DISCLAIMER: All previous disclaimers apply. However, important reminders: this story does depict a relationship between women, and may not be suited for children under 18 or illegal in your given area. Please use your own judgment.

LANGUAGE NOTE: In this section I use some German. I do not speak German at all. I got my translations from www.babblefish.com, which is a great site for translating many languages. Sorry if I mangle the German.

NOTE TO READERS:  Sorry for the extremely long delay in posting this section. It was done back in February, but I deleted it from my home computer and had to rewrite it. That was really hard and it took my awhile to get into a groove and complete it. The good news is that the next section is almost done and I should be posting that very soon. Thanks for sticking with me! Any comments of question, please Send me mail!

Mercy that Sadness Brings
by
Pallas


Part X: Get Hot -- Keep Moving


Jackie climbed behind the wheel and placed her fingers on the key in the ignition. Her gaze was tightly focused on the door to the store as she waited anxiously for Sophie to emerge. The French spy had situated herself in the middle of the truck, and Jackie wasn't sure if that was best or not.

Her body ached to feel Sophie next to it, but after what had happened between them inside, she had to reconcile herself to living without that contact. The young woman had made her wishes clear, and Jackie knew that if they made it to safety she'd probably never see Sophie Frenay again. 'Will that be better?' she wondered, clenching her jaw when Violette's body pushed closer to hers.

"What's taking so long?" she said, wishing the door open and Sophie before her eyes.

"We could just leave her," Violette said, her voice ringing with amusement.

"Shut up, Violette."

"My we're testy," Violette replied, jabbing Jackie with her elbow. "Want to talk about it?"

"Not with you."

"You didn't mind talking to me in England."

"You didn't irritate me so much in England."

"And the little French writer doesn't irritate you as much, no?"

Jackie's head turned. "Can you be quiet for a god damn minute?"

Violette shook her head. "You Americans are all so vulgar."

"Where is she?" Jackie said, fighting the urge to go find Sophie.

"Probably playing the coy bitch," Violette said, pulling her arms tight over her chest. "I see she's very good at that."

Jackie fought the urge to return an equally nasty comment. It wouldn't do any good, and sparring with Violette wasn't important right now. She shook her head and leaned forward to stare harder at the door. The hairs on the back of her neck began to tingle, and she twisted her head to calm them. Her palms began to sweat, and she felt her mouth going dry. "Something's wrong," she said, noticing the way her heart was speeding up. "I'm going to get her," she announced, her hand searching for the door handle.

"Give her another minute," the French spy said, her hand settling on Jackie's thigh and giving it a slight squeeze.

"No," Jackie said, throwing open the door and sliding away from Violette's touch.

The gravel crunched under her boots, every sound pounding on Jackie's taut nerves as she hurried towards the building. The door was thrown open, and her eyes lifted just as Sophie burst from the building, her face distorted and her eyes wild. Jackie's mouth opened to speak when Sophie began waving her arms. "Germans!" she hissed. "Germans!"

Jackie hesitated only a second before turning on her heel and running back to the vehicle. Her hands grabbed the ancient handle and practically pulled it from the truck as she yanked the door open and threw her body into the front seat. With her left foot jammed down the clutch and her hand frantically turning the key, she waved Sophie into the truck.

"Help her in," she screamed to Violette, who appeared to be watching Sophie's struggles with the passenger door. "Now!"

Violette leaned over and pulled the handle, using her foot to pry the rusted door open. She scooted back to allow Sophie to enter the cab, and Jackie was turning the truck towards the mouth of the alley before the girl had the door closed.

"Oh God," Sophie moaned, giving the door one last tug that latched it in place.

"What happened?" Jackie asked.

"Just drive," Sophie said, her hands pounding anxiously on the dash. "Drive! Faster!"

Jackie wanted to do just that, but caution got the better of her and she eased the truck to a stop at the end of the alley and leaned forward to look. "Oh shit," she whispered, pointing at the motorcycle and sidecar that was parked on the corner. They were blocking the street to the store. Two German soldier's stood with their rifles slung over their shoulders. One leaned over a match to light his cigarette, and the other was already exhaling bluish smoke. So far they hadn't turned in their direction.

