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Privates James Alley and David Webster were standing out on the front stoop of their billet when they both heard it. Webster looked up, interrupted from his latest mental draft of the day’s angst and indignation which would no doubt find its way in a letter to his faint-hearted parents. “What the hell was that?”
Story Notes: This is a work of fiction concerning the characters in the series and has no relation to the lives of the real persons involved in WWII. This is purely for entertainment and no disrespect is intended.
Alley stared at the officers’ HQ across the street. Specifically at the little window just below the roof, the only one which still emitted light. “It sounded like Winters,” he murmured around his cigarette.
The two privates shared a curious glance.
Joe Liebgott and Alex Penkala suddenly appeared from the shadows. They had their rifles drawn and looked scared as hell.
“Why the long face, Liebling1?” greeted Webster. (1. Liebling, Ger. honey, sweetie, darling, sugar-muffin, or any other revolting and unmanly term of faux endearment.)
Liebgott glared and told Webster to HDVM, which is the way Germans say STFU.
“Didn’t you fellahs hear that?” demanded Penkala.
“We heard something,” said Alley cryptically. “What’d you hear?”
“Hell if I know,” Liebgott muttered. “Some kinda fuckin’ fight. A real ruckus. Bangin’ around and all kindsa awful stuff.”
“Can’t believe you guys didn’t hear that—you’re right here. Alex and I heard it all the way down the street.”
“We just stepped out here a minute ago.”
“Yeah, then we heard Winters yell and—”
“Whudda ‘bout Winners?” Sergeant Floyd Talbert came around the side of the building. He was armed to the teeth with five grenades, three sidearms, two loaded bandoliers, and a Thompson submachine-gun. With a bayonet tied to the barrel. By the look on his face, he’d heard everything.
The privates nodded respectfully in salutation, but Talbert was too distracted to notice. “We were just saying, sir, that we think we heard Winters in a state of distre—”
“Spies!” hissed the sergeant. “Espionage! They must’ve infiltrated the graveyard, there’s no guard there. I knew those lines were insecure. I bethiss whole town is crawlin’ with Krauts.”
Liebgott shot a glance at Webster that asked, Is this guy off his fuckin’ gourd?
Penkala said gently, “Easy there, Tabs. I bet it’s nothin’. Hell, maybe Winters was just—”
“Bein’ attacked by SS!” Talbert shouted, looking stricken. “I bether mutimating him as we speak! Oh my God, Cappin Winners, a pee-oh-dubbabew!”
At this time the rest of the men got a whiff of the perfume rolling off dear old Tabs, and they realized why the formerly reliable and trustworthy young sergeant was acting like a raving nut.
“Had a bit much to drink, sir?” Alley tried to ask, but his sentence was cut off.
“Wake up first platoon!” Talbert screamed. “I want that house covered! C’mon, move move move!”
As if in support of Talbert’s wild claims, another agony-ridden groan drifted down to the street.
The boys scattered like roaches. Whether or not they believed Talbert was one thing, but none of them wanted to get busted for disobeying a superior’s orders. Besides, if that groan had come from Winters, he must be in real trouble.
Alley and Webster rushed through the rooms of their billet and slapped their comrades awake. Strohl, Hoobler and Christenson rubbed their sleepy eyes and groused, “Aw, c’mon, what’s the big idea!”
“Captain Winters is in trouble!”
“Well what’s he doin’ there?”
“He’s being kidnapped by SS!” Alley paused a moment to reflect. “That does sound kinda loony tunes, doesn’t it?”
It didn’t matter; the three troopers launched out of bed and yanked their boots on (no time to tie the laces) and grabbed the first weapons they could lay their hands on. They were met outside by Smokey Gordon and Skip Muck, who looked like they’d just woken up and were ready to kill whoever was responsible for this bullshit.
Talbert, who had assumed a position of authority in this paranoid posse, gathered his army of ten in a huddle and hissed out the orders. They darted across the street in pairs, keeping low, and assembled by the front door.
Johnny Martin and Don Malarkey were making their way back to their quarters when they caught sight of Operation Insanity in full swing. Malarkey stopped in his tracks and nudged Martin. “You seein’ what I’m seein’?” he whispered warily.
