Authors: Rex Miller
Tags: #Horror, #Espionage, #Fiction - Espionage, #Fiction, #Intrigue, #Thriller, #Suspense, #Horror - General, #Crime & Thriller, #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Espionage & spy thriller, #Serial murderers, #Fiction-Espionage
“Busy?” asked Riestermann.
“Who have you scheduled for tomorrow, the host subject?"
“Um, I have Number Twelve."
“No. I don't want Twelve yet. Get that little one you like. What's her name?” Shtolz looked at the physician who'd become a mentor to him. “The little fair-skinned Jewess you're so partial to? Let's use her."
“We've discussed this,” Shtolz said, swallowing. “Don't you remember? Twelve is all prepared."
“Emil,” the old physician said softly, “I don't mind your little games. But you're growing attached to Number Three.” He stepped all the way into the small room and pulled the door shut behind him. “Pleasures of the flesh can become self-destructive when a person isn't careful. It's all right to indulge but the key is moderation,” he was almost whispering. Shtolz could feel himself reddening.
“I don't know what you mean.” The words caught in his throat.
“Let's not embarrass one another, Emil. I wouldn't say anything to you but,” he gestured toward the wall, “you know how things are around here. I'm just watching out for your welfare.” He smiled paternally. “Agree? Good.” He winked his Uncle Hans wink, opening the door and moving out into the hall.
Shtolz had the oddest sensation that he'd dreamed the moment between them. It was the closest the two had come to anything resembling an argument since Emil was brought into the program.
In spite of the degree of closeness imposed by the work they did, the empathic bond that two evil kindred spirits might establish, Riestermann was someone Shtolz was sure he'd never get to know. Nonetheless, the older normally treated him as an equal, a respected partner. He didn't give a damn which subject they hooked up to the brain tomorrow. Shtolz was sure he knew what this was about. It had come from those black-shirted dumbheads in the front office.
There was one officious swine in particular, a suspicious and excessively observant clerk type from, according to the grapevine, the complex on Prinz Albrechstrasse in Berlin. Eyes and ears for Internal Security, or the Staatspolizei, or even Himmler himself.
Emil understood the need, obviously, for the program not to be compromised. But this thing he felt for the little girl whom Hans Riestermann referred to coldly as Number Three, defied logic or regulations. She was something he had grown attached to.
He loved it when she would kiss his face, arching up on little tiptoes to “taste his strawberry,” touching her warm, moist lips to his birthmark. The way she was so quick to forgive his excesses when the heat of his perversions caused him to inflict pain.
He wanted to take his girlchild and escape from a world that he sensed was beginning to collapse. Politics had no meaning to Emil Shtolz. Science was everything. He would envy the progress of the program, so long as it lasted, as it transcended any lowly morality, but there were practical matters of survival to deal with, both his and the object of his passion's.
The Waffen-SS clinic was within a quick hop to the border and he was not one to be without ways and means. It would be easy, he thought, getting up decisively and leaving his office, turning down the hallway outside the laboratory annex. They'd expect him to head for Switzerland, which was enticingly close, but Poland was only the narrow width of Czechoslovakia from there. He could melt into the crowds with his beautiful love toy and soon the Tear of Satan would be forever obliterated.
He stopped before her room and removed his keys, unlocking the heavy security door. The hallway smelled of equal parts of fear, formaldehyde, and insanity, as he closed and locked the door behind him.
“Hello, my darling girl,” he said, waiting for the child to run to him with outstretched arms as he had taught her.
“Hello, Papa,” she said. They kissed. There was only a bed, toilet, and a ceiling light fixture shrouded in steel mesh. The shelf of the old-fashioned water closet was several feet off the ground, nearly as high as he could reach. He gripped her tiny waist and with considerable effort sat her up on the shelf.
“Stand up on that, darling,” he told her.
She shook her head no, the long, beautiful hair gently falling against the smoothness of her perfect, blemishless, oval-shaped face. Not defying him, but afraid.
“Do what I say,” he coaxed her, gently, smiling with pleasure. He had learned she had a great fear of heights.
he barked, putting some authority in his tone. “It's only a few feet off the floor. Just stand up."
