Chapter 22 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 22

They drove by truck to a rundown warehouse with a number of vehicles parked outside. The sign said “Uncle Sammy’s Used Cars and Trucks.” Tom shook his head in disbelief.

“Now who’s using bad codes?”

Landry grinned unapologetically. “It was suggested by our OSS contact.” He went on to explain that, after telling top brass that he was staying behind after being cut off by the German attack, he was directed to head towards Toronto and that they would be contacted by people from the OSS.

This had occurred and they had traveled by trucks and busses that had been acquired by the OSS. Landry said he had no idea whether these were abandoned, bought, or stolen, and that he didn’t care.

“My men refused to wear German uniforms, even though some did before when we took the Blue Water Bridge, so people are trying to get us civilian clothes or police uniforms. I favor the latter since my men all have military haircuts and would otherwise stand out.”

“I wouldn’t want to wear a German uniform either,” Tom said, “so try to find something else in my size. Do you have a radio?”

“Yes, sir, and we keep moving it so they can’t triangulate on us. We think the German army has other things on its mind, but that leaves their Gestapo and the shits from the Black Shirts.”

“Any fresh messages?”

“One that’s really unsettling, colonel. It may be that the Gestapo is planning to do something awful to our POWs and the Canadians currently held by them."

A few score miles away, Field Marshal Heinz Guderian glared intensely at Neumann. “I don’t believe things are that desperate. I would never consider killing prisoners; nor do I believe that circumstances could ever become so dire as to necessitate it.”

“Then you have not been reading your own casualty reports. You’ve lost a third of your armor and planes and about the same amount of you manpower. The Americans now outnumber you by at least three to one and are exerting pressure on all fronts. Patton’s army may be the farthest away, but General Raus’s command could collapse at any time. Then the race to Toronto would be on. You need a strategy that does not require a new army and I am confident that I can stop the American advance in its tracks. All I need is to show them a few bloody American and Canadian corpses stiffening on the ground and they will halt. The Jews who run America would be horrified that Gentiles are dying at our hands and on their behalf. They would do anything to prevent the blood of Christians from making the American people realize that it is the Jews who are responsible for their deaths.”

“How and when will you announce this?” Guderian said coldly.

Neumann smiled. “At first, quietly. We already have a conduit to the U.S. Not all their embassy and other diplomatic personnel were repatriated when the war started. A number of them remained for a variety of reasons and at least a couple of them are deeply sympathetic to the fascist cause.”

“And the rest are spies, I’ll wager.”

“Doubtless, but they are all are being carefully watched.”

Neumann left. Guderian waited a couple of moments, deep in thought. He pushed a buzzer on his desk and Koenig entered.

“Did you hear?”

“Yes, field marshal.”

“He is capable of doing it. I read his dossier. He once led a unit into a Polish village near where partisans were active. There was no evidence that anyone in that village was in any way involved, but that didn’t matter. He had roughly five hundred men, women and children gathered up. The women and children were raped repeatedly in front of each other and the men. When they were done, all of them were stuffed into a large barn and the barn was set on fire. When burning people tried to escape, his men gunned them down. In a way, that was a mercy. So, yes, he is capable of killing all those people. He would have had that ship full of Jews scuttled if he had thought ahead and realized there was a chance that the Americans would stop it.”

“Sir, what is my assignment?”

“Quite simple, captain. You are to follow him, find out what he specifically plans to do.”

“Am I to try to stop him?”

“I will let you know what, if anything, to do at the proper time.”

“But sir, isn’t he doing what the Fuhrer wants?”

“Is that what you wish, Koenig? And what do you think the Americans will do when they take you prisoner and find out that you aided and abetted that monster?”

Canfield’s battalion moved out cautiously. The beachhead perimeter had been expanded by about three miles in all directions and more troops had landed and were filling the beachhead. This time, however, they were organized and ready.

They were still confronted by large numbers of German soldiers and the Germans had been fighting desperately. Nor had the beachheads on the German side of the Niagara River been significantly expanded. German artillery still had the range of the pontoon bridges, which meant that comparatively few tanks had crossed.

