by Scott Graham, Minnesota, USA
This is the story I submitted for the Sword and Laser Anthology. Though I wasn’t chosen, I really enjoyed writing it. I suspect part of the reason it wasn’t chosen was the alternative history angle rather than pure sci-fi/fantasy. But, I’d love to hear others’ thoughts
The air was cold and damp as Richard Casey made the trek along the Mississippi River shoreline. It was late March but frost still clung to the trees and the ground had a fine powder of snow. Luckily, the trees were thick enough to provide cover from prying eyes. He had lost track of how many times he had made this trip in the last three years. The wind bit at his face but he kept pressing forward until he heard the roar of jet engines above him. Looking up, he could see the dark stubby, swept wing outlines of four Focke Wulf Ta-183 fighters. From their altitude, it was doubtful they would see him, but nevertheless, he felt his heart quicken in his chest and sped up his pace. A few minutes later, he finally reached his destination, a manmade cave carved out of the sandstone that lined the Mississippi shore.
These caves had a history dating back to the 1840’s, when they were used to cultivate mushrooms in them, and up to the 1920’s when Prohibition era gangsters hid out in them. Now, in 1950, they were the only sanctuary available to those who sought to restore the American way of life to what was formerly the American state of Minnesota.
On these trips, he would often ponder how things could be different. If the isolationists in Congress hadn’t defeated Lend-Lease. If there had been fewer ships docked in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. If the British had been able to hold out just a few months more.
But, now, that was all moot as he entered the cave. The entrance was dark until he got past the first few hundred feet. The Resistance members had hung up torch lights along the cave walls as the cave went deeper.
There was a chamber in the heart of the cave, which was lit up by a dozen torches. Inside, Richard could see he was the last one to arrive. Even his wife, Evelyn, had arrived before him. Not that he cared; he had expected to be a few minutes late. All in all, there were fifteen people in this cave chamber. In the center of the room was a large table, taken from what had been the American headquarters during the Battle of St. Paul. During the battle, it had housed maps the generals had peered over, keeping track of the various combat units and the battle lines. Now, however, it displayed blueprints for the St. Paul Municipal Auditorium, and instead of some three or four-star general, stood a former Marine captain named David Bennett. “The Reichkomissar will get on stage at about 1900 hours. That will give Casey, here, about five minutes to get inside and make his way up to the balcony, all without getting detected. Think you can pull it off, old man?”
“Count on it.” Richard was about seven years older than the cell’s elected leader.
“Good.” Bennett nodded, and explained the various escape routes out of the building. “Baker and I will be waiting for you about two blocks down the street.”
Richard nodded his understanding. But, all of a sudden, he could hear heavy footsteps on the hard rock floor of the cave. Everyone in the room shared glances in the instant it took to realize what was happening. Moments later, their worst fears were confirmed as they heard, “Schnell! Sie müssen diese Richtung sein! Schnell!” Quickly! They must be his way! Quickly!
“Shit.” There was no telling how many men were heading their way.
Bennett immediately took control of the situation, looking like a traffic cop as he ordered everyone around. The contingency plan they had put in place called for them to split up into three groups- two six-person groups and one three-man team. The three-man team would stay back to provide enough cover for the two other groups to retreat into different exits, before making their own withdrawal through a third exit. The cover team consisted of Richard, Evelyn, and a former Minneapolis police officer named George Baker. As everyone else made their way to the exits, the three of them rushed to the weapons cache in the back of the chamber, grabbing Browning Automatic Rifles and a Thompson submachine gun.
As they grabbed their weapons, they took up cover behind some supply crates, careful to not use any that contained ammunition or grenades.
