Dangerous Territory

BY : Rhov
Category: +. to F > Attack on Titan /Shingeki No Kyojin
Dragon prints: 2537
Disclaimer: I do not own “Shingeki no Kyojin” and do not make money from this fanfic.

Chapter 11

The Sound of a Single Shot

 

It was early evening, and most of the Jews were back in their cells after a day of slaving away around the Nazi camp. With just one oil lantern, the place was dark enough to close one’s eyes and sleep. Levi got what rest he could, lying on his cot with his eyes shut as his mind drifted.

He thought about a vineyard he had visited in his teens. He supposed that was his happy place. He remembered the sun and the smell, the rows of grapevines, the flowered gardens, and the taste of wine. How long had it been since he had good wine?

He was doing anything he could to take his mind off the lingering pain in his buttocks. Two weeks since the attack in the lavatory, and it still hurt to poop. His back still had some scabs from the whipping, but they only hurt if he had to bend over or in any way stretched his back.

He could handle all the pain and hunger if he remembered that vineyard and how beautiful France had been before the war.

He opened his eyes as he heard the door above creak open, and he scowled. That idiot lieutenant, visiting so often! Eren was going to get into trouble, or even worse, he would get him into trouble.

As much as Levi enjoyed the company and liked knowing he had at least one Nazi on his side, he was pragmatic. They were enemies; friendship was out of the question. That made it hard to convince himself not to feel a leap in his chest every time military boots stomped down the staircase.

He also hated how disappointed he felt when it was not the fresh-faced lieutenant with teal eyes, but another man who had begun to visit them late at night.

The Obergefreiter had introduced himself early on as Marlo Freudenberg, but due to his haircut, the Jews had taken to nicknaming him “Coupe Au Bol,” or Bowl Cut.

Two ladies giggled together as they watched him enter. “Ce coupe au bol est un crime contre les cheveux.” That bowl cut is a crime against hair.

Marlo smiled at seeing the ladies gazing at him, unaware of the meaning behind their words. He walked over to their cell with a wicker basket on his arm.

Guten Abend, meine Damen.” Good evening, my ladies. He gave them what he hoped was a suave bow, and the ladies tittered.

Levi rolled his eyes. Another idiot! At least this one attempted to flirt instead of merely raping the ladies.

Ich bringe Brot.” I brought bread.

This was the only good thing about this idiot soldier. He had started off bringing only the ladies whatever treats he could hide in his pockets. Seeing that they felt bad eating when others had nothing, he tried to bring enough for everyone. For three days now, he had brought a basket of bread after roll call, allowing the Jews to split the food between themselves while he talked to the ladies.

He chatted away. Sometimes, he tossed in a horrible attempt at French, probably something the local baker told him to say, which he half-forgot.

Tes aïeux sont rougissantes.”

The whole dungeon burst into peals of laughter, and even Levi snorted and shook his head. Obviously, he had meant to say tes yeux sont ravissantes, “your eyes are ravishing,” but instead he ended up saying your forefathers are blushing.

Levi heard a noise above him, and his eyes flicked up. Boots? Marlo was talking too loudly, and that laughter had been raucous. He worried if they had drawn unwanted attention.

It was a few more minutes before Marlo stood up, reached through the bars to lift the hand of one of the ladies, and gave it a debonair kiss. The woman turned her face away and fanned herself in fake bashfulness, telling the others, “The Bowl Cut must think I’m a fruit to place in his bowl.”

Vas-y, vas-y,” the other women cheered. Go for it!

Levi really wished they would be more prudent. For all they knew, this German soldier was plotting something. Although, by the blush to his cheeks and the way he ogled the ladies as he packed up his things, the only thing he was plotting was a threesome.

He left with a badly accented Adieu, blew out the lantern, and trotted up the stairs, plunging them all into complete darkness. Levi closed his eyes, more than happy to sleep before their pre-dawn roll call.

An explosion jolted him straight up out of bed, and he instantly regretted moving so fast as scabs crackled and began to ooze. Levi flinched, but still…

Definitely, that was a gunshot.

Quelqu’un est-il blessé?” he shouted to the others. Is anyone hurt? Hearing their fearful panic, he barked out, “Appel.” Roll call.

One by one, the Jews spoke out their names, and Levi kept track. Every single Jew was present.

So who fired that gun, and why?

