(2006) 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 its existence.

 

"The Reckoning"

 Part Three

by Thompson Girl

 

 

A German soldier tossed Saunders' helmet into a corner and searched him quickly and efficiently, removing his gear, including his lighter and cigarettes.  Saunders' arms were yanked behind his back and a length of cord lashed around his wrists, all under the watchful eye of the German sergeant who had struck Ashton.  He was a big powerfully-built man with a handsome face marred by the iciness in the blue eyes, and the smile that was anything but friendly.  His Schmeisser was cradled almost lovingly in his arms, its muzzle aimed at Saunders' belly.  Saunders stared back at him, face expressionless, and the big man's smile broadened, showing even white teeth.

Saunders' attention shifted to Ashton.  The lieutenant still lay crumpled face-first on the floor.  Another soldier was stripping him of his gear and binding his hands behind his back.  Saunders wanted to protest the rough treatment of an unconscious man, but he knew it wouldn't do any good.  Besides, it was what the German sergeant was waiting for.

The big man had not taken his eyes off Saunders and, after a moment, he growled a few words in German to him.  The words meant nothing, but the voice, scornful and challenging at the same time, coupled with the man's taunting smile -- those were clear enough and needed no translation.  And when Saunders still said nothing, did nothing, the man sneered down at Ashton and kicked the unconscious man in the side.

Saunders' hands balled into fists behind his back.

"Kurt!"  The German captain stepped up beside the big sergeant.  His tone was not reprimanding, but patiently tolerant, like a parent chastising an errant child for stealing cookies before supper.  Hatred seethed though Saunders.

The German captain was short, square-jawed and hawk-nosed, probably in his mid-forties.  He had a light voice that tended toward shrill when he raised it.  He gave Saunders a mock bow and said, "I am Hauptman Erich Von Reisl.  You must forgive Kurt.  He asks if the sight of blood bothers you."  He eyed Saunders curiously a moment.  "He is disappointed there are only two of you.  Where is the rest of your squad, Sergeant?"

Saunders responded with silence, tensing unconsciously, not looking at Kurt standing at his captain's side like a slavering Doberman, just waiting for the command to attack.

Von Reisl shrugged.  "No matter."  Turning, he issued some orders in German.  One man in the corner nodded and cranked up his radio, relaying the commands.  A few moments later, they heard the sound of two trucks rumbling to life in the distance. 

Saunders glanced that direction.  The trucks probably would not even have been hidden well, just parked far enough down the road that Kirby and Littlejohn would not have seen them on their recon.  Von Reisl would have known the Americans' attention would have been focused primarily on the farmhouse.  Saunders counted the soldiers around him -- nine men and the captain.  They had been expecting more than two Americans to show up, that was for sure.

Von Reisl said, "Move outside."

Saunders turned, but clearly not fast enough to suit the other sergeant.  The big man shoved him, and Saunders slammed against the nearest chair with such force, he barely kept from falling over it.  Kurt laughed softly and murmured something derisively in German.

Saunders righted himself, and guards stepped up to flank him.  Two other Germans shouldered their rifles, grabbed Ashton under his arms, and dragged him after.

 

***

 

Doc huddled in the ditch, watching two trucks and a staff car pull up to the house.  Their slitted headlights illuminated the farmhouse briefly, then one truck swung around and reversed up to the house.  The second truck crawled forward to the edge of the vineyard, its engine idling loudly in the still night.  Two search lights mounted over the cab switched on and their beams arced across the field.  Doc pressed himself into the earth as one light swung straight at him.  It passed over his head, and he swallowed and stole a peek over the edge of the ditch.

German soldiers dropped the back gate of the reversed truck, and Doc watched as a contingent came out of the farmhouse.  He strained to see through the unnatural shadows, then stiffened and slowly clenched his fists as he recognized the bound man they escorted out:  Saunders.  Doc could hear the harsh voices, yelling at the sarge, and he watched the men force Saunders into the back of the truck.  Two more soldiers carried an unconscious man out of the house.  It could only be Lt. Ashton, Doc thought, gritting his teeth.  Alive, he hoped.  They wouldn't have tied up a dead man, would they?  The two soldiers lifted Ashton up and pushed him onto the truck's floorboards, then climbed in themselves, rifles ready.  Other soldiers raised and latched the back gate, and Doc heard the engine of the truck rumble back to life.

What do I do now? Doc wondered.  He ducked as one of the mounted searchlights swept the vineyard again.  When that truck left--

A rustle in the woods to his right made him jump.  Caje ran up in a low crouch.

