The Green Family and Omerta
Three Waffen-SS soldiers marched through the gloom of the Sicilian countryside. Guns were at their shoulders, helmets were on their heads, and a full legion of Fascisti Blackshirts were marching below them on the dirt road, and yet something had struck fear deep into the hearts of the fanatic Nazis. They were scouting across the hills that surrounded the dirt road traveled by the main body of the Fascist troops, making sure that they were not interrupted nor spied on.
"He's got to be around him somewhere," the younger of the three Nazis whispered. "Is Hauptsturmfuhrer Gothen certain this was the man he fought in Tibet?"
"Are you questioning the Hauptsturmfuhrer's judgment?" asked the Nazi wielding the submachine gun. "He says this was the bodyguard of the Jewish Bolshevik reporter, the ape of a man that helped destroy an entire division of Waffen-SS!"
"And you are not scared?" the younger Nazi gulped as he shouldered his rifle.
"What do I have to be afraid of?" He gripped the handle of his sub-gun. "I am a servant of the Fuhrer. We are of the proudest and greatest race to ever exist, and the man we fight is an ape, and a servant of the Zionists as well! He will fall easily before our superiority. I hope he appears so that I may--"
The third Nazi, who wielding a scoped rifle, raised his hand. "I heard something," he whispered. He looked over the brown hills of the Sicilian lowlands, dotted with the occasional farm house or old villa. There was nothing. He shrugged and walked forward, when a muscled arm reached out from under a pile of dirt and grabbed his leg. It pulled him down, and he fell without a sound. He rolled over, reaching for his rifle.
Meat Hook Mulligan came to his feet, shaking the dirt off of him. He held a crowbar in one hand, and raised it high against the darkened sky. The German opened his mouth to scream, but the crowbar came whistling down, denting his helmet, splintering his skull, and ending his cry before it began. The Nazi with the sub-gun leveled his weapon at Mulligan, but the big man swung his crowbar back and cracked it into his chest, breaking ribs and knocking him backwards.
Mulligan stared down at him. He had broad shoulders, a square jaw and face that was a craggy record of a hundred brawls, fights and scrapes, in boxing rings and back alleys, with a busted nose, cauliflower ears, and more scars that could be counted. He wore an old pair of trousers and an undershirt, covered with dirt, and carried a shotgun on a sling across his back and a high caliber revolver in a shoulder-holster. He didn't bother to use the guns.
"Don't speak kraut, you lousy bum," Mulligan said, looking down at the whimpering SS soldier below him. "So don't bother begging." He swung the crowbar down, quickly splitting the German's skull.
The last Nazi, terrified of Mulligan, raised his rifle and reached for the trigger. Mulligan was faster. He grabbed the barrel of the rifle and yanked it from the Nazi's hand, then tossed it to the ground. He slugged the German in the face, sending teeth and blood into the air, and then fastened his free hand around the Nazi's neck and started squeezing. The Nazi gagged as he sank down, reaching for the combat dagger in his belt. He pulled it out and prepared to drive it into Mulligan's chest.
"Going for a shiv? Don't even think about it!" Mulligan muttered between gritted teeth. He released one hand from the SS man's throat and grabbed his arm squeezing, until the German dropped the dagger. Then Mulligan returned both hands to the Nazi's throat, and didn't stop squeezing until the Nazi sank down and stopped moving.
Gasping for breath, Mulligan stood up and looked down at the column of Blackshirts. He ducked down in the dirt, reaching for his trench coat, which he then draped over his massive shoulders. He saw a command car driving between the ranks of Blackshirts, and followed by a column of Waffen-SS. Mulligan recognized one of the men in the rear of the command car, with a peaked cap, a black trench coat, and a steel hard look in his eyes.
"Gothen," Mulligan whispered. "In the flesh."
Wentzel Gothen was sitting next to another man, this one dressed in a dark suit and tie, with a monocle in one eye, dark hair, and an expression that would have looked almost mournful if not for the snarling curl in his lips.
"Don't recognize the other bird, but I figure he's some swell, and a fascist to boot!" Mulligan shrugged as he headed back into the hills. The Green Family would be arriving soon, and he'd have to get a message to them quickly.
Palermo was the major port city in Sicily, resting on the warm waters of the Mediterranean. The food, the culture, and the beauty of the countryside made it a destination for tourists around the world, and the docking of a large luxury liner in the Palermo Port was not an odd situation. Several tourists filed off of it, walking down the gangplanks as porters hauled their luggage. The Greens hadn't hired anyone, and they carted their suitcases after them, a monkey in a bellboy's red and gold shirt and pillbox cap resting on one of them.
Charles Green wore his brown vest, suit, a neat tie and a bowler hat, his press card already tucked into the hatband. His wife came behind him, wearing a short trench coat and a woman's fedora. Catherine Green kept her eyes on her son, ten-year-old Oswald Green, and the owner of Doc, their white-faced monkey.
"Oswald, dear," Catherine said. "Is that suitcase too heavy for you? Maybe I, or your father, could carry it for you?"
"I can hold it, mama," Oswald said quickly. "Don't worry." Oswald used his free hand to adjust his spectacles, when Doc decided to leap into his arms. Oswald's grip slipped, and the suitcase began to roll down the gangplank, but Charles reached back and caught it.
He handed the handle back to his son as they reached the bottom of the gangplank, and entered the busy dockside center of Palermo. Local fishermen hawked their goods, other boats steamed out of the harbor, and the sights and smells of a foreign land drifted across the Green Family.
"I'm sorry, papa!" Oswald cried, adjusted Doc so the monkey sat on his shoulder.
Charles was looking ahead at a figure leaning against the wall of a building and puffing away on a cigarette. "That's all right, son," Charles said. He leaned forward, his eyes narrowing, as the fellow stood up and dashed over to them. He had a trim black moustache, the edges turned up, and black hair parted in the middle, and he wore a white suit and vest, with a matching tie and fedora.
"Charles Green!" he called. "Mr. Hotchkiss told me you was coming here! Good to see you, good to see you!" He grabbed Charles by the hand and pumped it. "Boy oh boy, I am glad to see you! And I bet you figure it's the cat's meow that I'm here. Wouldn't want to tell a story without the Weekly Worker's ace photographer around, now would you?"
"Nope…" Charles said, grimacing behind his grin. He turned to his family. "Catherine, Oswald, this is Larry Lupo. He's a photographer for the Weekly Worker."
"Lucky Lupo to my friends!" Larry chimed in. "Never met the wife and kids, Charlie. They are quite a pair." He nodded to Catherine. "You got quite the build, Mrs. Green, if you don't mind me saying so!"
"I do, Mr. Lupo," Catherine said coldly. "Now if you would excuse us, we were trying to get to your hotel and—"
"And you must be Charlie Jr.!" Lucky Lupo knelt down and ruffled Charles's curly hair, patting his newsboy cap. "What's the rumpus, little fellow? You got a monkey for a pet? Boy, ain't that the bee's knees!"
"Yes, sir!" Oswald agreed, petting Doc. "His name is Doc."
"Like Doc Jupiter? Brilliant! Say, your old man ever told you about the time he and I was covering the big strike up in Centralia? Some American Legion boys went to rough them up, and they was shooting, and your old man hauled me right out of the way as I was trying to get a picture. Saved my life. And broke my camera."
Oswald stared in awe at his father. "No, sir. Um, actually, sir, I don't think he mentioned you at all."
