The two timid hedgehogs looked out from the wooden crate they were trapped inside, as the world passed by at an astonishingly quick pace. Hours had passed, and the constant noise from the humans’ contraption and their constant banter meant that they were surrounded by noise. Thoughts drifted to the quietness of their home and the surrounding forest. The lorry was hauling the wreckage of the downed German bomber, and was heading to a temporary base that had been built in the town of Enfield. On the top of the tallest hill in the area, the British army had installed a battery of cannons and anti-aircraft weaponry. Similar gun emplacements had been constructed around the city of London to defend the city from aerial attack.
The truck’s gear’s whined and clanged as the transmission was shifted into a lower gear as it began to ascend a winding road that led to the crest of the hill. The solders in their green outfits were starting to get antsy, and were loading their weapons with brown or green metal cannisters that would click into the bottom of the weapon. Others were loading long silver or gray tubes with pointed ends, and then would move a bar down and a clicking sound could be heard. From inside the truck, the head human called out, “INCOMING!” The air riad sirens were sounding once again, throughout the city. Bill braced himself against the rear of the lorry’s cabin wall, and watched as 5 green bombers were starting an attack run over the city. The bomb bay doors were opening, and a rain of black bombs were starting to pour out like tea from a kettle.
A young soldier started to cry, “that looks like its over Walthamstow. My Mum lives there …” Bill punched his comrade’s arm to get his attention, which worked as the young man shot him a look. “Cry tomorrow, we have a job to do.” The soldiers nodded at each other, and watched a huge blast had started to appear in the distance. Tall buildings were crumbling, and started to collapse onto the streets in the distance. The truck passed a sign hastily written with black paint over a white sign background that said Slades Hill. The hedgehogs watched as the humans jumped off the back of the lorry, and immediately ran up to even larger weapons. Bill shouted, “let us go lads! Time to shove artillery shells so far up their back sides, their children will taste British steel!” The human men responded in kind, and started to circle the strange object.
The army had installed on thick concrete pads, four quad formations 4.5-inch Mark 2 anti-aircraft guns. Their tall gray cannon barrels were sticking up high into the sky, and started to turn in the direction of the German Bombers. Bill called out, “move your bloody arses!” It was the first time the hedgehogs heard the man called something other than Bill, “staff sergeant Smith, ready to go sir!” The soldier pointed, “FIRE!” The humans all ducked down underneath a concrete emplacement, and the cannon began to shudder. The ground shook violently, as the most horrible sound the critters had ever heard erupted from deep within the ground. The cannon fired, and its shell blasted so quickly out of the barrel, that no one could see.
Phillip was hugging Margaret tightly, and both were covering their ears with their paws. The guns were firing one after another, the shockwaves of the weapons were causing their insides to slosh around. It was making both critters sick to their stomachs, but the female was in greater distress. Crying, Margaret stammered out, “Phillip we have to escape!” Her mate nodded, and then started to look around the wooden crate. The cannons kept firing, never stopping, over and over. The lorry was shaking so hard, that every time the hedgehogs took a step, they were thrown to the wooden bottom of the crate. It took all his effort to pull himself across the crate, to reach the edge of it, and he could see a piece of wire that had been twisted shut to keep the crate’s front lid shut. Reaching out, the little hedgehog started to untwist the wires.
The female hedgehog slid up towards her husband, and watched in the distance as one of the strange flying human objects was on fire, and starting to crash. Somehow that object was making a louder noise, since it was starting to head directly towards where they were. Screaming, “PHILLIP,” she tugged at her husband’s quills along his back. The male hedgehog was making angry noises, as his paws were hurting terribly while untwisting the gray wire. After many tense minutes, incessant weapon fire, and watching the strange object with the red flag on its tail heading ever closer, the front of the crate whipped open. The two hedgehogs quickly ran out into the lorry’s bed, and watched as one of the human flying machines flew overhead. As they looked up, more humans were inside, and were working levers to make the terrible black objects fall out. They extended their right arms, and made a hand motion as they led forth another volley.
