The Devil In Cologne: An International Vigilante Justice Thriller
- Book info
- Author updates
From the USA Today Bestselling Author, R.B. Schow, comes the blistering, edge-of-your-seat follow-up to The Betrayal of Prague.
A den of heathens…
....in a city full of atrocities…
....protected by the world’s worst people.
All that is about to change.
There is a plague of crime so dark it hides in plain sight. These crimes involve the highest levels of business and government, the nation’s most prominent people, and monsters of every sort.
In a land that still bears the scars of a cruel dictator and his untethered mercenaries, a new age of barbarism has emerged…
….and it has to stop.
Atlas Hargrove is done f*cking around, but only if he can get past the warden. She has plans of her own, and she is not a woman to be trifled with. But thousands of young lives are on the line, and Atlas is as determined as ever to get himself back in the game.
If you like Lee Child, Vince Flynn, Jack Carr, Jack Lively, and Barry Eisler, you’re going to love Atlas Hargrove in the red-hot new series readers are calling, “…intense, fascinating, scary, hilarious, and just all around amazing!” and “The best read in a long time!”
Fire up your kindle, grab some caffeine, and prepare yourself for a roller coaster ride through hell with the pride and joy of NorCal State Prison: the electric, unrepentant Atlas Hargrove.
This book contains the kind of language, violence, and sexual content one might expect in a rated R movie. The Devil in Cologne arrives on April 7, 2022!
BOOKS IN THE ATLAS HARGROVE SERIES:
• THE TEARS OF ODESSA
• THE BEASTS OF JUAREZ
• THE BETRAYAL OF PRAGUE
• THE DEVIL IN COLOGNE (April 7, 2022)
Release date: April 7, 2022
Publisher: River City Publishing
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
The Devil In Cologne: An International Vigilante Justice Thriller
Case Study: Subject 13224
Subject Name: Hugo Fairbanks
Age: 6 years old
Location: Downy Hills - Interview Room 2A
Video: Lot 1 - Session: 1
Interview: Dr. Joseph Brandt, Ph.D.
Highlighted Section: 1
NOTE: Subject appears to be agitated and disheveled. There is presence of four fingernail scratches to right half of face. These injuries were determined to have been patient-induced and they occurred during transfer.
Dr. Brandt: For the record, could you please state your name and your age?
Fairbanks: My name is Devil. I’m 6 years old.
Dr. Brandt: Please give me your formal name.
[Dr. Brandt frowns; looks at camera]
*Transmission feed is interrupted.
**Transmission feed continues.
Dr. Brandt: Please state your name and your age for the record.
Fairbanks: Hugo Bundy. Six.
Dr. Brandt: That’s not your last name.
Fairbanks: If I want it to be, it is. [Subject sneers]
Dr. Brandt: Why do you like that name?
Fairbanks: It’s scary.
Dr. Brandt: Who do you want to scare?
Fairbanks: The bitch. [Brandt frowns; subject emits low growl] My adopted mother.
Dr. Brandt: What is her last name?
Dr. Brandt: And that’s the name you’ve taken as well?
Fairbanks: It’s a boring last name.
Dr. Brandt: Why did you choose Bundy as your last name?
Fairbanks: It’s a strong name.
Dr. Brandt: Why do you think you need a strong name?
Fairbanks: To keep people from hurting me.
Dr. Brandt: But you hurt others. [Subject nods his head in agreement] What did you try to do to your younger sister?
Fairbanks: Kill her.
Dr. Brandt: Why? She’s not even a year old.
Fairbanks: I don’t like her.
Dr. Brandt: Do you worry about hurting people’s feelings when you talk like this?
Fairbanks: [Subject thinks about the question, picks nose (wipes booger under chair - First Warning Issued: defiance and abuse of property)] No.
Dr. Brandt: Could you really do something like that? Could you really kill her? [Subject nods in the affirmative] Have you tried to kill your little sister before? [Again, subject nods in the affirmative] What did your parents do about this?
Fairbanks: My adopted father stopped me.
Dr. Brandt: And your sister? [Subject stares blankly at Dr. Brandt] What did you do to your sister, Hugo?
