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Adopted Sons
Continued...

Chapter 10

"... The bridge... the bridge..." he moaned, as he lay on the table in
the major's office. Those keeping an eye on him sneered at the stench
of burnt cloth. They hoped  the major hurried, so that they could get
this overcooked American out from under their noses.

Sgt. Hellman explained to the major what they saw, but could not yet
explain the explosion itself. The dead remained by the road... they
served no purpose, so they were left as they were. This captain,
though, was a different story, and the major was interested in hearing
it.

"He won't give us any trouble in the interrogation, Herr Major. He's
heavily drugged himself with morphine," stated the SS non-com, as he
displayed the vials that fell from the captain's hand as he was lifted.
Hellman smiled grimly. The major nodded.

"Shall I interogate him, sir?" asked Hellman.

The major shook his head. "No need to waste your skills on this one. It
would probably kill him, anyway." He paused briefly, then continued,
"No, let Burser try his luck."

Conrad Burser was a short, stocky American expatriate of German
descent, who, when he had a chance to serve his ancestral country, took
to Nazism's promise of Aryan ascendency to heart. Fluency in English,
French and, of course, German, made him a valuable asset infiltrating
underground groups for the Fatherland. Plus, his average, nondescript
appearance allowed him to blend, cameleon-like, into any community.
When the rumor of impending invasion grew, he was ordered to insert
himself into enemy ranks, when they came, gathering intelligence and
commiting such acts of sabotage as possible. Burser was easily one of
the Gestapo's top men in the region, and was being boarded in this
small, well-hidden Jewish haven in west-central France, ready to
strike.

********

Burser came into the office shortly, wearing the uniform of a member of
the "Big Red One", the US First Infantry Division, that spearheaded
Operation Overlord. He had the eagles signifying he was a "full-bird"
colonel on his collar. Appraising the injured man before him, he pulled
up a chair and sat facing the American.

"Captain," he said softly, "can you hear me?"

"Wha...?" the injured man's head lolled toward the voice. He didn't
appear completely coherent, which was just fine with his questioner.

"I'm Col. Prescott with Headquarters, Captain. You and your men were
found badly wounded near a grove of trees northeast of here. Were you
able to achieve your objective? The truck you were using was blown to
hell, it looks like."

"Jenson? Hartford?" the captain asked groggily, "they OK?"

The false colonel smiled, "Yes, Captain. We're treating their wounds in
this makeshift hospital we formed near the beach. But, it's very
important we know the outcome of your mission. Were you sucessful in
your objective?"

"Bridge? No, never re... reached bridge. Unless... unless other teams
took... took out... still stands," the captain slurred.

"I understand. We haven't heard from them, but it's very important that
the bridge be removed. What frequency are they on? We absolutely must
contact them."

Burser took a big chance here, knowing that any bona fide member of
Command would already know the information, but he counted on the drugs
slowing this fool's wits. He wasn't disappointed.

"Radio silence, as ordered. No radio," the captain muttered sleepily.

"Can you advise us of their whereabouts? How were they proceeding? We
can have a nearby unit contact them," the "Colonel" said, reasonably.

The drugged officer shared his mission with "Colonel Prescott", told
him of the four teams of three each sent out to take certain targets,
to cut off reinforcements from the north and west. As he rambled,
barely understandable, men behind Burser took note of all pertinent
data. Using a map, they verified the captain's likeliest target: the
bridge on the main route from Calais to Normandy. Cutting that off
would keep armor from reaching vitally held territory, allowing the
Americans and British to get their own armor ashore. If that happened,
every German unit in the region might be forfit, especially if a
flanking tactic were employed. Burser took another gamble.

"So, is the attack on the enemy's exposed backside on schedule?"

Every breath in the room caught, thinking the spy had pushed his luck.
The captain was deathly silent for a moment, frowning slightly, then he
smiled at the "colonel".

"Yes... yessir! Kick him right in his un... uncovered ass, sir! Cut him
off... no help, at all..." the wounded soldier chuckled dreamily.

