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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I was satisfied that the Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights no longer existed when Emil and I left its preacher's legs in the frigid Anacostia river and the rest of his body sprawled on the river bank. It was knowledge I was eternally grateful for.
I had learnt something of myself during our killing spree in Idaho, however. I was as capable of a boiling bloodlust as the least intelligent of mortals. I could become a berserker as quickly as my ancient forebears had on the northern plains of Europe. I was not as evolutionary advanced -- as human or vampire -- as I had always thought myself.
It was a most disturbing revelation. Even a Prince of a highly civilised realm could be brought down to the lowest common denominator. Even with nearly 160 years of training and knowledge. The human was still an animal, and the animal patiently waited its time to wreck havoc. I was not pleased with myself. I would have to maintain even stronger control over myself in the future. I wondered when I would ever become mature. When I could ever present myself as civilised and be honest.
Emil stood at the mantle as the fire caught and watched me enter the living room. "I need a drink," he said. "A stiff one. Want one too?" He didn't move, he waited for me -- almost as if he were waiting for me to give him permission to drink.
"I think not." He looked quickly away and stepped slowly towards the sidebar. I watched him pour a glass-ful of the single-malted Scotch I kept for mortal guests to sip. Emil Paulik hated the taste of Scotch.
"I don't think that you should have changed me, Karl," he growled as he stood there and raised the glass. "I'm no better than that rubbish I feed on every night," he continued and I heard the catch in his voice.
"No, I'm worse. They don't see that the drugs they sell kill, or they don't care. Drugs are money to them, and the buyers are responsible for themselves. They don't force their drugs on anyone. Their buyers come to them. The buyers are suicides waiting to happen, and the drugs are a weapon. I kill. I am the weapon."
He turned to me then. His blue eyes hidden in a red mist, the colour of arterial blood. "I don't like myself very much right now, Karl. And I don't like being a vampire even more -- it makes me stronger than thirty young, strong men. It allows me to kill faster and with no risk."
I understood what he was going through. I was going through the same thing at the same moment. I wished that I had answers for him. I wished that I had answers for him. "Emil, pour half of your glass into another one. We both need to numb ourselves after what we've done tonight."
He studied me for a moment. "You feel the same way?" he asked hesitantly. "You actually understand?"
I smiled at him. "Come, Liebchen. We shall become drunk together. Perhaps we shall also learn to understand a little about ourselves."
"Getting drunk never helps," he grumbled, looking at his glass. He had yet to wipe away the tears formed in his eyes.
"Perhaps this time it will. At least, it can free us to reach understandings."
"Tom's visiting his family in Baltimore?" I nodded. He smiled wanly. "It's just the two of us then -- and all we're going to do is talk?" He shook his head. "Only in America."
"That means something like `unglaublich', doesn't it?"
"Or `wahnsinn'." He was beside me, his arm against mine. "Karl, hold me, please."
"If you'll hold me." He nodded. "Come, Liebchen," I told him, sitting on the sofa and waiting for him to join me.
He straddled my legs, sliding down them until we were touching. He raised the glass to his lips and gulped down half of it. He gagged but managed to swallow it. His eyes were redder now that he was closer. "Here's your half. Drink it and hold me; and let's convince ourselves it didn't happen."
I did drink it, and my head did swim. I held him to me but did not try to convince either of us that we had not killed twenty-eight men between us tonight. "Some of them were the ones who killed that radio host," I offered in a whisper against his ear. I nibbled, hoping to distract him. And myself.
He refused to allow his guilt to be detoured. "So, we've signed up as executioners then, Karl?" He sat back so that he could look into my face. "We could have found out the guilty from their thoughts. Why didn't we execute just those? Karl, we were not just the executioners, but the judges, juries -- and even lawmakers."
He shook his head. "That's not right. That's what they want to be able to do. We've got to be better than them -- or we're just like them. I've got to know what I am, Karl. I've got to know which side I'm on."
