As you're still reading after 22 chapters, you're giving me the most important compliment a writer can receive. Thank you.
The legal stuff: this novel is copyrighted to me. It may not appear in any medium without my express permission. If you are under-aged in your country, you shouldn't be reading stories in the Nifty archives. That said: even the American religious bigots would have little to rant about in this story; but they'd still condemn you to hell if you read it.
I would love to hear from you -- it's the only way I have of learning if you are enjoying the story. You may reach me at vichowel at aol.com. If you enjoy the way I write, you may enjoy my other novel currently running on Nifty -- DARK PRINCE in the scifi section.
The gunfight at the OK corral is over. The Gauleiter and 2 gestapo agents are dead. Can it possibly be over? Not with 4 more chapters to run, it can't. <G>
Enjoy -- Dave MacMillan
I looked directly to von Kys. I did so to avoid seeing the dead men between us. The memory of Kolawaski giving each of the three men the coup d'grace was still quite strong and I was unsure if my stomach could be kept pacified if I were to look at the bodies closely. At the corner of my vision, I saw that the Pole was toe-ing a corpse, turning it over, and studying it before moving on to the next where he repeated the process.
Von Kys sat propped against the back wall of the stables dispassionately watching the Polish agent. He chuckled which instantly became a cough. "It is always better to be certain, isn't it, my friend?" he managed before turning his gaze to me and smiled. "Thank you, Petersholme, for doing what I have longed to do but was never man enough to do."
"To free the world of that evil witch." His eyes remained on me as he said: "Dagi, what she said was true. Your brother was executed this morning. I have no doubt Gisele has some trumped up charge waiting for you if you stay in the Fatherland."
"She's dead, Jani," the corporal answered.
"Ah, but the Nazis are all pigs, Dagi. They have long pig memories. You must leave with Petersholme and Alexis tonight."
"I don't..." Jorston rose and moved closer to von Kys.
"Kiss me one last time, Liebchen," Janus told him softly.
"You're...!" the lad yelped as he drew closer.
"Sshh, Dagi! Hold me."
I saw tears glisten in Jorsten's eyes then. I accepted this was the parting that von Kys had promised and wished I had not been privy to it, any more than I had been to their sex. I joined the Pole in an effort to distance myself from their separation.
"She's not dead," the agent grunted as I neared him.
"Not dead?" I inched closer. "I shot her."
"I would say your shot grazed her head. She's unconscious. She will have a tremendous headache, but she should live." He sighed and placed the muzzle of his pistol at her forehead.
"What are you doing?" I demanded.
"Finishing her off, my Lord."
"Why? We'll be gone. There'll be nothing she could do to any of us."
"And the Count?"
"Petersholme! Alexis! Bitte," von Kys called.
I turned as Jorsten helped von Kys to his feet. It was only then that I realised that my old friend was wounded. I rushed to his side. "Where are you hit?" I demanded as I reached him. I saw the blood-soaked lower half of his shirt then and groaned.
"We need to get you to a doctor," I told him through clinched teeth.
Von Kys snorted weakly. "I think I am too far gone for that, my friend."
"You're alive -- conscious even!"
"Not for too much longer, I suspect," he chuckled and turned slightly to peer at the Pole. "How many were there?"
"Who came looking for you? Just the four we have here. The Gräfin lives and would have had a driver."
Von Kys nodded. "Of course. And he has probably already called in the Waffen-SS garrison at Peenemünde. Gott im Himmel! There is so little time left."
He signed and it turned into a cough. A very liquid sounding cough to my ears. I cringed at the thought of what that could mean. "Alexis, you and Dagi go back to the house and find our last intruder. Do with him as you have these others. I want Dagold to gather up my private papers." He gazed at the youth and smiled. "Everything, Dagi -- account codes to my Swiss bank, Willi's birth certificate, my will. You must hurry. Just toss them into my attaché -- everything from the desk and the safe."
The corporal nodded, bringing his arm up to his face and using his uniform shirt to dry his eyes.
"I also want Willi dressed and taken to the aeroplane." He looked from Jorsten to Kolawaski. "I want both of you to bring Willi to the aeroplane, verstehen?"
They both nodded.
"Then hurry. If Gisele's driver has managed to telephone anyone, you have fifteen minutes to reach the aeroplane before they can arrive here."
He held himself against the top of the stable wall as he watched both men leave us. It was not until we had heard the doors pulled closed that von Kys turned back to face me. "I have a singular favour I must ask of you, Petersholme."
"Wilhelm shall need a home -- will you provide it for him?"
My eyes bulged. My throat was instantly dry. "Me?" I croaked.
The massacre, the fear that had preceded it, and even von Kys' wound had held an element of unreality for me. The intrusion of young Willi into the muck now made everything that had happened suddenly more real than I wanted it to be.
