Jim Colling Adventure Series




НазваниеJim Colling Adventure Series
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Ferguson was behind his desk in the orderly room when he reported in. The master sergeant looked up from the papers he was studying and smiled.

Colling grinned back and said briskly, “Technician Fifth Grade Colling reporting from temporary duty, Sergeant.”

Welcome back, soldier,” replied Ferguson. “I was wondering whether I’d ever see you again.”

Ah, you knew I’d be back, Sarge.”

Yeah, but I’ve got my reassignment orders. I’m headed for the States on Monday, then to Panama. Colonel…I mean General Harrington, was able to pull some strings for me. A couple more days and you’d of missed me.”

Should I report to Major Harris, too?” asked Colling.

Major Harris went home over a month ago, right after you left. Major Vincent is the Battalion CO now. And yes, he wants to see you.”

Ferguson knocked on the door to the battalion commander’s office and, after hearing an “Enter,” led Colling into the room, standing aside so that Colling could come to attention directly in front of the major’s desk. Colling saluted, stated his name and announced that he was reporting.

Major Vincent returned the salute, picked up a file from a stack on his desk, and, appearing to ignore Colling, opened the folder and examined its contents. Colling estimated Vincent to be in his late thirties or early forties. The officer wore gold-rimmed glasses, was what might be described as “pudgy,” and had begun to lose his hair, leaving a widow’s peak. Out of the corner of his eye, Colling could see Ferguson standing beside him, expressionless and at ease, swaying slightly back and forth. After what seemed a long time, the major looked up and in a dry tone of voice said, “So you’re Collings.”

Yessir. But that’s ‘Colling,’ sir, no ‘s’ on the end.”

Vincent noticed Sergeant Ferguson, and said, “You’re dismissed, Sergeant.” Ferguson snapped to attention, said, “Yessir,” and left the office.

The major turned his attention back to the file, told Colling to stand at ease, then commented, “You know, Collings, that this situation with you is the strangest I have ever experienced in my years in the Army.”

Colling ignored the second mispronunciation of his name and asked, “How so, sir?”

Well, you take fourteen days’ furlough to visit Munich and the Bavarian recreation centers. Then the day before your furlough expires, Division gets a teletype advising that you have been ordered on TDY to some outfit called the ‘Paris Recreation Service Detachment.’ The orders are back-dated, effective on the fourth day of your furlough. The temporary duty assignment is open-ended, ‘Until further notice.’ I placed a call last month to Paris to attempt to contact the commanding officer of the ‘Paris Recreation Service Detachment,’ and the operator informed me that no such unit was listed. Where have you been, Corporal?”

Paris, sir. I was in Garmisch when I met a tech sergeant who was on furlough from Paris. We got to talking, and he said he had heard what we were able to do with our PX and all. His CO, a major…I can’t remember his name right now, sir…was also in Garmisch, and the sergeant, his name was Smith, sir, took me over to meet him. The major asked me if I would be interested in going temporary duty to Paris. Well, sir, you can imagine. I jumped at the chance. Two days later, I went back with them, and the major said he would cut TDY orders for me and send them back here.”

Was this major your commander in Paris?”

No, sir,” replied Colling, mentally running through the list of names that Quarles had provided, “My CO was a Captain Whitehead. He was in charge of the detachment.”

Where were you billeted?” asked Vincent.

Colling again envisioned Quarles’ list, “Pension Montrette, sir. It wasn’t a fancy place, but the old lady, Madame Bissonette, who ran it was nice.”

Major Vincent continued to eye Colling suspiciously. “You say you did some kind of PX work?”

Yessir. I helped design the layout of snack bars and soda fountains for a couple of rec centers in Paris, and then trained the employees. The French people the Army hired had never seen anything like it, and it took awhile.”

Vincent sighed, looked directly at Colling, and said,“I’ve heard of your reputation, Corporal. Some of the officers and NCO’s have told me that you were known as a finagler with a knack for currying favor.”

Colling started to speak, but the major stopped him.

I want to warn you, Corporal, that I am not as tolerant as others might have been.”

Yessir,” said Colling.

If I hear of you doing anything that is the least bit outside the rules, you will have to answer to me.”
“Yessir. Understood, sir.”


Vincent did not speak for a few moments, and Colling expected to be dismissed, but the major continued, “And one other thing…I received a call the day before yesterday from a Major General Reed at USAREUR headquarters in Heidelberg, recommending that you be promoted to Tech-4. Said it was for your ‘inestimable’ assistance.”

Colling was stunned, and could only say, “Sir?”

Yes. The phone call was followed up by teletype yesterday. Yesterday was the Fourth of July, Corporal. I have never seen headquarters confirm a personnel action on a holiday.”

Yessir,” replied Colling, unable to think of anything else to say.

Much as I may have reservations, Corporal,” said Vincent, “I am not inclined to ignore the personal recommendation of a general officer. Sergeant Ferguson has the signed promotion orders on his desk. You are dismissed.”

Ferguson had a wide grin on his face when Colling came out of Major Vincent’s office.

Well, kid, you made sergeant in a little over a year. Congratulations,” he said, handing Colling a mimeographed page that proclaimed him to have been advanced from technician fifth grade to technician fourth grade.

Yeah, thanks, Sarge,” said Colling, still unable to fully comprehend it all.

Let’s go over to the NCO Club and have a beer,” suggested Ferguson.

I didn’t know we had an NCO Club.”

Yep, and I can get us in even this early in the morning,” said Ferguson, and then shouted at the clerks in the next office that he was going to inspect the enlisted men’s quarters and would not be back for a couple of hours.

The Grabensheim Kaserne NCO Club was in the cellar under the PX. It was decorated like a Bavarian gasthof, complete with a row of the cut-off ends of three large beer barrels set in one wall. A German was washing glassware in the kitchen behind the bar. When he heard the door open, he came out to see who it was. He greeted Ferguson in accented English, and the sergeant introduced him to Colling as “Fritz.” Colling responded in German, and the man seemed delighted. At Ferguson’s request, he brought them two draft beers at the booth that the sergeant selected towards the back of the room.