I blinked and realised my face too was wet. I too had shed tears at the loss of my naïveté. A honest and honourable man and vampire, I had killed like Atilla or the Mongol Khan. Wantonly and pleasurably. "We can't sit back, Emil, and let these separate units of the Fascisti monster kill people and disrupt this country," I offered blithely, like the child of the age of reason I was.
"No, we can't do that." He leant forward and kissed me quickly. "But we don't look up everyone involved and kill them too. All we need to do is disrupt this movement to prevent a putsch, Karl. We don't have to kill every person who's a member."
"We interrogate them. We learn who their sympathisers are and where they are. Maybe we even scare the hell out of those. But we don't hunt them down and kill them." He forced a smile to his face. "I can't do that any more, Karl. I don't want to."
"Agreed," I told him and pulled him to me. When our lips met, Emil did not pull away.
* * *
How? That's what he kept asking himself as he paced the pastor's study behind the little church in Towson. How in the hell did whatever it was find out about the Aryan Order? How did it get inside their compound? How in the hell had it killed twenty-eight people? Davis Trellum had just flown back from Idaho. It looked like creatures from hell had broken into the compound.
One thing was certain. There wasn't going to be a coup until he found whatever it was that was hounding the organisation he'd built up and could destroy the government Bob Patterson planned to set up under Reed Stephens.
He stopped pacing and crossed behind the pastor's desk to gaze out at the car park behind the church. He smiled. He was going to have to get a grip on himself too. It wasn't whatever that was hounding him; it was whoever. There were no creatures from hell out there. There was someone who knew too much about the organisation he'd put together and the missions he'd already assigned. Someone who was a traitor. Someone who had set out to destroy each unit he sent on a mission. And he had to find that someone and stop him before the putsch could proceed.
There wasn't a doubt in his mind that the leak was in Atlanta, at the Christian Center headquarters. That was good enough reason to visit Atlanta, even if he wasn't going to tell Bob Patterson that he had to put a hold of a couple of months on the take over.
A knock at the door behind him pulled him from his line of thought.
"Enter!" he called, nodding to himself at Ronnie Barber's punctuality. "Take a chair, Group Captain," he said without turning, "I'll be with you in a moment."
He sighed and turned, pulling a packet of photographs from his jacket pocket. "Group Captain, look at these please." Trellum watched as the Southerner's eyes grew rounder and his face paler. Barber reached the fifth photo and just stopped, his body shuddered as he stared at the photograph.
"I took those yesterday, Group Captain. There were twenty-nine men at the Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights compound two days ago. We found the bodies of twenty-eight there. The last one was found last night in Anacostia Park here in Washington."
"They had guns," Barber mumbled, staring at the rifle in the picture.
"They did but someone killed every one of them."
"Some of them look like a pack of wild dogs tore them apart, but what happened to the others?"
"We don't know. And, until we do, I'm moving your operations to California."
Barber looked up. "Moving us? I thought we were going to set up some first strike units out there."
"Group Captain, you've already lost five men -- to a pack of dogs. There just aren't enough men in CMUM with the emotional parameters you and your men have that I can afford to lose you. The east coast street brawls with Queer Nation can be turned over to the skinheads. I don't mind losing some of them." He grinned. "The day's coming when we'd have to liquidate them anyway. So, the fewer skinheads we have around, the better."
"We're set up to operate out of this church, sir. Do you want us to clear everything out?"
"Leave it. We'll continue to use this location to supply them." Trellum moved to the window again. "Group Captain, I want to make it plain that we can't afford to lose any more of your men. Once you've got the homosexuals in San Francisco and LA agitated enough, we'll turn that operation over to the skinheads too."
"Yours is a small group and not easily replaced. You carry out special operations well. You're going to become much more mobile, your missions becoming quick, surgical operations. But, no matter what the mission is, if you sense something wrong, I want you to abort it. I don't want to see one CMUM soldier look like those guys after a fight." He nodded to the photographs in Barber's hands.
"What're we going to do about this, sir?" Barber asked.
