October 5, 1961

October 5, 1961

A Chapter by Kris St. James

October 5, 1961


The sound of birdsong awoke Gerhardt Schroeder.  He had slept fitfully in the chair before the television as his past broadcast through his dreams all night long.  He remembered the suitcase and got up to get it.  Outside he heard what sounded like a car crunching up the gravel drive toward his house.  Dropping the suitcase beside the back door, Gerhardt rushed to the window.  Standing on the side of the glass, his body out of sight, he tilted his head just enough to peer at the driveway.  Three black sedans, each with three or four men inside, were parked in front of his home. 

The doors opened, nearly as one, while all eyes focused on the one place Gerhardt called home.  Fear gripped him as it never had before.  Jerking the pistol out of his waistband, he ran to the door and locked it, then shoved the kitchen table against the door and wedged it tight. 

Commands filtered through the walls from outside, issued by an unseen man with an authoritative voice.  Gerhardt didn’t know who was speaking, but he could see as clearly as he’d ever seen anyone or anything, a young man wearing an impressive black fedora with a small, bright red feather in the cap.  A patient man who was in no hurry; who stood casually by with his coat unbuttoned and both hands in his pants pockets; a curious spectator who was interested in seeing how this little production would finally unfold.  

The voice came from someone else; someone with enough firepower at his disposal to dispense with patience and waiting.

“You three men go around back.”

“John, keep an eye on the window.”

“Pete, don’t let the neighbors get too close.”

“If he’s armed, boys, shoot to kill.”

If he’s armed, shoot to kill.  Gerhardt stared at his gun, wondering if he should just drop it and walk out.  There were too many men coming for him, he’d never be able to kill them all.  The only way to survive would be to surren…then he saw the numbers burned into his arm; a tattoo of lies seared forever into his flesh. 

The mark of Cain. 

He wasn’t just a hated Nazi, but a Nazi who’d hidden behind the body of a Jewish girl he’d helped kill.  Unlike Cain, there’d be no mercy granted him and he’d ask no pardon.  Gerhardt had gotten himself out of impossible situations before and he would do it again.  He was in control.

Gerhardt realized then that he was going to die.  Whether it was during capture or after the mockery of a show trial, his days were numbered as surely as the John Deere calendar on the kitchen wall. 

His shoulders sagging, Gerhardt sank into a chair and stared at the door as purposeful feet thumped up the porch steps outside.  Swallowing hard, he found his throat dry but his palms moist as he wiped his hands on his pants and clutched the cold Luger.

And give me peace whatever the outcome.

He couldn’t get the words out of his mind.  Even now, with government agents at the door, the little Jewish girl’s prayers in the diary kept coming back to him.  Outside the window he could see the young man in the odd fedora pull his hand out of his pocket and look at his watch; an impressive Bulova.  A superintendant’s watch. 

It was time.

Gerhardt’s lip grew wet.  He drew a sleeved arm across his mouth, drying the sweat off.  The girl believed, and what did it get her? Peace? He rejected her words, knowing she had just been clutching at straws in the face of death, hoping for a miracle but dying like all the rest. 

“Open up!” yelled the voice outside.  “Gerhardt Schroeder, we need to speak with you.”

It was the first time he’d heard his real name in a long, long time.  The words brought no comfort, only fear.  There was no question they knew exactly who he was.  Tucked within the imaginary safety of his home, Gerhardt remained quiet.

Everything fell silent as the men outside waited for a response that would never come.  Even the sound of birds disappeared as the moment of truth neared.  Gerhardt’s eyes bored a hole through the door, watching the handle.  Waiting… tick…tock…

He cringed as a fist began banging on the door, each blow pounding like a nail driven straight through his flesh, into his heart, driving home the realization of futility.  There would be no escaping the punishment for his crimes.

His lip was wet again.  Gerhardt wiped the sweat off a second time, then stopped and stared at his arm.  It was shaking. 

And it wasn’t sweat at all.  He was crying. 

The pounding continued, and through his tears he could see the door beginning to yield.  The table he’d wedged against it was scraping backwards over the floor, its metal sides scraped the perfect linoleum with each blow. 

He remembered the little girl as she went to her death, whistling and singing a song.  She couldn’t have been more than fifteen.  He’d thought her a fool once; now he wondered, still unable to figure out what she had that he didn’t.  He slumped further in the chair as his world collapsed around him.  The men outside kept pounding on the door.

Gerhardt realized he was afraid.  He wanted a drink like never before.

He sat there as if paralyzed, waiting for the judgment about to be delivered.  The crying turned to body-wrenching sobs as he agonized over how his life was about to end.  It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  He had worked so hard to reconstruct himself; to make amends.  He wasn’t about to give all of it away over the foolishness of his misspent youth.  He was just one of millions who were caught up in the frenzy of the times.  It was the Jews’ own fault, after all.  They had stabbed Germany in the back after the Great War.  They had betrayed the Aryan race.

The scrape drew his attention back to the door as it moved another three inches.  He could see the fists and faces of the men snarling at him through the door, their eyes full of hatred.  He knew it wouldn’t be more than a few seconds before they pushed all the way through.  Gerhardt knelt beside the bar in the living room�"he had never used it, but for some reason had kept it fully stocked all this time.  He tore the paper label off the top of a bottle of pure grain alcohol�"200 proof�"and poured a long stream into his mouth, gagging as it burned his throat.  He closed his mouth and continued to pour, moving the bottle back and forth and soaking his head and shoulders.  When that bottle was empty, he took another and poured it all on his head, then a third.  He could hardly breathe through the fumes.

Gerhardt lifted the Luger and pointed it toward the opening, wanting to go down fighting, a true Aryan;  a true Teutonic.  It was the way he’d always pictured his final exit.  Instead, at the moment of decision, his heart was a ball of ice; the end of the barrel wobbled, and tears and alcohol blurred his vision.

Ashamed of himself, of his weakness, he let the gun drop into his lap, but couldn’t leave it there.  To do so would be to invite his own capture and public humiliation by the very Jews he still despised.  They would take his house, strip him of his hard earned title, crucify him in public.

He couldn’t accept that as his end.

Gerhardt put the barrel of the Luger to his temple.

And give me peace whatever the outcome…

 “No,” he muttered between breaths, unable to get past the reality of the situation.  If there was no God, then there would have been nothing wrong with what Gerhardt had done at the camps.  Survival of the fittest in the grandest sense.  His own death would be only an extension of the same principle.  They would not take him, just like they didn’t take the Führer.  Gerhardt Schroeder was in control.

Of course, if there were a God…he shuddered, the thought overwhelming him.  There was no way to reconcile what he’d done in his life with the concept of a holy God. 

If there is a God then he could never forgive me for what I’ve done…  

The door flew open and the three men tumbled into the house as the table gave way.  They scrambled toward the only occupant, drawing their firearms as they moved.  It was time.

Trapped in a world of his own making, alone and afraid, Gerhardt pulled the trigger.



© 2010 Kris St. James

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Added on March 9, 2010
Last Updated on March 9, 2010


Kris St. James
Kris St. James

Birmingham, AL

I'm a Southern Gothic writer who enjoys telling stories about the forgotten. I appreciate all thoughtful critiques and will gladly reciprocate. If you don't like my work, please say so, but please.. more..