"My father was Heinrich Kohl. My mother"even after all this time, her name stumbled in his throat"my mother, Eleanor."
Still that blank look. Those empty brown eyes.
If the bastard had hawked their names and spat, if he had laughed, Burton would have relished it. But Hochburg's indifference was complete. The lives of Burton's parents meant no more to him than those pitiful, nameless skulls on the square outside.
He had planned to do it silently, so as not to bring the guards hammering at the door. But now he didn't care.
Burton leapt across the table in a frenzy.
He crashed into Hochburg, hitting the bottle of water. Shards of it exploded everywhere. Burton grabbed the older man's throat, but Hochburg was faster. He parried with his forearm.
They both tumbled to the ground, limbs thrashing.
Hochburg swiped ferociously again, snatched at Burton's ear as if he would rip it off. Then he was grasping for his Luger.
Burton clambered on top of him. Pushed down with all his weight. Pointed the knife at his throat. Hochburg writhed beneath him. Burton slammed his knee into Hochburg's groin. He felt the satisfying crush of testes. Veins bulged in Hochburg's face.
Outside the room there was shouting, the scrape of boots. Then a tentative knock at the door. It locked from the inside, and no one was allowed entry without the express command of the Oberstgruppenführer, even the LeibwachenHochburg's personal bodyguards. Another detail Ackerman had supplied.
"You recognize this knife," hissed Burton, his teeth bared. "You used it often enough. Fattening yourself at our table." He pushed the blade tight against Hochburg's windpipe.
"Whoever you are, listen to me," said Hochburg, his eyeballs ready to burst. "Only the Führer's palace has more guards. You can't possibly escape."
Burton pushed harder, saw the first prick of blood. "Then I've got nothing to lose."
There was another knock at the door, more urgent this time.
Burton saw Hochburg glance at it. "Make a sound," he said, "and I swear I'll cut your fucking tongue off." Then: "My mother. I want to know. I " He opened his mouth to speak again, but the words died. It was as if all Burton's questionslike wraiths or phantomshad weaved together into a thick cord around his throat. He made a choking sound and became deathly still. The blade slackened on Hochburg's neck.
Then the one thing happened that he had never considered.
Burton began to weep.
Softly. With no tears. His chest shuddering like a child's.
Hochburg looked more bewildered than ever but took his chance. "Break down the door!" he shouted to the guards outside. "Break down the door. An assassin!"
There was a frantic thump-thump-thump of boots against wood.
The sound roused Burton. He had never expected to get this opportunity; only a fool would waste it. He bent lower, his tear ducts still smarting. "What happened to her?"
"Quickly!" screeched Hochburg.
"Tell me, damn you! I want the truth."
"Tell me." But the rage and shame and fearand, in the back of his mind, the training, that rowdy instinct to survivesuddenly came to the fore.
Burton plunged the knife deep and hard.
Hochburg made a wet belching noise, his eyelids flickering. Blood spurted out of his neck. It hit Burton in the face, a slap from chin to eyebrow. Burning hot. Scarlet.
Burton stabbed again and again. More blood. It drenched his clothes. Spattered the maps on the walls, running down them. Turning Africa red.
Then the door burst inward and two guards were in the room, pistols drawn. Faces wide and merciless.
Excerpted from The Afrika Reich by Guy Saville. Copyright © 2013 by Guy Saville. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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