Summary: Missing scenes from the episode “The Frame Up.”
Category: Garrison’s Gorillas
Genre: WWII Drama
Word Count: 21,533
This is my take on that golden opportunity that went begging when the writers didn’t continue with the storyline for Frame-Up after Chief was shot. Because the name of the town that Garrison and Chief were in was not supplied in the opening scenes, I have taken the liberty to place the action in Etretat, which is a town on the Upper Normandy coastline of France and within easy reach of England across the channel. I also decided that only Garrison and Chief were on the mission to retrieve the documents. Because the opening scenes consisted of a total of seven lines spoken between Garrison and Chief, I am starting at the beginning and ending with the start of the episode Frame-Up. Series dialogue is in Italics.
Garrison quickly climbed down the metal rungs that led into the sewer as Chief kept watch from above. Hearing the eruption of gunfire, Garrison could only watch from below as Chief returned fire at the pursuing German soldiers before an unlucky shot hit him just below his right knee.
The impact of the bullet in his leg caused Chief to drop to his knees. He returned fire before slinging the schmeisser over his shoulder, and with a tight grip on the injured leg, staggered to the opening leading to the sewer. With no other options open to him, he released the grip on his leg and carefully lowered himself down next to Garrison. As careful as he was, he still couldn’t hide the grunt of pain the exertion caused him.
Garrison waited below, reaching up to take some of Chief’s weight and support him against the wall of their temporary cover. “Take it easy,” he ordered as he quickly checked around the wound that Chief had a tight grip on once more. “You caught one, huh?”
Chief rested his head back against the cold stonework of the sewer for a moment. “Yeah, it’s in there.” He gritted his teeth, still holding tightly to his leg. He glared balefully at Garrison. “Piece of cake, huh? Meet an agent, get some documents and cut out.”
Garrison didn’t respond to the challenging words. “Come on let’s go!” Garrison helped Chief to his feet, taking Chief’s left arm over his shoulder and wrapping his right around the Indian’s waist. “Think you can make it?”
“Yeah, I’ll make it,” Chief announced as he tried taking a step only to find his leg buckle under him. If it hadn’t been for Garrison’s support, he would have fallen flat on his face. All he could do was drag the injured leg behind him as they made their way through the sewer.
They came to the next exit point along the system and Garrison climbed the metal rungs to the grill, only to find it was stuck fast and wouldn’t budge, despite his best efforts to push it open. Hearing the footsteps of pursuit, he dropped back down beside Chief and they waited for the first of the German soldiers to appear. A quick barrage of fire and then two thrown grenades took care of the immediate pursuit and both men rested back against the wall.
“Grill’s stuck fast,” Garrison announced unnecessarily. “We’ll have to try for the next one.”
Chief swallowed hard. His leg was on fire now, the pain almost unbearable. He shook his head. “This isn’t going to work, Warden. Leave me here…I’ll only slow you down. Documents…have to get back…to England.”
“Nothing doing, Chief,” Garrison growled. “We came together and we leave together. I’m not leaving you behind.”
“Bullet’s hit the bone…I can’t walk.”
“All the more reason to stay together. You won’t stand a chance once the SS or Gestapo get you.”
“Warden…” Chief protested tiredly.
“Come on, Chief,” Garrison ordered as he bent down and lifted his scout to his feet, ignoring the grunt of pain that Chief couldn’t suppress. “Once we get out of here, I’ll contact the resistance. They’ll get us both home.”
Three grills later Garrison lowered a gasping Chief to the ground. “Third time lucky, Chief,” Garrison muttered as he climbed the metal rungs sunk into the side of the sewer. He sent up a silent prayer that the grill would open. Chief was barely conscious and they needed to get out of the underground system before Chief passed out or neither of them would be going anywhere. Garrison pushed against the grill and for a moment thought it was stuck like the others before he felt a slight give in the resistance. Using his shoulders, he pushed harder, sighing in relief when the grill finally moved upwards. Garrison swung it open and checked for passing traffic. It was almost dark and it seemed they had exited in an alley. The stench of rotting garbage told him they were at the back of a row of shops. Garrison dropped back down beside Chief. “Come on, Chief.” He tapped the sweat glistened face gently. “We have a way out of here but I need your help getting you up the ladder.”
Chief’s chin rested on his chest and his eyes were closed; he groaned but made no other effort to respond to Garrison.
Garrison shook Chief roughly, calling his name as he physically pulled him to his feet. “Get up, Chief.”
“I can’, Warden.”
“Yes you can, Chief.” Garrison pulled him to his feet. “Just lean on me,” he ordered.
Chief sighed but managed to straighten up a bit as they staggered to the ladder. “I…can’t climb.”
“I’ll help. Reach up and grip the next rung.” Garrison waited until Chief had a grip on the rung above with two hands. “Alright Chief, pull yourself up with your hands and I’ll give you a boost.”
“Warden.” Chief shook his head.
“Now, Chief,” Garrison ordered as he supported Chief around his waist, pushing his left leg up onto the lowest rung. “Good. Next one. Come on you can do it.” Garrison cajoled softly as they continued the slow climb up the five rungs. Garrison pulled himself up onto the pavement and dropped down beside Chief who was breathing heavily. “We can’t stay here, Chief; I need to move you further back into the alley and then I’ll go and find us a car.”
Chief’s only response was a gasped groan as Garrison picked him up under the arms and dragged him back into the far corner of the alley. Once he had Chief settled and as well hidden as possible, Garrison surveyed the alley. They had exited half way along its length but were now almost to the furthest end from the street with Chief hidden behind some trash cans. The alley ended at a T intersection and Garrison carefully peered around the corner, relieved when he saw the second alley was clear of obstructions and wide enough to permit a car or small truck. Each end appeared to turn onto one of the main streets of the town. At least, he thought, if he could get some sort of transport, they would have a way out. Garrison hurried back to where Chief remained slumped against the back wall of an undisclosed shop. “Chief, you still with me?” Garrison waited until the dark eyes fluttered open.
Garrison handed Chief his schmeisser. “Try not to make any noise. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Chief nodded tiredly in response, watching through hooded eyes as Garrison slipped soundlessly out of the alley. He gripped the schmeisser tightly in his hands and tried to slow his breathing but the pain in his leg caused his breath to hitch in short gasps. He knew he had to stay awake, but the pain was becoming overwhelming and he found himself drifting towards unconsciousness.
Garrison slipped silently out of the alley, turning right into the interconnecting one and following it to the corner of the shops. He peered cautiously around the corner. There were only a couple of people still present on the street, shopkeepers locking up their businesses for the night. Garrison stepped back into the shadows; he had seen what he wanted half way down the street and parked on the opposite side to where he was standing. Garrison stepped around the corner and hurried across the street. He had almost reached the baker’s van when two German soldiers turned into the street ahead of him. He hurried to the door of the bakery, hunched over the lock and pretended to be locking the door as the two soldiers passed without a second glance. Once the soldiers had passed, Garrison slipped into the driver’s seat of the van, releasing a small chuckle at the sight of the keys hanging invitingly from the ignition. Obviously the baker didn’t expect his van to be stolen in the middle of a war. Garrison checked the immediate area; the two soldiers had turned around the next corner and the street appeared deserted. He started the van, eased it into gear and pulled out into the street before retracing his steps back to the alley and Chief.
Behind Garrison, a corner of a curtain dropped back into place and a figure moved quietly around the counter of the bakery and slipped unnoticed out the back door.
The sudden sound of a car door closing forced Chief to open his eyes again. He tried lifting the schmeisser as footsteps echoed in the alley but he didn’t have the strength, allowing the schmeisser to clatter to the ground when he heard Garrison whispering his name urgently. “War…den.” Chief tried pushing himself to a sitting position but slumped backed in gasped defeat as the movement ignited the simmering pain in his leg.
“Easy, Chief,” Garrison crooned as he squatted beside his wheelman, noting the blood-soaked pant leg. As soon as they could, he needed to stop and attend to the injury but for now they needed to get as far away from the town as possible. “I’ve got us a van. Ready to go home?” Garrison picked up Chief’s schmeisser and slung it over his left shoulder before lifting Chief’s left arm over his right shoulder. Garrison straightened, bringing Chief to his feet and they staggered to the back of the van. “Just a little further, Chief, and then you can rest,” Garrison coached as he found himself taking more and more of the Indian’s weight. He opened the back door of the van, sat Chief on the floor and then pulled him back into the van, grimacing in sympathy as Chief cried out in pain before going quiet. Garrison didn’t have time. He slammed the back door shut, slid into the drivers seat, started the van and drove down the alley, turning onto the next street.
Thankfully the town of Etretat was small and it didn’t take long to leave its outskirts behind. With no headlights, Garrison was forced to drive carefully along the windy road at the top of the cliffs. His destination was a fisherman’s hut hidden amongst the woods at the base of the cliffs. He just hoped that the path would be wide enough to accommodate the small van because he doubted very much that he would be able to carry Chief for any distance.
It took Garrison almost a half hour to make the decent from the top of the cliff, and in all that time, he hadn’t heard a sound from Chief. Breathing a sigh of relief, Garrison finally reached the turn off that led to the hut. He drove the van down the narrow path, wincing at the noise of the tree branches scraping the sides and roof of the van. Rounding several bends in the path, Garrison brought the van to a stop and quickly climbed through to the back, making a quick check to ensure they were well hidden from the road before turning his attention to Chief.
Chief lay huddled in the corner, his injured leg stretched out; the floor under the wound sticky with fresh blood. Garrison gently shook Chief, feeling the heat coming through the Indian’s jacket. “Dammit,” Garrison muttered as he moved his hand up to feel Chief’s forehead. It was slick with sweat and the undeniable presence of a mounting fever. Rubbing tiredly at his eyes, Garrison sat back on his heels. This mission was supposed to be easy. Meet with the agent, collect the documents and return to England. That’s why he had elected to only bring Chief with him. It was one of those missions he had done a number of times in the past with only half the team present. Garrison leant back against the side of the van. They had already missed the one and only rendezvous. Now they would have to wait until a search party was sent over for them, or rather the documents. He just hoped that Chief could wait that long. Garrison shifted his position when he felt something pressing into the small of his back. Feeling behind him, he pulled out a burlap sack that had been tucked into the corner of the van. Carefully opening it, he discovered a half loaf of bread, two bottles of water, several bandages and some sulfa powder. He pursed his lips in thought. This and the keys in the van — somebody was watching over them and hopefully that somebody would get a message through to London. Either that or it was a trick to lure them out, in which case they should have already been captured.
Garrison uncorked one of the bottles and after taking a sip, lifted Chief’s head and pressed the opening to the Indian’s lips. “Chief,” he called loudly. “I have some water, take a sip.”
Chief moaned and muttered something unintelligible but didn’t rouse.
Garrison shook Chief roughly by the shoulder and then tapped his face. “Come on, Chief, you need to drink.” He tipped the bottle up, sloshing a small amount of water over Chief’s lips.
Chief felt the cool water splash against his lips and licked hungrily at it.
“Slowly, Chief,” Garrison cautioned, pulling the bottle away. “You don’t want to make yourself sick.”
“I know, Chief; you’re running a fever,” Garrison replied. “We’re almost to the hut. Do you think you can hold on a little longer then you can rest?”
“The pick-up…the documents?”
“We’ve already missed the rendezvous. We’ll have to wait for London to send another team for the documents and us.”
“Sorry…shoulda gone…when you had…the chance.”
“We’ve already been through this, Chief. We go out together or we don’t go.” Garrison laid Chief back down on the floor of the van. He pulled out the bandages and the sulfa. Working in the near dark, Garrison released Chief’s knife from its wrist sheath and felt along Chief’s leg until he heard Chief gasp in pain. “Sorry Chief, but I need to clean this wound and wrap it.” Garrison continued feeling his way down the leg, ignoring the hisses of pain as he passed over the wound, until he reached the leather boots. He grasped the end of Chief’s pant leg and then using the borrowed knife slit the seam of the pants up to Chief’s thigh. Feeling his way back down the exposed leg, Garrison stopped when his fingers came in contact with a sticky substance. The metallic smell of blood was strong in the van now that the wound had been exposed. Garrison poured some water over the wound and then emptied a packet of sulfa over it before bandaging it securely. Chief remained stiff and silent, allowing only the slightest sounds to pass his lips. “That’s all I can do for now, Chief. I’ll clean it properly when we reach the hut and its daylight. We have to keep moving. It won’t be long.” Garrison climbed back into the driver’s seat and started up the van once more. Cautiously, he drove along the path until the trees closed in and he could take the van no further. Praying it wasn’t too far to the hut, he climbed into the back of the van and squatted beside Chief, shaking him until he roused. “End of the line, Chief. We have to walk from here.”
Chief groaned. “Can’t…stay…here?”
“Chief, we can’t stay here.”
