Home > Framed Shadows (Shadows Landing #6)

Framed Shadows (Shadows Landing #6)
Author: Kathleen Brooks

 


Prologue

 

 

Budapest, Hungary, 1944 . . .

 

Dezo Alder’s body was shaking with fear. He knew what was coming as he walked into the local leader’s office. All of his instincts told him to stop wasting time and to run. His palms were sweaty as his longtime friend, Gellert Balogh, gestured to the chair across from his desk.

“Thank you for coming, my friend,” he said as Dezo’s heart rate increased.

“Is this about the Germans?” Dezo asked as he fought to keep his voice even.

Gellert nodded his head slowly. “Our national leaders had been close to Hitler since he took power. They wanted him to get back some of the lands we lost when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was broken up after the Great War. We got our land, but at a price. Since Stalingrad and other battles, we’ve lost tens of thousands of Hungarians. Some of our leaders have been trying to find a way out of our alliance with Germany.”

Gellert had been Dezo’s friend since childhood. They’d grown up in the same small neighborhood in Budapest, but the war changed everything. Gellert Balogh rose to power and Dezo Alder had been placed on the Jewish list as Hungary became an Axis Power. Dezo lost his standing in the community and he’d been forced to close the doors to his family’s art gallery. They’d gone from being a prosperous family to a poor one. However, Gellert had saved him more than once. He kept Dezo and his family safe from deportation and forced military service. Dezo’s oldest son, Elek, had been forced into manual labor but at least he was still able to live at home.

Dezo hoped Gellert was going to tell him Hungary had changed sides in the war. That they’d negotiated with the Allies. That help was on the way. However, the resignation on Gellert’s face told him that hope was futile.

“Hitler found out about our attempts to reach out to the Allies. The Germans are here. Hitler’s troops are moving toward the city as we speak. I’m sorry, dear friend. Your family’s name is on the list of prominent Jews that will be turned over to the SS when they arrive. They’ll be here within the hour. I tried to get your names off of it, but not everyone in my office is sympathetic. I can no longer keep you safe from being transported to Auschwitz. If you don’t escape Budapest, you will most likely be taken away. Take Rozsa and your children, dear Elek and Sandor, and get to Switzerland as fast as you can.”

Dezo felt the impact of the words reverberate through his whole body. He stood on wobbly legs as Gellert handed him a thick envelope. “Papers to help with your escape. I don’t know how long you can get away with using them, but I had to try. I’m sorry, dear friend.”

Dezo took the envelope and then shook his friend’s hand. “Thank you. I will always remember your kindness.”

Dezo tried to walk from the building calmly. He didn’t want to draw any attention to himself even though he wanted to tell all of his people to run for their lives.

He heard shouts in the distance. The earth shook as the road was filled with German military vehicles and tanks rolling through the outskirts of town on their way to downtown Budapest just a short distance away.

Dezo stopped walking and stared in horror as people on the street clicked their heels together and raised their arms into the air as the troops drove by. Dezo was in grave danger. His family was in danger. His people were in danger. He couldn’t depend on anyone but himself now. He patted the papers in his pocket and picked up his pace.

 

“Papa!” Sandor yelled the second Dezo unlocked the door to their gallery. They’d been forced to sell their house in a well-to-do neighborhood for a small fraction of what it was worth and had moved into the small apartment above his family’s art gallery—a gallery that had been in his family for generations that he was now forced to abandon.

Dezo’s throat tightened as his wife and son ran into his arms.

“We saw Nazis,” his wife cried into his neck.

“Rozsa, where is Elek?” Dezo asked of their fifteen-year-old son.

“He’s working down by the river,” his wife responded. “Dezo, what’s going on?”

“We’ve fallen to Germany. Gellert can’t protect us. He gave us fake papers and told us to run for Switzerland. Take only what we can carry. We must leave now.”

“But we’ve been safe until now, even as others have been deported,” Rozsa protested.

“We are safe no longer, Rozsa. Pack for me, my dear. Only what we can carry. Sandor,” he said, looking at his ten-year-old son. “Pack your things and some for Elek. I’ll meet you all upstairs in ten minutes.”

“My sister,” Rozsa gasped. “I must warn her.”

“There is no time, Rozsa. I’m sorry, love. We must leave the house in fifteen minutes.”

Dezo left his family in tears as he made his way to the gallery. Masterpieces hung on the wall from Dali, Monet, Munch, Rembrandt, Picasso, Caravaggio, Renoir, Degas, Vermeer, and so many more. How could he abandon this history? How could he leave this part of him and his family’s legacy for the Nazis to take or destroy?

His heart broke as he grabbed what paintings and sketches he could. He felt his soul rip apart as he cut them from their frames and shoved them between the pages of his ledger books. He wanted to take more, but he couldn’t. Some were too large to pack in the bags they had to carry.

The door to the gallery shook as someone pounded on it. His time was up. Dezo raced up the stairs and ordered his family out the back door to the car. “Meet me down the block,” he told his wife. Together they walked downstairs, his wife and son carrying all they could take with them before they turned and went out the back. The gallery door was about to be kicked in when Dezo answered it. A young man in Nazi uniform stood looking annoyed.

“Heil Hitler,” he said, his arm shooting up.

“Heil Hitler,” Dezo forced out, the words making him nauseous.

“We have reports that this is a Jewish-owned gallery. I need your papers.” Dezo looked behind the soldier to find three more young men and a truck. “Are you the owner?”

“No,” Dezo said, reaching into his pocket and pulling out the papers Gellert had given him. “I’m just an assistant. The owner left this morning.”

The Nazi soldier looked over the papers and then handed them back. “You may leave. We are taking all the art for der Führer. Heil Hitler.”

“Heil Hitler,” Dezo mumbled as he allowed himself one last look at the art his family had collected over generations. He vowed to himself, to the paintings, and to his ancestors that he’d come back for them one day. One day his family’s collection would be complete again.

 

Dezo walked out the door and didn’t look back. “Hurry, we must find Elek,” he said as soon as he got into the car.

Chaos erupted all around them as they drove through Budapest toward the Danube River. People were running in the street in a blind panic. Nazi soldiers were shooting anyone who defied them. Rozsa smothered her cries as they approached the river and a group of Nazi guards held up their hands to stop them.

“Pretend to be supporters of Hitler,” Dezo ordered his family as he rolled down his window.

“Heil Hitler!” the guard shouted as he saluted.

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