Bedside Manner: Chapter 6

Bedside Manner: Chapter 6

A Chapter by Bad Medicine

                Nicklaus had been looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and son.  That thought was a beacon of light was what he tried to focus on " not the sickening things happening at the Charité Hospital that had led to a promotion closer to him.  He didn't like the ideology of the Party, but, it was a position his uncle would surely approve of " along with the uniform, and the greatcoat that helped keep the cold at bay as the man stepped out of his car and into the snow.


                He paused then.  There was a new car in the driveway " a Mercedes, like his, only white instead of black.  It seemed odd that Gunar would suddenly sell his beloved car and get a new one.  It was only the first of many signs that something was terribly wrong.


                Nicklaus just stood on the porch for a long moment.  In the last couple of years, Gunar had been less cautious in keeping his angry, drunken raving and abuse just between the two of them.  His wife and, most unfortunately, their son, had heard and, worse, perhaps seen some of their altercations.


                Nicklaus had never fought back, though " neither verbally nor physically.  It had been his fault, no matter how unintentional, that his father and grandfather were dead.  Gunar was always ready to remind him of " and punish him for " that fact.


                Gunar had at least had the courtesy to wait until Lukas and Sofia had gone off to sleep before starting in on his nephew.  That wasn't always the case, though.  Things had been getting worse, and Gunar's talk of his disappointment with Lukas's eyes " his 'imperfection " only added to Nicklaus's growing sense of dread.


                He finally opened the front door, though, and stepped inside " told himself that everything would be fine.  Perhaps, even, his uncle would be pleased with him, for once.  It was Christmas Eve, after all, and he had finally broken down and joined the Party.  It had been a few months back, almost just after starting work at the Charité.  Some of the work at the hospital had been, in Nicklaus's esteem, quite unseemly, and things only seemed to get worse once he had joined.  His supervisors were pleased to discover that a mixture of drugs administered to a 'guest' made the doctor's voice quite soothing " and he became rather talented at extracting information from 'guests' with no more bloodshed than the drop from an injection.  It hadn't been too long before he had been offered (and accepted) a rank " an officer's rank, no less " for his work.  It meant leaving the hospital, and joining the military " albeit not at the front lines.


                Obersturmfürher Nicklaus Fleischer.  It sounded imposing " 'imposing' was what Gunar liked, not some idiot coddling patients in a hospital instead of putting their muscle to use on the front line.  This, Nicklaus hoped as he quietly closed the front door, would be some kind of acceptable compromise.


                It wasn't.


                Gunar, sitting at the kitchen table with a glass of scotch in hand, was less than pleased.  He had been all too happy to argue with his nephew " to loudly, and harshly rebuke his every attempt to explain himself.


                Nicklaus was used to the abuse and, given the late hour, and his uncle's exceptionally sour demeanor, it was no wonder that Lukas and Sofia were nowhere in sight.  "Are Sofia and Lukas upstairs?" he finally asked, his voice, his whole bearing, rather deflated and subdued.


                His uncle gave a harsh snort in response, along with a sharp, dismissive wave of his hand.  "With any luck they've both shuffled off the mortal coil."


                Gunar, at that moment, might as well have not even existed.  Nicklaus rushed from the room, and took the stairs two and three at a time to reach the upper level of the house.  He all but sprinted down the hallway, and threw open the door to the master bedroom.  Sofia wasn't there " in fact, almost none of her things were there, either.  Her clothes were gone, and her hairbrush, and books.  The haphazard state of the room " cabinets and drawers  hanging open " said that they had all been packed and taken in a hurry, too.


                "Sofia…?" he called, feeling more tense and frantic  by the moment.  "Liebe?" he said, rushing from the room, and down the hall.  He paused in front of Lukas's room, and held his breath as he opened the door.




                The boy was gone.  The cabinets and drawers in his room were just as haphazardly opened as those in the master bedroom " packed in just as much of a hurry.  Even the boy's toys were gone " all but one.


                " Beschützer…" Nicklaus murmured, all but collapsing to sit on the edge of the bed.  The bear was tipped on its side, not left in its usual place of honor on the pillow.  The boy never would have dreamed of leaving it behind " which meant he hadn't known he was leaving.


                The bear, then, was carefully picked up.  Nicklaus held it carefully in his gloved hands, turning it to face him.  It was well-loved, but meticulously cared for.  It had meant the world to the boy " and in the rush to leave it had been, accidentally no doubt, left behind.


