Authors: James Rouch
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Men's Adventure
Andrea had calmed down immediately, wrenching herself from Revell's grasp a moment after the door had shut. She made no effort to follow. Instead she went over to the television and turned on an in-house movie.
For a while Revell hesitated to move away from the door. Gradually he felt able to relax his vigilance, and moved to the drinks refrigerator. “Can I get you something?”
He made the offer unthinkingly, as he withdrew a can of Holsten Pils. Finger in the ring-pull, he waited for her answer. She was lounging across the bed, legs trailing over the side. Was she going to stay off the drink? There was no way she could retain her place in the unit, if she continued to hit the bottle the way she had been doing until recently.
Not that she could be kept away from temptation for ever. This was as good a time as any to put her to the test.
“What are you hoping, that I will take a drink, give you an excuse to get rid of me? Perhaps though you don't. I think you want me to stay. You want the chance to find out if what that fancy tramp said is correct.”
Looking past him, Andrea noted the contents of the shelves. “Such an interesting selection, but such silly little bottles.”
She looked up, and her eyes held his. Revell felt himself mesmerized by them. As carelessly as she had thrown the shot at the communist agent, she indicated a small pale green bottle.
“One of those. It is a snowball, I think. Shake it well, then come and sit by me.” As if his willpower had been sapped, drained from him, Revell complied with her instructions - her orders.
Stretching full length on the duvet, Andrea moved her fingers to the buckle of her belt and released it. Unfastening her slacks, she began to edge them lower on her hips.
“When you watched me touching myself, in the woods, you liked what you saw.”
It was a statement, not a question. He nodded. No words would come.
“I knew you were watching. That was why I made it last so long. Now you must pay for the entertainment I provided.”
An erection straining inside his shorts, Revell watched the gradual progress of her waistband as it began to reveal the details of her body. It felt as if each of her words was being stamped on the inside of his skull with a red-hot hammer.
“Give the bottle another shake. I want it to be nice and creamy and fizzy.” With a last push that brought her head up from the pillow, Andrea's clothes were down to mid-thigh.
She sank back, closing her eyes as she ran her hands down between her legs. They lingered there, with the fingers moving gently. After a moment she withdrew them, then repeated the process.
“Open it carefully. Pour it over me. The bed does not matter. You are not sleeping here tonight. See where my fingers are.” Her breath came in short gasps of anticipation. “Let it run just there...”
His face close enough to feel the heat rising from her body, Revell saw her fingertips tracing a path between the tops of her thighs. He began to tilt the bottle. As the cream-coloured foaming liquid began to pour, she grabbed his hair and began to force his face down.
“Lick it off. Drink it, all of it. No, not so fast - gently. Let me feel your tongue.”
The taste was still in his mouth. His lips and his face were still sticky with the cloying sweetness of the cocktail. And there was another taste that lingered…
Andrea's clothes were strewn across the floor. She'd discarded them as she went to the bathroom. He could hear the shower running. Through the partially open door, he could occasionally glimpse her, but he stayed in the bedroom.
While he waited for his turn to wash, he dimmed the lights, to look out on the city without their reflection on the glass.
Visibility was good, very good. A near-full moon was adding its cold glow to that of the city's more garish illuminations. Seeing it lit up like this, he felt instinctively nervous at the lack of any blackout precautions. Not that he had any reason to be, the western boundary of the Zone was still forty kilometres from the city centre.
This part of southern West Germany had not seen the violent losses and gains of territory that had happened during the battles in the north. Here the Warpac forces were employing more cunning than brute force. Their advances were far less spectacular, often no more than a half-kilometre, but the pressure was as relentless.
Despite the Zone's steady encroachment on the city's dormitory suburbs, Munich flourished. Its industries churned out vast quantities of munitions and other war materials.
Sky-high wages attracted workers to its fiercely competitive labour market. Their salaries in turn drew in an army of civilian locusts to feed on them. Into the midst of all that had ventured several NATO military headquarters.
