Munich Nights Chapter 21: “The River Seine Claims A New Victim”

Munich Nights Chapter 21: “The River Seine Claims A New Victim”

Walter and Karen had themselves been welcomed most warmly by a smiling fawning doorman fitted out in the usual uniform of a commissioned Russian Cossack serving in the Tsars Royal guard. He smartly saluted and welcomed them in Russian than in French then escorted them into the busy foyer. There inside the hotel lobby was watched by assorted placed hummingbird tiffany lights offering an almost oriental effect. Displayed in a rainbow of colour that was reflected onto the walls and ceiling. The desired effect was similar to a shaken child’s kaleidoscope thought an amused Karen. Placed near the leather padded hotel reception desk and greeting all arriving guests were life-sized china statues of Mexican hairless dogs (Zolo) of different colours and sizes. The dogs silently and suspiciously surveying all the bemused arriving guests with distaste. They were very unusual but rather obscene, Walter remarked to Karen who retorted that she had seen several before and had researched and understood all about this rare breed. She even leaned forward and patted one on its shiny head.

She had also noticed a wooden gazebo placed against the wall with two young actors now dressed in 19th-century attire both seated and sipping a coloured liquid. He with a long-stemmed smoking clay pipe. She cooling herself with a Japanese lacquered fan. Karen walked over to make the acquaintance of the young man and woman who stood up to greet her talking to them both in fluent French. Walter signed the hotel guest register and waited for her to finish and return.

“They are both young students at the Conservatoire de Paris,” she informed him as she returned to the lobby desk. “And hoping to earn some money to pay for their drama tuition fees.”

She then pointed up to a mezzanine. There seated was a young girl again dressed in the period of the other two young people. She was coaxing soothing music from a fine Gaelic Celtic harp. It all sounded very professional to Walter.

“She it seems is the sister of the boy I just spoke to can you believe,?” Karin informed him, smiling as a delightful pair of Pomeranian toy dogs suddenly trotted past them across the Persian rugs.

Then to be followed by a tall elegant woman wearing a cream coloured fitted suit with heavy tinted glasses and a wide brim felt hat shielding most of her familiar face. She being Greta Sconia it seemed the well known Latvian film actress someone remarked close to him who with her fawning retinue was just returning from filming in Cannes. Then the two women recognised and welcomed each other as dear old friends do. They had been introduced previously, Karen later informed Walter, when Miss Sconia was filming in and around Munich several years before. The actress had been filming interior scenes inside the music conservatoire where Karen was then a pupil.

The actress had been requested by the film’s director to improvise some cello musical fingering for an important script scene seen in the completed film. In fact, the arms seen playing the cello in sequenced close-ups was, in fact, Karen’s and all cleverly edited into that finished scene.

Karin then surprisingly suggested to Greta she might like to be introduced to the nervous students. She led a compliant Greta over to meet the delighted young couple who after talking to both she informed them sympathetically that: “I was a hungry student myself years ago in Riga. So I can sympathise with you three.” She then surprisingly invited them, and with both Karin and Walter to a small soiree, she was hosting at the Ritz Hotel the following evening in honour of her director’s fiftieth birthday. And she would be delighted if all could attend. All naturally agreed.

But for Walter, this uncharted world that he had entered was becoming a world that he could get used to enjoying very quickly. This new lifestyle had arrived with his marriage to Karen.

They now both wished the actress au revoir and again kisses were exchanged between Karen and Greta who remarked with a smile to Karen: “I hope your marriage survives longer than my last two did. They were a total of no more than eighteen months…oh, dear such is life,” she sighed dramatically

Then she was gone leaving just an aroma of Chanel No. 5 lingering where she had stood. But had signed several requested autographs.

On a later occasion in England during the mid-1930s the Reich’s official photographer had recorded a series of professional colour photographer’s with Karen and the then German Ambassador’s wife, her dear friend Anna Ribbentrop. In the few photographs that have survived today both women are seen smiling and surrounded by Heinrich Himmler’s scowling elitist bodyguards. It seems Himmler did not encourage his men to enjoy a smile in any official pictures.

“Life is too short for smiling” was one of his repeated quotations.

Now in the hotel lobby after a phone call from the desk to the manager, a beaming Senior Caruso arrived and welcomed them warmly. This jolly Neapolitan was proudly sporting a yellow double-breasted suit and a polka dot bow tie and two-tone cream coloured shoes. Announcing to the couple with a laugh that: “Sadly I am no relation to the great Enrico Caruso I’m afraid.”

