Thank you for continuing to read DARK PRINCE. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
I hold the copyright and no portion of this manuscript may be published in any medium other than at Nifty without my express and written permission. With the US Congress pretending to be a medieval religious Prince's court (and jury and executioner), it's best that only those over 18 in the US, 16 in the civilised world that is the EU, read this novel.
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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Reed Stephens stood at the window looking out on the south grounds of the White House. Above him, in the private residence, White House servants were boxing up the belongings of the man and woman who had lived there until the assassination.
He recognised the voice as Doris Shafly's and turned to face her.
"Yes, Doris?" He could see the back of a man's shoulder at the door and knew it belonged to a Secret Servant agent. He was going to have to change that. He was used to being protected; but having them practically on top of him was more than he was going to accept. He had to have room to breathe.
"The Attorney General and directors of the FBI and CIA are here, sir."
Stephens sighed. This was the part he didn't like, regardless of its necessity. He almost wished he could just serve out the remaining three years of his term and stand for election in 2008 -- like every other man who had occupied this office had. Only, the revolution would never be secured that way.
The constitution had been a beautiful experiment, but the last fifty years had shown that it didn't work in a modern society. America's moral decay was almost beyond repair.
"Show them in, Doris," he told her.
He smiled at the three men when they were seated before him. They were Republicans, not Christian Center as he would have liked; but he hoped he could work with them. At least until the revolution was firmly underway.
"We lost a good friend today, gentlemen," he told them. All three of them nodded, the Attorney General sniffed. "I want to destroy the crazy monsters who did this, once and for all."
Stephens looked from the Director of the FBI to the Director of the CIA. "I want the people behind this assassination. I don't care about the technicalities that govern who can do what. I just want whoever was responsible for this. Can you two work together and get me that?"
Both men nodded. Stephens smiled slightly, an upturning of one side of his lips. "Get that to me yesterday, gentlemen. You have one week."
He turned to the Attorney General. "I want all of this street violence stopped now. Can martial law do it?"
All three men stared at Reed Stephens. Their shock was like a wave hitting him.
"This stuff increased steadily through the nineties; it's mushroomed the past six years. It's got so bad that nobody's safe anymore. Americans want a return to stability, the safety of that stability. If having the army occupy every city in America gives us back that safety, then martial law is a small price to pay for it."
Reed Stephens arched an eyebrow in question at the Attorney General. "The Supreme Court has never upheld an edict of martial law, not even in wartime!" the man cried.
Reed smiled again, this time more broadly. "We have a majority on the court, gentlemen -- the same five who gave the presidency to my successor back in 2000. Besides, the only man who tried it was Lincoln. He needed time to build up the Union Army to fighting strength and to hold the border states in line. Martial law gave him that time. The Supreme Court didn't hear that case for two years."
"You're talking about trashing the constitution, Mr. President."
"I'm talking about saving it," he shot back. "Everything else we've tried the past six years -- that Clinton tried during the eight years before us -- nothing's worked. It's time to meet this scourge head on."
"Martial law could make things a lot easier for the FBI," the director mused. "For local police across the country too."
President Stephens nodded gravely and smiled inwardly. He had one man of the three whom he would keep. The Attorney General was definitely out, he thought too much.
He turned to the two directors. "Get the names of the leaders of this Queer Nation, their sympathisers -- let's get rid of them first. We can go after the gangs and druglords after that."
"Mr. President, gathering some of that information has to be done carefully -- you want to do this legally."
Stephens returned his gaze to the Attorney General. Hopefully, Reed Stephens thought, Reverend Patterson had men who would get the man out of the way quickly.
"We'll be thorough," he placated the man. "Why don't you give me a report on options other than martial law? If there's something that's just as good, we'll use it."
He fought the smile that threatened to take over his face when he saw the Director of the FBI roll his eyes heavenward. He quickly glanced at the man from the CIA but found himself confronted by a stoic mask.
The Reverend Bob Patterson entered the anteroom beside the Oval Office and waited until the three men had left Stephens. He studied the small room and guessed this was the same side room Bill Clinton had his famous tryst with Monica Lewinsky. His grin immediately turned into a frown. I almost had the bastard too! he fumed silently. If there was a god we've had impeached the son of a bitch.
He forced himself to relax. It didn't matter. Clinton was gone. The last obstacle to the revolution had died this afternoon. Reed Stephens was president, and the revolution was alive and well at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Bob Patterson smiled again. It had taken him eighteen years to succeed. But it was worth it.
He stepped into the office as the door closed behind the Cabinet members. "How does it feel to be sitting in that chair for real, Reed?" he asked as he crossed the room. "You're the President of the United States of America tonight by authority of law."
"And a fortuitous assassination, Bob," Reed Stephens grinned and leant back in his chair, his hands behind his head. "I have to admit, illustrious leader, that there were times that I actually wondered if we were going to do it."
