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Sergeant to Sergeant

Combat! Fan Fiction
Mary Wright "Eagle Lady"

           Sergeant Saunders lay on his back on top of the stone wall, his eyes closed, his hands behind his head, enjoying the welcome sunshine that was relaxing his tired body, easing sore muscles. He was half-asleep, vaguely aware of his men playing cards several feet away.  They had cleaned out this village yesterday and been told to wait here for King Company to arrive and set up a headquarters and hadn't seen a German in two days.  The unusual peace was most welcome to men that had seen too much fighting, heard too many bombs, and ducked too many artillery barrages. 

          As usual, Littlejohn and Kirby were bickering about something, but at least so far it was amicable.  Caje was ignoring them while Billy occasionally tried to keep the peace.  Not having heard Doc's voice for awhile, Saunders lazily opened one eye to locate him.  He was in the game, too, just not saying much.  Lewis, one of the replacements was on watch, so they could afford the R & R time. He closed his eye again, his thoughts drifting in random directions.  He was an integral part of the group, but occupied a different position, halfway between the officers and the rankings.  It was lonely sometimes, and while the guys welcomed him anytime he chose to join them, he still had to hold himself a bit apart.  Part of it was his rank, part of it was his personality. 

          Kirby and Littlejohn were getting a bit less amicable and he was thinking about breaking it up when something cold and metallic touched his throat at the same time that he heard a low voice in his ear.

          "Sergeant, I have a knife at your throat.  One of my men is across the street with a gun on your men.  You will tell them to step away from their weapons or they will be shot and your throat will be cut."

          "What do you want with us?"  Saunders asked softly.  "You're too far from your lines to take us prisoner."

          "We need you and your men.  If you cooperate, you will be freed unharmed.  If not, you will be killed and we will find someone else."

          "I don't seem to have much choice, do I?"  He raised his voice slightly.  "Hey guys, I have a knife at my throat."

          There was instant silence as the men stared at him incredulously.

          "There is a German in the building across the street.  I've been told to tell you to step away from your weapons or you will be shot."

          The men looked at each other, then slowly got to their feet and moved away from their weapons, which had been lying on the ground beside them.  A young German appeared from across the street, another came down the street pushing Lewis ahead of him. One of them covered the men while the other tied the men's hands behind them, then tied the men to each other, just far enough apart for them to walk.  Saunders lay still, furious with himself for not checking on Lewis.  He was green and should have been checked on, and now his men were going to pay for his lapse and there wasn't a thing he could do about it.

          "Sit up slowly, facing your men."  The voice behind him ordered as the knife was removed from his neck.

          Reluctantly, he did as he was told.  If he attempted anything, his men would be cut down before his eyes.  His hands were pulled behind his back and tied tightly, then he was pushed to his feet.  He and the rest of the squad were herded down the street and out of the town, heading for the woods a half mile away. None of the three Germans looked to be a day over eighteen, and they all looked scared, which made them more jumpy and dangerous.  Two of them flanked the helpless men while the third followed with Saunders.  The German on the right flank was forced to walk almost shoulder to shoulder with the Americans due to the rubble from the artillery barrage that had blanketed the area a few days ago.  He stumbled, falling against Littlejohn, knocking him off balance.  Tied together, the men had no chance and they went down like ten pins, ending up sprawled in a pile, the German more or less on top.  The German behind Saunders burst out laughing, and even Saunders had to smile at the sight.

          "Damn, Littlejohn, he's even clumsier than you are!"  Kirby complained.  "Get off me, you big ape."

          "Shut up, Kirby."  Littlejohn snapped at him.  "I'm trying to get up."

          Laying his weapon out of possible reach, the German on the left began separating the men and getting them back on their feet, a task made harder by his laughter.  The German who'd fallen, his face brick red, tried to get Littlejohn upright, but since the American was about twice his size, he wasn't having much luck. Littlejohn finally shrugged him aside and got to his feet.  Billy, the smallest of the group, had ended up on the bottom, and as the others moved away, he lay still and quiet.  Before Saunders could say anything, the German behind him had slashed Doc's bindings and motioned him to Billy.  Doc was surprised, but wasted no time bending over the youngster.

