I'll See You Down There

by Solsticeman

 

Chapter 8

       

Rome. Summer 1943.

     Things were not going well for the Axis. The Allies were now in Sicily. Within days they would cross the seven mile wide Straits of Messina and… then they would be in Italy!

     Kesselring was tasked with defending Italy and Harald and Gottfried were part of the group of Fallschirmjäger that would one day be called upon to defend Monte Cassino. In the meantime they were enjoying life in Rome. Like all soldiers, they recognised that there was a time to fight and a time to relax… Rome in late-summer was a time to relax.

 

Harald came back one day to tell Gott of a new beautiful young Italian boy that he had met in a garden in Rome.

     “Why don’t you come with me tomorrow?” He asked Gott.

     “Because that sort of thing died for me on Crete, and then just when I was happy again I had to leave Mustafa in Tunis… I’m not lucky in love.” Gott replied. He had been saying that since they had returned.

     “It’s all right when we do it, and with Sigi or Heinz…. That’s just us being together. It’s the way we have always been. We look out for each other… we care even.” He paused. “But… going out looking for it, looking to pay for it with a stranger… No thanks.”

     Gott still missed the warmth of Mustafa in his bed, and he hadn’t had an indecently strong cup of coffee in months.

     He clearly wasn’t over Crete either.

     The loss of Gerhard once again weighed heavily on him, not as badly as before Mustafa. But, the loss of Mustafa didn’t help his mood. He still had just as much loss as before, just blunted by being spread across two boys instead of one.

     Fighting the British in North Africa had certainly helped his mood. Every Britisher he saw fall evened the score a little. But he was still unable to face a future that didn’t include Gerhard… and Mustafa, although the latter was still out there somewhere. Maybe when all this was over… maybe.

     He had such mixed feelings for Mustafa. Yes, he was sure now, now that it was too late… he had loved Mustafa. But it was more than that… He still lusted for Mustafa in a way that he never had for Gerhard. He could never have just hugged Mustafa without needing sex with him, in the way that he and Gerhard had managed at the Napola. He felt bad about it… the need for Mustafa’s body was so much greater than any lust he had ever felt for Gerhard.

     For him, Gerhard had simply been love. Sex with him had been for more than just companionship or lust. But…

     Gerhard was dead. Dead and left behind on Crete. Dead, and it had been Gott who had needed to finish it for him. That he had been able to end Gerhard’s suffering was small compensation for the nightmares.

     “What you need is to go out and fuck a few Italians!” was how Harald rather crudely put it.

     “Fuck the Italians!” Gott replied with the hint of a smile.

     “Fucking Italians is exactly what I had in mind for you.” Harald grinned, unrepentant.

     Then, as always… Gott said… “Fucking Italians isn’t what I need! What I need is to have fucked Gerhard or for him to have fucked me. It would be different if we had. It’s not just that I lost him… It’s all the things we never got round to.”

     A moment of reflection followed, and then he said…

     “I miss that. There was always tomorrow… and then there was only yesterday, but… yesterday never returns. I shall never get to… do it with Gerhard, and if I can’t have Gerhard, why would I want some Italian boy? Or Sigi for that matter… He’s always after my ass… If only he’d be satisfied with what I do want from him!”

     “You need this boy’s bottom because he is absolutely gorgeous, young and tight and…”  Harald was lost for words.

     He went on, “Anyway, I like him for much more than just a quick romp. He’s a nice kid, from the south. He saw what was coming and took a chance to get north of the trouble before it arrived. He’s a smart kid… he’s needed to be. He’s all alone in the world, except for a priest who’s looking after him. They both win… the priest has a pretty boy to bed, the boy loves the priest, and the priest is teaching him to read and write. It’s working well for him.”

     Harald paused for a moment, then… “He says the priest’s alright… that keeping the priest happy beats herding goats for a drunken father.”

     After that Harald was quiet for a while… then he returned to his theme, and his attempts to sell the Italian boy to his reluctant friend. He was quite sure that if only Gott could get his sex-life back on track he would be a much happier man.

     “Actually, you and he have a lot in common. When he left Calabria in a hurry he had to leave his best friend behind. He misses him too. Every time we’re quiet he can’t resist chatting about him. I thought at first that he was trying to make me jealous, but really its just that his Luigi is never out of his thoughts, like Gerhard never leaves yours. Why not come and meet him. You don’t have to fuck him if you don’t want to, he would be just as happy to work on your Italian.”

     “Fuck my Italian!” Gott said, exasperated at Harald’s persistence.

     “That’s exactly what I’m suggesting you need to do!” Harald replied with a quick smile.

     After a while, Gott had put his thoughts in order and said…

     “I’m happy for you, I’m sure he’s unique and gorgeous, and all you say he is, but he’s not what I’m looking for. If I ever do that now, it’ll be with someone that can make me forget Gerhard… Mustafa could do it, but then I lost Mustafa as well…and I’m not going to let that happen again!”

 

Rome and Gran Sasso. September 1943

What the boys needed was a distraction from the tedium of working on Kesselring’s defence plans. Some distraction had come with the celebration of Gott’s promotion to Oberfeldwebel, but drunken celebrations don’t last. Now he was back to organising, it was more senior organisation… but still organising, jumping or killing would have been so much more fun.

     It was almost as light relief that life suddenly became an Italian adventure. In France it might have been seen as farce, but in Italy it counted as an adventure.

     What relieved their boredom was all down to Italy’s one-time leader, Benito Mussolini.  Il Duce was in trouble, and this time he seriously needed rescuing. In fact he was in need of some serious rescuing.

