“What happened to your
car?” an orderly asked from the rear of the vehicle. Both Litvak and
Johnson ignored him. They were alertly scanning the rim of the clearing.
“ We ran into a Jerry patrol,” I said in reply to the major’s question.
“ We brought you three casualties.”
“Where are they?”
“In the back of the truck.”
Pershing walked around the Landrover. He stopped briefly to glance at
the bullet holes in its side and then looked into the back.
“Duncan, Williams,” he called out. The two orderlies came over.
Petra Baird, the nurse, took a few steps closer to me.
“Are you all right?” she asked. Her voice sounded strained.
“I think so,” I replied, “except for the bandage on my finger. You’ll
have to replace it.”
Now that all the excitement was over my left hand felt as cold as ice.
It was still wet and muddy and a dull ache was lodged at the tip of my
“Two of the prisoners are dead,” Major Pershing said from behind the
vehicle. And talking to the two orderlies, he continued: “Let’s get the
third one inside.”
“Were you ambushed?” the major inquired as he came face to face with me.
“You might say that,” I replied.
“I thought that we were securely behind our lines. What are the Jerries
doing here?” He muttered some more as he went into the building,
followed by Duncan and Williams. The two orderlies carried the injured
German who had regained consciousness and groaned loudly. I followed
next and Petra made up the rear.
“What happened to your jacket?” the nurse asked as I mounted the stairs.
“My jacket? What’s wrong with it.”
“The left sleeve and the collar. There are pieces missing.”
“Are there? I guess I was a bit clumsy in the woods”
Petra said no more. Silently she followed me.
As I stepped inside the house I saw two orientals standing by the table.
“In there,” Major Pershing said, indicating the adjacent room with his
head. The two orderlies carried the German casualty into the room. The
young soldier had lost consciousness again. The major followed them,
shutting the door behind him.
“Do you have Chinese here?” I inquired of the nurse.
“One. Dr. Sun Lee. He is a surgeon, and a very good one. He is a
civilian volunteer. I meant to say that he has not taken any combat
training. But he could not save Corporal Grainger.”
“He was the soldier brought in by Corporal Mellaby as you left.”
“Oh, him. Did he die?”
The nurse nodded.
There was a brief pause.
“Come over here to the table,” Petra Baird said to me. The other
oriental, a young woman, was standing near the window, gazing a the
dwarf birch trees and aspens outside. I put my submachine gun on the
table, took off my parka and sat down on the chair. Suddenly the door,
which the major had closed behind himself only a moment ago, opened and
one of the orderlies came out.
“Major Pershing needs you at once,” he said to the oriental woman
standing by the window.
“What about the girl?” I asked Petra after she had left the room.
“Oh, she is American, Louise Yasuda. She is also a nurse.”
“She looks Chinese to me.”
“Japanese. She is our interpreter. She speaks German. Here, turn
Petra cut the wet, dirty bandage off.
“What did you do with your left hand to get it so sullied and wet?”
“I could not think of a reason to come back here to see you, so I put it
into a puddle of muddy water.”
Petra blushed. She took my arm firmly under hers and washed the dirt
“This time be more careful. Yo u could have gotten killed out there.”
Five minutes later I was ready to leave again.
“Thank you very much,” I said to her, stroking her hair lightly. She did
not pull back.
“Here, take your mitten, but dry it out first before you put it on.” She
handed it to me.
I held it between thumb and forefinger. It was wet and soiled.
Petra looked at me. She shook her head in mock exasperation and then
walked over to the far wall, rummaged around in a pile of old clothes
and came back with a dry, woollen mitten. “On second thought you’d
better take this one. Leave the other one here. It’ll be a few weeks
before you can wear anything other than a mitten and by then it’ll be
warm enough to go without.”
“Thank you very much.” I put on my parka, took my gun and walked to the
door. Petra followed me. For a long moment I looked at her. Once more I
lightly brushed her hair with the thumb of my left hand. She stood right
close to me. On impulse I bent down a little and kissed her on her
cheek. And then I briskly went outside.
“Saddle up,” I shouted at Johnson and Litvak.
With a giant leap the sergeant was behind the wheel and started the
Landrover. I climbed into the left front seat again. Revving up the
engine he let out the clutch. The vehicle shot forward while Johnson
turned the steering wheel hard to the right. The car slid around on the
loose gravel and then we were heading for the road. Behind me Corporal
Litvak held on to this machine gun for dear life.
Just before we left the driveway, turning into the track we called the
road, I caught a glimpse of the front entrance of the medical station.
Petra was standing there, her left hand raised in a wave.
Then we were on the bumpy trail full of potholes. We reached our
position in record time. As Johnson jammed on the brakes in the thicket
we used to conceal the vehicle I saw Major Yonge. He was waiting for me
at the beginning of the path which led to our shelter.