The Lost and Found Raid (by Barbara)

Summary:  Tully is captured by Dietrich who then uses him to set a trap for the rest of the Rats.
Category:  Rat Patrol
Genre: WWII Drama
Rated: PG
Word Count:  5834


 

PART I

Sergeant Troy took the last few puffs of his cigarette. He scanned the desert with intensity – his azure coloured eyes shaded by his Aussie Slouch hat. The strap of it blew wildly in the wind slapping against his tanned cheek. His skin was so used to the abuse of the sand whipping against it, he didn’t even notice the sting of leather. After one last glance at the horizon, he turned to face his private whose foot was casually perched on the bumper of his Jeep.

“Tell me again Hitch.” He said with slight agitation. “What happened last night?”

“It’s like I told ya Sarge. I woke up cause Tully was rustlin’ around. He got up and wandered off into the desert. I figured he just had some business to do.”

“Then what?” Troy asked. He sounded impatient.

“That’s it. I went back to sleep.”

Jack Moffitt began his descent from the top of a sand dune. It was as if he was jogging on marshmallows. The sand gave way every time his foot hit down. Dust sprayed up in his face – his arms were out stretched for balance.

The Brit was a lanky, graceful man. Dark haired and green-eyed, he wore a black beret and goggles. He was the second in command of the small nomad unit. He was the son of an archeologist and a doctor of anthropology himself. His knowledge of the desert proved time and time again to be extremely valuable to his team. Upper crust and distinguished, Moffitt reeked of England. He headed directly to Troy to report what he’d seen.

“Nothing” Moffitt gasped – slightly out of breath from his rapid descent.  “He’s just … vanished.”

Moffitt wiped his hand over his mouth and grabbed the water bottle that hung from a hook on the dash of the vehicle.

“I’ve heard of men wandering off in the night.” Troy pondered. “There was one guy went to relieve himself and his unit didn’t find him for two days.”

“Was he alive Sarge?” Hitch questioned afraid to hear the answer.

“Yeah – Yeah. The Germans found him alive.”

Troy threw the butt of his cigarette to the ground.

Sam Troy was a Chicago boy raised in the outskirts of the city by loving parents. He shared his youth with his younger brother David. His father served in World War I and Sam listened intently to his stories. Sam never in his wildest dreams, or nightmares, saw what the future held for him. Another World War? How could that be? World War I was the  “war to end all wars”. Tens of thousands of soldiers killed – tens of thousands of civilians wiped out: women and children.

On his 25th birthday, Sam enlisted in the army. It was 1941. His father dead by this time, just his mother and brother would be at the docks to send him off. A few months later Sam’s mother would stand at the docks alone, waving good-bye to her other son. 

Sam went to boot camp and became a Sergeant and was shipped overseas just like thousands of other men. He served in the ranks training troops at a camp near Alexandria in Egypt. He hated having to send kids to war and sometimes to their deaths. It ate at him.

In May of 1942 Troy got the call. His superiors had assigned him to a special unit: a unit of two Jeeps of four men. They would live like desert rats, gnawing away at Rommel’s panzer tank divisions and ground assaults in North Africa. Troy relished the challenge. At last he would see action. But he knew the desert was unforgiving and on this day, all he wanted the desert to do was release his man from its grasp. Tully was out there somewhere and Troy was going to find him.

*****

Hauptmann Dietrich lit his cigarette. He held it upright between his thumb and forefinger like many Germans preferred. He examined the horizon from the deck of his half-track. There was a lull in the fighting and he found the change of pace to his liking. As he looked across the sands he couldn’t help but feel small. This landscape was so immense – so vast. The early morning accentuated it. Miles and miles of whiteness cut in half by the blue of the sky. No clouds – just blue and white. Heat waves smoldered in the distance. There was nothing out there but scorpions and dust. Another fruitless patrol had transpired.

He ordered his driver to resume the patrol. The column moved forward slowly. The half-tracks threw sand in every direction. Dietrich took his hat off and lowered his goggles into place on the bridge of his nose. He placed his hat back on his head and went hunting.

*****

“Hitch!” Troy shouted.

“You and Moffitt head due south for 30 miles. I’m heading north. Well meet back here. Shake it!”

