Buster's Story Ch. 05byJaisen©
Life moves on. This chapter has taken a while due to mundane life interrupting writing time. My dear partner once again helped with various aspects and I appreciate his help. I am thankful to all the historians and the availability of information on the Internet. Otherwise, this chapter and others would have taken months instead of weeks. Hope you enjoy this next slice of life. Please vote and comment! I enjoy hearing from my readers.
Spring had brought heavy wet snow and the inevitable mud. Quintus and George had hauled rocks and gravel up from the riverbeds to make paths between the cabins. Between loads of rock from the river, they were digging graves as the ground thawed. So far, they had dug nine. Over the years the cemetery had been expanded. In the newer section was a place for soldiers. Rather than take up land for bodies that weren't there, there was simply a large slab of marble that had space for names as deaths were reported.
Natalie was exhausted. She sat in the rocker beside the fire, holding Bertie and wondering if there were any more deaths to come. First had been Betty. She had grown weaker and weaker as January turned into February. One morning Quintus had gone to see why Bertie was crying and found Betty had died in the night. It was so cold that they wrapped Betty's body up, placed it in a coffin and then put it out in the back of the barn.
Then city folk came onto their land hunting for deer and elk. Instead, they shot what they thought were four wolves. Kent had found the hunters, killed them and brought the 'wolves' back for burial. They too ended up wrapped and waiting in the barn.
Natalie knew that her mother Celia was ill, but then again, she swore the woman was fueled by hatred. Celia hated the war, the war brides, non-shifters, and just about anything to do with this century. In her 80's, she had grown smaller in stature and bitter. Natalie had foxglove tincture to take to her mother's but simply could not bring herself to get up out of the rocker. It didn't hurt that Bertie was asleep. She dozed in the chair.
"Maman," George said softly. He barely tapped Natalie and she woke up. George took the sleeping baby from her arms.
"What is it George?" asked Natalie.
"Quintus. He find Bizzet," her son said softly pointing to Quintus holding a frail naked old man in his arms.
"Merde!" hissed Natalie under her breath. She stood up and walked over to Quintus who had tears rolling down his cheeks. She touched Bizzet and found a weak thready pulse. He looked like he hadn't eaten in a week and smelled worse. "Where?" she asked.
"On the high meadow. I went hunting and smelled him. Went to look and found him like this. I bring him home," said Quintus.
"Take him to my bed. We make him comfortable. Not much else to do," said Natalie. They washed Bizzet as best they could and then Natalie sat with him while Quintus ran for Marie and Tilly. Marie took care of the children and got dinner while Tilly brewed up willow and mint tea for Bizzet. Tilly had turned out to be a good nurse and herbalist. She helped Natalie run the clinic.
Natalie spooned the tea into Bizzet's mouth. It was a slow process as she waited for it to go down. He finally began to swallow and she was able to give him sips instead. Tilly braced him upright for Natalie.
"Bizzet, you hear me?" Natalie asked when he finally made eye contact.
"Aye. Who bring me here?" he asked in a voice no louder than a whisper.
"Your boy, Quintus," said Natalie. "He find you."
"Good boy. Best my lot," whispered Bizzet. "I go, you put me next to Wild Girl, that meadow."
Natalie nodded. She knew the place. He slept on top of her grave for so long there was a dent in the earth. Tears began to gather and she wiped her eyes. She held his hand as he drifted off to sleep.
"Natalie, you gonna eat?" asked Tilly.
"Non. I stay with Bizzet," said Natalie.
"I'll be back in a minute and bring you a sandwich and a cup of tea. It's been hours since you ate and we can't lose you," said Tilly.
Natalie just nodded. Tilly was a force of nature, and right now, Natalie needed her and the strength she provided.
Bizzet passed at dawn. Natalie had fallen asleep in the chair when his wheezing woke her. He'd said his goodbyes between gasps and faded away. Outside, George, Quintus and Kent howled their grief to the dawn sky. Quintus had wanted to bury Bizzet in his uniform, but Kent and Natalie said no, knowing how much Bizzet had hated the military after the Great War. Instead, they wrapped him in an old quilt that Natalie knew had been his mother's. It was the quilt that he'd wrapped Quintus in all those years ago.
