three women with too much make-up were standing next to a kiosk, looking for punters. It was just a usual Saturday afternoon, nothing standing out as preparations for a demonic ritual.
The sky had been grey all day and at 8pm, the temperature was just above 10°C. They went to Café Reimann, a well-known cake shop located at Kurfürstendamm 35, not far from crossroad Pheasant Street. There were about half a dozen guests sitting outside, some women with woolen blankets over their knees. The seats in the front garden of the café were accompanied by coke-burning stoves, but the group decided to sit down inside.
In the cosy atmosphere of the cake shop, guests were chatting in small groups at small, round tables eating cake and drinking coffee.
They chose two tables near the large shop window from where they could oversee the bustling activity on the street.
About one hour and some delicious cake later, they once more discussed their options as they heard groups of people uttering slogans outside on the street. Small groups of mostly young man walked along, calling out rallying cries like “We are hungry!” and “We want work!”.
“I didn’t know there would be a demonstration today.” Doc said with a frown, following the protestors with his eyes. It didn’t take long until more people appeared calling out other slogans like “Germany, wake up!”.
“It looks like they are all coming from the same direction,” Dolls said mostly to himself. The number of men in brown shirts and grey uniforms was increasing every minute.
“Guys, is it just me or are there a lot of SA members?” Jeremy asked his eyes glued to the street while he held his teaspoon in a death grip. They followed the events through the huge shop window. Jeremy was right, this wasn’t a protest of the worker’s movement.
Soon they heard “Kill all the Jews!” yelled loud and clear from outside. The group looked at each other, eyes wide, the realisation that their friends at the synagogue not far away were in imminent danger hitting them.
“The bill, please!” Wynonna called out loud and urgent. Everyone grabbed their belongings, almost jumping up, getting ready to leave.
“Back off the window!” Dolls shouted out pulling Wynonna suddenly behind him. Looking up they saw a group of thirty men silently walking towards the Café. Some wore badges of the National-Socialist Party, brown shirts or field-grey uniforms, their faces full of anger and determination.
“Move!” Dolls shouted out again just as the first of the men reached the sitting area outside and started throwing over tables and kicking chairs out of his way. The others followed his example. Some had truncheons, others knuckleduster. The guests of the café ran away in terror.
A young man in a field-grey uniform and angular face lifted a chair over his head and threw it through the window followed by a bestial battle cry. Chaos broke loose around the friends, the front door seemed to be their only way out.
The attackers flooded into the cake shop through the door and the broken window. Dolls had pushed everyone back and made sure they were standing as far away from the entrance as possible, with their backs to a wall, close enough to guard each other.
Stirring up chaos and as much destruction as possible appeared to be the only goal of the attackers. A muscular young man in a brown shirt stood in the middle of the room and drew a gun out of his belt. Dolls and Nicole reacted in an instant, running towards the guy. Dolls pushed the man’s arm upwards while Nicole kicked in his knee. Two shots were fired into the ceiling, the man fell on the floor. Dolls punched him hard and Nicole kicked the gun out of his hand. The weapon landed somewhere far out of their reach. The others had followed them to guard their backs.
A stocky man raised a truncheon to hit Nicole from behind, but Wynonna broke a chair over the guy’s head. He went to the ground with a huff.
Waverly and Jeremy had armed themselves with cutlery from a table, Doc used his fists. Slowly, back-to-back they fought their way to the entrance. Once outside, they had to climb over tables and chairs, all tossed around in the front garden.
They flew onto the street only to realise that groups of SA men were everywhere yelling their hateful slogans, and throwing stones into several shops.
From afar they saw a topless car with two men in it speaking to a guy on a motorcycle. The guy nodded eagerly and drove further down the street.
“The synagogue is this way,” Wynonna said walking up the street, expecting the rest to follow her. There were not many pedestrians left. They saw a group running away into a side-street, one of them had blood flowing out of his nose, followed by a group shouting slurs at them. Almost all shops had closed their shutters and pulled down iron bars.
A burly man with a full beard stormed towards Wynonna, aggressively invading her personal space looking her up and down. “Well, don’t you look jewish ?”
Five more men joined him, many showing devilish arrogant grins on their faces.
“And you,” another spoke up looking towards Dolls and Jeremy “ you should go back to where you come from. Germany is for Germans!”
Jeremy kicked him in his groin, “That's for Robin!”
Doc punched the guy next to him and Waverly pushed another one away. They used the moment of surprise to run as fast as they could.
They passed the pub “plantation” at corner Uhland Street where attackers still threw chairs around, trying to destroy the place thoroughly. Avoiding the demolition and more aggressors, they turned away from the Main Street running as fast as they could without losing anyone. Dolls made sure he was last, pushing Jeremy to his limits.
Out of breath, the group came to a hold around a corner. Dolls looked back “They’re not following.” Next to him Wynonna was panting hard, leaning against a house wall. Closing her eyes, she willingly forced her breath back to normal. On her other side stood Doc, looking concerningly at Jeremy who was leaned over, his eyes pressed shut and gulping, taking some deep breaths. Nicole was huffing, but patted Jeremy’s back and blindly reached for Waverly’s hand with the other. Waverly took it thankfully in her own while she tried to breathe normal again.
As soon as they recovered Wynonna said, “We have to get to the synagogue.” Dolls nodded, about to head back where they came from, but Wynonna held him back. “Not this way, I know a safer route.”
On another side street they passed a man, woman and child. They overheard the middle-aged woman say, “the times are tough, those Jews really shouldn't walk around in their fine outfits when so many people are struggling to make a basic living,” she continued brushing dirt off her son’s jacket.
“Is she really just blaming the victims for the attack?” Waverly asked astonished.
“Yep, she totally is.” Wynonna agreed stopping in her tracks and throwing a death glare in the woman’s direction, without the mother noticing.
Doc grabbed her elbow pushing her further. “That's a fight against windmills, Wynonna. Let's rather make sure that our friends are safe and sound.”
Reluctantly Wynonna let herself be dragged away.
Jeremy was still clenching the teaspoon from the café holding it in front of him like a weapon while they took a detour through the side streets towards Pheasant Street.
By the time they arrived at the synagogue the attackers seemed to have mostly stayed at Ku’Damm , but in front of the synagogue stood a growing crowd chanting death threats .
The Black Badge Team sneaked around the building looking for a way in while avoiding the attackers, but there was no back door. They sized up the situation. Wynonna was about to run, but Dolls and Waverly held her back. The crowd grew by the minute, yelling aggressively but not moving, not yet. The air was loaded with hate and aggression.
“Why aren’t the police here by now?” Nicole asked looking around.
They lingered on a wall, which at least gave them the feeling that nobody could attack from behind. With concern they saw the crowd was still growing in numbers.
Dolls looked over the hateful group “ 700 hundred, I’d say.” They still heard ongoing calls from Ku’Damm .
When the doors finally opened and people in formal, mostly white clothing left the synagogue, they were greeted with defamatory calls and rude remarks and had to run the gauntlet, passing through a crowd that spit hate on them.
“There, I see them,” Nicole shouted out “ Arthur, this way!” She waved to them. Luckily despite the masses of people and the yelling they saw them and moved in their direction. The family was pushed and spit on. They covered their faces and pulled up their shoulders pushing their way past the crowd of angry faces, but eventually they got through the crowd without too many bruises. Their white clothes on the other hand were full of dirt.
“Come this way, Ku’Damm is full of them.” Wynonna advised the Kroner family. They walked home in silence - avoiding busy streets. No one knew what to say after such an unthinkable attack. They were lost in their thoughts, but every time they heard voices, their heart rates went up. The darkness didn’t help to ease their worries either. Before entering the tram station, Wynonna and Doc went in first, looking if it was safe. After a moment he called them inside. They chaos was behind them, everything seemed normal in this part of town.
Doc made sure to take everyone home. Even Dolls didn’t contradict the idea, and Wynonna insisted Dolls stayed at their apartment tonight. Jeremy insisted he had to check on Robin. Nicole triple checked the locks and put a chair in front of the door. Finally closing the door of their flat Wynonna let out a long breath.
Sunday, September 13 th 1931
The next day everything was awfully normal. Only on Ku’Damm the destructions of last night were still visible. The Kroners celebrated the second day of Rosh Hashanah and the rest of the society met at the Hohenzollern Hall, one of the oldest lesbian cafès in the city, but not fashionable enough to attract strangers. It was safe and familiar. They were surrounded mostly by women, even if some of them looked like men at first glance, reading various newspapers that condemned the events of the previous evening and demanded justice on the front pages.
“Remember the guys in the car?” Nicole asked, “Those were Wolf Heinrich Earl of Helldorf and Karl Ernst, both leaders of the SA in Berlin. They coordinated the attack with the help of messengers on motorcycles.” She cited from a paper in front of her.
“So this cult belongs to the National-Socialists?” Dolls asked rubbing his temples.