Garrison leant back against the side of the van with a sigh. He knew Chief was right; the man was at the end of his endurance, and he doubted they would get very far if he tried to carry Chief, but dammit, he wasn’t about to give up now. “I’ll tell you what, Chief.” Garrison waited for Chief to respond but when none was forthcoming he continued. “I’ll head further along the path. See how far we are away from the hut; then I’ll come back for you. In the meantime, you get some rest. Alright?”
“Mmmm.” Chief muttered.
Garrison made Chief as comfortable as possible, ensuring he had several sips of water and his schmeisser was beside his hand before he exited the van. He rested back against the van for several minutes listening for any sound of pursuit. He checked Chief one last time, noting that he was either asleep or unconscious. There was no other choice; he needed to find somewhere safer for them to hide out until help arrived. Slipping quietly away, Garrison continued along the path they had been following, soon loosing sight of the van amongst the trees and darkness.
“Well?” Casino demanded impatiently as Actor replaced the receiver on the hook. “What’d Richards have to say? When do we leave?”
Actor turned to face the two remaining Gorillas. “They made contact with the agent and retrieved the documents but missed the rendezvous.”
“No kidding,” Casino snarled sarcastically.
“They alright, Actor?” asked Goniff.
“Course they’re not alright, you dumb limey. If they were, they’d be here now,” Casino snapped as he paced across the floor and back. “Why the hell does the brass thinks it’s a good idea to break us up? We’re a team. We work together.”
“We going after them, Actor?” Goniff asked quietly.
“No and yes.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Casino growled.
Actor sighed. “Richards wants us to retrieve the documents.” Actor paused and shrugged. “And if we find the Warden and Chief, well, we retrieve them too, but only if it is safe to do so.”
“What? No way, babe,” Casino yelled. “We go over there, we retrieve the Warden and Geronimo and then worry about the documents.”
“I wish it could be that way, Casino,” Actor replied calmly, “But those documents are of vital importance to the Allied’s coming plans. They show the German troop movements along the French coastline. They could be the key to winning this war. And you know as well as I do that the Warden will put the documents ahead of his own safety and so will Chief.”
“So what you’re saying Actor is that the Warden and Chiefy are expendable, as usual.” Goniff looked pleadingly at the tall conman. “Why can’t we do both? I mean, if we find the documents, we find the Warden and Chiefy right? So why can’t we bring them all back together?”
“Goniff, why do you think the Lieutenant and Chief aren’t here already?” Actor asked.
Goniff shrugged. “I don’t know; maybe they got lost, or they got held up somehow.”
“Or one or both of them is injured,” Casino snapped.
“Aw no, this is the Warden and Chiefy,” Goniff lamented.
“Exactly,” Actor agreed. “And neither one of them will leave the other if they are injured. There will be a boat waiting at the docks for us in an hour. Pack a small bag each with what you think will be useful. We leave in ten minutes.”
Actor watched as the two men hurried to their room to pack. His mind was already racing as to what sort of medical supplies he was likely to need as he made his way to the first aid cupboard, grateful that Garrison insisted that they have a well stocked supply of medical items at hand at all times. Morphine, bandages, dressings, sulfa, a blanket or at least a sheet, water and food. The list of what he could take was endless but what he could easily carry was small in comparison. Actor packed what he could in the time available, praying it would be enough, and then headed towards his room where he changed into some warmer clothes and picked up a couple of necessary items he would not travel without. He paused when his eyes fell on his heavy winter overcoat hanging on a hook on the back of the door. He was already dressed in his woolen coat but rain was forecast, and if one or both of the missing men were injured, the warmth of the overcoat might well be needed. Shrugging, he pulled it off the hook and slung it over his arm before proceeding down the stairs to the lower floor.
Casino was waiting impatiently at the foot of the stairs and Actor had to smile. He too carried a second coat over his arm. The safe cracker looked up as Actor descended the steps and saw the smile on the conman’s face along with the expensive overcoat over his arm.
“Hey, it’s wet out there,” Casino grumbled defensively as he turned toward the kitchen door and the little pick pocket coming through it, biscuit in hand. “Is that all you can think of?”
“They might be ‘ungry when we find them,” Goniff replied as he stuffed the last of the biscuit he was holding into his mouth. “Cheese and bread and some dry biscuits ain’t much but at least it’s some food.”
“You are quite right, Goniff,” Actor interceded before an argument could erupt between the two cons. “Now if we have everything, let’s go. We don’t have much time.”
“’Ay, Actor, just exactly ‘ow much time do we ‘ave?” Goniff asked pensively.
“Twenty four hours.”
“That’s it?” Casino demanded.
Actor nodded. “That’s it, or the Allied plans will have to be scraped.”
Garrison shivered. The wind had picked up and the temperature had dropped dramatically in the last half hour, not that it had been warm to start with. He could hear the waves of the channel crashing against the foot of the cliffs so he knew he was getting closer to his destination, but it was going to be too far for Chief to hobble or for him to carry. The ground under Garrison’s feet dipped suddenly, causing him to lose his footing. He hit the ground hard, his shoulders absorbing most of the impact before his head snapped back and connected with the ground. With nothing to hang on to, he found himself sliding down the path almost twenty feet before he was able to grab onto an exposed tree root and come to a halt. He lay in the middle of the path for several minutes slowing his racing heart and getting his breathing under control. Pushing himself into a sitting position he carefully checked his limbs for damage. Satisfied that only his ego had been bruised, Garrison climbed shakily to his feet and stared back up the path he had just descended. Thank God he hadn’t tried to bring Chief with him. It wasn’t that steep if one knew it was there, but an impossible barrier for Chief to negotiate in the dark in his present condition.
Continuing down the path, Garrison found that it leveled out and the footing underneath started to change from the hard packed dirt to the softer sand of the coast, and the trees began to give way to the smaller bushes that were common to all coastal areas. Once he reached the bottom of the path, Garrison stopped and took his bearings. The darker shapes of the fisherman’s huts dotted the sand further down the beach from his position but it wasn’t those he was interested in. Skirting the bushes beside the beach, Garrison turned to his left and headed back into the woods and towards the base of the cliff. Hidden amongst the thick trunks of the trees lay a dilapidated hut, said to have been built by an old hermit, long since deceased. It was here they were supposed to have waited for the fishing boat that was to ferry them back across the channel.
Garrison studied the hut for some time before deciding it was safe to venture closer. He pulled open the door, which hung at an odd angle off its hinges and stepped inside. It smelt damp and musty and the wind whistled through the cracks in the palings. Bringing Chief here really wasn’t an option. Garrison moved carefully around the room in the darkness, almost tripping over a wooden chair lying on its side. His stumble brought him into contact with what felt like a wooden table. Brushing his hand over it he found a tin cup and bowl and, more importantly, what felt like an old wick lamp. Picking up the lamp, he shook it gently, pleased when he heard a small amount of liquid sloshing inside. With a bit of luck, there would be enough to light up the van so he could get a look at Chief’s leg. Inching around the table, his foot came into contact with another piece of furniture. When his searching hands didn’t find anything of substance in front of him, he bent down until he found himself leaning over what could only be a bed. His fingers told him there was a blanket and lumpy mattress spread out before him. They smelt musty but didn’t feel damp so he rolled them up, tucked the cup and bowl into the middle of the bundle, picked up the lamp and headed back towards the door. Pushing it open, he listened for any unusual sounds before stepping through and closing it behind him.
He had been gone nearly two hours now, far longer than he had intended. Garrison hurried back to the path, worried that Chief would wake up disoriented and not remember their last conversation or, worse, still forget that he was injured and try to move. And as for that other worry — discovery — he wasn’t even going to go there, at least not until he had to. The trip back took far less time than he anticipated. In fact he was almost to the top of the slope he had fallen down earlier before he realized where he was. Shaking his head in annoyance, Garrison slowed his pace. He realized what was happening. He was tired — no, exhausted — and that exhaustion was starting to cloud his judgment. It would do nobody any good if he walked blindly into a trap and he still wasn’t entirely sure who had conveniently left the keys and supplies for them.
Garrison stopped in the trees and surveyed the baker’s van and the surrounding area for five minutes before he approached as silently as he could, carrying the extra supplies he had brought from the hut. “Chief,” he hissed loudly from the driver’s door before he slipped into the back of the van. A soft moan and panted breath told him that Chief was still there and, more importantly still alive, although unconscious. Garrison dropped the supplies beside the prone man and searched his pockets for a match. Finally finding what he was looking for, he struck it against the side of his boot and lit the wick of the lamp. It spluttered to life with a flare before dying down to a soft glow. Praying Chief would remain unconscious for the time being, Garrison removed the blood stained bandage and got his first good look at the wound. It was red and swollen and a yellow puss was oozing from it. He sloshed some water into the bowl to wash it out before refilling it with clean water. Using several of the dressings, he washed the wound again, this time removing as much of the yellow puss as he could before applying another packet of sulfa and re-bandaging it tightly. Next he moved up to Chief’s head and gently wiped away the sweat with a damp dressing. He stepped out of the van and shook out both the mattress and blanket before laying the mattress down beside Chief. It wasn’t much but it had to be better than the cold, hard floor he was currently lying on. Carefully he lifted Chief’s head and shoulders onto the mattress and then eased the rest of his body on to it. Finally he covered him with the blanket and sat back on his heels. That was all he could do but he knew it wouldn’t be enough if help didn’t arrive soon. Garrison blew out the lamp, wanting to preserve its precious contents for later use. He sat back against the wall of the van, suddenly feeling very tired. He was finding it hard to focus and it felt as though the van was spinning around him. Garrison closed his eyes, unable to fight the veil of exhaustion any longer.
The small rowboat had barely beached before Goniff clambered out of it and threw himself on the sand. “I ‘ate boats,” he groaned, swallowing hard to stop the dry heaves he could feel building.
“Come on.” Casino bent down and picked up Goniff by his belt depositing him back on his feet. “We don’t have time for this.”
Actor strode past the two men. “According to the directions, the hut is this way.”
“’Ow can you tell? It’s still the middle of the bleedin night.”
“It’s the hour before dawn, you dumb limey.”
“Well, it’s still dark,” Goniff complained as he trudged up the beach behind the two Italians. “So where is this ruddy ‘ut we’re supposed to find in the dark then?”
“Somewhere amongst the trees at the base of the cliff.” Actor replied as he slipped in amongst the trees, closely followed by Casino and Goniff.
“Can’t you be a little bit more specific than ‘somewhere’?” Casino grumbled as he tripped over an exposed tree root.
“’Ay, Actor, what do we do if the Warden and Chiefy aren’t at this ‘ut? Where are we going to start looking?” Goniff asked as he helped Casino to his feet.
“If they are not there, then I will travel in to Etretat and make a few discreet enquiries.”
“And just what are we supposed to do while you’re off making your enquiries?” Casino demanded.
“Perhaps you can scout around the area for any sign of them, but stay out of sight.” Actor came to a halt amongst the trees. Ahead of them they could see the darker shape of the hut. “Casino, look around,” Actor ordered softly.
Goniff and Actor waited impatiently in the trees for Casino to make a circuit of the hut. Casino signaled the all clear and the two waiting cons hurried to join the safe cracker at the entrance to the hut. “Doesn’t look like anybody has been here for years,” Casino stated as he pulled open the door and swung the beam of his torch around the small interior. “Nothin here,” he announced as he stepped into the room, followed by Actor and Goniff.
Goniff swung his own torch around the area. A wooden pallet that he guessed was a bed at one time, tipped over chair, table and work bench and sink. Dust lay thick on the bench and chair. Even parts of the table were covered in dust. Goniff swung the torch back and let the beam light up the table again. Most of it was covered in a thick film of dust but there were three dust free circles scattered across its top. “’Ay, Actor,” Goniff called as he swung the beam back to the bed…a dust free bed. “Actor,” he called louder.
“What is it, Goniff?” Actor asked tiredly. The empty hut was not unexpected but still it was a disappointment.
“Somebody’s been ‘ere real recent.”
“And how would you know that, you dumb limey. Did they leave a calling card?” Casino sneered.
“Well yeah, they did. Look.” Goniff swung the torch beam back to the table, lighting up the dust free circles. “And the bed doesn’t ‘ave any dust on it either, which means somebody took the mattress and blankets.”
“Its gotta be Geronimo or the Warden.”
“Perhaps, Casino,” Actor mused. “Or it may just be a villager or even a German soldier who took the things. There is nothing to say it was the Warden or Chief.”
“Oh come on, Actor. You don’t really believe that do you? Here, now, right when the Warden and the Indian are missing. I’m telling you, it’s them.”
“I agree, Actor,” Goniff added, “I mean, it’s too much of a coincidence. It’s got to be them.”
“Now that that’s settled, let’s go.” Casino headed for the door.
“Go where exactly, Casino?” Actor asked. “In case you haven’t noticed, it’s still dark out there. Even Chief can’t follow a trail in the dark.”