          "Doc?"  Saunders asked anxiously.

          "He's okay, Sarge.  He just got the breath squished out of him."

          "Get him on his feet, medic.  We have to keep moving."  The German told him.

          Doc helped Billy to his feet, steadying him for a moment.  When the Germans made no attempt to re-tie Doc's hands, he fell in behind the others as they were herded into the trees.

          "Where are you taking us?"  Saunders asked.

          "Just keep going, American."

          "What do you want us for?"  He persisted.

          "Be quiet.  We have no wish to harm you or your men, sergeant, but if you don't be quiet, you will have a sore head."  The German told him.

          That was plain enough, Saunders thought, and kept quiet.  They made their way through the woods, his squad having a hard time of it, tied together as they were though Doc helped whenever he could.  Saunders realized he heard running water, then they were on the banks of a fast running creek.  Upstream and downstream, the creek was wider and slower, but here where the narrow footbridge was, the water was fast, swirling, and looked deep.  The bridge was barely wide enough for one person, balancing carefully, let alone five men roped together.  Saunders stopped and swung around to face the German behind him.

          "You can't expect them to cross that tied together.  If one slips, they all go.  At least cut them loose from each other."  He hesitated.  "Please."

          "They can't do anything to you."  Doc added his plea.  "They have no weapons.  They can't do anything without endangering the rest of the squad.  If you want them to help you whatever, they aren't going to be much help if they're drowned."

          The soldier thought for a moment, studying the bridge.

          "Get on your knees, sergeant."  He finally ordered.

          "What?"  Saunders stared at him.

          "You heard me.  On your knees."

          Once Saunders had complied, the soldier stepped behind him, the muzzle of his gun touching the back of the sergeant's head. 

          "Americans.  We will free you from each other, but leave your hands tied.  You will cross the bridge one at a time.  If any of you try anything, your sergeant will be shot in the head.  Is that clear?"

          When he received affirmative answers from all five men, he gave an order to one of his men, who went down the line, removing the rope that bound the men together, then he crossed the bridge, waiting on the other side with his rifle covering the Americans.  Lewis crossed first, slowly and carefully, followed by Caje, then Billy.  Kirby was halfway across when the board under his left foot gave way, pitching him into the water. Forgetting the rifle behind him, Saunders surged to his feet, shouting Kirby's name.  The German behind him grabbed him by the collar, jerking him back and down.  His cry of pain was drowned out by the yells of the men on both sides crowding the edge of the creek, watching anxiously.            The German waiting on the first side of the bridge dropped his gun, and ammo belt and dove into the water.  Unable to use his arms, Kirby was helpless against the current and was forced under several times, not coming back up the last time. Downstream about thirty feet, where the creek widened and slowed, the German crawled out onto the bank, dragging Kirby's limp body behind him.

          "Medic!"  He called, then shouted something in German.

          "He says he's alive.  Hurry, Medic."  The German in charge urged.

          Needing no second invitation, Doc ran across the bridge and down the creek bank to Kirby.  The German had him laying on his side and was trying to cut the wet ropes on his wrists, succeeding just as Doc reached them.  The German left with Saunders and Littlejohn reached down, grabbed the shoulder of Saunders' jacket and pulled him back to his feet. 

          "You would have drowned, Sergeant."

          "He's alive, Sarge.  I can see him moving."  Littlejohn said.

          Sighing with relief, Saunders realized his left wrist hurt fiercely.  When he was jerked to the ground, he'd landed awkwardly and must have sprained it.  At least, he hoped it was sprained and not broken.  Either way, it hurt like hell.  After a few minutes, Doc and the German helped Kirby to his feet and back up the creek to the other three squad members who waited anxiously with their guard.  Caje knelt down and Doc lowered Kirby to the ground, leaning against Caje.

          "Medic, you and Wexler come help get these two across."  

