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Combat! Fan Fiction
Mary Wright "Eagle Lady"


          The sound of distant gunfire floated through the quiet glen where the men of Sergeant Saunders' squad sat quietly eating their noon rations with less than noticeable enthusiasm.

          "Hey, Caje?"  Kirby looked up from the can he was holding.


          "When was the last time we had hot chow?"

          "What month is this?"  Caje shrugged.

          "That's what I thought.  Don't those generals back there know we gotta have good, hot food if they want us to fight?"

          "Why don't you go ask 'em?"  Littlejohn grinned at Kirby.

          "Why don't you take a long walk off a short pier?"  He shot back.

          "You jokers better eat while you can."  Doc attempted to defuse the building confrontation.  "We gotta go back on the line pretty soon."

          "When's Item Company gonna get up here to relieve us?  Seems like we've been here for weeks."  Billy looked up at Saunders, who was leaning against a tree while he smoked a cigarette.

          "I don't know, Nelson.  They got their own problems."

          "And we don't?"  Kirby griped.

          "What problems, Kirby?"  Littlejohn asked.  "It's not raining. The sun is shining. Nobody's shooting at you.  You got food to eat."

          "Aw, shut up, you big moose."  Kirby scowled at him.

          "Who you callin'..."  Littlejohn growled.

          "Knock it off."  Saunders snapped.  "Shut up and eat.  Do your fighting with the Krauts, not each other."

          Littlejohn and Kirby scowled at each other, but wisely kept quiet and finished eating.  Doc dipped a cup of coffee out of Billy's battered helmet and carried it to Saunders, who accepted it gratefully.

          "They're just blowin' off steam, Sarge."  Doc said quietly.  "They don't mean nothin' by it."

          Saunders sipped the hot liquid, looking at the medic over the top of the cup.

          "I know that, Doc."  He said finally.  "I'm just not in the mood to listen to it right now."

          "You okay, Sarge?"  Doc asked, immediately concerned.

          "Yeah, Doc.  I'm fine."

      "Hey, Sarge, looks like the captain's coming in."  Caje observed, getting to his feet.

          The rest of the squad clambered to their feet, tossing their empty boxes and cans into a pile.  They watched in silence as the private stopped the jeep a short distance from Lieutenant Hanley, who'd been eating his own lunch while perched on a log.  When Jampel waved his driver off to join the squad while he and Hanley talked, the private hurried over before the captain changed his mind.

          "Hey, Davis."  Kirby grinned at him.  "How ya doin'?"

          "Okay. You?"

          "Just peachy."

          "Hey, guys, look what I got!"  Davis made a big production out of drawing a box from inside his jacket, nearly dropping his rifle.

          "What?  Your old lady send you some socks?"  Kirby laughed.

          "Even better.  Chocolate chip cookies!"

          "Cookies!"  Billy and Caje exclaimed at the same time.

          "Chocolate chip!"  Littlejohn's grin almost split his face.

          "You got a girl you forgot to tell us about?"  Kirby asked.

          "Yes. No."  Davis answered, concentrating on opening the box without dropping it.

          "Which is it?  Yes or no?" Littlejohn asked.

          "Well, it was one of those church things where they ask folks to remember us guys over here.  This gal whose dad is friends with my dad sent the cookies.  So I guess you could call her a girlfriend."

          "You could?"  Billy wrinkled his forehead, thinking about that.

          "Sure.  She's a girl, isn't she?  And if her dad is friends with my dad, we could be friends."

          "You ever meet her?"  Kirby asked.

          "Well, no."  Davis finally got the box opened and held it out.  "Want some?"

          None of the men bothered to answer as they grabbed for the cookies.  Davis glanced over at Doc and Saunders, who was still leaning on the tree, watching them.  Pulling the box away from Kirby, he walked over.

          "You guys want some cookies?"

          "Thanks, Davis."  Saunders grinned and took one.

          "Take a couple more, else Kirby'll get 'em all."  Davis grinned.

          "Thanks."  Doc took a couple, grinning back at the private.

          "You're welcome."

          Heading back towards the others, Davis glanced down into the box and stopped in his tracks.

          "Holy cow!"  He exclaimed.

          "What's the matter, Davis?"  Caje asked.

          "She put her picture in here.  Will you look at that!"

          The men crowded around, jostling each other to get a look.

          "Davis."  Jampel called.

          "What a looker!"  Kirby sounded awed.

          "And you haven't met this angel?"  Caje asked suspiciously.

          "Davis!"  Jampel called again.

          "She's beautiful!"  Billy said reverently.

          Saunders pushed off the tree and came over to tap Davis on the shoulder.

          "The captain's already called you twice, Davis.  Better get over there."  He advised.

          "Oh my gosh!" Davis turned and ran while stuffing the box back inside his jacket.

          He stepped in a hole and went down with a thud and a scream of pain.  Stuffing the rest of his cookie into his mouth, Doc ran over and knelt beside him, the two officers and the rest of the squad joining him a couple seconds later.  Davis was lying on his side, his right leg drawn up, clutching his ankle and moaning with pain.  Gently pulling his hands away, Doc examined the already swelling joint.

          "Doc?"  Hanley questioned.

          "He isn't going anywhere for a while, sir.  It's broken."

          "Alright.  Take care of him, Doc.  Saunders, you just got promoted to driver.  Caje, you're in charge."  Hanley announced.

          Startled by the decision, Saunders looked from Hanley to Caje, then shrugged.  They were on a 12-hour reserve, so there shouldn't be any trouble.  Wherever the officers were headed, he should be back well before they were due on the line again.  While the rest of the men helped Doc move Davis to a better spot, he followed the officers back to the jeep, picking up his Thompson and his helmet on the way.


          "Yes, Sergeant?"  Jampel stopped and turned to look at him.

