Currently viewing the tag: "What Happens on the Mountain"

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

6: Escape

Brian Johnson waited, hidden in the treeline around President Franklin Roosevelt’s secret mountain retreat. The night was quiet, but the area around the one-story home was still well lit. He could also see two guards patrolling the perimeter of the house.

He needed to move soon. Every minute he waited was another minute someone might find the Marine he had attacked on his way here and another minute closer to sunrise.

He had the element of surprise on his side right now, but he would only have one chance to achieve this victory on behalf of the Fuhrer.

Once he accomplished that goal, he would need to make his getaway. It would be too dangerous to return to the OSS training camp bordering this retreat. Once Brian had assassinated the president, the camp would go on alert. They would realize he was missing. He would be a hunted man from that point.

No, he would need to steal a Jeep and drive as far away from here as he could, even though he didn’t know where he was. He had been brought here to train with the OSS in secret. He would just have to find a road and head east. If he could reach the coast, he was sure he could board a ship.

Now that he was in place, Brian wasn’t sure what to do. This had been more a mission of opportunity rather than one he had been assigned. He was closer to the President of the United States than any other German agent had got.

However, close only counted with horseshoes and hand grenades, and he had neither. Not that either would have helped him right now.

He had to get closer to the house, identify the president, and kill him. It sounded easy in his head, but looking at the house and the guards, Brian knew he might have taken on a suicide mission or worse yet, he might fail.

One thing he had learned in the OSS camp was that the best way to not be detected was to act like you belonged there. Acting suspiciously drew attention.

Brian took a deep breath and stood up. He looked at his fatigues. They had no identification on them and wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny if one of the guards got too close.

He had been timing in his head how long it took the guards to make their rounds. He waited until they passed the closest point to the house where he was. Then he walked out of the trees and across the yard to the side of the house.

He glanced in one window and saw the kitchen was empty. Brian moved to the next window and saw a den. He saw a man with thin hair and spectacles sitting at a desk writing something.

It was President Roosevelt!

Brian raised the pistol from the guard he had attacked. He smashed it against the glass in the window and fired at the president. He sat upright suddenly and then fell over to the side.

Brian had hit him!

He didn’t have time to try to fire another shot at him, though. He heard shouting. The guards would be running this way.

Brian started running around the side of the house. “The president’s been shot!” he shouted. He wanted to take the attention off him and get the guards more worried about the president.

Brian saw guards running in his direction and he waved toward the house. “He’s in there. The president’s been shot. He needs help.”

The guards veered off toward the house. Brian saw a car parked beside the house and ran to it. He jumped into the driver’s seat. As he expected, the keys were in the ignition because many people might need to use the vehicles on the property and didn’t need to have to go searching for keys.

He started the engine, turned on the headlights, and followed the driveway. He kept following it when it reached a road that allowed him to speed up.

As he sped down the road, Brian’s mind raced with adrenaline and fear. Brian had just assassinated the President of the United States. He might have changed the course of the war. He wanted to be around to see how his heroic action would play out, but he was fleeing into the unknown. He had no idea where he was going, but he knew he had to keep moving and stay ahead of the authorities.

Brian saw a swing arm blocking the road ahead of him. He sped up and crashed through it. A Marine ran outside from a small shack and fired a rifle at him.

The road ahead of him twisted and turned through the mountains, and Brian’s driving skills were put to the test. He headed downhill, pushing the sedan to its limit, taking curves at high speeds and narrowly avoiding crashes. His heart raced, and his hands were slick with sweat on the steering wheel.

He drove as fast as he could, trying to put as much distance between himself and the Marines who would surely be following.

As he drove, his mind raced with thoughts of where to go next. He needed to get as far away as possible, but he couldn’t just drive aimlessly. He needed a plan, a destination, but first, he needed to discover where he was.

The slope of the road leveled out and suddenly, he was on the outskirts of a town. It wasn’t large, but there were other cars, homes, and people. All of which could help him escape.

Brian parked the car and got out. Because of how late it was, the streets were empty of people. He ran between two homes and headed down an alley. He needed to find a phone and call his contact to see what he should do now, but the town was too small for anyone to be up this late.

Brian could steal another car, but he still did not know where he was.

He heard a car race by on the main road. The Marines must have followed him into town. They would search it, trying to find him.

He saw a small office for a doctor. Surely, a doctor would have a phone.

Brian looked around and saw the street was empty. He used his elbow to knock a glass pane out of the front door. Then he reached in and opened the door. He didn’t turn on the lights, but there was enough light from the streetlights to make out objects.

He found a phone on the desk and sat down on the floor, so it wouldn’t be obvious anyone was in the office.

Brian lifted the receiver and jiggled the button to alert the operator.

“Okay, doc,” the operator said. “Is there an emergency?”

Brian thought quickly. “Yes, he my father is sick. He’s getting him ready to go to the hospital, but he wanted me to call Dpont 4397.”

“That’s in Washington, D.C.”

“Yes, we were driving there when my father fell ill. I need to let my family know what happened.”

“One moment, please. I will try to connect you, but it is late. Who should I say is calling?”

“Brian Johnson.”

“One moment, please.”

Brian heard silence.

He waited, silently urging his contact to pick up. He wanted to turn a light on and try to find something that would say where he was, but he couldn’t risk the light attracting attention.

