Out of Such Darkness

Final_1407When Jay Halprin is late for work in the Twin Towers on 9/11, he struggles to come to terms with his survival and a sinister presence appears; it is the personification of Jay’s despair, a presentiment of his fate, the residue from a past life.

Writer Cameron Mortimer recounts how in 1930s Berlin he pursued a relationship with a young man in the Hitler Youth called Wolfgang Köhler. Wolf is arrested following the night of the long knives and Cameron’s attempt to rescue him is futile.

Jay’s son plays the Hitler Youth singer in his school’s controversial staging of the musical Cabaret and Jay’s interest in the play leads him to Cameron Mortimer. The shocking outcome – when Jay’s survival story collides with the repercussions of Cameron’s Berlin adventure – defines where fate ends and destiny begins.

Out of Such Darkness published by Patrician Press is available to order from your favourite bookstore or in both e-book and paperback versions from
The Great British Book Shop.

Read on for extracts from the two separate narratives:

In 1930s Berlin …

The following Sunday morning, after Frau Guttchen’s special breakfast (which was the weekday one with the addition of a boiled egg) Leo led the way out onto Steinplatz. We waved at Ernst in the cigarette and newspaper kiosk – I had by now developed a taste for Enver Beys with the Turkish flavour – and being reminded of our habit we both stopped to light up. The sun was shining and we both sported brimmed felt hats set just-so. I was wearing a light-grey worsted suit with an open-necked white shirt. Leo, rather ostentatiously, wore dark blue but unmatching cotton jacket and trousers with a grey-striped, collarless shirt. This attire made him look for all the world like a train driver. We swung along Hardenbergstrasse under the Zoo Station bridge and on past the Kaiser Wilhelm Church.

“Where are we going?” I said.

“I’m taking you this way so as you remember it but there is a short cut.”

“To where? Short cut to where?”

“It’s a lake on the edge of the Tiergarten near here. Look.” he waved in the direction of a pagoda-roofed entrance with elephant statues standing guard on both sides. “The Zoo.”

I nodded. My shorter legs were struggling to keep up with Leo’s stride.

“We’ll cross the canal in a minute.”

Immediately we were on the far bank we turned left so that we were alongside the water. Looking across the canal beyond the fencing, I spotted an ostrich pecking at the ground while three long-horned deer stood impassively beyond. I could hear to our right the oompah-oompah of a Bavarian-style band.

“Hear that? It’s the Biergarten.” We were approaching another bridge. Leo pointed. “See that? It’s known round here as Rosa’s Bridge.”

“Rosa?”

Leo stopped, took a last drag of his cigarette and ground the stub into the gravel path with the sole of his canvas shoe. “You are dangerously ignorant of Berlin politics, Cam. Rosa Luxemburg. She and Karl Liebknecht declared Germany a communist republic in an attempted coup after the war. She was murdered and they say she was dumped into the canal from here.”

The music was louder as we turned right under the bridge and now the scene in front of us was a riot of black, red and white. Long vertically strung flags hung from flagpoles all around and swastika bunting swaddled the trees. There was a cordon of Brownshirts in front of us.

“Say nothing unless you’re spoken to,” Leo said out of the corner of his mouth

And in New York in 2001 …

Rachel unpacks the hypermarket shopping after a visit to Danbury. Jay has spent the morning reading a book about Judaism loaned to him by Elayna Zwyck. He has been combining his learning about how the status of Jesus differentiates the two religions with the lighter prose of Christopher Isherwood describing an encounter with Mr Norris. Both texts are uninspiring.

‘Aren’t you going to help?’ Rachel says. She heaves the third and fourth of her burdens on to the work-surface in the kitchen. ‘There are only two more.’

‘Sorry.’ He puts down the rabbi’s book and steps through the open door. The sun is low in the sky and thin, filtered through high cloud. The air is dry. It’s not the wet cold that Jay associates with freezing bones in the UK.

‘What’s this?’ Jay says, holding up a Stars and Stripes he finds in the top of one of the bags. The flag is about the size of a paperback book and its stick is six inches long. He waves it half-heartedly.

‘What’s it look like?’

‘A flag. But it’s not our flag.’

Rachel sighs. ‘You said the other day about everybody having them. Their flag is everywhere. If we don’t have one somebody might think we’re terrorists. Let’s be safe rather than sorry.’

‘We’ll be regular Tony Blairs – “shoulder to shoulder”,’ Jay says.

‘He carries on the way he’s going, he could be President.’

‘He wasn’t born here.’

‘You know what I mean.’

Jay goes out to the mailbox and pushes the stick of the flag into a gap in the metalwork so it sticks up from the rear. Up and down the street, above porches and garages, a rash of similar flags – of all sizes – has appeared, their poles fixed into special brackets.

Back in the house, he says, ‘I reckon they must put out flags for the Fourth of July every year.’

Rachel kneels in supplication before the freezer. She shifts packages around a drawer and pummels them into place. ‘Buggering cheapskate landlord and this tiny frigging freezer. All this stuff is not going to be so bloody cheap if we can’t fit it in,’ she mutters through her gritted teeth.

‘We’ll get an English flag and put it up on St George’s Day’, Jay says.

‘We’ll be home before then, she says’

Published by Patrician Press, Out of Such Darkness is available in paperback and e-book versions.

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