All previous disclaimers and copyrights apply. However, important reminders: this story
does depict a relationship between women, and may not be suited for children under 18 or
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Mercy that Sadness Brings
|NOTE TO READERS: Hi everyone.
Thanks for reading. I know I promised to conclude the story in this section,
but the number of pages got too long to put in one post. So, I've broken it
into two sections. The story does conclude in Section XII. I just wanted to
get this posted now. Thanks for hanging in there with me. Thanks again! Pallas.
Her eyes shifted anxiously
with the narrow beam of the flash light that spilled onto the fallow field. Every few
seconds she checked the odometer, noting the distance from the wrecked truck. She'd only
traveled about five kilometers, and as the Kubelwagon bumped and groaned its way across
the field, Jackie searched for any sign of Sophie or Violette's tracks.
There was no way for
her to calculate how fast they were travelling - - or even what direction they might have
turned. For all she knew she might have passed them already. She'd developed a pattern of
driving a few minutes and then pulling herself over the windshield.
she yelled. "Violette!!" She held her position, her ears turned for any sound.
The only response was the low hum of the engine. "Sophie! Violette! Answer me,"
she yelled again, finishing with a whispered "please."
When nothing but the
engine hum broke the tense silence, she dropped back into the seat with a huff of
disappointment. She jammed the truck back into gear and began crawling forward again.
The night was
growing colder. She could feel the wind biting at her face, and even as she leaned forward
to turn up the heat she thought about how cold Sophie must be. Was she cold enough to
collapse? The question pounded her heart. Would Violette leave her?
she called again, peering deeply into the darkness. "Violette!"
The red glow from
the explosion had either died down or they had walked too far to see it anymore. The image
of Jackie's body lying on the cold ground assaulted her until she thought she'd scream.
She felt like a coward for allowing Violette to lead her away from Jackie, and she
desperately wanted to fight back, but it was so hard. All she could manage was to look
over her shoulder every few minutes and pray she'd see Jackie's face.
Over and over again
all she saw was the endless darkness following them. It had been too long. Jackie should
have come for her by now, and as the minutes crept past, she knew she'd lost Jackie
forever. Her heart grew cold with the bleak realization, and despite her cold, wet
clothes, Sophie knew she was freezing to death from the inside out.
"It will be
alright, Cherie," Violette said, repeating the same words she'd used just minutes
before. Sophie couldn't believe they were supposed to make her feel better. The only made
her feel worse. How could anything be alright with Jackie . . .
gone." The words hurt to say.
"We don't know
have come for us by now . . . if," she took a deep breath. "If Jackie was still
alive she'd have come for us by now."
about it and just keep walking," Violette sighed with frustration. The gesture gave
said, her steps slowing. "I think we should turn back and try to find her." She
Violette grabbed her
arm. "That would be stupid." She tried to force Sophie forward.
return to find us," Sophie countered, pulling her arm away.
perhaps," Violette whispered just loud enough for Sophie to hear before shrugging the
fact off and continuing. "Neither of us have the skills or the strength to help
Jacqueline," she said, turning to look at her. "You're nearly frozen to death,
and me?" She laughed weakly and fell silent.
"And what if
she doesn't come back? What then?"
and in a quick gesture, the woman's cold hand reached up and brushed Sophie's frozen
cheek. "Poor Sophie," she said. "You've lost everything, no?"
The girl started to
nod, but found her chin lifting at the spiteful tone. "Don't pity me," she said,
tersely. "I don't need you."
"What do we
have to do in Villers-Bocage, Violette?"
"I told you not
to question me. You will do what I tell you, and without question."
Sophie shook her
head. "No," she said, quietly.
me." Violette's mouth fell open. "Do you have any idea what I can do to
"Nothing that hasn't been done to me before," Sophie said, a chill passing through her at the thought of Caron.
scare me. You're nothing compared to what I've been through already."
closer. "Don't make bets you can't pay. Now shut up and start walking. That
way," she ordered, pointing to the right. "Villers-Bocage is that way."
"I'm not going
to help you. I don't know what you're going to tell the Germans, but I won't take part in
it. I don't care about you or your daughter."
Violette's spun on
Sophie, her hand lifting to close around Sophie's jaw and squeezing until Sophie felt her
frozen lips split. "You little bitch," she breathed, and Sophie could just smell
the bitter wine on the woman's breath. "I don't need you that much. Remember
that." Her hand dropped from Sophie's face.
"Why the hell
did Jackie allow you to come? She should have killed you."
"Perhaps," she smirked. "But she didn't. Which leaves us in this situation.
It's amusing that you're suddenly dependent upon my protection, no?"
leave me, because I don't need you, and I refuse to be beholden to you for anything. So
The French spy
laughed. "And risk everything? What if you decided to ruin my plans by telling
"Who would I
tell?" Sophie countered.
"Oh, you'd be
surprised who will listen nowadays."
me," Sophie said, wishing her mouth contained enough spit to hurl at the spy.
"You're betraying your country . . . Everyone who has died to free France."
pathetically overdone patriotic speech, Sophie. I've given it to myself more times than I
"But you'd do
given no choice."
"Why don't you
stick to what you know?" Violette questioned, her voice angry but seeming to ache.
"You know nothing about me."
nothing better than to have never known you," Sophie spit out.
Cherie," Violette said, grabbing her arm. "Now, start walking."
Sophie said, pulling her arm from Violette's grasp and folding them over her chest.
"I'm not leaving Jackie."
The French spy
leaned forward until Sophie was forced to stare in her dark eyes. "Your star-crossed
lover is dead." She laughed at the look of shock Sophie knew was plastered on her
face. "You don't think I saw it? You're feelings for her were so obvious it was
amusing to watch. Funny thing is you were too much of a coward to say anything to her,
Sophie whispered, her heart aching like a gapping sore.
tell Jacqueline, and now she's probably laying in that field back there cold and bleeding.
The dead can't hear sweet words of love, you know."
She said it with
such sarcasm and satisfaction that Sophie reacted immediately. Her hand tightened and she
swung wide and hard for Violette, her knuckles connecting with her chin. "Don't say
that!" she said, pulling her arm back to swing again. "Don't ever say
Her hand didn't
connect with the spy twice, who easily blocked Sophie's wild punch and before Sophie knew
it her feet were in the air and her back hit the ground with a thud that pushed the air
from her lungs. "Don't ever hit me again," Violette said, leaning over her.
"I could kill you."
it," Sophie croaked.
Violette raised her
hand before looking up. "And have your precious Jacqueline kill me?" Sophie
suddenly noticed that Violette was brighter than before. "I think not."
turned, just in time to catch the beam of light directly in her eyes. Her hand raised to
block the glare and she sensed instead of saw Violette move away from her. Turning her
head she only glimpsed Violette's back as the French spy ran into the safety of the
darkness. She left her. Left her with that light coming. 'Germans!' her heart
screamed with each chest pounding thump. The fear coursed through her and she stumbled to
her feet, hoping she had enough time to run, too.
Although her fear
warmed her insides, her feet were too cold to move swiftly, and she half wondered why the
vehicle hadn't started shooting. As the light grew wider around her realized she didn't
want to press her luck and find out. Her steps slowed and she raised her hands in the air.
"I surrender," she whispered, her breath crystallizing around her dropped face.
She stood there
listening to the hum of the vehicle's engine but too afraid to turn around. She heard the
crunch of boots, and a shadow consumed the light. Her breath caught in her throat when the
shadow moved and she could make out the curved helmet of a German. Every muscle tensed as
she waited for the unknown. A hand touched her shoulder and her body was turned around.
She closed her eyes, not yet wanting to see the face of her captor.
God. I thought I'd lost you." She was crushed against an itchy wool jacket.
Sophie whispered, trying to pull back for confirmation. Jackie beamed a smile down at her,
the tension in her face washing away with pure joy and relief. Sophie wondered if the same
expression hung on her face, but she wasn't going to question anything right now, and with
a lunge she buried herself in Jackie's arms.
"What was going
on?" Jackie asked, her voice rumbling against Sophie's ear, breaking the utter peace
Sophie mumbled, trying desperately to forget everything but the feeling of Jackie's arms
Violette?" Jackie pulled back and looked down. "Oh damn," she said,
touching Sophie's quivering lips. "You're frozen."
