Thursday and Friday were normal lecture days for Jinnie and she was mostly able to concentrate on her studies. Of course, rumours about the “accidents” continued to spread and the more the state-controlled media stuck to the line that all the reported incidents had been “accidents”, the stronger and more fanciful the rumours became. Over lunch in the cafeteria she heard everything from the Basques and Catalans were raising a joint army to fight for Spain to leave the Third Reich, to the incidents were the work of the Gestapo who wanted to discredit the SS.
By Thursday lunchtime word of Jinnie’s successful call up to the shooting team had reached her cohort and it was the other main topics of lunchtime conversation. Very few of them were aware of her interest in shooting and some expressed their surprise, not thinking it a sport suitable for a pretty girl. Jinnie just thought them sexist. However, one or two wanted to know more about it and one even asked if the club gave lessons.
During Jinnie’s Friday afternoon lecture a message arrived on her phone from Professor Wolff. He said that there was no competition shoot this weekend and that he had heard that she was interested in becoming a better rifle shot. Willie had told him that she had a very promising tryout with his rifle and that if she was in the range on Saturday afternoon he would be delighted to give her tips. She could use one of his old guns. Jinnie was delighted as, until then, she really had no idea how she was going to get close enough to him to learn any secrets.
On Saturday morning the girls once again headed for the gym where the officious Gerhard was sat at the reception desk in front of his computer. A few key punches later and he handed them both printouts with timed bookings for their various activities. The girls set off for the changing rooms where they collapsed in a fit of giggles over Gerhard who was the image of most people’s view of a German. Looking around they saw several abandoned printouts. Were they from people who had already finished their sessions or were they abandoned by people who were just ignoring Gerhard? Jinnie soon found out. The first machine she was booked on was in use by a plump girl Jinnie had seen devouring a huge bowl of pasta the previous lunchtime. Jinnie moved on to the identical machine next to the one she was supposed to be using.
No one was taking any notice of Gerhard’s programmes. Jinnie asked the plump girl if it was always the same. She was a second-year and explained that on most days people were free to do their own thing. Gerhard was only there on Saturdays, during the week he worked at a very expensive private club in an exclusive district of Berlin. When he had been hired as a Saturday relief he had tried to impose the private club’s regimented systems. The students didn’t take to being bossed around and just carried on as they were used to when he wasn’t there.
At the end of her session Jinnie met up with Simone for their swim and lunch, before heading off, Jinnie to the range, Simone to the Supermarkt to get her cooking class ingredients. Today she was happier, it was going to be a German dish Rinder Rouladen and they had already invited the boys for Sunday lunch. They had been on the internet and found that it was traditionally served with potato dumplings. Simone was going to have a try at cooking them on Sunday. Jinnie was confident as, so far, Simone’s cooking had proved very good.
Jinnie greeted Willie who was on duty at the gun club reception, picked up 50 rounds for her Glock and was allocated a lane. Neither she nor Willie mentioned the train, they both knew better than to talk about such things when they could be overheard. Jinnie set up the targets to emulate the competition she had shot on Wednesday and went through the 48 rounds scoring a perfect 480 points.
She was returning the 2 unused rounds to Willie when Professor Wolff appeared carrying his competition rifle. He had been practising on one of the rifle ranges and was looking for Jinnie. He repeated his offer to her of a rifle lesson which she immediately accepted. While Willie sorted out rifle rounds for her to use Wolff went off to the preparation room to collect one of his older rifles for her to learn with. Jinnie was addressing him as professor and he told her to call him Uwe, saying professor was for formal occasions. Willie sorted out a lane for them and they headed off to it. Uwe explained that in competition with other universities they shot to the same rules as an Olympic qualifying competition. That involved firing 40 rounds at a target from 50 metres in 3 different positions kneeling, standing, and prone. Each shot could score a maximum of 10 points making a total maximum points score of 1200 points. There was, he said, normally a time limit to fire all 120 rounds which were shot in groups of five at new targets.
