Authors: John Reynolds
Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two
Chapter Twenty Three
Chapter Twenty Four
Chapter Twenty Five
Chapter Twenty Six
Chapter Twenty Seven
Chapter Twenty Eight
Chapter Twenty Nine
Chapter Thirty One
Chapter Thirty Two
Chapter Thirty Three
Chapter Thirty Four
Chapter Thirty Five
Chapter Thirty Six
Chapter Thirty Seven
Chapter Thirty Eight
Chapter Thirty Nine
Chapter Forty One
Chapter Forty Two
Chapter Forty Three
Chapter Forty Four
Chapter Forty Five
Chapter Forty Six
By the Same Author
The pair lay perfectly still. The Teutonic commands drifting up the valley were coming closer.
“Dogs. I think they’ve got dogs?” she whispered.
“Maybe.” A distant growl supplied the answer.
Gripping his Sten a little tighter Stuart muttered, “Bastards.” He then felt compelled to add, “It’ll be OK.”
Lifting their heads was too risky. Instead they both tried to interpret the steadily increasing sounds.
“They’re getting closer. Do you think they know we’re here?”
Stuart shook his head but his wan smile betrayed his lack of conviction. “It’ll be OK. You’ll see,” he repeated. He patted the barrel of his Sten. “If a dog does attack, you take it while I take the leading soldiers. Reckon there’s only a few of them.”
He felt his stomach churn. “Hunger or fear?” he wondered wryly. His involuntary response to the sound of another command answered his question as he pressed closer to the damp earth.
“Jesus,” he muttered.
He shook his head but was unable to smile.
The noise of their pursuers could now be clearly heard.
“Was ist los?”
“Herr Hauptman, der Hund hat was gerochen!”
“The bloody dog’s got our scent!” muttered Stuart.
“Los! Los! Vorwarts! Beeilt euch!”
The excited barking of the dog blended with the cocking of machine pistols and the rapid booted footsteps.
“Schmeissers! Bastards. A quick burst! Straight and fast! On my command…”
A helmet appeared over the crest.
They both reared up, their Stens held close to their waists. Stuart, hampered by his leg, was slower than the woman whose first burst turned the excited barking into an elongated howl of pain. The delay was enough for the dog handler to fire his Luger twice before a burst from Stuart sent him sprawling across the creature’s twitching body.
“Got the bastard! Here come the rest! Keep firing!”
Two more bursts from Stuart’s Sten caused the charging soldiers to pause, crouch and fire. Ducking and stepping to his right he stumbled over his companion who was lying moaning at his feet.
“Sorry, Stuart, it’s my foot. Dunno if I can stand.”
The pause had given his adversaries the chance they wanted. The stuttering Schmeissers dispatched a lethal hail towards Stuart’s figure silhouetted against the skyline. The blow to his shoulder surprised him with its force and the now familiar numbing lack of pain. Moments after he collapsed backwards the leading Waffen SS trooper was standing over him. Now, as the pain spread in shock waves across his upper body he felt a sickening blow to his ribcage.
“Got you, you bastard!” exulted the trooper as he drew his jackbooted leg back for a second kick. The pause and the sneer were deliberate. “And your sheila, as well!”
As the wave of pain-induced nausea from the second kick swept over him, Stuart registered the juxtaposition. The uniform was now almost as familiar to him as the soldier’s accent.
From his left came the sounds of a sustained burst of fire. Just before he blacked out he managed to gasp, “Kiwi bastard!”
Stuart, with a nod to his parents and younger brother Stephen, and a quick grin to his nine year old sisiter Claire, seated himself at the table for the traditional Johnson family Sunday lunch. Removing his linen serviette from its silver ring he draped it across his knees and began selecting a tasty morsel from the roast that his father had finished carving. In response to a question from her father Claire began to chatter about the Sunday school lesson she’d heard before church that morning.
