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"Tighten it up, gentlemen."
He frowned as he watched the black blossoms of flak darken the view below. It
was always bad, but today, it looked even thicker than usual. No choice for it,
though, there wasn't enough fuel on board to go around it, hit the target and
still make it home again. He felt his plane shudder from a hit and clenched his
jaw as he adjusted stick and rudder to compensate for the buffeting from the blow.
"Pilot to bombardier, coming up on the IP."
There was no answer.
Still no answer.
"Pilot to navigator, check on
Jones, will you?"
Just then, another round of flak struck the underbelly
of the plane and the pilot gasped and stiffened in his seat.
General?" his copilot asked anxiously.
"Yeah, got a piece of flak in
my butt, is all." His voice was strained.
Captain Jacobs looked over,
"It hurts, Dan, but I can still fly. Navigator, what's
"Sorry, sir, but he took a blast right in the throat.
I've got the bombsight, sir."
"Your airplane." He released the yoke and
allowed the navigator to control the plane through their bomb run.
He took back control of his plane and began to lead his flight
in a tight circle to head back for home. "How's it look, Dan?"
looked down and then back, counting planes as they turned and regrouped into formation.
"Everyone's here, sir."
"Good. Let's go home."
leg felt numb, and he could feel the blood soaking his seat and trickling down
his left leg. His butt ached, but he could still manage the rudder, so he didn't
think it was too bad, though he did worry about losing too much blood. He glanced
over at his copilot. The lieutenant was new and very young. He seemed pretty steady,
however, despite this being his first sortie.
"You doing all right over
"Yes, sir." The twenty-one-year-old lieutenant replied,
glancing over at him in concern. "How are you doing, sir?"
so far." He chuckled dryly, "I guess everyone's going to get a laugh out of my
getting a chunk of flak in my butt, though."
Jacobs couldn't help the
slight smile that pulled at the corners of his lips. "I guess so, sir."
"Most likely, it'll be things like `he finally knows what a pain in the butt feels
Jacobs blushed. He'd heard all the stories about the general,
and when he discovered that he was to fly with him, he'd been as nervous as a
cat in a dog kennel. But he'd discovered that the general was all business in
the air; yet he also found things to joke about, as well. Despite the seriousness
of their mission, he'd enjoyed flying with the general.
As they approached
the channel, the sky was suddenly filled with enemy fighters and any levity or
relaxation vanished. The bombers closed ranks to make it harder for the Germans
to get at them as their own gunners did their level best to blast the enemy out
of the sky.
Dan Jacobs turned to look worriedly at the general when he
heard him grunt in pain, just as the side window next to the pilot exploded at
the impact of a German bullet.
"This is not my day, Captain.
It's all right, just a scratch." He was still able to fly, although his left hip
felt like it was burning. He was too stubborn to give up control unless he absolutely
had to. He knew he was losing blood, but doggedly held on.
was rough, but they made it. He taxied around to his hard stand and shut down
the engines. Then he just sat there, unable to move.
released his seat belt and stood. He frowned when the general didn't move. "Sir?"
"You'd better get the doc for me, Lieutenant. I'm going to need some help
getting out of here."
Jacobs swallowed hard as he noticed the pool of
blood on the floor. "Yes, sir!" He hurried to the hatch and out, calling for a
Doc Kaiser had made it a habit to be on hand whenever the squadron
returned from a mission. There were always wounded, and almost always dead. He
was looking at a young man with a bullet in his shoulder when he heard the nearly
hysterical call for a medic. He looked up and frowned. "Let's get you in the ambulance,
son." He looked at his aide, who was applying pressure to the man's wound and
gestured for him to continue while he answered the call for help.
jogged across to the very young lieutenant who immediately grabbed him by the
jacket and practically dragged him over to the Piccadilly Lily.
the general. He can't get up. There's a lot of blood. He said he was all right!
But now he can't get out of his seat, and...."
"Take it easy, Lieutenant.
Just get out of my way, will you?" He pushed the young man aside and made his
way into the plane and up to the cockpit. He frowned at the pool of blood under
the general's seat.
"Hey, Doc. I'm afraid I managed
to take one in the butt. I was okay flying and managed to get us on the ground,
but now I can't seem to get up." He was pale and perspiring, and Doc was amazed
that the man was still conscious.
"All right, let me help you get out
"Thanks." He was starting to feel rather woozy from loss of
blood, and was grateful for the assistance. To his surprise, his legs wouldn't
hold him, and they practically had to carry him from the plane. The pain didn't
really register until they laid him face down on the stretcher and loaded him
in the ambulance, with Doc right there beside him, cutting away his trousers to
get a look at his wounds. Somehow, he managed to remain conscious all the way
to the infirmary.
Doc looked at the size of the gash in the general's
left buttock and winced. How he'd managed to not bleed to death, he didn't know.
The first thing they'd need to do was start pumping blood into him to replace
what he'd lost. Then surgery to remove the shrapnel and see just how much damage
there was. He carefully applied pressure and heard and felt something grating
as the general groaned, but there was no choice, he had to try and stop the bleeding
before it was too late.
Major Kaiser was settling his patient into his
bed. He'd decided to keep him sedated for a few days and give his injuries a chance
to start healing. The general was face down on his bed, to allow for redressing
his wounds. Doc looked up as Major General Crowe entered the room.
"Doc. How's he doing?"
"I can't figure out why he didn't bleed to
death. But he didn't. He lost a lot of blood, though, and the bullet he took on
the way home chipped his pelvis. Thankfully it isn't broken. Hopefully, the nerves
weren't too badly damaged and he'll recover most of his mobility."
Crowe frowned down at his friend and protege. "Why do you have him face down?"
Doc glanced at the general and, instead of answering him, pulled the sheet
down and showed him.
General Crowe coughed to cover his involuntary laugh.
"This is what chipped his hip." He handed the bullet to the general,
who frowned down at it. "Seems like a lot of damage from just one little bullet."
"Oh, the bullet just went in and hit the pelvis. The rest of the damage was
caused by this." He handed the general a piece of shrapnel that was a good four
inches long and had sharp, jagged edges.
said, I don't know why he didn't bleed to death. He took the shrapnel on the way
in, managed to fly the mission, got shot on the way home, and still managed to
get back and land. His copilot knew he'd been hit, but had no idea how badly until
they were on the ground and the general couldn't get out of his seat."
Wiley shook his head. "He's just too damned stubborn, is all. Will he be all right?"
Doc shrugged. "Hard to say. I've seen a couple of injuries similar to this
before, but one of them wound up losing his leg, and the other ended up too crippled
to continue to fly. It's a crapshoot, General. We'll simply have to wait and see."
General Crowe nodded. "I was hoping to debrief him, how soon will he wake
"I'm keeping him sedated for a few days."
"Because the amount of morphine it would take to dull the pain
would either make him dependant, or kill him. This way, he's simply unconscious
and unaware. Believe me, he's going to be in a world of hurt when he does wake
up, so I'm hoping to give him a chance to start healing before he's got to deal
Crowe nodded, then smiled. "One way to make sure he rests and
doesn't try and get back to work too soon?"
Doc Kaiser grinned. "There
is that, too."
