Chapter 23 - North Reich - Robert Conroy

North Reich - Robert Conroy (2012)

Chapter 23

Tinker slowly and quietly crawled along on his belly. It had occurred to him that he’d been doing a lot of crawling lately, and especially on nights like this. He didn’t mind. If he could do something to hurt the Germans and help his friend Lambert, and his new friend Sergeant Farnum, it was fine by him. If either man thought that a friendship between a petty thief and a career NCO was unusual, they were too polite to mention it.

He and Farnum slid through a gap in a fence that marked the end of a farmer’s field and moved silently through what remained of the crops. It amazed Tinker just how quietly a big man like Farnum could move. It was like he was just a whisper in the night. Whispers, however, weren’t so heavily armed.

“We getting there, Tinker?”
“Soon, sergeant, real soon.”

A short while later, Tinker put his hand on the other man’s arm. “Now tell me what you see.”

Farnum snorted. It came out as part laugh and part snarl. “It looks like a German tank trying to disguise itself as a haystack.”

“That’s right and there are dozens of them like that, all scattered around and hidden. If you were a pilot flying overhead you’d only see a blob of hay, and anyone one the ground is being kept away.”

“Really? I didn’t see any sentries or guards.”

“It’s the middle of the night and they’re getting tired and sloppy. Contrary to what they’ve been told, they ain’t supermen and they need their beauty sleep.”

Farnum silently agreed. If what they’d been told was true, the German army was being whittled down and the men left were under great strain. American planes could be dropping death on them at any time. This reminded Farnum of something.

“Tinker, do our people know about this place?”

“I don’t think so. I just found it yesterday. Why, are you worried you might get bombed?”

“It crossed my mind.”

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, sergeant. I don’t think the info’s gotten through to your pilots, and I haven’t seen a nighttime attack by your boys yet. Now we’ve got to get closer to that tank. There’s something else you should see.”

When they reached the tank, they carefully stood up in the shadow cast by the moon. The tank was immense and made larger because it was literally wrapped in hay that enhanced its bulk.

“It’s huge, sergeant.”

“That it is,” Farnum said quietly. There was something different about this tank. Not only was it larger, a monster, but the silhouette was different. It dawned on him.

“Tinker, are all the tanks you found shaped like this?”

“A lot of them, yeah, but not all of them. Why?”

“Because this is trouble, big trouble. This is one of their God-damned Panthers, and they are perhaps the best tank in the world. Killing these things has got to be a priority.”

The Panther weighed more than forty tons, had sloped armor, and its main weapon was a high velocity 75mm gun. The U.S. simply didn’t have anything that could stand up to it. Of course, there hadn’t been any fights between Panthers and Shermans, but it looked to him like that time might be right around the corner.

“We could open up the fuel cap and drop in some dirt and rocks. That’s stop them.”

“That’d only slow them down, Tinker. Somehow I think they’ve got mechanics who would fix them, and an inventory of spare parts. No, these babies have got to be bombed.”

Farnum smiled. He liked the idea of sabotaging at least one of them. As a kid he’d done it to a neighbor’s car. He’d hated the neighbor for kicking his dog and nobody had ever found out.

They found the cap, opened it and quietly dropped in several handfuls of debris. The sergeant wondered if the tank had any kind of filter that would stop trash from getting through to the engine.

They heard voices. A barn at the other end of the field showed light as a side door opened. A couple of German soldiers walked out. They were unsteady; they’d been drinking. He thought about killing them but decided against it. It would be easy, but then the Nazis would know that they’d been discovered.

No, they would get the word up the chain to someone who could send a few dozen bombers to saturate the field with bombs. That would be by far the better way to do it. Get them all, not just one or two.


“Shit,” muttered Tinker. Someone had seen motion from across the field. The sentry who’d spotted them yelled again and then called for help. He had a whistle which he blew frantically, the shrieks piercing the night.

Tinker and Farnum forced themselves to move slowly and deliberately. Maybe the might would still protect them. It would take some minutes for the guard to get reinforcements and get to where they were.

They found the gap in the fence and slithered through. In a short while they were protected by trees and bushes. Behind them, they could hear Germans yelling to each other and arguing. The two men continued on to where they’d parked Tinker’s car. They got in and drove away. They started laughing.

