Splinters

Part 6

The shiny green MG pulled up to park beside the Packard. The men had returned last night. Even though they had been delayed, Terry had still had not made it back in time to have the house ready when they returned. She gathered herself before getting out of the car, knowing Chief would be watching her out the window.

Terry made it up the stairs with a normal gait, but leaned briefly against the outside of the front door, taking some deep breaths and steeling herself for going in. She pulled herself upright and put a smile on her face. Quietly opening the door, she let herself in. The door to Garrison's office was open and he was at his desk working on the endless paperwork that came with his job. Chief was in his window in the common room, cleaning his blade as usual. Goniff and Casino were at the table playing solitaire. Actor was in his chair behind Casino, reading a book and puffing on his pipe. Terry strolled toward the game table.

"Where were you?" asked Craig after spotting her.

"With Kit," she replied only half truthfully. "Sorry, Brother, with all the fighting going on over there right now I really didn't expect you'd get out for another couple days."

"Neither did we," he brushed it off.

Terry came up to Casino's back and placed a hand on his shoulder, looking at the cards spread out in front of him. She twisted slightly, shooting a spasm of pain through her side. This caused her to tighten her grip on his shoulder. As he turned his head to look at her, she pointed at the cards, "red three on the black four. You're cheating again."

Casino snorted.

Terry glanced at Actor and stealthily kicked his foot. The con man looked up at her and frowned. She was pale and he could tell something was wrong. "I need you," she mouthed at him. Shielding her actions from the others with her body, her thumb pointed up and then she held out five fingers. He gave a tiny nod and sent a questioning look at her. Her right hand made a small movement to pull her jacket back on the right. Actor saw the blood and looked at her sharply. Terry tilted her eyes toward Garrison's office and gave a small shake of her head. Frowning, Actor gave another brief nod.

Terry headed for the stairs. "Hey, Craig, I'm going up and take a nap. We had a private party at the Fox last night and I was tending bar until three. Then we just decided to go ahead and clean up."

"Want me to fend off Kit if she calls?" he asked, not looking up.

"Yeah, would you?"

Terry made it up the stairs and to her room, closing the door behind her. Unable to suppress a small groan, she eased herself down on the bed and lay on her back. She hadn't bothered to take the jacket off. She had rested for a couple minutes and gotten her breath back when the door opened and Actor slipped in.

The Italian sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled the jacket open. The shirt underneath had a ragged long hole and a lot of blood. His closed expression hid the concern he felt. "What happened?" he asked in a low voice.

"Got shot," replied Terry. "It went through."

"Am I safe to assume you did not get this working for the U. S. Army?" he asked caustically.

Terry did not answer.

The fact that she did not want the Lieutenant to know about the injury told him she had not acquired it on a legitimate mission. So what was she doing and where? Actor pulled her shirttail out and started unbuttoning it. He peeled it away from the dressing. The gauze was saturated with blood. "And what makes you think I am not going to tell the Lieutenant about this?" he asked testily out of concern.

"Because I'm asking for your word that you won't and I trust your word."

Actor looked at her sourly, but nodded. The girl was rapidly becoming enmeshed in the strange code of ethics held by the cons to cover for one another. A faint tap came from the door. Actor quickly pulled the jacket back over to cover the wound. He went to the door as Terry watched warily. Actor opened the door a crack and looked into Casino's grim face.

"Private party?" asked the safecracker sarcastically in a low voice.

"As a matter of fact . . .," replied Actor. "What do you want?"

"She's hurt. She was leanin' on me and when she pointed to the cards there was blood on her hand. What happened?"

Actor opened the door wide enough to admit the other man and motioned him to come in quickly. Casino slid into the room. He couldn't see any obvious injury on the woman for where he was.

Terry regarded him cautiously from the bed. "Are all of you coming up here?"

Casino shook his head. "They didn't see nothin'." He walked around to the other side of the bed as Actor resumed his place.

"Let's sit her up and get that jacket and shirt off so I can work with it," said Actor.

"Uh, excuse me?" said Terry. You are not undressing me."

