Chamber of Horrors

 

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Dachau Concentration Camp
Munich, Germany
September 27, 1944

“Your parents are flying through the air.”

Sydney and Jacob heard the words called out after them as they ran with the other inmates of their block from the shower quarters to their room. Glances passed quickly between them but it was hard work to keep up with the men as they ran to avoid being beaten by the guards. Once they got back, however, the two boys made their way to Henri’s bunk. There, they found him lying on his back and struggling to regain his breath, shivering and perspiring at the same time; however, when he saw the boys, he sat up immediately.

“We need to talk to you.”

”Of course. What is it?”

Together, they told him about the comment they had heard shouted above the sound of so many boots and shoes running along the ground, muddy after the first of the autumn rains.

“Is it true, Henri?” “How are they flying?” The two voices were simultaneous. A second of silence passed and then Henri gathered the young boys and sat them on his emaciated knees.

“There are stories going around that some people in other camps are sometimes gathered into a room and die there. It is said that many people have died in this way, together. And that, you know, is better than dying alone and afraid.” Henri tried to smooth over the truth, to make it more palatable to the mind of the ten-year-old boys.

“Like the gas chamber here at Dachau?”

Henri silently cursed the rumor mill that was so active in the camp. “Yes, like the chamber here. It has been said that some camps have more than one chamber and that they actually use them there.”

“Are they burning them, like they do here?”

“More.” The word slipped out before Henri could help himself.

Sydney looked over his shoulder to where, in the increasing darkness, the sky glowed red and yellow as the flames climbed through the chimneys and out into the blackness above.

“So our parents were - in that?”

Henri sighed. “It’s possible. It didn’t happen here, though. You know that your mother’s train never came here. After Doctor Krieg came and took the two of you, the group containing your father was put on the train again. It’s likely that he was taken to another camp, not far from Linz in Austria.”

”Another one?”

“We spent so long in the first one, from that other camp.”

Henri sighed again, sadly, and tried to think of a way to explain the truth to the boys who were determined to deny everything, both to themselves and him. Eventually he realized that he would have to simply tell them the honest truth. They would hear the same story, no matter whom they went to, and he would rather that they heard it from him. Resettling himself slightly and allowing the two boys to slide off his knees and sit on either side of him, he started to explain.

“There are stories going around about things happening in other camps. Terrible things. I told you that some people even say that they are burning bodies of people who are still alive…”

Henri was woken up during the night by two hands shaking him gently. Looking up, he was able, in the light caused by the continually burning furnaces, to see the faces of the two boys, both streaked with tears.

“What is it?” He sat up and pulled the two boys into the bed with him.

“It’s true, isn’t it?”

Henri nodded. “I wouldn’t tell you lies about something like that. It’s better that you know because, here, the more you know, the better chance you have to survive. Although you will never have to go through a selection…”

”What’s that?”

“It’s when all of the prisoners go out onto the Appellplatz and are forced to run in front of the doctors.”

“Like Dr. Leiden?”

“Yes, and Doctor Krieg.”

“And they - pick people?”

Henri smoothed Sydney's hair and wiped a stray tear from Jacob’s cheek with gentle, almost loving hands. “The people who can’t work any more are taken away to one of the other camps. Sometimes their things are brought back here and given to other people.”

There was a few seconds of silence while Henri tried to think of something else to say. As he was about to open his mouth, Jacob spoke.

“Will you help us?”

“How?” Henri’s voice was full of curiosity.

“Will you look after us? Make sure that we do everything right?”

Henri paused for a moment, realizing that the longing he had had before he left Paris of having a family might actually have a chance of coming true. However he had to admit the truth. “I can’t possibly protect you from everything here. But I will do my best - make sure that you know what might happen and how you can do your best to avoid it.”
The two boys nestled closer to him and Henri took comfort from the warmth of their closeness. Closing his eyes, he sent up a brief prayer to hope that he could fulfill the trust placed in him by the two small, innocent, orphaned boys.

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware
December 24, 1963

The door opened and the lights were switched on at the usual time but the figure that stood in the doorway was not the same.