An hour passed, another, and nothing. Levi cursed about missing out on sleep. He could ask Eren about the gunshot in the morning. He sighed out his anxiety and closed his eyes.

* * *

Levi jolted awake at the sound of shouting above, echoing through the stairwell and down to the dungeon. He listened hard, but the German words made little sense. The emotions, though, were clear.

Fear, anger, confusion.

There were stomping boots back and forth, calls for help, and enraged shouts, as if people were demanding answers. Then Levi heard the distinct bellowing voice of the captain.

Finde Leutnant Jäger! Schnell!

Jäger! If that bug-eyed captain was fetching Eren, he must mean to interrogate the Jews. Boots stomped away, but one set went down the stairs. A match was lit, the lamp wick was turned up high, and an amber glow danced in the cold dungeon, casting light onto the scowling face of Kitz Woermann, flanked by two attendants.

Wer war es?” He stepped up to Levi’s cell and sneered in. “Warst du es?

Levi struggled to figure out the words, but he figured the captain was asking if it was him.

Que s’est-il passé?” Levi asked suspiciously. What happened?

Kitz kicked the bars, rattling them. “Halt die Klappe! Ich stelle Fragen, du antwortest.” Shut your trap! I ask questions, you answer.

Levi sighed. There really was no use saying anything until Eren arrived and he knew what the hell was going on.

It felt like hours before Eren finally showed up, flushed as if he had run, hair wet like he had just showered.

Levi snarkily remarked, “Don’t tell me, they woke you from your beauty sleep and you had to freshen your face before seeing your boyfriend the captain.”

Eren glanced at Levi but ignored him for the moment. The captain was there, along with the last two remaining officers in the company, Oberleutnant Ian Dietrich and Leutnant Gunther Schultz. Kitz explained the situation, and Eren’s eyes grew wide in shock, followed by grief. Then Kitz began to point his finger at Levi. Eren seemed to be reasoning with him, but the captain screamed accusations, flinging spittle at Eren. He clamped his mouth shut and turned to Levi with frustrated eyes.

“Did you hear anything last night?”

“Yes, a gunshot.”

“About what time?”

“Oh, let me check my watch. That’s odd, it seems to be missing. Ah, right, some German pig stole it just after executing my wife.” He shook his head. “It was after roll call, just as Coupe Au Bol was leaving.”

“Who’s that?”

Levi sighed. “It’s what we call one of the soldiers. Bad haircut, big nose, looks more Jewish than I do.”

Obergefreiter Marlo Freudenberg. Everyone swears he’s Jewish, but his ancestry is pure.”

“Whatever that means,” Levi grumbled.

“He was found dead, a bullet in the center of his forehead.”

“That’s a shame. Those two girls over there will grieve that he won’t bring them anymore candies.”

“Candies? Was he flirting?” Eren asked suspiciously. “Was he assisting you? Do you think he worked with the French Resistance?”

Levi laughed at that. “Not with how he butchered anything he attempted to say in French. Look, most of these women have been sexually harassed or raped by you German swine. This guy brought bread, candies, and he tried to flatter them. Maybe he just wanted to get into their bloomers, but at least he acted with kindness.” Levi looked aside. “If he was a friend, you have my sympathy, but I want to know why there are Germans down here and why your captain looks ready to shoot me.”

“He believes you killed Freudenberg.”

Levi stared at Eren, who held his gaze. Someone’s pocket watch ticked the seconds.

“Is … he … stupid?” Levi asked with disgust and disbelief. “Yes, of course, I shot him in the head from a level down and around two corners, in pitch blackness, all using the pistol I pulled out of my arse.”

Eren sighed. “I tried to explain it to him, but he’s insisting it had to have been one of you Jews. If Freudenberg was flirting though, it could be someone saw him, got mad, and shot him. Did you see anyone?”

“No, but while Coupe Au Bol was butchering the French language and making everyone laugh at his idiocy, I heard footsteps overhead. I think you’re right. It must have been a German who got mad at him for being friendly to us. Right after the shooting, just to be sure we were all safe, I took roll call. I know for certain, every single Jew was here.”

“Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Levi glanced over to Kitz, then back to Eren. “Not at the moment. Come back after they sort this out.”

“If you can help us figure out who did it, it’ll make the investigation go quicker.”

“I could tell you precisely who did it, but I can’t in the present company.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“It means someone in this room shot him, but if I say who, I will probably be killed, and so might you. Find me later, and we’ll talk. Tell your captain as much of that as you want.”

