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Thursday, 9:47 A.M., Garbsen, Germany
Until a few days ago, twenty-one-year-old Jody Thompson didn't have a war.
Back in 1991, the young girl had been too preoccupied with boys, phones, and acne to pay much attention to the Persian Gulf War. All she remembered were TV images of white flashes tearing through the green night sky, and hearing about Scud missiles being fired at Israel and Saudi Arabia. She wasn't proud of how little she recalled, but fourteen-year-old girls have fourteen-year-old priorities.
Vietnam belonged to her parents, and all she knew about Korea was that during her junior year of college, the veterans had finally gotten a memorial.
World War II was her grandparents' war. Yet oddly enough, she was coming to know it best of all.
Five days before, Jody had left behind her sobbing parents, her ecstatic little brother, her boyfriend-next-door, and her sad springer spaniel Ruth, and flown from Rockville Centre, Long Island, to Germany, to intern on the feature film Tirpitz. Until she sat down on the plane with the script, Jody knew almost nothing about Adolf Hitler, the Third Reich, or the Axis. Occasionally, her grandmother spoke reverently about President Roosevelt, and now and then her grandfather said something respectful about Truman, whose A-bomb saved him from being butchered in a prison camp in Burma. A camp where he'd once bitten the ear of a man who was torturing him. When Jody asked her grandfather why he'd done that, didn't it only make the torture worse, the gentle man had replied, "Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do."
Other than that, the only time Jody encountered the war was on TV, when she flashed past an A&E documentary on her way to MTV.
Now Jody was taking a crash course in the chaos that had engulfed the world. She hated to read; TV Guide articles lost her halfway through. Yet she'd been mesmerized by the script of the American/German coproduction. It wasn't just ships and guns, as she'd feared. It was about people. From it, she learned about the hundreds of thousands of sailors who'd served on the icy waters of the Arctic, and the tens of thousands of sailors who'd drowned there. She learned about Tirpitz's sister ship the Bismarck, "the terror of the seas." She learned that factories, based on Long Island, had played a large, proud role in building warplanes for the Allies. She learned that many soldiers had been people no older than her boyfriend, and they'd been just as scared as Dennis would have been.
And since she'd come to the set, Jody had seen that powerful script come to life.
Today, by a cottage in Garbsen, outside Hanover, she had watched the cast film scenes in which a disgraced former SA officer leaves his family to exonerate himself on the German battleship. She had seen the gripping special effects footage of the attack by RAF Lancasters that had capsized the battleship in Tromsofjord, Norway, in 1944, entombing one thousand crew members. And here, in the prop trailer, she had touched actual pieces of the war.
Jody still found it difficult to believe that such madness had taken place, even though the evidence was spread on the tables before her. It was an unprecedented array of vintage medals, lanyards, gorgets, cuff-titles, weapons, and memorabilia on loan from private collectors in Europe and the United States. On the shelves were carefully preserved, leather-bound maps, military books, and fountain pens from the library of Generalfeldmarschall von Harbou, on loan from his son. In a file box in the closet were photographs of the Tirpitz taken by reconnaissance aircraft and midget submarines. And in a Plexiglas case was a fragment of one of the twelve-thousand-pound Tallboy bombs that had hit the ship. The rusted, six-inch shard was going to be used as a background image for the closing credits crawl.
Oil could stain the relics, so the tall, slender brunette wiped her hands on her School of Visual Arts sweatshirt before picking up the authentic Sturmabteilung dagger she'd come for. Her large, dark eyes shifted from the silver-tipped brown metal sheath to the brown hilt. In a circle near the top were the silver letters SA. Below them were a German eagle and a swastika. Because of the tight fit, she slowly withdrew the nine-inch weapon and examined it.
It was heavy and horrible. Jody wondered how many lives it had ended. How many wives it had widowed. How many mothers had cried because of it.
Jody turned it over. The words Alles für Deutschland were etched in black on one side. When Jody had first seen the knife the night before, during rehearsals, a veteran German actor in the cast had told her it meant All for Germany.
"To live in Germany back then," the man had said, "you were required to give everything to Hitler. Your industry, your life, your humanity." He'd leaned close to her. "If your lover whispered something against the Reich, you had to betray her. What's more, you had to feel proud about betraying her."
"Thompson, the knife!"
Director Larry Lankford's high voice ripped Jody from her reflection. She pushed the dagger back into the sheath and hurried to the trailer door.
"Sorry!" she yelled. "I didn't know you were waiting!" She jumped down the steps, rushed past the guard, and ran around the trailer.
"You didn't know?" Lankford yelled. "We're waiting to the tune of two thousand dollars a minute!" The director's chin rose from his red ascot and he began clapping. "That's thirty-three dollars," he said with a clap, "sixty-six dollars, ninety-nine dollars "
"I'm coming," Jody panted.
" one hundred and thirty-two "
Jody felt foolish for having believed Assistant Director Hollis Arlenna, who'd said that Lankford wouldn't be ready to shoot for another ten minutes. As a production assistant had warned her, Arlenna was a little man with a big ego, and he fed it by making other people feel small.
As Jody neared, the AD stepped between her and the director. Breathing heavily, Jody stopped and handed him the dagger. He avoided her eyes as he turned and jogged the short distance to the director.
"Thank you," Lankford said affably as the young man handed him the blade.
While the director showed his actor how to hand the dagger to his son, the assistant director backed away from them. He didn't look at Jody, and stopped well short of where she was standing.
Why am I not surprised? she thought.
After less than a week on location, Jody already knew how the film business worked. If you were smart and ambitious, people tried to make you look stupid and clumsy so you weren't a threat. And if you screwed up, people distanced themselves from you. It was probably that way in any business, though movie people seemed to have made a bitchy art form of it.
As Jody walked back to the prop trailer, she thought about how much she missed the support system she and her friends had had back at Hofstra. But that was college and this was the real world. She wanted to be a film director, and she was lucky to have landed this internship. She was determined to come through it stronger and wiser. And as pushy as the rest of them, if that was what it took to survive.
As Jody reached the trailer, the elderly German guard gave her a reassuring wink.
"These bullies can't yell at the stars, so they yell at you," he said. "I wouldn't worry about it."
"I won't, Mr. Buba," Jody lied, smiling. She picked up the clipboard hanging on the side of the trailer. Attached to it was a list of the scenes to be shot that day which detailed the props needed for every scene. "If that's the worst thing that happens while I'm here, I'll survive."
Mr. Buba smiled back at Jody as she climbed the steps. She would have killed right now for a smoke, but it wasn't permitted in the trailer and there wasn't time to stand around on the outside. She had to admit she'd have killed right now for even less. For instance, just to get Hollis out of her hair.
Upon reaching the doorway, Jody stopped suddenly and peered into the distance.
"Mr. Buba," she said, "I think I saw someone moving around in the woods."
The guard rose on the balls of his feet and looked over. "Where?"
"About a quarter of a mile away. They aren't in the shot yet, but I'd hate to be them if they ruin one of Lankford's takes."
"I agree," Buba said as he pulled the walkie-talkie from its belt-strap. "I don't know how they could have gotten through, but I'll have someone check on it."
As he radioed in the report, Jody returned to the trailer. She tried to forget about Lankford and his snit as she re-entered a darker world, a world where the tyrants carried weapons, not shooting scripts, and attacked nations instead of interns.
From Op-Center: Games of State
Created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik
Copyright © 1996 by Jack Ryan Limited Partnership and S&R Literary, Inc.