Moffitt looked at Hitch and Hitch back at Moffitt. Both were squinting from the bright sunlight. It was 0900 hrs. Tully had been missing for at least eight hours. They looked worried. Hitch turned and stared ahead toward open desert. He started the engine of the Jeep, pushed in the clutch, put her into gear and let her rip. Troy was already engulfed in a cloud of grit headed in the opposite direction at full throttle. The sounds of their engines grew farther and farther apart until there was silence.

*****

An hour had passed and the Jeeps now headed straight for each other. All three men cranked their necks to see if either had Tully. To no avail. They stopped bumper to bumper.

“He’s just not north or south Troy.” Moffitt shrugged.

“I’m heading west. See you – and Tully – back here in one hour.” Troy ordered.

They parted again only to return exactly at 1200 hrs. Again the Jeeps reunited and again they were one man short.

“Now what Sarge?”

Troy just looked around as he clenched his teeth and tried to squint the sun away. He let his forehead rest on the back of his hands as they gripped the stirring wheel.

“I don’t know. I just don’t know.” He muttered. “Any suggestions?” Troy quarried as he looked over at his counterpart with a tinge of desperation.

“Well, if he’s not north, south, east, or west. He must have been capture. Surely if he’d been wounded we would have found him. He’s got to be at a prison camp somewhere.” Moffitt deduced.

Mark Hitchcock took Troy’s lead and rested his forehead on the back of his hands. He was covered in sand. He was all one colour. His Civil War kepi was no longer red. There were no distinguishing features left. Just a man covered from head to toe in ashy grit.

“Well, lets eat and rest a bit, before we head out again.” Troy said.

Hitch looked at Troy astonished.

“But, Sarge. Tully is…..”

“I know Hitch.” Troy interrupted. “But, we are no good to Tully without any strength of our own. Now break out the rations and we’ll plan this thing out.”

Troy paused realizing the young private was upset. He regrouped and then walked over to Hitch.  He was now standing beside his Jeep.

“We’ll find him, Hitch. We’ll find him.” Troy put his hand on his shoulder leaving a perfect handprint on his shirt. Hitch’s head was low, like a little kid who had lost his dog.  He knew Tully was out there somewhere looking for them too – waiting for them to rescue him. Hitch didn’t want to let him down. He knew Tully wouldn’t.

*****

PART II

A small band of men dragged themselves across the flatness. Ahead of them were three Arabs on horseback. The horses they rode were Egyptian Arabian. They were all geldings and all black with long manes and tails – their heads held high. The men were very heavily armed with Italian machine guns and grenades.

The rider on the last horse had a rope tied to his saddle. Attached to the rope were four men all in single file – three Arabs and a soldier. All four of them gasped for air – the heat of midday stifling. Sweat rivered from their scalps, dripping onto their shoulders. They tried to fight the sun, but there was no escape. The ropes, tied tightly around their wrists, made the discomfort of the sand and heat all the more intolerable. They daydreamed of iced tea and lemonade and water from a stream. Instead they sucked on pebbles. All four men were barely conscious as they plodded onward – the final destination, unknown.

In the distance a Germany column rumbled. It had spotted the caravan and began to approach. As they drew closer, Hauptmann Dietrich recognized the Arabs as slave traders. He knew these men. He had had to buy back many of his own soldiers in the past.

The traders and the column finally met and stopped about 40 feet from each other. Dietrich stepped down from his perch and walked directly to the horsemen who had dismounted. The prisoners, glad to finally stop their monotonous trek, stood in silence with their chins resting on their chests and their eyes closed trying to regain strength. Their chests heaved.

The Hauptmann walked up and down the chain gang. They were filthy. He inspected them again only to stop at the soldier – an American. As Dietrich looked him up and down, the soldier fell to his knees, then onto his chest and face. He was exhausted, dehydrated and scorched from the relentless sun. The skin on his face was cracked and blistered. His hair was bleached white now matching the terrain. Dried blood covered one side of his head. Dietrich rolled the man over onto his back and brushed the sand from his face.

“I know this man.” He exclaimed to one of the slave traders. “How much do you want for him?”

