By Dean R. Koontz
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Soon after, the mammoth tanks would pass them close enough to be touched. Al-ready, at a few minutes past eleven o'clock, fully an hour ahead of when Maurice had said to expect them, the heavy pounding of tank-tread trembled the earth. The roar of the massive engines, still so distant, was beginning to make conversation almost impossible. Still, Lieutenant Slade managed to talk. He said, “You know we can't hope to fool them, anyway. Kraut uniforms and an armored kraut jeep don't make us krauts.
Then it loomed out of the darkness, its great tread clattering on the Tarmac roadbed. It brought with it an odor of hot metal, oil, and dust. “So big,” Beame said. Kelly squeezed the wheel. The tank commander, a tall, fine-boned Aryan, stood in the turret, hatless, his shirt open at the throat revealing fine yellow hairs that gleamed in the reflection of the head lamps. He scanned the men in the jeep, peered menacingly at Major Kelly—but more at the much-feared SS death's-head on his cap than at Kelly's face—then looked imperi-ously away.
They went to the bridge and stood looking it over, each afraid that he could not control his urge to pulp Slade's face. Slade mistook their retreat for a concession to his point and their lack of response for a weakness of will that made it impossible for them to act. He called after them: “When the time is ripe, that village will secede from the rest of France! And when the war is over, they'll discover that backhoe and whatever else Maurice has of ours, and they'll say the United States of America urged the village to secede, that we meddled in the internal affairs of our great ally, France.