Yellow Mama Archives

Edward Francisco
Adhikari, Sudeep
Ahern, Edward
Aldrich, Janet M.
Allan, T. N.
Allen, M. G.
Ammonds, Phillip J.
Anderson, Peter
Andreopoulos, Elliott
Arab, Bint
Augustyn, P. K.
Aymar, E. A.
Babbs, James
Baber, Bill
Bagwell, Dennis
Bailey, Ashley
Baird, Meg
Bakala, Brendan
Baker, Nathan
Balaz, Joe
Barber, Shannon
Barker, Tom
Barlow, Tom
Bates, Jack
Bayly, Karen
Baugh, Darlene
Bauman, Michael
Baumgartner, Jessica Marie
Beale, Jonathan
Beck, George
Beckman, Paul
Benet, Esme
Bennett, Brett
Bennett, Charlie
Bennett, D. V.
Berg, Carly
Berman, Daniel
Bernardara, Will Jr.
Berriozabal, Luis
Beveridge, Robert
Bickerstaff, Russ
Bigney, Tyler
Bladon, Henry
Blake, Steven
Bohem, Charlie Keys and Les
Booth, Brenton
Boski, David
Bougger, Jason
Boyd, A. V.
Boyd, Morgan
Bracey, DG
Brewka-Clark, Nancy
Britt, Alan
Brooke, j
Brown, R. Thomas
Brown, Sam
Burton, Michael
Bushtalov, Denis
Butkowski, Jason
Butler, Simon Hardy
Cameron, W. B.
Campbell, J. J.
Campbell, Jack Jr.
Cano, Valentina
Cardinale, Samuel
Carlton, Bob
Carr, Jennifer
Cartwright, Steve
Carver, Marc
Castle, Chris
Catlin, Alan
Chesler, Adam
Clausen, Daniel
Clevenger, Victor
Clifton, Gary
Coffey, James
Colasuonno, Alfonso
Conley, Jen
Connor, Tod
Cooper, Malcolm Graham
Coral, Jay
Cosby, S. A.
Costello, Bruce
Cotton, Mark
Crandall, Rob
Criscuolo, Carla
Crist, Kenneth
Crouch & Woods
D., Jack
Dallett, Cassandra
Danoski, Joseph V.
Daly, Sean
Davis, Christopher
Davis, Michael D.
Day, Holly
de Bruler, Connor
Degani, Gay
De France, Steve
De La Garza, Lela Marie
Deming, Ruth Z.
Demmer, Calvin
De Neve, M. A.
Dennehy, John W.
DeVeau, Spencer
Di Chellis, Peter
Dick, Earl
Dick, Paul "Deadeye"
DiLorenzo, Ciro
Dionne, Ron
Dobson, Melissa
Domenichini, John
Dominelli, Rob
Doran, Phil
Doreski, William
Dorman, Roy
Doherty, Rachel
Dosser, Jeff
Doyle, John
Draime, Doug
Drake, Lena Judith
Dromey, John H.
Dubal, Paul Michael
Duke, Jason
Duncan, Gary
Dunham, T. Fox
Duschesneau, Pauline
Dunn, Robin Wyatt
Duxbury, Karen
Duy, Michelle
Eade, Kevin
Elliott, Garnett
Ellman, Neil
England, Kristina
Erianne, John
Espinosa, Maria
Esterholm, Jeff
Fallow, Jeff
Farren, Jim
Fenster, Timothy
Ferraro, Diana
Filas, Cameron
Fillion, Tom
Fisher, Miles Ryan
Flanagan, Daniel N.
Flanagan, Ryan Quinn
Francisco, Edward
Funk, Matthew C.
Gann, Alan
Gardner, Cheryl Ann
Garvey, Kevin Z.
Gentile, Angelo
Genz, Brian
Giersbach, Walter
Gladeview, Lawrence
Glass, Donald
Goddard, L. B.
Godwin, Richard
Goff, Christopher
Goss, Christopher
Gradowski, Janel
Graham, Sam
Grant, Christopher
Grant, Stewart
Greenberg, K.J. Hannah
Greenberg, Paul
Grey, John
Gunn, Johnny
Gurney, Kenneth P.
Haglund, Tobias
Halleck, Robert
Hamlin, Mason
Hanson, Christopher Kenneth
Hanson, Kip
Harrington, Jim
Harris, Bruce
Hart, GJ
Hartman, Michelle
Haskins, Chad
Hawley, Doug
Haycock, Brian
Hayes, A. J.
Hayes, John
Hayes, Peter W. J.
Heatley, Paul
Heimler, Heidi
Helmsley, Fiona
Hendry, Mark
Heslop, Karen
Heyns, Heather
Hilary, Sarah
Hill, Richard
Hivner, Christopher
Hockey, Matthew J.
Hogan, Andrew J.
Holderfield, Culley
Holton, Dave
Howells, Ann
Hoy, J. L.
Huchu, Tendai
Hudson, Rick
Huffman, A. J.
Huguenin, Timothy G.
Huskey, Jason L.
Irascible, Dr. I. M.
Jaggers, J. David
James, Christopher
Johnson, Beau
Johnson, Moctezuma
Johnson, Zakariah
Jones, D. S.
Jones, Erin J.
Jones, Mark
Kabel, Dana
Kaplan, Barry Jay
Kay, S.
Keaton, David James
Kempka, Hal
Kerins, Mike
Keshigian, Michael
Kevlock, Mark Joseph
King, Michelle Ann
Kirk, D.
Knott, Anthony
Koenig, Michael
Korpon, Nik
Kovacs, Norbert
Kovacs, Sandor
Kowalcyzk, Alec
Krafft, E. K.
Lacks, Lee Todd
Lang, Preston
Larkham, Jack
La Rosa, F. Michael
Leasure, Colt
Leatherwood, Roger
Lees, Arlette
Lees, Lonni
Leins, Tom
Lemieux, Michael
Lemming, Jennifer
Lerner, Steven M
Lewis, Cynthia Ruth
Lewis, LuAnn
Lifshin, Lyn
Liskey, Tom Darin
Lodge, Oliver
Lopez, Aurelio Rico III
Lorca, Aurelia
Lovisi, Gary
Lucas, Gregory E.
Lukas, Anthony
Lynch, Nulty
Lyon, Hillary
Lyons, Matthew
Mac, David
MacArthur, Jodi
Malone, Joe
Mann, Aiki
Manzolillo, Nicholas
Marcius, Cal
Marrotti, Michael
Mason, Wayne
Mattila, Matt
McAdams, Liz
McCartney, Chris
McDaris, Catfish
McFarlane, Adam Beau
McGinley, Chris
McGinley, Jerry
McElhiney, Sean
McKim, Marci
McMannus, Jack
McQuiston, Rick
Mellon, Mark
Memi, Samantha
Miles, Marietta
Miller, Max
Minihan, Jeremiah
Montagna, Mitchel
Monson, Mike
Mooney, Christopher P.
Morgan, Bill W.
Moss, David Harry
Mullins, Ian
Mulvihill, Michael
Muslim, Kristine Ong
Nardolilli, Ben
Nelson, Trevor
Nessly, Ray
Nester, Steven
Neuda, M. C.
Newell, Ben
Newman, Paul
Nielsen, Ayaz
Ogurek, Douglas J.
O'Keefe, Sean
Ortiz, Sergio
Pagel, Briane
Park, Jon
Parr, Rodger
Parrish, Rhonda
Partin-Nielsen, Judith
Peralez, R.
Perez, Juan M.
Perez, Robert Aguon
Peterson, Ross
Petroziello, Brian
Pettie, Jack
Petyo, Robert
Phillips, Matt
Picher, Gabrielle
Pierce, Rob
Pietrzykowski, Marc
Plath, Rob
Pointer, David
Post, John
Powell, David
Power, Jed
Powers, M. P.
Praseth, Ram
Prusky, Steve
Pruitt, Eryk
Purfield, M. E.
Purkis, Gordon
Quinlan, Joseph R.
Quinn, Frank
Rabas, Kevin
Ram, Sri
Rapth, Sam
Ravindra, Rudy
Renney, Mark
reutter, g emil
Rhatigan, Chris
Richardson, Travis
Richey, John Lunar
Ridgeway, Kevin
Rihlmann, Brian
Ritchie, Salvadore
Robinson, John D.
Robinson, Kent
Rodgers, K. M.
Roger, Frank
Rose, Mandi
Rose, Mick
Rosenberger, Brian
Rosenblum, Mark
Rosmus, Cindy
Ruhlman, Walter
Rutherford, Scotch
Salinas, Alex
Sanders, Isabelle
Sanders, Sebnem
Santo, Heather
Savage, Jack
Sayles, Betty J.
Schauber, Karen
Schneeweiss, Jonathan
Schraeder, E. F.
Schumejda, Rebecca
See, Tom
Sethi, Sanjeev
Sexton, Rex
Seymour, J. E.
Shaikh, Aftab Yusuf
Sheagren, Gerald E.
Shepherd, Robert
Shirey, D. L.
Short, John
Sim, Anton
Simmler, T. Maxim
Simpson, Henry
Sinisi, J. J.
Sixsmith, JD
Slagle, Cutter
Slaviero, Susan
Sloan, Frank
Small, Alan Edward
Smith, Brian J.
Smith, Ben
Smith, C.R.J.
Smith, Copper
Smith, Greg
Smith, Paul
Smith, Stephanie
Smith, Willie
Smuts, Carolyn
Snethen, Daniel G.
Snoody, Elmore
Sojka, Carol
Solender, Michael J.
Sortwell, Pete
Sparling, George
Spicer, David
Squirrell, William
Stanton, Henry G.
Stewart, Michael S.
Stickel, Anne
Stolec, Trina
Stoll, Don
Stryker, Joseph H.
Stucchio, Chris
Succre, Ray
Sullivan, Thomas
Swanson, Peter
Swartz, Justin A.
Sweet, John
Tarbard, Grant
Taylor, J. M.
Thompson, John L.
Thompson, Phillip
Tillman, Stephen
Titus, Lori
Tivey, Lauren
Tobin, Tim
Tu, Andy
Ullerich, Eric
Valent, Raymond A.
Valvis, James
Vilhotti, Jerry
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Walsh, Patricia
Walters, Luke
Ward, Emma
Washburn, Joseph
Watt, Max
Weber, R.O.
Weil, Lester L.
White, Judy Friedman
White, Robb
White, Terry
Wilsky, Jim
Wilson, Robley
Wilson, Tabitha
Woodland, Francis
Young, Mark
Yuan, Changming
Zackel, Fred
Zafiro, Frank
Zapata, Angel
Zee, Carly
Zimmerman, Thomas

Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017



by Edward Francisco


          Edgar Allan Poe and Detective Allan Pinkerton occupied a suite of rooms in the Royal Hotel, located in the French Quarter, in one of the most charming cities in America, New Orleans. The two men had been enlisted by local authorities to investigate the disappearance of a notorious Creole socialite and alleged serial killer, named Delphine LaLaurie. LaLaurie was accused of torturing and murdering at least nine slaves in her mansion, the ruins of which sat directly across the street from the hotel where Poe and Pinkerton were staying, and where they awaited the arrival of Chief Magistrate Jean Francois Canonge, a legal author who’d commissioned the now famous duo of sleuths to locate the missing matron, if possible, and to bring her to justice.

          As a die-hard abolitionist, the Scottish-born Pinkerton believed in the equality of all beings and was appalled that slavery continued to exist in a so-called civilized place and time. A southern gentleman, who moved easily in social circles, above and below the Mason-Dixon line, Poe believed that an end to slavery was inevitable. However, unlike Pinkerton, who’d travelled to Louisiana to redress a wrong, Poe was attracted to the case itself -- one already inspiring wild claims, alleged disappearances, and the diabolical practices of Voodoo. A rap at the door interrupted the protracted reverie of the two men, each one comfortable being silent in the company of the other.

          Poe rose to admit the visitor. Judge Jean Francois Canonge extended a hand and entered at Poe’s invitation.

          “Gentlemen,” Canonge greeted Poe and Pinkerton.

          Judge Francois Canonge was a short, compact man, dressed in the distinguished fashion of the day. A watch fob and chain hung from his vest. On removing his top hat, he revealed a bald pate. Both Poe and Pinkerton took note of the hat, its brand, one of a kind produced by a milliner in St. Louis. (It was the sleuths’ stock and trade to notice such details.) Poe bade the judge sit in a vacant chair. The seating arrangement formed a triangle of the men facing one another.

          “Would you care for a Brandy?” Poe asked their guest.

          “It’s a bit early for me,” Canonge replied. “Thank you, nonetheless.” The judge cleared his throat before resuming. “First, let me thank you gentlemen for coming to New Orleans.”

          “The pleasure is ours,” said Poe. “New Orleans is an enchanting city.”

          “That it is,” the magistrate agreed. “The diverse backgrounds of its citizens result in no end of excitements.”

          Poe smiled. He was naturally predisposed to hedonism. Pinkerton, on the other hand, was a proper Scot, teetotaler, and Presbyterian. Sins of the flesh were repugnant to him. He was the sort of man who’d refuse anesthesia in the unfortunate case his leg needed amputating. Poe suspected that Pinkerton was far less forgiving of Poe’s carnal impulses than Poe was of Pinkerton’s stuffiness. Maybe Pinkerton knew he was stuffy. Whatever the case, the Scotsman was gentleman enough not to fuss or scold.

          “This case you wrote us about,” said Poe, “sounds intriguing.”

          Bizarre is how I’d describe it,” the judge responded.

          “Maybe you can tell us about it,” Pinkerton urged.

          “Yes, fill us in,” Poe said.

          “Well,” Canonge began, “across the street from this hotel lie the ruins of the most majestic house in all the city. It belonged to a Creole woman named Delphine LaLaurie, twice widowed at the time the fire broke out in the house. When rescuers responded, they found a seventy-year-old woman, the cook, chained to the stove by her ankle. She admitted to setting the fire in an attempt to commit suicide rather than be taken to the uppermost room of the house for punishment because, as she alleged, those taken there never came back.”

          “Grisly business,” said Pinkerton.

          “You haven’t heard the worst,” announced the judge. “Upon being refused keys by Delphine LaLaurie, bystanders broke down the doors to the slave quarters and discovered seven slaves naked, starved, and mutilated. Two had their eyes gouged out and were barely clinging to life. Two of the male servitors were already dead, having bled out after being castrated. All the poor wretches had their lips sewn together to muffle screams.”

          “It’s rare to find a woman engaging in such extremes of sadism,” Pinkerton noted.

          “What fate awaited the surviving slaves?” Poe asked.

          “Madame LaLaurie was found guilty of illegal cruelty and was forced to forfeit nine slaves later manumitted in response to demands of an outraged citizenry. The freed slaves quickly sought refuge and protection in local Creole neighborhoods or left the city entirely, fearing that LaLaurie might order them captured and returned for more torture.”

          “Are you saying,” the Scotsman asked, his face reddening, “that LaLaurie experienced no consequences other than losing her slaves? The woman should be tried for serial murder.”

