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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

The Lebensborn Legacy
by Michael Acton

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September 3rd 1939

11.35 AM

Westminster Bridge was teeming but silent. Small groups of anxious people huddled together trying to absorb the Prime Minister's resigned statement and the realisation that once again the world was about to be torn apart by war.

A lone figure threaded her way through the crowd, black shawl allowing only a wisp of blonde hair to expose itself to the chill air. She glanced furtively from side to side before standing on the raised ledge and dropping into the swirling river Thames.

July 30th 1966

2.00 PM

Detective Sergeant Joe Tanner was looking forward to England's big day. He had lived every minute of the team's torturous campaign to get to the final of the World Cup. The hopes of a nation depended on the next 90 minutes; more so as their opponents were the "old enemy" West Germany.

It had been quite a week for the murder squad, of which Joe was the head. He had been promoted at the young age of 26 and was looking forward to a trouble-free weekend.

He slammed his desk drawer shut, pocketed the key, and reached for his coat that sported a large England rosette.

Joe grinned as he glanced at the clock. Five past two. Just time for a quick pint before getting the tube to Wembley – but fate had other ideas as the nerve jangling trill of the phone cut the silence of the office.

"Tanner. Murder squad," he barked before slumping into his leather chair and starting to scribble notes.

"Be there in ten minutes." Wembley was a diminishing dream.

Tewkesbury Place was like a hundred other bedsit communities to be found all over the capital. A once grand collection of Victorian houses divided into rabbit hutch compartments to house a fluid population.

No. 72 was no different from the rest. Except for the smell. The lingering, sickly stench of death.

A young uniformed policeman was emptying the contents of his stomach in the weed-strewn garden.

"Jesus Christ what the hell's been going on here?" Joe exclaimed as he ducked under the tape.

The officer was still trying to control his innards.

"I received a call from the landlord at one thirty-five asking for assistance to evict the tenant of flat six, as repeated attempts to get the rent had failed. I attended as requested only... Oh God." He turned and dashed back into the garden. Just in time.

3.15 PM

The news that England had gone behind washed over Joe as he watched his men gingerly gather evidence from the run-down flat which now resembled a slaughterhouse.

"Reckon there's four bodies here Boss. We've got a list of tenants from the other flats, but no one appears to be missing. Looks as if there'd been a party recently."

Tanner pushed open the kitchen door to reveal crates of empty beer bottles, then asked, "Anything else?"

"In here on the table." Their feet squelched through puddles of crimson gore into the third room of the flat.

The table was almost bare save for a loose-leaf writing pad. Joe picked it up with the tips of his fingers so he did not smudge any other prints on it.

"DESTROY" was scrawled in blood-red ink across the page. Underneath Joe counted five names. He turned to his colleague Tim Collins, a tried and trusted sidekick from their days at training college.

"What do you reckon Tim? A religious nut? What the hell is this all about? Well, at least we have the names of the victims. Tie up the loose ends then we can get this bloody maniac before he strikes again."

Tanner got into his car just as Geoff Hurst scored, courtesy of an obliging lines man.

"About time the Russians did something for us," he muttered.

Sunday July 31st

10.00 AM, Scotland Yard briefing room

Six members of the murder squad had assembled despite a night of celebration for the new world champion, as Tanner tried to ignore the drums beating in his head.

"Right lads. Those of you who were at Tewkesbury Place won't need to be told we're after a maniac here. The medics have pieced together the four bodies; each one had been castrated. They were all male, white and aged between 26 and 31." Tanner paused for a brief moment.

"They were from different addresses and at this point they do not appear to have any link to each other. Except each had an invitation to a party at this address."

Tanner held a bloodstained card for all to see.

"CELEBRATE A NEW SOURCE OF LIFE" was written upon the card and underneath the now familiar address in Tewkesbury Place.

"Each card had a different date, presumably the date each one died. Each date coincides with a World Cup match," Tanner continued. "Smith and Watkins, here's a chance to make amends for cheering Germany on yesterday. Find the link and what this source of life thing is all about."

"Any further questions?" Joe asked.

"Just one thing sir," Smith queried, "the pad had five names yet there were only four bodies."

"Exactly. That's why we need to move fast on this one."

