A week after our arrival or thereabouts, the doctor1 announced to us that we are going to work today. We were excited and started off in an unknown direction with him.
When we had already walked for a while, he stopped abruptly and said:
— I forgot my briefcase — And it was obvious to everyone that something bad had just happened as the doctor had never entrusted this briefcase to anyone. With some hesitation, nurses offered to come back to pick it up. He declined, which was a great relief for everyone, as the doctor was so distrustful.
— We’ll go back to pick up the briefcase, — he said.
— But why do we have to go together? Just tell us where to go, and we’ll find the place, — I interdicted.
— I can’t, — he said. And I was outraged.
— If you don’t trust us with this information, why would you take us there? We’d know the address in half an hour anyway. Do everything on your own, then.
After my speech, he gave us the address. That was a small house with a penthouse. Courtyard entrance, walking by the stairway heading to the penthouse apartment. An officer met us at the door and let us in a room that was packed with storage shelves like in a library. There were medicine bottles on the floor, along with wound and cut management materials and other medical stuff. Two officers brought us some crates and told us to pack everything. So, we began to work. At that moment, the doctor came. His behavior suggested that everything was fine.
Suddenly, we heard prompt steps on the staircase outside the window. A young German officer. He peeked through the windows with some interest and promptly continued his stride. All of a sudden, we froze. All that conspiracy!… And the Germans were known to confiscate medicines and wound management materials.
The next day, we finished packing. In the end, we’ve got two large crates. All of that wasn’t enough for more than two or three moderate engagements. But I didn’t tell anything about my calculations. Then the doctors approached me:
— The steamboat sails tomorrow. Be at the pier at 13 hours sharp. A cabby would recognize your clothes and will approach you. You are a woman, so there’s less chance to raise alert among the Germans.
— And who will pick up the goods from the cart? — I asked him.
— There’s a loader crew formed by some officers. They are warned, — he said.
In the morning, I commandeered an elderly nurse, and we went to the pier. It was long past one hour, and the steamboat had already whistled once. There were many carts arriving. Officer loaders and ordinary loaders were unloading them swiftly.
Finally, we saw our crates. The cabby came over, but the loaders weren’t paying our goods any attention. The cart started to be an obstacle for everybody, so the nurse and I moved over and didn’t know how to proceed.
The second call would probably come soon, so I gathered myself, found the officer-foreman, and asked him:
— You are an officer and the foreman of the loaders?
— Officer and the foreman, — he told me.
— Do you have any knowledge of a load that has to be passed to Novorossiysk without letting the Germans know?
— I don’t know anything, — he replied.
— Can we do that now? The cargo is on the cart.
— Sure, but it has to pass through the customs office of the local government. — He stopped two other officer loaders, and they confirmed. A moment later, we were at the customs office.
I still didn’t have a solid plan by then. I could only keep looking around, trying to find a familiar face of any officer I had dealt with before. But there was no one like that there.
The customs officer informed us that he could not pass the cargo through without showing the contents to the Germans. I looked around, but there were no Germans in the room. And, really, there were no Germans anywhere on the pier. So, I guessed that he was asking for a bribe.
My money was quilted in an inaccessible place, so I sent the nurse to bring the doctor. He should have been in the area as we were already waiting for the second steamboat’s whistle. And, as I thought, the second whistle sounded right when the doctor came to us. Cabbies disappeared momentarily, and we only had time to find a place to sit on the ship’s head before it left the port.