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Title: Flight of the Eagle
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 6683
Summary Steven gets some closure on recent events and makes a new start.
Notes: This is the third part of my original trilogy and you can easily see what influenced me at the time. ; ) This was also used as the basis/framework for my earliest surviving fanfic that will be posted soon. Also, I apologize to those in the UK if my time and distance is off

Part One


19 Flight of the Eagle


May 1951


Two weeks later, Steven was able to walk on his leg without any help and with only a slight limp. He was able to go short distances without his leg throbbing in pain. His physician was amazed at his quick recovery. There was a knock at the door and Steven answered it. "Rick! C'mon in, buddy. What're you doing in this neck of the woods?"

"I've come to enlist your aid."

"What for?"

"Well, believe it or not, I'm now with the CIA and could use you help."

"What is it that needs my help?"

"We've traced an international criminal to Europe; England or France. I've pulled in Dolittle to help in the East End. We've heard that he has contacts there."

"Then why do you need me?"

"You can help him. It's too much for one man to handle. We need to catch this man as soon as possible."

"I want you to know that I'm not in the best condition. I'm not sure I can keep up the pace."

"I've taken that into consideration. That's why Dolittle is doing the bulk of the work."

"I still don't get why you need me."

"We've found out that he's planning to pull a big jewel heist and is looking for 'assistance'. That's where you come in. You have the technique and a special knowledge of the layout of the hit."

"I do?"

"Dolittle heard that he's planning to hit the Palace and sell the takings to a contact in Paris."

"This guy must be daft! How does he think he's gonna get away with it?"

"He's not. You are."

"What?"

"Dolittle's gonna fix it so the guy'll hire you. You'll have to disguise yourself and the way you talk. John will meet you in Trafalgar near one of the lions. The Yard knows about this and won't make a move without my say-so."

"How will he be able to get me the job?"

"I don't know and that's the type of question I wouldn't ask of him."

"I guess I could do it. When do I meet him?"

"Tomorrow at noon. He still looks the same." Rick walked to the door. "I'd like to stay and chat over old times, but I can't now. Maybe when this thing is over."

After Rick laughed, Steven went to his study, opened the closet, and reached for the case on the top shelf. The tools inside clinked together. He lifted the lid. "Good, everything's there." He then went into the bathroom and from the cabinet under the sink pulled out a case holding his disguises. He checked inside. "No need for refills, fine in all areas."

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

Fitz was in for dinner. "Why aren't you with Sarah?"

"She had an important dinner to attend. I didn't feel like I'd fit in, so I didn't go."

"Our dinner may not be so grand, but we'll definitely have more fun."

"What is it?"

"London broil, baked potatoes, and salad."

"That's good enough for me."

"There's something nagging you, isn't there?"

"I guess you could say that. I'm trying to gather up enough courage to propose."

"That's fantastic! I'm sure she'll say yes. You know she loves you."

"Guess you're right. I'll do it tomorrow."

After dinner, Steven told Fitz, "Ah, I won't be around for a few days. My friend Rick Johnson asked if I could do a favor for him, so you'll have the place to yourself."

"Can you say why?"

"Nope. Confidential, old boy."

After Fitz went to his room to read, Steven went to his own and took our his two cases from the closet. He applied the make-up, put on old beat-up clothes, and when he walked away from the mirror, he looked like a totally different man. He took the Tube to the East End and looked for a cheap hotel and soon found one to his liking. The night manager did not look up from his paper. "One free room, quid a night. Room Five. Sign the reg'ster." Steven signed as Sidney Tate and went up to Room Five.

The next morning Steven went to the rendezvous point to wait for Dolittle. John arrived exactly at noon and Steven decided to surprise him. "Dolittle, me old son." Dolittle stared at this stranger. "Nice t' see ya 'gen, John. 'Aven't changed a bit, 'ave ya?"

"Steven, is that you?"

"Ya always git me name wrong, mate. It's Sidney. Lor', I thought ya learn that b' now."

