Go to Sleep

by Inner Voice
Written for: Valdhery in the Yuletide 2007 Challenge

Captain Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach strode confidently through the restaurant's entrance, refusing to glance around nervously like a complete rookie. Instead he scanned the crowd casually--a man looking for his dinner companion, that's all--and spotted his contact sitting at a table across the room. He started towards the contact, forcing himself into a relaxed stroll instead of his usual military stride.

Quick footsteps behind him. Someone bumped past his shoulder and strode over to the contact's table--no, three someones! Trenchcoats and dark glasses. Klaus' hand went reflexively to the gun inside his jacket. Now the first one was gripping the contact's arm, murmuring something to him in a low voice. The contact's face was frozen into a pale, too-calm mask. He allowed the man to pull him to his feet, his unnatural stillness holding for a moment before he burst into motion. He tore his arm from the man's grasp and dashed towards the entrance. Klaus and the three men had their guns out in an instant. One man grabbed the fleeing contact's shoulder--Klaus aimed at him--and slammed his pistol into the contact's temple--Klaus fired--the other two trenchcoats fired on Klaus--

Klaus, the man, and the contact all staggered and collapsed to the floor.

Ignoring the pain in his side, Klaus rolled behind the nearest table and let off two more shots. The two men left standing were shooting back. The customers were screaming, ducking, fleeing.

"Scheisse!" Another bullet, this time in the shoulder. Klaus' aim dipped momentarily as he grimaced in pain.

The trenchcoat Klaus had shot was motioning urgently to his companions, shouting something about 'grab him and go' and 'supposed to bring him in right away without a fucking scene, we can get the other one later--'

The two others hauled the contact to his feet and dragged him towards the kitchen. Dazed and stumbling, the man raised his head and cast a desperate glance at Klaus before all four men disappeared through the kitchen door.

Cursing, Klaus scrambled to his feet and dashed after them, but found only a gaggle of terrified cooks and a wide-open back door. He burst out into the street just in time to see the tail end of a van disappearing around a corner. He couldn't even make out the license plate.


Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach was smirking faintly as he swung his feet up into bed. Ignoring the pain in his side, he stretched contentedly, one arm over his head, then settled back with a satisfied sigh. The football game had been good, but showing that Schwartz bastard who was boss had been the most fun he'd had in months!

The school would give him detention for weeks, he was sure, and Father would give him even worse (though Klaus suspected that he would also be very secretly proud of his son's fighting skills), but none of that mattered next to the glow of triumph.

He glanced over at the other beds in the dormitory, where most of the football team was already asleep. They were covered in bandages and cuts and bruises, but every one of them was sleeping the peaceful sleep of the victorious. He had been proud of them today, his team; they had fought as fiercely as soldiers on a battlefield, with him as their fearless commander.

Closing his eyes, Klaus allowed himself to dream of what it would be like in a few years, when he was in the Army. Instead of fighting arrogant East High jerks, he would be facing the forces of the Eastern Bloc, keeping West Germany from the grasp of Communism. He would be a hero...

The crying from the bedroom was really starting to get on Klaus's nerves.

He had dragged himself to the contact's apartment, intending to search it for information. Instead he had been confronted with the man's frightened wife and son, and had been forced to explain what had happened at the restaurant. The woman started crying, of course, and then the kid began howling as well...

At least they weren't terrified of him any more. The woman had been half-sure that he was in league with her husband's kidnappers, and it had taken a damnably long time to convince her that he was NATO. She had mostly stopped crying by now, but the boy was still whimpering and sobbing intermittently; Klaus could hear him from his place on the living-room couch.

Finally, he raised his head and growled in the direction of the bedroom, "Can't you get your kid to go to sleep? His sniveling isn't going to do us any good."

"You heartless bastard!" the woman burst out. "His father just got dragged off by the secret police, and you expect him to be able to sleep?"

"It's just a matter of mental discipline. You can learn to sleep under any conditions if you put your mind to it."

A cold silence, broken by the boy's sniffling, was the only reply from the bedroom. After a few minutes, a soft humming started up, and then words were added to the melody. Hush now; go to sleep, child. Your mother is not here; she has gone to buy some bread. Hush now; go to sleep...

Sighing, Klaus leaned back again, and attempted to put his own words into practice. He was finding it strangely hard to fall asleep tonight, and he listened to the lullaby for several minutes before finally drifting off.

Conrad Hinkel, butler to the Eberbach family, regarded the tiny body in his arms with awe, and a little terror. So unbelievably small and fragile...less than a week old, and already motherless. Poor Young Master Klaus...

