It is 1941 and the German army is marching through Lithuania towards Moscow. One German officer stops at a village house where Lara and her three-year-old daughter Mia live. The officer takes what little food and water they have, then rapes Lara and her daughter. Mia subsequently bleeds to death. Three years later the defeated German army is retreating from Russia and the same officer, now battle-weary and starving, returns to the same village house to find Lara still there, with her daughter. The officer begs Lara for food and shelter for the night and Lara allows him to stay. He speaks briefly to Lara’s daughter and is surprised that she does not appear to have aged at all. Later while he is half-asleep, Lara cuts his throat at the same moment as she tells him that the girl is his daughter. This is the first act of revenge in a story about rape. It concludes eighty years later with a series of horrific murders and the introduction of Detective Mackenzie Parish as the investigating officer.
A dystopian detective story about rape, murder, incest, government corruption, social genocide, social/eco “selection”, atonement and retribution spanning four generations.
Targeted Age Group:: 15-100
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The inspiration for this book comes from my observations of the deterioration of humanity. And the avaricious and corrupting nature of men who suddenly acquired immense power.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
All characters are inspired by people I have met.
2023. Janice continued talking to Rose, retelling every minute detail of the conversations she’d had with her great grandmother, Lara. At times she spoke as if she were Lara – inhabiting the space and the spirit of her soul in a strangely ethereal manifestation.
‘It was January 1940… and it was cold – icy cold. The hearth fire kept Lara and Mia warm… it gave them life. If the fire had gone out for just a few hours, they would have frozen to death, and you would not be here today. That is what the fire meant…Life!’ Rose poured a little more wine into both their glasses.
‘Your great-great-grandfather Vladin was a good man. He kept our family alive when we surely should have died.’ Janice would repeat this haunting exhortation many times whenever she spoke about those days.’
‘Lara and Mia, who was only three at the time, only survived because Lara kept the fire going all through the long winter nights with the wood Vladin had collected before the snow came. They would eat bread that Lara made from the flour they had hidden from the meagre summer harvest. The flour that was not stolen by the Germans. Lara would make a stew from the vegetables they kept frozen in the snow, and whatever animals Vladin could kill in the woods. Sometimes he would bring rabbits home, sometimes he would bring home rats as large as rabbits, for they had grown fat feasting on the bodies that were everywhere. Lara would keep this stew going all winter. “Feasting on friends” was how she thought of it, this was the only way she could come to terms with what was a lamentable reality.’
The room seemed to grow a little colder as Janice continued with her story. Rose wrapped herself up a little tighter in her jacket.
‘It was October 1940 when the German army swept through Eastern Europe on their way to crush Moscow and Stalingrad, and deepest winter by the time they arrived at Lara and Vladin’s house. Even now, I can still remember the emptiness in my great-grandmother’s eyes as she cast her mind back all those years, a foreboding strangely subservient tone in her voice. The sour odour of subjugation and depravity seeping out from every pore of her skin infusing and stifling the air, creating a stale, pervasive stench of hopelessness.’ Janice took a deep breath and continued.
‘The officer knocked on the door. He was very polite at first,’ she said. ‘He asked if she had anything to eat and drink for himself and two of his men as their field rations had run out because they had been moving forward too fast. They had encountered far less resistance than expected.’
At first, the people of Lithuania were pleased to see the arrival of the German army; a respite, they thought, from the oppression of Stalin, who particularly hated them and had made every effort to exterminate “these vermin that existed in the sewers of the Russian empire” that’s what he called us. We were not pure like the White Russians. We were the runt of the litter, and he wanted us gone from the face of the earth. He just couldn’t kill us fast enough. Even Hitler could have learnt a thing or two from his methods for annihilation. The Germans were traditionally thought to be a fairer race, more clinical, but even-handed, and more civilised than the Russians, but in the cold reality of war, that was proved to be terribly wrong. They were just the same when it came to creating new techniques for extinction in their own killing plan.
‘Lara told the officer that they had hardly enough food to feed themselves, but he took no notice and without explanation or invitation, he brushed past her into her farmhouse. He sat down near the fire, slamming one leg up on the bare kitchen table, and proceeded to lean back with his malevolent Aryan arrogance, carefully balancing the chair on its two back legs. The two soldiers stayed by the door, smoked cigarettes, and watched, but said nothing.’
