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Authors: Michael Wallace

Blood of Vipers

BOOK: Blood of Vipers
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When fighter pilot Cal Jameson is shot down in
enemy
territory at the end of the war, his only desire is to find his
way back to
American lines. But as Cal hides from a Waffen-SS death squad,
he stumbles into
a family of German refugees fleeing Soviet shock troops. Soon,
he finds himself
in an uncertain role as the family’s protector. Together, they
must stay alive
while under attack from partisans, Russian soldiers, and the
last, dying
struggles of the Nazi regime, which is determined to throw back
the enemy, even
if it means the final destruction of the German people.

Blood of Vipers

by
Michael Wallace

© Michael Wallace, 2012. All rights reserved.
Cover Art by Glendon Haddix at www.streetlightgraphics.com

1.

Cal Jameson was deep over enemy territory,
fuel running low,
ammo almost spent, when he came upon another fighter plane. They
were flying
through a designated kill box of the United States Army Air
Forces, and a week
or two earlier Cal would have radioed base, figured it was
Luftwaffe, and tried
to shoot it down.

But the German air force was absent from the
battlefield—it
was only a matter of days, now—and he grew suspicious. He took
the Mustang down
from the clouds to get a better look and saw red and blue
roundels on the wings
and recognized it as a British Spitfire moments later.

It flew low to the ground, strafing a train
that was
traveling west, huffing into a village. Chances were, the train
was stuffed
with the same refugees who clogged every road from here to the
Soviet lines,
thirty, forty miles to the east, but it might hold troops or
artillery shells,
for all that Cal knew. He banked around to follow the Spitfire
on its run.

It wouldn’t take long. A few more bursts and
he’d call it a
day. Ammo depleted, nothing but a safe flight back to the
airfield east of the
Rhine.

But as he came up behind the British fighter
he recoiled in
horror. The rooftops of the individual cars were painted white
with red
crosses.

Bullets sprayed from the Spitfire’s twin
machine guns. The
roof of the train peeled open and as Cal followed, he watched in
horror as
dozens of arms came out of the windows, frantically waving white
shirts. Scores
of people clung to the exterior of the cars—men, women,
children—and they threw
themselves from the moving train to escape the gunfire.

Good Lord, the British pilot didn’t know. He
hadn’t seen.

The Spitfire squeezed a final burst at the
locomotive, and
then peeled away and circled to do another strafing run.

“Son of a bitch,” Cal said.

He pulled back on the stick and pulled a loop
to follow the
RAF pilot around. The Spitfire made a tighter turn than the
Mustang, and he
struggled to keep on its tail.

He radioed base, gave his call sign.

The answer came at once. “Goofy Two, return
to base. Repeat,
return to base.”

“Did you hear me? The bastard is shooting up
a hospital
train.”

“We’ll worry about that. Get your butt back
to base. That’s
an order.”

That morning at briefing, which amounted to a
general call
to circle northern Germany and shoot at anything that moved, Cal
muttered under
his breath that he was tired of seeing school children dive into
ditches when
he flew over. A few of the new guys looked alarmed at his
insubordination, but
Cal had eleven kills, and had flown eighty-two missions. He no
longer cared.

Major Potts glared at him. “And how would
you
end the
war, Lieutenant?”

“It’s over already.”

“It’s over when Hitler swings from a rope and
the Germans
put down their guns.”

“I didn’t get shot at once yesterday. Just
buzzed around the
country, turning cows to hamburger and mowing down columns of
refugees. Aren’t
there any legitimate targets left?”

“Dammit, Jameson, I don’t care if you shoot
every last
grannie in the country, they’re probably Nazis anyway. Got it?”

Now, pulling around behind the British pilot,
who apparently
felt the same way as Major Potts, something twitched. Maybe it
was seeing all
those arms waving white shirts. Maybe it was Potts’s dismissal.

The voice on the radio insisted. “You receive
that, Goofy
Two? Return to base.”

Cal flipped off the radio. “The devil you
say.”

The Spitfire finally spotted him. The pilot
veered, then,
seeing it was a Mustang, straightened out again and continued
its turn. Cal
followed as if he were going to come in behind the British
pilot, but he
brought it in low and tight until he sat just off the other
man’s wing. He
glanced over to the British pilot, flying so close Cal could see
the man’s
eyes, glaring back from beneath his leather aviator cap. Cal
waggled his wings.
The man waggled his wings back and continued forward. The rear
of the train
approached in a hurry.

Cal pushed the throttle. He nosed past the
other pilot and
leaned in to cut him off. The Spitfire peeled away with what Cal
imagined was a
flurry of curses from the pilot. Cal laughed and gave the
departing British
pilot the middle finger as the other plane abandoned the hunt
and turned north.

“Yeah, I
hope
you report me, you
sonofabitch.”

He glanced down as he roared over the top of
the train. A
seam opened down the center of one car and he caught a glimpse
of a face, a
young man, staring up at him. There was a bandage around the
man’s head and he
held a hand to his eyes to shield them against the sun.

A bullet pinged against the wing. Cal looked
up from the
train. A church spire rose from the village ahead, which was no
more than a
cluster of a few dozen houses. Refugees clogged the train
platform—men with
crutches, women and children, and a few soldiers trying to
organize the crowd.

The gunfire didn’t come from the soldiers on
the platform.
Instead, he saw flashes of light to the right and left, small
arms fire from
twenty or thirty men ducking behind stone walls and crouched
next to the
outermost house in the village. One man held an antitank gun.
Another was
mounting a machine gun behind a shield of sandbags, and two more
had been
unloading crates of ammo from a truck. The terrain was flat, the
road ahead of
them undefended, but Cal guessed they’d been setting up to
defend this tiny
village against the Soviet forces penetrating from the
southeast.