Eren sighed and turned to Kitz. Levi sat back onto his cot, watching the faces since words meant little.

Kitz bellowed in shock and disgust, “Er liebäugelte mit den Juden?” He was flirting with the Jews?

Levi rolled his eyes and grumbled, “What a fucking actor!”

* * *

Eren did not come around again until after sunset. By then, Levi had worked a hard day, and his back was aching. He and the Jews had returned to the castle for a bowl of watery soup that made up their dinner. Eren looked exhausted as he trudged into the kitchen, startling the Jews until they saw who it was.

“All right, talk,” Eren said to Levi, not even bothering with pleasantries.

Levi blew a spoonful of his soup as if he could hardly care about what Eren wanted. “Get me half a loaf of bread to go with this piss-water soup, and I will tell you everything.”

Eren’s hand drifted to his Luger. “Or, I could shoot you.”

Levi sipped a spoonful of soup, still not looking at him. “You won’t. You’re not like that.” He set his spoon down and glared at Eren. “Look, I haven’t eaten much besides this garbage unfit for dogs, and Coupe Au Bol won’t be back again with bread for us.”

“Marlo!” Eren shouted. “His name was Marlo Freudenberg, and he was a good man.”

Levi folded his arms. “Bread, and I talk.”

Eren looked angry, but he still stomped away, returning a few minutes later with a long baguette.

“You said you won’t get bread, so split this among yourselves.”

Levi broke a piece of the bread roll and passed the rest down, with each person breaking off pieces, trying to spread it out over the whole group. A few muttered Merci to Eren with nervous smiles.

“Like I said earlier,” Levi began, “I heard the gunshot, but I didn’t see the killer. I can’t for certain say who killed him, but I can say what.”

“A gun, obviously!”

“Not just any gun. It was a .455 caliber round.”

Eren’s eyes narrowed. “How could you possibly know that?”

“I was a soldier; I know the sounds of gunfire. Germans are normally issued Lugers, Mausers, or Walthers, all of which use a 7.65 mm round. What I heard was much deeper, a bigger cartridge, and if you pry the bullet out of his brain, I’m certain you’ll find it’s a .455 round. It’s not a common caliber, except for one gun: a Webley Mark VI. It was a common handgun in the Great War, issued to British soldiers.”

Eren sneered. “British?”

“It’s also common practice for Germans to take the gun of the first British officer they kill. Many Germans back in the Great War kept their Webleys as a badge of honor. The only Webley I’ve seen in this village is strapped to that bug-eyed bastard’s thigh, a trophy of his time in the last war.”

Hauptmann Woermann?” Eren shook his head in disbelief. “That’s not possible.”

“You know how much he hates us. If he saw one of his men flirting with a Jew, of course it’s possible.”

Eren continued to shake his head. “Then why investigate at all? Why would he try to blame you?”

“To get us killed, of course. As for why investigate: he shot a fellow German in cold blood, and he had no proof that the man was flirting. He probably broke some protocol, executing him without a trial. What even is the protocol for merely flirting with Jews?”

Eren scowled, folded his arms, and snapped, “How should I know?”

“Anyway, that’s what I heard and what I know. Someone shot that man with a .455 pistol. You can take that information however you like.” Levi shoved some of the bread into his mouth.

Eren stormed off, angry, but not really at Levi. Something had seemed off about this murder from the very beginning, and Kitz’s accusations against the Jews were preposterous to everyone who heard his ranting. It even had Gunther Schultz questioning if the captain was mentally suffering from the war.

He found himself marching briskly, not to his quarters, not even to Kitz, but to the Gerichtsmediziner, medical examiner. He entered and saw the man busy at a desk, writing up his autopsy report. Pale blue eyes flashed up.

“Lieutenant, how may I help you?”

Because of his father, Eren hated all doctors, but he bit back his instinctive revulsion. “The man brought in today, Marlo Freudenberg. Did you happen to find the bullet that shot him?”

“The bullet exited the head and lodged in the wall. It was brought in, if you wish to see it. Is there a reason?”

“I’m confirming something,” Eren muttered, and he stepped past the Gerichtsmediziner into a chilly holding room.

On a table was a body draped in a white cloth. Eren gulped, knowing that was Marlo. He thought about peeking under just to see the man again, but imagining the sight of his head half blasted off, he decided not to. He saw a metal tray with a few items, including the bullet.