          Canonge gave a heavy sigh. “It is a curse of our society that slaves have no rights that anyone is obliged to observe. However, I would be misleading if I failed to disclose that LaLaurie’s atrocities did not escape the notice of the Creole community. A mob of locals attacked the LaLaurie residence and demolished and destroyed everything they could lay their hands on.”

          “And Madame LaLaurie?” Poe asked.

          “Escaped,” said Canonge. “Rumor has it she fled New Orleans during the mob violence, took a coach to the waterfront and, traveling by schooner, from there to Mobile, Alabama, and on to Paris.”

          “That would place her beyond our jurisdiction,” Pinkerton noted, “assuming that the account is true.”

          “There’s the rub,” said Canonge. “No one knows for certain, and gossip takes on a life of its own.”

          “You must have some reason to believe she might still be in New Orleans,” Poe said directly.

          “A suspicion, indeed,” said Canonge.

          “What do you suspect?” Pinkerton asked.

          “After LaLaurie’s alleged departure to France, a man’s decapitated body was found floating in one of the canals.”

          “Horrid business, to be sure,” said Pinkerton.

          “Yes,” Canonge replied. “However, in the absence of a head, there was little chance we’d ever be able to identify the victim.”

          “Yet, you think you know the man’s identity,” Poe said. “It is not the man’s body but the nature of his murder wherein you find the clue.”

          “How did you know?” asked Canonge, a bit surprised at Poe’s acumen.

          “It could be little else,” said Poe. “You must also believe that Madame LaLaurie had a hand in the man’s murder, which means she couldn’t possibly have been out of the country at the time he was killed.”

          “You surmise correctly,” said Canonge. “I have a strong suspicion that the beheaded man may be LaLaurie’s husband.”

          “Decapitation is a ritual practice of Voodoo,” said Poe.

          “A fact I only recently discovered while investigating this case,” Canonge admitted. “But frankly, gentlemen, I’m out of my league here. I know very little of the dark arts and am superstitious enough not to want to know more. That’s why I contacted you, Mr. Poe. Your reputation and stories indicate someone knowledgeable in matters of the occult.”

          “I confess a penchant for such phenomena,” said Poe. “As for their being superstitions, I’m reminded of Hamlet’s statement to his skeptical friend:  ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”

          Allan Pinkerton snuffed derisively.

          “See here,” he interrupted. “What motive might LaLaurie have for murdering her husband?”

          “The same motive as for killing her first two husbands,” Canonge speculated, “both of whom died suddenly and suspiciously. Her first husband, a high-ranking Spanish royal, named Lopez, simply dropped dead on a ship en route to Havana. Her second husband, Jean Blanque, was a prominent banker, merchant, lawyer, and legislator. The cause of his death, too, was unknown. With these two husbands, Madame LaLaurie was able to improve her circumstances and elevate her position in New Orleans society. As a young woman, Delphine LaLaurie was a great beauty. She possessed a bewitching air and likely could have ensnared any man she wanted. To a woman possessing such pulchritude, however, nature and time are sworn enemies. Still, she was able to convince a third man, a physician named Leonard LaLaurie, to marry her. Because he was much younger than she, rumors floated to the effect that she’d ensnared him with charms and spells peculiar to Voodoo.”

          “Rubbish,” said the proper Scotsman, Pinkerton. “It’s more likely that the young man saw an opportunity to fleece a dowager out of her fortune. If she gleaned that was his intent, she’d need no additional motivation to kill him. She wouldn’t need the help of charms and spells, either.”

          “But she would need the help of someone to decapitate him and dispose of his body as part of an elaborate rite of sacrifice,” Poe announced. “Isn’t that right, Monsieur Canonge?”

          “Once more, Mr. Poe, you are a hound hot on my heels, and, once again, you are correct. Shortly after the discovery of the dead man’s body, one of Delphine LaLaurie’s slaves, a man named Simon, came to the police station, insisting that he’d not killed Leonard LaLaurie -- Delphine LaLaurie had done that with poison -- but had been enlisted by Madame to assist in decapitating her husband and disposing of his body. She promised to put a curse on the slave if he refused or breathed a word of what he’d helped her do.”

          “What prompted him to come forward?” Pinkerton asked.

          “When Madame LaLaurie sent him on a small errand, Simon saw an opportunity to escape.”

          “But wasn’t he afraid of Delphine’s curse or hex or spell -- or whatever?” Pinkerton asked.

          “He was,” Canonge stated. “However, he fled to the home of the one person on whom Delphine LaLaurie’s treachery would have no appreciable effect and who could repel any hex placed on Simon.”

          “You act as if this -- stuff -- is real,” Pinkerton scoffed.

          “It may be hard for outsiders to understand,” said Canonge, “but the magic of Voodoo is centuries, perhaps eons, old. It may well date back to the Devil himself. You do believe in the Devil, don’t you, Detective Pinkerton?”

          “Hmph. I never gave the Devil much thought one way or another.”

          “The people of New Orleans do,” Canonge asserted. “That’s why Simon went to the one woman who could unbind a spell:  Marie Laveau.”

          “Ah, yes,” said Poe. “Madame Laveau. Her reputation precedes her.”

          “She is the undisputed Queen of Voodoo in New Orleans,” Canonge said, almost proudly. “Despite, or perhaps because of, the Voodoo rituals she conducts, Laveau is held in high esteem for her devout Catholic faith. She attends church daily and was recently granted permission to practice her rituals behind St. Louis Cathedral. Early on, Creoles in the city saw the parallels between Voodoo and Catholicism.”

          “What can be worse than the marriage of two superstitions?” Pinkerton asked.

          “It is noteworthy, I think,” Canonge said, “that it was Madame Laveau who convinced Simon to present his account of Leonard LaLaurie’s murder to the authorities. She promised to protect him from Delphine LaLaurie if he did.”

          “Why didn’t you take this Simon into custody?” Pinkerton asked.

          “My agreement with Marie Laveau was that Simon would provide details of Delphine LaLaurie’s murder of her husband and gruesome treatment of her husband’s corpse in exchange for his release into Madame Laveau’s custody.”

          “What makes you think he won’t flee the city?” Pinkerton asked.

          Poe sat quietly, listening to the exchange between both men.

          “Because I have Madame Laveau’s word,” Canonge announced solemnly.

          “The word of a Voodoo priestess?” Allan Pinkerton said, shaking his head.

          “Yes,” Canonge said. “Besides, Simon is terrified of Delphine LaLaurie. He would never forsake Laveau’s protection. He’s staying in her home.”

          Pinkerton found it all too difficult to believe and said so.

          “A grown man seeking the protection of one woman from another? Assuming we’re able to locate and bring LaLaurie to justice, will Simon be willing to testify against her in court?”

          Poe and Canonge exchanged glances.

          “It’s not that simple,” said Magistrate Canonge. “I’m afraid the burden will be ours to prove LaLaurie killed her husband. That’s why I enlisted the aid of the two greatest sleuths in America.”

          “But we have an eyewitness,” Pinkerton protested.

          “I regret to say that a slave’s testimony is unacceptable in a court of law, not only in New Orleans but throughout the South.”

          “Then why have laws at all?” Pinkerton sputtered.

          “Perhaps that should be a discussion for another time,” his friend, Poe, insisted, ending his own silence. “What I’m curious about is the rumor that LaLaurie fled the country after the discovery of tortured and mutilated slaves in her home and the conflagration sparked by an enraged populace. If Simon is telling the truth -- and we’ve no reason to believe he isn’t given the risks he took coming forward -- then Delphine LaLaurie was busy murdering her husband at a time she was supposed to be out of the country. Tell me, then. In whose best interest would it be for such a rumor to circulate?”

