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David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Twenty-Three

Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward.

In September of 1929, David found himself again handing out rosettes for prize-winning cattle, this time in Leicestershire. As he awarded best in show, the crowd broke out in polite applause. He did not know whether it was for him or the bull. Nevertheless he smiled graciously and nodded until he noticed a lovely woman standing in front who was not clapping. She seemed to be more concerned with adjusting her gloves than according him accolades for attaching a ribbon cluster to the bovine’s harness. Without stopping to speak to the local mayor, David approached her.
“My God, you are as beautiful as a movie star.”
“That’s because I am one.” She retrieved a cigarette from her hand bag. “Do you have a light?”
“Of course,” he replied, pulling out a book of matches. “Tell me about your movie career.”
After a puff, she explained, “I formed my own movie company in 1923 so I could be a star.”
“Impressive.” David smiled with interest. “What were they? Maybe I’ve seen some of them.”
“I doubt it.” She shrugged. “Making movies turned out to be such a bore.”
“What a shame. I hope you didn’t lose much money.”
“Don’t worry about it. Daddy’s rich. He’s American diplomat Harry Morgan.”
“My daddy is rich too.”
“I know. King of England. You’re the Prince of Wales.”
“And if you tell me who you are then introductions will be complete.”
“Thelma Furness, wife of Viscount Marmaduke Furness. That’s why I’m at this dreary country fair. Former wife. The ink just dried on our divorce papers.”
“Then that means you’re free for the weekend.”
Without further encouragement Thelma hopped in David’s Ace roadster and sped off to Fort Belvedere. She commented his car looked just like Victor Bruce’s auto that won the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I’m just dippy for it,” she said.
David shifted into first gear and stirred up a cloud of dust on the country road. He enthusiastically explained the renovations which were underway since his father finally agreed to give it to him.
“You won’t believe what he said when I first asked him for it,” David said with his infamous lopsided grin. “’What could you possibly want that queer old place for? Those damned weekends, I suppose.”
At that moment they turned a corner, and Fort Belvedere appeared with scaffolding half-way around it.
“I’m absolutely dippy for it,” Thelma announced.
“Don’t worry about the workmen,” he confided. “They won’t be back until Monday.
After they parked, David guided her through the front door and gave her a tour of his bedroom which lasted until the next morning. When he awoke, Thelma was gone but he smelled coffee from the kitchen. They settled into the breakfast nook for a small meal Thelma had whipped up. David decided she looked beautiful even with most of her makeup smudged away. He was about to explain his special relationship to Freda when a reflective mirrored light from the woods beyond the lily pond caught his attention.
“You know I’m quite peculiar,” he began, not knowing how to explain why he had a sudden urge to stroll through the grounds.
“Oh, I know all about Freda,” she said as she stood and collected the dishes. “And I know you’re devoted to your gardening. First thing every morning, playing in the dirt. It’s in all the social pages.” Thelma leaned over to kiss him on the lips. “You’ve been royally had, my dear. You’ve been in my sights for years.” She winked. “I love to share.”
When David first went out the door he started straight for the woods but thought better of it. He turned instead for the shed where he grabbed a few tools. He needed to make Thelma think he was going to play in the dirt. Upon arrival among the silvery birches, he recognized one of his main contacts from the MI6 headquarters. David knew this assignment must be of the highest importance.
“At first I didn’t think you saw my signal,” the man said. “Let’s take a few steps back. No need to alarm the young lady.”
“Nothing would alarm that one,” David muttered as he followed the man around one of the larger trees.
“You know about Princess Stephanie?”
“She’s from Austria, isn’t she? Married a prince or something or other and after the divorce she kept the title.”
“Very close. She was born in Vienna to Jewish parents. Her father was a dentist, a lawyer or some such that they had a bit of money but nothing to brag about. She did quite well in ballet school and became renowned for her beauty. She had an affair with Archduke Franz Salvator who impregnated her. This was a problem because he was already married. Stephanie then talked Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe into thinking the child was his. They were married a few years and divorced. She kept the child and the title of princess.”
“I can get all this information on the cocktail circuit.” David grew impatient. “What does this have to do with me?”
“This is what concerns us. She’s kicked around Europe and most recently Germany where she has become close friends with Adolph Hitler.”
“No one seriously thinks Hitler has any chance of becoming chancellor, do they?” The more he heard, the more David wanted to get on with pruning his roses.
“Everyone is taking Hitler seriously and so should you,” his MI6 contact said in a stern voice. “We have it on good sources that Hitler wants Stephanie’s next husband to be you.”
David laughed out loud. “My God, the man is mad. Why would he want that?”
“He’s gotten the idea you’re warm to the idea of fascism in Great Britain. With an Austrian wife and the English crown, you would welcome an alliance with a Hitler regime.”
“Why would he think that?”
“The cocktail circuit you just mentioned. You’re quite popular with many right-leaning socialites,” he intoned.
“That’s just balderdash. Too much liquor. Too much philandering.”
“Oh, you misunderstand. We don’t disapprove. We want you to take advantage of this misperception to seduce Princess Stephanie. Cultivate her as a source of information in the coming years.”
“So you want me to bed her.” He gazed back at the house. “Well, I hope she’s as beautiful as they say.”

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Nine

AUTHOR’S WORD OF CAUTION: The climactic last chapter of Sins of the Family is graphically violent. If any reader dislikes criminal acts described with stark details, I recommend not reading it.

