- 2014 Community Novel Project of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library
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Downloading Superimposed Chapter 4 by Brian W Allen
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Read Online: Superimposed Chapter 4 by Brian W Allen
July 21st, 1944 was no time to run into a barn outside Bad Waldsee, Germany. The summer sun upon the black pitch roof made it a sweltering pinewood oven. Running for cover left Lieutenant Salvatore T. Caló gasping in the hot, manure-scented air of the stalls. The high altitude flight suit had him sweating before his parachute hit the ground. The wool-lined leather was barely sufficient at 30,000 feet where it was negative 50 degrees. On the ground, it was a sauna, and his sweat carried the blood spray of the suicidal gunner down his forehead to drip off his Roman nose.
Salvatore cursed his luck. He had just crunched the numbers before the B-17 was hit. The life expectancy of a bomber crewman was two weeks. He had beaten the odds. This mission would have been number 18. Just seven more and he could have rotated home a hero. Now he just wanted to do as he was trained – escape and evade. He drew the Colt .45 pistol from its shoulder holster and pressed an eye between two planks in the barn door. The bombing was a daylight raid, and he knew that every Wehrmacht soldier in the area had watched the crash of his B-17 and followed the parachutes to ground. As a pathfinder radar man, he had just guided the 576th Bomber Group over the Oberpfaffenhofen aviation works. The Germans would not be happy with him.
He whispered, “Crap” when he spotted the three Krauts who had chased him toward the barn. He backed away and took cover behind a hay bale in the dark recess of the barn.
At five foot even and 135 pounds, he was built more like a well-fed jockey than a warrior. Salvatore stuck his tongue out from the effort it took to work the 1911 Colt’s slide and winced when it snapped forward to load the chamber. He held the pistol with two hands, knuckles white around the grip. He steadied the butt of the .45 atop the hay bale and took a deep, hot, stinking breath. The barn door flew open from the kick of a hobnailed boot; the sun that streamed in behind it made him squint. When his eyes adjusted, Salvatore could see that his pursuers had taken strategic positions to the right, left, and center of the door.
The guttural voice of their unteroffizer called into the barn, “American, kapitulation.”
Salvatore squirmed as low and close to the bale as he could. He had hoped against hope that the Germans had not seen him duck into the barn. He decided not to answer. Maybe they were guessing. As an operator of the top secret H2X radar, they would set a premium on his capture and ask uncomfortable questions. Watching from the corner of his hide, he stayed rock still and tried to sweat quietly.
The unteroffizer signaled his two soldats to hold their positions with a silent wave of his hand. From under the flange of his hot steel helmet, he warned, “American. Ergeben oder sterben.” As he waited for a response, he pulled the cocking handle of his maschinenpistole.
Committed to his bluff and scared silent, Salvatore’s jaw tightened.
Hearing nothing, the unteroffizer sighed and nestled the metal T butt of his weapon against his shoulder. At 500 rounds a minute, it took less than four seconds to spray the entire magazine into the shuddering barn.
Salvatore closed his eyes and burrowed his cherub body as deep into the animal-soiled earth as he could. Splinters erupted from 9mm holes in the wall and rained down upon him. It sounded like a drummer was beating a tattoo with a dozen hammers. Behind the flying lead, narrow beams of light punctured the dark interior like white knitting needles. The bale bucked as a round shredded a corner off it. He feared he had peed his pants.
The unteroffizer detached the empty magazine, blew smoke through the searing hot barrel, and snapped 32 more rounds into place. “American? Killen?”
Being shot at shook Salvatore’s nerves into frantic action. Without standing, he wormed out of the heavy flight suit and belly crawled to a crack of light at the rear of the barn. He holstered the pistol and used a broken pitchfork to claw at the dirt floor. Clods flew away from the bottom of the wall with the speed of desperation.
After the dust and debris of the fusillade settled, another inquiry was called into the barn. “American. Willst du mehr?”
