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On May 2, 1945, as the Allies stormed into Berlin, one of Hitler’s powerful henchmen made a daring escape out of the Chancellery bunker. After his escape, some believed that a Red Army tank had killed him, but his body was not found. A world-wide manhunt for him proved fruitless. After World War II, countless sightings of the henchman were reported in Argentina, Paraguay, and Italy. He was also sighted in western England. What was this man, a genius at weaving plots and counterplots, doing on British soil?
March 8, 1945
The fourth air-raid siren of the day blasted. The first three had been false alarms, but for some reason Angus Onslow found the last one strangely disquieting.
On that gray Thursday afternoon he was in a tobacco shop on London’s Streatham High Road. He had started smoking cigarettes again while stationed in North Africa. “This damned war will get me long before cigarettes ever will,” he rationalized.
He walked out of the shop as the sirens quieted. Minutes later he heard the roar of the V-1 Flying Bomb. Then followed the eerie silence heralding the drone’s nosedive, hurtling its destructive power at the innocents below. As Angus sped toward the mob scene at a nearby bomb shelter, the ground shook. The explosion was less than a mile north and in the area of his apartment. Glancing at the cumulus of black smoke, he imagined the worst: Wendy and Jessica buried under the rubble.
He broke into a sprint. Emergency vehicles and fire engines screamed past him, and the air-raid sirens blasted again. But he didn’t care. From Streatham High Road he turned right onto Amesbury Avenue. He ran toward the flames, the smoke, and the dust. He didn’t stop running until he saw the number 427 still visible over the charred entrance of his apartment building. The roof was gone and the rooms were gone, but the façade remained as if to shield him from the massacre behind it.
Instinctively Angus raced toward the burning rubble. Three firefighters stopped him and held on. As he thrashed about and shouted obscenities, they carried him away. A moment later the remaining wall collapsed in a cloud of flying bricks and mortar.
The firefighters restrained him until the blaze was doused and he had calmed down. One of them stayed with him. Wearing gas masks and asbestos-lined coveralls, the others searched in the rubble. By dusk they had pulled out six bodies. After wrapping them in red blankets, they took them to the Greater Streatham Hospital, where Angus was a registrar and surgeon.
Somehow he made his way to the hospital, his mind still in the rubble and as fragmented. A colleague intercepted him at the emergency receiving area. She gripped his arm. “Are you up to identifying the victims in cubicle seven?”
Glaring at her, Angus pulled away. He hurried along the row of green cubicles with the drawn curtains hiding the dead and the dying. The seventh cubicle housed two stretchers, each carrying a body covered with a clean white sheet. In a daze, Angus pulled back one sheet then the other.
The woman’s body was burned almost beyond recognition. But the gold charm bracelet was unmistakable--his gift to Wendy on their fourth wedding anniversary.
Then came the worst sight of all: Jessica’s head, burned and bandaged back onto her six-year-old body.
Angus slumped down on the floor between the stretchers. His colleague tiptoed in and stood behind him, softly massaging his neck. He spun around and hit her in the stomach. She ran off. Minutes later she was back with a needle, a syringe, and a burly constable.
~ * ~
Angus awakened before dawn in a crowded hospital ward, patients moaning, bedpans stinking. Yesterday’s images flashed in his head, and at once he knew what he must do. He quietly opened the metal locker next to his bed. After putting on his street clothes, he crept unseen past the nursing station then went outside. With winds gusting and rain threatening, he ran to the nearest bus stop on Streatham High Road. The posted schedule indicated the first bus would arrive an hour later. He resumed running.
Just before sunrise he was on the Battersea Bridge and staring down at the Thames River. After the previous week’s heavy rains, the riverbanks brimmed and the waters raged.
He climbed over the rail.
Knowing he could barely swim, he jumped.
I. James Sarfeh, M.D., is Emeritus Professor of Surgery with the University of California. He has authored over one hundred publications in scientific journals, written and contributed to numerous surgical textbooks. He is recognized nationally and internationally for his work in surgical research. In 2000 he retired from his successful academic career to devote full time to literary writing, a passion he has held since college days when he was studying journalism before entering medicine.
Dr. Sarfeh was living in England shortly after World War II, a time when the War’s devastation was imprinted everywhere, on the people, on the landscape. In 1958 he immigrated to America, receiving his B.A. at New York University and his M.D. at Albany (N.Y.) Medical College. He currently lives with his wife and son in Laguna Niguel, California. This is his second novel.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 338
Paper Weight (lb): 14.1
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