by request - Part 2 (from the rest of the teams perspective)
He stood at the back watching as the other three men climbed into the back of the old delivery van. This was supposed to be an easy mission, no cons, just free some prisoners and get the information. The bonus was that the man they needed to free was a friend. He had looked forward to seeing him, being the one to free him. It would be a debt repaid and they would look back on this and laugh.
Garrison fumed at himself. Why had he let this get to him? They had all gone into the military with their eyes open. They were going to die. Their fellow officers were going to die. This was war and people died. Then why was he … hurting? They were friends, but damn it, they knew it was going to happen.
The small voice in the back of his mind, that he had tried to silence, said, 'why him? He was a good man. Why did he have to die? It's not fair'. Damn right it wasn't fair but then who ever said it was going to be. He glared at the small voice and it retreated into silence. He would have to write to Wade's family. His folks were living in Iowa somewhere. He would have to find out where. The usual platitudes came to mind, 'He died a hero', "He died for his country, doing what he knew had to be done'. All so senseless and it did nothing for the pain in his heart.
Finally, the others onboard, he stepped up, grabbed the side of the door and climbed in. Actor and Goniff had sat on the right side, so he moved over beside Casino on the left. The engine growled to life and the truck lurched forward as he sat down on the cold hard floor. Maybe they had picked up on his mood or they were as tired as he was because no one spoke.
They heard the change in the sound of the engine and felt the slight lurch as Chief made his way through the gears. Actor was not a mechanic but he knew enough about cars to know that the transmission on this vehicle was not long for this world. All he could do was hope it lasted until they were at the coast.
The con man looked over at the American officer. He looked grim. Goniff had told him about the death of the man they were to meet. Even with his gruffness and coolness towards them, Actor knew he was not heartless. He cared deeply. Did he care about them? He had to. He had accompanied them on a mission that he knew was suicide even though he had an out. They had not known it at the time and it was Major Richards who had let it slip. He continued to watch.
Casino grimaced as his head banged on the side of the truck. There were no seats so they were all sitting on the floor leaning up against the sides. Damn Indian probably hit that pothole on purpose. He wanted to rub the back of his head, probably a goose egg there, but he did not want to let on how it hurt. He straightened out his legs across the floor. He had noticed Garrison and Actor do it earlier and was just now realizing why. It did not hurt your ass as much when the Indian hit the bumps. Damn truck was designed for heavy loads. With just their weight the shocks had nothing to work against.
Ow, he mouthed, as the vehicle bucked. What did he do, drive over a log? Sure felt like he ran something over. Damn. If his legs weren't so tired from all the walking he would stand. Sure would be easier on his head and ass.
Goniff sigh. He loved the excitement of a successful heist. It gave him a thrill even if it was just a wallet. Even if it was empty, it was the anticipation, the danger, the thrill. Every success was proof that he was good, he was the best. Even now, working here in Europe, he tried to look at it the same way though the shooting was scary. He tried not to think about that part.
Funny how in the past, he had been unaffected by one of the old gang getting hurt. Oh sure he felt bad for their pain but watching Garrison when his friend died. Somehow that was hard. He didn't say anything or stomp around or yell; he just went all quiet. Worst of all there was nothing he could do. Even now after so much time and what had gone on, he still looked upset. You would think that after blowing that gun and all that he would be happy. He must have really been friends with the guy. Would anyone be that upset when he died?
"Hey, Warden," maybe he could distract him. "Do you think they'll give us some time off seeing as we blew up their gun?" He had had to raise his voice to be heard over the accelerating engine.
Before he could even start, the truck lurched and Garrison and Casino found themself sliding across the floor, crashing feet first into their team mates. The safecracker's feet struck Actor's legs flinging him sideways into the wall. Garrison's feet barely missed Goniff's body as he crashed face first.
Before they had a chance to recover, the truck twisted and dipped throwing the tangled bodies into the opposite front corner. They crashed heavily as the cargo area rolled and came to a sudden halt, rocked once and stopped. The only motion was the dust that continued to swirl and slowly settle.
