Another Day At War
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters.
Frank Savage et al were originated by Sy Bartlett and Beirne Lay in their book
Twelve O'Clock High. I just extrapolate.
My heartfelt thanks to TAE for her role as beta, sounding board, and slave-driver.
Most of these works would not have been finished if not for her.
Sunday Feb. 22 1943
He felt okay. He landed the Lily, made sure
his boys were ok, and went to debriefing. But it was all-automatic. He came into
the outer office. It was late in the day, about 1700h; he'd been up since 0400h.
Harvey was typing, absorbed, barely noticing Savage as he walked quietly to his
"Can I get you anything, Frank?" Harvey Stovall asked, rising from
his desk. Without stopping, Frank raised his left hand, as if to silence him,
and went into his office, shutting the door behind him. Harvey held a look at
the door and sighed. Frank leaned against the door; eyes shut tight, and heaved
his own sigh. Another day. He knew he had hours of paperwork ahead of him. PINETREE
had the 918th alerted for tomorrow morning. A briefing at 0400h again. It seemed
years since his leave in Scotland, Dunfergus, and his all too brief affair with
Anne Macrae. Yet, when he looked at his desk calendar, Frank realized it had been
only four short weeks. He turned his desk lamp on, carefully touching the calendar,
looking at the date and thinking. Frank sat heavily in his chair. It creaked and
moaned. With a smirk he realized it felt much the way he did. He took the pack
of cigarettes from this left sleeve, felt for the lighter in his pants pocket,
and lit a cigarette. He pulled open the lower left hand drawer and removed a bottle
of scotch and a glass. He poured a full glass and turned away from the lamp, placing
his left hand over his eyes and blew a cloud of smoke.
He kept seeing
Danny Knox, his co-pilot. Today was his eighth mission. It had started out fine.
The group left with good weather at Archbury and as luck would have it good weather
at the target as well. The crew joked amongst themselves, to pass the time, as
they flew. They were to bomb the sub-pens at St. Nazaire, a well-defended target
a long way from home across France. F.W.s met them on the way in and dropped off.
No big sweat. Suddenly, the flak started and became almost impassible. Sure he'd
seen it bad before but not only could he walk through France on this flak, he
could build stone fences. The Lily was tossed around like a boat at sea. Very
soon the smell of vomit permeated the B17. This was not a normal day. They were
flying low, barely 8000 ft. It was a fight all the way. Frank held on doggedly,
his arms and hands aching from holding the controls during this rough interchange.
"Pilot to navigator, how long to the IP?" Savage asked.
"Two minutes, sir,"
came Nelson's reply. The Lily continued her bucking bronco impersonation.
your PDI," Savage shouted above the roar.
"PDI centered, sir," replied Avery,
"OK, she's your airplane," Frank said releasing the controls.
He wiped his brow quickly and flexed his fingers trying to remove the pain. He
shot a look at Danny. His colour was ashen. His flight jacket was coated with
vomit but he was still with it, his eyes alert and moving.
"Bombs away," came
Avery's nervous tenor moments later.
"Beehive Leader to all Bees, turning 90
degrees northwest. Let's head home. Keep it tight. They'll be waiting for us,"
Savage said regaining the controls. Savage started to make his turn and time seemed
to slow to a halt. He remembered his turret gunner shouting.
"F.W.s 2 o'clock
high!" There was no evasive action to be done. No safe downy clouds to hide in.
No English fighter planes to keep the Luftwaffe off his tail. The only thing he
could do was head for home on the fastest route. It seemed that the sky was full
of German fighters. His ears were full of reports of fighters left, right, top
and bottom. They were simply everywhere. Suddenly the windscreen to his left exploded.
Miraculously the bullets only tugged at the sleeves of his jacket and missed the
flight controls. Danny was not so lucky. Danny; twenty-one, redhead, with a grin
that Joe Cobb was jealous of. Danny, who showed the crew photos of his girl, his
family and his life. The bullets shattered him and Frank saw it happen. The Lily
was 40 minutes out from Archbury when the last attack occurred. The right waist
gunner, Webster from Texas, was dead. Sully, the ball turret gunner, was winged.
The rest of the crew was hanging on but the navigator was very shaky. He had come
forward to the cockpit to see if he could help Savage and saw the chaos.
Archbury 10 minutes out," Nelson said, his voice quivering.
struggled with the plane, not trusting himself to regain control if he released
a hand to answer. Engines 1 & 3 were out. Frank had minor lacerations to his face
and neck. He was cold and tired. And he was covered with Danny. Major Stovall
was at the tower waiting rather impatiently for the Piccadilly Lily to return.
"Archbury Tower, Archbury Tower, this is Army 317. Do you read me, over?" Savage's
strained voice came over the speaker. Sgt. Levin stood next to Harvey on the tower
scanning the skies with his binoculars. Levin was in charge of the physical airfield.
"Dammit, pull it up. Give me the mic!" Levin shouted grabbing the mic from
the counter in the office and dragged it out to the viewing platform.
this is Levin, you're too low. Pull it up, sir," Levin said with one hand full
of binoculars and the other full of microphone.
"General, pull her nose up
and get your gear down," Levin ordered sternly. After what seemed like minutes,
there came a reply.
"Archbury, this is 317. Roger that. Doing the best we can.
Two engines out, two men dead. One chance on this. OK, here we come," Savage said
through gritted teeth.
"I'll call Doc Kaiser." Harvey said trotting into the
office. The Lily came in. Not a pretty landing, a couple of bounces. But as they
say at the base, any landing you can walk away from is a safe landing.
General!" Doc Kaiser shouted as Harvey shoved him up into the plane. Savage sat
in his seat, eyes closed, mouth slack, hands limply in his lap. The left side
of his face was covered in blood. The right side of the cockpit was covered with
what was the co-pilot. Kaiser gingerly touched Savage's sleeve. He jumped as if
"Jesus, Kaiser! What the hell's wrong with you?? You don't just
sneak up on a man..." and with that Frank unclipped himself, grabbed his bag,
pushed his way past Doc, and left the cockpit with Kaiser, mouth open in disbelief.
Doc looked out of the opening in the canopy and saw Savage get into a waiting
jeep and disappear leaving Harvey alone on the tarmac.
The door to the
Operations Group Command building opened and Harvey was none too surprised to
see Doc Kaiser.
"Hullo, Doc." Kaiser stopped in front of
"You look like hell," Kaiser remarked lowering himself into
the chair by Harvey's desk, dropping his med. bag to the floor.
you don't look any better," Harvey said pulling a bottle of Kentucky bourbon from
"Want a drink?" Harvey asked gesturing with the bottle.
but I need to see the General first. It was pretty rough up there. How long has
he been back?" Kaiser asked tilting his head toward Frank's office.
I had to leave the debriefing early to catch up on paperwork. I'd say he came
in about 1700 and I haven't heard a peep from him. I was hoping he was asleep,"
Harvey said after taking a nice draw on his drink.
"No!" Savage roared from
his office. Kaiser and Harvey shot like rockets out of their seats to the office
"To hell with protocol," Harvey said and burst into the office without
knocking. Savage was lying on his cot, bathed in sweat. His face transfigured
by his nightmare. He violently thrashed out. Kaiser and Harvey ran to his bedside.
"Danny? No, Danny." Savage shouted, tossing and turning.
"Hold his shoulders
gently, Harvey. I want to try to zap him so he'll really sleep," Kaiser said running
to the outer office to get his bag. Harvey touched Frank softly and his eyes flew
open. Frank looked at Harvey with unfocussed eyes.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry...."
Frank muttered sitting up but not holding Harvey's gaze.
"It's okay Frank.
Everything's okay," Harvey said soothingly. Kaiser had the hypo prepared and took
Frank's left arm.
"No" Frank yelled again. He stood up quickly with his back
in the corner of the room.
"Don't touch me." He said with his arms up defensively.
Harvey slowly climbed over the cot towards Frank.
"Easy Frank. Easy. It's me.
Harvey. Come on Frank. Let's get you back in bed, okay?" he said as he held his
hand out to Frank. Frank looked as if he could take on the world. His breathing
was heavy and he was shifting his weight from foot to foot.
"Bed?" Frank asked
"Yeah, let's go. Mission's over," Harvey said inching towards Frank.
He reached his left arm to Frank's shoulder and gently pulled him towards the
"Mission's over? I wonder when that will be true," Frank muttered as he
collapsed onto the cot. He was asleep again. Kaiser pushed up Frank's sleeve and
inserted the needle. With another heavy sigh, Kaiser stood, unsteadily, and looked
"You know, you would make a good psychiatrist Harvey" Harvey looked
up from Savage, his face filled with torment. For him, this was another friend
succumbing to the war like Keith Davenport.
"I should have seen this coming,"
Harvey said, his voice catching in his throat. Kaiser grabbed the scotch, Savage's
glass and the cup full of pencils from Frank's desk. He unceremoniously dumped
the pencils on the floor and poured scotch into both receptacles. He handed one
to Harvey and sat down near the cot to watch Savage.
"Harvey, it's not your
fault. He's exhausted," Kaiser said rubbing his eyes.
"I'm grounding him, and
no I can't tell you for how long." He paused and took a long pull on his scotch.
"You should have seen him in the plane, Harvey. He was in shock. Lt. Knox caught
it in the head. The cockpit was a mess," Kaiser paused.
"I just don't know
if the General's through or if he has anything left." Harvey looked over his scotch
glass. He knew Kaiser was right. Savage had been fighting non stop for the last
month and today he couldn't fight anymore, not the war nor PINETREE. He took a
gulp of scotch and walked to the desk.
"I need to call PINETREE," he said and
picked up the phone.
"PINETREE, Major Stovall calling for General Crowe," he
said sitting on the edge of the desk. He looked back at Doc whose eyebrows were
raised at the mention of Crowe's name.
"He's over from Washington," Harvey
said with his hand over the phone.
Monday Feb. 23, 1943
woke early. It was still dark out and he was groggy. He looked at his watch, 0300h.
Gingerly he swung his legs to the floor and sat up with his elbows on his knees.
His office was dark save for the desk lamp. In his chair, feet propped up on his
desk, was Wiley Crowe. Frank stood carefully, his neck and face were sore from
the glass, his head hurt from impact to the controls, and his arms still ached
from flying the day before. There was movement from the chair.
General Crowe said as he stretched his arms over his head.
"Hullo there, Wiley,"
Frank said crossing to the stove to pour some coffee. There was tension in the
air. Both men wanted to talk about the previous day, neither wanting to start
"Coffee?" Frank asked raising a mug.
"Fresh?" Wiley asked
raising an eyebrow.
"Probably not," Frank said pouring his own cup anyway.
"I think I'll pass," Wiley said removing his legs from the desk. Frank sat
at the chair opposite his desk, an odd view for him of the airfield. Reaching
into his pocket he realized that he was not wearing his A2 jacket. Placing his
coffee on the desk, Frank stood and walked to the cot where his A2 jacket was
balled up like a pillow. He retrieved his cigarettes and felt his trousers for
his lighter. Finding that, he lit a cigarette and returned to his chair. Wiley
watched his protg and friend as he maneuvered around his office. Definitely not
100% Wiley surmised. Still raw and fragile.
"May I have a cigarette, Frank?"
Wiley asked sitting up in his chair.
"Sure, Wiley. Sorry" Frank said embarrassed
by his lack of manners. He offered the pack to General Crowe and then lit his
cigarette. They sat in silence smoking. Minutes passed. Frank looked terribly
tired. Deep lines were engraved under his eyes.
"What happened up there, Frank?"
Wiley asked after taking a long pull from his cigarette.
"Same thing, Wiley,"
said Savage standing. He turned and started to pace in the office. His left hand
was formed into a fist in his pants pocket and his right held his cigarette.
come on Frank. Let's have it, Wiley instructed gently leaning forward. Frank turned
to the wall. His breathing became faster and laboured. In his mind, he was on
the Lily. Wiley watch Frank's body language and got to his feet. Slowly he walked
to Frank and was surprised to find him racked with emotion. Wiley reached his
arm up to Frank's shoulder. Frank stiffened slightly at his touch and then relaxed.
The two men stood together for several minutes; Frank wept openly with no control
and Wiley blinked back his tears at his friend's anguish. After a few moments
Wiley asked, "Better?"
Frank turned to face him. His face was still covered
in tears. His brow furrowed, his eyes red and searching. Wiley was stunned at
Savage's face and demeanor. Wiley took a breath and paused.
"Weather has socked
in the continent. The 918th will stand down today. Why don't you hit the sack?
We can talk later," Wiley said with his hands on Frank's shoulders. The old Savage
started to rise to the surface. Wiping his face with his sleeve, he started, "Wiley,
you can't be serious. I have paperwork and requisitions to do. I can't possibly...."
"Yes, Frank, you can," Wiley said looking at him right in the eyes. He looked
at his watch, 0400h. The base was very quiet.
"Let's go. Frank," Wiley said,
guiding him to his cot. Frank stood looking at his cot. He saw the bullet holes
in his jacket for the first time. He sat down and removed his boots. He took his
jacket, then, with extreme care, he swung his legs back onto the cot and lay down
covering his chest with his jacket. His eyes closed immediately and his breathing
became regular. General Crowe went to the phone.
"This is General Crowe. Please
ask Major Stovall and Doc Kaiser to come to General Savage's office." Crowe picked
up his hat, turned the desk lamp off, and left Frank's office. When Doc Kaiser
and Harvey Stovall made it to General Savage's office, General Crowe was seated
at Harvey's desk, drinking his bourbon.
"General," Kaiser said nodding in General
"General Crowe," Major Stovall said with a crisp yet weary
"Gentlemen, "Crowe said raising his glass "Join me please" Kaiser and
Stovall looked at each other and poured themselves two fingers each of bourbon.
Harvey stood uncomfortably in front of his desk while Kaiser made himself comfortable
in the side chair.
"How is he?" Harvey asked, not able to wait any longer.
He had wanted to stay with Frank, but left to get some much-needed shut-eye when
General Crowe arrived.
"Not good," Wiley said standing and turning away from
the two men. He woke up about an hour ago, we talked briefly, and he went right
"Not like Frank," Harvey said, pacing.
"No, not like Frank," Wiley
conceded turning to Harvey and Doc.
"The question is what we do to get Frank
back. I'm looking for suggestions." Doc Kaiser had been looking at the floor.
After Savage's near collapse a month ago he had been keeping a private log on
his behavior and combat readiness. This collapse was not a surprise, but its depth
"Let's get him a leave. He seemed to recover when he went to Scotland,"
"Did he? Did he really?" General Crowe said turning again
to face the wall.
"For one thing, did you know about the girl he met in Scotland?"
Doc and Harvey exchanged smiles. No surprise that Frank met a girl.
he met a Wren. She died his last day there. Terminal cancer. I don't think he
has dealt with her death or the death of Joe Farrell last month. He shelved his
emotions." Wiley said sipping his bourbon.
"What do you suggest, General?"
"I think he needs to fly again just to fly. He needs to be that
boy in Ohio on his grandfather's farm with no war and no life or death decisions."
Wiley said turning to Harvey and Doc.
"Doc, what do you think??"
like a good idea, General," Doc said.
"Where are you thinking of sending him?"
have a friend who lives on a farm near Holyhead in Wales. Frank can get his hands
on a B.A. Swallow and fly all day if he wants to. The war just isn't as close
up there." Looking at his watch, 0500h, Harvey sighed.
"Okay, when do you want
to send him?"
"As soon as possible. Today if we can square it, Doc. But you
need to clear this. If you aren't comfortable, he's not going." Doc took a long
pull on his bourbon trying to sort this all out.
"Harvey, have the general
report to me at the hospital when he gets up. I'll run some tests and then we'll
see," he said standing.
"Are we set here, General?"
"Yes, Major. I believe
so. Major Stovall, if you could stay a minute longer, I want to go over the temporary
change of command orders," Crowe said moving away from Harvey's desk.
sir," Harvey said still looking uncomfortable. Doc Kaiser saluted the General,
caught Harvey's eye and raised his eyebrows, then trudged out the door.
Joe Cobb?" General Crowe asked breaking Harvey's reverie.
"He's grounded right
now, sir, with an ear infection. Doc Kaiser said that he might be cleared in a
couple of days. Other than that, he's fine," Harvey said looking through his papers
on his desk.
"Ok, have him meet me here at 0900h. I need to get some sleep
and a shower. I'll be over in the VIP quarters, if you need me," Wiley said picking
up his hat and coat walking to the door. He turned and looked at the door to General
"I'll stay here. Hell, this is about the time I'd be at work
anyway," Harvey said taking off his uniform jacket. With a nod and a grunt, General
Crowe left the office. As he settled into his staff car, he wondered again if
one week with Max Harding in Wales would be enough to get Frank back on track.
Wiley met Max in 1941 in Archbury for a meeting at SHAEF headquarters outside
of London. He found him well-grounded, funny as hell and a damn good pilot with
his own plane, a Swallow. Although the flight of private planes was forbidden
when the war started, Max was able to keep his Swallow at his base in Wales in
its own hanger and fly it to his heart's content. Wiley hoped that Frank could
take advantage of Max's fortune.
Harvey cocked his head towards Frank's
office hearing water running in the sink. Harvey had made a fresh pot of coffee
and waited until Frank emerged from his office. Presently the door opened and
a gaunt, pale figure stood in the doorway backlit by the sunshine pouring through
"Hullo, Frank," Harvey said standing "Hullo, Harvey," Frank said
leaning against the door buck, fishing for a cigarette. Harvey crossed to the
coffee and poured a cup for himself and Frank. He handed Frank the coffee and
sat back down at his desk. Frank walked over and slumped in the chair by Harvey's
desk. He gently put his cup on Harvey's desk and covered his eyes with his left
hand and let out a sigh. He opened his eyes and took a long drag on his cigarette
looking straight ahead. He felt Harvey's eyes on him.
"So, are you going to
shower and shave at all, Frank, or are you just going to remain a dirty dog?"
Harvey asked with a smile.
"That bad Harve?" Savage said with a tired grin.
"OK, I can take a hint. Is General Crowe still here?" Frank asked getting to
"Yes sir. He stayed at VIP quarters. Doc Kaiser is looking to see
you after your shower," Harvey added.
"Yeah, I'm sure he is," Frank said disappearing
into his office. He reappeared moments later wearing his A2 jacket and a fresh
"Catch you later, Harvey," Frank said as he left the office.
General," Harvey said locking his eyes with Savage. Then the general was gone,
walking back to his quarters.
Harvey looked at his watch, 0800h. His stomach
rumbled. Breakfast, that's what this odd day was lacking.
"Major Kaiser, please,
Major Stovall calling. Hi Doc. He's up and theoretically on his way to his quarters
for a shower and a shave before he sees you. You're welcome! I thought you'd appreciate
that. I'm heading over to the mess. I need to be back before General Crowe's meeting
with Joe Cobb. Yes, he'll be taking over the group while General Savage is on
R & R. Ok, well, I'll talk to you later, I'm sure. Bye Doc." Harvey put the receiver
down, grabbed his coat from the back of his chair and stood up. He checked his
desk to make sure all the sensitive documents were in his locked drawer. Harvey
headed out of his office and crashed headlong into General Crowe.
me, General" Harvey said quickly saluting.
"Geez, Harvey. Where are you going
in such a rush? Is everything ok?" General Crowe asked peering at the younger
"Breakfast sir. I suddenly realized I was starving," Harvey said still
saluting. Letting out a laugh, Wiley Crowe tossed off a salute.
let me stop you, Major!" Harvey saluted again and turned to walk to the mess.
"Harvey, wait a minute," General Crowe called "What's General Savage's status?"
up and showering at his quarters. He is then to report to Doc Kaiser," Harvey
"Good, good. And Joe Cobb?"
"Meeting you at 0900h as requested,
"Thank you, Major. Have a nice breakfast." And with that General Crowe
entered the office.
When Frank reached his quarters, he felt as if he'd
walked several miles. He looked in the mirror and almost didn't recognize himself.
No wonder Harvey said something. He almost chuckled. It was almost comical. His
normally unruly hair was at odds with his head striking out in different angles.
His blue eyes glared back through bloodshot filters. The cuts on his face from
the windscreen were still raw. The circles under his eyes, so much a part of his
face now, seemed darker and deeper than ever; giving him a haunted look. He took
off his clothes and stepped into the shower. Rank has its privileges, even in
the Air Corps. He groaned as the hot water hit his sore shoulders and ravaged
face. It lasted only five minutes, but Frank felt super-charged when he came out
of the shower. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he padded to the sink to carefully
shave. He put on a clean shirt and trousers and even took the time to polish his
boots a bit. Giving his hair one last brush with his hands he felt almost human.
Frank grabbed his A2 jacket and lit a cigarette as he walked out of his quarters
on his way to see Doc Kaiser.
"Well, look at what the cat dragged in!
How are you feeling today, General?" Doc Kaiser asked standing behind his desk.
"Much better, I think, thanks to you, Doc. Did you give me something yesterday?
I felt a little murky when I woke up," Frank asked sitting on the edge of the
"Naw, just a little something to help you sleep. You look
much better but I'm still worried about you." Doc said standing in front of his
"I'd like to run some tests to rule out some things," Doc said vaguely.
"How long is this going to take, Doc? I have to meet General Crowe and plan
the strike for tomorrow." Savage said tiredly looking at the floor.
General. I want to take a couple of films of your head. You took quite a knock
yesterday when you landed the plane. I also want to do some blood work," Doc said
quickly hoping that there would be no argument from the general.
said with a sigh.
"Where do I need to go?"
"Just come with me, General and
we can do everything in x-ray," Kaiser said standing. Kaiser escorted the General
into the darkened x-ray room and Frank lay on the examining table. He was asleep
in minutes. Fine, Kaiser thought. Let him rest.
"Nurse, after the x-rays, we
need to draw blood from General Savage," Kaiser said quietly.
I'll go get a set-up." Kaiser carefully turned Frank's head and took the three
pictures. Perspiration started to bead on Frank's face and his breathing became
more rapid. He began to toss and turn. Kaiser grabbed Frank's shoulders firmly."
General, General Savage," he said loudly. Frank sat up, disoriented and shook
his head violently as if trying to be rid of his memories. He wiped his brow with
his shirtsleeve. The door opened and the nurse returned. An uncomfortable silence
came over the room.
"General, I'm going to start processing those films. Nurse,
escort the General to my office when you're done here."
"Yes, Major." Kaiser
took up the films and dropped them off at the lab. He them hurried to his office.
"Harvey, it's Doc. General Crowe there?" Kaiser asked sitting at his desk.
"Sure Doc. Hold on"
"General Crowe. Yes Doc. Is he all right? I see. Send
him to me when you're done. No, I'll tell him. Ok. Thanks, Major." General Crowe
looked out the window to the field.
"General, was that about General Savage?"
Joe Cobb asked with concern etched in his broad face.
"Yes, Major. General
Savage is going to leave the base today on a medical leave. If Doc Kaiser feels
he's well enough after a week then he will return from duty. If not.... Well we'll
see. You're in charge until he returns." General Crowe asked facing Joe, "How're
"Getting better but I don't have the green light to fly," Joe said
looking at the floor.
"Look, Major. Tomorrow is a milk run but by the end of
the week we may have something big. I'm going back to PINETREE this afternoon.
I need a status report on the readiness of this group. Can you come to PINETREE
tomorrow at 0800h?" The General asked.
"Yes sir." Cobb said standing.
well. Major Stovall will give you any assistance you may need. Thanks, Major."
"Thank you sir," Cobb said saluting. General Crowe returned his salute and
Maj. Cobb reached for the door when it opened. Frank looked surprised to see Joe
Cobb but then looked beyond him to Wiley. Good choice, Frank thought.
