Sweetener

TITLE: Sweetener
AUTHOR: ExcentrykeMuse
WRITTEN: October 09-10, 2018

WORDCOUNT: 21k

FANDOM: The Man in the High Castle, Season 2
PAIRING(S): Juliana Crain/Martin Heusmann
SECONDARY PAIRING(S): (one sided) Juliana Crain/Joe Blake, (past, one sided) Juliana Crain/Takeshi Kido

SUMMARY: Joe Blake had to admit it: his father, Reichsminister Martin Heusmann, knew how to throw a party … and this one had the beautiful Juliana Crain in attendance.

WARNING(S): Racial Purity, World Wars, Slavery, Sexual Slavery, Torture, Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Joe had to admit it: His father knew how to throw a party.  There were German Aryans in glittering jewels all around him.  Women were so thin it was surprising, eating canapes and drinking champagne.  Men who were barely fitting in their dinner jackets were congratulating him on his feats in the Neutral Zone.

He hated it all.

Picking up a glass of champagne and downing it in one go, he had almost decided to go back to the hotel when a beautiful woman in a blue cocktail dress, her long brown hair with an auburn sheen falling down over her shoulder, her bright blue Aryan eyes shining out of her head, came over to him.

“Ah, Joseph,” she greeted, pronouncing his name the German way, although her accent was decidedly American.  “I promised to take care of you.”

Intrigued, he asked, “Really?”

“Quite,” she agreed, taking two glasses of champagne off of a wandering tray and handing him one.  “Thing is, I know hardly anything about you apart from your name: Joseph.”  She let the name hang on her tongue, long and elongated, the perfect seduction.

He found it utterly intoxicating.

Taking a sip of his champagne, his eyes holding hers, he introduced himself, “Joe Blake.”

“American,” she realized, taking his hand.  “Where from?”

“New York.” 

Turning to the side, she nodded.  “New York.  Haven’t been in a while, myself.”

“And where do you come from?  You’re certainly not German.”  Joe took in her beautiful shoulders, wanting to run his fingers down them.

“San Francisco,” she answered suddenly, surprising him.  “I defected and ended up here, strangely enough.”  At his questioning look, she whispered, “Long story.”

He smiled at her winningly.  “Well, I like long stories.”

“Do you?” she asked.  “How about your story?”

“My father ordered me here,” he answered.

“To the party?” she laughed.  “How utterly dreadful of him.  You seem entirely too miserable, although I will admit you look dashing in that white dinner jacket, almost like the Reichsminister strangely enough.  However, he is a man of excellent taste.  Have you met?”  She looked up at him with her beautiful eyes, taking a sip of her champagne.

“Once or twice,” he admitted.

“I’d imagine,” she breathed.  “It is his party.  Why would your father order you to it, though?  Seems a bit peculiar.”  The beauty leaned in then.  “Is he trying to set you up with one of these women?  You poor thing.  I’ll protect you the best I can.”  Her eyes twinkled as she leaned back.

“He ordered me to the Fatherland, actually.  He said I’d enjoy tonight.”

She looked at him a moment and then shrugged.  “Maybe we have some mutual acquaintances in New York.  I was relocated there and worked at Nazi Headquarters for some time.  Does the name Sturmbannfuhrer Erich Raeder mean anything to you?”

Joe thought for a moment.  “He works under Smith, right?”

She was taking a drink, but she took the glass from her lips and nodded.  “Yes, John.  Lovely man.  He gave me a leg up.—How do you know him?”

Absolutely flabbergasted that anyone would describe Obergruppenfuhrer Smith as ‘lovely’ Joe paused for a moment.  “I ran some missions for him.  I went to his house this last V-A Day.  He was the one who relayed the order for me to come here, actually.”

“He did always like the personal touch,” the woman seemed to laugh to herself.  “Ah,” she looked over Joe’s shoulder.  “Darling.  You know Joe Blake, of course.  His father ordered him here, apparently.  The poor boy.  No wonder you told me to take care of him.”

Joe turned to see his father—Reichsminister Martin Heusmann—coming up to them.  He walked over and took the woman’s hand and kissed the back of it affectionately before turning to Joe.

Horrified to see this beautiful creature standing beside the man who had ruined his life, Joe looked between the two of them.  “I think you’re missing a piece of vital information,” Joe finally told the beautiful woman with the nearly auburn hair.

“Am I?” she questioned, looking at Heusmann for a long moment.  “Martin?” she asked dangerously.  “Are you his godfather or something along those lines and didn’t mention it?”

Heusmann seemed lost for words before he admitted, “He is Lebensborn.”

This meant nothing to Joe, but it apparently meant something to the woman who looked into her half empty champagne and then promptly threw it in his father’s face.

Surprisingly, Heusmann didn’t react, as if he had been expecting it.  The woman untangled her hand, set the empty glass down on a table, and disappeared into the crowd.  Heusmann took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped down his face.  “That, Joseph,” he stated, “is your future stepmother, Juliana Crain.”  He pronounced Juliana, with the German “J” or—in other words—with a “Y”.  Yooliana.  It didn’t quite fit her.  She was American, after all.

“I think she may have something different to say about that,” Joe stated carefully.

“I’ve been proposing every day over breakfast for four months, and she has yet to accept,” he agreed.  “Still, a man must stay the course for the proper Aryan woman—and Juliana is magnificent.” 

That was definitely putting it mildly.

“You didn’t tell her about me.”

“She is sensitive about being so much younger than I am,” he admitted carefully.  “I wanted to spare her for as long as possible.”

“I may not be the foremost expert on women,” Joe stated conversationally, “but even I know that you should have told her before sending her over.”  He clapped his hand on the shoulder.  “In solidarity.”  In reality, he just wanted to be close to Juliana again.

She was speaking to a girl, as young as the two of them, with platinum blonde crimped hair, blue eyes, and a pale face.

They were speaking rapidly in German and the other girl’s eyes looked over Juliana’s shoulder to him.

Ja.  Look.”

Juliana turned around and took him in.  Her face softened.  “Joseph.”

“Juliana,” he greeted, handing her a glass of champagne.  “I figured you needed a new one.”

“I’m talking to my friend, Nicole,” she apologized as she accepted the drink.

“But I’m much handsomer,” he suggested, as he put his hand in his pocket.  Then he leaned in, “Plus, we both know Obergruppenfuhrer Smith and my father.  We can gossip all night.”

She leaned back and laughed, turned to this Nicole and murmured something.

Prost!” Nicole saluted before shimmering away.

Juliana turned and began to walk around the room with Joe by her side.  “I could have introduced you, you know,” she suggested.  “Nicole is a bit free spirited, but quite loyal—when she chooses to be.”

“Unlike my father,” Joe muttered, taking a drink of his whiskey that he had picked up on his way over to Juliana.

“Oh no,” Juliana disagreed.  “Your father is the most loyal man I’ve ever met, and I’ve met quite a few.  Most didn’t even deserve the term ‘man’ or ‘Aryan.’”

“Ah,” Joe stated, changing the subject slightly, “the Pacific States.”

“You forget,” she teased back, a shadow flashing through her eyes, “the Japanese are honorary Aryans.”  She looked down into her drink.  “Tell me, Joseph,” (there, his father’s influence.  While he called her J-J-Juliana, she called him Yosef) “why did your father order you here?  Why are you in New York when he’s lived his entire life in Europe and Africa?”

“No, you’ve got that wrong.  He was in New York.  It’s where he met my mother.”

“No,” she answered, shaking her head.  “He’s only been to America once and that was Chicago.  I think I would know.”

“You didn’t know about me.”  His eyes looked into hers firmly.

“I know about you as a hypothetical,” she argued.  “I didn’t know you as a reality.  There is a subtle difference, one which irritated me not twenty minutes ago.”

Joe laughed.  “I don’t want to see you angry.”

Juliana smiled and blushed a little.  “I can’t remember the last time I got angry, Joseph.  In my line of work, it’s best to keep a cool head.  But we’re talking about you—and about your father.”

“How did you meet my father?” Joe asked conversationally, looking out at all of the guests.

“I was stationed here in Germany,” she told him plainly.  “I was ordered here,” Juliana teased, tilting her head toward him as her eyes sought out Heusmann’s and connected with his gaze, a small smile creasing his lips. 

“All is forgiven I see.”  (Joe felt a bit petulant.)  “And when you were ordered here?”

“I don’t like to give paperwork to middle men,” she told him honestly.  “I’m quite well known for it.  I’ll travel across Germany to deliver it personally.  I have an aide de camp now, who I will allow to carry the less sensitive documents, but I had some files that needed to be delivered to Reichsminister Braband a floor up, and, well,” (she blushed) “we met in the elevator on the way down.”

Joe turned to her in shock.  “You met my father in an elevator?”

“I never said it was romantic,” she argued back.  “However, by the third floor, he had convinced me to go to lunch with him.”

Lucky Bastard, Joe thought to himself, wishing he had been in the elevator instead or had been in any elevator in New York with Juliana. 

“How do you know Obergruppenfuhrer Smith?” Joe asked, changing the subject.

Juliana looked at him from the corner of her eye.  “An elevator.”

The two broke out into laughter, drawing the attention of those around them. 

The party passed with Juliana introducing him to the younger set, including Nicole, and soon the stragglers were even gone, the three of them drinking schnapps and in the living room, sitting on couches.  Heusmann was in a large leather chair, with Juliana draped half over the arm of the chair and half over his shoulders.  Her long legs stretched out, her heels dragging in the air.

Joe was utterly fixated.  Heusmann was taking him in.

“You should spend the night.  We can have the car sent for, of course, Joseph, but it would be wonderful to have you as our guest.  I must go in early, but, Juliana, what is on your schedule tomorrow?”

“Oh,” she stated airily.  “Nothing much.  Just some notes.  I can go in a bit later.  I have plenty to do in my office.”

He rested a hand on her knee, and looked at her adoringly.  Turning to Joe, he stated: “There, Joseph.  You’ll have Juliana to eat breakfast with you.  If you’re lucky, she’ll give you a tour of the house.”

“Martin,” she stated petulantly, “You know I stay in my room, my office, and the breakfast room.  I don’t even know where you sleep.”  Her eyes twinkled as if this were a private joke.

“We could change that,” he suggested, his hand stroking her knee.

However, she just shook her head with a smile, as if this were an old argument.  It was surprising.  It seemed that Juliana lived here at his father’s house, but they didn’t cohabitate for whatever reason.  And, he knew, that Heusmann was constantly proposing marriage, and being refused.  Juliana was certainly her own woman, whatever else might be the case.

“Hilda will cook him everything she can think of,” Juliana stated in slight exasperation.  “Ever since you probably hinted at marriage, she has been talking about babies and continuing the Heusmann line—and now the continuation appears.”  She waved at Joe. 

“She doesn’t even know he’s here,” Heusmann argued.  “He’ll appear in trousers and a shirt, looking completely untidy, and she’ll probably think he’s your brother from the American Reich.”

“I don’t have a brother from the American Reich.”

“She does not know that, nein?” Heusmann suggested.  “Of course, your sister is always welcome.”

“My sister is in the Pacific States,” she murmured distractedly to herself.  “She must be nineteen by now.  The idea is so strange.—Joseph?  Staying?  Hilda makes wonderful eggs and it’s bound to be better than sleeping in an impersonal hotel room, however large and well appointed it is.”  She got up and Heusmann stood up with her, wrapping his hand around her waist. 

“Joseph?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll stay!” he finally agreed, looking forward to seeing Juliana in the morning.  He was beginning to think he just liked being miserable, but so desperately wanted her smiles, the brush of her fingers as she urged him forward.  Anything.  Nothing.  Now.

He walked behind his father and Juliana, the Reichsminister’s hand trailing down her side until it was clasping hers, their fingers entwined.  It was sickening how close they seemed.  Couldn’t she see that she was with a man whose own son was her age if not older?

Juliana was left at a corridor, Heusmann leaving a kiss on the back of her hand, before he showed Joe down another to a room with a suit of armor.  “There should be something for you to wear in the drawers,” he stated.  “Sleep in as long as you want.  Hilda will show you to wherever Juliana finds herself.”

Looking at his father, he not exactly asked: “Juliana said she met you in an elevator.”

“She did,” he agreed.  “I would call it Serendipity if I hadn’t been watching her come in and out of the building for nearly two weeks and made certain we were both in the elevator that day.  I rode it for a full twenty minutes before she entered.”  He gave him a smile before he left the room, closing the door.

Lucky bastard.  Joe hated his own father in that moment, but he needed to be close to Juliana.  He knew it as much as he knew he needed to breathe.

He barely slept that night and when he did, he dreamt of bright blue eyes and dark hair that he could tangle his fingers in.  When he heard movement, he eventually got up, and put on his dress trousers and shirt, putting in the cufflinks, before going down the stairs.

Finding the breakfast room fairly quickly, he heard Juliana and Heusmann’s voices rather easily. 