“I am not getting an answer,” the operator said. “Would you like me to keep trying?”

Brian clenched his fist and pounded it on the floor. “Yes, yes.”

Suddenly, the front door crashed open, followed a moment later by a door in the back. Marines rushed into the office, shining their flashlights all around until they focused on him.

How had they found him?

“Hands above your head and slowly stand up.”

Someone turned the lights in the office on.

Brian blinked in the light. When he could see clearly, he saw Lt. Harcourt standing in front of him.

Brian slowly stood up, smiling.

Lt. Harcourt raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see why you’re so happy.”

“You may have caught me, but I killed the president.”

Now Harcourt smiled. “No, you didn’t.”

“Don’t lie. I saw him fall.”

“You saw an actor fall, and your pistol only had blanks.”


“We started suspecting you were up to something days ago, and we took precautions. I would guess the president is just waiting to hear if we were successful.”

“At what?”

“We let you get away. We wanted to wrap up as much of your network as we could. We had someone with the operator. She never placed your call, but we called our people in Washington and sent them out to the address that goes with the phone number you provided us. Whoever is in that home now should be getting a rude awakening right now.”

Harcourt reached out and turned Brian around. Then he put handcuffs on his hand behind his back.

“I don’t know how you thought you’d get away with something like that among the best-trained spies and saboteurs in the world.”

“If you’re so good, why’d you recruit me?” Brian asked.

Harcourt shrugged and then grinned. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

~ The End ~

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

5: On The Move

Brian Johnson had a plan to assassinate President Franklin Roosevelt. It didn’t matter that Brian didn’t know where the president was. He knew the man would come to him, and when he did, Brian would kill him.

He was a German spy, posing as an American serviceman. Luckily, he had been recruited to be a member of the OSS, the Office of Strategic Services, which was America’s newly created spy agency.

Since learning Roosevelt would be at his secret retreat near the camp, Brian had been obsessed with finding the president and assassinating him in the name of the Fatherland. He had found where he believed the retreat shared a border with the OSS camp. An 18-wire barbed-wire fence separated the two properties.

Brian had been digging a furrow under the fence for the past few days and disguising his work with loose dirt and grass. He had considered cutting the wire, but he didn’t have the tools he needed. He also suspected the wires were alarmed. However, because the retreat bordered a military camp here, it didn’t have sentry booths or floodlights like Brian had seen where the borders of the camps diverged. No one expected trouble for the president to come from a military camp.

Brian didn’t know how much time he had before Roosevelt came here. He had given up all his clothing and personal items when he had been recruited, so he had no watch or calendar to know what day it was or even the time of day.

However, he knew when the president arrived because on that day, the shooting range at the OSS camp closed. He had heard Colonel Smith on a phone call say he would do this, so as not to disturb the president during his time away from Washington.

The morning Colonel Smith announced the range would be closed until further notice, Brian knew it was time to act. However, he couldn’t slip away in the daylight hours. It would be too easy for someone to miss him.

He waited until after everyone had turned in for the night. Usually everyone was so exhausted from the day’s training, they fell asleep quickly. Brian lay in his lower bunk with his eyes closed, listening to the other men in the cabin. Their breathing became slower, except for the trainee called Douglas. He snored lightly.

When Brian was sure everyone was asleep, he slid out of his bunk, grabbed his clothes and boots, and walked to the door. If anyone asked, he would say he was going to the bathroom. Outside, he dressed quickly and followed the trail by memory to the fence. Only when he was far enough away from the buildings did he turn on his flashlight. He kept it pointed downward to minimize how far it illuminated. With the president visiting, the guards would be on a higher alert than usual.

He found the fence and then moved along it until he found the spot where he had been digging. He had filled it loosely with dirt and grass, so that it wouldn’t attract attention if a guard happened to stumble on it.

He uncovered some rudimentary tools he had been using and a few sheets of newspaper he had found in the garbage. He folded the pages and twisted them into a point. He had been trained how to do this during his classes on unconventional weapons, where he was learning to turn everyday items like combs and toothbrushes into weapons. His paper knife would probably only work as a knife once, but that was all he needed it to last. He could use it to gain an actual weapon.

Brian knelt down and scooped out the loose dirt. Then he lay on his back and wiggled under the fence. It was a tight fit, but he made it onto the president’s property without creating any noise.

He waited and listened to make sure he hadn’t attracted the attention of a sentry who might be patrolling.

From this point on, he was breaking new ground. He walked away from the fence, deeper into the woods. He tucked his tools into his waistband. He carried his paper knife in one hand and his flashlight in the other hand.

He kept the flashlight off as much as possible. He didn’t want to risk being seen, and he wanted to be able to see any lights in the distance that could lead him to his target.

He had no idea how much time had passed, but he would be noticed missing when all the recruits woke in the morning. He hoped he could complete his mission and make it back to the cabin before that happened.

Brian stopped when he heard movement. He squatted and listened. Then not only did he hear branches being pushed away, he saw a flashlight come on. The beam shone off to his left. A Marine guard was patrolling and must have heard Brian.

He waited, hoping the man would think that whatever he heard was just an animal and move on. He tried to control his breathing and minimize his exhalations.

Then the light swung further away from Brian, only to swing quickly back and land on Brian.

“Stay where you are!” the Marine shouted.

Instead, Brian launched himself at the man. The Marine reached for his pistol.

Brian tackled him and they landed on the hard ground. He stabbed his paper knife into the Marine’s neck. He felt a hard impact, but the paper blade crumpled without penetrating the Marine’s neck. So much for his OSS training. He smashed his fist into the man’s throat so that he couldn’t scream for help.

As the Marine struggled for breath, Brian punched him in the face until the man stopped moving. Brian checked for a pulse. The Marine was still alive. He could regain consciousness at any time. Brian pinched the man’s nose closed and held his hand over his mouth. He counted off two minutes and checked again for a pulse. He didn’t feel anything. He hoped the Marine was dead. Brian didn’t want him interfering with his plans.

He took the man’s rifle and pistol off him and stood up. He didn’t think the fight had alerted anyone. At least Brian didn’t hear anyone rushing toward him.

He continued moving in the direction he thought the Marine had come from. He came to a dirt road. He felt he was getting closer. All he should need to do would be follow the road. The question was which direction should he go?

He made a gut call based on how he felt the Marine had been marching and went left. Within a few yards, he heard a vehicle coming along the road and saw lights in the distance. He quickly hid himself behind the brush along the road. A Jeep drove by without slowing.

Brian walked back out to the road and started jogging the direction the Jeep had gone. This was taking longer than he had hoped and he hadn’t even located the place where the president was staying.

He had to find it soon if he wanted to get back to his cabin in time.

After running for a couple minutes, he thought he noticed light on the horizon. He slowed to walk when he noticed the light was getting brighter as he moved closer. He got off the road and moved into the trees.

Then he reached a slight rise and looked over. The light had been coming from lampposts around a very large hunting lodge. He also noted a few outbuildings that were large cabins.

Brian had found the president’s retreat.

You Won’t Know Until Your Hair Turns Gray

by Sue E. Clabaugh

You won’t know until your hair turns gray, how I’ve loved you

since that first day when I saw you there in your little pink blanket.

How my heart stopped every time you smiled

And what it meant to me to welcome you into my life.

You won’t understand what it meant to see you grow

and to know that I had been a part of those first years.

You won’t know why I took you to church and Sunday School

and the Golden Rule was how I wanted you to live your life.

How learning to walk to the altar to light the candles with your Pappy

gave you courage and made you happy that you had no fears

Which you have carried through the years—in all you do.

You won’t know until your hair turns gray

Why I sat on the bleachers in the heat of the sun

To see you run when you hit your first ball

Or why I froze just to help you make that snowman that you wanted to call Paul McCartney.

Oh and teach you to hold that pinkie up

While holding your cup at our very best tea party.

And then would help you make a cake

With leaves, grass, cinnamon and seeds from the magnolia tree

Just to see you feel like you were the best, when in truth

I needed a rest—but chose you and your joy.

You’ll never know until your hair turns gray

How I loved you day after day

Because you changed my life.

Gave me a cause to be more than just an old lady.

Gave me a reason to live life over again

To be happy when others said “You’re out of your head”

At your age to take on all that.

So, when you grow older and find

that there are days when you are kind

To others and it makes you feel better

Because you did.

When you’re no longer a kid but a woman with children,

Of your own, and teach them to pray

And always say they are brave.

When you have that moment when you play

And pretend that leaves with cinnamon and magnolia seeds will stay

To be shared at your tea party

With your pink plastic cup—with your pinkie up

That’s when you will say

So that’s what she meant when she said

You’ll never know until your hair turns gray!

If you’ve been reading The Catoctin Banner for the past few years, you have probably read the serial stories written by James Rada, Jr. “What Happens on the Mountain” is the one that is currently running in this newzine. Rada has now collected the horror serials, along with some new, unpublished stories in a collection called Shades & Shadows: Catoctin Tall Tales & Short Stories.

Catoctin Mountain lore tells of monsters like the snallygaster and dwayyo, creatures that haunt the dreams of children and adults alike. Shades & Shadows has similar stories of Catoctin Mountain. These nightmares are on and around the central Maryland mountain, incorporating its places and people into its legend.

In “The Anger of Innocence,”  millions of birds flocked to the small town of Graceham in 1972, destroying crops and annoying the residents. But what brought them to the town and for what purpose?

In “Cast from the Gods,” the U.S. government is building Site R or the Underground Pentagon deep beneath Raven Rock Mountain during the 1950s. When the complex was being built, workers found something else in the ground. It had been there for centuries. Its discovery released a danger that the U.S. Army nearly failed in controlling.

“Old Kiln Road” is a story about a mother dealing with grief and strange things that happen along Old Kiln Road in Thurmont.

“Fire, Fire” is the story of an arsonist who worked for Catoctin Furnace in the early 1800s and what drove him to madness.

Most of these stories appeared as monthly serials in The Catoctin Banner. The collection also includes three previously unpublished serials.

In “Set in Stone,” a stone carver in Thurmont finds blank headstones suddenly inscribed with the death information of murder victims. He becomes the suspect in their murders. He discovers that the truth is far more fantastic and horrific and dates back through generations of his family.

“Bon Appétit” is about a very special dinner at the opening of a new restaurant in Thurmont and how the owner gets revenge against his critics.