As they sat sipping the beer, Ferguson brought Colling up to date on events at the kaserne. Major Harris, of course, had returned home to North Carolina. The Countess and her Wehrmacht colonel husband were apparently reconciled, or at least there was no sign of an impending split. Many of the battalion’s men had received either discharge or reassignment orders, and Ferguson guessed that Colling would not know most of the men that were now stationed at the kaserne. Ferguson ticked off the names of the soldiers who were still with the battalion, and Colling figured out that only “Snuffy” Smith, who was now a three-stripe sergeant, and Sergeant Dorfmann, who had worked with Zinsmann on the reconstruction of the barracks, were men he had known very well before he went on furlough. Dorfmann had re-enlisted and opted to remain in Germany because he had a German fräulein, and Ferguson suspected that he would marry the girl if and when the fraternization rule was rescinded.

Most of the surplus cigarettes were gone, sold by Ferguson on the German market for American Military marks, which the master sergeant had then converted into dollars and wired to his wife in Panama. Ferguson had set aside fifty cartons for Colling and stored them in a foot locker in Colling’s new quarters. The sergeant had moved Colling’s two wall lockers to another room behind the dispensary to make room for a staff sergeant named Purcell, a transfer from a tank outfit whom Vincent had appointed as non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of the Grabensheim medical detachment. Ferguson did not have a great deal of respect for Purcell, and vowed he would not let the man touch him if he became ill or were injured. There were two new PFC medics who seemed to be doing a decent job, despite Staff Sergeant Purcell’s inept supervision. Colling asked to what job he would be assigned, now that he had returned, and Ferguson told him that he did not know, but that Vincent had indicated that he would personally decide Colling’s assignment within the battalion. Ferguson advised him that he would have to report later in the day, as soon as he was settled into his quarters, and get his instructions from the Major.

With Harrington gone, a new commander had taken over at Regiment, Colonel Alphonse R. Brazenholm. Ferguson thought he was a pretty good officer; not as good as Colonel Harrington, in Ferguson’s opinion, but Brazenholm was a combat veteran, tough but fair. Vincent was another matter. He was a federalized State Guard officer who had been called up after Pearl Harbor. Ferguson was unsure, but had heard that the man had been an assistant manager in a department store in Ohio in civilian life. He had come in as a captain, and had been assigned as a corps staff officer from the beginning, in G-1, personnel. Ferguson estimated that Vincent had not been within twenty miles of the front lines in his career. The Major loved personnel files, and was in his element with the flow of men through the battalion, which had not abated since Colling was serving as battalion clerk. Vincent had decided to remain on active duty and make the Army a career, but Ferguson believed that the reduction-in-force that was continuing would result in the Major being transferred to reserve status.

As a matter of fact, Ferguson went on, the entire 40th Regiment was under-strength, and rumor had it that the 61st Division itself was to be de-activated; either by the end of the year, or Spring of 1947. If the Division were wrapped up, the 40th would probably be deactivated as well. The regiment had been brought out of mothballs on the eve of war in 1939, for the first time since the Civil War, and did not have a history or prestige that Ferguson thought would motivate the Pentagon to keep it on the active list. Major Vincent would be out in the cold when his command ceased to exist.

Colling wondered where he would be reassigned if the 40th were disbanded, and Ferguson told him not to worry about it. At best, he might be sent back to the States and maybe given an early discharge. Colling was uncertain as to whether he would welcome that, but he did admit to himself that a transfer Stateside would permit him to locate Elizabeth; and if he returned to civilian life, he could resume his education.

Ferguson swallowed the last of his beer and said, “We better be getting back to work. You got to get your stuff unpacked and find out where Vincent wants you to work, and I got to make my presence known elsewhere, otherwise the Major might tell my next CO that I was a gold-bricker. By the way, I got a stack of mail for you.”

As they stood up to leave, Ferguson commented, “We all got a pay raise on July One. T-5’s went from $66.00 a month to $90.00. We lost our $25.00 overseas pay, though, so that would have been a dollar less a month at your old grade. But since you go to T-4, I think that puts you at $100 per.”

Colling reflected that he had not drawn any pay since the end of March, and his pay account would have accumulated for three months. He wondered if Ferguson had noticed that while he had supposedly been in Paris on TDY, he had had no apparent need for money.

He easily found the room into which Ferguson told him he had moved his lockers. The padlocks on each of the wall lockers were in place. One was still filled with the surplus uniforms he had been selling, and while there was a jumble of some items in its bottom because it had been moved, everything appeared to be intact. His other locker was also in disorder, but he found nothing missing. The remainder of his cash, nearly two thousand dollars, was safe behind the false panel in the upper shelf. He added the money Quarles had given him to it.

Colling had straightened out both lockers before he noticed the extra footlocker in the room in addition to the one at the foot of his cot. It was not locked, and when Colling lifted its lid, he saw that it was filled with cartons of cigarettes. He closed the lid and reminded himself to buy another padlock.

The PX was closed when he tried the front door, so he used the back entrance. There was a PFC whom he did not recognize marking merchandise and shelving it.

Sorry, Corporal, we’re closed,” said the PFC.

I used to work here, Private,” responded Colling. “What’s your name?”

Bolton.”

Good, Bolton. I just got promoted to T-4, and I need some stripes.”

You must be Colling,” replied Bolton.

You got that right.”

We hear a lot about you from some of the old guys. They call you ‘Dog Robber.’”

Yeah, I guess some do. You got a lot of new merchandise in here now. Where are the stripes?”

Bolton showed him a box of technician-fourth-grade insignia, and Colling counted out several sets of the three chevrons surmounting a “T” that denoted his new rank.

As he paid him, the PFC said, “Sarge, if you don’t want to try and sew them on yourself, there’s a Kraut lady that will do it for a couple of marks each.”

