The Schloss Leonstain claims to have a history that begins in the 12th Century. It did not require a vivid imagination to believe that bit of local lore while sitting in its Taverne located directly adjacent to the lobby. It was a dimly lit place with only a single shuttered window located high up the wall directly above the outside entrance. The bar, which was ten feet long, and hand carved out of a dark wood had a patina that suggested centuries not years. The floors were made of wide planks of varnished wood that looked as if countless gallons of beer had spilled on it and was rubbed in by hard soled shoes. Hanging from the center beam of the ceiling was the coat of Arms of the Hotel, the supposed former royal castle of Carinthia: a lion that looked remarkably like the lion of St. George standing on its hind legs above three elliptical domes meant to represent mountains.
No doubt that the lion made it popular with the British troops who occupied the area. I am sure that it seen more than its fair share of pints raised for god and country in the past month or so. However, when I entered it early in the evening on the day Anton Skoda had been murdered, the place was empty. Not even a bartender. That suited me just fine. I needed time to sort through the events of the day and having to engage in conversation with anyone would only be a distraction. As there was no bartender and I was anxious to anesthetize myself I grabbed a bottle of Slivovitz and a glass from behind the bar. If anyone asked, I would tell them I thought it was self-service. I brought them to a table in the darkest corner of the bar and sat down with my back to the wall.
I am not a drinker even though I had spent endless hours stocking the shelves at Uncle Max’s store. Despite belonging to a fraternity when the foundation of Greek life where imbibing was considered sacred. I did not have a taste for it. Perhaps it would come later. But right now, I needed to drink. Which is why I chose Slivovitz. While my experience in Vienna with Paul had produced a massive hangover and I had sworn bitterly at the time never to touch the stuff again, I also remembered that it had tinted the world a lovely rose color and allowed me to forget, at least for the time, all of my worries and anxieties. I needed that now.
I had never seen a dead man before. Or at least I had not seen one that I knew. In Vienna before the war, it had been impossible to avoid death. There had been too many suicides too many displaced, too many beatings. But I had never seen a person I knew let alone a person with whom I just spoken dead.
After the shot, I had held Paul down for as long as I could. He was desperate to get to his Uncle and fought me. But I am bigger than he is and I managed to keep him down until it was obvious that no additional shots would be fired. When I let him go, he sprinted to his Uncle with me on his heels. It was a horrible site. Anton lay face down on the ground with half of his skull blown away exposing bone, blood and brain. Remarkably, at least to me, my friend did not wail or cry out. Instead, he collapsed downward, like a dynamited building ending up with his legs crossed Indian style his face in his hands. He made not a sound but the look of grief on his face was unmistakable and heartbreaking. Especially since I knew that in no small part, Colonel Skoda’s death was on me.
It was all I could think about at that moment. I may not have fired the shot but I certainly had caused his death. Had I not shared Anton’s secret with the draft board, had I not asked Paul to find his Uncle, had we not met with him, there is no doubt that he would be alive a this moment.
What made it worse, is seeing my best friend, my brother in all in blood in such pain. I had brought this agony on him. He would not have exposed Uncle Anton for anyone else. But he had for me. A person who albeit inadvertently was responsible for destroying his life. Now I had taken even more.
I poured myself a shot of the plum brandy and downed it a single mouthful. It was rough and burned all the way down. But I almost instantly felt release from the headache and shoulder tension I had been nursing for hours.
The first authorities to arrive on the scene were British Royal Military Police in their peaked caps white bandolier belts. They had been called by the nuns who maintained the church. The Lieutenant who was in charge of the squad, a man called Bates, was everything you might expect from an English officer: exceedingly polite, determined, and cynical. He of course wanted to know what Paul’s and I were doing in the British zone of occupation and specifically what had brought about our meeting with Colonel Skoda. He didn’t readily believe the store I wove for him which was that Paul, and I were childhood friends who had come here to meet with his Uncle for a reunion of sorts. While it had the merit of being true it did not explain why Anton was wearing a priest’s vestments or why someone had shot him in the head.
