The Tasseled Warrior
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by George W. J. Laidlaw
Category: Alternate History
Description: Hate was in his genes and ever since his ancestor Karl Toxopeus had fought the Zulu hoards and endured British occupation and their concentration camps, he and Boer ancestors hated the British and anyone remotely associated with them. Becoming a German spy and going to America to uncover the truth about the Manhattan Project was his way to ensure that Germany would win the war and the British would lose it. His discovery in America showed that once the Americans had joined the British after Pearl Harbour, America had turned into a huge industrial giant producing planes, ships, bombs and anything that would help them defeat Hitler and his Nazis. Hiding in America even after the Germans were defeated didn't seem out of character, he switched to another fatherland, not Germany but the Soviet Union and from America he provided more top-secret information than any other spy or mole inside America. Only once had someone nearly caught him, Alex Harman, an FBI agent had paid with his life when he made a mistake. Now that man's son, a wet behind the ears FBI agent and a young girl were snooping and had picked up his trail. Well, he had spent forty years avoiding detection and he could deal with Joseph Harman and his girl friend Leigh Morewood. Just because his hair was white Van Loon didn't hesitate when his life was in danger; pulling a trigger and removing an irritation was something that was necessary. He would never be caught.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing, 2004 DDP
eBookwise Release Date: May 2004
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [335 KB]
Reading time: 186-260 min.
The community of Beach Haven was a resort town on the New Jersey Shore, popular for decades with families who lived near the sea and those who came to it for their summer vacations, but it was known for something else.
Ray Vansant the Captain of the USS Viscount looked from his chair over the gray surface of an ocean that had become the scene of death and destruction like no other in the history of war at sea. He was on U-boat patrol and he and the two other consorts were looking for the U-boat that had sunk two merchantmen just off their New England coast the previous day. These sharks of the sea had been effective in sinking hundreds of ships and had nearly starved Britain into defeat. If it weren't for the bravery and tenacity of both the merchant navy and the overworked crews of frigates, corvettes and other ships of the Canadian, American and British navies, Hitler could have been sitting in Buckingham Palace.
Vansant despised the killers who cared nothing for the lives of the women and children who had been on board some of the ships attacked. What had these innocents done to harm Germany? He had respect for the sea, but the utmost hatred for U-boats and sharks. Sharks were biologically elegant, if you could get past the steely eyes and rows of needlelike teeth, but if he every returned to university and took up his study of biology he'd still hate these predators. The U-boat was the manmade equivalent and his job was to destroy any that came under his guns.
His first officer interrupted his daydream or was it a nightmare.
"Sir, sonar has a contact!"
"Thank you, Cliff. Signal the Bosford and the Gryson that we have a contact and are attacking. We can't let this bastard get away."
Cliff Roberts had once wanted to become an actor. Instead he was in a role that was real and filled with death. He had seen the look in the old man's eyes. The captain was one of the career officers with more time at sea than he had on shore. But he too hated the enemy. Roberts's family was from both the US and Canada and he had wanted to fight ever since his cousins in Ottawa had signed up in1939. But the U.S. preferred to remain neutral and not be drawn into another European war. Pearl Harbor changed all that. He looked west, 15 miles away was the home of the Captain, Beach Haven. What Roberts didn't know was that the people in that community and along the shore had been in another battle. Twenty-eight years before in 1916, his Captain's older brother Charles Vansant, was the first victim of an attack that had terrorized the eastern seaboard. He died because of a shark. For Captain Vansant each of the two things gray and deadly, U-boat or shark, was an enemy. The battle of today had now transformed itself into one where no mercy was given and those men aboard a U-boat no longer had everything going their way. They became the hunted and with the use of small aircraft carriers in the convoys, planes were ready to attack.
The Captain had learned a lot in two years of war. No longer did he believe the might of the American navy would turn the tide against the Wolf packs, although the killing ground was no longer as fruitful as it had been for the first three years of the war. On the ocean bottom were hundreds of ships with their guts torn out. If all of those ships had reached England and Russia, the war might be over. But there was a new ship coming out of dry dock each day and slowly the pendulum was turning against the Nazi and the madman Hitler, strutting like some peacock. His reign of one thousand years was not going to be that long.
