"What exactly is going on here?" Lieutenant Alik Laryn asked, raking a hand through messy black hair as he tried in vain to affix it back into place. The dark-wood desk he now sat at had once belonged to a Czech priest, who had long since fled the town as the war had swept through the country. The abandoned rectory have been commandeered by the American army and set up as administration buildings. The slit window with the stained glass behind it let in the early morning light. Laryn had not slept well; his normally hollow, olive-skinned face was looking more sallow this morning.
Sergeant Blake slid the file across the desk to him. "One of them managed to attempt suicide last night."
Up until that point it had been a very slow morning at the hospital for the lieutenant, as slow as one could get for a field hospital. Even though the front had moved far beyond the town at this point, the church area still tended to the wounded soldiers that came this way following one of the supply lines. Along side the invalids, there were the prisoners. Mostly it was the prisoners. Prisoners of war were still coming in to the holding facility that had been quickly thrown together a few weeks prior. It was these Germans that Laryn had been charged with inspecting. The MPs needed someone to look after their wounded and for that they turned to the lieutenant as much as he hated it.
He had his reasons.
He had added hate for the newest batch that had arrived merely three days ago. These ones were so very loathsome. It had taken every inch of his being to intervene on behalf of some of them when he had caught a few of the newer MPs and younger privates beating one into the ground with their rifles. Laryn would have gladly looked the other way, but his Hippocratic Oath told him he had to stop it. On the inside he smiled every time he heard about one getting shot trying to escape or blowing their own brains out. That was good, less of these monsters to worry about. The fat colonel that he had tended a wounded shoulder for was the worst. The man was ... pleasant to him. They couldn't be pleasant. They had no souls, and they were nothing but Nazis. Lying, murdering, Nazis.
Laryn's eyebrows rose, "Suicide?"
"Yes, Sir," Blake said, "Didn't succeed, the medical officer on duty last night managed to get the bleeding under control."
"And this is the German's file?" Laryn asked as he opened the pages that had been slid to him.
The Sergeant nodded, "The start of it, the German still was on the line for interrogation. Had his dog tags on, it had some rather ... interesting markings on it that the police would love to get a hold of if we could pump him from information."
"He part of that new SS batch?"
"He an officer?"
"On the contrary," he continued, "He's just a glorified grunt."
Laryn dragged his hand down his face; there was nothing more in the file then the POW form and a write up by the doctor that treated him last night. His brown eyes roamed over the writing in front of him, retaining nothing of it. The heel of his hand was resting on his forehead, fingers fiddling with the stray strands of black hair again. The pencil mustache above his lip twitched as he forced himself not to physically growl that he had been put in this position. This was the start of a lovely morning, indeed: to have someone else's problems tossed on him. A German's problems tossed on him no less. Why couldn't the little bastard have just succeeded in slitting his wrists? It would have saved everyone and Uncle Sam plenty of trouble.
The lieutenant rubbed his sunken eyes again and let the file fall flat on his desk, "So why are you really here, Blake?"
The sergeant shifted a little into an at ease position, "The Major wants you to check on this guy and then be the medical officer presiding over the interrogation. The usual, just make sure he doesn't get roughed up too badly."
"You mean more then he already is?"
Blake nodded, "This one is already on the MPs' bad side. You recall that small group that ended up flinging insults when they were being marched into the camp and had a few teeth knocked in on the way?"
"Well he was one of them, apparently he claims he didn't say anything, but that bang on his head is probably from one of us."
The lieutenant sighed and raked his hands through his head, loosing more wayward hairs from their lacquered hold. He had just managed to get his uniform back from the town washing women yesterday and he would have liked to keep it blood free for at least the morning. The army lab coat was a poor excuse for cover. It was going to get some little Germans disgusting germs all over it. Old world diseases and such that maybe he carried that Laryn had never been vaccinated for, or never even heard off, he had no idea what the Nazis had been doing with all of those people in those camps. Whatever strange things came out of there, if the poor man survived, must not be sanitary.
"Must I really do this?" Laryn asked, a despondent edge to his voice.
Blake dropped his head for a moment to think, "Permission to speak, sir?"
"As a close colleague, Laryn," started the sergeant, "I understand why this is going to be one hell of a task for you, keeping a lid on it 'n all. I'm sorry you have to deal with these people again, after everything, but think of it this way: you have the upper hand this time."
