Let No Good Deed …
"We still don't have a contact so the best we can do is get back to where the others are. Let's go." Together the two men set out on the return trip. The original plan was for the men to carry out their mission then make their way to the coast for pick up. Now with the news of a traitor it was imperative that London be warned as soon as possible. That meant he had to find a contact with a radio, a contact that hopefully would also be able to get a sympathetic doctor.
They finally hitched a ride on a wagon load of hay. It was slow going but still faster than walking. They stayed with the wagon as far as they could then jumped off when their paths diverged. They would have to walk the last three miles but then their passage would go unnoticed. As they neared the derelict building where they had left the other three, both men became anxious. There was no on guard. There was no one around, no sound, and no sign of any one. Garrison indicated silently to his friend and the two split up, circling the ruins. When they reached the far side they saw a woman sitting, leaning against the wall enjoying the early sunlight. Then to his shock, Goniff came out with a cup and handed it to the woman. Garrison wanted to blast the little thief. What the Hell was he doing? And where was Casino? Fortunately the pair of sun worshippers went back into the building followed surreptitiously by Garrison and Actor.
"What the Hell are you doing and where's Casino and Chief" demanded their angry leader.
"Warden," beamed the smaller blonde. The voice had startled him but his response was genuine. "Am I glad yer back." Then the reality of all that had happened crashed around him and his smile was replaced with a look of concern. "Casino went to look fer Chief. We don't know where he went. He couldn't a got far."
"And who is this beautiful young woman?" asked Actor with a touch of pleasure in his eyes and warmth in his voice.
"Oh, that's Anette. She's Louie's girl."
"And who's Louie?" demanded Garrison before he could continue.
"Yeah, well, after you two left Casino heard a noise and that's when he found Louie and then he went to find Chief, he found Anette."
"Bonjour Anette," purred Actor who was delighted when she responded with a smile.
Actor proceeded to make small talk.
Garrison was about to admonish the Casanova but saw the direction he was going in. Actor would find out more than his direct demands of the girl. If she could help them then Actor would find a way to make that happen. He was sure many a woman had helped Actor whether she had intended to or not. He turned back to Goniff, pulling him closer to the door. "Which way did he go and how long ago?"
"He and Louie left a few minutes ago, began the smaller man. "Louie speaks some English and he said he knew how to contact the Resistance. He wants to help."
"You trust him?" Garrison frowned. He thought Goniff was a little too trusting but he had to ask.
"Yeah. Casino didn't at first but I think he sorta does now. 'E took him with 'im. Said 'e could 'elp search."
Garrison ran a frustrated hand through his hair. One man injured and missing, one man out looking for him and presently missing, two civilians …. He took a deep breath and after holding it for a moment he exhaled. First things first. "Actor?"
Hearing his name the tall con man turned and seeing the look, came over to his leader after taking his leave of the lovely young lady. From the look on her face she had been charmed. Naturally. He stood waiting expectantly.
"We've got to find the others, especially Louie. If he can arrange a meet and an escape route, it'll save us a lot of time."
Actor wondered momentarily why Garrison's concern was not on Chief but maybe his hurry was partially with getting the injured man back to England. He knew Garrison trusted him and they got along well, Casino was an irritant at times but they had developed a working relationship. Chief on the other hand did as he was told but he could detect no real trust or friendship there. It was not hard to guess at the reason. Chief was not that easy to befriend. He stayed apart, not divulging details about himself as Goniff and Casino had. Even Garrison had spoken briefly of his past but not Chief. They didn't even know where he was from or whether he had a family. He just didn't share. He didn't trust. Well that wasn't entirely true. When they were on a mission, Actor had often seen the young man watch him for clues as to what to do or even for reassurance that all would go well. He probably wanted friends but didn't know how to make them. Hopefully he would live long enough to learn.
Garrison stepped outside after checking to see if all was clear. Actor returned to the young woman. He would see what else he could find out about the area.
Within minutes Garrison returned with Casino and Louie, who between them were carrying a body. Actor watched closely and was relieved at the care they took in placing their burden on the floor. He must still be alive. The tall Italian hurried over to assist.
