His eyes were rimmed with red, his face chalky. It was a very bad sign.
"None of it survived, I'm afraid," Martin Bormann said. He cleared his throat. "Dr. Hildebrand is dead and... the project seems not to have borne fruit."
He waited for more of it, his hands clenched into fists on his desktop before him. On the wall behind him a portrait of Frederick the Great watched in judgment.
"We... don't think the aircraft ever reached London," Bormann went on. He glanced uneasily at the other man in the room, a gray-haired, stiff-backed field marshal. "That is to say, there's no evidence the carnagene was delivered to its target."
He said nothing. a pulse beat steadily at his temple. Through a gilt-edged window the shadows of June 6 were spreading over Berlin. Tacked up on another wall were maps of Normandy, showing beaches that the world would soon know under the code names Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword. Everywhere on those maps, red lines were pushing inland, and black lines marked the retreat-oh, what traitors! he thought as he looked at them-of German troops.
"The project was a failure," Bormann said. "Due to... unforeseen circumstances."
"No, it's not that," Hitler answered in a small, quiet voice. "It's that someone didn't believe strongly enough. Someone didn't have the necessary willpower. Bring me Blok." His voice was more strident. "Colonel Jerek Blok. That's who I'd like to see. at once."
"Colonel Blok is... no longer with us."
"The traitor!" Hitler almost rose from his desk. "What did he doi Run and give himself up to the first British soldier he sawi"
"Colonel Blok is deceased," Bormann said.
"Yes, I would've committed suicide, too, if I'd botched things like he has!" Hitler stood. His face was flushed and moist looking. "I should've known not to give him any responsibility! He was a failure, pretending to be a success! The world is full of them!"
"at least Germany is, I fear," the field marshal said under his breath.
"When I think of the time and money spent on this project, I'm almost ill!" Hitler came out from behind his desk. "So Blok took his own life, did hei How was it donei a pill or a pistoli"
"a..." Bormann almost said propeller. But telling the Fuhrer what had really happened would open a real can of worms. There would be the matter of the German Resistance-those foul pigs-and the secret agents who somehow destroyed all of the carnagene. and the distasteful matter of Chesna van Dorne, too. No, no! It was best to let the story stand as it was: that a fleet of bombers had hit Skarpa's tanks and armory, and the explosion had ruined the chemicals. The Fuhrer, in these troublous times, had more to worry about than reality. "a pistol," he said.
"Well, it saved us a bullet, didn't iti But all that time and effort, wasted! We could have developed the solar cannon with that money! But no, no-Blok and his conspirators had to talk me out of it! I'm too trusting, that's the problem! Martin, I think the man might have been working for the British after all!"
Bormann shrugged. Sometimes it was better to let him believe as he would. He was easier to handle that way.
"My Fuhreri" The field marshal motioned to the Normandy maps. "If you might turn your attention to the current situation, pleasei You'll notice here, that the British and Canadians are moving toward Caen. Over here"-he touched another portion of the map-"the american troops are progressing toward Carentan. Our troop disposition is stretched too thin to contain both problems. Might I ask your opinion on which divisions to block this threati"
Hitler said nothing. He stood staring not at the maps, on which life-and-death struggles were displayed, but at his collection of watercolors, in which imaginary wolves lurked.
"My Fuhreri" the field marshal urged. "What shall we doi"
a muscle twitched in Hitler's face. He turned away from the paintings, went to his desk, and opened its top drawer. He reached in, and his hand emerged with a knifelike letter opener.
He walked back to the paintings, his eyes glazed and his gait that of a sleepwalker, and he plunged the blade through the first one, ripping the farmhouse scene from top to bottom and with it the wolf that hid in a shadow. The blade pierced the second watercolor, the one of a mountain stream in which a wolf crouched behind a rock. "Lies," Hitler whispered, tearing the canvas. "Lies and deceptions."
"My Fuhreri" the field marshal asked, but there was no answer. Martin Bormann turned away and went to stand at a window overlooking the Thousand-Year Reich.
The blade tore through the third painting, in which a wolf hid amid a field of white edelweiss. "Lies," the man said, his voice strained with tension. The blade went back and forth, and shreds of canvas fell around his polished shoes. "Lies, lies, lies."
In the distance an air-raid siren went off. Its howl reverberated over the broken city, hazed with dust and smoke from previous bombing raids. To the east lay oncoming night.
Hitler dropped the blade to the carpet. He clapped his hands over his ears.
a bomb flashed on the outskirts of the city. Bormann put his hands over his eyes to shield them from the glare. as Hitler stood trembling with the remnants of his visions underfoot, the German field marshal placed his hand over his mouth, for fear he might scream.