1: No Joke, There I Was….
My name, rank and serial number are no longer
important since I am now dead.
I know that I am dead.
I saw my body lying against an apple tree in
Normandy with my blood pouring out of a gaping hole in my back. You
don’t get much deader than that.
Some German soldier was sharper than I was, and now
he would be going home while I went Somewhere.
In June 1943, my Office of Strategic Services
detachment parachuted into France to harass the Nazi regime and gather
information on the German armed forces. When the Allies landed at
Normandy in 1944 our mission changed to providing information and flank
security for the advancing armies.
You know what they say about the best laid plans….
One night in July 1944, my team was moving through
an apple orchard overlooking the Sienne River near Pont de la Rocque, Normandy.
The American Sixth Armored Division planned to cross the river the following
day. The Germans had established an outpost in a windmill overlooking
a possible river crossing. We were supposed to chase them out and
then scout out the crossings so the Sixth could move across quickly.
We never got as far as the windmill.
Andre’s smoker’s cough gave us away and some
very alert and very lucky German nailed him on the first shot. Andre
went down and stayed down. But he was coloring the air with his vivid
French so he wasn’t dead yet.
The rest of us opened up on where we thought
the German position was. We were guessing based on the sound of the
Mauser barking because it was too dark to see anything but shadows.
We got lucky.
Just not lucky enough.
In the darkness, someone cried out for his mother
in German and the Mauser stopped.
Nobody moved for a while hoping that someone
else would make a mistake. I whispered for Pierre to lead the patrol
forward while Suzette and I checked on Andre. None of us were really
doctors but Suzette and I had had some training.
He was still cursing when we reached him and
I put my hand over his mouth.
A little too late.
I was kneeling beside Andre, trying to examine
the patient when a sledgehammer hit me in the chest. The force of
the blow slammed me backwards into an apple tree of respectable vintage.
I collapsed into a heap at the base of the tree.
There was a snapping sound like someone cocking
a rifle bolt except that it seemed to come from inside my head.
I stood up.
I could see my body lying on the ground at my
feet. There was a dime sized hole in my right chest and my left back
was a soggy mess.
I must have blacked out.
When I came to, I was still standing up but everything
else had changed.
It was still night but the cloud filtered moonlight
was brighter. I was in a shallow valley between unimpressive hills.
The apple trees had disappeared somehow to be replaced with regular rows
of what I guessed was crops. Exactly what crops they were was a mystery.
They looked like rosebushes in the nighttime darkness but they smelled
more like maple syrup.
I took a step forward to get a better look and
discovered that I had no boots on.
I looked down and discovered that I was stark
I pinched myself a couple of times and decided
that I wasn’t dreaming. If I was dead, I should be at St. Peter’s
Desk applying for admission to Heaven. But no theology I had ever
heard of described Heaven as smelling like maple syrup. The only
theory that seemed to cover all the facts involved a truly magnificent
party and a visit to a French experimental farm growing exotic plants.
I hoped that I had enjoyed the party.
Well, everything – head, arms, legs, and so forth
– seemed to being working properly. There was no hole in my chest
or back. All my blood seemed to be where it belonged. So I
set off for a walk between rows of the strange smelling bushes. I
don’t know what I was looking for but I certainly hoped to find it sooner
rather than later.
I was following the crops down a slight slope
when I spotted lights in the fields ahead. I crept closer and came
to a clearing in the rows of whatsits.
Crunching footsteps came out of the darkness.
I dropped down behind the nearest bush and made myself as inconspicuous
A German sentry strolled past.
I didn’t breathe for an eternity or two but he
sauntered past, apparently at peace with the world.
That seemed odd since the American, British,
and Canadian Armies were somewhere nearby not to mention the French Resistance.
D-Day should have dispelled any complacency on the part of German foot
Well, never look a gift horse in the mouth.
I stuck my head up and looked around for other
Seeing none, I glided forward behind the Kareless
Kraut. Being barefoot had its advantages. He didn’t hear me
until his rather impressive knife jumped out of its scabbard and whisked
across his throat. He gurgled and started on his journey to Valhalla.
I caught his body on the way down.
I dragged the Kareless Kraut’s body into the
bushes and began stripping it. He was clearly the bottom of the barrel
as far as the Master Race went. Say what you will about the Nazis,
they’re sharp dressers. This guy was wearing a gray shirt and coverall
outfit rather than tailored field blouse and trousers. His headpiece
looked more like a steel football helmet than the “coal scuttle” hat that
“G.I. Fritz” usually wore. He had a heavy submachine pistol rather
than the usual Mauser rifle or carbine. His face didn’t look any
too healthy, either.
We’d heard that Hitler was desperate for troops
and equipment with the Allies closing in on him. The Kareless Kraut
and his nonstandard uniform and weapons seemed to confirm that. An
important item to report when I got back in touch with Sixth Armored.
I was examining a machine pistol of unfamiliar
make when I heard a droning sound in the sky.
An airplane was descending into the farmland.
Ah! The lights among the crops outlined
a landing strip. Some scout was returning to what I guessed was a
temporary forward operating base.
