Raven's Nest: Chapter One

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Buck Raven fights his way from the hellish beaches of World War 2 Normandy to the crime ridden streets of 1950's Chicago. A nose for a mystery and an eye for trouble he finds himself deep in a web of lies, drugs and murder.

June 6th 1944

 

Looking over the top of the landing craft, I could see our rendezvous point, the war ravaged beach stretched as far as the eye could see. The horrified voices of the wounded and dying soldiers, screaming for help over the volume of explosions and gunfire. I suddenly realised I was gripping my rifle so hard that my knuckles had started to go white, the loud commanding voice of my platoon leader carried over the din coming from the beach

“all right ladies, this is what we've been waiting for” he barked, “ when we get to the beach, keep your head low and find some cover, keep those sights clear!” I stared up at Sgt. Ruvik, how could this man be so calm and ready for what seemed a certain death? Was he crazy? Were we? I had never imagined, when I signed up that I would meet my end on some godforsaken beach in France.

“No” I muttered under my breath, “I'm not gonna die here, I'm gonna live to see tomorrow damn it!” I looked over my shoulder at Rex and gave him a thumbs up, he nodded grimly. As I readied myself for the approaching hell that I was about to be thrust in to, my thoughts turned to home, to my wife, Kate, would I ever see her again? When I thought of her, weeping over my coffin as she was handed a folded American flag, I gripped my rifle harder, determined that I wasn't going to die here or anywhere in this hellish war zone.

 

 I was snapped out of my day-dream by Sgt. Ruvik's voice booming over the crashing of the waves and the sound of vomit hitting the floor of the craft “30 seconds boys! May God be with you and I’ll see you at the objective” I gave my rifle one last check and braced myself “GO, GO, GO!”

 

As soon as the heavy cast iron ramp crashed in to the blood soaked sands, the zipping of bullets started flying around my head, several of the men in front of me crumpled to the floor, their lifeless bodies riddled with bullets, The shock that had taken hold of me when the bodies started dropping, quickly vanished as a spattering of blood hit me in the face. My instincts took over as I grabbed Rex by the collar and yelled

“Over the side! We're sitting ducks like this!”

 He nodded, his helmet bouncing with the movement, and told the same to the man behind him. With a heave I hoisted my torso over the wall of the landing craft and did what I could to brace myself.

 

I gasped as my body hit the freezing water, the bullets streaking   around me, I quickly wish I hadn't, as my mouth was instantly filled with the acrid taste of sea water. I desperately kicked out, determined to reach the surface, I chanced  a look around and nearly took another mouthful of salt water as I witnessed the men that I had spent the last six months with, being torn to shreds by a steady stream of hot lead, unabated by the blanket of  water that now covered us, I kicked again and took well deserved gasp of breath as my face broke through the surface, my aching lungs thankful for the rush of salty air, I quickly surveyed the scene that fell before me, the looming cliffs looking like an impenetrable fortress, dotted at intervals by the enemy bunkers. I was sure if I strained my eyes I could see the grimacing faces of the enemy as they pulled the triggers on their instruments of death. The sounds of gun fire and explosions battering my ear drums as mortar shells detonated all around me, buffeting sand in to my eyes, through the grit I could see Sgt. Ruvik, motioning me to come and join him at the edge of a crater, roughly covered by the twisted remains of an enemy beach defence.

“That guy is a gorram machine!” I yelled to Rex who had just surfaced, his face was pouring with blood from a nasty gash on his forehead

“Let’s get going” he replied his face twisted in pain. We waded out of the shallows and began to move, ducking in between tank defences as the bullets streaked past us, each one causing a new voice to screaming in pain as they were caught by the flying lead.

 

After what seemed an age, we finally reached the Sargent's position

“Nice of you to join us” he joked “you got a weapon?” Rex held up the Browning assault rifle that he had snatched from the hands of a dead soldier, I shook my head

“It’s at the bottom of the channel Sarge” he gave me an understanding look and thrust an M1 Garand in to my hands. “Stay on me” he commanded “we've gotta get out of here or we're all dead men” he picked up his own rifle that had been resting on his knee “c'mon, move up to the base of the cliff and try not to die!”

