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- Mikhail Bulgakov

Hi, I'm horror and science fiction author Steve Kozeniewski (pronounced: "causin' ooze key.") Welcome to my blog! You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon. You can e-mail me here, join my mailing list here, or request an e-autograph here. Free on this site you can listen to me recite one of my own short works, "The Thing Under the Bed."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 43, Part 2

"Wann die Katze fort ist, tanzen die Mause."

Krauss whispered the old saying under his breath. It was kind of a stupid old saying: when the cat's away the mice will dance. But it seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Gently, almost reverently, he flipped on the light switch. Metzger's room was instantly illumined by the strength of all eighty of his lamp's watts.

The general shivered in anticipation. This was the first time in a long time Metzger was away from his office (the Oval Office) and Krauss did not have some duty to attend to. He looked around the room. Papers which would determine the fate of The Claw lie on the desk. They were of no concern to him. Then he saw what he was looking for.

"Ach, phantastich!"

Krauss had been trying to practice his English, but he reverted to his native tongue whenever he got this excited. He picked up the little stick which Metzger always held, as well as the marshal's cap.

He plopped the officer's cap down jauntily on his head. He adjusted it a bit until it was dead even with his brow. Krauss turned his face to and fro, looking at himself in the mirror from different angles. He gave a puzzled look at the little stick. He wasn't really sure what it was for. How had the Master of The Claw always held it?

Krauss snapped the little stick quickly under his arm. He gave his armpit a good whack. All the important and painful nerves which reside in the armpit gave him a blunt and profuse yell.


"You know, the general use for a swagger stick is not to hit oneself," came a voice from behind the general.

Krauss jumped, his pain turning to fear. By the time he turned to face the Butcher of Bavaria he was icy cold and pale white. But Metzger showed no signs of annoyance, let alone rage. He simply walked up to his protégé and took the swagger stick from him.

"It's called a swagger stick," said Metzger, "Or a baton. It's a sign of high rank, mostly for marshals, although a few high generals may have one. It's for aiding your look while swaggering. Watch."

Metzger abruptly snapped the baton into the perfect position slightly under his arm and poking out the back. He walked from Krauss to the door and back, demonstrating a practiced and well done swagger. The Butcher of Bavaria held the baton up against Krauss' arm and examined both.

"This baton's a bit long for you. It should be about the length of your arm. I suppose when you get one I'll have it custom made. Oh, tsk, tsk. Look at that cap. What are you, a raw recruit right out of boot camp?"

Metzger grabbed his red cap (the one Krauss had been wearing) and adjusted it on Krauss' head so that it was slightly askew.

"It's got to be at a forty-five degree angle, otherwise no one will take you seriously. I mean, honestly, Krauss, these are just simply tricks of the trade."

Metzger smiled at his protégé. Krauss trepidaciously smiled back. He was finally calm when he realized Metzger wasn't mad. But that all changed rather suddenly. Metzger whacked the cap off of Krauss' head with his baton, and stood ready to beat his subordinate with it.

"Now get the hell out of my office. And don't you ever touch anything of mine again!"

Krauss was off like a shot. Calmly, Metzger reached down and plucked the cap from the floor, and placed it at an angle on his own head.

"Oh, that boy's got to learn a few things," he said, and checked the cap in the mirror.

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