Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Men's Adventure
Revell made a last check. Three of them would be going in dressed as civilians, Andrea's presence helping that subterfuge. Carrington, Ripper, and Boris would be wearing the uniforms taken from the men they'd shot earlier in the day.
Dooley was having trouble getting into the clothes he'd selected. Having chosen what he thought was the right size, he now found that it wasn't. The jacket ended inches above his wrists, and the pants refused to meet round his waist.
“I'm going to be fucked if a fight starts and my slacks are round my knees.” With a final tremendous effort, he managed to fasten his zip and secure the belt on the very last notch. “Shit, if I don't get zapped when my legs are tied together, I'm going to be strangled by these things. Are we ready, Major?”
“Pretty near.” Revell handed Boris an AK47. He noticed the Russians hands were shaking almost uncontrollably. “Keep the safety on until the last moment. You're as likely to shoot yourself as a Spetsnaz.”
“When you had me collected from the police station, Major, I thought it was only to carry out an interrogation. As you know, I am very good at — “
“Seeing as how you used to be in the Russian military police, you would be, wouldn't you. Have you got it straight, what to say?”
“Yes, Major. As little as possible. Keep behind and slightly to one side of you and the other, eh, civilians. Act a little drunk and mumble. Answer no direct questions. Get inside as fast as I can.”
“Right.” Feeling inside his loosely fitting windcheater, Revell checked the long- bladed knife in his belt. Against his right hip, he felt the comforting bulk of his pistol. “We're as ready as we're going to be.”
From the church there came a babble of incoherent voices, and then a shot accompanied by a piercing scream. It ended with the sound of a second shot.
Behind them the rest of the section took up their places, covering all the rear exits from the church. At least they didn't have to worry about the front. Through Stadler, Revell had made sure that the WRACs across the road, still in place in the Residence, knew what was going down.
Anyone going out through the front was not going to get far. Of more immediate importance though, was how far Revell's party were going to get. A cautious reconnaissance had revealed that whatever the Russians in the church were up to, they weren't neglecting their security. How good it was they were about to discover for themselves.
“I never was any good in school drama productions. Best they ever cast me as was third spearman.” Ripper liked the feel of the AK47. Better still, he liked the knowledge that being a Spetsnaz weapon, all its bullets would have a dumdum effect at target. If he hit what he aimed at, he wouldn't need to fire a second time.
“That's all you are right now, so you should be good at it.” Carrington prodded Andrea with his automatic. “We're in sight of the bastard.”
Boris felt the sweat pouring off him. He was sure the guard on the door would see, would know, that something was amiss. With the others he kept against the wall, hugging its shadow.
The challenge when it came was definitely slurred, but strong and carrying suspicion for all that.
Making his voice as weary and subdued as possible, Boris gave vent to a string of obscenity. It must have carried conviction. The guard waved them on. He was reaching out to Andrea, when Revell's saw-backed blade stabbed upwards under his chin and plunged in through his jaw, mouth, tongue, and palate.
The sudden weight against his arm told the major the shock of the blow had done its work. Twisting the knife as he withdrew it, he slid it in between two ribs to silently finish the job.
Hidden within the porch, the murder went unnoticed, and they stepped through into the heart of the church. The smell hit them at once. There was cordite and blood and slaughterhouse smells, but there was also an almost tangible scent of fear.
If anything, it was even darker inside, despite the mass of candles lit in every niche and on every ledge. There was one oasis of light, around the foot of the ornately carved wooden pulpit. It served to show the priest, arms outstretched, crucified with the hilts of knives sticking out of his palms.
At first there appeared to be fewer people there, then Revell realized they were all herded and crammed in at the alter end. A tall Russian was in the act of hauling a girl from the crowd when he saw who had entered. His questioning shout was ag- gressive and alerted other men near him.
Carrington gave Dooley a shove that sent the big man sprawling almost at the Russian's feet. It had the effect of defusing the situation for a moment. That was all that was needed.
