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the debut novel from
m. l. Winitsky

A Fly on the Wall

The Discovered Journals of Heinz Linge
Valet to Adolph Hitler
Volume One

In this immersive epistolary novel, M. L. Winitsky brings elements of magical realism and a rarely seen perspective to the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler, and shows us how the underestimated among us can change the course of history.

M. L. Winitsky

M. L. Winitsky is a former university professor, historian, consultant, and researcher for television living in Southern California. His life-long, academically informed fascination with alternate history at last led to writing A Fly on the Wall, the first in his three-volume magic realism epic.

Articles and Observations from M. L. Winitsky

Scrawl On The Wall


(A Fly on the Wall is) as thoroughly entertaining and hypnotic as John Kennedy Toole’s cult classic, A Confederacy of Dunces. Almost against my will, I was pulled into Winitsky’s web. Stunning, entertaining, and consummately worthwhile…

– Hugo N. Gerstl

International Bestselling Author of

Scribe, Against All Odds, and The Wrecking Crew


“(A Fly on the Wall is)…a captivating book..!”

– Roberta Edgar

eight-time vice-president of the Independent Writers of Southern California

A Fly on the Wall by M. L. Winitsky ~ Chapter One

23 February 1935

I face a blank page.

How do I speak to you?

What do I reveal?

How does a man truly alone turn to perhaps the only person in the world he can trust and confide in him in the days and perhaps even years to come what will most certainly be both the momentous and trivial events of his life and the times? Does this to you sound like two identities? It is conceivable, but is not such an existence the only one vouchsafed to me in my new life? I imagine that this is for you to judge. I record this not as a writer but as a reader, not merely of books but of people. As a result, you may detect the influences of those far more highly qualified than I to set this down.

By this decision, you might reasonably ask whether I, lowly and unlettered as I am, have merely substituted literary masturbation for the anatomical—certainly not an unreasonable question if asked by a stranger. But my answer then is a simple one: to my journal, I am no stranger. Although I may mystify you from time to time, may contradict you from time to time, may dispute and even quarrel with you from time to time, I never lie to you or withhold from you. Ever. For in a solitary life of repression, there must be someone to whom I can confide, divulge, confess, render dangerous opinions without risking dire consequences, keep my emotions in check, sort through the mental and emotional clutter of my daily life to gain insight, entrust my troubles, and, perhaps, even grow from the effort to set it all down.

And so, I begin.

I am Heinz Linge, born into dire poverty to a feeble, masochistic, and indifferent mother and a brutal, violent, drunken father. Having had a short and negligible formal education, I became a hooligan and roustabout until I wised up and became an apprentice bricklayer. I am of over-average height, possess no excess fat and even less hair—all in all, an entirely ordinary fellow, you would say, save for one quality: a photographic memory. As a consequence, as the saying goes: while a person like that may remember everything, he understands nothing—a dubious gift at best. However, once I became aware of my curious mental abnormality, I made three far-reaching decisions that would direct my life from that time forward: first, that I would read anything and everything I could lay my hands on; second, that no one would know of it; and third, the devil with understanding. It would be only natural to inquire as to my motive.

You ask what has saved me from the justifiable and dangerous suspicion of others, and I can only answer that one sees what one expects, and with my history and “attainments,” a dullard is expected, and so a dullard is seen—and so interpreted. But I leave all that for another time, as I fear I may have confessed too much on a first attempt at revelation.

Those others? you may ask. I will provide one example. Once arrested in my sixteenth year, for a petty survival theft not unlike that of Jean Valjean, I was taken by the police, who, after a series of fruitless but mysterious interrogations, quickly gave me over to a clinic in which the doctors placed me under an equally fruitless and no less mysterious scrutiny, and then released me without a word of explanation. Giving that experience no more thought, and requiring a means of subsistence, I concentrated on and took whatever menial labour I could obtain, until, ultimately, I secured a position as an apprentice bricklayer. Only when I was recruited by the SS did I consider the consequences of my mysterious attributes and record.

