Murderers. Thieves. Thugs. That was us.
I passed out around nineteen hundred and slept through the night. We didn’t have fire guard, we didn’t bother with CQ or ACQ or even duty driver. We all got drunk, some of us drunk enough to puke in the trash cans before going back to drinking.
I woke without a hangover.
I was angry when I woke. The anger I was used to—I was always angry. Todd fucking with me, the engineer of the Crazy Train fucking with me. Anger was part of my life. It was cold, and I was pissed off.
I stomped over to the CQ desk and dug through the drawers till I found the map for the building. Looking at it, I located the main breaker boxes.
In the furnace room.
Fine, if that’s how it was going to be, then that’s how it would be. I refused to be intimidated by dead Nazi scumbags. I was too old to believe in ghosts or hauntings. That shit was for little kids. I was a goddamn man.
I replaced the batteries in my flashlight and headed down the hallway and to the stairwell.
I paused on the mid-way landing down. The creepy feeling had washed over me, but I pushed it away and decided there was no way I was going to be scared by some fuckheads.
Above me, the door to the stairwell opened. When it closed, the lights in the stairwell went out.
I rolled my shoulders, a habit I’d picked up, and pushed my way through the darkness till I found the stairwell exit. Growling to myself, I pushed out and into the hallway, and found the handle of the door that led into the furnace room.
It took me a minute to unlock it. There were muted impact noises from the stairwell, but I ignored them. There were three windows in that stairwell, and it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility that one of them had air leaking and making it thump.
I opened the door to the furnace room, and the lights turned on in the hallway, flooding the area with hard white light.
Fuck you. I ain’t afraid of you.
I moved into the room, following the sketch I’d made of the map in my little green notebook. How the fuck did we miss it? It was between the water heater and the furnace. The gritty black dirt made crunching noises under my boots, and I could hear the whisper of rats in the darkness.
A thread of dark thought bubbled up to the surface of my mind. If I was to trip, and get knocked out, would they come to eat me?
Followed by: “How the fuck did they survive all these years out here?”
I didn’t want to know.
I found the breaker boxes. Three huge metal boxes, with words in German written on them. I didn’t read German, and I didn’t care. I opened the box and stood there staring.
Fuses. Fucking fuses and each box had a large switch. The kind that you grab the wooden handle and move it up or down.
I used the flashlight to look around and found a box of fuses on top of the middle box. Looking carefully, I checked each fuse through the glass. Often having to rub the glass clean.
I heard murmuring behind me and ignored it. I heard footsteps and ignored them. I heard breathing and blew it off. I was a US Army soldier; I’d be goddamned if I was going to run away just because it was dark and creepy. Of course it was; it was a goddamn basement of a fifty-year-old building, so of course it was creepy.
I had to replace six fuses, and two of the bus-bars needed thrown back. It needed about a dozen more fuses, but I’d gone through the box I’d found.
The fuses had the double lightning bolts of the SS on them. Talk about a fucking ego.
I closed the fuse boxes, reloaded the feeder chute on the furnace. and walked, slowly, back to the exit.
Once again, I heard that weird creak. But since I was holding my balls in my hands, I didn’t break out running. I bounced up and down on my toes, and noticed that there was a slight give to the ground beneath me.
What. The. Fuck?
It suddenly dawned on me, and I jumped away, backing toward the door.
The sub basement. We couldn’t find the access, because I was the only one who’d come down to the furnace room. The building plans still had the old German markings; they were the original Nazi blueprints, that’s the only reason we knew that there was a sub-basement, but the access wasn’t listed.
Nobody would have found it. Who the fuck would have dug in that grainy black dirt, that dirty that felt sticky and unclean, for fucking access?
I headed back out, sighing in relief when I locked the door to that fucking basement. I walked back up the stairs, relishing the cold white light of the lightbulbs, and then headed down the hallway to the CQ area.
When I pushed through the double doors, I saw Stokes come out of the office behind the CQ area. Captain Bishop was behind the desk in the little room, with the cardboard box that the LT had made me drag down to the CO office. SFC Vickers looked up from something he was writing on and waved at me.
“Private Monkey, they fixed the land lines between us and post, we have phone usage. Grab a bite to eat,” he told me. I nodded, went over and got my mess kit from my little nest in the day room. I went into the bathroom and washed out my mess kit, then scooped up some greenish looking eggs with leathery looking ham embedded in the clumps.
Eating while I walked, I went into the day room and sat down in my nest. I ate in silence, happy to fill my gut with lukewarm eggs and Korean War ham. Fucked up thing, the food I’d eaten in juvie was worse than this shit I had shoveled out of one of the two tins from a green container. Finishing up, I went and washed out my mess kit and put it back.
“Private Monkey, Captain Bishop wants you,” Thompson told me, coming out of the CQ area. I nodded and went up to the office door and knocked three times, just like military etiquette demanded.
“Enter.” I walked in and stood at attention in front of the desk. “Have a seat, Private.”