Martin squinted through the night. “The hell is that? Some kinda night detail?”
“Shit, I dunno.”
They looked at each other, drew their pistols, and followed.
Alley, Penkala, Strohl and Christenson ran around either side of the house in twos; their objective was to secure the back door and meet the rest of the team inside. Muck and Hoobler lay down in the grass facing the street, rifles ready, watching for enemy activity. Talbert gathered the remaining troopers close. “Gordon, Web. When I busht through that door, I wan’ you two right behind me. Lieb, I wan’ you keep an eye on those front winnows and shoot the first fing that moves. Got it?”
Martin and Malarkey slowly approached the officers’ billet, only to stop in their tracks when they heard “Flash!”
“. . . Thunder? Jesus, Skip, is that you? What’s all this—”
“Shh! Get down!”
The men dropped to their haunches, by now seriously worried. “Hoob, you too? The hell’s happening, you guys? Are we under attack?”
“We’ve been infiltrated.”
Malarkey’s face fell. “What.”
“They came in through the graveyard.”
“There was no guard there, see,” said Muck helpfully.
“And now there’s a team of SS trying to take Winters prisoner.”
“Maybe the rest of the officers, too.”
“Yeah, this is the company HQ. Jesus, imagine if they got Nixon!”
“Fuck Nixon, it’s after ten. He’s probably passed out drunk somewhere.”
“Then Winters is all alone!”
Martin, who had a little bit more than just mucous and diesel fumes holding his brain together, stared blankly at his babbling comrades and said nothing.
Malarkey reasoned, “Guys, we’re miles from the nearest resistance. There’s no place to mount an attack. It doesn’t make any sense.”
“Who died and made you S-2, Malark?”
“Nixon, probably,” Hoobler mourned.
“What if you’re wrong?”
“What if we’re right?”
Malarkey and Martin swapped looks, then clicked the safety off of their pistols. “What do we have to do?”
Talbert cut loose a howl and kicked the door almost off its hinges. He barreled into the house, Web and Gordon riding his coattails, at about the same time Penkala, with the help of his three buddies, threw themselves against the back door until it collapsed under their combined weight. They piled onto the floor and the doorknob came off in Alley’s hand.
“Whadda ya know,” he said, sitting up. “Wasn’t even locked.”
Strohl slapped the knob from Alley’s hand and hauled him up. Together the four troopers stampeded in a screaming herd through the kitchen, into the dining room—past Lipton, Welsh and Speirs, who sat like statues in their chairs with their cards frozen in place—and exploded out into the main hall, skidding on the rug and losing traction. Penkala went face-first into the grandfather clock, smashing the glass door with his rifle. He hugged the massive wooden monolith as he lost his balance, toppled backward, and just barely managed to avoid being crushed under its ponderous weight. It made a musical crash as it erupted on the floor. Splinters flew everywhere. Christenson landed on his ass with a surprised squawk, then yelped as Alley tumbled over him and busted his chiclets on the stair rail. Strohl managed to stay upright, and he was the first to greet Talbert’s team at the base of the stairs.
“Any resisance?” he asked.
“No, sir. Unless you count the door.”
“Then les move out! We got two storeys to cover!”
Talbert, with Webster, Gordon and Liebgott behind him, charged up the stairs, shouting for justice, revenge, and a swift violent death to those who dare abduct their beloved Captain. This got the blood up, and Penkala’s team joined in, followed by Martin and Malarkey, who were certain that somebody was in danger (maybe themselves) but they weren’t about to take any chances. They let out war whoops and sprang up the stairs two at a time.
A moment later Lipton, Welsh and Speirs appeared in the hallway, timidly surveying the destruction like tornado survivors emerging from the storm cellar. Harry turned to his silent friends. “Anyone wanna tell me what just happened?”
Speirs drew his pistol and wordlessly moved toward the stairs. Lipton stared at the wreckage of the grandfather clock and shook his head vaguely.
