The Dirty Dozen: To The Last Gasp: Book 1 Part 3

At 1:50, Cutter, Leeds, Vern and Feke slipped into the compound. They were dressed in German uniforms but it didn’t matter. There were no guards at the front gate to stop them. No guards patrolling the perimeter.

“It’s gotta be a trap,” Leeds whispered harshly as they sprinted around the side of the massive house. “Where are all the guards? When we came in before, there were two on the gate and two more patrolling the front yard.”

“It’s mighty strange,” Cutter agreed, but he kept moving forward. When they arrived at the back door, he ordered the men to split up on either side, weapons at the ready. If they were spotted, Feke would try talking his way past. If that didn’t work, then they’d have to take other measures.

They all tensed at the sound of approaching footsteps, then the back door opened to reveal the last person they’d ever suspect of being their contact – Cort Mueller, the garrison commander.

“You have come from Richenhouse?” He asked in German and Feke replied with the proper code phrase.

“Good. But before I take you to your man, you must agree to one thing,” Mueller said in perfect English. “There will be no killing. I will walk you in and out and you will not be stopped. Is that understood?”

“If we don’t have to, we won’t,” said Cutter. “Now let’s get moving.”

Mueller hesitated and that made the American’s exchange nervous glances. Was this a set up? Or maybe he was about to change his mind?

“Something wrong?” Feke asked in German.

“Nein. Follow me.” Mueller led them out of the kitchen and down a long hallway. He hesitated again, just outside of a specific door, then he pulled a silenced Luger out of his holster.

Vern saw the move and almost made a grab for the gun but Cutter stopped him.

Mueller’s hand was shaking. “Forgive me, Lord for what I am about to do,” he mumbled, then to the Americans he whispered, “do not reveal yourself until I’ve cleared the guard from the room.”

“As long as you do it fast,” said Cutter. They were all anxious to get inside, to see if this was a fool’s errand or the successful rescue mission they’d hoped for.

Mueller opened the door with his left hand, the gun pointing downward as he stepped inside.

Cutter followed and instantly whirled to face the other three. With only a look, he commanded them to be quiet and stay in control. Tough to do with Danko hanging by his bound hands, bloody welts covering every inch of flesh they could see.

Next to him was a young woman. She was nude, her chest and thighs marked with oozing red patches. Burns.

There were two men in the small room, one foot soldier and one SS officer.

“Was geschieht?” The officer asked more curious than concerned.

Muller ignored the question. He gave the soldier an order in German. Feke nodded to the others that what he said was alright as the soldier saluted and left the room.

“You’ve made a very big mistake, Kruger,” Mueller said in English. “Olivia is not the traitor. She is not the one who helped the Allies destroy the radar room. I am.” He waited the few seconds it took for the surprise to register on the man’s face, then Mueller put a bullet through the man’s leg, then another through his arm, and one more mid-torso.

With no more need to maintain their disguise, Vern and Cutter went to Danko, Leeds and Feke to the girl. Both prisoners moaned in response to the jostling it took to cut them loose, but neither was fully coherent. In his confusion, Danko tried to struggle away but stopped when he recognized Cutter’s hillbilly drawl.

“We’re here to get you out, Lieutenant. Not going home without you. Just gotta hold on a little longer.” He helped hoist Danko up on to Vern’s shoulder all too aware of how it must have felt, rough fabric rubbing across bruised flesh.

The woman, who was now wearing Leed’s jacket, went over Feke’s shoulder.

“That’s it. Get us outta here,” Cutter said sharply, but Mueller didn’t move. He was fixated on the bleeding officer. Spouting off word after word of angry German. He paused only long enough to tell Cutter to go.

“You need to come with us. Your cover here’ll be blown after this, you can’t stay.”

Mueller wasn’t listening, couldn’t listen with the rage that was building up inside of him. He stepped over the officer’s body and picked up a flat metal rod with a wooden handle on the end. It resembled a knife sharpening steel, except that it was plugged into the wall via a long cord.

It wasn’t until he lay the metal across the officer’s face that they all realized what it was – the instrument that had been used to torture the young woman.

Mueller clamped his hand over the other man’s mouth to stifle his screams as the iron burned away the skin on his cheek.

“Sarge!” Feke snapped as he checked the hallway for trouble. “We gotta go now!”

“Go,” Cutter ordered, then he grabbed Mueller by the back of the coat and yanked him away from the near dead officer. “You make sure we get away clear, that was part of the deal,” he said, hoping honor would win out over rage.

“Yes, of course.” Mueller’s eyes lit on Olivia, slumped over Feke’s shoulder and it helped him break through the haze. He moved in front of the group, checked the hall then led them back toward the kitchen.

“Where is everybody?” Leeds asked as they continued to move unchallenged.

“I sent most of my men to defend the bridge at St. Sebastian. There was a rumor of an impending Allied attack.”

“I thought we were the only unit in the area,” Vernon said, truly not understanding what Mueller had done to aide them.

“No more chatter,” Cutter snapped. “We’re not out of here yet.”

But there was no reason for concern. They made it back to the cars without running into a single guard. It was a refreshing change, but still it felt weird, like they were walking into a trap that hadn’t yet been sprung.

Vern and Cutter got Danko into the backseat of the first car, then the younger man took the wheel.

Leeds got into the back of the second car with the woman while Feke went up front to drive. Before the doors closed, Mueller leaned into the vehicle and set a gentle kiss on the woman’s lips.