As word of the comforts and diversions of the city had spread, so more service corps HQs had found reasons to move there. The pressure on office space had sent rents soaring, and land values with them.
Munich was a metropolis expanding to the very edge of a chasm. That chasm could swallow it effortlessly, as the Zone had already done to so many other cities.
As he took in the brightly lit streets and parks, Revell found his gaze being drawn further out, towards the east. Not from here, but from the top of the television tower in Olympic Park, he would have been able to see the distant band of darkness that was the Zone.
In all its thousands of square kilometres, the only light at night was that of tracer or explosion. To show a light was to throw death an open invitation.
“Not for us a quiet sector.”
Deep in thought, Revell hadn't heard Andrea come in, her bare feet making no noise in the deep pile of the carpet. She came to stand before him.
The robe she wore was too big, the cuffs were turned back twice, and the material almost lapped her body.
“No, we've been promised action. The general will find it for us. You can be sure of that. Time's getting on; we'd better get moving.”
“Why do we have to be at the station so early? We will have a two-hour wait for our train.” Andrea reached for the cord to close the curtains, pausing to watch the traffic far below as it narrowly missed the herds of pedestrians constantly spilling over into the road.
Revell turned at the bathroom door. “Because I want to do a roll call as early as possible. That'll give me the best part of two hours to dig all the villains out from under the crap being piled on them by the provost marshal and the civilian police.”
He looked at Andrea. Despite the oversized garment, there was nothing waiflike about her, no girlish air of vulnerability. Damn her, damn her and her humiliating games. She'd only let him touch. Several times he'd tried to go further with her. Each time she had eluded his attempts. He should have got rough. Hell, even now he held back from grabbing her, and this perhaps the last chance.
“Are you ever going to let me fuck you?” Revell surprised himself with his sudden bluntness. He hadn't even realized he was about to say that.
Still looking out, Andrea took a long time answering. She watched his reflection in the glass. “Not tonight. Perhaps not ever. Do you think that makes your precious Sophia right?”
“I don't know.” There was no anger, no passion, only resignation in his voice. He heard it himself. “I only know that I want you. That I...”
“No.” Andrea shouted the word.
“No, don't say anything else. I don't want to hear any more, nothing.” Hands over her ears, she pressed her face against the dark glass and closed her eyes tight.
Walking up behind her, Revell went to put his hand on her shoulder. It hovered over the white towelling of her robe, then he withdrew it. He felt he wanted to kiss her, hit her, make love to her and kill her, all at one and the same instant. It was that confused blur of emotion that prevented him from doing anything at all.
“I will wait downstairs.”
Revell couldn't bring himself to stop her as she quickly dressed and went out. He couldn't even bring himself to say anything.
After she had gone, he stayed near the window. Some of the streets were looking darker now, as bars and restaurants closed. There was less traffic, and the crowds had thinned.
Across the rooftops it seemed to be getting brighter though. At least there was a glow. It was in the general direction of the Englischer Garten, the great swathe of parkland in the centre of the city. He was about to dismiss it, turn away, when the glow adopted a flickering centre.
Sliding back the glass door, he stepped through onto the balcony. Yes, there was a definite flicker ... and then confirming his suspicion, he clearly saw a tongue of red flame shoot above the rooftops.
“At least I'm not the only one who's had his night buggered up.” Even as he spoke to himself, Revell observed another glow beginning to reveal itself. Though apparently a little further off, it was in the same general direction.
A coincidence most likely. There were a lot of crazy drunks in the city tonight. They were always at their worst, their most excessive, at chucking-out time.
From the street below came the raucous howls, screams, and shouts of such a group, adding weight to his theory.
Strangely though, he couldn't hear any fire engines as yet. They must have started up very rapidly. Still, a few pumps should have been audibly on the way by now.
The thought of Herr Otto passed through his mind, but he shunted it aside. There couldn't be any connection. That was just too fanciful. Hell, this crazy city was starting to get to him. Another week here, and he'd begin to be as jumpy as the civilian population.
