(2007) No infringement upon the rightful owners
of "Combat!" and the characters thereof is intended. This piece of fan fiction
is for enjoyment only, and in no way will the author gain monetary profit from
Author's Note: This story first appeared in the 2007 Combat! Journals.
"If the Uniform Fits"
by Thompson Girl
"Will you hurry up and get into that uniform?" Braddock hissed. "They'll be out of sight soon."
"We should wait for orders." Brockmeyer crossed his arms.
"From who?" Braddock asked, pointing after the Krauts disappearing into the distance with their two prisoners: Saunders and Kirby. "There goes our source of orders. We're not due to meet with Hanley and the others for another hour. We can't just do nothing during that time. What's the problem? If you had those two stripes back, you'd be giving the orders."
"Yeah, but I don't have them, do I?"
"Yeah." Braddock shook his head. "What is it with you? For such a boring, quiet guy, you sure can't hang onto those things."
"Would you two knock it off?" Davis said, frowning anxiously. "They're going to be out of sight soon."
It had been a simple mission to recon a German fuel depot in the town of Grandeville. Saunders had just ordered them to head for the rendezvous with Hanley and the rest of the squad when they'd run afoul of a German patrol outside the town. Saunders and Kirby had been captured, leaving Braddock, Brockmeyer, and Davis watching helplessly from their hastily chosen hiding spot.
"Come on, Brockmeyer," Davis urged.
Both Davis and Braddock looked at the dead broken-necked German lying nearby, then meaningfully back at Brockmeyer.
"But you don't understand," Brockmeyer protested.
"I understand that every second you sit here arguing, those Germans take Saunders and Kirby deeper into their territory," Braddock said. "You're just making your own job harder."
Brockmeyer stared at the dead body, still not moving.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Braddock demanded.
"It's my German...."
"What about it?"
"I can understand it fine, but I don't speak it that well."
Braddock rolled his eyes. "Oh, and Davis and I, of course, are linguistic geniuses?"
"Come on, Brockmeyer," Davis said. "We're wasting time."
"And you wonder why I can't hang onto those stripes?" Brockmeyer muttered. "It's 'cause I let guys like you and Kirby talk me into stunts like this."
Braddock said, "I heard your last demotion was because you were—"
"Oh, just can it, will you?" Brockmeyer cut him off. "Give me a hand."
He quickly realized that even had language not been an issue, neither the taller Davis nor the amply girthed Braddock stood a remote chance of getting into the dead German's uniform. He really was the only choice. But even being the shortest member of the squad didn't give him much advantage. The dead man was smaller and thinner, and the uniform didn't fit right at all. He barely squeezed his more muscular arms into the sleeves. And when Braddock tugged the front straight and yanked it closed so he could button it, Brockmeyer gasped against the constraining cloth.
"It'll stretch," Braddock said reassuringly.
"But I can't breathe!"
"It'll stretch!" Braddock insisted. "Trust me. My grandfather was a tailor."
Brockmeyer grimaced. One good-sized gulp of air and the uniform would rip right down the middle of his back, he just knew it. The jacket rode up on his broader shoulders, catching too tightly under his arms, the material stretching and bulging. At least the jacket covered the fact that he couldn't fasten the top button on the pants at all. He jammed his feet into the too-small boots and winced.
"Good enough," Braddock said, plunking the helmet on Brockmeyer's head and tucking the strap under his chin. "Just don't try to touch your toes."
"You gotta be kidding me," Brockmeyer said. "There's no way I can get away with this."
"You won't with that attitude," Braddock said, unfazed by the glare
Brockmeyer cast his
Davis, pragmatic as always, added, "Besides, do we have a choice if we want to find out where they took the Sarge and Kirby?"
