Gretchen de Brun raised her skirt quickly. From the welt of her tan stockings, she slid the heavy key into the palm of her hand. Her fingers were icy and trembling as she fitted the metal into the lock of the ornate 16th century desk.
"Steady," she told herself. "Hold on. It's almost over now."
Still the sight of the slim volume lying in its crypt under the drawer's false bottom caused her heart to pound wildly in her breast. She forced herself to lift the book, to touch the raised brown spot with its tuft of hair, to recognize the binding for what it was - human skin.
Swiftly she leafed through the pages. It was all there in a precise gothic hand. Rows of names, addresses, code numbers. This was it. This was the master ODESSA List. This was the document which would damn the Organisation der SS Angehorigen to public scrutiny.
Now the filthy masquerade was all behind Gretchen de Brun. In a matter of minutes she would climb into her Porsche and guide the car through the gates of Castle Grafenegg for the last time. In a matter of minutes she would begin cleansing her soul of the filthy caresses of Werner Sawade. In a matter of minutes she would be able to drop the pose of dedication to the Neo-Nazi movement.
She heard the voices wafting through the corridors towards her. Erna Hofmann's rich, throaty, imperious voice. Werner Sawade's shrill, hysterical voice.
"You don't really expect to get rid of me that easily," Erna laughed. "With what I know about you, my liebchen, I can put a noose around your neck in half an hour."
"Don't threaten me!"
"I could tell the authorities a great deal about Herr Doktor Werner Sawade, couldn't I pet? I could tell them about the experiments. They'd be quite fascinated about T4 and the Unnutze Esser program, wouldn't they?" There was the sound of a hand slapping bare flesh, a choked gasp and then. "My price has just gone up, lover. That little display of temper will cost you an extra hundred thousand."
The voices became low mumbles. Gretchen de Brun put them out of her mind and returned to her task. Now she lifted her skirt once again and slid the damning book under the waist band of her brief panties. She slid the drawer closed. Her blue eyes searched the room. She was sure she had left no telltale clues behind. Now she crossed the heavy carpet, her long legs moving swiftly to the door.
As she walked her mind churned remorselessly over the events which had led to this climax. It seemed like some drug-inspired nightmare and yet the sweat which gathered along the column of her spine told her how real it had all been.
For Gretchen de Brun it had started when Hans Lothar had showed her the photograph of Werner Sawade. The young Austrian had been breathless.
"There isn't any doubt about it. Werner Sawade and Werner Heyde are the same man," Hans had said with conviction. "Heyde's one of the biggest of them. He's the one who trained Christian Wirth, Franz Stangl, Gustav Wagner and no one can say how many more."
Quickly Lothar had sketched in the details. Under the code name Tiegartensrasse 4, Heyde had set up a complex of sanitariums for the liquidation of ill and mentally incompetent Germans and Austrians who had been referred to under Hitler's plan as Unnutze Esser (Useless Eaters).
With typical Nazi efficiency the program was to serve two purposes. Not only would it implement the plan to rid Germany of its incompetents, it would also toughen the SS butchers in matters of death dealing so that they would feel no moral twinges when they were sent off to head the major extermination camps.
In the sanatoriums, every form of torture and bestial murder were to be employed. They were to become literally schools of death.
Gretchen de Brun had been overcome by the sordidly shocking account of the program. But worst of all was the fact that now, almost fifteen years after the collapse of the Third Reich, Werner Heyde still walked a free man and a respected psychiatrist.
"If all this is true," she'd cried, "why isn't this man Sawade arrested?"
Hans Lothar had shaken his head helplessly. "Evidence," he replied. "Germany wants to forget what it was. It doesn't want to be reminded. There are still too many Germans who feel no guilt. You can't bring a man into court unless you have damning evidence that can't be swept under the rug. Otherwise they'll laugh you out of court."
And now as she reached for the door knob, Gretchen de Brun patted her flat stomach, feeling the hardness of the damning book pressing against her moist flesh. Here was the evidence which was needed. Here were the names of the men and women who had participated in the T4 outrages.
