Chapter ? – Bones of Spring

The two men approached her at the door, suited, severe and unhurried. 

“Miss,” said one, flashing some kind of badge too quickly for her to read. “Please come with us.”

They did not attempt to handle her, and Kat did not attempt to run or fight. They held the car door open for her with a politeness so bureaucratic that she felt absolutely certain that these were the same men Irina had identified as their never-ending tail. G-men. FBI. 

In the back of the car, she was too irritated to be afraid. She knew people were not typically deported for punching graduate students, but she also knew young German students were not typically arrested by federal officers without reason. Irina had warned her she might become suspect by spending time with her, and she’d been right — she was being targeted.

“Where are you taking me?” she said, taking care to keep her tone bored, wishing she had not allowed them to put her cane in the trunk. 

“We can’t speak to that, miss,” said the man in the passenger’s seat, not bothering to turn or look in her direction as they rolled along the pleasant, green-canopied thoroughfare. 

“I’m not a communist,” she said on impulse, then immediately regretted it. 

“We know,” said the driver, his voice lower and more local in accent. He was older than his partner, slightly taller, but dressed in the same black suit, and nearly the same dark hat. From behind, they were practically identical, and she wouldn’t have known either of them from Adam.

“Then why am I in this car?”

“We can’t speak to that either,” the first one said, then added. “Sorry.”

“What can you speak to, exactly?” she demanded, unnerved by their ambiguity. 

“We’re really not authorized to give you more information,” said the driver in a would-be kindly tone. “Just remain calm and you have nothing to worry about.”

Kat took a deep breath, then another, then filled her lungs and screeched: “Let me out of this fucking car.”

The pair both flinched, and the driver jerked the wheel over to avoid hitting a turning car. Kat lunged for the door, but found it was impossible to open from the inside, so she pressed herself against the other door, preparing to kick through the window glass. 

Seeing their passenger’s intention, the driver pulled over to the curb. Before she could react, both of them were coming at her through both rear doors, neither of them inclining to tolerance. She caught terse requests to just relax and please, miss— but Kat knew nothing except that enemies were threatening her. 

She punched, kicked and bit, getting a few solid hits on the younger man, sending him back. The elder was too fast and too strong, catching her wrists and twisting them behind her back with brutal professionalism. Everything in her body rebelled against this restraint. She jerked her head back, felt a sharp pain in her skull and heard him grunt. Her vision blurred for an instant, and she felt wet warmth on her scalp.

“Damnit, my nose—”

Her momentary disorientation allowed the younger man to recover the upper hand. There must have been some hidden restraint point in the sleek leather chair back, because she found herself cuffed to it. 

The other man reached down and cuffed her feet to another hidden point. Kat snarled and struggled, but she was effectively immobilized. As he lifted his head, she saw that she’d bloodied the older man’s nose. His dull blue eyes were resentful and annoyed, and with the blood dripping down over his blonde moustache, Kat now found his face memorable indeed. 

Her victory was short lived. Her plan to scream, spit and otherwise assault the ears of her captors was foiled as they raised a smoked glass barrier that partitioned the front and back of the vehicle. She screamed herself hoarse in every language she knew, but only succeeded in exhausting herself. 

By the time they arrived at their destination, she had nearly lost her voice, and she knew she would need to conserve her energy, so she went along in sulky submission. When she noticed that both of them were wearing now-empty pistol holsters, she knew they were now taking her quite seriously, and attempting further escape was pointless. She would just have to wait.

They’d let her out at some low covered parking arcade, sheltered and private but the attractive mown field and woods around them were visible through patterned breeze blocks. At the far end, a steel door with no doorknob had been built into a shed-like structure. Its low construction told Kat immediately that it could only lead to some form of underground facility.

She pulled slightly against her bonds as they neared the door. She did not want to go in that door, into the dark, airless hallway that no doubt lurked behind it. As they approached, she saw the numbers 1142  – Authorized Personnel Only stencilled on its dull painted surface. There was a call box and a peep hole set beside the door.

“We have the girl. Please set up room B-5.”

