A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 21

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

Chiara knew the moment she told Martina that one of the Germans was dead, she would be in trouble.  Not only from the resistance but from the British or whoever they were, up at the castle.

The man’s name was Eric Carmichael, and he was a nice man, more of a boy really, having not suffered the full effects of a front line.  He wanted to, but the Gods, as he called them, were against it.

Now he was dead.

He had come to the farm, told she was not there and had left again.  The pity of it, on any other occasion, nothing would have happened.  Nobody went out at night, so no one knew of their association.

Of course, if he did tell her anything, which he hadn’t so far, she would pass it on to Martina.  And, perhaps the only annoying thing about him was that he kept asking about the resistance as if it was still operational.  It was one of the reasons who Martina kept her at arm’s length, so she had nothing useful to tell them if they took her in for questioning.

Now it was a matter of seeing if he had told anyone about this affair, and if he did, she would not be safe at the farm.  It was why she was in hiding, waiting, and watching to see if anyone came.

Along with Carlo, and the new man, Atherton.

Not far from where the soldier’s body lay in the ditch, one that no one had yet found.

Until now.

A car was coming along the road quite fast, heading towards her farm.  Atherton recognised it as one of the staff cars from the castle, and as it slowed to turn the corner, Atherton could see it contained three men, the driver, and the two men who had followed him down the stream.

Suddenly the car skidded to a stop.  All three got out and went over to the ditch.  The driver had seen the bicycle.

 

It was an interesting conversation.

“The fool looks like he run off the side of the road and into a tree, fell off and hit his dead on the rocks.”

It was the man who had set me free.  I’d recognise him anywhere.

“Or maybe some ‘innocent bystander’ shoved a wrench in the wheel and he went over the handlebars.”

The big man turned to him.  “You have a story that implicates every member of the enemy population, don’t you?  Where’s the wrench?”

“They could have tossed it away or thrown it into the bushes.”

“The kid’s an idiot.  He was out for some fun and had his mind everywhere but on the job.  If she’s that tempting, maybe I’ll go and have a look in myself.”

The driver took a closer look, then suddenly bolted for the bushes and threw up.  I’d expected more seasoned soldiers in the group of paratroopers, but maybe they were late recruits with only half the training, and barely out of school.  He didn’t look all that old.  Neither had the lad in the ditch.

The tall guy yelled out, “when you finish puking, get over here and help us get him into the car.  Then we’ll meander down to this farm.”

 

Carlo knew a quicker way across the country to their farm.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what he was intending to do.

Three fewer Germans, three fewer problems.

I followed, trying to keep up.

“You got weapons hidden away?”

“Several rifles and a handgun.”

“It’ll do.  When we get there, you say out of sight.  Me and the new laddie here will take care of them.”

A look in my direction told me I’d just been recruited into the killing force.  Exactly what I’d been hoping to avoid.  I guess it was time to make a stand.

A few minutes later we were in the large shed out the rear of the farmhouse, retrieved the rifles, of which one was a sniper rifle, a rather interesting trophy, and not the sort of gun any soldier would leave lying around.

I was tempted to ask where she got but decided against it.  I had an awful feeling the previous owner had met a gruesome if not a sticky end.  Chiara was not just a pretty face.

“You know what to do with this thing?” Carlo said, holding it out in my direction.

“Vaguely, but I think I can manage.”

With it was a carton of shells, rather long and ugly and very deadly, even at long range.  But this time, we were not that far from the target area so wind and external conditions would not be a factor.

Also, I was hoping the sight had been calibrated.

After getting a feel for the weapon I took up a position on top of some hay bales and could see through a large enough crack when I put the barrel, and stretching out, found a comfortable position, and aimed for the back door.

It was like putting out my hand and touching it.  This was going to kick like a mule on the recoil, but I would only have time to worry about reloading for the next target.  Then I realised the driver might be a problem, especially when the shooting started, so I swivelled around to the back end of the house where a vehicle might come, and, saw the blue, altered the sight, and then saw the car approaching slowly.

I was hoping it would remain in sight, so if anything happened, I would be able to pick him off.  It would be all that much harder if he managed to try driving away.

I tracked the car to the point where it stopped, just pat the corner, with only the back half displayed in my sight.

Damn.

In the distance, we heard two car doors slam shut.

The driver was staying put.

Double damn.

A minute later we could hear pounding on the front door, then nothing.  My guess, they kicked in the front door.  There was no one at home, Chiara’s parents were away because they had no crops in the ground.  Their problem was water, and the river was running low this year.  Aside from the fact they were not going to feed the enemy soldiers who would simply take everything and give them nothing in return.

I heard rather than saw Carlo stiffen and resight the back door.  His shots would be far more difficult than mine.

The tall man came out the back door, stood on the ground not far from the door, his head filling my scope.

“Now,” Carlo said softly.

A pull of the trigger and the man’s head exploded, at just the same time as the other man came out.  A reload and another shot.  I missed the head, winged him, and Carlo finished him off.  Once shot at an impossible range.

Another reload, and swivel towards the car, now reversing, and making it very hard to see his face or body to get a clear shot.  Back, around and driving off, in a panic.  He’d heard the two shots.

“The fuel,” Carlo said, “shoot the fuel.”

I lined up where I thought the fuel tank was and squeezed the trigger.

Almost instantaneously the car exploded in a ball of fire.  Just under my line of sight, Carlo was running.  If the driver escaped…

I put the scope on Carli and then to the side.  I saw him raise his gun and fire twice.  The drive must have miraculously thrown clear of the car, only to find himself in Carlo’s sights.

Chiara had appeared behind me.  “We have to go,” she said.

I picked up the gun and took it with me.  It could come in handy later on.

Carlo was already heading back to the shortcut through the woods and we met him on the path about twenty yards along.

“That’s going to stir up a hornet’s nest,” he said.

More than that, I thought.  Now Johannsson knew he had a real problem.  There would be a price to pay for this exercise, and the villagers were the ones who would be paying it.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

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