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Purple Hearts - Combat! Fan Fiction

 

 

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Nothing's Easy

Combat! Fan Fiction
by
Mary Wright "Eagle Lady"

eaglelady80010@netzero.net

          Lieutenant Hanley's jeep slid to its usual dusty stop and he gestured to the first soldier he saw.

          "Nelson, have you seen Saunders?"

          "Yes, sir.  He's sleeping over by that tree."

          "Get him for me."  Hanley ordered as he started to extricate his long legs from the jeep.

          Getting to his feet, Nelson adjusted the sling his left arm rested in and headed for the sleeping sergeant.  Saunders was lying on his back, his field jacket bunched under his head for a pillow.  Nelson squatted down above the sergeant's head and reached out to lightly touch his shoulder, having learned not to be within reach when waking him.

          "Sarge?"  He called softly.

          Saunders awoke instantly, sitting up before his eyes were fully open.

          "What?"

          "The lieutenant wants to see you, Sarge.  He's over there."

          "Thanks, Billy."

          Saunders rose, stretched, reached down for his jacket, and then extended a hand to help Nelson up.

          "How's your shoulder?"

          "Better."

          Saunders nodded and headed for Hanley, lighting a cigarette on the way.

          "What's up, Lieutenant?"  He asked when Hanley turned toward him.

          "I'm sending you and one man on a mission.  You're going to Loire."

          "Loire?  What for?  It's been abandoned, hasn't it?"

          "Yeah.  Abandoned, shelled, mostly destroyed, and currently behind enemy lines."

          "Why am I going?"

          "A day or so ago, one of the guys in intelligence met someone from the resistance there.  They left some important papers there, hidden in a mannequin in the dress shop.  You're to retrieve them or see that they are destroyed."

          "Why'd they leave them there in the first place?"

          "The Krauts were moving in.  The officer was killed and the resistance man just made it back to G-2 an hour ago."

          "Great.  Anything else, Lieutenant?"

          "Yeah.  Take care of yourself."

          "Always."

          "Who are you taking?"

          "I don't know yet."

          With a parting nod, Saunders left the tent, heading for the last place he'd seen the rest of the squad.  Long before he could see them, he could hear Kirby and Littlejohn arguing again.  Lately, it seemed that's all those two did.  This particular argument was escalating rapidly, and Saunders picked up his pace to get there before they came to blows.  Littlejohn was surging angrily to his feet while Kirby was on his way up as well, pushing aside the jacket he was mending.

          "Littlejohn!"  Saunders snapped, making both men jump.

          Doc and Caje turned toward Saunders, obviously glad to see him.

          "Sarge, I..." Littlejohn started.

          "Shut up, Littlejohn." Saunders interrupted.  "I don't want to hear it.  Saddle up, Kirby."

          "Where we goin', Sarge?"  Doc asked.

          "You're not.  Just me an' Kirby.  Ammo and rations for two days, Kirby, and hurry it up."

          "Just the two of you?"  Doc questioned.  "Sure you don't me to come along?"

          "Yeah, Doc, I'm sure.  Tell the lieutenant that I'm taking Kirby with me."

          "Sure, Sarge."  He turned to go and nearly ran into Kirby who was coming back on the run.

          Caje followed Doc, leaving Littlejohn standing alone, both Kirby and Saunders ignoring him as they prepared to leave. Saunders headed out without speaking, Kirby at his heels.

          "Where are we going?"  Kirby asked after a silent half-hour's walk.

          "Loire."

          "Loire?  Sarge, that place is deserted, ain't it?"

          "That's right.  It's also behind the German lines."

          "Why are we goin' to Loire?"

          After lighting a cigarette, Saunders explained the mission.

          "After all the mopping-up we been doin' lately, we can all be janitors when we get home after this war's over."  Kirby grumbled.

          Saunders chuckled at the mental image of Kirby wielding a mop instead of his BAR.  Both men grew quiet and more alert as they moved deeper into enemy territory.  Saunders stopped just inside the stand of trees at the outskirts of Loire to survey the area before moving in while Kirby waited quietly beside him.