     Mussolini was Hitler’s last real friend, so the Führer wanted something done. To rescue his friend, he had turned to the SS’s Otto Skorzeny, a man that had been termed the most dangerous man in Europe.

     Dangerous comes in many flavours.

     That he was dangerous was something that you might also have said of Reinhard Heydrich, but there was a difference.

     Attracting Heydrich’s interest, as head of the secret police… could easily get you killed.

     Attracting Skorzeny’s interest was definitely no safer. Being chosen to help him was just as likely to see you end up dead. But, getting killed with Skorzeny wasn’t an entirely bad thing. Death with Skorzeny meant that there was a good chance that your parents would receive a personal letter of appreciation from the Führer, not just from the Führer’s office, but signed by Adolf Hitler himself!

     Otto Skorzeny, Europe’s most dangerous man was in a hurry… perhaps in a hurry to get some good men killed… and maybe some bad ones too.

     What Hitler had said to Skorzeny was…

     “I want Mussolini found, and brought out from wherever the Italians are holding him!”

     “Brought out alive? My Führer.” Skorzeny needed to understand his terms of engagement. Mussolini alive or dead was all the same to him, but…it was always safer to avoid misunderstandings with the Führer.

     “Of course alive!” Hitler snapped at him. It was a good thing that he had checked.

     “But, if that isn’t possible… bring his body back. I don’t want Badoglio parading it in Rome!”

 

It had all started seven weeks earlier.

     On the night of twenty-fourth of July 1943, Mussolini had fallen from power in Italy when the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted him out of office. The King had promptly fired him from his position as Italy’s leader, replacing him with Marshal Pietro Badoglio.  Badoglio promptly took Italy over to the Allied side.

     The new government had arrested Mussolini and he was now being held in isolation at some remote location, by Italian troops more or less on the Allied side, but in a more or less German occupied Italy.

     As Europe’s only other fascist head of state of any significance, Mussolini was not quite as disposable as the government of Italy would have liked to think… Certainly not, as far as Hitler was concerned, and Hitler was indeed concerned. He wanted his old friend found. He wanted him returned to power and Italy back on the Axis side. Italy guarded Germany’s southern flank.

     What Hitler wanted… he normally got.

     “Resources? My Führer.” Skorzeny had asked.

     Kaltenbrunner replied for him… “Whatever you need! Himmler and Göring have been instructed… You must have whatever is needed.”

 

Within days Skorzeny had two searches in hand. One was to find where Mussolini was being held. Then, it being assumed that the Italians were holding him somewhere impregnable, the other search was to find an assault team of suicidal soldiers to break him out, get him out of Italy and return him to the bosom of his best friend.

     As one of them himself, Skorzeny had privileged access to the SS. But, while fanatically loyal and impeccably dressed, they weren’t quite what he needed. Though he couldn’t say so aloud, what he really wanted were men with battle experience, men who could be trusted to carry out orders, and more importantly… show initiative if orders stopped coming.

     He didn’t anticipate that this was going to be a well-planned set-piece battle. This was going to be a mess, unless they were very lucky. Germany had not shown a talent for attracting luck for some time!

     That was why Skorzeny’s eye had fallen on Göring’s Fallschirmjäger.

     What he wanted were the men who had taken Eben Emael. Three hundred of them had out-witted and out-fought four Belgian divisions. They had taken two bridges, a huge fort and nearly two thousand prisoners.

     What he needed was the courage of men who had captured Crete single-handed, parachuting in, and taking over fifty percent losses before they even hit the ground.

     What he sought was the independence of the men who had walked back from Rommel’s North Africa, by whatever route they could find.

     He wanted men who had not sat around waiting for orders, he wanted men who had not waited to be interned or rescued.

     In short, what he needed were the Fallschirmjäger, and the best of them at that!

 

At a temporary base outside Rome the best of them were now gathering. Across Europe, wherever they were found, all that they and their local commander were told was that Skorzeny had been tasked personally by the Führer, and that they were needed in Rome.

     That was all they needed to be told… that they had been chosen by Skorzeny.

     Kaltenbrunner had agreed with Hitler and Skorzeny that Kurt Student, who commanded the Fallschirmjäger, would plan the strategy of the rescue. Student had commanded both Crete and Eben Emael. He in turn chose Major Otto-Harald Mors to handle the detail and lead the attack.

     It should be said, because we shall get confused if I don’t… Otto-Harald is not Gott’s old friend Harald, Gott’s Harald was neither a major nor an Otto.

     As might be expected of a man with a reputation to maintain, Skorzeny brought with him to the party a small number of elite SS, the SS-Sonderverband or Friedenthalers. While undoubtedly formidable soldiers, they lacked the specifically airborne surprise-attack experience of the parachutists. The parachutists already expected to reach the ground in one piece and would be ready to fight. The SS men on the other hand might well be still recovering from the surprise of not having been killed by the landing… While the SS were still congratulating themselves that a Norse god had looked after them, the Fallschirmjäger would already be racing towards their target.

     The small SS contingent had a more important purpose than to risk death or even help in rescuing Mussolini. Pushed to the front, they would be window-dressing in photographs of the event. They would lend credibility to later claims that it had been an SS led raid. In fact it was planned, led and almost entirely manned by the Fallschirmjäger.

 

Meanwhile, the search went on to locate Mussolini and discover just how impregnable his imprisonment was.

     In the days before satellite surveillance it was easier to hide one man and a guard detail than it would be today. Cutting edge technology then was signals-intelligence, eavesdropping on radio and telegraph messages, decrypting ciphers. Even something as simple as the fact that high-level cryptography signals were originating from a ski-resort… out of season, could be enough.