Acting like you belong where you are is usually a better
disguise than hiding in the bushes. So I stood up and acted like
a German sentry assigned to guard the field. The Kareless Kraut had
some papers in one pocket but I hadn’t had a chance to read them yet.
I decided to be Rupert von Hentzau when someone asked.
The plane taxied to a stop about a hundred feet
from me. It was another mystery since its black coloring and bat
wings didn’t match any aircraft that I had studied. Possibly one
of Hitler’s alleged wonder weapons although it landed like any other airplane.
Another gray clad German got out, looked around
and spotted me.
He waved and said something that I didn’t catch.
I waved back and called “Welcome home, lancer,”
in soldier’s German. Germans love titles. Ordinary soldiers
called each other lancers as if they were all knights.
He started to say something but a voice from
the airplane attracted his attention. Someone inside the plane handed
a gold clad girl out to him.
She was a spitfire. Both hands and both
legs were tied and she still hammered his steel pot and chest with everything
While he was struggling with her, another gray
shirt got out of the airplane and slugged her. Hard. She went
limp. She fell to the ground and lay still.
She had a nice body with beautiful coppery hair
and a very tight suit of gold sequins and red plastic boots glinting in
the landing field lights.
And two goons leering over her. The slugger
grabbed her shoulder and flipped her over onto her face. He fumbled
with something at her back neckline and moved his hand down her back.
I heard a noise like a zipper….
“Hey, lancer,” I shouted as I stepped forward.
My mouth lives a life of its own. “Save it for your own time.
Let’s see your orders.”
The two thugs looked up, puzzled expressions
on their faces. One of them barked something at me. It sounded
like a drunken Russian trying to recite Wagner backwards. Possibly
some so-called Free Russians in Hitler’s service?
Well, the key thing was to maintain the initiative.
“Your orders, lancers. Orders. I
must see your orders for your mission. What are you doing landing
on my airstrip?” I raised my voice and made it as official as I could.
Act like you own the world and most people will assume that you do.
Especially in military dictatorships like the Third Reich.
These guys stood up and looked at me like I had
a lobster on my head. They were dressed and armed like the Kareless
Kraut had been. Herr Slugger began shouting at me again, still speaking
his not-really-Russian language.
I tried Russian, then French, Portuguese and
English before reverting to German. None of them seemed to ring a
bell with the gray shirts. They got angrier and angrier. Both
of them were barking and gesturing at me.
I continued to act like the king of the world
who had just found small boys stealing his prize winning apples.
I marched closer and closer, matching their volume.
As I approached, I realized that their insignia
didn’t match anything in the Axis uniform guides. The Nazis liked
skulls, lightning bolts and oak leaves. These guys liked geometric
symbols. That was definitely strange.
By this time, we were making enough noise to
rival the League of Nations session on the Italian invasion of Ethiopia
and accomplishing about as much good.
Herr Slugger broke the deadlock by turning to
his sideman and giving him some order ending in the word “Kapar.”
His sideman said something in return and, bending over, picked up the woman’s
body and raised her to his shoulders.
Just then a loud mechanical clanking broke out
behind me. It sounded like a column of tanks starting their engines
I took my eyes off the opposition for a fatal
Without warning, Herr Slugger launched a haymaker
worthy of Dempsey in his prime. It landed on my chin and rocked my
head back. Half stunned, I fell over backwards and crumpled to the
dirt of the landing strip.
The shock of a heavy boot crashing into mine
woke me up again.
Herr Slugger was taking a step to the side, obviously
intending to break a few ribs with his next kick.
I rolled into his stride. I braced myself
with my left arm on the ground. My left leg swung up and smashed
into the side of his right knee. My right arm grabbed his left ankle
and pulled. He crashed to the ground.
I rolled away from Herr Slugger and stood upright.
He was fumbling with his unwieldy submachine pistol.
I shot first. His shot went wild.
I was looking at the frozen sideman, still hoisting
the girl in a fireman’s carry when another shot passed overhead.
We both spun around, looking in the direction
that I had come from.
A bright rectangle of light filled the lower
quarter of the sky. A giant trapdoor had opened in the ground, exposing
a tunnel into unknown depths. The Kareless Kraut must have been standing
directly on top of the trapdoor when I jumped him.
Human figures were silhouetted against the light.
Several of them were more gray shirts carrying tools and heavy pistols.
But the center of the group was a pair of obvious officers, one male, one
female, both wearing green rather than gray. The man was tall and
muscular, with a hatchet face carved out of granite. The woman was
tall, too, a valkyrie rather than a knight. Compared to her, Marlene
Dietrich was a boy.
But that wasn’t what really grabbed my attention!
The clouds that had masked the moonlight earlier
had moved on.
Above and behind the trapdoor, two moons decorated
the night sky. One, higher up, was about the right size for Earth’s
Moon but it was green and white, not silver or gold. The other, lower
in the sky and almost resting on the trapdoor, was at least four times
the size of the Moon as well as being blue and white. I could see
continents and oceans on that one like a child’s drawing of Earth as seen
Wherever I was, it wasn’t anywhere on Earth.
I was still gawking at the light show when someone
clobbered me from behind.
The lights went out.