When he, politely but quite firmly had asked for more details. I, as equally politely and firmly declined to provide him any. A standoff ensued that resulted in Paul and I being be detained. Not exactly the low profile that Granville was hoping for but it did have the effect of bringing out Paul’s sense of humor. For as long as I had known him, he had found a way, even at the darkest of time to find a way to lighten the situation with a quip, a barb or witticism. He instinctively knew that a laugh would help defuse a situation, apply a little anesthetic to gaping wound or booboo. The murder of his Uncle was not an exception. Lt. Bates had detained us by placing us in the back of the deuce and half that had brought him and his troops to Maria Saal. We were sitting opposite each other on hard wood benches and my friend, looking with a solemn glare and said “Shatterhand, look at the trouble you have gotten me into again. Now we are going to have call in the cavalry or figure out a way to break out of the hoosegow.” This was all done in German, except hoosegow, which has no effective translation in German, but the use of the word at the end of a long German sentence combined with the use of the Karl May nicknames we had called each other during our boyhood adventures made us both laugh. So much so the British MP guarding us turned around and looked at us as if we were a little crazy.
It was at this point, that Cookie and Lt. Granville arrived. There arrival was not exactly a surprise. When one of the real priests of Maria Saal had arrived to investigate the shot that had killed Uncle Anton, I had the presence of mind to ask him if there was a phone, I might use to call my superior officer. He directed me to the rectory where I had the operator connect me the Colonel at Schloss Leonstain. He was brief. Stay with the cover story, say as little as possible and wait for his arrival. Luckily, I saw Cookie and the Colonel before Paul did and said pointing “Look the cavalry has arrived!” This minor witticism produced a serious case of the giggles which was completely inappropriate for the situation but entirely necessary for us to cope with what had happened.
When Granville reached us, we were still trying to recover our equilibrium. “I am glad you two have managed to find the humor in all this” he said shaking his head in mock disgust. “What is the situation.” Before I could answer Lt. Bates arrived on the scene and he whisked Granville off in the hopes of getting a better understanding about what had happened without the benefit of my input. Cookie, who had arrived with the Colonel, gave Paul and I a look that expressed with one shake of his head how pathetic he thought we were and then departed following the two officers.
The arrival of the “calvary” had cured us from our case of the giggles and I looked across at Paul. Elbows on knees, he was staring down at his shoes with a doleful expression on his face. We had not had the opportunity to speak since the murder of his Uncle and I looked at him and asked “How are you doing?”
Looking up with an ironic look on his face he said, “I have had better days.”
Trying to express the growing sense of guilt I had for Colonel Skoda’s death I said “I am sorry for all this.”
He shook his head “Don’t be.”
“But I am responsible for all this…”
“Hugi…Sam. It is not your fault. Uncle Anton knew what he was getting into when he agreed to meet with us. He knew the risks. He chose to accept them. That is on him. Not you.”
“No buts about it. He was a soldier always. He chose the risks he wanted to take and took them. You heard him in there. He wanted to do the right thing. And talking to us was, in his mind, the right thing to do. He knew what the consequences could be but he did it anyway. Look at the arrangements he made to meet us. We thought the security was because he was concerned about being taken into custody, but it was not. It was because he feared others within this Crown cabal. That they would not be happy with him talking to the Americans. That whatever secrets they kept would be shared.”
“Sam…this is in no way on you. Didn’t you see how he behaved in the church? He knew something was up. The lightening of the candles. The genuflecting. I can tell you that was not Uncle Anton’s normal behavior. He did it for a reason. He knew that what he had done had consequences. He did it anyway and prepared for it. He died with a clear conscience and in a state of grace. He absolved himself and us.” Pausing for a second he added almost wistfully.” And it was over before he knew it was happening. No fear.”
