Collateral Damage
                 Copyright 1996 By Nancy Durgin

[ begin italics ]
    The metal of the rifle was cool against Jean Marc's cheek as he
peered out past the tattered curtains to the street below.  He could
hear Henri clattering around downstairs, playing at his game.  It was
too late to shush him now -- Henri was just too young to understand.
Gabrielle didn't understand either, but she was a girl.  Besides, she
hadn't been the one to find Mama's body under the rubble that morning.
    Gabrielle said the Bosch were their enemy, but the Bosch hadn't
killed Mama.  Jean Marc knew it was the American guns that had boomed
two nights ago, raining shells down on their village.  And now he
would have his revenge.
    Now Jean Marc caught a flash of movement down the street.  He
checked the gun bolt again, making sure there was a bullet loaded into
the chamber of the hunting rifle.  It was Papa's hunting rifle.  Once,
before the war, Papa had taken him hunting.  It was a long time ago --
he'd only been seven, even younger than Henri was now -- but Jean Marc
remembered the lessons.  He held his breath, waiting for his prey to
    The American soldiers moved slowly -- there were only two of
them, taking turns moving down the empty street.  When they reached
the church. directly across the street, Jean Marc could make out the
three stripes on one man's sleeve.
    He hadn't hit any rabbits that day, when he was hunting with Papa.
But this was easier than shooting rabbits.  Men were bigger, and they
didn't move as fast.  Jean Marc lined up his gun-sight on the American
with the stripes and carefully squeezed the trigger.
[ end italics ]
    The sound of movement and muted voices carried across the chill
night air and down into the basement of the bombed out building.
Lieutenant Hanley tensed, reaching for his carbine.
    Beside him, Brockmeyer, Hanley's radio man, also heard it.  "The
patrol?" he whispered.
    It was Sergeant Saunders' patrol they were waiting for -- just
four men on a simple recon to the French village a half mile away.
But they were more than an hour overdue, and they'd missed their last
three radio checks.
    "Sounds like it," Hanley said quietly, trying not to worry.  He
thought he could hear Doc's voice, though he couldn't make out the
words.  That probably meant there were wounded.
    Hanley resisted the impulse to go see what was going on.  Somebody
would report to him as soon as they could.
    A moment later, that somebody was Saunders.  He approached
silently and stood looming above the hole, momentarily silhouetted in
the moonlight.  Then he slid down into the hole -- if there'd been
stairs, they hadn't survived the bombing.
    "Krauts -- moving into the village, Lieutenant." Saunders sounded
out of breath.  "Looked like at least twenty men.  Didn't see any
heavy stuff."
    "Call it in," Hanley told Brockmeyer, who had already fired up the
phone.  Saunders slumped back against the rough stone wall, obviously
exhausted.  Hanley asked, "Did you make contact?"
    "Ran into a sniper in the village.  He got Wilson." Saunders
paused for breath.  "Doc said to call for a stretcher team."
    "Lieutenant," Brockmeyer interrupted.  "I've got the Captain on
the line."
    Hanley quickly relayed Saunders' information to Captain Jampel.
    "About twenty men?" Jampel's voice came clearly over the handset,
which was connected by wire to the base unit at the Company CP, a
half-mile or so behind Hanley's position.
    "Yes, sir.  At least."  More than a match for Hanley's own
half-strength platoon.  "Any word on reinforcements, Captain?"
    "Not likely," Jampel replied.  "I'll try to get some support from
Battalion artillery for a pre-attack bombardment, but otherwise you'll
have to take that town on your own tomorrow."
    "Yes, sir."  No need for Jampel to repeat the rest of it -- the
battalion was moving up all along the line, and Hanley's platoon had
drawn the assignment to move in and hold the small village that was
right in the center of the action -- a village which, according to
S-2, had been abandoned by the Germans.  So much for Army
    Hanley signed off and turned to the men who shared the damp
basement with him.  Debris from what had once been the rest of the
small building filled most of the basement, so there wasn't much
space, but it beat a foxhole.  Hanley slid past Brockmeyer to talk to
Saunders, who had moved to the far corner of the room. In the dim
light, Hanley could see that the sergeant was sitting with his head
leaned back and his eyes closed.
    Hanley was reluctant to disturb him.  None of them had gotten any
real sleep in more than two days, and even a five minute cat-nap was
precious.  But he needed to hear the rest of the recon report.
    The head snapped up and Saunders made a grab for the Thompson that
lay beside him.  Then he seemed to get his bearings and focus in on
Hanley.  "Lieutenant....What's the word?"
    "The same.  We jump off at 0600."
    "What about reinforcements?"
    "Jampel's going to try to get some 105 support from Battalion.
That'll soften them up for us."  Hanley tried to sound optimistic, but
the Krauts would have all night to dig in.  It'd take a lot of
softening to even up the odds.
    "Yeah," Saunders said grimly, in a tone that didn't pretend to
echo Hanley's false optimism.
    "What about Wilson?" Hanley asked.
    "Doc's with him.  Chest wound."  Saunders said.  "We didn't get
the sniper," he added, anticipating Hanley's next question.  "Couldn't
hang around to look for him, with the Krauts moving in and the
radio...." Saunders paused to shrug the strap for the SCR-536 off his
right shoulder.
    The radio slid to the ground and Saunders left it there.  "Dead,"
he finished, with a disgusted tone.  "Probably the battery."
    Hanley scooped up the radio and handed it to Brockmeyer.  Not that
the corporal was likely to be able to fix it, since there were no
spare batteries.
    Saunders knew his orders -- with the radio out, getting back with
the information about the enemy movements took priority over tracking
down a sniper.  "No other casualties, then?" Hanley asked.
    "One...There was one casualty, sir.  Civilian.  A l -- a local."
    Hanley wondered at the uncharacteristic hesitation -- a civilian
casualty wasn't unusual.  "Did the sniper get him?"
    "No, sir.  The civilian was in the same building the sniper was
firing from.  I saw movement in a window and..." Saunders gestured
with his Thompson.  "I thought he was the sniper."
    Saunders' tone was matter-of-fact, carrying no hint of anguish or
self-recrimination.  Hanley knew from past experience in dealing with
the frequently reticent non-com that he couldn't read much from that.
He cast about for an appropriate response, then fell back on the
training manual: "Some level of civilian casualties in a combat zone
is inevitable, Sergeant.  It's an unfortunate incident, but you can't
blame yourself."
    "Yes, sir.  I know, sir." The reply, framed strictly within
military protocols, didn't invite further discussion.  Saunders moved
to get up. "If there's nothing else, Lieutenant, I'd better get back
to my men."
    "All right, Saunders.  Tell the men to keep alert -- keep two on
watch at all times, in two-hour shifts." Nobody would be getting much
sleep tonight.
    "Yes, sir," Saunders moved awkwardly, stumbling as he got to his
feet.  He grabbed at the dirt wall for support.  Hanley took hold of
Saunders' left arm to steady him.  He let go in surprise when Saunders
gave a muffled oath and pulled away from him.
    Saunders slumped against the wall, hugging his left arm against
his body.  The Thompson dangled loosely from his left hand.
    "Saunders?  What's wrong?  Are you hit?"
    "The sniper winged me," Saunders admitted through gritted teeth.
"It's...not a big deal."
    Hanley gave him a skeptical look.  "What did Doc say?"
    "He didn't see it."  Saunders straightened and transferred the
Thompson to his right hand, letting the injured arm drop -- trying to
make his actions support his words.  "Doc had his hands full when we
brought Wilson in.  Littlejohn took care of it."
    "Let me take a look," Hanley said, moving over to examine the arm.
    It was fully night now; the only light came from the rising half
moon.  Hanley couldn't see much besides some torn material on the
upper arm of Saunders' field jacket. "Brockmeyer, bring the flashlight
over," he ordered, and told Saunders, "Take the jacket off."
    Saunders moved stiffly, trying to shrug his way out of the jacket.
Brockmeyer brought the small map-light over in time to illuminate
Saunders' face and reveal a grimace of the pain he was trying not to
    Hanley reached over and held the end of the jacket sleeve, helping
Saunders to ease his left arm out.  "Not a big deal, huh?"
    "I guess it stiffened up," Saunders said tightly.