“Olivia, liebchen. I was only trying to protect you. I thought if she knew the truth, it would be dangerous for her and instead I put her right in the line of fire.” He kissed her again and for a moment it looked like he was going to get in the car but when Feke insisted that it was time to go, he backed out. “Tell her, I loved her with all my heart.” Then he slammed the door shut.

Vern was already on the move in the front car, so Feke hit the gas the moment the German was clear.


Cort Mueller watched the car drive away, part of him glad to know that Olivia was on her way back home to London, but part of him aching for her already. He wandered slowly back to the house his mind going back over the events of the last few months, wondering what he could have done differently.

He knew now that he should have sent her away. Should have told her he hated her if it would make her leave. Instead, he chose to walk the line, keeping her close while pretending to be something he wasn’t. Another few weeks and she might have chosen to leave. He had seen the disappointment on her face once too often, whenever he’d sided with Kruger or the any of the more aggressive men of the Reich.

He didn’t regret helping the Allies. He’d joined the Germans to fight for his homeland back when he thought they were in the right. Once he realized his mistake, he knew he could do more good maintaining his position than fleeing to the West.

The only thing he did regret was not being more careful with Olivia. He knew Kruger was suspicious of her, but he never suspected the man would go this far. It was likely that she thought he’d agreed with Kruger and that hurt the most. He could have gone with her, saved himself, but he knew she’d never trust him again.

No. For him. The war was over.

Mueller sat down on the front step of the old house, put the gun to his own head and pulled the trigger.


They drove past the abandoned house that had been their base for the past week heading instead for a barn in the country that sat at the edge of a dead field. A field large enough to land a troop carrier that would whisk them all back to London just after dawn.

They were nearly there when Danko started twisting and fussing in the back seat. Then, as if suddenly realizing his hands were free, he dug his fingers into the bandage that was wrapped around his eyes and tried to pull it away.

“How about we don’t do,” Cutter said, as he guided Danko’s hands away from his face. “We’ll be back in the fold real soon and then Lebec can get a good look at you, alright?”

Danko tried to respond but the words got stuck in his dry throat.

Now that Cutter could fix. He retrieved a canteen from the pack on the front seat, uncapped it then held it to Danko’s lips. “I know you’re probably real thirsty, but let’s drink it like it’s whiskey,” he said, trying hard to keep the Lieutenant from taking too much too fast. “Gulp it all down and you’ll end up with an aching belly on top of everything else.” He took the canteen away and felt a twinge in his gut when Danko reached out to grab it back. Blind as he was, he missed the mark completely leaving Cutter to feel like a school yard bully with another boy’s lunchbox.

Danko swung his arms out to the sides. His left hand hit Cutter, his right caught the passenger side door. “Where’s Olivia?”

“She’s just fine, she’s in the other car with Leeds and Feke.”

“She took care of us.” Danko shifted then moaned as his bare back made contact with the leather seat. “She stayed with Goldman while he bled out. Couldn’t save him but he wasn’t alone.”

The car hit a big enough bump to knock Danko off balance. Instinctively, he threw his arms out to catch himself and then suddenly he was holding his ribs and gasping for breath.

Cutter almost snapped at Vern about his bad driving but he knew the boy was doing the best he could. A moonless night and old rutted roads was a lousy combination, but on the upside, they were on their way home. A few more hours, that’s all that was standing between them and a chance to unwind.

First things first. He helped Danko into a less awkward position then ran his hands over the other man’s ribs. Nothing poking out. That was good. Probably fractured in a couple of places but Lebec could take care of that with a stiff bandage. Though he didn’t show it, he was mostly worried about Danko’s eyes. What if the damage was permanent? That would mean sitting out the rest of the war, which would be a good thing for anyone but Danko or Cutter himself. They were both career army men. This is what they did. This was what defined them. Without the service, Cutter suspected they’d both go mad.

“When we get back, we gotta have a talk about Harrison,” he said, trying to take both of their minds off Danko’s pain. “That boy is not a team player and I’m not too excited about going out with him again. I know he’s new and all, but I swear he spends more time thinking about himself than Farrell spends in front of a mirror.”

Danko laughed a little then moaned from the pain it caused in his ribs.

“Shit,” Cutter cursed. “There ain’t I can talk about that don’t make you hurt. Guess I oughta just keep quiet.”

“No. Talk. Anything.”

“Anything, huh? Did I ever tell you about the time my sister tried to milk a bull? Girl ain’t got the sense God gave weeds.”

Again Danko laughed, but Cutter kept on talking anyway and ten minutes in Danko was asleep . . . or maybe out cold, either way he wasn’t feeling the pain and right now, that was the best he could hope for.


Lebec and Malloy ran out to meet the two cars as they rolled up to the barn.

“Did you do it?” Lebec asked Vern, then he saw Danko in the back. “You did it. You got him out.”

Cutter nearly knocked over the Frenchman when he opened the car door and climbed out. “He’s gonna need some attention and we got another one for you,” he said, hitching his thumb toward the second car.

“Really? I thought Goldman and Jackson were killed.”

“They were, this is a civilian. She tried to help the Lieutenant and ended up paying for it.”

Malloy opened the door on the passenger side then he got his arms under Danko’s and pulled him and on to a litter. Noting the scars on his back, he laid him face down then called for Vern to help him carry the litter inside.

Feke followed with Olivia in his arms. Cutter, Leeds and Lebec brought up the rear.

“No trouble?” Lebec asked as they walked.

“None, turns out the camp commandant was our informant, so he made sure things went smooth.”

