Kingdoms Fall - The Laxenburg Message

Kingdoms Fall - The Laxenburg Message by Edward Parr

Book: Kingdoms Fall - The Laxenburg Message by Edward Parr Read Free Book Online
Authors: Edward Parr
in
positions protected with multiple machine guns, mortars and trenches full of
snipers. It appeared the Turks had elected to withdraw to a strong defensive
position and send sorties up into the hills where they knew the British were
spread out.
    “That’s a nest of hornets, and no mistake.”
said Hart.
    “Yes, and let’s hope the Norfolks don’t stir
them up too much before we retire. I fear that Beauchamp will take the men too
close to the road and walk right into those guns. I need you to keep Beauchamp
up in the woods so our line of retreat remains open. I think I can make it to
the cemetery alright from here. Go find the Colonel and stay with him until I
come find you.”
    Sergeant Hart found Colonel Beauchamp in the
midst of the action, wet with sweat and very red in the face – he looked to be
on the edge of collapse.
    “Colonel, Sir, Captain Gresham wishes me to
report that the village is close by to the south. He reports, Sir, that the
Turks in the village are heavily entrenched and well-armed.”
    “I appreciate the information, Sergeant. We
will hold the hillside here, have no doubt. The Turks have been sending sorties
up to sweep through our lines, but we have no intention of entering the
village. The Fourth Battalion will be coming up for that in just a few hours.
Our task is to protect their left flank and dispose of these sorties as they
emerge.”
    “Aye, Sir,” said Hart. He was hesitant to say
more about Gresham’s whereabouts, but he kept close to the Colonel. Night had
fallen fast and the smoke was beginning to dissipate. Finding a path through
the partly wooded and partly burnt hillside to meet Gresham would be no easy
task. Even as the Turkish snipers on the hillside continued to withdraw towards
the town, sorties were still sent out to determine the Norfolks’ position and
test their line. Platoon after platoon of light infantry pushed relentlessly
against the Fifth Norfolks, reducing their numbers and forcing the Battalion
down from the hills, and, eventually, into the road directly in front of
Anafarta Sagir.
     
    ----
     
    Gresham quickly stripped off his jacket and stuffed
it in his rucksack. He decided to leave his rifle on the hill and continued on
as quietly and quickly as he could. The Turkish snipers had cleared out,
however, and Gresham had only to hide quietly from the two small Turkish
patrols he came across.
    A couple hundred yards further east, Gresham
spotted the cemetery again. As he suspected, the Turks saw no need to guard the
dead and no one wanted to camp anywhere near the stinking trenches and piles of
corpses. Behind the cemetery was the small run-in shed where, in better days, a
horse or mule might have been kept. Gresham circled around to the north of the
cemetery and approached the small shed slowly and quietly, his service revolver
drawn. He stood at last beside the shed itself and listened, wondering not for
the last time if he had been right to trust Mackenzie.
    “ Salam alaykum ,” said Gresham in as calm
and normal a tone of voice as he could muster.
    A tall, clean, well-groomed and smartly-dressed
enemy officer stepped warily out of the shadow of the shed and held up his
empty hands.
    “ Wa alaykum e-salam , Englishman,” said
the Arab officer.
    “You speak English?”
    “Yes, a little. I am Muhammed al-Faruqi. What
is your name, please?”
    “Woodrow Wilson.”
    “That is correct. Our friend gave me that name
for you, very clever. You are not to shoot, please.”
    “No, I’m not going to shoot you,” said Gresham,
lowering his revolver. “But we need to be off quickly before someone else
does.”
    “Yes. Begin then.”
    “Follow me and stay close.”
    Gresham retraced his steps as best he could up
to the hillside and took a slightly higher path well out of sight of the
village below. There was a lot of shooting by the heavily entrenched troops
before the village, but higher up it appeared the hills were clear. There were
Turkish and British

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