Patterson laughed. "You? You were always my most adamant cheerleader, Reed." Still chuckling, he continued: "But, truth be told, I doubted our success a few times too."
His face became suddenly thoughtful. "If it hadn't been for you and your leadership of the Christian Center, we would still be lost in the desert, Reed. That's why you're sitting where you are tonight."
"What's next, Bob?" Stephens asked as he sat back up and gazed respectfully up at the older man. "You've kept me out of the loop since I became vice president. Now that I'm here, I've got to start putting our agenda in place."
"Martial law has to come first. It's a real pity that Howell was killed, he knew how to shove that down the military's throat."
"Shouldn't I at least start cleaning house?"
"We need the press silenced, Reed -- and the streets clear of riffraff that could stop us. I'll see if I can't engineer a few explosions that'll upset the national power grid -- that should convince the brass that we need soldiers in the street. A couple of Cabinet murders will help too, I'm sure."
"Like a certain Attorney General?" Stephens asked.
"Him especially," Patterson nodded. "Don't worry, he'll be at his funeral by the end of the week, Reed."
"I think that I'll like that."
"I'm also moving the CMUM units into something we're calling the Moral Majority Service."
"What's wrong with Christian Men United for Morality?"
"They're too obvious. The MMS will keep people quite and do it without a lot of attention. Reminder calls at all hours, a knock at your door at midnight, an occasional arrest in front of the wife and children. They'll be ready to go into American cities by next week."
* * *
Tom slept soundly in our bed as Emil and I dressed in the heaviest clothes we had. Fortunately, CNN's weather forecast for the western Alps called for overcast skies and rain throughout the day. Still, our visit to Zürick would be uncomfortable at best.
It was four o'clock Saturday morning in Washington when I smiled at Emil and said: "Let's do it."
He linked to my mind and I brought a clear image of Bönner's cubicle to its centre. We stood in the dark interior of our bedroom one moment and the brightness of a cubicle in the Computer Sciences Department of the Universität Zürich the next.
I heard Emil's heart begin to pound as fear rose over him. I held him close and looked around us and saw what I had not remembered. There were no windows. The brightness was from overhead electrical lights only. My own fear evaporated and I pointed out our safety as I took off my hat.
Bönner sat at his desk and stared at his monitor.
"Herr Bönner?" I said and nearly laughed as he jerked.
He turned slowly, his face pasty with fear when he saw me. "Fürst von Maribor!" he groaned before adding: "What brings you here, sir?"
"I have need of your services again, Herr Bönner."
"Surely, there are others?"
I brushed past his objection before he could utter it. "There is a putsch happening in the United States presently. I would ask that you use your skills to break into the putschists' computers and copy their files."
His eyes widened. "The assassination yesterday. I saw it on television -- God!" His mind played back my words. "A putsch, you say, my Prince?"
I nodded again.
"That would threaten Europe -- the whole world."
"They are very close to having that power. But they must consolidate their gains first -- I suspect we have far less than a week. I'll pay a million Swiss Francs if you can break through their security."
"What would I do with the information after I have it, sir -- give it to you?"
"That, yes. But release it across the worldwide web. The whole world must know what is happening, not just the Americans."
His eyes glimmered with excitement. "You'd let me spread it then?"
"Who're the bad guys?"
"You'll do it then?" Emil asked, studying the fat German sausage still seated before us.
Bönner laughed. "I'd do it for free, but I'll take the Prince's money." His gaze returned to me. "Who're the bad guys?"
"The Christian Center. Their offices are in Atlanta in Georgia -- the southeastern part of the country-"
His eyes widened. "Those barmy zealots are doing this? The ones with the children who sing that mushy song about a new day?"
"That's them," Emil answered him.
"Gott sei dank! Crazies are always the easiest to break into." He looked up at me then. "And where will I find you, my Prince?"
"We're in America at present, the capital city."
"Can you return here then, sir -- perhaps tomorrow evening?"
"Of course, Sunday night it will be. But may we make it at your home?"
"It will need to be around one in the morning, will that be a problem?"
"Not at all, my Prince. It'll give me more time."
"I will need to enter your mind for a moment."
His eyes widened. "Why?" he demanded.
"I don't know your flat or even where it is. I need a clear picture of it in order to project myself there."
"Is that all that you will do in my mind, sir?"
I chuckled. "Have I ever been less than honourable in my dealings with you, Herr Bönner?"
He frowned and sighed. "I am imagining my living room, my Prince. Can you see it?"
I touched his mind and instantly found the mental picture he'd formed for me. "Thank you," I told him "Do you think you'll have broken through to them by tomorrow night?"
Bönner shrugged. "I can only hope. But I will work on it all day, my Prince." He frowned again. "I like the freedom that is Switzerland's. I wouldn't like to see that taken away by some American mullah. I will work very hard to ensure that doesn't happen."
"We will see you tomorrow night then."
"You have lost your hair, my Prince, and you seem somewhat paler than I remember."
