Atomic Winter Chapter One
A line of grim faced commandos in black sweaters and snow caps braced themselves against a pitching trawler. I stood to one side as a light bulb swung about the cabin. I needed another drink but the British Major was briefing his men and I decided it could wait. I had a question to ask.
"Jerry has documents which put all the Allies in great danger,” said the Major, a gleam of sweat on his forehead. “The documents are stashed in a folder. We get the folder then leave. Straight in, straight out. No heroics. The top brass doesn't want any mistakes. The contents in the folder are of the utmost importance to our war effort. We’ll be ferried across the North Sea, dropped off at a village north of Kristiansand, and under assumed Norwegian names will push on to the objective. This is a double mission. After we run ashore, Norwegian resistance and their material will be brought aboard and ferried back to the Shetlands."
As he spoke I watched the light pass over equipment on the table. The Commandos had the best kit. There was an array of machine pistols, side arms, and a Thompson with a drum magazine. I frowned as I looked at the Thompson. Someone had etched last month's date on its barrel: 12-1942.
The Major had finished speaking. I didn't believe any of what he'd said. It just didn't sound right. I thought I knew the real purpose of his mission. As far as I was concerned the Nazis deserved everything thrown at them but the Major's story about papers didn't ring true. There was something else going on.
"Sir, I have a question." I said, scratching stubble. "Will there be something in this mission for me?"
The Major looked at me, there was no love lost between us. I was just a shrimp boat hand drinking my way across the North Atlantic. He pulled at his shirt cuffs.
"Don't you have any work to do Edwards? Doesn‘t your skipper have duties for you topside? A ships bell to polish or a deck to scrub?"
He smiled and his men laughed as they took their weapons from the table.
"This doesn't concern you. Why don't you go and find another bottle?"
I didn't like the way he was looking at me. They'd commandeered the boat and Narvik was in the hands of the Germans, what else was I going to do but drink?
"I just want to know, sir. When this is all done. Where will I stand?"
"Stand, Edwards?” he said. “What do you mean? I'd be surprised if you can stand at all."
He was putting on a show for his men and they obliged him by laughing at my drunkenness.
"I mean, sir, what will I get out of this mission? Or are you planning to leave me to the sharks?”
The Major hesitated before he answered and I knew that whatever he said next could not be taken as truth.
"Of course there's something in it for you. Big rewards if your skipper gets our men ashore safely. Does four hundred thousand American dollars sound good to you? You can buy all the beer you need, if the mission is successful."
I knew he was lying, the top brass would never agree to anything like that.
"You're crazy," I told him.
I pushed myself to my feet as they all looked at me.
" I'm serious," the Major said. "You, my friend, will never have to work a day in your life if you help us succeed in this mission. Not that you look at all capable of a days work."
His men laughed again but I'd had enough. I began to push my way through them but I was more drunk than I'd realized.
"You're a liar. You're all liars. I hate lies." I staggered and rough hands held me up.
"He's lost his sea legs," laughed one of the men who held me.
They were all watching me and I pulled myself free.
"You're all liars!" I shouted, breaking away from the hold on me.
I staggered to the corner of the cabin and stumbled up the ladder and, in a rush of energy, punched open a hatch and pulled myself up onto the deck.