"We'll have to risk a fire. Goniff see what you can do about some wood. Actor, get some water." The commander in Garrison went to work checking on the injured man but was pushed aside rather briskly by the young woman. She began giving her own orders.
"Anette has a nurse." At their puzzled looks he tried to correct himself. "Has? .. Is," he nodded in pleasure. "Is a nurse." Garrison stopped and watched the woman take control. She checked his side. A quick look and she covered him up using her own coat. The others contributed theirs as well. A hurried conversation with Louie sent the young Frenchman running out the door.
"Where's 'e off to?" asked Goniff as he came in with an armload of wood. He had managed to avoid dropping the load after almost colliding with the Frenchman in the doorway.
"She knows a healer."
"I thought Louie said she was a nurse?"
"He needs more."
Goniff dropped the wood by the fireplace then moved over to where his fallen team mate lay. The man was pale, almost blue. Damn, thought Goniff, he must be almost frozen. He hurried back to the fireplace and began building a fire.
Half an hour later, Louie returned with what looked like a walking bundle of clothes. Only about four feet tall the old woman shuffled into the room. Ignoring the others she moved over to the prone figure. Casino who had been sitting beside him heard her mutter something before she gestured for the patient to be moved closer to the fire. Actor and Casino immediately moved in to carry out her wishes. Once she was satisfied Anette helped her lower her old body to the floor. She pulled back the coats and bandages and then to the men's surprise she opened her coat and proceeded to remove bags and bundles and even a few bottles from her inside pockets. These she laid out around the prone figure. Anette had obviously worked with her before because she helped place the bundles, opening some and leaving the others.
Actor was fascinated. He knew there were many local remedies that modern science was only beginning to uncover. Meanwhile the Healer continued to mutter.
Casino watched for a bit but when the old woman sprinkled Chief's head with some powder he could not watch any longer. He got up and went to Garrison's side. "Voodoo Medicine Woman. Right up his alley."
"It's not like we have a lot of choice." Apparently he was not entirely sure about the treatment either. Turning, he looked out the door. Who's got the watch?"
"I'll go. I can't watch this," he said as he stepped out the door. He watched as the leader of their undercover team spoke to Louie and then the two headed out towards the road. He sure hoped the guy was on the level. He wanted out of here and back to somewhere warm even if it was only a nice warm Resistance fighter's home. He was so cold and tired. No, don't think about that. It would only make it worse. He walked over to another tumbled down building where he figured he could keep an eye on the surroundings.
It was an uneventful two hours before Garrison returned. The news he brought was good and bad. They had contacted the Resistance but there was no way home for at least two days. Bad weather over the channel had grounded all but the most necessary travel.
"You are deep in thought. Something on your mind?" Actor moved over to sit next to Garrison. "Let me guess, it has something to do with Gaston?"
It still surprised him how Actor seemed to read his mind. No use denying it, it was what he was thinking. "Yeah."
"And you do not want to wait for orders from Command." Without looking Actor knew his leader was smiling. As much as the man tried to remain aloof and unreachable Actor had become adept at reading the man, especially when he was forced to sit idle.
"We can't just leave him and I doubt he'll be a priority."
"Who's not a priority?" Casino had seen the two men talking and decided to join them. He was also not good at remaining idle.
"Our friendly local contact, Gaston," answered Actor.
"Yeah," Casino said with bitterness, "It's all set for the morning, so I can sell you out, Gaston. So, Warden, what're you going to do about it?" His initial reaction to the news that the man was a traitor had been 'not my problem'. Idleness and Actor's words had changed his mind. Revenge was sweet especially when it was him doing the doing and someone else, the getting. "So what's your plan? Will the Resistance take care of him?"
"I think the Warden has something better in mind," said Actor knowingly.
Garrison knew that in times of war that sometimes the enemy had to die but to murder even a guilty man or to ask someone else to murder was not easy. There was a better way and he knew just how it could be done. Well maybe the way but not the how it could be done. He turned to the best confidence man in Europe. "We need to make the Germans think he's double crossed them."