          "Looks empty."  Saunders decided.  "Let's move in."

          "Where's the dress shop?"

          "We'll have to look for it."  Saunders replied after studying the pile of rubble that used to be a village.

          "I'll take the left side."  Kirby sighed.

          "Watch yourself."  Saunders warned.

          "Yeah.  You, too."

          Kirby moved out of the trees, slipping through and around the rubble until he reached the remains of the first building.  Pausing before going in, he looked over his shoulder to see Saunders across the street, moving through the first doorway.  Quickly but carefully, Kirby worked his way down the street, not only looking for the dress shop, but also checking to make sure there weren't any Kraut stragglers hiding. 

          He had just entered the fourth building when a slight sound froze him in place.  Very slowly and carefully, he followed the sound toward the remains of an interior wall.  His finger on the trigger of the BAR, he stepped around the rubble, fully expecting to see a Kraut.  With a startled curse, he lowered the weapon to his side.  A dirty, ragged, half-starved little boy of about eight was looking at him with wide, frightened eyes.

          "You speak English?"  Kirby asked, getting no response.  "That figures.  Where's Caje when you need him?"

          The child said something in French.  Kirby shook his head and shrugged his shoulders to indicate he didn't understand.

          "Sarge!"  He shouted, making the boy jump.

          When Saunders burst into the room a few seconds later, the boy slowly backed away toward another pile of rubble, watching the two soldiers warily.

          "Where'd he come from?"  Saunders demanded.

          "He was standing there when I came in.  You find anyone else?"

          "No.  He speak English?"

          "Nope.  What do we do with him?"

          "We'll have to take him with us.  We can't leave him here alone."

          "How are you planning on telling him that?"  Kirby grinned.

          Giving Kirby an irritated look, Saunders motioned for the boy to come with them.

When the child took another step back, he snapped an order. "Grab him and let's go, Kirby."

          Kirby seized the child gently but firmly by the wrist, pulling him toward the door despite his struggles.

          "Hold it!"  Saunders snapped.  "Shut him up."

          Kirby pulled the boy against his side and clamped a hand over his mouth.  Both men could hear a whimpering sound coming from the pile of rubble the boy had been backing toward.

          "Has the kid got himself a puppy?"  Kirby asked softly.

          Saunders eased around the rubble and Kirby heard him curse with feeling.

          "What is it, Sarge?"  Kirby asked.

          Instead of answering, the sergeant bent down then straightened with a small girl in his arms.  Jerking out of Kirby's grip, the boy ran to Saunders, pulled the girl from his hold and pushed her behind him, facing the men defiantly.  The two men looked at each other, then at the kids.

          "Now what, Sarge?"

          Saunders took a step toward the children, stopping when the boy snatched up a piece of rubble as though to throw it at him.

          "We don't have time for this.  Leave 'em here.  We'll pick them up later.  Let's find that dress shop."  Saunders decided.

          "But, Sarge..."

          "You heard me, Kirby."  Saunders snapped.  "Get moving."

          Saunders strode out of the building, followed reluctantly by Kirby.  Kirby found the remains of the dress shop three buildings down, and called Saunders across the street.

          "Okay, find the mannequin."   The sergeant started clearing away the rubble that littered the floor.

          Kirby finally found the right mannequin and had just handed the papers to Saunders when they heard a sound by the door.  Both men whirled, their weapons trained on the door.  The little boy scrambled inside, pulling the girl along by the hand.

          "Bosche!"  The boy panted, following that with something neither man understood.

          "How many?  Where?"  Kirby demanded.

          Saunders stuffed the papers inside his jacket and squatted in front of the boy.

          "Bosche?"  He said, holding up one finger, then two, then three, his brows raised in question.

          The child stared at him for a moment then gestured widely to indicate many Germans approaching.  Saunders gently pushed the children toward Kirby before cautiously peering out of the shattered doorway.

          "Kirby!  Look for another way out."

          Kirby motioned for the kids to get down then quickly searched the building.

          "There's a hole in the wall back here, Sarge.  We can maybe get out that way."

          "Alright.  You go first, then I'll send the kids."

