It was twenty-one ten when David and Georg arrived back at the gasthaus in Donaueschingen. "We should eat first, the frau had told me the kitchen closes at twenty-one thirty." He patted his shoulder. "I can take the packs to the room once we've ordered."
"Or we can keep them with us."
"That too. Probably better." He nodded to Georg, then led the way into the dining room and to a table along the far wall. They remained silent in their thoughts until after their beer had arrived and he raised his stein in a toast, "To success."
Georg nodded, then took a long draught, wiped the foam from his moustache and blew out a deep breath as he looked down at the table. "Need to stop thinking about that." He lifted his eyes to David's. "Rachel was telling me Maria is pregnant."
"We're hoping so. She was eight days late when I left yesterday morning, and she's always been very regular. There seems to be no other explanation, so yes, she most likely is."
"Yes, Rachel was explaining the timing to me. It's not something I've ever thought about until... My God, I've never thought such feelings were possible." He gave David a sheepish look. "Not just the physical. The emotional ones too. Those are so new to me."
"Strong force. Nature's design to ensure the continuation of the species." David leaned back as the frau placed their Jägerschnitzles in front of them. Then their hunger took over their mouth use.
A while later, Georg paused between bites. "These are the ones Rachel showed me, Judasohr. They grow on fallen trees and on old stumps, and look like brown ears." He took another bite. "A bit rubbery, but tasty in this sauce. She said they're much better in the spring, more tender like the pleurottes."
"The pleurottes were delicious in May. So we'll still find some?"
"Yes, they're also year round. We should start picking on our way in, so we have some in our baskets. It would look better if we're spotted. Let us get out of there faster, too."
David nodded. "Yes, I was thinking the same.."
After an early breakfast on Thursday morning, David and Georg drove back down to Blumberg and through town. Just beyond Zollhaus, they turned into the overgrown road that led to the gravel pit. "This must have been used when they built the railroad."
"They're probably dotted all along the line. A lot of gravel went into building it."
David wheeled the lorry behind a small stand of bushes in a corner and shut down the engine. "Let's go pick mushrooms and kick the Kaiser's butt."
They followed the small wood road again, this time concentrating on dead trees, logs and stumps. "Looks like the area has been thoroughly harvested. Probably better luck farther along, farther from the road, maybe well off this lane."
Georg nodded. "Let's head along closer to the site and try our luck there. A kilometre is a long way for a Pilzsammler to venture."
A quarter hour later, as they left the wood road and headed down the slope, they found their first log of Judas ears. A few minutes later, they found a dead tree riddled with pleurottes.
They cut until their baskets were about half full, then moved down to the detonating screen. Georg made the final connection to the fuse cap while David assembled and loaded the Mauser. David looked at his watch. "Eight twenty." He grinned at Georg. "Now all we need is a train." He ran his fingers through his hair and looked across the slope. "I'll go up to my stance."
A few minutes later, David lay on his belly, propped up on his elbows, as he watched the guards at the end of the viaduct. Four of them. Probably four at the other end as well. Those will be the first to respond. Won't have any idea what had happened. Where to look. Probably stand and gawk until they're told what to do.
His belly was getting cold, so he crawled back, rose to his feet and walked a few metres into the forest, where he paced back and forth to rewarm. Still a few degrees below freezing. Minus five when we drove through Blumberg. He put his gloved hands into his pockets and continued to walk a short pattern and think.
About twenty minutes later, his thoughts of Maria were interrupted by the distant rumble of a train. Hope it's descending. Sounds like it is. He moved quickly back to his stance and saw the train disappear behind a stand of trees above the viaduct.
He crawled forward into his sniping position, flipped the safety lever off and cocked the Mauser, then began regulating his breathing as he listened to the hollow rumble of the train on the viaduct. The three locomotives and their tenders rolled past, and he took aim at the top of the first car, panning with its rear corner as it passed. He repeated this short pan with the next two cars, then squeezed the trigger when a brakeman centred in his sights on the fourth car. One.
David continued this as each car rolled by, squeezing off a shot as each brakeman was aligned in the sights. Two... Three... Fuck... Four... Five... Six... Seven... Fuck... Eight. He stripped another clip into the magazine and took aim again in time to snipe the brakeman on the last car. Nine.
He crawled back, flipped on the safety, dismantled the weapon and put the pistol back into its case and the case back into his small rucksack, looking up at the sound of the explosion as he finished. Picking up his mushroom basket, he scurried across the side of the hill through the trees toward Georg's screen as loud crashing noises came from the direction of the viaduct.
He spotted Georg running toward him, and they both pointed up the slope. Three minutes later, they reached the wood road and had begun walking briskly along it when they heard a loud explosion, followed by a series of smaller ones, then a huge one.
"Sounds as though we've set off a lot of munitions." David looked at George. "Did you see the results with the bridge?"
"The last glance I took through the trees, it was still on course, and it appeared to have the energy to make it. Let's just get out of here, we'll find out later."
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Back In ActionHistorical Fiction
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...