Actor grinned. "Yes. Let them take care of our little problem." That settled; the question was how. They had two days to set something up.
"Is there anything we could sabotage here that we can leave evidence pointing to Gaston?" suggested Casino. Both cons knew Garrison had a penchant for blowing thing up and they smiled at their leader, watching for his reaction. He suppressed the worst of it but a twitch betrayed him.
"How about if Actor writes a letter, like it's from the Resistance, with code in it and all," suggested Goniff not to be outdone by Casino. He knew they rarely listened to his suggestions and sometimes Casino made fun of him but he had to offer. He wanted home as much as the others. "'E then puts it somewhere like 'e's 'iding it but where a German soldier is watching. They watch to see 'oo picks it up. We tell Gaston that it's there and 'e goes and the German's see 'im. 'E gets arrested."
Ever tactful, Actor jumped in. "Good idea but too risky. The patsy cannot be counted on. If the soldier who sees the plant ignores it, it will not work."
Goniff grunted in acknowledgement.
"Actor, can you disguise me enough …" started Garrison only to be stopped by a pair of firm "No's".
"There's no way even with all his tricks that he can disguise you. You were there, everyone saw you. You get arrested and us being short-handed, we would have a hard time getting you out. So, no, you aren't going anywhere disguised."
"I am afraid that I have to agree with Casino's assessment of the situation," said Actor. "Although I am sure I could affect a disguise, the risk is too great. I also was there so the same applies to me."
Goniff realized that he and Casino were not seen, but they did not speak the language so that let them off. There were times the language thing was on his side.
"If we knew which side the Postmaster was on …" started Actor.
"We could give him a letter and say it had to go to Gaston, specifically," continued Garrison with a trace of hope.
"But we don't," said Casino, taking his turn as the wet blanket.
"What if I go and tell," started Louie. The men had been concentrating on coming up with a plan that they had forgotten about the civilian. "I could tell Monsieur where you hide, he come and you kill."
Garrison felt the familiar pain. The boy sounded so eager for a man's death. Maybe it was because he was so young and had never experience what it was like to kill a man. He hoped the war would end before he actually had to pull the trigger and watch a man die, knowing he had caused it.
"I know you do not like to involve civilians, but there is no other way." Actor looked resigned.
Louie took this as acceptance and his face lit up. "Where I tell them? Here?" Not seeing agreement he offered a suggestion. "I have place."
"No." Garrison watched the confusion and disappointment on the boy's face. He had read the finality in that one word.
"Vous ne serez pas les tuer?" he demanded. Collaborateur !"
"Ecoutez, Louie. Better the Germans take care of him, n'est pas?"
The Frenchman fumed for a second then grudgingly said, "Oui."
"Louie, do you think you could go to the Commandant and convince him?" he asked in French.
Being involved and helping restored his enthusiasm. "Oui. I could say I see monsieur Gaston talk to Americans and .. " He stopped when he saw Actor hold up his hand.
"The Germans already know he worked with us. He agreed to sell us out. We need to convince the Germans that he is selling them out too."
They finally had a plan they thought would work. Before they did anything more Garrison wanted to check on Chief so he returned to the room where he had left him. Chief was still lying in front of the fire, its light sending flickering shadows all around the room. The old healer was sitting on the floor with Chief's head on her lap, her hand gently stroking his face. Amidst the crackling of the fire he heard her humming an old French lullaby. It was a scene he would not soon forget.
Assured that there was nothing he could do for his injured man he told Louie to run through the plan one more time. They would go first thing in the morning.
"I tell the Commandant," he started.
"You go up to the guard at the headquarters," prompted Garrison.
"Oui. I tell the guard that I must see the Commandant. It is important." The two in charge nodded so he continued. "Once I am in his office I tell him that I was waiting for my girlfriend to meet me by the stone wall by the Pharmacy. She was late as usual," he added with a smile.
"Do not embellish the story. Just stick to the plan," said Actor sternly.
