Category: Garrison’s Gorillas
Genre: WWII Drama
Word Count: 4899
With one final spluttering surge, the German staff car came to a lurching halt in a cloud of smoke and steam.
“Well that’s it then, looks like we walk from here,” Garrison announced as he climbed out of the car. “Chief, Casino, push it off the road.”
“Not going to happen, Warden,” Chief spoke softly.
Garrison turned back to the car and looked at Chief in surprise. “What are you talking about, Chief?” he asked curiously.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Chief replied as he turned toward Garrison. He blinked several times, trying to focus on the lieutenant, the white knuckle grip he had on the steering wheel slipped and he slid in a boneless heap across the seat Garrison had just vacated.
“Chief,” Garrison shouted, “Actor, Casino get him out of there.”
Garrison waited as the two men carefully lifted Chief from the car and carried him into the protection of the trees just off the road before he and Goniff pushed the car into the trees and down a small embankment on the opposite side of the road. Garrison paused for a moment, mesmerized by the large red stain on the driver’s seat. Dammit, how the hell had he missed this? He was sitting right next to the man.
“Warden, you ok there?” Goniff asked worriedly, stepping up beside Garrison.
“How did I miss this, Goniff?” Garrison asked, pulling himself back to reality without looking at his second story man.
“Well, you know Chiefy, Warden; ‘e don’t like to make a fuss. Come on, let’s go back and see ‘ow ‘e is.”
Garrison nodded and followed Goniff back to where Chief lay under the cover of the trees at the side of the road. It had been a simple mission — get the required information, pass it on to the resistance and get out. Everything had worked to plan until the last checkpoint. For some reason, one of the guards had become suspicious, and before they knew it, they were in a fire fight. It had only lasted a minute and he thought they were home free. Five miles, that was all they had to travel before the plane picked them up and they were back in England. Garrison sighed; how wrong he was. “How is he?” he demanded as he dropped to his knees beside the injured con.
Actor shook his head. “He caught one in the back; he’s lost a lot of blood, Craig, and the bullet’s still in there. You can feel it just under the skin here.” Actor gently touched a spot on Chief’s side slightly above his left hip, eliciting a soft moan.
“Blimey, ‘ow’d that ‘appen then?” Goniff asked.
“My guess is the bullet came through the back door first, then the seat, slowing down its speed, otherwise it probably would have gone straight through,” Actor replied.
“Why the hell didn’t he say something?” Casino demanded.
“With all the shooting, I doubt any of us would have heard him, whether he did or not,” Garrison replied softly.
“And it was his job to get us out of there,” Actor added.
“So he took a bullet and said nothing, the damn stupid Indian,” Casino grumbled half-heartedly.
Garrison studied the pale features of the Indian. Sweat was beading on his face and his breathing was erratic. “Can we move him?” he asked as he turned his attention to the Italian conman. “The safe house is about five miles from here.”
“Not with the bullet in there. So far it hasn’t hit anything vital that I can tell, but we can’t take the chance on it shifting.”
“Can you take it out?” Garrison asked.
“Yes. It should be fairly simple; it’s close to the surface. A small incision and it should come out quite easily.”
“Then do it,” Garrison ordered. “What do you need?”
Actor pulled a small package from one jacket pocket and a small flask from another. “For medicinal purposes,” he explained at Garrison’s raised eyebrow. “The cognac in this part of the world is very good and that German officer had an abundant supply.”
Garrison shook his head. “Is that all you need?”
“Perhaps some extra bandages would come in handy,” Actor replied as he opened up the package and removed the field dressing, bandage, vial of morphine, a syringe and needle and a scalpel.
Garrison shook his head again; he wasn’t even going to ask where the scalpel came from.
“You are all going to have to hold him as still as possible; even unconscious he’s going to feel this,” Actor advised as he poured some of the cognac onto the scalpel. It was the best he could do to sterilize the instrument. “Ready?” he asked as he looked at the strained faces around him. Garrison was holding Chief’s shoulders down while Casino and Goniff held a leg and arm each.
Chief groaned loudly as Actor made the first incision into his flesh but remained still.