She thought of the arrests which would come and the probability of the culprits turning on each other like a pack of maddened rats. Hans Lothar would know what to do with the list. The roundup would be quick and efficient. The questioning would be exhaustive. The bits and pieces would be fitted into place. The mosaic would come alive once more.
She wondered how she had had the courage to go through with it. Lothar had argued persistently against her ideas. "It's insane. While you are in the castle we won't be able to give you even a modicum of protection. If anything goes wrong, you'll never leave there alive."
Gretchen had touched Hans Lothar's hand. "I was ten years old when the Nazis killed my father before my eyes. I remember how they bound my mother with ropes to a table. They cut away all of her clothes. Then they used their knives on her body. I can still hear her shrieks and smell the blood as they hacked away her breasts. Even after she was no longer breathing they continued with their work. Do you think I have no reason for wanting vengeance?" Lothar had put his arm protectively around Gretchen's shoulders. "This work is for professionals. I can't let you get involved."
"But I am involved. Whatever concerns you, concerns me. Don't you understand that. If you can spend your life hunting down the murderers, you cannot stop me from sharing the dangers. You've told me yourself that the work must go on. The world must be made to understand. Were these hollow words? Or were you sincere?"
Lothar shrugged helplessly. "It is not for a woman to do."
"Only a woman can do it. - Only a woman can gain Heyde's confidence. Only through a woman can you reach him."
At last Gretchen had prevailed. The documents had been forged, making her a member in good standing of der Spinner (the neo-Nazi underground organization.) The interview had been set up. And Gretchen de Brun had been hired by Werner Sawade as a psychiatric aide.
It had been six months. Six months of worming her way into Sawade’s confidence. Six months of being a part of his household in the medieval castle which he used as a sanatorium.
It had been six months of watching the comings and goings of prosperous women and affluent men. It had been six months of monitoring whispered conversations.
But worst of all it had been six months of virtual imprisonment. "I demand the total attention of my staff. They must live on the premises. They must be available night and
day," Sawade had told her. At best she had been able to get away for only a few hours at a time.
And in those hours she had briefed Hans Lothar on everything she had seen and heard. Lothar had seen the increasing strain etching itself into the lines around her mouth. He had worried over the little telltale signs of tension which mounted within her.
"Drop it," he had whispered. "It isn't worth it."
"Nothing terrible has happened yet." But the way she held on to Lothar told him that she was lying. Her lips searched for his, seeking the reassurance of his embrace. Her body strained to him, blending itself into the eagerness of his loving caress.
She hadn't told him of the way Werner Sawade had come to her quarters in the dead of night and had lain down beside her, pulling the covers from her body. She hadn't told him of the psychiatrist's hands moving over her nakedness, probing, pinching, pummeling until she had to fight back the shrieks which threatened to explode from her stricken throat.
She hadn't told Lothar of the savagery of Sawade's lovemaking, of his need to inflict terrible pain upon a woman to awaken the juices which lay within him. She hadn't told him of the night a when Sawade had ordered her to strip before him. He'd sat moodily in an over-stuffed chair, watching as garment after garment slipped to the floor. When she had been completely naked he had pulled the bell cord which hung from the ceiling. Seconds later the bullet-headed guard, Bruno, had shuffled into the room.
Bruno had quickly seized Gretchen and thrown her viciously across the bed. He'd squatted above her, pressing down with all his weight, holding her shoulders pinioned. She'd seen Sawade moving towards her the gleaming scalpel held before him.
The pain had been terrible as he had placed the point of the surgical instrument against her soft flesh. It had been almost unbearable when he'd gouged out the mark of the swastika at a point just above her breast.
She had not screamed, knowing this to would be the test of her loyalty to the mad doctor. The room had spun crazily above her. Her body had grown clammy with sweat. She'd watched her own blood oozing onto the silken sheets. And she had remembered the sight of her mother's blood spurting over the walls of her home.
At that moment she had sworn to herself that while the breath of life remained within her aching breast, she would not give up. She would make Sawade or Heyde or whoever this monster was pay for his crimes.
