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Authors: Lee Thomas

Tags: #Historical Fiction, #Thrillers, #General

The German

BOOK: The German
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Lethe Press

Maple Shade, NJ

 

Copyright © 2011 Lee Thomas. all rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, microfilm, and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Published in 2011 by Lethe Press, Inc.
118 Heritage Avenue • Maple Shade, NJ 08052-3018
www.lethepressbooks.com • [email protected]
isbn: 1-59021-309-2
isbn-13: 978-1-59021-309-4

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Cover photo: Nadya Lukic.
Cover design: Lee Thomas / execution: Alex Jeffers.
Author photo: Michael J. Hall.

 

 

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

 

Thomas, Lee, 1965-
The German / Lee Thomas.
p. cm.
ISBN 978-1-59021-309-4 (alk. paper)
1. Young men--Crimes against--Fiction. 2. Texas--History--1846-1950--Fiction. 3. Psychological fiction. I. Title.
PS3620.H6317G47 2011
813.6--dc22
2010033904

 

Praise for Lee Thomas

 


The German
is a smart and bravely conceived thriller, rich with historical detail that draws readers into its WWII-era story of small-town violence and repressed sexuality. Lee Thomas populates his fictional town with believable, multi-faceted characters, and he shifts perspectives effortlessly to give the most complete view of the story. And at the story’s dark heart is the German of the title: a mysterious, seemingly detached narrator whose hypnotic voice reveals layers of complexity as the story unfolds. By the time the book races towards its exciting, agonizing conclusion, readers won’t know who the real monsters are.”


Norman Prentiss

Bram Stoker Award Winner, author of
Invisible Fences

 


A worthy successor to Clive Barker, Lee Thomas has a firm grasp of both the epic and intimate aspects of horror fiction.”


Bentley Little

author of
The Disappearance

 


...Thomas’ prose is an absolute delight, rich in imagery, precise and elegant... [L]ike all the best horror, [he] expands our knowledge—and our fears—about what it means to be human.”


Rue Morgue Magazine #99

(on
In the Closet, Under the Bed
)

 


Lee Thomas is a fantastic writer with a gift for invoking our most intimate fears—and preying on them mercilessly.”


Christopher Golden

Bram Stoker Award-winner, author of
The Chamber of Ten

 

For
Ed Burleson
, my first friend in Austin,

and as always,

John Charles Perry

 

 

Acknowledgements

 

I’d like to thank the early readers of this book for their encouragement and insights. They include Nate Southard, Steve Berman and Howard Morhaim. Thanks guys, much appreciated. For the dark rainbow rising: Jameson Currier, Vince Liaguno, Chad Helder, Paul G. Bens Jr., Michael Rowe, Norman Prentiss, Tom Cardamone, Robert Dunbar, and again, Steve Berman. To the members of
Who Wants Cake?
past and present: a finer bunch you’ll not find.

And finally a special acknowledgement to the works of Jack Ketchum, a guy who knows what pain is and how much is required to bend a human being to the monstrous.

 

 

“All revolutions devour their own children.”

—Ernst Röhm

 

“No matter how a man alone ain’t got no bloody fucking chance.”

—Ernest Hemingway, from
To Have and Have Not

 

Contents

The German

Acknowledgements

Table of Contents

Prologue: Munich

One: Tim Randall

Two: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Three: The German

Four: Tim Randall

Five: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Six: Tim Randall

Seven: The German

Eight: Tim Randall

Nine: The German

Ten: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Eleven: Tim Randall

Twelve: The German

Thirteen: Sheriff Tom Rabb
it

Fourteen: Tim Randall

Fifteen: The German

Sixteen: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Seventeen: Tim Randall

Eighteen: The German

Nineteen: Tim Randall

Twenty: The German

Twenty-One: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Twenty-Two: Tim Randall

Twenty-Three: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Twenty-Four: Tim Randall

Twenty-Five: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Twenty-Six: Tim Randall

Twenty-Seven: The German

Twenty-Eight: Sheriff Tom Rabbit

Twenty-Nine: Tim Randall

Thirty: Tim Randall

Thirty-One: Tim Randall

Epilogue: New York City

About the Author

Prologue: Munich

 

Date Unknown – Translated from the German

I remember a hole, deep and dark, with water pooling at the bottom like blood in an open wound. I rub my chest and scabs flake away like bits of autumn leaf, tumbling down to float on the dark water. My thoughts twist tight, wrung like damp linen, each crease made permanent by the wrapping tension.

Gazing along my cold body, clothed only in white drawers, I am disturbed by the hole in the ground and the holes in my torso: three neat apertures from which my blood has poured. But no more. Membranes of skin already seal my muscle and bone from the elements. I can feel the slow knit of flesh. Itching. Burning. That hole. A grave. Meant for me. Rain is in the air, and I observe the sky and the field of granite markers about me as I inhale the scents. Earth. Stone. Grass. From my body a different odor pours. It is foul like the mingling of dirt and rot. Dropping my chin, I again observe the mementos of bullets decorating my chest.

