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Title: The Fighting Eagle (1/6)
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 4084
Summary The Eagle is finally caught but id given a chance to serve his country--in France
Author's Note This was the first story I wrote in this series and it's been added to and filled out since then. Please take into account that I was in high school so it might not be the best in spots and perhaps a tad cliché so be kind!



10 The Fighting Eagle


May 1942

It was a strange homecoming for Steven Taylor on Mother's Day, 1942--the police chief shot at him. It was expected, but on Mother's Day? The reason for the shooting may have been because he, after graduating from high school, had gotten on the wrong side of the law under his own name and had also become an international thief known as the Eagle. Only five people in the world knew his secret and he knew they would never tell.

As soon as the first shot rang out, Steven turned into a side street, leapt a few fences and cut through some backyards until he came to his own, his aunt's boarding house. After checking to see if anyone was watching, he ran to the large oak by the side of the house and climbed it to the window of his room. As he was making himself presentable, the chief's car pulled into the driveway. His aunt answered the door. "Why Chief Haskins, what are you doing here?"

"Sorry if I'm interrupting anything, it being Mother's Day and all, but I saw Steven and he was heading this way."

"Steven?"

"Would've had him too, if he hadn't taken to backyards."

"Good old Steven!" This came from John "Fitz" Fitzgerald, Steven's closest friend since childhood.

"I don't know why it happens. I mean a smart boy like that who had colleges wanting to pay him..." He let the sentence drift. "Bye, ma'am."

Steven waited until the car had disappeared before he entered. "Hello, all."

"Steven! Chief Haskins was just here."

"I know. I saw him. Happy Mother's Day!" He gave her a kiss and a gift.

"Steven, did you come by this honestly?"

"Of course I did." He sat on the couch. "Hi, Fitz. How's life?"

"Everything's fine. How about you?"

"Considering the facts, I'm okay. Where are Sara and Sheila?"

"Your sister and cousin went shopping. They should be home soon."

The front door slammed. "Mother! We would have been home earlier except Sara couldn't find the ration tickets and--"

"I could!"

"Could not!"

"Could--Steven!" They both ran to him.

"Hello, girls."

"What are you doing here?"

"It's Mother's Day so I thought I'd come home and spend it with the woman who's been like a mother to me."

"Speaking of mothers, I'd better get home to mine."

"Bye, Fitz. Will I see you later?"

"'Fraid not. I'm off to boot camp tomorrow."

"What? We'll have to keep in touch. I have to leave tomorrow as well because it won't be long before Haskins comes looking again."

"Does it have to be so soon?" asked Sheila.

"I'll be back."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

"I'd better get going. Good luck, Steven."

"You too, Fitz."

***********************************

Steven woke early the next morning and left a note on the kitchen table before he took his leave. The real reason he had to leave was because a gang headed by an English expatriate had hired him. It was through contacts still in England that he had learned about the Eagle. The job was to open the safe of one of the most secure banks in Greenwich, First Federal, a former Masonic temple. Louie the Limey, as he was known in the States, said to meet him at one of the many restaurants on Greenwich Avenue at 6:00. Steven was still waiting at 6:15.

At 6:30 a man walked up to Steven's table and said, "Thank goodness you Americans have entered the war. Hopes in England were fading." He had the right password.

Steven replied with the pre-arranged answer. "We'll soon have them running for cover."

The other man relaxed. "I'm sorry to have kept you waiting, Mr....."

"Smith, for anonymity's sake."

"Mr. Smith. We had a few slight problems negotiating through traffic."

"It's quite all right. I hope the table selection is to your liking."

"Fine." The waiter came and took their orders. "Now we can get down to business. I know you like to work alone and I won't force you to go against your ideals. I quite like them. I have supplied you with a set of blueprints and the proper tools. They are in a zippered bag under the table." The waiter returned with their drinks.

"What's my cut?" Steven asked after the waiter had left.

"One-quarter of the take plus pay."

It was a good deal and Steven needed the money. "Okay."

"Good. Here's the address where you're to bring the money. Make sure you aren't followed." He placed some money on the table and left.