“I don’t think you understand,” Juliana stated carefully.  “It makes me feel so small.  How old is Joseph?  Twenty?  Twenty-two?  Older?  I’ve always felt horrible because I’m only four years older than your—next eldest son, I suppose, who died with your wife and other child.  I just—Goebbels only talks about how beautiful I am, how young, and how potentially Aryan.  You know how that makes me feel.  No one notices me for my work, for my potential—and now this.  I feel like I’m working in that geisha house again when the Chief Inspector noticed me and—”

There was rustling and then Heusmann was speaking.  “I’m not Chief Inspector Kido.  I do not desire you only for your beauty or your youth.  Yes, I think you’re beautiful, and I recognize that you’re young and can bear children.  How could I not?  But you are the most intelligent woman that I’ve come across.  Don’t think I didn’t notice what you were doing with Joseph last night.”  There was a smile in his voice.  “And how you got him to stay.  It was undeniably demonic and yet terribly attractive of you.”

“Well,” she said airily, just loud enough for Joe to hear her, “I did learn something from my time in the Pacific States.  And I knew there was a reason why I kept you around.”

“Have I asked you to marry me this morning?” he questioned, and Joe imagined how his father might be leaning toward Juliana, touching her cheek, running his fingers through her hair.

“Will you tell me Joseph’s age?”

“Twenty-five.”

She swore.  “He’s older.”

“By a year,” Heusmann admitted carefully. 

“Then ask me again,” she teased.

–And Joe thought this was the best time to enter.

Juliana looked up, smiling.  “Joseph, it’s official.  Your father and I are getting married.”  (He entered too late, it seemed.)  “Wish us joy.”

Joe looked between them.  “I wish you joy,” he stated as casually as he could.  “May I see the ring?”

Her eyes laughing, Juliana looked at Heusmann.  “Yes, Martin.  May we see the ring?”

He stood up after a moment and went to the sideboard to a filigreed box the size of a head though in the shape of an egg, opened it, and produced a smaller jewelry box.  “I thought I’d keep it here, just in case you’d eventually agree, Juliana.”  (The way he said Juliana’s name just made Joe grit his teeth.)  Heusmann opened the box and Juliana lifted her hands to her mouth and gasped.

“Oh, Martin,” she whispered, clearly astonished.  “It’s so beautiful.  I’ve never had anything quite so magnificent.”

He took out a large ring with a square cut shaped yellow diamond on a platinum band and slipped it onto her left hand.  There were several rubies around the main stone and it seemed like there was something engraved around the band, most likely in German.

Then for the first time, Joe saw his father kiss Juliana. 

She grasped his face with her two hands and kissed him tenderly, both of their eyes closed as they were lost in the moment until they pulled away.  Juliana blushed, releasing him, before turning to Joe. 

“I guess that makes us family.  The Heusmanns.”

“I guess that does,” Joe stated carefully.  “I still think of myself as ‘Joe Blake’.”

“I think of myself as ‘Juliana Crain’,” she told him conspiratorially as she pronounced her name with a hard ‘J.’  “Still, I love it when your father calls me ‘Yooliana’.  Everyone else just drives me slightly insane.”  She had taken Heusmann’s hand and they were looking at each other adoringly.  “Now, Joseph,” she stated.  “Tell me all about the girl you left back home.”

“Oh,” he stated as he looked into the dishes that were available.  Sausages and scrambled eggs.  Heusmann went to the sideboard and poured him some coffee.  “There’s no one of much importance.”

Juliana was leaning her chin against her fist.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” she told him sincerely.  Her hair fell to the side of her face and he caught the scent of her perfume.  He didn’t recognize it but it was heavenly on her.  Undoubtedly it was a gift from his father.  “Maybe we can change that while you’re here.”  Maybe he could separate her from his father and then whisk her back to New York.

Her eyes seemed to gleam and she glanced to the side at Heusmann who took whatever she was saying with her eyes as not unexpected. 

“Well,” she told him after a moment, swishing her hair behind her shoulders so that the perfume fell around her.  “I know your father wants your company sometime today, right, Martin?”

Heusmann had taken her left hand and was admiring how the ring sat on her hand.  “Indeed.—but first we should go get a license.  I don’t want to give you time to reconsider.  Joseph can serve as my witness, and then that friend of yours.  Nicole?”

“Oh, she’d love to.  I’ll give her a call.”

“You should come today, as well,” Martin decided, looking at Juliana in a way that made Joe’s skin crawl.  “I want to show you—how it all began.  If you don’t mind, Joseph.  It’s how your mother and I met—the circumstances of how we parted.  I think you deserve to know.”

Joe looked between them and then agreed.  “Let me just get changed back at the hotel.”

“Why don’t I pick you up for lunch?” Juliana stated, looking between father and son.  “Joseph and I can get to know each other better.  I think it’s important, don’t you, liebste?”  Her hand ran down Heusmann’s shoulder as if this was a well practiced movement.  “And then we’ll come pick you up at your office, and we can go—where we’re going.”

She kissed Heusmann again briefly as she left, clearly going to the telephone.

“Imagine,” Heusmann stated.  “She will probably wear trousers to the wedding tomorrow.  It will be so utterly like her.  She’ll come straight from work, and I’ll have to convince Goebbels to order her not to go back for at least forty-eight hours.”

Joe glanced at his father and then back through the door.  “What does Juliana do?”

“She is Lead Interrogator for the Greater Nazi Reich.”  (Joe was absolutely stunned.)  Heusmann looked at him, taking him in.  “Yes, it is astonishing, considering how young she is, but she has a subtle touch.  I have had the pleasure of seeing her work.  Of course, when I met her, I thought she was a courier, and was quite pleased to discover she was a woman of distinction and prominence.”

Carefully, Joe asked, “What exactly does a Lead Interrogator do?”

Heusmann looked him over.  “Use your imagination,” he suggested, taking a sip of his coffee.  “Then imagine it forty times worse, and you might be able to grasp what your future stepmother does.”  He stood, taking one last sip of coffee.  “I really must go to the registry with Juliana before she changes her mind.  I’ll call a car for you, Joseph.”

Of course, Joe couldn’t get Juliana out of his mind.  She was utterly intoxicating with her innocent, doe-eyed expression and yet seductive glances.  He wanted to possess her utterly.  He wanted to take her head between his hands and kiss her until she was utterly defenseless.  But she didn’t belong to him.  She belonged to his father.  And the idea sickened him.

When she came by in her car to the hotel for lunch, he was waiting in the lobby.  She was dressed in black slacks and a black button-down shirt with white polka-dots.  Everyone turned to look at her, and Joe was surprised at her commanding presence. 

She practically skipped up to him and looked over his shoulder to see what he was reading.  “We’re announcing our wedding tomorrow in all the papers,” she told him.  “It’s absolutely dreadful.  At least it’s not a society wedding.  You’re coming to dinner, I hope.  Please take my side and convince your father that I should remain ‘Juliana Crain.’  He so wants me to take his name, but he doesn’t seem to realize that I have a professional image to uphold.”

Joe laughed as he stood and hugged her, breathing in her hair.

“I’m not sure you’re going to win.  He’s Reichsminister.”

“Yes,” she agreed, as she gestured for him to follow her.  “I’m unfortunately aware.  Of course, I knew he was a suit when I met him.  He thinks I don’t know he was practically stalking me before I got into that elevator with him, but that will be our little secret.”

Looking at her in surprise, Joe asked, “Why did you agree to go to lunch with him, then?”

“Joseph,” she explained carefully as she climbed into the front seat.  “You’re not a woman but you have eyes.  The girls must fall all over you.  Why do you think?”

God, he loved her.  Joe sincerely hoped she didn’t see through him so easily.

Lunch was light and insignificant.  Juliana mainly asked about Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith and his family since she hadn’t seen them in two years.  She was planning on calling him that evening to inform him about her marriage the next day, as she strangely considered him a friend. 

“He has a prisoner, unfortunately,” she stated carefully, “that I want to see about.  I know you know what I do.”

“Oh?” Joe asked.  “Maybe I know him.”

“Rudolph Wegener,” she told him plainly.

Joe nodded.  “He was arrested on V-A Day when I was there.”  Joe took a sip of his beer.  “He and the Obergruppenfuhrer go far back, apparently.”

Juliana nodded.  “I can’t put in a request, unfortunately.  I need someone else to do it for me.  Goebbels, perhaps.”  She turned back to her meal.  “Thank you, Joseph.”  She looked at him with those big, blue eyes, and Joe felt utterly lost.

The next few hours were a horror for Joe.  He and Juliana wandered through the hospital where Joe had been birthed and Juliana actually retched at one point, Heusmann tending to her as Joe continued to move through the hallways. 

Sitting beside each other in a room with an abandoned cot, Juliana clunked her head against the wall.  “This is barbaric.  I’ve known about the Lebensborn for over a year, but I never imagined… As far as I know, they have nothing like this in the Japanese Empire.”

“No,” Joe imagined.  “I suppose they wouldn’t.  The Germans have always been obsessed with the purity of their race.”  He breathed out, long and low.

“They’re worse,” she finally admitted quietly, running the back of her hand across her forehead.  “They leave their wives in Japan and they use us for their sexual pleasure.  I worry about my sister in such a place.  I hope she’s smart and keeps her head down among the Prawns, but even that won’t save you sometimes.”

Joe looked over at her, confusion in his eyes.  “Did someone hurt you, Jules?”

She, however, didn’t answer.  The petname didn’t even seem to faze her, as if she’d heard it before.  “They have these houses.  Geisha houses.  They’re places for men of business to meet and be entertained.  Beautiful women sing for them, dance for them, flip fans, if you can believe it.  There are no Japanese women, so they appropriate girls of about twelve and teach them how to be geisha.  They talk and listen and pour drinks.  At least here it’s willing.”  She looked around her.  “You’re not stolen from your mother and kept in large rooms on straw mats, eating only rice.”

He had been silent, and then he realized, “What happens to the children?”

“The ones geisha have?” she stated soullessly.  “If the girls are lucky, it’s taken care of before they start showing.  If not, they’re cut from the belly.  If they can determine the Japanese Patron,” she spit it out, “sometimes the girl is given to him.  I’m not sure what happens to the child after the geisha gives birth.  I think, sometimes, that the children must become second-class citizens because they’re half-Aryan, but I honestly don’t have any idea.”

Leaning back his head, Joe understood the message.  If he thought this was bad, it was nothing compared to the Pacific States. 

“You were wanted,” she whispered, her startling blue eyes holding a strange truth.  “Your mother wanted you so much she took you away.  Your father loved you so much that he let her.—I know you don’t know Martin.  I understand that, Joseph.  Believe me, I get it.  However, I know him.  He loved the two sons he lost.  I know he mourns for them.  He would lose himself if anything happened to you.”

He looked over at her and took her hand in his, tracing the lines in her palm.  “The Japanese apparently have an art where they can read your future from your hand.”

“They do,” she stated with a small smile.  “I’ve been taught.  Perhaps one day I will read your future, Joseph.”

Joe turned everything over in his head, everything that Juliana had told him.  “I hope your sister isn’t geisha.”

“I hope so, too,” she whispered.  “From what I remember, she wasn’t that pretty of a child.  She always had dust on her face from playing in the streets and was scrambling after the boys.”  She laughed to herself.  “I always liked to keep my dresses clean and to play mahjong with my mother and her friends.”

Turning her hand over in his, Joe ran his fingers over her inner wrist, back and forth, and was surprised when this slight seduction didn’t even cause her to shiver, cementing his suspicion.  “How did they take you?”

“Oh, Joseph,” she whispered, taking her hand and tilting his head to the side so she was looking directly into his eyes.  “I was sold to them.”  Leaning forward, for a moment, he thought she was going to kiss him, but she reached up and her lips gentled over his forehead.  “It saddens Martin when he is reminded.  He doesn’t like to think there was a time when he couldn’t protect me.—However, I like to startle Japanese attachés by speaking rapidly in perfect Japanese to them.  I’m a little wicked.” 

She pulled back and clambered to her feet, then offered her hand to him.  After a moment, he took it and threw his arm over her shoulder. 

“Tell me about San Francisco,” he asked her.  “Is it true the Crown Prince and Princess were there just last month?”

“And the Crown Prince was shot!” she stated in triumph, as if she had done something to be personally involved.  Juliana came up to Heusmann and walked out of Joe’s embrace and into his father’s arms.  “Wasn’t it wonderful, liebste?  It was worth getting up early to see it happen live on television.”

“It was, Juliana,” he agreed, steering her to the back of the car where she slipped in.  Turning to his son, he asked, “I do hope you’ll be our guest again tonight, Joseph.  It would mean so much to the both of us if you made our home your own—though perhaps,” he leaned forward and whispered, “if you could make yourself scarce after the wedding, I would appreciate it.  Juliana won’t hear of taking a honeymoon until perhaps the winter.”

Joe tried to laugh.  “I think I can manage to give you two lovebirds privacy,” he stated and Heusmann turned to get into the car, Joe following.