Frank said extending his hand.
"Hi General," Joe said smiling ear to ear and
shaking his hand.
"Well, see ya later. Bye, General"
"Bye, Joe," Savage said
and closed the door behind him. Frank sat in the chair in front of his desk and
reached for a cigarette. Wiley walked around the desk, sat on the corner and offered
him a light. Savage nodded and closed his eyes, sucking on his cigarette.
you today, Frank?" Crowe asked carefully Savage opened his eyes and in a very
controlled voice said, "Wiley, I am tired, very tired." And he turned his eyes
towards his friend.
"I know Frank. I want you to get out of here. I want you
to stay with a friend of mine for a week or so. His name is Max Harding and he
lives in Wales." Wiley looked at Frank but couldn't read his face. It seemed void
"No arguments, Frank. I want you off the base today," Wiley said
standing and walking behind the desk. Frank continued to look at him but said
nothing. Finally Frank tore his look away and stood quickly turning to the wall.
"Joe Cobb holding down the group?" He asked quietly "Yes."
Crowe paused "Harvey has your vouchers for your train. You'll be staying with
Max at his house. I think your train leaves London just after lunch." General
Crowe walked back towards Frank. Frank turned to face his friend. Wiley put his
hands firmly on Frank's shoulders.
"Just take it easy. Sleep in. Don't shave.
Read a book. Take walks. Don't think about all this," Crowe said looking into
Frank's eyes. With a half-hearted smile Frank said, "Is that an order, General
"Let's just say it's a firm suggestion." Crowe smiled and released him.
"Now go before I change my mind." Frank reached over and touched Wiley's arm
as he walked out of the office.
Frank was in a state of dja vu when he
boarded the train for Bangor. Sergeant Dawson had again procured a private compartment
as he did on Frank's trip to Dunfergus. Frank took off his jacket, folding it
carefully on the other seat. He stretched out, his six-foot frame not quite fitting
but it was better than the chair in his office, on the seat. Not five minutes
later, the train started moving and Frank awoke with a start. His body was tired,
his brain was tired, but his subconscious was overactive. The trip was a blur.
His train arrived into Bangor at 2000h so he took a room overlooking the strait.
He removed a flask of scotch from his bag and poured himself a strong drink. He
turned off the lights in the room and sat by the window smelling the water; trying
not to let his mind wander back to the war.
Tuesday Feb. 24, 1943
The phone rang and Frank jumped out of the chair. Staggering to get his bearings,
he found the phone.
"Savage," he said curtly.
"Yes sir. It's eight o'clock
sir. You asked to be called," a voice said.
"Good morning," Frank said and hung up. He took a quick shower, skipped
a shave and walked to the marina to catch the ferry to the Isle of Anglesey. It
was a small passenger ferry that he was taking. He walked to the top deck and
lit a cigarette. Beautiful country he thought. An hour later he was walking down
the gangplank looking for a man in a cap. That was all Harvey could tell him.
No one came up to him so Frank walked to a bench, put his bag on the seat, and
lit a cigarette. Five minutes later, a tall man with grey hair and bushy grey
moustache came up to him.
"Would you be General Savage?" he inquired. Frank
transferred his cigarette to his left hand and extended his right.
General...er...Frank.... Savage," Frank said shaking the man's hand.
Harding. I trust you haven't been waiting too long."
"No, not at all."
Let's get you sorted, shall we? It's a bit of a drive to Valley. Are you hungry,
General?" Max asked leading Frank to his car. NO!" Frank stopped and Max turned
to face him.
"I mean, please call me, Frank. I guess I've been in the military
so long I've lost some of my civilian ways."
"Oh, Frank. That's fine. I might
have lost some of my civilian ways as well," Max smiled a genuine smile and turned
back towards the car.
As Max drove through the countryside towards Holyhead
he gave Frank a brief history of the country: this battle here, this saint there.
Frank remained quiet, slouching in his seat, smoking almost non-stop, looking
out the window.
"Ah, here we are," Max announced as he pulled into a large
manor house. Frank was lost in thought, as they had passed through beautiful lush
green countryside full of fields and pastures.
"Frank," Max started looking
at him now, "Let's go inside and get a cool drink." Frank turned to him.
course, Max," Frank answered and got out of the car, grabbing his bag from the
"You'll be staying upstairs in the Blue Room, if that will suit
you," Max said as he climbed the large staircase to the second floor. Following
Frank said, "I'm sure it will be fine." The walls were covered with oil paintings
of pastoral scenes and what Frank could only imagine were dead relatives.
we are. I leave the shades down so the sun doesn't bleach out the rug and curtains."
Max explained walking to the windows and raising the shades. The view was spectacular.
Frank moved to the window. It overlooked a barn, a cow pasture, and in the far
distance, the Irish Sea.
"Make your way downstairs and follow your nose. We'll
have lunch about one o'clock" Max said and left Frank alone with his thoughts.
Frank pulled restlessly at his tie and tossed it onto the floor. He took his A2
jacket off, not breaking his look to the farmyard. He unbuttoned the first three
buttons of his shirt and pushed up his sleeves to his elbows. He reached out to
the window and opened it, breathing in thoughts of his youth. Frank stood in the
window, unable to move. It was Ohio, when he lived with his grandfather, a lifetime
away. Suddenly, a clock rang; one bong, and brought Frank back to the present.
Where was he supposed to go? Right, downstairs and follow his nose to the kitchen.
He grabbed his cigarettes from his A2 jacket and walked quickly to the staircase.
He listened and heard voices coming from the first floor to the left and off he
went. Frank walked into a large kitchen with a wood burning fireplace, icebox,
stove, and large table set for three.
"Ah here he is. Frank, welcome to our
home. This is Sarah, my wife," Max said with his arm around a small, slim, beautiful
"The pleasure is all mine," Frank said shaking her hand.
"You have a beautiful home."
"You're too kind, Frank." Sarah smiled.
know that it's the middle of the day, but would you like something to drink before
"Scotch, if it's not too much trouble?" Frank asked walking to
the window and looking out to the barn.
"Scotch we can manage." Sarah laughed
as she took two glasses from the cupboard. Max brought a musty bottle with a cork
in it and poured two hefty portions.
"To your health, Frank," Max said handing
him a glass.
"And yours Max, Sarah," Frank said turning his back to them again,
facing the barn. Sarah and Max exchanged glances.
"Max, why don't you take
Frank outside? It's a gorgeous day and lunch won't be ready for fifteen minutes.
Sorry, Frank. I ran behind schedule this morning," Sarah said apologetically.
Frank just turned to her and smiled. She could practically see the stress rolling
off his back. She knew from Max, however, that Frank had many demons.
go then, Frank. Sarah will ring the bell when she's ready for us," Max said. He
kissed Sarah on his way out of the kitchen into the yard. Frank downed his scotch
as if it was water and followed. Standing in the yard, Frank lit a cigarette.
They walked slowly towards the barn. Max snuck looks at Frank as they walked along.
It was as if Frank was breathing pure oxygen. His mind was elsewhere, not in Valley,
not in Wales. To the left was a chicken coop. Frank could hear the rustling and
squawking. To the right a small paddock, perhaps for horses.
"Do you want to
go in?" Max's voice reached him from far away. Frank registered he was standing
about one foot in front of the barn. He fieldstripped his cigarette, putting the
paper in his pants pocket.
"Sure, Max. Lead on," Frank said smiling at the
other man. Max slid the door open and they walked in. As Frank's eyes got used
to the darkness he counted four Black Angus heifers in loose boxes and four horses
in standard stalls. He walked down the aisle, offering the back of his hand to
the nuzzling horses as he passed each stall.
"You have a way with animals,
Frank," Max said.
"Funny, I figured you for a city boy." Frank turned and flashed
him a smile.
"No, I was raised by my grandfather on his farm in Ohio."
Both men turned towards the door listening to the ringing of the dinner bell.
They smiled at each other as if a private joke was said between them and walked
slowly towards the kitchen. Standing in the kitchen doorway Frank's eyes were
as big as saucers. There was always plenty to eat on the base, but this was real
home cooking. Fresh bread, butter, and marmalade were on a tray. Salami, sliced
thickly with hard-cooked eggs on a plate. But the best of all was the rhubarb
tart. He stood, frozen in the doorway and Max bumped into him.
Max asked touching his shoulders. Frank flinched unconsciously and stepped quickly
into the room.
"Sarah, this all looks delicious. Thank you," Frank said sitting
in the chair, which faced the barn. They had a quiet lunch filled with small talk.
Sarah regaled Frank with stories of how she and Max met. Frank smiled but didn't
say a word.
"Well, Frank," Max, said standing.
"I'm afraid Sarah and I must
leave you to your own devices this afternoon. I need to go to the office for a
few hours and Sarah has informed me that she needs to go to town. Will you be
all right?" Max asked carefully.
"I'll be fine, Max, thanks. I think I'll follow
Wiley's advice and take a long walk."
"Ok, then. We'll see you at six o'clock
or so this evening," Max said clearing the table. Frank stood and started to help.
"No, Frank. We can manage." Sarah said taking the plates from his hands.
ok," Frank said slightly flustered.
"Max would you mind picking up some cigarettes
for me. I didn't have any time before I left," Frank asked digging into his pocket
for some money.
"Not a problem, Frank. Any particular brand?" Max asked taking
"Not really. Anything with tobacco will do," Frank said smiling,
pulling out a cigarette and his lighter.
"Guess I'll see you later."
Frank," Max said "Bye, Frank," Sarah said. Frank went out into the yard and lit
his cigarette. He listened to the world around him, birds, horses, chickens, and
Max's car. He felt restless. He had absolutely nothing to do. Frank couldn't remember
such a time. He started to walk, passing the hen house towards the field. He opened
the gate, stepped through, and secured it again. As he walked for two hours through
fields, gates, and down narrow trails, he started to get a headache. He was tired,
physically tired. He saw a group of trees and walked in their direction. He lay
down under a tree and was soon in a dreamless deep sleep. When he awoke, the sun
was low on the horizon and it was 1700h. Frank stood up and shivered. He had left
his jacket at the house. Serves you right, he thought buttoning his sleeves. Frank
lit a cigarette and headed home to the farm, hands dug in his pockets. His headache
was now just a dull pain. An hour and a half later, Frank walked into the kitchen.
"Thank God. Frank, I've been worried sick about you. Are you all right?" Sarah
said rushing up to Frank. Frank immediately backed up to the wall.
Sarah. I lost track of the time. I'm sorry. Do I have enough time for a quick
shower?" Frank said looking anywhere but in her deep green eyes.
dear. We had planned to eat at seven." Frank looked at his watch. 18:30h, he had
thirty minutes. No problem.
"See you in a half an hour then," Frank said and
left the kitchen. A few minute later Max entered the kitchen.
"Did I hear Frank
return?" He asked giving Sarah a hug from behind.
"Yes, he's up taking a shower
now," Sarah said continuing to prepare dinner.
"How does he seem?" Max asked
pouring himself a scotch.
"Nervous. Like a cat with a long tail, if you get
"Yes. After dinner I'll try to talk to him," Max said sipping
Frank walked up the staircase to his room. He had left the
window open and now it was chilly in his bedroom. He closed the window and the
blackout curtains then turned on the bedside lamp. He walked to the bathroom and
looked in the mirror. His cuts were healing, he had a bit of windburn on his face,
and some depth of his circles under his eyes seemed to be gone. He took off his
clothes and took a short shower, recognizing that Max and Sarah were probably
on a well water system. He dressed in a clean white civilian shirt and trousers,
brushed his hair, grabbed his lighter and remaining cigarettes and walked downstairs.
He looked at his watch, 1850h, perfect timing. He heard a crackling noise from
his right at the bottom of the stairs and found Max standing in front of a fire
in a large drawing room. He seemed deep in thought. Frank cleared his throat as
he walked into the room.
"Ah, Frank. You look like a million! How was your
walk?" Max said walking to the side table, which had been set up like a small
"I walked for about four hours," Frank said looking at the books on the
shelves. Max turned in surprise, handing Frank his scotch replied, "Really? I
can't remember when I've done anything like that." Frank said, "Neither could
I. Cheers." And he saluted Max.
"Dinner!" Sarah called from the kitchen. Frank
and Max took their glasses with them and walked to the kitchen. Again, Sarah had
prepared a feast. This time it was shepherd's pie. The perfect meal to warm him
up, Frank thought. He sat in what had appeared to become his chair. There was
nothing to see out the window now that night had fallen and the blackout curtains
were in place but he knew the barnyard was there.
"I put your cigarettes on
the table at the bottom of the staircase," Max said serving himself.
you. Was there enough money?" Frank asked accepting the dish.
"Yes it was fine,"
Max said waiting until Frank was served.
"I thought we should toast Frank.
Welcome!" Max said.
"Here, here," Sarah said in agreement. Frank blushed slightly
and toasted back.
"And cheers to you for your generosity" Silence followed
as they ate their dinner. His headache had returned with a vengeance. As Frank
finished, he realized again how incredibly tired he felt. He struggled not to
yawn and to keep his eyes open but it was a losing battle.
"Go ahead, Frank.
We'll see you in the morning," Sarah said smiling.
"I'm sorry. I'm...just so
tired..." Frank apologized as he stood.
"Nonsense. This is your vacation. You
are to do as you wish. Sleep well, Frank," Max said sipping his scotch. Frank
walked to Sarah and kissed her gently on the cheek.
"Thank you, Sarah for a
"You're welcome, Frank. Sleep well," Sarah said squeezing
his hand. Frank left the kitchen, picked up his new cigarettes and headed up the
"Frank?" Max called from below. Frank turned.
"Can you give me a
hand tomorrow?" Max asked. Frank smiled, "Of course, Max. I look forward to it,"
He turned and walked up the stairs. He was almost to his room when the phone rang.
Frank stopped, hearing Max enter the hallway below to answer it.
he's here. If you'll hold the phone, I'll get him. One moment. Frank?" Max called.
"Yes, Max," Frank said his voice filled with dread.
"It's Doc Kaiser for
you from the base." Frank walked down the stairs to the phone. Max returned to
"Hi General. How are you?"
"Fine," Frank said curtly."
Get on with it, Doc, he thought.
"I've got the x-ray results. You have a concussion.
Have you been having any headaches?"
"No, Doc," he lied quietly.
it easy then. Nothing strenuous. I'll call in the next day or two to see how you
are and give you the blood test results."
Frank hung up the phone and walk into the drawing room. He couldn't sleep now.
He was too keyed up. He poured himself a scotch and lit a cigarette. The fire
had burned down but still gave off heat. The only light in the room came from
the fire. He sat in a large leather chair facing the fire and took a pull on his
cigarette, rubbing his eyes trying to will his head to calm down. Quietly, he
sat there, floating, listening to the fire and sipping his scotch. The phone call
from Doc had really thrown him. He was back in England, at Archbury. He could
almost smell the aviation fuel and hear the rumble of the B17s as they crossed
over the field on their way to the continent. He finished his cigarette and tossed
the butt into the fireplace watching it briefly flare as the paper ignited. He
stood and poured another scotch. Frank's head was pounding. Returning to the chair,
he took a big sip of the smoky liquor and put the glass down on the small side
table. He held the scotch in his mouth feeling it numb his tongue before. swallowing
and reveling in the lovely burning sensation in this throat. The fire was mesmerizing.
The house was quiet and soon he was asleep in the chair, and just as soon the
nightmare returned. It started in the same place. He was in the Lily with Joe
Farrell sitting right seat. Joe was his best friend since they were at West Point
in 1926. One minute they were talking and joking and the next minute, Joe was
dead. Then, suddenly, he was in Scotland on leave and met Anne. She had come home
to die; he had left Archbury to try to save himself. They had needed each other
and then she was dead. Finally he was back in the Lily, flying through the flak.
The last mission. They got hit and Danny died. Frank couldn't save any of them.
Not Joe, or Danny or Anne or apparently himself. Frank awoke with a start, flying
to his feet. In the chair opposite sat Max, hands clasped in front of him, elbows
resting on his knees watching Frank's every move. Frank put his hands on the mantel
and lowered his head trying to regain control. His head pounded so loudly he thought
he would awaken the household. Frank turned to pick up his scotch and noticed
Max sitting in the shadows, the reflection of the fireplace playing across his
"Hullo, Max," Frank said picking up his glass and heading for the bar.
"Hello, Frank," Max said quietly.
"Sarah asleep?" Frank asked looking over
at the back of Max's chair while refilling his glass.
"Yes. She is blessed
with an ability to sleep whenever and wherever she chooses."
"Ah, that is indeed
a blessing," Frank said walking to the fireplace. He was still too disconnected
to sit down. He felt the need to pace but fought it by lighting a cigarette. He
stood there, leaning on the mantel, drinking scotch, smoking his cigarette, and
looking into the fire. Max and Frank remained that way, not speaking, just being,
for over an hour. Frank continued to smoke, sip his drink, and rub his forehead
trying to dissolve the headache. Max just sat in his chair and watched Frank.
When Wiley had called yesterday morning, Max had never heard him so upset. Wiley
said Frank was very close to breaking. He needed a refuge. He needed Max. Sure
Max had heard of this brilliant, strong American general. A natural flier and
tactician. He had received his commission in 1927 and met General Wiley Crowe
shortly thereafter and they had been close since. But the man standing in front
of Max was not this same man. Frank had changed just in the last eight weeks.
The war was heating up. The 918th was flying more missions and Frank Savage was
in the thick of it. Flying missions, planning missions, and the seemingly endless
stream of paperwork needed to do both. Physically it had taken a toll. His clothes
now hung loosely and his face portrayed him as a man of 46 not 36 years old. Mentally,
he was unraveling. Wiley said he was having nightmares and actually broke down
in front of him. Max could not ignore the similarities between himself and this
young man. He had been there once. Diligent, caring, and responsible to the point
of sacrificing himself. But that was when he was a very young man a very long
"Shall I get some more scotch, Frank?" Max said holding the
empty carafe. Frank looked at him quizzically.
"I'm heading to bed.
It's almost twelve and I've been up since sunrise," Max said putting the carafe
down and walking towards Frank.
"Shall I get another bottle of scotch?" Frank
turned to face the older man.
"No thanks, Max."
"Are you off to bed as well,
then?" Max asked looking into Frank's blue eyes. Unable to hold his look, Frank
looked down to the floor and murmured, "Soon, I promise."
Frank. Oh and Frank, don't stay up too late, eh? This is supposed to be a vacation
for you, remember?" Max said smiling. He turned and left Frank alone.
Wednesday Feb. 25, 1943
The sun poured through the windows and woke
Frank immediately. He looked around, briefly disoriented. He was in bed, under
the covers. His throat was scratchy, he had a killer headache, and he just felt
exhausted. He pulled the covers back and was amused to find he was dressed just
in his shorts. Guess I couldn't manage the pajamas, he thought. He went to the
bathroom, showered and tried to return to humanity. He didn't trust himself to
shave because of the slight tremor in his hands. He had no aspirin and hoped the
coffee would set him right. He didn't want to tell Max and Sarah about the headaches.
Grabbing his cigarettes and lighter he was halfway out the door when he remembered
to lower the shades in his bedroom. As he got to the last window he saw Max in
a thick sweater and barn jacket walk across the yard towards the house. Frank
walked slowly down the stairs, careful not to aggravate his headache. He walked
into the kitchen. Sarah was at the stove with her back to him, alone. He watched
her from the doorway silently. She was concentrating and frankly he welcomed the
quiet. Finally, she turned to go to the sink.
"Morning, Frank. How long have
you been standing there?" Sarah said coming up to offer her cheek. Frank leaned
down; closing his eyes to the pain, and gave her a peck.
"Just a minute. I
didn't want to surprise you," he said with a smile.
"Can I get you some tea
or coffee? Breakfast won't be ready for a bit yet."
"I would love some coffee,
black," Frank said walking into the kitchen.
"Can I help you at all?"
dear; I'm fine. Max is out feeding chickens I think. He should be back soon. If
you want to go out you should put on your jacket otherwise you are more than welcome
to sit here." Frank took the steaming cup and saucer from Sarah, putting the saucer
down taking a sip of the coffee. He was itching to have a cigarette but sensed
that Sarah would not have approved smoking in her kitchen so he was contented
to sip his coffee and look out the window.
The door burst open and Max
stepped inside quickly taking off his cap.
"Ah you're up are you, Frank. How
are you feeling today? Headache gone yet?" Max said removing his barn coat and
hanging it on a hook behind the door. Frank looked up quickly. Max poured himself
some coffee and sat down at the table.
"Did Wiley call you?" Frank asked looking
into his coffee cup, holding it with both hands.
"Yes, are you angry?" Max
asked "No," Frank said uncomfortable at the direction of the conversation.
look at me, please," Max said firmly. Frank turned and looked at Max.
headache...?" Frank sighed.
"Yes I have a headache." He sat down at the kitchen
"Ok, the local doctor is coming over this morning to take a look at
you," Max said sipping his coffee.
"Max," Frank started but caught the older
man's cold stare and thought better of it.
"Breakfast is ready,
gents," Sarah said setting two plates of shirred eggs and toast.
and butter on the table. Do you need anything else Frank?" Sarah asked standing
at the end of the table.
"I can't think of anything to add to this wonderful
meal," Frank said genuinely as he looked at Sarah. She beamed and blushed at the
same time, made her own plate and sat down.
The breakfast was perfect
but Frank had little appetite. What little he ate didn't clear up his scratchy
throat or headache. He assumed the throat was due to his smoking and the headache
exacerbated by the scotch but now, he thought he might truly be ill. Maybe his
body was giving up. Frank stood and helped get the dishes to the sink.
I dry?" he asked bowing to Sarah slightly.
"Thank you, Frank" she smiled and
started on the dishes. Max left the two of them silently washing dishes and walked
into the library. He picked up the phone and called Wiley.
"Max Harding for
General Crowe. Hi Wiley."
"Hi, Max. How's our boy?"
"He's in trouble, Wiley."
Max went on to explain last night's events as well as the admission of headaches.
"I've got the base doctor coming over this morning."
"Not in uniform, right?"
Look, I'm really uncomfortable not telling him what I do."
"Max, when he's
ready to know, he'll ask you. Otherwise it's just too much." Wiley said. Max thought
for a moment.
"I think you might be right there. Dr. Kaiser's phone call really
set off something in him last night."
"I'll call Doc and warn him. Can you
have your doctor call Doc. Kaiser with his findings?"
"Of course Wiley."
Max. Please give my best to Sarah."
"I shall. Looking forward to seeing you
"Me too. Good bye."
"Goodbye." Just as Max hung up the phone,
someone knocked at the front door. Max went to open it and found Dr. Ned Stone.
"Good morning, Ned," Max said shaking the physician's hand.
Max. How's the patient?" Ned said walking into the hallway.
"I'll let you make
that decision. Frank?" Max called.
"Dr. Stone is here." Frank appeared from
"Good morning, Frank Savage. Thank you for coming," Frank said
shaking the doctor's hand.
"Why don't you go into the library? Sarah and I
will be in the kitchen when you're done." Ned led the way and Frank obediently
"I understand that you had a concussion two days ago," Ned said closing
the door behind him.
"Is this correct?"
"Yes." Frank said standing nervously.
"And those lacerations on your face, glass?"
"Frank? May I call
you Frank?" Ned asked. Frank nodded.
"Could you sit on this chair by the window,
Frank? I need to take a look at you." Frank sat on a low stool by the window.
Ned gently took Frank's head in his hands and rotated it. Frank breathed in quickly.