Eren plucked up the crushed, used bullet and turned it around, looking at the inscription on the bottom.

G.F.L. 455 MKVI

Levi was right. It was a .455 bullet from a Webley Mark VI, a British gun. In their unit, the only person with a Webley was the captain himself.

Eren dropped the bullet back with a clatter. He looked over at the body under a sheet.

“You weren’t cautious enough,” he whispered.

Eren left without a word to the curious doctor. It was getting dark, but he still marched to their headquarters. He stormed past saluting soldiers and into Kitz’s office, catching the captain by surprise.

“Your gun is too unique, Hauptmann Woermann.”

Kitz lowered a glass of wine he was drinking. “It’s been a long day, Jäger. Don’t play games. Come out and say what’s on your mind.”

“I stopped by the medical examiner. I saw the bullet that killed Obergefreiter Freudenberg. It was a .455 caliber … which Germans do not use. The British do.” Eren’s fist clenched. “There is one .455 pistol in this town. Yours.”

Kitz’s eyes narrowed. “And?”

Eren could hardly believe he was not trying to deny it. “Perhaps you realized Freudenberg was flirting with Jews, and you killed him in anger. Still, with all due respect, he should have gone to trial. If he had ties to the French Resistance, we could have interrogated him. If he was planning to help the Jews, we could have executed him properly. If he just happened to go down there and was talking to them—”

“Lieutenant Jäger!”

Eren froze at the shout.

A flash of outrage in his bulging eyes simmered down, and Kitz sighed. “You’re right. Under normal circumstances, he should have been interrogated and punished accordingly. When I overheard the lewd things he was telling those Jewish whores, I acted on instinct, as one does when they realize there is a fly in their kitchen, and it must be swatted before it brings in disease. Freudenberg told those women many obscene, pornographic things. He might have even fucked one, or all of them for all we know. Imagine that! A filthy Jewish whore bred with the seed of a fine German stock. Although, there are rumors about Freudenberg, people saying that perhaps he was adopted as an infant, and his lineage is pure Jewish, not Aryan at all. For all we know, he was attracted to his own kind.”

Kitz stood up and walked around his desk, stopping right in front of Eren.

“I heard his lewd tongue myself, and I confronted him. He confessed to planning on breaking out the women and bringing them to America, where they could live with Mormons and all of them would be his wives. He said he would not allow any of them to be hurt again, and he reached for his gun. That was when I shot him.”

Eren gulped. It was such an obvious lie, but what could he say? If he called Kitz out on it … would he be the next with his brains splattered against the wall?

“I understand now, sir. You acted in self-defense. You could’ve claimed that from the start. Why try to blame the Jews?”

Kitz took a step closer as he glared hard at Eren. “You really like those parasites, don’t you?”

He thrust down his revulsion and said the words he knew he needed to say. “Of course not. Hitler said, Jews are the personification of the devil. I would not be Christian if I liked the devil. Still, as a Christian, I believe in honesty.”

Kitz’s beady eyes narrowed. “I was trying to spare the Freudenberg family from the disgrace of learning their son was a Jew-lover.” His head tilted to the side, and Eren saw his hand twitch, as if it yearned to grab his pistol again. “Are you going to allow the Freudenbergs to mourn their son with honor, or curse his name in disgrace?”

Eren’s head dropped subserviently. “If you believe a traitor like him deserves honor after death, I will also hope his family praises his name.”

Kitz scoffed and shook his head. “You have a strong conscience, Jäger.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“That’s not a compliment,” he said in irritation. “The Führer said, ‘Gewissen ist eine jüdische Erfindung. Es ist wie die Beschneidung eine Verstümmelung des menschlichen Wesens.’” Conscience is a Jewish invention. Like circumcision, it is a mutilation of the human being. “We are told to feel good when we do something and to feel bad when we do something else. Having a conscience is a sign of weakness of the mind. It’s a way to manipulate the masses, nothing more than a leash to hold back the progress of human society. Did you ever study Friedrich Nietzsche in school?”

Eren shook his head. “I’ve heard the name.”

“A philosopher, brilliant man, who said conscience is the deepest illness of mankind. It robs people of their self-confidence. Guilt is a delusion forced upon us by Jews to weaken those with a wavering mental fortitude.” He smiled sickly at Eren. “You are a strong-willed German youth, but perhaps it was that half-bred mother of yours who instilled in you a strong conscience, a way for her people to eventually manipulate you.”