Sophie replied, trying to again lean forward into Jackie's warmth.
Jackie said, taking Sophie's hand. "I've got some clothes." She smiled.
"We'll get you warmed up." She turned back towards the truck.
Sophie said, waiting for Jackie to turn. "I'm sorry."
what?" Jackie asked, but Sophie could tell from her eyes that she knew. Knew she was
sorry for everything she'd ever done wrong or thought badly about the American. The girl
hesitated, and Jackie grabbed her hand. "Let's do this later," she said,
dropping her eyes to the ground. "First thing is to get you warmed up."
Sophie consented, watching as Jackie withdrew the gray wool uniforms of what she instantly
knew were dead soldiers.
have killed her," she said, out loud, her eyes following Jacqueline's movements
around the truck. "I wouldn't have hurt you that way, Cherie."
Her dark eyes
shifted to Sophie as she pulled off her frozen clothes. She had no doubt that the girl
would soon begin her tale of horror, and she knew she would play the role of the villain.
She shrugged absently. "Well, that's what I am," she said, matter of factly.
There were two
options before her. She could walk back to Jacqueline and try to convince her yet again,
or she could start walking. Getting to Villers-Bocage on her own wasn't out of reach, and
thanks the British SOE, she had excellent papers. That would make hitching a ride much
easier, and, she added, probably safer than travelling with Jacqueline.
"It wasn't to
be, Cherie," she said, blowing a kiss towards Jackie. "Perhaps we'll meet
Caron didn't move until her
car passed the first buildings in Caen. Her mind was a total blank, and no matter how many
times she tried to focus herself and her determination she found nothing but confusion.
Entering Caen didn't help her regain control, but it gave her something to do.
"Take me to my
rooms," she ordered her driver.
he said, eyeing her in the rear view mirror. "Will you need me for the rest of the
Caron thought for a
moment. "No." The word was barely off her lips before her mind jumped on her
again. "Yes. I will need you tonight."
good," the Sargent answered.
She fell silent,
watching as the buildings rolled past her window. They blurred into the background, and it
took all her effort to pull her attention back . "Where are you going?" Caron
"To your hotel,
"I don't want
to go there."
"But you just
said . . ."
contradict me. I want to go to - -" her voice trailed off, and she realized she
didn't know where to go anymore. "Take me to Villers-Bocage."
"We will need
some," she ordered, annoyed and yet relieved at the simple problem.
She sat silent and
withdrawn in the back seat while the Sargent filled the car. She absently signed the army
requisite form for the petrol and declined to list her purpose or destination. It confused
her that she didn't know. There was a schism opening in her that sharply divided her heart
from her reason, and Caron subconsciously knew both couldn't exist in her. One had to
destroy the other.
"And do you
still want to go to the Abbey when we reach Villers-Bocage, Oberfuhrer?" the Sargent
asked, sliding behind the wheel again.
furrowed. What would she find at the Abbey? Her Sophie? This Violette Szabo? Her own
redemption? She knew she wouldn't know until she got there. Her mouth opened to confirm
the question, but she felt her head shaking. "No, Sargent," she found herself
saying. "Morning will be fine. Take me to my rooms."
Caron sunk back into
the thick leather, trying to understand why she feared Villers-Bocage. From the way her
stomach twisted and her body trembled that it was fear that rippled through her every time
she thought about going to the village. She also knew that it was cowardice that made her
want to hide in the safety of a warm bed that night instead of facing herself and her
Tomorrow would be
soon enough to discover if she truly knew herself or not.
"It's not worth
it, Jackie. It's over. She's gone."
The American's hand
brushed Sophie's shoulders before it fell against her side with a slap. "I wish that
were true, but it's not." She took a deep breath. "Violette is going to expose
plans that have taken years to prepare."
Sophie said, afraid of the hard and unreadable look on Jackie's face. She took a chance.
"Can't we get out of France and warn Britain or America or whomever will
Jackie shook her
head. "It's too late for that, Sophie. We wouldn't reach anyone in time. All would be
matter," Sophie said, turning her back on Jackie. "Nothing maters anymore. All
that matters is us. Our safety. Us." She said the last work with an emphasis that
made Jackie clench her jaw. It would be very easy to believe in what Sophie was saying,
but she knew she couldn't.
"And what about
your brother or the thousands of other soldiers who will die if the plans are
leaked?" Her hand lifted to touch Sophie, but she didn't.
"My brother is dead," Sophie said, slowly, the words firm and filled with meaning. "He died for me," her voice cracked. "I don't care about the rest. Let them die. I don't care." She turned around, looking up into Jackie's eyes.
"I only care
about you," she whispered.
Jackie began, not sure how to respond. "I care about you. I think I might even lo -
-" she stopped herself from saying it. "I can't let them die, Sophie. Not if I
can try and do something about it."
"And what can
you do?" Sophie said, her head bowed. "What can you really do?"
Jackie stepped back.
"I can kill her if I have to."
"I can't let
her betray everything I stand for."
"And what about
me? Where do I fit into this?"
know," Jackie answered honestly.
"Do you want me
to just go away?"
not," Jackie said quickly, surprised how fast her heart hit her stomach at the
thought. "I don't want that."
"Then how am I
supposed to react to this, Jackie?" Sophie lifted her hands in question. "We
have a chance now," she said, pulling at the dead soldiers uniform. "With these
we have a chance of escaping."
Jackie began, ready to punch holes in the girl's theory.
Sophie said, holding her hand up to cut the American off. "It might not be a great
chance, but it's a chance. Jackie! It's a chance."
"But at what
Sophie said. "Are you willing to lose me?"
She hated to say it,
but she had to. "There is more at stake here than you and me." She reached out
for Sophie. "I'm sorry." The words sounded as empty as any she'd ever uttered,
and she stood there with her arms begging for Sophie, but the girl only shook her head and
turned away. Jackie couldn't blame her.
"Let's get in
the truck," she whispered, the words she really needed to say to Sophie stuffed down
beneath her sense of duty.
Violette?" Sophie asked, but Jackie couldn't meet her eyes. Instead she scanned the
darkness. She knew Violette wouldn't be found. It was blind luck that she stumbled across
them here. After what Sophie had told her, Jackie knew the French spy would use all the
tactics she knew to avoid contact.
"I should have
killed her when I had the chance," she mumbled, turning and climbing into the truck.
Jackie turned her
head towards the girl's voice, the darkness in the truck cab prevented her from clearly
seeing Sophie's face, or maybe she just couldn't bring herself to really look.
"Because she promised to get you safely out of France."
Sophie was quiet for
a moment. "And you agreed?"
"She knew you
were my weakness."
"I thought it
was the best decision."
"And why change
Jackie cranked the
truck to life and eased it forward, hoping there was a road nearby. "Because I never
intended on letting Violette live after you were safely away."
The thought of her
daughter propelled her forward with renewed energy. She vowed to reach Villers-Bocage by
morning. If that meant walking all night, then she would do it.
She planned on being
in place at the Abbey long before tomorrow nights meeting. Violette was desperate, but she
wasn't stupid. There was no doubt that Jackie and her little girlfriend would show up at
the Abbey, and Violette knew she'd kill them both before she let them interfere in what
she had to do.
It still confused
her how the Germans had even discovered her or known about her work on the top secret
Roundhammer and Overlord plans. Her contributions to the planning wasn't extensive, but
she'd probably seen more than she should have.
Maybe her superiors,
and even herself, overestimated the secrecy of their actions, but Violette never thought
she could be tracked. Hindsight is wonderful, and looking back, Violette could see it had
begun with seeing strangers in shops and communal bomb shelters. People she'd never seen
before appeared to be watching her and Juliet. At the time she thought it was only the
strain of living through the falling bombs, but it soon became clear it had an entirely
Her Juliet had
disappeared just after dawn nearly a year ago. The air raid sirens had sounded just after
she'd put Juliet to bed. Following their custom, she roused Juliet, dressed her in her new
red coat and matching mittens before grabbing her own coat and hurrying down the steps of
their apartment building for the bomb shelter.
Huddled with close
to a hundred other people, they waited for the all clear signal. That night she didn't
remember hearing any bombs exploding or any anti-aircraft fire. The German bombing had
become erratic in the past months, but like thousands of others, she hurried to the bomb
shelters with each siren just to be sure. That night she held a sleeping Juliet in her lap
and without the sounds of war she fell asleep.
