Actor was frantic, at least on the inside. Outwardly he was a concerned citizen but under the watchful eye of soldiers he carried his groceries down the street. He knew due to his size he stood out in a crowd. That was good when you wanted to command attention but right now he would have settled for small. He made sure he was out of sight before he altered his course to return him to the safe house they had selected.
Dumping his purchases he headed for the camp. Garrison would have to be told. With a sense of direction second only to Chief and Garrison he headed cross country, the truck was out of fuel. As he neared the area he whistled a tune that incorporated their signal. He was rewarded with an answer off to his left. The two men met in the middle and he explained the situation.
Garrison looked at his watch and said, "We'll have to…" He stopped and looked up as he heard the whistle and Chief appeared.
"I think we got trouble," he said then turned to Actor. "Where them other two?" The concern was evident on his face and in his voice.
"They were picked up off the street."
"Then I just saw them being dropped off in the camp. Casino don't look too good." Without another word the three men headed for the camp, Chief in the lead. They moved urgently until they neared the fence. From there they were more cautious.
"Damn, we need binoculars," ground out a frustrated and worried Garrison.
"Guard's got'um. Want me to get'um?"
Taken out of context, that comment would be laughable. Sure, just walk up to an armed enemy soldier and ask but the Officer knew Chief and what he was suggesting. He also knew he didn't have to tell him to be careful.
What Actor said was, "Do not get caught. We are a little short on rescues right now."
Chief tipped his head in acknowledgement and slipped away.
The camp was built to keep prisoners from escaping. The double fence with the towers on the outside would do that. No one could approach from the camp without being seen. The guards were trained to watch the camp. They did not expect the attack to come from outside the camp, from the countryside. Just to be sure he found a stone and lobbed it high in the air dropping it in the water filled trench. The guards would be alerted. Chief was then able to scale the tower and neutralize the guard. The binoculars were soon in his leaders hands.
A fast march back to town, another stolen vehicle and purloined uniforms and they were in business. Chief drove the military vehicle up to the city police station. Actor and Garrison, resplendent in their Luftwaffe uniforms exited the car after Chief opened and held the door. His wait dragged on but was probably fairly short. As the wheel man he did not have to take part in the con or worry about messing up. He did have to worry about the others getting caught and not being able to rescue them. He also had to worry about being confronted out in the street where he was alone. Fortunately he was not bothered though he felt the looks he was given. The populace were not fighting back but they did not embrace the enemy either.
Finally the two imposters in their borrowed uniforms returned to the car. The Oberst gave the orders to his driver and they pulled away. It took about ten minutes to drive to the camp gates where Chief stopped the car and waited. Finally a guard approached and Garrison, wearing a Major's uniform, informed him of their mission. They were admitted and Chief drove in the direction indicated by the guard. He assumed he would wait with the car but Garrison, Major Faust, indicated for him to accompany them. Maybe it wasn't safe for him to stay there or maybe they thought they might need him. Whatever the reason, he followed behind.
The camp was fairly new but still had a look of desperation. Beyond the inner wire he could see the barracks and some of the people. They were thin and their clothes were dirty and ragged but what bothered him the most were their eyes. They looked dead. It was as if the soul had died but the body continued to move. Even their movements were mechanical. He turned away and scanned the area out toward the forest beyond the outer wire. Seeing the watch towers he wondered if the guard had been missed yet.
The trio entered the Camp Commander's Office. The Major and the Oberst sat in the indicated chairs and he remained standing at rest by the door. Chief could not understand the words but he had been involved in the planning so he knew that the Oberst would explain that he had been visiting the nearby airfield when an object of great personal worth had been stolen. He had identified thieves, or at least their identities. From there he had tracked the men and had been told they had been picked up and sent here. He wanted them released to him so they could retrieve the item.
The Camp Commander, whose nameplate said Grunewald, looked to be reluctant. That is until Actor turned on the SS charm. Chief was impressed. Actor had to be the only guy who could out SS even the real SS. Grunewald was weakening, Chief saw the doubt flicker around his eyes. Actor said something that made the hairs on the back of his neck rise. Whatever it was, it did the trick. Grunewald stood and moved around his desk to be followed by the imposters out the door.
The procession entered the camp proper and the sight and smell intensified. As bad as Statenville had been, this was worse. Sour sweat from fear and unwashed bodies mingled with the pungent smell of urine and feces. There were also pockets of rot. More than a rat or a dog had died here and remained unburied. Again Chief saw the empty eyes. They did not made contact but he could feel them on him. They were watching, waiting. He wanted to take a deep breath to try to relax but couldn't. He did not want to breathe in the smell.
