Recovery – An Alternative Ending to the Story (continued from Part 1)
Based on the ABC Television Series: Combat!
Story copyright 1999 by Terry Pierce
(This piece was something I wrote for a couple of fellow Combat writers I was about to meet face-to-face back in ’99, just after I’d posted Recovery, Part 1, on my Purple Hearts website. Recently stumbling across the story again, I decided to re-post it here.)
Bittenhurst and Schweizer heard the sound of a vehicle coming up the track leading from the road to the cottage. Surprised, they glanced at each other. Could it be that Captain Nussbaum had called for a backup? Straightening up and grimacing at the thought of more SS men hanging around, they prepared for the worst.
They weren’t prepared to see an American jeep.
It roared to a stop just inside the clearing. Three female GIs sitting inside stowed away maps, sunglasses, and purses. The Germans, stunned, watched in silence as the woman in the front passenger’s seat gracefully climbed out of the vehicle and began to make her way toward the side of the house.
Deciding he and Schweizer couldn't both be hallucinating, Bittenhurst finally found his voice. “Halt!” he cried, raising his rifle and looking to his partner for help.
Schweizer, also confused, only raised his eyebrows and shrugged.
The woman turned toward Bittenhurst and, looking annoyed, put her hands on her hips. “Yeah, buddy? You got a problem?”
“Well, I, uh…” He wasn’t sure what to say next. Nobody’d bothered to tell him what to do in a situation like this. Crossing a minefield? Yeah. Engaging a tank? Yeah. Handling an assertive woman? No. Man, the things a war made you deal with…
“Yes? What is it?” the woman urged. “Speak up, Mac! I’m in a hurry.” She called to her companions, “Am I right, girls?”
The two gals in the jeep nodded and called back, “Yup, you’re right, Filly.” Anze, at the wheel, twisted the cap off a bottle of Diet Coke while Bayo, sitting behind her, returned her attention to a copy of Mad Magazine.
Filly eyeballed the sentries and, impatient, finally flung up her hands and turned away.
“Now, wait a minute, lady.” Bittenhurst struggled for words. “Hold on just a darned second there, will ya?” He cupped a hand around his mouth and yelled, “Hey, Cap’n Nussbaum! Will you come out here a minute?”
Schweizer took a few steps in the direction of the jeep, smiling at Anze. She noticed his attention and smiled coyly back. But at the sound of a door opening, they both turned toward the house.
A tall man in an immaculate uniform stepped out. “What is it now, Bittenhur…?” The officer stopped speaking and stared at the women. Three more soldiers behind him stuck their heads out of the doorway, goggle-eyed.
“Oh, hiyas!” Filly said brightly. She moved forward and, looking Nussbaum up and down, whistled appreciatively. “Well, well, well. Ain’t you the snappy dresser?”
Nussbaum was flabbergasted. Speechless, he allowed his mouth to drop open but didn’t manage to accomplish much more than that.
“Oh now, don’t you worry about us none, big guy,” Filly said, noticing his expression and sashaying her way closer. “We ain’t anyone you gotta get worked up about. We’ll be out of your hair in just a minute. Ain’t that right, Anze?”
Anze, having returned her attention to Schweizer, rested her chin in her hands, elbows on the steering wheel. “That’s right, Filly.”
Nussbaum, completely rattled but trying his best to maintain some semblance of dignity, nervously cleared his throat. “Well, what is it that you want?”
“Who? Me?” Filly jerked a thumb at her chest. “You mean you can’t guess?” She shook her head in disbelief. “I’m the Filly. I’m here to recover one Sergeant Saunders of the Armed Forces of the United States. You oughta know that. Why else would I make an appearance in a story? Sheez…” She looked him over again, this time as though examining an odd specimen of bug. “Anyway, you seen ‘im?”
“Sergeant…?” Nussbaum tried to process this information but was really having a hard time of it. “You mean…an American? Around here?”
“Yeah, I mean an American. Around here.” Filly turned back toward Anze and Bayo and gave them a ‘for cryin’ out loud, what’s the matter with this guy?’ look. They nodded sympathetically, and Filly looked back at Nussbaum. “What didja think I meant?” Exasperated, she folded her arms across her chest and waited for him to get his act together.
“Well, I, uh…that is to say…”
Nussbaum glanced desperately at his men for help, but they seemed as lost and bewildered as he. That is, all except for Schweizer who was now leaning on the hood of the jeep and busily engaging in some serious eye contact with Anze.
“So, what’s your name, soldier?” she asked, batting her eyelashes at him.
He grinned foolishly. “In this story, it’s Schweizer. But my real name’s Paul.”
“Paul,” she purred. “Paul…?”
“Busch.” He scuffed the ground with the toe of a boot. “Paul Busch.”
“Paul Busch. Well, now! Ain’t that nice?” She turned around to Bayo. “Don’t you think that’s a nice name?”
Bayo didn’t look up from her magazine. “Sure, Anze. That’s a nice name.” She snapped her gum and turned another page.