He then presented Karen with a complimentary bouquet of red roses with a deep bow. Then shook Walter’s hand firmly but offered no flowers or chocolate courtesy gifts to him. Walter speculated as to whether all his suits hanging in his closet were also canary yellow? What was it with the Italian dress code and its colour coordination? Maybe it was something in the water he wondered?

Then they were escorted to their suite by Senior Caruso himself. Once inside the enclosed and rather cramped ‘Otis’ elevator he welcomed them again. This time revealing his swastika pin secretly secured behind his suit lapel saying with a conspiratorial wink: “We have even entertained Senior Mussolini here. It was a great honour for all the Italians employed here in the hotel. I even nervously requested a signed photograph from him that he kindly presented me.”

The opulence of the Puccini suite when they arrived and presented by Snr. Caruso for their approval was imposing and inspiring as indeed it had been created for all the welcomed guests. And they expected nothing less from this famous establishment

Crafted in a roman designed copied villa of the opulent Caesarean period with ivory working sculptured sprinkler fountain. Heavy drapes depicted an artist’s vision of ancient Rome openly adorned the windows. Maroon silken wallpaper highlighted the bedroom walls alongside a gold heavy mirror placed over the unique Adams fireplace. A framed original sketch by Renoir they were informed finished the glorious effect that it was supposed to create.

“Is this real, is it really happening?” asked Walter in amazement as he stared at a delicious ‘delft’ bowl of heaped tropical fruit place on a fragile table. And still, he was sadly unable to name many of the displayed fruit if asked.

“Oh yes it’s real my sweet and this is OUR time and it’s happening to us right now! So let’s just enjoy it shall we,?” replied Karin laughing as she escorted Senior Caruso with a hasty goodbye to the door and ushered him from the room.

They then laughingly hugged each other in adulation and both wandered over and out of the room leading to the open yet sheltered balcony. On the enclosure, artificial tufts of grass had been laid out in neat five rows. The word PARIS was noticed under several miniature stripped umbrellas with each letter stitched delicately into each tray of grass. There now vividly displayed before the couple was an unforgettable polished panoramic portrait of Paris. So famous to the many visitors who journey to share and delight in it timeless history and beauty.

A cocktail reception had been arranged for them at the German embassy in the Rue Marbeau in Paris on the evening of their arrival.

The First Minister of the embassy was then deputising for the Ambassador who had been recalled suddenly to Berlin for talks. He welcomed them warmly when they arrived. Later surreptitiously revealing inside the Embassy’s shaded garden to Karen and Walter over canapés and champagne, a silver swastika badge concealed behind his left lapel.

“Long live Herr Hitler,” he whispered with a sly smile.” I have been a loyal member for ten years and think our time is coming and very soon,” he stated with conviction to a delighted Karen.

The evening was indeed a success and enjoyed by the couple. And later with a personal recital for the assorted guests performed by the famous Basque cellist Enrique LaSalle in the elegant embassy ballroom. He being one of Karin’s favourite musicians. His moving interpretation of ‘The Song of the Birds’ composed by another Catalan musical exile, Pablo Casals left her drained of emotion. Walter had privately requested that the maestro if possible, perform this opus as an encore during his recital. Hearing that it was one of Karen’s favourites and his he gladly agreed to do so. Later playing it to perfection and passion as only this musician could.

The following morning Karen went shopping still trying to understand the French currency. For her friend dear Carin, she finally selected a stunning silk maroon scarf purchased from Coco Chanel’s boutique. A surprise gift to be brought home for her ailing friend to cheer her up hopefully. Walter selected a silver tie pin with an image of the Eiffel Tower for Hermann. Heinrich would receive a set of silver initialled cufflinks adorned with a profile of Napoleon. A historical figure he knew his friend greatly admired. An arranged visit to the ever-popular Rodin museum should and would be on their Paris itinerary Karen had insisted and not to be missed if possible. Whilst there as Karen studiously examined and admired the striking unique exhibits, Walter had been informed earlier by Snr. Caruso that he was to politely excuse himself and to visit the nearest lavatory or restroom on the museum’s third floor. There he would notice an ‘out of order’ card glued upon a certain cubicle. He was then to enter it then quickly lock the door behind himself. And then he was to reach up to the wall-mounted cistern and retrieve a note being secured inside the rusting lid in a waterproof bag. This would inform him of an arranged meeting place and time with the now waiting and nervous compromised general. Then after reading and memorising it, he was ordered to destroy it and flush it away. This he did. Then quietly rejoined Karen she was still strolling around the featured exhibits and had not noticed his absence from her side.

