This story involves characters that belong to Marvel comics. The story itself belongs to me.

Since UXM #1 was issued in the Kennedy era, the main characters in this story met in the 1950s. I can't remember how they were supposed to have met, so why not on a ship?

This story contains material that may disturb sensitive readers.


Transatlantic Crossing

D Benway

10/18/98

 

The deck was deserted, or so he thought. He wanted privacy. More precisely, he wanted privacy both from the passengers in the next cabin and from the woman who had been after him since he had made the mistake of sleeping with her only one day into the crossing. He hadn't had difficulty in finding lovers, not since Anna and The King had come out in Technicolor. Before that, his alopecia had been a something of a handicap. Even now, he that some women were put off by his complete hairlessness, but he found that if he told them that he shaved certain areas, they stopped asking questions about bomb tests and became quite enthusiastic. Freud hadn't had much to say about that aspect of the sexuality of bald men, and he didn't have the nerve to publish a case study of his own.

As he was looking out at the clouds and the flat, gray seas of the North Atlantic, he became aware that he was not alone. He let down his carefully constructed shields and probed, but it was not her. It was someone else, someone whom he could not read at all. He turned, and noticed a figure standing in a dark corner with a cigarette in his hand. The man was tall, but quite thin. The white hair marked him as a possible albino. He had not seen any albinos in a clinical setting since medical school.

"Good morning."

The man shifted uneasily.

"Good morning."

The albino had a strong European accent, from the East. Noticing that the man's cigarette had gone out, he took out one of his own and offered another.

"No thank you."

The man was not an albino. The hair had to be an recessive trait, then. Far more interesting.

"You appear to be very interested in my hair, although we have not been properly introduced."

He flushed.

"I'm sorry. Charles Xavier. I'm a doctor."

"A medical doctor?"

"Yes. I am interested in the sciences of the mind."

"I see. And the state of the mind can be determined from the hair."

"I'm sorry, it is unusual. I'm also interested in heredity."

The mans face darkened.

"They were interested in heredity."

"I don't quite-"

"During the war. They were very interested in it."

"They abused it. They used it as a shield to hide ancient prejudices. We know next to nothing, but if we could only determine how the mechanisms work-"

"You wouldn't need the camps because you could just eliminate the undesirable traits beforehand."

"No! I mean, we could determine if people should marry, so that their children didn't turn out to have birth defects."

"I am not certain that I see the distinction."

He broke the cigarette apart between his fingers. It crossed his mind that the man could be a Soviet agent, and so he broadcast the image of a red star at the man's shields. Something came back, a flash of extreme revulsion. A frown crossed the mans face, then dissipated.

"I must apologize, Dr. Xavier. I lost many of my relatives in the war. My name is Erik Schmidt."

The man extended his hand. He took it, and shook. The handshake was firm. As Schmidt's hand withdrew, he noticed the number tattooed on the forearm.

"I'm, uh, I didn't-"

Schmidt had flushed slightly, and had folded his arms tightly against his chest.

"I must apologize to you. It is not something for polite conversation."

"But, have you ever talked to anyone about it?"

"It is a part of my life that is over."

"Do you have difficulties with it, with dreams-"

The man's eyes flared, then he laughed mirthlessly.

"What sort of patients have you spoken with, my good doctor? How long have you been out of medical school?"

"A year. I see patients in New York."

"Mostly women, I take it. Wealthy women?"

"Not always women. And I do charity work."

"But with no-one who has ever survived a camp."

"No."

"It is best not talk of these things. You are of a better world, a new world. My dreams are something for me alone to deal with."

"But there are things we can do, to make dreams go away."

He hated himself for even saying that. He could have kept the practice in New York, prescribing Miltown for his patients when nothing out of Freud seemed to be of any use.

"Perhaps I do not want my dreams to go away. Perhaps I do not wish to forget completely."

