The Jester: Practical Jokes, Chapter 1: The Lonely War of Willie Schultz

by CSyphrett

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Corporal Wilhelm Schultz of the German Army stood all alone in the file room. England’s High Command, instituted since the Nazis conquered Great Britain last year, kept most of their hard copy files on the British resistance movement in this room.

“Hee.”

The sound came right to Willie’s ears. He looked around, but he was all alone in the room. Where had that sound come from?

“Hee.”

It sounded again. Willie was sure it had come from a filing cabinet. He pulled open the drawer, only to find a pale mass of unknown substance bubbling amongst the papers there. When each bubble in the substance popped, a small laugh sounded.

The substance began to grow as if it fed on the paper it nested in, and the laughter subsequently grew in volume and frequency all around Willie. He began to back out of the room as gelatinous blobs began exploding out of all the file cabinets.

Demonic laughter chased the corporal into the hall. He watched as the laughing jelly began to fill up the whole room, spilling out into the hallway.

“Just wait,” said a voice at Wilhelm’s ear. “I saved the best for last.”

The laughing jelly exploded into flames, releasing a horrible gas throughout the building. People ran for the exits from the horrible stench — everyone but Willie. He was too close to the source and passed out from the odor. Before he went under, he could swear a horrible yellow face smiled at him with a lipless mouth and black dots for eyes.

***

Corporal Wilhelm Schultz was taken to a basement room in the internal security building adjacent to the ministry building that had been stink-bombed. The room was completely white. Willie was strapped to a dentistry chair in the center of the room. Trays full of tools were on tables in sight, but out of reach of the confused enlisted man.

Three men came into the room. Two were dressed in white from head to toe, with white aprons. The third was dressed in stormtrooper black with the familiar SS collar tabs. Without thinking, Willie tried to come to attention, even bound to the heavy chair. Only the strap around his wrist stopped him from saluting.

“My name is Colonel Wolf,” said the man in black. “Do you know why you are here?”

“No, sir,” said Willie.

“There are some concerns that you started the fire yourself and made up a fabrication to cover your tracks.”

“That’s not true, sir,” the corporal said. “I reported everything I could remember.”

“These two gentlemen are going to help you remember more, such as the truth,” said Wolf.

“Everything I said was the truth!” claimed Willie. His eyes were wide as one of the white-clad interrogators picked up a cattle prod. “Everything was the truth!”

“We’ll just see about that, won’t we?” said the colonel, smiling. “We’ll see how long you stick to your ridiculous lie.”

The interrogators began using the tools on Willie with practiced efficiency. They worked him over for hours, but he never deviated from his story once. He wasn’t taking the fall for a security breach. These animals would not break him.

“Perhaps he is telling the truth,” the senior torturer finally said several hours later, wiping the blood from a pair of pliers.

“Nonsense,” said Wolf. “Don’t tell me you’re starting to believe his children’s fable.”

A lieutenant burst into the room, averting his eyes as he glanced at Willie. The colonel turned his cold gaze onto the aide.

“He’s struck again, sir,” said the lieutenant.

“Are you sure?” asked Wolf.

“Yes, sir,” the aide said, nodding. “There is no doubt.”

“Put this carrion in a holding cell until I get back,” said Wolf as he rushed from the room.

***

Colonel Wolf and his aide, Lieutenant Hoffmann, stood beside their staff car. Wolf lit a thin cigar as his gaze swept over what he could see of the damage done to the air base. “What is the official story?” Wolf asked in a dejected voice.

“This base has been mothballed so that we can transfer personnel to more vital areas,” said Hoffmann.

“No one will believe that if they see this,” said the SS colonel. “Have an engineering team demolish the rest of this mess.”

Jawohl, Herr Colonel,” said Hoffmann. “What do we do about Schultz?”

“Schultz?” said Wolf. “We do nothing about him. He rots until we find this madman.”

“Yes, sir,” said the aide.

Wolf shook his head. A vital air base destroyed because a false order was given to repaint everything, and a powerful acid had been substituted for paint. Three men had died from spillage. Of course, Wolf had shot the base commander when he had measured the extent of the disaster.

***

Taking Wilhelm Schultz to a cell in a sub-basement under the security building, they put bandages on his wounds and wrapped him in a blanket before drugging him to sleep.

“Wolf is an idiot,” one interrogator said to the other as they walked away. “That boy obviously knew nothing.”

“Don’t let anyone else hear you say that,” cautioned the other. “Wolf can shoot you for that type of commentary.”

“I could have been with Barbara all this time,” said the first man. “We operated on a witness and not an accomplice.”

“I know, but there is nothing we can do about it now,” said the second man. “So quit your bellyaching.”

“Right.” The torturers slowly walked down the hall to the exit.

Wilhelm Schultz rolled over, mumbling in his sleep in his new home: cell number 711.

In the building’s mail room, a beige envelope arrived for Colonel Wolf. The men on duty judiciously scanned the letter, as they did all mail for explosives and other things. The letter was put on a cart with a thousand others that looked like it.

A private delivered the mail to the other floors in the building before reaching the colonel’s office. He placed it on top of the blotter on Wolf’s desk, then walked away whistling.

Wolf came in from his inspection of the destroyed air base and picked up all the letters he had received. Seeing that there was no return address on it, he opened the beige envelope on the bottom of the stack.

A flash of light exploded in his face, knocking him to the floor, blind. His face felt on fire from what it had just suffered.

He called for assistance before he remembered that no one could hear him. He began to stumble to the door to get some help for himself. A zig-zag of yellow still raced against the darkness he had been plunged into.

***

“No permanent damage that I can see,” said a staff doctor in the building. “You will be able to see in a few days.”

“What was in the envelope?” Colonel Wolf demanded angrily. “How did get past our security checks?”

Lieutenant Hoffmann shrugged without thinking, then cleared his throat. “It was undetectable by our scanners,” the aide said. “We believe that the culprit dropped it in the mail from somewhere inside the building.”

“What makes you say that?” asked the officer as the doctor walked out of the room.

“The only writing was your office’s address. We traced the pick-up to a mail chute just steps away from your office. The note inside was from your personal stationary. I had it checked while your were being treated. It matches the paper you use for death notifications.”

“It would,” said Wolf bitterly. “Any witnesses?”

“An unreliable one, sir,” said Hoffmann. “A janitor says he saw you put the letter in the chute.”

“When?” asked the colonel.

“While we were cleaning up that situation at the air base,” said the lieutenant. “In other words, we have zero leads to who attacked and threatened you, sir.”

“Marvelous.”

***

Corporal Wilhelm Schultz awoke after a long, drug-induced sleep. He paced his cell quietly, trying to think his way out. He knew he was facing a summary execution for treason. What a joke. Colonel Wolf should have been the one talking to rats in a basement. If only he could reverse the situation somehow.

What was that wailing sound he heard?

Willie leaned against the window in the door, listening for a long moment. His ravaged face drew back in a smile that hurt just to do it. He laughed slightly.

Every device with a microphone screamed one word with fanatical zeal. Willie heard the guards going crazy trying to silence that awful voice. He laughed again.

Willie could not have known that the event was happening all over England. Every mechanical device with a speaker screamed that one word for a full minute.

Even the Occupation radio systems screamed, “FREEDOM!” at top volume.

***

It had taken techs hours to trace the pirate broadcast to its source. Colonel Wolf personally went with the commando team to the scene. He doubted this fiend was stupid enough to still be there, but maybe there was a clue of some type left behind. He doubted that, but still, anything was better than what he had now, which was next to nothing.

The transmission came from an old three-story house close by St. Mary’s Mead. The commando team burst through the doors with submachine guns drawn. The house was devoid of anything but a machine plugged into a telephone jack. As the team leader signaled an all-clear, a buzzer sounded on the machine. The commando’s eyes widened as he suddenly realized he had stepped into a trap.