“I don’t think so,” Doc answered kneading his chin in thought looking at a point on the table, “I haven’t seen Mr. Von Liegnitz at any meeting.” Glasses hit the table with loud clacks. When he looked up, he saw five pairs of eyes staring at him wide eyed.
“What meeting?” Dolls asked, his hand a fist and a deep, angry frown between his eyes.
“My sister and my parents are members of the NSDAP, but I assure you, they had nothing to do with the attack yesterday,” Doc said holding his hands up defensively. “They are members of the party, because they need the contacts, but they don't hate Jews and they have nothing to do with the SA. On the contrary, the party wants to distance itself from these hateful trouble makers.”
He cleared his throat “What I was going to say is, that I've never seen Mr. von Liegnitz or Mr. Schmidt around before.”
With a sudden outburst Dolls stood up and punched his fists on the table. His chair fell on the floor behind him with a loud shutter. “Are you for real? Were you with us yesterday?”
“They’re just donors for the party. I’m not happy, but I can't discuss this matter at every family dinner. That'll only ruin our relationship and accomplish nothing in return!” Doc said in a stern voice, his posture erect, but in his eyes shimmered tears. “It’s not like I could control what they think or do.”
Dolls crossed his muscular arms over his chest “So you decided to say nothing and watch. How convenient for you. But as long as they don't try to kill you it doesn't matter that much, does it?”
In response Doc jumped up as well, placed his hands on the table, leaned forward and growled. “You don't know me, my family or our relationship well enough to assume anything about what I do and not do!”
Both stood close now, glancing angrily at each other, when Waverly took a step between them. “Guys!” she shouted to get their attention “We shouldn't fight about who is doing the most or not enough! Everyone is doing their best, in their way. We’re all on the same side, remember? What these people proclaim and do is unbearable, but we can't stop them with a single shot. This is a long game. So it's important to pick the battles we're going to fight with care and not tear each other apart! Do you hear me?” She stood there like a teacher reprimanding her students.
The men were startled by the persistence the young woman spoke with. Each of them took a step back and nodded. A long moment of silence fell over the group. Finally, Dolls looked up to Doc holding out his hand. Doc took the offered hand and simply nodded with a grunt.
The people around them had held their breaths, but quickly returned to their previous conversations when Doc and Dolls sat down again.
Wynonna had watched the scene unfold in silent horror. Now she took a deep breath and asked. “This may have been just a trap, but how about we look at some jewellery , ladies?”
They laughed, the tension broke and the dispute was silenced, for tonight.
This takes place 7 years before Kristallnacht and 2 years before the Nazis have the majority in parliament. In my opinion things hardly ever happen out of the blue, but it's possible one didn't see or chose to ignore the signs.
Thanks for reading.
Chapter 10: Cabaret
The group gets ready to intercept an important part of the cult's plan and we'll visit a magic show.
Wednesday, September 16 th 1931 6pm
The group sat around the table in the back room of the Zauberkönig once again. Everybody except Waverly, who stood patently with her notepad waiting for silence.
When everyone looked at her expectantly, she started, “I was digging around in some archives about 'The Chest of Ningiszida’s jewellery'. I was sure I heard the term before,” she smiled, “I was operating a phone call between Wilhelm Waetzoldt, the director of the Berlin state museums, and the director of a museum in Leningrad8. They talked about exhibits for a temporal exhibition at the Pergamon museum including the Chest of Ningiszida’s jewellery!” She took a newspaper cutting from her notebook and put it on the table for everyone to see. “Nicole pulled the article from the newspaper archives. The exhibition opened March 1st and close on November 30th. After that, some of the exhibits, including the box, will be handed over to the private collection of a generous donor, who wants to stay anonymous.”
Jeremy groaned “ Tell me it’s not who I think it is!”
“It wasn’t that hard to find out that Friedrich von Liegnitz just made a generous donation to the museum.” Waverly continued
Wynonna just studied the article, “Wait, it says the exhibit closes on October 25 th .”
“That’s right, but due to its popularity the exhibition was extended.” Waverly explained.
“ So you think we can make them extend the exhibition for another year? Just visit it every day, write letters to the director?” Jeremy asked half joking, but he threw up his hands ruffling them through his hair.
“Nonsense, we’ll just steal it.” Wynonna exclaimed throwing the paper back on the table.
“You think it’s that easy to steal something from a museum, Wynonna?” Nicole asked, “I don’t want to end up in jail.”
“You won’t, Nicole,” Waverly interjected, “we’ll keep your record clean, so you can join the police force.”
“All I hear is, we should be sure not to get caught.” Doc said smiling, pulling a Whiskey flask out of his pocket. “Anyone else want some?”
“ Well I know a thing or two about letting things disappear.” Charlotte Kroner spoke with a smile, her eyes unfocused looking at past memories, “I could help you figure something out, but I won’t take part in the theft.” Usually she was quiet, working in the background, bringing them drinks or snacks. It was easy to forget that she was the daughter of the famous magician Josef Leichtmann and a talented magician herself. “I’ll just need someone nimble-fingered to teach.”
“My friend Robin is a magician too. Not as good as you though,” Jeremy quickly added, “If you could teach him. He dreams about doing a grant show one day, and he and I …” His eyes widened when he realised he started rambling and shut his mouth without ending the sentence.
Charlotte laughed. “No worries, I’ll help you. No one starts as a master. Where does he perform? I’d like to have a look at his skills first so I know where to start.”
Jeremy let out a breath and blushed “Often I’m his assistant and we only performed at ‘The Magic Flute’.”
“Isn’t that a club for homosexual men? No women allowed?” Dolls asked and everyone turned to look at him in surprise
“Why would you think that?” Jeremy asked in the most neutral tone he could manage.
Dolls looked around the table “Well, I found this book,” fishing it out of his bag, “the guide through the depraved Berlin. It has a chapter about establishments of the male eros.” He placed the book on the table and raised his hands in defeat “I just thought it would be good to know as much about this city as possible.”
Waverly grabbed the book and scanned the table of contents “‚tête-à-têtes in coffee shops‘ , ‚visit the cinema‘ , ‚how would you like to eat?‘ , ‚ favourite haunts of the male erotic love‘ , ‚lesbian pubs‘ ,” her eyes were getting bigger while reading, “‚here are transvestites‘ , ‚a look into the underworld‘ “ she took a deep breath leaving through “published this year, written by a Curt Moreck .” She looked up at Dolls “May I lean this?”
Dolls nodded with a smile. “Sure, I already read it.”
“Okay, repeat,” Wynonna said, “we want this Robin to perform in a club where women are allowed, so Charlotte can teach him to steal jewellery from the Pergamon museum. Did I get this right?”
“For a first impression, he can perform here. At the end, I want to watch him and everyone involved under the pressure of a real performance. You see, I’ll need more than just one person to teach. Actually, the assistant often needs even more skill than the magician, who has to mostly distract the audience.”
Jeremy nodded “We’d need a female assistant to have a chance to perform for a mixed audience. Preferably one that is not too tall.” He looked at Waverly giving her his best, charming smile.
Waverly sighed in defeat. “Fine, I’ll do it.”
Jeremy was smiling brightly. “Amazing! Can we meet tomorrow, Charlotte?” She nodded “Great! Waverly, I’ll pick you up at 5pm,” he almost jumped from his chair, “I’ll have to tell Robin the great news. See you tomorrow!” Just like that he almost sprinted through the door.
“At least we know, that the cult doesn’t get their hands on the jewellery either as long as it’s part of the exhibition.” Wynonna said.
“The preparation will also take quite some time if you don’t want to get caught.” Charlotte warned them.
Thursday, September 17 th 1931
Robin was a tall but lanky young man with a well-groomed appearance. His perfectly trimmed light brown hair and pale skin with the light suit gave the impression of a true gentleman.
He was smiling brightly at Jeremy who was nervously introducing him to everyone and also gave the introduction to his performance at the Zauberkönig .
“The incredible Robin Jett, Ladies and Gentleman!”
The group applauded sitting in lined up chairs facing the improvised stage, which consisted of low tables. Robin stood on the tables and bowed. “Thank you very much for this warm welcome. Please also greet with pleasure my lovely assistant Jeremy Chetri.” Again, he looked at Jeremy with a warm smile before he faced the audience and began his show with some rope magic. Knots that magically dissolve and cut ropes that became one again, followed by card tricks. Jeremy was always the helping hand by his side, handling the necessary equipment.
At the end of the show, he let Jeremy disappear using just a piece of cloth.
After the applause subsided Charlotte stood up to shake Robin's hand. “Thank you, very nice work. You got down the basics, both of you. Together we will work on some advanced tricks to get you ready for a bigger audience.”
Robin blushed at her praise. “I can’t thank you enough for your time.”
“Don’t thank me just yet,” she said, “your biggest audience will be the museum security, the most critical of all.”
“It sure will be.” Robin said with excitement, his eyes shining “ Jeremy told me a lot about the supernatural we need to stop and I’m excited to help.” He unnecessarily adjusted his suit when Charlotte motioned them to sit down.