I smiled at him. "I made the mistake of taking the sun, forgetting that I am allergic to it. Until tomorrow."
* * *
Tom was at his assignment at the George Washington University hospital when Emil and I woke late Saturday afternoon. The sun was dropping behind the spires of Georgetown University when I finally left the bed and a sated Emil for a most necessary shower.
"Liebchen," I called to Emil as I stepped under the jets of tepid water, "turn the air conditioning colder so it's bearable in here."
|Karl! Emil!| Sergei Alexandrovitch screamed to us, his fear crashing through my mind in a flood.
I was following the thought back to him immediately. I appeared in the courtyard of the George Washington University Medical School building and changed immediately to wolf shape. Across the street stood the hospital. I barked a greeting to Emil as I saw him do as I had done, even as I felt a tingling along my back from the last rays of the sun.
|Where is he?| Emil projected to me.
I extended my senses out over the cobbled courtyard, searching for him. I felt him at the same time my eyes found the top of his head as he rode the escalator from the underground station. There were men in normal street-clothes on either side of him and, as they reached the ground, I saw one of them held a pistol against Tom's back.
|I see them,| Emil informed me. |What now?|
We could rush them; but the sidewalk in front of the underground had too many people on it. I didn't relish attacking the men holding Tom MacPherson in front of witnesses. There would be too many questions and Tom was unable to disappear as Emil and I could. He would be left to the police and forced to lead them back to us.
|They won't kill him out here,| I answered, praying I was right. |Let's wait until they get him away from all these people.|
I reached out and touched the thoughts of Tom's captor nearest to me, pushing past the fear and determination I found in the foreground of his thoughts as he scanned the milling night students and street vendors beginning to put away their wares for the night.
His name was Ronnie Barber and he was disgusted that only he and one other of his men had escaped after the assassination. He was angry that the church in Towson was no longer a refuge for them. And he blamed Tom and us for everything that had gone wrong in his career as head of the CMUM first strike units. He concentrated on making the Medical School building, remembering a first floor bathroom in a room full of exhibits. I felt his remembered revulsion at seeing the pickled brains and cranial slices.
He would make it to the bathroom, I decided. But he'd never see another member of the Christian Center again. Not in this life. I told Emil to meet them there and I would follow them.
Tom had seen and recognised us. His eyes widened as he watched Emil change into a mist and move towards the building's main entrance. No one else paid attention to the wolf prowling and sniffing about the courtyard, moving closer to the three men walking to the building.
I touched several passing minds, curious at the lack of interest. And was surprised to find I was viewed as only a stray dog, scavenging for food.
I followed the two men pushing Tom ahead of them to the double doors and saw the campus policeman standing just within the glassed foyer. I became mist as they pushed inside, following them across the lobby by oozing across the door.
From the moment I had seen Tom's situation, I wanted to attack. To destroy these insane creatures who, in my mind, had given up their claim to humanity by agreeing to wantonly kill a man who had caused them no harm. They might see themselves as soldiers fighting a war and killing the enemy; but I refused to see myself as the enemy of mankind. To me, they were as un-human as a skinhead or drug dealer -- they had given up their humanity and were legitimate prey.
I had wanted to kill them but hadn't -- for the same reasons they hadn't yet killed their intended victim. I didn't want to be seen tearing their throats from them; I didn't want witnesses.
Past the lobby entrance and no longer surrounded by people, I changed back to a wolf and padded a metre behind them into the exhibition room and through it towards the bathroom. The men pushed Tom into the cubicle between the two doors of the men's toilet. I sprang towards the man who had assassinated the president.
His companion had pushed open the interior door and stepped inside when my jaws snapped closed on Ronnie Barber's throat. My teeth sank into muscle that resisted the impulse to tear away from his throat. The resistance lasted but a moment before the front of his neck pulled away, but it was enough to brake my headlong collision with the wall of the cubicle.
I landed and pushed myself to my feet, growling as I looked about to find Tom.
Emil had sprang towards the other Fascisti thug as he stood against the door and stared unbelievingly as I tore Ronnie Barber's life from him. His shock had held him long enough for Emil to reach him.
Tom simply collapsed to the floor of the cubicle when he saw my snout clamping shut on the neck of the man behind him. I saw his eyes were wide as he watched Emil pull his man's throat open and began to lap blood and gore from the wound.
I changed back to human form and began to feed as Emil was doing on the tiled floor of the bathroom behind me.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Tom hissed, pulling himself up the wall to gain his feet, pulling away from the dying man under me still trying to push me away from his throat.
"Shut up!" I growled at him without looking at him. "Shut your eyes and keep quiet!"
There was far too much blood pooling in the man's wound for me to do anything but ignore Tom. I was as hungry as Emil, and this was food.
With a surge of good sense, Tom MacPherson did as he was told.
