Storm Clouds

By late summer of 1938, most of them had joined the ZHP, the Polish scouting movement. Not only were they provided small badges and official-looking sashes, but the proud teens were given rudimentary military training.

With the unshakable conviction of adolescence, this all made them quite expert in the way of politics and war.

"The Germans will attack soon," pronounced Jurek breathlessly to Roman and two other scouts as they sat smoking on a small knoll at the city park. "My father says so, too."

The others listened with interest, and then brayed derision. Even Roman betrayed a small, mocking smile.

"They wouldn't dare," said Andrzej.

"Stupid pig, Jurek. Our armies would crush them," cried Jan, a loud, large youth who was the group's acknowledged leader. "Our air force has bombers and our cavalry is the best in the world. The Germans are too afraid to attack us."

"Tell him, Roman," urged Andrzej. "Your dad's a lieutenant."

Roman only shook his head, and watched a hawk circling far above.

"The Germans want Poland for more workers and factories," insisted Jurek.

Jan scrambled to his feet and advanced towards him.

"I'll attack you if you don't stop your nonsense about workers and factories," he spat. "We're a nation of warriors.

"Come; we'll show you."

They marched four abreast towards the small shopping district on Rozana Street while Jan explained that German spies were everywhere, and they would try to catch one.

He revealed that Germans were mostly blonde and tall, and that a spy would have enough money for nice clothes. He might also, he revealed, be taking notes.

"So keep a good watch on everybody, and alert me if you see a suspect."

Eagerly, the three young ZHP vanguards scanned the sidewalks.

Roman kept pace, but his zeal was tempered by doubt. According to Jan's description, Eva the Maid might have been a female spy.

"There's one, Jan; I see one," said Andrzej suddenly, pointing across the cobblestone street to a middle-aged, fair-haired man who was looking at the selection in a bakery window.

"Yes. Good. Don't point. You'll give us away," barked Jan in a loud whisper. "But look at him. Leather shoes. Socks. It fits."

He gave his commands: the troops were to fan out down the street, cross slowly to the man's side, and follow him in a loose formation. Jan, of course, would lead the way.

"Then just do whatever I do as soon as I'm sure he's a spy," he said.

They followed their suspect for what seemed like hours. He walked in and out of a dozen shops, buying only some potatoes and a book. He stopped and spoke to a couple of other pedestrians, one of which was also blonde.

The spy-hunters seemed to be losing interest after a ten-block walk, scuffing their shoes and throwing pebbles at each other, but when their quarry brought a small notepad out of his jacket pocket, Roman could feel a new electricity in the air. By now, Jan was only five or six steps behind the man, with Andrzej, Jurek and Roman stretched thinly out some twenty to thirty yards further back.

As they approached the desolate stretches near the Mokotow Air Field, the man began to turn his head every few seconds. His pace quickened, and when he suddenly bolted to his right and across a small park, Jan had seen enough.

"Spy," he yelled, "Traitor."

He overtook him in just a few large, young strides and grabbed him from behind. As they toppled to the ground, Jan flailed at the man's face. The others caught up and stood panting as the man struggled and shouted that he had no money.

"Spy.Spy.Spy," called Jan, punching at the man's head with every syllable.

"Help me teach him a lesson," he called to his immobile troops as the suspect tried to roll away.

Jurek stepped tentatively forward and delivered a gentle kick to the man's back. Then another. Then harder.

Andrzej deliberated a moment, then pounced. He began raining blows to the man's midsection.

Jurek's kicks had become strong and angry. Roman heard a mushy, breaking sound. He saw blood on Jan's fists. The man groaned weakly.

There were shouts from the far side of the park.

"People coming, Jan," shouted Roman. "Andrzej. Jurek. Come on."

He turned and ran, followed closely by the rest of the troop.

The End

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