Farnum slapped Tinker on the shoulder. “Let’s go call in some bombs. Then what say we get ourselves a couple of beers and watch from a safe distance.”

Private Hipple no longer felt like deserting and returning to west-by-God Texas. His comrades now respected him, perhaps even feared him. Even Colonel Canfield had become aware of his actions and this time in a positive manner.

Like many men who lived in the still primitive west, he could shoot and shoot extremely well. In his opinion, most of the northern city boys in his unit were miserable shots and, when the fighting began, had either fired wildly or frozen and not fired at all. A lot of them simply shot in the general direction of Europe instead of at the enemy. Not Hipple. He’d killed his first German when they’d attacked the beachhead. It hadn’t been a difficult shot at all. The German had only been a hundred yards or so away and he’d dropped him with one bullet square in the middle of his chest. The kraut had stopped, flailed his arms, and then dropped backwards.

“Great job,” his sergeant had said. Hipple said that it was an easy shot. Killing a running rabbit at two hundred yards was a good shot, he’d added. A quarter of a mile made it a great shot. The sergeant had nothing to say.

He killed his second and third Germans in short order and during the same fight - again nothing difficult, just efficient. His fourth kill was a tank commander who’d foolishly opened his hatch so he could look around. Dumb ass move, he’d commented later. One bullet at four hundred yards had blown the top of the German’s head off. The idiot hadn’t even been wearing a helmet. Even better, whoever was driving the tank put the thing in reverse and disappeared into the smoke, smashing anything that got in his way.

His buddies had cheered him and it felt good. Killer Hipple they’d called him. The lieutenant said he reminded him of Sergeant York, whoever the hell he was.

So now he was officially a sniper. He was supposed to have a spotter, but he’d declined. He said that all the other boys in his company were city types whose idea of stalking meant not yelling too loud. Even the lieutenant, a snotty kid from Harvard, thought that comment was funny and the city boys seemed relieved that they didn’t have to go with him out into no man’s land.

The krauts had an outpost in front of the American lines. It consisted of a couple of soldiers looking for American activity, which was steadily, painfully, creeping up towards Toronto. The Germans were fighting every inch of the way and if he could kill some of them it might save the lives of his new buddies. Thus, he was stalking the outpost. Maybe they even had a sniper with them. The Germans had some boys who were really good shots and he thought it would be real nice to nail one of them.

Hipple had positioned himself during the night. He thought he was a few hundred yards from the Germans. When dawn came, he saw that his estimate had been right. He could see the slight scar in the earth where they had dug in. He caught motion and studied the area before concluding that there were no more than three Germans hidden there.

He waited patiently and didn’t move. It wasn’t difficult. He’d spent lots of time stalking prey and waiting for the prey to come into range was part of the game. He smiled as a German looked over the lip of the small trench. A second German was now visible to that man’s left and Hipple decided that the second man was the sniper.

Hipple grinned and aimed his new rifle, a modified 1903 Springfield. He’d fired it a couple of hundred times and knew it its idiosyncrasies intimately. Ah, a head peered over a sandbag. He shifted slowly so he could aim. He squeezed the trigger and, a second later, the target jumped and fell backward. Hipple was confident the man was dead.

He reloaded quickly; hoping for what he thought would be a normal reaction from the Germans. There, one of the dead man’s comrades had moved to help, thereby exposing his own body. Hipple fired again and the second German collapsed. He was reasonably certain that a third man now cowered in the bottom of the shelter and was probably pissing himself. The German wasn’t going to expose himself or help anyone unless he panicked and tried to run.

He didn’t and Hipple resigned himself to waiting for darkness so he could make his way back to the American lines while the one remaining German did the same thing. He now had two more notches on his rifle, although he didn’t actually carve notches. They would spoil the beauty of the Springfield.

He would report to Colonel Canfield in person. The colonel was very interested in his successes and there had been no further mention of his trying to desert what seemed like an eternity ago. Life was good. He was even beginning to like shit on a shingle.