Time slowed as they waited with guns at the ready. The three of them shared looks of anticipation as they heard several German speaking voices coming toward them. As the first grey uniformed Gestapo officer came into view, they opened fire, cutting him down in a barrage of lead. But, then, more poured in, StG 45 assault rifles at the ready as they returned fire, riddling the cave wall and supply crates with bullet holes. The Americans fired one last burst of cover fire before Richard gave the hand signal to retreat to their exit. Evelyn and George nodded. Evelyn retreated first while the two men covered her, followed by her husband. As they started down the tunnel, Richard looked back. George was supposed to follow them but as Richard looked back her watched in horror as a bullet hit George in chest, causing his body to jerk back. Then, in slow motion, another shot hit him, then another. With every impact, George’s body shuddered back before finally falling back. As his body hit the ground, Richard had to fight every instinct in his body to go back for his friend. In the Army, they never would’ve left him behind. But, the Germans were already closing in, so he fired two long bursts from his BAR and followed his wife down the tunnel.
Behind them, he could hear the barking of German Shepherds. But, he was so focused on getting to the nearest exit, he had no idea whether they were on their trail. The tunnel was pitch black but Evelyn and Richard expertly navigated its rocky floor, just as they had practiced numerous times before. After what seemed like hours meandering through the labyrinth of rock formations, his legs were starting to ache and his breathing grew heavy as his lungs burned of fire. Despite this, he forced himself to keep moving forward and put more distance between their pursuers. If nothing else, the twelve weeks of daily PT in basic training had taught him how to fight through fatigue and pain.
He had no idea how Evelyn managed to keep her pace in front of him – she had a slight frame without neither much fat nor muscle. The daughter of a lawyer, she never, as far as he knew, had to do manual labor growing up outside of the typical household chores. That was a stark comparison from his two sisters, who had to pitch in on the western Minnesota farm field. But, still, she soldiered through the dank caverns, and he respected her for that. Outside of her dark reddish-brown hair and hazel eyes, her ability to adapt and roll with the punches was one of her most attractive features. Her father had never been overly supportive of their relationship, yet she married him anyway once she reached eighteen. She still hung with him after he enlisted following the destruction of the entire US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. And, now, here she was by his side as they fought to repel their Nazi occupiers.
He had been so busy admiring her that the searing pain in his lungs and legs finally disappeared as they came to the designated exit, roughly three or four miles from the entrance. The area was heavily forested and the foliage was nearly knee deep – even deeper now with snow still on the ground – so it provided nice coverage for them.
The chest of Evelyn’s dark brown wool jacket visibly rose and fell as each breath steamed the chilly air. “I didn’t think we’d be the first ones here. Everyone else had a good three to five minute lead on us.”
“Yeah.” He looked around them. “I don’t like this.”
“Could they have gone to the safe house without us?”
He considered this. “I suppose it’s possible but I doubt it. David knows we don’t leave someone behind.”
“You left George.”
“That’s different. I didn’t have a choice.” He hated the callous tone in his voice but he knew that if he had stopped, he’d either be dead, or worse.
She mulled his response over and nodded. “So what do we do now? We don’t have much time before the Gestapo will be all over this place.”
“I’m a little surprised they’re not already.” He nodded. “But, you’re right.”
Just then, they heard a noise coming from behind, from the cave exit. Instinctively, they both spun around, guns pointed at the cave opening.
“Christ!” His heart was still beating several miles a minute. “You scared the hell out of us, Jim.” He allowed himself to lower his weapon and relax.
Evelyn followed her husband’s lead. “Where’s everyone else?” Jim Van Pelt had been in the second six-person group to retreat from the cave.
Once he stood upright, they could see he was injured. He had a large gash across his head and he favored his right leg as he held his right hand to the left side of his body. He looked back at the cave, visibly shaken. “They were waiting for us. We walked right into an ambush. It was a bloody firing squad….”
Evelyn eyed him suspiciously. “How’d you survive?”
He looked back at the cave again. “After James, Tom, Sean, and Julia were all killed, Jason O’Connor and I returned fire, and took off running for the exit. I was grazed by a shot and fell. When Jason stopped to help me up, he was hit and died instantly.” He was on the verge of tears. “After that, I forced myself to get up and just ran as fast as I could.”