    The exercise of removing the jacket was more revealing than the
examination itself.  In the flickery light, Hanley could make out a
blood-encrusted bandage tied around Saunders' biceps.  Blood had
soaked into the shreds of the shirt, which was torn away in the area
around the wound.  The bandage was just a hastily-applied field
    Hanley let go of the arm, shaking his head.  How long Saunders had
intended to let it go untended?  "Doc better take a look at this.  It
needs a proper dressing."
    "All right.  After I go check on the squad...." Saunders pulled
the jacket back up over his shoulder, not bothering to put the arm
back in.
    Saunders started to climb out one-handed out of the basement -- a
difficult maneuver under the best of circumstances.  This wasn't the
best of circumstances.  Saunders made it halfway up, then abruptly
aborted his effort, dropping painfully back to the ground.  He leaned
back against the adjacent wall, holding the arm.
    Hanley had seen enough.  Saunders was in no shape to be crawling
around foxholes tonight. "Stay here, Saunders.  I'll send Doc.  Caje
can handle the squad for now."
    "Nah, I'm okay," Saunders protested. "Just didn't think it was
that high."  He started at the wall again.
    Hanley stepped in front of Saunders.  "You've had it for tonight,
Saunders.  Stay put."  Saunders stopped, but seemed to be formulating
a counter-argument.  "That's an order, Sergeant," Hanley said firmly,
settling it.
    "Yes, sir."  Saunders didn't look pleased, but he didn't argue.
He leaned against the wall, then slid back down to the ground, with a
sigh of resignation.
    Hanley left him alone, turning back to Brockmeyer, who had
remained tactfully silent during the confrontation.  "Corporal, stay
by the phone."  Maybe Company would have some confirmation on the
artillery support. "I'm going to go check on the platoon; I'll be back
in about a half hour."
    "Right, sir."
    Hanley adjusted his helmet and scooped up his carbine.  At the
other end of the room, Saunders was visible from the glowing tip of a
cigarette.  When Hanley moved back over towards him, Saunders silently
held out the burning cigarette.  A peace offering.
    Hanley accepted it and took a deep drag.  "Try to get some sleep,
Saunders," he said, handing the cigarette back.
    "Yeah..." Saunders muttered an acknowledgment.
    Hanley climbed easily up to the damp grass above. *Get some sleep,
Saunders.  Because tomorrow at 0600, I'm going to need you -- whether
you can climb out of this hole by yourself or not*.
    Hanley hadn't gone far when he ran into the stretcher team which
    was just arriving from the Company CP.  He took them to where 1st
Squad was dug in -- where Saunders had left Doc and Wilson.  Not that
the two corpsmen would have had any trouble finding it themselves --
Hanley could hear his men's voices carrying across the night, long
before he reached the first of the foxholes.
    "Well, what the hell was he doing there in the first place?"
Kirby's voice rang out in the darkness.
    The first foxhole Hanley came to was empty.
    "I dunno." That was Littlejohn's voice -- at least he was keeping
it low.  "He probably lived there."
    "C'mon, keep it down." Caje said.  "Kirby, Jackson -- get back to
your positions.  You too, Harris."
    When Hanley got closer to the voices, he could make out some dark
shapes ahead -- it looked as if Saunders' entire squad was clustered
around one of the foxholes.
    "Where's that stretcher team?" Doc's voice complained softly from
the ground near the center of the group.
    "Right here," Hanley replied as he and the medics reached the
group, their approach completely unnoticed.  Anger laced his voice.
"And if we were Germans, you'd all be dead now."
    There was a moment of stunned silence, then Caje faltered.  "Sir,
    "Never mind, Caje," Hanley snapped, wondering what had stirred up
these normally reliable soldiers to the point that they were behaving
like a bunch of raw recruits.  "All of you, shut up and get back to
your positions."
    After a muttered chorus of "Yes, sir's," the men moved off,
leaving just Littlejohn and Nelson in the nearest foxhole.
    Doc was bent over Wilson a few feet away. The two corpsmen put
their stretcher on the ground and began preparations for loading the
wounded man onto it.
    "How's he doing, Doc?" Hanley asked.
    "Not good, Lieutenant."  Doc helped the corpsmen load the
unconscious man onto the stretcher.  "But if he gets a nice smooth
ride back to the aid station, I think he'll make it."
    "We'll do our best," one of the corpsmen assured him.  "At least
he'll get a ticket home out of this."
     A ticket home the hard way, Hanley thought, as he waited for the
corpsmen to depart with their passenger.  When they were gone, Doc
knelt back down and started packing up his medical pouch.  "Doc,"
Hanley said.  "Saunders is back at my CP.  He's got an arm wound that
needs attention."
    "Sarge?  How bad is it, Lieutenant?"
    "Not too bad, I hope," Hanley replied.  "But don't take his word
for it."
    Doc gave a half-hearted chuckle.  "No chance of that, Lieutenant.
I'll check him out."
    Hanley went to look for Caje and found him dug in nearby.  He
quickly filled him in on tomorrow's attack.
    "Okay, sir," Caje acknowledged when Hanley was through.  "0600.
What about Saunders?"
    "Saunders will join you by 0530 if he's up to it.  But you've got
the squad for tonight, Caje.  I don't expect a repeat of that little
kaffee klatsch you were having when I got here."
    "No, sir.  I'm sorry about that.  Harris was upset about the kid,
and we were trying to calm him down and well, things just got out of
hand -- "
    "I don't want explanations, Caje," Hanley snapped.  "Just don't
let it happen again."
    "Yes, sir."
    Hanley started to go, suddenly realized what Caje had said, and
stopped.  "What kid?"
    "What's this about a kid?"
    "Sarge didn't tell you?" Caje asked.
    Not everything, apparently.  "Never mind what Saunders told me.
*You* tell me, Caje."
    "Saunders and Wilson were alone when the sniper attacked," Caje
said.  "Nobody else saw what happened, but Littlejohn said it looked
like Saunders shot a kid who was in that building with the sniper.
Harris found the body."
    A kid.  Saunders' "civilian casualty."  Well, he *had* told Hanley
about it -- all the details that were needed for a report, anyway.
The army reports didn't care about ages, just numbers for their
statistics.  But a dead boy wasn't just a statistic to Saunders, or to
Harris.  Hanley cursed softly under his breath.
    "You should talk to Littlejohn and Harris, Lieutenant," Caje
finished.  "I only know what they told me."
    Hanley decided to do just that.  Harris was relatively green --
he'd only been with the platoon a few days.  But he'd been the first
one on the scene, so Hanley found him in his foxhole and asked for the
    "It was awful, Lieutenant." Harris was just a shape in the dark,
his voice shaky.
    "Just tell me what you saw, Harris," Hanley ordered.  He was in no
mood to coddle the young soldier.
    "Yes, sir...."  Harris took a deep breath.  "Littlejohn and I
heard the shooting, but by the time we got there, it was all over.
Wilson and Sarge were both hit.  Sarge said it was a sniper, and he
thought he got him.  He told me to go into the building across the
street and check it out.  "So, I went into the building, but instead
of the sniper, I found these two kids in there."
    "*Two* kids?" Hanley asked.
    "Yes, sir.  The one kid was....well, he was a mess, sir.  He was
just a little kid -- couldn't have been more than 8 or 9.  Hit at
least twice in the chest.  No way he could survive that.  The other
kid was standing over his body.  He was older -- maybe 12.  When he
saw me, he started yelling at me in French.  He was crying.  I...I
didn't know what to do, so I called Sarge."
    Harris stopped and took a deep shuddering breath, and then
continued.  "When Sarge came in and saw the kid on the ground....  The
other kid started yelling at him -- he jumped on Sarge and started
hitting him, and Sarge just stood there, staring at the dead kid.  I
had to pull that kid off him.
    "Sarge just called Littlejohn in and told him to watch the older
kid, while we searched the rest of the building.
    "The building was clean, though -- no sign of the sniper.  Sarge
found some empty rifle clips by the front window in a room upstairs.
We were going to check outside, but then I spotted the Krauts moving
in, and Sarge told us to clear out of there."
    "What about the other boy?" Hanley asked.
    "Sarge said to bring him with us, but he took off, and we couldn't
stick around to track him down.  We rigged a stretcher for Wilson and
got back here as fast as we could."