When they were all settled and the car was moving, Heusmann asked Juliana, “Are you certain you don’t want the house tonight, Juliana?”

“No,” she demurred.  “I’ll be with Nicole tonight.  She says she will utterly transform me.  I’m not certain what that means, but she is a filmmaker, so I suppose she knows what she’s doing.”  Juliana smiled at father and son.  “It’s surprising how much you look like each other.”  She leaned forward and took them both in.  “Do you think our children will look like Joseph, Martin?”

“Well,” Heusmann stated, running his fingers over her knee.  “I think they will certainly have blue eyes given the two of us.  Their hair is a little more difficult to predict.”

Juliana’s friend Nicole joined them for dinner and drinks.  They were at an exclusive restaurant, even though Juliana wanted only beer to drink. 

Nicole leaned over to Joe and whispered, “She still prefers plum wine and sake.  I hear she has a taste for whiskey, but I’ve never caught her indulging.”  Her pretty blue eyes flicked down and then up, but Joe frankly didn’t pay attention.  How could he with perfection before him?  Nicole’s eyes flashed between him and Juliana, her lips pursing.

He drove with Nicole back to the Heusmann manor.  She was going to take Juliana back to her apartment in Berlin as, according to tradition, it was bad luck for the groom to see the bride the night before the wedding.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Nicole stated in her rather heavy German accent.  “Jules.”  He was surprised by not only the hard American “J” but the fact that he used an American nickname.  “Whatever is a young woman doing with a man who had already had a family and is well past his prime like that?—I hear the Japanese have appetites, that I doubt any Aryan of his generation could satisfy.”

He turned to her.  “What exactly are you saying, Fraulein Dormer?”

“I’m saying,” she told him, “that the Japanese are into some pretty weird shit.  And, speaking as a young woman who has had the most amazing sex on drugs, I don’t think I could go back to plain vanilla with someone like Heusmann.  It doesn’t make sense.  You’ve noticed how she looks at men.  She’s demure and kind and the perfect hostess, and then there’s that flash of something wild.  She and Martin do not fit each other.  Good gods, the woman is lead torturer in the Reich.  He wears a perfectly tailored suit every day and probably doesn’t even know what a whip is.”

Feeling a little defensive, he turned to Nicole and stated calmly and coolly, “What are you suggesting about my future stepmother?”

Nicole looked at him, pulling a cigarette from her pale pink lips and blowing out smoke.  “Right.  Okay.  You’re actually in love with her.  You’re not the first.  I’m a little in love with her myself.”

That certainly startled Joe, but he didn’t say anything, turning back to the road.  He just wanted to breathe in the smell of Juliana’s perfume again. 

“I hope I can get her to take off that Japanese necklace,” Nicole grumbled.

“What necklace?” Joe asked, suddenly curious.

Nicole laughed happily.  “You haven’t seen it.  It’s a thin piece of metal that has engraved on it something in Japanese.  It’s the one thing she’s kept from the Pacific States.  No one, as far as I can tell, can get her to take it off.  I’ve been her dearest friend since she arrived in the Fatherland and I’ve had no success.  Martin can’t make her.  Not Friedrich, her aide de camp, who is more like an older brother to her than anything.  Not some Obergruppenfuhrer in New York who mentored her.  No one.”  She sucked in more smoke from between her fingers.  “I don’t want her wearing anything Japanese at her wedding.  I’m sure you’ll agree with me.  They don’t own her anymore.  We do.”

As soon as the car stopped, he hopped out of the passenger seat, not bothering to open up the door.  He took long strides until he passed who must have been the housekeeper, Hilda, and saw Juliana with two suitcases beside her, standing next to his father.

Without even asking, he came up behind Juliana, pulled down her collar, found the clasp to a necklace of plated gold and unclipped it.

Juliana gasped, clutching her neck as she turned around, to see Joe holding it in his hand.

Nicole was standing in the door in shock.

“I’ll give it back,” he promised.  “After your honeymoon.”  Joe smiled at her.

“That’s—” Juliana began, her face full of horror.

“Japanese,” he agreed.

“Itsuki!” she desperately whispered.  “That’s Itsuki!  Aiko!  Yuri!”  Reaching out for it, Joe nevertheless stepped back, the necklace in his pocket.

“I don’t know what those words mean,” he responded calmly, looking over Juliana’s shoulder to his father, who seemed both relieved and worried.  “But Itsuki is safe in my pocket.  Nothing Japanese for your wedding, Juliana.  New start.”

She snatched out toward him, but Heusmann pulled her back and began whispering to her in German.  Juliana was clearly agitated, but Joe’s father ran his hands up and down her arms, still whispering to her.  Finally, she whispered something to him and horror crossed his face.  “I don’t understand,” he murmured.

“No,” she agreed.  “Please, keep it in your pocket tomorrow, Martin.  Please.  For me.  I won’t wear it if you keep it in your pocket the entire time.”

Clearly not understanding, he nodded, and took the necklace from Joe.  After showing it to her, he put it in his breast pocket.  “There, it’s safe,” he promised her.  “Itsuki is safe.”

“They will never be safe,” she replied cryptically.  “I have to live with that knowledge every day of my life.”

She embraced Heusmann for a long moment, running her hand up into his hair, kissing his cheek, before she pulled away.  The driver had come in and taken her cases and Juliana went up to Nicole, completely ignoring Joe, and the two friends left through the door.

After Joe heard Nicole drive off and Hilda had closed the front doors, Heusmann demanded: “What possessed you to do that?”

“Nicole was telling me about the necklace,” he explained, “and how she didn’t want her wearing anything Japanese at your wedding.  I happen to agree with her.  When we were at the birthing house, Juliana told me about the geisha houses. I figured it came from one of them.  Maybe it’s some kind of brand.  I may not have been the most studious kid, but I’ve read about the camps and the numbers we put on the arms of the Semites.  What if they don’t want to ruin their merchandise and instead put beautiful necklaces on them?”

Heusmann was obviously infuriated.  “This was a matter between a man and his wife, Joseph.  You had no right to interfere.  I have made my peace with that necklace months ago.  Now you’ve emotionally traumatized your mother the night before her wedding.”  He turned around so his back was to Joe, running his hand down his face.

Joe was absolutely stunned.  He didn’t think of Juliana as his “mother.”  “Stepmother” was bad enough.  Deciding he had to make it clear, Joe stated firmly: “I had a mom.  She died back in Brooklyn.  Juliana will be my stepmother.  I’d rather think of her as a sister, if I’m entirely honest.”  Well, if he were honest, then Joe wanted to think of her as the mother of his future children, but that was a more longterm objective. 

Rolling his eyes, Heusmann stated clearly, “I’m not going to refer to her as your ‘sister’.  She will be my wife this time tomorrow.  With Itsuki in my pocket or on the dresser upstairs.  She is your stepmother, then, Joseph—and from now on you will show her respect, even cultural respect.  Juliana is not from the Fatherland.  She is not from the American Reich.  She is from a world we can barely understand.  She may have told you about the geisha houses, and I’m glad she did.  You probably needed to hear about them.  However, the culture in them is nothing like the Pacific States.  I’ve been to a few when traveling as the Reichsminister, and I have never told your stepmother this because I didn’t want to cause her pain.  It’s a strange fusion of Japanese culture with American girls they’ve trained to be Japanese.  I understand when she first came to New York, she wouldn’t speak a word of English.  When she first came to Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith’s attention, she was still behaving as if she were Japanese although she’d proven herself to be a talented interrogator.  He took her into his house and had to reteach her what it was to be Aryan.  Joseph,” he stated carefully, coming up to his son and placing a hand on his shoulder.  “Your stepmother had to be reeducated.  The Japanese reeducated her when she was a child, and we had to do the same with respect, calmness, and love.  Now she is the perfection of the Aryan woman and no one in the Fatherland can tell that she has been anything but a ruthless interrogator and a modest woman who glitters in society.—Do you understand?”

Looking at his father, Joe was a little shell shocked.  “Yes,” he agreed.

Gut, gut.  Now I must sleep for the first time in four months without Juliana in my arms, excepting the times she’s out on assignment.”

Stunned, Joe startled.  “I thought Juliana didn’t know where you slept.”

“She knows where I sleep,” he argued with a smirk.  “However, Juliana only knows because Hilda placed her in my room when she first moved in.”  There seemed to be more to the story, but Heusmann didn’t share it with him.  Instead, he clapped Joe on the shoulder before moving into the house.  “Drink, Joseph?”

Well, he definitely needed one.  After a time, Heusmann took the necklace out of his pocket and began to examine it.  “I’ve never really seen it off of Juliana’s neck,” he admitted, “and it is so close to her throat, that it’s difficult to read.”

Joe moved so he was sitting directly next to his father, his drink in his hand.  “What does it say?”

“I don’t know,” Heusmann admitted, moving it back and forth so the light reflected off it.  “It’s all in Japanese.  But here.”  He pointed.  “There are three groups of characters with lines separating them.”

Something caught Joe’s eye and he took it in his hand and turned it over.  There, in perfect English, was written in beautiful calligraphy: jewel of my life.

“Jewel,” Joe murmured.  “Jules.  It’s clearly a nickname for Juliana.”

“And whoever gave this to her,” Heusmann stated dangerously, “thought that Juliana had great worth.”  He took the necklace back and slipped it back into his pocket.  “The key is the word ‘Itsuki’.  I wonder if the Ambassador is accepting calls.”  He downed his drink and walked out of the room toward where Joe knew was his office, where he must have a telephone.

He didn’t come back.

After another drink and a half, Joe went looking for his father.  He found him sitting behind a desk, his tie loosened and his uppermost button undone.  “It’s a name,” he told Joe without even having to be asked.  “I described the necklace, and it is the type of necklace that became popular in the war when mothers lost their sons in battle.  The Ambassador thinks ‘Itsuki’ might be the name of the wearer’s son.  “Aiko’ and the other word I can’t remember are both names.  ‘Aiko’ is the name of a woman, anyway.”  He looked completely lost.  Then, in a fit of rage, he cleared his desk with his hand in an angry sweep.  Breathing heavily, Heusmann admitted brokenly, “I don’t like the idea of any Japanese bastard getting my wife with child.”

Neither did Joe, if he was entirely honest.  He didn’t like the idea of his father having the honor, either, but this was clearly worse.

“Hey,” Joe reasoned, sitting down carefully.  “She gave you the necklace.  That means something.  She’s letting go.”

“So help me, Joseph,” Heusmann swore, “I will find the yellow-skinned monkey who did this and I will run him through with a baton myself.  My wife was a slave.  She had just enough of herself left to defect.  I’ve respected her by never looking into her classified file, only reading the official one.  I think that will have to change.”  He tapped his fingers against the wood of his desk.  “I love that woman with all that I have, Joseph.  It is providential that she finally agreed to marry me when you were here.  I think you gave her a sense of family that was missing before.”  His blue eyes turned to Joe, who was surprised at the earnestness in them.  “Thank you, my son.  I can never repay you.”

Joe leaned back, taking in his father for a long moment.  “How did you know you loved her?”

Heusmann smiled to himself and got up and went to a decanter and poured two glasses of whiskey.  “I remember the first time I saw Juliana,” he stated, looking off into the distance. 

He handed Joe his glass, and Joe looked into it as if it held the answers to how he had fallen in love with his father’s future wife.

“It had to do with that ridiculous elevator,” he admitted, laughing.  Heusmann took a sip before he turned to the desk and looked at Joe with familiar blue eyes.  “She was delivering files on an interrogation to Braband and I was coming out on that floor.  I was standing with my hand in my pocket, and I looked up as the elevator doors opened.  I saw her standing there, all in black.  Perhaps you noticed that she likes to wear dark colors?”

Joe nodded and motioned with his glass that his father should continue.

“Her hair,” Heusmann mused, “was falling down around her face, and she was holding a briefcase, as black as her skirt and blouse.”  He smiled at the memory.  “I think I fell instantly in love as soon as my eyes met hers and she stepped into the elevator.  She asked me, ‘Going down?’  I would have happily ridden down with her, but someone called out to me.”  He shrugged.  “I can’t remember who.—I had to leave Juliana, then.  Not knowing her name, why she was there.  I barely got a glimpse of her left hand to see that she wasn’t wearing a wedding band.”

He paused for a long second.

“My wife and children had been dead for over twenty years at that point, but I still wore my wedding ring.  I remember feeling so grateful my left hand had been in my pocket, and when I got home, I took off my ring for the first time since I put it on.”  He turned in his chair and indicated a shelf, which had an engraved glass box.  “I keep it there.  It was time.”

Furrowing his brows, Joe suddenly realized, “Do you have the rings for tomorrow?”

Heusmann scoffed.  “Of course I do.  I’ve had them since I bought the engagement ring.  They’re quite Teutonic with runes inscribed in them.  I think Juliana will appreciate them.”  He turned back to his drink.  Changing the subject abruptly, Heusmann implored, “Please say you’ll stay here in the Fatherland with me and your stepmother.  You have so much potential, Joseph.  You can take time to discover where your talents lie.  You might meet a nice German girl, since you don’t have anyone back in New York.  I don’t think you want to be stealing and relaying films for the Fuhrer for the rest of your days.”

