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PART 1 - EDUARD MEIER
Late on a cold and rainy November night in 1976, a Volkswagen and a small German-built Ford wound through the islands of darkened forest in the hills southeast of Zurich. The rain fell so hard for so long that the back roads had turned to mud and the rain dripped from the needles of tall evergreens soaking the forest floor until it was spongy. Then, the temperature cooled and large wet flakes of snow now mixed with the rain as the Volkswagen, followed by the Ford, slithered through the mud past the shadowy presence of an old farmhouse and headed further into the darkness. Wearing a gray leather jacket, a man with his left arm severed just above the elbow rode in the passenger seat of the lead car; though the driver could see nothing save the wet path before him pelted by silver rain, the man with one arm seemed able to see past the veil of darkness, to know where he was and where he was going. Above the muffled beating of the rain, he directed the driver through the darkness across a swampy meadow, down a prominent rise, to the edge of another forest, where he told the driver to stop.
The car engine died quickly, and only the rain splashing on the metal roof now broke the silence. Then the headlights of both cars dimmed and went out, and the driver could see nothing in the blackness. Neither he nor a passenger in the backseat had seen anything since the headlights swept past the ghostly farmhouse a few miles back. The man with one arm instructed the driver that they were to wait for him there, that he would return in perhaps an hour, perhaps longer, he could never be sure. Then with no further word he opened the door and they watched his silhouette disappear quickly through the rain into the dark of the forest.
For over a year the driver had accompanied the one-armed man to such sites, a half hour, sometimes an hour, from the village. As months passed the journeys had taken place later at night and the sites had become increasingly remote. For someone alone, waiting in the darkness, they could be frightening. This night the presence of the other people, the man in the backseat, the man and woman in the Ford, eased the fear as he waited.
Outside, the rain and wet snow continued to fall, and the driver realized they would have to mount chains on the rear tires or they would never be able to drive through the deepening mud up the rise and back several miles to the main road. If they bogged down in the mud, they would have to spend the night in the two cars.
The men got out of the cars, and illuminated by the headlights, they stood in the rain and mud jacking up first the Volkswagen then the Ford. The rear tires of each car had to be raised, one at a time, then lowered, and the jack stand repositioned again in the mud and pumped again until the next tire rose inches from the ground. The chains were heavy and difficult to manipulate, especially with fingers wet and numb from the cold. The woman sat in one car then the other, dozing as the men worked.
Before each chain was in place, nearly an hour had passed, and the three men were now soaked to their skins and chilled by the icy rain running in rivulets down their faces. Finally they were satisfied with the tautness of the chains, and as they began stamping about, trying to get warm, they suddenly heard a strange sound above the trees.
"A singing noise," recalled one of the men.
They peered upward into the rain. Except for the constant flow of water dripping from the pine needles, the trees stood motionless, but still the noise was that of strong wind.
The eerie sound, a high-pitched warble that pierced the falling rain, moved slowly over their heads. They followed its course with their eyes, straining to see; then suddenly the noise began to subside, and the one-armed man stood with them in the light not two feet away.
"We didn't see him or hear him walk," remembered another. "Just all of a sudden he was there."
The noise in the trees had awakened the woman, who got out of the car to see the three men in their darkened and soggy clothes huddled together in the beam of the headlights and looking up into the trees. She closed the door and took one step into the mud, glancing down for only a moment. When she raised her eyes again quickly, what she saw startled her: the man with one arm was suddenly standing in the headlight beam only a few feet away, with his back to her.
"In the time I looked down and up again, a split second," she remembered, "he practically grew out of the ground in front of me."
The man with one arm appeared almost like an apparition in their midst. They stared at him through the rain and saw that his hair was dry; they reached for his hand, and his skin was warm to their touch. As he stood in the bright light saying nothing, they could see the rain and wet flakes of snow just beginning to form dark speckles on the bone-dry leather of his coat.