She must not have
heard the all clear siren, instead she was shook awake by the air shelter Sargent.
Immediately her hand reached for Juliet's, but the child's place was empty.
outside with your husband, ma'am," the man had said, smiling as if nothing were
"My husband is
dead," Violette answered, pushing off the wooden bench and running out the door.
By the time she
reached the street Juliet was gone. In the haze of the rising sun Violette had paced in
random circles screaming for the child. A few neighbors joined in the search, but it was
as if she just disappeared.
A phone call that
evening told her that Juliet was no longer in England and laying out a vile plan that
Violette needed to follow if she ever wanted to see Juliet again. Her life was set from
that point, and it had taken ever ounce of her strength to convince Mr. Potter, if that
was his real name, to send her into France much sooner than England had planned. Her
reasons were vague, and every moment she felt like a coward and a traitor, but she
It had taken this
long to get assigned a suitable mission. The things she told Jacqueline about her mission
were true. She just had no intention of completing it. Her whole purpose was getting
Juliet. Her patriotic beliefs seemed so feeble when compared to her daughter's life. The
damn Boche pigs seemed to know that, and they kept her fully committed to their plan by
sending occasional photograph of Juliet. The last one only a month ago had shown her a
very scared little girl. She could only pray that Juliet had never seen the gun some
German held near her head for that photograph. Violette had seen it and the implied threat
hit her heart. France be damned, she was going to get her daughter.
"Get hot, keep
moving," she said, quoting a famous Allied propaganda poster, and pushing herself
back into a run.
The distance to
Villers-Bocage was unknown, but she had to make it. She had to be in place before
Jacqueline. Had to make it before the Germans. She had to make it for Juliet.
well?" Jackie asked, trying to keep her voice light.
Sophie looked out
the window and rubbed her neck.
Jackie said. "Let me."
I've got it," Sophie said, her tone not harsh, but dismissive.
slightly, the message received loud and clear. She gripped the wheel with both hands and
returned her vigilance on the road.
"So we're going
to Villers-Bocage, aren't we?"
"After all I
"I told you my
"You were going
to stay behind, weren't you? After Violette supposedly got me to safety, you were going to
your country means that much to you?"
"I gave them my
"You gave me
your oath, too. Remember?"
"Of course I
promises meant something to you."
"Don't make me
choose, Sophie," Jackie pleaded, her hands tightening on the wheel. "Please
"But it is a
choice," Sophie countered. "I'm a choice. We're a choice."
Jackie said, her voice shaking. She turned her head to try and find Sophie's eyes, but the
girl remained elusive and silent. Jackie cursed herself for allowing herself to slip.
"Forget it," she murmured.
Sophie finally said. "I don't want to forget about it. I just don't know how to
Sophie shifted in
the seat. "Meaning, I don't know how to answer in a way that won't leave me open to a
"I'd never hurt
you," Jackie said, biting her tongue. "Not willingly," she added.
Sophie shook her
head. "That's not true, and you know it." She exhaled slowly. "Your leaving
me . . . sacrificing yourself," her hand landed on Jackie's arm. "That would
hurt." The grip tightened. "It would hurt so much that I don't think I could
take it. I don't think I want to take it."
Jackie thought for a
moment. "But," she mumbled, trying to find words. "But."
disappeared. "But you're going to do what you've planned, and I can't change
it." She sounded defeated, and Jackie felt her heart clench and throb until the pain
pushed against her chest and she wanted to scream.
very fond of you," she said, the words sounding trite and untrue the moment they left
you try and see it from my side?"
there to see, Jackie?"
"How can you
make me choose between you and the lives of thousands of soldiers?"
"And what about
a life with me?"
"Is that what
"I don't want
you to die."
"But do you
want a life with me?"
Sophie fell silent
again. "I'm not sure," she said, quietly. "I'm not sure I can make that
decision." She held up her hand before Jackie could speak again. "I don't have
anything left, Jackie," she explained. "My family is gone. The life I knew is
gone. And with it went every semblance of who I am."
silent, all responses seeming totally callous in the face of Sophie's overwhelming losses.
"I don't know
what I want anymore," Sophie finally said. "I just want to be safe and warm and
loved again." Her voice sounded so small and frail that it took all of Jackie's
strength to not stop the truck and pull Sophie into her arms. "Is that too much to
ask?" Sophie said, turning back towards the window.
"I want to give
you that," Jackie began, but changed her line of reasoning. Taking a deep breath she
tried to distance herself from Sophie before she went and gave into the ideas running
through her head. "I want you to be safe," she said. "I promised your
brother I would look after you."
"I'm not a pet,
"Then what do
you want from me?"
bring herself to answer. The things she'd imagined with Sophie seemed beyond her
understanding. The urges were primal and overwhelming. A fog of confusion had descended on
her, preventing her from seeing clearly. She'd oscillated between wanting friendship and
wanting everything Sophie could give her.
Jackie," Sophie said, her voice drawn and rough.
"I don't know
what to do," she conceded. "About you or Violette or anything." A bitter
laugh escaped her lips. "And to think before I landed in France I felt such control
over myself and my life." She shook her head. "What a fool I am."
"I want a life
with you," Sophie said, breaking the silence and making Jackie's head jerk towards
her in surprise.
sadly. "Oh, Jackie," she said. "I don't know either."
"But - - I know
enough to know that I don't want to lose you now." Jackie could feel instead of see
the girl's smile in the darkness. "That's enough for me right now. The rest can come
in time. Please, just give me that time."
Jackie kept her eyes
straight ahead, and a painful lump had lodged itself in her throat. She cleared her
throat, hoping to dislodge it, but only succeeded in causing her eyes to blur with tears.
One rolled down her cheek and she prayed Sophie didn't see it.
me, yet," Sophie said, her voice breaking. Jackie nodded, unable to speak. "Do
what you feel you must," Sophie continued. "But remember I'm here. Remember I
mean something, too. Remember that I could love you." She paused. "I think I
twisted towards Sophie. "Love?" she whispered, the words barely clearing the
The wind whipped through her
hair and occasionally a splatter of milk from the cans that surrounded her would hit her
face, but Violette endured it all. She knew it was a stroke of luck that the farmer had
offered her a ride. The old man hadn't asked her any questions. She said she needed to
reach Caen and he nodded, pointing at the back of his truck. "Villers-Bocage,"
he muttered. "I go no further." She had felt no need to correct her lie and only
thanked whomever seemed to be watching over her.
The night air was
cold, but it kept her awake. Or maybe it was the excitement of seeing Juliet again. In her
heart she'd never allowed for the remote possibility that Juliet wasn't alive. But she'd
resolved herself to not cooperate until her daughter was safely airborne towards England.
Only then would the damn Boche pigs get the information they so desperately needed.
She wasn't sure if
the store owners, Hector and Gabrielle, had been able to reach Anastasie with her demands.
She knew there was a large, fallow field next to the Abbey, and if a plane wasn't there by
meeting time, then Violette wasn't talking.
she said, swiping at another flying milk drop. "Mere is coming."
"I see you've
made it to Caen," Lillian Rolfe's voice cold voice cut through room and tickled her
pounding chest. "And what trail did you follow?"
began pushing blonde strands from her eyes. She searched for both her courage and her
voice. "I didn't know you were here," she croaked, hoping her voice sounded
heavy with sleep and not panic.
the older woman said, entering the room and shoving the door closed. "You should
never try and guess where I am. It could prove dangerous."
Even though she knew
the woman was capable of following through with her warnings, Caron was beginning to find
the continued threats from Lillian Rolfe irritating and repetitive. Her gray eyes narrowed
as she silently vowed to take back some control. It was infuriating and degrading to be
treated like a lackey, and despite the power this woman exuded, she knew there had to be a
weak point. It was just a matter of finding it. Lillian Rolfe had come to her. That meant
she had something the old woman wanted. That gave her power. Desires always gave others
power, and Caron was determined to exploit whatever desire Lillian Rolfe had.
"And where are
my fugitives?" Rolfe asked, pulling the desk chair next to the bed and slowly
sitting, the joints in her knees creaking loudly.
"I don't know
A look of anger
flashed across the older woman's face, her dark eyes appearing more sinister in the
distortion. "That's never been a phrase I've been fond of," she said, her mask
of disinterest quickly reestablishing itself.
