The Dirty Dozen: To the Last Gasp (Book 1: Part 2)

Dirty Dozen: To the Last Gasp  (Book One: Part Two)

There was nothing more that she could do for the American soldiers. One needed to rest. The other was resting in peace. She told Danko she’d check in on him later, then she left the room, passing the guard she hadn’t known was there. She went down the hall to the washroom and was shocked when she saw her own face in the mirror above the sink. Her dark brown hair was a tangled mess; there were circles under her eyes and smears of blood on her face. There was more blood on her hands and some on the front of her robe. She’d been asleep when the alarm went up, so she was still dressed in her nightgown, no shoes on her feet and just a robe to cover.

She washed her hands and face and did what she could with her hair. Not perfect, but better. As soon as she stepped out of the washroom, a young soldier called out, “Fräulein,” then closed the space between them.

“Hauptmann Mueller sent me to find you. He’s very worried about your safety,” he continued all in German. “I must take you to him.”

“Fine, but let me change first.”

“Ma’am, I have my orders. I am to bring you directly to him. He was very specific.”

“Yes, I imagine he was. Lead the way.”

The soldier led her further into the manor house that served as their headquarters but he passed Mueller’s office and the stairs that led to the living quarters.

“Where is he?”

“Security bunker.” He motioned for her to stand back while he checked the stairs leading down to the basement, then told her it was safe to proceed. Her first thought was that he was being silly and overly cautious, but when she passed a blood splattered wall, she changed her mind. It had been a brutal attack. They were lucky to have lost so few men. Her stomach fluttered and suddenly she was anxious to get where she was going. A few more twists and turns, then one of two guards opened the door for her and closed it quickly behind her once she was in.

“There you are!” Cort Mueller pulled her into his arms and set a kiss on the top of her head. “I’ve been so worried about you. As soon as this whole mess started, Kruger draged me down here for my own good and he hasn’t let me step foot outside that door. It’s ridiculous. I’m the company commander; I should be out there, commanding.”

“You’re also a very valuable asset. I think Kruger did the right thing and you won’t hear me say that very often.”

“This is a red letter day.” He kissed her again, on the lips this time. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine. I hear we only lost three men, it could have been worse.”

“Five, they found two more bodies in the rubble.” He stepped back and his gaze fell on the front of her robe. “Is that blood?”

“Yes. I wanted to change but. . . ” She unbuttoned the robe, took it off, then tossed it on the couch in the small, brick room. The nightgown she had on underneath barely hid her curves, but since they slept in the same bed, it wasn’t like he hadn’t seen it all before.

“Whose blood is it,” he persisted and from his tone, she suspected that he already knew.

“Private Samuel Goldman’s.”

“So you were giving aide to the enemy.” Mueller threw out his chest and lifted his chin, the proper posture for a good solider of the Reich. “I heard whispers about such a thing and I told Kruger it couldn’t be true. And now, to hear you admit to such a horrendous act of treason. . .well, I’m speechless.”

“You’re full of shit, is what you are.” Olivia flopped down on the couch and spread her legs out in front of her.

Mueller shrugged then dropped down beside her. Her took her hand and pulled it into his lap. “How bad off is he?”

“Bad. Dead. I could see his insides. You can’t fix that.” She shifted sideways and tucked herself in under his arm. “Your men also captured the Lieutenant in charge. He has powder burns to the eyes, some cracked ribs, but he’ll be alright.”

“He must have been facing toward the explosion when it went off. What’s his name?”


“I don’t think I know him.”

“What’s going to happen to him?” Olivia asked, pretty sure that she didn’t want to hear the answer.

“He’ll be interrogated.”

She sat up and turned to face him. “By you.”

Anyone else wouldn’t have noticed the shift in his expression. It was so small, just a darkening in the eyes and a slight twinge on the right side of his mouth.

“No! You cannot give him to Kruger.”

“He’s an American officer. The head of a very specialized commando force. Do you realize the amount of vital information a man like that carries around in his head? I can’t not turn him over to Kruger.”