          Cautiously, Kirby climbed through the hole and motioned for the kids to follow him, which they did without hesitation.  A moment later, Saunders joined them.

          "How many?"  Kirby asked softly.

          "Looks like a squad.  Let's see if we can get out of town."

          Motioning for the kids to follow, Saunders turned right.  The boy immediately grabbed his leg, shaking his head violently. 

          "Bosche!"  The boy frantically pointed in that direction.

          Hesitating, Saunders glanced down the lane toward the right.  A German soldier passed by the end of the lane, fortunately looking the other way.  Saunders dropped to one knee, his arm around the boy's shoulder.  Kirby crouched against the wall, the girl clinging to his side.

          "What are you gonna do, Sarge?"

Saunders turned the boy to face him, made a wide gesture encompassing the village, then turned his hands up and shrugged his shoulders.  The boy stared at him a moment, then his face brightened when he realized what the sergeant meant.  He grabbed Saunders hand and tugged.  Staying in a low crouch, Saunders followed the boy, Kirby and the girl on their heels. 

          Winding his way around piles of rubble, the child led them through the remains of another building, onto another street and toward what appeared to be a massive pile of rubble.  Dropping to his hands and knees, the kid crawled through an 'A' shaped hole formed by leaning slabs of rubble.  Saunders glanced down the street, spotting several Krauts moving about, and followed the boy.  It was a tight fit for a couple of feet, then to his surprise, he found himself in what seemed to be a whole room.  There was plenty of room to stand up and move around.  Kirby followed him in, whistling softly as he stood up.

          "Wow.  Who'd think this was here?"

          The boy proudly pointed out a pile of blankets, a couple of buckets of water, and a pile of mixed American and German rations.  Saunders grinned at him and ruffled his hair.

          "Quel est votre nom?"

          "Henri" The boy grinned at Saunders terrible pronunciation.

          "Saunders."  The sergeant pointed to himself.

          "Annette."  Henri put his hand on the girl's head.

          "Kirby."  Saunders pointed at the BAR man.

          "We gonna sit it out in here, Sarge?"

          "For awhile.  We gotta get these papers back to the lieutenant."

          The children crouched in a corner, watching the soldiers as they paced the small area.  They heard gunfire, then a scratching noise at the entrance to the hidden room.  Both men raised their weapons, lowering them when the boy leaped to his feet and darted in front of them. 

          A second later another boy slid into the room on his belly, twisted around and pulled a broken section of a wooden door across the opening behind him.  Henri started talking to him a mile a minute, pausing as the older boy turned to look at the Americans.  Annette ran to the boy and threw her arms around him, also talking to him.  Lifting the girl into his arms, he put a hand on Henri's shoulder, silencing him. 

          "My name is Andre.  This is Henri, and Annette."

          "Hello, Andre.  I'm Sargent Saunders, and this is Kirby."

          "What do you do here?"

          "We came to get something.  The Germans moved in before we could get back out of the village.  What are you three doing here?  I thought this village was evacuated."

          "I also returned to get something.  Annette.  I was looking for more food when the Germans came."

          "Did they see you?  Was that what the shooting was?"

          "They saw me.  Then they did not see me.  You understand?  They shoot where they think I am.  But I am not."

          "We must get out of the village, Andre.  We must return to our lines."

          "We must wait.  Later, I will show you a way."

          "Andre?"

          "Yes?"

          "How old are you?"

          "I am nine years old.  Henri is almost eight years, and Annette is five."

          "Where are your parents?"

          "They are dead.  We will find an uncle when we leave Loire."

          "At least the kid's got a plan.  That's more'n we got."  Kirby said.

          "Get some rest, Kirby.  We'll give the Krauts an hour to settle down, then make our move."

          Kirby nodded and sat down, leaning back against a wall.  He laid the BAR down against his leg, then put his head back and closed his eyes.  They flew back open a moment later when Annette crawled into his lap.  He sighed, put an arm around her, and closed his eyes again, ignoring Saunders' grin.

^^^

          "Kirby.  Time to go."  Saunders said, shaking the sleeping man.