"For God's sake, get us out of here!" Violette ordered, her voice scared.

With the soldiers blocking their exit to the right, Jackie eased the truck forward and turned it left and away from the German soldiers. Her eyes remained locked on the truck's side mirror for any sign of pursuit, and although she saw one soldier turn and stare, she breathed a sigh of relief when he turned away.

"Can't you go any faster?" Violette said, grabbing the rear view mirror and twisting it so she could see behind her.

"Not unless you want us to get caught," Jackie said, knowing their only chance of escaping St-Lo was to not draw any unnecessary attention.

"A bicycle could catch us," Violette said. "Go faster!"

Jackie allowed herself to push the pedal a little more until the close buildings of the town began spreading out and there was no sign of pursuit. "So what happened?" Jackie finally asked, her blue eyes darting from Sophie to the road and back to the side mirror.

"The Germans came," Violette said, her voice loud and reverberating through the cab. "What do you think happened?"

"I was asking Sophie."

"Of course you were," Violette replied, turning her head towards Sophie, who stared absently out the window. "So answer her, Cherie."

"The Germans came," Sophie repeated, her voice barely loud enough to rise above the rumble of the old truck's engine.

"But how did you . . ." Jackie began, but Sophie cut her off.

"That's all I know," she said. "I saw the Germans and I - - I ran out to you."

Jackie heard the hesitation in the girl's voice and she felt her fear as if it passed directly through the unknowing Violette and bored its way into her heart. "Was she there?" she asked.

Sophie hesitated before nodding, the bobbing of her head reflecting on the glass. "Yes," she breathed.

"Who?" Violette asked on cue, and Jackie gripped the wheel tighter to keep from back handing the French woman.

"Be quiet, Violette, will you?"

"I'd like to know." Violette said.

'So would I,' Jackie thought, furrowing her brow. "Not now," she managed to say. "Let's just figure out what direction we're heading, okay?"

Violette pulled her arms over her chest and leaned back. "I for one have no control over that," she pouted.

Jackie bit her tongue and fought another urge to slap the Frenay spy. "Could you at least help me figure out what direction we're travelling?"

The French woman shrugged, her crossed arms lifting her breasts. "That sign back there said Vire."

"Shit," Jackie said, banging her fist against the steering wheel. "That's heading South!"

"So?" Violette asked.

"Caen is East!" She hit the wheel again. "Damn!"

"So go East," Violette said as if it were the easiest thing in the world.

"And how would you suggest I do that?"

"Normally one would turn the wheel," Violette snipped.

"You bitch," Sophie whispered. "How dare you open your traitorous mouth."

"Moi?" Violette said, her hand lifting to her throat.

Sophie leaned forward, her eyes seeking Jackie's attention. "I saw it, Violette," she said, barely acknowledging the French spy. "I saw your message."

"I have no idea what you're talking about."

"You sure as hell do," Sophie said, her voice becoming shrill.

Jackie lifted her hand. "Hold on," she said, calmly, even though she felt her blood starting to heat up. "Saw what?"

"She saw nothing. She's making this up to get your attention."

Sophie shook her head violently. "You can't lie your way out of this! I saw what you wrote to the Germans."

"I don't know what she's talking about, Jacqueline." Violette shook her head. "I've never . . ."

"Quiet," Jackie said, searching the road for a suitable place to stop and control this turn in events. As Sophie had said the words, she felt her stomach flip and her vision became hazy. In her heart she knew it was true. But she prayed it wasn't.

She turned the truck down a road that amounted to little more than an old cart track, and she eased them over rutted bumps and valleys until they were secluded in a small grove of trees. Here was as good a place as any for an inquisition.

Once she'd stopped the truck she slowly extinguished the engine and sat silently for a second before opening the door and stepping out. In her head she meant to turn and order both Sophie and Violette out of the truck, but instead her feet kept moving until her stomach catapulted on her and she grabbed a small tree for balance while the measly contents of her stomach were expelled from her body. When there was no food left, her body began to dry heave and she tightened her hand on the tree to try and regain control. Each convulsion threatened to tear her heart from her body and Jackie almost wished it would. It would be easier to not feel . . . to not live.