And as if on cue, the SS Officer entered the room after nothing but a brief knock. It was barely dawn, not two hours after a deadly raid but the man looked like he was dressed to meet Hitler. Polished boots and buttons, pants perfectly pressed. He marched into the center of the room, snapped his heels together than gave Olivia a sharp, half bow.

“Fraulein, it’s good to see that you’re safe, now if you would excuse us, Herr Hauptmann and I have many matters to discuss.”

“I prefer to stay.”

Kruger smiled and it wasn’t pretty. “But dear lady, it is so chilly down here in this cellar. Dressed like that, you could catch your death of cold.”

Olivia reached for her robe but not to ward off the chill. The way he was looking at made her want to puke.

“Go upstairs, Olivia,” Mueller said as he helped her cover-up. He took hold of the two sides of the gown under the pretext of doing up the top buttons but what he really wanted was to force her to look him straight in the eye. “You’ve done all you can. Now it’s time for me to do my duty.”

“No. Cort. Listen to me. You’ve always been an honorable man; don’t let him push you into something you know is wrong.”

She saw his temper flare in his eyes, knew she’d pushed it too far, but she had a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach and she wanted it to end.

“Now you’re taking advice from a woman, Herr Hauptmann? A woman who spent her time, not tending to our injured soldiers, but tending to a Jew and the American responsible for the carnage?”

Olivia whirled to give him a piece of her mind but Mueller pulled her back around and roughly. “This is not a matter that is open to discussion.” He was angry, but there was also a little fear in his eyes. Fear for himself or for her? “Go to our room and dress properly. You’ve been wandering around here in next to nothing for far too long. It’s indecent.”

Kruger snorted and it was all she could do not to kick him in the groin. And Cort. . . god, she’d seen it coming but still. . . another few weeks and Kruger would be running the garrison. And once he had Cort completely under his thumb, he’d make her life a living hell.

“Gentleman,” was all she could trust herself to say, then she led Cort lead her to the door.

There was an older solider waiting for her. He bowed slightly and addressed his commanding officer. “I’ll see her safely to her quarters.” Then he took her by the arm and she didn’t like that, not one little bit.


“We have to go back.” Farrell said for the tenth time in less than hour. “We can’t leave them behind!”

“They’re dead,” Feke replied for at least the fifth time and Cutter was getting sick of hearing it from both of them.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s not our call. We completed the mission and the plane’s coming to take us home. We have our orders.”

“Yeah,” Leeds muttered under his breath, “And we’re such good soldiers, we wouldn’t even think about bucking orders, would we?” He crooked his fingers in Feke’s direction, asking for one of his cigarettes.

“They’re dead,” Feke said again as he tossed Leeds the half-empty pack. “I saw Goldman get hit. His insides were on the outsides, you don’t come back from that. And Jackson was in the hole with Danko when the explosion went off. They’re all dead.”

“The Lieutenant wasn’t dead.” They turned as one to see Harrison, one of the newbies, who was just coming in off guard duty. “I saw them dragging him away from the radar room. He was alive. Wounded I think, but alive.”

“And you didn’t do anything about it?” Leeds snapped, advancing on him. “Or bother to say anything before now?”

“Hey, the place was lousy with Krauts, what did you expect me to do? I got my ass out of there. Mission accomplished, we’re going home.”

“You self-centered bastard!” Lebec, who’d stood quiet up until now, threw himself at the newest member of the dozen but Vernon pulled him off before he could land a punch.

“Back me up here, Sarge,” Harrison pleaded, as he backed away from the rest of the bunch. “What’s the point of me getting myself killed, too?”

“Man,” Leeds muttered as he lit up a smoke, “and they say I’m cold.”

“So we’re going back in, right?” Farrell said, his point made. “To get the Lieutenant.”


“You bet we are,” Lebec said, spitting the words out in Harrison’s direction, “but without him.”

“You better believe it. I’m not walking into that, I don’t care who gives the orders,” said Harrison. “This isn’t going to be like the first time. They’re on alert now; they’ll be waiting for you.”