He loved her pained expression as she forced herself to stand on the small ledge. Her hands were outstretched at either side, pressed against the wall.
“Please, Papa, let me come down now."
“I will, darling. That's what I want you to do. Come down,” he almost laughed with glee. “Put your hands out like this,” he said, showing her what he wanted. She complied instantly, but looked as if she were about to cry. “Jump into Papa's arms. Papa will catch you, you know that.” The girlchild trusted him. She stepped off like someone stepping into a shallow swimming pool.
“No, no,” he corrected, catching her thin body and sitting her back on the shelf in one motion, not even noticing the effort. “That's not it at all. I want you to dive into my arms, like a little bird.” The child, whose name was Marta, simply sat on the shelf, shaking in terror and confusion.
“Please,” she began, tears trickling down her face, making him even more resolved.
“Get up there, you vixen. Stand up! That's it. Put the arms again like so.... Now,
into the air like a bird.” She was frozen to the spot. “Do it, you bitch, flap those wings and fly to Papa. Come on!"
The girl, her thin arms held to her sides, flung herself into space, and of course he caught her and sat her back on the shelf.
“Do it again and fly this time,” he said, his voice thick.
“Please, Papa, please let me come down,” she begged, sobbing.
“Come down then, darling, flap those arms and fly down here to Papa.” She dove off but this time he waited an extra quarter beat, keeping his hands down long enough to cause her heart to come up in her throat, snatching her just as she nearly smashed into the concrete floor, and the scream that his next kiss trapped inside her was what he'd been waiting for. For the Boy Butcher, this was his foreplay to lovemaking.
he morning's events had been a slow montage of daydreaming. Riestermann had called off the scheduled experiments because of some minor technical problems, and Shtolz had spent the day idly, his thoughts often returning to the object of his lust. He was almost ready to make the break. Their escape route was mapped out, and it had become a matter of biding his time until the vagaries of fate favored the logistics.
He'd been concentrating on the young sex slave he'd constructed inside the dark hollows of his imagination. Marta as she would look in three years, and Marta as she might appear in womanhood. He visualized the beginning roundness of her breasts as they might look when they began to blossom. He thought about the nipples, as yet undeveloped buds, how they might take on shape. The way in which they might change texturally in his devoted hands, under his particular tutelary influence.
The fantasy simmered as he went about routine chores. Clean-up work around the office and in the lab annex. He thought about ways he might discipline the girl. He hardened at the thought of how certain implements of the surgical trade might be employed. The word forceps came and perched on the tongue of his imagination, tasting of salty blood and hot jism. He tasted the edges of his thoughts, biting into another twisted daydream.
As he did so, Dr. Emil Shtolz chanced upon a stack of three fresh cadavers. The fruits of Uncle Hans's morning? He wondered if his mentor had worked in the O.R. after all. Oh, well. He would clean up after his colleague. Wouldn't be the first time. He would roll each corpse onto...
He recognized the body subconsciously at first, the look of the bony, mutilated cadaver in the lab morgue tagged “Human remains: Host Subject No. 3,” bearing Riestermann's loopy, hand-scrawled addendum.
The horror of it smashed him like a wall, burying him in the dirty rubble of shock. It was a pounding, merciless wave of hard data that his mind tried first to reject. He wanted to cry but only a lewd, inarticulate, choked thoracic gargle left his lips. Shtolz tried next to yell but the wall of undigested raw input stifled his rage.
And the God in whom Emil had not the slightest shred of belief, this God who suddenly chose to intervene and assert himself, declaring as he did so that he chose not to be a merciful God, took the black core of Emil Shtolz deeply into madness.
he man and the woman had their four youngest children, three boys and a girl, all packed into the wagon. The man had fashioned a crude seating arrangement on the front so that he could use the wagon for a family buckboard of sorts.
Two red-brown-colored mules were hitched to the doubletree, and the man took up a bit of slack in the reins and leaned to the side.
Both the man and woman in front had faces like earth, tanned so deeply they were almost a solid, dark brown. The woman, in a sunbonnet and a garment like a duster; the man bareheaded, in a faded blue work shirt buttoned to the throat and overalls that had seen a lot of hard wear. Both adults wore work shoes. The children riding in back were all dressed alike, the little girl tomboyish in T-shirt and frayed jeans, all four of the children shoeless.