“Hold him still,” Actor yelled as Chief bucked under his hands when he applied pressure behind the bullet and began pushing it towards the small incision he had made.
Garrison leaned down and spoke quietly in Chief’s ear, not even sure if the Indian could hear him or not. “Easy, Chief; Actor’s getting the bullet out. Won’t be long; just lie still.”
“War…den,” Chief groaned as the pressure eased on his side.
Actor sat back on his heels with a sigh, the bullet held firmly between bloodied fingers.
“Bullet’s out, Chief,” Garrison patted the con’s shoulder, “just rest for a minute.”
Chief blinked open dark, pain filled eyes and focused blearily on Garrison, “Hurts,” he whispered.
“I know it does, Chief; we’ll give you something for the pain in a minute.” Garrison watched the dark eyes slide shut again as Chief lapsed back into unconsciousness.
“It’s pain and blood loss, Craig. Better he’s resting like this than awake,” Actor advised as he finished wrapping the dressing and bandage around Chief’s abdomen. As the rest of the team watched, Actor readied the injection and slipped the sleeve of Chief’s jacket up his arm. “That’s all I can do for him here,” Actor said as he finished administering the single dose of morphine. It should last him a few hours. There’ll be a first aid kit on the plane. I can give him more then.”
“’Ey, ‘ow’s ‘e going to jump on a ruddy moving plane like that?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“Yeah, the limey’s right. Geronimo’s in no shape to be walking, let alone jumping on or off anything,” Casino agreed.
“We’ll worry about that later,” Garrison ordered. “Right now we need to find some sort of transportation and get to the safe house or none of us will have to worry about jumping on that plane. Casino, you’re with me. Actor, Goniff, stay here with Chief. If we’re not back in an hour, you had better start out for the safe house with Chief on your own.”
“We’ll be waiting for you,” Actor promised as Garrison and Casino picked up their rifles and headed up the road. Actor watched the two men until they passed out of sight around the next bend before he packed away what was left of the first aid kit. He took a sip of the cognac and then passed the flask to Goniff, who accepted it eagerly.
“Thanks, mate,” Goniff acknowledged before he took a sip himself and passed it back to Actor. “Maybe we should keep that for Chiefy, eh, Actor? ‘E going to be alright then, Actor?” Goniff queried.
“I hope so, Goniff; the wound isn’t serious but the blood loss is. If we can get back to London tonight, he should be fine.”
Goniff nodded. “Warden’s cut up about it you know. Blames ‘imself for not noticing that Chief was ‘urt.”
“There was nothing Craig could have done even if he was aware of it, Goniff. Chief was driving and we had to get away from that roadblock. There wasn’t time to change drivers.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you ‘ad better explain that to the Warden when ‘e gets back then, mate, because I don’t think ‘e’s listening to ‘imself.”
“Where are we going to find another car out here, Warden?” Casino demanded as he and Garrison traipsed through the trees beside the road.
“There has to be a farm or something along here, Casino; we’ll find something.” Garrison assured. We have to, he thought, because he wasn’t leaving anyone behind. He would find a way to get Chief on that plane tonight. The two men carried on in silence until a slight noise brought Garrison to a stop. He put up hand to cut off Casino’s protest before it started and listened carefully. There it was again. Garrison smiled; it looked like they had found some transportation after all, although he didn’t think the others except perhaps Chief, if he were conscious, would see the humor in it.
“Come on Casino, I think we have transportation.” Garrison hurried through the trees, not waiting to see if the safe cracker was following or not. Garrison stepped through the last of the trees and came across a small field. Standing under the shade of the trees and blowing air lazily through its nostrils stood a good sized horse. This was obviously a domesticated work horse, as it was wearing a headstall with a short two-foot lead attached. No doubt left on for ease of catching. Garrison moved forward quietly, speaking softly to the large animal so as not to startle it and send it into flight. He climbed through the wood panel fence and eased up to the horse which stood watching him from under half-closed lids. Garrison took hold of the lead rope and turned to look around the small field. He spotted the gate leading back to the road halfway along the fences length just as Casino stepped into the clearing.
