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Across The Threshold by Jack Bode
Chapter 4

As we turned into the driveway of Medical Field Station No. 2, Narvik, I could see Major Pershing, Lieutenant Baird and most of the staff standing outside the house. As always, Bill Johnson drove at a breakneck speed. He headed straight for the building. In front of the entrance he jammed on the brakes. The medical staff scattered. Johnson grinned as he cut the engine. Grabbing his Sten gun he jumped to the ground and took up a position at the right front of the Landrover. Litvak stayed in the back behind the machine gun. I also jumped down, my submachine gun raised.

Major Pershing came over.

“What are you doing back here?” he asked. “Do you have any idea what all the shooting was about down the road?”

I moved to the front of the vehicle as well. Pershing stopped a couple of steps behind me. I took a careful look around the clearing. I could not see any enemy patrols. I lowered my gun and slipped the safety catch back on.

“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 finger.

“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.”

“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 around.”

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 off.

“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.

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