Fairbanks: Put needles in her arms and legs and chin.
Dr. Brandt: What did she do when you did that?
Fairbanks: She screamed. [Subject exhibits no signs of remorse]
Dr. Brandt: And did that bother you? [Subject shakes head] Why didn’t it bother you, Hugo?
Fairbanks: [Subject smiles] I like to hear girls scream.
Dr. Brandt: What do you think of your parents when you’re not mad at them? [Subject shrugs shoulders] Do you like them?
Fairbanks: They’re not my real parents.
Dr. Brandt: Do you know who your real parents are? [Subject looks down, refuses to acknowledge Dr. Brandt] Did your foster parents tell you that you’re adopted? [Subject acknowledges with a nod? Nod is too small for confirmation] Did either of them tell you how the orphanage got you?
*Subject looks up at Brandt with violence in his eyes; Dr. Brandt appears to be startled, then alerts staff. Subject lunges at the doctor. [2 members of staff restrain subject (Orderlies R. Stapleton and D. Seidel) - Second Warning Issued – Diazepam given to subject; 5 mg (oral administration by Nurse Carol D. MacDonald – Subject bites MacDonald’s thumb – skin bruised but unbroken – reporting to infirmary)]
***Transmission feed returns.
Dr. Brandt: Did your adopted parents tell you how the orphanage found you? [Subject glares at Dr. Brandt, unblinking, then slowly shakes head] You were found crying in a dumpster behind a local strip club. Your birth mother threw you away. [Subject looks down, twists finger inside ear canal] She threw you in the garbage like you were trash. Does this bother you? [Subject is unresponsive] Answer the question, Hugo.
Fairbanks: Yes. [Subject says the word as a long hiss; subject remains agitated]
Dr. Brandt: The state of California assigned me to your case which means you and I will be working together until a board of healthcare representatives believes you are well enough to re-enter society. Professionally speaking, Hugo, you have two choices. [Subject glances up at Dr. Brandt with overtly hostile eyes] You can change your behavior and start to be nice to this family who took a piece of trash like you in and gave you a name, a safe place to live, and a life you can call your own. Or you can grow up to be a menace to society, a rotten child who becomes a rotten adult—a ghastly abomination no honorable person would want, and every smart person would hate. Those are your two choices. One boy is named Hugo Fairbanks and he is a normal boy that people like. The other is a stain on society. A danger to others. An embarrassment of God Himself, if science gave due consideration to a myth as prevalent and silly as “God,” which I personally do not. Now, young man, tell me again…what is your name?
Fairbanks: [Subject’s eyes drill Dr. Brandt, undaunted - left side of subject’s mouth pulls toward left ear in a slight, foul grimace] Fuck Hugo Fairbanks. My name is Devil.
*Transmission feed cut.
Cologne, Germany. Friday night. Fourteen-year-old Matthias Selge had been walking the streets of Cologne all day, encountering the homeless, the working class, and those men and women who were neither working nor penniless, but instead relied on state-funded assistance. Matthias didn’t look as destitute as some of the homeless did, but after a night on the street, he was not as clean or as presentable as those walking to and from their jobs. His feet and lower back were beyond hurting, so he found an unoccupied street corner and sat down, his back pressed against a tall building.
Strangers walked by; some sized him up, but most completely ignored him. He didn’t feel as though his life was in danger, except for the danger he brought on himself, which was hunger and exposure. But he was scared, he missed his mother, and he missed his bed.
Glancing up, the cloudy skies were slate gray and smothering the city. He hugged himself a little tighter. He was tired of the cloudy skies. The air bore weight and was thick with moisture. The damp late-afternoon weather was beginning to cling to him. The cold that had set in this morning waned, and now the night ahead held the promise of a deeper chill. He couldn’t sleep outside again. He just couldn’t.
He sat up, stretched his back, watching a woman and her child walk by. The child—a younger girl in expensive clothes—was openly staring at him, but not the mother. The woman touched her daughter’s chin and gently turned the child’s head away from Matthias. Was he a scourge to this woman, a vagrant? Was he so pathetic looking that the mere act of seeing him threatened her daughter’s innocence?
