Robert turned the heat up in the van as he headed back into the city. Sterno, sitting next to him, never complained about low temperatures, but after running around all day in the cold, almost November weather, Robert felt the chill humming in his joints.
"Look, Mr. McCall, I don't need to be looked over by any doctor. My head's hard," Sterno winced as he touched the bandage that Schmes's daughter had placed over the deep cut on his forehead. Then he looked at his fingers. "See, it's stopped bleeding already."
"Stop it Sterno, you went down hard, I heard you. The whole van shuddered. You saved the younger child from certain injury. If you hadn't caught and protected him after he opened his seat belt we might have a tragedy on our hands now. I know you got the worst of it. I'd hate to think what would have happened to a child's body flying around in the back of the van."
Sterno winced again, "Look Mr. McCall, I know when I'm hurt and it's not that bad. I told you the kid's toy hit my forehead, nothing else."
"You hit the side of the van like a ton of bricks, man. I suspect your ribs are giving you problems now."
"No, they're fine. Look, Mr. McCall, once those doctors get a hold of you they like to run every test they have. I don't need any doctors didling with me!"
Robert nodded, he usually agreed with that idea about doctors, but he wasn't going to play games with Sterno's health. Not on his watch, not while the man was working for him. "We'll simply have the medic on duty look you over," Robert said, "The minute he tries anything further, you can escape. I'll need you to be fit for work tomorrow. All right ?"
"I'm not hurt that bad."
The phone in the van sounded. He smiled at Sterno, picked it up and was greeted by a torrent of the sounds, of crying, screams and loud thumps and howls. It sounded as if someone were playing a tape of Halloween noises.
"Hello?" Robert shouted into the receiver, feelings of dread filling him. "Hello!"
"Mister McCall, Mister McCall!" Robert recognized Hermann Schmes's voice, high pitched with fear and tension. "Mister McCall, something terrible is happening! Help us."
"What's going on there, man?" Robert shouted into the phone. He saw Sterno's attention was fixed on him.
"Your man Kostmayer and I heard sounds like something was outside the house. He took his gun and went out to see."
Robert heard Schmes's daughter shriek in hysterical terror in the background. He could also hear the boys' screams of panic.
"Frieda, control yourself!" Schmes shouted. "Someone tried to get in the house, and the young man went to investigate. When Kostmayer went outside, there was silence then there is the noise you hear now. I have no weapon, Mister McCall. I have no way to help him and no way to protect my family! Help us!"
With one hand on the wheel, Robert checked the road and made a sharp one-eighty degree turn to set the van on the way back to the safe house. "I'm coming Hermann, lock the door of whatever room you're in. Stay there. Don't go out. We'll be back in a minute."
In what seemed like hours later, but Robert knew were only moments, the lights from the headlamps passed over the house.
Stopping with a squeal of tires, he grabbed a large caliber weapon he knew was fitted underneath the dashboard and attached a high powered flashlight to its top. Then he exited the car. Noting that Sterno had already pulled his gun and was heading for front door of the house, he hissed. "Sterno!" The other man stopped immediately and Robert joined him. "Listen." Both men cocked an ear.
"Nothing," Sterno said.
"Right. There was a cacophony of considerable proportion just a few minutes ago, now nothing at all. First, we'll find out what's happening inside the house."
He and Sterno moved to windows on opposite sides of the front door, but before they could get to peek in, the door opened and Schmes stuck his head out.
"Mr. McCall?" Schmes asked in a shaky voice.
Robert glanced at Sterno and they both converged on him.
"The noises suddenly stopped a moment ago, then I hear the car pull up and I see it is you," the man said, his German accent very apparent, his eyes filled with sorrow. "I hear nothing of your man Kostmayer. He never returned!"
Heart pounding hard, Robert looked around him. The house and neighboring woods were quiet, now that he noticed it – preternaturally so.
"Schmes, get your family ready to travel. I don't know how it could have happened, but it would seem the house is no longer secure. We'll need to get them out of here right away. I'll do a quick look for Mickey." He turned to Sterno. "Stand guard. Give me five minutes, if I don't return by then, get them to Company headquarters and tell Control everything that happened."
Sterno nodded. "I'll get the van closer and stand guard right behind the door, keeping them inside the house. In five, we're outta here to Control."
"Good man," Robert said, happy to have a well trained professional at his side.
"Good luck," Sterno whispered.
