Day and Night Two

 

 

Klaus slogged his way out of a drug-induced sleep to answer the phone.  His coordination was not the best and he smacked himself in the lip with the receiver.

"Mmnuuhh?"  he grunted.

"This is your wake-up call, Sir," came a perky female voice.

"Mphhnn," said Klaus and hung up.  He collapsed back into bed and fell asleep again.  He'd taken a second dose of sleeping pills after his nightmare last night, and now regretted it, even as the vibrating darkness hummed him back into oblivion.

He dreamed again, but this time it was unmemorable nonsense, thankfully.  He was roused again by a knock at the door.  The clock beside him read nine a.m.  He'd slept an hour later than he'd meant to.  This was disgraceful.  His agents would surely think less of him now.  He forced himself to get up and staggered like a drunk to the door.

"Ja?" he said through it.

"Major, we're ready," replied Agent J.

"Good.  Load up the minivan.  I will be down in a moment."

He threw on a pair of casual taupe slacks and a simple work shirt.  If he was just going to poke around a filthy old ruin, there was no sense in dressing up proper.  He ran a comb through his glossy black hair and quickly brushed his teeth. No time to floss.

Outside, the five agents were waiting by the minivan.  Agent M stood towards the rear of the van, his hand resting on the side of the vehicle.  It reminded Klaus of something.  A picture he'd seen somewhere, of the angel Gabriel at the tomb of Christ, his hand resting on the stone that had been rolled away.  The picture was clear as day to him but he could not remember where he'd seen it.  Maybe at school as a child.  Not important.

A deep breath of fresh air did wonders for waking Klaus up. He climbed into the driver’s seat and drove his men back to the castle.  This time, when they reached it, they found four police cars and a sedan already there.  There were eight police men plus an un-uniformed man of considerable roundness there to greet them.

"Major von Eberbach," Klaus introduced himself.

"Detective Kopleck," said the round man, shaking his hand. "Come inside.  I will tell you what we have found."

 

It seemed fairly cut-and-dried.  The eleven students had been investigating the ruin on their own, not on assignment from school.  No one knew what they were searching for or what they might have stumbled onto.  They were trapped in the cellar by someone, probably Neo-Nazis, and killed.  But the killers had not been found.  A dozen or so youths had been questioned, but all of them had alibis.  Until the police could find more evidence, there was little they could do.

"If you find something we missed," said Kopleck, "let me know personally.  Other than that, leave the punks to us.  What I want to know is, what were the Hebrews after?  If it has something to do with the previous Nazi encampment, we need to know."

Klaus nodded with a puzzled look about his features.

Kopleck explained.  "Many skeletons were found here after the war.  Only bones. Its possible they were looking for other skeletons."

"They had started to dig up the cellar floor," said Klaus. "Why was the project not completed by your men?"

Kopleck looked around furtively, then leaned in close.  "I have worked with the police several times before, but I am an independent contractor.  I am working now for the families of the students.  I need the Kommisar's permission to order his men around and so far he's been most uncooperative.  In fact, he seems to be completely disinterested in this case.  I think he would have closed it already if it wasn't for you boys from NATO."

"That is unprofessional," muttered Klaus.

"I know!  And not like Kommisar Keil.  I think this case has gotten to him."

"Why do you suppose that?"

"He's one of those fellows who doesn't like to admit that the whole Third Reich ever existed."

Oh, thought Klaus, one of those.

Klaus set his men to breaking up the stone floor in the cellar while he went to explore the rest of the castle.  Maybe the police, in their apathy, had overlooked other clues.  And besides, maybe there were undiscovered artifacts up there.  A forgotten Luger, P38, or Mouser, an unexploded shell, a helmet that wasn't found in time to protect its owner.  Klaus loved military paraphernalia.

He crossed a roofless dining hall where daylight fell in streaks through a canopy of dark branches.  What a glorious cathedral, he thought.  Those solid sheets of light like ladies with golden mantles.  He paused.  Like ladies with golden mantles.  He'd seen that before -- a lady, made of light.  In what? A movie?  Like the image of the angel at the tomb, it seemed familiar but far away.

Meanwhile, the Sword of Damocles began to sway.

Klaus stepped through the dappled light and headed into the hall beyond.  To the right was a servants' pantry.  Before him, two sets of steps.  One went down into the kitchen, the other disappeared up around a corner.  He took the stairs going up. They led to the upstairs hall.  The rooms up here were small and boxy, just right for cloistered monks.   Most of them had lost their roofs.  A few of them had no floors.  At the end of the hall he found a small chapel.  Just a tiny room with an altar at one end and a stone kneeling-bench before it.  A discoloration on the wall behind the altar indicated that a cross had once hung there.  Klaus crossed himself perfunctorily, then poked around the rubble on the floor.  He found rat corpses, bird bones, branches and leaves, bits of beveled glass panes, but little else.  While he was sorting through a pile of debris, something fell over behind him.  The noise startled him and he turned completely around on his knees, expecting perhaps one of his agents or a policeman.  There was no one.  The sudden silence was spooky.  He could hear no sounds from below.  Being alone upstairs suddenly didn't seem like such a good idea.

