Time of Useful Consciousness
Louisa nodded politely and unbuckled her seatbelt. Erich helped her from the plane and guided her to his Mercedes, Kris and Freddy rushing to keep up not sure if the invitation included them or not. Regardless, they were not going to let Louisa be alone with Erich. Freddy climbed in the back seat with Louisa and Erich; Kris took a seat up front next to the driver.
Once they arrived on the veranda, a breath-taking view of the mountains and lake greeted them. On the table were a bottle of champagne and a tray of assorted cold cuts and cheeses. Erich poured them each a glass of champagne and raised his glass to toast. “Um neue, Anfänge.”
Kris, Freddy and Louisa raised their glasses. “Um neue, Anfänge,” they muttered in unison.
“Fraulein Unger, may I call you Louisa?” Erich asked.
“Certainly,” she replied.
“How old are you?” he questioned.
“Twenty,” Louisa said.
“That is a very good age. You have so much life ahead of you, so many experiences and adventures in your future. I must say, you are off to a good start. I like a woman who makes her own way, not like so many women who act as whores in hopes of acquiring a husband.” He raised his glass to her. “I admire your independence.”
“Thank you, sir,” she said.
“Call me Erich,” he replied.
She sipped her champagne, but it didn’t sit well. Erich had a way of stirring acid in her stomach. “Alright, Erich.”
“How long until you can fly solo?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she glanced at Kris. “I enjoy the company. What’s the fun in flying alone?”
Erich set his glass on the table. “Yes, I’m sure Herr Schuler concurs. What man wouldn’t want a beautiful woman by his side?” He raised his eyes as the butler appeared with the next course of eggs and sausage.
“Please, sit and enjoy your breakfast.”
Not wanting to upset Erich’s generosity, the three sat at the table. The breakfast was gourmet prepared, but the taste was awful, or perhaps it was the company. Erich Detweiller was not an unattractive man; in fact, he was quite debonair in appearance. His gestures expressed cunning that warned of a disingenuous nature.
After the butler cleared the breakfast dishes, Erich was still reluctant to release his guests. “Do you like jewels?” he whispered across the table to Louisa.
“Sure, but I don’t have any,” she said.
“Everyone makes such a big deal about diamonds, rubies and emeralds, but have you ever seen amber?” Erich asked with a grin.
Louisa glanced at Kris and Freddy. “No.”
Erich smiled excitedly. “Well, allow me to show you my collection.”
Fr“When the hell are we going to get out of here?” Freddy mumbled to Kris. “I have a date waiting for me back home.”
“You want to tell Detweiller that?” questioned Kris.
“Yeah, so what?” Freddy replied. “It’s not my fault he can’t get a woman with his cold, dead hands. I can’t imagine when the last time was that this man got laid by an actual woman. All he’s got is his precious jewel collection, which he jerks off to while fantasizing about the woman he can seduce with it.”
Erich reappeared with a mahogany box. He opened it before Louisa and displayed a ghastly array of amber pieces with animal and insect inclusions. He pulled out a piece that contained a butterfly inclusion, which rattled Louisa. “Amber, unlike other gems is fossilized tree resin. The butterfly you are looking at is possibly prehistoric in origin. Can you imagine seeing something so archaic, yet so pristine?”
Louisa shook her head. “No.”
“While an ant was wandering under the shade of the tree of Phæton, a drop of amber enveloped the tiny insect; thus she, who in life was disregarded, became precious by death,” he quoted and held up a golden stone with a lizard encased in its tomb. “Look at this one, the remains of a lizard. Fascinating.”
Kris looked away, disgusted.
“Does this upset you, young man? It shouldn't; it’s just death. It’s impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. This amber only demonstrates the perfection of death. If I shall die, let it be shrouded in amber. It is the perfect tomb.”
“I've seen enough death. I don't need to see anymore,” Kris replied.
Erich chuckled. “You were Luftwaffe, I hear. What kind of death could you have seen?”