“Get up.” A hand threw clothes in the direction of the boy, who pulled himself into a sitting position and caught the bundle with pure instinct.

“Who are you?”

The knock that sent the head back onto the pillow was only relatively light but, to a child who had never been struck, it was dumbfounding. He looked up at the stranger in shock.

“Well? Didn’t you hear what I said? We have work to do. You have ten minutes. No, five. Be ready when I return.”

The door slammed shut and the child pulled himself up on the bed, clutching the clothes in a nervous hand. In fact, as he saw in a moment, they were not his own garments. The items he held in his hand bore no resemblance to the lovingly hand-knitted jumpers and the well-fitting pants that had been brought with him to this place. These were a shapeless, gray pair of pants and top made in the same material. As he donned them, Jarod could feel his skin crawl at the feel of the unfamiliar material and he looked with longing at the pajamas he had just removed.

Several minutes later the man returned to find the boy dressed and waiting. A curt nod was all the direction that Jarod received and had it not been for the fact that he was aware of the destination, he would likely have received another cuff for going the wrong way through the winding passages. At the door of the lab, Jarod stopped, accustomed to allowing Sydney to enter first, but this time a hand was placed into the middle of his back and he was shoved forward, banging his head smartly on the door.

“Well, what are you waiting for? The door isn’t going to open itself.”

Reaching up, almost blindly, Jarod's hand found the doorknob and he staggered thankfully into the room. As he did every other day, Jarod headed for the chair that he sat on while Sydney read out the program but this time a hand grabbed his shoulder and he was shoved into the corner of the room.

“What do you think you’re doing? Do you expect to sit on a throne like a prince while I have to stand? You will come here,” a hand pointed to a spot immediately in front of the seat in which the strange man had seated himself. Jarod scrambled to his feet, his head throbbing painfully, and stood, as he saw, within arm’s distance of the man. Slowly, as if to an imbecile, the man began explaining his tasks for the day.

* * * * * * * * *

January 2, 1964

Sydney entered the room as usual, refreshed after the short holiday that he and Jacob had spent together at White Cloud Lake, to find Jarod standing, already fully dressed, by the bed. As the door opened, the young man had shuffled slightly backwards until his back was pressed against the wall and his bed was made with the sheets pulled so tightly that Sydney would later wonder how the mattress hadn’t bent in the middle.

“Good morning, sir.” The words came out before Jarod had really focused on the person that walked through the door and Sydney's eyebrows rose to see the young boy peering into the darkened hallway behind him and he made haste to step into the room and close the door.

“What is it, Jarod?”

“Sydney?”

“Of course. Who else would it be?”

“I…never mind.”

It perplexed the psychiatrist to see that Jarod had still not relaxed his stance at all and, as he walked over to the one chair in the room and sat down, Sydney tried to work out what had caused the change.

“Aren’t you going to sit down, Jarod?”

“I…prefer to stand, thank you.”

Sydney nodded thoughtfully and watched as Jarod came and stood in a spot directly in front of him, his eyes focused on the floor. For a few seconds, Sydney waited, his eyes having seen that the boy was trying to disguise a limp. At the end of the time of silence, Sydney could see that Jarod was biting his lip and sweating profusely in, the psychiatrist supposed, a desperate attempt to hide the pain he was feeling. Reaching out a hand, Sydney suddenly and rapidly lifted up the sleeve of the gray top Jarod was wearing and gasped aloud as he saw the bruises that stood out along his whole upper limb.

“Who did it?”

Jarod shifted his gaze so that he was looking out of the small, barred window and refused to answer.

“Jarod, I want to know who did this to you.”

”I can’t say.” The whisper was almost silent but Sydney detected it and immediately walked over to the intercom, high on the wall. With a swipe of his security card, he activated it.

“I want a medical cart brought down here at once.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Sydney…”

There was a pause.

“Sydney, no, please. If you do it, he’ll be so angry.”

”Who, Jarod?”

There was another pause, and then the words rushed out like water over the edge of Niagara Falls. “The man who was here instead of you for the last two weeks; who said that he would be taking over from you and that I wouldn’t see you again, ever.”