"But it is true. She is often late." There were no further comments so he continued." Anyway, I say I saw a man, tall blonde man go to the wall and move a stone. I was not sure what he did but then he left. I did not think about it until I saw Monsieur Gaston go to the same spot and move the same rock. He took out what looked like an envelope and it looked like he was counting. He put it in his jacket. He looked around to make sure no one was watching then put something back.
"I waited until he left then I went and looked. Then I give your paper to the Commandant. I tell him I cannot read English so I don't know what it means."
"And if he asks why you brought it to him, what do you say?"
Louie blushed. The Italian had told him what to say but he had a better idea. At least he thought it was better. Best he try it out here. "I say I want to get travel papers to go to Paris . It would be a fine place for a honeymoon if my girl will marry me."
Suddenly there was an excited squeal and Anette launched herself into Louie's arms knocking him back against the wall. The two landed in a heap on the floor. She kissed him and though he struggled at first, he gave in and kissed her back. Suddenly they must have realized that they were not alone and the two fumbled around until they were finally standing. They both tugged at their clothing and brushed themselves off, embarrassed at the display of emotions in front of strangers.
"Well done, Monsieur," said Actor. "I think you have your answer." He stepped forward, grabbed Louie in a hug and kissed him on both cheeks.
"Congratulations," said the Lieutenant as he held out his hand and the two men shook hands.
"Yeah, congratulations and good luck," added Casino as he too shook hands with the near-future groom.
"Good on you, mate," chimed in the Englishman. He came over and shook hands with Louie as well.
Poor Louie was so flustered by the turn of events that he had not noticed each man give Anette a kiss as well until he saw Goniff. He opened his mouth to object but closed it when he saw his girl had eyes only for him. He put his arm around her and she snuggled in close. He wanted to kiss her but he was embarrassed and saw that she was too so he turned her around and with his back to the soldiers they kissed long and passionately.
The plan was put into action. The con man imagining himself in his place, standing in the commandant's office, saying the words, smiling, anxious to please hopeful, begging for a crumb. He hoped Louie would not sound too eager. That was the kiss of death. Actor had been very pleased at the Frenchman's twist. Here's hoping the Commandant is a romantic, he thought. He wondered how Anette would take it if the Commandant wanted to perform the wedding himself. Was that legal? The Commandant would probably expect an invitation to the wedding. Good thing it was real.
The officer watched as the young man rode off on his bicycle. It was a lot to ask of such a young man. If the German decided not to believe him then they were going to have to get him out somehow. That was the part of the plan that had bothered him. Louie should not be going in there alone. He should have had back up. They had no way of knowing how it was going. All they could do was stand outside across the road and watch. If they had had more time, maybe Goniff could have gotten on the roof. Even then … He mentally shook his head. He must be slipping. This was the best they could come up with. Damn, he hated this part. Together the three of them had checked the pharmacy to be sure no soldiers were stationed nearby. Then Louie had pocketed the note after temporarily stuffing it into a crevice in the stone wall. It had to look authentic. Louie then waited out of sight while Actor and Garrison got into position to watch the German Headquarters.
They waited patiently until they saw Louie pedaling down the street. He slowed as he neared the stone steps then stopped and leaned his bicycle up against the newel post. They knew it was not acting but actual nervousness that slowed his steps and made him hesitate in front of the guards. He was told to wait. To the two Gorillas' relief, he did not turn around to look at them. Then he was signaled inside. He was in.
Hours or maybe it was minutes later the door opened and two watchers held their breath. A soldier carrying a bag over his shoulder trotted down the steps and over to a motorcycle. He mounted, started the engine and rode off. A courier. Their eyes returned to the door.
Again they waited until finally the door opened again and Louie reappeared on the steps. He looked grim. If the two watchers thought waiting while he was inside was hard, this was worse. Louie walked down the steps slowly. What had gone wrong? He was limping. Both men wanted to run over to help him, to run in and kill who ever had hurt the boy but they had to watch and wait. Louie picked up his bicycle, got on and peddled unsteadily back down the street. Carefully the two withdrew and almost ran to the rendezvous place.