"Doc -- get out of here," he said urgently.  "Head back for our lines."

"But what about--"

Caje cut him off.  "The Krauts are moving to surround this place.  Go!"  The Cajun headed out immediately left, probably to intercept Kirby and Littlejohn, Doc guessed.

Doc risked a last look across the vineyard, then got up and ran. 

 

***

 

Caje slowed as he circled the farmhouse toward Kirby and Littlejohn's last assigned position.  He hoped Doc would get out in time.  The Krauts had laid their trap very well, putting their cordon so far out he hadn't even sensed them lurking -- until the trap had sprung and the woods had come alive with soldiers, all moving inward toward the farmhouse.  It seemed a carefully planned operation to Caje -- there was far more manpower than the situation warranted.  The Germans clearly did not want to risk any of the Americans escaping tonight.  He would have to move quickly.

 

***

 

Meanwhile, Kirby and Littlejohn watched the soldiers come out of the house.  Even from their distance, they could see Saunders bound and under careful guard.  Kirby gripped his B.A.R. tighter.  The desire to open up and gun down the soldiers in his line of sight was almost overwhelming, but he knew he couldn't.  Not and keep Saunders alive.

A glance at Littlejohn showed his frustration mirrored on the big man's face.

They watched the truck carrying Saunders and Ashton drive away, followed by the staff car with a German Captain.  The second truck with the mounted lights stayed behind, and Kirby had a good idea what they were looking for.  The remainder of the soldiers fanned out across the field and the vineyard.

Kirby tapped Littlejohn on the arm, and they pulled back slowly, quietly, into the deeper woods, then took off at a jog toward where they had left Doc waiting.

"Halt!" 

The voice startled them both, and four armed Germans came out of hiding, flashlights flicking on to blind Kirby and Littlejohn.

Where had they come from so fast? Kirby thought, not sure if he was angry at them or himself.  He and Littlejohn had reconned these woods earlier.  How had they not seen or heard the hiding Krauts?  How had they not known they were walking into a trap?  Kirby looked around for a way out.  Too late, too late....  He could hear the soldiers nearer the house coming on the run at the sight of the flashlights. 

The lead Kraut jabbered at them, gesturing with his rifle for Kirby and Littlejohn to drop their weapons.  Subconsciously, Kirby's grip on the B.A.R. tightened instead.

Caje rose up behind one of the Germans so fast Kirby thought it was just a trick of the shadows.  But then Caje's hand clamped over the soldier's mouth, his bayonet went into the man's back, and the dying Kraut dropped his rifle.  As the other three Germans turned to see what had happened behind them, Kirby jumped sideways to make sure Caje was well out of the way and opened up on them.  The sudden gunfire deafened the night.  The flashlights fell from dead hands, casting criss-crossing shadows all around them.

"Let's go!" Caje said.

The three men took off, but Kirby's gunfire drew the other running Germans toward them.  Rifles fired into the woods around them, and Littlejohn cried out as a bullet pierced his left upper arm.  He stumbled, falling to one knee.  Caje and Kirby turned back to help him and by the time they got him to his feet, it was too late -- they were surrounded and outgunned.

Jaw clenched, Kirby exchanged a glance with Caje, then dropped his B.A.R.

 

***

 

Saunders sat on the left-hand bench in the back of the truck, a rifle jammed into each kidney.  The two soldiers holding the guns gave him no slack, and each rut and bump in the road drove their guns painfully into his sides.  At his feet, Ashton lay on his stomach, still unmoving.  The light was too dim to discern his condition, and Saunders worried.  He looked from Ashton to the two soldiers sitting on the opposite bench.  The intermittent glint of moonlight off their rifles was enough to tell him their weapons were also aimed at him.  His gaze shifted to the seventh passenger:  the big German sergeant -- Kurt, Von Reisl had called him -- the man who had struck Ashton. 

Saunders glared at him, knowing the German couldn't make out his face in the hooded gloom of the truck any more than Saunders could make out his, but at least it gave him small satisfaction.  He wouldn't forget the big man's sadistic smile, nor the unnecessary force he had used to bring down Ashton.  No, he wouldn't forget that particular German.  And maybe, just maybe, he would get lucky.

The truck slowed suddenly, tires grinding on gravel as it stopped.