Lebec glanced at the woman in Feke’s arms then turned back to his Sargent. “That’s Mueller’s mistress. The bakery girl pointed her out to me the last time I visited. What happened?” They all stepped inside, safe in the knowledge that two members of the unit were outside guarding the perimeter.

“Near as I can figure, the SS guy thought she was the traitor,” Cutter replied. “Danko said she took care of him and Goldman before he died. That had to make her suspect.”

“Giving aid to the enemy,” Leeds said as he knelt down beside Olivia. “Still, I don’t understand how a man could do something like this to a woman.”

“Woman, children,” Feke spat out the words. “It doesn’t matter to them. They’re like rabid dogs.”

“Did you bandage his eyes,” Lebec asked Cutter, pulling his attention back to Danko.

“No, he was like that when we found him. Can’t imagine . . .he’s been through some real hell in the last 24 hours.”

“Well, it’s over now,” said Lebec, but he busied himself cleaning the wounds on Danko’s back.

Unasked, Feke retrieved the burn kit and some bandages from the medical supplies then started tending to Olivia. They worked in near silence, the other men assisting when needed, fetching water, blankets, a clean shirt for Danko.

Leeds took the German uniform jacket off of Olivia and replaced it with one of his button-up shirts. The shirt tails skimmed over her hips but she was bare below that. Since she wasn’t going to be walking around any time soon, they opted to cover the rest of her with a blanket rather than deal with pants that wouldn’t fit.

Lebec came over once to check their work, then gave her a morphine injection for the pain.

When he went back to his original patient, Danko was semi-awake and fidgeting, fingers digging at the bandage wrap around his eyes.

“Let me do that,” Lebec said, gently pushing his hands away. “I’m going to use scissors to cut the bandages so don’t move.” He cut the gauze at Danko’s right temple, then carefully peeled away the layers and the pads over each lid.

The skin underneath was red and puffy but not as bad as he expected. Danko forced open his sticky eye lids then tried to focus on the face in front of him.

“Farrell, right?”

“In his dreams,” the young actor called back from across the room.

“Please,” Lebec whined, “not even in jest.” He irrigated Danko’s eyes, then checked for foreign matter from the explosion. “I don’t see anything in there, which is good. I’d still like to keep them bandaged until an eye doctor can check you out in London.”

“No,” Danko said weakly. “Blurry’s better than blind. I’ll take my chances.”

“And I can guess what you’re going to say to morphine.”


Lebec rolled his eyes but he knew better than to fight it. “How about some food?”

“That I’ll say yes to.”

Lebec and Vern helped Danko sit then Farrell brought over a can of stew and a cup of coffee.

“All the comforts of home,” Danko joked, but there wasn’t much energy behind the words.


It took every bit of determination he had to lift the coffee cup and the forkfuls of food. He ached he muscles he didn’t know he had and there was a creeping chill in his bones that felt like the onset of the flu. Still, he was hungry and craving caffeine, so he pushed through the pain. Not about to have one of these kids feed him like he was an invalid. They’d do it gladly, but after what he’d gone through, he needed to feel in control of his body again.

That was the worst part about being held captive. The physical pain was horrible, but the mental anguish was worse. Once you realized that you couldn’t scratch an itch, switch position, drink, eat, or attend to any other human need, it closed in on you like a box.

Farrell’s hand suddenly shot toward him catching the coffee cup that he was about to drop.

“Still a little shaky,” Danko said, mostly trying to convince himself that it was no big deal. He picked up the can of food and managed to scoop two forkfuls into his mouth before his hand began to shake with the strain. “Is there a bird coming for us?”

“Should be here just after dawn,” said Lebec, “A couple more hours and we’re out here. Why don’t you rest until then?” Without asking, he took the half-eaten can of stew from Danko’s hands then firmly but gently urged him to lay back down.

Danko wanted to resist just because he could, but it was stupid. He was out of steam and Lebec wasn’t the enemy, no sense forcing the issue but he fought it anyway, just for a few seconds then he was flat on his back with Vern hovering over him as a warning not to try getting up again.

Okay, fine.  They could force him to lay down but they couldn’t force him sleep. He rolled on to his side to take the pressure off his flailed back. There was Olivia, laying on the floor, wrapped in a blanket, Leeds sitting beside her like a watch dog.

What had Kruger called her? His angel of mercy. He had a vague recollection of her standing up to Kruger, berating him for his abuse and look where it got her.

God, his eyes hurt. He closed them.  “How bad off is she?”

If any of them answered he never heard it because moments later, he was sound asleep.


The next time Danko woke up, he was lying down in the belly of a troop transport with an IV in his arm. All the men he could see were asleep except for Feke who was sitting with his back to the wall, knees to his chest, eyes staring up at the roof of the plane.

He couldn’t see Olivia and that gave him a little scare. After all she’d done for him; he couldn’t deal with the idea that they’d left her behind or worse.

“Feke.” That’s what it sounded like in his head but to his ears it sounding like a cat coughing up a hair ball.  Feke brought his gaze down, then pushed up to his feet. He snagged a canteen from a hook on the wall then stepped over sleeping bodies to get to Danko.

“We’re about an hour out,” he said as he helped Danko sit up enough to take a drink. The warm water felt good on his throat but didn’t do anything to relieve the fuzz in his head.

“Drugged me anyway, huh, even though I said not to.”

Feke offered a crocked smile. “The problem is you’re under the misconception that you’re in charge here.”  He helped his CO to another drink then laid him back down on the canvas litter. “You were really hurting once we got this bird in the air so we all voted and agreed to ignore your request.”

Danko would have laughed if he’d had the strength.