“No,” said Feke, disgust twisting his handsome face. “They won’t expect us to come back because they would never do such a thing. They would never risk eight lives to save one man. They can’t understand such a thing as loyalty.”

“He’s got a point,” said Leeds. “And if anyone can find fault in that logic, don’t tell me because I feel more comfortable believing he’s right.”

Then all eyes fell on Sargent Cutter. With Danko gone, he was in charge and in a position to sic the MPs on the lot of them.

“How about it, Sarge?” Vernon asked what they were all thinking. “Is it on?”

Cutter barely took a moment to consider. “It’s on. Now what need is a plan.”


Danko had never noticed it before, but the click of a German officer’s heels was distinctly different from that of a common foot soldier. The foot soldier’s boots were clunky and heavy, so even when they walked normally, they sounded like they were marching.

A German officer’s heels resembled the sound of a Spanish dancer. Sharp, crisp, fast and with a purpose. Danko heard two sets enter the room. One set stopped inches from his head and though he wanted to flinch, he forced himself not to. It wasn’t easy. Not when he couldn’t see what was coming.

“I am Oberst Kruger of the SS,” the man said, in heavily accented English. “We will be spending a lot of time together, you and I. Unfortunately for you, it will not be so pleasant. Unless, of course, you would care to start talking right now. Tell me who gave you the plans to this building. Name the traitor who helped you cause this destruction.”

Danko’s first instinct was to keep his mouth shut. He’d been in this place before, in the hands of the enemy, on the wrong end of an interrogation. But never blind and it was throwing him off his game. His survival skills depending on his ability to look his tormentor in the eye, to show that he wasn’t afraid. Now, he’d have to do it with words.

“I think the man’s name was Adolph, something.”

As expected, that earned him a kick in the ribs. Danko rolled with the force, lessening the impact. Easy one, but it was going to get harder from here.

Kruger fired off orders in German. Then heavy boots surrounded Danko and he was pulled up to his feet. His ankles were cut loose so he could stand on his own, then he was shoved forward as if expected to walk where he couldn’t see.

After two stumbling steps, someone grabbed him by the upper arm and guided him out of the room. The upside to that was getting away from Goldman’s body. The smell of blood and bile and death had crawled into Danko’s lungs and he was glad for any chance to breathe clean air again.

He got another tiny moment of relief when they cut the ropes binding his wrists behind him. He figured the reprieve would be short-lived though, so he took full advantage of the chance to shake out his hands and roll the ache out of his shoulders.

What he didn’t expect were the hands that yanked off his jacket, then undid the buttons on his shirt. That could only mean one thing; Kruger needed a canvas of bare skin on which to work. Danko tried to stop his brain from thinking ahead. No sense conjuring up a dozen nightmare scenarios when the real thing would unfold soon enough.

Two soldiers maneuvered him into a specific spot in the room. They tied a rope around each wrist then the ropes were hoisted up and out, pulling his arms into a Y formation above his head. On the first try they pulled hard enough to force him on to his toes, then they backed off just enough for him to stand flat. It meant he’d have to keep a rigid posture or take the full weight of his body on his wrists. He figured he’d be there eventually, but for now, he was fine standing at attention. Hell, back in boot camp, he had a drill Sergeant who once forced him to stand at attention for five hours.


Cutter came to mind and Danko wondered if the boys were on their way home to London. If they thought he was dead, then they were gone, no doubt. But if they knew he’d been taken prisoner. . . after all, someone in the garrison was a spy for the allies. Someone had passed maps and schedules along to the meager resistance forces who, in turn, had passed them on to the dirty dozen. Surely, a spy would have gotten word to the resistance about his capture.

“Who is it?”

Danko startled back to reality with the surreal notion that Kruger could read his mind. If he could, it might help, because Danko didn’t know the name of the spy. He tried the truth.

“I don’t know who gave us the maps. They left everything at a rendezvous point. I didn’t have any contact with the person who put them there.”

A belt snapped against his bare back. The sting was so sharp, so unexpected, he gasped out loud then cursed himself for giving Kruger that small satisfaction.