*****

Dietrich had his new prisoner loaded into the back of one of the German trucks. He had one of his men give the prisoner water but kept his hands tied together. The man lay there semi-conscious from sunstroke and an obvious head wound. The blow must have been significant in his capture. The gash was sticky and black with old blood.

Dietrich had found his bait. This was a prize Sergeant Troy could not resist. He had recognized Tully and even remembered his name. How could he forget a man, whose unit had destroyed so many German depots, ammo dumps and killed so many of his men? The Rat Patrol had been a thorn in the side of Hauptmann Dietrich since their arrival in the Sahara some seven months ago. Now he was one up.

“I’ve got you Private Pettigrew.” The German officer chortled. “I’ve got you.”

It was late in the day and Dietrich knew he would have to find a place to bed down for the night. He had patrolled too far from his head quarters. He pulled out his map and pinpointed the nearest oasis. He ordered his column forward. They moved west toward Tobruk where they had camped many times before. They would arrive by dusk.

*****

“Let’s mount up.” Troy shouted.

“Where are we going Troy?” Moffitt said.

“I think you’re right. Tully’s got to be a POW by now. Look at this map.” Troy walked over to Hitch and Moffitt’s Jeep pulling a ragged piece of paper from his hat. Hitch still scanned the desert for any sign of his friend.

“We’re here right?” Troy said pointing to the map.

“The closest oasis is here. About fifty miles from Tobruk. That’s our first move. How far would you say that is from here Moffitt?”

“Looks to be about 4 or so hours. But, it’s quite a gamble, don’t you think?” Moffitt questioned. “If the Germans do have Tully, what makes you think that this is where they have him?”

“Have you got a better idea?” Troy asked back.

Moffitt looked at Troy and smiled. He perused the desert yet again.

“No. No I haven’t.”

The men mounted their metal steeds and together they headed to the oasis. Troy drove alone with Hitch and Moffitt following his lead. The terrain was flat and hard. It was easy traveling. Hitch didn’t even have to steer. He just laid his hands in his lap and stepped on the gas pedal.

They had traveled for about an hour and a half and no one had said a word to the other. All three men concentrated on searching for Tully as they went. Looking from side-to-side and up ahead. Where was he? How could he have gotten so far away so fast? How could he have been so stupid as to get lost? He was a seasoned desert rat. He knew how dangerous it was to leave the camp at night. What was he thinking? He obviously hadn’t.

*****

PART III

The water was cool and clean. Some of the German soldiers gathered around it as if they were on a beach. They were enjoying each other’s company, passing cigarettes and lighting them for each other – laughing and play fighting. These were young men. Too young to be fighting a war. They were kids.

Dietrich watched over Tully who had been carried into a tent that was hastily erected. Opposite to where Tully lay, the Hauptmann sat quietly on a stool with his legs wide apart and his elbows resting on his knees. He scratched his lower lip with his thumb, like an architect pondering a blueprint. He was going over his plan in his mind – orchestrating the hunt, the trap and the kill.

Tully slept – his breathing even and long. His head wound still unattended, had started to bleed again. It made his rescue seem more urgent Dietrich thought. If Sergeant Troy could resist saving Tully, he could not resist saving an injured Tully. Dietrich was depending on what German propaganda had promised – Western compassion. In the morning, Dietrich would set his trap.

*****

Troy shimmied up a sand dune like a kid climbing a tree. Hitch and Moffitt stayed below, waiting for a signal from their leader. They had arrived the night before in darkness, and had to wait until morning to explore the oasis. The desert at night was like being deep in a cave. It was so dark you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. Tully got lost on a moonless night. The darkness simply engulfed him making him lose his bearings and ultimately falling into enemy hands.

Sergeant Troy peered over the top of the mound and raised his binoculars to his eyes. The sun was just coming up and if the situation had been different, he would have appreciated the beauty of the sunrise.

He eyed the oasis and smiled because his hunch had been right. German soldiers sauntered around the waterhole, with their machine guns slung over their shoulders. They were relaxed and content. As they had done when they arrived the day before, some of the men sat around the waterhole, enjoying the lull. They had shade, water and rations. But, did they have Tully and where?