Living at home meant he had to brace himself for the weekly ritual of the morning church service. But this morning had been different. As he’d pulled up at the kerb in front of the church and dismounted from his bicycle, he’d seen the young woman. The attraction was immediate; so much so that he had to tell himself to slow down as he parked his bike, removed the cycle clips from around his trouser cuffs and headed straight for the group of young women. Several smiled a welcome as he approached. He was well liked and suspected that now he had joined that privileged few who were university students, one or two of the church mothers had him in their sights for their daughters.
The young woman was even more stunning in close up. Introduced as Carol Peterson, her flowing black hair, stirred slightly by the wind, encased a face that was little short of exquisite. The rest of her was equally attractive. The fabric of the light floral
frock flowed effortlessly around a figure that, while slim, filled out appropriately. Expecting the possessor of such beauty to be coolly self-confident, Stuart was agreeably surprised to discover that having been introduced to him- “Stuart’s at Auckland University College” - she answered his questions quite shyly.
She informed him that she had come to Auckland’s North Shore from Wellington, was boarding with her aunt in Milford and had just secured a secretarial position in the central city.
“You go to the city every day, Carol?” Stuart asked.
“Yes,” she replied with a shy smile. “I work in the central city. I go by bus from Milford to the ferry. With controlled casualness he asked, “What ferry?”
“Oh, usually the one that leaves Devonport at eight o’clock.”
Uncharacteristically Stuart was the first one down for breakfast the following morning, wearing his cleanest shirt and tieunder his varsity blazer. His mother, always eager to believe the best of her children, took his smart appearance and punctuality as a sign that he was ‘making an effort’ and greeted him warmly.
“Busy day planned, dear?”
“Yes, Mum, heaps to do.”
“That’s good, dear. You do enjoy university, don’t you, dear?”
“Yes, Mum I do. It’s opened my eyes to all sorts of knowledge and ideas that I really knew nothing about at all.”
“Yes, dear. But you must hold fast to that which is true.”
“Oh, I will, Mum. You bet. This marmalade’s good. Is it new?”
“Not, really. I’ve been buying it from Mr. Bright’s for several months. I’m glad you like it, dear.”
Finishing his breakfast quickly, Stuart excused himself, hastened upstairs to clean his teeth, check his image in his bedroom mirror and to take some extra time to spread brilliantine oil through his thick black hair. Rapidly descending the stairs he collected his brown paper lunch bag from the kitchen, accepted his mother’s requisite peck on the cheek, exited the house and walked swiftly to the bus stop.
He was the first one there.
The bus trip to the ferry terminal at Devonport took an age. Timetabled to link with the 8.00 morning ferry Stuart hoped that the bus would be early, thus allowing him time to scan the gathering commuters for a sign of Carol.
However, the trip was at the peak of the rush hour and consequently the bus pulled up at every stop. By the time it arrived at the terminal the bus was filled with passengers and cigarette smoke. Managing to push his way to the front, Stuart was the first off. Entering the terminal he moved quickly through the crowd of men in hats, suits, sports coats and flannel trousers, and a sprinkling of military uniforms. The women, mostly in their late teens or twenties, or past marriageable age, were smartly dressed in knee length dresses with hats, gloves, and stockings as befitted those who worked in city offices and shops.
Normally Stuart would have joined the other young men in a ritual that was re-enacted every day. Ignoring the gangplank large numbers of them sought a brief moment of excitement by lining the edge of the wharf and jumping directly onto the upper or lower decks of the arriving ferry – their choice depending on the state of the tide. However, giving no thought to the ritual, he began working his way through the crowd assembled near the gangplank area. Anxiously he scanned all the female faces but Carol was nowhere to be seen. As the ferry docked he decided to move to the right hand side of the lowered gangplank and watch the passengers as they poured onto the vessel.
He saw Carol almost at once. She was talking to a tall man dressed in a dark three-piece suit who looked to be in his early thirties. Immediately Stuart pushed through the crowd of people surging up the lowered gangway. Just as she reached the top he drew level with her shoulder.
“Hullo, Carol!” he exclaimed, rather too loudly. Startled she turned and in doing so missed her footing on the gangway’s edge and fell forward. Stuart and the other man, simultaneously reaching out on either side, caught her before she went sprawling on the deck.