          “I think I see what you’re getting at,” said Pinkerton. “There might be two intended outcomes of such a ruse. The first would be to quell the vigilante mob’s persistent attempts to find and lynch her. If the bird has flown the coup, what reason to pursue her? The second effect created by a rumor of Delphine LaLaurie’s hasty departure would offer her an alibi in the event someone discovered the decapitated victim actually was Delphine’s husband, Leonard LaLaurie. If in France at the time of the hapless man’s murder, Delphine LaLaurie couldn’t be his killer. Of course, in the absence of the man’s head and the inability of the one witness, a Negro, to testify to the dead man’s identity, we don’t seem to have a devil’s chance of solving the case.”

          Poe smiled at his friend’s reference to the devil.

          “With all due respect, Detective Pinkerton, I beg to differ,” Canonge said.

          “Really. Why’s that?” Poe asked, detecting a change in Canonge’s tone indicating the magistrate may have recalled a hitherto undisclosed piece of information.

          “Trust me when I say if we are lucky enough to apprehend Madame LaLaurie, then her husband’s head will almost certainly be in her possession.”

          The detectives traded glances at the macabre suggestion. Canonge sought to explain at once on seeing their perplexed looks.

          “Forgive me, gentlemen. It appears I failed to mention that Madame LaLaurie was also a practitioner of the dark arts, as they are sometimes called. I have that on the authority of Marie Laveau. In fact, at one time, Delphine LaLaurie was an acolyte of Madame Laveau until the teacher discovered the student’s uses of magic to harm, rather than help, those weakest and in most need - the slaves of her own household.”

          “What does any of this have to do with Madame LaLaurie’s husband’s head?” Detective Pinkerton asked.

          “As I said, I’m squeamish when it comes to such subjects,” Canonge confessed. “However, Madame Laveau explained that ritual sacrifices sometimes take place to appease the gods and to partake of their power.

          “Madame Laveau is correct,” Poe interjected. “My own researches into the occult reveal that severing an enemy’s head was originally a trophy-taking behavior designed to ensnare life forces for the victim’s slayer. The head is regarded as a totem imbued with divine powers. For that reason, I suspect Monsieur Canonge and Madame Laveau are right in assuming that Delphine LaLaurie and her husband’s head are in close proximity.”

          “Savagery!” Pinkerton summed it up in a word.

          “To a modern sensibility, perhaps such rituals appear savage,” said Poe. “However, history demonstrates blood sacrifice to be at the core of all major religions.”

          At this statement, the men grew quiet for a time, each absorbed in a reverie of his own, disturbed only by a ticking clock.

          “Has anyone considered how preposterous it would be,” Pinkerton asked finally, “for Delphine LaLaurie to attempt to escape the country with her husband’s head in tow?”

          “I believe we can conclude with a reasonable degree of certainty,” said Poe, “that Madame LaLaurie hasn’t left the country, or even the city.”

          “How can you be assured of that?” Pinkerton asked.

          “It’s a reasonable conclusion given the piece of information Monsieur Canonge just gave us.”

          Magistrate Canonge appeared shocked that he might have something important to reveal.

          “Go on,” Pinkerton urged.

          “Just this,” said Poe. “For the rumor to circulate that Madame LaLaurie fled the country before, or after, allegedly murdering her husband, someone had to see her leave. Am I right in assuming, Monsieur Canonge, that no one having observed her departure has come forward?”

          “That’s right,” Canonge affirmed.

          “Then it behooves us to ask how such a rumor originated and who most benefits from its circulation. The obvious answer to both is Delphine LaLaurie. Her best chances for survival are for both the authorities and the vigilantes to believe she’s beyond their grasp, most especially if she’s still in their midst. Keep in mind she would have no need of a rumor if she’s already in exile. However, these broad strokes, I suspect, do not paint a complete picture.”

          “What are you saying?” Pinkerton asked.

          “Only that while the imputed rumor would be useful to Madame LaLaurie, it might also serve the interests of a person hiding her.”

          “An accomplice?” Pinkerton asked.

          “Not necessarily,” said Poe. “In fact, maybe someone wishing to harm her.”

          “Madame Laveau!” said Monsieur Canonge excitedly, instantly seeing the role his piece of intelligence played in Poe’s thinking.

          “Yes,” Poe said. “You yourself, Monsieur Canonge, disclosed the one person with a motive and the capabilities to guarantee not only that justice is served in the case of Delphine LaLaurie, but that the punishment fits her crime. Not only did Madame LaLaurie torture her slaves, but she also betrayed Marie Laveau by using her mentor’s knowledge -- for evil purposes.”

          “Then do you think,” Pinkerton asked, “that Madame Laveau is holding Delphine LaLaurie hostage for purposes of torturing her?”

          “I wouldn’t be surprised,” Poe declared.

          “If so,” Pinkerton said grimly, “I fear we may be too late.”

          “I fear we may not be late enough,” said Poe.

          Poe’s cryptic remark made sense to Pinkerton once the two detectives arrived at Marie Laveau’s home and were invited inside. Somewhat to their surprise the Voodoo Queen offered no resistance to their entry.

          “I thought you’d have come sooner,” she said. “Follow me.”

          Marie Laveau was a statuesque woman of color. Poe surmised her to be an attractive mix of African, Indian and Caucasian ancestry, known as a Quadroon. As the detectives followed Laveau to a room off the kitchen, their noses were assaulted by the unmistakable stench of blood and viscera. Its source was that of a woman -- naked, bound, gagged, and trussed in the most contorted fashion.

          “Gentlemen, let me introduce you to Madame Delphine LaLaurie, at one time of one of the most beautiful women in New Orleans,” said Marie Laveau. “However, as you can see, Madame LaLaurie has fallen on hard times.”

          Poe and Pinkerton stared at the grisly spectacle. Most noticeable was the spiked iron collar holding the figure’s head in a static position. Her skin appeared to have been flayed from every conceivable angle. Two Negro men flanked her with whips in hand. A deep gash in Madame LaLaurie’s head dripped blood into a bucket on the floor. The most striking abuse of Delphine LaLaurie was that her eyes had been gouged out - now hollow and bloody sockets. Wielding instruments of torture, a half dozen other Negroes waited their turn while a chocolate-colored youth hobbled over to the lump of flesh that was Delphine LaLaurie, swung a sledge hammer down hard on the victim’s foot, and listened for the bones to break. Poe and Pinkerton would later learn that the Negroes were all slaves belonging to Madame LaLaurie and that the slaves were replicating injuries inflicted on them. If Poe had hoped that LaLaurie would be dead when they found her, he was disabused of that possibility in the next instant when a low, cavernous moan issued from the woman’s throat.

          Marie Laveau strode over to Delphine LaLaurie and spoke in her ear, the lobe looking as if an animal had chewed it.

          “Still want to die?” Marie Laveau asked. “You see, that isn’t possible at the moment. You still have many sins to atone for and much suffering to endure. Do you recall using my potions to keep your victims alive while you experimented on them? Trust me when I say I want you to live and will do all in my power to make sure you don’t leave a moment too soon. You of all people, Delphine, should know it’s a fine line between inflicting enough pain to make a victim wish he were dead but not enough pain to kill him.”

          Marie Laveau finished her speech and turned to face the detectives. Allan Pinkerton had drawn a pistol from his pocket but couldn’t bring himself to point it at her. Poe stood quietly at his side.

          “Madame Laveau, I must insist that you stop torturing Delphine LaLaurie. I understand your desire for revenge but --” Pinkerton broke off, not knowing what else to say. Marie Laveau’s eyes were smoky and alluring.

          “You misunderstand, Detective,” said Madame Laveau. “My desire isn’t for revenge. My desire is for a reckoning.”

          “Be that as it may,” Pinkerton said, “but I must insist that you stop torturing her.”

          “I’m afraid that isn’t possible,” said Laveau. “Not until every last offense is answered.”

          “Offense?” said Pinkerton.

          “Let me introduce you to some friends of mine,” Marie Laveau announced. She seemed next to address only the darkness behind her. “It’s all right. These men won’t hurt you.”

          Out of the shadows and into the dim light emerged six Negroes, four men and two women.

          “Step closer, so they can see you,” Marie Laveau instructed. One by one each took a step and paused, awaiting inspection. The first thing Poe and Pinkerton noticed was that they all were disfigured. One Negro woman was missing her ears; the other was hunchbacked owing to bones broken and reset making her look like a crab. One male Negro youth had great patches of white skin where he’d been flayed. Another adult male opened his mouth to reveal the absence of a tongue torn out at the roots with pincers by Delphine LaLaurie. Another man, naked, had survived castration. The last thrust out his arms. Where hands had been, there were only nubs now. The wounds sustained by Madame LaLaurie’s slaves were hideous and grotesque, unspeakably so.

          “Now you see with your own eyes why Delphine LaLaurie can’t be released;” said Marie Laveau, “The law would protect her, and the fate of my friends would be to suffer more than they already have. There would be no justice for them. They might even be returned to her or sent to another harsh slaver once she’s dead. I can’t permit that. As long as they remain with me, they are safe, until a time when I can arrange their departure for a destination where slavery doesn’t exist. There they will be free. As for Delphine, she took a blood oath to honor our craft, knowing that failing to do so would result in torture and death. She knew what to expect. Don’t waste a moment feeling sorry for her.”

          Allan Pinkerton’s pistol drooped at his side. There was no way he could bring himself to imperil Delphine LaLaurie’s slaves further. It was a devil of a dilemma in which he and Poe found themselves:  Pinkerton couldn’t condone torture, but he couldn’t condone slavery - especially when slaves themselves were tortured. He would choose the lesser of two evils and hope Poe agreed.

          Poe was imagining all the ways to forget what they’d just seen. He remarked to himself that it had all seemed akin to a terrible nightmare and that he and Pinkerton had discovered a door opening onto the landscape of hell. Now he and Pinkerton should back out the way they came in. What Poe said next put the minds of Marie Laveau and Allan Pinkerton at ease.

          “Madame Laveau, thank you for your assistance in this case, but it seems Detective Pinkerton and I have reached an impasse in our murder investigation. Without a confession from Delphine LaLaurie and without a way to identify the headless corpse, we have no case and likely never will.”

          “I’m sorry you came so far for so little,” said Marie Laveau.

          “C’est la vie,” Poe said. “However, before we leave, I wonder if you’d indulge me by engaging in a small thought experiment?”

          “I’ll try,” she said, sensing Poe wished to satisfy some matter of curiosity.

          “Thank you,” said Poe. “I’d like for you to imagine you are writing the story of Delphine LaLaurie. How does that story end?”

          Poe, the writer, wanted a conclusion to the saga only the Voodoo Queen could provide.

          “If I were to peer into a crystal ball,” Madame Laveau intoned, “I’d discover that Delphine poisoned Leonard LaLaurie and then decapitated her husband, with the aid of a slave. She carried the head to a powerful priestess, versed in the art of curses, hexes, and spells. Delphine believed the head would serve as a blood offering, enabling her to atone for transgressions against the priestess. She was mistaken. The priestess buried the sacrificed head where no one would find it. When it came time for Delphine LaLaurie to die, the priestess beheaded her, with the aid of a slave. Together they buried Delphine’s head with that of her husband so each could stare into the eyes of the other for eternity.”

          “A grim ending, indeed,” Pinkerton said nervously.

          “I’m afraid it’s the only ending possible,” said Madame Laveau.

          With that, the detectives showed themselves to the door.


Art by Ann Marie Rhiel © 2017

Arendt and Eichmann: Behind Bars

by Edward Francisco


          She heard the faint suspiration of breath as smoke materialized in an eerie halo above the smoker’s head. He extended the pack of cigarettes, offering her one.

          “No,” she said, not wanting anything he had to give. She seated herself without being asked to take a seat. The man across the table from her crushed out his cigarette in an ashtray provided, undoubtedly, by prison officials, not wishing their star prisoner to complain that he’d been neglected or mistreated. There was bitter irony in that.

          “You asked to see me,” she said in as matter-of-fact a tone as possible despite bile rising in her throat, the result of equal measures of fear and disgust.

          Adolph Eichmann eyed Hannah Arendt with a faint air of detachment, his head tilting as if to view her from a different angle. Maybe he wished to make her uncomfortable. The man’s eyes were gun-metal blue. He owned an aquiline nose, the sort displayed by Caesar on Roman coins. How had so noble a nose withstood the stench of the camps? High, chiseled cheeks complemented the total effect. Eichmann was nothing if not a poster boy for Ayrian ideals of power and beauty. Hannah concluded that it was one of life’s many inequities that age had mercifully spared Eichmann’s features during his years in hiding.

          By no one’s estimation would Hannah Arendt be deemed attractive. She was so plain as to be unrecognizable in a crowd. That was a fact of experience. At university she’d studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger, whose intellectual status in Europe at the time was that of a god. Arendt had fallen in love with Heidegger, and the two subsequently engaged in a short-term affair. In the wake of their break-up, Arendt moved to the University of Heidelberg, completing her dissertation in 1929. When later that year Heidegger failed to recognize her at a train station, Arendt was devastated. If Heidegger had loved her once, it was because she owned the mind of a man.

          “Thank you for agreeing to meet under these conditions,” Eichmann spoke apologetically, realizing that the Israeli soldiers flanking them and the omnipresent microphones recording their conversation in the tiny cell were hardly conducive to an incisive and free exchange.

          “I hadn’t thought you’d have heard of me,” Arendt said, impervious to Eichmann’s attempts at politeness.

          “Oh, my, yes,” said Eichmann. “Would you dare to hear what I know about you?”

          “If you wish,” Hannah said, careful to reject the crumb of flattery he’d offered her.

          “You were the stellar student of the brilliant philosopher, Martin Heidegger, who maintained his allegiance to the Nazi Party until the end of the war,” Eichmann announced proudly. “You, on the contrary, left Germany as a self-imposed exile and, later, took up the cause of our enemies. In 1951, you enjoyed a brief period of celebrity with the publication of your book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, a rather pedestrian assessment of the roots and influence of Nazism.”

          “If my analysis was so pedestrian, why did you ask to see me?” If her research had taught her one thing, it was the duplicitous and grandiose strategies of interrogation by the Nazis.

          “Because you, of all the correspondents covering this trial, may be fairest and most objective.”

          Eichmann took the pack and matches from the table and lit another cigarette. Hannah suddenly felt dizzy, claustrophobic. She fought the urge to rise and bolt to the door.

          “You’re mistaken, Colonel Eichmann, if you think I have a grain of sympathy for your plight.”

          “Otto,” Eichmann interjected.

          “Obersturmbannführer,” Arendt insisted on using his German military title.

          “As you wish,” Eichmann insisted. “However, you’re mistaken if you think I want your sympathy. That’s the last thing I want. In fact, I’m counting on your dispassionate qualities as a scholar to sift through the facts of the case and present a fair accounting of my role as an obedient functionary of the SS.”