Already? Saunders thought.  Their journey had been much shorter than he had expected -- no more than a few miles, all of that on a narrow road -- and Saunders looked out the back of the truck in surprise.  There was outside light here enhanced by the heavy cloud cover above, enough to show a broad driveway and trees beyond.  They had not been taken to town then.  He wondered about that.

Then soldiers came around, and he had more rifles pointing at him.  They dropped the gate.

"Gehen Sie aus!" Kurt barked at him.  "Aus!"

The guard on his left pushed none to gently with the muzzle of his rifle at the same time the guard on the right grabbed his arm and dragged him along the bench toward the back of the truck.

Saunders stood and, just as he was jumping down, Kurt's hand caught him in the small of his back and shoved hard.  Saunders fell out of the truck bed, twisting to land on his side, but the soldiers were ready.  Two caught him, jerked him upright.  Kurt's soft laughter followed.

It took all his willpower not to turn his hatred on the sergeant, who was swinging down beside him.  Patience.  Don't do something you'll regret.  At least it was two other soldiers who hauled Ashton from the back of the truck.  Kurt seemed uninterested in the unconscious man anymore.  Saunders wondered how long that would last.

Saunders stole a glance around.  They were definitely not in town.  They had been brought to a small, rather isolated-looking château.  It was a dignified structure, two-storied, with a large Nazi flag hung from the upstairs balcony over the white columned entranceway.  Marble steps led up the front, where two guards flanked the open doors.  The trunk and staff car were parked in the forecourt fronted by what was once a well-manicured lawn and gardens.  The right side of the château was heavily wooded, its darkness so close, so inviting.  Saunders automatically tallied the guards, scanning the roof and the one side building he could see for any signs of sentries.  He was surprised again, counting only the two guards on the steps and one patrolling near the side building.  The rest of the Germans ranged in a circle around him.

The question came again:  why had he and Ashton been brought here and not to town?

Von Reisl issued orders in German, then led the way toward the château's entrance.  Two soldiers half-carried, half-dragged Ashton up the front steps, and Saunders followed at the prodding of his own guards' rifles.

The second truck pulled into the driveway, braking with a squeal beside the first truck, and Saunders paused at the top of the château steps to look back.  The remaining soldiers in the drive rushed forward at Kurt's command.

Saunders felt his heart sink as Kirby, Littlejohn, and Caje were pulled out of the second truck and gathered under tight guard in the driveway.  They were not bound, nor did they look harmed.  No, Saunders corrected himself.  Littlejohn was clutching his left arm just above the elbow.  There was no sign of Doc, and Saunders desperately hoped that was because he had got away.

Kirby glanced toward the château first, called out, "Sarge!" 

"Ruhe!" Kurt shouted and cuffed him hard in the head with his fist. 

Saunders took a step back down the stairs and got a rifle butt in the stomach from one of his own guards.  He doubled over and barely kept himself from dropping to one knee.

Von Reisl laughed humorlessly beside him and said, "You wish to end up like your lieutenant, Sergeant?"

Saunders forced himself to straighten, teeth gritted.  He met the captain's gaze steadily.

Von Reisl went on, "You and your men are unimportant.  It's the lieutenant we want.  Not you."  His smiled broadened, one eyebrow arching.  "But if you keep resisting, I might take an interest in you."

When he got nothing more than a glare from the sergeant, Von Reisl gave another order to the guards, and Saunders was hustled inside.

The front room was broad, the wood floors dulled and scuffed.  There was no furniture, no paintings on the wall, and the room echoed with the harsh coldness of a mausoleum.  Directly ahead, a grand carpeted staircase swept up to the second story.  The guards shoved him to the right, through an open doorway.  The short corridor led to a descending staircase.  Saunders moved quickly, careful not to give the guards any excuse to push him on the dangerous stairs.  Their boot heels struck a loud staccato rhythm as they came into a basement hallway.  Two electric lights lit the hall.  It took only a quick glance to show that the only way out was the way they had entered.  Thirty feet ahead, the unusually tall windowless corridor dead-ended at a white wall.  There were three doors, all set in the right-hand side.  With a jangle of keys, one guard moved ahead of him to unlock the first door on the right.

A knife severed the cords around his wrists and, as his hands came free, he was pushed into the room.  It was good-sized with a high ceiling, but devoid of everything except one bare light bulb dangling on a cord.  A single window set in the outside wall was too high up to look out of.  Even jumping, he wouldn't be able to reach the sill. 

Ashton's two guards dropped him on the floor near the back wall, then retreated to the doorway where Von Reisl watched. 

