Need a break from political discourse and turkey leftovers?
Well, who doesn’t?
I’ve got you covered right here with an excerpt from my WW2 spy thriller, Turning August.
Before you jump into the chapter, it might help to dig into some background from the back of the book:
August Wichmann had been warned.
As a young professor of linguistics at Munich University, he captivated his students with role-playing in the personas and culture of the different languages he was teaching.
It was the perfect skill set for the SS, who recruited him to gather intel on seditious acts.
But he had been warned.
His sister argued against his enlistment. Friends and colleagues encouraged him to reconsider. Brigitte, a vivacious medical student, made a compelling case against working with the regime.
But August was idealistic and dedicated in service to his country. He took on the role of rising SS officer.
Then he witnessed firsthand the atrocities committed by the Nazis.
His attempts to stop the evil were compromised by threats to those he loved. The Resistance discovered August and wanted to use his skills to ferret out information that could turn the tables on Hitler’s henchmen.
While pretending to be loyal to the SS, he had to feign indifference to the brutality so he could gather intel on Nazi activities and keep his cover safe.
Desperate in this no-win state, the only one who truly understood August’s torment was Brigitte, herself an unwitting pawn in the Nazi schemes. They both faced the haunting question that ever after steered their course:
After you discover the truth, how do you atone for believing the lie?
Set against a tangled web of Abwehr agents and double agents, broken trust and deception, and the earnest hopes and thwarted plans of the Resistance, the story treads a precarious path of conscience in the face of evil.
Many of the characters are based on real people, including seasoned spymaster Admiral Canaris and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer – both presenting a fixed star by which August and Brigitte navigate the shifting moral boundaries required to fight the Nazis from within.
That should tell you a little bit about the overall story. In this chapter, August has just returned from the Wannsee Conference, where the Nazis discussed the “final solution” of the Jews (including their plans for mass murder via gas chambers). August was required to attend because he worked for Heydrich – even though he despised the man and everything he stood for. If he refused, he and his family would be killed. At this point, he realizes how evil the SS is, but he can’t find a way out.
This chapter is the point when he is approached to work with the Resistance by none other than Admiral Canaris, head of the Abwehr. (He too was pretending to be part of a system he despised.)
The car dropped August off, and he trudged up the steps. His shoulders sagged. Every breath, every movement was an effort. He felt stunned beyond coherent thought. The conference had done that to him. He wasn’t sure how he’d be able to exorcise it from his thoughts.
He went inside and locked the door. First things first. A drink.
He stopped, looked around, listened. He wasn’t alone. He pulled out his weapon and stalked his way into the living room.
Canaris was sitting on the sofa. “We have some things to discuss, so I dropped by. How was Wannsee?”
“The butcher told you? Damn it!”
“Of course he told me. He’s my asset.”
August eyed Canaris, leaning back on the sofa, a glass of scotch in his hand. There was no threat. August put away his weapon, took off his coat, and sat across from Canaris. His movements were slow and thoughtful. By the time he sat he was focused, calm, and collected.
“So you know I went to Wannsee,” he said. “What else do you know? Or want to know?”
“What else do I know? Let’s see…” Canaris took a drink and looked up. “I know your apartment isn’t bugged. We swept it this morning. So we’re free to talk.” He looked back at August. “I know you’re intelligent. And capable. We could use that.”
“We? You mean the Abwehr?”
“I mean the Resistance. A group of us who are committed to restoring honor to Germany.” He studied August. “You’ve already encountered it.”
August leaned forward and studied him. “The men at the SOE house. And the testimony from Dina and Hofer.”
“This is a lot to reveal. How do you know you can trust me?”
“I don’t know that I can yet. I’m gambling on your sense of moral outrage at what you’ve discovered.” Canaris took another drink before continuing. “And I’m paying you the compliment of not trying to deceive you.”
“How do I know I can trust you?”
“Because you have no choice. Anything you tell Heydrich I can easily prove you withheld from him. And if I have to, I’ll lie about our role in it.”
Canaris watched August take that in.
“But that’s not why you’ll end up working with us,” Canaris said in a cool, matter-of-fact tone. “You will because you want to be part of this. You want to see Germany restored.” Canaris gave a slight grin. “Actually, you’re already working with us.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve kept it all secret.”
“Including that I have a secret.”
“You seem to know quite a bit already. What do you not know?”
“What was discussed at Wannsee.”
August looked away. “You don’t want to know.”
“Where can I get the documents?”
“Eichmann has the only copy.”
“We’ll have the butcher get a copy.”
August started to tell him that it would be impossible to get a copy. But then he realized how many others things Canaris was aware of. Plus the fact that he had found his apartment and gotten in. What was it Canaris had said to him on the train? There isn’t much we don’t know. August thought there wasn’t much that was impossible to this man.
Canaris stood. “Let’s go.”
“To find out about your sister.”
They walked to a car parked down the road. Oster was waiting behind the wheel. August and Canaris got in the back.
August turned to Canaris. Time to set terms.
“Admiral, if I’m going to do this, I want to be sure we can trust each other,” August said.
“I value what you can do, August. But trust costs more.”
“You value what I can do?” August gave a short laugh. “Says one professional liar to another.”
Canaris looked out the window to hide his smile. How many were bold enough to counter his statements? It was refreshing. Yes, he liked this August Wichmann very much. He hid his smile and turned back to look August in the eye.
“I will never deceive you. You have my word,” he said, his voice quiet and firm. “I expect the same courtesy from you.”
August regarded him for a moment and nodded. Terms accepted.
Ready for the whole story? It’s available from any bookstore. Or you can pop on to Amazon and grab the ebook and start reading today.