Published on 2012/07/22

Rosalein Reitenkappe

Dustin Dante Siebel

Rosalein Reitenkappe always loved Doctor Herzfeil. As a girl, she used to dream of one day marrying him. But now that he knelt on the ground before her and asked her hand in marriage, and she’d gone to his office only as a routine medicine pickup for her grandmother, it was an overwhelming sense of tragedy which purveyed her thoughts.

Rosalein held an expression difficult to read. Her cheeks were rosy with shy flattery, but her countenance was that of shame and embarrassment. “You know I’m engaged to marry Hugo,” she muttered, glancing at the doctor only momentarily before redirecting her eyes to the floor once more.

The doctor rose from the ground with a sigh and seated himself again, “Why are you so committed to that sailor?”

"He and his family took me in when my parents passed, I love him," Rosalein replied, now with a slight tone of frustration at such a ridiculous question.

"And I love you. I remember the way your eyes glistened and your cheeks turned rosy when I would tend to you as a child. Have those feelings now faded?"

"No, I -” she paused and turned away from him with cheeks rosy once more. Desperately grasping for an answer when there was none, her emotions flooded her senses until only words without thought made their way from her lips, “My heart is so torn between you, Hugo, and my Grandmother. Until my Grandmother is well my heart belongs to none.”

"If I could cure her, then would you marry me? Would you leave that sailor?"

"Cure her? How?" Rosalein asked as the doctor regained her attention.

"I'm nearing a breakthrough in my research, if she can hold on for a little longer then I may be able to cure her. If I do that, then would you marry me?"

Overwhelmed with emotion, which she seemed incapable of controlling in the doctor’s presence, Rosalein searched the floor desperately as if it held the answer, and then a strong sense of duty came over her, which even she knew reeked of obligation. "No, I'm sorry. I cannot leave Hugo," Rosalein said sternly, then stood and took a bottle of medicine which sat upon the desk beside them and stuffed it into her basket. She then began to walk toward the office door as if to leave, wishing the conversation could end there; she had to remove herself from the doctor’s company to keep her heart from leaping from her chest.

The doctor stood and gathered some paperwork from his desk, raising and tapping it to the wood to make a neat stack. "Well, I'll let you know as soon as my research produces any results."

"You still want to help me?" Rosalein asked, pausing to turn and ask the question.

The doctor walked toward her as he spoke with papers still in hand, ignorant of what they were and if they held any real importance, they only served as something corporeal that those who are nervous can grip to prevent themselves from slipping into the blank, dumb, recess of a vocally devoid mind. "I've already said I'd do anything for you, and I meant it. I've been working day and night to learn what I can of your Grandmother's illness. I won’t stop simply because your heart already belongs to another."

Rosalein smiled with a thin line of moisture gathered at the edge of her lower eyelid, then she stepped toward the doctor and kissed him saying, "Thank you."

"Off to your grandmother's now?" the doctor asked as he placed the papers right back where they were on his desk.

"Yes."

"She's not still staying at that cabin in the woods is she?"

"No, we brought her into town so she would be nearby."

"That's good. Gute nacht Rosalein."

"Gute nacht Doktor Herzfeil,” Rosalein said, pulling the hood of her rose patterned cloak over her head as she stepped out.

After Rosalein exited the office, the doctor looked about and returned his seat to his desk, then sat while pondering his conversation with her. He rubbed the sweat from his brow, let out a sigh and returned to some of his work in the office. Puzzled for a moment, he picked up the stack of papers he was tampering with before then dropped them in a waste basket. After some time a nurse entered the doctor's office and knocked on the door frame.

"Herr Doktor?"

"Ja?" the doctor asked, while looking through a notebook.

"There is a hooded man outside who wishes to speak with you."

“Hooded? Is it Wolfgang?” the doctor asked and the nurse nodded, the first motion she’d made since standing in the doorway.

The doctor sighed while removing his glasses, then stood and walked past the nurse telling her to wait there. He exited a back door to a dark alley where Doctor Wolfgang waited with a leather bag. Doctor Herzfeil hesitated to open the bag once it was given to him, but upon peering within found a bloodied heart.

