I feel like I’m really behind in basically everything at the moment. I was super busy (and stressed) on Thursday so I completely forgot to schedule this chapter of Comrade. And since I still haven’t edited my last Christian fiction post, posting it today seemed like a good plan!
“Get up!” Someone dragged me to my feet.
My blindfold and mask were torn off and I found myself staring at several grey-clad soldiers.
“You thought you could run away from us, did you?” sneered a corporal. “You fool.”
I stared at them, trying to process the corporal’s words. You fool? Run from us? Who did they think I was? A deserter?
“What’s your name?” the corporal demanded, but before I had time to answer, his fist flashed out and I was sent reeling back. I clutched at my jaw, then cried out as a rifle butt struck me in the stomach.
“Nein! Nein!” I shouted in a cracked voice, “Nein!” The corporal hit me again, knocking me to the ground.
“Stop!” barked another voice at the same time.
The soldiers withdrew to let through a slim officer. He stared down at me, kindness gleaming in his eyes. He held out his hand and helped me to my feet, then he turned to the corporal. The corporal sneered at me, drew his officer aside and began to speak in low, rapid tones. Every so often they glanced at me.
I held up my head, jaw set, blood trickling from my mouth. But I was determined not be cowed by their violence.
After a few seconds, the officer turned back to me. “Who are you?” he asked me, the same kindness I’d seen in his eyes evident in his voice. “Tell me your name.”
“Wolfe Verick, sir.” I stammered. “Flieger Wolfe Verick, observer in the Luftstreitkrafte, Jasta 2.”
“I’m Second Lieutenant Shäfer,” he replied. “My men believe you are a spy. Or a deserter.” He lifted one eyebrow. “Are you a French boy? An Australian?” he frowned at me. “But you aren’t big enough to be one of those rough colonials.” He paused again. “But if you’re neither of those, are you a German soldier who has deserted? Whichever of those it is, my men are sure not to like it.” His voice stayed gentle, but a subtle hard note had crept into his tone.
“I’m none of those,” I replied, shaking my head. “I’m a German airman. I didn’t desert. My aircraft was shot down over England. My pilot is dead, but I managed to escape. I’ve walked right across France to get back.”
The incredulity on Lieutenant Shäfer’s face had grown. “What proof do you have of this?”
I went cold. I had no proof. I had no identification. My military papers and my orders had burnt in the plane. My identity tags Simeon had destroyed, along with the photos of Ernst and I. I had no proof of my ridiculous story.
I looked up and squarely met the officer’s gaze. “I have no proof. It all burned in the fire after the accident. But take me to Jasta 2 and they will identify me. After that, you can do with me what you want.”
The lieutenant laughed. “You’ve got some guts, boy,” he remarked, as he clapped me on the shoulder. “We’ll do as you suggest.”
Three long days passed, before Lieutenant Shäfer bundled me into a motorcar and drove along the shelled roads until we came into sight of the Jasta 2 barracks.
When the lieutenant’s driver pulled the car up, I got out and followed Lieutenant Shäfer to the door. I watched as Lieutenant Shäfer knocked.
It was answered a moment later by Lieutenant Bolle’s batman, a lanky boy called Conrad. He looked surprised to see me, but he agreed to find Kurt Buckler and as many of the other members of Jasta 2 as were off duty. He then escorted us to Lieutenant Bolle’s office.
There he knocked, and I heard the lieutenant’s familiar voice call out. “Enter!” We did so.
Lieutenant Bolle’s eyes flew open as I walked in. He leapt to his feet, knocking his chair backwards. “Verick!” he exclaimed, before constraining his surprise and motioning Shäfer and I into seats.
There was silence for a moment. Lieutenant Bolle glared at Lieutenant Shäfer, then broke the silence by asking, “Is Verick in trouble?”
The lieutenant smiled, but his smile was grim. “That remains to be seen. He says he was shot down over England.”
“He was,” Lieutenant Bolle said. “He was part of a reconnaissance and patrol mission I sent out almost three months ago. Two Albatros C.IIIs. Only one man returned, a badly wounded pilot. He reported that they’d been set on by five English Sopwiths and that the plane piloted by Lieutenant Muller, whom Verick was flying with, had gone down over England. He’d assumed they both were dead.”
“Lieutenant Muller is dead,” I interrupted. “He…he was killed. I managed to escape with only a few burns.” I pulled up my sleeve to display the scars on my arm.
Just then the batman returned, leading behind him seven men. I knew them all—Kurt Buckler, Julien, Viktor and several others.
“I brought the men you asked for, sir,” Conrad said, addressing Lieutenant Shäfer.
“Thank you,” Lieutenant Shäfer said, he stood and turned to face them. “Do you know this man?” he asked, gesturing to me.
“I do.” Kurt Buckler stepped forward. “This is Wolfe Verick. He and I are friends.”
“Ja, I do too, sir.” Viktor Remarque stepped forward, to stand beside Kurt.
“Yes, I do, sir.” One by one, all seven of my friends stepped forward, even Julien Schmidt, who had never liked me.
Lieutenant Shäfer smiled. “Verick,” he said, clapping me on the shoulder. “You can be counted as risen from the dead. I got it wrong, and I’ve never been more pleased.” He saluted me, saluted Lieutenant Bolle and then strode out the door.
There’s only one more chapter to go! Are you excited for the finale? How are your current WIPs going?