          “Functionary?” Arendt asked, stunned.

          “Of course,” said Eichmann in a tone meant to absolve himself of any wrong-doing in the systematic murder of millions. “I was one of the many horses pulling the wagon and couldn’t escape left or right because of the will of the driver.”

          “Is that your defense?” Hannah asked.

          “What else could it be?” asked Eichmann. “I never did anything great or small, without obtaining in advance express instructions from Adolf Hitler or any of my superiors.”

          “If that is your defense,” Hannah concluded, “then there can only be one outcome to your trial.”

          “Do you think I’m a fool, Frauline Arendt?” Eichmann asked rhetorically without giving Hannah time to answer. “There never was but one outcome to this trial. The culmination of these mock proceedings was a fait accompli. Did you really think I expected to receive a fair trial from the Jew tribunal?”

          Hannah Arendt flinched. “Unrepentant to the end,” she murmured.

          “Unrepentant?” Eichmann repeated, crushing out his cigarette. “I’ve done nothing for which I have a need to repent. Repentance is for children.”

          Arendt recalled the testimony of dozens of eye witnesses who’d seen Eichmann order deportations of tens of thousands of children to death camps where they were gassed and their bodies dumped into mass graves for the sake of expediency. When the number of Jews slated for extermination exceeded the personnel necessary to dispose of the corpses, children were permitted to live, though they faced starvation, illness, and brutal labor. Some were subjected to state ordered “medical experiments” often resulting in torture and death.

          “Are you suggesting,” Arendt began, pausing to steady the timbre of her voice, “that you weren’t complicit in the genocide directed at millions of European Jews?”

          “I never killed a single Jew,” Eichmann declared. “In fact, under normal conditions, I should be receiving a commendation for saving the lives of Jews.”

          All traces of fear at being in the presence of a monster were swept away in an instant of anger. She concluded that Eichmann was delusional despite the sobering assessment of psychiatrists declaring him perfectly sane.

          In Gottes namen, how did you save Jews?” Arendt asked.

          Eichmann looked surprised. “In 1938, I was promoted to second lieutenant in the Schutzstaffel, tasked with the responsibility of heading the Center for Jewish Responsibility. My role was to facilitate emigration of Jews from Germany while finding other destinations for them. In eighteen months, I arranged egress for almost one hundred thousand people. Many undoubtedly went on to live productive lives.”

          “And when emigration laws were repealed, and Jews were forced to remain within the border of Nazi-occupied Europe, what were your responsibilities then?”

          “It was unthinkable that I would not follow orders,” Eichmann said.

          “Even if obeying those orders meant the untold suffering and death of millions of human souls?” In that instant, Hannah realized she’d adopted the tone of Eichmann’s interrogators.

          “I don’t believe humans have a soul,” said Eichmann with an air of tiredness.

          “If human beings are soulless,” Arendt remarked, “then it stands to reason that you experienced no qualms of conscience in shipping millions of men, women, and children to death.” It was apparent that Eichmann was one of those rare individuals void of doubt or anxiety. Hannah had not heard of his being troubled by insomnia or psychosomatic ailments either.

          “I would have had a bad conscience only if I had not done what I’d been ordered to do.”

          “Are you saying that you’re absolutely certain of the rightness of your actions?” Hannah asked tentatively, not certain she wanted to hear the answer.

          “In the sense of the indictment,” Eichmann said, “I am without guilt.”

          Arendt paused to study Eichmann’s expression, his posture, even his tar-stained fingers. How many cigarettes had he smoked during nine months of interrogation since his capture in Argentina where he’d lived for years incognito?

          “Are you surprised, then at the charges you’re facing?” Hannah asked.

          “Surprised at the charges, but not surprised at being charged,” he said.

          “Explain,” Arendt urged.

          “I do not acknowledge the legality of this trial. I don’t need to acquaint you with the fact that I was kidnapped by an Israeli commando squad in Buenos Aires and whisked to Israel on an El Al plane. I am here against my will.”

          Hannah was tempted to remind Eichmann that Jews had been herded into camps and kept against their will, but to do that would imply no difference between Mossad, the Israeli secret police, and Nazi Germany’s Gestapo. Hannah could not forget that Eichmann was disingenuous and dissembling, even as he seemed oblivious to his own culpability in mass murder.

          “Few criminals are willing to confront charges and stand trial of their own volition,” Hannah reminded Eichmann.

          “Since I’ve committed no crime,” Eichmann hastened to defend himself,” I cannot be tried as a criminal. I’m not on trial. Israel is. I am the sacrificial lamb Israel needs to justify its existence to the rest of the world.”

          “You, and Nazi henchmen like you, gave birth to the nation of Israel—albeit unwittingly,” said Arendt, realizing in that moment her obligation to draw large pictures for the nearly blind.

          “Israel is a strip of land stolen from Palestinians who were expelled from their homes—a war crime that Israel committed purposefully and with the sponsorship and sanction of powerful American Jews. These same Jews invest millions each year to fund the diplomatically immune and largely unaccountable United Nations. Is it a coincidence that UN headquarters is located only four miles from Wall Street? Jewish bankers drive American diplomacy, and American diplomacy sanctions the terrorist tactics of the Shin Bet, Israel’s not so secret service, a fact to which Palestinian refugees can attest.”

          Eichmann withdrew another cigarette from the pack on the table. Arendt was silent while he lit it.

          “It never ceases to amaze me,” Hannah said, “how murderers can exonerate themselves of their crimes while blaming their victims. If you object to the establishment of Israel as a nation, then you have only yourself to blame.”

          “I will say once more that I committed no crimes. I broke no laws—in Germany. The only crimes with which I’ve been charged are based on laws enacted to punish people like me. Because I do not recognize Israel as a sovereign state, I do not recognize the legitimacy of its laws.”

          “You would have been tried in Germany had you stayed to face the music,” Hannah pointed out.

          “With a much different outcome, I’d allege.”

          “You have no guarantee of that.”

          “But I am certain of the verdict in this trial, though I err in referring to it as a trial.”

          “Then what would you call it?”

          “Not a trial, but an orchestrated spectacle. You Jews are nothing if not skilled propagandists. However, I must admit that it is a bit unnerving to be the first man in history whose trial is being televised. What better way to keep the world’s attention focused on an imaginary Holocaust?”

          “Few outside Germany doubt that the Holocaust is a fact, Herr Eichmann.”

          “What is a fact, Frauline Arendt? Is it a fact to believe the evidence before our eyes? Is it a fact that Jews are the unluckiest people on earth or that Jewish suffering is singularly special, to be spoken of in referential tones, while enshrined by special laws designed to punish the enemies of Jews?”

          “A fact requires evidence. A million corpses are evidence of a million murders. Nazis perfected the calculus of destruction.”

          “If only it were that simple,” Eichmann averred. “Don’t you think that irrational motives are often at the basis of the fate of a people? Beyond the understanding of a human being? Surely life teaches us that what leaders do will not always lead to the aim and destination they intended.”

          “Are you asking me to believe that you were only an innocent executor of some mysteriously foreordained fate, some Hegelian spiritus mundi, requiring blood sacrifice to ensure Germany’s glorious destiny?”

          “I will only scandalize you when I say that Hitler was innocent of the slaughter of the Jews. He was a victim of the Zionists, who had compelled him to perpetuate crimes and to create the legend that would eventually enable them to achieve their aim: the creation of the State of Israel.”