Matthias refused to sleep another night on the streets but he couldn’t go home either. He glanced at the address written on a scrap of paper, then palmed it once more. He had been given this address by a man who claimed to know the streets well. This piece of paper held the location of one of the hotels that low-threshold service industries had been renting to the city during the pandemic. Apparently, the shelter was still in service. The man who had given him this information had been sleeping on a construction site. He said, “They’ll give you a bed for the night. Just be there before the beds are gone.”
“Why aren’t you sleeping there?” Matthias had asked.
“Too many rules.”
Matthias didn’t mind rules. He just wanted a roof over his head and a suitable bed. He stood up, dusted his butt, then joined the rush of foot traffic. Grinding his teeth but limping on sore heels, he tried not to show the pain he felt coursing through his body. For as much determination as this took, he had an even harder time keeping the emotion from his face.
A few blocks later, he saw the hotel.
Matthias checked his watch, worried that he had arrived too late. He got in line with a handful of men and one rough-looking woman. He felt completely out of place. Fortunately, no one noticed or cared that he was there. A doorman was letting them in one by one. This was the check-in process the homeless man from the construction site talked about. He said there was nothing scary, that it was protocol. Matthias heard the doorman explaining the rules like he had done it a hundred times this week, and then he performed a temperature check. After that, he used a metal-detection device to scan for weapons. Matthias didn’t have any weapons. His only possessions were a fistful of cash, half a granola bar, his school ID, and a watch.
He hugged himself, trying not to shiver. He could no longer feel the tips of three of his toes in his right foot, and two of his toes on his left foot had all but lost feeling. There wasn’t even enough heat in his hands to warm his fingers. And his face? His nose was red, his ears were red, and his cheeks felt like plastic and were nearly numb.
He glanced at his surroundings and bit back his tears. A squeeze of dread gathered his insides into a tight, debilitating fist. He was too young to be homeless. Behind him, an older man stood in line. He glanced back, startled by the sight of the old guy. He was pushing seventy, easily. He had wrinkles, thinning hair, stooped back, and the sunken look of a mouth without teeth. The vagrant was staring at something or nothing, and he was working his mouth like he was gearing up to say something, or maybe spit something out. A piece of gum? The last rotten tooth? Instead, he balled up and started to cough—a wet, raspy noise that sounded like it was coming from deep within his lungs. Did he have pneumonia or bronchitis?
Matthias turned around, disgusted by all these people, this poverty, his situation, and the helplessness he felt. Sniffling, looking skyward in an attempt to stall the inevitable rush of tears, he moved forward in line.
Two more men were granted access to the hotel. The doorman was now having a short, clipped discussion with the only woman in line. She spoke with desperation, her smoker’s voice strained with age, her words a gravelly slur. The doorman scanned her for weapons and then let her go inside. Someone from inside the hotel said something that caused the doorman to turn and look inside the structure. And then he returned his attention to those in line and held up a hand.
“I’m sorry, but we’re full,” he said. A few of the guys grumbled, but most of them didn’t complain or push for an exception. “I’m sorry, guys.”
The doorman stepped back into the building, preparing to close and lock the door.
“Wait!” Matthias said, quickly approaching him.
“I’m sorry, son, but we’re full.”
Matthias wanted to tell him he wasn’t a permanent case and that he wasn’t like the men and women who needed a place to stay every night for the rest of their lives. He desperately wanted to say that he only needed help for a few days. But he couldn’t find the words, and then, suddenly, he couldn’t find any words. Matthias Selge merely stood there like a sad case: slack-jawed, cold, and despairing.
“What, kid?” the doorman spat, his impatience showing. “Speak!”
Matthias opened his mouth but he had so much to say that he didn’t know how to say it all at once. “I’m cold,” he finally managed to eke out.
The doorman tilted his head skyward, and then lowered his gaze to the distant horizon; then he fixed Matthias with a look. “Then go home. The streets are not safe for children.”
Matthias looked up at the hotel and wondered how—in a building so large—this man couldn’t find room for one more kid. He felt an involuntary shiver race through him as he fought back so many desperate urges. Should he beg? Would it even work if he stooped this low?