The first spread of depth charges crashed into the sea. The hedgehog pattern had proven effective with two depth settings. Any submarine caught between their pummeling explosions were either imploded or forced to the surface. But the U-boat commanders were now experts at evading destruction. To survive in a U-boat took skill and guts and those who were the survivors were formidable enemies. Be careful or you turned from hunter to victim with a spread of torpedoes from the stern tubes. No, Captain Vansant had long since learned not to underestimate the enemy. Too many fresh-faced gung-ho commanders learned that it was a foolish and deadly mistake.
The attack went on for hours. After each attack on the U-boat and each hopeful sign of success, the sonar operator had to scramble to find the target. The other two frigates were useful because they hovered like hounds just waiting for the enemy to make a run in their direction. Then they too would have their own set of depth charges to welcome the killer that was lying somewhere below them. The submarine was lost, then found, and lost again. The technician was a good operator and he worked directly with the bridge to turn to port or starboard as necessary. After 11 attacks there was still no telltale sign of success.
He could envision the horrors of men trapped in the confines of a wet, cold submarine that was not designed for comfort but to be an effective killer. For many it became the final resting place. Surface ships of the US navy were doing their best to make this U-boat into another iron coffin. The day changed to darkness and the battle went on without respite.
Below the surface, those on board U-879 were no longer a crew that seemed in control of their minds, let alone their muscles. The air was quickly becoming tainted and the pounding and near misses of the depth charges rocked their world. It was having a profound effect on the crew.
So far, the U-boat Captain had with skill and a little luck had second-guessed the maneuvers of the ship that was on the surface tormenting them and seeking their demise. Two days ago they had been successful in sinking two merchant ships in a world that had turned vicious and was quickly driving the submarines from the sea. Now it was his turn to endure what the navy could throw at them. He wondered if it were the Americans or the Canadians seeking his death. The Canadians with their longer experience might not be as easily fooled. Yet whoever was watching above was no amateur. They had to exhaust their supply of depth charges. Then if he could use the fresh water that was flowing out of Raritan Bay they might still elude death by using it to mask the numbing sonar pings that told the enemy where they were.
Captain Klaus Koben was not new to the world of submarines; he was old, if 44 was considered old, yet that was ancient in the world where death came to the young as the sudden effects of a depth charge broke a valve or punctured a steel plate. Once that happened the water no longer acted as a barrier protecting them from the ships above but it with thousands of kilograms of pressure twisted and compressed and turned the elegant and deadly shape of a U-boat into useless and lifeless pieces of refuse. The Fuehrer had already given him one of the highest awards, the Oak Leaves and Swords. It was worn only by a few. Most received it posthumously, yet he was among the elite, a hero of the fatherland and he must steady his mind and try to determine what his enemy would do next. A quick thought struck him tomorrow would be Christmas and soon a new year would begin. He wondered if he'd be alive to welcome another year.
The American crew was still at battle stations at midnight and even with the mugs of coffee or hot chocolate they couldn't maintain their vigil perhaps Captain Vansant was thinking that the British had the right idea in having rum available. The American ships were dry and he and his men needed more than coffee. He knew that either their enemy had eluded them or was already dead or just playing dead.
"Signal the Bosford to take our place. They will be fresher and it will give our crew a chance to recharge their batteries."
* * *
1877 Transvaal South Africa
The noise was like a sound from Hell with its deep tones rattling your heart making it fearful of beating too loudly. Those who heard the sound of the crescent horn, with the thousands of Zulu warriors, knew it was the sound of doom and heralded their impending death.