They planned out a schedule for all of them including regular training sessions as well as small every day exercises.
Doc got the task to deep dive into Berlin’s artist community using Nicole’s knowledge she got from her parents, who were both artists.
Wynonna would spend quite some time in the museum, pretending to draw the exhibits, while she should observe patterns of the staff. Dolls on the other hand planned to map out the surroundings of the museum, the Museum Island and possible flight routes.
Wynonna went with Dolls to his room for some important discussions about their plan, so she said.
Back at the women’s apartment Waverly made some tea for Nicole and herself. “You’ve been unusually silent tonight, my Love. Is something bothering you?” she asked Nicole sitting down at the kitchen table.
Nicole smiled at her always empathic girlfriend. Grateful she sat down raising the tea cup. She took a sip of the hot liquid to sort out her thoughts before speaking, “I’m not sure stealing is the right thing to do. We just quickly jumped to the idea, because it seems like an obvious solution. But don’t we have any other options? I want to join the police and now I’m planning a theft? This feels somehow wrong.” She shook her head and took another sip of tea.
Waverly took her hand rubbing small reassuring circles onto her skin. “Don’t feel bad for having doubts about the theft,” she said in a soft voice, “I have doubts as well, but we don’t have other options. If we don’t steal it before the exhibition ends, the cult will get another piece to summon the demon. The end justifies the means.”
“Does it?” Nicole looked questioning at Waverly “I’m sure the cult thinks the same way. We still don’t know why they want to summon this demon. They could wish for anything.”
Waverly thought about Nicoles words drinking some of her own tea before she answered. “Even if their intensions are good, this demon is not. And once summoned and bound into this world it can cause a lot of pain. It will be easier to summon and a threat for many, if this power falls into the wrong hands.”
Nicole nodded “You’re right. I just think it’s important to check on our values before justifying something like this all too easy,” she smiled warmly, “thank you for your patience. I’ll be by your side in the museum in however way you need me.” She sealed her promise with a kiss.
“Like always.” Waverly said kissing her back.
Saturday, September 26 th 1931
Tonight, they went to the ‚Dorian Gray‘ , a pub in the Alvensleben Street about 1.5 km south of Tiergarten.
The house was old and so was the pub. Inside soft yellow and red lights from Chinese lamps illuminated the room. A band played dance music and it smelled like a mixture of beer, cigarettes and incense sticks. Some tables were hidden behind colourful curtains. Smaller pieces of the same cloth hang randomly on the ceiling right above the dancing floor.
Looking around they saw many women with short hair and male coded clothing as well as men openly holding hands with other men. A sign above the bar announced a mixed evening tonight.
“Most evenings it’s either men or women only.” Nicole had explained.
They sat down at a table in the back, not too close to the band, partly hidden by a red curtain.
After their first round of drinks Waverly pulled Nicole to the dance floor. Doc gallantly held his arm out for Wynonna who gladly joined him, and Jeremy and Robin followed suit. Only Dolls stayed at the table nursing his beer.
After a couple of songs, the group returned to the table chatting lively with red cheeks and smiles on their faces.
Dolls in contrast was brooding even more than usual. He leaned back in his chair his arms crossed in front of his chest with an expression like a pit-bull on watch. “I thought we’re here to discuss our plan.” He simply said.
Wynonna playfully hit his arm, “don’t be such a mood, Dolls. We just enjoy life before we end up in prison.”
Death glares hit her from Doll, Nicole and Waverly alike.
Jeremy chimed in to deescalate, “we need some kind of distraction,” he said, “preferably one where we don't have to plan a prison breakout afterwards.” He looked pointedly at Wynonna who shrugged.
“And we don't hurt innocent bystanders.” Waverly added.
Dolls shrugged “Just let me walk in there. The way people are staring and pointing at me, should be distraction enough,” he took a huge gulp from his drink “Like an animal in a zoo,” he grumbled.
The room fell silent for a moment.
“You're right, it would work,” Nicole said in a small voice, staring at the table, “the Hamburg Zoo is living proof with it's Africa exhibition. Including real live People in traditional outfits.” She looked up, “I'm sorry Dolls.”
He just stared at her, so Nicole tried to explain. “It's meant to be educational, you know. They're just curious.”
“REALLY?” Dolls exploded, “that's your excuse for dehumanising behaviour?” He stared at Nicole half raised from his seat.
Waverly chimed in, “No, that's no excuse, just an explanation. I'm truly sorry Dolls, most people don't even realise that their staring is offensive towards you.”
Dolls fell back in his chair with a sight. “I know. It's just really nerve-wracking sometimes,” he laughed, “but maybe this time we can use their own stupidity against them.”
Dolls sat up with a mischievous grin while they detailed their plans for the museum. Later on, Dolls even danced with Wynonna forgetting his bad mood for the evening.
Another month flew by while they were researching and preparing to steal a chest of jewellery . Nothing should be left to chance for their coup.
Von Liegnitz spend a lot of the time in his mansion outside of the city, where they couldn’t easily observe him. Konrad König had wrapped up his latest film and had pretty much vanished from public view.
No more decrypted messages or other hints popped up, it all seemed silent.
They visited the museum several times, taking more notes of the surroundings, the behaviour and shifts of the staff and especially the security staff.
Friday, November 27 th 1931
With some help of Charlotte’s contacts, they booked an appearance at the ‚ Wonderland‘ as a show opener. “Connections only hurt those, who don’t have any,” Doc had said with a wink.
Charlotte, Wynonna, Nicole, Doc and Dolls entered the pub at 8pm. Walking along Kurfürstendamm again felt weird, but all indications of the attack more than a month ago had been repaired or hidden away.
The pub was on the first floor of a two-story building, an escalator led to the entrance, inviting them to Wonderland. Between palm trees and bamboo bushes thick cushions were piled up like an island. The clothing of the staff was exotic, the interior highly fashionable. Mostly women laid on them, drinking coffee and looking somehow displaced on the exotic island. A sign labeled it as Island Bali. The pub was already filling up with guests, but the group still got a table close to the small stage.
The curtain opened. Jeremy and Waverly entered the stage from opposite sides, getting the attention of the audience. Waverly wore a short red glitter dress with long matching gloves, that reached over her elbows. Jeremy a tight-fitting red Tuxedo.
The spotlights shone intense bright and hot on them. Jeremy blinked trying to adjust to the lighting, but there were still dots in his vision. A thick layer of make-up kept the sweat on their foreheads from showing but they still had to deal with the heat. ‚ Maybe that’s why Germans say lamp fever instead of stage fright‘ Waverly thought out of the blue, then forced her concentration back to the show.
In the centre of the stage lay a crumpled cloth. They picked up either end of the cloth and presented it to the audience like a painting. After only a second the cloth got pulled away by Robin, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Robin the magnificent!” Waverly and Robin said in unison.
The audience applauded the impressive entrance.
“Thank you very much. For my next trick I’ll need my wonderful assistant Jeremy.” Robin presented Jeremy, who bowed. In the meantime, Waverly cleared the stage and brought another cloth, which she held out to Robin. Robin explained “Physicist found out, that matter is mostly empty space. On one level it’s all just energy. The identity of two separate objects has more to do with probability than with any solid physical law. The only thing keeping one object from passing through another is statistics,” while he walked around Jeremy. Then stood behind him and took the cloth from Waverly. His arms around Jeremy, holding the cloth in front of both of them. “Please hold your arms up.” He asked Jeremy while he slowly raised the fabric barrier higher slightly touching him. The audience could still see Jeremys hands, when the cloth fell down and revealed Robin standing in front of the smaller man. He passed right through him! The audience was stunned.
Waverly assisted in only some of the tricks. She didn’t have enough time to learn all of them. Robin and Jeremy had given her an overview about stage magic in preparation. Even though the magician gets the applause, many of the tricks depended on the abilities of the assistant to be skilful , quick, flexible and small enough to fit into tiny spaces.
They didn’t have huge probs to work with, but Robin always added funny stories or a monologue about recent events to every trick. This way he connected to the audience, pulled them in and kept their attention where he needed it.
They ended the show with a bang, a neat little chemical trick, Jeremy mixed up. The audience applauded without much enthusiasm. It was too early, most of them not drunk enough to loosen up from typical German stiffness.
After the show ended, Jeremy, Robin and Waverly cleared everything up and met with the rest of the group.
Charlotte looked at them and raised her glass “I approve, you’re ready.” Everyone raised their glasses and toasted to their success. Jeremy smiled proudly. “It’s all settled then, tomorrow we’ll pull a Captain of Köpenick.”
* Today known as Saint Petersburg
Chapter 11: Pergamon Museum
It's time to visit Pergamon Museum and get the chest without getting caught.
I corrected some mistakes in previous chapters, sorry for the mistakes.
Hope you enjoy the museum as much as I did.
Saturday, November 28 th 1931 9am
“It’s all settled, we’ll pull a Captain of Köpenick.” Jeremy smiled proudly.