Time slipped past un-noticed until a pair of hazel eyes cracked open and Garrison groaned. He had no idea where he was or what had happened, all he knew was that something was terribly wrong. His eyes were not working but the pain in his face gave him a starting point. Carefully he raised his head and brought his arm up to take his weight as he thought to sit up. His head began to pound as his world came into focus and his hand screamed loud enough that he removed the pressure and waited. Bringing up his other hand he tried again. First to come into focus was a shoe. Why was he laying on a shoe? He tried to get up but gravity was not working or … the floor was not level. As he brought up a knee to get his foot under him the floor groaned and moved. He shifted and turned, managing to sit. Why was Goniff …? He blinked but Goniff remained laying on Actor's chest? He blinked a slow blink and looked around. What was going on? They were in a box, a big …box? He looked around. Light filtered weakly in around a square, no, a rectangle like a shuttered window but not. His head hurt and he cradled his hand to his chest. His whole arm screamed from shoulder to finger tips though only his hand was bandaged. He looked back and saw the tangle of bodies was stirring. He knew them, they were … Were they hurt? From the groans and the slow movement they had to be. Whatever had happened to him had happened to them too. He stood carefully and moved to help.
Goniff had rolled off Actor who was trying to sit up but with his head wedged against Casino's chest in the lowest corner and Casino's arm across his throat, he was having difficulty.
"Actor, give me your hand." There was no reaction so Garrison tried again. "Actor?"
The tall Italian was confused and hurting. The voice managed to penetrate the fog of pain and he paused. Seeing his brother he raised his hand and clasped it in recognition. As he was hauled up he recognized his mistake. The blonde benefactor was … Garrison? Why was Garrison in his … this was not his room? He looked around in confusion.
Seeing the Italian was alert Garrison turned to the last man who was lying on his side wedged into the corner. "Casino? Can you hear me? Casino?" There was no response so he squatted down beside him. He managed to get his hand to his neck but with the position and his injured hand it was awkward. He hoped it was just the position when he could find no pulse so he shifted and tried again. Yes, there it was, slow and weak but Casino was alive.
Meanwhile Actor moved to the light. There was a handle but it would not budge. He tried again throwing his weight against it but it was stuck. He turned back to the others. "How is he?" he asked quietly. His voice echoed like a sound in a tin box, or in a … He listened then put his hand on the wall, then recognition seeped in; what used to be the floor. They were in a truck that had somehow been tipped over. The door. He had tried to open it as a window. He moved back again and tried the handle again as a door handle. Still it remained unmoving.
"Is it locked?" asked Goniff quietly. Swinging around from his position on what was now the floor, he called to the expert lock smith, "Hey Casino, kin you …" He swung his frightened eyes to the man in charge. "'E's not …"
"No. He's unconscious."
"And the door is jammed. It must have twisted when we rolled."
"Blimmey. We're stuck in 'ere." There was a moment of silence as that sunk in then with a quick look around he added, "Good thing Chiefie's not in 'ere. You know 'ow 'e is."
They exchanged worried looks. If they were trapped in here in a rolled truck, he had to be in the cab, of a rolled truck. How bad was he hurt?
As they sat in silence there was a scratching sound at the door. They all looked but nothing happened. "You 'ear that?" whispered Goniff as he got up and listened at the door. Not hearing anything more he tried the handle. He shook his head, defeated, and sat down.
Actor eased himself down the slope again to Casino's side and began checking him for injuries. Satisfied that nothing was broken, he took off his jacket, balled it up and as he was about to ease it under the safecrackers head, Casino's eyes opened.
"How do you feel?"
"Like I bin hit with a ton a bricks."
They all sat back as a sound began slowly at first then became louder. It was raining. "Anyone 'ave any idea what 'appened?" There was no reaction to Goniff's inquiry so he continued hoping to prompt an answer. "I know we blew up that gun and took those blokes back to our lines," he said with confidence. Then in a quiet voice, just loud enough to be heard over the rain beating on their prison, he asked, "'Ow did we get 'ere?"
