London Road

by Liz

May 25, 1943 London

Helen stood at the window and watched the morning traffic. She played with the end of her jacket absently, her face showing her worry. Suddenly she smiled as she watched a familiar figure walk slowly around the corner, limping heavily, albeit with the aid of crutches.

Twenty minutes later, Brig. Gen. Frank Savage walked into her room, shut the door and leaned against it, closing his eyes.

"Oh, Frank, I told you that would be too much for you." Helen cried, walking quickly to take the canvas bag from his hand.

She put the bag on the table and helped him off with his coat. He limped to the sofa and sat heavily, dropping his crutches to the floor. Helen helped him swing his legs onto the sofa and handed him a pillow to put under his knee. Finally settled, he leaned his head back and again closed his eyes.

"That was a helluva lot of work for two scones and a thermos of coffee." He sighed.

Helen poured the coffee into two mugs and handed him his. Frank opened his eyes and reached out to draw her close to him. He kissed her passionately and broke when he thought he was about to pour his coffee on the floor. Helen sat in the chair closest to him and handed him a scone.

"What time is your meeting?" Helen asked, taking a bite of her scone.

"Uhm, nine, I don't know how long it will last, though," Frank said, sipping his coffee.

"Where are you going today?"

"My editor asked for a follow-up to the London Road piece, so I'm heading there this morning to catch the light." Helen said, finishing her scone.

"I'll call your office later this afternoon to see if we can hook up for dinner." Frank said, finishing his coffee.

"Okay I'll let Doug know where I am and how I'm doing. But now, we need to get you going." Helen said, taking his mug and putting it on the table.

Frank sighed and swung his right leg onto the floor. He reached down to his knee. Frank gently lifted it up and moved his leg off the sofa, placing his foot on the floor. Helen handed him his crutches and helped him stand up. He rocked a little, finding his balance.

"The car should be downstairs in five minutes." Frank said, looking at his watch.

"Then we have a few minutes." Helen said, encircling her arms behind his neck, drawing him into a kiss.

Frank put his free right arm on her back and pulled her to him as well. He loved her scent, the wisps of her hair that pulled out from her ponytail, and her eyes. He pulled back slightly and looked at her. Helen opened her hazel eyes and searched his face.

"What's wrong?" Helen asked.

"Nothing, I just...love your eyes." Frank murmured.

She leaned in and kissed him, her eyes wide open. Frank groaned involuntarily. Helen broke from him, concerned.

"Are you in pain?" She asked.

"Yeah, I am. But I groaned because I don't want to be without you today." Frank said, his blue eyes dark and serious.

"I'll miss you, too. Come on; let me help you with your coat." Helen said, releasing him to get his coat.

She helped him put on his coat and handed him his hat.

"I'll carry your briefcase for you." Helen said, opening the door to the hallway.

"Thanks," Frank said, walking to the stairs.

He grabbed the railing tightly with his right hand, shifting his crutches to his left hand and turned to walk down the stairs without bending his left knee too much. He had injured it the week before while flying the Sioux Me.

They were turning for home after a milk run and got hit with a burst of flak. Tim Reiss was the pilot.

"Sir, go and check back there, would you? The radio's out and the plane's sluggish." Tim instructed, after he got the plane under control.

Frank unclipped his headphones and harness to crawl aft. He checked Simmons in the ball turret. He was fine, but scared. When Frank got amidships, he realized the problem was much worse than had imagined. The flight engineer was dead and the radio had disintegrated. The waist gunners were white-faced, looking at a large hole in the deck. The flak had broken loose one of the munitions boxes. It didn't explode, but suddenly five hundred pounds of loose weight was moving around. The plane lurched to port, sending Frank stumbling into the port bulkhead with the munitions box following rapidly. The waist gunners watched helplessly as Frank's leg was pinned by the wooden crate. Frank screamed and tried to push the box away, but the plane was still in a steep turn. After several long moments, the plane straightened out. The gunners walked carefully to Frank's side to pull the case away. The adrenaline was pumping and the three men moved it the six inches needed to free Frank's leg. Frank pulled himself out and held on to the bulkhead. He didn't dare look at his leg. He knew it was bad.

"We have to secure this box." Frank shouted.

He looked at his watch as he felt the plane start to descend.

"Yes, sir."

"Can you do this yourselves? We have about fifteen minutes before we land and I need to help Tim land the plane." Frank said, feeling the plane drift first to port and then to starboard.