‘Have you nothing at all?’ he asked. But Lara did not move, she couldn’t move. He repeated his words in a menacingly suppressed tone, his real intention slowly becoming evident. He cast his eyes slowly around the room, searching for any place where food could be hidden.
‘Have you nothing at all woman, ‘he asked once again?’ Janice soulfully repeated the words as if she had been there and had witnessed it herself. So intense must have been the depth of immersive introspection conveyed by Lara when she had retold the story to Janice, that it was almost as if Janice was reading a fairy tale to a child. Not as someone recalling the harrowing memories of someone else’s darkest hours.
‘He didn’t bother raising his voice. It wasn’t necessary. All the malice and fear he wanted to convey were so effortlessly conveyed through the subtlety of intonation alone.’
‘A little bread, some stew and some water, that is all we have,’ murmured Lara, her voice quivering with fear, her body trembling with cold. She kept her eyes rigidly fixed on the scrubbed floorboards, somehow believing that if she did not make eye contact, he would eat the food and then leave her house. He would have no interest in a simple Lithuanian peasant girl and would do her no harm. But it would not have made any difference if she were ugly and wan or beautiful, for he didn’t care. What he desired was not a thing of beauty but merely an orifice for his transient carnal pleasure.’
‘Bring it to me,’ he ordered quietly and politely, but the underlying tone of his voice instilled terror. Lara hurried to the cupboard and took out the only thing left, half a loaf of stale bread. Then she ladled some stew, which was cooking in a cauldron hanging in the hearth, into a bowl and gave it to the officer. He looked at it and sneered before breaking the bread in two and throwing half to one of his men, who split it in two to share it with the other soldier.’
‘He tried a mouthful of the stew but spat it out. “What is this shit?” he exclaimed. Lara apologised. ‘It’s all we have.’
‘It tastes like rat!’ shouted the officer. Lara said nothing. It was rat, but she dared not tell him.’
‘I’m sorry I have nothing else.’
“Water!” he demanded, and Lara quickly fetched the water jug from under the sink and gave it to him with a cup. She knew that this day would not end well, and prayed that Vladin, who fortunately was away in the hills looking for food, would not come back before they had gone, for if he did they would have surely killed him. She kept her head bowed low, avoided eye contact, and tried to make herself look slighter than she really was by crouching her body as small as she could manage.’
‘The officer with his nice clean uniform and shiny buttons finished the bread and drank some of the water before beckoning to his two men to drink from the jug. This they did before returning to their position by the door. He stood up and started moving around the room, carefully surveying everything, but still closely watching Lara, a sparrowhawk circling a field waiting for that miniscule, tell-tale movement that its nervous prey far below would eventually make. The prey senses the predator is high above them somewhere but does not know if it has been seen. The predator hasn’t seen the prey, and so hovers and swoops and turns to intimidate the prey, waiting for it to panic, which it does, thus exposing its position. The predator swoops and swiftly kills. His gaze came back fully on to Lara, who was looking at the shiny buttons on his coat.’
Janice could remember the detail of the shiny buttons so clearly because Lara had told her the story so many times.
‘I was beautiful then,’ said Lara. ‘Twenty-Two years old, married for four years to my lovely Vladin, and our precious daughter Mia was nearly three.’
‘He stopped at the table and poured some more water into the cup, drank it then moved around until he was behind me.’
Janice turned away from Rose’s gaze and stared into the roaring fire as she continued her story as Lara had told her.
‘He grabbed the back of my dress and slowly dragged me upright until I was standing. I knew what he was going to do, but I did not know precisely how it would begin. From behind, he slowly ripped my dress down the back. It fell to the floor, leaving me standing naked and shivering. I dared not move. I clasped my hands to my body, to protect what modesty I had left. He kicked the chair away and pushed me down on to the table. I knew he was going to rape me, but I could do nothing. My whole body was paralysed with fear for me and concern for Mia, who I knew was watching. With his left hand, he pushed my head down on to the table, and for a few seconds, I shut my eyes. When I opened them again I could only see his two men standing by the door, still smoking, and watching what was happening, but utterly unconcerned by the brutality about to be inflicted upon my body. Any sense of humanity stripped away, lost forever on the long journey from Berlin to Moscow.’