Slowly scoping out the scene with his field glasses, Troy finally spotted him. There, in the middle of the camp, with the sun about to beat down on him was Tully. His arms and legs outstretched, his head falling to the left, he laid on his back motionless. Troy noticed the blood immediately and his stomach tightened. The entire column of vehicles surrounded Private Pettigrew. They had encircled him like wagon trains had done in the old west to protect themselves from Indian attack. Tully would be difficult to rescue. Dietrich made it so.

Troy then spotted his nemesis sitting in the shade outside the single tent. He was leaning back on his chair, taking in his surroundings, enjoying his morning meal. Troy knew Dietrich was waiting for the Rat Patrol – their arrival inevitable.

Troy looked back over his shoulder and down the hill and hissed. He waved for Hitch and Moffitt to join him. They scrambled up the dune just as Troy had – quickly and effectively. He pointed at Tully, who lay unconscious.

“Is he dead?” Moffitt asked.

“I don’t know.” Troy replied. “But, he will be if we don’t get to him.”

Impulsively, Hitch ran down the dune and jumped into his Jeep – his protective instinct hard to curtail. Troy and Moffitt ran after him immediately, knowing exactly what he had in mind.

“Hitch!” Troy shouted trying to muffle his voice. “Hitch! Don’t!”

“We’ve got to get him Sarge.” Hitch called back urgently. “He’ll die out there. He’s hurt too, did you see the blood?”

“We’re going to get him, but we can’t just race in there like the Lone Ranger. That’s what Dietrich wants us to do. Do you want to get us all killed?” Troy stared into the private’s eyes daring him to go any further. His hand clenched Hitch’s upper arm pulling him up and out of the Jeep.

Hitch knew Troy was right. He usually was. He took a deep breath and leaned against the Jeep looking up the dune that separated him from Tully. Moffitt stood back watching the scene unfold. He felt for Hitch, he was so young Moffitt thought. Hitch and Tully knew each other in boot camp in the states. They had experienced a lot together. The bond between all four men was very close, but the bond between Hitch and Tully was unbreakable.

*****

Mark Hitchcock had just entered Yale University to study law when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in late 1941. He was nineteen years old. He had only been in college for two and a half months when he and his classmates marched themselves down to the recruiting office to enlist. 

Mark, was a born leader, an athlete, a lady-killer and smart as a whip. He was shipped to Fort Benning, Georgia, where he met a quite boy named Tully Pettigrew. 

Tully was from Pikeville Kentucky and he and Hitch had nothing in common. As a matter of fact, there couldn’t be two people more opposite. Mark, an only child, was raised in Boston by upper class parents and Tully was born to poor mountain miners that scratched out their living with their bare hands. But, he and Hitch just connected somehow. It was like they had always known each other – like they had been separated at birth – brothers in another life. They shared many good times while on leave from boot camp, and became even closer when they were assigned to the same unit in the North Africa – Tully as a mechanic and Hitch as a gunner on a 25 pounder anti-tank gun. 

The two Privates were the terror of Cairo. Hitch was the ringleader. He was outgoing and the center of attention. He charmed the girls and his troop mates too. Tully hung in the back ground, watching the goings on. While Hitch approached every woman he liked, Tully waited for the women to come to him. And they always did. They were attracted to his mystic – the handsome quietness of him. Tully didn’t say much; he was cool and collected through all sorts of adventures. He didn’t have to say much to Hitch anyway, because they could practically read each other’s minds. That was what drew the two men together and that’s why they always had such a good time.

It was inevitably that Hitch and Tully would end up incarcerated in some way. They always made the best of their three-day passes in Cairo. So much so, their superior officers would no longer let them take their leaves together. 

Tully had been a kid bootlegger back home and was wise beyond his twenty-one years. His father died in a mine cave-in when Tully was sixteen, so he quit school and supported his mother and two younger sisters the only way he knew how, by bootlegging his uncle’s homemade whiskey throughout the state. When war broke out, he too enlisted, leaving his family behind to fend for themselves. The money he earned as a soldier was sent home to them. 

When Hitch and Tully heard about the long-range patrols, they volunteered.  In 1942 they joined Sergeant Sam Troy and later, Sergeant Jack Moffitt joined the team. And a team they were. Each man knew his job and did it to perfection. They operated as one unstoppable being. Troy the heart, Tully the soul, Hitch the spirit and Moffitt the intellect. They were the most successful patrol in the Sahara. 

