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The Sterling Blade
The Sterling Blade
Buenos Ares, Argentina
August 12, 1964
Alexander Holmberg, a short, plump man whose glasses were wire framed and whose cheeks seemed to be permanently cherry red, gingerly stepped into the open-air restaurant; the day had just started to turn to dusk and the Argentinean air was hot and humid, yet somehow enjoyable.
The small bistro was comprised of about eight four-seated tables, and cracked pillars in lieu of walls to allow for the air and atmosphere of Buenos Ares to seep in while the patrons enjoyed their meals. There were fans placed throughout, giving off a soft oscillating hum. Alexander spotted Adrian Wooldridge, a business associate with whom he had been discussing effective money laundering techniques for the better part of three months. Adrian was dressed in casual attire, loafers, blue jeans, and a sweater. He sat across Wooldridge, who had two plates of food already on the table.
“I hope you don’t mind that I ordered for us, my friend,” he said, smiling a toothy grin at Holmberg as he took his seat and set his hat on the table next to his plate.
“Not at all,” Alexander said, “in fact, I’m glad you’ve done so, as we have important matters to discuss.” Alexander flapped his napkin and tucked it into his collar. Adrian chuckled,
“Indeed we do, Alexander. Indeed we do. But, first, let’s enjoy this meal, shall we?” Holmberg nodded and they dug in, enjoying the simple yet delicious meal of steak, vegetables, potatoes, and red wine. They discussed where they came from, their favorite childhood memories, and their wives, things that had been said before but made for sustainable, if trivial, conversation. When they finished, they set their napkins on their plates and leaned back in their chairs. “My, that was divine,” Alexander breathed, dabbing away a bit of sweat from his brow with his pocket handkerchief, “and what a choice of venue,” he remarked as he looked around. Adrian chortled and nodded, saying,
“Yes, yes, it is quite quaint, isn't it? I find a sparsely populated area is best to discuss matters of, shall we say, sub-legality.” Alexander nodded and burped into his left hand, gesturing with his right for Adrian to continue. “Well,” he started, removing a stack of papers and an ink pen from his briefcase which had been set against the table, “it appears that these records you’ve given me have some oversights. Is it alright if I go over them with you?” Holmberg cocked his head, and nodded. For the next half-hour they went over minor discrepancies in Alexander’s paper work, aliases, fake dates, everything that needed to be falsified correctly in order for his money to be sufficiently laundered. “It appears that everything is as it should be, Alexander, thank you for meeting me,” Adrian concluded, knocking the papers against the table and sliding them to Holmberg. “Although I must confess; matters of finance were not my only motivation for doing business with you these past months.”
“Oh?” Alexander asked, slightly confused.
“Yes. I have something I must show you, and then our business can be concluded,” Adrian said, smiling again. “Definitively.” Alexander nodded and Adrian reached into his briefcase, pulling out a long, silver dagger, sheathed in a remarkably ornate scabbard. “Do you recognize this?” Adrian asked. Alexander took the knife in his hands, running his eyes over it until he reached the top. The handle of the knife was adorned with a decoration he had hoped to never see again. Sitting atop the knife of nearly-pure silver was the symbol of the Wermacht, a proud eagle with its wings outstretched presiding over a swastika. His blood turned to ice, his breathing stopped, and he slowly met Adrian’s gaze.
“W-where did y-you get this?” he asked, his voice trembling. Wooldridge smiled at him, but it was a different kind of smile than the one Alexander had seen before. Adrian Klein’s face was painted with a cold expression, behind which a complex cocktail of emotions, the most predominate being a seething, unrelenting hatred stirred.
“Where I acquired this isn’t important. What is, however, is the man who owned before me.”
“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, Adrian,” he rasped, staring helplessly into Klein’s unflinching eyes. Adrian threw back his head and laughed a jarring mockery that made Holmberg flinch.
“Spare me, Wilhelm. We both know you aren’t Alexander Holmberg, Swedish banker and family man. Wilhelm Geiger,” he said, reciting from memory, “an SS private, second class, if memory serves. Personally favored by Buchenwald commandant Josef Schuler. He went missing after Buchenwald’s liberation, and has not been found or tried as of yet. Some say he’s hiding out in Geneva, although that seems a bit too ironic. I hear he’s closer to Argentina,” Adrian hinted, staring frankly into Wilhelm’s eyes. “I retrieved this knife from the personal quarters of Commandant Schuler.”
“How could you possibly have…?” Alexander’s voice trailed off as Adrian rolled up his sleeve, revealing the numbers 765-38 tattooed on his arm. “What do you want?” Wilhelm said, his voice only a coarse whisper.
“What I want, Herr Geiger, is the location of Schuler,”
“What makes you think I know-“
“He was never caught, Wilhelm. That means he’s still out there, and you’re going to tell me where.”
“I don’t have that information, and even if I did, why would I give it to you?” Geiger spat, slamming both of his hands on the table.
“That steak,” Adrian said, gesturing to the empty plate, “was treated with a lethal amount of Dimethylmercury, a very slow-acting, very deadly poison. I have the treatment, which I will give to you, if you tell me where Schuler is.” Wilhelm looked down, his vision blurring as his breath hastened.
“I swear,” he began, his desperation giving way to his German accent, “I know nothing! I haven’t seen Josef since we parted ways in Kiev!” He frantically searched Adrian’s eyes for mercy or understanding, but found only steely stoicism. “Please,” he whispered, “I don’t want to die.” Adrian Wooldridge, prisoner number 765-38 looked at Wilhelm Geiger, and smiled. “GIVE ME THE ANTIDOTE!” Wilhelm screamed, his chair clattering to the floor as he stood. He slid his pistol, a standard issue Walther P38, out of its side-holster and leveled it in-between the eyes of the man who had poisoned him.
In his fit of rage and distress, Wilhelm had failed to notice the quiet man that had been dining behind them. Had he noticed him, he would’ve thought it odd that he ordered only water, which he hadn’t touched, and the only other thing on this man’s table was a steak knife. The man rose silently, the knife clutched in his hands.
“Auf wiedersehen, Herr Geiger,” Adrian sighed, sitting back in his chair.
The first blow pierced the nape of Wilhelm’s neck, severing the Atlas vertebrae. Warm, red blood immediately began to spurt, spraying his assailant. He reached blindly behind him, loosely gripping and slapping the face of the man who had a knife buried in his neck. Blood bubbled from his mouth, his eyes rolled up in his head and his body went limp. The young Irishman released the corpse and it slid to the floor with a wet thud.
“What do we do now, sir?” the young lad asked, wiping his hands on his pant legs.
“Now,” Adrian exhaled, rubbing his temples as he slid the dagger back into its case, “We find the next one.”