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Mortars and Warhawks

Novel Excerpt

By Kale RossPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read

Adrano, Sicily | 1943


Eleven thousand feet of basalt and volcanic rock pierced the rusty-plum atmosphere, casting a mirage of shimmering twilight hues down the sides of Etna’s snow-capped peaks.

Greeted by the Ponte dei Saraceni, an archaic stone and brick medieval bridge built by the ancient Romans, they crossed over the Simeto river and entered the metropolitan city of Adrano.

“The entire city lies on a lava plateau,” Clement said as the mountain consumed their entire horizon, " It is the gateway to Etna’s rich collection of prehistoric materials and minerals.”

“Where is the entrance?” Garret yelled from the rear of the truck, fighting back the whip of the wind.

“Monte Mezzaluna,” Clement yelled back, “It’s a nature preserve on the slopes of Etna which overlooks two smaller, twin volcanoes. De Fiore One and De Fiore Two. The cave’s entrance is hidden within the woodland between Etna and the twins. The Jeep will take us as far as Pietre cannone, but we’ll have to hike the rest of the way from there.”

“How far?” Garret asked, as he heard a strange droning stiffen his spine.

“About an hour in Jeep. Then another hour or so on foot-”

The road behind them disintegrated in a blaze of fire, as a single Messerschmitt Bf 109 German fighter aircraft excavated the road with its twenty-millimeter cannons.

Clement battled with the steering column of the bouncing Jeep, struggling to out maneuver the plane’s attack. Just as the German fighter turned around for a second pass, a squadron of Curtiss P-40 Warhawks emerged from the southern skies, shooting the German Bf 109 out of the clouds. As it erupted into a fiery blaze along the eastern slopes of Mount Etna, a barrage of machine gun fire hammered the backside of the swerving Jeep and surrounding gravel. Clement quickly craned his neck back and forth, trying to get eyes on the gunfire while making sure not to run the Jeep aground. Garret swiveled the mounted fifty-cal one hundred and eighty degrees, and opened fire on the approaching German half-track. Rosalie joined in on the shooting, and emptied her entire magazine.


Nadine cackled and roared equally as loud as the mounted MG 42 she was firing at the sputtering Army Jeep she had just called an airstrike on. Ulrich was driving the Panzer Grey half-track, crudely maneuvering through the craters caused by the air-strike.

The seven remaining German soldiers from Rocca di Cerere were crammed into the rear open bed - each one of them, firing their Mp40 submachine guns and bolt-action Karabiner 98k rifles whenever Ulrich angled the half-track provided them with a clear shot at the speeding Jeep.

After their latest failure in Enna, Ulrich had no choice but to radio for reinforcements. Reporting their failure was not an option, so Ulrich sent UHF frequencies through a high-powered radio he acquired from the fattened officer back in Enna, requesting an airstrike. He provided the coordinates, and within minutes, a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter plane was scrambled to intercept the army Jeep. Unfortunately, Ulrich had underestimated the allied advance, and their air support was quickly conquered by the Americans.

There was nothing more he could do. If they sent more requests for aid, word of his struggles would surely reach the Fuhrer. Gritting his teeth, and biting his bottom lip, he pushed the accelerator to its limit and focused on avoiding the cratered road.


“Turn!”Rosalie screamed, as she fired her pistol at the roadblock of wood and bricks a patrol of German soldiers set up to barricade them from entering any further into Adrano.

“That’s the third blockade,” Garret said, “They have the city shut down. That can’t be a coincidence.”

“They must have radioed for reinforcements,” Clement said, “They’re getting desperate.”

To some, desperate may represent weakness or submission. Clement knew the truth. They all did. If Ulrich and Nadine had indeed become desperate, that simply meant they had become even more dangerous.

Forced to turn onto Via Belgio Adrano, a narrow, single lane, two mile straight away, there was no place for them to hide. No structures to dodge behind, and no cross streets. All they could do was hope the Jeep was fast enough to outrun the half-track, and the accuracy of Nadine’s Mg-42.

Halfway down the road, Garret watched as the half-track rolled onto the straight away. Distance was on their side, but he never removed his hands from the machine gun's trigger.

A faint thud from off in the distance tickled his eardrums, which was quickly followed by a subsonic whistle and an explosion about twenty feet to their right. It demolished two single-story homes and sent smoking chunks of foundation, burning slabs of wood, and charred clumps of soil careening through the air - landing in front of Jeep’s path, as well as on and inside the Jeep.

Clement swerved hard to avoid a section of roof, nearly jostling Garret from his nest, when two more thuds boomed from the east.


“Get us off of this fucking road!”Garret barked as he was using his arms to protect himself from the flailing debris of two more explosions, “They’re relaying our position to their artillery unit. We’ll never make it.”

Rosalie was quietly nursing a head injury from the debris. The left side of her face, just above the eyebrow, was split open and was flowing with blood. Yet she remained in the fight and vigorously reloaded her pistol with her final magazine. Turning around to return fire, she caught Garret’s calming gaze.

Her heart instantly sank to her stomach.


Bottle-necking the road with craters and debris, Ulrich was able to gain tremendous ground on the Jeep. Nadine, and the seven soldiers behind her immediately opened fire.

Bullets peppered the rear of the Jeep. Both tail lights were shattered and the rear spare tire mounted on the back hissed with air from the bullet holes.

They continued to receive fire from the Jeep’s mounted gun, but Nadine was close enough to see the blood oozing from Rosalie’s skull. Like a shark, her own blood roiled beneath her skin and she nearly turned feral. Killing Rosalie and Clement was now her only mission.

Blinded by murderous lust, she did not see the man leap from the rear of the Jeep. Nor did she see him disappear behind a retaining wall. She did however see the massive carriage piled with wheat straw bales. She yelled to Ulrich to stop the half-track, but it was too late.

The collision was significant, and sent one of the seven soldiers flying out of the rear bed. He was killed upon impact. Two others broke their neck against the interior of the bed, and the other four suffered non-fatal head and chest injuries.

Ulrich was knocked unconscious from slamming his forehead against the steering column, and Nadine was slumped over the long barrel of the MG-42. She had fortunately tethered herself to the frame of the vehicle, or else she would have been thrown from the bed to her death.


About the Creator

Kale Ross

Author | Poet | Dog Dad | Nerd

Find my published poetry, and short story books here!

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