Richard nodded as Jim’s story confirmed what he feared. “Do you think they followed you?”
“I don’t know…I don’t know. But, I wasn’t able to run real fast with my leg…I think I sprained it. So I don’t think so.”
Evelyn walked over to him and checked his injuries over.
“How could this happen?” Richard was more musing to himself than anything else.
Evelyn was busy bandaging his forehead with a piece of fabric from his shirt, but it didn’t stop Jim from answering. “Isn’t it obvious? We have a traitor in our ranks.”
Richard considered this. Nothing else made sense unless someone had seen one of them entering the cave. Still, the Gestapo had used too much manpower and firepower for this to be a chance discovery- not to mention the ambush they had managed to pull off against the others.
But, before he could agree or disagree, Evelyn offered her own thoughts on that idea. “Well, considering we’re the only ones standing here and it appears everyone else is dead, that means the mole would have to be one of us.”
There was the possibility that the Germans would sacrifice their mole, Richard supposed. He wouldn’t put it past them. But, keeping them alive meant whoever it was could be of further use to them. He nodded to his wife. “You’re probably right.” Then he considered her statement more. “Are you implying it’s either me or Jim?”
“Well….I didn’t really think of it but…now that you mention it….” She stopped tending to Jim to accentuate her point. “It is funny how Jim was the only one to survive an ‘ambush’ that killed everyone else. And not only survived but escaped with relatively minor injuries.”
“Ha.” He scoffed defensively. “Perhaps, I could say the same about you, bitch.” He made an exaggerated looking around motion. “Where’s George?” The accusation in his voice was clear.
Richard held out his hand to tell Jim to stop. “George was shot while we were escaping. If we had gone back for his body, they would’ve gotten us too.”
“Still…didn’t you wonder why they didn’t follow you?”
“What are you saying, Jim?” Richard stood in front of Jim, his face so close he could smell his friend’s breath. Jim was only a few inches shorter than Richard, but he had the build of a grass blade, so Richard was like a mountain compared to him.
He stood his ground against the more physically imposing man. “She’s right. The mole has to be one of us. But, it sure as hell ain’t me!” He glared into Richard’s steel grey eyes. “Come on, Richard! Think with your head, not your balls. We served together. Toronto. Ottawa. Buffalo. Syracuse. We were both there.” They had both volunteered for the Airborne after basic, and were assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division after paratrooper training. “After all we’ve been through fighting the Jerries, do you really think I could join up with them? Fuck, man! We were the first unit into New York City after the A-Bomb. We’ve both seen what they’re capable of.” He gripped his hand tighter to his side, wincing at the pain as he threw up his free arm in disgust. “And, if it’s not me, and it’s not you. Then that only leaves one other option.” He pointed at Evelyn.
Before Richard could respond, his wife glared at her accuser. Then she looked to her husband incredulously. “Are you really considering this? I haven’t left your side since you arrived. How do we know he’s telling the truth of what happened in the cave? They kill eleven people and leave one alive? Does that make sense? Like he said, you know what they’re capable of.” She looked back at Jim briefly before turning her attention back to Richard. She lit up her face as if she had just remembered something. “He left for about five minutes right before the Germans came.”
Richard looked to his friend, who responded right away. “I had to have a smoke.” He reeked of cigarette smoke, so Richard knew that was probably the truth. “Is that a crime?”
Evelyn spoke for her husband. “It would be if that wasn’t all you were doing.” She scowled at him. “You were probably meeting with Fritzie, weren’t you?”
“I’ve fought for my country. I’ve had friends die as they stood right beside me. I would never betray my country. Can you say the same?”
She stood her ground. “No. No. I haven’t fought and had friends die on the battlefield like you and Richard.”