"Well, keep me apprised of how he's doing and let me
know when you're going to let him wake up."
"Yes, sir." He finished tucking
his patient in and followed the general from the room.
"How's he doing,
Doc?" Major Stovall asked late in the evening of the second day of the general's
"I'm a little concerned. He's dreaming, but his left leg
doesn't move. The foot's warm enough, so the circulation is still good, but I
don't know how badly the nerves are damaged. How're things going out there?"
"Bad weather in the daytime is keeping us home. It's supposed to clear tonight,
and I heard that the Brits are going out if it does."
Doc nodded. "Well,
with the bad weather, at least I don't feel so bad about keeping him sedated.
He's doing very well, considering. I just hope that when he does wake up, he's
able to use his leg. The muscles were pretty torn up. And it's probably going
to ache like mad in the cold, especially as he gets older."
johns, for certain. Of course, considering who we're talking about, you'll never
hear a whisper of complaint or an admission of pain." Harvey shook his head. "Word's
all over the base. That young lieutenant's told everyone who'll listen how he
took it in stride, shrugged it off and kept flying. Kid never realized that he
was even hurt."
"One more superman story to add to the collection, Harvey."
Doc smiled and stood. "Well, I'm going to check on my patient one more time before
heading for the sack. He seems to be handling the sedation well, so I'm going
to see about keeping him out for a few more days. The IV feeding is keeping his
weight steady, and his dreams are keeping his muscles flexing, so I'm willing
to take the chance."
"He's not going to be pleased when he finds out
how much time he's lost."
Doc sighed. "I know, but maybe knowing that
the pain he's in would have been a lot worse for a lot longer will help him forgive
"You hope," Harvey replied with a grin.
Doc chuckled. "Yeah,
I don't expect it to work, but if the weather stays bad, he just might let me
off the hook."
"Well, General Crowe has been asking about him. Wants
to talk to him as soon as he wakes up. When shall I tell him to expect a conscious
"Well, let's see how he manages the next day or two
and I'll decide then."
"Thanks, Doc. Good night."
Whenever there were patients in the infirmary, Doc Kaiser slept
in a small room attached to his office. That way, his minimal staff didn't have
to work around the clock. It was nearly midnight when something awoke him. He
was immediately out of bed and moving to see what was wrong. He found the General
in the throes of what appeared to be a nightmare.
"Come on, Johnny, pull
up. Pull up! Left rudder, LEFT RUDDER! Good, good. Easy, now, pull her nose up
a little more, Johnny, easy....easy, now. That's it. A little more left rudder,
that's it. Now, bring up her nose a bit more so you can clear the trees. Good
boy. Landing gear down and locked? Do it now. Okay, you've cleared the trees,
and now you're about half a mile from the runway. The lights are out, but I'll
talk you down. Flaps. Easy, easy."
Doc watched as the general's hands
flexed as though gripping the yoke of an airplane and his right foot and leg twitched
like he was pushing the rudder pedals, but his left leg remained unmoving. His
head moved, and he could see Frank's eyes moving behind his closed lids as he
flew his mission in his dreams. Doc wondered who Johnny was?
easy, now. Throttle back, ease her down, easy, EASY! Okay, you're about to touch
down. THERE! Cut the inboards and hit the brakes. That's it, that's it!" With
several undecipherable mumbles and twitches, the general went still and his breathing
deepened back to full sleep.
Doc checked his patient's vitals and shook
his head. That was some dream the general had had. He was about to turn out the
lights and head back to bed when he heard a jeep pull up outside. He opened the
door just as two men in British flying suits came in, guiding a third Brit between
them. The night tower operator, who was shaking his head in confusion, escorted
"What's happened?" Doc asked.
"These guys just landed
in the dark, Doc. Prettiest landing I've ever seen. There's a couple of dead -
the pilot and a gunner, and the Lancaster they brought in is in pretty sorry shape,
but the rest of the crew seems to be okay." The guard was shaking his head in
wonder. "Funny thing is, the copilot here? He can't see."
in surprise and frowned. "Come on, son. Let's take a look at you." He took the
pilot's arm and gently guided him to a chair in his examination room, leaving
the others to worry in the office while the tower operator returned to his post.
"What's your name, son?"
"Ian. Ian Johnson."
captain was nervous, and his head kept moving, but there was so much blood dripping
down his face from the gash in his forehead that there was no way for him to be
able to see.
"Well, let's get you cleaned up, first." He gathered a basin
of warm water, antiseptic, clean cloths, and anything else he thought he might
need. "What happened?"
"Took a piece of a Jerry fighter through the windscreen,
we did. It killed Tommy, and I think I blacked out for a moment, because when
I could think again, I couldn't see, and there was a Yank there."
American? In the plane with you?"
"Yes, sir. Told me to pull up, he did.
I could tell that we were in a pretty steep dive, and he kept saying `pull up,
pull up, pull up' and I pulled back and felt the bird respond. Then he told me
to keep pulling up, to keep her nose up, and then he guided me to the landing.
Where are we, sir?"
"Archbury. Why did you land here, instead of your
"Because here is where the Yank brought us, sir. I couldn't
see a thing from the blood, sir. And me head hurt so much, sir. It was like the
first time I landed, he talked me right through it, kept calling me Johnny, he
did. Don't know how he knew what me mates always called me, but he did. Got us
down safe and sound, he did, sir. I'd like to know how he got in me plane, none
of me crew saw him. Is he here?"
Doc paused and stared at the young man
for a moment, then went back to cleaning his wounds. "I don't think so. Captain.
Most of the base is asleep and only the guards are up and about. And I doubt any
of them could have gotten into your plane."
The young lieutenant frowned
in confusion. "Yes, sir. I suppose so. I wonder who he was though?"
guardian angle, maybe?"
Johnson chuckled. "Mayhap, sir." He fell silent
as the doctor finished cleaning his wound and gave him injections to help prevent
infection and to deaden his forehead while he stitched the gash closed.
"You're lucky that whatever hit you didn't take your head off."
sir." He knew that no one believed him about the Yank who'd talked him through
the last half hour of their flight, but he knew. Maybe the doctor was right; maybe
it was his guardian angel. But why on earth would he have an American guardian
When the doctor insisted he stay the night, he didn't complain.
The major promised to call base and report them safe and sound. Still confused,
but grateful to be alive and still have his sight, he easily fell asleep.
Major Kaiser arranged billeting for the rest of the crew, who had walked
over from the flight line. Then he wrote up his reports and made the call to Bristol
to report the visitors. He didn't see any reason to mention the lieutenant's hallucination
of an American who talked him down.
In the morning, three other Brits
arrived, two to fly the Lancaster back to base, and the third to take the plane's
crew back. Doc wished them well and thought no more of them.
finished changing the general's dressing and was hooking up a bottle of glucose
to the IV when his patient became slightly agitated in his sleep. He watched in
concern as the dream manifested itself.
"It's all right. Just put the
sun at your left shoulder and fly straight. It's all right. You're not really
lost, just a bit confused, is all. See? There's the channel, and Dover. Know where
you are, now, son? Go on home, now."
And with that, he was still again.