"Colonel Prescott" clasped the captain on the shoulder gently. "Good
work, soldier! We'll get you patched right up and on your way home."
The captain grinned stupidly up at him.

He got up and motioned the guards out in front of him, partially
blocking the injured soldier's view. Once in the outer office, Burser
turned to the major.

"He has three other three-man teams," he commented, pointing to a map,
"here, here and here. They intend to blow this bridge..." he slammed
his index finger on the spot, "cutting us off from armor and other
reinforcements. The enemy evidently has airdropped troops behind us,
ready to cut us off and smash us from behind. This confirms earlier
intercepted transmissions."

The major nodded, "We should notify our units in the area to find and
obliterate these teams."

Burser shook his head, "No time, sir. Unfortunately, we are the closest
units to that location. If what he said is accurate... and I add it
seems reasonable... then the bridge will be long gone before anyone
else gets there. We will truly be cut off then."

The major looked alarmed, "What do you propose, Herr Burser? That WE
take care of the problem?"

Burser shrugged... an entirely American response... and answered, "I
don't see why not, Herr Major. We are soldiers of the Fatherland, are
we not?"

The major pondered this for a moment, the inquired, "How many men would
be needed?"

The spy answered without hesitation, "Give me 30 men. They are only
nine, and we know where they'll be. As they like to say in America,
'they'll never know what hit 'em...'"
 

********

"Killing two birds with one stone" is another Americanism Burser would
have been familiar with, and that was exactly what Dunne's plan
entailed. Roughly, the idea was to convince the SS goons crushing the
tree-bound hamlet under their boots to split their forces, sending a
large contingent of goosesteppers on a wild goose chase to the north,
where they'd meet an armored unit coming south to outflank an
"airdropped assault" on the German backside. If everything went
according to plan... or even close to plan... they'd entice the
German's to fire on each other. At the least, they'd slow the armor
down long enough to allow the invasion to get past the beachhead, and
at most, they'd get one unit to wipe out the other.

It was a plan that had Vin smiling. Chris noted, "Sounds like JD's
grandson has a little of YOU in him."

Josiah mulled over the situation, and frowned.

"Whatever is disturbing your peace of mind, Josiah?" Ezra asked, as he
sat beside his old friend.

"I don't know, rightly, Ezra. Something's missing, I just know it. I
can't explain it, but I know something's wrong," the preacher turned
toward the gambler, then added, "That doesn't make sense, does it?"

"As much sense as anything since Purgatory, mi amigo... at least since
then..."
 

***********

Chris, Raphael, Vin, Paladin, Nathan, Buck and several of Raphael's men
harrassed Erickson's forward troops in the field, drawing them away
from Purgatorio. As a group of soldiers would do in France years later,
the idea was to weaken the enemy's presence in town, allowing a small
group consisting of Josiah, James West, Ezra, JD and Raphael's most
capable men to slip into the squalid hellhole, find the captives and
free them. Vin's scouting and intelligence from West's partner Artemus
Gordon gave them an edge... they knew the routine of Erickson's guards,
and knew the best ways into and out of the town. They knew that Carter
himself was a late riser, and always headed to the cantina for
breakfast at 10 o'clock sharp... with a large "honor guard" with him,
at all time.

By waiting until right before his breakfast, they could cluster a very
large percentage of his men in places where they would not hinder the
attempted rescue, until it was too late to stop it. West and
Rodrieguez, Raphael's best man, took care of the guards along the path
of escape, while Josiah and JD were to secure the north stable and some
wagons and horses. Ezra and Artemus, who had scouted the town in
disguise, were to free Casey from the room behind the bar, and the
others in the south-end stables would be liberated by the remaining
three of Raphael's compadres.

JD had not forgotten the dream, and Josiah's insisted that he stay
alert for the intended sign. He remembered the burning stable, and felt
extreme discomfort when he and Josiah approached it, but knew Chris was
right... they HAD to get horses and wagons to have a chance at all. The
two eased through the back, and closed the door behind them. JD and
Josiah stood dumbstruck by what they found... or rather failed to
find... inside.