She had, of course, had had friends fight and die as members of the Resistance. Jim seemed to forget that in the heat of the moment but it didn’t seem to faze Evelyn. “But I have lost my parents…” She started to tear up. “My parents were taken to one of the camps in the Dakotas.” Now, she was sobbing almost uncontrollably. “I have no way of knowing for sure…But I’m pretty sure their camp was destroyed in one of the Nazi H-Bomb tests.”
“I didn’t know….You never…” Richard looked at his wife, trying to silently console her as questions filled his mind. “When?”
She turned to her husband, tears running down her face. “They were taken last year, shortly after we fire bombed the Minneapolis Gestapo field office.” She brushed her hand against his cheek. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want to talk about it after Eric Sanderson told me they were taken.” Eric was a contact of theirs from a resistance group in the western part of the state. “Then, that H-Bomb test three months ago….” She trailed off as she started to lose her composure again.
Richard hugged her close but the moment was broken by the sound of a diesel engine.
“Guys…I hate to break this moment up. But, we have company.”
Richard looked in the direction his friend was pointing. In the distance, he could see the outline of one of the new Sd. Kfz. 256 halftracks, painted white with winter camouflage. About a dozen German soldiers were pouring out the back as the machine gunner on top scanned the horizon. “Shit,” he cursed under his breath. “We’re gonna have to get a move on things!”
Jim glanced at the soldiers pouring out of the halftrack, then at the vast forest ahead of them. “You go. I’ll only slow you down and get us all captured.” He used his eyes to point down at his bad ankle.
Richard shook his head vehemently. “No. I already had to leave George behind. I’m not leaving you too.”
Jim shook his head. “Save yourselves. We can’t do anything if they get all of us.”
Evelyn’s eyes impatiently shifted between the two men. “He’s right. He’s going to slow us down. Let’s just go.”
Jim nodded his agreement. “The longer you stand here arguing with me, the easier you’re making they’re job.” Then, as if to accentuate the point, the short staccato clatter StG 45s filled the air, sending fragments of bark exploding around them as lead ricocheted off the trees.
“I’m not leaving without you.”
Evelyn glared at her husband. “Are you trying to get us captured?”
Another burst of fire flew past their heads.
Jim stared at his friend before giving an exasperated sigh as he shook his head. “Fine. I’ll go.”
Evelyn just shook her head as the three of them took off running through the woods as the metallic odor of burnt gunpowder filled the air as trees exploded around them. Ducking to avoid low-hanging branches, they ran as hard as they could without leaving Jim behind as he hobbled along, struggling to keep up. To give him time, every few feet, Richard and Evelyn would turn around and provide covering fire for him.
“I still think we should’ve listened and left him. We’d be out of here by now,” she said during one such moment.
“You’re just saying that because you think he’s the mole.”
She eyed him carefully as they turned to continue their escape. “What makes you so certain he’s not?” She gave him a hurt look. “Are you saying you believe him over me? I’m your wife for Christ sake.”
“No….it’s not that.”
Their conversation had slowed them down enough to allow Jim to close the distance some. “Well, if it’s not me, and it’s not her, that only leaves….” He didn’t need to finish his sentence.
Before he could respond, the crack of a single gunshot rang out, followed by a booming voice. “Stopp!” Halt!
Three collective gasps filled the air. The three Americans looked first at each other, then at the seven grey uniformed Gestapo officers in front of them. Looking behind himself, Richard could see the Wehrmacht soldiers coming up behind them from the trees.
“Setzen Sie Ihre Waffen unten.” Put your weapons down! The commanding officer pointed his pistol at them and waved it toward the ground to demonstrate what he wanted him to do.
He exchanged glances with his comrades, and they complied.
The Gestapo commander then motioned for them to get on their knees, which they did. As the German forces secured them, Richard noticed his wife and his friend both staring at him suspiciously, the same looks they had given each other just minutes before. Finally, suspicion and defeat filled the air as they were forced upright and into a waiting covered truck, he saw them looking at each other.
As they were piled into the truck, Jim was placed on the passenger side of the truck bed and flanked by four officers, two on each side. Evelyn and Richard were placed on the driver side with one officer on each side while the commander got in the cab with the driver.