"We are on our way to the coast for pick up? You don't remember?" Garrison watched the slight shake of the Englishman's head. A part of his brain said that was not a good sign. Injury to the brain but there was nothing he could do about that now. The rain was tapering off. "Feel around. Is there anything in here we could use? We have to find something to help us get out of here.
Suddenly there was a thud and the truck lurched causing the four men to throw out their hands in a panicked move to find a handhold. There was silence but no further motion. They watched and waited fearfully. The truck was settling. That was to be expected but settling where? And how far would it settle and into what? Garrison thought he had heard moving water like in a river earlier.
Again there was the thud and a lurch. The men inside held their breath, hearts pounding, waiting. The silence stretched out long enough for them to think they were safe then it happened again.
Without thought or plan Garrison jumped up, throwing himself up the grade to the door. He grabbed the handle and heaved with all his strength He was expecting resistance so when the handle broke off in his hand he fell and slid before regaining his equilibrium and returning to the door. With a heave it swung up, releasing the other side which dropped with a bang, hitting a rock as it opened and letting in a blast of cold, wet, fresh air.
Garrison was out the door quickly followed by Goniff. He took a quick look around, assessing the safety of the trucks position. He would have thought it was secure but those jolts were enough to raise doubts. They had to find somewhere to stay until they could get Chief out. The rain had stopped but everywhere was wet. He needed dry. "Goniff, go look under the bridge. Is there room enough under there for the three of you?" Not waiting for a response Garrison ran down the side of the truck to the edge of the bank. Picking his way down the rocky slope he reached the cab. By holding on to the roof he was able to look around the front and in the windshield. The glass had cracked making it difficult to see inside. By cupping his hand beside his face he was able to see his wheel man wedged in the corner pinned in place by the steering wheel. There was a lot of blood and he did not look to be conscious. That was not the only concern. It must have rained hard, up river, because the river was rising.
There was a little room under the bridge but Garrison wondered how long that would last with the water rising. By the time the two men got to the back of the truck, Actor had helped Casino to the door. With one man on either side they helped steady Casino as he climbed out of the truck and Goniff led him under the bridge.
Once the other two were settled Actor ran to where Garrison was lowering himself into the cab. Using the same moves as his leader had done before him, Actor peered in the windshield. Assessing the situation he yelled, "Kick out the window." He waited long enough to see he had been heard before pulling back out of the way. The sound of shattering glass was swallowed up by the muddy rushing water
Without the glass in the way, Actor, with his long arms, was able to reach into the cab to assist but it was no use. They could not get Chief out. He was pinned.
Garrison gripped the steering wheel and pulled. It was not moving and they had no tools to remove it. Think, he demanded of himself, there has to be a way. Struggling to find a better place for his feet without stepping on the injured man, he banged his already aching head. He froze as the pain overwhelmed him and he thought he was going to pass out.
"Warden, let me try." Casino's disembodied voice came from above.
Garrison was on the edge. He wanted to yell in frustration or punch something. He looked up to yell at the closest target, to explain there was nothing he could do that he, himself, hadn't tried.
"I'm not as tall as you; I'll have a little more room to manoeuvre." The anger died. Casino was right and he climbed out. It took a lot of manoeuvering but Casino finally got the jack into position and the steering wheel gave way under the pressure. Tossing the broken pieces out the front window he bent to straighten Chief's legs and was seized with pain in his chest that took his breath away.
"You'll, … have to, … get'm."
"Casino, you all right?" yelled Garrison.
"It's his ribs," answered Actor. "Take it easy, Casino. Relax and breathe slowly. As soon as you can, climb out. Just take it easy. That's good."
Garrison climbed back into the cab as soon as he could and between the two larger men they were able to move Chief. Hurrying under the bridge they laid him down beside where Casino was now sitting breathing slowly while holding his ribs.
"It worked?" Casino's voice was strained and his arms were bracing his ribs. They did not need to see his face to know he was in pain.
"Yeah. How you doing?"
"Just rest. Actor, see what you can do for Chief, I'll see if I can find some more wheels." With that he was gone.
The space under the bridge was wide enough for one person to walk or lay so Actor, with his large frame and no supplies, was limited in what he could do.