"This hurt?" Ned asked.
"Yes," Frank said quietly.
"In addition to the
"Yes." Ned gently released Frank's head and took his pulse. It was
fast. He listened to his heart and it was racing as well. He looked at his throat
and made a click noise.
"Ahhhh" He listened to his lungs.
a deep breath. Again. Again."
"Hold out your hands like this," Ned said reaching
his hands out in front of him, palms down. His were steady Frank's were not. Quickly
Frank lowered his arms.
"Ok, ok. That's enough," Ned said resting a hand on
Frank's shoulder. Ned walked away from Frank and leaned against a chair looking
"How have you been sleeping?" Frank looked at the floor.
have nightmares," Frank admitted.
"Is this new since your accident?"
They started about two months ago but have become more frequent in the last few
days." Frank said continuing to look at the floor.
"Can you sleep without nightmares?"
"Do you know what triggers them?"
"No," Frank lied. Dr. Stone went to his
bag and put away his stethoscope. He then closed his bag and came back to face
"Frank, how do you feel?" Frank raised his head to look at this stranger.
Tears were streaming down his face. He quickly looked down to the floor.
feel lousy. My head feels like it will explode, I can barely swallow, and I'm
very tired." Frank said quietly.
"I don't know. I just don't know. I feel as
if I'm losing control."
"Okay, Frank. Everything's going to be ok. I think
you're exhausted and I think in addition to your concussion you might have picked
up pneumonia. So I am sending you to bed." Frank's head flew up and looked at
"I know. You're worried about your nightmares. I'm going to give
you a sedative. You must sleep, Frank. Nice gentle sleep. Now let's get you to
your bedroom and get you well." Frank stood slowly as Dr. Stone helped him. He
was so tired and his headache was the worst he had ever known. Together they climbed
the stairs to Frank's bedroom. Dr. Stone pulled back the sheets and helped Frank
into his pajamas. He watched Frank take the sedative.
"I'll stay here until
you're asleep," Ned said assuring him. Frank simply closed his eyes. It took almost
twenty minutes but finally Frank was sleeping. Must have been fighting the medicine.
A general to the end, Dr. Stone thought. He stood, grabbed his bag, and left Frank.
Ned slowly walked down the staircase and entered the kitchen. Max handed him a
cup of tea.
"You know he should be in hospital, don't you? You have a very
sick boy up there." Ned said sitting at the table.
"I guessed as much after
last night's episode. What's going on?" Max asked sitting down as well.
pretty much as you suspected. The fatigue and the concussion are aggravating each
other. He's been having nightmares for at least two months that he'll admit to.
I'm fairly sure he caught pneumonia yesterday on that walk of his. You said he
had no coat?" Max nodded silently.
"He's right on the edge, Max. He is so scared
of not being in control. He broke down in the library. I gave him a sedative that
would knock out a horse and he fought it for twenty minutes."
"So what's the
plan?" Max asked sipping his tea.
"Keep him sedated. At least twenty-four hours.
He'll be groggy as hell when he wakes up but he should be better. I'll stop by
this afternoon and give him antibiotics to try to combat pneumonia. Keep him covered.
Look in on him from time to time."
"How long will the shot you gave him keep
"He should be out until I return this afternoon. If anything changes,
call me immediately." Dr. Stone said rising.
Max. Give my best to Sarah."
"Will do" Max said and walked Ned to the door.
"See you later." Max said.
"Right" Max walked into the dining room and found
Sarah refilling the scotch decanter.
"Well, how's Frank?" Sarah asked looking
"As good as to be expected, I suppose." Max said looking out the window.
"Ned sedated him. In addition to the concussion and exhaustion, his walk in
the countryside landed him with pneumonia. Ned's coming back this afternoon to
give him some antibiotics and another sedative." Sarah approached her husband
and embraced him.
"You're a good man, Max. I love you," Sarah said, kissing
"Thank you, sweetheart. I needed that," Max said stroking her hair. He
caught a glance at his watch.
"Boy, is that the time? I need to get to the
base. Can you stay with Frank? Ned said we need to keep an eye on him today."
Max released her to look at her face.
"Of course dear. Will you be home for
lunch?" Sarah said walking him to the door.
"Yes, definitely." Max kissed her
again, reached for his topcoat and walked out the door.
Sarah walked to
the library, picked up her knitting bag, and climbed the stairs to Frank's bedroom.
Silently she opened the door. Frank looked pale against the white sheets. Ned
had tucked the blankets close to Frank's body and it somehow made him appear smaller.
Sarah sat in a chair by the windows, raising the shade enough to see her knitting.
Soon she was lost in her work, listening to Frank breath.
Max opened the
front door and listened. The house was very still. He took off his coat and hung
it back on the coat rack. He climbed up the stairs to Frank's room. Sarah was
asleep in her chair knitting needles in mid-stroke. Frank was asleep but restless.
There was a thin layer of sweat on his face and he had flung the sheets off the
bed. Max went to the bathroom and dampened a washcloth wiping Frank's face. The
sound of the water running awakened Sarah.
"Hello, dear," she said putting
her knitting back in her bag.
"I guess I dozed off." She smiled.
downstairs and start lunch. Soup?"
"Perfect. I'll be down in a minute. I just
need to get Frank's bed sorted."
"Do you need help?"
"No, I'm fine." She
stood on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss.
"What's that for?" Max asked her.
"Just because." And she left the room, humming.
Max watched her leave
and returned his attention to Frank. He pulled back the sheets and blankets to
the foot of the bed and started from scratch. Frank started tossing and turning
but soon became quiet again. Max looked at his watch half-past twelve. Guess I'll
have to call Ned, he thought. The sedative is wearing off too soon. Max pulled
to sheet up to Frank's chin and did the same with the blanket. He started tucking
him in tightly to keep him from pulling the bed apart when Frank's eyes opened.
"Why, hello Frank! You are nothing if not surprising!" Max said, continuing
the bed-making process. Frank took a breath as if starting to respond, but instead
he started coughing. His face quickly reddened as he tried to sit up and catch
"Hold on, Frank. I've got you." Max said, helping Frank into a
more comfortable upright position. Frank grabbed Max's arms tightly.
try to relax, Frank. Breath easy," Max said soothingly. Finally, his coughing
attack stopped and he leaned back on the propped-up pillows, eyes closed. Max
wiped Frank's face with the washcloth. His breathing slowed and he was asleep
again. Max left the room, leaving the door open and walked down to the front hall.
He picked up the phone and dialed the base.
"Dr. Stone, please. Max Harding
calling. Yes, when he gets out of surgery, please have him call me at home. Goodbye."
Max disconnected the call and called his office.
"Hello, its Max. I won't be
able to return immediately to the office; something has come up at home. No, it's
nothing earth shattering, just something I must oversee. Right. Yes, of course
you may rout calls through to here. Thank you. Good bye." Max hung up the phone
and walked into the kitchen.
"Cup of tea?" Sarah asked over her shoulder.
thank you. Is there any coffee left?"
"Sure I'll heat some up for you," Sarah
said. Max sat down and rubbed his moustache, an unconscious gesture he did when
working something out. Sarah brought the bowls of soup to the table. She added
the plate of bread and Max's coffee. Sitting down she looked at Max.
"I was just thinking if there was anything else I could do." Sarah reached
over and put her hand in his.
"He woke up just now, you know. Just for a few
minutes." Max turned to look at her.
"He had a coughing fit. Ned thought the
sedative would knock him out for at least four more hours. I've called the base
but he was in surgery. I also called the office and told them I might not be back
"Eat your soup then, before it gets stone cold, so you can get back
to your patient." It was Max's turn to smile. He quickly finished the soup and
carried his coffee up to Frank's room picking up his book from the hall table
on the way. As he neared the top of the stairs he could hear Frank coughing. He
hurried into the room, placed his coffee and book on the bedside table and looked
at Frank. The sheets and blankets were thrown onto the floor. He was sitting up
in bed, cross-legged, hands over his mouth. His hair was wet, pajamas too, and
his eyes were tightly closed in pain. Max took the washcloth and wetted it again.
He walked back to the bed and placed it on the back of Frank's neck. Frank groaned
as his coughing subsided and he lay back against the pillows. Max reached over,
straightened Frank's legs and pulled the bedding back over him to keep him warm.
He took his book and coffee and sat in the chair by the window. He couldn't concentrate.
Frank's breathing was heavy but he was quiet in his movements. Frank awoke four
more times over the next two hours with coughing attacks. Max didn't leave his
There was a knock on the front door and then it opened, Ned Stone
letting himself in. He didn't bother taking off his coat when he heard Frank coughing
from the front hall. Quickly he ran up the stairs to the bedroom. Max was sitting,
his back to the door, on the edge of the bed, one hand with a cloth on Frank's
neck, his left arm supporting him across his chest and Frank's head against his
back. Max was speaking softly as he held him. Ned put his bag down on a chair
by the door and took off his topcoat and hat.
"How long has he been like this?"
Ned asked getting his stethoscope and walking to the other side of the bed.
after lunch, about 1pm or so." Suddenly there was silence in the room as Frank
stopped coughing. Max carefully helped him lean back against the pillows. His
eyes were shut tight as he just tried to breathe.
"That's it, Frank. Nice and
easy. I'm going to listen to your chest. Just relax" Ned said quietly. Max got
off the bed and went to the window to take a gulp of his cold coffee. He turned
and watched Ned.
"Ok, can you keep the thermometer under your tongue?" Ned
asked shaking it violently. Frank replied with a half-hearted glare. That's it,
Frank. Come back thought Max. Ned took Franks arm and prepared it for a shot of
penicillin. Frank remained motionless even while the needle was going in.
We need to get this fever down," Ned said reaching gently behind Frank's head
for the washcloth. The doctor walked to the bathroom and ran cold water on the
cloth and returned placing it on Frank's forehead. Ned then prepared another sedative
and gave it to Frank. Frank's eyes opened and he struggled to get out of bed to
"Max, give me a hand here. No, Frank. You're sick and you need to
stay in bed." Frank managed to stand even with both men holding him.
have to go to briefing." Max paused for a minute and then saluted Frank.
Savage, sir. The continent is socked in. General Crowe just called and the mission
is scrubbed.' Max said with authority.
"General Crowe called?" Frank asked,
looking at Max confused and slowly his legs gave way. Max and Ned helped him to
the edge of the bed. Frank put his face in his hands, resting his elbows on his
knees trying to understand. Ned knelt down in front of Frank and picked up the
washcloth putting it on the bedside table.
"Frank, do you know where you are?"
Ned asked gently. There was a silence as Frank tried to answer. He shook his head
"You're at Max Harding's farm in Wales on medical leave. You were injured
and now you have pneumonia as well. you need to stay in bed today and get well."
Ned stood up.
"You think you can do that, Frank?" Frank nodded again, looking
at the floor. He looked up to see Max standing near the foot of the bed.
sorry to be so much trouble."
"Nonsense, Frank. Just get back into bed and
get better. I need your help around here, remember?" Max said pulling the sheets
back to make it easier for him. Slowly Frank got back in bed leaning back against
the pillows. Every movement was agonizing. His body ached, the headache had returned,
and now there was an immense pressure on his chest. Max pulled the sheets and
blanket up against Frank's chin and watched as his features relaxed with the sedative's
"He should be out until dinner," Ned said packing his med. kit.
what you thought this morning," Max pointed out." Yes but now you've given him
a reason to get better; you need him," Ned said picking up his coat and hat. Max
retrieved his coffee cup and the two men went downstairs.
"As long as you're
coming back to give Frank his shot, would you like to stay for dinner?"
I'd love to," Ned said putting on his coat and heading out the door. Max carried
his coffee cup to the kitchen sink and then poured himself a scotch. He walked
to the library and sat at his desk rubbing his moustache. He took a sip of scotch
and called Wiley.
"General Crowe, please. Max Harding calling. Would you ask
him to call me on his return? Thank you." Max hung up the phone. It was three
o'clock, time to do some work. He finished his scotch and went upstairs to change
into his barn clothes. Sarah was knitting by the window.
"Hello dear. Do I
need to stay with Frank?" Sarah asked putting her needles down.
"No, Ned was
just here and gave him another sedative. He should be quiet until dinner." Max
said from the closet.
"Oh that reminds me, I invited Ned for dinner. I hope
that's all right."
"Yes, I had food for three. Should I make some broth for
"That would be a very good idea. When our young general's fever breaks
he is going to be very hungry."
"Well, then. I should get started. Are you
going off to muck out the stalls?" Sarah asked, standing.
"Yes. Would you keep
an ear out for the phone? I placed a call to Wiley." Max walked out from the closet
buttoning his wool shirt.
"Of course." She said helping him with his sweater.
They walked down the stairs together into the kitchen. She put on her apron; he
his barn jacket and they went to work.
By six o'clock, the sun had set
and a steady rain had begun to fall. Max opened the door to the kitchen and hurried
"Brrr. The temperature has really dropped," he said taking off his dripping
coat and placing in on the hook by the door.
"Dinner at seven?" He asked.
usual time. Sarah said concentrating on the stove.
"I'll go light a fire in
the drawing room and check on Frank," Max said turning to go.
"I was just up
there drawing the curtains. He was fast asleep."
"You are a lamb!" Max
said walking up behind her and giving her a kiss on the neck. She tilted her head
towards him and giggled.
"Off you go then. You're distracting me. Oh, and Max,
could you at least change your clothes before dinner?"
"A little too barnyard
today, am I? Very well," Max said with a grin. He left the kitchen and walked
into the hallway as the phone rang.
"Hello? Hi Wiley."
"Hullo, Max. Sorry
to be late getting back to you. It's been one of those days you'd like to wash
down. How is he? I ran into Doc Kaiser so I know a little bit."
"If you had
talked to me at lunchtime, I'd say he wasn't doing well at all but I think he
turned a corner this afternoon. We'll know for sure tomorrow. He had a fever of
101 and was coughing more than he was sleeping, poor guy. He just fell apart.
But the good doctor was here and gave him a shot of penicillin and another sedative.
He'll come back again in an hour and give him another shot for overnight."
Max. I'm so sorry to have to put you through this. I really thought he had just
lost his way. I.... I don't know what to say. Thank you," Wiley said trying to
take it all in.
"You're welcome. Are you still able to some up for St. David's
"Yes, I'm going to try to catch a C39 up to RAF Valley on Saturday morning.
If you're on the base, I'll catch a lift with you, if not I'll scrounge up a driver."
"Sounds great. It's pouring rain up here and very cold."
"Got it. Still
have a taste for Kentucky bourbon?" Wiley asked, thinking of Major Stovall's supply.
"What a memory you have, Wiley. See you Saturday."
"Goodnight, Max" said
Wiley. The front door opened with a rush and Ned Stone lurched in.
awful out there," he said trying to remove his coat without getting too wet.
to you too, Ned," Max said with a laugh.
"Can I help you?"
"No, I'm fine.
How's the patient?" Ned asked nodding his head upstairs.
"Sarah looked in on
him about an hour ago and he was out. I was about to light a fire in the drawing
"Well, by all means, don't let me keep you," Ned said smiling. 'I'll
"Ok, I've been told I smell a little too much like the barn, so I'll
be up in a minute to take a shower." Ned leaned toward him and sniffed.
idea, mate!" and danced away from Max's right hand about to cuff his ear.
at seven, you."
"Right." Ned walked upstairs. It was very quiet. He walked
into the bedroom turning on a light in the corner by the door. He looked at Frank
and for a brief moment thought he had died, so slight were his breaths. He had
slumped down in the bed and Ned was sure his lungs were filling with fluid. Ned
took out his stethoscope and listened to Frank's chest. He took his pulse, very
slow. Ned prepared the penicillin and gave Frank the shot.
"Ow!" Frank said
opening his eyes slowly.
"Geez, Doc. What size needle are you using?" he wheezed.
"Hello, Frank. For you, I'm borrowing Max's equestrian needles." Frank looked
at him oddly and then smiled.
"How are you feeling?" Ned asked. Frank inhaled
too quickly to speak and was rewarded with another coughing fit. Ned grabbed his
pajama collar and pulled him into more vertical position.
"It's okay, Frank,"
Ned said holding him.
"It hurts, I know. I'll give you a shot as soon as it's
over." With each cough Ned felt Frank's chest and arm muscles contract. It only
lasted a few minutes but Ned knew Frank was now exhausted.
"Let me fix the
pillows before you lay back, Frank. You need to remain as upright as possible
to keep the fluid from building up in your lungs. Ok, now lie back," Ned explained.
"Now, where were we? Let's try a different method. Answering with yes or no,
please answer the following questions. Do you have a headache?"
your body ache?"
"Do feel pressure on your chest?"
"Are you cold?"
"All right. Ok. I'm going
to get you one of Max's wool cardigan sweaters. You need to keep your chest warm.
I'm going to give you another sedative to last through the night. You need to
be quiet, Frank and rest. Everything will take care of itself. You will be ok;
you've got to believe that. Now, I want you to be quiet. Sorry but it's too hard
to put a sweater on a sleeping man so you're going to have to stay awake for a
few more minutes. I'll be right back." Max said and left the room. Standing in
the hallway he thought he could hear humming from Max and Sarah's bedroom.
are you decent?" Ned asked from the doorway.
"Sure, what's up? Is he all right?"
Max said emerging from the bathroom with a towel around his waist.
I need to borrow a cardigan. He's cold."
"Oh sure." Max rummaged through his
bureau and found a nice charcoal grey sweater with leather elbow patches. He handed
it to Ned and then returned to the bathroom to comb his hair and get dressed.
"Ok, Frank. Here we go," Ned said. Frank opened his eyes but he was breathing
quickly through his clenched teeth. Ned prepared and gave Frank the sedative then
manhandled him into the sweater. Frank lay back, eyes closed, his breathing slowing
slightly as Ned buttoned the buttons. He checked his pulse, better. Ned pulled
the sheets and blanket to Frank's waist.
"There you are, Frank. Snug as a bug
in a rug," Ned whispered.
Ned walked into the drawing room after putting
his med. bag by the front door. It was wonderfully warm by the fire. He walked
to the bar and made himself a scotch and sat in a leather chair by the fire. Shortly,
Max joined him refreshed from his shower.
"Need a splash?" he said standing
by the bar.
"No I'm fine, thanks," Ned said. Max poured himself a scotch and
walked to his chair by the fire and sat down. Ned said, not taking his eyes off
"I think he'll be fine. He's a real fighter."
"Wiley said the
doctor on the base calls him a cat. He has amazing reflexes for a man of his age,
but also he has used up more than his share of nine lives." Ned thought about
that comment lost in his thoughts.
"Well, were you two up with Frank?" Sarah
said as she walked into the drawing room. Max and Ned stood immediately; Ned walked
up and gave Sarah a hug and a kiss. Max walked to the bar and poured his bride
"Ned, you look tired."
"Well, you don't! How do you do it Sarah:
put up with Max and still look the way you did when you first met him?"
you are incorrigible!" Max said laughing as he handed Sarah her drink. They sat
near the fire and talked about the upcoming St. David's Day festivities on the
base. The clock in the front hall sounded seven.
"Right, then, dinner is served,"
Sarah said dramatically. They walked into the kitchen and Sarah served up a piping
hot beef stew with warm bread. Max poured some simple red table wine.
as always Sarah," Ned said.
"Yes, lovie. Just wonderful." Max echoed. Sarah
blushed and sat down.
"Hurry you two while it's still hot. We have rhubarb
tart leftovers for dessert. I though Max we could have dessert in the drawing
room by the fire."
"Perfect," Max said.
Four hands of whist and four
portions of the tart (Ned had two) later and it was ten o'clock. Max and Sarah
were yawning and Ned was even a little tired himself.
"Let me go take one more
look at Frank before I head out for the base," Ned said standing. Max and Sarah
carried the plates to the kitchen and met Ned in the front hall.
moved an inch in four hours and his fever is down to 99. He'll probably be up
at dawn though, Max. I must be at the hospital until eight then I can dash over
here. I think we will find a different man in that room tomorrow."
you're right, Ned."
"Goodnight, Sarah, Max," Ned said putting on his coat and
grabbing his med. bag.
Thursday Feb. 26, 1943
Frank woke up in his darkened room with the blackout curtains drawn and a pale
lamp burning in the corner. He looked at his watch but it had stopped. He was
thirsty. His headache was there but not as bad as it once was. He needed a shower
as he rubbed his hand over his three days of stubble. Gingerly, he pushed aside
the sheets and blankets carefully swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and
placing his feet on the floor. He reached for the bedside table for support and
tried to stand. After three tries he was up holding the bathroom door buck for
dear life. His head pounded and his heart was racing but he was up. Frank stood
there just resting and he heard a movement in the hallway.
"Thought I heard
a noise. Morning, Frank," Max said dressed in his barn clothes.
What time is it?" Frank asked.
"Six o'clock. Can I help you with anything before
I go to the barn?" Frank blushed.
"Uhm, well, could you just stand nearby in
case..." Max smiled.
"Yes, I'll open up the curtains and straighten up the
bed. Give a call if you need help." Frank maneuvered into the bathroom to use
the toilet. Well at least I can still do something, he smiled to himself. He stood
carefully, rocking slightly and looked at his face in the mirror. The beard was
coming in thickly with some grey making him look older. His eyes were clear and
the cuts on his face were almost healed. He took a washcloth and wetted it washing
his face. Then he took a glass and filled it with water drinking the whole thing
in one shot. He filled another one, opened the door to the bedroom, and tried
to walk with the glass in one hand. Still unsteady, he succeeded in pouring most
of it on himself before Max took it out of his hand.
"I've got it, Frank. You
should get back to bed. Dr. Stone said he would be back after eight." Frank smiled
and carefully climbed back into bed.
"Are you okay?" Max asked him.
thank you, Max," Frank said taking a breath slowly.
"I'll be fine." He shut
his eyes and was breathing deeply before Max left the room.
At 8:15 there
was a knock on the door, it opened, and Ned Stone walked in. He took off his topcoat
and white lab jacket with its rank pinned to it and placed them on the chair by
the door. When he got to Frank's room he was sleeping. Ned put his bag on the
chair and reached for Frank's wrist to take his pulse.
"Good morning, Doctor,"
Frank said opening his eyes.
"Why, hello Frank. How are you feeling?"
still have a headache and it still hurts to breathe. I feel like Rip Van Winkle.
Oh, and one more thing, I'm hungry." Frank flashed a smile.
me take your temperature and we'll see if we can get some broth for you." Ned
said getting the thermometer.
"What I'd like, doctor, is a nice thick steak,"
he said with a slight scowl.
"No can do Frank. You don't have the strength
to digest solid food yet. Tomorrow you should be right as rain. Now please...."Ned
said as he put the thermometer under Frank's tongue. Frank watched as Ned walked
to the window and looked out to the barnyard below. He looked differently, his
clothes, but Frank couldn't figure it out. After five minutes, Ned removed the
"Perfectly normal. Great. I'm going to give you penicillin shot
to help with your lungs, and then we'll see about the broth."
Frank sighed and closed his eyes. Ned prepared the shot and looked at Frank. Quite
different from the man he met yesterday in the library. Doc Kaiser was right,
constitution of a horse. Just sedate him and he'll almost get better on his own.
Ok, his body was getting better, now Ned and Max needed to work on his mind. It
will just be a matter of time before the nightmares return. Ned sighed, pushed
the sweater sleeve up and slipped the needle into Frank's arm.
"How's the patient,
Ned?" Sarah asked standing in the doorway.
"Much better," Ned replied.
came a voice from the bed.
"Frank, I'm sorry, I didn't know you were awake.