Matthias didn’t want to live in a shelter or squat at a railway station or even frequent one of the hotels the state was renting, but he needed some place to spend the night.
The doorman shook his head and started to shut the door but Matthias stepped forward again, his voice returning. “I’m afraid I’ll die of the cold if I stay on the streets another night.”
The doorman stopped, looked right at him. “Why?”
“Because it’s so cold,” he explained. “I can’t feel most of my fingers and toes.”
“No, I meant, why are you out on the streets?”
The doorman was tall, thin, and dressed in what Matthias’ mother would call generational clothing. He didn’t smell bad but he looked like he should. Even if the doorman had showered, Matthias would wonder if he needed a second shower. He didn’t want to judge the man by his appearance but he was probably an ugly child.
“Why am I on the streets?” Matthias asked, buying time. He didn’t want anyone to know why he was homeless, yet he hadn’t even crafted a suitable story.
“You look clean, groomed, and too young to be out here.”
If the doorman knew who Matthias was, he would laugh him down the street, and back to the warm, pampered existence from where he had come.
“It’s complicated,” Matthias mumbled, his pocketed right hand clenching his wad of cash.
“Social services aren’t available to boys who get upset and run away from home. This hotel is for people in need. Go home, boy.”
“I can’t,” he said, taking another half-step toward the doorman, naked desperation in his eyes.
The doorman stepped outside, moving so close to Matthias that the boy took a small, instinctive step backward.
“Why can’t you go home?” he asked, looking down on him.
Matthias could smell the doorman’s breath, and it smelled like stale cheese and fish, a nasty combination, one that had him turning away while trying to hide his disgust.
“Well?” he pressed.
Matthias tried holding his breath as he struggled to find the words. The truth was, his story was none of this man’s business. The deeper truth was that he had left home because shame and his father’s revulsion had gotten the best of him.
“My father kicked me out of the house,” Matthias quietly admitted.
“My heart is breaking, kid, it is. Go apologize for whatever it is you did, don’t do it again, and stay off the streets. It’s dangerous, but it’s especially dangerous for boys your age if you catch my drift.”
“No,” Matthias said.
Shaking his head for the umpteenth time, the doorman went back inside, but Matthias jammed his foot in the door to keep it from closing completely.
Matthias spoke in a rush, the words coming so fast he barely had time to change his mind or fabricate a proper lie. “I didn’t like the girls he and my mother have been introducing me to.”
The man studied him closely, and then he burst into laughter. “Every person in this shelter would sell their soul for those kinds of problems. Go home, boy. I’m getting sick of asking, and I haven’t got the patience to be polite much longer.”
“I had to tell him I didn’t like girls…”
Now the doorman’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, yeah? You’re queer?”
Matthias had known early on that he was gay. It had taken years to summon the courage to confess this to his father, but in this single, almost worthless conversation, he admitted these hard-fought truths to an utter stranger.
“So you like boys instead, huh?”
Matthias’ eyes were hangdog and beaten. “My father…”
“Kicked you out because he was embarrassed.”
“Probably mad, too.”
Matthias nodded, tears boiling in his eyes.
“Parents don’t understand kids these days. Bodies seek out bodies. It’s not just about dicks, pussies, tits, and hairy assholes anymore. There are a billion different options for expressing your sexuality. Asexual, heteroflexible, pan-hetero, homoflexible, asexual homoromantic, lithromantic, androgynoromantic…it’s all so damn confusing, right?”
Matthias was so shocked he didn’t know what to say. At that moment, he wanted to turn and leave, not let this creep now holding his deepest secret look at him—or try to identify with him—for even one more minute.
“You don’t need a shelter,” the doorman said. “You need an emergency stay. How old are you?”
“Sixteen,” Matthias lied.
The doorman shook his head as if the answer was not only unbelievable but also unacceptable.
“No,” the man said, frowning.
“Fifteen?” Matthias said as if he was asking a question.
The man raised a single brow, uncrossed his arms, and shoved his hands in his pockets.
“Fourteen,” he finally said, coming clean.
“At last, the truth,” the doorman said with a smile. He held up a finger and then he pulled out his cell phone. “I don’t work directly for the housing support services but I think I know someone I can call to get you an emergency stay.”
