Everybody likes games and puzzles at Christmas time, right? So I thought I’d set a little challenge for readers of this blog. Below is a little story I wrote at Holmfirth Writers the other day (not a festive one, I’m afraid). It was written in response to eight words chosen at random from a book taken off a library shelf – they all appear in the story. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to guess what the eight words were and tell me your guesses either here or on Facebook. It’s just a bit of fun. People who were at the HWG meeting on 19 December are ineligible, for obvious reasons!
“You may leave us now, Feldwebel,” said Doctor Schuster. “The prisoner’s hands and feet are secured, are they not? I need to examine him and ask some questions. In my experience, it is easier to obtain the information I need when the … patient … is as relaxed as possible.” How were you supposed to obtain a normal pulse when the subject was expecting a beating at any moment?
The soldier looked uneasy, but a firm stare from the doctor induced him to click his heels and leave the room. The prisoner’s expression was a mixture of relief – his face bore the marks of Feldwebel Vogel’s recent attentions – and fear.
“Good.” The doctor gave his customary reassuring smile, as if he was addressing one of his wealthy patients rather than an inmate from a concentration camp – the same smile he would wear tomorrow when examining Frau Ziegler’s varicose veins. His exciting new work for the Party demanded a great deal of his time now, but he remained faithful to his long-standing clients.
“Please show me your hands.”
The prisoner shuffled around, allowing Schuster to verify that his hands were indeed handcuffed behind his back, then turned to face him again.
“Now. Some questions.” The doctor retrieved a sheet of paper from his desk and placed it on the desk in front of him. ” What is your name?”
“Trollmann, Peter, sir.” Schumacher picked up his gold fountain pen and wrote down the name.
“Your racial origin.”
The doctor nodded. It was good to have some gypsy subjects in the experiments, to help correct for any genetic effects.
“Your occupation prior to detention.”
The doctor snorted. Playing a penny whistle on street corners to coax coins from passers-by, no doubt. In between picking their pockets. He paused for a moment and wrote “unemployed” on the form.
“Twenty-seven , sir.”
“Good, good.” Likely to be more healthy than average, then. The man looked in reasonable physical shape. But that needed to be verified.
“I will need to examine you.” The doctor briskly unbuttoned Trollmann’s clothes, allowing them to fall over his handcuffed wrists and ankles.
“Sit down. Please breath smoothly in and out.” The patient complied, shuddering momentarily as he felt the cold metal of the stethoscope on the skin of his back.
As the examination proceeded, Trollmann looked around the large consulting room. To his left, positioned between the Swastika flag and a picture of one of Hitler’s political rallies, was an ordinary coat stand, bearing the doctor’s elegant coat and hat. Behind the elaborate wooden desk and was a door to another room, and against the wall to the right, oddly incongruous in the office of a Nazi official, was a large aquarium – no doubt intended to help calm the nerves of the doctor’s paying patients. A convoy of small fish was swimming from one end of the tank to the other. Trollmann would have rather liked to eat them.
“I need to examine your legs now.” It was important for the experiment that the subjects should be adequately mobile. However many times he told Vogel not to damage them too much, you would always find the odd one with a broken ankle or something similar. “You must remain perfectly still, or else I shall ask for Hauptmann Vogel’s assistance. Is that understood?”
Trollmann nodded. The doctor bent down and began to examine the left knee. This was the moment. Behind his back, Trollmann slowly eased his hands free of his clothing. He had already removed the handcuffs. In a swift movement he grabbed the stethoscope and wrapped its tube tightly around Schuster’s neck.
“You should have believed me when I said I was an entertainer. I worked in music halls. As an escapologist.”
When the body was quite still he lowered it gently to the floor. He freed his feet and replaced his own clothing with some of Schuster’s, then he put on the coat and hat and walked past the desk into the room beyond. Good, there was a window.