“Fine, but as soon as it gets light, I’m going after them.” Casino glared at Actor, daring him to object.
It was a tense forty-five minute wait of pacing and cursed grumbles in the dilapidated fisherman’s hut for the three Gorillas before the first rays of the rising sun lightened the overcast sky. While the sky may have been lightening, the woods surrounding the hut were still shrouded in darkness and Casino was forced to wait another thirty minutes before Actor would allow him to venture out into the chilled morning air to search for signs of someone passing through the immediate area the day before.
“What do you think, Actor?” Goniff asked quietly as they waited for the safecracker’s return from his search.
“I don’t know, Goniff. I fear that one of them is seriously hurt. Why else take the mattress and blanket instead of bringing whoever it is here?”
“So you reckon it is the Warden and Chiefy then?”
Actor shrugged. “Time will tell, but as you said, it is too much of a coincidence for it not to be them.”
It took Casino a few minutes in the grey dawn light, but he eventually managed to pick up the trail of the hut’s previous visitor. “One person, headed off that way,” He announced with the wave of an arm. “Found a track leading through the woods and foot prints leading both ways.”
Actor nodded in thought as he tried to recall the map he had studied with Garrison before the two men headed off on the mission. “If I recall correctly, that is the track they were to take from the town. But I believe they were supposed to be able to drive down it.”
Casino shook his head. “Once maybe but not now, babe. Trees have overgrown it.”
“Alright, Casino, you and Goniff follow the track but stay out of sight, and whatever you do, don’t start anything.”
“And where the hell are you going to be while we’re doing all the leg work?” Casino demanded.
“Making enquiries in Etretat.”
“Why, if this is the Warden and Chiefy?” Goniff queried.
“For that reason exactly, Goniff. If it is them, there are two of you to help, but if it isn’t, then we will have wasted precious hours looking in the wrong place. At least this way, we have all our bases covered. I should only be three or four hours. I’ll meet you back here no later than lunch time.”
“I don’t like it, Actor; splitting up is how we’re all in this mess in the first place,” Casino pointed out.
“We don’t have a choice or the time to debate it, Casino,” Actor replied. “We have to meet that boat tonight with the documents and this is the only sure way to locate them.”
“Still don’t like it,” Casino grumbled as he turned around to head back to the track, followed by Goniff.
“Goniff,” Actor called, “you had better take this.” Actor held out his heavy overcoat and the medical supplies, “Just in case it is the Warden and Chief, you might need it.”
“Thanks, Actor,” Goniff replied as he accepted the offerings before hurrying after Casino.
Actor watched the two cons disappear into the trees before he turned up the collar of his woolen coat and headed in the opposite direction. He had misgivings about sending Casino and Goniff in one direction while he headed in the opposite. Casino was right, breaking up the team had caused their current problems and he was further fracturing the tenuous cohesiveness by separating them further. But they couldn’t afford to waste time if it wasn’t Garrison or Chief they were following. And if it was, well, he just had to hope that they would be able to deal with any injuries until he returned. Actor kept close to the cliff wall until he reached the path that lead from the town at the top of the cliffs to the beach. Richards had given him the name and location of the contact he was to meet. He stepped briskly up the path, the urgency of the situation giving haste to his steps.
Actor wandered into the town of Etretat, stopping briefly to pass pleasantries with the locals as he made his way through the streets to his destination. Finally, Actor came to the shop he was looking for. He opened the door; a small bell tinkling his entrance as he stepped over the threshold. Actor waited patiently for the shopkeeper to finish serving the elderly lady at the counter. He pulled open the door and bowed slightly as the woman, in her late seventies at least, offered him a grateful smile of thanks. Actor closed the door and turned back to the counter and the man behind it.
“What will you have, Monsieur?”
“A baker’s dozen, please,” Actor replied cautiously.
Karel Perrotte paused as he reached for a brown paper bag, looking carefully at the tall, dark man before him. Italian descent, he assumed, yet the accent was clearly French and he knew the pass phrase. “I have many customers, Monsieur, who wish to buy my rolls. Perhaps a loaf of bread instead?” Perrotte waited.
“What about a French breadstick?”
Oui. You are not Garrison,” Perrotte stated.
“No but I am part of his team. You contacted London. What do you know of Garrison and the man with him?” Actor asked as strode to the counter.
“Very little, Monsieur. They still have the documents. The dark one was shot; they stole my van and a bag of supplies and escaped the city but I do not know where they went.”
Actor closed his eyes as confirmation of his suspicions was given. Chief was injured, seriously if they were unable to make the rendezvous. “Do you know where he was shot?”
“I am not sure, Monsieur, but here, I think.” Perrotte tapped his lower right leg below the knee. He could not walk.”
“How do you know?” Actor asked suspiciously. “Why did you not help them?”
“I did what I could. They were climbing into the sewer when a German patrol opened fire on them; I was down the street when it happened and too far away to be of any assistance. I saw the dark one return fire and then stagger. He was holding his leg and limping badly when he lowered himself into the sewer. The Germans followed; shortly after there was more shooting and then an explosion.”
“How do you know they got out of the sewer then?” Actor demanded.
“I was watching from my window here last evening when I saw the blond one coming along the street. I know many of the exit grills on the sewers are locked. The Germans they do that to stop the Resistance, they think, but still some are unlocked, including the one in the alley behind the shops opposite. I hoped they would find the exit and that they would come looking for some transport. I left the keys in my van and placed a few supplies in it. Bread, water, bandages and some sulfa.” Perrotte shrugged, “It was all I had. I saw the blond one come down the street. Two German soldiers passed him as he pretended to lock my door. He is quick, that one. They passed on and he got in the van, turned down the next corner. I did not see them again.”
“And you have heard nothing of them being captured.”
“No, Monsieur.” The door opened and a German soldier walked in. “That will be one franc Monsieur.”
Actor handed over the money and received his bread stick in return. “Merci.”
“Bonne journée, Monsieur,” Perrotte called.
Actor nodded as he closed the door to the shop. At least he now knew what had happened and that Garrison and Chief had managed to escape the city; more importantly, the documents had not fallen into German hands. The news of Chief’s injury was troubling, though. The location of the wound giving rise to several possibilities and none of them good. Despite the urge to run, Actor forced himself to maintain a leisurely stroll out of the town and to the path leading back to the beach. The downhill slope of the path made it easy for him to step up the pace and he hurried back towards the old hut.
“You sure you know where you’re going, Casino?” Goniff asked as he followed the safecracker along the path.
Casino stopped abruptly and turned on the little Englishman. “You want to take the lead?” he snapped.
Goniff stepped back a pace. “No, mate, you’re doing fine; I guess I’m just worried is all. One of them’s gotta be injured. I just want to find them.”
Casino drew in a steadying breath. “Me too, babe. Come on, standing around here jawing isn’t going to achieve anything.” Casino turned and resumed his trek along the path, followed by a silent Goniff. “Damn Actor for going off; we should’ve stayed together,” he grumbled.
“Aw, mate, I don’t like it either but ‘e was right. What if it isn’t the Warden we’re following? It could take us ‘ours to find whoever it is and you ‘eard Actor; we only got today to find them and the documents.”
“And what if he runs into trouble? Who’s going to save his bacon? You tell me that.”
“Actor can look after ‘iself. ‘ow many times ‘as he talked ‘is way out of trouble?”
“It just feels wrong, Goniff, split up like we are.”
“Well there’s nothing we can do about it now. Let’s just find the Warden and Chiefy and get out of ‘ere.”
As the watery sun rose higher in the morning sky, the path they were following lightened allowing Casino to see the traces of recent footsteps coming and going. As far as he could tell, it was the same set in both directions. They came to the base of the slope and Casino stopped abruptly, causing Goniff to walk into his back. “Dammit, Goniff, watch where you’re going,” he growled as he studied the path ahead of them and the obvious signs of someone or something having fallen down it.
“Thought that’s what you were doing,” Goniff snapped. “Why’d you stop anyway?”
“Somebody’s taken a tumble down here,” Casino pointed to the slid marks and ruts that could only be made by a pair of boot heels.
Goniff followed Casino’s pointing finger and sighed. The marks started at the top of the slope and finished pretty much level with where they were standing. “The Warden,” Goniff announced. “Gotta be the Warden.”
“Why do you say that?” Casino growled.
“Cause Chiefy wouldn’t fall down a little slope like this.”
“He might if he was injured,” Casino pointed out.
“No, mate, you’ve seen Chiefy work. Injured or not, he don’t make mistakes like this.” Goniff waved at the marks on the slope.
Casino nodded. “Come on they can’t be too far ahead.” Casino carefully started up the slope followed by a silent Goniff. “Good thing they didn’t try and drive a car down here,” Casino stated as he caught his breath. It wasn’t that steep but still it had given him a good work out. They continued moving quietly along the path. The trees seemed to be widening out but still not enough to allow a vehicle access. Casino caught a flash ahead and stopped, indicating that they should move off the path and into the trees. “There’s something ahead,” he announced quietly. “You stay here and I’ll check it out.”
“No,” Goniff snapped, reaching for Casino’s arm. “We stick together, just like you been whining about.”
Casino nodded, relieved that he wouldn’t have to do this alone. “Alright but watch where you’re stepping.” He moved carefully through the trees, aware of Goniff right behind him. The large shape of a van started to form as they moved closer.
“What do you think?” Goniff whispered in Casino’s left ear.
“Well, it sure as hell didn’t get here on its own. Somebody had to drive it.” Casino studied the area around the van for several minutes. Nothing moved, no sounds except those of a few wake up whistles from the native bird population and Goniff’s heavy breathing in his ear could be heard. “Stay here and cover me,” he finally said, “while I check it out.”
“Be careful, mate,” Goniff replied as he hefted his gun and covered Casino’s disappearing figure.
Casino drew in a deep breath as he edged closer to the van. There were no movements or sounds coming from it and it looked to be deserted. He carefully moved to the driver’s side door, gun held ready should he need to defend himself, and listened for any sound from with in. He could hear nothing at first and then a soft moan reached his ears. It sounded American, if a moan could have an accent that was. He waited; there it was again. Casino shrugged. What the hell. What could go wrong except for him getting his head blown off? He climbed into the front of the van and allowed his eyes to adjust to the semi darkness of the enclosed interior for a moment before a loud curse escaped his lips. “Goniff, get up here now!” he yelled as he squatted between the two men lying on the floor. Moments later, he felt the van rock as the little English pickpocket joined him.
“Blimey, they alive?” Goniff asked tentatively as he watched Casino reach out and touch first the Warden and then Chief.
Casino let his shoulders sagged as he nodded. “Yeah, but they’re both unconscious. Geronimo’s running one hell of a fever.” He looked around the van and spotted the lamp and utensils, pushed to the corner. Chief was lying on the mattress with a thin blanket thrown over him. All the missing items from the hut. “Goniff, go around and open the back door, will you? Let’s get some light in here so we can see what we’re dealing with.”
Goniff climbed out the front door and hurried around to the back pulling open the door, making Casino blink in the bright light. “Well, ‘ow are they? What’s wrong with them?”
“Jeez limey, give me a chance to check them out.” Casino looked from one to the other; obviously, the Warden had made the trip to the hut and back which meant that Chief was the one injured but that didn’t explain the Warden’s unresponsiveness. Casino decided he had better find out how bad off Chief was and he pulled the blanket off him. The Indian moaned softly and shivered when the little warmth that the blanket provided was removed but he didn’t waken. Casino and Goniff both stared at Chief’s right leg and the blood soaked bandage wrapped just below the knee. “Well, Geronimo won’t be walking on that anytime soon,” Casino exclaimed as he carefully lifted part of the bandage. “Looks like its infected but I don’t want to touch it until Actor gets a look at it.”
“You think the bullets still in there?” Goniff asked worriedly as he watched Casino check the wound.
“I’d bet on it; probably hit the bone as well. One thing’s for sure, we aren’t going to be able to move him like this. We’re going to need something to carry him on.”
“What about the Warden? What do you thinks wrong with ‘im?”
Casino turned to check on the man in question. He didn’t appear to be injured, at least not that he could see, so he reached out and shook Garrison’s shoulder gently. When that didn’t elicit a response he shook it harder and called out his name, this time getting a soft groan as a response. “Come on Warden, wake up,” Casino called as he shook him again.
Garrison groaned as the rough handling penetrated his exhausted mind. He thought he heard a voice calling his name but he couldn’t figure out why or where he was. The shaking continued and a second voice joined the chorus line in his head.
“Come on Warden, mate,” Goniff cajoled. “Me and Casino are here now and Chiefy needs you.”
Chief! Garrison bolted upright, pushing Casino out of the way as he tried to reach Chief.
“Easy, Warden, Geronimo’s still unconscious,” Casino cautioned as he helped Garrison sit up. “You hurt?” Casino asked as he study the pale face and dark smudges under the blue eyes.
