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Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 2

Kindred Spirits, Distant hearts. Chapter 2

“You look different,” he said. “You are no longer the young nurse I watched growing up"

Berlin. April 9th, 1941


“Maria, please. Don't let him hurt me, not again. No! No!”

Katarina pressed herself against the wall, trying to disappear into it but the man, dressed all in black just kept coming.

She couldn't see his face, it was hidden in the darkest of shadow but she knew he meant to hurt her and she was afraid.

“Maria. Help me!” she cried out but she was alone in the darkness, her friend wasn't there, and she squeezed her eyes tightly closed, waiting.

Suddenly, she felt pressure on her shoulder, gentle pressure.

“I am here, Katarina.”

The voice was warm and reassuring, if not tinged with sadness.

Katarina opened her eyes slowly.

“Mama?” she whispered as the slow realisation came upon her.

It had been a dream, a nightmare and she was relieved to find that she was safe in her own bed, her mother's hand on her shoulder, gently shaking her to wakefulness.

She raised her arm and gripped her mother's hand tightly.

“You cried out in your sleep, my darling,” her mother told her. “You were calling out for Maria. She is your friend, yes?”

Katarina nodded, her heartbeat returning to a more normal level now that she knew she was safe and took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. The dream had been so vivid and real that she was still trembling.

She looked around the room, dimly lit by the daylight filtering through the closed curtains and took in the familiarity of her own little haven.

“What time is it, Mama?” she asked.

“About nine O'clock,” her mother replied with a smile. “You were exhausted when you got home last night, so I let you sleep.”

Her mother was right, by the time she had got into bed she was indeed exhausted. The last thing she remembered was saying goodnight to her parents. She didn't even remember getting into bed.


Ten minutes later, she walked through the door into the kitchen where she found her Mama and Papa sitting at the table and a steaming cup of coffee awaiting her.

As soon as she appeared, her father jumped up to help her to her seat.

“Thank you, Papa,” she said. “There is no need, really. I am all right.”

She winced in pain as she lowered herself onto the chair.

“You don't look it, Sweetheart.”

Siegfried looked at his daughter, worry etched into his face.

Are you sure you are?”

“Yes, Papa, I am fine. It will take a little time for the wound to heal fully but it is not so bad, honestly.”


The table was laid out for breakfast. Some Salami sausage and cheese along with a loaf of bread.

“I am afraid we don't have any eggs,” her mother said, apologetically. “They are somewhat scarce now and the butter, well, it is not really butter...”

Katarina interrupted her,

“Mama, it is fine. I wouldn't wish for anything more.”

She looked at her mother who held her gaze for a moment and then looked away, not wanting her daughter to see how scared she really was.


As she ate, her mother kept busy with the chores, and her father remained silent, sipping his coffee and not wishing to disturb her.

“Don't you have to go into your office today, Papa?” she asked between mouthfuls.

Siegfried shook his head.

“No, not today. They have allowed me to have the day with you,” he replied with a smile.

Katarina saw that it was not a happy smile but a little forced, she thought.

“Papa, is something wrong?” she asked eventually.

From the corner of her eye, she saw her mother freeze for a moment before continuing with what she was doing.

Siegfried looked at his daughter before answering.

“No, Sweetheart, nothing wrong. We are just so relieved that you are home safely. When you are ready, we shall sit down together, and you can tell us all about your, erm, adventure? If you want to, that is.”

Katarina thought briefly about everything that had happened since she had last seen them and wondered whether she really should tell them everything. She really didn't want them to worry any more than they did already and knowing that she had almost died would not do them any good if she had to go away again.

She thought for a moment, deciding just what she could say and what she may hold back until eventually she smiled and nodded.

“Yes, I would like that.”

Suddenly her mother turned her hand to her mouth.

“Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!” she exclaimed. “We haven't wished you a happy birthday!”

Katarina's jaw dropped, and her eyes opened wide.

“My birthday? Today? Good heavens! I hadn't given it a thought!”

She stood up carefully, one hand on the table and the other holding her stomach in an effort to ease the strain on her damaged muscles.

Magda went quickly to her side as Siegfried jumped up to help her.

They both still looked very concerned.

“Honestly, Mama, Papa,” she repeated. “I am all right. I just need to be careful.”

Together they stood and hugged each other.

“We do have a gift for you, Sweetheart,” her father said. “It isn't much, but we will give it to you later if that is all right.”

“Oh, Papa. There was no need to get me anything...”

She was prevented from any further protest by her father's forefinger placed on her lips.


About midday, whilst sitting in the living room, Katarina heard a knock at the apartment door. She went to open it, but her father bid her stay and went himself to open it.

She heard voices, familiar voices but couldn't quite tell what they were saying.

A few minutes later her father reappeared.

“The doctor has come to see you,” he said. “Just to see that you are all right.”

“Oh, Papa! I told you I am!”

As she spoke, the doctor appeared in the doorway.

“Doctor Kruger!” she gasped. “What are you...?”

Martin Kruger smiled happily.

“Hello, Matron.”

He used her rank as an endearment rather than a formality and Katarina jumped up from her chair to embrace him but winced as the sudden effort strained her abdomen and sent a searing pain through her.

