A story inspired by Castello di Briolio - Episode 43

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...


Mayer fought the urge to panic, and then to consider giving himself up.  He remembered what the Standartenfuhrer said and knew that it was not an option.

He slid back into the forest, then far enough back, stood, and ran, the thick snow not only hampering his speed but also covering the sound of his flight. 

He stopped and listened for the sound of the following soldiers, but all he could hear was the sound of a locomotive and his breathing.  His heart was pounding, not used to such exercise or fear.

The soldiers must have stopped where the running person had fallen, and then on the verge of the tree line when the Standartenfuhrer had been shot.

He kneeled down and struggled to catch his breath.  He had the bad the Standartenfuhrer had thrust upon him as they got out of the car, and hoped it had a map, but it was too dark to look now.

From earlier, he remembered the other side of the railway tracks had trees too, and the road that led to the border, the village, if there was one, and the railway station.  There would also be a small shunting area, freight sheds, or something else to hide in, maybe even a signal tower.

Somewhere warm, and with some light, so he could plan his next move.  He was not sure what the Standartenfuhrer Had planned, but it certainly could not be by car the whole way, and they would not make the rendezvous by walking.

The plan had to include going by train.

Brenner pass was along the main track from Austria to the south of Italy, and from an earlier look at a map, the train would go through F, Verona, Bologna, to Florence where he would find the next guide.

Details of that guide hopefully were in the bag, a bag that he would have to hide or lose if he was captured because it would give away the escape route and resistance members who helped those fleeing Germany.

If he had time or could think straight.  The cold was making that very difficult.  And there was the shock of losing the Standartenfuhrer.

 

It took five minutes to regain a certain amount of calm and be able to think. 

First, he had to get back to the tree line and see where he was, in proximity to the village, and the railway tracks.

That took about ten minutes carefully picking his way through the trees.  There was no path, it was dark, and he kept hitting low branches and getting covered in snow. There was enough down the back of his neck to make him very uncomfortable.

When he reached the tree line he looked back from where he had been, about a kilometer, and he could see the torches of the soldiers milling around where he and the Standartenfuhrer had been.  The train was still there, the locomotive’s light blazing in front, lighting a short distance of the track in front of it, almost blindingly bright. 

He was not sure why it was waiting on the track.

Looking the other way, there were two sets of tracks, a wide clear area, then another track with several flat cars and a guards van sitting in darkness, all of which were covered in snow.  They were not being used, so the van might provide some shelter.

He just had to get over there, about 100 meters distant.  The problem, there were lights, not very bright, at regular distances, but short enough that a man might present a shadowy outline if anyone was looking.

If he stayed low and run fast, it might just work.

A train whistle in the distance, coming from Italy caused him to shrink back into the cover of the trees.  Another train was coming.  It was oddly busy at a very late hour.

The locomotive also had a bright light that lit up the edge of the tree line, so he had to go further back to get away from it, and wait until the train passed.  It had a lot of flat cars with tanks and troop carriers on it, going back to Germany.  There were no soldiers so perhaps the equipment was needed elsewhere, maybe that final push to England he kept hearing about.

Once that train passed, the one that had been waiting finally restarted it's journey south and slowly rumbled past him.  It was almost like a passenger train with no priority had had to wait until essential war trains passed.

When that train had gone, the surrounding area descended into a quiet, also silent field.  The snow had begun to fall heavier, which would be advantageous, and after several long looks in both directions, he ran, crossing the tracks, the empty space, and then to the guard van where he hid between it and the freight car until he caught his breath.

And see if anyone had seen him, expecting whistles and shouting coming from up the track.

Another look showed that only two torches remained back where there had been frenetic activity.  He hoped they considered they had caught the people they were looking for.

He went down the side of the guard's van to the door, climbed the ladder, and tried the door.  It was unlocked.  There was no reason why it would be locked.

He went in and shut the door, and immediately it was warmer, and certainly dryer.  IT was impossibly dark inside, so he felt around in the bag and found a torch.  Someone had been clever enough to add a torch and some first aid equipment.  The papers included a map.

He checked the cabin for windows and found the shutters were closed, so he didn't have to stifle the torches light.  A further check showed a bed at the end of the cabin, with a blanket, musty but dry.

There was a stove, a kettle with water, and a tin of tea leaves.  He wasn’t going to start a fire, so no tea.  There was no food, so the hunger would have to remain for a while longer.  The water tasted alright, but he could melt some snow if he needed more.

A place to stay, at least until daybreak when it would be wise to get into the forest on the roadside, and head towards the village, or perhaps wait for a train and see if he could hide on it for the trip south.

First, though he needed some rest.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021


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