I dragged my man's body inside the bathroom and placed it on a toilet after I had fed. Emil had done the same with his man, and the three of us stood facing each other inside the bathroom.
"You're both naked," were Tom's first words since I ordered him into silence.
"You caught us on the way to the shower," Emil chuckled. "There didn't seem time to decide what to wear."
"You killed them," he accused, his face bleached.
"Damned right we did," Emil said. "They were about to kill you."
"Scheiße!" I growled. "There's no difference between a bullet to the brain and a throat torn out of a man -- they're both death. Besides, they were no longer human. They had become rotting rubbish. They were legitimate prey and we were hungry."
Tom sank back onto a lavatory, shaking his head. "I never thought -- Jesus!"
"You never thought you'd be murdered by Fascisti thugs, either!" I sucked in air. "Sergei Alexandrovitch, explain this to him while he makes his way home."
"We've got to get away from this." I pointed at the two toilet cubicles that now held dead bodies, then at the small cubicle that was splattered with blood and gore. "Emil and I can teleport ourselves there. Nobody's going to see us." I glanced down at my nudity and, then, at Emil's. "Not like this," I offered, my voice softer and carrying a note of humour.
"You, however, have to take the tube home. I doubt even Sergei Alexandrovitch can move your corporeal body from one place to another as we can ours."
Both Emil and I felt his growing revulsion at what he had seen.
"Verdammte!" Emil hissed. "We saved your bloody backside, Tom. You'd have been dead in another minute if it hadn't been for us."
Tom gazed at the closed cubicles for long moments before he pushed himself off the lavatory.
"I guess we better get out of here," he mumbled, turning to look at us.
"Do you want us to meet you at Eastern Market?" I asked softly.
His eyes seemed to plead with mine for the moment he held them. "Yeah. I guess so. I don't think I want anybody else sticking a gun in my back like those guys did."
"Our Yank member appeared a bit green at the gills," Emil opined as he slipped into his loafers and made sure his shirt buttons lined up with his belt buckle and flies.
"Tom?" I asked absently.
"The lad's been plying me with questions about the functions of every part of my body this past month -- including my privates."
I looked up from slipping on my own shoes. The Swiss member of our trio hadn't sounded at all American and that stood out, emphasising the difference of this line of thought from anything I had heard the past several months. But this was real English I was hearing now, the language of BBC. And more than slightly catty.
"What're you trying to say?" I asked and started for the door of the bedroom.
"I'm saying I think Tommy has been edging closer and closer to the big decision, lover. He's ready to have you sink your teeth into his neck and suck him dry," Emil offered as he followed me down the stairs.
Now he was sounding American catty, Anywhere High School of 2005. "You know you don't become a vampire by being fed upon, Emil," I reprimanded him.
"I'm sorry, Karl," he mumbled as I opened the front door and stepped onto the veranda. "I was being a real bitch there." He paused and was silent as he followed me out to the sidewalk.
"Tom's been closing in on making the decision to join us," he began again as we rounded the corner of Sixth and started up towards Pennsylvania, his English again American and well modulated. "But I suspect he had an overdose at the medical school earlier this evening."
"How else could we save him?" I demanded gruffly as we reached Pennsylvania and turned eastward towards the underground.
"I think our feeding upset him," he suggested.
"Verdammte! We were both hungry. That rubbish was going to die anyway. Why shouldn't we feed?"
"You know it and I know it, but he didn't until he was watching us."
"And you're saying?"
He smiled at me, even as he struggled to match my stride. "I think Tom MacPherson will shortly be undergoing an identity crisis and we need to treat him carefully."
"Do you really care, Emil?" I asked and immediately regretted the question. I loved him as much as I did Tom.
He didn't take offence, for which I was most grateful. "I was there as quickly as you were," he answered gently.
I stopped in mid-stride and turned to look at Emil who stopped at the same moment I did. We stood before the art deco exterior of an American cowboy gay bar.
"I've come to love him every bit as much as you ever did," he offered. "Read my thoughts if you don't believe me."
"I'm sorry, Emi," I told him. "The three of us have been flowing smoothly along, true; but I've been waiting for something to come along and touch that fragile facade, shattering it."
He grinned. "It's not shattered yet, Liebchen -- unless young Tom turns into a match for Grandduke Sergei Alexandrovitch Romanov."
I grinned back tentatively. "I doubt he can -- I know I never was."
"Or me. You should have seen him take charge while you were recovering from your sunburn. God!"
Tom was leaning against the wall of the escalator when we arrived.
"I thought you would never arrive," Sergei Alexandrovitch told us in German when we neared him. Emil glanced sharply at me but, as quickly, turned his gaze back to him.
"Sergei?" I asked, barely above a whisper.
He chortled. "I thought I might be needed to help this American out, miene Freunden -- in what may prove to be trying times for him-" He grinned. "You see, he has developed some doubts of how he might feed himself if he succumbs to your charms."
"He can drink bovine blood if he prefers," I suggested, remembering my own experience between the wars.
