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Boys in Tanks by L J Elmore

Prologue

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Boys in Tanks--Prologue

Prologue

 

Screeching to a stop, the train lurched and the young man came awake with a start.  He glanced at his watch; eleven forty-five, right on time.   The war leveled many cities in his homeland and he marveled at the fact that the trains were running at all, much less on time.  He stood, swinging his rucksack down from the rickety metal shelf above the window of the passenger car.  Stepping off the train, he fumbled in his breast pocket for his papers identifying him as a former Waffen SS soldier and a former prisoner of war recently returned from the United States. 

Near the platform an American jeep blocked access to the main street of the picturesque town.  Two American GIs directed the few disembarking passengers through the checkpoint.  When it was his turn he handed the papers to the MP, who looked him squarely in the eye.  The soldier regarded the former Nazi with suspicion.   The German was a little less than six feet with clear green eyes.  His light brown hair neatly trimmed his handsome face reflected the strain of war.

“He looks too young to be SS,” thought the guard.  “I’d guess barely in his twenties.”  His paperwork was in order.

“These papers say you are from Kaiserslautern,” he said.  “What are you doing here in Bavaria?”

In excellent English the German responded, “I came here to find my girl.”

The American smiled.  “Well, I hear that,” he said. “Step over there; we need to ask you some questions.”

The delay made him anxious, but not because of the interrogation.  He was used to it by now.  He knew the Americans were just doing a job.  After four long years of agonizing separation he was anxious to find the woman he loved.   He wanted answers.  “Does she still remember me?”  “Does she still care for me?” The questions burned in his mind.

An hour later the young man stepped off the platform into the snowy street.  He pulled up the collar of his coat and stuffed his hands under his armpits, trying to preserve any morsel of warmth, and looked around. 

The mountains surrounding the small town stood cold and foreboding, nothing like how he remembered them.  No lush meadows and colorful wildflowers, just snow piled around the shops like diminutive versions of the magnificent Alpine peaks around him.

Once again he braced himself against the February winds, and trudged up the mountain road toward the familiar farmhouse.   After a few miles he could no longer feel his feet.  Cold invaded his body, a vulture picking at the last remnants of heat.

In the distance, a sleigh bearing a wedding party approached him.  The celebrants moved closer. He stepped aside to let them pass.   The sleigh, decorated with ribbons and merry bells on the collar of the horse, contrasted sharply with the bleakness of the cold air. 

The wedding couple appeared mismatched, an older man with his young bride heading toward the village church.  As he looked at the bride’s familiar face a shock of recognition ran through him, and he thought he was going to be sick.

“Silke,” he whispered.

  He stood rigid as they passed and locked onto the deep blue eyes of the woman whose memory had sustained him under the most harrowing conditions imaginable.  In the darkest hours of the war, it was that face, those eyes that kept him from losing hope.   

Turning to face him as the sleigh passed, she stared with disbelief. She looked as though she had seen a ghost.    Then she was gone.  On her way to marry another man.  He hadn’t even had a chance to talk to her.


 

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Last moments of freedom

On the run!

Separated from his unit for the final time, Markus is on the run from not only the Allies, but French partisans who are bent on revenge.  Capture means dishonor, or a brutal death at the hands of those who watched their fellow countrymen and women humiliated and disgraced under the occupation of the Germans. Markus is desperate to regain his unit and the fighting. 

Historical Fiction