“Confessions” is about a man who has visions of murder victims who apparently have no connection to him.

The serial stories are based on a feature of newspapers from early in the 20th century that featured serial stories.

“When I was asked to write something for The Catoctin Banner’s Arts & Entertainment page, I decided to try to bring back the serial story,” Rada said. “My twist was that I localized the story so that they used actual places and/or events from Northern Frederick County.”

Rada’s first serial, “The Anger of Innocence,” was supposed to be the only story, but the feature proved popular, and he went on to write more stories in different genres.

“I switched up genres sometimes to be able to offer something for everyone,” Rada said. “Plus, I liked going outside of my comfort zone with what I was writing.”

He started coming up with ideas for possible stories and outlining them. Some of them might even be expanded into novels.

As the stories accumulated, he realized he had a nice collection of stories with more on the way. He decided to publish the collection as he has done with some of his non-fiction articles.

The problem he ran into was how to present it. The easiest way would have been to collect the published stories and release them as a multi-genre collection. The more he thought about it, though, the more he thought it wouldn’t fly.

“Readers tend to like certain genres,” he said. “My horror fans probably wouldn’t appreciate my romance serials and vice versa.”

He settled on releasing three Catoctin Tales & Short Stories, each which will focus on a single genre. Shades & Shadows is a horror collection. The other two will be a romance collection and a thriller collection.

“This doesn’t mean that I’m done with horror serials. It just means that I would need to write another set to come out with another title,” Rada said. “Meanwhile, I am working on the other two collections.”

Shades & Shadows retails for $18.95 and is available at local bookstores and online retailers. For more information about James Rada’s books, visit his website at

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

4: Preparing

Brian Johnson had discovered where President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s top secret getaway in the Maryland mountains was hidden. It was one piece of the puzzle he needed to find before he could kill the president in the name of the Fuhrer.

He jogged back to his cabin in the OSS training camp to change before his training as an OSS agent began in another hidden camp in the mountains. When he arrived, he saw a pair of soldiers standing guard outside.

He stopped running and walked in circles to catch his breath. It gave him time to think.

Why were they there? They had never had guards outside the cabin before. Had someone gotten suspicious about him?

Brian approached the cabin entrance, but one of the guards held up a hand.

“You’ll have to wait out here for now,” the burly man said. Although the guards wore uniforms, no branch of service was identified, which meant they were OSS agents.

“Why? I need to get changed before my first class,” Brian said.

“The colonel is inside and ordered that no one can enter.”

The colonel? Colonel Smith was in charge of the camp. Brian kept the panic he felt under control. He had created a problem by acting outside of the norm with the run. It was a risk he had needed to take to get information. Now he needed to act within the norm and act as if nothing was wrong.

“I’ll get a shower then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back inside then to get fresh clothes.”

The guard said nothing as Brian turned away and walked to the shower house. The small building had four shower stalls inside. Two of the stalls had other recruits from his cabin taking showers.

As Brian stripped out of his sweaty clothes, he said, “Did you see the guards outside of our cabin? They wouldn’t let me inside.”

“They sent us out, too,” a recruit called Jack said. No one in the camp used their real names as a security precaution. Brian’s fake name was Adam.

“Are they looking for something?”

“Who knows? They said it was an inspection, and we needed to leave.”


“What isn’t in this place?”

Brian stepped into the water stream. It was cold and quickly cooled his hot skin.

Jack was right. Most likely, it was just an odd way they did things in this camp, but Brian was a spy inside a camp that trained spies. He had to be very careful, or he would be captured. Even if they suspected him of something, they wouldn’t find evidence of it in his things or in the cabin. The only personal things he had here were what he had been wearing when he arrived from Miami University in the truck.

He finished showering and redressed except for his sweaty shirt. He walked back to the cabin and saw the guards were gone. When he went inside, everything looked normal. Jack was making his bunk.

“See? They’re gone. No problem,” he said.

“They had you leave without making your bunk?” Brian asked.

“Yea, but I’m not going to risk that now.”

Brian nodded, but said nothing. If the colonel had been inspecting the cabin, an unmade bunk would have warranted some sort of demerit, but apparently not. That made it doubtful that the colonel’s visit had been an inspection.

Brian looked around. What had changed then? Had anything? Why had the colonel been here?

Brian wondered if the room had been bugged. Were spies spying on the spies to see if any of them disobeyed orders while in the cabin?

This was a world of suspicion and deception Brian found himself in.

Their morning instruction that day was in the art of safecracking from someone named Capt. Peters. Peters was a small man with thinning hair and a scar across his neck. He grinned every time someone called him captain, which made Brian doubted that he was actually military. He knew his work, though. He showed the recruits the insides of combination locks so they could understand how they worked. Then he showed his group different ways of opening those locks, from feeling for the tumblers to fall into place while turning the lock dial to drilling through the tumblers to blowing up the safe door without destroying the contents.

Brian was so fascinated by what he was learning, he forgot about planning for his own mission for a while.

During lunch in the mess hall, Brian wondered whether he could break into the colonel’s office. It would have maps and information that would make Brian’s planning easier. However, the cabin had two rooms; one was the colonel’s office, and the other was his aide’s. Besides being their offices, they also slept in the rooms. Although Brian believed he could break into the office, it would be too dangerous to try to enter. Too many people were around during the day who might see him and the colonel and his aide were there during the night.