          "Where am I driving to, sir?"

          "We're going to the village of Senlia.  You know where it is?"

          "North of here somewhere.  Do you have a map, sir?"

          "Davis had one.  I suppose it's still in the jeep."

          The two officers turned and walked away, talking quietly.  Waving a hand to his squad, Saunders climbed into the jeep and started looking for the map.  Looking at the amount of wrappers scattered around the floor, he decided that Davis must keep the chewing gum factories in business all by himself.  After finally locating the map, Saunders anchored it under his left leg and settled the Thompson on his right, between the seats.

          "Hey, Sarge!"  Kirby called as he trotted over to the jeep.

          "Yeah, what is it?"

          "Here.  You might want these later."

          With a grin, Kirby shoved a pack of cigarettes into his hands.  Feeling something else under the pack, Saunders glanced down to find two cookies.

          "Thanks, Kirby."  Saunders said with a chuckle.

          Clapping his sergeant on the shoulder, Kirby rejoined the squad as Jampel got into the front seat, and Hanley climbed into the back.

          "Alright, Sergeant.  Let's go."  Jampel nodded.

          Dropping the items into his pocket, Saunders started the jeep and headed down the dirt road. 


          "Is he gonna be alright?"  Billy asked, watching Doc splint the private's ankle.

          "Yeah.  I think so.  He won't be doing any driving for a few weeks, that's for sure."

          "Was he mad?"  Davis asked through clenched teeth.

          "Who?"  Doc stared at him.

          "The captain."  Davis really looked worried.  "I just started driving for him a week ago.  He's a really good guy and I don't wanna make him mad.  Maybe if you just wrap it up real tight, I could still drive."

          "Forget it."  Doc told him.

          "Don't worry about it, Davis."  Caje soothed.  "He wasn't mad at you.  As a matter of fact, he told Doc to take real good care of you."

          Billy looked puzzled at the lie, but sensibly kept quiet about it.

          "He did?"  Davis started to relax.

          "He sure did, Davis."  Kirby put in.  "You just take it easy and let Doc fix your foot.  Don't worry about nothin'."

          "I'm going to give you something for the pain, Davis.  You just take it easy."  Doc gave him an injection of morphine, watching as the young private's muscles relaxed and his eyes closed.

          "Anybody for a game?"  Kirby held up a deck of cards.

          "No thanks.  I'm gonna grab some shut-eye."  Littlejohn shook his head.

          "Me, too."  Billy yawned and stretched.

          They ambled across the hollow and stretched out in the shade, asleep in minutes.  Doc rearranged the contents of his bag, then settled down beside Davis.

          "I'm gonna keep an eye on Davis, if you guys wanna grab some sleep, too."  Doc suggested.

          "Might as well, nothin' else to do."  Kirby shrugged and found himself a spot in the shade.

          Caje lit a smoke and sat down next to Doc.

          "I can keep watch, Caje.  Get some sleep."

          "It's okay, Doc.  I'm not tired."  He smiled.  "I'd rather just enjoy the peace and quiet."

          Leaning against a log a short distance from the sleeping private, the two men sat in companionable silence until Doc, too, nodded off.



          Reaching a crossroads, Saunders stopped the jeep and retrieved the map.  Hanley's hand appeared over his shoulder, holding a lit cigarette.

          "Thanks, Lieutenant." 

          "Do you know where we are?"

          "Yes, sir."  He pointed to the map.  "Right here."

          Tucking the map back under his thigh, Saunders started the jeep moving again.  Hanley settled back and tipped his helmet down over his eyes, trying to snatch a little sleep. 

          Both officers were asleep when the sergeant noticed steam coming from the front of the jeep and pulled off of the road into the shade of the tall trees.  He climbed out of the vehicle and opened the hood quietly, not wanting to disturb the officers unless he had to.  It was the radiator.  It was badly in need of water.  Moving to the back of the jeep, he hefted the five gallon water can.  Empty, of course.  According to the map, there was a stream not too far away.  Reluctantly, he shook the lieutenant's shoulder.


          "What is it?"  Hanley sat up straight, immediately alert.

          "I have to go get water for the radiator.  I thought one of you should be awake, sir."

          "How far do you have to go?"

          "According to the map, about a quarter of a mile or less."

          "Alright.  Keep your eyes open, sergeant."

          "Yes, sir."

          Removing his Thompson carefully, so as not to disturb the captain, he slung it over his shoulder and moved off through the trees.  Once out of sight of the lieutenant, he fished one of the cookies out of his pocket and munched on it as he walked.  He decided that he was going to live on nothing but cookies and milk for a month when he got back home.

          The German .88s were going off to the south, too far away to him to worry about.  Shifting the can to the other hand, he enjoyed the walk through the trees, listening to the birds singing while a slight breeze ruffled through the leaves.  Reaching the stream, he filled the can, lit a cigarette and headed back for the jeep, finding the walk a lot less enjoyable lugging the heavy can of water. 

          He had almost reached the jeep when he heard angry shouts.  Setting the can down, he slid the Thompson off of his shoulder and eased through the low brush and trees until he could see the jeep.  Hanley and Jampel were both standing beside the vehicle with their hands in the air.  He could see what looked like blood on one side of Hanley's face.  Jampel was doing the yelling.

          "We are officers.  We expect to be treated like officers.  We are not

sergeants!"  The last word echoed through the trees.

          He wasn't sure if the captain was attempting to warn him or was calling for help, but in either case, there was no way to let Jampel know that he had heard.

          Fingering the trigger on his gun, Saunders studied the situation carefully.  There were five Germans that he could see, and maybe a few others out of sight.  He assumed that the two officers had been disarmed, so they were out of any firefight.  Chances were high that one or both would be wounded or killed if he tried to take the Germans now.  If only the squad were here, they might have a chance.  Alone, with only one gun and the officers in such a vulnerable position, what could he do?  If he yelled at the officers to get down, would they react fast enough or would the Krauts cut them down?  He was studying the terrain, trying to find a better angle, when two more Krauts appeared.  So much for that plan.  Seven to one was just too many, at least with the officers there. 

