were all Ustaschi, or Danube Germans, not real refugees or DPs. But your grandfather had contacts, a good bit of the language. And don’t kid yourself, there was money in it for him back then. I mean those guys weren’t saints, you know. It wasn’t about ‘the cause,’ I’ll bet. Not then.”

“I don’t know. Whatever he did, it was a cause for him, I’d say.”

“What? Nazi?”

“Maybe,” said Felix. “But probably not just that. He was helping people on his wife’s side, on their family’s side. To him they were Austrians, not Slovenians or they should be. Plus they hated communism too.”

Speckbauer returned to studying the gestures that the small man with the briefcase was making now. He made no effort to show he got the hint, even when the man began waving his watch arm at him.

“History biting us in the arsch,” he said.

“Look,” said Felix. “We’d better go.”

“Yeah,” said Speckbauer. “The bill arrives eventually. It always does. But I wish I’d had the full meal before the bill, that’s all.”

“The SOKO,” said Felix.

“Who cares about that crap,” said Speckbauer. “I probably know more than the team they put on it for the inquiry. But there are parts we’ll never get to.”

“I don’t get what you mean.”

“You don’t?” said Speckbauer. “Okay, ready? We. Don’t.

Really. Know.”

“You mean that?”

“I do.”

“This is how some cases end? Like nowhere?”

“Well I don’t know how Fuchs got them to go up into the forest that night. But I have my ideas.”

“Fuchs had had a con going, right?”

“Are you asking me?”

“Okay, I’m asking you.”

“Naturlich he had some scheme, Fuchs. But this Dravnic guy was no fool. I mean he lived the life down in Croatia. He’d done his share of that hellhound work they do to one another there. Seems to run in the family there. His own grandfather…?”

Speckbauer said something under his breath that contained the word lawyer and he made a slow wave back to the man with the briefcase.

“As for me,” he said. “Me, I think Fuchs wanted to be part of something big. Maybe he put an offer to them. Who knows move hot cars down from Germany, credit cards, counterfeit, women, drugs. I mean, at the very least, Fuchs can drive. Let’s say Fuchs is bragging. That he knows a lot about Dravnic and his people, and what they do. So Dravnic plays along, and says they’ll do a try. But Fuchs wants to play his own game. And when those two don’t show up back in wherever, and Dravnic sends word, well Fuchs throws up his hands, and says he hasn’t a clue what’s going on. When he last saw them they had all their fingers and toes. et cetera, et cetera.”

“They believed him?” Felix asked. “I can’t see that.”

“Did it matter whether they did or not? Whether they believed him or not, those guys want to protect their operation and their rep too. So whether he’s screwing them around or not, this Fuchs character knows a bit too much about them by now anyway.”

“But they had taken a pretty big chance on him,” said Felix.

“Had they really?” said Speckbauer. “They were keeping a tight hold on this. That’s why the other one, the runner, came to meet the mule coming down from Holland. Let’s say he was told to offer Fuchs some kind of a side deal when he showed. That was just to test his loyalty. But they also wanted to see how much Fuchs might have found out about them too.”

“You think they only planned to run one operation this way?”

“An experiment, probably, yes. Maybe they had found out about Fuchs’ drug hobby. That was enough. Or maybe they didn’t care. My bet is they never trusted him, but they knew right away when he contacted them, name-dropping from what he’d heard from the old guys, well, they knew they’d probably have to do something about him.”

“You think Fuchs realized any of this?”

“Well who was conning who, that night? I don’t know. I just don’t. Maybe Fuchs was just greedy. Me, I say his brain was fried.

But it looks like we all underestimated him that night anyway.”

Speckbauer stopped strolling. He faced Felix directly.

“So there’s Fuchs that night, in my mind. He just steps out of the car, leans over the roof maybe with a flashlight to sight the guy surprise. Poof: Mr. Diamond, the mule, gets one in the head before you know it. Then he has the second guy down, the runner, in no time. With your grandfather’s Luger.”

“Not his,” Felix felt obliged to say. “He got it from someone’s brother years ago, a war thing.”

“But so very well taken care of,” Speckbauer went on. “In fine condition.”

“He’d forgotten about it being in the house. Fuchs just went about taking stuff.”

Speckbauer’s skeptical expression left his face more slowly than it had come.

“There’s a charge on him for that, I know,” he said. “But they’ll slap that away when it comes up. On account of his, what do you want to call it, his marksmanship.”

“I don’t think he cares,” said Felix.

Edelbacher and Felix’s mother, and Schroek, had reached the entrance to the Gendarmerie kommando.

“Look,” said Speckbauer. “Time’s up. You’re in line for a pat on the head.”

“What about you and Franzi?”

“Macht nichts,” he said. “Who cares. It’s probably me they want, I would say.”

With that he shrugged, and turned back to the others. Felix watched him for a few moments. Then he nodded at Franzi. He received no gesture in return. There was a cursory, tight-lipped nod from the man with the briefcase who was waiting for Speckbauer.

“Really,” he heard Edelbacher say then, beside him. “Those guys.”

Felix’s mother and Schroek continued talking with deceptive earnestness about some home-made remedy for arthritis one could find up in the mountains.

Edelbacher slipped over to walk beside him.

“Felix, you’ve got to learn,” he said. “There are rules, you know, important rules.”

“Thanks,” Felix said, and did nothing to conceal the acid tone.

“But my father told me that many times in the past. So I know.”

Felix imagined little shockwaves rippling out from his sarcasm.

He didn’t care that his mother had picked up on it too.

The Gendarme at the barrier was already waiting for them, but before presenting his photocard, Felix glanced back. Franzi still looked like a robot awaiting a push. The man with the briefcase was making some emphatic point to Speckbauer.

It might have had something to do with Speckbauer’s vacant gaze, Felix thought. It seemed to be on something faraway, aimed perhaps at the trees so sharply defined now by the July morning’s sunshine.

Felix remembered then that the weather was forecast to continue as it had for several days now, to boil the pavements here in Graz, as the saying went, and also glare down on the rest of a large area that stretched far to the south, and to the east.

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