Anze smiled at Paul. “So, are you from around here, sport?”
Nussbaum, speaking to Filly, interrupted them. “Now look, lady, I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing here, but…”
“But what?” Filly gave him a disdainful look. “You gonna try to make trouble?” She called to the jeep, “Hey, girls! Whattaya think about this guy making trouble?”
Anze smiled apologetically at Paul. “Excuse me a minute, sweetie,” she said as she raised the M1 at her side to aim it at Nussbaum.
Bayo, still engrossed in her magazine, unsheathed and brandished a bayonet.
The Germans gave one another fearful looks.
“Uh, yes. I think we get…how do you Americans say it?…the picture.” Nussbaum tugged at his collar and then swept out his hand in a show of accommodation. “So since you’re obviously a very busy woman with a lot of things to take care of, I’ll make certain we just, um, keep out of your way.” He smiled weakly. “Okay, uh…Miss?”
“Well, now. Ain’t you the gentleman?” Filly beamed and, deciding to show she could be as friendly as the next guy, looked past him, at the cottage. “And you’ve got yourself a nice little place here too. Yes, indeed, a nice little place. But lemme give you a little decorating advice -- it could use some fixing up. Some cleaning and a paint job maybe. And adding a few flowers wouldn’t hurt it none either. Yeah, that’d be nice…a few flowers.”
Glancing over her shoulder, she shouted, “Hey, Bayonet. What kind of flowers do you think they oughta plant? Geraniums?”
Bayo finally looked up. Studying the area in front of the cottage, she took in the large, gangly shrubs and overhanging trees. Returning to her magazine, she mumbled into its pages, “Nope. Too shady. Impatiens.”
Filly turned back to Nussbaum, smiling sweetly. “You’ll have to excuse Bayonet. She’s not usually this unfriendly. It’s just that she ain’t too fond of Nazis, I guess. You know, they just sort of make her,” Filly searched for the right word, “nauseated.” She winked at him and turned to leave.
“Oh, well…yes, I can see how that might happen.” Nussbaum bit his lip, looking uncertain. Then realizing Filly was departing, he called, “Say, you don’t think you’ll be very long taking care of business, do you?”
“Oh, no, Cap’n.” She waved him off. “Like I was tellin’ you, we’ll be out of your hair in a minute.”
Nussbaum and his men exchanged relieved looks just before he beat a hasty retreat back into the house.
Filly, meanwhile, stepped over the glass littering the ground beneath the cottage’s broken side window, hoping she wouldn’t scuff her boots. She was amazed that the krauts seemed to lack the most basic common sense. After all, they couldn’t leave a broken window unfixed. If they did, they’d wind up with all kinds of spiders in the house. “Geesh,” she muttered, “how’d we get into a war with such idiots?”
She reached the backyard and studied the trees. Patting the hair showing beneath her helmet into place, she called, “All right, doll-face! I know you’re around here somewhere. Come on out! Mama’s here and ready to take you home!”
A few moments later, an incredulous male voice answered from the woods. “Filly? Is that you?”
“You bet your sweet Tommy it is!” she whooped. “Come on out, hon!”
Saunders appeared from behind a clump of leafy bushes and grinned broadly. “Why, it is you, baby! For a second, I thought I was dreaming.” He reached the wall surrounding the yard and hopped over it. “How’d you know where to find me?”
“Some chick named Terry knew where you were.” Filly raised her arms as he came close. “But that’s not important, love. What’s really important is that we’re together, never to be parted, forever embracing, loving and being loved, until the stars forsake the heavens and…”
“You’ve been reading those romance novels again, haven’t you, honey?” Saunders interrupted, pulling her close.
Filly pulled back. “Well, I wouldn’t have to if you’d come home once in a while.”
She gave him a pouty look, and he brushed a stray lock of hair from her cheek.
“I know,” he said. “It’s just that the lieutenant…”
“I don’t care about the lieutenant.” Filly tapped her toe on the grass, suddenly sounding cross. “I care about you and me.” She reached forward and, grabbing his arm, tugged him forward. “So will you just come on?”
He allowed her to pull him around the side of the house. When the two appeared in the front yard, they heard the German sentries gasp.
“Hey, Cap’n!” Bittenhurst shouted, uncertainly raising his rifle again. “I think you’d better come out here and get a look at this!”
“Listen up, Bittenherr,” Filly said. “If you don’t wanna die, you’d better…”
“Whatever. The point is, you’re gonna get a bellyful of lead if you don’t…
The door of the cottage squeaked open barely wide enough to emit Captain Nussbaum’s head.
“Yes? What is it now, Bittenhurst?” Nussbaum dabbed at his face with a lace hankie.
Bittenhurst jerked a thumb in Saunders’ direction. “She was right, boss. There really was an American back there.”
Nussbaum swiveled his head around to see the sergeant. Instantly, he looked concerned. He pushed the door all the way open and stepped outside.