Charles smiled slightly. "Look, Larry—"
"Lucky. We got to check in at the Paradiso Hotel in the center of town, we got reservations, you see. There's a fellow we're supposed to meet as well." Charles waved the smoke from Lucky's cigarette away. "How about we'll meet you for dinner?"
"The Paradiso?" Lucky Lupo asked. "That's where I'm staying. Class joint. Come on, we'll walk there together." They started walking down the narrow street of Palermo, passing by vendors and moving through the crowds. The sun was high in the sky, and the heat radiated against the white stucco buildings, the frothing fountains, and the tall statues, some looking older than even Roman times, that they passed on the way to the hotel.
Oswald and Catherine Green walked together, Oswald leaning forward to try and listen to more of Larry and Charles's conversation. Larry was bubbling with conversation, hardly leaving time for Charles to respond.
"Swell kid, Charlie, swell kid." Lupo had his hands in his pockets as they ambled along. "What does he want to be when he grows up? A newshound like his old man? I can see it now – Oswald Green, ace reporter!"
"I don't think he's given much to the matter," Charles said. "He's only ten-years-old."
"Heh, I knew what I want to be when I was ten – one of them fellows pulls up the curtain in a burlesque house. Fate has a funny way of mashing those dreams around." An automobile bearing a fascist party official came screeching down the street, the driver honking the horn madly. The Greens and Lupo joined the locals as they scattered out of the way. Larry waved his fist at the auto. "Goddamn fascists," he mattered. "They run this whole country and want the world to know it. I tell you, Charlie, I'm glad my folks left when they did." He nodded to Charles. "Your old man left from Russia, right?
"That's right," Charles agreed.
"The how'd you end up with some class blonde society dame like the missus?" Larry asked.
"Because we love each other, Lucky," Charles said. "And if you talk about her like that again, I'll punch you in the face until you've lost all of your teeth." They had reached the hotel, and Charles walked over to the door and held it open for his family. Larry was frozen in place by Charles's threat for a few seconds, then dashed inside after them.
They walked over to the desk and handed in their reservations, then a porter to their luggage up to their rooms. Larry plopped down in a wicker chair in the lobby. As a dark haired boy in a fisherman's cap walked in, holding a note in his hands.
"Signor Green!" he called, seeing Charles. "Signor Green! I have message!"
Larry stood up and waved his hands. "Scram, kid!" he called. "We don't want what you're hawking!"
"Hold on," Charles said. He walked over to the small boy, who handed Charles the note. Charles looked it over. "Say," he replied. "This is from Mulligan."
"Mulligan?" Oswald perked up. "Is Mr. Mulligan okay?"
"He says he's doing fine," Charles said, reading over the note. "He's been scouting the countryside. He says there's a man named Don Infantino, who runs things around here, but he's up against the fascists. He says Don Infantino's pretty big in the Cosa Nostra."
At the mention of the Cosa Nostra, the small boy gulped. Charles waved his hand, took out his wallet and paid the boy, thanking him in Italian. "Graci," he said. The boy took the money and dashed away. Charles sat down and looked over the note, Oswald running to his side.
Lupo took out another cigarette. "Don Salvatore Infantino, your pal must mean. He's the fat cat around here, big time mobster. Runs things from his country estate. But lately, the fascists have been giving him a run for his money. Mussolini's sending down his blackshirts, and they're cracking down on organized crime."
Charles finished reading the note. He looked up to Catherine. "There's more than that," he said. "Mulligan says the Italian Fascists are searching for something. A whole column is headed to the hills outside of town, here in Palermo. He says they've got Waffen-SS, and the Ahnenerbe here. With Gothen."
"Oh no," Oswald whispered. "Gothen…" He looked at his shoes, and his mother wrapped her arms protectively about him.
"Don't you worry, darling," she said. "He'll never hurt you again. We won't go looking for him, and your father and I and Mulligan are all here to protect you."
"I don't know, Mrs. Green," Lucky Lupo said, tossing his cigarette away carelessly. "It smells like a story. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't go and cover it." Lupo jabbed a thumb at the ceiling. "I got my gear upstairs. I can get a local driver to take us north into the hills in a half an hour, and we'll have the scoop before supper!"
"And we'll just wait here?" Catherine asked, staring at Charles. "While you run off straight into a psychotic Nazi that nearly killed you before and beat up our boy?"
Charles sighed. He looked back to Lupo. "Let's wait here for the day, at least. Let me stay at least until tonight. We'll see the sights, we'll have dinner, and in the morning, we'll decide something."
Lupo shrugged. He looked down to Oswald. "Looks like your old man is missing a scoop, Charlie Jr."
"Well, sir, Gothen, the Nazi guy, he's really bad. He attack me, and he hurt me, and it took a while before I got better. And he enjoyed it, he liked it a lot too." Oswald shook his head. "Sir, I'm a little scared of him, actually."
"That's okay," Lupo said. "Sometimes people are scared. But they face their fears. And great reporters, even when they're scared, they still go in and get the scoop." He looked back up to Charles. "But we'll wait until tomorrow morning, if that's what you want. I'll see you for dinner tonight, at the café across the street." He stood up, pumping Charles's hand, then doing the same to Oswald. "Gotta dangle. See you then." Without waiting for them to say their farewells, Lupo walked out the door.
"What an odd fellow," Catherine said. "And a little rude as well."
"He's all right," Charles said. "He can be a bit cloying at times. Well, all the time, maybe. But he knows his stuff. He's the best man with a camera we got at the Weekly Worker, and that's no exaggeration." He pushed his glasses up on his nose. "Well, we're free of him until dinner. Shall we go and see the town?"
After briefly checking in their rooms and resting, they did just that. They had lunch at a nearby café, and vested the churches and cathedrals, the palaces and the opera house. Oswald was quiet, holding tightly onto Doc and scratching the monkey's back. He walked next to his father as they walked down the aisle of an empty cathedral. "Papa?" the boy asked. "Do you think I should face my fears?"
"Sometimes you should," Charles replied. "You're talking about Gothen, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir," Oswald whispered. He rubbed his arm, where Wentzel Gothen has slashed his skin, after beating him bloody with gloved hands.
"Oswald, there are some fears that should never be faced, because the things that cause them are the worst things in the world," Charles said. "Gothen is one of those things. He scares me, son, scares the hell out of me. Him and everything he stands for, and especially because he hurt you." He squeezed his son's shoulder. "But you shouldn't worry about people like that. Because me, or your mother, or Mulligan, good people, will always be around to protect you."
That seemed to comfort Oswald a little. He looked up at the fantastic stained glass display in the church, and smiled as the sun shone through on his family. They spent the rest of the day visiting the city, and went to the restaurant across the street for evening, just as the stars were coming out.
Oswald was still asking his father questions as they sat down at a table on a balcony overlooking the street, Lucky Lupo already seated and waiting for them. "So, papa, do you think Mulligan is okay?" Oswald asked as he sat down, between his father and mother, and right across from Lupo.
"Don't worry about him, Oswald," Charles said, handing his son and wife a menu. "He wouldn't want you to."
"You talking about your new bodyguard?" Larry asked. "I hear he's a regular gorilla, a real trouble boy!"
"He's a swell fellow, Mr. Lupo," Oswald said. "Mr. Mulligan is strong and brave and very nice. He's saved me and my mother and father tons of times!"
Charles nodded. "He's a good man and I do trust him my life." Charles waved his fork at Lucky. "So, I you know this Don Infantino he mentioned?"
