Iron Ghost by Sebastian Collier

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Baron Von Luneberg, flight commander, iron cross recipient and celebrated war hero of the auspicious Luftwaffe finished loading the reconnaissance plane with looted nazi gold bullion. The war still raged towards Berlin, allied occupying forces were now pushing with impunity toward the command centres of the failed Third Reich. Luneberg, a descendent of  Germanic aristocracy felt no allegiance to the modernism of Nazism, his blood ran blue so he had planned to exit this primal scream of a war richer than he had entered. Deliberately crashing in the middle of a dog fight, parachuting  to safety, leaving behind burnt wreckage and the belief that he had died an iconic God of the skies. His plan was to fly northward to Greenland, refuel in Canada , change identity  in Texas, finally disappearing in South America. He would require several fuel stops circumnavigating hostile enemy fire while attempting to remain innocuous to predators of war. Luneberg accelerated, pulling the nose upwards towards broken clouds, gusts of wind shaking the wings turbulently, rising to surpass the weather. A silver metallic angel hugging the sky. Below, travelling instantly across wire, the announced death of  Baron Von Luneberg stampeded across  hungry telex machines, furiously typed by  angry mechanised print keys. Paper  rapidly torn by nervous administrators brought the news to pompous over decorated Generals bent over battle line maps. The Iron Ghost Von Luneburg would hunt no more.

There are many accounts of what happened next. A storm blew Luneberg off course forcing him to crash into the sea, the gold lost to the bottom of the ocean. He made it out of Europe but was subsequently  gunned down by Greenland coastal  defences, perishing in the winter wrath. Arrested in Canada while attempting to exchange documents, his reconnaissance plane arousing suspicion with the mechanic of a small airfield in Quebec. The plane,  devoid of gold, and Luneberg were handed over to military police from a secret American base. Luneberg subsequently executed and the plane destroyed. Somewhere in the Peruvian jungle rusting in thick tree branches a  bullet holed ridden plane with a missing wing hangs roped with vines. Inside this monument to engineering a red scarfed skeleton sits at the controls of a burnt out cockpit, the gold long ago plundered by jungle tribesmen.

The story that gripped Augustus places Baron Von Luneberg in Bolivia with a mountain of gold buried beneath a palatial palace filled with tropical plants and exotic birds, an oasis fit for a king. This version of events has Luneberg successful in his plan to allude the enemies of Germany, escaping the ravages of war with millions in gold  bullion tucked in air vents beneath his feet. He travelled to Greenland where he was able to purchase an American plane used to run postal services for scattered troops. Resupplying in Canada with fuel,  picking up forged papers allowing passage across America relatively unhindered, he was even asked to deliver a satchel of mail to a genuine USA military compound as he journeyed to the state of Texas. Despite his German accent, nobody could believe that a war enemy would be flying an American mail plane in prairie land skies. At the southern border Luneberg joined a flying circus , a novelty amusement for townsfolk, performing simple stunts for amazed schoolboys and keenly interested fathers. Under the guise of a stunt pilot the Iron Ghost slipped quietly into Mexico to salvage what remained of his fortunate life.

His journey to Peru is filled with unremitting  tales befitting a man above destiny, mysterious intrigues with land pirates, a romantic encounter with a maddening mistress of a bankrupt industrialist, adventures with cocaine producers providing refuge inside the Peruvian rainforest. Each person becoming a painted lead figurine carefully placed on the notorious reputation of the Baron, enchantingly told as train carriage stories to lost travellers across the newly built industrial world.

Overgrown with ivy a modest gravestone bears the single name Luneberg that lies unassuming  in Pere-Lachesis Cemetery, Paris. Beneath this gravestone a piece of the Luneberg puzzle was discovered by Augustus – a perfume stained ribbon bearing a heavy iron key and two Spanish gold doubloons. Augustus had become convinced that Luneberg had orchestrated a global treasure hunt, a way of teasing those that had wished him captured or assassinated. With each clue a deciphered trail of money could be discovered that lay scattered across the globe, a reward for expenses. A canopy of fresh spring leaves sheltered Augustus from the glare of bright sunshine as he slipped the key and doubloons into a brown soft leather suitcase.

Clarice, his wife of some notable repute in the literary world stood patiently at the gated entrance, waiting for her husband to explain the next imperative that would demand an urgency of the heart. She could see the hint of madness in the eye of Augustus, a euphoria that pushed him from the comfort of privately educated rigour. A madness so vibrant , so alive that Clarice wondered if life itself had possessed Augustus that he might excel beyond that of mere potential. Rarely do we encourage raw zeal. Augustus keenly grabbed her arm and hurried towards Cafe Rouge to share his good fortune and excite his wife with tales of travel and wealth. She, for her part, felt strangely compelled to follow Augustus wherever the madness would lead, as if a settled married life would only fluster hidden desires,  frustrating and irritating nurtured resentments.