Paul would not tolerate my self-pity. For the second time in as many weeks he had absolved me of my sins. But I needed to say something. This was my friend, my brother in all but blood. I needed to let him know that he was not alone in his grief. I tapped him on his knee and when he looked up, I held his gaze and said “I am sorry then that he is gone. Sorry because I know he was like a father to you and you loved him like a son. I am sorry because he was a good man and treated me kindly when he didn’t not have to. Sorry because even though you say he was a soldier, and he knew what he was doing I am too and I know that his death here and now is my responsibility.” It was not until I said the last sentence that I realized how angry I was about Anton’s death. It was bestial and unnecessary and the people responsible for it were worse than criminals. They had acted out of zealotry and hatred and it is that what we were supposed to be fighting against.
“Paul, I can’t make this right. Not with you. Not with me. But I can promise we will do what the Colonel asked us to do. Will find the Crown. We will do our best to protect it.”
He gave me a halfhearted smile, the kind you give someone who has made a promise that you don’t quite believe that they can keep and said “okay.”
The bar was still empty which was just as well. I had no desire to make conversation with anyone. I had a lot to process. The events of the day had been traumatizing for sure. But it was not just that, but it was how I gotten here what was to come next. This was not the Army life I had imagined. I should be off firing howitzers on some tropical island in the Pacific or directing a barrage at some mountain town in Italy. Instead, I was caught up in intrigue where the battle lines and who the enemy was were not etched in solid black lines. I didn’t have any doubts that what I was doing was valuable but I was not sure whether this way of life was compatible with who I thought I was. My thoughts swirled and the circular bottle of Maraska Slivovitz beckoned me.
When Colonel Granville and Lieutenant Bates returned it was clear that they had come to some understanding. Paul and I were ordered released. Bates asked to speak with Paul about what he wanted to do with his Uncle’s remain. Granville grabbed me and walked back to “Clipper” staff car. Resting against the trunk of the car he offered me a cigarette and when he had lit both of our Lucky’s he said “This certainly went tits up. What the fuck happened. And give me the short version. Save the long version for your after-action report.”
“Colonel Skoda had the keys to the trunks but two weeks ago a Captain Gombos came to see him and demanded he turn over the keys. He did so with great reluctance and later regretted it. It is why he agreed to meet with us even though he knew it would put his life in danger. He thought Gombos and whomever he was involved with were going to use the keys as some type of bargaining tool. He thought that was unworthy of the Crown and he wanted us to protect it.”
Granville took a deep drag and let out a billow of smoke and said “Did he happen to mention Gombos’s first name.”
“I believe it was Enroe.”
“Son of bitch.”
“We have the son of bitch in custody.”
“That is what Colonel Skoda claimed. He said that Gombos was being detained at Camp Orr.”
“He is. In fact, I interrogated him about the keys before I left. He claimed with the innocence of a choir boy that he had no idea what I was talking about that he was just an innocent soldier who happened to be in Szálasi entourage.”
You could tell that Granville was steaming. Everything about his demeanor screamed it from the tight-lipped expression on his face to the stiffness of his posture. He took another deep drag of his cigarette and then flicked into the grass and said “I am going to roast that bastard. Lets find Cookie and Paul and get out of here.”
Not surprisingly we found Cookie chatting up a few of the Royal Military Police. It had become clear to me that one of the roles he played for the Colonel was to gather the gossip from the troops and noncommissioned officers. His easy-going nature and slow talking southern accent made people feel comfortable around him instantly and they shared secrets with him they would not have shared with others. When he saw the Colonel signaling to him, he managed to disengage from the MP’s with them laughing and patting him on the back.