     That was exactly what happened. Everything fell into place when they intercepted and decrypted an Italian radio message. It gave Skorzeny the clues needed to arrange reconnaissance by the agents of SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler, head of the secret police in Rome.

     Kappler soon established that Mussolini was being held at the Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort in Italy's Gran Sasso, on a mountain top in the Apennine Mountains.

     Meanwhile Otto-Harald Mors continued to search the ranks of the Fallschirmjäger for true veterans. He didn’t want the modern forces, the non-jumpers, the simple infantry who were Fallschirmjäger in name only. What he wanted were the ones who had taken Belgian forts and Cretan airfields with pistol and knife.

     That was how Harald, Sigi and Gott found themselves reunited.

     As a veteran, Sigi had found himself posted to training bases in France and Germany. It was desperately tedious work. They were teaching the rudiments of airborne fighting to what were now relatively low-grade recruits. The vast majority of the men they were training would never jump from a plane, many would never even get as far as jumping from a balloon.

 

The losses on Crete had stunned Hitler and the German High Command. They had decided that they would never again authorise risks on that scale.

     Curiously, Crete had exactly the opposite effect on Britain’s leader  Churchill. He was inspired by the heroism and daring of the German airborne attack. The D-Day landings would include powerful parachute attacks, to great effect. They would establish footholds well inland from the beaches, threatening the rear of the German coastal defences.

     The success in Normandy was nearly repeated at Arnhem in Holland a year later when Operation Market Garden almost succeeded in securing a Rhine crossing. For many years that particular line of advance had been an exercise in the Dutch Staff College… The challenge to the students was to plan an advance across the raised roads and soft polder landscape of Holland, to take the Rhine.

     The only correct answer was to conclude that it couldn’t be done.

     At Arnhem, by jumping beyond the soft polder landscape, the British came tantalisingly close to success.

     Landing the parachutists on top of an unanticipated SS panzer force was unhelpful, and the advance of the land borne relief force across the polders, on raised highways… was just as slow as the Staff College exercises had predicted. Nevertheless it was a close run thing and a magnificent failed operation. All it had needed was better luck and no unexpected SS panzers. It might easily have succeeded.

     Arnhem would go down in British airborne warfare history with pride. In later years it was a place that parties of British schoolboys would travel to, to bask in the reflected glory of the heroism of young men not that much older than themselves.

 

Meanwhile, our boys were summoned to their base commanders’ offices, sworn to secrecy and given orders to get themselves to Italy as fast as possible.

     Harald had been based in Rome when his orders were received. He was almost the first at the remote airfield that they had been assigned for the operation. It allowed him to assist in the choice of men, to form his own assault group. When asked, he immediately asked for Gottfried and Sigi. Not only were they perfect for the raid, but it was also giving Harald an opportunity to bring together as many of the Stendal Hitler-Youth team as he could locate, not just Gott and Sigi but a few more of the schoolboy-jumpers who had survived Crete and the Russian Front. They were now spread all over Europe because experienced NCO’s were scarce. This was a chance for a reunion. Harald used the Führer’s authority to fly or chauffeur his boys to where Otto-Harald Mors and Student were waiting for them.

 

It took a few days for them all to arrive. That gave the secret police time to collate what was known of the target site. The men were told only that it was a spacious hotel set on a rocky plateau. They were to fly in by glider and significant opposition was not expected… unless they were unlucky. The Ju52s would release the gliders ten or twenty miles from the target so that there would be no risk of the aircraft engines being heard. Intelligence assured them that as at Eben-Emael, there would be no radar.

     Carpenters rapidly knocked up a strip wood outline of the building to familiarise the men with the plan of attack. As soon as they were out of the gliders, their most important task was not the prisoner. First they needed to head for the radio aerials. If there were external aerials on the ground then they should flatten them, breaking the wires leading to them. If the aerials were on the roof then they were to follow Skorzeny into the building to find and destroy the radio room. Without radio to Rome they would have more time to effect a rescue. It would take Italians a long time to realise that radio silence was ominous, and even longer to decide what to do about it.

     A few days of training and rehearsal followed. They needed to understand the layout of a large building, but mainly they practised rapid exit from gliders, forming into attack formations and then each group entering the building by their assigned entrance. The public rooms were where they expected guards and any resistance. The bedrooms were where they expected their target captive, but… they still didn’t know who they were out to get or why he was wanted.

     Harald and Sigi were happy with the news that it was a glider operation. If the enemy were simple infantry and were not expecting them then Eben Emael had shown the advantage of arriving quietly, low and fast, in gliders. They would have all their weaponry to hand, no canisters to find and unpack… and no parachutes to get rid of.

     Crete, while successful, had shown that with an enemy that heard you coming, parachutes arrived too high and too slow. A glider was an easy target once it had landed, but, to mix metaphores, a parachutist was a sitting duck until he was on the ground.

     The planners hoped that they would have complete surprise, and would overwhelm the Italian defences before they had time to put their spaghetti down. The Fallschirmjäger still held little regard for the spaghetti-kamaraden in general, and intelligence had it that these were not even regular army, but Carabinieri, a sort of para-military police force.

     Gott, of course, was disappointed. He would have preferred to jump. It wasn’t that he thought it was safer, just that it was more exciting. If he was going to die, he would prefer to die of excitement.

     On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny and his small contingent of SS joined the Fallschirmjäger team at the airfield. The nine DFS 230 gliders that the team would use had also arrived. Using the real thing, they once again practised the swift run to enter the wooden mock up of a hotel.