Schmidt was looking out to sea. He did not want to see the look in the other man's eyes. He wondered how the man saw him, and other doctors. He had read of Mengele, the Demon doctor of Auschwitz. This man had possibly seen Mengele, and may have been saved by an arbitrary twist of a thumb. He was torn. The part that wanted to ask more questions lost out to the urge to flee.

"Look, I must be going. Perhaps we could meet before dinner for drinks. Start over on a better footing. Sometimes the clinician inside gets the better of me."

"Thank you. It might be useful to talk of these matters, now that I reflect. I have only talked to others like myself. So many of us have died, since then, and I have asked why I have not taken the easy way myself. I am afraid that I cannot join you for drinks, as I am not traveling in this class. I am from below this deck."

"How did you-"

"I have my ways. I needed a place to get away from my fellow travelers, and this seemed quiet, not as crowded."

A thought struck him, and he spoke before he could reflect on it.

"Would you like to exchange cabins?"

"What?"

"I can have a word with the purser. The Captain is an old friend of my family, I'm sure he would not refuse."

Schmidt gave him a dark look.

"This isn't because-"

"No, no it's a little problem. Shipboard romance, kind of got out of hand. Need somewhere to hide." He decided that it was impolitic to mention his neighbours, but then, the cabins were well-soundproofed.

Schmidt smiled cautiously.

"I have always wondered what first class accommodations would be like."

"Then you accept."

"Yes, why not."

He took his new acquaintance by the arm, half aware that many interesting conversations lay ahead. Always the clinician, he thought, with more than a little disgust.


As he mounted the last of the many staircases that took him from Schmidt's suite to his own, he wondered for the 50th time if the dinner invitation had been a good idea. He had spoken with Schmidt for some time as they exchanged rooms, but the other man had been elusive and not entirely forthcoming. He had extended the invitation partly as what he acidly realized was another compensatory gesture, and as a way of avoiding his companion of that terrible first night. The captain had invited him to bring a guest to dinner, and he had not felt comfortable in refusing the invitation from an old friend of his father's. He wondered if there really was any such thing as altruism, or if it was merely yet another form of selfishness.

He met Schmidt in the bar, where his dinner guest was sitting alone. He marveled at how the man managed to seem alone, even in such a crowded room.

"Good evening."

"Herr doctor."

"Charles. Just Charles."

"Not Charlie."

"Er,-"

"Just a joke. I meant no harm. Such informalities do not come so easily to me."

"Or to me."

"Then not all Americans are so open."

"Not all of us. I'm from New England."

"Ah yes. I noted a difference there. More reticent. A little like the English."

"You were in Boston, then?"

"Springfield and Hartford. I was here on business."

"Hardly the best of it. What business are you in, if I may ask?"

"Ah. Of course."

Schmidt handed him a business card, identifying him as an overseas sales agent of Sartorius KG.

"I deal in weights and measures."

"A German company."

"Yes. They do make the best."

Schmidt had tensed. He cursed himself internally for having baited the man in such an obvious fashion.

"Have you seen any of the rest of the country?"

"Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Buffalo, mostly. Ithaca in New York. Such remarkable names."

"Classical tradition for some of them."

"I saw the houses with the columns from the train. I would assume that this tradition is no longer very strong."

"Sadly no. Latin is a dying tongue."

"Like Yiddish."

"I didn't mean-"

"No apologies. I only mean that in the new state of Israel, they teach the children in Hebrew. Sometimes, they can no longer understand their parents. One language dies, another one is brought back to life."

"I hadn't thought of that."

"Did you have many Jewish classmates?"

"No. I went to a Catholic prep school, then to Boston College, then to Harvard Medical school. Most of the Jewish students went to Brandeis."

"Is Harvard a religious institution?"

"No. Just a bigoted one. To be honest, one of the reasons that I chose psychiatry was because I knew that it would irritate certain people. Catholics aren't any more welcome than Jews in Boston, not in medicine, not where it matters. Not even when you have money."