Penelope Primrose closed the diary taking a moment to reflect upon their son Joseph. A son seemingly lost between the obsessive compulsive addictions of Augustus and a mother swept along with the tide of emotional currents that placed her husband as the more demanding child. Joseph , detached from the whims of his blood family preferred to immerse himself in the fiction of werewolves and sea devils. The passage from Portsmouth cramped on a merchant vessel of the Indian Trading Company had taken weeks to reach the southern coast of  Puerto Rico. Penelope devoured the diary left with Joseph’s Aunt in London, pouring over every detail, every pen stroke, piecing each event together so that a sense of Augustus and Clarice could be gleaned.

For Penelope discovering the character of each individual was the adventure, lives buried in the past leaving behind only speculation. Miss Primrose fascinated herself with this glue that binds people together to share fate across generations of time. Joseph would occasionally disturb the inquisitive searching of Penelope to enquire what she had garnered from the fragmented scribbling of his father. Penelope embarrassed at explaining an intimacy of  thought or feeling written by Augustus would hesitate, pausing to soak up the minor facial movements Joseph would betray. However much she attended his sharp eyes and body language she never saw a spark of recognition, something that would bond Joseph to his Mother and Father. They remained aloof strangers. Joseph would always reply at these awkward moments that although he recognised no reaction to experience he resembled half of each parent at the genetic biological premise of life. Jospeh considered this a pure relationship devoid of the possibility of confused deluded interpretation that experience cultivates. He was half his father and half his mother directly shaping his world through their genes.

Penelope commented that his family was fundamentally broken. Joseph replied that most families are dysfunctional in their ability to produce the greatest evils of the world and that very few could simply find a contented silence while sitting in the same room. With an intensity his father would admire Jospeh looked at Penelope and said “ Nobody wants to admit the very obvious…that born hours ago , crying into the dank air, cared for by fussing nurses are the new generation of murderers, thieves and vagabonds. All those babies will experience love, security, encouragement, all will have survived with the emotional integrity of family nurture but the human animal will tear down the philosophy of civilisation. The emotional impulses will dominate forcing the animal to commit despicable acts of selfish cruelty. “

Hiding in the unspoken corners of  a portrait or a framed photograph that clings to a memory of brethren are the unseen circumstances of losing control. For all the neat handwriting and logic of recording their sojourn a vast gulf lay between Jospeh and his parents, a gulf created by Augustus having completely lost control of the purpose of his age.

Penelope reigned herself back like a carriage horse reticent to cross a rickety bridge. Who was she to judge a family, to project an ideal of perfection. Apologising to Joseph she conceded that most families were a work in progress. Joseph grinned and when she had finished wiping away the assuming demeanour he bluntly spoke “ Ha, just like my Mother…..you see….being a Father was never enough….and why should it be…we sit together, you and I on a ship heading to who knows what precisely because Papa demanded to be more, demanded to break free of the herd…other children read of heroic escapades in comic books bought with a shiny nickel, always these heroes are childless but Augustus was a real life adventurer, fit for a teenage comic story, warts and all. Sometimes the most profound moments with family are not in childhood but at pivotal times in adulthood when a path of character demands a decision. It’s making a decision that makes family…too accept or reject…sitting here listening to you recite passages of Papa’s diary has brought me closer to him than at any other stage in my life…it’s like encountering an honesty he could reveal only to his son…”

Penelope bowed her head, contemplating that Augustus had written the diary for a future Jospeh, a grown up Joseph, the man he envisioned Joseph would become. The faded pages soiled  with age clearly written when Jospeh was a boy, living with relatives in the country, flying kites across barley fields. Augustus had no profound words, nothing of import to communicate to the boy, so reserved his tongue to treat Jospeh as an equal when the time arrived, writing impulsive moments when the need arose, documenting discovered knowledge, ruminating the clues, knowing that Jospeh would sniff the trail like a wolf hunting a blooded lamb.

In that silence between father and son, mother and son , lies the real key….yes the treasure would be necessary and welcome, the enriching of the self with wild tales would also embellish the soul leading one to eccentric character much admired in fondness. The reason entwines, the reason unites, the reason confirms. The forbidden piracy that abandons reason itself for blind thrill seeking leads to a rare state of mind, non judgemental in nature. Here, men are haunted by the dreams of their fathers, born twice to revel in their freedom.

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Sebastian Collier

Sebastian can generally be found behind a camera on film sets fulfilling continuity, production design or directing. He turned down the opportunity to go to film school, instead making himself experienced by hands on development. Writing scripts has been an enjoyable part of his film career and has given him some success at the indie wise Miami Film festival and the World Bach Festival in Florence.

You can read Sebastian’s previously published short stories below:

Superhero Wasteland

Memories We’ve Been Sharing

A Paris Vampire

If you enjoyed ‘Iron Ghost’ leave a comment and let Sebastian know.

You can find find and follow Sebastian at:

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Photo by Angelo Esslinger

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