Doc shook his head as he finished his tasks and headed for his office to get some
more paperwork done. Sometimes, he wondered how wars could ever be fought, what
with all the paperwork involved. Who had time?
Rumors were flying, and
the staff officers at Pinetree were somewhat concerned. There had been four reports
of either an American stowing away on a bomber, or guardian angels with American
accents guiding lost fighter pilots home. The reports were all nearly identical.
The first one had been an injured co-pilot who insisted a Yank had stowed away
on his plane and then proceeded to talk him in to a landing at a darkened airfield.
The rest of the crew insisted that there had been no stowaway, American or not,
only the miracle of their temporarily blinded copilot safely bringing them in.
The second had been a fighter pilot who'd gotten lost and heard an American voice
tell him how to find his way back. The next had been another bomber that managed
to limp home on half an engine and a voice telling the injured pilot how to get
altitude without power, and then glided in for an unlit landing at Archbury with
no power at all.
The strangest part of it all was that, except for the
one fighter, every one of the flights had been night attacks against the Germans.
All the pilots insisted the voice was American, and all but one had landed at
Archbury. The Eighth Air Force Command was wondering what was going on?
All they had were questions, not one, single, solitary, answer or even possible
Too bad they didn't think to ask Major Kaiser.
"I'm going to let him wake up, Harvey. It's been almost a week and he's healing
well. He's also getting mighty restless in his sleep. I think he might need to
wake up to get some rest!" He said the last only half-jokingly.
General Crowe has been calling twice a day to check on him. In case he asks, what's
"Well, let's just say that I'm `cautiously optimistic'
about his chances for a full recovery. I think that keeping him sedated for the
past six days was the right thing to do. The sutures are closed and there's no
drainage from the wounds. No fever, no infection. He'll be on crutches for a couple
of weeks while he finishes healing, but I'm hopeful that he'll be back in the
air within a month."
"Wonderful! I'm sure he'll be pleased with that
bit of news."
Doc chuckled. "If you believe that, I've got this bridge
to sell you."
Harvey laughed. "Well, at least General Crowe and the Air
Staff should be pleased. Maybe the weather will clear up, too. It's sure been
odd, lately. Usually, when it gets bad, it stays bad for a day or two, then clears
long enough to get in a sortie or two, then socks back in. But this! Socked in
all day and clear at night. Who ever heard of it doing that, I ask you?"
Doc shook his head. "I wish I could tell you, Harvey, but I simply don't know."
The next time General Crowe called, Major Stovall gave him the good news.
The general said he had a meeting that afternoon, but that as soon as he could
get there, he would.
Doc kept a close watch on his patient, waiting for
him to regain consciousness. There was a pretty good chance the general would
have one hell of a headache, but if it was quiet enough, he might just sleep through
it and wake up feeling halfway human. He hoped.
There were several times
during the day when he thought the general was about to awaken, but each time,
he settled back into deeper sleep. Doc couldn't help but wonder just how much
sleep he'd been getting prior to his injury and sedated rest. Of course, the longer
he slept, the less likely he'd have a post-sedation hangover, so maybe he should
just count his blessings!
It was just after dark when General Crowe arrived,
tired, frustrated, and impatient. Major Stovall greeted him with the news that
Frank was still asleep, but not sedated. Grumbling at the delay, he gratefully
accepted a cup of Harvey's excellent coffee and sat down for a few minutes to
relax before going over to the infirmary. A shot of Major Stovall's bourbon in
his cup went a long way to mellowing General Crowe, allowing Harvey to heave a
silent sigh of relief.
"Well, how's he doing?"
with how well he's healing. He thinks he'll be able to take the stitches out.
Said that General Savage is a fast healer, when he gets his rest."
Crowe grunted. "Rest is in rather short commodity these days, Harvey."
"Yes, sir. That's why Doc's kept him sleeping. Can you imagine how much he'd have
been fretting over this strange weather and not being able to do anything? If
he'd been awake, he could never have lain still long enough to heal, and we both
know that, sir."
Wiley nodded wearily. "Too true, Major. But now they
say the weather should be clearing and we need him back to work." He stood, drained
his cup, and handed it to the major on his way out. Harvey took the mug and set
it on the corner of his desk as he snagged the phone from the hook to call and
warn Doc Kaiser of General Crowe's imminent arrival.
"How's he doing,
"Still sleeping. I can wake him, if you want?" His expression
told the general that that was not his preferred course of action.
let him wake up on his own. Had any more midnight visitors?"
"Not since the night before last. It's been pretty strange, three landings on
the darkened strip." He shook his head, unwilling to mention that General Savage
had just happened to have rather vocal dreams of flying that eerily matched the
tales told by the pilots who'd managed to land on the darkened airfield.
"Well, it's been pretty strange all around - every last one of them insists that
there was an American who guided them in. You saw that young lieutenant. The first
one? Was he really blind?"
"Well, he had so much blood flowing down from
the gash in his forehead that he couldn't see, yes. He also had a concussion and
was in pretty rough shape."
Wiley nodded, frowning. Then he sighed. "Well,
whatever it is, I'd like to know how it's happening."
Major Kaiser focused
his attention on the papers on his desk and didn't answer.
A few minutes
later, there were sounds from the patient in the next room, and both men went
Frank had turned onto his side and drawn his legs up slightly.
As they watched, he turned onto his back and stretched, still sleeping, but showing
definite signs of imminent return to consciousness. Just as they expected him
to open his eyes, however, he frowned and turned over onto his stomach again.
His hands fisted in his pillow and he began to mumble. At first, the words were
unclear, but then...
"You've gone too far. You have to turn back. You
know I'm right, I can guide you in. Please! If you don't turn back now, you'll
either run out of fuel or end up in France. Please turn back. It's not far, if
you'll just listen!" His hands tightened their grip on his pillow and his right
leg began to twitch. "That's right. Come around slowly... you want a heading of...
we're coming up on the field, turn on your lights to land, and have the others
follow right on your tail. The strip's big enough that you can pull off to either
side safely, so once you're down and brake, you can pull off to the side so that
there's plenty of room right down the middle. We can take off three abreast, here.
That's it! Easy, now, five hundred feet, three hundred feet, one hundred feet,
pull up the nose just a hair and you've got it. Good girl!" Frank's voice was
exultant, causing Wiley to look questioningly at Doc.
"He's been having
some pretty vocal dreams," was all the major would say.
Frank sighed and turned back over onto his side for a few moments,
and then onto his back. He again stretched in his sleep, only this time, his eyes
finally opened. He frowned as he saw his audience.
"Welcome back, Frank. How are you feeling?"
"Not bad, considering." He
took mental stock. There was an ache in his left buttock, but then he remembered
and thought it odd that it didn't hurt more. He looked past his friend to the
doctor and asked, "Why doesn't it hurt more?"
Doc flushed. Leave it to
Frank Savage to ask the hard question, first. "Because it's healing very well."
Frank scowled. "How long have I been out?"
"You were injured six
days ago, General," Doc admitted, glancing at the clock on the wall. Frank's expression
darkened. To forestall the imminent explosion, Doc held out a freshly poured mug
of coffee. Close enough to his patient that the smell attracted the general's
"Do you think you can sit up, General?"