The American didn’t want any more. He drew and fired two shots through the door and then forced himself under the wall. His fingernails dug the last of the obstructing dirt away, and he pulled free of the barn. Pistol in hand, he began to run toward a small rise in the field. He was glad to be free of the bulky flight suit and cared less about the uncomfortable dog tags he had tossed aside. They were imprinted with the name he enlisted under, not the one his Momma gave him.
When he topped the rise and found cover in the shallow behind it, he chanced a look back. His pistol shots had driven the patrol to ground. Transfixed, Salvatore watched as the unteroffizer signaled his two men to charge the barn while he laid down cover fire with the maschinenpistole. The three disappeared into the barn. He smiled to himself as he imagined their reaction at discovering the empty flight suit, abandoned dog tags, and a fresh hole under the back wall. Salvatore chuckled when he heard the livid call of, “Schwein” penetrate the slat walls and echo across the field. The Krauts’ angry emergence from the barn broke the spell of curiosity. A hedgerow bordered the far end of the field and Salvatore ran as fast has his runt legs could carry him toward it.
The effort made him gasp and wheeze and he was wobbling when he reached it. Grunting forward, Salvatore stumbled along the hedgerow, looking for an opening. Vines and brush had weaved stones, cleared and stacked by centuries of farmers, into an impenetrable wall. He staggered a dozen yards, threw himself against the barricade, and tried to pull himself up. But he fell back in defeat. He pressed forward another dozen yards and tried again, in vain. It was maddening. Salvatore could hear a river gurgling on the other side of the hedgerow and smell its cool water. He could swim better than he could run. If he just had the upper body strength to scale the hedgerow, he would have had a chance.
He heard the Germans tromping across the summer-dry field at double time. He was easy to spot as he searched for a break in the hedgerow. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw the unteroffizer smile and urge his squad forward at a run.
Frantic, sopped with sweat, and on the verge of frustrating tears, Salvatore attacked the wall with single-minded purpose. He ignored the Germans as they took positions around him.
The ripping discharge of the maschinenpistole covered Salvatore in a cloud of broken twigs and fractured rock. With his heart in his throat, he threw himself prostrate against the base of the hedgerow. When the bullets finished churning the earth on either side of him, he tossed the Colt aside and sobbed, “Enough, enough. Don’t shoot. I surrender.”
“Ja, surrender,” repeated the unteroffizer with a wry grin.
Salvatore rose, his diminutive arms held high in submission. His face was flushed with heat, speckled with dirt, and streaked red from the blood of the Jewish gunner – a shipmate who had committed suicide rather than be captured by the Nazis.
The Wehrmacht soldiers were incredulous at the boy-sized flyer. They ruffled his hair and offered him a sweet instead of the cigarette he desperately wanted. He did drink greedily from a flat oval canteen when they got back to the Steyr light truck. The water was tepid and tasted of metal, but to Salvatore it was nectar of the gods. While one took the wheel, the other soldat boosted him up and over the tailgate, tossed the too-small-to-steal flight suit at his feet, and took the bench opposite him. They tied his hands behind him and pulled a burlap bag over his head. It smelled of rotten potatoes. Salvatore heard someone slap the roof of the truck, and it started rolling. There was a jingle sound near him made by the unteroffizer as he spun the dog tags of Lt. Salvatore T. Caló around his finger.
Salvatore was relieved. The question to his fate was answered. He was captured, alive and unhurt, and would become a prisoner of war. The known was better than the unknown. He could calculate, plot, plan, and figure. To a numbers man, nil was a conundrum. Even with the hood on, riding in the breeze of the open truck was refreshing after hiding in the stifling barn. He tried to keep track of where they were taking him, but he only sensed one turn and then only slight weaves and horn toots. He guessed the ride took an hour and a half.
The truck began to slow; and after a few stop-an-goes, a couple of sharp turns, and a squeak of the brakes, it came to a halt, and the engine was killed. Big hands guided Salvatore out of the truck and effortlessly lowered him to the ground. The unteroffizer pulled the hood off, took him by the arm, and escorted him into a building with ‘Luftwaffe Kommandant,’ painted over the door. Salvatore felt some comfort in the familiar presence of desks, paper, and click-clack music of a typewriter. He drew a deep breath from the light breeze of a fan and looked for his favorite device, an adding machine. The chair he was placed in was made of hardwood, had a slat back, and was all business.
