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“Welcome to Munich, Herr Reichspraesident. I trust your flight was an enjoyable one?” Halstead’s grin was wide as he greeted Friedrich Ebert, President of Germany, and his fugitive Cabinet ministers after their surgical masks and handcuffs had been removed, masks intended for disguise and handcuffs intended for control. Göring and both of his pilots-turned-guards took protective positions in front of the door leading to the hotel hallway.
Ebert did not answer the question, but instead glowered around at the elegant penthouse room. “This is an outrage, Herr Hitler. Do you realize your men have just kidnapped the leaders of German democracy? Do you realize what the penalty for that is?”
“Do you realize, Herr Reichspraesident, that you would have never left Dresden alive?” Halstead gestured to a dining table along one wall of the suite’s front room, where a dinner had been spread out upon the arrival of the hostages in the hotel lobby.
Ebert was the last of the Berlin exiles to start for the table, but did head for the last seat, one adjacent to a curtained window guarded by a rifle-toting storm trooper. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
“It means exactly what I said.” Halstead stood stock still in the center of the room filled with a score of Ordnertruppe guards, and kept both eyes on Ebert. “General Maercker had received orders from Berlin to take you into ‘protective custody.’ Surely you remember what happens to outgoing rulers in times of revolution? Do you think you would have escaped the fate of the Czar and his family at Yekaterinburg?”
“Stop your nonsense, Herr Hitler,” Ebert retorted. “Of all the men in Germany, I trust you the least. If this is going to be our last meal, at least let us enjoy it in peace!” He reached out with a fork and stabbed a sausage as one of his fellow Social Democrats gasped from shock.
“You will enjoy this meal, and many more, Herr Reichspraesident, I assure you. If you do what I say.”