II. Long Drop Home

The Priesterseminar Regensburg was a cluster of buildings just south east of St. Jakob's Church, west of the center of town, adjacent to the Bismarkplatz. It sat a few streets down from the river Donau, the blue waters wound its way through the city in a great swooping arch that successfully broke the place in two. Surrounding the city was the remnants of its medieval walls, its almost 800 year old bridge spanning the great river to the smattering of buildings on the other side. The only thing that Regensburg loved more than its medieval history was its religion. The population of Regensburg was predominately Catholic, despite the attempted shifts towards Protestantism in the mid 18th century. For the longest of times its rigid Christianity had quelled the embrace of the National Socialist view, but once the Nazis took over, Regensburg took to it like a strong poison.

As soon as those who had been friends with started disappearing, whether they were fellow priests, communists or just unusual people, Dürr realized that the threat the Nazis posed was very real. He took it upon himself to fulfill the dictation of his vows to protect the meek and the persecuted; that was until the Reichskonkordat was signed into accord. The other clergy at the Seminary tore him down, telling him that they did not want to attract too much attention from the reigning hands. The welfare of the students came first; the welfare of themselves came first. Dürr had blamed Hitler, he had blamed the Pope, and he had blamed the fearful servility of his co-workers. He had seen Germany band together against her foreign enemy, but now she was banding against her own people and he was disgusted.

It had always been his "dangerous folly". The answer of indifference he received from his coworkers was not satisfying to the hard-nosed man. He scowled when he heard the police cars late at night, he could never quell the ache in his heart that they might have just apprehended another man of the cloth or someone he had known in the trenches. He had seen the empty shops that had signs out in front of their doors that only said a foreboding "for sale." He had even gotten the chance to experience walking into a shop of a family that he had known well only to find that the teller behind the counter was someone he did not recognize. They would ask him what he wanted, their blue eyes upon him and their blonde hair perfectly trim and slicked down tight against their head. The professor would ask where the family went and the simple answer he would get was that they moved away.

Dürr was friends with a man by the name of Andreas Hartmann who owned a house just outside the seminary walls. Hartmann was the proprietor of one of the town bars, the one that Dürr had chosen as his favorite and frequented the most on free evenings or exceptionally bad days. The man's wife, Sybille nee Kollmann, was almost half his age, but despite their differences, Dürr had happily married them several years before hand. He knew that he could trust them the day that Andreas came to confession, hat in his hand and face a bit red as he implored God's forgiveness for medial things such as indulging to much and ending up too drunk to walk one night. Dürr knew that he could trust the other man when he had asked him what he could do about the disappearance of certain people in town as it had made him angry that the baker he had bought his bread from suddenly no longer owned his store. The priest had muttered to him through the grate on the confessional booth's wall: "You may help me save them."

The bar tender converted the wine cellar under his house into a place where people could be hidden. They could be hidden away from the policemen who had started to relocate those of Jewish background into a different part of the city. The room was large enough, but it was dark and it was cold and Dürr almost thought himself inhumane for forcing someone to stay in there. It was Sybille who was the one to sooth the agitated professor's guilty mind. She had told him that his intentions were where they need to be and that the people that they were to be helping would understand.

Georg pulled the car into the driveway in reverse so as not to draw too much attention from the neighbors that there were suddenly going to be guests staying at the Hartmann residence. The short seminarian's eyes kept darting about, not because he was backing up his professor's prized Püppchen into a narrow alley way between two houses, but because he was constantly making sure that there was no one following him. As he brought the vehicle to a stop, he said a silent prayer of thanks that he had not hit anything with it while trying to park. He did not want to relive the punishment he received from scratching it by mistake during that one driving lesson.

Keller had roused his wife and she carried their sleeping daughter. Both Georg and the older man unloaded the luggage as Bill went to knock on the house's door to announce their arrival. During the entire ride, Georg was amazed that the taller Seminarian had managed to stay quiet. Despite that, Bill had kept fidgeting. Even now, as he stood in front of the door to the Hartmann's residence, he was quiet but that insistent picking was there to entertain himself.

Bill finally broke his vigil, "Welcome to Regensburg," he spoke to Keller.

There was no response. They were left in strained silence for several minutes.

Bill was saved by the door opening to reveal a woman. She was of average height, thin and blonde with red lips ad a round cheery face splashed with dashes of sun-provoked freckles. She wore modest clothing, her hair pulled pinned back As soon as she saw who was waiting on her doorstep she broke into a smile. "Bill, Georg, what a pleasure to see you!" she squealed happily, the blush of excitement coming up to grace her otherwise pale features.

