Testament


Disclaimer.

As much as I'd like it to be so, these characters don't belong to me, but to Combat! and Selmur Productions, ABC, and Image Productions. I get no monetary compensation for my work.


Author introduction: I found Eleanora Hunt compelling, if irritating. She made a worthy foil for Saunders and Hanley. She frustrated, then infuriated them with her refusal to accept the constraints placed on her.

She was as much a challenge for them as any of the fractious men thrown their way, and almost as uncooperative. Demanding, impetuous, ignorant, clueless. Hard to forget and reminiscent of Sergeant Turk; not as irascible, but certainly every bit as stubborn. They both had a mission and were driven to accomplish it, regardless of the jeopardy they placed others in.

Saunders was no fan of either of them, but he shared Turk's world and kind of mission. Miss Hunt, he did not understand, at all. She was as driven as Saunders, but her goal was beyond his ken.

By the time the squad headed to Trois Anges on a rescue mission, he had had more than enough of Eleanora Hunt. He treated Miss Hunt with a level of scorn unequalled in any of his other encounters with a woman. (In my opinion.) When he told her that he would take her on a personally guided tour after Trois Anges was secure, Saunders used a tone so derisive, so demeaning, it penetrated to her core. It was as if he'd stripped her. She visibly recoiled, her reporter façade shattered, and she, laid bare. Her personal emotions, so carefully hidden behind that brusque exterior, were visible, if only for a brief while. By the time Saunders took her on that tour, she had rebuilt her defenses, her façade. She remained impervious to the disaster of Trois Anges to his mind as they went through the village.

His final shot at her "What are you anyway?" speaks volumes about the gulf between them. Her job and his. He might not have comprehended it at the time, but her mission, her duty was intertwined with his and as important.

xxxxx


Prologue

Captain Smith alternately paced or sat in 2nd Platoon's HQ tent. Gah! The coffee, or what passed for coffee was terrible, but it was warm, and he wasn't. He silently ran through what he wanted to say to Eleanora Hunt as he waited for her to get back from Trois Anges.

For the second time she had slipped away from him, gone free-lancing to the front. The first time, she'd met up with some resistance fighters to visit Trois Anges. This time, somehow, she persuaded, no, bamboozled, some poor GI at the motor pool to give her a jeep. Off she went to the village.

This morning she was late to breakfast. When he went looking for her at the nurses' area, one of them said that she'd gone to the motor pool. He went to check it out.

A private greeted him, "Hello, Captain. What can I do for you?"

"Did a lady come here earlier today, needing a vehicle? About so tall." Smith raised his arm to around shoulder height, thought about it then raised and lowered it a few inches each way, before giving up. He finally settled on, "Well, she's about average tall for a woman, I guess," and more confidently, "with brown hair. Slender. In a uniform, like as not. But no insignia. Just an armband, maybe, but I can't be sure. Probably said she was a war correspondent."

"Yes, sir. She was here. Grabbed a jeep and left. She said she was working on a story and had to meet someone. That she was late. She tore outta here hell-bent for leather, so I reckon she was. Late, that is."

"Do you know which way she headed?" Smith asked.

"She went thataway," the kid pointed up a rutted road. "Sorry, sir. She acted like she had permission to take it." "Iffin she don't watch it, she'll bust an axle or blow a tire. Jeeps, they're tough, but sheesh."

"Thank you, Private. You've been a big help."

"You're welcome, Captain."

"Oh, Private, I'll need a jeep. Do you have one I could use? Say, in about 20 minutes or so?"

"Yes, sir. I'll make sure one's ready for you."

"Thanks. I'll be back. Need to grab a couple of things. A map and some gear."

And an MP or two, he thought. Smith left the area and walked back towards the HQ, musing as he went. What were the chances she would take off on her own? 100%, obviously. I should have expected as much. She was too pleased with her scoop from yesterday. Like any good reporter, she wanted to follow the story.

Now, he had to track her down before she got herself in trouble. The krauts might not recognize her status as an American war correspondent and non-combatant. Worse, she might run into the Milice, the Vichy paramilitary police agency that the average Frenchman feared as much, if not more than the SS or Gestapo. Not all of France welcomed Americans, so much of the country was destroyed as the Allies bombed, barraged, and fought their way across the country towards Germany.

Originally, he figured to go by himself, but as he left the motor pool and thinking about the potential trouble he might run into, made a stop where he knew the MPs were quartered. He got the MP captain to give him one of his men. And off they went in the direction Miss Hunt headed.

xxxxx


So, here he was. Up at 2nd Platoon's HQ, a young MP in tow. He didn't want to take any chances with her going off somewhere else. He planned to have the MP drive her jeep back and he would take her. Having misplaced one correspondent, he'd left the other two back at King Company's HQ in the care of another officer. Neither had been interested in coming with him, but he didn't want to leave anything to chance. He was dealing with the aftermath of not anticipating the off-chance of a correspondent going off on their own.