There was a sharp explosion and everyone fell to the ground. A scream followed along with cries for a medic. One of his men had stepped on a mine. The German anti-personnel mines were terrible things. Once stepped on, a spring of some kind launched them into the air and the exploded at approximately waist height. GIs were fearful of being castrated by these things that they called ‘bouncing betties.’ The advance would halt until the mines could be cleared.

The screaming stopped. He and Dubinski looked at each other. The guy had probably died and that was a fate worse than castration. Since the German attack, the battalion had gotten fed, been given fresh equipment, and supplied with a ton of ammo. They’d also gotten fifty fresh replacements who looked scared and innocent. Canfield thought they looked just like the others had when the fighting had first started. Everyone looked scared, but the veterans were no longer innocent. They had a haunted, desperate look in their eyes.

Rumor had it that the krauts were pulling back and abandoning the Niagara River line, which meant that they had to pass in front of the men in Truscott’s beachhead. This also meant that the Germans would fight desperately to keep the route to the north and rear open. They were all aware of the geographic anomaly. The German escape route to the north actually led to the west because of the way the land between lakes Erie and Ontario curved. No matter. When the time came they would all head north and east to Toronto.

German machine guns opened up with their insane chattering. They actually had a different sound than American guns and were, just about everyone thought, much better weapons. A German anti-tank gun fired and it was followed by the whump of an explosion. Another American Sherman tank had died because the Germans had better anti-tank guns as well.

“All we can do is try to overwhelm them,” Canfield thought aloud. Dubinski and he others understood that he wasn’t talking to them and kept quiet. They also understood that overwhelming the Germans meant that a large number of them would die or be maimed.

His radioman signaled for him to come over. “What’s up, corporal?”

“Sir, Lieutenant Kosinski says he can see water.”
Canfield crouched and trotted the couple of hundred yards to where Kosinski’s men waited. That a lieutenant commanded a company was a result of the heavy casualties they’d suffered. Their captain had been killed the day before.

He found Kosinski in a stand of trees. “Where’s the water?” he asked.

“If you climb up a tree, colonel, you can see it. It’s definitely Lake Erie and that means we’ve cut the bastards off.”

“Either that or they’ve all escaped,” Canfield said. “And I will pass on climbing a tree. I assume your men are pushing forward?”

“Most definitely, sir.”

Canfield moved out with the lieutenant and was shortly looking at both the lake and the road that led to Hamilton. There were ships on the lake and he presumed they were American. The road, however, was empty. The krauts had escaped. Well, he thought grimly, what had he expected?

Ike and Bradley were ecstatic. With the collapse of the German river defenses, it meant that they could get a proper army across the Niagara and commence pushing north. It also meant that they could send warships through the Welland Canal and on to Lake Erie.

Only a few days earlier the first American warships since the war of 1812 had appeared in Lake Ontario. It was a flotilla consisting of two heavy cruisers, four light cruisers, and eight destroyers. Additional support vessels were arriving almost every hour. The original flotilla had been sent up the St. Lawrence under the cover of scores of land-based planes and had arrived without significant incident. A few shots had been fired, but guns and planes had put a stop to it.

Nor did it go unnoticed that the guns of fourteen warships could savage German formations trying to escape via the road along the coast to Hamilton and then on to Toronto. The two generals now agreed that they should have had the navy attempt to run the gauntlet earlier. Their only regret was that the Germans had gotten away to fight another day.

“We almost had them,” Bradley said.

“They fooled us,” said Eisenhower. “They moved their men and equipment out quietly and at night. Some of our commanders suspected, but couldn’t do anything against a rear guard that fought like the devil.”

“Well, Ike, at least we now have the Canal.”

Ike lit a fresh cigarette from the stub of an old one. “You’re assuming that they haven’t sabotaged it too badly. Between the Germans and Canadian partisans, it might be a long while before our ships can go through it.”