"Danke, Doktor Wolfgang."

The doctor stared at the bloody heart while contemplating his next words and whether it was wise or not to speak them. At length he sighed and continued.

"Your help is much appreciated, and there is no better surgeon, but..."

"But?"

The doctor finally raised his gaze from the bag to the hooded man. He wore a long grey overcoat with a grey suit beneath and around his shoulders was a wolf pelt. On his left hand was a grim and intimidating gauntlet with sharp tips to the fingers, and on his right hand was a fingerless glove from which protruded the doctor’s sharpened nails. "But... Without a healthy heart with which to compare these diseased and damaged ones my research is going nowhere."

"You want me to get you a healthy heart?"

"Nein! I just... What I mean to say..."

"You want to save lives do you not?"

"Yes... Yes, I want to save lives." The doctor said, looking back down into the leather bag before closing it. He looked back up at Dr. Wolfgang again to find that he had quietly moved very close in those few short moments.

Startled at first by the few inches which now separated them, Herzfeil was forced to pause with a gasp before he spoke. "I will need a young, healthy, strong heart. Can you get me one?"

“So long as you pay me I'll get whatever organs you want."

“Yes, of course I can pay.”

"Then I have your heart. It will take me perhaps two to three days." Doctor Wolfgang said then turned to leave but was stopped when Doctor Herzfeil spoke.

"Be careful in those woods you like to hunt in. Rumors abound in town of Strigoi roaming about."

Doktor Wolfgang scoffed at the comment. "You, an educated man, believe such nonsense?"

"When a wolf attacks a man in the forest that is one thing. When a wolf wanders into one of the town’s homes, and kills a single man and no other then flees, that is something else."

"The only wolf to fear in those woods is me... That everyone believes otherwise is what makes it a good hunting ground." Doctor Wolfgang continued down the alley, and veered off into the darkness. The nurse, having heard the conversation end, opened the door and entered into the alley.

"That man frightens me horribly. Must we deal with him?" the nurse asked, speaking from behind Doktor Herzfeil.

The doctor was still facing in the direction that Wolfgang walked off to when he responded, "It is true I could look to others, but do you think it wise to try and force a wolf from its den?"

When Rosalein arrived at her grandmother's home, she found it vacant with only a note placed upon a nightstand, which read: "Rosalein, I appreciate all your concern and assistance, but I am still quite healthy and capable of caring for myself. However, this town makes me ill, I need fresh air, I need silence, and this house brings back memories of your grandfather, which only makes my heart ache more. I've returned to my cabin in the woods. If you still wish to tend to me, I hope you will be willing to make the journey into the woods. We both have such fond memories of that forest in our childhood don't we? We can share our childhood memories and pretend we were young together. I hope you will visit. Love, Grandma."

"I wish you wouldn't leave," Hugo said, down on one knee before Rosalein as she rested in a wooden chair seated before the fireplace. He put his hands upon hers which rest in her lap, but her eyes did not meet with his.

"My grandmother is very ill, she complains of a chest pain. I want to bring her some food and this medicine the doctor gave to me." Rosalein rocked the chair a little while gazing into the fire and away from Hugo.

"You know that I set sail tomorrow, I wish you would have said something sooner so that I might have accompanied you."

"Hugo, I spent much of my childhood in those woods,” she finally turned to look him in the eyes, “and know that there is little to fear. I will be fine. Besides, if all goes well then Grandmother may give me her farm. Then we can hire some farmhands and you'll never have to work as a whaler again."

Hugo's hands tightened slightly around Rosalein's while he lifted them a little from her lap, "The townspeople say there are Strigoi in those woods."

Rosalein smiled and pet Hugo's cheek, not so much like that of a lover as that of a dog. "Then I am in no danger, for Strigoi are the vengeful spirits of the dead whom have taken the form of wolves. I've wronged none."

Hugo clasped Rosalein’s hands between his as if praying and then kissed them, "Please, at least take my pistol for some protection."