Returning inside, he pulled the door shut, then closed the thick lined curtains. In the Zone, burying your head in the sand was a sure way of getting your backside shot off. Here, for a few more hours, he could still do it without taking that risk. Others were being paid to take care of Munich. It wasn't his worry.
Putting all thought of the fires right out of his mind, he hurried to join Andrea. He didn't see the third blaze start, or the fourth.
“No, I have no idea what time I will be home. Please, Veronika, do not telephone again. We need all the lines. I am not shouting at you.” Mayor Gebert took the receiver from his ear as the line went dead, then slammed it down.
“There are an army of pyromaniacs loose in the city, and she wants to know what time I shall be home for supper!” Gebert rounded on an assistant who was trying to lay a map over the litter of inkstands and ashtrays on the broad desk.
“You, stop fucking about with that and speak to that stupid cow on the switchboard. No, you cunt, not on the phone. I could have done that. Go and see her. Tell her that if I get - if anyone gets - a single personal call tonight, I shall see she is drafted to a women's battalion in the Zone.”
“It is Frau Pasch, Herr Mayor Gebert. She is over sixty, and not used to working the board when it is so busy. Normally on nights it is very quiet.”
“I don't care if she's one-hundred-and-sixty. Spell it out to the old fool, and then get back here. Wait, if a Fraulein Ruth Stein should try to reach me, have that call put through to my private office. Otherwise only the civil and military authorities.”
Gebert mopped his forehead with an already damp handkerchief. And to think, he had stayed late so as to enjoy a quiet half hour at the end of a hectic day. With the sixteen days of the Oktoberfest ahead of him, it was the last he was going to get for a while.
A secretary put her head round the door of the mayor's chambers and coughed discreetly to get his attention.
“Herr Mayor, the chief of the fire service and the garrison commander are here ...”
“Well, don't keep them waiting you stupid bitch, send them in.” He threw his hands up in despair as the girl burst into tears.
The double doors swung open after her retreat, and two men entered. There could not have been a greater contrast in appearance between them.
Fire Chief Paul Friedmann was tall and surprisingly young for his seniority. His small sharp eyes seemed to miss nothing. In one hand he carried a walkie-talkie, in the other a neatly rolled map. He curtly nodded to the mayor.
Trailing behind him, in the uniform of a colonel of the West German infantry, came Adolf Klee. Pale, stooping, with eyes that made him look like he was half- asleep and was worried that the other half might join it, Klee gave the impression of a man who looked for things to worry about. His greeting was a limp handshake and an inaudible mumble.
Ignoring the colonel, Gebert tackled the fire chief first. “What's the position? I've only got garbled reports that make no sense.”
Throwing the rolled map on the desk, Friedmann secured its turned-up corners with some of the cluttering ornaments. He tapped various locations with the stump aerial of his radio.
“I'm getting reports of fires here, here, here, and here in the city. Also several in the suburbs. Untermenzing, Fasangarten, the big industrial park to the southwest, the Olympic Stadium ... See for yourself, I've marked them in black.”
“Can you cope?” Standing back from the map, Gebert saw that with the exception of the fires around the Englischer Garten, the location of the outbreaks made a ring around the heart of Munich. There was no need for him to ask if it was deliberate.
“We're already on the scene at several. We should be able to bring some under control quite quickly. I have requested help from outlying forces, but they will take time to arrive. I've had to do that because we're so seriously under strength.”
“The sabotage you reported this afternoon?” Gebert lifted a corner of the map to look for the file, but failed to find it.
“Yes, a lot of our pumps are off the road due to that. Mostly it's contaminated fuel, but we've also had punctures, slashed hoses, you name it.”
“What's this I've heard about hoax calls?” Gebert had listened to the recital with growing unease.
As usual there was no change of expression from Friedmann's usual hawk like intensity, but a note almost of admiration crept into his voice. “Those are very clever, and we're getting a lot. It's making our work a lot more difficult.”
“Have we caught any of those responsible for the sabotage, or the calls?” Colonel Klee had thought it time he had a say, as no one had spoken to him.