The boys buried Bizzet next to his beloved Wild Girl. They took time to bring stones up to cover both graves. Then it was time to fill the graves in the cemetery. By the end of the day, no one wanted to do anything. Natalie went to bed and left Tilly, Marie and Alice in charge. She gave orders to not be woken unless it was for Celia. She slept for nearly thirty hours.
Piedimonte, Italy. May, 1944.
"British to the left of us, Poles to the right and us in the damn middle!" hollered Jacques trying to be heard over the bombardment of the guns.
"Aye, and that damn reporter for the CBC is still blathering away back in that farmhouse," said Henry.
"What he say that Stursberg?" asked Jacques.
"He reporting the battle. Say we been given the shit job again. Thickest part to go through. Concrete, steel, and barbed wire. Meby 20 feet deep. Oh, and don' forget them 700-800 guns shooting at them damn Germans," said Henry. He flinched as yet another barrage landed nearby.
The men had been moving forward as best they could, but it was as rough here as it had been twenty times before. Monte Cassino had been a nightmare. Instead of fighting from house to house, it had been from bush to boulder. 'Buster' had done more for the Canadian troops by sniffing out booby traps, land mines and pockets of soldiers than most of the dog and handler teams. The New Zealand Corp and the Gurkas who'd been trapped on Hangman's Hill wanted to adopt Buster, but Henry refused. Soon after that was when Brian had been wounded.
Brian returned to duty just in time for the final assault on Monte Cassino. This time it was better organized. The British took a river the Americans had failed to cross on a previous attempt and the Poles linked up with the British and Canadian corps to provide the added strength to pinch off the German supply lines up the Liri Valley. When Monte Cassino fell, the remainder of the Canadians melded with other surviving units and headed with the British and II Polish Corp to the battlefield outside of Piedimonte. It was here that in a concentrated effort, the Germans were being smashed.
Brian came up behind Henry. "You seen Henri?" he asked.
"Non. He was down that way," Henry pointed. "Why?"
"I got this bad feeling," said Brian. He left the ammo he'd been carting and headed off towards the direction Henry pointed. At each entrenchment, Brian checked on the men and left supplies if he could.
"Sir, I look for my son-in-law, Henri Desjardin. Have you seen him?" Brian asked of one of the officers directing men at a headquarters station.
The officer looked on a roster and then a second sheet. "Ah yes. Thought I recognized that name. Hit and wounded. Down at the field hospital," he said. He pointed towards a dusty tent with a Red Cross emblem on it. Brian thanked the man and ran for the tent.
Once there, he found a nurse and asked again for Henri. Men were pouring into the triage area. The smell of blood, guts and death was thick in the air. Brian gagged and tried to not throw up when he felt a hand on his arm.
"Sargent Davy!" hollered Dr. Abrams. "Are you hurt?"
"Non! I look for my son-in-law, Henri," said Brian.
"He's over there," said Abrams. "Just a bullet wound in the calf. He's groggy, but alright."
Brian nodded and headed across the tent to the far side where men were sitting and awaiting transport. He crouched down next to Henri. "You okay?"
"Aye. I get to go to soggy England. Maybe home," said Henri. His leg was bandaged and seeping ever so slightly. "I dive for cover, but my leg... it is too slow," he tried to joke.
"You going to be okay. That Dr. Abrams, he look after you. I go back now, take care of that idiot Major and the rest of the boys. You go home, you kiss all of the family for me," Brian said. He hugged Henri and then after checking for dispatches, headed back up the hill.
"You find Henri?" asked Jacques hours later as they sat in the back of a truck rolling along the roads towards Rome. The line had broken and the Allies had poured through the German defenses like water.
"Aye. He go back that England base. Maybe go all the way home. Us, we head to Rome. Then only the Army know where," said Brian. He was tired. Tired of the heat, the guns, fighting and most of all, Italy. The soggy cold of Aldershot was looking better and better. Brian also missed his family. No letters. Nothing.
The Canadian Corp rolled through Rome at 3am and headed North. As the Germans retreated, the battles became a series of lines. Trasimene Line in June. Florence in July. The Gothic line in August, and the Rimini Line in September. Rimini was as bad as Monte Cassino. Mountains, rocks and no place to hide. The Greeks and New Zealand troops fought alongside the Canadian troops. Once again, Henry and Buster made their presence known and gave men hope when they thought all was lost.
