Darkness II: Richter's Women
by 80sarcades

Welcome back! Digging his way out of trouble has more than one meaning for our dear Colonel:-)

Many thanks to Missy the Least for helping with this chapter! She's so wonderfully talented and nice! Truly, she's a gem of the north...

(looks around nervously before continuining in a stage whisper)

...and she told me to say that or else she'd...(hears knuckles crack in distance; the good-looking guy, startled, whirls around once before cracking a used-car salesman smile.)

Didn't I say my sister is wonderful?

Working quickly, Colonel Hogan shoved the incoming dirt to his sides before he twisted his body around. Somehow he was able to scrunch his torso down just enough to where he could grab onto the broken lip of the casket. He barely felt the sharp splinters that tore at the flesh of his hands as he struggled to pull himself upward. Suddenly a new inrush of heavy soil forced him back down. Despair, quickly replaced by terror, clawed at his heart.

God, I don't want to die here!

With a desperate rush of strength, Hogan braced his hands against the bottom of the coffin and pushed. Clumps of dirt assaulted his upper body as he managed to rise to his knees. Slowly - too slowly - his now-frantic hands clawed at the soil that enveloped his body. Earth, loose and moist, covered his head and threatened to suffocate him once and for all-

And then, he felt a soft breeze brush against his fingers as they broke into the open air. A second later his other hand punched through the earthen barrier before both appendages worked to push the final layers away from his clothed head.

Without hesitating, he ripped the shirt away and literally gulped the air that rushed into his tortured lungs. For a moment he rested and savored the simple feeling of being alive. The moon above his eyes bathed the soil around him in a dull silvery light. In the distance he could hear the distantly thunderous peals of an approaching storm along with the sharp yaps of a barking dog. At that moment he wondered about the girl.

What did I walk into? he wondered. A kidnapping? A murder?

A chilling thought suddenly flowed through his veins. They - whoever they are - buried me. Why not just kill me outright? What's the purpose?

And if they went through this effort, are they still around?

I need to get out of here!

Colonel Hogan quickly brushed away the dirt surrounding his chest and midsection. The soil that trickled downward now seemed harmless. Simple earth, in other words.

And if I didn't wake up...or woke up too late...

He shuddered at the chilling thought before he raised his bound hands and pushed them over the lip of the grave. If he was lucky, he might find something to help him climb out of the hole. If not, he'd have to do it the hard way.

Fortunately, his good fortune held as his tortured fingers brushed against the rough surface of a rope. He pulled on the long strand. Luckily for him it was connected to something firm.

Any port in a storm.

He quickly grasped the thick line with his hands and pulled. It took several tries - slow ones, hampered by the chain between his wrists - but he was finally able to pull his body free of its earthly prison and onto flat ground. He looked back at the open grave as he slowly, hesitatingly, stood up on terra firma.

Thank you, God!

The lifeline was still clutched in his hand. He started to drop it, then paused in reflection.

Why would you put a rope next to a grave? he wondered. Doesn't make sense...

Frowning, he studied the cord for a moment before he looked around. The moonlight revealed a nearby rock that had a coil of rope wrapped around the base. He worked his way to the other end of the fibrous wire and cocked his head in puzzlement at what his still-trembling fingers found.


Curious, he held the odd work up to the light of the full moon...and nearly dropped it in shock. A hangman's noose, silhouetted in the dim light, hung before his stunned eyes.

What the hell?!

Just then, a slow clapping echoed though the empty forest. Hogan whirled around to see a shadowy figure standing near the darkened trees.

"Congratulations, my dear Colonel," the stranger announced. "I'm impressed. But then, what does one expect from an officer with your reputation?"

"We aim to please," Hogan suddenly raspy voice quipped as he tried to glimpse the stranger's face. Unfortunately, something - a hat - obscured his features. "I presume you're not Doctor Livingstone."

"Quite," the other man acknowledged. Hogan couldn't quite place the accent; the language was German, but the tone had an almost British trace intertwined in the voice...

