The Trench Rats: Part 4
IN LATE AFTERNOON light the hallways, already almost devoid of windows, grew dim and quiet. Every so often, on schedule, a guard walked slowly past, gun over his shoulder, idly glancing around. There was hardly any reason to be alert anyway; there had been no threats, no warnings, no signs of any trouble from the Trench Rats. That was who the building was always guarded from, anyway.
Many of the hallways opened onto long rows of cells. As one guard walked along his thoughts wandered. "Prison camp"? He supposed that, technically, the Allies could call it that; though it wasn't quite a fitting name. This place was hardly a camp at all. More like an experimental unit. The "prisoners" here--the preferred term was "subjects"--weren't kept in overcrowded barracks or dormitories, and were hardly ever allowed access to a large outside yard. Even less so now that there was rumor the Rats had found this place out. The prisoners here were hardly being kept as prisoners. They had a lot more use than that.
He didn't know all the details and didn't really care to. It wasn't his job to know or care. They were just test subjects. They hardly ever caused any trouble in their little cells, because they knew it would be pointless. No one even knew they were here except those who worked in the building, such as the doctors and himself.
As for the Rats having sniffed the place out...that he doubted. They hadn't shown any signs of striking yet. They usually weren't very slow to act when they heard of another experimental facility. These places had become much more secretive and difficult to locate since the Rats had shown up, or so he heard. In their first few months here they had managed to "shut down" at least five, maybe more camps. He put mental quotes around the phrase "shut down" because it was definitely a euphemism. The Rats had done much more than just shut the places down.
He whistled a little as he approached the end of the hallway. His shift would end soon, and then he could get out of this place, maybe go into the city for a drink. Patrolling hallways wasn't exactly his idea of fun. Especially in such a low-risk area...where was the excitement in that? He'd almost rather be on the front lines than here.
"Gunther!" he called out, to the guard who would be waiting at the end of the hall. He had to let the docs know he was leaving; they were so stuffy with all the rules and regulations, it was too easy to just walk out of the place, even if your shift was over. He yawned and fiddled with the hem of his jacket. Screw this. At this point he was so bored out of his skull he could care less if they knew he was leaving.
He broke off his yawn and frowned, slowing as he approached the hallway's end. His companion hadn't replied yet. What was he up to? Slacking off?
"Gunther," he called again, in German. "My shift's over but yours isn't. Don't think I'm averse to reporting you, it would give me something interesting to do..."
He paused, frown growing, looking around. He'd left the cells behind, so the only ones who should have been present were himself, Gunther, and any other guards who had been assigned duty to this part of the building. Yet...at the moment he appeared to be alone. Gunther was shirking his duties, obviously.
Now he scowled and proceeded around the corner. "Great job, friend, decide to go AWOL? As much as I liked our times together there's no way I'm sticking up for you this ti--"
He came to an abrupt halt, eyes going wide and a slight gasp escaping him. Gunther hadn't gone AWOL after all--he was still present and accounted for. On the floor in fact. With his head twisted around at an unnatural angle, a surprised look in his eyes.
The younger soldier started backing away, hand going to his gun to bring it down into position, eyes darting nervous glances around the empty hallway. "Dolf? Franz?" he called, the names of the other guards he knew; they should be nearby, not that far--within shouting range--which was what he felt like doing, as soon as he turned another corner and nearly tripped backwards, whirling around to find them, heads at that same strange angle, both fallen within several feet of each other.
Panic entered his chest, squeezing his heart up into his throat. His fingers clutched the gun numbly. What good was a gun against who had been here?
He thought he heard the slightest, barest shifting noise somewhere near him, and without thinking twice whirled around again, leaping nearly into the air, feet carrying him away as fast as he could go.
"Silbergeist!!" he screamed.
As soon as he said it he heard the brief shifting noise again and with barely a gust of wind someone had jumped down on top of him, one arm going around his neck and a knee to the back driving him into the floor. He had enough time to get out a pained gasp when he was dragged to his feet. The person holding onto him from behind kept his left arm across his throat, hand clamped on his neck, right hand on the left side of his head, ready to twist and snap his spine at any moment.
He sensed rather than saw his captor place his head next to his to whisper in his ear.
"One sound," he whispered, and his grip tightened on the soldier's neck so he immediately understood. He struggled to keep from screaming, eyes terrified, nodding his head as much as he dared.
"Papers," the voice said, still deadly low. "Prisoner lists. Personal information. Confiscated belongings. Where?"
The grip tightened some more and he had to choke out his next words.
"Al-all right! Main office!"
"South hallway. Very end, on left."