"It's not a
phrase I like either," Caron said, her chin lifting. "But it's all I have
"Then why are
"Because I was
tired and it was late."
the woman bellowed, leaning forward. "I gave you a mission. I expected you to pursue
Caron worked to hide
the smile as it all became clear to her. The woman had everything riding on this Violette
Szabo, and because Caron had disrupted her plans the old woman was now out of control.
That meant Lillian Rolfe needed Caron to drive this Szabo to her like a deer to the
hounds. The old woman must know that Caron was the only one who had the skills to
accomplish this mission. That gave her power. Or at the very least room to negotiate. Her
head twisted and she regarded the graying woman with a new eye. It was time to try her
instructions too hard for you to follow?" Rolfe asked.
"I'm not an
idiot, if that's what you're implying."
"But you don't
have my fugitives. What am I to do?"
"You could get
out of my rooms," Caron said, throwing one of her gray glances, which usually froze
people on the spot, at Lillian Rolfe.
Rolfe just leaned back, returning an equally icy stare to Caron. Finally she laughed.
"Spunky." Her smile faded. "But stupid."
"Get to the
point, Frau Rolfe," Caron said, feeling a gradual shift in power, or perhaps she just
didn't care anymore. "Tell me what you want?"
"I want my
spy." Lillian Rolfe lowered her eyes and Caron knew control was within her grasp.
"And I want
Sophie Frenay." Her demon's name fell from her lips, confirming to her head what her
heart had been screaming.
Rolfe said, waving her hand in dismissal.
"Then we have nothing else . . ."
"How could you
even ask?" Rolfe said, cutting her off.
It was Caron's turn
to lean forward like a commander over a subordinate. "Because I can," she said
with a growl. "Because you need me."
Lillian Rolfe said. "I've never needed anyone."
Caron said, wagging her finger. "But you need me. If you didn't then you wouldn't
have let me live."
"I can still
have you killed. Remember that."
won't." She smiled. "And you'll give me Sophie Frenay."
narrowed her eyes and nodded curtly. "Only if I get my spy. Alive, mind you. She must
Sophie must be the same."
The older woman
waved her hand. "That won't be my doing. If she survives then you may have her."
Rolfe shrugged is dismissal. "Her death wouldn't have made that great a
survive, then she goes to Berlin with me and Mrs. Szabo."
Rolfe," Caron corrected. "She goes with me."
implying . . ."
"I won't be
denied the glory of this. If you've done your history on me, like you said, then you know
I need a victory."
to mark a commendation for you."
"Forgive me for
not trusting you."
The woman appeared
to think and slowly she shook her head. "I'm sorry, Caron. Your offer is good, but it
isn't tempting enough." She smiled. "Besides I can complete the mission
"Then why are
laughed. "Because a good agent covers her bets. However, I'm beginning to think that
you're a bet I will lose on. So I will fold and cut my loses." She smiled. "Game
"But you need
me." Caron knew her voice had a hint of an unbelieving whine to it, but she couldn't
At best you were a flanking maneuver. You simply kept the pressure on my fugitives so they
would run right to me. That was all I needed. If you chose to remain, then you do what you
are told when you are told to do it. No questions and," she smiled slowly, her
graying teeth pulling off her thin colorless lips. "No demands."
"I want Sophie
Frenay," Caron repeated. "Call it my payment or call it a demand. You don't want
me as an enemy, Lillian."
"And what if I
call it blackmail?"
"And what do
you want from the dirty peasant girl?" Lillian Rolfe leaned back in her chair and
crossed her legs. A cat-like smile tugged at the right side of her mouth making her look
lopsided and grotesquely out of focus. "You're of good German blood, Caron. Why the
interest in such an inferior woman?"
"My reasons are
not your concern."
"Is there a
blood vengeance you need to satisfy against her? For your lost secretary Dagmar?"
Caron had to strain
to build a picture of Dagmar in her mind. Her head shook slightly. "My reasons are my
"But I must
know. You can tell me or," she chuckled "I can discover it through other
nothing to discover."
Lillian Rolfe's silk
stockings moved together making a muffled noise as she uncrossed her legs and leaned
forward. Caron felt the tension build and she slowly lifted her eyes to meet Rolfe as the
older woman uttered, "Is she your lover?"
Caron clenched her
jaw and forced her gray eyes to remain focused on the older woman. "No," she
said, her hand balling the bed sheet at her side.
Lillian Rolfe ran a
hand over her mouth, while her gaze roved up and down Caron until the Gestapo agent
thought she'd scream. "Your body betrays you, Caron." Her fingers pointed at
Caron's chest. "Your breathing is faster than I've ever seen it, and," her
finger lifted. "You've got a sheen on your upper lip." The woman's black eyes
locked on Caron. "Not a very professional reaction."
"I don't know
what you are talking about." Her hand reached for her cigarette case, but Lillian
Rolfe pulled it away.
"I'm aware of
"They apply to
you, too, Fraulein Rundstedt."
"But do they
apply to you, Frau Rolfe?" She stared with unconcealed longing at her cigarette case.
She really needed one right now.
impertinent. I could have you deported to Ravensbruck or worse."
evidence? Breathing fast and sweating? You forget I'm not an easy Jewish target. You need
more to accuse me. I have influence and position."
"But do you
want the accusation made, Fraulein?"
respond. She really didn't know if her uncle, the Fieldmarshall, would tarnish himself
with such an accusation. Hitler and others in the German high command had worked to blot
out same sex relations, making them punishable by imprisonment or death. Her uncle had
already risked himself to save her and her career in the past. This dirty accusation might
be too much for him to become involved with. Without looking at Lillian Rolfe she shook
her head slightly.
"Aaah, then you
admit to your nature?"
nothing." She looked up. "And I will refute any lies you spread."
would be successful," the older woman said, smiling smugly. "But you'd be ruined
in the process."
Lillian Rolfe leaned
back. "I'll allow you one chance to prove to me that you aren't a filthy
Caron said, but her words sounded false despite the way she tossed her head in mock
it," Rolfe repeated, playing with Caron's cigarette case.
Caron forced her
eyes to the older woman, daring her to utter her challenge.
"Give me Sophie
Frenay," she said, snapping the case closed and throwing it on the bed next to the
respond. 'No' was the only word her brain could form, but she crushed her teeth together
to keep from screaming it aloud. Lillian Rolfe appraised her for a moment longer before
rising to her feet. Again her hands brushed at invisible wrinkles and she took her time
primping her black uniform. Caron's stomach threatened to turn on her and she only hoped
her skin hadn't gone green.
reached out and brushed a finger down Caron's cheek. "That is our deal, Fraulein
Rundstedt. Give me your lover, Sophie Frenay, or defend yourself and your vile crimes to
Germany." She smiled, and dropped her hand against her side with a thud.
Caron asked, closing her eyes to block the woman from her view.
clapped, causing Caron's eyes to snap open. She found the woman stepping backwards.
"How smart you are to have uncovered the meeting place." The woman shrugged.
"If I had any interest I would wonder how."
"So I give them
all to you?"
"It's you or
them, my dear." She opened the door. Caron's lips parted to respond, but Lillian
Rolfe turned and stared her into silence. "I know you too well, Caron," she
said. "I know how you'll decide."
The road was totally
empty, which just seemed to add to her exhaustion. At least if they'd passed someone or
something in the last hour she would have been able to concentrate on it. Instead as the
black twisting ribbon lead her forward, Jackie found herself mindlessly following.
The road they exited
on was unknown, and with her sense of direction all messed up, Jackie could only hope
she'd turned them away from the dead soldiers and possible pursuit. With no moon or stars
to guide her, she guessed they were heading north and she prayed like she'd never prayed
before that they were heading the right way.
The country roads
were not in good repair, and it took a good deal of concentration to avoid pot holes and
the occasional cow that lay sleeping on the pavement. Around 3:30 they crawled into a town
called Balleroy, and Jackie felt a smile creep to her face when she spotted the D13 sign
pointing east. Caen was less than an hour away. To be safe, Jackie drove to the outskirts
of Caen before finding a smaller road that turned her back towards Villers-Bocage.
The road was lined
with dark poplar trees that began mixing with the gray pre-dawn light and casting eerie
shadows that appeared to taunt and warn her. It was hard to keep ignoring the trepidation
that coursed through her. Everything around her kept forcing a growing fear to her throat,
and it was hard for her to not turn the truck back towards Caen.
