Laura was intentionally avoiding reading the journal.
After the reading of the will, she went home and refused to take it out of her bag. Then she’d gotten caught up with school and then life in general, and then it just felt easier to leave it alone. She just don’t have the energy required to deal with whatever the book contained.
Her grandfather’s words had troubled her. Maybe there was nothing in it except the ramblings of a man at the end of his life. Laura wanted to believe that, but he had never been the type to be dramatic. She knew whatever she found would tilt her perception of the world.
The next morning she woke to her “you’re going to be late to work if you don’t get the fuck up now” alarm going off. She lay there, confused for a second before she bound out of bed. The tangled sheets slid to the floor, but she ignored them in her frantic rush to get up.
Fuck. She desperately needed a shower, but knew she had literally minutes to get her ass out of the door or she’d never clock in on time.
Laura was an infraction away from losing this job. Timeliness wasn’t a trait she’d cultivated. She could blame her mother’s totally inability to show up on time, but her father had been punctual to a fault before his death. No, Laura’s issue is all her own in this case.
She threw on a pair of pressed slacks and a dress shirt as was required by her boss. Her job was more secretarial until she finished nursing school. She was serious about being a nurse and helping people, but nothing about this job made her excited.
No, she wanted fast paced energy and constant moving, not sitting at a desk answering a phone. Definitely not dictating notes for her lawyer boss. She’d rather be anywhere except there when she was at the office.
Maybe she was more like her mother than she realized.
The phone was ringing just as she was stuffing her feet into a pair of kitten heels. She grabbed it out of her bag, not bothering to check who it was from before answering.
“Hello? I’m coming, just having some trouble with my car so I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
There was a long pause over the line before a woman’s voice carried over the line.
“I was told to contact you by this date.”
Her accent was heavy. Something Slavic or German, making understanding her difficult.
“If you don’t come to Der Schmetterling by one pm, I’ll have to reveal what I know to my handler.”
The call ended abruptly, leaving Laura staring at her phone dumbfounded. She threw her phone back into her purse and stared down at her feet.
There weren’t enough “What the fucks” in the world to encompass how she was feeling. Her heart raced as she considered what that phone call could have even meant.
Another alarm buzzed from her purse and she realized she was going to be hopelessly late now. Laura started to leave her apartment, but backtracked to her bedroom and grabbed the journal off her nightstand.
She wasn’t sure if she’d attend this meeting, but she needed to know what the hell was going on.
Laura anticipated some kind of reprimand when she sprinted into the office, flat white latte in hand. She was surprised that having arrived forty-five minutes late her boss wasn’t standing at her desk with her severance in hand already.
One thing she’d forgotten was it was Monday, or what she liked to call Mandatory Hours Long Useless Meeting Day. The office had been blissfully empty as the senior officers had called another early meeting. Thankfully it wasn’t one she had been required to attend so she sat at her desk and manned the phones.
After fielding calls for an hour, and an entire office was still in the meeting, she decided to pull out her grandfather’s journal.
Her hand shook as she traced the leather binding. Opening the cover, she reread his words and braced herself.
December 11, 1942
I can’t believe I got them to take me on. Them so desperate for bodies to fight this war, and me so desperate to get out of this backwards town before it’s too late.
What I didn’t expect was how difficult it all would be. The speedy basic training, the rigor of it. They break you down to build you up, physically and mentally. The wake ups by the sergeant every day, the early morning runs in the rain, the ocean training.
I’m doing almost done, a few more days and they’ll ship us out. This is for god and country because those Japanese bastards, those Nazi bastards, deserve everything that’s coming to them.
December 25, 1941
No one told me how cold it would be in this tiny German town. I have to wear three pairs of socks to keep the cold and the damp off my feet. The uniforms definitely don’t keep you warm and we rarely sleep under blankets.
We’ve been here for two weeks with no signs of leaving. The only real solace is the women.
My first was Agatha. I couldn’t understand a word she said when she bumped into me outside the encampment one day. My best guess is she’s a whore, but she treated me good and didn’t ask for a dime. Probably because I blew my load so fast the moment I slid my dick in her. They don’t tell you how good your first girl will feel. I’ll be better prepared next time for sure.
February 20th, 1943
Things have changed a bit. I expected to be writing sooner, but got caught up in something.
Agatha, my first if you remember, well my assumptions about her were right. She was a whore. A madame at a place called Der Schmetterling.
Somehow she talked me into coming round. It’s where so many of the boys go from the encampment. A pretty girl willing to suck your dick or let you fuck her ass is one thing, but these girls listen. You can treat ’em like they’re your girl, take them on dates and stuff. Makes you feel normal for a little bit
It should’ve been simple. Just go around and maybe spend some time in a girls room, but things got a little complicated.
They aren’t just selling girls to the GIs, they’re housing other things. I keep telling Agatha I don’t wanna be involved in any of that, that I’m already putting myself at risk, but she’s willing to blackmail me to get what she needs done.
March 15th, 1942
I’m in far deeper than I meant to be, but I can’t turn my back now. The war is closer here so I’m doing all I can. We hear bombs drop daily now and I’m worried the village won’t survive much longer. Two in our platoon ran into some hostile fire while out patrolling and aren’t going to make it.
I’m going to have to help Agatha move somehow. How am I going to get all these people out?
When they said the war would be dangerous, this wasn’t what I anticipated. I’m so fucking scared and too many people are counting on me.
Laura paused. Her grandfather talking about sliding his dick in someone was just not how she pictured starting her morning. She sincerely hope he was smart enough to use protection if he was messing around with whores during war time.
Worst, she was convinced her grandfather was involved in trafficking, prostitution, drugs, or all of the above.
She’d seen his pictures. He’d enlisted young, fair younger than he should’ve been allowed. He was handsome and obviously stupid. Far stupider than she may know.
The meeting must have just broken because the office was full of noise. She tucked the journal away in her bag and went to retrieve her boss coffee.
Laura wasn’t surprised to find herself sitting in her car outside of the Der Schmetterling at twelve fifty-five. She gave her boss some excuse about grief following her grandfather’s death.
The outside was brown brick with a large pane windows. She could see people sitting at tables having lunch.
It was a diner. More than likely a German one that served good food if the reviews on yelp were to be trusted.
Maybe this was all a misunderstanding. She had his journal, but he couldn’t still be involved in anything. He had been well into his nineties and house bound at the end. Could life really catch up with him like this?
A knock on her window made her jump. A woman stood there, her expression grim.
Laura cracked her window, eyeing the woman reluctantly. “Yeah?”
“Laura Peterson?” The thick accent stumbled over her name. “I am Petrei Langro. I need you to come with me.”