Both men’s eyes met above the girl’s head.
“What do you think you’re doing, mate?” demanded her companion.
“She slipped. Good thing I caught her, mate,” responded Stuart, his anger at his own clumsiness more than compensated for by the momentary feel of Carol’s body as she staggered upright. He smiled down at her, “Sorry if I startled you, Carol. Hope you’re OK. Did you hurt yourself?”
“Hullo, um ---.”
“Yes, Stuart. Of course. Fancy seeing you again so quickly.”
“Yes. Fancy. I---.”
“Sure, you’re OK, sweetheart?” interrupted the other man reaching forward and turning Carol’s face towards him.
“Yes, Hamish. Quite sure. Let’s find a seat.”
Including himself in the invitation Stuart walked with the pair to the bow of the ferry and sat down beside her on the long wooden slatted seat that covered the vessel’s circumference.
“Oh, Stuart, this is Hamish. Hamish, I met Stuart at church yesterday.”
A seagull screeched above them and wheeled away.
“At church. Don’t bother with all that stuff myself. Prefer to go yacht racing on Sundays.”
Normally Stuart would have agreed, but the ‘sweetheart’ had irritated him. His uncharacteristic response would have delighted his parents.
“Nothing wrong with Christian teaching. The world would be a lot better place if more people attended church.”
Hamish slowly looked Stuart up and down. His dark suit and conservative tie contrasted with Stuart’s university college blazer and grey flannel trousers.
“What brings you to the city?” Stuart deliberately smiled at Carol before responding.
“Varsity. I’m a student.”
“Varsity. Huh. Studying anything useful?”
Carol cut in. “Hamish. That’s a little unfair.”
Her companion laughed harshly. “Come, on, sweetheart, what would you know?”
“So,” asked Stuart with a thin smile. “What do you do, Hamish?”
“Business,” was the curt reply.
“Hamish came to Auckland to take over the chief accountant’s position in his father’s construction business,” offered Carol helpfully.
“Good for you, Hamish,” replied Stuart, favouring the man with an enormous smile.
Hamish gave Stuart a long stare. Then turning directly to Carol he lowered his voice and pointedly engaged her in conversation. The clattering of the chains as the gangplank was raised, the whistle from the mate as he unhooked the rope from the capstan and the clanging of the bells to signal the engine room, initiated the familiar throb of the ferry’s engines. The steady pulse combined with the strong harbour breeze, the slapping of the water against the bow and the chatter of the other passengers made it hard for Stuart to overhear their conversation. Feigning indifference he gazed at the passing panorama of ships, boats, wharves and cranes and the inevitable wheeling seagulls as the ferry made its trip from Devonport towards the terminal at the bottom of Queen Street. His initial elation at finding Carol had rapidly subsided with the advent of ‘Sweetheart’ Hamish. Obviously the older man had plenty of money-what with his flash clothing and the yacht racing on Sunday. Lucky bastard -not only Carol but also the chance to go sailing on Sundays. She’d worn gloves to church and had gloves on now so he had no way of checking the third finger on her left hand for an engagement ring. Mentally he shrugged and briefly turned his thoughts to an attractive fair-haired young woman who’d sat next to him in last Friday’s History tutorial.
The noise and movement of the passengers preparing to disembark interrupted his reverie. He was about to follow suit when Carol turned to him and smiled warmly, her large brown eyes staring up into his.
“Stuart, I just realized that my new job is near the end of Princes St not far from your university. We might bump into each other again.”
Stuart’s smile was warm. “Yes, we might.” Then, as a tactical afterthought he asked, “Where’s your business located, er, Hamish?”
The abrupt response of, “Newmarket,” lifted his spirits a little. Newmarket was a fairly long tram ride from the city centre and the university. The opportunities for a lunchtime rendezvous between Hamish and Carol would therefore be limited.
“Nice to meet you, Hamish. And, Carol, as you say, we may bump into each other in the city again. Who knows?” Rounding off his farewell with his most charming smile he turned and joined the line of disembarking passengers heading for the bottom of Queen Street.