Louie took the long way around so the agents arrived first. They both ran out to grab his bicycle as he stopped. "What happened? Are you all right?"
"Oui," he started with a sigh. Continuing in his native tongue he said, "It all went as planned."
"But you are hurt," said Actor eying the puffy cheek.
Louie climbed off his bicycle and smiled carefully. "I was so nervous that when I opened the door to leave," he blushed and looked down, gingerly touching his cheek, "I hit myself in the face with the door. Then I stubbed my toe on the leg of the desk in the reception area. The Commandant saw and offered to have me taken to the doctor's office so I told him it was nothing; that I was fine."
The other two men wanted to laugh, would laugh later as they told the others but they knew Louie was in pain. His cheek was swollen and a red mark had appeared where the door had crushed the skin against the bone. They also knew that Louie's shoes, worn thin with use, would have done nothing to protect his foot.
They thanked Louie for what he had done. He just grinned and pulled the papers from his pocket. "My travel papers, papers for two."
"Félicitations to you and your bride," said Actor as he dipped his head. From his jacket pocket he removed an envelope. "While you are there, maybe you could deliver something for me?"
"Another secret mission?" Louie asked. "Certainement, Monsieur," he said eagerly as he reached for the envelope. "Where shall I deliver it?"
"When you get to Paris," said Actor solemnly, "open it and the instructions are inside. Do not open it until you do. Comprendre?"
"Je comprends. Je ne manquerai pas," said the Frenchman seriously. "You can trust me."
Actor smiled and hugged the groom. Garrison shook his hand and said, "Good Luck." As they watched him pedal off Garrison turned to his second and raised an eyebrow inquiringly.
Without turning Actor answered the look with, "Every bride needs a dowry." He did not turn but he felt the gaze still boring into him. Relenting, he added, "Goniff lifted an Officers wallet." He heard the expelled breath and saw his leaders head shake. Actor knew Garrison's aversion to the cons using their talents but knew he would make an exception in this instance.
With Louie's assistance Garrison had contacted a member of the Resistance. He had been reluctant to get involved, trusting Louie but not the stranger he had brought with him.
Garrison looked over to the prone figure lying by the fire. "You said moving him was going to be tricky."
Actor simply nodded then asked, "How soon?"
"An hour before daybreak," and looked at his watch. ""About four hours. Get some sleep." He turned away but not before Actor saw the worry on his face.
They had met the farmer and with his approval they were able to hide Chief among the potatoes and other produce. Goniff took the first shift up front and the others fell into position beside the old wagon.
Later when Goniff was walking with his leader he asked the question that had been bothering him for some time. "So, Warden, what did that note say, the one Louie gave to the Kraut?"
It was a complaint about the payoff. It said they shorted him and he wanted the rest of his money." Goniff listened and then smiled his approval.
It was a long slow walk. Garrison was eager to get there but the old roan horse with its plodding gate was not going to be hurried. It was with relief they finally pulled into town as the sun began to rise. Garrison went to let their contact know they were there while Actor, Goniff and Casino helped the farmer set up in the town square that served as the local market place. The farmer sold his goods right from the wagon so Chief was moved to a spot under it. There was nowhere else to hide him. All they could do was hope he would come to and remain quiet The townspeople arrived, bartered and haggled good naturedly and left with their purchases. All went well for a time. Garrison returned and together with the others they lingered near the farmer's wagon, watching and waiting. They could go to the dock to wait but thought they would stand out less in a crowd. There was much talking and laughing but this tapered off quickly. The gorillas surreptitiously looked around and were dismayed to see two German Officers headed their way. At first it looked like they were just taking in the sights until they saw the foot soldier following behind anxiously trying to balance a loaf of fresh bread, a carton of eggs, a package of butter and a parcel wrapped in butcher paper. If the officers were not heading directly for their comrade, they might have smiled, instead Actor closed in on one side, Garrison on the other.
The Senior German officer approached the farmer and asked about his produce, and prices then asked how much for the dog. When the farmer asked what dog he was referring to, the officer said, the dog under the wagon.
