Unexpectedly, the major stops beside the cluster of workers. He grabs an old man and jerks him into the street. He holds out one hand with the other resting on the butt of his Lugar. “Your papers, old man. I’m sure they are in order.”
The man nervously rummages through his coat pocket and finally pulls out his papers. His hand trembles as he hands them to the major. After a cursory review of the documents, he hands them back, but the frightened citizen misses, and the papers drop to the ground. He scrambles to retrieve them.
The German major turns to Ferdek, frowns, and snaps his fingers, motioning him to come forward. “Your name?”
Ferdek hesitates. He glances at Tavius then at Wolfgang. Each struggles to keep their anxiety under control while sweating profusely.
The major repeats, “Your name. Now. And your documents. Or you will be shot as a refugee without papers.”
Ferdek raises his head in defiance and hoarsely states, “Look around you. Like the others you see, the railroad is my employer. My shift is up, and I’m going home.”
Unimpressed, the major presses. “Then you will have papers. I want to see your papers. A man without papers is a man who no longer exists.”
Emboldened Ferdek counters, “Poland is a free land, and I am a free man. You’re here without an invitation. I do not answer to you.”
Unimpressed, the officer slowly removes his 9mm Lugar from its holster and points it as if Ferdek is no more consequential than a fly. “You are sadly mistaken. Poland is no longer free. No one is free of German rule. Your papers or Poland will hold your grave.”
Before the drama can go any further, the situation erupts. Suddenly the rail yard workers are battling among themselves, shoved forward, then backward. A young man breaks free and runs wildly down the street.
The major rushes into the street, raises his Lugar, and fires a warning shot into the air. He motions to his lieutenant, who dispatches the soldiers to pursue the fleeing man, with the two officers right behind them.
This drama provides the three men the distraction they need to escape. They hurriedly disappear around the corner, barely glancing over their shoulders. Far behind them, they hear a shot. A moment later, a second shot sounds, followed by angry voices that echo down the street. The three men take off at a dead run down a dark alley toward their meeting destination.
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