Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters who appear in HBO's miniseries, or Stephen Ambrose's book. =) Certainly no disrespect has been meant in using their names in this piece of fiction.
"This hand is awful, Sarge. Did you mess with the cards when you shuffled them?"
"If I did, Douglas, I wouldn't tell you. Are you going to continue playing?"
Douglas, medium of height and build, and boyish of face and manner sighs before saying, "Yeah… I guess. It's a good thing we're only playing for loose change, though."
Seated with him around the small folding table are three fourths of the medics on duty at the company aid station. Sarge is directly across Douglas, bewhiskered and an old man at the age of thirty one years. He is hunkered behind his fan of cards and puffing like a chimney on his cigarette. Ed Pepping, is on his left, and is smirking as he looks at his own fistful of cards. "Not your night, Dougie?" he teases.
"Not by a long shot," Douglas grumbles, and tosses down an eight of spades onto the pile of cards on the table. Raising his voice so that it will carry, he calls, "Wanta come bail me out, 'Gene?"
The fourth member of the night shift is Eugene Roe. Like most of his team, Roe is young. He is as dark as Pepping is fair, with thin, almost pinched features. Roe is working at the rear of the tent, splinting the ankle of a soldier who has managed to return from patrol with a sprain.
"That's done, Corporal," he says to the soldier, "You're good to go."
Task complete, Roe then joins the rest of the team at the table. He looks over Douglas' shoulder, and makes a noise of disgust when he sees the man's cards.
"With the luck you're having, Douglas. Not a chance."
"At least I tried," Douglas sighs, and says, "Your turn, Ed."
It has been a relatively quiet night for the aid station. Apart from the soldier with the sprain, the aid men have not been called away to their duties. While that is excellent news for the soldiers on duty, it means a long, quiet night for the medics.
And so, the card games and the cigarettes have made their appearances – distractions, meant to while away the hours while the men wait, and pray that their services will not be necessary. Because for them to be needed could mean that a friend is injured. No one wants that. It is a hard thing even for a relative stranger (for one could not be a bosom friend of everyone in the company) – an acquaintance – to be wounded. Even if he isn't a buddy, he is one of your own.
Fortunately, though, the demand for a medic's attention is now not quite what it was when Easy and her sister companies were involved in active fighting. Sure, they need to defend their little island of calm, their little piece of Holland… sure, they need to trade artillery fire with the Germans across the way every so often… And sure, there are patrols going out regularly and outposts, too…
But, thanks be to God, the action, the skirmishes are spread out. There is a lull in which a person can breathe just a little. Focus and begin to recuperate.
For the team in Easy Company's aid station, that lull ends with the sounds of pounding feet and gasping lungs. Cards are tossed onto the table. Heads turn to the entrance of their tent.
Soon, in bursts a soldier, fresh from the field, his rifle hanging off his shoulder. Face drawn, he falls to his hands and knees and vomits.
Roe goes to support the soldier and helps him to one of their examination tables. Pepping relieves him of his weapon, propping it in a discrete corner of the tent.
"What's the matter, kid?" Sarge asks in his most fatherly voice. The handful of years that he has on the rest of the team and the fact that he has a young son waiting for him State-side make him the best candidate for a paternal substitute at that point.
The soldier sobs out, "Oh God, he was bleeding… He was bleeding… I didn't meant to. I swear! I didn't mean to!"
"Who's bleeding?" Sarge presses gently, as Roe checks the soldier for injuries of his own.
"I dunno… I dunno… Oh, God…" dry heaving, the young man twists onto his side. The medics take a step back, just in case, but the soldier's stomach contents have been emptied.
Sarge tries a different tack, "Where did this happen?"
"Near Lt. Welsh's outpost," whimpers the prone soldier, "Lt. Winters said to get help. I ran. Oh God, oh God… I thought he was a German. I didn't mean to shoot him!"
Sarge is driving the ambulance as fast has he can make the bucket of bolts go. But even knowing that, Roe is forced to bite his tongue, to curb his natural impatience.
His first impulse is to yell – put your foot on the gas, damnit! Instead, he counts to a slow ten in his head. Sarge is doing his level best.
And besides, no one shouts at a sergeant. They shout at you.
One of the men is hurt. Knowing that a friend or an acquaintance is injured is bad enough. What makes it worse is that it was an accident. Human error. Something that might not have happened, but did – all because someone was just a touch too nervous to think clearly… because someone had seen just a tad too much damned horror already and was touchy with the trigger of his rifle.