The squad spewed into the second storey like a horde of gun-wielding vikings, shattering vases and breaking hinges and shouting incessantly. Two of the rooms tied in to one another, and Webster got the fright of his life when he ran headlong into Liebgott, who mistook him in the dark for a fleeing Nazi. They fell to the floor in a frothing tangle, Liebgott screaming in German that death was imminent, and Webster, thinking he had a blood-hungry Kraut on top of him, started begging for mercy in the appropriate language. (And it wasn’t French.) The rest of the team, drawn by the unmistakable slur of sh’s and hard t’s, stormed into the room and would have perforated the two struggling silhouettes if it hadn’t been for Malarkey’s good sense; he flipped on the lights and revealed the two privates, who were locked together like a pair of Brazilian lovers. They stared at one another in shock. “Lieb?”
Talbert shouldered his way to the front. “Enuffa this horseshit, we got no time to lose. Forward ho!” And with a flourish of his bayonet-bearing Tommy, he disappeared through the adjoining room with a barbarian battle cry.
As Liebgott crawled off of Webster, there came a click. A click that every man in Easy Company recognized. Every living thing in the room froze. Even the mice scurrying in the walls stopped and cried, “Ah, kak!” (Remember, these were Dutch mice.)
Liebgott’s face blanched as he stared at the grenade pin dangling from the snarled zipper of his jump jacket. “Oh my fuckin’—”
Webster, with his pretty blue eyes big enough to crack his eye sockets, began pawing at every grenade he carried, trying to find the one that was live. The rest of the men quickly cleared the room with cries of “Nice knowin’ ya, pal!” and “Good luck, buddy!” but Liebgott hauled Webster to his feet and began a fumbling search for the grenade that would, in just a few short seconds, blow them both straight to God (or Yahweh, in Lieb’s case).
Webster was moaning, “Ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod—” while Liebgott was spitting, “Damn shit fuck, Web, god-fuckin’-dammit! If I live through this I swear I’ll kill you!” and tossing away all the inactive grenades. Finally he found the live one and wrenched it off of Webster’s strap. “Fire in the hole!” he cried, and he chucked the grenade through the window with a resounding shatter.
Not a moment too soon. The grenade exploded in mid-air, setting fire to an unfortunate tree just outside. A cloud of flames and broken glass roared through the window and Webster threw himself on top of Liebgott, which probably saved his eyebrows.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Liebgott heaved a sigh.
Webster brushed the shards of glass and wood off of his back. “You alright, Joe?”
“I think I just shit my pants.”
Webster grinned, beaming and bubbly. “I’m gonna devote a whole chapter in my book to this.”
Liebgott started to unholster his pistol but was interrupted by the appearance of Lieutenant Speirs.
“Where are the others?” he asked coolly, oblivious to the flaming tree just outside the blackened edges of the busted window.
Liebgott and Webster both pointed.
He nodded and disappeared.
The madness was reaching fever pitch as Talbert’s team tore through the second floor in search of the attic. Doors were thrown open, kicked down, smashed, shattered, scattered and pulverized.
One of the theories of mob psychology states that the more individuals involved in the party, the stupider the party becomes. None of the men in E Company were stupid by any means, but when fear, bloodlust and fanatic loyalty to a fatherly figure are thrown into the mix, the results could be mildly catastrophic. In any case, Freud would have loved to have seen this.
Muck, who had defected from the collective insanity of his comrades and actually regained some semblance of intelligent observation, was naturally the first to find the attic.
“OVER HERE, I FOUND IT!” he shouted, bringing the rest of the braying hounds down on him. They threw the door open and mounted the stairs in a thundering, swearing mass, crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in the narrow stairwell and stumbling in their haste. Christenson, who hadn’t bothered to tie his boots, stepped on his laces and took a nosedive. He clawed for purchase as he went down and inadvertently grabbed Alley’s sleeve, ripping the entire thing off at the shoulder. His chin thudded against a stair as the sleeve came away in his hand.
