Exclusive Look Inside: Butcher, Biter, Spy

Boom Town

Across the globe men, women, and children of every free nation rejoiced.  The war was at an end.  Surely that would be the end of all war. Nobody could conceive of unleashing such nightmares again. There was an entire generation for whom the faintest scent of turned soil or chlorine cleaner was enough to reduce them to quivering wrecks. Men who had been considered the bravest and the boldest of their kind cruelly haunted by the horror of it all.

Nobody would call them cowards. Nobody that had seen war’s true face. Nobody that had heard the artillery howl. The whole world was united in their praise of those heroes who had looked the devil in the eye. It was a time of rejoicing, regrowth, glory.

Except here. Except in Germany.

Faced with an unwinnable war and allies dropping like flies, the German leadership had surrendered utterly. They had surrendered all of the gains that they had made, retreated behind old borders, and begged forgiveness from the rest of the world. They had taken on the mantle of the monster, the aggressor, the villain of the Great War, and now all that lived under their flag was paying the price for it.

Reparations, they had called it, when the grain houses and farms were looted. Reparations, when every penny in the banks was scraped out and handed over. Reparations, when Germany submitted and surrendered and licked the boots of men who were not worthy to walk her soil.

There was no triumph here, no rejoicing. Only the agony of loss and the cold realisation that this was all that the future would hold. The republic, clawed from the ashes of what had been an empire in the making, was unsteady on its feet. A starved and desperate animal, wheezing its way along. Yet down on the streets, the common man was doing what common men have always done during times of hardship after fate or history dealt a crippling blow. They were surviving.

Day by day, they were living. Making the last of the flour stretch to another loaf. Digging in the back of pantries for the pickles that probably should have been long gone. Buying a sausage or two on the black market when the rations just wouldn’t cover the whole week. Asking no questions, getting no lies.

And just like everywhere where the human spirit was ground down into the dirt, just like every people driven to the brink of destruction, the German people found hope and joy at the bottom of the barrel. They found music, and dancing. They found culture and love and acceptance among their kind.

The cabaret was born in this time of strife, all the outliers and oddities of society given centre stage, praised and adored for their strangeness, where the last generation would have cursed and decried them. A whole nation was realising that the world was not black and white as they had all been told, they were not the chosen people, they were not the heroes of the story, so what else had been a lie? All this time, everyone had struggled and strived to fit inside the little boxes that society demanded, and for what? This was their reward?

They could not fight the world. They could not fight the leaders that had brought them here. There was no one place that they could go and take a swing at somebody that would make a difference. So, this was their rebellion. As they starved, they sang. As their world tumbled down around them, they danced amidst the ruins.

What should have been a time of despair became a time of rebirth, most of all for the people who had lived their lives closeted and hidden from the light of day. There was a sexual revolution the likes of which the rest of the world would not see for half a century. And nowhere could this revolution be more clearly seen than in the cities.

All the vast factories that had been set to the task of producing munitions now lay silent. The jobs that had occupied every set of idle hands were now gone. While many fled the city for the dubious comforts of home, more people still flooded to the great cities of Germany. The ones who had never fit in, the ones who needed to make a new life for themselves, just as Germany needed new life injected into it. With merely the whisper of the nightlife as a lure, these people were drawn, like moths to a flame, into cities that should have been dead and gone.

There were fatherless sons aplenty in those days, boys that had lost their fathers to the war, as well as boys that had lost their fathers due to old-fashioned ideas about what a man should be. And it was to the cities that these boys all fled. To seek out not a better life, but one that they could live more honestly. They might have had to stand in line for bread, but when night fell the abandoned bomb factories lay quiet while the cabarets opened and allowed these young men to come alive, some of them for the first time in their lives.

But the thing about moths being drawn to a candle is that in the end, they get burned.

Fritz stood outside the train station in the middle of Hanover, hand-rolled cigarette dangling limp from his lip, arms crossed, hat pulled low. He’d look like nobody to anyone strolling by. Just waiting for a friend’s train to arrive. He wasn’t there to be seen; he was there to watch.

The vast majority of the people filtering out from the station were just the usual lot, men coming back from where the war had flung them to try and rebuild something like a life. Women that had gone out to identify the bodies of their sons and their husbands. They were sombre, heads down, eyes down. They didn’t hold Fritz’s interest. He was looking for something else. 

There were the workers, moving from city to city, trying to find a factory that was still in operation, that had the raw materials to produce and the money to pay. More and more of them passed through every day. The hope on their faces was always tempered with the cold weight of reality, their eyes were down too. Like they thought they might scare off opportunities should they look them straight in the eye. Some of them, Fritz gave a second assessment. They wouldn’t be the first to ride into this town under a false flag, scared of what might happen if they let their true colours show. In the end, however, they were older than he’d like and had been made strong from a lifetime of hard work.  He had no more desire to tangle with them than with the veterans.

It was the last group, dotted throughout the mass of humanity like sprinkles on top of a sundae, that Fritz was looking for. The ones who came off the train with smiles on their faces, eyes up, taking it all in. Hope wasn’t just an idea to them, it was something that they lived and breathed. They didn’t have to lean on luck to get them to where they wanted to be in life because where they wanted to be was right here, right now. This was the distant dream that so many of them hadn’t even known was a possibility. They were his people. They were his prey.

Today, there was a halfway decent crop of them, all coming out of the station in a knot. It seemed that they’d found one another, birds of a feather flocking together, even if those particular feathers ended up in boas. They’d bunched up, either while travelling or in the last city. Less than ideal. Fritz couldn’t work a group. He needed one of them on their own. One that needed a helping hand, some guidance from an older and wiser elder of the scene. Somebody who would put them up and take care of them a little bit while they found their feet in a new, scary place.