“No I don’t think so,” Garrison replied with a wince as he stretched sore back muscles.
“And I’m the monkey’s uncle,” Casino snapped angrily. “What is it with you guys?” he demanded. “Always think you’re invincible.”
“Aw, come on, Casino…” Goniff began.
“I’m not shot, Casino,” Garrison replied huffily, “I slipped on the path, didn’t see the ground slope away in the dark. Just got a few bruises I didn’t realize I had.”
“Yeah, we know; figured one of you fell and it wasn’t likely to be Geronimo so it had to be you,” Casino stated as he began checking Garrison over for broken bones.
“Casino!” Garrison warned.
“We’ll have to carry the Indian out of here; no way he can walk on that leg…”
“Bullet hit the bone,” Garrison sighed.
“Figured as much,” Casino continued feeling along Garrison’s arms, legs and chest, “So we don’t need to have you falling down on us. Everything seems fine. You hurt anywhere else you’re not telling me?” Casino waited impatiently for the answer.
“Head hurts. Just tied.” Garrison replied.
Casino let out a deep breath and ran his hands over the blond head, finding the golf ball sized lump at the same time Garrison yelped and tried to pull away. “Vision blurry? Headache?” he demanded a little too harshly.
“No and yes.” Garrison sighed; that along with the tiredness was an indication of a mild concussion. “Where’s Actor?” he asked, suddenly realizing the tall conman wasn’t with them.
“’E went into the town to meet some contact Richards gave ‘im in case we couldn’t find you. We gotta meet ‘im back at the ‘ut in a couple of ‘ours,” Goniff explained.
“Major Richards sent you to find us?” Garrison raised an eyebrow.
“Well, not you exactly. More like the documents but we figured if we found them, we’d find you and Chiefy too,” Goniff clarified quickly.
Garrison leant over and looked at Chief who was still moaning softly every couple of breaths. “How is he?”
“Not good; he’s got a raging fever going and I have no idea how we’re going to get him down to the hut. Path’s too narrow for a vehicle of any description, unless it’s a bicycle,” Casino replied. “I haven’t touched his leg. Don’t want it to start bleeding anymore than it already is.”
“I haven’t got anymore bandages left anyway.”
“We got plenty, Warden, Actor packed a bag of medical supplies, ‘E figured if you missed the rendezvous one of you was ‘urt.”
“Is there any morphine?” Garrison asked quickly. “That might help him settle a bit.”
Casino rummaged through the supplies pulling out several morphine syrettes. He carefully broke the seal on one of them and inserted the needle just under the skin of Chief’s exposed thigh, then flattened the tube between his thumb and fingers to administer the small dose of morphine. “That’s all we can do for him now,” he muttered as he pulled the thin blanket back into place, “But how the hell do we move him with that leg?”
“Maybe we could use the bed from the ‘ut?” Goniff suggested, “You know, to carry ‘im on.”
Casino thought for a moment before he nodded his head. “Yeah, it might work. Alright, Goniff, you stay here and I’ll go back to the hut. Wait for Actor and then we’ll bring the bed back with us. We’re going to need Actor if we want to get them…” Casino nodded to where Garrison was again sleeping, “out of here.”
“What do I do if Chiefy wakes up?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“Make sure he doesn’t move and give him some sips of water. We’ll be back as soon as we can. And don’t let the Warden get any ideas.” Casino climbed out of the van and disappeared into the woods.
Goniff sat huddled between the two injured men, arms wrapped tightly across his chest. It wasn’t that he was cold, really, but he was worried. Chiefy wasn’t looking good at all. He had poured some water into the bowl and wiped down Chief’s face a couple of times already but it just seemed that as fast as he cleaned away the sweat that beaded on the Indian’s forehead, more appeared to take its place. And Garrison, well he just plan un-nerved him. He wasn’t used to the Warden just lying there, doing nothing, no movement, no noise. It wasn’t natural for either of the men to be so silent. Well, that wasn’t exactly true either, Goniff thought; Chiefy could stay still and silent for hours and that was really un-nerving too, but this, this was just…
Chief shivered again and Goniff cursed himself for a fool as he reached into the front seat of the van and pulled the two overcoats into the back. He carefully covered Chief with Actor’s heavy coat, making sure it wasn’t weighing too heavily on the injured leg and then he placed Casino’s coat over Garrison, even though the Warden didn’t show signs of been cold.
Going back to his musings again, after wiping the sweat from Chief’s face, Goniff wondered how far down the track Casino was and what Actor was doing. Hopefully, the conman would be on his way back to the hut by now. Then he could meet up with Casino and come back here and then they could all go home. He hated waiting and they were always waiting for something or someone. Goniff’s stomach rumbled loudly in the quiet of the van, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet. Pulling the bag of supplies he had packed back at the mansion closer, he rummaged in it, pulling out some crackers and cheese. With a sigh, he ate them quickly, washed down with a swallow of water. He thought about having some more but refrained in case Garrison or Chief wanted some when they woke up or maybe Casino and Actor would be hungry when they arrived.
Goniff sighed again, wondering what Casino was doing now.
Casino made good time getting back to the hut. He hadn’t been careless but unencumbered with bags and coats and Goniff, he was able to move more quickly along the track. He had paused at the top of the slope that Garrison had fallen down and considered the options of carrying Chief down on the board. It wasn’t that steep, but still steep enough to cause problems for the return journey. Casino moved to the side of the track, looking for a way through the trees that would allow the width of the bed. There was none that he could see and the thick undergrowth around the trees could be another added worry if they couldn’t see where they were placing their feet. He hoped Actor might have some ideas.
Casino made a circuit of the hut before settling down to watch it for several minutes. After giving the call signal — trust Geronimo to come up with an owl hoot — and satisfied that nobody was around, including Actor, he moved inside. He headed straight for the bed and hefted one end, finding it sturdier than he had believed. The legs would have to come off or they’d never be able to lift the weight with Chief on it. Casino searched the hut, finally finding an old axe hidden under the bed. He immediately set to work, chopping the legs off the bed and then he pulled off the wooden slat at each end. That left a hand hold at each corner. A reel of fishing line caught his eye and he pulled it off the wall where it was hanging. Another search of the hut didn’t provide any additional items of use. He had been hoping for some cloths that he could use to wrap around the protruding ends of the bed. Part of the old blanket would have to do when they got back to the van. Casino tucked the fishing line into his pocket and then settled down on the chair to wait for Actor’s return, cursing the fact that he had left all the food with Goniff. Knowing his luck, the little limey will have eaten it all by the time they got back.
Actor approached the hut cautiously. He hoped he would find the rest of the team already waiting for him, but in his heart he knew that wasn’t likely. He felt sure that Chief was badly injured, in which case they would be waiting for him before they tried moving the man. Deciding the hut was empty, Actor pulled open the door, startling Casino who leapt from the chair, gun swinging in his direction.
Casino let out an explosive curse as he just managed to stop his finger from pulling the trigger. “Jeez, you dumb jerk, I nearly killed you. What the hell’s wrong with letting someone know you’re there?”
Actor drew in a deep breath to steady his nerves. “I’m sorry, Casino; I didn’t think anyone was here.” Actor took in the state of the bed, or at least what was left of it. “Did you find the Warden and Chief?”
“Yeah,” Casino growled. “Chief’s not good; got a bullet in his leg, below his right knee. Its hit the bone and he’s got a raging fever.”
Actor nodded, “I know…”
“What do you mean you know? How could you, I just told you?” Casino growled.
“The contact saw him get hit; he told me most of what happened.”
“So why the hell didn’t he help them?” Casino demanded.
“He was too far away and they had escaped into the sewers. He did leave the keys in his van and some medical supplies for them. It was all he could do aside from alerting London.”
“Yeah, well, did he also tell you the Warden’s probably got a concussion? He fell on the path, tumbled twenty or so feet. Got a lump the size of a golf ball on the back of his head and probably a load of bruises to boot. Couldn’t feel any broken bones but he’s real sleepy, though. It’s going to take the three of us to get them back here.”
Actor closed his eyes as he processed that new piece of information. . He was expecting one injury but two…although he really shouldn’t be surprised. He knew both the men in question would risk life and limb for one another and the rest of them if required. “Is that for Chief?” Actor nodded to the stretcher Casino had fashioned out of the bed.
Casino nodded. “Figured it was the best way to get him back here without moving his leg too much. Only problem is I’m not sure how we’re going to carry him down the slope.”
“We’ll have a look at it on the way back. Has Garrison still got the documents?” Actor asked.
“Jeez, I don’t know. I had other things to worry about. Besides, he wasn’t awake long enough to ask him. But he didn’t say he didn’t, so I guess he has.”
Actor shook his head as he tried to make sense of that last. It sound more like something Goniff would say than the safecracker. “Alright, let’s go. The sooner we get back to the others, the sooner we get back here,”
Casino noticed the brown paper bag Actor was holding. “Is that food?” he asked hopefully.
“French Stick,” Actor replied, holding out the package. “Do you want some? I had some on the way back here.”
Casino snatched the package from Actor just as his stomach rumbled loudly. “Yeah, I left the food with Goniff. The damn limey’s probably eaten it all by now.”
After hastily swallowing the last of the breadstick, Casino picked up one end of his makeshift stretcher and glared at Actor. “Well, you coming or what? I can’t carry the damn thing on my own.”
Actor sighed but picked up the other end of the stretcher. “After you,” he acknowledged with a slight bow.
“Damn Italian upstart,” Casino muttered as he walked out the door and waited for Actor to close it behind them.
They walked in silence until they reached the slope where Garrison had fallen down.
“This is where the Warden took his tumble,” Casino announced. “It doesn’t look too bad but I don’t know how we’re going to carry Chief down it without losing our footing or him.”
Actor studied the slope; the path was smooth and angled at about forty degrees. For a fit man, unburdened with weight, it would pose little difficulty but as Casino pointed out, carrying a heavy stretcher… “What about the trees? Can we get down using them for support?”
Casino shook his head, “Not wide enough between some of the trunks and there’s a lot of undergrowth. No idea what we’re standing on or tripping over.”
Actor pursed his lips in thought, “Alright, let’s walk to the top and try coming down again.”
“And what happens if we fall and one of us gets hurt?” Casino demanded.
“Well, what else do you suggest, Casino? We leave Chief here, take the documents and the Warden and go home. Or perhaps we travel back to Etretat and try carrying Chief down the main path to the beach. I’m sure no one will consider that suspicious, least of all the Germans.”
Casino sighed in frustration, “Fine, we’ll try it your way but if something goes wrong…”
“I’ll take full responsibility,” Actor replied.
The two men were breathing hard by the time they reached the top of the slope. They turned and looked down the way they had just come. “So how are we going to do this? Crabwalk down or play follow the leader?” Casino queried.
“Follow the leader I think, but instead of heading straight down we move back and forth across the path.”
“Zig zag, you mean?” Casino nodded. “Alright, I’ll take the front and you take the back.” Casino picked up his end of the stretcher and waited for Actor to lift the back end. When he felt it lift Casino started down the path only to be stopped by Actor.
“That won’t work,” Actor stated, looking at the slant of the stretcher.
“What do ya mean it won’t work?” Casino growled. “This was your idea.”
“No I don’t mean that,” Actor replied in exasperation. “With you carrying the front of the stretcher, it slopes downwards. Chief would end up sliding off. I’m taller than you so I should be in the front, that way the stretcher will be more balanced.”
“Fine,” Casino grumbled as they exchanged places.
“Is that better?” Actor asked.
“How the hell would I know?” Casino snapped, “I didn’t see it before.”
Actor sighed. “Is the stretcher straight or does it slope downwards.”
“I guess it’s straight,” Casino agreed.
“Alright, then let’ go.”
The two men moved slowly back and forth across the path as they descended, finally coming to a halt at the bottom.
Actor looked back up the slope and nodded. “I think that will work, provided we take it slowly.”
“Good then let’s get moving.”
“Goniff?” Garrison asked in a shaky voice, pushing the overcoat off.
“’Ay, Warden, you’re awake,” Goniff replied happily. “I was starting to get worried about you. ‘Ow you feeling?”
“Better I think; just tired. How’s Chief?” Garrison asked worriedly as he lifted his head to look at his scout and wheelman lying on the other side of the pickpocket.
“No change,” Goniff replied sadly. “But I guess that is a good thing right? I mean ‘e isn’t any worse, just no better.”
Garrison scrubbed tiredly at his face with his hands. “How long was I asleep?”
“Couple of ‘ours maybe,” Goniff shrugged, “I wasn’t really keeping an eye on the time. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it, Goniff.” Garrison looked around the van noting that the safecracker wasn’t with them. “Where’s Casino?”
“’E went back to the ‘ut to wait for Actor and bring back the bed so we can carry Chiefy on so we don’t mess ‘is leg up too badly.”
Garrison nodded. “Good idea.”
Goniff dipped the cloth Actor had packed into the bowl of water and wiped the sweat from Chief’s face again.
