Private Quaid fanned his face in an effort to diffuse the rancid smell of the decomposing body.
"I think we found the source of that smell earlier," Quaid noted.
"I don't think so. First of all it was a lot stronger and secondly the wind was blowing from another direction at the time," answered the sergeant.
"Looks like the poor Kraut fell onto a grenade," Corporal Vanders contributed.
"Nah, look there's no scorching or shrapnel on the remains," Reynolds pointed out. "If I were to guess it looks like he was attacked by a pack of ravenous wolves."
"Alright, class time is over," Captain Jennings said harshly. "Whatever happened here, happened some time ago. We have a mission, so let's head out."
Sergeant Reynolds started ordering the men back into formation. Before long, the troop was again in motion down the dirt road. As the men moved along, all felt an ominous presence they did not experience before.
At one point, the raiders came across the remains of a native off the side of the road. The poor man's body was deep in decay with bullet holes riddling his body. His eyes upon death rolled back as if looking towards the single bullet wound in his forehead.
"Damn, if we keep coming across bodies like this, I doubt we'll ever make it to our destination," Private Driscoll joked trying to ease the burden of dread rapidly descending upon the raiders.
Several of the men began to mutter amongst themselves as they gathered around the corpse.
"Back into position," Reynolds said a little louder than he wanted. "We can't afford to study every body we come across."
The men were starting to comply when Quaid knelt down next to the native's rancid remains. Reynolds knew the captain was about to lose it with this group's lack of discipline, and they could not afford that when deep in enemy territory.
"Dammit Quaid get your ass back in formation!" hissed Reynolds.
"Sarge, look in his hand," Quaid said with a quiver in his voice.
Captain Jennings started to march towards the private with the intention of jerking the man up and administering a thorough chewing out. However, when Jennings stood over Quaid's shoulder he happened to look upon the native's left hand. Even the seasoned veteran Jennings sucked in his breath as his eyes noticed that the native grasped the torn arm of some unfortunate Nazis.
The torn gray uniform sleeve still covered most of the arm; however, it did not hide the bite marks and the torn flesh dangling from the appendage. A quick glance revealed that there was flesh corresponding to the arm still inside the native's half-open mouth.
"Okay," Captain Jennings said in a choked voice as he softly urged Quaid back into formation. "Let's move on. I want everyone quiet from here on out."
The captain moved closer to Lieutenant Brodin when the raiders resumed their march.
"Uh, Father?" Jennings asked in a low voice for only Brodin's ears. "Are these natives cannibals?"
The chaplain stopped for a moment before Jennings subtly urged him forward again. "No, the natives are very peaceful. They would never harm another human being."
That did not sit well with Jennings and Brodin read the expression on the captain's face. The chaplain thought of letting it go for a second before he decided he wanted to know what was disturbing the captain.
"What is it?" Brodin asked softly.
"Nothing," Jennings replied quickly.
"Come now, cobber. You saw something didn't you," the chaplain prodded gently.
"I'm thinking the natives may have rebelled and attacked the Nazis."
"Hmmm...that is bad. The poor people do not own any weapons save spears and knives."
"It is worse than that," continued the captain. "If they attacked the Gerries, the Nazis could be holed up in their fort and on alert. We'll have to be very cautious from here on out."
Captain Jennings dropped back and marched next to Sergeant Reynolds. Jennings shared his concerns with the noncom. Shortly afterwards, Reynolds started moving up and down the ranks of men ordering them to move with utmost silence and extreme caution.
The soldiers could not help feel that wan light from the moon was a mixed blessing. It allowed them to see somewhat in the oppressive darkness. Nevertheless, it also made them feel exposed to any prying eyes that may be on the lookout for unwelcome visitors.
Before long, the black silhouette of the fortress stood-out against the dark blue horizon. Captain Jennings had his men disperse into the jungle surrounding the hill upon which the Nazis fort sat. The hill's side was cleared from all obstruction be it plant or stone that may hinder the fort's view of the surrounding countryside.
Captain Jennings waved Reynolds over and laid out a plan for the sergeant to go forward with some scouts and reconnoiter the hillside. If the sergeant felt it was prudent, he could scout the fortress as well. Reynolds nodded his head and began moving among the men looking for those best suited for his assignment.
The scouts moved out on their mission. Captain Jennings could never get used to the feeling of letting his men go on such a dangerous mission without his direct control. However, his orders from his superiors were explicit on this point. They could not afford to lose Jennings with his experience and leadership on a recon mission. The captain needed to trust that he had trained the sergeant well enough to do his duty.
The seconds passed as if they were minutes and the minutes as if hours. The captain kept stealing glances at his watch. The watch showed that it had been fifteen minutes since the scouts left and so far no alarm. Either the men were doing a good job or the Nazis were able to subdue the men and were now silently hunting the rest of the raiders.
These thoughts did nothing to ease Jennings's mind. Nonetheless, he could do nothing until either Reynolds returned or the Germans exposed themselves. Jennings stole another glance at his watch when a loud mournful wail pierced the night.Posted by deg at August 27, 2008 7:38 PM