Then her eyes had been captured by Camille Claudel’s striking bronze creation known simply as ‘ La Valse.’

“She died forgotten in a mental hospital you know darling … poor woman,” she remarked with pain in her voice.

Karen later purchased some coloured postcards of this artist’s unique creations. They would be placed she had decided onto her bedroom dressing table mirror for her to see and admire each morning when she awoke. As a further surprise for Karen, a two-hour horse ride in the fashionable Bois Boulogne had been arranged with light refreshments later to be served at the Ritz hotel by the hotel. She naturally was delighted when Walter informed her about this unexpected surprise. Years later in London, she would go riding early morning on an imposing Arab palomino as an invited guest of the Duke of Seaford in the popular Rotten Row in London. It was during one of these morning jaunts with Anna Ribbentrop that Karen made her first acquaintance with the future Queen of England. The two ladies happily conversed easily in German and the queen seemed very well briefed, Karin noticed, in the political affairs of Germany. Both women would later meet and converse at frequent diplomatic receptions in the coming years until 1939.

Now in Paris, assorted costumes of expensive riding apparel in different sizes had been hired for Karen by Snr. Caruso to wear for her arranged ride. They would be delivered to her hotel for her inspection it was promised by the management. Meanwhile, as he had been previously ordered in Munich Walter was to quietly slip away during his wife’s ride and summon a taxicab to deliver him to the arranged appointment with the incriminated and very nervous general he hoped. This happening whilst Karin happily experienced her ride and oblivious as to the true purpose for this unexpected but delightful few days holiday in Paris that Heinrich had arranged for them both.

Then later when Walter had been deposited by taxi at the chosen bistro he was to search for a middle-aged man seated at one of the outside tables reading a copy of La Monde. He would be further identified by displaying a noticeable green carnation in his buttonhole for reasons of identification.

“Very effeminate,” remarked Heinrich with marked distaste when he arranged this some weeks earlier.

Soon after Walter’s arrival, both men had surprisingly somehow recognised each other for this auspicious rendezvous. The general himself sported a soft charcoal grey suit with a sombre drooping bow tie. His small manicured hands nestled within yellow silken gloves. A smart brushed Homburg felt hat had been placed on the table before him. But there was still something of the military presence clinging to his appearance even in his civilian clothes. He was a small man in stature as many other military men of history seemed to have been blessed or cursed with by birth. But with that natural army arrogance of the finest academy elite turned out in its graduating officers.

Many through history but not all had ordered thousands of soldiers into the field of battle, but never if possible to position themselves it seems into the face of danger. The general’s face and neck openly revealed the sunburn of countless previous postings he had visited and served in both perhaps in Africa and Indo China.

He stiffly arose and offered a now ungloved hand but Walter declined this conciliatory greeting saying curtly: “Sit down general this is not a social visit … and you know why we are both here.” The man did as requested with downcast eyes. They both sat down facing each other. Two black coffees but no liqueurs were then ordered from a passing waiter.

Then Walter enquired: “Have you brought what I came for,?” he demanded as he snapped his fingers with impatience.

The man nodded saying quietly almost pleading: “Please monsieur.” But Walter silenced the plea with a slice of his hand saying: “Just pass it slowly under the table if you will.” The general now perspiring heavily passed a small envelope containing the required desired microfilm of the plans and designs for the latest constructed hydroplane under the table that he had removed earlier from his overcoat inner pocket.

Walter in return after confirming what was offered to him would then pass towards him a series of postcard-sized pornographic photos of the general photographed with a young and naked unidentified person. The incriminating pictures had been seen by Walter after being passed to him earlier by Snr. Caruso from his office safe and for inspection.

“Very unfortunate for him and his career,” Heinrich had remarked days before when he also learned about those incriminating photographs. Then adding to Walter of how this had come about: “During a recent French legation visit to Berlin last month the general decided to pay an ill-judged return visit to a popular male brothel that he had been recommended to him by his aide de camp of all people. This establishment now being under our constant supervision, of course, noted and photographed all entries and departures. On learning of this general’s ill-timed visit, one of our men captured with a concealed camera what was happening in that room. Need I say more? You know sometime in the future we will perhaps have to somehow educate these men in what they are doing to themselves and their unaware families. But it seems to me that the general has been rather a naughty boy in this visit,” remarked Heinrich shaking his head regretfully.” And with a prominent beautiful high society wife as well. She being born into a privileged French aristocracy… well, what can I say?