"Oh, right. The Don. The Mafia is more powerful than the government here in Sicily, or was anyway. Now the government, the fascists, are coming back hard. Most of the big dons have been forced to go into hiding, are collaborating with Mussolini's men, or have been outright killed or forced to hide in the country! Don Infantino is just too tough for them, it seems. He's still lording it over them in his big old villa in the hills. I guess they can't find an excuse to go after him. More likely, they're too scared. He's got an army with him, and sends torpedoes over to the States in return for a stream of cash from bootleggers, and big name gangsters from Miami to Detroit."
"Think he'd be up for an interview?" Charles asked.
"Could be. He has a decent reputation, works real hard to maintain good publicity with the locals, which is a little bit harder than it seems. They pay taxes to him, he always gets to wet his beak, and if they step out of line, his boys come and bring the luparas." Lucky slapped the table, hard enough to make plates jumped. "Bam. They're gone. But I think he'd be interested."
"I'll see him tomorrow, then," Charles agreed. "You coming with me?"
"I don't know, Charlie…" Lupo muttered. "I think the better story's in the hills, with the Nazis, I mean. They're up to something, and what's really got me intrigued, is that's where the catacombs are."
"The catacombs?" Oswald asked.
"Sure. They ain't your ordinary bone yard, though. The Capuchin Monks, see, they dried out all these corpses, set them up like mummies, but with no wrapping. There's thousands of bodies, going all the way to the middle ages, rotting away. It's quite a sight."
Catherine gulped, looking down at her spaghetti. "Sounds dreadful."
"Maybe. But I bet all them dead folks would look pretty nice in black and white." Lucky grinned. "But what do the Nazis want with them? That I don't know."
"It can't be good," Oswald whispered, staring down at his food.
Lupo looked at the boy, and suddenly smiled. He grabbed the boy's fork, and took two potatoes form his plate. "Hey, Charlie Jr.," he said. "Get a load of this!" Quickly, he stuck a fork into each potato and held them under his chin, like they were legs and shoes. He began to make them dance, kicking them in the air as his head moved across the table.
Oswald smiled, and then giggled.
"Charlie Chaplin showed me how to do that," Lucky said, sliding the forks form the potatoes. "I'm glad you liked it."
They finished dinner in high spirits, and afterwards, Larry walked out to the balcony while Catherine and Charles paid the check. Lucky waved to Oswald, who stood up and walked over to him, Doc following with his furry tail held high. They stood on the balcony and watched the procession of passerby below them.
Lucky patted Oswald's shoulder. "Tell you what, Charlie Jr. I'm gonna make a proposition to you, and you hear me out, then tell me what you think." He grinned. "What do you say that after your parents are snoozing, you come on down and meet me in the lobby of your hotel. Then we steal up, out of the city, and go to the catacombs. We can see what the Nazis are up to."
Oswald was taken aback. "D-do you need me, sir?" he finally asked.
"I'd like an assistant, yeah," Lucky agreed. "And I think it would be fun. You could see the kind of thing your old man does every day to put food on your table, and see some pretty interesting looking dried up corpses in the bargain."
"Well, what if…" Oswald gulped and looked away. "What if that Gothen man is there?"
"Hey, little fellow, you think your old man freaks out if he knows some creep is gonna be waiting for him? Hell no, Charlie Jr. He's goes in on all cylinders."
"That's right," Oswald said. He looked back to his father, signing a check, with Catheirne nearby. "And Mr. Mulligan, he's out there too, risking his life." He looked back to Lupo. "Okay, Mr. Lupo. I'll go with you."
"Jake. Meet me tonight in the lobby and we'll go out and have a look. With all luck we should be back by breakfast, and your parents won't even know you're gone." Lucky shook Oswald's hand. "You're a lot like your old man, you know, Charlie Jr.? You're a good guy, like him?"
"I am?" Oswald asked, smiling.
"Oh yeah. And you're quiet too." Lupo grinned. "Get on to your folks now. We don't want them suspicious or nothing."
The next morning, Charles Green awoke to see a note on his nightstand. Still blinking sleep from his eyes, he reached for his glasses and read over the note, hastily scrawled in a clumsy hand. His eyes widened as he reached the bottom of the folded scrap of paper and he gasped in surprise.
"Catherine," he cried, rubbing his wife's shoulder. "Catherine, wake up."
"Hmmm?" she asked, rolling over to stare at her husband. "What's going on?"
"Oswald…" Charles's hands clenched the end of the bed. "He went off with Lucky Lupo, to the catacombs, to act as Lucky's assistant." Charles sighed. "Lucky's not to blame. I should have been clear about what happened with Gothen, and why I didn't want Oswald going near him."
Catherine sat up and stepped out of the bed. "We'd better go after them, then," she said. "Before they get too far."
Charles shook his head. "Too late, I'm afraid. They left last night, so that means they've probably already reached the catacombs. And if we rented a car and headed after them? I'm sure the Nazis would find out about it, and then they'd go after Charles."
"What about the police?" Catherine asked. "There must be something we can do!"
"They couldn't help, even if they weren't probably working with the Fascists." Charles set his feet down on the wooden floor of their hotel room, his hands clasped as he thought. "Lucky's a good guy. He'll take care of Charles."
"He's a nut, Charles!" Catherine cried. "A loon! I'm not letting my little boy hang around with a guy like that!"
"He's a little off, but he's a good guy. I'm sure of that. And Mulligan is out there as well, remember." Charles stood up. "Actually, and I know you're not going to like this, but I think we should go see Don Infantino."
"You story can't wait?" Catherine asked.
"He might be able to help us," Charles said. "You heard Lucky, last night. Infantino's the closest thing this place has a ruler who's not entirely in league with the Fascisti." He stood up and reached for a collared shirt and pair of trousers. "But we shouldn't bring it up right away. We'll find out what's going on, up in the hills, and see if he's up to sending his men around, and then maybe we'll go with them."
"We?" Catherine asked.
Charles grinned at her. "My dear, I wouldn't want to have anybody else by my side."
They dressed quickly, and scarfed down an even quicker breakfast, before going downstairs and hiring a car to take them to Infantino's villa on the outskirts of town. It was a one way trip, and the driver didn't seem to mind. He seemed to be used to taking visiting dignitaries to see Don Infantino, as if the mob boss was just another one of the many landmarks of Sicily.
The driver dropped them off outside, and Catherine and Charles exited. The villa was a massive creation of white stone and marble, a large garden surrounding it, and gates surrounding that. Sentries and guards moved about, sawed-off lupara shotguns in their hands. Catherine and Charles walked to the gate, and one of the guards held up his hand.
"Signor, where you going?" he asked. Like most of the guards, he wore a white shirt and a dark vest, a newsboy cap sat on his head, and he was smoking a cigar.
Charles smiled at him. "I'm Charles Green, a reporter from the United States. This is my wife, Catherine." He held out his hand. "We'd like an audience with Don Infantino. We wish to meet this great man, and maybe do a story about him."
"A story, eh? Well, the Don, he don't want to see no nosy—" The guard removed the cigarette from his mouth. "You Americans you said?"
"Ah well, I go get the gate for you, signor. Hold on." He walked back, talking to the other guards. Soon the gate was open and the guard led them inside.
Catherine stayed close to her husband, her hands around his arm. Charles wrapped his arm around her as they walked into the garden. They headed to a small table in the center of the garden, with a few wicker chairs about it. An aging, paunch-bellied man sat in one, two massive guards behind him.
"Charles…" Catherine whispered. "These men are gangsters. Worse than the ones in Chicago."
"Don't think of them like that," Charles whispered back. "They're like a government, one that the locals trust a lot more than the fascists in Rome, and ones which may be more fair as well."
