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Title: The Fighting Eagle (6/6)
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 5151
Summary The end of the war in Europe including D-Day and the fall of Berlin. Of course, Steven has a hand in both.

Part One.
Part Two.
Part Three.
Part Four.
Part Four.



10 The Fighting Eagle


VI


Less than a week after Steven's return, word reached Berlin that Mussolinni had been arrested on the 25th and exiled to the island of Ponza. Hitler immediately began planning a rescue. Steven set his own plans into motion and began sending coded messages by radio to England of German positions in France and North Africa. He kept sending until he was caught in September. "And to think I thought you were a loyal member of the Party, Herr Taylor," said Hitler. "Where did I go wrong?"

"From the beginning when you brought me here. What made you think I would turn traitor? I only faked it to get information."

"We must change your way of thinking. Take him to Prinz Albrechtstrasse."

Steven knew what to expect from this notorious place. He had witnessed such "conversions". They weren't the best things for those with weak stomachs to watch. Once at Prinz Albrechtstrasse, they led him down a narrow stairwell to a small, dank cell. They chained his arms to the wall, barely leaving enough slack to eat. Being locked up in the cell was not the only punishment Steven had to endure. Just to prove that they had the upper hand, he was tortured--mainly beatings and floggings. These were intended to wear him down, to turn him into an "empty shell". It didn't work. Reichsfurher Himmler sat in on one of the "sessions". Steven was as stubborn as ever. When it was over, Himmler dismissed the others and stayed with him.

"You put on quite a show, Herr Taylor. Why don't you face the truth? You know there is no hope for you."

"And if I did that, your beloved Furher would have no reason to keep me around and," he snapped his fingers, "off I go."

"All you Americans are the same; stubborn with a cripple for a leader!"

Steven could not control himself any longer. This German was insulting the man who had given him a second chance! He spat in Himmler's face. "You swine! You shall pay for your insolence!"

Steven paid. Besides having a few cracked ribs after being kicked in the chest, he went from eating halfway- nourishing slop to stale bread and water.

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

December came. Steven had lost weight and gained a beard, but he had not given up the thought of escape. In fact, he had a plan. He continuously rubbed the chains against the cement floor until they were thin enough to break under applied pressure. His guard came in a little wobbly from too much outlawed schnapps. He set down Steven's tray and turned to leave. Steven pulled his arms free. The guard was too drunk to realize what was happening. Steven knocked him out and put on his uniform. He then stole a motorcycle and drove to the Chancellery. He sneaked in miraculously undetected, took out some maps of important German positions and left. He bundled up in his coat, jump-started the motorcycle and started down the Vossstrasse.

As he was leaving, a limousine passed him. "Who was that man? I didn't recognize him."

"I don't know, mein Furher. Maybe he was just a courier."

The two men went inside only to be greeted by a large commotion. "What is the problem?"

"It appears a prisoner has escaped from Prinz Albrechtstrasse, come here and stole some papers."

"Taylor! It was Taylor who passed us! Don't just stand there, go find him!"

Steven couldn't believe it! He was free! After eight months, he was free! When he had gone a sufficient distance, he stole into a farmhouse and used the man's razor. A beard and a Nazi uniform did not go well together. He drove along the road until he came upon a jeep and truck in trouble. He decided to play the Good Samaritan. "What seems to be the problem?"

"We are on our way to Berlin, but the truck broke down."

"Who is the prisoner that deserves such escort?"

"She is the ward of Winston Churchill. She and another in Berlin are to be used to stop the war."

"You stay here, I'll send back some help." He drove a mile down the road, parked the motorcycle, then doubled-back. The soldiers were all engrossed in trying to fix the engine that they didn't notice him. He climbed in the back of the truck to talk with the girl. "Girl" was not a strong enough word. She was about twenty-two years old with straight blond hair just past her shoulders, and blue eyes. She let out a gasp as Steven climbed in. "It's okay, I'm American. I know your guardian."

"What's your name?" She spoke with an educated accent.

"Steven Taylor."

"Winston talked a lot about you. I thought you had joined their side. What happened?"