At the tail end of the disembarking passengers, he spotted his mark. So clean-shaven he looked like a boy, eyes flitting about restlessly, but a nervous smile tugging at his lips too. He could have been thirteen and it wouldn’t have surprised Fritz, he supposed the boy was probably older, maybe even eighteen, but the aesthetic of the thing was what mattered to him most. Not the numbers.

Picking the kid up was the easiest thing in the world now that he’d done it so many times. It was like reading off a script, everything he said, everything the boy said, back and forth with the predictability of the ticking of the clock overhead. 

New in town, need someplace to stay, worry about it later, get a drink now, really need someplace to put your case down first, nothing to worry about, drop it at my place, live a little, first time in town, see the sights.

He could do it in his sleep. He could do it with one hand tied behind his back. With both hands behind his back. It was like he’d been born to do this. Like all his life, he’d just been waiting for the universe to catch up and provide him with this exact situation, looped over and over again.

In a bar that would become a cabaret once the sun was fully set, they drank gin and swapped stories.  Fritz had heard them all before.  The boy had heard none of them before, and he was laughing and laughing.  His head was thrown back and his Adam’s apple was bobbing up and down with each snort and giggle.

Fritz wet his lips, brought his glass back up to his face and took a dainty sip to keep the hunger in his expression from seeming too obvious. Being that it was still early, it was likely that some of those in attendance were not the sort of people you could depend on to look the other way should you do something a bit naughty. Fritz knew he had to be subtle enough that anything he might do would be overlooked or dismissed with little explanation. When he let his foot rest on the boy’s calf under the table, it was casual enough that it might have been an accident. When he leaned in closer to hear what the boy was saying, it was because the place was loud, not because he was intoxicated by his proximity to another man. When he reached under the table to take the boy’s hand and lead him out of the place, it wasn’t because they were going to do anything so crass as to have sex. He was simply helping to guide his blatantly inebriated companion home to sleep it off. The boy obviously wasn’t used to liquor. He certainly wasn’t used to an older man plying him with it.

Back at the little flat Fritz called home, there was a lot of clutter, a lot of cases not so different from the one that the boy had dropped off there in passing. So many things belonging to so many boys, and he was too drunk to see them, or to understand what they meant.

Maybe there was still some reluctance in the boy when he felt Fritz’s lips pressing on his own. Maybe he tried to pull away, to stop the deft fingers working down the buttons of his shirt. This was something that would forever be a secret. It didn’t matter how progressive or cosmopolitan things in Germany were getting, this was never going to be some bold romance to brag about to his friends back home. This was a meeting of circumstance and necessity. New in town, lost and alone, the boy needed somebody to take care of him.

Fritz dropped down to his knees in front of the teen, fumbling at his belt buckle. His excitement starting to get the better of him. The boy was slim, but in between the drapes of his open shirt, Fritz could see some hints of muscle. There was enough meat on him to serve all of Fritz’s purposes. He mouthed his way down the boy’s stomach and the downy hair just starting to grow there. Listening to the moans and groans.

Whatever reluctance there had been before, it was all gone now. Heat had washed through the boy, chasing any doubts away. Not every moment of his life needed a song sung about it. Not every encounter had to be the next great romance of his life. Things worked differently for men than when there was a girl involved. It was more straightforward, less complicated, sometimes it meant something, sure, but sometimes it was exactly what it looked like and nothing more. As Fritz yanked his trousers and underwear away, the boy realised that somewhere in the fumble they had made their way to a bedroom.

The bed was old, the mattress sagging, but so long as it held their weight, the boy didn’t give a damn anymore. He was lost in the spin of the kisses and the gin.

 If he’d been just a little more aware, he might have wondered about the smell in the room. Not the smell of sex, which would have been entirely expected, even when they first arrived. Fritz hadn’t made any pretences about what he was and what he wanted in that regard. Instead, there was a smell that would have, at first, seemed unfamiliar. A metallic tang in the air that wasn’t quite strong enough to be easily recalled, but which eventually could have been put together with the smell of a butcher’s shop. It wasn’t the rot of old death or the harsh horror of new. It was a place saturated over days, months, or years, with spilt blood. Butchered meat.

The kind of guy who would buy you a drink and pick you up in a bar was not the kind of guy who would do the things with their mouth that Fritz was now doing. How should a kid, young and nervous, know how to reciprocate? His previous experiences may well have been brief, brutal, back-alley dealings, and that was if he was lucky enough to have found anyone at all. The distinction between sexual roles was traditionally fairly rigid. Maybe he would pass it off as an oddity, maybe he’d assume that the people in big cities were just more flexible about what they’d be willing to do together. Either way, it wouldn’t be the truth.

Fritz just wanted the sensation of flesh in his mouth. As he worked his way back up the boy’s body, his kisses had turned to open-mouthed bites, hot and raking over the flesh, but not finding purchase. Up he went, creeping closer and closer to the boy’s pretty face. Away from those parts of him that some part of Fritz’s mind was already filing away as meat. He turned the kid by his chin to seize one more kiss.

When he reared back from him, the boy was lazy-eyed and punch-drunk with lust. Fritz could not remember ever having seen anything quite so beautiful. He could feel his jaws spreading wide, his neck coiling back like a serpent ready to strike, all as though he were just a passenger in his body, watching what was unfolding, instead of the person in control. This was what he wanted. This is what he came for. Not the kisses, or the fumbling touch of a teenage boy, but this moment.

He lunged down, and his teeth met.

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