“I will not repeat myself,” said the German. “I will wait a moment for you to collect yourself, then you will tell me what I wish to know. If you do not speak in a reasonable amount of time, I will repeat the process.”

A hand fisted his hair and pulled back until his neck was stretched to the limit.

“I am a reasonable man, Lieutenant. I understand that you must try to resist for a time, simply to show us how strong of conviction you are. But then, you will agree to talk with me, because every man has a breaking point.”

A hiss by his ear. A sudden burst of warmth, then the smell of cigarette smoke tickled his nose.

“Why not save me time and you trouble.”

The lit match touched the back of his head but only for a second. There wasn’t much pain, just a bug bite followed by the stench of burning hair which was quickly wiped out by acrid smell of an extinguished match.

This wasn’t about the pain. This was about fear. This was, just imagine what I could do to you and blind as he was, the threat was even more potent.

“Perhaps you’d like to give me some other bit of information. Like the code word needed to communicate with Allied Command?”


Another crack of the belt. This one drew blood. Danko could feel it sliding down his back. “You asked for the password and I told you.”

“You lied.”

“How do you know?”

“Because you can still speak plainly.” The belt sliced through him again, then again. “When your muscles are trembling and your throat is raw from screaming.” In front of him, inches away. “When you can hardly form a coherent thought through the pain and still you force the words out. Then, I will know you’re telling the truth.” A burst of cigarette smoke hit him in the face then the lit end of the cigarette pressed into chest.

“And you, my American friend, are a well-trained solider. I can see that in your carriage, which means you should be able to last a very long time. And I hope you will not disappoint me by breaking too soon.”

“I’ll try not to,” Danko said, managing a bit of wry humor in his voice. But the sentiment was as much for Kruger as it was for himself. He didn’t know the name of the spy, but he knew other things, things that would make good bargaining chips. Things that would cost allied soldiers their lives.

Don’t think about those things. Think about fishing in the lake back home. Think about Benny Goodman, The Blue Moon Club, swaying on the dance floor with a shapely female form pressed up tight. He wondered what Olivia looked like. Imagined she was beautiful, then pictured her in his arms in front of the fountain at Bell Gardens on a moonlit night.

Keep that. Hold that.

The belt landed again and again. Each time it made a sickening thwack noise, but all Danko could hear was the Glenn Miller Band playing Moonlight Serenade.


Olivia changed out of her night clothes and into a blouse and skirt. She put on shoes, fixed her hair, grabbed her purse, then left her room. . . or tried to.

The soldier who had escorted her to the room she shared with Cort Mueller was blocking her way.

“I’m sorry, Fraulein, but my orders are that you must stay in your room. For your own safety.”

“Whose orders?”

“Hauptmann Mueller, ma’am.”

Two days ago, she would have been sure that the orders came from VanDuseen not Cort, but now, she wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t care what your orders are, Private but I will not be kept a prisoner in my own room.” She tried to step around him but he sidestepped to block her.

She tried moving forward, but he didn’t budge. Very quickly, the scene went from minor nuisance to a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. She had always been allowed free reign, able to move about the house or leave it whenever she felt like it. There was a young soldier assigned to drive her to town and back, but he had never posed any kind of the threat.

“I am going to the market. If your true purpose is to protect me, then you can come with me but you will not stop me.” This time she plowed forward. Her shoulder knocked into his chest forcing him to make a decision, push back and get physical with her, or let her through. In spite of his orders, Olivia was betting that he wouldn’t dare manhandle the commander’s mistress.

She won the bet. He stepped aside, whining softly about how she was going to get him in trouble.

Trouble was better than he would have got had he not moved. There was a pistol in her purse and she did know how to use it.

Shaking inside, Olivia dashed ahead of the soldier, went downstairs, then made a quick left. She kept walking, fast, but he wasn’t stupid and instantly questioned why she was walking away from the front door.

“I must check with Cook before I go,” she said, realizing that this same hall would take her to the kitchen if she went all the way to the end. But first she had to pass the room where they were holding the prisoners. Only, Danko wasn’t in there, just the dead body of the young Private.