As the engine rumbled to life and the truck started moving, the three captives silently eyed each other until Evelyn finally spoke up. “Well, that’s just great! You led us straight into a bloody trap!”
“Come on! There’s no way I could’ve known…”
“Not unless you wanted us to get caught. You would’ve been miles away from here if you hadn’t waited for me!”
“You two know me better than anyone. Do you really think I could do this?”
One of the Gestapo officers took the butt of his assault rifle and struck Richard in the ribs, causing him to double over in pain and spit out drops of blood. The officer’s English was heavily accented, “Shut up!”
They rode the rest of the way in complete silence, each staring at the floor of the truck bed.
The drive to what used to be the St. Paul Police Department headquarters only took about ten minutes. Once the vehicle stopped, they were ordered to pile out, flanked by all the officers. The commander exited the truck from behind them and strutted out so he stood in front of them, the sun brightly reflecting off the black trim on his hat and boots.
A few yards in the distance, Richard could see a second Gestapo officer, a little older than the first, walk toward them. He was followed by two more underlings, each armed with MP40 submachine guns crossed diagonally across their chests. The younger officer stretched out a gloved hand and the two men shook hands.
They exchanged words, which Richard couldn’t understand- his German was limited to the most basic necessary for life under German occupation. After their brief interaction, the younger officer signaled to his men, who led the three captives toward the older officer.
The man, who appeared to be in his mid-to-late forties, had a chest full of medals and commendations. Richard guessed he held the position of Inspector of the Security Police and Security Service for the St. Paul office. “I am Oberregierungs-und Kriminalrat Fiedler.” Richard knew enough of the Gestapo’s rank structure to know that he held a rank roughly akin to a Lieutenant Colonel in the US military. “You will be in my custody for the time being. But don’t worry. We have something very special planned for you.” He grinned and laughed, then turned to the men guarding his new prisoners and ordered them to lead them away. As they were being led away, Fiedler called out in his thickly accented English.
“Frau, I’d like a word with you.”
Richard’s head immediately turned toward his wife as she was led toward Fiedler by a single guard.
Watching her go, his heart sped up in his chest until he felt it fall deep into his stomach, which twisted itself in knots around his heart. His mind was racing just as fast, conjuring up images of the worst indecencies and abuses Fiedler could commit against her in order to make her talk. Finally, he had to close his eyes and shake his head to rid such images from his mind. But, then he caught a glimpse at Jim, who had a smug, self-assured expression on his face, and a second thought entered his mind. Had his old Army buddy been right?
Could she be the Nazi spy? It was impossible, wasn’t it?
His mind became glued to these questions, and as the guards threw him into a cell, he knew he would have plenty of opportunity to ponder them.
His cell was completely bare, devoid even of a cot. The cement floor was cold and rock hard as Richard sat, his back against the wall. His hands were still handcuffed behind his back so he had his face buried in his knee. His mind replayed every moment with Evelyn- from the time he first met her, their first kiss, his proposal, and their wedding to the day he left for basic and the day- March 17, 1947- when he came home in defeat and rooted them up to go in hiding until they found Captain Bennett a few months later. That was three years ago, and he was reliving every last moment of it, looking for any clue.
Finally, two of the guards came to his cell door. One stood watch while the other entered the cell and pulled him to his feet. The guard put his gun barrel to Richard’s back, forcing him to follow the other guard through the hallways, whose walls were lined with Gestapo and SS recruitment posters and other propaganda. As he passed Jim’s cell, they shared a brief pensive glance until Richard was pushed forward. When they got to a room marked “Interrogation Room 2” in both English and German, the lead guard opened the door while the other shoved Richard into the room. The room had a table in the middle, with a chair on either side. Grabbing Richard by the shirt collar, the guard pushed him into the chair facing the door and cuffed him to it. Once Richard was secured, the guards left and shut the door behind him.