The afternoon training session was on the “trainazium.” Brian had seen nothing like it before, except for perhaps in a circus. He reported to a clearing with other recruits and saw six telephone-pole-size logs were set into the ground and connected by smaller poles 18 feet above the ground. They were criss-crossed with ropes, nets and cables going every direction.

“This monstrosity is an obstacle course,” Lieutenant Price told them. “Your work in the OSS will challenge you physically, not only in strength, but in dexterity. This course will help you learn to deal with those challenges.”

The recruits then spent the next few hours swinging, running, and climbing along the poles and ropes as if they were monkeys making their way through the jungle. Brian was so exhausted at the end, he could barely open his hand so that it was flat.

After dinner, when Brian was supposed to be going to the latrine, he wandered off toward where he knew the fence to Shangri-La was. He stayed in the shadows as he approached the fence. He spotted Marines on the other side and was satisfied that was where the president would be when he visited.

He also realized he knew how he could get a weapon, and as far as getting through the fence, he didn’t need to get through it. The OSS had been teaching him to think of solutions to problems that were unusual. Yesterday, he had learned to create a knife from a newspaper. Now he could put that newspaper knife to use. As for the fence, he would go under it.

Once he did that, though, it would set things in motion, and he would be committed to his mission. He would have to move fast to make things happen in his favor. He would try to survive, but that was not his mission. He had to focus on killing President Roosevelt, even if it was the last thing he did.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

3: Planning

A hand shook Brian Johnson’s shoulder, and he opened his eyes. The first thing he realized was that it was still night. The second thing he realized was that Lt. Harcourt was standing beside him.

“You have five minutes to get ready and be out front,” the lieutenant said. “Don’t turn on the lights or wake the others.”

Brian rolled out of his bunk in the OSS training camp and scrambled to get his clothes on in the dark. No one else was moving. He was the only recruit in this building being ordered to get dressed and report outside.

Had someone discovered Brian was a German spy? If so, they might be preparing to interrogate him.

He didn’t have any weapons on him he could use to defend himself. Ironically, he would have to use the skills he was being taught as a U.S. spy and guerilla fighter to escape from this camp if need be.

Lt. Harcourt glanced at his watch when Brian came out of the building. “You now have 10 minutes to get to the spook house. You’ll have to run to make it in time. Go.”

Brian took a second to absorb the unexpected order and orient himself to where the building called the spook house was located. He took off running in the dark and quickly realized he couldn’t run at full speed or he was likely to trip. What little moonlight was out was being obscured by the trees around the camp. He jogged in the right direction, trying to remember where the trails were so he wouldn’t chance tripping on a stone or root.

He cut it close, but he made it on time. He stopped in front of a soldier standing at the door.

“Recruit Adam,” Brian said, using the name the OSS had given him when he had first been brought here. “I was told to report.”

The soldier said nothing. He knocked on the door. When a voice inside said, “Enter,” he opened the door and waved Brian inside.

Brian walked into a dimly lit room. A captain sitting at a desk said, “Recruit, inside this building, you will find Nazi soldiers hiding.” Nazis. Real Nazis? It couldn’t be. “Your job is to eliminate them before they eliminate you.” The captain laid a .45 pistol and two clips of bullets on the desk. “This is what you’ll use.”

Brian picked up the pistol. He loaded one clip and put the other one in his pocket. This had to be a test of some kind.

“Recruit, there may be others in there, as well, be careful to not shoot any innocents,” the captain said.

The captain motioned to the door behind him. Brian walked over, took a deep breath, and entered the room.

The hallway he found himself in was dark except for a dim light showing at the end about 15 feet away. He started forward, only to realize the floor wobbled beneath him. He balanced himself and moved forward more cautiously so as not to twist an ankle.

He held his pistol at the ready, unsure of what to expect. He paused at the end of the hallway and swung around the corner. He saw a small empty room with a single light on. A paper target made of the photograph of a German soldier popped up from the ground. Brian fired twice as he had been taught. The target didn’t move, but he saw the bullet holes in it.

He moved from room to room, checking doors, and treading carefully in case a trap door opened beneath his feet. As the targets popped up or swung out from the walls, he fired at them.

In the last room, he saw a dummy dressed as a German soldier, sitting in a chair and holding a lighted cigarette in his hand. Brian fired twice and went out the door behind the soldier.

He was back in the original room.

“Very good, Recruit Adam.”

“Thank you, sir.”

The pistol was still in Brian’s waistband. He had been hoping to find a weapon to use to kill President Roosevelt when he visited the area. This might be it.

Then the officer said, “Leave your weapon here and return to your bunk.”

Brian hid his dismay. He removed his pistol, ejected the clip, and set both the clip and pistol on the desk.

“By the way, if you hadn’t shot the dummy at the end, you would have failed this test no matter how well you did throughout the rest the spook house,” the officer said. “You must be willing to kill or you will be killed.”

Brian had nothing to say to that. He was quite aware of the need. It had already been taught to him.

“Don’t say anything to anyone else about what, happened here this evening. You’re dismissed.”

Brian headed back to his bunk, climbed under the wool blanket, and quickly fell asleep.

