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The Coat

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On a 3 week European journey, two unfortunate Americans are caught up in a centuries old nightmare

“He’s late,” Monica urged as a wintry wind hastily picked up out of the north. “Sam, we should go,” She insisted. As the wind rushed past, her shoulder length hair gently swayed. Her teeth chattered quietly.

“But we came all this way to see it. Just ten more minutes, that’s all I ask,” Sam pleaded with just a hint of a smile. Through his half-glasses he remained in a permanent state of awe of his lifelong dream standing majestically in front of him.

“Okay, t-t-ten minutes and not a s-s-second longer,” Monica replied softly, frantically rubbing her biceps to warm herself, even if only for a few seconds.

Sam saw movement from the corner of his eye. The shuffling of shoes on the gravelled path from behind startled them. Almost in unison they turned around. Through his half-glasses, Sam saw a vagabond man with heavy, long hair drooping messily down his face; shielding anyone from making out his facial features or age.

They had made the short stroll from Predjama village’s only local inn - the Gostilna Požar - to get the tour of Predjama Castle over and done with early, as ordered by Monica. The sun hadn’t yet woken fully, but the countryside of Predjama was just perfect in their eyes. The exquisite sight of dusty snow blanketing the jagged hillside took them far away from their sunny and warm Florida home. They locked their hands tightly as they had done throughout their many years together. Monica shivered, and she let go of Sam’s hand to warmly rub her shoulders again. Sam wrestled with his Ascot cap, and then unbuttoned his coat. He draped it over his wife’s shoulders.

“Thanks,” Monica smiled up at her loving, endearing husband. “Is that the guide you ordered?” She asked, welcoming the instantaneous warmth from the coat.

“Must be, I don’t see anyone else coming,” Sam replied as he pulled out his trusty notepad, flipping through the pages with purpose until he came across the chicken scribble he required. “His name’s Viktor and from what I gathered on the phone his English isn’t very good.”

“Really?” Monica gleaned as she took her eyes off of the notepad.

“See, that’s what happens when I organise things,” Sam laughed, shrugging.

Monica shook her head.

“We are just going to have to wing it,” Sam added.

“Well, he’s all yours then. We came here for you, so you can do all the talking,” Monica replied sternly, though warranted. “It’s far too cold out here for my liking.”

“I know. I know.”

Predjama Castle was more than just another item on Sam’s bucket list. Bravely perched up the spectacular Predjama mountainside, Predjama Castle had so far met Sam’s expectations, and quietly had met Monica’s as well, but she would never divulge it to Sam, not in a million years. After arriving late yesterday afternoon by road from Ljubljana, Sam found himself salivating at its sight from their bedroom window all night long. This was more than just a moment in their three week European journey; a lengthy holiday as a build up to their upcoming 30th wedding anniversary on the weekend.

On Saturday they would be in Paris, sipping the finest French champagne at the base of the Eiffel Tower. It would be magnifique. The essence of falling in love all over again in Europe was a welcomed holiday from their busy retiree lives, and they would treasure it forever. But even in the most exquisite of loves, pain of love will exist.

Sam had ordered the tour guide at the last minute the day before; someone to take them on their own personal journey through the centuries of Predjama Castle. He desired to see where the legendary knight Erazem Lueger held the Roman’s at bay during the siege. He knew only so much from the books he had read. How in early 1483 Erazem defied the almighty and powerful Holy Roman Empire by meticulously slaughtering Roman nobles all over Carniola - present day Slovenia. Passed down from generation to generation, tellers of Erazem’s stories told of classic tales of bravery, hardships and heroism in the face of the most extremes of adversities; almost as if the stories were ripped straight from the pages of an untold Shakespearean tragedy. His growing legend became embraced by the common people he bravely fought for, a real life version of Robin Hood. Signs of his presence in Ljubljana, Vipava, Postojna, and Predjama amplified his importance, and aided his growing legend much to the dismay of the then Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick the third. From his throne at the Vienna Court, Frederick the third issued the warrant for the siege of Predjama Castle and Erazem’s head. Coy with excitement, Sam reached deep into the side pockets of his pants for his pocket-sized translation book.