Karl Toxopeus was like a fish out of water; he was a Dutch farmer, a Boer who was now in a column of British soldiers waiting for the enemy to attack. It was a stroke of good fortune to be still alive. He and a friend had been riding along a trail south of their homes when they found themselves surrounded by a mass of black fighters. If it weren't for the speed of their horses, they would have been dead, gutted with the Zulu spears, the assegais. Their sudden bolt through the Zulu lines had not gone without damage; his horse took a spear in its side and Haiger was speared in the back. It might have been over with them if it weren't for the appearance of the British column. Yet, the black hordes would soon surround and overwhelm all of them and his safety was only for a short time, a postponement from the inevitable. The razor sharp assegais of the Zulus would marshal out the dead and exact the price for the superior European attitude and underestimation of the prowess of Zululand. He and his family had immigrated to the Cape to start a new life with fellow Boers, but the relations between the British and the Boers were not friendly and each group only partially tolerated the other. And here were the Boer and British fighting together for their lives. The only thing that might save them was a barricade of cape wagons that the 16-oxen teams had pulled to carry supplies.
Anything to shield them from the deadly spears that would soon blacken the skies like angry wasps. If they could keep the Zulus at bay and let superior weapons play on the advancing hordes then they might have a chance. All it took was discipline. For once Karl respected the British because they had learned through centuries of war that it was discipline that gave them success over their enemies. He had learned to shoot well and knew he could depend on his eye and the accuracy of his rifle. It was just a matter of time. If another column to their north arrived in time perhaps some might see another dawn.
. . .The crack of a rifle from the bluff confirmed the hordes were coming. The deep sound of their war chant and the sound of thousands of feet hitting the ground could be heard and the men around him looked fearful.
If the Zulus broke through and penetrated the British square none would survive. One of the Zulu kings Cetewayo had 30,000 warriors ready to attack and drive the British and Dutch from the districts of Transvaal and Natal. Whether these fighters were part of his tribe he didn't know, all he knew was he had to keep firing.
Soon every man was firing. At first it was an even discharge and the Zulus in front melted under the punishment, but it seemed not to change anything for every man that was killed dozens were behind coming forward and hurling their spears. The spears came and found chests and necks as ready targets and the soldiers fell to the spears of the Zulu. No longer was there any cheering. Each man fired as fast as he could and if the relief column arrived they had a chance. The two hundred soldiers, the dozen wagonners and the three civilians besides himself and his injured friend, all were standing at the barricade and firing into the advancing mass. Karl had heard of the tactic used by the Zulu, the Crescent Horn had allowed them to conquer the other tribes as the Zulu invaded from the north. The kingdom of the Zulus was like no other native country. All the men were warriors and none were allowed to marry until their regiment excelled in battle. So there were more reasons to fight than just to defend their king because it allowed a man a wife or wives and it also symbolized that he was recognized for his bravery.
A soldier to his right was squirming with a spear in his chest and fell clutching the spear's shaft. Another too fell and around him the line of soldiers was being decimated. The wagonners looked terrified and some tried to run but there was no place to run. One fool jumped over the barricade and was quickly run down as the assegais cut into him.
Within minutes the Zulus were pushing against and over the barricades. The firing of the rifles was now sporadic and as quickly as they fired it wasn't fast enough before a spear ended the soldier's determination.
Suddenly a giant Blackman, a Zulu with the markings of a leader rushed at him and Karl didn't have time to raise his revolver, he grabbed at the man and felt his power as he tried to avoid the blow. The blow to Karl's head knocked him back onto the pile of bodies. Even for the brief second he thought he heard a bugle call but then he lost consciousness as the blood from his wound to his head flowed down his face and neck and onto his chest. The Zulu had broken through and now only the sounds of their cheers were heard. No British soldier was spared and the assegais turned red as they killed the wounded.
* * *
The depth hid the elongation that took the place of a shark in man's warlike endeavors of life under the sea as U-879 rested on the ocean floor. How long was it since the last depth charge attack? No knew and those that lay like dead bodies on the deck of the U-boat had only enough strength to breathe. Were the ships above still listening? The captain forced himself to concentrate. He knew how long they had remained silent and how long it was since the last depth charges had come crashing down. The air was so bad it hurt to breathe and it dulled the mind.
Well he had to chance it. The batteries were nearly exhausted and they either remained here forever or he took this chance at life.
"Alright Wolfgang, we are surfacing. Tell the men to brace themselves and if the enemy is still there then everyone is to abandon ship. We won't be given more than a minute or two before they show us their intentions."
