Jet is a delinquent from a wealthy Manhattan family. His favorite teacher at his exclusive school dies and is replaced by a mysterious German man. He tries to find out more about Heinrich while gri...
Jet looked around the dim, rented ballroom and elbowed Joe. His friend shook his head and looked just as bored as he did. They were both dressed in dark suits, but Joe wore a tie and plain white shirt, whereas Jet wore a bright red shirt opened at the collar. “How about we ditch this place and get out of here? Just a guys’ night out?”
“Yeah, I suppose you want to be hauled away in a rubber truck?”
“I told you that so you could help me come up with something. Come on, you always come up with great plans. I mean, what would you do?”
“Not piss my parents off by sneaking off. Hey, look at Helen. She looks so sad.”
“Yeah, well, you better worry more about Frances. She’s looking this way and she’ll skin you alive if you try to flirt with that tramp.”
“Hey! Helen is just misunderstood.”
“Hey yourself, Joe. You better decide between them. All you’re doing is hurting Frances with all this ‘innocent concern’ over the new girl, who happens to be a big tramp, by the way.”
Joe blushed and looked down at his feet. “I know you’re right. I guess I do feel sorry for Helen, but she does say these wonderful things about me.”
Jet shook his head and rolled his eyes. “So does Frances. So do half the girls at Saint Ann’s. Not that they aren’t sincere, it’s just that they’re trying to get your attention.”
“Since when have you become an expert on girls?”
“Joe, come on and quit playing games with these girls. It’ll only make life messy and you won’t like it.”
“I know you don’t like Helen, but...”
“Oh no. If you break up with Frances and start dating that tramp, I’ll check you into the nuthouse.”
“That won’t happen. You know, if you don’t like Helen, there are a few other girls waiting to go out with you. Let Frances fix you up. It’ll get your mind off of things. Uh oh, your dad is headed over here.”
Jet turned and saw his father walking over with a tall, well-built man with graying hair and distinguished features. “Jet, I’ve been looking for you. I want to introduce you to a new foreign investor. This is Victor Bogan. Mr. Bogan, this is my son Jet and Shimamura Joe, Akira and Erica’s son.”
Joe immediately gave the man a respectful bow and held out his hand. “It’s an honor to meet you, Mr. Bogan.”
The man shook Joe’s hand and then turned to Jet; he held out his hand. The man addressed Jet in German. “I’ve been looking forward to finally meeting you face-to-face.”
Jet shivered at the man’s Cheshire smile. There was something uncanny, yet very familiar, about the man. Jet looked down at the man’s pale hand and shook it; it was cold as winter. Jet recovered and replied in German. “It’s nice to meet you, sir.”
“Mr. Bogan has been working out of the upstate New York office for almost four months now,” Guy Link said. “Over the Christmas holidays and after school, I’ll expect you to spend time assisting Mr. Bogan in his office. I believe it’ll give you the necessary experience. You really need to thank Mr. Bogan for volunteering to take you under his wing in spite of everything I’ve told him about you.”
Jet didn’t say anything. He clenched his fists that were buried in his pockets. He glanced at Joe who stared at his feet.
“I’m sure we’ll soon come to a perfect understanding and you’ll come to appreciate my influence on your life,” Bogan said in German. Jet looked and saw his father and his friend didn’t catch the man’s sentence. His father didn’t know German and Joe was horrible at it.
“Well I already have my role models so you’d have to take a number,” Jet threw it out as a joke. The man’s eyes narrowed. He retrieved a pipe from his jacket and lit it, sending over a sweet tobacco odor. Jet couldn’t suppress the shudder the pungent smell sent through him.
“I appreciate a good challenge,” the man said in English to Jet’s father. “I’ll meet with you both on very, very soon.”
Jet couldn’t help but stare after the man as he walked away. “Jet!” He turned to his father in confusion. “What is wrong with you? Are you high or something?”
“No. I just think I’ve met him before,” Jet mumbled. His father gave him a baffled look.
“That can’t be. He worked and lived out of our upstate offices. He’s was always there. He only moved here two days ago.”
“Get it together and don’t embarrass your mother tonight,” Guy warned before walking off.
Jet swirled towards Joe. “Give me your car keys.”
“What? Your dad will kill you if you leave.”
“I’ve got to. I feel sick, like I can’t breath. I’m serious, Joe. I’m just going back home.”
“I don’t think I should. Your parents will come down really hard on you.”
“Fine! I’ll take a cab,” Jet snapped, turned, and left the swank party.
Instead of going home, Jet stood outside the Needle in the frosty night air. The building looked even more ominous in the moonlight. There was no doorman this time. Jet slowly entered the building and walked through the lobby.