And yet, in all the interviews and examinations I underwent with SS-Personnel, nothing of my arrest and inspection ever arose, even by inference, and I passed with no adverse comment whatever—or any comment, to be entirely accurate. And if they did know, what would they know? What could they ask? What could I tell them? That I function with a superordinate brain I cannot predict or control? That in a few unguarded moments, I speak a language I have only encountered in books? That, without the repression born of fear, necessity, and pure will, my memory of what I read would intrude into my nightmares as well as my everyday thoughts and human exchanges? Is that what I tell the mediocrities, both high and low, who surround me and rule my existence? And even were I to make the attempt, to none of these questions do I have any answers. What never leaves me is the knowledge that others will find me incomprehensible and, in an age of authoritarian simplicity, dangerous, since ordinary people, especially at this moment, require safety, that is to say, a consonance between what they see and know and what they think they see and know. Therefore, in this world, I navigate precariously.

Even now, it is difficult to believe my good fortune. Until today, I had encountered Adolf Hitler only twice. The first time was in 1933. I met him at a boisterous beer-hall political rally; yet at the time, I could say that he never met me. This puzzles you? It ought not, as I am not speaking of an ordinary encounter with an ordinary man. There, I was not a person but merely a hand, one of the thousands of anonymous hands he had grasped that day, my hand in his, a tiny drop of rain touching the ocean. So, you can see that at the time, any consideration of one day actually having the most intimate and personal relationship with him was as alien to my mind as to imagine a flying pig.

Yet not long after joining the Party and the SS, and for no reason I could discern, I was detached from my unit with about a dozen others to the Obersalzberg as No. 1 Guard. However, during my entire time there, I saw the Führer only once, when he appeared on his immense balcony and shook hands perfunctorily with all assembled—until he came to me. Then he stopped, tilted his head slightly back to look me squarely in the face, and asked me what my sign was and if I had visions. I, of course, was too much in thrall to speak, and he appeared to know the answers in spite of my stricken silence. All I saw were his lips pursing and a cursory nod as he continued down the line.

People invariably ask me about his eyes. This I have been told. But I will inform you now that I was not among those who were impressed. This makes me—how is it said?—a majority of one. However, as with everyone else, I too was instantly transfixed by him. But it was his hands. My own hand was, of course, sweaty and trembling, and my embarrassment at it almost overcame me. But then he took my trembling hand and held it fast in his own. Though my intellect instantly recorded the coldness of his palm, I only felt a curious warmth, like a womb, enfolding me in its wordless embrace. Yes, I was looking into his eyes—how could one not? But I saw only a void, a vast nothingness, yet I was comforted. I was at peace. Hands are underrated.

Again, for no reason I could make out at the time, I was selected from a list of fifty, sent to a course in hotel training, and afterward served in a variety of menial capacities in an assortment of Reich Chancellery departments under SA General Wilhelm Brückner, the Führer’s chief adjutant.

But you wish to know of today, yes? And I think rightly so, for it was the most remarkable day of my life.

It began with an unexplained, urgent, eleventh-hour summons from Reichsführer-SS Himmler’s headquarters. Nursing the remnants of a bout of influenza, I sat for three hours in the sterile Chancellery hallway of interminable marble and glass alongside a seemingly infinite row of rigid, eyes-front, black-and-silver-clad male bodies, their utter silence punctuated by the occasional oily creak of gleaming boot leather. And there was the odour of sweat, but not the sort of sweat you could see, the kind popping to the surface of faces, necks, armpits, and the smalls of backs, but the sweat of ambition, the kind you glimpse in a facial twitch, a fluttering of the eyes, a trembling of the lips, in the fixed stares of the desperate. I looked and acted no different from the rest, save that I’d been late, and yet it was I who was commanded to sit directly before the polished mahogany double doors to the Führer’s quarters. For how long I sat there I have no knowledge, for I was benumbed with anxiety.