Then Sawade had fallen heavily across her, his lust tearing into her loins, his body grinding mercilessly. At last, he had risen.
"You are one of us now," he'd intoned. "You are bound to us by blood." His laugh had been high, cackling, mad, a fearsome thing. The wound had not been deep. It had healed quickly. But the ugly scar remained.
Before turning the door handle, Gretchen touched her shoulder tentatively. She took one last look around Sawade's private office. A vast sense of relief flooded through her. Never would she see this accursed place again. Never would she hear the terrible secrets of the ex-Nazis being flaunted before her.
Never would she be forced to attend the special parties which turned into psychopathic orgies. Never would she be exposed to the sight of men and women donning the uniforms of their murderous past again. There would be no sound of jack boots in the corridors. There would be no "Heils!" No voices raised in singing "Deutschland ober Alles!"
In a matter of minutes she would be in Hans Lothar's arms. Even now he was awaiting her arrival with the critical piece of evidence. Soon he would be kissing away the memories of horror. Tonight the police would move in. This section of ODESSA would crumble for all time.
As she stepped into the corridor she heard a high pitched woman's shriek. The marrow froze in her spine. Perhaps it was merely the outcry of a patient under shock therapy in one of the large treatment rooms of Castle Grafenegg. Yet the sound seemed to come from directly below. Still she couldn't be sure. Gretchen fought desperately to keep her nerves under control.
Then from the corner of her eye, she saw the man Bruno shuffling towards her. His hand was raised over his head. A lead filled blackjack dangled from a thong on his wrist.
The afternoon exploded into a million lights. Then an inky blackness reached up to gather Gretchen's stricken, body into its maw.
The sensation of pain, terrible and demanding, brought Gretchen back. She felt it grinding into her spine, cascading through her buttocks, knifing into her legs. She was
aware of a cold dankness toying with her near-nakedness. Her head pounded where the truncheon had struck.
She wanted desperately to pass her hand across her eyes. But a paralysis gripped her. Why did her wrists ache so? What was this thing which held her immobile?
Slowly the seemingly unrelated sensations merged into consciousness. Gretchen realized she was lying face down on a cold stone floor. A man's knee was jammed against the small of her back, holding her in position like a butterfly pinned to a board. Her dress had been practically ripped from her body.
She wriggled under the man's weight. He grunted once and slapped her across her hip.
"They are binding me," she realized. The constriction of the ropes around her wrists and ankles brought a sensation of utter helplessness. She knew with startling clarity that there was nothing she could do to protect herself from them.
Gretchen became aware of other sounds. There was the rattle of heavy chains and a woman's terrified sobbing. It was as if the very jaws of Hell had opened up and Gretchen had been catapulted through them.
Gretchen felt them lifting her to her feet. She saw the men dressed once more as they had been some fifteen years ago. The tunics, resplendent with their medals. The breeches which disappeared into authoritarian black leather boots. The Swastika emblazoned arm bands. The SS Death's Head fastened to the choke collars.
There were three of them huddled beneath the flag of the Third Reich which formed a wall tapestry. Sawade and Bruno were there and a third man whom they addressed as Hoerst.
Bruno said something to Sawade. The psychiatrist moved forward. His fingers gripped Gretchen's dress and tore it away from her bosom. He gathered the shredded cloth in his hands and ripped downward again. His hand probed the flatness of Gretchen's belly, slowly drawing the damning book from its hiding place.
"You are quite right, Bruno. This one is. not to be trusted either. Spies! Blackmailers! Sluts! Whores! So you wish to play with fire? Very well. Then be damned by fire! Hoerst, you know what to do. As in the old days, Kamrad! As in the time when were supreme. You know what to do. Do it!"
Sawade's arms circled Gretchen's waist, bowing her to him. She felt the heat of his legs pressing into her hips from behind. His fingers twisted the flesh of her bound arms.
Now, Bruno and the man called Hoerst busied themselves with a contraption which hung by a series of chains from the ceiling. It resembled a short diving board, except it had been fitted out with a series of heavy straps.