     They knew it was a hotel they were to hit, although it was only now when they were loading into the gliders ready for take-off that they were finally told that the target was Mussolini, their Führer’s best friend.

     Il Duce was the only senior Fascist leader in Europe who had more or less wholeheartedly supported Germany. There was of course the small matter of his opposition to Germany’s annexation of Austria… but that was long forgotten. Mussolini, sitting on his mountain-top, certainly hoped it was forgotten. His only hope of survival was a rescue attempt by his best friend.

     When Skorzeny had arrived at the Fallschirmjäger’s base he was accompanied by a General Soleti of the Italian Polizia. This was Skorzeny’s secret weapon. With luck, Soleti would be able to ensure a bloodless rescue. Skorzeny hoped that the Carabinieri holding Mussolini would be awed, or at least confused by the presence of the police-general who might, or might not, be their commanding officer. Certainly, he had once been, and depending on which way the next few months of war went… he might well be again.

     This odd state of affairs was because Italy now had what amounted to a civil war. There were two Italian government factions, one pro-Axis and the other pro-Allies. Just for the moment their rival supporters were mixed together with no real front to keep them apart.

     Regardless of who was in power, Soleti commanded the Carabinieri, and it was Carabinieri that German Intelligence believed to be holding Mussolini. For the moment at least, Soleti was on the German side and Kesselring hoped that if Soleti shouted orders loudly enough the Carabinieri guarding Mussolini would surrender. Assuming that they were Carabinieri, if there were partisans then all bets were off and a bloodbath could be expected.

     The parachutists already knew that the target was a hotel, and that it was on top of a hill, perhaps a mountain. But, as the Ju52s that were towing the gliders climbed higher and higher they began to appreciate that when Intelligence and Skorzeny had said that the hotel was on a mountain top they had meant a high one.

     It got colder and colder as the towing planes raised them to a height that would give them a very long glide in. It was important to release the gliders from so far out that no-one would hear the JU52 engines. Surprise and silence were the key to success.

     Their small force would be difficult to reinforce if the raid went wrong. It would be virtually impossible to extract them if they failed to gain control of the plateau.

     They need not have worried. The landings could hardly have gone any better. At that altitude there was a steady head wind and their approach speed could be dropped so that the gliders landed on the mountain almost silently. There were only a few minor injuries when one of the gliders had a slightly bumpier landing than the others.

     As the gliders slid to a halt on the rock strewn plateau, the men saw a building that resembled the crude models and picture-postcards that they had been shown during training.

     Harald led Gott and his team in a rush for the front entrance of the hotel. Sigi led a second glider-load towards the kitchen entrance. They raced past surprised civilians and soldiers who were sitting on the terrace drinking beer and eating cakes.

     Gott, being Gott, grabbed a cake as he vaulted the terrace wall… Notionally, it was a long time since breakfast. But, it was also good for his men to see how relaxed he was. In fact, to be truthful, both the cake and his mouth were too dry to eat. As he crossed the terrace he spat the crumbs out and threw the cake away uneaten. It would have been difficult to fight if he had found himself choking on cake… As Gott thought wryly… ‘I don’t need to tell you how stupid that would be!’ With that thought he landed with a skid on the polished floor of the main reception.

     A startled concierge was standing with his hands raised… it was another Italian surrender.

     The outside-terrace, bar and reception were crowded with a good part of the two hundred Carabinieri guards, most with a drink or a cake in hand. Few were holding a weapon, and the ones that did made no move to resist. Perhaps they were too startled to react, or perhaps after years of serving alongside the Germans, the Italian Carabinieri had no great sympathy for the way their leaders were changing sides.

     Either way, for whatever reason, the Fallschirmjäger and Skorzeny's SS overwhelmed them without a single shot being fired. Not only had they achieved total surprise with their gliders’ silent arrival, but now they pushed forward their secret weapon, their Italian passenger. Polizia-General Fernando Soleti jumped onto a table, that wobbled alarmingly, and shouted for the Carabinieri to stand down or be executed for treason. Sensibly they did as they were told. It was after all a holiday resort, a place to relax. It was the ideal place to recognise a done-deal.

     Skorzeny meanwhile, had attacked the radio operator and his equipment, achieving radio silence, still without a shot being fired. No gun-fire from the mountain, no messages from the radio… it was going to be a long time before someone in Rome noticed that things had gone so spectacularly wrong.

     The men detailed to find the captive ran through the hotel corridors, kicking in the doors of the bedrooms. The once and future Duce of Italy was soon making an appearance in the entrance hall

 

Skorzeny greeted Mussolini very formally…

     "Duce, the Führer has sent me to set you free!"

     Mussolini replied, equally seriously "I knew that my friend would not forsake me!"

     With different men, on a different occasion, it could all have been very touching.

     Soleti set about ensuring that things remained peaceful. He organised for the two hundred men to stack their arms where the Germans could quietly guard them. In principle at least everyone on the mountain top was now on the same side once more.

     Most of the people on the mountain top were of course Italian, and as it was nearly lunchtime it was inevitable that Chianti began to flow. The hotel staff were sent off to prepare food for their German guests. Beer and schnapps also mysteriously appeared.

     After a light, and on the Italian side at least, a well-lubricated lunch, it was declared to be time for photographs to be taken. Skorzeny was keen to record the event for the papers back in Germany. SS men with cameras were sent for.