So benumbed that, without even noticing it, Brückner was standing before me. At first, I failed to acknowledge him, for he was wearing in place of his resplendent SA General’s uniform a brown, double-breasted business suit, off-white dress shirt, striped tie, and highly polished brogues, elegant but anonymous, save for a black eye patch. However, once my conscious mind placed him, I shot up from my chair at full attention and presented the Hitler salute, perhaps a bit more stridently than the occasion called for, the sound thundering through the hallway as if we were in a deep canyon. Brückner returned my salute perfunctorily, curved his thin, pale lips into something resembling a grin, and told me to stand at parade rest.

Brückner, a head shorter than I and considerably thinner, scanned me up and down, swinging his head like a metronome on its side. “Well, then, let’s see if we can expedite this so you can recuperate fully, yes?” and without waiting for a response, he took me by the elbow and guided me to the massive doors. “Go in, Linge.”

“But, Herr General, the others were ahead of me,” I demurred.

Brückner chuckled mirthlessly. “Ah, you are quite the sentimentalist, Linge. Perfect. But you needn’t concern yourself. Just go in,” he repeated. “There are no others. There never were.”

I shut the doors silently and passed through an uninhabited reception salon crammed with repulsive and ungainly furniture that was not intended for comfort or aesthetics and into the Führer’s actual living room. It was approximately a thousand square feet in area and, unlike the salon, clearly designed for ease and even a certain exotic cosiness, despite its size. There was a beamed ceiling, old-fashioned chalet-style, wood wainscoting, and, suddenly, an immense fireplace facing me like the terrifying entrance to a forbidden cave. At the first sight of it, I could feel all the blood rush to my brain, my hands trembled uncontrollably, and I almost passed out right there, hoping that I’d throw myself in as in my dreams and swirl endlessly downward, downward, on fire, to . . . However, for reasons beyond my poor powers, I was able to collect myself sufficiently to narrowly escape the igneous maw and complete my tour. Around the fireplace were grouped a sofa and chairs upholstered in dark leather, all save one, which was turned away toward the far wall, its back to me. Beside the immense sofa stood an equally large table topped with swirled marble on which several newspapers lay. A large desk stood before a wall-length tapestry and two paintings I could not recognize. There must have been a colossal window, but it was completely shrouded by thick, heavy, dark-burgundy draperies. The only light was provided by a small green glass-shaded desk lamp, which did less to illuminate than to throw sinister shadows throughout the vast space.

As with the foyer, the living room seemed also uninhabited. To be frank, I had no idea what to do, for I also had no idea why I was summoned in the first place. As a consequence, I merely stood in the centre of the room and tried to banish all thought from my mind with little success, because I’d learned long before that the less you know, the more you imagine. Almost hysterical with curiosity, I decided to keep occupied by wandering with apparent aimlessness over to peer through the draperies. I had just reached them when his voice emerged from behind me and I spun round.

A welder I once worked with in my former life, who had lost several toes and one ear in the war, told me that in the face of danger, there are only three possible responses: fight, flee, or freeze. Fight, he said, was risky, flight was reasonable if conditions permitted, but freeze was suicide. I froze.

A voice is information, like anything written down or seen, so my memory needed no prompting to recognize his. But he was speaking to me in the sort of tone one assumes when having known a person for years. I saluted with panicked abandon and was about to shout Heil when the Führer whispered: “Linge, you look terrible. Are you ill?”

“No, my Führer,” I lied. “That is, I . . . was laid up with the influenza for a time, but I am definitely on the mend. But, my Führer, I—”

He quickly raised his index finger to his lips. “No ceremony, Linge,” he said. “You know, I had a . . . call it a vision, during the night, as I lay sleepless in my bed, of a man quite uncommon. Not truly extraordinary, mind you, but possessed of the singular ability to elicit the extraordinary from those capable of it, do you follow me?”