‘He ran a finger slowly up and down my backbone – a cold sensation that brought further panic to my trembling body. I could hear his breathing, slightly faster now, and I could feel and smell his warm, stinking breath over my shoulder; that made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Then he started to hum Liszt’s Les Préludes.’ Many years later, I learned this was Hitler’s chosen anthem for the Barbarossa campaign. He wanted different pieces of inspirational music for every campaign. Whenever I hear it now, I wet myself.’
‘With his left foot, he kicked my left leg sideways to open me up. Then, after fumbling with the fly buttons on his trousers, he forced his penis into me and started thrusting violently, so violently, but I was dry, and the pain was excruciating. It must have hurt him too. I think he tore his foreskin as he screamed out, but he carried on. He grabbed the water from the table and poured the remaining contents on to where we were joined to ease the dryness, and the pain eased a little for me. He took hold of my right breast and squeezed it so hard I cried out, but he carried on, forcing himself into me for three or four minutes before he screamed again and came into me. All the time, Mia was watching from her bedroom door, too afraid to cry out or move.’
‘When at last he withdrew, I thought the ordeal was over. He stood me up and ordered me to get some water to wash his cock, which was bleeding. When I finished cleaning it, he carefully put it away then slapped me hard across the face with the back of his hand. I fell to the floor. He gestured to his two men with his fingers to take me, and they both raped me in turn while the officer watched and smoked a cigarette.’
‘Then, when they had finished, their attention switched to my precious Mia, who had come out from the bedroom, and was comforting me while I was crying, curled up in the corner of the room. I looked up at the officer, but he just sneered and nodded his head at his men. One of them, the shorter one, lifted Mia on to the table to view her. She was shaking, crying, and holding herself tightly. I feared for what they were about to do to her, but the officer just stared at me and shouted, “What do you think we are? Animals? You fucking Russian peasants.”
‘I don’t know why he stopped them, but he did. Then he snatched Mia from the table and ripped her dress off. She was only three, but he fucked her, and she screamed and screamed, and blood poured from her body, and when he was finished he threw her back to me, and the two soldiers just laughed.
“Always remember,” he said, “I gave you your life and kept you alive, never forget that.”
‘No! I thought Vladin kept us alive.’
‘The officer and his two men eventually left the house, and we huddled together for nearly an hour before we could move. I tried to wake Mia, but she was cold and would not wake. There was blood all over the floor, and I knew she was dead. I cleaned everything up because I knew Vladin would be home that night. When he got home, I told him that Mia had started to bleed and had died, and there was nothing I could do. Vladin believed me, comforted me, and asked no questions. What purpose would it have served?’ Vladin carried her body into the woods. We both kissed her and buried her as deep as we could – so the foxes and rats couldn’t dig her up.
Janice took a small sip of wine, set the glass down on the floor, and took another deep breath and continued with the story. ‘It was three years later, towards the end of 1943 when the remnants of the defeated German army passed once more through the village. This time it was the worst winter for twenty years, much worse than the last time they passed through. They were no longer the conquerors but the vanquished foe, beaten not by the brave defenders of Stalingrad, but by mother nature, Russia’s staunchest comrade. The one, who never betrayed her, never let her down, and always stood by her side. She had crushed another invader in 1812, and Tchaikovsky later wrote music to commemorate that momentous occasion. This time the music had already been composed, and the outcome was written once again in the snow with rivers of frozen blood. Hitler was listening to the wrong music this time. This time they did not stop, they just carried on walking; they wanted to go home to die in the warm. Now they would be happy to eat rat stew.’
‘Lara watched through a small gap in the curtains as the occasional solder ambled past the farmhouse. Now they gazed permanently at the ground in confusion and in desperation to return to a home that few of them would ever see again. When the knock came at the door, Lara sensed who it might be, and it was. This time he was alone, bedraggled, unshaven and much thinner than before. He stood and waited for her to allow him to enter, and for whatever reason she did. Gone now the Germanic arrogance. This time he was humble, and she almost pitied his soul, for she knew his life too must soon be over.’