With a grunt
and a slight wince as he shifted, using his arms on either side and his feet,
he lifted his butt up and shifted back, while Wiley, hiding a smile, mounded the
pillows behind him. As soon as he was settled, he reached out and accepted the
mug of fresh, steaming coffee. He took a sip and his eyes closed as the flavorful
hot liquid sluiced down his throat and eased the thirst he hadn't realized he
had. A moment later, his eyes opened and the pale blue orbs shot a sharp beam
of annoyance at the doctor. "Now, why have I been knocked out for so long?"
"I gave him permission, Frank," Wiley interjected, taking the wind right
out of Frank's sails. At the wounded look of betrayal the younger man shot his
way, he elaborated. "You haven't missed much of anything except some lousy weather
and the boredom."
Frank sighed, "And the chance to catch up on all the
paperwork?" He looked at the doctor. "So, how long will I be grounded?"
"Well, you're wounds are healing very well, although there was some fairly extensive
muscle damage - with luck, you'll be back up within a month."
look at all happy about that. He was scowling and trying to think of something
to say in protest, when the door burst open and Harvey Stovall's agitated voice
preceded the entrance of a group of chattering women, all wearing flight suits.
Frank didn't have time to pull the covers up to hide his shirtless body and
barely had time to be grateful that his lower body was covered. Upon seeing the
stars on Wiley's jacket, the women fell silent and snapped to attention, saluting.
Harvey, with the blessed silence, forewent protocol and simply explained.
"It happened again, General Crowe, only this time, there were *five* planes.
Replacements coming in via Greenland, sir."
Wiley cast a concerned glance
at Doc and Frank, who just looked confused, and then returned the women's salutes.
"At ease, ladies. Who's the flight leader?"
One petite brunette stepped
forward. "That would be me, sir. Captain Lilly Williams, sir."
"Well, sir, we left Greenland about ten hours ago, sir,
ferrying over five new seventeens, sir. It was clear and supposed to stay that
way, but about an hour and a half ago, sir, the weather went bad on us, and we
lost our ability to see the ground, sir. We were flying by instruments, but without
markers, we got lost. There was some kind of interference on the radios, as well,
sir, and all we could do was talk to each other. Then, it was strange, because
the radio wasn't working, but there was a man's voice, sir, telling us we'd gone
too far and we were heading for France, sir. He gave us a bearing and we turned
back, then he talked us through the fog to the landing, sir."
"On a darkened
runway?" General Crowe asked sharply.
"Yes, sir. He told us to turn on
our landing lights and to have the others follow close behind, and he talked me
down, sir, with the other planes so close behind, we all made it down safely,
"Five new seventeens?" Frank asked. There was an avid, almost covetous
look on his face as he contemplated what five new bombers would mean to his group.
"You can have one," Wiley growled.
Frank lifted an eyebrow at him,
but before he could reply, Captain Williams startled them by exclaiming, "You!
It was you who talked us down!"
The four men gaped, first at the captain,
and then at the disheveled and only just awakened Frank.
possible," General Crowe replied very softly. "General Savage was asleep until
about fifteen minutes ago."
"But it was *his* voice, sir!" Captain Williams
insisted. She was backed up by the other women nodding - apparently, they had
all heard the man's voice telling them how to get safely down.
stared at Frank and shuddered. He looked at Doc, who was frowning in confusion.
"Doc, you mentioned that the general had been having rather vivid dreams, didn't
"Yes, but...." He shook his head and sighed. "I can't say how,
but it would seem that somehow, his subconscious went out looking for something
to do while his body healed."
"What are you talking about?" Frank asked
in total confusion.
"Well, sir, while you were sedated, we've had some
rather odd things happen around here. Primarily, it's been lost or injured pilots
setting down on the field in the dark and bad weather. The first one was a young
British Lieutenant whose pilot had been killed and who had been blinded by the
blood running from his own head wound. He insisted that an American was in his
cockpit and talked him down. Then there was the lost fighter pilot who was given
instructions on how to find his way back, then the bomber that fell back due to
engine trouble and got lost in the fog, and the badly damaged bomber that limped
its way in. Of course, they were all British - flying night missions, except for
the fighter, who was coming back at dawn. Now this."
"But how? I was
"It was definitely your voice, sir," Captain Williams insisted,
looking puzzled, but adamant.
"Well, whatever it was, it's over, and
you're here. Five planes, you said?" General Crowe smiled and turned his back
on Frank, focusing on the ten young women pilots.
"I want three of them.
They're on my field."
scowling, to see the intense look on Frank's face, and it gave him pause. However
he'd managed to do it, he *had* managed to help bring in five new bombers that
would otherwise have been lost. "Two."
"We have extra parts, as well, General." Captain Williams softly added.
"Ten magnetos," Frank demanded.
"Ten magnetos and two planes," Wiley
"Agreed, plus at least two extra stabilizers, if there are
"Yes, sir. We came fully loaded with spare parts, as well as the
planes, sir. Um, we also have fifty bombsites, sir.
"Twenty," Frank insisted.
"All right." Frank grinned and stuck out his hand. Wiley
shook his head and grinned back, taking Frank's hand and shaking it.
Harvey was grinning like a kid at Christmas. Ten magnetos, two new planes, two
sets of new stabilizers, and twelve Norden bombsites. He didn't know how Frank
had managed it, but whatever it was, it was going to make some very happy ground
Doc was watching Frank and noticed that the strain of sitting
up was starting to wear on him, already. "All right, folks, that's enough, for
now. If you'll move along on out of here, I have a patient to tend to." He gently
shooed them out, all except General Crowe, who simply pulled up a chair and sat
Doc ignored General Crowe and focused on his patient. There was
a faint sheen of perspiration on his face and torso; whether it was from the strain
of sitting on his injury, or simply from the stress of having been told that he'd
been guiding people to safe landings in his sleep was unknown. "Let's get you
back down, Frank."
"Sure, Doc." He reversed the process he'd used to
sit up and eased back down, shifting slightly to his right to ease the ache in
his left buttock. "How are the jokes going?"
"Not many jokes, General.
Young Jacobs has been too busy telling everyone how amazing you are to have been
able to fly the plane while losing all that blood."
"Oh? Just how much
did I lose?"
"Not enough to kill you, but certainly enough to weaken
you. That was another reason I kept you out. The amount of morphine I'd have had
to use could have had some pretty adverse reactions. So I just kept you asleep
for a few days."
"From what I think I heard, I wasn't exactly `here,'
though, was I?"
"Well, that I can't answer. But I had noticed that your
dreams had preceded every miraculous landing."
Wiley softly quoted, "'There
are more things in heaven and earth than are known of in your philosophy, Horatio,'
I think this definitely qualifies as one of them. I can't imagine what the other
pilots you talked down would think, Frank. Particularly since you were unconscious
at the time."
Frank shook his head and flinched as Doc pulled the tape
holding the bandages to his body. "Well?" he asked after a few moments of silence.
"Well, I think I can remove the stitches now, actually. You're not completely
healed, of course, but the skin has knit very well, with only a few spots still
scabbed over. This may be a bit uncomfortable, but you'll probably feel better
in the long run."
"I thought stitches had to stay in for two weeks?"
