Category: Garrison’s Gorillas
Genre: WWII Drama
Word count: 2712
Chief carefully pushed himself to his feet as the black hearse and Manners disappeared in a cloud of dust around the bend in the road. His right side was on fire where Manner’s bullet had burned a deep furrow along his ribs. He pressed his right arm firmly against the wound in the vain hope of stilling the pain.
“Talk about over-acting, huh?” Actor proclaimed as he and the rest of the team came to stand next to Chief.
“He went for it,” Chief gasped as his knees buckled and he staggered into a surprised Garrison, who caught him and lowered him carefully to the ground.
“Chief?” Garrison demanded as he knelt beside the injured man.
“Should’a been watching…Manners,” Chief groaned as Actor lifted up his pullover to get a look at the ragged wound in his side.
“Blimey, ’E’s being shot for real,” Goniff proclaimed unnecessarily.
“I told you that Manners was bad news, but oh no, you wouldn’t listen to me, would you, Warden?” Casino growled, “And now look where it’s got us.”
“Easy, Chief.” Garrison rested his hand on Chief’s shoulder and ignored Casino as Actor gently felt around the wound. “Goniff, go and keep watch up on the road. Manners should be at the road block soon. It won’t be long before he and that Kraut Colonel are headed back this way.”
“Sorry. Chief,” Actor apologized as Chief gasped and tried to move away from the conman’s hands, “But I need to see how much damage has been done.”
“Rib’s…busted,” Chief wheezed softly.
Actor nodded, “Yes I know and another is possibly cracked. The good news is that the bullet hit on the angle and has gouged a deep furrow in your side and didn’t penetrate your body.”
“Yeah, great,” Casino muttered under his breath.
“Can it, Casino,” Garrison warned. “Can we move him, Actor? We’ll be sitting ducks out here if Manners comes back now.”
Actor pulled a field dressing and bandage from the small first aid kit he carried. “Give me a minute to bind his ribs, then we can move him to the trees down there.” Actor indicated the trees that he and the others had run into when he and Chief had traded shots earlier.
Chief bit his lower lip to stop from crying out as Garrison eased him to a sitting position so that Actor could apply the field dressing to the wound and wrap the broken ribs. He was panting heavily by the time the Italian had finished and his face was a chalky white color.
“Alright, Chief, let us do the work,” Garrison ordered as he stood. “Casino, get on the other side.”
Actor picked up Chief’s discarded gun as Garrison and Casino carefully lifted Chief to his feet and carried him to the safety of the trees. Picking the largest trunk, they lowered Chief to a sitting position against it, with his back to road so that he was hidden from view.
Closing his eyes, Chief took several shallow breaths to quell the rising nausea and dizziness. Blinking his eyes open again, he reached out and grasped Garrison’s arm as he rose to his feet. “Sorry, Warden.”
Garrison sank back to his heels and looked into the dark, pained eyes. “No, Chief, this is my fault. I should have figured that Manners would get hold of another gun, realized that he would see you as more of a threat to the money than us. I left you without back up and open to his attack.”
A sharp whistle from Goniff warned the men that Manners and the Colonel were on their way back. Goniff slid to a halt beside Chief. “They’re coming back, just like you said Warden, but they’ve got a truck and a couple more Krauts with them.” Goniff explained breathlessly. “’Ow we going to take them with just a machine gun and a couple of hand guns then?”
“With a lot of luck, Goniff. Alright get ready,” Garrison ordered as the three mobile cons spread out amongst the trees. “And try not to damage the hearse, Casino; we’re going to need that hearse in one piece if we want to get out of here now. Chief.” Garrison waited until Chief turned pained eyes on him. “Stay here and don’t move alright?”
Chief nodded his understanding as the hearse appeared at the bend in the road.
Manners shook his head in disbelief as he drove away from the fight in the road. He couldn’t believe that the kid had actually being dumb enough to think he could double-cross the rest of his team and join him in stealing the money. A pity really; under other circumstances and a different time, he could have used the kid’s skills. Manners travelled another mile before he ran into the road block set up by Colonel Vogel. He rolled to a stop and lent out the window as one of Vogel’s soldiers glanced in the windows of the hearse.
“Where are the others?” the soldier demanded.
“Down the road having a war of their own. You’d better nail them,” Manners replied.
“The money. What about the money?” the German asked eagerly.
“In the back, in the coffin.”
“The Colonel, what about him?” the German demanded.
