Prison of Hope – Prologue
I promised everyone that I’d put the prologue up for Prison of Hope, and here it is. I’ve added the links to pre-order below it. Hope you enjoy.
Berlin, Germany. 1936.
The two Nazi soldiers stood outside the imposing four-story building, watching those on foot pass them by. The heat from the midday sun must have been hell on them; their shiny, smart uniforms weren’t something I’d want to be wearing when I was standing out in the baking sunshine for a large portion of the day.
I placed the newspaper, an obnoxious piece of journalism that painted the Nazis as some sort of savior, beside me on the park bench and watched the two men nod to a pretty woman who walked past. The men were young, blond, and everything those in charge would want to show as their master race, whatever the fuck that was meant to be.
Nearly eighteen years previously, Germany had lost the Great War and was then humiliated by the British, French, Americans, and anyone else who happened to want a piece of their pie. The German people were angry and hurt by what happened, and that allowed someone like Hitler and his merry band of thugs and killers to come into power. It only took a few years for the Nazi flags to fly proudly on every street and for those deemed lesser, in their narrow vision, to be removed from sight.
For those people the regime had targeted, the Olympics had brought a brief respite, publically at least, but I knew it wouldn’t last. The rumors of people forced to relocate to camps if they were the wrong kind of people, were rife. The rest of Europe, if not the world, had its head firmly buried in the sand, hoping against hope that the frankly obvious war that was looming wouldn’t start anytime soon.
With the Olympics only a few weeks away, and the world watching, the Nazis had done the equivalent of putting their hands in the air to show they weren’t carrying any weapons, while pushing a stack of guns under the table with their feet.
The majority of Germans were good people, but the minority held the power, and they were going to use it to do whatever they liked, no matter how many lives they destroyed in the process. And what they held in the building before me was going to make that destruction a thousand times greater than anything people could imagine.
As the civilians on the streets thinned out, the sun began to creep toward the west, painting the sky orange and purple. I picked up my fedora from next to the newspaper and after put- ting it on, walked across the road. There were few cars about, although no matter what country I’d traveled to, more and more seemed to be appearing with every passing year.
“Guten Tag,” I said to the two soldiers.
They stared at me, but there was no hostile intent in their body language; they appeared calm and relaxed. “How can we help you?” one of them asked.
I glanced past them into the empty reception area of the building. “I’d like to speak to Captain Dehmel.”
The men glanced at each other.
“This is the Gestapo HQ for Department F, yes? He’s expecting me.”
One of the men removed a key from his pocket and unlocked the door, holding it open for me to step inside. Both men followed me into the expansive, but empty, foyer; the one closest to me pulled his revolver and aimed it at my head.
“You will come with us until Captain Dehmel can confirm your appointment.”
I glanced over at his partner, who had also drawn his revolver. Both men were confident and experienced, and I had no doubt that they’d pull the trigger without hesitation if I gave them a reason.
I took a few steps and then stopped. “What floor is Dehmel on?”
“No questions,” the first Nazi snapped, shoving me forward. “Are you not listening to us?” the second Nazi demanded when I stopped walking. “We said move or we will shoot.”
He shoved me again, but I rolled to the side and spun around, pushing his arm aside as he pulled the trigger, so he ended up removing a portion of his partner’s head. The dead Nazi crumpled to the floor, while the sound of the gunshot echoed around the room.
A split second of hesitation on the part of the second Nazi, presumably brought on from the killing of his comrade, was all I needed, and within moments I’d removed his revolver and hit him in the jaw hard enough to knock him to the floor.
“Where’s Captain Dehmel?” I asked.
“Go to hell,” he snapped, so I shot him in the leg. Any pretense of getting to the captain quietly had evaporated the second the first explosion of sound had flown around the floor.
“Don’t make me ask you again,” I ordered as he writhed on the floor.
“Fourth floor,” he said immediately through gritted teeth. “How do I get there?” I aimed the gun at his good leg. “There’s a key to get onto the left stairwell. It’s where all the experiments are run.” With some awkwardness and pain, he fished the sizeable iron key from his belt and passed it over.
“Danke,” I said.
“Are you going to kill me?”
“You never should have taken her,” I said and shot him once in the head, dropping the gun onto his body.
I picked up my hat, which had fallen to the floor as I’d disarmed the second Nazi, and ran to the left side stairs. I used the key to unlock a silver gate that sat in front of the door and then continued my run toward the top of the building.
As I opened the door to the fourth floor, the silence hit me. There was no one in the hallway directly outside of the stairwell, and a few seconds of checking the nearest rooms showed there was no one anywhere. I was about to curse my luck and wonder if the Nazi had given me the wrong directions, when I heard the unmistakable sound of a scream, followed by a gunshot.
I made my way toward the noise, passing by laboratories with doors torn off and blood splattered inside. One room had a blackboard with smudged white chalk on it. What had been intelligible was now covered in blood splatter. Paper littered the floor, and a man sat hunched over in the corner, a puddle of blood underneath him. I took a step into the room as more screams sounded from the far end of the floor, and I quickly changed my mind.
The entrance, an airlock door, had been scorched and twisted, and was covered in even more blood. A young man lay beside it, a revolver in his hand. As I got closer, I saw the bullet hole in his head. A second man lay farther inside the airlock, his charred remains jamming the opposite door open.
There was a crash from the room beyond, and I darted inside, confronted with a dozen bodies, most of which appeared to have been bludgeoned or stabbed to death.
“Hello, Nathan,” a woman said to me as I stepped over the body of a man in a now-red lab coat. “It’s nice to see you again.”
She was quite beautiful, her olive skin and long dark hair a product of her birth millennia ago. Her deep red eyes were from something much less human. She was naked. To many, she appeared to be a perfect woman; to others, she was the devil incarnate.
“Pandora,” I said with a slight bow of my head, “it’s good to finally have found you.” Scorch marks licked the remains of the shattered window, and a man in a German officer uniform cowered in one corner, his eyes darting between Pandora and me.
“Dehmel?” I asked him.
He twitched slightly and then stood, waving a scalpel in my direction.
“What’d you do to him?” I asked Pandora. “And where did those burns come from?” Several small fires had been started on the far side of the room, destroying books and documents that been piled up.
Pandora glanced over at the window and then down at a badly burnt soldier. “We had a friend help us. These men should not have overstepped their boundaries while we were in their company.”
“I assume you allowed yourself to be taken. You could have left at any time, so why didn’t you?”
“We wanted to see if they could help us with our needs. Obviously, their helpfulness has ended.” Pandora always spoke about herself in the plural—some people call it “the royal we.” I guessed that was what happened when you stuck a human and a monster in the same body. It took some getting used to.
She took a few steps toward Dehmel and whispered something to him. He immediately slit his own throat, dropping to the floor beside Pandora, who was busy putting on a pair of trousers and some boots that had been placed neatly on a nearby table.
“If you’ve got plans to run, Pandora, don’t. It only makes things worse.”
“Oh, my dear Nathan, things are going to get much, much worse.” After she finished getting dressed and lacing up some army boots, she ran at the window, then jumped through with- out pausing.
By the time I’d reached the window, Pandora was speeding away on the back of a motorbike, her helper in control of the machine. I sighed and looked around the room. I walked over to the fires and found several singed documents that hadn’t yet been consumed by the flames, but nothing was intact. More information about North Africa, and something about human test subjects. I put the documents in my pocket and searched for any survivors, but there was no one left alive to help me find Pandora’s destination. And help was the one thing I really needed. Because if I didn’t find Pandora soon, the Nazis would no longer be the worst thing that could happen to Europe.
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