"He seems to have momentarily forgotten that point this evening as he watched you two."
We were standing at the elevated side of the escalator and I noticed several young men of both races glancing at us. "I think we should perhaps return home," I suggested.
"What?" Sergei yelped. "No added pleasures to our evening, my Prince?"
"Scheiße!" I grunted, starting back the way we had come. "Tom and Würther don't care much for added pleasures."
"True. This Tom is a bit of a prude," Sergei Alexandrovitch offered quickly and following me with Emil bringing up the rear. "I find it strange trying to handle some of his feelings -- he sees things so differently from the way I would."
"How long are you going to stay in charge of him?" Emil asked, matching his steps with ours.
Sergei Alexandrovitch grinned at me with Tom's grin. "As long as it takes me to have one of you to open a vein and allow him to suckle."
"Gott im Himmel!" I grunted as we turned onto Sixth Street and began to pass the open-air restaurant there. I cringed when I realised several pairs of eyes had looked up from their sidewalk tables and were watching me. "He'd hate all three of us if he didn't make that choice himself," I continued in German.
"He already has," Sergei Alexandrovitch allowed, continuing in that language.
"What does that mean?" I demanded as we left the harsh street lamps beside the restaurant and continued south to the end of the block.
He paused to gather in the idiom he was looking for. "He put the decision in my hands, meine Freunden. It is mine to decide if he goes back to Baltimore or stays with you."
I stopped and stared at him. "Really?"
Sergei Alexandrovitch halted and, turning to face me, smiled at me from Tom's face. "Why shouldn't he? He was afraid to handle the decision after this evening. And I am as much him as he is."
"No!" I growled. "Each of you are different, even if you are the same soul in the same body."
"Perhaps, dear Karli," he answered softly. "But Tom's personality, the one separate from mine and Würther's, put the choice in my hands."
"I'd like to hear that directly from him before one of us lets you suck," Emil said bluntly.
Tom's face managed to look wounded under the Russian's manipulation. "Such little faith you have, Emi," he mumbled.
"We're talking a very permanent condition, Sergei Alexandrovitch," I jumped in. "I want you with us as much as Emil does -- and I don't want to have your American incarnation hating us for making him undead any more than Emil."
The light-complexioned face framed by the mass of dark curls altered slightly. It wasn't something a mortal would have seen, but both Emil and I watched the Russian become Tom again.
"This is a decision I can't make, guys," Tom said in the flat American cadence I couldn't imagine Sergei Alexandrovitch's Russian soul ever sliding into.
"Tom." I reached out to him.
"Don't!" He pulled away. "It's not that I don't love you -- both of you. I do. I'm queer as shit and I accept that. I want the -- the rest of it too. But I don't -- not if I have to do what you guys did this evening. I've decided to let him make that decision for me."
"You know which way he'll decide," I told him.
He looked down at the pavement and shrugged. "Yeah. At least, it's a lot more likely than Würther deciding that way."
"Do you want that?" I asked, pressing.
He veered closer to the street and away from me. "Goddamn it! Yes, I do. I hate what you did. But all the rest of it..."
"Stay with us, Tom," I pleaded softly.
"I thought you loved Sergei Alexandrovitch," he hissed.
"I did -- a hundred years ago. I love you now -- and Emil. Emil and I both love you. We want you with us."
I sighed, sickened at what I was about to suggest yet accepting its necessity between us.
"Hear them and accept their council, Tom. You're unique among vampires and mortals to have the experiences of these two previous lives -- personalities -- you can consciously draw upon. But let Emil and me know Tom MacPherson. You're the man we love in the here and now."
Tears welled in his eyes and slipped unnoticed down his cheeks. It was still Tom MacPherson who was with us when we turned into the house. We continued to maintain the silence that had held us until we were behind the door to our bedroom.
"Will I have to kill people?" he asked suddenly, holding back as Emil and I advanced deeper into the room.
"To feed?" I asked and turned to gaze at him.
"Yeah..." He nodded.
"Ask Sergei Alexandrovitch," I told him smiling. "He read my mind for you here recently and I imagine he found how I lived from his death until Würther died."
His brows bunched together as he retrieved the memory. "Cow's blood?" he said in disbelief.
"For thirty-five years. I'm willing to go back to that again."
He turned to Emil. "And you?"
"I'm just one member of this family," he answered and shrugged. "I'll go along with whatever programme the majority agrees upon."
Tom MacPherson sighed. He smiled slowly and glanced from one to the other of us. "I guess I'm acting like some prima donna."
"Tom, why make the decision now?" I asked sitting on the side of the bed. "You've put it off all these months."
"I've put it off since you woke Sergei Alexandrovitch and Würther up back in December, Karl. That's when I started fighting this thing." He snorted suddenly. "I was fighting to stay out of your bed as well as away from your damned immortality. Look how long it took me to lose that first fight."