Paul was harder to find. He had disappeared from view but after a few missteps we managed to track him down in the vestry where he was making arrangements for his Uncle’s burial. As he explained later, this was not simple. Uncle Anton had told Paul years ago that he had wanted to be buried near his parents in Sopron. However, that was not possible now with the Soviets having control of that territory. Instead, he and the priest had agreed to find a suitable spot for his burial locally and then, when they were able to transport him, he would be moved to his final resting place. Then there were the normal considerations of casket and service. Paul wanted everything done immediately. Today. Not because of his adoption of the Jewish faith and its burial customs but because he wanted to come with us to Camp Orr. His uncle had given his life in the hopes that we could protect the Crown and he had a duty to help complete that mission.
I thought that Colonel Granville might object but surprisingly he did not. He told Paul that he thought he could be helpful especially in leveraging his Uncle’s name. I did not realize until much later that there may have been another reason as well.
The bartender appeared at my table looking miffed. I guess that he didn’t appreciate my liberated the Slivovitz. Not that he said anything. My uniform probably prevented that or it could have the US Dollars I handed him. They seemed to shut up peoples complaints fairly quickly. due to the liberated bottle of Slivovitz but my uniform kept him from saying anything. I asked him if they served food at this hour. I had not eaten since breakfast. He scowled and told me that at this hour of the afternoon he could probably put together a Brettljause, the Carinthian version of charcuterie. That sounded perfect and I asked him to bring me one. He agreed and then promptly remained standing in front of my table I got the hint. I slipped him a few more greenbacks and he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
I was just about to pour myself another shot of Slivovitz when Cookie walked into the bar with Pichler in tow. I cursed under my breath. I really wanted time alone. As an only child, it was the company I kept most often and where I would retreat when having to wade through thorny issues. Today certainly qualified for the latter. That was not the main reason for my curse. One of the earliest lessons the Army had taught me was that no time was private time. The primary reason for my curse was Pichler. From the outset he had been unpleasant. But also had a unique talent for and seemed to revel in getting under my skin. He reminded me of Teodore Kreuz, a kid in Paul’s in my class at school who was unctuous with teachers and condescending with his classmates. If there had been a vote, he would have won hands down for the student most likely to be punched in the face by anyone who met him.
When they arrived at my table Cookie took one look at the bottle of Slivovitz on the table and said with his characteristic twang “Son, that stuff will make you see double and feel single.”
Laughing I said “Would you like to join me?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” He told Pichler to sit and went to the bar and, not finding the barkeep nearby pulled to glasses off an overhead rack. I poured him and the Nazi a shot of the amber liquid. Cookie, well aware of the day I had, silently tipped his glass to me and downed the brandy in a single gulp. Pichler too raised his glass and said “To what are we toasting today?”
Cookie gave him a cold dismissive stare and said “Shut up Ketchup” using the moniker that he had labeled the German Scientist with since nearly the beginning of his custody. It had started out as a bit of a joke. A way to harmlessly have a little fun at our prisoner’s expense. However, when we noticed how much it annoyed him it became a taunt we were more than happy to toss at him whenever we could.
“Son, I am sorry to say but “57” here is your responsibility for the next few hours. The Colonel needs to run some errands for him before we leave tomorrow, and I got no place else to park him.”
As much as I wanted to ask Cookie what these errands were, I knew better than to ask him. He probably would not have told me if we were alone. He certainly would not in front of the Nazi. Instead, I said “One for the road?”
“Don’t mind if I do.” I poured him one keeping my glass empty. Now that “Ketchup” was my responsibility there would be no more drinking. Downing his last shot he said, “Time to pour on the fire and call in the dogs.” I did not know exactly what that meant but I suspected it was a version of goodbye in Kentucky as he left after saying it.
Pichler reached for the bottle of Slivotvitz and said, “May I?”
Figuring an ossified prisoner would be easier to managed that a sober one I replied “Sure. Help yourself.” He poured himself a health shot. Downed it. And then another. At this pace he would soon reach a level of stupor where managing him would no more complicated that letting him hug the commode.