He dreamed of how he could execute his plan. Not having a weapon was his first concern. Weapons were kept in the armory and accounted for when not in use. If he couldn’t find a firearm or an explosive, he would need to get close to the president to stab him.

Brian would have to find the presidential retreat and get into the area. He knew from Col. Smith’s phone call that it had to be away from the spook house but close enough to the firing range for the shots to be heard. Brian would start searching near there. He would need to sneak away from his other recruits, perhaps making detours on the way to use the latrine.

Once he had answered both questions, he would go hunting.

The next morning before breakfast, Brian decided to take a run. It was unusual given the extent of the physical training they were undergoing, but it wasn’t something that was disallowed. Also, it gave him a chance to be alone.

He checked his watch to figure out when he needed to be back so as not to create unreasonable suspicion. He started jogging through the camp along the established roads and trails. Between the camp buildings and the camp entrance when he was out of sight of everyone, he veered off and started searching for a fence line. Even if the training camp didn’t have one, he was sure the presidential property would.

He found it about ten minutes later. It was a long section of wire fencing. He stopped running and approached it. He listened for any humming and heard nothing. So he darted his finger out to touch one of the strands of wire. It wasn’t electrified. He didn’t think it would be, but he had to be sure.

He ran along the edge of the fence trying to find some sign of the president’s home of the other side. He heard voices and stopped. He squatted down and watched for movement. He saw Marines walking along a path, patrolling the property on the other side.

This had to be the president’s property. Brian would need to add shears or a hatchet to his list of needs. He had to find a way to cut through the fence, but he wanted to make sure he knew where he was going on the other side.

He was running out of time.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

2: Arrival

Navy seaman Brian Johnson and the nine other sailors looked around at where the army truck had dropped them off apparently in the middle of nowhere. They were in the woods standing in front of what looked to be a log cabin a long way away from a place one would expect to find a sailor. This was like no other military camp Brian had ever seen. Then again, since this group of sailors had been dressed in Army fatigues, nothing was as it appeared.

That was certainly true for Brian, too.

“Fall in!” Lt. Harcourt ordered.

The 10 sailors formed a line in front of the lieutenant, facing the cabin. The lieutenant then walked down the line and handed each sailor a pin with a name on it. The one he handed Brian read, “Adam.”

“Pin them on your shirts. That is how you will be known from now on,” the lieutenant said. “Do not share personal information, including your real names, with anyone here, even the officers.”

A tall, broad-shouldered man walked out the door and stood on the front porch staring at the men. He wore no insignia on his own fatigues. He didn’t need to. It was obvious he was in command. It showed in the way he carried himself.

“Attention!” Lt. Harcourt said.

The sailors straightened up.

“Welcome to what we call, Camp B,” the commander said. “My name is Colonel Smith. It is not my real name. It may not even by my real rank. No one here is to know your real names. The names you have been given will be how you are known. Learn them. Remember them. Respond to them. This is for your safety and the safety of your fellow recruits. What you don’t know, you can’t tell the enemy. As for any rank you may have had before you came here, it no longer exists. I am your commander and you are my recruits and will be referred to as such.

“You men have all volunteered to become members of the Office of Strategic Services. We have been tasked with intelligence gathering, resistance training, and sabotage of our nation’s enemies.”

Brian nearly chuckled. It took all he could do to keep from smiling. What were the chances that one spy agency would recruit a spy from another agency?

“The things you will learn here will prepare you to operate behind enemy lines. Some things you will be familiar with from your basic training, but other skills are outside of the purview of the military, which is why we operate in conjunction with but not as part of the military.

“The work will be grueling and challenging, both physically and mentally. If you succeed in your training, you be part of your nation’s secret weapon.

“The lieutenant will show you the grounds and your quarters. Acclimate yourself to where everything is today. Tomorrow morning your training begins.”

He saluted. The men returned the salute. Then, Col. Smith turned and walked back into what Brian assumed was his office and quarters.

This was an opportunity for Brian to serve the Fatherland, but only if he could find a way to relay what he learned to his superiors. That seemed very unlikely at the moment. He did not even know where he was, let alone how he would contact anyone.

The lieutenant marched the men over to the quartermaster building where they were issued clothes and hygiene items. They were then taken to a larger building that 12 bunks inside along the walls.

Each man took a bunk and laid the pile of items the quartermaster had issued them on the mattress.

Lt. Harcourt then walked them around the camp and pointed out various buildings; the mess hall, the latrine, the classroom, armory, and a few others. One building off by itself was called he called “the spook house,” although he didn’t elaborate on what it was. Another area was a training area made of telephone poles with cables and nets strung between them.

Brian didn’t notice any fences, but that could have that Harcourt didn’t take them near the edges of the camp. He did see patrols of soldiers walking around, and he wondered how many men were stationed at this camp.

Just how many spies and guerrillas was the United States training?

Brian knew one thing, though, they were going to tell their secrets to one German spy.

The next morning he began his training along with the other recruits. He was given a sledgehammer and sent to break up a pile of small boulders into gravel. He didn’t see the point of it. He wanted to object that it was a waste of time, but he went to work on the pile. He wasn’t the only one working at it. There were multiple piles of boulders that they pounded with their sledgehammers.

