HUNGER IN THE DEEP, DARK WOODS, CHAPTERS 4 AND 5 by Mike Buckendorf
August 22, 2011 Longer stories Tags: historic, Mike Buckendorf, military
“It’s no use. The bastard thing will nae start!” Martin gave up trying to turn the jeep over. The engine was thoroughly flooded and his frantic attempts to start it again had only made the situation worse. “Sergeant, we’ve got to get out of here. If you can’t get the jeep started, we’re going to have to run.” Reuter again looked through the field glasses. The approaching throng of people wending their way out of the tiny village of Ornel was gradually growing closer, now less than 100 yards away.
“Are ye daft, ye fookin’ tosser?” Clive yelled from the back of the jeep. “I’m nae hoofin’ it! They’ll back off once I put a few warning shots from the .50 across them.” To demonstrate, Clive fired off a rapid burst from the .50 caliber. The slugs impacted into the ground directly in front of the mob to no discernible notice. They continued to press forward, the entire crowd moaning in an unearthly chorus. As they drew nearer, the grisly wounds of each person seemed to magnify before the two British and two German soldiers sitting in the jeep.
“My God…” Martin intoned in a hushed breath. “There’s no life in those eyes, is there? They’re…they’re not right. Why are they walking? Why aren’t they dead?” He began to shake involuntarily. After nearly five years of seemingly endless campaigns this veteran soldier had finally seen something that shook him to his core. In all his experiences, the dead stayed dead. That was the nature of the world, and as horrible as it often was, it also provided a certain comfort to him. If you got your number punched, the horror was over for you and that was that. But this? This was an abomination and yet he couldn’t tear his eyes away from it. There were children in this crowd, young women, and grandfathers…people who should be laughing, talking and going about their daily business. Never mind that they were Germans, because when you got right down to it, there weren’t many differences between the normal everyday folks of Britain and Germany. The normalcy of their bland, day to day lives united them in a way that politics and war never fully divided them. And to see this horror shambling before them, it was unthinkably tragic. He couldn’t take his eyes of these pitiful, horrible things.
Reuter slapped the British sergeant away from his reverie. “We can’t stay here! Come on! Raus!” Rudi, the young German Sani was the first to bolt. With his breath already coming out in a ragged, almost hyperventilating wheeze, he leapt from the backseat of the jeep and began tearing up the road away from the approaching throng. Martin jumped in his seat as the staccato roar of the .50 began to renew. Clive began firing indiscriminately into the crowd, high velocity rounds punching violently into their midst. Three of them fell to the ground as the bullets tore into their legs and shattered their kneecaps. The crowd continued pressing inexorably forward, walking over their fallen brethren, even as the stricken rose up onto their elbows and began crawling. Two more went down for good, their heads exploding as slugs slammed into their craniums.
“Clive! Dinnae mess about! Run, dammit!” Both Martin and Reuter were already out of the jeep. Martin tugged at Clive’s leg and continued shouting at the man, even as the crowd continued to slowly close the distance. “Bugger off! You run! I’m not letting these bastards spook me!”
Reuter grabbed Martin roughly by the collar and dragged the Englishman away. “Leave him! If the fool won’t come, at least let him cover our escape!”
Reluctantly, Martin let himself be led away. Almost as an afterthought, he grabbed the Thompson submachine gun nestled in its leather holster attached to the side of the jeep. As Reuter and Martin raced away, Clive fired wildly. Bullets stitched their way across the front row, tearing large holes across the crowd’s chests. An arm flew off, a hand, another fell as their head was punctured. Still they pressed forward, arms outstretched and moaning with an incoherent longing. He finally queued to the fact that head shots seemed to take them down for good a moment too late. Aiming with deliberation, he managed to down three more when he noticed he was nearing the end of the ammo belt and they had finally closed the range.
Greedy hands grasped at him from all sides. He kicked the first in the face, the hobnails in his boots crunching the man’s nose inward. He punched another in the mouth, tearing his knuckles and knocking out teeth. This was how any Welshman worth his salt did things in. You gave the punter a good thrashing to the face and they usually left you alone. But these weren’t the pubs he used to fight in anymore and this crowd was not a group of surly drunks. He cursed loudly as the first set of teeth sunk into his forearm. Screaming, he bashed in his assailant’s head with an entrenching tool. Even as the woman fell, more hands grabbed him from all sides. They dragged him down and began to feed, even as he continued to rain blows upon them with the last of his desperate strength. There wouldn’t be anything left of Lance Corporal Clive Bellows to come back. The ravenous denizens of Ornel picked him clean.