          Wexler, the German who had remained with the Americans, carefully crossed the bridge again, leaving his fellow soldier leaning against a tree, breathing hard.  Doc followed him more carefully than he had crossed a few moments ago.  He took one of Littlejohn's arms while Wexler held the other and they crossed cautiously, then Doc came back again and took a second look at Saunders.   His face was slightly pale and filmed with sweat.

          "Sarge?  Are you okay?"  He asked anxiously.

          "Yeah.  I'm fine."

          "What is your name?"  The German asked.

          "Saunders.  Sergeant Saunders."

          "Schmidt.  I'm sorry.  I did not intend for anyone to be injured."

He and Doc took Saunders' arms and made it safely across the bridge, where Schmidt released the sergeant and crouched in front of Kirby.

"Are you alright, Private Kirby?"

          Still coughing up creek water, Kirby just nodded.

          "We can not afford to delay any longer.  We must move on."

          Kirby looked over at the wet German still leaning against the tree and nodded as Doc helped him to his feet.

          "Danke."  He managed between coughs.

            The German returned the nod, and motioned for the men to head on into the trees.  He led the way, followed by the Americans, then Wexler and Schmidt.   A short time later, they reached a bombed out building.  Leaving Wexler and the other with the Americans, Schmidt ran ahead to the pile of rubble calling the name Mueller.  The Americans looked at each other, puzzled, as they followed Schmidt.  When they reached the rubble, Wexler called to Schmidt, receiving an affirmative answer.  Schmidt returned to where the Americans stood together, addressing himself to Saunders.

          "Our sergeant is trapped in the cellar of this place.  We need your help to get him out.  If you help us, you will be freed."

          "Sure we will."  Saunders replied, his disbelief evident in his voice.

          "You will just have to take my word for it, Sergeant."

          "Why can't you three get him out?"

          "Come look for yourself."  Schmidt invited.

          He turned and led the way over and through the rubble.  After telling his men to stay put, Saunders followed him, stopping at the edge of a hole in the floor.  The area below them was full of dirt, rocks, and broken beams, eerily lit by sunlight filtering through other, smaller holes.

          "So where is he?"  Saunders asked.

          "There.  He is caught under that beam.  We tried but cannot move it."

          "Is he alive?"


          "How badly is he hurt?"

          "I think he has a broken leg, but it is hard to tell."

          "If we help you, that means there will be four more men for us to fight." He said slowly.

          "Do you mean you won't help us?"  The young soldier stared at him in shock.  "If that was you down there, wouldn't your men do anything they could to help you?"

          "Probably.  But that isn't me down there.  We are at war, soldier."

          Schmidt stared at him blankly for a moment, then his face twisted with anger.

          "Now you are down there!"  He shouted as he gave Saunders a shove.

          Caught totally by surprise, Saunders flew backwards into the hole.  He landed on a pile of dirt and rocks, then rolled down the slope.  He came to rest a few feet away from the trapped German, who appeared to be unconscious. Saunders rolled onto his side, trying to catch his breath and ignore the pain in his wrist.  The German's eyes opened slowly and he looked at Saunders, closed and opened his eyes again, staring at him in amazement.

          "You are American?"  He whispered. 


          "What are you doing here?"


          "Schmidt?  What do you mean?"

          "He captured my squad and brought us here."  Saunders paused for breath.  "He wanted us to help get you outhe decided if I was down heremy men would help him."

          "He captured your squad?  Alone?"  The German asked in disbelief.

          "Schmidt, Wexler and another soldier.  I had a green replacement on watch."

          "Schmidt, Wexler, and Olbricht?  Amazing. What is a 'green' replacement?"


          Saunders finally managed to sit up and looked around.  The German sergeant was lying on his back, a beam lying at an angle from his left thigh to his right ankle.  Awkwardly, Saunders got to his feet and took a cautious step.

          "Do you have any water?"


          "Will you give me a drink?"

          "No."  Saunders started working his way back up the slope.

          "No?"  Mueller repeated.  "Aiding and abetting the enemy?"

          "I can't give you a drink."  Saunders told him. "My hands are tied behind my back."

          "How did you get down here?"

          "Schmidt pushed me."

          "With your hands tied behind your back?"  He demanded angrily.