“Thank you,” Matthias said, relieved.
The doorman dialed a number, waited for an answer, then said, “I have a young man who needs a place to stay.”
“No, there’s no room at the shelter. But even so, this one is young and too clean for the normal fare.”
The man paused, nodded, gave a few grunts of acknowledgment. Then he looked down at Matthias and smiled. At the promise of shelter, Matthias almost forgot how cold it was becoming now that the sun was setting.
“You can pick him up here,” the doorman said. “But he can’t stay at your place for more than two nights. By then, I’m sure he’ll be able to go home.”
He paused, there was more nodding, and then he took a long look at Matthias.
“He can tell you if he wants to but he doesn’t have to tell you anything and you’re not authorized to ask. He’s just a kid who needs a place to crash for a night or two.”
The doorman finally smiled and gave Matthias the thumbs up. He felt himself smiling as well, but the gesture felt hollow. With whom was he going to be staying?
“Thanks,” the doorman said. He ended the call then gave the boy a solemn nod. “Ten minutes. Look for him here on the corner. He drives an old Audi.”
“Thank you for your help,” Matthias said.
Ten minutes later, a man pulled up in a dark blue Audi sedan. The driver rolled down the window, giving Matthias an appraising look. Matthias took a tentative step forward. The man was a little thick around the midsection, mostly bald with a few wisps of hair pulled over the middle, and wearing studious-looking glasses with thick black frames. He seemed to have a slight overbite but he was clean-shaven and acting like he wanted to put Matthias at ease.
“Are you the boy who needs a place to stay?” he asked, his voice a little tinny, not off-putting, but not normal either. Sickness and fear roiled through him. Looking down the road, with the last light of day waning, Matthias knew the night was unforgiving and that a warm bed would be so much better.
“Yes,” Matthias answered, swallowing past a rather large lump in his throat.
Taking one last look at the doorman, Matthias felt his stomach drop. He couldn’t stop wondering how this had happened. How had he come to this place in his life? How had things gone so badly? His father had called him a cocksucker, even though Matthias had never been with a boy. He quickly apologized, but the word had been spat at him, and he felt his father’s revulsion as if it was a fist crashing into his face.
The driver reached over, unlatched the passenger door, pushed it open. “Get in,” he said bringing Matthias back to the moment. “You’re going to freeze to death out there.”
Matthias paused. Get in the car or sleep on the street? Was that even a fair consideration? When he was younger, he and his friends used to play the “this or that” game. Would you eat ten oysters or drink a glass of your grandmother’s spit? Would you fart in a beautiful woman’s mouth, or let her take a shit in yours? Stupid questions like that; questions where both answers were bad but both forced you to evaluate who you were as a person and what you would do in a seemingly-impossible situation. This was the real-life “this or that” question. Go home with a pervy-looking man or sleep on the street and maybe freeze to death?
“We’re holding up traffic, kid,” the driver pressed. Matthias couldn’t make his feet move. “If you’re not coming, then do me a favor and shut the door so I can go.”
Finally, his feet moved. Three cars had come to a stop behind the man’s Audi. The farthest car back honked twice, startling him. He snapped out of his trance, climbed into the car, and shut the door behind him.
“I’m sorry,” Matthias said, his voice as small as he had ever remembered it.
The man pulled away from the curb, solidifying Matthias’ decision. The driver snuck a look at him, his demeanor calm and non-threatening. “It’s okay. I’m a school teacher. I have two boys of my own. Their bedrooms are empty on account of my youngest leaving it vacant.”
“Is he at university?” Matthias heard himself ask.
“Yes, 2 years now,” he replied. “I try to help kids like you, hoping that if my sons ever need help, someone will do for them as I have done for others.”
Instinctively, he did not like the general feel of the driver, but he was doing something kind, so Matthias simply smiled, nodded, and tried to keep his mouth shut.
The ride took about 10 minutes and they rode in near silence. When they pulled up to a small, nice-looking house, Matthias felt some of the tension in his chest abate. The neighborhood had a clean, well-kept appearance, and it was close to several other homes in case he needed to scream or run for his life.