The knife Dooley thrust with all his strength plunged in underneath the Russian's groin. He screeched in agony, jumping so violently that the blade pulled clear.
Jumping after him, Dooley had to deliver several more blows to finish him as he writhed and jerked. His further screams were drowned by the crash of fire from the escorts' Kalashnikovs and Revell's pistol.
Andrea found her own target. Her saw-backed blade slashed across the face and then the neck of a Russian who was grabbing for his rifle. Still he didn't go down, and her third lunge took an eye clean from its socket. The fourth blow she delivered to the base of his skull as he toppled.
Three had fallen to knives, four more went down in the hail of bullets that opened the attack. A fifth died as he went to take a shot from a choir stall, his head burst apart by the tumbling soft-nosed bullets.
“There are two more.” A hastily aimed shot struck the stone by Revell's head, and sent a stinging hail of fragments into his neck.
He scanned the interior, but it was Carrington who spotted the sniper, high up at the back of a balcony. Three streams of steel converged on the screen behind which the Russian ducked for cover.
The ornate panelling splintered under the impact, but stayed in one piece. For a moment nothing happened, and then the screen toppled forward. Still standing behind it, the Russian swayed back and forth until a single shot struck him full in the chest and sent him crashing backwards out of sight.
Numbed into silence, there was no reaction from the civilians, not even when Dooley extracted the knives pinioning the priest and the poor man wailed as he slumped to the hard cold floor.
Revell had been searching the crowd for Sophia, afraid to look at the small heap of bodies behind the altar. At last he caught sight of her, hemmed in at the back.
“It's okay, we've got them. You're safe, you can move.”
“No, no, I cannot. There are two more. One of them is behind me. He has a grenade.”
Revell felt suddenly very cold. Casually, he took a half-step to the side. He could just make out the Russian. He was young. His face held a rigid expression that was part fear, part determination, but mostly it conveyed desperation.
“Boris, come here.” Revell said it quietly, not turning to look for their deserter. “I want you here.”
“Major, I heard what the young woman said. With a gun I might take a chance, but no one has ever outrun a grenade.”
“Tell him it's all over. Tell him all his buddies are dead or captured. He's fighting a lost cause. Lost and futile.” As he said it, Revell prayed there would not be the sound of gunfire from beyond the walls. If there were so much as a single shot, then the boy with the grenade, and little to lose, would know he was lying. Mercifully it stayed quiet.
“I have told him, Major. He says he does not care about the others. He has his duty.”
How long would the Russian keep his grip on the bomb? Revell knew he must have a tight hold on it, so his fingers would cramp and his hand tire quickly. He saw the Russian lift his eyes to follow something higher up.
“No, don't.” He didn't look, but Revell figured it would most likely be Andrea who was looking for a vantage point from which to shoot. “Boris, tell him he's not going to get out of this alive.”
“He knows that, Major. He says he is prepared to die for communism and Mother Russia.”
“Ask him if he's prepared to the for a beer festival.” “He will think I am joking.”
“Hell know I'm not. Tell him why today is a special day for Munich. Give it to him straight. I want him to know that his masters sent him in here to the, so that they could spoil a traditional West German booze-up.”
The Russian listened. At first there was a contemptuous sneer on his face, as though he could hardly believe that such a pathetic tactic, so unbelievable a tale, would be tried. Gradually though, as Boris elaborated, doubt crept into his expression.
He jabbed and pushed at the frightened people about him, and questioned them in halting broken German. Many were too terrified to frame any sort of answer. Some by their eagerness made him suspicious again, but in one form or another he got similar answers from all who replied.
It grew darker in the church. By their contrast with the rapidly approaching night, the candles appeared the brighter. They moved and flickered in the drafts. Among the crowd a woman, or perhaps it was a man, began to sob. It was a low wracking sound that came from deep down. The priest was moaning quietly, and the two expressions of distress blended into an emotive background to the silent watch on the Russian.
At last, he stood up. The press of bodies about him parted as if by magic to let him out. He had gone only a few paces, when a shot rang out and echoed about the vaulted ceiling of the church.