          Surprised, Saunders turned to look at him and lost his footing, falling backwards.  He couldn't stop the cry of pain when he landed on his injured wrist.  Twisting, he slid and rolled back down, coming to rest with his back against the German.  He lay still, waiting for the agonizing pain in his wrist to recede.  He could feel the German fumbling with his wrists and gritted his teeth.  When the German took hold of his left wrist, he cried out in pain and tried to pull away.

          "What's wrong with your arm?"  He demanded, immediately releasing him.

          "Sprained wrist."  Saunders panted.

          "Schmidt tied your hands when you had a sprained wrist?"

          "Happened later."

          "Try to hold still, Sergeant.  I'm going to untie you."

          Saunders sucked in his breath as the German started working on the ropes.

          "How long ago did this happen?"

          "Half hour, maybe."

          "It is very swollen.  Hang on, this is going to hurt."

          When the ropes finally fell away, Saunders brought his injured wrist around and cradled it against his chest, waves of pain rolling up his arm.

          "Thanks."  He mumbled.


          "Where's Sarge?"  Caje demanded when Schmidt returned to the other Americans.

          "He went down into the hole with Sergeant Mueller."

          "What now?"  Doc asked.

          "We wait while the sergeants decide what will happen."

          "What is your name, Sergeant?"  Mueller asked after a minute.


          "Would you call Schmidt?"

          Saunders nodded and squirmed part way up the slope again.

          "Don't tell me.  You hurt your leg."  Mueller guessed.

          "Okay, I won't tell you."  He hitched himself up another foot or so.  "Schmidt!  Doc!"


          "Watch them."  Schmidt told Wexler as he grabbed Doc by the arm, pulling him to the edge of the hole.  "I'm here."  He called down.

          "Tell him to come down."  Mueller said.

          "Come down here.  Bring Doc with you."

          A moment later, both men had landed on the rubble pile, showering Saunders with dirt. Lifting his arm to protect his eyes unbalanced him and he rolled back down against Mueller, who put out a hand to catch him.

          "You alright?"  Mueller asked.

          "Yeah.  Just fine."  Saunders spit out a mouthful of dirt.

          "Schmidt.  Come here.  Carefully."  Mueller ordered.

          Schmidt did as he was told, Doc following him.  Mueller glared at Schmidt, then switched his attention to Doc.

          "You are a medic?"

          "I am."

          "Take care of your sergeant."

          "No.  Check him out first, Doc."  Saunders waved him away.

          Doc looked from one to the other, then bent over the German, straightening a moment later.

          "There's nothing I can do till we get him out of there.  What's wrong with you, Sarge?"

          "Left wrist, right ankle."  Saunders lay back against the dirt pile, cradling his wrist.

          Doc reached for the sergeant's wrist, hesitated, then lifted it very gently.

          "What happened?"

          "I fell on it back at the creek."

          "Why didn't you say something?"

          Saunders didn't bother to answer, gritting his teeth while Doc wrapped a supporting bandage around his arm, then checked his ankle.

          "Well, Sarge, the good news is neither is broken.  The bad news is they're both badly sprained."

          "That helps."

          "Schmidt, what did you think you were doing?"  Mueller asked in English.

          "We couldn't lift the beam off you.  I brought them here to help."

          "And afterwards?"

          "I told them they would be freed."

          "And who gave you the authority to do that?"

          "When the man in charge is incapacitated, the next highest ranking takes command.  I did what I thought was best."

          Mueller looked over at Saunders, who shrugged.

          "So, commander, what do you plan to do?"  Mueller asked tiredly.

          "I was hoping you would tell me."  Schmidt admitted.

          "I'm incapacitated, remember?  You decide."  Mueller closed his eyes.

          Schmidt stared at him for a moment, totally at a loss, then turned to Doc.

          "Can you boost me back up?"

          "Yeah, I think so.  What're you going to do?"

          "I'm thinking."

