I can't believe it has taken a little over twelve months to complete this story. Thank you to everybody for your patience, reviews, alerts and for just reading. The support is greatly appreciated. I hope this final installment doesn't disappoint.
Chapter 18 - Conclusion
The four mobile members of Garrison's Gorillas sat sprawled silently in chairs surrounding the bed in the small room that was Chief's current resting place. It had been one hell of a long day and not even the final outcome had been enough to bolster their flagging spirits. They had come too close this time to losing one of their own and it was going to take time to rebuild their confidence in their abilities. The moment Chief had slid unconscious from his chair, Colonel Asher had called an immediate two hour recess, not that it would have mattered one bit to the men. They were all accompanying Chief back to the hospital, permission or not.
"Ey Warden," Goniff whispered as he sprang from his chair at the head of Chief's bed, "I think 'Ee's waking up. 'Ee just moaned."
The rest of the team rose from their chairs and crowded around the bed as Chief moaned softly again and tossed his head from side to side.
"Easy Chiefy," Goniff coached as Chief struggled to wake from the drug induced sleep that had been forced on him. "You're back in the 'ospital mate and every things alright."
Chief turned his head towards the sound of the voice, "Gon…?" he croaked, licking dry lips as he tried to force his unresponsive eyes to open.
"Here Chief, sip this." Actor ordered as he lifted the dark head and rested a glass against the dry lips.
Chief obeyed without hesitation, sighing gratefully as the cool water trickled down his throat. Actor eased him back down onto the pillows and then the four men waited quietly for the dark eyes to open.
Chief blinked several times as he forced his eyes to focus on his surroundings. As the shadows around him solidified into the rest of his team, Goniff's words finally registered and he tried to sit up in the bed, only to fall back against the pillows gasping as pain erupted in his chest.
"Jeez, you dumb Indian, will you stop doing that." Casino ordered as he held firmly to Chief's shoulders, ensuring he remained supine on the bed.
"The court martial?" Chief croaked.
"Over and done with." Casino growled as he felt Chief relax under his grip.
"But…I didn't testify."
"You didn't have to Chief…" Garrison began but was cut off by Casino.
"That's damn right babe, you didn't need to be there at all. You should've just stayed right here like you were supposed too. What the hell did you think you doing going to that damn hearing anyway. I told you it was a bad idea, but no, nobody listened did they and now look where you are."
Chief blinked in surprise as Casino's tirade came to an end and the safecracker stepped back from the bed. Bewildered, Chief looked to Garrison for confirmation that he hadn't misconstrued Casino's words. Had the fiery Italian actually been worried about him?
Garrison replied to Chief's unasked query with a shrug and a smile. It wasn't often that the safecracker let his true feelings be known to the men but ever since Chief first voiced his intentions of attending the court martial, Casino had ranted long and loud about his misgivings to the insane idea. And unfortunately Casino's misgiving had been borne out with Chief's collapse.
"So is somebody going to tell me what happened or not?" Chief asked looking from face to face.
"You damn well passed out, that's what happened." Casino grumbled.
"I think Chief is well aware of that fact Casino," Actor pointed out.
"Mosby had the book thrown at 'im, 'Ee did. Sung like a bird. Incriminated 'imself; it truly was poetic justice."
"Like you'd know the first thing about poetry, you dumb limey." Casino huffed.
"I'll have you know…" Goniff began before being interrupted by Garrison.
"Enough, both of you." Garrison warned glaring menacingly at both men before turning his gaze back to Chief. "When you didn't return after the recess, Mosby thought the charges would be dropped. He started gloating about what he had done to you and how you deserved everything you got."
"Yeah but what he didn't realize was that Asher was standing right out side the open door and heard every word that Mosby said." Casino continued with a grin.
"Ee even stood there and said 'ow 'Ee should've shot me in the prison camp when 'Ee 'ad the chance. Nasty. That's what 'Ee was." Goniff complained with a shudder.
Actor noticed the half mast eyes and that Chief was close to falling asleep again. "Perhaps this should wait till the morning when Chief has had a full nights sleep." He caught Garrison's eye and nodded towards Chief who was struggling to keep his eyes open.
"No," Chief snapped tiredly. "Tell me now. I need to know."