When her body stopped trying to turn itself inside out, she leaned against a larger tree and stared into the darkness. There was no way for her to make herself turn around and face this. How does one accuse a friend and pass judgement?

She heard footsteps behind her. She knew it was Sophie without turning her head. She dared not turn towards the girl, even when she felt her touch against her back. It would be so easy to push herself into Sophie's arms and try and forget all of this. But she knew she couldn't.

Showing favoritism now would undermine what she had to do. In a few minutes she would have to decide if her once friend and comrade was a traitor. She knew that Sophie didn't like Violette, but would the girl manufacture a lie to . . . Jackie sighed. Would she be able to decide?

"Jackie?" Sophie said, the heat from her hand burning into Jackie's back. "Are you alright?"

Jackie straightened up, her will fighting against her body's need to turn and look at Sophie. Her heart desperately needed to believe and trust in the girl. The feeling was so strong that it was overriding her normally rational instincts. She knew if she gave into that feeling then she wouldn't be able to hear a thing Violette said, and she owed the French spy a chance to explain. Turning away from Sophie she searched for Violette.

The French spy was leaning against the bumper of the truck, a cigarette in her hand and her face impassively watching Jackie. The only indication of the woman's nervousness was the tremor in her hand as she brought the cigarette to her lips. Jackie locked eyes with her and nodded, as if to say, 'I'll hear you out.'

"Let's get to the bottom of this," she said, pointing to a fallen tree not far from the truck. She waited until Sophie and Violette passed her before joining them. She couldn't stop herself from sliding her hand around her back to check the position of her gun and praying silently that she wouldn't have to draw it on her ally.



The Gestapo agent's boots echoed against the wood plank sidewalk that lead to the dry good shop. She knew that Sophie and the American bitch weren't in the store, and pushing past a burly corporal, she entered the store with her teeth clenched and her temper unfurled. Her thoughts turned to the French dress maker who had sent her on this wild good chase. "She'll be dead by morning," Caron growled, her eyes contemptuously roving the small store.

The inside of the shop was pathetic. Stacks of empty boxes and crates gave the illusion of goods, and with a roar she swung her cane at a stack, causing them to fall and scatter at her feet.

"Where are my fugitives?" she screamed, not really expecting an answer, but willing to punish one way or the other. She knew that chicken livered Captain wouldn't show his face to her demand. "Coward," she spat, striking at another stack of empty crates.

She could feel Sophie's presence in this place, and to have had her that close and to lose her . . . it . . . Caron clenched her teeth. 'It hurts,' she thought, lifting her hand to her chest. At that moment the pain merged with her anger and she felt dangerously close to losing control.

In a weak attempt to turn the tide she began looking for anything in the room on which to focus. All of her men were either cowering outside or attempting to look busy. That which needed to be searched was being searched, but Caron knew it was no use. Sophie was gone. Her only hope was there might be something left behind to lead her.

Kicking an empty crate aside she made her way to the desk. It seemed a logical place to start. If this rancid store was a front for the Resistance, then perhaps there would be some clue to where the American bitch would take Sophie next.

The surface of the desk was cluttered with bits of paper, pencils, and some scattered photos. Caron glanced at a black and white of a smiling man and woman in front of the store. 'The dubious owners,' she thought, pushing it aside and grabbing for the papers. Her ability to read French wasn't stellar, and she could only make out a few words on each sheet. Overall the paper appeared to be nothing more than invoices and notes on goods. Nothing which would help her discern Sophie's trail.

"So, where do we go from here?" she muttered, unaware that her officer had walked up to the desk.

"Excuse me, Fraulein Oberfuhrer?" he said, and Caron looked up to see a puzzled look on his face. The stupidity that radiated from him made her sick.

"Report?" she said, dropping the papers back onto the desk.

The man pulled himself taller. "As previously reported, the fugitives are not in the building. Every corner has been searched."

"Were they here?" Caron asked, already knowing the answer.

"I can not say for certain that they were," the Captain said, covering himself well. "However, it appears that the building has recently been ransacked for supplies."

"Such as?"

"The kitchen has been picked over."

"That's it?" Caron asked, her voice incredulous. "Did you consider vagrants might have done that?"