“Lebec’s been keeping her sedated, she came around once and was pretty upset so he thought it was best.”

Danko craned his neck to see behind him but all he could see were his men.

“She’s up front,” Feke said, answering his unasked question. “We’re taking good care of her, I promise.”

“No more drugs,” Danko said, or at least he thought he did because it might have been all in his head and then, once again, there was nothing but darkness.


The next time Olivia woke up she was in a hospital. A young, dark-haired man was sitting in the chair by the bed. He had his elbow on the arm of the chair, his hand holding up his head, eyes closed. He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t place him.
Suddenly his head slipped off his hand then he jolted awake. He ran his arm across his mouth, shifted and mumbled, then his eyes met hers. “Hey, you’re awake.”

“Where am I?”

“Military hospital. In London.”

“London? You’re not British.”

“God no. I’m from Chicago. How about you?”

“Richmond, Virginia.”

“Never been there but I hear it’s pretty.” He stood up and came to stand next to the bed. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

“Sorry, no.”

He grabbed his chest and groaned. “You wound me, after I rescued you; I gave you my shirt and everything.”

Olivia looked down at herself and saw only a hospital gown.  When she looked back up at him it clicked. His was the face she’d seen through that pain-filled haze after the rescue.  “The man of my dreams.”

“Now you’re talking. Dylan Leeds.”

“Lieutenant Danko?”

“He’s gonna be fine, they got him in a room down the hall and he’s been driving everyone crazy asking about you.”

Olivia tried to make sense of what he was saying but it was like a puzzle with pieces missing. She closed her eyes because she couldn’t not and when she opened them again the young soldier was gone and there was a nurse taking her temperature.

“Where did he go?’ Olivia asked, vaguely aware that something was missing. . .like, maybe, time. “The guard, where did he go?”

“Guard? You mean Private Leeds?” The nurse said, with a thick Cockney accent. “He’s the one who needs a guard, love. He’s one of Danko’s dirty dozen.” She lifted Olivia’s wrist to check her pulse. “Best to let him be on his way and gone.”

“Dirty dozen?”

“They’re convicts, the lot of them. They’re only out as long as they agree to run suicide missions. Robbers and cutthroats, the Frenchman was in for rape. Even Danko, he tried to kill his superior officer. You don’t want to have anything to do with those boys, love, they’re nothing but trouble.”

Convicts? Killers and rapists? It didn’t fit. These men could have made a clean getaway, but instead they came back to save their captured CO and they had saved her in the process.

The nurse pulled the blanket down to her waist then undid the tie at the neck of Olivia’s hospital gown. “Are you in much pain?”

Olivia looked down at the patchwork of gauze and tape that covered portions of her chest.

“What happened to me?”

“Met up with a nasty Nazi, you did. Burns mostly, running a little fever but you should be right as rain in a few. They’ll be bringing supper round in about an hour. Eat something, it’ll be good for you.” The nurse covered her up again then headed out of the room.

Olivia almost called her back. Almost asked her what would happen once she was discharged from the hospital, but it wasn’t likely she’d know the answer.

It was complicated, after all. Technically she was a civilian, but here she was in a military hospital. They could charge her with treason for helping the Germans. That would mean facing a firing squad. Maybe, since she did what she could to help Danko, they’d go easier on her. Just jail time for the rest of her life.

With that in her head, Olivia fell back into a fitful sleep.


“Finally, a face I recognize,” Olivia said, when Danko came to visit her two days later.

“I can’t really say the same, since this is the first time I’m getting a good look at you.” He’d had fleeting glimpses in the barn and on the plane. But at the time his eyes were still gritty and his brain was clouded by drugs. Now, he could see her clearly and she was even more beautiful than he’d imagined, chestnut brown hair, pale skin, the biggest eyes brown eyes he’d ever seen.

He stepped up to the bed side and fought the urge to take her hand by gripping the bed rail instead. “I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did and I’m sorry that your kindness landed you in Kruger’s sights.”

“I don’t remember a lot of, which I guess is good. What happened to him?”

“He’s dead. Mueller killed him.”

“Cort? I guess Kruger finally pushed him too far. This is going to sound terrible, but I’m glad to know he had a limit. So, you have him in custody? Captain Mueller?”

Danko took a breath to stop himself from speaking too soon. He hadn’t expected this. He figured someone would have told her the whole story. She and Mueller had been lovers, after all. This time he didn’t fight the urge. He took her soft hand and squeezed it in his. “He killed himself. That’s the word we got from the Resistance. A Lieutenant Vanderhaven took over the garrison.”

“Fredrick. He’s a good man.”

The words were startling to hear. Shouldn’t have been though, since she’d spent the last three years living with a German officer. She might have been born American, but she’d chosen the wrong side in the war and for that. . .

Danko cursed silently. He really hadn’t thought this through. He glanced behind him to make sure they were still alone. Since she was the only woman on the ward, she had a room of her own. A converted office from the look of it and not a single MP in sight. So, just a patient, not a prisoner.

He pulled a chair up then sat near the head of the bed. The distance between them so little, he could speak in a half whisper.

“Tell me something. Exactly whose side are you on?”

Danko saw the instant flare of fear in her eyes. Obviously she’d given this more thought than he had.

“I’m not a Nazi. I was in love with Cort. I fell for him when we were both students at Oxford and when he was called home to Germany, I went with him. Not because of the politics, but because I was a smitten young girl and because my father hated him. That was a bonus.”

Danko laughed, thinking of the boys his sister used to date for the express purpose of getting under their father’s skin.