* * * * * * * * *

25 Washington Avenue
Blue Cove, Delaware

Miss Parker stepped through the open door and into a hallway cluttered with clothes and other assorted items.

“Sydney?” Her voice echoed back at her through the empty ground floor but from above she could hear sounds of movement - vigorous movement - that betrayed the existence of another person. As Miss Parker climbed the stairs, she could hear banging and a muttering of a familiar voice and, as she threw open the door in front of her, the figure turned for a moment before continuing to throw items randomly onto the bed, on which sat an open suitcase.

“What are you doing?”

Ignoring her, Sydney continued to throw items into the case until, when his back was turned, Miss Parker shut it and sat on it.

“Again, Sydney, what are you doing?”

“Leaving.” The word came out almost like a growl but Miss Parker hardly noticed as she threw back her head and laughed aloud.

“You’ve said that before. Why should this time be any different?”

He came close to her and looked at her where she sat, her eyes on a level with his. “Because this time I know exactly how much danger I’m in. And, after what I’ve seen…” His voice trailed off and he turned away slightly. “I can’t stay.”

“And Jarod?”

”Jarod is probably safer than any of us, out in the world and no longer within the Centre. If I’d known…”

”Known what, Sydney?” Miss Parker's voice was impatient. Getting up off the bed she began to pace the length of the room.

“Known how unsafe it was, with certain people running the place.”

“Who do you mean, Sydney? My…?”

Taking advantage of the situation and the fact that Miss Parker's back was turned, Sydney grabbed the case, locked it, and ran out of the room. She turned around to find that he was gone and her question unanswered. To the empty room, in a half-whisper, she finished it. “My father?”

* * * * * * * * *

Hueber Family Home
Scottsdale, Arizona

“More tea, Jarod?”

The pretender shook his head, a smile on his face. “No thanks.”

Smiling, the woman replaced the teapot on the stand over the candle and looked at him. “I suppose you think it’s rather strange that I do things this way.”

”I’ve certainly never seen tea drunk this way before,” Jarod answered carefully.

“We were German, you see, and we moved when Julie-Ann was only a baby. We brought a lot of our traditions with us.”

“Can you tell me about your daughter?”

The woman smiled a little sadly and glanced at the framed photo that sat on the table in front of them. Jarod readied himself for the long spiel that such a question usually prompted.

“She was our everything.”

That was all, one sentence, and for a moment Jarod waited for more. There was no more, though, and the pause that was gradually intruding was, he felt, quite hard to overcome.

“She was beautiful.”

“She looked like her father used to.”

”Used to?”

The woman looked up and her face now took on the sad expression he had first noticed when he had arrived at the house.

“My husband took the death of Julie-Ann very hard.” The widow swallowed. “He caught the flu the following winter and it spread into pneumonia. He had always been susceptible to infections when he was younger and, when he worsened, he told me that he wanted to be with our daughter again. Who was I to stop him? I couldn’t have, anyway, even if I’d wanted to.” She sighed and gently blew her nose on a tissue that had formerly been peeping out of the end of her sleeve.

“I’m sorry.”

She nodded. “Most people are, you know. But I suppose there’s nothing else to say. So they’re gone and I’m making the most of it. Still, even though Dr. Eaton thought he could come up with a cure before she died, at least her death will be able to help others.”

Jarod nodded consolingly, letting his gaze wander to the photo and the smiling face of the girl that looked out of the frame.

* * * * * * * * *

Sydney looked out through the window to the darkening sky. A light rain was falling but in some parts of the sky there were no clouds and in these areas stars could be seen. After abandoning his house, Sydney had driven without being aware of the direction. He had no plan in mind but a desperate desire to get away. The sun had gradually begun to slip down the horizon and, as oncoming vehicles had flashed their high beams at him to get him to put on his headlights, Sydney had slowly become aware of how late it was. Getting out of the car after more than eight hours behind the wheel, it had taken him several minutes to be able to straighten up. But now, oblivious to time, he knelt on an abandoned block of land, fences on three sides hiding him from view and a row of trees doing the same on the fourth. His car was some distance away; his case in the trunk, but Sydney had suddenly felt hemmed in by the metal around him and had wanted to get out. He stood in the middle of plot, having stopped in an area between major towns and without lit streets. The grass in the unmanaged area reached almost to the hem of his coat and gently stroked the clenched fists that hung by his sides, whispering to him in seeming sympathy.