"I'll tell you later. About a mile up the road is my motorcycle. Make your way there but keep to the brush. I'm gonna try and take the jeep. I'll honk twice. Get going!" She ran.

The Germans had finished working on the motor and saw her running. They went for their rifles, but Steven shot at them before they could reach them. They looked up and saw him standing behind them, a gun aimed at them. One foolhardy soldier reached for his Walther P38, just what Steven needed. He opened on them with one of their own rifles. The whole encounter took about ten minutes. He dragged the bodies so they wouldn't be seen from the road, and then took off in the jeep.

She was waiting just where he told her. "Climb in."

"Thanks." She sat next to him. "You said you'd tell me what happened." He told her all the details from kidnap to escape. "And they called you a traitor. How could they?"

"That's enough about me. How about your life story?"

"My name is Victoria Bond and I was born in London. My father had become good friends with Winston during the last war, and when I was born, he became my godfather. My father was an advisor in India and I started school in England when I was fifteen. My parents died in a hunting accident two years ago. I've been staying with Winston ever since."

"How come I didn't see you when I was there?"

"He tried to keep me from all talk of the war. Now look where I am."

"The Krauts have probably sent a patrol out after us by now. We're well enough ahead of them and only one thing can change that."

"And what is that?"

"Running out of gas." Then, as if on cue, the car stopped. "You keep an eye out for soldiers while I check for a spare tank. Just our luck, there isn't. We'd better start walking."

As night fell, so did the temperature. They came upon an abandoned cabin, secluded from the road. "That looks like a good place to stay the night," said Victoria.

They went inside. "Looks like it's been done over in Early Ice Age. Can't light a fire because they'll see the smoke. Hungry?" He scrounged around the kitchen. "Here are some cans of fruit, they should hold us till morning. Here's an opener." They ate in silence.

"We'd better turn in so we can get an early start in the morning."

"Start? Where can we go?"

"I've got friends in the Underground near here. They'll be able to get us to the States. Now lie down on the cot and get some sleep. I'll lie on the floor."

When she fell asleep, Steven put all the blankets, minus one, over her. He then buttoned his wool coat, wrapped himself in the blanket, and lay down on the floor for a good night's sleep.

The night was anything but good. He slept fitfully and woke with a fever.

"We can't go anywhere with you in that condition. We have to wait."

"And be caught by Germans? My friends are just in the next town. I can make it."

"Here, wrap the blanket around you then put on the coat."

They walked out of the cabin, Victoria supporting Steven, and crossed the fields so they wouldn't be seen by the patrols on the roads. They reached the town by midday and Steven found the house where his friends were. He leaned against the wall out of sight as Victoria knocked on the door. It opened a crack. "I have a message for Col. Johnson from Simon Thibaut. Is he here?" she asked in textbook German.

"Ja, come in." The woman opened the door wider.

Victoria waved to Steven who slowly walked over. "Don't worry," she said as she saw the woman stare, "he's American."

"Wait here, please." The woman left the room and from behind the closed door they could hear voices forming vague words. "Colonel," said the woman, "there is an Englishwoman in the other room with a man in German uniform. She says he is American. She has a message from Simon Thibaut. What should I do?"

"Make 'em comfortable with tea or something. I'll be right out." The woman left.

"It could be a trap, Colonel."

"Then again it couldn't, Henderson. The Krauts know we escaped, but not where. Only England and the Underground know. Besides, I'm curious. Don't come unless I call."

Richard Johnson was hardly ever extremely surprised. The sight that presented itself to him at that moment was one of those few times. One of his best friends, a hero no less, who was reported dead was sitting there in front of him as if nothing had happened. Well, almost nothing. His hair was long and straggly, his skin was deathly pale, and he was rail thin. He was also with the kidnapped ward of Winston Churchill. "What a pair you two make: one of you is thought to be dead and looks it, and the other has half the Underground looking for her."

"Surprised, Rick? Victoria, I'd like you to meet Col. Richard Johnson, a clever man if ever there was one. Rick, this is--"

"Victoria Bond, ward and goddaughter of Winston Churchill. I wasn't kidding when I said half the Underground was looking for you. Steven, you look awful. Get some rest. I'll send Frau Hoffmier to you with some food. We'll talk later."