All sound started to fade away, as the first of the black weapons of death landed on the ground. An explosion occurred, and the two hedgehogs held on with dear life as the truck was thrown several meters opposite of the blast site, and fell over on its side. The bomber parts slid, and started to crash onto the ground. Their grip could not be maintained, and soon both critters fell off the contraption, and onto the hard packed ground below. Pieces of German steel fell all around them, while Phillip grabbed his wife and started to scamper as fast as they could away from danger. Margaret cried out, “PHILLIP, I’M SCARED!” Her husband grabbed her paw, and they ran as fast as they could. The smell of death was in the air, mixed with smoke, and terrible acrid smells. They kept their eyes forward, heading towards a stacked stone wall.
The lorry started leaking fuel, and with the engine still running, started to explode was the petrol caught flame. Pieces of shrapnel both from the truck, and the recovered bomber were sent into the air. Jagged shards rained from the sky, striking everything, including the soldiers as they continuously loaded and fired the cannons. More of the terrible air things were flying overhead, and Margaret watched as the human tubes turned around to face the planes, while continuing to fire. Flame and smoke were belched from the ends of the tubes, and their terrible contents flew into the air and struck the air things. The female soon was jerked hard by her mate, and they continued to flee. As she looked forward, she wiggled her nose and whimpered.
The two hedgehogs stopped beside another strange human object. It had two round wheels, and leather bags on each side of the rear part. Phillip pointed at letters on the back, “can you ready this …. Huff … Magararet?” She started to sound out the letters, while wheezing, “ K…i…nnnn….g ….George ….important ….Can ….arrr….eeee ….W…harr…..f?” Phillip nodded, and started to undo a leather trap, trying to open the bag. He was successful, and positioned himself to let his wife climb up and into the bag. Nodding, as the first instinct was to hide, she climbed up her husband’s back and hopped into the leather bag. As she peeked out from the bag, she watched Phillip climb up the metal parts, and hop inside as well. Pulling down the flap, the two critters peeked out from within.
They watched as two dogs started to run past, while two humans dressed in black walked past. Phillip whispered, “it is those dogs again. We need to stay here, till they go.” Margaret nodded, and noticed inside were all sorts of papers. Some were in folders of a pale yellow, while others were loose. There were letters everywhere to read, and so she did, as it was keeping her mind busy. Reading was much preferable, then worry about terrible dogs and their masters outside. Phillip watched as a young human ran up towards them, so he pulled down the flap. The critters felt the bag lower and then raise up, and a new sound filled the air. The sounds of humans talking occurred again, “yes staff sergeant! I will head to Canary Wharf! Yes sir, I will let them know we need more ordinance!”
What the two hedgehogs did not know, was that the bag they were in, was attached to a British army motorcycle. The crystals had been destroyed, so the short wave radios the army used for communication, was offline. Thus, couriers were being used, who travelled by motorcycle. Phillip peeked out, watching the two humans in black talking to a soldier, and suddenly everything moving away very fast. They were speeding off again, and being bounced around inside the leather saddle bag. Both Phillip and Margaret peeked out, and watched the scenery speed past. The hill that led up to the army base was on fire, with jagged pieces of metal sticking out of the ground. The human solider driving the motorcycle cursed out loud. “Bloody Germans … I used to go there with my father to watch the birds.
The critters watched as they started to pass through human towns and villages along the way. Many of their homes were on fire, and destroyed. Their method of transport had to weave between piles of debris, and the bodies of the fallen humans being laid out in the street. Margaret shut her eyes and whimpered, while her husband watched and wondered why the humans were being so cruel to each other. What should have only taken an hour at most, turned into an all-afternoon affair, to navigate the choked streets to head to Canary Wharf. Once known as the West India Wharf, it was the center of finance and business for the human shipping companies for the nation. Tightly packed buildings were partially destroyed, and trying to be repaired. Though many had survived, and the two critters watched as they stopped and a human soldier approached.