He glanced down at the floor. "Now, I've lost this one too." He looked back up at me, his eyes searching for mine. "You wouldn't even let me hide behind Sergei now that it's time to surrender."
"You still don't have to make this decision tonight," I told him.
"The hell I don't! You've stirred up a hornet's nest with these fundies -- and I was right there alongside you. I was seconds away from getting my head blown off there in that john." He wagged his head slowly. "And those guys the other day weren't exactly playing a friendly game of tag with my jaw, either."
He smiled suddenly and pushed his shoes off as he pulled his shirt over his head. "I think I'd like getting it like Emil did."
"How?" Our Swiss partner demanded in surprise.
Tom grinned. "Remember? You made sure Sergei Alexandrovitch read your mind before he did Karl's. That seemed pretty nice." He unbuckled his belt. "Do you think both of you can get in on this bloodletting I'm walking into?"
Emil began to undress. "Looks like we're going to have to change the sheets tonight, Karl," he laughed.
I stood, a bemused smile plastered across my lips as I admired Tom's naked body and rigid manhood standing just beyond my reach. I began to undress as Tom moved to the bed and climbed onto it.
A cardboard box stood at the end of the sofa when Emil and I arrived in Marcus Bönner's flat Saturday night. The kind of box that held twenty-five thousand sheets of tractor-fed computer printer paper, a fairly large box.
I sensed the man attempting to cover his own interest in the box; and my attention was drawn immediately to it. "What is this?" I demanded as I crossed to the end of the sofa.
He looked at me. "It's what you wanted, my Prince. All of the files on the putsch from America's Christian Center. I included the files that linked their organisation to the others. And the files that showed how they went about destabilising America. The files on the putsch are already on the internet." He grinned. "I have also sent them to BBC, France Presse, Reuters, and the Associated Press."
My brow arched in surprise.
"You've been busy," Emil chuckled.
"I gave them the codes to enter this Christian Center's files as well -- was that okay, sir?" I nodded and watched him relax. "I also sent the codes to the FBI in Washington."
"You seem to have thought of everything, Herr Bönner," I told him and pulled out my chequebook. What he had done was well-worth a million francs -- he had saved the world.
"They're very organised, my Prince -- much like..." He paused and blushed.
"Like the Nazis," I finished his sentence and watched him jerk his head in a short nod. "Your grandfather was one -- the man in charge of the final solution to the Jewish question." It was not a question. And the thoughts that flooded the forefront of his mind confirmed what I already knew.
"You knew from the beginning?" he mumbled, his eyes on the box on the floor and unwilling to come up to meet mine.
"Yet, you came to me?"
"You were the only hacker recommended," I answered, unable to restrain the grin that spread across my face.
"And you didn't kill me?"
"I needed your help."
"Afterwards, I mean, my Prince."
"Marcus, there was little purpose to visit vengeance for the sins of the grandfather on the grandson."
"But you aided the Jews of Vienna."
"And lost my lover to your grandfather's SS."
"And you didn't kill me."
"You'd done nothing to warrant that."
"How did you get in so easily?" Emil asked, purposefully changing the course of the conversation.
"That was easy. All their passwords are New Testament words or..." He grinned. "If it was an important file, they took the first letter from each chapter of one of the books of the Bible to make a password. Of course, they used the King James' version -- but you'd told me already that they were Protestant and I suspected that they were incapable of learning foreign languages. Their security programme was so simple a child could see what they were doing."
"Now that we know who is who in their organisation, it should be easy enough to destroy it," I said.
"Are you going to kill them all, my Prince?" he gasped. "There are thousands of people doing things for them -- all across America. They may be poorly educated, even stupid -- but they are human still."
I laughed. "I'd rather tie them to what they've done and let the media and police do their jobs," I told him and wrote him a cheque. "You have done very well indeed, Herr Bönner. I congratulate you."
Tom still slept the sleep of transformation, but he lay between Emil and myself who loved him. He was safe with us as the world around us turned itself upside down.
The Sunday morning news chat programmes on television competed to read the most damning files to their listeners and have the sagest professors of political science explain what those files meant. By evening that day, every European ambassador had left Washington, called home for discussions.
The fury of hell burst over the American Capital city by Monday when The Washington Post printed its story of the connections between Reverend Bob Patterson and the terrorist militias and the Aryan Order in the west, skinheads in the east, and militias and klansmen throughout the country. Its fires sprang into conflagration the following day in New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
The Southern Baptist Conference issued a news release on Tuesday proclaiming that organisation's continued faith in Bob Patterson's ministry but called for the immediate investigation of the Christian Center. Dallas burst into flames as its dailies followed the rest of the country.
By mid-week, television talk show hosts dropped their interest in middle-aged women who slept with their teen-aged daughters' boyfriends and began airing former members of the Aryan Order, the Klan, and militias throughout the country, trying to delve into their sexual practices. Each host devoted several spots on each show to pleading for any adult who slept with any of America's top Fascisti to come forth and give their own stories.