"Thanks, old boy. I appreciate it."

When Steven woke in the evening, his fever had gone down to almost normal. Rick came to check on him and Victoria was there with his dinner. "You're looking better, kid. How do you feel? Victoria stayed here the whole time, wouldn't leave."

"Vickie, why don't you get some sleep? You were just as tired as I was."

"I'm leaving now. I just wanted to wait until your fever went down." She stopped at the door. "By the way, my name is Victoria!" She left.

"The British," Steven remarked, "are supposed to be reserved. Maybe it's just what she's going through. Did you know I'm British? Don't laugh! It's true." He went on. "My sister and I were born in Edinburgh. When they had that 'skirmish' for the throne in '24, my father died and my uncle brought us to the States."

"Are you done? I've got something important to tell you. I think we've figured out a way to get you out of here."

Rick was about to explain when DuBois rushed in. "There is a German patrol in the town searching for them!"

"Great. Okay, find Victoria and take her down to the cellar and get some uniforms ready." Pierre left. "Now for you. Lean on me. I'll help you down."

"What are you planning?"

"We're going to masquerade as Germans and take you to the coast. They'll think we're going to Berlin."

"I see you haven't lost your imagination. How do you plan to pull it off?"

"Just play the tough and fight the arrest. Don't overdo, though."

Down in their transmitter room, Johnson explained the plan. "I've told Frau Hoffmier to say that you must have sneaked into the cellar without her knowledge. I don't expect any hitches, but follow my lead if anything goes wrong."

Steven and Victoria were prodded into the fading daylight by the "German" patrol. They encountered a captain who was in charge of the search. "Where did you find them?"

"They were hiding in a woman's cellar," said Rick. "We were just going to put them in the truck and take them to Berlin." Since Rick's "rank" was that of major, there was no argument.

Once on the road they changed direction and headed for the North Sea. Rick was in the back telling Steven and Victoria of their rout to the States. "The British sub will rendezvous with an American sub somewhere in the North Atlantic. You should be there by Christmas." He noticed Steven looked pale. "You okay? You don't look that well."

"I'm fine, don't worry." He was starting to feel sick again, but he didn't want to delay their departure.

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

Three days out at sea, they reached the rendezvous. "Better put on one of these coats. The North Atlantic on a winter night is not one of the warmest places," advised a young seaman.

"Thank you, but how will we return them?"

"That's all right, miss, they're extras."

They stepped out onto the deck into the biting cold wind and board the American sub. As they climbed inside, Steven began to feel dizzy. "Steven you don't look at all well."

"I feel bad. It's a set."

They were led towards the stern of the sub to their quarters. Victoria directed Steven to his bunk. He fell asleep. She told the ensign of his previous illness. "I guess he never fully recovered."

She was there when he woke. "You probably think I'm a fool."

"No, I don't. You're different."

"Just because I don't chase after you like half the men in London, I'm different."

"No, it's not that." She bent own next to him. "I love you." She kissed him.

"Did you say 'I love you'?"

"Yes, I did."

"I thought that's what you said." He pulled her closer and kissed her.

She pulled away. "At least I know you're feeling better. They're going to bring our dinner here. After that, you should get some sleep. You look pale still."

The next two days were passed by playing cards and swapping stories. That was how they found out that Churchill was in Washington. Once they arrived at the capital, they hurried to the White House. They were told that the President and the Prime Minister were at a meeting of Congress. Steven grabbed Victoria's hand and hailed a taxi for Capitol Hill. Arriving on the steps of the Capitol Building, Steven had to bluff his way past the guards. He led Victoria to the joint meeting of Congress and waited in the back for the right moment.

Roosevelt was speaking. "...and by this time Hitler must realize that he is losing the war."

"I don't think so!" Steven called out.

All heads turned. "Taylor!" exclaimed the President. "What are you doing here?"

"I wasn't too impressed with Herr Hitler's accommodations," he said, walking down the aisle. "Mr. Churchill, I brought along something for you." He motioned for Victoria, who then ran to Winston.