I remember a small cell. It reeks of sweat and tobacco. A man looks at me along the length of his pistol barrel. Outside, a firing squad is being ordered to shoot. The rifle reports fill my cell like thunder roll. The air about me shifts as though disturbed by the gunfire, creating a draft and sending chills over my perspiring body. The man before me is shouting, but I don’t remember the words.

Then I am in this cemetery with frigid air running over my bare skin. I shiver against it. Hug myself and wince as I feel my chest contract and the knitting membrane tear so slightly, but I am very, very cold, so I continue the embrace. I have never known such chill. I look skyward and observe an ashen blanket of clouds. The dim light might be that of early morning or late afternoon. I cannot say. I try my voice, whispering a meaningless prayer. It is rough. My throat feels clogged with dirt. Speaking makes it ache so I stop.

The chill works through my skin. It presses into my wounds painfully like frozen needles. Looking around the cemetery and finding it vacant – save the tall markers – I walk to the east. I was born and raised in this city. A lifetime ago. Bits of that life come back to me as I work my way between the markers toward the eastern wall.

I question the memories flooding me: the faces of so many men. They called me son and soldier and commander. They called me brute and traitor and deviant.

I remember laughter as they marched the accused to the wall.

~ ~ ~

 

While walking I realize the gloom is night’s approach, not its retreat. Purple shadow stains the sides of the house before me. Clotheslines run like white veins through the murk connecting the house to the fence at my back. I steal a shirt from the line and a pair of trousers, and then crouch behind a shed. Still I am frozen to the core. My stomach rumbles painfully. Days since my last meal. Base needs conflict with a maddening belief in my own inhumanity. Has the assumption of death reduced me to animal instinct or has it refined my desires, focusing my thoughts on what truly matters, what is irrevocably true? A man must be clothed, must be sheltered, must be fed. All the rest, the aspirations and pride, seem pale and foolish to a man squatting cold and hungry behind a ragged shack in the yard of a stranger.

A lunatic’s memories are presented as pantomimes behind my eyes.

I consider entering this house and demanding food. Once I would have commandeered the property and taken what was needed, but the knitting membrane within my wounds reminds me of the tragedy of arrogance. Besides, a friend’s home is near by. I can think of few others to trust, and this man has no political affiliation. Our common history explored the intimacies of men not the ideologies.

Hesitantly, I stand. My gaze roams over the yard and the low fence separating this home from its neighbor. Then on I look to the next yard and the next.

A man with black hair stands in the center of this distant yard. He is the friend whose companionship drew me. Tall and slender, he stands motionlessly, dark eyes staring from a pale face. We stand there for uncounted seconds observing one another as if we are the only two men remaining in the world. He cocks his head to the side, a gesture familiar to me. Then his face melts and his mouth opens like a chasm and his eyes stare in dread, and I take his changed expression as a warning, imagining some villain creeping up at my back, but when I turn to face the threat, I find only the shed and the low fence and another yard strung with white drying lines. His fearful expression is for me, and I think it rude and strange that this man I once knew as an intimate should show such revulsion at my face. I lift my hand to wave and indicate I mean no harm, and he flees.

Confounded, I look skyward at the blanket of storm clouds, now black in the late dusk. I remember standing in a cell and a man with the dull countenance of a bull firing his pistol, but I do not remember the shove of bullets or the tearing of my skin, though these things must surely have followed the bright flares from the pistol’s mouth if only because of the evidence left on my chest.

And I tell myself this cannot be. I am not dead, nor have I ever been. There is another explanation for the wounds and my waking at the side of a grave, and were I not so cold and hungry my reason would puzzle the situation out, except I am cold and I am hungrier than I can tolerate, and the baffling perfume of dirt and decay rolls off my skin to fill my nose, and I sense that I am wholly alone for the first time in my life.

Wandering. I steal another shirt to layer with the first and confiscate three pair of socks, but my blood is still ice. Finally the hunger overwhelms me and I break into a house through the back door, and in the kitchen I open the icebox and remove a plate. A hunk of pork sits amid a gray pool of congealed grease and I devour both meat and savory fat. There is a bread box and inside is a half loaf of very brown bread. This too is consumed and my stomach settles, comforted by the meal. I drink water from a jug and then search the house for additional garments as the cold remains in my bones. In a bedroom with walls decorated by prints of purple flowers, an armoire produces a number of suits and a coat, which I quickly take from the hook. The sleeves are too long, and the coat will not close over my chest, but it is wool and heavy, and already traps warmth against my body. I steal a pair of brown leather shoes that are too big for my feet even with the layers of socks. In a small toilet down the hall a teardrop shaped bottle catches my eye. I remove the stopper and the scent of roses wafts from the glass lips. I pour the perfume into a palm and rub it over my cheeks and neck and across my chest beneath the layers of coat and shirts, and my wounds protest the stinging liquid, but the grave scent is masked. I return to the kitchen and drink more water and then leave the house through the door I entered.

BOOK: The German
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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