Christian Center bumper stickers disappeared from automobiles in Maryland and Virginia as fast as their owners could scrape them off.
The circus had begun. American style.
* * *
Tuesday evening, the comedian's wide face gazed at us from the television screen. "Where are you going when you take a ride with Bob Patterson, folks?" he asked his audience and paused. "Straight to the hell of an IRS audit," he answered himself a moment later.
I didn't think the joke funny but smiled that the country's comedians were now making the preacher and his groups the brunt of their humour. I reminded myself that somebody once said the reason Hitler was able to rise to power in Germany was because the Germans couldn't laugh at themselves.
The Americans did, though. And the fangs of that laughter were sunk deep into what was left of Bob Patterson and his allies. But was it enough?
The Fürst von Maribor had seen empires rise and fall in his one hundred and seventy years, and he had seen the fascism of Hitler and Mussolini sweep over Europe, only to be replaced by that of Lenin and Stalin. The course of history could have been changed if Hitler had simply disappeared beneath its waves. Hitler had been the only leader insane enough to immerse the world in war, and he had nearly destroyed Europe with that insanity. Europe and the world could have been spared that destruction if Hitler had died instead of ruling.
The only good thing about the world war was that Hitler didn't have nuclear weapons. He hadn't been able to destroy the entire world -- plant and animal, mortal and vampire. Patterson, or someone like him, would have those weapons if he gained power in America. He could order the death of the planet; and, from everything I had seen, he was insane enough to do it.
Perhaps, vampires had a duty to prevent such men from gaining power, a duty not to mortals but to the world they shared with them.
|Never, Karl!| The thought exploded across the horizon of my mind. Surprised, I looked over at my lovers to find Tom studying me, a tight smile on his face. But it wasn't Tom sitting there.
|We aren't gods, my love -- and we mustn't play at being one.|
|You know my thoughts?|
|I think we need to take a long walk, you and I -- in fact, Tom commands that I do so.|
|We might not get back in time to find a cow in an area we've not yet visited.|
|I may have to taste human blood tonight then. Our talking is more important than Tom's sensibilities.|
Outside, we were two young, good-looking men walking slowly towards Eastern Market and the gay bars there, enjoying our companionship.
"My lives have proved we vampires need to stay out of nearly every aspect of mortal history," Sergei Alexandrovitch Romanov said quietly in the heated evening.
"Scheiße! Without Hitler, Würther would still be alive," I growled.
"And be an old man in his late seventies if he still lived, Karli."
"He'd have joined me, as I joined you."
"No, he wouldn't. He was in denial of everything about us." The Russian chuckled bitterly. "The one thing he couldn't deny was his -- our -- love for you. In that, he and Tom are much alike."
"He'd have grown old and died?" I asked in disbelief.
"That was his intention -- both consciously and sub-consciously. But he involved you in helping the Jews of Vienna and that brought the SS after both of you." He chuckled.
"I wasn't much better there in Petrograd. I saw that priest haranguing a crowd of workers to march on the Winter Palace, to give the Tsar -- our loving national father -- a silly petition. I joined them."
He snorted at the memory. "I led a column. I saw those damned Cossacks sitting their horses. I saw their swords drawn. I touched one's thoughts and knew what their orders were. And still I marched on at the head of that column of simple workers. Because I was incapable of believing that the Tsar would break the covenant between Mother Russia and her people."
He chuckled. "It is strange how the human mind holds onto what it wants to believe, even when the evidence is there before it that it's wrong. Würther believed people could never be really inhuman to other people. I had my belief in Mother Russia; he had his belief in God. Both were goodness incarnate. Yet, both failed."
"I don't see it. Sergei Alexandrovitch, without Count Witte there'd not have been a Bloody Sunday. The Tsar would have accepted the petition and no one would have been hurt and Russia would have become a constitutional monarchy. Without Hitler, there wouldn't have been a Wansee Protocol and a SS. Without this Patterson, there won't be a nuclear fascist America."
He turned to study me. "You're still speaking of an essential goodness -- and its antithesis, evil. In that skewered logic, if you remove evil, goodness prevails."
He stopped, shoving his hands in the pockets of his shorts. "Karl, there is no god and no goodness incarnate. You would have vampires become gods in their place because we are stronger than mortals, because any one of us could have got to Hitler and left him a bloodless husk, even after he was in power."
His black hair shone under the street lamps, his eyes were hidden; yet I felt them seeing through me. "How can we become gods, Karl? How dare we choose to murder a man simply because we see him as evil?"
"We do that now, Sergei Alexandrovitch. When I choose a victim, I select one who has destroyed his life or made himself inhuman. Emil does the same thing."
"You choose one who, by your definition, is no longer useful or is inhuman. That's fine on a one-to-one basis. It's your justification for selecting that particular person to feed yourself. But it doesn't work when you tie your definition to history. Would you have killed Albert Einstein?"
