Here it is! Episode One of The Home Guard project. Enjoy!
Episode One – Rescue
Date: March 16, 1941.
Location: Somewhere outside Cambridge.
The night air was cool underneath the blanket of stars, owls hooting one another from a nearby wood as they scavenged for their dinner of mice and shrews. Amongst the patchy woodlands and calm, rolling fields there was something unnatural creeping through; the stench of death and misery dripping off it like a waterfall.
The German transport truck rolled over the bumpy ground with an eerie cadence from its engine. A standard escort of two motorcycles and half a dozen light infantry accompanied it as it journeyed south with its cargo. The darkness was pierced only by the headlights and the moon, leaving the rest of the surroundings as dark as the underworld.
‘Bill? Bill!’ Drex peered through the night, his voice a razor sharp whisper.
From within the treeline came a shuffle followed by a hushed, deep voice. ‘What’s up, mate?’ Bill flicked open his pocket watch and attempted to read the time in the strained moonlight. ‘Should’ve expected as much,’ he cursed.
Drex ground his teeth anxiously. ‘You sure this is gonna work?’
With a sigh Bill rolled his eyes, taking satisfaction that his friend could not see the annoyance in his face. ‘There’s only one way to find out. Look… we’re to camp here until the convoy passes then we ambush. A nice little tactic, wouldn’t you say?’
‘Hmm… suppose so.’ Drex sat up from his place on the floor and dusted the front of his tunic down. ‘Bloody dirt,’ he grunted.
Bill patted his hand over the ground next to him, attempting to locate the binoculars. He grabbed them and brought them up to his face, angling them toward a distant bundle of encroaching lights. ‘Well hello there boys,’ he cooed before chuckling to himself menacingly.
‘I think you enjoy this too much y’know, Bill.’ stated Drex with a slight apprehension. ‘How they looking?’
‘Erm… two motorcycles leading the way in front of the truck; four guards trailing behind and to the sides. I expect there might be another couple in the back with the prisoners. Should be an easy run I think.’
Drex huffed. ‘I salute your optimism.’
They both waited for the Germans to edge closer and closer until they were only a few hundred yards away, about to enter the grassy path between the copses of trees.
‘Wait a minute,’ Drex blurted out suddenly, laying a hand on Bill’s shoulder. ‘What if we hit our guys? Santa’ll be firing blind, basically.’
Bill raised a knowing finger at Drex and smiled broadly. ‘Hence why I’ve gone and gotten a flare gun to fire at them. Every little flaw is covered, don’t you worry.’
Drex nodded firmly and hoisted his anti-tank rifle up from the floor and rested it into his shoulder. ‘I hope I can bloody well fire this thing properly.’
‘We’ve all been given training by the army boys, albeit a crash course, but we’re just as deadly to the Germans as anyone else.’
‘Have you been drinking?’
‘Hmmm… maybe a tiny little drop earlier.’ Bill glanced at Drex’s sceptical face that was now outlined in the moonlight. ‘Hey what do you expect? I just happened to stumble across a rather rare case of single malt in that house we passed by yesterday.’
‘That wasn’t yours.’
‘Can’t let it go to waste.’
‘How much you had exactly?’
Bill mulled it over. ‘Maybe… half a bottle?’
There was no point in arguing about it, Drex knew that much. ‘Oh bloody hell,’ he grumbled, rubbing his face. ‘Well this ought to make things fun.’
Bill slung his Thompson over his shoulder and moved as fast as he could while still crouching, his breath rhythmic and well-paced for a man with a stomach full of whisky. The few months he and the rest of the Home Guard had spent training physically had paid off.
Drex observed him moving deeper into the darkness of the tree trunk shroud. He sighed before adjusting his helmet and looking across the way. He cupped his hands over his mouth and attempted an owl call. He grimaced at the poor quality of it, but then laughed as a sharp whistle was sent back to him. ‘A lovely whistle there, Santa. Sounded just like an owl’
There was a pause in the air, waiting for the executioner’s axe to fall.
Santa gazed at the approaching headlights like a child mesmerised by Christmas lights. He adjusted the sight on his Lewis gun and eased his body into an effective position. ‘Come on then you filthy foreigners. Come and walk into my bullets.’ He let a small smile etch onto his face as he controlled his breathing.
Back in the gloom of the woods, Bill removed the flare gun from his belt and crept sideways as the motorcycles travelled past, closely followed by the truck and troops. He could feel a lump in his throat and cold sweat start to run down his back.
This was it.
Bill looped his finger around the trigger and aimed at the enemy. ‘One, two…’ He paused as he scrunched up his face. ‘Three.’
The flare gun fizzled as it was fired, a dazzling white jet of light hurtling toward the German escort. He laughed quite loudly as the entire scene was lit up. ‘Fantastic! Now that’s how you…’ He swore as he watched the infantry pointing their rifles and submachine guns in his direction. ‘Shit!’ He dived to his left as a hail of bullets ripped through the woodland. He could hear the motorcycles revving up along with the truck. He assumed they were going to try and escape. ‘Come on Drex.’