How are you, poor dear?" Sarah said walking to the bed to take his hand. Frank
smiled and squeezed her hand in return.
"I'm fine, Sarah. Thank you," Frank
"I have just the thing for you. I'll make up a tray with beef
broth and bread. How does that sound?" Sarah asked.
"Delicious." Frank replied.
He inhaled quickly and held his breath before releasing it through pursed lips.
"Let me just close my eyes for a minute." Sarah looked at Ned with concern.
Ned walked up to Frank.
"Headache?" Frank couldn't reply as it suddenly felt
as if his head would explode.
"Would you like something for the pain?" Ned
asked as he put his hand on Frank's shoulder. Frank's eyes opened and Ned saw
that same look he had seen earlier. He nodded ever so slightly then closed his
eyes again tears escaped from his eyes and streamed back to his ears. Ned quickly
walked to his bag and prepared a hypodermic. He pushed Frank's sleeve up and gave
him the shot.
"Ok Frank. Just let go. Nice deep breaths. There you are," Ned
said quietly. Frank's face relaxed and he was asleep again.
"I gave him a painkiller,
not a sedative so he will probably wake up in an hour or so. Only broth, Sarah
and a little bread. He thinks he's hungry but he's still very weak. Now where's
Max?" Ned asked closing his med bag.
"He should be in the barn. It's almost
time for him to leave and go to work," Sarah said looking worriedly at Frank.
Ned turned her to face him.
"He'll be fine. We just need to be patient. When
is General Crowe coming?"
"Wiley will be here Saturday afternoon," Sarah said
as they walked out the door to the hallway.
"Then we need to get Frank up and
around tomorrow. Ok, let's see how it goes today. I'll drop by at lunch," Ned
said walking down the stairs. He put on his lab coat and topcoat and walked with
Sarah to the kitchen. Max walked in from the yard at the same time.
Well you were right. He was up at six this morning," Max said removing his coat.
"How was he then?" Ned asked
"He said he was fine. He went to the bathroom,
had a glass of water and went back to bed." Max said sitting down to the table.
Sarah brought two soft-boiled eggs and toast, with a cup of tea and set them down
in front of him.
"His fever is down but I can't seem to control the headache.
I've given him a painkiller and more penicillin. I don't want to give him any
more sedatives if I can help it. Sarah has his meal plan and I'll be back at lunchtime
to check in on him. Are you going to the base? " Ned asked.
"Yes, right after
breakfast." Max said fork poised with egg.
"Ok, then I'll see you there. I
had breakfast at five this morning!" Ned said. He walked to Sarah and gave her
a peck on the cheek. See you for lunch then, Ned?" Sarah asked.
Sarah. That would be great. Bye, Max," Ned said and headed to the hall.
you going to be at the base all day?" Sarah asked sitting opposite her husband.
"I shouldn't think so. If Frank is feeling better, I thought I'd try to get
him to the first floor just for a change of scenery," Max said and then finished
"Ok, I'm off to shower and change. I'll see you at lunch. Any thing
comes up, call me." Max stood and gave his wife a kiss.
"Have a nice day,"
Sarah said as she cleared the table. She took the broth out of the icebox and
started heating it on the stove.
Max tightened his tie and walked out
of his bedroom to the top of the stairs. He walked to Frank's door and stuck his
head in the room. Sleeping peacefully. Max turned and walked down the stairs grabbed
his top coat and headed out.
Frank awoke and noticed that someone had
wound his watch, it was 0930h. Carefully, he turned his head to look around the
room. The shades were drawn and there was a quiet singing coming from out in the
hallway. Frank pulled the covers to the side and slipped his legs over the edge
of the bed. With his feet on the floor he stood up slowly. A little unsteady but
not too bad. He was still dressed in Max's grey cardigan and his pajamas but he
had no bedroom slippers and his feet were cold. He walked slowly towards the singing.
Sarah was sitting in a chair in her bedroom, knitting and singing softly an old
hymn that she suddenly remembered. She became aware of someone looking at her
and saw Frank leaning with his back on the door buck listening to her.
Frank. This has become habit with you, sneaking up on me!" she teased and put
down her needles.
"I'm sorry, Sarah. I don't mean too," Frank looked to the
"Never mind. Now are you still hungry?" Sarah asked.
he admitted. She looked at him with his beard, grey sweater, striped pajama bottoms,
and bare feet.
"Frank, you must be cold with your bare feet. Let's see if you
can squeeze into a pair of Max's slippers," she said and walked into Max's closet.
She came out with wool-embroidered slip on bedroom slippers.
"Here, try these,"
Sarah said and handed them to Frank. He looked at them and figured that they might
fit if he knew how to get them on his feet without aggravating his all but gone
"Sarah, could you shoe me?" Frank asked with a grin.
think I can do it without falling over." Sarah looked at him.
"You poor thing.
All right. One leg at a time, please. She took the right shoe from him and tapped
his right leg. Balancing on his left leg, with his hands holding the doorframe,
he brought his right foot up behind him. Easily, Sarah slipped on the shoe. She
did the same for the other leg.
"First time I've ever shod a human!" she said
straightening up with a giggle.
"Now let's get you some broth. Do feel strong
enough to come downstairs or would you like broth in bed?"
"I feel as if I've
been in the bedroom for years. Let's try to go downstairs." Frank said.
Sarah said reaching her slight arm around his waist. He placed an arm around her
shoulder and they walked down the hallway to the staircase.
said setting them up on the left side near the railing.
"Yes," Frank said his
face glistening with perspiration. They made it down the stairs and into the kitchen
without incident. The kitchen smelled wonderfully. His stomach rumbled. He sat
in his chair facing the barnyard sipping his broth.
As Frank finished,
his headache returned and he felt very tired. The task of climbing the stairs
seemed impossible. Sarah looked at him from across the table.
"I think you
should go to bed." She said. Actually, I was wondering if you would let me stretch
out on the sofa in the drawing room." Frank said.
"Of course, what a good idea,"
Sarah said standing. Frank stood as well and Sarah helped him to the drawing room.
He lay down and she pulled a wool throw over his legs.
"Ok?" Sarah asked. Frank
answered her with silence, eyes shut, trying to breathe away his headache. She
kissed his cheek and left him to rest. Sarah went to Frank's room and made his
bed. She brought Max's book and Frank's cigarettes and put them on the table in
the drawing room.
Max came through the front door, hung up his coat and
went upstairs to check on Frank. When he found the bed empty he didn't know what
to think. He came downstairs and started searching. He went to the kitchen, then
the library, and finally the drawing room. He found Frank deep in his book, Faulkner's
collection of short stories called These 13, smoking a cigarette lying on the
"Hello, Frank. You look much better," Max said.
"Thanks, I feel better.
Is this your book?" Frank held it up.
"I love Faulkner. His whole
sense of man's place in the universe," Frank said looking at the spine of the
"Max? Are you a pilot?" Frank said looking at him.
"I was, in my youth.
Now I fly for my own enjoyment," Max said sitting down. Frank squinted, took a
drag off his cigarette.
"What do you fly?"
"A Swallow. Do you know it? It's
a trainer. I keep it near by."
"What is it exactly that you do, Max?"
am a civilian military advisor. Basically, I'm too old to fly for the RAF but
they still need my mind," Max smiled bitterly. Frank was quiet looking at the
older man. The door opened and in blew Ned. He removed his topcoat and lab coat
and started up the stairs.
"Ned? We're in here," Max said. Ned walked in to
see Frank lying on the sofa smoking a cigarette.
"Frank, I would really prefer
you not smoke until you are healthy." Frank looked at him but didn't extinguish
his cigarette. 'How are you feeling?"
"Uhm, let's see. Headaches, yes. Body
aches, no. Hungry, yes. Cold, no," Frank said, exhaling smoke. Ned shifted his
weight about to say something.
"Ned, he knows about our working at the base."
"Oh does he now? All right General Savage, I was going to delve into
this tomorrow but as you are feeling better I guess I will start." Ned said very
keyed up, pacing in the drawing room.
"You know that Max used to be a hot shot
like you. He was a born flier, like you. He was traumatized, like you and he came
back just as you're going are. But you're not there yet." Ned stood facing him.
Frank carefully moved the wool throw and put his feet on the floor. He took a
slow deep breath and stood up looking Ned in the eye.
"Actually, Dr. Stone,
Max was just telling me about the present, not the past." Frank said and walked
by him smoking quickly.
"Well it seems that the past is your problem, Frank-"
"Knock it off, Ned." Max interrupted. Frank stood at the window.
He closed his eyes against a swell of pain from his headache. Several minutes
of silence passed.
"Frank, do you think you might be able to help me in the
barn after lunch? If I don't groom the horses today, they won't be ready for St.
David's Day." Max asked looking at his back.
"Of course, Max," Frank said quietly.
"I need to head back to the base," Ned said abruptly leaving the room. Frank
shot him the look, mostly anger, and some frustration. Then he returned to his
cigarette. Max came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. Frank stiffened
unconsciously and remembered dimly a similar feeling with Wiley. He relaxed.
we ok, Frank? I mean you and me?" Max asked. Frank turned and looked at Max. How
could he say what he felt? When he first looked at Max he saw his grandfather.
How could things be anything but ok? His headache sharpened, he became dizzy and
he reached out to steady himself. Max took his arm and put it around his shoulder.
"Everything's ok, Frank. I'll bring you in some broth. Just lie down on the
sofa and rest for a minute." Max helped him to the sofa.
"I'll be fine, Max.
I'm home," Frank said lying down and closed his eyes. Max looked at him intently.
What did he mean by that, he thought? Max leaned over, picked up the wool throw
and put it over Frank's legs. He picked up his book, found the bookmark, and put
in on the table. He left Frank and went to kitchen in search of Sarah.
hello dear," Sarah said as she heard her husband enter the kitchen.
a hug, will you?" Max asked walking up to her.
"Max, what's wrong?" Sarah said
clasping him firmly.
"Ned told Frank too much too soon. Frank got mad, Ned
left, and Frank's headache returned. I bet you that the nightmares return as well.
Sarah, what should I do? I wanted to have a quiet afternoon with him. He guessed
I was a pilot. It didn't seem to bother him. I just don't know." He continued
to embrace her.
"Dear, it's only 11:30. Let him sleep until one. We'll have
lunch together and see how he is." Sarah said pulling back looking at his face.
"Alright. If you say so. I'm just going to sit here then," Max said sitting
wearily at the kitchen table rubbing his moustache.
Frank awoke from his
nightmare breathing heavily. He was all alone in the drawing room. Oh brother,
you've got to get it together he thought. He stood and slowly retrieved his cigarettes
and lighter from the table. He lit a cigarette and walked to the unlit fireplace.
He tried to clear his mind of his nightmare. He tried not to think of the war.
He was restless just as he was when he arrived two days ago. Had it only been
two days? He looked at his watch 1230h. He decided to try to walk upstairs unassisted
and put on real clothes. After all, he reasoned, you can't be in a barn in your
pajamas. Only two scary moments climbing the stairs. Not too bad. He walked into
his bedroom and found Sarah had made his bed. Someone had emptied his bag, he
didn't remember doing it. He found his old pair of khakis in the closet and a
shirt only worn once. He removed his pajamas and slowly got dressed. He put Max's
cardigan on top of shirt. He tried to put on his boots but his head began to spin
so he tucked his socks inside and carried them downstairs into the kitchen.
"Hello everyone," Frank said with a quiet smile. He placed his shoes on the counter
hoping that was all right with Sarah. She looked at his feet.
"Oh, dear. Did
you throw a shoe?" She said giggling. Frank laughed too.
"Hang on, what did
I miss? What's going on you two?" Max said feigning indignance. Frank turned to
"Max, I have a confession. I cannot shoe myself and therefore
I requested your wife assist me," said Frank holding his serious face as long
as possible before breaking into laughter.
"Oh, don't make me laugh. Oh my
head," he said, putting his hands on his forehead, laughing more. The three of
them laughed together easily as if the drama of the morning had never occurred.
"All right, I shall shoe the beast!" Max said turning to Frank.
Frank, Sarah is busy." Frank grinned and sat down. As if Frank was a child, Max
carefully put a sock and then a boot on each foot. Standing easily on both feet,
Frank just stood in the doorway.
"Ok?" Max asked concerned.
Just thinking," Frank said blushing. He walked into the kitchen and sat down again.
"Today for you, broth," Sarah said with great flourish.
"Just today, right?
Solid food tomorrow? " Frank said attacking his broth. Sarah and Max smiled as
they ate the last of the beef stew and bread. As the meal ended, Max looked at
"Ok, Sport. Do you need a rest or shall we head to the barn?" Frank
looked at him directly in the eyes.
"Ready when you are, Max."
a top coat. Max, grab your old barn coat. That should keep Frank warm. Oh and
you should wear a hat," Sarah said and handed him a wool cap. Well, when in Rome,
Frank thought and off he and Max went to the barn.
Frank had a dim memory
of the barn from his walk. He remembered that there were four horses, two chestnuts
and two bays.
"Ok, Frank. How's your memory on grooming?" Max asked as he walked
a horse out and clipped it to the crossties of the aisle.
"Well," Frank said
rubbing his beard.
"Apparently lacking in the detail department. Why don't
you get me started and then I'll continue?" Frank asked.
"Very funny," Max
laughed. Then he showed Frank the brushes, pick and combs necessary to groom a
"Think you have it?" Max asked looking at him.
"Yes, but don't go
up in that plane of yours and leave me for hours," Frank said returning to his
work. Uncanny, Max thought for that is precisely what he would love to do and
what he hoped to do with Frank tomorrow. Max left the barn and went in to the
Two hours later, Max came out to see how things were fairing.
He couldn't believe it. Not only had Frank groomed the horses as dictated, he
had also mucked the stalls and given them fresh hay and water.
if this pilot thing doesn't work out, you can always come here and help me." Max
said looking at one of the bays. There was a deep silence. Max turned and looked
at Frank who was sitting on the bench in the tack room looking at the floor.
Did I say something wrong?" Max asked and sat down next to him. Frank started
to speak and choked. Then he took a rocky breath "You're so much like my grandfather,
Max. That was such a different time. I'm not that person I was growing up on the
"Yes, you are Frank. That young man is part of you. You knew it the
moment you stepped on this place. Wiley knew it, that's why he sent you here."
"Frank there is more to you then just the base at Archbury."
have memories, that is all. I had a good home but I left it. There's nothing for
me there now. Now there's nothing, not even the flying. I used to love it, now
it's something I do for a living." Frank stood and started pacing. He badly wanted
"Frank, you can start a new home and new memories. It's just up
to you," Max said standing.
"Start today. Here in Wales. One day at a time."
Frank turned and looked at Max and embraced him. Both men shed tears.
you, Max," Frank said into his neck.
"No thank you, Frank." Max pulled away
and wiped his tears with his sleeve. Frank followed suit and soon the two were
laughing. They spent the rest of the afternoon puttering in the barn and barnyard.
"No, really, Max, you should stock your pond with fish. My grandfather did it
and we ate quite well once it was up and running," Frank said as they entered
the kitchen. Sarah just stood and looked at the two of them. Thick as thieves
as if they had known each other for years.
"Stop! Both of you up to take baths
right this instance and take off those muddy boots, Frank."
"Yes, m'am," he
said without thinking setting off another round of giggles between him and Max.
Frank sat down and without thinking simply removed his boots. No pain, no complaints
just did it. He carried them to a box on the floor with similar muddy things and
dumped them in. Then he took off his cap and barn jacket and hung them on the
"Seven o'clock supper?" Frank asked looked at his watch.
you think you might be able to manage a bit more than broth?" Sarah said.
m'am," he said again automatically and left the room.
"Well, what do you make
of our general now?" Max asked giving Sarah a kiss.
"He's wonderful. I think
he's almost well."
"Yes, tomorrow though will be the test. Tomorrow, I'm going
to try to get him into a plane. He still has some demons on that front. Did anyone
call? "Ned called to apologize. He said he didn't know what got into him. He was
going to stop by after dinner for a brandy to look in on Frank."
of him," Max said quietly.
"Was it really that bad, what he said?" Sarah asked.
"It could have been. We shall see when they see each other tonight. Ok, my
love off to the bath," he said kissing her.
Frank walked in to the bedroom
to find the curtains closed and his bedside light on. He went into the bathroom
and took a look in the mirror. He had some hay in his hair and dust in his beard
but his eyes were clear and there was a light in them. He took off his barn cloths
making a heap out of them on the floor and stepped into the shower. He turned
the water on as hot as he though he could stand it and stood under the water letting
it cascade over his head and body. He stood that way for several minutes and started
soap and rinse. Soon he was done and stepped out of the shower. Toweling off,
he wrapped the towel around his waist and opened the door to his bedroom. To his
surprise he found Sarah.
"Hullo," he said standing in the doorway.
think you can consider this sneaking up on you!" he said with a smile.
I'm sorry to disturb you. I wanted to show you something," Sarah said seriously.
"Okay," Frank said. Feeling self-conscious he reached into the closet grabbed
a shirt and put it on.
"This is Max when I first met him in 1913, just before
the war," Sarah said smiling. Frank saw a young dashing man in flying clothes
with a silk scarf tied nattily around his neck holding his flying cap. His hair
was dark and wavy and he wore a grin below a large moustache.
"This is a photo
of Max in 1918, the year we were married," Sarah said showing Frank the photo.
Frank almost couldn't believe it. It was Max but the physical transformation in
5 years was extraordinary. His hair was grey and there was hardness, edginess
on his face. He was in his dress uniform and his chest was full of medals.
just thought you should know. If you need to talk to someone, Max would understand."
She paused and looked at Frank.
"Oh," Sarah started giggling.
just realized you have no clothes on. Ned will be very angry if you get sick again.
I'll let you get dressed now." Sarah stood on her toes and gave Frank a peck on
"Thank you, Sarah. I mean for everything," Frank said walking her
to the door.
"You're welcome," She said and left the room. Frank got dressed,
sliding his feet into the slippers without incurring more of a headache, brushed
his hair, grabbed his cigarettes and went down to the drawing room.
was sitting in his chair by the fire lost in thought. Frank went to the bar and
poured them both a good measure of scotch. He walked in front of Max.
to a good day's work! Cheers!" Frank said holding out the glass to the other man.
"Thanks Frank. You were a huge help today," Max said standing and touching
glasses with him.
"Cheers!" They both sat down and became engrossed in watching
the fire. Frank lit a cigarette and Max turned his head looking at him.
feel ok?" Max asked.
"Yeah, just tired. Long day," Frank said looking at him.
"No headaches?" Max asked taking a sip of his scotch.
Frank said looking back to the fire with a sigh. Max started stroking his moustache
trying to sort out how to get Frank flying tomorrow. Ned would ground him if he
mentioned the headaches. He also wondered if Frank's nightmares had returned.
Well we'll see after dinner. The clock in the hall bonged seven.
we see what feast Sarah has prepared?" Max stood. Frank stood as well and the
two men walked into the kitchen.
"Oh, wow!" Frank said. Sarah turned smiling.
"Well, Frank sit down. Max could you help me?" she said. Roasted chicken with
potatoes and carrots; Frank's stomach started to growl. Max brought the chicken
to the table and started carving.
"Frank," Sarah started sitting down.
going to have a special guest come up for the weekend. An old friend." She looked
at Max but he was concentrating on carving.
"Oh, that's nice," Frank said a
little confused. He took his plate from Max. Max prepared plates for him and Sarah
and then sat down.
"Frank, Wiley's coming for the St. David's Day festivities
on Sunday," Max said before placing a forkful of food in his mouth. Frank looked
down at his plate and continued to eat slowly concentrating on not aggravating
his headache. Max and Sarah exchanged glances and Max shrugged his eyebrows. The
rest of meal was eaten in silence. Max rubbed his moustache trying to pick the
moment to break into Frank's thoughts.
"Frank, can you come with me to the
library? I want to ask your opinion on something." Max said standing. Frank looked
up at him, wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood.
"Of course, Max. Thank
you again Sarah." Frank said bending slowly to give her a kiss. As he stood upright
he took an unconscious quick breath as his headache briefly flared. He followed
Max in to the library.
"The usual?" Max asked holding up the carafe of scotch.
"Please," Frank said lighting a cigarette.
"Frank, sit down," Max suggested,
removing something from his desk and walking to sit by Frank.
"Ok, Frank. I
don't know how to say this so here goes. I want you to go flying with me tomorrow.
In this," Max said showing him a photograph of a very wide winged plane.
is my plane." Frank took a sip of scotch and looked at the photo. He stood quickly
and his headache increased with his blood pressure. Frank walked to the window
smoking his cigarette, drinking his scotch rubbing his eyes. Max was familiar
with the pose. His head must be killing him.
"I think I might know how you
feel." Max started slowly.
"I started flying in 1914 in an Avro 504 for the
Royal Flying Corps as it was known then. We were combat pilots but more than that
we were test pilots. No one really knew the boundaries and capabilities of the
planes or the pilots. We were the guinea pigs and much of what the Royal Navy
Air Service did in WW1 was based on the knowledge they gleaned from us. Now I
was older than a lot of the pilots we had and also a lot more experienced. I had
quick reflexes and a natural feel for the plane. As the war heated up I switched
to a Fokker D.III, which was more aerobatic than anything else, I had flown. I
was flying daily sometimes two flights per day. They promoted me to Colonel and
I had my own group. I was an Ace. Then they promoted me to General. They didn't
want me to fly; they wanted me to think how to win the war for them. I struck
a deal. I would fly less missions but I would plan them as well. I felt that I
could keep control that way. I was wrong," Max, said finishing his drink in one
swallow. Frank had been watching Max's back from his position at the window. He
watched the shoulders of the older man bunching up as he told his story. Max refilled
his drink and brought the carafe to Frank and refilled his glass as well.
was in 1917, January; I sent 10 planes on a morning mission to Germany. Ten men,
ten planes. They all bought it over the target. I fell apart. They sent me home,
here, to try to 'decompress' I think they called it. Well, in that two-month period
my hair turned silver and I didn't want to fly. I just kept seeing their faces,
hearing the engines, smelling the fuel," Max said taking a large gulp of scotch.
Frank's headache was so severe he sat on the leather sofa with his head in his
"How...?" he started quietly. Frank took a slow deep breath in, "How
did you get better?" Max walked over to sit opposite Frank.
"I thought you
would have figured that one out, Frank." Frank rubbed his face with his hands,
trying to rub away the headache and the tears. He looked up at Max.
For me, I needed someone who needed me. Someone who could point out to me that
I was a good person in a bad position," Max said looking at Frank. He was so close.
Frank was so close to the hurdle and so afraid of leaping over it. Max waited,
listening to the silence of the house and Frank's heavy breathing.
Max asked. Frank raised his head to look at Max. His face was pale and his eyes
"Can you tell me about your nightmares?" He asked gently.
I can't. Please don't ask me," Frank said standing unsteadily.
I can help, if you'll let me," Ned's voice came from the doorway.
"May I get you a drink?"
"Yes, thanks Max," Ned said slowly walking
into the room. Frank had turned his back on Ned when he arrived and walked back
to the window quietly sipping his scotch. Ned walked up to him.
"I'd like to
apologize for my behaviour this morning. I had a problem at the base and took
it out on you. I'm sorry," Ned said to Frank's back. Frank didn't acknowledge
him. Ned turned and looked at Max who shrugged his shoulders. Ned walked to Max
and accepted his cocktail.
"Are you having nightmares again, Frank?" Ned asked.
Frank's headache was worsening. He took a large swallow of scotch still apparently
"Frank, answer the doctor," Max said sternly. Frank stiffened
when Max called his name. He drew a slow breath and said quietly "Yes."
did they start again?" Ned asked.