Those not able to occupy themselves on the feast surrounding Clive continued to surge forward. Both Martin and Reuter quickly realized that they were clearing a decent distance between themselves and the hungry crowd. They were unbelievably slow, yet relentlessly single-minded. They never took their eyes off the fleeing men, and only slowed and turned their attention briefly away from their targets when another sound issued forth from behind them. Martin strained to make out what the noise was and cursed the fact that he’d left the field glasses back in the jeep.
A man riding astride a large horse broke through a gap in the crowd. He waved a large hatchet in his hands, cleaving at his neighbors, clearing a path for a horse-drawn wagon coming up full-tilt behind him. The undead of Ornel converged upon the wagon, but with a surge of speed it burst through, knocking aside six of the approaching ghouls. As the wagon cleared the crowd, the man wielding the hatchet kicked his horse forward and attempted to follow suit. He got no more than a few yards before the crowd tore and clawed at his horse. It kicked frantically, suddenly too spooked to run. It’s flailing back legs smashed into two of them, before the rider lost his balance and fell off. He had no time to react before the crowd pounced upon him and proceeded to devour him. The horse’s own screams drowned out those of the fallen man as the crowd grasped its flanks and neck and ultimately overpowered it, dragging it to the ground.
Reuter waved his arms at the woman driving the wagon, ordering her to pull to and let them on. “Auf halten! Dammit, woman! Stop and let us up!” The woman showed no signs of acknowledging him until Martin put a burst from the Thompson into the ground before the horse’s path. With a frightened whinny, they abruptly halted. Martin and Reuter quickly hauled themselves aboard and Reuter screamed for Rudi to stop his headlong flight and rejoin them. The medic was nearly thirty yards ahead of them and showed no sings of hearing. Martin raised the Thompson to fire a burst into the crowd when Reuter placed his hands over the barrel, forcing him to lower it.
“Nein! Don’t fire, Sergeant! They’re ignoring us for now! Let’s just get the hell out of here while we can!”
Reuter nodded to the woman holding the reins and motioned her to get going again. With a start, the horses galloped anew and they quickly left the distracted crowd behind. Leaning over the side of the wagon, Reuter reached out and grasped Rudi as they hurtled by. Grunting with the strain, he hauled the panicked Sani up into the wagon.
It wasn’t until they were a good 100 yards away that Reuter finally noticed that there were other people in the wagon with them, an old man and two children. One of the children held her hand against a gaping wound on her arm which bled profusely. “Rudi, help out the little fraulein here, jah? She looks hurt. Trodle nicht.”
Despite his panic, Rudi reacted automatically. “Jawhol, herr scharfuhrer.” He reached into his bag and began to clean the wound on the sobbing little girl.
Reuter nodded to the old man, who looked about as pale as a sheet and crawled up onto the buckboard with the woman driving the wagon. “Danke. We appreciate the rescue.” She glared at him. “I wouldn’t have stopped if the verdammt horses hadn’t halted. You should thank the Englander.”
Reuter shrugged. “All the same, I’d rather be here than back there. What happened back in the village? Why did everybody suddenly go crazy like that? And who was that man who covered your escape?”
The woman bit down on her lip and slapped the horses with the reins again with deliberation. Her face was hardened with the refusal to cry. “The man was meine bruder. He had a game leg so he was exempt from conscription. The two in the back are my sister’s children and my father. I don’t know why everyone went so fucking verruckt. I was at the morning market, buying eggs and milk when this small crowd wanders into the village square and starts attacking people. They were biting everyone they could get their hands on…and…eating them. And those…those that were being eaten got back up and started attacking too. Don’t look at my like I’m insane, damn you! I saw it!”
Reuter shook his head. “No, I don’t think you’re insane. I have to trust my own eyes. I saw that madness too.” Reuter looked back down the road. Martin had his eyes glued upon that path also, machine gun at the ready. He liked the Tommy sergeant. He was a professional and seemed like a fair man. It was a stone pity about his man back there, but his sacrifice had helped them escape at least.
He thought hard, picking over the last few hours. Obviously whatever had caused that old man to go mad had infected herr Leutnant Johannes. In turn, Johannes succumbed to it himself and passed it on to all those he met on the way into the village.
