Thank you for continuing to read DARK PRINCE. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
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I would like to refer you to my other stories appearing on Nifty: GAMES AT DEAUVILLE currently appearing in the Beginnings and historical folders as well as FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE that is complete at both folders.
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Ronnie Barber was uncomfortable in the old part of Baltimore. It was spruced up okay -- he guessed from some urban renewal programme -- but it was still grimy. It was still old and smelled like it as he pushed through the first doors of the Lexington Market. Two old Asian women entered behind him, a boatload of little chinks under their feet, all of them gibbering in a language that hurt his ears. The kids pushed past him, leading the old women.
"Bastards!" he growled under his breath. He was in no mood to be jostled by a pack of slanty-eyed brats. He'd been up all night and on the train in from New York the past three and a half hours.
The second doors opened electronically for him. The odours of the place hit him at the same time its warmth did. He couldn't separate the smells, they ran together and made him a little hungry even as they made him feel slightly nauseous. He'd never seen a grocery store that could do that to him. But this place wasn't like any grocery store he'd ever been to.
Kiosk after kiosk dotted the floor of the market. A chink had big-assed fish lying out on a bed of ice. A black woman as big as two of him standing side by side was frying up chicken. An old white guy who couldn't be more than five feet was surrounded by round loaves of bread. It was only ten o'clock and the place was loaded down with people. He was willing to bet that not one of them spoke English. Ronnie Barber thought of the biblical story of the tower of Babel and shook his head.
He wasn't here to look at every race on earth buy the family dinner, though. He headed towards a kiosk with sweet rolls on trays and a big coffee maker. He bought a cup of coffee and wondered about those frenchy looking things on the trays. He reminded himself that Trellum was waiting for him and decided not to get the sweet.
Davis Trellum sat in a comfortable chair in the glassed-in atrium on the second floor. Ronnie sat beside him and took a sip of his coffee. "You have problems, Group Captain," he said calmly.
Barber knew that. That's all Trellum had told him on the phone at four o'clock when he'd got in from New York. He'd been scouting out the faggot bars. "What kind of problems, sir?" he asked.
"Three of your men died last night, two have disappeared."
Ronnie Barber's stomach lurched and he wished he'd bought that sweet roll now. "Killed? Who?"
"I don't have the names. One was that one you recommended for New York when we expand operations there. His throat was torn out." Trellum paused to let his words sink in. "The police think a pack of dogs attacked them."
"There have been reports of a pack of dogs -- or wolves -- attacking drug dealers over in Anacostia, along the river. DC police think a pack of dogs -- or wolves -- attacked three skinheads in "P" Street beach last month. Now, your men. Each time, throats have been torn out, teeth marks on the victims' hands or arms."
"There ain't supposed to be no wolves around here -- this is a populated area."
"Fucking dogs! I never heard of any that went in for killing humans."
"They can be trained to. The cops are putting the word out to stay away from Anacostia and "P" Street beach."
"Wait a minute! Where were my men last night?"
"On "I" Street in Southeast, a little park near Sixth and Pennsylvania."
"That's where we started this programme -- that guy out of the queer country and western bar." He looked over at Trellum. "Did my boys at least kill the fucking faggot?"
"He wasn't gay. He was an ensign assigned to the Navy Yard who'd gone for a late night Mexican dinner. He's going to live."
"You said three of my men were dead -- what about the other two?"
"Nobody's seen them. They even left their Suburban parked over there. We got it back this morning."
"That doesn't sound like any of the first strike boys."
"Maybe not, but they're gone." Trellum stood up and looked down at Barber. "I want a full report on what happened last night -- I want it next week."
Ronnie Barber could only nod.
"Good. Get together with the skinheads and find out whatever you can about this attack on their people last month. That and turn over harassing gay bar patrons to them."
"Turn it over, sir?"
"This shit seems to only happen in DC, Group Captain. The skinheads are expendable, they're not Christian Center. I don't want your men back in DC until we know why we have attack dogs trained to kill working against us. We're too close to realising our goal to have something like this traced back to us."
He began to button his great coat. "Keep your men out of DC, Group Captain. No activity there at all, until I order it."
"Yes, sir!" Ronnie Barber pushed himself from his chair and stood at attention before the man.
Trellum smiled distantly. "Get your men into New York by next week. We want our presence felt." He took a step away from Barber and turned back to him. "And I want that report in my hands the first next week -- before you go to New York, Group Captain. Try to come up with some concrete answers."
Ronnie Barber watched the man move towards the elevators. He wished he could move as quickly while looking like he was in control of everything around him.
He remembered then. He had two men missing in action. How the fuck did a guy go about finding missing men? One thing he did know, he didn't go to the DC police and ask them. Only, that left him without the first damned idea of where to start.
The only course of action he could think of was to round up what was left of his men operating in DC and question them. He'd get them to the church and really put the fear of God in them. Even if they didn't know anything, they could hit the streets and find out. They'd work at it too -- if they were scared enough. Maybe he would have something to tell Trellum next week after all.