Don Infantino waved them forward with a hand. He had white hair and a matching moustache, neatly combed, and wore smoking jacket over his shirt and trousers. He spoke Italian, and the taller of his two bodyguards translated for him.
"Don Infantino wishes to know, with all respect, what paper you work for." The transalator said.
"Of course. You can tell the Don, with all respect, that we work for the Weekly Worker." Charles sat down in one of the chairs, and a servant set a glass cup before him, and poured him a drink from a tall bottle of wine, then did the same for Catherine. Charles rose the cup and drank, bowing his head to the Don. "Thank you, sir. This is very good."
"The best," Don Infantino replied. He waved his hand to his translator. "Weekly Worker? I haven't heard of it. What about New York Times? You work for them?"
"No, sir," Charles said. "Frankly, they're not interesting in the kind of journalism I do."
"And what is that, Signor Green?" Infantino asked.
"The stories of those who aren't being told." Charles pointed to the Don. "Like your own, sir. How have things been going, now that Mussolini is in charge of the country? I hear he's been stomping down on your people pretty hard."
"Nothing new, I think." Don Infantino shook his head. "Those fascists up north. All northerners, I'd say. I spit on them. They always think they are better than the southerners, and they think we are the worst of are. It is no wonder this part of the country is so wracked with poverty. But I tell you this – they will never defeat us."
"And why is that?" Catherine suddenly asked.
Don Infantino stared at her. "Does your wife know—"
"I'm quite sure I don't know what you're talking about, Don Infantino," Catherine announced. "We're a team, Charles and I. Would you please answer the question."
Infantino shrugged. "You have quite a woman, Signor Green. Very well, signora, I will tell you. In Sicily, we have Omerta. The honor that makes us look to ourselves for justice, rather than go to the authorities. And that is why the fascists will never win here. Because for all of their discipline, they cannot break Omerta, and that bond is stronger than all of their laws. And we have family, we are linked by blood and respect, and that will let us survive until the fascists have crumbled into the dirt."
"You don't think they'll last?" Charles asked.
"Signor Green, empires rise and fall. Underworlds remain. Your own country will prove this better than any other."
"I don't doubt that," Charles agreed. "Have you heard about the recent German involvement?" He didn't skip a beat as he changed subjects. "I have heard that in the outskirts of this very city, a number of Italian Blackshirts, and a division of Waffen-SS, are searching for something in the hills. Near the catacombs."
"The catacombs?" Don Infantino crossed himself. "Mother of God, what could they want in there?" He thought for a few moments. "Perhaps they wish for the Hammer of Karun?"
"Karun?" Charles asked. "The Etruscan God of the Dead?"
"Old spirits, bad spirits." Don Infantino stubbed out his cigar on the table. "And the Hammer of Karun is left over from the bad days when such men were worshipped. The Romans feared it, and hid it hear, and the monks built their catacombs around the cursed artifact."
Catherine Green leaned forward. "What…what does it do?"
"Signora, it is simple," Don Infantino replied. "It raises the dead."
Oswald Green walked through the darkened catacombs, deep under one of the country churches in Palermo. On both sides of him, the dead stared out with sightless hollow eyes. They had been preserved in vinegar, dressed in their garments for death, and set out to await the Resurrection. There were monks from the 1600s, dressed in brown robes, their skulls protruding from their decaying faces. There were normal townsfolk from every era, even little children, dressed in the finest clothes they had, and in all stages of slow decay.
Oswald was walking down the center of the darkened catacombs, a tunnel with the corpses on both sides of him. Lucky Lucca walked in front of him, holding a camera and tripod, while Oswald carried spare bulbs and other equipment in a large bag slung over his shoulder. Doc walked near Oswald's feet, apparently just as scared as his master was.
"Mr. Lupo?" Oswald asked. "Are you…are you we should be down here? I don't really like this."
"Just the dead, Charlie Jr.," Lupo explained. "They can't hurt you. Not even if they tried." Lupo raised the camera to his eye and looked at one of the corpses. "But they do make swell pictures, if you don't mind me saying!" He prepared to snap the picture, when he heard voices down the tunnel. "Say, what was that?"
"Sir?" Oswald watched as Lupo walked down the hallway, and he headed after him. It was the early morning, and normally Oswald would be a bit tired from sneaking out of his hotel room in the dead of night, and the long automobile ride up into the hills, but he was more frightened than anything. The dead men, women and children leered at him, and he was even more scared of something else, Wentzel Gothen, lurking in the catacombs.
He followed Lupo down the hallway, and they walked into a large hallway. Lupo raised his camera. "Stop!" a harsh voice commanded. "Put that down or I shoot!"
It was a voice Oswald recognized. He stood frozen in place, standing behind Lucky, and too scared to run or to move forward. Lucky Lupo was about to walk into a great round room, with a stone altar in the middle. Nazis, Waffen-SS in their black uniforms and all armed, stood around the room. Hauptsturmfuhrer Gothen stood near the altar, another man in a black suit and monocle next to him.
Gothen pointed his luger at Lupo. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"Freedom of the press, goosestepper! The name's Lucky Lupo, and I'd advise you to explain yourself. What the hell are you doing in this boneyard, buster?" Lucky demanded.
"Explain myself?" Gothen walked forward, still holding out his Mauser. "In my country, the reporters know to behave themselves. Perhaps I should teach you some similar manners." He looked down at spotted Oswald, and his eyes widened. "Ah! Here is someone I recognize. Do you remember me, you and your tained blood?"
"I…I do," Oswald whispered.
"Oh." Lupo looked from Oswald to Gothen. His brassy manner left him, and then quickly returned. "Why you picking on him, you lousy mug? He's just hauling some gear for me. Now, explain what you're doing here, and on the double!" He pointed to the man in the black suit. "Who's he? The undertaker in this joint, cause he sure dresses like one."
"I am Julius Evola," the man with the monocle replied. "Philosopher, esoteric, and occultist." He looked down to the altar. It had a stone angel above the pedestal, holding up its hands as if it was trying to ward away passerby. Evola held out his hands, and one of the Nazis handed him a sledge hammer. "And you degenerates are not worth my time. Kill them, Gothen, do it quickly."
"I think not, Herr Evola," Gothen said. He looked down at Oswald. "I wish to keep this little piece of Jewish filth around for quite some time."
"Lay off the kid, will you?" Lupo started, but Gothen rammed his fist into the reporter's chest, causing him to double over with pain and sink down. He looked to Oswald. "Run, kid!" he whispered. "Start running!" He reached for his camera and clicked it. The flashbulb shot out, sending out a bright light that caused Gothen and the other Nazis to cover their eyes.
But Oswald didn't run. He spent precious seconds grabbing Lucky's arm, and pulling him along, then reaching down to grab Pip. "Come on!" he cried. "I don't want to leave you with him!" And together, they ran down the hallway.
Gothen fired after them, the bullet striking a corpse in the catacomb walls. Gothen cursed and turned to his men. He shouted out commands, a half a dozen Nazis charged after them. "Bring the Green boy back alive!" Gothen shouted. "With him, I will finish what I started in the Himalayas!" He turned back to Evola. "You must understand my hatred for him, Herr Evola."
"I do," Evola replied. He looked down at the altar. "But I don't suppose it will manner in a little. We will conquer this world, Hauptsturfuhrer, and bring back all of the good old ways of our glorious race." He swung the sledge hammer into the altar, smashing aside the angel and breaking the stone. He pulled away the stone, and reached inside.
