Raiders Folly (by Modocgal)

Summary:  The team is sent on a joint mission with a second team – Mosby’s raiders – to retrieve the plans for a new anti aircraft gun and to destroy a munitions factory simultaneously. The raiders object to working with the cons and try to sabotage the mission by kidnapping Chief before departure.  But then the raiders are captured and it is up to the gorillas to complete both parts of the mission and rescue the raiders
Category:  Garrison’s Gorillas
Genre:  WWII Drama
Rated:  PG
Word Count:  60,572


 

 

Chapter 1

 

“Alright, listen up,” Garrison ordered as he entered the large dormitory where the four cons who made up his team were enjoying some downtime after a hectic two weeks of activity on the continent.

“Not another bleeding mission,” Goniff moaned as he watched Garrison place a brief case on the opposite end of the table to where he was sitting writing a letter to his mum. “We just got back from the last ruddy one Warden.”

“Yeah Warden, the limey’s right.  Why can’t someone else do this one?  You’d think we were the only commando team in England.” Casino complained as he moved from his cot to stand next to Goniff and peer over his shoulder to see what he was writing.

“’Ey bugger off Casino, this is private it is, between me and my mum.” Goniff snapped as he hurriedly covered his letter with his hand.

“Just how private can it be when the damn army censors everything we write you dummy.  Ever wondered how many other people get to read your letter before your mum does?” Casino demanded.

“I feel I must also protest this lack of consideration from the army Craig,” Actor added quickly before Goniff could think of a suitable retort to Casino’s statement.  “How do they expect us to keep performing at our best when they give us no time to recover between missions?”

Garrison sighed; he couldn’t really blame them, after all he felt the same way.  The Army seemed to send them on every conceivable mission irrespective of its relevance to the war effort or not while other teams, and he knew of several, were given a weeks leave after each mission. He tried to kid himself it was because his team was the best, which they were; they had a higher success rate than any other team and only one casualty. Oh there had been injuries and some of them serious but they had always survived. No it wasn’t because they were the best but because they were expandable in the Army’s eyes. They were cons, although he wasn’t quite sure where he fitted into the Army’s thinking, but the rest of them were cons pure and simple and nobody cared about cons.

“Do you have anything to add Chief?” Garrison queried tiredly with a raised eyebrow.

Chief pursed his lips, “Just what they said,” he replied with a shrug.

“The Army knows we’re not the only commando team in England, Casino,” Garrison continued.

“But we’re the only expendable ones,” Chief added quietly.

The other cons stopped their bickering and stared at Chief as his words registered.

“The damn Indian’s right. Well, they can send another team this time because I’m not going,” Casino retorted with arms firmly folded across his chest as he glared at Garrison, daring the man to object.

Garrison sighed; he was too damn tired to play either Casino’s or the army’s games any longer.  “They are sending another unit, and we’re going too, no buts about it.”

The cons all looked up with undisguised interest at Garrison’s words.  They had never worked with another team before unless you counted the numerous resistance groups they assisted, but always then Garrison was in charge.

“Blimey, two teams.  Must be something really big and important, right Warden?” Goniff prodded. “Who is this other team anyway and who’s going to be in charge? I mean most of the brass don’t like working with us cons they don’t.  They don’t think we’re civilized enough for them, they don’t.”

“Goniff have you finished yet,” Garrison interrupted as the second story man took a breath.

“Well…”

“Goniff does have a point Craig,” Actor interceded before Goniff could launch into speech again.  “Who is this other team and who is going to be in charge?”

“As each team has its own objective and will be working two miles apart, Captain Mosby and I will each be responsible for our own men.”  Garrison smiled as the men around him let out a collective sigh of relief.  It was not dissimilar to the one he had released in the major’s office when responsibility for the teams was discussed.

“Alright now are we finished?” Garrison looked around the table receiving nods of confirmation before he continued. “Good now listen.  We’ll be heading out tomorrow night for Reims.  The Germans have a munitions factory here,” Garrison pointed to a spot on the map laid out on the table.  It will be Mosby’s responsibility to see that this factory is destroyed.  At the same time that his team takes out the factory we will be here,” again Garrison pointed to the map only this time several inches further away from the original spot, “and using the fireworks from the factory as a cover to infiltrate the local German headquarters to steal the plans to a new anti-aircraft gun they are developing. Any questions?”

“This other team, they any good?” Casino demanded. “Because I’m not trusting my life to just anybody.”

“Yeah Casino’s right. What ‘appens if they foul up?” Goniff asked worriedly.

“Then we’ll deal with it,” Garrison replied.

“Like we always do,” Chief offered quietly, flicking his knife into his hand with a snap of his wrist.

“Are we going to meet this other team Craig?” Actor enquired with some misgivings.

“Yes, they’ll be here in an hour.” Garrison answered as he gathered up the map and mission orders.

“’Ere,” yelped Goniff, “What are they coming ‘ere for?”

“Because we’re in lock down until the mission starts and the major thought it was best if both teams stayed here for security reasons.” Garrison explained off handedly. “And that means no sneaking out to the Doves tonight.” Garrison glared at each man in turn until he had an affirmative nod from them all.

“Where are they staying Warden? Casino demanded.

“Captain Mosby will be staying in the mansion and his men will billet in the barracks with the other enlisted men.”

“Did you say Mosby, Craig, that wouldn’t be the Mosby of Mosby’s Raiders would it?” Actor asked curiously.

Garrison nodded, “that’s what his team is called,” he confirmed suspiciously as he eyed Actor.  “Why, do you know him?”

Actor shook his head, “only by reputation.”

“Oh yeah and what reputation would that be?” Casino glared at Actor across the table.

Actor shrugged, “word has it that this Captain Mosby is a descendant of one of your civil war Colonel’s, a John S Mosby.  He organized and commanded a group of men, much like the partisans, known as Mosby’s Rangers or Raiders.  Captain Mosby has patterned his team on that of his Great Grandfather and with some success.

“You mean to say I’m supposed to put my trust in some guy who thinks living back in the eighteen hundreds is the way to win this war?” Casino growled, “well no way babe.”

“Why not Casino,” Goniff interrupted. “You let Chiefy ‘ere take point all the time and you trust ‘im to keep you safe and ‘Ee predates this ‘ere Colonel Mosby ‘Ee does. Or at least his people do.  No offense Chiefy.” Goniff hurriedly added as Chief raised an eyebrow and stared at the little Englishman before giving him a one finger salute and nod.

Actor rolled his eyes in frustration.  “That is not what I mean Casino.  I purely stated that he has modeled his team on the original team.  If you read your history books Casino you would know that Colonel Mosby’s team carried out lightning fast raids, with a minimum of casualties and as much disruption as possible to the enemy. By all accounts this Captain Mosby uses the same techniques on the Germans with some success.”

“So where did this ‘ere Colonel Mosby come from Actor?” Goniff asked.

“I believe it was Virginia, Goniff.”

“Damn red necks,” Casino muttered, “I’m telling you now, no good is going to come of this mission.”

GG

“You can’t really be serious Major Richards.  You don’t seriously expect my men and I to work with a bunch of convicted criminals do you?” Tom Mosby demanded as soon as the door closed on the retreating form of Lieutenant Garrison.  “We’re more than capable of completing both parts of the mission on our own.”

“You have your orders Captain and I expect you to follow them.  Garrison’s team might be unconventional but they’re damn good at what they do.” Richards replied sharply.  “The idea of sending in two teams to attack both objectives simultaneously was so that neither of you had to split your forces and weaken your defenses. You’re a strategist Tom; surely you can see the benefits of doubling your forces in this instance.”

Mosby straightened his shoulders, “Yes Sir, but can’t you send in another team instead of them?”

Richards drew in a deep breath, he couldn’t blame Mosby for his feelings; after all he had had the same misgivings when Garrison’s team had first been recruited but over the past six months he had come to respect the men for their abilities in the field.  They were trouble makers, no denying that.  He already had an inch thick file on their shenanigans in England but as far as he was now concerned there wasn’t a team he’d rather go on a mission with.  And that was a lesson he had learned the hard way.  “They’re going. Give them a chance Mosby. They might just surprise you.”

“I doubt it Sir,” Mosby replied curtly.

Richards glared at the Captain for a moment before returning to the brief on his desk.  “That will be all Captain.  Report to the Mansion as ordered; Garrison and his men will be waiting for you.”

Mosby snapped off a salute and spun on his heel marching from the office in annoyance.  He’d show Richards and those damn Gorillas who was the better team.  The Raiders didn’t need help from anyone and especially a bunch of convicts.   By the time Mosby had returned to his barracks and collected his men he had a plan formulating.

“Alex what do you know about a commando team loosely referred to as Garrison’s Gorillas?”  Mosby asked as his men joined him around the table.

Sergeant Alex Davies shrugged. “They’re all convicts, except for Lieutenant Garrison of course, freed by the army to carry out special missions using their illicit talents.  If they survive the war they get their paroles to a free life. There’s an Italian conman, an English pick pocket and second story man, the safe cracker and demolitions man is an Italian descent New Yorker and the wheel man is a Native American but I’m not sure which tribe.  Word has it he’s also a killer and an expert with a blade. From all reports they’re good, really good.  Why are you asking Tom?”

“Because that damn Major Richards is sending us on a mission with them.”

“We’re what?” Corporal Jimmy Blake asked in disgust.

“You heard,” Mosby snapped.  “We have to blow up this munitions factory in Reims tomorrow night.” Mosby pointed to the map, “While they break into the local German headquarters and steal the plans to a new anti aircraft gun the Germans are developing.”

“We can do that,” Private Casey Durrant boasted, “We don’t need their help, we’ve done plenty of those missions before.”

“Did the Major say why we had to work with them Cap?”  Private William Brown asked.

Mosby nodded, “Yeah both objectives are to be hit at the same time.  Garrison uses the cover of the destruction of the factory to get into the headquarters.”

“Makes sense,” Alex noted reasonably.  “That way one team isn’t spread too thinly on the ground.”

“Whose damn side are you on,” Mosby demanded.  “They’re criminals for Christ sake.  Thieves, murderers and conmen.”

Alex held up his hands in defense.  “All I’m saying is that Richards’ reasoning for sending in two teams makes sense.  We’re only five men.  If we separated nobody would have any back up.  A second team makes sense on a mission like this.”

“Yeah, but not back up from a bunch of cons.  Can’t they send another team Cap?” Blake demanded.

“Apparently not Jimmy,” Mosby grated.  “Pack your bags, we leave in an hour.”

“Where are we going Cap?” Casey asked.  “I thought we were in lock down until the mission starts.”

Mosby grunted, “We’ll be spending it at Garrison’s headquarters.  Some place called The Mansion, of all things.”

“You’re joking right?  You don’t really expect us to stay in the same place as them Cap.” Blake laughed harshly.

“Look I don’t like it any more than you do Blake but those are our orders.  Anyway I don’t know what you lot are worried about, you get to stay in the enlisted barracks; I have to stay in the main house with Garrison and his men.”

“You mean they don‘t stay in the barracks, but in some fine fancy house?” Williams asked.

Mosby shrugged, “That’s what Garrison said.  Now get ready, we leave in…” Mosby checked his watch, “fifty minutes.”  Mosby watched as his men headed for the door. “Don’t worry boys; I have a plan that may just be the end of the Gorillas.”

“What sort of a plan Tom?” Alex asked suspiciously.

“I’ll tell you in the car,” Mosby replied absently as he packed up the map.

Alex closed the door behind him, shaking his head worriedly, not liking his commander’s tone.  He had heard quite a lot about the four men who made up the Gorillas and he had a healthy respect for their abilities.  They weren’t considered the top team in England for no reason. Some of the capers they had pulled off over the past six months were legendary and he knew it was only because of their ‘civilian professions’ that they had succeeded.  He doubted that the Raiders could have been as successful had they been given those missions.  The Cap was pure army, hell his entire family was army, and all those before them.  The Raiders were even fashioned after his Great Grandfather’s unit back in the American Civil War.  As far as he was concerned the army was only for career soldiers like himself and Blake.

Blake was another one of Mosby’s mould.  His family also had a long and distinguished presence in the armed forces dating back to the American Civil War.  Both men were sticklers for army procedure and didn’t particularly like the ‘new breed’ of enlisted men who had been forced to sign up with the outbreak of war.  At least, Alex thought, he had chosen the army as a career and had joined the services before war was declared.  He had earned his stripes, the hard way, serving in North Africa where as a corporal he had been forced to take command of his unit when his sergeant and lieutenant had succumbed to German fire.

Neither Casey nor Will had any prior knowledge of the army before enlisting and Alex still wasn’t sure why Mosby had accepted them into his unit.  They were good kids, young but they both learnt fast, they had to in order to survive the missions, but there were plenty of other more experienced and qualified men better suited to the life of a commando.  Perhaps it was because, like Mosby and Blake, they were Virginians.

Alex sighed as he entered his room; he had a bad feeling that this mission was going to end in disaster and not just for the Germans.

***** 

Chapter 2

 

“Alright, here they come, now remember what I said. No fighting, no smart remarks, no gambling and no light fingers,” Garrison looked at Goniff as he spoke the last.

“Aw now Warden, that ‘urts, it does.  You don’t really think I’d lift anything off these guys do you?” Goniff asked

“Just see that you don’t Goniff and no going to the Doves, any of you.”

“You don’t have to worry Craig, we will all be on our best behaviour,” Actor promised for the team.

“That’s exactly what I’m worried about.”  Garrison mumbled as the car containing the other team pulled up to the front steps of the mansion.

Goniff stepped forward and opened the door for the captain.  “Welcome to the mansion Captain Mosby, mates.” Goniff greeted as Mosby climbed out of the car followed by the three men in the back seat.

Mosby ignored the Englishman completely as he stepped in front of the lieutenant.  “Garrison,” he nodded curtly as he stared at the mansion rising behind the men.  How disgusting he thought, that men like these were allowed to live in a place like this while real soldiers had to endure over crowded billets.  Well if things worked out they wouldn’t be here after tonight.

Taking their cue from Mosby the three men also ignored Goniff’s greeting and headed to the trunk of the car to retrieve their bags.

Sensing the tension between his cons and the enlisted men Garrison ordered the Sergeant Major to escort the men to their barracks.  “Captain, if you’ll follow me,” Garrison indicated the stairs leading up to the entrance, before casting a warning glare at the cons.

Alex Davies shook his head in disgust as he watched the less than cordial greeting the rest of his team were according the Gorillas.  He didn’t like the way this mission was playing out and he had already vehemently objected to Mosby’s plans in the car.  “I’m Alex Davies,” the sergeant offered, proffering his hand in greeting to Goniff, “Goniff, isn’t it?”

“Blimey, you know my name.” Goniff stated in surprise.

Davies smiled, “I know all your names.  In our line of work it always pays to know who you’re dealing with, wouldn’t you agree?”

“So if you know our names then you know who we are.” Casino growled.

Davies nodded, “yeah so what of it? I’m more interested in what you’re doing now rather than what you did in the past.”

“Yeah well seems to me the rest of your team doesn’t feel the same way.”  Casino gestured towards the retreating backs of the Raiders.

Davies shrugged, “Their loss I guess.  Well I’d best be getting after them.” Davies nodded to the four cons, pausing to stare at Chief a moment.  “Watch your back.” Davies picked up his bag from the open trunk of the car and followed the rest of his team across to the barracks.  He could feel the dark eyes of the Indian boring into his back. He would have liked to say more but he didn’t dare go against his Captain.

“’Ee seems a decent enough sort of bloke ‘Ee does.”

“Looks can be deceiving Goniff,” Actor warned.

“Yeah and I wonder what that warning to Geronimo here was all about?” Casino added.

“I’m sure I’ll find out.” Chief replied softly as he followed the sergeant with his eyes until the man disappeared behind the barracks door.

“Well come on, the Warden will be waiting for us.” Actor suggested as he headed up the stairs in the wake of Garrison and their house guest.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this mission,” Casino muttered as he followed the conman up the stairs.

“You’ve always got a bad feeling about the mission,” Goniff complained.

“Yeah and it usually proves right.” Casino retorted.

“Think I’ll go for a walk,” Chief paused on the steps and studied the closed door of the barracks where the other team had disappeared.

“Want some company Chiefy?” Goniff asked hopefully.

“Course he doesn’t you dumb limey, the Indian’s going to count coup, aren’t you Geronimo?”  Casino stated.

“I’ll count coup on you if you don’t shut up Casino,” Chief threatened, moving towards the safe cracker.

Actor grabbed Casino by the arm and pushed him up the stairs ahead of him.  “This is not what the Warden meant when he said behave.  Chief be careful,” Actor cautioned.

Chief smiled, “aren’t I always,” he threw over his shoulder as he moved away from the stairs and headed across the lawn and towards the trees on the far side.

“You want me to follow ‘im Actor?” Goniff asked as Chief disappeared into the trees.

“No leave him alone.  He knows how to look after himself.” Actor advised.

“Yeah well if he’s not back in an hour or so I’m going after him.” Casino declared.

“If that is the case Casino we will all go after him.” Actor promised.

*****

“You were pretty bloody chummy with those damn cons Sarge,” Blake hissed as Davies entered their temporary barracks.

“And what of it Blake?” Davies demanded.

Blake shrugged, “Maybe you were warning that damn Red Skin breed off. You seem to be more worried about his skin than your own.”

Davies shoved Blake against the wall of the barracks, pinning him with an arm across his throat, causing the man to gasp for air.  “Now you listen to me Blake, the only skin I’m protecting is my own.  We just might need those cons to complete this mission and get out of France, did you ever think of that. Won’t hurt to get them on side, lull their suspicions.”

“Yeah but Sarge if the Cap’s plan works they won’t even be going.” Durrant said.

“And what if it doesn’t work Casey? Ever thought of that?  Do you really want those men behind you as the enemy?”

Davies released his hold on Blake.  “And here’s something else for you to remember Blake, these stripes here,” Davies tapped his arm, “make me a Sergeant and second in command so you had better not forget that Corporal.”

After giving Blake a final shove back into the wall, Davies stalked away to stow his gear on the one remaining empty cot.  This mission was already going to hell he thought.  Well one thing was for sure, if he survived the next seventy two hours he was going to request a transfer to another commando unit, hell, even to a fighting unit, he didn’t really care anymore.  He’d had his fill of Mosby, his men and their one eyed views.

******

Tom Mosby followed Garrison into the mansion, marveling at the obviously expensive furnishings and artwork that adorned the walls and floors.  To think that the army had just turned all of this over to a bunch of cons made his stomach turn.  “How did you ever organize this set up Garrison?” Mosby sneered as he followed the other man up the ornate staircase.

“I didn’t.” Garrison replied not bothering to look at the Captain behind him. “When the army asked me to take over this team, this is what they provided for the living arrangements.  We only have access to this side of the house.  The owner’s personal belongings are under lock and key in the other wing.” Garrison replied as he stopped before a door half way down the hallway of the second floor.  “This is your room Captain.  My room is the first door at the top of the stairs and the rest of the team have the rooms on that side of the hall.”

Mosby snorted, “And the army really believes those thieves and murderers out there are going to leave this place in one piece when they go.”

Garrison rounded on Mosby.  “Listen Captain, for what ever reason, I know you don’t like my men, you made that obvious out the front but they gave their word that this place will remain untouched and that was good enough for me and the army.  My men know what they stand to loose if they foul up and they’re not going to foul up.  Whether you or I like it or not, we’re all in this mission together so I suggest you give my men some slack Captain.  They know what they’re doing.”

“Well excuse me if I don’t have your faith in that bunch of hoodlums Garrison. When I go on a mission I want men I can trust backing me, I want trained soldiers who know who the enemy is.”

“Oh believe me Captain; they know exactly who the enemy is and what to do with him.  Dinner will be ready at eighteen hundred hours Captain.”  Garrison snapped a salute and spun on his heels, stalking back down the hallway and stairs.

Mosby watched Garrison disappear down the staircase before he entered his room.  This was going to be fun and when he was finished none of them including the damn Lieutenant would ever complete another mission again.

*****

Chief stood in the shadows of the hallway outside the kitchen door and carefully peered into the confines of the kitchen.  The rest of his team was seated around the kitchen table and the barracks cook was dishing up stew in the mansions good chinaware.  There were only five places set and four inhabitants so he quietly slipped into the room and took his place at the table accepting the plate of stew before the others had realized he’d joined them.

“Dammit Indian, will you stop doing that!” Casino grumbled around a mouthful of stew as Chief appeared beside him.

Chief shrugged. “Why?”

“Why?  Because it gives me the heebie geebies, that’s why.  It isn’t natural the way you sneak around.”

“Wasn’t sneaking around, can’t help it if you’re deaf Casino” Chief responded as he lifted his fork to his mouth.  “Where’s the Captain.”

“Eating in ’is room ‘Ee is.  We’re too good for ‘im, we are.”  Goniff answered.

“Nah, he just didn’t want to get his hands dirty sitting with us.  He doesn’t like us anymore than his men do.” Casino growled.  “This is going to be one hell of a mission,” Casino stabbed his fork into the air, “if we have to pal up with that lot.”

“That’s enough Casino.  All you have to worry about is doing your job.  Let Mosby worry about his own men.” Garrison warned.

“’Ey Warden,” Goniff paused in mid chew, “we all going out together once this mission is completed?”

“No, each team has its own escape route.”  Garrison replied.  “Major Richards believed ten men in one group would be too many to hide.”

Actor nodded, “As it would be.”

“So ‘ow are they getting out Warden? Sub same as us?” Goniff asked.

“Yes Goniff, but from another rendezvous point.”  Garrison replied in exasperation.  “Now can we stop with the questions and eat dinner?” he demanded.  “Then I recommend you all get a good nights sleep.  I doubt there will be much of that for the next couple of days.”

******

“Hey Blake,” Brown whispered as he kept one cautionary eye on their Sergeant who had stretched out on his cot.  “Was just talking to one of the sentries.  He said the breed rises early every morning and heads for the lake through the gate over there.  He likes to run around it for a couple of hours on his own.”

Blake smiled cruelly. “Does he now? Well we might just have to disappoint him in the morning and go for a run ourselves.”

“What about the Sarge?  I don’t think he agrees with the Cap’s plans.  Are we going to tell him?”

“What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.  You, me and Casey should be able to take one lousy breed down without help from Davies.  Did the sentry say what time?”

“Nah; only that he watches the sunrise and then goes running.  He never misses, no matter what the weather or if they have a mission or not.” Brown replied quietly.

“Alright be up at 0500 hours in the morning.  That’ll give us enough time to set a trap for the breed before the sun rises.  Then we can have us a little fun.”  Blake sneered.

Brown swallowed not really comfortable with Blake’s eagerness to take the breed.  “Remember what the Cap said.  He only wants him roughed up enough so that he can’t make the mission and nothing that shows.”

Blake glared Brown.  “I know what the Captain said Brown and I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job.  Is that clear?”

Brown backed away.  “Yeah, sure thing Blake.  I wasn’t trying to tell you anything.”

“Good, well see that you remember that then.”  Blake lay down on his cot and rolled over, turning his back on Brown.

*****

Chief slipped quietly out of his room and padded barefoot down the stairs.  He knew the team knew he went running every morning after watching the sunrise and there wasn’t really any need for secrecy but he liked the challenge of moving stealthily through the house.  It helped him hone his skills and kept them all alive.  He silently shut the heavy oak door behind him and then sat on the top step of the stone stairway that led from the mansion to the lawn to pull on his socks and running shoes.  Chief breathed deeply of the crisp morning air, filling his lungs with the freshness of the new day as the sun crept slowly over the horizon, fingers of gold chasing the indigo of night away. It promised to be bright and clear, just what was needed before a dangerous mission.  He liked to take the memory of the birds singing and the animals that made their home in the woods of the estate with him on missions.  It was somewhere that he could retreat to for a few minutes, especially when things were not going as planned, which was most of the time, he thought ruefully.

Chief stood and stretched before jogging slowly down the steps, taking care not to slip on the wetness that the nights dew had left behind.  Once on the lawn he stepped up the pace, sprinting across the grass and through the gate before slowing to a steady jog.  He followed the path as it wound through the shadow shrouded trees towards the lake.  Chief paced himself carefully; he knew where the smoothest sections of the path were, even in the semi darkness of dawn, along which he could sprint before the tangle of tree roots disturbed the flatness of the path, causing cracks and rents in it.  The first of his sprinting points was just ahead.  Beyond the hundred yards of smooth surface, the trees crowded in on the path, making it the darkest point, even in full daylight along the track. He filled his lungs with air, stepped up the pace and was flying by the time he reached the gentle curve in the path.  He sprinted down the straight, only beginning to slow several yards before the path curved in towards the trees.

The early morning shadows and dimness caused by the crowded trunks obscured Chief’s view of the ground ahead and he didn’t see the thin piece of rope stretched across the path until his right leg came into contact with it.  His forward momentum pulled the rope free of its constraints, entangling his left leg.  Chief crashed to the ground, the impact forcing the breath from his lungs.  He lay motionless for a moment, too winded to move. A blur of movement to his left alerted him to his danger but before he could move he felt hands grab him from behind and haul him to his feet.

“Well look here boys; we done caught ourselves a real live half breed.” Blake sneered as he efficiently tied Chief’s hands behind his back after removing the blade from its sheath on Chief’s arm. “Now what do you suppose we do with him?” he asked with a laugh as he spun Chief around and pushed him off the path and into the trees.

Chief snorted derisively as he got his first look at his attackers with their pillow case covered heads.  “You don’t really expect those klu klux klan outfits to fool anybody do you?”

“They’ll do just fine now shut up and keep moving.”  The four men moved deeper into the trees, Blake pushing Chief ahead of him laughing each time the man stumbled to his knees.  “This should do nicely,” Blake nodded as they stopped beside the wide trunk of a large Elm.  Blake pushed Chief against it and lashed the free end of the rope binding his hands around both the Indian’s torso and the trunk of the tree.

Chief struggled in vain for several minutes as the three men looked on, laughing under their pillow cases at his futile efforts.  “You won’t get away with this.”

Blake snorted.  “What, you think that Lieutenant and those other cons are going to come looking for you breed?”

“That’s right, when I don’t show up for breakfast they’ll coming looking for me.”  Chief glared defiantly at the three men facing him.

Blake laughed harshly.  “No they won’t breed.  See I have it on good authority that you disappear for hours at a time and nobody ever comes looking for you.  They’re all scared of this,” Blake flipped Chief’s closed blade in his hand, “and what you might do to them if they find you so they all leave you alone.”

Chief clenched his jaw and then allowed a smirk to lift one corner of his mouth.  “Don’t try and play me, it won’t work. They’ll find me and then you’re going to be the one running scared because I promise you I’ll get you.  You won’t know when or where but one day I’ll be there.”   Chief drew in a shallow breath.  The earlier fall had bruised some ribs and the rope was pressing uncomfortably on the sore spot making breathing unpleasant.

Blake shrugged.  “It really won’t matter whether they find you early or not.”

“Then why bother with all this?” Chief asked calmly.

“Well you see, you know the rules, once a team is briefed on a mission and someone can’t make it, then the whole team is scrubbed.  It’s called a security risk.  Remember?”

“And you think this is going to stop me from going on the mission?”

“No; but this will.”  Blake replied gleefully as he sank his fist into Chief’s stomach doubling him over.  “Hold him up dammit.” Blake shouted.  “I can’t get at him like that.”

The first punch had driven the air from Chief’s lungs.  The second landed squarely on the bruised ribs, causing him to grunt in pain.  Tied to the tree with his hands behind his back and the other two men holding him up, Chief had no way of protecting his stomach, chest and ribs as Blake continued to rain punches at him.  Somewhere in that barrage of fists he felt one of those bruised ribs give and the pain caused him to black out momentarily.  The punches stopped and Chief groggily tried to straighten up but he found his legs didn’t want to hold his weight any longer and he felt himself sagging painfully against the rope that still bound him to the tree.

“That should do it.” Blake chortled as he pressed his hand firmly against Chief’s right ribcage eliciting a moan of pain from the man.  “What do you say breed? I reckon you won’t be making the mission tonight and that means none of you go.”

Chief lifted his head and glared silently at the hazel eyes starring back at him through the eyeholes that had been cut into the pillow case.

“Come on boys, let’s get out of here.  They’ll be serving breakfast soon and we wouldn’t want to miss that.”  Blake turned to go when he caught Casey moving behind the tree the Indian was tied to.  “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” Blake demanded.

“Just making sure the rope is tight Bl…” Casey remembered just in time not to use Jimmy’s name, “we don’t want him getting free and telling anybody what we did.”  Casey replied.

Blake pulled the closed blade from his pocket and tossed it in his hands as a grin slid across his covered face.  “Yeah you do that boy.  Make sure that rope is good and tight.”  Blake tossed the blade beside Chief’s feet.  “There you go breed.  There’s your means of escape, if you can reach it. Come on,” Blake jerked his head at Williams, “let’s go.”  Blake headed off through the trees laughing as Williams followed.

Casey waited until the two men had disappeared amongst the thick trunks of the trees before he untied the rope and thrust the lose end into Chief’s hands.  “I’m sorry.” He whispered as he hurried after his two team mates.

Chief waited until he couldn’t hear the retreating men any longer and then he dropped the free end of the rope allowing his body to sag against the loosened coils.  He could do nothing to stop himself from crashing face first into the soft leafy ground covering when the rope holding him to the tree fell free.  He tried to raise himself up but the pain was overwhelming and he sank blissfully unaware into the blackness.

*****

Chapter 3

 

“Have any of you seen Chief today?” Garrison demanded of the three remaining cons lounging around the common room.  It was getting late.  They only had two hours left before they had to leave for the airfield.

“’Ee wasn’t at breakfast.” Goniff pointed out unhelpfully.

“I am well aware of that fact Goniff; I was at breakfast this morning.” Garrison replied sharply, “and I was also at lunch.”

“I know he went for his morning run,” Actor offered, “But I don’t recall seeing him return from it.  Do you want us to go looking for him Craig?”

“No, he’ll turn up when he’s ready. He knows what time we’re heading to the airfield.” Garrison replied.

Actor nodded.  “He has never let us down before and I can’t see him starting now.”

“Just see that the rest of you are ready to leave on time.” Garrison ordered as he stepped back into the hallway nearly knocking Mosby over in the process.

“What’s wrong Garrison? One of your men gone AWOL on you?  Real reliable bunch aren’t they? Mosby sneered.

“No one is AWOL Mosby.  My men will all be here and ready to leave on time.” Garrison snapped as he marched back down the stairs to his office.

Mosby watched Garrison go, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth.  It appeared that his men had done their job.  A pity he wouldn’t be here to see the reaction when the breed didn’t show up for the trip to the airfield. Mosby made a leisurely descent of the stairs and strolled down the curving drive to the barracks where his men were billeted.  Blake saw him coming and quickly hurried to meet him before he reached the building.

“Any trouble?” Mosby demanded quietly.

“None!  That breed won’t be going anywhere, not with busted ribs.” Blake replied.  “By the time they find him it’ll be too late.  We left him tied to a tree well off the path.”

Mosby nodded, “Did anyone see you?”

“Nah, not even the breed, we covered our faces.”

“Alright pass the word and be ready to leave in two hours. Oh and if anybody asks…”

“We haven’t seen the breed,” Blake finished for Mosby.

Mosby nodded and turned back towards the mansion.  Perhaps when this was all over he could persuade the army to allow he and his men to stay here instead of those criminals.

*****

Chief moaned as awareness slowly invaded his senses. The earthy scent of rotting vegetation further awakened his mind.  He was stiff and cold and there was a dull throb in his side that he couldn’t remember the reason for.  He drew in a deep breath that ended in a painful gagging cough as the dull throb became a raging inferno.  Chief closed his eyes and panted through the pain until it was back to a manageable level again.  This time he took a tentative shallow breath, opening his eyes again when the pain didn’t spike.  He found himself lying on a thick bed of elm leaves in various stages of decomposition.  Deciding he had to get up he tried to bring his arms around and under him but discovered they wouldn’t move.  Sighing in frustration, he relaxed back on the ground and thought about what he had been doing to end up in his current predicament.  He had left the mansion that morning for his usual two hour run around the lake.  It had still being dark in the woods and he remembered falling.  Chief groaned as much from pain as disgust as the image of three hooded men came to mind. He hadn’t given the Sergeant’s warning a moments thought this morning when he had left for his run.

Chief struggled to roll over and push himself to a sitting position despite the flaring pain in his right side and stomach.  He remembered his knife was somewhere on the ground near his feet.  If he could just find it he could be free and get back to the mansion.  Under the thick canopy of the elms it was difficult to tell how long he had been unconscious for but he was sure it had to have been several hours at least if the angle of the few rays to reach the ground were any indication.  Moving frustratingly slowly, Chief eased around feeling blindly with his tied hands until his fingers brushed against something metallic.  Releasing a soft sigh, he picked up the knife, flicked it open and carefully began cutting through the rope that held him captive.  As the last strands separated and Chief’s arms dropped to his side numbing pain coursed through his body plunging him back into the darkness once more.

*****

“Do you think we should go after ‘im?” Goniff asked worriedly, “I mean its not like Chiefy to be this late back when there’s a mission on.”

“No Goniff, if we leave now to look for him the mission will be blown.”  Actor replied.

“Yeah well I’ve got news for you babe, if he doesn’t turn up soon the mission’s blown anyway.” Casino slammed his fist into the table.  “Dammit, he should have taken that warning more seriously.”

“Come on Casino mate, you can’t blame Chiefy for this.  It was them Raiders what done it.”

“Goniff we have no proof that anything has actually happened to Chief.”  Actor pointed out.

“Yeah well, where is ‘Ee then?”

*****

Chief came awake with a groan.  Carefully he tried moving his arms, sighing in relief when the pins and needles sensation he had felt earlier didn’t return.  Moving slowly he pushed himself to his knees, breathing shallowly as pain burned in his side.  Once the pain had subsided he pulled himself to his feet using the trunk of the elm he had been tied to for support.  He closed his eyes as the surrounding woods rotated alarmingly, threatening to send him back to the ground.  Gritting his teeth, Chief opened his eyes, pleased when the trees stayed still.  Pushing off he staggered for a few steps before he managed to straighten his body and maintain a relatively stable gait.  Retracing his steps, it didn’t take him long to find the discarded pillow cases the three men had used.

Taking a few minutes to catch his breath, Chief used his knife to rip up the cases into usable lengths of bandage.  There was no way he was going to jeopardize the mission by telling the Warden what had happened.  Better to take care of the problem for now, besides he had decided that despite the pain the ribs weren’t actually broken. He had had broken ribs more than once in prison and knew exactly what they should feel like.  One however was definitely cracked but the strapping he had fashioned would take care of that.  Taking a seat on a downed trunk he carefully wrapped the bandage around his ribcage, gasping in pain when he pulled it tight.  He had to wait for several minutes before the stars in front of eyes cleared and he could see where he was going.  The wrapping definitely helped and once he set off again he was able to make better time.

He passed through the gate that led from the lake and woods just as the car containing the Raiders pulled away from the mansion.

*****

The smile that had settled on Mosby’s face as they pulled away from the steps of the mansion was quickly replaced by a curse as he saw the Indian appear in the gateway leading to the lake.

“What’s wrong Cap?” Blake asked as the car began to pick up speed.

“I thought you said you’d taken care of that damn breed.” Mosby snarled.

“I did Cap;” Blake replied, “Me, Williams and Casey.”

“Well does that look like he was taken care of?” Mosby demanded.

Blake turned around and stared in disbelief as Chief jogged across the lawn and towards the waiting men.  “I swear Cap; there is no way he should be there.”

Williams and Durrant both turned around to watch the Indian con catch up to his team mates.  Davies, sitting in the driving seat looked through the side mirror, a pleased smile turning up one side of his mouth.  He caught the small smile Casey, who was sitting behind him, allowed to pass over his own face as the men turned back to stare out the front window.  It seemed to Davies that he and the Gorilla’s had a possibly ally in Casey Durrant.