"Why not?" grinned Casino. "You do it to us."

"That's different."

The con man looked at her steadily. "Do you wish me to take care of you, or would you prefer I get the Warden to do it?" Actor eyed her and said significantly, "I am sure both of us have seen plenty of women in brassieres before."

Casino chuckled and gave her a crooked grin.

"That's supposed to make me feel better? I'm sure you've both seen more than your fair share of women without bras too. That doesn't mean I'm going to do a strip tease for you." Terry did grab an arm of both of them and allowed them to pull her up. It was rather disquieting to have both men undress her. She laid back down to let Actor remove the dressing.

Casino looked at the bloody gash and shook his head. "Jeez, Terry. You didn't get that tending bar at the Fox."

"France," said Terry. "It was a roadblock that didn't go okay."

"I'll get the aid kit," offered Casino.

While he was gone, Actor went into the bathroom and wet some towels. He returned and began cleaning the blood from around the wound. His hands were gentle.

"Thank you," said Terry.

Actor looked at her, allowing a frown now that they were alone. "I am not happy."

"I can tell." She squeezed his arm. "I'm sorry I'm worrying you."

Actor sighed. "I suppose it makes up in part for the worry we give you."

Terry smiled ruefully, "You only have one of me. I have five of you."

Casino returned with the aid kit, handing it to the Italian, while taking another good look at the furrow in Terry's side.

"Casino, watch the door, please," said Actor, getting what he needed from the kit. "It would not do for the Warden to suddenly decide he must talk to his sister."

For once, Casino didn't argue, but positioned himself at the door, wondering what he would say to Garrison if the man caught two of his cons with his half-naked sister in her bedroom.

Actor kept his face impassive as he injected lidocaine around the injury and began to suture it. Nothing in his countenance showed the thoughts going through his mind. He admired the silky pale flesh below the disgustingly utilitarian cotton bra. If she were his woman, she would be wearing a lacy garment meant to enhance her natural attributes, not imprison them. However, she was not his woman and was hardly likely to attain that distinction. He had bought her silk and lace undergarments in the past, but he did not know if she even wore them. The con man clamped his mind shut on any further contemplation in that direction, not sure why his mind had gone there in the first place.

Actor put sulfa and gauze on the sutured wound and quietly called Casino to come assist. "Sit her up," instructed the Italian. Casino sat on the opposite side of the bed and helped Terry to sit up. She leaned her forehead on his shoulder while Actor wrapped her ribs with gauze wrap.

"That should give you some support," he said when he finished.

Terry straightened and reached a hand up to Actor's neck, pulling his head down so she could kiss his cheek. She released him and turned and kissed Casino's cheek. "Thank you."

"Yeah, well don't make a habit of this," griped Casino.

"Telling that to her is like telling it to the Warden," complained Actor. "Let's get her into bed."

Casino got up and pulled Terry's boots off while Actor put up the aid kit. The Italian helped her to her feet so Casino could pull back the covers on the bed. Actor supported her with one arm while the other hand unbuttoned and unzipped her pants.

"I can do that myself," said Terry indignantly, ineffectively swatting at his hand.

"I can do it faster," shot back Actor.

Terry thought about that and almost laughed, except it hurt her ribs. She listened instead to Casino's chuckle. Suddenly exhausted, she dropped her head against Actor's chest.

"Are you all right?" he asked in some concern.

"Tired," replied Terry. "I haven't slept in a couple days."

She was helped into bed and the covers were tucked around her by both men. Casino picked up the old dressings and shirt and rolled them into a ball.

"What are you going to do with those?" asked Actor.

"Take 'em to my room for now. I'll get them out tonight and put 'em in the bottom of the burn barrel. I doubt the Warden is going to dig through the trash."

The two men took one last look at Terry. "We will come up and check on you as we can," said Actor.

Terry nodded. She closed her eyes. Her last thought before she drifted off into sleep was that she had two mother hens watching out for her. She was asleep before they had gotten out of the room.

