Franz eased himself into his favourite armchair, took a sip of coffee and stared at the yellowed, curling photograph in his hand. Four young men in Wehrmacht uniform, their sleeves rolled up for summer, on the day Klaus had snapped them with his box camera. They were marching towards Russia, winter, and death. Three of them were terrified. Sure, Peter was posing for the camera in his aviator shades – but Franz had known they were afraid.
He had not been afraid.
Fear had never been a part of Franz’s emotional landscape. He’d longed to fight for the Fatherland from the earliest age he could remember – yearned to torture, murder, dismember his enemies. And he had, eventually.
As one of the few to survive Stalingrad, he’d been promoted, though not as high as to attract the attention of the war tribunals afterwards. Nein. He’d been too clever for that. Made the right noises after the British Schweinehunde overran his country. Said all the right things. And gone on to live comfortably in a small town in the Bavarian Alps, surrounded by his beloved belongings.
He fingered a heavy gold chain around his neck, then switched on the table lamp beside him. Dusk was falling, and nothing warmed the room as much as a forty watt bulb suffused gently through human skin.
He smiled and flicked on the TV to watch favourite show, Das Perfekte Dinner.
Life was good.