Still simmering, Roe silently endures the bouncing of the ambulance as it trundles towards the site of the shooting. They have left Douglas with the unfortunate shooter back at the aid tent. That leaves Sarge, Pepping and him to drive out to the field. Roe ignores Pepping, who is riding in the back with him and trying to catch his eye (small talk lifts the mood sometimes, sure, but Roe wasn't biting today), and takes out his string of rosary beads instead.
Looking down at the necklace of plain brown beads, he takes a deep breath. Closing his eyes, shutting out the dim interior of the ambulance, he holds the rosary in his right hand. Roe methodically fingers the beads, the rosary making slow progress around his hand.
"Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon –"
The jerk of the ambulance coming to a halt pulls Roe from his thoughts.
"We're here," Pepping says briskly.
Through the small windows on the ambulance door, little can be seen clearly. Roe can just make out what looks like two figures bending over the something. Then, Pepping has the doors open and they are both jumping from the elevated bed onto the ground.
Captain Winters and Lieutenant Welsh stand up as the medics reach them. There is a lit lantern at their feet. By its dim light, Roe can make out the still features of Lieutenant Heyliger.
"Stretcher!" snaps Winters tersely.
Speedy Pepping is already on the ball. "I got it… I got it!" he says, as he drags the implement from the ambulance and lays it on the ground.
Relief battles with anxiety on the faces of the officers as the medics get to work. They back away a little, watching, hoping and praying for the best.
It is probably for the best that Heyliger is unconscious - considering the extent of the injuries that Roe sees by the light from Pepping's torch. Blood is everywhere. It has pooled on the ground beneath the man, it has soaked through his uniform, and has even managed to get on the officers' clothes and hands.
Inspecting the wounded man, Roe finds that the officers have administered first aid – they have put pressure to and slowed the bleeding at Heyliger's shoulder, though the nastier wound in his calf is still weeping. But it is what Roe doesn't find that makes him scowl. He looks up in time to catch a worried look from Pepping before turning to Winters and Welsh.
"Did you give him morphine?" Roe asks.
"Yeah," Welsh says, clenching and unclenching his hands.
Brow creasing, Welsh says, "I dunno… Two, three syrettes, maybe?"
Roe hears Pepping curse under his breath. He agrees with the sentiments.
"Three syrettes maybe?! Jesus Christ were you trying kill him?"
The aid men go into a flurry of movement, getting the wounded soldier off the ground, onto the stretcher and into the ambulance as carefully as they can.
Even as they work, the words come unbidden to Roe's tongue, "You don't think it might be important to let me know how much medication this man has had, huh? 'Cos I do not see one syrette on the man's jacket."
Welsh and Winters help to load the soldier into the ambulance.
"Sorry, Doc" Welsh says, looking truly contrite. Winters says nothing, though he his face is that of a man who has been kicked in the stomach.
"It's a good thing he's a big man. Maybe he'll make it," Roe retorts fiercely, as Pepping hops into the ambulance ahead of him.
Welsh repeats himself, "Sorry Doc. He was in a lot of pain. We didn't know –"
The last three words are the spark that ignites Roe's temper. Didn't know? Bullshit – these were the men that were supposed to lead them all in combat. They couldn't not know – not when so many lives depended on them!
"Yeah?" he snarls, "Well, you are officers and you are grownups. You oughta know." Leaning out of the back, Roe calls to Sarge, "Alright, let's go. C'mon, move it!"
Once in the back of the ambulance, Roe only has eyes for the wounded soldier. He doesn't even notice that it is Winters, not Pepping, who heaves the doors closed and pounds on them to get ambulance moving.
And he doesn't notice the bloody palm print that Winters has left on the window in token of farewell.
If I've done this right, this should tell the story of the scene when 1st Lt. Heyliger is shot by one of his own men near Lt. Welsh's command post (CP). He happened to be walking towards the CP with Winters while on the way to inspect the outposts around the territory that the company was meant to be defending (they were in Holland at the time). Heyliger is shot in both the shoulder and the calf. The scene is dramatized in Episode 5 – Crossroads of the miniseries, and is mentioned by Stephen Ambrose in his book in Chapter 9 – The Island.
I've taken liberties in describing the event in prose and may not have stayed completely true to canon. The characters that I'm focusing on are those depicted in the HBO miniseries, but I have added spice to the story by including elements of Ambrose's material, too.