He vividly remembered the glorious days when he would walk into a room, the heels of his knee-high officer's boots clicking on the concrete floor. That sound alone would send ripples of terror throughout the entire camp. Now that was power. Every day he was given the privilege of feeling that sense of invincibility. His ev- ery command was carried out with no hesitation. His men would line up the vermin, long columns of them in their filthy clothes, their heads bowed, but still they eyed the shine of his magnificent boots, the power of his uniform. Playing God, he would decide which ones would die and which ones would live. The living hardly
got the better of it, for their reward was a hell on earth, as painful and miserable and degrading as he could possibly make it.
He shifted to the left and pushed against a rectangle of paneling on his headboard. The piece of wood swung outward and his hand shakily punched in the combination on the safe door revealed there. He slid his hand in and pulled out the photo, then settled back on his pillow and looked down at it. He calculated that it was taken sixty-eight years ago to the day. His mind was still all there, even if his body had deserted him.
He was only in his late twenties in the picture, but he'd been given great responsibility because of his brains and ruthlessness. Tall and slender, he had light blond hair that was striking against his tanned, square-jawed face. He looked so fine in his full uniform with all his medals, though he had to concede that hardly any of them were ac- tually earned. He had never seen combat since he had never been able to muster much personal courage. The talentless masses could fire the guns and die in the trenches. His skills had allowed him to seek safer ground. His eyes filled with tears at the sight of what he had once been; and next to him of course stood the man himself. He was small in stature, but colossal in every other way. His black mus- tache was frozen for all time over the expressive mouth.
He kissed his younger self in the photo and then did the same to the cheek of his magnificent Führer, completing his nighttime rit- ual. He returned the photo to its hiding place and thought about the years since he'd fled Germany months before the Allies marched in and Berlin fell. He'd come here by prearrangement because he'd seen the inevitable outcome of the war, perhaps before his superiors had. He'd spent decades in hiding but once more used his "talents" to build an empire of wealth from mineral and timber exports in his new homeland, ruthlessly crushing all competition. Yet he longed for the old days, when the life and death of another human being was solely in his hands.
He would sleep comfortably tonight as he did every night, his con- science clear. He felt his eyelids growing heavy when he was sur- prised to hear the door opening again. He looked across the gloom of the chamber. She stood there silhouetted against the darkness. "Barbara?"