          Hannah suddenly recalled a story she loved to read as a girl growing up in Germany. It was British author Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Her favorite part was an exchange between the Cheshire Cat and Alice on the subject of madness:

          “Oh, you can’t help that” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

          “How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

          “You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

          If Hannah were to believe the Cat, then the world itself was insane, rendering Eichmann’s “sanity” as useful to him as the huge bulk and muscles of the dinosaur.

          “Are you suggesting,” Hannah asked, “that Jews were complicit in their own destruction?”

          “Jews will do anything,” Eichmann said, “including selling out their own. Trust me when I say that the SS rarely were tasked with rounding up Jews. We didn’t have to. The Jews appointed to the Judenrat, the Jewish council, performed the chore for us.”

          Eichmann wasn’t telling Hannah anything she didn’t know. She was aware of Jews who’d collaborated with Nazis and had benefitted as a result. They rationalized their decision by saying that if they weren’t doing it, someone else would be.

          “Does it surprise you the lengths people will go to appease their tormenters?” Hannah asked.

          “Nothing surprises me, Frau Arendt,” said Eichmann. “Not even the bogus charges leveled at me or the sham trial I’m forced to endure. These are nothing but the machinations of a people convinced of the righteousness of their actions.”

          “We claim only one right – the right to survive. Israel is a message to the world that people like you will never again be in a position to destroy us.”

          “Even if it means adopting the tactics of your tormenters?” Eichmann said with a sly smile.

          “If that’s what it takes,” said Hannah, staring at him eye-to-eye.

          “Then you’re no better than we are despite all your talk of principles,” Eichmann taunted.

          “I hope only that we’re no worse,” Hannah declared, shifting in the chair and signaling her wish to end their conversation. The time was short between them now.

          “One thing more, Frauline,” said Eichmann as Hannah rose, standing above him. The guards, within earshot, stood perfectly still. “Did you get what you came for? Have I satisfied your curiosity?”

          “Do you wish to know the truth?” Hannah asked.

          “Certainly,” said Eichmann.

          “I’m disappointed.”

          “Disappointed?” Eichmann asked.

          “Disappointed to discover you’re the one thing I never expected.”

          “What’s that?” Eichmann asked.

          “Ordinary,” said Hannah Arendt. “Ordinary.”

Art by Darren Blanch © 2019

The Pact


by Edward Francisco


“Your son, he seems so sweet and kind,” said Ingrid Mueller, nurse at the Sisters of St. Mercy Hospital, in Linz, to her patient, Klara Hiedler.

“He is impressionable and sensitive,” Klara said, smiling weakly. “So sweet a boy.”

The cancer had taken its toll on Klara, as had the mastectomy and the subsequent daily treatments of iodoform, an experimental form of chemotherapy burning her throat, making it difficult for her to swallow. Klara had consented to the excruciating regimen at the tearful requests of her son who could not bring himself to entertain the thought that his mother might succumb to the disease. Klara had honored her son’s wishes, though she had no illusions about her chances of survival. Although the year was 1906, and doctors were more skilled than they’d been fifty years ago, and treatments more advanced, Klara’s condition was hopeless. Time was running down, and each tick of the clock was certain assurance of the inevitable.

“How old is your son?” Ingrid Mueller asked, busying herself with disposing of the iodoform gauze applied at the site where Klara’s mastectomy incisions had been re-opened and her tissue exposed to the toxic treatments she’d received. The remedy was killing her as assuredly as the cancer.

“Eighteen,” Klara answered, thinking how young he was and how bereft he’d be at losing her.

“Has he chosen a profession?” the nurse asked.

“He wishes to be an artist,” Klara answered with a note of pride. “He plans to attend the Art Institute in Vienna.”

Of course, Klara had no way of knowing that her son’s aspirations of attending the art institute had been dashed by his failure to pass the entrance exam. He couldn’t bring himself to tell her and couldn’t bear the prospect of seeing the pained expression on her face, especially since she’d fought so hard in opposing his father’s desire that he become a civil servant. Klara understood that her son was not cut out for such work.

“Ja,” said Ingrid, “I understand. I had hopes that at least one of my five sons would profess holy orders. No such good fortune.”

Klara tried to be pleasant despite excruciating pain to which the bloody strips of gauze in the nurse’s hand bore witness. Klara opted to be stoical, assuming that both her disease and her fate were God’s will. Her son spoke often about how brave she was, tears glistening in his eyes and streaking down his cheeks. Under no circumstance would she disappoint him.

“What do your sons do?” Klara asked.

“One is a banker, another, a lawyer. Three are enlistees in the Imperial German Army. They are always talking about the prospect of war. It’s frightening.”

“I can imagine,” said Klara, “that your sons’ choice to become soldiers must fill you with much anxiety.”

“No one asks us mothers what we think,” the nurse spoke bitterly. “If mothers had a say, there would be no war.”

“Ja,” said Klara. “It is fathers who encourage sons to be soldiers, filling their heads with dreams of glory.”

“My own husband said as much. He stated that he’d served in the army, so why shouldn’t they?”

“Men can be short-sighted,” Klara noted. “Before his death three years ago, my son’s father scolded my son for wishing to be an artist. He opposed any mode of employment that didn’t ensure a steady income. He threatened to disown our son if he pursued the life of a vagabond or gypsy, as my husband described it. He said that artists were decadent and of no use to society. They should be targeted for sterilization, according to my husband.”

“A father’s words linger long after he’s dead,” said Ingrid, “especially to an impressionable lad like your son.”

“I fear you may be right,” said Klara.

“Men are inherently cruel and competitive,” Ingrid declared, “especially when it comes to sons. I think that my sons’ father won’t be happy until a caisson bearing the flag-draped casket of one of our boys passes along the street for his inspection.”

There was a long interval of silence between them. Both seemed to ponder their sons’ fates. In particular, Klara Hiedler wondered what would happen to her son’s dreams once she was gone. If Klara’s mood was marked by worry, Ingrid Mueller’s affect announced a palpable bitterness.

“My husband is fond of reciting the Latin phrase ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.’ It is right and fitting to die for the Fatherland. He speaks in reverent tones of the honor in making the supreme sacrifice. It is as if he longs for death and destruction.”

“Men have short memories when it comes to war,” Klara said, thinking of the crimes perpetrated in the name of patriotism. In Germany, in particular, war had achieved sacred status.

Ingrid Mueller stuffed gauze strips into a container whose contents would later be incinerated. Her and Klara’s conversation was interrupted by the appearance of Doctor Bloch at the door.

“Herr Doktor Bloch,” said the nurse in a greeting.

“Frau Mueller,” the doctor replied. Then: “Klara.”

The doctor nodded in the direction of his patient.

“Herr Doktor,” said Klara.

Eduard Bloch was a short, stout man who wore wire-rimmed glasses. Gray temples signaled that he was probably middle-aged. Although there was nothing about his appearance to distinguish him from dozens of other men, he was gentle and kind and spoke in comforting tones. He walked over to Klara’s bedside, lifting her hand into his own and holding it momentarily.

“How are you feeling today, Klara?” Doctor Bloch asked, knowing how she would respond.

Klara was patient and long-suffering—a model patient.

“Better,” said Klara.

“Better, eh?” said Doctor Bloch.

Klara’s condition was degrading daily. Pain had etched new lines in her face since the previous afternoon.

“Better,” she repeated.

The treatment that Doctor Bloch adopted as a last resort was agonizing. He had no doubt of it. It involved reopening her mastectomy incisions and applying a caustic substance directly to the tissues, in effect, burning both cancer cells and surrounding tissues. It was anyone’s guess whether Klara was dying faster from the cancer or the toxic consequences of the treatment. If it had been entirely his decision, Doctor Bloch would have permitted his patient to pass peacefully. As it was, for forty-eight days, he’d subjected her to a barbarous procedure at the entreaties of Klara and her son.