“Honestly, the war was like a story you hear other people tell. I lived with Cort’s family for a while. They were very well off and I was insulated from the truth. When Cort was assigned to head up the garrison in France, I had no idea what it would entail. I was stupid.”

“Love’s like that,” Danko said, well aware of the ridiculous ache he was feeling in his chest. She was a stranger who had come to his aide at a time when he was truly alone and scared. He wasn’t too proud to admit it, out loud or to himself. Anyone who said they weren’t afraid when in the hands of the enemy was lying or insane.

That was part of the reason he felt for her. Technically, she was in the hands of the enemy. An American who had collaborated with the Nazis. She could go to prison for a long time, then again, if she went to prison then he could recruit her as part of his dirty dozen. The men wouldn’t like it. They had a woman on their first mission but she never made it home. Now the men were as superstitious about having a woman on the team as they were about a 13th man.

Not that he could see himself walking her into danger, not after all she’d been through already.

“Listen, the doctor says you’re going to have to stay here for a few more days. In the meantime, I’m going to arrange for someone to come see you from General Worth’s office. He’s my commanding officer and you can trust him. Just. . . ”  God, how could he put this without being treasonous himself? “Just be careful what you say.”

A sound made him whirl. It was a nurse was coming in with a tray of bottles and bandages. His heart skipped a beat, worried about what she might have heard.

“Lieutenant, I’m sorry but you’ll have to leave now.”

“All right.” He took Olivia by the hand and squeezed, the only form of affection he could show in public for a woman he hardly knew.

“Will I see you again?” she asked, a combination of hope and desperation in her voice.

“I’ll try,” was all he could say.  He knew it wouldn’t be soon because Worth already had another assignment planned. He wasn’t ready to get back on the horse but Worth said it couldn’t wait and it wasn’t like he had any choice in the matter. But a mission wasn’t something he could mention to anyone outside of his team. Even if you trusted the person in front of you, the walls had ears. “You concentrate on getting better.” He let go of her hand and stepped away from the bed.  Leaving her in that room was harder than he imagined it would be. He’d spent two days in his own hospital bed thinking about her, hearing her voice every time he closed his eyes.

God damn it, he was falling in love with an image in his head and he had no idea how to stop it.

Danko paused at the door. “Olivia.”

She looked past the nurse and met his eyes.

“It’s going to be alright.” And in his head he added, I promise.


The next day, Olivia’s fever broke and a day after that, she was discharged from the hospital.  When the doctor told her the news, she wasn’t sure how to react. The hospital was a terrible place but prison would be worse. As she waited for the nurse to come remove the IV, she considered her other options. There were none. She didn’t have a home here in London, she didn’t even have papers or a passport, so even if she could bring herself to ask her parents for help, she couldn’t go home to the US.

While she was still pondering what to do, a woman in uniform shows up. She was carrying a garment bag and a small suitcase.

“I’m Rachel Jennings from General Worth’s office. Are you ready to get out of here?”

The woman Danko said he would send. “I guess.”

“I thought you’d be more anxious than that. Are you still in pain?” Rachel draped the garment bag over the chair then zipped it open. “I heard you had to leave everything behind when they pulled you out of France,” she continued even though Olivia hadn’t answered her last question. “I brought you a skirt and blouse, underclothes, shoes. We can go shopping for everything else tomorrow.” Rachel patted the top of the suitcase. “Toiletries in here, a brush, some make-up, I wasn’t sure what you liked so there’s a little of everything.”

Feeling like she’d been caught up in a tornado, Olivia sat up slowly, then slipped her legs over the side of the bed.

Rachel pulled a foundation garment out of the suitcase but put it right back when she saw the bandages under the hospital gown.  “Let’s go with a slip.” She helped Olivia out of the gown and then into a slip with a blouse over that. The skirt was a little trickier, then Olivia sat still in the chair while Rachel fixed her hair and her face.

“What do you know about Lt. Danko and his men,” Olivia asked, realizing that she probably should have led into that more gradually.

“The dirty dozen? They get the job done, I know that.”

“A nurse told me http at they were convicts, even Danko.”

“That’s true, technically,” Rachel said as she jabbed several hairpins into Olivia’s upswept do. “But Danko, that officer he pummeled had ordered a mortar strike on his own men by accident. Dozens killed, more wounded, Danko was lucky to survive. He lost it, went after that fool with a vengeance and for that they stripped him of his rank and sent him to prison. Tell me how that’s fair? One of our most competent field officers and they send him to jail. Thank god for General Worth, though. He pulled Danko out of that cell and gave him a team to command. People call them screw-ups but I’ve seen the results, they ought to call them the incredible dozen.” Rachel stopped then came around in front to admire her work. “Of course, I don’t have to tell you, you saw them in action,”

“Kind of, I was unconscious through most of it.”

A frown crossed Rachel’s face then she touched her fingers to the underside of Olivia’s chin.  “You had a rough time, but now you can rest easy. You’re home and among friends.”

A lovely thought. If  only wished it were true.


A car took her straight to Allied Headquarters, an imposing, fortress-like building that gave her the cold sweats just to see it. Walking in was worse. Rachel said goodbye outside of General Worth’s office where she sat for twenty minutes before an aide showed her in.

“Miss Warner, it’s good to finally meet you.” Worth, a tall, well-worn soldier, waved for her to take a seat on a fussy antique chair that looked out of place in such a strong man’s office. “Would you like a cup of tea?” He picked up a pot from a tea set on the sideboard. “I only drink coffee but every afternoon they bring me a pot of tea. The British.” He poured her a cup even though she hadn’t answered the question.