The ultra modern outside was a deception for the elaborate, Egyptian styled decor. It resembled a museum with cases of artifacts and descriptions labeled next to them. Jet’s eye was caught by a several small vases in a case.
“Those are from the House of Life. They’re around five thousand years old.”
The voice startled Jet; he turned to see Mr. Heinrich’s Romanian friend. The short man gave Jet a disarming smile and a nod of the head. The man was dressed, head-to-toe in black with one object pinned to his lapel. It was a broach-like object with silver wings coming off of a huge, round ruby.
“You don’t see much of this outside of a museum,” Jet said, smiling back.
“It can be found if you know where to look,” the Count said. Suddenly the Count’s face grew concerned. “Young man, you don’t look well. Come with me to the light.”
Jet follow the man, figuring he would humor him. The Count took off his gloves and placed his icy, small hands on Jet’s cheeks. “Look up,” he ordered while drawing the skin down under Jet’s eyes. “Have you been sleeping and eating in your normal routine?”
“Not really. For the last month I’ve been stressed. A friend of mine died and I’ve let my school work slide,” Jet said as the man let go of his face and gave him a shrewd look.
“Have you noticed any unusual bruising after intense dreams?”
“No,” Jet lied, looking down at his shoes. Jet’s heart pounded and his face flushed, wondering how this man would know. Still, he was unwilling to give away too much until he could figure out more on his own. The man’s deep black eyes cut through Jet’s lie. Rather than shame, Jet felt the man’s sympathy and compassion.
“It looks as if you aren’t keeping good company. I’ll prepare something and give it to Albert to give to you. Follow the directions explicitly. Unfortunately, I’m otherwise occupied tonight or I would escort you to Albert’s apartment. Good night, Mr. Link.”
Jet watched the elegant man turn and leave the building. There were a few people scattered in the lobby, but none of them paid Jet attention as he turned to find Heinrich’s apartment. He looked at the numbers on the door. He was amused to see they were Roman numerals. It wasn’t long before he found ‘IV’ on a burgundy door. He knocked on it and waited.
“Jet? Now you’re stalking me at my home?” Heinrich asked with a wry smirk after he opened the door.
“I had something on my mind. I need an answer and I won’t leave until you give it to me!”
Mr. Heinrich flinched back slightly, but then looked amused. That only irritated Jet further. Jet snapped, “What the hell is so funny? You’re going to have the cops haul me out?”
“Nothing of the sort. Count Saint-Germain made some recommendations on your behalf. He seems to think you’re trustworthy, and he’s a very good judge of character. Come in and I’ll answer enough of your questions to satisfy you,” he offered, stepping aside to allow Jet in.
Jet gave him a suspicious look. “What’s the catch?”
“You aren’t used to adults telling you the truth and giving you respect, are you?”
“Not since Miss Cathy. The other teachers at Saint Ann’s are great, but they still think of me as a kid. My parents treat me like property rather than a son. My friends don’t understand me because I can’t let them know how I think and feel deep inside. I feel like I have no one to turn to right now.”
“Come in,” Heinrich softly invited Jet again. Jet stepped in and looked around. The room was bare, dim, and cold. “I don’t keep any food or anything to drink in my place. I’m sorry about that. Since you’re here, informally, you may call me Albert. However, don’t do that at school.”
Jet sat on one end of a sofa while Heinrich sat on the other end. He mentally tried the name Albert on the man and got comfortable with it.
The only other piece of furniture was a coffee table stacked with books of all sorts. “That’s okay. I just came to talk about the picture I saw of you in as an SS officer and of your wife, Hilda. There is no mistaking it. You are, somehow, Captain Stoller, aren’t you?”
“Captain Stoller, in a manner of speaking, died many years ago. There is nothing of that man left.” Albert started to remove his left glove. Jet watched in fascination as the hand was revealed. It was a deep indigo color with a plain, gold band around the ring finger. “Asphyxiation by Zyklon-B is not pleasant.” Albert started to remove his right glove. He held up a hand with gnarled, burnt flesh. Jet fought his impulse to cringe and looked at it closer. “My right arm and hand were burnt. The Count has told me it will never grow back the same because of certain circumstances so I’ve had to adapt.”
“So you were there! At Auschwitz?”
Albert pushed up the left sleeve on his black sweater and showed Jet the small, blue tattoo. It was a series of numbers that started with the two letters ‘EH,’ which indicated a political prisoner. “The only thing I wish is that I could carve that out of my skin, but it grows back the same every time I’ve tried it. The Count also told me it would always be there for the rest of my existence.”
