He was a good-looking man, and young; only the limp and the cane explained why he wasn’t in uniform.
He carefully maneuvered himself between a few tables and hitched himself up on a barstool. “Lager, bitte,” he told the barmaid.
She drew his beer and set it in front of him. “So where are you from, mein Herr, and what brings you to our little village?”
“I’m on my way from Bonn to Berlin; I’m a civilian courier for the Abwehr.”
“Ah. Carrying anything interesting?” she asked with a mischievous smile.
He smiled back at her and shrugged. “A box of papers, Fraulein. If it were anything truly interesting it would go by military courier. I just take the ordinary things that don’t deserve a real escort.”
“Still, you’re serving the Vaterland. And it’s Frau and mein Mann is insanely jealous.” Her smile broadened.
“As he should be,” the young man said, and toasted her with his mug. “I promise to give him no offense. Especially if he’s nearby.”
The woman laughed and went off to refill other patrons’ glasses.
Still smiling, the young man looked around the little restaurant and pub. He took note of the various faces, the décor, the fellow in the apron who continually beetled in and out of the room. Another man came through the front door; the courier turned and made quick note of him.
More than half an hour later, the young man finally finished his lager. He ordered another and proceeded to sip it as slowly as he had the first. While the barmaid was at a table in the corner, the man in the apron came in again and walked behind the bar. He leaned over and spoke quietly to the courier.
“Entschuldigen Sie, mein Herr. The man you are to meet will not be joining you.”
“I don’t understand,” the young man said, looking faintly puzzled.
“Your contact was arrested by the Gestapo just an hour ago. This is the first chance I’ve had to tell you. The barmaid is very patriotic.”
“But I’m not here to meet anyone.”
“Yes, mein Herr, I understand, of course, but you are in danger.” He stood up and made to leave as the barmaid returned and shot him a dark look.
The courier took a thoughtful pull on his lager and put a couple of bills on the bar.
“Danke schoen, meine Frau. Guten abend.”
“Danke schoen, mein Herr. Guten abend. Heil Hitler.”
The courier returned the honor to der Fuhrer and disappeared into the dusk. After a moment, the barmaid turned to see the man in the apron coming out again.
“Well, I certainly hope you’re satisfied,” she said, glaring.
The man grinned at her.
“I was right in what I told that boy,” she complained. “You are insanely jealous. Why else would you drive him off? You know the Americans are good tippers after they’ve had a few.” She held up the money the agent had left. “This barely pays for the drinks!”
Her husband laughed, and most everyone in the bar joined him. He walked over to his wife and kissed her cheek.
“I didn’t like the way he was looking at you,” he said, still grinning. “Or his fake limp, either.”
She finally gave in and smiled back at him. “Fine. But when his contact does come in, leave him alone. I’m saving for a new coat.”