Pronghorns of the Third Reich, p.3C. J. Box
“Go,” Juan said.
“But I thought …”
“Go now,” he said, showing the pistol.
Parker was stunned by the fury of the storm. Snow stung his face and he tried to duck his head beneath his upraised arm to shield it. The wind was so cold it felt hot on his exposed bare skin.
“Help me get this goddamned door open!” Lyle yelled. “I can’t get the key to work.” He handed Parker the keys.
“I don’t know which one it is any more than you do,” Parker yelled back.
“Just fucking try it, counselor!” Lyle said, jabbing at him with the Colt.
Parker leaned into the door much as Lyle had. He wanted to block the wind with his back so he could see the lock and the keys and have room to work. He tried several keys and none of them turned. Only one seemed to fit well. He went back to it. He could barely feel his fingers and feet.
He realized Lyle was shouting again.
“Juan! Juan! What the hell are you doing?”
Parker glanced up. Lyle was on the steps, his back to him, shouting and waving his arms at the pickup and trailer that vanished into the snow. Faint pink tail lights blinked out.
At that moment, Parker pulled up on the iron door handle with his left hand while he turned the key with his right. The ancient lock gave way.
Parker slammed his shoulder into the door and stepped inside the dark house and pushed the door shut behind him and rammed the bolt home.
Lyle cursed at him and screamed for Parker to open the door.
Instead, Parker stepped aside with his back against the cold stone interior wall as Lyle emptied his .45 Colt at the door, making eight dime-sized holes in the wood that streamed thin beams of white light to the slate-rock floor.
He hugged himself and shivered and condensation clouds from his breath haloed his head.
Parker roamed through Angler’s library, hugging himself in an attempt to keep warm and to keep his blood flowing. There were no lights and the phone had been shut off months before. Muted light filtered through gaps in the thick curtains. Outside, the blizzard howled and threw itself against the old home but couldn’t get in any more than Lyle could get in. Snow covered the single window in the library except for one palm-sized opening, and Parker used it to look around outside for Lyle or Lyle’s body but he couldn’t see either. It had been twenty minutes since he’d locked Lyle out.
At one point he thought he heard a cry, but when he stopped pacing and listened all he could hear was the wind thundering against the windows.
He started a fire in the fireplace using old books as kindling and had fed it with broken furniture and a few decorative logs he’d found in the great room downstairs. Orange light from the flames danced on the spines of the old books.
He wanted a fire to end all fires that would not only warm him but also act as his shield against the storm and the coming darkness outside.
After midnight Parker ran out of wood and he kept the fire going with Angler’s books. Mainly the German language volumes. The storm outside seemed to have eased a bit.
As he reached up on the shelves for more fuel, his fingers avoided touching the copies of Mein Kampf. The act of actually touching the books terrified Parker in a way he couldn’t explain.
Then he reasoned that if books were to be burned, Mein Kampf should be one of them. As he tossed the volumes into the flames, a loose square of paper fluttered out of the pages onto the floor.
Parker bent over to retrieve it to flick it into the fire when he realized it was an old photograph. The image in the firelight made him gasp.
Parker ran down the stairs in the dark to the front door and threw back the bolt. The force of the wind opened both the doors inward and he squinted against the snow and tried to see into the black and white maelstrom.
“Lyle!” he shouted to no effect. “Lyle!”
The story is fiction but the photograph is not.
In 1936, in one of the odder episodes of the modern American West, Wyoming rancher and noted photographer Charles Belden did indeed catch pronghorn antelope fawns on his ranch and deliver them to zoos across the nation in his Ryan monoplane, including a delivery to the German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg in Lakehurst, New Jersey, bound for the Berlin Zoo.
The photograph appears courtesy of the Charles Belden Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.
I can find no information on the fate of the pronghorn antelope. They would have arrived shortly after the conclusion of Adolf Hitler’s ’36 Olympics.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
copyright © 2012 by C. J. Box
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Table of Contents
Pronghorns of the Third Reich
C. J. Box, Pronghorns of the Third Reich
Pronghorns of the Third Reich by C. J. Box / Mystery & Detective / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes