His Watchful Eyeby Jack Cavanaugh
The thrilling sequel to the Christy-award winning "While Mortals Sleep." Konrad Reichmann, an outstanding product of Hitler's youth movement, becomes disillusioned as the reality of the Russian front bears no resemblance to the "glory" of the Third Reich. When the slaughter of innocents opens his eyes to the true nature of the Reich, Konrad embarks upon a bold and dangerous plan to change the course of history.
Read an Excerpt
Thursday, October 14, 1943
Remember the Alexanderplatz movie house?"
"A fleapit," Konrad Reichmann said.
They lay prone, shoulder to shoulder, the two of them plastered with leaves and twigs and grass. Their faces were painted green, brown, and black. When Konrad glanced at his lifelong friend the only parts of him that looked remotely human were his eyes and toothy grin.
Because they�d spent so many hours together in sniper hides, Konrad would always remember Neff Kessel this way, as a grin amid the foliage. Once when he complained that Neff�s grin was going to get them killed, Neff showed up for their next assignment with camouflage paint on his teeth, with every other tooth green and black.
Konrad cradled a rifle in his arms, while Neff juggled a field scope and a camera with a specially designed telephoto lens to record the kill. Orders. It wasn�t in Neff�s nature to be ghoulish. The same couldn�t be said for their commanding officer. But Konrad didn�t want to think about him right now; it angered him when he did.
"Of course the theater was a fleapit!" Neff said. "But once the lights went out, who noticed?"
It was a game they played. Remember the ... It helped them to pass the buried hours.
They lay concealed behind a fallen tree that had wedged itself between two other trees at a low angle where they came together to form a V. Konrad used the trunk to steady his rifle. The ground they lay on was hard, damp, and cold. It smelled of autumn�earthy, with a hint of decaying leaves. A brisk wind skipped over them, animating the leaves in merry dance.
The two of them had become closer than brothers. There was something about sharing another man�s body heat while lying next to him in a shallow grave that made him kin. Their position was on the edge of a forest, modestly elevated and overlooking a bombed-out farmhouse west of the Dnieper River in the Ukraine. A company of Soviet soldiers milled about the house. Tanks dotted the fields.
Maintaining a watchful eye over the field, Konrad took issue with Neff�s assessment of the movie house. "It was dingy and smelly. The film broke all the time. Even when it ran, the picture was jumpy."
"Incidentals!" Neff insisted. "You�re missing the larger picture. A movie house is a magical place."
"Larger picture. Clever."
A self-satisfied smile spread across Neff�s green-and-black face. "Do you remember the huge color posters in the lobby?"
"I used to think they were portals to other worlds."
"I was too busy scratching," Konrad complained.
Neff laughed. He was accustomed to Konrad�s moodiness. It came from taking life too seriously. "Surely there was one movie you liked," he said.
"One. Hitlerjunge Quex."
Neff rolled his eyes. "Figures. Third Reich tripe."
"Yeah? Then why were there tears in your eyes at the end?"
"I was crying because I�d wasted my hard-earned money to see such slop. It pained me to pay to be bludgeoned by Nazi propaganda. We got plenty of that for free at the Hitler Youth meetings."
Neff had a point. Hitlerjunge Quex was unabashedly Nazi propaganda. At the time, that�s what Konrad liked about it. It had reaffirmed what he believed so fervently.
Quex was the ideal German youth. Athletic, handsome, and courageous, everything Konrad imagined himself to be. As the story unfolded, Quex was the constant victim of a gang of pimply Communist brats who delighted in abusing him. Their female counterparts�a gaggle of Communist jezebels�betrayed Quex after he had been chivalrous to them. Konrad remembered how his chest swelled with a desire for revenge.
The last scene in the movie was set in a deserted fairground. It�s nighttime, and the Communist jackals are hot on the hero�s trail. Quex hides from them in the shooting gallery tent. As they get closer, a threatening shadow rises on the canvas wall behind him. Quex backs up in fear and into a life-size metal figure of a soldier holding a tin drum. The mechanism is triggered. A shattering drum roll announces Quex�s hiding place. The grimy Communist youth capture him and knife him to death.
In truth, it was Konrad who had left the movie house hiding tears from Neff and the others. And even now as the story played in his mind, the skin on his arms tingled. "Name a better movie," he said.
A distant look glossed over Neff�s eyes. "I could name a dozen, easy. Anything with Tom Mix. The greatest cowboy ever."
Konrad should have guessed. When they were younger Neff was always wanting to go see a cowboy movie.
"The best was Outlaws of Red River," Neff said. "My first movie. I remember walking into the movie house. Row after row of wooden seats in this enormous dark cavern, with a beam of light coming out of a hole in the wall. I remember turning around in my seat and watching it flicker. Suddenly, there was a gunshot. I plopped back into my seat just in time to see a man wearing a white cowboy hat riding a horse. He was coming straight at me! That horse got bigger and bigger. I ducked, thinking it was going to trample us all."
It didn�t take much imagination to envision a little Neff cowering in his movie-house seat.
"Then Tom Mix leaped from his horse onto a mountain of boulders, the kind they always have in westerns. He jumped from rock to rock chasing the bad guy, who wore a black hat. Now, that was a movie! The first and the best."
The field below them became agitated, as though someone had poked a beehive. Konrad spotted the cause.
The arrival of a black motorcar split the troops. From the size of the billowing trail of dust, it was traveling at high speed. It came to a halt immediately in front of the stone ruins. The back door was opened and out stepped a Soviet major.
"Range," Konrad said.
Leaving Tom Mix at the movie house, Neff went to work. He lifted the scope to his eye. After a few moments of study he began his calculations using a stubby pencil on a crumpled piece of paper.
Meanwhile, Konrad resettled himself. He marshaled a myriad of thoughts into place with practiced experience. Things like the lighting, wind, their position, the readiness of his weapon, anticipated changes in the field before him, their planned escape route, the time of day, what he knew of the target; these and a hundred other details that made the difference between life and death. Theirs.
He began preparing his body physically to take the shot, specifically his breathing. There�s a point in a person�s breathing cycle when he has exhaled two-thirds of his lung capacity. It�s at this point he is most relaxed. And it�s at this point an experienced sniper takes his shot.
"Three hundred and twenty-six meters," Neff reported. His voice was low. All business. Right before a shoot was the only time Neff was devoid of humor.
Konrad pressed his cheek against the rifle stock. He peered into the scope, bringing his target into focus. "Do you ever wonder if we�re the guys wearing the black hats?"
His Watchful Eye (SONGS IN THE NIGHT, Book 2)by Jack Cavanaugh
Copyright © 2002, Jack Cavanaugh
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.
Meet the Author
JACK CAVANAUGH is an award-winning author of twenty-six novels. Because of the universal scope of his stories, his novels have been translated into a dozen foreign languages
He has three grown children and lives with his wife in Southern California.
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