The recruits tried to talk to each other, but the work was grueling. He soon had his shirt off as it was soaked in sweat. Brian felt like he was a convict on a chain gang.

Other than taking breaks for meals and water that was all he did for the first day. He was in fit condition, but the next day his shoulders and back ached, and he had blisters on his hands.

“Do you all hurt this morning?” Lt. Harcourt asked when he saw them in the morning.

When the recruits in Brian’s group admitted they were sore, the captain said, “Get used to it. The rocks were just to show you how monotonous the work you can do might be. It requires patience and focus… and preparedness. If someone had attacked you while you were doing the work yesterday, how do you think you would have fared?”

Brian had to admit that he doubted he could have fought anyone off, especially near the end of the day.

“My job is to help you survive whatever may come your way. You will learn unorthodox fighting as well as code breaking, safecracking, and explosives. We will train both your body and mind, and both will be better for it at the end your time here.”

Their next work was on the firing range where their instructor showed them a variety of weapons from standard military handguns and rifles to machine guns and derringers. The derringer was small, but it was easily concealed and could be useful in close combat fighting. It was not a soldier’s weapon.

Brian kept looking for chances to get away from his group and explore the camp, but they were hard to come by. At lunch, he excused himself to use the latrine.

He was walking by the commandant’s building when he heard someone talking inside. He paused near the open window trying to look nonchalant. He looked around to make sure no one was near and moved closer to the building.

“Yes, sir, I’ll see that it’s done,” one man said.

“How much rearranging of the schedule will it require?” the commandant asked.

There was a pause. “Some. We’ll just close the firing range and explosives area for a few days, although I think we can still use the spook house. It’s indoors and on the other side of the camp from the President’s compound.”

President? Was he talking about President Roosevelt? What President’s compound? They weren’t anywhere near Washington. At least he didn’t think so. Washington wasn’t so forested.

“That is acceptable.”

“Once he leaves on Sunday, we will just concentrate on the training we had to postpone while he was here.”

“Good. President Roosevelt comes to the mountain to rest and get away from the politicians in Washington. He doesn’t need to hear a lot of gunfire and explosions,” Col. Smith said.

“Yes, sir.”

Brian stepped away from the building and hurried on. He had heard enough. He knew that President Roosevelt was coming to stay somewhere near enough that gunfire would disturb him. He also knew the President would be here soon and staying until Sunday. That gave Brian a small window of opportunity.

He knew what he can do to further the cause. Kill Roosevelt.

A serial fiction story for your enjoyment

written by James Rada, Jr.

1: Recruitment

Seaman Brian Johnson hurried across the campus of Miami University to a meeting in Hall Auditorium. This was a change in his routine of learning to operate and repair radios for the U.S. Navy. Change could be a good thing. It meant something was happening.

He followed the group of other Navy seamen through the triple-arched entry into the stately brick building in front of them. It was primarily a music hall, but the Navy used it when they had large meetings of all the sailors attending radio school at the university.

He took a seat and waited patiently. Once the room was full, a lieutenant he didn’t recognize walked out on the stage. The room fell silent.

“I am Lt. Harcourt,” the lieutenant announced. “I need a show of hands of anyone in this room who can speak a foreign language. It doesn’t matter what language that may be.”

Hands went up. Not a large number of them, but more than a couple dozen out of the two hundred or so seamen in the auditorium. Brian hesitated a moment and then raised his hand.

“Everyone with their hands up, follow Ens. Greene.” Lt. Harcourt motioned to the tall officer standing off to the side of the stage.

About four dozen young men stood up and started shuffling to the ends of the rows and then up onto the stage, where they formed a line. The ensign led them behind the stage and out a back door. They entered another building, where they stood in a line as Ens. Greene pointed one after another into one of three classrooms.

Brian guessed each sailor was being interviewed about something to do with knowing another language, but each interview seemed to be going relatively quickly.

When Ens. Greene pointed Brian into a classroom, he entered and saw another lieutenant. He stepped in front of the man and saluted.

“At ease, sailor.” Brian relaxed, but remained standing. “What language other than English do you speak?”

“German, sir,” Brian replied.

“How well?”

“Very. My parents immigrated here after the Great War, sir.”

The lieutenant stared at him a few moments and then asked, “Would you like to try something different, sailor?”

“Different, sir?”

“Would you like to become a paratrooper?”

Brian’s eyes widened. “I’m in the Navy, sir. We don’t have paratroopers. We’re… swimmers.”

The lieutenant exhaled in what might have been a stifled chuckle. “Well, this is something different. It’s a special training course. Are you interested?”

Brian was right. This change did seem to be leading to something useful. “Yes, sir.”

“What’s your name?”

“Seaman Brian Johnson.”

“Go back to your room and pack your bag. Report back here in two hours. You’ll see a bus out front of the auditorium. Give the officer who will be there your name and get on the bus.”

Things were changing quickly. Brian wondered what was happening.

“Yes, sir. May I ask where I am going, sir?”

“All I can tell you right now is that you will be going on special assignment, and you will be in the states until your training is complete. You’re dismissed.”

Brian saluted. “Yes, sir.”

He spun around and walked back out into the hallway with a confused look on his face. There were about a dozen sailors still waiting to be interviewed. He wondered how many of them would be joining him on the bus in a couple hours.

Had any of them been told any more than he had?