“No, Sir,” Joe answered honestly.  “I wanted to make you proud, even though I didn’t know who you were.”  The last bit was admitted into his drink.

Heusmann must have heard him because he smiled to himself.  “Your stepmother and I both read your mission files when Smith sent them.  I didn’t let Juliana, at first, but she knows Obergruppenfuhrer Smith so well.  She thinks of him as a father, I suspect, and although I didn’t tell her who you were, she finds any piece of information about the Pacific States fascinating.”  He looked up suddenly.  “You met a girl.  Trudy Walker.  On one of your trips.”

Confused by the sudden change of topic, Joe admitted, “Yeah, Trudy.  Canyon City.  She had a film herself.  I managed to recover it from her along with mine.  We nearly got shot actually.  I convinced her that I was going to take both of them into the mountains to find the Man in the High Castle and instead reported back to New York City.”

Smiling, Heusmann deduced: “She fell in love with you.”

Joe shrugged.  “I didn’t fall in love with her.”  How could he when such a contradiction of perfection existed in Juliana Crain, even if they hadn’t even met yet?

“I think,” Heusmann admitted, “that your stepmother knows Trudy Walker.  She read that file again and again.  It’s rather worn because of it.  If you do ever go back to New York and somehow find Trudy Walker, whatever may happen between the two of us as Father and Son, I would take it as a great kindness to your stepmother if you would send word about this individual.”

Thinking for a moment, Joe admitted, “I don’t think they can know each other from a geisha house.  From what I could tell, Trudy was underfed, hated the Japs, and didn’t speak a word that wasn’t English.  She was as unrefined and as uncultured by Aryan standards—and I imagine Japanese ones as well—as they come.”

At first Heusmann didn’t answer.  “There’s some sort of history.  I don’t pretend to know everything about Juliana.  I don’t think I can.  I don’t understand the type of life she lived.  However, Joseph, when you find a woman who loves you with her whole heart even when she’s scared to love, you know you have found something truly wonderful.”

Shocked, Joe finished his drink.  He didn’t see Juliana as a woman who was frightened, at least not until he took that necklace away. 

She was unfolding like the most delicate bloom, and the more he saw of her, the more Joe loved her.  He longed to go to Nicole’s, wherever she lived, and stand under Juliana’s window.  He would pick up pebbles like in the old Americana stories, and throw them until she opened the sash, her hair falling around her face, her eyes lighting up.  He would beg her to climb down or would climb up himself—just as long as he could kiss her sweet lips and know that one day soon she would be his.

Something shifted, and Heusmann was looking at him knowingly, as if he could read his mind.

“Bed, I think, Joseph.  I will be standing and swearing to the old German gods to keep your stepmother safe with the sword, of all things.  I haven’t held a weapon in decades.” He stood and Joe did the same. 

They walked up the stairs together and Joe saw Heusmann walk down the same hallway that Juliana had gone down the night before. 

His suitcase had been brought earlier and it seemed like Hilda had unpacked for him.  His formal black suit was laid out with a red Nazi armband.  A red tie had even appeared, which had a Swastika on it.  It seemed like they would be fitted out for the Party, although no one was coming.  One of the four Reichsministers of the Greater Nazi Reich was getting married, and everything would be on form and done to Nazi perfection.

Joe fell asleep to thoughts of Juliana in his mind.

“I love you,” he whispered as he reached out to the empty pillow beside him, wishing her head was lying next to him. 

He woke up alone.

Dressing meticulously, Joe brushed his hair and found Swastika cufflinks which he put on.  He supposed he looked the image of the Aryan male now.  Heusmann was already awake and eating breakfast.  He was dressed similarly although he was wearing a white bowtie and a medal under it and was sporting a sash across his chest, beneath his jacket. 

“Ah, Joseph,” he greeted.  “We’re expected at the registry at ten.”

Joe looked at the clock.  He had a little over an hour until they had to be in Berlin.

Nicole was beautiful with her hair pinned back, a black dress hugging her form with a black hat and half veil on her head. 

However, it was Juliana who took his breath away.  He had no idea she was a member of the military.  Instead of wearing slacks as his father had predicted or some type of wedding dress, she had appeared in full military regalia.  Instead of pressed trousers, she was wearing a pleated black skirt that went past her knees and black boots.  She had on a black military jacket with several distinctions on it, a medal around her neck, her glorious hair pulled back into an elaborate twist, a military hat placed on her head.  Her blue eyes were shining out at them as they approached the bride and her bridesmaid.

“Juliana,” Heusmann breathed, leaning forward and kissing her gently.  “You take my breath away.”

“You’ve never seen me like this, have you?” she teased, a soft smile on her face.  “I thought I’d bring some distinction to the occasion, although Nicole was hoping I’d wear a white wedding gown.”  She threw her friend a glance of annoyance.

Joe still hadn’t caught his breath.  He couldn’t wrap his mind around the fact that Juliana was an officer.  However, it fit her so perfectly.  It was as if she had been born to wear the uniform of the Schutzstaffel or SS.

“Jules,” he greeted, coming up to her and taking her hands from his father.  “I had no idea.  What’s your rank?”

Brigadefuhrer,” she answered.  “The youngest fuhrer in the Reich.—You look dashing, Joseph.”

It was painful standing beside his father as he married the woman Joe loved so deeply, although Joe had only known her for a matter of days.  He listened as they recited their vows, as Juliana pledged her womb and her hearth and her fidelity to his father.  He watched as Heusmann slid off her military glove from her left hand and slipped on a thick gold ring that, as he had promised, had runes inscribed on it.

Of course, Joe was so wrapped up in the ceremony, he didn’t realize that others had gathered behind them.  When Juliana turned to Heusmann and kissed him, a camera went off and there was clapping.  Smiling, the couple looked toward the flash to see a regalia of military officers and politicians standing there. 

Nicole leaned in.  “There’s a reason why Goebbels is my godfather,” she murmured just loud enough for Joe to hear. 

Juliana laughed as she took Heusmann’s arm and the four of them posed for photographs before they were invited back to a reception hall for drinks and cake.  Joe was introduced to so many people that he was shocked.  They had all heard of him, and suddenly he was ‘Joseph Heusmann.’  Still, he was associated with “Joe Blake” (he thought he heard someone say it was his codename)—but now he was becoming a part of the Greater Reich culture. 

He was surprised when an officer, about ten years older than him, walked over.  “Joseph Heusmann?” he asked.

When Joe nodded, the man took a deep breath.

“My name is unimportant.  I am your stepmother’s aide de camp.  If you do anything to step out of line, I am the least of your concerns.  Nod if you understand me.”

Joe was completely shocked, but the man beside him was utterly frightening.  Taking a sip of his wine, he nodded.

“Good.  You’re not alone.  Half the Reich is in love with Brigadefuhrer Heusmann.  As long as they just look and not touch, then you won’t have a problem with any of the highest ranking officials of the Reich.  Goebbels might be your godfather, but Juliana Heusmann is like a daughter to him, an actual daughter, more than anyone else even though she is not Lebensborn.  Obergruppenfuhrer Smith views her like his eldest child and Reichsmarschall George Lincoln Rockwell is rumored to have wanted to marry her.”

“How does she inspire such devotion?” Joe asked carefully.

“I thought that was obvious,” the aide de camp stated.  “She has the ability to make nearly any man fall in love with her.  She has a raw vulnerability and a strong Aryan strength—a combination that any German male would find intoxicating.  She is both victory to be achieved and the maiden to be rescued from a magical fire.—Be careful.  She has made her choice, and clearly it wasn’t you.”  Then, the officer walked away, leaving Joe completely perplexed.

When, at half past four, Heusmann finally took his bride’s hand and ran with her out toward their waiting car, everyone cheered and threw rice at them.  Joe knew what would happen next.

As per his instructions, Joe had to make himself scarce for the next two nights when his father was hoping to have the house completely to himself and his bride.  Even Hilda was being forced to stay in the kitchen and only bring out food into the dining areas when asked to.

Scuffing his shoes and meaning to catch a ride back to the hotel, where Joe had decided to spend his short exile, Joe was surprised when Nicole came up to him and hooked her arm in his. 

“It is unfortunate,” she opened, “that the Fuhrer is so unwell that he was unable to attend.”

Joe had nothing to say.  There were rumors about Adolph Hitler’s health, and none of them were good.

“I think,” Nicole stated, tapping his shoulder with her finger, “that you need to relax.  Your father is married and happy!  We need to put a smile on your face.”

Stopping, Joe turned to her.  “And you think you can do that?”

“If you get changed, I can take you to a party.  It started a few hours ago, but it will be going all night.  All of us Lebensborn.  And a few others.”  She smiled up at him.  “Come, we’ll get you into something a little less formal, then back to mine where I can get out of these heels, and then we’ll be off.”

They ended up at a cabin and Joe was given some pills.   It was strange.  Joe was watching everyone shiver and move and then he was out in the woods.  Juliana walked up to him, looking at him with her startling blue eyes.

“What are you doing here, Jules?” he asked, but she merely shook her head and smiled.

Holding out her hand for him, he took it. 

He kissed her there among the trees.  If she had that strange Japanese necklace around her neck, Joe didn’t notice.  Her fingers were smooth without a wedding band, and he pushed her down onto a couch, which was somehow there in the woods.  He breathed her name against her skin as he kissed a pathway down her stomach to her hipbone.  Juliana gasped, her hands coming into his hair, before she pulled him back up for a kiss.

Joe woke up, naked, twined around Nicole.

He had never felt so alone.

Joe spent the rest of the time in his hotel room and going about Berlin as a tourist.  Part of him thought he should call Rita and tell her that he wasn’t coming back, but he didn’t.  Somehow he felt like he should just leave it all behind and not even acknowledge it at all. 

When he finally turned up at his father’s house, Juliana was in her office, on the telephone, speaking rapidly in what seemed like French or Italian.  Joe couldn’t be sure.

“Back to the grind?” Joe asked Heusmann.

“I kept her away from that horrible thing for thirty-six hours.  I count myself fortunate,” Heusmann laughed.  “She’s trying to get ahold of some prisoner in the American Reich but everyone’s arguing over jurisdiction.”

“Wegener,” Joe agreed.  “Yeah, I was there when he was arrested.”

“She’s trying to do everything but call Obergruppenfuhrer Smith.  Juliana doesn’t like calling in favors, but she may have to,” Heusmann answered. 

Just watching Juliana, Joe fell even deeper in love with her.  That night, he was glad that he seemed to be hallways away from his father and his new bride.  He had to watch as Juliana teased Heusmann until he finally picked her up and swung her over his shoulder before carrying her off as if he were a Germanic tribesman who had just raided her village and was now carrying off the spoils of war. 

Looking up through her hair over her husband’s shoulder, Juliana winked at Joe before she gave in to her husband’s whims and let him carry her up the stairs to their room.

Joe was under no illusions as to what they got up to every night.  If he had Juliana in his bed, he would be making love to her every possible moment.  He’d even walked in on them once when he was looking for Heusmann and had gone into his office without knocking.

Juliana had been straddling his lap and unbuttoning her shirt, which was now mostly off than on—and his father—was enjoying the view.  That was the polite way of putting it.  He certainly had his lips all down her neck and cleavage.

Still, she didn’t seem to wear the necklace.

No one mentioned it.

At a quiet dinner at home one night when they were all there for once, Heusmann presented Juliana with a thin strand of pearls, which he hooked around her neck.  He kissed her temple without saying a word, and she smiled at him sadly, as silent as he was.

Still, she never took it off.

Joe even found Juliana wandering one morning at five a.m. in a nightgown and a robe, the pearls around her neck. 

Sometimes she would take trips with her aide de camp.  When it first occurred, Joe sat down for breakfast and asked, “Where’s Jules?”

“Poland,” Heusmann responded, putting down his teacup.  “There’s a prisoner who required her immediate attention.  She left several hours ago.”  He grimaced, but it seemed that Heusmann was quite used to this.

She returned three days later, an entire suitcase sent out for cleaning.  Juliana kissed Heusmann long and slow when she thought that Joe wasn’t watching, before she entered the house and greeted Joe with a hug.

The call came in the middle of the night.

Joe hadn’t heard it.  He was too deep asleep and he was dreaming of what it would be like to run his fingers down Juliana’s neck. 

The door opened with a knock, and he turned to see Heusmann in the light streaming in from the hallway.

“Father?”

Carefully, Heusmann came in and sat down on the end of the bed.  “Juliana has been called to New York.  There is a difficult situation there and she has been requested specifically.  It’s classified and they can’t give her details even on a secure line.”  He took a deep breath and he looked at Joe.  His blue eyes were pale in the moonlight.  “Joseph.  I have a bad feeling about this.  I feel like the Pacific States are involved.  Call it intuition.  I trust her aide de camp, but I don’t want her to be alone—without family.  Will you go with her?  I cannot leave with the Fuhrer being so ill.  Joseph,” he begged, true fear in his eyes.

Immediately, Joe sat up.  “Of course, Father,” he agreed.  “I would do anything for Juliana, you know that.”

“I know you love her,” Heusmann stated calmly.

When Joe made to argue, he continued:

“I know you are in love with her.  I have eyes.  Because of this, I know you will take care of her, and I believe you will uphold the family honor.  I know my wife.  I trust her.  I trust you.  Take care of her.  She is the best part of me, Joseph.”

Staring at each other for a long moment, Joe then nodded.  “I’ll pack.”

Heusmann smiled.  “Thank you, Joseph.”

He left as quietly as he had come.

Joe was ready within fifteen minutes and he came down the stairs to his father in a pressed suit and Juliana with two suitcases, in her full military regalia.  Apart from the wedding, Joe hadn’t seen it, so he supposed she was trying to make a statement of some sort.

Heusmann drove them personally to the airport.  The aide de camp met them there. 

Letting his father and Juliana say their goodbyes, which were admirably restrained since they were in public, Joe then took one of Juliana’s suitcases and walked with her toward security.  Juliana turned back once toward his father, and Joe looked at her, giving her a wan smile.

“Are you all right?” Joe asked.  It turned out that flying made Juliana ill.

“Yes,” she agreed as she came to sit next to him.  They were being flown first class by the Reich although poor Heinrich (the aide de camp) was stuck back in second.  “It’s the turbulence.”

There was no turbulence.  The flight was absolutely smooth.

Still, Joe didn’t question her.

“So, may I ask who called you back?  Was it Smith?  We’re going to New York.”  Joe looked at her with his pale blue eyes. 

“It was John,” she admitted, taking a sip of her ginger ale that he had gotten for her, although he was drinking a whiskey and soda.  “He could tell me absolutely nothing other than there was a representative from the Pacific States.  I tried to keep it from your father, but he saw my face.  I’m talented in hiding my emotions, but somehow Martin has always been able to read me.”

“Perhaps,” Joe murmured as he leaned in, “that’s because he loves you.”

She laughed a little.  “Perhaps that’s it,” she agreed.  “Still, I want to show the Pacific States who they’re dealing with.  Brigadefuhrer Juliana Heusmann.”  She pronounced her name flawlessly in German, which was strange to hear from her lips.  Turning to him, she asked, “Do I get to meet this person of no importance?”

Joe laughed fully now.  “She is unimportant.”

“Still, I’m curious,” she admitted.  “Who is the girl that Joseph Heusmann didn’t mind leaving behind?”

“I minded leaving her son,” he admitted.  “I liked being a father.  Buddy was a great kid.”

She looked at him indulgently.  “Well, I can’t predict when that will happen, and I can’t speak for my own situation, but perhaps you’ll have a little brother or sister in a year or two.  I imagine you’ll be good with him.  I see that in you, Joseph.”

He smiled at her sadly.  “I’d love any child of yours,” he swore.

They both seemed to realize that he didn’t mention his father or a child of his father’s.  Martin Heusmann didn’t matter in this moment.  Only Juliana Crain Heusmann.

Opening up her lips as if to say something, she then closed them and turned back to her drink.  “I feel a little queasy.”

Joe pressed the back of his hand to her cheek.  “Are you sure you’re well?  You haven’t been eating for the past week,” he remarked.

She glanced at him and shrugged it off.  “Turbulence, as I said.  Don’t worry, Joseph.”

New York was as he remembered it.  Juliana had vomited twice more even though they had only been in the air for another hour and fifteen minutes.  The stewardess even came over with extra crackers for her.  If Joe weren’t so worried about Juliana, he would have found it humorous that the stewardess thought that he was her husband.

Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith was waiting for the party of three and immediately greeted Juliana by kissing her cheeks.  “Let me get a look at you,” he stated, holding her back so he could take her in.  “Brigadefuhrer in three years.  It’s unheard of, Juliana!”

“You dreamt in, John,” she replied, stepping into his arms and hugging him close.  “I’ve missed you and Helen so much.  How is Thomas?  The girls?”

“Well,” he told he as he shook Joe’s hand.  “All looking forward to seeing you, Juliana.  Well, Helen is.  I’ve kept you a secret from the children.  I thought it would be a lovely surprise.—Joe!  Look at you.  Fulfilling your destiny.  Why ever are you here?  Not that I’m displeased to see you.”

“I’m a bride, John,” Juliana interjected.  “Do you think my husband would let me travel across the ocean with only my aide de camp?  He would have me in the home bearing his children already if I weren’t such an asset to the Reich!”

John Smith put his hands in his pockets and laughed.  “I can’t see you giving up so easily, Juliana, however you would be a beautiful mother.”

He led them to a waiting car and their cases were put in the trunk. 

When they were finally seated, Heinrich in the front, Juliana asked carefully, “Who is it?”

“You’re not going to like it,” Smith told her, handing over a file.  “You’re not going to like any of it.  You’ll see why we need you.”

She opened the file he handed her and stared for a moment before flipping up a page and reading rapidly.  “You’re sure it’s her?”

“She’s been identified by Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido,” John Smith apologized, resting his hand over hers when he turned to face her.  “I wouldn’t ask you to do this if it weren’t so important, Juliana.”

“How does he know who she is?” Juliana asked after a long moment. 

John Smith breathed out.  “I don’t know.  As far as I could tell, she’s not geisha.  She seems to just be running the films.”

Suddenly, Joe realized who they were talking about: “Trudy Walker.”

Juliana’s bluer than blue eyes rested on him for a long moment.  “Yes,” she agreed.  “Trudy.  She’s my sister.”

“Trudy’s your sister?” he asked in shock.  “I had no idea.”

“No,” she agreed.  “No one knew my sister’s name back in the Fatherland for a reason.  Not even Martin.”  Turning back to the file, she flipped through it. 

When they arrived at Headquarters, Juliana exited first and immediately waited for John Smith before following him in.  The party of four were saluted wherever they went.  Joe, perhaps, shouldn’t have been surprised when, immediately in the entrance, a high ranking officer was waiting for them.

“George,” Juliana greeted, stepping around John Smith, and leaning forward to air kiss the cheeks of the officer.  He took her hands and looked into her blue eyes.

“Juliana.  You flew off to the Fatherland and married a Reichsminister.  My heart is broken.”

“Your heart is not broken, George,” she responded fluidly.  “I’m sure you have entertained many young women since I left these shores and—if you remember—we’ve never been alone together, not even at a table in a restaurant.”

“Something I deeply regret to this day,” he argued.  “Marriage has given you a glow.  Remarkable!”  His eyes roved over her face.  “Yes, quite remarkable.  Do say you will have dinner with me some night you are here, Brigadefuhrer.”

Joe noticed how he suddenly switched to her rank.  It was almost as if he were ordering her.  However, it seemed like Juliana wasn’t going to take it.

“Only if I may bring my stepson,” she argued.  Turning, she motioned to Joe who stepped forward and saluted the man.  “Consul Joseph Heusmann, may I present, Reichsmarschall George Lincoln Rockwell?”

Rockwell looked him over.  “I’m surprised your husband sent a handsome specimen of Aryan manhood with you, Juliana,” he stated, not quite a tease, not yet a threat.  “Dinner.  My office will be in touch.”

She saluted him and, with that, the Reichsmarschall left.

Juliana exchanged a look with Joe before turning back to John Smith.

They were escorted to Obergruppenfuhrer Smith’s office where Juliana fortified herself before she entered.  She immediately saluted a thin bespectacled Japanese man who took her in dispassionately as he bowed to them. 

“You did not tell me that you had sent for Juliana Crain,” the man stated as he looked back at John Smith.  “I am confused at the connection.”

“Well,” Smith answered as he indicated that everyone should sit.  “Brigadefuhrer Heusmann is our Lead Interrogator and she knows Trudy Walker quite well.  Since childhood, in fact.”

In a harsh voice, the man stated carefully, “I was unaware.”  He looked directly at Juliana.  “You should have told me, Jewel.”

Joe caught the nickname and how it was the same on the necklace that, to his knowledge, Juliana still wasn’t wearing.  “You will address my stepmother by her title: Brigadefuhrer,” Joe warned carefully, looking this man in the eye.

Shifting, John Smith introduced: “This is Consul Joseph Heusmann,” (he had a passable German accent) “and the, of course, Brigadefuhrer’s aide de camp.  They came to assist with the interrogation given the delicate balance of it.  As you know, the Brigadefuhrer has not been in contact with her family since she was eleven.  We estimate that Trudy was three.  She won’t recognize Juliana Heusmann.”  (It was surprising to hear him give the German pronunciation of Jules’s name, again, as he had greeted her with the American name.  Still, Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith was making a very clear point.)  “She may think she is dead or in Japan.  I doubt she ever considered she was in New York or where she currently resides, Berlin.”  He had folded his fingers between each other and appeared perfectly calm.

In the ensuing silence, Juliana spoke.  “I brought an old dress, something I normally would have thrown away years ago.  I thought if I wore it, Trudy might be more receptive to me than my usual clothing and especially my uniform.”

“No,” Joe stated suddenly, reaching toward Juliana and resting his hand on her elbow.  “What do you usually wear?”

She shrugged.  “Black slacks.  Black shirt of some sort.  It’s easier to hide blood stains on black.”

“This won’t be your usual interrogation,” Heinrich pointed out.  “I don’t think there will be any blood.”

“No,” Joe agreed, “but I want Juliana to be comfortable.  She hasn’t seen her sister in more than a decade.  We shouldn’t dress her up.  We should show Trudy ‘Juliana Heusmann.’”  This time he used the German pronunciation.  “I think it’s important that we show her this is not a girl from the Pacific States and that she is not, excuse me, geisha.  Juliana is someone quite different.”

At the term geisha, the Japanese man looked up suddenly.  Then he stated something calmly and coolly in Japanese.

Juliana didn’t react at all.


There was a tense moment.  Then, finally, Juliana asked: “Chief Inspector, how did you like my gift?”

He tilted his head, the light gleaming off of the perfect circles of his spectacles.

Wetting her lips, Juliana continued.  “She had firm shoulders, a wide back.  Buxom, I think the Americans would call her.  I really wouldn’t know.  Blonde Aryan hair but from a bottle.  I could tell by the time I got her as her hair had grown out a bit.  She tried to defect, but had no useful information.  You see, even though it was two years ago, I can remember it.  I was called in to authenticate her claims, and she had nothing.  Only one word: ‘Jewel,’ and I think we both know that she had no idea what that meant.”

At first Joe thought the Japanese man, this Chief Inspector, would reply harshly, but finally he spoke in a cool voice.  “I remember your gift quite well, Brigadefuhrer.  I doubt there will be any in the future.”  He paused.  “Now.  Trudy Walker.  She is operating in our territory with these films but we have no information except, now, that she is the Brigadefuhrer’s sister.  No one is even certain if she was trying to defect.”

“No,” Joe argued.  “I doubt it.  I met her a few months ago in the Neutral Zone.”  He glanced at Juliana, their blue eyes meeting.  “Still, I want to hear what she has to say.”

Pushing herself up and touching the back of her hand to her lips momentarily as if she were feeling ill, Juliana declared, “I should change.”

Given how long it took Juliana, Joe wasn’t entirely uncertain if she wasn’t ill.  He knew full military regalia took awhile, but she came out with her face slightly damp.

She was wearing thin slippers that were unlike anything Joe had ever seen, black bellbottom trousers, a belt, and then a black wrap around blouse that was obviously inspired by Japanese culture.  Her hair was pulled up in a high ponytail.  She was utterly glorious.  The pearl necklace was around her throat and a hint of gold at her wrist, that Joe had noticed once or twice before.  Her wedding band flashed gold. 

Heinrich followed her into the room and went to a typewriter in the corner, sitting down and getting ready.

Trudy was in a large padded room, one wall completely glass.  Joe was standing beside Obergruppenfuhrer Smith, Chief Inspector Kido on his other side—all of them looking through the glass to the padded room beyond it.

Juliana walked up to her sister and sat down next to her.  Trudy was in white prison garb, her knees pulled up to her chest, her dark hair lank and cut to her shoulders.

“Hi, Gertie,” Juliana greeted, not looking at her sister, her eyes instead meeting Joe’s.  “How’s the food?”

Trudy startled and looked over and then Juliana looked back. 

The sisters barely resembled each other except perhaps the point to the chin.  Trudy’s hair was a dull brown.  Juliana’s that strange brown with red that shone in even the darkest light.  Trudy’s eyes were a dark brown.  Juliana’s that startling blue.  Juliana was taller with smaller breasts, slightly wider hips.  Her shoulders were more pronounced.  Trudy’s figure was unremarkable.  Trudy’s skin was yellow with jaundice and Juliana—was glowing and yet pale, which was strange.

“I missed you,” Trudy whispered.  “You left so long ago, Jules.”

It seemed she did recognize her sister, then.  Juliana didn’t even blink, but she smiled slightly. 

“I’m sorry, Gertie,” she told her.  “The Prawns came—”

Trudy folded in on herself.  “The Prawns always come.”

Joe leaned toward John Smith.  “What’s a ‘Prawn’?” he asked.

It was Chief Inspector Kido who answered.  “Us.  The Japanese.”  His voice was deadly cold and he turned back toward Joe for a moment, his hands behind his back, before he resumed looking at the two young women in the room beyond the glass.

Juliana was leaning in toward her sister, and was smiling a little.  “I met a boy.  He’s really cute, Gertie.  He said he met you.  Joe?  Joe Blake?  Do you know him?”

For a moment, Trudy didn’t react and Joe held his breath.  Then, Trudy stretched out one leg, the other still held to her chest.  “You know Joe?” she asked in a breath.

“Yeah,” Juliana admitted quietly, blushing.  “I—he brought me these films for me to give to, well, Him,” she nudged Trudy’s shoulder.  “I was hoping he’d ask me for a drink, but he had to go back to the American Reich.”

Trudy sighed.  “I wish he didn’t live there.  I wanted to kiss him goodbye so badly, but he said he had a girl back home.  Rita.”

Joe had never given Juliana that name.  He’d only given it to Trudy so that she wouldn’t get ideas.  Still, Juliana showed absolutely no response.

“Yeah, some girls get all the luck,” Juliana decided on.  “Still, I made the run for him.  You should have seen it.  It was so amazing, Gertie, where he is.  Have you ever been?”

Suddenly full of energy, Trudy’s arms waved, almost hitting Juliana.  “He showed me one of the films.  It showed me you, Jules.  I didn’t know it was you, but looking at you, I can see it was you.  Does that make sense?”  There was a wildness in her eyes.  “You were sitting with this Prawn with three children on a blanket with a picnic.  He said it was a different future.  A future where you were allowed to keep your children.”

“Shit,” Joe swore, remembering the necklace. 

The Chief Inspector ground his teeth, but looked steadily through the glass.

“Did he do it to you?” Trudy asked suddenly, clearly catching Juliana unaware.

“Do what, Gertie?”

“They say the Japs do it so you don’t get pregnant.”  She was looking up at the ceiling as if there were something on it.

“She’s on a slight hallucinogenic,” John Smith informed them.  “She’s probably seeing butterflies.  It makes her more likely to trust.”  That did not, however, explain how Trudy possibly knew about the three children—the three children which the Chief Inspector seemed to know about as well.

Juliana had stretched her hands over her head in a way that Joe had seen her do when she was about to go to bed and was trying to release the stress of the day.  “What do they do to keep girls from getting pregnant, Gertie?  How would you know?”  She was looking at her sister.

“I know you are geisha.  I asked questions.  It’s how I got the films.”

“Do you have any more I can sneak through?” Juliana asked, slightly eagerly.  “It’s just, I don’t want to disappoint him.  And I want to see Joe again.  If I can.”

Trudy leaned in, stilling looking at the ceiling, and giggled.  “I’ll tell you her name.  Who I got it from.  Promise.  But you have to tell me if Japs do it.”

Joe had to imagine Juliana was uncomfortable.  He had no idea what Japanese men would do to keep women from becoming pregnant.  That wasn’t entirely true.  There were things like contraceptives, and the old try and true way of pulling out, but this sounded like something else.  Joe did not envy Juliana one ounce.

“It didn’t work with you, of course,” Trudy was now saying.  “You and that Prawn had three children.  What are their names, Jules?”  Her eyes suddenly honed in on Juliana. 

The sisters just stared at each other.

“I don’t have children,” Juliana finally answered.

“You’re geisha.  You easily might have.  What are their names?  He didn’t do it to keep you from becoming pregnant?  You see, Jules,” and now her voice became slightly dark, tinged with an emotion Joe couldn’t place, “did you let the Prawns push you on your hands and knees and stick their penises up your ass so you couldn’t get pregnant, or did you have children?”

Everything suddenly became still.  Juliana’s lips thinned.  John Smith’s eye ticked.  The Prawn, as he was called, ground his teeth even harder, and Joe—Joe—well, he nearly retched on the floor.  He didn’t see what Heinrich’s reaction was.  He was probably still typing.

Then, Juliana said the most unlikely of things: “Actually, Gertie,” (her voice was almost conversational, as if she didn’t care one way or the other) “it’s rather pleasurable.  You should try it.”

Chief Inspector Kido coughed into his fist.  Joe just stared at his stepmother, unbelieving what he was hearing.  Did she?  Really?  Did his father know?  Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, however, put his hands in his pockets, threw his head back, and laughed.

It only took her three minutes more of coaxing where she talked about how handsome Joe was compared to Japanese men, before she got four names out of Trudy.  She then stood, kissed her sister on the forehead, and then left by the side door.

She didn’t reappear.

Joe found her in the hallway, breathing heavily, kneeling down with her head pressed against the wall.  She turned to him, and he noticed there were beads of sweat on her forehead.  “I need some more of those crackers,” she begged.  “That flight really did me in.”

Coming up to her, Joe gently picked her up.  “Are you all right?  Is it what she said?”

Waving him off, she scoffed.  “That?  I’ve heard worse.  Really, I need crackers.  Or a toilet.  Or a bed.  I think I caught something, Joe.”

He reached up and put his hand on her forehead.  “Jules, when’s the last time you ate something other than bread or crackers?”  He heard the others come up behind them. 

“Food makes me ill, just the sight of it.  When did your cologne get so strong?”

“Jules,” he stated carefully, “I’m not wearing any.”

Then, she seemed to realize something.  “I’ve been married five weeks.  It seems the honeymoon’s over.  Take me to the doctor.”

John Smith was there immediately, kissing her hand and congratulating her.  It took Joe a moment to realize that Juliana had just announced that she was carrying his father’s child. 

While Smith was talking about sending them to Long Island to stay with Helen and the children and how he would call his personal physician, Chief Inspector Kido stood and watched on, his expression hard.  He looked on as Joe found an armband for Juliana, bright red with the Swastika on it, and then escorted her out.

Skita!” Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido called out as they were walking through the lobby and Juliana turned to him with wide eyes.

Joe moved to pull her forward, but she turned and took several steps toward him.  “Will you tell me where they are?  Are they even alive?”

Coming up behind her, Joe heard the falling words: “They are with honored wife.  They believe they are full Japanese and there is no stigma to their birth.”  Kido reached into his beast pocket and pulled out a folded photograph.  Joe couldn’t see it but it caused Juliana’s breath to catch. 

Then, he was surprised to see, she bowed low, down almost completely to the waist.  “Thank you, Takeshi-san,” she whispered.  “I have often wondered.”

He reached out and touched her hand.  “You may have the photograph.  I see you no longer wear their names near your heart.”  His words were harsh and cold, but it seemed like there was no reproach to them. 

“I hope that much honored wife loves them,” she replied, refolding the photograph and putting it in her pocket.  “I will treasure your photograph.”

“Please send no more gifts,” he stated, his glasses flashing with light.

“How can I promise that, Takeshi-san?” she asked lightly, “When you send them to me in such pretty dresses?  It amazes me how your geisha, specifically, attempt to defect.”

She turned to leave, but he made to grab at her.  Joe was instantly there, grasping the man’s wrist.  “Have respect for the Brigadefuhrer,” he demanded. 

“Jewel of my life,” he instead stated carefully, looking directly at Juliana.  “Come home.”

“I will go home,” she responded, “to the Fatherland.  Goodbye, Takeshi-san.”  Juliana turned to leave and Joe was immediately behind her as soon as he was certain that Chief Inspector Kido was not going to follow. 

As soon as they were in the car, Juliana had pulled out the photograph.  It showed a Japanese woman with a teenager and three small children.  The three names came back to Joe’s mind.  What had this bastard done to Juliana?  Without looking at her, he placed his larger hand in hers.  She squeezed it and a moment later, she was leaning against his shoulder.  Joe was almost happy in that moment, the feel of Juliana falling asleep against him.  Still, that Jap who unfortunately had diplomatic immunity was going to get away with the crimes against the love of his life, and the child currently in Juliana’s belly was his little brother or sister and not his own offspring. 

He was living in hell, but he wouldn’t change a minute of it.

Joe looked out the window at the passing city and just listened to Juliana breathe.  It comforted him, being in this moment with her, just the two of them.

She was asleep by the time they reached Long Island.  Joe carried Juliana into the house, remembering it from not too long ago.  He carried her up to the guest bedroom, Helen Smith hovering near her, before setting Juliana down and removing her slippers.  She sighed in her sleep and turned to the side.  “Martin,” she whispered, reaching for someone who wasn’t there.

Joe’s heart clenched, but he still ran his fingers along her hair.  “When’s the doctor getting here?” he asked Helen.  “I’d like to be able to call my father with the news as soon as possible.”

Frankly, he wanted to know if his world was going to turn into even more of a nightmare.

“Very soon,” Helen promised as they left the room and closed the door.  “I had to estimate when you would be here.  I take it you’ll want to be in the room to preserve your stepmother’s modesty?”

He hadn’t even considered it.  Putting his hands in his pockets, Joe nodded.  “Yes.  I think Father would prefer it.”

“I would like to stay with Juliana,” Helen admitted, wringing her hands uncharacteristically.  “It’s good to have a woman there for your first pregnancy.  She’ll be confused.”

Joe doubted that, but he didn’t refute the claim.  He breathed out and went down to the living room.  Dr. Adler arrived before the children got home from school, which was perhaps fortunate.  Children always asked questions.

Joe was the one who woke Juliana up.  She looked at him blearily before she sat up with a start.  “Was it a dream?”

“No,” he answered softly.  “No, you saw your sister Trudy.  You had a cryptic conversation with Chief Inspector Kido.  Is he—was he the man who owned you, Jules?”

Her brilliant blue eyes looked up at him in fear.

“I don’t care,” he told her, leaning his forehead against hers.  “You’re family, Juliana.  We protect our own—and he’s frankly not an honorary Aryan no matter what the Fuhrer says.  Now, the doctor is here.  I’ll be staying in the room along with Mrs. Smith.  Helen, well, she thinks this is your first go around.  I imagine so does the doctor.  Pretend to be confused?” he suggested.

Juliana laughed and nodded.

The examination was brief, perfunctory, and utterly embarrassing.  Juliana asked a great deal of questions, answered even more, and in the end was pronounced the embodiment of Aryan motherhood. 

She wanted to tell Father herself, so Helen let her into John Smith’s office, which had an international line.  She was in there for more than twenty minutes, and came out, smiling.  Although Thomas and the girls had just come in, she ran toward Joe, jumped into his arms, and he twirled her about.  In that moment he was happy.  He could pretend the child was his.  He could pretend that Juliana loved him.  He could pretend that no one had ever hurt her.

It was all too clear that Thomas was also in love with Juliana.  She also didn’t seem remotely surprised.

“I had hoped,” she confessed to Joe, “that he would have grown out of it, but apparently not.”

Without telling the children what they were celebrating, they toasted the new Heusmann that would enter the world in eight months’ time, Juliana sipping at her champagne as she still felt a little ill.

After the children had gone to bed, the adults were all in the living room except for Heinrich who had been packed off to a hotel.  “There’s a prisoner I want to interrogate,” she told John.  “Informally.  There’s just—I’m sure you’re aware of the difficulty with Wegener.”

“Yes,” Smith agreed as he looked into his drink.  “For you, Juliana, of course.  Do what you have to in order to get a name out of him.”

“Anything?” she asked.

“Anything.”

Juliana went to bed early and Joe was on a cot in Thomas’s room.  He woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of feet in the hallway and found Juliana with her hands grasping the toilet.  He held her hair back as she was violently ill and eventually carried her back to bed. 

He wanted to get her back to Germany.  She needed to be back in her own home, with her own food, familiar faces, and without Japanese Chief Inspectors walking around.

While they were in New York, however, there was something that Joe had to do.

Juliana had already interrogated the prisoner, had run her hands through his hair and whispered something into his ear until he sobbed, and stuttered out, “Hile Coleman,” which made sense to no one before Juliana—well, it was torture.  Joe hoped a woman never touched him in such a way even if she did put a bullet through his head less than half an hour later.

There was clearly a reason why she was Lead Interrogator.  She could make men sing her the song she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to tease, coax, or harm them with just her hands.  She never even had to pick up a whip, cattle prod, or other device.  No, she was too good for them.  In fact, Joe doubted if she rarely if ever needed the usual devices of torture.

“Are you sure you’re up to this?” he asked Juliana again as she walked up in black leggings, her black slippers, and a black shirt.  Her party armband was on her arm.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked him.  “This is part of your past, Joseph.”  Juliana looked at him and smiled wanly.  She was utterly glowing and since she started eating the strange foods on Dr. Adler’s list, she had been able to keep more food down.

He walked into the apartment building and up to the stairs.  Taking a deep breath, Joe fortified himself.

It was Juliana who eventually knocked. 

Rita opened the door and stopped in shock, taking them in warily.  “Joe,” she greeted.  “I didn’t know you were back from Germany.”

“Can we come in?” he asked.  “We’ve only been back for two nights, and I need to get Juliana home to my father tomorrow.”

It was clear that Rita was wary, but she let them in.  Joe sat as a guest on the sofa that he had rested against, drinking a beer, with Rita tucked in his arms.  This had been a simple life he had thought he might live for the rest of his life.  This was a life he could no longer imagine being trapped in.

“I met my father,” Joe told her as he accepted a beer, Juliana taking a glass of water.  “It was strange, really.”

“It was stranger for me,” Juliana admitted before holding out her hand.  “Juliana Heusmann,” she annunciated carefully.  “In the span of two moments I learned that the man I was going to marry not only had a living child, but one my age.—I think I might possibly be the worst stepmother, don’t you agree, Joseph?” 

The subtle accent to his name sent a thrill down Joe’s spine.  His pale blue eyes looked into Juliana’s, which were sparkling at him.  “I don’t think I’d like a hausfrau who only thought of me as the continuation of the great Aryan race.”

It was a reference to Hilda, and the edge of Juliana’s mouth quirked up at it.  “Well, perhaps not.  Your father just makes you escort me around the Greater Nazi Reich.”

At a movement from across the small coffee table, the Heusmann duo turned to Rita.  “So, Joe?  Are you staying in the Fatherland with your father and Juliana?”  Her eyes flashed between them. 

Juliana turned to Joe and smiled.  “I hope so.  He’s an integral point of the Heusmann dynasty.”

Joe was honestly surprised.  He’d heard his father and Juliana speak about how much they wanted him to stay with them, but he had never heard of their family being referred to as a dynasty.  There was a subtle meaning behind it, that Joe was not quite grasping.  He took in a deep breath, and ran a hand along Juliana’s arm in comfort.  “Are you feeling all right?”

“Baby Heusmann is quiet right now.”  She turned to Rita.  “I can only imagine what Joseph’s mother suffered before he was born.  His little brother likes to give me little peace.—Do you have children, Rita?”

“A son,” she answered carefully.  “Buddy.”

Waiting, Juliana finally commented, “I’ve never heard that name.  I’m sure it fits him.—This one is Johann, or Johanna.  He hasn’t decided to tell me if he’s a little boy or girl.” 

The name surprised Joe.  He didn’t realize that Juliana had names picked out.  Also, perhaps the nickname ‘Buddy’ wasn’t used in the Pacific States, Joe mused, or at least not among the Japanese.

“After Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, of course,” Juliana continued.  “He took me into his home when I first defected to the Reich.  I always promised myself that I would name my eldest child after him.  He taught me how to speak German, actually.”

That was certainly a surprise.

Rita looked shocked and clearly didn’t know what to say.

Joe rubbed his finger over Juliana’s arm in comfort before turning back to Rita.  “I just wanted to say a proper goodbye.  I know Buddy’s not home, but perhaps that’s best.”

She stood.  “Do you want to get the rest of your clothes?”

“No need,” he answered.  “You can donate them or sell them.  I have more than what I need back in the Fatherland.”

When he and Juliana were moving to the door, Rita approached him.  “Don’t leave, Joe.  I promised I wouldn’t hold you to me—but—please.”  She reached for him and Joe let her fingers touch his skin.

“There’s nothing here, Rita,” he told her.  “My life is in the Greater Nazi Reich.”

“Who is your father then?  Why did he leave you and your mother?  Why is he breeding with a child younger than me?”  Her voice was now a little hoarse, and he was sure that Juliana could hear her.  Joe knew that Juliana was sensitive about her age, and his lips formed into a thin line.

Reichsminister Martin Heusmann, my father, did not marry to breed.  He would have married years ago if that had been his intention.”

He swept away from Rita and put his hand on the small of Juliana’s back, leading her out.

“How old is Rita?” Juliana asked carefully as they walked down the front steps of the building.  “I just have a sense—”

“She’s older than both of us,” he answered diplomatically.  In truth, he thought Rita was in her early thirties.  He had never asked how old she was on her birthdays.  He thought it wasn’t necessarily polite, even if he was her live in boyfriend. 

“We’ll get you a nice German girlfriend,” Juliana promised as they continued down the street.  She had wanted a walk as she said the baby felt like it.  It was her excuse for everything now.  Joe secretly thought she enjoyed being able to just say ‘baby.’  Perhaps she hadn’t been able to before in the Pacific States.  “One who has a German accent that both excites and exasperates you.”

Carefully, he probed, “You’ve never had a man speak love to you without an accent, have you?”

She paused and then shook her head.  “I have, actually.  Don’t tell John this, but his aide de camp Sturmbannfuhrer Erich Raeder pursued me the few months before I went to Germany.  His father is German, but was stationed here after the war.  Erich sounds entirely American.”

Joe was honestly surprised.  “Did you regret leaving Erich behind?”

“Not in the slightest,” she told him as they continued.  “He was sweet, but it wasn’t until your father that I felt I could trust anyone again with myself.  I think he intrigued me at first.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t learn his name.  It was like he was a ghost.  I knew he was a prominent member of the party, but not that he was Reichsminister until the fifth time he took me to dinner and someone came up and saluted him.”  Juliana leaned in.  “I think we both enjoyed the anonymity.”  Then, suddenly, she laughed.  “He thought I was German for the longest time.  I had him guessing.  By our third date, Martin believed I was in the diplomatic corps since I enjoyed Japanese food and spoke the language fluently.”

“When did you disillusion him?” Joe asked, smiling down at her.

She grinned at him but didn’t answer.  Clearly, there was a story.

“I’m in love with you, you know,” he stated suddenly, not even looking at her.  “It’s so—ridiculous.  I’m in love with my father’s wife.”

“Joseph,” she began, but he cut her off.

“Don’t ‘Joseph’ me.  I will do everything in my power to protect you and keep you happy—but I dream about you at night.  I wish I had been the man in the elevator that day.  I don’t understand how you could possibly be with my father who I’ve never seen out of a suit or say anything other than the party line when you—you—”  He leaned forward to cup her face, but Juliana shied away.  “You’ve seen so much of the world.  You’ve seen its darkness and you glory in it, Jules.”  He thought of the way her hand had reached into Wegener’s trousers and then squeezed, her long nails undoubtedly digging into the tender flesh there.  She had smiled when he had gasped in pain before removing her hand and running her fingers through his sweaty hair.

“Perhaps I vent my frustrations in a controlled environment?” she suggested, moving on.  “It’s not like I gain any sexual pleasure from it.”

Joe was left on the sidewalk and he just watched her retreating back before quickly catching up to her.  The two walked in silence until they came to the train station, and it was apparent to everyone until they left for Berlin that something had happened between the Heusmanns.  They were utterly and unfailingly polite, but other than that Juliana would not even look at him.

Even Heinrich, though, knew better than to comment.

“Are we going to talk about this?” Joe asked as he accepted Juliana’s crackers and ginger ale after their flight had taken off back to Germany.  “It’s been days and we’ll see Father in a few hours.”

She sighed and pulled a hand down her face.  “Joseph.  I’m your stepmother.  I’m quite flattered, really I am—but I don’t want to come between you and your father.  Between you and this baby.”

When he reached for her, she pulled away, holding up her hands.

Her startling blue eyes caught his in desperation.  “I am geisha.  I don’t think you know what that means.  Takeshi Kido does.  Your father surprisingly does.  I was brought up since before I first became a woman to attract men.  Every way I move, every look I give, I don’t even think about it.  I have been programmed to seduce.  And, yes,” she said, pulling her hair away from her face, “I’m aware when it’s working or not.  I look for the signals.  I base my self worth on it.  But, Joseph,” she grasped his wrist desperately.  “I never meant for anything to happen.”

“I know,” he whispered, his eyes cutting to her lips before reaching back to her blue gaze.  “I know I can never have you.  I’ve accepted that—and I’m happy to be this close to you.  But—you and father?  How?”

She tilted her head.  “Who do you think makes recommendations for the brute labor for his engineering projects—even before he met me?  We were prolific correspondents on the subjects of torture yields and death quotients.”

Joe leaned forward slightly.  “Father?” he whispered in shock.

“He is quite presentable,” she added as if to herself, “and I have always enjoyed a man in a suit.  It was one of the first things I enjoyed about the geisha houses.  If you knew him, Joseph.”  She sighed and looked over at him, picking up her crackers.  “My only regret is that our family is starting just at the time when the Fuhrer is feeling so poorly.  I would have hoped I could have persuaded him to be godfather to the baby.  Goebbels is your godfather, apparently.”  She looked over.

It seemed like there was more to the situation than she was letting on, but she took a sip of her ginger ale.

“No moves,” she told Joe succinctly.  “I had already decided over the past few weeks that you were going to be my dearest friend—over Nicole.  I’d like to stick to that plan.”

He laughed into his whiskey.  “You don’t find that strange since I’m your husband’s son?”

“Not at all!” she argued.  “I need someone to talk to other than Martin, on occasion—and Nicole, while loyal, disagrees with everything that Martin stands for.  I try not to mix business with pleasure, which takes out almost everyone I know.”

Joe took her hand and kissed the back of it.  “Best friends, then,” he agreed.  “And you’re going to be the most radiant mother the Reich has ever seen.”

They were given priority in disembarking given Juliana’s condition, and Heusmann was waiting with flowers.  Juliana smiled at him and ran the last few steps into his arms, kissing him tenderly as she guided his hand to her flat stomach. 

“Girl or boy?” he asked her curiously as he ran his fingers lovingly over her black shirt.

“Oh, it’s hard to say,” she teased back as she reached up to kiss him once more.  “It’s so soon.  Maybe Joseph will be the one to guess correctly?  He’s going to be a brother for the first time—that he knows of, of course.”  Juliana beamed between father and son.  “I feel like we’re a fresh start, the four of us.”

Joe smiled at her sadly and then accepted a clap on his back from his father before he moved away from the happy couple who were looking into each other’s eyes. 

Soon, the Heusmanns made their way from the airport.  His father had surprised them all by bringing Juliana to a geisha house for authentic Japanese cuisine.  There was one in Berlin and they were the only Aryan clientele.

“Rice,” Juliana breathed under her breath as they were indicated toward a table where Juliana knelt on a cushion. 

Joe watched as a Japanese woman in a kimono, her black hair up in an elaborate design, poured them each sake (“It’s rice wine,” Juliana whispered to him) before serving them fruit over fish. 

Moving with a fluid grace that Joe had only seen hinted at, Juliana possessed innate manners to a culture Joe had only ever glimpsed at before.  She was demure, quiet, pensive, and yet radiant.  She ate everything precisely with small bites, never asked for more but waited to be served.  When he looked around, he saw that the Japanese businessmen and embassy workers, were touching the geisha, stroking their wrists, letting their eyes linger.  When he began to ask Juliana, Heusmann shook his head. 

A Japanese man stood when they were drinking plum wine, which Joe found peculiar but Juliana clearly enjoyed, and he bowed to Juliana and requested something in Japanese.

The patrons of the geisha house looked at her for several long moments before she shook her head, inclined her hand toward a geisha, who then poured her another glass of wine.

“What just happened?” Joe whispered to his father when Juliana was collecting her coat.

“I think they wanted her to perform.  From what I understand, she was famous in the Pacific States.”  He moved up to Juliana then and ran a hand down her back.  “Ready, liebling?”

Ja.  Thank you, Martin.  This was thoughtful.”

She was asleep by the time that Heusmann drove up to the door.  Joe picked her up from the front seat and carried her into the house, his father showing him the way.

They once again came to that same corridor.  It turned out that the rooms looked out along the back lawns, and that the particular door that Heusmann opened was a large suite in white ash and blues.  Not really looking around as he was so focused on the woman in his arms, Joseph let himself be led into the bedroom where he set Juliana down on the left side of the bed. 

“Shoes,” he murmured to himself as he helped take them and drape Juliana’s cloak over a chair. 

He stood by as he watched Heusmann sit down beside her and run a hand lovingly down her face.  Her hands sleepily caught onto his and she breathed out, “Martin,” against his skin before she fell back into slumber.

“If you ever find a good woman, Joseph,” his father said lightly, never taking his eyes off of Juliana, “never let her go.”

The problem was, Joe hadn’t been able to grasp her since the moment he had first set eyes on her.  If only he had been in an elevator with her in New York before she had ever come to Berlin.  He could have brought her over to meet his father—and then Heusmann would have known the pain of longing—but no—another life, perhaps, but not this one—

He was sitting and reading the paper when Juliana found him the next morning.  The doctor had come earlier and Joe had been told that Juliana was on bedrest, so he was surprised to see her up and about.

“It’s ridiculous,” she told him as she sat down, picking up an orange and tossing it between her hands.  “I was perfectly capable before and performed all my duties.  I just had to go run off and be violently ill.”

