Wehr Wolff Castle
B. Bentley Summers © 2017
All Rights Reserved
May 10, 1940
Somewhere over the border of Switzerland & Southern Nazi Germany
The wind whistled through the shattered window and into the airplane’s cabin. The draft had a cold bite, the air a metallic smell. A tremble spasmed through Hagen, and he crossed his arms over his chest and shivered.
On the row of seats facing him, blood spatter spread over the chairs and over the remaining wall. The engine nearest him sputtered.
This time, it’ll surely stop.
He rose from his seat and looked out through a nearby window to the wing. Black smoke poured from the spinning propeller but then cleared, and the engine roared back to life, setting into a steady thrum. He stared past the wing to the mountain range below. The plane passed through a heavy white cloud, and he sat back down in his seat.
One recurrent thought plagued him. If we crash, will it hurt? Breathe. Just breathe.
Raising his hands, he stared once again at the blood that had partially dried on them. Not his, thankfully. He wiped them on his shirt-front, which was soaked with blood, then reached for his forehead and winced as his fingertips dusted his wound.
Shouting from the cockpit drew his attention.
Lt. David sat in the one-man cockpit and turned so he could shout up to the white-haired pilot assistant, Alan Hodges. Hodges stood close to the pilot’s chair, holding onto a map and yelling down.
Someone grabbed Hagen’s knee and shouted at him gruffly. He met Sgt. Collins’s gaze. The man’s short salt-and-pepper stubbled face had specks of blood in it. The large man sat back on his haunches, his belly protruding over his belt. He peered at Hagen’s forehead and nodded with approval.
“Cheers, Kraut, received your first war wound.” Sgt. Collins leaned in and touched Hagen’s paratrooper jacket. “That blood yours?”
Hagen shook his head, licked his lips, and then asked, “We on the right course, Sarge?”
Sgt. Collins cupped his hand to his ear and furrowed his brow.
“Are we on the right course?” Hagen shouted.
Sgt. Collins glanced up at the front of the plane, where Lt. David and Officer Hodges argued, then brought his eyes back to Hagen.
“Have no bloody idea, Kraut. All I know is that I hope we don’t land in Hitler’s front lawn.”
Hagen nodded and clenched his fists. The sergeant shouted something else at him, but Hagen stared over his shoulder at the woman on the other side of the airplane. Roesia. He barely knew her, but it was comforting to see a survivor from the onslaught. So many had died. Her face was pasty white, and she had a vacant stare.
Sgt. Collins snapped his fingers in front of Hagen’s face, gaining his attention once again.
“Bloody hell, you’re completely out of it!” Sgt. Collins said, patting Hagen’s chest and sides, looking for any wounds. “Nothing. You’re lucky, Kraut.”
Sgt. Collins stood, went toward the tail, and yelled down to the lower gun turret. “O’Malley, say something, you Irishman!”
“Me arse is killing me, Sarge!”
A smile formed on Hagen’s face at hearing his friend’s voice.
The sergeant moved toward the tail and yelled up to the upper gun turret. “Kirby, keep your wits about you! If those bandits come at us, you take as many of them as you can.”
Corporal Kirby yelled something unintelligible. Hagen shifted in his seat and stared down as a viscous red fluid ran across the floor. A photograph lay near his foot. Reaching down, he plucked it off the ground—the one of him and his father from a year or so ago. Except half of it was now bloodstained and he could only see himself. He studied the broad-shouldered striking nineteen-year-old with a full-face grin that made him radiant. The picture could easily have been of one of those Hollywood actors, but it was of himself.
He leaned his head against the chair as his teeth chattered and his eyes became impossibly heavy.
Seems like so much has happened since then. But I arrived in England just two days ago? That’s it? Just two days?
A slap of metal caused his gaze to shift to the other side of the plane. A commando by the name of Commander Ford picked up the assault rifles and opened each ammo clip to check the bullets inside. Once satisfied, he laid them on top of a tarp that had turned a dark maroon from the blood-drenched floor. A second commando sat in a seat next to him, twirling a serrated knife in one hand.
The spinning knife mesmerized Hagen and helped him ignore the macabre scene around him.
Yes, it was. Two days ago, I rode into Shoreham Royal Air Force Base.
A freshly trained paratrooper from America with no war experience. While my brother’s mortally wounded body lay in front of me years ago, it was nothing like this.
Memories of the last couple of days reeled through his mind.