 

To the Germans’ surprise, the moment cameras appeared, so did a very young Italian boy in a floppy hat, with an even younger companion. Between them they carried a comically large canvas bag from which they proceeded to take a huge wooden tripod and a very stylish, if antique, mahogany and brass camera.

     Skorzeny gestured to Harald. Harald went to ask the boys what they thought they were doing. The older boy bowed, shook Harald’s hand very formally and replied in passable German…

     “Permit me… I am Carlo Tonelli, photographer, Fosetti Brothers Studio, Rome. We are here at the request of the Italian government… to take photographs for the Italian newspapers.”

     All of which was true, if a little misleading… and dangerously easy to misunderstand!

     The hair stood up on the back of Harald’s neck.

     “How did you know we were coming?” Harald asked.

     He had gone cold… The Italians had known that they were coming. Now they were trapped on a mountain top, with no plausible escape plan.

     The response was not what he was expecting…

     “Oh no, we didn’t know you were coming. We certainly didn’t expect you!” The young man said airily. Carlo wasn’t about to admit how shocked and frightened he had been at the soldiers’ sudden arrival.

     He said, with disarming dignity, “Your arrival came as quite a surprise… but, when German soldiers come… it is always a nice surprise.”

     Harald entirely missed the double-entendre.

     Carlo was by now enjoying himself… He had recognised the soldier even if the soldier had not yet recognised him.

     “Well, what are you doing here with all this equipment?” Harald still didn’t understand why Italian photographers were ready to record the rescue.

     “We came to photograph Marshal Badoglio’s captive… but, things have changed. Photographs of Il-Duce’s rescue are much more interesting! The papers will pay much more for photographs of Skorzeny and his Fallschirmjäger… You are Fallschirmjäger I believe.”

     Harald relaxed a little, and then thought to ask…

     “Where did you learn such good German? How do you know we are Fallschirmjäger?”

     The boy laughed… “I learnt my German in Monte Caprino Park! I know you are Fallschirmjäger because you still wear pudding-basin helmets, quite different from all other German soldiers. You see? I remember what you told me under the juniper trees, where we were hiding from the sun. Do you still hide from the sun among the trees? Are you still afraid of the sun, or have you acquired a tan?”

     Harald looked more carefully at the face under the floppy mountain hat…

     “My God, it is you! Your German has improved!”

     “I have had good teachers… a lot of very good teachers.”

     “But… You are a photographer! How did that happen? You were a… a goatherd the last time we met.”

     “My fortunes have changed in the last few months. I’m not just a photographer… I’m also an altar-boy again!”

     “I owe it all to my friend the priest. You remember the priest? I told you that he was teaching me to read and write. Well, he found me a job with Fosetti’s, the best photographic studio in Rome. He told them that I’d processed photographs for my village priest in Calabria before I came to Rome. When they saw my work, they offered me a job.”

     “But… it’s a long story and I have pictures to take…Meet me in the park one Sunday and I’ll tell you the whole story.”

     “Meet me upstairs, in a bedroom, and you can tell me now!” Harald replied.

     “No, not now… I have work to do, and you have a war to win, or at least a Duce to get off the mountain!” The Italian boy replied.

     “You still visit the park?” Harald asked as he turned to go.

     “Only on Sundays and in the evenings, I go there after the photographers shuts for the day. I still meet Germans there, but not Italian men. An Italian man might one day come to the shop with his wife and family. I do it with Germans for fun… although, the money does help with my rent. I needed a much larger apartment after Luigi arrived. I told you of Luigi? My friend who was trapped in Calabria? Anyway, it all worked out well. Now, my Luigi has taken my place at the Tarpeian Rock…”

     “Ah! Here’s Luigi now!” He gestured to a young boy who had re-appeared on the terrace. The youngster replied with a grin while staggering towards them, laden with prepared plates for the camera. He put them down carefully, with a sigh of relief.

     Harald eyed him speculatively… “Is he as expensive as you were? You charged so much… but, you were always the best looking… and so is he.” He said with great practicality. A good soldier always reconnoitre his target.

     “Yes, he is expensive… .” Carlo replied with a smile. “At first he was cheap while he was learning the trade, but now he is even more expensive than I was. Italian men prefer to pay for quality.. They wouldn’t want to feel that they could only afford to buy a cheap boy. Have you ever seen a cheap bar in central Rome? Pleasure is supposed to be expensive. Without expense it isn’t pleasure… just a purchase.” Carlo laughed.

     The Germans looked round to see what the source of mirth was. It was probably the unseemly sound of teenaged laughter that caused Skorzeny to send Harald to supervise the removal of the Carabinieri arms pile. It looked tempting and Skorzeny didn’t want any last minute heroics. There had been more alcohol consumed by the Italians than his rather dour SS background approved of.

     When Harald returned he said to Carlo… “I have a small task that your young friend can help me with… If you don’t need him for ten minutes or so?”

     Carlo smiled and shook his head. “Luigi, do not believe him… he has a large task for you… look after my friend… Have fun Harald!” He said.

     Luigi grinned and blew a kiss.

     Harald’s final words to Carlo were… “Sunday, meet me at the rock, I have an idea… You’ve started something here… How would you like me to organise an army pass for you as a press-photographer, authorised… official?”

     “Sunday, at the Rock then… With an offer like that, the first one is on me!”  Carlo replied with a grin.

     The grim looking soldier and the grinning photographer’s assistant disappeared through the door leading to the bedrooms. They went in search of a room that had not been too badly damaged when the soldiers cleared them. Most but not all the doors had been kicked in. A few had fortunately been left open when their occupants rushed out to view the excitement. 