    "Okay, thanks Harris," Hanley said when the boy finished talking.
"Is there anything else?"
    "No, sir.  That's it.  Well...just," Harris faltered.
    "What is it, Harris?" Hanley asked.
    "Well, it wasn't Sarge's fault, was it?  I mean, he was hit,
pinned down -- how was he supposed to know there was a kid in there?"
    "Don't worry about it, Harris." Hanley tried to sound reassuring,
but firm.  "These things happen sometimes.  It's not your problem."
    "But he was just a little kid -- He shouldn't have been there."
The words came out in a rush now as Harris revealed what had been
eating at him.  "When we go back into that town tomorrow, what if
there's more kids, and -- "
    Hanley cut him off.  "When you go into that town tomorrow, the
only thing you have to worry about is Germans, Harris.  The
townspeople know how to get clear of a firefight.  If you start
looking for a civilian behind every doorway, you're just going to get
yourself killed.  Don't even think about it.  You got that?"
    "Yeah... I mean, yes, sir."
    Harris' reply wasn't convincing, but Hanley left it at that.  He
still had to check on the rest of the platoon "Get some rest, Harris.
We jump-off early tomorrow."
    Starting back in England before Omaha Beach, and over the course
of months spent in close quarters, Hanley had grown to envy Saunders'
ability to sleep soundly under almost any conditions.  Rain, snow,
artillery fire, rocky ground, mud, the anticipation of an early
morning engagement, recriminations for the mistakes of the previous
day -- Hanley usually found no shortage of reasons to toss and turn
through an endless night.  But nothing seemed to phase his dauntless
sergeant.  When it was time to sleep, Saunders slept.
    Not tonight, though.  When Hanley took over Brockmeyer's watch at
midnight, he noticed that Saunders was moving restlessly in the other
corner -- not sleeping soundly, if he was sleeping at all.
    Hanley stood a quiet watch over the field phone for a while.  He
hoped he'd made the right decision -- to let Saunders stay with the
platoon.  Doc said that Saunders' arm wound wasn't serious. The bullet
had passed through muscle and exited cleanly.  Still, there was always
the risk of infection.  But Saunders could still fight, and he wanted
to stay, so that had settled it -- at least until morning.
    The quiet of the night was shattered by a sharp cry from Saunders,
which was quickly muffled.  Brockmeyer, sleeping next to Hanley, sat
bolt upright in response.
    "What is it?" Brockmeyer whispered warily.
    "Nothing.  Go back to sleep," Hanley said quietly.  Brockmeyer
grunted and rolled over.
    Saunders' ragged breathing gradually quieted.  Hanley didn't say
anything to him.  He found himself an unwilling witness -- a man's
nightmare should be a private affair.
    After a few moments, Saunders gave up any pretense of sleeping.
Hanley heard him sit up, and then he saw the flame from Saunders'
lighter as he lit a cigarette.  Hanley took that as a cue that he
could quit pretending that they weren't both awake.  He took out a
cigarette of his own, and then moved past the sleeping Brockmeyer to
sit near Saunders.
    Saunders was silent, a huddled figure with a white slash across
the middle where the sling Doc had given him was reflected in the
    Hanley lit the cigarette and took a deep drag.  "The arm bothering
you?" he asked.
    "Yeah, a little."
    That wasn't the real problem, though.  Hanley hadn't said anything
to Saunders about the boy when he returned to the CP.  He wasn't sure
how to bring it up now.  They sat in silence for a while.  Saunders
finished his cigarette, then Hanley heard him fumbling around in the
dark, searching for something in his equipment.
    There was the snap and click of metal on metal, and Hanley
realized that Saunders was reloading one of his ammo clips.  It was an
odd thing to be doing in the middle of the night, but no doubt it was
a task Saunders could manage with his eyes closed.
    *Click*.  Saunders snapped another cartridge in place.
    *Two*.  Hanley counted automatically.
    Saunders continued methodically.  There were three more clicks,
then he stopped.
    "Forty-five caliber...." Saunders broke the silence again.  He was
holding one of the bullets up for display, though Hanley could barely
make it out.  "Puts quite a hole in a man."
    Hanley waited for a beat.  "Or a boy?" he asked.
    Saunders slammed the replenished magazine back onto the Thompson.
"Yeah."  If he was surprised that Hanley had found out that little
detail, he didn't show it.
    Another silence.  Hanley broke this one, feeling that he had to
say *something*, even if it wasn't exactly profound.  "You can't let
it get to you, Saunders."
    Saunders put his Thompson back down beside him.  "I know,
Lieutenant.  It won't."
    Hanley recognized that tone -- Saunders had his defenses firmly in
place.  There wasn't much use in continuing the conversation. "Well,
you've got the most comfortable bed in the platoon, tonight,
Sergeant."  Hanley stubbed out his cigarette.  "You'd better try to
take advantage of it."
    "Yeah..."  Saunders took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  He
lay back down, while Hanley returned to his spot by the radio.
    Hanley wasn't sure he'd really accomplished anything.  But he felt
better about his decision to let Saunders stay.  There was the old
adage about getting back up on the horse that threw you.  It was
probably best to give Saunders some real targets to shoot at -- the
sooner the better.  One thing was for certain: Tomorrow, there would
be plenty of Germans to shoot at.
[ begin italics ]
    Jean Marc was cold and wet.  And hungry.  He couldn't go back to
the farmhouse last night -- not to face Gabrielle.  And with the Bosch
in the village, he couldn't stay there.  So, he'd spent the night in
the woods.  And then the artillery woke him at dawn.  The Americans
again!  Jean Marc cursed them as he thought of Henri's body buried
under the rubble, like Mama's.  Why didn't they just go away?
    Finally the shelling stopped.  Jean Marc crept up to the edge of
the woods.  The village was wreathed in smoke; he couldn't see if his
house was still standing.  He started to move closer, but suddenly an
American soldier loomed up in front of him.  Jean Marc froze.  There
were a bunch of them, but they didn't see him.  They ran towards the
village, and then they started firing their rifles.
    Jean Marc heard the Germans firing back.  He saw one of the
Americans fall.
    Good.  He settled back to watch.  Maybe the Bosch and the
Americans would kill each other now.
[ end italics ]
    Hanley led Jackson and Marshall -- two men from Pfc. Marks' squad
-- down the main street that led into the village.  His runner had
reported that Saunders' squad had pushed the Kraut's back on the left
flank, and Sgt. Carter's squad seemed to have things under control on
the right.  Now Marks' squad was moving in from the front, to mop up.
They moved forward cautiously, checking each building, but didn't find
any sign of the enemy.  The artillery-softened enemy positions hadn't
put up much of a fight, and the gunfire from within the village was
already dying down; Hanley wondered if they had drawn an easy one for
a change.
    Then the harsh, rapid fire of a machine gun changed his mind.  The
shots came from a block or so away, where Carter's squad should be.
Hanley advanced toward the sound, hoping to come up from the side in
an advantageous position.
    No such luck, though.  When Hanley and his men reached the next
corner, Hanley peered cautiously around and took in the situation.
The street opened up into a small central square, and the machine gun
nest was perfectly located in a corner building diagonally across the
street.  The Germans were firing from a ground-story window, and they
had a field of fire that covered approaches from almost every
direction.  The gun was currently firing at a target to Hanley's
right; from the sporadic and ineffective return fire, it sounded as if
there were several men pinned down there.
    The machine gunners weren't alone, either.  A voice yelled in
German, then some rifle fire came Hanley's way.  He ducked back
quickly, cursing.  A near-miss struck the wall, flinging chunks of
brick and mortar at him.
    Hanley turned to his men. "Looks like a half-dozen Krauts over
there.  We can't touch them from here.  We'll have to move in closer."
    "How about a grenade?" Jackson suggested.
    "From here?  Into a window 60 yards away?  It'd just be a waste of
a grenade," Hanley said.  "We'll have to get across the street.  I'll
go first -- you two cover me."
    Jackson nodded, and moved up to point his M1 around the corner.
"Wait, Lieutenant!" he said, just as Hanley was getting ready to make
his run.  "Look -- there's someone moving up!"
