“Last chance to smoke, eh.” The new arrival slipped a monogrammed silver case from his inside pocket, and flipped it open, offering a row of sepia tubes to his companion. “Papyrosi?”
“Thank you.” Putzi Hanfstangl picked one out and sniffed at the smoke as a silver lighter flicked fire. “Turkish, yes?”
“Crimean. Slightly less of that perfumed camel-dung taste. To the victor goes the spoils. Say ‘spasiba’, Putzi—these are free papyrosi, liberated from a Red Army messtent in the breadbasket of Ukraine, gavarit tovarisch?”
“Da, Gaspodin,” said Putzi. They joined together in victorious laughter, enjoying the curling blue of tobacco of any kind.
“Your knowledge of languages is vital to our Führer’s plan, which must be made to appear as your very own idea, understand?”
“It may seem a strange idea to the ordinary person—but our Führer has a more distant perspective on the coming centuries than we do. He has the matrix of the next thousand years firmly established in his mind. Every pace of the way. We must lay the seeds of tomorrow properly today, so to speak.”
Puffing at his cigarette, Putzi passed over a brown Sicherheitsdienst envelope bearing a Top Secret stamp in red. “Not bad smokes, these. At Wolfsschanze we have been on short rations for some time. ‘Our fighting men must have the food and the tobacco, regardless of the cost at home’ is our order of the day. ‘Tobacco fuels resolve and comforts men at difficult times’. That is our Führer’s personal belief, although he does not allow the use of tobacco and alcohol by those close to him. Admittedly, the smell can be considered quite obnoxious to some.”
The tall soldier flicked ash and laughed, looking through the contents of the file. “Then carpe diem—let’s make the most of what we have. If we don’t take enemy comfort supplies, their damn partisans will—the moment our backs are turned. It’s a pity to destroy good tobacco.” He removed his cap, peering ahead as the pole raised at the airstrip gate, whistling ‘Wien, Wien, nur Du allein’ to himself, watching the silvergrey road ahead.
He stopped whistling. “How well do you speak English, Putzi?” he demanded.
“Quite well, sir. Very well, actually.” It was pure Oxbridge. “Remember, I was quite close friends with the Mitfords, the Mosleys and so on. Frightfully proper and all that, don’t you know.”
“We will be needing an expert on North American dialects for this to succeed. Not you, of course.”
“We have already found the perfect person, sir.”
“Good. I must meet him immediately.”
“It’s not a him. It’s a her.”
“Another Hannah Reitsch or Leni Riefenstahl?”
“Not exactly, sir. Just a woman with a perfect ear for dialects on the English language—she’s able to reproduce sounds at will, and teach others how to do so through neurological training. We have a library of various American