Robert turned and was moving almost noiselessly by the side of the house. It was cold, and the moon was at its fullest, casting strange, white, dead light through the bushes and trees that surrounded the house. Other than his heartbeats pulsating inside his head, he could only hear the branches moving in the icy breeze, almost as if they were whispering secrets to each other. Nothing more was moving, not even the ever present city rats or the squirrels that usually clattered near any tree.
He had chosen this place because of its solitude, but now he was regretting it. There were no neighbors to call for help. The house was fifty years old, built right on the edge of the city, in what was one of the last of the private lots of land in a mostly forgotten corner of an otherwise bustling municipality.
When he had gotten half way around the back of the house, he heard a gasping breath. Following the sound, he carefully made his way closer.
In a patch of harsh moonlight, Mickey was lying on the ground, his body contorted, his clothing ripped and bloody. Heart hammering hard in his chest, Robert knelt down by his friend.
"Mickey?" Robert asked, happy for the wheezing breaths his friend was making. If he was breathing, he was alive, and alive carried some hope. "Mickey, can you hear me?"
The gasping noises paused and Robert feared Mickey had stopped breathing.
"Mickey!" he shouted, anguish blooming in him at another painful loss in his life.
"What? What're you yelling about? Frowning, Mickey opened his eyes and looked at Robert. "What happened?" He sat up under his own power.
"Mickey?" Robert was amazed, but still placed a restraining hand on his friend's chest. "Take it slow man, it looks like you've been in the wars!"
With a confused expression, Mickey glanced around him then patted his own body down. "Wow, I don't feel like I've been hurt much. Damndest thing. I got attacked by a big dog."
Now Robert felt utter confusion take over, "A dog?"
"A mother of a big dog. I think maybe it was a wolf," he was shaking his head, "I thought I was a goner there."
Robert stood up, "Then you've been mauled. We'll get you inside and look at how bad it is." He put his hand out to help his friend up, but Mickey rose to his feet with little assistance. "Whatever attacked you, I don't want us to remain here any longer. Schmes said someone tried to get into the house so security has been broken."
"I feel fine," Mickey said, as he stretched his shoulders and back, "I can't believe it."
Peering at the blood on his head and his tattered clothing, Robert raised an eyebrow. "You look like you were the main course for something's dinner. Let's get you inside."
Robert picked up his weapon and Mickey retrieved his own lying nearby. They both hurried to the front door, making certain they weren't followed.
Before they were able to knock on the door, Sterno had opened it. Robert saw shock in his eyes when he spotted Mickey. When then turned to look, he understood Sterno's astonishment.
Mickey, moving around as if nothing at all was wrong with him, looked worse in the light of the house. Blood matted his hair, covering most of his head. His shirt was shredded and even more blood had dried on what material was left.
"Sterno," Robert found his voice more forceful than he expected, "Take Mickey into the kitchen and see how bad off he is."
Sterno put out a protective arm around Mickey, who laughed it off. "Sterno," Mickey said, "I'm okay, I can walk on my own."
Robert turned to the phone as the two others went into the kitchen and dialed. He heard Control's machine pick up. It had no outgoing message. Anyone who dialed that number knew the drill.
"Control, listen carefully. I need an identical van and another good agent – Brockie, if he's available and I need a woman here for Herman's daughter to lean on – Ginger if she's around. We need a diversion. The Bronx safe house is no longer secure." He set the phone back in its cradle, confident that the phone would ring back in exactly ten minutes.
"Mr. McCall? Is everything all right?" Schmes's voice called out from the top of the staircase.
"Get your family ready to leave," he shouted up to him.
He heard Schmes hurry down the steps. "Mister Kostmayer…" his face was drawn with worry. "Is he –?"
Robert was surprised to see how concerned Schmes was for the safety of a man he hardly knew.
"He seems to be fine." Relief washed over Schmes's face and Robert felt something inside him soften, "Mickey looks to be fine, Hermann," he kept his voice low. "He's just been battered around a bit. Get your family calm and ready to travel. Transportation and more security will be here momentarily." He smiled at the man. "Go, go, look to your family."
Schmes took a deep breath, his face was still pale. "Yes, thank you. I shall."
Robert went into the kitchen. In the glare of the florescent overhead light, a shirtless Mickey, his damp hair sticking to his head, looked hale and hearty. A large pan of water was next to him. Sterno, whose sleeves were rolled up, was the one who looked bleached with fatigue. He was rubbing a dishtowel over Mickey's neck and shoulder.
