Rated PG for language
Three nights later the group was spread out across the roof of the Royal Palace along Jirska Street, looking down into the street. Dunn was back on the Tracer, keeping guard. Someone had to pilot it and watch the shores of the Vlatava for changes in the Gestapo and Army patrols. The others were glad to get away from the plane; the air filters onboard the Tracer weren't designed for prolonged use underwater, and the rooms on the Tracer had developed an unpleasant fug, which left the group relieved and gasping in the fresh air every time they went into Prague. Dunn didn't seem to notice, though, and he loved the Tracer, so he was elected to stay behind and keep watch over the escape route.
In the city the "Guerrilla" (per Sandra's orders and the mutual agreement of the group everyone went by codenames; what you didn't know you couldn't tell the Germans under torture) and Cosmo scanned the rooftops to make sure they weren't seen while the Marksman and the Sportsmaster looked at the street itself and plotted tactics. Strategy was left to Sandra, the Tigress, and King.
"...nah. Somethin' like this, you never wanna haveta rely on just one shooter."
"Mr...Sportsmaster...I assure you, I will not miss. Whether on foot or in his car, he will not be traveling fast enough to evade my arrows."
"That's as may be, pal, but you'll want insurance."
"I do not need insurance. I have killed several Germans under these conditions. I hardly think I need advice in this matter. Or help, when it comes to the shooting."
"You just don't get it, do you? You--"
"Mr. Sportsmaster, I have nine kills of this type to my name. How many do you have?"
"Only four like this. But you tell me something. When you killed them, you had to run afterwards, right?"
"Well, of course, but--"
"And there was some close calls in there, am I right?"
"Yes, but that's to be expected--"
"Not if you plan it right, it ain't. Look, pal, nothin' against what you been doin' here, but I've been a criminal a lot longer than you have, and--"
"It was my understanding that your first criminal act took place in 1936, yes?
"Snadra's been talkin' again, hasn't she?"
"Oh yes. But, you see, I was there, Mr. Crock. Berlin--the Olympics."
"Wait. `Povalsky.' You took the gold in archery, didn't you?"
"Yes. I shot for Poland that year. But, you see, I asked Ms. Moore about you because I was curious what sort of man you were. My country was invaded in September, 1939. I took to the forests not long afterwards. I do not believe two years' experience constitutes `a lot longer.' Especially considering your terms in jail."
"Mebbe so. But just hear me out, okay?"
"As you wish."
"Heydrich's probably gonna be the highest ranking officer you ever skragged. So he'll have a lot more security. There won't be snipers on the rooftops, and there probably won't be plainclothes on the sidewalks, but I'll betcha a night with Sandra--"
"I heard that!"
"Heh. I'll bet you a box of Cuban cigars that there'll be two carloads of officers and soldiers, fore and after. Now, you plug Heydrich there, they'll be looking for you right away."
"Yes, of course. That is only to be expected, surely?"
"Not if we do it this way. We put you over there, in one of the windows of the Cathedral. That one there. You shoot, then make it through Powder Tower and then to the river. I'm up here. With my equipment I can take shots and fly out of here. The Germans have no supermen over here, they can't stop me. And we put King over there--that window there. He lays down, whatchacallit, suppressing fire on the other troops. That way we got a three-way crossfire and the Germans either split up or go after only one of us. Either way, our odds are improved. See what I mean?"
"Mmm. I do at that. Yes, I see. A good plan, Mr...Sportsmaster. Yes, we will use your plan. I think--what?"
"Hmm? Oh...nothing. I thought I saw something in the Basilica. Must have been a trick of the light."
“Is it always this quiet? I mean, Christ, I’ve seen towns in Ohio that had more night life.”
“The Germans aren’t much for night life, Cosmo. This is wartime.”
“Oh. Right. Sorry. So, uh, how often do the patrols come around?”
“Most nights every half-hour or so. One way we know something’s up is when they step up the frequency.”
“Are they always that sloppy? We could have taken both of the soldiers from here and they’d never have heard us coming.”