“I must say, Miss Warner, I was quite surprised when Lt. Danko told me that you were our mysterious benefactor. Who would have suspected the commandant’s mistress of being a spy?”

Spy? Had Danko lied on purpose, or did he really believe the same story that Kruger had believed?

Olivia reached out to take the offered tea cup but her hand was shaking so much he had to set it on the table beside her.

“Why so nervous, Miss Warner?”

“It’s been a very difficult week. I’m not sure you appreciate what I’ve had to endure and now, I suspect you want to interrogate me as well.”

“I’d be a fool not to, but it’s nothing to be concerned about.”

“Because the Allies don’t torture their prisoners?”

Worth went back to the sideboard to pour himself a cup of coffee. “I won’t insult your intelligence by saying that never happens here, but that’s for our enemies, and you’re not the enemy, are you?”

“No, I’m not.” And that was the truth. As she had told Danko, her loyalty had always been to love, not to the Reich.

“Well, that’s that. I’m going to ask a few people to join us and you can tell us everything you can about the Germans and their plans.”

Olivia tried to pick up her tea cup but her hand was still shaking. “And if I don’t know as much as you think I do?””

“I’m sure that won’t be the case.” He smiled but it did little to mask the threat behind the words. She took a breath and finally managed to drink a few sips of tea.  It was warm and familiar and it gave her the strength to ask the question she dreaded most.

“After we talk, General? Then what will become of me?”

His expression betrayed him for only a second, then it was back to poker face. “A woman who risked her life supplying information to the Allies while pretending to be loyal to the Reich is a very valuable asset. I imagine you’d want to stay on here and do what you can to help our troops. We can always use people who speak German and as you’ve spent so much time in the field, you should be particularly adept at translating communications from the front.”

It sounded like a job offer but she knew it was actually a challenge. Worth wasn’t sure what he’d heard was the whole truth. He was baiting her, waiting to see if she balked at the idea of providing information and aide to the Allies.

She didn’t balk. She simply let him talk because in the back of her mind, all she could hear was Danko’s warning. Be careful what you say.

Apparently her future, her whole life, depended on it.


Danko was feeling his age. He could have used a few more days rest before going back out after his ordeal in France, but the war didn’t wait for anyone, certainly not him. Adrenaline and training had gotten him through the mission, but now, sitting here in General Worth’s office for the debriefing, he felt his body coming apart.

“Looks good,” Worth said, eyes scanning the stolen documents and maps. “Did you have much trouble?”

“Two wounded, none killed. That’s a good day in my book.”

“A good day indeed.” Worth collected the documents, stuffed them into a large envelope, then used the phone on his desk to make a call.

Through all of it, Danko sat and waited. He felt as if he’d been dismissed, but the General hadn’t given him the go ahead to leave. He worried that the delay meant there was another mission on deck. That would be a problem. He honestly wasn’t sure he could go back out right away, especially with two of his men down. The truth was, they were all frazzled and they needed a break or someone was going to screw up and get them all killed.

Worth hung up the phone then stood. Danko stood, just short of full attention.

“A job well done, Danko. Give your men my compliments and tell them they’ve earned a 72 hour pass. I’ve reserved a block of rooms at The Stevenson Hotel. The owners been kind enough to let us use the place for temporary housing for visitors and some of my staff. It’s a ritzy joint, so I have my reservations about letting your bunch loose in the place. . . ”

Danko was still back on 72-hour pass. Hallelujah. “Ritzy joint, yes sir. They’ll be on their best behavior. I promise.”

“Well, don’t put them on too short a leash. I want them to enjoy themselves.”

Danko was sure he hadn’t heard that right. “Sir?”

“A happy dozen is a productive dozen.” Worth flashed a crooked smile. “See, even old dogs can learn new tricks. I’ll send a transport at 1400 hours. I expect everyone back in the barracks by 01400 Tuesday. No mishaps.”

“None, sir and thank you sir.”

“You earned it.” Worth stuck the envelope of documents into Danko’s hands. “Take these down to Intelligence on your way out. Give them to Major Lawrence’s assistant, no one else.”

Danko was a bit taken aback by General’s request. He was a Lieutenant, rightfully a Lieutenant Colonel, not an errand boy but Worth was rarely frivolous in his requests, so Danko accepted the envelope and said nothing but thank you and goodbye.

With the prospect of leave, a comfortable hotel room and a restaurant dinner within reach, Danko was tempted to hand off the envelope to the first Private he came across just so he could be on his way. But Worth had been very specific about the document chain. From his hands to the hands of Major Lawrence’s assistant. No one else.

Danko galloped down the sweeping staircase to the second floor, then went down the hall to the East Wing which housed Communications and Intelligence. He’d only ever visited the area a couple of times and never recently. Most of his business at HQ was conducted in the General’s office and occasionally in the conference room when they had a big crowd.

He was surprised by the bustle of activity in this wing. Men and women in uniform mingled with civilians of both sexes. In London, everyone was involved in the war effort. He stopped an older woman from speeding by and asked for directions to Major Lawrence’s office.

“Two steps and turn left,” she sniped, reminding him of his 3rd grade teacher. Mrs. Pomeroy was a bird-like woman with no tolerance for the lazy or the stupid. In her estimation, young John Danko was both of those things and she predicted it would land him in jail sooner or later. Funny how that worked out.

The door two steps forward and to the left was unmarked but he went in anyway, assuming the old woman wouldn’t have purposely steered him wrong. Inside there was a second door with Major Lawrence’s name stenciled on it. He hardly noticed, because sitting right in front of him at the admin desk was Olivia Warner.