A cry of anguish drew her to the room further down the hall and she ran inside before her shadow could stop her.

Lieutenant Danko was hanging by his wrists from two bolts in the ceiling. He was bare from the waist up and his chin was on his chest. Kruger was behind him and though Olivia couldn’t see the action, she could hear it, the sound of a belt flailing flesh.

And there, watching the whole process was Cort, the gentle, brilliant scholar she’d fallen in love with at Oxford, condoning torture.

“What has happened to you!” Olivia screamed. “Where is the man I fell in love with? The man who convinced me that there was honor in war? Now you stand there and watch while this monster brutalizes another human being.”

“The enemy,” Kruger corrected. “But perhaps not your enemy.”

That turned her around. “What are you implying? That just because I was born in the United States I feel some kinship to this man?” She threw a glance toward Danko but couldn’t hold it. Couldn’t stand seeing him hanging there like a side of meat in a butcher shop.

Kruger stalked toward her, belt smacking against his thigh with each step. “We found a drawing of this building on the dead one. A schedule showing the guard rotation. We have a spy in our midst, young Fraulein. Or perhaps a traitor.”

She waited. . . expected Cort to step in but he didn’t make a move to defend her. “You think I’m a traitor because I don’t believe in torture? Your own chief interrogator doesn’t believe in torture. Scharff uses kind words and compassion to find out what he wants to know. Is he a traitor, too?”

“His methods are his methods. These are mine and so far, they’ve been successful.”

“Really? How many of the men you’ve tortured lied, gave you false information just to stop the pain? How can trust anything a man pushed to his limit has to say?”

Kruger whirled on his heels and put all of his strength behind a cutting blow to Danko’s bare side. His entire body convulsed from the pain, then he dropped as far as his bonds would let him, all of his weight hanging on his wrists.

When he pulled back to do it again, Olivia grabbed hold of his arm. Unlike the guard at her door, Kruger had no qualms about hitting a woman. He struck her across the face with his free hand, knocking her back into Cort’s arms.

“That’s quite enough,” Cort said, finally some passion in his voice. “She’s not a part of this.”

“Perhaps she should be,” Kruger replied. “Let her witness for herself how effective my methods can be.” He picked up a bottle of Bourbon from a table that held instruments she didn’t want to see. He pulled the cork, poured himself a glass then recorked the bottle. “I will admit that it could take a while. This man has been very well trained.” He circled Danko, around and around. . . “But he’s only a Lieutenant and at his age, that makes no sense. So, perhaps he’s not all I thought him to be.” He stopped behind Danko then hoisted the glass at his bare back. Alcohol drenched the open wounds and the cry of pain that fell from the Lieutenant’s lips made Olivia shake with both anger and sympathy.

“Lieutenant or not, he’s twice the man you’ll ever be.”

Kruger took a step in her direction and she instinctively flinched which made him laugh.

“Such dramatics. You should be in the theater, my dear.”

“Enough,” Cort Mueller snapped, some of the command back in his voice. He turned to Olivia and took her roughly by the upper arms. “This is not a game. This is not a university debate. This is war and we’re losing!”

Danko cried out sharply then was left gasping for breath. No crack of the belt this time. Kruger had wrenched the sound out of him with some other bit of insidious torture, something silent. Something he couldn’t see coming, blind as he was.

“Fraulein, isn’t this the day you visit the market?” She didn’t answer but Kruger went on as if she had. “I think the outing will do you good. Fresh air. Tea and a delicious sweet role at the bake shop. If Frau Esher has fresh scones today, pick up two for me. If not, a tea cake will do. Just a little treat to have with my coffee in the evening. Would you mind?”

Cort pressed his body to hers in what could be perceived as a lover’s good bye or a firm warning – take your pick.

“You’re a pig,” Olivia said and she didn’t care if Cort felt including in the jab as well. “And I will bring you a scone. . . then let’s see if you dare eat it.”

She sucked in her stomach and tightened the muscles in legs so she could walk out of the room without shaking. It was a monumental effort and she lost the fight as soon as she stepped outside.

