Saturday, March 16, 2013

Excerpt: The Vatican Caper

Chapter One
Know Your Wagner.

“Whoever wishes to understand National Socialism must know Wagner.”
Ludwig, his shooting partner, looked sideways at him. Ullrich couldn’t think of anything to say, but they’d been carrying on in whispers for a while now, and this vein of amusement was a good, rich ore. Ah! He had one after all.
“The Germans, Nietzsche wrote in Ecce Homo, have no idea of how vile they are.”
His companion grunted in disdain. The young man thought his was better. Ullrich kept quiet. Perhaps that was best. A jaded eye surveyed the diorama-scale scene laid out like a farmer’s breakfast.
The scope was cold up against Ullrich’s eyebrow. Stationed at the end of the square, nicely overlooking the balconies of the target area, the courtyard and surrounding edifices, they were as high up as they could get and still have any hope of quick escape. He fiddled with the adjustment screw. A man’s face leapt out into clear focus. Schneider. Sheer luck, for there was no way to anticipate which side of the vehicle he would get out of. It was terribly bad luck for the other.
Just a matter of perspective.
“Still not time.” They were completely silent, although at this range, low down behind the parapet, they could have probably had a long conversation in a fairly normal voice without tipping off the quarry.
They were getting out and forming up, each of them already a dead man, if only they knew it. But of course they did know it. They were fanatics every one. His trigger finger almost itched. He’d heard the saying, but never would have believed it before this.
To pull down on a brother officer was necessary, but no one said he had to like it. A professional soldier’s oath of service was deeply ingrained, and very hard to contradict. The finger gently squeezed, taking up the initial tension. The next thirty seconds dragged on. He let his heart settle.
“I’ve got number one.”
“Danke.” The tip of the other’s weapon moved slightly to the right and he grinned. “Sorry. I mean grazie.”
The youngster was trained well enough, and by all accounts, he could shoot. That was all that mattered, that and to listen well and follow instructions. They would be lucky to get about five minutes here and then they must be off.
He knew the face of Schneider, having studied photos of it intently. What had brought them to this time and place in exactly these circumstances was the result of a very long chain of causality. Changing any one factor might have brought a different outcome. It was a deterministic world, as Ullrich saw it.
“That’s strange.” Ludwig’s hoarse whisper was a shock.
“What is?”
“I don’t see any guards. But they were out there when we got here.”
Startled, Ullrich swung his scope over and through the scene, first to one door and then another. He was right. Shift change wasn’t for a while yet, and they would have to be relieved before they could go. There was something ominous in it, but they were too committed. There was no way to go back or shut this thing off now. It would mean fewer innocent casualties. He prayed they weren’t forming up for their famed pike charge of the sixteenth century.
“Will wonders never cease?” Ludwig glanced over and grinned at his own joke.
Ullrich grunted in acknowledgement, studying the scene, especially the windows and doors now. It would have to do.
“Just remember your escape plan.” He gave the lad’s shoulder a squeeze.
He leveled his own weapon and took the proper grip. Ullrich took another look at the range.
“Yes, sir.”
“Call me Rolf.”
The youngster grunted.
The enemy looked ready to move. All accounted for. The other posts were waiting for him to take the first shot. It was a privilege of rank, but also a point of planning in order to prevent mistakes. There would be no doubts and no questions on their part. Only he had the right to hesitate. It only took so much time for thirty men to dismount from the lorries.
“But for the Teuton, everlasting night would have settled upon the world…” He wasn’t sure if Ludwig had ever heard that one.
He pulled the trigger and the figure in his sights crumpled.


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