“That means you’re ninety-five years old, but you look only like you’re thirty. No wrinkles, just premature gray hair. How come?”
“Really? I haven’t seen my own face since 1944. I had blond hair before this happened to me. I have to rely on others to tell me about my appearance. I can no longer see myself in mirrors or any reflected surface.”
“Stop toying around and tell me what’s going on!”
“I won’t go into the details of my life since its obvious you’ve read about me. The story, I’m sure, stops at where Captain Stoller was sent to the gas chamber on the twenty-first of December. His body burnt, ashes scattered. That’s not what happened.'
'I rose before my body was burnt and escaped with some assistance. There was a man that forced this condition on me against my will. It’s quite a strong taboo among those with my condition, we only choose willing people to join us. For that, I’m allowed to hunt him down like the animal he is.”
Jet was entranced by the sudden passion in Albert’s voice, the sudden emotions in his bright, blue eyes. “It’s that man, Van Bogart, isn’t it? He’s the one that did this to you.”
Albert gave him a startled look. “Yes, that’s the man. You're perceptive if you picked that up from some dry history books.” Albert picked up a pack of cigarettes and lit one. “A bad habit a friend of mine passed on to me. Some of my friends, the ones who are among my kind, think it's ridiculous to smoke. I find the act soothing even though the chemicals no longer effect me.”
“Coach Geronimo would kill me if I took it up again. He busted me and told Miss Cathy. She rode my ass until I quit. I wish I still...” Jet stopped when Albert held the pack out towards him.
“I’m not her. Besides, you have more pressing issues than racing and school work. Mr. Britain told me a lot of things about you. He’s quite a big gossip, which is very useful to people who are good listeners.”
“Yeah, he’s cool, but can really be a pain in the ass.” Jet took a cigarette and let Albert light it for him. “That already feels better.”
“I though it would.”
“So... what are you anyway?”
“Does it matter? There is a lot of words you could label me, but I don’t want that confusion with you. Just know that you’re in no danger from me. No one at the school is. I’ll be gone as soon as the Count and his man Roger find my target.”
“So now you’re going to leave?”
“Jet, you have to understand I can’t fill the gap in your life that Cathy left behind. That’s not what I’m here to do. I’m just biding time until I can kill Van Bogart. After that, I intend on going to South America so I can track down Horus Issimo and Scar. That’s the only reason I exist.”
“How selfish and pointless. Over sixty-three years of chasing after someone... for what?”
Albert turned to him, controlled anger twisted his face into a scowl. “You didn’t live my life or continue on in this type of existence! You’re a spoiled child that doesn’t even realize what he has in his hands! When you wake up like I have, forced into this dark, half-life, then you can critique me!”
“I’m a fucking spoiled brat! You don’t know what my life has been like either! I’m not allowed to be myself! I’m being forced to be another person to please my parents. I have no choices!”
“You could run away and live your life as you choose.”
Jet let out a rough, dry laugh and fixed a sour look on Albert. “I tried that once before. They hired someone to track me down. I spent a whole Summer doped up and in a psychiatric facility. My parents have things so controlled. Yeah, I can party all I want at their place while they’re gone, but they have me followed. It’s always been like that with them! If I don’t toe the line I get the shit beat out of me!”
Jet took a deep breath and felt his face grow crimson. “I said too much. Listen... I really don’t know why I came. I won’t bother you...”
“Did Miss Cathy know?”
Albert’s simple question startled him and froze his jerky movements to put out his cigarette. Jet nodded and took a deep breath. “You know, I once had a friend, a middle class club kid, once say to me that he wouldn’t mind if his father beat the shit out of him so long as he had all that money and the nice Manhattan penthouse. Do you know what that says to me? Quit complaining. It’s not like you really have a shitty life. Just suck it up because you really don’t have a right to complain. People don’t think I have a right to keep from getting hit.”
“Have you told anyone?”
“Besides, Cathy? Not really. All the teachers at Saint Ann’s suspect, but for some reason they don’t say anything. Fucking drives me crazy sometimes because they sit by!”
“You don’t understand them. They’re trying to protect you. If they confronted your parents, then they would pull you from school and send you someplace worse. At least here, they can encourage you and try to give you a good place part of the time. They are concerned for you and they want to see you go to the college you choose.”
“Oh, I didn’t think of it like that.” Jet grew mollified as he took another cigarette.
“I apologize. You have a right to live your life free of being abused. Sometimes I lose perspective. Besides Hilda, I’ve never had anyone give me quite the reality check you just did.”
“Same here. Listen, could you not leave on me suddenly. Just promise you’ll stick around for a little while. I really need...”