Jackie felt like she
was racing against the dawn, and as the countryside gradually illuminated occasional farm
houses, she knew they were nearing Villers-Bocage. 'This is it,' she thought,
slowing the vehicle and once again swallowing her fear. 'This is where I find out if
I'm good enough.'
The momentary joy
she felt at finally standing up to make a difference was replaced with an empty longing.
Without her permission her gaze shifted to the sleeping Sophie and her heart skipped a
beat. She had heard the girl's words. She'd even let herself fall into dreaming of what
life with Sophie would be like. But without a doubt she knew stopping Violette was more
important. There was no thinking about herself right now. Happiness equaled selfishness.
No matter how happy she thought Sophie could make her or the happiness she'd give anything
to give to Sophie . . . It didn't matter.
But . . . She looked
back down at Sophie. "God I want to be with you," she whispered. "I want to
know what it is like to explore every inch of you." Her jaw clenched and she fought
to keep herself from reaching over and caressing the girl's loose hair.
"I've got to
keep myself focused," she said, tearing her eyes away from what she knew controlled
her. "I've got to get focused," she repeated, concentrating on the road only.
"Focus, Jackie. Focus."
Sophie asked, her head lifting slightly from her arm and her voice heavy with sleep.
Jackie said, a bit curtly. "Go back to sleep."
we?" Sophie started to sit up.
The girl just
nodded. "I see."
please. Don't start again."
she said, and Jackie could feel her eyes on her. "But you promise me you'll remember
twisted. "How could I ever forget?" she asked. "You'll never know what you
mean to me."
Sophie bit her lip.
"Promise you'll give me the chance to find out."
The American nodded.
"We'll laugh about this later, you know?" She smiled, and tried to lighten the
Sophie said, but her voice wasn't totally convincing.
furrowed, but she drove in silence.
"Do you think
Violette has made it here by now?" Sophie asked.
Maybe. She's very resourceful."
"Yes, I suppose
question is can I be resourceful enough to find her before she betrays the Allied
"The sun's up," she said, pointing at the rays filtering through a tree.
"And we should
be getting off the road," Jackie said, starting to look ahead for a safe place.
"These uniforms won't survive an up and close inspection." She looked down at
the brownish blood pattern on her arm, remembering how it had gotten there the night
It was Jackie's turn
"You had no
choice." The statement was supposed to make her feel better.
it easier," Jackie said, slowing the truck and turning into what looked like an
abandoned road. She'd spotted a run down barn behind the trees, and thought it might be a
good place to hide for awhile.
"But it doesn't
make it wrong," Sophie added.
make it right either," Jackie said, navigating the truck down the narrow tracks while
tall grass whipped at the undercarriage. "Let's not talk about it, okay?"
Jackie could tell
Sophie wanted to say more, but the girl held her tongue. The American didn't want her to
know how hard it was to think about killing Violette. It was one thing to kill a nameless,
faceless soldier and quite another to pull the trigger on someone you once considered a
Instead of thinking
about it, Jackie surveyed the abandoned barn. It looked like it hadn't been used in years.
The wood was badly rotted and the roof looked about to blow off with the next strong wind.
But it would provide a somewhat secure place to avoid being seen until she could figure
out how to find Violette and put and end to it all.
"I'll open the
door," Sophie said, jumping out and sprinting towards the barely hanging barn door.
She gave it a hard tug and managed to pull it open wide enough for Jackie to drive the
The dawn light
spilled through the thin thatch roof mixing and reflecting with the dust as it feel back
to earth. The back of the barn had two large stalls still padded with brownish yellow hay.
A half collapsed loft hung over the right stall giving the entire area a generally unsafe
feeling. But despite the dilapidated state, Jackie guessed the place would be safe for a
few more hours, and that was all she needed to sleep a bit and make a plan.
engine, Jackie grabbed the blanket Sophie had been using and jumped from the truck. She
stood, almost comatose near the back of the Kubelwagon, not sure where to lay down.
really tired," Sophie added, pulling the door closed and coming to stand near her.
"Then you go
lay down and I'll try and scrounge up some food."
"There are some rations and water in the truck." She threw the wool jacket on
the ground and lowered herself down on it. For a second she watched Sophie climb into the
back of the Kubelwagon before laying back and pulling her arm under her head. "Did
you see that farmer out there?" she asked, sleepily. "I don't think he saw us,
but keep your eye on him." Sleep consumed her before she realized Sophie hadn't heard
She couldn't believe
they were really in Villers-Bocage and that Jackie was planning on going through with this
thing. Sophie understood the reasons, and part of her even agreed with them. In all
honesty she probably would have done the same thing. It just hurt so badly to think about
losing Jackie. Losing her when they could escape. It seemed such a waste.
"Guess I'm just
destined to lose everyone I care about," she said, grabbing for a bag marked
'supplies.' The feeling of self pity couldn't be contained and even though she knew it did
her no good, Sophie felt herself slumping against the hard board seat with the bag on her
lap and her heart about to break.
The tears slipped
effortlessly from her eyes as she stared unseeing and her mind replaying all her losses
and tragedies. The image of her brother's face, splattered with blood, rose before her
again and again, each time changing and shifting into Jackie's face. The blue eyes cold
and dead, no longer able to smile at her.
she whispered, her fist pounding against her thigh. "Just stop it."
She fought to
refocus herself. She seemed to be doing that a lot lately and she absently wondered when
her world would stop spinning. Nothing made sense anymore. Just when she and Jackie
connected, their relationship would be broken apart, seeming to never to be joined again.
She looked over at
the sleeping American and her mind cleared. It all made sense. The choice so easy. Jackie
didn't know where Violette was going, but she did. She could stop it all. Stop it and save
Jackie from herself.
With a renewed
purpose she rifled through the supply bag and removed a tin of food and a canteen of
water. Trying to make as little noise as possible she climbed back out of the truck. Her
jaw clenched only briefly before she leaned back in and grabbed the pistol from between
the seats. Copying the moves she had seen Jackie do, she popped out the bullet clip and
quickly counted the shells before pushing it back into place and stuffing it in her
Her steps were muffled on the soft ground and she only had to open the barn door enough to slip through. Looking back she hadn't disturbed Jackie. With any luck she'd be back before she awoke. "Or . . . " she looked back.
"You'll go back
to America and be happy," she said, turning away and breaking into a run.
With morning dew
still clinging to the grass in the town square Violette entered a small café. She'd been
smelling the fresh bread for the last ten minutes and her stomach growled in appreciation.
A stop at a quiet house on the outskirts of town allowed her to wash most of the mud from
her legs, hands and face. The rest of the mud had dried and she flaked it off, trying to
make her outfit as presentable as possible.
Since entering the
town she'd seen absolutely no German presence. The people were open and friendly, and if
she didn't know any better it was as if the war had never touched this fair village.
Madame," an elderly man said, smiling as she closed the door.
Violette said, rubbing her hands together. "Chilly outside, no?"
The man's eyes
traveled up her dress and he shrugged. "Oui."
"I smelled your
fresh bread," Violette began. "You wouldn't have coffee, too?"
"For the right
price I have everything."
understanding completely. "Then get me some coffee," she ordered.
first, Madame." The man held a hand out and Violette withdrew her stash of money. She
laid a 100 Reichsmark bill on his palm.
"What else can
The man's wrinkled
hand closed around the money and stuffed it deep in his baggy pants. "What would you
like to buy?"
The old man laughed,
his gray gums showing but his eyes humorless. "Have your coffee first."
Neither spoke while
the old man shuffled behind the counter and produced a small bag of ground coffee. He held
this out to her and she sniffed with a shiver of pleasure. Her mouth began to salivate
while watching him dole out her small amount into a sieve and pour hot water over it.
While it seeped he handed her a warm baguette.
she said, tearing off the end and pulling the sweet bread from the hull.
information do you need?" the man asked, pushing the glass cup of coffee towards her.
"Why are there
no Germans?" Violette asked.
The man shrugged.
"Who can tell. They used to bother us, but now . . ." he shrugged again.
"Who knows." He held out his palm, but Violette shook her head.