"Yes, sir. See you on the ground." The new gunner, Murphey, answered.

Frank willed himself to walk to the crawlspace that led back to the cockpit. The yaw got worse and he dragged his leg behind him the last few feet. He made it to the cockpit, finally hearing Tim's hoarse voice.

"General, help me, please." Tim screamed.

"I'm here, Tim." Frank shouted, awkwardly getting into his seat and strapping in.

Frank tapped Tim's trembling arm and took controls of the Sioux You.

"Jesus, General, what's going on back there?" Tim asked, flexing his fingers and wiping the sweat from his face.

"Flak took out the radio and Henderson. There's a four foot hole in the deck which must have taken out the rudder controls. One of the munitions crates tore loose and was sliding around." Frank said, checking the instrument panel.

"It's a wonder she's still in the air." Tim commented.

"Yeah, I wonder how far behind the group we are. You took her down fast when we got hit." Frank remarked.

"I lost sight of them about five minutes ago." Tim said.

Sioux You was starting to buck pretty badly, but Frank still had her under control. He could see the tower and checked the windsock. He waggled the wings as he flew over the base before making his final turn to the runway. He was high, but he knew he couldn't bank the turn without a little cushion.

"There's the flare." Tim said, excitedly.

"Okay, here we go," Frank said, completing his turn.

The Sioux You was yawing again as Frank brought her in. She didn't bounce, for which Frank thanked God, but she also wasn't slowing down. Tim looked at Frank and realized he wasn't applying any brakes. Tim slammed his feet to the floor, hitting the brakes, and felt the large plane lurch.

"Easy Tim, just press the brakes. This isn't your convertible." Frank noted.

She came to a stop and Frank turned the engines and fuel off. Tim unclipped and stood quickly, wanting to leave the plane immediately. Frank sat in his seat, head back, eyes closed.

"Good job, sir. Let's get out of here." Tim said.

"Get, Doc," Frank whispered before passing out.

Tim hurried out of the plane.

"Medic, medic!" he shouted.

"Easy Captain, I'm here. What's wrong?" Kaiser asked.

"It's the general," Tim started.

"Help me up," Kaiser said, tossing his medical bag into the plane. He jumped for the hatch and swung his legs up, feeling Tim's strong hands on his lower back, pushing him into the plane.

Doc Kaiser climbed into the cockpit and found Frank unconscious. He felt for a pulse. Looking around him quickly, he saw no damage to the cockpit. Doc pulled out the smelling salts and brought Frank around.

"General, Frank, where are you hurt?" Doc asked.

"Left knee, left leg crushed." Frank said, softly.

"Okay, take it easy. I'm going to give you some morphine." Doc said, pulling a syringe from his bag. He knew that he had to sedate Frank in order to get him out of the plane.

He gave Frank the shot and crawled back to the hatch.

"We need the stiff backboard and two men. Now!!! Let's go!!!" Doc yelled.

Frank woke up in the hospital later that day. His leg wasn't broken but it was badly bruised. Doc ordered him to stay in the hospital for two days. When he was released, he was given crutches. Doc grounded him for a least a week.

Frank made it to the bottom of the staircase and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his face. Helen opened the door and he walked out to the landing before taking the last three steps. Frank took a deep breath and headed down the stairs to his waiting car. He turned to Helen and took his briefcase. His hands occupied, she reached up, cupped his face and pulled him to her for one last kiss. They broke and his driver helped him into the car. The door was shut and off they went. Frank lit a much-needed cigarette and blew smoke against the pain. Doc had given him some pain pills, but they made him feel sluggish and sleepy. He certainly couldn't be in that state at this meeting.

Frank arrived at SHAEF headquarters and was surprised to see Wiley standing outside, smoking a cigarette. The driver helped him out again. Frank took his briefcase and carefully walked up the stairs.

"Hullo, Frank," Maj. Gen. Wiley Crowe greeted him, and took his briefcase.

"Hullo, Wiley," Frank replied.

"You look better today. I think Helen is her own kind of medicine." Wiley commented.

"For me, she is." Frank said, walking into the manor house that had been transformed into the Air Force Headquarters.