"Hello there, dear Sybille." Bill grinned broadly as he stepped forward and embraced her. The two exchanged a round of la bassie before she let him go, her grin still brilliant.

Sybille Hartmann was 33 years old, and, just as her husband, she was not merely a business partner to the seminarians and Dürr bound together by a mutual distrust of the Regime, she was a friend. She was only a few years older than Bill who was the oldest of the three seminarians who were Dürr's lackeys. While Dürr would hammer out details with her husband behind closed doors, she would entertain the seminarians with card games and shower them with baked goods of various kinds. She eventually learned that Bill was partial to ginger snaps, Georg partook nicely to anything in a muffin form and Aksel liked his Apfelkuchen.

"It's been forever, I was just thinking about you two the other day. And Aksel too! Where is he?" she asked, looking around as though the third member of their usual band would appear on command.

"He didn't come with us this time, this time it was Georg's turn. It's his first real pick up you know? I mean he actually came with me to get them instead of tagging along when we brought them to you. Isn't that great? Now he's all grown up!"

Sybille tittered happily and then put her hand lovingly to Georg's head before she pulled him into a hug as well, "That's a very brave thing you did, Kleiner Georg." She paused for a moment, turning her attention to the family Keller. "Hello, friends," she smiled, ignoring their dour expression. "Please, come in side."

Toting their bags and their daughter, Horst and Franziska Keller entered the house without a word. Georg just stepped out of their way, letting them go ahead of him. Sybille gave the two seminarians a questioning glance about their new guests, but Bill just waved her along, mouthing a quick, "I'll tell you later," to her. The young woman nodded and followed the three, leaving Bill and Georg on her front porch.

Bill looked to Georg after a beat. "You scared?" He muttered out the side of his mouth.

"Y-You only a-ask me this now?"

Bill shrugged, "I wanted to make sure that I wasn't scare before I asked you if you were scared. You're always scared, but at least if I'm not scared I can help you be… not so scared, eh? Eh?" He grinned; to him his logic was infallible.

X

The family Keller was set up in the wine cellar. When Horst stepped off the small descending staircase and looked around the dank 13 by 16 room, his lip curled disgust. The barrels of wine were long gone leaving nothing but discolored stains on the floor where they once stood. The overhead light fixture had been installed as soon as the Hartmanns had started sheltering people down here, the smell of fermenting grapes never truly left the air.

Three pairs of eyes rose to meet the new comers when the creaking of the stairs echoed around the room. There was an elderly couple who had clung tightly to each other and a homely looking young woman with sandy blonde hair. Soon Sybille, Bill and the family Keller stepped into the confines of the room, crowding it up quite a bit.

"Karl, Hilda, Sarah, it's alright its just the boys." Sybille called as she was greeted with relaxation from the three, "We have new faces for you to meet." She turned around to the Keller family, "This is Horst Keller, his wife Franzisca and their little daughter Traudl." Carefully she spoke each of their names so that the older couple could hear. The old man was loosing his hearing and Sybille had learned to speak louder when she was talking to him.

The young woman was the first to speak, "Hello and welcome, friends." her was voice light and airy but it was not soothing to hear. She tended to breathe in the wrong intervals and sometimes emphasize the wrong words but she put on a smile twitching with nervousness at the corner of her mouth. She flitted forward to take their bags from Sybille.

"Herr and Frau Keller, this is Fraulein Sarah Zimmerman," Sybille said as she motioned to the young woman, "And this is Herr Karl Eichel and Frau Heidi Eichel." The Kellers, save for Traudl, did not return any gesture of welcome. Instead they stood there, still caught in a state of disgust that they would have to be living in this place for an uncertain amount of time.

Fanziska's eyes darted about, looking along the walls and up the ceiling for some place of escape. Bill could tell she was nervous. "Frau Sybille," Franziska finally said with a curt bite to her words, "Will we have to be staying down here all the time or will we be able to go up into the house and walk around?"

Sybille tried to be comforting, "You'll have to be very careful, but you can walk around the house if you need to." She frowned, pity for the stiff-lipped woman blossoming within her chest. "I would never force you to stay down here unless it was for your own protection, and if it wasn't that would be just like keeping someone in a prison and this isn't supposed to be a prison."

This answer did not seem satisfactory for Horst's wife, but she was forced to accept it. In fact, it seemed as though nothing she had yet encountered was up to her standards and it made Bill wonder just what exactly her standards were.