"I'm going to find out who the traitor is, Group Captain. I'll let your people remove him, if you'd like."
"I'd like that, sir."
"Okay, that's settled then. I'd suggest you get your men from New York and Boston to turn over their operations to the local skinhead gangs by this weekend. On Monday, you should have them on the west coast getting a feel for the terrain."
Barber slid the photographs onto the desk, understanding the interview was over. "Is that all, sir?"
Trellum nodded without looking back at him.
* * *
Trellum pulled back the section of bookshelf and stepped into the private office. He smiled at the pistol pointed at him. "Good afternoon, Reverend," he said and stepped up to the desk. "I buzzed you just before I entered the passageway."
"I was across the hall, Davis." Bob Patterson replaced the snub-nosed pistol back in his desk drawer.
"It's good to see that you've not lost any of your speed, Reverend."
Patterson chuckled. "You didn't come here to test my reflexes. What's up?"
"We've got a mole."
"In the Christian Center?" Patterson watched the Black man in front of him intently. He trusted Davis Trellum completely. His faith in the man had survived every test he'd put it to. Trellum was his son spiritually as well as biologically. It had been Davis who didn't want Patterson to accept him as his son publicly. His early ministry in Brooklyn's Prospect Park had remained unsullied by the affair with Davis' mother.
"He has to be, but I don't know where yet."
"What tipped you off?"
"The Aryan Order of the Teutonic Knights was destroyed two days ago. I found twenty-eight bodies inside their compound. We found their leader in Anacostia Park this morning."
"He had an electrified fence around that place."
"It was still operating when I was there last week."
"Damn! That fence is -- what? -- fifteen feet tall?" Trellum nodded. "How did whoever get in?"
"I'm not sure, Reverend." He sighed. "Only one of those men was shot."
The craggy face froze. "They weren't shot?" Patterson managed to growl.
"Over half of them had their throats torn out -- it looked like a pack of man-killing dogs ran through the place. Only, the other half looked like they'd been sucked dry -- as dry as mummies. I've never seen anything like it."
"There's more. Five of our men -- CMUM's first strike force were chewed up badly. Canine teeth marks, though a couple of them had broken necks. The man they were beating was untouched by whatever it was. That was a couple of weeks ago in Washington. A month before that, three skinheads were killed -- all of them bleeding to death. Two with their throats torn out and one with his arm pulled off."
"My God!" The old man shuddered as he imagined what Trellum was telling him. "What you're describing isn't the work of humans, Davis."
"The only other option is a supernatural one, Reverend." He smiled and shrugged. "I'm not about to accept that one without hard proof."
"The universe is big, Davis, and we haven't learnt that much about it yet," Patterson offered calmly.
"I'd be far more likely to accept extraterrestrial involvement than supernatural."
The preacher laughed. "Maybe we have a vampire interested in us -- they're said to change their shapes."
Trellum studied him closely but decided Patterson was only joking. "I'm going to suggest we move the coup back a few months. I need time to sniff this guy out and figure out how he's done what he's done."
"We're scheduled for mid-April. Do you think you can get rid of this threat and have everything running smooth again by the end of July?"
"Put it off until August then?" Patterson nodded. "Yeah. I'll ferret this guy out. It shouldn't take that long."
"You're going to be in Atlanta for a while then?" Trellum nodded. "There's a new restaurant in Buckhead."
Trellum shook his head slowly. "We're not to be seen together, Reverend. There's just too much danger in that."
"Why? We're both men, both adults. Besides, you're my son."
"That's one of the main reasons why we can't, Reverend. Most of the people we've used in the destabilisation programme are racists." He held up his hand when Patterson made to protest. "They're the ones with the guns, and they have the hate that we've channelled to get us to the point that we can successfully pull off a coup in the United States. You're the mortar that holds what we're doing together -- not Reed Stephens. They'll accept you talking with a Black in your office, but they'll go paranoid immediately if you start socialising with one of us."
"You're not ever going to let me be a real father to you, are you, Davis?"