I was both transfixed and flummoxed. I could feel drops of sweat cascading down my armpits and back. “I . . . I . . . am afraid I do not, my Führer.”

His little moustache rose as he smiled, something I had never seen before. “Naturally,” he said, mirthfully, “this must appear to you to be quite irrational, for you have, to this point, dealt only with the rational, the humdrum, the ordinary. It is to be expected. But there is quite another reality. I have always known this, a reality that only the exceptional can perceive and make manifest. And we will make it known to each other.”

There was silence, save the pounding of blood in my ears. I was confounded. Lack of formal schooling aside, I understood nothing of his monologue, but that did not appear to matter, for he merely gazed down at the floor, then began pacing round the room, seemingly oblivious to my presence, head bent, hands clasped behind his back like an ice skater. My own back felt like a waterfall. I was close to panic. Should I speak? Was he waiting for a response? I had no way of telling—or how perilous it would be in my breaking the silence. After his third circuit, he turned and moved toward me, stopping close enough for me to smell his breath. It was unutterably foul.

“Are you a spiritual man, Linge?” he asked, almost in a whisper.

“You mean, am I religious, my Führer?” I queried back.

“Not necessarily, but do you believe in fortune?”

Once I was reasonably certain that I was not to be subjected to a reprimand over something I knew not what, I answered: “I . . . I am standing before you now, my Führer. Is that not fortune?”

“No, Linge,” he replied, “that is destiny, and you will be the final link in the chain that binds me to it.”

I was utterly out of my depth, and so I remained silent as he turned round as if to walk away, but suddenly turned back, came up to me, glanced up for a moment, then grabbed me tightly by the shoulders, his eyes piercing through me like swords. “Don’t speak, Linge; the expression of mystification on your face is sufficiently eloquent.” He released his hands and stepped back, then, as if weighted down with a terrible burden of which he could not speak, moved slowly to his desk, and eased himself into his chair. “Linge,” he began, his voice exhibiting a strength I had not expected, “those officers lining the hallway outside are but a façade, a stage set, if you will, a ruse to convince those who surround me that I was seeking merely one more valet. Of course—there is some truth to that, for I learned long ago, that for a lie to succeed, not unlike bread, one must surround it with a crust of truth.”

For reasons that baffle me still, instinct overrode judgment and I blurted out: “But, my Führer, I was not born, educated, or trained to personal service. I am an ignorant labourer.” Of course, I knew I didn’t sound like one, though, in my untutored brain, the how was conveniently separated from the what.

The Führer smiled indulgently, his hands splayed, palms down, on his desk. “I expected that very reaction. In my position, Linge, I must see beyond the obvious and consider matters that elude others, even those most highly placed. It is only natural for you to wonder why I raised you above all the others, whom you consider far more qualified. I will disabuse you of this at once. You come with the highest recommendations from men whose knowledge of certain matters is both unique and essential to my purpose. I, of course, had to witness this for myself, and I tell you that I concur completely.”

“If . . . if you say so, my Führer.” I couldn’t imagine that he was unable to see me sweating and shaking, but if he did, he gave no sign.

He eased himself up and came toward me again, then stopped. He was looking at me, and yet looking past me, a thing difficult to describe but easily seen. He was completely silent, not even the sound of breathing, and all I could hear was my racing pulse. Then he spoke, almost in a whisper, to that space beyond me. “Linge, do you believe that there is genius among the animal kingdom?”

“I . . . I have no idea, my Führer.”

“I, for one, cannot believe it, because he would not have survived. And even among the early humans, any sign of deviance would have meant death or banishment—even worse than death for such creatures, don’t you agree? Not even here, now, in this mere sand grain in the vast ocean of time, could someone with my unique gifts survive, much less become the saviour of the Aryan race, who is poised to place Germany at the very centre of Western civilization. And yet, I have survived and will continue to do so, of this I am convinced. However, even I cannot accomplish this alone, and so you have become quite irreplaceable.”

Stunned, I uttered: “B . . . but, my Führer, how can I of all people be irreplaceable?”