Matthias got out of the car, followed the driver into the small dark home, and nearly cried when he smelled something good and meaty cooking. His stomach growled in response, the hunger pit he felt in his gut never deeper than at that moment.
“I’ll show you your room,” the man said.
Matthias followed him back to the bedroom. The first thing he noticed was the lock on the inside of the door, which made him feel a little better. The man opened the door wide enough to show him the space, and then stepped aside and let Matthias enter the room.
The bed was comfortable looking and wide enough for him to stretch but the room was small in comparison. He glanced at the window and saw only blackness beyond.
“Thank you for your hospitality,” Matthias said, grateful.
The man studied him a little too long but then he smiled. He seemed to want to ask Matthias a question. Finally, he spoke. “Are you in trouble, son?”
Matthias shook his head and tried to look calm but his mouth was uncooperative and he heard and felt his heart beat along his neck and in his ears. He wasn’t leery of strangers. He was downright scared of them. The situation terrified him. He had never run away before, but if this man was as nice as he appeared, then maybe he would let Matthias stay a while. But if he was a level-ten creeper, then Matthias would have to brave it on the streets or go back home and promise his father to try to like women, even though he knew he was not wired that way.
“I’m making stew,” the man said, “if you’d like to join me.”
“What kind of stew?”
He let out an uneasy laugh, then immediately frowned. “A polite young man would thank me and eat whatever it was I had to offer.”
Matthias’ face burned with shame. “I’m sorry.”
“Schnüsch,” the man said, his pulled-together brows now softening the features of his face. “And all is forgiven.”
Schnüsch was a creamy traditional German stew made with carrots, potatoes, kohlrabi, green beans, and peas, sprinkled with chopped parsley and served with ham. It wasn’t Matthias’ favorite thing to eat but the hunger pangs were getting the best of him and now his stomach was growling in retaliation.
“What is your name?” Matthias asked.
“No last name, Matthias?” Elmar asked.
Matthias shook his head.
“Why exactly are you homeless, Matthias?”
The doorman told him he didn’t have the right to ask Matthias probing questions, but could he tell Mr. Harfouch the same thing?
No, he couldn’t.
“My father and I don’t see eye to eye,” Matthias said, purposely vague.
He swallowed hard, then, “My sexuality.”
Elmar looked him up and down, and then an easy smile broke over his ugly face. “You’re not old enough to be sexually active.”
“I am,” he said. “I’m old enough, I mean.”
“But you’re just a boy!”
“I’m eighteen,” Matthias said defensively.
Mr. Harfouch quietly laughed to himself. Then he looked at Matthias once more and gave yet another soft chuckle. “An emergency is an emergency, young man. You’re safe here with me no matter your true age or familial circumstances.”
“I said I’m eighteen,” Matthias said, softly.
“You’re not eighteen,” Elmar replied. “Tell me that again and I’ll tell you you’re a damn liar. Are you a liar Matthias with no last name?”
He couldn’t say one way or the other for fear of losing the shelter, but his eyes were flashing wide and he had somehow forgotten to breathe.
“I knew it,” Harfouch whispered.
Elmar served the little liar dinner and then, with an air of pleasance, he said, “Would you like black tea or rosehip tea? I have both.”
“Rosehip, please,” Matthias said, still feeling sullen from being called out on his lie.
“Eat, eat,” Elmar motioned with a disarming chuckle. “I know you’re hungry. I can hear your stomach growling from here. And I’m not mad about your age if that’s why you’re worried.”
While the boy dug into his stew, Elmar poured them both a cup of rosehip tea. He then sprinkled a mixture of tiny crystals into the brew and stirred it well. The mixture dissolved in moments. He then added a drop of special tincture and watched it dissolve as well. Showing no signs of anxiousness or anticipation, he delivered the tea.
Halfway through dinner, after he had consumed much of his tea, Matthias said, “I think I need to lie down.”
“Are you okay?” Elmar asked.
“I’m just tired.”
“If I watch television, will that make it impossible for you to sleep?”
The boy’s eyelids were so heavy he fought to keep them open. Slowly, he shook his head. “It’s fine.”