“The Colonel?” Manners asked in confusion. “What do you mean? He’s supposed to be with you.”
The two men stared at each other for a moment before Manners threw open the car door and hurriedly exited the vehicle. Followed by the two Germans, Manners hastily moved to the back of the hearse and pulled open the door. Carefully the men slid the coffin out and stood it on one end. Manners threw open the top of the coffin to reveal the bound, gagged and sweat-covered Colonel. His jaw clenched in anger and he slowly turned to look back up the road as he realized they had been conned by the cons. Carefully, Manners pulled the tap from Karl Vogel’s mouth.
“You double-crossed me,” Vogel shouted at Manners as his men released his bound hands and feet and helped him from the coffin, “And for that you will die.”
“Now hold on, Karl, I didn’t double-cross anybody. Garrison must have made the switch at the funeral home. The money must still be there.” Manners eyed Vogel. “And just how did you get caught anyway?”
Vogel glared at Manners. “The young dark haired one, he got in the car with me, made me drive him to the funeral home before he knocked me out.”
“Chief,” Manners cursed, suddenly not feeling so sorry for putting a bullet in the kid after all. “Come on, we can still grab the money and get rid of the rest of them. I put a bullet in that kid back up on the road. If I know Garrison, he won’t leave the kid behind but they’re on foot and one of them is injured. Shouldn’t take us long to catch up to them. We can take care of them, retrieve the money and you get to capture their contact in Munich as well. That’ll put a dent in the war effort for the good old allies.”
Vogel thought for a minute, and then an unfriendly smile appeared on his lips. “Very well, Manners, we will go after your teammates but it will cost you.”
“Cost me how?” Manners demanded uneasily.
“Oh, let’s say a thirty-seventy cut.”
“Now wait a damn minute, Karl. The agreement was a fifty-fifty split. I’m the one who came up with the idea and took all the risks breaking into the damn bank,” Manners retorted angrily
“That was before I was bound and gagged and left in a coffin. Of course, I can have you killed right here, as a spy trying to escape, and claim all the money for myself and my two men.” Vogel smirked as Manners clenched his jaw tightly. He knew and Manners knew he had the man over a barrel. There was no honor among thieves.
“Forty-sixty,” Manners countered.
Vogel shrugged nonchalantly. “I will drive.” He turned to his waiting men. “Place the coffin back in the hearse. You never know, I may find a use for it. And then follow us.”
Vogel returned to the front of the hearse and climbed into the driver’s seat, ignoring Manners as he started the engine. He turned the hearse around and began retracing the route taken by Manners, closely followed by his men in the truck. “You had better not be lying to me, Manners,” he warned softly.
Manners glared at Vogel but said nothing as they sped up the road. If he played his cards right and kept out of sight, perhaps he would be lucky enough for Garrison and Vogel to take care of one another, for he had no doubt that the lieutenant would be waiting for them. “This is it,” he called abruptly, causing Vogel to hit the brakes, throwing the hearse into a sideways slide for several feet.
The truck stopped behind the black hearse and the two Germans climbed down; they made their way towards the Colonel. Vogel scanned the area around him and the woods to either side before he wound down the car window, ordering the two men to look around. “Stay in the car, Gus,” he ordered as Manners reached to open the door.
“Still don’t trust me, Karl?” Manners asked snidely.
“I trust you, my friend, but I would hate to see you get yourself killed in an ambush before you could enjoy your money,” Vogel replied with a smile.
“Well?” Vogel demanded of the two Germans as they returned to the car.
“There is blood on the ground over there, Herr Colonel, but there is no sign of anything else,” one of the men replied smartly.
Vogel nodded. “Very well, return to the truck and follow me.”
“Jawohl, Herr Colonel.”
“Come on, Warden, what are we waiting for?” Casino hissed angrily as he watched the two soldiers study the ground where Chief had been lying before returning to the hearse.
“Now,” Garrison ordered as the soldiers made their way back to their vehicle and the hearses engine turned over. Damn, Garrison thought as Casino opened fire on the two soldiers. He had hoped that the Colonel and Manners would get out of the hearse but it seemed they were smarter than he had given them credit for. Garrison opened fire on the hearse, shooting out the two left side tires. He couldn’t allow the two men to return to Munich and arrest their contact, Gerlach. He watched as the passenger side door opened and Manners and Vogel crawled out.
Manners watched as Vogel took cover behind the hood of the hearse and returned fire. He pulled his gun from his pocket and edged towards the back of the hearse. If he could just make the trees behind him, he could make his way back to Munich and recover the money from the job.