"There's not much more to tell Chiefy," Goniff stated as he launched back into the story. "Asher walked in and asked Mosby if he was still going to deny ordering your kidnapping and beating and all them other charges. Mosby just laughed at Asher, said there was no need to deny any of it because it couldn't be proved now that you weren't around and 'E'd do it again if 'Ee ever got the chance."
"Yeah," Casino chimed in. "Asher gave him the maximum penalty, short of shooting him, that is. Twenty five years in Leavenworth."
Chief's eyes blinked open at the news and he stared at the smiling faces around him.
"Although it did seem a bit odd…" Actor began.
"Blimey Actor, the whole thing was a bit odd if you ask me." Goniff interrupted.
"Nothing odd about it. He got what he deserved." Casino declared.
"But think about it for a moment." Actor cautioned. "Asher walked into the room, asked Mosby if he was still going to deny the charges and when he was told no, he handed down the sentence. There was no deliberation with the other judges, nor did he ask for a final statement from Mosby's defense lawyer. In fact the man wasn't even in the room."
"Bleedin 'ell, you don't think it was a set up do you Actor, to get us off Mosby's back?" Goniff asked worriedly.
"Let me tell you something, you dumb limey; that was no set up when he," Casino pointed at the now sleeping Indian, "passed out in that damn room."
"Alright, lets take this outside and let Chief sleep," Garrison ordered quietly as he opened the door and waited for the men to exit the room.
"What do you reckon Warden?" Goniff asked as Garrison closed the door to the room. "Is Actor right? Was it a set up to get rid of us? Are they going to let Mosby get away with what 'Ee did to Chiefy?"
Garrison sighed. "I don't know Goniff but I intend to find out in the morning. In the meantime, there's nothing more we can do here tonight so lets go back to the mansion and get some sleep."
"No way babe," Casino growled as he flopped into one of the chairs in the corridor. "I ain't leaving here. The Indian couldn't fight his way out of a brown paper bag if he tried. What if they did let Mosby go? The first place he's going to come is here and I intend to be here when he does."
"Me too Warden," Goniff replied as he sat down next to Casino.
Garrison watched as Actor walked down the hall and returned moments later with two more chairs, placing one on either side of Chief's door. The conman dropped into one and stretched out his long legs. "They do say; safety in numbers Lieutenant."
Garrison sighed but made no comment as he took up the remaining position in the vacant chair on the other side of Chief's door. Surely it wasn't a set up. Asher seemed too genuine in his feelings for the court martial to have been anything but above board. Still Actor's points were valid. It was over far too quickly. And he should know, considering his own court martial a couple months ago. Waiting for the judges deliberations and verdict had been worse than the hearing itself. But this time Asher had announced the sentence barely five minutes after returning to the room and without the presence of the defense lawyer, Major Simpson. Garrison sighed, there was nothing he could do about it now but come hell or high water he would be confronting Asher first thing in the morning.
Morning came a lot sooner than the men expected. Amidst a chorus of curses and groans, Garrison silently rose from his chair, stretched aching back muscles, rolled his shoulders and carefully opened the door to Chief's room, satisfying himself that his wheelman was still soundly sleeping.
"I 'ope Chiefy appreciates the soft beds we gave up for him last night," Goniff whined as he rubbed gingerly at his lower back.
"It was a small price to pay Goniff, considering the number of times Chief has given up his own comfort to watch our backs on a mission." Actor pointed out succinctly.
"Alright you lot, stay here and try to stay out of trouble," Garrison ordered turning away from the closed door.
"Why? Where are going?" Casino demanded.
"To speak with Colonel Asher."
"Then I'm coming with you." Casino announced as he pushed himself to his feet.
"No you're not Casino. You're going to stay here and do as I tell you. I don't want the man thinking we've come painted for war. I just want to clarify several points with him. Besides you said it yourself. Chief could still be in danger."
"The Warden's right Casino. The Colonel sees you and 'Ee just might shoot you after yesterday." Goniff added helpfully.
"Well I didn't see anybody else standing up to Mosby yesterday." Casino glared at Goniff.
"Alright knock it off or at least keep it to a dull roar and don't wake Chief. Actor you're in charge while I'm gone. Try and keep them out of the nurse's way. Oh and that means you too." Garrison leveled a warning glare at Actor.