“Is there any water left?” Garrison asked, licking dry lips.
Goniff dropped the cloth back into the bowl of water. “Plenty. We all packed some as well and I’ve got some crackers and bread and cheese. Was keeping some in case you was ‘ungry when you woke up,” Goniff replied as he handed over a flask of water.
“The water will be fine, thank you, Goniff.”
“Aw Warden, when was the last time you ate? You gotta keep your strength up, especially if Actor isn’t with Casino. We can’t carry both you and Chiefy back to the ‘ut. You have to eat something; besides Actor will have my ‘ide if I don’t feed you.”
Garrison sighed; he knew the little Englishman was right but he really didn’t want food at the moment. Just the thought of it made his churning stomach churn more but he couldn’t deny the pleading face of the pickpocket. “Just a few crackers Goniff; we wouldn’t want Actor coming after you, would we?”
“Too right we wouldn’t,” Goniff replied with a relieved smile.
Garrison found once he began eating that he was hungry and his stomach didn’t object as he thought it would. Half a dozen crackers later, he handed the packet back to Goniff. “Better keep some for later.”
Goniff returned the crackers to his pack. “You should try and get some more sleep until Casino and Actor get back.”
“I’m fine, Goniff,” Garrison stated with a sigh as he rested back against the side of the van and watched Chief tossing restlessly beside Goniff.
“So ‘ow did Chiefy get shot then?” Goniff asked as wiped down Chief’s face again.
Garrison shook his head. “Just bad luck. I don’t know what alerted the German patrol. I was already in the sewer when they opened fire on Chief.” Garrison turned away, feeling guilty. “There wasn’t anything I could do to help him. I just stood there and watched him get shot.”
“Aw, Warden, there was nothing you could do. You couldn’t shoot from underground but you got you and Chiefy to safety. And soon we’ll all be going ‘ome,” Goniff pointed out.
Garrison snorted. “I nearly didn’t, Goniff? I don’t know who left the keys and medical supplies in this van but if they hadn’t…”
The distorted hoot of an owl interrupted the conversation.
Actor reached out and grabbed Casino by the arm as the safecracker prepared to step from the trees and up to the van. “What was that lecture you gave me about letting someone know you’re there?” Actor whispered harshly.
Casino shook off the offending hand. “It’s only the dumb limey; he’s no threat.”
Actor raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Are you really so sure of that, Casino, that you’re prepared to risk your life on it? And what about Chief and the Warden? Do you consider them to be no threat as well?”
“Goniff can barely hit the side of a barn most of the time,” Casino blustered, “And Geronimo’s so out of it he doesn’t know whether it’s day or night. The Warden’s probably asleep.”
Actor shook his head. “An injured Chief is quite possibly more dangerous than a well one, Casino, and you should know that. And as for Garrison being asleep, just how many times have you seen him come awake with a gun in his hand and ready to shoot?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Casino scrubbed a palm across his eyes. “I’m worried, alright? Want to get this over with and get them back to England.”
Actor nodded in understanding. “But that doesn’t mean we make careless mistakes, even with friends. Make the call.”
“Why do I have to make that stupid call?” Casino grumbled. “Geronimo could have come up with something easier.”
“As I remember it, Casino, the owl hoot was the only one that either you or Goniff got close to making sound correct.”
“So how come you never had to learn how to do it?”
Actor shrugged, “I do believe I had laryngitis at the time and it never came up again.”
“We’ll see about that,” Casino mumbled as he warbled out a distorted owl hoot and waited for a response from the van.
Goniff jumped to his feet when he heard the owl hoot. “Casino’s back.”
Garrison grabbed his arm quickly, before he could exit the van. “Reply before you head out there or you’re liable to get it shot off,” he snapped.
“Blimey, hadn’t thought of that.”
Garrison winced at Goniff’s attempted return call but those outside must have understood it because he heard Casino’s voice just before the van rocked and the safecracker appeared over his head. He jumped slightly when the back door of the van opened silhouetting Actor against the morning light.
“Warden, it’s good to see you again,” Actor said as he quickly took in the appearance of both injured men.
“Good to see you too, Actor,” Garrison replied, the relief plain to hear in his voice. “Chief’s not good Actor.”
Actor nodded as he moved into the cramped quarters of the van. “Perhaps, Goniff, if you wouldn’t mind moving I can get a proper look at Chief.”
“Yeah, right Actor,” Goniff replied as he backed out of the van, pushing Casino along with him. “Come on mate, move it, give Actor room to work.”
The van rocked as the two cons climbed out. Casino stuck his head back in the door. “Hey Actor, pass me that sack, will you? I can use it to wrap around the handles on the stretcher.”
Actor handed over the sack and then returned his attention to Chief. He sighed heavily when he felt the heat rising from the restless body. Pulling the bag of medical supplies to him, he searched through it pulling out dressings, bandages and a sulfa packet. Carefully he began undoing the bandage around the injured leg, pausing when Chief moaned or moved restlessly under his hands.
Garrison sat forward as Actor removed the bandage and dressing he had applied hours ago. “How is it, Actor?”
Actor shook his head. “The leg is badly infected,” he announced as he carefully felt around the swollen wound. A small amount of yellow puss seeped out as his probing fingers pressed the edges. “Craig, do you think you can hold him still while I lance this and try to get some of the infection out?” Actor searched through the bag of medical supplies for the small scalpel set he had packed.
“Can you take out the bullet?” Garrison asked as he moved to Chief’s head and shoulders, gently placing his hands on the fevered body.
Actor shook his head. “No, and I have no intention of trying. This is the best that I can do. The removal of the bullet will have to wait until we return to England.”
“Is Chief going to last that long, Actor?”
Actor paused, his hand hovering just above the wound as he looked at Garrison. The guilt on the other man’s face was plain to see. “You aren’t responsible for this, Craig,” Actor spoke quietly.
Garrison turned steely eyes on his second. “Of course I am, Actor. They were shooting at him; he was covering my back as usual and I just stood there and watched them shoot him.”
“Craig,” Actor sighed, “He was doing his job. Protecting you and the documents.” Actor eyed Garrison critically. “You do still have the documents, don’t you?”
“Yes, I’ve got the damn documents, Actor,” Garrison snapped as he subconsciously tapped his chest where the documents lay under his shirt. “And I know they are the only reason you’re all here.”
Actor raised an eyebrow. “Do you really believe that, Craig? That we would leave you and Chief here without coming to look for you, with or without a reason or permission.”
Garrison sighed and rubbed a hand through his hair. “No, I know you wouldn’t, the same as I wouldn’t leave any of you behind, but…”
Actor interrupted. “You were already in the sewer when they started shooting; you had no way of backing Chief at the time. What you did do was to get both of you out of Etretat and keep him alive until help arrived. Chief wouldn’t ask for or expect anymore than that. What happens from here on in is up to him now, but he’s strong and he won’t give up without a fight and you shouldn’t give up on him either.”
“I’m not giving up on him, Actor, but dammit, look at him.”
Actor couldn’t not agree with Garrison; Chief did look bad but he believed in what he said — the man was strong and a fighter and he wouldn’t give up on any of them if the tables were turned. “Hold him down, Craig; he’s going to feel this, even unconscious.”
Chief moaned loudly, becoming semi-conscious, desperately trying to pull away from the agony of his leg but Garrison held him firmly by the shoulders, turning his head away as a thick stream of putrid puss escaped the wound where Actor had lanced it.
Garrison leant forward over Chief’s restless body. “Easy, Chief. Actor’s fixing your leg, won’t be long.”
“War…den?” Chief asked breathlessly, arching his back as Actor applied pressure to the wound.
“Right here, Chief,” Garrison replied reaching out and gripping the Indian’s searching hand in support.
“Nearly done, Chief,” Actor said as he wiped away the now sluggish flow of infection. He cleaned the wound and surrounding skin gently with water before applying a packet of sulfa, dressing and then re-bandaging it. “All done for now,” Actor smiled at the dark eyes struggling to focus on his face.
Actor rolled his eyes; he seemed to be going in circles with this conversation. “Of course, and so did Casino and Goniff. You didn’t think we’d leave you and the Warden to fend for yourselves did you?”
“Gotta take…the docu…ments back.”
“Along with you and the Warden, Chief. Nobody get’s left behind.” Actor frowned as Chief shivered. “How about some water and then we get out of here? Casino’s made you a stretcher so you just need to lay back and enjoy the ride.”
Garrison lifted Chief enough that Actor could press the cup to his lips without spilling the water.
Chief sighed gratefully as the cool water eased the burn in his throat, pulling his head away when he’d had enough. “Is it safe?”
“Is what safe, Chief?” Garrison asked perplexed.
Actor laughed. “Don’t worry, Chief; it’s quite safe. Now why don’t you lay back and rest while we get ready to leave.”
The conman watched as Chief’s eyes slid closed and he succumbed once more to the fever that raged through his body. Turning his eyes on Garrison, he studied the man for several moments. “Casino tells me you have a lump the size of a golf ball on the back of your head.”
Garrison shrugged. “I fell on the path, must have hit my head but I don’t remember.”
“Did you black out at all?”
“No, I don’t think so, or if I did, it was only for a minute,” Garrison replied.
Actor sighed, “Any other symptoms like blurred vision, nausea, headaches?” he asked as he gently felt Garrison’s head.
Garrison flinched when Actor’s probing fingers connected with the lump. “Some nausea earlier and a headache but nothing now. I’m fine, Actor; it’s Chief you have to worry about.”
“And I am but you could have a mild concussion, Craig. You won’t help anyone, least of all Chief, if you pass out on the track back to the hut.”
Garrison sighed. “I just feel tired Actor, nothing else.”
Actor continued his study of Garrison, noting that the blue eyes seemed clear, despite the darkening smudges under the lower lashes. The face was paler than usual but there was no indication of pain or fever in the features. “Alright, Craig, but if you start feeling unwell, tell me immediately. We are going to have our work cut out for us getting Chief down that track.”
Garrison nodded. “Don’t worry, you’ll be the first to know, Actor.”
Outside the van, Casino and Goniff worked at ripping up the sack that the original medical supplies had been in and wrapping the rags around the hand holds on the stretcher. They tied the pieces of rag in place with the fishing line and then hefted the stretcher, making sure the cloths wouldn’t slip off.
“You think Chiefy’s going to make it, Casino?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“Course he will, Goniff. Geronimo’s to stubborn to let a bullet in the leg get the better of him.”
“’E looks awful, Casino. ‘E was shivering and moaning, or so still I thought more than once ‘e was dead. And then the Warden, it was creepy ‘ow still and silent ‘e was too. It was unnerving sitting in the van alone with them both.”
“Yeah, well, I’m sorry you had to stay with them but one of us had to go back to the hut and get this.” Casino waved at the stretcher laying on the ground between them, “And wait for Actor.”
“Aw, it’s alright, Casino. You were the right choice to go back; I wouldn’t ‘ave thought to cut off the bleeding legs or remove the slats.”
“Yeah but you wouldn’t have tried to shoot Actor either.”
“You tried to shoot Actor?” Goniff stated in surprise. “What for?”
“Damn fool forgot to use Geronimo’s stupid owl call. He just opened the bloody door and strolled right in like he owned the place,” Casino grumbled.
“Cor, blimey. Good thing the Warden stopped me then.”
“What are you talking about now?” Casino snapped.
“When you did that owl ‘ooty thing, I was going to rush out of the van, but the Warden stopped me, told me to answer first. Good thing ‘e did or you might ‘ave shot me too.”
Casino snorted. “I didn’t shoot anyone.” Casino paused before continuing. “You know, I wasn’t going to use the stupid call either, just walk right up to the van, but Actor said you or the Warden, even Geronimo, was likely to shoot first if I startled you.”
Goniff sniggered weakly. “Good thing neither of us is in charge then or we’d both be dead by now.”
Actor stepped from the back of the van, nodding in approval at the wrapped handles of the stretcher. “I’ve done all I can for Chief. Its time we were moving. Goniff, you help the Warden while Casino and I carry Chief.”
“How are they, Actor?” Casino enquired as he waited for Actor to pick up his end of the stretcher.
“I cleaned out the wound in Chief’s leg; other than that, there seems to be no change from what you told me. Garrison appears to be alright…”
“Which means nothing.” Casino growled.
Actor nodded in agreement. “That is why I want Goniff to stick with him. Looks can be deceiving and our Warden is very good at hiding what ails him.”
“Do you think it’s anything serious, Actor?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“A slight concussion possibly, maybe some bruising but mostly just exhaustion from the escape and looking after Chief.”
“Alright then, what are we waiting for? Let’s get the hell out of here.” Casino glared at Actor until he picked up the other end of the stretcher and they moved around to the back of the van.