"Where is it?" Gothen whispered, leaning in close. "The Hammer of Karun! Do you have it?"
"I do." Evola pulled the Hammer of Karun from the altar and held it up to the light of the Nazi lanterns. It was a simple device, a hammer with a handle as long as a man's arm, and a rectangular head, all of gray stone. There was single image carved on the side of the hammer, the snarling face of some ancient Etruscan God, hairy and horned, with bat like wings flanking him.
The two men stared at it in awe. "It is said that, as Karun was the bridge between life and death, so too will this hammer destroy those barriers." Evola held the hammer up and brought it down, smashing it into the dirt. "And bring the dead back to hideous life!" he shouted. A shockwave flew outwards from the hammer, radiating through the entire catacombs. The ground shook, and the dirt cracked and split as if in an earthquake.
Oswald Green and Lucky Lupo were dashing down the hallway, the Nazis close behind, right when the shockwave hit. They were knocked to the ground, Oswald falling flat on his face and Lupo being knocked backwards. The Nazis pursuing them stayed on their feet, and quickly ran up to them.
"Run, kid!" Lupo turned around and slugged one of the Nazi's in the face, receiving a rifle butt in the chest. "I'll hold these kraut bastards off! You get out of here!"
"Mr. Lupo, I don't want anybody to be captured by Gothen! He'll kill you! He'll torture you!" Oswald ran to help Lupo, but one of the Nazis grabbed his shoulder and slammed him against the wall of the tunnel. The Nazi produced a dagger, holding it at Oswald's throat. He smiled cruelly.
"Gothen wants you alive, Jew," he whispered. "But I suppose he won't mind if some of the less important parts are missing."
But before he could raise the knife, something thundered in the tunnel, and he was blown back in a wave of blood and dust. He fell hard on the ground, and the other Nazis turned and looked down the tunnel. They saw a broad shouldered figure in a trench coat and newsboy cap, already working the pump on his shotgun. Another Nazi went down in the second blast, before he could even raise his rifle.
Meat Hook Mulligan charged down the hall, pumping his shotgun again and ducking a blast from a Nazi's sub-gun. He swung the shotgun like a club, knocking the weapon from the German's hands, before slamming the muzzle of the weapon into his chest and pulling the trigger.
"You like that, you lousy bastard!" Mulligan shouted. "Come on! I'll beat the lot of you!" The three remaining Nazis charged forward to meet him, but Mulligan had the edge in the narrow tunnel. He dropped the shotgun and drew his crowbar, crashing it into the skull of one Nazi, while he grabbed the other by the throat and smashed his head into the wall. The third Nazi raised his pistol, but Mulligan was quicker on the draw, pulling out his own revolver and blasting three bullets through the SS soldier's chest.
He turned back to the weakened Nazi with his head still stuck in the soft dirt of the catacomb walls. "Hurting Oswald, huh?" he asked. "Gonna make you pay big time for that, buddy!" He cracked his crowbar down on the neck of the Nazi and didn't stop until the man stopped moving.
Mulligan looked back to Oswald, who was still pressed against the wall, breathing shallowly and slowly. "Kiddo?" Mulligan asked. "They…they hurt you?"
"No, sir," Oswald whispered, his voice a whisper.
"Thank Christ." Mulligan knelt down and touched Oswald's shoulder. "Let's get you out of here, kiddo. Come on." His voice was gentle, and he led the stunned boy away from the wall, and past the mutilated corpses of the three SS soldiers. They walked a few of the preserved corpses and stopped. Lucky Lupo headed after them.
Oswald pointed to Lupo. "Mr. Mulligan, this is Larry Lupo."
"Lucky Lupo," Lucky added. He held out his hand. "I'm a photographer for the Weekly Worker. You must be Charles Green's man. Taking care of his boy, I see. I brought him along as my assistant for this little jaunt. Figured some experience in the field might do the boy some good. Trust me, pal, I had no idea the "
"You brought him here? Crazy wop!" Mulligan turned to Lupo. "I ought to break your neck for bringing near that Nazi madman Gothen!"
"Please, Mr. Mulligan!" Oswald cried. "We can't fight amongst ourselves. We've got to find out what the Nazis are doing." Doc sat at his feet, and the monkey began to screech and cry, moving in circles and staring at the corpses. Oswald picked him up and tried to comfort him. "What's going on?" he asked. "Doc, are you all right?"
"Forget your monkey, kiddo. Let's get you out of here." Mulligan looked down the hallway. "There an entrance into the middle of the abbey up there. Let's head out." He started walking down the hallway, and got a few steps before he stopped and turned around.
He saw one of the corpses, which had been leaning against the wall, move. It was the desiccated remains of some medieval monk, and it was now leaning forward, its skeletal arms outstretched. The dead man reached down for Oswald, the boy completely unaware.
Mulligan raised his shotgun. "Nuts!" he shouted. "Oswald, get down!"
The boy threw himself to the ground, and Mulligan raised his shotgun and fired, blasting the upper half of the dead man apart. The skeletal legs walked forward for a few steps before collapsing into the dust. "Run!" Mulligan shouted, dashing forward as more of the dead men reared up from catacomb walls.
The withered cadaver of a young woman in a pretty dress lunged for Mulligan, grabbing his throat and pinning him against the wall. Lupo swung the folded tripod for his camera, smashing open her skull. Mulligan pushed the body aside, and the two continued running for the exit.
"What the hell did those Nazis unleash back there?" Mulligan asked.
"I don't know them krauts from Adam, but I know they're up to no good!" Lupo shouted back. "Dead fellow, twelve o'clock!"
A corpse stepped out, reaching with both hands for Mulligan and Lupo. Oswald kicked the dead man in the leg, smashing ancient bone and sending the corpse falling to the ground. It reached up Mulligan, until the big man blasted the dusty remains to pieces with his shotgun. Ahead of them, a few shafts of light came from the exit to the catacombs.
"Almost there!" Lupo shouted. He spun his tripod around, smashing open the withered skull of another dead monk. They pounded up the stone stairwell, and arrived gasping and coughing into the sunlight.
After they had recovered, Oswald looked back down into the catacombs. The corpses weren't chasing after them. "They want to stay in the tunnels," he said. "Maybe they like it down there."
"They're welcome to them," Lucky Lupo said. The abbey was a small one, just a single row of ancient wooden pews in the center of the structure, which was all made of gray stone. He pulled out his camera and worked to screw in a new bulb while Oswald walked to the wooden door, Mulligan following him. Doc crouched behind one of the wooden benches, the monkey still agitated.
Oswald reached for the door, but Mulligan grabbed the boy and leapt backwards, as a storm of bullets tore the wood to shreds. More bullets poured in, smashing the glass windows and riddling the ancient statues of saints and angels with lead. Lupo let out a yelp, and threw himself to the ground, the camera falling from his hand.
Outside, Wentzel Gothen, Julius Evola, and many more Nazi troops, stood around a few armored cars, their weapons all aimed at the door to the chapel. Evola held the Hammer of Karun in his hands, the arcane artifact wrapped in a black cloth.
"Give us the boy!" Gothen shouted. "Hand him over and we will let you leave alive!"
"Go screw, goosestepper!" Mulligan shouted, ducking low to avoid another shot. He motioned for Lupo to join him, and the photographer crawled over to the area around the door. Mulligan kicked open the stone door, sticking his shotgun out and firing blind. Packed behind their cars, the Nazis made easy targets. One went down, and the rest ducked for cover.
