husbands. She was swinging her fists around like a navvy as she argued with the soldiers. Kurt wouldn't have been surprised to hear she’d been a boxer in her youth, even though women were technically forbidden to take part in blood sports.
Which would have merely driven them underground , he thought, as he strolled over to rescue his men. His first trip outside the wire, during basic training, had been an eye-opener in more ways than one. There were all sorts of forbidden pleasures available in the Reich , if one knew where to look. And now ... who knows what will happen ?
“ Gute Frau ,” he said, dismissing his men with a nod. “This town is about to become a battleground.”
The woman glared at him. “We have lived here for thirty years and ...”
“And it is no longer safe,” Kurt snapped. The nasty part of him was tempted to leave the woman for the SS, but her mouth would probably get her and her husband shot down. If the rumours from the front lines were true, the SS was purging Germany East of anyone whose political loyalties were even slightly suspect. “The SS is coming!”
“The SS?” The woman repeated. “Why would they come here?”
Kurt swallowed his first angry reaction. It had been nearly two weeks since the Battle of Berlin. The news had been on the radio ... although, he had to admit, he had a habit of not believing what the radio said either. But surely she must have heard rumours of the change in government, if nothing else. He doubted she was the kind of woman who disdained rumours and gossip as beneath her.
“A civil war is about to begin,” he said, instead. “You and your husband will be shipped to a refugee camp to the west, where you will be held until the war is over. At that point, you will be allowed to return home.”
If your home is still there , he added, silently. When they hit this town, they’ll advance with all the force they can muster .
He kept his face impassive. He’d seen footage of the SS pacification troops in action, burning down entire Russian towns and villages in response to a handful of shots aimed at them from a distance. There was no way to know - even - if they were getting the right village, but the SS didn't care. Spreading terror was more important to them than capturing or killing specific individuals. And yet, their terror tactics hadn't put an end to the South African War. It had only burned brighter than ever.
The woman’s expression tightened. “And if we choose not to go?”
“Then you will also be shipped west, but not to a refugee camp,” Kurt said, allowing his voice to harden. Too many people were already in the detention camps, simply because they couldn't be trusted ... he had no desire to add two more. “We do not have time to debate the issue. Pack yourselves a bag and prepare for the journey.”
He glanced at the woman’s husband, wondering if he could be relied upon to say something to his wife. But it didn't look like it. Kurt couldn't understand how any self-respecting husband could allow themselves to be so dominated in public - he couldn't imagine his father allowing his mother such freedom - but it wasn't his problem. All that mattered was getting them out of the town so it could be turned into a strongpoint.
The woman turned and marched back towards her home, muttering angrily to herself. Her husband shot Kurt an apologetic look, then followed; Kurt watched them go, shaking his head at their antics. But as long as they were happy, he supposed it was none of his business what they did in private. Turning to the other refugees, he was relieved to discover that none of them looked willing to question him. Most of them were older men and women, the former too old for military service, but there were a handful of younger girls and children amongst them. The town’s teenage boys would already have