The Captain jutted his chin out. "It also appears that the store's delivery truck is missing." He held up his hand to cut off Caron's rebuttal. "There are fresh oil spills outside and a hose that was used to siphon petrol from a barrel."

Caron felt her temper rise. "And how long ago was the truck there?"

"That is unknown, Fraulein Oberfuhrer."

The Gestapo agent leaned over the counter and leveled her gaze at the officer. "Then I suggest you find out."

The man leaned backwards, his head nodding. "Yes, Oberfuhrer. I will begin making inquires."
"You do that," Caron replied to the man's retreating back.

The news was both a comfort and a curse to Caron. It meant that Sophie was still attainable, but it also meant the with transportation she could travel farther and faster than perhaps even Caron could track.

She propped her elbows on the counter and leaned her head into her hands, knowing she now had no choice but to wait for the next lead. Waiting wasn't easy, and her gut was telling her there was something undiscovered. Her eyes roved around the room, not sure where to even begin looking. Her men, although a group of worthless idiots, had searched well. She'd made it quite clear what price they'd pay for not bringing any leads to her attention.

Everything in the room looked insignificant. Boxes . . . crates . . . can goods . . . her eyes moved slowly, looking for something . . . anything which would guide her. Near the back of the room her gaze shifted to the brick wall, moving slowly across the multi-red hued pattern. At first she saw it but dismissed it as an anomaly in the bricks. It couldn't be what she thought it was, but when she looked closer the hairs on the back of her neck began to tingle.

'A swastika,' she thought, moving from behind the desk and across the floor, her eyes never leaving the design. The closer she got the more it appeared to fade into the brick. It could be a trick of the light, but as her heart beat faster she prayed it wasn't. 'My eyes wouldn't be that cruel,' she thought, standing underneath the mark and reaching up to touch it. As her fingers moved over the mark, a flake of brick chipped off and Caron beamed a proud smile. The mark was fresh.

Still keeping her eyes on the cutting, Caron backed up to see it fully. It was a message, and she knew from the way her heart was pounding that it had been left by Sophie. 'She wants me to follow her,' Caron thought, licking her lips.

The mark was so easy to see now, and Caron stared for a moment trying to decide what Sophie wanted her to do next. The top right arm of the swastika appeared to have an arrow connected to it. Her eyes followed the wall to the right until she decided that Sophie must mean for her to go into the store room.

Her men had already searched the room. Could they have missed something? Caron smiled. 'No,' she thought, her mouth going dry in anticipation. 'Sophie knows only I'll be able to find her. That clue was for me alone.'

Turning back towards the store's entrance she pointed at the back of a soldier standing guard there. "You," she yelled, waiting only long enough for the man to turn. "Bring me a torch. Now," she added when the man hesitated.

Caron turned her eyes back to the swastika markings and followed its command, waiting at the threshold of the store room until the soldier handed her the flashlight. Entering she first saw the small table with the light bulb hanging over it. She could easily imagine Sophie sitting here, the pale light competing with the radiance of her hair. She inhaled deeply, hoping to catch even a whiff of Sophie, but only the stale dust of the room assaulted her nose.

Switching on the flashlight she began moving it against the walls where the weak light didn't reach. The swastika outside lead her to believe that Sophie would copy her pattern in here. The light was swallowed by the depth of the room, and Caron had no choice but to begin a pattern search down each aisle.

The dust in the air became thicker the deeper into the room she moved. Her light danced back and forth across the nearly bare wood shelves and she searched for some sign that Sophie had been there. Her heart was beginning to doubt she'd even seen the swastika, or that Sophie was trying to reach her. She couldn't allow herself to believe in that. The thought of losing Sophie was absolutely crushing, and to combat the oppressive fear, Caron gripped the flashlight tighter and prayed for some sign to confirm her destiny with Sophie.

When her footsteps had covered every row, Caron totally lost hope. The flashlight became limp in her hand and she hung her head. With a sigh she was about to turn and leave when the beam of her light passed over a shelf level with her knee. There was a clean dust ring, and dipping her head she saw a bucket had recently been moved. Bending further she pushed the bucked to the left and shone her light against the back wall.

