June 16, 1917
The couple lay together on the fetid battlefield. Bright moonlight revealed shell-holes, rotting corpses and the flotsam and jetsam of war. This was no lovers’ tryst.
Marie, disguised as a German soldier in Hitler’s second-best overcoat and cap, shivered uncontrollably. There was danger everywhere. Her ears rang to the unending British artillery barrage, the sort she knew sent soldiers mad.
A shell landed nearby, showering Marie and Hitler with clods of earth and other, decomposing and unspeakable things. There was another blast just yards away. Then came two more ... each more terrible than the last. Fumes assaulted the young girl’s nose and grit stung her tear-filled eyes. A flare climbed lazily into the sky. Its bright light made Marie feel naked and vulnerable.
A machine-gun stuttered. Shrapnel hissed around the couple like the Devil’s hailstones. Death stalked this place.
Marie looked up at the Messines Ridge in front of them. Its dark shape seemed like a crouching, feral animal.
The teenaged French girl, used to working in peaceful fields far behind the lines, felt her nerves shredding like carrots being prepared for the pot.
Dolphie had made her bring a soldier’s pack. There was nothing military about its exotic contents. They were part of his plan. Bizarrely, in this ugly place of death, she was carrying filmy and seductive clothes. The sexy sort that turned men’s heads and made them lose their senses. She had been ordered to forget her underwear.
Soon, she must play the shameful tart. She must be unfaithful to the man she loved to distraction. It was that very man who had ordered her infidelity and humiliation. She dared not disobey.
Marie knew that, at the least sign of reluctance, Dolphie would fly into one of his terrible rages. He had done this many times since she had told him her momentous news. Later, he had hatched this scheme of debasement. Dolphie told her it was the only way she could please him now, after so nearly upsetting his sacred plans for the future. She would do anything to earn a glint of approval from his beautiful blue eyes. She would even soil her Catholic soul by committing this sin.
Marie had looked over this lethal battlefield before they started out, and she told Dolphie they must surely die. But he assured her they were immortal. His Voice told him so.
Fate was saving him for the role of a Colossus on the world stage. Hadn’t he, a meldeganger – one of the most dangerous jobs in the war – survived while millions perished?
Didn’t his Voice, to quote just a single example, miraculously save his life one day in the trenches?
Lying in bed one afternoon in their Comines love nest, Hitler told Marie how he had been sitting on the trench’s fire-step with some comrades, eating his dinner from a mess tin.
Suddenly, his Voice told him to move immediately. He left his meal, ran down the trench and took shelter behind a revetment. Seconds later, a howitzer shell landed on the very spot he had been eating.
His comrades were blown to smithereens. He had helped to put what little was left of them into a couple of sandbags.
Now Hitler was lying on the battlefield next to his mistress, red-hot fragments of metal hissing round them. He was calmly studying his watch. All was going to plan. Amazingly, they hadn’t even been challenged by a sentry. Marie moved slightly to ease her position, and felt something uncomfortably sticking into her belly. She reached into the soil beneath her and recoiled with revulsion.
Her hand had met another, its fingers stiffened by death. She screamed and, as the guns had fallen briefly silent, Hitler heard her cry. He looked at her with contempt. He couldn’t abide any sign of weakness.
He wondered whether, after all, he was being weak by allowing this girl to live. She could one day prove to be an obstacle on his road to greatness.
For, as Solomons had once contemptuously reported, Hitler planned to tell his adoring millions in the years to come that his only love, mistress and bride was Germany herself.
The gefreiter knew his followers from Black Marie’s would keep their mouths shut about the girl. He had already let them sip a cocktail of power and vaulting ambition, and they wouldn’t want to lose the taste of that heady brew.
As soon as that stupid peasant girl told him she was pregnant, Hitler knew the bitch mustn’t be allowed to remain in Comines. Her swelling belly would broadcast their shameful secret.
Politics alone decreed she must vanish from the scene. First, he had wondered whether Marie should die with a bullet in the belly, just like that bastard Solomons. Like he had decreed the men who had jeered at him in the railway carriage should be dealt with. His Voice was silent on the subject of Marie’s pregnancy. But the gefreiter felt instinctively that Marie was destined to secretly bear his baby. The child would have the blood of the Fuhrer in his veins. There may come a day when the world would be in need of another White Crow. That would, in a way, make Adolf Hitler immortal.