“They don’t expect trouble. Not here. There are too many of them. Out in the country, and in the smaller towns, they’re a lot more vigilant, ‘cause they know they’re outnumbered. That’s where we can actually get things done.”
“Oh. Yeah. So, how’d you get into this? You’re from Texas, right?”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Geez, sorry. Just making conversation.”
“Cosmo, this is war. ‘Just making conversation’ gets people killed. Loose lips—“
“Sink ships. Yeah, yeah, I know. I just thought—“
“You just thought we’d chat. Well, sorry, but we don’t chat out here. You never know who might be listening.”
“Kee-rist. Is everyone this paranoid?”
“Paranoid. You know. Jumping at shadows. Suspicious of everyone.”
“I knew someone like you once, back in Navarre. He was a Walloon. From Belgium. Bright-eyed, wanted to be everyone’s friend. Young kid, no more than 17 or 18. Reminded me of a puppy dog. I could almost see his tail wagging.”
“Well? What happened to him?”
“He talked too much to a French whore, and she sold him to the SS. They tortured him and then cut his throat.”
“That’s your idea of subtle?”
“No, of safe.”
“Well, that’s just—what’s that?”
“Over there—in the Basilica—two windows down from the end, middle row.”
“I can’t see anything.”
“I saw light flash off something.”
“I’ll send King down to look.”
“…don’t know what Cosmo saw. There wasn’t anything there, and I couldn’t find any proof that anyone had been there.”
“Good. Now then—“
“Wait. What was in there? What did you find?”
“It was the Basilica. Nobody was in there. It was empty.:
“No footprints? Did you check the dust? What about—“
“Tigress, I’ve been doing this for a long time. Please trust me when I tell you that there was no one there and no evidence that anyone had been there.”
“It only takes one mistake, King, and the SS will have you by the balls.”
“Yes, I know, but—"
“I didn’t survive this long by being sloppy.”
“Are you two through?”
“This is no place for amateurs--"
"Tigress, there was nothing there. Trust me."
"Oh, alright. It's on your head, then."
"Can we get back to planning, please?"
"Yes, yes, but--"
"Look, if he's--"
"King, Tigress, stop flirting and get back to the job at hand. Don't look at me like that. No, shut up. No, shut up. Now. City or countryside."
sigh "Okay, look. King, you first. Give me four sentences."
"Prague gives us more escape routes. It's easier to get lost in a crowd than in a field. Assassination is easier in streets like this--just look at the vantage points. And we're closer to the Tracer."
"That was five sentences!"
"Tigress, shut up. Just tell me why the country."
"There are more of us--the Resistance, I mean--there than here. The Germans don't have anybody who can track or move through the wilderness like the Marksman or me. We can land and take off in the Tracer just as easily there as here. And we'll have better access to arms there than we do here."
"Sorry, Tigress, but I'm going with King. I--what?"
"There's someone out there."
Thirty seconds later the Guerrilla, Cosmo, Marksman, and the Sportsmaster arrived at a run, guns drawn, to find a tall, muscular man in worn workman's clothes holding a machine gun on King, Sandra, and the Tigress. The man was handsome in a hard, cold way, and although the hands holding the gun were tense the rest of his body was loose and relaxed and ready to move in any direction. As the four reached the roof of the Palace the man growled, first in German and then in English, "Nobody move. At all."
Before the Sportsman, quickest of the group, could act the Marksman said, "Paul, these are friends."
For a moment the man did not react. Finally he said, in Polish, "If that is who I think it is, he can tell me where we hid at the Plomb du Cantal and what we spoke of."
"Boar hunting, Paul."
The man hesitated, then took his hand off the trigger of the gun. He turned and looked at the Marksman and smiled. In English he said, "Good to see you again, Baron. Who are your friends?"
The Baron turned to Sandra and the others and said, "I had not expected him, but he is welcome here nonetheless. May I introduce you all to Paul Kirk, who you may know as the Manhunter?"
King, Sandra and Cosmo broke into relieved smiles while the Marksman and the Guerrilla moved to shake the Manhunter's hand. Unseen by the others, the Tigress and the Sportsmaster exchanged uneasy glances.
See my notes at the end of this story arc.
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