It was hell having to be afraid of your own planes, but it was better to be safe than sorry. From ten thousand feet, no pilot could tell friend from foe if he was traveling hundreds of miles an hour. Thus, Tom and the others stayed safely in the warehouse and went out only at night and then in small groups.

But he had to move if he was going to do his job. It wasn’t necessary for him to confirm what Tinker and Farnum had discovered. All he had to do was send the information upstream so the air force could bomb the hell out of the field. He just hoped they did it soon before the Germans got smart and moved the tanks since Tinker and Farnum had been discovered.

He was extremely concerned since the tanks were the dreaded Panthers. Although many Americans thought that the Sherman was the best tank in the world, it had never fought the Panther. Intelligence said that the Panther had done very well against the new Russian tank, the T34, and only the fact that the Panther hadn’t been produced in large numbers had kept it from defeating the Soviet’s best armor.

But that was not his immediate concern. He, Lambert, and Landry had all donned Toronto police uniforms and were driving around the outskirts of the city. Their headlights were dimmed against possible discovery and strafing by American planes.

As they drove past the two prison compounds, grim-faced Germans and equally tough-looking Canadian Black Shirts glared at their vehicle. It was as if they held the local police in mild contempt and why not, he thought. The Germans and their cohorts held the upper hand and the cops were largely impotent.

Grant seethed with impotent fury as they drove past and saw the prisoners through the barbed wire. The American soldiers and airmen looked sullen and angry, but otherwise okay. There were no apparent signs of mistreatment and, while thin, they did not look like they’d been starved.

“Why aren’t they in their barracks?” he asked Lambert.

The detective chuckled. “They like to stay out at night. It aggravates the hell out of the krauts who think they’re up to something.”

“I like that,” Tom said and Landry concurred.

The civilians, however, looked cowed and terrified. “Rumor has it,” Lambert said, “that the Black Shirts like to come in and indiscriminately beat the shit out of the men along with molesting and raping the women. The Red Cross has disappeared, so nobody’s watching the bastards. It’s almost as if they know their time is limited so they are going to raise hell while they can.”

“Pricks,” said Landry. “I hope they hang.”

“Thank God we Canadians still hang murderers and, I presume, traitors,” Lambert said grimly.

Later, Tom lay on the floor of the warehouse and tried to get to sleep. He kept seeing the faces behind the wire. He was reasonably confident that they could free the prisoners, but then what? The Germans were retreating, which was good, but it also meant that their lines were compressing and there were now more Germans per square inch than before. Slipping them through German lines was not an option. He would have to be creative and he would also need from help.

Stahl heard car doors slam as he was half dozing in a chair. He got up and went to the front window. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. An army staff car was parked in front and coming up the walk was that damned blond bitch WAC and the same male officer from before. What the hell? How had they found him? Then he realized they hadn’t. If they’d known he was inside there’d be more of them and they’d be heavily armed. These two looked bored, like they were running an errand.

He moved quickly, first unlocking the front door and then moving into the kitchen and closing the door connecting it to the living room. He moved through the kitchen and into the dining room.

The man knocked on the door. Stahl remained silent until he knocked again, this time a little impatiently.

“It’s not locked,” Stahl said. “Come right in.”

The man came in first. Stahl sensed he was looking around and focused on the closed kitchen door. Good. He moved quietly until he was only a few feet behind them. The man hadn’t even taken out his pistol, while Stahl had his in his hand.

He lunged and brought the pistol butt hard against the man’s skull. It landed with a sickening crack. He crumpled and without even checking on his condition, Stahl turned and had the gun pointed at a stunned Alicia’s face.

“Don’t move unless I tell you and don’t scream or even talk if you want you and your friend to live through this. Understand?”

She nodded and he ordered her to lie face down on the floor with her hands on her head. He quickly patted her down, enjoying the feel of her body, and confirmed that she had no weapon. Nor was there one in her purse. Stahl checked the male officer and saw that he was breathing, although irregularly. He wondered if he’d fractured the man’s skull. Too bad if he had, he decided.

He unplugged a couple of lamps and yanked out the cords. These he used to tie Alicia’s hands behind her back and her ankles together.

He found some more cords and tied up the still unconscious officer.

