Glory and Reach – Part One
By: Walter G. Esselman

Isabella's rented car slid to a stop before the jail. The Prime Minister had offered his car and driver, but she liked to drive herself. With a tug, her wide brimmed hat shaded her sky blue eyes from the noon sun as Isabella studied the old jail. It was built out of ancient gray stone and looked more like a fortress than a prison. Leaving the car in a parking space, she walked up to the front gate. The jail had a tall metal gate that showed a little rust.

"Who are you?" demanded the guard. He looked her up and down from behind the gate. She knew what he saw. An elegant woman in a linen shirt, white gloves and tweed pants with Stuart Weitzman shoes. Not your typical jail breaker. Her appearance was making the guard squirrelly.

"The Prime Minister sent me to speak with the warden," replied Isabella in passable Moraghavian. She had always had a knack for languages. That she spoke his language, even with a New England accent, made the guard even more nervous.

"What are you doing here?" he asked as he raised his rifle toward her. But Isabella did not blink.

"I am just here to speak with the warden," said Isabella slowly and carefully. "I have papers."

"Let's see," demanded the guard. Cautiously, Isabella pulled a thick sheaf of papers from her Prada purse with two fingers. She handed those over to the guard who took them. That prompted him to call his boss, who finally called the warden.

Soon she was sitting in the warden's clean, but spartan office. The warden was average height with his black hair cut carefully close to his scalp. Grey hair at his temples was the only thing that belied his real age. But he watched her with careful eyes.

"How can I help you?" he asked wearily. His gray eyes flitted to the Very Official Documents. They even had a hologram mark from the Prime Minister's office. A few quick calls had proven that they were genuine.

"I am here about Gretanniack Brose," said Isabella.

"The Sorrowful Man?" chuckled the warden. "That — what do they call that — urban legend has reached your shores?"

"But he's not an urban legend. The Sorrowful Man is real, and he is in this prison." "How do you know that?" Isabella just looked steadily at him. So, the warden changed his tactic.

"What would you want with such a man, if he existed?"

"That is my business."

"Ah, but everything within these walls is MY business. Even you. So, why do you wish to meet him? A little thrilling story for the cocktail parties back in Boston."

Isabella was a little surprised that he had pinpointed her accent, but she did not let it show.

"I have been looking for him," continued Isabella.

"Why would such a nice lady be looking for The Sorrowful Man?"

"I am here to help him, if I can." The warden thought about that for a moment.

"You have seen him," said Isabella. "Am I correct?"

"Let's say that I have," replied the warden slowly. "I started here as a simple guard. That was when the prison was more populated. But when I was a guard, I used to visit him at night when I was on duty. He was always kind to me. In fact, I've never heard him speak harshly to anyone here, even the other prisoners."

"And he came here on his own?" asked Isabella.

"Now, that was before I started here. I'm not that old," chuckled the warden. "The previous warden said that he just came in one day and locked himself in an empty cell."

"What did he say?" asked Isabella.

"According to them, nothing," said the warden. "But as time went on, he spoke a little more."

"Can't you open the door?" asked Isabella. The warden shook his head. "He melted the lock. It's just a hunk of metal now. We'd have to tear out the door."

"What does he eat?" asked Isabella.

"Nothing," said the warden.

"What?" demanded Isabella as her sky blue eyes blazed for a moment.

"No, no, it's not like that," explained the warden quickly. "He will not eat. We tried."

"He does not eat at all?" asked Isabella as her anger melted to puzzlement.

"When he first arrived. The warden at that time ordered that he be fed twice a day with the other prisoners. Of course, he never left his cell, couldn't, but we are not animals so a guard would put down a tray. But it was always untouched. The warden kept that up for two months before relenting. Especially since he wasn't dying."

"So he never ate anything," mused Isabella.

"Every year at Christmas, we put in a tray for him."

"He is Jewish."

The warden gave an embarrassed laugh. "We realized that eventually once he started talking to us, but by then it was traditional. Every year, a tray was left for him. He never ate it."

"What does he do?" asked Isabella.

"Mostly he just sits there," said the warden. "But sometimes at night…"

The warden suddenly stopped.

"What?" asked Isabella.

"I shouldn't," said the warden. "It is not my place." Isabella looked imploringly to the warden. After a moment, he sighed.