“Summon my regular driver,” she said to her shadow. He started to protest but she cut him off with a sharp curse. “Remember your place, Private and do as I tell you. Now!” Olivia felt a pang of guilt as she watched him dash back inside the house. None of this was his fault, but she’d gone as far as she could with Kruger, even Cort, and she still had so much anger inside.

There was no question now about what she had to do but what if she was too late? What if the American commandos had already fled the area? Would they do that? Would they leave a man behind? Not according to the rules of wars as Cort had taught them to her, of course, those no longer seemed to apply.

She drew a cross over self then prayed to God for strength and a lucky break. If those two requests went unanswered, then she had plans for one more.

Please God, don’t wait any longer, bring Lieutenant Danko up to meet you sooner than later.


They were arguing over the merits of going in loud and crazy or slow and quiet when Malloy threw the door open and yelled, “someone’s coming.”

With practices precision, the men grabbed their guns and ran out into the front yard. Once there, it all fell apart for a second. This is where Danko normally took over, signaling each of them to take up a position, here, there, up high, circle around.

Even Cutter, who was used to commanding the troops stumbled for a moment, but he quickly recovered. With the noise of an approaching engine in the background, he quietly ordered each man to a post, then he took cover behind the car which was parked a few yards to the right of the house.

Two minutes ticked by, then a rickety old truck rolled into the drive. Renee, the butcher’s son climbed out with his hands held out and clearly empty.

Recognizing the young man, Cutter stepped out from his hiding place, as did Leeds, but the other men remained, in case things weren’t exactly as they seemed.

“You are still here!” The young Frenchman exclaimed. “You must be very good men for the Lord to have blessed you this way.”

“I don’t know about that,” Cutter replied, barely covered a laugh. “You got news for us?”

“Very good news. Danko is alive and with a bit more luck, you should be able to get him back.”

“Let’s talk inside.” Cutter waved in the troops except for Malloy and Harrison. He left them on guard then counted heads as the rest of the remaining dozen filed into the house they’d been using as a base. As soon as Renee entered, he noted the garrison plans laid out on the table.

“You knew about Danko,” he said, surprised.

“We suspected. But it’s good to know for sure.”

“It is for sure?” Feke questioned, always distrustful and expecting the worst.

“Yes. My contact tells me he’s injured but not seriously. Two more of your men were killed in the raid.”

“Jackson and Goldman,” Vern said with a touch of sadness in his voice. “We always lose somebody.” And they all knew he was thinking of his brother Roy, lost only a few months ago.

“But we’re not going to lose the Lieutenant,” said Lebec. Then to Renee he said, “Do you know where they’re holding him?”

“No. I was not told but that will not be a problem.”

“Oh yeah?” asked Leeds. “How so?”

Renee passed a glance over all of them as he shifted on his feet. “I am afraid you will not like my answer, but you must trust me if you wish to save Danko.”

Feke started to complain but Cutter silenced him with a look.

“Let’s have it, Renee.”

The Frenchman sat down at the table in the center of the room then turned the garrison map to face him. He pointed to a door at the back, west corner of the building. “This is the kitchen. Four of you will go there wearing German uniforms. You will be met and taken to the room where Danko is being held.”

“So our mysterious contact is going to come out of hiding,” said Leeds.

“Apparently,” Renee said, clearly not any more thrilled about the situation than they were. “There’s more. A condition.”

“Condition?” Lebec and Feke repeated as one.

“You must promise you will not kill anyone in the complex. Our benefactor was not happy about the lives lost on the first mission.”

“That wasn’t our fault,” said Cutter. “That corridor was supposed to be clear when we hit it. Somebody screwed up and it wasn’t us. We just did what we had to in order to get the job done. Cost us lives, too, so we’re as unhappy as they are.”

“That will not happen this time. You will be in uniform. You will act as if you belong and you will not be questioned.”

“When?” Cutter asked.

“Tonight. Tomorrow, really. 2 A.M.” Renee tapped the map. “Do not be late. This will be your only chance.”