"Now that the two of you are back," said Churchill, "we don't have to be as cautious as originally planned."

Roosevelt made his way down from the podium. "Come back wit me to the White House and tell me of your escape."

Steven began his tale with the midnight visitors. Questions were asked about his training. He told of his imprisonment and "persuasion". He continued with his escape and Victoria's rescue. She then took up the story, telling of the night in the cabin; how he had contracted the fever; and the help they had received from the Underground.

When everyone was satisfied, Steven and Victoria were given a chance to shower and change. When Steven came out, Roosevelt had something for him. "Here are your train tickets. Happy Holidays."

"Thank you, sir. You too."

Roosevelt said something else. Steven couldn't hear him clearly as he was halfway down the hall, so he answered, "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." He saw Victoria waiting for him at the foot of the stairs. "C'mon, we can't keep the train waiting."

"You mean I'm going with you?"

"Of course," he smiled.

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

The ride was uneventful. It was a five-hour trip to New York where they switched to a New England-bound train. When they reached Greenwich, Steven led Victoria through the crowd, hiding his face. "I never would have thought so many people would be out Christmas Eve."

"They're mainly waiting for relations," Steven explained. "We're almost there." He crossed Milbank Avenue, climbed the front steps to the Taylor Boarding House, and knocked on the door. His aunt answered. When she saw him, a surprised look appeared on her face. "Hi, Steph."

"Steven! I thought you were in Germany!" Her cry brought his sister and cousin to the door. They almost smothered him in kisses.

"Steph, girls, I'd like you to meet Victoria Bond. Victoria, this is my Aunt Stephanie, my sister Sarah, and my cousin Sheila."

"It's nice to meet you. Steven has told me so much about you all."

"Are you the Victoria Bond, Winston Churchill's goddaughter?" asked Sheila.

"Yes, I am, and I wouldn't be here if it hadn't been for Steven."

"I've been getting praised for things I didn't really do. I was saving my own skin. When I saw Victoria and found out where they were taking her, I couldn't let her go through the same things I did." They walked into the kitchen and he saw a cake on the counter. "That doesn't look like a Christmas cake."

"It's not. Every year since you've been gone, we've made a cake on your birthday. Since you haven't been coming home, we've been decorating it like a Christmas cake."

"I didn't know today was your birthday," said Victoria.

"To tell you the truth, it totally slipped my mind. All I could think of was coming home for Christmas."

They sat and talked over coffee and cake. Steven told of his adventures; Victoria of war-torn London; and his family of the American home front. After some time, Stephanie said, "I think that's enough for now. I can see that Steven and Victoria are tired after their train ride. Victoria, you can sleep with the girls. Steven, your room is just as you left it. Be quiet so you don't disturb the boarders."

Steven woke the next morning to the aroma of fresh coffee. He changed and went downstairs to find everyone, including the boarders, gathered around the Christmas tree waiting for him. "C'mon, you're holding everything up," Sheila told him.

"Go ahead, I'm just getting some coffee." He sat next to Victoria and watched as everyone opened their presents. "Are you enjoying this?"

"It's wonderful to feel like I'm part of a family."

"Oh, Steph, before I forget, after the holidays, I have to go back to Washington. I think they're planning an invasion of Europe and want my help."

"Well, at least you can spend the holidays with us."

******************************************************8

Two days after New Year's Steven arrived in Washington and was given a room in the White House as a personal guest of President of Roosevelt. "I'm sorry I had to take you away from your family, Steven, but, as you know, an invasion of Europe is being planned. Normandy, according to the maps you brought back, seems to be the Germans' weakest point."

Meetings and discussions lasted through April when it was announced that the final preparations would be done in England. Steven was to go with them but would not take part in the actual invasion because he was too valuable.

Once in England, Steven tried to get away to see Alison but was kept busy. He finally got a chance at the end of May and found her as work was closing. "Steven, you're all right!" She hugged and kissed him.

"I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, but they've kept us confined to the base."

"'Confined'? Does that mean you're going away again?"

"France."

"You don't have to go. You've done your part."

