Bill Meilen
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THE ARMORER

 

and looked around at his fellow prisoners. Sure that nobody saw him do it, he picked up a small dry bushy plant and stuffed it beneath his tunic, then headed slowly back toward the train. Under a clip on the front end of his coach, he found what he wanted. Looking around, Rudi sidled casually towards the command party, who stood looking east.

Eugen Kassner adjusted his tunic collar against the cool breeze and looked into the distant pastel dawn. On the horizon three tall towers were silhouetted.

“Very like Peenemünde, Herr Kassner,” murmured Geisenfelder in his ear. Kassner’s head jerked around, eyes sharp as a cobra’s.

“Halt’s Maul, Mann!”

Geisenfelder straightened, heels clicking even in the long grass. “Es tut mir leid, Herr Kommandant!”

“Keep your childhood experiences to yourself. Walls have ears.” He paused and broke his gaze. “Of course, you could be absolutely right.”

“Right, Herr Kommandant? Me right? Do you think—”

“What else could they be? Tommy’s secret weapon maybe—like thousands of barrels of that god-awful skunk-stink! It’s enough to put a man off his food.” He laughed at his joke.

“Forgive me sir,” said Rudi Kristl from behind them. The two SS men wheeled about.

“Yes?”

“Those are grain elevators, sir,” Rudi said quietly.

“Grain elevators?”

“Yes sir. Where they put all this grain when it is harvested. Is not food the greatest weapon of all? ‘An army marches on its stomach,’ said Napoleon.”

Kassner smiled. “A clever fellow. If you are so smart, where are we, Schütze?”

“Western Canada, sir, the prairies. Probably southern Saskatchewan.” He produced the small dried plant from under his tunic. “This is tumbleweed, and this rolling stock belongs to the Canadian Pacific Railway.” He handed the card to Kassner. The guards were moving the men carefully back into the train now, and Kassner urged Rudi towards the steps.

“Brilliant. Excellent. How do you know all this?”

“Travelling, reading Karl May, and keeping my eyes peeled sir. I don’t miss a trick.”

“Travelling? Where travelling?”

“All over. On a tramp steamer out of Genoa. Swiss Navy.”

“Swiss Navy? Don’t be an idiot. Are you joking?”

“No sir. The Schweitzers have a merchant fleet operating out of Genoa, in Italy. It was an adventure.”

“So you speak other languages?”

“Yes sir.”

“Which?”

“French, Spanish, some Arabic.”

“And English?”

“Of course, English, sir, yes.”

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