The Beholden

Chapter Two – Dachau. 

The next morning Stephan was on his way to Germany. On board the train he wondered about his newly acquired burden. The trip to Munich gave him six hours to question everything his English friends had told him. He was going to see his father who decided not to return to America and make Dachau his home. At that very second, Stephan realized he too would not be able to return. At least he did not think so. This was not mentioned by his two friends. He pondered how he would be able to leave Europe if he was a guardian to a little Prague girl. Stephan knew he would have much to discuss with John, his father.

John, an observant and clever man, refined his character traits by serving in the 66th Military Intelligence Group that operated out of Wiesbaden. Depending on the situation, he could be aggressive as a saltwater crocodile or as discreet as a cheetah stalking its prey. He waited casually for his son at the station, leaning up against a support column along the platform. He wore a gray, V-neck sweater that was close to the body. Jeans and a new pair of brown, Replay sneakers completed the wardrobe. His square-rimmed Prada eyeglasses gave him that distinguished German look he worked so hard every day to master. The train pulled into the station and the passengers began to disembark. Since time began its artful dance upon John’s face, it would be much easier for him to recognize his son. He was certain his son had not shaken his American look, especially his taste for red shirts. John spots his son wearing a maroon, long sleeve casual shirt that was typically untucked over his blue jeans.

“Well, at least you shed the white sneakers,” as the two embrace and give each other a quick look over of approval.

Stephan replies by blunting his emotions, “It has been a long time.” He quickly changes the subject and heartily bursts out, “I am hungry. I hope you planned to serve me one of your well bragged about meals!”

“Come on. Let’s get to the car.”

John drove the fast and responsive Jetta GLI 2.0T. Utilizing maximum horsepower was both a requirement and a pleasure in Germany. It would not be long before they were in Dachau. The city is somberly known for its concentration camp. However, the old town is exquisitely charming with cobblestone roadways lined with oak and maple trees. Upon arriving at John’s home, he recommended that Stephan take a healthy nap while he prepared dinner. Stephan was happy to oblige. John carefully took his time as he crafted his best bean and pork Eintopf soup. The farmer’s bread was not his own but was selected at the local bakery. When the meal was ready, John awoke his son and they sat down for dinner. After a brief moment of silence, Stephan told his father what occurred in Prague. He was not sure of his next steps. Or, if he was even in control of his future.

“I may be able to provide more guidance,” John said. “I am also beholden.”

“Go on. Tell me everything you know,” Stephan said with a sense of resolution.

His father went on to tell Stephan that no one knew exactly how the beholden came to be. The eventual goal is also unclear. He only knew of the connection that formed between people. The connection seemed to grow into a network, sometimes expanding or contracting. There was only circumstantial evidence of a link to the vampire creatures through character traits. Fair skin, coldness, and super strength are the most common. They were not self-sacrificing because they were mortal. Although some lived for hundreds of years without any apparent aging after they reach fifty. They seemed to work as a loose hive species that was unaware of their superior ruler. John knew what Stephan was thinking. This is specific to Europe. That is not entirely true. The group believes that our roots grow deep in Europe and we have traced them to Bavaria. However, networks exist around the globe. John went on to explain that the connection did not demand the affected parties remain in close proximity. Some believe the movement through the network makes decisions as if they are based on a large scale gaming event. However, this would suggest a higher order of species controlling them. There is no hard proof to support that idea. Most of the beholden have theorized it is the awakening of limited free will with multiple outcomes.

“You may see that little Prague girl next week or not for ten years. What is certain is that it is not for you to decide. I have not seen Nicole, the woman I saved, in two years.”

“Father, you do not give yourself enough credit for what you know.”

“Yes, I suppose. It has been a while since I have discussed this with someone else.”

“Now, tell me how you became beholden.”

John began the story in the city of Frankfurt. He and two friends were on leave and were spending the entire day in one of the gateways of Europe. They were in awe of the large dinosaur skeletons at the Museum of Natural History. The historic Römerberg was architecturally captivating. Of course, the last and longest stop would be at the Cider Taverns. While heading back to Wiesbaden on the A66, an Audi R8 sped by on their left. The driver miscalculated the speed of the Passat in front of him and he clipped the right bumper. The Passat swerved hard and flipped over. The speeding vehicle impacted a guardrail. John ran over to the overturned car. The woman was unconscious. The vehicle was resting on its driver’s side so it was difficult to reach her. Without any thought, John pushed the car back on its wheels as if he had been granted superhero strength. Then, adrenaline caused him to practically rip the car door from its hinges. Instantly, he calmed down and checked the woman’s pulse. She was alive. He released the seat belt and gently carried her out of the car. Other vehicles began stopping at the scene. Some just weaved their way through as if they had been inconvenienced. Time seemed to slow down. Each step away from the car was heavy but not difficult. Suddenly, the car exploded. Flames singed the back of John’s head. His shirt caught fire and burned itself out. He set the woman down carefully and pulled her head back so that her mouth dropped open. He kneeled over her face, feeling the heat of the fire. She was breathing. He placed his finger on her bottom lip to keep her mouth open. From the prospective of an on looking witness, it was as if he was hushing away her fears. The medics soon arrived and she was taken to the local hospital.

“Your rescue makes mine look like child’s play,” Stephan exclaimed in disbelief.

“The nature and extent of the heroic feat should not be of concern,” as John went on to explain. “What bothers me is that you, Stephan, have already been twice saved.”

With that statement, John realized he placed a small chip in Stephan’s armor. A whole range of emotions, rippled through Stephan’s face. The anxiety of not knowing what the future would bring was at the forefront. However, John was holding back from discussing some of the negative attributes that went along with their fate. The most prevalent was selective memory loss. Some would argue that it was planned memory loss. As a result of the ordeal in Prague, it was obvious to his father that Stephan completely forgot about his girlfriend, Madison.

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