That evening he pretended to read the paper and watched Kate over the top of the pages. She went about her usual tasks by habit, her motions routine, her mind far away. Although she responded when he spoke, her manner was distant. The German was gone and she should be relieved to have things back to normal. She did not seem to be.
He waited until the evening newscast was over and Kate had picked up her knitting. Amos lay by her feet, his eyes closed, totally relaxed if not asleep.
“So he is gone,” Vlad began. There was no need to identify the subject of his comment. “You should be relieved to get back to normal.”
She nodded, apparently absorbed in counting a row of stitches.
“So why aren’t you?”
She immediately stopped counting, her finger frozen on a stitch. He could tell he had her attention although she had not looked up. He continued.
“Why were you fighting with him this morning?” “We weren’t fighting,” she said, her eyes still on her work, her tone remarkably steady.
“The man grabbed your arm and yelled at you. If I did that, you’d call it fighting.”
She shrugged and resumed knitting. Obviously she was going to make him pry it out of her, whatever it was.
“What did you do to him?”
She took a deep breath. “I betrayed him.”
Her tone was soft, almost regretful. It caught Vlad completely off guard. “You betray…what do you mean, you betrayed him?”
“Somehow he’s found out that I was a spy. That I was there to feed information to the Allies, information about his designs.”
“His designs?” Vlad connected the fragments. “The Kraut was one of the engineers designing rockets for the Nazis?”
“What’s he doing here, then? Do his bosses know what he did? How could he have wound up working for NASA?” Vlad couldn’t believe the Americans realized they had had a former Nazi working in such a sensitive area as national defense. “Was that it? He was afraid you’d tell someone about his Nazi past?” Kate shook her head. “No. That’s not a problem. That’s how he got to America, actually. As one of the chief designers on Wernher Von Braun’s rocket team, the Americans welcomed him and his skills. His past is no secret and no threat.”
Vlad frowned. “Then what the hell is wrong? How can you threaten him?” “I don’t. I simply infuriate him. Rocket research was secret. Security was very tight at the laboratories. Even the German public didn’t know what was going on inside. To think that a spy worked there for three years affronts his belief in their system.”
A second fact penetrated Vlad’s confusion. “He recognized you. Is that it? He knew you when you worked in the facility?”
Again, she nodded.
“And did you recognize him?” He was getting angry.
“Yes.” The admission was quietly made. Her eyes remained on her needles. Her fingers flew. She was not going to elaborate.
“You knew this man and you did not tell me who he was?” It was his job to protect his family from scandal and her silence undermined that effort. At last she set her work in her lap and looked over at him. “Why should I? I don’t tell you every time I meet an old classmate in the street. Why did you need to know that I once worked with this man in a laboratory in Germany?”
His rage spiked. “I have a right to know when someone can threaten you,” he growled.
“And exactly how can he threaten me?” She remained calm.
It infuriated Vlad that she should be so blind. “He was far from rational this morning. How will you control his lies about your role in Germany?”
She shrugged. “He won’t be talking about our encounters. He’s too embarrassed that he didn’t realize I was a spy. There is no point getting upset over my past.”
“Your past!” Vlad spit the words. “No sensible woman did the things you did. It’s a wonder you weren’t killed. When did you realize who this man was?” “When he walked through the office door.” “Not before?” He could hear the suspicion in his voice.
“I suspected it could be him when we got his letter. But I could have been wrong. I saw no point borrowing trouble.”
Vlad snorted. “And you knew him well?” Kate picked up her needles and glanced at her pattern. As though the German was unimportant, she said, “I was a secretary in the office where his reports were written.”
“So you saw him every day?” He persisted.
She shrugged. “Yes.”
“Did you date?” Kate dropped her hands to her lap and shook her head. “Do you think I dated Gerry just because we work together? Honestly, Vlad. Listen to yourself. Why do you think I wouldn’t tell you about once working near Andreas? I don’t need your ridiculous jealousy. It just upsets us both for no reason. Let it be.”
He glowered at her in silence for several minutes. She had avoided his question, he noticed. Should he repeat it? Force her to tell him the truth? Her avoidance was an answer in itself, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear the actual words. When she resumed her knitting and remained silent, he changed the subject. “We’ve got a choice of hockey or The Smothers Brothers.” Her look told him not to be so foolish. He knew they never watched sports.