Saunders knelt beside Ashton.  He could see the ugly gash on the side of Ashton's head now, the blood clotted and matted in his hair.  "He needs a doctor," he said.

He was expecting an outright no for an answer.  But Von Reisl's words were far more chilling.  "He will, yes," Von Reisl said.  "Advise him to cooperate, Sergeant.  For his sake."

He turned and left, the guards backing out after him.  The door slammed shut, and Saunders listened to the key twisting in the lock, the footsteps receding, until he was alone in the empty room with Ashton.  He gave in to pain then and sank down against the wall, pressing a hand against his bruised stomach as he grimaced.  After a moment, he sighed, turned to Ashton, and began untying the cords that bound his wrists.

Meanwhile, out in the drive, Littlejohn fought down the pain in his arm, more worried for Saunders than himself.  It was doubtful the Germans would want anything from him, Kirby, or Caje, not with Lt. Ashton and Saunders around to question instead.  During the short drive, none them had mentioned Doc, hoping his continued absence meant he had evaded the German net.

Littlejohn wished he understood their language as the big Kraut sergeant joined the captain and conferred in German.  He had picked up a few phrases, and once, he'd asked Brockmeyer to teach him some basics.  But though Brockmeyer had been patient, German wasn't something Littlejohn's brain had wanted to hang onto.  So now he listened instead to their tone of voice, watching their body language.  Clear disappointment darkened Kurt's face as the captain issued a last order and went into the château.  Littlejohn hoped that was a good sign.  A man like Kurt seemed the type to take out his slightest frustration on any handy prisoner.  If he was disappointed, it probably meant he had been denied that pleasure.

Kurt gave an order and the Americans were herded up the stairs.  Relieved, Littlejohn let out a slow breath -- he had been afraid of being put back in the truck and taken elsewhere.  Away from the château.  Away from Saunders.  As long as they were near, there was hope.  The sarge would figure something. 

He stumbled on the steps, last in line, and, as he regained his footing, the two trunk engines throttled back to life.  A glance over his shoulder showed the majority of the soldiers climbing back into the trucks, clearly preparing to depart.  He had barely started to ponder what that meant when Kurt stepped forward and deliberately struck Littlejohn's wounded arm.

The pain dropped to Littlejohn to his knees, and he gasped.  Kurt, hands on hips, smiled down at him.  Slowly, carefully, Littlejohn got back to his feet.  He stood one step lower than the big German sergeant, and it put them eye to eye.  Littlejohn met the Kraut's gaze steadily, teeth gritted, refusing to give in to the pain crippling his arm.  It was Kurt who looked away first.  The sergeant gestured them inside the château with a barked command, and the remaining guards were quick to press the Americans forward.

Littlejohn listened as the truck tires churned on the graveled driveway and pulled out.  He had no time to glance around the drive again, but he knew only a few sentries remained.  He grimaced to hide the hope that thought gave him and tightened his grip on his throbbing arm.

They were escorted down the same hallway and flight of stairs into the basement.  The captain and three guards were just exiting the first door on the right.  The three G.I.s exchanged a quick glance, guessing the same thing:  the first room had to be Saunders' prison.

The guard with the keys moved to the third door down and unlocked it, letting it swing inward on its hinges.

As they passed the first locked door, Kirby risked calling, "Sarge?"

Kurt shoved the B.A.R. man forward, but not before they heard Saunders call back.

The door was pulled shut behind them, and they found themselves alone in the empty third room.  A bare bulb hung from the high ceiling.  Kirby gave the door a solid kick, but it just rattled on its hinges.

Caje helped Littlejohn sit down, then checked his wounded arm.  "You'll be okay, Littlejohn.  Bullet passed through clean."  They had been left with nothing, not even their personal first aid kits.  He untucked his shirt and bit at the seam with his teeth until it ripped enough that he could tear a large strip off.  He bound that around Littlejohn's arm and tied off the ends.  It was the best he could do. 

"Hey, give me a boost, will ya?"

Caje crossed to where Kirby was staring up at the windows.  Caje laced his fingers together and boosted Kirby upward.  Kirby caught the window's bars and chinned himself up the rest of the way.  He saw night, forest, darkness... a gravel path surrounding the château, but nothing more.  No help, no nothing.  "Okay," Kirby muttered and lowered himself down the length of his arms again.  Caje checked his balance, and Kirby bent his knees as he landed.

"Anything?" Caje asked.