*****

“Where the hell have you been?” Garrison demanded as Chief slowly jogged up to them.

Garrison’s anger prevented him from hearing the soft gasp as Chief came to a halt beside the men but Casino didn’t miss it and his eyes narrowed suspiciously.

Chief clenched his jaw muscles and glared at Garrison for a moment.  “Sorry, lost track of time, must’ve dozed off for a while.”

“That’s not good enough Chief, but we don’t have time to discuss it now. You have five minutes to be back down here, packed and ready to go.” Garrison ordered as he turned away from his wheel man.

Chief moved away from the men, just glad to not be under their scrutiny for the moment as he hurried as fast as his aching body would allow, up the steps and into the mansion.

“They got to you, didn’t they?” Casino stated quietly as he watched Chief from the Indian’s door as he tentatively bent over to pick up his bag from the floor.

Chief straightened up too fast and had to grasp the small dresser beside his bed to stop from toppling over.  “Don’t…don’t know what you mean.” He managed to stammer as his breath caught in his throat.

Casino stepped into the room.  “Sure you do Geronimo.  That damn warning Davies gave you had bite.  What’s the damage? You might have fooled the Warden a minute ago but you sure as hell didn’t fool me.” Casino growled threateningly.  “Now are you going to tell me or do I spill the beans to the Warden?”

“You’d rat on me?” Chief demanded.

“If it means keeping you and the rest of us alive; yeah I’ll rat on you.” Casino agreed.

Chief sank to his cot with a groan.  “Nothing’s broken, bruising mainly.  I’ve already wrapped the ribs for support.  Ain’t nothing anybody’s going to do different.”

“You think you’re going to jump out of a plane like that?” Casino snorted.

“Don’t have a choice now do I.  If I tell the Warden, the mission’s over.  At least this way we get to France.”

“He’s going to blow a gasket when he finds out.” Casino warned.

“So we don’t tell him.”

“Your funeral Geronimo.”

Goniff raced through the door.  “The Warden’s getting anxious.  You two ‘ad better ‘urry.”  He came to a sudden stop and eyed the two men suspiciously.  “Everything alright mates,” he asked carefully.

“Just peachy,” Casino growled as he shouldered past the little thief.

“Chiefy?”

“Yeah fine Goniff,” Chief replied as he picked up his bag and followed Casino out the door.

Goniff stood staring after the two men.  “What the bleeding ‘ell did I just miss?” he muttered as he trailed behind the others.

*****

Chief took a shallow breath before jumping from the plane.  The high altitude, cold air and tight strappings of the chute were making it almost impossible to take a decent breath.  The loud groan of pain he uttered when his chute opened was wiped away by the wind, not that it would have mattered.  Up here no one could hear you scream.  With his arms above his head the pain in his side was blinding and he was having trouble controlling the chute.

Casino jumped straight after Chief, keeping a careful watch on the Indian as they were buffeted by the wind.  He could tell by the way he was struggling that the Indian was having trouble controlling the chute and he cursed loudly.  The damn Indian was a fool to think he could jump out of a plane in the condition he was in and he himself was a bigger fool for allowing him to do it.  He had only agreed to keep silent because Geronimo was right.  They had no choice.  Casino watched as Chief hit the ground hard with his feet before stumbling to his knees, struggling to get the billowing chute under control.  Casino landed twenty yards away from Chief, deftly released his lines and hauled in the chute before he dashed to where the other man was still struggling to release the lines.

“Give me that,” Casino growled as he snatched Chief’s blade from his hands and sliced through the tangled lines.

Chief sank to the ground with a groan as the pressure eased on his chest. “Thanks…Casino.”

“Don’t thank me yet.  Can you get up and walk? We need to get off this field.”

Chief struggled to his feet and took several shallow breaths before nodding at the safe cracker.  “I can walk,” he replied bending over to retrieve his bag and gun.

Casino grabbed the bag and handed Chief the gun ignoring the glare thrown at him.  “After you,” he bowed as Chief took several staggering steps before righting himself and moving off towards the trees at the perimeter of the field.

*****

Davies cursed silently as he helplessly watched the rest of his team marched towards the waiting German troop carrier.  Just their luck that their drop zone had been temporarily inhabited by a German patrol.  He had been lucky to have been blown off course and landed behind the trees.  The first indication he had had of trouble was the gunfire coming from where the rest of his team had landed.  He had hurried through the trees in time to see the capture of his team.  He was too far away to tell for sure but it looked as though Blake at least, had been injured.  The only thing Davies could do was to try and find Garrison’s unit.  He knew their drop zone was five miles east of their own and so he stealthily moved back through the trees and headed in an easterly direction, praying that another German patrol hadn’t been waiting for the Gorillas as well.

*****

Chapter 4

 

Garrison lowered his gun and stepped out from the trees when Chief and Casino entered the small clearing they were waiting in.  “What took you so long?” he demanded as he suspiciously eyed the two bags Casino was carrying.  One was his but the other belonged to Chief.

Casino noted the scrutiny and quickly offered a reply before the Indian could say anything.  “Geronimo was scouting, thought someone was tailing us so we had to take our time.”

Garrison accepted the answer on face value and turned to Chief.  “Find anything?”

Chief shook his head.  “Nope.”

“Alright then, move out.  Chief take the point.”  Garrison ordered as the men collected their bags and followed behind their quickly disappearing team mate.

Casino shook his head in frustration.  The damn Indian was going to keel over if he didn’t slow down.

“Everything alright then Casino?” Goniff queried quietly as he stepped up to Casino’s side.

“Everything’s just peachy Goniff.” Casino replied as he hurried after the Indian, wondering why he had volunteered to look out for the Indian’s welfare when the fool wasn’t interested in doing it himself.

An hour later, Chief gratefully sank to his heels against the protection of a low stone wall that surrounded the German Headquarters.  His ribs were burning and he felt light headed.

“Good work Chief.” Garrison acknowledged as he peered cautiously over the top of the wall.

“So now what Warden?” Goniff asked as he took a peek over the wall before ducking back down behind its meager protection.

“We wait for Mosby to make his move.  When the munitions factory goes up Casino, Actor and I’ll break in, in all the confusion and steal the plans,  Chief you find us some transport and Goniff, you’re the cover.”

“Just like that.”

“That’s right Casino, just like that.” Garrison replied.

“Quiet,” Chief hissed, “Someone’s coming, through the woods.”  Chief realized, even as the others dashed for the cover of the trees that in his present condition he wasn’t going to make it so he elected to crouch behind a group of low shrubs growing next to the wall.

The team waited, strung out among the trees and listened to the occasional sound of a person coming their way.  Whoever it was, it was obvious that they were trying to move silently but with only minimum success.  Garrison went to motion for Chief to move around behind the intruder when he suddenly realized that the man wasn’t in the trees with them.  Cursing silently he swung back to the wall, his eyes searching their previous position until he found what he was looking for.  What the hell was he playing at, he wondered.  There was something going on between Chief and Casino and he was determined that as soon as the current threat was dealt with he would be finding out exactly what that something was.

With no immediate help from Chief, Garrison slipped through the trees and moved quietly to a position behind the person following them.  The shadows made it difficult to see who it was other than to confirm that it was a man, but something was familiar about the figure just the same.  Garrison waited until the man had passed and then dashed out from his hiding place throwing one arm around the man’s shoulder and the other around his neck in a choke hold.  “Drop the gun,” he ordered in German.  When the order wasn’t complied with Garrison squeezed a little tighter on the choke hold.

“Alright.”

The strangled American response startled Garrison and he eased the pressure on the man’s throat as the rest of the team joined them.

“Blimey, Davies what are you doing ‘ere?” Goniff asked in surprise.

Davies sagged to the ground as Garrison released him.  He took several deep breaths and rubbed carefully at his throat where Garrison’s choke hold had held him before he looked up into the suspicious faces of the Gorillas.

“Mosby and the others were captured.  German Patrol was waiting at our drop zone when we landed.” Davies replied breathlessly.

“Just like that Warden,” Casino growled, “That’s what you said, just like that.”

“Can it, Casino.” Garrison ordered as he caught sight of Chief moving along Davies back trail.  He shook his head, he could have sworn he just saw the Indian stumble but right now he had more pressing things to worry about.

“Alright Davies,” Garrison turned back to the sergeant.  “How did you escape?” he asked suspiciously.

“I was the first to jump, came down short of the landing zone with the help of the wind.  By the time I reached the field, the shooting was all over and they were been loaded into a troop carrier.” Davies replied.

“And you let them be taken.” Casino shoved the sergeant back.  He might not like the team but they were Americans, now in the hands of the Germans.

Davies drew himself to his full six foot two height.  “There wasn’t anything I could do to stop it except to get killed.  There were at least a dozen German soldiers with their guns pointed at the team and Blake was already injured.”

“Do you know how bad?” Garrison demanded.

Davies shook his head, “Sorry LT I don’t.  He was standing with the help of Williams. I thought it better that I find you guys rather than try to bust them out alone.”

“Alright you did the right thing Davies.” Garrison confirmed.

“Nothing on his back trail,” Chief announced a little breathlessly as he rejoined the group, avoiding Garrison’s searching eyes and scowl.  Without asking Chief moved back to the edge of the woods to keep a watch on the German headquarters.

Garrison’s scowl deepened as he watched Chief walk away from the group but he now had other more pressing matters to worry about and whatever the problem with
Chief, it would have to wait.  The man was doing his job and he could ask no more than that at the moment.  Garrison scrubbed a hand across his face as the rest of the team waited silently for his orders.

“Alright, here’s what we’ll do.  Actor, you and I will go into Reims, see if we can’t find out where Mosby and his men are been held.”

“And what about the rest of us,” Casino demanded.

“You’ll stay right here, out of sight and watch that HQ.  Once we know where the others are been held we can make plans.”

“’Ey Warden, we still going through with this mission then?”

“Yes, we are Goniff.” Garrison snapped.

“Sorry I asked.” Goniff muttered as he moved towards the relative safety of the trees at the side of the road where he could back up Chief if need be.

As soon as Garrison and Actor were out of ear shot, Casino rounded on the unsuspecting Davies and slammed him up against the nearest tree.  “What the hell did you and your team do to Chief?”

“Is he alright?” Davies asked worriedly.

Casino snorted, “As if you care?”

“Look, it wasn’t my idea, I tried to stop it, tried to warn Chief but when Mosby and Blake get an idea…”

“Yeah well you didn’t try very damn hard.” Casino cut in.

“And neither did you.” Davies retorted.  ‘You all heard my warning and yet you let him go off running on his own.”

“Get one thing straight Davies, we didn’t let Chief do anything.   The damn Indian does exactly what he wants to do and nobody can stop him.” Casino drew in a deep breath and let it out as a long sigh.  Davies was right, he could have, hell, should have followed the Indian this morning but instead he had chosen to stay in bed.  “What was it, because he’s an Indian or a con or both and they didn’t like it? Hell they don’t like any of us but they didn’t pick on us either.”

“Partly.”

“What sort of a damn answer is that?” Casino growled menacingly.

“You still haven’t told me if he’s alright,” Davies countered.

“What do you think? They beat him.”

Davies sighed fully aware of what a beating by Blake entailed which meant that the Indian was probably carrying broken ribs. He had to hand it to the man; he had some guts jumping out of a plane in that condition.  “So why did the LT let him come? Surely it would have been better for your team to stand down and let us take the mission alone.”

Casino’s eyes widened, “Why you…that’s it isn’t it?  Mosby didn’t want us along; he wanted all the glory for himself.  Serves him right he got captured and now we have to risk our necks to get him and that animal Blake, free.”

Davies nodded, “Mosby was happy to work with another team…”

“Just not us.”  Goniff said quietly as he stepped from behind the trees. “You’ve been covering for ‘im, ‘aven’t you Casino?  Just ‘ow bad is ‘Ee ‘urt then?”

Casino shrugged his shoulders and looked away from both men.  “I don’t know for sure.  He said it was mostly bruising and he’d wrapped his ribs before he got back to the mansion.”

“Bleeding ‘ell and you believed ‘im? You know as well as I do mate, Chiefy don’t never tell anyone when ‘Ee’s ‘urting.”

“Don’t you think I know that you dumb limey,” Casino snapped, “But what was I supposed to do.  We didn’t have a choice; tell the Warden and the mission’s a bust.”

“You mean your LT doesn’t know?” Davies snapped.

“No and that’s the way it’s going to stay too.”  Casino glared at both men daring either of them to object.

“I’ll follow your lead for now Casino,” Davies agreed “But if I think the mission is been jeopardized by his injuries I’ll have to tell the LT.”

Casino laughed, “I’d say the mission is already in jeopardy with your lot already in German hands.  If we hadn’t kept quiet there’d be nobody but you here to complete it.”

“The Warden’s going to kill all of us, you know that Casino.” Goniff pointed out uselessly.

“Shut up limey.” Casino snapped. “I’m going to relieve Geronimo, see if I can’t get him to rest for awhile.” Casino walked away from the two men.

Davies turned to look at the little Englishman.  “I didn’t want this to happen.”

“Aw I know mate. Don’t worry Chiefy will be alright, we just have to make sure ‘Ee don’t do too much or get ‘urt worse than ‘Ee already is.”

“And I take it that is not going to be as easy as it sounds.”

“You got that right mate.  Between ‘im and the bloody Warden…” Goniff shook his head in defeat.

*****

“How is he?” Casey asked Mosby as he watched their captain tending to Blake’s injury.

“It went straight through, but he’s lost a lot of blood.”  Mosby replied as he tied off the bandage around Blake’s shoulder.

“How are we going to get out of here Cap?” Williams asked nervously as he peered out the dirty window of the shack they had been left in.  “I mean what if the Sarge decides to blow up the factory anyway.  He doesn’t know we’re here.”

“Well if he does, that’ll be the diversion we need to get out of here.  The krauts will be too busy trying to save themselves to worry about us.” Mosby replied evenly.

“Maybe he’s gone after Garrison and his team.  Chief turning up like he did might be a good thing now. Otherwise Garrison wouldn’t be here and we’d be on our own.” Casey added.

Mosby stormed across the small shack and pushed Casey up against the wall.  “Listen to me Durrant,” he spat, “we don’t need those damn criminals to get out of here and if I see that stinking Indian I’ll finish what Blake started.” Mosby shoved Casey once more and then stepped back.

Casey didn’t know why he did what he did other than he had had a gut full of Mosby and Blake’s attitude.  Even Brown was starting to get on his nerves.  He decided if he didn’t make a stand now, then he never would, regardless of whether he got out alive or not, he needed to know that he had stood up for himself and the others. “Why?  Why are you so determined to destroy the Gorillas?  They’ve never done anything to you and they may be our only hope of escape now.”

Mosby turned and stared at Durrant in stunned disbelief for a minute. “You dare to question my orders Durrant.”

Durrant squared his shoulders.  “What we did to Chief wasn’t right.  The Gorillas are just  doing a job the same as us and they’re damn good at it.”

“They’re criminals, thieves, conmen, that Indian you’re so fond of is a murderer.” Mosby raged.

“Aren’t we all?” Casey countered. “Every time we kill an unsuspecting German; isn’t that murder too?”

“This is war and in war soldiers kill.  My Great Grandfather and Blake’s fought in the war between the states to ensure that the lowlifes of our society, the criminals and Indians and Blacks didn’t gain their freedom, didn’t rise above their stations.   There is no place in the army for men like that.  My Great Grandfather would roll over in his grave if he knew what sort of scum are allowed into this man’s army now. Well I plan to uphold his ideals.”

Casey laughed, “His ideals?” He shook his head. “He was a criminal Mosby and a thief. He didn’t give the spoils of his raids to the Southern people; he gave them to his men.    I’ve read the history books.  Do you know what I was studying at University before war broke out Captain?  It was law and do you know what one of the subjects I had to read about was?  It was the great Colonel John Singleton Mosby and how he became a lawyer, studying in jail after he shot a fellow student.¹’² At least he wasn’t a bigot Captain, he did have some principals; he didn’t approve of slavery even though he fought for Virginia and the South.² You on the other hand are nothing but a bigot Mosby and I hope to hell the Gorillas do rescue us, just so I can watch them dish out Gorilla justice to you for what you did to Chief.”  Casey squared his shoulders and turned his back on Mosby leaving the other man standing in the middle of the shack staring at him.  If Mosby was going to kill him it would be with his bare hands.

*****

An hour later the men were listening to Garrison’s plans in silence.  “Alright, we’re in luck.  The Germans are holding Mosby and his men at the munitions factory which means that we can retain the original plan with a couple of slight modifications.  Davies, Goniff, Chief, the three of you will set the charges at the munitions factory.  You shouldn’t have any difficulty in finding suitable explosives to use.  Once you’ve set the explosives, find the other team, free them; blow the place and get out.  Casino, Actor, once the munitions factory blows, that’s our cue to get into the headquarters and find those plans.  Chief you should be able to commandeer a car in all the confusion.  If Davies is right and one or more of them is injured you’re going to need transport.  We’ll grab another car from here on our way out too.  We’ll rendezvous here, Garrison pointed to a spot on the map several miles west of the munitions factory.  Stay hidden and wait for us.  Any questions?”

“Yeah, shouldn’t I go with Chief and Davies? After all I am the demolitions expert.” Casino asked.  There was no way he was going to allow the Indian out of his sight if he could help it.

“And you’re also the safe cracker.  No I need you with us Casino.  It is unlikely that those plans are going to be left lying out on a desk somewhere.  I’m sure Davies, Chief and Goniff know how to set a few charges. Any other questions.”

Casino wanted to protest again but he couldn’t think of a suitable reason without drawing Garrison’s suspicions.  Instead he threw a warning glare and Davies and Goniff, to which he received surreptitious nods of understanding in return.

“I’ve got one Warden.  What ‘appens if Mosby and ‘is men ‘ave already talked?  We could be walking into a ruddy trap.” Goniff pointed out.

Garrison sighed; they had no choice they had to go now, before the other team was interrogated.  “We’ll just have to chance it Goniff.  Anymore questions?”

“Yeah, what about uniforms?  We can’t just waltz into a German headquarters wearing civilian clothes you know.” Casino grumbled.

“Already taken care of Casino.” Garrison responded as Actor held up the bag he was carrying.

“Blimey Warden, we’re going to make a con out of you yet.” Goniff exclaimed happily.

“Not if I spend the next ten years with you Goniff,” Garrison replied. “Alright move out, we’ll give you two and half hours to get set and blow the factory.”

***** 

Chapter 5

 

“Come on mate, Chiefy, just rest for a few minutes,” Goniff pleaded as he and Davies followed the staggering Indian through the trees.

“I don’t need to rest.” Chief replied through gritted teeth.

“There ain’t no ‘arm in admitting you’re ‘urting Chief.” Goniff persisted.

“There’s nothing wrong with me,” Chief gasped.

“Yeah right and I’m the bleeding King of England.  Look mate, Casino’s already told us what’s wrong, or at least as much as what you told ‘im.  I can ‘ear it Chiefy, you can barely breathe.  Just a few minutes.” Goniff pleaded, “Besides we both promised Casino we’d look after you and not let you ‘urt yourself more.  Didn’t we Sergeant? And you wouldn’t want us to go back on a promise, would you Chiefy?”

“Goniff’s right Chief, you do need to rest.  You’ll be no good to your team if you don’t.  Garrison, Casino and Actor are depending on you to blow that factory.” Davies paused, “You know I could order you to stop.”  Davies threatened.

Chief came to an abrupt stop and swung back towards Davies, grunting in pain as the movement jarred his ribs.  “And what are you depending on me for Davies?” Chief demanded.  “To rescue your damn team?”

Davies held his ground in front of the irate Indian.  “Look Chief, I’m no fonder of my team than you are.  I’m sorry for what happened, I’m sorry I didn’t do more to stop them, and I’m sorry you got hurt but we can’t just leave them to the Germans.  They’re American soldiers and Mosby knows too much; codes, contacts, so yes, I am depending on you to rescue them too and get us all safely back to England.”

Chief snorted, “And if the tables were turned do you think any of them would bother about rescuing me or the rest of my team.”

“Casey and I would.” Davies replied evenly.

“Casey the skinny one, about Goniff’s height? Chief asked thoughtfully.

“That’s Casey, why.” Davies asked suspiciously.

“Let’s just say I owe him one.” Chief staggered slightly as a bout of dizziness washed over him.

Both Goniff and Davies grabbed Chief’s arms and carefully lowered him to a sitting position on the ground.

“Now are you going to listen to us and rest for a few minutes Chiefy?” Goniff pleaded. “Because I don’t fancy trying to explain to the Warden or Casino why the mission failed and you’re worse off than you were before?”

Chief knew Goniff was right, he had to rest, but he was afraid that if he did he wouldn’t get back on his feet and his team at least was depending on him.  The pain in his side was a constant seething mass that he could no longer ignore and the lack of enough oxygen in his lungs because he couldn’t breathe properly was making him light headed and dizzy.

“Chief,” Davies called worriedly, “Chief, let me take a look at your side.  Casino said you wrapped your ribs.  Maybe the binding needs to be tightened?”

“Come on mate, the Sarge is right, let ‘im check you out.  You know you’d let the Warden or Actor do it.  It might ‘elp and then we can get to the factory, blow the damn thing up and be on our way ‘ome.” Goniff added hopefully.

When Chief didn’t object the two men took that as agreement and Davies carefully helped Chief out of his jacket while Goniff helped steady him on the other side.

“Sorry Chief,” Davies responded to the soft groan as he pulled the Indian’s shirt out of the waistband of his pants revealing the livid deep purple bruises visible where the wrappings had slipped.

“Blimey, that ‘as got to ‘urt Chiefy.” Goniff shuddered.

Davies shook his head in disbelief, amazed that the man had been able to hide this for so long.  Aware that the Indian didn’t like to be touched he gave a warning that he was going to check the ribs before he re-wrapped them. The only response he got from Chief was a sharp intact of air that ended in a hissing grunt as he applied pressure on the worst of the bruising.

“They broken then?” Goniff asked quietly.

“One is,” Davies nodded in reply. “And another couple are suspect.”

“Wasn’t broken when we left.” Chief whispered between gasps.

“But I bet it was when you hit the ground.” Davies retorted harsher than he had meant too.  He wasn’t angry with Chief but with his own team for the mess they had landed them all in. “Sorry Chief, not your fault.”

“Just wrap them…so we can get out of here.” Chief sagged against Goniff as Davies tightened the bindings around his chest.

*****

“How much longer?” Casino demanded as he paced past Garrison in the small clearing between the trees.

Garrison had had about all the pacing he could stand from Casino for the time being.  The safe cracker had been at it from almost the minute Chief and the others had left. “Alright Casino, what gives?” Garrison asked calmly, ignoring Casino’s question.

“Don’t know what you mean Warden. I only asked how much longer.” Casino replied innocently as he turned to make another pass through the trees.

“Dammit Casino, stand still.” Garrison ordered.

Casino sighed as he came to a halt; he knew the game would eventually be up and it looked like the Warden had decided it was up now.

“At last,” Garrison mumbled, “Now maybe you’ll tell me what’s up between you and Chief, and don’t say nothing,” Garrison warned.  “I’ve seen the way you’ve been watching him ever since we left England and I would have had to be blind to see you carrying his bag for him.”

“Geez Warden, can’t a guy do a good deed for someone else without you getting all suspicious?” Casino hedged in the hope that Garrison would leave it at that.

“Casino, I’m warning you,” Garrison threatened.

“You had better tell him Casino,” Actor advised.

“And what would you know Actor?” Casino demanded.

“I know Chief is injured.” Actor replied softly.

“What?” Garrison demanded, spinning to stare at first Actor and then Casino.  “Somebody had better tell me what is going on and fast.”

“Thanks Actor,” Casino snarled as he glared at the conman.

Actor lifted his hands in submission.  “If you had asked I could have told you that whatever you and Chief had planned wouldn’t work.”

“Enough,” Garrison snapped.  “Actor what happened to Chief?”

“To be honest Craig I don’t know, although I can guess.  He was favouring his right side when he came back from his run this afternoon; that is all I know for certain.”

“And you didn’t see fit to tell me?” Garrison growled.

Actor shrugged, “Tell you what? Casino went after Chief when he got back, perhaps you should ask him instead.” Actor smiled at Casino.

Garrison turned on Casino, “Alright, spill it, all of it.”

Casino sighed, “When Mosby’s team arrived yesterday; Davies warned Chief to watch his back.”

“And you said nothing?”

“Like we could say anything with Mosby standing beside you.  Anyways nothing happened and we all kind of let it slip including the Indian.”

“Well obviously something did happen. What was it and how bad is he hurt?”  Garrison seethed as his patience ran out.

“I don’t know for sure,” Casino muttered helplessly.

“Don’t know what for sure,” Garrison grated.

“How bad he’s hurt now.  Three of Mosby’s men ambushed him this morning when he went for his run, beat him up pretty bad, but not so you’d notice and left him in the woods.  He told me it was mainly bruising, nothing was broken and that he’d wrapped his ribs.”

Garrison closed his eyes for a moment, “And you were stupid enough to believe him and worse you let him jump out of a plane injured.” Garrison advanced on Casino, “Of all the stupid, idiotic things you have ever done…”

“If we told you, you would have scrubbed the mission…” Casino interrupted.

“Damn right I would have.  Do you think the mission was more important than any of your lives?”

“Yeah well it was more important to some.” Casino retorted.

“And what does that mean exactly?”

“Mosby told his men to rough up Chief so that he wouldn’t make the mission.  If one of us can’t go after a briefing none go.  That’s the rules remember.” Casino glared at Garrison until he nodded.  “Mosby didn’t want a bunch of cons along; he wanted to do the whole mission himself.”

“And you know this how?” Garrison asked.

“Davies told us, while we were waiting for you and Actor to come back earlier.”

“Was Davies one of the men…?”

Casino shook his head, “No, he had no part in it.  Tried to stop it before it started.”

“At least tell me that Goniff and Davies know that Chief is injured”

“Yeah they do and they promised to keep an eye on him.” Casino confirmed.

Garrison turned to Actor, There wasn’t much he could do about the situation now but when they got back to England… “How much more damage is he likely to have done in the jump?” Garrison demanded.

Actor shrugged, “That’s hard to tell Craig, if it was only bruising, maybe nothing, but if any of those ribs were cracked when he jumped they’re probably broken now.  You know the forces involved when a chute opens.”

Casino figured he might as well tell the rest, there was no point in keeping anything a secret now.  “He had trouble controlling the chute on the way down.  I had to cut it off him and he couldn’t catch his breath once we started walking to meet up with you guys. That’s why it took us so long to catch up.”

Garrison pursed his lips and ran a hand through his short blond hair. He glared at Casino for a moment “Alright let me see if I have all of this straight.  I have just sent Chief, who is injured with broken ribs and the backing of two men to blow up a munitions factory and rescue a group of commandos who were the ones that injured him in the first place.”

“Well yeah that sounds about right,” Casino nodded warily.

“And what do you think is going to happen when Chief and Mosby meet again? Garrison demanded.

“Goniff and Davies will look after Chief.”  Casino replied quietly starting to see the problems that could possibly arise.  “Geronimo’s not in any shape to go after Mosby or Blake.”  Casino cursed even as the words came out.  Hell, the Indian wasn’t in any shape to even be on the continent and here he was blowing up a munitions factory and rescuing a team of bigoted idiots with only the help of one man they could really trust.

“So help me Casino, if anything happens to Chief or Goniff…”

“You’ll have to get in line babe.”  Casino promised darkly as he hefted his gun.

*****

Chief felt better with the ribs re-wrapped and the three men made quick time of the last mile and a half to the munitions factory.  They cut a hole in the darkest corner of the wire fence and slipped through unseen, pausing long enough to make temporary repairs so that to the casual observer the fence was undamaged. Besides they weren’t going out the way they had come in and there was no point in alerting the Germans to their presence any earlier than necessary.  Both Goniff and Davies knew there was no way Chief would be leaving the destroyed factory on his feet, even if the Indian wouldn’t admit it. They both marveled at the fact that he was still operating under his own steam as it was.  And they also had Blake to consider, if the man was still alive, that was.

“Alright Chief, Goniff and I’ll set the charges,” Davies began, holding up a hand to forestall Chief’s objections.  “It’ll be easier for us.  You can’t lift anything or bend down. We’ll also commandeer a truck for the trip out. ”

Chief sighed but nodded in agreement knowing the sergeant was right.  “So what am I supposed to do?”

“Look for Mosby.” Davies thought for a moment, remembering the aerial photos he had seen of the place.  “There are some old storage sheds along the back fence, try those first.  I doubt that even the Krauts are stupid enough to keep prisoners in a room full of ammunition.”

“Alright,” Chief nodded tiredly, “But just so you know I’m only doing this for you and Casey.  He set me free and I owe him that much.”

“Understood Chief, and thank you.” Davies offered his hand which was tentatively accepted before Chief disappeared into the darkness.

“Damn,” Davies muttered.

“’Ee has that effect on everybody, regular ghost ‘Ee is.  Well come on, Chiefy won’t be happy if we don’t do our bit and you don’t want ‘im coming after you.”

“No I don’t think I would.” Davies agreed as they moved off to complete their part of the mission.

Chief kept to the deep shadows as much as possible as he made his way stiffly to the sheds Davies had suggested.  The first two were unusable, with the roofs caved in and the doors hanging off the hinges. Chief headed for the next shed but movement from the front of the last shed caught his eye. Moving carefully he slipped through the darkness behind the sheds until he reached the back of the last one.

Quietly he pressed up against the back wall and listened for any sound from within, satisfied when he heard muffled American voices coming from the other side of the wall. Chief slipped quietly up the side of the shed stopping just before the corner.  Cautiously he peered around the corner at the German guard lounging against the wall beside the door.   He stepped back into the darkness along the side wall and scoured the ground for a small rock that he could attract the German’s attention with.  Finding what he needed, he carefully scooped it up and then released the blade from its sheath.  Taking a shallow breath, Chief tossed the rock and waited for the guard to step away from the corner of the shed.

The German stepped past the end of the building unaware of the danger lurking to his right.  Swiftly Chief stepped forward, one hand reaching for the German’s mouth and the other thrusting the blade deep into his back.  Chief grunted in pain as the German fell against him but he kept his feet and dragged the man into the shadows beside the shed.  Retrieving his knife, Chief cleaned it quickly on the German’s uniform before returning it to its sheath on his wrist.  Checking to make sure he hadn’t been seen by any other patrolling krauts, Chief collected the dead German’s gun before silently moving to the door of the shed.

“Mosby,” Chief called in as loud a voice as he dared, “We have to get out of here now.”   Chief pushed open the door and stepped into the room just as the first of the explosions rocked the factory.

Mosby ignored Chief completely as he and Williams helped Blake up from the floor and supported him to the door.

“Look for Davies and Goniff, they were getting a truck, I’ll cover you.” Chief shouted above the roar of the explosions as he moved out of the doorway and stepped to the side once he was sure the area around them was clear of Germans.  Most of the factory was on fire now, small explosions still rent the air, the smoke was thick and Chief was finding it difficult to breathe. He staggered past two of the sheds in the wake of the other three men before dropping to his knees when a coughing fit overtook him.

*****

The three men waiting anxiously in the woods outside the German Headquarters all looked to the east when the first explosion erupted in the sky.  Even from two miles away the fireball was an impressive sight. “Come on that’s our cue,” Garrison said as they moved to the edge of the woods and watched the hasty departure of a group of German soldiers as they made their way towards the factory.  They waited until the last truck load of Germans had left and then dashed across the road to the wall, following it until it curved around behind the headquarters.  After checking that no guards were in the immediate vicinity, the three men jumped over the wall and hurried to the back entrance of the building.  Slipping inside they discovered that most of the corridors were empty, the soldiers deployed to help at the munitions factory.  Those that remained were quickly sent on their way to guard the front of the headquarters by the SS Colonel who had suddenly appeared in their midst.

“Let’s hurry, we don’t have much time.” Garrison ordered as the he led the way to Colonel Werner’s office.

“Where is this Kraut Colonel anyway?” Casino asked quietly as he followed Garrison and Actor.

“At a meeting in Paris, he won’t be back until tomorrow night.” Garrison replied as they slipped into the Colonel’s office unseen.

“So what happens if he took the plans with him?” the safe cracker demanded as they searched the room for the safe.

“We’ll worry about that if it happens.”  Garrison clicked his fingers to gain Casino’s attention before pointing to the painting of a country scene hanging on the wall.

Casino hurried across the room and carefully felt around the edges of the painting before lifting it off the wall revealing the small safe behind it.  As he set to work opening the safe Garrison and Actor kept watch at the door and window for any unwanted intruders.

“Warden,” Casino hissed as the safe door swung open.

Garrison hurried across the room, exchanging places with Casino who now watched at the door.  Garrison pulled out the contents of the safe and began searching through the various documents until he found what he was searching for.  “Alright, this is it.”  He announced as he folded up the plans and tucked them inside his jacket before placing the other documents back in the safe.

Casino closed the safe, spun the tumblers, wiped it down and replaced the painting ensuring that nothing was out of place.  There was no point in alerting anybody to the fact that they had been there any earlier than necessary.  The three men slipped out of the room and hurried back down the corridor to the rear entrance.

“Casino go and find us a car.  We’ll meet you at the front entrance,” Garrison ordered.

Casino moved off around the far side of the building in search of suitable transport that could be used to carry the injured.

“Don’t be too harsh on them Craig,” Actor suggested.  “They were only trying to do what they thought was right and as it tuned out had they not kept Chief’s injury from you, not only would the mission have been a failure but Mosby and his men would also have been lost.”

Garrison sighed in frustration.  “It was stupid Actor, one of you,” Garrison leveled a meaningful glare at Actor, “Should have told me what was going on.  Hell I should have seen what was going on.  Chief could have been killed jumping out of that plane.”

“And what could you have done besides pull the team.  There was no time to contact Richards or bring in another team.  At least this way Mosby and his men have a chance of escape. ”

“But at what price?” Garrison shook his head. “Don’t look for excuses Actor.  I knew something was wrong when Chief was late back for dinner last night, let alone this morning but I chose to ignore it.  Hell I chose to ignore all the warning signs,” Garrison remarked bitterly.  “From the moment I spotted Casino carrying Chief’s bag, to the fact that he didn’t hide in the woods with us when Davies appeared and then he kept out of my way…you know I even saw him stumble when he went to check Davies back trail,” Garrison sighed, “I thought it was between Chief and Casino as usual and I could deal with it when we got back, so I ignored what was going on in front of my face.”

“Well you weren’t far wrong, just not what you expected, nor I for that matter.” Actor added thoughtfully.  “I had my suspicions too Craig and let them slide because Chief seemed to be handling whatever the situation was.  I could have pushed harder to find out what was wrong but I didn’t either.  Neither of us have crystal balls Craig.  If they don’t tell us we can’t help.” Actor shrugged, “But it does show that they can work together when the need arises.”

“Yeah,” Garrison muttered, “they’ve learnt how to cover up injuries.”

Casino pulled up to the front of the headquarters in a German staff car.  Garrison and Actor casually climbed in after Actor checked his watch and told the soldier on duty that they would be returning later that morning.

“Do you know where to go Casino?” Garrison asked as the car sped through the gates and turned onto the main road headed in the general direction of the munitions factory.

*****

Chapter 6

 

Chief felt a pair of hands grab him around the shoulders and he weakly tried to fight the man off.

“Easy Chief, its Casey Durrant.  Let me help you up.” Casey didn’t bother waiting for a reply; instead he threw Chief’s left arm over his shoulder and pulled him to his feet.

“Behind…the sheds.” Chief gasped as fire raced through his side.  He felt Casey move in the indicated direction and forced his feet to keep pace with the other man.  They made it down the side of one of the sheds before Chief came to a gasping stop, doubled over as coughs raked his body.  Casey leaned Chief back against the wall and supported him on the other side waiting until the coughing subsided enough that he could catch his breath.

“Which way Chief?” Casey asked in an effort to keep the man focused on what was happening around them.  “We need to find a way out of here.”