          The two men clambered back up the slope.  Mueller opened his eyes and grinned at Saunders, sergeant to sergeant.  Saunders remembered his earlier request for a drink, and managed to pull his canteen out, handing it to Mueller, who accepted it gratefully.  He took a long drink, then returned it.  Saunders started to put it back on his belt, changed his mind and set it where Mueller could reach it.

          Schmidt climbed out of the hole and returned to the others, who were waiting impatiently.

          "Will you help us get the sergeants out?"  He asked Caje.

          "Did you leave us a choice?"  Caje replied.

          "I will untie your hands, then we will go down and see what can be done."

          He went down the line, untying their hands as he explained to Wexler and Olbricht what was happening.

          Saunders crawled out of the way of sliding debris when he heard the men coming, handing Mueller his helmet to protect his head.  A moment later, seven men were standing around the two sergeants.

          "Where's Kirby?"  Saunders demanded.  "Is he okay?"

          "We left him up there.  He's still a little shaky."  Caje answered.

          "He is injured?"  Mueller asked.

          "He almost drowned.  Olbricht pulled him out of a creek."  Saunders told him.

          "I can't wait to hear the whole story."  Mueller sighed, closing his eyes again.

          "Well, Schmidt?"  Caje looked across at him.  "What do you have in mind?"

          "We have to get the beam off of him.  We tried but couldn't move it."

          "Did you check to make sure both ends are clear?"  Littlejohn asked.


          "You know, free to move."  He looked at Schmidt's expression and sighed.  "I would guess that you didn't."

          Turning, he followed the long beam to the corner and started tossing debris aside, the others joining him while Saunders sat near Mueller to watch.

          "Sergeant Saunders?"  Mueller said quietly.


          "Do you sometimes feel like a school teacher?"

          "A school teacher?"  Saunders turned to look at him questioningly.

          "Sometimes teaching, sometimes wondering what happened?"

          "Yeah."  Saunders had to chuckle.  "Sometimes.  Lately it seems like I spend more time wondering what happened."

          They fell silent, watching as the Germans and Americans worked together clearing the rubble away from the end of the beam.  When the end was cleared, Littlejohn stood staring down at it thoughtfully.

          "Hey Sarge?"


          "Wouldn't happen to have a spare grenade on you, would you?"

          Saunders jaw dropped open as he stared at the big man, then he slowly shook his head.

          "No, Littlejohn, no grenades."

          "Oh, well, guess we'll have to do it the hard way."  He grinned at Saunders, pleased to have gotten the desired reaction.

          "He was joking?"  Mueller asked.

          "I sure hope so."  Saunders replied. 

          "Let me have your gun, Schmidt."  Littlejohn held out a massive hand.

          "No."  Schmidt backed up a step.

          "Schmidt, I don't need a gun to kill you."  Littlejohn rumbled.  "All I gotta do is swat you one.  You got an axe?  A hatchet?  I didn't think so.  Gimme the gun."

          "Come on, Schmidt.  Wexler and what's-his-name still have their guns."  Caje told him.

                    Reluctantly, Schmidt handed his rifle to Littlejohn.

          "Ok, everybody get back.  Sarge, you better duck down.  I'm not sure what's gonna go flying."

          The Americans all moved over to Sarge, Doc and Nelson positioning themselves between the Sarge and Littlejohn while Wexler crouched over Mueller.

          "Here goes nothing."  Littlejohn grinned at them, then fired a burst at the end of the beam, checked the result and fired another burst.  "Okay, guys, come on back. Billy, go holler at Kirby, let him know it's okay."

          While Billy clambered up the slope, the others joined Littlejohn, who was busying studying the beam.

          "First thing we gotta do is clear that area so we can move the beam without falling over something."

          The men looked at the area he indicated, then at each other.  The area, about twenty feet by fifteen, was full of broken rocks, bricks, lumber, and dirt. 

          "Well, let's get started."  Caje pulled his jacket off and tossed it to Saunders.  He'd noticed that the sergeant had started shivering, now that the area he sat in was no longer in the sun.  As the other jackets started landing around them, Doc, who had stayed with the injured men, tucked them around Mueller and draped them over Saunders' shoulders and legs.  Billy slid back down and the men set up an assembly line of sorts, passing the rubble along the line to dump it off to the side. 