"Dogs?" he grunted as he picked up his coffee and started for the lifts. "If it's not one thing, it's a half dozen others. Fuck!"
* * *
I opened the door to the music room and sighed in relief that it was nicely dark inside the room. Mortals could be so damned inconsiderate about opening drapes.
Outside, there was still an hour of sunlight left, and it was unseasonably warm for the first of March.
I stepped inside and smiled at my new piano. A Steinway grand piano. I could amuse myself for hours now. I took back what I had just thought about mortals. If it hadn't been for Tom MacPherson, I wouldn't have my Steinway. Deliverymen in this new century no longer felt a duty to their employer the moment nightfall threatened. Tom had allowed them in and supervised their setting up the piano. He had also ensured that the thick drapes were drawn. I wondered how much of Sergei Alexandrovitch had been on display this afternoon while Emil and I slept.
I sat at my piano and opened the keyboard. I could smell its newness. I smiled when my gaze caught the single rose in its vase that Tom had left there.
It had been seventy-five years since I last played. Seventy-five years! My eyes filled. Seventy-five years without music.
Would I still be able to play still? It only felt like a few months since I had left the house on Akademiestraße and fled towards the safety of Yugoslavia. But my muscles had lived each of those seventy-five years, whereas my memories had not. I stretched my fingers, limbering them up. I would soon find out.
The hardest piece I knew was Chopin's Polonaise in A Minor; it would require me to stretch my fingers more than any other piece I could think of. If anything would test my ability to play, it would be Polish maestro. My hands poised above the keyboard until I could no longer hold back the impulse. I allowed my fingers to dive for the keys.
The lilting music washed through the room and splashed out over the house. I was transported back to a world that had died a hundred years ago. Phantom men and women dressed in their finest clothes danced to the majestic waltz as my fingers found the chords that I had not forgotten. I pushed away the memories of the dead past and allowed my spirit to soar on the beauty that lived on.
Outside, beyond the wrought-iron fence, a dog barked. A car came to life, pulled onto the street, and sped away. I continued to soar, caught by the beauty of the music and unable to accept that anything could endanger me as long as it played.
I sensed it then as twilight began to touch the American capital. A presence. Sentient. Unthreatening but curious. And malignant.
I found him in the small park that divided "I" Street before the house. He was watching the house. He was curious about me. Irrationally, I felt exposed.
Muscles tightened throughout my body as my fingers sped across the keyboard. I reached out and touched his thoughts.
He was an operative of the National Intelligence Agency, a combined military/civilian intelligence clearing organisation of the US government and his name was Davis Trellum. I blinked and my fingers fumbled a chord. I forced part of my mind to concentrate on the music. Why would an intelligence officer be interested in me?
|Prince von Maribor. A cipher.|
I should hope I was a cipher. Only Marcus Bönner had seen through me and that had been through the greatest leaps of intuition I had seen in any mortal. I did not want my past to be well known.
Memories of SS agents slinking through the streets of Vienna rushed across seventy-five years to frighten me once again. Mein Gott! What had I done to interest American spies in me?
Again, I touched his thoughts, delving deeper. Carefully. I did not want him to sense my presence. I continued to play, changing to simple etudes.
I had appeared in Washington, DC, a little more than three months ago and bought this house. I was rich. My embassy held a soiree for me, but I had yet to capitalise on the contacts I had made. And I lived here with two other young men. He guessed I was gay, but that seemed not to bother him. What bothered him was that there was so little that he could find out about me. He had Emil traced back to the day of his birth, Tom as well. But I was an enigma.
This Davis Trellum wondered if there could be any connection between my arrival and the appearance of a pack of man-killing dogs in the nation's capital. He couldn't see how -- I didn't socialise and I never came out during the day. Yet, I had met every public member of the fascist's inner circle at the soiree. And my arrival coincided with the dog attacks. Davis Trellum did not believe in coincidences.
He looked back to the intersection with Sixth Street and tried to visualise how his CMUM operatives had arrived at this park to meet their death. Three of them had anyway -- he still didn't know what had happened to the other two.
I smiled at that. So, this spy had not yet found their bodies in Anacostia Park. When they were found, this Trellum was going to have to wonder how his pack of dogs had dragged two dead men several miles through residential streets without being seen.
The two men we took as prisoners had known so little; I realised this one knew so much more. I did not have to work my way into the trust of the Fascisti inner circle. The two youths Emil and I captured had only known that their orders came from a man named Ronnie Barber and that they met at a Methodist church in Towson, Maryland.
This man before my house commanded the Ronnie Barbers throughout the Fascisti network and reported to its Führer. Without tearing into the depths of his mind, I suspected that Davis Trellum was the one man most responsible for the destabilisation of American society.
I could kill him now and severely weaken the Fascisti programme. Part of me wanted to do just that. But killing him would mean that someone else would assume his position, someone I didn't know. I now knew Davis Trellum's mind. I could find it anywhere. And learn what new plots it had hatched.
