ALMOST A DEAD MAN by Peter Nolan Smith- CHAPTER 3

The rutted dirt road cut through the nature-park north of Hamburg. The moonless night deepened the darkness within the tunnel of tall pines to a crumbling stone wall. No sign graced the rusting wrought-iron gate. Electronic sensors, video cameras, attack dogs roaming the grounds, and armed guards had once guarded the Von Hausen state from the Baader-Meinhof Gang’s reign of terror in the 1970s, but with most of the revolutionaries dead, in prison, or in exile lesser security measure were in force for 1982 and a low profile served Germany’s uncrowned aristocracy as the best defense against the masses.

A wild swath of brush, brambles, and thorn trees sprawled beyond the estate’s walls to the estate’s gardens. Flickering torches blazed before a 19th-Century mansion. Laughter echoed through the neglected rose gardens, where the partygoers drank champagne and ate foie gras with a grace passed through blood.

The men appeared powerful and the wives looked ten years younger than their real age. The uniformity of their faces and bodies was the result of ageless interbreeding. The teenagers danced to Dexy’s COME ON, EILEEN around the crumbling fountain. Exquisite girls moved sinuously, while the blasé boys shrugged listlessly from side to side. Behind the twin turntables Bertram Bellepas was dying to dance with several of the female guests, despite Kurt’s warning against fraternization.

This gathering preferred the help in their place and the older set viewed Kurt with all the suspicion the rich hold for a rising member of the lower class. Few could understand their host’s association with such the nightclub owner, to whom the aristocrat simply referred to as the ‘entertainment’.

Lukas Von Brucken’s had inherited his title to discover his late father had ravaged the fortune as revenge against his only son’s youthful rebellion. His inheritance amounted to an antiquated steel mill indebted to the banks and enough money for a three-month holiday in Gstaad, although his destitution was no one’s business, which was why he was throwing this party tonight.

His young wife skated through the crowd a goddess on high heels. The shimmering silk sheath was molded to her tanned skin. Her silver-blonde hair cast an unearthly halo around her angelic face. Her marriage to a man over twenty years her senior and the antithesis to her ingenuous purity mystified everyone.

Lukas’ golden hair had thinned and the once-glowing flesh was mottled from drug abuse. His bright smile was a smirk of decaying teeth. Considering how hard the baron had lived throughout the Sixties and Seventies, his achieving forty-two years amazed no one more than himself, but he had not always been as ruined as he was today.

Vanessa Von Hausen greeted Lucas with a kiss on the cheek. If he was capable of pity, then he might have felt sorry for her marrying him, instead he kissed her cheek, consummately acting the role of a loving husband.

“Having a good time, darling?”

“Lots of fun. Come dance with me,” his wife whispered in her ear, touching a red spot on his shirt. His grimace confirmed another meeting with Petra Wessel and she withdrew her hand, as if his masochism might be as contagious as the Black Plague, when priests led around flagellants to purge the pestilence from Europe. Lukas’ savored Vanessa’s naive revulsion and said, “Dancing is best left for the young in body and heart. You’ll have more fun with Kurt.”

“I’d rather dance with you.” Vanessa still prayed for his salvation, but turned her turquoise blue eyes on Kurt Oster. The nightclub owner’s criminality acted as a stimulant for her desire instead of a deterrent and she motioned to him. They met on the dance floor. Many of guests scrutinized their host to gauge his reaction and Lukas could have warned Vanessa to be more discreet, except even stray dogs have their uses.

Vanessa swayed back and forth, her belly grazing Kurt’s thigh. Silky strands rippled across her spine like a theater curtain closing on the stage and a lengthy gold necklace swung between her compact breasts. The melting scent of her perfume wafted in the night air. Feeling the hard nipples shift across his chest, Kurt fought every urge to kiss her, then remembered where he was and stepped back from Vanessa.

Hamburg was a small city and he recognized many of the party-goers as the upper echelon of Northern Germany. Most were capable of reciting their lineage into the Middle Ages as opposed to Kurt’s peasant roots withering in the last century. Their families controlled riches beyond imagination, while his wealth originated from any number of nefarious schemes, but he knew the sources of these peoples’ fortune did not come through pious acts. Murder, theft, mistreatment of workers, pollution, and poisoning the food supply were a few of their crimes. They were no better than him and whispered to Vanessa, “One day soon I will take you away from all this.”