Monday August 1st

2.00 AM

Tanner gave up on his efforts to sleep as disembodied arms, legs and genitals haunted his dreams. He had hoped to snatch an hour from the investigation to watch England's victory parade the next day, but even that small wish was becoming more unlikely by the minute.

The trill of the phone startled him.

"Boss, we've found a link. I think you'd better get back here pronto."

Tanner did not need persuading. He broke every speed regulation in the book to get back to the Yard.

"What've you got?" he asked.

"Well for starters, they were all adoptees," Watkins replied, placing four sheets of paper in front of Joe.

"Carry on."

"As I said they were all adopted. And... each one was from an English mother and a German father."

"So what are you telling me?"

Tanner's tiredness was forgotten as Watkins placed a brown folder alongside the profiles of the victims and took out a faded black and white photograph.

"This is Alice Box. She worked for the Ministry of Defence in 1933 and was seconded to the British Embassy to assist in the appeasement talks with Hitler.

"One night when she was working in Berlin she disappeared. Talks were at a delicate stage and her disappearance was brushed under the carpet. A year later she resurfaced in London with a baby in tow. When questioned about where she'd been and about the baby, she would only reply, "He's a Lebensborn baby."

"Lebensborn?" Tanner queried.

"Yes boss. I did history at College. The Lebensborn were created to form the basis of the Third Reich. Himmler and Goebbels opened up several homes in Germany where blonde blue-eyed women were mated with men of pure Germanic blood to form a true Aryan nation. They were going to repeat this exercise in each of the countries they invaded. Norway was the first. Britain was to be next. Alice had an affair with a German attaché and coerced other British women to be baby machines for the Reich. The literal meaning of Lebensborn is source of life."

Tanner pondered for a moment and then asked, "This Alice Box character. Is she still alive?"

"No, Alice committed suicide on September 3rd 1939 by jumping off Westminster Bridge. But shortly before she died she told her bosses that she had recruited five other women to the Lebensborn cause, and each one was pregnant with a German soldier's child, ready to sow the seeds of a British Reich. When the government realised what was going on they took the babies away from their mothers and placed them for adoption with English families. Their identities were to be hidden forever from public scrutiny."

"Except someone found out," Tanner interrupted. "These invitations to CELEBRATE A NEW SOURCE OF LIFE, what's the take on that?"

"Well sir, we know each of the victims was visited during the past month by a smartly dressed middle-aged woman. It's only a theory at this point but we think she probably enticed them back to her flat at Tewkesbury Place with a promise to reveal something of their past. Maybe she even told them she was their mother."

"So Box is dead, but what happened to the other mothers?"

"Three died. But..."

"Yes, go on," Tanner urged.

"Martha Long was the last recruit of Box. When she realised what the future held for her baby, it sent her over the edge and she was committed to a mental institution. Martha was a Cambridge graduate at the time and intended to go into medicine, but she suffered such trauma that she turned to taking lives instead of saving them. She butchered two other patients in the 20 years she was incarcerated. In their wisdom the doctors decided she was well enough after all this time to let her out for a day. But she never returned. They think it was the continued mention of the German football team being in England that rekindled her fears about them creating a new Reich."

"So she decided she was going to find the Lebensborn survivors and make sure they couldn't produce any progeny," Tanner said taking one of Watkins' proffered smokes then looking out over the sleeping city.

"Nothing we can do ‘til morning so I'm going home. See you nine sharp."

"Ok, boss," Watkins replied.

Tanner strolled through the darkened corridors, and his thoughts drifted to his own happy childhood as he tried to imagine the horrors Martha and her victims had endured. His parents had always assured him they had specially chosen him, and only occasionally did he wonder why he was blonde and blue-eyed whereas his brother was dark and olive-skinned.

He stepped out into the cold air and spotted his car bathed in cold neon, alone in the vast parking area.

Tanner settled into the driver's seat and fumbled in his pocket for the ignition key before stretching to relieve his tired muscles.

As he leant back he saw too late the glint of light on metal as it swished in an arc across his throat, sending a spume of blood across the windscreen.

They found Martha as the city woke under weeping skies, her arms wrapped tenderly around her dead child.

A single tear drifted slowly down her cheek as deep in the shadow of her mind she grieved

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