A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 29

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 with 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…

 

They reached a point a few kilometers from what was known as Brenner Pass at four in the morning, having navigated their way through patchy snow, icy roads, and bitter cold.

Progress at times was slow and the roads were difficult, the driver, at times, nearly losing control of the car.

The checkpoint appeared almost when they were on top of it, one that hadn’t been marked on the map, so they had not been prepared for it. Too late to turn back, they had to stop.

Once again the soldier that came out of the hut beside the boom was an army Unteroffizier who was more concerned about the cold than those in the car.

The Standartenfuhrer once again explained the nature of their business, and again the sentry went back to his hut and made a call.

While he was there the driver was checking the number of other soldiers were in attendance and had pulled his weapon out from under the seat and had it ready to use.

The Standartenfuhrer had done the same, also having checked the extent of the staffing of the post.

Then the driver said, “This looks like one of several. I think we may have walked into a hornet’s nest. The Brenner Pass is very important to the Germans for supplies from Germany to its soldiers in Italy.”

“You think our luck has finally run out?”

They had both seen the guard change expression, from the languid guard worrying more about the cold than a lone car at night, to a soldier who looked like he was about to attend a Nazi rally.

“I think they’ve finally discovered that our friend Mayer is missing.”

“Which means we’re about to get a small platoon of soldiers down on us. OK. You keep them off as long as you can so Mayer and I can get into the woods.”

The Standartenfuhrer turned to Mayer. “This is it, then end of the line for driving. We’re about to get a lot of unwanted visitors.”

He thrust the folder of plans into Mayer’s hands along with a coat.

“Let’s go.”

“Where?” Mayer was almost panic-stricken. The situation was deteriorating with each passing second. He, like the others, could see six men jogging towards them.

Their only advantage was the lack of illumination.

The driver said, “See you on the other side.”

The Standartenfuhrer leaned over, opened the door, and said, forcefully, “Get out, now.”

Mayer tumbled out almost slipping on the icy surface, and the sudden cold hitting him hard.

The Standartenfuher was right behind him, closing the door, and then literally dragging him off the side of the road and towards the tree line about 50 meters away, just barely visible again the dark sky. Thankfully there was no moon peeking through the clouds.
But light snow just began to fall, and it would hide them behind an artificial white wall.

They made it to the edge of the forest just as the soldiers reached the car.

Mayer turned to look and could see the sentry now with a torch, probably checking the car which was now barely visible to them. He had seen three people before, now there was only one.

No time to see the inevitable, the Standartenfuhrer dragged him away with, “We have to go before they bring out the dogs.”

Further into the trees, and moving as quickly as they could through the trees and undergrowth, and at times slipping and sliding on both snow and ice, it was five minutes before they heard six shots in rapid succession, followed by the sound of a machine gun.

“Let’s hope he killed at least six of them before he died.”

The problem was, Mayer thought, there was probably another hundred others waiting to take their place.

 

Mayer had come totally unprepared for the snow, and the cold. At least he had a coat.

Another problem was that he was hungry and that only added to his discomfort. And now they had no means of transport, it was going to take a lot longer to get to Florence, or anywhere for that matter.

An hour passed as they worked their way steadily through the trees, and cover. The dreaded dogs had not been unleashed on them, but they had to assume that someone at the border checkpoint would raise the alarm that there were fugitives in the area, and probably wait until morning before looking for them,

They could calculate how far they had walked and sent in search teams from there.

Or not.

Four hours after they’d left the car, they stumbled upon a cabin. It was not much, having been abandoned quite some time ago and left for the forest to reclaim, but it was shelter and a place to rest. It was not long before first light, and then they could assess their situation.

It was also time for the Standartenfuhrer to give Mayer all the information he needed once he got to Gaiole because at some point they were going to have to split up and Mayer would have to go alone.

Just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse.

 

© Charles Heath 2020

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