John burst through the door and turned on the light, revealing Heinrich stretched out on his bed. Drawing himself up to his full height, John put a hand on Randy’s wiry shoulder. Time at last had come to kill Pharaoh and to be freed of all the agonizing passion which confused his mind.
“Give me the knife.”
“I don’t wanna.” Randy jerked his shoulder away.
“Give me the knife.”
“I wanna slit his throat.”
John’s hand went up, his index finger thrusting upward.
“I am Moses! Give me the knife!”
With reluctance Randy handed it over, but his face darkened with growing hatred.
“Pharaoh!” John began to stride toward the bed. “Your hour of judgment has come.” He paused. “Pharaoh. Answer me.”
When no answer came, Mike and Randy loped over and peered around John at Heinrich on his bed, his eyes bulging wide and his hands still clutching at his bosom. His dried lips stuck to his yellowed teeth as his mouth gaped opened.
“He’s dead.” John shook his head in disbelief.
“Why, he’s just an old man.” Mike giggled as he punched Heinrich’s belly with his beefy fist.
“He ain’t no bad guy, like you said.” Randy spat in disgust.
“How dare you deny me my vengeance?” Bewilderment etched John’s tormented features. All this time, all this killing, and Pharaoh was not his to punish. He jumped on the bed and straddled the old man’s body. “How dare you rob me of my mission?”
“Forget it, Moses.” Mike turned away and laughed. “He’s dead.”
“I will not be stopped!” John screamed in hysteria as he held the knife high above his head. Once again, in his mind, he was the naked warrior standing on the stairs’ top step at the trading post, a growing tree limb behind him. He held his knife high then also, as he looked down with contempt on his own father’s flabby body. His father had to be punished for not following Cherokee ways and for persecuting him because he did want to follow the old ways. Now this other fat old man must pay for his sins. With a war whoop, John brought his knife down and slashed into the corpse.
Outside, coming down the dark mountain lane lined with antique and craft shops, a police car made its usual late night rounds. The officers slowed to notice the waterwheel lights were still on.
“The last time Mrs. Schmidt left her lights on after eleven was when the old man had his stroke,” one officer said to the other.
“Yeah, we better check this out.”
Inside the bedroom, Bob hugged Jill as he watched John over and over again plunge his knife into Heinrich. Blood splattered everywhere, speckling John’s deranged face.
“Hey, stop it.” Randy hunched his shoulders. “It’s just an old man.”
“No.” John shook his head with delirious determination. “I shall end injustice.”
“Hey.” Mike focused on Jill and smiled. “I think I’m gonna get the princess.”
“No, you won’t.” Bob pushed Jill behind him.
Laughing, Mike knocked him to the floor. When Bob tried to rise, Mike pulled back his foot and kicked him hard in the gut, sending him across the room gagging and gasping for air.
“Come on, baby,” Mike murmured as he stepped up to Jill and put his hands on her slender shoulders.
Her face twisted in abhorrence, she knocked his hands off and punched his mouth.
“I like it when they fight back.” Mike smiled.
Bringing her knee into his groin, which doubled him over with a moan, Jill rushed over to Bob who was pulling himself up on his haunches. Before she could help him to his feet, Mike pulled her hair, causing her to fall to the floor. As Bob stood, Mike kicked him in his gut again, sending him back down. Groaning and holding his midsection, he looked across the room to see Randy drag John off the bed.
“Stop it!” Randy said, grabbing the bloodied knife.
“No.” John was dazed.
“Shut up!” Randy thrust the knife into John’s belly. “I’m sick and tired of you telling me what to do!”
He twisted its blade up under John’s rib cage. Bob watched the fury in Randy’s eyes as he glared at the man who had called himself Moses. John’s face hardly changed expression when the knife entered and even appeared relieved as he sank to the floor.
“Stupid Moses,” Randy muttered.
Bob rose with deliberation to his knees again. In front of him he saw Randy kick John’s body. To the side he saw Jill trying to sit up as Mike straddled her, her hands grasping at his face to scratch it. Mike slapped her hard.
“That’s enough fighting.” Mike pulled down his pants and positioned himself between Jill’s legs.
If Bob were going to save their lives he had to do it now. A glint of the knife blade in the ceiling light caught his attention. He needed it to stop Mike from attacking his wife. At one time, the blood dripping from a sharp edge would have triggered cringing and running away, but not now.
“You ain’t so high and mighty now, are you, Moses?” Randy kicked John’s lifeless body again.
His body imbued with total outrage, Bob leaped forward, and with both hands clinched into fists he hit Randy on the nape of his neck, causing the boy to drop the knife as he fell to his knees. Bob grabbed the knife, reached around Randy’s face with one hand, pulling it back, and slashed his throat with the other. As blood spurted out, he looked around the room to see nothing but blood. Heinrich’s abdomen was a puddle of blood. John sprawled in a pool of blood. And as Bob threw Randy’s body to the floor, blood gushed from his throat. With the knife in his hand, he glared at Mike and knew he had to attack him next. What was right or wrong did not matter any more. He had to save Jill’s life. She was worth more than any of the others, including himself.
“Oh, baby, this is gonna be good,” Mike said as he unbuttoned Jill’s blouse, oblivious to the fact his brother had just been murdered. His big hands pawed her.
Bob grabbed Mike’s dirty brown hair and yanked his head back, pulling the knife deep across his throat.
“What the…” His words were lost in gurgling blood spewing from his mouth. Mike flexed his thick shoulder muscles to throw Bob off his back. As he turned he caught sight of his brother’s body lying in a pool of blood.
“Randy?” His voice sounded pitifully sad until it descended into a snarl.
With a bellow he pounced on Bob, heaving him to the floor and straddling his chest. Mike’s hands closed around Bob’s neck.
“You killed my brother!”
Squinting to keep Mike’s blood from dripping into his eyes, Bob secured the knife with both hands and thrust upward with all his strength into the hard hairy belly. As Mike’s grip on his neck tightened, Bob pushed the knife in again and twisted it. Blood gushed from the teen-ager’s mouth onto Bob’s face. Finally Mike’s grasp loosened, his eyes glazed, and a last wheeze escaped his bloodied lips. He collapsed on Bob who rolled him off with a grunt. Bob looked with vacant eyes at Jill who stared back, her fingers absently trying to button her blouse. He became aware of voices in the background.
“Mrs. Schmidt, we saw your lights on and–
“In there. In there,” Greta said with urgency.
“What is it?”
Bob heard steps coming into the room. He turned to see Greta and two policemen, standing in the doorway, their faces aghast at the scene.
“Oh no,” Greta said, her hands going to her cheeks.
“What’s going on here?” one of the officers asked.
Numbly, Bob stood, took a few steps toward them and handed the knife to the policemen.
“I just killed two men.”
Looking down at Jill, he contorted his face in agony and began to cry. She reached up to pull him down to her. Sitting aright she held his sobbing head close to her. Jill’s eyes roamed the room as Bob clutched her waist. Her lips crinkled, and her chest began to heave, and, tears poured down her cheeks. Greta went to them, crouching and putting her strong arms around them.
“My babies, my babies,” she said, kissing their foreheads.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Eight

Greta sat snoring in her favorite chair as the television blared. Joan entered from the shop and stood at fearful attention.
“Mrs. Schmidt?”
Greta awoke and looked around to see the clerk, pulling her pepper gray hair from her face, standing in the doorway and trembling. Joan was petrified of her which made Greta feel guilty. She should not be so rude her. Greta smiled, trying to make Joan feel at ease.
“It’s after eleven o’clock,” she replied. “I’ve closed.”
“Good.” Greta stood and stretched in satisfaction. “I’ll turn out the lights on the waterwheel.”
“Mrs. Schmidt?”
“Is everything all right?” Joan took a deep breath. “I thought I heard loud voices in here earlier this evening.”
“It was just the television.” Her initial reaction was to tell the clerk to mind her own business, but Greta remembered she wanted to be kind so she just laughed and waved her hand. “I play it too loud.”
“Very well,” Joan said. “I’ll lock up.”
“Thank you.”
“Say hello to Mr. Schmidt for me.”
“I will.”
Listening with intent, Greta heard the shop door open and shut. She went to the living room window and turned off the waterwheel lights as she watched Joan get in her car and drive away, not noticing another car parked in the shadows near her living quarters’ door. Shooting sounds and squealing tires drew her attention back to the television set. Her large, boney body eased into the chair, and her muscular, liver-wart-covered arm reached for the candy bowl. Her eyes narrowed as her fingers pushed plastic wrapped pieces around until they came upon her favorite ones. With a sigh of satisfaction, Greta took the plastic wrapper off a candy, put it in her mouth and focused on the television program. Life was going to be better, now she decided to place Heinrich in a nursing home. The past could become the past, and she could look forward to making friends again. No secrets had to be kept. They were all told, and she had survived. All of a sudden her door flew open with a bang. She shuddered as she gulped down the candy and stood. Before her were Jill, keys in hand, and Bob. They were not smiling.
Pushing between them were two boys and a wan looking middle-aged man who had anger and hatred in his eyes.
“Who is this?” the man demanded.
“Oh, Grandma!” Jill ran to Greta and hugged her.
“Ah, Pharaoh’s wife.” He lifted his head and smiled.
Jill hugged her again and leaned into her ear.
“Turn on the waterwheel lights.”
“Where is Pharaoh?”
“He means your husband, Mrs. Schmidt.” Bob stared at the floor.
Dumbfounded, Greta looked at Jill, whose eyes were filled with tears, then at Bob, whose eyes were filled with guilt, and last of all at the man, whose eyes blazed with fury. At one time she would not have revealed where Heinrich was, but she did not care about him anymore. She cared for Jill and Bob. She did not want them to be harmed. And she cared for herself. She did not want to be punished for something Heinrich did. She pointed toward the hall.
“The first bedroom on the left.”
“Finally.” The man breathed with intensity. “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.”
“Yeah.” The bigger boy’s head bobbed up and down like an excited puppy. “We’re gonna get Pharaoh.”
“I wanna slit his throat.” The smaller one wielded a knife.
“You come with us.” The man shoved Bob and Jill toward the hall.
They must be insane. Poor Jill and Bob. The intruders disappeared as she circled around the room to the light switch. As her hand reached up, the man came back.
“You, old woman, don’t leave this room.”
He disappeared down the dark hall, and Greta flipped on the waterwheel lights.
John burst through the door and turned on the light, revealing Heinrich stretched out on his bed. Drawing himself up to his full height, John put a hand on Randy’s wiry shoulder. Time at last had come to kill Pharaoh and to be freed of all the agonizing passion which confused his mind.
“Give me the knife.”
“I don’t wanna.” Randy jerked his shoulder away.
“Give me the knife.”
“I wanna slit his throat.”
John’s hand went up, his index finger thrusting upward.
“I am Moses! Give me the knife!”
With reluctance Randy handed it over, but his face darkened with growing hatred.
“Pharaoh!” John began to stride toward the bed. “Your hour of judgment has come.” He paused. “Pharaoh. Answer me.”
When no answer came, Mike and Randy loped over and peered around John at Heinrich on his bed, his eyes bulging wide and his hands still clutching at his bosom. His dried lips stuck to his yellowed teeth as his mouth gaped opened.
“He’s dead.” John shook his head in disbelief.
“Why, he’s just an old man.” Mike giggled as he punched Heinrich’s belly with his beefy fist.
“He ain’t no bad guy, like you said.” Randy spat in disgust.
“How dare you deny me my vengeance?” Bewilderment etched John’s tormented features. All this time, all this killing, and Pharaoh was not his to punish. He jumped on the bed and straddled the old man’s body. “How dare you rob me of my retribution?”
“Forget it, Moses.” Mike turned away and laughed. “He’s dead.”
“I will not be stopped!” John screamed in hysteria as he held the knife high above his head. Once again, in his mind, he was the naked warrior standing on the stairs’ top step at the trading post, a growing tree limb behind him. He held his knife high then also, as he looked down with contempt on his own father’s flabby body. His father had to be punished for not following Cherokee ways and for persecuting him because he did want to follow the old ways. Now this other fat old man must pay for his sins. With a war whoop, John brought his knife down and slashed into the corpse.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Six