"Sometimes at night, we hear him crying. But we give his space. Especially since he is obviously one of the super people that came about during World War Two." The warden leaned close and his voice dropped to a whisper. His neat little moustache gave a little tremble. "Some think he might be ‘The Reich."

"Why do you say that?" asked Isabella carefully.

"He is the right size," shrugged the warden. "One of the retired guards once saw The Reich fighting that American superwoman Glory at Castle Blud. He said that the ground shook like an earthquake when the castle collapsed in on itself. Like watching two Titans fighting. Do you know of the Castle Blud fight?"

"I do," said Isabella, and her face did not give anything away.

Well, that man was still there two days later when Glory and the Reich punched their way out of the rubble. The soldiers were so shocked."

"I'll bet."

"It was only a month after that that the Reich just disappeared. Vanished. Some whispered that they had seen Glory near him before he left. They wondered if she spirited him away, or killed him."

"What do you think?"

"I do not know. But then there is what happened at Krochov."

"Krochov?" asked Isabella.

"Krochov. One of those wretched concentration camps that was near here.

That bastard camp was not one of the big ones, but still terrible."

"Why do you think it is related?"

"If you go a 15 miles up the road you came in on, it is straight up the road from here."

"It could be a coincidence," suggested Isabella.

"Perhaps, But then I heard stories of its liberation. You see, when the Soviets came to liberate the camp, they found that the Nazi's had gone. There was just Jewish prisoners armed to the teeth."

"Where did the Nazis go?"

"Actually, they eventually figured out what happened. You see, the Jewish people who had been rescued contended that they had taken over the camp. They stuck to that story, and still do."

"But…?"

The warden gave a small nod. "The Soviets did wonder how the big door to the camp had been kicked in. And later they found the bodies of the Nazis. At the time, the Soviets did not care where they had gone. But later, they found something interesting. In one of the ovens, they found all the german soldiers."

"All of them?"

"Squished in there and then a fire was lit beneath," said the warden with a grim smile. "A fitting fate for such monsters."

"Could have been the prisoners…," suggested Isabella, but her voice did not even convince herself. "Is there more?"

"One of the Soviet soldiers did say that he saw someone, or something, darting out of the camp after they arrived, but he never got a good look. Almost as if someone was waiting to make sure the Soviets were there to protect the Jews in the camp."

"And you think whoever did that, came here to this prison? But why?" The warden shrugged again. "Shortly after that, the Sorrowful Man arrived in a shredded, unrecognizable uniform. He walked into a prison in a small, little country and locked himself in. Why? He has never said, that I know of. Maybe we will never know."

"Can I see him now?" asked Isabella.

The warden looked at her for a moment deep in thought. "Are you a nazi hunter?"

"What? No," said Isabella in surprise.

"I just wanted to know," said the warden as he stood. "It would not have stopped me from showing you, but I needed to know. We have grown...fond of him over the years. We do not have a bone of sympathy for the Nazis, but the Sorrowful Man...maybe he was a Nazi once, or their tool. But after decades of solitary confinement with no food or water...well, let's just say that we've become almost protective of him." The warden sighed. "But we knew that someday, he may need to go."

"Have any Nazi hunters ever showed up before?" asked Isabella.

"No one said as such. But you are not the first visitor." "I'm not?"

"No, there have been a few others. In the 60's a woman came to find him. She spoke with a Hebrew accent I later realized. Maybe it was Israeli spies, the Mossad? The Soviets too had sent people several times. I think everyone decided he was already locked up and not a danger, so they left him here, until you."

"What about me?"

"I will take you to him," said the warden finally and he took one of his office chairs under his arm. "I do not want you to sit on the floor." Isabella smiled despite herself. "Thank you."

"‘You brighten up the joint' as they say in America. Now, you will have to sit outside since no one can get in the cell without the aid of a backhoe I think. But you can talk through the bars."

The warden led her through the jail. The jail looked and felt old, but it was reasonably clean. Taking an odd route that led through the kitchen, Isabella started to wonder if the warden might be planning something. And as if he were reading her mind, he spoke up.

"I did not want to subject you to the worst of our...'guests', so we are taking an odd path. But we will come out right by him."

The warden unlocked a door and it took them to a stone corridor that housed cells on one side. Isabella could immediately see the cell. For one, the metal lock was a block of slag.

"We don't tend to keep anyone over here anymore. This section is too old to be of much use, and they would bother him."