Laryn still was not pleased, he grumbled out his response, "You make it sound so simple. As far as I am concerned, we should have just let those MPs knock the German's teeth in. That would have been better."
The first time that Lieutenant Alik Laryn saw the former Oberscharführer Wilhelm Dieter he almost felt pity. The boy was no older than 25 at most and, for all the youth's monotone homelyness, Laryn thought that it might have been better if he had remained a shut-in in Germany. He was sitting upright in the cot, pale as a sheet; a darkened bruise was on one cheek. There were bandages across and forehead. He was in a white hospital gown, but the most important part of him, his wrists, was long since shoved under the blankets not to be seen. Dieter's bedraggled, brown hair fell into his eyes behind the lenses of thick spectacles placed on an oddly shaped nose.
This was it?
This was one of the men that had given the MPs so much trouble?
Laryn was not a tall man. In fact, he was downright puny standing slightly taller then five and a half feet with a waif thin build that even the army could not put muscle on. Despite his obvious short comings, he held his head up and straightened his back before he stalked over to the German taking up the cot. His pencil mustache bristled as approached. He did not think himself better than many, but at least he was better than this pond scum sucking Kraut.
Dieter’s muddy brown eyes rose to look at the newcomer to his bedside. They slowly rolled over the various parts of the white lab coat and the uniform accoutrements that the doctor wore. Laryn did not like it one bit. It was disturbing to have the Kraut being the one doing the inspecting, like he was the one looking for abrasions. This was incorrect. The German was incorrect and as much as he wanted to continue on with that train of thought he had to force himself to be professional now.
Dieter had said nothing.
The doctor raised his eye brow before he motioned Blake to leave them be. The other soldier whom had accompanied him nodded his head and gave a curt salute before he slipped out of the door and closed it behind him. Now it was merely Laryn and the German in the room alone. Silence still followed.
"I said hello, Herr Dieter."
Dieter was blank still, making no acknowledgement that he was even being spoken to.
Laryn sighed, "Do you understand English at all, Herr Dieter?"
There was the response; the patient in bed shook his head, loose strands of his unassuming brown hair falling forward into his eyes. The answer boiled up in the doctor's stomach, here he was, a Edinburgh medical school trained licensed Doctor and he was lowering himself to dealing with a half wit suicidal German. He exhaled to calm himself, gathering up what little he knew of the disgusting language and spoke softly in it, stuttering and working around the words he was unfamiliar with.
"Do you understand now?"
"Ja, I understand you."
Laryn sighed a little as he rifled through the report papers in front of him, taking the time to actually roll his eyes across the wording and prepare himself for the questions that he was going to ask Dieter. He rubbed one hand across his temple and dug the pad of his thumb into the depression at the sides of his skull. This was going to be yet another lovely day on the war front, not that he needed any more of those. Those so called lovely days on the war front were making his eyes sink deeper into his skull and his hair start to go off color at the base. He was a middle aged man, but he had managed to dodge it this long on not getting grey hairs. Despite the bouts of anxiety and panic brought on from a not so fortunate encounter with the Germans back in 1940, he had yet to go fully grey. That was slowly starting to change though and he did not like it one bit as he was quite convinced he would not look dignified.
"What is your full name and what unit did you belong to?" Laryn asked mechanically, he already knew, it was in his paperwork, but every doctor had to ask the patient, if he is new, what his name is and what unit he came from. It made the filing easier, especially if they were an officer or had a lot of problems. This German had just tried to kill himself by slitting his own wrists with a sharpened paper clip. If anything, he was going to be a very, very , very big file and he was not even an officer.
Dieter did not make eye contact; instead he chose to rest his gaze upon the metal curve at the base of the bed frame. He purposefully averted his eyes from Laryn, but he did not avert his body which was what made Laryn uneasy. If the German had chosen to turn away from him that would mean he was in charge, but since he did not, it was still a contest for power in the doctor's mind.
Dieter mumbled out, "You have the file in front of you."
"It is protocol." The doctor withdrew a pen form his pocket to write this down like he really cared. It was protocol indeed, but he had absolutely no interest in keeping all this on hand. If he wanted something from the German he would just ask him for it, not go rifling through papers for it for the man was just another attention grabber that he had to deal with. If the man in front of him wanted to slit his wrists, let him. Let him go the same way that Hynkel had, that would mean one less for him to bother with when he could be tending his own countrymen.
