From the comfort of the La-Z-Boy recliner in his suburban Nashville living room Gerhardt Heinreich could enjoy the bounties of his collecting safaris through malls, side street dens of antiquities, and Internet interludes. Across the room on the ash mantle above the Mexican stone fireplace were his most cherished pieces; the Freidag steamship with 85% original paint; a Hubley clockwork “Say It With Flowers” delivery motorcycle – a similar one had recently sold at auction for $75,000; a 1920’s Arcade Andy Gump Roadster; and his favorite, though by far one of the least costly and least intricate members of the vast collection – an Arcade free-swinging pendulum clock bank. But all of the locally crafted oak china cabinets harboring his other toys were now obscured by stacks of blue plastic tubs filled with reports and memos he had been intently reading and rereading for the last several months.
Tomorrow an auctioneer would arrive to pack and haul away his cast iron and tin family. The auction’s proceeds were to be evenly divided amongst the orphanages in Nashville. Heinreich had personally contacted each one to ensure a representative would be in attendance to accept their fair share of the cash contribution at the conclusion of the sale. There was only one man in the world Heinreich trusted, and it wasn’t the lemon-voiced auctioneer.
Balancing the bolt action Carcano rifle with Simmons scope across one massive open palm the size of a small banana leaf, he silently apologized to the gleaming weapon with flawless blued steel and beeswax polished stock for keeping her hidden beneath the floorboards for so many years. This would be their final adventure together. Time and arthritis had caught up to him. Placing the last three brown pills onto his tongue from an amber bottle on the lamp table beside him, he threw his head back, swallowing them dry. In twenty minutes he would be able to move his curling disfigured fingers again without resistance. Six months ago the freedom of movement had only required one such medical miracle.
After the toys were gone he would torch his home in order to vaporize the papers James Livingston had been sending him for decades. For the scientist was now dead – murdered. And in a few months the visage of Gerhardt Heinreich would disappear forever. The only question yet to be answered was how many lives would be lost before that event occurred.
Rotating the rifle so the hand-checkered butt was on his right thigh, the octogenarian massaged the erect weapon with his gaze. “One last time, Cherie, make love to me,” he throatily purred, gently stroking the steel uvula of his loyal mistress.