Christopher Nuttall The Long Hard Road Blurb



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The Long Hard Road




(Second Chance – Book Three)

Christopher Nuttall

The Long Hard Road Blurb




The Fuhrer is dead – long live the Fuhrer”

Adolf Hitler and Franklin Delano Roosevelt lie dead, but the war goes on, nearly two years since Britain was moved back in time to 1940. As 1942 dawns, all of the powers know that the final reckoning is about to begin. From the deserts of the Middle East to the cold of the Far East, from Russia to Europe, even within America to the icy deaths of space, the fighting expands until it seems that it will never end. With Allied armies preparing to invade Europe, all who have collaborated with the Nazis know that their time is running out.



As the Allies and Axis prepare for the final round, there is one last horror to be unleashed…for Himmler, Stalin and Tojo won’t go out without a fight. Bleeding their counties to the last drop of blood, they prepare their final stand against democracy, developing new and terrible weapons. The fate of the world remains in the balance…and dark secrets wait to be revealed…


Prologue

Fuhrerbunker

Berlin, Germany


15th July 1941
Professor Adrian Horton, professor of history and prisoner of the German Reich, looked up as the blonde SS officer entered. The last few days had been terrifying; the SS had simply locked him and his family in their rooms and ignored all their requests for explanations – or even a chance to ask the Reichsführer what was happening. Horton had prayed, something he hadn’t done for years, asking for help; the sound of shooting had echoed through the vast bunkers.
He’d wondered if the SAS had tried to rescue them, but he knew that – no matter the genial and friendly impression Himmler offered – the SS would have killed them all before letting the British recover them. The amount of information he knew would make his rescue a total disaster – Himmler knew that, he must know that.
“Come with me,” SS Obergruppenfuehrer Herman Roth said. Horton studied the SS officer, the first SS officer he’d met in the flesh, as it were, with concern; Roth’s face was pale. Was he imagining it, or was that a splash of blood on Roth’s normally dapper uniform? What had happened?
He kissed his white wife, Jasmine, goodbye, before following Roth out of their rooms and into the main tunnels. There were signs of devastation along the corridors; the scent of gunfire was in the air. He sniffed; the smell of dead bodies was also present, along with the smell of fear and scared humans.
“What’s happened?” He asked, wondering what had happened. A coup? An air raid? A nuclear attack? Had someone made a desperate grab for power? “We heard shooting…”
“I dare say you did,” Roth said, in English. His voice was flat, soft, tired. It had nothing of the slight disdain that all of the SS officers showed when speaking to Himmler’s black oracle, just a deep tiredness. “Events got a bit out of hand.”
Horton blinked; Roth’s English had improved. He smiled to himself; the rumours that Roth had been sleeping with the English reporter who was kept somewhere else within the complex were clearly true. He wondered how she was; he’d only met her once, but she would be alone in the complex.
“That sounds like a story,” he said, as they passed a mangled corridor. Even with a repair team having clearly worked on it, it didn’t look safe. “What happened here?”
“A hand grenade,” Roth said. His voice darkened. “In the midst of all the confusion, one of the Wehrmacht generals made a grab for power, trying to bring down the bunker and expose us all to attack.”
Horton frowned. “Where are you taking me?” He asked. “This isn’t the way to the Reichsführer’s quarters.”
“I am to take you to see the Fuhrer,” Roth said, as they passed a second section where a battle had been fought. He shuddered; the battle must have been nightmarish, even in the dark. He had an impression of what it must have been like; flashes of gunfire in the darkness and knife-fights at point-blank range.
“Adolf Hitler?” Horton gasped, before he remembered himself. Disrespect to the Fuhrer was lethal here. Roth ignored him, approaching three menacing SS guards at the barricade.
Obergruppenfuehrer Herman Roth and Professor Adrian Horton, here to see the Fuhrer,” Roth said. He passed over an identity card. “You will permit us entry at once.”
One of the guards, a man shaped like a gorilla, eyed Horton with interest. “Ah, the man with the beautiful wife,” he said. His voice was full of a leer; his face didn’t change at all. “Perhaps she wants a real man…”
“The Fuhrer ordered that any man who offered disrespect to the good Professor, or his wife, was to be lowered into a cask of acid, or perhaps sent to aid the recovery of radioactive debris from the nuclear strike,” Roth said pleasantly, before Horton could say anything unfortunate. “It would be a shame to lose you.”
Gorilla-features, his face living proof of the theory of evolution, finally showed some emotion, a flinch. “You may proceed,” he said quickly. “I will inform the Fuhrer that you are coming.”