“I hate Moses,” Randy muttered, disturbed by his unsuccessful search for that man and woman. Why did we want to find them? He was fast losing hatred for this Pharaoh too. Slitting his gut was not important to him any longer. What was important to Randy was his warm, comfortable bed he had left behind at the hospital. He missed gobbling good food as much as he wanted and drinking soda pop whenever he wanted. He longed to hoe in the garden, to spray the plants with water again and to feel proud when he made flowers grow. Most of all, he missed his television programs, cartoons, football games and cops shooting bad guys. He wanted to talk to that doctor again, even if he did get too nosy sometimes. The doctor would let him complain about his mother all he wanted without accusing him of being bad for not loving her. But he could never talk to the doctor again because that stupid Moses made him slit his throat. People at the hospital would not give him his bed back or let him work in the garden again after killing the doctor.
“I hate Moses.”
Something slinked across his mud-spattered tennis shoes, causing Randy to jump, grab his knife and throw it down at the retreating snake. Spitting in disgust for missing his target, he bent over to pick up the knife stuck in moist ground.
Jill clinched her jaw as she watched the boy crouch in front of her. When she recognized him to be the thin, angry one, she closed her eyes and prayed he would not see her. Hearing the knife’s being withdrawn from the earth and the boy’s footsteps as they faded away, she thought she was safe for now. That was all she could expect. Again her thoughts went to her grandmother, imagining how she must have sighed, “Safe for now,” every time the topic of Hitler or Nazis was dropped in a conversation. She must have been relieved every time a former member of the Third Reich was caught in another part of the United States and sent back to Germany, thinking at least it was not Heinrich this time. Safe for now. If she survived this night, Jill promised herself she would give her grandmother a big hug and say, “Now, I understand.”
Bob strained to look at the face of his watch. It had been some time since he last heard John or the boys. An hour might have passed, but he realized he could not have been under the bush that long. Yet he could not shake the small hope lingering inside him, that the three escaped mental patients had given up and left. He wanted to venture out to check, but he remembered his own instruction to Jill to stay hidden until dawn. Bob told himself not to blow it, not like he had blown so many other things in his life.
A voice broke the silence.
“Bob Meade. We have your wife.”
His eyes widened.
“It’s foolish to resist. If you want to see her alive, come back to the parking lot immediately.”
“Oh, no,” Bob whispered.
“Bob Meade. Caleb has already slit the doctor’s throat. You don’t want the same fate for your wife.”
He sighed and decided he could not take the chance of having Jill’s lifeless body being rolled down the embankment. He barely survived guilt of pulling away from his dying mother. Knowing his cowardice caused his wife’s throat to be slashed would destroy him. Bob decided it was better for them to die together than for him to hate himself the rest of his life for allowing Jill to be murdered.
“Don’t hurt her,” he yelled as he stepped from behind the prickly bush. He shuffled his feet in defeat toward the embankment, pausing for a moment to wince again at the sight of Harold’s bloodied body before climbing up toward the paved path to the parking lot.
Jill furrowed her brow as she heard Bob call out. She was still secure under her rock. Didn’t Bob realize John was lying? Of course not, remembering Bob’s greatest fault was his conviction that everyone was as honest as he was. She loved that shortcoming in him, but at this moment, she feared it might kill them both.
“Here goes nothing,” she said, crawling from beneath her rock in hopes of catching Bob before he climbed the embankment.
As Bob reached the top he saw the shadowy figures in front of him. He began counting. One, two, three…
“Bob! No!” Jill shouted.
His head jerked away to look down the slope just as Jill emerged from the woods. He turned back to the three escapees. Mike’s brawny shoulders shook as he laughed. John smiled with smugness, tapping Randy and nodding toward Jill. The boy scrambled down to grab her.
“How’d you know they’d come out?” Mike continued laughing.
“I am Moses.”

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Five

Jill spotted a large rock overhang with an opening just large enough for her to scoot underneath it. Looking around, she fell to the moist ground and slid through the cavity. For the first time in several hours Jill had a quiet moment to consider what was happening. The dread her father had experienced, and she had perceived in him all her life, had become a palpable actuality to her. Now she understood why her mother drank too much. She knew why her grandmother had that startled look in her eyes when anyone ever mentioned World War Two, Adolph Hitler or Nazis. The line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth flitted through her mind, “Blood will have blood,” and made her shiver. Her family’s worst nightmare was coming true, and Jill was in the middle of it.
After several deep breaths, Bob was able to bring his pulse rate under control; his temples no longer throbbed with rushing blood. He became aware that one leg was higher than the other. Looking down, he saw his foot on a large, rough limb. Bob picked it up, finding the wood saturated but solid and hard, and a credible weapon. He had never hit another person in his entire life, but he steeled himself to the prospect he might have to strike out tonight to save himself and his wife.
Rustling leaves caused Bob to jump. Focusing his eyes through a prickly bush, he saw John coming toward him. The Cherokee paused in front of his hiding place to look around in frustration. Bob stared into the back of John’s head and thought of all the reasons why he should hate him. For the first time in his life, he found happiness and peace in his love for Jill, and John, in his insane attempt to lash out at life’s cruelties which afflict everyone, destroyed his own personal Eden. Even if he and Jill survived, they would never regain their innocent belief that their love would shield them from anything the world could throw at them. That was just cause for a hard-edged hatred capable of crashing the branch into John. Bob’s fingers tightened around the wet wood.
John’s body tensed, his head turning to the left. Bob saw feral, animal instincts in his eyes and heard his quickened breath. Bob was so close; all he had to do was bring his club down with all his might and smash into John’s skull, killing him straight away. Without their leader, the boys would scatter, and Bob’s nightmare would be over. Again John tensed, took a step forward but stopped. Bob sensed his opportunity to take back his life was passing fast. For terrorizing Jill, John deserved to die. For his insanity, he deserved to be put out of his misery. Either born of hatred or mercy, Bob’s urge to murder John became a life force into itself. Without warning, John turned and darted through blackness to the left. Bob’s heart sank. His chance had passed to prove what most people would describe as his manhood. Once again inconsequential frightened Bob Meade bumped into the intravenous feeding line, ripped a needle from his mother’s frail arm and shrank from her plea for one last embrace. He hated himself.
Mike continued to stumble through underbrush, becoming more frustrated by his helplessness in finding his brother, the man who called himself Moses or that other man or woman. Several minutes passed since he last heard from Randy or John. Maybe they were all lost, never to be found again. Mike did not want to be bothered with finding the skinny man or someone called Pharaoh. He wanted to bump into that princess. Thinking about her made him tingle with excitement. A branch smacked him under his cheek, stinging his skin. He brushed aside the limb, touched his tender face with his beefy hand and held his fingers close to his eyes to see blood. Mike winced, trying not to whimper at the pain. Randy laughed at him when he cried at being hurt, and he did not want Randy to catch him crying. He narrowed his eyes and clinched his teeth.
“Stupid princess. She’s gonna pay for this.”
Jill stifled a gasp as a snake slithered past her nose. Hearing a crunch of leaves on the forest floor, she held her breath. Her eyes focused on a pair of worn tennis shoes in front of the rock overhang. She knew it had to be one of the boys by the impatient shifting of feet, but she could not decide which brother she feared most it would be. The smaller, more intense one scared her because of his explosive anger, and she feared the larger, more muscular teen because of the lust in his eyes. Discovery by either would be a descent into hell.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Four