A few minutes later, the door opened. Looking up, Richard could see Evelyn. She was no longer wearing her jacket but she still had on the white button down blouse and brown cotton skirt she had on earlier. Behind her was a man he didn’t recognize, wearing a black trench coat and a black fedora. She nervously looked back at the man behind her then walked into the room as the door was shut behind her.
Richard didn’t give her a chance to say anything as she sat down across from him. “So, it was you, then.”
She hesitated a moment, looking down at the table before looking back up at him, her eyes watering up. “Yes…it was.”
He stared at her, considering her carefully as he frowned at her. “Why?” He shook his head. “What about your parents? Or was that complete bullshit?”
She bit her bottom lip as the top one quivered. “No. No. That was the truth. I don’t know the details but what I heard is the Gestapo had received reports they were harboring Jews, and when my father, being the old lawyer he was.” She allowed herself a smile as she remembered her father. “My father wouldn’t let them search the house. They returned about an hour later with an entire platoon of Gestapo and SS, and forced their way in. Next thing, my parents knew they were on a train to the Black Hills.” She fought valiantly to hold back her tears but it was becoming a losing battle. “When I heard about the H-Bomb test out there, I just assumed the worst.” It was well known that the Nazis would use the prisoner camps as test sites for their atomic weapons. Tears were streaming down her face as she continued. “After that happened, I realized we can’t win this. This is a losing battle. You’re risking your life for what!? An ideal that will never happen? They have the planes, the tanks, the atomic bombs! How are we to fight that? We can’t! I love you too much to watch you throw your life away like that.” Her face was now buried in her hands as she sobbed audibly.
He laughed, shaking his head mockingly. “You say you love me. Yet, you led the Gestapo right to me! Right to our friends! They’re all dead! And what do you think is going to happen to me!? Do you think since you turned on me, they’ll let us go off in the sunset and live happily ever after?”
“That’s what Agent Dallmann told me.” That must be the man in the trench coat, Richard guessed. “That if I spied for them, he’d make sure we were both kept safe.” She had trouble getting words out between sobs.
“They were using you!” He shook his head at her foolishness. “It was a trick!”
“I know!” She barely got out as she hung her head in shame as she kept crying. Then she looked up and took a deep breath, tears causing her makeup to streak down her face. “That’s what I was sent in her to tell you. You and Jim are going to be taken to the Auditorium tonight for the Reichkomissar’s speech, where you’ll both be executed on live TV, and I’ll be given some type of medal or something.” And, with that, she looked back up at him apologetically, and got up to leave. “I’m sorry.”
As she turned to walk toward the door, he said three simple words to her. “You’ll be next.”
She just turned her head toward him, hanging it resignation, and knocked on the door to be let out.
After she left, the guards returned to drag him back to his cell. Again, as he passed Jim’s cell, they shared a look. But, this time, it was just a simple nod as Richard confirmed that his friend had been right all along.
They let him stew in his cell a few more hours before returning to retrieve him. As they were marched back to the truck they had arrived on, four guards escorted them. Once they were all piled in back, he was surprised to see Evelyn join him. But he allowed himself some smug satisfaction that the Germans still viewed her as a prisoner. What he wasn’t prepared for was her choice to sit beside him, and slide her hand behind his back to hold his still cuffed hands, as she nestled herself up against him.
The nerve of this woman. Every fiber in his being told him to push her away, to move as far away from her as possible. But, he couldn’t, and it wasn’t just the cuffs or the guard on his other side. He felt sorry for her. No doubt she believed she had done the right thing to bring peace to their lives. But, that didn’t excuse her either, so they just rode in silence until the truck stopped and the guards started unloading everyone.
Just as they exited the truck bed, she turned to her husband and mouthed, “No matter what you believe now, I will never love anyone like I love you.”
He couldn’t respond even if he wanted to as she was whisked away to join Fiedler and his lieutenant.