                It was the only thing that had been left behind " the only thing left of his little boy.  It was soon being hugged tightly to Nicklaus's chest as tears ran unabashedly down the man's face.  Tears, however, soon turned into uncontrollable sobs.  His shoulders shook, and he had slumped forward a little and, in that moment, he couldn't have cared less if Gunar showed up and saw him.


                Gunar didn't show up and see him, though " he had the nerve to speak.  "They aren't coming back," he stated sharply.  "Such a shame " she was perfect, you could have tried again for a boy with blue eyes."


                That was what this was all about?  That's what was so important to the man?  Nicklaus gave a hard swallow, and very suddenly realized that his heart was pounding, and his throat had tightened.  He felt like nothing so much as a tightly coiled spring.  "What… did you do?" he asked,  his voice low, and not nearly as shaky as the rest of him.


                For a moment, Gunar just scowled in response, as though he couldn't believe his nephew was so clueless that he had to be told.  "That stupid boy got what  was coming to him."


                Nicklaus had thought it impossible, but he actually grew more tense.  What on earth had the man done?  Had he pushed the boy?  Had he slapped him?  Worse?  His uncle had never hit Sofia or Lukas before, not to the man's knowledge, at least.  The thought of Gunar hitting a seven-year-old boy " his seven-year-old boy -  made Nicklaus feel sick.  It made him feel something else, too.


                "What," Nicklaus started, his voice low, and tense, "did you do to him?"


                "For God's sake, you idiot, a black eye is nothing," Gunar practically spat.   "You're both such babies " you, especially, for your age."


                The man admitted it without shame " without guilt " as though hitting a defenseless boy was the most natural, most normal thing in the world.  His nephew ordinarily would have wondered if it was the scotch talking " but, at the moment, he didn't care.  Instead, he walked out of Lukas's room with the bear in hand, and practically shoved past his uncle.  He ignored the tirade that started behind him, and started towards the front door.


                Beschützer was placed carefully in the passenger seat of Nicklaus's car.  When he turned around to start walking, again, he did not walk towards the house.  He was sharply aware of everything as he walked; the crunch of snow under his boots, every falling flake, the feeling of cold winter air in his lungs, and the small plumes of steam as he exhaled.


                The door to the stables was opened smoothly, and quietly, and Nicklaus walked straight towards the equipment rack.  The object  he was looking for was still there, as always.  The item itself was all too familiar, let alone the dark dots and splotches that still stained its leather tassels.


                Nicklaus exited the stables just as quietly as he had entered them " didn't even seem to have woken up any of the horses.  Good " they didn't deserve to suffer in the slightest, not even a bit of missed sleep, for he or Gunar's actions.


                Gunar was in the living room when his nephew returned.  He was sat in the coziest chair in the house, his back to the door, and his front to the warmth of the crackling fireplace.  An open bottle of scotch was on the table to his left, and the shot glass he had been using earlier was only half empty.  Good " that meant he was at least mostly sober.


                Sober " but still not terribly alert.  Nicklaus quietly loosened the coil of braided leather in his hands.  In a split second, he had thrown the whip over Gunar's head, and pulled it tight around his neck;


                Gunar, naturally, tried to protest.  He flailed, and knocked the shot glass and bottle over, spilling their contents onto himself, and the floor.  He tried to speak, and his nephew could only imagine that he was trying to add a diatribe to the hundreds he'd already heaped up on him.  His back was trapped against the chair, which made it nearly impossible for him to turn and take a swing at his assailant.


                Nicklaus wasn't used to winning against his uncle.  He wasn't even used to fighting back.  Despite the violent struggling of his uncle, he found himself quietly wondering if this was truly fighting back for his own sake, or for the sake of the suffering he'd inflicted on Sofia and Lukas.


                Some dark, primal part of his brain really didn't care about the details.  The fact was, Nicklaus had been attacked a number of times by the creature on the chair, which was getting no less than it deserved.  Nicklaus, at that, pulled even tighter.  He could see the flesh above and below the braided leather bulging just a bit.  The whip was pulled so tight that he could feel the man's pulse through even it and his leather gloves.


                Those gloves were clawed at.  Gunar, like an animal, kicked, and flailed, and clawed at the whip and his nephew's hands.  It was the leather gloves of the man's new uniform " the one he 'hadn't earned' " that protected him, though, and he just pulled tighter.


