Correia stared out the window, rifle in the crook between his leg and the passenger door. He nodded to a village up ahead. “CNT militia moved into that village a few days ago, that’s where we were headed.”
“Anarchists, worse than the Communists,”
“How are they supposed to be organized…?” Wolfe murmured in English.
“Never mind,” he said, slowing down as they got closer to the village. Adam squinted, seeing a group of men clearly holding rifles. They milled around the road. One of them stopped in the middle. Wolfe kept driving, thinking he would get out fo the way, until a shot rang out, followed by another, and then another that passed through the windshield. Wolfe growled, “Jesus Christ,” hitting the brakes. The car ground to a halt. Correia opened his door and rolled out, crouching on the ground. Wolfe leapt out, gulping for air. He held his hands up. “Comrade,” he called out, wondering if he could lie. “Comrade, stop!” The shooter lowered his rifle and the pack got closer.
Adam mentally rehearsed his yarn. “I’m in the third company of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Lincoln Battalion,” he called out in Spanish.
“This town is held by CNT militia,” one of the figures called out. It was a woman’s voice.
“I hate anarchists,” Correia groaned.
Adam bit his lip. “My comrade and I just want to pass through.”
“Where are your orders?”
“Our mission’s secret,” Correia hissed. “It’s not even really a lie.”
Wolfe nodded and said it. “Get up and put your rifle down. I don’t want them to get the wrong idea.”
Correia glared at him. The pack of anarchists came closer. One of them called out, “Stay there comrades, we’re going to check you.”
“Ah, hell,” Correia groaned. He stood up and set his rifle against the car. Wolfe’s battered carbine in the cab still. He glared at Wolfe. “They’ll hang us if this goes wrong.”
Wolfe grimaced. He watched the men get closer. The car lights started to illuminate them. They weren’t any men; it was a trio of women. One of them carried a machine pistol. The others had long Russian made rifles. The one with the machine gun paced around them. Correia’s eyes had knives in them. Wolfe hoped the soldier would maintain his composure.
“You are from the Abraham Lincoln brigade?” the woman asked. Her hair was cropped and she had crow’s feet around her eyes.
“Yes,” Correia said, lowering his arms. He rested a hand on the pommel of his trench knife. Wolfe lowered his hands.
“We do not deal with the Communists.”
“Can we pass through?” Wolfe asked.
“Not until morning,” the woman said.
“Who’s in command here?” Correia asked.
“Of course not,” the soldier uttered.
“Can we come into town and rest for the night?” Wolfe said.
“Yes you can. We will take your car as a toll.”
“Toll for what?” Correia said. “You don’t even have a commanding officer! Let us through.”
The woman raised her submachine gun. “You talk like a fascist. Or a Stalinist. We trust neither here.”
“I’m sorry; we’ve just been on the road for a long time. My friend is very tired,” Wolfe said.
She scanned Correia and then seemed to find Wolfe’s answer acceptable. The two other women got in the car and drove it into town. The leader woman walked with them.
“My pack,” Correia said, giving Wolfe a look.
Wolfe felt cold. They had their rifles, but the contents of their packs would get them killed. “We’ll get it back,” he said. The woman remained quiet. They entered the town and the houses were riddled with bullet holes. The church, a medieval one, was burnt and its stained glass broken through. Wolfe chewed his lip. He knew this woman had done it, and with pleasure. She had done it as an insult to her father, which was how women like that operated.
They walked to a grand house on the main street. Red banners flew from the windows. A record player blared music out onto the street. Wolfe and Correia exchanged looks they entered the house. CNT militia drank and reveled. The woman led them upstairs. Wolfe saw a man and woman defacing old portraits, probably the late owners of the house. One had been of a man in armor and sixteenth century clothing, some kind of aristocrat. A fissure ran down the canvas. Wolfe noticed Correia’s face twitching. The soldier had a hand on his trench knife. Wolfe brushed his arm. The soldier stared at Wolfe, until the rage in his eyes seemed to settle. “The mission,” Wolfe uttered.
“What is your mission?” the woman asked, showing them to a bedroom with cots and bedrolls spread around. A man and woman sat in the king-sized bed, clearly in post-coital glee. “Stay here for the night,” the woman with the machine gun said. “As long as you tell your mission,”
“Secret,” Correia said. “Commissar’s orders,”
“Is that true, yanqui?”