“Stay…stay behind the sheds…along the wire fence…hole in the corner, you can get out there.”  Chief gasped and he began to sag towards the ground.

“Nothing doing Chief, we’re going out together.  I couldn’t help before but I can now and I’m not leaving you behind, now come on.” Casey stated as he pulled Chief’s arm over his shoulder again and headed off in the indicated direction, forcing Chief to stumble along with him.

*****

“Where the bleeding ‘ell are they,” Goniff asked worriedly as he and Davies waited in the truck they had commandeered for the escape.

“They’ll be along Goniff, don’t worry,” Davies replied positively even though doubt was beginning to gnaw at his stomach.  In truth Chief and the others should have been here by now and they couldn’t wait much longer without drawing suspicion to themselves.  So far none of the Germans had bothered to wonder why the truck was parked at the end of the old storage sheds but he knew that wouldn’t last for much longer, not when they realized that the factory had been deliberately sabotaged.  Davies scanned the area ahead.  The glow cast by the fires caused the shadows to jump and cavort in a weird dance.  Davies suddenly grabbed Goniff’s arm, “There Goniff, they’re coming now.”

Goniff watched as the figures drew closer.  “I only see three of them and none of them are Chiefy,” Goniff panicked.  “Where the ‘ell is Chief?”

“And Casey,” Davies added as he got out of the truck.  “Stay here, I’ll go and see where the others are.”

Davies hurried to meet Mosby as Williams and Blake stumbled past him.  “Where are Chief and Casey?” Davies demanded as Mosby ignored him and continued on to the waiting truck.  “Dammit Mosby,” Davies yelled as caught the man’s arm as he was about to climb into the truck.  “I asked you a question.  Where are the others?”

Mosby spun to meet Davies his face a mask of fury, “Take your hand off me Sergeant,” Mosby spat as he shook free of Davies restraining hand.

“Not until you tell me where the others are, Sir.”  Davies spat back.

Mosby smirked, “Back there, probably dead by now and good riddance to both of them.”

Davies stared at Mosby’s back as the man turned and climbed into the truck and then looked at Goniff’s stricken face.  “Wait here Goniff, I’ll go back and check.” Davies didn’t wait for a reply as he turned and hurried back the way Mosby and the other two had come.

Mosby had climbed into the front seat of the truck beside Goniff while Williams made Blake comfortable in the back.  He picked up the gun lying on the seat beside the Englishman and pointed it at him.  “Get this truck moving now con,” he ordered.

“But the Sarge…”Goniff spluttered.

“I’m in charge here not Davies.  Now either start this truck and move out or you can join the breed.  Another dead con won’t be any great loss to anyone.  The choice is yours.”

Reluctantly Goniff started the truck. “You won’t get away with this Mosby,” he warned, “When the Warden hears about what you’ve done…”

“And who’s going to tell him? You?  And so what if you do, nobody’s going to believe you against me, and especially without proof.  Now drive.” Mosby ordered, pressing the end of the gun into Goniff’s side.

*****

Davies cursed when he heard the truck starting up as he ran towards the sheds at the edge of the factory perimeter.  He should have gone after Mosby himself and had Chief set the charges with Goniff.  At least the two cons would be safe together.  He ducked down the side of the first shed, headed for the rear of the buildings.  He hoped that the Indian was alive and had enough sense to head back to the hole they had cut in the fence because that was the only way they were going to get out now.  Davies slowed as he neared the end of the shed.  It wouldn’t help anyone if he was captured or killed.  After assuring himself that there were no Germans in the area he headed along the fence, keeping to the shadows cast by the sheds.  Movement ahead caught his eye and he sank to the ground and waited as his eyes adjusted to the dancing shadows caused by the glow of the fires.  Two staggering figures appeared ahead, the taller being supported by the shorter.  Davies breathed a sigh of relief when he recognized the two men.  Chief and Casey.  Rising quickly to his feet, Davies hurried towards the two men, breaking into a run when Chief staggered sideways, falling to his knees and bringing Casey down with him.  “Chief, Casey,” he called as he caught up to the men.

“Sarge am I glad to see you,” Casey said as he continued to support a gagging Chief.  “I don’t think I could have made it on my own.  He’s pretty sick.”

“Yeah I know Casey,” Davies replied placing a hand on the private’s arm.  “Come on Chief, we have to get out of here now but I’m afraid we’re on our own.  The others have already left.”

“Goniff left me?” Chief gasped as Davies and Durrant lifted him back to his feet, ignoring the Indian’s moan of pain.

“Yeah, but I don’t think it was by choice.” Davies replied darkly as they hurried as fast as Chief could manage to their original entry point.

This time they didn’t bother about repairing the damage to the fence, more intent in putting as much distance between them and the burning factory as possible.  Once clear of the smoke and heat, Chief found it a little easier to breathe but he refused to allow Davies to check his ribs again, declaring the bandage could wait until they met up with the rest of his team.

*****

Goniff sat in abject silence on a tree stump nervously awaiting the arrival of Garrison, Actor and Casino at the rendezvous site. He felt incredibly guilty about leaving Chief and the other two behind but he knew that getting killed wasn’t going to help anyone, especially him so he had obeyed Mosby’s orders and driven from the burning factory.  He just hoped that someday Chief and the other members of his team would forgive him for leaving one of them behind.  He snorted softly, wondering if Mosby felt any guilt at leaving any of them behind too.  Somehow he doubted it.  He owed it to himself, Chief, Davies and the other member of the Raiders to see that Mosby paid for what he had done to all of them.  Goniff shuddered and wrapped his arms more tightly around his torso.  The night air was cold and he felt vulnerable sitting alone in the woods waiting for someone to come for him.

A muffled curse and snapping twig sent Goniff scurrying into the trees in the pre-dawn darkness.  He held his breath as three figures emerged warily out of the darkness. He sighed in relief as he recognized the tall figure of Actor, still dressed in his German SS Colonel’s uniform.

“Warden am I glad to see you,” Goniff exclaimed as he stepped from behind the trees.

At the sound of Goniff’s voice the three men had turned towards the voice with guns drawn.

“You dumb limey, that’s the quickest way to get yourself shot,” Casino growled

Goniff ignored Casino; instead he slumped back to the stump he had been sitting on earlier with a heavy sigh.

Garrison glanced worriedly around the empty clearing before returning his attention to his dejected second story man.  Something was definitely wrong.  “Goniff where are the others?” he asked gently.

“Hey yeah, where is that damn Indian?” Casino added.

Goniff slumped further on his perch, ignoring both men.

“Goniff,” Garrison prodded with a little more force.  “What happened?”

“Aw Warden…” The normally ebullient man began before stopping again.

“Come on limey, it can’t be that bad,” Casino tried to lighten the mood even though he had a sinking feeling growing in the pit of his stomach.

Goniff sighed, not looking at any of the men.  “I didn’t ‘ave a choice Warden, you got to believe me.”

“Alright Goniff, I believe you,” Garrison replied, and he did even though he had no idea what it was he was supposed to believe.  “Just tell me what’s happened, Goniff, where are all the others?”

“Mosby, Blake and Williams are already on their way to meet their sub.”

“What?” Garrison demanded, “He’s already left.  What about Davies and the other one?”  Garrison fumed disgusted with the man’s behaviour.

Goniff shrugged helplessly.  “They and Chiefy are somewhere back there.”

“What the hell do you mean limey, why are they back there?” Casino snarled.

Garrison grabbed Casino’s arm pulling him back from Goniff before he squatted in front of the little Englishman.  “Goniff just start at the beginning.  You’re not making much sense at the moment.”

Goniff drew in a deep steadying breath and looked at Garrison. Chiefy and the others lives depended on him and he had to pull himself together.  “We set the charges, Davies and I and Chiefy went to find where they were keeping Mosby and the others.  Davies nicked a truck and we were waiting for Chiefy to come back.”  Goniff took a shuddering breath, “Mosby and them two others turned up.  “’Ee, ‘Ee told Davies that Chiefy and Durrant were still somewhere back in the factory, dead.”

“What?” Casino choked as Garrison and Actor remained silent.

“Davies, ‘Ee said ‘E’d go back and check.  Mosby got in the truck, pulled a gun on me, ‘Ee did and told me to drive.”  Goniff looked at the three men, “Weren’t nothing I could do Warden.  I reckon he would ‘ave pulled the bleeding trigger too. ‘Ee weren’t too worried about offing a con.  Couldn’t help anybody if I was dead, so I did what I was told and drove away from the factory.”

“It’s alright Goniff…”

“Like hell it is.” Casino exploded.

“That’s enough Casino,” Garrison ordered, “You did the right thing Goniff.”

“So ‘ow come it doesn’t feel right?” Goniff asked quietly.

“Because feelings don’t care whether it’s right or wrong.” Actor replied softly.

“So now what do we do Warden?  We’re not going to just leave them there are we? Casino demanded hotly.

“No Casino, we’re not but we can’t go in guns blazing either.  That’s not going to help anyone.” Garrison scrubbed tiredly at his face.

“We still have the staff car Craig, and our uniforms.” Actor suggested.  “We could always just drive up there and see whether they have caught any more saboteurs.” Actor looked meaningfully at Goniff who was still dressed in civvies. “After all we are SS solders and it is our duty to protect the father land from criminals such as these.”

Garrison nodded in thought.  “It might just work but we’ll have to wait until daylight.”

*****

“Hold up Casey,” Davies ordered when he felt Chief falter again.  “Come on Chief, let’s rest for a minute.”

“We need to keep moving.” Chief gritted.

“We need to rest, all of us, at least for a few minutes.” Davies replied.  “There is no point in blindly continuing like this Chief.  What if we run into a German patrol?  None of us will be in any condition to defend ourselves.”

“The Sarge is right Chief; I know I could use a few minutes rest,” Casey added his voice to Davies argument knowing that the Indian between them wasn’t going to get much further without rest.

Chief wanted to stop more than anything but he couldn’t allow these men to think of him as being weak and he desperately wanted to reach his team.  Now that they were out of the smoke laden air he was finding it a little easier to breathe. Even so his body felt heavy and uncoordinated and he knew he couldn’t go much further even with help and the two men with him couldn’t be expected to carry him either.  Chief nodded, “Five minutes,” he rasped begrudgingly.

Davies and Casey shared knowing smiles that neither could really see in the darkness as they carefully lowered Chief to the ground.

“Chief do you want me to check your ribs again,” Davies asked quietly.

“Nah, not much point in the dark.” Chief replied softly.

Casey stood up from where he had been squatting and rolled stiff shoulders. “How much further do you reckon we have to go Sarge?”

“A couple of miles maybe.  Coming out through the fence at the back of the factory added a few extra miles to the journey.”

“Why’d Mosby leave us like that Sarge?  We’re part of his team.”

“I don’t know about you Casey but I didn’t agree with Mosby’s plans from the start and he knew it.” Davies stated.  “He was probably hoping that we’d get captured or killed; then he’d be in the clear.  No charges to answer to back in England.”

“But Chief’s team knows what happened.” Casey pointed out.  “They can still bring charges against him can’t they?”

“They’re cons Casey, and who is going to believe a bunch of cons against a decorated army captain?”

“But the LT…”

“Wasn’t here.  No witness, no proof, no charges.” Davies replied bitterly.

“But we can do something about that we get back can’t we Sarge?” Casey continued hopefully.  “It’s not right that he should be able to get away with what he did to Chief and us just because he’s got some decorations and his Great Grandfather was a colonel in the civil war.”

“The army doesn’t work like that kid.  I’m a sergeant and you’re a corporal, they aren’t going to listen to us.  We don’t have generations of family backing.”

“The Warden’ll help,” Chief stated quietly, “They’ll listen to him; he comes from a long line of career soldiers too.  His father’s some General back in Washington.”  Chief had no doubt that Garrison would have plenty to say about this mission when they got back to London. “I reckon Mosby just bit off more than he can chew when he left us behind.” Chief wheezed, struggling to catch his breath. “Richards tried that once on us too, reckoned because we were cons we were expendable, it didn’t work then either.” Chief panted shallowly between hacking coughs.

Davies squeezed Chief’s shoulder, worried about the wetness he could now hear in the man’s coughs. “Try not to talk Chief, save your strength for getting home.”

“I told Mosby his Great Grandfather was a thief and criminal.” Casey began but stopped when Chief choked on a laugh, grabbing his side in pain and Davies snorted.

“That would have gone down well,” Chief gasped.

“He wasn’t too happy but it’s true.  I was studying law before I joined up.  I learnt about Colonel Mosby in law history class.  He shot a fellow student and was sent to jail, got his degree in jail before the war.  Then when he started the Raiders they kept all the loot for themselves, never passed it on.”

“I just bet Tom liked hearing the truth about the old man,” Davies snickered, “You had some guts Casey, saying that to him.”

“Yeah well that’s not the half of it,” Casey continued, “Told him he was a bigot and at least his Great Grandfather had some principals, he didn’t like slavery.”

“You’ll do kid,” Davies observed with a laugh.

“What’s going to happen to me Sarge?” Casey asked quietly.  “I mean I was with them when they went after Chief. I helped caused his injuries.”

“Not your fault Casey,” Chief whispered tiredly, “You helped me get free and you’re still helping me.”

“Thanks Chief,” Casey acknowledged grateful for the Indian’s forgiveness.

“Reckon our five minutes is up,” Chief stated, uncomfortable with Casey’s show of gratitude. “Best be moving again.”

“Are you sure Chief?” Davies questioned having heard the tiredness and breathlessness in the voice over the past couple of minutes.  “You and Casey could wait here.  I’ll meet up with Garrison and bring him back.”

“No, I can make it.” Chief replied stubbornly.  “Just help me up.”

“Alright Chief;” Davies agreed as he and Casey bent down to lift the Indian to his feet.  In the darkness they didn’t see the colour drain from Chief’s face but they felt his legs buckle and his weight sag heavily against them as he passed out in their arms.

“Well I can’t say that’s not before time,” Davies growled as they carefully lowered him back to the ground.  Davies removed his jacket and wadded into a ball before placing it under Chief’s head.

“What do we do now Sarge,” Casey asked worriedly.

Davies shrugged “What I suggested.  There haven’t been any signs of kraut patrols yet so you should be safe here for an hour.  Garrison and his men should only be a couple of miles away.  I’ll go and find them, bring them back with me and then we’re getting out of here.  You going to be alright while I’m gone Casey?” Davies asked.

“Yeah Sarge, I’ll be fine but what do I do if Chief wakes up and wants to follow?”

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry on that count Casey but if you do I’m sure you’ll think of something.”  Davies replied helpfully.

“Gee thanks Sarge,” Casey retorted to Davies retreating back.

***** 

Chapter 7

 

“What are you going to do about Mosby when we get back Craig?” Actor asked softly as he moved up to Garrison’s position under the trees.  Goniff was still sitting morosely on the tree stump refusing all attempts to talk and Casino was pacing around the clearing

Garrison shook his head as he watched the two men in the clearing closely. “I don’t know Actor.” Garrison sighed heavily “I’ll talk to Richards when we get back but without proof…”

“Goniff was there Craig, he can confirm what happened.”  Actor pointed out as he studied the pick pocket’s dejected posture.

“Goniff’s a con, Actor, you’re all cons.  The army isn’t going to believe any of you.”

“Do you believe him Craig, or are you part of the army now too?”

Garrison’s head snapped around at the words and he glared at the conman beside him.  “Of course I believe him.”

“Then back him up; and Casino. Take them with you when you see Richards.  Let them tell their stories, make Richards believe.  You owe that much to Chief at least and the other two as well.”

“You think he’s dead?” It was more a statement than a question but Garrison still held his breath as he waited for Actor to answer.  Death was a part of the damn war they were fighting, an expected part but not an acceptable part.  None of them were stupid, they all knew the likelihood of them surviving the duration was thin at best but this waste of life was just senseless. Even if Mosby hadn’t killed him by his own hand it was his actions that will have led to Chief’s death at the hands of the Germans.

Actor chose his words carefully; a little knowledge could be a curse, like now.  Bruised ribs were not a problem, sore yes but not life threatening.  Cracked ribs were painful but treatable with rest and binding but broken ribs left untreated as Chief’s undoubtedly were, were another thing altogether.  Pneumonia, punctured lungs, internal bleeding if they shifted and severed a vein or artery…Actor closed his eyes. “I sincerely hope not…”

“But?”

Actor sighed, “But the fact is, he is not here.” He shrugged, “And that is not like Chief, injured or not. Even if he isn’t dead and the Germans do not have him, by now he will be in no condition to move under his own power.”

Garrison nodded absently, “That’s what I thought you’d say. God, what a mess.”  Garrison straightened suddenly as Casino and Goniff whipped around and brought their guns to bear on the trees on the far side of the clearing.

Davies burst into the clearing heedless of the guns pointed at him.

“That’s one way of getting yourself killed babe,” Casino growled as he began to lower his gun.

Davies sucked in a deep breath, “Kraut patrol coming…this way.”  He managed to warn between gasps.

Garrison and Actor strode quickly to where the three men were standing.  “How far and where’s Chief?” he demanded harshly.

“Krauts, maybe a half mile.  Chief and Casey three miles back that way.”

“Chiefy’s alright.” Goniff asked hesitantly.

Davies shook his head, “Chief’s alive but he’s far from alright.  He needs help but Casey and I couldn’t carry him any further.  He passed out on us.  I left Casey with him.”

Raised German voices interrupted the conversation and the men hurried to take cover behind the trees. “No shooting unless absolutely necessary,” Garrison hissed.  The last thing they needed was the woods swarming in krauts if they could avoid it.  The men watched silently, fingers lightly pressed against triggers as the German patrol swarmed into the clearing.  Nobody needed a translator to understand that they were looking for the escaped saboteurs.  Garrison braced himself as one of the Germans headed purposefully in his direction but a shout from another over near where Goniff had been sitting changed his direction.  Garrison was just about to curse Goniff for leaving some evidence of their occupation when the German held up a piece of bloody cloth and then pointed through the trees on that side of the clearing.  The Gorilla’s and Davies held their breaths as the Germans hurried off through the trees and away from them, following the path taken by Mosby and his two men.  Garrison waited until there was no sound of the patrol before he moved from cover, quickly followed by the rest of the men.

“Poor buggers,” Goniff muttered.

“Yeah well if you ask me they’re getting what they deserve if the krauts catch up to them.”  Casino growled menacingly.

Garrison shrugged, “I doubt the Germans will find anyone now. They have a good head start. Sub should be picking them up in two hours.  Come on we need to get back to Chief and Casey before they’re discovered.” Garrison nodded to Davies to lead the way and they carefully retraced Davies steps back to the two waiting men.

Garrison caught Actor’s eye and nodded toward Davies.  Actor returned the nod, understanding what Garrison wanted.  He was just as anxious to discover Chief’s condition for himself and what he might be dealing with when they reached the two men. Actor caught up to Davies, silently keeping pace with the man as he led them back to Chief.

“He’s not breathing well,” Davies took a moment to look at Actor.  “That’s what you want to know isn’t it?”

Actor nodded.  “I suspect he has a couple of broken ribs.”

Davies snorted, “The moment he jumped out of that plane he had broken ribs, the damn fool. Don’t know how he managed to last as long as he did.” He muttered, “He’s got a wet cough too, my guess would be pneumonia, sounds like my father when he had it.  He’s been sick a couple of times, light headed and dizzy and probably a fever is starting as well.  Finally passed out about an hour ago. Smoke sure as hell hasn’t helped him either.”

“Hey Actor, Chiefy’s going to be alright isn’t ‘Ee,” Goniff asked worriedly not liking the description the sergeant was painting of their missing team member.

Actor sighed, “I hope so Goniff, but we need to get him back to England as soon as possible.”

After that the five men lapsed into silence, none willing to voice their worries concerning Chief’s condition. Davies suddenly slowed and raised his hand, cautioning the others to keep quiet.  He moved carefully through the trees, stopping just before reaching the edge of the small hollow where he had left the other two men.  He knew Casey was a good, solid soldier not generally prone to fits of nervousness but after all that the boy had been through in the last forty eight hours he had no doubt that his nerves would be on edge.  The last thing any of them needed was for him to start shooting, especially as Garrison, Actor and Casino were still dressed in SS uniforms.  “Casey,” Davies called softly, “I’m coming in.”

The Gorillas had all been watching, the grey light of early morning and the shadows cast by the trees making it difficult to see properly but none of them missed the sudden movement of one man leaping to his feet while the other remained deathly still.  At the sound of the voice, Casey had jumped to his feet, swinging his gun around towards the voice.  There was a slight hesitancy as Casey spoke.  “Sarge?”

“Yeah Casey, lower your gun, I’ve got Garrison and the others with me.”

“Ok Sarge,” Casey replied as he began to lower his gun, but it swung back up menacingly as he spotted the German uniforms.

“Easy Casey,” Davies warned.

“Stand down Private,” Garrison ordered as he came to an abrupt halt with Actor and Casino behind him.

“LT?” There was suspicion in his voice as he warily watched them resume there walk into the small hollow.  Once he recognized the faces he lowered his gun with a sigh.  “Sorry LT,” he mumbled as he squatted down to check Chief.

“Nothing to be sorry for Private,” Garrison replied, coming to stop beside the squatting man. “You acted correctly.”   Garrison stared at Chief, unable to tear his eyes aware from the stillness of the man.  Chief could spend hours not moving when he was on guard duty, it was part of what made him so valuable, but this was so wrong.  He hadn’t stirred, not once in the last few minutes since they had been watching from the trees.  Chief never allowed anybody to get this close to him unawares. Garrison hadn’t noticed Actor dropping to his knees on the other side of Chief, all he could focus on were the soft gasps as Chief tried to breathe.

“Casino, help the Private lift Chief up a bit,” Actor ordered, as he felt the Indian’s forehead, sighing heavily when he felt the heat.  “Careful,” he warned urgently when Chief grunted in pain as the two men lifted him.  “Chief, can you hear me, it’s Actor?”  Actor tapped the sweat covered face, eliciting another moan from the injured man followed by a strangled cough.

“Easy Chief,” Actor coached quietly as the dark eyes blinked open.

“Actor?” Chief whispered around another cough.

“Don’t talk Chief, just concentrate on breathing slowly while I check you out.”

Chief nodded tiredly, accepting the help of the two men supporting him without argument as Actor began the painful process of unwrapping the binding around his ribs.

“Geez Geronimo, what the hell did you think you were trying to prove?”  Casino demanded as he got his first look at the Chief’s side.

“Looks worse…than it…is.” Chief panted between gasps as Actor gently probed the injured ribs.  With the binding removed he could feel every minute movement of the broken ribs as he tried to breathe. Actor’s fingers pushed against a particularly tender spot that sent Chief into a coughing spasm that left him gasping for air. The colour drained from his face, his eyes rolled back into his head and he slumped into the arms of the two men holding him.

Garrison had remained silent, watching Actor work in numbed shock since seeing the damage to Chief’s ribs.  He couldn’t believe that he had allowed one of his men to continue a mission in such a condition. Granted he hadn’t truly known that anything was seriously wrong with Chief until it was far too late to change their plans but he should have known.  He should have been far more aware of the vagaries of his men than he obviously was.  His thoughts were cut short as Chief slumped back into Casino and Durrant’s arms. “Actor?” Garrison demanded urgently.

“Just passed out Craig, but it’s not good.” Actor replied as he continued to palpate Chief’s ribs and abdomen.  “Definitely two broken ribs, possibly three, that cough indicates he’s got some fluid in the lungs and coupled with the fever that’s starting…”

“Pneumonia,” Garrison muttered.

Actor nodded, “I’m afraid so Craig.  On the bright side…”

“There’s a bleeding bright side,” Goniff muttered.

Actor ignored Goniff’s remark as he continued. “There doesn’t appear to be any internal bleeding or punctures to the lungs.”  Actor shook his head as he re-wrapped Chief’s ribs with the binding Chief had fashioned out of the pillow cases.  It wasn’t really satisfactory but it was all he had to work with and would have to do until they could reach the sub.  At least then there would be medical assistance available.

“So now what do we do Warden?” Goniff asked, “I mean ‘ow are we going to get Chiefy to the sub?”

“We use the damn car limey, what did you think we were going to do? Carry him like this?” Casino growled.

“As much as I would like to use the car Casino, we can’t.  By now the Germans have probably found it and even if they haven’t we can’t just drive along the roads around here.  Too much chance of been stopped and besides it isn’t large enough for all of us.”  Garrison sighed, scrubbing tiredly at his face. As far as the mission itself was concerned it was a success and in no small part due to Chief.  They had the plans and the munitions factory was a burning ruins but as for getting his team plus two out of France… “We’ll have to carry him for now.”

“What? You can’t.”  Casino glared menacingly at Garrison. He already felt responsible for the condition the Indian was in and he wasn’t about to let him get any worse if he could help it.

“No way Warden. Actor, tell ‘im.”

“I’m afraid Craig is right Goniff, we can’t use the car…”

“But Chiefy’s done more than ‘is share on this ruddy mission.  ‘Ee didn’t ‘ave to come, not after what they did to ‘im, none of us did but ‘Ee wasn’t going to let Mosby win and now ‘Ee’s the one suffering for it.”

“I can make it Goniff,” Chief grunted as he shifted uncomfortably in Casino and Casey’s arms.  He had come around in time to hear both Actor and Goniff’s comments.  While he was grateful for the pick pocket’s concern he didn’t want the team arguing over him.  If getting out of here and back to England meant he had to walk then that’s what he’d do.

“Help me…up…Casino.”

The words were barley above a whisper but Casino heard them and tightened his grip on Chief’s arm.  “No way Geronimo, not until we find some wheels.”  Casino’s eyes widened and he turned on Goniff.  “Where’s the damn truck you were driving?”

Goniff’s cheeks turned red and he shrugged apologetically.  “We ‘ad to ditch it, ran out of petrol.”

“Geez Goniff, what sort of a thief are you?” Casino snorted.

“I’m a ruddy pick pocket Casino, what do I know about stealing cars, beside Davies nicked it, not me.”

“Alright, that’s enough,” Garrison ordered, before Casino and Goniff started an argument. “Goniff, change places with Casino.  Casino get out of that uniform, you too Actor.  Once we’ve changed we’ll move out.  We have to get away from this area.  Chief, we’ll keep a look out for a truck but in the meantime you’re going to have to walk.  We’ll help you.  Think you can make it?”

Chief nodded tiredly, “Yeah,” was all he could manage as he rode through the flaring pain in his side.

Garrison squeezed Chief’s shoulder in acknowledgement, it wasn’t the best solution but it was all he could offer for now.

They’d been walking for a couple of hours with Goniff and Casino supporting Chief.  At first he had been able to help, the rest and the re-binding easing the pain in his side but the further they travelled the more unsteady Chief was becoming and he found himself leaning more heavily on the men supporting him.

Goniff could feel Chief’s weight hanging more heavily off his shoulders but the man had stubbornly refused to rest so far. “’Ay Warden, how far is it to Calais anyway?”  Goniff called as they trudged along the road.  Davies was up ahead and Actor was guarding their backs from attack.  They had started off through the woods following the path taken by Mosby and the Germans but the going was to rough for Chief.  After he had stumbled several times Garrison had ordered them up on to the road.

“About a hundred and seventy miles Goniff,” Garrison replied.

Goniff came to an abrupt halt, causing Chief to stumble.

“Watch it you damn limey,” Casino growled as he tightened his grip on Chief.

“Sorry Chief,” Goniff apologized hurriedly.  “You don’t expect us to walk all the way do you?”

Garrison sighed as he stopped walking and turned back to Goniff.  He noted Davies had also stopped and was watching the road ahead of them, “Only until we find a truck or the Resistance, Goniff.”

“There’s Resistance around ‘ere.  Why didn’t we contact them earlier?”

“Several groups in this area but our orders are to contact the group in Laon if we need help.  They didn’t want to compromise the groups in this area.  The Germans will be out in force rounding up suspects for the job we just pulled.”

“Well ‘ow far’s this Laon then.”

“About twenty miles, now.”

“Chiefy can’t walk that far, ‘Ee needs to rest and so do I.”  Goniff knew Chief wouldn’t complain no matter how much he was hurting so it was going to have to be up to him to make both the Warden and Chief rest.  Goniff looked over the top of Chief’s bowed head at Casino hoping the safe cracker would take the hint.  If he could feel how much of Chief’s weight he was supporting then surely Casino could too.

Casino nodded in agreement, picking up on what the little limey was trying to do.  “Yeah Warden, I’m bushed too.  Geronimo here isn’t exactly light you know,” he grumbled as he tightened his grip on the Indian’s belt when he felt Chief’s knees begin to buckle.

Garrison nodded; he had been watching Chief as he spoke to Goniff.  He knew as well as the others that Chief would keep going until he dropped.  He smiled to himself as Goniff and then Casino took the decision to stop out of Chief’s hands but the smile quickly left when Chief collapsed against the two men supporting him. “Get him off the road and into the trees, hurry,” Garrison ordered as both Davies and Actor jogged back to where he was still standing in the road.

Actor didn’t stop but followed the other men into the trees to check on Chief.

“What do we do now LT?” Davies queried as he stopped beside Garrison.  “Chief’s not going to make it if we keep travelling like this.”

Garrison rubbed a hand across his face. “I know Davies,” he snapped.  Garrison shook his head, “Actor and I’ll have to go on to Laon, leave Chief here with you and the others; locate a car and the resistance if possible but definitely a car.”

“Shouldn’t Actor stay here with Chief, he’s the one with the medical knowledge.”

“There’s not much Actor can do for Chief out here that you and the others can’t do Davies.  We all know he needs proper medical attention and soon. Actor and I are the only ones who read and speak French.  We’ll try and at least bring back some more medical supplies as well as a car. If we can contact the resistance we might be able to bring a doctor back as well.”

Davies nodded slowly as he watched the Lieutenant head towards the trees and his waiting men.  He knew Garrison was right he just didn’t like the idea of splitting the team up again but Chief wasn’t going to go any further without transport at the very least. Davies followed Garrison into the trees and stood back to listen as Actor gave his report to Garrison.

“Well Actor,” Garrison demanded brusquely as he squatted beside the conman.

Actor shook his head, “He’s not going any further like this Craig.” He replied as he carefully rebound the ribs. “The fever is up and his breathing is getting worse.  Walking and been carried is putting too much pressure on his lungs and ribs.”

Garrison sighed; he really didn’t need to hear Actor’s words.  The flushed cheeks and wheezing breaths told the story clearly enough.  Garrison pushed himself to his feet.  “Alright, Actor and I will head into Laon; find a car and hopefully the resistance and a doctor or some medical supplies at least.  The rest of you stay here out of sight and wait for us to return.  We probably won’t get back until later tonight.  Davies is in charge until we get back. Any questions?”

“I’ll come with you LT; I’m pretty good with cars.  My uncle owns a garage back in Virginia.  I’ve helped him out plenty of times.” Durrant offered.

Garrison shook his head, “Thanks Casey but no, if there is trouble here it’s going to take all four of you to get Chief moved. Any other questions?”

“You going to leave the Sarge and me here when you come back Lieutenant?”

“Casey,” Davies warned as Garrison spun to face Durrant.

Garrison glared at Durrant for a moment before he softened his features, he couldn’t really blame the kid for asking, not after the way his own team had treated him.  “No one gets left behind Casey.  When we go you and Davies are coming with us.” Garrison turned away from the men cursing Mosby as he waited at the edge of the trees for Actor to join him.

“You can’t really blame him Craig,” Actor commented as he caught up to Garrison.  “After what Mosby did to him and Davies…”

“I don’t Actor, but when I get my hands on Mosby…” Garrison left the threat unfinished.

“Let Major Richards and the army take care of him Craig.  A personal vendetta will serve no purpose other than to get you locked up in the stockade and then where will that leave us?”

“Remind me of that again when we reach England, Actor.”  Garrison moved off through the trees beside the road, not waiting for a reply from his second in command.

*****

Chapter 8

 

Except for Chief’s raspy breathing and occasional unsolicited moan the woods where the five men waited for Garrison and Actor’s return remained silent.  Davies had ventured as close to the road as he dared to keep watch for German patrols or anyone else who may pose a threat to the team.  Goniff and Casino had unconsciously taken up positions on either side of Chief as he slept fitfully propped up against a log to help his breathing.  Durrant sat off to the side, watching the two mobile members of the Gorillas taking furtive glances at the man between them.   Goniff openly showed his concern for Chief, every so often reaching out to touch the Indian’s shoulder in a gesture of comfort.  Casino hadn’t offered physical comfort but Durrant knew the man cared because each time Chief moaned or struggled to catch a breath, Casino would draw in a loud breath himself and grimace. Casey wondered if his own team would have ever shown so much caring for him if were injured on a mission.  He snorted derisively.  After last night’s fiasco and with the exception of the Sarge, he doubted it very much.  The four cons, even with their vastly different backgrounds had shown him what a real team was supposed to be like and he found himself envying the men.  If he got out of this alive, he hoped he would be fortunate enough to find a team such as this.

“Did he really mean what he said, your LT, about me and Davies going back with you guys?” Casey asked hesitantly.

Goniff nodded his head in agreement. “Yeah mate, the Warden, ‘Ee never leaves anyone behind, not unless they’re already dead.”

“But I thought this team had being together since you were all recruited,” Casey replied perplexed.

“We ‘ave, but there were six of us to begin with, Wheeler, ‘Ee was our original wheel man, “Ee didn’t make it back from the first mission.”

“And good riddance to him too.  I’m telling you now babe, if he was still here, most of us would be dead by now.”  Casino declared.

“What happened to him?” Casey was eager to learn more about the men he was sharing this mission with, and he figured keeping them talking would help divert their worry for Chief for a few minutes.

Casino snorted, “Geronimo here killed him.”

Casey’s eyes widened in shock.

“Now see what you’ve done Casino.” Goniff chastised Casino. “Don’t worry mate, Chiefy ‘ad good reason.  Wheeler broke cover, attacked Chief while ‘Ee was setting fire to a railway truck full of counterfeit money. Wheeler wanted the money for ‘is self.  It was either Wheeler or Chiefy and like Casino said good riddance.  We’re all cons mate, but even some of us are worse than others and Wheeler was one of the worst.”

Casey nodded, “Just like there are good and bad army commanders.  You know I used to think Mosby was one of the best.” He looked up and shrugged at the two cons.  “I thought he cared about us.”  Casey sighed, “He didn’t even say thanks to Chief for rescuing us, just pushed past him as though he wasn’t there.  He left us to die,” he added bitterly.

“Yeah, well kid, there ain’t too many brass like the Warden.  He’s pulled my bacon out of the fire a time or two; he’s done it for all of us. Him and Actor they’ll get us all home,” Casino stated pushing himself to his feet.  “I’m going to take over from Davies for a while; look after Geronimo.”

“He cares, doesn’t he?” Casey nodded at Casino’s retreating back.

Goniff laughed, “Don’t you let old Casino ‘ear you say that mate, but you’re right, ‘Ee cares more than ‘Ee’ll ever let on.  It’s just not in ‘im to show emotion.  Some men are like that you know.” Goniff sighed, “I should ‘ave figured something was wrong, the way ‘Ee was shadowing Chiefy.”

“Would it have made any difference even if you had known Goniff?  I mean would you have told the LT if you knew.”

“Oh now mate, that’s a ‘ard one that is.  It’s taken us a while to learn to work together; cons well they don’t trust too easily you see.  People like Chief and Casino, even Actor they’re alive because they never trusted anyone but themselves when they were in stir.  It was trust what put them there in the first place.  But on this team, if we wanted to stay alive we had to learn to trust one another to watch our backs, do our jobs properly.  That trust also means that when one of us is injured the rest of us ‘ave to believe that the one injured will know when to admit when he can’t continue.”

“That still doesn’t answer my question.” Casey pointed out.

