After Radulf dies under mysterious circumstances in 1938 Leipzig, Germany. Claus realizes his dispositions are congruent with his brother's infamous traits. As the family moves past the scandal, Claus withdraws into a distorted world where sanity disintegrates into a bloodstained nightmare.



Tuesday, 31 December 1935


            I was naked in bed, and the thought of turning twenty-two on the seventh of January was something to look forward to.  

           Outside, the cobblestone trail ensued under branches enveloped with morning’s dew. The townspeople moved about with pastries and bottles of champagne. I moved into the grocery, and the smell of meat and wood filled the shop.  

            The butcher sliced a half pound of cheese and two pounds of steak before a strand of sausage was collected. A handful of apples found their way into the basket.  

            The back door opened and Werner—the man who owned the store—approached. A fat, short woman watched as we shook hands.  

            His voice roared like thunder.  

            “Claus. How are you?”  

            “Well. And yourself?”  

            “Couldn’t be better.”  

            His clean-shaven face was firm with subtle signs of age. His thin but masculine build complemented his slicked blond hair.  

           “Any plans for the evening?” asked Werner.  

            “I have the farm to myself tonight.”  

            The register keys were pressed.  

            “You didn’t want to go home for the holiday?”  

            A man entered the store, but Werner said the store closed in twenty minutes.  

           “That was the plan. But grandfather needed to address some financial paperwork with Mother.”  

            A paper bag ruffled open.  

           “There’s never a day’s rest owning a business. When Alois gets back, be sure to pass along my regards for a fruitful New Year.”  

            “With pleasure, Mr. Engel. Have a nice evening and Happy New Year.”  

           When I got home, the radio filled the kitchen as the groceries were put away.  

           A few slices of cheese found their way in a sandwich and I enjoyed a light lunch. The remainder of the day was spent outside.  

            I returned with dirty hands and sweat. The clothes were tossed in a bin and the tub steamed for attention. Sometime later, a sequence of knocking startled me. Curiosity placed the towel at my waist before I embarked downstairs.  

           “Soliciting so early?” I said.  

            Dietrich held a half-full growler in the air. His seductiveness gazed from behind strands of blond hair and translucent blue eyes.  


            Ansell followed behind with hazel eyes, dewy skin, and tightly slicked brown hair. His lankiness moved decisively.  

           “Why aren’t you dressed?” asked Ansell.  

            “Dressed? What for.”  

            Dietrich moved to the kitchen and gave me a glass of Hefeweizen.  

           “Oswin König is throwing a party. I suggest you change.”  

            The refreshment was gulped and I did as requested. The door was locked and the three of us stood beneath a star-filled sky. Dietrich tossed me the keys to his BMW so he could finish the growler.  

          When we arrived, bicycles and Zündapp motorcycles lined the roadside.  

          Laughter, clinking glasses, and music permeated the air. The scent of lemon and eucalyptus drifted from torches. We mingled through the throng of welcoming strangers.  

          A handful of people followed Oswin when he saw us. He towered over them with a muscular build. Bright red hairs covered his thick arms and hands.  

          “Everyone is welcome to anything in the house.”  

          Eventually we scattered to attract something of interest. But in the midst of our disbandment, we reassembled with nothing caught. I retreated to the barrel with an empty glass. The beer carried scents of lemon and unfiltered wheat.  

          I moved to the house, where the intensity of people was energizing.  

The kitchen counters were dressed with deviled eggs, pastries, and sausage.  

         As I chewed the link, I caught sight of a girl whose cheeks burned with desire. She shook her finger for me to stay where I was—then melted into the crowd.  

            I had been with the group an hour when the same redhead with green eyes and garland in her hair emerged with another look of desire. She dropped a sliver of paper into the empty mug and placed it on the floor. No one noticed the prize I retrieved: Meet me out front in ten minutes.  

            She’d been waiting before turning toward the darkened trail. Her eyes shimmered against the moonlight when we met.  

           “Sorry about earlier. My friend is nosy. If she saw me talking with you, her endless parade of questions would’ve ruined the night,” she said.  

            “I figured you weren’t interested.”  

            Her voice was faint with richness.  

            “Do you live nearby?”  

            “Four miles up the road in Rech.”  

            “It’s going to be midnight soon, so I need to hurry back. I’ll need directions to your place.”  

            “How good is your memory?”  

             “Poor. So leave them how I left the note.”  

            “Are you staying late?”  

            “Just an hour after midnight since my friend lives down the street from here. So keep an eye out.”  

           Our lips locked before she vanished. I went back and waited for the thunderous ovation to fill the night. When the countdown commenced, glitter and fringe-whistles blew as mugs drained from their brims.  

            “Oswin. Do you have a pen in your jacket?” I asked.  

            “No. But you’re welcome to the office if you need one.”  

            The house was organized with a minimalist impression. The neoplasticism paintings accentuated the atmosphere with various color themes.  

            I didn’t know where the office was, so I found myself opening random doors. I stumbled into a room where a young woman with brown hair was on her knees between the legs of a blonde on top of a black piano.  

           The receiving woman moaned and pinched her nipples. My entry excited them because the kneeling woman lifted her skirt to finger her vagina.  

          The woman on the piano said impassively, “Would you like a taste?”  

         “Maybe some other time.”  

         When the gray furnished office was found, it was filled with books. I wrote the directions and put the note in my pocket.  

         Mentioning nothing about the women, I refilled my cup and thanked Oswin for his hospitality. An hour later, the same pallid girl surfaced. She watched the glass empty before being dried with a blue kerchief.  

          Drowned in conversation, no one saw when the mug met the floor. She discreetly took the offering.  

          When I mentioned it was time to leave. Ansell ran to the barrel and drank from the spout.  