The farmer might have been able to come up with a cover line but Actor was not leaving it to chance. He stepped in and leaned down peering under the wagon. "There you are," he said in French, "you no good drunk. You go off chasing the mademoiselles leaving me to do all the work. I have a mind to haul you down to the sea and throw you in." He stood up, looking disgusted. "If you weren't my sister' boy …"
"Would you like me to wake him?" asked the junior officer with a smile.
Actor started as if he had not noticed them there. "Eh, non. Leave him there to sleep it off. He will be useless until he sobers up." He snorted through his nose in disgust.
The German was not so easily discouraged. "He does not look well."
"If you had drank as much as he did, thought a man of your breeding would never drink like that, then you would look unwell too. He will probably be as sick as a dog before nightfall. Serves him right." He turned to the farmer and asked if it was all right with him if he left the boy there. Of course, the farmer nodded.
Both officers smiled obviously pleased at someone else's discomfort. They continued on with their sightseeing and shopping. Actor melted back into the crowd as did the Lieutenant though they did not go far.
Minutes later a young man wearing a red scarf hurried up to the wagon. He spoke to the farmer and then left. By this time the wagon was nearly empty. The men loaded Chief onto the wagon again and headed for the dock. From there they and some of the produce were loaded onto the boat with help from the sailor with the red scarf.
The German was right, Chief did not look well. After being treated by the old healer he had seemed to rest easier. Now he was again pale and sweating. The pain lines were back. There was nothing that could be done until they reached the hospital.
The journey out to the Motor Launch was uneventful though once they were underway they saw black smoke on the horizon. Back in England Chief was whisked off to the hospital while the cons and their leader headed to London. This was to be a full debriefing.
"Left tenant? Left tenant Garrison?" the young corporal asked as she approached. The Gorillas had just exited the debriefing. They were tired, hungry and just wanted to go home. Seeing the recognition in the tall blonde's eyes she continued. "There's an urgent message from the base hospital. They ask you to come immediately." She knew immediate and hospital but even with that in mind she was startled by the change in the tired men as they bolted for the exit.
Three men leapt from the jeep before it had even stopped. 'Come immediately' was ominous. The driver followed abandoning the illegally parked vehicle. Bypassing the nurses' station they went directly to the patient's room only to be stopped by a very large angry nurse.
"Hold it right there, Lieutenant." Behind him they heard the struggle.
"Look, I can help." He did not wait for her reply but pushed past her and moved to the bedside. Chief was fighting the nurse and the Doctor as they tried to restrain him. "Chief," he called anxiously. "It's all right Chief. You're in the hospital."
The words finally penetrated and he stopped struggling. He had come around briefly on the boat, knowing there was something he had to tell but he had passed out before he could remember. This time he kept at it, worrying at it until it had come to him. He had to tell him. It was important. It could not wait. Now he was here. Looking for the source he managed to grit out, "Warden." Seeing his friend he grabbed for his arm and said, "Gaston. You have to…
"It's all right, it's okay," he offered trying to reassure his injured team member.
"No. He's a traitor. You can't …"
"We took care of it."
"But he ..." His energy spent, he sagged back on the bed. "You knew he was a traitor?
"Yes," said Actor, moving up behind his leader. Seeing the confusion on his face he added, "You told us."
"I … When?"
Seeing the exhaustion Garrison suggested they come back later when he was rested but Chief insisted so he briefly explained how he had told them and how they had taken care of the problem, or set it up so someone else took care of it.
Chief was so tired that he had to concentrate on what Garrison was saying. He had to know that they were not leaving a problem behind. At the end he was relieved and he had to admire what they had done.
"So when can I get out of here?" he asked, eyes already at half-mast.
Garrison said he would talk to the doctor and Chief's eyes closed. As they were walking down the corridor, Actor said, "The Doctor should not release him, he is too weak."
There was a pause and Actor smiled and said, "You do not plan on asking him do you?" The only answer was Garrison's smile. "I did not think so." Garrison was learning
the con, but then he was being taught by the best.