“Chiefy didn’t say anything; ‘Ee believed ‘Ee could continue.  I guess “Ee didn’t realize at the time ‘is ribs were worse than ‘Ee thought.  It wasn’t up to me to tell the Warden, I didn’t know what ‘ad ‘appened anyway.  Casino’s the only one that ‘ad an idea of what was going on and ‘Ee didn’t say anything either.  ‘Ee believed Chiefy when ‘Ee said ‘Ee was alright.”

“Casino feels bad about it now though.”

Goniff nodded, “We all do, but what’s done is done, now we just ‘ave to make sure we get Chiefy back to the ‘ospital in  London as soon as possible.”

“Do you think Actor and the LT are alright Goniff?”

“Now don’t you worry about them mate.  If anyone can get us wheels, medical supplies, a doctor or the resistance its Actor and the Warden, you just wait and see.”

*****

“Do you have a contact for the resistance in these parts Craig,” Actor asked as he strode beside a silent Garrison.

Garrison shook his head, “No, just a code phrase to pass on at one of the bakeries in Laon.”

Actor raised an eyebrow, “One of the bakeries, how many are there?”

Garrison shrugged, “Two.”

“And you don’t know which one?”

Garrison shook his head.  “We ask for a bakers dozen loaves of bread.  If it’s the right bakery we meet with the resistance.”

“And if its not?” Actor queried.

Garrison shrugged, “We buy thirteen loaves of bread, but by the time we get to Laon, do you think either of them will have thirteen loaves of bread left?”

“I feel it is an unacceptable risk Craig.  The Germans could be watching the bakeries, you ask at the wrong one and we could find ourselves with more trouble than we can handle. If we can get a car and some medical supplies I think we should return to the others.  What more can the resistance do that we are not?  We still have to get to Calais to meet the sub.”

“They might be able to supply a doctor.”

“And do what Craig?  Chief needs to be in a hospital, the care that a doctor can give him out here is no more than what he is already getting unless you want to leave him behind.”

Garrison spun around.  “Nobody gets left behind Actor.”

“Agreed; so forget about the resistance.  Just get a car and medical supplies and get out. The faster we can get on the road, the faster we get help for Chief.”

“Alright,” Garrison agreed, “You look for medical supplies, you have a better idea than me of what is needed and I’ll get us a car.”

“Just make sure it has a full tank of petrol or we’ll never hear the end of it from Casino,” Actor laughed.

“I know how to nick a car Actor,” Garrison retorted roughly, which only brought an amused smirk and raised eyebrow to Actor’s face.

It was late afternoon when they reached the outskirts of Laon.  They silently stood in the cover of the trees for several minutes waiting for two women and several children to pass by.  Once the group was out of sight, Garrison and Actor stepped out onto the road leading to the lower town with its business section and rail yards, carrying on a loud animated conversation in French. Towering on the scarped hill above them was the old town of Laon with its medieval cathedral dominating the skyline. Once they reached the main street of the town, the two men shook hands and separated.  Actor headed down the main thoroughfare in search of a doctor’s surgery or pharmacy while Garrison headed towards the rail yards. The German presence in the town was strong and the rail yards would offer the best prospects of obtaining suitable transportation to ferry seven men to the coast.

Actor strolled leisurely down the street, pausing to pass pleasantries with the few remaining shop keepers hastily closing up their businesses for the evening. He had traversed nearly half of the main street when he caught sight of what he was searching for.  Across the street and several doors down from where he stood talking to one of the local bakers was a darkened business proclaiming ‘Pharmacie’ across its front window and painted on the second story window of the same building was the word ‘Docteur.’  Actor bid the man good evening and continued on his way, crossing the road and walking past his objective, taking note of the number of shops he passed.  He turned down the side road at the end of the block and hurried to the alley that ran behind the group of shops he had just passed. Checking to ensure he was unobserved, Actor hurried back up the alley until he came to the back door of the pharmacy.  While breaking and entering was not his usual specialty, he, like the others, had learned a thing or two from Casino during their missions and it didn’t take long for him to jimmy the flimsy lock on the back door open. Slipping inside, he closed the door behind him, praying that no German patrols were in the area because he was sure the door would not stand up to a close scrutiny.

Moving cautiously, Actor found the staircase to the second floor and the doctor’s surgery.  He hoped the premises didn’t include a private residence and that the doctor was out.  Actor stepped into the hallway.  There appeared to be only two rooms leading off the hall.  He moved silently to the first door and listened intently for any sounds within.  Satisfied that the room was empty, Actor repeated his actions with the second door, confirming that the building was currently unoccupied.  Actor opened the door and peered in.  This room appeared to be the main consulting room.  Heavy blackout curtains hung from the front window, effectively blocking out the last of the days light. It was sparsely furnished with a desk, filing cabinet, bed and side table on which sat a tray of general surgical instruments including a stethoscope which Actor took.  Closing the door, he returned to the second room. This room had no window to give away his presence so Actor flipped the light switch on the wall beside the door.  He had to blink several times to accustom his eyes to the sudden brightness.  Actor looked around the room with a sigh of relief. This was obviously the stock room.  Shelves lined one wall, all neatly stacked with medical equipment including bandages and dressings.  Resting against the back wall was a locked glass cabinet, with the key protruding invitingly from the lock.  Various bottles and vials sat upon the glass shelves, together with a selection of needles and syringes.

Beside the glass cabinet sat a squat, monitor top refrigerator on turned feet, the motor whirring quietly in the silence.  Actor rummaged on the shelves until he found a clean pillow case, into which he dropped the stethoscope, several rolls of bandage, some gauze padding and a length of rubber tubing that he sincerely hoped he would not have to use.  Next he moved to the cabinet, removing syringes, needles, a scalpel, half a dozen vials of morphine and a bottle of mercurochrome.  Lastly Actor opened the refrigerator.  He searched through the various bottles of medicines lined up on the shelf.  There wasn’t much in the way of antibiotics that he could see.  A small wooden box hidden behind the bottles caught his eye and he pulled it out.  Carefully opening the box; his eyes widened in surprise as he stared at a half full bottle of penicillin.  He had heard of the new wonder drug that was in short supply in England and wondered why a small town French doctor would have such a supply hidden in his refrigerator.  Actor hurriedly placed the box in his sack and stood up.  There was only one reason that he could think of.  He wished he could destroy the contents of the surgery but even a doctor collaborating with the Germans was better than none to the innocent victims of the occupation.

Actor flipped off the light and closed the door, listening intently for any sound coming from the lower floor.  Satisfied that he was still alone, Actor carefully descended the narrow staircase, pausing at the backdoor before he slipped out into the dark alley.  He tucked his sack of supplies under his jacket and hurried from the alley, keeping to the shadows as he used the side streets to wend his way back to the edge of town and the rendezvous with Garrison.

Garrison passed few people on his way to the rail yards and those that he did pass were in too much of a hurry to even acknowledge his greeting, let alone pass pleasantries with him.  Sounds of shouting and heavy vehicles announced his closeness to the rail yard and Garrison moved into the shadows afforded by the buildings.  There was a marked increase in the German presence at this end of the town and Garrison realized he was going to need a uniform to gain access to the yards and some transport.  Slipping around the corner into the yards, he ducked down behind a stack of empty crates and surveyed the area immediately ahead of him.  Most of the activity was further down where several boxcars were been loaded with crates. A number of German guards stood around the area singularly and in pairs.

Garrison slipped along to the end of the crates and then moved across to the cover of the storage sheds that lined the yards.  Keeping to the shadows, Garrison moved from shed to shed, hastily stepping between two, when two guards headed in his direction.  He watched warily as the guards paused twenty feet away.  One turned and retraced his steps towards the boxcars while the other pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket and continued walking along the line of sheds.  Garrison pulled his garrote from his pocket and waited until the man had taken a step past his hiding place.  Swiftly he threw the garrote over the man’s head and dragged him backwards into the path between the sheds.

A small group of soldiers appeared at the end of the yards, returning from their patrol of the town.  Garrison waited until they had passed and then slipped silently in behind them, machine gun slung lazily over his shoulder.  He followed the group until they reached the first of the parked trucks.  There Garrison peeled off and slipped around the back of the trucks, searching for one with the keys still in it.  While he could just about get by with nicking something with the keys already in the ignition, he had no idea how he was supposed to tell if the truck had a full tank of gas or not, short of starting it.  He might get away with starting one or two without drawing suspicion to himself but after that…

Garrison slipped into the driver’s seat and turned the ignition of the truck.  It sputtered to life with a belch of smoke and then settled down to a smooth hum.  The wildly gyrating fuel needle also settled down to show a tank three quarters full of fuel.  With a bit of luck it would be enough to get them to Calais or at least to the outskirts of the city.

Garrison put the truck in gear and drove slowly back along the tracks, expelling a loud sigh of relief when he made it to the send of the yards. He turned into the street and retraced his earlier route with Actor until he came to the point where they had exited the trees.  Garrison pulled up, allowing the engine to idle, hoping that Actor would be waiting for him as arranged.  At this point in the mission they needed something to go right.

Movement in the shadows caught Garrison’s attention and he tensed, relaxing when he recognized the tall silhouette of his second in command.

Actor smiled as he climbed into the truck.  “I see you have acquired some new skills.  Casino and Goniff will be pleased.”  Actor lent over and checked the fuel gage as the truck began to rumble along the road. “Impressive, almost a full tank.”

“Did you get what you needed?” Garrison growled, ignoring the conman’s words.

“More than I anticipated.  The good doctor had half a bottle of penicillin in his refrigerator.”

“Pen…refrigerator?”  Garrison looked at his number two.

Actor nodded,

Garrison cursed. “Collaborator!”

Actor shrugged, “That would be my guess.  The surgery was too well stocked for there to be any other reasonable answer.”

“Did you destroy the surgery?

Actor shook his head. “No.”

“Why not?” Garrison demanded

“Even a collaborator for a doctor is better than no doctor at all in the town.  And you know as well as I do that not all the collaborators are willing informers.  It may be the only way that he can get the supplies he needs.”

Garrison sighed.  The Italian was right. It wouldn’t be the first time the Germans had coerced the locals into informing.  A family held at gun point; threats to a business, the food supply, were only some of the reasons the krauts could come up with to gain the information they needed.  “Alright but we tell London when we return.  No point in putting any other allied lives at risk.”

Actor nodded in agreement, “And he may come in useful for passing on false information should the need ever arise.”

*****

Chapter 9

 

“I’m telling you, they should be back by now,” Casino stated tersely as he paced amongst the trees.

“The LT said they might not get back until dark,” Davies pointed out evenly as he helped Chief sip some water from the canteen.  “Easy Chief,” he soothed as the Indian tried to gulp at the cool liquid. “The last thing you need right now is to make yourself sick.”

Chief pressed his arm tightly against his side to brace the injured ribs when his desperate gulping brought on a coughing fit.  Davies supported his upper body as Casino crouched in front of him urging him to take slow breaths.  Chief slumped against Davies, spent from the effort to cough.  “Where…are the…others?”  Chief searched the immediate area with his eyes before the pain filled brown pools settled blearily on Casino.

“Goniff and Casey are keeping watch up near the road.”  Casino replied evasively.

“The…War…den and Ac…tor?”  Chief wheezed.

Casino looked away with a shrug.  “Went into Laon to rustle up some medical supplies and transport.”

“How…long?”  Chief reached out, moaning softly as he grabbed Casino’s arm.

“Hours ago.”

Chief struggled to get up, “We…gotta…” he stammered before collapsing back against Davies as pain ripped through his side, causing him to gag.

“We’re not going anywhere Chief.” Davies growled, tightening his grip on the Indian.  “The LT said he might not get back till after dark.  Besides there is nothing we can do for them right now, even if they’re in trouble.  We’re twenty miles away.  We’ll go and look for them at first light if they’re not back then.  Alright?”

Chief sagged back against Davies, responding with a tired nod.  “They went…cause of…me?”

“Nah Geronimo, don’t flatter yourself.” Casino snorted.  “You know how the damn limey gets when a little effort is required.  He refused to walk another step, said he had a blister and the Warden couldn’t stand listening to his whining any longer.”

Chief lifted his head, ignoring Casino as he strained to hear the background noise that had caught his attention.

Casino noticed Chief’s attention had shifted. “What is it?”

“Truck…coming.” Chief struggled to rise but was easily held down by Davies.

“Stay put Geronimo. I’ll go check it out.  It’s probably the Warden and Actor.  Not much else should be travelling along here this hour of the night.” Casino ordered.  “Davies, make sure he stays here.”

“You heard the man Chief,” Davies warned as the Indian tired to push himself up again.

“Give…me a…gun.”  Chief demanded. “I feel…like a…sitting…d…duck.”

Davies sighed, but complied, he could understand Chief’s feeling of helplessness in his current condition.  If the roles were reversed he would want some token form of protection, because that’s all it would be, too.  Davies pulled his handgun from his waist band and handed it to Chief. “Here Chief, not that I think it will do you much good.  You can barely lift your hand let alone a weapon, but I do know how you feel.”

Chief gripped the gun tightly in his fist.  “Thanks,” he whispered tiredly.

Davies squeezed the Indian’s shoulder before rising to his feet and turning in the direction of the road and the truck that could now clearly be heard rumbling along it.  The sound of the engine changed and Davies realized the truck was idling.  He tensed as he heard steps coming towards him before the gears were engaged and the truck began a start, stop movement.

“Davies,” Garrison called as he stepped out of the trees, closely followed by Actor.  “How is he?”

“Good,” Chief mumbled as he blinked at the figure now squatting before him.

“Sure you are Chief,” Garrison replied skeptically.  “Actor has some medicine for you and some morphine. Then we’ll move you to the truck; should be in Calais in a couple of hours.  Alright?”

“You…t…took a…risk…f…for me.  Why?”  Chief gasped

“Not just for you Chief.  For the rest of the team and Davies and Durrant too.  I don’t leave anybody behind, ever.”

Chief shook his head.  “I…lied…t…to you.”

“And we’ll discuss that when we get back to England and you’re up to talking, but not now.”

Garrison moved aside and let Actor take his place by the injured man.

“H..he…angry with me?” Chief coughed, pressing his arm firmly against his side.

“Not really Chief; more disappointed that you didn’t tell him you were injured.  Now stopping talking.” Actor admonished with a smile. “I have some penicillin.  It will help with the pneumonia and some morphine for the pain.  I’ll give you the shots and then wrap those ribs with some proper bandages this time.  That should help.”  Actor frowned when the only response from Chief was a tired nod.  Hurt or not the Indian usually put up some sort of token objection to the painkiller.

“Do you know how much of that penicillin you should be giving him?” Garrison suddenly asked.

“The instructions on the bottle say five mils every four hours.” Actor replied.

“What if he reacts to it?” Davies asked.

Actor shrugged. “Then he’ll probably die but we don’t have a choice.”

With the assistance of Davies and Garrison who held a small torch to work by, Actor soon had Chief medicated and bandaged to his satisfaction.  “That’s all I can do here Craig.  We should move him now while Chief’s out and the morphine’s at full strength.”

Garrison nodded.  “Actor, you and Davies carry Chief.” Garrison picked up the medical supplies and Davies discarded gun before following the men back to the truck.

Casino was in the driver’s seat watching for their return.  Goniff had the tailgate lowered and was squatting on the bed of the truck waiting for the men to pass Chief up to him.  Garrison jumped in beside Goniff as Actor and Davies seated the Indian on the edge of the bed.  Actor climbed in and the three men eased Chief to the back of the truck.  Goniff sat down and made himself as comfortable as possible with his back resting against the corner and waited for Garrison and Actor to settle Chief back against him.

Goniff looked up in alarm when he felt the heat radiating off the Indian.  “Blimey, ‘Ee’s burning up Warden.”

“The penicillin should help Goniff,”  Garrison replied tiredly as he made his way past Actor, Davies and Durrant.

Garrison jumped down from the truck, closed the tailgate and pulled the tarp back in place before climbing into the front seat beside Casino.  “Alright Casino, let’s get the hell out of here.  We have a rendezvous with a sub.”

“Now you’re talking babe,” Casino replied as he threw the truck into gear.

“Easy Casino,” Garrison warned as the truck lurched forward with a jolt.

“Yeah, yeah, sorry,” Casino mumbled as more aggrieved complaints were heard coming from the back.

Garrison pulled out the map Actor had found stuffed in the compartment under the dash and studied it with the help of the torch.  “We’ll have to follow the back roads around Laon, Casino. Can’t afford for the krauts to see this truck and then we head for Cambrai.  We’ll try and keep to the back roads as much as possible.  It’ll probably add a few miles and an hour to the trip.”

“Yeah well at least you managed to nick a truck with a near full fuel tank. We should have enough gas to get us there.” Casino smirked.  “So working with us is finally paying off, hey Warden?”

“Shut up and drive, Casino.”

An hour later saw them safely on the road to Cambrai, having by passed Laon through the back roads.  Garrison sighed.  He was aware of the furtive glances the safe cracker was sending his way every few minutes and he had had enough.  “Alright Casino, out with it.”  Garrison ordered.

Casino stared straight ahead, not sure that he actually wanted to finish what he had started.  “Don’t know what you mean Warden.”

“Yes you do Casino.  You’ve been giving me side long glances for the last hour now and I want to know why.”  Garrison demanded, although he already had his own very strong suspicions but it wouldn’t hurt Casino to squirm for a while longer.

Casino tightened his grip on the steering wheel and continued to stare straight ahead for a few more minutes before an explosive snort broke the silence.  “When the hell are you going to chew me out for believing that damn Indian.  I know I screwed up, I should have told you back in England before we left the mansion but Geronimo swore nothing was broken.  Hell, you saw him jog across the lawn, he didn’t look that bad.”  Casino thumped the steering wheel with one fist as Garrison watched him silently.  “I should have known he was lying. The moment he jumped I knew he was in trouble; that he was worse than what he’d said.  I could have gotten the stupid Indian killed, hell the way he looks right now I might just kill him yet.” Casino turned and glared at Garrison, “Well say something dammit.”

“Do I really need to Casino?  You seem to have all the bases fairly well covered as it is.  Will agreeing with you help?” Garrison paused, waiting, but Casino said nothing. “Alright Casino, yes you should have told me before we left and certainly as soon as we landed in France.  Covering up his injuries hasn’t helped any of us, and particularly Chief.  Now you get to live with the consequences of your actions the same as I do every time we go out on a mission.  And I’ll tell you Casino, some of those consequences are hard to bear.”

Casino sighed. “Tell me about it.”

Silence returned to the cab of the truck.  Casino studiously kept his eyes on the road ahead while Garrison studied the map he had found looking for the best back roads to get them safely to Calais.

“You know I agreed with him, the damn Indian.” Casino snorted, “If I’d told you back in England the mission was a bust, at least for us, figured Geronimo deserved a chance to get even and then Mosby and his lot got captured.” Casino shrugged, “Hell I don’t know. We were here, completed the mission and rescued that no good bunch of Raiders.  With the mission completed I thought our decision would be vindicated.” Casino sighed, “But it isn’t, I didn’t think Geronimo would get this sick.  This wasn’t meant to happen.”

Garrison carefully folded up the map, “Casino, I don’t think I’ve been on a mission yet where all my decisions have ever been vindicated.  There is always something that I think could have been done better, or not done at all.  No matter how careful the planning and execution there is always room for error or the unexpected; whether things are meant to happen or not, they do. It’s the nature of our business.  You learn to work with what you have, with what feels right at the time.  Whether Chief knew just how bad his ribs were or not, he thought he could complete the mission and you had enough faith in his abilities to believe him.”

“Did I?” Casino growled, “Or maybe I just wanted to show Mosby which was the better team and the damn Indian be-damned.”

“You don’t really expect any of us to believe that do you Casino?” Garrison chided.

Loud banging and Actor’s call to stop the truck brought the conversation to an abrupt halt.

*****

“Somebody needs to give Casino driving lessons they do,” Goniff complained as he tightened his grip on Chief in an effort to keep the injured man still.  “’Ee must ‘ave found every ruddy pot ‘ole in the road so far.”

“It is not that bad Goniff; it just feels like that because you are trying to brace Chief and yourself against the movement.” Actor explained.  “Perhaps you should take a break, let one of us support Chief for a while.”

Goniff shook his head emphatically. “Me and Chiefy are just fine the way we are thanks Actor.”

Chief moaned softly and Goniff cursed as his head painfully hit the side of the truck when Casino failed to avoid yet another pot hole in the road.

“Goniff relax your grip on Chief, you’re putting too much pressure on his chest,” Actor ordered as Chief moaned again with the rocking motion of the truck and Goniff’s tightened grip.

Goniff quickly pulled his hands away as though they had just been burnt.  “Sorry Chiefy, didn’t mean to hurt you.” He whispered into one ear.

“Not…your …fault Goniff.  Ca…Casino…never…could drive…worth a damn.”  Chief  struggled to sit up further, collapsing back against Goniff when his efforts only produced a severe coughing fit.

Actor pulled Chief forward, resting the sweat covered head on his shoulder to make it easier for him to breathe.  “Goniff tell Casino to stop.”

Chief gripped Actor’s arm tightly and shook his head.  “No…want to…go…home.”

“We all want to go home Chief, and we want you alive when we get there.” Actor replied quietly.

“Pl…please?”

Goniff looked worriedly at Actor, waiting for the conman’s instructions.  Chief sounded awful and he felt awful too if that fever was any indication.  Goniff looked down at the front of his shirt which was wet from the sweat pouring off Chief.

Chief groaned and tightened his grip on Actor’s arm.  “N…not…going…to…die here.”

“Aw Chiefy, you’re not going to die mate, tell ‘im Actor. You can’t die from a couple of busted ribs.”  Goniff pleaded silently with the tall Italian to say the right thing.  To say what he and Chief wanted to hear.  Actor’s face was a blank canvas and Goniff felt his heart clenching tightly in his chest.

Actor felt Chief stiffen in his arms as he tried to control the pain that the morphine couldn’t mask.  The heat was radiating off the Indian, making him feel like he was sitting in a sauna.  And what little the man cleared from his lungs with each wet cough was green and putrid.  Actor closed his eyes, he knew and Chief knew what Chief wasn’t saying and he wouldn’t deny Chief his request.  “You’re not going to die here Chief.”  He replied quietly, sighing softly when he felt the Indian relax in his arms.

“See Chiefy,” Goniff replied with forced enthusiasm.  “You’re not going to die.  Now why don’t you lean back against me mate and make yourself comfortable.  We’ll be back ‘ome in England before you know it.”

Actor helped Goniff, who was now leaning against Davies wadded up jacket, to make Chief comfortable.  He smiled weakly when the glazed, half mast brown eyes rested on his face, acknowledging the nod of thanks with one of his own.  Actor decided as the eyes slid shut that he would give the man a half hour and then if he was still asleep they would be stopping the truck to rest.

*****

“Pull over,” Garrison ordered, already out of the truck cabin before the truck had come to a complete stop.  He met Davies coming around the side of truck, a worried look on his face.

“What’s happened?” Garrison demanded.

Davies shook his head.  “I’ll scout ahead for somewhere to hide to the truck for a while.” He hurried off, glad to be putting the sounds of gagging and retching behind him.

Garrison caught his breath and grabbed the side of the truck as he knees threatened to buckle.  Davies words and the sounds from the back of the truck were enough to inform him that things with Chief were now dire.  “Actor?” He called in a shaky voice, not at all sure he could pull back the canvas and view what was happening inside.  A soft gasp and growled curse beside him jolted him back to reality.  Taking a deep breath, he pulled the canvas back and peered in. “Actor?” he called more forcefully watching as his second in command settled Chief back against Durrant.  Goniff was sitting hunched in the corner, pale and unresponsive.

Actor mumbled unintelligibly to the men in the truck before turning his attention to Garrison and Casino. “Chief can’t continue to travel like this Craig. We need to find somewhere to rest, at least for a few hours.” Actor stared solemnly at the two men.  “I have given my word to Chief that he will not die here, in this country and I intend to keep my word to him.”

Casino baulked at Actor’s words. “Die, but…”

Garrison found his voice.  “How bad is it Actor?”

Actor shrugged helplessly.  “Treatable in a hospital, but out here…neither the penicillin nor the morphine seem to be working and I don’t know enough about the penicillin to give him more than what is prescribed on the bottle and too heavy a dose of morphine will impeded his already compromised breathing.  All I can suggest is that we wait for a

few hours before we begin our travels again.  Give Chief a chance to gather a little more strength.”

Garrison noted the hint of desperation in Actor’s voice. It was most unlike the tall Italian to find himself in a situation that he was unable to control and Garrison found that that

realization unnerved him more than Chief’s current predicament. “That’s why Davies is out scouting a place to camp?” Garrison stated with a nod of his head.  “Alright Actor, hopefully Davies can find us somewhere to hide. Anything else we can do?”

“How far are we from Cambrai?  Perhaps we should try and find a doctor.  I can at least make enquiries about dosages for the penicillin.”

“That will not be necessary Monsieur.”

*****

Chapter 10

 

The hand scribbled note sitting in the middle of his desk acted like a magnet that Major Richards found he was unable to break away from. He closed his eyes but only moments later they snapped open, staring unwaveringly on the same damning words again.  The moment his aide, Featherston, had entered his office he knew something was seriously wrong.  The young man always had a nervous twitch whenever he entered the office, which usually brought an amused smile to the Richards’ face.  He wondered what exactly the man thought he was going to do to him.  He knew he was abrupt and not prone to small talk or idle gossip, but he was also wise enough to acknowledge that without the NCO’s and paper pushers employed within the walls of the war department, it wouldn’t run.  He had seen too many high ranking officers treat their staff like stray dogs and he had determined that he would not fall into that trap. Richards sighed; this morning…this morning Featherston had entered the office barely able to walk in a straight line from the door to the desk, he was shaking so badly.   The man had literally dropped the note on his desk and bolted back through the door, accompanied by a glare from Richards.

Richards dropped his head into his hands, rubbing tiredly at his eyes as he recalled the moments after Featherston had left.  He had snatched up the note which was lying face down on the desk and began to read.

Munitions depot destroyed, good, thought Richards; that would put a dent in Jerries plans.

Mosby, Blake and Brown survived, Blake injured, on way home. Richards felt his stomach drop. It was never good when men were injured or lost on these missions.

All others presumed dead or captured.  Richards was sure his heart had missed a beat as he read the final line.

He couldn’t believe what he was reading then and still couldn’t believe what he was reading now.  That Garrison and his team were either dead or prisoners of the Germans.  But as the hours had slowly ticked by and no word came through from Garrison’s team, the evidence of the words was becoming too strong to ignore.  The message had come through from the resistance in Cambrai. A later message from Calais confirming that the three Raiders had safely rendezvoused with the sub sat scrunched up at the bottom of his waste paper basket.  And a message sent to the resistance in Laon had garnered no information on the whereabouts of Garrison and his men. Now all he could do was to wait for Mosby to return and fill him in on what went wrong.

*****

Davies hadn’t gone more than a mile before he became aware of someone following him from the deeper cover of the trees.  He was sure it wasn’t a German patrol, they were much too quiet for that, which only left one other conclusion and he hoped he was right.  He stopped and sat down on a fallen tree trunk, laid his gun down at his feet and waited.

“You are either a very brave man or a stupid one, Monsieur.”

Davies sat quietly as a half dozen men, dressed in the clothes of French farmers stepped out of the trees with guns pointed at his chest. “I like to think, sensible, is a better description Monsieur.” Davies replied quietly. “You have me out numbered and surrounded.  Where was I to run? You know these woods far better than I do.”

“You are an American?” A tall young Frenchman asked in some surprise.

“I am. You sound surprised.”  Davies eyed the man suspiciously.

“My apologies Monsieur but we were told by Captain Mosby that no other Americans had survived the raids on Reims.”

Davies jumped to his feet with a curse and began pacing in front of the men.  “Mosby,” he ground out before turning to look at the Frenchman again.  “Captain Mosby told you that?” he demanded.

The Frenchman eyed the angry American for a moment before nodding his head.  “We sent a message to London this morning confirming that he and two others…”

“Blake and Brown,” Davies snarled

“Qui Monsieur…were the only survivors of the two raids.”

“Well he was wrong, we all survived but one of the others is badly injured. I was looking for a place where we could hide the truck for a few hours so that Chief can rest up.”

“This Captain Mosby, he left you behind non?” The Frenchman spat.

“Yes.” Davies snapped.

The Frenchman nodded knowingly. He understood cowards, for any man who left another of his comrades behind was nothing more than a coward in his eyes and many of his own people were cowards and traitors to France. “How many of you are there?”

“Seven.”

“I am Pierre; my father leads the resistance in this area.  Come; show us where your friends are.  We have a safehouse not far from here; we can hide you until it is time to travel.  My father will notify London that you have all survived.”

Davies drew in a deep breath before slowly releasing it.  There was no doubt that they needed help if they were to get Chief back to England alive and the man, Pierre, seemed to know who Mosby was.  If he was telling the truth perhaps he could arrange a doctor for Chief.  Davies realized he couldn’t stand there all day, he had to make a decision and soon.  He shrugged, they had not taken his gun and if it came to a fight it would be evenly matched, six against six provided he could give sufficient warning.  What he did know was that he couldn’t take them on his own.  Davies nodded, “we stopped about a mile back down the road.”

Pierre stepped forward and held out his hand to Davies who accepted it.  “Your commanding office is Lieutenant Garrison?” he enquired as they began retracing Davies steps.

Davies nodded in response. “Yeah.”

“His part of the mission, it was successful also?” Pierre asked with some enthusiasm.

“Well now, that all depends on what you know about the LT’s mission,” Davies hedged as he cast a side long glance in the Frenchman’s direction.

Pierre laughed, “I cannot blame you for being suspicious Sergeant and if I were in your shoes I would be too.  I admire a man who is loyal to his commander and his fellow comrades. Come, no more questions until we meet up with your LT and my father.”

*****

Garrison and Casino spun on their heels, guns swinging effortlessly into place as they faced the group of men flanking Davies.

“You alright Sergeant?” Garrison demanded although he was relieved to see Davies appeared uninjured and still held his weapon in his hand.

Davies nodded, “Yeah LT.  This is Pierre; his father is the head of the resistance in this area.  He already knows about Mosby and the mission but I didn’t tell him anything,” Davies quickly added when Garrison’s left eyebrow rose in question.

“Blackbird.” Garrison gave the password after studying the tall Frenchman who stood calmly beside Davies, accepting his obvious scrutiny.

“Spring” Pierre responded immediately with the countersign.

Garrison lowered his weapon with a sigh and stepped forward to meet the Frenchman.  “You know about Mosby?”

“Qui Lieutenant.  Several of my men escorted them to Calais early this morning.  We were unable to get word through to London until mid morning and unfortunately London thinks you are all missing or dead.”

“We’ll worry about that later,” Garrison growled, “Right now I need a safe place to hide and a doctor for one of my men.”

Pierre nodded, “Your Sergeant has already told me and I can provide both. My uncle is the local doctor in this area and we have a safe house in which you can hide.  It is not far from here.  Can your man travel maybe five or six more miles?”

Garrison turned to Actor, who was squatting at the tailgate of the truck listening to the two men.  “What do you think Actor, can we risk moving Chief now?”

Actor turned back and glanced to where Durrant supported Chief at the front of the truck.  Chief seemed settled for the time being but Actor knew that could quickly change.  The lure of a real doctor to treat the injured man had the conman nodding his head in agreement.  “It’s a risk we will have to take.  Chief needs a doctor and medical attention Craig, and soon, if we hope to get him back to England alive.”

Garrison closed his eyes for a moment before opening them again and turning back to Pierre.  “Alright Pierre, we’ll move now, and thank you.”

“The roads in this area are not good Lieutenant.  They have been damaged by trucks such as this that the Germans drive.  Perhaps it would be best if one of my men, who knows the area and the roads well, were to drive.”

Garrison hesitated, as much as he wanted and needed to get Chief to a doctor he couldn’t risk the safety of the group for one man.  He looked around the group of resistance fighters and Davies who stood or squatted in poses of indifferent casualness, guns holstered or pointing to the ground. All seemed above board but there was still a nagging feeling that something was not right.  Whether it was his imagination or not, he couldn’t totally ignore the feeling.  The decision however, was taken out of his hands by a moaning cough and rasping breath from Chief.  Garrison sighed, before nodding his head at Pierre.  “Alright Pierre, one of your men can drive but Casino will sit up front with him.”

Casino hefted his gun slightly and nodded in silent agreement.

Pierre studied the two Americans for a minute.  He could not fault the Lieutenant his cautiousness.  If the roles were reversed he doubted that he would feel any different.  In a business where trust meant the difference between life and death, these men had been betrayed by some of their own.  It would not be easy for any of them to blindly trust the word of another again.  Just as he could no longer trust the word of all Frenchman again either.  “I know that was a difficult decision for you to make Lieutenant but it is the right one.  Your man needs medical attention and we can provide it and safe passage back to Calais as soon as my uncle says your man can travel.  Henri will drive, I will accompany you in the truck and the others will head back to the safe house through the woods.  My uncle will be waiting when we arrive.”  Pierre gave orders to his men in rapid French that Garrison could barely keep up with.

One of the men, Henri, Garrison assumed moved to the front of the truck with Casino following closely on his heels.  The four remaining resistance fighters moved off through the woods without a backwards glance, leaving only Pierre standing with himself and Davies.  Garrison glanced quickly at Actor who nodded his head, having understood precisely the orders Pierre had given his men.  Satisfied with his second’s unvoiced confirmation of the situation, Garrison nodded to Davies and then turned to Pierre. “Alright, let’s get out of here.”  Garrison stepped back and waited for Davies and Pierre to climb into the back of the truck, before he waved at the driver and jumped in as the truck rumbled forward once more.

Pierre made himself as comfortable as possible on the hard wooden bench that ran the length of one side of the truck.  Garrison sat on one side of him and the sergeant on the other.  Next to the sergeant sat the tall man who Garrison had conferred with regarding the transportation of the injured man, lying comatose against the chest of a young blond man propped up against the corner of the truck.  Directly opposite him sat a second blond man, arms tightly hugging his knees with his head buried amid his arms and legs.  After listening for only several minutes to the harsh, panting breaths of the injured man, Pierre could understand and sympathize with the all men’s pale, haggard features and lack of conversation. He was just grateful that the journey for him at least would only be a short five or six mile trip.  He felt the Lieutenant beside him tense as the truck rocked from dropping the back wheel into a pothole and the injured man moaned pitifully.

“Tell me what Mosby said,” Garrison turned to Pierre, leveling a glacier blue glare on the Frenchman.

Pierre dragged in a deep breath.  He could tell the Lieutenant beside him was barely holding on to his anger.  “We did not know that you were here Lieutenant.  We received word through the resistance that the munitions depot had been destroyed but no word was sent regarding any of the men who had carried out the raids.”

Garrison nodded, “We were told not to make contact with the resistance in Reims.  We were supposed to contact the group in Laon if we needed assistance.”

“But you did not contact them Monsieur.”  Pierre stated in surprise.  “There is a doctor in Laon.”

“We found him and a store full of medical supplies including penicillin that could only have been obtained from the Germans.” Actor replied sharply.

“He is not a collaborator by choice Monsieur and he only tells the Germans what we want them to know.  In return for our information the Germans supply him with medicines which he then passes on to the resistance.”

Goniff lifted his head from his knees and stared at the Frenchman, acknowledging his presence in the truck for the first time. “’Ee could get shot for doing that.”

Pierre nodded, “Qui Monsieur he could but it is the only way to guarantee a steady supply of medicines for the French villagers in the area.”

“Alright, so we have established that the doctor in Laon is not a collaborator but what about Mosby?” Garrison demanded.

“The captain and his men arrived in the early hours of this morning.  My uncle treated the injured man.  The captain told us that they had destroyed the munitions dump as planned but that two of his men had either been captured or killed,  He was not sure which as they had been separated when the dump exploded.”  Pierre shrugged helplessly.  “We had no reason to disbelieve him. He said that as you had not made the rendezvous he assumed you were not successful and had either being captured or were dead.”