“Tell me,” he said, turning back to the woman. “What do you know about the castle ruins a few kilometers back?” She looked at him incredulously. “Why in the hell do those ruins matter? I don’t care about sightseeing or small talk! I just watched all my friends die and come back as monsters!”
“I think it relevant. Trust me on this.”
She shrugged. “I don’t care about that place. Ask meine vater about it. He’s like all the other old-timers, caught up in the legend.” She turned away, immediately dismissive. He left her to her unspoken grief. Frowning, Reuter turned to the old man, who had been listening in.
“Grossevater…tell me about the castle ruins. There’s something to them, isn’t there?”
The old man shrugged, even as he held onto his granddaughter, consoling her as Rudi cleaned and dressed her wound. “Jah, so they say. It was once a mighty keep centuries ago, during the days of the black death. When the plague hit, all the peoples from the surrounding communities flocked there for protection and sanctuary against the pestilence. But somebody got in who was carrying something even worse than the plague. There was an uprising of some sort, deep in the bowels of the castle. The lord of the castle and his men fought those afflicted with this new madness and managed to seal them off in the lowest dungeons, but it was said that the lord had kept his treasures hidden down there as well. He died a pauper, convinced that it would be insane to try and go back down into those tunnels to try and retrieve it. As the years passed, the legend grew about the treasure hidden in there, as well as the monsters guarding it. We used to joke as boys about going in there and becoming wealthy lords ourselves. I never took it all that seriously, but after what I’ve seen today…” the old man trailed off, shaking his head.
“Here, listen up.” Martin clasped Reuter on the shoulder. “Let me up there with the lady. If we go bouncin’ around the corner after all that donnybrook and Joe doesn’t see me up there, he’s liable to err on the side of caution and fill this wagon full of holes and us along with it.” Reuter nodded and moved aside to let the British sergeant forward. Rudi had finished dressing the young girl’s wounds and was finishing putting the last of his kit away. “How is she?”
Rudi just looked at him. “She was bitten, no different from herr Leutnant. I can’t speculate beyond that. I think she’s collapsed from the shock. Her breathing was incredibly shallow, her skin very cold. But between you and me, I would put her out of her misery right now if I were you, herr Scharfuhrer.”
Reuter paled at that thought. He couldn’t think about shooting a child, even one possibly carrying this affliction. It was too horrid to contemplate. “Not yet. But keep an eye on her just the same.”
They rode on in silence for another few minutes before rounding a wide curve in the road and coming upon the parked kubelwagen and the second jeep in Sergeant Knight’s entourage. Reuter flinched when he saw his brother and the two remaining men in his group lying on the ground with their hands over their heads and the nervous Private Allen training a sten gun on them. He didn’t say anything though. Despite his initial anger, he would have done the same thing. After all, the British didn’t know what had gone on back in the village.
Sergeant Knight bounded down from the wagon and waved to his companions. “Joe! Where the bloody hell is the column?”
Kirk looked chagrined. “The news isn’t good, Martin. The column ran into a patrol of SS back up the road that’s got them tied down. They estimate it’ll be at least an hour before they can clear the tree line of their snipers and get underway again. What the fook happened back there anyroad? Where’s Clive and yer jeep?”
“Och, bloody Christ. Get on the wireless and tell them to get their arses up here immediately. We’ve got a bloody pack of madmen up the road coming this way. Tell them it’s not just urgent, but a goddamned priority!”
Martin rushed over to the kubelwagen and began tossing the German weapons out of its back. He threw the MG42 to Reuter, who caught it on the fly and began to feed a new belt into it.
“Martin! What the kiddin’ hell are ye doin’? Put that down!” Joe Kirk began to level his Webley at Reuter. “Joe! Leave off! Let the man be and get his men back up on their feet right this minute! I’m not daft, but I swear to ye, we’ll need every man we can spare in a bit. There’s a bloodthirsty mob heading this way and we’ve got to get ready! Goddammit, follow me orders, man! They’ve killed Clive already and they’ll tear ye apart too if ye don’t get ye’re arse in gear!”
Kirk began to speak when a scream punctuated the air behind them from the wagon. All turned at the sound as the wounded little girl suddenly turned and sank her teeth into her grandfather’s throat.
Rudi leapt forward and wrenched the snarling girl away from her struggling grandfather. The girl came away with blood caked to her mouth and a large chunk of flesh still clutched between her teeth. “Verdammt!” He flung the child over the side of the wagon without a backwards glance and was already pulling his scarf from around his neck to somehow staunch the bleeding erupting from the flailing old man’s neck.