          The jeep was out of commission and he didn't see a vehicle, so that meant they would have to walk.  Maybe they did have a vehicle and he just couldn't see it from where he was.  Carefully watching where he stepped, the sergeant moved through the trees, bypassing the jeep, until he was sure the Germans didn't have a vehicle, then returned to his original position.

          The  Germans pulled the two officers away from the jeep and shoved them down the road, forming a loose circle around them.  Hanley and Jampel walked close together, apparently talking quietly.  The Germans yelled at them and pushed them apart.  Ignoring them, the two officers moved back together.  Saunders grinned when the Krauts separated the two, pushing Jampel to the front, and Hanley to the rear.  One of the Germans took the point, leaving three to guard each officer.

          Hanley was apparently having trouble walking, stumbling and shaking his head, slowly falling behind the group with Jampel.  Saunders wasn't sure whether he was faking or not, but he was sure providing a good chance for rescue.  Now, how could he let the lieutenant know he was ready and waiting?  Desperately searching his pockets for something...anything...he could use, he discovered a clicker.  Where had that come from?   He'd figure that out later, right now, he'd just accept it gratefully. 

          The man on point and the three with Jampel would be around a bend in the road in a minute.  If Hanley could just slow his group a little bit...            

          Holding the clicker close to the ground to try to disguise the source, Saunders clicked it just once.  The Germans paid no attention, but Hanley stiffened slightly.  The second the leading group was out of sight, Hanley stumbled and went to his hands and knees. 

          Moving as quietly as he could, Saunders raced out of the trees toward the group of Germans who were focused on the officer.  He smashed the butt of the Thompson against the unprotected back of the neck of one Kraut, continuing the swing to catch another full in the face, both of them going down without a sound.            Hanley, meantime, had taken the other one down, his hands locked around the soldier's throat.  Grabbing a knife from one of his victims, Saunders thrust it into the German's chest.  Slinging his Thompson over his shoulder, Saunders grabbed the two German rifles with one hand, Hanley's arm with the other and pulled the lieutenant back into the trees. 

          "You alright?"  He demanded.


          "Take this and come on."  Saunders shoved one of the rifles into Hanley's hands, then headed deeper into the trees, Hanley on his heels.

          After a few minutes, he slowed to a walk, listening, then stopped and turned to face the lieutenant who had a wicked gash on his cheekbone which was still bleeding. 

          "You sure you're alright, Lieutenant?"  He asked, handing him his handkerchief to stem the bleeding.

          "Yeah.  I'm okay.  Where did you come from?"

          "I got back to the jeep just before they led you off.  Is the captain alright?"


          "Did you forget to duck, Lieutenant?"  Saunders grinned.

          "Something like that."

          "Where are they taking Jampel?  Did they say?"

          "They wanted the jeep to get to an OP, I think.  Then they figured out that we were officers.  They didn't say where the OP was, but it must be a ways away because they were mad that the jeep wouldn't run.  Got a plan, Sergeant?"

          "According to the map, this road turns back on itself right here. I figure if we cut across through the trees, we should be able to catch up with them and get the captain back."  Saunders' tone made it a suggestion.

          "Alright.  You saw the map.  Lead out."  Hanley agreed.

          Saunders settled the German rifle strap over his left shoulder, the strap to the Thompson over his right with the weapon ready, and started through the trees at a trot.  After a short distance, he glanced back to check on the lieutenant, who grinned at him.

          "I told you I was okay.  Keep going."

          "Yes, sir." 


          Caje listened uneasily to the thunder of the .88s, stubbing his cigarette out in the dirt beside him.  M-1 in hand, he glided to his feet and across the glen.  He started up the slope, then hesitated, glancing behind him at the sleeping men.  Trotting back down, he crouched beside Kirby and shook him awake.

          "Kirby."  He kept his voice low.

          Kirby opened his eyes without moving,  the unusual note in Caje's voice bringing immediate awareness.


          "I'm going to scout around.  I need somebody awake here."

          "Thanks for the honor."  He grumbled without animosity.

          "You're welcome."  Caje grinned.

          Before Kirby was all the way off the ground, Caje had slipped away through the trees toward the top of the hill.  Kirby automatically checked the BAR to be sure it was loaded and in working order, then went over to check on Davis.  He and Doc were both asleep, as were Littlejohn and Billy. Stretching, Kirby took a drink of water, then lit a cigarette as he strolled around the little hollow, just inside the treeline.

          Caje returned at a trot, nearly running into Kirby, who had taken cover behind a tree until he was sure who was coming.

          "What's goin' on, Caje?"

          "We don't have to go back to the line.  It's coming to us."


          "The Krauts are pushing back this way.  Tell Doc to get Davis ready to move while I wake the others."


          While Kirby hurried back and shook Doc awake, Caje woke Billy and Littlejohn.

          "What's up?"  Littlejohn asked as they all gathered close to Davis.

          "The Krauts are moving back this way.  We're gonna pull back to that farmhouse or whatever it was back there.  Billy, help Doc with Davis.  Kirby, you take the point.  Littlejohn, help me hide this stuff so they don't know we were here."

          While Doc, Billy, and Kirby rigged up a litter for Davis, Littlejohn and Caje gathered up the trash left from their meal and buried it under leaves and other forest debris.

          "Ready, Caje."  Kirby called.

          "Alright, move out."

          Caje waited as the others moved off, scrambling back up the hill for one last look before running after the group. 

          "Step on it.  We wanna get there before they do."  He urged.