          "Hey down there!"  Kirby called softly from the edge of the hole.

          "Yeah?"  Doc answered.

          "Somebody's comin.  Can't tell who it is."

          "Help him down here."  Schmidt ordered, catching up his rifle.  "Stay down here and be very quiet.  Wexler, Olbricht, commen sie heir."

          Littlejohn guided Kirby down, then the Americans moved back away from the hole, Caje and Doc half carrying Saunders.  They hunkered down against the wall, Kirby sitting down next to Saunders.

"You okay?"  Saunders whispered.

"Yeah. You?"  He asked, looking at the bandages on Saunders' wrist and ankle.


Voices drifted down to them, speaking in German.  Hardly breathing, they listened intently.  Ten long minutes the conversation above them went on, then it was quiet.  Mueller caught Caje's eye and motioned him over.  Silently, the Cajun slipped over and crouched by his side, listening to Mueller whisper, then he returned to the squad.

          "Mueller said Schmidt told the patrol that his sergeant had ordered them to wait here.  The patrol wanted them to go with 'em, but Schmidt insisted they had to wait here.  The patrol asked how long, Schmidt said till the sergeant came back.  The patrol asked about food, Schmidt said they didn't have any.  The patrol said one of them could come and get food and bring it back.  Schmidt finally agreed and sent Olbricht.  Mueller said Olbricht would not tell them we were here."  He told them softly.

          "I hope he's right."  Littlejohn grimaced.

          "Should we start work again?"  Nelson asked.

          "Yeah, go ahead, just do it quietly."  Saunders answered.

          "What's going on?"  Kirby asked.

          After Saunders explained, Kirby pushed himself to his feet and joined the others.  By the time the three Germans returned, they had the area almost cleared.  Littlejohn and Caje approached Saunders, who was sitting against the wall with his eyes closed, picked him up and carried him to the other side of the room.  The eight men spread out along the beam and grabbed hold.

          "Okay, on 3, lift it and haul it over there. Ready?"  Littlejohn said.

          When he received affirmatives, he counted to three, and the beam was slowly moved to the side.  Once it cleared the German sergeant, he told them to drop it.  The heavy beam thumped to the floor, the men holding their breath as more dirt and rocks fell into the hole.  When all had settled, Doc hurried over to Mueller, who was unconscious, the rest of the men gathering around.

          "I don't see how, but nothing is broken.  He's badly bruised and won't be walking around for awhile, but he should be ok."

          "How do we get him out of here, Doc?"  Caje asked.

          "Quickly, while he's still unconscious.  Some of you go back up and we'll just manhandle him up and out."

          Schmidt, Wexler, Lewis, Nelson, and Kirby climbed back out, aided by the others, then they hauled Mueller up to the hole and managed to lift him high enough for the men up top to reach him.  The pressure on the dirt and rock slope was too much for the unstable pile and it started to slide, rocks bouncing down to the floor of the cellar.  Olbricht saw Saunders trying to move out of the way and flung himself down the pile, shoving Saunders back and covering him with his own body.  When the dust settled and the others got to their feet, they stumbled across the room to find Olbricht and Saunders buried nearly to their hips.  Saunders appeared to be unconscious and Olbricht was spitting out a mouthful of dirt, both of them covered with a thick layer of dust. 

          "Get 'em out!"  Caje ordered, digging frantically at the dirt.

          "Watch out for Sarge's leg."  Doc warned.

          A few minutes later, the men had cleared away the dirt and helped Olbricht, who appeared to be uninjured, to his feet.  Doc bent over Saunders, working mostly by feel, until Olbricht handed him a flashlight.

          "Doc?"  Caje asked anxiously.

          "He's got a bump on the head.  The weight of that dirt on his hand and ankle didn't help. Can we get him out that hole?"

          "I don't know, Doc.  The pile of rubble isn't as high now."

          "I can do it."  Littlejohn assured him, gauging the distance.  "The rest of you guys bring him up to me, and stay together, will you?"