Of course, her husband could never allow a scent of scandal to be permitted to reach her delicate ears. And with her hearing in horror, I suspect of her husband’s own foolish enjoyment with that young boy. And probably many others that we know nothing about or indeed want to. Well, his reputation and military career and marriage, of course, will now be kaput. And Walter, do please make him aware that we will be keeping the original negatives. And that we may possibly request the general’s services some time in the future. And that should put some fear into him. Yet sadly for him did he not bring all of this upon himself? But he has been rebuked now. Oh YES! I’m only sorry that you have to see these pictures Water they are not very pleasant to look at I am informed. As I have claimed before, we are all responsible for our own deeds are we not Walter,?” asked Heinrich still sadly shaking his head without waiting for an answer.

Then after this arranged transaction in the cafe with the general was finally completed the man started to request more time. Perhaps to possibly purchase the negatives? he asked tears forming in his eyes.

Walter silenced him by again slicing his hand through the air and shaking his head slowly saying very quietly with annoyance: “It’s too late for that sort of thing general, you have simply shamed yourself and bringing disgrace to your regiment, your country and your poor unsuspecting wife if this ever came out with you and that boy.”

Walter knew nothing of any living children that the general had sired and he neither cared. Then throwing some loose change on to the chequered table cloth he stood up and departed with the requested military plans. The general now alone seemed to have aged suddenly as he sat watching his cruel tormentor depart the café. His mind was in a confused state. He now just sat slowly playing with his loose change designing little towers of coins on the chequered table cloth then slowly gently demolishing them with one finger. He quickly settled on a plan he would now pursue. What he would HAVE to pursue and complete at all costs if indeed he could summon the personal courage of what he had to do and finish. He arose and walked to the darkened lavatory. Locked the door then retrieved the photos glanced lovingly one more time at each, shook his head and tore them all up into tiny pieces. Quickly throwing this confetti of paper and some regrets into the swirling descending water. Simply watching them and these chapters of his life, now quickly being flushed away down that swirling stained enamel pan. Had his body and his weakness finally betrayed him he wondered? It rather looked that way he thought, but he always knew this day would arrive and unannounced. But he neither knew or cared now … all was finished for him. It was over. Then he composed himself and departed from the now busy cafe leaving the remainder of his change under the saucer for the waiter as well as his favoured hat. This really would be the final bistro he would ever patronise and that was for sure! He was now aware of what he had to perform and rather quickly before he perhaps faltered.

He later walked desolately along the rushing Seine Riverbank until the light was dimmed. Then selecting a patch of worn shielded shrubbery he removed his overcoat and suit jacket. Then he scooped up some small rocks and placed them into his empty trouser pockets. He then tied up the discarded clothes as a bundle or a sack and threw it high into the water watching them slowly sink never to come up.

Then he finally prepared himself for what he definitely needed to achieve and quickly. He looked both ways held his arms sideways as he stood by the water’s edge then fell slowly back into the claiming river. His weight allowed him to descend quickly into the darkened deep. He did not struggle but accepted what was happening to him. He knew none would ever grieve his death. Any love he had freely offered anyone in his life had always been quickly spurned usually with laughter. Except once. Then the cold waiting arms of death circled him ready to pounce. He was now alone and deserted as he had always been for most of his life. Then a welcome image appeared into his expiring mind of the boy.

In truth, it was the first and only time that anyone had ever thanked him or praised him for anything or indeed anywhere on any continent either in his professional and personal life. Then death quickly reached up and claimed him as he knew it would. Images of his youth years ago at the respected army academy at Saint-Cyr flashed before him. Then receiving with pride the sword of honour from Marshall Petain quickly paraded before him. He being the youngest cadet ever to be awarded this honour. Then the demanding currant gripped him and his reputation pulling him under the structured shadow of the Eiffel Tower towards the waiting cold deep sea. And death finally embraced him sweeping him into the murky depths where none ever have or will return. Some oblique lines from his childhood from the De Profundis (Psalm 130) entered his expiring mind: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee O Lord.” Then he was swept away forever into the darkened swirl. His body would never be recovered nor would any extensive search ever be arranged or requested by his unconcerned family.

That evening Walter Kyper danced the waltz with Karen at the German Embassy. Since leaving the shaking doomed general earlier that day he hadn’t once given him a second thought.

To be concluded…..

(c) Copyright G. Patrick Battell

December 2019

(All Rights Reserved)