Now, all Hitch wanted to do was save his friend. They had been lucky enough to end up together as desert rats and Hitch was determined they would both return home safe and sound. Come hell or high water, they had promised each other that.

*****

PART IV

“Come on Tully.” Troy whispered under his breath. “Give us a sign.” Again, he spied through the field glasses from atop the dune, surveying the situation. Moffitt and Hitch lay on their stomachs hoping to see some movement from Tully.

“I think we will have to wait till nightfall. I don’t think we can get to him in daylight.” Troy said to Moffitt trying to keep Hitch out of the conversation – afraid of upsetting him again.

“Do you think he can last Troy?” Moffitt questioned skeptically.

The words had barely left his mouth when Tully suddenly shifted. His head wobbled slowly from side-to-side as if he was trying to wake himself from a bad dream. Even though his hands and feet were restrained, he struggled to touch his head, but when it became impossible, he collapsed back into unconsciousness.

“Sarge!” Hitch pointed. “Did you see that?”

“I sure did Hitch.” Troy paused. “We’ve got to go in and we’ve got to go now.” Troy said insistently.

“Dietrich is just dangling Tully in front of us like a carrot in front of a mule. He knows we’re watching – he knows we’re up here.”

“Yes. Quite.” Moffitt said. “He’s expecting a raid. He’s expecting us to tear in there with our guns blazing.” There was another pause. “I’ve an idea Troy.”

“Oh yeah? What’s that?” the Sergeant said skeptically.

“We’ll surrender.”

“We’ll what?” Troy and Hitch almost whipped their heads off their necks looking at Moffitt aghast.

“We’ll surrender.” Moffitt continued. “It’s perfect. It’s the last move Dietrich will expect us to make. That way we can tend to Tully, and when we’ve made sure he can travel we’ll plan our escape. It’s not as if we haven’t escaped from Dietrich before.” Moffitt affirmed with a wicked smirk.

“I like it Sarge.” Hitch said turning to Troy for approval of the plan. “Besides, looks like it’s the only way we can save Tully now.”

There was a long hesitation. Troy continued to scan the scene as if he was expecting it to provide a solution to the problem. Moffitt looked at Hitch and Hitch back at Moffitt, and then they both focused down on where Tully lay. All was quiet. Troy was still trying to think of another way. But, at this point, it seemed there wasn’t one.

“Hitch! Go make a white flag. And camouflage the Jeeps. Disable the engines and the guns too.” Troy ordered the private. He looked at Moffitt as Hitch fumbled down the dune with his upper body trying to keep up with his feet. Moffitt was grinning.

“What’s –so –funny?” Troy inquired sarcastically. His words were separated by short pauses.

“It’s another story to tell our grandchildren Troy… what would you do without me?”

“I’ll think of something.” Troy mocked. “Let’s go get him.”

*****

Still eating his breakfast in the comfort and shade of the tent, Dietrich looked north where he thought he saw movement. He stopped mid-chew and stood up slowly. He could not believe what he saw. Coming over the dune were three men carrying a white flag. They appeared unarmed. They proceeded slowly down the hill and moved deliberately into the German camp.

“This is interesting.” Deitrich mumbled flatly. He then continued to chew and finally swallow.

Dietrich stood in the same spot, waiting for them to come to him. Troy and Moffitt walked right up to him. Hitch ran to Tully. The soldiers that guarded the bait moved toward Hitch but Hauptmann Dietrich called them off.

Hitch knelt down and cradled Tully’s head in his hands. Hitch’s first reaction was to give his companion shade. He instinctively positioned his body to block the sun. Tully lay motionless.

“How is he?” Troy yelled to Hitch.

“He’s pretty bad off Sarge. He needs a doctor.”

“I assure you we have no doctor here, Sergeant Troy. I’m sorry I can’t help you.” Dietrich said with a smug tone of voice.

“I’ll bet you’re sorry.” Troy struck back.

“I bought your man from slave traders.” Dietrich remarked heroically. “You should thank me.”

“Thank you.” Troy replied with a sneer.

“If I hadn’t come upon him when I did, he surely would have not survived.”

