When Honor Dies

WhenHonorDies-smallHere is the cover photo…. and the prologue of WHEN HONOR DIES. It is a story of two young men who meet during the war, (WWI) and become fast friends. BUT one is from a family of police, and the other is from a Mafia family. Can their friendship survive what lies ahead of them? If you liked THE GODFATHER, I think you will like WHEN HONOR DIES.

France, July, 1918
The heavy German bombardment that continued all night had, mercifully, been reduced to an occasional bursting shell. They would come in, swooshing like distant rolling thunder, then detonate in a fiery rose, sending deadly missiles of shrapnel whistling through the Muse Argonne Forest. After each explosion a plume of smoke would drift lazily up through the early morning bars of sunlight that were just now beginning to slash down through the trees.
Mike Kelly, lieutenant of infantry, American expeditionary force, and commander of the advanced listening post, tightened the bandage on his bleeding leg. It hurt terribly, and in the war full of amputees the thought that he might lose it weighed heavily upon him. The only survivor of the bombardment, he lay in a trench that was full of the dead from his little command, and fought the nauseating waves of pain that threatened to make him pass out.
It was important that Mike remain conscious because he had to warn the main element when the Germans started their expected attack. That was the whole purpose of his being here, some 1000 yards in advance of his own lines.
When he saw the Germans advancing, Mike slipped back down into the trench and twisted the crank on the field phone to call headquarters. When he got no response, he twisted it again. It was a useless gesture however, because the artillery fire had chewed the telephone lines to pieces. His phone was dead and he was completely cut off.
Mike looked through the bodies until he found a soldier who had the flare pistol. Taking it from the soldier’s holster, he pointed up and pulled the trigger. There was a pop, then a hissing sound as the red flare arched high into the gray dawn sky. If he couldn’t talk to his commander to tell him the size and direction of the attack, he could at least warn him that an attack was coming.
One of the German soldiers, seeing the source of the red flare, yelled something guttural and ponted at Mike. Several of the soldiers began firing at him. Mike slipped back down into the trench and covered up, listening to the drumming sound of their jackboots as they ran toward him. He realized that if he raised up and fired back at the enemy, he would be killed. His only chance is to wait for them, then surrender.
At first Mike thought they were going to kill him anyway. Some of the soldiers may have, but he was relieved to see that the German officers had no such intention. They wanted him for questioning so a German captain signaled for Mike to climb out of the trench and with his hands raised, Mike did as he was asked.
It was late in the morning when a party of four soldiers was detailed to escort Mike farther to the rear of the German lines where their intelligence officers would question him about such things as the strength of the Americans across from them. Thereto, he was told, he would be given better medical treatment. Mike had already been given first aid at the German field hospital but his leg still hurt terribly and even with a makeshift crutch it was difficult for him to walk.
“How far do we have to go?” Mike wanted to know.
“Do not worry how far you have to go,” and English-speaking soldier explained. “You will not get far. You will try to run and, boom.” He and the others laughed.
Mike knew then that they weren’t taking him to the rear at all. They were just getting him far enough away from their superiors so they could kill him.

Johnny Sangremano of the American 94th Aero squadron was flying some 500 feet above the road when he saw them. He banked his Newport scout played around to get a second look. From the distinctive shape of their helmets, Johnny knew that at least four of the men down there were German soldiers. The fifth man wasn’t wearing a helmet and his red – blonde hair shine brightly in the afternoon sun. From the cut of the uniform, however, Johnny was pretty sure that the fifth man was an American. Also he was unarmed, and walking with her crutch, while the four Germans were positioned around him, carrying rifles. It was obvious to Johnny that the German soldiers were escorting an American prisoner to the rear.
Johnny swung his little biplane around in a large circle to line up with the road, then he lowered the nose of swoop down to just a few feet above the ground. He flew directly at the little group of men and smiled when the four guards dived to the ditches on either side of the road, three on one side, one on the other. That opened up some distance between the guards and their prisoner and gave Johnny a clear shot at them. He touched the rudder bar just enough to line his guns up with the three Germans in the ditch to the right. He pulled the trigger and watched as the bullets from his twin Lewis machine guns picked up puffs of dust on the road, then laced across the Germans themselves. As he flashed by overhead, he saw the German guard on the opposite side of the road throw down his rifle and get up to run toward the relative safety of a nearby clump of trees.
Johnny pulled the nose of his plane up hard throttled back the engine, then kicked the rudder bar to wrench it into a hammerhead stall. This allowed him to go right back down over the same path he had just flown, though he was now going in the opposite direction. With the engine still at idle, he landed on the road itself, bouncing to a stop some 90 feet away from the American prisoner. The red – gold hair and bright blue eyes of the American could be seen quite clearly now. There was also a spray of freckles across his nose and he smiled broadly as he hobbled on this crutch, moving toward the plane as quickly as he could. Johnny climbed out onto the lower wing and reached a hand down to help the American up.
“Taxi, mister?” Johnny joked.
“Yeah. How about taking me to Times Square?” The American shouted over the noise of the idling engine
“You’ve got it,” Johnny answered.
“The names Kelly, Mike Kelly,” the American said. “Boy, am I glad to see you!”
“Kelly? With red hair and blue eyes, what else could it be? I’m Johnny Sangremano. Get in, quick!”
“Where?” Mike asked. He had reached the wing now and was confused by the fact that there was only one seat in the airplane.
“There,” Johnny said pointing to the seat. “Where do you think?”
“But what about you?”
“Don’t you worry about me. I’m going to be sitting on your lap!” Johnny replied with a bubbling laugh. He was holding a little brown sack in his hand and he held it out toward Mike. “Want one?”
“Want one? Want one what?” Mike asked, surprised by the offer.
“Lemon drops,” Johnny replied. “I’m never without them.”
Mike laughed. “Couldn’t we go into this later? We aren’t exactly taking a leisurely ride down Fifth Avenue, you know.”
“Oh, well, if you are in such a hurry, you should have said so,” Johnny teased
Mike climbed into the seat, then Johnny got on top of him. The weight of holding Johnny on his lap hurt Mike’s leg, but he wasn’t about to complain. He held on as Johnny gunned the engine, raced down the road, then lifted into the air just as a dozen or more German soldiers broke out of the tree line and begin firing rifles at them. Mike could hear the bullets popping through the fabric but none of them did any damage. Then he felt a sickening lurch in his stomach as Johnny stood the Nieuport Scout on its tail for a steep climb away from the road.
“Oh, damn!” Mike yelled. Involuntarily, he wrapped his arms around Johnny and squeezed hard as he held on for dear life.
“I know you’re glad to see me, but don’t squeeze so hard that I can’t breathe!” Johnny said
“Sorry,” Mike replied, loosening his grip slightly. “I guess I got a little startled.”
“A little?”
“A lot,” Mike admitted.
Johnny laughed then and Mike began laughing as well. Both men laughed until they cried, laughing so hard that it could be heard even over the roar of the engine. And there in the skies over the German lines in war-torn France, a friendship was born.

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