"Warden, you wound me. Would I ever attempt to court a lady while on a mission?"
"You really don't want me to answer that do you Actor?" Garrison retorted as he started down the corridor.
"'Ey Actor, do you reckon everything is going to turn out right?"
"I hope so Goniff, I sincerely hope so."
Garrison shifted uncomfortably in the chair in front of Colonel Asher's office. The hour was still early but he wanted to make sure he caught the Colonel as soon as the man arrived. He sighed; recently all he seemed to be doing was sitting in hard chairs and waiting. He should have thought to grab a cup of coffee before he left the hospital. Garrison stretched out his legs and settled down for what he hoped would be a short wait.
Colonel Asher stopped outside his door and surveyed the sleeping form of the Lieutenant stretched out uncomfortably in the chair in front of him. With a sigh, he turned and nodded at his young ATS secretary as she stepped out of her office. "Margaret, how long has the Lieutenant been here?"
"I don't know Sir, I found him like this when I arrived a half hour ago. Who is he? Do you want me to call the MP's?"
"No, no need for that Margaret, but perhaps two cups of coffee would be helpful, strong coffee, I believe. This is Lieutenant Garrison…"
"Garrison's Gorillas?" Margaret blushed at the Colonel's raised eyebrow. "Everybody's heard of them Sir and what happened."
Asher sighed again. He wasn't surprised, news tended to travel fast on an army base and particularly when it concerned a certain group of Gorillas. The four men, once despised were now held in a sort of grudging respect as their accomplishments on the war front grew. "The coffee, please Margaret." Asher reminded his ATS gently.
"Yes Sir, on it," Margaret snapped a smart salute and headed down the corridor to the small kitchen.
Asher watched her go before returning his attention to the sleeping man. The Lieutenant looked exhausted, in fact all his men had yesterday. Not surprising, given the unpleasant circumstances of their last mission. The colonel gently prodded Garrison's shoulder, "Lieutenant," he called softly, not wanting to startle the man, given the fact that he still wore his sidearm.
Garrison mumbled but remained sleeping.
Asher tried again, more forcefully this time and stepped back hastily as Garrison erupted out of his chair, hand going for his gun.
"Attention Lieutenant," Asher snapped, hoping his order would belay any further unpleasantness.
Garrison obeyed the order, snapping a salute before his eyes fully focused on the man in front of him. At least he had the good grace to blush slightly. "Sorry Sir," he apologized meekly.
"At ease Lieutenant," Asher replied before turning and unlocking his office door. "You might as well come in and tell me why you're asleep in front of my office Lieutenant. Young Margaret has gone to get us some coffee." Asher stepped aside and waited for Garrison to precede him into the room and take a seat in front of the desk.
"How is your man Chief, Lieutenant?" Asher asked as he took a seat behind his desk and studied the man before him.
Garrison sighed, "He'll be fine, thank you Sir, with time and rest."
"That's good to hear, but what on earth was he doing at the hearing yesterday?" Asher asked a little more harshly than he intended.
Garrison shrugged, "That was Chief's decision Sir, we and the doctors tried to talk him out of it but when he makes up his mind…he said it started with him and he would see it through to the end."
Asher nodded in understanding, "Admirable thoughts but of no use to anyone had he died."
"Shall I tell him that Sir?" Garrison asked.
"Would it do any good Lieutenant?"
"Probably not Sir."
"That's what I thought. Are all your men always that stubborn?"
Garrison closed his eyes. "You have no idea Sir."
"And I'm sure I don't want to find out either."
A soft knock at the door interrupted the banter. Margaret walked in, carrying a tray which she placed on the corner of the desk. "I'm sorry Lieutenant but we only had biscuits in the cupboard. I could nick over to the mess if you like and bring you back some breakfast?" Margaret cast a quick glance at the Colonel, hoping that she hadn't overstepped her boundaries but the Lieutenant looked as though he hadn't eaten in days, which she was fairly certain was the case. Asher smiled at her in reassurance that she had made the right offer.
"The coffee and biscuits will be fine thank you. I'll have breakfast with my men later."
Margaret nodded and left the room, closing the door silently behind her.
"Alright Lieutenant, what brings you to my office at this hour of the morning?" Asher waited as Garrison added sugar to his coffee and took the first sip.
