Part 51 of an original tale that delves into the unexplored realms of the human mind. Hired by her lover to find a raven haired beauty, Benjamin Bering must avoid the local police as well as the agents of a nonexistent government agency who are after him and the woman. There are just two problems. The woman is in a coma and her body has been stolen. (Part 1 can be found HERE.)
King glared at the young intern for a few moments before taking a deep breath and exhaling. "Building an empire was the farthest thing from my mind in 1938, but there was an evil empire growing around me. There was bitter irony in the fates that awaited both Walter and myself. Both of us were going to die at the hands of the Nazis, he because of his faith and I in their service because of my research."
He must have seen the apathy on our faces, but he was not moved by it. "I felt at the time that my actions were justified. I had not discussed the matter with Walter because I felt he would have concurred. One afternoon while he was napping I drugged him and linked with his mind. Even though I felt his resistance and sensed his terror, I doubled the electric charge. Too late I realized he wanted no part of the transfer. I stood there and watched as the heart in my former body failed under the onset of the angry emotions generated by the body's alien mind."
Stu extended his arm and slid his shirt sleeve to his elbow to reveal the faded numerals that had been tattooed on his arm. "There exists in the human spirit a certain intangible, Mr. King. It's the will to live. When the Allies rescued us from Auschwitz I was barely alive, but I did survive. These numbers are a testament and a reminder of that will."
"Mr. Jankowski, I'm not a monster without emotions. Those emotions however, were clouded by the events of an imminent war. I did feel the pangs of sorrow and guilt as I watched my body and Walter die before my eyes. I suppressed the emotions and went about gathering my notes and the headpieces before setting fire to my work shop. I was driven by the hope of escaping from Germany and an insatiable desire to survive."
"Mr. King," O'Day interjected, "that you are standing here in front of me, it is obvious that you survived that arduous trek out of Germany. Would it be safe to assume that you did not make it to safety as Walter Rabinowitz?"
"That assumption would be correct, Brock," he replied. "As a lone Jewish man without papers, I didn't expect to get very far. I was Walter Rabinowitz for all of three days! Even in the weeks before Poland was invaded, the Gestapo were quite adept at tracking down and rounding up Jews and dissidents. Hans Gearhardt, an SS officer cornered me outside of Dresden. When I tried to run the bastard shot me in the back. I feigned death and when he crouched next to me I struck him in the head with a rock. There was an electrical power station nearby, so I dragged him there. I waited until he regained consciousness and once I saw that he had all of his faculties I siphoned enough electricity from the tower to perform another mind transfer. I drew the officer's Luger knowing that the German's mind and Walter's body had to sacrificed."
I had to admit to myself that his story was intriguing. "For a man of peace, you certainly had to resort to some brutal measures to survive," I noted. "I doubt that an SS officer without orders was able to move around freely either."
"You are correct, Mr. Bering. As it turned out, I was much less conspicuous as a civilian than a lone SS trooper. My stay in Gearhardt's body had to be a brief one. By the time I had jumped into the head of a shopkeeper and had killed the German officer, I realized that the trail of bodies I was leaving behind was making my plight all the more difficult. I knew also that they would eventually track down the shopkeeper's truck which I had stolen."
"My knowledge of the geography of Germany isn't that great, but from Berlin to Dresden I believe you were moving in a southerly direction. You must have been trying to escape into Czechoslovakia?" Stu asked.
King nodded and replied, "Correct. That was my original plan. The Czech border, however was heavily guarded. I didn't want to risk a western route across the widest breadth of Germany into France, so my best option was to continue south into Bavaria. From there I was hoping I could make it into either Austria or Switzerland."
"You didn't realize that the "death" of Ernst Fischer would cause quite a stir back in Berlin did you?" I asked.
He flashed a grin at me and replied, "Not until much later, Mr. Bering. I see that the analytical mind of the investigative reporter within you has been hard at work." He presented his open palms and said, "Please continue."
I acknowledged his gesture, "The body of a leading scientist, who was going to be drafted into the service of the Fatherland, was found in the rubble of a suspicious fire. His assistant, who happened to be a Jew, was nowhere to be found. To a diligent Gestapo agent this would have hinted at foul play. By the time the body of that Jewish assistant showed up in Dresden with a bullet in the back and an SS officer assigned to that area had not reported in, that Gestapo agent would have been hot on the trail."