Eren wanted to shout back, to defend his mother, who had never once thought of herself as a Jew, and was only called a mischling due to a single grandparent who died in child labor. However, he saw a sadistic, taunting glint in Kitz’s eyes. He was daring Eren to give him an excuse to shoot him as well.

“Are you not going to defend your mother or your conscience?” he goaded.

Eren gulped back his outrage. “If my conscience is a weakness, then obviously this is something I need to work on so I can be a strong soldier and defend the Fatherland.”

Kitz looked impressed. “Very good. The Aryan in you really shines sometimes. Since you’re here, I want to show you something. Come!”

Eren followed the captain over to his desk. On it were photos and reports.

“What is that? It’s like a giant bullet.”

Kitz smiled proudly, as if he had built it himself. “They call it a flying bomb. This is Germany’s secret weapon. Our scientists have been working on it for years. A rocket with a jet engine and autopilot guidance: the Vergeltungswaffe 1, or V-1. This, young Jäger, is the future! With this, we will win any war. Already, rockets have been striking England, and they will continue to rain down fire and fury until nothing is left. They are already building bigger flying bombs with further range. Imagine! At the push of a button, we could flatten London, New York, Moscow, any city we want. They would have no warning, no sounds of airplanes flying overhead, no one to shoot down. One minute, they’re hanging up laundry, the next minute, all is dust and rubble. Germany shall triumph, and the ideology of the Führer will blossom across the world.”

Eren stared at the photos in awe and horror. War used to be about one trained soldier fighting another. Now, it was leveling entire cities. Innocent civilians, children, silver-haired grandparents, whole families torn to pieces by the shrapnel of a war that has nothing to do with them.

This was not the honorable war he wanted to fight in.

“What do you think, Jäger?”

Fear and anger shivered deep in his soul. What did he think? He thought it was immoral. He thought it lacked honor. He thought it was disgusting and ruthless and … and … evil.

Yet that was his conscience speaking. As deeply as he felt that this was wrong, he knew what he had to say.

“The Führer said, ‘I do not see why man should not be just as cruel as nature.’ Flattening a city … is cruel … but those deaths are necessary to achieve the Führer’s ambition.”

Kitz’s chest puffed out. “Exactly. Heil Hitler!

Eren’s arm shot out straight in salute. “Heil Hitler.”

“Now, go find yourself a woman, or get drunk, or both, and tomorrow revel in the knowledge that this war will soon be over.”

Eren left the office feeling cold inside, despite the summer night humidity. In the end, he was left with no good reason why the Jews were blamed for Marlo’s death, other than the captain’s own hatred and trying to cover up that he had been the one to shoot a fellow German in cold blood. He also got a vague threat that he better not be the next Jew-lover who needed to be put down.

And those rockets!

He wanted the war to be over. More than anything, he wanted peace across all of Europe.

But not like this.

Never like this.

# # #

# #

#

I may have let my interest in historic weaponry get the better of me with the Webley and mentioning other WWII firearms.

The Webley .455 Mk VI was used in both WWI and WWII, although more rarely later on. Kitz Woermann got his war trophy as a young soldier in World War I and simply held onto it for 26 years.

The biggest problem with the Mk VI was the ammunition. It's a huge cartridge compared to a .38 caliber. That meant the revolver could only hold 6 bullets, as compared to eight .38 caliber bullets on other guns. There was also a .45 caliber version, just to really confuse soldiers. After the war, finding .455 caliber bullets was a challenge; there were plenty of old wartime guns around, but a severe lack of ammunition. That bigger caliber means the sound of it firing is distinctly different from a Walther P38 or Luger 9mm, which both have smaller-sized bullets.

The V-1 flying bomb (in German, the Vergeltungswaffe 1, or Vengeance Weapon 1) was an early cruise missile. The V-1 was so advanced for its time, many soldiers would ask "Where's the cockpit?" They could not understand how a bomb could get from point A to point B without a pilot.

The Wehrmacht first launched the V-1 to target London on June 13, 1944, one week after (and prompted by) the successful Allied landings in Normandy. At one point, more than one hundred V-1s a day were fired at south-east England, 9,521 in total. Due to the noise they made coming in, they were nicknamed "Doodlebugs," but the destruction they wrought on London was no joke.



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