"You're the only one who can give him a home," he continued. "We are of the same class, Petersholme. The dislocation that moving him into another culture would cause will be kept to a minimum if you accept him as your ward." He smiled tiredly. "And, perhaps, England shall be spared the coming hell our Führer is bent upon visiting on this world."
"But I could never be a good father, von Kys. I'm Wildean straight through. It might lead him astray."
"And Dagi and I -- were young Willi to live with me?" He chuckled quietly. "I've seen you with the lad, my friend. You shall be at least as good a father as I."
There was the report of a distant shot which I reckoned to have come from the house. "Perhaps your wife's driver was unable to telephone anyone," I observed.
"That would be too much to hope for, Petersholme. You will need to get away quickly once they're back."
"You can come too, von Kys."
He shook his head slowly. "No, that is impossible, dear Robbie. I would only slow your escape. And I would not want to die in front of Willi." He wagged his head slowly. "I would have him remember me alive."
"You're not going to die," I growled even as I suspected I was lying.
He coughed then and did not bring his hand up to cover his mouth. Instead, both of his hands gripped the stall to hold him erect. I saw the blood welling at the corner of his mouth and begin to trickle down to his chin. I knew he had understood his condition far better than I.
"There are several million Reichmarks in my bank account in Switzerland, Petersholme." He began to ease himself back down into the hay. I took his arm and helped him sit. "Make enough available to Dagi that he can take care of himself -- several hundred thousand at least. The rest is for Willi."
He glanced about himself, and I saw the beads of perspiration on his forehead.
"Do you need anything?" I asked.
"Bring the lantern to me please, Petersholme." He grinned mischievously then, a sudden memory of our student days. "Wagner would love what I've just decided to do."
"And that is?" I asked as I placed the lantern beside him.
He smiled up at me. "You'll see from the air, my friend. Now, get out of here and meet up with Alexis. I want all of you out of here and safely in Poland."
I looked down at him, seeing the front of his shirt was now soaked in his blood. I saw his blue eyes watching me, unwilling to beg me to care for the child he had accepted as his own even on the cusp of death.
"I shall treat Willi as my own." I looked towards the front of the stables, uncomfortable now that we both accepted that Janus was dying. "I shall protect young Jorsten too. Should he know his relationship to the boy?"
"Judge that for yourself, Petersholme." He tried to laugh but coughed again, his mouth filling with blood. He swallowed hard. "My will makes you the boy's guardian, Petersholme. It is a legally binding document, even in this insanity that holds my country in its talons now."
"Let us take you with us," I told him, looking back at him. "Even if you die in flight, your body won't have been left in this madhouse."
He shook his head and I saw that it was a struggle. He was rapidly growing weaker. "I am German, Petersholme. And I am von Kys, the last of us now. It is my duty to die here in the Fatherland." He pulled his shoulders back and lifted his head. "Leave now, my friend." He smiled. "My eternal thanks for helping me fulfil my duty to the others."
* * *
The crisp air of the Prussian autumn night caressed me with icy fingers as I stepped through the man-sized door of the stable. I pulled my coat tighter around me as a motor car turned into the square formed by the outbuildings and its headlamps caught me in their glare. I pulled out my pistol as the car came towards me.
"Get in," Jorsten told me from the wound down passenger window.
I wasted no time in opening the rear door and slipping into the backseat. Kolawaski gunned the engine and began to drive down the narrow horsecart track behind the stables.
"Where is Vati?" Willi demanded from between the two men in the front seat. I watched him stand on the seat and face me.
"He..." I glanced at Kolawaski and then at Jorsten. Neither would look back at me. "Will you sit with me, Willi?" I asked around the lump that had formed in my throat as the car bumped and skidded along the track.
"Is he dead?" Kolawaski asked in horribly accented English as the child climbed over the back of the seat. Jorsten looked from him to me, frowning. Willi curled up in my lap and my arms went around him as he sniffed and tried hard not to cry.
"Nearly," I answered back as I nuzzled the top of the lad's head with my chin. "The Gräfin's driver?"
"The housekeeper and cook had him tied up. He had not made his call, Herr Baron."
"And you shot him anyway?" I asked, consciously enunciating each word as I spoke it in English.
"He was a danger -- to the servants and to whatever of the Count's legacy can be salvaged."
"So, we should have an unremarkable flight then. It only took six people being killed to make it happen. How bloody pleasant!"
Von Kys' lover turned to face me. "I have all of the papers the Graf asked me to gather, Herr Baron," he said. "They are in the briefcase at my feet."
"Don't let that out of your possession, Jorsten," I told him. "Your and Willi's lives depend on what's in those papers." I watched him reach between his legs and pull the attaché onto his lap, clutching it with both hands.
"My Vati?" Willi asked, his lips moving against my shirt.
"He asked me to take you with me -- with Corporal Jorsten and me. To take care of you, Willi. Otherwise, your Mutti would get you and that would be bad."
He nodded his head against my chest. Satisfied, his arms went around me and he cuddled closer against me as he fell asleep.