Roth led the way into the inner office. Horton studied him out of the corner of his eye, wondering what to say. At the bottom, he was as much a prisoner of the dangerously-smart Roth as of gorilla-features, back in the outer guard post. He didn’t want to show gratitude, but he didn’t want to seem ungrateful either.
“Thank you,” he said finally.
“Think nothing of it,” Roth said breezily. Surprisingly, he seemed more energised as well. “People like that should be sent to the camps; it’s clear that he won’t rise any further.”
Horton shivered. Whenever he felt comfortable in Nazi Germany, it found a way to remind him of what hid behind the smile; a ravenous monster that had sought and achieved dominance over all of Europe, with the exception of Britain. Even with the recent…disaster in Turkey and the loss of Norway to a mainly American force, the Reich remained strong and very capable.
Roth tapped once on the door to Hitler’s room and opened it. “In you go,” he said, without announcing him. Horton blinked and stepped inside; it was brightly lit for once, rather than the grey dimness that Hitler had preferred. He gasped at the identity of the man behind the desk…and then wondered why it had been a shock.
“Good evening, Herr Professor,” Heinrich Himmler said.
Horton stared at him, and then around the office. A full-length portrait of Adolf Hitler, draped in black silk, glared down at him, beside a large German flag. A map of Europe hung on the left wall; a series of pictures hung on the right. It didn’t take long to come to the correct conclusion.
“Good evening, Mein Fuhrer,” he said reluctantly.
As always, Himmler looked harmless, the very picture of a schoolmaster. His eyes glinted with evil intelligence, hidden behind his small pair of spectacles. He sat back and waved Horton to one of the chairs positioned in front of his desk, watching him over clasped hands, almost as if he was going to lead the room in prayer.
“The Fuhrer is dead, long live the Fuhrer,” Himmler said. His voice betrayed no exultation. “I have succeeded to the office of Leader - Führer und Reichskanzler - of the Greater German Reich.”
Horton concealed his sudden dismay. Hitler had been a mad genius who would – or would have – finally taken one gamble too many. Himmler was altogether more down-to-Earth; would he make the same mistakes?
“My accession was not accepted by everyone,” Himmler said, waving his hand around the office. “Several members of the Wehrmacht sought to overthrow me and mount a separate peace attempt. Fortunately for the destiny of Germany, they failed.”
Horton said nothing, thinking as fast as he could. “We will recover what your people and the Americans stole from us,” Himmler said. “And you, my dear professor, are going to help us do it.”
He passed over a set of coloured photographs. Horton looked down at them and gasped in horror; a man hung on a set of meat hooks. He didn’t recognise him, but the blood dripping down to the floor was horrifying.
“That was Doctor Theodore Morell,” Himmler said. The note of cold satisfaction in his voice was unmistakable. “A spy in the pay of the British; something he gave our Fuhrer gave him a brain…problem.”
“And Adolf Hitler is dead,” Horton realised. “What do you want from me?”
“I will be frank with you, as the Americans say,” Himmler said. “Quite frankly; I have considered simply disposing of you. History has been changed sharply…and your knowledge of the direct path of the future has been devalued. However” – he paused long enough for Horton to feel a flicker of hope – “you understand the forces at work far better than anyone else under my direct control…and, of course, it would be impossible for you to take power for yourself.”
He smiled wryly. “You, Professor, are going to be my Grand Vizier.”
Horton gaped at him. Did insanity come with the role of Fuhrer? “Mein Fuhrer,” he said, “you want me to advise you?”
Himmler nodded. “Tell me, who else can I trust?”
Horton thought as fast as he could. “I have a condition,” he said. Himmler lifted an eyebrow. “I want my family returned to Britain.”
Himmler held his gaze, just long enough to be uncomfortable. “You are in no position to make bargains,” he said. Horton said nothing. “You will be required to serve me faithfully,” Himmler said. “If there is the slightest mistake…well, look at the end of the quack.”
Horton looked at the pictures again. “I understand,” he said finally. “You will return them?”
“We will ask the British to pick them up,” Himmler said. “Failing that, we can return them through Portugal. Now, my Grand Vizier…what is your advice?”
Horton sighed. “My honest advice is to sue for peace,” he said. “One way or another, it can’t be much longer before the Allies come for Berlin.”
Himmler smiled. “Perhaps,” he said, and outlined his plan. Horton listened with growing horror; the plan was cunning, terrifying…and it might just work.


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