"I'm sorry, Sidney. I'll take you to your interview."

Dolittle filled Steven in on the background of the Tiger. "He was once the leader of a major gang in the East End until he was arrested and sent to Dartmoor. When he was released, he went to the States then came here after pulling a big job. They want him back."

"Anything else I should know?"

"No. Here we are." Dolittle knocked on the door. An eye looked through the peephole and the door opened. "Where's the Tiger? I've brought someone to see him."

They were led to a center room. "So, Duncan, this is the man you were telling me about. What's his name?"

"Sidney Tate, sir."

"Well, Tate, what have you done?"

Steven told him of famous unsolved thefts. The Tiger seemed impressed and was ready to take "Sidney" on as one of the gang. "Our job is one of utmost secrecy. We are going to rob Buckingham Palace. Jack here says that you once worked there and know the lay of the place. Is that true?"

"Yeah. I worked there a bit an' could find me way 'round."

"Good. Now here's the plan." The Tiger laid out his plan and everyone listened carefully. Before he had a chance to finish, they heard a commotion outside. "What the hell is goin' on out there?"

"Boss, it's Louie! 'E's got some of 'is gang wif 'im!"

Dolittle went over to Steven. "We've got to go now."

"Why? Who is this Louie character?"

"He and the Tiger are big rivals. They make Mafia kingpins look like schoolyard bullies. There's gonna be a big shoot-out, and, unless you want to look like a pincushion, we should leave."

John dragged Steven towards a back exit. By the time they reached it, Louie's gang had burst in and opened fire. Steven saw the Tiger fall dead with multiple gun wounds in his chest. At least this whole thing is over with.

Steven and Dolittle went to Scotland Yard to report the death of the Tiger. Dolittle wrote out his report then handed it to a constable to type. "Right away, Inspector."

"Inspector? When did that come about?"

"Oh, awhile ago. Times change, mate."

Back at his flat, Steven found a note from Fitz saying that he was with Sarah. Smiling, Steven went upstairs to remove his make-up and turned on the radio. The news came on. "Today the East End witnessed one of the bloodiest shoot-outs in gang-land history. The unknown leader of a rival gang opened fire in the hideout of the man known as the Tiger and opened fire. The Tiger was killed outright as were many of his men. Two, however escaped. Further details will be announced as they become available."

Steven switched off the radio. "Damn! If they find out about John and me, we're dead!"

Outside, a man was in a phone kiosk. "Yeah, Boss, I followed just like you said. They went straight t' the Yard. Th'other lives in Picadilly. I think it's Edinburgh."

"Okay, stay where you are. I have plans for his Grace and his policeman friend."

As Steven turned out the lights, he saw a man standing in the doorway opposite. He walked to the phone and dialed Dolittle. "John, they've got a tag on me. They've probably realized I'm not who I said I was. They might send one after you."

"Thanks, but I think they already have. I'll see if we can send a tail after your tag."

"Very funny."

"I'm very serious. Don't worry, someone will be there."

"Make it fast, okay?" Steven hung up the phone and went to check all the locks before settling down for a little reading. About an hour or so later, he heard the front door crash open. "Christ! They've broken in!"

He heard footsteps running up the stairs. He was reaching for his knife in the nighttable drawer when the door opened. "So, 'ere you are, mate. Get your 'ands where I c'n see 'em. It's time for a drive, it is."

"I'm not much in the mood for a drive right now. Maybe later."

"Now, mate. Get movin'."

"My, we're in a hurry. Did we get up on the wrong side of the bed today?"

"Just shut up, mate, or you won't be gettin' out o' bed again." The man nudged him towards the door with his gun.

"Okay, mate, I'm going. Just one question: where am I going?" The man said nothing. "At least I know where I stand. Is it Louie?" No response.

Outside in the car, he was sandwiched between two men with guns. The car drove through London and stopped somewhere in the East End, probably Houndsditch. The men hauled him out of the car and hustled him to a doorway. One of them knocked and a panel slip open. They were recognized and let in. They ushered Steven towards a door on the far side of the room. They knocked. "Come in." They pushed Steven inside the room then shut the door. "Hello, your Grace. I'm glad you accepted my invitation."

