I was really tempted to name this story arc “Thule Breaker”, but I fought off the urge. It was a valiant battle, and reason won over puns.
Nestled among old brick mills, a used book store stood hidden away like a lazy cat. If you didn’t all ready know it was there, you’d never notice it. I had wondered if there was some kind of magic that kept the place hidden, and then I wondered if it was some kind of magic that kept it running. Stacks of books loomed above my head, waiting to tumble at the slightest touch. Feeling like a kid in a china shop, I slid my hands into my coat pockets, just in case.
“August my boy! How have you been?” the elderly shop keeper called out from behind the book his face was buried it. Mr. Zelinski had grown accustomed to my visits ever since I bought a mangled copy of the Necronomicon from him. He had no understanding of what the book was; he had thought it was a misprinted early edition of Lord of the Rings. I don’t know what brought me back again, but I had returned weekly to talk with him. He would tell me about his youth in Poland, painting a sharp contrast between the fear he felt of Baba Yaga and the trepidations he held about the Third Reich.
“I’ve been okay. Business has been good; we’re keeping the office open regularly now, and the police have started bringing Minnie and me in as special advisors on occasion.” I said cheerfully. “Since Minerva’s grandfather bought a bunch of our old equipment, our investigation agency has been thriving.”
“That’s all well and good, but how can you manage to see all those grisly things all the time? I would have nightmares. Dead bodies frighten me. That’s why I never want to be one!” He laughed heartily, his boney frame convulsed while the long bristles of his moustache flared on the breeze of his mirth. He placed a ribbon into the ragged copy of The Decameron he had been perusing and then buttoned the old cable knit cardigan he must have been wearing since he was seventeen. “Winter’s coming.” he observed ominously.
“You can’t stop the seasons.” I responded, feeling that my observation was insipid. Mr. Zelinski still smiled, nodding cheerfully, as though my statement was deeply profound. I sat on a dusty club chair that rested by a window that was in need of washing. I looked at the small pile of books that were stacked on the mahogany table in front of the chair. A dozen volumes of the Polish translation of Tobin’s Spirit Guide, including one from 1890, teetered on top of several almanacs from the last century. Below it all was a yellowed folio which detailed a string of vampire attacks throughout Germany during the first World War.
“My father had kept these hidden back in Poland. I remember the night he brought them home. We were staying in the country with my mother’s parents, and he buried them in the barn.” Mr. Zelinski’s memories transported him back all those years; I could see the nostalgic look on his face. The nostagia soon changed to a lingering terror, one that was still fresh despite the passage of more than seven decades. “I remember the man that came in the night, nearly a week later. He called himself Claus von Sebottendorff. He wore the fine grey uniform that all the Gestapo had to wear when in an occupied country. I was only a boy, but I was still interrogated. ’Does your father have books about vampires? Does he have books about demons? Does he hide them?’
“I remember trying not to cry, even when he pulled at my cheek. ’I will pull your face off if you are lying.’ he threatened. I still lied to him because my mother said it would be okay.” Mr. Zelinski sighed. He was floating back to the present, leaving behind the memories. “Later, my father told me that Claus von Sebottendorff was a member of the Thule Society. He was the translator behind some of the editions of Tobin’s Spirit Guide. Later in life, I wondered if he was just trying to preserve his work.”
“That’s a possibility. But didn’t the Thule Society disband in the twenties? And as a member of the Gestapo, why would he want to get his hands on occult books? Wasn’t the party line against mysticism?” I found myself considering the ridiculous plots of movies that feature Nazis and the Thule Society. I dismissed the ideas about the Lance of Longinus and dedicated my attention to Mr. Zelinski’s answers.
“Well, the other kids said that von Sebottendorf was a vampire. That was why he would only come out at night. It was also a convenient way to explain his blood thirsty nature. When I think about it now, I could see how kids could think that he really was a vampire. He was sickly and pale, with nearly white blonde hair. I couldn’t imagine how the war would have turned out if the Nazis actually had vampires on their side.”
I smirked, pretending to dismiss the idea. The Nazis actually did have a number of vampires in their employ, but they were not field agents. I recalled many of the disturbing stories I heard about what happened in some of the concentration camps, and I never wanted to imagine what the vampires did.
We talked about more pleasant things for a while, then I settled my bill, taking all the books and the folio for eighty dollars. Mr. Zelinski tucked the books into a brown bag, folding it closed and binding the package with cord. “It’s just like the way my father did it.” he said proudly. “I hope you enjoy them. If you need any help with the translations, just come back. I’d be happy to help.”
“I’ll be sure to come by if I have any questions.” I replied. I left, passing an incoming patron dressed in a grey woolen coat that was buttoned up to his chin. A fedora topped his ensemble; the brim was drawn very low. I might have given him a second glace if it wasn’t starting to downpour.