The old man had already gone into shock, his body trembling as the blood poured freely in every direction. Rudi had barely wrapped the scarf once around the man’s neck and was applying some direct pressure until he could get some proper bandaging out of his bag to halt it when an unexpected shot rang out so near as to make him fall back on his rear end and nearly topple out of the wagon. When he looked up again, the old man was slumped onto his back, an enormous bullet hole in the side of his head. “Grosse Gott…vas ist?”
The woman who had been driving the wagon calmly re-aimed the pistol she’d been concealing in her skirt and fired another round into the head of her niece. The girl had landed hard, face first when Rudi tossed her aside. She appeared utterly oblivious to her shattered nose and had been clambering back up the sides of the wagon with a mad intensity up until the moment the bullet hit her. Stunned, the German and British troops hadn’t even moved to respond to her actions before she yelled at Rudi, waving the luger at him. “Idioten! I just saw my entire village ripped apart and turned into these things! You cannot try to save them!”
Reuter calmly approached the frantic woman with his hands up. He shot a glance at his remaining men to stand down and not shoot her. Behind him, Sergeant Martin Knight did the same. “Never mind the daft lassie! Keep yer eyes on the road ahead. That’s where the troubles comin’ from. Let the jerry sergeant handle her.”
The near-hysterical woman turned the pistol towards Reuter, even as she grabbed her nephew and pulled him close to her. “Don’t come any closer! This kleine kinder is all I have left! I’m not letting those demons have him too!”
Reuter nodded soothingly. “Aber naturlich, fraulein. We won’t let them get him. But we can’t hold the road and fight them off if you’ve got a pistol aimed at us, now can we? Besides, you’re pretty good with that thing. We could use the extra hand, nicht wahr?”
The woman glowered at him before hesitantly lowering the luger. “I…I got this off an officer who was one of those monsters. A man in the village tried to grab the pistol from his holster and had managed to get it free before he was bitten. It lay in the street where I picked it up. I’ve…I’ve never fired a gun before in my life.”
Reuter shrugged. It looked like in some way, herr Leutnant Johannes was still helping their little band out. “All the same, you’re pretty good with it. Now don’t point that thing at my Sani anymore, eh? He was only doing his job.”
“But you don’t understand! The bite is what turns people into those things! I saw it with my own eyes back in the village. He can’t try to help them once they’ve been bitten. I didn’t even realize my niece had been bit. I thought she’d been cut trying to run from them. If I’d known, I’d have shot here then and there before we even tried to run. I…I couldn’t let meine vater come back like that…”
“I know,” Reuter replied. “Ich vershtehen, now. We’ll know better when the time comes. And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry. But we don’t have time to grieve, jah? You must understand that.”
The woman slumped back onto the buckboard and held her nephew all the tighter, turning his head away from the carnage in the back of the wagon and the even greater horror she knew was coming down the road. “Jah. I do understand it.”
Reuter turned away from the woman and helped Rudi to his feet. “Are you alright?” The Kriegsmarine Sani glared at him. “I warned you, didn’t I? I told you that little girl was done for. And now that old man’s death is on your head, Herr Scharfuhrer. Don’t make that same mistake again or it’ll be the death of all of us.” Rudi wrenched free from Reuter’s grasp and stormed off. He waved away any attempts at conversation with Horst, Burkhardt and Hans.
Sighing at the rebuke, mainly because the man was right, Reuter rejoined Martin. “Sergeant, we’d better tell all the men to aim for the head. That seems to be the only thing to take these monsters down.”
“Aye. I’ve kenned to that. That might be a problem with the fifty cal we’ve got left. That’s nae the sort of weapon used for precision firing. Ye’re bolt actions on yer Mausers are more the sort for this business, d’ye think?”
“Jah. I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right.” Reuter turned to Horst and Burkhardt. “Look, I don’t have time to explain this to you. You’re going to have to see this to believe it. There’s a bloodthirsty mob coming from that village, our own people. But you can’t think of them that way. They…I don’t know any other way to say this, but they are monsters out for blood, any blood. They won’t care if it’s the Tommies or the Amis or us they feed on. They’ll tear great bloody strips out of you regardless of what uniform you’re wearing. Shoot them in the head. Remember that! It’s imperative that you shoot them in the head!”