Lucky Lupo reached the door. He looked to Oswald and gulped. "Boy, Charlie Jr., I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have brought you hear. This was bad business, and I put you right in the middle of it. You're a good kid, and your old man don't deserve this kind of grief. I'm sorry."
Mulligan flattened himself against the wall and turned to Lupo. "Well, that's good to know. Here's the plan, Lupo. I kick open that door and start firing, driving the krauts back, while you and Oswald run for the cars. I'll follow you. You bust into one of them boilers, and start driving. I'll hop on, keep shooting, and off we go."
"Will they follow us?" Lupo asked.
"They do, I'll kill them." Mulligan pumped his shotgun. He looked down to Oswald. "Kiddo? You stick with Lupo and don't get separated. Soon as he gets into one of them armored cars, you dive in and curl up in the back. Keep your head down, and no matter what, don't stop running. You got it?"
Oswald held Doc in his arms. "Yes, sir," he said quickly.
"That's jake. Let's go." Mulligan kicked open the door. Before the Nazis could bring their weapons to bear, he was walking down the green lawn, firing his shotgun from the hip. He blasted a Nazi in the chest, sending him flying into the street, then blasted the head off of another German. "Oswald! Lupo! Start dusting!" he cried.
The photographer and the reporter dashed out, running across the grass for the nearest one of the armored cars. Lupo grabbed the door and slammed it open. A Nazi pointed his rifle at him, but Mulligan blasted him dead. Mulligan was still walking forward. "Get in and start moving!" he shouted, breaking into a run. "Hurry!" He swung his shotgun into one hand and drew out his revolver in the other, firing with both as he dashed for the car.
Lupo squeezed into the driver's seat, turned the ignition and started the car rolling forward, just as Oswald squeezed into the passenger seat. Bullets were flying about them, pounding into the car's armored sides and smashing through the windows. "Oswald! Get in the back and keep your head down!" Lucky shouted, as Oswald climbed inside. He sent the car driving forward, and crashed straight into the rear of another.
The Nazis were rushing forward to get a better shot. Mulligan reached the car and clambered onto the runners, still firing with his shotgun. The gun clipped empty, and he slung it over his back and wielding his revolver with both hands, pumping the remaining rounds into the charging Germans.
"Get us moving, Lupo!" he shouted, as he saw Gothen charging towards them, firing from the hip with a sub-gun. "Any time now!"
Lupo sent the armored car scooting backwards, and then rocketing forward. Gothen ran after it and leapt forward. Mulligan pointed his revolver at the Nazi and fired, but it clicked empty. Gothen merely grinned, then drew the SS dagger from his belt and plunged it into Mulligan's shoulder.
"Damn!" Mulligan cried, wincing as he nearly lost his grip.
"Weakling." Gothen pulled open the rear door and saw Oswald and Doc. He grabbed the boy's shoulder, and the boy out, then hurled him out of the car. Oswald tried to grab hold of something, but then he was in the air, and crashing and rolling into the soft grass on the side of the road. Gothen leapt off and approached him.
Oswald tried to come to his feet, but his left leg was twisted and ached from the fall. He heard Gothen's boots coming towards him and looked to Doc. "You run away," he whispered to the monkey, pointing the hills. "Don't let him get you!" he cried.
Gothen planted a boot on the boy's back and pushed him down into the dirt. Doc looked at his owner, and Oswald pointed again. The monkey finally turned and scampered away, just as Gothen grabbed Oswald by his collar and hauled him up.
"Ah, Oswald Green," Gothen said, smiling at the boy. "Our time together was so short, when we met in Tibet. I never got to say goodbye." He pressed his dagger to Oswald's forehead. "I think we can rectify that problem."
The other Nazis, and Evola, ran over to them. "Are we done with this distraction, Hauptsturmfuhrer?" Evola asked. "I wish to begin the re-animation of the dead you brought from Berlin."
"It is no distraction, Herr Evola," Gothen explained. He pointed to Oswald. "Look at this subhuman scum. It is not only our duty, as the superior race, to exterminate these disgusting individuals, but also to make them suffer, to make them pay for what they have done to this world!" He slammed the handle of his dagger into Oswald's forehead, knocking him to the ground. The boy sunk without a sound, and lay unconscious in the grass. "Bind him, and put him in the back one of the cars," Gothen said. "We will return to the old villa where we made out camp, and there the resurrection can begin!"
Charles and Catherine Gree, as well Don Infantino and a small army of bodyguards walked out of the front of Infantino's villa, where a sleek silver open-topped auto waited for them in the street. Several other automobiles, mostly rusting cast-offs from European cities up north, were there as well, ready to transport Infantino's army into the hills.
"If those Nazis have the Hammer of Karun, I fear they will make the dead walk in lockstep for their own cause," Infantino whispered. "It is good you came to me and told me this. We will ride out and kill them, and make sure they don't get the hammer."
Suddenly, an armored German auto came screeching down the road, kicking up dust on the dirt road. Its front bender was mashed, and its rear tires were popped, causing the car to careen along crazily. Infantino's goons aimed their shotguns at the car, as the door opened to reveal Lucky Lupo.
"Don't plug me!" he cried. "I'm a friend! Paisan!"
Mulligan hopped out next, shaking his head. He looked at Charles and Catherine. "Mr. Green," he whispered. "Jesus…I'm sorry."
"Oswald?" Catherine asked, running to the car. "Where is he?"
"The damn krauts have him," Lucky said, as Charles ran to the car. "They wanted him alive." He looked at Charles and shrugged. "I'm really sorry, Charlie. You know I never wanted your boy to get hurt. I'm sorry and—"
Charles slugged him hard, knocking him back into the dust. He turned away from the fallen Lupo to Mulligan. "Was he hurt?" he demanded, all emotion falling from his voice. "Did he catch a round or did you see Gothen strike him?"
"Nope. He was fine, but Gothen pulled him out of the flivver as we pulled away," Mulligan said. He looked at the Mafiosi. "What's with the Cosa Nostra here?"
"We're going out the kill Gothen, rescue Oswald, and stop them from getting the Hammer of Karun," Charles explained. He pointed to the Don's car. "You can ride with us."
Mulligan shook his head. "That fancy hammer what brings the dead back to life? I think the Nazis beat you to it, pops. They had already yanked it out and were resurrecting a few corpses in the catacombs for kicks, I figure."
Don Infantino swore in Italian. He looked to his guards and shook his head. "We cannot win then. We must call them up, cut a deal. Do what we can to survive."
"What?" Charles turned to the Don. "You're letting those fascists run off with the power to animate the dead?"
"I will not risk a fight I cannot win, Signor Green," Don Infantino replied. "And there is no point in sacrificing the lives of my men. Or your own, may I add. I suggest you take your wife and leave this country immediately."
"No," Catherine replied. "Because that Nazi bastard has my son! You talk of the importance of Omerta, of honor and family – well my boy is in danger and I am going to rescue him! And if you cared anything about the people living here, or your own family or sense of honor, you would be going with me!"
Don Infantino stared at Catherine. "Signor Green," he finally said. "I will not ask you again. Restrain your wife." He shrugged. "And then get in the car. We're going with you."
Lucky Lupo came to his feet and stood in front of Charles, as the reporter, his wife and his bodyguard got into the backseat of the luxury auto. Luck held out his hand. "I'm sorry, Charlie. I didn't mean to—"
"I'm sorry I slugged you," Charles said quickly. "It was uncalled for."
"I don't mind, I guess," Lucky said, clambering into the car. "And hey, that was some right hook!"