Hoobler, who was right behind Christenson, didn’t have time to slam on the brakes—he tried to avoid stepping on the poor guy but was pushed forward by the crowd. He ended up straddling Christenson’s back and creating a horrendous bottleneck. Troopers tried to plow past the holdup but that only made it worse; Gordon tripped over Hoobler’s foot and elbowed Penkala, who went over backward and sprayed the ceiling with bullets. Strohl accidentally squashed Christenson’s fingers under his boot heel, and in the heat of the moment Christenson shut his eyes and howled, “MEDIIIIIIIIIIC!”
Four houses down, Eugene Roe’s eyes snapped open. He sat bolt upright, pulled his medical bag out from under his pillow, and was off like a shot.
George Luz, Bull Randleman, Shifty Powers and Frank Perconte were mellowing out before bedtime with a heavy dose of nicotine and titty tales when they saw Roe rocket through the front door and disappear into the night. They waited long enough for the smoke to clear before springing to their feet and following him outside. (Medic-chasing was a popular pastime in the army.)
It was the stairway to hell. And it only got worse when Speirs arrived, because if any man could instill panic just by entering a room, it was Ronald “Bloody” Speirs. The boys from Easy would rather face off with an army of suicidal SS than take on the one-man killing machine from Dog. Speirs was aware of his reputation and took perverse amusement in perpetuating his own infamy, but he was genuinely worried when he came upon the group trying to squeeze itself up the stairs.
Gordon and Hoobler, who were pushing at the back of the throng, turned around to see Speirs with his pistol drawn and his face wearing an expression that could scare Death itself, and lost their minds.
“GO GO GO GO GO!”
The two terrified troopers redoubled their efforts to force the others up the stairs, and by sheer panic actually succeeded. Speirs stared in mute wonder as the mass of men began to surge forward—it reminded him a fat, greasy rat trying to cram itself through a drain pipe—and then he was struck from behind by the small-yet-powerful form of Doc Roe. “Outta d’ way, medic comin’ through! Luke out! Move asad!”
Luz, Bull, Perconte and Shifty were not far behind, and when they joined the mayhem of Operation Insanity, the stairwell, which was getting the raping of its life, let out a moan and finally surrendered. Suddenly every man was moving, thundering up the stairs and screaming for Winters to hold on, they were comin’ for him, those fucking Krauts were gonna get it! Speirs got caught in the river of humanity and decided to go with it, because he certainly couldn’t fight it.
Talbert was the first to burst out at the top of the stairs. He took in the utterly destroyed room and overturned furniture, then he saw Winters. Leaning up against the wall. Naked from the waist up. With his pants pulled down. And Captain Lewis Nixon kneeling between his legs. With Winters’ hot, straining manhood in his fist.
Three pairs of eyes met each other, and somewhere over the ocean the Oxford Dictionary got a brand new definition for the word “tragedy”. Then Winters uttered a hoarse groan, jerked, shuddered, and came all over the side of Nixon’s wide-eyed, astounded face.
Talbert warbled like a dying man and all of his heroic, drunken bravado deflated. He numbly lowered his weapon as the rest of the platoon stampeded into the attic, ready to defend their hero, and were treated to the same sight as poor Tabs. Mouths dropped open, eyes tripled in diameter, and the most awkward, uncomfortable silence in recorded history descended upon the tiny room.
Winters closed his eyes and slumped against the wall, catching his breath. Nixon, with rivulets of his lover’s (or victim’s, depending upon how sick you are) genetic material slowly trickling down his grease-smudged cheek, opened his mouth and begged, “God please kill me now.”
Talbert, who loved Winters only a little bit more than his own life and wrote him long, rambling letters every week even though they’re in the same platoon and the APO finally refused to deliver them, started to wail. Hoobler went cross-eyed, Muck turned blue, Gordon had an asthma attack, and somewhere down on the stairs Luz was squawking, “Ey, what is it, what’s goin’ on? Somebody die?”
Winters and Nixon quickly stood up and tucked themselves in as Speirs elbowed Talbert out of the way. He looked at the two captains expressionlessly, then said, “Everything alright up here?”
Nixon had lost the ability to do anything except stand there and look like he wanted to become one with the floor, so Winters answered for them both. “Everything’s fine, Lieutenant.”