Thanks, Bolton. I’ll bring over my shirts and jackets to have it done. I think I’ll have to be the one to sew a set on what I’m wearing, though.”

Colling returned to his quarters and set about attaching the new stripes to his jacket and one shirt. When he was done, he went to the latrine and checked their appearance in the mirror. Satisfied, he returned to the orderly room. Ferguson was not there, and Colling asked the corporal on duty if he could see Major Vincent.

The major seemed surprised and slightly irritated that Colling had managed to sew on his new rank insignia so quickly.

Technician Fourth Grade Colling reporting, sir,” said Colling, saluting.

At ease, Sergeant,” replied Vincent. “What brings you here again?”

Sergeant Ferguson said you were going to give me my assignment, sir.”

Ah, yes, correct.” Major Vincent picked up Colling’s personnel file again and opened it. After perusing it for a moment or two, he asked, “I see that you were assigned as a medic, even though you had no training as such.”

Correct, sir. They were short of medics, and I had some experience, so Dr. Lewisohn okay’ed me as a medic.”

I see that. Captain Lewisohn has a very glowing letter in here about you. Says you are one of the best medical corpsmen he has seen.”

I was unaware of that, sir.”

I also see you served as battalion clerk, and were essentially in charge of the PX. And you did some work as a translator for AMGOT at Camp 146.”

Yessir.”

You were a busy boy indeed, Collings.”

Colling felt his face turning red at the major’s use of the word “boy,” and his persistent mispronunciation of his name, but gritted his teeth and replied, “Yessir.”

Vincent continued, “Well, Collings, I think your talents as a medic are the most useful attribute that you have at present. Both medics assigned to Camp 146 have transfer orders effective on Monday, reassigned to a general hospital they’ve established in Munich. I understand there are two doctors among the camp’s inmates who are providing medical care, but the commander, Major Brumerson, insists that we provide Army medics to support his staff and our men from A Company. I think this will be an excellent assignment for you.”

Yessir. Do you want me to move to the camp right away, sir?”

Yes, of course. Have one of the clerks get someone from the motor pool to drive you.”

Colling repacked his B-4 bag and, on his way to the motor pool, delivered an armful of clothing to Bolton in the PX, in order to have his new rank insignia sewn on. Snuffy Smith, now wearing the three chevrons of a sergeant, had volunteered to drive him to Camp 146 when he learned who his passenger would be, and Colling was glad to see the Kentuckian.

When they pulled through the kaserne gate and were on the road to the camp, Smith asked Colling if he had heard about the Major’s Fourth of July parade. Colling admitted that Ferguson had not mentioned it, Smith laughed and began describing how Vincent had decided that the garrison would put on a display of American military pageantry for the local German population. It had taken a week to prepare for the event.

The Major had had the square in front of the train station rigged with loudspeakers, to provide marching music. A reviewing stand was constructed in the square. Eighty men from each of the three companies housed in the kaserne were selected. Vincent ordered all their helmet liners to be repainted a uniform glossy olive drab, and he had produced from somewhere, decals of the 61st Division patch to be affixed to the sides of each liner. Daily close order drill was held by way of rehearsal. At mid-morning on the Fourth, the column of men in their best uniforms and the shiny new helmet liners, rifles on their shoulders, were marched out of the main gate of the kaserne and down the street to the square. Stars and Stripes Forever blared from the loudspeakers, followed up by the Caisson Song. The troops were drawn up in ranks on three sides of the square, and Major Vincent, with the Bürgermeister, members of the town council and their spouses sitting on the grandstand behind him, made a speech about the deep sense of patriotism that he was experiencing on the holiday.

Colling asked if many of the German townspeople had attended.

Hell, yes. Krauts love a parade,” answered Smith. “Some of the kids even marched beside the guys when they went back to the kaserne. But most all of the GIs thought it was really dumb.”

Colling thought to himself that dumb was probably an applicable adjective when it came to Vincent’s way of running the battalion.

Major Brumerson remembered him when he reported to him. Colling explained that he had been assigned to the camp guard company as a medic, and Brumerson asked one of his clerks to take Colling to the dispensary. Before Colling left, the major asked if he would be available as an interpreter, if the need arose, and Colling agreed that he would do so.

The Camp 146 dispensary was in a wooden barracks within the guards’ section of the camp, separated from the main compound by a barbed-wire fence. The medical facility shared the building with the headquarters for Company A, and the corporal Brumerson had assigned to conduct Colling to the dispensary first took him to the company’s orderly room. The corporal left quickly, leaving him standing in front of the desk of Company A’s senior non-commissioned officer. Colling came to attention and stated his name.

First Sergeant Calvin Prinzman’s stern expression did not change as he looked Colling over, glancing at the new stripes on his sleeves. “Well, Colling. If it ain’t the Dog Robber,” he said, his face breaking into a broad grin. “Sergeant Ferguson just now phoned to tell me you were on your way here. He says you’re a pretty good medic, among other things.”

Thanks, Sarge. I hope I can live up to my reputation,” said Colling, maintaining a serious expression on his face.

Prinzman laughed out loud, then said, “I’ll be damned, if Ferguson wasn’t right. You are a cool customer. Come on, I’ll introduce you to the Company CO, Lieutenant Wallerman, then show you your quarters.”

First Lieutenant Wallerman was not much older than Colling. He greeted Colling with an outstretched hand after Colling had completed the formality of saluting him and announcing that he was reporting. The young officer commented that he was acting company commander until someone more senior could be assigned. He told Colling he was pleased to have him on board as a medic and wished him well, leaving Sergeant Prinzman to conduct Colling to his billet.

Company A’s four-man complement of medics was billeted in two small rooms adjoining the dispensary itself. Each room held two cots, two footlockers on stands, and two wall lockers. First Sergeant Prinzman told Colling that he had his choice of where he wanted to sleep, since he would be, for the foreseeable future, the only Army medic assigned to the post. On their way to the medic quarters, they had passed through the examining room, and Colling had seen two men in white coats and two women in nurses’ uniforms tending to patients. There were no American soldiers present, and Colling assumed that the day’s sick call for the guards must have been completed. He asked Prinzman about it.