With a buzz that made her jump, the door opened of its own accord. The hallway was just as she expected, a narrow low affair with florescent lights. She was overly careful on the short descent down few stairs, regretful that these men had left their guns in the car. This would have been the perfect time for her to stumble, and get her hand on one of them. She’d deafen herself in this small space, but she didn’t care. She was seething with barely contained rage, doing her best to think ahead to how she could free herself.

One of the many numbered doors opened for them, and she was manhandled into an interrogation room. It was so standard it might have been a Hollywood set — a table with two chairs, an ashtray, and a steel loop for cuffs set into the otherwise featureless formica top. No observation window that she could see, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t being observed. 

The men cuffed her to this loop, and allowed her to sit down. As she eyed them, the younger of them put a hand on the heavy glass ashtray and slid it away from her, though she hardly could have done much with it restrained in this way. 

“You aren’t going to offer me a cigarette?” she mocked.

“You have very foul manners, young lady,” the older one said in an aggrieved tone, now dabbing his bloodied nose with a handkerchief. 

“You, complete strangers, put me in a vehicle against my will and you drove me to somewhere I don’t know and didn’t want to go to,” she snapped. “Is that something you normally find agreeable?”

The younger man sucked his teeth and glanced at his partner, evidently aware there wasn’t much to argue against this. 

“Why am I here?” she demanded. “What did I do?”

“Frankly, miss, we don’t know,” the younger one said. Now that she had a good look at him, she could see he was slightly freckled. “We were asked to bring you to this facility.” 

“And what is — ”

They were interrupted by a rapid knock on the door. It opened, and yet another suited man entered the room. Kat knew at once he did not belong to the same caste as the two who had conveyed her here. His pinstriped suit was far better tailored and the material of his hat was a darker, more expensive black.

He tossed this, and a sleek leather briefcase on the table, then gestured at the hand-cuffs. “What the hell is this?”

“Sir — ,” the younger of the two began. 

“She offered violence,” the elder one said, looking sternly at her with an expression she associated more with disappointment than contempt. 

The third man raised his head to examine his subordinate, and Kat had a good look at his face. He wasn’t much older than her, with high cheekbones, heavy lidded eyes, and a generous mouth that seemed apt to smile, but was now compressed in a line of irritation. His glossy, curly dark hair was close-cropped and slicked down, but she could imagine it bushed up without the aid of hair serum.

He gestured between the two of them with one elegantly gloved hand, eyebrows raised. “And the pair of you followed my instructions exactly?”

“What precisely am I doing here?” she demanded, tired now of being disregarded. 

“I wonder that as well,” the young man continued, regarding the others. “As I asked you to bring our guest to A-7.”

“There are no hard points for restraints on 7, Mr. Fisher,” the older man said with a hint of a smile, his voice a little thick from his clotted nose. “I felt it was necessary.” 

“Give me the key,” ordered the one identified as Fisher, now indicating the door. “And get out.”

The agent, or officer, or whoever he was, hesitated. He glanced at Kat, then at the younger man, and decided to wash his hands. He put the handcuff key down on the far side of the table, then followed his companion out without a backwards glance. 

“I apologize,” her host said, turning his eyes to Kat as he stripped off his gloves. Brown eyes, she saw, full of unexpected warmth. Something about his expression made her think he was holding back laughter, but she couldn’t tell if it was at her expense or at the two men who had just left. 

“Who are you?” she demanded, but her voice was choked and raspy from all of the screaming she she had done. 

“My name is Miles Fisher,” he said, at first offering his hand, then realizing she was still cuffed. “Damnit,” he growled as he unlocked them. “This is not how I wanted things done.”

“Yes, you seem very in control of the situation,” she muttered, massaging her wrists.

He took no offence at this assessment, but instead went to the door and spoke to someone who has waiting outside. She caught a glimpse of an armband with and M and P on it as the soldier passed, and presumed herself to be at some kind of military facility. This was different than what she had assumed while her federal escorts were still in the room. 

“I can have them meet us in a different room,” Fisher said, leaning against the table as he regarded her. “This one isn’t prepossessing, is it?”

“I’m not going anywhere with you until I get some answers,” she snapped, though the hoarseness cut through her intended venom.