“Oi … laddie …where ye goin?” The Scottish accent was thick and unmistakable, as the young soldier saluted and responded. “I just came from Slades Hill, they took down three of the German bombers. They are requesting resupply, and the crystals are not working on the radio.” The Scottish soldier nodded, “bloody crystals. They will be the death of us one day … go ahead and pass. Oh …King George …. I see … you are a royal courier. Probably one of me betters, here with us bloody commonfolk.” The young soldier called out over the engine, “we do not have time for this. Our nation is under attack, who cares who my uncle is?” The vehicle started to move again, and once more the critters watch as soon the buildings opened and huge ships could be seen peeking out from between the structures. The smell of the river started to waft in the air, mixed in with the typical smells of the industrial section of London. Acrid smoke filled the air, burning ones’ nose, while the fires burned on from the latest German raid.
Eventually, the motorcycle stopped, and the engine turned off. Both critters felt the bag being lifted, and then swinging back and forth, as the soldier carried it. Back and forth and back and forth, the bag swung over and over. There were noises of humans, and machines around them, until finally the world stopped moving and quieted down after many long minutes had passed. Margaret crawled out of the bag, and peeked from underneath the flap. “Phillip, it’s all right.” Her husband joined her, and peeked out. The bag had been placed on a wooden bench, painted green, though it was starting to flake off. Nodding to each other, the hedgehogs quickly scampered out of the bag, and hopped down underneath the wooden bench. As they peeked from around the wide leg of the bench, they could see the young pale human dressed in the green outfit talking and making a hand motion which pressed against his head.
“I certainly understand Staff Sergeant Smith’s predicament. All our batteries are needing resupply, but I am unsure why he did not just use the radio?” The young solder nodded, “the crystals in the short wave are not working. Plus, I also had business to attend to here as well, on behalf of the palace.” The older solider nodded, “I see …and you just happen to leave that important communication sitting on a bench in public often?” The hedgehogs watched as the older human proceeded to berate and dress down the young soldier to the point, even they felt uncomfortable. Phillip wiggled his nose, “bloody jerk that human is.” Margaret giggled, “let us go my dear.” Once more, they carefully scampered along the wall, and behind the benches that lined the wall. Occasionally they would peek out to see if it was safe, and then duck back to continue.
The two animals did not know, but they had been transported to the former commercial port of London. The British Army and Navy had taken over vast portions of its buildings, to coordinate war efforts. Because this was a kingdom, and not a republic, by order of King George it was so. There was no negotiation, no request for compensation, only acknowledgement of the order of the monarch. There were signs everywhere, painted neatly and easily read from a distance. Margaret continued to sound things out, while she read for her husband. Phillip wanted to learn letters too, but ultimate decided to let his wife do it, because he grew bored easily. “Ar…t…ill …er….eee … m…ai…llll service … oh wait, Mail service! I recognize that. That means the way home!” Phillip nodded, and waited for several human soldiers in gray uniforms to pass, before scampering quickly with his wife across the street.
The road surface was cobblestones, and several had picked up and were sticking out at jagged angles. The humans would stomp down on them as they walked, to level the surface once again. The two critters watched that as the human solders passed by to and fro. Once again, they darted for the safety of a bench, this time painted gray. The bricks that formed the surface of the wall were smooth and pale brown. Following the signs for mail service, until they found an open doorway that led inside. Quickly scooting around a human’s foot. Margaret noticed it was a female human, dressed in a pale gray long dress that ran all the way to her ankles. She giggled when Phillip ran between the woman’s feet, stopped a moment to look up, then ran past to join her once again. Margaret giggled, “see anything interesting up there?” Phillip shook his head, “all humans look the same, there is nothing special up there. You are much prettier.”
With his wife giggling, and wiggling her rear end at him as she ran in front of him, they navigated around the room and underneath a counter. There were more humans working, both men and women, dressed conservatively in proper British attire. Margaret stopped as they reached a wooden crate, and quickly read out loud. “Bal …ti…more …. Mary … Land …. Here it is Phillip, the way back home. This says Buntingford.” Phillip nodded, and noticed a human man was starting to walk towards them. The two hedgehogs quickly climbed up and hopped into the wooden crate. Inside there were papers, that were enclosed tightly and strange pictures on the corners. The farming village they lived in was called Buntingford by the humans. And Margaret nodded to herself, as she sat proudly assuming she had read correctly. They took a crate to get here, so it would be a crate to get back. Maybe if they were lucky, they could be home by tomorrow. Then never leave their home again, adventures were too dangerous, especially for dainty flowers like herself.