"Are you still a Catholic, then?"

"I was devout, once. To please my Mother, I suppose. Before the war, Father Coughlin came to our school and told us how we had to stay out of the fighting, and why. I knew about the purges, then. It was 1940, I think. I asked him about the Jews. He asked me why I should waste my time worrying about Christ-killers. One of the priests later suggested that I lost my hair because I had heretical thoughts about heathens. I haven't attended mass in years."

"But you do believe in God?"

The question rankled him.

"Do you?"

"In the camp, one evening, I witnessed a gathering of rabbis. Very learned men, they were. They had a debate, and at the end of it, they concluded that if God was not dead, then he should die a death for each one who perished in the camps, or something to that effect. When they were finished, they went for evening prayer."

He could think of no reply. He wondered what on earth Schmidt might come up with at dinner.

"This confuses you."

"Did you make up that story for my benefit?"

"No. To answer your question, I do not know what to believe. How could God let a thing like that happen? I ask myself this often. We all do. All the time. And yet I cannot let go. Even when I was in Poland, when I truly wanted it all to work, for it truly to be a new world, I prayed for my son."

"Then you made a fresh start after the war."

"In a manner of speaking."

Schmidt went very still.

"Are they still behind the iron curtain?"

"In a sense."

Schmidt closed his eyes. A gong was struck, signaling the call to dinner.

"We will be dining with the captain."

"I had thought that we could dine alone."

"I have an obligation."

"Then so do I. Do not fear. I shall keep my conversation to polite topics."

He led Schmidt from the bar and proceeded to the table in the centre of the room. Captain Menzies rose to his feet and introduced his wife, and he in turn introduced Schmidt.

"I thought that you might be bringing that delightful young woman from the party last night," said the Captain's wife, winking at him coyly. He suppressed a shudder, then noticed with some trepidation the lone empty chair next to his own.

"There you are, Charlie," came the last voice that he wanted to hear. "I heard you were bringing a guest, and I was so put out. I might almost think that you were avoiding me."

He stumbled to his feet, feeling his face flush. She was dressed in a white dress, straight out of the Seven Year Itch. It emphasized her similarity to Marilyn Monroe, from the bleached black hair to the wonderfully proportioned breasts, the thin waist, the ample hips and the million dollar legs. After a bottle of champagne, she had been irresistible. In the cold light of morning, he had probed and found nothing that he ever wanted to see again.

"Erik Schmidt, a friend from Boston. Herr Schmidt, this is Dorothy Stilwell."

"Just call me Dodo," she said, smiling emptily. "Everyone else does."

"My friend's niece will be joining us for dinner," said the Captain's wife.

He thought of a word that his father used when important papers had been lost, smiled, and set to work on the hors d'oeuvres.


By the time that the coffee was served, he was counting the minutes until he could politely leave. The captain's wife had realized her mistake almost immediately, and had steered Dodo into conversations away from him through most of the main course, but there was nothing she could do to make Dodo stop playing footsie with him. Even so, there had been a number of acutely embarrassing moments that had lead him to flush on several occasions. Schmidt had been talking to the captain and to a man involved in the coffee trade through most of the meal, but had saved him from her attentions on two occasions. He felt absurdly grateful towards Erik, and felt awful about the growing list of questions that he wanted to ask before they docked at Southampton. One question had been answered, and it had shocked him. He had assumed that Erik was in his mid-40s, but he had been 4 when Erik had been born. His guess had missed by 20 years.

Dodo offered him a cigarette. He accepted it without thinking, and regretted his choice immediately. He had avoided offering one to her all evening, mindful of what Freud had said on the matter. In accepting one, he had committed what Grotnes would have identified as an emasculating gesture, but which Thornton-Smyth would have called politeness. He tended to trust Thornton-Smyth a bit more than Grotnes, even though she had a bad habit of quoting from novels instead of using proper case studies. He didn't enjoy smoking, in truth. He thrust the tottering edifice of his analyses aside, and caught the end of a political discussion.