Ah, General Worth, always a method under the madness.

“Lieutenant Danko! It’s so nice to see you.”

“Olivia, what a lovely surprise.”

“Surprise? And here I thought you came specifically to see me, I’m disappointed.”

“I would have come to see you if I’d know you were here. General Worth was very covert about it.  He sent me down with these documents for your boss, which, I hope are actually valuable. The General is a romantic, but I’d hate to think he sent me on a dangerous mission as part of a matchmaking ruse.”

“No one is that much of a romantic.”

Then they stood there with a desk and a million unspoken words between them.

“You look good, Olivia,” Danko said, finally breaking the silence. “May I?” He opened his arms to her and she stepped in.  He almost groaned with the glorious pleasure of having her pressed up against him. He encircled her waist with his arms and held tight even when she pulled back to gaze up at him.

“I’m glad to see there was no permanent damage to those baby blues, but if I’m being honest, you don’t look well.”

He sighed, amazed at her perceptiveness, “I’m worn out but I feel better just seeing you. I hated leaving not knowing what was going to happen to you.”

“That’s something we need to talk about.”

“Not here,” he said, knowing where that conversation would lead.  Listen, Worth just gave my unit a 72 hour pass. I’d like to spend as many of those hours with you if I can. Will you meet me for dinner tonight?”

“I’d love, to. I’m staying at The Stevenson –”

“What a coincidence, General Worth arranged for my men and I to stay at that very same hotel.”

Olivia laughed. “Maybe the General really is that much of a romantic.”

“I’ll call for you around seven.”


Danko let her go, took a small step back, then did something that surprised both of them. He kissed her gently on the lips. After, he waited for the slap that might have accompanied such a brazen move but she simply smiled at him.

Seven o’clock couldn’t come fast enough.


They arrived at the hotel with an hour to spare.  Danko gave his men one last lecture on decorum, then let them fight out who shared a room with whom. He couldn’t help but note the two MP’s who had followed them up, but at a distance. Now they were stationed by the exits. That was a visual deterrent for the new recruits. The originals had long since given up the idea of going AWOL, preferring the company of close friends to life alone and on the run. The newbies, one in particular, was still thinking about. Danko could see it in his eyes and he did his best to discourage the man, but here, loose in London, the fella might just give it a try.

Danko put it out of his mind as he went to his own room where he washed up and changed for dinner. At ten minutes before seven, he went down to the front desk, then called up to Olivia’s room. She said she’d be right down and when he returned to the sitting area in the lobby, he was instantly surrounded.

“So, what’s it going to be, Lieutenant,” Leeds asked, offering his commander a friendly pat on the shoulder. “I hear there’s a big poker game in back of the tea room on Franklin.”

“Or maybe we could go to a movie,” Farrell suggested. Malloy liked the idea but the others groaned their response.

“Count me out, fellas. I have a date.”

That sparked a chorus of whistles and lecherous cheers. “Anyone we know?” asked Lebec.

“Like maybe Olivia Warner?” said Leeds.

Danko was about to wonder if Leeds was psychic, then he followed the man’s gaze. Olivia was walking toward them, a movie star in a body-hugging blue dress with a low neckline.

“Behave yourselves,” Danko warned.

“We may be psychotic malcontents,” said Feke, “but we’re still gentlemen.”

Leeds dashed forward and offered Olivia his arm. “My, my you look fetching tonight. New dress?”

“As a matter of fact it is.” She took his arm and allowed him to lead her to the group.

“And you still don’t remember me,” Leeds continued.

“Not true. I remember you sat with me in my hospital room, but I can’t remember your name.”

“Leeds, Dylan Leeds. Honestly,” he said with an exaggerated style. “How can we be best friends if you can’t remember my name?”

“Alright,” Danko cut in. “That’s enough. You all go find someplace else to play.”

A chorus of whines hit him from all directions and this time it was Olivia who stopped it.

“I had a feeling something like this might happen, so I put together a contingency plan.” Olivia waved her hand and suddenly four beautiful women appeared on either side of her. “Eight was the best I could do, but I figured a couple of you wouldn’t mind sharing.”

“Ooh, oui.” Lebec slipped his arm around a brunette and a blonde. “Pourquoi es-tu si belle?”

“Oh my God,” the blonde sighed. “You speak French.”

Danko grabbed Olivia’s hand and pulled away just in time to avoid being caught in the crush. “You’ve a very smart lady.”

“Well, I figured they could all use a little feminine companionship and the girls were so excited to meet real, red-blooded, American men.”

“Feke’s Hungarian,” Danko said, nodding toward the dark-haired young man.

“I think in his case, they’ll make an exception.”

“You really do look stunning tonight.” Danko, dressed in a double-breasted black suit, offered her his arm and she accepted.

“You look pretty stunning yourself,” she replied as she latched on. “I’m so glad you asked me to join you. I must confess, I’ve thought about you a lot since I last saw you.”

“Me, too. You,” Danko corrected. “I’ve been thinking about you, not me.” Then he stopped, realizing it was just getting more tangled. Luckily he was saved by the restaurant’s maître de who greeted them warmly then led them to a private table to the left of the dance floor. A live band was performing and several couples were out enjoying the music.

The maître de held the chair for Olivia, then a waiter took over, offering a complimentary bottle of wine along with the menus.

It was all so elegant and civilized, so far removed from the grunge and violence of the front lines. Three days ago, he’d garroted a young German soldier and now here he was sipping wine and making polite conversation. It was strange.