Before Phillip could say anything, a pile of papers was thrown inside the crate, and covered them up. Then more papers were tossed inside, until finally it stopped. The crate was picked up by a human, and loaded onto a metal cart. Pushing the papers aside, the critters could see they were being moved somewhere. Though soon their view was blocked, as more crates were stacked in front and around theirs. Yawning, Phillip closed his eyes and fell asleep. Margaret wanted to chide him for sleeping at a time like this, but as he made sleepy sounds, soon she too gave in and fell asleep. Neither of the exhausted hedgehogs heard, nor saw anything occur, that would have been very important while they rested. The letters and correspondence were insulating, and keeping them very warm. All seemed safe, as the humans started to speak around them.
“Charles … is that the last load for the ship?” The human man nodded, while adjusting his round spectacles upon his nose. Reading the invoice paperwork, “yes Harrold, this is the last load to go out. When did we start sending mail and freight to Baltimore?” The metal card had been loaded onto a platform, which was attached to a chain. The chain started to go taught, as a crane began to move the contents onto a ship that had been moored behind the mail office. “Ever since the U-boats started attacking our trips to New York, we started an alternate route to Baltimore. I heard the navy has tripled the escort convoys.” The two mail clerks watched as the last load of mail was lifted onto the ship, and descended into the cargo hold. There was also a loading platform, with various women and children heading on board as well. Only elderly men could be seen, with those young enough to serve, being conscripted to defend the nation.
“BARK BARK BARK BARK!” Two rather large brown and black dogs started barking, and sniffing around the two mail clerks. As Charles turned, he laughed, “and who might you two fine fellows be? Are you lost?” A whistling sound could be heard, and the two shepherd dogs padded back to stand beside two men dressed in black overcoats and hats. Phillip, a portly man that was a tad smaller than Charles turned and addressed the visitors. “Nice dogs you two have, but you are not allowed back here. Only mail service personnel, and dock workers. The two men stood staring at them, while the dogs lowered their heads and bared their teeth while growling menacingly. As tense minutes passed, the man on the left spoke, “It has been a while …. Gerhard how has your father been?”
Phillip shook his head, “I will have to ask you to leave here at once! And there is no Gerhard here, is that not correct Charles?” Charles was quiet, and narrowed his eyes, “how did you find me Weiss?” The second man in black spoke with a thick German accent, “we never lost track of you. The Fuhrer wanted to see where the Judin rats would scurry off to?” Phillip looked at his fellow employee, “Charles, what are they talking about?” Who are these people?” The man was stone faced, and all color had drained from his face, “I will not go back …. I would rather die first.” The shepherd dogs immediately bolted forward, and started to maul both dock workers. The men cried out, and beat the dogs’ sides. Their teeth dug deep into their arms, and ripped out chunks of flesh. Blood began to pour from their wounds, and they flailed.
There was no worry that their cries would draw attention, as the large ship had started its engines, and steam whistles were being sounded. As women waved from the ship’s deck to those on the pier, the dogs continued about their task, killing the men. Rudolf remarked, “your shepherds are quiet efficient at killing Judin filth, Kriminalkommissar…” Weiss nodded, as he wiped dust from his spectacles with a crisp white handerkercheif, “indeed Kriminalassistent. Both were trained well at Ravensbruck, before being transferred to Auschwitz. A dog’s sense of smell is keen, and they remember. This makes our canine friends key allies to rid the world of the Jewish infestation. Once they have had their fill, we will dispose of the bodies.” The subordinate officer nodded, watching the dogs tear the flesh from the dock workers’ bones and feast upon their kill. “It would seem the kodex was in the possession of the filth here. Where shall we look next?”
Weiss nodded, “It would appear …. that the kodex was on that ship. The ship must be fueled, prior to making its transatlantic journey. We must inquire with the mail office about where that is? Then endeavor to board that ship accordingly at its next port of call.” Weiss walked over to where the dogs were happily licking their chops, and kicked the body off the loading platform. Rudolf did the same with the second filth on the ground, and watched as both bodies fell into a pit filled with mud. Weiss commented, with his German accent coming through for a change, “the tides will come in and the river will rise. The bodies will float out, and the British will assume they were struck by a boat. Now Rudolf, let us depart. We have a ship to catch.” The subordinate officer nodded, and walked beside Weiss. The man whistled, and soon the dogs came trotting up beside them.