Sterno looked up, "Take a gander at all this!" He pointed to the sink where three blood soaked towels were sitting. "All that came off him and for the life of me, I can't find any wounds that might have bled this much."
Robert studied Mickey who just shrugged. "I got a head scratch that did bleed a bit, but I suppose the cold outside stopped it. So I guess I must have hurt the animal more than I thought. It must be her blood, not mine. Hey, other than a little stiffness in my shoulder where she grabbed me. I feel pretty darn good."
Robert continued to examine Mickey. His chest and shoulder did have a hint of black and blue bruising, but Robert could see no cuts.
"We'll count our blessings later," Robert said. "Find him something to wear." He looked at his watch. "Transportation will be here soon." The phone rang just at the exact moment he knew it would. "That's the confirmation now."
Robert was tired. After a restless night settling Schmes and his family into yet another safehouse and a full day of investigating, he was now sitting in the Jag, waiting for Mickey to show up. He felt at a loss. He'd started early in the day to get as much background on the Banga family as he could, but nothing he had learned had helped his investigation in the least.
Control, after hearing that two of Robert's men had been harmed by unknown assailants, allowed use of his top security password for another twenty-four hours. That gave Robert access to the records of every law enforcement and governmental agency in the United States, all of the Free World and most of the rest.
Unfortunately, he hadn't the slightest idea of how to use the computer. Mickey had been given some computer training and, since his presence at Company headquarters wouldn't raise any eyebrows, Robert gave him the job. Also, even though Mickey didn't show any ill effects from his dogfight the night before, Robert preferred that the younger man be assigned a safe and sedentary job that day.
So he had given Mickey task of researching, again, every file, every data base and every mention on any level of the Banga family and connections they might have had to the deaths of all the man who were in Schmes's platoon.
No matter what else might have happened to make him feel that something strange was going on, Robert wanted provable facts and evidence to end the reign of terror against the Schmes family. If they could make some connection to the gypsies and international violence, Robert could have them arrested and the case would come to a satisfactory close. Detained and imprisoned for murder on multiple charges, none of the Banga family could ever get to bother Schmes and his family again. They would be safe, and after all, that was the reason for Robert's involvement in the first place.
He had spent the day trying to get some lead on where the Banga clan had made the money that had sustained them through over forty years of travel throughout Europe and then to the United States. So far there had been scarce mention of that family at all, in any records, other than rather large deposits in the Swiss banks. Robert had hoped that he could get some agency to become interested in their finances. The IRS and other international organizations of that ilk could usually be counted upon to find something illegal in anyone's past. If there were no clues for violence, Robert hoped that there would be evidence of ill gotten gains.
Robert had checked with his favorite master accountant, the Company's Special Agent Charles Wilhite, a man so well known for his love affair with numbers and his ability to sniff out irregularities, that the Company had to assign him personal bodyguards.
Unfortunately, even Charlie had no luck in piecing together any information on the Banga family.
Robert had talked to historians in musty libraries, and animal training specialists in crowded kennels around the city and he still had no useable information.
He checked his watch again. Mickey was ten minutes late, they were to have met exactly at 7PM. Hungry and tired, he wanted to get something to eat and then drive to the Bronx safe house where Schmes and his family were staying – so far without incident.
The car's door flew open and Mickey slid into the passenger seat, dragging a large shopping bag with him.
He grinned at Robert. "Sorry I'm late, but I stopped to get us some grub to take to the safe house."
Robert couldn't help but stare. Mickey seemed to be glowing with health, and he was sporting a considerable five o'clock shadow. Something unusual for him.
Mickey started to dig into the shopping bag and Robert could detect the aromatic smell of hot food.
"Mickey, you know I am not fond of eating in cars." He eyed the younger man as he took out a large, foil wrapped package. "And you know that I do not permit eating in the Jag unless absolutely necessary."
"Calm down McCall, I didn't expect you to chow down here. The bag's filled with a good dinner to feed all of us once we get back to the safe house." He started to unwrap the foil. "And I gotta eat this now, it is a necessity. I've been ravenous all day. Like my mom used to say when I couldn't stop eating, I got a tape worm in me."
He dived into the bag again, "Where's the forks?" he said, a gruffness coming out in his voice.
Robert sighed and started the car. "Young men and their appetites."
Victorious, Mickey lifted up the eating utensil. "Got it! Gotta tell you, McCall. If I didn't find it, I'd have to eat this with my fingers."