“Yeah, but I’m confident our engineers can get the thing working in short order. They might have damaged, even destroyed, the locks, but the ditch will still be there. Right now I’ve got men assessing the damage and we’ll start working and do what has to be done. One of the questions I’ve already gotten asked is what should be done about the carcasses of three U-boats in the canal.”

Ike grinned. The raids had sealed the fate of the Kriegsmarine on Lake Erie. It reminded him that he had to find time to pin a medal on the young pilot who’d lost a leg in the endeavor.

Most important, control of Erie meant that Americans could land anywhere they wanted along the coast. The Germans fighting Patton would have to pull back or find themselves trapped. Only this time, they might not be so lucky.

“Blow the damn things up,” Ike said genially.

Heinrich Stahl swore as he saw the police barricades keeping him several blocks away from his destination, a nondescript rooming house where four of his men lived. To the best of his knowledge, they were the last Germans still alive and active.

The very large number of cops surrounding it were heavily armed and appeared to be very nervous. Why not, he thought angrily. They had found his last source of German manpower in the city.

He wasn’t worried about being recognized. Not only were all eyes on the shabby boarding house he could barely see in the distance, but he had taken pains to change his appearance. His head had been partly shaved to simulate baldness and what hair remained had been died white. He had cotton stuffed in his cheeks and padding in his clothing gave him a fine middle-aged gut. Using a cane added to the effect and nobody cared if he had an accent. His papers said he was a Dane.

What did concern him was losing four good men, especially when there were no others. It also meant he could not go back to his current residence in a cheap hotel. He didn’t think that there was anything about him in the apartment shared by the four Germans, but he couldn’t be certain. He swore at the injustice of it all. How could he continue to serve the Reich?

Stahl prided himself on his memory, which some said was photographic. Thus, he stared at the very pretty young woman in a WAC uniform who was with another army officer. Where the hell had he seen them before? He searched his memory and found the answer. While he’d been questioning the fool scientist from that place called Camp Washington, the two of them had been sitting on a bench not too far away and pretending to be lovers. He’d thought it strange at the time that they’d been sitting together in the cold wet weather, but had put it down to idiots being in love. Now he knew better. Those two had been instrumental in unraveling his intelligence network along with the FBI and the Washington police.

He thought about using the pistol in his pocket and blowing their brains out, but thought better of it. He might get away in the confusion, but possibly not. At any rate, he’d be on the run with pursuit too close for comfort.

Gunfire ripped through the air and people around him screamed and threw themselves onto the ground. Stahl did likewise. It would be foolish and possibly fatal to remain standing. It would also be awful if he was wounded and sent to a hospital where they would quickly realize that he wasn’t what he appeared to be.

The firing had come from the rooming house and the cops replied with an enormous volley that ripped wood from the side of the building. Bullets pierced the walls and Stahl wondered how many were striking flesh. He recalled a time when he and his men fired into a farmhouse in Poland, shredding it, and later seeing only the pulped bodies of the family that lived there. Too bad, he thought.

The Germans inside fired again and a cop fell to the ground, his leg smashed. Someone yelled Heil Hitler and four armed men came out screaming and firing. Stahl watched in admiration. They would rather die fighting instead of by hanging or the electric chair. They were heroes.

The police were frozen for a moment, but then began shooting. Bullets from scores of pistols and shotguns hit the Germans. They danced and jumped as they were struck until they fell to the ground where they were shot some more.

Someone called for the firing to stop and the silence was stunning. In a moment the police gingerly moved forward. Along with others, Stahl got to his feet. It was time to leave. He saw the WAC and she seemed shocked by the carnage. Good, he thought, and then had an idea. He had to hide someplace and that idiot scientist might just finally make himself useful to the Reich.

“Why am I not surprised?” said Grant as he shook hands with Detective Sam Lambert. “Are you Maple today or do I use your real name?”

“Hey, you can call me Maple and you can call her Leaf,” he said and nodded to an attractive woman who stood very close to Lambert.

“My name is Sherry,” she said and held out her hand. She smiled but Tom could see sadness in her eyes. “I don’t like trite code names, and I especially don’t like Uncle Sammy’s Used Cars,” she added.