          Oswin placed his arm over his shoulder, “Have we had enough to drink?”  

          “Not yet.”  

          Everyone moved to the porch until it was time to leave. The windows were rolled down before we blazed through the night.  

          The three of us sang as Dietrich sat on the window’s ledge and tapped the roof. The invisible hand of euphoria cradled us with infinite possibility.  

            Dietrich and Ansell laughed like children as they stumbled into the house. I went upstairs to wash my face, and by the time I came back, they were on the floor asleep.  

           I clapped and said sternly, “I need you to go to the bedroom.”  

          Eager for the second half of the night, I moved to the gazebo. Fog glided over the estate as a train traveled through the hills.  

          It was three in the morning when the motorcycle loomed in the distance.  

          Her opaque coat hung over a blue dress with black shoes. Her beauty was magnificent to look at while her eyes skimmed the dwelling. She positioned her purse on the table and removed her coat.  

          “Would you like some wine?”  

          “That or something to toast the New Year with.”  

           The light from the red lampshades tainted her lightly freckled cheeks. She crossed her legs and sat on the sofa.  

           “The sign said this is the Jean Stodden winery. You live here alone?”  

           “Just me and my grandfather.”  

            “Is he here?”  

           “He’s in Dresden.”  

           “And the company you were with?”  

            “Asleep upstairs.”  

            She casually changed the subject.  

           “If you’re curious why I asked you to write the note. My friends have no business knowing my every move.”  

           “I agree.”  

            Her drunk eyes floated with casual synchronization.  

           She took some wine and dryly said, “Do you not approve of the arrangement?”  

            “That isn’t what I said.”  


            I asked my own round of questions.  

           “You said you were visiting. Where you from?”  


            “Very nice. What do you do?”  

            “I paint.”  

            “For a living?”  

            “I’m slowly making a name for myself. These things take time.”  

            “So they do,” I said, taking a sip. “Forgive me, but I don’t believe you told me your name.”  

            She moistened her lips.  

            “Lotte Maurer.”  

            “Nice to meet you. I’m Claus Berliner.”  

            She placed the glass on the table.  

           “Claus. Would you like to show me the vineyard?”  

            Aroused by the forwardness, we moved along the grass and stood by the symmetrical rows. It was the first time anyone stepped on the soil other than friends and family. Grandfather believed people who didn’t respect the earth weren’t allowed on the soil because the grapes were only seen as means for money.  

            Lotte unstrapped her dress and tossed her panties aside. Her laughter bellowed above the shrubs as she frolicked. I removed my garments and followed the smell of ripened fruit.  

            She pressed her succulent breasts against me as our lips met. Sweat ran down her back as I oozed with excitement. I lifted her and inserted my cock between her moistened crevice. Her cries pierced the night as we contorted with rhythm.  

            When she asked to see the cellar. We moved from the orchard.  

            Incandescent bulbs dangled over the barrels lining the walls. The low-ceilinged tunnel smelt of vinegar and oak.  

           “What do you do for fun?” she asked.  

           “That depends on what you define as fun.”  

           A wicked grin crossed her face.  

           “I noticed a bowl of fruit in the kitchen.”  

           “Do you have a sweet tooth?”  

           “I do.”  

            Before closing the door, she said, “Bring my purse as well.”  

            I went upstairs to wet my face. The mirror swayed, and the handsome man with black hair, green eyes, and flawless skin looked back with a face that could have any woman.  

            Her purse was tossed in the bowl before I grabbed another bottle. It was five in the morning when she ran her hands over my firm chest and stomach.  

            “How were you able to come if your friend is so protective? Won’t she be alarmed to find you gone?”  

            “My friend is a devoted Protestant. She doesn’t exactly take the subject of promiscuity well.”  

            “I see.”  

            “Being that wasn’t any of your business. It needed to be said.”  

            She took the bottle and brought it to my lips. Her tongue licked the droplets on my chest.  

           “Tell me about your paintings. Are they acrylic or oil?” I asked.  

            “Both. As well as watercolor.”  

            She took the purple velvet purse and revealed a silver pistol.  

            I was given the gun. Her nakedness stood three yards from me, and her eyes glowed with the overhead bulbs.  

            “You a good shooter, Claus?”  

            Her madness was disregarded because her beauty was more captivating.  

           “I practice from time to time.”  

            She kissed the apple and rested it on her head.  

            “Good. Because I wouldn’t want you missing.”  

            A rage of confidence fumed in me. I wondered if the mania could be seen in my eyes. The narcotic effect left me grinning.  

            “Are you ready?” I said.  

            “I am.”  

            Pieces of the apple’s flesh splattered across my face. She leaned over to take another.  

            She rested it on my head and soon it popped like cartilage.  

            I reached for the bottle and placed the pistol on the barrel.  

           “You ready to go inside?” I said.  

           Silence held her as another apple was taken. She gave me the gun.  

            “You ready to play god?”  

            The veins in my arms expanded as the cold steel stung.  

             I walked toward her and tasted her tongue before asking if she wanted to taste the apple. Her nipples went erect—so I sucked on them. The energy was becoming addicting.  

            She opened her mouth and closed her eyes. The trigger was pulled and pieces of flesh slid down the walls as specs of blood dripped from the ceiling.  

            I scanned my mind for escape, but nothing was satiating. I thought about Dietrich and Ansell, but there was no way they heard anything.  

            I paced the room and swigged at the wine in hopes to satisfy an eternal thirst that drained from my pores. A weightlessness found itself in my gut and it felt as if I were floating.  

           I was washing my hands in the kitchen when the bedroom door opened. I cut the lights and watched Ansell stumble into the bathroom. When he migrated back, darkness cloaked the house. 

I'm at the other side