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.”