G

Casino watched the door, while Actor slipped into Terry's room. The girl was sleeping on her back. Actor approached the bed silently. He lifted the covers to check on the bandage. It was still clean. For the second time that day he noticed the prominence of her ribs. She was too thin. He knew she gave the men the lion's share of the meals she cooked, but maybe she should be told not to do that.

Letting the covers back down, he eased a hip on the edge of the bed. He wondered why she was going on her own missions. Was it the army sending her in or was she working for an underground group. Whichever it was, he did not like it. And he did not wish to examine too closely his motives for not liking it. She should stay at the Mansion, taking care of all of them, not running around Europe playing war games that should be reserved for men. At the same time, he had come to appreciate having her working a con with him. She had graduated now to working the German officers they were trying to get information from. It was much more pleasurable having her work the con with him than to just be a pretty piece on his arm.

Actor reached a hand out and laid the backs of his fingers against her cheek. It did not feel feverish. Hopefully she could get by without the wound becoming infected. For no good reason, he brushed back the hair that had strayed across her forehead. He was about to get up when her eyes opened. He was ready to clamp a hand over her mouth if she started to scream. She just looked up at him, slightly startled, but not afraid.

"I came to check on you," he said.

Terry nodded. "What time is it?"

The Italian looked at his watch. "Four-thirty."

Terry sighed, "I better get up and start cooking dinner." She started to stretch, but remembering her state of dress, decided that wouldn't be a good idea right now. Instead, she looked up at him and said quietly, "Thank you."

Actor shook his head, "What are you into, Little One?"

She cocked an eyebrow at him.

"I know. You do not like to be called Little One."

She gave a small grin. "You can call me Little One. From you I will take it." The grin faded. "I can't tell you what I'm doing. And Craig can't know about it."

"I still don't like it, Teresa," said Actor.

"I know," soothed Terry. "I don't like you guys going on all these missions so close together. It's just something we have to do. And if it makes even a little bit of difference in this war, then I guess it's worth it." She smiled again and gave his knee a light shove. "Now get out of here. I want to get dressed and I normally don't parade around in my underwear in front of strange men."

Actor stood up and with aplomb stated, "I do not consider myself to be strange. Now Casino on the other hand . . ."

Terry was grinning now. "Out!"

Instead of returning to the downstairs common room, the two men went to Casino's room. Casino sat down on the edge of the bed, indicating Actor could take the chair. The con man sat, pulling a pack of cigarettes from his pocket and offering one to the safecracker. Casino accepted one with a nod, coming up with a match and lighting both their cigarettes.

"So wadda you think?" asked Casino.

Actor shook his head. "I'm not sure."

"She's into something besides what the Army gives her," mused the safecracker, taking a drag on his cigarette.

"That is obvious," said Actor. "Especially since she does not wish for the Warden to know about it."

"So she didn't tell you before this?" asked Casino. "I figured she'd tell you."

"Not about this," admitted the Italian. "I know she was sent in with another team one time while we were on a mission. She was back before we were, so the Lieutenant did not know about that one until afterwards. He was not happy."

"I bet not," said Casino with a quirk of his head. He frowned, "What kind of a team?"

"I believe the Warden, and now Teresa, are working with another Lieutenant setting up a team similar to ours. Or that is what Teresa has said."

"Cons?" asked Casino in surprise.

"Mixed," replied Actor. "Some are special forces. I know their confidence man is from a prison in Ireland." He smiled smugly. "She did not like working with him."

Casino gave a snort. Actor didn't think anyone could be as good as he was. That gave the safecracker pause. "Who's the cracksman?"

Actor shook his head. "Don't know. She doesn't use names. Security. She said she doesn't tell them who we are either."

The two smoked in silence for a bit.

"So what are we gonna do about her?" asked Casino, nodding in the direction of the girl's room.

"For now, just watch her, and hope she comes back in one piece from wherever it is she goes," replied Actor.

"Yeah, I guess," said Casino. "Or at least comes back in good enough shape you can fix her, like now."

Neither of the men cared to question why they were working together on this.