As the man swung the door open, moonlight washed over his face. The face was Gunther's. I had been stiff with fear, but when I saw the man was Gunther, I relaxed. He entered the barn quietly and quickly.
He walked quietly over to us. He spoke in a low voice, "The tank unit is breaking camp. They'll probably be moving out tomorrow. We're going to take advantage of the confusion. We're going to leave early tomorrow morning." He turned and walked out of the barn back to his sleeping place.
We rose before the sun. After breakfast, Gunther took the large cooking pot and braced it in the rumble seat behind the driver's side. He put blankets, and some of the lumber which had hidden the fire truck into the rumble seat so that the material would stop bullets. He stitched burlap into the ceiling car over the rear window so that, he said, "they won't be able to see the driver and shoot at her."
He backed the fire truck into the barn, and he connected the car to the fire truck. After we climbed into the car, He came back to the car with the machine gun the soldiers had given him. He put his foot on the running board, and rested the butt of the machine gun on his thigh. He said, "When we leave here, we leave for good. When we get to the check points, we're going through. I'll try to bluff my way through if I can.
"If I can't, I'm going to fight my way through. I may be shot or wounded, or whatever, but I'm going to drive that truck as far as I can without stopping. If they chase us, I'll try to out run them .... "
He looked at Mom, Luther, Siegie and me. He said, "I don't think that they would shoot at a woman and children, but you never can tell.
"This is for you." He held up the machine gun for Mom.
He said, "You don't have to take it, but I would like to feel as if l had someone backing me up. It's loaded and cocked. All you do is point it and pull the trigger."
My eyes and Siegie's eyes were riveted on the machine gun. I grabbed his arm. He nudged me with his shoulder. We held our breaths.
Mom put her palm to her forehead and rested it there for a minute. Softly she said, "Oh, Oscar. Where are you when I need you?" That was the first time we had heard her call out for my dad since he'd left us.
Gunther nodded his head. He shrugged. He said, "Don't worry about it. You don't have to take the gun."
Mom took her hand from her forehead and stuck it out the window. She said, "If you don't make it. then we won't make it either. I'll take the gun."
I almost died right there. I wanted to get my hands on that gun. Siegie looked at me and motioned with his head. I moved over close to him.
He whispered, "See if you can get that gun. It's not a grenade, but it'll do."
I sucked in my lower lip and nodded. Both of our eyes followed the gun as Gunther handed it to Mom. She placed it on the seat beside her. She put a pillow over it. She stuck her hand under the pillow and rested it on the gun. Siegie and I watched to see if she would take her hand off it.
Gunther took a deep breath and put his shoulders back. He nodded grimly. He turned and strode to the front of the fire truck. It swayed as he climbed aboard. The engine roared to life, the exhaust filling the barn. He eased us out of the barn, swung around it, and quickly we were on the road in back of the barn, rocking and bumping. He pulled onto the cobblestone road. He headed to the first check point near the rear of the wrecked train.
Gunther was correct about the confusion. Tanks drove from their campsite south of the intersection. They kicked up dust. They drove along the tracks and turned onto the road near the rear of the train. Rescuers continued carrying bodies away from the train wreck. In front of us was a big truck with a crane on the rear of it. It cleared the check point. It turned right and drove to the destroyed cars blocking the tracks.
Gunther stopped the fire truck. He carried his satchel to the check point officer's field table. As he approached the check point, a soldier who sat idly on a motorcycle sidecar jumped up. He fixed his rifle over his shoulder and saluted Gunther. The soldiers at the check point turned to see what the commotion was. Gunther returned the salute and strode toward the officer in charge. The officer was a Captain. He and \Gunther exchanged salutes. Gunther offered his papers. The Captain took them. Gunther turned to leave as if that was what he was supposed to do.
The Captain called him back.
Gunther responded angrily, "What? What is it you want?"
The officer was taken aback by Gunther's response. He politely said, "Sir, the Commandant's signature is not on these orders."
Gunther responded angrily again, "Of course it isn't, Captain. I'm supposed to be with that crane, and he's leaving without me. You are delaying me."
The Captain looked at the copy of the orders Gunther had given him. He started again, "Colonel, Commandant Pfeifer has ordered us…."
Gunther interrupted with a shout, "Listen, you imbecile. General Pfeifer told me to follow that truck and to coordinate the cleanup however possible. After the cleanup, I am to be allowed to continue on my mission.
"He didn't give me a written pass, you ignoramus, because I am an SS Colonel." Gunther put his hand on his chest in a haughty manner when he said, "SS Colonel."
He continued, "And I don't need a pass like a field weevil Captain. Do you understand me, Captain? I was with the general when those four planes attacked the train, and he told me .... "
The Captain interrupted him, "Four planes, sir? We were told that a squadron attacked this train." Gunther said, "That's what I'm talking about. A damned Captain in the field questioning a Colonel. Captain," he said with exaggerated patience as he flared his nostrils, "we have eye witnesses back in Gustrow who saw two British planes and two Russian planes attack this train. The witnesses came in this morning."
Gunther arched an eyebrow. He asked, "Where have you been since this morning, Captain?"
The Captain, nonplused, only answered, "Why, I've been with the tank division down the road, here."
Gunther started to turn away. He stopped and pointed a long finger at the Captain. He said, "That's what I'm talking about. You, a Captain, couldn't expect to have the latest information that I, a Colonel, would have."
Gunther leaned on the Captain's table. He stared at the Captain. He asked, "What's your name, Captain?"
The Captain swallowed hard. He looked over his shoulder at one of his soldiers hoping for support from him. The soldier was standing solidly still. His eyes were fixed on some unseen object in the distance. The Captain cleared his throat. He glanced over his other shoulder at another of his soldiers. He said, "I... ah .... "
The other soldier, who had been watching the scene with some delight, jerked his attention back to some unseen point in the distance and stared with a stone face at it.
Gunther took out his notebook. He said, "I'm going to give your name to the general when I return to Gustrow."
The Captain gave Gunther his name. Gunther wrote it in his notebo...