Brockmeyer had no reply to that. Davis handed him the dead German's rifle. Shouldering it, Brockmeyer headed down the side alley into town, not looking back. He didn't want to let on how nervous he really was. He hadn't been joking about his speaking German. He was sure if he did have to speak, the Krauts would recognize his American accent immediately. Maybe he could claim he'd been to the States? He shook his head grimly, then tried to loosen the helmet's chin strap; Braddock had gotten it too tight. He gave up before his hands were halfway there, too restricted by the ill-fitting uniform to reach high enough. He swore under his breath. In German. Just in case.
He had to stop his automatic instinct to hide and peek around the corner first as he entered the German-held town. It took all his resolve to head purposefully down the street like he knew where he was going. The too-small constricting uniform forced him to walk with a strange short stride. He thought it would be impossible to feel any more conspicuous even if he were wearing a clown outfit. But the first two Krauts he passed on the street simply gave him a friendly nod. He returned the gesture and walked on toward the town square, trying not to quicken his pace or unsling the rifle over his shoulder. Not that the rifle would do him any good with all the Germans around, but it would have made him feel better.
A squad marched by in single file, led by a neat, tidy, bespectacled sergeant. Brockmeyer turned sharply away from them and found himself looking down an alley directly at the fuel depot. And hidden at the far end of the alley between the tall walls and a sandbag front was a machine gun emplacement manned by two men. His blood ran cold at the sight. They hadn't been able to spot it on their recon, and it gave the Germans a perfect field of view covering the front of the depot. Had they approached the way they'd intended, that gun could have cut them all down.
He had to get this info back to Hanley. It would change their proposed attack strategy.
Brockmeyer froze and decided to play dumb. There were enough other soldiers around, it might not be him....
A finger tapped him on the shoulder, and he jumped. Turning, he found himself looking into the face of the neat and tidy sergeant he'd seen marching his squad a few minutes ago. The squad was halted nearby, all of them watching him.
"What are you doing there?" the sergeant demanded in a shrill voice.
"I, well...." Brockmeyer started to point the other direction, but the sergeant overrode him.
"Fall in line at once!"
The sergeant's beady eyes glared at Brockmeyer.
Brockmeyer swallowed his objection and crossed hurriedly to the squad. They were an unhappy mis-matched looking lot, and he didn't feel quite so out of place. Two soldiers stepped left and right to make room for him, both giving him a sympathetic look as they did so.
"Forward, march!" the sergeant called, and the men fell into step.
Several choice epithets ran though Brockmeyer's head, all of which he would like to have applied to Braddock. In person. Instead, he was marched deeper into the town with the rest of the men, unable to spot any way out of the predicament. At least the sergeant hadn't asked him any questions that would have forced him to speak more than a few syllables of German.
Their destination was a two-storied building behind the town square. A huge swastika flag hung from the balcony, and two guards stood at attention on the front steps. Brockmeyer didn't need to read the hand-scripted sign affixed to one of the columns to know he had found the Germans' HQ.
A few moments later and he had found Saunders and Kirby as well.
The two sat on wooden chairs, their hands bound behind them, a stony-faced guard standing watchfully nearby. Neither man appeared injured. Both looked over as Brockmeyer and the line of German soldiers marched into the room. The sergeant called out an order halting the squad in a row, but neither American seemed to notice Brockmeyer sandwiched in among the sour Krauts.
Two officers, an older captain and a tall thin lieutenant, waited together near the prisoners. The sergeant greeted them with a crisp salute. "The men are ready as requested!" he said.
Brockmeyer stood at attention in the lineup, sweating, trying not to look at Saunders and Kirby. He had all the information he needed. Now, it was a matter of racing time, of getting clear of town and coming back with the squad before the Germans got to work on Saunders and Kirby.
The captain sauntered forward and surveyed the soldiers with a cold and practiced eye. Brockmeyer straightened automatically. An inspection was an inspection, no matter whose army it was, and he couldn't afford to look more out of place than he already did. At least the other soldiers appeared as poorly dressed as he was, though most of them had the opposite problem—they were scrawny, thin fellows, and their uniforms hung off them. It made him want to believe the boasts that the U.S. Army was the best fed in the world, because none of these guys appeared to be eating well.