Landry had been listening and he was totally unapologetic. The building now housed his two platoons plus enough transportation to carry them. Thanks to Lambert, they now had enough police uniforms for maybe half of them. He’d been giving considerable thought as to how to free the prisoners at both camps and had suggested that his “police” escort additional “prisoners” into either or both sites and then attack the real guards. Lambert had liked the idea and, after talking with Grant, he too had thought it workable.

Sherry announced that she would be willing to do whatever was necessary. Perhaps as a woman, she might be able to distract the guards or even get in to see someone important. She particularly wanted a chance to get at Neumann. Grant saw how close she was sitting to Lambert and the cold anger in her eyes. To his surprise, Lambert supported her desires. He didn’t appear to like it, but he was not going to argue with her. Tom wondered if he would have given in to Alicia’s going to see the enemy. He realized that his new wife would likely do as she damned well pleased.

They had sandwiches and a chilled bottle of Molson for a quick meal. It was decided that Tom would be given a quick tour of the possible targets - the farm, the two prison camps, and the Gestapo headquarters in Toronto. “We’ll move you at night, of course,” said Landry. “Since everyone does that to avoid being strafed or bombed, it won’t attract any attention. Of course, sir, you realize that freeing those people will only be the first part of our problems. Actually, freeing them might be the easy part.”

Grant saw where the lieutenant was going. “Yeah. What the hell do we do with them afterwards? We’ve got to find a place to stash them until the army arrives.”

“And that might just wind up being a while,” said Sherry.

Lambert started laughing. “Look, you free them and I’ll find a place to hide them.”

Stahl thought the little frame house on a side street in Washington was far less than an outstanding scientist or academic should have. Along with being small, the paint was peeling and the grass on the lawn was a distant memory. Apparently, professors were not as honored in the U.S. as they were in Germany. Of course, Doctor Langford Morris might not be held in such high esteem anymore. If the Americans had indeed been watching their conversation in the rainy park, then Langford might be in the proverbial dog house. However, if the Americans suspected the professor of treason, why was he free? Stahl had checked and there was no sign that the professor was under observation. The only sign of life was an old lady on a rocking chair on the porch of a house across the street.

He knocked on the door and waited several minutes. Lights were on, so Langford was probably at home. Perhaps he was napping?

Finally, he heard scuffling footsteps and the door opened. “Yes,” said Langford, puzzled and unrecognizing. His breath reeked of alcohol.

Stahl gently but forcefully pushed him aside. “We need to talk.”

Recognition dawned. “Oh my lord, what are you doing here?”

Stahl sat on a living room chair. “One might ask what are you doing living in this quaint little ruin?”

Langford flushed. “Since the incident with that little Italian slut, my wife has filed for divorce and all but left me. Whenever I can, I spend a little time here where I don’t have to listen to her or endure the laughter of my so-called colleagues.”

“But you are still working at a secret location and you are still privy to its secrets?”

“Of course, and it’s a shame you didn’t listen to me. I could now be an honored man in Europe and you would have medals galore given you by that Austrian corporal.”

Stahl didn’t like the Fuhrer being scorned as an Austrian corporal, but kept silent. Later, he told himself.

“Would you like a summary of how much we know?” Langford asked.

“But of course.”

“Good, because I’d like to tell you if only to rub it in. To begin with, in the Pacific the American navy has surrounded the Home Islands of Japan and the Japanese people are starving by the millions while their cities are bombed and shelled to ashes. The fools in Tokyo are too stubborn to surrender even though their cities are being incinerated and their children are dying of hunger.”

“That is not news, Langford. It’s in all the papers.”

“Then how about the fact that Stalingrad has been retaken by the Soviets and that Paulus is surrounded? He has asked permission to surrender what’s left of his Sixth Army but has been told to fight to the last man. More than a million German soldiers have been killed, wounded, or taken prisoner with a lot more to follow. If the Reds are able to follow up, they will have very little in the way of German troops to stop them.”