Inside the Auditorium, he could see red, white, and black streamers hanging from the ceiling, and two elongated German flags stretched down from the ceiling to the floor in flanking positions around the stage, which had a podium front and center. The floor immediately in front of the stage was empty and roped off, except for a couple television cameras and their crews.
Along the other three walls sat rows of stadium seating, slowly filling up with German officers and other Nazi Party officials.
Jim and Richard were led to the left side of the stage and pushed down on to their knees. The guards remained behind them. On the right side of the stage, Evelyn stood flanked by Fiedler, and his lieutenant.
He had been kneeling so long his knees were screaming at him and his legs started turning to mush by the time a man Richard recognized as a top advisor to Reichkomissar Reinhardt walked on to the stage and spoke to the now full audience, introducing Alfons Reinhardt, the military governor in charge of the former American Upper Midwest- the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
As Reichkomissar Reinhardt strutted on to stage, Richard could hear leather snapping behind him so he looked over his shoulder just in time to see a cocked P38 pistol pointed straight at Jim’s head.
Reinhardt started talking. Although Richard could only make out a few words, it sounded as if he was talking about living conditions in his territory, and the successful relocation of various “undesirables.” Then he started talking about security, and after a long stream of words Richard couldn’t make out, he heard one clear word, Evelyn’s name. Reinhardt was holding up whatever medal she would receive for turning on them. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Fiedler usher her toward the podium. As she slowly moved forward, Richard could see her fiddling with one of her blouse buttons near her waistline.
What happened next was slow motion. As the Reichkomissar presented her the medal and shook her hand, there was a loud “pop” sound as Evelyn and the Reichkomissar disintegrated. As if by reflex, Richard could feel himself screaming the word “Nooo!” even as no sound came out. Inside, his heart was racing and his mind still struggled to believe what he had just witnessed.
In the crowd, he could see hundreds of shocked faces as people tried to answer the same questions he was asking himself. Then he looked over at Jim to see his reaction. But, as he did so, he looked over just in time to watch his friend’s body fall limply forward as a gunshot rang out.
Working frantically, his mind was in overdrive trying to devise an escape plan while still trying to comprehend everything that had just happened. Then, as he closed his hands, he felt something in his hand. It was small and thin. The metal was cool against his skin.
A bobby pin? What the? Then, as if to answer his question, he thought back to the truck ride and Evelyn taking hold of his hand, and his heart sank, as he looked back to where the podium had once been.
Around him, the audience was running toward the exits while the guard who had shot Jim was preparing to shoot him. Moving quickly, he ducked to the side and launched his shoulder into the guard’s knees. Meanwhile, his fingers were manipulating the bobby pin into the keyholes of the handcuffs. Once his hands were free, he stood up and punched the off balance guard across the face, sending him falling to the ground. All of a sudden a spray of automatic gunfire riddled the wall in front of him. Ducking low and rolling, he picked up the guard’s pistol and fired twice as he sprinted and jumped off the stage. Looking over his shoulder, he fired twice more as more bullets ricocheted off the walls around him, forcing him to duck and shield his face from the bits of brick and mortar. Trying to avoid the swarm of bullets buzzing past him, he made his way to the exit behind the stage, stumbling as he knocked over spare chairs and bumped into Reinhardt’s fleeing administrative staff.
Hoping the fleeing crowd would cover his escape, he found the exit and opened the door to find Reinhardt’s black Mercedes. It was guarded by two men in dark grey SS uniforms and armed with StG 45s. Seeing him, they raised their weapons but Richard already had his gun up and fired a shot into each of their heads before either could even get their fingers to the triggers.
Smashing the driver side window with the gun, he unlocked the door. Climbing in the car, he rested the pistol on the passenger seat as he hotwired the ignition. As the car revved to life, he could hear men shouting in German and a hail of bullets shattered the rear windshield and pinged off the metal frame. Giving one last look back, he reached into his pocket and held the bobby pin in his hand as he sped away with one hand on the wheel, whispering, “I love you too.”