He walked back to the dorm room he shared with another sailor named Jack Witherspoon. Brian hadn’t noticed Jack raise his hand that he spoke another language, so Brian guessed his roommate would be remaining behind to continue studying radios.

Miami University and many colleges and universities had lost a lot of their students when they started being drafted or joining the armed forces to fight in the war. Some of the schools were lucky enough to make up some of the lost tuition by helping train soldiers, sailors, and marines in some of the academic studies they might need.

Brian stuffed his seabag with his clothes and toiletries. He didn’t have much, so it didn’t take long.

He ran down to the cafeteria to grab three sandwiches and a pair of apples. He ate one of the sandwiches in his room, but he packed the other stuff. He wasn’t sure when he would have the chance to eat again, and he appreciated not having to eat Navy chow while he was there.

He sat down at the desk and wrote out a short note, carefully considering the words he used. Then he lifted the bottom of the left curtain on his window and draped it over the curtain rod.

He clipped his seabag shut, slung it over his shoulder, and headed out of the dorm.

As he exited the building, he stepped over the side and squatted down to tighten up the laces on his boots. He quickly scanned the area around him and then quickly shoved the note he had written underneath a flat stone next to the sidewalk.

He stood up, shouldered his bag, and then headed for the bus.

He wasn’t sure what good it would do, but he needed to keep his superiors informed.

A shore patrolman was standing at the bus when Brian arrived. He hesitated for a moment, but he knew no one knew about him. He approached the man.

“I was told to report here for a special assignment,” Brian said.

The patrolman nodded and pointed to the auditorium. “You’ll need to leave your bag in there.”

“What? This is all my gear.”

The shore patrolman shrugged. “Orders. No one but sailors in brown get on this bus and only them. No gear.”

Brian sighed. This was getting weird. He walked into the auditorium and saw seven other sailors milling around.

Lt. Harcourt walked over, so they snapped to attention and saluted.

“At ease, gentlemen. Before we leave for your special assignment, we have to get you ready.” He waved at three ensigns who walked over. “These men will help you. You will change into khaki uniforms and then pack everything, including your current uniforms in your seabags, which will be sent home.”

“Sir?” one seaman asked.

“Yes, sailor?”

“Does that include our wallets?”

“Are wallets part of everything?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then what do you think?” The sailor blushed but said nothing. “These ensigns will help you get ready. I repeat, everything will go into your seabags. The only things getting on that bus are you and the clothing we give you. Now get ready.”

The ensigns each grabbed a group of sailors and headed off to a classroom. Brian walked with three other sailors into a classroom.

“Strip down and tell me your sizes,” the ensign said.

The sailors did so, and the ensign left the room. He returned with uniforms, underwear, socks, and shoes.

“These are khaki,” one sailor said.

“Yes, they are.”

“We’re Navy, not Army.”

“You’re not anything now.”

Brian saw what the ensign meant. There was no insignia on the uniform to identify the branch of the military.

What was going on?

His superiors would want to know about it, so he would need to find a way to contact them at some point, but for now, he had to discover what was happening.

He changed into the non-descript uniform, put his remaining clothes in his seabag, and then walked back out to where Lt. Harcourt was waiting. When all the sailors were changed, Harcourt led them onto the bus. Brian noticed curtains covered all the windows and blocked off the front of the bus from the passenger area. They wouldn’t be able to see where they were going.

As the bus drove, Harcourt stood in the aisle and spoke to them. “I know you have questions. They will eventually be answered, but not here and not now. This journey to your training camp will happen in stages and take most of a day. I won’t tell you not to talk amongst yourselves, but don’t voice your questions or speculation about this assignment. Also, I don’t know if any of you know each other, but from now on, you are strangers. Don’t exchange names or any personal information. None of that will matter where we’re going.”

The sailors looked at each other, but didn’t say anything. Brian wasn’t sure how long they drove because he no longer had a watch. When the bus finally stopped, the sailors exited and found themselves at a rail siding. A train waited for them, and they boarded it. They were assigned rooms and went in to go to sleep. A steward came by with a trolley cart and handed each of them a bagged meal. He also filled a cup with hot coffee for them.

Brian tried to watch where they were going through the window of his room, but the train didn’t slow for any station. He knew they were generally traveling east by the way the sun set, so he assumed they were moving across West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but he couldn’t be sure.

He also had no way to contact his superiors. He knew a number he could call, but with as strict as the Navy was being about this assignment, Brian doubted he would have the opportunity to use a telephone or send a telegram. He was going to have to play things by ear until he could get back in contact.

The train finally stopped about what seemed like a day at a small station that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. The sign on the station read Lantz, but that meant nothing to him. He didn’t know what state he was in or even what rail line they had traveled.

The sailors were hustled from the train into the back of an Army truck with a canvas covering. Not surprisingly, when they were all in the back with Lt. Harcourt, he pulled the canvas down so they couldn’t tell where they were going. All Brian knew was that the road was bumpy.

“It won’t be long now,” was all Harcourt told them.

The truck stopped once, and Brian heard the driver speaking with someone. After a short time, it moved forward once more. When it stopped again, the driver turned the engine off.

Harcourt threw open the back canvas, turned to the men and said, “Welcome to the Office of Strategic Services. You are about to become America’s secret weapon in this war.