"Did you hear that they were talking about ending the immigration quotas?" asked the wife of the man who sold coffee.

"It's about time," he said.

"Why, Charlie dear?" asked Dodo. "I mean, the Italians would just overrun Boston if that were to happen."

"Some would say that its already happened," said the man who sold coffee.

"I understood that those quotas were established by scientific methods," said the Captain's wife.

"They were," said the wife of the man who sold coffee. "My husband worked on the tests when you were at Princeton, didn't you. dear?"  

"They were indeed," said the man who sold coffee. "I worked with Professor Goddard and Professor Boring both. We tested all of the new recruits going off to fight in Flanders, and the results were shocking, shocking. You cannot begin to imagine how stupid those Italians could be."

"Wasn't that man who split the atom Italian?" asked the Captain. "Segre, I think his name was."

"Enrico Fermi," said Erik.

"I have done some work in this area," he said uncomfortably. "We have learned a great deal since those tests. Our research suggests that there isn't such a difference between people from different countries after all."

The man who sold coffee looked at him as if he had just stated that the moon was made of green cheese.

"Do you propose then, that Poles and, God help us, Negroes, have the same mental capacity as we do?"  

"There are no differences that can be statistically determined on the tests," he said. "The whole idea of an IQ is dubious, anyhow. How can anything as complex as intelligence be measured by a single number?"

"Yes," said Dodo. "You need to need to get out an talk to them."

"Exactly right," he agreed.

"I mean, if you go down to Roxbury and talk to the Negroes, it's perfectly obvious that they're all morons."

He choked on the coffee that he had just sipped.

"That is rather a harsh generalization, isn't it, Dorothy, dear?" asked her aunt, looking quite appalled. He remembered from somewhere that the Captain's mother-in-law had been important in the NAACP.

"Not at all," Dodo went on relentlessly. "I was down from Smith last summer and I spent ever so much time there. You just have to listen to them speak. They're all too stupid to speak English properly."

"I do not believe that this is true," said Erik quietly.

"I be happy?" said Dodo rolling her eyes theatrically, as if in a minstrel show.

"It is obvious from the context what the verb means," said Erik.

"With all due respect, Mr Schmidt, You just don't understand those people as well as I do."

"Miss Stilwell, I had a very good friend who was an American who was considered to be a Negro. I owed him my life on many occasions, during the war. Did you ever have such a friend?"

"I number many Negro girls among my closest acquaintances," said Dodo frostily. "I can't see where you would have met one."

There came a thump from somewhere down below. The captain figeted, and inadvertently broadcast a strong desire to check the asdic, whatever that was.

"I met Oscar in a camp during the war. He was a jazz artist who came to Paris before the war, and who fought in the resistance. I learned to speak both his English and yours."

An awful silence followed. The Captain made a show of looking at his watch, then frowned.

"My watch has stopped. Do you have the time, dear?"

It proved that no-one else had the time, as their watches had all stopped as well. The Captain had broken out in a sweat. A quick probe sensed a thousand sea stories of ghost ships circling in his brain. The Captain and his wife soon departed along with the other guests, leaving only Dodo and Erik sitting at the table.

"Mr. Schmidt, I'm sorry about you're friend," she said. "That was very rude of me. Would you like to join Charlie and me for drinks in our suite?"

His heart sank. He would have to take her aside and confront the issue squarely.

"That would be fine," said Erik. "We would love to have you."

"What do you mean 'we'?" asked Dodo.

"Charles and I have been sharing the suite."

Erik gave him a grin that was quite carnal. Dodo turned to him with a look of complete disgust.

"You pig," she hissed, then stormed from the table in flurry of dacron.

"Now, about those drinks-"

"What in the name of Christ did you do that for?"

"You needed help. She obviously wasn't taking the hint."

"Do you have any idea what you have done?"