"Considering the way it was delivered, I had no choice, did I?"

"I suppose not. They said you were bright. Did we ever meet before? You look familiar."

"Spring 1942, Connecticut in the States. You hired me to crack a safe and I was arrested. In a way, I owe you for what I am now."

"The Eagle. Yes, I remember now."

"And I still use my talents. They got me in to see the Tiger as a matter of fact. I was supposed to help the CIA and CID nab him, but you got there first."

"I hope you're not disappointed. I could use a man like you. What would you say to joining my little family?"

"The Eagle is dead, at least in that respect. I say no."

"Come now, your Grace. You don't mean to say that you'll give up part of your past so willingly?"

"I've found part of my past, who I really am, and I'm not going to give that up. The talents of the Eagle are going to be put to good use, not for personal profit."

"If that's the way you want it, you leave me no alternative." He called in two of his men. "Put him on the boat. You know what to do."

"Yeah, Boss." Each grabbed one of Steven's arms and pulled him out of the room and led him to the back of the house where he could hear waves washing against the embankment. There was an old trawler tied to a dock. "Oh, we're going for a night swim in the Thames, are we?"

"Nah, only you, and once ya go under, ya ain't comin' up."

"Oh, that type of swim."

"Yeah." The boat pulled away from the dock and headed for the middle of the river.

They had been out for nearly an hour when the engines stopped. The man who had been doing all the talking bound Steven's arms and legs and placed him on the edge, facing the water. Then he removed his gun from its holster. Steven heard him cock the hammer and knew that timing was crucial. He looked downriver and thought he saw another boat coming, but dismissed it because of the late hour. He prayed he was right and fell into the water as the gun was fired. He made his body float to the top as if he had been hit. The engine started up again and soon faded away. He waited until he was sure it was gone before he moved. He heard an approaching engine and stopped. Voices drifted down to him. "God, we're too late." He knew that voice! "Steven, do you hear me?" It was Dolittle.

"Yeah, I'm fine!" he yelled up. "I'm all tied up at the moment, however."

"Thank God. I thought you were dead. Hold on." Steven saw Dolittle jump off the boat. "I won't even ask how you got into this predicament," he said as he cut Steven's bonds.

"How did you find me?"

"That answer can wait until we're on the boat with warm tea in us. You're freezing, buddy."

Dolittle and Steven swam to the boat and climbed the rope ladder that was hanging over the side. They were given warm blankets and a change of clothes. When they were sitting down with warm tea, Dolittle told Steven what had happened. "Our man got there just as you were leaving and called us before following in his car. We joined him outside the warehouse and waited. When we heard the boat start, we charged the building and got Louie and most of his gang. Rick stayed there while we grabbed another boat to follow."

"What did Louie have to say?"

"He tried to back out of it by pretending not to know what we were talking about. He caved when we told him we followed his men when they kidnapped you."

"It must make you feel good, having gotten rid of two gang leaders like that."

"And we owe you our thanks, Steven. Couldn't have done it without you."

"Thanks appreciated." They shook hands.

A constable came up to them. "We're there, sir."

"Thank you, Cassidy."

"Where's 'there'?"

"Thames Division. We'll get a lift back to the Yard, and, with any luck, see Rick."

"You think he'll be there now?"

"If not when we get there, shortly afterwards."

Rick was waiting for them. "Have a nice cruise?"

"Yeah, we did. I even went for a swim."

"It's good to see they made it in time."

"John told me what happened up until you two split. Care to fill us in?"

"Louie confessed to the shooting and trying to kill you. He also admitted to pulling a number of other jobs and some news-making murders. I've been in touch with Washington and they'd like to commend you for a job well done."

"One that nearly cost me my life."

"Risk of the job, kid."

"Considering it was done as a favor...."

"I warned you."