"This morning. When I took my nap in the
drawing room," Frank said with his eyes shut. Max picked up the scotch decanter
and walked to Frank. He refilled his glass and squeezed his shoulder. Frank opened
his eyes and looked at Max. Max nodded and walked back to the bar.
I'd like to try something that I think might help. Would you come and sit here
by the sofa?" Ned asked. Frank turned and looked at Max who nodded again. He walked
to the club chair and slowly sank into it.
"Frank, I'd like to hypnotize you.
Sometimes it helps the subconscious release things that are locked away." Ned
said reaching into his pocket. He brought out a crystal whose facets caught the
minimal light from the sconces and created colourful specs of light on Frank's
"Ok, just concentrate on the crystal," Ned said holding the glass in
front of Frank and letting it move back and forth on the ribbon.
That's right. Good. Now, you're very tired Frank and it's hard for you to keep
your eyes open. Just shut them. That's right. Just sleep." Frank's body jerked
upright in the low chair. Sweat started on his face and his breathing became ragged.
"What's going on Frank?" Ned asked quickly. Max had come and sat on the sofa
to Frank's left.
"I'm in the Lily."
"That's his plane." Max supplied.
what's happening?" Ned asked.
"We're taking heavy flak over the target. Target
hit ok. Turning for home. Joe! Joe!" Frank's eyes opened and he looked to his
"What happened? Who's Joe?" Ned asked. Frank's voice became flat and
"He was my best friend and he bought it." Then Frank's face changed,
softened and relaxed. He took a big breath and released it.
"Where are you
"What are you doing there?" Ned asked.
on leave. General Crowe's direction," Frank answered. He seemed totally at ease.
His face was calm and his breathing had returned to normal. Suddenly he started
"Anne..." he started putting his head in his hands.
Ned looked at Max who shook his head. Neither man knew what had happened.
what happened to Anne?" Max asked quietly.
"She died," Frank said his voice
flat and devoid of emotion. He shifted his weight and sat more upright in his
"Come on Danny, it's just flak," Frank said looking to his right quickly.
"Where are you, Frank?" Ned asked taking notes.
"In the Lily. Over the Channel."
"Tell me what is happening."
"It's really rough. The crew is throwing up
everywhere. Minimal F.W.s. The flak is very heavy and it's hard for me to hold
the plane together. Centering the PDI. Bombs away. Okay turning 90 degrees northeast.
Oh, God!" Frank shouted and threw up his left shoulder. He turned his head to
the right quickly and then shook it violently several times.
"That must be
when he was hit," Max whispered.
"What's happening, Frank?"
Frank said staring straight ahead. His eyes were open, and the sweat was pouring
down his face. He was hyperventilating. Frank took a deep breath.
Tower, Archbury Tower, this is Army 317. Do you read me, over?"
is 317. Roger that. Doing the best we can. Two engines out, two men dead. One
chance on this. OK. Here we come." Frank's face was tightened, his jaw locked,
his hands like claws over the arms of the chair. Just as suddenly he relaxed closing
his eyes, his head sinking to his chest.
"Frank?" Ned asked.
said again more loudly.
"Frank!" he shouted. No response. Frank was somewhere
Ned couldn't reach him. Max looked at Ned with concern.
"Frank?" Max tried.
"Frank?" he said a little louder. Frank stood like a shot.
Wiley. No need to shout. I'm right here," Frank said breathing heavily eyes searching.
Ned signaled to Max to have Frank sit again.
"Frank, sit down, please." Max
asked quietly. Frank sat down.
"OK Frank, I'm going to start to bring you back.
Now I want you to remember everything that has happened. You're safe. You're fine.
Now, when I count to three you'll be back in the library. One, two, three," Ned
said. Frank's eyes opened slowly. His headache was raging and he felt very tired
but the restlessness was gone.
"How do you feel, Frank?" Ned asked.
head feels like it's going to explode and I'm very tired. I've got to go to sleep,"
Frank said standing. He reached his hand out to Ned.
"Thank you." Ned took
his hand in return.
"You're welcome. Do you need a painkiller?"
going to sleep," Frank repeated.
"Do you need help?" Max asked.
Max," Frank said and trudged up the stairs.
Max turned and took a gulp
of his scotch.
"Well, it's no wonder he has nightmares. Trying to save the
world," He said.
"I called Doc Kaiser at the base today to get some history
on Frank," Ned said quietly.
"Really, what did you find out?"
died giving birth to him and his father died when he was three in a farming accident.
He was raised by his paternal grandfather."
"Ah, so that's it, then." Max smiled
looking towards the door.
"Frank told me this morning that he was
home." Max turned and smiled at Ned.
"I think he'll be fine now," Ned said
putting his glass down on the table.
"Yes, there'll be some more bumps but
I think he's ready for them." Max said walking him to the door.
"See you at
the base tomorrow?" Ned asked.
"Hopefully, you'll see both of us," Max said
shaking his hand.
into his room exhausted. He wanted to take his clothes off and put his pajamas
on but he was so tired. He sat on the bed and his head pounded. He swung his legs
onto the bed and lay back on the pillows. He put his hand over his eyes and tried
Max walked upstairs and looked in on Frank. The light was on
and he was fully clothed.
"Are you okay, Sport?" Max asked as he walked into
the room. Frank was breathing rapidly and his face was covered with sweat. Max
took a big breath and released it. He walked into the bathroom and took a washcloth,
wetted it, and returned putting it on Frank's face. Frank's eyes opened quickly.
"I'm sorry," Frank apologized, removing the washcloth and sitting up slowly.
"Why? You have no need to be sorry. Can I help you into your pajamas or at
least out of your boots?" Max asked.
"Please," Frank said quietly.
have your headache?" Max looked at him. Frank simply nodded.
"OK, I need you
to stand up," Max said.
"And just listen to my voice. Remember?" Max started
helping him, removing Frank's clothes while talking to him as he had when he was
having his coughing attacks. Soon Frank was in his pajamas and sweater, lying
back in bed.
"Easy Frank, easy. Tomorrow's a big day. You need to sleep," Max
said pulling the sheets and blankets to Frank's chest.
Max said turning out the light and leaving the room. He walked into his bedroom
and was surprised to find Sarah awake sitting in bed reading. She put down her
"Well? How did it go?" Sarah asked. Max gave her a sanitized version
of Frank's story while he changed into his bedclothes. He turned off the closet
light, climbed into bed and turned off the bedside table light. Sarah rolled over
and rested her head on his shoulder as he reached his arm around her. She caressed
his chest and listened to him breath.
"I love you so much. I don't know what
I would have done if you hadn't found me," Max murmured as he kissed her head.
His breathing changed becoming more ragged. Sarah turned her head to look at him.
His head was resting against the pillow eyes shut with two tears streaming to
his sideburns. She kissed his eyes and wiped the tears from his face. She moved
back to rest her head on his shoulder, her right arm across his chest, protecting
"I've got you Max. You're safe. I'll never leave you," Sarah whispered.
Max's breathing settled as he slowly relaxed.
"I love you too," She said and
squeezed him in a half hug.
Friday February 27, 1943
just after midnight when Frank awoke. He had tossed all of his covers to the floor
during his brief restless sleep. He was tired but keyed up. He still had his headache
but he had had no nightmares. He should have said yes to the shot. He stood up
slowly and went to the bathroom. When he was done he put his book in his pocket
grabbed his cigarettes and headed downstairs to the drawing room. The fire was
almost all burned out but the room felt warmer than his bedroom. Frank poured
himself a scotch and sat by the fire not bothering to turn on the lights. He wanted
to float, not think, just exist and hope that his headache would fade away. Frank
sat that way until he heard a noise behind him.
"Frank?" Max asked cautiously.
"Good morning, Max," Frank said quietly.
"Have you been here all night?"
Max said walking into Frank's line of vision seeing the mound of cigarettes in
"You don't look very well. How are you?" Max
asked looking at him intently.
"I'm tired and I have the headache. I couldn't
sleep." Frank said with a sigh unconsciously rubbing his beard.
"What can I
do for you, Frank?" Max asked.
"Max I don't know. I seriously have no idea,"
Frank said lowering his eyes. Max stood there rubbing his moustache.
several minutes he said, "Let's go for a ride. Come on get dressed." Frank looked
at him bewildered.
"Go, Frank. I'll make us some coffee and I'll meet you in
the kitchen," Max said and walked past him. Frank stood and walked upstairs to
his bedroom. What did he mean by 'a ride' Frank wondered. He got dressed as quickly
as he could, even managing to put his boots on and walked down to the kitchen.
"Where's your A2 jacket?" Max asked.
"Uhm, upstairs," Frank said.
drink this coffee and cut some Bara Brith up for the trip. I'll get your jacket,"
Max said, leaving the kitchen. Frank sipped his coffee and looked at a note that
was lying on the kitchen table propped up on the saltshaker. My dear love,
thank you again. Frank and I will be back by lunch. Don't worry! With all my love,
Frank went to the breadbox and removed the Bara Brith. He cut
4 thick slices and wrapped them in a tea towel. He stood with his coffee and looked
out the window into the grey morning. Max walked in quickly.
"OK, ready to
go?" Max asked.
"Sure, Max," Frank said putting his coffee down on the countertop.
"Grab the Bara Brith and I'll take the thermos of coffee. Do you want a hat?"
Max asked Frank as he put on his barn coat. Frank took off the cardigan carefully
putting on the back of a chair and slipped on his A2 jacket.
"No hat, thank
you," Frank said breathing in the smell of his jacket and the memories of Archbury.
"We're off then," Max said picking up the thermos and walking out into the
"Like the bride's pajamas," Frank said with a smile. Max stopped
in the barnyard and shot him a huge grin beneath his moustache.
he chuckled. They walked to the barn and Max opened the door.
would you like to ride?" Max asked as he turned the lights on in the barn.
Max? I haven't been on a horse in years. Why don't you choose for me?" Frank questioned.
"All right take Charlie there, the last bay. I usually saddle up out here.
Just keep the rope on him and use the crossties the way you did for grooming,"
Max said disappearing into the tack room. Max brought out an American western
saddle and handed it to Frank.
"Wiley had this sent from his home in the States
after his first visit here two years ago. I don't think he'd mind if you used
it," Max said and went to get his horse. They saddled their horses and walked
them out of the barn. Closing the barn doors they mounted and started walking
a path similar to the one Frank had taken earlier in the week. It was a cold morning
and the breaths of all four hung in the air. Frank put his collar up and patted
"How're your cowboy legs? Coming back to you? Ready for a canter?"
Max asked looking at Frank.
"I'm game but let's take it slow. No fence or brook
jumping please," Frank said double-checking that everything was secure on him
and on the horse.
"Did your grandfather ride?" Max asked.
"Yes, we didn't
own a car, so a horse or the tractor were our means of transportation." Max rubbed
his moustache in thought tugged on his cap and gave his horse a slight kick to
get her going. His horse transitioned easily from walk to trot to canter. Max
turned in his saddle to watch Frank. As he suspected he was a natural horseman.
Charlie had a good gait but was a bit stubborn and needed a strong leg. Frank
quickly showed Charlie who was boss and cantered up to ride side by side with
Max. They rode across the open field for about five minutes until they came to
a fence. They slowed down and with great dexterity; Max leaned over from the saddle
and unlatched the gate. They both walked through and Max repeated this acrobatic
"How's your headache?" Max asked as they walked into away from the fence.
"Still there," he said with a grim smile.
"But I'm having fun so to hell
with it," he said and gave Charlie a big kick and took off like a shot across
the field with Max in hot pursuit. Quickly Max took over the lead as Frank didn't
know the terrain. They rode for about two hours then Max suggested a rest. They
found a couple of trees, dismounted, and tied off the horses. Max removed the
coffee from his saddlebags and Frank brought out the Bara Brith. They walked to
another tree and sat down for their al fresco breakfast. Quietly they sat there
listening to the world around them for an hour. Finally Frank broke the silence.
"Did you have nightmares, too?" he asked quietly. Max turned to look at this
now-familiar bearded face.
"Yes. Some were real, based on fact and some were
just that, nightmares." Frank sat twirling a piece of grass between his fingers.
He reached into his sleeve pocket and got a cigarette. Lighting it he took a deep
breath, filling his lungs with smoke. He rubbed his beard unconsciously mimicking
Max's movements. Max watched and smiled.
"Did you ever fly fighters again?"
Frank squinted and looked over at Max.
"Yes, I got back in the saddle, so to
speak in the middle of 1917 and flew the Fokker until the end of the war. I was
a career flier so I just kept learning the new planes. But when this war started
they felt that I was too old to fly into battle so I resigned my commission. A
year later, a very senior official called and said they needed me but not to fly.
To advise to plan that sort of thing. I said yes but only as a civilian. I wanted
to continue with my life and have the Air Force work around me."
"And you got
to keep your plane on the base?" Frank asked.
"Yes, and I can fly her whenever
I want to," Max said.
"How did you meet Wiley?" Frank asked.
"At a meeting
at SHAEF Headquarters in London. The base commander was supposed to go but he
was grounded so I flew down to Archbury and drove down to London with Wiley. We
immediately became friends in fact I was so taken with him I invited him for Christmas
here to meet Sarah."
"He was very protective of you," Frank said quietly looking
at the grass by his knee.
"What do you mean?" Max asked looking at him.
never mentioned you. That's only happened once before; a woman from the Resistance."
"Ah, Nicole," Max said rubbing his moustache.
"Just because you love someone
doesn't mean you tell them everything. Wiley didn't know about your nightmares."
"That's different," Frank said slowly getting to his feet.
"Is it? When
you finally were able to tell him you were in trouble he told you about me. It's
all a matter of give, take and trust I suppose." Max said getting to his feet.
Frank thought about that rubbing his beard.
"What time do you have, Frank?
My watch has stopped," Max asked.
"1100h," Frank responded.
"We'd best be
cracking. I don't want Sarah to get worried. We're going to go a bit faster on
the way back. Are you up for it?"
"Yes, sir," Frank said walking to Charlie.
They rechecked their saddles, girths, and halters and mounted their horses.
go," Max said and kicked his horse into an easy canter. A bit faster, Frank thought
as they practically flew over ditches and small streams.
"Hey Frank. Here come
the fences," Max said as he lined up his horse and jumped the fence near the gate.
Frank lined his horse up to follow and off they went cantering up and over. It
was just like flying. Frank smiled his big goofy grin at Max who smiled back.
They started laughing over nothing then turned the horses towards home. They rode
almost full out until the last meadow where they brought the horses into a walk
to cool them down. They walked into the barnyard and found Sarah walking out of
the henhouse with a basket of eggs.
"Hello, you two. Did you have a nice ride?"
She asked. Frank kissed her on the cheek.
"Frank that beard of yours tickles,"
"Well it keeps me warm so it stays!" he said defiantly. Max shook
his head with a smile and gave his reins to Frank.
"Would you mind putting
the horses away? Just a little water, quick curry comb and rinse the bits," Max
"Sure thing, Max," Frank said walking the horses to the barn. Max put
his arm around Sarah's waist as they walked into the kitchen. He closed the door
behind them and took the basket of eggs, placing it carefully on the kitchen table.
He took her in his arms and kissed her tenderly on the lips. Max hugged her so
hard she let out a breath.
"Max, what's wrong?" Sarah asked looking at him.
He looked larger than life. His eyes were dancing; his colour was ruddy from the
chilled air. Max took her hand and led her upstairs to the bedroom. Sarah started
When Frank walked into the kitchen an hour later the house was
very still. He took off his muddy boots and unzipped his A2 jacket. Looking at
his watch it was 1330h and he was hungry. It didn't look like they would be eating
soon so Frank opened the icebox looking for something to tie him over. Suddenly
he was aware of a presence; he turned around to find Sarah standing in the doorway.
"How long have you been there?" Frank smiled and closed the icebox door.
a few minutes. I didn't want to scare you," she giggled.
"How are you, Frank?"
headaches, and tired," Frank said looking at her.
"Ok, I was going to heat
up the chicken from last night, should be pretty quick. Why don't you go join
Max in the drawing room? I'll call you," Sarah said shooing her from the kitchen.
Frank left the kitchen and took off his A2 jacket hanging it on the coat rack
by the door and put on the sweater. He removed his cigarettes and walked into
the drawing room.
"I know it's early to have a fire but it was nippy in here,"
Max said standing by the fireplace. Frank lit a cigarette and poured himself some
scotch. He rotated his head trying to loosen up his neck. They stood there in
silence as they often did.
"She's wonderful, you know that, don't you?" Frank
said out of the blue looking at Max. Max looked at him again seeing a different
facet of his personality.
"Yes," Max said turning back to look at the fire.
They continued in their silence each man lost in his thoughts.
rang and broke their solitude. Max put his drink down and walked to the hallway
to answer it.
"Hello. Yes, all right. I can be there in 45 minutes or so I
need to eat something and change clothes. I understand. Right. Goodbye." Max returned
to the drawing room and reclaimed his drink.
"The base?" Frank asked.
I must go as soon as possible. Seems they need me today. I'm afraid I shall have
to renege on flying the Swallow today." Max said with regret.
OK Max. I had a ride today, remember?" He grinned. "Besides I am fading fast.
I'll probably nap till you return."
"Lunch, gents," Sarah called from the kitchen.
"Did I hear the phone?" Sarah asked as she sat down to the table.
have to go to the base as soon as I finish lunch and change clothes." Max said
helping himself to the chicken and potatoes.
"May I borrow the car then and
run some errands in town?" Sarah asked.
"Sure. Frank you're on your own again,"
"I'm sure I can manage," Frank said with a weary smile.
walks without a coat, please," Sarah said smiling.
"No, m'am," he replied sincerely.
They finished their meal and Frank offered to do the dishes. Max went upstairs
to change clothes and Sarah put on a different sweater. They walked back into
"Ok, Frank I'll be home around 6pm. I put the number for the base
by the phone if you need to get me." Max said.
"And I'll be home in an hour
and a half or so," Sarah said.
"I'll be here." Frank smiled and returned to
his dishes. He heard the door shut and the car drive off. Frank finished the dishes
as quickly as he could. He was ready for a huge nap. Frank walked into the drawing
room and sat down on the sofa. He pulled off his boots and lay down on the sofa
spreading the wool throw over himself. He was asleep almost immediately.
Sarah returned home and came through the front door with two canvas bags full
of goodies. She walked straight to the kitchen and put things away. She made herself
a cup of tea and went to find Frank. She walked into the drawing room and found
Frank on the sofa. He had kicked off the blanket and was tossing and turning.
He face and neck were covered with sweat. Sarah knew this look. He was muttering
something over and over again. She walked closer to try to hear what he was saying.
"I can't save you. I'm sorry," Frank murmured. She wasn't sure whether to wake
him as she used to do with Max or let him ride it out. After five minutes of watching
his anguish, she touched him. Frank jumped as if she had burned him. He looked
at her confused.
"Don't touch me!" He roared standing and moving towards her.
Sarah stepped back suddenly afraid of him and tripped over a chair. She ran out
of the room to the hallway and picked up the phone.
"General Harding please.
Yes this is his wife calling. It's an emergency. Max, please come home. It's Frank,
I'm scared," Sarah said staring at Frank staring at her from the doorway in the
"On my way, Sarah," Max said. He dialed Ned and asked him to
drive him home with his medicine bag.
The door flew open and Max noted
that the door to the drawing room was shut. He ran to the kitchen and found Sarah
there in tears.
"Sweetheart, what happened? You're ok. You're safe," Max said
taking her in his arms and kissing her. Sarah told him about the nightmare.
God, Max, he looked like you these many years ago."
"It's all right. Did he
hurt you?" Max looked at Sarah who shook her head.
"It will be all right,"
"Stay here." Max left the kitchen and picked up Ned who had been
listening right outside the door. Quickly they walked to the drawing room door
and opened it. The lights were off, the draperies shut and the fire was out.
she all right?" came a voice from the corner.
"Yes, scared, but
fine," Max said.
"I'm so sorry," Frank said.
happened, Frank?" Ned asked walking into the room as his eyes became accustomed
to the darkness.
Frank's breath became more ragged as he choked back his tears.
Ned walked to the window and opened the drapery revealing Frank in the corner
with his knees drawn up to his chest and tears streaming down his face.
sorry," Frank kept repeating.
Max walked up to him and with the strength
of a man half his age dragged Frank to his feet.
"What did you do to
her Frank?" Max shouted at him.
Ned ran to Max. "Max, Jesus, calm
down. Help me get him to the sofa." Together they walked Frank to the sofa.
Frank sat with his head back and his eyes closed. Tears streamed silently from
Max poured himself a scotch and kicked it back immediately trying
to get his temper under control.
"Frank please tell me what happened,"
Ned pleaded quietly.
Frank took a breath and laid his arm over his eyes.
"I did the dishes and felt very tired. I came in here to lie down and fell
asleep. The next thing I know I'm on my feet yelling at her and she's running
from me. I swear that's all I remember."
"Frank, we need to know
about this nightmare. Was it one you described last night?" Ned asked.
"I don't remember." Frank said slowly.
Ned looked at Max whose eyes
were blazing with anger.
"Can you hypnotize me, please?" Frank said.
"I just want it to stop."
"Come sit here by the window. Max
why don't you go check on Sarah?" Frank walked by Max and couldn't look him
in the eye. Max couldn't trust himself either.
"Ok Frank. You remember
the drill. Keep your eyes on the crystal. That's it you're getting tired and it's
hard to keep your eyes open. Let it go, Frank. Just relax. Ok, now I want you
to tell me what happened this afternoon." Ned asked sitting opposite him.
"I offered to do the dishes. Max and Sarah left for the afternoon. I was
tired and went to the drawing room to stretch out for a nap..."Frank stopped.
His breathing increased.
"Where are you?"
"Where?" Ned said grabbing a piece of paper from
the desk and a pen.
"What's happened, why are
"My plane was hit and we had to abandon her."
"How many of you are there?"
"There were 10."Frank said
"Then what happened?"
"We were taken prisoner and
driven to a camp. They started to...." Frank stopped.
okay. You're safe. Tell me what happened." Ned asked.
he whispered. "They wanted to know air strength in certain sectors. I couldn't
tell them. Don't you see? The fates of thousands of men were in my hands if I
had them told anything. I'm sorry."
"Frank if you didn't tell, why
are you sorry?" Ned asked puzzled.
The door to the drawing room opened
and Max with his arm firmly around Sarah's waist walked in and sat down listening
Frank's face was contorted in pain. His hands were clenched in fists
and he was shaking. Tears were streaming down his face.
"They said they'd
kill every member of my crew in front of me if I didn't tell." Frank revealed.
Frank started moving around in his chair as if to avoid some unseen demon. His
breath came in short spurts.
"Frank what's happening?" Ned asked
reaching out his hand to Frank's shoulder.
"No, don't touch me."
Frank shouted standing quickly. He backed up in the corner of the room and sank
to his knees.
"Frank?" Ned asked again following him.
attaching electrodes to my arms. They're shocking me into telling. Oh, God, no!
The bastards are electrocuting my men." Frank said through clenched teeth.
"I'm so sorry. I can't save you." Frank whispered.
back, Ned. Now!" Max ordered quietly.
"Frank, you're in a field
covered in snow; soft white snow. Falling snow. It's all peaceful." Ned said
quickly. Frank's breathing started to normalize.
"All right Frank, when
I count to three you're going to wake up remembering everything you said. One,
two, three." Ned said.
Frank opened his eyes quickly, slowly stood and
walked to the fireplace. Several minutes passed as Frank lit another cigarette
and tried to pull it together.