“Do not talk like that.” She looked around to see, if anyone might have overheard him.

“Why? I’m not worried about what these people think. They only have money, because they either were born rich, married someone rich, or stole it.” Being the stepson of a Hafenstrasse butcher excluded his birth with a ‘silver spoon in the mouth’ and Germany’s complicated laws of inheritance protected any true redistribution through marriage, so Kurt could only achieve his dream by robbing from the rich to give to the poor and he held Vanessa tighter. “You do not love Lukas and he does not love you”

“How can you say that?” Vanessa was flushed with excitement, for up to this moment their flirtations had been only a tease.

”You think I’ve been hanging out with these people to get ahead?” His hand slipped down her back and then he spun her in a dizzying circle. “You know how I feel about you and I think you feel the same way too. I am working on something that could change both our lives and then I will ask you to leave this all behind. Somewhere in your heart you will find a way to say, “Yes.”

The blood was spinning in her head. She was married. Her life belonged to Lukas, though Vanessa demanded without any conviction, “Stop.”

“Why?” Kurt sidestepped around her, then pulled Vanessa tight like an Apache dancer. “You want us as much as me.”

The song ended and they stopped dancing. Vanessa turned a scarlet red, as Bertram segued into Chic’ LE FREAK, which launched the young dancers into a frenzy. On the terrace Lukas clapped his hands in feigned delight and waved for his wife to come over. Once she was next to him, he put his arm lovingly around her and asked, “What did Kurt say to you?”

She paused for a second, attempting to think a lie, only her upbringing wouldn’t anything, but the truth. “Kurt wants to take me away.”

“Oh, don’t they all, my dear? What else did he say?” Kurt and Lukas had met countless times at parties, concerts, and clubs. The baron kept him at distance for the right moment and the nightclub owner’s obsession with his wife had given Kurt the opportunity to be of value to the Von Hausen fortune.

“That he had something big planned that could change everything for him.”

“What? Like rob a bank?” There was nothing more pathetic or more vulnerable than a lower-class fool in love with their better like they believed in fairy tales.

“He did not say.” Vanessa lowered her head.

“Of course he would not.” Lukas kissed his wife on the cheek and cautioned like a concerned husband, “You should stay away from Kurt. He is trouble and lower class.”

“Thank you for the warning.” Vanessa was trapped playing the princess in a diabolical fairy tale. “If there is anything I have learned from you, it is that no man is harmless.”

“And few women too.” Lukas walked away, as tears formed in her eyes. Only one woman could satisfy his libido and he should have married Petra, except his titled prejudices forbade such a luxury.

Entering the library, Lukas stood before the monumental 32-volume dictionary of the German language started by the Grimms Brothers and completed in 1961. So much effort for nothing. Only a few thousand copies were sold, since few people could afford a full set. Books his father had bought and never read crowded the library’s shelves. Lukas had upheld the tradition by occasionally holding them, as if the sentences, paragraphs, and chapters could be absorbed through the power of osmosis, though not a single word passed through the covers to his hand.

Lukas hated books as dusty reminders of the past, since he had come to view that his entire life had been a series of remaking the movies he loved; DARLING, SUNSET BOULEVARD, INFANTS DE PARADIS, SALO, and most lately Jean Renoir’s black-and-white version of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Lukas slammed his fist against the wall. He had been tricked by an addendum to his father’s will that he would be left out of the inheritance, unless he married. The old man had been mad to think his sacramental union with a girl as pure as Vanessa could rescue his soul from damnation and he would have disinterred his father’s corpse for the animals in the forest to scavenge, except his designs were for the living.

Vanessa and Kurt would be his victim and Lukas envisioned himself reincarnated as a dissolute noble in Visconti’s THE DAMNED, reveling in the cinematic daydream, until the door to the library opened for his secret guest. Lukas motioned for SS Tommy to sit.

Few of the partygoers would have accepted the presence of Cali’s right-hand man and Lukas pulled the shades shut, as SS Tommy warily sat in a rich leather chair. The blonde pimp had met Lukas Von Hausen at several clandestine meetings for neo-Nazi movement, but considered the Count a soft believer, since he had also been a drug addict, a homosexual, and now a S&M slave to Petra Wessel, whose dead eye tracked SS Tommy whenever they were in the same room together.