"Yeah, and I did it anyway. Y'know, it was fun. Do I need to stay here for anything, or can someone give me a lift home?"

"If you're needed for anything, we know where to reach you," said Dolittle.

"What are you doing, Rick? Want to come over for a little snack?"

"I'd really like that."

"Don't hesitate to drop by, John."

Rick and Steven left the Yard and headed for Steven's flat. Fitz opened the door . "Steven, what happened?"

"I'll tell you later. Fitz, this is Rick Johnson, a friend I worked with in France during the war. Rick, this is John Fitzgerald, my best friend."

"Nice to meet you, Rick."

"You, too."

Over a late night snack, Steven and Rick filled Fitz on everything that had happened. "You can't keep away from it, can you?" he said with a laugh

"Yeah, well, I can't help myself sometimes. So, what have you been doing?"

"I've been spending time with Sarah and then she accepted."

"What did you say?"

"Sarah accepted my proposal."

"That's wonderful!" Steven nearly dropped a dish. "When's the lucky day?"

"We haven't set one just yet. I'm letting Sarah choose. She's scheduled a press conference for tomorrow. You will be there, won't you?"

"Try keeping me away."

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

The next morning they were all ready to leave on time. As it was something of a formal occasion, Steven wore his ducal sash. They drove to the Palace in Steven's Alvis which attracted some attention. The sentry at the gate smiled in greeting and let them in. Once inside, they were ushered to the room from which the announcement would be made. Steven introduced Rick to Sarah. The microphones and cameras were in place and ready to begin.

Sarah walked over to Steven. "Will you announce it?"

"Don't you think it would be better coming from you?"

"I guess so. I'm just so nervous." She stepped up to the bank of microphones. "Are we ready yet?"

"Soon, Your Majesty. We're having trouble with one of the cameras."

She motioned for Steven and Fitz to stand with her. "Just for support," she whispered. Steven laughed and had a hard time trying to hold it back when the cameras started rolling. She glared at him.

"We're ready, Your Majesty."

Sarah nodded, took a deep breath, and began when cued. "I know it is very rare for me to speak openly to the media. This is an exceptional occasion. With the approval of my brother," she glanced at Steven, "and Parliament, I am getting married to a man I've known since childhood. The lucky man is John Fitzgerald from the United States. John, say a few words."

Fitz stepped up to the microphones after a little nudge from Steven. "I'm not used to making speeches, so I'll try my best. I've known Sarah--I mean, Anne--ever since we were children together. It seems to me that I was always at their house. James and I were like brothers. Even in school, he encouraged our dating. As a matter of fact, he's the one that talked me into proposing. And I'm glad he did."

Sarah joined him. "We've set the date for March 21 of next year; the first day of spring."

Steven nodded to Rick and walked out of the room. Rick followed and shut the door. "What is it?"

"I just got an idea. Why don't you call Washington and ask for a few days off 'cos we're going to Paris."

"Paris? Why Paris?"

"Remember what you said about seeing the rest of the gang? Well, now were gonna do it starting with Pierre. Then I'll fly back with you to the States to see Tim and Paul."

"I think I can waggle a few days for Pierre, but I don't know about the others. I can get you their addresses, however. When do we go?"

"Now. I'll leave a note for them saying where I've gone and an estimate of when I'll be back. Let's go back to my place, get some stuff, then head for the airport."

"Without reservations, we won't get a flight."

"Private plane, m'boy. One of the perks."

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

When they arrived in Paris, they went directly to the Georges Cinq and booked a suite. Steven found a phone directory and they searched for Pierre's address. Rick was amazed. "I never knew there were so many DuBois in France."

"This is just Paris. Make a list of all the Pierre DuBois you find and we'll track them down."

"It would be easier if we phoned."

They had no luck with the phone calls and decided to go to the homes of those who didn't answer. "What would you rather do, walk or drive?"

"Walk? There's at least ten different addresses all over the city."

"Okay, I'll call a cab."

"Don't bother, there's one outside."

"Great, let's grab it before someone else does. Don't forget the list."