"I see you found my greeting," the other man continued. "A bit macabre, to be sure, but I wanted to add a bit of surprise to the fun."

Hogan blinked. He briefly glanced at the noose with narrowed eyes before he dropped the rope to the ground. "I hate to interrupt," he began casually, "but just who the hell are you?"

"Ah! My apologies, then!" The figure gave a short bow before the click of heels echoed through the small clearing. "Hans Richter. At your service. I must say you are quite the man, Colonel Hogan. I doubt lesser men would have had the fortitude to survive their personal chamber of horrors. Well done!"

"Thanks," the American officer muttered softly before he raised his voice. "Well, if you don't mind, I'll be going now..."

"Unfortunately, I believe your future plans have come to a permanent end," Richter said. Hogan noticed that his interrogator was cradling what looked in the dimness to be a spade.

"And here I thought we were becoming friends," the POW observed, keeping his voice level. "Nothing like bringing some iron to a gunfight, huh?"

"Iron to a gunfight...ah, yes," the man repeated. "From your old west. An interesting saying, is it not? But you do more than that, Papa Bear."

A glint of metal suddenly appeared in the stranger's right hand as he picketed the tool solidly in the dirt with his left. Colonel Hogan didn't have to be told what that glint was; with its appearance, his chances of escape had fallen from slim to none.

"I'm not much for fairytales, Richter," Hogan cheerfully called out. "I'm just a simple Prisoner of War. You'd probably get a commendation for bringing me in."

"And ruin our fun?" the German coolly replied. "Wolfgang said you were resourceful at escaping your ultimate fate. He admires you in a way, though he is loath to admit it."

"Major Hochstetter," the Colonel breathed in understanding. "I take it he's a friend?"

"Oh, yes," Richter acknowledged. "An old childhood friend. He has the quite fantastical notion that you are the notorious Papa Bear. None of his superiors believe him. Even I had doubts. But now..." He let the statement trail off.

"So what convinced you?"

"Your presence at the barn would be a start," the stranger explained. "The papers found in your pants pocket. And finally, the outfit itself. Escaping Prisoners of War generally wear civilian suits. They typically do not wear dark clothing more suited for sabotage work. Your plans interrupted my...entertainment."

Hogan shivered at the man's casual use of the last word. "The girl," he breathed.

"The girl," the other man confirmed. "I had to dispose of her once you arrived. A shame, really; I was hoping to enjoy her delights for some time before her untimely end."

"You mean you were going to rape her," the Colonel countered, disgust dripping from his cool tones. "You sick bastard."

"And that is their function, is it not?" Richter coolly retorted. "Women, I must admit, are interesting if somewhat fickle creatures. However, they only have one real purpose where a man is concerned."

"And I guess you...bury them...when you're done with them," the American reluctantly inquired while subtly eyeing the nearby tree line. The woods were only a few dozen feet away. However, he had the distinct feeling that his newfound companion would shoot him before he was able to reach cover.

"In a sense, yes," Richter answered. "Given that, your interruption was quite fortunate. For some time now I've been quite curious as to the strength of the male versus the female. The willingness to survive, as it were." He waved the pistol in the direction of the open grave. "As you can see, the plan was a success."

"What plan?" Colonel Hogan asked, although he already could guess. A sick feeling pervaded his stomach as he waited for the answer.

"A simple one in concept, of course," the German said. "Once I was done sampling her pleasures I intended to put her in your place. Much as I did for the others of her kind." A derisory snort carried on the stirring breeze to Hogan's ears. "Your arrival gave me the chance to test my theory," he went on. "To see what a strong man would do in the place of a weak woman. Fortunately, in the battle of the sexes you proved to be the winner."

The POW resisted, just barely, the urge to throw up. "You bury people alive to see if they'll survive?" he spat.