          Kirby dropped back and he and Littlejohn helped Doc and Billy with the litter.  Doc was grateful that Davis was still out, considering the bouncing he was taking as they trotted along.  They were all relieved when they reached the ruins of the building that sat just below the crest of a hill.

          "Get Davis inside and under whatever cover you can find.  Littlejohn, if the floor will hold you, get upstairs and keep watch.  Billy, you and Kirby keep an eye on the back and sides.  Doc..."

          "Yeah, I know.  Stay down."  He grinned.


          "Kirby, I'm going back for a look.  If I don't come back, you're in charge."

          "You just see that you do come back, Caje.  I'm a follower, not a leader."  Kirby retorted.

          Caje turned back and locked eyes with the BAR man, his expression somber.

          "You do just fine, Kirby."

          Kirby watched the Cajun walk away, somewhat stunned at the unusual praise.  He caught Doc watching him and felt himself blush.

          "He's right, Kirby."  Doc told him, his voice low enough that Billy couldn't hear.  "You do just fine.  Give yourself a little credit."

          "Yeah, well, I don't want to lead anyone.  I don't want anyone's life depending on me."  He groused.

          "You think the sarge does?  You think the lieutenant does?  What do you think they did, walk up to the draft board and say 'make me responsible for a bunch of lives'?  They didn't ask for the job, but they do it.  Same as you when you have to.  You did just fine when Caje and Sarge both got it a couple months ago.  You got the wounded out and stopped a Kraut push, remember?"

          "Well, this time I ain't gonna have to, 'cause Caje is coming back."

          Jerking the BAR into a more comfortable position, Kirby moved over to the window and peered out.  Billy returned his attention to the window, wondering what Doc and Kirby had been whispering about.  After ten tension-filled minutes, Caje did return.

          "Littlejohn!"  He called softly.

          When Littlejohn reached the ground, he found the squad squatting and kneeling around Doc and Davis, who was now awake.

          "There's more of them than there are of us.  With luck, they'll pass us by.  Stay alert, but stay quiet.  Kirby, I want the BAR upstairs where you have a better field of fire.  Billy, you go up with him.  Littlejohn, stay down here.  You may need to help Doc.  Questions?"  Caje looked around at the tense faces of the men he was responsible for.

          "I can shoot, Caje."  Davis said.  "Can't run too good, but I can shoot."

          "I'm counting on that, Davis."  Caje grinned.

          "How many of 'em are there?"  Billy asked.

          "Not more'n a hundred or so."

          "What?"  Billy's voice squeaked.

          "I don't know how many, Billy." Caje chuckled.  "I didn't stop to count.  Take your positions and keep an eye out.  Don't fire unless you have to.  You see anything moving, give me a call."

          "Okay."  Billy headed up the steps.

          "Caje?"  Kirby paused partway up.


          "I'm glad you're back."  He grinned.

          "Yeah, me too, pal."  Caje grinned back.

          Littlejohn stepped over to one of the front windows, leaving Caje with Doc and Davis.  Doc rose and moved toward the back, motioning with his head for the Cajun to follow.

          "What is it, Doc?"

          "How bad is it, Caje?"

          "It's not good.  Four guns and one man injured.  And what looks like half the German army headed this way."

          "Can we make a run for it?"

          "Not with Davis.  We're stuck here."

          "How will the sarge find us here?"

          "I think the sarge probably has his own problems right now.  You just keep your head down, Doc."

          With a forced cheerful expression replacing the worried one, Doc returned to sit beside Davis while Caje took up a position at the other front window.



          Hanley and Saunders crouched under cover near the road, watching the group in front of them.  The Germans looked extremely nervous, constantly checking over their shoulders and into the trees on either side of the road.

          "I think they're wondering what happened back there."  Saunders whispered, grinning at the lieutenant.

          "Looks like it made them a bit nervous."  Hanley agreed.

          "How do you want to play it, Lieutenant?"

          Hanley didn't answer immediately, studying the group.  The three Kraut guards were close to the captain, the man on point only ten feet ahead.  They were too close to Jampel for them to fire, too close to him for them to reach him. 

          Jampel was walking slowly, apparently trying to delay them to give Hanley a chance.  Unfortunately, right now there was no chance to do anything.  The captain turned his head and Hanley cursed.  The Germans appeared to have taken their anger out on the captain.  Even at this distance, they could see one eye was nearly swollen shut and that side of his face was covered with blood.  Now they knew why he was moving slowly and staggering occasionally.

          "Stinkin' Krauts!  We're going to have to wait, Sergeant.  Unless you have any ideas?"

          "I've got one, but it's risky, sir."

          "War is risky.  What's your idea?"

          "It may not work."  Saunders warned.

          "Come on, Sergeant."  Hanley snapped.  "Spit it out."

          The lieutenant listened closely while Saunders outlined his plan, nodding occasionally.            

          "Where are you planning on getting all this blood?"

          "From me."

          "I think we're going to have to try it, Saunders.  If we wait too long, they'll have him in the OP and the two of us won't have a chance.  Help me get ready."

          "Yes, sir."

          A few minutes later, the Germans stopped in their tracks, their mouths agape.  The American lieutenant, whom they thought had escaped, was stumbling out of the woods towards them, liberally spattered with blood, and the front and sleeves of his uniform were hanging in shreds. 

          "Help me!"  He was all but screaming.  "It's after me!  You've got to help me!"

          He lurched toward them, one hand clutching his stomach, the other outstretched in supplication.  The Germans stared at him, then looked at each other, totally bewildered.

          "It's coming after me!  Help me!"  He begged, clutching the arm of the nearest soldier.

          "What's after you?"  One demanded.

          "A wolf!  It attacked me!"

