The fighting had moved away from the ambush site. On her stomach, still under the truck, MacAllister studied the surrounding hills. She could no longer see Cochlan's men. She could, however, still hear the shooting. Absently, she rubbed her aching forehead. She glanced at the Australian corporal. He was drifting in and out of consciousness.
"Water." He murmured. "Thirsty."
"So am I." Sarabeth agreed.
She remembered seeing a canteen in the cab of the vehicle. Cautiously, the woman crawled out from beneath the truck. She knelt by a tire, wincing as she tried to put weight on her swollen ankle. Distracted, she reached for the fender to pull herself upright. Instead of metal, she felt a human hand.
With a cry of fear, MacAllister whirled. Directly above her, dangling from the wooden railing, was the body of an Australian soldier. Sightless eyes stared at her. The rest of his face was obscured by blood.
Horrified, the woman screamed.
All the terror she had experienced this day caught up with her.
Whimpering and weeping, she huddled by the side of the truck.
"Oh, damn!! Oh, damn!" She gasped. "I hate this place!"
In a few minutes, she regained her composure. She had seen worse sights. Only the unexpectedness of his ruined face and the events of the day had managed to unsettle her. Wiping her eyes, Lieutenant MacAllister stumbled to the back of the transport. She climbed aboard and eased the body onto its back. Searching for a pulse, she turned away with a sigh.
"Welcome to Korea." From her duffel bag, she removed a towel and placed it over the soldier's face. "Rest in peace." She whispered.
"Tom," MacAllister gently touched his hand, "I've brought you some water."
The man groaned. "My eyes!" He gasped in concern.
"I bandaged both of your eyes---just as a precaution." She quickly explained. "You're going to be all right." She helped him drink from the canteen. "I wish I had some painkillers to give you."
"Lady, just keep talking to me. That's all the painkillers I need." Buchanan replied. "I'm not certain...but, did I hear you scream?" He asked.
"Nope." The woman looked around her. "What are we supposed to do now?"
"We wait. If any of the men are still alive, they'll be making their way back to this location."
"And, if they don't come back?" She asked. The man didn't answer. He was unconscious, again. MacAllister answered her own question. "Then, you get to see, first hand, how the Chinese treat female prisoners."
For a long time, she lay there and shivered.
On guard duty, the woman was trying to watch the countryside in all directions. How long were they supposed to wait? The corporal needed a doctor's attention. So did she, for that matter.
The Texan noticed a bird flying out of a bush near the curve of the road. She tightened her hold on the pistol grip.
"Tom," she whispered nervously, "someone's coming."
Pushing the bandage away from his good eye, the man crawled to the edge of the vehicle where she was crouched. "Can you see who it is?" His voice was a harsh croak. His face was drawn tight with pain. His rifle was ready to fire.
The group of men moved closer and then paused.
"It's Mitch!" MacAllister reported with relief. "They're carrying someone. And some one else is hurt, too." Gathering her med kit, Sarabeth started forward.
The corporal caught her arm, holding her back. "Wait." He spoke quietly.
"But it's Mitch!" She protested.
The corporal explained, "The Chinese will make a captured man walk in front of their troops to flush out any stragglers."
She looked at him in surprise and shook her head, ruefully. "I have a lot to learn about this place."
"Lady, in this game---if you quit learning---you quit living."
"Here's to our continuing education, then."
"I'll drink to that. If I had a drink." He remarked with a small grin.
A strange whistle pierced the stillness. The Australian relaxed and fumbled with the safety on his weapon. "It's all right. The lieutenant wouldn't use that signal if anything were wrong." He whistled a reply.
Sarabeth released a slow breath, set the safety on her pistol and returned it to the holster.
Hearing the warble from the direction of the vehicle, the soldiers resumed their marching. All of them looked tired. Cochlan was assisting one man. Others were carrying a second man on a makeshift stretcher. MacAllister hobbled over to greet them.
Seeing her relieved expression, Mitch Cochlan grinned. "Hello, beautiful!"
Blood stained and oil smeared, she laughed softly. "Beautiful! I feel like something the dog refused to eat!"
"Well, you look good to me."
"What do you know? Y'all like kangaroos." The nurse retorted and reached for the man he was supporting. "Let me take a look at them."
"You can look at them in the lorry. This area isn't as secure as I would like for it to be." Cochlan's expression hardened as he saw the still form in the back of the transport. "Evans. I saw him hanging there as we moved out, but we couldn't stop for him."
MacAllister placed her hand on his arm. "There wasn't a thing you could have done for him." She said sadly.
"He was a good soldier. A good man." Lieutenant Cochlan frowned and glanced around him. "Time to get out of here."
Two of his men clambered into the back of the truck. Solemnly, they moved the body under a bench.
Sarabeth directed the loading of the wounded. "I want the man with the shoulder injury on this bench. The man with the leg injury on the other." She pointed as she continued, "Put Tom on the bed of the truck. Use my satchel as a neck brace."
"I'll need someone to steady the men on the benches. And someone to hand me my instruments as I work." She might not know what to do during an attack, but she did know how to organize a treatment room---even if it was in the open bed of an Army truck.
When everyone was situated to her satisfaction, she turned to the Australian officer. "How far to the M*A*S*H unit?"
"Not far. About ten miles from here." Cochlan answered.
"Get us there quickly, Mitch." The woman directed. "But with as smooth a ride as possible."
"Will do." He looked at her sharply. "I thought I told you to avoid becoming a target."
"What makes you think I've been a target?" MacAllister asked curiously.
"This." The man fingered her sleeve and showed her the bullet hole in the loose material.
Her face ashen, she shuddered and then looked determined. "You do your job, Outback. I'll do mine." The nurse spoke.
"You know...I like you Texans." Lieutenant Cochlan commented with a smile. He boosted her into the waiting arms of his men.