"Where the hell are the horses?" JD cursed softly. He and Josiah looked
at each other.

"Trap!" Josiah hissed, then turned to flee the way they came, to warn
the others. As JD turned to join him, a black bird flew through a side
window and between the men. JD backed away, staring at the bird, which
landed on top of a high wall of hay opposite the young man. JD stood
mute, watching the bird with wide-eyed horror, his dream welling up
inside him. He continued to back away, as Josiah reached for the door,
not having seen the bird. He turned, and wispered harshly, "Com'mon,
JD! Get a move on it!" The back door was resisting his effort to
re-open it, however, so he coiled himself to jerk it hard. The bird
looked at Josiah and cawed. JD, understanding beginning to flood him,
spun to stop his friend.

"No!" JD shouted as Josiah yanked the door open. Too late, the trap was
sprung, and a series of beams fell free from the roof. Josiah avoided a
few, but became pinned under several others. JD had backed away far
enough to avoid the plummeting lumber... saved by the ominous presence
of the bird.

"Hang on Josiah!" JD whispered to his companion and mentor. As the
dream came back, he remembered trying to free the man. Somehow, he knew
that was a mistake. "I'll warn the others."

It came to him in a flash, and he finally understood. The plan would
fail and fail miserably, because Erickson had already surmised they
would go for the hostages. He'd known the gunfighters would try to
minimize the confrontation, to keep the hostages out of harms' way...
but Carter Erickson designed his trap to take advantage of this
philosophy. JD hastily climbed a rickety set of steps to spy out the
rest of Erickson's design. Easing over to the front of the structure
and looking out carefully, he saw parts of it...

The nuns and children were not in the south stable, after all... they
were herded into an alley between the cantina and a run down church on
the far side of the town. That meant the people had been moved since
Gordon last saw them. JD nodded appreciatively. It also meant there
were very likely gunmen waiting in the south stables. Fortunately,
Raphael's men were not to enter that building for another two to three
minutes.

It made sense... if James West had a spy among these thieves and
murderers, then it stood to reason that Erickson would have been
watching Four Corners, and probably knew when the men left... and how
many were among them. Panning his vision right-to-left, he carefully
noted the tops of all the nearby buildings. As he suspected, there were
sharpshooters on two buildings he could see, waiting on the arrival of
the others in the rescue party.

JD had to think quickly. He had to find a way to warn the others of the
danger, without getting himself killed. He eased down the ladder.

In his dreams, there were black powder kegs behind the stacked hay, and
sure enough, when he looked, he found them. He also found cannon balls
and fuses, which brought a smile, and an idea.

He found a board thin enough, but strong enough, for his plan, then
grabbed it and a small keg of powder, a flint and a fuse, then headed
back up the ladder.

Josiah grunted softly, "What are you DOING, JD?"

"Evening up the odds a bit," the young man said. However, once he got
to the top, he wasn't as sure. He had no idea how long the fuse needed
to be, and he wasn't absolutely sure he could aim the ad lib catapult
he had in mind. He needed an idea... or a sign...

The black bird flew up from its perch on the hay and landed beside the
young gunfighter. He stared at it for a moment, and sighed, "Well, I
asked for a sign. Can't get simpler than this."

He placed the thin board in a crack between the slats of the ledge by
the window. Looking at the bird, he asked, "So, is this the right
place?"

The bird shook its head, as if to say, "No."

"OK, how about here?" A soft caw.

"And how long should the fuse be?" Four soft caws.

JD looked at the bird. "Well, I've never done anything crazier, but a
crazy plan is better than none, I guess."

Taking a pocket knife out, he cut the fuse to four marks. He then used
the flint and made a small fire with bits of hay as kindling. He then
let out a long breath.

"Well, here goes. Let me know when to let go to put it on the roof,
OK?" Caw.

"Who are you TALKING to, JD?" whispered Josiah from below.

"My spirit guide," he answered.

"Your WHAT?!?"

JD placed the fuse in a hole he punched in the side of the keg, then
lit the fuse in his hastily built flames. Without thinking, he pulled
the board back, aiming at the nearer of the two buildings with snipers.
When the bird cawed loudly, he released.