The baleen sounds of purging tanks and the slow ascend signaled that at least U-879 was alive. Those eyes watched at the hatches and listened for the commands that would soon break the silence. If the enemy was waiting, many knew that all would not have the chance to jump into the sea. No, few would survive if the shells found them.
Not all the people fighting for air were members of the U-boat crew. There were four men, who were neither sailors nor regular fighters. They had come on a different mission and the U-boat was the only means to get them across the ocean without detection. These men had been trained as saboteurs, 5th columnists. Their role was in helping the fatherland win the war by going ashore to destroy anything vital to the American war effort. They were English speaking and some were American born but all had German ancestors or families. Yet there were not the only strangers on board the U-boat. There was a fifth man who had come aboard before the four saboteurs. He had kept to himself and used the captain's quarters, small as it was and kept in solitude. The captain had seen the orders and knew that this man was on orders of the Fuehrer. None would question his orders or not be impressed by the signature on his document.
He knew about the saboteurs and also knew of the earlier failures in 1942 when two submarines had inserted two teams of four men into the heart of America. He had not believed that Germans who had spent much of their adult life in America could have the determination to complete their tasks of sabotage. They had heard nothing about what had happened but all the contacts that were given to them also disappeared. It didn't take a genius to understand that somehow or someone had compromised the two teams. Now he was going to be a watchdog and make sure that the four men frightened out of their minds and barely breathing in the stern, would if the submarine ever reached the shore in safety have the resilience to carry out their assignments.
* * *
The chance to get back to the peace and tranquility for Leigh Morewood was what both her body and mind demanded. She liked the isolation and lethargic pace of Harlequin. For the past six months she was in a city that was too big, too noisy and had a pace that sometimes made her cringe. She just wasn't a city girl. Toronto was not that large at 1.5 million, but it was a heck of a lot larger than Harlequin.
She was in her fourth year of Biology and in Geology and by the end of December her course work would be finished and she'd be looking for work. She hoped to be working up north with a Mineral exploration company either doing their environmental assessments or even helping in their geologic profiling. The second choice was being optimistic and there were PhD's who were doing the geology of a site. However she kept her interest in minerals up to date. Perhaps she might strike it lucky and discover a Mother Lode. She laughed as she tramped through the bush. There was not much chance of that, but she kept her prospector's hammer strapped to her belt ready to knock on a few stone boulders. Once it had been useful as a weapon when she was accosted one night going between buildings. That hammer with it steel head was enough to persuade the jerk who wanted to explore her assets to back off. She wished she had a chance to use it and perhaps he'd no longer be able to use his equipment. But that was last year and now she had the fresh breezes and the songs of jays and chickadees in her ears. That was a glorious sound and a major improvement on police sirens, ambulances and the never-ending sound of cars driving within yards of her small off campus apartment.
Her parents were pleased to see her. Their only child was good looking and would turn the heads of many. It had been too long and yet after three days with home cooked food, real food and not her sorry attempts at cooking she felt she had never been away. Her father was the town clerk, librarian and whatever else the small community needed in the form of a town employee. He had grown up in Harlequin and the only time he had been absent from it was during the war when he was away for nearly five years. He never talked about the war, but her mother said it had taken him many months of her loving and careful attention to subdue the nightmares and chase them away. His returned from being injured two weeks after D-Day, which had left him no longer well enough to fight in a campaign of flushing out hard core Germans from the hedgerows. Occasionally these nightmares returned and that was now 30 years ago.
Her girl friends had either left town or got themselves in the family way. Some settled into the town and helped maintain the population that was forever shrinking as the lure of the big city kidnapped the dreams of the young with hopes of making a fortune in the big city. She never had that dream. Her dream was to live in close association with the wilderness and only visit the city as a last resort. The flash of brown showed her that Angus, their dog was scouting ahead. He was six now and she realized how much she missed him over the last months. To see a dog so happy just to go for a wilderness outing brought a smile to her face.
"Stay away from any skunks or porcupines." She shouted, whether or not Angus listened didn't change his rushing around. They had come nearly seven miles and it was probably wise to head back although there were no signs of the predicted storm. The sun was still shining and the buzz of the cicadas was a clear message that the day had turned into a sweltering one.