Steven watched him disappear into the crowd. He finished his drink slowly then left for his hotel.

*******************************

That night around 11:30, Steven arrived at the bank. He knew the security guard would not be on rounds for another fifteen minutes. He crept slowly to the vault. He had just figured out the main combination when he heard footsteps. He grabbed his bag and hid behind a desk. The guard swung his flashlight around the room and into the corners. Satisfied that there were no intruders, he left. Steven went back to the vault and opened it. He had done a good job on the alarm. He pulled a sack out of his bag and began to load it.

He was about done when he heard a voice. "Brave thief, aren't you?"

"I was just making a withdrawal that couldn't wait."

"Enough of that. C'mon outta there. I don't want to become violent."

Steven came out with the bag. "Would you believe I was paid to do this?" The guard shook his head. "Didn't think so."

The police came and took him to headquarters. They searched him and found his calling card of feathers. They could not believe that they had finally arrested the Eagle. He was placed in a holding cell as the sergeant-on-duty called the chief.

The next morning a few early reporters gathered outside. Steven could hear them yelling out their questions. "Is that really the Eagle?" "What's his name?"

"We are not positive that this man is the Eagle, though the evidence points in that direction. We are not releasing his name at the present."

"When is the trial?"

"Due to the magnitude of the crimes in question, a hearing has been set for next week."

So soon? thought Steven. "My God, I'm lost now." He blocked out the rest of the questions. Jail was a hard thing for him to accept.

**********************************

The courtroom was filled a half-hour before the hearing was scheduled to start. When Steven was led in, all whispers stopped. He was escorted to the defendant's bench. After the judge entered, they were ready to begin. Steven knew that nothing short of a miracle would save him from prison. The first piece of evidence was the feathers. The prosecution felt that was all they needed. The defense found a small loophole. "A few months ago in New York, a man impersonated the Eagle. How do we know this is not the same case here? No one has ever seen him."

"I was holding this piece of evidence for just such a moment. A former member of the gang the Eagle helped form is waiting outside to identify him."

The door opened and one of Steven's former lieutenants walked in. The identification was positive. The Eagle had been arrested. There was nothing for the judge to do but set a date for the trial. He was led out of the courtroom and driven back to jail. The next morning, all the international papers carried the story of the arrest of the Eagle, most on the front page.

*************************************

In Washington D. C. the day after Steven's trial, they received grim news. "One of our main Underground stations has informed us of the loss of one of their operatives and has asked for a replacement."

"What do they expect me to do?"

"I don't know, Mr. President."

"Excuse me, sir, but if I may, I think I know the ideal man. He speaks fluent German and French and could talk Hitler into shaving his mustache."

"Who is this man?"

"Steven Taylor, alias the Eagle. Here's his dossier. There's one problem, however. He's in jail."

"Well, get him out, McCarthy. Government business."

After McCarthy had left, President Roosevelt looked at the Eagle's dossier. It was very impressive.

Taylor, Steven
Born 12/24/20 Edinburgh, Scotland
Fled England 1924
Resides: Greenwich, CT
Family: sister Sara (b 1922)
Cousin Sheila (b 1925)
Aunt Stephanie
Education: graduated Greenwich High School magna cum laude 1938; fluent in German, French, Spanish with knowledge of Italian, Russian, Dutch, Polish
Police record: arrested October 1938, jewel theft, escaped; Arrested 1941, escaped


Recently added:

May 16, 1942--arrested after breaking into a bank vault, revealed to be international thief known as the Eagle.

Roosevelt carefully thought over what he had read. This was exactly the man they needed. Since he had been in Europe, he might have connections that could help.

On May 18, McCarthy found himself being led to the Eagle's cell. He had never seen a photo of the man and wondered what he looked like. Was he a big hulk of a man, or skimpy with glasses? Would his eyes be piercing or shallow? How would he react to working for the government? The door was opened and he saw a young man of medium build rise from his bunk. According to his dossier, he was twenty-one. He had black hair and very blue eyes. At his full height, he looked about six-foot. He motioned McCarthy to sit down. "Sorry I can't provide better accommodation for you."