He'd arrived at 2nd Platoon only to learn that all hell had broken loose at Trois Anges.

"Sir," the platoon's radio man, Mitchell, said, "you're to wait back here, until things are straightened out up there. There's been fighting. And casualties. We're sending up reinforcements."

"I see," Smith replied. The last thing a combat unit needed was someone wandering around where they didn't need to be. As he stood at the door of the HQ tent, a small convoy rumbled through. To his eyes, it looked like a couple of platoons worth of men, armed to the teeth. A few ambulances trailed behind.

He followed the news as it trickled in, hanging over the radio man's shoulder. Mitchell was getting a little tired of the captain practically breathing down his neck. "Sir, do you mind taking a seat right over there," pointing to a folding chair just a few feet away. "I'll let you know whatever information I can."

Smith muttered, "sorry, corporal," and parked himself in the chair, scooching it just a bit closer.

The corporal watched the captain surreptitiously scoot the chair closer, but decided that at least Smith was trying to give him space. As the corporal received the information, he condensed it for the captain's benefit. Not everything however, some of the information was privileged.

"Sir, the town is secure. Lots of civilian casualties. Some will be coming out in the ambulances. We took casualties too." A quick exchange with whoever was reporting from Trois Anges. "Captain, they want you to stay here. There's a lot of confusion still and they're sorting things out."

"I understand, Corporal. But what about Miss Hunt? Is she there? Is she okay?"

Another exchange and Mitchell reported, "She's fine, but in, ah, protective custody." "Don't worry, it's just for her safety. She's not under arrest or anything."

Smith doubted that Miss Hunt was under the watchful eyes of the MPs just for safety's sake, but said nothing. Then, "When is she coming back here? I assume that's where they'll bring her, correct?"

"I'll ask, sir." After a few more minutes, the corporal said, "She coming out with the ambulance escorts. Probably another hour or so. At least. There's one coming through first with a couple of criticals. She will be in the next group."

He wandered back to the tent, poured himself another cup of coffee and sat down to wait. "Private," he said to the MP, "you might as well take a load off. We'll be here awhile. There's coffee, or what passes for it. You look like you could use it."

"Thanks, sir."

A runner delivered a message from Mitchell. Smith opened it up to read. Col. Barker wants Miss Hunt back at Division "tout suite"

Smith sighed. His day just got more complicated. He knew that back at Division HQ, a reckoning awaited Miss Hunt. Delivered by the pompous old bird himself.

The MP looked up when he heard Smith sigh. "Everything okay, sir? Not bad news about our troops, I hope."

"No, Private. I just may need to hold onto you for the rest of the day. We'll have to see. I'll make sure to notify your commander if that's the case," he reassuringly told the man.

He opened the message again and stared at the paper. It was his duty to get her back. Then his thoughts wandered back to yesterday when this crisis first started, but then beyond. The very start of his mission.

Smith shook his head as he dredged up events over the past week or so. It had been, um, character-building, his wife would say. He could think of other words. Miss Hunt figured into that, yes, but so did those other two correspondents. There were no innocents in this mess.

The two men taunted Miss Hunt, almost made it a sport. In turn, she would shoot back with a few barbed comments.. She'd earned the nickname "Glory," from the journalist community. She had a penchant for showing off and drew attention to herself, intentional or not. Miss Hunt, though, owned an international reputation for excellent work.

His other charges were journeymen, competent, but without flair or excitement. They were old hands, world weary, jaded, ready to go home. She was fresh, eager, Ignorant. And lastly, she was a woman. A woman in a man's world, and they didn't like it. It was like she was encroaching on their turf. Even if she had been the most incompetent of reporters, which she wasn't, she would still garner attention because she was a woman.

The three of them were supposed to be adults, for crying out loud. Instead, they behaved like squabbling children. Good thing they were only armed with pens. Give 'em swords and they just might write the reverse of that old bromide of "the pen is mightier than the sword."

Eleanora might have gone off half-cocked and gotten into a mess on her own, but the constant jibes from the two men probably provided the extra incentive to show them up.

He was equally culpable. He made the error of not watching Miss Hunt closely enough, relying on past experience with correspondents. Most had been hoping to see some action, just at a safe distance either in space or time. She not only hoped to see action; she invited it. She wanted to witness some fighting so she could capture it for the folks back home.

An audible sigh passed his lips. What was done was done. He figured heads would roll; hers almost certainly, his possibly, but not probably. Good thing he wasn't a career officer. He didn't relish the thought of a formal reprimand coming from the stuffy, supercilious Colonel Barker who sent him on this task in the first place. Still, Barker might need a scapegoat if the Trois Anges situation couldn't be "contained." And where better to do some head-chopping, if only figuratively, than the home of the guillotine, France.