The Hoffman Institute:
ERICH BURKHARDT was once a man with a bright future. This 60-year old
former captain in the Imperial German Army was a celebrated sniper in
the Great War, with 197 confirmed kills; the British officers called
him the Grim Reaper, for to see his white skull banner floating over
the German trenches was a cold reminder that Death walked among them.
More than a soldier, Burkhardt was a highly educated man who taught
philosophy and rhetoric in the preparatory schools of Vienna. His
cousin and patron was the Archduke Franz Ferdinand — the man whose
assassination would spark the Great War. For Burkhardt, the War was
about vengeance: vengeance for his cousin and for his nation’s honor.
Thus, the philosopher became a killer . . .
The blood spilled in the Great War drew all manner of carrion
creatures to the foul trenches. One night, on the fields of Ypres in
Flanders, while maneuvering into a more advantageous position
Burkhardt came upon a grisly conclave: a pack of dog-like ghouls were
being fed gobbets of human flesh by a French sorcerer, who exhorted
them in Latin to attack the Germans and drive them away. Burkhardt’s
first bullet nearly decapitated the sorcerer. It drove the ghouls
away, but not before one of them marked him with a long gash to the
cheek. To this day, that wound has never fully healed. Word of the
episode spread among the troops, impressing most of all a young lance
corporal of the Bavarian regiment named Adolf Hitler, who would
remember the sniper’s name . . .
After the war, Burkhardt retired to Vienna. He continued to be
plagued by nightmares and the spectral howls of blood-thirsty ghouls.
His doctor prescribed a course of travel, and Captain Burkhardt left
Vienna for Greece, and then Istanbul. His fame preceded him and he
was nearly killed by a group of expatriate French veterans who
remembered well the terror of the Grim Reaper. He was saved by German
agents, men pledged to the new Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler. Men, Burkhardt
learned, who had been looking for him. These fanatics scared
Burkhardt almost as much as the memory of the ghouls; once he was well
enough to travel, he managed to escape, seize a rifle, and add a few
fanatical Nazis to his kill total.
Convinced he knows some occult truth that escapes him, Adolf Hitler
has put a price on Erich Burkhardt’s head. The Fuhrer wants him
alive; desperate, Burkhardt has sought asylum with the Hoffman
Institute, who also find themselves in need of his unique skills and
perspectives . . .