"Funeral"
by Marc Carlson
Copyright 2003 by Marc Carlson
 
 

Bombers filled his dreams, row after row of black cemetery crosses in a night sky backlit from the light of the burning city below.  High explosive hail slamming into the Savoy, the Strand and the old Townhouse…

A blast of lighting shocked him awake; sitting upright, sweating and tense, with a need to so… something.  He knew in that instant that she was dead, killed in the latest air raid.  An empty agony tore at his gut.  They hadn’t seen each other in almost ten years, since the wedding of their youngest son, but still that connection was there.

He slipped slowly out of bed, carefully trying to not disturb the blond snuggled there.  What was her name?  Hilda, Helga?  Not that it mattered, much.  In the lightning lit darkness he began to dress.  In a few moments he was at the door to the flax, and in the mirror there, checked the lay of the black woolen uniform, everything neat and tidy, no smudges of lipstick on the double lightning stroke flashes on his collar, nor the markings of an SS-Obersturmbannführer, Everything neat and tidy from the skull and crossbones on his cap to the black mirror shine of his boots.  He smiled with wry bitterness, even nearing his 90s, he still only looked like he was in his twenties.


Two days later he was in a different uniform, that of a British Major, standing on a soot and grime encrusted platform in a vast steel and crystal cathedral to transportation, Eustace station on the north side of London.  The ticket in his pocket would take him as far as Wick, in Northern Scotland.  His train was waiting to board.   He leaned against a pillar, took out a cigarette and lighting it, inhaled deeply.   Through the smoke, he looked at the other passengers waiting in small clumps, and the stewards and porters going about their business.  After a few minutes, he noticed a small group of porters guiding a long box on wheels down to the luggage van at the far end of the train, near the engine.  He watched them intently, so intently he nearly missed hearing the soft footfalls behind him.  They loaded the box into the van, like common luggage.

“So, Teignmouth, you’re here after all,” came the gruff bulldog voice behind him.  He turned and looked at the man behind him, flanked by two obvious bodyguards. “Or is it Black this trip?  Or since you couldn’t have abandoned your post, are you Oberst Kraus?  Or...”

“Hello Ethan.  You may call me whatever you wish,” He said with an ironic smile.  “You are looking more and more like Winston every day.”

Ethan, who was looking very much like Winston Churchill carrying a leather valise, “humph”ed and gestured to his guards to leave them.  “Go find us out carriage, and make sure that there’s room for Major Black in there with me.   It’s going to be a long trip and we have quite a lot to talk about.”

“Sir?” the larger of the two guards said querulously.  Black realized that the valise likely contained more than a change of undergarments.

“Go, between the snipers in the rafters and HIM” gesturing at Black “I’m as secure as I would be in my office.”  Then his voice softened a bit. “Go and find us something up front.”  He nodded and with his compatriot went towards the front of the train.

“Is that Terrrence?”  Black asked, watching the receding mass of muscle

“Yes, my youngest boy.  Your grandson.”

“He favors John.”

“Do you think so?  My father would appreciate that.”  They began to follow the guards.

“Absolutely - he’s got the same build, the same blue eyes, the same slightly naive dedication to the service.”

“I see you are still a cynic.”

“There is nothing that will cure idealism faster than living under the Reich.  Cynicism it merely reinforces.”

“Hmm.”

“I assume you read my last report?”

“The one on the High Command’s belief that they have total air superiority?  Not badly written, although I daresay there is some dispute with their opinions at Downing Street.”

They shared a few moments of silence as they boarded the train, and took their seats in a small compartment.  Terrence and the other guard stood outside in the companionway.

Black slid down the window and tossed his cigarette out.  “So How are Margaret and the other children?

“They are waiting for me, us, to join them in Wick.  The services are set for tomorrow in her family’s graveyard.  She told Margaret once that it was her wish to not to be buried in Tiegnmouth, but rather with her ancestors.”

Black nodded, understanding.

“So what are you doing here?”

“It wasn’t terribly difficult; I just slipped aboard one of the bombers coming over for last night’s raid.  I jumped out over Kent.”

“Yes, I had a report of a probable bailout from an exploding Junkers …”

“Just doing my part to end the Battle of Britian – one plane at a time.”

“Yes.  That wasn’t really what I meant though, was it?”

“Marie was your wife’s mother, but she was my wife.”

“You haven’t lived together for almost three decades.”

“Her choice, not mine.”

“Certainly it was her choice, and it was a kindness of you to go along with it.  Not everyone can tolerate spending that much time around an immortal.  Sooner or later resentment’s bound to surface”