Chapter 4 - Tell Them The Cavalry Is Here!
BAVARIA, Late 1917
"Cassandra Weiskopf! For crimes abominable and numerous, the people of this town sentence you to be hung by the neck until such time as you are dead. May God In Heaven have mercy upon your soul."
But as she ascended the steps to the gallows, the mayor and all the others took note of a set of thundering hooves. There were only sixteen of these hooves and shoes, but the noise they made sounded like a hundred times that.
They rode in, and, gun in hand, took out every male who looked like he could handle a gun or knife. This took all of five minutes. One dismounted. His young features were stern. His uniform was a greenish blue. He pushed aside the mayor, and spoke to the people in their own tongue, though it was obviously not his own.
"I am Captain Sherman T. Potter! But you kraut-sniffers can call me Death! Time Germany learned what total war is really about. You got any complaints about what happens here today, go and yell at a gent name of Kaiser Wilhelm. And when you speak to the boys in Berlin--Tell Them The Cavalry Has Arrived!"
Indignant, the Mayor soaked his hands in the blood of a fallen guard. He simultaneously spat on and spattered blood on Potter's uniform.
"Oh, look, Mister Death! Blood, thrown on to your nice American uniform."
Potter looked at the stains, his face all stone. That face was well loved by a girl named Mildred, back in Missouri. She wouldn't know him, at that moment. She wouldn't want to. Potter slowly withdrew his sabre, and held in front of his face. Then, in a casual movement, he put it right through the chest of the stunned official.
"Oh, my, Mister Mayor! Blood withdrawn from your fine German HEART!!!"
The mayor's screeching widow came at Potter with a broken bottle. He had his gun out before she could realize she was dead. He then looked at the crowd. Whoever was shouting the loudest died first, until the crowd was silent.
"Sergeant Marner! Lieutenant Okthoskvy! FRONT AND CENTER!!!"
Cyrus Marner was a bear of a man who didn't necessarily like killing, but liked having friends, and so did whatever he was told enthusiastically.
"Yes, Captain Potter?"
"Cy, Go and smash things. If it looks nice, make sure it damn well doesn't afterwards."
There had been a nice museum in that town. Small, but with some rare, fine pieces. But while Cyrus Marner did not know from art, he knew what he liked to smash.
Casper Okthoskvy had once been meeker than Potter's future friend, Radar O'Reilly. But one day, his gas-mask failed. Both sides were testing experimental nerve gasses that day. Casper was now hopelessly insane.
"Casp, do your voodoo on their livestock and crops. Leave them some potion or buggie to remember us by. Drinking water, all that. You know the drill by now."
"I know the drill, Potter. AND where to stick it---intimately. By the way, whaddya think of the schoolhaus?"
In the town, Potter saw the school, shuttered and boarded up--and burning. From inside, he could hear small voices screaming. He frowned.
"I make a plan, SOLDIER, you stick to it. This isn't the Brit stage, and we don't do improvisation. Now, food and water supply--wreck it!"
Crazy or no, Casper was afraid of Potter.
Potter then spied Cassandra Weiskopf, too stunned to move. He grabbed her up.
"You are my prisoner. Now, I won't make you do anything you don't want to. But--you will notice that life goes a lot easier when you do what I say. Verstehen?"
Cassandra looked at him, her eyes reflecting pure contempt.
"You are a beast."
"Maybe tonight, dear."
Major Stavros 'Kronny' Kronopoulis then rode up.
"You are gonna share, Sherm? Huh?"
"Not this one, Major. You, Cy, and Casp keep breaking my toys. How far are we into this?"
Kronopoulis checked his watch.
"Twenty Minutes. We pull out in five, leave whatever's left for the German patrols to find. Good work, by the way. Oh, you gotta love this life! You, the grim reaper, me spreading the fun, Cy bringin the war home, and Casp leaving em' hungry. This is living. So, maedchen, what's your name?"
Kronopoulis belted her hard across the face. Then, one of the inexplicable shifts that made his voice sound positively Continental took place.
"So sorry, my dear. But I never liked that name. No, I never liked it one bit."
Potter massaged her face, and regarded Kronopoulis as he helped her up.
"Thought I asked you not to break this one."
"Sorry, Sherm. Heh. Let's talk."
With the oddly compliant Cassandra Weiskopf in the background, Kronpoulis put his hand on Sherman's shoulder.
"Look, you up for this? Last night had you screaming out. Kraut patrol thought it was wolves."
"Nah. Kronny, its just nightmares. Nightmares about a crazy Scotsman I met. Medical SOB name of Duncan Macleod. Cut off a guy's head, right in front of me. Me, I'll feel safe when I can find him and kill him."
One day, Sherman's misplaced hatred of the medic who failed to save his badly wounded friend Ferdie would fade. But the spoken threat somehow gave Kronopoulis a smile ten miles wide.
"Sherm! We are so much alike, it really scares me. I mean it. All Right, BOYS!!! Pull out, and take what you need. Bavaria's a big place, and Prussia's even bigger!!"
Later, when the German patrols arrived, they asked who had done such a thing. One survivor mistranslated the word, 'Cavalry', along with much of Potter's speech.
"They said they were The Boys From Golgotha."
The Austrian-born corporal taking the statement was horrified that Germans had suffered so in their own lands. But the carnage itself was a magnificent inspiration to the young Adolf Hitler.
M*A*S*H* 4077TH, 1952
"My little town...founded by Charlemagne, no less. Wiped away to nothing in less than thirty minutes! This was repeated tens of times over the course of three hellish months, and they simply grew better at their art. And I was not merely their prisoner--I was their slave--in every sense of that horrible word."
To Hawkeye Pierce, who had seen brief, dark flashes of Colonel Potter's temper, Cass's tale was uncanny in how real it seemed. The man she was describing, however improbable it may have seemed, was his friend and mentor. But he couldn't be. Then again, he was a soldier, back then. Soldiers do kill, thought Pierce. BJ spoke next.
"WHOA, lady! If Potter hurt all these innocent people, then why is he still around? I don't care what anybody says, the army would not protect deliberate child-killers."
Wrongly sensing a convert, Cass shrugged.
"Marner and Okthoskvy were arrested, and given menial jobs. Kronopoulis vanished into the netherworld of black ops. Sherman Potter has done very well for himself, seated high upon the skulls of innocents."
Then, the response.
With a flash of the anger Cass had described, Colonel Potter entered the tent.
"Folks, you've heard the DogPatch version. Want to hear some truth?"
With no enthusiasm either way, Pierce gestured towards a footlocker.
"Take a seat, Colonel."
He did that, and as he did, Potter took in the faces of those around him. They were now guardedly neutral, with a bare edge against him.
His friends. His family. His children. All casually turned away from him. People don't change, Kronopoulis had said. Potter had told him he was wrong. Now, he wasn't so sure of that.
"Its a lot like she just said--except she left out the reason we sank to that level. We did have one, ya know."
The sudden shudder that Cass gave off told everyone that there was much more to this story than they could have guessed.
At Kim Po Air Base, the barroom was littered with unconscious GI's. Two older men had knocked down the entire bunch. When a new entrant came in, Casper Okthoskvy made for him like the madman he was. The newcomer batted him back. Cyrus Marner held Casper down, as the man was now growling.
"Hey, Casp? Its okay. Its all okay again! Kronny's back, and he's got Sherm Potter with him."