“Good evening, Herr Von Hausen.” SS Tommy bore a close resembled to a boar wearing a blonde wig. His guest would have found him funny. They would have been wrong. SS Tommy was an evil good for eternity.

“Yes, it is.”

As much as SS Tommy hated the aristocrat, the Party was in no position to exclude any members, especially one whose family as connected as the Von Hausens, but come the revolution came, Lukas would be put up against the wall with the other race traitors, so the Fifth Reich would avoid the same mistakes of the Third or the Porsche Reiches.

“You didn’t invite me here for a social chat, so what do you want?” SS Tommy picked up a book without even reading its title.

“Besides a united Germany, what is your fondest dream?”

“To be King of the Reeperbahn,” SS Tommy said aloud, though Cali would have killed him before he could finish the last word.

“What if I could make that dream come true?” Lukas’ original purpose in attending neo-Nazi meetings had been to incense his father, except the old bastard had been inured to his only son’s misdeeds. Lukas had only continued associating with this motley organization in case the connection might come in handy one day and today was that day.

“You? How could you help me?” SS Tommy doubted the decadent baron could as
sist his dethroning Cali.

“Who stands in your way? Ein Schwartzer. A nigger above you in such a position.”

“And?” SS Tommy hated guessing games.

Lukas had hired the son of a family retainer to follow his wife. His wife had led him to innocent meetings with Kurt. Kurt to Cali and two evenings ago the off-duty Schupo officer called to report Kurt and Nigger Cali meeting with a transvestite. The transvestite turned out to be a banker. It seemed like nothing, but nothing was nothing for Nigger Cali. Lukas relished the tang of the lash marks on his back and faced SS Tommy.

“Cali and Kurt Oster might have something big in the works. Something that could help both you and me, if we were to interfere.”

What?” SS Tommy smiled, for the mention of Kurt’s name confirmed the rumors about the nightclub owner’s affair with Vanessa Von Hausen.

“That is still their secret, but I have a way of finding out.” Taking on SS Tommy was as risky as grabbing an egg from a snakehole, yet this partnership was a danger he was willing to risk, for while a snake would bite any hand stuck in the hole, no one said you had to be the one snatching the egg.

“Du verarscht mich. I’m no sucker.” SS Tommy slammed down the book and seized the baron by his lapels.

“No one said you were.” Lukas answered without struggling, for the pimp had swallowed his bait. “I have a man following Kurt. Who is not important, but he is very good. When he tells me any new information, I will tell you. Are you in or not?”

“If I find out you have been lying to me in any way, then I will kill you.”

“I hope you find that will be unnecessary.” Lukas flipped his arm against the pimp’s wrists, knocking himself free, then his right hand struck the pimp’s throat, choking off his air. “You may think me a weak man, but if you want to be something better than what you are, then stop playing the strong man with me.”

Lukas released SS Tommy, who coughed convulsively, until the baron slapped him on the back.

“Breathe slowly and the pain will go away faster.”

The taller man could have easily killed him a few seconds ago and the blonde pimp would not underestimated the Count twice.

“When would this happen?”

“Maybe a month. Maybe two.”

“Will this cost me any money?”

“Only time and your special talents.” Lukas adjusted his jacket, strangely aroused by the confrontation. SS Tommy pointed a thick finger at the baron, trying to regain some of his confidence. “Remember. If you fuck with me….”

“You will kill me.” Lukas displayed no fear, for worst things can happen than SS Tommy’s threats. “So are we in agreement?”

The blonde pimp nodded and the two men shook hands. Lukas opened the door. “You’ll understand, if I ask you to leave by the back.”

“No offense taken,” SS Tommy fantasized about paying back this insult and walked through the woods to his car parked on the nature park’s road. He rubbed his throat, driving his Ferrari from the state forest.

King of the Reeperbahn appealed to him, not because of money. He had more than he needed as well as any type of woman he wanted. It was the power to strike back at everyone who had ever stood in his way. The list was topped by Cali, for as much as he enjoyed the sound of ‘King of the Reeperbahn’, it would even sound better once SS Tommy was ruled the street.

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