From the corner of his eyes he saw Mickey scoop up a large bite of the food and shovel it into his mouth and chew.
"Mmmmmm," Robert heard Mickey grunt as he swallowed and then shoveled another fork full into his mouth.
"When did you eat last?" Robert asked, incredulous at the fervor with which his comrade attacked the food. "Didn't you take time out for lunch?"
Mickey nodded as he swallowed. "Early lunch – a huge, rare roast beef sandwich from Katz's. Lunch, whole roast chicken from the deli down the street and a snack at four, a handful of plain, rare Quarter Pounders from McDonalds."
Amazed, and a little nauseated, Robert grimaced. Mickey was grunting with enjoyment over the food. The light was red so he glanced at his companion and almost did a double take. It looked as if Mickey was ingesting raw chopped meat. "Egad, what are you eating?"
Mickey grinned at Robert again, this time his mouth was stained with bits of bloody beef.
My, what big teeth he has.
Robert's stomach lurched once again.
"I've been thinking of this dish for hours. It's steak tartar. The restaurant I got the chow from is famous for it. I tried it few years ago and something made me think of it. I've had a hankering for this all day." He pulled more of the foil back on the container, and Robert saw Mickey stick his fork into a mound of seasoned, uncooked beef.
Turning his head toward traffic before he had to see the bloody meat be consumed, Robert heard his car phone ring. He picked it up, relieved to have something to do rather than dwell on Mickey's taste in snacks.
"Mr. McCall?" It was Sterno.
"Yes. What is it? Anything wrong?" Robert hazarded a glance at a chewing Mickey, who now had much of his attention on the phone conversation, one ear cocked as if he could hear Sterno's side of the conversation.
"Mr. McCall, I know you're due here at any minute, but Hermann wants to speak to you right away. He's been antsy all day and now he says if he doesn't get to talk to you, he's leaving to do something on his own."
Robert pushed down feelings of annoyance. "Put him on."
"Thank you, Mr. Sterno," Robert heard Schmes say as the phone changed hands.
"Mr. McCall, sir, I am sorry to be of more bother to you, but I have been thinking. It's important. The gypsies have a curse on me and my family, but last night you said I am last one left of my platoon. It is all connected! The truth is that we murdered that whole clan. They will get their revenge on my family as they have dealt it to all the other men's children!"
Robert heard the echo of hysteria in Schmes's voice. He tucked the phone under his ear and put both hands on the steering wheel. "Calm down, Herr Schmes. I shall be with you soon. We can discuss this then."
"No!" Schmes cried into the phone. "It's already dark, I waited all day and I will not wait any longer, dare not wait to do what I need to do. I couldn't bear it if anyone else became hurt because of my sin. Not my family, and not anymore of your fine and decent colleagues!"
Robert now detected the pain in Hermann's voice and asked, "What do you want to do?"
"All the other soldiers were killed as were their families before them. Now, it is my turn. If I do not try to speak to the people I have wronged, I am afraid that my family will pay for my crime. They, like the families of my fellow soldiers, will be doomed. I know this, I feel it in my bones!"
He paused for a moment, and Robert could hear the man's breath coming fast, puffing into the phone receiver. "I will go to the house where the gypsies live. I must, face to face, talk to these people. Apologize and beg forgiveness and pardon, not for me, but for my family!"
"Bloody hell," Robert muttered.
"He might have a point, McCall," Mickey said.
"Hold on one moment, Hermann," Robert said into the phone, and hit the mute button. He pulled the car over to the side of the road and double parked. He turned to Mickey. "You heard what he said?"
Mickey nodded, crumpling up the empty foil from his snack and throwing it into the shopping bag with the rest of the food. "Look, both of us have spent all day trying to get something to connect this Roma group to anything that happened in Europe and here. We got bubkus. If this family has been dealing out revenge on the men who murdered their clan forty years ago, they've been real good in getting away with it."
Robert surrendered to the facts. "True," he nodded to Mickey, "If Hermann confronts them, maybe they will confess and we can do something to have them arrested."
"Or," Mickey continued. "Maybe Hermann can put a human face on their revenge. Maybe they'll pull back? It's as good an idea as any."
"Forty years intent on revenge, dedicating their lives and fortune to meting out justice?" Robert shook his head. "It would have been the legacy to their loved ones. I don't see them stopping now." He fingered the mute button. "Unless… Unless we show them that we know who was responsible for the other deaths and that if they do anything to harm Hermann or his family, that retribution shall be brought upon them in the form of the law of the land? That this time, they won't get away with it."