Yeah,” said the sergeant, “Right now we been having to take all our sick call to the Regimental Aid Station at Kummersfeld. We got an ambulance, and I have one of our guys drive whoever goes on sick call over there. Now that you’re here, only the serious cases will have to go to Regiment.”

How many report every morning?” asked Colling.

Anywheres from none to three or four most days. There was three this morning, and they went to Kummersfeld,” said Prinzman, then continued, “You’ll complete the Daily Sick Report and give it to me. I’ll send it up to Ferguson at Battalion, then it goes to Regiment. Sick call is at 07:00, right after breakfast, which is at 06:00. We have our own mess hall, separate from the DPs.”

Can I help out these people with the DP’s?”

Sure, if you want. But only after you get done with our personnel. They take priority. And if you got to drive anyone to Regiment, that comes first.”

Right, Sarge. If it’s okay with you, I’ll put my stuff away and then familiarize myself with what I’ll have to do.”

Fine, but first let me introduce you to our doctors,” said Prinzman, leading Colling over to the two men and two women wearing white.

Both of the men stopped what they were doing and stepped forward.

Gesturing to the thinner of the two, Prinzman said, “This here is Dr. Parn. His real name is too hard to say, so we just call him ‘Dr. Parn.’ This here is Sergeant Colling.”

Colling took the hand that the doctor offered and said in Polish, “It is my honor to meet you, Doktor…?”

The physician smiled broadly and said, “My honor as well, Sergeant. My name is Parnieskaya, Antonin Parnieskaya. My colleague is Dr. Avram Cheska.”

Colling shook the second doctor’s hand. Parnieskaya began to ask him how he had come to speak Polish when Prinzman interrupted, “I see you speaka da lingo, Colling.”

Right, Sarge.”

Well, you should get along fine. I’ll be calling on you the next time I can’t get one of the Polacks to figure out what I’m trying to tell ‘em. Anyway, it’s all yours. Good luck,” said the sergeant.

The doctors called over the nurses to be introduced to Colling. Both women were young and pretty, although Maria, a red-head, had bad teeth. Barbara, blonde and a few pounds heavier than Maria, smiled mischievously at Colling, and he wondered with how many of the camp’s American staff she was on familiar terms.

Colling offered to assist with the patients, who had been left where they were by the interruption he had caused, and Dr. Parnieskaya led him to his patient and began explaining his symptoms and condition. Colling had to ask for an explanation of some of the Polish medical terms that were used, because he had not heard them before. Dr. Cheska did the same thing with the woman he was tending to, and as Colling stood by his side, Barbara brushed against him as she handed the doctor a tray of instruments. Cheska noticed the contact out of the corner of his eye and glared at the young nurse, who appeared to ignore him as she smiled at Colling.

These were the last patients of the day, and when they had departed, Parnieskaya, Cheska and Colling seated themselves around one of the examining tables while the women went about cleaning the room. Parnieskaya produced three bottles of German beer from the back of the dispensary’s refrigerator, and as they sat drinking, he asked Colling about his background and what life was like in the United States. Colling answered, then reciprocated with questions of his own, and found that Parnieskaya had been a surgeon in Warsaw, while Cheska had practiced general medicine in a small town near the Czech border. Both men had been forced by the German occupation to work in general hospitals in the southwest of Poland. As the Soviet advance approached, they had been ordered first to a hospital in Czechoslovakia, then Austria, and finally into Bavaria. They counted themselves fortunate that they had been able to turn themselves over to the Americans.

Maria and Barbara had only limited formal training as nurses, having learned what they knew tending to the sick and wounded brought to the various hospitals to which they had been assigned by the Germans. They had been working with Parnieskaya and Cheska since their paths had crossed in Czechoslovakia. The doctors were impressed that the two women performed their nursing duties well, and had continued to instruct them in caring for the sick and injured.

As the sun began to set, an American sergeant appeared at the door and announced, “Okay, folks. Back to the barracks. It’s curfew time.”

As the nurses walked down the steps past the soldier, he winked at Barbara and said, “Hubba hubba, Baby.”

Colling remembered that he had neglected to unpack his bags when he had told Sergeant Prinzman he would, and now that he was alone in the dispensary, he undertook to do so. He was sorting out the last of the things he had brought with him from Grabensheim when he heard footsteps in the examining room. He encountered a tired-looking PFC hanging up a clipboard on a hook near the door. When the soldier saw him, he said, “Hi, Sarge. Just bringing back the vehicle log on the ambulance. All the guys who went up this morning all came back with me.”

Okay. I’m Colling. I’m the new medic.”
“Glad to see you here, Sarge. I ain’t got no medic training, and it makes me nervous to have to drive casualties around. My name is Trueman. And I know what you’re gonna say. But my name is spelt with an ‘e’ in it, and my first name ain’t ‘Harry.’”


Right. What is your first name?”

Arthur…Art for short.”

You’ll be driving tomorrow?”

I’d have to check with Sergeant Prinzman, but now that you’re here, I think it’s your job.”

Okay. Thanks, Art.”

My pleasure. Say, if you haven’t eaten, there’s late chow over at the mess hall. It’s only sandwiches, but it’s something to eat,” offered Trueman.

There were trays piled with sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper on the mess hall’s serving counter. Trueman explained that the guard shift changes meant that food was made available around the clock. As they sat eating their sandwiches and drinking coffee, Trueman gossiped about the idiosyncrasies of Company A’s various officers and NCOs. When Colling asked him, he also explained the more important of the standard operating procedures for Camp 146, and the relationship that the men of the guard company had with the AMGOT staff. He was free with information about the DPs, and when Colling asked about Barbara, Trueman told Colling how lucky he was to be working with her in the dispensary, but did not elaborate, except to warn him to look out for Dr. Cheska if he decided to “make a play” for the girl. By the time Colling returned to his quarters, he felt he knew almost everything he would have to know about his new assignment.