Walking slowly, the two men eased out and joined with a group of passing business men. It was seamless, and no solider batted and eye as the two men and their dogs joined up with the group. The various men were talking about work, “the bloody navy took our warehouse! Now where am I going to store a thousand cans of sardines? At least you still have product to sell, they left me the building, and took all my tires. King George needs the rubber they said …. It was toy truck tires! That was enough rubber to make one quarter of a tire!” Weiss was stone faced, and soon ducked into the front door of the mail office. Rudolf stayed outside, with the dogs, and looked down to see a newspaper on a nearby bench. He picked up the paper, and pretended to read its contents. Occasionally he would smile and nod at a passing by soldier.
Weiss walked up to the counter, and smiled warmly at a British woman with blonde hair. “I am sorry, you just missed the last shipment for transatlantic mail service. The next ship is set to depart in a week.” The man nodded, and took off his hat as he spoke, “my word, that is not optimal at all. I have a loved one, my dearest wife’s sister, who was on board that ship. She forgot to take something special, a present for our cousins who live across the pond in America. I was wondering …does that ship make any other stops before the ocean crossing?” The blonde woman nodded, “yes it does. If you hurry, the ship will be fueled at Tilbury. I do not know if the navy will let you on board though.” Weiss nodded, “thank you Miss, I appreciate the information. I will endeavor to get there at once. Our cousins will be so very sad if they do not get their present.” Weiss nodded, smiled, and put his hat on as he left the mail office. Approaching Rudolf, he made a hand motion discreetly, and the two started off once more.
The German police navigated the cobblestone streets of the Canary Wharf with ease. Dressed in proper business attire, and with the correct words, they were able to exit the military check point with no fanfare. Weiss raised his hand, and attempted to summon the services of a hackney carriage. It was not long until the black vehicle pulled up with a British man in his thirties driving the car. “oi … where ye laddies want to go?” Weiss nodded, “we must get to Tilbury wharf at once. Can you take us there?” The driver nodded, “aye, but I am charging extra for your dogs if they mess up the interior. It will be a hundred pounds.” Rudolf cocked an eyebrow, while Weiss laughed, “why so expensive?” The driver pointed up into the sky, “don’t you bloody bastards know the Germans just attacked? For all we know they are coming back in minutes, and you want me to drive all the way out to Tilbury? What about my wife and children?”
Rudolf opened the door, and it swung to the left. Entering inside, the dogs hopped up into the vehicle afterwards. Weiss laughed, and entered the vehicle, pulling the door shut. Reaching into his overcoat’s interior pocket, he pulled out 100 hundred pounds worth of paper currency notes, and handed it to the driver. “If you get us there within the hour, I will add a hundred.” The driver’s Scottish accent disappeared, “yes sir!” The car started to pull off, and began to quickly speed down the road. Rudolf smirked, and lifted the newspaper he had been carrying, which drew the attention of Weiss. The commanding officer took the paper, and started to read it, “oh the corn shipments are off. I shall need to adjust my investments. You should invest your wages; you will never be able to provide for your loved ones’ future Harrold.”
The younger officer nodded, but did not say anything. His English was not good, and chose to stay as inconspicuous as he could. The dogs were silent, though were aging their tails as they peeked out of the windows. They acted as if nothing had just occurred, and were off on another fun filled trip. The carriage was moving extremely fast, blowing through intersections, and honking the horn. The passengers discreetly held onto conveniently placed door handles, as the car at one point went on two wheels to get around a pile of debris. Back and forth, over hill, over dale, make a left, make a right, drive like a maniac, the occupants of the car found their driver was from Scotland. He swore an awful lot, while speaking with an accent so thick at times, that even the dogs made faces at him. He could not serve in the military because he knew a guy who knew a guy who knew a guy that convinced a guy that he was missing a foot. As long as he stayed in his cab, everything was fine.