          Behind him, in the trees, there was a thrashing sound and low bushes swayed and danced.  The lieutenant cried out in fear and cowered behind the soldier. Like most Europeans, having been raised on tales of wolves and werewolves, the soldiers reacted precisely as the Americans hoped they would.  Temporarily forgetting about the captain, all four stared at the bushes, expecting a ferocious wolf to emerge.

          The lieutenant seized the captain and dragged him back out of the way, at the same time pulling Saunders' .45 from his jacket.  The echoing reverberation of the .45 merged with the spitting of the Thompson and the four Germans went down, still looking for the wolf.

          Sprawled on his back in the dusty road, Jampel stared in dazed disbelief at the lieutenant and the sergeant, who was running from the trees to join them.

          "What happened?"  He asked.

          "Later, sir."  Saunders said.  "Can you walk?"

          "I think so."

          "Let's get out of here, then, sir."

          He and Hanley pulled the still bewildered captain to his feet and handed him the extra German rifle.  He held it loosely in one hand, the other going to his head.  When he staggered and nearly fell, Saunders and Hanley exchanged dismayed looks.  They each took one of the captain's arms and headed back the way they'd come as fast as the captain could move.  Saunders led them off the road and back into the trees, urging the captain to hurry. 

          "Sergeant!"  Hanley finally said.  "He needs to rest."

          "Yes, sir."  He stopped and helped Hanley lower the captain to the ground, then faced back the way they'd come, searching for any signs of pursuit.

          "Captain?  How do you feel?"  Hanley asked.

          "I'm okay, Crowley.  Have you taken the farmhouse yet?"

          "Crowley?"  Saunders stared at Hanley in consternation.

          "You just rest, Captain."  Hanley patted his shoulder.  "Which way to the jeep, Sergeant?" 

          "Lieutenant, I don't think it would be a good idea to go back there."

          "And why not?"

          "Well, sir, for one thing, the radiator is shot and the jeep would quit again.  For another, if there's more Krauts around, it's easier to avoid them on foot."

          "Alright, Sergeant.  I see your point.  What would you suggest?"

          "Head for Senlia, sir."

          "On foot?"

          "Yes, sir.  It's shorter going cross country than it is by the road."

          "Did you bring the map?"

          "No, sir."

          "Can you find Senlia without it?"

          "Yes, sir."

          "Alright, let's go."

          Saunders offered both the officers a drink from his canteen, since theirs had been taken by the Germans, then he and Hanley helped the captain to his feet.  Hanley pulled the captain's arm over his shoulders and nodded at Saunders to move out.  The sergeant headed north, dividing his attention between the country in front of him and the two officers behind him.  The captain was mumbling quietly about the farmhouse and paratroopers; Hanley was trying to get him to be quiet. 

          Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Saunders instantly waved the officers down.  Hanley pushed Jampel to the ground on his back, and clapped a hand over his mouth.  Crouching behind a tree, Saunders watched the German patrol approach.


          Caje licked dry lips, wishing he dared to light a cigarette, hating the waiting, hating the silence.  Littlejohn shifted slightly, his boot scraping against the floor.  Signaling Littlejohn to remain where he was, Caje crept quietly up the stairs.

          "Kirby?"  He called very softly.


          "How many grenades you got?"




          Equally silently, Caje returned to the first floor, easing up behind Littlejohn.

          "How many grenades do you have?"

          "Three."  Littlejohn answered after a quick check.  "You got something in mind?"

          "No.  Just checking."

          Caje made a careful, quiet circuit from window to window,  then crouched beside Doc.

          "How ya doin'?"



          "I'm alright.  You want me to move over to one of the windows?"

          "No.  Stay here."

          He returned to the window, kneeling on the floor so that only the top of his head showed above the sill.  The sharp crack of a breaking stick had all six men tensing.  Without moving anything but his eyes, Caje checked the hill below them, spotting  at least ten Germans moving past, heading west along the bottom of the hill.  Caje lifted a hand slightly, signaling Doc and Davis to be quiet and still, surprised that the Krauts couldn't hear his heart pounding. 

          One of the Germans glanced up the hill at the farmhouse and said something to one of the others, and he, too, looked at the farmhouse.  Caje froze, holding his breath, peripherally aware that Littlejohn was doing the same.  Well aware that a man could feel he was being watched, Caje was careful not to look directly at either man.  After a moment, the second man shrugged and moved on.  The first man continued to stare at the house for a long minute, then he followed the others.  Caje let out a silent sigh of relief, glancing over at Littlejohn who blew his cheeks out in exaggerated release.

          Very cautiously, Caje ghosted over to the side window to watch as the Germans continued on their way.  When they were out of sight, Caje motioned Littlejohn to relax and cat-footed his way up the stairs.  Billy was crouched beside one of the front windows, Kirby at the side window.

          "Keep your eyes open, there'll be more."  He ordered.

          "Maybe the rest went another way."  Billy suggested hopefully.

          "Yeah, maybe.  Keep watch anyway."

          Wishing mightily that the sarge was here, Caje headed back downstairs, trying not to let the others see how scared he was.  They had no hope of rescue since nobody knew they were here; the sarge didn't know they had moved, and even if he returned and found them gone, he would have no idea where they had gone; they had no radio; he didn't know where the American forces were or what was happening out there.  All he could do was try to keep the men who depended on him alive.  He decided that he did not want to be a sergeant.  After taking a short swig from his canteen, he resumed his watch by the window.

          "Caje."  Caje twisted around, startled.  Doc had moved up beside him without making a sound.

          "Yeah, Doc?"

          "You're doing fine."  Doc dropped a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

          "Yeah?"  Caje retorted skeptically.

          "Even if he was here, the sarge couldn't do anymore than you are. Don't doubt yourself, Caje."