"Yes. I just told her that you were a homosexual. So was Oscar, for that matter."

"How can I go with you know? They'll all think that I was one."

"A queer."

"Yes. A queer."

"Who gives a damn what they think, Charles? If they truly are your friends, they will remain your friends."

"She'll tell everyone on the ship, and after."

"So?"

"How will I be able to practice?"

"So practice in Europe. It's not such an important thing, there."

"I need a drink."

"Come on, then."

He followed Erik out of the room, not daring to look around. He knew that every first class passenger was watching him leave, without having to probe at all.


In his suite, he stood by the door, wanting desperately to probe Erik's mind. The man was busy at the cognac decanter, pouring two stiff measures into the largest snifters. It was a pose he used himself, just before he started the small talk in Thai that he had learned from a restaurant chef on 54th St.

"Erik, I'm not-"

"Charles, do you believe that I am about to compromise your honour?"

"You already did that," he said bitterly.

"My mistake. Look, I would never take anyone by force, not that way. And besides, my own preferences are for women."

"Mine too," he said. It should have been obvious. Erik did not have damp palms, nor did he show the slightest signs of effeminacy.

"You do have the most appalling taste, however."

"I was drunk."

Erik laughed. It didn't look like something that he did often.

"I don't think you understand how it's seen here."

"It is a natural part of human affairs."

"How can you think that?"

"If I had not accepted it, I would not be here."

He decided that Erik had mis-spoken in an acquired language.

"We see it as a disease."

"Do you think that it is a disease?"

He figeted, uncomfortable, then sat down.

"I don't know."

"You had an experience that convinced you otherwise."

"I was in all boys school, for God's sake, there were only boys there, no women at all. I never knew any girls, until after."

"I did not mean to pry-"

"No. No, it's all right. I became erect, once, in the showers. No one saw. They would have killed me if they had seen."

"I'm sure that no other boys had erections in the showers."

"They were thinking of women."

"How do you know that?"

"I-"

How did he know that? Surely the captain of the football team-

"My God."

"Charles, why do you really want to become a psychiatrist?"

"I want to understand people better."

"You don't want to cure yourself, of this terrible erection-causing condition? Become the man with the magic pill that cures it all?"

"No! No. Look, I was worried about being, well, that way, so I did an experiment. I proved that it wasn't that way."

"An experiment."

"I went to the museum. I had the most baggy pants on I could find and I went and looked at the pictures, from the Renaissance. The men didn't do it for me, but the women did. That's how I know."

Erik laughed again.

"I'm sorry. You went to the museum? Did they not notice?"

He flushed again.

"They did notice. My stepfather was quite upset, and I dare not show my face in that museum again. He set me up with someone, though. Found out the real thing was better than the pictures."

"A prostitute."

"Well, of course."

A look of distaste passed across Erik's face.

"Women didn't find me very attractive, with no hair. Not until Yul Brenner came along. I became a doctor to see if I could find a cure."

"But you decided to become a psychiatrist."

"I stopped having problems with the girls."

"I think there is more to it than that."

"No."

"Yes."

He was perspiring now. He could feel the sweat trickling down his forehead and his back.

"I can read minds."

Erik started.

"Can you read my mind?"

"No. I'm not very good at it."

"What am I thinking?"

"I haven't got the faintest fucking idea. I knew this would happen. I've never told anyone, because I knew that when I did, that's the first thing that they would say. It fucking hurts, it takes all my strength to keep all of you out of my head."

He was aware that he was weeping. Erik reached over and took his hand.

"I did not mean to be selfish. There are some matters that I would prefer to remain private. That is all."

"I wish all of you thought that way. I didn't want to swap suites because of that stupid cow, I wanted to get away from them."

He pointed to the bulkhead.

"I can hear nothing."

"They're fucking again. One of them likes to hurt the other one and she doesn't like to be hurt. I can't stand it. I can't stand being near that."

"So we will ask them to stop."