"You've given me far more than most fathers ever give their sons. I have an education from some of the finest private schools in America, and Harvard. You've shown me why and how people have to be led." He chuckled. "I even suspect I've learnt how to become a successful preacher if I ever decide to change careers -- after all, belief isn't a prerequisite any more."
"I did believe once," Patterson mumbled under his breath.
* * *
In his office in the Naval Observatory, Reed Stephens' frown grew longer as he tossed The Boston Globe on the pile of newspapers at his feet and picked up The Chicago Tribune. It was the same story in city after city. After dark, America's streets were war zones. Skinhead gangs marauded through city streets, breaking windows and attacking anyone who didn't run. Queer Nation gangs fought pitched battles with the skinheads. Paper after paper was calling for concerted Federal action.
"It's time," he grumbled to himself. "Why is Patterson still waiting?"
He looked across the room at the knock on the door. "Enter," he called.
"Good morning, Mister Vice President," Doris Shafly said as she opened the door and entered the office. "Have you been out yet, sir?" she asked as she approached his desk.
"I walked over from the house -- why?"
"Nothing special," she smiled at him. "I just wondered if you'd seen what a pretty day it is. The cherry trees are blooming down in the Basin."
He leant back in his chair and studied her from under hooded eyes. "Doris, you become so cheery it hurts when you're carrying bad news. What is it?"
She tried a smile, but it refused to meld to her face. She sighed and stood taller. "It's been put off, Mr. Vice President."
Reed Stephens closed his eyes and counted to ten. He knew what it was. The putsch. The overthrow of the government. "When?" he asked softly.
"It's August now."
"There's a glitch somewhere."
"I don't know what it is. Bob just suddenly wants to go slow now. He didn't spell out his reasons."
His skin felt suddenly clammy. His head began to pound. Reed Stephens wondered if he was going to be able to hold down his breakfast. "Thank you, Doris," the vice president said, dismissing her. "Keep me informed."
He stood and began to pace as soon as she had left him. Patterson had been doing this to him for the best part of the past seventeen years. Ever since he'd tapped the newly minted PhD in history to head up the Christian Center. Reed Stephens had accepted it -- being the Reverend Bob Patterson's front man but never being let in on the decisions.
Why the hell hadn't Howell told him about this? The man was supposed to be his military attaché. The coup involved the General -- it took his goddamned troops being in position to make the thing work. He should have heard about this days -- even weeks -- ago.
Unless Bob Patterson had made other plans that didn't include Reed Stephens.
There wasn't one damned thing that he could do about it, if Patterson had. Reed Stephens was a sitting duck. He stopped his pacing and looked slowly around his office -- the office of the Vice President of the United States of America. That poor-ass Texan who'd pushed Franklin Roosevelt's wheelchair around for four years had it right. The vice presidency really wasn't worth a bucket of warm spit.
* * *
I turned on CNN while Emil showered. The sound of a blast filled the room as the picture filled the screen. I watched spellbound as every window of a long, three-storey building erupted and became millions of shards raining down on the tarmac of the car park between it and the camera. A Greenville reporter and camera crew was reporting the opening of South Carolina's first abortion clinic and captured its destruction. I shuddered as the centre of the building sagged and collapsed in on itself.
The camera crew had not yet turned to the reporter but the woman's excited voice were recorded. "My God! Oh, God! There are hundreds of people in that office building. It's another Oklahoma City!"
Hundreds? I saw the time what the video camera had recorded on the film then. Ten o'clock this morning. Simple, innocent people doing their jobs in their offices and earning their pay cheques. Mothers and fathers. Young people just beginning their adult lives. Dead now. It didn't take a professional explosives expert to understand the destruction. There was little chance anyone inside the building had survived.
It did not take a psychic to suspect the culprits behind the destruction, either. I smiled coldly as the camera crew moved closer to the destruction. I thought that Davis Trellum would have a tremendous headache after I was through plundering his mind. Afterwards, Emil and I would hunt -- in South Carolina.