     They had no key but the door still had hinges and a chair propped against the inside was enough to ensure privacy.

     Harald turned towards Luigi. “How old are you?”

     “Fourteen.” Luigi replied, which wasn’t quite true.

     He had found over the months in the park that each time he shaved a little off his age the price he could charge rose a little. Once, with an elderly and short-sighted professor from the university he had said thirteen and that time the old man’s pleasure was truly expensive and his ecstatic enjoyment of a falsely pubescent boy was almost as much as his elderly frame could take.

     Harald on the other hand was a realist, perhaps a cynic, so he just grunted in mild disbelief. After all, he knew Carlo’s age and had seen his state of development. It seemed unlikely that Luigi could actually be that much younger.

     They both knew that time was short. This was not a moment for stretching things out in the hope of a good tip. Harald quickly exposed himself, and Luigi dropped to his knees and went to work with enthusiasm. This first German needed to be well serviced… There might be considerable trade downstairs. They just needed to be told where to find him, and this German friend of Carlo was the way to get word out. He needed to take advantage of what time existed, while peace still reigned on the mountain. There seemed no reason to assume that this unexpected commercial interlude would last, or that the Germans would stay for long.

     Luigi had not the slightest qualm about what he did… Everyone he respected…the Dom, the new village-priest and now Fr Barnabas all said that giving men pleasure was commendable, provided it was given selflessly. They had said that sex only became a sin if you did it solely for money or for your own pleasure.

     That was why he was so good at what he did. He was careful to ensure that the pleasure he provided was much more than just a service. He liked to relate to the men, to understand their needs. If he could, he provided little extras, even a kiss if an old man was in need of one. He never asked for extra money. If his client asked for the use of his bottom when he had only paid for his mouth, then yes there was extra to pay. But if an uncle was weeping because Luigi reminded him of a long grown up nephew then a kiss, a free kiss was his… That was how he could give an old man the extra pleasure that Father Barnabas referred to as a blessing.

     The care he took of his older customers and the priests who sought him out had become the source of a large group of genuine friends, men who sought him out week after week. Many had a special time to seek him. There was an elderly professor at the university who told him that four-o-clock on Friday afternoon was a perfect end to the week. He said that it was the prospect of time with him that made the week a time of anticipation, and that anticipation made it easier to resist the temptations posed by his students. In that old man’s case he paid for Luigi to use his mouth, but Luigi knew from talking to him that in his youth he would have made vigorous use of Luigi’s bottom… So in his case, while Luigi only charged for his mouth he also allowed the man any liberties with his bottom that he could manage. The professor would stroke the softness and probe the deepness and sigh with pleasure at the memory of what had once been his.

     Luigi granted such extras for free, because not charging for them was good for Luigi’s immortal soul.

     While he was careful of his own immortal soul, Luigi understood that it was a case that the men he served must often be in a state of sin. Most of them were seeking only their own selfish pleasure. Not many of them, just a blessed few, were thinking of the feelings of the boy they were with. Luigi concentrated on giving those men all the pleasure that they had paid for, and a little more. Then, as his priests had taught him, he could be confident that even if they sinned, what he did for them was acceptable to God and his Church.

     That the Church approved of him was clearly true because of the number of priests that now used Monte-Caprino Park for both exercise and pleasure, and Luigi was their preferred source of pleasure. Other boys could serve their needs, but it was only Luigi who attempted to serve their souls.

     It was almost entirely among the priests that he found the few that paid simply to give Luigi pleasure, leaving their own pleasure apparently unsatisfied. The boy assumed that they would find relief later. He felt genuinely sorry for the loneliness of their endeavour to remain true to their promise of celibacy.

     His understanding of right and wrong left him worried and puzzled by the morality of a priest who only wanted to fondle a boy’s body, apparently to give the boy pleasure, receiving nothing in return. It puzzled him that they always appeared so very excited by pleasures that they had not enjoyed. Clearly a priest that only wanted to give Luigi pleasure was not sinning. But… Luigi’s worry was that perhaps it was sinful for him to accept such selfish pleasuring.

     Fr. Barnabas was a particular source of worry. It was he who was most solicitous in ensuring that sex was pleasurable for Luigi. He enjoyed playing with Luigi’s body until Luigi was so mad with his own need that he forced the good father to end it for him. It was only very seldom that Barnabas was seen to find release himself. For that, he waited until he could indulge in much rougher sex with Carlo. With Luigi, sex was exceptionally tender and gentle… and that worried the boy.

     It was a relief when, at Confession, Luigi finally found the courage to raise his worries, the sex he received at the hands of the priest was too good to risk losing by appearing ungrateful. He need not have worried, an amused Fr Barnabas reassured him that, so long as the priests gained pleasure and happiness from the selflessness of their own act and the pleasure Luigi was receiving, then Luigi was not in fact sinning in accepting the priest’s gift of pleasure. He should simply ensure that the priest could see and appreciate Luigi’s pleasure. After that Luigi felt particularly good about pleasing those priests.

     It would always be easier for priest to remain celibate of women if they knew where to find a complaisent boy.

     Luigi was good and now did his best for Harald. It wasn’t for the good of Harald’s soul, he wasn’t sure if Germans had one. This was the first time that he and Carlo had knowingly shared a paying customer. He wanted Harald to tell Carlo how well he had been looked after. It was important to Luigi that Carlo should know just how hard and how well he worked to help support their little family. Like Carlo he took pride in paying his own way. Also, like Carlo, he too didn’t charge Fr. Barnabas who he provided with free and unlimited access to his sex. Fr. Barnabas in his turn, rewarded him with the absolution and blessings that did much to relieve any worries Luigi might have about the pleasure that he derived from the services he provided to lonely and gentle old men.

