A Glibertarians Exclusive: Blood and Gold, Part V
19 September 1987 – Marseille
Hess pulled his hand out of the coat pocket, hissing in agony as the ultraviolet lights burned his flesh. He extended his arm. Van Helsing, aiming at Belos’ knee, didn’t notice the movement, but Bouchard did, and squawked in alarm.
Too late. Hess shot the heavy gold coin with his thumb, as a child would do a coin-flip to settle a wager. The heavy gold coin slammed through the fuse box, shattering it.
The UV lamps went out. So did the regular lighting. The room was plunged into darkness.
Our element now, Hess said silently.
The Frenchman Bouchard was still standing behind the table. When the lights went out, he dropped the case of Swiss coins and the knapsack of Nazi gold and turned to flee. Too late; Hess leaped after him, grabbed him, and threw him at van Helsing. The American was still standing as well, pumping shots from his sidearm at where Belos had been crouching under the onslaught of UV light – but Belos was no longer there.
The Frenchman crashed into van Helsing, who dropped his pistol. Both men fell to the floor. Belos scooped up Bouchard with one hand, slammed a foot down on van Helsing. He looked at Hess.
“Father,” he asked. “Thirsty?”
Hess grinned. Belos tossed the Frenchman to him, then reached to snatch van Helsing off the floor.
Moments later, two corpses lay on the floor – not the two van Helsing and Bouchard had intended. Hess stepped to the fuse box and threw the master switch on the side to OFF. He opened the fuse box and retrieved the gold coin from where it was lodged in the back panel; the coin was slightly scorched but otherwise undamaged.
“Always insist on gold,” Hess advised. Belos, still wiping blood from his mouth, grinned.
Hess pondered for approximately six seconds. “We take all the gold. We shall have to find some other way to launder the Nazi bullion, but that’s not impossible. I propose a fifty-fifty split of each, bullion and Swiss coin. Does that suit you?”
It was a fair enough offer. “It does,” Belos replied.
They divided the loot as agreed. Belos took the case, while Hess retained the leather knapsack. “What now?” Belos asked when that was done.
“They planned to burn the building with us inside. I suspect they have containers of petrol or something else suitable here somewhere. Turnabout, it seems, is indicated.”
They walked away into the night as the first flickering lights came from the windows of the late Bouchard’s business. Hess was pensive; Belos, noting the older man’s unusual quiet, looked at him, raised a questioning eyebrow.
“I may as well tell you,” Hess said. “I know of two other caches of Nazi gold. München, and Rome. What say you, ‘son’? We made a fair enough partnership on this adventure.”
“What say I?” Belos smiled. “I say, lead on, ‘father.’”
21 November 1987 – south of Encampment, Wyoming
Belos Ionescu – “Braxton Iocca,” as his British passport proclaimed – stopped his rented car at a lonely gate on what the signs proclaimed to be Wyoming State Highway 230. A mailbox stood at the end of the lane the gate blocked; a label on the mailbox proclaimed the family name: VAN HELSING. A house and some outbuildings stood a few hundred meters away from the highway. No other habitations were in sight.
Belos looked at his watch. 2:14 AM. They’ll all be asleep. Good. It’s time to cut away this last branch of that troublesome family.
He got out of the car, closed the door slowly, and started through the darkness towards the house.
22 April 1988 – Utah, United States
Hess had insisted on coming to view the property in the evening, as the sun was sinking behind the mountains to the west. The listing was for over three hundred acres of what the American real-estate agent described as ‘badlands’ surrounding a huge mesa, a column of red-brown rock about three times as wide as it was tall.
“You said, there is a path to the summit,” Hess asked. “Do you think it could be expanded to a road?”
“I’m not an engineer,” the realtor demurred. “But I would think so, yes. I can refer you to a couple of reputable local engineers that could tell you for sure.”
“Very well.” Hess examined the rocky slopes critically. Yes. A house atop the rocks – an aerie. This place, this high, dry, lonely place, it is very different than any place I’ve lived in before. But what is life without change?
“When may I speak with your engineer? Assuming that it would be possible to build on that high mesa, I think I would be interested in making an offer on this property.”
“I’ll call my guy first thing in the morning,” the realtor promised.
04 August 2497 CE – Tarbos, high orbit
Hess looked up. His ‘granddaughter,’ Christine, had just walked through the portal into the Red Witch’s control suite. “Yes?”
“Is everything all right?”
“Of course, child. I was… woolgathering. Pay it no mind.”
“As you wish.” Christine sat at the pilot’s station. Her long, slim hands flew over the control boards. “We’re far enough out of Tarbos’ gravity well. I can program the jump to Jinx now.”
“Good. Please do so.”
Christine programmed the yacht’s navigation suite with quick precision. With that done, she leaned back in the pilot’s chair. “Done. We’ll be at Jinx in about twelve hours. Amazing what that drive upgrade did for transit times.”
Christine looked at Hess keenly. He seemed uncharacteristically self-absorbed. “Are you sure everything is all right?”
Hess shook his head. “Thinking of old times,” he said. The old man smiled. “There are always those moments, when you have lived as long as I have, when you could have been ended very easily. I was remembering one such, one very nearly five hundred years ago now. In years to come, I expect you will have occasion to do the same.”
“I’m sure I will. In the meantime, we have our interests in the Rim Worlds to deal with.”
“Yes,” Hess said. “Business always requires attention.”
He lapsed back into thoughtfulness as the yacht jumped into hyperspace for the transit to the Rim Worlds.