The wind had changed direction and now heavy sheets of rain played a sad cadence against the glass windows of the office. It was this song that brought Jorge Vasquez back into the present. He rubbed his eyes and stretched in his chair. On the desk in front of him rested the private journal of his late father. There was an old worn leather book and two sealed letters. In the old dusty office, surrounded by childhood memories and antique furniture, Jorge opened them.
Thus far, he’d read that his father, a naval intelligence officer in 1978, had been sent by his superiors to investigate the disappearances of several high profile residents of the Olivos neighborhood in Buenos Aires. Jorge yawned and reached for the black rotary phone at the edge of the desk. With the receiver in one hand, he dialed the number to his home. His wife answered. As he explained to her that he would be home late, Jorge could hear his children playing in the background. He said his goodbyes and replaced the handset on the body of the phone. With a deep sigh, he began to read again from the journal:
“The man behind the wheel of the silver Ford was in his late fifties. His skin had the appearance of weathered leather and his hair steel wire. The older man made no attempt to turn his head to face me but simply tightened his grip on the steering wheel. Instead of asking his name again, I pressed the pistol harder into his side and cleared my throat. He took a breath and seemed to hold it in for a moment. In the exhale I heard, ‘Agent Jácobo Gerchunoff of the Mossad… Captain Vasquez, now that we have the introductions completed, why don’t you put your pistol away? I’ll explain why I’ve been following you.’ As he finished speaking, his right hand let go of the wheel. With two fingers, he removed an ID that verified that he was, in fact, who he said he was. I replaced my pistol into its holster as the Mossad agent started the car, placed it into gear and drove down the street.
“We traveled down the road in silence as my mind raced. Firstly, why was an Israeli intelligence officer in Argentina? Secondly, how did he know who I was? And lastly, what could be his interest in this case? None of the missing were Jews, nor did they have any known affiliation with the Nazis. The old agent seemed to know what I was thinking because he began to chuckle and said, ‘My superiors said you are one of the best intelligence officers around, Carlos. I hope you don’t mind the informality, call me Jac if you like.’ Before I could respond he continued, ‘A senior official in your president’s cabinet has been aiding my country in the search of escaped Nazi war criminals. This same man informed his contact that Josef Mengele was once again in Argentina. The Mossad’s interest in the disappearance of Argentine citizens is due to the fact that we believe the monster Mengele is likely responsible. By finding them, I hope to capture that beast!’
“Silence filled the car. I was very familiar that the Mossad had many of their operatives here searching for Nazis. The celebrated capture of Adolf Eichmann here in the province of Buenos Aires in 1960 was a testament to their diligence. But how could an aged man like Mengele be able to abduct so many and leave absolutely no evidence, not even a trace of a struggle? I repeated this question to myself over and over as the car made several turns. It finally stopped abreast to my own vehicle. Before I could open the door, Jac broke the silence and said, ‘How familiar are you with the occult, my new friend? Why don’t you look up Paracelsus and meet me back here around midnight.’ With that said, I stepped out of his car and into my own.
“I dared not report the presence of the Mossad agent to my superior yet. This Jac fellow was operating with better information than I had, and it seemed to me that my only chance of ever solving this case would be with his cooperation. Upon his advice, I drove to the national library and, with the assistance of the librarian, ended up with several thick volumes and a desk in a quiet corner to conduct my research.
“Paracelsus, it seems, was a renaissance physician. He was credited with being the father of toxicology. He was most remembered, however, for being a great alchemist and wizard. His grimoire was said to have, concealed in its pages, the process of raising the dead and an encyclopedia of mystical creatures. The more I read, the more puzzling Jac’s request became. I left the library to our rendezvous with the suspicion that I was being played a fool.”
“The streets of Olivos were empty and the vast majority of the windows on the houses were dark. As agreed, Jac was waiting in his silver Coupe when I arrived. The clock on my dashboard struck midnight. Before I could turn my car off, Jac was tapping on the passenger side glass for me to open the door. As he entered, he gave me directions to a large home three blocks away. I headed that direction, but before we reached the destination, he told me to park. So I did. I reached behind my seat and produced a thermos and two cups. I offered the old Mossad agent a coffee before serving myself and we sat in silence quietly sipping the scalding liquid.
“A misty rain began to fall. Soon the view from the windshield was obscured. It was then I saw it. At first, I thought it was a dog. But as it neared a street lamp, it was clear it was no animal. Jac had seen the same thing because he grabbed my arm and whispered, ‘Don’t move.’ More of these things came out from the shadows. I counted twelve under the yellow orange light of the lamp. I couldn’t believe my eyes because I had finally realized what I was looking at: gnomes!
“Jac was not impressed by the appearance of the gnomes. His gaze remained straight ahead through the misty windshield. He was waiting for something to happen. In the darkness inside the car, the older man began to rub his left forearm. In the softest whisper he began to speak, ‘I was only seven years old when my twin and myself were taken away from the rest of the family after we arrived in Auschwitz. Mengele sent my parents to the gas chamber. He used my brother and I in these… experiments. Mengele would tie us up and chant words from a leather book. Sometimes he made us drink horrible tasting solutions. One of those gnomes is my brother.’ There on his left arm was a series of tattooed numbers. He was a survivor.