     Carlo had told Luigi that he rewarded the priest by being the best and most complaisent altar-boy that Barnabas had ever accessed for sex. Apparently, sex with a boy in a surplice was extremely arousing for the priest. When Fr. Barnabas had been exceptionally kind, Carlo would go to Mass wearing no pants or underwear under his cassock, so that as soon as they returned to the sacristy and the priest slipped a hand under his surplice, his immediacy and willingness would excite his priest and friend beyond all reason… It was just a little gift, but thoughtfully offered it clearly meant so much to Barnabas.

     While Luigi took time to contemplate these matters, Harald had completed his act as promptly as a soldier on a mission ought.

     His earlier conversation with Carlo had left him with a pressing reminder of those afternoons in the summer among the junipers. It had left him painfully aroused. But now his problem was being solved. He grunted his pleasure as it rose to meet the suction of Luigi’s skilled mouth. Luigi was slightly less happy, although he would never show it. Harald smoked and that tainted his seed. Luigi wiped his lips daintily on a pillow-case. He took a swig of wine from a bottle left on the bedside table by the rooms earlier occupants.

     “You are happy?” He asked.

     “Yes, you were good!” Harald replied

     “Then… Please tell your friends.” Luigi added.

     Harald laughed, genuinely amused by the boy’s entrepreneurial spirit. He pretended to box Luigi’s ear. Luigi blocked the blow firmly and Harald grunted with surprise and approval.

     “Il Duce could have used a million like you!” He said, as he checked his uniform in a smashed mirror.

     “Follow me down… not too close. There are others. I will send one to you.”

     There were indeed.

     Luigi arrived back in reception and checked see if Carlo needed help with the photography. He was happy to help Carlo if necessary, but Carlo himself was missing. Luigi thought to go looking for him but then a senior corporal took him by the elbow and Luigi found himself back in the same bedroom.

     The corporal had said, “I need you to show me where the bedrooms are.” Luigi was happy to oblige.

     Word was spreading. It wasn’t entirely an accident that Luigi chose the same room. It was the bottle of wine rather than the room that mattered to him. While Luigi believed that sex with men was almost always enjoyable… how could it not be?… the fact was that most men smoked or ate garlic or worse asparagus. He had discovered that a mouthful of strong red wine was perfect to solve the problem. He always kept a bottle of cheap wine under his juniper bush by the rock.

     The bottle on the bedside table was strong, and not cheap. It made the afternoon go with a swing. By the end of the afternoon the wine would be gone, and Luigi? Well he would be feeling no pain in his nether regions, nor cramp in his jaws.

     The corporal made it clear that he wanted Luigi’s bottom. Luigi took one look at the corporal’s endowment and reached for the bottle of wine. He made complimentary remarks and the corporal stroked his member with evident pride.

     “Too much?” He asked of Luigi, assuming that the boy needed short sentences and simple questions.

     “It is sufficient.” Luigi replied in passable German, it was a useful phrase… it covered money, length of penis and the capacity of his bottom. It could also mean that he had had enough and the afternoon was ended. It all depended on how he said it. This time he said it with admiration. If he was lucky this would be memorable.

     It was indeed memorable. The occupants of the room had evidently had something similar in mind, even if the detail would have differed… There was a pot of cold-cream on the table beside the bed, and a sensible Luigi prepared himself with some care. His bottom was still a teenage bottom and the weapon the German was presenting would have made even a Cardinal flinch. This was certainly heavy artillery support.

     Luigi adopted the position, braced against the armoire. The German embraced him from behind, one arm circling the boy’s waist and the other his chest. He appeared to not be in as much of a hurry as Harald had been and played with Luigi’s nipple with one hand while the other masturbated the boy with suprising gentleness and sensitivity.

     The explanation was whispered in his ear… “Sweet boy, so young… I shall be gentle.”

     The sentences were still short but to Luigi their meaning was clear. He leaned into the embrace and responded. The man was savouring the idea of Luigi’s youth, and Luigi was enjoying the benefit of the man’s nostalgia for past times and indiscretions.

     Entry came as a brief surprise, as it always does. That moment of surrender came and went as two young men became one, one with a single thought on its mind. Luigi clenched the muscles of his bottom, partly to pleasure the man and partly to brace against the strength of the soldier as he thrust. Sigi, for it was indeed he, paused a moment fearing that he was hurting his lover. Well, not exactly a lover, but Sigi was sentimental, it was important to him that the boy be willing and that he not be hurt.

     He paused, and Luigi, fearing that the moment might be lost, used the muscles of his bottom to masturbate the corporal. Sigi had never experienced such a thing before and he leaned into Luigi’s back, accepting the massage. He had never before had a standing-fuck in which the one being fucked did all the work. He rested there his cheek pressed against the boy’s cheek, smelling the soap in his hair and savouring the warmth of his soft skin.

     He was taken by surprise, as the boy brought him to a climax. He tried to thrust at the last moment, only to find that there was nowhere to go, the boy had anticipated him and driven his hips backwards, impaling himself on the soldier and merging his back with the soldier’s stomach. They achieved oneness, and it was all that Luigi could do to avoid an orgasm of his own. Sigi had been masturbating Luigi while resting on the boy’s back, and Luigi now needed to place his hand over the soldier’s and still the motion.

     “There are others yet.” He said gently. Sigi understood.

