“Hans! Watch out!”
Hans looked up just in time to see that the falling tree was about to crush him to the earth. There was no time to run. He hurled his axe to one side and dropped to the ground beside the fallen tree he had been trimming.
The huge shagbark hickory came crashing down on top of him. The ground shook with the impact.
Hans lay motionless for a moment beneath the tree, then took a deep breath. He let it out slowly. “That was close.”
“Hans! Are you all right?”
“Ja, I’m fine, Papa,” Hans replied. “But I can’t move. My legs are pinned to the ground.”
“I’ll have you out in a second,” Papa promised, scrambling through the branches until he reached Hans. He carried a huge, two-man crosscut saw. “I’m sorry, Son,” Papa said as he attacked a branch. “I thought she was going to fall uphill. At the last second, the wedges slipped and . . . well, thank the Lord you weren’t killed.”
Papa sawed furiously. “That was quick thinking, dropping behind the log like that. You could have been flattened.”
Moments later, the thick branch dropped lower against Hans as the saw severed it from the trunk. Papa dropped the saw and dragged the branch clear. Hans crawled out from under the tree. “If you have something against me, Papa . . .”
Herr Kaltenbrunner laughed, then grabbed Hans and hugged him. “Oh, Hans, I’m sorry. Thank God you weren’t killed! Are you sure you’re all right?”
“Ja, I’m fine, Papa, really I am. A bit shook up, but I’m fine.”
Herr Kaltenbrunner was a man of medium height and build, but he had the broad shoulders and thick hands of a man accustomed to rugged outdoor work. A thick brown mustache accented his friendly face and sandy brown hair.
Hans, his twelve-year-old son, was tall and slim with wiry strength not usually found in a youth of his age. He brushed the dry leaves out of his blond hair. His intense blue eyes sparkled with love for his father.
Hans stepped over to retrieve the axe and then stared at the valley below. “Look, Papa.”
High on the mountainside where Hans and his father were cutting
firewood, they were afforded a panoramic view of most of
“He’s really in a hurry, isn’t he?” Hans said. “I hope he makes that next curve!”
The car disappeared from view as the road dipped behind the crest of a hill. Moments later, the speeding vehicle flashed into view, slowed, then turned into the steep, narrow lane leading up to the Kaltenbrunner chalet.
Papa frowned. “He’s going to the chalet.”
“Papa, that’s a Nazi automobile!” Hans shouted. “And Gretchen’s in the chalet alone!” Dropping their woodcutting tools, father and son dashed frantically down the hillside toward the chalet.
The black car skidded sideways as it came to a stop in the
driveway below the chalet. The passenger door flew open and a large, red-faced
man leaped out. “It’s Colonel Von Bronne!” Hans exclaimed in amazement, “the
Allied agent who helped us escape from
“Herr Kaltenbrunner!” the colonel called. “Come down. Bring Hans and Gretchen. Hurry!”
Fear swept over Hans as he rushed up the chalet steps to find his sister. The desperate tone in the colonel’s voice indicated that danger was at hand. As Hans and Gretchen reached the car, Colonel Von Bronne seized the door handle and threw the back door open. “Quickly!” he gasped. “Get in! There isn’t time to explain!”
The startled family scrambled into the back seat as the colonel leaped into the front. Even as Papa slammed the door closed, the auto lurched in reverse, showering the side of the chalet with flying gravel. The car then sped forward down the steep lane. Alarmed, Hans leaned over and saw Lieutenant Hofer at the wheel.
“Colonel, what’s this all about?” Papa asked with a note of concern in his voice. “Where are you taking us?”
“We have reason to believe that the Gestapo may have located
you,” the gray-haired colonel answered, as he scanned