“Gratulation Unteroffizer. Nehmen die kapuze vom,” said a sharp-looking officer.
He was sitting behind a desk with orderly columns of paper marshaled upon it. He wore a tailored blue-grey uniform and polished knee-high boots. A black Iron Cross hung around his neck. A silver flying eagle with a swastika in its talons was stitched above his breast pocket. The man was an air combat ace and the equivalent of a Colonel. He gestured at the American’s hands.
“Ja meine Oberst,” said the squad leader as he untied Salvatore.
Another officer stood to the right of the Oberst. He wore a black uniform with riding pants and boots. Two jagged lightning bolts that read like the letters SS decorated his collar. His left arm was circled by a red band with a black swastika circled in white. He was handsome, even beautiful – a tall blond example of the master race. As an Oberleutnant, he was junior to the Oberst but carried the authority of the secret police. He cleared his throat before speaking, “Excuse mein English. I do not get to practice much. Was is your name?”
“Salvatore T. Caló, Lieutenant, 17226498.”
“So, that is your name, rank, and seeriennummer?”
“Yes.” Salvatore looked around and saw he was alone. “Where are my crewmates? I have a right to know.”
“They are on their way to a Stalag Luft and none of your concern.” The SS officer added, “Whoever you are, you have nicth rights here.”
Salvatore sat up straight, swallowed, and said, “Under the Geneva Convention I have the rights of a Prisoner of War.”
“But you are not a soldier.”
“I am a soldier. I’m a lieutenant in the United States Air Corps.”
“Soldiers wear indentifikation. Show me your tags.”
Salvatore reached for his neck before remembering he had tossed them aside for being uncomfortable. “I had them. I took them off in the barn.” He turned to the unteroffizer who was standing guard. “He has them.”
“You mean these?” The SS officer held two stamped plates out to dangle on their chain.
“Yes,” said Salvatore with relief in his voice.
“But a soldier never takes his tags off. Even when he is dead, the authorities only take one and leave the other on the body. You are out of uniform. A man out of uniform is considered a spitzel, a spy. Spies have no rights.”
The oberst shook his head, frowned at the SS officer, but remained silent.
Salvatore’s heart skipped a beat. “But I’m not a spy. I’m wearing a uniform,” he said nodding downwards toward his khaki Air Corps blouse.
“So was the dead man with the hole in his head. He did not have tags either.” The officer swung the tags to and fro. “Are these his? Did you kill him for his tags?”
“No! I swear it. Check our wallets. Check the name tags sewn on our uniforms.”
The officer held up Salvatore’s flight jacket and read the name stenciled across the shoulders. “Your name is ‘Mouse’?”
“No. I mean, yes. It’s a nickname.”
“A name your friends call you. For camaraderie. Like a term of endearment. I’m small, so they call me Mouse.”
“Your friends call you a ratte? That seems fitting for a spy. Do you know what we do with spies?” The SS Oberleutnant answered his own question, “We execute them. Hacken their heads off with a guillotine.”
Salvatore subconsciously ducked his chin down to protect his neck and pleaded, “But I’m NOT a spy.”
His interrogator calmly lit a cigarette and took a lingering puff as he let the ramification of his words sink into Salvatore’s brain. “Well, I suppose there might be a way to prove you are an airman and not a spy.”
“How?” Salvatore’s eyes were wide and pleading.
“Convince me you are a member of an air crew. What was your assignment?”
That’s when it hit Salvatore the pathfinder, the radar man, the H2X specialist. The SS officer wanted to know about the new American airborne radar. He closed his eyes and answered, “I’m a ball turret gunner.”
“Schwindler. True, you are small enough to be a turret gunner. But lieutenants are not gunners. We have inspected the wreckage of your plane. Much was burnt and destroyed in the crash. But do you know what does not burn in crashes? Machine guns. There were no guns in your plane’s ball turret, just a shattered dish antennae.”
