A Glibertarians Exclusive: Blood and Gold, Part III
04 September 1987 – Soultzeren, France
Later afternoon. Hess and Belos had exchanged their laborer’s coveralls for clothing less conspicuous out here in the Alsatian countryside: Button-down shirts, plain trousers, and large floppy caps to keep the sun off their heads. Both had spent time building up a resistance to sunlight, but it was still irritating, even painful, so they kept their hats pulled down low and their hands in their trouser pockets as they climbed into the hills behind the small town of Soultzeren.
Alexander van Helsing retained his typically American attire. Without explaining why and how he came to know where they were going, he led them up into the hills, to a ridge overlooking a few big rocky outcrops on the other side of a small valley. They walked along the ridgeline, van Helsing picking his way carefully along in the growing darkness – his limitations in darkness in no way applied to Hess and Belos, but they followed along as they had agreed. In the last, fading bit of daylight, the American raised a hand, signaling them to stop.
“There. That’s the place.”
‘The place’ was a rock overhang on a steep, rocky hillside overlooking Soultzeren. A large boulder blocked the entrance to what appeared to be a small cave. The three conspirators crouched in some low bushes a few hundred yards to the east, reconnoitering the area.
“So this is why you needed us? Brute strength, to move a rock?” Belos frowned at van Helsing. “You could have used a lever.”
“Not exactly.” Van Helsing leaned back on his hands. “I was on the trail of the guy who moved the cache. In fact, if you two had gotten to the cemetery in Strasbourg a month earlier, you’d have found the gold there. But someone beat you to it, and I was able to trail him here.”
“So,” Hess asked, “why did you not confront him?”
Belos and Hess traded a look. They had no fondness for each other, and had not for several centuries now, but the oddness of working with an ordinary man, and a van Helsing at that, was not lost on them. The old Dutch family had been involved with such as they for a long time, even earning them literary recognition in a famous old novel and, much as that novel had gotten badly wrong about such as Hess and Belos, it still maintained a perverse sort of popularity, even among their kind.
“I hear something,” Belos said. Sure enough, Hess listened carefully, turning his head one way and the other; someone was indeed approaching the cavelet, from the north.
“Let’s go, then, and see who we have to deal with.” Hess led the way down the slope, across the small valley, to a clearing a few paces away from the cavelet. It was dark now, but a full moon was rising, providing enough light for even van Helsing to see easily. The moonlight also revealed the figure approaching them from the north: A tall, painfully thin figure, wearing the clothes of a French peasant, with sunken cheeks and hollow eyes. Belos examined the newcomer closely; there was something familiar about him, something from the war…
Then Hess stepped forward. “Reinhard Heydrich, as I live and breathe,” he said, not without irony. He glanced at Belos; one bushy white eyebrow raised. Belos nodded, slightly.
The cadaverous man bowed. “Rudolf. Or whatever your name is today. Please, I go by Heinz Mueller now.”
“Then you may call me Jurgen. Jurgen Hess. My comrades here are Braxton Iocca and Alexander van Helsing.”
“Van Helsing, is it?” ‘Mueller’ examined the young American closely. “Not one of us,” he said. He looked back at Hess. “You pick strange allies. Not only a normal man, but a van Helsing as well.”
“Sure as hell ain’t one of you,” van Helsing snapped. “Don’t mean we can’t work together, though.”
“I confess,” Hess smiled, “I had no idea you were one of us. My compliments on your concealment. You were supposed to have died in Prague in 1942.”
“And you were supposed to have died in Spandau Prison, only a few days ago. We would both seem to have cheated the reaper.”
“What are you doing here?” Belos asked. Van Helsing, taken aback and slightly confused at the calm tenor of the conversation, looked at Belos, then at Heydrich/Mueller, and took a step back. There was a thick tension in the air.
Hess sidled away to look at the boulder blocking the cave.
“I am,” Heydrich/Mueller said, “minding my own business. I suggest you do likewise. There is nothing here that concerns you. Any of you.”
“We were just in that village,” Belos turned and pointed towards Soultzeren, “and were told the strangest story about these hills.”
“What? Who did you speak to?” Heydrich/Mueller took a step forward, looked down the hill…
…and stopped. His eyes opened wide, and he let out a gasp, then fell forward on his face.
Hess stood behind him. His right hand was still extended, bloody, his long fingers tipped in nails that had lengthened into chitin talons. In his hand was Heydrich/Mueller’s still-beating heart. Hess looked at the heart, at Heydrich/Mueller’s rapidly shriveling corpse, then at Belos and van Helsing, who stood wide-eyed.
“I never liked him,” Hess said. “He was a filthy, uncultured animal.” He tossed the heart into the bushes. “I see, young Alex, why you didn’t want to deal with him on your own. He would have been too much for you. Perhaps even for your grandfather, were he alive today.” Hess bent and pulled a handful of long grass, wiped his bloody hand clean with it. “Let’s get into the cave and retrieve the gold, shall we?”
09 September 1987 – Marseille
“Well, well,” the oily little Frenchman breathed. “You were speaking true, then. This is a lot of gold.”
Hess prudently didn’t mention the other two caches he knew of: not in front of the others.
“I can exchange it for South African krugerrands, or Swiss gold francs. Five percent of the proceeds in either case is to be mine, for facilitating the transaction. It will take a few days; I’ll have to weigh all this, get some spot prices, stir up some of my contacts to source the currency. Or I could perhaps just have this melted, get rid of all those annoying swastikas. Recast it into straight bullion. It could be that I could even see it properly marked, three nines fine.”
“Swiss coin would be best,” Belos said. “How long will this take? A few days, you say?”
“Perhaps. Perhaps five days, perhaps a week. Who can say? But I will guarantee you are satisfied. I have not become the most trusted currency exchanger in the French Riviera for nothing, you know.”
Hess spoke up. “We stay here, watch you weigh the gold. Then we take the gold with us; we come back in one week to make the exchange.”
“My sources, they will expect to see the raw gold they are exchanging.”
“They may bring the coin to the exchange. We will not leave this gold with you.”
“It might be that this will work. It might be that my sources trust me this much. I will contact them. If these terms are acceptable, I will telephone you. You can be reached by telephone, oui?”
“We can. We are staying at the InterContinental Marseille. Call Room 514,” Hess said. It turned out Belos’ resources already extended far enough for a good hotel, and for once Hess couldn’t fault his generosity.
Weighing the gold took some time. When that was done, the Frenchman – he had given his name as Pierre Bouchard, which Hess found improbable – clapped his hands together.
“Very well. I have my figures and can determine how many Swiss coins we will need. I will call you when I have them and arrange the trade. It will be so. Come, then, let us share a glass to our mutual enterprise.”
The four men shared a glass of heavy red wine; then the three conspirators walked out into the Marseille night.
Van Helsing spoke up. “He’s gonna try to fuck us, isn’t he?”
“Yes,” Hess agreed. “He is most certainly going to try to, as you say, fuck us.”