What happens when your character has a better story than you do?
September 23, 2015
I CALLED IN Ambrose Lincoln about daybreak.
He was awake.
I knew he would be.
Ambrose never sleeps.
It was for an exit interview.
I knew what was about to happen.
We met on the patio in the cool of an early autumn.
I didn’t want to be in a closed room with him.
Ambrose can be a violent man.
He had the lead roles in three of my novels.
He journeyed in Secrets of the Dead to Baden-Baden on the eve of World War II to bring home horrific photographs of the Night of Broken Glass.
It was Germany’s first attack of the Jews.
America wanted to stay out of the war.
The photographs, it’s believed, may change America’s mind.
In Conspiracy of Lies, Ambrose is sent to Santa Fe and Los Alamos in New Mexico to find out how American secrets of the Atomic Bomb are being smuggled to Russia and Germany.
The investigation is lethal.
Every country knows the same thing.
Whoever has the bomb wins the war.
In Night Side of Dark, Ambrose is on a snow-covered odyssey from Poland and Czechoslovakia to Dalldorf, Germany, in search of an ancient painting, created by a blind artist at the cross of Christ.
The legend is that the painting has a tear in time.
Someone can walk through it and leave the earth behind.
Germany is falling.
Germany is in ruins.
The German physician known as the Doctor of Death wants the painting so he can flee through the tear in time, save himself, and escape the fate of being a war criminal.
Is the story of the painting true?
Or is it a myth?
And who will find it first?
Ambrose Lincoln sat down as the morning birds were singing in the trees around us.
“Well, Ambrose,” I said, “this is it?”
He arched his eyebrows.
He looked surprised.
“This is goodbye,” I said.
“Why?” he wanted to know.
“You’ve been in my three latest novels.”
“I gave you a trilogy,” he said.
“That’s all I planned to write,” I said.
“That’s not enough.”
“The stories are dark,” I said.
“War is dark.”
“There’s too much dying,” I said.
“Wars are measured in body counts,” he said.
“I want to write something light and happy.”
“You don’t know anything light and happy.”
“I’ll find it.”
“No you won’t,” he said.
“Because every time you turn around, I’ll be there looking back at you.”
“You and I are through,” I said.
He shook his head.
“There’s only one way you can get rid of me,” he said.
“Kill me off.”
I thought it over for a minute.
“I can’t do that,” I said.
“Didn’t think you could.”
Ambrose walked away.
We had one last exchange before he disappeared into the darkness.
“You forgot one thing,” he said.
“I have a better story than you do.”
“What is it?”
“When the war’s over, America wants the German scientists.”
“America doesn’t know where they are.”
“I do,” he said.
Ambrose was gone.