He nodded knowingly. “There is much I cannot divulge to you now,” he replied. “Perhaps one day. . .” his voice faded to a murmur, then gained volume as he said: “There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, of a time when Henry Ford the automobile genius was walking down a hallway with his subordinate, and he stopped to ask him what time it was, and the subordinate replied: ‘What time do you want it to be, Mr. Ford?’ I am no less beset by such sycophancy, I’m afraid. The problem, Linge, is that a man in my position hears only what those round him think he wishes to hear.”

It must have been because of the panic I could not express, for again, curiosity trumped prudence. “But, my Führer,” I asked, “what if they were to tell you what you didn’t wish to hear?”

He nodded slyly and his lips curved into a mischievous grin: “You must never lose that sense of humour, Linge; it is a most beguiling quality.” He returned to his desk. “In any event, you will assume the duties of a personal valet. Realize that there will be many who will make demands upon you, including my inner circle and visiting dignitaries, but especially Krause, my ostensible chief valet, an efficient but unpleasant fellow—and for appearances, you must be seen to comply. But never forget, Linge, that there is only one to whom you answer. And when all are gone from my sight and your mundane duties and the attendant abuses are done, I will, increasingly often, call for you, and you will undertake your destined role.”

Every part of me was screaming for an explanation of that role, but I said nothing. Frau Linge, from fear or inclination, could not express any human warmth or feeling towards me, but she had not born an idiot. I knew to keep silent, but from that moment, if not before, my previous existence ended. I was reborn and nothing could ever be the same, that is, assuming it ever was.

Once dismissed, I emerged into a hallway now completely free of “applicants” and encountered Greta Hoffln, one of the many maids who tended to the Führer’s domestic needs. A plain-looking peasant type: cheerful, short, overweight, red pockmarked cheeks, and bad teeth. She offered to show me round the Chancellery and to my new quarters and had begun doing so when we were suddenly blocked by the presence of the Führer’s formidable chief secretary, Christa Schroeder, who informed Greta that her function was to clean toilets, not to be a tour guide. Without a word, Greta executed a short, quick bow and hotfooted it away.

Schroeder was a large, homely woman with a braided bun of hair so thick, dark, and dull, it looked as if a layer of coal ash had settled on it. She wore a drab grey dress that ended not far from the sort of sensible (that is to say, hideous) high-top laced shoes you find on aged nuns.

“You are staring at my shoes, Herr Linge.” It wasn’t a question and I did not treat it as one, and so remained silent, since she seemed rather put out by her task, in any event. “I select my shoes for comfort and utility, not for glamour and allure,” she announced with an icy sneer. “This is the Reich Chancellery, not a dance hall.”

“But I had no intention of—” I began, as if I would find anything about her even remotely glamorous or alluring, but she cut me off with a shrug of indifference.

She handed me the suitcase I’d left at the last guard station. “Normally, Herr Linge,” she continued, “you would be directed to your quarters by your superior, Lieutenant Krause, but since he is unavailable at the moment, the task was thrust upon me. However, you will discover, I am not one to deal in idle chatter, gossip, or other frivolities, do you understand?” And without waiting for a reply she clearly didn’t want, with the very tips of her long, chunky fingers, she then pincered my elbow with a grimace of distaste, as if I were a particularly disgusting discovery in a garbage bin, and began moving me to a short hallway that led to a set of steep stairs that we descended into another hallway that was far narrower and more dimly lit. There were only the two of us, and I wondered at the lack of activity but chose to keep my curiosity to myself. The institutional-green walls were lined with an endless row of identical cream-coloured doors, each with a number stencilled in the centre. She aimed me toward a door marked “5” and released my elbow. “This is your room. It contains a phone directly connected to the Führer, General Brückner, and your direct superior, Lieutenant Krause, should they require your services. Calling out is by permission only.” Without another word, she pivoted on her comfortable and utilitarian shoes and returned upstairs.