 

We kept our heads down and moved slowly and deliberately from cover to cover, every step we took brought us closer to the looming cliffs and the enemy that they concealed. We finally came to a halt at a sand dune, providing us with the cover that we so desperately needed, it had felt like I had escaped death at least a hundred times that day, there must be a German who's very disappointed with himself up there. I grinned to myself taking comfort in the fact that I’ve probably pissed someone off.

“Good job boys, you survived” Sgt. Ruvik said, wiping the mixture of sand, sweat and blood off his face. “now let’s take this back to those kraut bastards!” he pulled a set of wire cutters from his leg sack and started working away at the barbed wire that blocked our progress, after many attempts and even more curses, he managed to forge a path that we could get through safely without our ankles being torn to shreds.

 

Thankfully a majority of our forces had made their way to our position, giving us at least a small chance of surviving the skirmish that we were about to embark on, above us we could see a narrow path that would lead us up to the underside of a bunker, its huge concrete mass blotting out the sun and providing the cover and shadow that we had been huddling under for the past 10 minutes,

“Buck, Rex, you two move up the path and attach this to the underside of that kraut box” said the sergeant, handing me a small block of TNT and a spool of wire “it should be enough to take out anyone in there and give us a way in, we'll give you cover fire” I flung my rifle over my shoulder and took the explosives,

“You ready buddy?” I asked Rex,

“I was born ready” he replied a small glint in his eyes, I could tell that he was eager for revenge and to tell the truth so was I.

 

We crept, single file up the narrow path, one wrong move and we would plunge down to our deaths or at the very least a pair of extremely broken legs. As we moved closer to the underside of the bunker I could hear the steady tinkling of spent ammunition hitting the ground, I carefully reached up and wedged the explosives in a handy nook in between the bunker and the cliff, briefly chancing a look over the edge, “no harm knowing what we're up against” I thought to myself, Rex suddenly poked me in the ribs as I had started to find a foot hold to push myself up on,

“c'mon!” he hissed “we don't have time for this!” I nodded silently, quietly stepping down from the cliff edge. I quickly wired up the explosives and motioned to Rex to head back down the path, I signalled to the rest of our force to duck and cover as we came to the bottom of the cliff and hooked up the wire to the detonator, I offered  it to Sgt. Ruvik who shook his head,

“I'll give you the honours” he said as he readied his rifle and prepared to charge up the cliff, I nodded smiling and set the device down.

 

As I turned the key I could have sworn that there had been a mistake with the fuses, nothing happened for a few seconds after, suddenly the underside of the bunker collapsed in a plume of smoke that spiralled upwards in to the bunker, debris thundered down the sheer rock face, along with any unfortunate Germans that happened to be standing above the point of detonation, their screams halting abruptly as they finished their deadly meeting with gravity. “Let’s go boys!” bellowed Sgt. Ruvik a mad gleam in his eyes “ it’s time we brought the pain!” the war cries of our comrades were all but lost in the combination of pained cries and the confused yells of the occupants of the bunker, their ears ringing from the sudden explosion. Before I entered the gaping hole, I decided I had better clear the bunker before they had time to react, smartly I pulled a grenade from my lapel and ripped the pin out with my teeth, “fire in the hole!” I yelled, rolling the small but effective explosive over the side of the hole. I quickly covered my head with my hands, before long the cries of confusion ceased as the enemy soldiers were ripped to shreds by the fragments of hot metal.

 

As I climbed through the hole that I had created, I was met with the face of the machine gunner who had been attempting to end my life ever since I arrived on this hellish beach, luckily for me he had been taken out by the explosion, pieces of rock and empty shell casings were littered all around him, blood was steadily trickling from his mouth and there was a gaping hole in his chest. I gently shuddered. I had never thought of our enemy as human beings before, now that I was face to face with them I couldn't help but think that this was someone's father, someone’s son that had just had his life snuffed out all in the name of someone else's politics.