          With that, Doc returned to Davis.  Caje stared after him, wondering how the medic did that.  He always seemed to know when a wounded man needed more painkiller, or just needed reassured.  The man seemed to read minds, always knowing who needed a word of encouragement or a pat on the shoulder.  Funny thing was, he felt more confident now.

          "Caje!"  Billy hissed from the top of the stairs.

          Caje hurried to the foot of the stairs, looking up at the young soldier.

          "More Krauts coming.  From the east."

          Waving an acknowledgment, Caje returned to his position, peering out the window.  A smaller group, maybe five Germans, was following the same path as the first group.  They glanced up the hill without much interest, continuing to walk.  Just as Caje was starting to relax, there was a spat of noise as a couple birds got into an argument and burst into flight from the top of the building.  The Krauts whirled and dropped, then started working their way up the hill.

          "Caje?"  Littlejohn whispered.


          They crouched in tense silence, watching as the enemy soldiers slowly moved up the hill toward their position.


          Saunders forced himself to relax his hold on the Thompson, reminding himself to breathe.  If they got him and Hanley, the captain wouldn't have a chance.  He was pretty sure that he and the lieutenant could take out the patrol, but if he was wrong...better to let them go on by if possible. 

          Glancing back over his shoulder, he saw that Hanley was crouched next to the captain, one hand on the officer's mouth, the other holding the German rifle ready.  Hanley caught the sergeant's eyes and mouthed the word 'wait'.  Nodding his understanding, Saunders resumed watching the patrol.  Apparently oblivious to the Americans, the patrol kept moving, talking quietly.  When they were well away, Saunders dropped down with a sigh of relief to sit with his back to the tree.

Hanley also relaxed from his crouch, sitting beside the now quiet captain.

          "Looks like they broke through, Lieutenant."  Saunders said softly.

          "Looks that way."

          "What do you want to do, sir?  Go on to Senlia or try to get back to the squad?"

          "Which are we closer to?"

          "My guess would be Senlia, sir."

          "We need to get the captain to an aid station.  We'll try for Senlia."

          "Yes, sir.  Is he out?"

          "No.  Not completely, anyway."

          "Ready, sir?"

          "Yeah, let's go."

          Saunders pushed himself to his feet and helped Hanley get the captain upright again.  Jampel looked around, perplexed.

          "Crowley?  Where are we?  Is everyone off the beach?"

          "Yes, sir."  Hanley assured him.  "Everyone is off the beach.  We need to move on inland now.  Let me help you, sir."

          Hanley pulled Jampel's arm over his shoulder again, supporting him with an arm around his back, the rifle dangling from his arm by the strap.

          "Alright, Sergeant.  Move out."

          Saunders cautiously worked his way through the trees, trying to find the easiest route for Hanley while staying in the heaviest cover.  Not an easy task.  The captain would occasionally start to talk, and Hanley would try to shush him.  Hanley looked up from his latest attempt to quiet the captain and realized that the sergeant had stopped.

          "What is it, Saunders?"

          "We have an open area to cross, sir.  If you stay here with the captain, I'll go take a look."

          "Alright.  Take care of yourself."

          "Yes, sir."  Saunders grinned.

          He handed the lieutenant his canteen, checked the Thompson and moved away.  Hanley helped the captain sit down with his back against a tree and offered him a drink.  Jampel drank greedily, then put his head back and closed his eyes.  Standing so as to blend in with the tree trunk, Hanley kept watch, periodically checking the captain who appeared to be sleeping.

          Saunders picked his way through what remained of the trees, then squatted down and studied the open meadow that lay before him.  Along the left side was a smattering of trees and fairly thick bushes, to the right the meadow climbed a low hill with no available cover.  On the far side, across that open area, the trees were once again thick and sheltering.  All he had to do was get there.   Once again wishing the squad was with him, he opted to move to the left, taking advantage of what cover there was.  He double-checked to make sure he could find the officers again, then moved from tree to bush in a low crouch.   He would have to follow the line of cover along the edge of the meadow to the far side, then plot a course from there.

          Removing his helmet, he ran a hand through his hair, then plopped the helmet back on.  No sense delaying it.  He would either make it or he wouldn't, and every minute he delayed put the two officers in further jeopardy.  He worked his way forward twenty feet or so, then stopped to listen and search for any signs of the Germans. 

          Another forty feet and he'd be at the far edge of the meadow.  So far, so good.  The trees had ended and the only cover was low bramble bushes.  Boy, did he hate those brambles.  Not only did they scratch and catch on every piece of clothing and equipment, but they were noisy to move through as well.  How they were going to get the captain through here, he had no idea.

          Dropping to the ground with the Thompson cradled in his arms, he crawled through the bushes, cursing silently.  Finally reaching the end, he stopped to rest for a moment.  Absently reaching for his canteen, he froze at the sound of approaching footsteps.


          Moving from bush to tree to rock, the German soldiers inched their way up the hill toward the building.  Caje watched them come, his grip tightening on the M-1.  He didn't want to get in a firefight now.  The gunfire would likely bring the other Germans back.  He considered letting them enter, then taking them but with Doc and Davis to think about, it was too big of a chance.  If they didn't change their minds, he would have to open fire in a few seconds.

          Reluctantly, Caje raised his gun over the edge of the window sill and fired, Littlejohn following suit.  Upstairs, he could hear the BAR and Billy's M-1 opening up.  The Germans got off one shot, which thunked into the wall just below Caje's window, then they were all down. 

          "Cover me."  He ordered Littlejohn, then went through the doorway in a low crouch.  Gathering guns and grenades as he went, Caje checked to be sure they were all dead, hurrying back inside to dump the weapons and grenades in a pile by the wall.

          "Give me a hand, Littlejohn.  I want to get them out of sight."


          "In here, in the back corner.  Maybe if they don't see anything when they come, the Krauts will leave again."

          "Want some help?"  Kirby called from halfway down the steps.