Receiving no key, I assumed there was no lock, so I turned the knob and entered and shut the door behind me. I was right—there was no lock. The room was a small, narrow rectangle. There was no window. The light-green walls, like the hall outside, empty of decoration. A garish 150-watt bulb hung naked from a ceiling cord with a short on/off chain attached. An army cot graced one corner, and in another, a small, unfinished table. In the third corner stood a short chest of drawers inside a narrow, scruffy armoire. A door opened onto a tiny lavatory with a pull-chain toilet, a tiny sink with a stained mirror above it, and a narrow stall shower. All that was missing from my “cell” was a Bible and a rosary.

I was just opening my valise when I heard a muffled scratching at my door, so muffled I wasn’t sure I even heard it until it happened again. Before I could open the door, a folded piece of paper slid underneath it toward me, which I picked up and unfolded. The typewritten note was most explicit:

Herr Linge, you are not new to us. Realize that no move you make here will go without intensive scrutiny and analysis. While you help tend to the Führer, you labour under the likes of Krause, Günsche, Himmler, Goebbels, and Heydrich, and so you exist in a grossly malevolent and competitive goldfish bowl. You must never forget this. There are no locks on your door for a reason, so you must exercise caution. However, as consolation, you also have friends, even though you do not—or may never—know them. Incinerate this note immediately, for your sake and for all our sakes, for even typewriters can be traced.

There was no signature. I tore up the note, tossed the shreds in the sink, set a match to them, and washed the resulting ashes down the drain.

All that happened today, my friend, caused me to make five major decisions:

1) Never ask a question of anyone if I can discover the answer for myself.
2) Never answer a question if it can be avoided, and if it can’t, be as insipidly ingenuous as possible.
3) Be as invisible as those around me will permit.
4) Never display authority, intelligence, cleverness, or imagination.

And, most important,

5) Never, ever, commit anything personal to paper for more time than it takes to photograph it with my new Leica camera, utterly destroy the paper, and develop and conceal the film.

Of course, decision number five may well prove to be the most important, and so may also prove to be the most dangerous and complicated. And yet, as such, it must be executed fully.

I am fortunate in having that otherwise unbearable naked bulb, but I know nothing about photography, save that I open the back of the camera, insert a film cartridge, push a button, wind the film to the next empty space, finish the roll, wind it all back into the container, deliver it to a camera shop for development, and pick up the prints. Clearly, that impersonal and indolent procedure might no longer be suitable for my purposes.

I sat on my cot morosely considering the dilemma facing me and, after a time, concluded that even I can take pictures, but somehow I would need to quickly be schooled in the basic techniques of development and, somehow, gain access to a darkroom that is secure from the eyes of others. Until then, I would have to photograph my day, open the back in the dark, remove the cartridge, open it, place the exposed film into an envelope, and keep it there until I was able to develop in safety. But where would I store them? I pondered this as someone unschooled in techniques of object concealment and faced with a virtual monastic cell of a room without a lock on my door.

To refresh my brain, I concentrated only on things over which I had immediate control, namely, all the steps prior to hiding the film. I would grab the small chair and shove it under the doorknob (a risk, but it must be tried at least once), then lift the bedside table onto my cot, remove from my valise my Leica II 35mm camera I’d bought for sightseeing with the last of my money, place a film cartridge inside, close it, wind the film into place, get back onto the cot, move the sheets of paper that contain my conversation with you under the bright, naked bulb, photograph each sheet, go into my bathroom and tear the sheets into small pieces, burn them, then flush the ashes down the toilet, take a blank envelope from my valise, unspool the film in the dark, place the exposed film into the envelope, seal it carefully, place it under my pillow until the next morning when I could transfer it to my inside jacket pocket and seek out a secure hiding place in the Chancellery itself, far removed in space and suspicion from my own quarters.

And so, a quite amazing first day with you ends: was it a miracle wrapped in a puzzle?

Or a curse?

What Happens Next?

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