The keg sailed more or less in the direction he wanted. Unfortunately,
his aim was off, and the keg fell short, flying through an window
below, crashing through the glass pane. He turned on the bird in
exasperation.

"You lied!" he hissed, as the bird hopped away and cocked it's head to
one side, as if bemused. He pulled off his hat to smack the bird
when...
 
 
 

The crash of glass below had the effect of drawing the snipers above to
the edge to see what was going on. Some of the shooters on the next
roof eased over to look as well. About that time, an explosion took
about half the roof off JD's target, filling the sky with wooden
shrapnel. Any men on that roof died instantly. Those pearing from the
top of the other roof were shredded by the hail of splintering wood.
 
 
 

JD was thrown from the top of the barn by the shock wave into the wall
of hay below. He tumbled unconscious to land near Josiah. The fire that
JD used to light his keg burned softly, feeding on the hay and dry wood
above. Smoke began to lazily rise to the ceiling...
 
 

JD's inner sight opened, and he was back in his dream. Casey stood in
front of a wall of fire, but was unharmed. She smiled and offered him
her hand.

"It is time, My Love. What will you do now?..."
 


Chapter 11

There once was a young man named John Dunne who had befriended six veteran gunmen, and the seven became legend in the American Southwest. They fought many a brave and hopeless fight, but always walked away to fight again...

Until one summer day in 1880, when some would walk the land of the living no more.

One of those was a former man of the cloth named Josiah Sanchez, who saw the young man lying in a spread of hay nearby and rising smoke begin to billow from the loft above. As desperately as he tried, no effort moved him an inch from his pinning, and he suspected that under the best of circumstances, with four or more of his companions to help, it would have taken JD at least three minutes to free him. From the fire growing in evil speed, he didn't have more than two. He tried to stir his young friend, but to no avail. "God in heaven", he whispered, "if you ever heard me, please hear me now..." he started to pray. He was interrupted by a blur of black, as the crow who had warned JD from falling into this terrible trap landed nearby. Josiah tensed. The bird cocked it's head toward the still form.

"You can't have him," the Preacher hissed. The bird turned to peer at the fallen Sanchez. Then, bouncing over near JD's head, it cawed loudly in his ear. JD went rigid, then rolled over, seeing first the smoke, then Josiah. The horror of a nightmare come true blazed in his eyes as he locked gaze with his mentor.

"Oh God..." he whispered, tears beginning to form in his eyes, "My fault... I never knew it was my fault..."

Josiah thanked the God of his father and the spirits of his tribal friends for bringing JD alert. He smiled at the boy with genuine affection. "Good to see you awake, son. You had me going there for a moment."

"I seen it all in my dream, Josiah. All this," he cried softly. "But, I never saw how the fired started. It was MY fault..."

Josiah grew firm. He knew the two had little time. "JD, listen to me. You have to go get help. I'm pinned under here, and you won't move me alone."

JD was wiser than the Preacher gave him credit, however. JD looked at the expanding fire, and saw through the lie, "You'd be gone by the time I could get you any help. This whole place will be gone."

Josiah nodded softly, then decided the truth really was the best policy. "Well, you won't move me alone, son. And I won't have you dying to save me."

"But, it was MY fault. The fire..."

"Now you listen to me, boy," Josiah gritted through his pain, "My leg's likely broken anyway. A rib, too, most likely. I can't help you free me, and I'd be of no help if you could. There are innocents to save, if you can. Don't go blaming yourself for things you can't control." JD hesitated, as if he thought of a counterargument, but Josiah shook his head to cancel it. "You can't save us all, JD. You can't even try. But you have to save some, or this is for nothing."

JD got to his feet. "But, if I don't even try..."

"John Dunne," Josiah Sanchez stated softly," we're here for a reason. We knew some of us probably wouldn't make it. I blame you for nothing but the love of your friends and your wife. Go on now, and save the ones you can, because I'm dead, and we both know it." When JD started to make his final plea, he repeated "We both know it, son. Go save those you can... GO!"