The ex-nazi nodded his head and spoke in a tenor monotone, "Wilhelm Dieter, Scharführer. Totenkopf Tank unit 1st Battalion."
Simply hearing the word Totenkopf made Laryn's blood boil. As much as he would love to nail this German's head to the ground, he simply gripped the pen in his hand tighter and then reached to push a stray strand of hair back into place on his lacquered head. "Where did you get captured?" He spoke, a harsher edge to his voice creeping through the usually well composed outer exterior.
"I don't know." He said flatly, his eyes unmoving from the base of the bed, his shoulders nor his torso moved away yet. Laryn's frown slowly became more pronounced as he tapped the pen anxiously against the stack of papers in his hands. "Somewhere near Krems an der Donau I am guessing."
"What were you doing there?"
"Unit was pushed back there, tank got separated and broke down so we run trying to get back to our line. I got separated because I was trying to get home instead."
Laryn raised an eyebrow, "You deserted?"
"Some were," He shrugged his shoulders tersely before letting them slump again, his feet coming up slightly so that they met together in front of him and made him perch in the bed like a butterfly.
"Where's home for you?"
"Vienna." Dieter said quietly.
That almost made Laryn launch himself at him, he was so very tempted to grasp his hands around the now Austrians neck and wring it. He could not account for why suddenly having Dieter tell him that he was Austrian not German made him so angry. Perhaps it was because the other had told him that he was wrong. When he was a child, he had stayed at his aunt and uncle's house out I the country. He had watched them kill the chickens that they would eat by grabbing hold of them by their beaks and spinning them around to snap their necks. If he had any strength at all in his pathetic build, he would have done it to the man in front of him.
"So you're Austrian?" Laryn said almost stupidly as it was the only thing he could think of to say that did not involve and insult.
Dieter shifted, "Did my accent not give that away or are accents unclear to Americans?"
The doctor almost growled at the Austrian in front of him. "Don't get flip with me, Kraut." He hissed out the word with venom on his voice.
The Austrian said nothing, yet he ventured to straight his shoulder and it was in his physical response that Laryn found the defiance. The defiance that made him snap, he pulled his chair close to glare daggers into the ex-Nazi with his coffee-brown eyes. If only they were real daggers, this would be done and over with quite quickly and he would not have to be sitting here wasting his time trying to heal an enemy from a country he did not care about. The only thing about these bloody Nazis that he cared about was the sins that committed that caused death wherever they went.
Dieter did not back down when he came closer and that made him grit his teeth until they squealed against each other. Why would this … Austrian… not back down from him. He should be rolling at his feet begging for him not to hand him over to the Russians for butchering. As God was his witness, that’s all that this … person in front of him deserved. His hands had started to shake as the flashes from his time as a prisoner of war started to slide into his mind. His fingers quaked and his bones seemed to rattled against each other within his frame. Barely able to grasp his pen, he let it fall off his lap and land on the floor with a clatter. Grasping, he went for his own neck, fumbling to pull the lab coat and collar out of the way.
"You see this?" Laryn pulled the dog tags form his chest and brandished them threateningly in front of Dieter's monotone face. Taunting, taunting him as he growled out in disdain at the ex-nazi's complete apathy. The star stamped into them painfully obvious as they jangled and swayed together. "Jude." Laryn hissed at him as he held his hand back from driving itself into Dieter's neck. "Your SS ass has a lot to account for, I do mean A LOT to account for and I want to get one thing straight. I am the one in charge, and I can choose at any time to give you back over to the MPs your "health" aside."
Dieter just started at him with his monotone face, his eyes not breaking contact with Laryn's, "I do see it."
"An SS man silent in the face of a Jew, what a new anomaly."
The Austrian remained silent for a moment before he opened his mouth and spoke, "What I have to say is irrelevant."
Laryn hissed, "Let me tell you something," he spat out quietly before he continued. "I do not like this anymore than you do. You are luck that it was not me that found you in your cell last night. Even if I had found you, I would have let you bleed out on a one way ticket to hell."
Dieter finally blinked, his eyes going more vacant if that was possible. He turned his head away and focused in on the wall just over Laryn's shoulder, his dead stare coming back as he tried to keep his mouth from turning into a frown. The muscles on his face went in to a light spasm as he forced himself to contain his complete yet empty composure.
"I would have let me bleed out too" he said.