The men exchanged glances but none of them spoke. An uneasy silence filled the room until finally, Leeds said what they were all thinking.

“One chance, because Danko’s in trouble, right? What? Are they shipping him out tomorrow or something?”

Renee shook his head and when he tried to answer the words stuck in his throat. “He is currently being questioned by an officer of the SS.”

A round soft curses rippled through the room.

“I’m told it’s unlikely he’ll be able to move on his own power by the time you reach him. Be prepared to carry him out.”

“No problem,” said Vern.

Lebec patted the big man on the shoulder. “So that’s one. The Sarge is two, and you gotta take Feke cause you need someone who speaks the language to make sure you’re all not walking into a trap. So who’s number four?”

“Leeds,” Cutter said without hesitation.

“Why does everybody always pick me for these things?”

“Cause you’re pretty,” Cutter snapped back. “Now let’s get the uniforms out. Check the equipment and Lebec, get on the horn to HQ and make sure we’ve got a bird to fly us out of here as soon as possible.”

“Will do.”

Cutter turned his attention back to Renee. “This contact on the inside. We can trust him? You’re sure?”

Renee only nodded and they all wished for a little more certainty than that.


When Olivia returned to the compound, there was a soldier waiting at the door to escort her to Mueller’s office. Being summoned by her lover wasn’t all that unusual, but given the events of the past day, this particular summons made her nervous.

Acting as if it were nothing, she followed the soldier to the office but the facade cracked a little when she saw Kruger, not Cort sitting behind the desk.

He was leaning back in the chair, feet on the desk, a cigar in his hand and brandy at his elbow.

“Taking a break, mein herr? I’m not surprised, torture can be so exhausting.”

He smiled, then took a long drag on the cigar. “Did you bring me a treat?”

“I did. A lovely raisin scone, but I haven’t had time to spit on it yet, so it will have to wait until after dinner.”

“Amazing.” He turned his head to look at her, body still stretched out in a relaxed pose. “You’re such a smart woman and yet you insist on sticking your hand into the mouse trap time and time again.”

“I’m not interested in your games, Kruger. Now where is Cort?”

“He was called away for a very important meeting.”

“Then we’ll discuss this when he returns.” She started for the door but he stopped her with words.

“A bit of advice, Fraulein. The next time you bribe your driver into keeping your secrets, you should offer him more than money. A little of what you give Hauptmann Mueller would go a long way toward insuring his loyalty.”

Olivia’s stomach rolled and she covered the sick feeling with anger. “How dare you suggest such a thing? You disgust me.”

“At least I am as you see me. No secrets. No lies. Pity you can’t say the same. You let everyone in town know that the American Lieutenant is alive. You had hoped his troops were still around so they could mount a rescue.”

“I’m a terrible gossip.”

“You’re a spy.” Kruger nodded ever so slightly and two soldiers took hold of her by the arms. “I warned Mueller months ago that you could not be trusted but he wouldn’t hear of it. Thanks to your talents in the bedroom, we’ve lost five men and a radar installation that will take six months to repair.”

“You’re crazy. If someone gave the Americans the plans to this building, it was one of your men.”

“Take her away.”

“No! You waited for Cort to leave to pull this stunt which means you know he won’t approve. He’ll be furious when he gets back.” But even as she said the words, she wasn’t sure they were true. Cort Mueller wasn’t the man she’d fallen in love with. He’d slowly turned into the kind of soldier he once despised, the unbending, cold, stereotypical Nazi. And though he may not have had the strength to accuse her of spying, he might have it in him to stand aside while Kruger did his worst.

“You think so much of the American officer,” Kruger said, as he slowly rose from behind the desk. “I thought you could help me put his gallantry to the test. Two birds with one stone, as it were. Take her.”

Olivia let go, making her body a dead weight but it didn’t stop the soldiers from following orders. They were muscular, well-trained men, and she was a small, thin woman. There was no chance of escape.