"I have to. I've been there from the beginning."

"If today is all we have, let's spend it all together." She kissed him.

Steven looked in her eyes and wondered if he understood her full meaning. "All of it?"

"Yes. I want this time to be special for both of us."

They spent the day walking the city and strolling in the parks before going out to dinner and dancing. They then spent the night at a hotel. In the morning, Steven escorted her home and kissed her good-bye. "If anything does happen to me, don't waste your life over me." He wiped a tear from her cheek. "I'm not worth it."

"Take care, Steven," she called as he walked away. "I love you," she added softly.

By the evening of June 5, the Allies were ready. The troops began to file onto the boats. Steven, unable to go, just stood by and watched. This soon got on his nerves. He found a private's uniform, put it on, and filed onto the boats with the others. Once they passed the point o f no return, Steven removed his disguise. The officer in charge, a captain, saw him and asked him what he was doing on board. "I started this thing and nothing is going to keep me from being in on the end of it."

"I'm not taking the blame if anything happens to you. I want you to understand that."

They landed on the beaches of Normandy--D-Day was underway. Steven successfully made it up the sand blowing up a few gun nests along the way. By the end of the day, they had pushed the Germans back a few miles. Operation Overlord was a success!

The Allied Armies kept pushing the Germans back. Marching through liberated Paris was the high point for Steven who remembered what it had been like once the Germans had occupied it. He was decorated with the Legion d'Honneur by deGaulle himself. The armies also freed the Jews from the concentration camps.

By late April 1945, the Allies had surrounded Berlin. Steven was outside General Eisenhower's headquarters waiting to talk to him. "Come in, Taylor. What is it?"

"Sir, I have a plan that might help you take Berlin."

"What is this great plan?"

Steven told him. "All I ask is for two men to accompany me."

"Do you already know which two you want?" Ike asked with a knowing smile.

"Yes. Rick Johnson and Tim Rogers. I worked with them in the Underground."

"Yes, I know of their reputation. A fine choice. Good luck."

Steven remembered a little-used way into the city that led straight to the Chancellery. He found his way in the dark with no mistake. Behind him, he could hear Rick and Tim bumping into boxes and crates. "The Fates are on our side, boys. The Krauts have overlooked this little passageway. I guess they forgot I knew about it." They entered the building. "I've never seen this place so quiet. You two go upstairs while I check down here."

Steven crept quietly towards Hitler's offices. As he reached for the doorknob, he heard the click of metal, such as the closing of a door. It was then that Steven remembered Hitler standing by the mantel acting a little strange. He also remembered that Hitler had a secret bunker somewhere in the city. Maybe he had found it! The perfect place to hide from the Allies! Steven went to the mantelpiece and fooled with the decorative pieces. One moved and the panel opened. Inside was a set of stairs that led downwards. He found himself in a large room filled with explosives. On the far side, he saw two figures lying on the ground. When he got close enough, he realized that they were two bodies: Adolf and Eva Braun.

He knelt and, without any remorse, said, "Tough luck, Addie, old boy." He then knew that if found the bodies would be displayed and the only way to prevent that would be to burn the bodies. He moved the explosives away from the bodies to give himself and the others enough time to get out before the building blew. He doused the bodies in gasoline, lit a match, and then threw it on the bodies as he ran.

When he thought he had reached a sufficient distance from the blaze, he turned to watch. What he didn't notice was a small box of explosives that was becoming closer to the flames. The impact of the explosion sent Steven flying to the opposite end of the room where he landed, sprawled at the base of the stairs. "Even dead you're causing me trouble, Addie," he murmured. He tried to open his eyes but couldn't. "Damn!" He knew the flash had blinded him. His face was sensitive to the touch, which meant there were probably burns as well. Steven felt for the stairs and climbed them as fast as he could. The explosion had probably spread the fire, bringing it closer to the rest of the explosives. He had to get to the others.

Rick and Tim came running when the heard the explosion. They found Steven on the staircase. "What happened?"

"We've got to get out of here before this place decides to blow. I'll explain on the way."