"What?"

"We ask them to stop. They are making too much noise."

"We can't hear anything. We can't just-"

"Why not? Come."

Erik stood up and walked to the door.

"Come on. It's all in the way that you ask."

He followed, half stunned. It was as if he had not told Erik anything more awful than the full extent of his hairlessness. Erik stopped in front of the door and knocked. The door sprang open, as if it had not been locked. Erik snarled. There was a shriek from within. He raced after Erik into a suite that he expected to be very much like his own.

It was very much like his own suite, save for all the candles and the huge Nazi flag attached to the wall. There was a tiny, pale woman in the bed, hiding under the sheets, terrified. Erik had a half-naked man by the throat, pinning him to the wall. The man was wearing a peaked cap that fell to the floor. The man was choking. He probed the man, rapidly.

"Stop! This isn't what it seems."

Erik turned to him, his face holding an expression that he had only seen on patients locked in the padded cells. Erik's rage almost overwhelmed him.

"He's not German, Erik. He's not a Nazi."

"This man is wearing a uniform of an Auschwitz camp guard."

"He has never been to Germany. He's never been a Nazi."

"Do not lie to me," snarled Erik.

"He's an American. He's an accountant from Indianapolis. He served in Army intelligence on our side."

"It's true," wailed the woman in the bed, in a strong midwestern accent.

"Then what is this?"

He dropped the man and went over to the bed, tearing the sheet away. He grabbed the woman's arm and held it up. There was a number there.

"You were in a camp," Erik snarled.

"No, its ink," she mumbled. "It's just ink."

"Erik, it's ink. It's coming off. Look."

"Why?" asked Erik, fright in his voice.

"It makes him feel powerful," said the woman. "He can't get it up otherwise."

"What are you?" moaned Erik.

"I'm his wife," she said.

"Come on," he said.

He led Erik by the arm from the room. He couldn't bear to look at the desolation in the man's face. At the door, Erik turned back.

"You will bring this uniform to me in the next suite tomorrow. If either of you tell anyone of what I have done, I will tell them all. Everyone on this boat. Do you understand?"

They nodded in unison. He closed the door as they left. It took all of his strength to get them back inside his own suite. As soon as his door was closed, Erik collapsed.

"How could they? How could they do that?"

"Don't know."

"Stupid, stupid people! Leaders of the free world? Stupid ignorant infants! They're no better than they were. How could he wear that uniform? How?"

"I don't know," he said weakly. "I want to know. I want to make it stop."

"Why do you want to make it stop, little emperor?" asked Erik bitterly.

"My mother was like that woman, and my stepfather like that man. That was her excuse when I pleaded with her to leave him. He is my husband. I might have been able to convince her to leave him, but she died of polio first. He wore her out. Bastard transferred his attentions to his own son. Bastard. Fucking bastard. I escaped, by just that much. Bastard."

"Charles, I lost my whole family and everyone I ever knew to them. I tried to start again, after the war, I started a new family and they did it all again. I don't know if anything can make it stop. Have you learned anything that can make it stop?

Erik was looking at him with what seemed to be hope in his eyes. He felt a wave of anger rise within him.

"You won't find hope here. Nothing in our theories is of fucking any use. It doesn't help the people who really are sick, and half the people I see aren't sick at all. They're sad and they're lonely and they're bored and their lives were shit, so they came to me. I told them the stories that they wanted to hear, I gave them drugs that they got addicted to, and if they were going to kill themselves I fucked with their heads, then gave them the pills. I was taught by people who castrate men for wanting to fuck other men and who cut the brains out of people they don't like with knives. I don't understand anything."

"But you were going somewhere, to learn."

"To Switzerland, to learn from Professor Jung. I was running away."

"Perhaps there are simply some things that cannot be understood."

"Then how can I make it stop?"

"Perhaps you fight it one little bit at a time, like I do."

"I want to know what you went through. All of it."