It took the Lieutenant one and a half hours to get back with a hearse. There was nothing else. He hoped it was not prophetic. The two injured men were loaded into the back and Goniff squeezed in with them as Actor got into the passenger seat. They resumed their journey only stopping to switch drivers when Garrison suffered a bout of nausea.
"Casino?" called Goniff anxiously as he reached for the safecracker.
"What is it?" yelled Actor as he struggled to see in the back.
"It's all right," replied the pick pocket with relief. "I thought 'e stopped breathing."
"Pull over," insisted Actor. Once the car was stopped he got out and went around the back to check on both men. "Lieutenant, I think Casino would be better off if he was sitting up. Let's get him up front." They cringed when Casino coughed weakly while they helped him to the passenger seat.
"Chief's pulse is weakening. He's lost too much blood." He wanted to check the wound but was afraid moving the bandage he had made from Goniff's shirt would disturb the wound and start it bleeding again. "We must hurry." They resumed their journey with as much speed as they could.
Hours later they reached their destination, a small fishing village on the coast of France. Actor slipped into the driver's seat as Garrison went to meet his contact. They waited.
"It's all set for tonight, 23 hundred hours. Drive back that way," and he gestures over his shoulder. "He'll have a doctor at the church in half an hour."
Their contact's word was good. They had no sooner brought the men inside when an elderly man hobbled into the church, knelt at the alter for a moment, and then approached where Garrison stood off to the side.
"Vous avez besoin d'un médecin?" He was elderly with thinning white hair but his eyes were lively.
"Oui, ici." Garrison led him over to the small chapel off to the side. Chief was lying on the front pew, pale and motionless. Casino had been propped up on an adjoining pew.
To their dismay the doctor opened his long coat and began pulling out what looked like antique equipment. He picked up the stethoscope, put the ear pieces in place and leaning over began listening to Chief's chest. Actor and Garrison exchanged glances. He then thumped on his chest with his fingers. He gently pulled up on the bandage, tisked and put it down, smoothing it back into place. He then moved over to Casino.
"Monsieur," he said when he was finished poking and prodding the unappreciative Casino. He then proceeded to give his diagnoses to the American officer.
"What'd he say?" whispered Goniff to Actor as Garrison walked the doctor to the door.
"He said that Chief's head wound looks to have stopped bleeding but he desperately need a transfusion. His skull may be fractured. Both may have fractured ribs, bruised at the very least."
"Blimmey, that don't sound good. How long til we leave?"
"A little less than two hours."
"Did 'e 'appen to mention about 'is bag? You know, a doctor's black bag. 'E mention why he don't 'ave one?"
Actor smiled. For all Goniff's attempts to be unassuming and harmless, he was sharp. Even Garrison had not noticed until the doctor had explained. "Yes, Goniff. He said the Germans had confiscated it. They told him they need the equipment for their soldiers. The tools he brought were from the town's museum." Goniff paled, glad that he had not told the doctor about his injuries.
At the appointed time everyone was returned to the hearse and they moved to the docks. As Garrison went to meet the Captain of the fishing boat Casino leaned back. He wanted to go home. He wanted to stop breathing so his ribs would stop hurting. Soon, he kept telling himself. I'll be home soon, doc'll give me something and I'll be fine. The pain blocked everything out until he heard the raised voices. It was not the words, they were in French, it was the tone. Something was wrong. The Captain was saying Non, a lot. This couldn't be happening. He wanted to go out there and set that guy straight. All he, god damn, wanted was to go home. His anger increased his respiration which worsened the pain. He clutched his ribs in agony.
Actor listened, his anger rising as well. Finally he had enough. He knew it was not a good idea to interfere but these were unusual circumstances. He got out of the vehicle and stalked over to the two men. He spoke calmly, forcefully, never raising his voice, all while glaring at the Frenchman pinning him with his eyes. It helped that Actor towered over the man by several inches. He said his peace and waited, watching as the wind went out of the Captain's sails and he acquiesced, turning back to his boat.
"Blimmey, what'd you say to 'im?" asked Goniff awed by the performance.