From the rocky bluff they could see where the mysterious mansion sat in its splendor. She always thought it was an unusual place that was elegant but offered no hospitality. This Brigadier didn't welcome visitors, or close neighbors. Her father's place was the closest home to the remote log castle. Eight miles of twisting roads was not close but by taking the trail along the lakeshore it was closer.
She knew nothing about this recluse, this businessman. She had learned he only spent part of the year here, late summer to the end of October. She never heard whether he was married or if he arrived with friends, but there was a housekeeper and another man that lived year around. They were the ones that came into town to do the grocery shopping and visit the Post Office. They didn't mix well with the locals and seemed to prefer the standoffish attitude of their employer. Well it didn't really matter. The lord and master of the hill top mansion didn't interest her except for the doubts about why he had come here in the first place. Her father told her that it was in 1955, 10 years after the war that a building contractor, with stone masons and laborers arrived. Building the road up to the cliff was a major enterprise with the bulldozers and heavy equipment. At first the rumors suggested that another mine was about to be opened.
Angus gave a yelp that wasn't in his normal repertoire. It was both a warning and an indication that something expected happened. Leigh quickly came to where her dog was pointing.
"What have you found, Angus old boy, a Sasquatch or just the remains of a wolf kill?"
Angus was a good hunter and if Leigh had been interested in hunting she would have bagged her limit of whatever Angus corralled. She had done some hunting with her father. Here, supplementing their diet with wild game was a necessity. You became attuned to the land and groceries were expensive so everyone hunted and getting a moose or a deer or some ducks were a fall event and it signaled that winter would soon come with its frosty ways.
Leigh wasn't prepared for the object of Angus's attention. The body of a man was sitting up against a tree trunk and the man was looking as if he was still puzzled or worried over the envelope in his hand.
Whoever he was, he had not been dead too long.
She noticed the name on the envelope. Her arts course was a language option, now it came in handy. SS-BRIGADEFUHRER Blake. Leigh stepped back and looked at the body. He was old perhaps in his mid-sixties. She knew the name of the man that lived in the mansion. It wasn't SS-BRIGADEFUHRER Blake but retired Brigadier William Blake.
She knew that this title was not written in block letters haphazardly. Someone wanted to gain the attention of this man if he was the industrialist. Well it had succeeded and now the tired old man sat there at the end of his life looking worried and a little fearful.
* * *
The submarine crept to the surface and every member of its crew was expecting to be blown out of the water. The command to pop the hatches was immediately obeyed and the inflow of salt fresh air was a godsend to those who had endured the almost fetal air that had barely held enough oxygen to live on.
The Captain climbed to the conning tower and as he and the lookouts searched the sea around them. They discovered that they were alone at last.
The Gods had given them a breather. After more than 20 hours of being attacked either their enemy believed they had escaped or they thought that their depth charges had done their work.
Just to breathe was a miracle and Captain Klaus Koben enjoyed the euphoria of being alive when he had feared that his epitaph was already written.
They would drop off their band of four saboteurs and let them on to dry land. He doubted that any of them would complain. He knew that they must have been terrified and to get away from the Coffin would be the best thing they could do. Koben thought about the other guest. He was another case in point. He had stayed in the Captain's quarters keeping to himself and only talking to the captain. He was a dark horse and someone that was not an ordinary saboteur like the men that would soon be rafted over to the shore.
Soon the four saboteurs were in the rubber rafts and the sailors dug into the water and propelled them to shore. With them were several large packages and two cumbersome boxes; he assumed they were tools of the trade. Fuses, explosives, weapons, money for survival and money for bribes. Everything that a man might need to destroy a power plant, a railroad bridge or building with an incendiary bomb would be carefully packaged in the bundles or the crates. He had had these cloak and dagger people aboard his submarine before, but it was the first time he had landed any on the other side of the Atlantic. Well he wished them luck. The pendulum had swung against the Axis powers and he doubted that four or was it five saboteurs could do much damage. Yet the fifth man, the dark horse had not discussed anything or even asked about the four men. Was he involved with the others or had he a special mission? He didn't ask. You never asked. Too much knowledge was often deadly to those who carried it.