Perhaps the one characteristic that has plagued me my entire life is curiosity. As a child Mama’s constant refrain was “Hugi, kennen Sie denn nicht das Sprichwort: “Neugier ist der Katze Tod”” or “Hugi, have you not heard “Curiosity killed the cat.” In and of itself curiosity is not a bad thing. My inquisitiveness had made me a good student and that in turn had propelled me to college. And perhaps someday it would even lead me to a career as a physician, a scientist or even an academic. I hadn’t decided yet. But sometimes it is better not turn over rocks to see what is underneath. This was probably one of those times. But I was curious why “Ketchup”, as much as he annoyed me, was trying to drink his way into unconsciousness. After all, he had a sweet deal. He was, by the Colonel’s account a dedicated Nazi scientist who had used his skill and knowledge to create chemical weapons that would have condemned millions to an agonizing death had they been used. But instead of being treated as a prisoner of war or even being tried for war crimes he was being offered a contract with the US Government. In all likelihood, he would be in the US, living a good life, before I finished my hitch.
I should have said nothing. But that cat compelled me to do otherwise. I said “Ketchup, you might want to slow your roll a little bit. I don’t want to have to carry you upstairs. Besides, what do you have to drown your sorrows over. You are getting a new life courtesy of Uncle Sam.”
Pichler shot me a contemptuous look and replied “You think that you are giving me a new life. Hah. That is a rich one. The Allies destroyed my old life. Now they think they can replace it by forcing me to work for them. It is not the same. You don’t think I know about having my life destroyed? My wife and my daughter were my whole world. I did whatever I could to give them the life they deserved. Then one day, you Americans come along and drop a bomb on them and they are gone. Obliterated. Not even enough of a body to bury. Sneering, and revealing himself as a nasty drunk added “What do you know? You are nothing but an arrogant little boy playing dress up as officer.”
Perhaps it was the Slivovitz in my belly or perhaps it was seeing my friend’s Uncle murdered that day or the fact that when I lay in bed at night, I still saw images of my sweet grandmother being led away to camp Or maybe it was because his hit too close to the mark on how I felt about myself during moments of self-doubt that but he instantly got under my skin. I replied. “Fuck you Ketchup and the god damn horse you road in on. You declare war on the world because of some made up mythology and divine right and then complain when humanity fights back? I am sorry that your wife and daughter died. I really am. But you are more responsible for their deaths than the pilots who dropped the bomb. You and the rest of your crowd who thought that Germany’s destiny was to rule the world through ethnic purity and the Aryan ideal. Your hands are covered in the blood of your wife and child and millions of others.”
“And you are complaining that you are getting a free pass. A chance for a new life while my aunts, uncles and cousins are ashes. You get to breathe free air while the boys I grew up last memory was choking on Zyclon B.”
I paused for a second. My emotions were getting the better of me and I realized that was just what Pichler wanted. He liked playing with people and he was playing with me now. I took a deep breath and decided that I was not going to play anymore but I could not resist taking a last shot and said “Go ahead and drink up. But both of us know you are not drinking because of what the “terrible Americans” are doing to you. You are drinking to forget what you have done to yourself.”
Pichler picked up the bottle of Slivovitz and poured himself another shot of the amber liquor. Then, his eyes fixed on mine, tossed it down his throat. Then said “Do you know Lieutenant Little Boy what my work is that makes me so valuable to the Americans? Would you like to know what I did during the war that allows me to have a new life?”
I shook my head and said “I couldn’t care less. Our job is to transport you to Camp Marcus W. Orr. That is it. Everything else is above my pay grade.”
He poured himself another few fingers of the Slivovitz and blessed me with a very cold smile. “That is too bad. Because I am going to tell you anyway.”
We were in public and I could not stop him from talking. He began.