          "That was a short hour."  Kirby commented, yawning.

          "It was actually an hour and a half."  Saunders grinned.

          "Coulda fooled me."  He shifted Annette off of his lap and climbed to his feet.  "Gotta plan?"

          Saunders lit a cigarette and handed it to Kirby, then lit one for himself.  "I've been talking to Andre.  Seems the kids have been here for a couple days, and so have the Krauts.  Andre leaves the little ones here, and goes out and attacks the Krauts."

          "He does what?"

          "He puts dirt in the gas tanks of the vehicles, tips over gas cans, that sort of thing.  He says they are very angry with him."

          "I guess they would be."  Kirby grinned.

          "The important part is that they've never caught him.  He has a whole network of passages in and around the rubble, like the entrance to this place."

          "I'm just a private, Sarge.  I don't see what that has to do with us getting out of here."

          "Andre says he can lead us through his maze and out of the village."

          "There's a helluva lot of difference between one small kid and two men with three kids, Sarge."  Kirby said doubtfully.

          "Yeah.  I know.  You got a better idea?"

          "Well, no."

          "Fill your canteen and grab some ration packs."

          "Okay."

          He took a step and nearly fell over Annette who was standing right beside him.

When he went to step around her, she threw both of her arms around his leg.  Rolling his eyes, he dragged her along to the water buckets.

          "Andre."  Saunders said.

          "Yes?"

          "Please tell Annette to let go of Kirby."

          At the older boy's command, she released his leg, though one little hand held onto his pants leg.  With a sigh, Kirby filled the canteen and stashed a couple boxes of rations in his jacket.

          "All right, Andre.  Let's go."  Saunders said.

          "You will wait a moment?"

          The boy moved the wooden slab over the doorway and scrambled through, returning a few seconds later to beckon them.  Saunders dropped to his hands and knees and crawled into the tunnel, followed by Henri.  Kirby gently pushed Annette ahead of him then followed her.  He found the others waiting, crouched beside the entrance.  As soon as he was out, Andre scooted to the right, moving at a fast walk, bent over from the waist.  Keeping watch for the Germans, Saunders followed him, Henri at his heels.  Taking Annette's hand, Kirby brought up the rear.  Andre went about fifty feet, then ducked into the remains of a building. 

          Glancing back to make sure they were following, he clambered through a hole in the back wall, through the ruins of a rose garden, over a low wall and into another building.  He stopped and waited until the others had joined him, then moved close to Saunders.

          "I must look.  Sometimes they are here, sometimes they are not."

          "You stay here.  I'll look."  Saunders told him.

          "The Boche, they look for soldiers.  They do not look for children."

          "You stay put."  Saunders pointed to the ground for emphasis.

          "But..."

          "Kirby."

          "Yeah, Sarge.  I got him."

          Kirby put a hand on Andre's shoulder, gently pushing him to the ground beside the other two, who were already squatting between Kirby's feet and a wall.  Saunders moved to what used to be the doorway and peered out.  After a moment, he turned and motioned for Andre to join him.

          "Which way?"

          "Across the street, over there.  Through that garden then there is ait was a house.  What is the word?"

          "Rubble?  Debris?  Ruins?"

          "Ruins.  That is the word.  There is a ruins house.  We go in the window, up the floor to the second floor, out the window to the roof of a small house.  Where animals live?"

          "Shed.  Okay.  Ready, Kirby?"

          "Yep."

          Saunders checked again, then ran across the street, quickly surveyed the garden, then motioned for the others.  Andre pushed ahead of Saunders, leading the way across the garden.  He pointed across a narrow street to the ruins of the house, frowning when Saunders pushed him back towards Kirby.  The sergeant checked the street, then trotted across to the house.  At his nod, Kirby nudged the kids into motion, waiting till they were all across and inside before he took a last look around.  By the time he reached the house, the others were already up on the second floor waiting for him.

          Crouching by the window, Saunders carefully checked the area below them.  They were at the very edge of the village.  There was a clear area of about twenty feet, then a stand of trees.  He could see the sunlight sparkling on a small stream running through the trees.