The driver was very obliging when they told him they were looking for a war buddy. They handed him the list and told him to drive more or less for convenience instead of in the order they were written. Returning to the taxi after the seventh address, Rick remarked, "God, wouldn't you know, only Pierre DuBois would put us through this."

"Messieurs, I know a Pierre DuBois who served in the war."

"Really?"

"Oui. He was with the Resistance. Is this the one you are looking for?"

"Could be. Can you take us to him?"

"Certainment. It is the last address."

"It would be."

The driver dropped them off saying the fare was his treat. "Here goes," said Steven as he rang the bell.

Pierre opened the door. "Mon Dieu! Mes amis, what are you doing in Paris?"

"Come to see you, Pierre, old son."

"Rick and I got to reminiscing last night and decided to take a trip. Here we are."

"Come in. I am so surprised to see you after all this time. So much has happened. Not so much to me as to others, eh Steven?"

"Yeah, I guess life's treated me okay since then. Rick hasn't done too bad either."

"Oh?"

"It's nothing. Just got myself a job with the CIA, is all."

"Felicitations! What would you like to drink? Tea? Wine?"

"Tea for me," said Steven.

"Me, too," said Rick.

They talked about old times and what they had done since the war. "I've got a great idea. Why don't we reunite the group?"

"Steven, I don't think we'd be able to get everyone. They've probably got lives."

"I know. That's why we need a cause to reunite. I've been following the action in Korea. They have no organization like ours there."

"Monsieur, you are not implying that we..?"

"Only for a few months. Nothing major like before. If we don't get a unanimous vote, we don't go. Agreed?" They nodded their assent.

The next day the three flew to London and went to Scotland Yard to await John's arrival. About five minutes later he arrived at his office. "Well, what do you know, an international welcoming committee. What's up?"

"We're going to Korea," Steven said seriously.

"No kidding?"

"No kidding. I pulled a few strings and you're joining us--if you want to."

"I always wanted to go to Southeast Asia."

"It's only until March. I'm due back for the wedding. We have the FO's blessing, but we still need to convince the UN. Still want to come?"

"You bet. When do we leave?"

"Pack up some stuff then come to my flat. I've got to tell Fitz what's going on. If all goes well, we can leave for Washington tonight. In the morning, we'll start our search for the others."

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

August 5 found the war buddies reunited after six years. "I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw these guys at my door," said Paul Henderson. "I'm glad about this, even though it took another war to get us together."

"There's that Midwestern thirst for adventure," Tim Rogers said. "I, personally, have some doubts. It's all well and good that we're having a reunion, but Korea? Most of us are probably out of practice. I know I am."

"Don't try to back out of it just because you've been trying to be a Harvard prof."

"Don't blame me for wanting to advance myself."

Paul said, "There's not much call for explosives in farming, so I can't say I've had much practice in that respect. I have done a bit of hunting, though."

Well, that might make you a better shot than the rest of us. I haven't even touched a gun lately. Okay, let's go see Harry now, shall we?" Rick had made an appointment for them the week before. They were shown into the Oval Office where President Truman was waiting for them.

"Hello, sir."

"'Sir' seems so formal. Call me Harry. It's been a long time since we've seen each other, and other quite different circumstances. Now what is it you want to talk about?"

"We'll let Steven tell you since it was his idea."

"Well, Taylor?"

"It's like this: we want to go to Korea."

"Korea?"

"Yeah. We were going to set up an organization like the one in France. Specializing in all-around espionage."

"How are you planning to set it up?"

"We were thinking of a spot near the border, where the action is. We'll also try to get some locals to help us. Maybe we can organize them to carry on after we leave."

"Leave? You mean you're not in for the duration?"

"Of course not. We are a totally voluntary unit. We are our own bosses. We don't take orders from anyone else. Advice, maybe, but not orders. Besides, I have to be home in time for my sister's wedding."

"War of convenience? Okay, I'll write out a document asking anyone who reads it to give you their full cooperation. That should do it."