Stop it, Klaus, he told himself. You are acting like a child! He stood up and went back to the altar.

"Father, let me keep it together," he prayed, again, as a matter of course rather than true devoutness.  Then he noticed something.  The area behind the altar had been cleared, the debris piled up to one side.  This had been done relatively recently, for there were footprints and handprints in the dust. He went around and got a better look at the footprints.  The bottoms of the shoes had been patterned like athletic shoes.  He wondered what they'd been looking for in here, and if they'd found it.  Was this the footprint of one of the students or one of the killers or just a passing explorer?  Whoever it was had a nick in the heel of his left shoe.  He went downstairs to talk to Detective Kopleck.

 

Nothing was unearthed that first day of digging.  Klaus and his men decided to call it a day around eight.  There were two police left to guard the castle all night as Klaus and his men reloaded the minivan.

"Keep an eye out on your way back to town," said one of the policemen.

Klaus followed the man's gaze out towards the woods to the west.  There were faces in the woods, indistinct in the darkening evening light.

"Neo-Nazis?" asked K.

"Probably," replied the officer.  "But until they make a move, we can't do anything."

Klaus took out his gun.  "Let me stay. I'll get them to make a move."

"No, Major," replied the other officer.  "We cannot provoke them.  They have to make the first move."

Klaus reluctantly put back his gun.

 

It was on the drive home that Klaus realized he hadn't eaten all day.  Well, when he got back to his room, he would call up room service and have a feast.  But first, a bath!

 

He posted L outside his room.

"When room service arrives, let them in.  Then lock the door after they leave and go."

"Yes sir," agreed the obedient agent,

As Klaus relaxed in his bath, he heard the door open, heard voices, one of which was Agent L's, then heard the room steward leave and the door lock.  Therefore, he was greatly surprised when he came out of the bathroom dressed only in a towel and found Eroica sitting on the bed, a bottle of champagne in his hand.

"Darling!" the thief exclaimed, jumping to his feet.  "God it's good to see you!"

Klaus stalked over to the closet and retrieved his robe.  He was too shocked and angry to speak.  Eroica, however, had plenty to say.

"You wouldn't believe the fright you gave me. Darling!" he laughed, struggling with the champagne cork.  "I had the awfullest vision last night.   Do you know what I saw?  I daresay, I've never (umph!) had a vision before, have you?"

Klaus was barely listening.  He was rummaging in his dresser drawer for his bullets.

"I swear I was just sitting there at my library table, counting coins, when suddenly, (ach! Damn cork!  Darling, would you mind?) suddenly, I saw you.  I don't know where you were, but you were holding up a roof it seemed, and it collapsed upon you! Just crushed you like a paper cup!"

Klaus snapped the cartridge into his automatic, then reached down for the silencer.

"Well, needless to say, I was in a shambles, certain that you'd been smashed and slid under the Pearly Gates like the daily post!  So I called your dear little Chief and he assured me you were quite safe and well here in picturesque Freiburg, so I hopped a jet and here I am.  Let's celebrate your health, shall we?  Just open this--"

Klaus shot the neck off the bottle.  Eroica shut up at once and just held the bottle, froth foaming down his hand and onto the floor.  Slowly he set the bottle down and dried his hand on the napkin from the dinner cart.

"Major?' he said calmly.

"Yes, Eroica?"

"Did you hear a word I said?"

Klaus picked up his cigarette pack and jostled up a cigarette.  He seized it between his teeth, then lit it, all the while never taking the gun off the thief.

"No, Eroica."

"About my vision. I think it means something!  It's a warning.  You've got to be careful."

Klaus exhaled a breath of smoke.  "I will be.  Thank you for your concern.  Now you may go home."

Eroica crossed his arms stubbornly.  "You don't take me seriously, do you?  Darling, if I just wanted to warn you, I could have telephoned, couldn't I've?  So put that bloody thing away and listen to me. I saw a roof collapsing on you.  Like a cabin or something.  Lots of snow."

Klaus lowered the gun.  He remembered his dream.  How could Eroica have known?   He kept his face a mask of emotionlessness.

"Do you see any snow in Freiburg?"  he said.

Eroica glanced pointlessly out the window, then lowered his eyes.  "No, Major."

"Of course not!  It's the middle of June!  If you're really that daft, you should have at least called for a weather report and saved yourself a trip!"

"I couldn't!  I was worried to death for you.  I--" he gave a flirtatious smile.  "I wanted to see you.  If you were to die, I'd feel dreadful if I didn't get a chance to say goodbye, my love."