          "No.  You two keep your eyes open up there."

          Slinging their weapons over their shoulders, Caje and Littlejohn dragged and carried the dead Germans into the building, then Caje went back out and brushed out the tracks they'd made. 

          "See anything?"  He called to Kirby as he came back in.


          "Stay alert."  Caje glanced over at Doc, "You okay?"


          Taking a swig out of his canteen, Caje padded from window to window, finally resuming his place by the window.


          "Yeah, Littlejohn?"

          "What do you think Sarge is doing now?"

          "Beats me."

          "Where do you think our guys are?"

          "I don't know that, either."

          "Caje, are we gonna get out of here?"

          "I hope so.  I sure hope so."

          As the afternoon wore on they maintained their silent vigil, each man lost in his own thoughts.  Davis lay on his back with his foot propped up on Doc's bent knee, trying to ignore the pain.  He'd refused morphine, using aspirin instead, so that he could help when the Krauts returned.

          "Caje, Krauts moving in again.  West, this time."  Billy announced.

          "Okay.  Keep still and wait.  Maybe we'll get lucky."

          "Uh-oh.  They're comin' this way."

          Caje waved an acknowledgment, his gaze remaining on the hill below them.  A larger group than the last was working their way up toward them, cautious but not alarmed.  Again, Caje fired first.  One Kraut went spinning down to the ground while the others dived for cover.  Hugging the wall, Littlejohn fired repeatedly as the BAR chattered to life overhead.  A bullet smacking into the wall just above his head sent Doc flat on his face beside Davis, who had rolled onto his stomach with his weapon trained on the doorway.

          A German grenade clattered onto the floor between Caje and Littlejohn.  Reacting instantly, Caje swept it up and tossed it back outside, hitting the floor with his arms protecting his head.  The grenade exploded in the air above the closest Germans who went down screaming.  Seizing his rifle, Caje surged to his knees and continued firing.

          Upstairs, Kirby stood by one of the holes that used to be a window, his BAR sweeping the area in front of the house.  On the other side, Billy was dashing from the front to the side of the building, firing rapidly.  He dropped to a crouch at the base of the wall, slamming another clip into the rifle.  He looked up as Kirby cried out in pain, dropping the BAR to clutch his upper arm.

          "Kirby!"  Billy exclaimed.

          "I'm okay."  He grunted as he retrieved the Browning and resumed firing. 

          Spotting three of the Krauts trying to set up a machine gun, Billy grabbed a grenade and pulled the pin with his teeth.  Realizing what he had in mind, Kirby sprayed the area with his BAR, forcing the Krauts to abandon the gun and hit the dirt.  Nelson tossed the grenade, neatly landing it right next to the machine gun.  A second later, no machine gun and three less Germans.  Kirby threw Billy a quick grin as the younger man grabbed up his rifle again.

          Littlejohn took a quick step across the window to angle his fire from the other direction, taking out another German with his first shot.  It took the squad a moment to realize that there were no more shots coming at them, then they slowly relaxed.

          "Everybody okay?"  Caje called.

          "Yeah."  Kirby called back.

          "No, Kirby got nicked."  Billy countered, to Kirby's disgust.

          "I'm okay."  He insisted.

          "Doc?"  Caje said over his shoulder.

          "On my way."

          Grabbing his bag, Doc dashed up the stairs to find Kirby glaring at an unrepentant Nelson.  Doc pulled Kirby around into better light, ripping his sleeve open a little further.

          "I'm alright, Doc."  Kirby growled.

          "Humor me."  Doc grinned.  "I was getting bored down there." 

          Ignoring Kirby's grumbling, Doc cleaned and bandaged the wound and handed him a couple aspirin.  Winking at Billy, Doc trotted back downstairs.

          "Just a nick.  He's okay."  He told Caje.

          "Hey, Caje."  Davis called.


          "I'm not doing any good over here.  Help me over to a window."

          Caje turned and looked at Doc who nodded, understanding Davis' frustration. As long as he didn't put any weight on that leg, he should be able to contribute to their protection.  Littlejohn piled a couple packs together for him to sit on while Doc and Caje more or less carried Davis over to the window.

          With Davis in position, the others returned to their positions, waiting in watchful silence for the next wave of Germans.



          Very carefully, Saunders brought his hand forward, grasping the Thompson as he cocked his head to try to determine where the footsteps were coming from.  Through a break in the bushes he could see a pair of  boots.  German boots.  He got his feet under him as quietly as he could, preparing to attack.  The German turned away and Saunders lunged to his feet, knocking the soldier to the ground on his face.  Swinging the Thompson around, he slammed the butt of it against the man's head twice, then scuttled a few feet to the left, listening for any more. When a full two minutes had passed without any sound or movement, the sergeant eased further into the trees, searching the area. 

          Deciding that the German had been alone, Saunders turned back to the bramble bushes.  With a sigh of disgust, he dropped back to the ground, crawled through the brambles, rising to a crouch when he reached the trees.  He worked his way back to the officers, grinning at Hanley's sigh of relief when he appeared.

          "Didn't you think I was coming back, Lieutenant?"

          "I knew you'd be back for your canteen."  Hanley grinned back.

          "How's the captain?"

          "Sleeping."  Hanley glanced down at the man by his feet.  "What'd you find out there?"

          "One German.  We have to go to the left, through some bramble bushes, then into the trees again."


          Squatting beside Jampel, Hanley shook his shoulder gently.

          "Captain?  Captain Jampel?"

          Jampel opened his eyes, squinting at the lieutenant.

          "Hanley?  Where are we?"

          "At least he knows who you are."  Saunders commented.

          "How do you feel, sir?"  Hanley asked.

          "I've got a hell of a headache.  What happened?"

          "What do you remember, sir?"

          Jampel thought about it while he struggled to his feet with Hanley's help.