"It's a gutsy move, but there isn't much of anything else left to try."
Robert sighed. "True again." He pushed at the mute button. "Hermann, tell Sterno to drive you to Carnegie Hall. I'll be there to pick you up and take you the Banga house."
After the exchange of Schmes for the bag of food, Robert set the car towards the Banga house. As they drove, Robert noticed the pale moon rising. He felt apprehension curled inside his body, setting him on edge. Glancing at Mickey, sitting behind him in the car, he recognized that he wasn't the only one feeling jittery. His friend was almost vibrating with nervous energy, hardly able to contain himself.
Only Hermann Schmes sat quietly, his face a picture of resolve.
"Hermann," Robert stated once again, "I mean it. You do not challenge anyone in the group. I'll do most of the talking. Do we understand each other?"
"Mr. McCall, I've decided. I would be happy to give up my life if I could be sure that my family would survive."
Robert nodded. "I'm well aware of that. But if all they wanted was your life, they could have collected it a long time ago. The plan I surmise is that they want to enact their revenge on your whole family first."
Schmes sighed, "The way that their family was taken from them. The way I helped murder them."
Silence descended upon the car. There was nothing to say to the man. He had indeed taken part in an atrocity. He might have only been a boy and not one of the actual killers, but he had been in the uniform of the perpetrators of the crime. He had been a part of it by just being there.
Robert repeated his plan. "That's why I must be the one to appeal to the Gypsies –"
"Roma people, Robert," Mickey chimed in from the back seat. "Gypsy is thought of as a derogative term by the Sinti people. It's been hurled at them as a curse by Gadjo or Gadjikane – outsiders."
"You're right Mickey. I should be more sensitive about that. Thank you for reminding me."
The car's occupants became silent again. About a mile from the Banga home, Robert brought himself to speak again. "Mickey, I'll drop you off a little way from the house. You'll keep a watch on what's going on with Hermann and myself. If there's trouble, do what you think best. Attack or get to the Jag to call for help." He heard Mickey grunt in agreement.
Mickey snickered. "Hey, McCall, which number on that car phone is speed dial for 911, which one for Control, and which one for take-out food? I'm starving again."
Next to him Schmes chuckled. "A fine young man," he muttered to Robert. "However this all comes out, I am proud to have gotten to meet you both. You have worked vigilantly to help me and my family. Thank you."
Robert stopped the car. Mickey got out and moved around to the back, pulling a rifle out of the trunk and running away with the speed and silence of a nocturnal hunter. Robert could scarce believe it. He shook himself and started driving. "It's not over yet, Hermann. Don't thank us yet."
Slowly, Robert made the turn into the driveway that led to the front of the Banga house. The moon was full and it almost looked like daylight, but the deep shadows by the trees reminded him that it was night and cold as the grave out there.
As the car got closer to the house, Robert saw that a large outdoor campfire had been built to the side of the building. He saw an old woman tending it. When he turned the engine off, the woman got up and approached the windshield to peer into the darkness of the car. She gasped, covered her mouth and, screaming, she ran into the house.
"Well," Robert sighed, "We didn't want to surprise them anyway." He turned to Hermann. "Walk slowly behind me, all right?"
Schmes nodded. Just as he let the car door shut, Robert started to hear music. It was gypsy music and something about it was familiar.
Schmes sucked in a deep lungful of air. "It's the song—"
It came to Robert then. "Yes, it's the composition I heard when that car was chasing us."
"No!" Schmes cried, "It was the music they were singing." His eyes opened wide in fear and moved to Robert's face. "It's the music I have heard inside my heard for forty years, the song that has filled my nightmares and my waking memories of that horror. It's what they sang as the bullets mowed them down, as they fell into the trench! It's their death song!"
Robert glared at Schmes. "Get a hold of yourself man. If you can't, we'll leave right this instant. I need you to hold yourself together. Your family needs you to be strong now."
Schmes gave a shuddering breath, which turned to vapor in front of his face. The temperature seemed to have gotten lower as they stood there.
"Ja, ja, Herr McCall. I together must get. I will get myself together. I will."
As they started towards the house, the front door flew open. A man walked out onto the porch and stood there, his hands on his hips, his eyes projecting an emotional fire that singed everything in its path.
Robert knew that man's name. He was Veshengo Banga, the Vaida, the head of the family. His name meant 'Man of the forest'.