The final days of summer passed one by one. Early morning of each day was taken up seeing soldiers from the guard company, most of whom Colling was able to treat on his own. There were the usual upset stomachs, diarrhea, sore throats, rashes, venereal diseases and headaches. Occasionally there was a more complicated case requiring him to telephone Dr. Lewisohn for advice. A few times he had to put someone in the ambulance and drive to Kummersfeld to have a bone set, or to have a more serious infection looked after. When not caring for his fellow soldiers, he assisted the two Polish physicians. He asked questions and believed that he was learning more each day about the treatment of different diseases and injuries. He remained the only Army medic at the camp.

At the first opportunity, he had used the ambulance to gather the belongings that he had left behind at the Grabensheim kaserne. There was less occasion at Camp 146 to deal in tailored uniform shirts and the like, but he was able to sell some items to the men of Company A and the AMGOT contingent. A bus provided transportation to the PX and movies in Kummersfeld on weekends. Colling made new friends with the men with whom he was stationed, and seldom ran into anyone else from the Battalion who had been there when he first arrived. The Nuremberg trial of the Nazi hierarchy continued to hold top place in Stars and Stripes, Life and Newsweek, as well as the newsreels that preceded every movie. Colling found that, even though none of his German acquaintances wanted to discuss the proceedings, and few of his fellow soldiers found the subject more interesting than the most recent major league baseball team standings, almost all the DP’s at Camp 146 followed each day’s developments closely, and consistently voiced their opinions about the defendants’ guilt and the most suitable forms of execution that should be utilized.

Colling wrote several letters to Elizabeth, but received none in response. As the weeks passed and he heard nothing, he became more angry and resentful towards her. He concluded that she had used him in her scheme to bring out the three Poles, and that everything they had shared together had simply been of no importance to her. He decided not to continue to write, and tried to get her out of his mind. Barbara continued to flirt with him, telling him to call her by the familiar form of her name, Basia. He was tempted to invite her to his quarters after hours, but did not do so out of consideration for Dr. Cheska, who was obviously smitten with the girl.

He managed to find time to stop by and see Frau Bergheim, and found that both her sons were at the farm, having been released from custody only a week previous to his visit. She thanked him repeatedly for using his influence to obtain clemency for the boys, and even though he continued to deny that he had had anything to do with it, she was convinced that it was he who had arranged it. When he returned from the farm, Colling mentioned the boys’ release to Major Brumerson, who told him that AMGOT had ordered a general review of all convictions of German civilians for violations of occupation regulations that had occurred in the immediate aftermath of the war. Brumerson conjectured that the boys’ cases had carried a high priority for clemency because of their ages. Colling decided it was useless to argue with Frau Bergheim about her perception that he had influence that he did not actually possess. He did tell a young second lieutenant who was rumored to have a German girlfriend that he might want to discuss renting the garret room from Frau Bergheim, and was confident that she would continue to have access to American cigarettes, coffee and sugar.

On a Sunday in the middle of September, the troops at Camp 146 were informed without any prior warning that new currency restrictions would go into effect on Monday. At that time, U.S. dollars would no longer be authorized for use by American forces in Germany. Instead, all transactions on military bases would be conducted in what were called “Military Payment Certificates.” The government had decided it had had enough of profiteering by American servicemen, using the favorable exchange rate for American Military marks as the basis for a widespread black market. Army personnel would no longer receive their pay in American currency, but in the new certificates. Possession of U.S. cash, even coinage greater than a penny, was prohibited, and everyone was instructed to turn in their dollars for an equal amount of Military Payment Certificates, which could be used only on United States military installations. Military marks would no longer be convertible into dollars.

Colling had traded in cigarettes, either bartering them directly with Germans, or swapping them with the mess sergeants for coffee and sugar to use as gifts for Frau Bergheim and others. He had not engaged in the black market, although he had profited from selling uniforms and charging interest on small loans to his fellow soldiers. Nevertheless, the new currency rules and exchange restrictions meant that his business dealings would be severely limited. He decided he would not exchange the fairly large amount of cash he was currently holding, although he did stand in line with the other men of Company A and hand over $27.60 to a Finance Corps officer and, in return, received a handful of crisp new gray and black certificates of equal face value.

Colling had not visited the Grabensheim kaserne since shortly after his reassignment to Camp 146 in July, when, in the course of transporting a patient to the Regimental Aid Station, Dr. Lewisohn asked him to go out of his way to deliver several cartons of medical supplies to the First Battalion dispensary on his way back to the DP Camp. He had just come out of the dispensary after unloading the boxes from the ambulance when Snuffy Smith walked up to greet him.

How’s everthin’ goin’, Jim?”

Hey, Snuffy. I’m fine. How about you? I’d have thought you would have gone home by now.”

I did. I done re-enlisted. Got thirty days furlough in the States, then came back.”

You got a home in the Army.”

That’s what they say. I also got me a little fraw-line,” said Smith with a smile.

Well that’s great, Snuffy,” said Colling.

Say, Jim, that was too bad about that little gal of you’rn.”

What little gal?” asked Colling, frowning.

Why that little Red Cross gal. Didn’t you know? She was killed in a jeep accident last week.”

Colling was unable to speak. Elizabeth was in the States. Snuffy must be mistaken. He had to be. Finally, he said, “That can’t be, Snuff. She’s been in the States for almost three months.”

Her name was Elizabeth Hamilton, weren’t it?” asked Smith.

Yeah, sure. But it can’t be the same girl.”

Well, it was in the Blue Circle News, by golly.”

The Blue Circle News was the 61st Division weekly newspaper. Published in Landsgau, the Division’s headquarters, it circulated throughout the division’s area of responsibility, but seldom reached outlying locations such as Camp 146. In fact, only a few copies had ever reached Grabensheim when Colling was there.

Smith continued, “Come on, I’ll show you.” He pulled Colling towards the battalion orderly room. A much-read copy of the newspaper was among the reading material stacked on a low table, and Smith picked it up and pointed Colling to the bottom of the front page.

