Hilda approached the ominous government building. Its red banners fluttered in the wind. The windows were like many gaping eyes. Her heels clacked on the marble and echoed in her head. She desperately needed the job as a typist, but walking into the offices of the government felt like entering a lion’s den. She tried to remind herself that what she had heard were only rumors.
She followed her directions to Hauptmann Schlessler’s office. His secretary was not at her desk and the office door stood open. Hilda straightened her blouse and knocked on the doorframe.
The dark haired and uniformed man looked up from the papers laid across the desk. Hauptmann Schlessler was a fit man nearing his forties. Touches of gray had begun to color his dark hair above his ears and his gray eyes were just beginning to crinkle at the edges. Altogether distinguished and attractive, but Hilda forced this thought from her mind.
“Hauptmann Schlessler, I am Hilda Gerwig. I have an appointment about the open typist position.” She strode forward and offered her hand. Schlessler stood up and shook it. Hilda noticed he held it longer than necessary.
“Do you have your résumé or any recommendations?
“Of course,” she pulled her papers from her purse and handed them to him. He gestured to a small desk by the wall with a typewriter.
“Please sit,” He set down a page of text, “Copy this. I will be timing you.”
He sat back at the desk. “Please,” he encouraged. Hilda pulled off her gloves and fed paper into the machine. She copied the text word for word. It was a rather bland bit of dictation taken by his secretary.
“Finished,” she said. The Hauptmann looked at the clock and gestured for the pages. Hilda handed him the original and the copy. He studied the pages closely.
“You have a very nice recommendation from the church office at St. Trinitatis in Leipzig.” He added.
“Yes, my mother remains an avid member there. She insisted I volunteer after I finished my schooling for some experience,” she responded. Her heart fluttered, she was already lying. Her mother had died in a sanatorium years earlier. Her aunt had a new birth certificate forged claiming Hilda as her own daughter to protect her. The mentally infirm were being sterilized by the state.
Hilda clutched her hands in her lap to steady them. Schlessler looked back at her papers.
“I see you participated with the League of German girls?” he observed.
“Yes, that’s how I was referred to this position. By Petra Schwarzfeld.”
“Yes, she feels strongly that you should replace her according to her letter,” He commented, “And you speak some French? That will be useful as Germany expands.” Hilda could see his point. Germany was on the move again. Everyone was speculating about the German-Russian relations.
“We require all of the people employed in this building to pass a background check. I could get that started this–“ Another officer came into the room, he was laughing with the woman on his arm. The new arrivals stopped in their tracks when they saw the officer at the desk.
“SS Standartenfürher Edelmann!” The man stuttered, “Heil Hitler!” and he saluted the man at the desk.
“Hauptmann Schlessler, you missed your appointment with Fraulein Gerwig, but I discovered she’s a very able typist. It seems I was here doing both your job and mine while you were out enjoying a long lunch.”
“My apologies, Colonel Edelmann, what brings you to my office?” The real Schlessler tried to sound collected.
“I was just looking into a small matter, something about carbon copies of documents from your office found in the possession of the Resistance,” Edelmann was nonchalant, “Would you know anything about that?”
Edelmann interrupted him, “Of course, you can’t even see past the end of your nose, Schlessler.” Edelmann picked up the telephone.
“These are baseless accusations, Colonel!” Schlessler yelled. The secretary cowered behind him. Edelmann focused only on the telephone.
“Yes, this is Colonel Edelmann, please send up my men.” His stony gaze turned back to Schlessler. Hilda tried to shrink on her stool and be as invisible as possible.
“I have all the evidence I need, Schlessler, and the authority to act on it.”
Two SS soldiers pushed into the room behind the couple.
“Take her into custody,” Edelmann ordered. The soldiers took hold of the secretary. She cried out, her eyes wide. She clawed at Schlessler and pleaded. The Hauptmann stared back bewildered.
“My secretary?” he asked, as she was pulled from the room.
“Yes, Schlessler, your infatuation has blinded you. I suggest you follow them and make a statement of your own or she just may pin this all on you.”
Without another word, Schlessler slunk from the room to follow the distant cries of the arrested woman.
“My apologies, Fraulein Gerwig, bad business for you to witness, but now you are excused to enjoy the rest of your day. I’ll have the head of the typing pool, Frau Keller, telephone you in a day or two.”
Hilda fumbled with her purse, shaken by the tension that enveloped the room. She made her way to the door.
“Fraulein, your gloves.”
“My what?” she asked still stunned.
Edelmann picked up her gloves from beside the typewriter and walked over to her. He leaned in unusually close. She could pick up the scent of aftershave and sweet tobacco from his uniform. She went to take her gloves, but he did not let go as she pulled on them. She looked up into his cold eyes.
“I hope we meet again, under better circumstances,” he smiled. It reminded Hilda of the leering wolf in her old fairytale books. He was powerful and Hilda’s mixed emotions frightened her. Her knees weakened under her skirt. Either she was going to melt into his arms or run away in fear.
“Thank you, Herr Colonel,” she stammered. Hilda fled the room with her heart in her throat. She walked as fast as she could without running, down the stairs and out the door. She was absolutely sure that when Frau Keller called, she would turn down the job.
But she didn’t.
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