 

Back in reception, Luigi found that Carlo was still missing. Harald took a moment to explain that there was a shortage of interpreters. With two hundred Carabinieri, Mussolini, Skorzeny, Soliti… all of them wanting to have their say in what happened next… interpreters were needed. Carlo was as good as was available, although not all his wide vocabulary was needed, or even appropriate.

     The corporal wandered off and Luigi saw him speaking earnestly to a handsome young soldier, with a stylishly scarred face. They kept looking at Luigi, who provocatively pretended to be counting the plates on the floor beside the camera. He ensured that his rump was presented to the young soldier.

     Sigi was urging Gott. “Go on, he is magnificent, fourteen and so smooth and hard muscled… He tossed me off using just the muscles in his bum!” Sigi was lyrical in praise of Luigi. “You won’t find another like him! So pretty and such a fuck!”

     Gott said “You know I don’t…!”

     “Yes, I know you don’t fuck and I know why you don’t fuck… So go and don’t fuck him. Just let him get you off. I promise you wont regret it. It’s been a long time, you’ve had no-one since Mustafa. Take this boy. He can be a memory to take home when this is all over… The boy you had the day you helped to rescue Mussolini. Just get on with it, before Skorzeny decides it’s all taking too long!”

     Sigi took Gott by the elbow and marched him across to where Luigi was still counting plates and wiggling his bottom. “Take this man and show him where the bottle of wine is!” he ordered quietly.

     Luigi happily led a somewhat reluctant Gott up to the bedroom. He closed the door and turned to the soldier. Stretching on tip-toes he took the man in his arms and embraced him, kissing him chastely on the cheek. It was not what Gott had been expecting. He hadn’t expected gentleness and compassion so much as a need for strength and lust. The gentle innocence of the boy’s embrace completely disarmed him. Reminded of Mustafa, all he could think of was to embrace the boy in return.

     Then as he felt the younger man’s arousal press against him he remembered other bedrooms, with Gerhard and with Mustafa… and in the furthest recesses of his mind he remembered innocent games with Sigi before… before they had met Harald. He relaxed into the embrace and rested his head on the shoulder of the smaller figure.

     That was when it happened… It was pure chance that the soap used by Luigi happened to be that favored by Gerhard. Gott’s eyes were clamped shut as he smelled the warm hair and soft cheek next his face. His heart melted as the feelings he had for the memory of his lost love overwhelmed him. Just for that moment, in that place, he was once again with Gerhard. His promise to Gerhard had no meaning… because, while he kept his eyes shut… it was Gerhard that he was with.

     He fumbled at his belt and dropped his pants. Luigi hurried to match him. He didn’t know what was going on but he could see that even while he was clearly and obviously preparing for sex, Gott was keeping his eyes shut. Luigi guessed that some memory was at work in the German soldier’s head and was careful to remain silent. A hand here, a kiss there, just gentling the man towards sex.

     But then, as Gott pressed his tip against Luigi’s buttocks, lacking the experience to spear him accurately, the vision fractured slightly and he lost  it… lost his erection.

     It might have ended there, in disappointment, but that was not going to work for Luigi. He had been paid well, so this man was going to get his money’s worth! Luigi’s professional pride met up with his own lust. This was his third time that afternoon and he had not yet lost his own seed. He had been close and that had left him with an insistent need for rough and satisfying sex. He couldn’t wait to get home with Carlo or the priest. He needed it and he needed it now.

     The unmanning of the soldier caused a change in the Italian boy. He found in himself a sudden need to dominate the man, to get what he needed, what the man should have wanted… and had already paid for. He spun the soldier about. Gott was sobbing quietly to himself, remembering Gerhard and the last night before Crete. They had agreed to do it properly when they returned from the mission.

     It was that inattention that allowed Luigi time to position himself. There was enough cold cream that had migrated from Sigi’s efforts to provide lubrication, and Luigi had more than enough lust for both of them. He thrust, and before Gott could do more than yelp and open his eyes, Luigi was in and running.

     Gott was taken totally by surprise, and clamped his eyes shut against the sudden swift pain. The pain matched his mood. He needed the pain. That was when the memories and fantasies returned. It was once again the night before Crete, but this time, with knowledge of what happens if you miss opportunities he pressed back, assuring the boy that his efforts were not being wasted.

     With tears streaming down his face Gott relived moments that he had never lived. He remembered memories of events that he had been too cautious to allow to happen with Gerhard… and that he had missed again with Mustafa. He felt sad for Mustafa… did Mustafa feel regret too?

     Luigi might be young but he was a big boy where it mattered and his thrusts suddenly reached the places that Gott had only heard rumour of. Suddenly he felt Gerhard’s thrusts carrying him to places he had never been. Then Luigi took him in his hand and Gott’s returned hardness received the attention it deserved.

     As such moments do, the moment didn’t last. The rhythm picked up… Gott was thrusting back as hard as Luigi was thrusting forward. Love and lust combined to run away with both of them… Gott’s love and Luigi’s lust.

     “Gerhard, Gerhard!” Gott whispered as he came in the boy’s hand. Luigi didn’t reply. This was not his fantasy, nor was it his dream. He guessed at loss, at tears. He smiled at the tear stained joy on the soldier’s face.

     He gave Gott as much time as he needed to recompose himself, deliberately looking away as Gott wiped his face and roughly closed his uniform.

     “Thank you.” Gott said. “The Gefreiter said you would be worth the money, and you were.” Payment now made it seem so business-like, as indeed it was.

     His moment of weakness had passed and Gott had crossed a line.

     He knew a line had been crossed,  and he knew that Gerhard would have been glad for him.

 

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