CHAPTER FIFTEEN- The black angel on tour
13th July 1918
It was actually General Wurfl’s idea. He had suggested it on the call with Heidemann.
“Give Stachel a few weeks leave and send him home to visit his family in Bad Schwalbe. He can fit in a few stops along the way. Oh, and make sure he takes along that black plane of his.”
Heros don’t last long during this bloody war and the General wanted to make sure he got his money’s worth out of this one. Heidemann didn’t hesitate. He saw this as his chance to show the General that he was an expert at handling publicity and the logical replacement for Major Klingel. He pulled out all the stops and got Stachel clearance to fly to Frankfurt, Mannheim, Augsburg and finally Munich.
It was Stachel that insisted on a side trip to Ammersee to visit the Graf and Gräfin.
Heidemann made sure his friends in the press were well aware of the trip and the papers did not disappoint. Bad Schwalbe is a resort town and Stachel’s father manages a small hotel. According to the papers they were inundated with relatives, friends and well-wishers. It was reported that they had to use an adjoining boathouse to store all the gifts.
Based on Stachel’s reaction to all the attention here, I am sure he was miserable. The paper made a big point about him visiting his old church and seeking counsel from Pastor Ehrlich.
“The war has taken a toll on this young man. Bruno risked his life to save that young child and it serves as an example to all of us. There will be much healing and forgiveness required in Germany after we win this war.”
I’m sure Stachel couldn’t wait to get out of there.
Even though Kaeti is a regular client of mine, I have never been to Sonnenstrahl. This estate has been the summer home for the Von Klugermann’s for centuries and sits on the edge of Lake Ammersee, southwest of Munich. While the rest of the country suffers, the Graf and Gräfin live like royalty there. They are far removed from the food lines and the shortages in the cities. Most families live off turnips and thin soup. Children go to bed hungry. It has become a normal part of life in Germany. With most of the farmers serving in the army and the Entente naval blockade, there appears to be no end in sight.
Sonnenstrahl means sunshine but that kind of sunshine comes at a price. My kind of business is better conducted in the dark, so I stay away.
With Munich so close nearby, I make my deliveries there to the head butler, Heinz Gormann. He is a stuffy old bird, and I honestly think he hates everyone, but he has a secret soft spot for pornography. A few well-placed postcards in my deliveries and he is more than willing to share information that Kaeti may have neglected to provide.
When Stachel added Sonnenstrahl to his tour, I made a point to ask for discreet updates on the situation. Heinz is a master at discretion and it doesn’t hurt that the sprawling estate house has a number of secret passageways. When he got word to me that Stachel had suddenly cut his “publicity tour” short and was heading back to Jasta 77, I knew something had gone wrong.
Kaeti and I had developed a system with postcards. She would send me postcards, usually in English and in “code” when she needed something.
While Stachel was still in transit, this postcard showed up. Its message was clear. I had an inkling of what may have happened. When I searched his room, my suspicions were confirmed. I knew Stachel had taken Wili’s journal and long ago I figured out where he hid it. The journal was missing.
Considering Wili’s past “relationship” with his Auntie, this had to be blackmail. The Gräfin would pay a lot to keep her privileged lifestyle and Stachel knew it. What he didn’t know was what I saw at the Old Factory.
My information would be more than enough to counter the bite of the Cobra.