He placed himself in front of Schmes and took another step towards the house.
"Get away from my home and family!" Banga said as he stepped into the night. His features were now completely illuminated by the moonlight and soon he was surrounded by other members of his clan.
Schmes gasped. "It is them!" he said, his voice rang with amazement. "It is them!"
Robert didn't see why Schmes was so surprised, for the faces of the family who had come to the United States had been in the file. He decided that this was too hard for Schmes to handle. He might have to end this confrontation if the man couldn't contain himself.
Banga was a tall, impressive, solid block of a man. His long salt and pepper hair and beard blew in the icy breeze. Although he wore no coat, only loose trousers and a colorful vest over a flowing shirt, Vaida Banga didn't flinch at the cold.
His jaw was set and his voice rang out into the night as clear as a bronze bell. "There is nothing here for you. There are no more Romani lives for you Nazis to take. There is no mercy for you or your family, whose hands are still stained with the blood of my family. Leave now and prepare yourself for the end of your world. Prepare to live through the agony of seeing your family killed and buried, as I did."
Schmes gave off a strangled cry, "It's them, Mr. McCall."
"Yes, Hermann. It is the Banga family." He kept his voice low and calm, hoping that Hermann would take his cue to keep composed.
"Nein, you do not understand me. Verstehen Sie nicht! It is not the ancestors, it is the same people, the ones in the forest. The same ones! They have survived all these years unchanged!
He's become unhinged, Robert shivered.
Vaida Veshengo Banga, glared at Schmes. "Nazis usually have no memories about their victims. They usually have none whatsoever," Banga bellowed into the night. The other people surrounding him nodded and looked with hatred on Robert and Schmes.
Robert threw an arm across Schmes's chest and whispered at him . "Stay where you are man! Shut up or get back to the car. I don't want to hear one damned word from you. Do you understand me?" He fixed Hermann with one of his most forceful looks. Schmes whimpered and looked down at the ground.
Robert settled himself, then spoke to Banga. "There seems to be some misunderstanding here. I know you're the Vaida, the gypsy, I mean Romani chieftain of this group, Mr. Banga. You see Mr. Schmes is upset and afraid for his family. He thinks you have been menacing them, hoping to exact vengeance on innocent people who were not even alive when the tragedy struck your family during the Second World War."
Banga seemed to radiate anger. "You speak so very coolly about tragedy and family. You Bengesko niamso, Nazi sympathizer."
"I am not a Nazi," Robert shouted, "My family fought against them in the war, we hated and opposed, everything about them, Vaida Banga, and I still despise and detest everything they stood for. No, sir, I am here to speak opposition to your war against innocent people and your apparent need for revenge even though the deeds engendering it took place over forty years ago."
Veshengo Banga shook his head. His voice was gentle. "So you are not a Nazi? It strikes me that it is too easy it is for you to pronounce the word tragedy."
The members of his family surrounding Banga on the porch began to sing the haunting song Robert had heard before.
Although he couldn't understand the words, Robert felt his heart almost break with its sadness. Memories of loved ones gone from this life rose up in his mind. He saw his father standing by the side of his mother, they stared at him with mournful eyes. In his mother's arms was little Kathy, the daughter he lost when she was not even two years old.
Suddenly the picture changed, the ghosts of his parents and dead child were in a forest. They were flung back as blood spurted from their bodies. Little Kathy fell from his mother's arms and all three slowly toppled down into a pit dug deep in the earth.
Robert saw men in Nazi uniforms reload their guns and smile as his loved ones fell dead and bleeding onto the mass grave. Inside the earthen tomb he saw his mother dead, his father's face blown off, and there was little Kathy, her eyes were open and her small fingers moved. Life burned in her still! She tried to breath, but blood poured from her mouth.
Horror overwhelmed Robert with an anguish that slammed into his heart. His knees gave way and he hit the ground, barely seeing the world around him. His heart cried out for his lost family while it filled with hatred for those who murdered them. He howled in pain. "My God! Oh God! Oh God!"
The music stopped, and Robert found himself still standing with Schmes, yards away from Banga. It had all been a hallucination. Robert gasped for breath. He was still shaking.
"Today, yesterday, decades ago, it is all the same to us." Banga's voice was filled with anger. "We see our families die all around us every moment. My loved ones, my own, I see with every breath, the pieces of my heart torn by grinning animals. Our souls will never escape the shadows of the past, sir. Take your dispassionate declarations for your idea of pity and choke on it."