They helped him out of the building and he told them of what he did and why. "It's my own damn fault I can't see. Giving honor to the enemy, no less."

"Let's find something temporary for your eyes until we can get you to a doctor."

They were met on the way by the general's jeep. "What happened? Are you responsible for the blast?" Steven told his story again. "Get in the jeep. Was there any activity in there?"

"Nothing I could find."

Back at the hospital, the doctor told Steven that his blindness was temporary. Steven requested that no one know of his whereabouts except for Churchill and the new president, Truman. He just wanted some rest.

Two weeks later, the Germans signed an unconditional surrender. The war in Europe was over!

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

The next week, Steven received a letter from President Truman asking him to come to Washington for a luncheon. Steven flew to the States two days after reading the letter. McCarthy met him at the airport. "This luncheon is for all the soldiers receiving special commendations," he told Steven.

He parked the car and led Steven inside where everyone was gathered. Once he was seated, luncheon began. Unbeknownst to him, his seat was next to Fitz. "Hey, Steven! It's great to see you again. Does your aunt know you're back?"

"Fitz, it's good to hear your voice. No, Steph doesn't know--neither does Victoria."

"I'm going home by train this evening. Care to join me?"

"Yeah, sure."

"What's the matter? You don't sound too thrilled."

"I was just thinking of Victoria. Now that the fighting's over, she'll probably be going home soon."

"She's leaving day after tomorrow. I was talking to Sarah--"

Before Fitz could continue, the President said he was ready for the presentations. The press was let in and began taking notes and pictures. No one recognized Steven.

"And now for our last medal. Our Allies have decorated this recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor but we hope this will mean more to him. He risked his life to send us information on the German movements and brought back maps that helped make D-Day a success. Gentlemen of the press, I give you Captain Steven Taylor."

Steven rose and was helped over to the President and bowed his head so the medal could be placed around his neck. Flashbulbs went off all around. Steven said, "I really don't see what the fuss is all about. I was just trying to prove I was good for something."

After the press had gone, Steven took his leave of the President and he and Fitz left for Greenwich. The train ride passed slowly. People paid them no special attention as there were many soldiers heading home. Fitz told Steven that his family would be with the Fitzgeralds since they knew he was coming home. They were the only two to get off at their stop. Steven put his dufflebag over his shoulder and his hand on Fitz's shoulder. They walked to the Fitzgeralds' and Fitz's mother opened the door. "John! Come in! Oh, how I've missed you!" she declared as she kissed him.

"It's great to be back home, Mom. I've brought a friend."

"It's nice to see you again, Mrs. Fitzgerald."

Steven heard a gasp and guessed it was his aunt. "Steven?"

"Yes, Steph, it's me."

His aunt ran to him and gave him a big hug. His sister and cousin followed suit. Victoria waited then came over and gave him a kiss.

After talking over coffee, Steven excused himself and said he would like to get some rest. Victoria volunteered to take him home. When they were outside, Steven asked her what she had done during the past year. "I helped with the boarding house and all the other things a young woman is supposed to do to help the war effort." They walked on in silence. Just when they were within sight of the Taylors' house, Victoria said, "I'm leaving for London tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? Fitz said it was the next day!"

"Winston wants me back home now that the war's over."

They had arrived at the house. "Do you need help getting to your room?"

"Just point me in the right direction and I'll be fine." She did as he asked then kissed him good-night.

The next morning after breakfast and all the family had said their good-byes, Fitz and Steven took Victoria to the train station. "It's been nice meeting you, Fitz. I hope you do well in the future."

"Thanks. It's been nice meeting you, too. Steven, I'll be waiting for you." He went and left the two alone.

"I guess this is good-bye."

Steven, just because I'm going now doesn't mean it's forever. We'll see each other again."

"I know, but--"

"Besides, you're a big hero now. You'll be too busy for awhile to spend time with me."

"Vickie..."

"Yes, Steven?"

"I love you."

"I love you too." He kissed her good-bye and the train pulled away.

Fitz came over to him. "Everything's gonna be fine. You'll see her again. She'll wait for you. I know she will."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. She's some kid." He smiled as Fitz took him home.

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