He gave her a considerate smile. “I suppose that’s fair.” 

The young man she’d guessed to be some kind of soldier returned carrying a tray of bottled water and sandwiches. He was polite enough, but his presence told Kat that she was here under the sufferance of a higher authority. She didn’t know what that might mean, or what this Miles Fisher had to do with any of it.

“I’d intended for you to be brought here in a civil and considerate way,” he said as he opened one of the glass Evian bottles and offered it to her. “I really am sorry if these men were overzealous.”

“And how,” she paused to take a sip of water, letting it cool her vocal cords. “Do you define being detained in a civil and considerate way, Mr. Fisher?”

“To start with, I like windows,” he said, nodding towards the blank wall, then turning that smile back on her. Something about it unsettled her, the way those soft brown eyes watched her with an intimate sleepiness. 

“Tell me why I’m here,” she said, staring right back at him. 

“I think there’s something you can help me with.” He went around the table and reached into his briefcase, extracting a thin yellow file of no particular provenance that she could see. He left it on the table, unopened and waiting. 

“And if I choose not to help you?”

He shrugged. “That’s your concern, I suppose.”

“Fine,” she said as nonchalantly as she could manage. “If you’re going to send me back, don’t send me to Germany. Anywhere else. Siberia. I don’t care. Just not Germany.”

He raised both eyebrows at her. “Why would you have particular concerns about that?”

She pressed her mouth flat and stared at him, trying as hard as she could not to show she was afraid, even more afraid than she’d been in combat. The idea of her life, as ill-lived as it was, being taken from her and being thrown on the rubble heap suddenly pierced her. She hadn’t considered what she was taking for granted.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she said, trying to keep her tone light, steady. “Isn’t that what all refugees are afraid of when they’re put in handcuffs and taken to dark rooms?”

Miles Fisher sat down, his expression mildly distressed as he looked on her. “Miss Bergmann. Under no circumstances are you going to be sent back to Europe against your will.” 

“My scholarship — “

“There’s no danger to you finishing your education, if that’s your desire. At least, I don’t think so. I can’t speak for what might happen if you continue to going around decking military veterans. Is that your intention?”

Ah, she thought. He’d been told ahead of time about that. She toyed with the Evian bottle, wondering what her chances of escape were if she glassed him with it. He seemed to sense her thoughts, because his eyes moved to it, then back to her face. He grinned wide, not an ounce of fear or apprehension in him. His eyes sparkled, and his cheeks even coloured a little. 

“I can see you haven’t ruled it out.”

“Would you?”

“I avoid violence as much as I can.”

“You leave it to others,” she said contemptuously.

“No,” he said, unperturbed. “I simply don’t like it. I don’t find it effective. It’s true I have a US Army rank, but I’m not what you’d call in any way a conventional soldier.” 

“I can think of several things I’d like to call you,” she said. “Manipulating me in this fashion. Threatening my standing and my degree. No, don’t tell me there’s no danger. I don’t like being lied to.”

“All right,” he agreed mildly. “But consider that you don’t know all of it. You don’t know, for instance, that the reason we’re speaking now stems not from recent events, but from events dating back to 1944, when you made a profound impression on a friend of mine.”

At a loss, she only stared at him. Then she ran through the sequence of events in her mind, and landed on the only possibility. Well, it wasn’t as though E. Max had denied the nature of his side job. 

She laced her fingers together and leaned forward, giving him her best glacial stare. “With few exceptions, I don’t like spies, Mr. Fisher.”

“Even spies don’t like spies, Miss Bergmann. But let’s come back around to the reason we’re here.”

“But I don’t wish to be here,” she pressed. “I would like to leave. May I leave?”

He smiled. “No.” 

“So the hell with habeas corpus,” she sneered. “And I thought Americans believed in personal rights and freedoms.”

He pulled out a cigarette pack and tapped one out. “Sadly, the high literature of America’s founding is mostly a comfortable fiction. This system is riddled with loopholes, and the present atmosphere enables all manner of injustice against people who aren’t in a position to take those rights for granted.”

