Manitoba Lee took a swing at Dr. Gerhardt Messerschmidt, renowned historian, chief art collector of the Third Reich and – foremost – his nemesis. The doctor, a keen boxer in his youth, avoided the punch and slammed his fist in Manitoba’s side, who sank to his knees in pain.
“Hand me the painting,” the Nazi yelled.
“You are really prepared to die for a piece of art?”
“Only if you are prepared to kill for it.”
“Offensichtlich,” Messerschmidt said with a sardonic smile on his unnaturally thin lips as he produced a thin rapier from his sleeve.
The train – still gaining speed – hit an uneven rail at this point, catching Messerschmidt off-balance and giving Manitoba Lee the chance to grab a meat fork from the dining cart. He countered the first wave of attacks with it and cut Messerschmidt on the shoulder. The Nazi was not perturbed.
“Fencing is a funny game. Every competitor will take hits. But in the end, the German wins.”
And he leapt forward, pushing Manitoba back, against the coach door, which after a few knocks flung wide open and rushed a fierce cold wind through the carriage. Sparks flew as iron hit iron and the superior fencing technique of the Nazi shone through. Within half a dozen blows, he disarmed Manitoba Lee.
“The painting,” Messerschmidt demanded once more.
Manitoba unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the small, exquisite canvas, taped to his chest.
“Es ist wunderschön,” the Nazi said.
“It is. Better take a good look,” Manitoba said. “It’s the last time you’ll see it.”
And on those words, he flung himself out of the carriage, into the 200 feet deep ravine below.
He would not survive the fall, that was certain.
But the painting would not hang on the Fuhrer’s walls.
That was all that mattered.
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