"You know more
than that, Pere," she said, using a familiar father term with him. "I need more
The old man studied
her for a moment before smiling. "Villers-Bocage has special status with the
took a deep sip of the weak but flavorful coffee.
"I don't know.
All I know is there are no German troops or Gestapo in the town."
"A town of
sympathizers?" She didn't know if that would make it easier or not.
he said, holding out his palm, and Violette quietly laid down another large Reichsmark.
"But no. The town has a Resistance group. Perhaps the Germans know this or perhaps
they don't. The Resistance has a way of keeping trouble from the town."
"Who leads the
Resistance?" Violette asked, lifting one more bill from her stack.
The man smiled.
"You couldn't pay me enough to tell you that."
Violette said, laying the bill on the counter. "Then tell me where I can find
The old man's hand
touched the bill. "Madame, you need to seek a place of salvation." The bill
disappeared and the man turned his back, ending the conversation.
Abbey?" Violette said, noting the way the old man's arm twitched in confirmation.
coffee, Madame. Then it's best if you go."
Monsieur," she said, absently. Her mind was preoccupied with the information he'd
given her. The Abbey was where she was to meet the Germans and her Juliet. If she
encountered the Resistance, things could get complicated.
There was nothing to do but wait and see. With a shrug of indifference she finished her coffee and grabbing the baguette left the café. The sun hit her eyes and she had to lift her hand to find the Abbey.
She could feel the
morning sun on her face, but it did little to warm her. Warmth was a luxury she couldn't
afford. Cold and calculating was what she needed. She needed to find the strength to lift
her gun and shoot a woman. Kill her before she killed everything Sophie loved and desired.
The speed of her
steps increased as did her determination. Jackie must be kept safe. It was her turn to
protect Jackie. Her turn to do something right. Her chance to make it all better.
Sleep had been
impossible after Lillian Rolfe had left. Her mind had tossed the problem back and forth
like a limp rag. Never before had she felt so trapped. It was her or Sophie. The choice
should have been simple, but to her surprise it wasn't. The more she thought about it, the
more difficult it became, and the mere thought of giving Sophie to that old bitch enraged
"There has to
be a better way," she said, again, but knowing she hadn't found a way yet.
She recognized the voice as her Sargent's.
Sargent," she said, reaching for the bed covers and pulling them back over her night
Oberfuhrer. You asked me to wake you at eight."
Caron nodded, alarmed that so much time had already crept by. Time, it appeared, was going to force a decision upon her. Her teeth clenched as another wave of rage swept over her and she forced down the bile in her throat.
to help me dress," she managed to say while digging her nails into the flesh of her
the Sargent said, dipping his head before backing out of the room.
The Gestapo agent's
head fell back and she fought to regain some control of her emotions. She couldn't think
about Sophie right now. But the harder she tried, the more Sophie came to her mind. She
even imagined she could still smell the soft scent of lavender soap that had clung to her
stupid," she said, squeezing her eyes shut to rid herself of Sophie's features.
"Me or her. Me or her. That's it. I don't have a choice. It's me or her!"
"I'm here to
help you dress," a small girl said, her head poked around the door and her brown eyes
wide with fear.
her for a moment before waving her into the room. "Then do your job." She
pointed to a small suitcase brought up from her car. "I believe my uniform is in
there," she said. "Press it and return."
When the girl had
left Caron threw back the covers and using the night stand got out of bed. Her leg still
throbbed but she tested it by placing some weight on it. A spike of pain ran up her spine
but she ignored it and walked a little. She'd made it to the bathroom before the girl
returned with her black SS uniform.
Her eyes ran over
the uniform with disgust and loathing. She lunged for it and ripped it from the girl's
hand. "Get out," she said, feeling the muscles in her neck tighten.
With a growl she
tossed the uniform onto the chair and turned back to the bathroom. She avoided looking in
the mirror and quickly did her teeth and washed her face without glancing up. It would
have been impossible to meet herself in the mirror.
Hobbling back to the
bed she undid her night shirt and let it fall to the floor. Her hands grabbed for her
under things and with her eyes locked on the window she mechanically dressed. The uniform
felt oppressive, and as she buttoned her tunic her fingers shook. However, she knew she
had to wear it. Her shaky self confidence needed it, and the situation demanded it. She
just never expected to hate wearing it so much. Today it no longer stood for her
unstoppable power. It now stood only for her cowardice and fear.
When the last button
was done, she leaned over to remove the small case of decorations that today would hang
like dead weights against her chest. The meaning of each had never held much importance
for her, but she wanted them there to announce her accomplishments, her dedication and her
honor. She finished by pulling on the red and white swastika arm band. Standing there in
the center of the room she's never felt more ashamed.
she screamed. "Sargent!" The wait seemed forever, but finally her burly
attendant threw open the door, his face expecting the worse. Caron turned slowly.
"Have my things packed and bring the car around."
The Sargent's head
nodded, his lips quivering. "Jawhol," he said, clicking his heels and turning to
Sargent?" she said, waiting for him to turn again. "Make sure we have plenty of
protection today." The man's face looked confused and Caron took a deep breath. She
almost didn't have the strength to go through with this. "Guns, Sargent. Guns and
bullets and such. Make sure we're prepared for anything."
Caron closed her
eyes in frustration. "Wait for me out front."
Fraulein Oberfuhrer," he said, closing the door.
Caron turned around
the room slowly, her eyes stopping on the small picture of Adolph Hitler that hung near
the door. She'd never considered herself a true Nazi. They seemed to facilitate her own
agenda. Being a Nazi facilitated her lust for power.
"But today our
paths separate," she said to Hitler. "Today I stand on my own." She grabbed
her leather coat and exited the room.
By the sun she
figured it was around nine and she wondered if Jackie was awake yet. Perhaps she'd awoken
and was frantically looking for her. The thought hit her. It wasn't a possibility she'd
thought about earlier. She'd assumed that Jackie would wait for her.
Her hand smacked
against her head. "That was stupid," she said. "She'll find me."
move," a voice said from behind her and Sophie froze. "Who are you and what are
you doing here?"
Sophie's mind raced.
"I'm . . . I'm eating," she said, lifting the can of rations.
rations," the voice said. "Who are you?"
you?" Sophie demanded, trying to turn around, but getting a cold steel barrel against
"I said don't
move." The gun was jabbed at her for emphasis. "Now tell me why you're wearing a
German soldiers coat and eating German rations."
telling you anything until I can at least see whom I'm speaking to," Sophie said,
pushing her hands into her lap to control the shaking.
Sophie saw a pair of boots emerge and her eyes traveled up green khakis to a small waist
and trim torso of a woman. Her long brown hair was pulled back in a pony tail and her face
was slightly smudged with dirt. "So you see me."
woman," Sophie breathed.
you," the woman replied. "Now tell me what I want to know." Sophie's brow
furrowed, unsure how or if she should speak. The woman let out a sigh. "Tell me what
you're doing here?"
clothes." The woman's brown eyes looked down at the blood. "Your blood?"
The woman nodded.
"Did you do it?"
An idea popped into
Sophie's head. "Yes," she said. "He was . . ." she stopped for a
moment. "He was hurting me."
The woman's gun
lowered a little. "And you?"
Sophie closed her
eyes. "He's dead."
She peered at her
and Sophie felt exposed. "That's not exactly true, is it?"
dead," Sophie said again. "That's the truth."
The woman nodded.
"Do you have papers?"
"You don't look
"Is that a
"Would I be
hiding in a cemetery if I had papers?"
not," the woman said, making a quick decision and stuffing her gun into her
waistband. "My name is Manon."
"Come with me,
Sophie." The woman held a hand out.
"Thank you, but
"No, you're not. You should come with me or get out of Villers-Bocage."
safety." She held up her hand. "That's all I can tell you."
The woman shrugged.
quickly. "I'll come," she said, grabbing Manon's hand.
"Good, but . .
." she looked her over. "Throw the German coat behind that bush."
a man's voice said. "Remain on the ground." Jackie continued to rise, but the
butt of a rifle was slapped against her head and she fell back to the ground. "Search
the place," the man ordered, and Jackie could only watch as the boots spread out
across the barn.
she whispered, her head spinning and the darkness threatening to consume her. A foot was
jabbed into her stomach.
"No, no, no.
You're not passing out on me." Her head ached and she felt like vomiting. "Where
is your compatriot?"
Jackie closed her
eyes and shook her head.