          He carefully climbed back up to the point, stopping now and then to settle a loose rock, waiting while the other four carried Saunders up to him.

          "Kirby!"  He called.


          "Sarge is unconscious.  I'm going to hand him up to you, then boost the other guys. Ok?"

          "How are you planning to get out?"

          "I'll think of something.  You ready?"


          When the others reached him with Saunders, Littlejohn placed one hand between Saunders' shoulder blades, the other on his hips and lifted the limp body up over his head while Caje and Doc steadied him.  Laying on their stomachs at the edge of the hole, Kirby and Schmidt grabbed his jacket and belt, pulling him up while Lewis and Wexler held on to them to prevent them from falling in.  Once they had him up, they carried him over to lie next to Mueller, who was still unconscious, then hurried back to the hole.  One by one, Littlejohn boosted the others up and out, then stood studying the edge of the hole.  He couldn't reach it without jumping, and he knew if he jumped and missed, the whole pile he was standing on could slide and bury him.

          "You plannin' on waiting out the war down there?"  Caje called down to him.

          "No food or water?  No, thanks."  Littlejohn grinned up at him.

          "I got an idea."  Kirby announced.

          "I'm afraid to ask what it is."  Littlejohn groaned.

          "Where's that rope you had us tied with?"  Kirby rolled over to look at Schmidt.

          "Wexler?  Go get it."

          A few moments later, the end of the rope snaked down in front of Littlejohn.

          "You got it tied to something up there?"  He asked.

          "Billy's holding it."  Kirby grinned.

          "What?"  Littlejohn gaped up at him.

          "Relax.  It's secure.  Can you climb up or not?"

          Littlejohn gave the rope a tug, then reached up as high as he could and started hauling himself up hand over hand.  His head had just cleared the hole when the rope started to fray.  Kirby seized the big man's arm hard enough to make him grunt, hanging on tightly.

          "Help me!"  He yelled.

          Hands grabbed his ankles and belt while others reached past him to grasp Littlejohn, finally managing to pull him onto solid ground.  They all lay sprawled in the dust, panting for breath, weak with relief.

          "Thanks, Kirby, guys."  Littlejohn finally gasped.

          Doc crawled over to the sergeants, finding both of them coming around.  Saunders started to sit up, lying back with a groan, his good hand going to his head.

          "What happened?"  He mumbled.

          "The dirt pile slid again.  Olbricht shoved you out of the way and threw himself on top of you.  You hit your head on something and knocked yourself out.  Lay still and rest."

          "Olbricht did that?"  Saunders and Mueller asked simultaneously.

          "You two been practicing that act?"  Doc grinned, looking from one to the other.

          "It comes with being a sergeant."  Saunders grunted.

          Schmidt joined them, squatting between the two injured men.

          "We will make litters for the two of you.  We will go to our lines, and the Americans will return to the village, I assume?"  He said.

          "Unless there's a bar closer."  Saunders grinned faintly.  "I could use a drink."

          "Sorry, no alcohol with a concussion, Sarge."  Doc told him.

          Schmidt grinned at both sergeants, then left, returning shortly with the rest of the men and two makeshift stretchers.  He and Doc carefully lifted the injured men onto the stretchers, Wexler and Olbricht picking up Mueller, Caje and Kirby squatting by Saunders.

          "Americansthank you for getting me out of that cellar."  Mueller told them.

          "Schmidt, tell Olbricht thank you for protecting me down there."  Saunders said.

          Schmidt did so, Olbricht nodded to Saunders, then the Germans simply walked away, leaving the Americans surprised and relieved.

          "I didn't think they'd do it."  Nelson marveled.

          "Like Sarge says, there's no rules in war."  Littlejohn commented.

          "I can walk.  I don't need this thing."  Saunders said irritably.

          "Sarge, you can't put any weight on that foot."  Doc protested.

          "Caje.  Help me up."  Saunders snapped.