POPULAR RED CROSS GIRL KILLED

IN ROAD ACCIDENT

Elizabeth Hamilton, a Red Cross girl who had been with the Division since last June, was killed yesterday when the jeep she was driving skidded on a wet road near Diegenger. A Polish officer who was riding with her was also killed.

Miss Hamilton was from Philadelphia, and her remains will be returned there for burial. Miss Hamilton was well- known to the men of the 40th Infantry, where she served until recently as hostess at many parties and celebrations.

She will be remembered as the pretty blonde who helped serve doughnuts from the Red Cross wagon at most Division sports events. Full honors were rendered for Miss Hamilton at Division HQ at Copeland Kaserne. 61st Division commander, Maj. Gen. B.R. Smith, and Division staff, including Brig.Gen. Tansley and Cols. Kerrick and McCarthy, were in attendance.

A contingent attended representing the Hungarian Riding Academy, where Miss Hamilton had made many friends among the Hungarian equestrians. The staff of the News extends its sincere condolences.

Colling became aware of a distant sound that turned out to be the voice of a heavy-set master sergeant asking he and Smith what they wanted in the sergeant’s orderly room. While Smith was explaining that he just wanted to show Colling the Blue Circle News, Colling could only stand speechless, staring down at the newspaper, which had become a blur.

The next thing he was aware of was Smith shaking him by the arm, and Colling looked up to see that the master sergeant’s red, flushed face was inches from his own, and he heard his name being shouted at him.

Dammit, Colling! Can’t you answer when I speak to you?”

Colling could only stutter out, “Sorry, Sarge.”

Still shaking Colling’s arm, Smith interjected, “Jim, this is Sergeant Brookline. He’s the new Battalion NCO-I-C.”

Colling repeated his apology, trying to regain his composure, “Sorry, Sarge. I just got some bad news.”

Yeah, Sarge, girl he knew got killed,” said Smith. “He just now found out about it.”

Well, Sergeant,” said Brookline to Colling in a slightly calmer tone, “That’s too bad, but I expect an answer when I ask a question. Neither one of you got any business being in my orderly room, so clear out.”

Right, Sarge, we’re goin’” said Smith, leading Colling towards the door.

Smith asked him if he would be all right as Colling slid behind the wheel of the ambulance. Colling told him he would, that he just needed a few minutes to himself. He did not notice Smith walk away. There was a lump in his throat and he fought back the tears welling in his eyes. He could picture Elizabeth’s face, and everything she had ever said to him and everything they had ever done together seemed to flood through his mind. He could only think that she was gone and that there would never, ever be a time when he would see her again. He rested his forehead on the steering wheel, and his chest ached with the realization that he would never see her again.

He did not know how long he had been sitting there when he raised his head and saw that he was being watched by two soldiers whom he did not know. They were privates in fatigues who were obviously on some sort of work detail, and were uncertain what to do about this sergeant who was sitting with his head on the steering wheel of an ambulance parked in the kaserne quadrangle. To solve their dilemma, he started the engine and drove out of the square, back to Camp 146.

The following days were very difficult for Colling. He tried to concentrate on his work in the dispensary, but found himself constantly distracted by thoughts of Elizabeth. He finally spoke to Dr. Parnieskaya about it, telling him only that she had been an American girl that he had cared very much for. He did not use the word “love” to describe his relationship with her. Parnieskaya told him that he had lost his wife and three children in the war, and suggested that time would heal his sorrow, even though it would never disappear. Afterwards, Colling was uncertain whether the discussion improved his state of mind or not. Colling also spoke to Dr. Cheska, who told him that visiting a loved one’s place of burial was considered by some as a way in which to salve the heart. When Colling pointed out that her grave would be in Pennsylvania, the doctor advised that perhaps a visit to the place where the accident had occurred might be a substitute.

While Diegenger was in the 61st Division area, it was outside that of the 40th Infantry. The town and surrounding countryside was within the region controlled by the 67th Infantry Regiment, nearly a hundred kilometers east of Camp 146. In order to get there, Colling would need a vehicle, and the ambulance mileage was closely monitored.

Major Brumerson had not heard of Elizabeth’s death, and was visibly shaken when Colling told him. When Colling explained what he had in mind, Brumerson readily agreed to his request to borrow a jeep. Colling telephoned Dr. Lewisohn and told him he wanted to have the following Tuesday off, after sick call was concluded, and assuming that there was no one to transport to Kummersfeld. Colling did not tell him the reason for his request, but the doctor consented and told him he would send a pass to him.

With the signed authorization in the breast pocket of his new Eisenhower jacket, Colling drove towards Diegenger. The newspaper article had not said exactly where the accident took place, but when Colling arrived in the little village, he made a stop at a gasthof in the center of town. He asked the waitress who brought him a glass of beer and a brötchen about the Red Cross girl and Polish officer who were killed nearby, and the girl directed him to a place a few kilometers outside the town.

He easily found where the crash had occurred. The waitress had accurately described a curve in the road and a large oak tree that would be marked by prominent gashes in its trunk. As he sat surveying the scene of the accident, Colling tried to picture what must have happened, although he had difficulty understanding how a skid could have taken place on the rough macadam surface. In icy conditions, perhaps, but he could not imagine the road becoming sufficiently slippery through water alone.

Colling sat in the parked jeep for some time, staring at the tree. He thought of Elizabeth, but there was only heartache, not the overwhelming grief that he had experienced on first learning of her death. At last he started the jeep and pulled back onto the narrow highway.

As he came fully around the curve, there was a Signal Corps crew working on the telephone lines alongside the road. Colling almost drove by, but on a whim, he hit the brakes and skidded the jeep to a halt, then made a full turn that brought him back beside the signalmen’s truck. As Colling cut off the vehicle’s engine, he recognized the soldier coming towards him. He raised his hand and waved, calling out, “Hey, Sergeant Vitarelli. Long time no see.”