Wolf ran. He smelled that sour scent of the enemy. Crouching low, he belly crawled up to the pit the men hid in. There were three. Swiftly, he dropped the first one. By the time the second one saw him, his throat was gone. Last was the gunner. He never heard his friends die over the noise. Nor did he hear Wolf. He just died. Wolf ran back to his two-legged pack mate and earned his rest. Soon it would be time to find the next pit.
Wolf felt better working. He could smell the enemy that the two-legged soldiers could not. The two-legged soldiers were happy when he killed the sour enemy. Soon it would be dark and time to hunt.
"Are you sure you won't give up that dog mate?" asked an NZ soldier. "He's a real help. Cleared those ditches and houses with hardly a loss."
"Aye, but it'd be like giving away my brother or my pa" said Henry. That made the soldiers laugh as they headed for the trucks transporting them to the next battle.
Henri figured he could run faster than the truck was moving. Granted, his leg was still painful. A splinter had worked out while on the boat trip from England to Canada. He hadn't been able to shift since that field hospital in Italy where Dr. Abrams had helped him. Now almost eight months later, he was less than fifty miles from home and the driver was creeping along.
"Hey, you think you could drive faster?" Henri shouted.
"Non!" yelled back the old man. He was squinting at the road trying to see by the blackout lights still in use.
"Then let me drive!" said Henri. The old man pulled over and Henri moved into the drivers seat. He winced as the clutch was stiff and hurt his leg. He shifted his eyes slightly and headed down the road at nearly sixty miles per hour. The old man next to him hooted with laughter as they drove.
Natalie heard a truck door slam, and ignored it thinking it was Tilly or Quintus back from town. She put Bertie down and wondered how long Jenny, Marie and Alice would talk and knit. They were making socks. With nearly twenty-two children now to care for without parents, no one's hands were idle at night. She had just put the kettle on for tea when the door opened.
"Maman?" the tall figure in the doorway asked.
Natalie turned, but before she could say a thing, Jenny screamed and launched herself into the arms of Henri. The rest of them stood there, not knowing what to think.
"Oh Henri!" Jenny cried, tears coursing down her cheeks.
Henri was kissing his wife he hadn't seen in six years. Marie, Alice and Natalie all joined in the hugging and kissing.
Quintus burst through the door with George not far behind. "Maman! I heard a scream," he said and then he saw Henri. "Henri? Is that you? Really you?" he asked and then smothered Henri in a hug.
"Damn you've grown!" Henri said hugging Quintus and then George with one arm. In spite of all the other family members rushing to see him, he hadn't let go of Jenny from the moment they touched.
Sleepy children poured out of their rooms to see who was making all the noise. Natalie grabbed Bertie who had woke and then shoved two teen-aged girls to the front.
"Papa? Is that you?" asked the darker of the two.
"Lizzybit?" asked Henri as he turned to his daughter.
"Aye Papa!" she said hugging him tight.
Henri looked over her head at the other girl with her mother's eyes. "Caroline?" he asked.
"Papa?" Caroline said crying as she too was wrapped in her father's arms. All of them stood there wrapped in each others arms.
"Who's that?" asked Tilly.
"Jenny's husband Henri," said Natalie. "Get the comfrey and the mint along with the bottle of poppy juice. His leg, it don' smell right." she said. Then while Jenny and the girls hugged Henri, Natalie and the rest got the children back in bed. They knew they'd get more information once people settled down.
"Thank you Maman. My leg it has hurt all the time," said Henri hours later as he watched Natalie change the poultice. His leg had stopped bleeding and hurting at long last. The scar would be a nasty reminder that he should have moved faster.
"You're welcome. You say a doctor, he know about us now?" Natalie asked.
"Aye. He fix up Brian when he get shot. Brian, he him sweet self and almost eat the doctor," said Henri.
Natalie shook her head and smiled shyly. She was glad to know that at least last spring that Brian was alive. From what Henri said, all the men were now in Germany or Holland. He'd explained how the men had been secreted out of Italy during Operation Goldflake. Many of the men had been allowed to recuperate before going back into battle. Many had been at Aldershot with Henri where they recovered from wounds. Some came home with Henri, while others headed back across the channel. Brian and his sons had been amongst those.
"Maman, I think I take Henri home. You watch the girls?" asked Jenny.
"Aye. You go now. I make them wait until you come back," said Natalie with a smile.
Henri was so nervous. He didn't want to let go of Jenny once they got in the house. He looked around amazed that so little had changed.