The Eichels had helped each other stand up, the man's almost ancient grandeur hung about him like the shabby robes of aged kings. The white of the man's beard was only parted by the occasional sprinkling of gray at the corners of his mouth. He wore a grey coat across what once might have been an athletic build but had since atrophied with age and he had gone pot bellied around his middle. The old man held his hat against his chest and his arm lovingly, gently, around the stout woman next to him that was his wife. The woman had gone grey and had the friendly but sad face of a pug dog. Her head seemed to attach directly to her shoulders. The tried to be presentable for the new comers, but they looked tired.

"Genossen," Karl said in his soft but strained voice.

Almost instantly, Herr Keller perked up at the word. Suddenly all his attention was turned towards the old man. Before anyone could say anything more he had strode over to the old couple with his hand outstretched in greeting. "Hello, this makes everything a bit more bearable, I was not informed that I would be sharing rooms with a fellow KPD member…"

The old man took the hand and shook it, "I will take the welcome, but I am not KPD,"

Horst frowned; his hand had been tricked into being a welcoming sign toward someone who was not another comrade. "Then what?" he asked.

"SPD," answered Herr Eichel with a twinkle in his aged eyes as he laughed inwardly at the change that flew across the younger man's face.

"A socialist…" Keller would have said more. He looked like he was burning to say more, something rude, something harsh, something demeaning about the politics of the old socialist, but he bit his tongue. His hand curled back on itself like the withering of a plant under the heat of the mid-day sun when he was returned it by the old man. The only thing that prevented him from saying more was age. Karl Eichel had lived through far more then Horst Keller had and thus the communist could say nothing.

Sybille interrupted their stand off, "I'll let you all get settled, then you can walk around the house. I can't let anyone out of the house until at least a week from now, but dinner will be served in an hour or two, if anyone wants to help me cook now they are welcome to." Sarah and Frau Eichel cheered up against the dreary tension that had suddenly erupted between the new comers and them. The young host held her hand out to the old woman, "I know you like to help me cook, Heidi, come."

"Yes, my dear." The little pug-faced woman smiled and quickly slipped away from her husband's touch.

Bill put a hand to Sybille's shoulder and nodded to her before he spoke, "I have to get back to school with Georg. We have the Magi Mass. If I'm late Dürr is going to probably pull his hair out."

"Now Bill, you be nice to him. He does a lot for you" Sybille whispered to him.

"Yes, Mutti." He sighed sarcastically. The tall seminarian was waved off by the young woman. "I'll come visit sometime next week to see how everything's doing, alright?"

"Call before hand with a time so you don't give me a heart attack. You just showing up knocking at my door made me think it was the GeStaPo."

Bill pouted, "I said I was sorry!"

"I forgive you; now hurry up so you're not late!"

With one last wave to his friend Bill darted up the stairs, pushed open the fake wall and slipped back into the main basement under the house. If the wine cellar smelled dank and of stagnant air, the stuffy basement smelled several times worse, the years of items, dust, damp cloth and cobwebs collected into a horrid cacophony of smells and distasteful odors. Bill snorted to get the stench out of his nose and then pinched his nostrils shut as he quickly made his way back up the stairs to the main level of the house, two at a time. When he broke back out on the surface and into the living room area, he snorted once more. It was that sound that alerted Georg who was sitting at the table, enjoying Sybille's hospitality: a fork in one hand and a piece of apple cake sat in front of him.

"There now," Bill spoke, brushing himself off, "Are you done being a glutton? C'mon, we have to go or that wine to blood won't need that transitional stage if Dürr gets a hold of me."

"D-Don't s-say that, th-that's awful…" Georg commented, mouth full of spongy pastry.

Bill strode over to him and quickly snatched up the last little bit of the cake with his fingers and shoved it in his own mouth before the short seminarian could defend it with his fork. "C'mon, C'mon!" he urged nudging Georg along with his elbow as he sucked the last traces of sweetness of his fingers. "I'm going to be late."

It did not take him long before he had pulled the shorter seminarian out of the house. Even though the St. Jakob's Church was only down the street, it was Bill who would have to deal with the car. Once Georg parked it, it would be Bill who would have to give it a quick wipe down incase their professor decided that he wanted to make sure that not one mark had been left on his darling vehicle. Thankfully for Bill, if he did all this quickly there would be plenty of time before the Mass of the Three Magi. Georg, on the other hand, would be stranded since Bill didn't drive and would have to pick up his feet to make his way across town. The garrison he was serving for his Externitas would be waiting.