When Matthias was in bed, Elmar turned on the television, watched the news and some sports, and then he crept back to check on Matthias. The boy had somehow managed to get up from his drugged stupor and lock the bedroom door.
“Clever children aren’t clever enough when locked in a den of monsters,” he said as if repeating a fairytale for perverts.
With the key, he unlocked the door and snuck inside. He waited for his eyes to adjust to the darkness and his ears to isolate the boy’s sounds. The boy had barely made it back to bed.
Elmar turned on the light. Matthias lay face-down on the pillow, half his mouth and one nostril making noise. He thumped the child on the back of the head, then stood back. Matthias didn’t even move.
He rolled the boy over and went through his pockets. Besides a handful of cash, Matthias had a school identification card that he promptly slipped into his pocket. He looked at the boy’s watch, then slipped it off of his wrist.
Looking the drugged boy over, Elmar sneered, then shivered, and then he stood and unfastened his belt. His heart was banging around inside his ribcage, a breath of excitement trapped high in his chest. Visions of breaking this boy burned bright in his mind. His body responded accordingly. He took no shame as he disrobed before the child. Instead, he stood there as naked as a plucked chicken, dreaming.
Before he took the boy and made him dessert, Elmar went to fetch the camera. He checked to make sure the battery had a full charge. He then unpacked the tripod, bringing it to the boy’s room as well.
There, he set up and adjusted the camera on a tripod, making sure the field of view captured the scene the way he wanted. Satisfied, Elmar hit “record” and walked toward the boy.
“Let’s get you out of those clothes now,” he whispered, his reedy, high-pitched voice breaking beneath, with what could only be described as a tidal wave of need.
A few minutes later, when Elmar was done, he shut off his camera, took a shower, then pleasured himself a second time. After that, he slipped into a robe and house shoes, and then he went into the other room and called the number.
“Yeah,” the gruff voice said.
“Are you still paying cash for strays?”
Elmar sent the man a photo of the naked boy on the bed unconscious. “Will that be sufficient?”
The reply came quickly. “Yes.”
“Same as before?”
“I will have to show the buyer, of course. Then we will determine the…finder’s fee.”
“Yes, yes. Of course.”
“I’ll be in touch within the hour,” the man told Elmar.
He called back 30 minutes later. Elmar snatched up the phone, hardly letting it ring a second time.
“The boss says your last two offerings were good, so he’s willing to do the same deal as before, cash upon pick up. I’m assuming the package is ready?”
“I just need to get him dressed.”
“Is he drugged?”
“Not on this one,” he lied. The school ID, the cash, and the watch sat on the kitchen table before him.
“Good,” the man said before hanging up.
Elmar sat the cell phone on the table then turned his attention to Matthias’ ID. Two things stood out. First, this little turd was 14 years old, not 18. Had he been honest in the first place, Elmar would have had an even better time violating him. And second, he did indeed have a surname, and it looked vaguely familiar. Selge.
“Matthias Selge,” Elmar mumbled out loud. He sat back in his chair, something tickling the edge of his memory. The answer failed to present itself. “Why does that name sound so familiar?”
He knew Edgar Selge as a German-born actor. Were they related? No, he didn’t think so. The two of them looked nothing alike. But was it possible?
“Maybe,” he said as he logged onto Google and did a search using the boy’s full name. The first results sent a shockwave of fear through him.
“Oh, dear God,” he muttered to himself.
Now he knew why the name was familiar. Closing his eyes, he tried to work out all the possibilities in his head. None of them ended well for him. His heart skipped and sputtered, and then it hard-charged into a staccato drumbeat that left him breathless and scared and wondering if he was going to pass out.
He shoved his spent, rotund body out of his chair, then he paced the small room for a moment. After that, he stalked back to the boy’s room. He was still on the bed. Elmar grabbed a towel and tried cleaning the blood from inside Matthias’ thighs. He grabbed a second towel, then pulled back each cheek and cleaned the area around his anus. After that, he dressed the boy.
He checked his watch. It was time to prepare for company. Once he was dressed, he dragged Matthias by his ankles into the front room and parked him by the door. The boy lay there, unresponsive.
Elmar knelt and checked Matthias’ pulse. It was strong. “You stupid little turd,” he growled before standing up and driving a kick into his side.