Jinnie had only ever really fired a rifle from the prone position although Willie had shown her the three stances. In fact, she wasn’t really aware that in competition you to shot from all three positions. In all the films she had seen the sniper shot from a prone position. Uwe demonstrated the correct kneeling stance and Jinnie did her best to emulate it. Uwe corrected a few details and when he was happy she had got it right, he showed her how the action worked on his old rifle. Once satisfied she knew what she was doing, he had her fire a few rounds to get a feel of the gun. She asked Uwe if she should keep both eyes open when she aimed through the telescopic sight. He said he closed one eye but he had recently read an article that said keeping both eyes open created more adrenaline in the body and this could be an advantage. He suggested she try it both ways and stick with whichever she felt suited her best.
Jinnie fired a few rounds with both eyes open and then a few rounds with only one eye open. Although she didn’t see much difference in her positioning on the target she decided that the two-eyed method didn’t suit her. With only one eye open she felt was able to better concentrate on the target and was generally more comfortable. Uwe then got her to shoot at targets in groups of five rounds. At first, she was not very accurate but as she became more used to the routine of operating the bolt action it improved.
Just when she was beginning to feel she got it right Uwe switched her to the standing position. Jinnie found this a little more difficult as the rifle was not so easy for her to hold steady in this stance. Once again she finally got into a rhythm and started to score better, it was then Uwe switched her to prone. Jinnie liked this position best, partly because she had previously shot from this position and partly because she found supporting the rifle easier. However, she was getting tired and her aim suffered. She was only too pleased when Uwe called an end to the session.
All Jinnie really wanted was a long soak under a hot shower but Uwe suggested they go for a drink in the university bar as he wanted to talk about her shooting. Reluctantly Jinnie agreed, she needed to get his trust and she hoped he would let something slip about the nuclear research he was in charge of. Jinnie had a soft drink but Uwe had a large peppermint schnapps and a coffee. Uwe said he thought she was one of the best student pistol shots he had seen and he would be very happy to have her on the university team. Obviously, her rifle skills didn’t match her pistol skills but he said with some practice and more personal coaching from him he was sure she would soon be good enough to shot rifle for the team as cover for him.
Jinnie explained to him that she had really enjoyed the afternoon session, but it had tested her physically. She explained she had spent the morning in the gym and then practised with her pistol before the rifle session and she thought she was pushing it. Uwe suggested that perhaps she needed to be fitter, but maybe practising pistol and rifle on the same afternoon was too much. While Jinnie was thinking about this Uwe got himself another drink.
When he sat down again Jinnie said she thought she might take up running a couple of mornings a week before lectures and if there was an evening when he was free perhaps she could separate the day she practised with a pistol from the day he helped her with a rifle. Uwe liked that idea and said how about Monday evenings, although it would have to start next week as on Monday he had an important meeting to discuss his research with the Government. Of course Jinnie’s ears pricked up at this revelation and started to think about how to get him to talk further, however the professor made this easy.
Uwe was soon off to the bar for another schnapps and the more he drank the looser his tongue became. With hardly any encouragement he began to brag about how he was certain he was very close to a breakthrough in his research. The combination of a pretty girl to boast to and alcohol soon had him telling how he was going to personally report progress to the Reich Minister for Defence over dinner on Monday evening. From this Jinnie deduced that the breakthrough had yet to be made, but was close. She needed to get this news back to Dirk as quickly as possible and she started wondering how she could get away.
The answer came far sooner than she expected. After yet another drink, Uwe suddenly fell asleep in mid-sentence. The barman came over and told her this was quite common and the normal routine was for him to call the professor’s wife who would come and take him home in her car. He suggested to Jinnie that now would be a good time to disappear, as the professor’s wife accepted his drinking, but he was a notorious womaniser and she had been known to attack his companions however innocent they were. Jinnie didn’t need telling twice and nearly ran out of the bar.