“Hey, be careful!”

Her former mentor stepped quickly forwards to help her.

Katarina gripped his outstretched hands and looked at him. He looked so much older than when she had last seen him almost a year ago. His hair was greyer, and his face seemed strained and careworn.

“It is good to see you, Martin, ” Katarina said at last. “It seems a lifetime ago since I left the hospital.”

Doctor Kruger sighed.

“Nothing has changed... well, not for the better, at least,” he replied as he studied her.

He stepped back, still holding her hands and looked her up and down.

“You look different,” he said after a moment. “You are no longer the young nurse I watched growing up.”

Katarina frowned and opened her mouth to protest, but he continued before she could speak.

“You have matured, I can see. I have heard a little about your travels and experiences, and I am sad that you have had to contend with so much in such a short time.”

Katarina smiled.

“You taught me well, Martin,” she said trying to ease the doctor's fears. “You taught me how to cope with anything and everything.”

Martin Kruger smiled but shook his head as he responded to her,

“I taught you all I know that is true, but your parents have raised a very special young lady indeed. One of a kind, in fact.”

Katarina thought for a moment and then chuckled gently.

“Hmm, I am not so sure about that,” she said, thinking of her friend so many miles away in Munich.


Doctor Kruger looked at her closely and then smiled.

“Well, since I am here, let me take a look at that wound. It should be healing well by now.”

Siegfried took his wife's arm.

“Let's give them a little privacy.”

“Oh, no. You don't need to leave!” Katarina said quickly but then changed her tone as a thought struck her.

“Unless you would rather,” she added gently.

Her mother and father looked at each other, each trying to gauge the other's thoughts but then relaxed.

“All right, Sweetheart,” her father said simply.

Katarina unbuttoned her frock at the waist. Just four buttons but it was enough for her former mentor to see the angry red scar just above her navel.

Magda Langsdorff gasped as her daughter's injury was revealed to her for the first time, and she clapped her hand to her open mouth.

Her husband put his arm around her waist, holding her tightly.

It was not just for her benefit either for he was trembling somewhat from the realisation that his beautiful daughter had come so close to death.

Their expressions had not gone unnoticed, and Katarina looked down at her injury and back at them.

“Mama, Papa. Please don't be upset. It is not so bad as it seems.”

As the doctor gently pressed the soft flesh around her stomach, she gasped with pain and Magda went immediately to her side.

Doctor Kruger finally stepped back, satisfied that all was well and indicated that she could fasten her buttons once again.

He rubbed his chin.

“Everything seems to be in order,” he said at last. Whoever repaired this damage did an excellent job of it. Very neat indeed.”

He rubbed his chin again.

“I suppose I don't need to tell you that this type of injury will take quite a while to heal and will be painful for some time yet.”

Katarina smiled.

“I know. I have seen many such wounds and far worse, as you well know.”

“I do and so, Matron, what advice would you give to one of our patients for this?”

“That they rest as much as possible and no exertion.”

“Quite right and now you have told me you had better follow that advice. Promise?”

Katarina laughed and clutched her midriff.

“Oh gosh, don't make me laugh.”

She shook her head, still grinning.

“You're a sly one, Martin. You know me too well.”


Doctor Kruger stayed for little more than an hour. He knew that Katarina would need peace and rest and he didn't want to intrude on her family for any longer than he needed to.

He got up to leave, satisfied that this young woman whom he had seen grow from an eager teenager had become the confident, strong and capable nurse she now was.

Katarina went to stand, to walk with him to the door but he stopped her.

“No,” he insisted. “Rest. You will heal more quickly if you let others look after you for once.”

He smiled at Magda and Siegfried and shrugged as he spoke, knowing just as they did that she wouldn't.

The last words she had heard before the front door closed was his voice telling her father that he would be 'in touch.'


No sooner had the front door closed then there came another knock.

Siegfried had barely made it back to the living room, but he immediately returned and opened it.

A neighbour.

This was to set the tone for the next few hours. Friends, neighbours, all had heard that Katarina was home and all wanted to see her and wish her well.

As always, she was polite and friendly and genuinely pleased that they were showing such an interest in her but the constant attention was beginning to take its toll on her.

Siegfried and Magda could see that she was becoming weary and that every movement was getting unbearably painful for her until they made the decision that enough was enough and Siegfried began turning people away explaining that his daughter was very tired and needed to rest and would they call again tomorrow, please?


Katarina sat quietly, listening to the muted sounds coming from the kitchen across the hall, her parents talking in hushed tones and the gentle clinking of crockery and cutlery as they prepared supper.

She looked at the clock on the mantle shelf above the fireplace, its invisible pendulum ticking rhythmically as it swung back and forth inside the casing.

She found it quite mesmerising and calming but although she could see the clock clearly, the time it showed didn't register in her mind, and the face she saw wasn't cold brass but warm flesh with bright, smiling ice blue eyes.

Maria had not been far from her thoughts from the moment she awoke, and she felt it strange that, although she had so many friends and acquaintances, she had not missed any of them like she now missed her kindred spirit.

She felt an emptiness now that they were separated and couldn't quite understand why.


