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Blood money and the small black notebook

by Liz Allan 8 months ago in fact or fiction

Blood money and the small black notebook

Liz Allan

That they should spend hours playing chess together would have come to no surprise for anyone who had followed the chess championships of the earlier part of the century, but for the sessions to continue between the German officer and the Jew were almost beyond belief. These two were not friends. Theirs was an understanding built out of respect for the game and an appreciation of the intelligence of the opponent.

Herr Schneider was completely absorbed in the game. His body was relaxed, completely at ease in his surroundings despite the black uniform. The room was a small, shabby kitchen in a tenement block in Warsaw, Poland. The year was 1943.

Manek was thin and looked much older than his years although he was only in his sixties. He ran his hand over the stubble on his chin. His mind several moves ahead of the game. Piotr Schneider’s Polish mother had introduced him to chess. His grandfather had been a grandmaster, which was one of the reasons the younger man had sought out Manek in the Jewish quarter of the city. He wished to beat the older man at chess as Manek had beaten Piotr’s grandfather thirty years before.

What had started as a personal indulgence of one game or two, had evolved into a regular meeting between the two men. Piotr had reported to his superiors the need for intelligence from the inside of the Jewish Quarter and convinced them that Manek was the one to supply this intelligence. It wasn’t too difficult to convince Manek to talk either. Just snippets of information, now and again, that was enough for Piotr to feel secure in the knowledge that he was ahead of the game. In the food shortages that ran through Warsaw, the supplies that Piotr brought in for Manek made a big difference.

Today was different and it was possible to feel something of the tension in the room. Piotr placed a large bundle of bank notes on the table. It was true that Piotr had given cash from time to time, but nothing on this scale. In a time of war, the currency used in the black market needs to be easy to spend and traceless. Twenty thousand dollars was an obscene amount of money at this time.

“There is a mole in the German military. Someone is feeding information that is getting to the Americans. We know it is someone important so the price would be high. So, here’s enough money. I want to you tell me who it is.”

Manek stopped for a moment. His hand raised above the chessboard, ready to place the queen. He withdrew his hand and held onto the chess piece, quietly thinking and re-thinking the next move.

“Your request is unexpected. You know I’ll be killed if I give you this information.”

Piotr nodded.

“I’ll give you the name but on one condition. The money leaves the room now. I’ll drop it out of the window to a contact. You won’t know who.”

Piotr nodded again and added another condition of his own.

“ It’s too easy to tell me and then take it back. Here.” Piotr pointed to the small black notebook he kept for recording the moves of the games he played, and the names Manek betrayed. “Write the name down in that.”

Manek nodded. He walked over to the window, whistled, and heard its reply, put the $20 000 in a bag and then dropped it. The man on the street picked up the bag and quickly dissolved back into the shadows.

Manek sat down at the table, took the little black notebook, and wrote the name of the traitor who had been leaking information to the enemy. He slid the book across the table.

Piotr opened the book and read the name. ‘Oberschfuhrer Piotr Schneider’. Manek finished placing the queen, lent back on his chair, and just before Piotr shot him, laughed out loud for the first time in a long time.

fact or fiction

Liz Allan

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