A story inspired by Castello di Briolio - Episode 42
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...
The Standartenfuhrer checked his gun and settled his nerves for an onslaught. If they were going to die, then he was going to kill as many of them as he could.
He threw his hand pistol to Mayer. “Shoot anything that comes in the door.”
Mayer fumbled the weapon, dropping it on the floor, then finding it hard, with cold hands, to pick it up. Perhaps his life wasn’t sufficiently in danger to be more proactive.
The Standartenfuhrer shook his head. Boffins were all the same. The slightest threat and they went weak at the knees. And Mayer was no exception.
Mayer managed to get the gun into his hand.
“Don’t forget to turn off the safety.”
Mayer looked at the gun and found the switch.
At the same time, another burst of gunfire ricocheted off the walls of the hut. It was followed by a harsh order to stop firing, and save the ammunition for the enemy. There was also a mutter about alerting the enemy, but that ship had sailed.
The soldiers seemed content to shoot randomly at the cabin, rather than check to see if anyone was inside, and soon the sounds of men, guns, and dogs were gone. The dogs had not picked up their scent, and the Standartenfuhrer had managed to cover their tracks sufficiently to keep them at bay.
Relief, but not enough to rest. The Standartenfuhrer knew they had to keep moving.
In the background, both could hear a stream locomotive at slow speed passing. In the circuitous route they’d taken to escape, they must have circled back towards the railway line which must be on the other side of the forest.
That proximity of the railway line would work in their favor because the next phase of the journey was going to be on a train.
Just not one full of soldiers, if possible.
After a half-hour, just to ensure the soldiers didn’t return, the Standartenfuhrer dragged himself up off the ground.
“We’d better move. They’re likely to come back or had a second sweep when they don’t find us.”
“Surely we can have a rest.”
“If you want to get caught. I don’t have to tell you what they’ll do to you if that capture you.”
“Probably send me back to that hell hole.”
“Hitler is not that forgiving. The odds are you’ll be handed over to the SS and I’m sure you’ve seen what those people are capable of.”
He had, especially with the forced labor from the Jewish camps and POW camps. At times it beggared belief.
Mayer dragged himself up off the floor.
The Standartenfuhrer checked his weapon, then looked out through the crack in the door. It was dark and snowing, not too heavy, but enough to hide their movement. It was a shame their coats were dark, they would stand out against the white background, but it couldn't be helped. That was a problem for daylight, still some hours away.
“Keep your weapon handy. You may need it.”
Mayer was worried his hands would be too cold and stiff, and instead of having it in his hand, slipped it into his pocket. He didn't think too many people would be about at this hour.
“Once outside, head straight for the trees, as fast as you can.”
The Standartenfuhrer was in the doorway one second, gone the next, and Mayer followed. He could just see the dark figure in front of him, then almost ran into him when he stopped just past the first line of trees.
He could see lights intermittently through the trees, a train or houses along the railway line perhaps.
It was much darker in the forest, and they had to go slower, picking their way through the trees, running into low branches, and getting a face full of wet snow, often trickling down the back of their necks.
It was cold, wet, and very uncomfortable.
The Standartenfuhrer stopped. The trees had thinned, and the lights became more pronounced. They could now definitely hear a locomotive close by, and a train well lit up stopped. The windows were fogged from condensation on the inside, but it was clear enough to see heads.
It was a passenger train, waiting.
A piercing whistle shattered the relative quiet, and another train coming in the other direction at speed flashed passed very loudly, the wheels of the carriages clanking on the track joints. An empty freight train with many flat cars, going back to Germany.
Then suddenly shouting, a whistle, and gunfire.
A man was running towards them, and several soldiers were in pursuit, randomly shooting in his direction, and into the forest. A shot hit the running person and they fell.
Mayer heard a thud and a groan, then realized that the Standartenfuhrer had been hit. By the time he turned the Standartenfuhrer over, he was dead.
Mayer ducked out of sight just before torchlight shone on the spot he was crouching.
There was another shout, and the soldiers started heading towards him.
© Charles Heath 2020-2021
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