The gentle pressure of her father's hand on her shoulder brought her out from her thoughts and back into the real world.

“Dinner is ready,” he told her.

She looked up at him and smiled, but it seemed to Siegfried that it wasn't the usual bright and happy smile that he was used to seeing from his daughter.

“Are you all right, Liebchen?” he asked even though he knew that deep down she was not.

“Yes, Papa, I am,” she gave the expected reply and took his proffered hand. “I am just a little tired, that's all.”

In his heart, Siegfried feared that he knew what troubled her.

He tried to tell himself that the traumas she had endured over the past few months had changed her, but he couldn't convince himself that there wasn't something else, something far closer to home that was weighing on her mind.


What Katarina saw as she entered the kitchen made her heart soar with joy.

“Oh Mama, You didn't have to do all this.”

The table was set with their best crockery and, although there was not a great feast, the food was set out as if there was. Hot fresh coffee, or at least what passed for coffee these days in a pretty blue Meissen pot along with matching cups and saucers.

The three place settings were flanked with silver cutlery that Katarina had never seen before.

“No, you are right, we didn't,” her mother answered, taking her hand and guiding her towards her father's seat at the head of the table. “But when we got the notification that you were missing and believed to have been killed we thought... well, you can imagine what we thought, so this is really nothing compared to the joy of having you home again. There can never be another occasion that will overshadow this day.”

Katarina put her arms around her mother and hugged her tightly then took her father's hand and drew him towards them.


Dinner was sparse. The winter had been cold, and now that spring was here, and the temperature had risen, there was a lot of rainfall.

Even though Siegfried, as a member of the diplomatic corps was given an allowance far above that of the ordinary citizens, there was physically not much food available.

Germany's ruling elite gave no thought to the civilian population and were so caught up in their plans for the Third Reich and the war with England that when provisions were prevented from getting to the cities, they did nothing.

To Katarina, however, it was a feast she would remember for the rest of her life.

Her parents were used to eating little, and Katarina herself was not very hungry, and when they had finished, she stood up and began to clear away the plates and cutlery, but Siegfried gently grabbed her wrist.

“No, Sweetheart,” he said softly. “For once in your life, you are going to rest. Your mother and I will clear the table.”

She paused and looked at him and when she saw the sad expression on his face she relented and sat down again whilst her mother poured her another cup of thick, brown coffee.


Siegfried reached into his pocket and took out a small package wrapped in delicate lace and tied with a ribbon.

“When we had the wonderful news that you had been found,” he began, “I had this made for you. It isn't much but...”

He didn't finish the sentence but handed the box to his daughter.

“Happy Birthday, Sweetheart.”

Katarina looked at him and then at her mother.

“You didn't need to buy me a present,” she said quietly, her eyes beginning to fill and a lump forming in her throat. “I am just happy that I am home.”

As she spoke, she tugged gently at the bow, and the ribbon fell away releasing the delicate lace from its bond.

When she lifted the lid of the tiny card box, she gasped.

“Oh, Papa! It is beautiful!”

Inside was a small silver charm on a fine silver chain.

Upon the charm was engraved a swallow and a tiny blue alpine flower and below them the words, 'Ich Kehre Wieder'... I will return.

A small tear escaped from her eye and fell onto her arm and, as she looked up at her father she could see that he was struggling to hold back his own emotion.

Her mother though made no such pretence and allowed her tears to flow unhindered as Katarina reached out and took her hand, squeezing it gently.

“Thank you, both of you,” she whispered. “I will keep it with my medal and grandmother's watch.”

There were a few moments whilst each of them regained their composure and just kept their own thoughts until Siegfried said,

“It was a good thing that you left those here with us.”

“Gosh! Yes, you are right, Papa. If I had taken them, they would be lost now in the Mediterranean!”

Her father seemed to be staring at her but not seeing her, as though he was lost inside his own head.


Siegfried smiled.

“I was just thinking,” he said.

“What about?”

He didn't answer right away but held her gaze as if trying to see inside her, to read her thoughts and then gave a big sigh.

“Do you think...” he began.

Katarina cocked her head to one side, waiting until he continued.

“Well... do you think that you will someday be able to tell us about what happened to you?”

She smiled warmly and took his hand.

“Yes, Papa. I will, I promise.”


That night, before she got into bed, she stood at her unlit bedroom window, watching the people passing by in the street below, oblivious to her observation.

A tram rattled past, and she watched for a moment whilst it stopped outside, disgorging a handful of passengers from in its dimly lit interior.

When it pulled away, she saw a man, dressed in a black coat standing in the shadows of a doorway across the street.

She wouldn't have noticed him but for the brief glow, as he lit a cigarette, his face below the brim of his black hat momentarily illuminated.

As she watched, he took a long draw, the tip glowing brightly for a second and then he looked up as he exhaled a thick cloud of grey smoke.

She froze, her heart almost stopping. He was staring right at her!

It seemed to her that he smiled, a thin, sinister smile and then looked away, pulled his collar up around his neck and stepped out into the rain-lashed street and disappeared.

As she quickly drew the curtains she knew exactly who he was, Gestapo!






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