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

Korea in December was probably one of the coldest places known to man. The temperature sometimes dropped to 17° Farenheight. They all huddled around the fire. Some were reading mail, playing cards, or reading about the broken-down peace talks. Steven was writing a letter to Sarah when the shell hit. The last thing he remembered was the pain in his leg then everything went black.

He came to in a room filled with cots and wounded soldiers. I must be in one of those mobile hospitals near the front. He noticed that his leg was tightly bandaged. The doctor on duty saw that he was awake and came over.

"Glad to see you conscious. It's not often that I get to operate on such a young colonel."

"Purely honorary, I assure you."

"If you're not in the army, what are you doing in Korea?"

"My friends and I volunteered for special duties. I was with them when I got hit. Did anyone else arrive with me?"

"Nope, you were the only one. We're expecting more casualties, though. I'll keep you posted. I hope I don't hear any news of them, if you know what I mean."

"Yeah, I do."

Static came over the loudspeaker. "Message common'."

"...All medical personnel report to triage. Choppers, ambulances, and jeeps. All personnel..."

"Gotta go. Talk to you later."

The next morning while Steven was eating breakfast, the doctor came in followed by Pierre. "I thought you might want to see him. Let me just give your leg a quick check before I go."

After the doctor had gone, Pierre pulled up a chair. "How are you feeling? How much longer will you be here?" he asked in French

"I'm okay," Steven replied in the same language. "There's still a twinge of pain every now and then, but I've had worse. I don't know when I can leave. Not for awhile yet, I would think."

"Have you told them who you are?"

"No, just that the rank was honorary. Why, don't you want me to?"

"It will jeopardize the whole operation, not to mention your life."

"How do you figure that?"

"Once the Russians find out that you're here, they will try and kill you for what you learned during the war. If they don't kill you, they'll send you to Siberia. But do what you wish. I know you are a stubborn man."

"I'm sure you're worrying more than necessary, Pierre. These doctors won't tell anyone."

"You're going to tell them, then?"

"Of course. I'll ask for a pair of crutches and tell them in private. Do you want to sit in?"

"Mais, oui. Do you want me to get the doctor for you?"

"Yeah, thanks."

The doctor complied with Steven's request because he knew the story had to be interesting. The ranking doctors and the head nurse met in the commander's office and Steven began his narration. "You're probably wondering why I asked to talk to you. The name and rank on my dog-tags aren't real. That's not to say I'm an unknown factor, just protected, shall we say. My friend Pierre doesn't feel that I should tell you my real name, but I don't think you are the type of people to tell tales. My given name is James, but I'm known better as Steven Taylor." There was a sharp intake of breath. "I don't need to stress how important secrecy is, do I? If the Russians find out I'm here, Lord only knows what they'll do. Their 'obsession' with me goes back a few years, and it's fine with me as long as it stays long-distance."

The CO solemnly promised that not one person under his command would tell. Steven's doctor grinned. "Whaddya know? I operated on a real hero!"

A month later, Steven was back with the group. "We only have time for a few more jobs until we go. Hear any news while I was away?"

"Only the usual. A few bridges here, a train or two there, with a couple of ammo dumps thrown in. Tim's on the radio now getting a new assignment. Who knows? This may be the big one we've been waiting for."

Rick was right. Their assignment was to infiltrate north of the 38° parallel and cause some trouble within a ten-mile radius, for rumor had it that the North Korean Army was planning a major offensive.

"We should start off as soon as possible then, eh?"

"You up to it, Steven?"

"We can begin packing this stuff up now."

It took them three days to find an appropriate place to set up camp. It was deep enough into North Korea without being too deep. It was near a small creek and secluded by trees. Steven and Tim stayed in camp while the others went on a reconnaissance mission to learn the enemy's position. They came back three hours later with news of a large gathering of divisions along the border. "I have no idea when they're going to attack," said Rick, "but if we don't do anything soon, the UN forces will be in deep trouble."

"Well, what can we do? We can't ake on the whole Red Army."

