"Martini Come here and look at this!"
The man whose name had been called stood up from his desk immediately and walked into the inner office, his shoes clacking on the concrete floor. He was heavyset and broad-shouldered, and he wore an expensive brown suit, a spotless white shirt, and black necktie. His graying hair was combed back from his forehead. He had the soft, fleshy features of a child's favorite uncle, a man who liked to tell bedtime stories.
The walls of the inner office were covered with maps, marked with red arrows and circles. Some of the arrows had been scratched out, drawn and redrawn, and many of the circles had been crossed out with angry lines. More maps lay on the office's large desk, along with piles of papers that needed signatures. a small metal box had been opened, and in it were carefully organized vials of watercolors and horsehair brushes of various sizes. The man behind the desk had pulled his stiff-backed chair to an easel in the corner of the windowless room, and on that easel was a painting in progress: a watercolor of a white farmhouse and behind it the purple rise of jagged mountain peaks. On the floor around the artist's feet were other paintings of houses and the countryside, all of them put aside before they were finished.
"Here. Right here. Do you see iti" The artist wore glasses, and he tapped his paintbrush against a smeared shadow at the farmhouse's edge.
"I see... a shadow," Martin answered.
"In the shadow. Right there!" He tapped it again, harder. "Look close!" He picked up the painting, getting water-colors on his fingers, and thrust it in Martin's face.
Martin swallowed thickly. He saw a shadow, and only that. This seemed to be important, and should be handled carefully. "Yes," he answered. "I think... I do see it."
"ah!" the other man said, smiling. "ah! So there it is!" He spoke German with a heavy-some might think clumsy-austrian accent. "The wolf, right there in the shadow!" He pointed the brush's wooden end at a dark scrawl that Martin couldn't make heads or tails of. "The wolf on the prowl. and look here!" He picked up another painting, badly done, of a winding mountain stream. "See iti Behind that rocki"
"Yes, mein Fuhrer," Martin Bormann said, staring at a rock and a misshapen line or two.
"and here, in this one!" Hitler offered a third painting, of a field of white edelweiss. He pointed his crimson-smeared finger at two dark dots amid the sunny flowers. "The eyes of the wolf! You see, he's creeping closer! You know what that means, don't youi"
Martin hesitated, then slowly shook his head.
"The wolf is my lucky symbol!" Hitler said, with a hint of agitation. "Everyone knows that! and here's the wolf, appearing in my paintings with a will of its own! Do you need a clearer portent than thati"
Here we go, Hitler's secretary thought. Now we descend into the maelstrom of signs and symbols.
"I'm the wolf, don't you understandi" Hitler took off his glasses, which few but the inner circle ever saw him wearing, snapped them shut, and slid them into their leather case. "This is a portent of the future. My future." His intense blue eyes blinked. "The future of the Reich, I should say of course. This only tells me again what I already know to be true."
Martin waited without speaking, staring at the farmhouse picture with its unintelligible scribble in the shadows.
"We're going to smash the Slavs and drive them back into their rat holes," Hitler went on. "Leningrad, Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk... names on a map." He grasped a map, leaving red fingerprints on it, and pushed it disdainfully off the desk. "Frederick the Great never considered defeat. Never considered it! He had loyal generals, yes. He had a staff who obeyed orders. Never in my life have I seen such willful disobedience! If they want to hurt me, why don't they just put a gun to my headi"
Martin said nothing. Hitler's cheeks were growing red and his eyes looked yellow and moist, a bad sign. "I said we need larger tanks," the Fuhrer continued, "and you know what I heard in returni Larger tanks use more fuel. That's their excuse. They think of every possible way to hobble me. Larger tanks use more fuel. Well, what is the whole of Russia but a vast pit of petroleumi and my officers tumble back from the Slavs in terror and refuse to fight for the lifeblood of Germany! How can we hope to hold the Slavs back without fueli Not to speak of the air raids destroying the ball-bearing plants! You know what they say to thati Mein Fuhrer-they always say mein Fuhrer in those voices that make you sick as if you'd eaten too much sugar-our anti-aircraft guns need more shells. Our trucks that haul the anti-aircraft guns need more fuel. You see how their minds worki" He blinked again, and the other man saw the understanding settle back in like cold light. "Oh, yes. You were with us at the meeting this afternoon, weren't youi"
"Yes, mein... Yes," he answered. "Yesterday afternoon." He glanced at his pocket watch. "It's almost one-thirty."
Hitler nodded absently. He wore his brocaded cashmere robe, a gift from Mussolini, and leather slippers, and he and Bormann were alone in the administrative wing of his Berlin headquarters. He stared at his handiwork, at the houses built of unsteady lines and the landscapes with false perspectives, and he dipped his brush into a cupful of water and let the colors bleed out. "It's a portent," he said, "that I'm drawing a wolf without even knowing it. That means victory, Martin. The utter and total destruction of the Reich's enemies. From without and within," he said, with a meaningful glance at his secretary.
"You should know by now, mein Fuhrer, that no one can defy your will."
