Major Richard Blaine has been ordered on a suicidal solo mission to the deadly nighttime shores of Normandy.
“Men are basically smart or dumb; lazy or ambitious. The dumb and ambitious ones are the most dangerous.”
— Erwin Rommel
Copper snowflakes swirled slowly in front of my eyes. An eerie ballet of which I was growing greatly tired obscured my vision. Sentient had taken full control of me once more. I wondered if this was how drunks who blacked out and awakened in strange surroundings felt. I would never find out.
I got into too much trouble sober.
The strong odor of diesel made me gag. Amine was buried under that stench but still there in the musty air. Merde. I was back in a midget submarine. But a poorly maintained one for the air to be musty and filled with diesel fumes.
Sentient broke into my musings as she pulled back the veils to show me the rusty interior of the decrepit submarine.
‘You were meant to die as it sank in the middle of the English Channel.’
“Laska hates me that much?”
‘Little men hate big as the illiterate Davy Crockett said of his enemies in Congress.’
“So Laska arranged for my own little Alamo?”
‘More than you know. Still, I have not endured millennia of mental isolation for you to drown. I folded space around this mockery of a vessel, bringing you to the site that fool insisted you dock to gather the mine he hoped would explode in your face.’
‘The Teller mine you were to collect was never intended to be an underwater device. It would not be water-proofed. The subsequent corrosion would have played havoc with its mechanism, and it might have gone off any minute … hopefully when you were directly in front of it.’
“Merde. He really wants me dead, and don’t say ‘More than I know.’ Hey, what you told me just now: you can take things from place to place by … ah, folding space?”
‘I am …. What I am will be for another time. suffice it to say I can do that … even take you to the side of that Hitler lunatic to kill him … if I wanted to prolong the war.’
I shook my head. “I will not kill in cold blood.”
“All right. Yet. But my blood might be hot enough to kill Laska once I see him again.”
‘If you live long enough. Two U-Boats are to our rear and front as we speak.’
I groaned, “That’s stern and bow. How did they find us so fast?”
‘Three guesses, and if you need more than one, you have not been paying attention.’
“Laska let them know! Why that traitor.”
‘I guess you have not been paying attention to me after all. It is time to be Ulysses again. Climb the ladder. I have already opened the latch.’
“That is hatch.”
‘No matter. After your inane fashion, I threw away the automatic and knife when we became the Allied version of The Trojan Horse.’
“The Greeks won.”
‘As will we if you can keep a civil tongue in your head. Oh, I forget to whom I speak. Then, I will mourn you.’
I climbed the ladder and stuck out my head and was welcomed with a MG-42 in my face. It was a bulky thing with a belt of bullets hanging from its body. GI’s nicknamed the German weapons that killed them.
Incoming rockets were “Screaming Mimis,” “Potato Mashers” were a type of German grenade, and the antipersonnel mines that leapt up from under the earth and then exploded at crotch level were “Bouncing Betties.”
Not so for the MG-42 machine gun, which received a more ominous nickname that left little doubt about the capabilities of the weapon. German troops called it the “Knochensäge.” “Bone saw” in English. GIs altered the translation and began calling it “Buzz Saw” or “Hitler’s Buzz Saw.”
I was hardly in a joking mood when the MG-42 jabbed me under the chin. A bear of a sailor held it. And despite his bulk, the barrel trembled from the effort it took to hold it.
Obviously, my legend preceded me. Super.
I knew that particular German gun spat out 1,550 rounds of high-velocity, 7.92 millimeter ammunition per minute, a rate of fire that roughly worked out to 25 rounds per second.
He pulled the trigger, and nothing would be left of my head.
I flashed my best “New Orleans mayor running for reelection" smile” and said in my best German, “Have you come to surrender, then?”
But it made the bear of a sailor laugh and grunt, “Field Marshall Rommel will enjoy your visit. Your visit to the Gestapo you will not enjoy. Come. We will begin your last moments now. I am afraid your sense of humor will not survive for long.”
I hoped Rommel’s reputed motto of “War without hate” would prove true for me.