Horst spat on the ground incredulously. “Du bist verruckt! That woman back there and the little girl are sure as hell crazy, I’ll grant you that in a second. And I don’t know what kind of deal you struck with the Tommies to get our weapons back, but let’s take advantage of this and just leave! We have to look out for our own skins! We’ve already deserted! The goddamned war is supposed to be over for us.”
Reuter threw him against the side of the kubelwagen. “What must I do to get it through you’re thick head! We’re in a totally new war now! And if we don’t stop this mob here and now, you don’t want to envision what they’ll become if they spread to another town.”
“Why should I believe anything you have to say?”
“When that mob rounds the bend in the road, you can ask me that question again.”
Sergeant Martin Knight climbed aboard the hood of his remaining jeep and addressed all those present. “Reuter, ye’d best have yer brother translate to the others in yer company. This is to all ye lot. The village of Ornel has become…infected I guess is the word I’d have ta use…infected wi’ somethin’ that’s driven every last one of them mad as hatters. The whole lot of ‘em is actin’ like cannibals, I swear ta ye. We’ve seen it. Me, the jerry Sergeant and his medic, tha’ poor woman and young lad in the wagon. We watched ‘em tear apart Clive back there. They ripped the poor bastard ta pieces and nothin’ seems ta stop ‘em but a blow to the head. Save yer shots for the head, I’m tellin’ ye now. Don’t go daft firin’ full auto into that lot, cuz I swear to ye now, it won’t bring ‘em down. Now, Joe. What’s the word on the column? Give us some good now, eh?”
The man shrugged through tight lips. “I told ‘em to hurry their arses up, that we were about ta run into some major resistance. They told us to disengage if we could and get back, but that’d mean runnin’ right into those Jerry snipers that’ve got the column tied down anyway. They told us to stand by while the conferred the situation with the higher-ups.”
“Poncy bastards. It’ll take ‘em hours to get their twats in gear and get up here. You tell them to send us somethin’…anything at all, as long as it’s got a bastard amount of firepower to it! A single tank could take out that entire lot piecemeal, I’d reckon. Tell ‘em exactly what I’ve told ye, Joe. There’s at least two more villages and God knows how many farms in the way between Ornel and the column. Reuter’s right. This mob’ll only get larger if we don’t do somethin’ to thin ‘em down. Git on it like ye’ve got a purpose, man!”
Martin turned away from Joe as his friend dashed back to the radio and reestablished contact with the armored column to their rear. Exhaling with a snort of anger and frustration, he joined his German counterpart. “What d’ye think the odds are on this lot comin’ down the road? Smart money would be on them cuttin’ through the woods and hittin’ us from the flanks.”
Reuter considered this. “Jah. That’s how we would do it. But something tells me they aren’t thinking about anything but food. Hell, I don’t believe they’re thinking at all. It looks like some sort of drive…instinct, maybe? I think they’ll follow the road because it’s the obvious thing to do.”
“Ye’re right. We should completely block it. There’s fences on either side of the road, so that should provide us with some impediment ta them getting’ around. If we line the wagon up end ta end wi’ ye’re kubelwagen and the jeep, that’ll at least slow ‘em down and bunch ‘em up enough fer us ta’ take ‘em out one by one.”
“I can’t think of anything better. It’s as good a plan as any.”
As Reuter directed Burkhardt to move the kubelwagen into position, Joe approached Martin with a bitter expression on his face. “I dinnae want ta be the bearer of worse new, Martin. But I spoke wi’ the column again, made contact with Captain Lewis himself. They aren’t movin’, not till that nest of Jerries is cleaned out. I think I fooked us well and good when I said it was a mob of crazy civilians comin’ towards us. They say we’ve got plenty of firepower to intimidate a crowd of civvies and want us to pull crowd control. They’ve gotten into contact with a force of Yanks farther to our north. They said they’d dispatch an observation plane that’s already up in the air to further assess our situation. I’m sorry, mate.”
“Goddammit! Typical officer shite! We get back there, I’m gonna rip that bastard poncy Oxford dilletante’s tongue out! Call ‘em back up again! I’ll give him a piece of me mind directly!”
As Martin stormed off towards the wireless set in the back of the jeep, Hans scanned the road ahead of them with a pair of field glasses retrieved from the kubelwagen. “I know you think my brother is mad, Horst. But I’m telling you, you won’t meet a more down to earth man. He is very practical and doesn’t have the imagination to make up such outlandish stories. If he tells you there are insane cannibals coming towards us, believe him.”