Hitler didn't seem to hear. He was busy returning all his paints and brushes to the metal box, which he kept locked in his safe. "What's my schedule for today, Martini"
"at eight o'clock, a breakfast meeting with Colonel Blok and Dr. Hildebrand. Then a staff meeting from nine o'clock to ten-thirty. Field Marshal Rommel is due in at one o'clock for a briefing on the atlantic Wall fortifications."
"ah." Hitler's eyes lit up again. "Rommel. Now there's a man with a good mind. I forgave him for North africa. Everything's fine now."
"Yes, sir. at seven-forty this evening, we'll be accompanying the field marshal by plane to the coast of Normandy," Bormann continued. "Then on to Rotterdam."
"Rotterdam." Hitler nodded, putting his box of paints into the safe. "I trust that work is going on schedulei That's vital."
"Yes sir. after a day in Rotterdam, we'll be flying back to the Berghof for a week."
"The Berghof! Yes, I'd forgotten!" Hitler smiled, dark circles under his eyes. The Berghof, Hitler's mansion in the Bavarian alps above the village of Berchtesgaden, had been his only true home since the summer of 1928. It was a place of bracing wind, vistas that would have stunned the sight of Odin, and memories that lay easy on the mind. Except for Geli, of course. He'd met Geli Raubal there, his one true love. Geli, dear Geli with blond hair and laughing eyes. Why did dear Geli burst her heart with a single shoti I loved you, Geli, he thought. Wasn't that enoughi Eva would be waiting for him at the Berghof, and sometimes when the light was just so and Eva's hair was brushed back, Hitler could squint his eyes and see the face of Geli, his lost love and niece, twenty-three years old when she committed suicide in 1931.
His head hurt. He looked at the calendar, the days of March, on his desk amid the clutter.
"It's springtime," Hitler realized.
From beyond the walls, out over the blacked-out city of Berlin, came a howling. The wolf! Hitler thought, his mouth opening in a gasp. No, no... an air-raid siren.
The noise built and moaned, felt more than heard behind the walls of the Reich Chancellery. In the distance there was the sound of a bomb exploding, a crunching noise like the smashing of a heavy ax against a tree trunk. Then another bomb, two more, a fifth and sixth in rapid succession. "Call someone!" Hitler commanded, cold sweat sparkling on his cheeks.
Martin picked up the desk telephone and dialed a number.
More bombs fell, the noise of destruction swelling and waning. Hitler's fingers gripped the desk's edge. The bombs were falling to the south, he believed. Down near Tempelhof airport. Not close enough to fear, but still...
The crack and boom of distant explosions ceased. Now there was only the wolf howl of the air-raid siren and more answering around the city.
"a nuisance raid," Martin said after he'd spoken with the chief of Berlin security. "a few craters on the airfield and some row houses on fire. The bombers have gone."
"Damn the swine!" Hitler stood up, trembling. "Damn them to hell! Where are the Luftwaffe night fighters when we need themi Isn't anyone awakei" He strode to one of the maps that showed the defensive fortifications, the mine fields and concrete bunkers, on the Normandy coast. "Thank the fates that Rommel is. Churchill and that Jew Roosevelt are going to come to France, sooner or later. They'll find a warm reception, won't theyi"
Martin agreed that they would.
"and when they send their cannon fodder, they'll be sitting in London at their polished desks drinking English tea and eating those... what do they call those biscuit thingsi"
"Crumpets," Martin said.
"Drinking tea and eating crumpets!" Hitler steamrolled on. "But we'll give them something special to chew on, won't we, Martini"
"Yes, mein Fuhrer," Martin said.
Hitler grunted and moved to another map. This one was of more immediate concern; it showed the route of the Slavic wave threatening to burst the banks of Russia and flood their filth into German-occupied Poland and Romania. Small red circles showed pockets of trapped German divisions, each fifteen thousand men, slowly dwindling away.
"I want two more armored divisions right here." Hitler touched one of the pressure points, where at this moment, hundreds of miles away, German soldiers fought for their lives against the Russian onslaught. "I want them ready to fight within twenty-four hours."
"Yes, mein Fuhrer." Thirty thousand men and almost three hundred tanks, Martin thought. Where would they come fromi The generals in the west would bellow if they lost any more of their troops, and those in the east were too busy for additional paperwork. Well, the men and tanks would be found. It was the Fuhrer's will. Period.
"I'm tired," Hitler said. "I think I can sleep now. Lock up, will youi" He trudged out of the office and down the long hallway outside, a small man in a bathrobe.
Martin was tired, too; it had been a long day. all of them were. Before he turned out the desk lamp, he went around and picked up the farmhouse painting with its dark smear of shadow. He looked long and hard into that darkness. Maybe... just maybe... that was a wolf, creeping around the farmhouse's corner. Yes, Martin could see it now. It was right there, where the Fuhrer had said it was. a portent. Martin put the painting back on its easel. Hitler would probably never touch it again, and who knew where all these pictures would end upi
The wolf was there. The more Martin looked, the clearer it became.
The Fuhrer always saw these portents first, and that of course was part of his magic.
Martin Bormann switched off the lamp, locked the office door, and walked down the long corridor to his apartment. In the bedroom, his wife Gerda slept soundly, a picture of Hitler on the wall above her head.