“We’re free, Sydney.” A voice from the past seemed to be standing beside him. “I can finally believe that we’re free.”

“I wish I could believe it, too.”

“Believe it, Sydney. We can go home again.”

“And what will we find when we get there, Jacob? Will it all be the same as it was before? Can we be happy as well as free? An end to the suffering?”

Now, as had happened more than fifty years ago, there was silence as Sydney asked the question to the empty land. He had thought it was true. He had begun, finally, to hope that those dreams might be coming true.

But there could never be an end to the suffering….

* * * * * * * * *

Jarod's lair
Scottsdale, Arizona

Sitting back in his chair with a sigh, Jarod dropped the last page on top of the pile and stared at it.

“No sign.”

The words were said aloud but he had no idea that they had been audible and the rest of his thoughts were silent. There was no sign that Julie-Ann’s body was used for scientific purposes. It had been transported from her home, where she had died, to the laboratory of Dr. Eaton and then, several days later, taken for burial. Having looked through all of the laboratory’s records, Jarod was beginning to believe that the body had never been touched by the scientist and, although he wouldn’t go as far as the exhume the body, Jarod was willing to lay money on the fact that any marks would have been caused prior to death and not after it. That meant that the mother’s wish for the daughter had not been fulfilled. Julie-Ann’s body had never been used and her death would have created no further progress in the search for a cure.

In fact, thought Jarod as he got to his feet and began to pace, there didn’t even seem to be any research into a cure. The work that Eaton had shown him was similar to other work being carried out in laboratories all over the world and could have been bought for the right price. His own investigations had, in fact, shown further steps being taken in other places that brought the possibility of a cure much closer than it was here, despite the fact that this was the only place in the whole of the United States where this specific cancer was being targeted. Definitely food for thought, Jarod said to himself as he walked over to the fridge and pulled out an O’Henry bar. Food for both thought and stomach…

* * * * * * * * *

The Centre
Blue Cove, Delaware

“What in the name of all that’s good, bad or indifferent happened here?”

Broots spun around to see Miss Parker standing in the doorway and a familiar expression of near panic settled on his face.

“Well, you left to go and find Sydney and then came back and suggested that after I had finished looking for anything on the member of the Triumvirate I might go through Sydney's office in the hope of finding some clue about who he is…”

“Okay, okay!” Miss Parker put her hands over her ears then stepped into the room and looked around. “I asked you to go through it, Broots, not to make it look like a crime scene.”

“I didn’t!” The technician’s protest was vigorous. “It was like this when I got there.”

”That’s what Nixon said about the Watergate,” Miss Parker snorted loudly. “But what I want to know is what he took.”

“N…Nixon?”

Miss Parker shook her head in frustration. “Let’s just assume for the moment that we changed the subject, shall we? I’m talking about Sydney.”

“Oh.”

“So get me a comprehensive list of what was here and isn’t now.”

“B…But, Miss Parker, I don’t know what’s normally here.”

Glancing around, the former cleaner walked over to the desk and scooped up the passport that sat there before turning back to Broots. “Work it out. If something’s missing, I want to know what it was. And I want to know ASAP.”

Turning on her heel, she walked to the door. Before she left, though, she turned back and looked once more at Broots. “What did you find out about our mysterious friend from above?”

He turned a nervous face to her. “Um, not much.”

“In other words, nothing more than when I left before, right?”

“Uh, yes.”

“So, keep looking.”

”Y…yes, Miss Parker.”

The door opened, she stormed through it and then it shut with a firm click behind her. Broots sighed and for the sake of it, stuck out his tongue as far as it would go in the direction she had gone. Maybe it’s a childish thing to do, he thought, but her behavior always made him feel infantine and doing something like that always made him feel a little better. Then, honor satisfied, he turned back to his momentous task.

On to Act IV

 
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