Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

Author:Christopher McDougall
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd


CHAPTER 23

Suddenly the firing stopped, brought to an end not by a Cease Fire order but by a sound far more blood curdling….

—XAN FIELDING

“BLACK SHEEP!”

A few months after their near miss with the radio, Paddy and his gang were just settling down for the night when they heard a lookout calling out a secret warning. Germans were on the move, three hundred or more, still a good way off but coming fast. Paddy grabbed his rifle and was stunned when it suddenly fired. A few feet away, Yanni Tsangarakis—Paddy’s closest Cretan friend—dropped to the ground, bleeding. Paddy’s bullet had smashed through Yanni’s hip and ricocheted up through his guts. Paddy and the others desperately shoved their hands down on the wounds, but it was no use. Yanni whispered his farewells and died.

Paddy was horrified. He knew what he had to do: as soon as they were clear of the Germans, he’d go to Yanni’s family and put himself at their mercy.

Terrible idea, Yanni’s friend argued. What good are two corpses? Some fool will say you did it on purpose, and someone will believe him. Yanni didn’t blame you, but his family will. We’ve got to say the Germans shot him. It’s the best thing for Yanni. He’ll be remembered as a patriot. You’ll get the chance to die like one.

Paddy churned over his dilemma as they slipped Yanni’s body off to safety and buried him in the shade of two holly oaks. His gang was right about one thing: island chatter was notorious. “No news? Then tell me a lie” was a favorite Cretan joke. Okay, then—Paddy agreed to lie and pretend Yanni had been killed in a firefight. “I want to say that I did not agree to this hateful fiction out of a wish to shirk my responsibilities, but for the sake of Yanni and his family, and our work on Crete,” a miserable Paddy would explain. But whether Yanni’s clan would believe it was another story. They’d be aching for details; they’d want to know who else was injured, and why was Yanni cornered when he’d escaped so many times. Tell us again, how many Germans were killed in this fight that killed our Yanni? The second they smelled something fishy, they’d come looking for answers.

Paddy was still in the dumps over that disaster when he was tapped to perform a bit of street magic. The Allies had invaded Sicily, and the Italians, fed up with Mussolini, had tossed him out of office. Hitler would soon toss Mussolini right back in again, but in the meantime, German command was giving Italian forces two ugly options: they could be folded into the German army or locked up in a German labor gang.

But General Angelo Carta, the Italian commander, was secretly offered a back door. Word was passed by the underground that if he was willing to cooperate with Allied forces, a British operative would find a way to spirit him off the island. Carta agreed, and Paddy got the assignment.



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