Kirby shook his head.  "Some nice dark woods out there.  And it's gonna rain finally.  But those bars are solid.  We ain't getting out that way."  He paced a few steps, then said, "At least they aren't SS."

"You guys notice most of the soldiers leaving as we were taken inside?" Littlejohn asked, softly.  He had his arm cradled against his chest.  "They got back in their trucks and took off, like they weren't needed anymore or something."

Caje pursed his lips.

Kirby said nothing, just continued to pace the room.

 

***

 

He knew it was pointless, but Saunders methodically checked the basement room for any possible avenues of escape anyway.  He could do nothing for Lt. Ashton, and the movement satisfied his need to do something, anything, even as it frustrated him with its futility.  Four bare solid walls, bare floor, bare light bulb suspended a good four feet above his head.  With the barred window above his reach, the locked door remained the only way in or out, and that left him with exactly nothing.  He smacked the nearest wall with the side of his fist hard enough to make himself wince.

Recriminations were just as pointless.  The Germans had known where and when to wait.  They had even known the simple signal the Resistance planned on using.  The Resistance were ruthless at rooting out traitors, and he hoped they found this one fast. 

A cough and a moan, and Ashton started coming around.  Kneeling, Saunders helped the lieutenant ease into a sitting position against the wall.  Behind the day's worth of dark stubble, Ashton looked deathly pale as he held his head and groaned.

"Easy," Saunders said.

"I'm going to be sick."

"You got clobbered.  Just take it easy."

"Where are we?" Ashton asked.  He didn't even try to open his eyes yet.

Saunders said, "In a château, less than ten miles from the farmhouse.  Prisoners."

The last word galvanized Ashton.  His eyes flew open, and he was instantly hyperventilating as he tried to surge to his feet.  His sudden and complete panic caught Saunders off guard.  Saunders twisted fast and grabbed hold of Ashton's arms, forced him down and back against the wall.  The strength of the injured man surprised him, and it took all of his might and better leverage to keep Ashton in place.

"Lieutenant!  Take it easy!  Lieutenant!"

Slowly, Ashton seemed to curb his terror and stopped fighting Saunders.  His chest heaved with his short, quick breaths and, when Ashton's shoulders finally slumped, Saunders let him go.  Ashton dropped his head to his hands.  Tightly, his voice muffled, Ashton said, "We've got to get out of here."

Saunders gave a half-laugh, his gaze unconsciously sweeping over the bare room again.

Ashton went on, "They'll be coming to question me.  I can't--"  He broke off, trying to get a hold of himself.  He looked up at Saunders.  "The Resistance sold us out?"

"Someone did," Saunders said.

Ashton murmured, "Eddie was right then.  The Resistance....  The Krauts knew everything.  And we walked right into it."  He paused, then asked, "Sebastien and Jerome?"

Saunders said gently, "There were two dead men in the house."

Ashton nodded acknowledgment, looking vaguely relieved that the two men did not appear to have been the betrayers themselves.  Small comfort, Saunders thought.

Ashton glanced around the room.  "How long have we been here?"

"An hour or so," Saunders said.  "'Eddie...'  You and Captain Hansen go back aways?"

"Yeah.  We grew up together, joined the Army together."  He laughed humorlessly, tipping his head back against the wall to gaze toward the ceiling.  "Eddie's what they call a hero.  Not like me."

Saunders said nothing, just crouched nearby, waiting, listening.

Ashton went on, "He saved my life.  We got captured on a mission, outside of Ste. Vannes.  Two weeks we were there.  We were tortured... day after day...."  He trailed off, his jaw clenching, unclenching, his gaze unfocused.  When he spoke again, his voice was anguished.  "I broke, Saunders.  I finally couldn't take any more.  I told them everything.  Every goddamned thing I had.  Then they beat me unconscious again.  I thought I was dead."  He swallowed.  "But I woke up back in the cell with Eddie.  There was an artillery attack.  I remember the place coming down around us, watching Eddie fight a German guard.  Then another shell exploded nearby....  When I finally came to again, it was across Eddie's back.  We were in the woods, in open air, free.  I don't know how he broke us out of there, and he never would tell me.  He got us back to the Resistance.  They got us back home eventually.  Then it was hospitals and....  Took a long time before I could walk without a limp.  And some things... some things never heal quite right."  He paused, then said, "Anyway, Eddie got promoted and, when I was well enough, I asked for and got a transfer back to London."