“Oh now wait a minute, Warden, you don’t expect all of us to ride on that thing do you?” Casino asked in disbelief as Garrison began leading the horse towards the gate.
“No Casino, I don’t. This might be a draught horse but even he can’t carry five grown men. Chief and I will ride him. Somebody will have to keep Chief up on him and the rest of you can walk. That is unless you want to ride him, Casino.”
“Oh no, don’t look at me, I’m not going anyway near that thing,” Casino stated as he eyed the large ginger animal the warden was leading with ease. “What sort of a stupid color is orange for a horse?”
Garrison sighed. “He’s not orange; he’s chestnut. Don’t you like horses, Casino?” Garrison asked with a chuckle.
“I like horses well enough when they’re on their side of the fence, or winning me some money at the track,” Casino stated emphatically.
“Well, you had better get used to him, Casino, because I think I’m going to need more than just me to keep Chief on him,” Garrison advised evenly.
“Actor and Goniff can help. I’ll take point,” Casino offered as he opened the gate and stepped back.
Garrison led the horse through the gate, telling Casino to close it behind him. “What for?” Casino demanded, “There ain’t anything else in the field,” he pointed out.
“Because you always leave gates the way you find them, Casino. It’s the first rule of farming.” Garrison stopped long enough to grab the old bridle hanging on a hook beside the gate. He felt guilty about taking the horse and quite possibly the farmer’s only means of transportation, but Chief needed it more. Hopefully the farmer would find it or somebody else would return it after they had gone.
“What the ‘ell’s that,” Goniff yelped as he jumped to his feet and faced the direction from which the strange noise was coming, gun held at the ready.
“If I am not mistaken, Goniff, I would say it is a horse.”
“Well what the bleeding ‘ell is a ‘orse doing out ‘ere then?”
Actor’s eyes widened. “He wouldn’t,” he mumbled as a grin spread across his face.
“Who wouldn’t what?” Goniff asked perplexed as Casino stepped through the trees closely followed by Garrison and his charge.
“Blimey, that’s a ‘orse, Warden. What are we going to do with that?” Goniff asked curiously.
“That’s our transportation, you dumb limey,” Casino growled in disgust.
“What all of us? Can he carry all of us? He doesn’t look that big,” Goniff stated, eyeing the docile animal as it put its head down and began to munch the grass underfoot.
“No stupid,” Casino huffed, “The Warden and Geronimo are going to ride it while the rest of us get to walk.”
Actor raised an eyebrow at Garrison, who only shrugged. “It was the first transportation we came across and we need to get Chief out of here.”
“You know how to ride?” Actor asked skeptically.
“Of course I do; my Uncle had a cattle ranch. I rode his horses every holidays,” Garrison replied. “And so does Chief.”
“Great, so now we’re playing Cowboys and Indians.” Casino muttered under his breath but just loud enough for all to hear.
“I doubt that knowledge is going to help Chief at the moment, though, Craig,” Actor pointed out, quietly ignoring Casino’s remark.
Garrison nodded in understanding. “How is he?” he asked just as quietly as he studied the sleeping form on the ground.
“As well as can be expected. The bleeding seems to have stopped anyway. That is a good thing and he’s resting comfortably at the moment.”
“’Ow come ‘e’s orange then?” Goniff asked as he continued to study the horse.
“He’s not orange, you dumb limey; he’s chestnut,” Casino asserted.
“You know a thing or two about ‘orses, do you, Casino?” Goniff asked.
“No, I don’t,” Casino replied as he grabbed his rifle and moved back towards the road. “I’m going to keep lookout.”
Garrison acknowledged Casino’s statement with a nod of his head before he turned back to Actor. “Can we move him now, Actor? We need to get going if we want to make the safe house in time.”
Actor sighed, “I would prefer to give him some more time, but that is one thing we do not have at present. How are we going to do this?” he asked.
“Like Casino said, Chief and I ride. He’s going to need help staying on and I suppose I am the only rider here beside Chief,” Garrison stated with a raised eyebrow.
“The only experienced rider,” Actor supplied.
“You’ve ridden!” Garrison stated in surprise.
“On several occasions. A most enjoyable experience too, but I dare say not under these conditions.” Actor dropped his eyes down to Chief.
