Clarice stuck the card back on the shelf and went searching for another one. Bright red caught her eye, and she moved her hand to touch the postcard. As she pulled it out, her stomach flipped.
A bold swastika was on the front, with red words across the front, “Anschluss forever!”
She knew the swastika was the adopted form of the Nazi party, but she couldn’t remember what the German word meant.
“Do you like the card, Fraulein?” a male voice asked.
Clarice heard her heart jump in her throat. An elderly man stood next to her, gesturing toward the postcard she held in her hand. Glancing at the card then back to the man, she said, “No, I-I mean, the bright color caught my attention. I don’t want it.” She casually thrust the card toward him.
The old man gently took the postcard. “I do not blame you if you do not like it,” he spoke in broken English. “I came to America from Germany a few months ago.” He sidled closer to her. “I need your help,” he whispered. “Come to my home on G street. Two o’clock. The Snow Boarding House, room ten. Please bring the card.” He pressed the postcard into her hand, and left the card shop.
Staring after the man, she wondered what he could possibly want. He didn’t give his name or anything. He’s . . . so mysterious. Clarice felt the postcard in her hand, the old man’s urgent request and pained expression leaving her no choice but to meet him.
Clarice peered at her watch pendant hanging on her blouse. Almost 2:00. Her insides struggled between walking across the street to the boarding house or continuing on toward her own home. She stared longingly at the brick building. The curiosity of adventure tugged at her heart, yet warned her of possible danger. Lord, what would You have me to do? Her feet moved off of the sidewalk as if someone were pulling her along. She found herself knocking on door number ten.
The gray-haired man swung the door open. A smile radiated from his fat lips. “Guten tag, Fraulein. Come in,” he said in a thick German accent.
Clarice stepped inside, fingering the postcard through the thin fabric of her bag.
“I am Mr. Bernard Krause.” He took her hand and bowed. “A pleasure to know you came. Please, sit. I vill tell you my story.” As Clarice sat down, he began, “I escaped from Germany to keep from being arrested by Gestapo. I had to leave my wife and family. I vowed never to follow Hitler’s Third Reich. I vas an important business man in Germany, so I vas expected to conform to the vays of Germany. But I do not believe it is right.” Mr. Krause ran trembling fingers through his hair. “I vant to write a letter to my wife in Germany to tell her I am all right. Did you bring the postcard?”
Clarice wiped tears from the corners of her eyes and removed the card from her handbag. Handing it to him, she asked, “What would you like me to do?”
“It must not be written in my handwriting. I told my wife that news would come from a lady.”
“May I ask why you chose me?”
Mr. Krause chuckled deeply. “Let’s say you vere at the right place at the right time.” His eyes seemed to plead with her. “Vill you?”
Clarice nodded firmly. “Yes.” She withdrew a pen from her handbag.
The old man clasped his hands behind his back. “Tell her that you bought a cat and named him Ern, that he is doing fine.” He paused, staring down at the postcard. “And sign it Maggie Weiss.”
Clarice gripped the pen in her hand and began to write each word out carefully. Upon finishing the note, Mr. Krause read it and stuck a stamp in the corner.
“Now, go quickly to the post office. Do not stop.” He grasped her hands in his. “God be vith you, Fraulein.”
Clarice rose and stepped into the hall. Mr. Krause’s urgency gripped her heart. She knew the message on the card would soothe his wife’s mind, and bring peace to both of them while living miles apart. As she looked back, the old man was standing in the doorway with tears streaming down his wrinkled cheeks. “Thank you,” he whispered.
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