JD waited a heartbeat more, turned, and ran for the front door, drawing his guns as he ran. He briefly heard the Preacher begin a prayer when the fist of explosion drove him into the street and into destiny... 


John Dunne opened older eyes in 1944. Old and withered to a shadow of his former self, the man hadn't been called JD in years. Not since a short time after Purgatorio, in fact. Yet, though his friends were long since dead... even those who did not die that day... he had tears streaming down his face for their loss. He sat up stiffly, trying to shake cobwebs from his head, as he did right after the blast at the stables. A flash brought his head around quickly. He remembered the second part of the dream, about death in metal and fire on a far away shore, and wondered if he were still asleep. But then, he heard the clap of thunder and the spatter of rain on his window, and knew he had been awaken by the storm. How unusual that sound could trigger old memories during slumber, he bemused, when he froze at a small movement to his right. Whirling with a speed he hadn't displayed in years, he came up facing his intruder with a pair of shiny 1877 Colts... and wondered where they came from, since he had given them to his young deputy in Tucson the day he retired in 1904. Then, to add to his wonder, his wife, Casey Dunne, walked from the shadows, young as springtime, and smiled at him. 

"I see you have lost none of your quickness, Johnny..." she laughed.

After a momentary pause, he laid his long gone guns aside, and smiled back. "I guess I'm still dreaming after all, My Love."

"You're never far from the dream, My Love. And, as in the dream, you have choices to make, now."

John Dunne sat on the side of his bed, and patted for her to join him. She laughed a young woman's laugh. 

"We don't have time for that, Johnny."

He blushed in the darkness so badly he thought he would light up the room. 

"I just want to talk, Casey. I miss you so."

She come and sat by him. "I miss you too. But we don't have time to talk. There is still the dream unveiling itself before you. Half is behind you. The other half is still waiting."

John sat silently for the faintest of spans. "I've been thinking a lot about Josiah the last few months. I never told you, but his death was my fault. My fault, Casey." He looked into her eyes, waiting for her shock or contempt. However, she merely continued to smile, quietly. "I didn't have to start that fire. I didn't have to fling that powder keg across."

"No, but you did, Johnny. You made hard choices that day. There was a price to pay, no matter how you turned. By taking out those snipers, you made your job a little easier."

"Yes. But I killed one of my best friends as a result. I can never forget that."

"Maybe. But," she said, taking his chin gently in her fingers and turning his eyes back to hers, "can you forgive yourself?"

He gazed lovingly into her eyes, wanting to melt into them as he did the day he married her. "I so want to, My Love. I don't know if I can."

"Do you love Jeff?" She asked, changing the subject so abruptly, he was caught off guard. He went wide eyed and stammered, "W-w-what?"

"Do you love Jeff?" She repeated.

"Of course I do, but..."

"Do you know where Normandy is?"

A cold chill spread across John's body, flowing from the hand he held softly in his.

"I don't..." he began.

"John," was all she replied.

John Dunne closed his eyes and hang his head. "The beach," he said, flatly.

"Yes, the beach in your dream. Now, where is Jeff, at this moment?"

"I got a letter from him the other day. He's somewhere in England."

She nodded. "Why is Jeff in England, John?"

He straightened up and frowned, and turned to face her. "Well, he's a soldier, training..." Dunne voice trailed off, "to take the fight to Jerry."

"Maybe in a sea invasion?" She prodded.

Even in the dark, she could see the blood draining from his face.

"My grandson? In that hell?"

"And the sons and grandsons of those orphans..."

"Was there something about Fathers in the dream?..." Josiah asked.

"When the sons gather, the Fathers will come," John Dunne said in a hoarse whisper.

Casey Dunne leaned closely. "The sons have gathered, and the fathers have come, John. Come to Normandy to close the circle."

Almost as if on cue, lightning flashed, ripping asunder a towering oak out back. John closed his eyes in pain and dread, as he shouted "No!"