“A what?” Dolls asked irritated.
“Oh, his name was Friedrich Voigd and he was a shoemaker who stole the uniform of a police captain. With that he fooled soldiers, arrested the major and stole municipal funds. The conman became famous as Captain of Köpenick,” he explained grinning with adoration as if he spoke about Robin Hood, “moral of the story, most people won’t question the authority of a uniform. We’ll use that to our advantage.”
The Pergamon Museum was just opened a year ago after 20 years of construction. It was built on the Museum Island in central Berlin as a monumental three-wing complex on two stories for different expositions. It was already famous for the magnificent architectural reconstructions, many of them from recent excavations in Pergamon at the end of the 19 th century.
Visitors had to cross a bridge over the river Spree to get to the forecourt which was surrounded by the museum on three sides. Pillars at the front broke up the otherwise massive, grey, block-like building that was shaped like an U. The main entrance was located at the end of the forecourt in a small anteroom right in the middle of the giant U.
Saturday, November 28 th 1931 3pm
The sky was covered with heavy grey clouds all day and the temperature were hardly above freezing.
Robin and Doc entered the museum wearing some unobtrusive clothing mostly hidden under warm winter coats to vanish in the crowd of visitors. The employee at the entrance hardly acknowledged their presence while he handed them change and two tickets. His eyes never met theirs so he couldn’t see their nervousness.
Five people down the line stood Wynonna wearing a big purse and her most conservative outfit, which meant a beige blouse she buttoned all the way up, maybe for the first time, with a dark skirt under a warm winter coat. A canvas and some more art supplies were visibly sticking out of her purse.
Doc saw a security guard next to the entrance looking at Wynonna with a frown. He looked her over as if he tried to decide what exactly rubbed him wrong.
Doc approached the man. “Excuse me, Sir, I’d like to visit the Gate of Miletus first. Can you tell me where to go?”
The guard’s eyes left Wynonna and instead he looked irritated at Doc. “Sure, just go in the Pergamon Room then turn right and enter the next room, there you’ll see the Market Gate from Miletus to your right.”
“Well, thank you Sir.” Doc answered and saw with satisfaction that the man didn’t observe Wynonna anymore. He followed Robin into the first Room. The Pergamon Room that was dominated by the monumental Pergamon Altar with its flight of stone stairs. The frieze which was all around them on every wall of the room portrayed the struggle between gods and giants. Even though it wasn’t fully intact glimpses of preserved pieces showed that this was a masterpiece of Hellenistic art when it was made about 2000 years ago.
Doc remained admiring the Pergamon Altar while Wynonna entered the room behind him, turned right and made her way through the Market Gate of Miletus not even once looking at the impressive Roman architecture.
Second floor 1pm
Two hours earlier, Waverly, Rosita and Jeremy had entered the museum. They were strolling through the exhibition while Waverly was excitingly explaining details about exhibits to the other two. They passed through the south wing and started their low pace on the second floor in the islamic collection, which was located directly above the west asian collection where their haul was waiting for them.
Waverly described enthusiastically and in great detail the Façade of Mshatta caliph’s castle from the 8 th century in Jordan, then went on in the Aleppo room about faded carpets and detailed wood carvings.
While Waverly focused on her passionate explanations the other two used the time to make sure the patterns of the staff were the same, they had observed during the last month. Jeremy regularly checked his pocket watch.
They covered the second floor first, switching to the north wing. There the East Asian collection presented beautiful ceramics, fine porcelain, high quality enamels and coloured wood cuts from China and Japan to the visitors. In another room were smaller Roman and Greek antiquities that apparently didn’t fit downstairs. The staff followed their usual patterns not in the least bothered by the talkative group.
They went downstairs to the exhibition of Roman and Greek art walking along damaged sculptures and an impressive collection of old coins and medals. After covering the south wing, they were back at the entrance in the Pergamon Room, following the Miletus Room in the corner of the south wing, where next to magnificent Roman architecture, hidden behind an elevated balcony, was an unobtrusive door to the central control room.
They walked through the Gate of Miletus and the Ishtar Gate into the Western Asian exhibition. The spectacular finds from Babylon were the reason this museum was built in the first place. No existing museum would’ve been able to showcase the recovered architecture in full size. This way it was possible for visitors to wander down long lost paths of the Ancient Near East getting a real impression of the magnificent buildings.
Behind the hall with the reconstruction of the almost 15-meter-high Ishtar Gate was a smaller corridor with rooms on both sides. They covered those rooms first looking at smaller exhibits like art, handicrafts and everyday objects. Everything was as they suspected it. They arrived at the end of the south wing walking between statues of lions and fantastic creatures from Mesopotamia some of them the size of ponies.
Going back through the corridor on the Processional Way presented the view visitors of Babylon had when they arrived at this outer gate of the city of Babylon. They were greeted by reliefs of lions baring their teeth on blue enamelled stones surrounded by white flowers. In the centre of the corridor were some rostrums to showcase the temporal exhibits. One of them an open chest made out of ivory artistically decorated with jade holding a stunning set of jewellery . The Chest of Ningiszida .
Jeremy checked his pocket watch once more. They had to be on time to meet with Wynonna on their way back. As planned, they passed Wynonna in the Ishtar Room. Waverly sought eye contact and gave her a nod, indicating they could go through. Waverly, Rosita and Jeremy split up.
Ishtar Gate Room 3:30pm
Wynonna’s mind was now single-mindedly focused on her goal, a stairwell where Robin waited for her. She handed him a small package of clothes from her purse and turned around looking out. He quickly stripped down and changed into the security guard staff uniform. He had practiced this so many times during the last month that is was almost a choreography. Neatly folding his clothes to a tight package and handing them back to Wynonna to hide them in her purse, he left the stairwell and went to his position in a room opposite to the stairwell. In that room stood prominently a huge stone water basin, decorated with reliefs of people wearing giant fish skin.
It also featured finds from Assur including small figurines that were believed to be magic healing items and amulets to keep demons away. He had asked if they were really magical, but Dolls had just smiled and said “It’s possible.”
Wynonna had waited a moment after Robin left and took her position sitting down in front of the huge blue coloured brick structure that was the Ishtar Gate, where she took out the canvas and a charcoal stick and started drawing some outlines of the lions, bulls and dragons on the gate’s blue wall.
Sales Counter 3:45pm
At that time Nicole bought an entry ticket. She entered the Pergamon Room and immediately seemed to be lost in admiration of the Pergamon Altar. Walking around the room and taking in all the details. Some huge wings here, parts of a snake there, surrounding the fighting gods and giants she couldn’t identify on her own. It felt grounding to concentrate on the artwork while she waited for her cue, her part of the plan to get into action. She forced her view on the stone in front of her while her real focus was listening to what happened at the entrance behind her.
Jeremy’s car 4pm
Meanwhile Dolls sat in Jeremy’s car parked as close to the Museum Island as possible. He closed his pocket watch and took a deep breath. It was time for his appearance. He took of his warm coat. Under it he wore a colourful outfit that vaguely resembled traditional African clothing, but it was a costume Wynonna had made. It was a costume as authentic as a drawing of an elephant described by a friend whose cousin once saw the animal in real life. And it was way too cold for the freezing temperatures. He left the car and shivered but it didn’t matter, his sole purpose was to serve as a distraction for staff and visitors alike.
Jeremy had explained most Germans still believed that Karl May’s books were accurate descriptions of America’s Wild West. But the author wrote them sitting in a prison in Saxony, and at that time had never even set foot on the American continent. Accuracy wasn’t their concern.
The thought to use their own impolite behaviour against them gave Dolls the strength to hold his head high, pull his shoulders back and smile while walking through Berlin city.
The plan worked like a charm. The very moment Dolls set foot in public all eyes turned towards him. He deeply regretted this idea, while everyone around him seemed to openly stare at him, not once questioning themselves if this might be impolite. He heard people talking to each other, not all of them lowered their voice. He kept his head high and proud, radiating confidence and acting, as if the behaviour didn’t affect him.
The gaunt woman selling his ticket spoke extremely slow but also loud as if that would help him to understand her. In case he couldn’t speak the language.
All he had to do was walking through the exhibition slowly and admiring the exhibits. He chose to completely ignore the people around him. From the corners of his eyes, he saw Nicole standing in front of the Pergamon Altar.
He saw Doc on his position in the Miletus Room talking to Rosita about a part of the floor that was covered in mosaics.
He walked through the Gate of Miletus, which touched the Ishtar Gate in the next room where Wynonna sat, pretending to draw. Jeremy passed him with only a second of eye contact and a small nod, before he joined Nicole in the Pergamon Room, where she had talked up a staff member with questions about the Altar.
