In a Wine Glass, Darkly
Intrigue and infighting within the tangled
circles of Nazi theology & technology
© 2017 by Richard B. Messer
Strasbourg, the capital of the eastern French province of Alsace. A region of Europe fought over for centuries: Between France and Germany, and of changing control between the two. Though the people of this region spoke a dialect of German, their sentiments were solidly French.
As the train pulled away from the passenger platform, shrill whistle sounding its departure, two unremarkable looking femmes waited for the crowd to disperse before gathering their luggage and made their way to the street beyond. Dark clouds were gathering overhead, threatening a late morning downpour to all below.
Menie DuMond hailed a taxi, while Rica Mader drew her shawl over her head while looking about, admiring the architecture that was a blend of old Empire and new Republic. About then, a rattletrap vehicle pulled up as a station employee gathered up the baggage to stow in the boot, while canine and cervine climbed in.
‘Where to, ladies?” The driver was a middle aged rat in a tattered tweed cap, a stubbled jaw and a cigarette stub hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
Both femmes suppressed the urge to shudder at the sight of this seedy character. It was before Menie could ask that they be taken to a reasonably priced hotel that a fairly new black Citroen quickly pulled up in front of the Renault taxi. From the front passenger side a dapper fox stepped out and went to the near side of the vehicle, bending over slightly. Menie lowered the window.
The doe nodded. This made the fox smile, showing bright fangs.
“Bon! Madame Bigeard offers her invitation that you and your companion be her guests during the course of your stay in our fair city!”
Rica looked to Menie, who looked back, just as puzzled. But a request had been offered to be guests of someone they did not know, but who was going out of their way to make them welcome.
“We accept the Madame’s offer,” said the cervine, who motioned for her companion to vacate the taxi.
“Hey, that’s my fare you’re taking!” bellowed the rodent driver as he stumbled out his vehicle. By then the fox had removed the luggage from the taxi and set it on the sidewalk. A small crowd of passersby had formed, watching the confrontation. The fox then held out a 5-franc coin to the rat who swiftly swatted it away. There was a mad scramble by some youths seeking the coin.
The demeanor of the fox faded to a resigned acceptance of the situation and he turned to the other automobile.
“Gaston! Some assistance, if you please!”
The Citroen rocked a bit as the driver’s door opened, and the largest canine neither doe nor her canine companion had ever seen, squeezed out of the vehicle and began to slowly lumber towards fox and rat.
The largish fellow was a mix-breed, with dark fur, heavy jowls, and what seemed to be a perpetual scowl. He wasn’t wearing the traditional chauffeur’s uniform, just a double-breasted suit with a fedora that seemed too small for his large head.
The rodent driver stared up in fear as the giant canine now towered over him, fists resting on hips.
“My friend, Renard, had offered you compensation for losing your fare.” The voice was deep, hollow-sounding, like it was coming from the grave. The rat could only remain rooted to the cobblestones, eyes bugging out and mouth hanging slack. Then the massive canine moved his right hand into a front pants pocket, and the action caused the taxi driver to squeak loudly and cower behind uplifted hands. When that hand came back out it was brought forward just as the left hand reached to snag the others hand. The driver squeaked again as the others right hand shoved a coin into that captive hand.
“Now go, before things become rougher,” was all the canine growled before returning to his status as driver.
The rat could only blink in astonishment at what had just happened; it was when he looked closely at what he held that his jaw nearly dropped to the street and the eyes threatening to fly from the skull. In his palm lay a 20-franc silver piece!
Stuffing the coin into his coat pocket, the taxi driver fairly dove into his taxi and sent the vehicle down the street with squealing tires!
The silent crowd, including a Roe doe, a Brittany hunter, and a red fox, watched in total silence as the taxi dashed down the cobblestones, through a stone archway and vanished around a corner! The rest of the crowd blinked in surprise before breaking apart and going about their business. Renard had the luggage stowed into the boot of the Citroen before opening the back door for the feminine pair. As Rica Mader slid into the back seat, she paused long enough to see their unknown hostess for the first time.