The Mistress had held on for three days after Klaus's birth, but she had finally slipped away. The doctor had shaken his head sadly and left hours ago. The Master had locked himself in the bedroom to grieve alone. All the maidservants had been let go months ago; there hadn't been enough money to pay both them and the doctor.

So Conrad was standing alone in the kitchen at midnight, awkwardly holding a bottle to little Klaus's mouth as the baby fitfully sucked at it.

Klaus turned his head away from the bottle, whimpered, and started to cry. Conrad flinched, startled, and began to make frantic shushing noises. Klaus continued to wail.

What did you do with a crying baby? Conrad tried to think back to the distant memories of his sister's household and his young nephews, from before he entered into service at Schloss Eberbach. She sang lullabies to them, he remembered. What lullaby could he sing? Did he know any?

At last, a dimly-remembered melody surfaced in his mind, and he began to sing softly. "Mariechen hat ein kleines Schaf, kleines Schaf, kleines Schaf. Mariechen hat ein kleines Schaf; schneeweiss, so war sein Fell..."

The contact was dead.

Klaus scowled down at the body half-hidden in the bushes. It was definitely him. The body was face-up, its features still clearly recognizable. And he was definitely dead. Half a dozen bullet holes guaranteed that.

Grimly, Klaus began to search the dead man for anything the secret police might have missed. Papers, microfilm, anything.

Fifteen minutes later, he was forced to conclude that there was nothing to find. He straightened up and glared in the direction of the bleak concrete-and-barbed-wire complex that was just out of sight. Klaus was tempted, very tempted, to take the risk of breaking in and trying to retrieve whatever information they might have gotten from the contact. He didn't like the idea of going back to Bonn empty-handed, not at all.

After a tense moment, he sighed and turned away. It was too dangerous, too far outside the mission parameters; even a 'hotheaded hotshot' (as his superiors were always calling him) could see that. Bonn had stated that this information was valuable, but not worth dying for.

But then, one man had already died for it.

As he walked slowly back to town, Klaus felt a bitter, unfamiliar taste creep into his mouth. Failure.

Klaus stared up at the dormitory ceiling, listening to the soft breathing of a dozen other boys. He was used to sleeping alone in his bedroom, and it was strange to have so many other presences around him. So many others, and yet it felt...more isolated.

'You'll be staying in a dorm, so you might get lonely,' Conrad had said. Loneliness. Homesickness.

...hmph. Only sissy-boys got homesick. Klaus was here to do his father proud; to become a man worthy and able to fight for his country. There was no time for whining or looking back on the past. Klaus nodded firmly to himself, then closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep.

It had been a hellish week, but Klaus was finally back home. He went through his comfortably familiar bedtime routine--exercise (running, for now, to spare his shoulder and side), a shower, stumbling into the bedroom while tiredly drying his hair. But when he was finally under the covers, he found himself unable to go to sleep. He couldn't stop thinking about the mission; flashes of it kept replaying themselves behind his eyelids.

The face of the contact as he was dragged into the kitchen. His glance was wild and desperate, and there was a trickle of fresh blood running down the side of his face.

The same face, twisted and blank in death. The same trail of blood still streaked down his face, but it was dry and brown and four days old.

The woman, pale and red-eyed from crying, clutching her son's hand as Klaus hustled them into a car in the middle of the night.

The rhythmic sound of her soft lullaby filling the car as Klaus drove them into NATO territory as fast as he dared to go.

Klaus sighed and shook his head, trying to dislodge the memories. How could he block them out? The lullaby's melody was threading through his mind again...and now, following it, another melody, very faintly recalled...Klaus tried uncertainly to hum a fragment, frowning as he tried to remember where he had heard it before. His humming grew stronger as the melody pieced itself together, and then suddenly there were words as well. Klaus blinked in surprise, then smiled faintly--a little bemused, but strangely comforted--and began to sing quietly to himself.

"Mariechen hat ein kleines Schaf, kleines Schaf, kleines Schaf..."

Conrad gazed down affectionately at the slumbering baby in his arms. Despite all the tragedies of the day, little Klaus looked peaceful and content in sleep. Perhaps everything would be all right after all. Smiling to himself, he headed down the castle's dim hallways to the nursery.

It was another morning at the NATO office in Bonn, and Captain von dem Eberbach was punctual as usual. He strode into the Chief's office and halted in front of the desk, snapping a salute and giving his usual greeting. No longer a boast about his previous record--not any more--but a determined pledge for the future.

"Captain Klaus Heinz von dem Eberbach reporting, sir. I always accomplish my mission."