Only one vision flashed into Heinrich’s mind, Hans Moeller’s cabin in the Bavarian forest. Once again he was in that room, but this time he was tied to a chair and Greta held the knife which came slashing down into his abdomen. For once in his life, Heinrich comprehended how it felt to be the object of brutality. But even at this point of understanding, he did not atone for his cruelty. Heinrich only pitied himself because Rudolph was the one who had made him feel small. That was why it was so easy for him to torture Hans. As tears streamed down Heinrich’s cheeks, his chest constricted. It was as though Greta, in addition to slapping and kicking him, also were sitting on him. And Rudolph was standing there, smirking at him. Quivering, his hand reached up to his flabby breast.
“Greta.” This time it was a call for help, for compassion. Her laughter reached all the way from their bedroom, and it was not laughter he was used to hearing. Her voice was hard-edged and triumphant like his own laugh when he stood over Hans Moeller’s limp, bleeding body.
“Greta. I’m hurting.” Again he heard the gusty laughter of the victor. No mere female joke on the television could evoke such a full, satisfied sound. Heinrich knew from personal experience. The pain in his chest intensified. His fingernails clawed into his sallow flesh, trying to tear out the offending member of his body. One last time he pleaded, but his voice was only just a whisper.
Randy stood, wiped the bloody knife on his pants and put it away. John ran to join him, stopping short when he saw Harold’s body on the pavement and his blood trickling down the road.
“You fool! I told you not to let him escape, not kill him.”
“He kicked me in the face.”
“He was fighting for his life. You would have done the same.”
“We didn’t need him.”
“He was a good man.” John tried to look away but was transfixed by the blood. “He didn’t deserve to die like that.”
“He was a liar, like all other bad people in the world.”
John slapped Randy full across his face. Randy’s eyes widened with surprise. John slapped him again, even harder. His face reddened in rage borne in frustration. Randy’s impudence and stupidity drove him mad. John could not take the boy’s insubordination any longer.
“I am Moses!” John was hysterical. Spittle flew from his mouth onto Randy’s cheeks. “I decide who lives and dies! You are a follower! I am Moses!”
Mike joined them. His mouth fell open when he saw the doctor’s body on the highway.
“Okay, okay.” Randy looked down and shuffled his feet. “Stop yelling at me.”
“Hey, you killed him,” Mike said, examining Harold’s body. He laughed. “He don’t look so smart now, does he?”
In the distance a car motor’s humming became louder, and headlights flickered across the hills. John turned in that direction.
“A car’s coming.”
“Hey, let’s hide in bushes and watch the car run over his body.” Mike nudged his brother. “I bet it’d make it jump real funny.”
“That would make the car stop,” John said. “We don’t need to involve any more people.”
“We gotta get rid of the body,” Randy said.
“That ain’t no problem at all.” Mike laughed as he bent down to throw Harold’s corpse over his shoulder. He headed for the stone terrace followed by John and his brother.
At the bottom of the embankment, hidden by underbrush, Bob and Jill stood and examined themselves for broken bones and scrapes.
“Are you all right?” Bob panted as he put his arm around Jill.
“I think so.” She leaned into him and trembled.
“It’ll be better if we separate.” Bob looked around.
Before Bob could reply, a thumping noise and soft tumbling drew their attention upward.
“What was that?” Jill said.
“I don’t know.” He directed his gaze back to her. “You can hide easier without me around.”
“I don’t want to lose you.” She hugged him around his waist.
Harold’s bloodied body crashed through underbrush and came to rest at their feet, his blank eyes staring at them and his throat open with blood coagulating and turning brown. Jill began to scream, but Bob laid his fingers over her lips. After they had a moment to compose their emotions, Bob pushed her away from the corpse.
“Find a crevice, a cave, anything and stay there until morning.”
“What are you going to do?”
“The same thing.”
“I don’t like it.” She shook her head.
“I don’t like the alternative,” he replied, nodding at Harold’s body.
“All right,” she conceded.
“And don’t come out until morning—no matter what you hear.”
“Don’t say that. It scares me.”
“Go,” Bob whispered. “Now. Quick.”
“I love you.” Running back for another hug, Jill grabbed him.
“I love you.” He kissed her with urgency. “Now go.”
Running a few feet, Jill turned to look back. Bob motioned her on, and she vanished in dark brush. With one last swift fleeting look around, he bolted into shadows of rhododendron and cedar trees. Musky stench of decomposed leaves and animal urine filled his nostrils. He tried not to think of smells from the hospital when his mother died. At least it was not quiet, as he listened to deafening song of crickets.
Peering into the darkness of the mountain trees, Mike laughed again.
“Did you see how funny he bounced down the hill?”
“Oh, shut up.” Randy shoved him.
“We’ve got to find the others,” John said.
“You shoulda never let them out of the car,” Randy groused.
“Shut up!” John demanded.
Randy glared at him.
“What are you gonna do, Moses?” Mike asked with eagerness.
“There are three of us and only two of them,” John replied in an even tone, regaining his composure. “They can’t have gone too far.”
“So we have to go down there?” Mike peered down the embankment.
The boys jumped off the asphalt pavement and easily kept their balance as they scampered down the steep ridge. John tentatively followed them. When he arrived at the bottom, John was greeted by a broad grin on Mike’s face and a look of contempt in Randy’s eyes. He did not care for the apparent degeneration of their deference for Moses.
“That way.” John took Mike by his broad shoulders and jerked him to one direction and pushed. When he turned he saw Randy already going in the opposite direction.
“You don’t have to push me around,” he muttered.
John sucked in air and plunged straight ahead. The couple must be caught and forced to lead them to Pharaoh. Once the boys saw how he conquered Pharaoh they would respect him again.
Leaves and twigs crackled, causing Bob to stop and lean in the direction of the noise. He understood every fiber of muscle in his body and every rational thought in his brain was required to survive. Sucking in his gut, Bob slid behind a large prickly bush. When he was a child, he knew his father would not have thought he could handle such an ordeal. Maybe he would have more confidence in him now. Bob shook his head, telling himself it made no difference whether his father thought he could survive. All that mattered was surviving.
John looked into shadows, listening for some rustling or snapping which his ears could not divine. He cursed his father under his breath for not taking him into forests and mountains when he was a child. He cursed him for not teaching him Cherokee ways, how to track, how to catch prey, how to survive. His father was too preoccupied with dancing for tourists, earning their paltry coins, to raise John to be a proper warrior. If his father had trained him instead of beating him, John now could find his quarry quickly and continue on his mission to find and kill Pharaoh. Pharaoh. He thought of what Harold had said to him about his father being Pharaoh and not some old German man. Maybe he was right. Maybe his father was Pharaoh. John squared his jaw. But that old German was terrible also. He must complete his mission to kill him and then return home to slit his father’s throat, the true Pharaoh.
Mike thrashed about in shadowy undergrowth, uncertainty etched on his forehead. Hunting down a mysterious bad guy was no longer exciting. Randy was furious with John or Moses or whatever his name was. Mike always became frightened when people around him squabbled. The sweet oblivion of his beer stupor wore thin, making him thirst for more. He did not want to kill anyone. That was too much work. People looked silly when they had spit running down their chins or blood spurting from their guts, but it was more fun to have another beer.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Three

