Friday, 25 January 2013

MI Fanfiction: The Minister - Ch 6


So far Georg Bauer had been merciful. That wasn’t the best way to see it – Cinnamon knew that. It wasn’t a case of being at his mercy or not at his mercy. He was in control only as far as she let him. She was manipulating him, not the other way round. Even if she slept with him. Even when it came to that, it would be because she had chosen to enter this situation, and chosen all that came with it.

But still, so far Cinnamon felt as if she had been spared. Bauer had been gentlemanly and restrained. She had her own room – a very pleasant room, large and light and beautifully decorated, with windows that looked out over the gardens and the high walls to the city beyond. From her window she could see the gravelled drive and the gates – but there was no way through those gates unless Bauer chose to let her through.

She sat at the vanity table, carefully applying lipstick and examining the result in the mirror. It wasn’t a shade that she would have chosen, but it was carefully matched to the lipstick worn by Adala Hummel, the girl with whom Bauer had been so besotted all those years ago. Cinnamon had an advantage over all those other women Bauer had been through. He had chosen them due to superficial resemblances to Adala, but they had had no idea of the criteria up to which they were supposed to live. Cinnamon, on the other hand, had briefed herself fully on Adala’s appearance and personality, and she had chosen Bauer.

She closed up her little case of make up and put it neatly back in the drawer. Bauer prized neatness and personal cleanliness – not that she had a problem with that. The role of Greta Hoch was an easy one to follow, so far.

The lipstick, she kept out of the case. That could go in her pocket instead, ready to take photographs as needed. It would be easy enough to stand with the small gold tube in her hand, casually taking a picture under everyone’s gaze. She would perhaps get a chance to use it later tonight, if Bauer took her to one of his clubs, as she expected. There she would be privy to plenty that an outsider like Rollin wouldn’t be able to gain access to.

She ventured into the corridors outside her room, which were lined with relatively unknown but fine works of art. The whole house was decorated with impeccable taste. It had an air of the last century, but only in the most fashionable way. There was nothing here to incriminate Bauer – at least nothing on show. Perhaps if she gained a chance, without risking her cover, she would be able to look into some of his private records and finances. His office was kept locked, it seemed, but it was a simple lock and not beyond her power to pick.

As she came around the corner to the top of the sweeping stairs she almost bumped into Bauer, preoccupied as she was with thoughts of lock-picking and shuffling through his papers.

‘Ah, there you are, my dear,’ Bauer said smoothly. ‘And impeccable as always.’

He was a different man to the businessman she had faced that first night in the club. Always polite, always gracious – but she could sense that there would be steel beneath his soft words if she defied any of his wishes.

Cinnamon smiled, lowering her lashes demurely.

‘I wouldn’t like to displease you, Mr Bauer,’ she said in a low voice.

‘I have told you you must call me Georg,’ Bauer replied, his smile a little more fixed on his face.

‘Of course, Georg,’ Cinnamon corrected herself quickly. ‘I’m sorry. Otto told me – ’

‘I’ve told you not to speak of that man,’ Bauer said, his voice suddenly sharp.

‘I’m sorry,’ Cinnamon said again, allowing herself to smile a little as she angled her face away from him. It was so easy to play him by irritating him and then appearing contrite and abashed.

‘What can I do to please you, Georg?’ she asked as she stepped down the stairs at his side. ‘I do want to be useful.’

Bauer smiled again, a satisfied smile this time.

‘Nothing at all for now, my dear,’ he said, placing a hand between her shoulder blades in a possessive way that made Cinnamon want to shrug him off. ‘I want to dictate some letters to you later. I hope you can take dictation, and type?’ he asked, his voice harder again.

‘Oh, I can learn very quickly,’ Cinnamon said. Of course she could take letters and type, but she didn’t want to appear too perfect too soon.

‘Good. But you’ll need to understand some rules of my office. You are to touch nothing. You are to open no drawers, look in no ledgers, make no comments on what you may see. I have a man to see to everything but dictating.’

‘Of course, Georg,’ she nodded meekly. ‘I would never dream – ’

‘Good,’ he said.

They had reached the bottom of the stairs, and Bauer placed a hand under her chin, pushing it upwards a little so that she met his eyes.

‘I think you will work very well for me,’ he said, leaning in towards her. ‘Very well indeed.’

Cinnamon let him hold her head upwards as he moved his lips towards hers, responding to the kiss just as much as seemed suitable for this moment. She didn’t want to appear eager, but she didn’t want to seem too reluctant, either. She didn’t want to let him have that much power over her.

Bauer pulled away from her and licked his lips.

‘You will do,’ he said.

Cinnamon smiled. It was a part she had to play. He wasn’t too unpleasant at least. Not ugly. His breath didn’t smell. It was just his soul that she despised.


The apartments across the street were even more shabby than the place that Jim had chosen for lodgings. On the outside they didn’t look too bad. The limestone façade was blackened by a century of smoke, true, but the windows were sound and the stones were not corroded.

