The Long and Spectacular Life of Agnes Magnusdottir 10
Lights were springing up across the town. The breeze, what there was of it, was gentle.
I lit a cigarette and held the filter to the gap in my bandages. Eldur was leaning forward, elbows on his knees, but in his eyes was a distant look, staring back into the past.
"When at the outbreak of the Second World War Denmark was invaded by Germany Ásberg Jónsson, Agnes’s paternal grandfather, took his opportunity, chartered himself a boat and took both himself and his family across the ocean to join the cause of National Socialism.
"It wasn't as uncommon globally as you might imagine, young men being caught up by Hitler’s powerful speeches, but in Iceland, tiny country that we are and where everybody knows everybody’s business, Jónsson’s departure stuck out like a sore thumb.
"What puzzled us most was that his German must have been at best rudimentary, certainly it was not taught in Icelandic schools, so we couldn't imagine what the Danish invasionary force would have made of this blonde giant. What we did know for sure is that within three months he had signed up. There was a letter he sent and in it was a copy of his Wehrmacht ID, cut from some German paper or another who thought this was a good story for propaganda."
Eldur raised his hands, dropped them again, gazed over my shoulder out towards the city.
"And that's it really. The rest is part rumour part conjecture. Some stated he was a mere grunt, others that he had a position of some influence, that he worked his way up through the party. There is even one account which puts him behind Hitler at the Nuremberg Rally although the evidential picture is more than a little grainy.
“Think of those countless Nessie images that over the years have been held up as undisputed proof of the beast.
“What cannot be disputed is that he was both seen as a traitor and that he had blood on his hands."
Eldur looked down at his own hands, rubbed them together and then smiled.
"It is not much of a story is it? A grandfather who was a Nazi? How could Agnes be blamed for that? But it was always at the back of our minds. Did it have something to do with her disappearance?"
Snatching up my pen I scratched out my next question.
"But how could it?"
Eldur shrugged and gave a wry smile.
"I have no idea. Isn't that your job?" He paused, collected the cups together, placed them back neatly on the tray. "I remember when your father came into the library. It was like the arrival of a whirlwind. He would ask for book after book, old sea charts, atlases, ancient almost forgotten travelogues. And then six months later, there he was at the top of some mountain or another, a previously undiscovered hill tribe catalogued on the way. And I suppose that is what you are trying to do? Make discoveries too. I told you that you reminded me of him. But then, aren't all children somewhat like their parents?”
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