"Admittedly, it does require a bit of effort to reap the benefits," the other man explained, his voice as nonchalant as if he were discussing the weather. "To be fair, I don't expect them to live. They are just women after all." A small unseen grin crept into the man's voice. "It is quite...enlightening, shall we say...to hear them once they wake up to their surroundings. To hear their screams, muted by earth, and knowing that I am the only one that can save them...oh..."

To Hogan's horror, a small shudder of pleasure pulsed through the man's now-labored tones. This time the officer lost control. Richter continued as if nothing had happened.

"None of the others had the courage to survive. To look beyond their pathetic girlish screams and fight for their lives. A pity." Hogan narrowed his eyes at the sorrow - real or imagined - that laced the man's cultured tones.

The Colonel glanced at the nearby grave. "I take it you'll want me to go back into the coffin," he said bluntly.

"I can't have you going around telling people about them, can I?" the stranger coolly replied, his hand rock-steady on the pistol. "As you may have noted, we Germans are an efficient people. Your death will be quick; I have no intention of letting a real man like yourself suffer needlessly. Any last words?"

A quick image of Hogan's mother passed through his mind.

I'm sorry, Mom, he lamely thought. My luck just ran out.

Colonel Hogan defiantly straightened up and squared his shoulders before looking his executioner in the eye. "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley," he icily intoned. "And personally, I hope you drop dead."

Richter said nothing. Instinctively, Hogan tensed for the blow...

...and out of the corner of his eye he saw something - a shadow - flitter through the nearby woods. Without thinking, he leaped for the nearby tree line and heard the angry buzz of a shot, followed by another, pass through the spot he had been standing. A burst of nearby thunder muffled the next two reports as the Colonel ran into the dark woods.

Hogan stopped next to a shadowy tree and tried to control his heavy breathing. He assumed the German was somewhere nearby; he didn't seem like the type of man to leave a task unfinished.

What now?

The answer was obvious: Get to the camp. Unfortunately, he had no clue as to his location. He doubted that he was that far from 'home'...

Another shot echoed through the forest before ricocheting against a tree. The American Colonel fought the impulse to run and instead stayed where he was. Suddenly, Richter's voice rang out.

"You're only delaying the inevitable, Colonel," he taunted. "I was raised to hunt in woods like these. And I never lose."

There's always a first time! Hogan wanted to shout back but kept silent. A fresh wind rustled the branches on the trees and slid past his frightened body. The POW could smell the moisture in the changed air. A storm was coming.

And I'd like to avoid the both of them!

Where's Hochstetter when you really need him?

He went completely still as he sensed something slowly glide between the trees. A shadowy figure stopped for a moment before moving on to disappear in the darkness.

This isn't good. Not at all. If he were a betting man he'd lay several big ones on Richter. It was obvious that the man knew how to hunt. The ultimate conclusion was obvious: if he didn't get out of these woods, and soon, he was a dead man.

Carefully, he started to make his way through the quiet forest. Fortunately the thunder that had earlier muffled the shots now worked in his favor to cover his tracks. Blindly, Hogan moved onward into the unknown. He flicked his eyes heavenward for a moment before he invoked a silent prayer.

God, I hope you're listening. I sure could use some help right now.

In response, the clouds rumbled noisily once more. Just then his foot came down on a dry twig and snapped it. Hogan felt, rather than saw, invisible eyes on him. Abandoning all pretense, he began to run for his life.

What I wouldn't give for a cab right now!

Just then, a shot rang out.

Next: The Graveyard.

A/N: I don't think this story is going to win any brownie points from Hogan at Fanfic Court:-)

I wish I could say burying people alive is just a horror writer's dream. Unfortunately, history is rife with people burying others for varying reasons. There was even one case where a school bus full of kids was kidnapped and held for ransom. Guarding Tess, an excellent Nicholas Cage movie (before his career went south) is another perfect example.

One of the more horrendous real-life examples concerned a woman by the name of Tiffany Cole. The victims (an elderly couple) told her in confidence that they had made nearly $100,000 on the sale of property. In response, she (along with her male cohorts) robbed the couple before burying them alive in a previously dug grave. She was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.