The captain was consulting softly with the lieutenant and both smiled suddenly at some mutual decision. The lieutenant nodded and approached the line of men.
Come on, Brockmeyer thought. Dismiss us already. But then he froze as the officer stopped directly in front of him.
"You stay," the man ordered. "The rest of you—dismissed."
Oh God, Brockmeyer thought, his mouth suddenly too dry even to swallow. Why me?
The two officers conferred inaudibly a moment, then the lieutenant saluted and the captain exited, calling, "I'll await your report."
The neat and tidy sergeant ordered the rest of his men into step, their boots stamping out of the room, and Brockmeyer listened to the final horrible sound of the door closing.
It was just him, the lieutenant, Kirby and Saunders tied to their chairs, and the guard standing at attention behind them.
"What is your name, Private?" the lieutenant asked him.
I never even checked the papers in my pocket, he thought belatedly. Of all the stupid.... The tall officer was waiting, his gaze unblinking, so Brockmeyer said the first name that came into his head: "Biermann, sir. Peter Biermann." And if he asks for my papers now, it's over.
It struck him then, for the first time, that he'd be shot as a spy. And he'd let Braddock talk him into this? But then he looked over at Saunders and Kirby and tried to put his own worries out of his mind. Both men had turned as soon as he'd spoken, clearly recognizing the familiar voice, even if it was speaking German.
"Well, Biermann," the lieutenant said. "You see we have two American prisoners?"
Brockmeyer nodded. Say as little as possible, he told himself. They probably just needed an extra guard.
"They are proving reluctant to answer our questions."
That'd be an understatement, Brockmeyer thought. Saunders and Kirby? Were there two more stubborn men in the entire platoon?
The lieutenant went on more softly, "We have a panzer division coming through here tonight to refuel. We must know what these Americans are up to or we jeopardize everything."
Brockmeyer's mouth went dry again. Tanks... a whole division? He really had to get out of there, get the info to Hanley.
"A man as well-built as you," the lieutenant's gaze roved over the ill-fitting uniform Brockmeyer was bulging out of, "must have certain physical talents."
Brockmeyer stared uncomprehendingly and more than a little bit worriedly at the officer.
"In a fist fight or a barroom brawl, yes?" the man continued. Then he looked meaningfully over his shoulder at the two prisoners.
"What?" Startled, Brockmeyer let the word slip out without thinking.
The lieutenant raised an eyebrow.
"I mean," Brockmeyer corrected himself, trying to be careful of his enunciation. "I don't understand, sir. You want me to—?"
"Yes. Soften them up a bit for us, as the Americans would say."
Brockmeyer opened his mouth to object, to say something, anything. Nothing came out. He looked helplessly at the prisoners, saw the lack of reaction in Saunders' face, and had to remember they were speaking German. Neither Saunders nor Kirby realized what he had just been asked to do. To them.
Oh God, he thought again, despairingly this time.
"You have a problem with this, Biermann?" An edge crept into the lieutenant's voice, and Brockmeyer knew he was shifting into more dangerous territory with every second. Refuse and they might let him go, find someone else to beat up the Sarge and Kirby, but more likely, they'd get suspicious of his refusal and then he'd be on the receiving end of either a bullet or a fist himself. Accept and... and what? He couldn't hit the Sarge. But if he didn't....
The lieutenant was waiting with growing impatience on his answer. What the heck was he supposed to say?
"Biermann!" the lieutenant snapped.
"No, sir!" Brockmeyer said. "I don't have a problem with this."
A cold smile spread across the lieutenant's face. "Good. Then you may take off your jacket and shirt."
"What?" Brockmeyer choked out. He bit at his lip as he received another irate stare at his outburst. Where was his sense? Why couldn't he keep his mouth shut? At least the lieutenant didn't seem alarmed or concerned about any accent he had. It was some small comfort, anyway.
"You seem to have outgrown your uniform, Biermann. I doubt you can move properly in it. Besides, the blood can get so messy. Go ahead."
