Read by Bali Rai
“How did you find me, sister? I trust that I have left no breadcrumbs.”
Hurt replaces the smile. “No brother, your reputation precedes you, as always. Inquisitor General Hans and his exploits are the talk of the territory. You are hailed as a hero by some. Other murmurs are not so…complimentary.”
“I am not here to make friends.”
“Then why are you here little brother?”
General Hans tips his hat to the coachman as a team of horses pull the bus into the busy streets.
“I think you know the answer to that. Salem is an accursed hive of Devil worship. I am here on the Lord’s work.” He tilts his chin to indicate a stacked pyre in the central courtyard. The tang of pitch and oil permeates the air.
“One of yours I presume?”
He smiles then, a shark’s grin devoid of warmth. His sister is right. Widow Martha is to be burned at noon, her conviction secured by his own testimony.
“When will it end?” She asks softly.
“When I have burned them all,” he replies in a hoarse whisper. “It is my destiny.”
“It’s an obsession Hansel.”
“Do not call me that.”
Looking hard at his sister for a fleeting moment he is transported back in time. Once again he is a terrified boy, lost in forest. The cold, the fear, the feeling of abandonment. The cloying taste of gingerbread at the back of his throat.
With an effort, he brings his breathing under control and scowls at a bent backed whitebeard who has stopped to watch the exchange. The old man quickly averts his gaze and spits to ward off evil.
Taking his sister’s arm, he says “walk with me.”
She allows herself to be led through the bustling streets, noticing the fear and awe her brother’s presence inspires.
In his black cloak and suit with matching hat and boots he cuts a dashing figure. His face is stern and his dark flashing eyes mark him as a true fanatic. She cannot deny, her brother has grown into an extremely handsome man. If the stories hold any truth he is also a powerful man. Dangerous to the wrong type of woman.
“Tell me brother, what were her crimes?”
“She placed a hex on William Brewer. Blighted his crops and curdled the milk in his goat’s udders. She has fornicated with Satan and shall burn for her sins.”
Hoofbeats ring on the cobbles as a dozen armed men surround them, spearpoints aimed low.
“Hansel, I need your help,” whispers the woman as Constable Reginald draws his sword and dismounts. He grasps the woman’s arm and twists it behind her back.
“Gretel Lederhosen, I am arresting you on charges of witchcraft and consorting with the Devil.”