Frank walked into the walnut paneled room and hung up his coat and hat. Unconsciously wiping the sweat from his brow using the sleeve of his uniform, he made his way to a chair and sat heavily. Wiley put Frank's briefcase on the table in front of him and headed to the end of the table. Frank lit a cigarette and noted the time, eight-fifty. He shifted to take the pressure off of his knee but really couldn't get out of pain. Maybe it would be a short meeting. His mind wandered briefly, thinking about having dinner with Helen later that day.

Wiley started the briefing, going over the successful sorties of the last week. For an hour he went over point by point each of the new bombing targets before leveling assignments. Just as Frank thought he was going to have to stand to get the pain under control, a young lieutenant came in with a note for Wiley.

"We're getting reports of a daylight raid." Wiley said.

Frank's stomach sank as he rose to his feet. He knew, somehow, he knew.

"The target is Brighton, specifically, the viaduct." Frank said, quietly.

"How do you know that?" Wiley asked.

"Because that's where Helen is this morning." Frank said, reaching for his crutches.

Frank left his coat, hat, and briefcase, and made his way to the driveway. Reaching two fingers into his mouth, he let fly a screeching whistle that would have made his grandfather proud. Getting in clumsily, Frank shouted his directions.

"Brighton, the viaduct,"

The driver took off quickly. It was a forty-five minute drive on most days. They were there in thirty, just in time to hear the sirens and evacuate the car.

"Sir, come, the air raid shelter." The driver shouted, pulling at Frank's jacket.

"No, you go. I have to find Helen." Frank yelled back.

The driver ran just as the bullets started raining down on the road. Frank moved as quickly as possible, finding himself on Campbell Road. That was the address of the butcher that Helen had interviewed earlier in the month. Frank looked for a butcher's sign. He thought he saw one in the distance. He 'crutched' his way to the butcher's, hearing the FW's engines whining as they dove to shoot innocent souls before dropping their bombs. Frank looked up, sweat running into his eyes and saw Helen walking out of the store.

"No, go back!" Frank screamed, dropping his crutches.

Helen looked up at Frank and looked behind him in horror. A Focke Wolfe was bearing down on him. But instead of shooting bullets, the pilot dropped a bomb between Frank and Helen. It appeared to go into the store front but it didn't explode. A minute later, there was an explosion and the viaduct collapsed.

"Frank!" Helen screamed, as the world around her collapsed.

He watched helplessly as she disappeared behind the rubble and dust.

"No!" Frank yelled hoarsely, running through the agony of his knee to find Helen.

He arrived at the area he thought she had been. The all clear siren wailed as did the fire trucks, racing to the scene. Frank shifted his weight to his right leg, trying to figure out what to do.

"Helen!" he screamed.

Frank listened but didn't hear anything. A fire truck pulled up and started to extinguish the flames.

"Are you hurt?" a fireman asked Frank.

"No, no, I'm fine. There are people in there. We have to get them out." Frank said, struggling to get closer.

The fireman held him back.

"Wait for the dogs, sir, then we'll start looking." The fireman said.

Frank looked at his watch, ten-forty. He lit a cigarette and nervously started to pace, limping badly on his damaged knee. Thirty minutes later the search dogs arrived and they went to work. The fire was mostly out, but some of the materials were very hot. Frank helped, throwing his soul into the task of finding Helen. Suddenly, the dog started to bark. Frank staggered to the dog. The handler pulled rubble, trying to uncover the person as fast as he could. A shock of red hair was visible, and a gray cardigan sweater.

"Joe Goss, the butcher." The man confirmed.

"Helen, Helen was with him. Please, I need to find her." Frank pleaded.

"Are you sure she was here?" the man asked.

"I saw her right before the bomb dropped. Please!" Frank asked, his face etched in mental and physical pain.

"All right, then. We'll find her." The man replied, setting his dog back to work.

Frank sat down, finally feeling the unrelenting pain in his knee. He felt in his pocket and retrieved the strong pills that Doc gave him. Reading the script, he took one, instead of two, dry. He closed his eyes and tried to relax into the pain. Soon he felt the edginess of the pain dissipate. The pain was there, but it wasn't as controlling. He stood up and rejoined the search team.

The sky was darkening from an approaching thunderstorm. It was almost four in the afternoon, and they hadn't found Helen yet.

"Look, sir, I don't know how much longer we can search." The man started.

"You'll search until you find her. She's here. I just can't tell if she's alive or not." Frank said, choking a bit.

"All right, take it easy. We'll find your Helen, that we will." The man said, squeezing Frank's shoulder.