Garrison climbed out of the van and stood beside Goniff, both men watching silently as Casino and Actor carefully lifted the mattress and Chief onto the stretcher, covered him with the blanket and then Actor’s overcoat. Goniff climbed back into the van and gathered up their remaining supplies, as well as those brought by Garrison from the hut. Garrison slung Chief’s gun strap over one shoulder and gripped his own tightly in his right hand. He made one last quick cursory check of the van to ensure that nothing had been left behind before nodding to Actor to take the lead with the stretcher.
“Shouldn’t we tie Chiefy to the stretcher?” Goniff asked as he and Garrison followed behind Actor and Casino. “I mean what if ‘e rolls off or something?”
“You know how the Indian hates to be tied down, you dumb limey,” Casino growled. “We’re not going to drop him.”
“We will only tie him on if he becomes restless or agitated, Goniff,” Actor advised as they began the march back down the track to the old hut.
“We’ll put him down Casino, rest for a few minutes before we tackle the slope.” Actor announced as he lowered his end of the stretcher bearing Chief to the ground. Casino followed the conman’s example, carefully lowering his end to the ground before standing and stretching stiffened muscles.
Goniff dropped the bag of supplies he was carrying and then helped Garrison to sit on a tree stump beside the track. “There you go, Warden.”
“Thank you, Goniff.” Garrison rubbed at his temples with both hands.
“How are you feeling, Craig?” Actor asked as he squatted in front of the man.
Garrison sighed; it would be pointless denying the obvious to the man in front of him. “Headache’s back, as well as some dizziness.”
Actor nodded, pleased that the man was being honest with him for once. “Alright, we’ll rest here for ten minutes before going on.”
“How’s Chief doing, Actor?” Garrison asked worriedly as he watched his second return to the Indian’s side.
“About the same, Craig.”
Garrison nodded absently at the news, kneading his temple as he stared at the slope down which he had fallen yesterday. “How do we get Chief down there, Actor?”
Actor looked to where Garrison was staring. “You and Goniff will go down first. If you stay to the side of the path you can use the trees for support. Just be careful of hidden roots and holes. Once you’ve both reached the bottom, Casino and I will follow with Chief. Unfortunately we will have to go down the path itself as the trees are not wide enough apart to allow us through with the stretcher. We will move back and forth across the path. We made a practice run with the stretcher on the way up so the technique should work with Chief on board.”
“But shouldn’t one of us walk beside Chiefy, to make sure ‘e don’t slip off?” Goniff asked eyeing the slope he had climbed hours earlier.
Actor shook his head. “The more of us holding onto the stretcher and Chief, the more likely that one of us will slip or trip over somebody else’s feet and then we will all fall.” Actor eyed Garrison. “Are you ready, Craig? I want to be on even ground again before we lose too much of the light.”
Garrison pushed himself to his feet, shutting his eyes tightly as a wave of dizziness over took him. Damn this, he thought, if he had just been a little more careful last night.
“Craig?” Actor asked worriedly as he watched Garrison.
Garrison opened his eyes and inclined his head. “I’m fine, Actor,” he replied with a half smile. “Come on, Goniff; let’s get this show on the road.”
Goniff picked up his pack of supplies and nodded at the covert look he received from Actor, understanding full well that it was his responsibility to get the Warden safely to the bottom.
“Remember to keep an eye out for hidden obstacles in the undergrowth and take it slow,” Actor ordered as the two men took their first steps down the side of the path with Goniff hovering protectively at Garrison’s elbow.
“He’s going to hate that you know,” Casino remarked.
“Who’s going to hate what, Casino?” Actor asked although he had a fair idea of Casino’s meaning.
“The Warden. Having Goniff shadowing him like that; maybe one of us should have gone instead. The damn limey will be lucky to keep his own feet under him let alone the Warden’s.”
“I think, Casino, that Goniff has more chance than all of us, except perhaps Chief if he were well, of keeping his feet under him. Besides, we will need all of our strength to get Chief down there so there is no point in one of us tiring ourselves out on two trips,” Actor replied as he kept a close eye on the two men below them. At least they were taking his advice so far and moving slowly. Actor checked his watch.
“How much time do we have?” Casino asked as he too watched the slow progress the two men were making. Casino sucked in a breath as Garrison stumbled over a tree root but Goniff was right beside the man, steadying him until he got his bearings again. “Jeez, this is nerving-wracking just standing here and watching.”
“Imagine how they will feel when we start down with Chief,” Actor replied.
“Not as bad as I’m going to feel carrying him down, I bet.”
Actor turned and appraised Casino. “We can do this.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know we can.” Casino mumbled.
Actor turned back to the slope and sighed in relief when Garrison waved a hand back up at him, confirming they were down and alright. “Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” Casino replied.
The two men bent down and lifted the stretcher carefully between them. Chief moaned with the movement but didn’t awaken; the morphine syrette he had been given just before leaving the van doing its job and keeping him asleep. “Remember to keep the stretcher level, Casino, and keep pace with me.”
“Just make sure you take small steps,” Casino snapped “And I’ll worry about whether Geronimo’s level or not.”
With Actor in the lead, the two men stepped tentatively down the path, following the same technique they had used in the practice run earlier — stepping back and forth across the face of it. Halfway down and the exertion of keeping the stretcher and its burden level was taking a toll on them. Both were breathing heavily, arm and back muscles were beginning to cramp and sweat ran freely down both dark complexions. A few dislodged stones and pebbles had already rolled down the path from higher up, making the footing ahead hazardous.
Actor heard the yelled curse as he felt the stretcher dip in his hands and Chief moan loudly. “Casino?” he called over his shoulder as he dropped to his knees in an effort to keep Chief from slipping off. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Casino grunted as he took a deep breath. “Slipped on one of those damn stones we’ve been rolling down the path.”
“Is Chief alright?” Actor strained to see over his shoulder but the position he was carrying the stretcher in made it virtually impossible to see anymore than Chief’s feet and he didn’t dare put his end down.
“Yeah, I think so but even if he isn’t, there isn’t anything we can do about it here.”
“Can you get up?” Actor asked.
“Alright, on the count of three. One…,” Actor gripped his end of the stretcher tighter. “Two…,” He took a deep breath. “Three.” Actor waited until he felt Casino lift his end of the stretcher before he lurched to his feet, struggling to maintain his feet on the downhill slope. He heard another grunt behind him, felt the stretcher wobble in his hands before leveling out. “Casino?”
“I’m good,” the safecracker announced in a strained voice. “Let’s just get the hell off this path.”
At the bottom of the slope, Garrison held tightly to Goniff’s arm as they watched what was happening. “Stay here, Goniff,” Garrison ordered roughly.
“But Warden…” Goniff pleaded, “they need me ‘elp.”
Garrison retained his grip on the pickpocket’s arm, partly to stop the man from running back up the path and partly to maintain his own feet. “They need us to stay here, Goniff. They’ll make it down in one piece.” I hope, he prayed silently as they watched the two men struggle back to their feet.
The two men on the path resumed their journey, this time shuffling their feet along the path so as to not slip on anymore stones. Following a few more tense minutes, a collective sigh of relief was heard as the stretcher bearers finally reached flat ground again.
“Ruddy ‘ell mates, that was nerve-wracking it was. I wanted to ‘elp but the Warden wouldn’t let me.” Goniff babbled as he flittered nervously around the three men. “Is Chiefy alright, Actor? And what about you, Casino? You ‘ad me scared when you fell. Did you ‘urt yourself?”
“Jeez Goniff, put a sock in it, will you. I’m fine, just lost my footing,” Casino snapped angrily.
“No need to be like that, mate; me and the Warden was worried but if that’s the way you feel…”
“Ah hell, I’m sorry. Alright, now just shut up about it, will you?” Casino turned to where Actor was checking on Chief. “Geronimo alright, Actor?”
Actor nodded. “As well as can be expected. Now what about you?” Actor turned to eye Casino carefully. “Did you roll your ankle when you slipped?”
“No, I didn’t,” Casino huffed as he jumped to his feet and did a small dance. “Satisfied?”
“Alright, that’s enough,” Garrison ordered tiredly. “If everybody is alright, I suggest we continue onto the hut. If I remember correctly, it’s only about a half hour walk from here. Actor, you never told me what time the pick up is tonight.”
“We have plenty of time, Craig; the boat won’t pick us up until eleven tonight.”
“We might have plenty of time, Actor, but what about Chief?” Garrison asked as Chief tossed restlessly on the stretcher. “That’s a good seven hours from now, plus a boat ride across the channel. It could be another twelve hours before he reaches a hospital.” He turned away from the men and stared off into the trees. “Dammit,” Garrison thumped his upper leg with a fisted hand in frustration. “I thought this would be an easy mission, a piece of cake, as Chief put it. I should have brought all of you.”
“Even if we all had come, Craig, this could still have happened. Or worse, more of us may have been injured,” Actor replied reasonably. “Chief is strong, in good health; I’ll lance the wound again when we get to the hut. If I can clear some more of the infection out, and we keep his fever down, he should make it back to England and the hospital.”
Garrison shook his head, not ready to be placated just yet. “And if all of you had come, we could have made the rendezvous last night and he’d already be in the hospital recovering.”
Actor sighed as he stood, “You can’t turn back the clock, Craig. What happened is in the past. We can only change the future and that means reaching the hut, keeping Chief alive and returning to England.” Actor nodded to Casino and the two men bent down and picked up the ends of the stretcher once more, despite protesting muscles. “Come on, I don’t want to be on the track when it gets dark.”
Actor and Casino waited for Goniff and Garrison to take the lead before continuing their trek along the track anxious to reach the hut as quickly as possible but for differing reasons. Casino grimaced as the foot he had slipped on touched the ground. He was grateful that he was the last in the line and none of the others could see the slight limp that he felt was becoming more noticeable with each step. His little dance routine had caused him some considerable pain but he was determined that his mishap would not affect the mission. So what if he couldn’t walk!
Walking forward with his arms turned behind his back to carry the stretcher was putting undue strain on Actor’s shoulders. When Casino had slipped, he had almost dropped his end of the stretcher, the extra weight from the safecracker almost pulling his arms out of their sockets. He certainly didn’t begrudge carrying Chief; he would carry him, any of them, from one end of France to the other if it meant returning them all safely to England but he couldn’t deny that he would be relieved when they finally reached the hut and he could put the stretcher down for a few hours at least.
“You know, old Actor’s right, don’t you, Warden?” Goniff asked as he kept pace with his leader. “I mean, you weren’t to know the mission would go to ‘ell in a ‘andbasket, as me old mom would say. You didn’t plan for Chiefy to get shot”.
“You’re right about that Goniff; I didn’t plan,” Garrison replied bitterly.
“Aw, come on, Warden, don’t be so ‘ard on yourself. Thing’s ‘appen whether you want them to or not. You can’t control what them Krauts decide to do and blaming yourself isn’t ‘elping Chiefy. You got to concentrate on getting Chiefy back to England now.”
Garrison sighed. “I know you’re right, Goniff; accepting it is a lot harder, though.”
“Chiefy don’t blame you for what ‘appened.”
Garrison snorted. “Just how do you know that, Goniff?”
Goniff shrugged. “I know Chiefy and that isn’t ‘is way. ‘E’d be the first to tell you ‘e was only doing ‘is job.”
“Not just you, Warden, all of us. We lose you, we all go back to stir. Anyone of us would ‘ave done the same thing. You protect us and we protect you. You taught us that.”
“Too well it seems,” Garrison muttered as he lapsed into silence. He knew they were right; he had even told Chief much they same thing in the sewer. They went together or they didn’t go at all, but still he couldn’t help feeling responsible for Chief’s injury and the danger the rest of the team had been placed in because of it. He had theorized back in England that the mission held minimal risks and he only needed one other member to go with him, and right up until the moment the German patrol had made its appearance he had been right.
Garrison snorted; twenty minutes was all it had taken for the mission to ‘go to hell in a hand basket’ as Goniff had put it. They had slipped into Etretat, met the contact, received the documents and were almost out of the city when the first patrol crossed their path. Even now, he wasn’t sure what had raised the suspicions of the Germans but whatever it was, Chief’s knife had taken care of them before they could act on it. But the first two Germans hadn’t been the problem. It was the next three that came around the corner that put paid to their simple mission. Blocked from their exit route out of the city, Chief and he had grabbed the discarded schmeisser and hand gun off the dead Germans and retraced their steps back towards the center of Etretat with the remaining German patrol hot on their heels.
Garrison clenched his fists in annoyance. He shouldn’t have tried escaping through the sewers but found another way out. At least that way, the Germans would have faced two guns instead of one and he would have had Chief’s back.
“The ‘ut’s just ahead, Warden,” Goniff called quietly as he stopped at the edge of the trees.
Goniff’s announcement brought Garrison out of his reverie as he stopped beside the pickpocket. “I’ll go and check it out.”
Goniff gripped Garrison’s arm tightly. “No you won’t, Warden; that’s my job this time. You wait ‘ere with Actor and Casino.” Goniff didn’t wait for any objections; he took a deep breath and slipped quietly through the trees.