I gotta go.” Mike shifted with discomfort in the back seat, pressing against Bob and Jill. He belched.
“Me too.” Randy’s dull eyes glanced away from the yellow line down the middle of the highway through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Harold watched John’s shoulders tense. Stopping at the request of the brothers must be a frustration. Perhaps he would be able to use this wedge to tear them apart before something else terrible happened.
“Later. We must find Pharaoh,” John said.
“If we don’t stop I’m gonna go all over myself.” Mike’s face twisted into a childish pout.
Hunching his shoulders and pulling his legs up, Randy glared at John.
“It’s mean not letting us go.”
As the car rounded a corner, its headlights shone on the empty parking lot of the New Found Gap overlook which straddled the border between Tennessee and North Carolina.
“I gotta go,” Mike said again.
“Very well.” Sighing in resignation, John pulled into the parking lot. “Rest rooms are in a building down that path on the left.”
“Oh boy.” Mike laughed as he tumbled out of the car, followed by Randy. In a few moments they returned. “The door’s locked.”
“Go behind the building,” John said, leaning his head out the window.
Harold eyed John, wondering what he could say to make him return to the hospital.
“You look tired.”
“Why did you say that?”
“Because I care about you.”
“No one cares about Moses but his own people.” He gazed at a large stone terrace overlook with a plaque commemorating its dedication by Franklin D. Roosevelt back in the nineteen forties.
“And God?”
“Of course. Yo He Wa.”
“But Yo He Wa is god of Cherokee. Yahweh is God of Moses.”
“You can’t fool me by playing word games.” He shook his head.
“You really want your father to care about you.”
John ignored him.
“If you let me take you back to the hospital, I can help you with your feelings about your father.” After an extended silence, Harold glanced in the back seat at Bob and Jill, deciding it was time to stop reasoning with John and instead concentrate on escape. He never lost hope with a patient before, but John transcended his role of pitiful victim of childhood head trauma and of unstable parents to a new identity of crazed messiah, bent on destroying anyone who crossed his path. In this hour of darkness and isolation, escape was his only answer.
“May we stretch our legs?” he asked.
“Wait until Joshua and Caleb return,” John replied, still not turning his head to look at Harold.
A few minutes later Mike and Randy, laughing and punching each other, ran up the asphalt path toward the parking lot.
“You want to stretch your legs too, don’t you?” Harold looked into the back seat, peering into Bob’s eyes.
“Yeah. Sure.” Bob looked at Jill. “You want to stretch your legs?”
She squinted in bemusement and then nodded.
“Yes, I need to walk.”
Harold opened the door and slid out as the brothers, still trying to zip their pants, bounced up.
“You gotta go, too?” Mike said with his usual open, smiling face.
“No.” John leaned over to look out the door. “The doctor wanted to stretch his legs.”
“Oh yeah?” Randy stared at Harold.
“Yes,” Jill added, stepping from the back seat. “We’ve been on the road a long time.”
Harold surveyed the group before him, an innocent couple and three escaped mental patients, all thrown together because of his incompetence. He could not shake the words from his father’s lips that night many years ago in his Long Island home.
“Do as you wish. You always have. But mind you, one day you’ll make a fatal mistake in a diagnosis, and you’ll remember what I told you this night.”
His memory was as sharp as that crystal shard which pierced his finger. The red of the blood drop glistening in the fireplace blaze and the ice blue of his father’s disapproving disdainful eyes crowded rational thought from his mind. His thoughts compelled Harold to throw himself against Randy, who fell into Mike, crashing them into the car’s fender.
“Get out of here!” he ordered Bob and Jill.
They stood there frozen in shock, as though they had become inured to the violence they had witnessed in the last few hours.
Bob grabbed Jill’s hand and ran down the asphalt path to the restrooms and threw her down the gentle slope down into trees and underbrush, following her as she tumbled through the shadows. John scooted across the seat and out the passenger door.
“After them!”
Harold stumbled to his feet and turned to shove Randy, who sprang like a young panther, back into the larger, leonine Mike. Harold sprinted out of the parking lot and spotted flickering headlights rounding the knoll from the North Carolina side of the mountain and scurried for the highway.
“I hate him,” Randy muttered as he tried to untangle himself from his brother’s flailing arms and legs.
“Get up!” John kicked both teen-agers. “Don’t let him escape!”
Wildly waving his arms, Harold situated himself in the middle of the New Found Gap road, but the approaching automobile veered off around him and plunged into the darkness of the twists of the mountain highway, winding its way to Gatlinburg. Before he could move again, he sensed his legs being pulled out from under him, his face smashing the cold hard asphalt tasting the briny blood gushing from his ruptured lip.
“Gotcha,” Randy said.
“It’s useless to fight us, doctor.” John huffed as he caught up with them.
Rolling over, Harold thrust his foot into Randy’s head, bloodying his nose. As the boy squealed in pain and grabbed his face, Harold jumped up, pushed John back into Mike, who had at last arrived, and turned to dash in desperation after the vanishing red taillights. Perhaps, Harold told himself, if he ran fast enough he could lose himself in the mountain’s shadows.
Randy struggled to his feet, wiping blood on his shirt, and made another flying leap at Harold, this time landing on his shoulders, dragging him down. His boney tailbone jabbing into the doctor’s lower back, Randy reached over the smooth top of Harold’s shaved head, stuck two fingers into his nostrils and violently yanked backwards, exposing his neck. With his free hand, Randy pulled out the hunting knife and with a swift motion slashed Harold’s throat.
Struggling against Randy’s grip, Harold could only burble before his body wilted, his consciousness going blank, no longer haunted by the visions of his father’s ice cold, disapproving eyes.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-Two

Randy finished another beer, belched and tossed the can out his window.
“I hope a highway patrolman didn’t see that,” Jill whispered to Bob.
Harold looked in the back seat, smiled with reassurance at them and then turned to John, staring a moment.
“John, you didn’t answer me. Who are your people?”
“Cherokee.” Lifting his chin, he kept his gaze straight ahead.
“Not Jews?”
“Then why are you looking for a man who hurt Jews and not Cherokee?” Harold hoped a logical approach would break through to John. From his previous discussions with John, Harold knew he was intelligent. On some days John amazed him with some of his observations. If only Harold could get in touch with John’s coherent side.
“What?” John asked.
“Your Pharaoh is an old man who never did any harm to Cherokee.” Harold felt his heart beating faster.
“No.” John shook his head. “Pharaoh. He enslaves all men.”
“This old man doesn’t enslave anyone.” Harold leaned into him.
“But my people must be free.”
“Isn’t your father Pharaoh?” Harold risked bringing up the matter of John’s childhood, but the ongoing abduction brought about desperation.
“My father is a worn out warrior.”
“But he’s the one who’s enslaved you all your life, told you that you were stupid and told you he wished you were dead.”
Harold watched muscles in John’s jaw clench.
“Yes, I know now. I know how your father treated you. I know how your mother tried to protect you. I know you were caught in the middle of many fights between your parents.”
Harold with eagerness searched John’s face for a sign of recognition. He wanted John to realize he understood.
“I know now. I can help you free yourself of all those memories of your father. But I can only do that if you let me take you back to the hospital. Free yourself from Pharaoh. I can help you. ” He paused. “Come on, let’s go back to the hospital and talk about it.”
“I ain’t goin’ back to no hospital.” Randy hit Harold on the shoulder with his boney fist.
“Caleb,” John said with authority. “Be quiet.”
Randy glared at him, pulling his legs up on the seat, bowing his head to hide his face.
“I hate Moses.”
Greta had suffered enough indignities in her life. As a child in Oberbach, she endured comments on how her sister was the pretty one while she was the sturdy, hard-working one, albeit ugly as a cow. When one of the handsomest men in town paid attention to her, she fell straight away in love—at least what she thought was love. He was shorter than she, bore a perpetual smirk on his face, hardly ever cared about her feelings, and people in town kept telling her the most horrible rumors about him. She ignored all that on her wedding day. Whoever would have thought Greta Gurstadt would have found a man, especially one with clear skin and straight teeth? When gossip of Hans Moeller’s death drifted her way, she discounted it, saying people were jealous of Heinrich’s success in the Third Reich. She bragged that someday she and Heinrich would live in Berlin to serve the Fuhrer, although in private she hoped never to leave her beloved Oberbach. But they did leave Oberbach after the war. Why must we leave, Greta pleaded. Other Germans fought and lost the war, but they did not have to leave. Heinrich just sneered and reminded her that he was head of the household and they would live where he decided.
The only thing that made the move bearable was her beautiful blond son, Edward. She took solace in knowing he would always give her joy and he did, until as a strapping young adult he announced he wanted to change his name, and once again ugly suspicions challenged her unwavering allegiance to head of the household. For whatever else may have disappointed her, Greta maintained her near-deification of Heinrich as the ultimate male—he of golden hair and strong jaw and muscular body. Even as his jaw became rounded and his muscle softened, he was still strong mentally and forged a good living running their little woodcarving shop in Gatlinburg. Then his stroke came, and Heinrich was no longer even strong of mind. Greta had to learn how to balance a business ledger, understand tax laws and manage sales in their store. Heinrich no longer could carve what they sold, so they had to resort to buying items made in Korea, Singapore and other places repugnant to their Aryan sensibilities.
If Heinrich were no longer strong of body or of mind, he was still strong of will, and demanded to be considered boss even when his legs gave out and Greta had to carry him. She stretched her adoration to a thin line of respect she felt he had earned over many years. But the deportation hearing snapped her tenuous devotion. The judge may have ruled Heinrich was not an undesirable, but the evidence, however legally circumstantial, was enough to end Greta’s protracted worship of Heinrich Schmidt. He was not a god. He was not a good man. He was just a crippled, evil man who never valued her hard work and never cherished her. Now he voiced the ultimate insult. Eva Moeller called her a stupid cow and Sebastian Keitel called her a stupid cow, but Heinrich would not be allowed to call her stupid cow. The last shred of love, respect and tolerance was gone, which gave force to the blows she dealt his face that night in their living room.
“Go to bed.” She pointed to the bedroom.
“Go to hell.” Heinrich’s blue eyes were as icy as Bavarian well water in the middle of winter.
Greta did not believe he could sink any lower than he already had, but telling her to go to hell compounded her pain and anger so much she could endure no more, pulling her hand back to slap Heinrich again. He blocked it, which added frustration to her boiling rage, and she knocked his hand away, slapping him again and again, first with her right hand, then her left. Red whelps appeared on his pasty white skin, but she did not care. They were nothing compared to the pain Heinrich had inflicted on her.
“You were the big Nazi! Big—what you call it? Gestapo! You killed Hans and got away with it? Who else did you kill? How many other men did my husband murder?”
“Greta.” Tears began to well in Heinrich’s eyes. “Stop.”
“You’re no big Nazi now.” Her slaps became more intense. “You’re an old man! You don’t tell nobody nothing.” She pushed him to the floor. “Now get to bed.”
“I can’t get up.”
“Then crawl,” Greta snarled, kicking Heinrich in his rear. “I don’t carry you no more.”
“Greta.” Heinrich pleaded, “No. I feel sick.”
“No more lies.” She reached his groin with her next kick, causing him to jump and start crawling. “Move.”
“No, Greta,” he sputtered between sobs.
“Greta, please.”
But the kicks were unrelenting, and with the agility of a wounded elephant Heinrich crept on his hands and knees to their bedroom. When they reached the door, Greta placed her foot on his sagging buttocks and pushed, sending him sliding into the bedpost.
“Now get into that bed.”
“Yes, Greta,” Heinrich said with defeat in his voice. He crawled into the bed and pulled the covers around him.
“Now you shut up or I’ll hit you again.” Greta wagged her finger in his face. She turned and marched out, as Heinrich dissolved in a flood of tears.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty-One