“So, you saved him only to place him in harm’s way again?” Moffitt asked boldly. “It sounds somewhat hypocritical to me Hauptmann Dietrich.”

“No Sergeant. I placed him in harm’s way to complete the set.”

“The set?” Troy quarried as he crooked his neck and squinted with agitation.

“Yes. Why have only one rat when I can have all four.” Dietrich smiled but then scowled. “I’ve had it with you Sergeant. The war is finally over for you.”

The conversation was now over.

“Take these prisoners into the tent and secure them.” Dietrich ordered casually.

As Troy, Moffitt and Hitch walked to the tent, two German soldiers scooped up Tully like a rag doll and together they entered the shelter. When inside all three men turned their attention to Tully. They took his pulse, checked his wound and peered into his eyes. They exercised all the amateur first aid they could think of. There was a bucket in the tent and Troy poured water all over Tully’s face and forced him to drink. He washed down his wound and tried to clean it as best he could. With liquid dripping out of his mouth, Tully sputtered and coughed. He opened his eyes and tried to focus on his surroundings. He looked at Troy and seemed to recognize him.

“Sarge?” Tully groaned.

“Yeah. It’s me. You’re gonna be okay.” Troy reassured.

“My head …aargh…I got lost… and…” Tully whispered.

Sense had not yet reentered his fuzzy brain. He struggled to stay conscious, but he was too weak and lapsed back into blackness.

“Now what Sarge?” Hitch inquired. “How are we going to get out of this one?”

“Check under the back of the tent.” Troy motioned to Moffitt. “Try and see what we’re up against.”

Moffitt knelt down at the rear of the tent and started to dig a small trench. He slowly lifted the material from its sandy resting place. All Moffitt could see were army boots. The tent was heavily guarded.

“What do you see out there?”

“Lots of men. Lots. It appears that we’re surrounded.” Moffitt answered Troy with a hopeless sign.

“It’s not like we haven’t escaped from Dietrich before.” Troy quoted his counterpart with mocking disdain.

The British Sergeant just shrugged boyishly as Troy turned away and lowered himself into a cross-legged position next Hitch and Tully. Troy pulled out a cigarette from the package in his shirt pocket and lit it.

“Well, I guess we’ll just have to wait for a break.” Troy said as he blew smoke through his lips and nose.

Troy leaned against the support post that ran right up the middle of the tent, took off his sweat-stained hat, stretched out his legs and looked up at the Englishman. Moffitt knew exactly what Troy’s look meant… you got us into this mess – now you get us out of it. Moffitt blinked a few times bewildered and gave in to sitting as well.  He scooped a palm full of water and sipped it. Then he looked at Tully who was now coming around again.

“I’ll get us out of this.” Moffitt said stubbornly. There was a pause as he looked at Troy. “I will!” Moffitt insisted.

Troy’s expression was that of doubt.

*****

PART V

Dietrich entered the tent with two armed soldiers. He was quite surprised to find all four men on the ground relaxing.

“Do you think this is a country club Sergeant? It’s a good thing you Americans can adapt to your surroundings so easily.” Dietrich said with a smirk.

“Thank you. We try.” Troy’s reply was nothing short of cocky. He continued to smoke.

Hitch looked down at Tully and gave him another drink of water. He ignored the banter. Moffitt stared at the sand. He was drawing pictures in it with a stick. He too gave Dietrich no attention.

“We will be moving you to a prison camp in the morning. I hope you and your men will be as comfortable there as you are here.”

“I’m sure we will be Captain.” Troy answered squarely.

As Dietrich left the tent Troy moved toward Tully who was now sitting up and acting somewhat coherent.

“How are you feelin’ Tully?” Troy inquired quietly.

“Better Sarge. Better.”

Troy flashed his perfect smile and gave Tully a pat on the shoulder. A cloud of dust wafted from Tully’s jacket which he wore open with no shirt.

“If we have to move fast, can you do it?” Troy asked.

“I… I think so.” Tully answered dutifully.

“Do your…”

Troy’s words were cut short by shots being fired. Many shots. They were followed by rounds of yelling and mass confusion. Troy, Moffitt and Hitch sprung to their feet. Tully got up slowly by placing his hand on his knee and pushing. But, surprisingly, he did get up. Moffitt returned to the back of the tent to see what the fracas was about.