"I be right back," said Jenny. She too was afraid that if she left the room, he'd disappear like mist, but her nose told her otherwise. She changed into her nightgown and dabbed rose water behind her ears after she'd undone her hair. She walked back into the bedroom to find Henri standing right where she'd left him.
"I miss you so much," she said and began to unbutton his uniform.
"I miss you. Think I never see you again. Each time I write, I wonder if you get the letter. Pretty soon, no one gets letters and we never get told why. Then I get to England and there is a pile of letters. I read everything in one day. Still," he said.
"I know. Now jus stand still," said Jenny. She had him sit on the bed so she could unlace his boots. They clunked to the floor and were followed by his trousers and then underwear a moment later. Jenny's nightgown followed. The two of them stood there in the candle light touching. New scars, breasts, hips. Henri took Jenny into his arms and just held her. His tears trickled down her back.
"Henri, let's lay down," she said. The two of them let go of each other long enough to crawl in under the quilt. Henri smelled the lavender that Jenny used on the bedding and the rosewater she had daubed on her neck.
They kissed and held each other, exploring like two nervous teens. Jenny's hand cradled Henri's balls and Henri was certain that his cock would fall off from being so hard after nothing but a rough soldier's hand on it for years. He gasped.
Jenny kissed her husband and brought his hand up to her breast. She felt like a virgin it had been so long. His fingers were rough and yet so gentle. After a few minutes, his hand trailed down her side and slid between her legs. It was Jenny's turn to gasp. His fingers traced from her clit to the opening of her pussy and then slid in deep.
"You're so wet," he whispered between kisses.
"And you are so hard. Why not come here?" she asked as she rolled on her back and opened her legs. Henri moved between her legs and in a moment, was nestled deep in his wife. After a few strokes, he rolled her onto her knees and slid in from behind. Jenny smiled, knowing what was coming. She braced and as Henri began to thrust, she felt him shift. She shifted too, as Henri bit her neck. The two moved in pleasure and soon howled their orgasms to the rafters. Knot locked the two wolves curled up on the bed and slept.
The she-wolf licked her mate's leg. She couldn't move much and if she did, he bit her to hold her in place. It had been a long time since they had mated.
Later, they ran in the woods and mated again. At dawn, they crept back into the cabin and slept curled on the bed, nose to tail. Wolf sighed. It was good to be with one's mate.
"I see one more dike, one more river or one more supply truck, I think I scream," said Jacques.
"Non. I like every truck I see. It has food to give these Dutch. They hungry like I never seen," said Henry. He and the soldiers had been fighting Germans and running supply trucks across the Netherlands.
The 1st and 2nd Canadian Corps were fighting side by side for the first time since training. In short bloody battles, the 2nd Division took Schipbeck Canal and straight into Groningen. More fighting ensued which lead to the capture of Dventer, Zwolle and Leeuwarden. Next stop, the sea.
The 1st Canadian Corps were rolling through the norther Netherlands. They liberated Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Everywhere the Canadians looked, they found people starving. The Dutch were at the end of their endurance. The previous winter had been one of starvation and became known as the "Hunger Winter". People died by the thousands.
Arnhem was another house to house battle. Brian and his fellow soldiers had honed their skills in Ortona and moved rapidly. As the Germans shelled the houses, Brian and a small group of men worked to reach the various machine gun nests and tanks. Brian dived into a house to avoid a sniper to be confronted by a mother and three small children. He could tell by the smell, that none of them had eaten. He grabbed his pack and started pulling out his rations.
"Here, eat," he said making hand gestures. The children grabbed the food and the mother cried and whispered thank you. Brian made a promise to himself to make sure food got to anyone who needed it if he survived the day. Two days later, the town was in Allied hands. Brian made sure that every spare ration he could find went to the people. He and Henry went 'hunting' and brought other rations that the Germans had left behind in their haste to leave.
April 28th saw a truce in western Holland, and the first food supplies began to move in for the starving people. The Canadians were cheered as they moved with the supples from town to town. Liberation and food were a heady mix. Food drops were made by planes.
A week later on May 7th, the Germans surrendered and the war in Europe was over. While not all the fighting stopped at once, Brian and his men were still in the Netherlands distributing food and trying to keep order. At night, they went hunting. This time, their prey were German soldiers, land mines and food caches left behind by retreating Germans. No one believed the soldiers who surrendered when they talked about wolves that hunted them down. The Canadian dog handlers just laughed.