The man and his wife had been quarreling. She had complained to him about the way he treated the cows. She could not stand to hear him beating them. He was a hard man, who had led a hard, rough life, and he had no patience with recalcitrant animals. Then the accident the day before. So often the fates conspired against him. The muscles in the side of his face twitched as he thought about his problems, wondering how he would make this small bit of ground he owned grow sufficient crops to feed the seven hungry bellies that were his responsibility.
They were heading up a rutted country road, little more than a worn path. He thought if the mules failed him now he would take the axe handle from the back of the wagon and kill them both dead in their traces, beat them both to death on the spot. They obligingly pulled the wagon up the slight incline, as if they could read his fierce thoughts, bouncing the occupants of the wooden wagon each time the wide, iron-rimmed wheels slipped off a hard mud rut.
“Pa, there's the cabin up yonder,” one of his boys said. The father made no response.
The one they were coming to see lived in what was left of the log cabin old man Thurmond had built before it burnt down. The Royal feller had built him a sort of lean-to up against what was left of the logs, mainly one wall and a great fireplace of river stones.
The man spoke for the first time, a single, deeply uttered syllable that sounded like “haw,” but it was enough to stop the mules. They recognized the tone. These were the same mules that had been foolish enough to balk as they pulled a breaking plow through black gumbo, and they weren't likely to ignore their master's voice. Years of failure, frustration, abject poverty, and bitter hopelessness were distilled into the monosyllabic command. He might control little else but by God he would control his mules.
He dropped to the ground and slid the heavy crate out of the wagon, moving in the direction of the cabin, but stopping as the woman said, “Earl!” in her barking, harsh tone. He turned, irritated, and saw he'd forgotten something. He went back and let her drop the huge onions into the crate. He was approaching the dwelling when the man inside pushed the crudely curtained doorway open and stepped from his makeshift cabin into warm sunlight.
“Howdy,” he said, his voice loud in his own ears. The man coming toward him nodded slightly, but neither he nor the brood of kids spoke. A woman sat in the wagon looking straight ahead. He did not recognize any of them.
“You Royal?” the man asked him.
“Wanted to thank you for what you done yesterday."
The one called Royal stared without comprehension, shaking his head slightly.
“What's that now?"
“That was one of my boys you saved yesterday.” A kid had tried to dive off a railway trestle into deep water. He had broken a shoulder, collar bone, and several ribs. He'd been lucky he hadn't broken his neck.
“Glad I was nearby. You must be the Ledbetters?” The man nodded. The word “was” came out “vuss."
“Cain't pay ya for the doctorin',” Earl Ledbetter said, bluntly, voice raspy like a file on metal. Without further ceremony he set the crate down, turned, and began walking back to the wagon.
The crate contained fresh garden tomatoes, some of the biggest he'd ever seen. Squash. Two enormous onions. Potatoes.
“Thank you,” he said. The “thank” sounded as if it were spelled with an
. He had learned to speak their language beautifully. His idiomatic English was nearly flawless, and he'd already lost a lot of his accent.
He had heard about the man. Heard some men joking about Earl Bedwetter, making fun of the man's name. A man who apparently had a reputation for not paying his bills. He didn't care a damn about that. He had only one interest, in creating an impenetrable legend of disguise.
“If you ever need medical attention, just come see me. I won't charge you anything,” he added, hastily, knowing “any-sink” was one of his bad ones. The
sound was so awkward for him. He thought the man might have nodded before he picked up the reins and started back home with his family.
Solomon Royal had only one thought. He wanted to wash his old identity away. He'd been working downriver and had seen a tattered scrap of newspaper, an advertisement for a tiny rural community that was without health care. It was a chance to start over. To build a new reality.
Hard eyes narrowed as he watched the wagon from behind the rag of a curtain that hung over the doorway of his rough-hewn cabin.
“Auf Wiedersehen, Herr Bedvetter,” he said quietly, scarcely moving his small, red lips. “See you,” he added, for practice. The girl in the wagon would fuel the heat of his imagined fantasy that night.