Ferdek pauses at a street corner to look for their target destination. He spots a pub sign called the U Szkota and confirms it is the same as on the torn piece of paper retrieved from his shoe. The telltale scent of cigarette smoke, music, and quiet laughter comes toward them from the doorway.
Tavius and Wolfgang join up with Ferdek. Tavius asks, “Is this the right pub?” Ferdek nods.
Wolfgang frowns as he sees the time from the clock above the pub sign. “We’re late; it’s already 7:18.”
Clenching his jaw muscles, Ferdek admits, “We’re here even with everything running against us.”
With forced mockery, Tavius adds, “And we don’t yet need the graves the Germans offered us. Ha.”
Ferdek looks down toward the end of the street. A squad of German soldiers is marching toward them. The precision marching sounds of their hobnail boots on the deserted cobblestone street prompt the three to dart into the pub. The sounds of the soldiers do not permeate the noisy establishment.
The interior of the pub is dark, with lit candles burning atop each of the tables. It is a gathering place for workers in dirty clothing on their way home. A few girls dressed in short, tight-fitting skirts, seductive sweaters, and black stockings wander from table to table. The girls serve drinks but also look for additional work. The place throbs with the low hum of voices and an occasional laugh. The patrons come here searching for hope but only seem to contribute to the oppressive atmosphere, even with the worn-out music from a jukebox in the background.
The tavern itself has seen better days. It has a long, sturdy weathered surface with men holding their drafts and quickly talking. A lone barkeep is drying glasses on a ragged towel. His pace is unrushed, but nothing escapes his attention. Ferdek, Tavius, and Wolfgang find an empty table in the corner and sit down. Ferdek takes the chair facing the door with Tavius and Wolfgang flanking him. A fourth chair sits empty, waiting for its guest.
With most of their anxiety in check, Tavius asks, “Now what? We got here late.”
Focused on the pub entrance, Ferdek grimly nods, “We wait.”
“Jasiek should be here already,” suggests Wolfgang, glancing at the other patrons.
Unwaveringly watching the entrance, Ferdek comments, “We are at war. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even time.”
Tavius, nervously surveying the interior. “You think he’s coming?”
Ferdek confidently straightens. “If he’s alive, he’ll be here.”
“How can you be so sure?” Wolfgang petitions while comparing the workers, looking for inconsistencies.
Ferdek shifts his gaze from between his friends. “He’s my father’s uncle. He is family. He is one of us.”
Tavius shakes his head in disbelief, then throwing both hands up in defeat. “He’s an old man.”
Ferdek, smirks. “The pistol he carries is old, too, older than he is. But it has killed more than one German. Have some patience, gentlemen.”
A dark-haired girl stops. She is dressed like the other waitresses but still a teenager. She leans closely toward Wolfgang, wearing a practiced smile that only comes from confidence at having mastered her discipline. “I’ve not seen you here before. I’m called Halina. What can I get for you men?”
Wolfgang’s attempt to sound convincing falls short. “We only stopped for this night. We’ll be gone by morning.”
Emboldened, Halina laughs. “One night is enough. Halina can make sure it’s a night you won’t soon forget.”
Ferdek was annoyed at her fearless attitude. “I am sorry, but you must go and practice your business elsewhere. We are meeting someone.”
With a bit of flirty hip and raised eyebrows, Halina presses, “A girl, perhaps?”
Tavius blurts out. “No.”
But Ferdek quickly corrects the comment. “Yes, a girl, perhaps.”
Halina is pleased that she agitated the men as she walks seductively away, glancing back over her shoulder, smiling at her distraction. “You’ll be sorry.”
Tavius tersely mutters, “I’m already sorry.”
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish