Part the Thirteenth—
“So who’ve you been calling, ‘baby’? Nobody could take my place / When you’re looking at those strangers, hope to God you see my face”
—“Youngblood,” Five Seconds of Summer
Reichsminister Martin Heusmannsat on his desk, leaning forward. “He caught a later flight,” he checked, “with a woman.”
“We have information on her,” his aide told him. He flipped through a few pages. “She is a citizen of the Greater Japanese Empire. Born in the Pacific States. She married the Chief Inspector of the kempeitai of the Pacific States less than three months after his wife’s death. It is rumored she was his mistress before that.”
The Reichsminister looked up. “He married his mistress?”
“Ja,” the aide responded. “She now works at the Imperial Embassy in New York as some sort of agent. She’s here on a diplomatic visa.”
“What does she have to do with my son?” His blue eyes flashed up.
The aide clearly did not know how to answer. “There are rumors she was involved with the family of Obergruppenfuhrer Smith. They have yet to be substantiated.”
This caught the Reichsminister’s attention. “What would he have to do with a Japanese?” he questioned, looking down and worrying his bottom lip. This certainly did not make sense.
“She is not Japanese, Reichsminister,” the aide told him. “Agent Misaki Kido is Aryan. Her heritage is undisputed.”
Reichsminister Heusmann looked up in undisguised shock. “My son brought an Aryan Japanese National with him?”
The aide produced a photograph and the Reichsminister looked over it. The woman was clearly beautiful with long dark hair but eyes so light they were undoubtedly Aryan. She was wearing a peculiar top and—was she pregnant? It was difficult to tell from the photograph. He supposed he would see her if she was traveling with his son.
The telephone rang and he picked it up. He glanced at his aide. It appeared his son wanted to share a suite with this woman. The plot was thickening. “Is she pregnant?” he finally asked. Well, that answered that question. Perhaps, the child was completely Aryan. “I give you permission for the changes.” He hung up. Turning, he looked at his aide de camp. “This shall prove most interesting.”
This was most peculiar. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked through the files and it appeared that there had been a fire in the Neutral Zone. Something about films. He would have to investigate.
Alexa moved ahead of him and Joe leaned forward and smelled her hair. He loved the smell of her hair. It was some type of floral scent that he could never identify. It must be Japanese, he supposed, but he really couldn’t place it.
She turned as they were about to enter the elevator and smiled at him. “Let’s see if I fit,” she joked as the doors opened.
“You’re beautiful,” he told her honestly. “I don’t see how you can’t see it.”
“You sound like Takeshi,” she laughed. “He has never been so effusive in his compliments, although they are always spoken with the utmost seriousness.” She pulled her face into a line and nodded with mock seriousness herself before smiling. “I don’t know how the Japanese do it.”
The doors had already closed and there was a German mother and her child standing behind them.
Joe glanced over his shoulder. “I think,” he told her with a bit of teasing, “that they just haven’t met the Misaki charm.”
She turned to him with a wide smile. “That must be it,” she concluded. “I’m the cure!”
If only she knew how she would be the cure for his entire life—but she could never know.
Putting his hands in his pockets, Joe took a deep breath and followed her out of the elevator. At the door, he helped her into her cloak which was rather like a kimono and then he noticed her feet. She was wearing thick white socks in platform sandals.
“Misaki!” he exclaimed. “Your feet!”
“I know,” she sighed. “Isn’t it horrible? Try balancing while being pregnant.” She then walked out and he took a deep breath as he followed her.
There was a car waiting for them.
He and Alexa shared a long look before he helped her into the backseat.
Joe looked back at her feet. “You were wearing German shoes yesterday,” he remarked.
“I know,” she told him. “But I’m now an attaché to the embassy. I have to wear these horrible things.”
“You’re an agent at the embassy in New York.” Joe was utterly baffled.
Alexa rolled her eyes. “There is a great difference between an attaché and an agent,” she told him. “We’re expected to be a little more formal. I am now a public figure when before I was working in the,” and now her voice deepened, “in the bowls of the embassy.” She smiled at him with her dark red lips. “Of course, I’m Aryan so I’m allowed more liberties.”
“Of course,” he replied, taking her hand and kissing the back of it. “As long as you’re my Alexa. You’re my dearest friend in the whole world. I hope you know that.”
She looked at him with a small smile. “Joe,” she whispered. “You know I’m leaving.”
“I know,” he agreed sadly. “But for now we have the Third Reich!”
Laughing, Alexa’s face shone with happiness. Joe smiled at her in joy, the two friends enjoying their short trip. His hand still held hers, and if she noticed she didn’t say anything. They grasped onto one another, two strangers facing the unknown.
There were many films. Some of them were destroyed. Others were not.
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido was sitting in a dark room with a few other individuals and one was running. At first there were numbers flashing, backward to forward, to show that the film was about to start.
The American flag flew back and forth and children were running in the streets. The film cut to a field of some sort, a park. Juliana was rushing through the trees and reached up to catch a petal of a dogwood tree. She smelled it and a smile came across her face. Then recognition crossed her face.
The film cut again.
A man, a white man, in a suit was sitting at a desk, speaking. His hands were folded, his face stern. Missiles flew through the air. War ships were sailing through the ocean and then the man was speaking again. Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido could not hear him as there was no sound to the film.
Juliana was once again on the screen. She was rushing up to Takeshi who was sitting in the grass, wearing light trousers and a short sleeved button down shirt. He was wearing his usual spectacles. Gone was his hat, his suit, his uniform. Here he was a man at leisure. Surrounding him were four children, all younger than four. All of their children. The ones who were dead. The first to a bomb. The second to a doctor. The third to a Nazi pill. The fourth now was growing in her womb.
His lips thinned as he tried to withhold his emotions as Juliana picked up the eldest and kissed him on the cheek before setting him down again.
She settled down next to them and Akihito, a little older, came into the picture.
The scene ran off and Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido looked down at his hands, which he realized were clenched into fists.
“Who is that woman? Those children?” General Hasumido asked harshly.
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido knew the question was directed him.
He looked back up at the screen before facing the general. “That is Agent Kido, my wife. I suspect the children are the three we have lost and the one who is even now expected. One was assassinated by Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith while he was still in the womb. It is a great tragedy to the house of Kido.”
“Agent Kido,” the general repeated.
“She is stationed at the Embassy in New York City. I understand she was sent on a diplomatic mission to Berlin. I await her return to North America anxiously for the sake of her health.” He turned back to the screen. “The film is peculiar. How can our children come back to life?” The last was said mainly to himself.
“It is subversive,” someone said, “made by the Man in the High Castle. The Fuhrer collects them.”
Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido’s jaw set. “He shall not collect this one,” he stated harshly. “This regards the Pacific States. It suggests particulars of my life, gentlemen. It is a matter of national security.” Grinding his teeth, he requested, “I ask that it be destroyed.”
“It must be studied,” a scientist suggested. “How is the Chief Inspector and Agent Kido so accurately represented? Where is the place they are with the children?”
Despite not answering, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido knew the answer. It was Chicago. He had been there once on diplomatic business. Let them figure it out. As far as he knew, Juliana had never been there.
Somehow, he knew there would be an inquiry into Juliana after this. As there was a substantial file into his involvement with her, her family including her stepfather’s position with the kempeitai and her sister’s affiliation with the Resistance, he was not particularly anticipating the prospect.
He breathed out slowly and waited for the next film to begin. Hopefully it would involve neither himself nor Juliana.
He was unfortunately disappointed when Juliana’s face appeared.
Alexa looked up at the building and raised an eyebrow as she looked at Joe. “Your father works here?”
“He works here, it seems,” he answered with a laugh, reaching into his jacket pocket to take out his identification. “Ready, Misaki?”
“As I’ll ever be,” she agreed and they stepped into the building.
After a routine check of their credentials, they were directed to an upper floor and a rather spacious office. The man waiting for them had a rather strong resemblance to Joe, with blond hair and pale eyes. He wore a sharp suit with a red armband that portrayed the swastika. Personally, Joe hated the symbol. He thought it was too pretentious. At least he didn’t have to wear it since he was kicked out of Hitler Youth.
“Ah,” the man greeted with a distinctive German accent. “Welcome, Joseph. Who might this beautiful young lady be?”
Joe knew that he knew the answer. “This is Agent Misaki Kido of the Japanese Empire,” he introduced. “She’s my dearest friend.”
“My son,” the man mused, shaking Joe’s hand, “friends with a Japanese agent. I never would have thought you would be a natural diplomat. Welcome to the Fatherland, Madam Kido.” He bowed to her respectfully. “I am Reichsminister Martin Heusmann.”
“Reichsminister,” Alexa repeated, glancing at Joe. “I find myself in esteemed company. Should I leave you gentlemen alone to get to know each other a little better while I introduce myself at the embassy?”
“Thank you,” the Reichsminister immediately answered, while Joe reached out to touch Alexa’s arm while saying, “Of course not.”
She hesitated, looking between them. However, she didn’t move, fortunately respecting Joe’s wishes. After a moment, she nodded and turned before sitting down in a chair at the far end of the room.
For a long minute, Reichsminister Heusmann stared at her before turning his attention back to Joe.
The argument that ensued was unpleasant. Throughout it, Alexa just sat and watched Joe anxiously. Occasionally, he would see her turn to her hands, inspecting them as if to give them a semblance of privacy, but then something would grasp her attention and she would catch his eye and smile at him encouragingly.
“I would be most gratified if you—and Madam Kido—would be my guests at a small gathering I am having at my house tonight.”
Joe was immediately on guard. “Agent Kido grew up in the Pacific States. She doesn’t speak a word of German.”
“Hardly, Joe,” she interjected, her blue eyes teasing. “I can say ‘prost’ and ‘Sieg Hile’ among other things. I was under the personal protection of Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith for several months, if you remember. It is how we met.”
“He didn’t take particularly good care of you,” Joe argued back, remembering that night when Smith appeared at his door in full regalia to approach a sleeping Alexa, caressing her face with his gloved hand. That same hand killed her unborn child within the week. As much as Joe loved Alexa and wished that the child growing within her was his, he would never wish that pain on her.
She shrugged. “Perhaps not. Still, he introduced us, didn’t he?” Her lips thinned at some unpleasant thought. “And I know enough German to know when I’m being insulted.” Her eyes turned accusingly at Reichsminister Heusmann.
Oh. So she had caught some of what was said in German when his father had been asking why she had a traitor’s name and who the father was of her unborn child.
“Misaki,” Joe stated, coming up to her, “I will do nothing to make you uncomfortable.”
“Joe,” she stated, taking his hands in hers. “I am here for you—and to get away from New York where I can’t step outside of the Embassy for fear of being recorded by our mutual friend or having my child killed within my womb. If you want to go, let’s go.” She shrugged her shoulders and then smiled. “Think, I can confuse everyone with my name or just speak Japanese and pretend not to understand a single person!”
That sounded like the kind of trick Alexa would play, Joe thought. She was slightly impish.
He leaned forward. “Do you have a dress?”
Alexa paused. “Ah—no.”
Joe turned to his father. “We need money for Agent Kido to buy an appropriate dress. We can’t have an attaché to the Imperial Embassy looking anything but the health of Japanese motherhood, now can we?”
Reichsminister Heusmann pursed his lips but opened his wallet and took out more marks than Joe had ever seen.
After a boring few hours spent in a waiting room at the Imperial Embassy, Joe was finally released onto Berlin with Alexa at his side. He’d never really been shopping with a woman, let alone a pregnant woman. Alexa was overly critical, but she honed in on black as she claimed it was ‘slimming’ and discussed several dresses with a fashion consultant as they watched several models who were either pregnant or were very good at pretending to be pregnant walk and pose in front of them.
“Are you ready yet?” Joe teased after Alexa had been in the bathroom for a good thirty minutes.
He was already in his white suit jacket. He felt rather smart himself.
Alexa had come out of her room, wearing the dress without the fur stole, and had gone with a bag of what he assumed was cosmetics into the bathroom. “Perfection takes time!” she called. “You’re as bad as Takeshi! You’d think his first wife never spent any time preparing herself.”
“Perhaps Japanese women don’t,” he replied as he leaned next to the bathroom door, resting his head against the door.
“Well,” she stated, as she opened the door and appeared, a vision of loveliness with her hair clearly curled and then put up in an elaborate style, her eyes painted white and then with heavy mascara and liner. “Japanese women in the Pacific States do.”
The transformation was quite surprising. Even in her pregnancy clothes with her long hair down, Alexa looked Japanese. The Aryan version of Japanese, but Japanese nonetheless. Now he was looking at a decidedly Western woman, her bluer than blue eyes shocking in their brilliance.
“I think I’m in love,” he stated quite honestly.
Alexa laughed. “Don’t let my husband hear you!” She obviously thought it was a teasing compliment. He wasn’t going to undeceive her. “He might be jealous, although he would never tell you. He’d just bring you in for questioning and a bit of torture.”
Joe shivered at the thought. “I would appreciate it,” he murmured in a mock serious tone as he leaned toward her, “if we could keep this between us.”
“If you say so, Joseph.” She approximated a German accent for his name, which made him quirk a smile.
“Well, darling,” he drawled, “if you’re the one calling me that, I think I might just grow to like it. It’s so strange to hear the old man calling me by my full name.”
Hitting him with her purse after he helped her on with her cloak, “Joe, you’re particularly playful tonight.”
“Perhaps I’m in the party spirit?” he suggested.
“That must be it,” she decided. “Well, Joe Blake, be a gentleman and save me from all these Nazis.”
He opened their hotel door for her and she walked through it.
“I might just go insane. After taking the ACT I know far too much about the Greater Nazi Reich.”
“Well, you must be particularly qualified for your position at the Imperial Embassy, Agent Kido,” he teased as they came up to the elevator and pushed the button, waiting for it to arrive. It took only a moment and there were a few gentlemen, both wearing swastika bands on their arms, already in it. “I seem to remember a particular gruesome interview with you and your partner.”
She tutted. “Joe, if you thought that was gruesome, you haven’t seen anything yet. I saw my sister Trudy shot dead before my eyes by the kempeitai. My husband actually ran past me holding one of the guns.”
Joe spun toward her and looked into her ice blue eyes. “Your husband assassinated your sister?”
“Is it an assassination when she’s a member of the Resistance? Besides, Trudy attempted to assassinate me twice,” she answered, her tone deadly serious. “Trust me, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” She winked at him and walked out of the elevator.
Looking back at the two men who were clearly staring at Alexa, their mouths slightly open in shock, Joe simply said, “She’s with me,” before leaving. He caught up to Alexa and put his hand at the small of her back and she smiled at him as he guided her out of the hotel and to a waiting car.
It was not a small gathering. Joe looked around in wonder before he snagged two glasses of champagne for them.
Alexa was immediately snagged by an official looking man, whose face blanched when she introduced herself as “Agent Kido,” and Joe smiled into his glass of champagne as he walked further into the party.
At one point, after being congratulated for his work in Canyon City, he was lurking when he caught a particularly hilarious conversation between Alexa and a young woman with wavy blonde hair.
“You are the perfection of the Aryan woman,” whoever the stranger was gushed. “May I?”
“Oh,” Alexa responded, clearly surprised. “No one’s really asked before. Of—Of course.”
The young woman reached out and put her hands on Alexa’s stomach and breathed out in happiness. “You are truly blessed. How far along are you?”
“Five and a half months,” she answered, rubbing her own hand along the stomach. “Or thereabouts. My husband and I are very excited.”
“Is he here? Your husband?”
Joe looked down into his champagne and when he glanced up, he saw Alexa look up at him with a sparkle in her eyes before she turned back to her companion. “Takeshi? No. He’s stationed with the Imperial Navy in San Francisco.”
The German woman’s face dropped and she removed her hands. “He’s—you’re—I—”
Willfully misunderstanding, Alexa held out her hand. “Forgive me, I’m Agent Misaki Kido. I’m an attaché with the Imperial Embassy. I’m here with Joe Blake. We’re visiting from New York.”
The young woman took her hand hesitantly. “Nicole Dormer.”
“Hello,” Alexa said again, taking a sip of her champagne. “How do you know Reichsminister Heusmann?”
Nicole was clearly uncomfortable and looked around. “He and my father know each other.”
“Oh,” she responded. “How lovely. I find family connections are always important. So—do you have children? Or are you hoping for children?”
“I—” Nicole swallowed and stepped forward. She spoke in a low voice so Joe had to take a few steps forward, abandoning his hiding space, so he could hear her. “Is your child—a—a Japanese?”
“Quite,” Alexa responded. “We’re naming him Itsuki. I’m certain he’s going to be a boy.”
Alexa raised her eyebrows. She was clearly enjoying herself and the prejudice of Nicole Dormer if Joe could tell anything by her body language. She was playing with her.
Joe decided it was time to step in. Moving forward, he wrapped his arm around her waist. “How are your feet, Misaki? The Chief Inspector would never forgive me if I let you tire yourself.”
“I’ll put in a good word,” she promised as she looked up at him with a smile. “Joe Blake—Nicole Dormer. Her father apparently knows yours. Joe is Reichsminister Heusmann’s son, although he grew up in New York.”
Not bothering to offer his hand to Nicole, Joe instead turned back to Alexa. “More champagne? How are you always glowing?”
“I’m Aryan,” she joked. “It’s a requirement, I’m told.”
Nicole interjected. “It’s the pregnancy. Aryan women glow when they have a child in their wombs.”
“Well,” Alexa declared, “fourth time’s the charm.”
Clearly confused, Nicole looked at Joe. “I don’t understand.”
Joe, however, was looking at Alexa. “I thought this was your second.” He remembered the child she was carrying when she came to him for help, but there were others? Were they with their father in the Pacific States? Surely they would stay with Alexa. They couldn’t possibly be in Japan either.
“No,” she responded, her voice a little sad. “Itsuki is the fourth.—Could you get me another glass of champagne, Joe? Nicole, do you need another?”
Deciding to lead Alexa toward the champagne and away from Nicole, he asked, “Itsuki? What does that mean?”
A sense of melancholy had fallen over Alexa. It was undoubtedly the thought of the child she had lost when she was in the Greater Nazi Reich. There was music playing and Joe approached the musicians and requested a polka.
He led Alexa to a space directly in front of the musicians and, when the music started, began to lead her in the steps. After a moment, she laughed and fell into step. “Joe!” she cried in happiness. “I’m far too pregnant for this.”
Not exactly answering her, he replied, “I knew that overpuffed bastard would have taught you the polka.”
She laughed as they turned. “Well, he did want to make me the perfect Aryan wife—and the perfect Aryan wife dances the polka!”
Joe smiled at her widely. He twirled her and let his hand drift over her stomach and she looked at him oddly for a moment before falling into step again.
He couldn’t help but think how, despite her childhood and early adulthood in the Pacific States, Alexa would have made the perfect Aryan wife. If he had only known he was the son of Reichsminister Martin Heusman a year earlier, he could have swept Alexa off her feet, away from Obergruppenfuhrer John Smith, away from the yellow skinned Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido, and married her. They could have been in this exact moment, and the child in her belly could have been his.
All of this could have been different, if only his father had ordered him here earlier.
But would he have gone back to New York?
Joe really didn’t know.
He couldn’t know.
There were endless possibilities and he was lost in this one, in love with a woman who viewed him as a friend, seeing her shackled to a man from a foreign empire and knowing she was in love with him and there was nothing Joe could do about it.
How he loved her. In every possibility of the worlds that stretched out, Joe knew that he would have always loved Alexa.
Alexa—the name of the cat. If only he knew her actual name—not Alexa, not Misaki—he would whisper it in his dreams. He knew he would dream of her tonight as he had the last and the one before that and the one before that. And he would dream of her the next and the one after that stretching into the future.
He would never love like this again.
And, in that moment as he danced the polka, his heart broke.
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