The Phoenix Variant: The Fifth Column 3
The moment Denton sat down, he identified the most dangerous man in the room.
‘We’ve reviewed your request for the transfer of Victor,’ the Colonel said.
Denton had noticed poor Victor, the German mineralogist, on his way in. He was a prisoner at the camp, but they seemed to treat him well in exchange for his specialized work.
‘That’s why I’m here,’ Denton said. ‘Victor will be very useful for our team.’
When Denton arrived at the Norwegian boarding school turned Nazi prison camp, he’d been asked to hand over his Polish Viz pistol for the duration of his visit. It put him on edge, and he enjoyed it.
Denton smoothed the lapels of his SS coat. He had to give it to the Nazis, they sure knew how to make a uniform. Turning slightly in the metal chair, he checked the edge of his vision and observed the posture of the guards standing by the door. His threat assessment was complete.
‘I’ve noticed an irregularity in your records, which complicates things,’ the Colonel said, taking a seat at his desk in front of an ornate marble fireplace. The Colonel’s head was shaped like a watermelon. He had a receding hairline and a smirk that irritated Denton.
‘Irregularity?’ Denton asked.
‘You’re an American spy.’
Denton kept his breathing slow. ‘I can see how that might complicate things.’
Standing by the Colonel’s shoulder: Greyleg, the chief prison guard. His eyes gleamed at Denton. Watching.
The true influencer in any group was not always the person with the highest rank.
The Colonel cleared his throat and leaned forward. His stomach pressed his uniform taut.
‘Here is what will happen, Lieutenant Denton, Office of Strategic Services,’ the Colonel said, pushing his chest forward in small increments. ‘I’m short on test subjects for our experiments. You’re going to fill that. A strictly short term arrangement.’
There was that smirk again. Denton ignored it.
Greyleg was circling. He knew why.
‘If it’s all the same with you, I prefer the spy thing,’ Denton said, grasping his armrest. ‘Plus, your uniforms are fantastic. It’s a shame this Hugo Boss fellow doesn’t make suits.’
The Colonel touched the oak leaf on his collar. ‘One of many shames.’
While Denton might’ve looked like his focus was on the Colonel, his attention was riveted to Greyleg.
One look at the man and Denton recognized someone unburdened by humanity’s weaker emotions. He was free to operate at his full potential. And that involved shooting Denton, shooting the guards, and shooting the Colonel. Greyleg would blame it on Denton and receive his promotion.
Denton knew this because that’s what he would do.
Greyleg approached Denton’s nine o’clock, where the guards couldn’t see him draw. The Colonel was busy showing Denton how deep his voice could go, and hadn’t noticed Greyleg’s movements.
Denton stood. Greyleg went for his Luger P08 pistol. Chair in hand, Denton slung it into Greyleg’s midsection. The chair’s leg knocked air from his lungs and dropped him to his knees.
Denton closed on the Colonel.
The smirk was gone, but there was a glint of oxide steel. A Luger, identical to Greyleg’s. The Colonel drew his Luger. He should have drawn the pistol close to his chest, punching out and firing. But like many soldiers Denton had killed this year, the Colonel tried to swing the pistol from his hip. The barrel struck the edge of the desk, slowing his draw.
Denton reached the desk and slid under it. The Colonel brought the pistol across his body, hunting for a target. Denton emerged beside the Colonel, deflected the arm as the trigger squeezed.
The round discharged, clipped Greyleg in the arm. Much to Denton’s amusement.
Greyleg’s firing hand fell limp, his pistol skittering towards the slowly reacting guards. Denton twisted the Luger from the Colonel’s bulging fingers and used the Colonel’s body as a shield against the guards.
The guards advanced, trying to move wide enough for a shot around the Colonel. Denton applied trigger pressure to the base of the Colonel’s skull and they hesitated. The round would not only punch through the Colonel’s brain but, if he was lucky, strike one of the guards.
From the edge of his vision, he saw Greyleg recover.
Denton took aim over the Colonel’s shoulder and killed one guard. The second guard aimed, unsteady finger moving over the trigger. Denton dropped to the floor. Shots punched above him, through the marble fireplace. Denton lay under the desk, watching from an upside-down perspective as the guard’s legs moved closer. He fired a round through each leg, waited for the guard to drop, then continued firing as he collapsed. Through his chest, through his neck, through his nose.
At the same time, the Colonel slumped beside Denton, catching the poorly aimed rounds from the guard.
Greyleg’s boot crushed Denton’s pistol-wielding hand, pinning it to the floor. Denton was about to move in closer but he saw the knife early, just as Greyleg kicked the pistol across the floor. Denton pulled back, flipped the desk onto him. It glanced off Greyleg’s head, but didn’t slow the man down.
Denton appreciated the challenge. Engaging with Greyleg made the adrenalin burn sweeter. He brought his hands up, ready. Let’s see how Greyleg does without a firearm, he thought.
Greyleg leaped over the table in one stride, but then tripped on the Colonel’s body. Denton sidestepped as the man stumbled into the fractured marble shelf. A sharp edge tore Greyleg’s neck as he fell. He shuddered, hands clutched over scarlet.
Greyleg collapsed on top of the Colonel and bled out.
Denton lowered his hands.
‘That was disappointing.’