Rosalein set out for her grandmother’s cabin that night. The woods were dark and shadows roamed about as though alive. The hooting of owls could be heard through the trees, the sound of crickets, the croak of frogs. Though these sounds and sights would frighten most, Rosalein walked carefree along the road through the woods. She’d grown accustomed to these sounds, had seen the shadows move about her all her life, and paid them no heed. She knew what dangers lurk in shadows and what shadows lurk in the mind.

Finally, a howl rang throughout the forest, the howl of a wolf; it was enough to stop Rosalein. She raised her clasped hands up to her chest and wrapped them about a rosary. “Engel?” she called out while glancing in all directions. There was no response, but she felt eyes upon her. Rosalein knew she was being watched now. She had spent enough time in the woods to know when her nerves were getting to her and when there truly was something amiss. She called out the name once more, “Engel?” and received no response.

Rosalein continued on paying closer attention to the shadows about her. She spotted eyes gazing upon her a few times, but she knew them to be the rodents and scavengers of the night. When the moon was high and the night grew cold she made a fire, set out a blanket, placed her pistol and a knife beneath her pillow and went to sleep.

Once Dr. Wolfgang saw she was asleep, he crept out from the shadows and silently approached. He placed his satchel of tools on the ground and quietly removed a stethoscope. Carefully he pulled down the blanket and unlaced the top of her corset and undershirt. He huffed a few times on the stethoscope and rubbed it with his hand to warm it, then placed it on her chest. He was satisfied with what he heard and then removed a scalpel from his bag.

Wolfgang stared at the scalpel blade and ran his finger along its edge. He turned it slightly catching a glint of the fire’s light in its smooth shiny surface. After observing for a moment, Wolfgang quietly crept over to Rosalein and then pulled the blanket from her, slowly as not to wake her. He got into position, prepared to drop his knees on her arms as her squirming would make the precision his work required much more difficult.

Then a loud howl came from the woods and Rosalein woke. In the instant she woke, she swung her knife without even knowing that she was in any danger and cut the ear from the wolf pelt around Dr. Wolfgang's shoulders, as well as cutting his cheek. He growled in pain and put his hand over his cut cheek. Rosalein was stunned when she saw the man knelt over her and made no further action. Wolfgang then hit her across the face with the hand that covered the wound and pinned her down, but a growl continued from the woods. Suddenly aware of this Dr. Wolfgang looked into the darkness as a wolf leapt out at him and bit his arm. He quickly stood and flung the wolf from his arm. The wolf stood before Rosalein in a protective posture and the doctor glared at it before he ran off, snatching his bag as he went. The wolf sat beside Rosalein and she hugged it while it licked her cheek.

"Engel! That's a good girl! Always protecting klein Rosalein Reitenkappe!" After surveying the site Rosalein picked up the severed wolf ear, inspected it, and put it in her basket, then crawled back over to her blanket. She took up her pistol and knife, gripping them tightly in her hands while she tried desperately to sleep with the wolf, Engel, at her feet.

The next morning Rosalein woke and Engel was gone. She called for Engel a few times but received no response. After packing up her things she headed out, now very cautious and watching the shadows of every tree about her. She hoped that Engel was out there watching over her, but now that she knew that man was out there, she knew a person was stalking her, she knew she couldn’t hesitate again; she was ready to kill if she must. Hopefully the man was just a wanderer that stumbled upon her, thought her helpless and vulnerable, and might move on to weaker prey. When she finally arrived at her grandmother's cabin, she knocked on the door and called out but there was no answer. Rosalein then opened the door and walked in seeing her grandmother in bed.

"Are you not well yet Grandmother?" Rosalein asked while she put her basket on a table and began unpacking her things. She reached into the basket and took the medicine to bring to her grandmother, placing the bottle on the nightstand and filling a spoonful. “Here, this should help you to feel better.”