I’ll be damned! If it ain’t the kid from the train. Jim was the name, right?”

Right, Sarge.”

Looking at Colling’s chevrons, Vitarelli said, “Looks like you’ve moved up in the world.”

You, too, Sarge,” said Colling, pointing to the staff sergeant’s stripes that the signalman was wearing.

Yeah. I got to like it here, so I asked to stay on active duty for a couple more years. The rest of the guys from the 485th went home after the first of the year. What are you doing around here?”

I had a friend killed in an accident back there. I came to see where it happened.”

You mean the Red Cross lady and the other guy?” asked Vitarelli.

Yeah. You know about it?”

We was here when it happened.”

No kidding?” said Colling. “Did you see it?”

Not really. We heard it though. We was working on them poles down there,” said Vitarelli, pointing. “We heard a bang and we all got in the truck to go see what happened.”

Colling was listening intently, and Vitarelli continued, “It was the damnedest thing, though. The MPs was there when we got there, and it couldn’t have been but a couple of minutes after we heard the bang.”

You mean that there were MPs there right after the accident?”

Yeah. And the nearest MP post is at least twenty kilometers from here.”

Colling asked, “Did you help the MPs?”

Impossible. They told us to beat it. We offered to help, but they told us to get in our truck and get back to work. The head MP was a master sergeant, so who was we to argue?”

Did you see the bodies?”

Yeah, that was the other strange thing. Both bodies was laid out side-by-side, all straightened out and all. Next thing we know, there’s an ambulance pulling up and they real quick loaded them up. They took off about the same time we did, only in the opposite direction.”

Colling was trying to apply reason to what he was being told, but much of it was not logical. Vitarelli broke in on his thoughts, “Was your friend the guy wearing the British uniform?”

No, the girl.”

Vitarelli raised his eyebrows and said, “Well, I guess you could call that old lady a ‘girl,’ but frankly, for me, it’s a stretch.”

Old lady?” asked Colling.

The old gal that got killed.”

I don’t understand. She wasn’t an old lady…at least not the girl I knew.” said Colling, incredulous.

I saw her laid out before they tossed a blanket over her. She had white hair. She was sixty if she was a day.”

Colling looked closely at Vitarelli and asked, “You sure she just didn’t have blonde hair?”

I’m tellin’ ya, she had white hair, not blonde. Jesus, I know the difference.”

Okay, okay. I believe you,” said Colling. “Listen, thanks a lot. Take care of yourself and if you get over near the DP camp above Grabensheim, drop in and I’ll buy you a beer.”

I doubt I’ll get over that way,” replied Vitarelli, “But if I do, I’ll take you up on that. So long.”

Colling’s mind was racing all the way back to Camp 146. It did not sound as if Elizabeth had died in the crash. He could not be sure, but he felt his heart lift with the possibility that she was still alive. But his enjoyment of the moment was tempered with the thought that Elizabeth was again at the center of some kind of deception. He went over in his mind the number of times that Elizabeth had deceived him. She had not been honest with him about her reasons for their travelling to Poland. She had not told him everything about for whom she seemed to be working. She had lied about her relationship to Karol and the other Poles. It was obvious to him that her return to the States was imaginary, and that she had not responded to his letters in order to keep him unaware that she was in Germany. Colling went back to those first weeks they had together, when she had demonstrated such passion, and wondered whether that had been part of a pre-conceived plan to seduce him into accompanying her to Poland.

Colling was telling himself that the logical thing to do would be to just forget about her when the emotion of his rising anger over-ruled reason, and caused him to resolve to find Elizabeth and confront her. He decided he would start asking questions and see where it would lead him.

Instead of returning to the camp, he continued on towards Grabensheim until he saw the inconspicuous black and white sign with the words Reiten Akademie written over an arrow. He followed its direction and turned from the main road onto a gravel drive flanked by tall trees that took him about a half kilometer to a scattering of buildings surrounding a large fenced equestrian exercise yard. He parked the jeep next to a long stable. As he alighted, he was approached by an athletic-looking man wearing a black turtleneck sweater above spotless white jodhpurs and highly-polished brown riding boots. “Polo player,” came to Colling’s mind.

Can I help you, sir?” asked the horseman in German.

Yes,” responded Colling in the same language, “I understand Miss Hamilton used to ride here.”

Ah, Miss Hamilton…” replied the man, his facial expression changing like a cloud passing. “Yes, she did. But no more, I fear. She had a most unfortunate accident.”

That I have heard. Did you know her well?”

Yes, of course. All of us did. Why do you ask?”

I was a friend,” said Colling. “I learned of her accident only recently, and I wish to lessen the burden on my heart by speaking to those who might have seen her in her final days.”

Yes, I understand. My name is Otto. Otto Breksauer.”

My name is Wilson Smith, Herr Breksauer,” lied Colling.

How may I help you, Sergeant?”

When was the last time you saw Miss Hamilton, Herr Breksauer?”

I did not, Sergeant, but I am told that she was here the day of the accident, Sergeant, of course. She was on her way back to her quarters in Landsgau with Lieutenant Janzieskie.”

Colling thought for a moment, then asked, “She was wearing her riding clothes, then?”

That is what I understand. Why do you ask?”

A supposition on my part, Herr Breksauer, only spoken out loud. Did she ride frequently with Lieutenant Janzieskie?”

Only recently. Was he perhaps a rival of yours for Miss Hamilton’s affections?” asked Breksauer, eyeing Colling cautiously.

No. Nothing of the sort. I have no such feelings for Miss Hamilton. It has been some time even since I had seen her. We had worked together on some social events for the soldiers in Grabensheim and Kummersfeld only.”

Colling asked, “Is there anyone here who might have seen her on the day of the accident?”

Alas, no, Sergeant,” said the horseman, his response too glib for Colling’s taste, “The Hungarians who were here that day have all gone to England, I believe, for a riding exhibition.”

On a whim, Colling continued, “Did she ride often with Major Quarles?”