“Now look, Miss,” he said to Filly while mopping his neck with the hankie. “I don’t want to be a pain but, really, if there’s an American, uh…guy…in our neck of the woods, we’re supposed to haul him in. You know…orders and such.”
Filly’s eyes narrowed as she slid a protective arm around Saunders’ waist. “Does it have to be a particular American or could it be any American?”
Nussbaum responded instantly. “Oh, no, no, no! Not a particular one. Any one would do.”
He glanced at the men around him. They all nodded vigorously, chorusing, “Yes, yes’s!” and “That’d be just fine’s!”
“Good.” Filly extended a hand to check her manicure. “Because there’s another one you can have who’s in the backyard. All ya gotta do is fish him out of the well.”
“Filly!” Saunders said, surprised. “How could you?”
Filly reached over and pulled him close. “Now think about it, doll,” she whispered into his ear. “Who’ll suffer more once they get Kirby out? Kirby? Or the krauts?” She released him and patted him on the rear.
Thinking about how Kirby could be a royal pain in th…well, this author’s really much too polite to actually say what Saunders was thinking…the sergeant soon caught her drift. “Oh, yeah. I see what you mean, baby.” He leaned in and bussed her on the cheek. “Like I’m always telling everyone, you’re absolutely brilliant.”
Filly squeezed him and looked at Nussbaum expectantly. “Well?” she demanded. “Would that be satisfactory?”
“Oh, yes! Sure…sure.” Nussbaum, who’d been trying to edge his way back into the cottage, straightened up, clicked his heels together, and bowed. “Now if you’ll just excuse me, I have some urgent business to attend to…inside!”
With that, he fled into the house.
Not knowing what to do next, the other Germans continued to stare at the Americans. Filly, rolling her eyes, quickly took care of that.
“Well? What’re you lookin’ at? There’s a guy in the well back there that you’re supposed to do something about. Beat it!”
The Germans tripped over themselves trying to make their getaways. Saunders and Filly strolled arm in arm toward the jeep. Reaching it, they discovered Anze deep in conversation with Paul, and Bayonet rolling up and slipping her magazine into her jacket.
Filly smiled. “All right, let’s look alive, girls. It’s time to get out of here.” She raised her eyebrows and, pointing at Paul, addressed Anze. “You bringing him with?”
Anze looked from Paul to Filly and back again. Staring dreamily into his eyes, she said, “If it’s okay with you…”
Filly wasn’t sure if Anze was addressing Paul or herself, but she answered for them both. “Sure. It’s okay. Just tell him to lose the helmet and jacket, huh? We don’t need anyone takin’ potshots at us once we get near our lines.” She turned to Bayo. “And shove over, okay, hon? We gotta get in there too.”
Bayo moved over so that Filly and Saunders could climb aboard, but glancing left and right she exclaimed, “Hey, now wait just a minute!”
“Where’s my guy? I don’t see my guy anywhere.” She gave Saunders a pointed look. “I thought he was supposed to be with you.”
Saunders blinked, his palms suddenly sweaty. “Well, you know, it’s just that I, uh, sort of had to…”
“Now what did you do with him?” Bayo, clearly irritated, gave Filly a ‘can’t you do anything with this guy?’ look.
Saunders also turned to Filly, helpless.
“Uh-uh,” Filly told him. “You’re on your own on this one, doll. You should’ve known she’d be ticked.”
Even Anze nodded her agreement.
Saunders sighed, slumping into his jacket. “Well, it’s just that I had to send him off through the woods…you know, to…”
Bayonet cut him off. “What? Again? You do that in every Bayo fanfic! What’s the matter with you?” She gave him a dirty look and stood to jump out of the jeep. “You’d think he was a lumberjack. A gnome. Paul “Caje”…Bunyon!” She landed in the mud and stomped her way toward the back of the house. “Always the trees, for cryin’ out loud. Every time I wanna see him, this one’s got him out wandering through a forest. So here I go again, on another hike through the flora and fauna, the mosquitoes and the poison ivy, trying to find him. And I ask you, why? Why do I always have to do this? Because the sergeant can’t seem to get it through his thick skull that maybe Caje, for once, would like to do his soldiering in a village. Stay in a nice, clean hotel, have dinner at a café. Where he and I could order aperitifs and sample foie gras and…”
The last they saw of her, Bayonet was still heading for the back of the cottage, muttering all the way.
Filly shrugged and turned to Anze. “Might as well get it in gear, girl.” She snuggled up against Saunders who looked conspicuously relieved. “After all, we’ve got reservations at Chez Duval.”
Anze nodded and smiled beatifically at Paul. He reached over and put a hand on top of hers as she twisted the key in the ignition and started the jeep. Hitting the gas pedal, she drove down the dirt track leading away from the cottage. In moments, the vehicle disappeared, leaving nothing behind but a cloud of dust.
And Kirby in the well.
Captain Nussbaum wouldn’t sleep well that night and would wake up with one serious headache in the morning.