Ms. Williamson has been captivating the hearts of readers for decades. Her heroes are strong and daring while the antagonists, diabolical!
A Decisive Showdown ...
After the meeting, Alberich is still finding it hard to relax. Matthew recognizes his comrade’s dilemma and goes over to him.
“Would you like to talk about it?” Matthew asks putting his large hand on Alberich’s shoulder.
“I don’t know if it would help. You’ll probably think that I am being the baby.” Alberich gives Matthew a crooked smile.
“You should know me better than that, mein Freund. Tell me, what is bothering you.” Matthew insists.
“Gerhardt takes this situation so calmly. I wish I possessed his demeanor. I guess I take things much too seriously.” Alberich responds giving Matthew a sheepish look.
“Gerhardt may not be as calm as you perceive him to be. There are times when you have to put on the face of the lion when you’re actually feeling more like a frighten kitten.” Matthew relays to him.
“I seriously doubt if you’ve every felt like that, being an American—” Matthew corrects him immediately.
“Wait Alberich. Just because I’m an American doesn’t mean I’ve got ice water for blood. There have been many instances where being brave was the farthest thing from my mind. However, when you have people depending on you—you just have to suck it in and do what has to be done.” Matthew confesses.
“That’s when you are dealing with other guys such as yourself.” Alberich counters. “I’ve been in many skirmishes with men and it never phased me. But what we have here is a Siberian tiger—one of the fiercest creatures in the animal kingdom. And this one seems to have a personal hatred for me.” Alberich retorts.
Ben has been observing the two men and decides to walk over. He hates to interrupt what seems like a very private conversation but they need to have a light supper before turning in for the night.
“Hunter and I are going downstairs to have a sandwich and a couple of “Pils”. Why don’t you two join us. Alberich, you look like you could use one.” As Ben turns to follow Hunter out the door, Matthew convinces Alberich to join them.
“Ja, I could really use one.” Alberich admits.
The men take the elevator to the first floor and travel down a short corridor to the restaurant located on the premises. It happens that tonight there is special entertainment on the red, crushed velvet stage. A lovely blonde singer with a small band as backup.
The men have been fortunate enough to obtain seating arrangements very near the front of the stage, to the left of saxophone player. After placing their orders, the men slide back into their seats to be serenaded by the sweet, husky sounds of the singer called Ivanka with her rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”.
Alberich is so enthralled by the siren that he has forgotten his previous conversations with Matthew and blushes when she sways over to sing directly in front of him.
“Du gibst mir Fieber!” Ivanka coos. (You give me fever!)
“What’s that lady back in Stäfa going to think if she finds out about this little number?” Hunter chuckles.
“What the little lady doesn’t know—” Ben replies and both men laugh while Alberich is oblivious of everything except the luscious lady standing less than two feet in front of him.
It is very late when the four men finally decide to return to their suite. Alberich seems to be in an exceptionally good mood, humming the tune that Ivanka sung to him and smiling.
“Think you will be able to sleep, Alberich?” Matthew teases.
“Like a baby.” Alberich throws back. “I want to thank you guys for coming to my rescue. I was feeling—” Hunter interrupts him.
“No need to explain a thing. We understand. It has been pretty intense for you the past couple of days. Hell, it’s been rough on all of us. This was definitely something that we all needed. See you in the morning, Al.” Hunter smiles as he heads toward his bedroom.
“Gute Nacht, Hunter.” Alberich calls back, stifling a yawn.
“Until the morning.” Matthew adds and everyone switches off their lights and goes to bed.
Friday morning and everyone is ready for whatever fate has in store for them. Gerhardt meets them at the Comfort Inn and the five men leave for the White Forest. They decide to drive there in the Mercedes and then travel the rest of the way by foot. Gerhardt leads the way. Alberich is next shadowed by Matthew. He has been charged with keeping Alberich safe. Ben has a Swedish M96 given to him by Hugo and Hunter has his reliable Winchester Model 94.
Unexpectedly, they hear a crackling sound.
"That Siberian tiger is getting a little clumsy." Ben rejoinders.
"She must have been injured in the fall!" Hunter points out. " Look, see these traces of blood.”
"I never noticed any blood at the Rathaus!" Alberich counters.
“We weren’t looking for blood, were we?” Gerhardt rejoinders.
"True. Do you get the feeling that we are being watched?" Hunter questions.
"Everyone, be silent and vigilant! No unnecessary talking and always keep the person in front of you in clear view. Hunter, watch your back as you are the last person." Gerhardt advises.
Hunter only nods. Then, without warning, a large animal leaps in midair barely missing Hunter's shoulder.
"Verdammt!" Hunter swears. “What was that?”
"Too fast for me tell," Ben complains.
"I think it was the tiger." Gerhardt asserts.
"I think you are right," Alberich affirms, looking all around for any indication that she may still be in the vicinity.
"There's blood again," Hunter emphasizes as he examines a couple of leaves.
"Hmm ... instead of us trying to find her, why not just wait here for a return visit. We know she's wounded, let's use that to our advantage." Gerhardt rationalizes.
"Good idea!" Matthew concurs. "Let’s set up camp. Would over there be suitable near those scattered shrubbery?”
"Ja, it has a good view of the area." Gerhardt responds.
"It’s perfect!" Both Matthew and Hunter react in unison.
"However, we will still need to be on our guard." Hunter is quick to point out.
"Right. She is dangerous and has proven that she is still capable of inflicting harm." Ben reasons.
"At least the element of surprise will not be in her favor." Gerhardt tries to reassure the group.
"Then let's get moving." Alberich asserts as he turns his back to unpack. It is at that moment that the white tiger makes her move. It is Matthew who spots her first and within moments he reaches for his modified Walther Sportmodell V rifle.
The force of the tiger’s leap knocks the gun right out of his hand. Matthew rolls over and barely escapes a swat from her mighty paw. Ben is able to grab his weapon but it has little effect other than slowing her down a bit.
Gerhardt grabs a large limb and begins to dart back and forth. Jabbing at the wounded beast, he is only managing to make her even crazier.
Matthew finally manages to retrieve his rifle and with precision he fires it, hitting the tiger on the left side of her torso. The beast runs at least six feet before she staggers near the edge of a steep gorge. She subsequently lies down as the fatal impact of the drug takes effect. In one final gesture, she rises to her feet. Then before succumbing to the lethal consequences of the serum, she plunges precipitously into the gully.
Everyone rushes to the edge to observe her lifeless body.
"Do you think she’s really dead?" A concerned Alberich questions.
"I’m not breaking my neck going down there to find out." Matthew declares.
"Nor am I" Ben asserts firmly.
"She hasn’t moved for 10 minutes. If the drug didn’t kill her, the fall most certainly did." Gerhardt proclaims as he moves away from the edge.
“You got a problem with heights?” Matthew mocks.
“Ja. I also have a problem with wisecracking Americans.” Gerhardt rejoinders.
“Now wait just one damn minute—” Alberich has to intercede.
“He was just kidding, Matthew. Same as you. Let’s get out of here.”
As the men begin their return journey to the truck, unbeknown to them, a pair of menacing eyes have observed the entire incident. Shaking his enormous head from side to side, he moves as if just awakening from a deep sleep. The beast is returning to the mountains. It is a tiger!
© 2021 Jacqueline Williamson BBA MPA MS