"So you're Steven Taylor, the infamous Eagle, the Man Who Never Gets Caught. How did you manage this?"

"It was easy. I had someone frame me."

"That's not what I'm here for. You're wanted in Washington."

"All I did was attempt to rob a bank!"

"It's not about that. It's something I can't talk about here." Steven was released into McCarthy's custody and the two left for the capital.

When they reached the White House, Steven was rushed to the Oval Office. "How old are you, Steven?"

"Twenty-one, going on twenty-two, sir."

"Family?"

"A sister, cousin, and aunt."

"Good. Now what I have to ask you is this: will you go to France and help one of Underground stations?" Straight into the heart of the war. Steven thought himself as patriotic as the next man, but to foolishly volunteer when he wasn't even in the armed forces? "You'll be granted a full pardon in exchange," said Roosevelt, noticing his hesitation.

That was different. "When do I leave?"

The next morning after an early breakfast, he was ready to go. He was driven to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. From there, he would go to London for some quick training then be parachuted into France.

********************************************

As he drifted down, he kept wondering if this would all work. Would he be able to get along with the agent in charge? When he landed, he decided he had to get along. He had to prove himself. He went to the rendezvous point, sent the signal--three short flashes with his light--and waited.

"Taylor?" Steven nodded, wondering where he had seen the man before. "I'm Richard Johnson, in charge of this group." Steven smiled when he heard the name. "If you'll follow me, I'll take you to our safe house."

Steven followed him into the brush, watching him with a smile. "This is a far cry from the NYPD," he said.

"Yeah. How did you know about that?"

"We met a few times there. Let me see. There was Lady van Dyne, poor Joe McGrory..."

"I don't believe it. You're..?"

"Yep, I'm him."

"This is amazing. I finally get to see you and work with you." He laughed as they entered the village. "Our house is right on the edge so we have a better chance of operating unobserved by the Nazis." He opened the door for Steven. Four men looked up from their poker game. "It's okay, guys. This is our new man, Steven Taylor, the Eagle."

One of the men stood and walked over. "It's an honor. I've admired your work. John Dolittle, safecracker extroidinare." He shook his hand.

"Bonjour, monsieur. My name is Pierre DuBois, tailor and chef."

"Hello, Mr. Taylor. Paul Henderson, demolition."

"Call me Steven."

"Hi, Steven. I'm Tim Rogers, radio."

"Now that you've met everyone, we'll give you the lowdown on our operation here. We're situated about halfway between Paris and the German border. The local officer is a soft touch and likes the easy life. Nothing much happens here and that's the way he likes it. As long as he gets good wine, food, and a pretty girl once and a while, it doesn't matter that most of the village supports us instead."

"And you all speak French?"

"Requirement," said Rick. "Tim and myself speak German as well."

"This could prove to be some fun."

**************************************************

Steven worked with them for about nine months, blowing up trains, warehouses, ammunition dumps, and industrial plants. They even helped send people to England. It was February 1943 when the Gestapo became suspicious. Major Steiner who had the reputation of getting information out of the most stubborn of spies visited the village. "Col. Detriech, it has come to my attention that the Americans have sent a master criminal to France to work with the Resistance. We believe they are stationed in this village."

"Here? Preposterous!"

"Then you won't mind if we conduct a search, will you?"

"No, of course not."

Meanwhile in their house on the other side of the village, the men were packing up everything to leave. "You guys go out the back, pick up the radio and explosives. I'll finish here."

"I can't let you do it, Steven," said Johnson. "I'll stay, you go."

"Just go. You're more important anyway. Don't worry about me. I know what I'm doing."

"Okay, but be careful."

"You know me." Johnson disappeared out the back. Steven turned away and began to straighten out the house. He was just opening the secret back door when the door burst open with the Gestapo in all its glory. "Bon soir, major. I was just doing some work on this door. It always seems to fall apart at the worst times."