Garrison sat huddled on the floor of the hut, half closed eyes watching as Actor worked on Chief’s leg once more. Casino’s coat had been hung over the small window to black out as much of the light from the dimly lit lamp as possible. Garrison shivered, wrapping his arms across his chest as Chief cried out in pain at the pressure Actor was applying to the wound.
“Hold him still, Casino,” Actor ordered as he fought to maintain his grip on Chief’s leg.
“I’m trying, dammit.” Casino panted as he struggled to keep a writhing Chief still. “If you want him to stay still, get Goniff in here to help me.”
“I’ll do it.” Garrison pushed himself unsteadily to his feet and stumbled across the floor to the corner where the two cons had placed Chief’s stretcher. The moment they had entered the hut, Craig had felt his body let go. The adrenalin that had been keeping him going on the trek back to their present location having abandoned him completely, leaving him light headed and weak. “Goniff needs to stay out on watch.”
“And you need to rest,” Actor scowled.
“That can wait until after you’ve treated Chief. You need my help as much as you need Casino’s,” Garrison snapped.
“Can we just get on with it?” Casino growled irritably. The squatting position he was currently in was playing havoc with his injured foot.
Without another word, Actor returned to his ministrations as Casino and Garrison held Chief as still as possible. Finally satisfied that he had done all he called for the Indian, he re-bandaged the leg and then sat back on his heels. Actor sighed. “That’s all I can do for him here,” he remarked apologetically, not looking at either of the men still squatting beside him.
“It’ll be enough, Actor; Geronimo’s tough. He’ll make it,” Casino stated as he pushed himself to his feet, too slow to stifle the grunt or the curse as he put his weight on his injured foot.
Actor was on his feet in a flash. “Let me see,” he snapped angrily.
Casino sighed, knowing the game was up now. He carefully lowered himself to the floor and offered his booted foot to the conman. “Nothings broken,” he offered up as a defense against the hostile glare Actor was given him. “Besides, there was nothing you could do on the track and we needed to get Geronimo back here.”
Actor continued to glare as he gently eased the boot and then the sock off the safecracker’s foot, revealing the dark bruising that ran its length from ankle to toes. Garrison cursed beside him. “I should have let Goniff go up and help you.”
Both Actor and Casino shook their heads in objection. “No, you did the right thing, Craig. Goniff was better staying with you.”
“Besides,” Casino pulled his foot away from Actor’s hands, “he hadn’t practiced going up and down with the…” Casino grunted, “Watch it Actor, will you…stretcher.”
Actor ignored Casino’s protest as he continued to gently manipulate the foot, finally satisfied but not happy with what he found. “Well it isn’t broken…”
“I already told you that, but would you listen? No,” Casino grouched as Actor deftly strapped the injured foot.
“…As far as I can tell. But,” Actor snapped, “it is badly bruised and you won’t be walking very far on it for a few days at least.”
“We still gotta get Geronimo to the beach tonight,” Casino pointed out, “so I guess I will be walking on it after all.”
“I can help carry the stretcher,” Garrison stated firmly. I haven’t done anything all day.”
Actor shook his head. “Goniff and I can carry Chief, Craig. You will be better off helping Casino.”
“I don’t need any help…” Casino started before he was cut off.
“Yes, you do,” snapped Actor and Garrison at the same time.
Actor sighed. “We still have a few hours to the pick up. I suggest you both make use of the time and rest. I’ll go and relieve Goniff for a while. Send him out if Chief gets worse.” Actor stood and slipped out the door, not giving either man time to object. He found Goniff hidden behind the trunk of a large tree that offered a good view of the beach and surrounding area. Provided they kept their wits about them, nobody should be able to sneak up on them. Actor apprised the little pickpocket of the latest developments and then sent him back to the hut.
“Where’s Craig?” Actor asked as he hurried down the hospital corridor to join Goniff and Casino, who were sitting outside the closed door of a hospital room. Finally something had gone right for the team and the pick-up had gone off without a hitch. He and Goniff had carried Chief down to the beach and with the help of the fishermen had safely loaded the stretcher on board. Garrison had helped Casino, who could put no weight on the injured foot hobble along behind them. Even the channel had been kind to them this time and kept the swells to a minimum and Goniff’s stomach in its place.
“In there with the doctor,” Casino replied tiredly. His foot had been prodded, poked and x-rayed and eventually re-bandaged. The final consensus being that it was only badly bruised, but even so, he was to stay off it for the next two or three days and use the crutches they had provided him with.
“How’s the foot?” Actor asked having caught sight of the crutches standing against the wall between the two chairs.
“Bruised like you said.” Casino shrugged. “They want me to stay off it for a few days is all.”
“Did you pass on the documents alright Actor?” Goniff asked.
“Yes, they are safely in the possession of Major Richards,” Actor replied as he leant tiredly against the wall. It had been a long couple of days and nights, first worrying about the whereabouts of the missing men and then embarking on the rescue mission and subsequent fight to keep Chief alive long enough to reach medical help.
“Bet Richards wasn’t too happy we found the Warden and Geronimo,” Casino mumbled.
“On the contrary, Casino, he was very relieved that we located them and were able to bring them out. Speaking of which, have you heard anything about Chief?”
“’E’s still in surgery. They’re taking an awful long time. Do you think everything’s alright, Actor?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“I’m sure he will be fine, Goniff. If the bullet hit the bone as we all suspect, then it will take time for them to remove it.”
“Cor, I don’t fancy them digging in my bones.” Goniff shivered.
Actor sighed. “They won’t dig, Goniff; they will have to break the bone, remove the bullet and then reset the bone.”
“Blimey.” Goniff lapsed into silence.
“How long has the doctor being in with Garrison?” Actor asked.
“About a half hour,” Casino responded just as the door opened and the doctor stepped out.
Actor stepped away from the wall at the doctor’s approach. “How is the Lieutenant, Doctor?”
The doctor, a short balding man in his early fifties, peered up at the tall Italian. “You must Actor,” he stated in a thick Cockney accent. “The Lieutenant said I should look out for you and answer your questions.”
“That is correct, Doctor…”
“Humphreys,” the doctor added quickly. “The Lieutenant is suffering from a mild concussion, which I am told you have already diagnosed.”
Actor nodded. “Is that all?”
Humphreys shook his head. “No, but that is the most serious of his injuries. He also has heavy bruising to his right shoulder and hip along with some minor gravel rash. He tells me he fell on a track and slid some twenty feet or so.”
“Yeah, that’s about right,” Casino agreed. “You could see where he’d slid down.”
Humphreys nodded. “Aside from the concussion and bruising, he is suffering from exhaustion.”
“When are you going to release him?” Actor asked.
Humphreys checked his watch, “Not before noon tomorrow. He needs a good twenty-four hours rest. Considering the amount of time that he has already been awake, I doubt very much that sleep now will affect the concussion.”
“’E won’t be ‘appy, ‘aving to stay ‘ere for a day,” Goniff stated.
“So I found out,” Humphreys agreed. “He told me in no uncertain terms what he thought of my order.”
“And he’s still in there!” Casino eyed the doctor suspiciously. “What did you say to him?”
“I told him if he didn’t stay voluntarily for twenty-four hours, then I would sedate him for forty-eight hours.” Humphreys shrugged. “He agreed to stay.”
“Is that all?” Casino asked skeptically.
Humphreys cleared his throat. “I, ah, may have mentioned something about a tube going where one really shouldn’t be.”
Casino burst out laughing.
“Shh.” Goniff thumped Casino in the arm. “’E might ‘ear you.”
“Oh, that is good. I’ll have to remember that one,” Casino guffawed.
“Can we see him?” Actor asked before the conversation got out of hand.
“I don’t see why not, but if he is asleep, please don’t wake him.”
“We won’t and thank you.” Actor shook hands with the doctor. “Ah, Doctor Humphreys, I don’t suppose you have any information on how the man that was brought in with him is? All we know is that Chief was taken to surgery.”
“Chief, you say. I haven’t heard, but I will see what I can find out for you. I take it I will find you here.”
“Yes. We won’t be going anywhere until we hear about Chief,” Actor agreed.
Humphreys nodded and hurried down the hall, leaving the three cons standing outside the Lieutenant’s room.
“Well, shall we?” Casino grinned as he steadied himself precariously on his crutches.
Actor shook his head in exasperation, fervently hoping that Garrison was indeed asleep.
Goniff carefully pushed open the room door and poked his head around the corner before turning back to nod at the waiting men. “’E’s awake,” he announced happily as he held the door open for Casino so that the safecracker could maneuver through it with the crutches. “After you, mate.” Goniff bowed with a flourish of arms as both Casino and then Actor passed through.
Garrison watched the theatrics at the door with a tired smile. The little pickpocket never seemed to run out of steam.
“How are you, Craig?” Actor asked as he pulled up a chair beside the bed, watching Goniff help Casino sit down before taking the crutches from him and lean them against the foot of the bed.
“Yeah, Warden, everything working alright?” Casino smirked, ignoring Goniff’s slap and Actor’s rolled eyes.
Garrison moaned; it appeared the doctor wasn’t quite as faithful to the Hippocratic Oath as he should be. “I’m fine thank you, Casino,” Garrison growled before turning his attention to his number two. “And I don’t need any comments from you either,” he snapped.
“Craig, do you really think I would say something as crude as that?” Actor looked slightly affronted.
“Given the chance, I believe you would and in twenty different languages.”
“’E’s got you there, mate. Now me, me dear old mom would say…”
“Shut up, you dumb limey,” Casino gruffed.
“Actor any word on Chief?” Garrison asked tentatively.
Actor shook his head. “Nothing yet, Craig. All we know is that he is in surgery. Doctor Humphreys has promised to go and find out and let us know.”
“Actor said they’d ‘ave to break ‘is leg to get the bullet out,” Goniff added uneasily.
Actor shrugged at Garrison’s raised eye. “If the bullet is lodged in the bone, they won’t be able to dig it out.”
Garrison sighed in understanding. “What about the documents? Did you pass them on to Major Richards?”
Actor nodded. “They are no longer any of our concern. Major Richards also asked me to tell you he will drop by tomorrow for a debriefing.”
Garrison closed his eyes, sinking into the pillows with a soft sigh. The three cons waited a few minutes in silence until they heard the steady deep breathing indicating that he was sleeping.
“Why don’t you two go back to the mansion and get some sleep,” Actor suggested quietly.
“And what are you going to do?” Casino demanded.
“Wait here for word on Chief, or in case Craig needs something.”
“Seems to me, mate, you can’t be in two places at once,” Goniff pointed out. “What ‘appens if the Warden wakes up and wants ‘elp and so does Chiefy? Besides I want to know ‘ow Chiefy’s doing too. I’m not going anywhere.”
“And if you think I’m going home alone with the limey, think again.” Casino warned.
A knock on the door interrupted any further conversation. Doctor Humphreys peered around the door and indicated that Actor should follow him out of the room. “Your man Chief is out of surgery. They will be moving him to a room shortly.”
Actor nodded. “How is he? What about his leg?”
“The leg was badly infected but the bullet is out and as much of the infection as possible has been cleaned out also. You were correct in your assumption that they would have to break the bone. The bullet was imbedded. The bone has been reset and casted. They are giving him a high dose of penicillin to fight the infection. All going well, he should make a full recovery but it will be several months before he will be ready to returning to his regular, shall we say, ‘occupation’.
Actor sighed in relief. He had harboured a secret fear that if the bone became infected, there was a very real chance that Chief may well have lost his leg. “Can I see him? He may be disoriented when he wakes up and he will be worried about the Lieutenant.”
“Yes, of course. Come with me,” Humphreys agreed.
“I’ll just tell the others where I’m going.” Actor opened the door, noting Garrison was still sleeping soundly.
“Actor?” Goniff asked worriedly.
“Chief is out of surgery and in a room. I’m going to sit with him until he wakes up. Will you two be alright here?”
“Yeah we’ll be fine. Go look after Geronimo,” Casino agreed.
“’Ow is ‘e, Actor? What did the doctor say?”
“The bullet is out and he should be fine, given time. I have to go now. When I get back, I’ll fill you both in.”
“Tell Chiefy we’ll come visit as soon as possible.”
“Speak for yourself, you dumb limey,” Casino grumbled quietly, acutely aware that a raised voice would wake Garrison. Besides he was too tired himself to put up much of an argument.
“Aw come on Casino, you know you care about ‘im just as much as me,” Goniff whined.