Garrison swallowed the hot brew with a grateful sigh before replacing the cup on the desk. He looked squarely at the Colonel in front of him. "Actor brought up a couple of interesting points last night Sir, and I just wanted to get them clarified."
Asher raised an eyebrow. "Did he now? And exactly what points would those be Lieutenant?"
"Well Sir, it just seems that your verdict and sentence was passed down in some haste."
"And you disagree with my decision Lieutenant?"
"No Sir, not if it was legit, Sir."
Asher's brows furrowed as he stared at the man across from him. "Legit Lieutenant? It would seem you have been spending too much time with your men. What are you trying not to say Garrison?"
Garrison sighed. "Was the court martial for real Sir?"
"You think it wasn't?" Asher demanded.
Garrison shrugged. "I've had the misfortune of facing a court martial Sir."
Asher nodded. "I am aware of that Lieutenant."
"Yes Sir, well I remember the waiting for the judge's decision took longer than the actual court martial but yesterday…"
"I announced the verdict and sentence almost immediately on my return to the room." Asher nodded in understanding. "Did you ever doubt that Mosby was guilty of the charges Lieutenant?"
"Of course not Sir." Garrison retorted hotly.
"And neither did I Lieutenant, in fact none of us did." Asher paused for a moment before continuing. "As far as I was concerned the court martial was a farce and I had determined, even before Chief's collapse to put an end to it. After hearing Mosby gloating about what he should have done to Chief and your other man Goniff I and the other members of the panel were left in no doubt as to what the verdict should be. So in answer to your question Lieutenant, yes, the court martial was real. The verdict and sentence were real and Mosby is, as we speak on his way to the airstrip to await the next flight back to the United States and Fort Leavenworth."
Garrison breathed a sigh of relief. It was finally over and at least for a while Chief was safe, they were all safe. "Thank you Sir." Garrison began to rise from his chair but sat down again. "Sir, there is just one other thing."
"And what would that be Lieutenant?"
"Sergeant Davies and Private Durant, Sir. What's going to happen to them? I know they aren't completely blameless but they did come through for us when we needed help. They don't deserve to be painted with the same brush as Mosby."
"So what do you suggest should happen to them Lieutenant?" Asher asked interestedly.
"I don't know Sir. They proved themselves, at least to us, in France. They should be given another chance. They're both good men."
Asher leant back in his chair and contemplated Garrison for a few minutes before he spoke. "It might surprise you Lieutenant, then again it probably won't, but that is a question that has been concerning me also. And…" Asher put up a hand to forestall Garrison's words…"I also happen to agree with you on all counts. They are good men and despite what happened I believe they do deserve a second chance, but there in lies the problem."
"How so Sir?"
Asher leveled a steel eyed glare at Garrison and then sighed already knowing the answer to his next question. "Would you be willing to take both men onto your team, knowing what part they did or didn't play in recent events?"
"Sir?" Garrison asked in surprise. There was no doubt about the men's abilities and if he was looking to start up a team he would seriously consider both of them but given the nature of his current team he couldn't see how they would fit in, even though the six men had become friends over the past week. "It's hard enough hiding five of us but seven men…"
"That's not the answer I'm looking for Lieutenant." Asher interrupted. "Would you as a team leader and not knowing all the facts of the last mission not only accept Davies and Durant on your team but also trust them not to shall we say 'blow the whistle' on you if your methods were a little unorthodox?"
Garrison choked back a laugh as he stared at Asher. "I don't think any of my methods could ever be classed as orthodox Sir, but I do see your point." Garrison sighed, he guessed they could work around it if he really had to take on two more men. Perhaps he could run a sort of roster. It would at least help with down time due to injuries. "When will they be joining us Sir?"
Asher smiled. "They won't be Lieutenant, but thank you for the offer."
"So what will happen to them?"
"After I gave them a severe reprimand for their part in the events concerning the last mission I offered them both a chance to join a new team or teams but they both declined. I suppose they both had similar misgivings to myself."
"Or they didn't feel that they could trust another leader after Mosby."
"So what are they going to do Sir? We are still at war and I can't see either of them asking for discharges."