 

I didn't have time to think over the morals of war however as there was fighting to be done, I pulled my rifle from my shoulder and moved in to cover beside the entrance to the bunker, behind me, Rex had just appeared, I could hear him grimacing as he locked eyes with the lifeless body that lay on the floor “guess this guy should have learned to mind his surroundings” he smirked and pulled his own gun in to his shoulder and took up position opposite me. I peeked around the door frame and saw the chaos and confusion that our little detonation had caused, German soldiers were looking in every direction, their confused faces searching for the source of the explosion, I quickly brought my gun round and fired a few shots at the nearest enemy, he fell to the ground, patches of blood were slowly oozing through the thin fabric that were his clothes, “my first kill” I thought. I heard Sgt. Ruvik laugh and shouted “pour it on em Buck, don't let up!” I took this as my cue to start firing again, quickly emptying the magazine of my rifle and hearing the charismatic “ting” that the M1 is renowned for.

 

We cleared the enemies from in front of us as we steadily moved to a wall of sandbags bordering the cusp of a trench that ran the full length of the cliffs, I could feel the impact of the enemy returning fire, a sporadic thudding as the rounds slammed in to the sandbag wall “frag out!” I yelled as I pulled the pin on another grenade and threw it to the enemy side of the makeshift battlefield that we had created.

 

I heard the panicked cries of a German solider as he scrambled to get away from the small explosive, the cries of panic quickly turned in to screams of agony as the grenade detonated, pieces of propelled shrapnel tearing through flesh and sinew. Sgt. Ruvik called across to me and Rex

“Flank around them, we'll lay suppressing fire!” he pushed another magazine in to his rifle and started firing off rounds,

”c'mon” I said to Rex, “we' gotta end this now” he nodded and checked his clip, happy with what he saw, he slotted it back in to the receiver and slapped it home

“Lead the way” he said, a gigantic grin on his face, it was clear to see he was enjoying this, all the training that we had endured was finally paying off. We scuttled along the sandbag wall until we reached a makeshift shack that would lead us to the other side to the trench.

 

I gave the door a stiff kick, much to my surprise it flew off its hinges and crashed in to the man who was waiting on the other side, Rex defiantly stepped on the door, pinning the man to the ground, he slowly drew his side arm and aimed it at the man's head

“Knock, knock” he quipped before shooting the soldier squarely between the eyes. I stared at him,

“Seriously?” I asked him, “knock, knock?” he have me a look that said ”what?” he seemed quite pleased with himself, considering he had just executed an unarmed man. I shrugged, “let's get going” indicating for him to take point.  We quickly moved through the house without any further hindrance or wisecracks and pressed ourselves in to the enemy side of the sandbag wall, I readied my rifle and slowly counted down from three, like a pair of angry, firearm wielding ghosts, we moved quickly and precisely, cutting down everyone that had the poor sense to not drop their weapons and surrender.

 

Once the smoke had cleared and the enemy had realised that there was no way of winning this engagement and thrown up their arms in surrender, Rex and myself were staring across the cratered and blackened beach

“One hell of a day eh?” Rex asked, gently taking a drag on a cigarette and offering it to me,

“Yeah” I replied “one hell of a day, so where are we headed?” I took the cigarette and took a long deep drag, allowing the nicotine to rush to my brain, leaving me a little light headed. “Small town called, Sainte-Mère-Église” he said “101st Airborne liberated it today, we've gotta occupy it” I smiled, “sounds good” he looked at me quizzically

“You okay bud?”

“I’m fine Rex” I lied, handing him back the shouldering cigarette, “it’s just been a long ass day” he looked satisfied by my answer

“Well alright then” he smiled, “you did good today, Buck. You really held your own”

“Thanks, man. I'm gonna get some rest, come find me when we've gotta move out”. I slapped him on the shoulder and moved towards the sleeping quarters that we had captured, the Nazi trinkets that had littered the walls and shelves had already been liberated by my comrades. I passed a partially shattered mirror hanging next to one of the bunks, I hesitated for a second and then decided to have a look, try to recognize the man who stared back at me. My dark brown hair was laden with small rocks and sand from all the explosives and scrabbling around in the dirt, my light blue eyes darted around my lean but muscular torso, taking in all the little cuts and scrapes that I had gained, I had to stoop a little as my six-foot frame easily cleared the height of the mirror, I noticed stubble appearing around my jaw and smirked, “Kate would love this” I thought “she always did like me a little unshaven”. Satisfied that I still knew who I was, I laid down on one of the bunks and pulled my helmet over my eyes, “ one hell of a day” I thought to myself, I turned down the lantern that hung on the wall next to me and slowly but drifted in to a deep, conflicted sleep.

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