"Well, normally, yes. But he was asleep, and his body took
advantage of the lack of movement and stress and poured most of his energy into
healing." He shrugged. "He's always been a pretty fast healer, anyway."
"You know, I *am* awake and right here," Frank grumbled as they talked about him.
It was bad enough to have to lie there with his butt hanging out in public, but
to have them talking as though he wasn't there, well, that was just a little bit
too much for him.
"Sorry, Frank." Wiley couldn't help grinning, though.
"I guess you'll be eating off the mantle for a while, won't you?"
sighed. "Yuk it up, Wiley."
"Sorry, Frank," but his voice betrayed his
"There you are, General. If you'd like, you can get up and
go back to your own quarters. Or you can stay here another night."
like to take a walk around and see how things are going, if that's all right?"
"That's fine. I suggest you head over to the O club and get something to
eat. Your stomach is probably thinking your throat's been cut. I'll get your clothes."
"And I *still* need to debrief you on that last mission, Frank."
Frank glared at him. "I don't remember a thing."
shrugged. "Too long ago. Don't remember a thing. Sorry, Wiley."
there was a warning in his tone.
Doc got Frank's clothes, handed them
to him, and left the room. No need for him to be privy to this little confrontation.
"Your last mission."
over, bombed the IP, and came home. I don't know our casualty count, but all twenty-five
birds made it back. I lost Jones, my bombardier, and I took a blast of flak in
the butt." He shrugged as he stood up, pulling up his skivvies and trousers at
the same time.
Wiley watched his friend and the thought that `he didn't
put his pants on one leg at a time' occurred to him. He sighed and shook his head.
"The flak was heavier than usual, and the fighters less
effective. We kept a tight formation and hit the target. The weather was clear
and that's about it."
"All right, Frank. I guess that'll have to do."
He shook his head, wondering if maybe Frank really had forgotten? It was over,
now, though. Besides, if there had been any problems, the crews would hear about
them from Frank, and his interference would not be appreciated or tolerated. He
decided to try placating his not so obviously upset friend. "How about I buy you
supper?" He remembered that he hadn't had anything to eat since late that morning,
"Sure. What's today?"
liver and onions." He sighed. "I'm sure Doc would prefer I have the liver." He
grinned at his friend. "Just don't tell him that I like it!"
As he recalled, there wasn't much Frank *didn't* like to eat. "Well, if you're
ready, let's head on over to the club, then." They looked up as the door opened
and Major Kaiser entered, carrying a pair of crutches. Frank took one look and
"General, unless you want me to ground you until
further notice, you'll take them and use them."
"No." Frank's jaw clenched
"Walk across the room, General."
Frank started across
the room. He limped heavily, and broke out in a sweat from the pain and strain.
Carefully breathing, he leaned against the wall and hung his head. He held out
his left hand and Doc handed him the crutches.
"You can walk, but use
the crutches to help support the hip and leg until the muscles finish healing
and it doesn't hurt so much. If you behave yourself and follow instructions, you'll
be off them within a week or two. You'll need a cane after that, but if you're
lucky, you'll even be off of that in a month or so."
"Yes, Doctor." Frank
hated not being in perfect health, and chafed at being restrained; but at the
same time, he wasn't a fool, and was smart enough to listen to his body - at least
when someone else insisted.
Wiley didn't smile or crack wise on their
slow, careful trip to the O club. He knew better.
When they entered,
the first one to see them was Captain Williams, who snapped to attention and called
General Crowe smiled, saluted the room at large and
said "As you were, ladies and gentlemen," and led the way to a quiet corner table.
Frank was well aware of the eyes that followed him, and the whispers that
went with the stares. He sighed heavily, wondering how fast the WAAC's story had
"General Crowe, General Savage, what can I get for you this evening?"
"What's on the menu?" he asked, even though he knew perfectly well what it
"Pork chops or liver and onions, mashed potatoes and gravy, with
a choice of glazed carrots or spinach; the soup of the day is vegetable beef,
and dessert is a choice of apple or mince pie, sir."
"I'll have the pork
chops and carrots," Wiley decided. "Frank?"
"Liver and onions, with the
"Yes, sirs. Do you want the soup?"
"No, thanks," Frank
replied, smiling. They'd been through this a dozen times or more, but the young
man always asked. They both knew perfectly well that the `soup' was simply a pot
of sludge into which any and all leftovers had been dumped. Frank suspected that
it was the same pot as when he first arrived, with only the daily additions.
"Yes, sir, General Crowe, sir?"
"No, thank you. But I do want some
apple pie. Frank?"
"Yes, please. And a pot of coffee."
sir. General Crowe?"
"Yes, sir." With a smile,
the young man turned and limped away. He'd been injured in a bombing raid in 1940,
in London, where he'd lost his entire family and he would always bear the physical
scars from it, but he was a cheerful young man, simply grateful to be alive. He'd
come to Archbury a few months earlier and had worked in the club ever since.
Frank's gaze roamed the room, checking out the people. He ruefully shook
his head. The ten young women who had come in with the new bombers were being
carefully split up amongst his pilots. He grinned at his friend. "Talk about a
morale booster," he softly murmured.
Wiley glanced around the room and
grinned. "Do you blame them?"
"No, I don't."
Their drinks arrived
and a few moments later, their food. The two men focused on assuaging their hunger
and spoke no more until they were sitting back and sipping their respective drinks
and smoking their cigarettes.
"Even though I know I've been sleeping
for six days, I'm about ready to call it a night," Frank admitted softly.
"Won't the coffee keep you up?"
"Never has before." He had to use
his hands on the table in order to get to his feet. He hated weakness, particularly
in himself, but he also knew that his body wasn't going to obey him....yet.
"It's too late to bother going back to London, so if it's all right with
you, I'll grab a billet in the VOQ."
"Of course. Any word on when the
weather is supposed to clear?"
Wiley shook his head. "They've been telling
us that it's going to clear for a week, but they've been wrong so far. When it
does finally clear, there are a lot of missions just waiting to be to be flown."
"I can imagine." Unfortunately, he could. Endless missions with endless loss
of lives. He wondered if Wiley knew that he knew the name of every casualty they'd
had since he arrived. Best not tell him, or they might ground him permanently.
He sighed. Despite his only having been awake for a little more than two hours,
the thought of bed was quite appealing. He grinned at his friend as he grabbed
his crutches. "I'll see you in the morning, Wiley."
"All right, Frank.
I think I'll have another drink and then I'm going to head out, too. Good night."
"Good night." Carefully maneuvering his crutches to help support his damaged
hip, he quietly made his way out of the club and slowly accomplished the thirty
or so yards to his office and quarters.
He was in the shower, relishing
the nice, hot water sluicing down over his body, the heat easing the ache in his
butt, when there was a knock at the door.
bother you, General, but there's a slight problem."
Frank scowled. "What's
"Well, sir, the VOQ only accommodates eight, and we have eleven
guests. I've put one up in my quarters, and Doc's given up his, and that leaves
us in need of one, sir."
The ten women fliers. Frank shook his head.
Of course. Couldn't very well put them in with the men, now, could they?
"All right, let me finish here and I'll go back over to the infirmary. How
are they getting back?"