    Hanley stopped and peered around the corner.  Across the square,
there was a flash of motion.  A khaki-clad figure pressed against the
wall of the building where the Germans were holed up.  Even at this
distance, the camouflage material on the figure's helmet was as
distinctive as a name-tag: Saunders.  Somehow he'd managed to get into
a position where he could move up undetected in the Germans' blind
    "All right!" Jackson grinned.  "He can just walk right over and
drop a grenade in on them!"
    Hanley spotted a German peering out the window, and instantly
fired his carbine at the movement; the German pulled back.  "Give him
some cover!" Hanley ordered.  The Germans weren't stupid -- they were
well aware of their blind-spot, and Saunders would be a sitting duck
if they spotted him now.
    Obediently, Jackson and Marshall fired at the window.  They
weren't hitting anything, but it kept the Germans' heads down.  From
down the block, there was renewed firing from their pinned comrades.
They'd spotted Saunders, too.
    Saunders took advantage of the cover to advance quickly towards
the window.  He ducked low to pass a closed doorway; the top half of
which was glass.  Then he paused with his back pressed against the
wall, in a space between the doorway and the window.
    Hanley continued to fire in the general direction of the front
window, aiming off to the right to avoid any chance of a stray shot
hitting Saunders.
    It seemed like an eternity before Saunders made his move, though
it was probably just a matter of seconds.  Saunders raised his
Thompson, spun to the left, and kicked the door in.  The Thompson
chattered distinctively as Saunders emptied a whole magazine into the
room.  The German machine gun abruptly went silent.
    The American guns also went silent.  Nothing moved inside the
building.  "Geezuz!' Jackson exclaimed, his voice a mixture of
surprise and awe.
    Hanley didn't respond to the comment, but it galvanized him into
action.  "Check these other buildings," he ordered, pointing at the
buildings between their position and the defunct machine gun nest.
    There was still no movement in the building. Hanley made his way
quickly, but cautiously, to it.  His stomach did a flip-flop as he
tried not to think about what the ominous stillness could mean.  Six
on one, point blank range -- even with the element of surprise, it
seemed like unbeatable odds.  Why had Saunders tried it?
    Sergeant Carter, one of the men who'd been pinned down by the
Germans, reached the building ahead of Hanley.  His reaction was loud
and immediate: "What the hell, Saunders?"
    Hanley stepped inside and quickly took in the scene. Carter
confronted Saunders in the middle of the room.  Behind them, by the
window, were the bullet-ridden bodies of six Germans.  Hanley's eyes
hadn't yet adjusted to the dim indoor light, but he saw a pile of the
Germans' weapons thrown haphazardly against the far wall.
    Saunders stood there, unmoving and apparently unscathed, while
Carter reached out and grabbed one of the two grenades from where they
hung on the front of Saunders' field jacket.  Carter waved the grenade
in his fellow sergeant's face.  "You think you're Sergeant York or
something?  Why didn't you just use this?"
    Saunders looked from Carter to the grenade.  His expression was
    Carter was Regular Army -- an experienced NCO who'd been in
Hanley's platoon for over a month.  He and Saunders weren't exactly
friends, but Carter had plenty of reason to respect Saunders' ability
as a soldier -- both from first-hand experience, and from Saunders'
well-deserved reputation amongst the men in the platoon.  Right now,
though, Carter was addressing Saunders the way he might address a raw
recruit.  Hanley half-expected Saunders to haul off and slug the man.
But Saunders just stood there.
    "Do you want a medal that bad?" Carter snarled.
    Whatever Saunders' explanation might be, Hanley knew it had
nothing to with medals.  Hanley might have been giving Saunders some
of the same treatment, if he'd gotten there first.  But for whatever
reason, Saunders wasn't defending himself against Carter's onslaught.
Hanley couldn't just stand there and let Carter tear into him. "That's
enough, Carter," he interrupted.
    "Lieutenant!" Carter turned to him in obvious surprise.  "That was
you firing from the corner?  Did you see -- "
    "I saw the whole thing, Sergeant."  Hanley cut him off cold.
"Looked to me like Saunders got you out of a tight spot just now."
    "Yeah... Yeah, he sure did."  Carter stepped back.  "These Krauts
had us pinned down good.  They got Ferguson and Morris."
    "Dead?" Hanley asked.
    "As good as," Carter replied.
    Hanley turned to Saunders, who still stood stiffly beside Carter.
"You all right?"
    "Yes, sir." Saunders relaxed a notch, shifting his Thompson up
over his shoulder.  He glanced over to the Germans by the window and
added casually, "That one's still alive, Lieutenant."
    One of the Germans had been shot in the chest, but was still
moving; he wasn't likely to live long, and wasn't a threat without
weapons.  Hanley didn't need to check the others more closely to see
that they were dead.  *A .45 caliber bullet could put quite a hole in
a man*.
    This kind of bloody carnage was something he hoped he would never
get used to.  But, those Krauts got Ferguson and Morris, and it was
only by some incredible stroke of luck that they hadn't gotten
Saunders, too.  The wounded Kraut could wait.  Time to deal with his
own men.
    Outside, the battle seemed to be over, though there was some
sporadic gunfire coming from the outskirts of town. "Carter, go find
the rest of your men and flush out the southern part of the village,"
Hanley ordered.  "Leave the wounded for Doc -- I'll be setting up the
CP here."
    "Okay, Lieutenant," Carter said.  He fiddled with Saunders'
grenade for a moment, tossing it a few inches into the air and
catching it.  Then he held it out to Saunders.  "Thanks, Saunders.  I
owe you one."
    Saunders shrugged, responding as if Carter's outburst of a few
moments ago had never happened.  "Guess I was just in the right place
at the right time."  He took the grenade from Carter and stuck it
inside his jacket without giving it a second glance.
    "Yeah, sure...." Carter muttered.  On his way out the door,
outside of Saunders' view, he caught Hanley's eye and shook his head
-- he wasn't buying it.
    Hanley motioned with his chin toward the door.  He'd handle it.
Carter nodded and left.
    "I better go check my men," Saunders said, oblivious to the
    Hanley gave Saunders an appraising glance.  The sling that Doc had
given him had been discarded, and he was favoring the arm, though the
wound hadn't impaired his ability to fire the Thompson.  Dried
rivulets of dirty sweat covered his neck, mixed in with two days
growth of beard.  Saunders looked tired -- but they were all tired.
    "Casualties?" Hanley asked.
    "Littlejohn got hit in the leg.  Didn't look serious.  Everybody
else was okay last time I saw them.  We were flushing out the last of
the Krauts on our side."
    "Okay, finish checking out the northern part of the village, then
report back here.  I'll assign Marks' squad to perimeter security, so
after the village is clear, your men should be able to stand down for
a while."
    Saunders nodded.  "Okay, Lieutenant."
    "Saunders..."  Hanley called him back when he started to leave.
"You never did answer Carter's question, you know."
    "He had a lot of questions," Saunders shot back.  He was going to
make Hanley drag it out of him.
    "Well, I only have one.  Why *didn't* you just use a grenade,
    "I didn't think of it."  He shrugged.  "I figured I could take
them through the door."
    "You didn't think of it?"  Hanley repeated the explanation as
casually as Saunders had offered it.  It was certainly simple, but it
wasn't the kind of explanation Hanley expected from Saunders.  The
grenade was such an obvious tactic, even a raw recruit would have
thought of it.
    Saunders shrugged.
    Well, Hanley couldn't remember the reasoning behind every decision
he'd made in the heat of combat, either.  "Go on, Saunders," Hanley
waved him toward the door.  "But next time....  Think about using the
grenade.  You were damn lucky, Sergeant."
    "Oh yeah, I've been real lucky lately," Saunders said wryly.  Then
he ducked out the door before Hanley could respond.
    Hanley flagged down Jackson and Marshall and set them to work
cleaning up what would be his new command post.  Now that they'd taken
the town, they needed to be prepared for possible counterattacks.
Brockmeyer turned up a few minutes later, and immediately cleared a
space for his radio.
    The reports from Battalion weren't good.  The advance was
foundering -- the rest of K Company had met heavy resistance to the
north, and Love Company was getting torn apart by unexpected enemy
armor support to the south.  The rest of the front, it seemed, would
take a while to catch up to them.
    But Hanley was supposed to hold the town until it did.  If there
*was* a counterattack, his men would have to handle it on their own.