Malarkey took this opportunity to slap Penkala’s helmet clean off his head. “Infiltrated. You stupid bunch of bitches.”
“Hey don’t blame me, Talbert organized this whole thing!”
Speirs calmly holstered his pistol. “Sorry to disturb you, then. Goodnight, Captains.” And he turned, put his hand on the weeping Talbert’s shoulder, and ushered him through the crowd. (Most of the others were certain this was the last time they were going to see poor Tabs alive, but Speirs was in truth a very kind, sympathetic man who cared deeply for his comrades. He also wanted to get out of there ASAP so he could enjoy a good laugh and a cigarette.)
The rest of the dispirited platoon stood there uselessly with their guns and grenades, shuffling their feet and looking at the floor and rubbing the back of their necks in typical boy-we-really-fucked-up fashion. Then came the embarrassed explanations:
“Gee, Cap’n, we sure didn’t mean nothin’,” Shifty said softly to Winters. “We was just followin’ them. We thought there was an attack goin’ on.”
“The guys heard noises outside,” Gordon meekly explained. “We thought you were in trouble.”
“We thought the Nazis got you!”
“Nazis?” Winter repeated dubiously.
Nixon facepalmed. “Jesus Christ.”
“We didn’t mean for it to get outta hand.”
“We did it with the best intentions, sir.”
“Guess we all got a little carried away tonight.”
And from the back of the audience somebody coughed, “Nixon!”
“Who said that?” Nixon snarled.
Winters bit his lip, losing the battle to keep his laughter contained.
“I’ll court martial every last one of you if I ha—”
“Let it go, Lew,” chuckled Winters, putting a comforting hand on Nixon’s shoulder. “They’re just kids.”
Nixon crossed his arms and glared at the “kids”, who glared back at him like he was a sadistic, alcoholic pervert bent on destroying the honor, dignity and good name of Captain Richard D. Winters. In fact, they were all convinced that Papa Winters had nothing to do whatsoever with that horrifying scene of wanton homosexuality, that Lewis Nixon was pure evil, and now it was their mission (aside from murdering Hitler) to defend Winters from the diabolical clutches of this treacherous, filthy, cock-molesting deviant.
Winters waved his hand. “Alright, get outta here. Don’t make me order a bed check. You’re too old for that.”
“Yes sir,” they chorused glumly, trudging one by one down the stairs.
“One more thing.”
They paused and looked up.
Winters smirked. “Try to work on your approach. You boys made more noise than a train wreck—I could hear you coming a mile away.”
Alex Penkala, who was the only man either brave enough or stupid enough to do it, looked at his captain and said with a straight face, “With all due respect, sir, we could hear you coming a mile away, too.”
Doc Roe was on the stairs tending to Christenson’s trampled hand and Alley’s busted nose when Webster and Liebgott showed up. Alley grinned. “Hey, you made it! I thought for sure you two were a-goners.”
Webster sent an adoring look toward Liebgott. “We almost were, but my knight in olive drab saved us both.”
Liebgott placed his hand directly on Webster’s face and pushed him away. “What’d we miss?”
“Nuttin’,” Roe muttered. “False alarm.”
“Nuh-UH. Captain Nixon was . . . taking advantage of Captain Winters.”
“Whadda ya mean?”
Luz passed by, smoking a cigarette. “He was suckin’ his cock.”
Webster, after a moment’s hesitation, giggled. “That’s a good one, George.”
And then Luz stopped and gave him a look that was SRS BSNS.
Webster’s smile dropped. “Really?”
“S’what I heard.” He jerked his thumb in the direction of the attic stairs. “G’wan, go up and ask Nixon yourself. Don’t expect much of a reply, though. Awful hard to talk with your mouth full, yanno.” He winked and walked off.
Webster and Liebgott glanced at each other. “Yeah,” Liebgott encouraged. “Why don’t ya go on up there and ask for an interview. I’m sure it’d make for an interesting chapter in your book . . . Good luck getting it published.”
“At this rate I’m thinking it might be best to publish it under fiction.” Webster shook his head. “’Cause nobody’s going to believe this.”