“Your son—I passed him in the hall on my way here,” said Doctor Bloch. “He’s frantic about your condition.”

Doctor Bloch wouldn’t examine Klara’s wounds today. He didn’t want to cause her more agony. Besides, it wasn’t necessary. The outcome was inevitable.

“I know,” said Klara bleakly. “He worries.”

“In fairness to your son, Klara,” said Doctor Bloch, “you should acquaint him with the hopelessness of your case.”

“I can’t bring myself to dash his hopes that I might still survive the cancer. He needs to believe that’s possible.”

“It’s an obstinate case, Klara,” Doctor Bloch announced, glancing at Nurse Mueller as if silently soliciting her support.

However, Ingrid Mueller was a mother, too, and knew Klara Hiedler’s need to cling to every breath.

“You see, my son and I share an especially close connection,” Klara said to Doctor Bloch, not expecting him to understand. “I lost my first three children to illness and despaired of having another. Then, when I found myself with child a fourth time, I was terrified, fearing it would be the same as before. I contemplated doing the unthinkable so as not to endure the mother-loss of another child sacrificed to cruel fate. Fortunately, a doctor, a Catholic, convinced me that the Church’s teachings prohibited such a thing. Now that child has grown into a young man intent on becoming an artist.”

Klara’s face beamed proudly despite her weakness. Doctor Bloch knew that it was useless to talk further to her. Ingrid Mueller had genuflected on hearing Klara’s plans for the infant. Ingrid was of the old school of Catholics who believed that being in the approximate occasion of sin could be sinful in itself.

“Well, then, ladies, I’ll be on my way,” said Doctor Bloch, bowing slightly before turning and exiting the room.

Neither woman spoke at first, listening to the soft echo of Doctor Bloch’s footfall fade down the hallway.

“Doctor Bloch is a nice man,” said Ingrid Mueller. “But he isn’t a mother. He doesn’t understand.”

“It’s impossible for a man to grasp the depth of feeling a mother has for her children.”

“Did you know he’s Jewish—Doktor Bloch, that is?”

“No,” said Klara, a little surprised that Nurse Mueller had mentioned this detail.

“He doesn’t work on Yom Kippur,” Ingrid explained. “Did you know that Jews comprise one percent of Germany’s population but twenty-five percent of the country’s doctors?”

“No,” Klara said, never having given a thought to the frequency of Jews or Jewish doctors in Germany or anywhere else.

“Ja, it’s true,” Ingrid insisted. “My husband says that Jews have survived by making themselves indispensable. When they are kicked out of one place, they simply set up shop in another. Jews carry their livelihoods in their heads and on their back.”

Ingrid Mueller paused to let her words sink in.

“All the same,” said Klara, “Herr Doktor Bloch has been kind and attentive to me and respectful of my desire for my son not to know more than he needs to know. That’s why I feel a twinge of guilt at not being entirely truthful with him about why I kept the baby. It had nothing to do with being Catholic.”

“Really? What did it have to do with, then?” Ingrid asked, a little surprised by Klara’s forthright confession.

“Do I have your word that you will never breathe what I’m about to tell you to another living soul?”

“You have my word,” said Nurse Mueller, growing more curious by the second.

“It was a gypsy,” Klara admitted.

“A gypsy?” Ingrid repeated.

“She was a fortune teller in Braunau. I needed to know what the future held for my unborn child. I lost my first three babies. It was as if fate had cursed me. I lost my faith in God. Then I heard about a young girl with second sight. She was a beautiful girl with luxuriant, black curls and black eyes that snapped. I felt strangely comforted in her presence. She had an aura that drew me to her.”

“I’ve heard that such people possess a ball letting them see events in the future.”

“I never saw a ball, as such. What she did was amazing, though. She placed her hands on my belly, and the baby quickened at her touch. I still recall her words: “The baby is a boy. As a man, he will impact the world in unimaginable ways.”

“That must have been a great relief to you,” Ingrid conjectured.

“It was and is,” Klara assented. “She inspired in me the confidence that my son would not come to an early end like the three children before him and the hope that he would have a bright future as a man. It’s strange how things turn out. Who can discount the possibility that, in the fulfillment of destiny, my son’s siblings sacrificed their lives so that he might live? My only regret is that I won’t live to see the impact that he will make on the world as foretold by the gypsy.”

Nurse Mueller thought for a minute.

“The world is a very large place, Frau Hiedler,” the nurse said finally, as if struck by the possibility of considering something she’d not had to consider before.

Klara’s voice interrupted her reverie.

“Nurse Mueller,” said Klara, “you have been so kind to me that I wish not to trouble you much longer.”

There was a note of urgency in Klara Hiedler’s voice.

“Pish!” Ingrid exclaimed. “You’re no trouble at all.”

It was true. Klara was a model patient, withstanding her agonies courageously.

“That’s why I hesitate to ask if you will indulge me in one final act of kindness,” said Klara.

“Anything,” Ingrid said.

“It is a pact that will connect us for eternity,” said Klara, “in this life and the one to come.”

“What sort of pact?” Ingrid asked.

“I know how you must worry about your sons serving in the army and about the terrible perils of war,” Klara said, “even as I worry about my son’s fate once I’m no longer here.”

“Ja,” Ingrid quickly agreed. “We mothers share terrible burdens.”

“My thought was that perhaps I could be a guardian angel to your children from above and you could be a guardian angel to my son below, following his progress in life.”

Ingrid Mueller’s heart was touched by Klara’s appeal. The nurse laid a hand atop Klara’s own frail and trembling hand. Tears glistened in both women’s eyes.

“I will do it. You have my word. I will visit him from time to time, too,” Ingrid promised.

“You have no idea how much your offer comforts me,” Klara said with a relaxed sigh. “Tell him, when he has difficulties, that he has the love of two mothers to sustain him.”

Klara was announcing that she was about to die, wanting to leave no unfinished business behind.

“I’ll need to write down your son’s name and address,” announced Ingrid, reaching in the pocket of her nurse’s apron to retrieve a pencil and sheet of paper on which she wrote patients’ medicine schedules.

“Now, I’m ready,” said Ingrid, poised to write. “I assume that your son’s last name is the same as your own.”

“No,” Klara said with a note of hesitation. “There was a falling out between my son and his father. My son spells his name differently now.”

“Say the name, and I’ll write it down,” Ingrid instructed.

“Adolf,” Klara pronounced the name lovingly. “Adolf Hitler.”

Edward Francisco is the author of 10 books, including novels, poetry collections, and works of scholarship. His stories and poems have appeared in more than 100 magazines and journals. He is professor of English and Writer in Residence at Pellissippi State College in Knoxville, TN. 

Darren Blanch, Aussie creator of visions which tell you a tale long after first glimpses have teased your peepers. With early influence from America's Norman Rockwell to show life as life, Blanch has branched out mere art form to impact multi-dimensions of color and connotation. People as people, emotions speaking their greater glory. Visual illusions expanding the ways and means of any story.

Digital arts mastery provides what Darren wishes a reader or viewer to take away in how their own minds are moved. His evocative stylistics are an ongoing process which sync intrinsically to the expression of the nearby written or implied word he has been called upon to render.

View the vivid energy of IVSMA (Darren Blanch) works at:, YELLOW MAMA, Sympatico Studio -, DeviantArt - and launching in 2019, as Art Director for suspense author / intrigue promoter Kate Pilarcik's line of books and publishing promotion - SeaHaven Intrigue Publishing-Promotion.

In Association with Fossil Publications