‘He sat down at the table and took his cap off. The room was warm, and Lara could see that he had been cold for a long time as he pulled his chair closer to the fire. She asked him what he wanted, and he just said he needed somewhere to sleep for the night and would be gone by the morning, and she agreed without saying anything. He asked where Mia was, which alarmed Lara, but he explained in his much-improved Russian that he was only asking about her as he noticed she was not there. Lara told him she was sleeping.’ “I have a daughter the same age,” he began to tell Lara. “She will be five next month. I have not seen her for four years. I would love to see my daughter one more time.” He seemed to know he would soon be dead.
‘And did you and your friends kill and rape her and rape her mother? Lara thought.’
‘Anna, who was now nearly three years old, came into the kitchen half-asleep. The sound of them talking had awoken her. She asked her mother for some water. The officer looked at her and looked at Lara and asked why she was so small. “She must be nearly six now,” he said, looking a little curious.’
‘Lara told him they had had little food for three years, so the children of the village grew very slowly. The officer seemed mollified with the answer but puzzled. Anna walked over to the man she did not know, said goodnight, and kissed him on the cheek and then smiled and he smiled back at her. Then she walked over to Lara and kissed her before going back to bed.’
“She is so small,” remarked the officer once again. “So very, very small, but so exceptionally beautiful. You are incredibly lucky.”
‘After she had given him some bread and water, she sat down opposite him. Not afraid any longer, she looked directly at him and asked, “Why did you rape me?” Her eyes never straying from his.’
‘He didn’t answer at first but looked down at the table for a moment then looked back up at her. “Do you know that throughout history invading armies have always been ordered to rape the women of any country they invade and do you know why?”
‘Lara did not answer.’
“Because it would eventually create a generation of children of the conquerors with a biological allegiance to both their father’s and their mother’s country, and this would bring lasting peace between warring nations. For brother would not take up arms against brother.” ‘He apparently believed what he had been told, however flawed the argument was.’
‘Lara didn’t reply straight away. I can’t have babies anymore. You did so much damage to me three years ago. Do you know that?” she told him.’
“I am sorry,” he said, and started to weep, but she could see no sadness in his eyes, no remorse, only the humiliation of defeat.’
‘Lara got up and moved slowly around the table to stand behind him and comfort him, and while his head was bent down weeping, she whispered quietly, while gently holding his head, “Why did you rape my child?”
“I don’t know. I’m so sorry. It was wrong, I know it was wrong… It’s war… It makes you do things…” ‘Lara took out the small razor-sharp kitchen knife she had been hiding in her dress pocket and calmly but very firmly plunged it deep into his neck, almost immediately slicing through the carotid artery just under his left ear. With all her strength she continued to draw the knife slowly across his throat, and so gently did she half decapitate him that he didn’t notice straight away as his body was still numb with the cold. He made no attempt to resist her. To Lara, it felt no different from killing a goat, and Lara had done that many times before. She moved round in front of him and knelt down watching his face as the last few moments of life drained from his body, but she didn’t smile, there was no pleasure and no victory.’
‘He opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out, just a quiet gurgle of blood seeping into his oesophagus, and from his torn throat on to his tattered tunic. As he looked down, he could see Lara begin to say something. Slowly she whispered, “Deine Tochter.” He didn’t immediately understand what she was saying, and Lara could see confusion in his eyes, “my daughter… she is your daughter Deine Tochter.” He smiled back, but she gave him no absolution. This moment of retribution was hers to savour, and she took it for she owned it. Slowly he crumpled to the floor and bled to death.’
‘Later, when it was dark, Lara pulled his body out of the house and buried it in the snow just outside, and when the snowed began to thaw in the spring, Vladin moved the body to the woods and never asked Lara about him.’
‘In 1960, when Anna was nineteen, she moved to London and married a painter, and Tatiana was born. In 1987, when Tatiana was twenty-seven, she gave birth to me. The rest, you know.’
Janice smiled at Rose. They held each other for the last time in front of the fire, and Rose made a promise. She would pick her battle well, and she would win. And she did.
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