Kurt and his wife sat in the bed, the last page accusing them in silence.
He did not hear her quietly weep beside him.
He did not hear the sound of the door bursting inward.
He did not notice when VSS poured into the room, guns held level and voices shouting.
The collection of papers slid from his fingers onto the floor, where it remained as they took him away.
* * *
Kurt sat at the table, handcuffed to the metal chair. A man sat in front of him, sneering coldly as he read over a file or two. Unlike most prisoners, this interrogation was taking place in a room with a bulletproof window, making his sin available for all to see; people passed by and stared at the disgraced officer. His face was bruised and his eyes were almost swollen shut, a result of a late night "interrogation" in which information was the last thing on their minds.
"Kurt Himmel. Former Untersturmführer, I see. You read a banned book," he said with a disapproving tone, "and are now suffering the consequences." He shook his head, making a tchah sound. "What made you do it, Kurt? Curiousity? Desire? What made you want to read that book?"
Kurt stirred in his chair, his face feverish and hot. "Nothing…nothing at all," he mumbled. "I…I thought it would help me understand the rebels, find a better way to apprehend them." I will not turn my wife in!
"A pathetic excuse," his interrogator snarled. "Do you think you can succeed where High Command has failed?"
Kurt remained silent; he recognized the baited question and refused to answer.
The man frowned and switched tactics. "Your wife is being interrogated now, Herr Himmel. She is giving us all the information we need."
Kurt shook his head despite the pain it brought upon him. "No, she is not. She would not turn me in."
"She is if I say she is!" he bellowed. He reached across the table and grabbed Kurt's shirt, yanking him forward, straining him against the handcuffs. "She is telling us exactly what happened, Herr Himmel, and the only way to save yourself is to tell us exactly what you saw in that book!"
The handcuffs cut into Kurt's wrist, causing pain to blossom along his arms. He was about to answer when he saw movement in the window.
His wife was being escorted by a matron past the window; she was not in handcuffs and, in fact, seemed to be untouched and unharmed. His relief quickly turned to concern when he saw her pick up one of their daughters. What are my children doing here? She smiled to the child and to the matron, apparently thanking them. Realization began to dawn on Kurt as she walked away from the window, not looking once into the room; his daughter shied her eyes as well.
The interrogator smirked cruelly as he released Kurt, allowing him to slide back into the metal chair. "It would appear you are too late, Herr Himmel."
Kurt simply stared at the window, blinking back tears. She betrayed me. He slowly turned his attention to his captor as an idea began to filter through his head. "I will tell you everything, then."
"It is too late, of course, but we would appreciate any information you gathered from the book." The man pulled out a notepad and pen.
Kurt glanced up at the cameras before beginning. "There is a boy in a bed, somewhere, who cannot move, but he commands legions of men…."