Heinrich had not felt well all day. If only he could belch once, really good, he would feel better. He hated these days when he ordered his legs to move, and they would not. He wanted his mouth to say words that a master of the house would say and it could not. His hands tried to point and make a fist, but they would not. Worst of all, when he took his shower he beheld an old, fat body in the mirror, a balding head with its wispy white hairs going where they wanted and not where he wanted. His bulging eyes looked like they belonged in the head of a rabbit which had just been bitten in its neck by a dog. His nose was bulbous with red spreading veins. His breasts sagged as though he were an old woman. His potbelly was taut like a balloon about to pop. Blue lines streaked his spindly, boney legs.
In mourning he was, for his long ago life of strength and virility vigorous days in the forest cutting trees, and wanton nights in cabins of full-bosomed milk maids. They stroked his hard muscular torso and his Aryan ego. Heinrich lusted for times when he strode down a street in his black Gestapo uniform and observed apprehension in the eyes of Bavarian peasants. He yearned for the pleasure of committing murder and never enduring recrimination. Now even the pasty-faced young man who married his granddaughter did not fear him. Most of all, he yearned for the total adulation of his wife, a mindless cow who had worshipped him as a god.
Now she looked upon him with repugnance. How could she worship a man she had to carry over her shoulder from bed to chair? A man was supposed to carry the woman, not a woman carrying the man. Since he had suffered his stroke, he had become a woman with sagging breasts and a whining helpless voice. Greta, of all people, had become man of the house, breadwinner, ruler of all she surveyed, and Heinrich hated her for it. From his bed he could hear her laughing at some silly television program, not some masculine program about warfare, but something with weak females making insulting remarks that were supposed to be witty and smart.
“Greta.” In his mind he in fact said, “Greta, you stupid cow! Stop that stupid laughing and come attend to your master.”
“What Heinrich?”
He heard her exhale deeply
“Greta, come here.” What he meant to say was, “Never call out to me. You come running when I summon you.”
“Very well, Heinrich.”
He heard her chair creak as she stood. The minute she took to walk from their living room to his bed lasted entirely too long. He fumed because she made him wait. At last Greta appeared in the door, wearing a dowdy print dress, her hair pulled back in the same bun she wore when they left Germany, and her eyes filled with the same contempt she held for him since his stroke.
“What do you want, Heinrich?”
“I want to watch television,” he said with as much authority as possible. “You laugh so much I can’t sleep.”
“Well, watch television,” Greta said as she turned to leave the room. “I don’t care.”
“Carry me.” Heinrich pursed his lips into a pout.
“I don’t feel like it.”
Heinrich stared into her back, as though trying to compel her to turn around.
“If you don’t feel like walking,” she said continuing to leave, “then you don’t feel good enough to watch television.”
“Stop.” Heinrich screamed as loud as he could, although it came out as a weak whine.
“Heinrich, stop yelling at me.” Greta was already out the door and down the hall.
“I will watch television.” Heinrich brought his fist down on the bed, wishing it were on Greta’s head. “You will carry me.” Bringing his once strong arm down again, he imagined Greta falling to her knees from the awful blow, causing her to plead for mercy.
“Why? So you can wet on me again?” she called out with a laugh from the living room. “No.”
Harold looked at John who was concentrating on the yellow line down the middle of the mountain highway, lit by headlights. Randy finished a beer and tossed his can out the window. It clickety-clacked down the road. At once a highway patrol car was behind them with its overhead lights flashing.
“So you’re going to find Pharaoh?” Harold tried to think of a way to stop whatever terrible mission John was on.
“Yes.” John kept his eyes straight ahead, not noticing the lights in his rear view mirror.
“And what are you going to do when you find him?”
“We’re gonna slit his gut.” Randy leaned over, grinned and patted the hunting knife in his pants.
“Is that so, John?” Harold looked over at him.
“I don’t know.”
The highway patrol car’s siren began, causing Mike to twist around in the back seat to look out the window.
“The cops.” He plopped back down and twisted his face into a frown. “I don’t like cops. They take you to jail. TV ain’t good in jail.”
“You better pull over,” Harold said, relieved that the ordeal may be over. John was be mad but he would not be foolish enough to do anything to a law enforcement officer.
“Don’t do what the doc says,” Randy said. “He lies.”
“You can’t outrun him,” Harold said. Maybe he could make John realize his plan was all over. “He has a radio in his car. He can get help immediately.”
“Very well.” He pulled over to the side of the road.
The patrol car stopped behind him, and the officer, a young man with a fleshy shape, approached the car. He pointed a flashlight in and smiled.
“May I see your registration, please?”
“I’ll get it.” Harold leaned over to the glove compartment.
As he was rummaging through it, Randy looked at the officer and grinned in innocence.
“Can I get out and stretch my legs?”
Harold had never heard Randy’s voice sound so carefree and innocent.
The officer appraised Randy, dismissed him with a blink of his eyes and nodded. Afraid the officer underestimated the situation, Harold leaned forward to speak, but John put his hand on his knee, squeezing with the force of a madman.
“Sure. Go ahead,” the patrolman said.
Randy jumped out, wriggled a little and ambled around the back of the car. Harold found the registration and handed it to the officer who read it and frowned. He tried to catch the officer’s attention, but he concluded the man considered the stop routine and therefore was oblivious to his grim fate.
“This is made out to a Jill Smith.” He looked at John, wanting an explanation. Still, his voice did not seem to reveal excessive interest.
“That’s the lady in the back seat,” John replied without emotion. “She’s tired so she asked me to drive.”
“That right, ma’am?”
“Yeah.” Jill looked around with apprehension. “That’s right.”
Before the officer could ask another question, Randy came up and stabbed him in his back. The officer’s face exploded with shock, and his knees buckled, allowing Randy to pull him back and slash his throat. As he quivered on the ground, gurgling for help, Randy kicked him and ran to jump in the car.
“I hate cops,” he said.
“So you did kill Mrs. Scoggins,” Harold muttered in revelation.
“Who’s that?”
“The lady who was nice to you and Mike.”
“Nobody’s never been nice to me,” he said. “And his name’s Joshua. Not Mike. Not no more.”
“Doesn’t it bother you to stab someone like that?” Harold asked, trying to control his own fears while thinking of ways to get through to Randy.
“I’m just getting back for all the stuff people done to me.”
“Like Pharaoh?” Harold knew he must convince them Pharaoh was just a character John invented.
“Pharaoh’s the worst of all,” Randy replied, staring off into the night.
“The real Moses didn’t kill Pharaoh. He asked him to let his people go.” Harold looked back at John, who did not seem upset by the fact they had just left a human being bleeding to death on a highway behind them.
“Hey, he’s Moses, ain’t you, Moses?” Randy glanced at John while elbowing Harold hard.
“Sorry,” he said, “I meant the first Moses.” Harold looked at Randy. “There was another Moses, you know.”
“What?” Randy wrinkled his brow.
“Didn’t he tell you?”
“No.” Randy hunched his shoulders.
“The first Moses didn’t slit Pharaoh’s gut,” Harold repeated, trying to make an impression on the boy. “He told him to let his people go. And Pharaoh let his people go. John, are you going to tell your Pharaoh to let your people go or are you just going to slit his gut?”
“I don’t know.” John blinked.
“We’re gonna slit his gut,” Randy insisted.
“Caleb, be quiet.”
Randy gave John a hard look and then turned to Mike. Harold was glad he looked to his brother for sympathy. Maybe there was a chance to use the schism to win the boys to his side. Without their youthful strength John would not be able to complete his mission to kill Jill’s grandfather.
“Hey, throw me another one of those beers.”
Mike tossed a can to him, and Randy opened it and took a long swallow as he continued to glower at John. Harold would not be able to win them over if they continued to drink beer. No one would be able to control them. He returned to his efforts to dissuade John.
“If you slit his gut, will it set your people free?” He examined John’s face to see any change in his thinking. Harold recalled the day John admitted he should be in the hospital, so a remote possibility existed he knew this was madness.
“You bet,” Randy said.
“Maybe,” John whispered.
“And what people are you talking about?” Harold leaned into him, hopeful the uncertain reply meant John was on the brink of clear thought. “Hebrew people? Cherokee? Poor people? People kept in mental hospitals against their will?”
“I don’t know.” Again John blinked.
“If you keep talking,” Randy said, spitting at Harold, “I’ll slit your gut.”
On unsteady, frail legs, Heinrich doddered to his living room, his face red with anger and frustration. Commands, demands, obscenities and vulgarities swirled in his head, all fighting to find their way out of his white, parched lips.
“Greta,” he said. “Don’t talk to me like that.” He wanted to speak more than that; he sought to make his words reverberate as they did when he towered over Hans tied in his chair.
“Heinrich, I’ve talked to Edward.” She sighed, stood and turned to look with resignation at her husband. “He agrees with me.”
“Talked to Edward?” He took a few steps. “What are you talking about?”
“Heinrich.” Greta paused, her eyes first reflecting some kindness and then candor. “You’re too much work for me.”
“Work for you?” Heinrich’s bloodshot eyes widened with indignation. “I’m not work for you.”
“Heinrich, I can’t pick you up anymore,” Greta said, regret tingeing her words. “I can’t clean up your messes anymore.”
“I don’t make messes.” Heinrich slammed down his fist on the back of Greta’s chair. He was even more disappointed when Greta did not jump at his anger.
“I am old,” she said.
“I don’t make messes.” He slammed his fist down another time, to no purpose. Greta did not even bat an eyelid.
“Heinrich,” she said in even tones, “Edward has found a nice nursing home for you.” She smiled and nodded. “It will be better.”
“You don’t kick me out of my house.” He stumbled toward her. “I kick you out!” He tried to think of an insult that would injure Greta the most. “You stupid cow!”
He tried to hit her, but she knocked his hand away and then slapped Heinrich whose jaw plunged open in shock.