Her grandmother did not move an inch or make so much as a peep. "Grandmother, you need to take your medicine," she said while sitting at the edge of the bed with her grandmother’s back facing her but her grandmother didn't answer. "Grandmother?" Rosalein asked while shaking her and she did not wake, and then she noticed blood in the blankets at the other end of the bed. She removed the blanket and saw that her grandmother was dead, her heart cut from her chest and the bed stained with old dried blood. She'd been dead for several days at least. Rosalein screamed and turned around seeing that the back door to the cabin was left standing wide open with leaves blowing through. As she watched, she noticed a shadow from outside, and then an arm reach through the door gripping a wolf by the neck and its heart cut out as well. Rosalein screamed and covered her mouth as she said, "Engel?" Then Dr. Wolfgang stepped through the doorway tossing the wolf to the ground at her feet. Rosalein dashed away to her basket quickly followed by the doctor and she grabbed her pistol and turned to shoot. The bullet hit him in the shoulder which stunned him for a moment before he rushed to her. She grabbed her knife from the basket and tried to stab him, but he was too fast and he stabbed her in the gut. She weakly tried to stab him in the neck but he grabbed her arm as she tried and the knife fell to the ground. Her strength was fading and her consciousness with it. Rosalein’s emotions shifted from fear of death to hatred in moments and she spat upon the face of the doctor just before she died. The doctor didn't waste any time and cut the corset away from her chest. He then sliced through the undershirt and began cutting his way through her flesh and removed her heart. He placed it into a leather satchel and then left out the back door, stopping only momentarily as he went to look at the two dead women with a smirk.

"Oh my! Doctor Wolfgang you’re hurt!" Dr. Herzfeil exclaimed when he met Dr. Wolfgang in the alley and noticed his wound to the shoulder, cut to the face, and even the missing wolf’s ear from his pelt.

"I'm alright..." Wolfgang said, slightly hunched and with a lean in his stance to relax the wounded shoulder. He weakly handed over the leather bag containing the heart and said, "Young, strong, healthy hearts are certainly harder to obtain than old diseased or damaged ones, and for that I'm afraid I must double the price."

"Of course, of course!" the doctor searched his pockets and retrieved a full sack of coins which he handed to Wolfgang. He didn’t even bother to count it as he meant anything extra to compensate for the injuries Wolfgang had sustained. "Danke Doktor Wolfgang, now I can finish my research."

"And save lives. Yes, I know..." Wolfgang said as he turned to walk away into the darkness. He left the doctor to his research and retreated to the shadow where he would recover from his wounds.

A month later, after his work was done at sea, a search party was mounted by Hugo to find his missing fiancée. They headed straight away into the woods, on the hunt for a wolf, as it was expected that the wildlife was the culprit in all cases of missing people in those woods. They found Rosalein at her grandmother's cabin after the scavengers of the forest had time to pick at what meat they would, leaving no evidence she'd been murdered. However, the severed wolf ear in her basket did provide a clue, as no wolf was found to link to the deaths and certainly none with a missing ear. Furthermore, the severed ear was not bloodied, indicating it came from a pelt and not a living wolf.

Soon there was a knock at Dr. Herzfeil's office door, and before Dr. Herzfeil could answer the door a man in uniform let himself in.

"Guten tag Doktor."

"Guten tag Offizier. How can I help you?"

"I am investigating the death of Rosalein Reitenkappe."

"Rosalein is dead?" the doctor exclaimed, standing from his seat as he asked the question.

"Yes, sometime in the past month,” the officer walked about the office, aimlessly inspecting anything which caught his eye. “We found her at her grandmother's cabin in the woods."

"The cabin?” the doctor seated himself once more, "But she said her grandmother was here in town."

"Apparently not, her grandmother was found dead at the scene as well."

"It can't be!" the doctor said as he shielded his tears from view.

After some shock by the doctor‘s reaction the officer said, “My apologies Doktor, I had no idea you and the victim were so close.”

"My early years of practice were spent learning from visits to her and her family from the time she was eight until their death when she was eleven. In the six years since I’ve tended to her grandmother which has furthered the understanding of my practice still as I searched for a cure to her heart illness.”