The guards rounded up the prisoners and the trio walked the lines. There were so many compared to the size of the barracks. This close, it was impossible to miss the rashes and welts and open sores on the prisoners' bodies. It was horrible and he wanted to get out of there but he would leave Casino or Goniff here. Hell, he didn't want to leave anyone here but there was only so much he could do. He walked on keeping his thoughts and feelings to himself.
Finally they came to the end. Where were Casino and Goniff? Chief was desperate. As much as those two irritated him, he could not just walk away. He knew Garrison and Actor were probably thinking the same thing. He snuck a look at their faces. Outwardly they appeared unmoved but Chief knew.
Actor said something that sounded like a threat, the Commandant replied coolly. Actor was getting angrier until Garrison made a suggestion. That was received with relief and the German spoke to a guard who hurried off. The Commandant led them to a low building with several doors set back to the side. The guard came running up with several keys and opened the first door. He yelled at the prisoner, probably to come out. Casino appeared. They all knew that if they were rescued, to assume a con and be prepared to play along. Casino looked immediately to Actor and saw the rage. Not that he would ever admit it but he was not acting when his step faltered and his breath caught. Fortunately he remembered enough to swear in German. Then remembering Goniff, he repeated it loud enough for the Cockney to hear. The guard opened the second door and Goniff peered out. He too, saw the look and hung back until he saw Actor pull out his service weapon and point it squarely at him. He stepped out and raised his hands. Goniff would never deny the terror he felt at that moment.
Chief could feel the fear, it was palpable. A tiny corner of his mind wondered how far Actor would go for a con. He wanted to step in and take over the weapon but feared over stepping his role. He released the breath he didn't know he was holding as Actor lowered the barrel. The Commandant said something and from his tone he sounded disappointed. Actor's answer did not sound nice. Maybe he said he could have them back when he was finished with them because the German laughed.
The two prisoners were herded to the car. Actor kept up the charade until they were well out of range and though he relaxed a bit, no one else did. In fact no one spoke even after they reached the safe house. It wasn't until Garrison broke the silence when he told Chief to take the watch.
As he left he heard Goniff say, "Blimey, I almost wet myself." No one laughed.
Actor said, "I had to be believable," but it sounded like he was trying to convince himself.
Chief found a good vantage point up on the roof. There was a sheltered spot by the chimney so he crouched down to avoid the breeze that was coming from the east. It was going to be cold. As he watched for danger he thought about what had happened. Actor had been damn scary. He had met some tough guys in prison. He'd had to kill one of them. Sonny was a tough guy who ran the section he was in. The day Chief got out of the hole he was there, demanding. First it was cigarettes, they some of his food. Chief had tried putting him off but the guy kept harassing him. Finally he had had enough so when the guy pulled a knife on him he went for it and Sony ended up dead. There were other guys too. There was a guy on death row that used to walk in a separate yard beside the one they used. The guy had eyes that looked right through you. Just looking at him made the hair stand up on the back of his neck.
Actor had been like that. Even on the sidelines he could feel it. He was glad he had not been in Casino or Goniff"s shoes back there. He was going to have to put this behind him if he was going to be able to work with the guy. You couldn't work with someone, trust them with your life, if you were scared of them. He was not sure how he was going to handle this. Should he talk to Garrison? Maybe he could figure this out.
No, he couldn't admit to Garrison that he was afraid. Besides, it wasn't like he was afraid of the guy. It was just, well, he wasn't sure. Maybe just leave it and see what happened. See how Casino and Goniff were handling it. Maybe it would be all right by the time his turn at the watch was over. All he could do was hope.
His thoughts were interrupted when he heard a sound. He waited but it was not repeated until a half an hour had passed. Again, he heard it but this time it was closer. Someone or something was coming. How close and what was it?
Best not take chances. He looked carefully around before slipping across the roof being careful not to present a silhouette against the sky. Once in through the window he crept down the attic steps to the room where the others would be resting. Garrison was talking to Actor. The map was spread before them. From the look on Actor's face they had not been discussing the mission. Chief knew the 'so what is the plan' look and this was not it. This was a 'none of your business look'. Had they been talking about what happened at the camp? No time for that.
"Warden, somethin' comin' this way. Couldn't tell what it was but we might have to move fast."
Without a word the three men went down the steps to the first floor where their team mates were resting. One look at their leader and they all grabbed their gear and filed out. Chief led them around to the rear and they moved off.