"He didn't..." I instantly saw where Sergei Alexandrovitch was taking our conversation. Einstein had given mankind access to the atom. With him gone before he could revolutionise physics, there wouldn't be the lingering threat of nuclear destruction.
Yet, the man's contributions to science had brought mankind to the brink of carrying life to other planets. Without him, much of man's knowledge of the universe gleaned these past seventy years wouldn't have been.
"Even now, the American government is rounding up Patterson's henchmen throughout the country. He is arrested. He and the Fascisti he led are history, Karli. I have no complaint with your contribution to bringing his threat to an end, or with the way you did it. It was an interesting way for us to contribute to our world's health, even to improve it. But to kill the man now that he is defeated? That would be playing at godhood -- visiting retribution for his sin on him. That's an insanity on the same level as his."
"So, you would have us forget him?"
"Forget him? Mortals and vampires both need to accept responsibility for the world they live in." He smiled wryly. "That part of me, Würther, still lives. I'm saying there's a whirlwind of fear -- one caused by all the changes of these past sixty years -- waiting to be harnessed and we should watch those who would attempt to harness it. And destroy their attempt if their goals are not good ones -- but not as a murder machine."
"I don't see the difference between what you're suggesting and what I was thinking."
"I said destroy the attempt. You've put Patterson up to public ridicule and criminal prosecution. He has been destroyed -- and the force of fear he sought to control has momentarily lost some of its strength because of all that laughter."
"Stephens still sits in the White House."
"Isolated. Increasingly aware that he no longer has authority. He is like the condemned man caught in the moment between the door falling out from under his feet and the noose breaking his neck. Patterson's neck is already broken -- he is dead. Stephens merely awaits his arrest."
"You'd go on and kill a man whose movement is already destroyed. You would institute your own Wansee Protocol, as the enemy already lies defenceless under your foot -- in a Warsaw ghetto of this situation, this country and this time. You'd overkill, Karl."
"You were ever the mercantilist, Sergei Alexandrovitch," I groaned. "The merchant Prince. It's too bad you weren't the Tsar instead of Nicholas -- we'd still have empires and our estates."
He chuckled. "If they existed still with the knowledge we've gained this past hundred years, we wouldn't recognise them."
I took his hand and visualised the sitting room of our home, ensuring the same picture was appearing in his thoughts as well. And we were there.
* * *
"The Treasury Secretary and a Secret Service detail are waiting in the Oval Office for you, Mr. President," Doris Schafly told Reed Stephens Tuesday evening as he sat in the study in the family quarters of the White House.
"They're here to arrest me?" he asked without looking up.
"I think they just want to ask you some questions, Mr. President. They arrested Reverend Patterson this afternoon."
He nodded. "My family's already at the lake, aren't they?"
"Yes, sir. They left this afternoon."
He took a deep breath and began to let it out. "Tell the Secretary I'll be down in a moment. "I think you'd better fly to Atlanta tonight." He looked up at her then and smiled. "Good night, Doris."
He opened a drawer of his desk as she let herself out. He pulled the Luger out and looked at it, the smile still on his face.
Sexually sated, I lay between my two lovers as the eastern sky lightened outside our window. Languidly, I told myself mine had been a full life these past one hundred and fifty years and accepted it was only just beginning. I had forever extending out ahead of me with these two men to help me explore it.
Emotional storm clouds rose at the far horizon of my mind and moved swiftly over the endless sea of tranquillity that had been my thoughts. I frowned and extended my senses towards them.
Reed Stephens paced the floor of the White House study, his thoughts a turmoil of raging images and unidentifiable fears, a pistol in his hand. Through his eyes, I looked about the room for what had agitated him so and found nothing.
I forced my way past the fears and insane imaginings that churned across the foreground of his mind.
His dreams lay shattered. The Christian Center was gone. He'd never be able to hold the presidency. They were here to arrest him.
It had been a gamble from the beginning. He had his PhD in history. He had teaching positions offered. It would have been a quiet, even sedate life.
Instead, he had accepted Bob Patterson's request to head up the Center. To give fundamentalist Christianity a political voice.
Reed Stephens laughed. It had been a fun ride, the past eighteen years. Exciting, even exhilarating. It had been more than any middle-class boy from Marietta, Georgia could have hoped for, even in his wildest dreams.
Only, it had now come to a crashing end. Bob Patterson had finally guessed wrong -- big time. Little children didn't sing to him any more -- to either of them. Late night television talk show hosts made jokes about them.
He didn't want to die.
Only he had to -- if he wanted to avoid a trial that he'd have no chance of winning. He raised the pistol to his head. He refused to be led around in chains.
I fled Reed Stephen's mind as the man's finger tightened on the trigger.
I smiled grimly as I shut my eyes and sought sleep. Thomas Jefferson's dream still lived. Hitler had not been resurrected.