Stahl sat down on the couch and looked through their ID cards. “Now, Lieutenant Cutter, just what are you doing here? Who sent you?”

She had managed to roll over and sit up. Alicia wanted to tell him that her name was now Grant and not Cutter, and that she hadn’t changed her ID, but decided the distinction was ridiculous under the circumstances.

“We were sent here to check on Dr. Morris. He’s wanted to attend a meeting and there’s no phone here. Who are you and what are you doing here, and where’s Langford?”

“Please don’t insult me, Lieutenant Cutter. I recall you and this man sitting on a bench near the White House while I met with the good doctor. You know very well that I am Heinrich Stahl and that I am the man responsible for the massacre in Wall Street as well as the killing of Vice President Wallace.”

Stahl laughed. “As to Langford, he’s buried in the basement and won’t be attending any meetings.”

Alicia was sickened but thought it sounded like Stahl was bragging. “Will you let me check out Captain Baldwin? He could die if he doesn’t get help.”

“You will leave him alone and I don’t care if he dies. He’s a soldier. You, on the other hand, are a woman regardless of the ridiculous uniform you’re wearing.”

“Does that mean you won’t kill me?”

“Not unless I find it necessary, but if I have to, I will kill you instantly and without compunction. I’ve killed women before, although they were either Jews or Slavs and they don’t matter because they aren’t really human. It would be a shame to have to shoot anyone as lovely as you, but I will do it, believe me. On the other hand, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a woman.”

With that he reached down and cupped her breast. When she tried to pull away, he pushed her down and straddled her. He slid his hand inside her blouse and bra and caressed her nipple. Then he twisted and ran his hands up her thighs past her cotton stockings and fondled her with his finger.

He laughed and stood up, “Enough for now, although there might just be time for more fun later. You look almost Aryan so you should enjoy getting fucked by a German. If you promise to cooperate, I’ll let you check out Captain Baldwin. Tell me, is he your lover?”

“He is not,” she said, fighting back her anger. “I’m married. But I do promise to cooperate if you’ll let me help him.”

Stahl loosened her hands but not her feet, and let her crawl over to Baldwin. He had a pulse and his eyelids were flittering. “He’s alive and he might just make it if he can get to a hospital.”

The Nazi smiled as he re-tightened her bonds. “You and I are going to drive away from here in the car you so kindly brought. You will drive and I will be in the back seat with a gun pointed at your head. When we reach a safe point, I will fuck you and then release you and you can call and get help for your friend.”

“Can I trust you?”

“Of course, although you don’t have much choice.”

No I don’t, she thought. Nor did she believe him. Baldwin would be left to die while she would be raped and murdered. Dear God, she thought, what had her life become? What would happen to Tom?

Stahl made her lie down on the floor while he packed a suitcase. She said she had to use the bathroom, so he untied her and watched her as she urinated. She wondered if it excited him.

They walked outside and to the car. His gun was covered by a jacket over his arm. “You will get in the driver’s side, Lieutenant, and I will get in behind you as if I was a high ranking guest. You will drive exactly as I say or I will blow your brains out. Keep your hands away from the ignition so don’t even think of trying to drive off without me.”

Alicia wanted to cry but wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. He was about to get in when there was a sudden bang and Stahl jerked and stiffened. A second shot rang out and he fell into the car. Alicia opened her door and jumped out. Men were running from the house across the street.

One grabbed her arm and pulled her away while others dragged Stahl’s limp and bloody body from the car. “You okay, lieutenant?” It was FBI agent Dunn.

“I’m fine,” she stammered, “but Captain Baldwin’s badly hurt.”

Dunn signaled and men ran into the house. “How long have you been out here?” she asked.

“We’ve been watching Langford every time he leaves the camp. Director Hoover had the feeling that he might just lead us to Stahl and he was right. One of us spent a lot of time on the front porch of the house across the street all dressed up as an old lady. Stahl never suspected.”

In the distance she could hear the sound of an ambulance approaching and several neighbors had come out of their houses, stunned by the sudden violence.

Dunn grinned. “I am really going to look good when this is all reported.”

