Emanuel has decided he cannot tell Esther yet that Kalonymous is safe and that he knows where the boy is. In their separate homes, both she and Breindl are full of recriminations and worry. Gasner answers Motti’s telegram, and says that Fisch and Berl are alive and well. Emanuel reads it and locks it away — for now.
* * *
It was a day like any other in the Danish refugee center until the Rosenfeld brothers arrived. Tall like trees but little more than skin and bones, they walked in.
“Can I help you?” said Bruno, eyeing them carefully.
“Yes, you can,” said the one in charge. He held a long, knotted branch in his left hand and was leaning heavily on it. Bruno had watched him drag a dead leg behind him when he came in.
“Have a seat,” said Bruno, gesturing to a bench. He watched Berl make the calculation of whether it would be worth the effort to maneuver his leg so he could sit down, and then decide not to. He did, however, hold Fisch gently by the arm and settle him down.
“Thank you,” said Berl.
“What can I do for you?” Bruno asked.
“We are looking for some boys who may have come this way a number of months ago,” Berl began.
“Ee-leh-ven, ee-leh-ven,” murmured Fisch from the bench.
“Thank you, Fisch,” said Berl. “It was about eleven months ago. Three little boys, name of Sperling.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Bruno, who never forgot a name, a face, or a detail. “Berl and Fisch! You’re Berl and Fisch!”
Berl didn’t understand what the fuss was all about and waited for the young man to return to his senses. “Have you seen the boys?”
“Yes, we have. They were picked up at the border by a truck driver, who brought them to us.”
Berl clapped his hands. “Wonderful. Fisch, they have them!”
“Yuh, yuh,” Fisch nodded.
“Tell us where they are, and we’ll hop right over,” said Berl, completely missing the irony of his own statement. “We can’t wait to see them. We had no idea what happened to them.” When Bruno didn’t reply, Berl grew anxious. “They’re all right, aren’t they? They’re well?”
“Yes, of course,” said Bruno. “I’m sorry, I’m just overwhelmed. It’s not often that we are able to find missing people, despite our best efforts.”
“Are they nearby?” asked Berl. “We can take a train I suppose, but we might need to borrow some kroner. We rode here on the back of a donkey cart.”
“I wish it were that simple,” said Bruno. “But the Sperlings are not in Denmark. They are in Palestine.”
“Palestine!” Berl shouted. “Why did you send them there? We were coming back for them. Couldn’t you have waited a little longer before shipping them off on their own?”
“Sir,” said Bruno. “The boys were in quite a state when they arrived. We thought it best to get them settled as soon as possible, so we located some distant relatives in Jerusalem. They sent ship tickets for the children and we found someone to escort them. We were recently in contact with the relatives actually; they were inquiring after your whereabouts.”
“Of course they were!” said Berl. “The little ones must be beside themselves, wondering where we’ve been.” He paused a moment, then turned away from Bruno. “We were shot, you know.”
“Yes, I know,” said Bruno.
“Utter barbarians,” said Berl.
“Yes, I agree.”
“So let’s have the address then,” said Berl.
“What do you mean?” said Bruno. “I told you, the boys are—“
“I heard you perfectly. The boys are in Palestine, so that is where we’re going. Just tell us how to get there and we’ll be on our way.”
Bruno couldn’t tell if Berl was kidding or if he was serious. There was obviously no way the two wounded men could make the arduous journey, and even if they could, they had no money to finance it.
“Perhaps you’d want to send a letter or a telegram first,” said Bruno. “Get them used to the idea that you’ve returned so they don’t have too much of a shock.”
“That’s an idea, I suppose,” said Berl. “Fisch, what do you think?”
“Can’t think,” said Fisch, bobbing his head back and forth. “Don’t think.”
Bruno looked at Berl questioningly, but Berl purposely ignored him. He seemed deflated suddenly, like he’d lost his way.
“Where are you staying?” asked Bruno kindly.
“I don’t know. We just got here,” said Berl.
Bruno didn’t dare ask where they had been staying before their arrival in Copenhagen. Instead, he pulled a set of keys out of the top drawer of his desk.
“I have a nice place where you and your brother can rest for now. Would that be good?” said Bruno.
Berl looked relieved. “Yes,” he said, struggling to maintain his dignity. “That would be fine.” He grasped Fisch by the hand and pulled him up gently to a standing position. “Rest?” he said softly.
Fisch nodded and stared deeply into his brother’s eyes. Berl knew he was in there somewhere. He’d come out when he was ready.
To be continued . . .