“Arabs!” He yelled back at his patrol.

“Keep watching and look for a break.” Troy ordered. “Hitch check the front.”

With Troy’s orders, the men went on alert waiting for the right timing to make their escape. Hitch saw the first opening.

“Sarge!” Hitch waved him over. “I can probably get to that armored car. All of the guards are preoccupied with the raid.”

“Alright. Go” Troy semi-pushed Hitch forward seizing the opportunity immediately.

Hitch was an athlete. He kept low and drew closer to the car by hiding periodically behind stacks of barrels and the few palm trees that circled the oasis. There was so much fighting and dust and gunfire raging around the camp that the last thing the Germans cared or thought about was the Rat Patrol. The Germans were fighting for their lives.

Arabs on horseback and on foot over took the camp very quickly. They rushed the Germans with incredible force and out numbered them at least four to one. They had simply been caught off guard.

Dietrich stood in the middle of the camp trying to strategize his men – like a policeman directing traffic.  But, there was too much noise, too much chaos and too many Arabs.

The tribe wanted their oasis back and they were determined to get it. German casualties were heavy but there were also many Arabs scattered around the camp sprawled wounded or dead – their robes bloodied. It was a gruesome battlefield. The fight for water was a fight to the death.

Hitch crawled into the car ducking bullets and deflecting debris. He started the car and drove it directly to the tent where the rest of the Rat Patrol waited. The shear noise and confusion of the uprising camouflaged him. Troy and Moffitt grabbed Tully by each arm and scrambled to the car. Hitch then let her rip and they drove off in a cloud of dust.

Dietrich stood there helpless. He screamed at his men to notice that their prized prisoners were getting away but he could not be heard over the mayhem of battle. As the rest of the Germans made their escape and the Arabs took over the camp, a calm drifted over the oasis. It had all happened so fast. It was like a stampede – it was very violent and over in less than twenty minutes.

The Rat Patrol headed back to their Jeeps and hightailed it out of there.

“I told you I’d get us out of it Troy. My mother is part Irish you know.” Moffitt joshed over the noise of the engines.

“So we’ll thank your mother.” Troy replied while flashing yet another perfect smile. “Let’s get Tully to a doc.”

*****

The morning air was uncharacteristically cool. It had taken most of the previous day to get to the British army hospital that would care for Tully. He lay comfortably on a very small cot in a row with five other soldiers. He was sound asleep. His head was wrapped in a white bandage. It resembled an Indian headband. Even though he was dead to the world, a match protruded from his lips. Tully was rarely without his matchsticks. A nurse covertly noticed and then removed it as she passed his bed.

Hitch, Troy and Moffitt entered the tent that housed the wounded men. Troy walked up to the doctor and asked how Tully was.

“Oh. A touch of dehydration. A little sunstroke and quite a nasty concussion actually. There’s twenty stitches in there. He’s on the mend. Nothing a few weeks rest won’t cure.” The doctor answered casually.

“Easy for him to say.” Troy thought to himself as he walked down the row to Tully’s bed. Moffitt and Hitch dutifully followed.

“Hey” Troy nudged the sleeping private rudely.

Tully opened his eyes slowly and looked at each of his comrades.

“Doc says you need a couple weeks of rest you lucky dog. Do you think you can handle that?”

“I think so Sarge.” Tully paused and looked pensive. “Thanks for coming after me. That night I thought I heard something. I’m sorry. I never should have gone out there on my own.” Tully said sheepishly.

“It’s OK. I didn’t have anything else planned these last couple days.” Troy smiled again. “Let’s go.” He looked at Moffitt and Hitch. Moffitt smiled down at Tully in a fatherly manner and wished him well.

“See you in a couple weeks.” Hitch said.

“Yeah. I’ll try and make the best of it.” Tully replied with a grin. The same pretty nurse milled around his cot, waiting to change his bandage.

“I know you’ll do your best.”

With an impish wink, Hitch turned and joined Troy and Moffitt. They walked out of the tent together, jumped in the Jeeps and drove off. Tully watched them until they were out of sight. He sighed and fell back to sleep.

***The End***

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