The grip loosened and let go. He put his hands up to his neck, gasping for breath, thankful it was still in one piece. He was just beginning to feel surprise that he'd been let go when he then felt a sharp crack to the back of his neck; instead of it breaking, he simply went numb and collapsed to the floor, unconscious.
A shadow flitted on the wall. Silver stepped over the unconscious Nazi and proceeded down the hallway at a slow trot. There was hardly any need to hurry anymore, since he'd taken care of all the guards in this part of the building; no need to mess with those in the other hallways when he would most likely be gone before they even realized something was amiss. He wasn't nervous or anxious in the least, just set on his goal. He couldn't free all the prisoners here on his own; the others would have to come in to do that. He'd be able to get the prisoners' personal information and approximate count back to Headquarters before the enemy could even gather themselves together and start liquidating.
That was what they got for being so inattentive. This had been easier than usual. They'd already heard the rumor that the Rats were checking the place out. How come they hadn't acted on it?
Sure, security had been stepped up, but...that hardly mattered when he was the one doing the job.
He found the south hallway, and the main office at the end. He slowed and moved closer to the wall as he approached. Main offices were usually occupied. He pulled out a handgun as he went--they were noisy and messy, but more easily used at longer distances--and held it pointed upwards, inching along. The door stood slightly open; another mistake on their part. How easy were they going to make this? He reached it, placed his hand flat against the glass and, leaning forward, peered inside.
Well...they had managed to toss a wrench into his plans, after all.
A young woman sat at the office desk, typing something up on a form. He assumed the papers he was looking for were in one of the top drawers of the desk at which she sat.
He let out a small sigh. "Damn it." The door was to the side of and slightly behind her; he could be in and could have a bullet in her head before she even knew she had company.
Things didn't work that way though...
He pushed the door open slowly, testing it to make sure it didn't creak. He opened it only as far as he needed to to slip inside. The whole time she typed away, the clacking noise masking any sounds he may have made as he approached, gun still drawn and aimed at her in case she decided to turn around for whatever reason.
He hoped she didn't.
Clack-clack-clack-- She watched as the blanks in the form filled in with all the details of the different personal belongings that had been taken from the subjects now being kept in the building. She didn't stop once to think about what the lists meant. She was paid merely to make certain they stayed updated and correct. It paid well, and she was performing a useful duty for her country, so why argue?
She ripped out one completed paper, inserting another, starting her typing anew...
Something cold pressed against the back of her neck and she let out a little gasp, hands automatically going away from the keys and into the air.
"Sprechen Sie Englisch?"
"Papers. Prisoner lists and personal information. What you're typing out as well. Hurry up."
She leaned to the side to open one of the drawers. "Hands in sight," he said, and she pulled out a stack of folders and loose papers, setting them aside. She opened up the other top drawer to take out some more, setting them on top of the first stack. When she was done with that she pulled the sheet out of the typewriter and included it and the others she'd filled out already with the rest, then raised her hands again.
Silver kept the gun pressed to her neck and pulled open one of the pouches attached to his belt. Every Trench Rat carried around at least a few blindfolds in case they ever had to lead somebody back to HQ. Of course, he was no exception. He took one out and handed it to her over her shoulder. "Put it on."
She took it and complied. He made certain she covered her eyes completely; the last thing he needed right now was somebody trying to pull a fast one on him. He handed her a second blindfold. "Over your mouth."
She did that as well, without argument; when she sat there blindfolded and gagged he took the gun away from her neck and, kneeling behind the chair, pulled out a length of cord. This was something most Trench Rats didn't necessarily carry around, yet he knew it would be useful. He took her hands, bringing them down behind her, and tied them together with the cord.
It was weak to let somebody live, and what's more, not even to knock them out, just because they were a woman, but he still hated doing it. He didn't much like tying her up either, but it was the only thing he could think of.
He stood up again and leaned down toward her ear. "Five minutes. Count in your head. One Mississippi, two Mississippi. If you try getting loose or getting attention before then, you're dead. Understand?"
A nod. He picked up the stack of papers and folders and tucked it close to him, glancing around the room. Still no one had shown up, and he couldn't hear anyone out in the hallway either. He gathered he still had at least two or three minutes before someone came along and discovered the guards' bodies in the hall. He backed away from the desk, keeping his eyes on the woman for a moment to make certain she did as he'd said; when she didn't move, except to bob her head slightly up and down as if counting silently, he pushed open the door, backing out into the hallway, looking in both directions before loping silently toward where he'd first gained entrance.
As he reached the end he finally heard the distant sound of voices talking, first quiet, then louder when he assumed they found their missing companions lying on the floor. He jumped up to the windowsill and pushed himself outside. By the time they found his exit they'd have no idea where or even how long he'd been gone.