“My name is Horst Kloster, and I am assigned to the Luftwaffe, and this is Fräulein Braun, a stenographer. I’ve been given the task of, how shall I put it, interviewing you. Please, don’t worry, I’m not with the Gestapo.”
Boyer and Rossi were given a cup of coffee and a buttered bun. They took the offering eagerly, though each man knew that this was merely the German’s way to make them feel at ease. Interrogation was sure to follow.
Kloster began by asking Lieutenant Boyer some routine questions about the mission: flight altitude, number of aircraft, mission parameter, that sort of thing. Boyer guessed that Kloster knew they had been assigned to bomb the railway yards, and so he stated it openly. After a few questions, the German reached into his pocket and retrieved a black & white photograph.
Boyer’s eyes widened in surprise, realizing that the image was of Jack and his fiancée Nicole. Somehow the Germans must have retrieved it from the wreckage. It was a clever tactic, one that should have given Kloster the advantage. But before he could elaborate, Boyer leapt out of the chair, catching the interrogator off guard. He reached for the photo, but Kloster pulled it away just in time. In the process, Kloster bumped into the side table and knocked over the coffee urn, some of which sloshed out of the spout onto his uniform tunic, eliciting a curse.
He cast an uncomplimentary look at Boyer and unbuttoned the tunic. But in so doing, he inadvertently allowed the wallet to slip from an inside pocket and tumble to the floor.
The billfold split open for all to see. Displayed prominently was an identity card bearing the portrait of a tired-looking Luftwaffe officer – the image was of an older man with a dark complexion. The picture didn’t remotely resemble the younger, energetic-looking Kloster.
Boyer froze in his tracks and stood where he was. The German still had his hand on the tunic, now seemingly unmasked but was trying not to show it. He too couldn’t help staring at the open wallet and the revealing photograph. He glared at the guard who, like the rest, had been momentarily frozen into inaction.
Fräulein Braun had involuntarily risen from her chair, her hand cupped over her mouth.
“Achtung!” Horst instructed the guard, intending to hold Boyer in check.
The sentry remembered his duty, stepped forward, and prodded the American with the Schmeisser machine-pistol, communicating in no uncertain terms that he was to back off.
Boyer retreated a few steps, as Kloster leaned down and scooped up the wallet with the offending photo. He stashed it in the pocket of the borrowed tunic, returning it to its rightful place as if the very act could somehow reverse his blunder.
Boyer was no fool. Although he couldn’t explain what exactly had happened, it seemed clear that Kloster was impersonating another officer. Indeed, now that he looked closer it struck him that the tunic probably didn’t belong to him; it hung a little loose.
Boyer’s face took on a hardened expression, as his mind raced to make sense of the interview. He scrutinized the man facing him: tall, with an athletic build, the man exuded confidence and somehow didn’t strike him as a typical officer. There was something about the German officer, something that…well, Boyer couldn’t quite put his finger on it.
His stern look left the impression he didn’t believe Kloster. Who was this man? Was he even an officer? Was he a member of the police? Could he in actuality be associated with the Gestapo?
Boyer tried to hide his questions behind a mask of ambivalence. He could see how a man like Kloster enjoyed being in charge of a situation, and now exposed, felt his influence slipping away.
“I’m sorry for startling you, Fräulein,” Horst apologized, addressing the startled stenographer and bringing a sense of calmness back to the interview. Then turning to face Boyer, he said. “Let’s continue, shall we?”
But the damage, however brief, had already been done. Boyer stepped back a pace and folded his arms in defiance. “Who are you, really?” he asked.