"Is that a no
you won't talk or a I don't know?" the voice was closer, and Jackie opened her eyes
to find the moustache face of an officer looking down on her. "Answer me."
another voice said. "There is no one else in the barn."
The officer stood up
to address the soldier. "But our informant said there were two of them."
started racing. 'Were was Sophie? Was she hiding? Had she seen them coming?' And
the worse thought of all, 'Did she abandon me?'
surrounding area," the Major ordered, his head swinging back down towards her.
"And strip that uniform from this piece of trash."
Rough hands grabbed
at her, lifting her off the ground and pulling her body this way and that until the blood
soaked tunic was ripped from her body. She was then pushed back to the ground as the tunic
was handed to the Major. Jackie lifted her eyes, meeting the ice blue stare of the
brave German soldiers," he said, the tunic falling against his leg.
war," Jackie said. "They . . . You are the enemy."
The Major quickly
withdrew his sidearm and pointed it at her. "So I could shoot you and have a clear
Jackie stared at the
gun. "Do what you must. I'm prepared to die," she said, her heart pounding in
The gun was lowered.
"As any good soldier is, I suppose." He replaced his sidearm and buttoned the
leather holster. "Where is your compatriot?"
"We'll find her
Jackie's chin lifted
and she fought to keep the murderous rage that was consuming her from her face. She needed
to give Sophie a chance of escaping. Even if she did abandon her to the Germans, Jackie
wanted her safe. "You couldn't find your ass with two hands," she mumbled.
The officer gave her
a condescending smile. "We, of course, found that mess you left by Caumont. It was
only a matter of time before we found you. And it will only be a matter of time before we
find your friend."
"Forgive me if
I'm not impressed by your bravado."
American?" he said with a half smile designed to disarm her. "Your German is
"Are you an
American?" he asked in English.
Jackie looked up.
"Talk about bad accents," she said, switching to French. "But no one has
ever accused the Germans of being cosmopolitan," she said, switching to the only
other language she knew; Russian.
The Major blinked
twice before shifting his gaze to the soldier standing behind her. "Get her to her
feet," he ordered and Jackie was yanked to her feet. "Put her in the
"Where are you
taking me?" Jackie called over her shoulder as she was dragged from the barn.
someone who wants to meet you," the Major said, enigmatically.
Jackie called silently.
Sophie followed Manon behind
the Abbey and waited while she pulled open a large steel door. "This leads to the
crypts below the Abbey," she explained, handing Sophie one of the flashlights stacked
on the top step. "You go first."
still not trusting this woman. Her head turned and she looked behind her, not sure what
she expected to see. Manon saw her hesitation.
"Leave if you
want, Sophie," she said. "It's doubtful you'll make it out of town, but you
don't have to come with me."
Her words made some
sense. She knew she needed to hide until dark. Somehow she suspected that Violette would
want to conduct her deceit in darkness. With a nod of understanding she flipped on the
flashlight and descended into the crypt, fighting with the strong smell of dirt and decay.
"You get used
to the smell," Manon said, pulling the steel door shut overhead. "It's the old
"It's a crypt,
Sophie. The Abbey has been burying its monks here for a couple hundred years."
Sophie said, feeling stupid.
Manon said. "Follow me."
The steps to the
bottom were steep and Sophie took them much slower than Manon. At the bottom the stone
steps turned to well packed earth and her flashlight reflected off hand cut rock that
tunneled its way deeper into the earth.
here," Manon explained. "But there's a vault ahead. That's where we're
going." She started walking and Sophie did her best to keep up. She absently wondered
if Jackie was too tall to stand up in the tunnel. She knew the American would never find
her here. Was that good or bad?
On each side of her
were small vaults that Sophie flashed her light into. Each held coffins in various states
of decay. She even thought she caught sight of a burial shroud or bone which made her
shiver. There wasn't something right being surrounded by death.
Ahead of her the
tunnel appeared to grow brighter. She looked at the back of Manon, her dark body leading
her towards the light. Sophie's steps slowed, but Manon leaned back and grabbed her arm.
further," she said.
Sophie could hear
other voices now. Manon's body was blocking her view. Something told her to turn and run.
She ignored it and continued to walk forward.
Manon," a man's voice said. "What have we hear?"
Manon's hand jerked
her forward and Sophie stumbled into the well lit vault. Her eyes strained to become
accustomed to the light and everyone appeared shadowed. She could feel the silence her
"I found her
"Just as we
expected," the man said, his voice closer.
cleared and she focused on a rotund, middle aged man. He had a small pencil moustache that
clung to his full, red lips. His stained teeth jutted out from under his lips attesting to
a lifetime of tobacco or misuse. "Expecting?" she whispered.
specifically, of course," he said. "But expecting visitors all the same."
wearing a German uniform," Manon said. "Covered in blood."
The man nodded.
"I'd heard about the dead soldiers." He looked back at her. "Is Violette
Szabo with you?"
widened and her mouth fell open. That seemed to amuse the small gathering because a giggle
of laughter ran around the room. Sophie felt like she'd been forced onto a stage without
lines. Better yet, she just felt played.
The man smiled
wider, his head turning to address the room. "I feel I've shocked our visitor."
The room laughed again.
not," Sophie whispered, her eyes falling to the floor.
your name, my dear?"
name is Sophie," Manon supplied.
the man said. "And how did the three of you get separated?"
"Who are you?" Sophie breathed, finally able to make a coherent thought. "Anastasie," he said, bowing slightly.
A flood of relief
poured through Sophie. "The man Violette was supposed to meet in St-Lo? And
that's her name, hum? We were wondering."
Sophie said, stepping closer. "I am so glad I found you."
Anastasie said. "So am I."
"I have so much
to tell you."
"Then come sit
down," he said, taking her by the elbow and leading her to a table.
For the first time
Sophie got a clear picture of the cavernous vault. There were about five people sitting
about. All had the same hardened look of Manon. She noticed a small girl sitting at one
table. Her eyes didn't look hard. They looked scared.
"Why don't you
sit next to Juliet," Anastasie said, motioning her next to the child.
A small main street
seemed to bustle, and the French spy couldn't get over the feeling that this town didn't
seem touched by the war. It perplexed her. It just didn't make sense that the Nazi who
arranged this meeting would choose a town that had a Resistance movement. The combination
made her hair stand on end.
With a new respect
for caution, Violette knew she needed to blend. In order to do that she needed to look
like she belonged in the town. Her first stop was at the local fruit stand. To her
surprise there was no shortage of fresh fruit and she bought a bag of apples. She had no
intention of eating them. She just wanted to look like a woman shopping. After the fruit
she purchased two long baguettes, which stuck obviously from her bag. With a new scarf
tied around her head she felt her disguise was complete.
Her steps lead her
towards the Abbey, but she felt as if something had gone wrong. She thought she'd be able
to feel if Juliet was in the town. A mother's bond was strong, but she didn't know if her
daughter was there or not. It had never occurred to her that the Nazi's wouldn't honor
their promise to return her daughter, and crossing a street, Violette wasn't sure what
she'd do if Juliet wasn't there.
The Abbey loomed
before her with its large blocks of stone and brightly colored glass windows. It looked
like such a holy place. A place where peace should reign, not the chaos and deceit she
would bring to it.
For the first time
she began having second thoughts. It sprouted like a small weed that grew and questioned
her actions. But all she had to do was picture her daughter's face and her face set with
determination. No country was worth her only child.
Her path led her up
the small steps to the Abbey chapel. Pretending to pray was as good a way as any to hide
for a few hours. The smell of incense and the deathly quiet of the chapel hit her as she
entered. She felt dirty in those hallowed halls, but not dirty enough to leave. Instead
she slid into a hard wooden pew and lowered her head into her hands. Luckily sleeping
looked a lot like praying and she felt herself nodding off.
Jackie was pulled from the
back of another Kublewagon by a soldier with rough hands. They'd stopped in front of a
small farm house, but Jackie could immediately tell this wasn't a real working farm. The
fields weren't turned like the other fields nearby, and Jackie smiled ruefully, there were
Nazi's standing on the front porch.
"What have you
gotten yourself into, girl?" she mumbled, pulling her arm back a little from the
"I'd save your
talking for later," the Major said, as she was pulled past him and into the house.