Doll's entrance was Rosita’s cue. She used the distraction to walk up the stairs to the Roman balcony slipping into a small, dark room with a wooden desk and a control box hanging at the wall behind the desk. It was the director’s office, who had to close the museum at night and shut off the electricity. Opening the control box Rosita saw just one big switch labeled ‚ ON‘ and ‚ OFF‘ that was currently in the upper ‚ON’-position. She closed her hand around the handle and pulled, but the switch seemed to be glued in its position. She pulled again with more force; the handle moved a little but got pulled back into its previous position. As if a strong magnet hold the switch back.
She froze for a moment, where those footsteps right outside the room? Her heart beat faster in her chest and her hands started sweating, but she couldn’t give up now so she used both hands and pulled as strong as she could. The switch moved. For a moment there was a blinding, bright arc spanning from the switch to the contact in the box highlighting the darkness of the room. But Rosita pulled further and with a loud ‚ click‘ the switch engaged in the down position.
Immediately a cacophony of voices raised in the hall, muffled through the door, when Rosita was already on her way out of the room. She still saw bright dots pulsing in front of her eyes, while she felt her way around the desk. Rosita knew she had to get out before any staff arrived, because there was no way to explain, why she was in the director’s office. She found the door, slipped out of the room before anyone from the staff arrived and made her way down the stairs. Rosita took a deep breath to calm her nerves and groped her way further until she felt a hand grab her arm and pulling her in a slightly different direction. She tried to pull free from the grip, “Rosita, just follow me,” Jeremy said in a hushed voice.
Rosita relaxed and let Jeremy led her to a group of visitors in the dark and windowless Pergamon Room where a member of the staff talked insistently to calm everyone down. Slowly her vision went back to normal and so did her heartbeat.
Assur Room 4:15pm
When the lights went out, Robin took a deep breath and straightened his uniform. The water basin and other finds from Assur in this room were hardly illuminated through the large Windows by the little afternoon light that fell through the thick grey clouds, but the corridor with the processional way was dark. He went inside the corridor and straight towards the pillar that hold the valuable chest, pushing through a crowd of nervous people he could hardly see, putting as much authority in his voice and body language as he could muster, when he said “Get out of the way, please,” and “Keep calm.”
He arrived at the exhibit and without hesitation closed the filigreed, ivory chest with the jewelleries and took it, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. He turned around and walked along the corridor that led towards the exit, when he walked into someone. The chest was slipping from his fingers, but the small woman he had bounced into caught it. It only took a moment; apologies were exchanged she gave the box back and Robin went further down the corridor.
He could see the Ishtar Gate in dim light, when he was stopped by another security guard “What are you doing?”
“Securing the special exhibits as advised in case anything unusual happens. Bring them in the safe.” Robin said without missing a beat. This whole plan wouldn’t work if Mr. Von Liegnitz hadn’t insisted on extra security measures for his exhibits.
The other guard nodded and signed him to open the chest and show the jewellery . Robin fondled nervously with the locking mechanism keeping his head down so the security guard cap would keep his face in as much shadow as possible. Praying the lights stayed out for another minute he opened the box and presented the contents. The guard nodded and took the chest from Robin’s hands, safely closing it and without further ado he turned around and went towards the cellar door that led to the strongroom, leaving Robin behind.
Robin took a deep breath turning around to leave with measured steps, conscious not to rush and draw any attention.
At the same time Waverly left the building through the front entrance surrounded by other visitors and at least to families who tried to soothe their youngest children, holding her purse in a tight grip in front of her. She crossed the bridge over the river Spree leaving the museum island. She finally left out a long breath still feeling a little shaky.
Ishtar Gate Room 4:30pm
Robin entered the stairwell right at the Ishtar gate where Wynonna waited for him and gave him his clothes back, in exchange for the museum’s staff uniform. He nervously fumbled with some buttons on the jacket that just slipped through his fingers. Like Charlotte showed him, he stopped, took a deep breath to calm himself down, and finally the buttons opened.
Wynonna stuffed his cap and the jacket into her purse and throwing all drawing materials on top of it. As they walked out of the stairwell, the museum staff called the visitors to keep calm and leave the building.
They just entered the Pergamon Room when the lights came back on. People stopped in their tracks and blinked trying to adjust to the sudden brightness. Wynonna’s legs itched to just run outside getting away from the threat of being caught with the things in her purse that felt heavier with every passing moment. She jerked away when she felt a hand on her shoulder. Turning around she saw it was Robin’s. “Breath, remember? Look, everything is under control,” Robin said pointing towards the crowd that moved again, slowly but surely towards the exit.
South Wing 4:30pm
Meanwhile Dolls stood in the Mesopotamian exhibition at the far end of the south wing, where he was surrounded by no less than five employees of the museum, three of them security guards. The staff looked at Dolls and then at each other clearly not knowing what to do now. He had been there the whole time, he couldn’t have done anything wrong, even if he wanted. Finally, a man - maybe fifty years old - in a fine suit came up to the group. “What are you waiting for? Everyone should leave the building.” Dolls was escorted outside. When he crossed the bridge, Doc waited for him and gave him his coat back, ending this public humiliation and freezing.
“I hope, it was worth it.” Dolls mumbled, carefully closing the coat over his costume. They headed towards Jeremy’s parked car where Dolls had stored some of his clothes.
Museum’s basement 4:45pm
In the museum’s basement a guard just put the last piece of the special exhibition into the safe and closed the thick metal door.
Chapter 12: The Chest
They got the chest, but can they stop the demon now?
Saturday, November 28 th 1931 8pm
They were back together standing in the back room of the magic shop. Dolls was wearing his own clothes again and Wynonna opened the three top buttons of her blouse. The fragile ivory Chest with the jade ornaments stood on the table between them.
“Perfect,” Wynonna clapped her hands, “we did it! Now we just send it off and away to the Black Badge archives and this sun cult can summon shit!” She looked satisfied at Dolls expecting him to get a package ready.
“It’s not that easy, Wynonna,” Jeremy interrupted her victory speech, “we have to make sure the magic is safely contained before we can send it across the ocean.”
Wynonna huffed frustrated. “Well, then let’s contain it. The earlier this,” she gestured towards the chest, “is on its way to Canada the earlier we can celebrate.”
Dolls smiled mischievously rolling his sleeves up. “I’m glad you’re so willingly offering to help, Wynonna. Sadly, we don’t have much information about this item. We need to make an analysis ritual first before we can secure it properly.” He grabbed a chair. “Please put everything aside, we need all the space we can get for the magic circle.”
Shortly after, they were on their knees scrubbing the floor squeaky clean. “Magic isn’t supposed to be so much work!” Wynonna complained brushing with too much force. “It’s supposed to be easy with impressive lighting effects.”
Robin laughed, “I think, you confuse stage magic with the real deal.”
“When we’re all working together it doesn’t take long.” Dolls said intensely scrubbing in the middle of the room.
“You know, like the house chores.” Waverly added with a smile. Wynonna’s scrubbing brush just missed her head by an inch and landed loudly on the floor. Nicole bit back a smile and kept her eyes on her own brush.
An hour later they were done with the preparations. After cleaning the floor they purified the room’s energies and prepared protection circles for the analysis.
The old light bulbs flickered. In the middle of a circle out of chalk stood the Chest. Within the circle was a pentagram with a burning white candle standing at every top of the magic symbol.
Around the circle stood Dolls and Wynonna, Jeremy was sitting cross legged, holding a mirror that captured the reflection of the chest to reveal it’s magic secrets. Wynonna was holding a complicated web of threads that should scatter and deflect unexpected magic energy. Dolls was holding a book with chants for magic analysis as well as magic concealing.
Around them another circle was made out of salt. Everyone else stood outside of these circles ready to react if anything unexpected endangered their friends.
Dolls recited the magic words from crinkled, yellowed pages in his hands. The chanting was hypnotising . After a couple of minutes, the words lost their meaning. Wynonna stared at the mirror image of the chest trying not to blink in fear she would miss anything. Dolls chanted incessantly while looking fixedly at the mirror a frown building on his forehead.
Meanwhile Jeremy watched if Wynonna or Dolls reacted in any way, resisting the urge to look into the mirror in his hands.
The strain in the room was palpable, Doc stood motionless like a cowboy ready to shoot, Waverly sat on the floor staring at the chest and its reflection alike rolling a piece of chalk in her fingers. Nicole stood behind her observing the people in the circle clenching her hand around a staff. Robin stood right behind Jeremy breathing shallowly ready to jump forward and drag him out of the circle.
Another minute went by lulling them with rhythmic singsong and flickering lights. Nothing happened.
Dolls stopped the chant and closed the book with a loud thud. “There is no magic.” He exclaimed frustration imminent in his voice.
“That’s impossible!” Wynonna exclaimed.
Carefully Jeremy laid the mirror next to him and blew the candles out. He mumbled some words wiping away the protection circle. With shaking hands he took the Chest and inspected it carefully turning it in his hands his nose almost touching the surface.
His eyes went wide, “Oh no! It’s a replica!” He muttered.
“WHAT?” The unison shout could have been heard at the Pergamon Museum.