Sins of the Family Chapter Twenty

Bob sat across from Harold, leaning forward, his brow knitted in concern. The doctor sat back, his hands together in front of his face and his eyes studying Bob with distrust.
“Yes, it’s definitely John Ross, and the two teen-agers who murdered an elderly woman in Boone. They’re FAS.”
“Fetal alcohol syndrome.”
“You can tell by their looks.” Opening the brothers’ files, Harold pulled out their pictures and showed them to Bob. “They’re high grade mental defectives.”
“Does that explain the violent behavior?”
“Partly.” Harold put the pictures away and pulled out a report. “In my talks with them I found little understanding of right and wrong. Also, they are alcohol intolerant.”
“They have blackouts.”
“Does John Ross know they’re alcoholics?” Bob sat back in the chair. “And does he know about they killed the widow?”
“He knows about her murder. I don’t know if he’s aware of their alcohol intolerance.”
“If he doesn’t, and he lets them have beer, for instance, he might be setting them up for another violent incident.”
“Even if he does know, he might give them beer to make them do whatever it is he has on his mind.”
“But what if once they’re drunk they decide they want to do something different than what John wants them to do?”
“That’s the problem, for both us and John Ross.”
“In other words, he’s got a ticking time bomb with him which he can use to blow up someone else or it may blow up in his own face.”
John turned off the interstate highway onto an old state road, winding through the lower Appalachians on his way back to the North Carolina State Mental Hospital. Jill tried to relax, but still peered into John’s eyes, trying to how decipher this man who had some unholy mission against her grandfather. Randy was rolled up in his fetal ball, while Mike hung over the seat staring like a vulture.
“We need gas,” John said.
“Good.” Mike smiled. “I want more beer.”
“Do you want anything?” John looked at Jill.
“No.” She folded her arms and looked straight ahead. She wanted to go home but knew he was not going to give her that.
“Hey.” Mike punched Randy. “Want some beer?”
“Yeah.” Randy raised his head, rubbed his eyes and smiled.
“We always want some beer.” Mike laughed and nuzzled Jill’s hair which caused her to shiver in revulsion.
Harold escorted Bob to the cafeteria. They passed several patients who stopped to say hello to the doctor and gossip about other patients who were not following the regulations, or to complain about unnamed attendants who were being callous by forcing them to adhere to the rules. The doctor nodded with forbearance and told them to remember to tell him again about their grievances during their next session. In between interruptions, Harold tried to fill in Bob on what happened immediately before their escape, including the incident with the broken television.
“I don’t understand.” Bob frowned as he paid for his coffee. “Why would he do that?”
“I don’t know.”
As they sat with their coffee in the cafeteria, they continued to figure out what incited John. George came in for his break, buying coffee and a honey bun. Harold waved him over to their table.
“George, you were in the day room that day,” Harold said. “Do you know what could have made John Ross break the television?”
“It was the show on the TV,” he replied, munching his snack. “It was news, but I don’t know what channel.”
“What time was it?” Bob asked.
“It was five-thirty.” George slurped his coffee.
“Why are you so sure?” Bob leaned toward the attendant.
“I was on my way to clock out.”
“That’s the time my news show is on,” Bob said.
“But aren’t all news shows on at the same time?” Harold asked.
“We’re on for an hour and a half beginning thirty minutes before other stations. It’s a marketing ploy.”
“Do you remember what would have been on that day that would have upset John so much? It was about two months ago.”
“A former Nazi.”
Dusk was coming as John pulled into a small convenience store sheltered by tall pine trees. Mike and Randy jumped from the car and ran to go to the rest room while John with careful force took Jill’s arm and guided her inside. The clerk, a handsome young man, stood behind the counter, looked up and smiled.
“Evening, folks.”
“Hello.” John smiled as he tightened his grip on Jill’s arm.
“How can I help you?”
“I need gasoline. Ten dollars.” He looked at Jill and tried to appear affectionate. “Think that’s about right, dear?”
“Fine.” Fear and apprehension crossed her face.
“Okay.” The clerk punched the amount into his cash register and then he assessed Jill’s condition. “Are you all right, ma’am? You don’t look good.”
John squeezed her arm even harder.
“No. I’m all right.” Her eyes darted from the attendant to John and back again.
The young clerk cocked his head with curiosity and was about to say something when Mike and Randy bounded from the rest room.
“I want some ice cream,” Mike said as he went to a refrigerated chest.
Whatever the clerk was going to say to Jill must have slipped his mind as he smiled at Mike.
“Just slide up the top.”
“I can’t get it up.” Mike tugged at it.
“I said slide it up, not pull it up.” The clerk came around the counter and went to Mike. “I said slide it up, not lift.”
Randy was circling around the clerk’s back, beginning to unbuckle his belt and pull it from his jeans. Jill saw what was happening and began to cry out, but John twisted her arm. A bell on top of the door rang as another customer entered. The clerk looked up and smiled, just as he slid the ice cream chest top up. Frowning, Randy returned his belt to his waist.
“How’s it going tonight, Pete?” The customer was about the clerk’s age but was somewhat overweight.
“Just fine, Bill,” Pete said. “Got a date for the dance tomorrow night?” He looked at Mike. “There you go.” He returned to the counter.
“Naw,” Bill said. “I don’t think I’ll go.” He looked around at the others and then whispered, “Got some cigarette papers?”
Pete gave his friend a disapproving glare and then turned to a shelf behind the counter and took out a pack of cigarette papers.
“You still use that stuff?”
Bill handed him a couple of bills.
“That stuff’s going to kill you.”
“Oh, stop preaching at me. See you later.”
Pete handed him his change and smiled.
“See you.”
John watched Bill as he opened his car door, entered and drove off. Pete caught John’s eye and nodded.
“Pump’s all set. You can pump your gas.”
Randy pulled the knife from the front of his jeans and threw it, hitting Pete in the middle of his chest. His eyes wide with shock, Pete moaned, staggered toward the end of the counter and fell, his hand grabbing a display of Mr. Peanut snacks which came crashing to the floor. Running over to Pete’s body, Randy pulled the knife out, stuffed his pockets with little bags of peanuts from the floor and then hurried to the cash register where he grabbed as many bills as he could. Mike walked over, gnawing on an ice cream bar and picked up some peanut bags.