Albert held up his gnarled hand and gave him a smirk. “I promise, because it looks like I’ve lost myself. I don’t want to be an empty shell just focused on vengeance. I need to retain my humanity. My big fear is getting what I want and then having nothing after it all. There is a part of me that wants to kill Issimo and myself at the same time. That seems to be my whole purpose, self destruction.”
Jet smiled at him and shook his head. “You could find another purpose along the way.”
“Come on. I better make sure you get home.” Albert stood suddenly; Jet sighed and stood too.
“I’m going to catch hell for ditching my mother’s party, but I don’t care. It was worth it. I don’t feel so lonely.”
Jet made Albert drop him off a block away from the building he lived in; he explained there were a lot of people that get word back to his parents and it could reflect badly on Albert’s reputation at Saint Ann’s. Albert agreed and bid Jet farewell.
Just as he predicted, his father and mother were waiting on him as he came in. He grew nervous because they were so quite; all they did is sip whiskey and give him expectant looks. He knew he couldn’t ignore them so he went to a chair across from them and sat.
“So you didn’t even have the courtesy to stay during a whole party. What was so pressing that you had to suddenly embarrass your mother in front of all her guest?” Guy took a sip from his lead crystal glass, glaring at his son.
Jet was shocked to feel he had no fight within himself right now. The talk with Albert had left him drained. More importantly, it had left him with the knowledge that there were true horrors in the world unlike what he had experienced. He felt extremely placid as he met his father’s eye, for the first time he felt no fear of the man.
“I had a friend I needed to talk to. It couldn’t wait.”
“A friend? Is that it? Is that your way of telling us you went out and got laid?”
“No. I was just talking to this old guy. I was trying to figure out why people suddenly die for no reason.”
“Not this again,” his mother sighed, rolling her eyes. “You’re going to Dr. Gaea’s after school on Tuesday and put this Cathy shit to rest. Everyone dies. Just accept it and go on! Do you think you’re she should have lived forever?”
“No, it’s more than her. It’s also about really cruel things that happen in the world. Like the Holocaust and...”
“Oh no! Now Holocaust? Can’t you do anything besides waste your time on things that really don’t matter? Quit being so stupid and make up your mind: are you going to get with the program or do you want to fight me?”
Jet rose to his feet and narrowed his eyes. “I don’t care where you send me. I’m tired of trying to be something I’m not just to make you both happy. You do what you have to do and so will I.”
He turned and walked towards his bedroom. The silence from his parents was more chilling than any time he had been yelled at. He got into his darkened room, stripped down, and buried himself under the covers. For the first time, he felt empowered. He now had a new person to look to for strength and an example.
Jet woke up when his hand grazed the slick, cold metal blade of a butcher’s knife. He rose, but every muscle felt stiff and on fire. He had an insatiable thirst and a throbbing head. He pulled back his covers and was shocked to see his wrists had deep, purple bruises as did his stomach.
What worried him the most was the large gash on his left, inner thigh that was surrounded by one of those odd yellowish bruises that felt cool to the touch. His sheets were sticky, stained, and had the stench of tobacco. He rolled off his bed and noticed his door was hanging off the hinge.
Jet tried to rack his brain, but all he could remember was falling asleep. He tremble while pulling on a pair of jeans. He began to panic and wonder if he and his father had a fight and he didn’t remember.
Jet eased out of his room. A sharp pain ran up his leg. He bit his bottom lip and realized he had stepped on a piece of glass from a smashed mirror in the hallway. He caught sight of the lacerations on his face and turned away. He hobbled down the hallway to the entertainment center; the door was cracked open and the light was still on from last night.
He pushed it back and saw the white room stained in patches of vermilion. Jet walked into the chaos in disbelief. He didn’t stop until he saw his parents laying on the floor, covered in their own blood.
Shock sunk him to his knees. His terror stricken mind raced, trying to find an answer. There was none. All he knew is he had to leave right now. He quickly made it over to the telephone and stilled his hands enough to dial.
“What do you want, Jet? I’m busy.”
“Ivan, it’s a real fucking emergency. Please find me Mr. Heinrich’s phone number.”
“You sound horrible. Do you want...”
“Just fucking do it and stop asking me shit!”
“Fine,” Ivan mumbled. He was silent for a few minutes, but Jet could hear the clacking of computer keys. Ivan gave him the number and hung up. Jet dialed and waited as warm tears started falling down his cheeks against his will.
“Albert. Please... I need help. Someone just killed my parents. I don’t even know if they’re still in a house. Hell... I don't remember anything at all.”
“Go lock yourself in a closet. I’ll be there soon.” The click on the line sent Jet stumbling to the nearest coat closet where he balled up and tried in vain to stop crying.
To be continued.