Garrison threw the reins over the horse’s head and beckoned Goniff forward. “Hold the reins and the rope like this, and keep him still while Actor and I lift Chief on to his back.”
“’Ow am I supposed to hold it still?” Goniff yelped.
“Talk to him and hold him like I showed you. He won’t move,” Garrison promised.
“’Ow do you know it’s a ‘e then?” Goniff asked.
Garrison sighed in frustration but it was Actor who answered the question. “How do you know you are a he, Goniff?”
“Well, that’s easy; I got one of them little boy things, you know,” Goniff replied as his cheeks reddened.
“And so does he, Goniff.” Actor replied calmly.
“I don’t see it,” Goniff stated looking underneath the horse’s belly.
“Can it both of you. If you’re ready, Actor,” Garrison said sharply.
Carefully, the two men lifted the unconscious Indian between them and eased him across the horse’s back. As Actor supported Chief, Garrison pushed the Indian’s right leg across the horse’s back so that Chief was now resting astride the horse. Garrison quickly sprang up behind Chief and eased him back against his chest. “How’s the wound?” Garrison asked urgently as Actor checked the entry wound for fresh blood.
“Looks good, Craig,” Actor replied with a nod.
“Alright, Actor, you lead the horse. Casino can take point; Goniff, keep an eye on our backs but stay close in case I need help with Chief. We’ll stick to the trees as much as possible. Move out,” Garrison ordered as he took up the reins and nudged the horse gently with his heels into a slow walk. The first couple of strides were uncomfortable as he tried to balance himself and Chief with the horse’s gait, but soon Garrison found himself in an easy rhythm with the horse.
“’Ow much further is it, Warden? At this bleeding rate, we won’t get there until tomorrow,” Goniff griped as he trudged along behind the horse. He had already had to dodge several smelly droppings and wasn’t in a hurry to get any better acquainted with their present mode of transport.
“Well, look at this way, Goniff, at least he won’t run out of petrol” Actor replied with a laugh as he led the horse through the trees.
“Not far now, Goniff; another mile or so. We can’t travel any faster or Chief will slip off,” Garrison advised.
“Besides, you dumb limey, you don’t want to run all the way there, do you?” Casino asked, “Because that’s what you’d be doing if that horse was going any faster.”
“Blimey, I hadn’t thought of that. ‘Ow’s Chiefy doing, Warden?” Goniff asked.
“No change, Goniff.”
“Well, that’s good isn’t it? It means he’s no worse right? That’s good, isn’t it, Actor?”
“Yes, Goniff, that’s good,” Actor replied from his position at the head of the horse.
Chief had been struggling with consciousness for a while. He felt as though he were drifting on a warm sea. The gentle rhythm under him helped to keep him comfortably unaware but a change in the pressure on his side had awakened both the pain and his awareness. The soft murmuring that had been a constant noise in the back of his mind took on more meaning as the words became clearer. Horse!
Chief forced heavy lids apart and stared in some disbelief at the chestnut sea of mane stretching before him. A misstep from the horse sent a jolt of fire racing through his side and he reared up and away from the softness of whatever it was holding him in place.
“Easy, Chief,” a voice whispered in his right ear, startling him more. He struggled, trying to gain release from the grip he felt tighten around his waist.
“Actor, hold up,” Garrison called urgently as he desperately tried to regain his balance before Chief had them both on the ground. “Chief, it’s Garrison; stop struggling or we’re going to fall off.” Garrison released his grip on Chief and grabbed a large fistful of mane to steady himself.
“War…den?” Chief gasped.
“Right here behind you, Chief,” Garrison confirmed. “Just relax; we’re nearly at the safe house.”
“I’m on a…horse?” Chief tried to twist around but fire erupted in his side again and he fell forward onto the horse’s neck with a groan.
“Actor?” Garrison demanded urgently.
Actor reached back and checked Chief. “He’s passed out again, Craig. Do you want me to sit him up again or leave him as he is?”