Koenig looked at the ruins of what had been an armored battalion. American bombers had come over at first light and, guided by smoke pots lit by spies and saboteurs, had carpet bombed several fields where German tanks had been hidden. This particular field had contained most of their precious Panther tanks. Only two had survived the onslaught while the others had been thrown about like broken toys. Bombs had ripped turrets off and flipped them onto the ground, and hulls had been split apart. Treads lay across the ground like obscene insects. The only consolation was that human casualties had been light with only about fifty killed or wounded.

Other fields had been bombed as well, and the destruction of Panther IVs had been just as bad. The armored reserve that Guderian had been hoarding for a final battle had just been badly mauled.

Koenig walked over to where a sergeant sat on the ground, smoking his pipe. “Forgive me for not getting up and saluting, captain, but my knee is not responding well today. I twisted it running from the damned bombs.”

The sergeant was a good fifteen years older than he and appeared to be supervising a handful of soldiers who were nervously searching the field for useful parts to scavenge. They were aware that the bombers could return at any time. Koenig sat down beside the man and offered him a cigarette, which was quickly taken.

“Sergeant, right now a bunch of officers is trying to figure out how to write a report on this that will save their asses. I don’t need that. In your own words, tell me what the fuck happened.”

The sergeant grinned. He was missing a couple of teeth and the wound looked fresh. “It’ll cost you the rest of the pack.”

“Done,” Koenig said and handed over the bribe.

“Sir, are you aware that we had spies and saboteurs in the field the other night? Well, one of our men went outside to take a piss and saw motion by a tank. He sounded the alarm and we all spilled out of our barracks. The spies got away, of course. When we checked the tanks, we found that one had been tampered with and dirt had been poured into the gas tank.”

Koenig seethed. He’d been told nothing about the incident. Heads would roll, that is, if the incompetent fools were still alive.

The sergeant continued. “This was all reported at least to my captain who, I assume, passed it upward. It was obvious to all that the Yanks now knew about the Panthers in the field and would attack as soon as possible. I woke my men up early and even though they pissed and moaned, got them the hell away before the bombers came. That’s why they’re working. They’re alive and grateful that I showed initiative.”

“The tanks should have been moved,” said Koenig.

“I think that was planned, but dawn came too early.”

Koenig stood and dusted himself off. The sergeant was a good man who’d done his best. The officers had failed. The tanks should have been moved at night, if only a little ways away from the damned field that was now a well plowed junk yard. Even moving them a short distance might have saved them to fight another day. Now they were charred and shattered hulks. He nodded to the sergeant and walked away, keeping an eye on the sky above for the return of American planes. He saw a small scout plane, but that was it. Nor was the Luftwaffe going to come and chase it and anti-aircraft guns had been either bombed or pulled away to protect something else.

Damn it to hell, he thought. Were the American Jews going to win this battle?

Patton had flown to Ike’s headquarters which was now situated just outside Buffalo. Omar Bradley was there as well. Coffee and sandwiches were served. It had been noted many times that there was an abundance of food for the American military. Bradley had commented that it was one advantage of fighting in one’s own country - the people liked you.

Patton let out a deep breath. He was stuffed. “Ike, I think it’s time we stopped pussyfooting around and hit the bastards with everything we have. We’re ready. My boys have moved east and are now past Stratford and London. Hell,” he laughed, “it sounds like I’ve invaded England and not Canada.”

He didn’t add that both towns had been destroyed by the fighting. Bombs and artillery had smashed almost every building and what bombs and guns hadn’t, the Germans had demolished. It didn’t escape the men that London was on a river named the Thames and the portion of the Thames that ran through Stratford was called the Avon. In Patton’s opinion, neither would be called much of anything for many years to come.

“I think I agree with George,” Bradley said. His army had been slowly moving up through the more formidable defenses above the Niagara River, and now was approaching the city of Hamilton, on Lake Ontario. “We now outnumber them in all areas. If they weren’t such good and tenacious fighters, we would have crushed them a long time ago. As it is, George now has room to maneuver and should do it.”

Ike nodded. Patton did have room to maneuver. Bradley was still more or less constrained by the lake to his right, which left a relatively narrow front. He thought he knew what his generals were planning.