Davies growled low in his throat.  “Why that dirty low down…”

“Easy Sergeant,” Garrison warned.

“I am sorry Lieutenant, we advised London of this information this morning and then several of my men escorted them to Calais.”

Garrison sighed.  “It’s not your fault Pierre.”

“This man, he is deserter then?” Pierre queried.

“Too right ‘Ee is.” Goniff interjected.  “’Ee left me and Chiefy there,” Goniff nodded to where Chief tossed restlessly in Durrant’s arms, “As well as the Sarge and Casey.  “’Ee even caused Chiefy’s injuries to start with, ‘Ee did.  ‘Ee ‘ad them other two with ‘im kidnap Chief and beat ‘im up.”

Pierre starred at the Englishman for a moment before turning his attention back to Garrison.  “I do not understand.”

Before Garrison could reply the truck slowed and came to a stop.  Pierre lifted one corner of the tarp covering the back of the truck and peered cautiously into the darkness. “We are here Monsieur’s, come, bring your friend into the house.  My uncle will care for him.”  Without waiting for a response, Pierre jumped from the truck and warmly greeted the elderly man you came to meet him.  Casino and the French driver lowered the tailgate and waited for Actor and Garrison to pass a moaning and semi conscious Chief down to them.  Carefully they followed Pierre and the man into the house and down a short corridor to a bedroom where the blankets had already been pulled back and a pile of pillows waited in anticipation of their arrival.  Chief moaned again as he was lowered to the mattress but he never fully awakened and was oblivious to the parting pat on the arm that Casino gave him as he moved back from the bed.

Pierre ushered the group of worried cons and allied soldiers who had followed behind the injured man, from the room. “Please, let my uncle work.”

Garrison and Actor paused in the door and watched as the elder Frenchman removed a stethoscope from his bag and began listening to Chief’s chest.  “Actor,” Garrison nodded towards the bed.

Actor nodded in understanding, “I will stay Craig.”  He replied as he closed the door behind Garrison’s retreating back.

*****

Chapter 11

 

Despite the appetizing smells wafting from the bowls of thick soup and fresh bread set in front of each man, Garrison, Casino and Goniff found they had no stomach for the repast set before them by the kindly French woman.  Casey had tried to eat but he had given up after only a couple of mouthfuls.  Davies had faired slightly better, managing to finish half a bowl of soup before he too pushed the bowl towards the centre of the table.  Now the eyes of the five men were drawn to the closed door down the hall.

Casino stood abruptly; causing the chair he was seated on to tip over and hit the floor with a resounding crash.  “I need some air,” he stated hoarsely as more retching and gagging could be heard coming from the room.

Goniff looked guiltily towards Garrison before he pushed back his own chair and stood.  “Think I’ll join you mate.”

Casey watched the two Gorillas move towards the door.  “Sarge?” he queried quietly.

Davies nodded, “Go on Casey there’s nothing you can do here at the moment.”

Casey sighed in relief, “Thanks Sarge,” He responded before he all but bolted towards the door and the relative quiet of the outdoors.

Davies turned back to Garrison.  The man looked haggard and guilty but then he supposed they all looked much the same but for varying reasons.  He watched as the doctor’s wife, Madame Theroux stepped from the room carrying a bowl, the contents of which he knew would be disposed of amongst the trees behind the house, like the others before it. The sounds of a hacking cough and loud gasps could be heard for a few seconds before their harshness was muted by the closed door.  Davies sighed, not one of them, including his missing teammates, the injured Indian and the rest of the Gorillas was entirely innocent in regards to the scene playing out behind the closed door.

Mosby had set the whole debacle into motion with his bigoted views and quest to prove that the Raiders were the best team and in no need of assistance to complete any mission.

And then Blake and Brown exacerbated the problem by carrying out Mosby’s orders to immobilize the Indian.  Of course the fact that Durrant and he, himself, had not done nearly enough to stop the kidnapping and beating was a burden they would shoulder for quite some time to come.

Then there was Casino.  He had, at the very least suspected that Chief was more injured than the Indian was letting on and yet he had chosen to accept his team mates guarantee that he was alright.

Davies sighed, even Actor had confirmed that he thought something was wrong with Chief but he had not followed through with his feelings until it was too late.

Goniff seemed to be the only one not really aware of Chief’s physical state until it had become clear.  His guilt, not withstanding the threat to his own life had he refused, was that he had been forced to follow Mosby’s orders and abandon his team mates at the munitions factory.

Of course Chief had a lot to answer for, himself.  Granted, he may not have realized the ribs were broken but he still failed to inform his CO that he had been injured.  He had chosen to keep quiet and continue with the mission regardless of the consequences to himself, the rest of team and the outcome of the mission.

Then of course there was Garrison.

Davies knew the LT was, rightly or wrongly feeling the most guilt over their present situation and accepting all the blame for the outcome.  He was in charge.  He was ultimately responsible for the well being of his men.  He was responsible for the success or failure of the mission.  In his eyes the success of the mission had come at too high a price.  He had been too preoccupied with its success to correctly interpret the well hidden warning signs that one of his men was injured.  The very man he had sent to rescue the men who had injured him in the first place.

“Don’t be too hard on them or yourself LT,” Davies offered quietly.  “We all have a hand in the blame for what’s happened to Chief, including Chief himself.  Anyone of us, perhaps with the exception of Goniff, had ample opportunity to voice our concerns about Chief’s fitness to continue this mission and none of us chose to act.”

Garrison shook his head, “You’re wrong Sergeant. Whether any of you said anything or not, I should have seen what was right in front of my eyes.” Garrison raked a hand through his hair. “Hell, I did see what was in front of me, I just chose to put the mission ahead of what was obvious, thinking I could deal with it later. The mission, the team, even you and Durrant are my responsibility and I let you all down.”

“You didn’t let Casey or me down LT.” Davies stated quietly.  “I haven’t had a CO that cared this much since my LT was killed in North Africa and Casey has only ever known Mosby.  It’s good for him to see what a real CO is like.”

Garrison snorted, “I don’t feel like a real CO at the moment Davies.”

Davies nodded towards the closed door, choosing not to try and argue the point with Garrison. “He’ll be alright you know.  He’s strong, he has to be to have gotten this far and now that the doc’s with him, he’ll pull through.  I remember my father sounded like Chief when he had pneumonia and he pulled through.”

Garrison glanced towards the door down the hall, realizing for the first time that the sounds of retching and coughing had quieted and Madame Theroux had not made an appearance for some time.  “But your father wasn’t stuck in a safe house in occupied France, hiding from the Krauts.”

This time it was Davies’ turn to snort. “No, he was hiding in our still shed in the backwoods of Virginia from the Prohibition Police at the time.”

Garrison’s head snapped up and he stared at Davies wide grin for a full minute before he broke into a laugh. Davies chuckled and then laughed himself.

Actor stood under the arch leading up the hallway to Chief’s room and watched the two men at the table laughing. He felt a momentary pang of annoyance that the men could find something to laugh about in the current situation but it quickly passed as he realized it was just what Garrison needed to relieve the tension.  Actor stepped quietly into the room as the laughter turned to chuckles.  “I hope you will see fit to include me in the joke next time.”

Garrison sprang to his feet and turned to look at his second in command.  The man looked exhausted and just a little green around the gills.  “How’s Chief?” He demanded without preamble.

Actor nodded tiredly.  The last hour had been exhausting. He didn’t like the feeling of helplessness that had come over him as he watched Chief struggling to breathe and cough up the poison clogging his lungs. “Doing a little better Craig; Marcel made a steam tent for him to help loosen the congestion in his lungs.  He wants to repeat the treatment in a few hours.”

Garrison grimaced at the thought of having to listen to the past hours agony again.  “What about his ribs and the fever?”

“The ribs were broken, as we suspected.  Marcel has strapped them and given him another dose of both the penicillin and morphine.  The fever is from the pneumonia. The penicillin should start taking effect soon and the fever should drop. Chief is sleeping at the moment, which is exactly what he badly needs.”

“How soon can we get out of here Actor?  Did the doctor tell you that?”

Actor shrugged, “At least twenty four if not thirty six hours Craig.  Chief is very weak at the moment.  He needs some time to regain at least some of his strength.”

Garrison dropped back into his chair with a sigh of part relief and part frustration.  He was pleased that Chief was doing better but frustrated at the fact that they were stuck in
France for another day at the very least and maybe longer while Mosby was back in London spinning his web of lies.

“Well I think I’ll go and let the boys know that Chief is doing better.” Davies stated as he rose from his chair and headed towards the door.

Garrison nodded his silent acknowledgment before dropping his head into his hands.

*****

Richards steeled himself for the coming conversation with Mosby.  He had received word that the three surviving Raiders had arrived back in England and were on route to his office via the base hospital.  According to the reports the wound to Corporal Blake’s arm was not serious and would not require a hospital stay, which of itself begged the question as to why Mosby and his men made no effort to locate Garrison and his team.  Of course, Richards knew first hand what an injury in the field could mean and how easy it was to panic and loose sight of what was required when worry for the injured took over. However, Mosby was a seasoned commander, daring and imaginative in how he completed his missions, even if a little bloodthirsty for his liking but certainly not prone to fits of panic.  Richards sighed, dropping his elbows onto his desk, resting his chin on his laced fingers.  He couldn’t put his finger on it but something just didn’t add up with the reports he was receiving.  Richards slumped back against his chair.  Hopefully he would have answers to those nagging questions in the next half hour.

*****

Garrison hadn’t been aware that he had drifted to sleep until a gentle nudged of his shoulder woke him with a start.  He blinked several times before stretching stiffened back muscles.  Sleeping in the hard wooden chair with his head resting on his arms a top the dining table was not conducive to a restful or comfortable sleep.  “Pierre,” Garrison mumbled before his eyes darted around the otherwise empty room.

“Do not worry Lieutenant; your men are resting in the back room.” Pierre advised as he watched the blues eyes searching the room. “They told me not to disturb you but my father wishes to speak with you.”

Garrison shook his head, “I shouldn’t have fallen asleep. What about Chief?” He asked, suddenly realizing that the house was in silence.  He could no longer hear the faint moans and coughs coming from his wheel man.

“You needed the rest Monsieur.”

Garrison’s head snapped around as he realized for the first time that a second man had entered the room.  He scrubbed his hands across his face.  He was supposed to be on guard duty, wasn’t he? For that matter he couldn’t even remember if he had set a guard detail. He must have though, or he wouldn’t be sitting here alone in the kitchen would he? Garrison sighed, great guard, he thought ruefully, sleeping on the job. If the others heard about it they’d never let him live it down.  Forcing his body to sit a little straighter, he studied the newcomer with some interest.  He was a tall, thick set man with the body of someone used to hard physical labour but with the pale complexion of one who spent most of his waking hours indoors.  Judging by the amount of grey streaking the dark brown hair, Garrison estimated the man to be in his mid to late fifties.  The eyes were dark and haunted, indicative of a man who had seen too much pain and suffering.

“I am Rui Giron, head of the resistance in this area Lieutenant Garrison.  My son Pierre has told me what happened.  Before I contact London though Lieutenant I need to know if your mission to recover the plans was successful or not.”

Garrison nodded.  “We recovered the plans.”

“That is good Lieutenant.  I will let London know immediately of your safe arrival and the completion of the mission.  My brother-in-law Marcel tells me your injured man is doing better and is resting comfortably at present.”

Garrison allowed his shoulders to slump in relief at the news. He had not allowed his eyes to wander to the closed door up the hall, fearful of what the deafening silence could mean for Chief.  “How soon before you can arrange transport to take us to the coast Monsieur Giron?

“Not before tomorrow night Lieutenant.  Your man is not well enough to travel yet but do not worry, you and your men will be safe here until it is time to travel. Now what would you like me to say in my message to London?”

*****

Mosby shrugged.  “That’s it Major Richards, we blew the munitions factory as planned and then made our way to the rendezvous and waited the agreed two hours for Garrison and his team to show up.  When they didn’t we left and proceeded on, met up with the resistance in Cambrai, there was a doctor there who treated Jimmy’s arm then they helped us get to Calais where we met the sub.

Richards lent forward in his chair and steepled his fingers on the desk in front of him.  They had been at this for well over two hours.  Blake and Brown had said much the same thing when he had spoken to each of them.  He was tired and just a little bit suspicious of the story he was hearing although he wasn’t sure why.  What he had heard was certainly plausible but he just couldn’t get past the sticking point that this was Garrison’s team that was missing.  They were missing and he was missing some vital piece of information.  “So you’re telling me Captain Mosby, that you made no attempt what so ever to locate not only Lieutenant Garrison and his men but also two of your own men as well.”

Mosby straightened in his seat.  “Sir the munitions factory was fully engulfed in flames when we left.  Both Davies and Durrant were following us to the truck.  None of us saw what happened to them, they just weren’t there when I turned around to help Jimmy into the truck.  I didn’t leave them by choice Major Richards but I had an injured man to think of.  As for Garrison,” Mosby shrugged, “He’s responsible for his own team.  We were to make our separate ways to the coast and the sub and that’s exactly what I did Sir.”

“Harrumph.  Tell me again how Corporal Blake came to be injured and how you escaped from the Germans please Captain Mosby.” Richards ordered.

“With respect Sir,” Mosby emphasized the sir, which brought a raised eyebrow to Richards’ countenance, “We have been over this twice already.  My telling it again won’t change anything.”

“Humour me Captain Mosby, I like to be humoured from time to time.”

Mosby sighed in annoyance.  “We were separated after we jumped.  The wind blew Davies off course so he wasn’t with us when we landed.  A German patrol was in the vicinity, they saw us and fired.  That’s when Jimmy was injured but before the Krauts could capture us, Davies appeared behind them and started firing. We managed to escape, hid in the woods at the back of the factory until it was time to set the charges.”

“And then what happened, Captain?”

“At the designated time we blew the factory and made good our escape.”

“Leaving behind Private Durrant and Sergeant Davies,” Richards exploded, “The very man who you have just told me effected your escape from a German patrol not hours earlier.”

Before Mosby could reply there was a sharp rap on the closed door of the office followed by Richards’ aide, Featherston, entering.  He watched as the man marched across the office, handed the major a piece of white paper, saluted smartly, turned on his heel and retraced his steps without uttering a single word.

Richards unfolded the paper and glanced at the words written on it.

All safe.

It took all of Richards’ will power not to show his emotions as he read the remainder of the message.  Actor would be proud of his performance, he thought ruefully.

Mosby deserted team.

Missing Raiders alive.

Chief injured, unable to travel for at least twenty four hours.

Resistance arranging new travel plans.

Mission completed.

 Richards swallowed hard, fighting to contain his anger as he lifted his eyes from the paper to meet those of the man sitting across from him.  “You were saying Captain Mosby,” Richards prompted.

Mosby shrugged, “I don’t know what happened.  One minute they were behind us, the next they were gone.”

“And you made no effort to locate them.”  Richards stated.

“We didn’t have time; the factory was exploding around us and the fire was out of control.  There were Krauts everywhere and I had Jimmy to consider.  He was injured and in need of medical attention. There was nothing else I could do.”

“So what you are telling me Captain; is that you left two of your men to the mercy of the Germans.  You deserted them.”

Mosby clenched his jaw and balled his fists resting in his lap. Who the hell did Richards think he was, questioning his decision?  When did Richards ever spend any time in the field? When was the last time anybody took a shot at him? “I had no choice Major Richards.  Sacrificing myself and the rest of the team was not an option.  Surely you can understand and appreciate that, Sir.”

Richard’s regarded Mosby silently for several minutes, inwardly pleased to see the man begin to squirm under his relentless gaze.  Choosing not to respond to Mosby words, Richards changed the direction of the questioning.  “What about Garrison and his team?”

Mosby glared at the major.  “What about the great Craig Garrison and his cons?” Mosby snapped.  “I’m not his keeper and I sure as hell am not responsible for that bunch of thugs.  He had his mission and I had mine. If they fouled it up it isn’t my problem.  I carried out my mission successfully and returned to England with my team as ordered.”

Richards eyed the man with contempt. “Half your team,” He corrected.  “Two of your men are missing.”

*****

Chapter 12

 

Garrison lifted the canvas flap hanging over the back of the truck provided by the resistance and peered inside the dark interior.  Chief rested against an old mattress that had been wedged into one corner of the truck a blanket wrapped tightly around his shoulders.  The dark smudges under his eyes stood out starkly against the pale, exhausted face but thankfully the harsh, constricted breathing of two nights ago was almost gone now.  It was a testament to the strength and will power of both Chief and Doctor Marcel Theroux that the group was now in the position to continue their journey to Calais and the rendezvous with the sub that would take them back to England.  An involuntary shudder ran through Garrison as he closed his eyes and thought of the events two nights before.  Then he and the rest of the team were sure that they were going to lose the Indian to the pneumonia that had consumed him.  He doubted that any of them would ever forget the sounds of Chief’s violent gagging and coughing or the struggled gasps for a single painful breath as the steam inhalations and penicillin fought to gain the upper hand.   Garrison blinked his eyes open again to find Chief frowning at him.  He responded with a weak smile before turning his attention to the other men in the truck. Thanks to the resistance they were all dressed as French labourers and carried official documents stating they were on their way to work at the docks in Calais.

Goniff and Casey sat on either side of Chief and as close as the Indian would allow.  Garrison was sure the two men felt guilty about their inability to help Chief through the worst of the illness.   They had spent most of the night taking watch with the resistance sentries, unable to bear listening to or watching Chief’s struggle to live.  Not that he and Casino had been of any more help.

Casino sat slumped in the corner by the tailgate not acknowledging anyone. He suspected that like himself, Casino was shouldering a good deal of guilt over what Chief had gone through.

Beside Casino sat one of the resistance fighters.  It was his job to commence a conversation with Actor in French should they be stopped by a German patrol and also to add a bit of extra fire power should it be needed. It was hoped that the French conversation coming from the back of the truck would lull German suspicions.

Davies and Actor sat side by side and opposite Chief so that they could both keep a close eye on him; although Garrison suspected that they would both be asleep before the truck rounded the first bend in the road.  The two men were exhausted, having sat with Chief most of the last forty eight hours along with Marcel Theroux encouraging him to keep fighting even as they changed soiled bed linens and clothes and emptied the putrid bowls of fluid that the steam tent had forced Chief to cough up.

“If you’re ready Lieutenant,” Pierre interrupted Garrison thoughts, “We should be moving if we want to reach Calais by dusk.”

Garrison gave a final cursory glance around the faces watching him.  “All set?”

“Let’s just get the hell outta here,” Casino growled.

Chief nodded his silent agreement to Garrison’s query as did Casey.

Goniff of course couldn’t stay silent as was his want.  “Too bloody right we are Warden,” he replied brightly.

Davies made no effort to respond and Garrison wasn’t sure that the man wasn’t already asleep.

“Actor?” Garrison prompted quietly.

“I am ready Craig.”  Actor replied, lifting the bag that Marcel had given him earlier, “And I have all that I require for Chief’s care in here.”

Garrison nodded and dropped the end of the canvas before securing it to the hook on the side of the truck.  He turned and stepped over to the two men waiting with Pierre.  Garrison offered his hand to Rui and then Marcel. “I can’t thank either of you enough for what you have done for us these last couple of days. We owe you Chief’s life.”

“No thanks are needed Lieutenant,” Rui replied. “It is small payment indeed for the help that the Allies give us in ridding our country of the Bosche. Just make sure that that Captain Mosby pays for what he did to his men and yours.  There is nothing worse than a deserter, except perhaps a traitor but then they are really one and the same do you not agree Lieutenant?”

Garrison shrugged. “End results the same, men die whether they are left behind or led into a trap.”  Garrison nodded his farewell to the two men as the truck rumbled to life before hurrying to take his place beside Pierre and the driver.  He sighed in relief as the truck began its slow progress through the woods.  Resting his head back against the wooden partition separating the cabin from the back of the truck, Garrison stared out the window.  The idea of splitting up the two teams was to avoid the very thing that they were now attempting.  Moving ten men, seven of them allied soldiers and one of them badly injured through occupied France without getting caught by the Germans.

Garrison jolted awake when the truck bounced over several ruts in the road.  He knuckled at his eyes roughly before blinking them open and staring uncomprehendingly at the trees through which they were driving.  “Where are we?” Garrison asked, turning to look at Pierre.

“We have just passed Lille, Lieutenant.  So far the roads have been quiet.  There is not much German movement on these back roads. With a little luck we should be in Calais in two hours.”

Garrison nodded.  He had been against the initial decision to travel the back roads to Calais, concerned that the extra distance would add hours to the trip, but now he realized the decision made sense.  He was beyond exhausted and he knew his men were too.  None of them were in any fit condition to make a stand against a German patrol, even with the assistance of the resistance.  And then there was Chief to consider.  He doubted the man had enough strength left to toss his knife as far as the tailgate of the truck, let alone with any accuracy at a German soldier intent on killing him or to make a run for it if the need arose.  “How’s Chief doing?”

Pierre lifted his hands.  “We have not been asked to stop.  That is good, is it not?”

Garrison glanced out the window, “I hope so Pierre, I hope so.”

*****

“’Ey Actor,” Goniff hissed.  “Chiefy’s awfully ‘ot and ‘is breathings starting to sound funny again. Should we get them to stop?”

Actor pushed himself to his feet with a heavy sigh.  He was not surprised at Goniff’s announcement, he had known since early morning that Chief’s fever was on the rise again and with the rising fever would come the congestion to the lungs.  Actor carefully picked his way through the jumble of feet and legs to the front of the truck where he squatted in front of Chief.  “Chief,” Actor called.  When the Indian didn’t respond Actor called again, louder and tapped the long leg.  This time Chief groaned but made no attempt to answer verbally.  “Goniff let me in there.”  Actor ordered, waiting impatiently for Goniff to squeeze past him.

After sitting hunched on the floor for so long the little cat burglar’s usual grace was missing and he stumbled over Casino’s feet as he fell into the seat beside Davies who was watching the proceedings in the corner of the truck from under hooded eyes.

“Watch it you damn limey,” Casino growled as he pulled his feet back.

“Well if you didn’t ‘ave your ruddy big feet stuck out in the middle of the floor I wouldn’t ‘ave fallen over them, now would I?” Goniff snipped in returned.

“Yeah well if you’d been watching where you were putting your own damn feet in the first place…”

“Cool it,” Davies snapped irritably.  He was tired, angry, guilty and worried and certainly not in the mood to put up with the sniping from the two cons.  “This isn’t the time or the place.”  Davies turned his attention back to the corner where Actor was pushing up Chief’s sleeve to administer another dose of penicillin.  He knew the penicillin wasn’t acting fast enough to combat the pneumonia.  The two days spent with Marcel under the steam tent was really no more than a short respite from what Chief would be dealing with once they returned England.  He needed to be in a proper hospital with round the clock care from experienced medical staff, not that Marcel was not an experienced doctor himself but there is only so much one man, even with the aide of a couple of well meaning, barely trained field medics, could do.  And they needed more medicine than was readily available in the backwoods of France.  They had discussed it last night, behind the closed door, he, Marcel, Actor and Chief and they had all agreed to Chief’s plea, the same plea he had made in the woods days earlier, not to let him die on French soil.

*****

“Chief,” Actor tapped the sweat glistened cheek and waited for some sign of a response from the man.

Chief frowned as the hand tapped his face again.

“Come on Chief, wake up for me.”  Actor leant forward, gripping Chief’s chin in his hand.

Chief tried to pull his head away but the grip remained firm.  Inhaling a harsh breath, Chief blinked open fever bright eyes and stared at the bleary form in front of him.  As his vision cleared Chief recognized the form worriedly staring back at him.  “Actor,” he wheezed trying to stifle a cough.

“Easy Chief,” Actor soothed as he pulled the other man forward supporting the quaking body as the coughing ran its course.  “How are you feeling?” He knew it was a stupid question but he just couldn’t refrain from asking the words.

“Being better,” Chief whispered hoarsely.

Actor nodded in understanding.  “Your fever is rising but you already knew that.  Do you want us to stop?  Give you a chance to rest for a while.”

“No.” The reply was sharp and emphatic and followed by a gasped breath.  “Please
Actor,” Chief reached for the conman’s arm. “Keep going.”

Actor squeezed the hand gripping his arm.  “Alright Chief, your wish is my command.”  Actor forced a smile as Chief sank back against the mattress he was lying on.

“H…how much further?”

“I’m not sure Chief, perhaps an hour or two, probably not much more than that.  I have enough penicillin for one more shot.  I’m going to give it to you now.  It should hold you until we reach Calais and the sub. I’m afraid we’re out of morphine though.”  Actor waited for the usual objection and then sighed softly when he only received a tired nod in reply.   Pushing the man’s sleeve up, Actor readied the injection.  He lightly swabbed the injection site before inserting the needle into the muscle of the arm and slowly depressing the plunger, watching as the antibiotic disappeared from the syringe into the needle and then into Chief’s arm.  Actor removed the needle and rubbed the injection site before pulling the sleeve down again.  “Try and get some more sleep Chief, I’ll wake you when we get to Calais.”  Actor wrapped the blanket around Chief’s shoulders and sat back against the side of the truck.  Exhaustion had already pulled Chief back into a fitful sleep.

“’Chiefy going to be alright then Actor?” Goniff called in a hushed tone.

Actor shook his head, “I honestly don’t know Goniff, but I hope so.”

“They’ll fix ‘im right up when we get back to England, you wait and see.” Goniff settled back against the side of the truck and closed his eyes allowing the motion of the vehicle to lull him into a light, hopeful sleep.

*****

Pierre nodded to the driver and the truck slowly rolled to a stop in a grove of trees beside the road.

“Why have we stopped?” Garrison demanded as he blinked his eyes open and stared out the window.  The light was fading but he wasn’t sure if that was because of the trees they were currently parked in or dusk was falling.

“We are on the outskirts of Calais, Lieutenant.  I thought you should let your men know to be prepared.  We will be entering Calais just on dusk and the start of the curfew.”

Garrison jumped from the cabin of the truck and hurried to the back.  He pulled the canvas back and peered into the gloomy interior surprised to see that Goniff and Actor had changed places.

“Everything alright Warden?” Goniff asked.

“We’re about to enter Calais.  Stay sharp.  It’s nearly curfew.  How’s Chief?”

“Not too good Warden, ‘is fever’s up.” Goniff replied sadly.

“Actor?” Garrison demanded.

“We need to get him on board that sub and soon.  I’m out of penicillin and morphine.” Actor replied blandly.

Garrison dropped the canvas back into place and hurried back to the cabin.  “Let’s move it,” He ordered as he climbed into the cabin.

Even in the gloom, Pierre could see the worry etched in the Lieutenant’s face and he nodded to the driver to proceed.  Amaud was well versed in negotiating the streets of Calais at night and Pierre had no need to caution him about being careful.  If anybody could get them to the docks it was the man sitting beside him.  “Chief is not doing well Lieutenant?” Pierre queried as he peered out the windscreen at the darkening sky.  It would be a close won race to reach the docks before the curfew sounded.

“No he’s not.  We need to get to that sub.”

The first buildings appeared out of the gloom.  Amaud passed them at a slow, steady crawl, trying not to draw attention to the truck.  At the next corner he turned right and killed the lights of the truck.  At first Garrison had thought they had turned into another street but now he realized it was a wide laneway with warehouses on either side.  After the second turn, Garrison was completely lost.  He had no idea where they were being lead and he found himself wishing fervently that Chief was sitting in the cab with him.  The Indian’s unerring sense of direction had gotten them out of more than one dangerous situation in the past twelve months but right now he doubted very much that Chief would be able to find his way from his room to the stairs back at the mansion, let alone through the back streets of Calais.

They traveled through the lanes of Calais for another agonizing ten minutes before the truck stopped in the mouth of a narrow lane.  Garrison couldn’t help but marvel at the ability of their driver to have gotten them this far through lanes that he was sure the truck wouldn’t fit.  He was about to speak when Pierre indicated that Amaud should get out.  The Frenchman turned back to Garrison, “Wait here.  The docks are just ahead.  We will meet with your contact.”  Pierre didn’t wait for a reply as he and Amaud disappeared into the darkening shadows.

Now that the door had been opened Garrison could smell the salt in the sea air and hear the gentle lapping of the waves against the wooden dock.  A lone sea bird called out a plaintive goodnight to its feathered neighbours and the deepening night lapsed into a mesmerizing silence.

“What the hell are we waiting for?” Casino demanded as he wrenched open the passenger side door almost tumbling Garrison to the pavement.

“Dammit Casino,” Garrison growled, hoping the harsh tone of his voice would cover his momentary fear when the door was yanked open, not to mention his pounding heart.

“That’s not an answer Warden.” Casino retorted.

Garrison drew in a deep breath.  “How’s Chief?”

“Not getting any better hanging around here.”

Garrison sighed; the end of this mission couldn’t come fast enough.  “Pierre and Amaud have gone to make contact with the sub.  They should be back shortly.  Have everybody ready to move out as soon as they do.” Garrison ordered, regain control over his nerves.

Casino stood his ground and glared at Garrison.  “What if they’ve gone to alert the Krauts?  We’re sitting ducks in this thing.”

“After all they’ve done for us already.  Hardly likely Casino.  And do you think they’d hand over one of their own men to the Germans? Now do as I said.  The faster we get moving the faster Chief gets to medical attention.”

Casino held his glare for a moment longer before turning away.  “I don’t like all this waiting around,” he grumbled as he moved to the back of the truck.

Garrison sighed as he climbed from the truck cabin.  They still had a long way to go before this mission was completed.  They were still in France; Chief required immediate medical attention and then there was Mosby and Richards to contend with once they returned to the base.  No, this mission was far from over.

“It is all set Lieutenant, but we must hurry. A German patrol will be coming through here in a few minutes.” Pierre announced quietly as he appeared beside Garrison.

Garrison sucked in a short breath as the Frenchman appeared beside him.  Damn he was off his game tonight he thought.  First Casino and now Pierre.  “Where’s Amaud?”

Pierre inclined his head, “Waiting by the corner of that building over there.  There is a small rowboat waiting at the far end that will take you to the submarine.  It will be a tight fit but in the circumstances it was all that was available. Leave the boat floating when you board the sub.  Its loss will be compensated for should it not return to shore.”

Garrison hurried to the back of the truck, “Alright everybody out.” Garrison ordered. “Davies, Actor, see to Chief.  He’s going to have to walk, but it’s not far.”  He waited impatiently for all the men to climb down, helping Casino to take Chief’s weight as he was passed down to them.  Garrison gripped Chief’s arm tightly as the man swayed precariously between him and Casino.  “Chief, you going to make it?”  He asked worriedly.

Chief didn’t lift his head from where it rested on his chest. Instead he nodded and forced a breathless “Yeah,” through clenched teeth, emitting a low moan as Actor and Davies drew an arm over each of their shoulders and gripped him by his belt.

“Alright move out and follow Pierre.”  Garrison waited until the others had moved into the shadows beside the building before he followed his men.

What should have been a thirty second walk across the road took an agonizing five minutes before all the men were safely huddled beside Pierre and Amaud.  They could hear the approaching German patrol and moved as quickly as Chief’s failing body would allow toward the far end of the long warehouse and the waiting boat.  Halfway down the building Actor and Davies felt Chief falter and as one scooped the Indian up under his knees, carrying him the rest of the way while trying to block out the wheezing panted breaths.

“This is where we must part Lieutenant; the boat is at the bottom of those stone steps over there.” Pierre pointed to an opening in the white timbers that formed a fence around the dock.  “Stay in a direct line with this building.  It is quite visible even at night due to its size.  The submarine is about a mile off shore.”

Garrison gripped the Frenchman’s hand tightly as the rest of his men headed for the steps and the boat below.  “I can’t thank you enough Pierre for all that you and your family have done for us.”

“It is our job, now you had better hurry Lieutenant before your man, Casino, decides to leave you behind.  He does not appear to be a very patient man.”

“You noticed?” Garrison shook the hand he was holding before hurrying after his men.  He turned back at the top of the steps but the three Frenchman had already disappeared into the night.

Garrison stepped into the small boat.  Tight fit was an understatement but beggars couldn’t be choosers.  At least there were two sets of oars so that four of them could row together.  He sat down and accepted the oar thrust at him by Casino.  Casey and Goniff held the other set of oars and sat in the stern of the boat.  Davies and Actor were supporting Chief between them in the middle and he and Casino had the bow seats. “On three.”  Garrison ordered.  The first few strokes were shaky and the boat swayed alarmingly as the four men strove to get an even rhythm going but soon enough they were rowing in synchronization and making steady progress away from Calais and France.

Garrison wasn’t sure how far they had traveled but he estimated they should have nearly covered the mile to where the sub was waiting.  He could just make out the looming hulk of the warehouse in the distance and knew they were still on course to meet their ride.

“Ye best be stopping rowing laddies, if ye don’t want to crash into us and sink.”  A definitely British voice floated down from above them.

As the first word floated on the breeze, Casino had dropped his oar and grabbed for the rifle at his feet.

“Easy Casino,” Garrison warned as the man relaxed his grip but didn’t release his hold on his rifle.

“Jumpy lot aren’t you?  You’d be the Garrison party then. Well hurry aboard laddies, times a wasting and the captain wants to get underway.”

“We have an injured man here.” Garrison called back.

“Aye, the medical team is waiting Lieutenant. He’ll be well taken care of as soon as he is aboard.”

Several sailors had hooked the boat to the side of the sub and were helping Casey and Goniff up.  Davies had shifted out of the way allowing Casino to pass him and clamber up to the decking of the sub.  “LT?” Davies enquired.

“I’ll follow.  Hand Chief up first Sergeant.”  If Garrison had expected a sound of protest from Chief he would have been disappointed.  The Indian remained stoically silent as he was handed up to Goniff and Casino.  Garrison wasn’t sure if it was because the man was unconscious or it was his pride not allowing him to show weakness in front of strangers.

Garrison allowed himself to be pulled aboard the sub.  He stood back and watched the frantic commotion going on about him.  The sailors released the small rowboat; giving it a gentle nudge to push it away from the side of the submarine, but it wasn’t the boat that held his interest.  It was what was happening to Chief that had him fixed to the spot on which he was standing.  Garrison watched as a man with the medical insignia of a doctor bent over Chief. Listening to his chest through a stethoscope and issuing orders at the same time.  An oxygen tank and mask were handed over on request and quickly fitted to the Indians face.  Next a syringe appeared and was inserted into Chief’s arm without preamble before two medics carefully picked him up and hurried to the nearest hatch only to disappear from sight.

“Craig, come on.  They’re about to dive.” Actor pulled at Garrison’s arm roughly to get the man moving towards the hatch through which Chief and he realized the rest of his team had disappeared.  The sailor standing by the open hatch waved them in impatiently as the first waves washed over the deck of the diving submarine.

Garrison reached the bottom of the spiral stairs in time to see the two medics gently lower Chief to a waiting litter.  They picked up an end each and lifted, following the doctor along the narrow corridors of the submarine.  Actor was already heading off after the litter and Garrison hurried to catch up to him.

“What did the doctor say Actor?” Garrison demanded as he caught up to the long legged conman.

Actor ignored Garrison, intent on following the litter and Chief to its destination.  The doctor had pushed open the sick bay hatch and was waiting for his patient to be delivered to his examination table.

Chief raised himself from the litter with a groan, reached out a hand and grabbed Actor’s arm, effectively halting the forward movement of the two men carrying the litter he was lying on.  He pulled the oxygen mask off, ignoring the doctor’s attempts to replace it. “Thanks Actor,” Chief whispered softly, exhaustion clear in the weak, gasping voice before he let his hand drop back to his side.

Actor swallowed hard, understanding and acknowledging the heartfelt words he could hear and see in the dark eyes of the Indian. “I always keep my promises Chief,” he replied in like tone, nodding to the two men that they could carry on delivering their burden to the sick bay.  Actor watched in contemplative silence as the heavy, water tight door closed behind Chief with a loud clang.