The Russian crumpled, and as he did the grenade fell from his grasp. Those next three seconds were played out in horrific slow motion, filled with terror-stricken faces and frantic hopeless efforts to get away.
Shielded by the shallow step below the altar rail, Re veil still felt the blast. Fragments passed so close he heard their super-fast passage through the air. And he heard the ugly sound of other jagged lumps of casing finding their mark among the press trying to escape.
The violence of the explosion passed quickly. The suffering it had created was going to last a long time. Thirty or more people had been grievously injured. They lay tangled together, many partially stripped of their clothes, some of their limbs.
Revell pulled bodies aside, sometimes finding they still lived and becoming more gentle with them. Many were almost unrecognizable, smothered as they were in blood and pieces of tissue and scraps of shredded clothing.
He found Sophia, half-covered by the altar cloth. She was already going cold. The back of her dress was a mass of red blotches.
“I saw him. He's gone up in the bell tower.” Dooley helped Revell lift the girl's body and lay it on a strip of floor not speckled as yet with blood or too heavily littered with debris and scattered possessions.
“We've got him, Major.” Carrington handed Revell an AK47 he'd picked up. “He can't escape. We've got him.”
“No.” Revell felt hate twist him up inside and turn him into someone he didn't recognize, into something that wasn't human.
“No, I've got him. He's mine.”
The stairs climbed in a series of short steep flights. Before starting up, Revell listened intently. Not all the rage inside him could blot out his experience of this type of fighting, and he brought it all into play.
As the staircase turned to the right, he transferred his pistol to his left hand. He was not such a good shot that way, but the change would enable his weapon to cover a greater arc as he climbed. The inevitably short range of any engagement would also help to compensate.
There was no sound from above, and he started up, one step at a time. He transferred his weight carefully from one foot to the other, making sure at all times that he was perfectly balanced.
Still he had no indication of how close the Russian might be, and then as he came within a few steps of the third landing, he heard a repetitive bumping. He knew what it was before he saw the fragmentation grenade. It rolled to a stop against an angle of the wall, and he caught the briefest glimpse of the cylindrical green bomb before ducking as low as he could.
A fraction of a delay, and then the device detonated. Dust poured from every crevice, and pieces of casing zipped from the walls and stairs.
Before the thunder of the echo had died, Revell had snatched a concussion grenade from his belt, extracted the pin, counted off a brief delay, and then lobbed it upward as hard as he could.
It was a dangerous tactic, but all the more likely to succeed because it would be unexpected. With a crash the grenade burst, and at the instant it did, Revell was moving upwards as fast as he could in the severely reduced visibility.
As he neared the top, he snapped off single shots into the dust-enhanced gloom ahead. There were no answering reports.
Eyes streaming and lungs gasping for air, Revell reached the first of the shuttered windows. Fighting down his laboured gasping breath, he peered into the murk. Crouching down, he fired across the interior of the tower, and heard his own bullet ricochet madly back past his ear.
The fog was clearing fast, and he felt a strong gust of air on his face. An eddy in the rapidly dispersing dust cloud revealed a shutter gaping open, immediately opposite him.
From outside came the sound of a body landing, and hands scrabbling for grip on a pitched roof. When he reached the opening, he could just make out a dark form moving rapidly across the roof, working up towards the ridge at a tangent. Revell fired the rest of the magazine as fast as he could, feeling the Browning's heavy recoil as he sent each 9mm round at the Russian.
One of the bullets must have found its mark. The figure reared up, and a rifle clattered away down the roof and over the edge to the long drop into the street. The Russian didn't follow the weapon, instead he managed to get a hand to the ridge and began to haul himself up.
Revell dropped from the window onto the roof. The drop was longer than he expected, and he lost his balance and was winded as he fell sideways against the brickwork of the tower. Instinctively his hand went to the butt of his knife. It was still there. Taking it out of its sheath, he settled it firmly in the palm of his hand before starting up the slope.