Home > Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(5)

Wolf By Wolf (Wolf By Wolf #1)(5)
Ryan Graudin

And then there was Adele Wolfe. The girl who used her twin brother’s papers so she could enter the all-male race. Who cut her hair and taped her breasts and raced like all the rest. The only girl who had ever competed. The victor of the ninth Axis Tour.

Victor Adele Wolfe was a classic Reich beauty—pale, pale, pale—with corn-silk hair and Nordic eyes. This face was aired all over the Reichssender (the television’s only state-approved channel) just days after her victory and astonishing confession that she was not actually Felix Wolfe but his sister. (Her Iron Cross had almost been revoked by racing officials, but the Führer had taken a liking to the svelte blond. She was, he said, a perfect example of Aryan splendor and strength. No one dared argue with him.) The cameras followed her everywhere, documenting dozens of press interviews, an awards ceremony in view of Mount Fuji, the traditional Victor’s Ball at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Out of her racing gear and wrapped up in a silk kimono, Adele Wolfe almost appeared delicate. It was hard to imagine exactly how a girl who looked like a forest fairy straight out of the Grimm Brothers’ storybooks had beaten out nineteen burly boys under such grueling conditions. Even after ten months of studying the race footage and mastering the maneuvers and speed of her own Zündapp KS 601 motorcycle on countryside autobahns, Yael still wasn’t quite sure how Adele had managed the feat.

But she was about to find out.

Henryka turned away from the screen, eyes back to Yael’s freshly changed face. “You look just like her.”

Exact impersonations usually took days of study. Even then they weren’t always accurate. There were always adjustments to be made, minute details to fix. The exact color of eyes and hair. A missed freckle. The precise angle of the nose. Scars deep and wide and worrying over skin.

Yael had perfected Adele Wolfe’s appearance in a single week. She was tall (175 centimeters) with white-blond hair and three very distinct freckles on the left cheek. Unreal blue eyes—like ribboning layers of glacier ice, or tropical shallows. Replicating Adele Wolfe’s features was the easy part. It was every other aspect of the ninth victor’s life that was the challenge.

Yael had been studying Adele Wolfe for nearly a year. Breathing, sleeping, eating, living everything Adele. Observing the girl from close and far. Perfecting the way she walked (as if she were being pulled on silk strings). Noting how she twisted the ends of her hair when she was nervous. Memorizing every strange, seemingly useless fact from Adele’s past.

Yael knew the following: Adele Wolfe had been born to a mechanic and a housewife in the outskirts of Frankfurt, Germany, on May 2, 1938. Her two brothers—Martin (older) and Felix (twin)—taught her boxing and wrestling. Her mother taught her knitting (not so successfully—the socks always came out warped and unraveling), and her father taught her racing (rather successfully, even though girls weren’t allowed to compete in formal races). She hated beets and fish with livid passion. Her favorite color was yellow, but she always told people it was red because it seemed fiercer.

Adele Wolfe wanted, more than anything, to be someone.

She started racing under her twin brother’s name at the age of ten. At first it was just a race or two. But then she kept winning. Felix Wolfe rose to the top of his age rank and even had his name and photograph printed in the newspaper Das Reich. Adele raced and won, raced and won, and there seemed to be nothing that could stop her.

Until the day of Martin’s racetrack accident. The day the Wolfe family broke in a way that could never be fixed. The day Adele’s parents swore off racing altogether—banning their remaining children from even watching the Nürburgring races.

But Adele’s fear of the road was no match for her fear of being lost. Swallowed into the Führer’s breeding systems to mother a whole nation of blonds. Doomed to years of swollen ankles, a body run down, and breasts sucked dry.

That would not be her fate. So, five years after her older brother’s death, she took Felix Wolfe’s papers, entered the largest race in the Reich, and won.

As if on cue, the most popular film clip of Adele Wolfe’s racing career flickered across the bubble screen. It was from the Victor’s Ball of 1955—a party held for the winner of the Axis Tour, attended by Tokyo’s high society and the Reich’s highest officials. Adele had shocked the world at the finish line by revealing her true identity as a girl, but what happened during the ball stunned some Reichssender viewers even more.

Adolf Hitler—a man notorious for being a stick-in-the-mud at parties—asked Adele Wolfe to dance. The Führer, who left the Chancellery’s great iron-bolted doors only twice a year (and when he did, swarmed himself thick with the crisp black uniforms of the SS), let Adele’s skin collide with his for a five-minute, televised waltz.

It was one of the many reasons Reiniger—the National Socialist general and secret leader of the resistance—placed Adele Wolfe’s file in Yael’s hands. Hitler had the girl close enough for her to slide a knife blade between his ribs. If he did it once, he’d do it again.

And this time, the weapon would be ready.

But to attend the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo, Yael had to win the race. To win the Axis Tour, she had to enter as Adele Wolfe. To enter as Adele Wolfe, she had to take the real girl’s place. To take the real Adele’s place, she would have to carry out the kidnapping and retrieval before curfew set in. Soon.

Yael glanced around the office. It seemed too small, too quiet for everything that was about to happen. “Where’s Reiniger?”

“Erwin wanted to be here to see you off, but he had… other obligations.” This was Henryka’s code for National Socialist duties. Yael knew that even when Reiniger was with the National Socialists, he was doing the resistance’s work—infiltrating the party for its secrets, converting officers whose sense of horror and morality was somehow still intact after all these New Order years, preparing great chunks of the army for the upcoming putsch—but the thought of him sitting in meetings with men who danced in her people’s ashes and blood always twisted her stomach.

“He wanted me to give you this.” Henryka plucked a folded sheet from the new papers and handed it to Yael. It was a list of addresses and contact protocol, written in code. There was one for each of the nine checkpoint cities along the dotted black line.

Prague. Rome. Cairo. Baghdad. New Delhi. Dhaka. Hanoi. Shanghai. Tokyo.

“If you need anything on the road, these cells should be able to help you. Just be certain you’ve lost any tails before you pay them a visit.”

Yael refolded the paper into eighths and put it away. “Anything else?”

The older woman’s lip trembled. Even her fingers were shaky as she tucked her bleached hairs behind her ear. When she shook her head, the wisps sprang back to their wild selves.

“I’ll be watching you.” Henryka nodded at the screen. Her eyes were wet and there was a weight in her whisper. A sadness full of the years they’d spent together: baking and reading and spying on beer hall customers through a knothole in the old headquarters. Years where Yael had almost felt like a normal adolescent.

“Do what needs to be done, then come back.” The way the older woman said this made Yael think of all the operatives who hadn’t returned. The pins that were taken off the map. Leaving trails of tiny holes all over the crimson paper world.

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