"There's a ship leaving in a few days, from Liverpool.
They'll be going back with the wounded."
"Very well. I think we can manage
"Thank you, sir."
Frank sighed and finished his
shower. Once dry, he wrapped the towel around his hips and proceeded to carefully
remove the week's growth of beard with his straight razor. Clean-shaven, he wiped
the last bit of leftover foam from his face and went into his bedroom to dress.
The hardest part was bending down to get his socks and boots on. With a soft groan,
he managed, though he didn't tighten the laces. Fortunately, the infirmary wasn't
far. He packed his shaving kit with some extra skivvies. If he needed anything
else, it would wait until the next day. Kit in the cargo pocket of his trousers,
he got his crutches and made his way back to the infirmary.
offered the general his private space, but Frank waved him off and returned to
the bed he'd awakened in. He couldn't believe how tired he was. He'd been `sleeping'
for a week, and was still ready for bed. It seemed strange, but he gratefully
fell into bed and was soon sleeping again.
Harvey and Doc worriedly considered
how Frank was doing.
"Why'd he tire out so fast, Doc?"
still healing, and I suspect that those `dreams' of his don't help much."
"Pretty peculiar, that, don't you think? I mean, I don't doubt the ladies'
word, but I just don't understand how it could have happened."
"I have no idea, but it doesn't really matter how it happened, only that an awful
lot of lives were saved because of it."
"Amen to that, Doc."
Despite all attempts to keep it quiet, Frank awoke early to the scent of freshly
brewed coffee and Doc's whispered admonition not to wake him up. He opened his
eyes to see them standing in the doorway. Major Kaiser was blocking the entrance,
and he could just see Harvey and Wiley beyond him.
"It's all right,
Major. I'm awake." He watched them closely as they entered. From the looks on
their faces, he at least hadn't had any more of those dreams they'd told him about.
He kept his focus on Wiley, and silently sighed in relief.
you feeling, Frank?"
"Pretty good, Wiley." He waited to see what else
they had to say.
"Uh, General, Liz Woodruff called. She seemed rather
put out. Something about your not calling her?"
Frank scowled. "And how
was I supposed to call her when Doc, here, kept me knocked out for the past week?"
"Yes, sir, but she wasn't listening, I rather suspect that she's on her way
Wiley chuckled. "Don't worry, Frank. I'll handle her for
Frank thought about the rather formidable woman and smirked. "Good
Wiley just grinned.
Frank turned his attention back to
Major Kaiser. "Well? Am I free to return to desk duty, at least?"
nodded. "Limited to four hours, General."
Frank glared. "Four hours?"
"Yes, sir. Preferably broken up into one-hour increments with either a lie-down
or walk in between. No more than four hours, and if you don't follow instructions,
I'll drop it down to two."
"Frank, listen to him. After an hour, you're
going to be hurting enough. For that matter, maybe you should just start with
the two." Wiley thought about how much it was going to hurt his friend to sit
on his injury for any length of time. He wondered if there wasn't something they
could pad his chair with?
"Well, I'm willing to leave it up to General
Savage's common sense, sir. His body will tell him in no uncertain terms when
he's had enough. I would suggest, however, a nice sheepskin pad to sit on." Major
Kaiser never even cracked the tiniest smile, much to his credit. Wiley, however,
hid his grin behind his hand, barely managing not to laugh out loud at the expression
on Frank's face. Harvey just looked concerned.
Frank sighed. "Fine. You're
the doctor." Despite his chaffing at the limited time he'd have to work, he also
recognized the truth in the doctor's words. He also knew that if he was in too
much pain, the doctor was not above re-assigning him back to bed for more than
just an hour or two. No, if he wanted to get the paperwork caught up and the planning
done, he'd have to follow orders. And if he was good, he'd be able to press for
more time working, sooner. He brought his attention back to the major. "So, can
I go, now?"
Doc sighed. "Yes, I'd like you to start off with something
substantial to eat, but nothing too heavy. I don't want you getting ill. How did
your dinner set with you, last night?"
Frank shrugged and sat up. Swinging
his legs over the side of the bed, he stood, reaching for his trousers. "It was
fine." He glanced up and smiled. "I didn't have the soup."
"There are a few brave souls who actually like that slop. I'm not one of them,
and I make them throw it out and start over every week, otherwise, I think it
would never be done."
Frank grinned. "That's good to know. What day do
they start over? It always looks like the same sludge, to me."
It seems like a good day to start afresh." His gaze was critical as Frank dressed.
There was a moment when Frank was putting on his socks that he was worried he
might fall, but the general reached out a hand to help him balance as he got his
sock on using one hand. Satisfied, he smiled at Wiley and Harvey. "Just remember
to use the crutches and take breaks, General, and you'll be back to flying in
"Right. I'll try to remember." Frank got his feet in his boots
and straightened up. He wasn't going to bother trying to tighten and tie his laces,
for now. He accepted the shirt Harvey held out to him and slipped it on. Unless
it was quite cold, he didn't normally wear an undershirt. As he buttoned his shirt,
he looked questioningly at Wiley. "So, what brings you by so early, General?"
"Just concerned, Frank. I wanted to talk to you about some upcoming targets
we need to hit once the weather finally clears."
Frank's lips twisted
into a sardonic grimace. "How *is* the weather?" He looked at Harvey for an answer.
"Raining again, General, and it's still socked in over the continent, as
well." He shook his head, "Everyone's remarking on how odd it's been this week,
but it'll clear eventually."
Frank sighed in relief. Good, he hadn't
missed anything. He'd have hated to wake up and discover that the war had gone
on quite well without him. Not that he didn't want it to be over, but he felt
the personal responsibility to get his job done as best he could; and that required
him to be conscious, aware, and up-to-date on what was going on. He knew that
Major Stovall would see to it that he was brought up to speed on everything he'd
missed - though it didn't sound as though he'd missed much, except the 'miracles'
- and he didn't want to think about his possible part in those.
on, Frank, let's head over to the mess for breakfast." General Crowe winked at
Major Kaiser to let him know that his orders of substantial but easy on the stomach
would be observed.
Frank sighed. Obviously, he was going to have to contend
with not only Doc and Harvey bird-dogging him, but even General Crowe. "Fine."
He paused and looked at Doc, "What about coffee?"
"You can drink coffee,
but try and keep it to under a pot, will you?"
Cut back on his coffee
intake? He sighed again. It was better than nothing. "Wilco," he grumbled as he
accepted his crutches from Harvey. They were hovering like three hens with a single
chick, the lot of them. Doc held the door for him, and Harvey got his jacket and
held it for him while Wiley got his lid, handing it to him before getting the
outer door for him. He had to hide his smirk over their behavior.
Wiley's idea of a light and hearty meal was oatmeal. Frank, raised on a farm,
thought of oatmeal as something you feed the livestock. He ate it, though. Even
if it wasn't his favorite. He'd learned early on that the locals seemed to prefer
it. Probably because it was inexpensive and filling. And so far as meeting the
doctor's orders, it was probably just the thing. Following the doctor's orders,
he limited himself to a single cup of coffee, but made up for it by smoking three
cigarettes, instead. Wiley started to say something, but changed his mind at Frank's
Frank stubbed out his last cigarette in the ashtray on the table.