The warden set the chair down in front of the cell. Above his shoulder was a barred window. It sent a sliver of light into the cell itself. In the middle was a man. He looked away from them, kneeling on the floor as if praying. Maybe he was, Isabella wondered. The man in the cell was wearing a prison uniform that looked too small for him. His hair was long and shaggy hanging down his large, muscled back.

"You have a visitor," said the warden softly and the man's head lifted, but he did not look around.

"Can we have a few minutes, alone?" asked Isabella and she saw the man stiffen like a statue.

"I can not leave you completely alone," said the warden. "But I can step down to the end of the corridor." And then his face grew stern. "As long as you do not harass him."

"I am here to see if it really is him."

The warden opened his mouth to say more, but then he stopped. He walked down to the end of the corridor a good thirty feet away. Leaning against a wall, the warden waited.

Isabella sat down outside the cell and just took a moment to look at the prisoner. He still had not moved. Finally, she spoke. "The soldier called The Reich disappeared from a battlefield in 1945 and many thought he was dead. Every scrap of intelligence seemed to support that. I was one who believed him dead. I thought that Aldo Richman had not survived the end of the war."

The man in the cell shook. He tried to speak, but his voice was too hoarse and gravelly. After a moment, he tried again. "How do you know that name?"

"A lot came to light after the war. The Nazis had kept extensive records, especially of "Project Nietzsche."

"What do you know of that?"

"Started in 1936, it tried to create the perfect man, but initially it went wrong. I, unfortunately, have seen the pictures of the failures. So they started to use Jewish men as their guinea pigs."

"What sane man would sign up for such a thing?"

"One who wanted to save his family," suggested Isabella. "You see, the deal was that the Jewish man would be subjected to tests and in repayment, their families were allowed to stay safe. What man would not take that chance?"

"A fool," spat the man in the cell.

"A noble fool then," said Isabella. "But the formula never worked just right, producing more grisly photos." Isabella shuddered. "Except for one man. So the deal was kept. The man who became the Reich was allowed to save his family if he fought in the war."

"A deal with the Devil."

"What could you do?" asked Isabella. The man in the cell suddenly turned. His square, handsome face was twisted in a snarl.

"I could have fought them! Tried to get to my family!" roared the man in the cell.

The warden came away from the wall, but Isabella turned and gave him a hard Look that froze him in his place. She focused back on the man in the cell and spoke softly.

"But you did not know where they were, did you?" asked Isabella. The man looked away and his face drooped. Isabella continued. "Again, I have read the records. They moved the Reich's family regularly, so that they could not easily be found. But they were given all the necessities of life."

"Until the end," moaned the man, and the pain in his voice was stretched raw.

Isabella looked down at the floor. "The Nazis needed every man at the end of the war. It was decided to move them to one last place to free up the soldiers holding them."

"I should have been there," said the man in a hollow voice.

"It was you that liberated the camp, Krochov," suggested Isabella. "You stayed to make sure that the Soviets would care for them. And luckily for them, they did."

"Too little, too late," whispered the man hanging his head. "Some days, I almost wished that you had not told me on that battlefield. Then I would not have seen..."

"I had to tell you," replied Isabella.

"To get me off the battlefield?" chuckled the man darkly.

"The brass at the top wanted that," said Isabella. "But that's not why I found you that day."

The man looked up at Isabella in confusion and she felt a blush on her cheeks. She had not been embarrassed for a long time.

"When Castle Blud collapsed over us, I figured we were dead. But you helped keep my spirits up. Your stories of your family helped. It's why I helped you escape the rubble of the castle. And before, why I..." Isabella stopped unable to say more about that soft time under Castle Blud. She actually found her cheeks flushing.

"I...I think back to that time often," said man nervously. "Some days, it was all I had. Our laughter, and...that night." "Things progressed rather faster than they ever did before...or since," said Isabella.

"I wondered if it was the close proximity," said the man and he gave a little smile. "But then I realized something many years later." Isabella looked at him curiously.

"When Castle Blud collapsed over us," said the man. "I had known you over a year." Isabella looked confused. "But we had been fighting."

"We were opponents, yes," said the man. "And sometimes we got cross with each other, but mostly we fought each other." Isabella thought back to that time and remembered that she always saw him.

"At Normandy…," started Isabella.

"You and I fought on the sand and the surf down the way." "The same with the Battle of the Bulge," nodded Isabella.