That meant he'd better have a handle on the layout of the place.  Time
to take a closer look.
    It was a small town, built around a major crossroads and
consisting of only a few blocks of buildings in each direction.  Most
of the buildings were in ruins, and few had escaped damage from
American artillery shells.
    A few French civilians drifted back to survey the remains of their
homes.  There was no *Liberacion* celebration from this town, though.
The villagers who were picking through the ruins weren't openly
hostile, but they didn't seem in the mood for victory celebrations.
    Hanley's exploration took him to a quiet street near the western
perimeter of the town -- farthest away from the German lines.  He had
paused to study the rubble of a church, when a loud clatter came from
a small house across the street.
    Hanley carefully approached the building.  The noises continued --
as if something was being knocked over.  Hanley crept up to the front
window, carbine at the ready.
    Hanley looked in through the broken window, expecting to see some
kind of life-or-death struggle to account for the racket.  He was
surprised to see Saunders in the room, alone.  The sergeant was
crouched down on his hands and knees in the middle of the room,
digging noisily through a pile of debris.
    Simultaneously relieved and curious, Hanley headed for the front
door.  Inside, he noticed a detail he hadn't seen from outside -- the
body of a young boy lay near the window.  The bloody corpse was
stretched out in a funereal pose, arms crossed over the chest.  It
looked like this had once been a nicely decorated front parlor, but
now the furnishings lay mostly in pieces on the floor.
    Saunders continued digging noisily through the rubble, tossing
aside pieces of a broken chair and muttering to himself.  He gave no
sign that he'd noticed Hanley's arrival.
    "Saunders -- what are you looking for?"
    "My gun.  Gotta find it."  Saunders mumbled, barely audible.
    "Your forty-five?" Hanley asked.  The debris was cleared away
sufficiently that Hanley doubted the handgun could be hidden under it.
    "My Tommy Gun.  Can't find my Tommy Gun." Saunders' words slurred
    The Thompson was nowhere in sight, and it obviously wasn't hidden
where Saunders was looking.  Hanley watched, momentarily transfixed,
as Saunders tossed aside a final broken chair leg and swept his hand
several times across the floor-boards.
    "Well, I don't think you'll find it there," Hanley finally said,
holding out a faint hope that this was some kind of strange joke, and
now Saunders would tell him the punch line.
    But it wasn't going to be that simple.  Saunders stopped the
pointless searching and got unsteadily to his feet.  He looked around
the room, but his glance passed right over Hanley like he wasn't
there.  "Gotta find it," he repeated.
    Now that Saunders was on his feet, Hanley noticed that the
Thompson wasn't the only thing missing.  Saunders didn't have any of
his other equipment, either.  He probably hadn't been carrying his
field pack, but he certainly should have had his equipment belt -- and
there was no sign of it, or of the canteen, .45, and other equipment
that should have been hanging from it.
    Saunders took a few stumbling steps towards the nearest pile of
rubble, which consisted mostly of the debris he'd just tossed there.
Hanley grabbed him by the shoulder.  "Hold it a minute, Saunders."
    "I gotta find it."  Saunders tried to shrug away.
    "Listen to me, Saunders," Hanley said.  "Your gun isn't here."
    Saunders stopped, bewildered.  "Where is it?" he asked.  "I can't
find it."
    "Why don't you come over here and sit down," Hanley coaxed.  "Tell
me what happened, and then I'll be able to help you find your Tommy
    "Help me find my Tommy Gun," Saunders echoed.
    "That's right," Hanley said.  He helped Saunders get to his feet,
and led him to an overstuffed chair that had been knocked over, but
seemed otherwise intact.  Hanley flipped the chair upright and pushed
Saunders down onto it.
     "What happened, Saunders?" Hanley gave Saunders a gentle shake
when there was no response from him.
    Saunders shifted to cradle his left arm against his side, then
squinted up at Hanley.  "Arm hurts," he announced, as if that somehow
answered the question.
    "Yeah."  Hanley let go of Saunders' shoulder.  "Sorry."
    Hanley quickly checked Saunders for signs of physical trauma.
Saunders flinched when Hanley probed a lump on the back of his head;
Hanley pulled back a hand that was sticky with drying blood.
    "Take it easy, Saunders," Hanley put a hand on Saunders' good
shoulder to steady him.  "Do you remember what happened?  Who hit
    "Dunno," Saunders mumbled.  "What happened?"  Saunders looked
towards the window, and suddenly he focused -- on the corpse by the
window.  "Just a little boy."  His eyes were bright, and his voice
cracking.  "Killed him.  My fault.  Shoulda seen him.  Didn't see him.
'M sorry."
    Hanley found himself a reluctant witness to the display.
    "Didn't see him.  I'm sorry,."  Saunders repeated, eyes wide as he
stared at the dead boy.
    "It's okay, Saunders," Hanley said.  "It was an accident."
    But Saunders only repeated himself.
    "It's *okay*, Saunders." Hanley took hold of Saunders' good arm
and pulled him up.  "Come on, let's get you out of here...."
    "No.  Gotta find my Tommy Gun," Saunders spun away from Hanley.
    Just his luck, Hanley reflected.  Here was Saunders with his brain
so scrambled he couldn't answer a simple question, but even so, the
stubborn sergeant still remembered his stupid Tommy Gun.
    "I'll help you find it," Hanley said.  He grabbed Saunders again.
"Come with me and I'll help you find your Tommy Gun."
    Saunders allowed himself to be lead to the door.  "Okay.  'Cause I
gotta find it."
    "I know.  We'll find it, Saunders," Hanley reassured him.  It
wasn't *quite* a lie -- Hanley just didn't bother to mention that he
doubted they'd find the missing weapon anytime soon -- not unless it
happened to be lying in the middle of the street on the way back to
the CP.
    Saunders lay on his back with his right arm covering his eyes.
His left arm was back in a sling, and there was a bright white bandage
wrapped around his head, which was propped up on a pile of blankets
that served as a make-shift pillow.  His field jacket and shirt lay in
a heap on the floor beside him.  Hanley spoke quietly, uncertain if
his friend was awake. "Saunders?"
    The response was immediate, and not quite what Hanley was
expecting: "Saunders.  Sergeant.  Two two seven...oh six...two two."
Saunders spoke slowly and clearly, without removing his arm from over
his eyes.  "I'm still in France.  I'm still in some little village I
can't remember the name of.  Now leave me alone."
    Hanley hesitated.  Had Doc's report that Saunders had "come out of
it" been overly optimistic?  He replied in as normal a tone as he
could muster. "Okay, Sergeant.  I wanted to see -- ."
    Saunders' abruptly took his hand away from his eyes and looked up
at Hanley.  "Sorry, Lieutenant.  Thought you were Doc.  Keeps checking
to make sure I still remember my name."
    Hanley grinned.  He pulled over a chair and sat down, tossing the
camo-helmet -- the only item they'd been able to turn up after a
thorough search of the area -- next to the field jacket.  "Next time,
why don't you keep that on your head where it belongs?"
    Saunders considered the suggestion for a moment before he
responded.  "Thanks.  I think I will."
    "Do you remember what happened, Saunders?  Who hit you?"
    "I dunno."  Saunders brought his hand back up to massage his
temples.  He spoke slowly and carefully, as if it was an effort for
him to come up with the words. "Last thing I remember is going into
the house.  Looking at the boy...." He sighed and let his hand flop
back down.  "Next thing I know, I'm here -- with a sore head, and Doc
asking me a bunch of stupid questions."
    "That's it?"
    "Sorry -- " Saunders sat up, his tone suddenly urgent.  "Is the
girl okay?  She must have seen it."
    "Take it easy, Saunders."  Hanley reached out a hand to stop him
from getting up.
    But it was an unnecessary gesture.  Saunders dropped back down
with a groan, closing his eyes to mutter, "Bad idea...."
    "Stay put," Hanley ordered.  "What girl?"
    "French girl..." Saunders rubbed at his temples again.
"Sixteen...  Seventeen...  She was looking for her two brothers.  I
took her to see if the boy...if the boy was her brother."
    "And was he?"
    "Yeah....  Must have been...." Saunders struggled with his faulty
memory.  "Have to ask her.  Ask her what happened, Lieutenant."