“Have you ever chemical gas called Tabun? No? I am not surprised not too many people know about this. In 1936, I had just completed my doctorate in Organic Chemistry and was hired by IG Farben to be an assistant to Dr. Gerhard Schrader. I could not have been more thrilled. Farben was one Germany’s industrial giants and Schrader had a world class reputation. The team I joined had been tasked with the creation. an insecticide that would kill weevils and leaf lice that were destroying crops all over Germany. I was very honored to get this job because Schrader was a word class scientist specializing in insecticides.. Schrader was determined to solve this problem. Not only for the glory of science but he knew that it would come was a large cash prize that he desperately wanted for his family. We work tirelessly for over a year, often incapacitating ourselves through exposure to toxic chemicals. Schrader even had an accident one night coming home from the lab that he said was due to over exposure to the gas. It laid him up for several weeks and the research came to a stop. But eventually we came up with a fumigant that killed all of the weevils and lice 100% of the time. We called it preparation 9/91and we proudly sent it off to an associate of his for independent testing.”
We did not hear back for months and we were beginning to worry that are efforts had all been in vain. Then one day an Army officer came to our laboratory. Apparently, Schrader’s associate had shared a sample with the military, and they had tested it on apes. It killed them in 16 minutes. 16 minutes! We were told that our “brainchild” was now the property of the state, considered top secret and that we should await further instructions. Schrader was horrified that his creation had been used on primates. He never intended to create something that could be used to kill people. I was less aghast. I was an ambitious young chemist and I figured hitching my star to something of great use to the Reich could only help me in the long run.
“A month later Shrader and I were invited to Farben’s headquarters in Berlin to present our research on product 9/91 to the board of directors. They were astonished at our breakthrough and they heaped praise on us. They thought it the most important development in chemical weapons since mustard gas. They were so delighted with it they gave it a new name. Tabun from the English word for taboo. We were told to create one kilogram of Tabun and hand it over to the Army for production.”
“And that was the end of it. Or so I thought. We went back to creating insecticides. The crops still needed to be protected from weevils and leaf lice. We heard nothing about it for years. In the interim I met a woman. We fell in love, got married and eventually had a child. Then one day, Dr. Otto Ambros came to our laboratory. He had been placed in charge of creating a full-scale production facility for Tabun. They needed a scientist to help supervise manufacturing and they wanted Schrader to go. He refused saying he had pressing work on insecticides but nominated me to take his place.”
“I guess I could have refused to go. But why should I? I had no problems helping the Reich in the war effort. What is the difference in the long run if it is an explosion, bullet or gas that kills an enemy as long as they are dead? Right Floessel? Besides I had a wife and a child and needed to secure my future. This was a chance for me to get ahead. I took the job. As I didn’t know how long I would be gone I sent my wife and child to Vienna to live with my mother. I thought they would be safer there.
“The production of Tabun was a huge industrial site in a small town in Lower Silesia called Dyhernfurth. I had been told that it was one of the Reich’s crowning achievement in manufacturing. Along with Farben, Blaupunkt, Siemens, Krupp and Damiler Benz all had operations there. Needless to say, I was full of anticipation to see these marvels of modern industrialization. I imagined sparkling modern facilities with a uniformed work forces working harmoniously for the good of the Reich. That is not what I found.”
“The facilities were brand new and state of the art in their way. They did have the latest machinery and manufacturing mechanisms. But the workforce I had imagined clad in color coded coverall’s that denoted area of expertise happily going off to work each morning for the glory of the Reich that did not exist. My work force wore the pajamas of prisoners. You see what I had not been told is that the manufacturing facility was located at the Gross Rosen Concentration Camp. We had heard rumors that the deported had been putting into camps and forced to work for the Reich but here it was confronting me along with the sign “Arbeit Mach Frei” over the doors of the camp. Instead of the colorful overalls of happy workers going off to work my work force of my fantasy my “employees” consisted of slave laborers wearing uniformed but wearing the tattered pajamas of inmates of Gross Rosen. Their shop supervisors wearing the uniform of the SS. I was surprised by this development only because I had not been told but the more I thought about it I realized how this represented the Nazi ideal of making the most of the resources available to us. We had millions of , Jews, gypsies and other perverts who had no place in society so why not use them to build a stronger Reich.”