"Our job soon became keeping the other from interfering with regular soldiers. We fought each other for the better part of a year. And you were so startling beautiful."

"That was a long time ago," murmured Isabella.

"Hah!" barked the man, and his face grew into a grin. "You have not age a day. Still extraordinary. Still gorgeous."

"And you," said Isabella with a sly smirk. "You need a haircut."

The man leaned a little back and lift up one long lock of hair. "I guess I do." Then he looked back at her. "So anyway, it made sense that we would...come together. Though I did not think it would be that...spectacular." Isabella bit her lip flushed with the memory. The man continued. "Trapped underground…"

"...and, expecting to die," continued Isabella.

"As I said, maybe it was not so crazy after all."

"I never told anybody of that time," said Isabella. "Except one person, and he needed to know."

"You must tell your superior officer," nodded the man. But Isabella laughed, and it sounded to the man like a bubbling creek from his youth.

"Oh God no!" grinned Isabella. "He was a pig. But there was someone else…" She looked down. "I did not search you out to rehash old times, though if I had known you were here, I would have come sooner."

"You did not have to come at all," whispered the man looking down. "You should just left me here."

"When the general told me about your family, I came right to you because you were important to me," said Isabella. "You are still special to me."

"I am nothing," moaned the man.

"You can not save your family, but it is not too late for you," said Isabella.

"Hah! There is no forgiveness for what I have done."

"You made choices only to save your family. Yes, you were with the bad guys, but you locked yourself in here in 1945. It's been 69 years. Do you feel any better?" The man did not say anything.

"Right. So this is not working. This starving yourself in isolation has not assuaged your guilt. But maybe doing something good will help."

"I am a criminal." "A war criminal no less, but not worthless. Your toughness is evident right here. You have endured with no food or water for all these years. And you are so strong. We need those skills right now. I need those skills."

"I don't know…"

"Think of it as a work release program, rehabilitation." "Reha...what?" Isabella drew herself. "You will work until your crimes are cleaned off your record."

"Doing what?" asked the man. He tried to keep his voice steady, but she heard the interest in it.

"There is still evil in the world," said Isabella. "I work with the United Nations to go into hot spots and stop people who have committed grievous crimes."

"And we would do that? I don't know."

"There is another reason that I am here," said Isabella and she tried to speak more, but her voice faltered.

The man saw her consternation. "What is wrong?"

"You have to understand...well, after the war, we thought you were dead."

"That was what I was going for," said the man gloomily.

"Well, I did get married," said Isabella.

"I would not have expected otherwise. You would be a fine catch, for a shiksa," said the man and he even gave a little smile.

"Well…," she started and then stopped. "This is harder than I thought."

"Just say it."

"I got married because I was pregnant and at that time, it would not 'Do' to not be married," said Isabella. She emphasized the word ‘Do' as if it were a heavy burden.

"That happens," shrugged the man. "Sometimes the child is a member of the wedding…" The man stopped. "Was this man the father?"

"No," said Isabella softly.

The man's eyes widened. "That time under Castle Blud?"

Isabella just nodded.

The man just looked stunned.

"I am a...papa?"

"A boy."

The man smiled. "A boy? That's wonderful. Wait, is this the one you told about me?"

"Yes," said Isabella. "John needed to know."

"John," said the man in a wondering voice. "I have a son named John."

"And more specifically, a grandson named Joshua."

"Grandson too?"

"John was a really good boy," explained Isabella hastily. "He is a good man too. He even has powers like yours...but Joshua is another matter."

"What's wrong?" asked the man.

"We saw early on that...that there was something wrong with Joshua. It's like a piece was missing. We worked very hard to teach him right from wrong, but…"

"Something has gone wrong."

"Very wrong."

The man sat back on the floor. "This is all so much."

"I wasn't going to tell you it all right now, but…"

The man shook his head sending his hair bobbing like snakes. "No, it was right to tell me. I...I just need a minute."

Isabella sat back reviewing the conversation in her head. She had pictured this differently. But she had not realized that he was this...broken. Then a memory flitted through her and it warmed her.

"You recognized my voice," smiled Isabella warmly.

"What?" asked the man slowly. Isabella looked up at the broken, sad man and came to a decision.

"The Reich is dead, really dead."

"What are you talking about?" asked the man.

"The Third Reich is dead and gone, and the poor man that they tortured has another chance."