Now here was a legitimate target. He glanced
at the fuel
gauge. Enough for a run or two. And he hadn’t wasted his bullets
shooting up
the hospital train.

This is why,
he’d tell Potts.
This
is why I
waggled my wingtips at the Brit. I was trying to warn him
there was an enemy
battery ahead.

He roared over the village and made a wide
turn to come at
the soldiers from the north. His hand tightened on the trigger
as he came in.
Air whistled through a hole in the canopy from an earlier
gunshot and a distant
part of his mind realized that if the bullet had come in at a
slightly
different angle it would have taken off the top of his head.
After missions,
lying in his bunk, these things ran through his mind again and
again. But he
had no time for that now. No time for fear.

He brought the Mustang in low and fast. One
pass and he’d
cut them to pieces. He engaged the guns.

Something flashed to his right. The Mustang
shuddered.
Gunfire came at him from the buildings and he saw more trucks,
more soldiers in
the back street leading into the village. Too late he realized
that this wasn’t
a single squad of Germans, but an entire company. It wouldn’t be
a holding
skirmish against the Soviets, when they came, but an outright
battle.

Cal pulled hard on the throttle. Bullets
pounded a ferocious
drumroll against his wings and undercarriage. He roared over the
train station,
so low he almost clipped the top of the locomotive. People
scattered, threw
themselves to the ground.

He outran the gunfire, and for a moment dared
to hope that
he’d broken free in time. And then the stick pulled hard to the
right. Smoke
streamed from the engine. He turned the trim set knob, but it
spun under his
hand, disconnected from the rudder.

“Dammit.”

He managed to keep the plane in the air as it
passed over
the village, past the train platform, where he took more fire,
and across the
fields and farmhouses that surrounded the village. He was losing
altitude, and
as he fiddled with the controls, he saw the flaps were damaged.
Meanwhile, the
fuel gauge sank, and the engine sputtered and died.

The plane cleared a copse of trees into sheep
pasture that
stretched for several acres before a second, larger stretch of
forest. When the
plane dropped below 150 knots, he put down the landing gear,
cranked a turn to
bleed off as much speed as he could, and tried to get the flaps
to forty
degrees, but the ground was coming up too hard and fast. He
braced himself for
impact.

The plane slammed into the ground.

2.

Cal wasn’t out for long. It couldn’t have been
more than a
split second, in fact, because dirt came pinging onto the
canopy, cast up from
the propeller as it churned up the ground before breaking apart.
Nevertheless,
he couldn’t remember the actual moment of impact.

Miraculously, the plane was right side up as
it shuddered to
its final resting place. There was no fire, and although smoke
poured out of
the engine, he knew it wasn’t likely to catch, not with the fuel
he’d shed
before impact.

He worked open the canopy, but it took a
moment to realize
he was still strapped into the cockpit. When he’d unstrapped
himself, he peeled
off the pinup card of Lana Turner and the photos of Mom, his kid
brother, and
his retriever, Rex, from the dash, and tucked them into one of
the pockets of
his C-1 survival vest. He squirmed out of the cockpit, crawled
onto the wing,
and dropped to the ground.

The right wing lay thirty yards back, at the
beginning of a
long trough gouged in the dirt. Bullet holes perforated the
other wing by the
dozen, and the canopy too. The propeller lay in pieces around
him, and the
undercarriage had buried itself in the soil.

His ankle hurt, but it didn’t seem broken.
Similarly, his
ribs ached, but when he probed them with a finger, he felt
nothing but
tenderness. Again, good luck. Except for the minor detail that
he was behind
enemy lines, and at least thirty miles closer to Soviet forces
than to his own
side.

Sheep stood a few dozen yards away, watching
him curiously.
No movement from the farmhouse, perhaps a quarter mile distant.
Maybe they’d
evacuated. Or maybe some old fellow with a waxed mustache and
lederhosen had
spotted him and was even now loading his shotgun. That was, if
outraged
villagers and survivors from the hospital train didn’t find him
first and
bludgeon him to death. Cal glanced at the painted nose of his
Mustang. The
Germans may not know a thing about the 352
nd
Fighter
Group, but they
knew all about the “Blue Noses.”

How many hours until dusk? Three? Four? He
had to get out of
here.

Cal gave a final, reluctant look at his P-51
Mustang, the
finest machine ever made. Even dying, it hadn’t let him down,
had brought him
in for a controlled crash.

It felt like entering another world as he
limped into the
forest. The leaves had budded and birds chirped from the
branches, busy with
their springtime activities. The trees were beech and maple, and
the vegetation
lush and green, very different from the dry hills where he’d
grown up out West,
but his heart rate slowed. He knew the outdoors, knew how to
cover his tracks,
how to stay warm at night.

He followed a deer trail as the ground sloped
upward. As he
climbed, a sound like distant thunder built in the air. It was
the same sound
he’d heard at the airfield in Belgium last Christmas, when the
Germans drove a
bulge into American lines before Patton’s Third Army threw them
back. He
thought it was probably the Russians, but the American advance
had been
thrusting into Germany for week after week on a line from
Hamburg to Munich,
and they might have broken through again.

The forest led him on for nearly a half hour,
and Cal began
to hope he could go deeper and deeper, thinking he could bypass
the
battlefield. He stopped twice, once to wrap his sprained ankle
in a bandage
from the first aid kit in his survival vest, and the second time
to check the
compass.

Northwest. He would go for American lines.
Travel all night
and hide during the day. With any luck he could slip through and
be back in
friendly territory by the day after tomorrow. He had a little
food, he had a
pistol, and he was barely injured. The Third Reich was in its
death throes;
they wouldn’t be searching for a single downed American pilot.

BOOK: Blood of Vipers
12.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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