"That is too bad. If you come with me to see Col. Detriech, perhaps we can find a solution." They escorted Steven back to the colonel's office. "Now, monsieur, we know you are with the Resistance--"

"Very observant, Herr Major. Your mother really brought you up right." That remark earned him a slap in the face.

"As I was saying, we know you are with the Resistance. Where are the others who lived in that house with you?"

"Sorry, I don't kiss and tell." Another slap.

"We know Thibaut is not your real name. What is it? Tell me now!"

"All right. My name is," he paused for dramatic effect, "Steven Taylor."

"The Eagle." If the major was shocked, he didn't show it. "We knew the Americans had sent a master criminal, but we didn't expect you! Send word to Berlin to see what must be done with him."

"Then you will be taking him to Gestapo Headquarters in Bar-le-Duc," said Detriech.

"No, that is too far away. You must have a secure room where we can lock him up."

"There is the jail, I suppose. I can have some of my men stand guard for you."

Steven walked casually across the village, hands in pockets, whistling. When they reached the jail, he was pushed unceremoniously into a cell. "Steve, ol' boy, you've really done it this time."

Two hours later, Steiner, along with the soldiers who brought him, came in. "Well, Herr Taylor, the word is that you are to be sent to a prisoner-of-war camp--in Africa--a place where you have no contacts or alliances. Your journey will begin right now."

***********************************************

Late the following day, they arrived at an airport on the Mediterranean. "We have an important prisoner that must be taken to Africa, by order of the Furher. We must leave tonight."

"We have one plane available, sir."

They herded Steven towards the plane where he sat between two privates. "Well, Eagle, from this point, there is no return."

"I wouldn't be too sure of that. I've been known to be very resourceful."

They landed in German-occupied North Africa near Tripoli early in the morning. A large convoy consisting of two tanks, two jeeps, and one truck met them. "All this for me? You shouldn't have."

"Hauptman Wagner, this is an important prisoner that is being transferred to an isolated POW camp with the greatest of care. Orders from Berlin."

"Jawohl, Herr Major. Get in the truck."

"If you insist, Captain." Steven climbed into the truck along with four privates, all with their guns aimed at him. The convoy started. Steven lay down on the bench and began babbling about nothing--making conversation, he said. He asked for a cigarette and was given one to keep him from talking. When he finished, he took a nap.

He woke four hours later to the shouts of the Germans. In the distance, he heard what they were yelling about: jeeps and machine guns. Steven's guards had their backs to him because they thought he was still asleep. He crept silently behind one, grabbed his pistol, and shot him. He quickly shot a second and the third was hit from outside and fell off the truck. There was one left. "C'mon, buddy, afraid to shoot?"

"Germans are never afraid." He fired but Steven ducked.

"I won't feel guilty now, knowing you're not afraid to die." Steven shot him then jumped out. The soldiers in the jeep behind him were too preoccupied with the Allied jeeps to notice him. He began to run towards the Allies and one saw him and was driving over. The Germans also saw him and started shooting. He felt a pain in his right leg and was about to collapse when the jeep arrived. The driver helped him in while the other continued to shoot. When they were out of range, they stopped and bandaged his leg.

The private paused in bandaging when he saw the second jeep. "Here come Sgt. Morris and Fitz."

"Did you say 'Fitz'? John Fitzgerald?"

"Yeah. Do you know him?"

"Sure. He and I are like brothers. Let me introduce myself. Steven Taylor."

By now, the other jeep was alongside. The young driver was talking with the other two men. "You should see Wagner, he's positively fuming. Supposedly, a very important POW escaped."

"Yeah, we know." That was the corporal.

"What do you mean, 'we know'?" asked the young driver.

"Because we saw him running, that's why. He was shot in the leg."

"Hey, Fitz! C'mere, I need some help!"

Fitz went to help the other private. "For God's sake, what's the matter?" Then he saw the man lying in the jeep. "Steven?"

"Hiya, Fitz, how ya been?"

"You were the prisoner? What are you doing here? I thought you were home playing 'Cops and Robbers'."

"I was. It's a long story." He filled Fitz in on what had happened since they had last seen each other.