          "Andre, I'm going to go out the window, onto the roof, then to the ground.  You will wait right here while I make sure there are no Germans. When I wave to you, help Henri and Annette onto the roof.  I will help them down.  We will wait for Kirby.  Do you understand?"

          "Yes.  I understand."  He said sullenly.

          A few minutes later, the small group was crouched beside the shed,  Annette clinging to Kirby's arm.

          "Kirby, I'm going across.  Send the kids one at a time."

          "Gotcha."

          Once in the trees, they stopped by the stream where Annette promptly squatted down to play in the mud.

          "Okay, we're going to have to circle the village to get back to our lines.  I'll take the point; you make sure the kids stay together."

          "I'll be glad to take the point, Sarge."  Kirby suggested hopefully.

          "No, you've got more firepower.  You stay with the kids."

          "I was afraid you were gonna say that."  He said glumly, looking at the girl's muddy hands.

^^^

          At Saunders' urgent signal, Kirby quickly pushed the children to the ground, crouching between them.  Spotting a thick log at the edge of a small depression a few feet away, Kirby whispered for Andre to lead the others and take cover there, and to stay still and quiet.  When they were lying down with Andre between them, his arms thrown across their shoulders, Kirby crawled up to Saunders.  Four Krauts were coming directly toward them.  There was an almost solid wall of brambles on the right, and a marshy area to the left, funneling the enemy soldiers right over their position.  They had no choice.

          Glancing over his shoulder, Kirby motioned to the children to stay down, then he and Saunders opened fire.  The Krauts dove into cover and returned fire, shredding the leaves over Kirby's shoulder.  Bracing his hip against the base of a tree, Kirby cut loose with the BAR.  One of the Germans went down with a gurgling scream; another rose up on his toes then crashed to the ground on his face.  Beside him, Saunders cursed feelingly, the Thompson's lighter voice dancing around the deep toned BAR.  As the third German went over backwards with a scream, the last one broke and ran.  Both Americans fired at him, but he vanished around the brambles.

          "Grab the kids!"  Saunders snapped.

          Turning toward them, Kirby glanced back to see the sergeant examining a bloody sleeve.

          "You hit, Sarge?"  He asked anxiously.

          "Just a nick.  Get the kids!"

          Kirby shoved Henri toward Saunders, swept Annette up in his arms, and grabbed Andre's hand.  Saunders seized Henri's small hand and started to run, Kirby on his heels.  The boys did their best to keep up, but their legs were very short.  Grimacing at the strain on his wounded arm, Saunders swung Henri up onto his hip and kept going. 

          "We gotta rest, Sarge."  Kirby finally called.  Andre was panting for breath; only Kirby's grip on his hand keeping him on his feet.

          Saunders stopped under a tree, lowering Henri to the ground.  Kirby set Annettte down and glanced toward the sergeant who was leaning against the tree with his eyes closed.  Kirby's eyes were drawn toward large smear of blood on the sergeant's left arm.  Gently prying Annette from his leg, he strode over and examined the wound.

          "Just a nick, huh?  That's a pretty good nick."

          He pulled Saunders aid kit from his belt and dressed and bandaged the wound.

          "Sit down and rest, Sarge."

          "No, we gotta get these papers back.  Let's go."

          "The kids need to rest, Sarge.  I'll keep watch.  You get some rest too."

          When Saunders slid down the tree trunk without further protest, Kirby nodded in satisfaction and brought out his canteen, giving the children as much as they wanted.

          "Let's go."  Saunders ordered a few minutes later.

          Kirby offered Saunders a hand up, then picked up both Henri and Annette.

          "Give me one of them."  Saunders told him.

          "No way, Sarge."  Kirby shook his head.  "You just lead the way."

          Saunders glared at him, but Kirby refused to meet his eyes, instead turning to Andre.

          "You can hang onto my belt if you want."

          "I am not tired."  The boy said stoutly.

          "I am."  Kirby grinned at him.  "Which way, Sarge?"

          His expression thunderous, Saunders reached for Andre's hand with his good arm, turned and strode away.  After a few steps, he slowed down in consideration of Andre's size. 