Wolf watched as the house and soldiers inside exploded in a ball of flame. Debris fell around him as he watched his best attack squad burn to a crisp.

What kind of madman was he dealing with? It was time to talk to Willie again.

An old man came walking up the street. “Are you Colonel Wolf?” he asked.

“I’m Wolf,” the officer said.

“A man asked me to give this to you,” the old man said, holding out an envelope.

What man?” the colonel demanded.

“Regular-looking fellow dressed in black,” said the villager. “Driving a Jaguar, he was.”

Colonel Wolf took the envelope and placed it on the ground. Averting his eyes, he carefully pulled the flap of the envelope open.

There was no flash this time. Instead, a pink mist descended on the colonel, and everything went black.

He was found two days later wandering Hyde Park. His uniform was gone, and ladies’ lingerie had replaced it. He was clutching a card in his hand with the number 27 written on it.

Colonel Wolf had twenty-seven days to live.

***

“How are you feeling today, Colonel?” asked the staff doctor, the same man who had examined Wolf’s eyes after the flash bomb incident.

“Sick as a dog,” said Wolf.

“That’s to be expected with the amount of drugs still in your system,” said the doctor. “The only thing you can do about it is rest and try to let the chemicals work their way out of your body.”

“What else can I do?” said Wolf. “I’m a joke in the security services now. I’m lucky not to be summarily executed for letting my men walk into that trap.”

Anyone can make mistakes,” said the doctor. “I’m sure you will have another chance at this madman.”

“I think so also,” said Lieutenant Hoffmann, stepping into the room. “Behavioral Operations believes this man will continue to escalate until we catch him.”

“What makes them think that?” asked Wolf.

“Captain Dahmer said he would be surprised if the unknown subject of our investigation switched his focus from you just because you are being hospitalized after all this. The subject would continue to strike until terminated.”

***

After the takeover by the Nazis last fall, a prison had been constructed on one of the many islands in the North Atlantic to house the prisoners that the regime collected and wanted exterminated. The place was called Blackgate, and no one had ever escaped its embrace. Corporal Wilhelm Schultz saw its grim gates from the dock and knew he was going to die there.

What no one saw was the figure in black on the other side of the island. It quickly climbed the wall of the prison and vanished inside like a ghost.

The transport soldiers kicked the prisoners to their feet with a clanking of manacles and chains. Willie noticed that no one, not guard or prisoner, looked him in the face. He wondered how badly he was injured to solicit that kind of reaction from others. Sea salt blew against the wounds, making the ex-soldier grit his teeth, but he would not give them the satisfaction of seeing him hurt.

The prisoners were led up to the gate. Their manacles were undone, and they were examined, garbed in the proper color coverall, assigned schedules and work spots, and placed in a five-foot-by-five-foot cell.

Willie noted that he was housed in the execution block with about a hundred more men and women. He wondered if all of them were in the same situation as he was — prisoners without cause.

***

The next week was a quiet one for the security service as dozens of experts went over the evidence before them. Colonel Wolf had to attend meetings with his superiors over his failure to handle the growing situation. He knew he was lucky not to be shot himself over this.

Meanwhile, at Blackgate Prison, Wilhelm Schultz fell into the prisoner’s routine — get up, go to mess, work in the workshop for some hours, go to mess, go to bed. The last day of that week was a free day where Willie Schultz could do anything he wanted. He decided to sleep.

Quietly, as the prison lay sleeping, the guards were put to sleep one by one, and the prisoners also fell asleep one by one. The gates were thrown open, and the prisoners were moved from their cells to a submarine that had surfaced off the dock of the island.

It was long work and required many trips, but finally all the prisoners had been set on the main island. A chemical was released in the air to wake them up.

As the prisoners decided what to do with their new freedom, the guards were also waking up. A calm voice told them that the prison was about to be destroyed. Only some of the guards tried to flee. Those that made it outside the walls watched as the whole thing collapsed like a house of cards, killing anyone still inside.

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