“I see. Had I known you were a friend of the family, I would have tried to handle the situation with more tact. My apologies. I was just here to follow up on some reports we received that she visited you shortly before she left for the cabin."

"Yes,” the doctor wiped away the tears simultaneously lowering his hands, “to pick up some medicine for her grandmother. I had proposed to her that same night."

The officer slowly approached the doctor removing a handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to him while placing a comforting hand upon his shoulder. "Did you notice anyone strange about? Anyone following her?"

"Wait a moment. Do you suspect it was murder?"

The officer reached into his pocket and removed the severed wolf ear, which he then placed upon the doctor’s desk. "This was found at the scene. The ear appears to be from a pelt, not a live wolf. Fraulein Reitenkappe's pistol had also been fired, but no bullet was found nor was a wounded wolf."

Slowly it began to dawn on the doctor. "No! No! This is my fault."

"How is that?" the officer asked, trying even more to comfort a man he suspected blamed himself for a death which he had no involvement in.

"That wolf ear,” the doctor said as he reached out and picked it up, inspecting it more closely. ”I recognize it. The same night Rosalein left I was visited by Doktor Wolfgang, and again a few nights after."

"The disgraced surgeon?"

"Yes. He was wounded, a cut on his face, a bullet wound to the shoulder, and the ear of his wolf pelt was missing."

"Why were you speaking with that devil?"

"As I've said, this is my fault. He was helping me with my research. I was trying to find a cure for Rosalein's grandmother, for her heart disease. He was gathering diseased hearts for me, and I asked him to get me a healthy one to compare them with."

"That is illegal Doctor."

"I know."

"Is he still working for you?"

"Yes."

"I will make you an offer then,” the officer said, brushing his mustache with his fingertips. He was thrilled at the opportunity to catch the wanted, murderous surgeon. “Help us to capture him and this crime you've committed will be forgiven."

That night Wolfgang met Herzfeil in the alley once more. Before a word could be spoken, Herzfeil reached in his coat pocket and showed Wolfgang the ear which the officer had given to him.

"Recognize this?" the doctor asked, his hand trembling.

"My wolf's ear. Where did you find it?"

"That heart you took for me. It was taken from Rosalein Reitenkappe, the girl I loved.” The doctor’s hand trembled more and more with each spoken word, and it became clear, even to Wolfgang, that it was not fear but rage which caused his shakiness. “I’d hoped to learn of her grandmother's heart disease, who you also killed, in order to cure her and win Rosalein's heart. But you killed them both."

Dr. Wolfgang observed Dr. Herzfeil for a few moments, noticing his other arm behind his back and shaking as well, but with tense arm muscles. Wolfgang smirked showing his sharp canines and replied, "Well her heart is yours now, isn't it?"

Herzfeil leapt forward in anger with a scalpel to cut Wolfgang, the sort of formless lunge that those without training make which more closely resembles a stumble and is easily predicted and evaded. Wolfgang effortlessly stepped aside and then grabbed onto the doctor's face as if catching a ball and threw him to the ground by his head. Then the doctor rolled over to see Wolfgang's foot come crashing down, the last thing he would ever see. Wolfgang then heard men at the end of the alley yell "Open fire!" and saw officers lined up with rifles aimed. He ran and escaped without being hit, bullets whizzing by and snapping as they ricocheted from the brick walls.

All of the town's police chased Wolfgang into the woods where he hid. Wolfgang chuckled in the cold forest night, watching the still, unmoving shadows about him, the lifeless dark, while he easily remained hidden from the police. As he chuckled, he noticed that his voice was growing quieter as it was overpowered by a louder growl. In the darkness of the forest he could see two eyes stare at him, and then a wolf with its heart cut from it step into the light, but the eyes were not that of a wolf, the eyes were that of the beautiful Rosalein, and around its neck was tied the rose patterned cloak worn by Rosalein. In terror, the doctor let out one final scream, "Strigoi!" before the wolf pounced on him and ripped the heart from his chest.


Dustin Siebel writes as a hobby. This is his first publication.