"That is not for you to-"

"How can I help the weak ones if I don't know how the strong survived? How can I make it stop unless I know how you survived the worst thing in the world? How can I know, unless you show me?"

He was aware that he was shouting now, but he didn't care. Erik was staring at him, with what might have been a hostile look in his eyes.

"What do I need to do?"

"Push it all to the front. Push it all there, everything that you want me to see, think of it and think of what it means to you. Let nothing else be in your mind."

Erik did as he was told. He read Erik's mind.


He lay on the bed in his room, not sleeping. He had cried himself out hours before. He raised his head and looked at Erik, who was watching him from the chair.

"All that. You survived all that."

"You saw only a part of it. There is more that I will never tell. Not to you, not to anyone."

"You survived it."

"Some survive. Some do not."

"Will we survive?"

"What do you mean?"

"You're like me."

"Your domestic difficulties are nothing-"

"What you did to those people. The ones in Poland."

"I am not proud of it, but I would not let my family go unavenged for the second time."

"And at dinner, then-"

"Lost my temper. That is why I choose to cross the ocean by ship. I flew, once. I slept. I had a nightmare. Only I survived."

"But airplanes are aluminum. Its diamagnetic."

"The engines were not. What did you mean about surviving?"

"What I said before, I meant that we were mutants."

"Mutants."

"Altered genes. Makes me able to read minds, makes you able to do the magnetic field manipulation. Don't know how we do it, but you can see the changes in the genes, sometimes, under the microscope, in people who can."

"Why does it happen?"

"My father did work with radioactivity all through the 30s and died of cancer. Don't know what happened to you. Pitchblende in the water, maybe."

"So we are both cnacers. Jews by birth. No escape by changing your name."

"No. People are not cancers."

"They will see us as cancers."

"I know. Why do you think I've never told anyone about it?"

"Then what of this fallout, from the atmospheric bomb tests?"

"I can't imagine it. The children of today, the ones born since the war, some of them will be mutants. Maybe all of them. That's why I wanted to fix things. For them."

Erik crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed.

"You can't do it alone. Nor can I."

"What do you mean?"

"In Massachusetts, I sold my weights and measures, and I paid a visit to a certain pediatric surgeon who arrived about five years ago from Europe. He was given a visa to come this country and a new name, in return for his assistance in certain intelligence matters. It seems he was physician in a special clinic reserved for the OKW, and that he knew the medical histories of those who now run the army in the Eastern part of Germany. He took a short sabbatical from this work to do some experimentation in a clinic near the camp. They took children from our camp and he did experiments on them. His experiments came to nothing, I've been told. He may have cut the living hearts from my brothers and sisters."

Erik hadn't let him see that.

"What did you-"

"As Oscar liked to say, 'ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies'".

"I will never take a human life. Not even one of theirs."

"I hope that you can stay that strong. Killing is no good at all, but it be so easy once you start."

"Oh."

"But you will continue on to Switzerland."

"I don't know. I don't want to keep running."

"Come with me to Israel. There is a clinic there, where they treat those who cannot forget the war. They cannot find enough doctors for all the patients. It may help you. You can certainly help them. They do genetic research there also. Tay-Sachs disease, mostly, but children there breathe the same fallout that the rest of us do."

"And what will you do?"

"I am good with metal, as you may have noticed. It is something that I have been meaning to do for some time. We can all start over, there. It is a new frontier, just like your American West. Anything Is possible."

"And Sartorius can spare you?"

"I simply needed them to get me across the sea. Vengeance doesn't pay a large salary."

"I will join you."

"This could the beginning of a beautiful friendship," said Erik, unintelligibly imitating a French accent.

"You have to play the other part. Bogart had hair."

"So did Claude Rains."

"But his hair didn't matter."

Erik laughed, and rose to his feet.

"Come, the air is cleaner on the deck."

He followed the white-haired man onto the deck, pausing only to pick up his lighter and cigarettes.


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