“The doctor,” Joe placated, taking her hand, “wants to look after you and the baby.  Have you heard about the Fuhrer?”

“No,” she answered.  “I’m not supposed to feel emotion.”  She leaned back and sighed.  “You won’t tell on me, will you?”

“If you go back to bed, I’ll find that set of mahjong you’ve been talking about and we can play it together,” he wheedled.  “No, really.  I have some new duties starting in a day or two, but I’ll happily play nursemaid until then.”

“Duties?” Juliana asked as she stood up, letting Joe guide her back upstairs.  Hilda came out, gasping, but he gave her a harsh look as he continued to walk with his stepmother. 

“Well, Father has a few auxiliary duties.  He wanted to send me home to New York, but I honestly couldn’t leave you, Jules.  You’re the only family I’ve got.”

She laughed tiredly at his antics before beginning to retch.  He emptied a vase of its flowers and water, shoved it into her hands, and then held her hair back for her.  Hilda came forward, barking in German about how Juliana should be a compliant Aryan wife, to which Joe barked back that she was an “Aryan warrior goddess” like “Brunhilde.”

Joe didn’t know that Juliana had even heard him as she was busy vomiting out the empty contents of her stomach, when she leaned up against him and smiled.  “There’s an interesting name to consider.”

“I thought we were thinking along the lines of ‘Johann.’”

He smiled down at her, pulling her hair back so it wasn’t in her face before continuing their way back up to her room. 

“We are.  However, you never know.  It could be twins!”  She laughed a little to herself as she grimaced just at the thought. 

He rubbed the small of her back just as they came to her suite that she shared with his father.  “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” he murmured as he set her down on a couch, picking up her legs and then finding a blanket to throw over her.  “Now, let me find that mahjong and you can teach me.”

She was asleep by the time he got back.

Juliana was violently ill throughout the days and nights.  It was difficult, Joe knew, for both him and his father.  Even though Heusmann was Acting Chancellor, he was constantly by Juliana’s side, calling Hilda on the hour for an update when he wasn’t, arranging for doctors and nurses, for friends to come and cheer her up.  Still, no information was to be given to her. 

He walked in on his father with Juliana once.  Well, that was technically incorrect.  Joe had left the Fuhrer’s death bed, after waiting for three hours, to check on his stepmother.  She was constantly faint and was losing weight.  Joe had had several arguments with his father about what to tell the doctors.  Joe wanted to reveal that Juliana had had possibly given birth to up to three other children—there was even photographic evidence of them and the necklace that she wore—but Heusmann didn’t want any blight against her character.  While most officials knew that she had been geisha and had gained admittance to the American Reich by turning traitor on an Admiral of the Imperial Navy (which surprised Joe; he had no idea that the Chief Inspector was an Admiral), they did not know what a geisha exactly was or what that might entail or even how she might have come across her information.   It had taken Heusmann over a year to realize that Juliana had only ever been intimate with Chief Inspector Kido because she had been his personal property. 

“They don’t need to know.  From what I can tell, it didn’t happen before,” he whispered as they looked over a file at his desk.  “Your stepmother will be well.”

“She may be dying.  The child is eating away at her—I can’t bear to see her suffer like this.  Father,” he took a deep breath.  “I know she is the love of your life, but if you let this to continue for much longer, I will take her far away from here to a place you will never find her, and I will ensure that she lives, by whatever means necessary.”

Heusmann swore under his breath.  “If only I had been careful and your stepmother could have been in health during this difficult time.  I wish for her counsel.  I depend on her.  I wish to give her the future,” (he caught himself as if he were going to admit something) “to give her the Reich as we will create it with Atlantia, to give her our child, but she wastes away in our marriage bed.”  He threw down the papers in his hand.  “Joseph, she wants this child.  I know she does.  The first night she came back from the American Reich, all she could speak about was the love she had for our little Johann and the future we were going to build for him.  Don’t ever even think of taking away that future from her, even for the sake of her health.  Juliana is strong.  She is Aryan.  If she can survive the Japanese, she can survive this.”  He looked into Joe’s identical blue eyes.  “If you love Juliana, and I know you do, then you will support her in this.”

The words still haunted Joe.  He had fallen asleep on the couch in the sitting room, the door open to the bedroom.  The sun had set, but someone had turned on the light.  Joe stirred but then stilled when he heard voices.  The back of the couch was to the open door, so he was hidden from Juliana and Heusmann, but he remained completely silent.

“Well,” Juliana murmured, “I haven’t been sick for a few hours, liebste.”  She sighed.  “You look tired, my love.”

There was the sound of rustling as if Heusmann were coming over to sit beside Juliana.  “Only because I do not have you by my side, Juliana.  It’s happening, just as we planned.  The Fuhrer is dead.  I have the codes for the atomic bomb—we can have our revenge for everything that man thought he’d do to you.”

There was silence and Joe’s eyes squinted in thought.

“I know you don’t want the three children alive—now that you know they exist—Hush.”  There was a pause, and Joe could imagine his father looking into Juliana’s eyes.  “It just haunts me.  Before I thought Takeshi a murderer.  I thought he had murdered his own children or perhaps had sent Aiko and Yuri to a geisha house, if he was feeling merciful.”

“Juliana,” Heusmann begged when it was clear that Juliana was quietly crying.  “He damned those children the moment he put his seed inside of you.  That man killed them the moment he ripped each one of them from your arms.  We don’t even have proof that the children in the photograph are the ones you remember.  We only have the Prawn’s word—and what do his words mean?”  (Joe could hear Heusmann kiss Juliana softly.)  “He says that he loves you, and yet he wants you to return to your slavery.  We will give Johann a better world, a brighter world, a world without the taint of the Japanese.”

Now, Juliana was audibly crying.  “Why am I so sick?” she begged.

“I don’t know, liebling.  I have the doctors here every day, ones loyal to us, the ones I bribed to murder the Fuhrer.  They are looking after you and after mein sohn.”

She laughed a little.  “Our plan was so flawless.  We just didn’t imagine I would fall pregnant within hours of our marriage.  The New Reich would form just as our marriage began—just as Joseph came home, though you should have told me about him.”

“Perhaps this is best,” Heusmann mused.  “I am viewed as strong and sympathetic, the perfect Aryan leader, father and husband.  My own wife is suspected of being a target of the Japanese.  Within forty-eight hours, liebling, San Francisco will be gone, and you will never have to think of that man again.  Now—”  There was the sound of rustling.  “I came to give you an update and see how you are.  I must go back to the war plans.  By the time I next see you, we will be a world again at war.”

“Take Joe with you,” she suggested.  “He’s sleeping in the other room, but he needs to be with his father, and not looking after me, pining.”

“But you are so worth pining over,” Heusmann teased before he got up, his feet hitting the carpet.

Joe closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep.  A moment later and his father’s hand rested on his shoulder.  “Joseph,” he greeted when Joe pretended to wake up.  “Kiss your stepmother goodbye.  We’re needed back in the City.  The Fuhrer is dead and we need to discuss military options with the generals.”

Joe got up and stretched before moving into the bedroom where Juliana was carefully sipping at a blend of Japanese tea the ambassador had sent her as a gift.  She was acting first lady of the Reich, after all.

Leaning down, he kissed her forehead.  “You can call me,” he promised her.  “Your health is my number one concern.  No one much cares about me.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Consul Joseph Heusmann,” she stated quite firmly as she fixed his tie.  “And you startle when you wake up.  It’s your tell.”  Her startling blue eyes met his.

A message passed between them and, after a moment, Joe leaned forward and whispered, “You and the baby are my family.”

Their eyes connected again and, after a second, she nodded and picked up her tea once more. 

Joe threw himself into the war plans.  Nicole, of all people, tried to talk sense into him, but he didn’t listen.  This was for Juliana.  Everything was for Juliana.  She wanted to wipe the Japanese off the map, and so he would do it for her.  It seemed that she and his father had orchestrated everything from the Fuhrer’s declining health that had been rumored about for the past year up until this very point.  She had only been in Berlin for two years and yet the couple had pulled this all off without anyone even suspecting them!

It was sheer brilliance.

His father really was a lucky bastard.

It was when Heusmann was learning the controls, that Joe was told that he was receiving a call from the Reichsmarschall in America.  Completely surprised, he took the call. 

Consul Joseph Heusmann,” he greeted, looking around the war room.  “It’s wonderful to hear from you again, Riechsmarschall.  How is America?”

“I wished to reach your stepmother, Consul,” the undisputed voice of George Lincoln Rockwell answered, “but I understand she is quite ill—that perhaps the same agents who have murdered our Fuhrer have poisoned her and her unborn child.”

“Yes,” Joe agreed carefully.  “She is receiving the best medical care at the moment.  We are all terribly concerned.  Shall I give her your regards?”

There was a pause.  “Do.  However, I need to inform her about her former sponsor, Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith.  I believe you know him from your own time in the American Reich.”

“I do,” Joe answered carefully, turning to the side to speak more privately although he doubted anyone was listening.  “What about the Obergruppenfuhrer?”

“He’s been arrested.  He was hiding the fact that his son had a genetic defect and needed to be terminated.  It appears that he had arranged for his son to be kidnapped by Argentinian Semites so that he might live the rest of his godforsaken life in the wilds of Brazil.  He has been taken into my custody and, if your stepmother were well, I would be requesting her presence.”

Joe was utterly startled.  Thomas was ill?  The boy had seemed a bit uncoordinated, but then again Joe hadn’t been paying attention.  Also, this would destroy Juliana.  Clearing his throat, Joe told Rockwell.  “I will be sure to inform Brigadefuhrer Heusmann when she is well enough to hear the news.  Will you keep me apprised?”

“Indeed, Consul.  Thank you for taking my call.  Sieg Hile!

Being uncertain what to do with the news, Joe waited until his father was taking a quick breakfast the next morning while going over his speech for that night when he would give the order to strike the preliminary targets.  “I think you should think of different names for the baby,” he broached carefully.  “John Smith has been arrested for treason.”

Heusmann looked up.  “How do you know?”

Reichsmarschall Rockwell called me last night.  I came back before you and fell asleep again watching over Juliana.  This is the first chance I’ve gotten—” He shrugged.  “His son had a genetic defect and he was not only hiding it, but was trying to smuggle his son out of the Reich.”

Blotting his lips, his father agreed, “New names.  You’re with Juliana for a few hours this morning.  See if you can suggest it somehow without making her suspicious.  Good German names, though, Joseph.  I don’t want to go around hearing another one of my children being called ‘Joe’.”

He couldn’t help it.  Joe laughed.

It was later when Joe was playing mahjong with Juliana that he carefully brought up the subject.  “I think it’s a little—peculiar.”

She glanced up.  “What, Joseph?”

“It’s just, naming your son after an American.  America is the old, the past, what was wrong in your previous life.  Everything new began in that elevator.”  He gestured toward the pieces between them.  “At the party.  Perhaps the baby needs a name that reflects that.”

“What, Brunhilde?”  Her eyes flashed in humor.

Siegfried,” he suggested, “the perfect hero for the Reich.  You can’t deny that it doesn’t have charm.”

Nothing got past Juliana, however.  “What’s the real problem?”

Joe sighed, making it large and long.  “Juliana.  Johann.  Joseph.  Then there’s ‘Martin.’  You see the problem?”

She blinked and then she blinked again before she laughed.  “Point well taken.  I’m sure John will understand.  Back to the drawing board.”  She looked at a piece, turned it over in her hand, and then her blue eyes flashed up at him.  Then she leaned forward, “Sebastien,” she whispered with a distinctive German accent.

“I like it,” he decided with a small smile.  “Sebastien Heusmann.”

“It could be worse,” she decided.  “I was holding it in reserve for a second son.”

“Well,” Joe stated with slight jubilation at how easy that was, “now you don’t have to.”

After holding Juliana’s hair back twice before he left for the day, Joe’s first order of business was to find his father.  “Too many J’s,” he informed him.  “Juliana.  Johann.  Joseph.  Too many J’s.”

In a moment of levity, Heusmann laughed and everyone in the war room turned to look for a moment.  Heusmann, however, ignored them and turned to his son.  “And what has she chosen?”

“Sebastien.”

“A good Aryan name.  I can’t argue with that.”

It turned out that Nicole was at least good for something.  Juliana was delivered in her military uniform, her face stark and white, and walked into the full amphitheater on Heusmann’s arm.  Cheers went up as they appeared, but from what Joe could tell, her face remained impassive.

Joe was directly behind them and stood to the side.

The cry to war was called up and Joe could almost see the shiver run down Juliana’s neck when she realized that the first atomic bombs had been launched.  Joe helped put her back into the car after she had nearly fainted and had to be given fluids, and both he and Heusmann put her to bed that night.

“He’s gone,” Juliana murmured, looking at Joe and then at Martin.  “Takeshi is gone.”

“Yes, wife,” Martin agreed, kissing her hand.  “That man is gone and will never hurt you again.”

She breathed in relief and slipped into sleep.

The third world war had started—and all in the name of the new Helen of Troy.

THE END

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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