They dragged her down the hall toward the back of the house. Down to the room where Danko was being held prisoner. He was no longer positioned with his arms outstretched above his head. Now, his wrists were secured behind his back with a single rope leading up to the bolt in the ceiling. The length of the rope forced him to bend forward slightly in order to take the pressure off his shoulders, but there was another length of rope around his neck that tightened if he bent too far.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Her hands were bound in front of her, then looped through the rope that was hanging from the second hook in the ceiling. This left less than a yard’s length of space between her and Danko and she could feel the heat radiating off his body.

“Lieutenant,” said Kruger as he marched into the room. “I have come to realize that you would rather die than talk. Even the threat of a slow, painful death, does not seem to concern you. So I have decided that a bit of incentive is in order. If you won’t spare yourself, perhaps you will spare your angel of mercy.”

Danko lifted his head as much as his bonds allowed and spat out something that might have been her name or perhaps a nasty curse word. It was too hard to tell since much of the sound got caught in his dry throat.

Kruger signaled one of the soldiers who dipped a metal cup into a bucket then held it to Danko’s lips so he could drink. He struggled to swallow every last drop, a process so painful and humiliating, Olivia couldn’t watch. She turned her face away but Kruger fisted his hand in her hair and pulled her back around.

“I can give him more if you give me something,” he whispered, lips only inches from her ear. “Admit that you helped the Americans and I’ll allow him to drink his fill.”

As tempting as it was, she knew it would be a mistake to give up even that small concession. She had denied she was in league with the enemy and she would keep on denying it. “You would be satisfied with a lie?”

He slapped her across the face with a force that sent her swinging sideways into Danko. Before she could get her feet under her, Kruger pulled her back by the front of her shirt then he ripped it open with a swift jerk.

“You can’t break me, so you go after a woman,” Danko said, finally finding his voice.

“A traitor,” Kruger replied. “Which is much worse than an enemy soldier. Perhaps it is the Allies who should have thought twice before endangering a beautiful, young civilian.”


Danko was ready to throw back a filthy retort but the military side of his brain told him to shut his mouth and keep it shut. Kruger wasn’t the type to be swayed by a personal challenge. He was holding all the cards and if angered, he’d more likely take it out on Olivia.

It was a good move on the part of the SS agent. Americans were thought to be overly sentimental and to an extent it was true. Enduring endless hours of torture was one thing, but allowing Kruger to torture this woman in his stead was too much.

Think. Think. There had to be some bit of information he could give that wouldn’t cause too much damage. Old intelligence, maybe, about an attack that had already happened. Something that sounded good but would take time to check out. Of course, if he was caught in a lie, the punishment would be excruciating, but what other choice did he have?

The scratch of a match strike caught his ear, then cigarette smoke wafted past his nose. No. God damn it.

Olivia gasped and he felt her jerk away from what he suspected was the lit end of the cigarette.

Think. Think. Think.

A cry of pain this time, followed quickly by another.

“Kruger,” Danko snapped, hoping to call his full attention. Without his eyes, he couldn’t know for sure so he continued on. “What can I give you that will stop this?”

“What do you have to offer?” A stream of smoke followed the words.

“The coordinates to a munitions depot.”

“I’m listening.”

He tried to lift his head up further as a show of determination but the strain sent a spasm through his back. Danko countered by leaning forward but lost his balance and then the rough fibers of the rope were cutting into the soft flesh of his throat.

Two sets of hands caught hold of his shoulders, then set him right again.

“Can’t have you choking to death before we finish our conversation,” said Kruger. “Now then, you were about to give me the code word I need to convince the Allied radio operator that I am on your side.”

“No.” The word came out before Danko thought it through and he paid for it instantly. Something hard and long slammed into the backs of his knees. His legs gave way and suddenly he was really, truly hanging by the neck.

The pain had driven the air from his lungs and now, with his throat constricted, there was no way to refill them. Quicker than expected, he felt the blackness come over him. He struggled to breath, struggled to get his feet back under him but he couldn’t manage either one. Seconds felt like minutes. His heart was racing, beating so fast, he thought it would explode.

It was time to die and his only regret was that he was leaving Olivia alone in the hands of this monster.

Continue to Part Three


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