My original thought had been to meet the leaders of the New Order and become friendly with them. I had thought to destroy their programme through them. I realised now that I had not thought this thing through. The Vice President and the others who had attended the soiree did not know the mechanics of how their movement would come to power. Destroying them would not have stopped the individual saboteurs throughout America's vast hinterland. They would continue to destabilise America until a new leader arose to pull them back together. Moving down through the inner circle of the Fascisti movement had been a poorly conceived idea.
With Trellum, I could move to nip each tentacle as it made its move. The saboteurs would be stopped one by one. I sensed the growing nearness of a putsch everywhere in Trellum's thoughts. Destroying several of his operatives would ease the threat of that putsch far faster than making Vice President Reed Stephens a puppet whom I manipulated.
I began to relax as I accepted the new direction I had given myself. And I began to withdraw from Davis Trellum's mind. A stray thought touched my probe and had almost disappeared before I realised it was there.
The Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights had really done a smacking good job on that mealy-mouthed Jew.
I stared at the man in disbelief. I dived back into his thoughts and found the secondary thoughts stringing behind that one. The radio talk host had been a thorn in the vice president's side since his election to the Senate. Almost daily, he had equated CMUM with Hitler's SA. And his morning radio talk show was listened to across north Georgia; it was one of the few bastions of sane political discourse left on the airwaves.
I remembered last night's late news. An Atlanta talk show host had been kidnapped and then killed with a bullet to the back of his head. The police had no leads.
Trellum knew who had killed the radio talk show host. The Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights. The hit had gone perfectly and the two hitmen were safely back with the congregation.
I dug deeper for more information. Faceless men crawling under barbed wire, grunting and cursing as bullets whizzed over their heads. Men holding onto ropes and jumping from log platforms to sail through the air. Electrified fences and guarded watchtowers.
This Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights was a military training camp! A paramilitary camp, I corrected myself. Trellum thought it was funny that the man who led this organisation and his earliest followers had financed their operation by robbing banks.
Yet, all I could find in Trellum's mind of this camp was a mental picture of the entrance to the group's compound in the north woods of Idaho. That and the face and name of the man who led the Aryan Order.
I smiled as I let go of his mind. I had enough to follow another group of murderers to their hideout. I wondered if Trellum would try to link me to the pack of man-killing dogs that would hunt tonight in this Idaho. Perhaps I would add something to the canine involvement in the destruction I expected to leave behind when I had dealt with this particular tentacle of the Fascisti octopus.
* * *
Ronnie Barber studied the man in front of him. He looked like a damned faggot to him, with all those studs in his ears. Both of them. That must of hurt. He was dirty too. Ronnie was willing to bet the man had been wearing the same jeans for a week. The jacket too. Only, he was the skinhead leader for DC.
He looked towards the dense underbrush beneath the "P" Street Bridge. "That's where your boys got it?" he asked, nodding towards the wooded area.
The skinhead grunted and Barber suspected he didn't have enough brains to make many more sounds.
"You think it was dogs that got them?"
"There were teeth marks all over them -- all three of them. One had his arm torn almost off and the other two had their throats torn out. There ain't no men around who do things like that to a body."
"Maybe a panther?"
"There were three of my men, Group Captain. One fucking cat -- even if it could survive a DC winter -- ain't going to take out three men. One maybe -- even two. But one would've made it up to the street and gave a warning."
Barber nodded. Cats didn't hunt in packs. Only dogs did -- and wolves. "Do you know why they were down here?"
The skinhead shrugged. "They probably found a faggot to beat up."
"But there were only the three bodies -- your men?"
The skinhead nodded again.
"They weren't eaten, either, were they?" he asked, suddenly realising why all this man-killing dog shit didn't sound right. Animals that hunted ate what they killed.
"You mean more than just chewed up?" Barber nodded. "I don't think so. You've got to remember it was dark as shit in there. And, after we called in the cops, we took off."
"You hightailed it?"
"Damned straight. Who's going to stand around and wait for the cops to show? Most of my boys have had enough run-ins with those bastards, we'd have all gone to jail."
"Can you think of anything else that could have done it?"
The skinhead looked at him like he was stupid. "Sure, Group Captain, it could've been some demons from hell -- or, if my boys had been real bad, maybe an angel."
Barber frowned; he didn't like the next part of this interview. He'd never felt right about giving up something that was his, even when it made sense. "I've been informed that I'm supposed to turn over one of our operations to you."
"Which one?" the skinhead asked quickly.
Barber thought it was almost too quick.
"We've been waylaying individual queers when they come out of the bars," he said.
"I saw that on TV. You been beating their heads in." A gleam appeared in the skinhead's eyes. "And you had three of yours killed last night by the same dogs that got my boys." His eyes widened in realisation. "You're pulling out then."
"Our superior thought it would be better if your people took over that operation from us -- here in DC."
"Awesome!" The skinhead grinned and Barber could see two of his front teeth were broken. "Tell the bossman we'll kick some ass for him here in DC."