The fursonage was a tall feline, with dark brown fur and a cap of curly black hair poking out from under a stylish pale blue hat. And like the hat, her dress was the same pale blue. She slowly turned her head to acknowledge her guests with a soft smile, and Rica noted that her countenance bore a bit of the Orient about it.
“Greetings,” she purred, her French holding an accent that the doe couldn’t quite place. “I’m Claudette Bigeard, and I welcome you both to Strasbourg.”
The Roe deer femme nodded in return. “We thank you for this sudden offering of hospitality. I’m Rica Mader of Berlin, and this is my companion and assistant, Menie DuMond.”
The Brittany spaniel nodded a sheepish greeting as she climbed in after. It was after the vehicle started off down the street that Rica noted the odd aromatic odor coming from the feline. The doe looked down and noticed the small cigar. It was fitted to a short silver holder, and the holder held in Mdm. Bigeard’s gloved hand. This the femme brought to her lips and took a light draw on it. After blowing the fragrant smoke out of the partly open window the feline turned her attention back to her guest.
“I know who you are, Mdm. Mader, and I also know of your association with the Vril Society.”
That statement caught the deer off-guard! Her work with that organization was a state secret; very few people outside of Himmler’s inner circle knew of the twelve female mediums who comprised the society. And what they were accomplishing in Sclöss Wewelsburg, the home base of the Reichfürher’s special enclave of mystics and occultists, was unknown to the rest of Germany.
“How did you know?” was all Rica could get out.
“All in good time, my dear sister. Once we reach my estate then all the cards will be laid out on the table, so to speak.” There was a trace of humor in those words, but whether to ease her two guest’s minds or was a subtle hint at something more to come, there was no telling.
The doe watched the feline out of the corner of her eye as the other brought that holder up once more to her painted lips. The holder was crafted from silver; a slender conical shape that didn’t end in a flattened bit, like Rica’s own, but ended in a bead. This allowed the smoker to hold the cigar in whatever position she wanted when brought up to her mouth.
The sedan made its way quickly passed the downtown region, skirting some of the residential parts of the city to a quiet country road. Here were dotted small mansions behind walls of ornamental iron fencing on low stone foundations. At one such mansion the car pulled into a short drive where Renard hopped out to unlock the gate, allowing the vehicle to enter before closing and locking it once more. The stone structure was not far from the road; it was clearly seen through the wrought iron gate. The lawn was well kept, with beds of flowers interspersed between the oaks lining the macadam drive.
The home was not that large, being of two stories with a few windows on both floors facing the turnabout before the entrance. Another drive led off around the end of the house, probably going to the carriage house behind that now served as a garage. Once more the fox stepped out to assist the femmes from the backseat while the largish Gaston helped in removing the luggage from the boot. At that moment the entrance door opened and an older bovine femme in the dress of a matron appeared. Renard took the baggage, nodded to this member of the household, and stepped inside. By now Gaston returned to the driver’s seat and guided the vehicle around the house to the garage.
Rica and Menie followed Mdm. Bigeard up the steps to a broad stone landing fronting the mansion.
“Sisters, this is Grandmother Toulouse, my secretary and keeper of the home. Grandmother, these are our guests that I’ve told you about this morning.”
The woman sported very short horns through the gray of her hair that was drawn up into a large bun on her crown. She fixed the two smaller fursons with a slight smile and a short bow.
“I welcome you to Bigeard Manor, on behalf of Capitaine and Mdm. Bigeard.”
The Brittany hunter femme blinked at this. “Capitaine Bigeard?”
The tall and stately feline turned to her with a much broader smile. “Mai oui, Mdm. DuMond. My husband is a Legionnaire with the 2nd Regiment of the Légion Etranger in Indochina. He’s in command of a company with the 3rd Battalion there.” Then she turned towards the open door, holding out a gloved hand towards it. “Please, come in and be welcomed. For there is much we have to discuss today before my other sisters arrive for this evening’s dinner. This will be followed by a round of cards, and what must be talked about by all involved with upcoming events!”