A Glibertarians Exclusive:  Blood and Gold, Part II

02 September 1987 – Strasbourg, France

“So this is the place?” Belos asked.  He looked up at the sky; it was growing light in the east.  The two men (using the term ‘men’ in a rather broad sense) were walking amongst the crypts in a large Strasbourg cemetery.  Belos had shed his British Army uniform and was wearing the plain gray coveralls of a laborer.  Hess was dressed similarly.

“The man whose grave we seek was a collaborator,” Hess said.  “He died of heart failure – honest heart failure, not the 9mm sort that was more usual for men like him – before the liberation of France.  From what I gleaned from the fat man at Nuremburg, Oberlin’s grave was considered a good spot for a cache, as it was unlikely to be disturbed.”

“You hope.  A collaborator may well have been dug up and cast into the river.”

“We can hope not, and that he is still here, in the Cimetière Nord de Strasbourg.  Hess walked along from the center of the cemetery, noting a name on one of the graves at the end, then turning into a row.  He counted off as he strode past the individual graves: “…neunzehn…  zwanzig… einundzwanzig… zweiundzwanzig…   Ah.  Oberlin.  Here it is.”

The crypt was simply marked:  Oberlin, 1888 – 1943.  As with most of the nearby graves, whoever Oberlin was had been laid to rest in a marble crypt, with a heavy marble cover.  Hess examined the grave.  “I think we can move the cover,” he said.  “It doesn’t look like it was disturbed.”

“How much gold should be here?”

Hess thought for a moment.  “I’m not sure.  But most of these caches were laid away by high-level Nazis as an insurance policy against the failure of the Third Reich, which of course happened.  But most of them – most of us,” Hess added, frowning, “did not expect the Allies to be so efficient and rounding up and prosecuting us.  At any rate, any one cache should be substantial.”

“And you know of three,” Belos said.  “Half of that will be substantial indeed.”

“It will, my son,” Hess agreed.  He grinned, showing strong yellow teeth.  “You could leave the British Army and live a life of leisure.”

“We can hope.  What is your plan, anyway?”

“I plan to enjoy my anonymity, of course.  I have had quite enough of notoriety.”

“I can see how that would be the case.  All right then.  Let’s have a look.  I’ll get this side.”

The heavy marble lid had to be lifted, then slid aside.  It would have taken ten normal men to budge the heavy lid, but Hess – his apparent age and frailty notwithstanding – and Belos were able to move it easily.  They pulled the lid to an angle with the coffin inside and looked in.

“I don’t see anything,” Belos said.  “What was the gold packaged in?”

“A leather knapsack,” Hess replied, “if Hermann was telling the truth.”

“I don’t see any leather knapsack.”

“We’ll open the coffin.”

That required lifting the marble vault lid off and setting it aside.  Hess reached into the vault, snapped off the hasps holding the plain wooden coffin open and lifted the lid.  Inside lay a shriveled lich wearing the remnants of a cheap suit.

“Alas, poor Oberlin,” Hess misquoted, “I hardly knew ye.” He chuckled, a dark, oily sound.

There was no leather knapsack in the coffin.  No gold.  No ‘resources.’

Belos muttered something under his breath.  “Well, old man,” he said out loud, “looks like your information was bad.  Could it be in one of the crypts around here?”

“We can scarcely,” Hess pointed out, “Look in all of them.  I knew of Oberlin.  Any Nazi at the higher levels would have known of him.  He was… infamous and would not have survived the liberation of France in any case.  It makes good sense that his grave would be used as a cache.”

“Someone else would seem to have had the thought ahead of you.”

“So it seems.  Come, my son, let’s put this grave to rights; no sense in letting anyone know it was disturbed.  Then we will find a quiet place to talk.  I do know of two other caches, perhaps we’ll have better luck in München or Rome.”

They closed the coffin and levered the heavy lid into place, then walked out of the cemetery.  “There’s a café near here,” Belos suggested, “with a large canvas overhang – to keep us out of the sun, you know.  Shall we go there and plan our next move?”

Hess nodded.  “Why not?”  Hess was pliable enough; he felt no need to feed.  Earlier the evening prior, before meeting Belos at the cemetery, a foolish young knifeman had tried to rob Hess; that young man’s francs now resided in Hess’s pocket, and the knifeman’s drained corpse was at the bottom of the Ill.

The morning sun was up now, causing both Belos and Hess more than a little discomfort.  They went from shaded spot to shaded spot.  Both had floppy hats to cover their heads and kept their hands in their pockets.

When they were across the street from the café, about to emerge from a dim alley to scurry across the street, a tall, lean form confronted them.

“Morning, fellas,” he said.  “Talk with y’all a minute?”  He was tall and lean, with broad shoulders, wearing denim jeans, tooled boots, a red flannel shirt and a black cap of the type Hess had learned was called a ‘baseball cap.’  He stood squarely in the alleyway, blocking the path.  Foolish of him, Hess thought, but then decided, we may as well see what he wants.

“And who are you?” Hess asked.

“My name,” the big man said in a broad, Western American accent, “is Alexander van Helsing.  You can call me Alex.”

“As you wish,” Belos said.  “What do you want with us, Alex?”

Alex van Helsing leaned in closer and spoke in a conspiratorial stage whisper.  “I know what you are.  Both of you.  I know the signs.  My father taught me.  His father taught him.  The eyes, the hands, the ears – and the teeth.  Especially the teeth.  Yeah, I know what you are.”

“And so?” Hess asked.

“I know what you’re looking for.  I know where it is.  I’ll help you get it, and I want a third of the boodle.”

Hess and Belos looked at each other.  “I’ve heard of your family,” Hess said at last.  “It seems you’ve lost some of the, shall we say, purpose of your forebears.”

“They could afford a purpose.  I can’t.  My grandfather lost everything and moved us to America for a fresh start.  Now we still barely have a pot to piss in.”  He took off his cap, wiped his forehead.  “My father raises cattle south of Encampment, Wyoming.  I didn’t want to raise cattle.  My brother can take that over when the time comes.  I came to Europe to look for some excitement, and what do you know, I discover the location of a cache of Nazi gold the Allies and the Mossad don’t seem to know about.  I won’t tell you how I know where it is, except to point out that my family name apparently still carries some weight in Europe.  I will tell you I can’t retrieve it myself.  I know what I know, and I know what you two can do.  If we work together, we cash in.  Otherwise, I walk away, right now, right into the sunlight outside this door, and leave you to find out where the cache is now, all on your own.”

Belos looked at Hess.  Hess nodded, ever so slightly.  “Very well, Herr van Helsing,” he said.  “Let’s talk.”