Pronghorns of the Third Reich (4 page)

He hugged himself and shivered and condensation clouds from his breath haloed his head.

Parker roamed through Angler’s library, hugging himself in an attempt to keep warm and to keep his blood flowing. There were no lights and the phone had been shut off months before. Muted light filtered through gaps in the thick curtains. Outside, the blizzard howled and threw itself against the old home but couldn’t get in any more than Lyle could get in. Snow covered the single window in the library except for one palm-sized opening, and Parker used it to look around outside for Lyle or Lyle’s body but he couldn’t see either. It had been twenty minutes since he’d locked Lyle out.

At one point he thought he heard a cry, but when he stopped pacing and listened all he could hear was the wind thundering against the windows.

He started a fire in the fireplace using old books as kindling and had fed it with broken furniture and a few decorative logs he’d found in the great room downstairs. Orange light from the flames danced on the spines of the old books.

He wanted a fire to end all fires that would not only warm him but also act as his shield against the storm and the coming darkness outside.

After midnight Parker ran out of wood and he kept the fire going with Angler’s books. Mainly the German language volumes. The storm outside seemed to have eased a bit.

As he reached up on the shelves for more fuel, his fingers avoided touching the copies of
Mein Kampf.
The act of actually touching the books terrified Parker in a way he couldn’t explain.

Then he reasoned that if books were to be burned,
Mein Kampf
should be one of them. As he tossed the volumes into the flames, a loose square of paper fluttered out of the pages onto the floor.

Parker bent over to retrieve it to flick it into the fire when he realized it was an old photograph. The image in the firelight made him gasp.

Parker ran down the stairs in the dark to the front door and threw back the bolt. The force of the wind opened both the doors inward and he squinted against the snow and tried to see into the black and white maelstrom.

“Lyle!” he shouted to no effect. “Lyle!”



The story is fiction but the photograph is not.

In 1936, in one of the odder episodes of the modern American West, Wyoming rancher and noted photographer Charles Belden did indeed catch pronghorn antelope fawns on his ranch and deliver them to zoos across the nation in his Ryan monoplane, including a delivery to the German passenger airship LZ 129
in Lakehurst, New Jersey, bound for the Berlin Zoo.

The photograph appears courtesy of the Charles Belden Collection, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

I can find no information on the fate of the pronghorn antelope. They would have arrived shortly after the conclusion of Adolf Hitler’s ’36 Olympics.

—CJB, 2011

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

copyright © 2012 by C. J. Box

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