"The blood...." Brockmeyer echoed, staring at the officer before he swallowed, gave the mental equivalent of a shrug for the outcome, and reached for the top button of the uniform. The sound of the jacket and shirt material ripping echoed through the room. Brockmeyer froze there, one hand on the top button, feeling the breeze touch his bare skin, and worse, feeling the lieutenant's disdainful gaze on him.
"I like Army food?" Brockmeyer said, hopefully.
The lieutenant touched the split jacket with one hand. "Disgraceful."
"Yes, sir," Brockmeyer agreed wholeheartedly. But at least the split made it easier to shed the shirt and jacket. He laid the ruined clothes across the back of a nearby chair and set his helmet and utility belt down beside them. He had to admit it felt good to get out of that ridiculously too-tight outfit. He took in a deep breath and stretched.
"Sarge?" he heard Kirby whisper behind him. "What in blazes is he doing?"
"Kirby," Saunders said warningly.
The lieutenant, who clearly spoke English, smiled again. "I think they are scared of you," he told Brockmeyer. "Do you speak English?"
"A little. We learned some at Gymnasium." Safer to admit that now than react to something Kirby or Saunders said later.
The lieutenant nodded approvingly, then turned, clasped his hands behind his back, and approached the bound Americans. "We have some questions for you, Sergeant—"
"Saunders, Sergeant, 2270622," Saunders interrupted.
"Those kind of answers will not help you reach a ripe old age," the lieutenant said.
Saunders said nothing.
"Biermann," the lieutenant said, beckoning.
Brockmeyer forced one foot in front of the other until he stood beside the lieutenant, looking down at Saunders. Saunders was watching the German officer expressionlessly. Brockmeyer wished he could say he had the same control, but he knew he was doing a lousy job of keeping the sheer desperate helplessness off his face. His options were narrowing with every second. Saunders shifted his gaze suddenly to Brockmeyer. Brockmeyer shook his head, ever so slightly, trying to convey his panic, his apologies, and everything in between. He tried to read what Saunders wanted him to do in the sergeant's steady blue gaze and found no answers.
"Biermann," the lieutenant said again, switching back into German. "Hit him."
Brockmeyer raised his arm and balled his fingers into a fist, but didn't move any further. Couldn't move.
"It was not a request, Private," the lieutenant snapped.
Brockmeyer tried stalling. "I've never hit anybody tied up before."
But his words only seemed to anger the officer even further. "These are not men," he said harshly, clearly nearing the end of his patience. "They are the enemy. They were most likely trying to size up the strength of our guard around the fuel depot preparatory to an attack. We must know for sure. Now do your duty."
"Private, your reluctance to obey my orders dismays me. Hit him."
I can't, Brockmeyer thought.
He hit him. He was sure he flinched more than Saunders did as his fist struck the sergeant's jaw, not hard, but not lightly either. It was enough to split Saunders' lip and bloody his own knuckles. And he could do nothing except stand there, apologizing a hundred times in his head.
"You hit me," Kirby muttered, "and so help me, I swear I'll...."
"Don't worry, Kirby," Saunders said, spitting out some blood. He smiled mockingly up at Brockmeyer. "He hits like a girl."
Brockmeyer stared. "I what?" he said in English.
"I said you hit like a girl, Kraut," Saunders said, his smile broadening. "A Fräulein. Understand me?"
Brockmeyer gaped at him. What was Saunders trying to do? Did he want to get beat up? That lieutenant wasn't going to stand for backtalk from the prisoners.
Saunders went on, "What'd you study at that Gymnasium of yours anyway? Basket weaving?"
Brockmeyer glanced at the lieutenant to see the German hiding a smile behind his hand, clearly amused at the insults and hoping the American would succeed in riling Brockmeyer where he was obviously failing.
Saunders waggled his fingers behind his back just enough to draw Brockmeyer's attention. Brockmeyer's gaze flicked from the bonds to Saunders' eyes, and the sergeant gave him a minute nod.