          Caje looked at Doc, shrugged helplessly, and took Saunders good arm, pulling him to a sitting position.  His face went white and he closed his eyes against a wave of dizziness, not protesting when Caje gently lowered him back down.  Kirby and Lewis quickly grabbed the ends of the stretcher and picked it up.  Caje and Doc lead the way, followed by Kirby and Lewis, while Littlejohn and Nelson brought up the rear.  Saunders remained awake, but appeared content to lie still, occasionally opening his eyes.  When they reached the narrow footbridge, they stopped to rest.

          "How we gonna get him across that?"  Kirby asked.  "I don't think it will hold three of us."

          "Easy."  Littlejohn grinned from where he was kneeling beside the sergeant to give him a drink of water.  "You guys go on across.  Then I'll toss him across and you catch him."

          Saunders choked on the water he was trying to swallow and sat up, coughing.  The abrupt change in position brought on a wave of dizziness and nausea and he was promptly sick.  Aghast at the unintended result of his teasing, the big man supported Saunders till he was finished, then gently wiped his face.  Sick, hurting, and exhausted, the sergeant lay back against the support of Littlejohn's arms, his eyes closed.  Careful not to jar him, Littlejohn gathered him in his arms as though he were a small child and got to his feet.   Motioning with his head for the others to follow him, he moved up the creek till he reached the wider, shallower part, then waded across, the others following him.  Once across, he gently laid the injured man back on the stretcher and picked up one end while Caje took the other.  When they finally reached the village again, they found Lieutenant Hanley waiting for them.  At the sight of the sergeant, who was sleeping, his anger was replaced with concern.

          "What happened?"  He demanded.

          "Kirby, Lewis, you tell him while we get Sarge settled."  Caje said.


          Saunders opened his eyes slowly, hoping the dizziness had passed.  Thankfully, it had, and he found Kirby sitting on the ground next to the blankets he lay on.  He tried to speak, but it came out an unintelligible croak.  Kirby glanced over and broke into a grin.

          "How ya feelin', Sarge?"



          With a gentleness and patience Saunders didn't know Kirby possessed, the soldier slid a hand under his head and slowly and carefully lifted him enough to drink, then just as carefully lowered him back down.

          "Where is everybody?"  Saunders realized it was dead quiet.

          "Out on patrol.  I stayed behind to keep an eye on you.  You've been asleep for, uh, fourteen hours."

          "Fourteen hours?"

          "Yep.  Doc said it's okay, though.  Said it's the concussion along with the sprains."

          "How bad is it?"

          "Doc said the ankle isn't too bad, a few days rest should be enough, but the wrist is badly sprained.  The Lieutenant said something about keeping you home doing paperwork for a couple weeks."  Kirby grinned, handing him a lit cigarette.  "They should be back any time now.  The Lieutenant's been checking on you every couple hours."


          "Yeah, Sarge?"

          "Think you could find me something to eat?"

          "Sure.  Be back in a few minutes."

          Startled by the sound of a sneeze, Saunders opened his eyes to find the Lieutenant just lowering himself to the ground at his side.

          "Hi, Lieutenant."  Saunders grinned at him.

          "Hi yourself.  How you feeling?"

          "Hungry.  Where's Kirby?  I asked him to get me something to eat."

          "That was four hours ago, Saunders."  Hanley chuckled.  "Think you can stay awake long enough to eat this time?"


          "Kirby!"  Hanley yelled.  "He's awake."

          "On my way."  Kirby called back.

          Much to Saunders surprise and pleasure, Kirby appeared a moment later with a plate of hot chow and a cup of steaming coffee.  After Hanley helped him sit up, Kirby set the tin plate on a fold of blanket in Saunders' lap, then disappeared again.

          "Anything interesting happen while I was napping?"  Saunders asked.

          "Nope.  We put the war on hold for you."  He laughed at the look Saunders gave him. "No, Sergeant, everything is status quo.  Neither side managed to accomplish anything in the last two days.  Get yourself some rest.  I'll be by later."

          "Yes, sir."

          Hanley hauled himself to his feet and clapped his friend on the shoulder as he left.


The End

Story Copyright Mary Wright. All Rights Reserved.

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The CombatFan web site thanks Mary (aka "EagleLady") for letting us share these fan fiction stories on this web site.