Garrison raised an eyebrow in surprise at the displays of silent emotion passing across the faces of his second and his wheelman. “What was that all about?” He asked curiously as Actor continued to stare absently at the closed door. “Actor.” Garrison prompted worriedly.

Actor sighed, before turning to face Garrison.  “He was thanking me for keeping my promise that he would not die on French soil.”

“And…” Garrison swallowed the lump in his throat at the look of sorrow buried deep in the dark eyes.

Actor shrugged, “Nothing, I did as I promised.”

Garrison grabbed the Italian’s arm, gripping it tightly.  “Dammit Actor, what aren’t you telling me?”

Actor pursed his lips, inhaling deeply, momentarily feeling guilty at the ease with which he carried out that simple task before exhaling heavily.  “The trip to Calais was hard on him Craig.  His fever is rising again, there is more congestion in his lungs and…”

“And.”

“And one of his lungs has collapsed.” Actor finished in a whisper.

Garrison tightened his grip on Actor’s arm, unaware that his fingers were digging painfully into the other man’s limb.  “Are you telling me that Chief might still die?”

Actor remained impervious to the pain Garrison was causing to his arm as he his gaze returned to the door marked with the large red cross.  “That I am afraid is still a distinct possibility.”

Garrison jerked his hand away from Actor’s arm as if the appendage had just burst into flame.  “But you said…Marcel said…Why the hell did you allow him to travel?” Garrison demanded harshly.

Actor turned back to Garrison.  Garrison sucked in a deep breath at the haunted look in the other man’s eyes.  “Chief’s fever began to rise again early this morning.  The penicillin was only keeping it under control, not curing it.  I almost failed in my promise two nights ago and I could not let that happen again.  Chief was aware that the fever was gaining a hold again. He begged both Marcel and myself to return him to England.” Actor shrugged, “Chief doesn’t beg, we couldn’t deny him his request.  And it was agreed that the best chance for him is in England.”

“What about his lung,” Garrison gritted, “When did that collapse?”

“When we lifted him onto the deck.”

“Are you sure?”  Garrison asked warily, unsure if he could trust that the Italian had not forced the issue of returning to England to assuage his own fears of failure.

Actor spun and pushed Garrison hard against the bulkhead.  “Who do you think I am?” He demanded harshly, dark eyes blazing menacingly.  “Do you think I would have allowed Chief to travel with a collapsed lung?”  Actor pushed Garrison once more before releasing his hold on the man and moving away.  “I thought you knew me better than that.” He spat over his shoulder as he stalked down the corridor.

Garrison moved away from the bulkhead, rubbing at his shoulder where it had connected with the metal frame. He could already feel a bruise forming.  “Damn,” he muttered angrily as he watched his second stalk away.

*****

Chapter 13

 

Major Richards looked up from the file he was reading when his aide Featherston entered his office and strode purposefully across the small room to his desk.

“What is it Edward,” Richards asked with just a hint of annoyance in his voice.  It had been a long day and from the looks of it, it was going to turn into an even longer night.  He had been reading the same file for the last hour and still hadn’t got past the first page, his thoughts firmly engaged in another place.

Featherston didn’t answer, instead he held out a piece of crisp white paper to the major to read.

Richards sighed as he took the paper without a word.  He read the missive and then re-read it before looking sharply at his aide.  “Well what are you waiting for man?” he demanded.  “Take care of this immediately.”

Featherston snapped to attention.  “The ambulance is already on the way to the docks with a doctor on board, the hospital has been notified and the senior surgeon is standing by, Sir.”

“Good, good.  How soon before the submarine docks?” Richards asked as he began collecting all the files on his desk and stacking them in a haphazard pile that threatened to topple off the edge.

“I believe twenty minutes Major.”

“Mmmm, not enough time for me to make it to the harbour before they are on their way back here,” Richards mused as he stood up.  “I’ll meet them at the hospital; that would be best.” Richards collected his cap and coat from the coat rack behind his door, pausing as he opened it to look at his aide.  “Go home Edward, get a good nights sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.”

Featherston snapped a salute as the Major disappeared through the door before sitting heavily in the chair Richards had just vacated.  He began sorting and straightening the files on the desk.  When he was finished he had three neat piles stacked side by side.  Nodding in satisfaction, he stood up, pushed the chair as far under the desk as the arm rests would allow and then left the office, turning off the light and locking the door behind him.  He checked his watch and sighed in frustration as he realized it was too late to stop at the local pub for a pint of ale.  Shrugging his shoulders, Featherston decided on doing as the major had ordered and that was to go home and get a good nights sleep.  God knows he had earned it he thought.  Richards had been insufferable to work with since the first message had arrived advising that Garrison’s team was missing.  While he didn’t approve of the army’s use of the cons he couldn’t deny that they did good work or that the little cockney cat burglar wasn’t useful to bring him trinkets to impress the ladies.

*****

Actor paced in front of the hatch leading to the mess area in an effort to get his emotions under some semblance of control before he faced the rest of his team.  He couldn’t believe that Garrison had questioned his motives for agreeing to allow Chief to travel.  He thought he had the man’s trust after all the missions they had completed but it seemed that wasn’t the case.  He knew in his heart that they had made the right decision.  Had they stayed in France he was sure that Chief would now be dead.  Marcel did not have the equipment necessary to successfully treat Chief’s injuries.  Actor drew in a steadying breath before he pushed open the hatch.

Goniff looked up as the hatch opened, hoping it would be either Actor or the Warden so that they could get some information on Chief. The Indian sure hadn’t looked good when he was carted off to the sick bay.  “’Ow’s Chiefy doing Actor?” He asked before the man had fully entered the room.

Actor closed the hatch before turning back to address the expectant faces. “Not too good Goniff, one of his lungs has collapsed.”

“How the hell did that happen?” Casino slammed his fist onto the metal table they were sitting around and Davies shook his head.

“Blimey, that’s serious isn’t it Actor?  I mean ‘Ee could die.”

“Yes Goniff he might.  As to how, his lungs have been under a lot of pressure the past few days from the pneumonia, coupled with the broken ribs.  The doctor thinks a rib shifted when we lifted him on board.  It’s pressing against the lung.”

“What are they doing about it?” Goniff dreaded hearing the answer that Actor was about to give but he had to know.

“They will try and re-inflate the lung.”

“They can do that?  Is that what the oxygen was for?”  Goniff brightened.

Actor shook his head.  “The oxygen is to help him breathe so he doesn’t have to work as hard.  They’ll have to insert a tube in his side and into the lung.”

Goniff winced, “Sounds painful.”

“It is a particularly unpleasant experience for all concerned,” Actor agreed “but it will hopefully keep Chief alive long enough to get him back to England and a hospital.”

*****

Garrison stood staring at the mess hatch where the rest of his team and the remaining two Raiders were waiting.  He had been in to see Chief and the man looked terrible, barely alive if he was to honestly admit the truth. What he could see of Chief’s features around the oxygen mask were sunken and sallow.  Not at all like the strong, bronzed features he was so used to seeing. The breathing was harsh and painful to listen to and the fluid dripping into the glass jar from the tube protruding from Chief’s side was enough to make Garrison want to wretch himself.   Garrison shut his eyes and drew in a deep breath before blinking them open once more. Instead of dwelling on what he perceived was a futile situation, Garrison decided to focus on what the doctor had told him only minutes before. Cautiously optimistic!  Those were the doctor’s exact words, and he would take cautiously optimistic over nothing more can be done any day of the week. The re-inflation of Chief’s lung had only been partially successful, the rib pressing on it was causing problems, but the doctor had told him he felt the man would survive the trip to England and transfer to the hospital where the appropriate medical attention could be given.

This had been one hell of a mission, Garrison thought as he gripped the latch that would release the hatch and it wasn’t over yet. Now not only did he have to ensure Chief’s continued survival and Mosby’s court martial, because that’s what he would be calling for when they got back, he had to make amends to Actor as well.  Actor was right; he did know the man better than that; knew him well enough to know that he would never put one of the team in danger for his own personal gratification. He had no excuse for questioning the man’s integrity other than he, himself had been losing control of the team and the mission.  He had been unwilling to see what was clearly wrong from the start and what needed to be done to rectify the situation.  Chief didn’t beg.  That was the understatement of the war.  Chief never admitted to any hurt or failure, never asked for anything, material or otherwise, but he begged to escape France, he begged Actor and a stranger to get him home. Or to at least what passed for home for the duration and six months.  It wasn’t lost on Garrison that Chief, never once asked him, begged him, to get him out of France.

Garrison pushed the hatch open and stepped into the mess area, conscious of all the eyes on him.

“’Ow’s Chief doing Warden, ‘Ee going to be alright?” Goniff jumped to his feet as soon as he saw who had entered.

“The doctor’s cautiously optimistic that Chief will recover when we get him back to England.”

“Just what the hell does that mean?” Casino demanded.  “Either Geronimo’s going to live or he isn’t.”

“So the doctor managed to re-inflate his lung?” Actor raised an eyebrow in query.

Garrison shook his head, avoiding eye contact with his second.  “Not completely. The rib pressing on the lung is stopping it from inflating fully.  He’ll need surgery when we get back to move the rib back into position.”

“Blimey,” Goniff sank back to his seat.

“We dock in twenty minutes.  Be ready.”  Garrison turned and left unable to face any more questions or the accusing look in Actor’s eyes.

*****

“’Ee looks…dead.” Goniff mumbled as he and the rest of the team stood silently by and watched as Chief was carried off the submarine and placed in the ambulance waiting beside the dock.  As the doors closed all they could see was a white coated figure leaning over the Indian.

“Yeah well he ain’t and he ain’t going to be either.” Casino pulled Goniff’s arm to get him moving towards the truck that was to take them to the hospital.  “Come on babe, unless you want to walk back to the base.”

“Not me mate,” Goniff answered hurrying past Casino, “I’ve done all the walking I‘m going to do for a while.”

The men climbed into the truck and slumped down onto the bench seats running along each side.  Now that they were back on English soil the fatigue they had all been fighting began to show.

“What’s going to happen now Sarge?” Casey asked tiredly, eyes already closed.

Davies looked to Garrison for the answer.

“We’ll stop at the hospital. Wait for word on Chief and then we all go and see Richards.”

Casino snorted.  “Do you really think Richards will believe what we have to say about Mosby?”

“If we all tell the truth,” Garrison fixed both Davies and Casey, who had opened his eyes at the mention of Mosby’s name, with a glare,” then Richards will have to believe us.”

“Like that’ll do any good.” Casino snapped. “We’re cons, remember babe, and the brass isn’t going to listen to us over some hot shot Captain with a famous Colonel in his closet.”

“They will because I intend to bring Court Martial proceedings against Mosby, Blake and Brown.” Garrison tapped his jacket pocket, “And it won’t only be us giving evidence.  I have signed letters from Rui, Pierre and Marcel confirming what we say.”

“Yes but you can’t prove that those letters weren’t signed under duress.”  Casey shrugged as everybody turned to stare at him.  “Sorry but I was studying law before I enlisted. Mosby’s defense could have them thrown out as been inadmissible evidence.”

Garrison thought for a minute.  “What if the authenticity was confirmed by radio with the resistance?  Would that be proof enough that the letters are genuine?”

“Possibly but the defense council would have to hear that confirmation and probably Mosby as well.  Hearsay isn’t admissible in a court of law either.”

“If your so damn smart all of a sudden,” Casino growled,” Why the hell didn’t you stop Mosby before he had Geronimo beaten up in the first place?”

“I know what I did was wrong Casino and I don’t expect you, Chief or anyone else to forgive me.” Casey sucked in a deep breath.  “I intend to tell Major Richards the truth and am prepared to take what ever punishment he or the Court Martial gives me.”

“Aw, it won’t come to that mate, tell ‘im Warden,” Goniff turned to Garrison for confirmation.  “You ‘elped Chiefy escape in the first place and then you ‘elped ‘im back in France.  That’s gotta mean something, right Warden?”

Casey shook his head, “Appreciate the sentiment Goniff, but I have to face up to what I did, or didn’t do as the case may be.”

“Damn right you do and I’m gonna see you get what’s coming to you.” Casino promised.

“Alright, cool it Casino,” Garrison snapped.  “Fighting among ourselves isn’t going to get us anywhere. We need to show a united front to Richards if we’re to have any chance of getting Mosby into a Court Martial hearing.” Garrison turned to Casey, “And Goniff’s right too Casey, I’ll do what I can to help you, both of you.” Garrison leveled a gaze at Davies. “You’ve both proven yourselves to me at least, over the last four days.”

The truck came to a stop and the six men climbed down silently, taking a moment to stare at the closed front doors to the hospital.  The driver stuck his head out the window, “Hope your man makes it,” he called before putting the truck in gear and driving off with a wave of his hand.

There was an air of despondency as the men entered the hospital and walked up to the nurse sitting at the admittance desk.  “One of my men was just brought in here, name of Chief, dark hair…”  Garrison began.

“Garrison, this way.” A man called from the end of the corridor.

Garrison turned and sighed.  “Major Richards,” He replied with a salute as he and the other men made the short walk to the end of the corridor.

“Garrison, what the hell happened to Chief, he looks terrible?  They took him straight through to surgery.  We can wait in here.” Richards pushed open a door and let the ragged group of men file past him.  He stopped a nurse passing in the corridor and asked her to organize seven cups of coffee and some sandwiches for them before entering the room and shutting the door behind him. He stopped and stared, taking in the solemn, haggard faces of his best team and the two missing Raiders. With the exception of Chief, none of the others looked to be injured, which was a relief.

Richards took a seat on the uninviting wooden chair that had been left for him.  The men having taken possession of the lounge and armchairs spread around the room.  This room was generally used by the staff for their breaks and not meant for public use but Richards had insisted that it be made available to him tonight.  Now, as he studied the slumped, exhausted forms of the men he was glad he had forced the issue with the hospital administrator.  He doubted, especially after seeing the condition that Chief was in, that he would get a single coherent sentence out of any of them but he needed to know what had gone wrong.  In fact it was more than a need; it was a burning all consuming desire to know what had gone wrong and what part Mosby played in all of it.

A knock at the door interrupted Richards’ thoughts and he pushed himself out of the uncomfortable seat to answer it.  It was too early for news on Chief, unless the unthinkable had happened and that didn’t bear consideration so it had to be the nurse bringing coffee and sandwiches. Taking a deep breath, Richards opened the door, releasing the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when the nurse passed a tray laden with coffee cups and plates of sandwiches.  He nodded his thanks before closing the door and placing the tray on the low coffee table in the centre of the room.  “Coffee and sandwiches was the best we could come up with this hour of the night.  You all should try and eat something.” Richards waited, nodding imperceptibly when Goniff sighed and headed for the table.

“No tea?” Goniff looked a little nonplussed but then shrugged. “Coffee’s fine.  Thanks Major.” He returned to his seat with the coffee and a sandwich in hand.

Soon the others followed suit.  Richards waited until they had all taken their cup and fill of sandwiches before picking up the last cup and remaining sandwich for himself. He ate in silence, watching as the men around him ate and drank automatically.  He doubted that any of them had even tasted what they had swallowed.  Sighing heavily he placed his plate back on the tray and looked at his Lieutenant.  “Report Lieutenant Garrison please.  What happened over there and how was Chief injured?”

“Mosby happened,” Casino raged.  “Him and his band of stinking Raiders.”

Richards threw a quick glance at Sergeant Davies and Private Durrant but neither man seemed upset over Casino’s accusation, more that they looked guilty at his words.

“That’s enough Casino,” Garrison ordered tiredly before turning his attention to the major.  “It’s a long story, Sir.”

Richards nodded, “I had a feeling it would be Lieutenant but we do seem to have some time on our hands.”

Garrison sighed, “Yes Sir.  It started before we left England.  Mosby apparently decided that he could do both missions and he didn’t need us along for the ride, but Sergeant Davies can probably tell you more about that then I can Sir.”

Richards nodded, “I’ll get the Sergeant’s report after yours Lieutenant. Continue.”

“Mosby arranged for his men to kidnap Chief and render him unable to continue the mission.  With a man down after the briefing we wouldn’t be able to continue and both missions would fall to him.”

“Just how was that to be accomplished?” Richards asked with a sinking feeling, already seeing where this was going and not liking it one little bit.

“How do you think it was accomplished?” Casino cut in.  “They beat him up and left him tied to a tree in the woods on the estate.”

Richards turned to Davies. “Is that true Sergeant?”

Davies nodded his head.  “Yes Sir.  I tried to stop them, tried to warn Garrison’s men when we arrived.”

“Bloody cryptic clues,” Casino snorted.

“If you do not want to be removed from this room Casino, I suggest you keep quiet unless you have something beneficial to say,” Richards warned.  “Sergeant you were saying.”

“I didn’t know the full details of what they planned Sir. I guess Mosby knew I wouldn’t go along with it.  They were all asleep when I went to bed, but they left the barracks early the next morning.  By the time I realized what was happening it was too late.”

“So you didn’t take part in the beating Sergeant?”

“Not physically Sir,” Davies replied. “But I’m just as responsible for what happened as the rest of my team Sir.”

“We will discuss your responsibilities later Sergeant. Lieutenant please continue.” Richards ordered.

“I think Private Durrant can best relate the next part Sir.”

Casey squared his shoulders and took a deep breath as the Major and the Gorillas all turned to face him. He suddenly realized that none of Chief’s team actually knew the details of what they did.  He swallowed hard, wondering if he would get out of the room alive. “We waited in the trees beside the running track.  Blake had set a trip wire in the shadows.  Chief didn’t see it and fell.” Casey hung his head. “We were wearing pillowcases over our heads so that Chief couldn’t identify us but he knew right from the start who we were; a Virginian accents pretty hard to hide.  Blake took his knife and then he and Williams tied him up and pushed him further into the trees Sir. We came to a small clearing and they tied him to a tree.  Blake was calling Chief names, telling him that Garrison’s team wouldn’t be going on the mission; that they wouldn’t go looking for him because he was a breed and they were scared of him and his knife.”

Casey paused, starring at his shoes, unable to look at the faces of Garrison and his men. He drew another deep breath, getting an encouraging nod from Davies when he looked at the man.  “Chief didn’t believe him, told him that if they thought kidnapping him and tying him to a tree was going to stop the Gorillas they could think again.  Blake agreed and then he started punching him Sir, Brown and I we…we had to hold him up.  I heard a crack and Chief passed out for a few moments, even tied to the tree he could barely stand up.”  Casey flinched as Casino jumped to his feet with a scowl and stormed to the blackout covered window.

Richards flicked a warning glare at the safecracker’s back and then turned back to Durrant. “What happened next, Private? How did Chief escape?”

“Blake was taunting Chief with his knife and then he threw it on the ground at his feet.  He and Brown started to move off and I went behind the tree but Blake saw me, wanted to know what I was doing.  I told him I was checking the rope was tight, when he turned around again I untied the rope and gave it to Chief before following the others back to the barracks Sir.”

Casey met Major Richards’ hard glare.  “I know what I did was wrong Sir, and I fully expect to be punished for it, but I swear to you Sir; I didn’t know what Blake and Brown were planning.  I thought we were just going to tie him to a tree and leave him there.”

“But you helped them beat Chief, Private, by your own words you said you held him so Blake could hit him. Richards pointed out.

Casey sighed heavily, “Once Blake started punching Chief I got scared, scared of what they would do to me if I didn’t help.  It’s not the first time they’ve beaten up a man Sir and…they enjoy it.”

Richards turned to Davies.  “Is that right Sergeant? Has this sort of thing happened before?”

“I believe so Major Richards.  They and the Captain go out drinking; they’re all mean drunks so I don’t go with them so I’ve never actually seen it, just heard the rumours.  Mosby’s pretty good at covering things up.”

“So I notice,” Major Richards grunted.  “Alright what happened next?”

Garrison began again.  “Somehow Chief escaped and made it back to the mansion just as Mosby’s team left for the mission.” Garrison shrugged, “He looked alright Sir, tired, but he jogged across the lawn, told me he lost track of time when I questioned him about being so late back then he went up to his room and packed.  He and Casino were back down at the truck within ten minutes and we left for the airfield and our flight.  Neither Chief or Casino,” Garrison glared at his safecracker, “Ever mentioned that Chief was injured.”

Richards sighed. “Casino what can you tell me about this debacle?”

Casino turned away from the blackened window with a shrug.  “Not much Major. Geronimo didn’t look quite right to me; he seemed to be moving a little too stiffly so I followed him up to his room.  He could barely lean over and pick up his bag.  When I asked him about it he said nothing was broken, just bruised and he’d already wrapped them to be safe.  Goniff came up, told us the Warden was waiting and we left.”

Richards harrumphed. “Did Chief give any indication as to why he wouldn’t admit to being injured, knowing full well it could jeopardize the mission?”

“Hell this is the damn Indian we’re talking about.” Casino exploded.

“Casino,” Garrison warned.

“Yeah, yeah.” Casino sighed. “He said Mosby wanted to do the whole mission himself and Chief didn’t want to let him get away with it.  He said he was fine dammit.  I knew he wasn’t but I let him get on that damn plane and jump out.  Soon as he jumped I knew the idiot was in trouble.  The wind was gusting, he couldn’t control the chute, was getting blown off the landing zone, he landed hard.  By then it was too late, we were in France.”

Richards rubbed tiredly at his face; this was going to be a long night, and not withstanding the waiting to hear how Chief was either. “Alright who would like to tell me what happened next.  You do realize I want this entire conversation written down in a report.”  Richards allowed his eyes to rest on each man momentarily as it appeared each of them had a piece of the puzzle to report.

“Chief and Casino were late getting to the rendezvous point.” Garrison took up the story.  “I knew something was wrong as soon as I saw Casino carrying Chief’s bag but they both denied it.” Garrison glared at Casino, “And I believed them. Chose to ignore what was obvious, thought I could deal with it later. I had other things to consider at the time.  We made it to our target, were surveying the area when we heard someone on our back trail.  It turned out to be Sergeant Davies.”

“And how did you manage to get separated from your team Sergeant?” Richards asked.

“I was the last to jump Sir, the wind was picking up, I was blown off course, came down on the other side of the wooded clearing.”

Richards nodded, at least those facts agreed with Mosby’s account of what happened, he thought.

When Richards didn’t comment Davies continued.  “I was making my way to where the rest of the Raiders were when I heard gunfire.  I was too slow in helping them Sir. The rest of the team had already been captured and I could see that Blake was injured.  There was nothing I could do for them.  They were surrounded by a German patrol.  I thought it best to find the LT and tell him what had happened. Mosby had all the explosives with him so I couldn’t even set the charges.”

Garrison sighed, “I sent Chief and Goniff with Davies to blow the munitions factory and try to free Mosby’s team.  At the time I knew nothing of what had happened to Chief here in England before we left.  If I had I would never have sent Chief with them.”  Garrison paused, allowing his words to impact on his team.  “Casino, Actor and I waited for the factory to blow and then broke into the estate and stole the plans as planned Sir.  After that we made our way to the rendezvous point, several miles from the factory.

“Chiefy was ‘aving trouble breathing,” Goniff took up the story, earning a shake of Richards head, “But like ‘Ee always does ‘Ee insisted ‘Ee was alright.  We broke in through the back fence of the factory.  Chief wasn’t in any shape to be laying charges, ‘Ee could barely stand up straight, let alone carry explosives or bend over, so the Sarge suggested ‘Ee see if ‘Ee could find where they had Mosby locked up.  The Sarge and I set the charges and then the Sarge went and nicked a truck for our escape. By then the place had gone up like a ruddy New Years Eve party.” Goniff paused and looked around the faces watching him.  “Next thing I know Mosby and two of his men are running towards us but there was no sign of Chief or Casey. Sarge asked Mosby where they were and ‘Ee told ‘im they were back in the fire somewhere.  Sarge told me to wait while ‘Ee went back to look for them,” Goniff sighed, “But Mosby, ‘Ee told me to drive.  When I said no, ‘Ee pulled a gun on me and ordered me to leave the others behind or ‘Ee’d shoot me.” Goniff’s voice cracked and he swallowed hard. “I ‘ad no choice Sir, you gotta believe me, I didn’t want to leave them, that’s not what we do.”

“It’s alright Goniff, you did nothing wrong.  Nobody can blame you for following orders, especially when your life is been threatened.”  Richards offered kindly.

“Yeah right,” Goniff muttered, “Except me.”

“Guess this is where I come in.” Casey stated.  “Chief found the shed we were locked in, got rid of the guard somehow.  Mosby didn’t even say thanks,” Casey shook his head in disgust, “Just pushed past Chief and headed for the truck with Blake and Brown.  I could see Chief was in trouble but he told me to follow them.  He collapsed and I went back to help him but the others ignored us.  I managed to get Chief to the back of the sheds, he was having trouble breathing, he told me to leave him and head to the fence in the corner but I couldn’t leave him behind Sir.  I helped him back to his feet and we were half way to the fence when the Sarge found us.  We could hear the truck driving off so we went out the way Chief had come in and escaped into the woods.”

“So Mosby didn’t blow the factory.” Richards stated thoughtfully. “How did you all meet up again?”

“Mosby made me drive to the rendezvous point but the truck ran out of petrol before we got there. We walked the rest of the way then ‘Ee nicked off with the other two and left me behind.” Goniff answered quietly.

“Why didn’t he take you with him Goniff?” Richards asked.

Goniff wrung his hands together. “’Ee…’Ee said ‘Ee wasn’t going to take no con back with ‘im.  That I deserved to get caught by the Krauts and ‘Ee ‘oped they’d shoot me on the spot.”

“Stinking red neck,” Casino cursed.

Richards shook his head, ignoring Casino’s outburst. The picture was much clearer and uglier than he had thought possible.  “Sergeant,” Richards queried, “Why did Captain Mosby pick on Chief specifically to kidnap?  He did pick Chief, didn’t he?”

Davies nodded, “Like Casino just said Sir, red neck.  So are Blake and Brown and Chief is a half breed and a con.”

“We’re all cons Davies,” Casino growled.  “Why are we any better than Chief?”

Davies shrugged and shook his head.  “I can’t explain Mosby’s mind Casino, hell I don’t even want to try but if it’s any consolation, as far as I’m concerned, you, all of you,” Davies looked at Goniff and Actor,” Including Chief are as good as anybody I know and I’d be pleased to have any one of you covering my back.”

A light rap followed by the door opening and a white coated figure entering the room brought an abrupt halt to the conversation as the seven men rose swiftly to their feet.

*****

Chapter 14

 

If Doctor Blackwell felt intimidated as the six disheveled men descended on him shoulder to shoulder he didn’t show it.  Instead he focused on the Major standing to the side of the group. “Your man came through the surgery well Major, despite the added complication of the pneumonia. We were able to re-inflate the lung and repair the damage to the rib. Of course he is still a very sick young man. We have him on a high dose of antibiotics to fight the fever and pneumonia but I feel with time and rest he should make a full recovery.”

“Alright,” Casino sank down into the nearest chair which just happened to be the one recently vacated by Major Richards.

“See I told you mate,” Goniff slapped Casey on the back, “Chiefy’d pull through.”

Over whelmed, Casey could only nod his head vigorously in reply although the smile on his face was just as vocal.

“Thank God,” Davies muttered quietly.

Actor sighed in relief, a small smile lifting the corners of his mouth before his eyes caught those of Garrisons’.  He squared his shoulders and stared defiantly at the Lieutenant before turning sharply on his heel and returning to his seat in the armchair, failing to see the nod of acknowledgment or the disappointment reflected in the blue eyes.

The relief Garrison had felt moments before at the doctor’s words was ripped from his heart with Actor’s rejection.  Garrison dropped his eyes to the floor for a moment, drawing in a deep breath before lifting his head and focusing on the doctor.  His issue with Actor would have to wait.  “Doctor, when can we see Chief?”

“It will be at least another hour Lieutenant, barring complications.  He is still in the recovery room and then he will be moved to a private room.  I’ll have a nurse come and get you when we have him settled in his own room.  Now you must excuse me.  I have a patient to tend to.”  Doctor Blackwell nodded his goodbye and left the room.

“’Ey Actor, what does barring complications mean?  I thought the doc said Chiefy’d make a full recovery.”  Goniff asked.

Actor looked around the expectant faces and sighed.  “It means that Chief has just undergone major surgery to repair the damage to his lung and rib and like with any surgery there is always the chance that something could go wrong.”

“Like what?” Casino demanded.

“He could have trouble waking up from the anesthetic, his lung may collapse again, the pneumonia could get worse.”

“That’s more than enough information thanks babe.” Casino slumped further into the chair he was sitting in.

“Well you did ask Casino.” Actor pointed out reasonable.

“Yeah well…” Casino began to retort but was cut off by Major Richards.

“All right gentlemen, seeing as we have some more time to wait, perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling me the rest of the story.  Now if I remember correctly, I believe Goniff was telling me about their escape.”

Goniff sighed but took up the story once more.  “We ditched the ruddy truck and continued on foot to the rendezvous point.  Mosby patched up Blake’s shoulder and then they ‘ightailed it out of their Sir.  That was the last I saw of them.”

“And what did you do Goniff.” Richards asked.

“Waited for the Warden of course.”

Richards nodded.  “Lieutenant?”

“Actor, Casino and I hid the staff car Casino had procured in the woods and walked the last mile to the rendezvous point where we found Goniff.  Shortly after our arrival, Sergeant Davies arrived with a warning that a German patrol was headed our way.”

Richards turned to Davies.   “Where were Chief and Private Durrant?”

“About three miles from our position Sir.  Chief had passed out and Casey and I couldn’t carry him any further.  I left them and went in search of the LT.”

“Very well.  Lieutenant please continue.”

“Yes Sir, We hid amongst the trees.  The Krauts found the dressings Mosby had left behind and they followed Mosby’s trail.”

“You didn’t try to stop them Lieutenant?”

“No Sir, we couldn’t do it silently, there were too many of them and I didn’t know how many other patrols were in the area.  And I had Chief and Casey to consider also.” Garrison shrugged, “Besides Mosby and his men had a couple of hours head start on the patrol.”

Richards raised an eyebrow but remained silent.

“After the Germans had left, we followed the Sergeant back to where Chief and Casey were Sir.  Actor did what he could for Chief and then we moved out and headed for Laon, as per our orders.” Garrison waited but Richards remained silent.  “We were about twenty miles from Laon when Chief passed out again.  There was no way he was going to make it back to England without medical help and some sort of transport so Actor and I continued on to Laon alone.  I found some transport and Actor managed to locate a doctor’s office and obtained the needed medical supplies including some penicillin Sir.”

“What on earth was a country doctor doing with penicillin?” Richards demanded.

“I asked myself that too Major Richards,” Actor’s deep cultured voice spoke for the first time.

“And your conclusion Actor?” Richards enquired.

“He had to be a collaborator Sir.”

Richards nodded in agreement.  “Do you know his name? I’ll have him taken out.”

“You can’t Major Richards, even if he was a collaborator, which he isn’t; he is the only doctor in the area.  The French villagers need him Sir.”

“And how do you know he isn’t a collaborator Actor.  Did you ask him?” Richards demanded.

“No Sir.” Actor glared at the major.  “Pierre informed us that he was working for the resistance, passing on information of their choosing to the Germans.  In return for the, ah ‘information,’ Actor accented the last word, making it clear that the so called information was questionable at best, “the Germans supplied him with the medical supplies that he needed to treat the townspeople and ultimately the resistance.”

Richards sighed.  “Who is Pierre?”

Garrison picked up the story.  “After we returned to the team and Actor had treated Chief we continued the journey by truck. We weren’t far from Cambrai when Chief started having trouble breathing.  Davies went in search of somewhere for us to hide the truck and the resistance in the area found him.  Pierre’s father Rui is the leader of the resistance in Cambrai and his uncle is the local doctor.  They took us to a safe house where we stayed for several days while Marcel treated Chief and he rested. They told us that Mosby had been there and told them that there were no other survivors from the mission.”

Richards nodded.  “That was the first I knew of you and your men being missing.  We received a message from the resistance telling us that you were all dead or captured and only Mosby, Blake and Brown had survived.”

“And you believed the son of a …”

“Casino.” Garrison warned sternly.

“Of course not.  I was shocked but I couldn’t believe that the Gorillas were dead or captured.  It didn’t make sense but as the hours went on and no word came through well…” Richards shrugged apologetically.  “Mosby was actually in my office giving me his version of the story when I received word that you were all safe.”

“Damn.” Garrison muttered.  “Mosby knows we’re back.” It was more a statement than a question so the answer surprised him.

“No he doesn’t.  For some reason I didn’t see the need to apprise him of your imminent return.” Richards smiled and was met with a returning smile from Garrison.

“I want him and his two men, Blake and Brown to face a court martial, Major Richards.”

“So do I Lieutenant, after hearing your story.  I knew Mosby’s claims didn’t add up but he and the other two stuck to the same story every time I questioned them and I had no real reason not to believe them.  At least not until I received word that you were all safe.” Richards paused, noting the relief in the six pairs of eyes watching him, “But you do realize that it is going to be very hard to convince a court martial panel of Mosby’s guilt, especially considering his past record and his family history.”

“What that his great grandfather was a murderer and criminal who served time,” Casey scoffed.  “Great family history.”

“Well they do say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree Casey,” Actor pointed out.

“And we’re all cons and the brass doesn’t believe cons. Right Major?”  Casino growled.

“And that,” Richards agreed tiredly.

Garrison sighed. At least with Major Richards believing their story and willing to back a court martial perhaps this whole sorry mission could come to a satisfactory end.  “We have signed, written statements from Rui, Pierre and Marcel, corroborating our story Sir, and Casey thinks that they will be accepted if we can get verbal confirmation from the Resistance that they weren’t written under duress.”

Richards eyed Casey in surprise.  “You were studying law before the war, weren’t you son?”

“Yes Sir,” Casey replied straightening his shoulders, keenly aware that the Major was yet to include Davies and himself in the court martial hearing.

“It might just work,” Richards agreed as the door opened and a nurse announced that they could see Chief for a couple of minutes but only two at a time as he was still sleeping.

The seven men stood as one at the nurse’s announcement and began filing out the door behind the nurse, all thoughts of the court martial forgotten.  Major Richards was just about to pull Garrison aside when the Lieutenant reached out and laid a hand on Actor’s arm.  Sensing an undercurrent of unease between the two men Richards thought it prudent to depart and follow the rest of the team towards Chief’s room.  The story could wait until the morning or rather afternoon he corrected himself when he glanced at his watch and discovered that it was already past midnight and they had been sitting in the waiting room for several hours.

“Actor,” Garrison began, sighing heavily when he felt the muscles in the tall Italian’s arm tense under his hand.  Determined to make his second in command stop and listen to him, Garrison refused to remove the offending hand despite the disdainful look Actor shot him. “I’m sorry Actor, you were right.  I do know you better than to think that you would put Chief’s life, in fact any of our lives at risk without good reason.”  Garrison paused and waited for a response from the man that was not forth coming. Actor remained silent and aloof staring down the empty corridor in the wake of the team. “Please Actor?”

Actor drew in a heavy breath, holding it for a minute behind pursed lips before exhaling noisily through his nose.  “This team is based on mutual trust Lieutenant…”

Garrison winced at the formal address but acknowledged he had it coming.

“…and if that trust is not shared by all the team members then the team can no longer continue to perform.  For whatever reason, you placed me in the position as your second; to make decisions when you are not present, unable to or not sufficiently knowledgeable of the situation…”

“And I stand by that decision Actor.” Garrison interrupted. “You made the right choices regarding Chief’s treatment…”

Actor continued, ignoring Garrison’s interruption. “…you were not present either time that Chief asked, no begged,” Actor corrected, “not to let him die in France.  You didn’t see the look of despair on his face or the depth of fear in his eyes.  Two looks I have never seen Chief disclose before…”

“…I shouldn’t have put you in that situation Actor; I should have seen that something was seriously wrong before it went as far as it did, but dammit Actor.” Garrison glared at the Italian conman, “You didn’t trust ME enough to tell me that you thought Chief was injured in some way.  Like you just said, trust works both ways.”