“Here’s a marking from the craftsman who made it. This is clearly modern.” He hold the chest in front of him presenting the bottom. The group gathered around Jeremy, everyone needed to see the marking for themselves. It was a small, detailed mark showing the ornate letters R and S followed by a 31.
Wynonna looked dumb folded at the mark squeezing the yarn in her fist. “How?”
“I don’t know.” Jeremy answered defeated “Does that mean the real chest is still in the museum?”
Dolls took the Chest and stared on the mark as if he could interrogate it. “We can’t just break into the strongroom, but we can find the craftsman who made this replica.”
None of them moved. They stayed silent, because none of them could read the symbol or knew anything about it.
“We could ask the woodcarver who made our fake chest. Maybe she knows something about this.” Doc finally said into the silence.
“How did you find this woodcarver anyway?” Wynonna asked
“Well, to find an artist in Berlin, the Romanian Café is the best address,” Doc explained, “but that’s a meeting point for the intellectual elite. We were looking for someone who wouldn’t ask too many questions. Nicole helped me out on this.”
“Well, the coffee houses are well known meetings points for artist of all subjects. They can meet colleges and potential clients. Most of them don’t have much money, but since they’re not forced to constantly buy drinks, they can sit there all day and hope for opportunities,” Nicole explained, “my parents weren’t successful at first and soon lost themselves in the fashionable use of cocaine. Which means I know some coffee houses with people who don’t ask many questions.”
Dolls nodded to himself and said, “good, tomorrow we go and meet with this woodcarver and try to find out who made this.” He hold the replica chest up, “Tuesday we can go to the museum and try to find out where the original is and I will contact the society with the news.”
None of them slept well that night. The deep disappointment haunting them.
Monday, November 30 th 1931
The next afternoon Waverly had to work a late shift so Doc, Wynonna, Nicole and Jeremy entered a coffee house that surely was a beautiful place once.
The place was filled with people chatting over sketches, photographs or small figures. In a corner sat a man and a woman smoking pipes. Nicole recognised the smell, grimaced and concentrated on the other guests.
Doc saw her first. A slim, red haired woman, maybe thirty years old, sat at a table sipping at a cup of coffee while reading a newspaper. The group went to her table “Good afternoon Mercedes,” Doc said with a smile pulling off his hat, “may we join you?”
The woman looked up at Doc and looked over the rest of the group before she answered. “Sure, sit down, please. How may I help you this time?”
They sat down and Jeremy put a piece of paper on the table pushing it towards the woman Doc had called Mercedes. “Do you know this marking and who it belongs to?”
Mercedes took the paper and turned it in her hands, her brows furrowed.
“It looks like one that Renée Sintentis uses sometimes.” She gave the paper back to Jeremy “Why? Did you buy an unknown sculpture at an auction?” She asked her eyes wide and curiously fixated on Jeremy.
He put the paper back in his pocket. “Something like that, well thank you. Do you know where I could find him?”
“Her.” Mercedes corrected with a hint of pride, “she is a modern woman and was admitted into the Prussian Academy of Arts just this year. You’re lucky if you own a sculpture of hers.”
Jeremy smiled politely, “I guess I am. Thank you, maybe I can have a talk with her at the academy.”
The Prussian Academy of Arts was situated in the baroque Palais Arnim close to the Brandenburg Gate.
They went down a corridor leading along office doors.
“Max Liebermann? Why do I know this name?” Wynonna asked when they passed a door with his name engraved on a plate.
Doc stopped walking to look at the plate, “Isn’t this one of the Impressionist painters whose art was sold at the auction at the Cassirer Art Gallery? I think he was even there that evening.” Under the name was engraved the title ‚Academy President‘ . “ What a coincidence.”
They walked further down the corridor until they found a door with the name ‚Renée Sintentis ‘ engraved on it and ‚department of fine arts‘ under the name.
Dolls knocked on the door which was answered by a muffled “ Come in.”
In the office stood a tall woman, even taller than Nicole, her slim figure covered by trousers and a dotted sweater. She stood in front of a desk, next to a small golden sculpture of a naked woman whose arms stretched over her head transformed into branches.
Mrs. Sintentis was about 40 years old and her face was framed by short dark hair as she looked at her guests. “How may I help you?”
Nicole answered first. “We’re studying history and we’re especially interested in the Chest of Ningiszida’s jewellery that was part of the special exhibition at Pergamon Museum and heard that you made a replica of the exhibit. Could you tell us more about it?”
Mrs. Sententis nodded. “Please come in. I don’t have enough chairs, but there’s not that much to tell honestly.” She leaned against the desk waiting until the group stood in her office and Doc closed the door behind him.
“Mr. Liegnitz , the owner of the Chest who made the exhibition possible, came to me and asked if I could create a replica. The exhibition was prolonged but he wanted to have the original at the end of October.”
“It wasn’t much time, but after I spoke to the director and had a look at the original item I agreed. I used resin as base material which is great to replicate even fine carvings.”
Wynonna had phased out and hardly heard Renée Sententis ’ explanations about the different materials she used to get as close as possible to the real but way too expensive components. A shiver went down her spine as she realised that Von Liegnitz had had the Chest for a month now.
Suddenly she realised that everyone looked at her. Mrs. Sententis said, “You look pale, would you like to sit down? Something to drink?”
Wynonna nodded and sat down in a chair the artist shifted towards her. “Thank you. I just don’t feel so well all of a sudden.” She tried to explain.
They soon excused themselves and left Mrs. Sententis and the academy to sit down in a nearby café. A couple of people sat on various tables chatting or reading newspapers.
The moment they sat down Wynonna let out her frustration. “I can’t believe this! Maybe he had summoned the damn demon all along!”
“Please, keep your voice down.” Dolls said putting his hand over hers. “Not everything is lost, yet. Our notes about the ritual indicate that they have to prepare a vessel in advance. Samhain would’ve been a good date to do so. I should’ve thought about that earlier!”
“Don’t blame yourself,” Jeremy said, “We couldn’t know and we didn’t stand a chance here. Von Liegnitz hardly left his country house and didn’t do anything suspicious like every other member of the cult that we know about. We kept our eyes open, but there was nothing we could find.”
“I need a spiked coffee, anyone else?” Wynonna asked and waved to the waiter.
They drank their coffee in silence everyone lost in their own thoughts.
Wynonna was the first to speak up again. “What are we going to do next?”
“I heard he visits his poor house once a month. Maybe we can gather some information there?” Nicole said mindlessly stirring the remaining puddle of her coffee.
“Why not?” Wynonna shrugged “ Who will come with me to this poor house, tomorrow?”
Tuesday, December 1 st 1931
The poor house was a complex of small single-storey buildings surrounding a bigger house that contained a hall used for dining, a small office and some other private rooms for the administration.
Wynonna, Waverly and Dolls crossed the hall filled with people chatting. In contrast to the cold outside it was at least warm in here.
Dolls knocked and a muffled voice answered to enter.
A man with broad shoulders and an impressive grey full beard sat behind a small desk and greeted them with a hoarse voice. “Please, sit down.”
They sat on three hard wooden chairs that seemed too small in comparison to the table which made them feel like beggars right away.
“I’m sorry but we don’t have any space left right now.” The man opened their conversation looking at them with compassion but his words were punctured with finality that didn’t leave room for any discussion.
Dolls smiled, “We’re not here for a place to stay, we’d like to help. What do you need? What have you planned this month you could need some help with?”
The man’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “I’m sorry, I didn’t realise you’re here to volunteer.” He picked up a notebook and leaned back in his chair. “We’ll have a lottery at the 12 th December, where the winners are announced who may attend Mr. Von Liegnitz New Year’s celebration.” Turning the page he added, “and of course Christmas Eve. For both events all help is welcome. We need to collect donations, sort, prepare and give out food. Could you help with any of this?”
Dolls nodded “ Of course, we’d love to help.”
After they went over the details, they said goodbye and left the complex.
“Great, now we’re volunteering, but still have no clue how to stop this demon. What secrets do you think we’ll find at a Christmas party?” Wynonna said clearly disappointed. She closed her winter coat even more against the wind “I hope it’s not gonna be a disaster like the women’s protest.”
Dolls just smirked knowingly. “I have to check the date and star constellations first, but I’d bet my money that the ritual will take place at the New Year's Eve celebration. I’ve seen his country house, it’s big enough to hide quite some magic celebrations.”
Chapter 13: The Ritual
Will they be able to stop the cult and what are their intentions anyway?
Thursday, December 10 th 1931
Dolls had summoned the group to their usual gathering spot at the magic shop in the afternoon. It’s been almost freezing cold all day, but still warm enough to rain. They were thankful for the warmth from the fireplace.
Dolls waited until they all settled down, had something to drink and time to warm up. After that he stood up and said: „I’m sure now, the cult plans the summoning ritual at New Years eve. It’s the perfect time for a bonding ritual, especially one that has to be powerful enough to reach out to another realm.“
„What’s our plan then?“ Wynonna asked expectantly sitting up tall as if she was ready to jump up and immediately run into action.