Garrison called a halt once he thought they were clear. He checked his watch then announced they were heading home. Chief wondered about the guys they were supposed to find. No one else said anything. He knew Garrison was not one to just quit so something must have happened. He had to ask. "What about the guys?"
"They were in that group we saw being executed," answered Actor. The raw pain in his voice was unmistakable. "The Commandant of the camp offered to dispose of my thieves like he had disposed of the leaders of the Resistance cell that he had captured. They are all dead." He took a deep breath and released it loudly, trying to release the pain that sat on his heart. Chief wondered it Actor had used that pain to act the way he did in front of Casino and Goniff. He probably wished he could turn it on that German. Too bad he couldn't.
That had been it for the mission. They had made their way back to the coast and been picked up by a trawler and returned to England. The men had all been quiet on the way home, each envisioning the families left behind. At least they would know their husbands and fathers had died working toward their freedom.
Back at the window Chief sat quietly. There was nothing on that mission that would prompt him to kill the guys. So what was it? He sat there until dawn, afraid to go back to sleep.
The day started out in the usual way. They assembled for breakfast then the Sargent Major assigned their training exercises. Sometimes it was target practice, other times gas mask training. Today was hand to hand combat.
"…. and Chief, the Leftenant would like a word with you in 'is office."
"What'd you do now, Indian?" asked Casino rhetorically as he followed Actor out the door.
Chief entered his leader's office. He was unsure anytime he had to report like this. Maybe it was about last night. He hoped he would not ask too many questions.
"Sit down." When he had complied, Garrison continued as he came around his desk and sat on the corner, the same corner Chief had apparently tripped over. "What was that about, last night?" He saw the twitch of the shoulders and said, "And don't say, nothing." He waited, the twitch interrupted, the shrug had died. "You were in my office, in the middle of the night. I think we can assume you were not trying to steal anything. Or were you?"
He shook his head. What was he supposed to say; he was dreaming about killing them?
"I don't know. I guess, … I was dreamin." He looked up to see if he believed him and to silently beg him not to ask.
He just stared at him but finally Garrison said, "All right. If these anything you need to talk about, you let me know." It was a release but also a warning. It said, 'I'll let it go this time but the next time will be different'.
Chief left and went outside to join the others who were going through the motions of hand-to-hand combat. They didn't see the reason. Mind you if the guards wanted to step in and play then that would be a different story.
"So, Chief, you get the strap from the principal?" asked Casino with a laugh.
"Yeah, three on each hand," he threw back.
"An' one on the ass for yer back talk," added Goniff just before Actor lunged and dropped him. "'ey. What you do that for. There's no need to get nasty. Gimme yer hand 'ere."
Actor obliged. "Sorry about that old chap", he said in his best upper crust English accent. They all laughed except the Sargent Major.
Later as the cons settled in to relax an hour before lights out, Chief moved over to where Actor was sitting reading. "Hey, Actor. You believe that dreams have meaning?"
"The theory I subscribe to is that dreams are our subconscious working on thing that are on our minds. So, yes, they have meanings but not in a symbols sort of way." He paused to see if this had answered the question. It apparently had not so he continued. "Was there a dream in particular that you are asking about?"
Chief had mulled this over all day. "Whata ya mean symbols?"
"For example, if I dream about a snake then it does not necessarily mean the same thing as if you dreamed about a snake. For me the snake might represent a rival; for you, it might just be suggestive of where you are in the dream, like local fauna, animal life. What did you dream about? Maybe I could help you decipher it. Whatever it was you have to figure out what it means to you."
That didn't help, thought Chief. He wanted to just forget about it but what if he dreamed it again. What if he had a knife the next time. He could not take the chance. Maybe if he put his knives somewhere, but where. If he put them somewhere then he could just go get them in his dream. They had to be locked up. But where?
Garrison. He had to give them to Garrison. But he would ask why. What would he tell him? That he was afraid he was going to kill them in his sleep? Damn.
He had no choice. He could not take the chance. This was the best gig he had ever had. He had gotten away with killing Wheeler because of the circumstances but a second time? No. He had to do it.
Before the Sargent Major could come and shut the lights off he headed out the door. Garrison was not in his office or kitchen or salon so he headed for his room. The door was shut and he hesitated, screwed up his courage by picturing the scene from his dream and knocked.
Chief turned the knob and opened the door. Garrison was standing bare-foot and bare-chested by the side of his bed, his belt buckle undone. "Uh, I could come back tomorrow," he said nervously.
"No, Chief. Come in." He refastened his belt. "We can talk here or go to my office."