“Sit him up, Actor; it’s easier for me to keep a grip on him,” Garrison replied tiredly. Chief was probably the lightest of all the men but he was still a dead weight unconscious and Garrison’s arms felt like lead. He doubted he would be able to stop Chief from slipping off if he wasn’t resting against him.
“Let’s move it!” Garrison ordered as Actor took hold of the rope and clicked the horse forward with his tongue.
A little over an hour later the group was stopped at the perimeter of the trees, carefully scrutinizing the area surrounding the safe house. It looked clear but looks could be deceiving and Garrison was not about to take any more chances with his men’s lives. Still sitting astride the horse with Chief safely ensconced in his arms, Garrison gave his orders and watched as Casino and Goniff skirted the trees to scout out the house.
“Have you thought how we are going to get Chief on the plane tonight, Craig?” Actor queried as he kept one eye on the house and the other on the docile animal beside him. He gave the horse a gentle pat as he waited for Garrison to reply.
Garrison sighed. “We’re not.”
Actor turned to Garrison with a raised eyebrow. “So what do you propose?”
“The three of you catch the plane out tonight, and Chief and I’ll hold up here with the resistance for a few days until Chief can travel.” Garrison shrugged at Actor’s look of disbelief. “What do you suggest, Actor? Casino was right when he said Chief was in no shape to walk, let alone run, and we all know it. And we’re too far inland to make it to the coast.”
“Why can’t the plane come to a stop long enough for us to lift Chief on board?” Actor suggested.
“I thought of that but it won’t work. The field’s not long enough for the plane to gain enough speed for take-off. We’d end up crashing into the trees,” Garrison explained.
“So we find a longer field; surely there is more than one field in this area.”
Garrison shook his head. “I don’t know, Actor. The resistance set this up. There might not be enough time to change the pick-up point.”
“Yes, well, it won’t hurt to ask. Do you really think Casino, Goniff or I are going to leave you both here and return to London? The mission is completed; we have passed on the information already. There is no reason for us to rush back to London. If the pick-up point cannot be changed, we will all stay until Chief is well enough to travel. You will need help with Chief, Craig. You can’t expect to look after him and keep you both safe at the same time.”
“You want to tell them,” Garrison nodded towards Casino, who was waving his arm for them to move in, “or shall I?”
“Do you really think they need to be told, Craig” Actor queried with a smile.
Garrison sighed. “No I guess not. We’re not going to hear the end of this, are we?” he asked as he kicked the horse into motion again.
“Probably not,” Actor replied as he led the horse up to the house and handed the lead to Goniff, who took it without hesitation. Actor and Casino gently eased Chief out of Garrison’s arms and off the horse, carrying him into the house and placing him on one of the beds. “Go and help Craig,” Actor ordered as he began checking the wound and his incision in Chief’s side.
Casino stared at the pale face of the Indian for a moment before he silently left the room and returned to where Garrison still sat on the horse. The man looked as pale as Geronimo did. “Warden, you ok? Do you need a hand getting down?” He asked worriedly.
Garrison visibly shook himself before he looked tiredly at the safecracker. With Chief’s weight out of his arms, he found he didn’t have the energy for anything else. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head. “No, I’m fine, thanks, Casino,” he replied as he slid from the horse’s back. His knees buckled on landing and he would have fallen if Casino hadn’t moved in and grabbed his arm.
“Yeah, sure you are,” Casino growled softly in Garrison’s ear. “Damn Cowboys and Indians, always the tough guys.”
“Thanks, Casino,” Garrison smiled weakly as he straightened up and moved to the horse’s head. He rubbed the horse gently around the ears before removing the bridle. “Thanks, boy.” Garrison patted the thick neck before taking the rope from Goniff. He stepped back and watched as the horse, now free of constraints, wandered off and began grazing peacefully in the field. “How’s Chief?”
“Actor’s working on him now,” Casino replied, “Come on, you look like you need some rest too.”
Garrison shook his head, “We have to make contact with the resistance, see if we can change the pick-up point for tonight.”
“What are you saying, Warden?” Goniff asked wearily.
“Chief’s not going to make that plane tonight if the arrangements stay the same and we all know it. We need to change the pick-up point and get the plane to stop long enough to get Chief on board.”
“Can we do that, Warden?”