Ike smiled and lit a cigarette from the one that was down to a glowing ash. “Let me guess, George, you want Brad to exert all the pressure he can against the krauts fronting him while you do the same with yours. Then you’ll launch an attack on their right flank and try to get in their rear.”

Patton grinned. “Right, and then then they’ll turn their flank and extend their lines to cover us, weakening them badly. Maybe they’ll even have to take units from in front of Brad to keep from falling apart. Either way, we win. When they’re stretched thin enough, we’ll attack in overwhelming force and they’ll collapse. It’s worked before. If I remember my history, Grant did it to Lee outside of Petersburg and Richmond. Just like Lee, the Germans will reach a point where they’ll be too weak to defend everything.”

“And it ended the Civil War,” Bradley added just a little gratuitously. Ike didn’t need the history lesson.

“When can you launch your end run?” he asked. Bradley was already exerting all the pressure he could, so the possible final move would be up to Patton.

“Tomorrow,” he responded. “I’ve been positioning my boys for a couple of weeks now.”

Ike grinned. “Bastard.”

The meeting broke up. Patton and Bradley left to fly to their respective commands. Ike got on the radio to Marshall who was very pleased. Roosevelt, he said, had been taking all kinds of grief from the Canadian government in Ottawa to stop destroying Ontario. The Canadians were wondering if it was necessary to destroy Canada in order to save it. While efforts had been made to limit bombing to military targets, too many of those were located in civilian areas. Also, when the Germans took a stand in or near a town, that town was invariably obliterated. The Canadian people were utterly shocked by the devastation that was being wreaked upon their land. Some were blaming the US, arguing that the response to the German attacks on the US should not have been so massive.

Neumann could read maps as well as the next man, and it was apparent to him that the Americans were going to continue their attacks until the over-extended German lines collapsed. Thus, it was time to play his trump card, his prisoners.

Altogether he had a little more than three thousand of them, both civilian and military. Moving them would take hundreds of trucks and he didn’t have more than a few score. He’d broached the topic to Guderian and been told that the military had priority over any vehicles, and that he could solve his own problem if he wanted to move the prisoners. Neumann had argued the point to no avail. Even invoking Hitler’s name had changed nothing. Hitler was a world away in Berlin, while Guderian was surrounded by Americans in North America.

Guderian had ordered Neumann to not harm the prisoners. Neumann had agreed, but his promise was a lie. He reported to a higher authority, Himmler and Hitler, and would not be ordered around by a mere field marshal. The survival of the Reich in North America was at stake.

He looked out his office window. It was almost dawn and he was in Toronto. He had a terrible headache that was like a hammer pounding between his eyes. He’d planned on being at either the camps or the farm but instead he’d gone to a party thrown by that Nazi sympathizer from the U.S. State Department, Dylan Wade. The idea had been to bolster the morale of those pro-Germans in Toronto and the party had included influential Canadian civilians who needed to be convinced that the Americans would ultimately fail.

He’d intended to leave early, but he’d been smitten like a school child by a lovely young lady named Sherry. They’d had far too much to drink and, when he’d suggested that they go back to his office for some privacy and some more champagne, she’d agreed.

His office was actually a suite with a cot in a separate room and a private bath. He recalled having some more champagne and kissing her passionately. He also recalled sliding her dress down to her waist and kissing her exquisite breasts while she exposed and fondled his manhood. After that his recollections were dim at best.

Had he fucked her or not, he wondered while his headache continued to pound. Well, he could call her up and ask her if he could only remember her last name. Hell, had she even told him? He’d awakened on the couch in his office and the place had been a mess. He’d first attributed it to their wrestling around on the desk and elsewhere, but now he had a nagging feeling that all was not right.

He called the commandant of the civilian prison and informed him that the prisoners were to be on the road and heading north on foot as soon as possible with the military prisoners right behind them.

“Sir, that’s already been done,” he was told. “A large number of trucks and busses arrived during the night and took them all away.”

“By whose orders?” Neuumann almost screamed.

The commandant was puzzled and stammered his reply. “Your orders, sir. It was on your stationery and had your signature. We were ordered to hurry and we did. They were escorted by Canadian civilians and police. The last of them left a couple of hours ago.”