“Yes,” Wolfe said. “I’d be…risking men’s lives.”
Correia glared at her. “My comrade and I need our need our rest.”
She looked Correia over. “Fine,” she said, slinking away. ‘‘
“You should get one of those machine pistols,” Correia said.
Wolfe nodded, grimacing at the lovers. The man picked up a bell and rang it. Wolfe and Correia sat down on cots in the bedroom. A man in black came out of the closet. Adam tried to understand what he was, and then he realized. He shifted on his cot and unconsciously rested a hand on his carbine. He shot a glance at the fornicators. Correia caught him. “I want to get out of here alive, yanqui. Maybe he knows where they took our packs.”
“You’re right,” Adam said, a little scared he’d reached for his gun so quickly.
The priest came over to the bed. “Yes, what can I get you?”
“Be a good comrade and get us a bottle of whiskey from the pantry,” The man said.
The priest nodded and limped out of the bedroom. Wolfe watched him. “Where’s the bathroom?” he asked the man and woman.
“Just go wherever you’d like, we’re burning this place down tomorrow,” the woman said.
Wolfe swallowed and chewed his lip.
The man gave her a chuckle. “Down the hall, comrade,” he said. “But she is right, might be liberating to piss on an aristocrat’s home.”
Wolfe just nodded and noticed Correia gripping the handle of his knife. They held eye contact for a few seconds. “I’ll be right back,” he said to the soldier.
He went down the hall. At the bottom of the staircase, a group of militiamen sat around a pile of burning paintings, bottles in hand.
The priest came back up the stairs with a tray. Adam stopped him. The priest froze. “What do you want?” he said quietly.
Wolfe looked around. “Father, my comrade and I need to get out. Where do they keep their loot?”
“What are you?”
His sharp tone annoyed Wolfe. “Not anarchists,” he uttered.
The priest studied him. “In the basement of this house. Where their commander is.”
“They have a leader?” Wolfe said and then trailed off, shaking his head. They were anarchists, it didn’t have to make sense.
Wolfe came back to the bedroom with the priest and whispered to Correia what the priest told him. They picked up their carbines.
“Why not stay for a drink?” the woman said, drinking straight from the bottle the priest brought. Her breasts were exposed and Wolfe’s face turned red. It bewildered him that these people had no sense of shame. “No thanks,” he said.
Correia glared at the couple.
“Never seen a nude woman?” she taunted. Her companion just laughed. She jumped out of bed and strutted up to Wolfe. It was something he would be—in theory—aroused by, but the reality was far more disturbing than titillating. She walked a circle around him. Adam froze.
Correia pushed her aside. “Enough,” he said. “We’re heading out.”
“Maybe the boy wants a turn,” the man in the bed said.
Adam did not want to look at the woman’s hairy, bony frame much longer. He walked to the door but she followed him. The priest stared at his shoes and then went out of the bedroom. “Where are you two off to?” the woman said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Correia said.
“You talk like a fascist,” she said, smiling at him. “Or maybe you need a lay, too. I’ll have you and the boy at the same time.”
Adam was sick. Her sheer ego triggered something in him; a well of rage erupted out of him. “Put your damn clothes back on, you whore,” he cried out in English. The Spaniards did not understand him, but they stared at him agape. The woman slinked back into the bed. Adam took a breath. He felt like a child for being so angry. He and Correia went back out into the hall. The bonfire of paintings still burned in the entrance hall. The vultures had left.
“They’ll bring the house down,” said as they jogged down the stairs and tried to find the basement. In the dining room, men drank and fired shots in the air. Bullets drilled holes into the walls and ceiling. Empty bottles and cans littered the kitchen.
“They can only destroy,” Wolfe said quietly.
Correia nodded. He indicated a door in the kitchen. “Let’s try this one.”
Wolfe shouldered his carbine.
“No,” Correia said.