    "I haven't seen her," Hanley reminded him.  "Maybe it was the girl
who attacked you?"
    Saunders considered it for a moment.  "No.  Couldn't have been."
    "How are you so sure?"
    "Because I..." Saunders turned away from Hanley and stared up at
the ceiling.  "I killed her brother.  I wouldn't have turned my back
on her."
    It did seem unlikely.  The image of Saunders being careless enough
to let the girl get the drop on him just didn't fit.  Well, the
prospect of *anybody* managing to sneak up on the veteran soldier
seemed a bit unlikely, but obviously somebody had managed it.
    At least, under normal circumstances, Saunders wouldn't have let
his guard down.  But Saunders wouldn't "forget" about using a grenade,
either.  Not under normal circumstances.  "It was probably just a
Kraut straggler who was after your weapons," Hanley said, knowing
they'd need to find the girl to get her story.
    "Yeah, probably."  Saunders was silent a moment, then looked back
at Hanley.  "Doc said you brought me in?"
    Damn.  Here he was asking all the questions, when it was rapidly
becoming apparent that he had more of the answers than Saunders did.
Hanley quickly filled Saunders in on the events of the last few hours,
tactfully omitting the details of Saunders' extreme disorientation.
    Saunders listened quietly.  When Hanley was done, he said, "Guess
I'll have to scrounge up another Tommy Gun."
    *Not the Tommy Gun again!*
    Saunders gave him an odd look, and added, "If the Krauts attack,
we'll need every man we can get, Lieutenant."
    "If the Krauts attack, you're going to stay right here, Sergeant.
Until a doctor says otherwise." Hanley recovered swiftly when he
realized Saunders wasn't going to start rambling about his gun again.
"Besides, you'll need more than just a Thompson."  Hanley picked up
Saunders' field jacket and held it open.  "That guy cleaned you out."
    Saunders took the jacket with his good hand, groping at the
pockets.  "Everything?"
    "Well, the chocolate stash seems to have survived," Hanley said.
He picked up the helmet and pointed out the two ration bars that were
still cached inside the webbing.
    But Saunders was unimpressed.  "Damn Kraut even took my
cigarettes," he muttered, dropping the jacket in disgust.
    Hanley smiled.  At least this was one problem he could solve.
"That's one of the risks of carrying those superior American brands,
Sergeant."  He dug a new pack of cigarettes out of his pocket and
opened it up, lighting one for Saunders and then another for himself.
    Saunders nodded his thanks as Hanley gave him the rest of the
pack; then, after an unsuccessful search for some matches, Hanley gave
Saunders his lighter as well.
    "Thanks, Lieutenant."  Saunders spoke around the cigarette.
"Guess I'll have to scrounge up one of these, too."
    "No rush, Saunders," Hanley said firmly.  "You just lay right here
and do what Doc says -- and be glad you've got such a hard head.  You
got that, Sergeant?"
    "Yeah.  Yeah, I got it."  Saunders agreed with a sigh that
indicated he didn't have any energy to argue about it.
[ begin italics ]
    Jean Marc smiled to himself as he watched the American soldiers
move nervously down the street.  They'd finally given up searching --
looking for *him*, of course.  The funny part was, they'd walked right
past him, ignoring him just as they ignored the other village boys.
    Jean Marc went back to the alley to fetch the American
Sergeant's weapon from the place where he'd hidden it under some
rubble.  He was still mad at Gabrielle for stopping him from killing
that Sergeant.  He'd wanted to kill the Sergeant with his own weapon
-- with the same weapon the Sergeant had used to kill Henri.
    Well, now he had another idea.  He would use the Sergeant's
weapons to kill more Americans.  Jean Marc liked that idea even
    The American weapon was heavy.  He'd have to get close to be
sure of his aim.  Jean Marc held the weapon behind him and headed back
towards the street.  It was empty now.  He'd just wait until the first
American came by alone....
[ end italics ]
    Hanley and Brockmeyer were in the outer room of the CP when they
heard the shots -- a single burst of gunfire coming from the north
part of town.  Hanley started for the door, then stopped.  He wanted
to go *out* there, but if it was anything important, his men would be
looking for him here.
    Hanley didn't have to wait long.  There were no more shots, but a
few minutes later, Littlejohn's bulky shape filled the doorway.  In
his arms he held the limp, bloody form of a GI.  Littlejohn shook off
Hanley's offer of assistance and limped past him to the back room
where Doc was waiting.
    It was Harris.  The blood-soaked bandages across the young
soldier's chest were evidence of Littlejohn's futile effort to slow
the bleeding.  Littlejohn gently laid the semi-conscious man down, and
Doc shushed him while he removed the bandage and put a fresh one in
its place.
    "What happened?" Hanley asked.
    "Harris was alone -- I don't think anybody saw it, Lieutenant,"
Littlejohn explained.  "I was in the building just down the block.  I
heard a machine gun burst -- sounded like a Thompson.  I thought it
was one of our guys firing.  But when I got outside to check it out,
Harris was lying there.  I still think it sounded like a Thompson,
Lieu...tenant." Littlejohn hesitated, his attention suddenly focused
behind Hanley.
    Hanley turned to see Saunders standing there, his face pale and
ghostlike beneath the grime and unshaven beard.  Saunders stared down
at Harris with an unreadable expression, giving no sign that he'd even
heard Littlejohn.
    "...But I guess it could have been a Schmeisser," Littlejohn
finished lamely.  He wasn't a very convincing liar -- a Schmeisser
didn't sound anything like a Thompson.  Hanley knew if *he* wasn't
buying it, that Saunders never would.
    "Well, it was some kind of damn machine gun, anyway," Doc
muttered.  Still working over Harris, he was oblivious to the unspoken
by-play going on above him.  "And at close range.  This kid's got
three slugs in his chest.  Any one of them would have done the job."
    Saunders flinched and looked away.
    Littlejohn tried again.  "Sarge, I -- "
    "Sarge...."  A groan from Harris distracted them all.
    Doc pulled back from the young soldier, but he caught Hanley's eye
and silently shook his head.
    "Sarge!...." the boy repeated.  His eyes were open, looking in
Saunders' direction.
    When Saunders didn't respond, Hanley bent down next to Harris.
There wasn't much time.  "Harris....  Take it easy," Hanley said
gently.  "Can you tell me what happened?  Did you see who shot you?"
    Harris groaned and coughed weakly.  Foamy red blood bubbled out of
his mouth.  "Sarge...."  The voice was weakening, but still loud
enough for all of them to hear.  "He was just a little kid, Sarge....
Just a little kid.... Why'd?..."  The final question went unasked.
Harris slumped back and was abruptly silent, his eyes still staring
blankly up at Saunders.
    Hanley reached out and gently pulled the lids down over the dead,
accusing eyes.  The dead boy was on Harris' mind even as he lay dying.
Hanley recalled the conversation with Harris the night before.  Maybe
if he should have said something more.  They'd probably never know,
but Hanley couldn't help wondering if Harris had hesitated for a split
second today, letting the sniper get the drop on him.
    Now, there were the living to worry about.  Hanley reluctantly
turned to face Saunders.
    The bandaged, bedraggled sergeant stood rooted to the spot,
staring at the dead man.  Saunders' face was chalky white.  Nearby,
Littlejohn alternated glances between Hanley and Saunders, but
remained silent.  Leaving it up to his Lieutenant, Hanley thought
ruefully.  They didn't cover this one in the officers' manual.
    It was Saunders who broke the uncomfortable silence.
"Littlejohn...." Saunders spoke hoarsely.
    "Yeah, Sarge?" There was a hint of relief in Littlejohn's voice.
    "You said it was a Thompson?"
    Littlejohn hesitated.  "Yeah.... Yeah, Sarge.  Sounded like it to
    Saunders looked at Hanley.  "Well, that Kraut's got two more full
clips, then.  Better make sure he doesn't get a chance to use them."
    Business as usual.  Saunders must have been torn up inside by what
he'd just witnessed.  But if he was managing to hold himself together,
Hanley wasn't going to do anything to cut him down.  "The men are
searching now.  We'll find him, Saunders," Hanley said confidently.
    "Yeah, we'll get him, Sarge," Littlejohn chimed in.