Don Infantino went into the passenger seat, a guard holding the door open while another one started the car. They rode out, speeding down the hills towards the country. "It should not be a difficult task to find them," Don Infantino said, over the roar of the motor. "We know this country well. And they will have many men with them."
"What happens when we find them?" Lucky asked.
Mulligan was reloading his shotgun. He pumped it. "You figure that out for yourself."
Hauptsturmfuhrer Wentezel Gothen looked down at Oswald Green. The boy was tied to an old wooden chair, and placed in a dusty shed on the outskirts of the abandoned grounds of the old villa the Nazis were using as a makeshift headquarters. Gothen pulled back the door and looked over Oswald. He smiled at the boy, and knelt down so he faced Oswald at eye level. Oswald had recovered his senses, but he still looked down at his shoes, refusing to meet Gothen's eyes.
"Do you know why I hate you?" Gothen asked. "Why don't you ask me that?"
Oswald said nothing.
"It's because you make me sick!" Gothen struck Oswald in the chest, knocking the boy and the chair backwards. Oswald winced but said nothing. Gothen continued to shout. "You are the walking product of a debased, degenerate woman, who should respect her race, instead of cavorting about with the long-nosed, greedy, and disgusting communist who sired you!" He hauled Oswald up and struck the boy ahead, in the face, so Oswald's glasses fell to the ground. Oswald gulped and sobbed, but refused to cry out. "Why, hmm?" Gothen asked. "Tell me why that happened."
"Because….because they loved each other," Oswald whispered. "Y-you stupid, stupid damn bastard."
Gothen slapped Oswald's face, then drew his dagger and held it near the boy's eye. "What should I take from you first, little Jew? Your eyes, your lying tongue? Or should I just slash the freckles from your hideous face?"
"I'm not afraid of you," Oswald whispered back.
"We'll start with the tongue," Gothen said, grabbing Oswald's chin and forcing his mouth open. He pulled his dagger back as Oswald struggled weakly.
The door opened, and Evola stuck his head in. "Hauptsturmfuhrer, we are ready."
"Damn." Gothen stood up, and pushed Oswald back, so the boy lay on the ground, staring at the ceiling. "I will return for you, in good time." He turned and left Oswald lying on the ground. Oswald lay there, closing his eyes and just focusing on breathing. He had lied to Gothen. He was very scared of the Nazi, but he promised himself he wouldn't show that.
The rusty hinges of the door began to creak and Oswald gulped down his fear and waited to see Gothen's long shadow fill the gap. But instead, Doc the monkey came crawling in. Oswald looked at Doc and smiled. "Doc!" he whispered. "Thank God, you're okay!"
The monkey ran to meet him, and licked his face, then looked down to the bonds.
"Doc, you've got to hide," Oswald whispered. "If Gothen comes back, he'll see you and hurt you."
But Doc's strong little hands were hard at work with Oswald's bonds. They pulled the ropes apart, untying them, and freeing the boy. Oswald sat up and rested his hand on his aching chest. A thick bruise was forming, but Oswald ignored it. "Doc, go and hide," he whispered, pointing the darkened corner of the shed. "Hide there, so he wont' see you." Oswald thought for a few seconds. "I'll act like I'm tied up. And when he comes back – I'll attack him." He nodded at the genius of the plan.
With a lingering look at his master, Doc dashed into the corner, and lay crouched in the shadows. Oswald pulled the ropes over him and leaned back on the ground, trying to pretend he was still restrained and beaten.
Outside, the sounds of many gunshots echoed across the Sicilian hills. Oswald held his breath, wondering what was going on. He considered opening the door and looking, but imagined the Nazis would spot him and probably shoot him down before he got too far. Instead, he just lay back and waited.
Gothen stepped outside of the shed, walking with Evola. "You are certain you have Karun's power mastered?" he asked the occultist.
"Quite sure," Julius Evola agreed. They walked over to a large pit where the German dead had been piled. They were all kinds of bodies, the corpses of civilians filched from various detention centers, prisons and morgues, and the bodies of Nazi soldiers who had died in duty. The Nazi guards stood around the pit, rifles at the ready. The Hammer of Karun rested on the ground, set atop a black cloth.
Evola picked up the hammer and held it up to the sky. "Karun's energy flows through it," he whispered. "With this, the living and the dead will fight under our banner."
"Strike it, then," Gothen muttered, folding his arms and looking at the corpses. "My patience grows thin."
"You'd rather spend time beating up a child?" Evola asked. "I shouldn't question your peccadilloes, Hauptsturmfuhrer. You do get the job done, after all." He slammed the hammer down on the dirt, and the shockwave flew outwards in a thick cloud of dust. He looked down at the corpses, holding the hammer lightly by his side.
As they watched, the corpses began to stir. They pushed amongst themselves, moaning and yawning, and some began to clamber out of the pit, dead fingers reaching into the dirt as they hauled themselves up. Gothen clasped his hands and grinned. He nodded to Evola.
"It is exactly as you promised," he whispered. "Every soldier that falls in our glorious crusade will return to fight again and again, until victory is finally ours!"
Gunfire cut through the macabre silence of the scene. Gothen turned around and gasped. A number of old autos, rusted and used local cars no doubt, came rolling off of the dirt road and speeding towards his villa. They were filled with the local mobsters, who were firing at the Nazis with rifles and sawed-off shotguns as they drove closer.
The mob of autos was led by a silver open-topped car, and Gothen's eyes narrowed when he saw who was riding in it. There was Don Infantino in the passenger seat, a lupara in each hand. Mulligan stood behind him, firing with his shotgun, and there was Charles and Catherine Green as well.
Gothen sprang into action, turning to his Nazis and the Blackshirts. " You are to protect the Hammer of Karun at all costs!" he shouted. "Take up positions and force them back! Kill them all!" He drew out his own Luger and pointed it at the incoming cars.
Evola looked at the corpses, which were now crawling out of the grave, and rolling about on the ground. "Hauptsturmfuhrer?" he asked. "There is something I fear I must tell you…"
"Not now, Evola!" Gothen held the luger with both hands and fired. He blasted the driver in the car in front of him. It sped out of control, rolling over before crashing in a flaming hulk. The other Nazis opened fire as well, blowing the old cars to smithereens. The Luparas were short range weapons, and the Nazis rapid machine gun and rifle fire prevented the mobsters from getting close enough to use them effectively.
Some of the gangsters clambered out of their cars, moving forward across the plain and returning fire. A few of the Nazis went down, but most of them ducked back into the ruined villa and took cover. The corpses started walking towards the mobsters, arms outstretched. Luparas clattered away, blasting the dead to the dust. But unless the corpses were blown to pieces, they continued their assault. They would drag down the Don's men, tearing apart at his flesh, throttling him and impaling them with the jagged edges of their bones.
Gothe grinned at them. "Yes!" he cried. "Let the dead destroy our enemies!"
The silver auto holding Don Infantino and the others came to a halting stop as the corpses approached. Mulligan kicked open the door, rammed the barrel of his gun into a dead man's mouth and blew out the back of his head. "Gotta keep these dead bums away!"
Infantino leveled his sawed-offs at the approaching dead and opened fire, blasting them down one by one. When he finished firing, the corpses lay still before him. The Don tossed his shotguns back to the driver, who handed him fresh weapons.
Mulligan watched as the old, paunch-bellied don walked forward, dispatching more and more of the dead men as they arrived. "Geez," he whispered. "That old dago can sure go!"
The Don stared at Mulligan. "You insult me again, pig, I'll bow your head off."
"Whatever you say, pal," Mulligan muttered, ducking down for cover as the Nazis began to return fire.