Frank followed the man's lead and again threw himself into the rescue effort. He looked briefly at his hands, which had started to ache. They were criss-crossed with scrapes and cuts from his labours. His knee pulsed and Frank forced himself to look at it. The thin fabric of his trousers was ripped away on both knees and the left one was bloody. It started to rain, lightly at first and then a real shower, focusing Frank on the job at hand.

"Damn," the man said.

"What?" Frank asked.

"The dog'll lose the scent with the rain."

Frank closed his eyes and prayed; a heart-wrenching, soul-baring kind of prayer.

"Helen!" he screamed again, his vocal cords rough from hollering.

Again only silence. Frank sat down in the rubble and began to weep. He didn't know what else to do. Until he heard the dog bark; a different bark.

"General, I think we might have found her." The man yelled.

Frank stood up and limped to the dog, he dropped down to his knees, oblivious to the damage and pain to his knee. He started removing rubble where the dog indicated. A hand fell out from its captivity, Helen's hand. Frank reached for it to take the pulse; weak but existent.

"She's alive, thank God, she's alive." He cried, bursting into tears again.

Gently the men pulled the building's remains from around Helen in their effort to free her. Finally, he saw her face, an ugly bruise was on her forehead and her lip was split. Frank looked down her body to see if there were other injuries. He saw a red stain on her blouse.

"We have to get her out of there. She's bleeding, maybe internally." Frank said, with urgency.

"Sir, she may be very badly hurt, we have to move her carefully. Now step back and let my lads work." The fireman said.

Frank took a step backwards and almost collapsed as his knee nudged a piece of hot metal. He groaned and reached down to try to alleviate the pain. Hunched over, he watched the men gently pull Helen from the wreckage and place her on a stretcher. Frank limped to her, and brushed the back of his hand against her face.

"Helen, God," Frank said, choking up.

"Come on and get in the ambulance with her. We'll look at that knee." an attendant said.

Frank climbed into the ambulance, barely making it between the pain and the fatigue. The attendant started to tend to Helen as the ambulance siren started to wail. Frank held her hand, rubbing the top of it as he had when they were at Rules.

"What do you mean he's gone?" Wiley shouted into the phone.

"I mean, sir, that there was an air raid and I took cover and he didn't. I found his crutches but there's no sign of the general." The driver replied, nervously.

"Find him, that's an order." Wiley shouted again.

"Yes, sir." The driver replied, saluting the telephone.

The ambulance rolled up to the hospital. It was a mob scene. Over one hundred people had been injured in the bombing, twenty three dead, from a group of twenty five planes. Helen was carried from the ambulance with Frank in slow pursuit and taken into a curtained area. Frank leaned against a wall, his left leg over his right one, sweat pouring down his face. An attendant walked by and looked at his grey face and tattered trousers.

"We have another one here." He yelled. "Just relax, general, I've got you."

Frank looked at the young man in confusion. The pain in his knee was taking over and he gave in to the darkness, sliding to the floor.

"Major Stovall, 918th." Harvey answered the phone.

"Yes sir, do you have a General Savage stationed there?" a male voice asked.

"Yes, General Savage leads the 918th Bombardment Group." Harvey replied.

"I'm Dr. Timothy Farlow. I have General Savage here at my hospital in Brighton." Dr. Farlow said.

"How is he?" Harvey asked, standing quickly.

"His knee is quite bad. He was caught out on the street during the air raid. I gather he damaged it before, but now it's become infected." Dr. Farlow replied.

"Should I have the base doctor call you?" Harvey asked.

"Yes, I'll give you my number. In the meantime, he's very agitated. Can you send someone here to handle him? I don't like keeping him sedated."Dr. Farlow asked.

"I'm confident someone will be along within the hour." Harvey replied.

He took Dr. Farlow's number as well as the address of the hospital. Hanging up he thought about the next phone call.

"General Crowe, Major Stovall calling. General, I believe you were looking for General Savage?" Harvey started.

He gave Wiley his information and hung up the phone. Picking up the phone he called Kaiser.

"Frank is in Brighton at a hospital. I need you to liaise with the physician there." Harvey said, briefly.

"Of course," Kaiser said, taking the number down.

"Ah, Frank. What happened?" Wiley said, more to himself, as he approached Frank's sleeping form.