Actor shook his head, closing the door on the argument. He knew that once he left, they would settle into silence, their tiredness would see to that. His immediate concern was Chief. He needed to be sitting beside Chief’s bed before he woke up. He couldn’t predict Chief’s reaction should he find himself alone in a strange place and in pain when he awoke. He quietly entered the room indicated by Humphreys, acknowledging the doctor’s assistance with a nod of his head. Actor paused just inside the door, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light of the room. The room looked no different to any other hospital room he had ever seen — a bed, bedside table, a cupboard and a chair — but none of those other rooms he had seen contained the man lying motionless in the bed. Chief lay, slightly propped up by pillows, the casted right leg hanging in traction just above the bed. The bed covers only covered him from the waist down and his left leg, with the rest bunched under the broken leg. Hanging from the ceiling and within easy reach of Chief’s hands was a metal triangle on a chain that Chief could hang on to, to pull himself up in the bed.
The door opened and a nurse moved silently across the room, checked her patient, made a notation on the chart hanging at the end of the bed and then left just as silently, only acknowledging Actor’s presence with a slight smile.
Actor moved quietly across the room; he picked up the chart and read the doctor and nurses comments before replacing it on the footboard of the bed and moving to settle into the chair at the side of the bed. According to the chart, Chief should be regaining consciousness within the hour as the anesthetic wore off. Actor carefully studied Chief. He certainly looked a lot better than he had in France; his complexion was still pale with a just a slight flush to the cheeks but his breathing was deep and regular. Gone was the furrowed frown and restless head tossing indicating the level of pain he had being dealing with. He also noted that the ever-present sheen of sweat was gone, thanks no doubt to the high doses of penicillin he was receiving. Actor glanced at Chief’s toes sticking out at the end of the cast, nodding in approval at the healthy pink look of them. In fact, Actor marveled at just how young Chief really looked in this unguarded moment of relaxed sleep.
A soft moan from the bed interrupted Actor’s appraisal, bringing the conman to his feet. He leant over the bed, softly calling Chief’s name, getting another low moan and a head toss for an answer.
“Come on, Chief, it’s time to wake up,” Actor called louder, aware that the man would need assurances as to his whereabouts before he came fully awake. “It’s Actor; we’re back in England and you’re in the hospital.”
There was another moan before the lips parted and formed a single voiceless word.
Actor placed a reassuring hand on Chief’s shoulder. “The Warden’s fine, Chief; he’s resting a couple of doors down with Goniff and Casino watching him. Now how about you open those eyes for me?”
Chief was surprised at how easy it was for him to respond to the gentle urging of the Italian conman. A few months ago, he would never have put so much trust in the words of another. Eager to respond, Chief shifted towards the voice. His eyes flew open in shock and a gasped grunt escaped his clamped lips as blinding pain shot up his injured leg.
“Easy, Chief,” Actor ordered, pressing the Indian’s shoulders to the bed to stop him from moving further. “You can’t move around.”
“My…leg?” Chief gasped.
“The bullet was imbedded in the bone; they had to break the bone to remove the bullet.”
“Yes but it will heal completely, Chief. It’s in a cast and traction, so you need to stay still. Do you understand me?” Actor asked.
“I’m sure it does. I’ll go and find the nurse, tell her you’re awake and need pain relief but you have to stay still until I get back. Chief?” Actor prodded when he didn’t get a reply.
Chief clenched his jaw against the flaring pain and nodded in understanding. Sweat beaded on his brow and he breathed in short pants as he waited for Actor and the nurse to return.
A short time later, Actor and the nurse who had entered the room earlier returned. Actor stood to the side as the nurse checked Chief, and after making several notes on his chart, administered a shot of morphine. “There you are, love; that should take effect in a couple of minutes. The doctor will be in to see you after his next surgery. In the meantime, try and get some more sleep.” The nurse nodded to Actor and left the two men alone.
Actor retook his seat by the bed and watched as Chief’s breathing evened out. “Feeling better?”
“Yeah, thanks. What about my leg?” Chief asked worriedly as he eyed the heavy cast and traction.
“It will heal completely,” Actor smiled, relieving the tension in the Indian, “Provided you follow the doctor’s orders.”
Chief sighed in relief and closed his eyes for a moment. He could feel the morphine flowing through his system and knew he would be asleep soon. “How long do I have to stay in this thing?” he asked, inclining his head at the traction.
“I don’t know, Chief. I haven’t spoken to your doctor yet. He is in surgery again, but we should know more later today,” Actor promised.
“The Warden…really alright?” Chief yarned and blinked at Actor.
“He’s fine, Chief — a mild concussion, some bruises and exhaustion. He was sleeping when I came in here. Goniff and Casino are watching him.”
Chief’s eyes slid shut. “Won’t…be…asleep for…long.”
“Who, Chief?” Actor queried.
“War…den.” Chief sighed as his breathing evened out. “Goniff, Casino…can’t keep quiet.”
Actor chuckled as Chief’s body relaxed into sleep. He certainly had the measure of their two teammates, which raised a problem. If he sat here with Chief, he would be unable to keep an eye on Goniff, Casino and Garrison but Chief also needed watching, at least for the next twenty-four hours until he was more cognizant of what was happening around him. Actor stood; he knew Chief would sleep for a few hours now, so he had plenty of time to return to Craig’s room, and send Goniff back here to sit with Chief. That way he could check on both injured men and keep Goniff and Casino from throttling each other once boredom settled in.
Actor paused outside Garrison’s room, listening intently at the door for a few moments. When no sounds were heard from within he carefully opened the door. Goniff looked up from the paper he was reading and placed a finger on his lips indicating that both Garrison and Casino were sleeping. Actor nodded in understanding and then beckoned for the little Englishman to follow him to the corridor.
Goniff dropped the paper and hurried out of the room. “’Is everything alright, Actor? Ow’s Chiefy?” he asked breathlessly as soon as the door closed behind them.
“Slow down, Goniff,” Actor cautioned. “Chief is fine; he woke up but he’s sleeping now. His leg is in a cast and traction.” Actor held up a hand to forestall the questions he could see building in the pickpockets face. “I haven’t spoken to his doctor yet so I don’t know how long he will be here for but I would imagine it will be a week or two.”
“They really broke ‘is leg?”
“Yes. Goniff I need you to stay with Chief. I don’t want him to wake up alone, at least not until he is more aware of his surroundings.”
“Yeah, sure thing, Actor, just let me get me paper.” Goniff slipped in and out of the room as though he was on a caper, paper tucked neatly under his arm. “What room’s ‘e in?”
“Room two. It’s just down the corridor.” Actor watched as Goniff headed off down the corridor before he quietly re-entered Garrison’s room.
“Chief alright?” Garrison whispered as Actor settled into Goniff’s vacant chair.
“You should be sleeping,” Actor replied in way of answer.
“That’s not what I asked,” Garrison hissed.
“He is fine, Craig, as worried about you as you are about him. They had to break the bone to remove the bullet but he will make a full recovery; it will just take time. The leg is casted and in traction and no, I don’t know for how long. I haven’t spoken to the doctor yet.”
Garrison sighed heavily at the news. It wasn’t unexpected but still…
“Don’t go there again, Craig,” Actor warned as he watched the mask of guilt drop over Garrison’s face. “It wasn’t your fault, it could have happened to anyone of us, and he will recover.”
“Casino going to be alright?” Garrison asked, changing the subject.
Actor glanced at the safecracker who was snoring softly in the corner, the injured foot resting on a pillow. “Yes, the foot is just bruised. He’ll be up and sneaking out to the pub before you know it.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Garrison muttered with a sigh. “Well, at least with three of us down at the moment, there won’t be any missions for a few days.”
“That is one way of looking at it,” agreed Actor. “Why don’t you get some more sleep, Craig? After all, that is what the doctor ordered, and in the mean time I’ll go and see if I can speak to Chief’s doctor.”
Actor waited until Craig’s breathing evened out, indicating that he had fallen asleep again before he left the room. He stopped at the nurse’s desk and asked for the whereabouts of the doctor who had operated on Chief. After being assured that the doctor would be commencing his rounds in an hour, Actor hurried back to Chief’s room. Goniff looked up from his paper as the conman silently closed the door behind him.
“Did you find the doctor, Actor?” Goniff asked in a whisper. “Chiefy’s a bit restless. That contraption must be ‘urting him.” Goniff nodded at the traction holding Chief’s leg above the bed.
“The doctor will be starting rounds in an hour. I’ll have to wait until then to speak with him,” Actor replied as he watched Chief roll his head on the pillow. “He only came out of surgery a couple of hours ago, Goniff, so he is bound to be in some pain, at least for the next few days.” Actor checked his watch and frowned, realizing the morphine shouldn’t have been wearing off so soon. He would have to keep an eye on Chief at least until the doctor arrived.
“I’m sorry it’s Chiefy, but I’m glad it’s not me,” Goniff shuddered.
“Why don’t you go and get us some coffee, Goniff?” Actor suggested as he pulled the chart from the end of the bed and re-read the notations. “And another chair,” he added as an after thought.
Goniff folded his paper and stood. “I’ll drop in and see if Casino wants anything too.”
“He and the Warden are both asleep,” Actor advised as he settled into Goniff’s vacated chair.
Goniff shrugged. “Oh well, I’ll get ‘im something anyway. Never ‘ear the bleeding end of it, I won’t if ‘e misses out, even if it’s cold when ‘e gets it.”
Actor rubbed a hand across his face and sighed. It was going to be a long few days with three of the team incapacitated. He had no doubt that Garrison and Casino would be back on their feet with a couple of days rest and then there would only be Chief to worry about. And worry they would, despite the Indian’s protests, until he was back on his feet also. The door opened and Actor turned to see who had entered, unsurprised to realize that he had recognized that it wasn’t Goniff returning with his coffee. Chief had spent many painstaking hours with each of them, teaching them how to discern each of their unique footsteps — a lifesaving technique that they had all put to use on their missions when stealth and silence was required. The ability to recognize friend from foe saving them all from unfortunate accidents. Of course, Actor was not unfamiliar with the technique, priding himself on his ability to discern all of his female acquaintances from the perfumes they wore before laying eyes on them.
Actor rose from the chair as the white coat clad man closed the door behind him. The doctor studied the tall Italian before him, already aware from his discussion with Humphreys that this was the man to whom he was to speak regarding the injuries to his team mate. “Actor,” the doctor stepped forward and held out his hand. “My name is Samuel Jeffries and I operated on Chief.”
“Doctor Jeffries,” Actor acknowledged, accepting the man’s offered hand.
Jeffries walked to the foot of the bed and picked up the chart, reading the last few notations since his surgery before adding several more notes of his own.
“He seems to be in a lot of pain,” Actor began.
Jeffries nodded. “Yes that is to be expected at this stage. We had to do some intense debriding of the wound to eradicate the infection, not to mention breaking the bone. He is on a heavy course of penicillin which we will decrease as the infection clears. I have decreased the time between pain relief for the next twenty- four hours. We’ll see how he is coping then. As to the leg, it should heal without any complications provided he follows my directions.”
“How long will he be here for?” Actor asked, relieved at the good prognosis.
“At least two weeks before he can go home. He will need some physiotherapy on the leg to regain strength in it, but that won’t happen until the cast is removed in six to eight weeks.”
Actor nodded in understating. “How long do you expect him to be out for altogether?”
Jeffries shrugged. “At least three months, maybe more. Each case is different, but he’s young and strong and in good health. How long it takes is really going to be up to him. Well, unless there are any other questions, Actor, I have other patients to see.”
Actor held out his hand. “No, that will be all for the time being, thank you Doctor Jeffries.”
Jeffries nodded, quickly shaking the proffered hand, before hurrying to the door. He stepped back, holding the door open for Goniff who was juggling two cups of coffee and a plate of biscuits, to enter.
“That the doctor?” Goniff asked as the door closed behind him. “What did ‘e say about Chiefy? ‘ Ow is he? ‘Ow long is ‘e ‘ere for?”
“Slow down, Goniff,” Actor ordered as he accepted the cup of coffee from the Englishman. “Chief will make a full recovery but it will be at least three months before he will be fit for another mission. He’ll be here in the hospital for two weeks at least.”
“E’s not going to like that — staying ‘ere for two weeks or not being able to go on a mission for three months.”
“Well, there is nothing he can do about it, Goniff. Three months is better than losing his leg or dying, which is what could have happened had we not found them in time.”
“Blimey,” Goniff swallowed. “I suppose you’re right.”
The door opened again, admitting the same nurse who had ministered to Chief earlier. She smiled at the two men before administering another shot of morphine, noting the chart and then leaving, all without uttering a single word.
“I’m going to go and see Craig and Casino, give them the news. I won’t be long.”
Goniff sighed as he walked past Actor, who was reclining in his favourite chair, pipe and book in hand. “Watch you reading mate?” he asked as he tossed his pants over the clothes line strung across the room.
“Great Jewel Collections of the World, Volume Two.”
“Sounds dull,” Goniff muttered.
“On the contrary, it’s fascinating,” Actor replied, puffing contentedly on his pipe.
Casino was standing at the ornate mirror, whistling quietly as he shaved when the door opened and Garrison walked in.
“Gentlemen, we have a mission…”