"We don't have to," Steven said. "If we can off-set at least two divisions plus warn the UN, we should be able to ruin their whole plan."

"And how do you plan to do that?"

"I don't know yet." He had a skeleton of an idea formed in his head that needed elaboration. "Maybe it'll come to me in my sleep."

The next morning over breakfast, Steven told them his plan. "...and that's all we have to do."

"That's all," said John rather sarcastically. "We might as bloody well blow-up the Kremlin while we're at it."

"I think you've got something there," said Rick. "Dolittle, at times you are a genius."

Rick and Steven left the group to work out their plan. John looked at Pierre and said, "DuBois, will you tell me one thing?" Pierre nodded. "What the bloody hell did I say?"

Off to the side, Steven asked, "What did you mean when you called Dolittle a genius? All he said was to blow-up the Kremlin."

"That's just what we're going to do--figuratively, of course."

"Please explain yourself."

"All we have to do is create dissension between the divisions and maybe cause one or two of them to attack ahead of time."

"How?"

"I was going to ask our linguistics expert to go in."

"What? I wouldn't call myself an expert. So, I'm fluent in French, German, and Spanish. What good are they here?"

"Don't you know Russian?"

"Yeah, I know it. I'm just not fluent."

"Doesn't matter. We just get you a Russian uniform that fits and you go in and spread your own little rumors."

"That's all?"

"Not really. You'll have to stay to make sure that they're carried out to the right ends. We'll be in touch so you won't be alone."

"Great. When do I join the enemy?"

"Tomorrow should be good. We can forge your papers and put together a uniform from what pieces we have." With that, they went back to the others.

The next morning, Steven left bright and early to infiltrate the enemy. His story was that he was an escaped prisoner. While he was there, he would spread rumors of a build-up in UN forces, and, hopefully, the North Korean Army would retreat to prepare for anon-existent offensive.

Steven mused over this as he wandered with a purpose. He must have been close to an enemy camp when two North Koreans shouted at him to halt and raise his arms in surrender. As he did so, they noticed his torn Russian uniform and offered him water out of their canteen. One told him that he understood Russian, and Steven told them his story, remembering to mention that there were many soldiers. He was then led to their camp.

When they arrived, Steven was directed to the commanding officer's tent. The colonel was the epitome of the tough Russian officer, even though he was Korean. He was very officious-looking, had weathered skin, and was small. "You are Ivan Turgniev? They tell me you escaped from a prisoner-of-war camp in the south. I only have a few questions to ask before you leave. I hope you don't mind?"

"Nyet. Please, go on."

The officer asked him of his treatment in the POW camp. Steven tried to paint a good picture, hoping it might them more lenient to their prisoners. He mentioned an act he had witnessed in the hospital: one of the doctors had operated on a North Korean before an ally because the wound was more serious. The officer seemed satisfied with Steven's answers and allowed him to stay on with his division until transport could be arranged.

As the week progressed, Steven became acquainted with some of the officers and enlisted men, learning Korean as well. He always tried to mention the size of the opposition every chance he got. After two more weeks, Steven knew that it was a now-or-never situation. The next time he saw someone from the group, he mentioned it. "We'll get right on it. Tim'll radio the position of the anticipated attack so our troops'll be waiting. Rick doesn't want you there when the fighting starts. You want to be in London on time, don't you? It's only two weeks until the wedding."

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

The plan went off without a hitch and Steven and John were back in London the following week. Even if Steven had no idea of what was going on in Britain, he could feel it. Buntings were draped from windows along the streets and souvenirs of every kind were displayed in shop windows. After stopping at his flat, he went to the Palace.

Once inside, he made his way to the library. The room was empty. He then went upstairs and knocked on the door of his sister's rooms. "Just a minute!" He heard her moving about inside. "Okay, you can come in now."

"Hello, Sarah, me darlin'. And how are you this fine day?"

"Steven! I'm so glad you're here! I'm on my way to lunch with Fitz. Why don't you join us? You can tell me about Korea on the way there. Unless you have other things to do?"