"But I am the Reich. That is my name."

"Only if you want it to be. Or you can reinvent who you are. Become…" Isabella thought furiously for a moment. "You can become the Reach! Help those that can not help themselves. Pick up the hurt. Shield them from harm."

"You sound as if I could be a...a hero?"

"Out there, they will have to know what you did, but you can do something good, or sit in this cell."

The man looked torn and panicky. "I don't know. I don't know if I can go out...there."

"You can," said Isabella in a voice that left little room for argument. But the man persisted. "I don't...I deserve to be here. I deserve to rot."

"This isn't doing any good," replied Isabella. "You can sit here for a thousand years and never feel redeemed. At least out there you can make a difference. Your son and I need your help. Your grandson needs your guidance before he does something that he can not be forgiven for. I guess then we can always put him in the cell next to yours…"

"Stop it," huffed the man. "I...I need more time. Can you come back next week?"

Isabella deflated. She leaned back in her chair.

"I just can't...I just…" Isabella stood up slowly.

"Belle?" said the man carefully. Isabella looked up at the warden as she moved the chair away from the cell.

"Could you assist me?"

The warden looked surprised. He stepped away from the wall and walked cautiously over. Isabella ignored his trepidation as she took off her white gloves. She set the gloves on top of her purse and held them out to the warden.

"Would you be so kind as to hold this?" asked Isabella, but her question has steel in it. It did not actually sound like a question. The warden found himself holding the purse and gloves in front of him and a part of him wondered how things had gone this far.

"Ah...wait a minute," started the warden.

"Time is a luxury we don't have," said Isabella. Then she slammed one of her hands at the cell wall. The hand shattered the stone where the cell door was embedded in the rock.

"Madam!" exclaimed the warden. Isabella ignored him and grabbed the edge of the cell door. The metal bent under her fingers and the warden's jaw fell. She could hear his heart racing faster.

"Isabella?" called out the man. He was suddenly standing there on the other side of the bars. "What are you doing?"

"You are needed," said Isabella slowly. "We need you. This is what they call today as ‘Tough Love'."

The man opened his mouth to speak but, then stopped. He looked at the warden who was trying to decide what to do.

Isabella shifted her grip on the bars, and then looked at the man in the cell.

"Under Castle Blud, we worked together," she said softly.

The man thought for a moment, and then he nodded. "We did." Gripping the metal by her hands, Glory and the Reach pulled the bars of the cell open with little trouble.

Isabella stepped back and flicked some dust off her tan slacks that had fallen on her. Out of his self imposed prison, the Reach stepped out. His long hair hung about him like a mat and his clothes were frayed and worn. But he stood tall.

"I'm...I'm actually kind of hungry," rumbled the Reach.

Isabella stepped up to him. "Food, then a bath and a haircut so you don't look like a shaggy dog."

The Reach looked down shyly, but he could not meet Isabella's eyes.

"Thank you."

She reached under and pulled up his chin. "Don't thank me yet. I got work for you."

"What did you call it? Work release?" chuckled the Reach.

"And boy, do we have work to do," said Isabella. She turned to warden who was still in shock and took back her gloves and purse. "When you write the report of this morning, you can say I threatened you, if that helps. I don't think any trouble should come of this." She fished out a business card. "That is a lawyer in the capital just in case. He knows to bill me if there IS any trouble for you or your men. Call him at the first hint."

"But you said…," started the warden.

"I don't think there will be trouble," said Isabella quickly. "But I am not going to leave an ally in the wind either." The warden took the card. "Thank you."

"Thank you for taking care of this big idiot," smiled Isabella. She stepped back as the Reach stepped forward to the warden.

"You have been kind to me," said the Reach. "I will not forget it." The warden's lower lip trembled, and then he turned away from them. He gave a little hacking cry and his shoulders shook. The Reach started to put out a hand, but Isabella gently stopped him. She shook her head. They waited for a moment until the warden turned around with his face composed.

"You escape now," barked the warden. The gruff tone stood out below his puffy red eyes. Then he turned to Isabella. "And you! You take care of him."

Isabella, who was not used to being talked to like that, took the order with grace. She took the Reach's hand and tugged him towards the exit. As soon as they were out of earshot, she leaned into the Reach. She only stood up to his shoulder and Glory whispered warmly.

"You remembered my voice."

To Be Continued...

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