They ordered dinner then chatted about mundane things. She told him about a wonderful book store she’d discovered in Piccadilly and he told her about his failed attempts to get through The Grapes of Wrath. She thought he’d have an easier time with Drums Along the Mohawk, which suited him because he’d seen the movie.

By the time dinner arrived, the room had filled up and it was getting harder and harder to be heard over the band and the general din of restaurant service. They ate in near silence and Danko saw her mood shifting.

To stop the tide, he stood and held out his hand to her. “Dance with me.”

She looked like she was going to protest, but then she stood and allowed him to lead her on to the crowded floor.

The band was playing something brassy and slow. He took her hand, slid his free hand around her waist and pulled her in close. The simple nearness of her made his heart race and soon other parts became extremely interested. He breathed out a sigh, then tipped his head so his cheek brushed over her silky, brown hair. She smelled like French perfume and he hoped it would rub off on his jacket, so he’d have that scent with him for the rest of the night.

“I don’t even know your first name,” she said, so softly, he almost didn’t hear her.


She leaned back and looked up at him as she repeated it back. “John.” One single word and it sent ripples through his body. It had been so long since he’d seen his name on the lips of a woman. He leaned down and kissed her. Didn’t care that they were in public, didn’t care that it wasn’t behavior becoming of an officer. Didn’t care until he broke the kiss and found her frowning.

“We need to talk,” she said and it made him sick. He knew what she wanted to discuss, knew where this was going to go and he didn’t want to do it. Not right now. Not when she felt so warm and wonderful in his arms.

He was going to suggest they put it off until tomorrow, but she wiggled away then fled the restaurant. He followed, aware of the questioning eyes of several of his men.

He caught up to her in the lobby, but she insisted they keep moving. Out into the street, down to the corner and across to a park lit only by a bright moon. It would have been terribly romantic if she wasn’t fighting back tears.


“No. John. Please. I’m sorry but I need to know. . .I don’t understand. . . ”

“Olivia.” He tried to wrap his arms around her but she stepped back, increasing the distance between them.

“You told General Worth that I was the spy. That I was the one who helped you gain access to the radar room. Is that true? I mean, is that what you thought?”

“At first, when you bandaged my eyes and sat with Goldman, I thought you had to be the spy. No German collaborator would bother caring for a wounded Allied soldier.”

“But it wasn’t me.”

“I found that out later,” he admitted.

“So you lied to the General. Why?”

“Why?” His raised voice echoed in the night and he had to force himself to pull it back and quiet down. “Because you would gone to prison. You’re an American who was consorting with the enemy. That could have put you in front of a firing squad.”

“And what do you think they’re going to do when the truth comes out?”

Danko didn’t follow. “Who’s going to dispute it? Not me or my men. You tried to save me. I know you went into town to see if my men were still around, that’s why Kruger went after you, wasn’t it? He figured you were the spy, too.”

“But I wasn’t, so what’s going to happen when the real spy makes contact with the French Resistance again? You said yourself that the garrison is still active, just with a new commander. It’s only a matter of time until they get the radar room up and running again and then the spy will have to come forward.”

What? This was all wrong. “That can’t happen. Olivia.” He caught her by the hands and pulled her as close as she would allow. “I thought you knew. Mueller was the spy. And he’s dead.” It took a moment to sink in, then she began to shake.

“Cort? Cort was the spy? That can’t be right. You’re mistaken.”

“I’m not. The night of the rescue, he told his men that the Allies were going to attack the Bridge at Rue Laine. He sent almost all of his troops there, clearing the way for my men to get in and out without being challenged. Cutter said Mueller met them at the door and led them to the room where we were being held.”

“Oh god.” She pulled her hands away then backed up putting another few feet between them. “I didn’t know. Why didn’t he tell me? I thought he was turning into one of those horrible Nazis that we despised. I said terrible things to him. Why didn’t he tell me the truth?”

“Probably because if you knew, you could tell.”

“Never. I would never have revealed his secret!”

“You would have. Kruger would have tortured it out of you. He would have gotten it out of me, if I’d known. We’re only human, Olivia, there’s only so much a person can take and Kruger was a master. It was just a matter of time.”

Tears overflowed her eyes and she swiped at them with the back of her hand. “Why didn’t he escape along with us? Why did he stay behind?”

“I don’t know. Leeds said he tried to get him to go but he refused. He just wanted to make sure you got out safe. That’s all he wanted. I imagine he was devastated by what Kruger had done to you because of him. Maybe that’s why he chose to kill himself rather than escape.”

“No. Oh, god, oh, god. The things I said to him. That he wasn’t the man I fell in love with. It must have hurt him so . . . ”

Danko reached for her again but she jerked away so harshly, she almost tripped and fell. “Don’t. I can’t. I need to think. I’m so sorry, John. I’m sorry I ruined your night but I can’t do this right now.” Then she ran. Back toward the hotel. Back to her room, probably.

Danko didn’t follow. He dropped down on to a hard, cold bench in the dark park and waited for the rumble in his stomach to subside. He’d lost her and not just for the night. She still loved Cort Mueller, maybe loved him even more now that she knew the great sacrifices he’d made in an effort to end the war.

A figure crossed the street and entered the park. Feke.

He sat down on the bench and dropped his head back so he could stare up at the moon. “Everything alright?”

“Wonderful,” said Danko morosely.

Then they sat together in silence for twenty minutes watching as the bright moon faded away into the clouds.

End Part Three

Continue to Part Four

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