At a nod from Hoerst, Bruno stooped and scooped up the thrashing shrieking Erna Hoffman in his arms. Her dress hung from her in ragged tatters. Impotently she beat her fists against Bruno. Her blows bounced off his naked torso. The guard did terrible things to Erna's body as he carried her to the waiting plank.
Now they laid her down on the boards. Hoerst held her in position as Bruno fastened the buckles around her ankles, hips and chest. Bruno did his work with a sadistic glee, compressing the tender flesh of his victim's limbs until it turned an ugly shade of purple.
"Noooooooooooooo!" Erna whimpered. She rolled her head from side to side in disbelief. Her classic Teutonic features were twisted into something horrible to see.
"Werner!" she screamed. "Not me! I have loved you! The schatzi who spied on you, yes! But not me!"
"You are not to be trusted!" Sawade snickered.
"I was blind with jealousy! I'd never harm you! I'd never reveal your true identity."
"You can be very sure you won't, "Werner Sawade snickered. "Hoerst, you may begin!"
Wildly Erna Hoffman struggled against the leather straps. Her mouth was bowed into a continuous shriek as Bruno began to tip the blank so that her feet swung into the air high above her head. At last she lay suspended vertically, her long blonde hair hanging down towards the floor.
"You came to spy. Watch this closely. It will prepare you for your own moment of truth," Sawade hissed into Gretchen's ear. He giggled in evil anticipation as Hoerst and Bruno began the diabolically drawn out process of cutting away what remained of Erna Hofmann's clothing.
Then the man called Hoerst donned the white surgical gloves. He slid his gloved fingers across the most intimate portions of his captive's nudity. Whatever he did to
Erna, it must have made her senses come terribly alive. She whimpered, moaned, shrieked. Her muscles corded and strained in a heaving paroxysm.
Then, when he tired of the sport, Hoerst accepted the razor sharp scalpel from his mad assistant.
Gretchen's cry of numbed disbelief answered Erna Hofmann's howl of pain as the scalpel was drawn across the milky softness of her belly. A little trickle of blood turned into a rivulet as it splashed its way from the wound, downward over the woman's breast and face.
Now Hoerst worked quickly, peeling back the perfect skin, undertaking the process of flaying Erna Hoffman alive. The girl's life's blood formed a slimy pool at her torturer's feet. Then it began to slice down the floor drain, taking bits of flesh and tendon with it.
Slowly the woman's body turned into a mound of exposed, quivering flesh. The process continued for what must have been hours. When they had finished with the front of Erna Hofmann's body, they rebound her to the board in such a manner that her back was exposed to their flaying knives.
And all the time Sawade held Gretchen in his arms, ordering her to watch the obscene cruelties.
At last the quivered carrion was cut loose and allowed to flop to the floor.
Gretchen felt herself being propelled forward. Bruno placed his hands behind her knees. Hoerst hefted her by the shoulders. She was being lifted onto the board. In horror she felt the stickiness of Erna Hofmann's blood coating her own back. She bit her lips to stifle her moans as the heavy straps were applied to her limbs, holding her immobile. She felt the blood rushing to her head as the board was tipped upward.
Now the scalpel was pressed against her own belly. In a matter of seconds the torture would begin. Hoerst's surgically trained fingers would work their way into the incision, deftly separating skin from its under-lying flesh. Every one of her nerve endings would come searingly, burningly alive as they were exposed to the air of the torture room.
The first trickle of blood rolled down Gretchen's breast and across her throat and finally onto her face. Once again darkness closed in on her.
The bodies of Erna Hoffman and Gretchen de Brun were never found. However, others took up the search for the maniacal Werner Heyde and he was finally arrested in 1961.
Heyde or Sawade as he chose to call himself never lived to face a jury. Instead he took the easy way - a way he would not have allowed his victims. He fashioned a noose out of his leather belt, and hanged himself with it. ODESSA had lost one of it most important members.
But as this story is being published, ODESSA still exists. Its membership covers the four corners of the earth. Through its channels the Nazi murderers still keep in touch, waiting for the day when they can move once more against decency and humanity.