"No they didn't ask for discharges but they did ask if their talents could be put to use here in England for the duration. I agreed to their request and they will be joining Major Brampton's group, training men for operations behind enemy lines. They certainly have the knowledge to be of value to the Major's team."
Garrison nodded in agreement. "Davies has a lot of knowledge Sir and that type of role will suit him well. Durant's young but his experience should put him good stead. Chief particularly will be pleased to hear they got that second chance, but so will the others, even Casino although he won't admit it."
"Tell Chief, it was his backing of the two men that finally swayed my decision. If he could forgive them and deem them worthy of a second chance after what happened then I could do no less."
Garrison stood. "I'll tell him Sir and thank you."
"Oh just one more thing Lieutenant," Asher called as Garrison reached the door. "You were wrong in your assumption that Davies and Durant couldn't trust another leader."
"There is only one man that they are prepared to follow and that is you, Lieutenant. Keep it mind if you need a replacement at anytime."
Garrison smiled. "Yes Sir, I will and thank you."
"It takes a good man to know a good man." Colonel Asher muttered as the door to his office closed behind Garrison.
The corridor was empty when Garrison returned to Chief's hospital room and he groaned inwardly at where the rest of his men may have disappeared to. Not knowing the outcome of his discussion with Asher he assumed one of them, most probably Actor would be sitting with Chief so that just left Casino and Goniff unaccounted for. Garrison quietly opened the door not wanting to wake Chief if he was still asleep and stopped in surprise at the visage of his three missing men sprawled uncomfortably in the hospital's unforgiving chairs.
Actor looked up and smirked. "You seem surprised to see us all here Craig."
"You could say that." Garrison nodded towards an obviously sleeping Chief. "How is he?"
"Doing better according to the doctor. He was awake for a little while, had some breakfast and has gone back to sleep." Actor replied quietly.
"'Ey Warden, what did Asher 'ave to say?" Goniff asked as he sat forward and stretched abused muscles.
"Yeah, was it just a ruse to get us out of the way?" Casino growled.
"No Casino, it was all legit and Mosby is already waiting at the airfield for a plane to take him back to the states and Leavenworth."
"Cor blimey, I really didn't think they'd do it."
"Well they did it Goniff. Asher and the others believed he was guilty of all the charges and they'd had enough of his behaviour too. They heard everything Mosby said and that was enough for them. The sentence apparently had already been discussed beforehand."
"Served Mosby right, it did." Goniff announced.
"What about Davies and Durant?" Chief asked quietly.
"Chiefy you're awake, 'ow you feeling?"
"Tired but alright, thanks Goniff. Warden what about Davies and Durant? They didn't get thrown in the stockade did they?"
"Relax Chief," Garrison replied moving to the chair beside the bed. They got a severe reprimand and a transfer, which they both requested, to Major Brampton's training unit. Colonel Asher asked me to tell you that it was your report and belief in them that swayed him to give them a second chance."
"Blimey Chiefy, 'ow does it feel to 'ave a Colonel listen to you and take your advice?" Goniff asked in wonder.
"Well it's not like you'll ever get to find out, now is it? No one would be dumb enough to listen to anything you have to say." Casino retorted.
"I'll 'ave you know I 'ave lots of good ideas."
"Gentlemen," Garrison growled warningly. "Take it outside, now."
Chief rested back against the pillows and closed his eyes. "Don't be too hard on them Warden," he mumbled as Goniff's voice could be heard recounting all his good ideas outside the door as Casino just as heatedly refuted them. "It sounds…normal."
Garrison laughed; he'd almost forgotten what 'normal' sounded like. "Get some sleep Chief. We'll be back later today."
Actor nodded at Chief and opened the door, the sounds of the argument going on in the corridor filling the quiet of the room until the conman pulled the door shut behind him.
"Warden," Chief called softly as Garrison reached the door.
Garrison paused and turned back to the bed. "Yes Chief."
The dark eyes focused on Garrison. "Thanks Warden, for bringing me home."
Garrison smiled, "Anytime Chief, now get some sleep and that's an order." Garrison stepped out into the corridor and shook his head at the arguing that continued. Even Actor had got in on the act. Garrison snorted as he started down the corridor followed by the three cons. Things were definitely back to normal.
After doing a wee bit of research I discovered that the female section of the Army was know as the Women's Auxiliary Territorial Services or ATS.