“That cannot be true,” Stahl said angrily. Deep down, however, he knew that the attack towards the Urals might have been just too far and that the Reich might have overreached itself.

“Ah, but it is. It is also true that the Kriegsmarine has lost more than a third of its submarine force and is no longer operating off the American coast in any strength. No more wolfpacks, just solo U-boats. American submarines are operating out of Portugal and Iceland and are making life hell for the German navy. Thanks to America’s hold on Gibraltar, they are now sinking German and Italian ships in the Mediterranean as well. There is now very little that Germany can do to prevent the food convoys from reaching Great Britain. Oh yes, Britain’s Royal Navy did get their hand on some oil tankers from so-called neutral nations and have destroyed the Argentine and Brazilian navies. Brazil has asked for a cease fire and Argentina will shortly do so as well since the Royal Navy is making a nuisance of itself by bombarding their cities. As a part of any cease fire, Hitler has suggested, urged, that the Argentines abandon the Falklands. The Argentines, of course, feel betrayed.”

Stahl’s mind whirled. The loss of Argentina and Brazil meant nothing, but so many U-boats destroyed? It could not be. Success on the seas was critical to the success of Operation North Storm and the existence of the North Reich.

“It gets worse, Herr Stahl. Guderian has informed Hitler that he cannot hold Canada. He has lost too much in the way of men, planes, and tanks, and does not feel he can hold off a vastly larger American force very much longer. After some initial defeats, the Americans are turning out to be fast learners. I give the Germans a few weeks at best. Too many defeats and the Reich might just find herself all alone in the world. Or perhaps Germany will have a new leader once the seriousness of the defeats comes out?”

Stahl could scarcely contain his anger. Replace Hitler? Never. How do you replace a god?

Langford picked up a half-filled glass of what looked like whiskey and took a long swallow. “And do you know what’s even more ironic?”

“I have no idea, Professor Langford.”

“The fucking Italian bitch miscarried. All I had to do was wait and there would have been no pregnancy. I’ve heard that she’s coming back to work and that her absence will be blamed on a stomach condition. Of course, all you had to do was believe me and you might still have your precious submarines since we were picking up all their transmissions. Admiral Doenitz requires them to call mommy every day and the Americans just listen and locate and then kill.”

This cannot be happening, Stahl thought. Could it really be that the Yanks were indeed reading Germany’s prized codes? He could not be certain, but Germany had to be informed of the possibility. But how to let the Reich know?

There was a more immediate problem, however. “Professor, does this squalid palace have a basement, a cellar?”

“Yes, but it has a dirt floor. Why?” he laughed rudely, “Were you thinking of living down there?”

“Show me.”

Walking unsteadily, Langford led him down to the dark and dank cellar. The ceiling was barely five feet high. There were no windows. Stahl smiled. “How much longer is your leave?”

“I just started. Two weeks.”

“Excellent,” Stahl said. He pulled out his pistol and smashed the butt into Langford’s nose.

The professor grabbed his bloody face and collapsed, gasping and bleeding profusely. Stahl hit him several times more. He crumpled on the floor and lay still. Stahl checked for a pulse and there was none. Langford was dead and he deserved to be.

Stahl looked around for something to dig with. He smiled as he saw a shovel leaning against the wall. A grave would be so much better than leaving him to rot like he’d had to do with the skinny nigger who’d tried to rob him. Now he had a place to live, at least for a short while. If any neighbors cared, he was a friend from Camp Washington where he knew they had a lot of foreigners. Now all he had to do was figure out a way to inform Germany that their codes might be compromised and, oh yes, find a way to get to safety.

Alicia had decided that she’d had enough of gunfights and seeing bodies laid out on slabs. She’d been spared the ordeal of telling the police and FBI that none of the dead Germans was Stahl as none of them even remotely resembled him. Agent Dunn had handled that part.

“Just what happened to the naïve young school teacher I used to be?”

Missy Downing handed her another glass of cheap wine. They’d come to the conclusion that cheap was all that was available in Washington.