Salvatore looked away from the prying eyes of the SS man.
“We are not idioten. We know about American radar. The H2X is no secret. You think I know nothing of American kultur? I know your system is called ‘Mickey’. And I know how clever you Americans like to be with names. Do you really think I would not link the name you claim to the equipment? Mr. Mickey Mouse.” The Nazi was beside himself with self-congratulating glee.
Salvatore shook his head and said, “Then you know I’m not a spy. I’m Salvatore T. Caló, Lieutenant, 17226498.” He turned to the obrest with a silent plea.
The Luftwaffe officer folded his hands together and leaned on the desk. In a thick German accent, he explained, “Herr Caló. If you were a simple flieger you would be under my kontrolle. But your identität is in question. Spies are a spezialität – how you say, specialty – of the Waffen SS. Your fate is out of my hands.”
“But you know I’m not a spy.”
The SS officer interrupted. “That is not what the evidenz says. You will have to convince me with facts and details. Maybe sketch a schematic. Gestapo headquarters in Berlin will be just the place to do it. We will leave for Berlin in the morning.” With that, he begged his leave of the obrest with a click of his heels and a “Hiel Hiltler”.
The unteroffizer who had captured him took Salvatore to a locked room where he would have overnight to plan, figure, and work the angles.
Chapter 5 will be published next week at https://www.tscpl.org/community-novel
About Brian W Allen
Brian W Allen grew up in the Panama Canal Zone. He is an RN and Washburn University graduate with over 50 publishing credits in magazines, literary journals, and newspapers. He has short story collections offered by Kindle and his book, “My Paradise Lost, Misadventures to manhood in the Panama Canal Zone,” has met critical acclaim and is available as an e-book, paperback, and audio book through Amazon. He is currently writing a novel about rediscover the west in a depopulated future. For fun he and his wife race antique motorcycles for land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
An Interview with Brian W Allen
What is your writing background? What sort of work do you usually write?
I started writing for motorcycle magazines then moved to short stories. memoirs, and novels. I like to write a little of everything. Except poetry, I just don’t have the gene.
Who are some of your favorite authors? Are there books, poems, or stories that have inspired your own writing?
I like Mark Twain, Gary Jennings, and Hemingway. I aspire to the early writings of Woody Allen and Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac.
Why did you want to participate in the Community Novel Project?
It sounded interesting and I like the challenge of writing on the fly. I know some of last year’s authors and respect them.
Have you ever written fiction in collaboration with other authors before?
I’ve never collaborated with other writers. By nature I am a contrary lobo.
Do you usually write in a burst of inspiration, or is your work carefully outlined? Did writing for the community novel differ from the norm?
Outlines give me a rash. I’m always attune to what the muse might bring but in general I write character driven stories. Moving someone else’s character forward was different because I had to let go of my preconceptions.
What do you like about the premise and characters of this year’s Community Novel Project? What challenges you about them?
I liked the mysterious core of the story and that the male protagonist reinvented himself. The inner turmoil and angst that some characters had to work through was not my style and a challenge to relate to.
What was your first reaction when you saw the chapter before yours?
When I first read prior one in my time line, I wanted to tweak the character into someone more familiar and then I realized that I had to open my arms and embrace the character even if he was foreign to me. After all, that is the whole point and challenge of the project. I even wrote two chapters before I had one that matched what was passed to me.
What do you like most about the chapter that you contributed to the 2014 Community Novel?
I enjoyed doing the research to get the history right and then blending the character into it. I tried to put the reader into the action so they could hear the bullets snap by and smell the fear.
What do you hope happens or doesn’t happen in the chapters that come after yours?
I would like the flashback male protagonist to start his fortune by stealing something from the Nazis. I’d like to see the female protagonist have a May-December romance with the terminally ill hero. Let him die happy.
What sort of writing can we expect from you in future? Are you currently at work on any writing projects?
I’m 25 chapters into a post apocalyptic fiction novel that is a twist on the wild west. After that a fantasy noir satire is in the works.