                Nicklaus could see the moment that his uncle truly started to die.  His body started to go slack, and his hands shook as his fingers twitched and seized from the lack of oxygen.  The man's pulse was growing more erratic, and his eyes were bulging, and starting to roll back in his head.


                Classic suffocation " absolutely textbook.  It wasn't long before the man's face started to go red, then purple, followed by a tinge of blue.  His lips moved a little " a curse, no doubt, unable to be given voice with his throat cinched shut.


                It was only after Gunar was truly quiet and still, after his pulse had stopped entirely, that he was released to fall to the floor.  He landed directly in the puddle of scotch that had formed from the bottle, tipped out on the floorboards.


                Nicklaus's suddenly realized that his palms burned from gripping and pulling the ends of the whip so tightly.  It was inconsequential, though " an unimportant detail that was quickly pushed aside.  A much more important thing to note were the ligature marks around Gunar's neck " red, and raw, and bruising from the friction of braided leather on skin.


                That was not textbook suffocation " that was textbook murder.  The puddle of scotch soaking into Gunar's clothing, however, offered a ready and easy fix.  The man kept the liquor cabinet full " and there were times when he emptied it rather quickly.


                Now, the cabinet was being emptied again " not into Gunar, but onto him " and the chair, and the table, and the floorboards, and the stone hearth.  Nicklaus even made sure to drop a bottle or two, and make sure that they were shattered on the floor.


                Gunar would have knocked them over.  He was a violent drunk, and all their neighbors knew it.  All their neighbors had known it, and they said nothing.  Of course, Gunar was nice enough to them " nice to the neighbors, and Doctor Schmidt, and all the people who couldn't or wouldn't admit that he was what he was.  Nobody would dare accuse an injured war veteran of giving a child a black eye, or beating his nephew with a whip until his back and arms were smeared red with blood.


                Perhaps he had deserved it " but, Lukas hadn't.  Lukas hadn't deserved one ounce of violence from anyone ever, let alone that drunken wretch.  His habit would be the method of covering up the fate that he deserved.


                Nicklaus couldn't help but cough and almost gag a little at the smell of alcohol hanging thickly in the air.  Gunar, and the chair, and the floorboards were soaked in it " and there was a trail of the stuff ending perilously close to the fire.  There was only one last item needed to cover  up the crime " the last bottle of Gunar's favorite whiskey.


                Nicklaus couldn't help but pull a face as he held the bottle " it wouldn't be intact for long.  He let it rest on the table, leaving it only for the few minutes it took him to gather up some of his own things to pack the car.


                The bottle wasn't forgotten, though.  Nicklaus was soon picking it up, glancing at the label with an expression of disgust on his face.  He didn't hesitate in the slightest as he cocked his arm back, and hurled the bottle into the fireplace.  It shattered, of course; its contents caught flame as they sprayed out onto the hearth.  Little burning embers of liquor were soon rolling over the hearth, and the floor, and the alcohol-soaked boards didn't take long to catch.


                Nicklaus just stood for a moment, watching as the fire slowly crept across the floor " as it gradually got hotter, and moved faster.  It wasn't long before his uncle's clothing, along with the chair, had gone up.  The man's nephew just stood for a long moment, watching the flames eat through Gunar's clothing " watched as skin started to go red, and then black, and then start peeling.


                That was all he had wanted to see.  That was all he had needed to see, and Nicklaus turned to take his leave.  He heard a roar as the Christmas tree went up, just as he stepped through the door.  He hesitated only a moment before closing that door behind him; he wished there was no part of him that would mourn the loss of the house.  It had ceased to be a good place to live after his father and grandfather had died, though.


                Nicklaus wasn't entirely sure what he was feeling as he got back in the car.  He could hand the property over to the family that owned the brewery they supplied.  They were very long-time family friends, and could be trusted, at least, to take care of the stables and the farm. 


                He dallied considerably in reaching the next town " acted suitably surprised and panicked as he told the fire chief that he had come home for Christmas to find the house in flames.  By the time help arrived, nearly the entire house was engulfed in fire, and Nicklaus's footsteps to and from the stables had been covered by snow.

© 2012 Bad Medicine

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Added on February 29, 2012
Last Updated on March 12, 2012
Tags: Germany, WWII, family, violence, murder, nazi