“Like foreigners.” She declined his offered smoke, her throat still too sore. “German foreigners. Krauts.” 

He lit the cigarette and took a philosophical drag. “Less than you’d think. But Jews are always considered a little pink. Blacks, if they’re a little too free spoken. Queers of every kind. You’re actually quite far down the list of threats to national security by my reckoning, but we’re not here to talk about me.” 

“No, you’ve come to bore me with ethics lectures, and you won’t let me leave.”

“It’s simple,” he said. “I want you to work for me. If you agree to do so, I will expedite your citizenship application, and you’ll have an American passport by the end of the month.”

She blinked, her anger hitting a wall of confusion. “Why? I have nothing to offer you, nothing beyond what any linguistics student could — ” She fell silent, her eyes immediately drawn to the folder he’d left so conspicuously placed on the ugly formica table. Something about it stilled her, created apprehension in her, though she couldn’t fathom what might be contained in it.

He slid it over to rest in front of her, then flicked it open. It contained one photocopied sheet of typewritten script, with a photograph of her taken for her academy’s spring yearbook of 1940. Sixteen years old, and perhaps the last time she had ever smiled for a photograph. 

The words were German, detailing a brief summary of her background, and a description of her potential deployment as a covert witness within a program codenamed “Urchin”. A hand-written little asterisk marked the word, and down at the end of the page, the one-word notation sent a chill through her.


“That’s an Abwehr document,” he said needlessly, gesturing with his cigarette. “You haven’t seen it before?”

She shook her head, not trusting herself to speak. She hadn’t thought of Adrian Wehnert for years, but she wondered now if his had been the hand responsible for this. It was preliminary, cursory, not a fully fledged profile, but an initial entry. Matters had moved too quickly for her to discover anything of the program beyond her misfortune. She’d never considered that it had endured after her bloody departure. 


“One of our German captives disclosed their participation. A high-level clerk in accounting section for labour and extermination camp assignments.”

She tried to match that with the identities of any of the men she remembered, but Lange, Nyssen and Baier were all high ranking SS officers, and only the first two might be in a position to offer information.

“Why would the Americans be interested in this?”

“That’s not something I can share with you presently,” he said, his warm smile becoming more maddening by the second. “You’d need a security clearance, and you’d only get that after you prove your dependability and discretion to my satisfaction.”

“No,” she said at once, pushing the folder and its single sheet back towards him. “I won’t. I want nothing to do with this.”

He flipped it shut, and slipped it back into his briefcase, pausing only to stub out his smoke. He leaned in on his elbows, moving his face closer to her, as though sharing something confidential. It was a handsome face, with a gaze that was undeniably compelling. He was about to speak, but paused, seeming to think better of whatever he had planned to say.

“Katerina, I want you to think about it. Think seriously about it. But be aware that my organization has already invested considerably in your future prospects. The question is whether or not you have the temperament for it. This is a very different war, and it requires a very different kind of fighter.”

“I thought you didn’t like violence,” she said scornfully, noting the use of her given name.

“I don’t,” he said, rising from his confidential stoop. “That’s not how I work.”

She did not rise, but watched him steadily, suppressing the desire to get up and bolt. “Then how do you work, Mr. Fisher? Or is that also classified?”

Again that smile, this time tugging at the corner of his mouth. He pulled on his gloves before putting his hat on, something almost flirtatious in the sequence his spare, exact gestures. She could see suddenly how this young man might talk his way into a room, take command over older, more experience officers. She percieved the way he had selected a relatively low charm wattage of for this interview, not wanting to burn too bright for her reclusive eyes.

“I’m going to give my MPs very specific directions for your return home,” he told her as he opened the door. “Please refrain from assaulting them. It makes them uncomfortable.”

Instructions given, the two soldiers saluted Fisher. One of them, she noticed, had the cane she’d been forced to surrender to the officers who had detained her. He offered it to her, and she took it, suddenly hating all of them for seeing her in her infirmity, but most of all hating the man in charge. Miles Fisher.

“Think about what I said,” he intoned, all sobriety now. “We’ll speak again soon.”

Kat turned away, and did not look back as the MPs escorted her back the way she’d come.