"Other things to do? I've been away for over six months and haven't seen you in all that time, why wouldn't I want to go with you? There's only one thing, my clothes."

"Don't be foolish. You know you've made jeans fashionable. If you wore jeans and a T-shirt or a jacket and tie, you'd get in the restaurant anyway, not to mention your name in the paper."

"That's hitting really low. But since you put it that way, I'll go as I am."

Steven told her of all that happened on the drive over. "It must have been exciting and scary at the same time. I'm glad you made it back."

"We set a date for the departure time. I didn't dare stay any later."

"It was marvelous that they went with you and stayed that long on a voluntary basis."

"Yeah, they're a great group of guys. If they hadn't been so kind to me when I first joined them, who knows where I'd be."

They pulled up in front of the restaurant. "We're here. Do you want to act very casual when we walk in, pretending we're in the middle of a conversation?" She grinned and it was as if they were children again.

"Great idea. You start and I'll follow your lead."

All conversation stopped when Steven and Sarah entered. he could feel that all eyes were on them. Fitz was waiting in a private booth. "Steven! It's great to see you. I'm glad you came to lunch. We can discuss the plans for the week."

The plans were somewhat the same as when she was going to marry Mannering. Steven would give her away and double as best man. Stephanie, Sheila, her husband Dave, and little Jessica would be there as well as Fitz's mother. Steven wasn't sure, but he thought Winston might be attending. The reception would be held at the Palace and the couple would honeymoon in Europe.

The night before the wedding, Steven held a small party for Fitz. He invited Dolittle and some new friends of Fitz's. Steven took him out for a drink or two while John prepared the flat. When they returned, Steven let Fitz go in first. When he got over his surprise, he said, "Steven, why did you do this?"

"Oh, just to thank you."

"Thank me? I'm the one who should be doing the thanking!"

"If it weren't for you trusting me and standing up to Mannering, none of this would have come about, least of all my standing here."

"Nonsense! You had already escaped and were waiting outside the church."

"I had just arrived when he mentioned Edward's death. You gave me time to prepare myself."

"You mean I accused him thinking you were right there when you weren't?"

"That's it exactly."

"Oh, my God."

They passed the night by drinking and regaling each other with humorous, bawdy, and even dramatic stories. When Steven saw Fitz beginning to doze off, he called the party. "After all, he does have a big day tomorrow."

"Not to mention a hangover to match it."

The hangover wasn't as bad as predicted. After a few cups of coffee, they were both fine and arrived at St. Paul's with plenty of time to spare. When the ceremony was over, Fitz and Sarah rode back to the Palace in a horse-drawn open carriage. At the reception, Steven toasted the happy couple, wishing them a long and happy marriage.

When he sat, Fitz stood and made a speech. "I'd like to thank James for inviting me here to England. If he hadn't, Anne and I wouldn't have realized our true feelings. He played Cupid for us. I know that speech was hard for you to make, James, and I want you to know that if you ever need my help, I'll be there." The guests clapped and the two men shook hands.

Soon, everyone gathered around the happy couple to wish them a happy life together. After Sarah and Fitz had gone, no one could find Steven.

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

"But Steven, I thought you were going to stay here while we were gone."

"You know I gave that up for good. I can't do it anymore."

"What are you going to do, then?"

"I'm going to the airport with you. Then we part company."

"Any particular place in mind?"

"I was thinking of Australia. I met a guy in Korea who extended an open invitation. They say the Barrier Reef is nice this time of year."

"How will we keep in touch with you?"

"You'll think of something. I've got to catch my plane. Enjoy yourselves. Don't worry 'bout me. I'll be fine." He kissed Sarah good-bye and turned to Fitz. "Take good care of her."

He got out of the limousine and walked through the terminal without looking back. He knew they would do well with England and that England would do well with them. Steven left England knowing that his wife's death was avenged and he could be free.

Back in the limo, Sarah's eyes lingered on the door where she had last seen Steven. "I'm going to miss him."

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