    Saunders nodded.  Then he swayed and staggered, his body betraying
him where his emotions had failed.  Doc was there instantly, grabbing
Saunders' arm to steady him, before Hanley could react.  Saunders
tried to shrug him off. "I'm okay, Doc."
    "Sure, Sarge," Doc said agreeably.  "But you'd better come back
over here and lie down, anyway."
    Hanley was ready to back Doc up with an order, but it wasn't
necessary.  Saunders sighed and rubbed tiredly at his right temple.
"Okay...okay, Doc," he muttered.  Saunders offered no further
resistance as he allowed Doc to guide him back to his bed.
    The sergeant lay down and put his right arm up over his eyes, in
what was becoming a familiar gesture -- shutting them all out.  There
was nothing else Hanley could do here now.  He turned to Littlejohn.
"Let's go."
    Caje met them at the doorway, and Hanley gestured him to the outer
    "No luck, Lieutenant," Caje reported..
    *Damn!* Hanley slammed his hand down on Brockmeyer's desk,
jostling the radio.  "Did you alert the other squads?"
    "Yes, sir.  No word from them yet."  Caje's gaze tracked toward
the doorway to the back room.  "What about Harris?"
    "Harris didn't make it."
    Caje shook his head angrily.  "I want to get that guy."
    *Not as badly as I do.* Hanley scooped up his carbine, determined
to follow up on the only clue he had. "Littlejohn, get back to the
squad.  Caje, you're on me."
    "Where to, Lieutenant?" Caje asked.
    "To find a French girl," Hanley replied.
    "Hey, maybe this one!"  Caje said, pointing to a dark figure
making her way down the street, about a block away.  There were a lot
of French women in this town.  They'd already talked to five others
who fit Saunders' rather vague description, with no luck.
    This one couldn't have been more than 16 or 17, but underneath the
dirt and ragged clothes, Hanley could tell she was already blossoming
into a beautiful woman.
    The girl turned at their approach, and her expression, while not
quite hostile, certainly wasn't welcoming.  Caje spoke to her in
French, introducing Lieutenant Hanley.
    "I speak some English," the girl said in clear, but heavily
accented words.  "My name is Gabrielle Bardet.  What do you want,
    Hanley flashed a smile calculated to put the girl at ease.
"Mademoiselle, I hope you can help me.  I need some information."
    "Yes.  Were you with my Sergeant -- Sergeant Saunders -- earlier
    "Yes, the Sergeant."  She nodded, seeming neither surprised nor
upset by the question.  "Is he...okay?"
    "I was hoping you could tell me what happened."
    The girl hesitated, but it was impossible for Hanley to tell if
she was searching for the words to express herself, or concocting a
story.  "A Bosch.  There was a Bosch.  When the Bosch attacked, I
    "Was the German in the house when you got there?"
    "In the house.  Yes, Lieutenant, in *our* house." The girl turned
away, blinking back tears.  Then she abruptly whirled on Caje and
spewed a stream of French at him.  When she was through, she turned
away again, wiping at her eyes.
    "She says that was her family's house, Lieutenant," Caje
translated.  "Now the house is still standing, but she has no family
left to live in it.  First the Germans killed her father, then the
Americans killed her mother.  And now her brother.  She doesn't want
to help us, and she doesn't want to have anything to do with our war."
    "Her mother?" Hanley asked.
    "Artillerie," the girl responded, still not looking at them.
"Americain artillerie.  Two days ago."
    "I'm sorry about your mother, Mademoiselle," Hanley said, talking
to the girl's back.  "And about the boy...."
    "Henri," she broke in, turning to face him.  "Mon frere petit.  He
had only...he was eight years old."  Her eyes were red, but there were
no more tears.
    "Henri," Hanley acknowledged.  "About Henri -- I'm sorry.  It was
an accident.  There was a sniper in the house who fired at my men...."
    "Yes, I know." She interrupted.  "A sniper.  C'est la guerre.  A
boy is not safe in this war.  He is not safe in his own house."  The
girl didn't try to hide her anger now.  "C'est la guerre, Lieutenant?
C'est *votre* guerre."
    Then she turned and walked away from them.
    "Let her go, Caje," Hanley said, when Caje made a move to follow
the girl.  "She's not going to tell us anything."
    Hanley left Caje with his squad and went back to the CP.
Brockmeyer, who'd been standing vigil over the radio, barely had time
to tell him that there was no news from the rest of the battalion
before he was interrupted by the sound of a muffled explosion coming
from the south.
    "Sounded like a grenade!" Brockmeyer said, standing up.  "Just a
couple blocks away."
    "Stay on the radio, Corporal," Hanley said.  "It might be a
counterattack."  He went to the doorway, alert for additional signs of
a fire-fight.
    Doc had heard it, too.  He appeared from the back room, medical
bag in hand.
    They listened for a moment, but there were no other explosions,
and no gunfire.  Not a counterattack, then.  Hanley relaxed a notch.
    A GI -- it was a private from Marks' squad -- came running into
the square from the direction of the explosion, and skidded to a halt,
gesturing at Hanley and Doc. "Medic!  Doc!"
    Not a counterattack.  That damn sniper again?  Using Saunders'
grenades now?
    Hanley and Doc followed Jackson to the scene of the explosion.
There was no mistaking when they found it.
    The bodies of several men were scattered in the middle of an
intersection that was slick with blood.  Hanley had to get closer
before he could be sure how many there were.  Three men, two of whom
were obviously beyond help.  Pfc. Marks and one of his men were bent
over the third soldier, a bloody mess whom Hanley barely recognized as
Sergeant Carter.
    "Doc!  It's his leg," Marks said, standing up to give the medic
clear access.
    "What happened?" Hanley asked.
    "I don't know, sir," Marks said.  "We heard the explosion and came
running, but all we found was this...."  Marks paused to wipe the
sweat off his face.  His hand was wet with Carter's blood, and the
gesture left a streak of red across his cheek.  "The other men are
searching the area."
    On the ground, Carter groaned.  Hanley bent down over him.  "How
is he, Doc?"
    Doc was working on Carter's leg, which had been torn by shrapnel
and was bleeding heavily.  "Not good, Lieutenant," He muttered,
fumbling with a tourniquet. "If I can stop the bleeding...."
    Carter groaned again, "Lieutenant...."
    "Take it easy, Sergeant," Hanley said.  "What happened?"
    " was a kid," Carter winced as Doc worked on his leg.  "It
was a fuckin' little kid!  Walked right up to us.  Didn't see the
grenade until it was too late."
    "A kid?" Above them, Marks' voice was incredulous.  "He's not
making sense."
    Unfortunately, it *was* making sense to Hanley.  He ignored Marks
for the moment.  "Did you see where he went, Carter?"
    "No...I dunno, he ran away, got clear....  Can't believe I got
suckered like that," Carter mumbled.  "What about my men -- Moore and
Sinclair?  They okay?"
    Hanley glanced at one of the bloody corpses that lay nearby.  He
couldn't even tell if it was Moore or Sinclair.  "Don't worry about
them, Sergeant.  Just take it easy."
    Carter made a weak attempt to follow Hanley's gaze, but Doc, who
had finished with the tourniquet, held him back.  Doc had a morphine
ampule in hand, but he paused, waiting for a cue from Hanley.
    "Go ahead, Doc." Hanley stood.
    "Fuckin' little kid...." Carter mumbled, as he drifted into
    Yeah, one little kid had managed to decimate his platoon.  Well,
not any more.  Hanley turned to the others.  "Marks, you and your men
help Doc get Carter back to the CP.  Then spread the word -- we're
looking for a French boy, about 12 years old.  He's well armed -- a
Thompson, another grenade, plus what ever else he's scrounged up."
    It had to be the girl's other brother.  Now Hanley wished he had a
better description.  He'd seen several French kids running around the
village today.  "He might be blending in with the other civilians, so
round up any kids that fit the general description and bring them back
to the CP.  Littlejohn or Saunders can ID him."
    "Yes, sir," Marks said, slowly.  Marks' men exchanged
uncomfortable glances.  Then Marks spoke for them all.  "But....  A
*French* Boy?  Why's he shooting at *us*, Lieutenant?"
    "Don't worry about why, Marks.  That kid's already killed three
GI's, and he's out there gunning for more.  That's all you need to
know.  And tell the men not to take any chances.  Just... Stop him."