“Jah, don’t be so dour, Horst.” Burkhardt agreed. “Obviously, something happened back there to spook herr Scharfuhrer and that Tommy Sergeant. Why else would they give us our weapons back? Rudi looks frightened out of his mind. He wouldn’t even talk when I tried to approach him. But you have to admit, Hans. It sounds pretty crazy. German citizens going mad and turning cannibal? I can maybe see that in some of the cities. Dresden was hit really hard from what I heard. I heard stories of survivors driven mad by the Amis’ firebombing the place. But this? Aside from Wessel, this area is nothing but farmland. The Amis and the Tommies don’t have anything to bomb here. Food is rationed, but still available. I don’t understand what possibly could have driven them mad. It doesn’t make sense.”
Hans gasped audibly as the first of Ornel’s former inhabitants rounded the bend in the road a few hundred yards ahead of them. “Mein Gott…It’s not possible…”
He handed the binoculars to Burkhardt and shrank back into his seat. The Luftwaffe ground trooper looked through the lenses and swore a long string of profanity before handing them in turn to Horst.
The caustic skeptic couldn’t put the glasses down. Burkhardt noted that his companion’s face had gone noticeably pale. “How much ammunition do we have left? How much is in those ammo boxes behind the seat? Rudi is going to have his hands full bringing us stripper clips. Ach du lieber…I can’t believe what I’m seeing. They look…dead.”
Burkhardt. Looked down the sights on his Mauser, nervous to fire even though he knew they were still out of range. “I’ve already counted. We’ve got maybe thirty rounds left.”
“Shit.” Horst spat under his breath.
Just then the drone of an engine approaching cut through the air above them. A lone American observation plane shot slowly over the trees of the forest running to the north of the roadside. It waggled its wings in recognition to the British soldiers below before veering off to make a pass at the throng of people approaching their position.
“Jesus Christ, what the hell is going on down there?” The pilot hit the transmit button on his radio. “Kettle, this is Lima Bean. We have reached the coordinates forwarded to us by the Limeys, over.”
“Acknowledged, Lima Bean. What’s the situation look like, Ralph? Over.”
“Kettle, I don’t know what the hell is happening on the ground. It looks like there’s Krauts down there with the Brits. Looks like they’re working together. They’ve got the road blocked off and there’s a crowd of about fifty or sixty people approaching them from about two hundred yards away. Observation of the village shows that there’s fires burning in the main square, lots of bodies lying around, also a couple dozen people just standing around doing nothing. There’s also a jeep parked in the road just outside the village with bodies lying around it too, couple of civvies milling around. Looks like they’ve seen some action down there, over.”
“Please repeat that first part again, Lima Bean. The Brits and Krauts are working together? Acknowledge, over.”
“That’s an affirm, Kettle. The British and German troops on the ground appear to be working together. They’ve got a roadblock set up, a kraut vehicle, a civilian horse-drawn wagon and another jeep. We’re coming around for another look at their position, over.”
“Lima Bean, assess how many troops appear to be on the ground, over.”
“Kettle, we can spot four Brits and five Germans. They seem…holy crap! Jesus God! Kettle, they’ve begun firing into the crowd! Say again, the troops on the ground are firing at will into the crowd approaching them. They don’t look like they’re armed! Those people were just walking towards them! Please advise, Kettle. Repeat, please advise! What the hell are we supposed to do, sir?”
Back in the CP tent of the American camp, Lieutenant Colonel David Kaplan of the 413th Regiment, 104th infantry Division’s reconnaissance detachment rubbed his eyes in disbelief and weariness. When was this shit finally going to be over with? Four days after crossing the Roer, the division had gone through hell fighting for Mannheim. Then there was that mess in Operation Grenade, taking all those friggin’ dams in the Roer valley. Now this? What in God’s name was wrong with those goddamned limeys?
“Lima Bean, this is Kettle. Maintain position and keep us posted. Get some photos of this shit while you’re at it. We’ll advise momentarily. Kettle out.”
Colonel Kaplan sighed and looked to his radio operator. “Son, get me that British column again and tell them I want the frequency of the people they’ve got on the ground down there. I’m going straight to the horse’s mouth on this. I want to talk to the man in charge of that rabble and find out just what the hell he’s playing at. This is beginning to stink like last week’s laundry and I want to know why.”