“Do I have your attention yet Lieutenant Saugling?”
I said nothing and Pichler continued.
“As it turns out that have slave labor at facility making a deadly gas is quite useful. We could work them as hard as we needed to keep up with production. If a few died because of the work so be it. There were always more to replace them. In a normal manufacturing facility, you would have to build elaborate safety protocols to keep the workers from getting sick. At Gross Rosen, we didn’t bother with those things. It was too expensive to build and cut down on production. And if workers died because of the lack of protocols. Then so be it. There were always more workers.”
“And Floessel they begged to come to work for me. With me at least they could work where it was warm in the Winter and out of the sun in the summer. They would thank me every day. It was wonderful to feel so appreciated.”
“Keeping up with production was paramount. Nothing would stop us. For example, there were areas of our plant where you needed to wear safety suits with a respirator. But when we received a shipment of defective equipment for example if the respirators hoses were too short to connect properly that was fine. We sent the workers in anyway. They died horribly writhing and unable to breathe their bodies twisted in contortion but they survived long enough to do their jobs. We stayed on schedule and they were only Jews so what did it matter.
“One day, after I had been at the facility for about a year the Commandant of the camp, SS-Sturmbannführer Johannes Hassebroek, came to me and asked me to arrange a demonstration of Tabun for him and some of his fellow officers. He told me that they wanted to see with their own eyes what this new “wonder weapon” would do. Needless this required elaborate arrangements. We built a special facility. A large sealed room in which we installed a special ventilation system so that the gas could be introduced to the chamber. The room was equipped with a large viewing port that had on its other side a hermetically sealed room in which Hassebroek and his associates could view the room. But the construction was not our biggest problem. It was how do we get the prisoners inmates into the room with the least amount of agitation. It really wouldn’t do for our demonstration if there were upset.”
“We decided that we would tell the prisoners we were giving them a special meal because we had achieved our production goals for the year. They would be led to the special facility where they would be seated at long tables that had been laid out with loaves of bread, fruit, cheese and other food stuffs. The room would then be sealed and the demonstration would commence.”
“On the day of the demonstration everything went exactly as planned. When the officers had been seated, I gave a short presentation on what to expect. Then the Jewish inmates were led in. We only used Jews for these types of demonstrations as they made up the majority of the prisoners and of course it is what was expected. As expected, they were overwhelmed with the food on the tables and with laughter and joy began to enjoy their feast. It was a young woman who reacted to the Tabun first. She abruptly stood up, first becoming very stiff and then quickly lapsed into convulsions and foaming at the mouth. Other inmates went to help her and of course they too felt the effects of the gas and lapsed into paralysis and convulsions. When the remaining inmates realized what was going on they stormed the door but they could not escape the gas and they too fell victim to Tabun convulsing and gasping for breath.”
“When all the prisoners died do you know what the officers did? They applauded and told me what fine work I had done…”
“It turns out I am rather good at making people die. That is why your Government wants me so much. Because I can teach them how to make people die…”
“What do you think of my story Floessel? Isn’t it a real American success story? Isn’t it grand that you and I will both be in the same Army soon? “
A few hour later I heard a knock at the door to my room. It was Cookie come to take over guard duty on Pichler. I let him in and seeing Pichler, who was sitting in a small chair in the corner of the room said, “What the hell happened to him?”
I responded “Not really sure Cookie. One moment he was telling me a story about his experience in the war and the next moment he was falling up a flight of stairs.”
Cookie cocked an eyebrow and said without thinking “How do you get a black eye from falling on the stairs…Oh…it must have been quite a tumble.”
“Yeah. I don’t think he was expecting it. And the first fall must have really thrown off his sense of balance because every time he got up, he would fall right over.”
Cookie nodded and said “Imagine that.”