Simone greeted her with relief as she walked in the door. She had expected her home earlier and had been getting worried. Jinnie quickly explained she was late because she had been having a drink with the professor and needed to get an urgent message to Dirk. She didn’t want to say too much to Simone as she still did not know of Jinnie’s assignment. Jinnie didn’t want to phone Dirk as she wasn’t sure how secure the mobile phone network was. In the end they decided to phone for a pizza in the expectation that Paolo would jump at the chance of delivering the order and he always seemed to be able to contact Dirk. The only problem was that Simone wanted pineapple on the pizza and Jinnie wanted basic cheese and tomato. In the end they settled for half and half.
They were right, Paolo had told the other delivery boys that he wanted to make any deliveries to the girls and it was only 45 minutes later when the door buzzer sounded. Simone took the pizza to cut into slices while Jinnie explained to Paolo that she needed to speak to Dirk urgently. He didn’t ask for details, but just told her the message would be passed on, someone would be in touch shortly, kissed her on the lips, jumped on his scooter and disappeared into the night.
Simone and Jinnie had each only eaten a slice of the pizza when the door buzzed again. Jinnie picked up the door phone and was surprised to hear Dirk’s voice. She buzzed him in while Simone grabbed another wedge of pineapple topped pizza, her mug of coffee and diplomatically withdrew to her bedroom. Dirk sat down at the kitchen table, accepted a mug of strong coffee which he took black with no sugar and a slice of Jinnie’s half of the pizza. Jinnie told him the story of her afternoon and early evening explaining that as Professor Wolff had boasted about being so close to a breakthrough and his upcoming dinner with the Reichs Minister that she had to pass the message on quickly.
Dirk lent back in his kitchen chair and eyed the remaining slices of pizza, before finally taking a slice of the pineapple side. Biting into it he turned up his nose and quickly washed it down with a big swig of coffee. Dirk seemed to be thinking deeply, but accepted a coffee refill commenting that it was the best coffee he had drunk in ages, before going back to his thinking. After what seemed to be ages, but was in fact only a couple of minutes, Dirk looked up and said, “I have a plan, but I need something from you and Simone. You must not be involved, so on Monday I want you to be highly visible. After lectures go with the group, do whatever they do, eat with them, drink with them, sit and chat with them, but whatever you do be in the group until say nine in the evening”. With that he stood up, finished his now cold slice of pizza, drained his coffee and was gone.
Sundays were falling into a routine, a lie in followed by Sunday lunch with the boys consuming the food prepared by Simone in her class. Then an afternoon sitting around drinking wine, listening to music and chatting. Monday dawned wet and cold and it looked like the autumn weather was finally getting cooler. Jinnie had been told that early autumn weather in Berlin could be spectacularly good but as the days got shorter in late October and November the warm days got fewer and fewer and by late November the average daytime temperature would fall to 5°. In December it would drop to 1° but Jinnie would be back in England for Christmas and the New Year when it was often coldest.
Jinnie and Simone met after their last lecture and went off with a mixed group to eat in the cafeteria. The meal was casual and everyone sat around chatting and discussing what to do and where to go. Have a dozen drifted off to the cinema and a couple of the boys had tickets for a football match, so finally a group of about a dozen ended up in a Bier Keller. The two girls had a couple of beers, chatted with just about everyone, flirted with a couple of the boys and headed back to the flat at around 21:15.
They were greeted by Fritz who was standing by the double doors of the communal lounge watching the TV. Maybe 10 other girls from the block and a couple of boyfriends were watching in stunned silence. The wreckage of a car halfway up a drive to a big mansion was being shown from a helicopter. Fritz whispered to them that it was being reported that the car had been blown up by “terrorists” and that it was the home of the Reichs Minister of Defence. The TV reporter said, “The car was driven over a land mine and the couple in it are both believed to be dead”. It was further reported that it was believed the real target was the Minister and the unnamed couple were just his dinner guests and in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jinnie and Simone slipped away to their flat thankful that because of Dirk they had a cast-iron alibi for all day Monday.
In Chapter 13 – There is more resistance action.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file