Had he known the boy’s last name, Elmar would have thrown him out on the street without a conflicting thought. He went to take a piss, brushed his teeth, then returned to find the boy had not moved.
In a voice that was barely anything—hardly even a sound—he said, “You should have told me. I could have saved you so much pain.”
The sharp knock on the front door startled him. Elmar opened the door and saw a big, serious man holding a thick envelope.
“Show me,” Elmar said.
The man opened the envelope and showed him the stack of cash. Elmar stepped back and opened the door farther.
“Please come in.”
The big man strolled inside, glanced down at the unconscious boy, then knelt and palmed the boy’s face. He pulled the lips back to check his teeth, wiggled a pinkie finger into his ear canal, then unzipped his pants and assessed the child’s genitals. When his inspection was complete, he slapped the boy so hard, the cracking sound of the blow caused Elmar to jump.
Matthias, however, didn’t move.
The man turned his gaze on Elmar with a nod of satisfaction.
“Did you think he was dead?” Elmar asked. “I think you should check for yourself before you go. This will protect us both from scrutiny.”
The man checked Matthias’ pulse. Satisfied, he stood and nodded.
Elmar smiled then took the envelope of cash.
“Count it,” the man said.
“I trust you.”
Elmar counted the cash and found that it was the exact amount promised. He nodded to the man who then went to his SUV and retrieved a large canvas suitcase with a heavy-duty plastic handle and whisper-quiet rollers.
Inside the front room, this brute worked to stuff the unconscious boy into the suitcase. It took some time but the man was making progress. And then the boy started to move. A light groan escaped him, and a look of pain crinkled his otherwise slack features.
The big man removed a loaded syringe from his coat pocket. He uncapped it, flicked it, then cleared it of tiny air bubbles. He then injected the boy with the syringe’s contents—likely Ketamine hydrochloride—and then he rolled up his sleeves and waited for the boy to stop moving. The drug took but a moment to have the intended effect. Matthias fell perfectly still.
Elmar looked down and saw a large tattoo on the man’s forearm. The ink depicted a woman’s face as she struggled to escape a black circle. She was screaming, her eyes covered with a blood-spattered blindfold. Out of this same dark circle were six hands, loose tapestry hanging off their wrists and ripped-open wounds on the dorsal surface of the hands. Five of them were clawing at the blinded woman’s face while one pried her mouth open.
The detail was stunning and scary, and it nearly caused an involuntary shudder. “One day, you’ll have to tell me what that is you’re using,” Elmar said.
And how I can get a hold of it for myself?
The tattooed man said nothing. He just kept working on fitting the boy in the case. He managed to shut the lid but he couldn’t close the zipper. Finally, out of frustration, he leaned on the lumpy parts of the fabric, smashing the surface flat. Only then did the zipper shut.
He finally rolled his sweaty body off the case and sat on his butt for a long moment. He glanced up at Elmar, a sheen of sweat mapping his forehead.
“Oh, before you go,” he said, returning to the table where only the ID lay. He picked up the ID and said, “I found this on him. Thought you might want it.”
“I thought you said he had no ID.”
Elmar shrugged his shoulders, not wanting to say anything else. The man stood and took the ID. He pocketed it, and then he wheeled the merchandise to the SUV, saying nothing on the way out. When he was gone, Elmar shut and locked the front door.
He stood at the window and watched the expensive SUV cruise out of the neighborhood. Elmar’s attention shifted to Matthias' watch where it sat on the kitchen table. A deep sigh escaped him. "Stupid, stupid little boy.”
Not only was he 14 years old, but Matthias Selge was also the only son of one of the highest-ranking members in Germany’s federal parliament: the Bundesrat.
Matthias’ father, Jochen Selge, had a reputation of being one of the most politically ruthless men Germany had ever seen. He was a staunch politician who believed in the old ways, the cruel ways, those ways that benefitted the state and its tyrants rather than the people it claimed to serve. Anyone standing on the wrong side of Jochen Selge didn’t fare well.
Could he somehow survive this blunder?
He wasn’t sure.
We hope you are enjoying the book so far. To continue reading...