"Sorry to break up the reunion, but we've got to get going. If we stay here any longer, the Jerrys'll find us. Besides, we have to take Mr. Taylor to a field hospital to get that bullet out."

When Steven came to in the field hospital, Fitz was there. "Glad to see you're back with the living. Word was sent to Washington that you're okay, and, as soon as you're able, they want you to go to London. I have no idea why, but it's important."

A few days later, Steven was ready to leave for London. Fitz drove him to the airstrip. Steven got out and walked to the plane. He gave his friend one last look and could have sworn he saw a tear running down his face. "So long, Fitz!" He gave a mock salute and boarded the plane.

"Welcome aboard, Captain Taylor. My name's Robert Donahue, co-pilot," said a blond-haired youth. "If things go right, we should reach London by tomorrow morning. Before I go to the cockpit, is there anything I can get you?"

"No, thanks. Right now I think I'll take a nap." Steven watched him leave. He had to be close to Steven's own age, yet treated him as if he was middle-aged. "Maybe that's the proper way to treat agents," he murmured.

*********************************************

They landed on an airstrip used by the RAF. A car was waiting to take him to London. After an hour's drive, they pulled up in front of a barricaded building in Whitehall. He walked up the steps and gave his name to the soldier on guard duty. "Capt. Taylor? Mr. Churchill is expecting you."

"Mr. Churchill? The PM Churchill? That Churchill? What does he want me for?"

"I don't know, sir. Follow me, please."

Steven followed the soldier down some steps to a series of underground rooms where they ran the war. The solder stopped in front of a door and knocked. "Come in," came a muffled voice.

The soldier opened the door. "Capt. Taylor is here, sir." He held the door open for Steven then closed it behind him.

Steven walked into the small office where Churchill and two other men were seated around a desk. "Ah, Captain, I'm glad you arrived safely," said the British Prime Minister. He faced the others. "Gentlemen, this is Capt. Steven Taylor. He operated from one of our Underground stations in France. He is here to tell us of the effects our bombing has had on German industry."

Steven was there answering questions for close to five hours. At the close of the conference, Churchill said, "There are many more questions we still have to ask you. Would you mind coming back tomorrow?"

"Sure. I've got nothing else to do."

"Good. A driver will take you to your flat--"

"My flat?"

"Yes. We have taken the liberty of securing a flat for you. The Ministry of Defense will pay all bills. Until tomorrow."

"Good-bye, Mr. Churchill. Thank you."

The driver was the same man who had picked him up at the airstrip. He was not a talker.

The flat was located on Picadilly and was quite comfortable. It was on the ground floor and had a phone, radio, and stocked kitchen. On the counter, Steven saw two sets of keys. One was for the apartment, but what was the other for? He closely examined it and saw that they were for a car, an Alvis, if he read them right. He walked to the garage and opened it to see a brand new red Alvis Firebird (?) convertible. He backed the car out of the garage, drove out of the mews and began his self-guided tour.

Even though he had lived in London on-and-off for two years, he had always been too busy and had never taken the time to look at the sights like a regular tourist. The first place he went was to the famed wax museum of Madame Tussaud. Second, he went to Westminster Abbey. He ended with the Tower of London; a more dreary and forbidding place there never was. On his way out, he heard a tale about ravens, the fall of Britain, and the Tower. He drove past St. Paul's Cathedral before heading home.

****************************************

He woke with a start. He had been dreaming that he was back in the village and everyone around him was being shot. The thing was, he also saw people he didn't know, innocents dying because of the war.

Steven looked at his watch. It was 8:00, time to get something to eat. He walked into the kitchen, opened the 'fridge and took out some ground beef (a rarity) plus a cold beer. He searched a few cabinets until he found a frying pan. The pan went on the stove, he patted out the burger, and while it was cooking, he cut up an onion. While he was eating, he turned on the radio to listen to the news. Not to good. He changed the station, found some music, and found some Glenn Miller. When dinner was done, he cleaned up then settled down to read the papers that had made their way to his living room. At 11:00 he called it a night.

Part 2

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