Reaching for his crutches, he stood. "I need to try and catch up on the paperwork,
so I'm heading for the office." Seeing Wiley about to speak again, he continued.
"I know, no more than an hour at a stretch. Hopefully, the captain will be out
of my quarters by the time I need my `nap'."
"All right, Frank. I'm heading
back to SHAEF, myself. I'll give you a call later and let you know if anything's
changed. With this odd weather, it's given our ground crews plenty of time to
get as many repairs done as can be. Now with the supplies that came with the new
planes, it's even better." He was trying, without coming right out and saying
so, that the down time was a good thing.
Frank sighed and nodded. "Well,
let me get the paperwork caught up and dole out the supplies." He grinned, "I
hope our ground crew chief appreciates it. It means more work for him."
importantly, it means more planes in the air, which ultimately means more ordnance
over the target, which means more damage to the enemy, and a sooner end to this
Frank cocked his head to one side and shook his head. "You're preaching
to the choir, Wiley. You don't have to convince me - and I doubt that you'd have
to convince many of my people, either."
Wiley sighed. "Sorry. Congress
sent another `fact-finding tour' over last week. I think they need to fly a few
missions as ball-turret gunners if they want to know what we're doing over here."
why you have the stars, Wiley. You've got the ability to handle such things. Me,
I'm just a pilot who somehow managed to advance somewhat beyond my limited abilities."
snorted a laugh. "Come on, Frank, you earned that star, not because you're a politician,
but because you're an excellent tactician and one hell of a pilot. You lead by
example, and there aren't many who can. Now get to work, General." He shook his
head. Frank was one of the very few men he knew who didn't seem to doubt that
they'd win this war. He opened the door that led outside, into the rain, and handed
Frank his hat. "And the weather is again unflyable. Get your parts to your ground
crews and get those two new planes assigned."
Frank grinned. "Yes, sir!"
He got his hat on, snapped off a very sloppy salute and crutched his way over
to his office.
Wiley watched his friend maneuver his way through the rain
and mud and shook his head. Even on crutches the man moved like the lithe athlete
he was. With a sigh, he turned to his car, which was nearby, his driver patiently
waiting. "All right, Thompson, let's go."
"Yes, sir." Thompson opened the
rear door for him and he climbed in. Within moments, they were on their way. As
they approached the guarded gate, the driver slowed down. Wiley looked ahead and
saw the limousine. He sighed. Liz Woodruff. "Hold on, Thompson. Let me go and
talk to the lady."
"Yes, sir." Thompson stopped the car and Wiley stepped
out and walked up to the guard shack. The two airmen snapped to attention and
saluted upon seeing him.
"As you were, men." He turned to the fuming Liz
in the back of the limousine. "Miss Woodruff, I'm afraid that Frank's not going
to be able to see you, today."
"And why not?" she asked in an imperious
tone of voice.
"Because he's injured and on limited duty. I assure you
that he's not avoiding you."
"Oh?" She puffed on her cigarette and blew
the smoke angrily at him. "And why hasn't he called?"
"Because until yesterday
evening, he was unconscious."
Her manner abruptly changed. "What?"
smothered a smile. "He was injured a week ago and has been under sedation so he
could heal. He's up and around, now, but only very limited. I'll have him call
you when he's feeling better."
Liz pouted. "I thought that maybe he'd lost
interest." She looked up at him, imploringly. "You're sure there's no one else?"
in a very long time. He was engaged, once, but that was a long time ago."
attention intensified. "Oh? Tell me about her?"
"I'm sorry, but I haven't
time, just now. I need to get to SHAEF, perhaps later?"
She sat back, a
calculating look in her eyes, "All right. Dinner at the Gramercy?"
sighed. "All right, say, eight o'clock?"
She smiled. "All right. I'll be
there." She leaned forward and spoke to her driver, who nodded and put the car
in reverse in order to turn around. Wiley watched them go and sighed in relief.
Of course, he'd now have to deal with her over dinner, but that was better than
her descending on a still recovering Frank.
He nodded to the relieved
guards and returned to his car. The two airmen snapped off precise salutes as
his car passed, he returned the salutes and then turned his attention towards
the things he needed to do that day, and Liz Woodruff and her insecurities over
Frank flew from his mind under the pressure of more important things.
arrived at his office, greeted Harvey again, allowed him to take his hat, but
kept his jacket on. It was a bit chilly in the office, and even damp from the
rain, he was warmer with his jacket on. He made his way into his office and cast
a critical look at the stacks of files he needed to go through. With a sigh, he
made his way to his chair and, leaning his crutches against the wall behind his
desk, eased himself down into his chair. There was the usual creak of the spring-tilt
mechanism, with a matching twinge in his hip. He grimaced, but quickly schooled
all expression from his face as Harvey entered with a mug of coffee and another
file folder. He gratefully accepted the mug and took a sip as he waited for Harvey
to start briefing him on everything he'd missed in his week of unconscious rest.
took notes as Frank commented on various items during the briefing. Both men jumped
slightly when the wind-up timer Harvey had set went off. Blushing, Harvey shrugged.
"Break time, General."
Frank sighed and stretched, a bit gingerly. Come
to think of it, his hip *was* bothering him. Without a word, he carefully stood
and reached for his crutches. He made his way slowly towards his cot in the next
room. There still lingered a faint hint of perfume from the WAAF who'd spent the
night there. He stretched out and closed his eyes, within moments, he was asleep.
looked up as the door opened. Captain Williams entered and shook off the rain
that had accumulated on her coat. She smiled a bit ruefully at him. "Sorry," she
murmured. "We thought we'd go down to London and see the sights before catching
a train to Liverpool and our ship home. I need to get my things."
glanced at the clock on the wall and nodded. "General Savage is in there, resting.
Hopefully, he's asleep. If you're quiet, you should be able to get your things
without waking him up."
"Thanks." She crossed the room to the door leading
to the general's quarters and gently opened it and entered. She saw him in the
bed, face down, a faint sheen of perspiration glossing his bare back, his uniform
blouse was carefully hung across the back of a chair to keep it from getting wrinkled.
She tried to ignore his heavy breathing and muscle twitches as he slept, but she
froze upon hearing him start to speak.
"Sie sind tot, soll sie kommen
She stopped and turned, staring at him. His hands were fisting
in the pillow, and his right leg was twitching. She frowned as he again spoke,
"Bitte, kommen sie. Tot oder leben?"
She bit her lower lip, he sounded
like.... Eyes widening in understanding, she hurried to the door and opened it,
calling to Harvey. "Major? He's doing it again, I think."
for a moment before he realized what she was saying. "Who the devil would be flying
in this weather?"
"Well, he's speaking German." They stared at one another
for a moment and then Harvey pushed past her to the sleeping general.
komm mit mir und leben."
Harvey stared in consternation. It was just like
the night before, when he'd dreamed and brought the five new planes safely in.
He went back out and snatched up the phone. "Get me the tower, and send a squad
of MPs out to the strip." He waited while his call was transferred, staring back
towards Frank's room, where he could still barely hear him muttering in German.
When the tower operator came on, he said, "Expect another one of those strange
landings, Sergeant, only don't be surprised if it has Luftwaffe markings!" He
didn't bother to explain to the sputtering sergeant, simply hanging up and then
dialing for the infirmary. "Doc? He's doing it again, only this time, it's in
"I'm on my way."
"Sanft, sanft. Jetzt! Sehr gut!" His voice
trailed off into inarticulate mumbles as Major Kaiser arrived.
checked Frank's pulse, it was, as usual after one of `those' dreams, rather fast.
He shook his head, wondering. "German?"
"Yep," Harvey replied and hurried
from the room as the phone rang. "Major Stovall. Oh? Well, don't shoot him. We're
on our way. No, I said do *not* shoot. He's not going to try and take off, is
he? All right, then just stand by and wait for the general to arrive. Right."
He looked up at Doc and Captain Williams and sighed. "It's a German trainer. According
to the tower, it set down as pretty as you please on the runway and taxied right
up to the tower. We've got a squad of MPs surrounding it and they wanted to kill
the pilot. We'd better get Frank up and out there. I don't know who else might
Kaiser sighed. "I do. Let me wake him, though. He might
not appreciate an audience." Harvey and Captain Williams remained in the office
while Doc went in to wake the general.
something and shifted on the bed. "General, I need you to wake up, now." Doc's
voice was firm and got the reaction he was hoping for. Frank turned onto his side
and glared at him.
Doc sighed. "You were dreaming again.
Another plane has landed."
Frank looked confused. "So?"
it's a German."
Frank stared at him blankly for a moment, and then stood
up and reached for his shirt, while he shoved his feet in his boots. He grimaced
as he glanced down, realizing he was going to have to bend over to tie them. Doc
stifled a smile and crouched down to tie his laces without a word. He knew perfectly
well that the general wasn't in any condition to bend that far, yet. Oh, he could
get his right boot, easily enough, by raising his foot to the chair, but the same
action with the left would have caused almost unbearable pain.
Doc," Frank murmured as he finished buttoning his shirt and began tucking it in.
problem, General." He straightened up and handed Frank his crutches before opening
the door for him, then followed him out.
"There's a jeep waiting for you,
"Thank you, Major." He noticed the WAAF and nodded politely to
"Sir. I was just getting my things; the rest of the girls
and I are going down to London before catching the train to Liverpool tomorrow."
smiled. "I hope you enjoy yourselves, Captain. Bon Voyage."
sir." She watched him curiously as he left with Major Stovall in tow. She glanced
at the doctor. "Has he always done this?"
"Done what, Captain?"
planes in for landings in his sleep?"
"No. It's only been since he was
injured and I kept him sedated. Hopefully, it'll go away, now that he's no longer
on the drugs."
"Well, all I can say is that there are ten of us who are
awfully glad he did whatever it is he does. But a German!"
"No telling, Captain. Not until they can get him safely out of his plane and interrogated.
"No, sir." With a grin, she turned back and gathered her gear and then, with a
quick salute to the major, left to meet up with the rest of her group to head
"German? You're sure I was speaking German?"
sir. Not that I understood much of it, except `tot' and `leben'. The first one
is dead, and the second one is life....but other than that, I have no idea what
any of the rest of what you were saying meant."
Frank sighed and shook
his head. Harvey was driving, thankfully, as he was cautious and judicious in
both speed and navigating the various bumps and ruts on their way to the flight
line, trying to make the journey as painless as he could, much to Frank's relief.
German? Sure, he knew a little, but he certainly wasn't what you might call fluent,
still... He frowned, confused and concerned, only looking up when the jeep drew
to a halt next to the tower. There was no missing the small, two-seater plane
with the black and white crosses of the German Luftwaffe. Taking a deep breath,
Frank gingerly got out of the jeep and crutched his way over to the armed MPs
who had the plane surrounded. He looked up into the cockpit and spotted the pale
face of a young man who was little more than a boy.
"Steady, men. Don't
shoot unless there's no other choice." He moved closer to the plane and motioned
for the boy to open the cockpit. "Raus! Kommen sie auf."
The boy opened
the cockpit, keeping his hands visible. As he stood, hands over his head, he called
out in a cracking voice, "Schiessen sie nichts! Bitte, nichts schiessen!" He nearly
lost his balance trying to keep his hands over his head while getting out of the
Frank moved closer and helped steady him as he climbed down across
the wing to the ground. Once he had him safely on the ground, Frank turned his
back on the young man and softly called, "Stand down. He's unarmed."
Harvey approached, looking at the obviously frightened young man. "What do we
do with him now, General?"
"Herr General?" the young German asked in surprise.
young man looked at him, saw he was injured and lifted his confused gaze up to
the taller man. "Wie?"
Frank shrugged. "Ich weiss nichts, aber sie sind
hier. Kommen sie mit mir, bitte."
"Jawhol, herr General." He laced his
hands on the top of his head and prepared to follow the American. Frank shook
his head and reached out and took the boy's hands from his head.
sie." He guided the boy's hands down to his sides. Still confused, the boy followed
him, looking nervously at the MPs who still held him in the sights of their rifles
as he passed them.
"Harvey, have someone take a look at that plane. I didn't
see any signs of armaments on it."
"Yes, sir, General. I'll be with you
in a moment, sir." Harvey headed over to the sergeant in charge of the MPs. "I
want that plane gone over with a fine-toothed comb. What, if anything, is wrong
with it. Are there any weapons, anything you can find."
"Yes, sir, Major."
get it off the runway and under cover somewhere. We don't need anyone spotting
it and wondering if the enemy has invaded."
"Right away, Major."
that, Harvey hurried after the general and their young guest. He didn't think
the kid looked old enough to be a soldier, let alone flying a plane. He arrived
at the jeep as the young man was solicitously helping the general into the front
passenger seat. Then the boy jumped in the back, being careful to make his entrance
as quietly as possible. He moved over behind the wheel and got in. "Where to,
"The office, Harvey. And get a proper translator, would you?
I may know more German than I think I do, but only when I'm asleep!"
choked on his laugh, covering it with a cough. "Yes, sir!"
German was rusty, but passable. It turned out that the young man had gone up for
his first solo. He'd run into a thunderstorm and gotten badly buffeted and totally
lost. He was nearly out of fuel and far from home. He'd headed south and what
he thought was east to try and find mainland Europe, but he'd been blown out past
Ireland and there was no way he could have made it back to safety. His choice
was to follow the voice that promised him life, or to ditch the plane in the ocean.
He'd chosen life and imprisonment. He was sixteen years old.
cleared for duty after a few days with no more of his strange dreams, and no more
was heard of pilots being led to safety by an American voice telling them how
to bring their planes in. After a while, the stories stopped as other things took
over people's attention.
Wiley called a few weeks later to pass on the
news that their young German was one of many trainees, and by no means the youngest.
It was clear evidence that the tide was turning in their favor.
a tremendous morale booster. One that gave hope to every last airman who flew
into harm's way on an almost daily basis. If the enemy was having to train children
to fly in order to take up the slack of lost men and planes, then they were doing
their jobs and were hurting the enemy.
They might just win this war after
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