          "The Germans captured us.  You got away somehow."  He said slowly, one hand to his head.  "That's all."

          "Saunders rescued me from the Germans.  Then we rescued you.  We're heading for Senlia cross country.  Apparently, the Germans broke through and are moving west, Captain.  Do you feel up to moving on?"

          "Yes, I'm okay."

          "Alright, Sergeant, move out."  Hanley nodded to Saunders.

          He headed back toward the edge of the meadow, Jampel on his heels, Hanley bringing up the rear.  When they reached the brambles again, Saunders stopped and turned back.

          "I'll go on across, sir.  If it's clear, I'll wave you on."

          "Alright, Sergeant."

          One more time, Saunders dropped to the ground and crawled through and under the sticker bushes, cursing under his breath.  Reaching the far side without incident, he rose to a crouch, checked the area, then waved the two officers across to join him. 

          "Here's your canteen, Sergeant."  Hanley tossed it to him.

          "Thanks, Lieutenant."

          "How far are we from Senlia, Sergeant?"  Jampel asked.

          "I don't know exactly, sir, but it shouldn't be too far now."

          "Alright, let's go."

          They worked their way through the trees in single file, Saunders occasionally looking over his shoulder to check on Jampel.  Aside from the badly swollen eye area, and the livid bruises on his cheek, he appeared to have fully recovered.  Hanley had given him one of the German rifles which he carried in both hands. 

          Now that both officers were a going concern again, Saunders could afford to relax a little.  He found himself wondering how the squad was doing, and whether the Germans had overrun their position. 

          The trees stopped abruptly at the crest of a hill.  Below them, about a mile and a half away, sat a small village.  Even at this distance, they could see the American vehicles in the streets.  Jampel and Hanley came up on either side of him, gazing down at the sight.

          "Is that Senlia, Sergeant?"  Jampel asked.

          "I have no idea, sir.  Whatever it is, it's in our hands."  He shrugged.

          "Let's go.  I need a cup of coffee."  Jampel chuckled.

          Saunders nodded and started down the hill, staying close to the hedgerow on the left.  A short time later, the trio reached the edge of town.

          "How did you do that, Sergeant?"  Hanley asked, indicating a canted sign that bore the inscription "Senlia".

          "Talent, sir."  Saunders grinned.

          Laughing, they walked up the street, looking for a headquarters building.  When they finally located it, Hanley and Saunders dropped back, letting Jampel enter first.

          "Captain Jampel, 361st.  I left a squad back there just outside St. Anne.  Have the Germans moved through there?" 

          "Let me check, sir."  The radioman replied.  "Yes, sir, they've moved through and past.  We're pushing them back in that area, so they'll be going through again. Does your squad have a radio?"

          "No.  Can you find us a jeep?"

          "Down the street, turn left, Captain.  I don't know  if there's one available or not."

          Turning, Jampel nearly ran into Hanley, who quickly sidestepped, bumping into Saunders who was standing against the wall.  Silently, the two of them followed the captain as he hurried down the street.

          "I need a jeep, Corporal."  He demanded upon reaching the motorpool.

          "I'm sorry, Captain.  We don't have any available vehicles right now.  They're all in use."

          "When you get one, you come find me.  Captain Jampel."

          "Yes, sir."

          "Sergeant, go find yourself something to eat.  Hanley and I will be at the HQ."

          "Yes, sir."

          When he returned to the HQ thirty minutes later, Hanley was eating and a medic was working on Jampel's face.

          "Any word of the squad, sir?"  Saunders asked.

          "No, not yet.  We just have to wait."  Hanley replied.  "Find yourself a place to get some rest."

          Reluctantly, Saunders appropriated a corner and sat down, watching the roomful of officers.  He would much rather be heading back to the squad, but with no vehicle, and a not-quite-order from Hanley, he was stuck here.


          "Caje."  Kirby called.  "More coming in from the west."


          The five men checked their ammunition and waited resignedly.  A few minutes later, they watched as a large party of Germans ran along the base of the hill, heading east.  Mortar rounds started dropping to their west, moving closer.            Kirby and Billy ran down the stairs, not wanting to get caught up there.

          "Take cover!"  Caje yelled as another round exploded partway down the hill.

          He and Doc pulled Davis to the floor against the wall, the others scrambling to find their own places.  Parts of the building started raining down on them, along with bits of trees and dirt.  Sheltering as best they could, they waited it out as the mortars continued to pound the countryside.  Finally, the thunderous noise stopped and they sat up cautiously.

          "Are we still alive?"  Billy asked.

          "I think so."  Littlejohn replied.

          "The Calvary has arrived, I think."  Doc said.

          They could hear voices yelling in English at the base of the hill, and they stepped outside and waved to the oncoming soldiers.

          "Hey you guys!  What took you so long?"  Kirby yelled.

          "Where'd you come from?"  A sergeant yelled back.

          "We're with the 361st."  Caje answered as they made their way down the hill, Littlejohn practically carrying Davis.  "Our captain, lieutenant, and sergeant headed for Senlia."

          "Well, if they made it, they should be alright.  Senlia is still in our hands.  Our radioman should be along in a minute."


          The squad sat down where they were, waiting.  A few minutes later, the radioman arrived and put a call through to Senlia.


          "Sergeant?  Saunders!"  Saunders jerked awake to find Hanley squatting beside him, wearing a big grin.  "The squad radioed in.  They're alright."

          "Where are they?"  He demanded, scrambling to his feet.

          "On their way here.  They're catching a ride with the 245th."

          Clapping his sergeant on the shoulder, Hanley rejoined the captain, who was studying maps.  Stretching stiff muscles, Saunders shouldered his Thompson and wandered outside in search of a drink.  As soon as his men got here, all would be right with his world again.

Copyright 2001


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.