The dead continued to file out of the pit. They were being driven back by the blasting luparas of the mobsters, and many of them were staring at the Nazi guards firing at the hillside. Then, in an act quickly repeated, one of the corpses leapt onto a German, wrestling him to the ground and tearing out his throat with aged teeth. The other dead turned against their Nazi masters, dragging a few unfortunate men screaming into the pit, where they quickly torn to shreds.
Gothen shook his head in disbelief and turned on Evola. He pointed his pistol at Evola's chest. "What is this?" he demanded. "You said you could control them!"
"And I cannot!" Evola cried. "The Hammer of Karun has no master, not beside the terrible god himself!" he looked to the armored cars that were parked at the edge of the ruined villa. "I think I will take my leave now."
"You will do no such thing!" Gothen snarled. He raised his pistol, when another shot struck nearby, causing him to duck for cover. Julius Evola saw the chance and took it, dashing down the field and running for one of the cars. Gothen lay on the ground, cursing as he came to his feet, only for a corpse to lunge for him.
The dead man slammed his pistol into the dead man's face and fired, then stood up. Cursing, he ran for the shed. "Finish the boy," he whispered. "Finish him and then get out of here and put this all behind me!"
Oswald Green was startled when the door was slammed open, and Wentzel Gothen stormed inside. The boy still lay on the ground, the ruined ropes that had been binding him lying over his chest. He held his breath as Gothen walked forward, painting and angry.
"Ah, Oswald." Gothen left the door open and walked over to the boy. He grabbed the chair and sat up upright. Oswald said nothing and remaining motionless. Gothen leaned down and stared at him. "Things aren't going exactly according to plan. That hardly matters for you, though." He reached for his pistol.
"You should give up," Oswald whispered. "And run away, too."
"I will never give up," Gothen replied. He cocked the weapon. "I'm sorry I couldn't torment you more. A quick death will be yours, you unspeakable filth."
But as he raised the gun, Oswald sprang forward and wrestled him to the ground. The boy was small and weak, and though he had the element of surprise on his side, he still couldn't overwhelm the Nazi Colonel. He crashed into Gothen's legs, knocking him to the ground. Gothen cursed and struck Oswald with the butt of his pistol, forcing the boy off.
Oswald rolled away, gripping his forehead as Gothen reached for his throat. "Little filth!" Gothen cried. Oswald bit his hand, causing Gothen to wince in pain and leap out of the way. He leveled his pistol.
"It doesn't matter," he whispered. "You can win here, but we will have a final victory! The superior race will never be crushed, and already, there are other plans for us to find the forbidden magic in the world and unleash them upon the world. The Lost Islands, home to an ancient civilization long dead, is where we shall strike next!"
"We'll get there first and stop you!" Oswald cried. He grabbed Gothen's arm, pushing it upwards. The Nazi fired, blasting a hole in the roof. But the Nazi then swung his pistol down onto Oswald's head, knocking the boy to the ground. Oswald gasped as blood trickled from the gash in his forehead.
"You won't." Gothen replied, leveling his luger at the weakened Oswald. Suddenly, Doc leapt from the darkened corner of the shed and attacked Gothen, launching himself at the Nazi's face and forcing him backwards, kicking and scratching with all his might. Gothen cursed and screamed as the monkey attack, walked out of the shed and falling backwards.
Oswald came to his feet to hear the Luger fire again. "Doc!" he shouted, running to Gothen's side. He saw Doc, still attack Gothen, and Mulligan standing in the field, a bullet hole ignored in his shoulder.
With a roar, Gothen hurled Doc away, and Oswald ran and caught the fallen monkey. Oswald tried to run to Mulligan's side, but the Nazi grabbed his arm and held him. Gothen pressed the Luger to Oswald's forehead, grinning at Mulligan.
"One more step, you thug!" he shouted. "I'll send a bullet through his brains!"
Mulligan tossed down his shotgun, then removed his pistol. "You ain't gonna be fast enough," he muttered.
"Care to test me, ape?" Gothen repeated.
A living cadaver, mostly rotted and stinking, crawled towards Mulligan, pulling its ruined body along the ground with both hands. Mulligan looked at the corpse and then back at Gothen. "Oswald?" he said.
"Yes, Mr. Mulligan?"
"You cover your eyes, now. You don't gotta see this."
Oswald covered his eyes, and Gothen looked in surprise at Mulligan. He raised his pistol. "Enough of this," he muttered, but Mulligan was quicker. He kicked the corpse at his feet, his boot crashing into the dead man's skull and sending the head flying from the rest of the body. The head flew into Gothen's face, knocking him backwards and causing his shot to go wild. Mulligan charged towards him.
Gothen tried to level his pistol, but Mulligan caught his arm, then slugged him in the face, as Oswald squirmed away. Mulligan grabbed the German's shoulders and hurled him backwards, sending him crashing onto the hood of an armored car.
"Little prick," Mulligan muttered. He reached down for his shotgun. "Gonna finish him, Oswald. Stay put."
"Mr. Mulligan!" Oswald shouted. "Dead people, behind us!"
Mulligan turned around to see a mob of walking corpses walking towards them. He cursed as he opened fire on them with his shotgun, blasting several of the walking dead down before his gun clicked empty. "Oswald, I gotta tangle with them. You run soon as I go in, okay?" Mulligan asked.
But before the dead men could get closer, a blast from a German sub-gun tore into them. Lucky Lupo stood behind them, destroying each walk corpse with a single burst of machine gun fire. After they were finished, he tossed the weapon to the ground.
"That was….that was some good shooting," Mulligan said in surprise.
"Yeah, well, I do my best," Lupo replied. Behind him, Don Infantino's gangsters finished off the remaining dead men, and the Nazis and Blackshirts, using their sawed-off shotguns for maximum effect. Don Infantino himself arrived, and watched as an armored car sped away from the villa, with Gothen behind the wheel.
Mulligan saw him drive away, and reached down for his shotgun. "Ought to go after that like slimeball," he muttered.
"We have done enough for today, my friend," Infantino replied. "My men will not."
The armored car sped away, and Mulligan shrugged. "Fine. I'll get him next time." He looked down to Oswald. "He hurt you, kiddo?"
Oswald shrugged. "I'm okay," he said. "Doc saved me! Well, you did too, and Lupo as well." He looked at Don Infainto. "And I'm sure you helped, sir."
"Wouldn't have done it if not for the arguments of your parents, my child," Infantino said. He turned around, to see Catherine and Charles Green running towards their son. Charles knelt down and hugged him, examining his cuts and bruises, and then Catherine buried him in an embrace while Charles smiled at Mulligan.
"Saved his life again, Mulligan," he said. "Thank you."
"Don't worry about it." Mulligan patted Oswald's shoulder. "Let get you out of here, kid." He looked up at Lupo. "And that fellow can come too, I guess."
"Might white of you," Lupo said, walking over to them. He looked down at Oswald. "I'm sorry, Charl—Oswald."
"It's all right, Mr. Lupo," Oswald said. "I guess, under all his threatening, Gothen is just a big jerk." He raised his hand. "Oh, but there's something else! Gothen said he was going to the Lost Islands next, that there was something there he wanted!" Oswald shook his head. "We should go there and stop him!"
"We'll stop him," Charles said, leaning down and kissing his son's forehead. "We'll always stop him. But for now, let's take you back to the hotel and get you some rest. I think you've deserved."
They headed to Don Infantino's car, while his gangsters finished blasting away the crawling corpses, and took the Hammer of Karun, to return it to the catacombs.