Chapter 12

When he could open his eyes again, without searing agony ripping through his head, he saw he was standing on the dreaded beach of his lingering nightmare. Around him, in the gently lapping waves of a once beautiful beach bobbed the incongruent flotsam of human gore and torn flesh. Men were pinned on the beach by what seemed like hundreds of rounds of mortar, machine gun and cannon fire. John Dunne knew, without knowing how, that this was a bleeding page of history being written in the dripping lifeflow of riddled men, and he knew in the sinking pit of his heart that what was begun long ago, in a Mexican village that no longer existed, was being consummated today.

"John", a soft, familiar voice whispered, clear even in the din of horror, "what do you see?"

He fell to his knees, staggered by the weight of this terrible place, once a distance dream and now overwhelming him with its fiery reality. "I see a lot of good men dying, Casey..." he choked.

"A great sacrifice, wouldn't you say?"

"Great?" He turned to look for her face, to see anything but the dead stares of dead men, "Great isn't the word I'd use. A terrible sacrifice. Many of these..." he spread his hands around, as if to gather it all in and box it, "... are just boys. Boys no older than Jeffrey..."

Casey took his trembling hands in hers, stepping out of a shadow he hadn't seen before.

"Yes, John. Like Jeff. But would these men be making such a sacrifice if it were not needed?"

John looked around him, stricken. "I don't know, Casey. I can't imagine anything so terrible that men would die by the hundreds... by the thousands... to stop it."

"Remember Purgatory, My Love? The evil here is a hundred, a thousand times greater..." She bade him look off in the distance, in a way that mortal man cannot see, and focused his eyes on the blackened interior of a furnace, to stare into the dark sockets of a human skull. He shrank back, but as he did, he only saw more bone.

"What kind of place is this?"

Casey was silent for a moment, allowing John to take in the camp surrounding the furnace, to see the hardened men with Mausers and guard dogs, to see the gaunt and dying faces of men, women and children and the ever-present barbed wire fences.

"It is a place where a mad man's hatred and lust for power burns entire peoples to ash."

John clenched and unclenched his hands, tears streaming down his face.

"Why do you show me this?"

Casey walked over to him and placed a soft hand upon his weary shoulder. She turned him to face her, and looked him solemnly in the eyes.

"In 1880, in Purgatorio, a young man named John Dunne had a choice. A choice to save the one he loved, which was the easy choice, or the choice to save as many as he could, even if it meant his love would die."

"I would rather die myself than make that choice again."

She smiled sadly, "And I would die again, if it meant you wouldn't have to."

John shivered in her arms, fearing what she was about to ask.

"Johnny, there is something more you must see..."

At once, hundreds of miles peeled away, and he found himself standing in a grove of trees near a small village. Here, huddled with a group of others, hidden from the streets of the village nearby, was his grandson. Among the trees, in a profane mockery of the crucifix, people had been nailed to trees and left to die.

Jeff was on one knee, watching the streets he could see with a savage intensity, waiting for something.

John Dunne knelt there beside him, and though unseen, reached out and touched the face of the boy.

"So young," John sighed.

"It is the sad way of things that youth doesn't last," a deep voice sounded behind him... 


"Get up, son, or you'll die there..."

JD didn't remember much of the blast, but he gathered himself up, and looked up into the morning sun at Chris.

"Mr. Larabee?"

"Get your wits about you JD. We have a fight on our hands, and we need every able gun we can muster," he looked about, as his horse pranced back and forth. There was shooting from every direction, it seemed. Finally, Chris' dark eyes settled back on the boy. 

"Where's Josiah?"

JD's lower lip trembled, and he hang his head. 

"He was pinned under beams in the stable, Chris. It was a trap..."

Chris looked at the remains of the stable and shook his head slowly. "Nothing to be done now, son. We'll mourn him later." Shots rang from the back of town. "Day's gone badly. He may not be the only one."

Vin rode up with JD's horse, looking back at the road leading into town.

"Raphael and West can't hold 'em long. We need to do something quick, or we're going to get pinned in here for sure."

Larabee nodded. "JD, where are the hostages?"

JD wiped his eyes and climbed into the saddle. He motioned back toward the center of town.