Actor sighed, allowing some of the tension to seep from taut muscles.  “I didn’t make this decision lightly Craig. I was aware of the risks and so was Chief.”

“I know you didn’t Actor, I just wish somebody had told me what was going on a lot earlier.”

“In hindsight you are right, I should have told you earlier but you had enough to worry about coordinating both missions, freeing Mosby and his men and getting us all home in one piece and there was very little you could do to help Chief anyway.”  Actor paused and offered a small shrug.  “There was very little I could do to help Chief either.”

“You did more than any of us Actor.  You got Chief home alive and that’s really all any of us can ever ask of you.”  Garrison held out his hand.

Actor studied the proffered hand for a moment before accepting the firm shake.

“But I swear Actor, if any of you pull another stunt like this ever again…”

“I don’t think you need worry on the score again Craig. I think we have all,” Actor stared meaningfully at Garrison, “learnt our lesson this time.”

“Not all,” muttered Garrison. “We still have to see Mosby, Blake and Brown get what they deserve.”

“What about Davies and Durrant,” Actor asked as the two men began to move unconsciously towards the end of the corridor.

“I don’t know yet.  I’ll have to speak to Major Richards about that but I feel they more than made up for what they didn’t say or do before we left with their actions since arriving in France.”

Actor nodded, “Chief would never have got out of the munitions factory alive without their help and I can’t help but think that he will not press charges against either man for what happened here before we left.”

Garrison snorted, “I know damn well he won’t.”

“Then I see only one problem.”  Actor observed dryly.

“And that is?” Garrison queried with a raised eyebrow.

“Casino.” Actor stated. “He has been very protective of Chief ever since this mission started and he won’t blindly accept the fact that Davies and Durrant may go unpunished.

Garrison stopped walking and ran his hands through his hair.  “Let’s worry about that when the time comes.  If we can get dishonourable discharges or brig time for the other three maybe he’ll be happy with that.”

“Maybe.”  Actor replied doubtfully.

Major Richards had been keeping an eye out for the two men as the rest of the Gorillas and the two Raiders spent a couple of quiet minutes visiting Chief.  He hadn’t been in yet to see the man but if the look on Goniff and Casey’s faces was anything to go by it wouldn’t be a particularly pleasant experience; not that seeing him as he was rushed past him on his arrival had been any better.   Richards caught sight of the two men walking together down the corridor and sighed in relief at the more relaxed demeanor of both men.  It appeared that whatever had been causing the tension between the two men had been resolved.  The last thing he needed now was his top team to be at loggerheads with one another, especially if they were to successfully bring charges against Mosby.

“Lieutenant, Actor,” Richards acknowledged the two men as they came to a halt beside him.  “Everything alright?”

Garrison nodded, “Yes Sir, have you been in to see Chief yet?”

“No, I was waiting for you Lieutenant. Why don’t you and Actor go in.  I can wait and then you should all,” Richards inclined his head towards the slumped forms sitting in the chairs several feet away, “go back to the mansion and get some sleep.  We can continue the discussion later today.”

Garrison saluted as Actor pushed open the door.  “Thank you Sir.”

“Lieutenant,” Richards called, stopping Garrison’s entry into the room. “You do realize I am going to need a statement from Chief before we can press charges against Mosby.”

“Yes Sir.”  Garrison acknowledged tiredly before following Actor into the dimly lit room.

Garrison stood silently beside the door of Chief’s room and watched as Actor read through the medical reports hanging from a clipboard at the foot of the bed.  “How is he?” Garrison asked quietly as he moved across the dimly lit room to stand beside the bed. Chief was resting against a mound of pillows in a semi reclined position.  Garrison noted the breathing sounded better, still raspy but without the harsh, strangled gasping and wet cough that had plagued him since they had left Laon. Even though he sounded better, Garrison had to admit that Chief didn’t look any better.  His cheeks were sunken hollows, still flushed red with fever; the dark lashes rested on even darker smudges under the closed eyes and he’d lost weight, a fact that even the stark white bandage wrapped around the dark chest couldn’t hide.  Without conscious thought, Garrison rung out the cloth floating in the bowl of cool water sitting on the bedside table and reached over to wipe the beads of sweat pooling on the furrowed brow.

Actor nodded absently, intent on deciphering the doctor’s scrawl. “His temperature has come down several degrees since he was first admitted. They’re giving him a high dose of morphine and penicillin.  There were no complications with the surgery.  The rib causing the problems was reset and the lung re-inflated.  They are still draining the lung of the accumulated fluid and that will continue for a couple of days until they are sure there is no more fluid build up.”

“So he’s going to be alright?” Garrison asked as he sank into the chair beside the bed.

Actor replaced the clipboard on the end of the bed, taking a moment to study the slumped form of Garrison in the chair.  “I believe so, with plenty of rest and care he should make a full recovery.”

Garrison scrubbed tiredly at his face, “Thank God for that.”

“He still has a long road ahead of him Craig; he is not going to get over this in a week.”

“I know that Actor but with a pending court martial hearing hopefully Richards won’t send us on any missions and Chief will have the time he needs.”

“Speaking of Major Richards, he is still waiting outside.  No doubt to ensure that we follow his orders to return to the mansion and get some sleep.” When Garrison ignored Actor’s prodding, the Italian moved around the bed and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.  “Come on Craig, there is nothing more we can do here tonight for Chief.  What he needs now is sleep and so do we.”

Garrison sighed but nodded in agreement as he pushed himself to his feet.  He paused by the bed for a moment watching the steady, if somewhat slightly laboured rise and fall of Chief’s chest.  Garrison carefully lent over the sleeping form.  “We are going to have a long chat about keeping secrets from your commanding officer when you’re well enough Chief and don’t you forget it.”  Garrison straightened, searching the pale face for any sign that the injured man had heard him.  Satisfied that his threat hadn’t disturbed Chief he moved quietly across the room and followed Actor out the door.

“We going ‘ome Warden?” Goniff asked as Garrison exited Chief’s room and closed the door behind him.  “Shouldn’t one of us stay ‘ere in case Chiefy wakes up and needs something?”

“Chief will probably sleep all night Goniff,” Actor replied.

“Yeah that’s right limey, and I bet he’d rather have one of those pretty young nurses looking after him than having to look at your ugly mug.”

“I’m not ugly Casino.  Me mum calls me her handsome boy, she does.”

“That’s because she’s as blind…”  Casino began before a glare from Garrison cut him off in mid speech.

“This is not the time or place, so cool it both of you,” Garrison threatened as he started down the corridor to where the major was speaking with one of the nurses.

“’Ow we going to get back to the mansion then?” Goniff asked as he trailed along behind the Warden.

Garrison groaned as he stopped walking and turned back to his men and the two silent raiders.  Yet another flaw in his thinking and then there was also the problem of what to do with the two raiders. “I guess we go and roust out the car pool sergeant and organize a car.”

“We could always nick one Warden.” Goniff suggested.

“Yeah, you were pretty handy at nicking cars in France.” Casino added.

“That won’t be necessary Casino,” Major Richards advised with a glare as he rejoined the group. “I took the liberty of organizing a car and driver for you tonight. He is waiting out the front for you.”

“Thank you Sir,” Garrison replied, saluting tiredly before he turned to continue down the corridor.

“Ah Lieutenant,” Richards waited for Garrison to turn back to him before he continued.  “Would you mind taking Sergeant Davies and Private Durrant with you? I haven’t informed Captain Mosby of their return and under the circumstances I would prefer he didn’t find out just yet.”

“That won’t be necessary Sir,” Davies interrupted in an effort to deflate the rising ire he could see in Casino’s eyes.  “Casey and I can billet in one of the barracks here on base for the night.”

“That is not satisfactory Sergeant.  You and Durrant, along with Goniff are all eye witnesses to Mosby’s treachery. Until this is sorted out you will both be safer staying with Garrison and his men.”

“And what about Geronimo?”  Casino demanded.  “If you think they’re in danger,” Casino jerked his thumb towards the two raiders, “then so is the Indian and he’s in no shape to defend himself.”

“Casino’s right Sir,” Garrison stepped forward.  “Perhaps we should stay here.  I wouldn’t put it past Mosby to try something if he finds out that Chief is in the hospital.”

“Nor would I Lieutenant, given his dislike of Chief but I can assure you all that Chief will be well protected while he is here. Now go home, all of you and get some sleep.” Richards sighed when none of the men moved.  “That is an order Lieutenant and I won’t issue it twice.”  Richards balanced on the backs of heels and then rolled onto the balls of his feet, hands clasped behind his back as he watched the six men move tiredly down the corridor.  He couldn’t help the smirk that lifted one corner of his mouth as Casino turned not once but twice to give him a warning glare.  How things had changed he thought as he watched the men leave.  In the beginning he doubted that they would live long enough to even have a civil conversation amongst themselves and now they were loathe to let each other out of their sights.

*****

Chapter 15

 

Major Richards shifted uncomfortably in the chair beside the bed.  He regretted his decision not to take up the offer of a cot when the night nurse had been in, on one of her many rounds, to check on the wellbeing of her patient.  He had made a promise to Garrison and his men that Chief would be well protected during their absence and he intended to uphold that promise.  Richards pushed himself to his feet with a loud groan. What he hadn’t planned on was an attack from the in noxious looking chair with the high wooden back and padded seat.  Some discarded dinning chair he supposed.  Richards twisted from side to side several times, easing out the kinks in his back, before shrugging his shoulders to relieve the stiff neck.  He silently paced the room for several minutes, ignoring the pins and needles sensation running down his legs as circulation was restored to his numb extremities.  So intent was he on his exertions that he failed to notice the dark eyes watching or the slight smile on the pale, exhausted features in the dim light of the room.

As was Chief’s way when faced with an unfamiliar situation, he gave no indication to the man occupying the chair beside him that he was awake. Instead he allowed his senses to attune themselves to his surroundings while he attempted to catalogue the numerous aches and pains coursing through his body.  He was in the hospital; that much was clear from the antiseptic smell and the ‘hard as nails’ bed he was lying on, which meant they had made it back to England.  Why did hospital beds have to be so damn uncomfortable he wondered because God only knew he felt uncomfortable enough without the added assistance of the bed.  The dull ache in his side that had woken him from his sleep was steadily growing in intensity as the pain killers he had no doubt being given began to wear off.  At least he didn’t feel as hot as he had in France or found it quite as difficult to breathe.  His chest still felt heavy and the pain throbbed with each breath but that was to be expected with broken ribs. After making a quick assessment that his arms and legs were still in working order, Chief decided it was time to alert Major Richards to his waking state and find out exactly where the rest of his team was.

Chief tried to sit up but the white blinding pain in his side as he moved brought an involuntary cry of anguish to his lips that resulted in Richards all but leaping across the room to grasp the quaking shoulders before Chief toppled from the bed.

“Easy Chief, don’t try and move,” Richards ordered as he held onto the injured man.

Chief barely heard the order over the pounding in his head and the noisy gasps he was making in an effort to drag air into his lungs.

“Chief, stay still.” Richards ordered again before releasing the trembling shoulders. “I’ll get a nurse or doctor and be right back.”

Chief nodded mutely as he fought the rising fear and panic that the lack of oxygen was creating.  With his eyes squeezed tightly shut in an effort to block out the pain, he wasn’t aware of Richards return with a nurse and barely felt the prick of the needle as the painkiller was administered.  What he did register was the cool, soft hand pressed against his cheek and the musical lilt cajoling him to take slow breaths.  As the pain eased and his breathing took on a more rhythmic pace, Chief slowly opened his eyes and stared into two emerald pools.

“There now, that’s much better Chief,” the musical lilt was back and Chief nodded in agreement to the sweet sound.  “Now don’t be trying to move.  Ye have a tube in your side to drain the infection from your lung but only for a day or two.” The green eyes crinkled with the smile.  “If ye need anything, or the pain gets too bad again just ring this bell and one of us will come.”  Chief nodded again as the nurse placed a small brass servant’s bell near his left hand.  “Now Major, don’t be keeping him awake too long, though I wager it won’t be long before he’s sleeping again, what with the medication I just gave him, but he does need his sleep.  ’Tis the best thing for him right now.”

“Thank you Nurse Armitage,” Major Richards acknowledged as the nurse turned towards the door, “And don’t worry I won’t keep him awake long.”

“Well then, just call if you need anything.”

Chief was still starring at the closed door when Richards turned back to the bed.  Richards smirked, the nurse certainly was a stunner and it looked like she had a captive audience in Chief.  Thank God, he thought, it wasn’t Actor or Casino lying in the bed.  “How do you feel now Chief?”

Chief blinked and focused on the Major beside him.  “Better I guess Major.  Where’s the Warden and the others?” Chief cast a disappointed glance around the otherwise vacant room.

“I sent them back to the mansion to get some sleep.  They’ll be back in a few hours I’m sure and despite my orders not to return until this afternoon.”  Richards noted the wandering eyes.  “They were worried about you Chief.  They all came in to see you before they left, that was…” Richards checked his watch, “Four hours ago, but you were just out of surgery and asleep.”

“I think I remember the Warden been here or maybe I was just dreaming.  He threatened me with a talking too about keeping secrets from him.”

Richards chuckled, “I just bet he did.”

“Why’re you here Major?”  Chief asked tiredly.

“I made a promise to your Warden and I intend to keep it.”

Chief raised an eyebrow in question.  “What sort of promise.”

“I know what happened before and on the mission Chief.  While we were waiting for you to come out of surgery the men told me what Mosby and his men did both here and in France. With your testimony along with the mission reports and those from the resistance I intend to back Garrison and press for a court martial for Mosby and his Raiders.”

“Not all of them Sir,” The medication was starting to take effect and Chief was finding it difficult to concentrate but he had to make it clear to Richards that Casey and Davies weren’t responsible for what happened.  He knew if it weren’t for the two men he wouldn’t have made it out of France alive.  “Casey and Davies,” Chief blinked as he felt himself begin to drift, “they…they saved my life.”

“I am aware of what transpired in France Chief, and that will be taken into consideration, especially as Mosby’s actions left them stranded in France also.”

“Where…are they?”

“Safe with your team at the mansion Chief, so don’t worry about them.  Now go back to sleep.  I’ll be here when you wake up.”  Richards settled back into the uncomfortable chair again and watched as Chief lost the struggle to say awake.

Chief forced heavy lids to half mast and stared blearily at Richards for a moment.  “Sa…fe from…who?”

*****

It hadn’t taken long for word to get out around the base that Garrison and his men were missing from their last mission along with two of Mosby’s Raiders.  As far as a good many people were concerned the Gorillas had finally got their comeuppance and no-one would shed a thought over the lost men, however the two missing Raiders were another matter.  Mosby and his remaining men had been inundated with commiserations from the regular army personnel and a number of the other teams working covertly on the continent.  So it came as a shock when Mosby and his men stepped into the mess hall for breakfast that the loud buzz of eager voices became deathly silent as the door swung shut behind the three men.

Mosby allowed his gaze to pass over the closest faces to him and what he saw sent a chill down his spine.  Many showed disgust and even open hostility, a number were guarded and only a small sprinkling showed any hint of camaraderie towards the men.

“Lucas,” Mosby called as he spied a long time friend from Virginia and moved steadily towards him, not missing the cringe as the man was singled out.  “What’s going on?” Mosby demanded.

Lucas shuffled in his seat, throwing desperate glances at the men around him but they all seemed to have found their breakfasts suddenly fascinating.

“Well?” Mosby demanded as he stood over the man.

Lucas shrugged, “word came through last night that Garrison and his team plus your two missing men are all alive and back here in England.  The Indian’s in the hospital here on base, in a bad way and the rest are out at that mansion where they all live.”

Mosby held his emotions in check as the words hit him.  He was keenly aware of the many pairs of eyes watching his reaction to the news.  Plastering an unconvincing smile on his face Mosby acknowledged Lucas’ words.  “Well that is good news.”

The words were almost drowned out by the guffaws and jeers of those able to hear the response.  Turning on his heels Mosby exited the building with his two men following closely behind.

“Hey Lucas,” somebody yelled from several tables away, “Why didn’t you tell him the rest?”

“I reckon he’ll find out soon enough.”  Another voice responded.

“I sure wouldn’t want to be in his shoes when Garrison and his men catch up with him.”

“Yeah and what about his own men? I bet they’re none too happy either.”  The buzz of voices and questions rolled through the mess hall again as the men resumed their interrupted breakfasts.

*****

Mosby stormed back to the barracks in a blind fury, closely followed by Blake and Williams.  Why the hell hadn’t Richards advised him last night that Garrison and all the men had returned?  Mosby wondered as he thrust open the door, ignoring the loud bang as it hit the wall. A quick check of the barracks showed that they were alone.  Mosby began pacing.  Surely Richards would have known they had returned.  You might be able to smuggle seven men, even if one of them is badly injured…Mosby smiled cruelly as he thought of who was in the hospital…out of France but you couldn’t quietly smuggle them into England on a navy sub. Unless…

Mosby stalked to his cot and pulled his footlocker out from under his bed, watched apprehensively by Blake and Brown who had wisely chosen to keep their silence in the face of Mosby’s rage.  But once Mosby began dumping all his personal belongings into the duffle bag he retrieved from it Blake couldn’t remain silent any longer.

“What’re you doing Cap?”

“What the hell does it look like I’m doing you idiot?” Mosby snarled.  “I’m packing and getting out of here before we have some damn MP’s knocking on the bloody door.”

“But why?” Brown questioned hesitantly.

“Are you stupid?” Mosby demanded.  “Why the hell do you think Richards didn’t inform us last night that Davies and Durrant were back?  Because he suspects our story, that’s why and with them alive as well as that damn Indian and the Cockney there’s going to be a lot of questions asked.  I damn well should have shot the damn Englishman, hell all of them if it comes to that, when I had the chance.”  Mosby fumed.

“Richards won’t believe that half breed or the limey, they’re cons.”

“Are you forgetting Davies and Durrant?” Mosby snapped.

“You’re their Captain; just order them not to say anything.  Besides they’re as guilty as we are.  Well maybe not the Sarge but Durrant is.” Brown offered.

“And just how do you expect me to do that Brown,” Mosby sneered, “do you see either of them standing here?” Mosby slammed his footlocker shut.  “Take my advice and get out of here while you can.”

“Desert you mean?” Brown stared are Mosby in confusion.  The man was a zealot when it came to upholding the values of the army, always alluding to the deeds of his great grandfather and now here he was suggesting they desert the army.

Mosby shrugged, “Well it’s either that or face a court martial because that’s what will happen once Garrison and Davies finish having their say.”

“But we didn’t do anything to Garrison, only a couple of those cons of his and they don’t matter.  They don’t have a say in what the army does to them.”

Blake brushed past Brown and headed for his cot.  “I wouldn’t be so sure of that Brown, Richards seems pretty fond of those cons.”

Brown watched the two men for a minute before he shrugged and made his way to his cot. He was damned he was going to take the fall for following Mosby’s orders. “Where are we going?”

Mosby paused in his packing and stared menacingly at Brown. “If you’re coming with us, it’s all the way.  No pulling out half way through, is that understood?”

Brown swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat and nodded his head hesitantly.  “Yeah sure Cap, whatever you say.”

Mosby studied the man for a long moment before returning to his packing.  He might come in useful as a scapegoat along the way.  “You’d better hurry up and pack if you’re coming with us.”

Brown started throwing his belongings into his duffle bag.  “So how are we going to get out of here and where are we going?”

“You let me worry about that Brown, just pack and be ready to leave when we are.  Blake, put your locker back under your cot and then go and get us a jeep.” Mosby ordered.  “If anyone asks tell them we’re going to catch up with our missing team mates.”

Blake nodded and hurried from the barracks leaving the other two men too their packing.  He couldn’t say that he’d be sorry to leave the army or the crummy country.  He’d had enough of the war and this last mission had been too close for comfort.  He’d find it easy to disappear, for years if need be in the hills of Virginia where the ‘bad element’ half of his family ran a successful moonshine business.  Blake snorted; with his imminent desertion from the army he guessed he had just changed sides of the family too.  Uncle Cletus always said he’d come to no good in the end, it had just taken longer than anyone anticipated.  Blake had no trouble obtaining a jeep for their use.  The shift had just changed and the new Corporal on the car pool desk hadn’t yet heard about the incident in the mess hall earlier in the morning so no questions were asked.

Blake stopped outside the barracks as the men began leaving the mess hall and the base became a hive of activity.  He hurried inside, warning Mosby and Brown that breakfast was over and men were beginning to return to the barracks.  The three men swung their filled duffles over their shoulders and hurried to the jeep, dumping the bags out of sight on the floor in the back.

“Where to now Cap,” Blake asked as he sat behind the wheel and waited for Mosby and Brown to climb in.

“Head for the hospital.” Mosby ordered as the jeep pulled away from the barracks.  Several men saluted Mosby as they drove past but none tried to stop them.

“Why the hospital?” Brown asked, “It isn’t visiting hours.”

Mosby sighed heavily, “To complete some unfinished business.”

*****

Chapter 16

 

Richards jerked awake with a start.  He glanced quickly to the bed, ensuring himself that Chief was still soundly asleep.  He listened intently for the noise that had disturbed his fitful sleep.  He could hear the clatter and rumble as the breakfast trolleys were pushed along the corridors but he was sure that wasn’t what had woken him.  The hairs on the back of Richards’ neck stood up and his hand automatically slid to his gun.  There it was again, a muffled squeak and an even fainter curse as the door to the room was inched open.  Casting another quick glance at the sleeping form in the bed, Richards rose silently from the chair and glided soundlessly across the room to stand beside and behind the door as it opened.  He had no doubt that Garrison and his men would disobey his orders and make a re-appearance in this room long before the scheduled visiting hours, but even this was too early for them given the exhaustion he had seen on their faces last night. Nor he doubted could they maintain this level of silence. And if it was a nurse she would have just opened the door and walked in as had been the case all night.  No, whoever was unsuccessfully trying to sneak into the room was not harbouring thoughts of goodwill towards its occupant.

The door was pushed open and Richards watched as three men entered the room.  Even though he wasn’t unduly surprised to see the men it still saddened him to think that his suspicions had been correct.  Richards pushed the unattended door closed behind the men.  “Something I can help you gentlemen with?” he asked quietly as the startled men turned and stared at the gun trained on the leader’s chest.

*****

“How are we going to find out what room the breed’s in Cap?” Blake asked as they drove through the hospital gates.

“Simple, you’ll go in and charm the nurse on the desk and get a look at the register.” Mosby replied, “While Brown and I wait around the corner.”

Blake shook his head “And just how do you expect me to do that?”

Mosby sighed in frustration.  “Do I have to do all your thinking for you?”

“Hey I know, pretend you’re looking for someone else and while the nurse is looking at the register you look as well.” Brown suggested.

“If you’re so damn smart why don’t you go instead Brown?” Blake retorted.

“Just get on with it Blake,” Mosby snapped.  “We don’t have a lot of time.”

Blake sauntered off to do as requested while Mosby and Brown waited around the corner of the building and out of sight of any passersby.

“Why are we doing this Cap?” Brown wondered aloud as they hid in the bushes.  “I mean if it weren’t for Chief we would probably be in a prisoner of war camp now, that is if the Krauts hadn’t shot us as spies first.”

Mosby turned a steel eyed glare on Brown.  “You can’t be serious.  It’s because of that stinking breed we’re now on the run.  I gave you, Blake and Durrant a simple order, take care of the breed and you all failed miserably. We didn’t need the help of that pack of thugs to carry out the mission.”

“But…” Brown began but was cut off as Mosby continued unabated.

“Richards was an idiot to think that we couldn’t handle the job ourselves.  He just had to send another team with us.  Any other team and I could have let it pass, but I couldn’t allow that team of murderers and conmen to show me up.  All you had to do was take care of the heathen.  Make sure he wasn’t in the picture.  It would have been so much easier if you had just killed him when you had the chance.”

“But you said…”

“In fact, none of you have told me how he got free.” Mosby continued, ignoring Brown’s attempt to speak.

“I swear I don’t know Cap,” Brown responded nervously.  “When we left he was tied to the tree and barely conscious.  Casey even went and checked the rope before we left.”

Mosby’s face darkened in rage.

“Say, you don’t think Casey set him loose do you Cap?” Brown asked in surprise.

“No Brown, I don’t think, I know,” Mosby seethed “And if I had time I’d take care of him too.  Nobody double crosses me and you had better remember that.”

Mosby fell silent and Brown followed suit, not wanting to draw any more of Mosby’s anger. It was another five minutes before Blake finally re-appeared and Brown released a silent breath of relief.  He could no longer stomach what Mosby was doing or in fact what he had allowed himself to be led into.

“Well,” Mosby demanded.  “Did you find it and did you have any trouble.”

“Piece of cake, Cap.  He’s in room seven, East Wing.” Blake replied with a grin.  “Pity we’re leaving, that nurse sure was cute.”

“Come on,” Mosby set off down the side of the building and around to the eastern section. They couldn’t afford to be seen entering the hospital.  He opened the fire escape door marking the east wing and peered around the corner.  Satisfied that the corridor was empty they slipped quietly inside. There were fifteen rooms in this wing according to the number on the door of the first room they came too which meant that the breed’s room was half way down the corridor.  They could hear the clatter of the breakfast trolleys and the calls of the nurses as they delivered the mornings repast but so far no one had entered the corridor they were in.

Mosby stopped in front of the door marked seven.  He pressed his ear hard against the door but could hear no movement from within.  He turned the handle and pushed the door open slowly, cursing softly as the hinges protested the movement with a squeak that sounded more like an explosion to the men’s ears.  They held their collective breaths for a moment but when no response came from the room, Mosby opened the door further, cringing as another squeak was heard. Taking a deep breath, he decided to open the door fully, relieved when no more squeaks were heard and stepped into the room, closely followed by his men. They all stopped and stared at the figure propped up by pillows and sleeping deeply in the bed. Even from the doorway they could see the pale features and bandages wrapped around Chief’s chest.

“Something I can help you gentlemen with?” The sound of the door closing and Richards words startled the three men and they spun around to find themselves staring at the major’s gun trained unerringly on Mosby’s chest.

Quickly regain his composure, Mosby snapped to attention and saluted Richards, quickly followed by Blake and Brown.  “We just dropped by to see how Chief was Sir,” Mosby replied crisply.

“At this hour of the morning Captain,” Richards raised an eyebrow but didn’t lower his gun.  “Don’t take me for a fool Captain Mosby.”

With the three men standing with their backs to Chief, none of them saw the surreptitious movement as he woke up or the blade that appeared in his right hand and poised for throwing. Richards, however did see Chief’s movement and the pain it caused, and he inclined his head minutely in acknowledgement, receiving a reply in like.   With the dubious but determined backing of the injured man Richards ordered the three men to move away from the door and sit on the floor with their backs against the wall.

Mosby laughed harshly and held his ground.  “Now Major, Sir’, he replied snidely, “Don’t you think that is a little absurd? I mean we only came in to visit with Chief and see how he is doing.  And here you are treating us like common criminals.”

“Friends do not sneak into hospital wards Captain.”  Richards growled. “Now sit down, all of you.” Richards snapped.

“And if we don’t?” Mosby dropped the façade of forced friendliness and stepped forward until he was within an arms length of Richards, forcing the Major to take a step back.

With Richards momentarily distracted Blake reached under his jacket and with drew his gun. “You can’t take all of us Richards.” Mosby warned. “Are you prepared to die for some stinking piece of half-breed trash that should never have been allowed to live in the first place?”

Richards caught the flash of anger that raced across Chief’s face at Mosby’s words and straightened his shoulders.  “Perhaps I can’t take all of you as you say Mosby but I can guarantee that you and probably Blake will be dead before any harm comes to Chief.”

“And how do you propose to achieve that Richards?” Mosby laughed harshly as he held out his empty hands.  “If you shoot me, Blake gets you and if you shoot Blake, well.” Mosby shrugged, “I’ll still get you.  You can’t shoot both of us at the same time.”

“He doesn’t have to.”  Chief warned softly from the bed, the strain of the position he was forcing himself to maintain clear in his voice. “Because I’ll get the one he misses.”

*****

“Ay Casino, don’t you think it’s a bit early to be visiting Chiefy?” Goniff asked conspiratorially as the two cons quietly followed Garrison and Actor through the front doors of the hospital, ignoring the calls to stop from the nurse on duty at the reception desk. “I mean, they ‘aven’t even finished serving breakfast yet.”  Goniff cocked his head and listened to the clatter of the food trolleys as they rumbled along the polished floors.

“Search me babe,” Casino shrugged, “But the Warden said he had a feeling and we’ve all learnt not to ignore his feelings.  He’s almost as bad as the damn Indian now and it never pays to ignore his feelings either.”

“But ‘Es in the bloomin ‘ospital.  What can go wrong ‘ere?

“Nothing I hope.” Casino muttered as he tried to ignore the knot growing in his stomach.

Goniff brightened as a thought struck him. “Maybe we can sweet talk one of those pretty nurses into giving us some breakfast.  I’m hungry.”

“You’re always hungry, you dumb limey,” Casino snorted as they turned down the silent corridor that led to Chief’s room.  The clatter of the trolleys becoming a soft echo as they left the main corridor behind them.

Garrison paused in front of Chief’s closed and unguarded door, the hairs on the back of his neck standing stiffly at attention.  He sent a warning glance to Actor as he pulled his gun from his shoulder holster.  Actor nodded in understanding as Garrison forcefully pushed open the door.  If he was wrong he would only have succeeded in waking Chief from what he hoped was a sound sleep, but if he was right… The four men stepped into the room and froze as did the other occupants of the room.  A hushed silence descended on the two groups as the new arrivals took in the scene before them.  Major Richards stood facing Mosby, Brown and Blake, his gun drawn and aimed squarely at Mosby’s chest, while ignoring the gun pointed at him by Blake.  Behind the men, a white faced, sweating Chief was propped up on his left side, right hand tightly gripping an opened blade, poised in mid air, ready for the throw if needed.

Garrison blinked, bringing the room back into sharp focus. “Actor, see to Chief,” he ordered as he leveled his gun at Blake.

“Well Mosby, what’s it going to be?” Richards demanded as the tall Italian moved quickly across the room, staying well clear of the drawn guns.  He was only dimly aware of Actor gently easing Chief back onto the pillows, although the soft gasp of pain from the injured man did register in his mind as he remained focused on the men in front of him.

Brown threw up his hands in surrender and then slid down the wall to sit dejectedly on the floor.  How had it come to this he wondered as he watched what could possibly be Mosby’s last decision.

Mosby glared belligerently at Richards and Garrison.

“Cap?” Blake asked hesitantly, aware that Brown had already capitulated.  When no reply was forthcoming, Blake allowed his gun to sag heavily in his hand, the enormity of what Mosby had led them to try and do finally sinking in.  He made no effort to resist when he felt Goniff take the gun from his limp fingers.

The room waited in silence for Mosby’s next move.

Mosby held his ground despite the surrender of both his men and the two guns now leveled at his chest.

“Captain Mosby, I am ordering you to stand down.”  Richards demanded.

Mosby looked defiantly around the room, taking in the set of each stony faced man watching him intently. He snorted derisively. “You’re ordering me?  You’re always ordering me, telling me what I should be doing, where I should be going, who I should be working with.” Mosby straightened, “I’m a Mosby Sir, one of Mosby’s Raiders.  We don’t take orders from anyone.  We don’t need help from anyone and especially not some stinking red heathen cur who should never have seen the light of day and a bunch of no good, low life scum that should have been left to rot in the cells they inhabited.”

“Why you arrogant son of a …,” Casino exploded, moving in swiftly from the side.  Before anyone was aware of what was happening, a meaty fist slammed into the side of Mosby’s jaw, sending the man sprawling in an unconscious heap at Richards’ feet.

Goniff waved the confiscated gun at Blake when the man moved to stand up.  “Just sit where you are mate, we wouldn’t want you to ‘ave an accident now would we?”

Richards sighed in relief as he looked at Mosby still sprawled at his feet.  “Garrison if you and your men are right here for a minute, I’ll call for the MP’s…”

“And the doctor,” Actor ordered urgently from the bed where he was trying to settle Chief back against the pillows.

Richards watched silently as Actor forcefully removed the knife from Chief’s grip.  With his means of protection removed, Chief sank bonelessly back into the pillows with a harsh groan of defeat.  Richards turned to the door, marveling at the man’s will power to back him despite his injuries.  He hurried down the hall, Chief’s ragged breathing loud in his ears, in search of a nurse or doctor, determined that the man wouldn’t suffer in pain any longer than necessary.  Bile rose in Richards’ throat as Mosby’s actions brought back unwanted memories of his own first meeting with Garrison and his men and his reaction to having to work along side a group of con artists, thieves and murderers. He shook his head in disgust as he recalled how he had considered them to be expendable on that first mission. Richard’s sighed heavily as he turned the corner of the corridor almost colliding with the nurse coming in the opposite direction.  After advising her of the medical assistance required in Chief’s room, he continued on in search of the MP’s, accompanied only by his thoughts.  He couldn’t blame Mosby his initial reaction because it was the same as his and many other regular army personnel but most people’s opinions changed after seeing the men in action.  His certainly had and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that he would rather have those five men in the room behind him at his back in a fight than any other group of soldiers he would care to name. So why couldn’t Mosby see that, and especially after Chief despite his injuries, injuries that had been inflicted by Mosby’s own men, had risked his life to release them from the German camp?

*****

Actor looked up from his place by Chief’s bed as the door closed behind Richards.  He caught Garrison’s eye before the hand gripping his tightened as Chief struggled to breathe through the pain in his chest and Actor returned his attention to the Indian.

Garrison noted the grimace of pain on the pale face and the gasped breaths as he moved quickly to the bed, leaving Casino and Goniff to watch over the three prisoners. “Easy Chief,” Garrison coached softly to the struggling man, “It’s over, just take slow breaths, the doctor will be here soon.”

*****

Chapter 17

 

Garrison carefully maneuvered the chair through the door, bringing it to a stop beside the long table set at an angle on the left side of the room.  Behind the table, seven vacant chairs had been arranged in a neat line.  On the table in front of each of the seven chairs was placed a glass of water.  An eighth glass sat at the end of the table where the missing eighth chair should have been placed. In what could only be referred to as the ‘place of honour’ between the fourth and fifth glasses sat a large glass jug of water.

On the opposite side of the room and placed at an opposing angle to the large table stood a smaller table with two empty chairs, two glasses of water and a smaller jug of water.

Between the two tables was placed a solitary chair.

Facing the two angled tables stood a third long, straight table, set with five glasses and behind the glasses five chairs.  The defining feature of this table was the five small jugs of water set beside the full glasses.  To the right of this table a solitary chair and writing desk had been placed but without the adornment of a glass.

The expectant silence of the room was broken by the heavy tread of army boots intermingled with the softer tread of dress shoes as the wearers traversed the polished floor boards.  Chairs were pulled out and then shuffled forward as the men took their designated places.

Garrison leaned forward and gripped the arm of the man sitting immediately to his left, frowning as he felt the slight tremor that shook the man.  “Are you sure about this Chief?” he asked quietly.  “Nobody expects you to be here or will think any less of you if you return to the hospital.”

Chief drew in a shallow breath.  The tube in his chest may have been removed two days ago but it still hurt to breathe.  God how he hated this feeling of weakness and uselessness.  Chief gripped the sides of the wheelchair, one of two concessions he had had to agree to before the doctor would even consider his request to attend the hearing today.  The other was the red and yellow tartan blanket that covered his body from the waist down and which Goniff had taken much delight in arranging, just so.  “I’m alright Warden…I need to be here…to see this through to the end.”

Garrison nodded, “Alright Chief but if you start feeling unwell you tell me immediately, do you understand?”

Chief nodded tiredly, “Thanks Warden.”

“Damn fool Indian.” Casino muttered soto voice from the other side of Colonel Thomas, who was sitting between Garrison and himself. “He should still be in the hospital.”

“Aw come on Casino, leave Chiefy alone.  ‘Ee’s already been through enough. ‘Ee doesn’t need you picking on ‘im too. ” Goniff whined.

