Thomas H. Cook
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As the world closes in around them, two Nazis hide out in a tropical paradise
The servants sense something strange about the two old men. They are not sure what business Dr. Langhof and Dr. Ludtz have in El Caliz, but they are certain that whatever they do in their colonial mansion is the work of the devil. Although they do not know the specifics of the two men's crimes, the servants are right to suspect something sinister.
The men are Nazis, fugitives from international law who fled to this South American haven in the chaotic days after World War II. Langhof brought with him a cache of stolen diamonds, with which he bought their safety from the small nation's corrupt president. He passes his days cultivating a stunning greenhouse full of orchids, and meditating on the evil acts that fill his past. For now they are safe, but fate has many ways of dealing out justice.
mute existence, and one thing became for me no more beautiful than another. And so I decided to become a creator myself. I had Juan build the greenhouse, and for years I nurtured the orchids, massaged and syringed them, trimmed and repotted them, diagnosed their maladies and sat with them through the night, trying to lose myself in the luxury of their perfume. Now I have passed their care to Juan, who prays for their recovery and guards them against my malediction. In the distance I see Juan
he has warned against the education of the masses, a suggestion based upon his fear that they have not yet been properly prepared for the burdensome responsibilities of intelligence. Thus, learning in the Republic remains a matter of seed and prayer. The seed is winnowed from the ripening crops and gathered up in burlap bags. These sacks are held in the Central Warehouses, which are the exclusive possessions of El Presidente. On occasion — and at a whim — he is said to have denied access to
fearfully, as if touched on the arm by a stranger. He still believes that someday they will come for him, that the indefatigable Arnstein will finally locate him and dispatch his commandos to take him back for trial. “They’ve gotten most of the leaders now,” he said to me frantically one night when he had mistaken the chattering of crickets for the sound of boots creeping through the undergrowth. “They’ll get down to people like us soon. They’ll never give up.” A few days later, he told me that
holy spirit if it bathed me in celestial light. For years she has scraped the jungle floor, praying for her gods to overwhelm my soul. Now she prays that they might consume me in annihilating flame. Because she is so close to God, she has been able to seize the very beating heart of malice. “I trust he did not suffer,” Father Martínez says. “No,” I tell him, “he did not.” “Is there any special sort of service you would like, Don Pedro?” “No. Whatever you think Dr. Ludtz might have wanted.”
the breath of God. I turn and walk through the crowd of villagers. They step aside as I pass. I make my way to the stairs, then up to the verandah. Inside my office I take the little tin box. It is still filled with diamonds. So valuable are they that I have used only a few in my long years at El Caliz. I place the box on my desk, then take a sheet of stationery from one of the drawers. On it I write a single line: “I have become you, so that you may become me.” I sign the letter, fold it, and