“Though he was choked with emotion he continued, ‘I don’t know exactly what his plan is, but your abductees are there in front of you. Mengele has turned them into gnomes. For the past few nights, I’ve watched this house because inside lives a set of identical albino twins. When I was his captive, I once heard him say that all twins were magical. But albino twins were the pinnacle of magic power.’ As if on cue, the dozen gnomes moved back into the darkness. I could see their shadows disappear under the house’s heavy metal gate.
“Instinct took over. I found myself outside of the car and running towards the home with my pistol drawn. I aimed at the spot in the gate were the gnomes had entered. No more than two steps behind me ran Jac, but the Mossad agent was aiming his pistol in the opposite direction. I wasn’t even halfway across the street when I felt electricity in the air. There was a large flash of blue light followed by a loud snap sound similar to that of a heavy branch breaking off the trunk of a tree. It was neither the flash of light nor the loud sound that froze me to the spot; it was what I saw next.
“The stone wall beside the iron gate had a glowing portal from which several gnomes poured out into the street. Above their heads, bound and gagged, were the albino twins. Though diminutive in stature, the gnomes moved swiftly. We gave chase after them. More than once, I felt that these creatures had evaded us only to catch a glance as they rounded a corner. Thankfully, our pursuit ended in front of an old home. I could just see the door close as the last booted foot crossed the threshold.
“I crashed into the door with the full weight of my body and it exploded into splinters. I fell onto the floor and slid across the marble entry way. Jac leapt over me and down a hallway, from which emanated the most frightening screams I had ever heard children make.
“Before I could recover, I heard another door being kicked in followed by several gun shots. I raced with caution down the same hallway that Jac had disappeared into moments before. There was a door hanging from its hinges. I slowed down and called out to him. A red glow poured out into the hallway.
“As I entered, what I saw would be forever burned into my memory. There, in the center of the room, sat the terrified albino twins. They were surrounded by geometric drawings and pictograms laid on the floor in salt. Placed evenly about the room were the twelve gnomes, but they stood frozen. As I got closer, it appeared that they had been transmuted into stone. Their pain-stricken faces were forever etched into the the rock.
“I turned around and there, leaning against the wall, was Jac. One hand pressed against a wound in his chest and the other was still aiming his pistol towards the opposite corner of the room. He sputtered bloody foam from his mouth and I knew he would not live long enough for an ambulance to arrive. With every second, the pool of blood spread further out into the room. The Mossad agent smiled as I drew closer. In one last gallant act he said, ‘Mengele is dead. He got me when I kicked in the door, but I shot him in the head.’ This statement was his last and he quietly expired.
“I had no time to mourn. I turned to face the spot where moments ago, Jac had been aiming his pistol. Mengele was very much dead. The man formerly known as the “Angel of Death” had a single bullet hole in the center of his forehead, a menacing smile spread across his face. The twins fell silent and the hairs on my neck stood on end. It took me a moment to realize what was happening. The albino twins had disappeared and in their place stood none other than Adolf Hitler, stark naked. I was in shock, to say the least, at seeing a dictator, deceased for thirty-three years, respirating. He began to speak. Thankfully, I had studied German in school. He said, ‘Paracelsus’s spell worked! I knew I was right trusting Mengele with this task! Where is the doctor? I must thank him!’ I answered him by shooting him in the throat.
“As the man responsible for the deaths of millions writhed in pain on the floor, I contemplated saving him and allowing a world court to judge him. But then I saw the grimoire. However much this piece of filth needed to be brought to justice, knowing the amount of evil that would be unleashed by the book if it fell into the wrong hands gave it precedence. I gathered all the papers in the Paracelsus grimoire and the twelve petrified gnomes and shoved them into the trunk of my car. In the garage of the house, I found several gasoline cans that were full. I proceeded to douse each room of the home, save for the room containing the corpses of Jácobo Gerchunoff, Josef Mengele and the recently resurrected Hitler. The former dictator’s face changed from an expression of pain to that of complete terror as I splashed the contents of an entire can over him. He clasped his hands trying to entreat me into sparing his life.
“The smell of gasoline was thick inside the building when I tossed the match. The house was consumed by the flames before sirens could even be heard. My official report never mentioned the Mossad or Nazis. It simply stated that the communist/terrorists involved in the kidnappings lit their hideout on fire rather than letting themselves get captured. I later removed the remains of Mengele and Jac from the evidence room. Mengele was buried in Embu das Artes and, after an anonymous letter to the Israeli embassy, his remains were eventually discovered.
“The first sealed letter is for the family of Jácobo Gerchunoff giving them the whereabouts of his body and my personal thanks, for I would certainly be dead if not for him. The second letter is for the family of the albino twins, because I’ve always regretted that I was unable to save them.
“My son, this is most important: the leather book enclosed in the folio is the grimoire belonging to Paracelsus. I have tried on more than one occasion to destroy it, but to no avail. It is now yours to guard. Make sure to never allow its evil to darken humanity again. I trust you.”
The storm had passed. Jorge could hear the sounds of the traffic move over the wet streets below. His hands shook as he closed the journal. His father had burned Adolf Hitler alive and covered it all up.
Still struggling with the revelations he just read, the young man felt that the safest place for the journal and the grimoire would be back in the file cabinet here in the office for the time being. As he closed and locked the office door, Jorge Vasquez patted the pocket holding the two sealed letters and realized that in his childhood home, there were twelve grotesque gnomes in the garden.