The color black
dominated the room and Jackie realized she had never seen so many SS uniforms up close and
personal. In the recesses of her mind she realized they were just as scary as she'd
imagined. Despite her own height she felt dwarfed by the men in the room, and her gaze
skipped from one red swastika arm band to another before dropping significantly to a much
shorter black uniform. If the other's were well kept, this uniform was immaculate.
she said, as Jackie's eyes captured her gray face and soulless black eyes. "I didn't
expect you would be so easy to capture." She stepped forward. "Or did you expect
to be captured?"
making the woman laugh. "How I love the universal American shrug." She smiled,
much the way Jackie expected the devil to smile. "It means so much to you
you?" Jackie asked for lack of anything better to say.
The woman motioned
for her to sit and she waited until Jackie had sat before tucking her perfect black skirt
under her legs and sitting next to her. "Your questions aren't important, so I feel
no need to waste our time by indulging you."
Gestapo?" Jackie said, ignoring the woman's words. Sitting quietly never got her
anywhere and she'd be damned if she was going silent now.
"It's as good a
description as any," the woman conceded.
"But you're not
the same Gestapo agent that's been tracking us?"
Rundstedt?" the woman shook her head. "No, my dear. Caron is hardly in my
The smugness hit
Jackie. "But you know of her?" she asked, trying to get more information about
the blonde agent.
The woman laughed.
"Of course I know of her. I've been using her."
"I don't think
that is something that should concern us," the woman said, smiling so her grayish
teeth showed. "Let's talk about you."
silent, her training taking over.
Jackie turned her
gaze to the window and focused on nothing. "Jacqueline Marie Bradford. Captain,
United States Army. Serial Number 33675852 T43."
"And what is
Jackie lifted her
chin. "Jacqueline Marie Bradford. Captain, United States Army. Serial Number 33675852
From the corner of
her eye she saw the woman nod in understanding. "So I see you are familiar with a
soldier's rights under the Geneva Convention of 1929."
The woman leaned
forward. "Then you remember the treaty guarantees fair treatment for soldiers caught
shifted to the cold woman. She knew where this was going and one look at the old woman
confirmed that the woman knew she knew. It was a game and Jackie suddenly felt like a poor
mouse being held under the cat's paw.
Marie Bradford. Captain, United States Army. Serial Number 33675852 T43," Jackie
repeated, forcing her gaze back to the window.
convention does not apply to spies. I could have you shot immediately."
Marie Bradford. Captain, United States Army. Serial Number 33675852 T43." Her voice
was a bit weaker, but she was resolved to give nothing away and to find any advantage.
The gray woman waved
her hand. "Enough of that," she said. "I think you understand me."
The American turned
her head. "Then go ahead and shoot me."
not going to help me?" the woman asked, finishing Jackie's thought. She smiled.
"But, my dear, you've already helped me more than you know."
"Then I guess
we're done here," Jackie said, folding her arms over her chest and returning her
stare to the window.
"Where are your
compatriots?" the woman asked. "Ms. Szabo and the girl. Where are they?"
Marie Bradford. Captain, United States Army. Serial Number 33675852 T43." She'd be
damned if she was going to give up Sophie. Maybe the girl had abandoned her or maybe she
just escaped. A small smile tugged at her lips when she remembered Sophie's declaration.
'She loves me,' she thought, letting the feeling warm her heart.
this," the woman said, leaning back in her chair and motioning at someone behind
Before she knew what
had happened a rope was dropped over her head and pulled tight. Jackie hands clawed at the
thin strap but it bit too deeply into her skin for her fingers to slide underneath it. The
pain was excruciating. She threw her head back, hoping to connect with the person holding
the rope, but it only slammed against the back of the sofa and the rope dug deeper into
her. With no air getting to her lungs, her head became fuzzy and just as she was about to
pass out the old woman yelled "Anschlag," and the rope was dropped.
forward and between raspy coughs she gasped for air. Her fingers rubbed at the burning
skin around her throat and she lifted an angry eye to the vile woman.
Bradford? The Geneva Convention has no weight here."
"I have nothing
to say," she rasped.
"Get her some
water," the woman ordered, her dark eyes never leaving Jackie. "We'll try
something different, yes?"
Jackie narrowed her
eyes and waited. The woman took a tall glass of water from the Major who had brought her
here. It looked wonderful, and Jackie felt her mouth begin salivating. She shook her head
and forced her eyes back to the woman.
"You want the
water, Fraulein Bradford. I know you do. It is yours if you answer one question." She
held the water out but pulled it back. "Where is Violette Szabo?"
first," Jackie said, the words grating against her bruised vocal cords.
The gray woman
cocked her head but decided quickly and handed the water over. "Very well," she
said. "But refuse to answer and you die."
Jackie grabbed the glass and gulped it down before it could be taken away. The water soothed her throat and she drank like a man emerging from the desert. When the glass was empty, the Major roughly pulled it away.
Rolfe," he ordered.
"So that's your
name," Jackie said, and this time the woman shrugged.
others," she said. "Please answer."
'What would it
hurt?' she thought. She owed Violette no loyalty. "We got separated last night
after the crash. I haven't seen her since."
"Where was she
Jackie turned an
interested eye on Frau Rolfe. 'Don't you know?' she thought. "As far as I knew she
was taking us to Caen."
Frau Rolfe's eyes
"She said she had a contact there who was going to arrange to get us all out of
"Then why'd you
way to measure one's enemy."
"So what do you
want from me?"
"How do you
American's say: 'out of the picture'?" She stood up and brushed at wrinkles in her
skirt that Jackie couldn't see. "Major, it's time for you to watch the
prisoner," she said to the man who'd brought her here.
followed the woman as she walked to the door. "So that's it?" she asked.
Frau Rolfe stopped
and turned. "Not quite, my dear," she said, exposing her gray teeth in a cold
smile. "It's just the beginning." She looked at the Major. "She's in your
care now. I want her alive," she admonished, and Jackie saw a look of disappointment
pass over the Major's face. "I want her to witness it all," Lillian Rolfe said,
before sweeping out the door and leaving Jackie alone with the Major.
and there's alive," he said, tugging on his leather glove.
guess," Jackie said. "When you're not beating the life out of people you're
really a poet?"
The man let a
powerful backhand across her face answer for him, and Jackie felt her lip split.
Her heart was
pounding in her chest with an anxious beat that seemed to drive her deeper into the seat. 'This
is it,' she thought. 'Tomorrow has finally come and I can't stop it.'
The sharp click of
booted heels followed by a loud "heil Hitler," drew her attention and she
turned. "Yes," she said, her voice weak and tired.
"This was left
for you, Fraulein Oberfuhrer," the man said, holding out a crisp cream linen
"It's you or
them," she said, repeating Rolfe's words to her last night. With her thumb nail she
slit open the envelope and pulled out a single sheet. This, too, was embossed with the
seal of the Reichfuhrer's Office, but this time the power behind it didn't impress her.
Lillian Rolfe's handwriting was as small and anal as the woman, and Caron had to squint
her eyes to make the short note out.
her Sargent asked, and Caron looked surprised to see him in the driver's seat.
she screamed, her anger and frustration rushing at her like a freight train. "Get out
of the car!"
The man scrambled to
open the door and climbed out. Caron waited for the door to slam in place before releasing
a scream of rage. Her voice reverberated off the windows of the car, but still she
screamed. She screamed until her body was banging roughly into the seat over and over.
Finally out of breath and energy she slumped weakly into the leather and stared blankly
out the window. She half saw the few soldiers who had gathered near her car, gawking at
stare," she said, banging the glass with her fist and causing several of the men to
jump. "Fucking assholes."
The letter was
bunched in her hand and with a snarl she threw it to the floor, but then immediately bent
over and picked it up. Smoothing it out she read it again. The words drilled into her like
parasites, and she felt sick. Before she knew it, her hand was groping for the door handle
and she barely had time to lean out before her stomach wretched and her breakfast pushed
its way out her mouth. Again and again her body convulsed, and when it had emptied itself
she lay there against the seat, unable to move. A wetness on her cheek made her lift her
hand to it, and she stared at the tear.
"Do you need
help, Oberfuhrer?" her Sargent asked. Apparently he was the only one with the balls
to approach her.
"Get me some
water and a warm towel," she said, still staring at her finger. "Please,"
she added, rolling the wetness between her finger and thumb.
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