Edge of Eternity - Ken Follett

Part One




Rebecca Hoffmann was summoned by the secret police on a rainy Monday in 1961.

It began as an ordinary morning. Her husband drove her to work in his tan Trabant 500. The graceful old streets of central Berlin still had gaps from wartime bombing, except where new concrete buildings stood up like ill-matched false teeth. Hans was thinking about his job as he drove. ‘The courts serve the judges, the lawyers, the police, the government – everyone except the victims of crime,’ he said. ‘This is to be expected in Western capitalist countries, but under Communism the courts ought surely to serve the people. My colleagues don’t seem to realize that.’ Hans worked for the Ministry of Justice.

‘We’ve been married almost a year, and I’ve known you for two, but I’ve never met one of your colleagues,’ Rebecca said.

‘They would bore you,’ he said immediately. ‘They’re all lawyers.’

‘Any women among them?’

‘No. Not in my section, anyway.’ Hans’s job was administration: appointing judges, scheduling trials, managing courthouses.

‘I’d like to meet them, all the same.’

Hans was a strong man who had learned to rein himself in. Watching him, Rebecca saw in his eyes a familiar flash of anger at her insistence. He controlled it by an effort of will. ‘I’ll arrange something,’ he said. ‘Perhaps we’ll all go to a bar one evening.’

Hans had been the first man Rebecca had met who matched up to her father. He was confident and authoritative, but he always listened to her. He had a good job – not many people had a car of their own in East Germany – and men who worked in the government were usually hard-line Communists, but Hans, surprisingly, shared Rebecca’s political scepticism. Like her father he was tall, handsome and well dressed. He was the man she had been waiting for.

Only once during their courtship had she doubted him, briefly. They had been in a minor car crash. It had been wholly the fault of the other driver, who had come out of a side street without stopping. Such things happened every day, but Hans had been mad with rage. Although the damage to the two cars was minimal, he had called the police, shown them his Department of Justice identity card, and had the other driver arrested for dangerous driving and taken off to jail.

Afterwards he had apologized to Rebecca for losing his temper. She had been scared by his vindictiveness, and had come close to ending their relationship. But he had explained that he had not been his normal self, due to pressure at work, and she had believed him. Her faith had been justified: he had never done such a thing again.

When they had been dating for a year, and sleeping together most weekends for six months, Rebecca wondered why he did not ask her to marry him. They were not kids: she had then been twenty-eight, he thirty-three. So she had proposed to him. He had been startled, but said yes.

Now he pulled up outside her school. It was a modern building, and well equipped: the Communists were serious about education. Outside the gates, five or six older boys were standing under a tree, smoking cigarettes. Ignoring their stares, Rebecca kissed Hans on the lips. Then she got out.

The boys greeted her politely, but she felt their yearning adolescent eyes on her figure as she splashed through the puddles in the school yard.

Rebecca came from a political family. Her grandfather had been a Social Democrat member of the Reichstag, the national parliament, until Hitler came to power. Her mother had been a city councillor, also for