          Kirby noticed the sergeant's steps slowing and faltering and decided to call a rest.  To his dismay, the sergeant more or less collapsed to the ground the moment he stopped.  Andre squatted next to him, looking worried.  Setting Annette and Henri on the ground, Kirby crouched beside Saunders and checked the wound.  Fresh blood.  Ok, what now?  Kirby thought hard for a minute, wondering what Doc would do.  A fresh bandage and a sling, that's what he would do.  While the children watched curiously, he treated the injury, then he gently tucked Saunders' hand inside his partially closed jacket as a makeshift sling. He offered Saunders a drink of water, then gave the children a drink. 

          Sitting down between the sergeant and the children, he lit a cigarette while he thought about his next move.  The papers had to get to G-2 as soon as possible; he had to get the sarge to the aid station; and he had to do something with the kids.  And he had to do all of that with the Krauts running around all over the countryside.  He couldn't leave Saunders here, either alone or with the kids, while he took the papers to G-2.  The Germans would be sure to find them and would probably kill all four of them.  It appeared that he would have to get the sarge to the aid station, drop off the kids, and then get the papers to either the lieutenant or to G-2.  Whoo, boy.  This wasn't going to be easy.

          Sarge couldn't carry any of the kids and he couldn't carry them and support the sarge at the same time.  Well, the kids would just have to walk.  He finished his cigarette, took another drink, then motioned for Andre to join him.

"Look, kid, I'm gonna have to help the sarge.  I can't do that and carry the kids.  I need you to watch them and stay close to me.  Okay?"

"O-kay."  Andre replied.

          "Let's get going."  Taking Saunders' good arm, he pulled him to his feet, draping the sergeant's arm over his shoulders, the Thompson and the BAR slung over his left shoulder, while he wrapped his right arm around Saunders' waist.  Andre took Henri's and Annette's hands and looked up at Kirby, waiting. 

          "Here we go, Andre."  Kirby forced a grin.

^^^

          "Lieutenant!"  Caje called.  "Look!"

          Hanley joined the squad in staring at the strange figure approaching, silhouetted by the setting sun.  As the figure drew closer, it separated into several figures.  Kirby had a small boy sitting on his shoulders, a Thompson and his BAR were dangling from his left arm and he was half carrying the sergeant.  Beside Kirby trudged a boy with a large pack on his back.  All three of them were staggering with weariness.   Littlejohn, Caje, and Doc broke from their thrall and ran forward. 

          While Doc relieved Kirby of the semi-conscious sergeant, Littlejohn lifted the boy from Kirby's shoulders and cradled him in his arms.  Meanwhile, Caje had discovered that the 'pack' the boy carried was actually a very small girl.  When he took her from the boy, both he and Kirby sagged to the ground just as Hanley joined them.

"Lieutenant, the papers are inside Saunders' jacket. The two littlest kids don't speak English."  Kirby gasped.

          "Are you wounded?"  The lieutenant demanded.

          "No, sir.  Just beat."  He stretched out right there on the ground and promptly went to sleep.

          "Huh."  Littlejohn grunted.  "Here, Caje, take this little guy."

          He handed Henri to Caje, then picked up the sleeping soldier without waking him and carried him to his blankets.  Doc fished inside Saunders' jacket and handed the lieutenant the papers he finally found then headed for the aid station.

^^^

          Saunders looked up as Kirby approached, dropping the paper he was reading.

          "How ya doin', Sarge?"  Kirby asked.

          "Good.  I hear you're up for a medal."

          "Me?"  Kirby stared at him in surprise.  "What for?"

          "You didn't know?"

          "Know what?"

          "You're being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for bringing the papers, the kids and me back."

          "Aw, heck, Sarge!"  He looked embarrassed.  "I don't need no medal."

          "Well, you're getting it anyway."  Saunders grinned at him.

Copyright 2001 by Mary Wright. All Rights Reserved.

Read more Dogface Tales by Mary:
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The CombatFan web site thanks Mary (aka "EagleLady") for letting us share these fan fiction stories on this web site.

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