“Mass causalities from an incompetent war strategy,” Kris stated.
Erich put down the stone. “I see and did you, at the time, take it up with your superior officers? Perhaps you could have given them some suggestions on military strategy.”
Kris didn't respond.
Erich turned his attention to Freddy. “And how about you?”
“Fortunately, I was too young to see battle. Turned eighteen just as the Yanks were setting up in my hometown.”
“Fortunately.” Erich mocked and returned his prized amber pieces to his case. “I invited you into my home and opened up my heart; my passion to you and all I sense is your ridicule.”
“We're very grateful for your hospitality,” Louisa said quickly. “We're all very tired. It's been a long day and a long flight. I’m sure you can understand our fatigue.”
Erich smiled at Louisa. “You are a kind girl. You have a good heart.” He reclined and scrutinized Kris and Freddy. “I never liked pilots. They always acted like they were better than everyone else, as if they had a greater knowledge...but let me tell you,” he pointed to the sky, “there is nothing up there that can't be known down here.” Erich shifted his glare to Kris. “What were you—fighter, bomber?”
“Reconnaissance,” Kris said.
“Slow reflexes, no precision, and lack of killer instinct,” Erich said with a laugh. “At least I know you'll be safe with my shipments.” He rose from his seat. “Well children, I think that's enough for today. Louisa, may I speak with you in private?”
“Of course,” she replied, looking back at Kris and Freddy as she followed Erich into his home and into a perfectly kept office.
Erich reached into a drawer, pulled out a polished mahogany box and handed it to Louisa. “I’d like to give this to you.”
“Oh, that isn't necessary,” she said.
“Don’t be shy. Please, take it. I have no wife, no daughter, yet what does a bachelor need with a jewelry box? A jewelry box belongs to a lady to put her jewels in,” he said.
“I have no jewels, nothing to keep inside it,” she said.
Erich raised his finger and grinned. “Not yet. Open the box.”
When Louisa opened the jewelry box, she found an amber pendant with a spider inclusion. She found it grim and she had no intention of wearing a dead spider around her neck. “It’s very unusual,” she replied.
“Very rare, indeed. I know quite a few women who would find that a prized possession. It’s a black widow,” Erich described with pride.
“Right. Thank you,” was all she could muster.
Erich gleamed, believing he had impressed Louisa. “Oh, before I forget,” he retrieved an envelope from the top drawer of his desk. “Here is the money. Make sure to take your cut—a financially independent woman is a powerful woman.”
“I will,” she replied, backing out of Erich’s office.
“And Louisa, let me give you some words of advice. Make sure your cohorts behave and respect their elders. Do that and you will not have any problems,” he said.
“Will do.” She forced a smile and headed quickly for the door where she met Kris and Freddy. “Let’s get out of here,” she muttered to them.
They headed down the green lawn to the airstrip where Iron Alice awaited. Kris climbed into the pilot seat. He was in no mood to debate who would take the controls.
Freddy climbed into the cargo section and buckled into his seat. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were jealous,” he joked to Kris. “I mean, he did try to impress my sister with his jewels,” he laughed.
Louisa had a hard time containing her giggle. She pulled out the spider inclusion jewel and dangled it before Kris. “Don’t worry your jewels are a lot less freaky.”
Kris waited until he took off, pitched over the mountains, and maintained a cruising altitude before responding. He reached over and took the pendant from Louisa. “He gave you that?”
“Yeah. I really think he believes he impressed me. What a fool,” she said and turned back to her brother. “He doesn’t seem to like you two, though. I’m supposed to make sure you behave.”
“How so?” Kris asked.
“We’re supposed to keep our dicks in our pants,” Freddy said. “He’s a lame loser; he doesn’t want anyone else getting the action.”
“Lame or not, try to act like decent choir boys around him, and no more talking about the war,” Louisa said.
“Personally, I’d prefer not to be around him again. Hopefully, this was the last time,” Kris said and with that, both Freddy and Louisa agreed.