On this inside it was a different matter. The hallway was carpeted with tattered linoleum that revealed broken tiles through its tears. The walls were scuffed, the paint peeling, and the single bulb that hung from the ceiling didn’t work.

Jim didn’t know which apartment Liesl Weismuller had taken, but it wasn’t a far stretch to work it out from the windows outside and the numbers on the mailboxes. He drew his finger over the tarnished brass, looking for the one that might be hers. Three floors up, eight windows to the left. There. That was probably it. Other boxes had papers and envelopes sticking out of them. Hers had nothing.

It would have been useful if there had been a letter or two in there. He could have sneaked a look, formed a better idea of what he was getting into. It would be despicable to go through her mail, but Jim had done plenty of despicable things in the past in the line of duty. It wasn’t something he usually did in the line of burning curiosity and motivated by an attachment he couldn’t fathom, however.

No. It was good there was no mail in there. He dropped his hand back to his side and turned toward the stairs. Everything about this place spoke of better days. The banister was filthy, but it was made of rich, beautiful wood. The stairs were bare, with drips of paint on them, and two lines of white paint on either side that had once edged a narrow carpet. The fixings for stair rods had been ripped out more with mercenary determination than care.

On the third floor he stopped. A corridor stretched away, and then kinked at the end. There was a woman down there with a headscarf on, thrusting her key into the lock of her door and desperately trying to get it to turn, as if she sensed danger in Jim’s presence.

Jim ignored her and walked up the corridor, counting doors. It should be the fourth.

He stood outside for a moment, just looking at the door. At some point someone had tried to kick it in, it seemed. There were splinters in the wood at the bottom and around the lock. He examined the cracks, trying to see if they were recent, but they didn’t seem to be. A sense of relief settled through him.

Why was he so hung up on this girl?

He couldn’t answer that. There was no answer. He wanted to attribute it to professional motives. He wanted to say it was because she had been intimate with Bauer, because she might know things that would benefit Cinnamon’s position. He was afraid it had more to do with the very slight upturn of her nose and the darkness of her eyes and the way her hands looked slight but strong.

He knocked on the door. Then he waited.

He heard a brief movement inside, a mutter, and then footsteps coming toward the door. The room wasn’t even carpeted, then. At least his place had a carpet. He felt a momentary regret that he hadn’t pushed more money over the table to her in the café, but then she would not have taken rooms opposite him, and he wouldn’t be here.

Perhaps that would have been best.

Before he could turn and stride back down the corridor, the door opened.

She stood staring at him for a moment. She was dressed in an over long jumper and slacks, more barriers against the cold than anything else. It seemed she had been expecting no callers.

‘Herr Baum,’ she said at last.

‘May I come in?’ Jim asked her.

He wished he could have come to her in some other guise – something other than the white slaver who she had seen selling a woman to Bauer. But there was nothing for it. Any disguise would eventually crumble, and she would see twins, Otto Baum and Jim Phelps, beneath another façade. It was enough that he was risking his cover like this, anyway.

She gestured silently into the room behind her. He slipped past her, and she closed the door. The room was as barren as it had looked from the opposite window, but that view couldn’t tell him about the cold. There was a gas fire installed in the old fireplace, but it was unlit. She couldn’t afford to heat her own room...

Jim strode across to the fire and clicked the ignition.

‘Herr Baum!’ she said from behind him, stepping forward as if to stop him.

‘No,’ he said firmly. ‘It is below freezing outside. There’s no need for that in here too.’

A look of desperation crossed her face. Jim reached into his pocket and drew out his wallet. He held out another few hundred marks to her. She hesitated, but then she took them, her expression a mixture of gratitude and discomfort.

‘Why are you here?’ she asked in a suspicious voice, but Jim noticed that she had manoeuvred herself as close to the fire as she could, despite her distrust of him.

Jim plumped for honesty. ‘I had to see you were all right,’ he said.

He wanted to say, I’ve been watching you from my window. I was worried about you. You captivate me.

He didn’t. Just letting her know that his apartment could be seen from hers would be dangerous. It was dangerous enough as it was that she could look across and see him and Rollin, and perhaps Willie and Barney too.

‘You brought that woman to replace me,’ she said, a hardness in her voice that made Jim wince.

‘Herr Bauer was about to replace you anyway,’ he said softly. ‘Everyone knew it.’

Suddenly she began to cry. Jim opened his mouth, reaching out a hand but not quite touching her. He never knew what to do in the face of crying women. He patted his hand on her shoulder, and then abruptly she flung herself against him and began to sob into his chest. Instinctively he wrapped his arms around her. She seemed very small in the circle of his arms.

It was nothing personal, he knew. He was her father, her big brother, her uncle. He was a large, strong, masculine wall for her to lean against and gain comfort when she had no one else in the world.

‘Where is your home, Fraulein?’ he asked, his chin over the top of her head.

She stopped still against him. ‘Berlin,’ she said finally. ‘East Berlin. I was – I wanted to get to the West. I trusted a man...’

Then she stiffened and pulled herself away from Jim. Why should she trust any man?

Jim found himself speaking almost against his will. ‘Maybe I could get you to the West.’

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