"I believe that's the way it happened, Mr. Bering," he said in response to my account. "Knowing that the Dresden area was not safe, I drove through the night until I was near Nuremberg. In an attempt to disguise my trail, I drove due east to within a mile of the Czech border. After pushing the truck into a ravine, I turned back on foot in the direction of Nuremberg."
"That sounds like it was a good plan," Stu offered. "It would have appeared that you'd managed to cross the border into Czechoslovakia."
"That was my intent. While I was making my way to Nuremberg, it dawned upon me that I had no papers, no identity. I hadn't bothered to even learn the shopkeeper's name. I was fortunate to have stumbled upon what appeared to be an abandoned farmhouse along my route. Inside the house I found the body of a man who had apparently died there in his sleep. I found his papers and took on his identity and finally made my way into Nuremberg as Horst Grueber, a common laborer."
"Damn!" O'Day swore. "Get yourself a ghost writer, Mr. King. Your story would make one hell of a good book."
"Perhaps, I'll do that ... someday," King replied to O'Day's suggestion. He appeared thoughtful for a few moments before continuing with the story of his eventual escape from Nazi Germany. "In the end, I remained in Nuremberg for about twenty-six months. It was during my stay there that rumors about an Allied invasion in France had begun to circulate. I figured it must have had some merit because of a noticeable buildup of soldiers who had been pulled back from the front. It struck me that they could have been making plans for a defensive posture to protect the homeland."
Michelle, although she'd been listening closely to King's story, had been wearing an inquisitive veil on her face and finally spoke up, "Mr. King, while I understand your actions considering the duress you were under, there is one thing that's been troubling me."
"...And that is?" he replied.
"I can only draw upon my own experience, which unlike your own involves a gender swap. How is that you were able to adapt and to integrate your mind so quickly into those new bodies?" she asked.
"I have to admit that I did experience some difficulty. My assistant had asthma. The SS officer was left-handed. The shopkeeper had a bad hip. I experienced no effects so traumatic as what you've had to endure." He looked at Michelle and shrugged his shoulders, "I'm afraid that's the best answer I can give you."
She contemplated his words for a moment and offered, "It's a crap shoot, isn't it? Just as no two brains are alike, the same applies to bodies."
Brock O'Day chose an ill-timed moment to launch into a poorly executed impersonation, "Momma always said minds are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." He was compelled to avert his eyes from the condescending scowls that greeted him and he said, "Let's hear some more about your trail of blood."
"I'd felt I'd spent far too much time in Nuremberg and I didn't wan't to grow too complacent and lull myself into a false sense of security. I'd used poor judgement when I decided to remain in the body of the shopkeeper and to maintain the identity of Horst Grueber. It was a tactical error that almost cost me my freedom ... and my life."
"I was thinking that after twenty-six months, you were being very fortunate that someone else hadn't stumbled across Grueber's body," I asserted. "It wouldn't have taken them long to discover that his identification papers were missing."
King frowned in agreement before continuing his narrative, "Under the cover of night I slipped out of town in the direction of Stutgart. Now Stutgart was about fifty miles from the French border. My path there however, would have taken me to the Black Forest area and my hometown of Baden Baden. Logic dictated that I should have skirted Baden Baden and made my way into France."
"There's something to be said about the lure of the old stomping grounds," Michelle suggested. "I think most people would've given in, if for no other reason than to see how the place might have changed ... or not!"
"I'm afraid there were no feelings within me of nostalgia for the good old days, Michelle," he replied. "I needed a new body and a new identity. I knew that the shopkeeper's bad hip would not serve me well trying to cross the border if I was confronted by Nazi soldiers."
"Not to mention that you were carrying the identification of a dead man," said O'Day.
"I was committed to entering Baden Baden when I walked right into the path of an SS soldier and a Gestapo agent with their weapons drawn and trained on me. They had been waiting for me."
(To be continued in Part 52, on TUESDAY, 5/26, with An Entity With No Identity.)