“That’s exactly my point.  He doesn’t need to be here for this.” Casino grumbled.  “I mean look at him.  He can barely sit up in that damn chair.”

“Why are we ‘ere anyway?  Goniff quizzed.  “I mean what’s the point of Mosby defending the charges?  Blake and Brown already confessed. If you ask me ‘Ee’s as daft as a brush, ‘Ee is.”

“Yeah well nobody asked you, you dumb limey.” Casino retorted.

Garrison leant forward and glared at Casino.  “I’m warning you Casino.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Casino grumbled.

“’Ey ‘ow come there are so many chairs at that table.” Goniff nodded to the long table in front of them. “I mean the last time we was ‘ere there was only three chairs. The room’s going to be full of bleeding brass. No offence Colonel, Sir.” Goniff added quickly.

Colonel Thomas raised an eyebrow at Goniff’s irreverent attitude towards ‘the brass’ as he put it.  But then he supposed he shouldn’t be surprised not after having spent the past two days going over the reports of the mission with the men.  He had been dubious of accepting the job of representing these men, considering who they were, but after hearing and reading what had transpired he had quickly changed his mind.  They had surprised him, once he got past all the banter and arguments with their determination to see justice prevail and their knowledge of the legal system.  Of course given their previous ‘occupations’ it was really  not surprising their in depth understanding of the legal process.  And if  he was honest with himself they all probably knew more about the system than he did and he was a lawyer. Even the little English pick pocket wasn’t as naïve as he would lead you to believe. “The charges against Captain Mosby were deemed serious enough for a General Court Martial, Goniff, so there are five presiding judges to hear the charges and determine the punishment. Two Majors, a Lieutenant Colonel and two full Colonels.”

“Blimey.  We’d better be on our best behaviour then, we ‘ad.”  Goniff lapsed into silence for a moment. “’Ey Colonel Thomas Sir.”

Thomas sighed, “What is it Goniff?”

“You ever been a judge at a Court Martial?”

“No, I can gladly say I haven’t had that pleasure.”

“Goniff, stop with the twenty questions.” Garrison ordered as a young Wren walked into the room carrying a small stenotype machine and took her place at the table beside the judges table.

“Well hello babe,” Casino grinned.

“Can it now Casino.” Garrison warned as the clipped sounds of heavy boots approached the open door.

Garrison, Thomas, Casey Durrant and Alex Davies all came to their feet, snapping sharp salutes as the first of the officers entered the room.  Actor had also risen with the army personnel and stood stiff backed as the presiding officers began to file into the room.  “Stand up now,” he hissed loud enough for the two seated Gorillas to hear.

“Why? We ain’t in the army.” Casino complained. “and this isn’t one of your damn cons.”

“Because you’ll be in the stockade if you don’t.” Garrison snapped “And I’ll escort you there myself.”

“Besides,” Actor warned, “Your insubordination will only add leverage to Mosby’s case.”

“Like hell it will,” Casino spat as he pushed back his chair and stood, quickly followed by Goniff. Only Chief remained seated.  Garrison’s hand on his shoulder keeping him in his chair.

The men stood at attention until the five judges had acknowledged their salutes and taken their places at the table before they retook their own chairs.

“Colonel Thomas,” addressed one of the Colonel’s sitting at the table as he cast a disapproving eye at the vacant table to his left.  “Where are Captain Mosby and Major Simpson?”

“I don’t know Colonel Asher.  I haven’t seen them since yesterday morning Sir.” Thomas replied.

Colonel Asher sighed heavily before reaching for the file he had placed on the table. Opening the file, he made a note of the time and then jotted quickly on a sheet of paper before closing the file again. “He has ten minutes before…”

The loud click of booted heels coming to a halt outside the room halted Colonel Asher’s declaration and all eyes turned expectantly to the door as it opened.  The major standing in the doorway snapped a smart salute to the table before proceeding across the floor to the vacant table.  Captain Mosby remained standing in the doorway, glaring menacingly at Chief who sat slightly hunched in his chair.  When his glare garnered only a disdainful stare from the Indian, Mosby sauntered across the room, ignoring the disapproving frowns of the judging panel and flopped down in the chair beside the major.

Colonel Asher cleared his throat. “Major Simpson, do you have a reason for being late for this Court Martial?

Simpson gained his feet, looked disapprovingly at the man beside him, a man he had been ordered to defend despite his objections and then turned to face the Colonel. “No Sir, I don’t.”

“Don’t be bashful Simpson,” Mosby smirked, “You can tell him where I was.”

“Captain Mosby…” Simpson began but was cut off by Mosby.

“I was in the head, Sir, you know the privy.  When you got to go…”  Mosby laughed at the blush that appeared on the young Wren’s face as she recorded his words and the disapproving stares from those seated at the tables.

“Captain Mosby, you will address this court with the deference that it deserves or a charge of insubordination will be added to the already long list of charges against you.” Colonel Asher ordered.

Mosby shrugged in response.

Colonel Asher opened the file in front of him and lifted out a sheet of paper from which he began reading. “Captain Mosby you have been charged with a number of serious offences.  Ordering the kidnapping and beating of an American soldier to prevent him from carrying out his duties…”

Mosby snorted, “American soldier my eye.  He’s nothing but a bloody jailbird.  Hell he isn’t even a man, just a stinking Indian.”

“Why you…” Casino leapt to his feet causing his chair to crash to the floor, ignoring the hands frantically pulling him back down “He’s more of a man than you’ll ever be.”

“Order.” Shouted Colonel Asher.  “Another outburst like that and I will have you removed from the court.  Do I make myself clear…?” Asher glanced quickly at his notes, before leveling a steel eyed glare at the safecracker.  “Mr…Casino.  And Major Simpson, control your client before further charges are laid.”

Simpson snapped a smart salute as acknowledgment of the Colonel’s orders, wondering how he had ended up defending the Captain.

“Come on mate, sit down; let the Colonel ‘andle Mosby.  ‘Ee isn’t worth getting thrown in the stockade for.” Goniff pleaded.

“Sit down Casino.” Garrison ordered sharply.

Asher waited for Casino to right his chair, retake his seat and silence to descend on the room, except for the Wren’s typing, before continuing. “Dereliction of duty and desertion resulting in three men being abandoned in a German installation.”

“Not my fault if they can’t follow orders.  Even the dumb Limey knew how to do what he was told.” Mosby muttered just loud enough to be heard.

Casino huffed but kept silent when Thomas clamped his hand on the safecracker’s arm.  Goniff tensed at Mosby’s words but relaxed when he felt Actor’s hand on his shoulder.

“Relax Goniff; he is only trying to bait you.” Actor whispered, only releasing his hand when he felt the small Englishman take a deep breath and relax beside him. This was going to be a long day.

Asher raised an eyebrow but refrained from responding to Mosby’s words.  Obviously the threat of further charges held no sway with the man so perhaps ignoring the man’s outbursts would have a more desirable effect. “Supplying false and misleading information to the resistance concerning the whereabouts of Lieutenant Garrison and his team and the status of the mission.”

Mosby laughed harshly.  “Says who?  You can’t prove that.  It’s my word against Garrison’s and besides I out rank him.”

“Thank you Captain Mosby,” Asher responded.  “You have been warned.  I can now add insubordination to the charges. Do you wish to object Major Simpson?”

Simpson shook his head in despair.  “No Sir.” He replied tiredly. He had no hope of successfully defending this man and to be honest he didn’t want too.

“Very well Major Simpson, so noted.” Asher wrote quickly on his sheet before continuing with the charges. “Supplying false and misleading information to a superior officer and attempted murder.”

“You don’t attempt to murder a cur dog; you put it out of its misery.” Mosby sneered as he glared at Chief. It was all his fault.  If the damn Indian had only stayed tied to the tree like he was supposed to then he and his team could have completed the mission on their own and come back heroes.  He had never needed the help of another team to complete any of their missions and he wasn’t about to start now.  And especially not when the other team was nothing more than a bunch of criminals.  The glory and accolades of a job well done should have been all his.

Chief didn’t need Garrison’s grip on his arm to remain seated.  He didn’t have the strength to rise from his chair, let alone respond verbally to the man’s remarks.  Instead he had to satisfy himself with a dark scowl as his response.

Colonel Asher’s scowl darkened as he stared at the man seated across from him.  How on earth had the man ever made it to the rank of Captain he wondered. “How do you plead Captain Mosby?”

Mosby stood, ignoring the urgings of Major Simpson to sit back down. “Not guilty Sir” Mosby replied smugly.

“What?” Growled Casino threateningly

“Lieutenant Garrison restrain your man or I will have him removed from the room,” Asher warned before returning his attention to the accused. “Captain Mosby I suggest you reconsider your plea. We have Corporal Blake’s and Private Brown’s sworn statements and confessions attesting to the above charges. Not to mention your own veiled admissions.”

“Not guilty…Sir,” Mosby snapped. “And you can’t seriously be considering Court Martialing ME on these trumped up charges from a bunch of hoodlums and murderers. I plead not guilty and intend to fight these charges…Sir. ”

Asher sighed heavily, “Very well Captain Mosby, if you insist.” Asher turned to face the eight men sitting to his right, allowing his eyes to rest briefly on the man sat hunched with his chin resting on his chest in the wheelchair.  He shook his head, the man, Chief, looked as though he was about to pass out. There was a fine sheen of sweat on the pale features and even from where he was sitting he could see the tremors that ran through his body and the laboured rise and fall of his chest.  He had read all the reports including the medical reports so he had been more than a little surprised to see the man sitting in the room considering the extent of his injuries. “Lieutenant Garrison is your man alright?” Asher queried.

Before Garrison could reply, Chief lifted his head and focused on the Colonel.  “I’m fine Sir.”

Garrison shrugged, he didn’t like the look of Chief anymore than it appeared Asher did but there was no point arguing with Chief.  He just had to hope that Chief actually knew his limits.

Asher shook his head.  He had been an opponent to the suggestion that hardened criminals be recruited for covert missions behind enemy lines but he had to admit that these four men and their career Lieutenant had more than proven their usefulness to the allied cause. “Colonel Thomas I believe you are representing yourself, Lieutenant Garrison and his men.”

Colonel Thomas rose from his chair and acknowledged the question.  “Yes Sir, I am.”

“Very well Colonel Thomas, call your first witness please.”

Thomas turned apologetically to Chief. “I call Chief .”

Chief stared intently at the red and yellow rug draped across his legs for a long moment before gripping the arms of the chair tightly.  This was what he was here for, what he had demanded the doctor release him for, but now, now he wasn’t sure that he actually wanted to be here.  To stand before this panel of army officers and tell them what Mosby had ordered his men to do to him.  He hated speaking about himself, hated allowing any vulnerability to show; hated putting his life on display.  He should have listened to Garrison, stayed in his bed and sent a signed report instead.  At least that way he wouldn’t have to answer questions.  It would all be there in and black and white, undeniable, unquestionable. Chief felt a hand grip his arm and he sighed heavily.  It was inevitable now and he began pushing himself to his feet.

“There’s no need to move Chief,” Colonel Asher hastily advised when he realized what the man intended to do.

Chief relaxed back into the chair with a sigh.  At least he wouldn’t have to sit on that solitary chair, on display in the middle of the room.  He could leave that to Actor and Casino. They were the ones that liked to be the centre of attention, having everybody looking at them.

“Chief,” Colonel Thomas waited until he had the man’s attention before continuing.

Chief blew a heavy breath through his nose before turning to face Thomas.

“Chief, can you please tell us what happened from the time that Captain Mosby and his men arrived at the mansion until your return from the mission.  Take your time and tell us if you need to stop and rest.”

Casino snorted, “We’ll be here to hell freezes over if you tell the Indian to take his time. He can’t string more than two words together at the best of times.”

“Casino,” Colonel Asher called sharply.  “Would you like to be removed from these proceedings?”

“No Sir.” Casino mumbled, pointedly ignoring the twin glares of disapproval cast at him from Garrison and Actor

“Good then I suggest you refrain from any further outbursts unless you are directly asked a question or I will have you removed.  Is that clear?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Mosby laughed cynically. “And you actually expect to get something sensible out of that lot?”

“Captain Mosby,” Asher snapped, “Your continued insubordinate outbursts and continued denigration of these men is not helping your case.  If you insist on continuing with this course of action you will be returned to the stockade.  Do I make myself perfectly clear?”

“You…”

“Yes or no, Captain Mosby?” Asher interrupted.  “That is the only answer I want to hear.”

Mosby remained stone faced for several seconds  before grounding out a harsh “Yes…Sir.”

Asher took a deep breath and pursed his lips as Mosby settled back in his chair with a smirk. The captain was a fool if he thought that he would walk away from these charges.  The evidence was just too damning and the verdict was, as far as he was concerned, a fore gone conclusion.  Asher cast a quick glance left and right, taking in the disgusted countenances of his fellow judges. This whole hearing was a farce as far as he was concerned but then everyone was entitled to their day in court, he supposed. Hoping to lengthen the silence that had befallen the room for just a few more seconds, Asher picked up the glass beside his hand and drained its contents, surprised at how thirsty he had become in the close confines.  Refilling the glass he let his eyes wander to the men sitting silently to his right.  The two remaining Raiders sat solemnly at the end of the table, the looks of disgust at their Captain’s ranting mirroring those of the rest of the table. It was going to be difficult finding the two men a new unit.  Their abilities were not in question, they were both very good at what they did but this hearing would leave a stigma attached to them. There would always be a question of loyalty from their new commanding officer and team members if questionable actions were required to successfully complete a mission.  He would have to consider his options carefully where these two men were concerned.

And then there were Garrison’s Gorillas.  As motley a bunch of men as you would ever hope to meet but very effective in what they did and he was glad they had all survived the last mission and would carry on as a team.  He allowed his eyes to linger on the hunched figure in the chair at the end of the table.  Even the lowered head couldn’t hide the paleness of the face or the white knuckled grip the man had on the arms of the chair.  Asher replaced the half empty jug of water on the table with a thump.  The farce ended now.  What had Garrison and the doctors been thinking to allow the Indian to attend this hearing in his present condition?  “Chief.”

Once Mosby started to rant again, Chief had dropped his head back onto his chest.  He neither cared to look at or listen to the words spewing from the Captain’s mouth.  It didn’t matter; he had heard it all many times before.  He was more concerned with staying conscious at the moment than retaliating against Mosby.  The room seemed to be closing in on him, stifling him with its heat, sucking the breath out of him.  His vision narrowed. If he kept his head down and concentrated on the right hand gripping the arm of the chair…He heard his name called…he felt compelled to look up even though he knew it would be a mistake…he blinked owlishly at the Colonel as the room sped around him in exceedingly faster gyrations…and slid bonelessly to the floor.

*****

Chapter 18 – Conclusion

 

The four mobile members of Garrison’s Gorillas sat sprawled silently in chairs surrounding the bed in the small room that was Chief’s current resting place. It had been one hell of a long day and not even the final outcome had been enough to bolster their flagging spirits. They had come too close this time to losing one of their own and it was going to take time to rebuild their confidence in their abilities.  The moment Chief had slid unconscious from his chair, Colonel Asher had called an immediate two hour recess, not that it would have mattered one bit to the men.  They were all accompanying Chief back to the hospital, permission or not.

“Ey Warden,” Goniff whispered as he sprang from his chair at the head of Chief’s bed, “I think ‘Ee’s waking up. ‘Ee just moaned.”

The rest of the team rose from their chairs and crowded around the bed as Chief moaned softly again and tossed his head from side to side.

“Easy Chiefy,” Goniff coached as Chief struggled to wake from the drug induced sleep that had been forced on him.  “You’re back in the ‘ospital mate and every things alright.”

Chief turned his head towards the sound of the voice, “Gon…?” he croaked, licking dry lips as he tried to force his unresponsive eyes to open.

“Here Chief, sip this.” Actor ordered as he lifted the dark head and rested a glass against the dry lips.

Chief obeyed without hesitation, sighing gratefully as the cool water trickled down his throat.  Actor eased him back down onto the pillows and then the four men waited quietly for the dark eyes to open.

Chief blinked several times as he forced his eyes to focus on his surroundings. As the shadows around him solidified into the rest of his team, Goniff’s words finally registered and he tried to sit up in the bed, only to fall back against the pillows gasping as pain erupted in his chest.

“Jeez, you dumb Indian, will you stop doing that.”  Casino ordered as he held firmly to Chief’s shoulders, ensuring he remained supine on the bed.

“The court martial?” Chief croaked.

“Over and done with.” Casino growled as he felt Chief relax under his grip.

“But…I didn’t testify.”

“You didn’t have to Chief…”  Garrison began but was cut off by Casino.

“That’s damn right babe, you didn’t need to be there at all.  You should’ve just stayed right here like you were supposed too. What the hell did you think you doing going to that damn hearing anyway.  I told you it was a bad idea, but no, nobody listened did they and now look where you are.”

Chief blinked in surprise as Casino’s tirade came to an end and the safecracker stepped back from the bed.  Bewildered, Chief looked to Garrison for confirmation that he hadn’t misconstrued Casino’s words. Had the fiery Italian actually been worried about him?

Garrison replied to Chief’s unasked query with a shrug and a smile.  It wasn’t often that the safecracker let his true feelings be known to the men but ever since Chief first voiced his intentions of attending the court martial, Casino had ranted long and loud about his misgivings to the insane idea.   And unfortunately Casino’s misgiving had been borne out with Chief’s collapse.

“So is somebody going to tell me what happened or not?”  Chief asked looking from face to face.

“You damn well passed out, that’s what happened.”  Casino grumbled.

“I think Chief is well aware of that fact Casino,” Actor pointed out.

“Mosby had the book thrown at ‘im, ‘Ee did.  Sung like a bird.  Incriminated ‘imself; it truly was poetic justice.”

“Like you’d know the first thing about poetry, you dumb limey.” Casino huffed.

“I’ll have you know…” Goniff began before being interrupted by Garrison.

“Enough, both of you.” Garrison warned glaring menacingly at both men before turning his gaze back to Chief.  “When you didn’t return after the recess, Mosby thought the charges would be dropped. He started gloating about what he had done to you and how you deserved everything you got.”

“Yeah but what he didn’t realize was that Asher was standing right out side the open door and heard every word that Mosby said.” Casino continued with a grin.

“Ee even stood there and said ‘ow ‘Ee should’ve shot me in the prison camp when ‘Ee ‘ad the chance. Nasty.  That’s what ‘Ee was.” Goniff complained with a shudder.

Actor noticed the half mast eyes and that Chief was close to falling asleep again.  “Perhaps this should wait till the morning when Chief has had a full nights sleep.”  He caught Garrison’s eye and nodded towards Chief who was struggling to keep his eyes open.

“No,” Chief snapped tiredly. “Tell me now.  I need to know.”

“There’s not much more to tell Chiefy,” Goniff stated as he launched back into the story.  “Asher walked in and asked Mosby if he was still going to deny ordering your kidnapping and beating and all them other charges.  Mosby just laughed at Asher, said there was no need to deny any of it because it couldn’t be proved now that you weren’t around and ‘E’d do it again if ‘Ee ever got the chance.”

“Yeah,” Casino chimed in. “Asher gave him the maximum penalty, short of shooting him, that is.  Twenty five years in Leavenworth.”

Chief’s eyes blinked open at the news and he stared at the smiling faces around him.

“Although it did seem a bit odd…” Actor began.

“Blimey Actor, the whole thing was a bit odd if you ask me.” Goniff interrupted.

“Nothing odd about it.  He got what he deserved.” Casino declared.

“But think about it for a moment.” Actor cautioned. “Asher walked into the room, asked Mosby if he was still going to deny the charges and when he was told no, he handed down the sentence.  There was no deliberation with the other judges, nor did he ask for a final statement from Mosby’s defense lawyer. In fact the man wasn’t even in the room.”

“Bleedin ‘ell, you don’t think it was a set up do you Actor, to get us off Mosby’s back?” Goniff asked worriedly.

“Let me tell you something, you dumb limey; that was no set up when he,” Casino pointed at the now sleeping Indian, “passed out in that damn room.”

“Alright, lets take this outside and let Chief sleep,” Garrison ordered quietly as he opened the door and waited for the men to exit the room.

“What do you reckon Warden?” Goniff asked as Garrison closed the door to the room.  “Is Actor right?  Was it a set up to get rid of us?  Are they going to let Mosby get away with what ‘Ee did to Chiefy?”

Garrison sighed.  “I don’t know Goniff but I intend to find out in the morning.  In the meantime, there’s nothing more we can do here tonight so lets go back to the mansion and get some sleep.”

“No way babe,” Casino growled as he flopped into one of the chairs in the corridor.  “I ain’t leaving here.  The Indian couldn’t fight his way out of a brown paper bag if he tried.  What if they did let Mosby go?  The first place he’s going to come is here and I intend to be here when he does.”

“Me too Warden,” Goniff replied as he sat down next to Casino.

Garrison watched as Actor walked down the hall and returned moments later with two more chairs, placing one on either side of Chief’s door.  The conman dropped into one and stretched out his long legs.  “They do say; safety in numbers Lieutenant.”

Garrison sighed but made no comment as he took up the remaining position in the vacant chair on the other side of Chief’s door. Surely it wasn’t a set up.  Asher seemed too genuine in his feelings for the court martial to have been anything but above board.  Still Actor’s points were valid.  It was over far too quickly.  And he should know, considering his own court martial a couple months ago.  Waiting for the judges deliberations and verdict had been worse than the hearing itself.  But this time Asher had announced the sentence barely five minutes after returning to the room and without the presence of the defense lawyer, Major Simpson.  Garrison sighed, there was nothing he could do about it now but come hell or high water he would be confronting Asher first thing in the morning.

Morning came a lot sooner than the men expected.  Amidst a chorus of curses and groans, Garrison silently rose from his chair, stretched aching back muscles, rolled his shoulders and carefully opened the door to Chief’s room, satisfying himself that his wheelman was still soundly sleeping.

“I ‘ope Chiefy appreciates the soft beds we gave up for him last night,” Goniff whined as he rubbed gingerly at his lower back.

“It was a small price to pay Goniff, considering the number of times Chief has given up his own comfort to watch our backs on a mission.” Actor pointed out succinctly.

“Alright you lot, stay here and try to stay out of trouble,” Garrison ordered turning away from the closed door.

“Why? Where are going?” Casino demanded.

“To speak with Colonel Asher.”

“Then I’m coming with you.” Casino announced as he pushed himself to his feet.

“No you’re not Casino.  You’re going to stay here and do as I tell you.  I don’t want the man thinking we’ve come painted for war. I just want to clarify several points with him. Besides you said it yourself.  Chief could still be in danger.”

“The Warden’s right Casino.  The Colonel sees you and ‘Ee just might shoot you after yesterday.” Goniff added helpfully.

“Well I didn’t see anybody else standing up to Mosby yesterday.” Casino glared at Goniff.

“Alright knock it off or at least keep it to a dull roar and don’t wake Chief.  Actor you’re in charge while I’m gone. Try and keep them out of the nurse’s way.  Oh and that means you too.”  Garrison leveled a warning glare at Actor.

“Warden, you wound me.  Would I ever attempt to court a lady while on a mission?”

“You really don’t want me to answer that do you Actor?” Garrison retorted as he started down the corridor.

“’Ey Actor, do you reckon everything is going to turn out right?”

“I hope so Goniff, I sincerely hope so.”

*****

Garrison shifted uncomfortably in the chair in front of Colonel Asher’s office.  The hour was still early but he wanted to make sure he caught the Colonel as soon as the man arrived.  He sighed; recently all he seemed to be doing was sitting in hard chairs and waiting.  He should have thought to grab a cup of coffee before he left the hospital.  Garrison stretched out his legs and settled down for what he hoped would be a short wait.

Colonel Asher stopped outside his door and surveyed the sleeping form of the Lieutenant stretched out uncomfortably in the chair in front of him.  With a sigh, he turned and nodded at his young ATS secretary as she stepped out of her office.  “Margaret, how long has the Lieutenant been here?”

“I don’t know Sir, I found him like this when I arrived a half hour ago.  Who is he?  Do you want me to call the MP’s?”

“No, no need for that Margaret, but perhaps two cups of coffee would be helpful, strong coffee, I believe.  This is Lieutenant Garrison…”

“Garrison’s Gorillas?” Margaret blushed at the Colonel’s raised eyebrow.  “Everybody’s heard of them Sir and what happened.”

Asher sighed again.  He wasn’t surprised, news tended to travel fast on an army base and particularly when it concerned a certain group of Gorillas.  The four men, once despised were now held in a sort of grudging respect as their accomplishments on the war front grew.  “The coffee, please Margaret.”  Asher reminded his ATS gently.

“Yes Sir, on it,” Margaret snapped a smart salute and headed down the corridor to the small kitchen.

Asher watched her go before returning his attention to the sleeping man.  The Lieutenant looked exhausted, in fact all his men had yesterday.  Not surprising, given the unpleasant circumstances of their last mission.  The colonel gently prodded Garrison’s shoulder, “Lieutenant,” he called softly, not wanting to startle the man, given the fact that he still wore his sidearm.

Garrison mumbled but remained sleeping.

Asher tried again, more forcefully this time and stepped back hastily as Garrison erupted out of his chair, hand going for his gun.

“Attention Lieutenant,” Asher snapped, hoping his order would belay any further unpleasantness.

Garrison obeyed the order, snapping a salute before his eyes fully focused on the man in front of him.  At least he had the good grace to blush slightly.  “Sorry Sir,” he apologized meekly.

“At ease Lieutenant,” Asher replied before turning and unlocking his office door.  “You might as well come in and tell me why you’re asleep in front of my office Lieutenant.  Young Margaret has gone to get us some coffee.”  Asher stepped aside and waited for Garrison to precede him into the room and take a seat in front of the desk.

“How is your man Chief, Lieutenant?”  Asher asked as he took a seat behind his desk and studied the man before him.

Garrison sighed, “He’ll be fine, thank you Sir, with time and rest.”

“That’s good to hear, but what on earth was he doing at the hearing yesterday?” Asher asked a little more harshly than he intended.

Garrison shrugged, “That was Chief’s decision Sir, we and the doctors tried to talk him out of it but when he makes up his mind…he said it started with him and he would see it through to the end.”

Asher nodded in understanding, “Admirable thoughts but of no use to anyone had he died.”

“Shall I tell him that Sir?” Garrison asked.

“Would it do any good Lieutenant?”

“Probably not Sir.”

“That’s what I thought.  Are all your men always that stubborn?”

Garrison closed his eyes.  “You have no idea Sir.”

“And I’m sure I don’t want to find out either.”

A soft knock at the door interrupted the banter.  Margaret walked in, carrying a tray which she placed on the corner of the desk.  “I’m sorry Lieutenant but we only had biscuits in the cupboard. I could nick over to the mess if you like and bring you back some breakfast?” Margaret cast a quick glance at the Colonel, hoping that she hadn’t overstepped her boundaries but the Lieutenant looked as though he hadn’t eaten in days, which she was fairly certain was the case.  Asher smiled at her in reassurance that she had made the right offer.

“The coffee and biscuits will be fine thank you. I’ll have breakfast with my men later.”

Margaret nodded and left the room, closing the door silently behind her.

“Alright Lieutenant, what brings you to my office at this hour of the morning?” Asher waited as Garrison added sugar to his coffee and took the first sip.

Garrison swallowed the hot brew with a grateful sigh before replacing the cup on the desk.  He looked squarely at the Colonel in front of him.  “Actor brought up a couple of interesting points last night Sir, and I just wanted to get them clarified.”

Asher raised an eyebrow.  “Did he now?  And exactly what points would those be Lieutenant?”

“Well Sir, it just seems that your verdict and sentence was passed down in some haste.”

“And you disagree with my decision Lieutenant?”

“No Sir, not if it was legit, Sir.”

Asher’s brows furrowed as he stared at the man across from him.  “Legit Lieutenant?  It would seem you have been spending too much time with your men.   What are you trying not to say Garrison?”

Garrison sighed.  “Was the court martial for real Sir?”

“You think it wasn’t?” Asher demanded.

Garrison shrugged.  “I’ve had the misfortune of facing a court martial Sir.”

Asher nodded.  “I am aware of that Lieutenant.”

“Yes Sir, well I remember the waiting for the judge’s decision took longer than the actual court martial but yesterday…”

“I announced the verdict and sentence almost immediately on my return to the room.” Asher nodded in understanding.  “Did you ever doubt that Mosby was guilty of the charges Lieutenant?”

“Of course not Sir.” Garrison retorted hotly.

“And neither did I Lieutenant, in fact none of us did.”  Asher paused for a moment before continuing.  “As far as I was concerned the court martial was a farce and I had determined, even before Chief’s collapse to put an end to it.  After hearing Mosby gloating about what he should have done to Chief and your other man Goniff I and the other members of the panel were left in no doubt as to what the verdict should be. So in answer to your question Lieutenant, yes, the court martial was real.  The verdict and sentence were real and Mosby is, as we speak on his way to the airstrip to await the next flight back to the United States and Fort Leavenworth.”

Garrison breathed a sigh of relief.  It was finally over and at least for a while Chief was safe, they were all safe.  “Thank you Sir.”    Garrison began to rise from his chair but sat down again.  “Sir, there is just one other thing.”

“And what would that be Lieutenant?”

“Sergeant Davies and Private Durant, Sir.  What’s going to happen to them? I know they aren’t completely blameless but they did come through for us when we needed help.  They don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush as Mosby.”

“So what do you suggest should happen to them Lieutenant?” Asher asked interestedly.

“I don’t know Sir.  They proved themselves, at least to us, in France.  They should be given another chance. They’re both good men.”

Asher leant back in his chair and contemplated Garrison for a few minutes before he spoke.  “It might surprise you Lieutenant, then again it probably won’t, but that is a question that has been concerning me also.  And…” Asher put up a hand to forestall Garrison’s words…”I also happen to agree with you on all counts.  They are good men and despite what happened I believe they do deserve a second chance, but there in lies the problem.”

“How so Sir?”

Asher leveled a steel eyed glare at Garrison and then sighed already knowing the answer to his next question. “Would you be willing to take both men onto your team, knowing what part they did or didn’t play in recent events?”

“Sir?” Garrison asked in surprise.  There was no doubt about the men’s abilities and if he was looking to start up a team he would seriously consider both of them but given the nature of his current team he couldn’t see how they would fit in, even though the six men had become friends over the past week.  “It’s hard enough hiding five of us but seven men…”

“That’s not the answer I’m looking for Lieutenant.” Asher interrupted. “Would you as a team leader and not knowing all the facts of the last mission not only accept Davies and Durant on your team but also trust them not to shall we say ‘blow the whistle’ on you if your methods were a little unorthodox?”

Garrison choked back a laugh as he stared at Asher. “I don’t think any of my methods could ever be classed as orthodox Sir, but I do see your point.”  Garrison sighed, he guessed they could work around it if he really had to take on two more men.  Perhaps he could run a sort of roster.  It would at least help with down time due to injuries.  “When will they be joining us Sir?”

Asher smiled.  “They won’t be Lieutenant, but thank you for the offer.”

“So what will happen to them?”

“After I gave them a severe reprimand for their part in the events concerning the last mission I offered them both a chance to join a new team or teams but they both declined.  I suppose they both had similar misgivings to myself.”

“Or they didn’t feel that they could trust another leader after Mosby.”

“Perhaps.”

“So what are they going to do Sir?  We are still at war and I can’t see either of them asking for discharges.”

“No they didn’t ask for discharges but they did ask if their talents could be put to use here in England for the duration. I agreed to their request and they will be joining Major Brampton’s group, training men for operations behind enemy lines.  They certainly have the knowledge to be of value to the Major’s team.”

Garrison nodded in agreement. “Davies has a lot of knowledge Sir and that type of role will suit him well. Durant’s young but his experience should put him good stead.  Chief particularly will be pleased to hear they got that second chance, but so will the others, even Casino although he won’t admit it.”

“Tell Chief, it was his backing of the two men that finally swayed my decision.  If he could forgive them and deem them worthy of a second chance after what happened then I could do no less.”

Garrison stood.  “I’ll tell him Sir and thank you.”

“Oh just one more thing Lieutenant,” Asher called as Garrison reached the door.  “You were wrong in your assumption that Davies and Durant couldn’t trust another leader.”

“Sir?”

“There is only one man that they are prepared to follow and that is you, Lieutenant. Keep it mind if you need a replacement at anytime.”

Garrison smiled.  “Yes Sir, I will and thank you.”

“It takes a good man to know a good man.” Colonel Asher muttered as the door to his office closed behind Garrison.

*****

The corridor was empty when Garrison returned to Chief’s hospital room and he groaned inwardly at where the rest of his men may have disappeared to.  Not knowing the outcome of his discussion with Asher he assumed one of them, most probably Actor would be sitting with Chief so that just left Casino and Goniff unaccounted for.  Garrison quietly opened the door not wanting to wake Chief if he was still asleep and stopped in surprise at the visage of his three missing men sprawled uncomfortably in the hospital’s unforgiving chairs.

Actor looked up and smirked.  “You seem surprised to see us all here Craig.”

“You could say that.” Garrison nodded towards an obviously sleeping Chief.  “How is he?”

“Doing better according to the doctor.  He was awake for a little while, had some breakfast and has gone back to sleep.” Actor replied quietly.

“’Ey Warden, what did Asher ‘ave to say?” Goniff asked as he sat forward and stretched abused muscles.

“Yeah, was it just a ruse to get us out of the way?” Casino growled.

“No Casino, it was all legit and Mosby is already waiting at the airfield for a plane to take him back to the states and Leavenworth.”

“Cor blimey, I really didn’t think they’d do it.”

“Well they did it Goniff.  Asher and the others believed he was guilty of all the charges and they’d had enough of his behaviour too.  They heard everything Mosby said and that was enough for them.  The sentence apparently had already been discussed beforehand.”

“Served Mosby right, it did.”  Goniff announced.

“What about Davies and Durant?” Chief asked quietly.

“Chiefy you’re awake, ‘ow you feeling?”

“Tired but alright, thanks Goniff.  Warden what about Davies and Durant? They didn’t get thrown in the stockade did they?”

“Relax Chief,” Garrison replied moving to the chair beside the bed.  They got a severe reprimand and a transfer, which they both requested, to Major Brampton’s training unit.  Colonel Asher asked me to tell you that it was your report and belief in them that swayed him to give them a second chance.”

“Blimey Chiefy, ‘ow does it feel to ‘ave a Colonel listen to you and take your advice?” Goniff asked in wonder.

“Well it’s not like you’ll ever get to find out, now is it? No one would be dumb enough to listen to anything you have to say.” Casino retorted.

“I’ll ‘ave you know I ‘ave lots of good ideas.”

“Like what?”

“Gentlemen,” Garrison growled warningly.  “Take it outside, now.”

Chief rested back against the pillows and closed his eyes.  “Don’t be too hard on them Warden,” he mumbled as Goniff’s voice could be heard recounting all his good ideas outside the door as Casino just as heatedly refuted them. “It sounds…normal.”

Garrison laughed; he’d almost forgotten what ‘normal’ sounded like.  “Get some sleep Chief.  We’ll be back later today.”

Actor nodded at Chief and opened the door, the sounds of the argument going on in the corridor filling the quiet of the room until the conman pulled the door shut behind him.

“Warden,” Chief called softly as Garrison reached the door.

Garrison paused and turned back to the bed.  “Yes Chief.”

The dark eyes focused on Garrison. “Thanks Warden, for bringing me home.”

Garrison smiled, “Anytime Chief, now get some sleep and that’s an order.”  Garrison stepped out into the corridor and shook his head at the arguing that continued.  Even Actor had got in on the act.  Garrison snorted as he started down the corridor followed by the three cons.  Things were definitely back to normal.

***The End***

After doing a wee bit of research I discovered that the female section of the Army was know as the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Services or ATS.

¹ John Mosby – Spartacus Educational

² John S Mosby – Biography from Answers.com

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