    "Okay...  Okay, Lieutenant.  I'll spread the word," Marks said.
[ begin italics ]
    Jean Marc's heart was pounding in his chest.  The grenade
explosion had been louder than he expected.  He'd barely gotten away
in time.  It had been worth it, though.  He smiled as he remembered
the surprised look in the big American Sergeant's face when he saw the
    The weapons and other equipment were in the building where he'd
hidden them.  The Americans had already searched here, so he should be
safe for a while.  Jean Marc had piled up the furniture as a makeshift
barricade at one end of the room -- just in case.
    Jean Marc had been planning to wait a while before he picked out
his next target, but when he spotted the American Lieutenant walking
down the street alone, he changed his mind.
    He went to the window and aimed the American weapon carefully at
the Lieutenant.  But this wasn't like firing Papa's hunting rifle.
When he squeezed the trigger, the heavy weapon bucked in his hands,
tracking skyward like it had a mind of its own.
[ end italics ]
    Hanley hit the ground and scrambled for cover behind a wall that
was more rubble than wall.  Another burst of fire -- a Thompson, of
course -- kicked up dust behind him as the bullets spattered into the
ground.  At least the kid's aim wasn't very good.
    The shots were coming from a building across the street.  Hanley
returned fire with his carbine, for all the good it would do.  The
sniper had good cover, but maybe Hanley's firing would keep him pinned
down until some reinforcements showed up.
    A moment later, Hanley reconsidered exactly who had *who* pinned
down.  He winced as a sharp piece of stone ricocheted into his cheek.
Where was everybody else?  The sounds of gunfire should have brought
the whole platoon running.
    Hanley peeked cautiously across at the building.  It was mostly
intact, with two windows in front, and a door visible around the far
corner.  The sniper was firing from the window to the right, farthest
from the door.
    As Hanley ducked back down under another volley of shots, he
caught a flash of movement -- a khaki-clad figure -- off to the side
of the building.  When the firing let up enough for Hanley to risk
another look, the figure was out of sight, but Hanley spotted movement
near the doorway.  He fired off another clip at the window, doing his
best to keep the sniper too busy to notice whoever was creeping up on
the door.
    As soon as Hanley heard an M1 open up from the doorway, he took
advantage of the distraction to dash across the street.  Another short
burst from the Thompson answered the M1 as Hanley reached the relative
safety of the building.  He pressed his back against the wall, where
he couldn't be seen from inside.
    After the initial exchange of fire, there was silence from the
building. In the lull, Hanley heard the sound of gunfire coming from
the direction of the German lines.  The Germans were making some kind
of move.  That explained where the rest of the platoon was.
    At least the other men wouldn't have to worry about a sniper at
their backs.  Hanley silently counted off five seconds. Then he sidled
cautiously to the corner of the building, and peeked around at the
doorway to see what had become of his would-be rescuer.
    It was Saunders.  He sat slumped against the side of the building
next to the open doorway.  Saunders was helmetless, and he wore his
field jacket directly over his undershirt -- evidence of his hasty,
and unauthorized, departure from the Aid Station.  He'd taken time to
scrounge a Garand belt and rifle, though.
    "Saunders!  What the hell are you doing here?"  Hanley's first
impulse was anger, which was immediately replaced by concern --
Saunders' face was a pale, sickly white, and he stared blankly ahead,
giving no sign that he'd noticed Hanley's arrival.  "Are you hit?"
Hanley crouched down beside his unmoving friend, looking for bullet
    "It was the boy," Saunders said softly, meeting Hanley's gaze.
His tone was wooden and emotionless.  "I almost shot him."
    "*Almost*?  You didn't take him out?"  Hanley didn't wait for an
answer.  He stood up and peered through the doorway into the building,
carbine at the ready.  He couldn't see much -- there was furniture and
rubble forming a barricade that blocked off the far end of the room. A
single shot sounded -- from a .45 handgun, not the Thompson.  Hanley
quickly ducked back, cursing.
    "Meurtrier!"  A youthful voice screamed across the room at them.
High-pitched.  The kid's voice hadn't even changed yet.
    "I almost shot him," Saunders repeated.  "His gun jammed."
    "Good thing," Hanley said.  "Otherwise you'd be dead now.  That
*boy* is trying to kill us, Sergeant."
    Saunders stared at him in wordless confusion.
    Hanley scowled.  This shouldn't be happening.  Saunders should be
safe back at the CP, not out on the street confronting the boy.  "That
kid's killed three men, and he just tried to kill me," Hanley said.
The sound of the more distant firefight continued, punctuated by an
occasional explosion.  "You hear that, Sergeant?  The Kraut
counterattack.  We've got to take this sniper out *now*.  Before he
kills somebody else."
    "We have to stop him." Saunders nodded agreement.  Some of the
color had returned to his face.
    "Okay," Hanley said, thinking fast.  "How many clips did you have
for that .45?"
    "Two...14 rounds," Saunders replied.  Abruptly, he scrambled up
into a crouch, hefting the M1 and looking intently at Hanley.  "We can
take him, Lieutenant."
    The soldier was back.  All business.
    Saunders outlined his plan: "Lieutenant, you stay here and keep
him occupied.  Fire over his head.  I'll go around the side and
through the window.  I can get the drop on him and capture him."
    It was a reasonable plan.  A chance to take the kid alive. But
that kid wasn't likely to surrender.  What if Saunders hesitated, and
got himself killed?
    "No, Sergeant," Hanley said.  He pulled Saunders back and gestured
toward the door.  "You stay here and give me cover.  I'll go around
and take him through the window."
    "You have to take him alive, Lieutenant."  Saunders stated it as a
simple fact, but there was a silent plea behind his words.
    "I'll try, Saunders," Hanley said. "I'll try."  He put down his
rifle and pulled out his own .45 -- easier to maneuver with, and it
was all he'd need at this range.  "Now, let's go."
    Saunders stood up next to the doorway, and gave Hanley a nod.
Hanley went down on his belly and crawled around the corner.  Behind
him, he heard a single shot from Saunders' M1.  The bullet whined as
it bounced harmlessly off the far wall.
    "Meurtrier!"  There was an answering shot, and the boy yelled some
more unpleasantries in French.
    Hanley concentrated on crawling silently along the outside wall of
the building, resisting the urge to duck as shots rang out over his
    Just past the first window, Hanley kicked some rubble with his
foot.  He froze.  It seemed as if the resulting clatter must have been
heard halfway down the block.
    "Meurtrier!"  Another shot from the kid towards Saunders.
    Hanley let his breath out, waited a few seconds, then resumed his
crawl to the second window.  When Hanley reached the window, he
waited. The kid wasn't firing now.  Hanley wished he'd kept better
count.  How many rounds had the kid fired?  Six?  Maybe he was
reloading.  Hanley tensed, ready to launch his attack through the
window as soon as Saunders started firing again.
    "Grenade!"  Saunders suddenly called a warning.
    Hanley acted on instinct, ducking down and flattening against the
wall.  The maneuver would either save his life, or kill him, depending
on which side of the window the grenade fell.
    "NO!"  Saunders cried, more an anguished plea than a command.
    One more shot from the M1.  Then, silence.
[ begin italics ]
    Jean Marc was surprised that being shot didn't really hurt much.
It was like being hit in the chest with a stone, and then he just fell
back and laid on the ground.  At least he thought he was lying on the
ground, but he couldn't feel it underneath him.  It was like he was
floating, but with a lead weight pushing him down.
    He'd lost his grip on the grenade when he fell, but Jean Marc
could see it sitting there next to his hand.  He tried to grab it, to
pull the pin out, but his fingers wouldn't obey him.  It was as if his
arm belonged to somebody else.
    He heard a sound.  Jean Marc looked up and saw the American
Sergeant was standing over him, staring down at him.  The sergeant had
a strange look on his face.  His eyes looked wet.  But that was
impossible -- soldiers never cry.
    Jean Marc tried again to grab the grenade, but the room was
getting darker.  He wasn't sure where the grenade was any more.
    "Murderer!" Jean Marc wanted to cry out again at the Sergeant,
but the words wouldn't come.
    Then the weight on his chest pressed all the way down, and the
darkness closed in.
[ end italics ]