“I don’t know, Casino, but I’m going to try,” Garrison replied as he headed to the door.
“What if they can’t change it, Warden?” Goniff asked.
Garrison stopped and turned back to the two cons. “Then you three leave and I stay here with Chief until we can organize another pick up.”
“No way, Warden,” Casino exploded. “We all go or none go. No one gets left behind. That’s what you always tell us, isn’t it, Warden?”
“Yeah, that’s what I always say,” Garrison agreed. “Actor, how is he?” Garrison asked as the three men entered the house.
“Doing alright, Craig. Still unconscious but the wound hasn’t opened again. However, we really do need to get him back to England.”
“Garrison nodded, “Casino and I will make contact with the resistance, see if we can get the pick-up changed. You and Goniff stay here and look after Chief. We’ll be back as soon as possible.”
“Do you think the Warden can get the plans changed, Actor?”
“I hope so, Goniff, for all our sakes.” Actor replied.
The three cons and Garrison stepped quietly into Chief’s hospital room, taking care not to make any noise if he was sleeping. They had arrived back in England the previous evening and Chief had been whisked to the Army hospital on arrival. After the debriefing, they had been sent back to the mansion with orders not to appear at the hospital until the following afternoon. Goniff had spent the morning in the mansion library and now carried a small leather-bound book in his arms.
Chief was propped up by several pillows, a clean white bandage wrapped around his abdomen and waist. He was still pale under the dark skin but his breathing was good and there was no sign of infection.
“Do you think ‘e’ll wake up while we’re ‘ere?” Goniff asked expectantly.
“I’m awake, Goniff,” Chief replied softly, opening his eyes to look at the faces surrounding him. “You guys aren’t exactly quiet, you know. I heard you halfway up the corridor.”
“’Ow you feeling, Chiefy?” Goniff asked brightly.
“Ok.” Chief turned to Garrison, “What happened? I don’t remember much after the fight at the roadblock.”
“Bullet went through the car door and seat, caught you in the back. You managed to get us clear before the car died. We made it to the safe house, met the plane, and landed back in England last night.”
Chief eyed Garrison suspiciously. “Just like that?”
Garrison shrugged, “Pretty much like that. What do you remember, Chief?”
Chief sighed. “Nothing.”
“Well, we best be going, Chief, let you get some rest. Doctor said you can be released in a couple of days.”
Chief nodded. “What about the horse? I remember the horse. We were riding it, Warden.”
Goniff jumped in before Garrison could reply, opening the book he had tucked under his arm. “This is it, Chiefy. Well, not this one exactly but it looked this.” Goniff pushed the book towards Chief. “Same color and all. Chestnut, that’s what Casino said it was. It was a Breton, that’s a French draught horse it is.”
Chief eyed Garrison. “You got me out of there on a horse!”
“Yeah, well, it was the only transportation we could find,” Garrison replied with a shrug. “Anyway, what are you complaining about? It worked, didn’t it?” Garrison smiled as Chief laughed.
“Guess it did,” Chief chuckled.
“Don’t get any ideas, you two,” Casino ordered. “We aren’t playing Cowboys and Indians again. Once was enough. You hear me?”
“’Ey, I wonder what ‘is name was?” Goniff broke in, not wanting to listen to anymore of Casino’s ranting about cowboys and Indians.
“Whose name, Goniff?” Actor enquired.
“The ‘orse, of course.”
Chief had closed his eyes again, unable to fight his bodies need for sleep any longer.
Garrison silently motioned the men to leave the room. “Cheval, Goniff; the horse’s name was Cheval.”
“That’s a nice name; suits ‘im some ‘ow. I wonder what it means?”
“Horse, Goniff; it is the French word for horse,” Actor advised as he opened the door for them to leave.
“’Ow’d you know ‘is name then, Warden?” Goniff asked.
“It was scratched into his bridle, Goniff,” Garrison replied as he closed the door behind them.
Chief forced one eye open and stared at the closed door for a moment before letting it slide shut again. Casino had called them Cowboys and Indians. Perhaps the warden would let them get a horse and keep it at the mansion, he thought as he drifted to sleep.