Actor, completely back to his usual persona, said, "The Captain is a superstitious man. He feared taking a dying man on his boat. If he died his boat would be haunted. I simply told him that the injured man was a powerful gypsy. If he died while being rescued then his spirit would protect his boat, but if he died on the dock, having been refused safety then the whole town would be cursed."
Goniff was stunned, finally closing his mouth when Casino piped up behind him saying, "I wonder what he would say to his promotion from Indian Chief to Gypsy Bandolier?" That got Actor's attention. He shrugged. "There was a familiya in the neighbourhood for a while."
As they cleared the harbour the weather worsened. The two bigger men sat with their backs to the bench where they had placed Chief, keeping him from rolling off. "Come on," groaned Goniff. "I 'ad enough of this in that ruddy truck." Though unspoken, the others agreed.
Twenty minutes later the First Mate appeared. He motioned to Actor then disappeared. When Actor returned he looked amused. At Garrison's silent query he related the unusual event. "The Captain asked me to apologize to his guest, explaining he did not know and if I could ask him if he could do anything about the weather." That brought smiles to their faces. If only he could.
Casino's cough was worsening by the time they made it to the hospital but he was whisked away with the doctor's reassurance that they would take good care of both men. Garrison wanted to stay with his men but he had a debriefing to attend. Reluctantly Garrison returned the two to their base and Garrison headed into London.
Hours later Garrison returned to the hospital. Casino was being released, his ribs taped and pills in hand but the doctor at first refused but then relented to let Garrison check on Chief. The Doctor had pointed to his timepiece as he watched the persistent officer slip into the patient's room.
Chief was lying on the bed with his head bandaged and an IV hooked to his arm. He did not look good but he had to admit he looked better than when they had pulled him out of the cab. He was about to leave when he heard a sound.
"I was afraid you were dead." Chief's voice was weak and slurred from the drugs.
Garrison wanted to blame it on the drugs causing him to have bad dreams, not a brain injury. The Doctor had warned him there was a possibility. "No, Chief, we're all alive and so are you."
"I couldn't get you out."
Chief must be dreaming, he thought, or thinking of some other time. That was a distinct possibility until Chief said,
"I tried but the back door was jammed." Chief's eyes closed
How did he know about the door being jammed? "The door? You were pinned in the cab, Chief. Casino had to use the tire jack to get you out."
Chief continued on as if he hadn't heard. "I tried to get it open but the branch broke, then my knife broke." He gazed wandered off into the distance. "I even tried a rock." The pauses between sentences were getting longer as the drugs pulled him back down. "I couldn't get it open." His voice sank to a whisper and his eyes closed. "I'm sorry."
Craig Garrison had watched as the youngest member of his team slipped back into sleep. He was unsure and a little worried the more he thought about it. While they were in the back of the truck, the door was jammed. They had also heard something at the back door, like a branch? Being used to try to open it? That was not possible. Chief was wedged in tight in the cab. He said he tried a branch, then his knife and they both broke? Then he used a rock. If you slammed a rock against the door it would have made a sound and produced a jolt like the truck settling, wouldn't it? Right after that the handle had fallen off in his hand like as if someone had smacked the other part off … with a rock. The hairs were standing up in the back of his neck. It was not possible. There was no proof, was there?
"So how is he? Any improvement?" asked Actor as the team's leader walked into the room the con's shared.
"Yes, he came to for a few minutes. Doctor said it was a concussion and that he should be all right in a few days."
"That is good news," he replied but then continued, concern evident in his voice. "What is wrong? Something is bothering you."
"It's probably nothing." He did not sound entirely casual and the slight frown persisted.
"What is?" asked Casino.
Garrison ran a hand through his hair. "When Chief came to, he said he tried to get us out."
"Hallucination? It is not unheard of in cases of head injuries," offered Actor.
"Maybe so but he said he tried a branch and a rock. He also said he tried his knife and it broke." Garrison moved over to where Chief's possessions had been put when they returned and removed the leather wrist sheath Chief wore. They had all seen the knife the last time he had used it. Carefully he pulled out the knife and opened it. The blank looks changed when the stub of the blade snapped into position. About a third of the tip of the blade was gone.