“Dobro jutro…” Sam welcomed, stretching out a firm hand to greet the tour guide who had finally reached them.

Then as if pulled from the depths of nothingness, the man drew a small sword and plunged it into Sam’s throat, punching out the other side like a knife through butter. Their attacker then planted his right foot firmly onto Sam’s chest, yanking the sword out with haste. Blood sprayed from both entry and exit points from the moist hole in his neck. Monica’s blood-curdling screams echoed all throughout the small town of Predjama. She tried running away from their attacker, but her efforts were futile. Behind her was the castle’s gated entrance. In front of her was their attacker.

“No, please… Sam…” Monica cried, begging for mercy. Her hands clasped together as she prayed to God.

The attacker reached out for Monica’s throat. She resisted at first, but in the end his sword persuaded her to submit, as he grabbed hold of her throat. His strength showed. “Zat coat. You zake off,” their attacker demanded, struggling with the English language.

“Take it….” Monica gurgled, struggling to breathe, struggling to live. “… Just, don’t hurt me.”

“Hvala,” their attacker threw her to the ground. Treating her like worthless scum, he hastily removed the coat.

Monica gripped at her throat, crying, teeth chattering, shivering in the cold. She went to scream, but her voice had left her in the heat of the moment. Sam’s lifeless body ruined her efforts at reaching for her freedom. She instead reached out for him, but then her attacker ended her effort, laughing evilly. The sword bit through her lower torso, then again, and again, repeatedly stabbing her, quickly inflicting her with death.

With his masterpiece was almost complete, the bloodied sword fell from his nerveless fingers. He knelt down on one knee to the woman he had just slain. His hands purchased her reddened face as he gazed deeply into her pale eyes, pausing in the moment. He admired the absence of life in his fresh victims. He smelt her hair. Blood trickled gently from her lips, for which he licked up a few drops. He smiled as he let go of her.

The coat instantly warmed his body, but he needed something to warm his head. He reached across the dead man and lifted the black Ascot cap off. He put it on. Tucking his lengthy, messy hair under the brim of the cap, he finally felt warmer. He never did like the cold much.

The gate to the castle was locked. He rattled the handle a few times in frustration, but it was of no use. He punched the heavy door with a furious clenched fist then headed back down the lonely gravelled path he came from. On the way down, the murderer of the two unfortunate Americans came across the real Slovenian tour guide the American’s had ordered. The murderer and Viktor's eyes met.

“Son, what have you done?” Viktor softly asked in Slovenian.

His son smiled. He preferred talking in his native tongue.

“Never mind.” Viktor replied, shaking his head. “Have you found the letters?”

“No.”

“Then you must keep looking. I told you we will never give up looking for them.” Viktor replied sternly. He noticed his son’s feeble attempt at dressing himself.

Viktor’s son tugged at the ends of the coat, squirming, trying to accustom himself to the fabric.

“When you are finished…” Viktor sighed. "You know how much they mean to me. You do understand we still need to find them, don’t you?” he demanded, trying to maintain eye contact with his deranged son.

“Erika Donas.”

“Is that her name? Is that what they told you?” Viktor asked. He firmly grabbed his son. “Tell me, is that what they told you?”

“Yes.”

Viktor smiled. He fatherly patted his son on the back. “Well done. You have served me well. Where does she live?” he asked.

His son pointed to a row of four lonely cottages in the short distance, within sight of the Gostilna Požar and Predjama Castle. “Second on the left,” he replied.

“Excellent. I will go and pay her a visit.” Viktor replied. He scanned the vicinity, ensuring they were still alone. “They’ll be here soon to tidy this mess up. You know the drill. Now go hide until I need you again.”

Viktor’s son nodded in appreciation of his father’s order.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © This story is the intellectual and physical property of A.W. Cole. All rights reserved.

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