“As we’ve discussed before, it’s called growing up and growing up in wartime is more intense than at any other time. Look at yourself. You showed up a shy little almost virgin and now you’re a combat vet with a Purple Heart and married to boot. When this is over, I don’t see you being satisfied with teaching art and music to adolescent girls.”

“I don’t either and I wasn’t an almost virgin, I was a virgin. But, if I am going to work, what options are open to women? Right now, maybe millions of women are working in factories replacing men who are in the military. When the war ends, the men will return and want their jobs back and I won’t blame them. It’d be a rotten thing to tell a returning GI thanks for saving our country and maybe for getting wounded and maimed as well, but now you’re unemployed because a woman took your place.”

“Life ain’t fair,” Missy said.

Her voice was slightly slurred. They had been drinking for a while. After the shooting, Alicia had been ordered to take a few days off. A couple of days earlier she’d managed to get a phone call through to Tom who joked about her being in more combat than he, but his worries came through loud and clear. He wanted her safe. Well, she wanted him safe as well. She knew there had been heavy fighting and she also knew he’d likely be more involved in the future.

She didn’t want him fighting anyone, not even the Germans. No, she wanted him at home and in bed with her. She wanted her legs wrapped around him and his manhood deep inside her. Sometimes she broke out in a sweat when she thought too much of the times they had and, hopefully, would have in the future. She understood that millions of wives and girlfriends were thinking exactly the same desperate and carnal thoughts and it didn’t matter whether they were American or German.

“Damn war,” she said and held out her empty glass.

Wade Dylan, late of the U.S. State Department in Toronto was getting worried. When he’d volunteered to stay behind in Toronto and work out of the Swiss Consulate, he had no idea that there would actually be a war or that it would be getting so close. He vaguely recalled some military thugs he’d had to chastise for trying to cause trouble in Canada. He wondered if they’d had a hand in starting the war. He thought it was a distinct and unpleasant possibility.

So far, his diplomatic immunity had kept him out of any difficulties with the authorities, although some Germans had looked askance at his American credentials. Fortunately, a friend at the Swiss consulate had solved that problem by issuing him a Swiss diplomatic passport.

He knocked and entered Gestapo chief Oscar Neumann’s office. As usual, Dylan was greeted warmly and offered some cognac which he happily accepted. Neumann, he thought, was quite a gentleman. After a few pleasantries, Neumann came to the point.

“And what can I do for you Mr. Dylan?”

“As you are well aware, my government knows that I remained behind as an unofficial liaison between our two governments.”

“Of course,” Neumann responded with a hint of impatience that went right over Dylan’s head. Damn diplomats, he thought. Must everything be a lengthy and tightly choreographed ballet?

“My people in Washington are concerned about the safety of American civilians and prisoners of war as the fighting gets nearer to Toronto. My government would hope that nothing occurs to harm them.”

“They do realize we are at war, don’t they?” he said acidly. “Bombs are falling and planes are strafing anything that moves. It is more than conceivable that prisoners could be hurt, especially if we decide to move them.”

“Will they be moved?”

Neumann shrugged. “In large part, that depends of Guderian and Eisenhower. Even though I am very confident that your Americans will be stopped in short order and well before reaching Toronto, we cannot rule out that possibility.”

“The American forces will be stopped? Everything I’ve heard is that they are advancing steadily.”

“Of course,” Neumann answered. He wondered just which side this Dylan creature was on. “Guderian has many assets he hasn’t used, along with marvelous and deadly weapons that are quite secret. My real concern is that Americans will infiltrate and try to force the prisoners’ freedom. If that happens, there will be fighting and your American prisoners will be in the middle. It cannot be helped.”

Neumann smiled and leaned over. “Of course, anything you can do to help stop such rash actions would be greatly appreciated.”

Dylan stood and the two men shook hands. Neumann did not give the Nazi salute. That would be pushing it a little too much.

“I will endeavor to keep you informed if I hear anything,” Dylan said and departed.

Shithead, Neumann thought.