Breksauer hesitated for a moment, as if considering whether Colling might already know the answer, “Oh, sometimes. But not for some time now. I understood him to be a close friend, and because he would ride only when visiting Miss Hamilton from Karlsruhe, I do not expect to see him again.”

Colling thanked Breksheim, sympathized with him about Elizabeth’s death at so young an age, and left the riding academy with more questions than answers swirling in his head.

Colling found Sergeant Prinzman in the orderly room and reported that he had returned with Major Brumer’s jeep. He then asked, “Sarge, do you know any of the MPs up at Division?”

Yeah. I think so, unless he got rotated home, I know a sergeant who used to be a squad leader under me over in the 345th. He transferred to the MPs a couple of months after the Krauts surrendered. Why do you ask?”

Well, you know I wanted to go up and see where that Red Cross girl I used to date was killed. Anyway, Dr. Cheska told me that if I wanted to get over it so I could sleep better, that I should feel satisfied I know all about the accident. There were a couple of things I didn’t understand after I found where it happened. I figured that the MPs might have a report that would give more info.”

Prinzman smiled wryly, “That gal really got under your skin, didn’t she?”

I guess so, Sarge,” admitted Colling. “It would help if I could go up there and talk to somebody and read the report.”

The sergeant said he would see what he could do, and picked up the telephone. Colling listened as Prinzman asked the operator for the number of the 361st Military Police Battalion headquarters and as the first sergeant talked to a succession of individuals on the other end of the line. Finally, Prinzman warmly greeted someone he called “Mike,” and after exchanging pleasantries, asked if he would be willing to speak to Colling. When Prinzman hung up the phone he said, “It’s all set. Mike’ll be in the headquarters office in Landsgau tomorrow. You can go up and see him right after you clear up sick call. I would guess the Major will let you have the jeep again.”

The 61st Division’s military police battalion headquarters was in a building that had once housed a Landpolizei station, set in the triangle of land where the principal road leading into Landsgau divided to become two of the town’s streets. The two-story stucco building’s walled courtyard was filled with U.S. Army vehicles, and Colling had to squeeze his jeep between two others painted with white military police markings.

Prinzman had told Colling to ask for Staff Sergeant Mike Childers. The German girl who was seated at the reception counter picked up the telephone and told Childers he had a visitor. As they waited for the sergeant to appear, Colling chatted with the girl in German. She was telling him how fortunate she thought herself to be to have employment with the U.S. Army when Childers came out of an inner office and extended his hand to Colling.

After exchanging greetings, Childers took Colling aside and said, “Prinzman said you wanted to look at the accident report on that Red Cross gal.”

Right,” answered Colling.

Well, I pulled it outta the files, and I ain’t sure I can show it to you.”

How come?”

The two guys who signed it haven’t been with the battalion since July. Both of them was shipped home to the States for discharge. The accident happened in the first week of September, according to the report, when they wasn’t here.”

Was one of them a master sergeant?” interrupted Colling.

Childers looked puzzled, “No. Why would you ask that? Everybody knows Sergeant Monahan is the Battalion NCO-I-C, and he don’t write accident reports.”

Can you tell me what ranks they were?”

Yeah. A corporal and a PFC.”

When Colling didn’t say anything, Childers went on, “What also makes me nervous about all this is that the records clerk told me when I mentioned I wanted the report that he was supposed to tell the CO if anyone asked for that particular report. I got a look at it only because I told the clerk that I was trying to track down a vehicle theft and wanted the serial number off the jeep to make sure I had all of ‘em accounted for. As it turns out, somebody red-lined that specific jeep the day before the accident and dropped it off the Table of Equipment for a Quartermaster outfit that’s not part of the Division. When I saw that, I just went and put the report back in the drawer. I would suggest you hightail it back to whatever outfit you’re with, and don’t say nothin’ to nobody.”

Colling thanked Childers and told him he would take his advice. As he walked towards his jeep, he had the feeling that he was being watched, but when he turned around, he did not see anyone who seemed to be paying any attention to him.

He headed out of Landsgau towards the camp, but at the first crossroads, headed for Diegenger instead. He drove through the village and revisited the road where he had encountered Vitarelli, but saw no Signal Corps vehicles. Hoping to both quench his thirst and obtain directions to where the signalmen might be, he stopped at the tavern where he had received directions to the site of Elizabeth’s accident. When Colling asked the same waitress whether she knew the soldiers who had been working on the phone lines, she told him that they were billeted in the telephone exchange at the edge of town.

Colling found the exchange and saw several Signal Corps trucks parked behind the building. He pulled in and parked his jeep beside one of them. A set of steps led up to a door. When Colling opened it, he found himself in what appeared to be a canteen where American soldiers were seated at a half-dozen tables eating. They were being served what appeared to be beef stew by two German girls, and there was considerable laughter and good-natured chiding of the women as they filled the mens’ plates. Colling quickly understood why there would be a preference for a hot meal served by a couple of pretty fräuleine, rather than sandwiches eaten by the side of the road.

One of his companions poked Vitarelli and pointed at Colling, and the staff sergeant left his table and joined him at the door. The signalman was less voluble than the last time they had spoken. Without saying anything, Vitarelli motioned for Colling to follow him outside. Once they were standing on the back steps of the telephone exchange, he said, “I wish you hadn’t of come back.”

What’s the matter?” asked Colling.

The CO called me on the carpet the day after we talked about that accident. He told me that I was not to talk to nobody about it. Said if me or any of my crew was caught wasting their time gossiping with passers-by about the accident, we’d all get busted. Made me promise not to bring it up again. I could get in trouble just tellin’ you this.”

I understand. I’ll get the hell out of here,” promised Colling. “Just one thing…Are you sure the woman was wearing a Red Cross uniform?”

Hell, yes. Dark blue, complete with shoulder patches and everything. Now I got to go.”

Colling watched as the door closed behind the signalman, then returned to his jeep. He hoped Vitarelli would not find himself in difficulty with his superiors on account of the visit.

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