I sat down, curious as to what was going on.
“I’m Captain Bishop, temporary CO until the unit is fully up to speed,” he began, holding a folder. I recognized it as my command PRP records. The PRP records came with carrying as TS-SSBI security clearance.
“I see that you had a choice of joining the military or being tried as an adult,” he started.
“And you have to complete a three-year tour of the military, or if you are chaptered out, you will go to jail.”
“It says here you were transported to Basic Training in handcuffs, and transported from Basic Training to AIT in handcuffs.”
“I expected, when I looked at the rest of your record, that I would find low-level performance at best.” I waited. “I was pleasantly surprised. Graduated top of Basic Training, you were the Distinguished Honor Graduate of your AIT, and were promoted. You’ve also been decorated twice, both of them Army Achievement Medals, for your performance, and there are letters of commendation from your instructors.”
The last part was new to me.
“I don’t know why you are here. I suspect you got screwed by someone who only read the details of your military entry. Well, we’re all in this together, so I expect you to keep up your current standard.”
“Any questions?” he asked me.
“Yes, sir.” He raised an eyebrow, and I continued. “What is this unit, sir? Where is everyone else? Why the hell are we so far away from the rest of the post? Why doesn’t anyone know we are out here?” He held up his hands.
“Department of the Army just reactivated this unit two months ago, Private. We’re a special weapons unit, which means that...”
He lectured me on the new unit, and what it boiled down to, is with a recent round of SALT talks, things were going to change in Western Germany. The places we worked were classified, the contents of the bunkers would be classified; if asked, we’d say were part of the Military Intelligence group. Our phone calls to the States would be limited. Our incoming and outgoing mail would be read and screened by the guys from MI. We were restricted to post unless we received permission to leave post.
He summed it with a saying I would use to define my life.
“Cold War bullshit, Private Monkey. Dismissed.”
I left, and Captain Bishop called in Private Meyer. SFC Vickers waved me over.
“You have CQ tonight. The phones are working, so if anyone comes in after hours, they have our number to call us so we can go get any newbies.” A moan drifted down the hall. “Where the hell were you?”
“I did a recon for the fuse box.”
“Did you find it?”
“Yeah, and I found something else.”
“The access to the sub-basement. I found it when I was walking back from replacing a bunch of the fuses.” SFC Vickers looked startled.
“I’ll need about twenty more fuses to bring everything up to speed,” I told him. He wrote that down in his notebook.
“Sub-basement? It’s on the blueprints, but nobody has found it,” he told me. “Stokes, Tandy, Cobb! Grab your flashlights and come on!” He turned back to me. “Show me. Let’s find out what kind of secrets this building holds.”
We gathered up, and SFC Vickers made sure we got all our cold weather gear. Just in case. Belted up, covered in cold weather gear, with flashlights and extra batteries, we headed back to the furnace room.
“Hey, Stokes,” I whispered.
“Yeah?” We were trailing everyone else.
“Ever read The Shining?” I asked.
“Want a broken jaw?” She asked. I shut up.
We went into the room, and it took me about ten minutes to find the place where the floor cracked beneath my feet. PFC Tandy and Cobb grabbed the coal shovels, and we shoveled the dirt from over that spot.
There was about two inches of dirt over a concrete floor. Over the wooden planks that made up the access hatch to the sub-basement. The concrete was old, blackened by age (I told myself), and smelled funny.
Cobb used the shovel to bust the rusty old lock on the trapdoor, which was about a half-dozen planks. They used the shovels to pry the door up.
And our flashlights dimmed, flickered, and went out. Stokes screamed.
*BANG BANG BANG* came from upstairs.
I unscrewed my flashlight while everyone was cursing, dropped out the batteries, dug batteries out of my pocket, and reloaded my flashlight. The beam came on stark and white, illuminating Cobb’s tightly drawn and pale face.
“Replace your batteries,” I said, forcing my voice to stay steady. I heard everyone murmur and handed Tandy an extra pair of batteries. It took a moment, and everyone got their batteries replaced.
“Open that hatch,” SFC Vickers ordered. I stepped on the shovel, and worked my gloved fingernails under the lip of the hatch, and, putting my legs and back into it, I heaved the hatch open.
Our flashlight beams illuminated a set of wooden stairs going into the darkness, and the weak beams could not pierce the black gloom that surrounded the ladder.
“What the fuck is that smell?” Tandy asked.
It smelled. Bad. It reminded me of an old deer carcass I’d found.
“I don’t know. Private Monkey, lead the way.” I stepped onto the steps and heard them creak and splinter. Nervous, I moved down the stairs, expecting them to give out and sending me crashing to the unseen floor, breaking my legs, and leaving me as food fu guys stay here, I’ll fucking check. This place isn’t fucking haunted, it isn’t fucking full of dead goddamn Nazis, it’s just a creepy old fucking building. “Fuck you guys,” I swore, stomping off into the darkness.
Behind me, someone cocked at .45.