Klaus rolled his eyes.  Still, secretly, it was good to see Eroica after all this time.  The thief looked glorious.  His hair had grown quite a bit in the last few months, and he'd put on a few pounds on his ordinarily scrawny frame.  He really looked wonderful.  As usual, he was dressed in velvet and silk.  The sweet scent of roses drifted over Klaus on the summer night breeze.

"Listen, Klaus," said Eroica in his most earnest and candid voice,  "I'm not one given to visions or psychic prophesies, but I saw!  I saw!  It wasn't a dream.  I can tell the difference! Please take me seriously."

Klaus had to.  He'd had the same "vision".  Should he tell him?  It was sort of embarrassing and would only upset the poor fool.  "Tell me about your vision again," he said, and put the gun on the dresser.

"You were in a dark place and the roof was caving in," began Eroica, walking up to Klaus.  "You were trying to hold it up but... it gave way...."  He clasped his hands together and tucked them under his chin.  "You disappeared under the snow."

Klaus flicked ash onto the floor.  He sighed.  "I had the same dream."

Eroica's eyes grew large.  Klaus told him about the dream, all the while Eroica stared wide-eyed, his hands pressed over his open mouth.

"Oh, Klaus!  It's a prophesy!" the thief gasped almost delightedly when the tale was told.

"No," said Klaus, "it was just my stupid dream and you picked up on it.  That is all."

Eroica hugged himself and paced.  "No.  I don't think so."

"Well, I do.  Now go away, Eroica."

Eroica stopped pacing and faced the Major.  "I'm not here to steal anything, so you can call me ‘Dorian'.  I came only to see you.  And I'm not leaving until you're safe at home.  So tell me about this case you're on."

Klaus reached for the gun again.  "Nein. We don't need you on this case."  He took aim.

"You're not going to shoot me. Major," Dorian said smugly. "You really are getting predictable, my Darling.  Although I do find your little habits endearing, this particular one grows tiresome."

"Oh?"  Klaus fired once, shooting off one golden ringlet. "Better?"

Dorian gasped and backed away.

"I mean it, Red Gloria.  Go.  You do not want to tangle with the sorts of people involved in this affair."

"Who are they?  I'm sure I've faced worse."

"Nazis, Eroica.  Do you know what they would do if they got ahold of you -- a sodomite?"

Dorian snickered.  "You sound so funny saying that, Darling. So prissy."

Klaus smirked back.  "All right then, a faggot, a poofter, a queer.  Do you know what they would do to you?  Trust me, the further you are from this case the better."

"Don't worry about me. Major.  I can look after myself."  He walked over to the window.  "And I can look after you as well. Good-night, my love."  He did a breathtaking back flip from the balcony and disappeared into the darkness.

Klaus shrugged and closed the window.  Dorian did as Dorian wanted.  But if that swishy Brit stuck his nose in Klaus' business, he'd end up getting it punched, make no mistake.

Damn.  His food had gotten cold.

***

The paranoia came back as soon as Klaus lay down to sleep. He resisted taking the sleeping pills.  Instead, he sang numerous rounds of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" until at last he drifted off.

 

He was home again at Schloss Eberbach.  It was night outside, and he was alone in the mansion.  It was spooky.  He'd never been alone there before.  His houseman was always there.  But not tonight.

He decided to check to make sure the front door was locked. As he entered the foyer, he noticed the door was opening.  He could vaguely see a sinister black figure slowly pushing the door open.  Klaus slammed himself against the door, but the intruder kept pushing hard against the other side.  Klaus tried again to force the door shut, but for some reason he was moving slowly and could not muster much strength.  He was terrified.  He spied a Louisville Slugger by the door and grabbed it.

He thrust it through the narrowly-opened door and began swinging wildly.  The intruder backed off and Klaus slammed the door shut.  He fumbled with the lock.  It wouldn't latch.  In his panic, his hands couldn't work the lock.  At last he thought he'd locked it, then remembered the servants' entrance.  He ran through the mansion but it was like trying to run through water. He felt hysteria creeping up on him and fought not to give in to

He reached the side door.  It was locked securely.  Suddenly, he had the feeling he was not alone.  He felt the intruder moving through the house.  Klaus tried to unlock the side door.  It wouldn't work.  The evil presence came closer.  His hands trembled violently, unable to budge the lock.  He began to cry in his terror.  The intruder was right behind him.  He refused to turn and look.  At last he flung open the door.  A yawning chasm confronted him, black and solid.  He screamed and fell to his knees in the doorway, too weak to fight and too scared to think.

 

 The phone was ringing.  Klaus sat up in bed, his heart pounding.  Stupid dreams.  He hated them.  He was never himself in dreams.  Why, if someone ever tried to break into his home, Klaus would just shoot them.  None of this running and crying shit.

 He answered his wake-up call and this time stayed awake.

 

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