A deafening explosion reverberated through the night air as the anti-tank rifle hit its mark. The distant sound of swearing followed it.
Santa unleashed hell. The second cyclist flew from his saddle as the bullets slammed into his side. The bike rolled off to one side, out of control, while the other lay in a sea of flaming doom.
The truck skidded to one side and stopped as it collided with the fiery wreckage. The driver hopped out with his pistol only to meet a wave of bullets that turned his body into Swiss cheese.
‘Filthy foreigners!’ cried Santa from his machinegun.
Bill moved up from his belly, a feeling of dread rising into his throat. He sucked it up and raised his head, gun poised in his hands. He hoped that the Germans were distracted by Santa’s deadly stream of fire. He squeezed the trigger as he saw two of them backing into the trees for cover. They both went down with screams of agony as his Thompson answered their fears.
Where were the other two guards?
He pushed his doubts down and moved forward, reloading his weapon. His legs hesitantly took him towards the truck where he noticed the other two guards dead on the floor, riddled with holes.
Bill breathed a sigh of relief… that was until a German soldier jumped out of the back of the truck, quickly bringing his submachine gun up. He babbled in German, saying what Bill assumed to be something about dropping his gun and surrendering. Bill edged backward, the guard moving toward him.
Suddenly the German soldier careened to one side, half of his head having been blown off by something powerful.
Bill glanced to his left.
Drex laughed as he eased his anti-tank rifle onto his shoulder. ‘Now that’s what you call a headshot.’
There was a ruckus from the back of the truck, sounds of a fist fight ensuing. A thick, regional accent mumbled something angrily.
Bill and Drex watched as another German guard was tossed out onto the floor, his face bloodied and swollen from whatever encounter he had just seen. Two men dressed in Home Guard uniforms hopped down, one brandishing a pistol.
‘Try that again you Nazi bastard,’ the unarmed one said in a Black Country accent.
‘Sammo!’ Bill cheered.
‘About time you showed up,’ Sammo snapped
‘You can’t seriously be angry?’
‘What if you’d killed us by accident?’
‘Don’t worry, we had Santa on the machine gun… he had it covered.’
Sammo sighed heavily, annoyance still rising in his voice. ‘You nearly had Thule’s head off at one point.’
Thule laughed. ‘I’ve got a bit of a headache so it would’ve helped. No head, no headache.’
Drex walked up to the front of the truck and peered inside. ‘D’you think we could salvage this to take us back up north?’
‘Sounds good to me,’ replied Bill, still having a stand-off against Sammo.
‘I’ll leave you three love birds to get reacquainted while I go get Santa,’ Drex remarked before jogging off.
‘My back is killing me,’ Sammo eventually said, breaking the silence.
‘You’re both rescued now so less bickering, please.’ Bill looked around for any more activity.
‘What am I doing with him?’ asked Thule, the pistol shaking in his hand. Whether or not it was from rage or fear was only for him to know.
‘Take him with us as a prisoner, of course.’ Sammo ran his tongue over his lips, moistening the dried cracks in them, trying to calm down.
Thule nearly choked. ‘Are you serious? We can’t let another one live.’
‘Geneva Convention, mate.’ Sammo grabbed the gun from his hand. ‘Just calm down.’
‘Look, we need to get you guys away from here,’ Bill pleaded. ‘Let’s get you back into the truck.’
Sammo squared off against Bill, his eyes blazing. ‘Again… my back is killing me. I’m driving.’
‘OK, fine I’ll go in the back then.’
The sound of footsteps stopped their heated conversation. Drex returned with Santa in tow, his Lewis gun resting firmly in his hands.
Santa looked down at the captured guard. ‘Oh… you mean to say I missed one?’
Bill patted him on the shoulder. ‘Sorry mate but he’s our prisoner.’
‘Are you sure about that? I mean… he looks beaten up already. Could I have his kneecaps as a trophy?’
Drex laughed hard.
They all did.
‘OK lads,’ Sammo interrupted. ‘I’m driving.’
‘I’m up front,’ Drex butted in before anyone else, turning and racing to the passenger side seat.
Thule lifted the prisoner up and signalled for him to get in the back of the truck. They both climbed up, Thule throwing at smile at Bill as if to say thank you.
‘After you, Santa,’ said Bill.
‘Oh thank you, Bill. I want to keep an eye on this… this filthy Nazi foreigner prisoner.’ Santa eased his way up.
‘Everyone’s a filthy foreigner to you, Santa,’ Thule said from inside.
He looked up at Sammo who was now holding out his hand.
‘Thanks for saving us.’
Bill took his hand firmly and smiled. ‘It’s what friends do – look out for one another.’
Thanks for dropping by and reading it 🙂