on August 8, 2009, 12:16 pm

The other crews in C company made jokes about Lieutenant Jordan's tank, it was lucky they said, or haunted, depending on who you asked. The boys in Jordan's crew knew better, they didn't talk about it, but they had all had glimpses of the thing that kept them safe. A flash of brilliant blue scales twisting behind the ammo store. A blinking green eye deep in the breach when they cleaned the barrel. Something lived in the battered old Sherman, something that hid in the dark places and came out to play when bullets ricocheted and shells roared. The old man knew what it was and Teddy the loader said he heard him talking to it sometimes. They sure as hell never asked him about it.

Lieutenant William Jordan had commanded C company since Sicily, and before that, had fought in Tunisia. He had been one of the few to come out of that goddamn mess at Kasserine unscathed. Nobody in the regiment, and probably nobody in the whole 3rd army, knew more about tanks and the bloody business of fighting in them. He was a detached man, not blustering like some of the officers in the CCA, but not kindly either. Some of the men said he had a thousand yard stare, like he had seen too much and lost his marbles. Anyone in first platoon would throw down with a man for talking about the Lieutenant like that. He might not be much of a conversationalist, but if the tank wasn't lucky, then he sure as hell was.

Tonight the Lieutenant was sitting on the warm engine cover of his Sherman, reading a dog-eared romance book by the light of a kerosene lamp and occasionally taking a swig from a blackened hip flask. There was a dusting of snow on the ground and the tank tracks left an icy brown furrow into the field where it was sitting.

The boys had been given an evening pass and were in the village. He had finished the report the captain had been harrying him for and, until the other officers got back from regiment, had an hour or two to take his leisure.

He saw the blue flash of movement at his elbow, but chose to ignore it. He didn't feel like playing the creature's games tonight, he was tired and felt a surge of jealous indignation that this brief period of relaxation would be so interrupted. The creature insisted, as he knew it would, as it always did. He didn't hear a voice and barely saw the creature itself, but it always managed convey it's meaning directly to the core of Jordan's consciousness. Something was happening over the eastern horizon, something was coming.

Everything that had happened in the last few months told Jordan that the creature was wrong this time. The Germans had kept up a dogged, tenacious and bloody defence since the Normandy landings, but they had suffered so many reversals and had been constantly pushed back all along the line from the channel coast to Switzerland. They had even bigger problems in the east, the Russians now taking full and horrific revenge for the atrocities of Barbarossa. Surely the last German offensives were behind them. This must be a feint, a local counter-attack to shore up their lines, it couldn't be a major offensive.

Jordan sighed, he hoped the boys had found what they were looking for in the village tonight, because they wouldn't get another chance for R&R for who knows how long. How the hell was he going to explain this to the captain. The company, the division, probably the whole damn third army would have to move quickly for this thing, if what the creature had murmured was right, and Jordan knew it was. It always was.

Mercifully, he was spared the frustration of trying to explain to the captain that he had a "hunch" that a massive armored spearhead was about to punch through the Ardennes forest right between the American and British lines. Captain Forester met him on the road, flying back from regiment with news of the attack already in hand.

"Will ! Get the boys back in formation and fueling those tanks. Looks like the Krauts have got some fight left after all. Report to the company CP when things are moving and I'll tell you the rest."

With that, he slammed his hand into the door of the jeep and careened down the road, tires sending up plumes of muddy ice. Peering after him for a moment, Jordan shook his head, stomped on the gas of his own jeep, speeding off in the opposite direction. He would pick up his boys first, he might need their help persuading some of the other C company men that leave was canceled.

I would like to finish this story some day ...

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