IT took almost an hour, but soon the car came flying over a hill and landing hard in front of the front gates to Tilbury harbor. “Bloody hell, made it here in under an hour governor!” Weiss laughed, and counted out the bills, handing their driver the additional payment. “Excellent work,” Weiss said, as he opened the door. The dogs quickly jumped out, and wiggled their tails, while looking expectantly at Rudolf who exited last. Shutting the door, the carriage drove off quickly. That fare had paid an entire year’s wages and them some. Rudolf commented once they passed the gate, “where did you get so much money?” Weiss chuckled, “you would be amazed at how much we have confiscated from the filth sent to the camps.”
The two men looked at each other, and then proceeded to walk down the concrete stone path. There were large signs, directing visitors to the main shipping office. Unlike the ornate port from before, with a variety of all walks of life amassed for commerce and service, this was a purely logistical port. Huge ships were docked, and being fueled from other ships also moored at port. The docks had been struck by the German planes many times, so vast sections had been destroyed. There was a much heavier military presence here by the British Navy. The various dock workers were covered in oil, mud, or dirt. This means the two pristine business men stuck out like a sore thumb, as they approached a metal shed. There was a solider dressed in a blue gray uniform, and had a white sailor’s hat on his head. The soldier was smoking a cigarette, and looking disgusted as he read from a newspaper.
Weiss approached the glorified shed, and up to what served as the counter. Inside there was a portly man, missing his left arm, and most of his front teeth. When he grinned, you could see into his mouth. “Don’t you two look out of place? Did the train drop you two bloody bastards too far from home?” Weiss grinned, and spoke in his proper accent, which only served to annoy the working-class lads that worked the port. “It is my understanding that this port will fuel the ships before heading across the Atlantic. We very much need to board a ship that should have arrived already. My wife’s sister is on board, and we were too late to accompany her when it left the Canary Wharf. I was hoping, should proper compensation be provided, to board that vessel with my companions here.”
The man behind the counter was the harbor master, and he nodded while spitting into a spittoon nearby through the gap in his teeth. “Aye, I can get you on board, if you make it worth my time and effort?” Weiss withdrew notes of pound sterling, and began to count them upon the metal counter. The harbor master’s eyes went wide, and contract negotiations commenced. It took about ten minutes of haggling, before the funds were dispersed, and the metal gates opened to allow entry. Weiss motioned for Rudolf and the dogs to follow, and then all fell into line behind him and walked through the port with the harbor master the man walked with a limp, and led the way while counting the bills. Had the two officers not had access to stolen Jewish funds, it would have meant their voyage would have been much more difficult.
Around the bombed out remains of the warehouses they walked, as dock workers furiously repaired the structures while working on scaffolding high in the sky. Over a serrated steel bridge they passed, and the dogs watched as the murky river water of the Thames passed by underneath. The ship has just pulled in to the refueling dock, and was being moored. Words were written on the bow of the ship, “HMS Caroline.” Both Weiss and Rudolf remained stone faced, though were keenly aware that this was a British navy ship, which greatly increased the danger of detection on board. German spies were not looked upon favorably by the armed forces of King George. Words were exchanged between the harbor master and soldiers on board the ship, dressed in an absolutely filthy set of coveralls, which once were colored blue. Weiss nodded when motioned to proceed, “thank you harbor master for your understanding.” Rudolf smiled and nodded, while the dogs parked happily, as they padded along behind them. Across the gangplank they crossed, and onto the deck of the ship.
The soldiers looked annoyed as new passengers were coming om board. There was a cursory pat down to ensure no contraband or weapons were being brought on board. The German police allowed the search, and their possessions did not attract attention. Their identity disks seemed to be that of a toy, and were handed back without any fanfare. As the dock workers were fueling the ship with diesel, every soldier and worker was on high alert, keeping an eye to the skies. There had been many aerial attacks, and ships sunk prior to the ocean voyages. Hours passed, and the ship was fueled finally. The workers disconnected the hoses and nozzles from the fuel ports of the ship’s deck, and then started to cross the gangplank to head back to the pier. Weiss looked at Rudolf while the ship’s engines fired up and the vessel started to pull away, “care for a spot of tea?”