They had restrained him and his left leg was elevated. The sheet that covered his torso did not cover his leg, so Wiley saw first hand the angry bruises and blood stains on the bandages. Frank started to toss and turn beneath the restraints. He opened his eyes and shouted.

"Helen, Helen!"

"Easy Frank, she's sleeping. Take it easy." Wiley said, quietly.

"Wiley, how is she? They won't tell me." Frank said, his eyes dark blue.

"All right, I'll go find out for you. But you need to be quiet and get well. You didn't do me any favours playing hero this morning." Wiley said, squeezing Frank's shoulder.

"Yeah, okay, I won't say a word until you get back." Frank said, closing his eyes again.

Wiley walked out of the room and approached the nursing station.

"Can you tell me about Helen Morse's condition?" Wiley asked.

"Who are you?" the nurse asked.

"I am her fiancé's best friend. He is in another room here and is asking about her." Wiley said, flexing the truth.

"Let me get Dr. Farlow. One moment please." She replied.

Five minutes later, a young blonde man with tortoise-shell glasses approached.

"General Crowe, thanks for coming. I'm Tim Farlow. Let's go over here to talk." Dr. Farlow said, leading the way to a remote waiting room.

"Doctor, Frank wants to know how she is." Wiley said.

"She has a concussion, a laceration on her chest, but her more life threatening problem has been with her for several years." Dr. Farlow said.

"What do you mean?" Wiley asked, cocking his eyebrow.

"I mean she has acute anemia. An injury like this could have killed her simply because she doesn't have a lot of red blood cells to begin with. Fortunately, we caught it and have transfused her. But she'll be here a week now just to get her red blood cell count to normal." Dr. Farlow replied.

"At the end of the day, she'll be all right, but it will take some time, is that it?" Wiley asked.

"Yes, general, that's it. So if you can calm your boy so I don't have to sedate him, we'll all sleep better, I think." Dr. Farlow said.

"Fine. When can Frank be released?" Wiley asked.

"Tomorrow, probably but I don't think he'll go." Dr. Farlow remarked.

"Let me work on him a bit." Wiley replied.

"Thank you, sir." Dr. Farlow replied.

"No, thank you, doctor." Wiley said, shaking his hand.

Wiley walked into Frank's room and found him sound asleep. He loosened his tie and sat down in the chair next to Frank's bed. He was asleep in minutes.

"Wiley? How is she?" Frank asked, waking him up.

"Concussion, chest laceration, and badly anemic. So she'll be here for a week until they can stabilize her red blood levels. Ultimately she will be fine." Wiley said, sitting up to look at him.

"Thank God," Frank whispered.

"You, on the other hand, are a wreck. Your knee is infected so they have had to open all of the stitches and clean it. You are now one week behind in your recovery, so I am less than pleased." Wiley said, trying to look stern and annoyed.

"Guess I should just catch up on some sleep, then." Frank replied, fighting to keep his eyes open.

"Yeah, that's exactly what you should do. I'll look in on you tomorrow." Wiley said, reaching for his hand and squeezing it.

May 31, 1943

"Where is she?" Frank asked, leaning on his cane in frustration.

Moments later, a wheelchair rounded the corner and in it sat Helen with a small smile.

"I wanted to walk but they said it was policy." She said.

"Yeah, they said the same thing to me." Frank said, smiling.

"God, I have missed you." Helen said, standing.

Frank took a step forward and melted into her, feeling her body against his.

"I have some leave coming up, let's go home." Frank said, putting his right arm around her, after switching his cane to his left hand.

"God, I have waited a long time for you to say that." Helen said.

They walked out of the hospital to Frank's waiting staff car. He helped her get settled before limping to the left side and getting in himself.

Forty five minutes later, the driver pulled up to Helen's hotel. Frank got out slowly and walked around the rear of the car to open the door for her. His driver smiled in the mirror, not moving from his seat. Frank shut the door and the car drove off. Helen put her left arm around his waist as Frank started up the three steps to the front door. Reaching the landing he turned to her and kissed her passionately.

"You look tired. I think a hot bath would do wonders." Helen said, seductively.

Remembering back to their last shared bath, he smiled.

"I agree, but this time, let's get a bite to eat beforehand, so we're not disturbed." Frank said, looking into her hazel eyes.

"We definitely don't want to be disturbed." Helen said, leaning closer.

Frank kissed her gently but then intensified it, feeling her response. They broke and looked at each other again with a kind of hunger before entering the building and climbing the long staircase to her room.

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