"Doc Kaiser never mentioned that you
were tortured." Ned said handing him a scotch.
Frank wiped his face with
"That's because it didn't happen. It's a recurring nightmare."
Frank said staring into the fire.
"None of it?"
a prisoner of war but I was not physically tortured." Frank elaborated sipping
his scotch by the fireplace. He turned and saw that Sarah and Max standing by
"I am so sorry I scared you, Sarah. I could never hurt you.
Never." Frank said quietly.
Sarah stood and walked over to Frank. She
stood on her tiptoes and gave him a hug. He hugged back so hard she thought she
might break. "I know, Frank. I know that now." She said releasing him
and wiping her eyes.
Max walked over and placed his hand on the back of Frank's
neck pulling him towards him and gave him a hug. "I'm sorry, Sport."
Max said into Frank's ear and Frank hugged him tighter.
"All right there,
Frank? I need to go back to the base." Ned asked standing.
Max and Frank
released each other. Frank wiped his eyes again with his sleeve and walked to
"Thanks again, Ned." Frank said shaking the other man's hand.
"You're welcome. Max, can you walk me to the door?" Ned asked.
two men walked together and left the drawing room.
"Is this one of your
bumps in the road, Max?" Ned asked turning to face his friend.
He's almost there. He has one more thing to understand." Max said opening
"And that is?" Ned asked turning to face him.
can't save everyone. Once he realizes that he should be back 100%." Max said.
"Call me if you need to. Good night." Ned said.
Ned." Max said shutting the door.
Max walked in to the drawing room to
find Frank sitting in his chair by the fire and Sarah standing by the fireplace
watching him. She put her finger to her lips to silence Max. Max looked down and
sure enough Frank was asleep. Max picked up the wool throw and put it over Frank's
legs. Max walked to Sarah and gave her a kiss on the forehead and the two of them
left the room and walked to the kitchen.
He looked at his watch, 4:30pm. He
should go back to the office but decided that Sarah would feel better if he stayed.
"Is everything all set for supper?" Max asked.
"I'm tired and I would love to take a nap with you."
Max said looking at her.
Sarah smiled and took her husband's hand squeezing
"I need to be in the kitchen by 6." She said.
Max and Sarah
went up to bed closing the door behind them.
The alarm clock went off at 6
and Max and Sarah cuddled closer. Finally Sarah broke free and put on her slippers
and went downstairs with Max not far behind. Sarah went to the kitchen and Max
went to the drawing room. Frank was still out. He hadn't moved an inch. Max moved
to the windows and shut the curtains before laying a fire. He went about his business
quietly and in short fashion the fire was crackling and the room began to warm
up. Max poured himself a scotch and sat in his chair observing Frank. Earlier
this afternoon, he could hardly contain himself when he called Wiley to tell him
how well Frank was doing. Certainly, this last go round was a step backwards but
sometimes you have to go through the muck to get to the other side. Max was lost
in thought rubbing his moustache while staring into the fire when he caught a
movement out of the corner of his eye.
"He lives!" Max said with
Frank shot a glare, which softened immediately and responded back
with a smile.
"Nightmares?" Max asked.
"Not this go round."
Frank said standing. He stretched his neck gently rotating his head back and forth.
"Need a splash?" he asked walking to the bar.
Frank walked to Max and filled his glass before making his own drink.
He walked back to his chair, sat down and lit a cigarette.
"How is Sarah?"
Frank asked looking at the ground.
"She's fine and hopes you're hungry."
Sarah answered from the doorway.
Frank stood immediately still not able to
look at her without guilt.
"Frank?" she called. "Could you
come here please?"
Frank put his cigarette in the ashtray, dutifully
walked to the door and stood in front of her. She reached her hand up to his chin
and raised it so he looked into her eyes. She took his hands in hers.
fine, Frank. I'm just fine." She said.
Frank took her small hand in his
and raised it to his mouth and kissed it with a gentleness she found unexpected.
He then curled her hand to his chest and hugged her very gently.
you two. Let's go eat dinner." Max said coming up behind Frank. Sarah started
to giggle, which started Frank and soon all three were giggling.
rang and interrupted their reverie.
"Hello, Hi Wiley. Were your ears
burning? Frank and I were talking about you today." Max said. "Well
why don't you ask him yourself, we were just about to sit down for dinner."
Max handed Frank the phone and then he and Sarah went to the kitchen.
Wiley." Frank said carefully.
"Hullo, Frank. How are you feeling?"
Wiley asked concern in his voice.
"Better. Not perfect but definitely
better. Are you still coming up tomorrow?" Frank asked.
this lousy war screws up my plans." Wiley answered with a laugh.
you drop by the PX and grab some cigarettes?" Frank asked.
done and I have a bottle of bourbon for Max."
"OK then. I'll see
you tomorrow. Sleep well, Wiley" Frank said.
"Uh you too Frank."
Wiley said confused.
Frank walked into the kitchen. Max and Sarah were already
sitting and serving themselves some sort of stew.
"Wiley sends his regards
and barring any nastiness should be here for supper tomorrow." Frank said
"Excellent, well dig in, my boy, dig in. This cawl is excellent."
Max said as he drove his fork into the stew.
The meal went quickly as all
three were exhausted from the activities of the day. Frank stood first muffling
"Good night Max, Sarah." He said.
Frank." Max said.
"Good night, Frank." Sarah said.
walked up the stairs slowly. He was so tired it was all he could do to get up
the stairs. He pulled the curtains and turned on the light. He didn't shower after
the ride this morning but he seriously doubted that he could stand in the shower
at this point. He took off his clothes and did his best not to throw them in a
heap. He put on his pajamas crawled into bed and was asleep in minutes.
and Sarah did the dishes, turned out the lights and checked the fire in the drawing
room, and went upstairs to bed. They checked in on Frank who was fast asleep and
turned off his bedside lamp. They left his door open and went to their bedroom
closing the door behind them.
Saturday February 28, 1943
Max woke up
at daybreak and easily climbed out of bed without disturbing Sarah. He dressed
quietly and left the bedroom. Walking by Frank's door Max saw he was still asleep.
Max shut the door without a sound and headed downstairs to do his barn chores.
Max came into the kitchen at 8:30am.
"Brrrr it is really cold today.
Any sound from Frank?" He asked taking off his barn coat and pouring himself
a cup of hot coffee.'
"When I came down an hour ago he was still asleep.
Were you taking him to the base today?" Sarah asked turning from the stove.
"Only if he's up to it. I'm going to go check again." Max said and left
the kitchen. He carried his coffee cup upstairs through the silent house. He listened
at Frank's door. No sounds.
Max opened Frank's door and looked in. He was
still asleep but Max needed him up. He walked to the windows and started to open
the curtains letting the sun into the room. When he got to the third window the
figure in the bed started to move. Max stood and watched. Frank was obviously
light sensitive turning immediately away from the windows. Presently he woke up.
Frank opened his eyes. He was lying on his left side facing the door and saw Max.
"Hello, Frank. How are you today?"
I get back to you after a shower and breakfast?" Frank asked not moving.
"Sure, I'll see you downstairs shortly, then." Max said leaving the
room and closing the door behind him.
Frank gingerly got out of bed. He was
headache-free but didn't trust it. He headed into the bathroom and had a piping
hot shower. He dressed, rubbed his head in an attempt to comb his hair, grabbed
his cigarettes and headed downstairs.
Walking into the kitchen Sarah and Max
both stopped eating looking at him.
"What?" he asked easily with
"What have you done with Frank?" Sarah started smiling
"Yes, you aren't the same man who came up here on Tuesday."
"Thanks to you," Frank said walking to the stove to pour
himself a cup of coffee.
He walked to Sarah and gave her a kiss on the cheek,
put his cup down and gave Max a strong squeeze to the shoulder before he sat down.
Sarah stood, and walked to the stove.
"I have Welsh pancakes and eggs
staying warm for you."
"Thank you. I'm sorry I would have gotten
them..." Frank started.
Sarah turned and smiled at him. "It's all
Frank smiled in return sipping his coffee.
you up for a flight today? It's really perfect." Max asked turning to him.
"I would love to." Frank said and took the plate of steaming food from
"We need to leave as soon as you finish. I need to do some things
at the base before we go up." Max said standing.
"Ok. Whenever you're
ready," Frank said starting to eat.
"I'm going up to change. See
you in a few." Max said leaving the room.
Frank turned his attention
to breakfast realizing that he was hungry. He finished his plate and had one refill
of coffee before Max came down in his 'work' clothes.
call you from the base. I don't know if we'll be home for lunch or not."
said giving Sarah a hug and kiss.
Frank took off Max's sweater and put on
his A2 jacket. Walking up to Sarah, he gave her a hug.
"See you soon."
He said into her ear and with that he left with Max. He felt oddly leaving the
house for the first time in five days by the front door. They walked to Max's
car and headed to the base.
As the base main gate came into view, Frank slowly
started to sit more upright. He quickly lit a cigarette and by reflex reached
for his cover, which he didn't bring.
"It's ok, Frank." Max said
quietly as they drove slowly through.
"I'm afraid I'm going to have to
drop you at the plane for about an hour. I'll meet you there as soon as I can,
but I have a couple of things to do." Max said driving.
at a hangar far away from the fighters, which seemed to be like fireflies.
"It's unlocked. I'll bring a spare Mae West for you. See you in an hour."
Max said and sped off.
Frank looked at the hanger and took a huge drag from
his cigarette. He walked to the small door and entered the building. What he could
make out in the gloom was beautiful. All wings. Frank was in heaven. It reminded
him of the barnstormers he saw as a young man but much bigger. This plane was
a two-seater single wing plane with a monster engine and huge propeller. He stood
there smoking in a corner waiting for Max.
"Can I help you?" A voice
said to his right.
"I'm waiting for General Harding." Frank said
"You can't wait here." The voice said now walking
up to him. The young lieutenant suddenly saw the stars on Frank's jacket.
"Oh, sorry General. I didn't know. Of course, sir. You can wait, sir."
The lieutenant said stammering.
"Dismissed, lieutenant." Frank said.
"Thank you sir," the Lt. said saluting.
Frank walked up to her touching
her wing, examining her lines. He walked to her tail feeling the rudder assembly.
He came back around the port wing and sighed.
voice broke through his thoughts.
"I'm here." Frank said emerging
from a corner and walking in the shadows towards the sound of Max's voice.
"I've brought a couple of chaps to help us get her out. Ready?"
"You bet." Frank said.
The large doors were pulled open and the
daylight poured in. Frank squinted and looked back to the Swallow for the first
time lt. He was a goner. He walked over to the port wing, standing next to the
same lieutenant who had challenged him. Max and another flyman were on the starboard
"Here we go." Max said pushing.
The Swallow was surprisingly
light considering her size and quickly they had her clear of the hangar. Max walked
to his car and removed the two Mae Wests and two sets of goggles and returned
"Mount up, Frank. You take the front seat, ok?" Max said
handing him his gear.
Frank put on his Mae West making sure it was secure
and tucked his goggles into his A2 jacket. He walked to the starboard side of
the Swallow and gingerly climbed up. Max followed him up and sat behind him. He
slipped into his seat harness and clipped the buckle.
"I've had these
new headphones put in. They help with the noise." Max said holding them so
Frank could see them in his peripheral vision.
Frank put the headphones on
and his goggles in place.
"Ready to go, Frank?"
his right hand, thumb up. Max chuckled and started the single engine. Soon they
were moving to the airstrip bumping along over the rough surface.
Tower, this is Swallow requesting permission to take off, over."
this is Valley. Clear to take off and have some fun up there, sir."
that." Max said throttling up.
Frank resisted the urge to take the stick
as the Swallow gained speed down the runway. She became airborne quickly and Max
kept her straight until her wings were clear before he began a graceful turn.
The wind was strong on Frank's face and his hair blew straight back even with
the windscreen. For the first time he could see how rugged and beautiful the countryside
was. Max took the plane out over Holy Island and the South Stack lighthouse before
he turned south following the coast. They had been flying for a half an hour when
Max felt he could relinquish control.
"You ready to solo, Frank?"
"I'd love to." Frank said carefully putting his hand
on the controls.
"OK, she's yours." Max said taking his hands and
putting them in his lap.
Frank flew straight for another five hundred feet
before he tried his first turn. He performed a perfect turn and Max was duly impressed.
Frank executed a graceful succession of turns, each steeper than the previous,
until he could look down the wing to the land below. He felt the wind currents
and flew the plane taking advantage of the drafts.
"Take a look at your
3 o'clock low." Max said.
Frank tipped the plane to look below and saw
the farm. He descended in a spiral over the barn and was rewarded with a vision
of Sarah coming out of the house looking up as the plane flew over at 200 feet
off the deck.
Frank was quiet, but Max could tell by the way he held his shoulders
and by the relaxed manner in which he held the stick that he was happy. He continued
to fly over Valley climbing, turning and diving; just flying.
I'm afraid we have to head home. Low fuel."
"OK she's yours."
Frank said giving control back to Max. He sat back into the seat and ran his hand
through his beard.
Thirty minutes later they were on the ground taxiing towards
the Spitfire group to get fuel. As they went by the Spits, Frank couldn't help
but stare. The war was coming back. He looked at his watch, 1130h. They arrived
at the fuel depot and got down from the plane. Frank walked a respectful distance
from the plane and lit a cigarette. Max talked to the mechanic and gave him a
quick salute before joining Frank.
"Well?" Max said facing him.
Frank squinted looking at Max, trying to find the words to describe the way he
"I love to fly." He said quietly taking a drag on his cigarette.
Max smiled. "Yeah, me too."
They stood quietly watching the Swallow
refuel. Twenty minutes later, the lieutenant came up and threw a salute.
general. She's ready."
"Thanks, Lt." Max said and started removing
his Mae West.
Frank looked at him with sadness and started removing his Mae
West as well. Max looked over to him and reached out his hand.
you want to go back up?" Max asked.
Frank looked up quickly, his face
full of emotion.
"Keep an eye on your fuel. When you come back, take
her to the hanger and the Lt. will run you over to my office."
reached his hands to Max's shoulders, squeezed them and turned to jog to the plane.
He gracefully climbed into the aft cockpit, strapping himself in, putting his
Frank looked around him to make sure he was clear before starting
the engine. He fired up and headed down to the runway.
this is Swallow requesting takeoff."
"Swallow, this is Valley. You
have permission for takeoff."
"Roger that." Frank responded
slipping his goggles into place.
He throttled forward and quickly climbed,
the ground dropping off behind him. He took another look around just to make a
mental note on bearings. He started to float mentally; flying was so natural to
him, like breathing. He flew for an hour just down the coast flying the plane
as if she was indeed a Swallow. He looked at the fuel gauge, quarter tank gone.
He smiled to himself and turned the plane inland. He flew low, 800 feet off the
deck. Frank watched the land before him. He would follow a road for a few miles
and then turn off when it suited him. He headed roughly east for an hour and then
turned north for a straight heading to Valley.
An hour later, he landed at
Valley taxiing to the hangar. He powered down and climbed out of the plane giving
it a pat as he did. He pulled a cigarette from his sleeve and squinted, looking
back at her.
"General? Are you ready to see General Harding, sir?"
said the Lt. from the jeep that appeared from nowhere.
Frank said easily getting into the jeep.
As they drove from the hangar, Frank's
mood darkened passing the rows of Spitfires Archbury and thoughts of his responsibilities
returned, as did his headache. They passed by Quonset huts, jeeps, and barracks
as they drove through the base. He reached up and rubbed his forehead. The Lt.
gave this bearded man a sideways glance and continued to drive. Finally they arrived
at an unmarked building. Max's car was parked just outside.
go, sir." The Lt. said.
Frank got out of the jeep and headed inside.
A Wren clerk stood when he entered and saluted him. He saluted in return.
"Ah, General Harding. General Savage to see him."
she said punching a button on the intercom.
"General Savage, sir."
The door to Frank's right opened quickly.
"Come in, Frank."
Max said smiling. He noticed the jubilance of flight was missing from Frank's
demeanor. He seemed either depressed or angry. Max shut the door behind him.
"I'm almost done. Wiley landed about an hour ago. He should be here soon
and we'll go home." Max said sitting at his desk staring at some papers.
Frank remained silent and looked at the photos on the wall while lighting a cigarette.
There was the photo of Max when he met Sarah. There were the obligatory photos
of the chain of command of the R.A.F, the Prime Minister and the King. He stood
in front of a photo of Max dated January 1917. His eyes were hollow, his skin
hung off of him. Frank saw himself in the photo.
Quietly, Max watched him.
"You see, we are very much alike." He said from his desk.
Frank could comment, the door opened and Wiley Crowe entered the room. He stood
looking at the man standing opposite him. Wiley knew the eyes, the stance, the
cigarette, but he didn't recognize the bearded face. The concern on Wiley's face
"Hullo, Frank." Wiley said slowly.
Wiley." Frank said, not moving.
There was awkwardness in the room. Max
finished his last paper and stood up from behind his desk.
let's go. Oh, Frank, let's leave the Mae West and goggles here, Ok?" Max
said reaching for his coat. Frank slowly removed his gear and put them over a
Max and Wiley left with Frank trailing behind.
"I had my driver
put my things in the car, Max." Wiley said.
"Good, then we can go
They drove in silence. Max took looks at Frank in the
rear view. His eyes were shut and his head was back against the seat. Damn, Max
thought. He drove into the driveway and parked the car.
"Wiley, why don't
you see Sarah in the kitchen? Frank and I will get your things." Max said
turning to Wiley.
Wiley took a breath as if to say something but looked at
Max's face and thought better of it. He got out of the car and walked into the
"Frank, what's going on?" Max asked still sitting in the
"I don't know." He said tiredly.
"Yes you do. You
do know it, Frank. Now come on and say it." Max said with an edge.
suddenly got out of the car shifting his weight as if trying to figure out where
Max followed and stood in front of him.
"I can't..." Frank
"Can't what?" Max said holding Frank's shoulders
trying to keep him focused.
"I can't..." Frank struggled against
"What?" Max said loudly.
"I can't save them
all!" Frank shouted turning away with emotion.
"That's right, Frank.
Even when you do your best, you can't save everyone. All you can do is your best."
Max said quietly.
Frank turned, tears streaming down his face.
I have to try..."
"That's right. You must try." Max said blinking
back tears of his own. "Remember Faulkner? A man has got to believe in ethics,
morality and the common man. A man has to try." He reached his hand and put
it behind Frank's neck pulling him towards the car.
"Now let's get Wiley's
things. I'm hungry, ok?"
Frank wiped his eyes and let out a short laugh.
"Headache still there?" Max asked as he opened
Frank looked at Max, amazed again.
"Yes." He said
pulling a canvas bag and suit bag from the trunk. Frank walked to the house.
"You're going to be all right, General Savage." Max said to his back.
"Here they are." Sarah said as Frank and Max entered the hallway. "Hello,
Frank put down Wiley's things and gave Sarah his obligatory kiss
on the cheek. Max took off his coat and hung it up.
"You look tired."
She said searching his face.
"I'm all right." Frank said. "Wiley,
where do you want your things?"
"Second room on the left. Thanks,
"I'm going up to take a shower." Frank said leaving
the trio behind in the hallway.
"Dinner's at seven." Sarah said
kissing Max and heading for the kitchen.
"Would you like a scotch, Wiley?"
Wiley waited a moment watching Frank climb the stairs before following
Max. Accepting his drink, he sat down in the chair by the fireplace as Max laid
the fire. Wiley lit a cigarette and was silent. Finally he said something.
"What's going on Max? " Wiley asked, slightly irritated.
a breath and sat down.
"He just realized he couldn't save them all."
Max said rubbing his moustache.
"Oh." Wiley said sipping his scotch.
"He looks tired and his beard makes him look much older." He continued.
"He's been through a lot. He has one more hurdle to face before he can come
back to you."
"Really?" Wiley said arching his eyebrows.
"He was hurt that you didn't confide in him about Sarah and me. He also brought
"That's ridiculous." Wiley said standing.
but you've put yourself in this position whether you meant to or not. You're his
best friend and saviour. To him you are his only family. So tread lightly, would
you, he's still very emotional and I care about him a lot." Max said sipping
his scotch. Wiley thought about Max's statement while lighting another cigarette.
Frank felt drained as he laid Wiley's suit bag on his bed. He shut the curtains
and turned on the lamp in the corner. He walked into his room and sat down on
the bed. He put his head in his hands, rubbing his eyes, trying to slow his brain
down. His headache was raging and the war was returning to his thoughts. He needed
that floating feeling. He didn't want to talk to anyone. He just wanted to be
Wiley left Max to change out of his uniform. As he climbed the stairs
he didn't hear the shower. Curious, he walked to Frank's room and found him sitting
in the dark on his bed with his head in his hands.
"Can I help?"
Wiley asked quietly from the doorway.
Frank didn't move or appear to acknowledge
him. Wiley walked into the room and shut the curtains. He turned on a lamp and
removed his jacket and loosened his tie.
"What's wrong, Frank?"
Wiley asked crouching in front of him, needing to be at his level.
tired, that's all."
"Is that it?"
"Leave me alone,
"In a minute," Wiley said standing. He pulled a chair
near the bed and sat down.
"Let's have it." Wiley said.
remained with his head in his hands. He rubbed his forehead and eyes trying to
reduce the headache. The tears started again. They sat that way for half an hour.
Frank consumed by emotion and Wiley unable to help him.
"I don't know
how..." Frank started in a whisper.
"How what, Frank?" Wiley
asked his eyes searching his friend's face.
"How to get better, how to
go on." Frank said looking at Wiley.
"Let me help you." Wiley
said. "You helped me when Martha died and with Nicole. I'm here, Frank. I'll
never leave you."
Frank gave him a look of question.
even if I'm in Washington, they have phones in Washington, you know." Wiley
said. "Ok? Is it a deal? "
Frank smiled warmly. "Yeah, Wiley.
It's a deal." He said.
"Good, now start by taking a shower."
Wiley said standing and grabbing his jacket. "See you at dinner."
"Thanks, Wiley." Frank said standing.
"You're welcome, Frank.
And Frank, I think you know, but," Wiley searched for the words. "I
do love you as a brother."
"The same for me. You are my family,
Wiley," Frank said walking to his friend and embracing him.
The two men
stood with tears streaming down their faces. Shortly Wiley pulled away.
please," He said smiling.
"Right," Frank said walking into
Wiley picked up his jacket and left Frank alone. He walked into
his bedroom and carefully hung his jacket in the closet. He took off his tie and
removed his shirt. Waking to the bathroom, he washed his face. Wiley came out
into the bedroom and put on a clean shirt and a sweater. He picked up the bottle
of bourbon and left his bedroom rejoining Max in the drawing room.
a treat from Kentucky," Wiley said entering the room handing Max the bourbon.
"Thanks, Wiley. Well?" Max asked anxiously putting the bottle on the
Wiley went to the bar and fixed himself a scotch. He walked to the
fireplace and sat in the chair opposite Max.
"A little more sleep, a
little more flying and I think he'll be ready to come back to Archbury,"
Wiley said raising his glass to Max. "Thanks to you and Sarah."
"Really thanks to Frank. He wanted to get better. I think I remind him of
his grandfather and he absolutely adores Sarah." Max paused. "Wiley,
Frank had a nightmare yesterday. He woke up in a rage and terrified Sarah. He
was so scared and ashamed he could barely look at her."
tell you what it was about?"
"Under hypnosis he said that he had
been imprisoned and tortured with electricity," Max said quietly.
looked up at him, quickly. "I didn't know that."
it was a recurring nightmare that didn't happen. Not only was he tortured but
all 9 of his men were killed in front of him using electricity." Max added.