Ashton looked away from Saunders, ashamed, angry, afraid....  He wanted a smoke, but if he'd had a cigarette in his hands, he would have crushed it beyond recognition.  "I shouldn't be here, Sergeant.  After what happened before... well, I'm the last person anybody wants to be carrying important info behind enemy lines.  But Eddie...  Eddie gives me a big grin and tells me everything will be fine and I believe him."  Ashton stared at the ceiling a long moment before going on.  "And now... I don't know how much the Germans learned from the partisans, but their trap is proof enough they know I'm carrying something vital."

Unconsciously, Ashton let out a long breath.  He had been holding his pain inside for so long, it was almost a relief to finally let it out.  But his hands still trembled, and he tightened them into fists, trying to fight the fear that wouldn't let him go.  He tried to focus on Saunders instead.  The sergeant had listened in silence, not moving, the same slightly concerned expression on his face.  Ashton expected to see judgment or derision for his cowardice, something, but Saunders just kept staring off into the middle distance, lost in his own thoughts.

Carefully, Ashton unballed his hands and reached to touch the head wound again.  It ached viciously, nauseatingly.  His side hurt too, and he winced when he accidentally stretched the bruised muscles.  He tried to remember being struck, but his memories stopped at the farmhouse door.  Saunders had entered ahead of him, he recalled that much, but he couldn't make his mind get any further.

Saunders' voice brought him back to the present, asking, "How long can you hold out?"

The lieutenant froze a moment, before dropping his hands from his head and looking at Saunders incredulously.  "What?"

Implacably, Saunders repeated, "How long?"

Ashton gave a half-hysterical laugh.  "Didn't you hear anything I said?  I broke, Saunders--"

Saunders cut him off, his voice rough.  "That was last time.  Now, there's more lives at stake--"

Ashton reached out and grabbed Saunders by his jacket, hauled him close, and shouted in his face, "You think I don't know that?  You think I didn't know that the last time?  There's only so much a man can take, Saunders.  I can't go through that again."

Quietly, Saunders said, "Well, you've got to.  You don't have a choice."

Ashton stared at Saunders' stubborn face, then shoved him away, and buried his head in his hands.

Saunders caught his balance, still crouching, and said, "Do you hear me, Lieutenant?"

From behind his hands, Ashton asked, "What good will it do?"

"It'll buy us time."

Ashton laughed harshly, lowered his hands, and shook his head.

A key rattled in the door's lock.

Panicked again, Ashton started, "Saunders--"

The door opened and Von Reisl entered, followed by Kurt and two guards with rifles ready.  Ashton stared up at them.  Saunders slowly climbed to his feet.

"Ah, Lieutenant," Von Reisl said.  He didn't smile, but the cheerful tone, the anticipatory delight, seemed far more ominous.  "You're awake."  He gave an order in German and the soldiers moved forward. 

Saunders knew what was coming the minute he saw the big German sergeant enter with the Captain.  But he could do nothing for Ashton as the two Mauser-toting guards backed Saunders into the far corner.  When Saunders didn't move fast enough to suit him, one guard shoved his rifle into the sergeant's stomach to push him backward faster.  Saunders wanted to rip the weapon from the man's hands, but resisting would have been suicide.  They weren't interested in him; Von Reisl had already told him that.  They wanted Ashton.  Ashton and his vital information for the Resistance.  Saunders could do nothing but watch as Kurt sauntered forward, unhurriedly, to stand over the American lieutenant. 

Ashton stared up from where he sat, still frozen.  There was no comprehension yet in his eyes, no dawning that this big man towering over him was his doom, that the demons he held at bay would have to face this German sergeant.

Kurt growled, "Aufstehen!

When Ashton didn't move, Kurt reached down and seized hold of the front of Ashton's uniform, hauling him bodily to his feet. 

Anticipating some kind of resistance from Saunders, the two guards with their rifles pushed forward, physically pinning him against the wall.

Ashton clutched at Kurt's wrist with both hands, struggling to free himself, but he was still weak from his head wound, and it did no good. 

Von Reisl said, "I believe we have some things to discuss, Lieutenant."

Ashton looked over at Saunders, saw a determined and set face.  Then Kurt twisted his grip and shoved Ashton out of the room.

Saunders heard Ashton's cry of pain as the lieutenant slammed into the outer hallway wall.  Kurt glanced back at Saunders, a lingering, considering glance, before he smiled and exited.

"I hope you advised him to cooperate, Sergeant," Von Reisl said.

The two guards retreated, the door slammed shut and was locked from the outside, and Saunders was left alone.

  

continue to Part 4

  

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