Carefully, Brockmeyer looked over Saunders' head at the lone guard who was watching the escalating interchange with a slightly furrowed brow. Clearly, he didn't understand English, but that didn't mean when Brockmeyer made a move, he wouldn't jump in. He was the only man in the room with a weapon at his easy disposal; the lieutenant's pistol was holstered.
Saunders sneered, "What's the matter, Kraut? Hurt your hand?"
Brockmeyer glanced at his bloody knuckles, then clenched his fists at his side and glared down at Saunders menacingly. "You can't talk to me this way!" he said, remembering to speak English with some semblance of a German accent.
"Why not? If you're the best these Krauts have got, no wonder you're losing the war."
Brockmeyer spun and stalked over to the chair on which he'd set his gear. His heart was pounding now as he continued the act Saunders had set up. He yanked the knife from its sheath.
The lieutenant's eyebrows shot up. "Biermann! Put that down!"
Brockmeyer ignored him as he crossed back to Saunders, knife held ready. He bent, grabbed the front chair leg and gave a hard yank, toppling Saunders and the chair onto the floor.
"Biermann! We need him alive!"
Brockmeyer dropped down quickly as if he were going to stab Saunders, and, shielding his actions from the lieutenant, sliced at the ropes binding the sergeant to the chair. The lieutenant may not have realized what was happening, but the other German guard did. His mouth was dropping open, his hands fumbling with his rifle as Brockmeyer got the ropes severed. Brockmeyer scrambled clear, and Saunders' swinging foot swept the legs out from under the guard. Turning, Brockmeyer launched himself at the lieutenant, who had finally figured out things were not as they seemed and was trying to unsnap his holster. Brockmeyer shouldered the German into the table and had the knife at his throat a moment later.
"Don't move," he growled in German.
The lieutenant didn't move, his eyes wide.
Saunders, meanwhile, had finished off the guard and snatched up his rifle. He stalked over to where Brockmeyer held the lieutenant prisoner. "What was he saying earlier? I heard the word panzers."
"He said there's a division of tanks coming through here tonight."
"You're an American?" the lieutenant asked Brockmeyer incredulously.
Brockmeyer ignored him and told Saunders, "And they've got at least one heavy machine gun hidden out there to guard the depot that we couldn't spot on our Recon."
Saunders nodded thoughtfully. "We'd better take the lieutenant with us. I'm sure S-2 would like a little chat with him."
"Hey," Kirby called. "Somebody gonna cut me loose?"
"How are we going to get him out of here?" Brockmeyer asked.
"That's easy." Saunders started to smile, then grimaced and rubbed at his jaw.
Brockmeyer winced. "Sorry."
"Hey!" Kirby said.
Saunders gestured to the unconscious guard. "Better get into his uniform jacket."
"Aw, Sarge," Brockmeyer groaned.
"You walked in here a German, you're walking out as one. With us and the lieutenant."
Saunders gave him a look, and Brockmeyer sighed and quickly knelt by the unconscious German. At least this guy was bigger than his last uniform donor. The jacket looked like it might even fit properly.
"Hey!" Kirby said. "These ropes aren't getting any looser."
It was easier than Brockmeyer had thought, marching his two "prisoners" and the lieutenant out of the HQ, off the main street, and down side alleys until they cleared Grandeville's perimeter and were free in the woods. No one looked twice at them. Even still, he didn't relax until Braddock and Davis rose up out of hiding to greet them.
"I thought I gave you guys an order," Saunders said sternly.
"And we still got..." Braddock checked his watch, "...fifteen minutes to rendezvous with Hanley and the rest of the squad...." He trailed off suddenly, looking past the sergeant at Brockmeyer. Reaching out, he touched one now perfectly fitted jacket sleeve, his mouth dropping open.
"It stretched," Brockmeyer said, straight-faced.
Braddock stared, for once unable to think of something to say.
"All right, let's go," Saunders said. "Brockmeyer, hurry up and get out of that uniform, will ya?"