"Well that explains a great deal." Wiley said sipping his scotch and
thinking about Doc's report of the initial outburst in Frank's office at the base.
The two men remained silent.
Frank closed the door to the bathroom.
His headache raged, his eyes burned and he felt very shakey. He took off his clothes
and started the shower. Stepping in he let the hot water cascade over his body.
He fought the feeling that he was going to start to cry again. He finished his
shower feeling somewhat restored. He walked into the bedroom and put on his last
clean shirt. He brushed his hair, finished dressing and went downstairs to the
drawing room. Frank took a deep breath and walked into the room.
He said walking to the bar.
"Hello, Frank," Max said. "How
are you feeling?"
"Lousy but I'm rallying," Frank said with
"Dinner's any minute then you can go straight to bed,"
Frank smiled sipping his scotch against his headache.
I have some sherry, Frank?" Sarah's voice came from the doorway.
looked up at her and briefly his face paled. He poured her a glass of sherry and
handed it to her.
"Thank you." She smiled taking the glass from
Frank smiled back through his headache.
"Was that you flying
the Swallow this afternoon Frank?"
"It was remarkable," Frank said taking a long sip
from his scotch to combat the headache.
"Lambchop, is dinner ready? Frank's
feeling fairly rotten," Max asked walking to her.
"Oh, Frank. I'm
sorry. Of course, let's eat," Sarah said taking Frank by the elbow and leading
him to the kitchen.
Max and Wiley followed. They all sat down to a thick rabbit
stew with red table wine.
"To Wiley," Frank said raising his glass.
"Hear, hear," Max and Sarah chorused.
"Thank you," Wiley said embarrassed. "Frank, I have a question
that I've been meaning to ask you since I flew up today."
paled as he looked at Wiley.
"I did tell you not to shave but, uhm...."
Wiley said smiling, gesturing with his fork.
Frank hesitated, and then very
quietly started to laugh finally releasing into a full laugh although it hurt
enough that a couple of tears fell unnoticed. Everyone joined in at the joke.
"When I get back to Archbury then I shall shave," Frank said raising
his glass to Wiley.
The rest of the dinner went by quickly recognizing Frank's
"Ok, sport. Off to bed. We'll see you in the morning,"
Frank stood and kissed Sarah on the cheek, as was custom, and
waved to Max and Wiley as he left to go upstairs.
"Yes, almost," Max echoed.
Frank climbed the
stairs but it felt like Everest. His headache was raging, he was physically tired
and emotionally rather undone. He walked into his room and shut the door. He undressed
quickly, put on his pajamas and got into bed. He closed his eyes and tried to
Wiley, Max and Sarah did the dishes while catching up. They checked
on the fire and then went upstairs together. They stopped at Frank's door and
opened it. He appeared to be asleep. They shut it and went to their bedrooms.
March 1, 1943 St. David's Day
Frank tossed and turned for hours trying to
sleep. The next thing he knew, it was daylight. Max, as was his habit, opened
Frank's door to check on him.
"You're awake," Max said troubled.
"Actually I didn't sleep," Frank said getting out of bed and walking
to Max. "I need to fly, Max. Right now."
Max paused and looked into
his eyes. So close, he was so close. "Get dressed and meet me in the kitchen.
I'll drive you to the base and clear it."
Frank smiled a relaxed and
relieved smile and started to get dressed.
Max went downstairs and made coffee
while writing a note to Wiley and Sarah.
Frank came downstairs a few minutes
later fully dressed looking very intense.
Frank said taking the cup without its saucer and sipping it. It was hot but felt
good making him more alert.
They stood in silence sipping coffee.
a couple of hot cakes with you. They're very good when you're in the plane,"
Frank went to the breadbox and pulled two hot cakes and wrapped
them in a tea towel.
"Ready when you are, Max," Frank said.
"Right. Let's go then," Max said downing the last bit of coffee. He
grabbed his barn jacket and they headed out.
They got to the base stopping
at Max's office for the Mae West and goggles. Frank was very nervous and keyed
up. He had chain smoked since they left the house. He wanted to be in the plane
now. Max drove them to the hangar where two flymen awaited their arrival. A short
saluting later and they were pushing her out of the hangar. Frank put on his Mae
West and stuffed his goggles into the A2 jacket.
"Frank, be careful,"
"Take care of yourself, Max," Frank responded and fired
off a quick salute.
He got into the plane quickly positioning the harness
"Valley Tower, this is Swallow. Requesting permission
"Swallow, this is Valley. Happy hunting, sir."
"Roger that," Frank said as he looked around him and fired up his
engine. He looked off to port and saw Max standing by the car. Frank gave him
thumbs up. Max chuckled and did the same. Frank throttled up and started moving
down the runway. Soon he was airborne and his restlessness began to ebb away.
He flew out to the lighthouse just to get his bearings and then headed back inland.
Max got back into his car and drove home to the farm. He entered the house and
went to the kitchen to find Sarah with a daffodil in her hair, making breakfast.
"Good morning, again. Happy St. David's Day," Max said hugging her while
she stood at the stove.
"Good morning, dear. Frank is flying?" Sarah
"He couldn't sleep. He waited until I woke up. He said he needed
to fly." Max smiled and looked at her.
"I love you, Max."
"And I love you." He said holding her tight. "All right, I am off
to the barn. Remember, we need to be at the base at 3 this afternoon."
"See you soon." Sarah said and returned to her cooking.
poured into Wiley's room as he stretched in bed. He got out of bed, showered,
shaved, and headed down to the kitchen. As he entered the kitchen he heard a low-flying
"Good morning, Sarah. Max flying this morning?"
Wiley said kissing her on the cheek.
"That, my dear Wiley, is Frank."
She said with a smile.
"Really?" Wiley said grabbing the old barn
jacket putting it on as he walked quickly into the barnyard.
Max walked out
of the barn carrying his pitchfork and scanning the sky. The Swallow appeared
out of the north and slowly rolled over becoming inverted over the farm. Frank
righted the plane and disappeared over the hill.
Max and Wiley chuckled together
in the barnyard.
"Tell Sarah I'll be in in about 15 minutes," Max
said walking back to the barn.
"Right," Wiley said returning to
the kitchen for breakfast.
Max, Sarah and Wiley enjoyed a lovely breakfast
of fresh hot cakes, marmalade, eggs and coffee. They spoke about the St. David's
Day feast and song festival at the base. Max looked at his watch, 9:30, and rubbed
The phone rang in the hallway and Max walked quickly to answer
"Hello? Yes. I'm on my way." Max said tersely. "Wiley!"
he shouted. "Frank's in trouble. Sarah!" Max shouted grabbing his coat.
Wiley and Sarah ran in from the kitchen.
"What's going on Max?"
"There a problem with the plane," Max explained trotting
to the car with Wiley and Sarah in tow. "Frank thinks there's a kink in the
fuel line. The engine keeps cutting in and out." Max started the car. "He's
declared an emergency."
When they arrived at the base, there was lots
of commotion. Half the base was getting ready for St. David's Day while the other
was waiting for the mysterious bearded American pilot in the damaged plane.
Max and Wiley practically leapt out of the car running up the stairs of the tower.
"General, er uhm, General," The Lieutenant in charge of the tower saluted
seeing Max with the American general. They saluted in return.
Tower, Valley Tower, this is Swallow," came Frank's calm voice over the loudspeaker.
The Lieutenant handed Max the microphone.
"Swallow, this is Valley. What
is your situation?" Max asked.
"Hi, Max. I've restarted twice now.
Fuel reads quarter tank. I'm about ten miles south southwest of the field."
"What's your altitude?"
"800' but I'm having a helluva time
keeping her up. I've got a group of mountains coming up then after that, if she
dies again, I think I can glide her in."
"Winds out of the southwest,
Frank. You'll have to circle the field."
They heard Frank take a breath
and mutter something, as he was unaware that he still had the microphone keyed.
Wiley had borrowed a pair of binoculars and scanned
the sky south of the airfield for the Swallow. Fifteen minutes later, Wiley saw
the plane. "There she is," Wiley said handing the binoculars to Max.
Max peered through the binoculars to the plane. The engine was out and Frank was
gliding her, following the thermals.
"Lieutenant, do you have the emergency
crews standing by?" Max said quietly.
Dr. Stone," Max ordered.
The Swallow crossed
on the far side of the field 150' off the deck. Gracefully, Frank turned back
on an approach to the airfield. Frank made a picture perfect landing.
and Max ran down the stairs into a waiting jeep with Ned in the front seat. The
men were silent as they charged across the field to the Swallow.
his harness and climbed out of the plane slowly to the deck. He removed his goggles
and walked a bit unsteadily away from the plane dropping to his knees.
jeep drove up and before it was stopped Wiley and Max jumped out running up to
"Frank?" Wiley said embracing him and pulling him to his
"I'm okay, Wiley," Frank said releasing him.
you sure?" Max said embracing him.
"Yeah, a little shakey, but okay,"
"You're ready to go back to work, Frank," Ned said from
"Yes, Ned. I think I am," Frank said putting his arms
around the shoulders of Max and Wiley as they walked to the jeep. They drove back
to the tower where Sarah was waiting by the car.
Frank slowly got out of the
jeep and walked to Sarah who hugged him fiercely.
"You're okay, Frank?"
"Yes, Sarah. I'm fine." Frank replied looking straight
into her eyes.
Wiley and Max walked up to Frank and Sarah.
go home." Max said.
The four went to the car and drove home. It was
eleven o'clock when they reached the farm. Frank got out of the car slowly. The
last two hours and the lack of sleep the night before were taking their toll.
"Max, is lunch at the usual time?" Frank asked him in the hallway.
"Yes, Frank. Just remember that we're going to the base for the St. David's
Day festivities at three."
"Right. I just need to lie down before
lunch." Frank said turning to go up the stairs.
"You feeling okay,
Frank?" Wiley asked.
"Yeah, I think so. I'm just tired." Frank
said as he mounted the staircase.
Wiley, Max and Sarah heard the door shut
as Frank entered his room.
"Well, I think I'll start lunch." Sarah
said as she kissed Max and Wiley. She started humming as she walked to the kitchen.
"I've got to get the horses ready." Max said walking towards the barn.
"Ok, I've got to check in with the base." Wiley said as he sat down
by the phone.
Frank went to his room feeling exhausted yet calm. He sat
on his bed, pulled off his boots, and stretched out. He was asleep in minutes.
"Major Stovall, this is General Crowe. Everything on course?" Wiley
asked lighting a cigarette and squinting at the smoke.
"No General, I'm
afraid it's not. I've been trying to reach you since 0930h. SHAEF has changed
to orders for tomorrow. Instead of nineteen planes we need twenty and I don't
have the missing pilot." Harvey said. "Sir, we need General Savage."
"What time is briefing?" Wiley asked thinking.
"He'll be there. Good bye, Major Stovall."
Wiley hung up the phone and called RAF Valley to schedule his
C39 to return to Archbury that night. Then Wiley walked out of the house quietly
looking for Max.
"Max?" Wiley called into the barnyard.
"In the barn, Wiley." Came Max's voice.
"I called Archbury
and Frank is alerted for tomorrow. We'll leave tonight." Wiley said looking
into Max's face, trying to read his thoughts.
Max took a deep breath and sighed.
"Ahh, it's going to be rough on him." Max said.
"I know, but
I don't have a choice." Wiley said as he fieldstripped his cigarette. "Can
I help you?"
"No, I'm fine, thanks. What time is it?"
"I'll be in when I've finished my chores." Max said and walked back
into the barn. Wiley turned and walked back to the house.
outside Frank's door. It was quarter to one and he had just come into the house.
He knocked gently on the door. No answer. He opened the door and walked in. Frank
had drawn the curtains and was lying on top of the sheets with his A2 jacket draped
over his chest. Max walked to the windows and opened the curtains. Sunlight streamed
into the room. Frank opened his eyes and stretched.
Frank said rubbing his eyes.
"Hello, Frank. Lunch is in ten minutes."
Max said leaving the room.
"Right," Frank said taking his jacket
off his chest and placing it on the end of the bed. He swung his legs over the
edge of the bed and stood up easily. Walking into the bathroom he washed his face
trying to wake up. He walked back into the bedroom and pulled his cigarettes and
lighter from his sleeve pocket. Closing the blinds again he headed downstairs.
"Frank?" Wiley called from the library upon hearing Frank come down
Frank walked in while lighting his cigarette. His step was light
and he looked relaxed.
"Yes, Wiley?" Frank replied.
called. We need to return to Archbury tonight. You've been alerted for a mission
tomorrow. Major Cobb will lead." Wiley said watching the younger man's features
Frank sighed heavily and walked to the window.
target?" Frank asked quietly.
"The sub pens at St. Nazaire."
Frank stood thinking, his left hand deeply dug into his trouser
pocket, his right hand holding his cigarette and rubbing his beard in a now unconscious
movement. He turned and leaned on the windowsill looking at Wiley.
Max know?" he asked.
"Yes," Wiley replied.
The clock bonged
once breaking the silence. Frank shifted his weight and walked out of the library
and Wiley followed a few steps behind. Frank entered the kitchen and found Sarah
at the stove and Max standing at the window looking out to the barnyard.
terrific." He said.
"We're having a bit of a St. David's Day feast
ourselves." Sarah said without turning from the stove.
Frank pulled out
a chair and sat down as did Wiley.
"Let me hear about this St. David."
Max turned and leaned against the window.
he is the patron saint of Wales. He helped spread Christianity among the pagan
Celtic tribes. He was a monk and traveled extensively; even as far as Jerusalem.
He didn't drink, didn't eat meat and was a physically hard working man. He was
known for performing miracles. Once he was preaching to a crowd and they complained
they couldn't see him. He put a handkerchief on the ground, stood on it, and the
ground below swelled to become a hill. On St. David's Day we speak in Welsh, eat
Welsh traditional foods, wear a leek or daffodil as Welsh emblems and have vocal
competitions." Max said quietly.
"So we are having raw leeks, a
different type of cawl, tea and Bara Brith." Sarah said serving the table.
"It's perfect." Wiley said.
Frank looked at Max and noted a sadness
he was feeling about the abrupt end to his time there.
"Let's have lunch
then." Max said pulling out his chair and sitting down. Sarah sat as well
and lunch began in silence.
"The field called and said that you were
right, Frank. The fuel line was so kinked it had to be replaced." Max said
taking a sip of tea.
"You were lucky, Frank." Sarah said.
Very lucky. All down in one piece." Frank said knitting his brow in thought.
Again the meal lapsed into silence.
"You said that we need to be at RAF
Valley by 1500h for a festival? Is that right?"
Frank, could you ride Charlie to the base? Wiley, are you up for a ride? We let
the little ones ride the horses in a ring." Max asked.
horses or four?" Wiley asked.
"Well, if you ride Baron, Frank's
on Charlie, Sceptre pulled up lame this morning so I'll take Taylor, that will
make three. Sarah has agreed to take the car to bring supplies."
great," Frank said with a smile.
"Happy St. David's Day." Sarah
said raising her cup of tea.
The three men stood and faced her together.
"Happy St. David's Day, Sarah." They said together.
The three men
finished their meals and went upstairs to change for the afternoon. Max came down
first dressed in wool trousers, wool sweater, and tweed jacket.
meet you at the paddock." He said giving Sarah a hug.
Here's your daffodil." She said putting it in his buttonhole.
Frank walked in together. Wiley had replaced his uniform with wool trousers, wool
sweater, and Max's barn coat. Frank just put on his A2 jacket.
look at you gentlemen! Here are your daffodils." Sarah said placing a flower
in Wiley's buttonhole and giving him a kiss. She turned to Frank and realized
that his A2 jacket had no buttons. He took the daffodil from her hand and wove
it through his knit sleeve pocket. Frank leaned down and kissed her cheek.
"Ready?" Max asked.
"Lead on, Max," Wiley said.
They walked to the barn and took their horses out of the stalls
and into the aisle. Clipping the horses to the crossties, they walked into the
"The saddle looks great, Max. You didn't have to polish it
for me." Wiley said lifting it off the rack.
"Frank cleaned and
polished it after our ride Friday." Max said.
said and walked out of the room.
"You're welcome, Wiley." Frank
Max came up to Frank and whispered. "Are you all right on this
"It depends if you're going to jump all the way
to the base!" Frank remarked with a grin as picked up a saddle and bridle.
"Very funny. Tell me if you get uncomfortable." Max said picking up
his own saddle and bridle.
Soon the three men and horses were on their way.
Max led while Frank brought up the rear. Max turned in his saddle as they walked
out of the barnyard to take a look at Frank. He looked comfortable on Charlie.
"After this gate, we need to canter or we'll be late." Max said leaning
over and opening the gate.
"I'll get it, Max." Frank said as Wiley
went through. Max passed through the gate and Frank followed. He leaned over and
latched the gate.
"Ready Wiley?" Max asked.
Wiley said taking up the reins. He gave Baron a slight kick and immediately started
on a fast trot across the field. Easily, Baron broke into a canter. Max looked
at Frank and smiled as they both took off after Wiley. Frank started Charlie slowly
getting used to the size of the saddle and the amount of leg he had on the horse.
He arrived at the other end of the field with no mishaps.
"Good. Let's fly." Max said
turning Taylor back towards the farm. He started cantering in an easy circle and
took the fence. Wiley and Frank quickly followed suit.
Half an hour later
they arrived at the base. A temporary corral had been made and there was a line
of children waiting outside for pony rides. Sarah was standing by the car. Max
opened the trunk and pulled out two buckets. One was full of oats and the other
"Frank, would you tie up the horses while Wiley and I get
water to give them a quick snack?" Max asked.
Frank said taking the reins of the other two horses. He tied them up inside the
corral and rubbed their noses until Max and Wiley returned.
you get the leads out of the boot, please?" Max asked.
Frank said climbing over the rail walking to the car.
"This looks like
fun." Frank said to Sarah.
"Yes. This is my favourite part. Max
likes the choirs because a lot of his friends sing in them. Do you want to stay
and help with the horses?" Sarah asked as he pulled the ropes from the trunk.
"I would love to." He said walking up to her.
Sarah held out her
elbow and they linked arms walking back to the corral.
"Behold, our new
horseman!" Sarah said to Max and Wiley.
"Great, I'm going to the
mess to hear Eddie sing. Wiley, do you want to stay or join me?" Max asked.
"I'll go with you as far as Operations. I need to check in with SHAEF. Have
fun, Frank." Wiley said.
"Thanks, Wiley." Frank said as he
turned his attention to the children.
For the next hour, Frank placed the
children on the horse or on the ground as Sarah and her two girlfriends walked
the horses on leads. Sarah took glances at Frank who was smiling and teasing with
the children. Max returned and watched him as well. After thirty minutes more,
they were down to the last two children. A jeep drove up and Wiley climbed out
slowly lost in thought.
"When do you have to leave?" Max asked as
Wiley joined him on the rail.
"We have two seats on a C39 at 1900h."
"Well we'd best be cracking then. Besides, it will be dark soon." Max
"There you are. Happy St. David's Day." Frank said as he put
the last child on the ground.
"Happy St. David's Day to you, sir."
Replied the little girl who skipped away to join her parents.
over to the rail and stretched his back. Max and Wiley walked over to him.
"Ready to go back to the farm?" Max asked.
"When do we leave
for Archbury?" Frank said, eyes focusing on the ground as he leaned his weight
onto his heels, bent over.
"1900h" Wiley replied.
Frank said standing upright. He walked to the horses and removed their leads handing
them to Sarah.
"See you at the farm. Thanks for the nice afternoon. It
was fun." He said giving her kiss.
"Thank you. We couldn't have
managed without you." She said kissing him in return.
Frank turned and
accepted the reins from Max. He swung up into the saddle easily and walked Charlie
out of the corral. He waited until Max and Wiley had walked through the gate.
Frank leaned down and shut the gate turning Charlie and trotting to catch up with
Wiley and Max.
They raced the sun cantering home, jumping fences, streams,
and anything else that got in their way. They were invincible. At the last field
they slowed to rest the horses.
"Just great," Frank said to Max
patting Charlie's heaving neck.
"Yes," Max said with a smile looking
at Wiley who grinned in return.
They entered the barnyard and Sarah was there
to meet them.
"Well, I think you broke speed records getting back!"
Sarah said with a smile.
"Still, you two need to get organized. We need
to leave for the base in an hour. I'll take care of the horses." Max said
"Are you sure? I can help with the tack..." Frank started.
"Yes, Frank. Take a shower and pack. I'll meet you and Wiley in the front
hall at 6:30." Max said taking the reins.
Frank and Wiley dismounted
and walked slowly to the house with Sarah. Neither wanted to leave.
on you two. You have less than an hour." Sarah said pushing them out of the
Frank and Wiley climbed the stairs in silence and went to their rooms
to shower and pack. When Frank emerged from his room his hair was combed and he
was wearing his A2 jacket but he had not shaved. He walked down the stairs and
placed his bag by the door. He walked into the drawing room and found Sarah and
Max sitting by the fire.
"Frank, I have a favour to ask of you."
Sarah said as he came up to her chair.
"Anything, Sarah. You know that."
Frank said standing at the fireplace.
"May I take your photo with Max?"
Frank smiled. "Yes, if you promise to send me a copy."
"I promise." Sarah said.
Max stood and walked to Frank
in front of the fireplace. Frank reached his arm out and put it across Max's shoulders
and Max did the same to Frank. They both stood without smiles. They were grabbing
each other's shoulders so hard that their knuckles were white. Sarah stood with
her Brownie and took several shots.
"Look I know this is hard on you
two, but could I have one smile?? Think about flying or something." Sarah
Immediately both men broke into easy smiles and turned to look at each
other. Sarah took the photo and it was perfect.
"Great." She said.
"I wonder what's keeping Wiley."
"Here I am. Sorry, just lost
track of time." Wiley said entering the room.
"Okay, Wiley join
the boys." Sarah instructed.
Wiley walked to Frank's right and they linked
their arms over their shoulders. Three friends out of time.
to go." Max said suddenly.
"Frank, Wiley, I am absolutely rotten
at saying goodbye so I will say it here." Sarah said putting the camera on
Wiley came up to her and hugged her briefly.
I'll see you soon." He said kissing her cheek.
Frank walked to Sarah
and took her hands in his. He kissed them both and then hugged her fiercely.
"I won't forget this. You are the most generous woman I have ever known."
He whispered in her ear.
He kissed her cheek and she wiped a tear from his
face as he moved away. The four walked into the hallway. Wiley and Frank picked
up their bags and walked out the door to the car. Max went to Sarah and gave her
a brief hug.
"I'll be back soon." He said.
"I love you."
Sarah said as he left the house.
The ride to the base was quiet. There
was a great deal to be said but no one wanted to start the conversation. When
they reached the base they had fifteen minutes until the plane took off. Wiley
and Frank gave their bags to the corporal and checked in. They joined Max on the
tarmac and lit cigarettes.
"Wiley, could you give Frank and I a minute?"
Max asked quietly.
"Sure," Wiley said walking out of earshot.
Max turned to face Frank. He was looking at the ground trying to organize his
thoughts. When he raised his face up to look at Max he saw the tears streaming
down his face. Frank reached up and drew the older man to him starting to cry
"You saved me when I didn't think I could be saved." Frank
said. "Thank you."
"Thank you, Frank. You helped me more than
you know. You take care of yourself and come back soon." Max said into Frank's
The two men separated and Wiley joined them again.
Max. I'll call you tomorrow." Wiley said shaking Max's hand.
that reminds me. Frank, here is our phone number at home and mine at the base."
Max said handing him a small piece of paper.