Vogel caught the surreptitious movements of Manners and turned towards him just as the man made a run for the trees. Vogel calmly lifted his gun and fired at Manners as he felt the burn of a bullet enter his own back.
“Hold your fire,” Garrison called as he stepped from behind his tree. “Actor, check on Chief,” he ordered, “Casino, Goniff, follow me.”
The three men moved cautiously towards the two cars. Casino went to check the two soldiers, confirming they were dead. The truck was useless; a neat row of machine gun holes had perforated the fuel tank and petrol was pouring from the ruptured remains.
Goniff and Garrison moved around the hearse to the two men lying on the ground. Goniff rolled Vogel over and closed the sightless eyes staring at the sky. Garrison squatted beside Manners, the harsh gurgling sound as the man breathed telling him that Manners wasn’t long for this world.
Manners stared at Garrison, “The…money?” Flecks of blood formed at the corner of his mouth and dribbled down his chin.
Garrison shook his head. “It’s on its way to the underground; they’ll make good use of it.”
Manners attempted a smile that was more a grimace. “It…it was…was…never about…the…money…was…it…Garri…son?”
“No, Gus, it wasn’t.”
Manners nodded slowly. “The safe…box?”
“Yes and the list of industrialist in it.”
Manners attempted a laugh that ended as a choked cough. “I…I was…conned…by a…screw.” Blood bubbled from Manners mouth as his body went limp. Garrison reached out and closed the man’s eyes.
Casino looked down at the con on the ground. “Don’t worry about him, Warden; he got what he deserved,” he said coldly. “At least now he won’t be able to stab anybody else in the back. The truck’s useless and so is the damn hearse. You didn’t have to shoot out the tires you know. Now how do we get the Indian out of here?”
“I didn’t have a choice, Casino; I couldn’t let them escape. Ernst’s life and those of the underground here depended on it. We’ll just have to carry Chief to the truck. It’s only a couple of miles.”
“’E dead then?” Goniff asked as he joined Garrison and Casino by Manners body.
“Nah, he’s just taking a nap. What do you think, you dumb limey? Of course he’s dead.” Casino growled.
“Alright that’s enough, both of you. Let’s get back to Chief and Actor and get out of here before anybody else comes along.” Garrison didn’t wait for the other two to follow as he hurried across the road and back to where the last two members of the team waited.
“Chief, how you doing?” Garrison asked as he squatted in front of the injured man.
Chief blinked at Garrison and took a shallow breath before nodding. “I’m alright, Warden.”
“Glad to hear it, Chief.” Garrison smiled as he looked over Chief’s head at Actor who responded with a shrug and nod. “Alright, listen Chief, the hearse and the truck are out of action so we’re going to have to walk to where you stashed our truck. Do you think you can make it if Casino and I help you?”
Chief nodded tiredly. “I can make it. Manners?”
“Dead,” was Casino’s short reply.
They made slow but steady progress, keeping to the trees beside the road. An hour later found them headed for the coast and the waiting sub, with Chief settled as comfortably as possible in the back corner of the truck. His right arm was pressed tightly against the broken ribs for extra support against the jostling of the truck and his eyes were closed. They knew he wasn’t asleep but none of them felt inclined to disturb him, although they all kept a cautious eye on him.
Goniff couldn’t help the snigger or the grin that appeared on his face. “Hey Warden, I still wish we could have been there.” He forced a laughed.
“Where Goniff?” Garrison asked perplexed.
“When Gus discovered he didn’t have the money but the Kraut Colonel instead. Can you see Gus trying to explain?”
Snickers and short laughs accompanied Goniff’s words but they died off quickly.
“Speaking of explanations,” Actor asked, “what about the money?”
“Hey yeah, what’s going to happen to the loot?” Casino called from the driver’s seat.
“Like I told Gus,” Garrison answered, “It’s on its way to the underground; they’ll make good use of it.”
Casino sighed, “I’ve got to get out of this outfit; you pull a half a million dollar caper just so you can come up empty,” he called back.
“I don’t know about that Casino,” Garrison responded from behind the safe-cracker.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you evened the score with Gus.”
Casino gripped the wheel tightly as he considered Garrison’s words. “Yeah,” Casino smiled. “Yeah.”
The team lapsed into silence. The score might have been settled with Gus, and the mission completed but it had nearly come at too high a price.