This was serious so he said, "Maybe yer office would be better."
The two men moved down the hall to his office and as Chief sat in the chair he had vacated earlier Garrison moved to the sideboard and poured two glasses of whiskey. He placed one in front of his team member then sat in the chair beside him. Chief took a gulp and let it burn all the way down. He wanted to down the rest but knew he better wait. He put the glass back on the desk and said, "It's about a dream I had."
He nodded as he licked his lips. He wanted to take another gulp of whiskey but resisted. Instead, he laid his hands flat on his thighs. "Actor said dreams sometimes mean stuff, stuff our minds are thinkin' about."
"What was the dream about?" he asked calmly.
"I don't want you thinkin' that that's what I …" he started, his words running together before he stopped and looked down. "I don't feel that way, an' I don't know why I dreamed it, or why."
"Chief, it would help if you told me what happened in your dream. I think by now that I know you well enough not to jump to conclusions."
He looked the man in the eye. He had always treated him fairly even knowing that he was a convicted killer. Even when he told him about Wheeler, it had not changed anything. If he was going to get this thing settled he was going to have to trust him. Garrison sat calmly, watching him, waiting patiently, not demanding or even asking.
Chief looked off to the side, took a deep breath, exhaled and began. "I was at the Residential School an' I, well, I," he glanced at Garrison's face to see the reaction before looking away and continuing. "I was goin' down the hall and I," he looked down at his bloody hands, except they weren't bloody. "I killed the priests," he whispered, "that taught us."
He imagined the look on Garrison's face and jumped in with, "But I'd never do that, not here," He looked Garrison in the eye to make sure he understood that he was telling the truth. "I wouldn't hurt you or any of the others, honest, I wouldn't. I don't know why I dreamed that. I don't."
"Chief, did you kill them, any of them?" Garrison's voice was calm, reassuring.
"Did you want to?"
"Yes, no. I didn't want to kill them. I wanted them dead so I could get away."
"You didn't want to be there. Was it that bad?"
"I remember feeling trapped. It was so regimented, the yelling, the marching, the beatings. I just wanted to leave. I was used to being free, come and go as I pleased. Goyen never demanded. I did because I wanted to."
"You couldn't escape?"
"Yes, but they woulda come after me. I was afraid what they would do if they caught me. There was this one kid who ran. He was gone for three days before they caught him and brung him back. They stripped him and beat him in front of everyone including the girls." he hung his head in shame. "I was afraid, I was a coward."
"You didn't feel that you could escape safely so you bided your time. That was a good move on your part. You saved yourself the humiliation that would have resulted from a failed attempt. Don't feel ashamed for protecting yourself. You obviously did leave eventually.
"The good thing about this," continued Garrison, even though Chief looked at him as if he was out of his mind, "is that your killing in your dream has upset you. This tells me that that is not the real you. The dream was a way of fantasizing."
"But why now? That was years ago?"
"Did something happen that reminded you of that time?"
"No, not that I can think of." He shook his head sadly.
"Were there fences or barbed wire around the place."
"What? No. There was nothing. If you took off they had these riders they called and they came after you."
"Think about that camp in Holland."
"It was nothin' like that."
"They were trapped too. They couldn't get away either. Completely controlled. Prisoners."
That was when it hit him and he blanched. The sight of the camp, the desolation, the desperation, the dead look that he could see even though they would not look him in the eye. That was what had triggered the dream. In real life he walked out of that camp but he had not walked out of the Residential school. He knew of their pain though theirs was so much worse than his. He knew that if they survived, they would be scarred for life. There in the camp he had felt helpless to help them so in his dream he had helped himself escape.
He picked up his glass and drained it. Sitting for a moment he realized that it was almost a relief to know that he was not killing his team mates in his dream, he was killing those who held others prisoner. He stood and turned to his friend, "Thanks, Lieutenant. I better let you get to bed."
"I'm glad we got that straightened out, Chief." There was a knock at the door. "What is it Sargent Major?"
The door open to admit the man in question. "One of the, ..Oh, there you are. I was going to report one,.."
"Yes, thank you, Sargent Major."
"Right. Good night, Sir."
"Uh, just one other thing," started Chief causing the officer to look in his direction. "You won't tell the others about this will ya?" he asked trying but failing to sound nonchalant.
"No, Chief. What you tell me in confidence goes no further. Same goes for the others."
"Thanks again." Chief walked out and up to their room, his heart sad for the people they had seen but lighter for himself. He also, wondered if the Sargent Major reported in every night. The Warden seemed to have known it was him knocking.