Dolls smiled. „We’ll go to the party. It’s a fundraiser event for the poor house and other good causes. Th e tickets aren’t cheap, but the society agreed to pay for some. Plus they can’t just attack us at a public event like that.“
Nicole frowned. „The cult also can’t just summon a demon in the middle of a New Years Eve party. That would draw some attention, don’t you think?“
Dolls expected this question, „Jeremy, would you please show us the ground plan?“
Jeremy unfolded the ground plan of Von Liegnitz country house and put it on the table. „Robin and I called in some favours.“ He explained proudly. Everyone raised from their chairs to have a closer look at the map.
„As you can see, there are quite some possible spaces to hold a ri tual without being seen.“ Dolls said pointing on some cellar rooms and some places outside the house that were hidden behind trees and walls. „I expect them to act at midnight.“
Later that evening, Nicole’s shift was about to start setting the morning p aper, Wynonna and Waverly went back home.
Wynonna fumbled with the keys on their way upstairs to their apartment door but froze as soon as she reached the floor. The door stood open, the lock broken and the two women turned pale.
No sound came from the i nside. Wynonna slowly pushed the door open and went inside, one step at a time. Waverly following her, holding her umbrella up like a club. The kitchen was a mess. Broken crockery scattered the floor, chairs and the table were pushed over and every single cupboard stood open, the contents clearly searched through.
The bedrooms were just as bad. Someone had thrown everything on the floor and walked all over it afterwards. Wet, dirty footprints on the clothing and even on the bed showed what happened. Wynonn a trembled with fury but they hadn’t checked the study yet. Waverly’s orderly organised research papers were tossed all over the floor and, like the clothes, covered with footprints. Wynonna’s sewing machine was knocked over. Laying on the floor with the a rt nouveau decor and golden letters on black background spelling ‚Naumann‘ facing up, some parts seemed to be broken off. Wynonna got on her knees with trembling hands and collected all machine pieces she could find, inspecting the damage.
Waverly was pal e, but she recovered first from the shock. Kneeling next to her sister, she gently caressing her back until Wynonna stopped her frantic movements.
„We can’t stay here.“ Waverly said soft, „Let’s pack some things, tell Nicole what happened and go to Jeremy . Together we’ll think about what to do next.“ Wynonna just nodded wordlessly and stood up placing the parts from her sewing machine on the table.
They packed some necessities, left a message at the entrance of the newspaper building for Nicole to come t o Jeremy after her shift, which would be around 3 in the morning and knocked at the door where Jeremy lived.
A hale and hearty woman in her mid sixties opened the door and greeted them in a thick Berlin accent „Ah, Fräulein Earps. So nice to see you, plea se come in Dr. Chetri is in his room.“
„Good evening Mrs. Schneider.“ They said and followed the woman through the corridor and living room full of oak cabinets decorated with trumpery and walls full of paintings. All of them memories from a time, in whic h the woman didn’t rent out every spare room of her housing to pay her bills.
Jeremy was surprised to see them. Then he saw their bags and quickly hushed them inside, let them sit down in his cramped room that still housed all the furniture of his landlady. „What happened?“ He asked worried.
„We got robbed,“ were the first words Wynonna said since they left the study in their flat.
„Someone broke into our home, searched through everything and destroyed a lot in the process.“ Waverly added tears dwe lling up.
Jeremy gave her a handkerchief. „You stay here tonight, I make sure that’s alright. Does Nicole know?“
Waverly nodded. „Thank you. I left a message for her at the newspaper, she should come here after work.“
Jeremy left and came back shortly a fter that. „You can stay here tonight, but Mrs. Schneider will not allow you to stay any longer. It’s wouldn’t be permissible, so she said. I’m sorry.“
„It’s alright. Don’t worry, Jeremy.“ Waverly said, „tomorrow we’ll go to the police and sort everything out.“
They spend a restless night in Jeremy’s room talking quietly and waking up several times during the night. When Nicole arrived, Waverly could hardly stop her from going to their apartment right away.
Friday, December 11 th 1931
First thing in the morning the women went to a police station to report the burglary, but they had to realise this was far from first priority for the police. Nicole was furious, but Waverly calmed her down.
Wynonna on the other hand looked like she didn’t care at all.
Together t hey went back to their flat. Nothing had changed since yesterday evening. Waverly had to go to work, while Wynonna and Nicole began to clean up the mess. Actually Wynonna threw two broken chairs in front of the closed door and pulled a cupboard in front of it all. She kicked the furniture before stomping into her room.
After Nicole had picked up all of Waverly’s research she went to Wynonna who sat on her bed darning a dress. „I think, I know who did this. Every piece of paper about the cult is missing from Waverly’s documents.“
„I figured that much,“ Wynonna said, looking up with determination, her eyes were red, „we’ll stop them and they’ll pay for this.“
Saturday, December 12 th 1931
Dolls arrived at their door the next day as soon as he heard about the breaking in. „Are you alright?“ He asked eyeing the broken lock with a frown.
„We have to be, don’t we?“ Wynonna responded cold.
Dolls looked even more worried „We’ll make this right, Wynonna, I promise. I made out a source to help us on New Years Eve.“ He reached out but Wynonna took a step back.
„Sit down and tell us your plan.“ She said gesturing to the table where Waverly and Nicole sat eating. „Would you like something as well?“
Dolls accepted a plate filled with their lunch. After they had eaten, Wynonna wouldn’t wait any longer, „now spill, what’s your secret source all about?“
A knock on the door stopped him. The door swung open and Doc was standing there wearing a worried expression. „May I enter?“ He asked unsure if he’d interrupted a moment .
„Sure, please come in!“ Waverly said standing up getting another stool for Doc to sit on.
Doc shut the door and sat down, everyone looking at Dolls expectantly.
„Doc got a connection to a guy who helped rebuild some rooms in Von Liegnitz mansion. He agreed to share his knowledge for quite some money. Gonna meet with him this evening in a pub in Neue Schönhauser Straße.“
„One of the whisper pubs? Well, that’s fitting.“ Nicole said leaning in closer. „You’re taking a deep dive into the Berlin undergr ound there.“
Dolls nodded, „apparently Von Liegnitz bought a safe for his cellar and the guy I’ll talk to, helped install it. He also hinted that this special model has a not well known weakness he could tell me about.“ He grinned devilishly, Wynonna’s ey es lid up for the first time since yesterday.
„I’ll go with him. Make sure he’s safe and gets what we need.“ Doc added.
They had two and a half weeks left to prepare and they were gonna use them.
Thursday, December 31 st 1931 New Years Eve
They arrived at the mansion in small groups. Wynonna with Doc and Dolls as a friend from America. Waverly went with Jeremy and Nicole w ith Robin, posing as couples.
The villa was huge and crowded with people. Somewhere a band played dance music. Everyone who was somebody in Berlin or at least wanted to be seemed to have attended this festivity. They were standing in groups, chatting, dri nking champagne and eating canapés. Exactly what you would expect at any high society event.
When Dolls spotted a man they had seen at the Spittelmark t . He gestured to the others to follow. Dolls, Doc, Wynonna, Waverly and Nicole followed the man, chatting with each other about nonsense to appear like normal party guests. The man was wearing a navy suit and carrying a box, stepped out into the garden.
I t was freezing cold, only a few guests were wandering around outside, but their suspect walked purposefully to a small path that led them away from the house.
Dolls stopped to give the man a start before following him. The path went around the house and di vided the level garden from sloping ground, but there was a small trail leading further away from the house. Hidden by trees and bushes they looked down to a structure that seemed like a small greek theatre surrounded by a small wall along the path with an arc as entrance to stairs leading down to the stage. The man in the blue suit walked around the stage placing torches and put items out of a box on pillars surrounding a circle that was painted on the ground.
The ground sneaked further down the path to h ide in the bushes until the man was done with the preparations and left.
Wynonna was the first to walk downstairs to the platform. There were five pillars around the circle on top of them standing the flower painting, a candle holder, a bouquet of colourf ul feathers and a vase that looked like the one Stephan Schulz hat bought from Ulanow!
„No way!“ Wynonna said indignant but the others quickly shushed her. Someone could come back anytime.
In the middle of the circle stood another pillar with Nigiszida’s chest on top of it. „Perfect!“ Dolls said and Waverly pulled the replica out of her handbag. By swapping the artefact the ritual should fail.
„Why can’t we just destroy everything?“ Wynonna asked gesturing around, „better safe than sorry, right?“
„Sure, but I don’t think we’ll get out alive if we did.“ Dolls answered. „Maybe we get away from the party tonight, but we established they know too much about us and enough people have seen us tonight to make the connection.“
„Less talking more walking, guys!“ Waverly said pulling Wynonna away from the summoning circle.
They went back joining party, inside in the warm halls of the mansion to warm food and alcohol.
