I hope this post finds you well and in good spirits! I have something special for you today, and I think it’s something you will like. I recently finished the rough draft of the Prologue to the fourth book in my WWII historical fiction collection. Since I’m feeling good about my progress so far, and because I’d like to try something new and different, I’ve decided to make YOU a beta reader for the opening to my next book! So read ahead and leave a comment telling me your thoughts (both positive and constructive), and keep in mind that the formatting in this post is not the same as what it will be in the actual book…
“You’re sure he’s going to be here?” I quietly asked Benito. I tried to hide my anxiety over the matter.
“According to my source, he’ll be here…patience, my friend,” Benito softly replied from the adjacent café table. His chair and my chair nearly touched backs; we sat at separate tables for a reason.
I fidgeted in my seat. “Easier said than done,” I grabbed my water glass and swallowed a refreshing gulp. I looked out across the open circular thoroughfare. A beige, stone fountain was positioned in the middle, its water arcing into the air from the mouths of fish and angels. Five automobiles, all older Spanish or Swiss models, drove around the fountain, the drivers making their way to wherever they needed to go. Three young boys, conversing in Spanish and laughing wildly, walked past our table on the sidewalk. A modestly dressed woman carried a bag of groceries.
“Your men are in position?” Benito asked, double-checking. He turned the page of the newspaper in his hands.
I looked beyond the fountain to another café on the other side; Ezra, a tall, unimposing man with a mustache, leaned against a post. To my right on the east side of the thoroughfare sat a man on the fountain’s ledge; Mitchell was his name, and he was a more intimidating figure with his stocky build and booming voice. They both blended in beautifully with the pedestrians that meandered by, minding their own business on that sunny Thursday morning. “They’re in position,” I said nonchalantly, not looking directly at Benito. In our current business together, subtlety was a necessity. “And your men?”
“They’re where they need to be. Everyone is where they need to be, Mr. Fisher,” Benito assured me.
“You know, I’m still a little troubled that I have yet to meet your source,” I admitted. “I know we couldn’t meet out in the open like you and I are now, but still…something could have been arranged.” I glanced at Benito from the side of my eye.
“Mr. Fisher, it would be very difficult to do that,” Benito reminded me, as he had done twice before when we planned this operation.
Benito was a local businessman who had ties with underground movements against the Franco regime. He also had friends in the Maquis. I met him early on in my posting to Barcelona. Through my position as Cultural Attaché in the Consulate-General, I was introduced to and worked with many individuals of various backgrounds and experiences. But then again, Cultural Attaché was merely a title. A distraction. A cover.
“I just want to be sure of the source of our information, that’s all,” I sipped my water again.
Benito turned the next page of his newspaper, pretending to read the goings on of the world. “You are right to feel that way,” he voiced softly, his tone understanding.
I looked down at the silver watch on my left wrist: 9:37. “Three minutes…” I spoke quietly.
In three minutes from that moment, a car was expected to pull through the circular thoroughfare – a car transporting a German officer of the Abwehr division in Barcelona. The German intelligence organization had set up camp in this city of Spanish culture, as with other cities around the country, in order to glean intelligence regarding Allied operations and plans in the Mediterranean and North Africa. The German, a Captain Metzger, was the liaison officer for communication between Barcelona and headquarters in Berlin. The operational objective in play at the moment was simple: capture the German alive. The execution itself was nearly impossible.
I ran over the operation in my head. ‘Car parks at the adjacent café at 9:40, Metzger and two guards get out to buy newspaper and coffee while driver remains in car at 9:41, vendor briefly talks to Metzger about nonsense until 9:42, the three are back in the car by 9:43. No more than three minutes to get the job done.’
“There’s Diego, right on time,” Benito pointed out. One of his men, Diego’s task was to purchase a coffee at the café where Metzger would get his coffee, then sit outside to await the German when he exited the building. Diego was a strong man, hence his role as a handler in the apprehension of Metzger.
I looked down the road to my left. Parked by the curb at the mouth of an alley was a black car with its engine off. It was another of Benito’s men, Julian. Once the apprehension took place, he would provide the primary getaway option for the handlers. Benito and I would simply act as unknowing pedestrians, leaving soon after the commotion would end. I glanced at my watch again: twenty seconds before 9:40. Mitchell rose from the fountain ledge and started walking toward the target café.
A luxurious, black car emerged from between the buildings where the thoroughfare ran through, its engine heralding the coming of an important figure. ‘Here we go,’ I thought.