"Back that way, in an alley behind the saloon. But, Chris, we don't have any way of getting them out but shooting our way out. No horses and no buckboard."

"Well..." Chris fumed, "We suspected it was a trap. We might as well do it. Hostages ain't got any other chances and we're fighting our way out anyway."

Vin frowned in the shadow of his hat. "These are bad odds, Chris."

The dark man nodded, "Probably worse than we think too." He turned back to JD. "Is Casey with the others?"

JD shook his head. "Gordon's man told us before we went to the barn that she was in a makeshift storage room back of the saloon. The hostages in between the saloon and the old church, and Casey in back."

An explosion rocked the town to the north, as West, Buck and Raphael rode up swiftly.

"That'll make them think twice about a direct approach. Might buy us a couple of extra minutes, so what's the plan?" West grinned.

Chris nodded. "Well, no time like now. Stay close to the buildings on the south and out of the center of the street. Move fast. Puts us close to hired guns on one side, but at least we can avoid getting caught in a crossfire. Let's see if we can get to the saloon before we ourselves killed."

JD started to turn and follow, when the great black bird sailed between him and the other men. It landed on the eaves of a building across the street, and looked intently at young Dunne. He hesitated.

"JD," Vin hissed. "We have to go."

At that moment, JD knew. He turned to Vin, desperation in his eyes. "Vin, I can't tell you how I know this, but that's the wrong way. We need to get to the back of the saloon rather than the front of it."

Chris rode over to the young man, "JD, to get to the back of the saloon, we have to go down a narrow alley with the ravine to the other side. If we got pinned back there, it would be a turkey shoot. And, worse if we feel into the creek. There's no way to make speed that side, and there's no escape if we got cornered."

JD hesitated. "I can't go that way, Chris."

Larabee glared at the young man. In all the time he'd known John Dunne, he'd known him to be reckless and rash, but never a coward. With Casey in danger, he didn't think JD would be thinking straight, but who knew?

"You do what you got to do, JD. But, we are wasting time."

With that, the man in black, Vin, West and Raphael bolted down one side of the street. Buck yelled a quick, "I hope you know what you're doing..." before speeding after the others.

If Buck thought the youngster would follow along like a puppy... like he always did in the past... he would be mistaken. JD did ride like the wind, but he rode the other way, around the back, alone, ignoring the sounds of shouts and gunfire... 


Hank Larabee had learned a few things in his life. One thing he knew for sure was that folks tend not to do any more work than they have to, if they get what they want. The second thing he knew was that people tended to see what they wanted to see. Those two things worked to his advantage in pulling off this ruse. The plan was simple... executing it was difficult. Doc made him up to look like a badly burned soldier. There was no shortage of burned bodies to borrow properly scorched attire. Next, he displayed his rank. Normally, a man in the field wouldn't do it for risk of encountering snipers. This once, it was necessary, to keep Jerry from shooting him rather than capturing him. As he thought, the patrol that "happened upon him" recognized his rank... and his importance as a prisoner. The morphine vials were a stretch, but while he needed to misinform his enemies, he wanted to avoid torture, if at all possible. If he could could convince them he would give them the "information" they wanted, he could pull off this stunt without being injured or killed.

Thankfully, they took the bait. Hank suspected they would take half their contingent to stop his "three man team", based on what the "Colonel" said to his Nazi handlers. That would make it easier to liberate this hamlet from the black shirts. Hank carefully slid off the table and made his way to the window. He intended to give the "go" signal to let his troops know the enemy fell for the trick, when he heard the door open quickly behind him. Spinning around, he saw the smiling face of the "Colonel" who interrogated him. In his hand he held a Lugar pistol. 

"As I thought. A very clever fraud, but a fraud nonetheless," he said contemptuously. 

Larabee scowled at the man. "If you thought it was a wild goose chase, why did you send the others away?"

"Curiosity, I suppose. What you said could have been true, but I wanted to know if my hunch was right. It was too good to be true that such intelligence simply fell in our laps. Besides, the look on your face was worth the effort."

To be concluded...

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