“Be sure to get all the money,” John said. “We’ll need it.”
“And beer,” Mike added. “Let’s get some more beer.”
With her free hand, Jill slapped John, pulled away and ran for the door.
“Get her!” he screamed at Mike and Randy who were preoccupied at the cold beer section.
“Stupid woman,” Randy said, and he ran for her, followed by Mike guzzling a can of beer.
Jill was out the door and scrambled into the woods behind the convenience store, stopping several yards into the thick brush to catch her breath and peeked around to see if Mike and Randy were far behind. Her mind raced trying to figure out how to escape them. She jumped when she heard voices muttering nearby.
“Which way did she go?” Mike’s voice was charged with energy.
“That way,” John barked.
“I don’t like her,” Randy muttered.
Jill crawled under a rhododendron bush as she heard them hurrying toward her. They paused, said something incoherent then stalked away. She stood and turned to scamper in another direction but stopped when she heard herself step on a branch and crack it.
“What was that?” John’s head turned.
“I don’t hear nothing,” Mike replied.
“She went there.” With determined steps, John started back the other way.
Fear welled in Jill’s head, and she could not think rationally. All she could do was run, not remembering from which way she had come. Out of the shadows Mike tackled her, slamming her down on the soft, moist pine needles. The smell of the ice cream, peanuts and beer on Mike’s breath made Jill gag and heave.
“That was foolish,” John said as he sauntered up.
“Boy, she feels nice and soft.” Mike rolled Jill over and planted his beefy body on top of hers.
“I say we slit her throat.” Randy arrived and bent down to put his knife to her neck. “We don’t need her no more.” He pressed the sharp edge into her skin, almost to the point of puncture. “She told us where that guy is.”
“No,” John said. “She’s our means to force him to take us to Pharaoh.”
Randy spat into Jill’s hair as he stood and put the knife back into his jeans.
As John began to walk away, Randy pulled back his foot and kicked Mike hard in the side, sending him reeling off Jill.
“Get up!”
“Come,” John called over his shoulder, “we must go.” He looked at Randy. “Caleb, bring the woman.”
Jerking her up by the arm pit, Randy glared into Jill’s eyes and whispered, “I don’t like you.”
Harold and Bob sat in his office trying to piece together the puzzle of how John Ross escaped, why he was angry at Heinrich Schmidt and what he planned to accomplish. The building was quiet with the departure of the day staff.
“Where do you think they are?” Bob asked.
“I don’t know.”
“My report said Mr. Schmidt lived in Gatlinburg.”
“We can notify police there.” Harold picked up his phone, dialed nine one one but the line was dead. He sighed. “Well, there’s nothing else we can do tonight.”
“Was there anything in your sessions with John Ross to give you an indication he might do this?”
Again someone questioned his judgment. First there was his father, then George and now some young television reporter. Maybe Bob somehow recognized problems in the Rosses’ house. Maybe everyone was aware of his parents’ hysterical outbursts. Only Harold did not comprehend how they had affected their son. He held finger imagining the pang of the glass puncture, expecting to see a drop of blood there. He then stared into Bob’s eyes.
“Do you think I’m a bad doctor?”
“What?” Bob blinked.
“Sometimes I think I’m a bad doctor.”
“What could any other doctor at an overcrowded state mental hospital have done to prevent a patient from escaping?”
“I don’t know.”
“I don’t either.” Bob paused to smile. “Maybe more security around the building, but you can’t hire more guards, can you?”
“No, I can’t. It’s not in the hospital budget.” Harold sighed. “I think I need to go home.”
“That’s a good idea,” Bob said. “It’s been a long day. I just got married, and this is supposed to be our honeymoon. ”
Harold laughed as he opened the door, and they walked into the hall. One of the night attendants ran up.
“Doctor, all the phone lines are down.”
“Yes, I know. When I get home I’ll call the telephone company.”
“What do you think caused it, doctor?”
“Don’t worry about it.” He patted the attendant’s back. “It’ll be fixed in an hour or two.” The parking lot was empty and foggy, eerily lit by lampposts. Harold walked Bob to his car. “I’ll call Gatlinburg police when I get home to have the Schmidt residence put under surveillance.”
“I think not, Dr. Lippincott.” John stepped from the shadows holding Jill’s arm. Mike and Randy stood behind them, each sucking on a can of beer. “That’s why we cut the phone lines, so no one could contact police.”
Mike giggled and then belched.
“Oh no. Jill.” Bob focused on her face. He could tell she was afraid even though she was very good at hiding her emotions.
“John,” Harold said with fake bravado, “I’m glad to see you’ve returned. Let’s go inside.”
“I’m not back, doctor.” John smiled. “You know that.”
“What are you doing with my wife?” Bob asked.
“We went to Knoxville to find you,” John explained, dragging Jill further into the lamppost light. “To have you take us to Pharaoh.”
“Pharaoh?” Bob shook his head.
“Grandpa,” Jill interpreted.
“You are the granddaughter of Pharaoh?” John turned to her, his eyes lit with the power of new knowledge. “This is better than I thought.”
“You mean she’s like a princess or something?” Mike stepped closer to Jill and leered.
“Shut up.” Randy hit Mike hard on his shoulder.
“Ouch. Stop hitting me.”
“You must be hungry, Mike,” Harold said. “Why don’t you come in? We’ve got ice cream.”
“Oh, I’ve had lots of ice cream. And beer.”
Bob and Harold exchanged glances.
“Take us to Pharaoh,” John demanded.
“He lives too far away to get there tonight.” Bob looked down.
“You said he lives in Gatlinburg,” John countered.
“You lie.” Randy took a step toward Bob. “Just like all other bad people in the world. Lie.” He shot a hot glare at Harold. “You lie too.”
“I didn’t lie, Randy,” Harold said.
“I ain’t Randy no more. My name is…” He looked at John, his eyes blank.
“His name is Caleb.” He focused on Bob. “Take us to Pharaoh.”
“Not until you let go of my wife.”
“I’ll slit her throat.” Randy pulled out the knife and held it to Jill’s neck.
“I think we better do as they want,” Harold said.
They entered Jill’s car with John behind the wheel and Randy and Harold next to him in the front seat. Mike, Bob and Jill sat in the back. The brothers popped open two more beers and began drinking.
“I’m sorry I told them where you were.” Jill looked at Bob.
“That’s all right.” He stroked her cheek. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I wanna do that, but she won’t let me.” Mike leaned over, breathing beer and peanuts on them.