“Metzger…” Benito mumbled, still feigning to read the paper.
As the car circled around the fountain and slowed to the curb, Ezra began walking toward the café as well. Mitchell was already inside buying his coffee. The car’s dark windows kept me in suspense of glimpsing the man who was our target. I knew his face only from photographs taken by Benito’s men.
I picked up my water glass, the small amount of condensation moistening my already sweaty palm. Looking on, I saw the car finally come to a complete stop; I heard the gear shift into park. ‘This is it,’ I told myself. Ezra and Diego were closest in proximity, and Mitchell was inside waiting to walk out at the right moment. From my seat nearly sixty feet away from Metzger’s car, I looked to my left at Julian waiting in the getaway car.
I spun around as gunshots rang out through the open space of the fountain thoroughfare. Before my eyes, three German soldiers with pistols shot Ezra, Diego, and Mitchell in their chests! The few locals in the vicinity cried out and fled; I discerned the words pistola and policía from their screams. The menacing Germans stood just a few feet from their car. In the flurry of motion I didn’t recognize any of them as Metzger.
Benito slid out of his chair and tipped his café table on its side. I did the same and ducked down, frightened I’d take a bullet. Fear gripped me; my hands shook and my body quaked.
I heard a car door shut, and then another, all followed by the revving of an engine and the receding acceleration of the German car. Still nervous and shaking, I mustered the courage to peek over the overturned table; Benito remained behind his table. His fearful and worrying eyes met mine. “Benjamin…” his broken voice said in a sorrowful tone.
I stood up and looked ahead on the sidewalk. Three men squirming in pain. I ran to them as Benito rose from the dirty sidewalk. I quickly knelt down beside Diego, the first one I reached.
“How bad is it?” he coughed, the breath in his lungs wheezing in and out of his mouth and the blood-soaked hole in his chest.
I examined him, but I was no doctor. “Keep breathing, but slowly. Despacio,” I animated myself breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth. I tapped his thigh to encourage him to hold on as I stood up to tend the others.
“Benj- …Benjamin…” Ezra rasped from twelve feet away. A pool of blood had gathered under him.
“I’m here,” I assured him as I knelt down. Seeing the blood under him meant that a bullet exited through his back.
“Check on Mi…Mitchell,” he struggled to breathe and speak. His eyes were gray-blue with a hint of red, and he was sweating.
I examined him a moment more, then spoke. “I’ll be right back.” I quickly stood up and turned toward Mitchell. Benito had since knelt down beside Diego, and Julian joined him after running from the car that was still parked by the alley. I walked a few steps and found Mitchell lying on his left side just in front of the door to the café.
He lay very still.
“No, no, no, no…!” Benito cried out louder and louder. He engaged in resuscitating Diego; Julian squatted nearby, helpless. Benito breathed air into Diego’s mouth, then pressed on his chest repeatedly again.
I returned my focus to Mitchell. Kneeling down for a closer look, I saw that he also had an exit wound in his back. The red blood on his beige shirt showed it. There was also a small stream of blood that ran down his back, but didn’t gather in a pool like with Ezra. “Mitchell…” I tried gently turning him onto his back.
“Nooooo!” Benito cried out, tears starting to stream down his cheeks.
Diego was dead.
“Boss…?” I heard a voice whisper.
I turned and saw Mitchell barely moving. “Mitchell!” I immediately helped him turn over and sit up. I could more clearly see where the bullet entered: it missed his lung and clavicle.
“Huuaaghh,” Mitchell coughed but struggled with the pain.
“Are you going to be okay?” I looked him in the eye.
“I think so…just hurts bad. I’ve never been shot before…” he replied softly. He wiped a bit of saliva from his lips, then paused. After a moment our eyes met. “Boss…” he gazed at Ezra.
I looked as well, only to find Ezra lying still.
The sounds of wailing sirens approached the grisly scene. Benito’s sobs were the only audible sound in close proximity, and Julian’s state of shock was what my weary and unbelieving eyes rested on as we all knelt, sat, or lay on the dusty sidewalks of Barcelona, our mission far from salvaged and with many questions to answer for the authorities.
I hope you liked it, and also liked the different kind of blog for this week. Again, please leave me a comment with your thoughts so that I can consider my readers’ input in my edits of the story. Thank you for your support and encouragement, as always, and may you have a great week filled with success and accomplishment!
Until next time,