His single passenger didn't wave or salute as the German sailors rafted him ashore. He was left on a beach farther north than the other saboteurs. The sailors suspected he was a Gestapo agent and whenever the Gestapo was involved it usually meant someone was about to die.
The man was in his mid to late thirties and was well aware of the speculation his presence on board U-879 had engendered. The Captain shivered involuntarily as the raft disappeared in the pre-dawn mist. He knew that others had been landed in America, Two of his sub commanders had make a similar trip in 1942. They were U-584 and U-202 and both now were missing. There were more than a few U-boats that failed to return in the last few months. It was something you didn't dwelt on. It did no one any good and only made you more morose or fatalistic or both.
The man stepped ashore without even getting his feet wet. He turned for a moment and looked at the black rubber raft and heard one sailor curse as he was soaked by a wave. Now he was on his own. It was a long way from Germany and home. He walked into the shelter of the trees that survived just a few meters from the sandy beach. He had his orders and he also knew what the orders were for the four men that had been landed earlier. He was well award of the efforts and importance that Hitler placed on destroying some of the infrastructure of America. Just because the Americans had been hoodwinked into believing the Jew lovers speeches didn't mean that they were snug in their beds 5,000 kilometers from where the war was being fought on the shores of France. It was vital now to hurt his enemy. With the success of the enemy landing in Normandy he didn't have time to speculate on his orders.
The other attempts to disrupt the Americans had happened just after the Yanks had come into the war. They had received a bloody nose from the attack on Pearl Harbor and now were no longer isolationists and were committed to fight with Britain and her allies.
One U-boat had left their submarine base in Lorraine, France on the 24th of May 1942 and was headed for Jacksonville, Florida and arrived on the 18 of June. The other left two nights later for East Hampton on the south shore of Long Island and arrived on the 12th of June. It should have been like the British say 'a piece of cake' to carry out their assignments. The Americans were not tested in war and besides their minor efforts and almost as an afterthought in the Great War, they had not shown themselves to be fighters. So when the two teams arrived with their assignments it was believed that they would be successful. Yet after the initial message form the Florida team nothing was heard from them again. The American didn't broadcast that they had captured saboteurs. So their disappearance was a mystery and one if he had time would investigate. If they had been betrayed then it was vital not to use any of the contacts that the teams of Dasch and Kerling had in their possession. He knew their targets. Dasch's teams was to destroy the hydroelectric plants at the place where newly weds went, Niagara Falls, as well as the aluminum factories in Illinois, the cyrolite plant in Philadelphia and the Ohio locks between Pittsburgh PA and Louisville KY. Kerling's team was to destroy the Pennsylvania Railroad station at Newark, the water supply of New York City, the lock and canal complexes at St. Louis, MO and Cincinnati, OH, the New York's Central Railroad's Hell Gate bridge and other lines. The men had been trained in sabotage and knew how to create as much damage as possible. But no reports of damage had occurred. The planners in the Abwehr section of German Military Intelligence had discovered the Achilles' heel of America and if these plants and transportations systems were destroyed, the American war effort would suffer. Perhaps it would have made all the difference if it had been done in 1942 and now after nearly five years of war any efforts to weaken the supply of war material would give the German plants time to replenish supplies lost in Normandy when Rommel had failed to stop the Allies from landing. Well things had changed and it was not just the efforts of the saboteurs that had landed last night that would make the difference. It was his efforts or those who he'd employ that might weaken the fabric of the American cowboys.
He took out his map and looked at the compass. He could get to New York by the end of the day if his legs and luck held. He had all the forms that were necessary. German forgers were very good and he already knew about the efforts of his German masters to flood Britain with counterfeit five-pound notes. They were so good even a bank expert would fail to tell which was the bogus bill. Gradually the British economy now teetering at the abyss of total failure would be given one more push and no one, not one of their Commonwealth allies or other non aligned countries would accept anything except gold bullion.
Copyright © 2004 by George W. J. Laidlaw