Captain Gates held the photograph in one hand, and his pistol in the other. He hated these moments. He could be dead within the hour. Any moment now, someone from Battalion headquarters should run into the room and tell him to get Fox Company ready for combat. He had, of course, already sent his runner out. Lance Corporal Kendle had been sent to check in with Battalion HQ.
Evans ran down the stairs and saluted, “Captain Gates Sir.”
“Sergeant,” Captain Gates returned the salute, “You are here to summon me?”
Before Evans could respond, a blast from above knocked him forward, The sudden gust of wind blew out the candles and plunged the two into total darkness.
“Fuuuuuuucccccckkkkkkk,” Evans slowly exhaled, “Are you alright sir?”
“Yes Sergeant. Are you?”
“Been better sir. Nothing seems broken though,” Evans slowly stood up and reached into his right breast pocket. He fished past the cigarettes and pulled out his lighter. He struck it and used the flickering light to find the nearest candle. After lighting it, he put his lighter away, lit another candle, and walked up the stairs, “About half the stairs are blocked. Timbers too close together to get a grip. The Flame is acting like there’s wind, so we should be good for now. No one is gonna come out until the barrage is over, so let’s wait until then to yell for help.” Evans walked back down to the desk Captain Gates was sitting on, “So we might as well make ourselves comfortable for now Sir.”
“Very well Sergeant,” Captain Gates looked at the photograph and smiled, Now, if another shell hit, no one would even need to bury him. He’d already be in this grave.
“So what’s the picture sir?”
“Oh nothing Sergeant.”
“Is it a lady sir?” Evans sat down next to Captain Gates and pulled out a picture that was tucked into his helmet and showed it to Captain Gates, “This is my wife, Anna, attempting to hold our kids. Mary. Graham. Paul.”
“Oh no, this is just a good friend of mine,” Captain Gates showed the picture of an artillery officer.
“Wasn’t he at the coronation?”
“Yes, he was my guest.”
Evans laughed, “The guest slot was so you could impress a lady. Who’s gonna turn down an invitation to see a-” Another shell hit close by and the dugout shook. Evans could hear timbers shift, “I’ll go check on that. Hopefully, the stairway is a bit more open now.”
He stood up and walked to the stairwell. There was a beam of Moonlight coming down, “GOOD NEWS SIR!” Evans walked down the stairs to the back corner of the room, “May I take this flag pole Sir?”
“Thank you Sir,” Evans shifted the candle to his left hand and pulled the flag pole up. Once he got back to the stairway, he slowly pushed the pole into the open shaft until it breached the surface. He then started to wave it back and forth to get someone’s attention, “Captain, just in case, get your pistol ready.”
As the shells started to trickle down, Evans heard someone shout, “HOW MANY IN THERE?”
“TWO! SERGEANT EVANS AND CAPTAIN GATES!”
“ALRIGHT! I’LL TRY AND GET A PARTY! I’M LANCE PENN BY THE WAY!”
Evans withdrew the flag pole and set it down on the stairwell, “Well, we’re getting help Captain. Lance Corporal Penn if you know them.”
“Kelly Penn. She is in… third platoon. Been with Fox since Northern Gate,” Captain Gates grabbed the flag pole and put it back in its place.
After a few minutes, Penn came back and shouted down, “WE’VE GOT A PARTY! AND HER GRACE WANTS YOU TWO TO REPORT TO HER IMMEDIATELY!”
The party made quick work of debris, making a hole big enough for Evans and Captain Gates to crawl out of. Captain Gates went first. Evans crawled out next. Lance Kelly was waiting by the exit. She grabbed his arms and helped pull him out. He nodded to her, “Thanks Lance.”
“Shall we respond to the Major’s Summons now Sergeant?”
“Yes. I can lead the way sir.”