Wolfe jumped, realizing his mistake. He craned his neck to see if the men in the dining room noticed, but they were absorbed in their drinking. He carried his weapon slung across his back. They opened the door and went down the stairs. They went into a hall of rooms; Wolfe guessed it was the servants’ quarters, based on the sparse decoration. At the end of the hall was a small dining area. From where they stood they could see a man talking to someone surveying a table full of loot. The man Wolfe thought was the militia leader said, and this yanqui said he was a Nationalist?”
“Yes, now will you let me go?” said the priest. Wolfe froze and then looked to Correia. “The priest…he’s selling us out,” he whispered.
“Damn fascists,” the militia leader said. “They don’t understand that imperialism leads to killing. Religion leads to killing. It all leads back to death; we have to tear the order down and replace it. I’m getting up a search party to find these infiltrators.” They heard chairs shift. Correia and Adam slipped into one of the rooms where a woman slept. “Check her out,” Correia said, standing with his ear to the door, trench spike in hand.
Wolfe groped around, wondering if she was a militia member; after a brief search he did not find a weapon or anything incriminating. He even thought she might have been dead, but she was still alive.
“What do we do with her?” Wolfe said.
Correia glanced back. “Leave her,” he said. “I think they’ve cleared out.” He opened the door. The hall was quiet, except for the sound of people moving around upstairs. Correia and Wolfe went down the hall, kicking in the doors. The servants’ rooms were empty. The dining area was filled with all kinds of loot: paintings, gold, weapons, ammunition, and clothes. “A true man of the people,” Correia said, digging through a pile of rucksacks. He found his and Wolfe came over and did the same. Correia handed Wolfe a German machine pistol and a satchel of magazines. “Better than that carbine of yours,” he said. Wolfe nodded and took the weapon and bag, leaving the carbine. He looked over the table and found a notepad with a map and business card attached to it. Wolfe noticed that three chairs were pulled out from under the table. One for the militia leader, one for the priest, and one more. Wolfe stared at the notepad for a few seconds.
“Come on,” Correia said, watching the hall.
“Wait, I found this map and notepad. Should I take it? It’s intelligence…right?” He took it.
Correia nodded. “Might as well. We’re burning the damn place down.”
“Why don’t we just—” he cut himself off. Men who destroyed as the Anarchists did did not deserve mercy.
“They are heretics anyway,” Correia said, and they went down the hall. They heard a man come down the stairs and ducked into one of the servant rooms.
A militiaman walked past and Correia grabbed him and drove his knife into the anarchists’ neck. The militiaman crumpled to the ground.
Wolfe sat with his MP in hand. His hands trembled as he watched blood pool onto the ground. Correia glanced at him. “Come on,” he said. “Take his bayonet too, you might need it.”
Adam nodded and attached the long sword bayonet to his belt.
“Go first, you have the machine pistol,” the soldier said. Wolfe nodded as they mounted the stairs. “When we get to the top, open the door and shoot.”
They got to the top of the stairs. Wolfe shut his eyes and then opened the door, seeing two men in the kitchen and without thinking, he pulled the trigger on the machine gun and fired a hail at them. The anarchists’ eyes bulged and they staggered back against the counter, pockmarked with bullet holes. Wolfe breathed heavily as Correia went ahead. He swept the kitchen. “They’ll be on us soon,” he said. They heard men tramping around on the upper floor.
A shot rang out from the dining room doorway, whizzing past Correia. The soldier calmly ducked behind the counter. Wolfe raised his weapon, standing in the basement doorway, and pulled the trigger but the submachine gun clicked. He cursed and hid, jamming a fresh magazine in and pulling back the bolt. He fired again, a short burst, but it went wide and drilled holes in the kitchen wall. Correia stood up and returned fire, hitting two anarchists with quick shots. He glanced around. “Back into the basement. We’ll get boxed in up here.”
Wolfe grimaced and nodded, and they jogged down the steps and into the servants’ dining room. They cleared off the long table and set it against the doorway, giving them some kind of barricade. Wolfe looked around at the other weapons and ammunition scattered around and he started to load them.
“Good, but no time. Here they come,” Correia said. He fired a shot and then took cover, cycling his rifle. A mob of anarchists ran down the stairs, firing en masse. Bullets tore through the table, sending splinters everywhere. Wolfe cried out as one struck his leg.
Correia glanced over at him. “It’s just a wood splinter, I need you to stay in the fight yanqui!”
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