"Thanks, Max." Frank
said over the roar of the engines, which had just started. "I guess we better
get on board."
Frank and Wiley hugged Max one last time and boarded the
The flight was loud but uneventful. They landed about 2100h at Archbury.
"Briefing at 0700h, Frank." Wiley said as Frank got out of the
car in front of his quarters. "And here are those cigarettes."
Wiley." Frank said with a quick salute.
Frank walked into his quarters
and threw his bag on the bed. He lit a cigarette and looked at his watch. He knew
he couldn't sleep so he opened the carton of cigarettes and pulled out two packs.
Frank turned the light out and walked to his office. He walked in and was relieved
to find that Harvey wasn't working late. He wasn't ready for the inevitable questions.
Frank went into his office, turning on the light and removing his A2 jacket. The
paperwork was in four piles. He looked at the top of each mountain then sat down
to begin to tackle them.
Monday March 2, 1943
Harvey walked into
the office at 0500h ready to brew a fresh pot of coffee and was surprised at the
open door to General Savage's office. He walked in to find Frank amid clouds of
smoke and diminished piles of paper.
"Frank?" Harvey asked the bearded
figure at the desk.
"Hullo, Harvey. Are you going to make some coffee?"
Frank asked barely glancing from his work.
"Yes. Uhm.... Yes.... How
are you, Frank?" Harvey asked in a concerned voice.
Frank looked up at
Harvey. "I'm fine, thanks. Is the alert still for 0700h?" he asked.
"Yes, 0700h briefing. The weather should be clear. Your right seat will be
Jason Schmidt. Joe is leading the group." Harvey said.
Frank said returning to the paperwork in front of him.
Harvey left the office
and started making coffee. Twenty minutes later he brought in a fresh cup of coffee
for Frank and placed in on his desk. Frank was lost in thought. Harvey went back
to his office closing the door behind him.
At 0600h, Frank emerged from
his office carrying his Mae West ready for briefing.
"See you later,
Harve." He said as he left the office.
"Right, Frank." Harvey
said with his same concerned look.
Frank walked to the briefing hut. No
one was there, of course, so he turned on the light and walked up to the covered
map. He took off his hat and A2 jacket, placing them on a nearby table with his
Mae West. Lighting a cigarette, he lifted the cover off the map to look at the
target for the day's mission. He stood studying the map until the sound of the
door opening behind him broke into his thoughts.
Joe Cobb from the doorway.
"Hi, Joe. Come on in." Frank said turning
back to the map.
Joe walked quickly to the raised platform where Frank was
standing. Frank turned to him and shook his hand.
"Thanks for handling
things, Joe. General Crowe was very impressed." He said.
General. Nice beard." Joe grinned.
Frank brought his hand up to his face
and rubbed his beard reflectively. It was so much a part of him that he forgot
it was against all regulations.
"I suppose I have to shave it."
Frank said sadly.
"That will have to wait until after the mission I think,
sir. It's almost 0700h." Joe said organizing his notes for briefing.
"Right" Frank said as he covered the map and sat down at the desk to
the right of the map. He lit another cigarette and seemed lost in his thoughts
as the door opened and the men streamed in.
There was a rumble in the room
as the men realized the bearded figure was General Savage.
Major Cobb shouted as General Crowe entered the back of the room. The men stood
quickly, including Frank. Wiley saluted Major Cobb and remained near the door.
"At ease, gentlemen." Joe said. The men sat down collectively shifting
their glances from Joe to Frank and back again.
"Today we attack the
sub-pens at St. Nazaire." Joe began and revealed the map.
lasted only ten minutes but you could hear a pin drop, such was the rapt attention
of the men.
"Are there any questions?" Joe asked looking out to
his audience. "Very well, I'll see you upstairs." Joe turned to the
map and covered it quickly. He gathered his papers and looked up to see Frank
staring intently at him.
"General?" Joe asked. "Are you okay?"
Frank took a huge drag on his cigarette. He stood and walked over to the covered
"I was just thinking about that flak..." he said rubbing his
"Ah, General Savage? Do you have a minute?" Wiley asked from
the rear of the room.
"See you on the deck, General." Joe said tossing
him a quick salute as he left the platform.
"General," Joe said
"Major," Wiley said returning the salute. Wiley
closed the door behind him and leaned against them.
Frank put on his A2 jacket
and picked up his hat and Mae West. He walked down the steps of the platform to
the rear of the room.
"You okay?" Wiley asked looking into Frank's
Frank squinted and looked at Wiley through the smoke from his cigarette.
"I'm nervous I think." Frank said trying to put a name to his feelings.
"Nightmares?" Wiley asked.
Frank opened the door to the field, putting
his hat on low over his eyes.
"No, but then not sleeping will prevent
nightmares." He said with a quick laugh.
"Get in. I'll drive you
to the Lily." Wiley said pointing to a jeep.
Frank got in without a word.
They proceeded over the field to the hardstands. The sky was clear but the air
was cold. It was a great day to fly but not for a daylight bombing raid.
pulled up the to the Lily. Frank jumped out, standing next to the jeep.
you when you get back, Frank," Wiley said with a smile.
have a drink at the O club." Frank said looking at his old friend.
good." Wiley snapped Frank a quick salute and Frank responded in kind.
Wiley put the jeep into gear and drove off to the Operations Building. Frank turned
back to the Lily to find his right seat, Jason Schmidt, waiting for him.
Schmidt said with a quick salute.
"Jason," Frank said returning
the salute. "How's she look?"
"Flight check is complete. Everything
looks fine...." he hesitated.
"What?" Frank asked slightly
"Have the regs changed, sir? I'd love to grow my moustache
again." Jason started.
"No, they have not changed. Frank said quickly.
He then paused, "I just haven't ...ahhhh ...unpacked!" he said with
"Gotcha. There's the flare." Jason said looking up into
"Let's mount up." Frank said walking to the belly of the
With one step, he jumped up and caught the edge of the hatch, swinging
his legs and then body into the plane. Frank made his way into his seat, clipped
in, and took a deep breath. Soon Jason was sitting next to him. They put their
headphones on and hooked up. Frank listened as Jason went through the final checklist
and then checked in with the crew. Frank lit a cigarette and rubbed his beard
in thought. They started their engines and eased into the queue for takeoff. Soon
they were airborne and Frank's anxiety grew. Perspiration started to gather in
his hairline and slowly ebb down his face.
"Pilot to navigator,"
"This is the navigator. On time, on target." Nelson
"10,000 feet. Go on oxygen." Jason reminded the
Frank put out his cigarette. It was a long trip to St. Nazaire. The
Lily was right wing to Joe Cobb and even though they had flown this target just
a week ago, the whole plane was nervous. The jokes that had so easily passed between
them last week were missing replaced with an unnerving silence.
Leader to all bees," Joe's voice came over the headset.
the F.W.s. Keep it tight." He continued.
"F.W.s 10 o'clock high."
Came the first report.
Frank held onto the controls concentrating on flying
the plane. Soon the F.W.s passed and the flak began.
"Pilot to navigator.
How long to the IP?" Frank asked.
"Five minutes, sir." Nelson
The Lily was bouncing around from the concussion of the flak exploding
near the plane. Frank hung on, his eyes darting from the control panel to the
air around him.
"Beehive Leader is hit." Lunding said from his position
at right waist.
"How bad?" Frank asked.
"At least one engine
out. She should turn back." Lunding reported.
"Beehive Leader to
Beehive One," Joe's voice came loudly through the headphones.
One, go ahead," Frank responded.
"Beehive One, you have the group.
We are attempting to return." Joe said carefully.
confirmed, we are lead." Frank said easing the plane into position.
minutes to the IP." Nelson announced.
Suddenly Frank felt at one with
the plane. There was no anxiety, just reaction to the plane and the mission.
"Ten seconds to turn." Nelson announced.
Frank turned the plane into its bombing run.
PDI." Frank said evenly.
"PDI is centered." Avery the bombardier
"Ok, she's your airplane." Frank said releasing the controls
to autopilot. He looked out to his left to see the bomb bay doors open on his
"Bombs away." Avery said.
Frank took controls
of the plane again.
"Looks good, General." Jason said looking out
"Great, Beehive Leader to all Bees. Let's go home. Turning
90 degrees northwest." Frank said starting his turn.
Just like last week
the flak continued and the F.W.s started to close in.
"Keep it tight."
"There goes the Tennessee Walker." Jason said looking
"Chutes?" Frank asked.
"I count 8 no 9." Jason
Frank tapped Jason's arm for him to take over the airplane. Frank removed
his oxygen mask and rubbed his eyes gathering strength. Suddenly the plane took
a dive to the left.
"We're hit. "Jason shouted.
Frank said quickly as he replaced his mask and took control of the plane.
"Skipper, it looks like we've been hit in the tail and the right wing took
some damage. Lunding is dead sir."
Frank gently tried to turn the plane.
It was very sluggish.
"Nelson, plot us a straight course home. I don't
have a lot of maneuverability." Frank asked.
"Sure thing, Skipper."
"F.W.s coming out of our 5 o'clock low." The ball
"Stay alert." Frank instructed
a look back there and grab Petersen on your way." Frank ordered. "Wait
till we're below 10,000 feet and off oxygen."
"Beehive Leader to Beehive Two," Frank called.
Two, roger." Minetty responded.
"Beehive Two you are now lead. We've
taken some pretty big hits and need to take her home easy." Frank said.
"Beehive Leader, do you need support?" Minetty asked.
Two. See you at home, out. Beehive Leader to all Bees, Beehive Two is the lead
plane. Follow your leader." Frank said.
The F.W.s started to break off
over the Normandy coast.
Frank waited a few minutes and began a slow decent
to 8000 feet so the boys could move more freely while assessing the damage.
"Ok, we're at 8000 feet, you can take off your masks." Frank said, removing
Jason removed his quickly, unclipped and went aft to get Peterson,
the engineer. The plane was still difficult to fly so Frank was unable to light
a cigarette although he sorely wanted one. He didn't trust the autopilot or anything
else until he got his report.
It was almost 15 minutes later when Jason's
voice came over the headset.
"Skipper, it's bad back here. The tail assembly
is hanging on by a thread which explains the sluggishness you described. The right
wing looks like Swiss cheese. Check your fuel gauge and tell me what you have."
"Onboard tanks eighth full, outboard tanks quarter full. It looks like we'll
be coming in on fumes, eh Jason?" Frank said.
"Yes, sir. Look I'm
leaving Peterson back here to keep an eye on things and I'm having the crew get
into their parachutes just in case." Jason said.
"Good idea. Get
up here as soon as you can, my arms are getting tired."
"Nelson, how are we doing?" Frank asked.
going to be tough, Skipper but we can do it. On my mark turn right 15 degrees."
"Mark." Nelson commanded.
Frank started turning
the Lily. Perspiration had begun to flow freely down his face even though the
plane was very cold. The turn took several minutes.
Frank said as Jason entered the cockpit.
Jason quickly clipped in and plugged
in his headset. He looked at Frank and took control of the Lily.
any word from Archbury?" Frank asked the radioman as he lit a cigarette and
rubbed his beard.
"No, sir. Do you want me to raise them?" Henry
"Nelson, how long to Archbury?"
give or take."
"Don't contact them yet." Frank said.
"Jason, we need to bring her down but we can't let her
stall." Frank said.
"Ok General." Jason said looking at the
"Nelson, I'm going to bring her down some more, see if we
can get to around 2000 feet. Is that going to work on our new route?" Frank
asked finishing his cigarette.
"Yes, sir. That will be ok." Nelson
Frank tapped Jason's arm lightly and took control of the plane. He
eased her into a shallow dive. As she started the Lily began to shake.
this is Peterson. I don't know how much more the tail can take. Can you maybe
come down slower so there's less drag on the tail?"
"I'll do my
best." Frank said thinking suddenly of Max and his Faulkner quote.
minutes to the field." Nelson reported.
"6000 feet." Jason
said eyes glued to the control panel.
They went on this way; Jason telling
Frank in 100 foot increments their altitude and Nelson advising him on the distance
to the field.
"Archbury Tower, this is Army 317 how do you read?"
"Army 317, this is Archbury Tower. We read you loud and clear.
What is your status?" Sgt. Levin replied from his position on the tower deck.
He had déja vu holding his binoculars in one hand, and microphone in the
other. On his right were Harvey and Doc and on his left General Crowe. All were
hanging on every word coming out of the loud speaker.
"Low on fuel, right
wing shot to hell, tail hanging by a thread, and injuries on board." Frank
"I'm clearing the field, Army 317. Come in where you wish."
Levin said clicking off the microphone.
"More like where I can."
Frank said unaware that he had keyed his mike.
"What does that mean?"
General Crowe asked peering at Levin.
"That means that we are standing
by. General Savage is either going to save this bird or it's going to be a mess
and neither of us knows which it will be, sir." Levin said walking to his
crew chief to explain the situation.
"1000 feet you're looking good."
"Skipper, wind is coming out of the south so you're going
to have to button hook to make the field." Nelson said.
can't be too easy can it. Ok, what's the heading?" Frank said with a grimace.
"You will be turning left 225 degrees on my mark." Nelson advised.
"Jason get Bobby out of the ball turret. Get everybody
back in the body of the plane. They'll have a better chance of survival if I have
to dump her." Frank said seriously.
"Roger, Skipper." Jason
said and went aft to tell the men personally.
"One minute to new course
heading." Nelson intoned.
Frank began the turn
and as he did so he naturally slowed the plane down to get to 500 feet off the
"Complete." Frank said. "Boys, assume crash positions.
Jason get up here."
"Right here, Skipper." Jason said plugging
in his head set and clipping in. "300 feet,"
"Army 317, you're
too high. You must get to 150 feet now." Levin urged.
it sound so easy." Frank said carefully as he pushed her down.
gear. Quarter flaps."
"Landing gear. Quarter flaps. Roger."
"Ok, here we come." Frank said.
The rumble of
her four engines as Frank slowed her down was deafening. At fifty feet off the
deck her tail assembly fell off onto the ground below. Gravity took over as the
plane fell to the grass off the runway. Frank's head hit the stick and then snapped
back against the seat. Jason's head hit the right window with a thud and he was
out. The Lily's airspeed, now land speed, propelled her forward but Frank had
no real control. Blood ran down his face into his right eye but he couldn't take
his hands off the stick. He braked on and off to try to slow her down. He reached
over and cut off the fuel to the engines as a last ditch effort. Frank watched
with alarm the tree line approaching. After what seemed to him to be an hour she
came to a stop as her engines seized with no fuel.
"Let's get out of
here," he shouted into the headset before turning everything off.
unclipped himself and took off his headset. He stood up quickly and almost blacked
out. He willed himself to unclip Jason and gently remove him from his seat. He
could hear Doc Kaiser yelling from a distance. Frank half carried and half dragged
Jason to the escape hatch. He lowered him down to waiting arms and then followed
A man slowly came out of the hatch, dropped to the ground and
collapsed to his hands and knees. Wiley knew from the jacket and its familiar
knit cigarette pocket, the man was Frank.
He ran over to his friend and helped
"I've got you Frank. I'm here. You're okay." Wiley said
in a calming voice.
The bearded face looked up at Wiley through the haze of
blood that was still flowing freely from the cut on his head. The blood was now
not just all over Frank but also on Wiley's clean uniform as well. Frank smiled
and passed out.
"I need a stretcher here now," Doc Kaiser shouted
helping Wiley lower Frank gently to the ground.
"Well, Doc?" Wiley
"Looks like just the head wound, General. We'll get
him over to the hospital and fix him up. He should be fine." Doc said checking
"I'm going with him in the ambulance." Wiley said walking
off to release his driver.
"Of course, General." Kaiser said in
surprise to the General's back.
They loaded Frank and Jason into the first
ambulance with Wiley and an orderly sitting on wooden crates between them. Frank
was very still and very pale. Wiley reached over and zipped Frank's A2 jacket
to his neck, stuffing his scarf in, trying to keep him warm.
at the hospital a short time later and Frank was whisked into the triage room.
Wiley stood outside and had a cigarette.
"General, General Crowe?"
Harvey shouted from the steps of his office across the road. He jogged across
the road, his face filled with worry, as usual.
said tossing a salute.
"General," Harvey returned. "How is
"Doc Kaiser is with him now. He thinks it's a probable concussion
and a nasty cut on his head." Wiley said continuing to savor his cigarette.
"Is that his blood?" Harvey said gesturing to the general's bloodied
"Anyone else hurt?" Harvey asked.
"The co-pilot was injured, a waist gunner was killed and assorted bumps and
bruises for the rest of the men."
Suddenly, a jeep pulled up in a cloud
of dust. Major Cobb jumped out and stood at attention saluting the two men.
"General Crowe, Major Stovall," he said.
Wiley said returning the salute.
"Hullo, Joe. You okay?" Harvey
"I'm fine. How's the general?" he asked gesturing the hospital
with his hat.
"Doc's with him now but we think it's just a concussion."
"That's just short of miraculous. I saw the Lily on the
field. There are more bullet holes than fuselage left." Joe said. "Would
you tell him I'll be back after debriefing?"
"Of course, Major,"
Wiley replied with a salute.
Joe saluted in return, piled into his jeep and
drove off. The door to the hospital opened and Doc Kaiser walked out slowly, stretching
his neck as he approached the two men.
"How is he, Doc?" Wiley asked
"Twenty-five stitches in his head, concussion, assorted
bumps and bruises. He needs to stay for observation for at least 24 hours."
Doc said with a sigh.
"Is that it, Doc?" Wiley inquired sensing
Doc was leaving something out.
"He's way out, General. He hasn't regained
consciousness since you caught him at the field. I'm concerned but there isn't
a damn thing I can do about it but wait." Doc said in an outburst. He looked
up quickly at General Crowe waiting to be admonished.
if anyone needs me, I'll be with General Savage." Wiley said finally putting
out his cigarette and walking into the hospital.
Frank was in a private
room with a small night table and two chairs. His head was bandaged and his face
was shaved. Wiley took off his hat and jacket and hung them on the hook behind
the door. He loosened his tie and pulled up the two chairs nearer the bed. Wiley
sat on one and stretched is legs on the other. He watched Frank.
opened and Doc Kaiser walked in quietly to take Frank's pulse trying hard not
to wake General Crowe who was snoring quietly in his chair. Doc listened to Frank's
heart and watched his face for any sign of movement or consciousness. It was early
yet. He had only been on the ground a few hours. Doc sighed. It will be a long
night, he thought, and he left the room.
Wiley woke up slowly, his body
stiff from the impossible position he had slept in. It was dark outside. Wiley
looked at his watch, 6pm. He needed a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a shower.
He stood and started to pace quietly. As he turned away from the door, facing
Frank, the door opened behind him. Doc Kaiser and two cups of coffee.
you have cameras in here, Doc?" Wiley whispered taking a steaming mug from
"No, if you were still asleep, I was just going to put it on the
nightstand." Doc said with a laugh. "Any signs?" he asked sipping
"Not that I've seen but then I just woke up myself."
Wiley said looking at Frank.
"Why don't you go and take a shower? He'll
be okay." Doc suggested.
"No, I can't leave him. I promised him."
Wiley said still staring at Frank.
"Ok, then. I'll be back to look on
the both of you a little later." Doc said leaving the room.
down again in the chair and balanced his coffee mug on his chest while he stretched
his legs again. Time passed slowly as he watched Frank sleep. He sipped his coffee
and ran his hand through his hair. He finished his coffee and felt sleepy again.
Two hours later, Doc Kaiser walked into the room quietly. He stood watching the
two men. Probably the best sleep either of them have seen in months, he thought.
He walked over to Wiley and removed the coffee cup from his chest without disturbing
him. Doc took Frank's pulse again, no change. He wrote his notes on the chart
at the end of the bed and left quietly.
A noise in the room rousted Wiley
from his deep sleep. He couldn't place it. The noise was Frank, chuckling in his
sleep a bemused look on his face. Wiley stood and stretched while watching Frank's
face. Frank continued chuckling on and off for several minutes before waking himself
"Hullo, Wiley." Frank said.
"Hullo, Frank." Wiley
replied. "How do you feel?"
"My head hurts, of course, and
I'm a little achy." He said reaching up to touch the bandage. His hand slid
down to his cheek.
"You let them shave me!" Frank said with mock
"You didn't give them any choice. You bled over everything."
Wiley replied in kind.
The door opened and Doc Kaiser walked in.
did this!" Frank continued.
"What?" Doc asked worried looking
at the two generals.
"You had me shaved!!"
I've been told that it will grow back..."Doc replied with a hint of a smile.
"Likely story." Frank replied unconsciously rubbing his now smooth cheeks.
"How do you feel, General?" Doc asked.
"Headache and generally
body aches otherwise fine." Frank replied looking at him.
nightmares?" Doc asked evenly.
"I'll answer that one. What were
you dreaming about?" Wiley asked.
"I was dreaming that I was out
with Max, riding in the field, jumping fences." Frank replied quickly.
"You were laughing in your sleep." Wiley said with a grin.
I knew I talked in my sleep." Frank replied cutting himself off with a huge
"Well I think you'll be fine now, Frank. So I'm going to leave
you. I'll check in with you tomorrow." Wiley said putting on his coat and
"Thanks for being here, Wiley." Frank said reaching out his
Wiley took his hand in both of his. "I told you that I would always
be here for you."
There was a deepening silence in the room as the two
men looked at each other. Finally Doc Kaiser broke in.
Frank you need more sleep. I'll probably release you tomorrow morning. General
Crowe, sir." Doc said trying to get him to leave.
"Ok, Doc. Goodnight,
Frank. Sleep well." Wiley said.
"Goodnight, Wiley." Frank said
closing his eyes.
Tuesday March 3, 1943
At 1000h, Frank walked into
"Morning, General," Harvey said rising to his feet.
"How are you feeling?"
"Just a headache today, Harve. Don't
worry, I'm just going to do a little paperwork to wind down and then hit the sack."
Frank said and then walked into his office, closing the door behind him.
his desk was a large envelope from RAF Valley. Frank pulled his pack of cigarettes
from his jacket then took the jacket off and tossed it on a chair. Sitting down
slowly he lit a cigarette and began to open the envelope. The door opened and
Harvey brought in a mug of coffee.
"Oh, thanks, Harvey," Frank said
blowing a plume of smoke at the envelope's contents.
sir?" Harvey asked
"No, these are photos of my friends." Frank
said handing the first photo to Harvey.
"That's Max Harding there on
the left." He said pointing.
"I would have recognized him from his
moustache I think!" Harvey said. "These are good photographs. Who took
them?" he asked handing the photo back to Frank.
"His wife, Sarah."
Frank said quietly.
Harvey recognized the look in Frank's eyes and moved to
"I'll leave you alone, then Frank." Harvey said opening
"Thanks, Harvey." Frank said lost in thought.
all the photos out on his desk like he did when he was working on a strike. There
was the photo of him by himself, then with Max, then the three of them. On the
bottom of the pile was another photo. This photo was of Sarah with a note attached.
Sport, thought you needed this. Love, Max.
Frank took a huge drag on his
cigarette and leaned back in his chair. Suddenly he shifted his weight sitting
more upright and began to look for something on his desk. Finally he found the
small piece of paper Max had given him at the base. He picked up the phone and
"General Harding, please. General Savage calling." He said
"Frank? Is everything ok?" Max's voice came through.
"First of all, I wanted to thank you and Sarah for the photos. They just
came and are really great." Frank said quickly.
What else is going on in your life?" Max asked.
"I needed to talk
to you...."Frank started.
"About the mission?" Max asked.
"Not specifics on the mission. About the flying." Frank said and leaned
back in his chair with his legs on the desk.