Meanwhile Jeremy and Robin had another goal. They strolled through the house, blending in, passin g party guests having a great time. Robin insisted to get something to eat from the buffet. Afterwards they passed a crowded dance floor, left most party guests behind until they found the door they were looking for.
It was the entrance to the basement an d it wasn’t locked. Before they had a chance to open the door Jeremy heard voices and footsteps coming in their direction. He pulled Robin aside starting a monologue about chemical high pressure methods just as a meaty man in his fifties rounded the corner with a twenty something year old woman on his arm. Both were beyond tipsy. The couple passed Jeremy and Robin without even looking at them.
As soon as the couple was out of sight, Robin opened the door and the two of them stepped in a dark corridor going downstairs.
Robin took a candle out of his jacket to light it. There was no electricity in the basement, the candle was their only light source, but they had memorised the way by heart thanks to the ground map of the building. The massive, steel safe wa s located in a small room and fixated at the stone wall. Robin hold the candle and Jeremy started working on the combination lock, his ear pressed to the strongbox.
After almost half an hour Jeremy opened the door a wide grin on his face. Inside the safe were gold and silver bars stacked in neat rows, as well as pieces of jewellery. They put bars in their shoes, socks and anywhere under their clothing they could manage without looking suspicious. „We still have to walk away, maybe run.“ Robin reminded Jere my who couldn’t fit any more bars anywhere.
„You’re right. This should be enough of a payback anyway.“ Jeremy answered closing the door, making sure it was locked. They sneaked back to the party and found the rest of Black Badge. Jeremy smiled proudly app roaching them, he didn’t have to say a word. It was obvious they succeeded. Doc nodded appreciative.
Waverly faked a yawn. „Would the two of you escort me home? I’m tired.“ Robin and Jeremy agreed and the three left the mansion. With the artefact and their haul safely gone the others would stay to watch the outcome of the ritual as planned.
When the clo ck showed fifteen minutes to midnight Wynonna noticed a group of men moving towards the garden. Wynonna, Dolls, Doc and Nicole followed them with some distance.
Their breath appeared in white clouds in front of their faces. Everything around was now froze n, with every step the frozen grass creaked under their feet while they made their way to a hidden spot from where they could watch the stage without being seen.
They crouched down behind the small wall surrounding the theatre, already regretting that th ey didn’t get their coats.
Voices rang from the summoning circle below them. Wynonna looked above the small wall and saw the platform lid by the torches. About a dozen people stood around the ring painted on the ground. Von Liegnitz standing just outside the circle holding an old book.
„Tomorrow, the world will wake up to a better future!“ Von Liegnitz exclaimed walking around in the pillars, „our emperor will be back, a strong man who leads Germany to be a proud and powerful nation! There will be no sha me, no disgrace treaty of Versailles, no life destroying inflation. Because Germany will have won the Great War!“ The crowd erupted in applause and cheers.
„Please, my dear brave soldiers who will be the catalysts to this new tomorrow, step into the circl e to fulfil your destiny!“ Von Liegnitz went on and five men in good, but worn out suits stepped forward. Each of them were holding a torch which enlightened the build up more. Von Liegnitz placed the old book on the last empty pillar.
Fireworks lid up th e sky. The men outside of the circle started humming while Von Liegnitz chanted Latin phrases reading them from the open book in front of him. Minutes went by. Wynonna was holding her breath and suddenly the atmosphere changed. The clouds above them rotate d to a spiral emanating a red light. Out of nowhere some kind of monster stood in the middle of the circle. It was about the size of two men, completely bald and naked, the skin white like a sheet. It turned on the spot taking in the surroundings and chang ed, shrinking first turning into a woman, then into a man. Clothes appeared on the body changing from a tuxedo at first to an officers uniform of the imperial army at last.
Wynonna was shocked looking at Dolls. „How…“ But Dolls shock his head, „not now.“
The chanting still went on, but nothing else happened. The man in uniform crossed his arms looking at Von Liegnitz who was still chanting. He smiled dangerously and said with a voice that resonated in everyone’s head, „It doesn’t work. You can’t just bind me to some random, cheap artwork.“ He took the chest from the pillar and turned it in his hands taking in the details. „Nice try, though.“
„The chest was there to bind, not to summon him.“ Nicole whispered in realisation of their mistake.
Von Liegnitz had stopped the chanting, having a discussion with the demon instead. And the demon quickly got impatient. He walked along the line of the circle holding him, which lead him to walk behind the five men, who where now visibly shivering but at the same time frozen at their place. „You have to leave me out, if you want me to do anything for you!“ He demanded. His voice echoed loud in their minds.
Von Liegnitz answered composed, „I will do no such thing. Without me, you’ll be stuck in this circle forever. I h ave the upper hand.“
The demon threw the chest on the ground near Von Liegnitz where the work of art shattered in pieces. Von Liegnitz stayed unimpressed, the man in uniform started walking again, this time extending his arm towards the middle, touching th e men standing inside the circle. One after the other dropped lifeless to the ground, while the demon seemed to grow again and his eyes glowed red in the darkness of the night.
Next he walked straight towards Von Liegnitz, held his right hand in front of him as if he was touching an invisible wall. The deafening sound like a crash of thunder and a blinding red light made Wynonna crouch down, but it only lasted a moment. When she looked over the wall again, she saw that the demon had stepped out of the circ le, closed the book, picked it up and patted the frozen nobleman on the shoulder before he just walked away. Nobody dared to move.
No-one seemed to fully understand what just happened. The demon walked at a moderate pace climbing up the stairs to the pat h leading to the house. He walked through the arc appearing down the path where Wynonna, Nicole, Dolls and Doc where sitting observing the events. They were unable to move, barely hidden in some bushes, staring at the man now walking in their direction. He had seen them, but they were unable to do anything about it.
He smiled and greeted them with just a nod, when he walked past them and soon disappeared behind some bushes.
When Wynonna felt that she could move again, she tried to jump up and follow the demon, but Doc and Dolls grabbed her holding her down. „Look at that!“ She heard Nicole say pointing towards the summoning circle. The five men were still lying in the circle. The other men had gathered around Von Liegnitz loudly debating about the occurr ence that just happened in front of them, but some of them walked to the stairs.
„We have to leave, now.“ Dolls decided. They stood up, but their legs felt cold and their movements were stiff and unsteady. Supporting each other they made their way back to the mansion.
„I can’t believe the demon just got away like that!“ Wynonna said shivering.
„Well, the demon didn’t kill us, but maybe pneumonia will.“ Nicole responded her teeth chattering with the cold. They quickly got their coats and returning home as fast as they could.
Friday, January 1 st 1932
Wynonna stood in the destroyed apartment. She looked around and tried to figure out, if there is anything left she could take with her. It didn’t look like there was.
Behind her, Doc and Dolls entered the room. Doc walked up next to her „Jeremy and Robin stole a small fortune of silver and gold from Mr. Von Liegnitz. I’d say justices has been served and you can start over with everything you need.“
„I know, it feels good, but we couldn’t stop the demon.“ She said looking down as if the floor had answers fo r her questions.
Dolls walked up to her other side, „for now, no human controls him. We prevented a reality where Germany won the Great War. Imagine that! The demon isn’t a threat right now. I’ll send a report to Black Badge tomorrow. Wait for further ins tructions. This isn’t the first demon on the loose and it won’t be the last either.“
Wynonna nodded, „we should go back to the others.“
Waverly, Nicole, Jeremy and Robin were sitting around the kitchen table clinking their glasses.
Wynonna smiled, but d idn’t join the group.
„You know, you could go back to Canada.“ Dolls said, „go back and leave all this mess behind. Black Badge would approve.“
Something unreadable flickered over her face while the group fell silent. They had all heard Dolls offer and lo oked at her expectantly. Wynonna took some time to study their faces.
„It’s alright, sis, I’ll come with you.“ Waverly said with a soft voice, Nicole taking Waverly’s hand and nodding.
Wynonna straightened her posture, „No, I’ll stay. I won’t run. We mad e ourselves a home here, with friends and family. I’m sorry Dolls, I can’t come with you.“ She grasped his arm, then looked at her sister „As long as Waverly is willing to stay, so will I. There’s a lot more we can accomplish here than we could back in Pur gatory. Foremost, we need to find this Marzaniok and send him back to hell!“
A smile appeared on Dolls face „How convenient that I asked Juan Carlo to stay in Berlin, given the new information about increased paranormal activities.“ Wynonna grabbed Doll s and pulled him into a hug with tears in her eyes. She let go with only one hand to pull Doc closer as well.
„That demon doesn’t stand a chance.“ She said smiling at all of them.
Waverly went to hug Wynonna tight, followed by Nicole, Jeremy and Robin. N o more words were needed, they will do what’s necessary to rebuild a home and keep up the fight they started. They were more than just a team, they were family.
Thanks for joining me with this historic adventure.
I had a lot of fun writing it and I hope you liked reading it as well.
Thanks to everyone who left kudos or comments, it means a lot.