Anastasie . . . Caen . . . Villers-Bocage . . . Luc sur Mer . . . American Spy

The words had been scribbled on the wall with chalk, and Caron stared for a long moment, unsure why it was so hard to believe that Sophie could be so clever. Without warning a small giggle escaped from her, and she lifted her hand to her mouth as if she could stop the sound. She knew it was Sophie's message to her. It had to be. There was no other explanation. She giggled again, feeling the almost forgotten sensation of joy tickling her stomach.

It took a minute for her to pull her mind away from Sophie and really concentrate on the words. She recognized Anastasie from her "chat" with Lillian Rolfe. Villers-Bocage was the place Lillian Rolfe was supposed to meet that Violette Szabo. She realized it was all coming together.

"But how?" she wondered, shining her light on the words again. Her lip lifted in a crooked smiled, and she knew it must be some divine intervention leading her directly to Sophie. From the moment she'd first brought the French girl into her life, Caron had suspected that there was something special between them.

Her smile fell as she stared at the words American spy. If it hadn't been for that bitch then Sophie never would have run. The girl was beginning to trust her, and Caron knew that in time she could have made Sophie love her.

"You'll pay for this," she whispered to the words. "By God, I'll make you suffer."



The small clearing had an eerie feeling as the young night engulfed them. In the distance Jackie could hear the rhythmic bark of a dog and for a moment she concentrated on it. She could feel Sophie and Violette's eyes on her back and she knew in a moment she would become judge, jury and possibly executioner. The heavy bulge of her gun in her back was a constant reminder of that option, and as she turned to face the accused, she couldn't help but wonder if she could put a bullet in Violette. Her head shook in doubt, and she dropped her eyes to the ground.

"You can't do it, Jacqueline. You can't kill me in cold blood."

Jackie looked up. "I can do what I have to," she said.

"No," Violette shook her head. "You're not the killing type." She laughed. "I knew that about you the first day we met."

"Had you already decided to betray your country?"

The remark must have stung because Violette's face lost all color. "So you've judged me already?" she asked, her gaze shifting to Sophie. "Is it because of her?"

Jackie wasn't about to let Violette attack Sophie, and she moved her body to block the girl from the French spy. "It's because of you, Violette," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Then you have judged me," she said. "You won't even let me defend myself."

"I'll listen to you."

Violette nodded her head. "But because of her," she pointed towards Sophie. "And your feelings for her . . . I'm already dead, no?" She laughed, a high pitched shrill that almost shook the leaves. "Then why not kill me and leave me in this god forsaken place right now?"

The American knew better than to allow this to degrade to a contest between Violette and Sophie, so she ignored the French spy's comments. "Sophie," she said, motioning to the girl. "Tell me what you saw."

"And how do you know it will be the truth?" Violette asked, swiping nervously at a loose strand of hair.

"Because the only one here who's a known liar is you," Sophie said, stepping out from behind Jackie.

"That has yet to be proven. And, I might add, there is no way to prove it." She looked up at Jackie. "You might be executing an innocent person."

"Ha! Not likely," Sophie spat with vehemence.

"Accuse me," Violette spat back at Sophie. "If you dare."

"I dare," Sophie responded before Jackie could. "I accuse you of trying to sabotage our escape. I accuse you of endangering us." She raised a finger and pointed it directly at the French spy. "And most of all, I accuse you of just being a bitch."

Violette sprang from her seat and Jackie had just enough time to thrust herself between the two women. "Enough," she yelled, turning so her nose was inches from Violette and her hand strained to hold Sophie back. "Sit down," she ordered. "Both of you," she said, pushing herself forward when Violette didn't back down. "Now, or it's over."

Violette must have sensed her seriousness, and she stepped back and resumed her seat on the fallen log. "I'm sorry," she said. "This is very distressing for me." She pushed trying again to control her hair. "I would never betray or sabotage you, Jacqueline."

The response didn't deserve an answer. From behind she could feel Sophie's anger, and she could only hope that the girl could hold it together and tell her story. "Please sit down, Sophie," she almost whispered over her shoulder. "Sit and tell me how you found what you did."

"Yes, Cherie," Violette chirped, recovering her composure. "Tell us what you found."

"You're not getting out of this," Sophie began, and Jackie had to hold up her hand to interrupt.

"Sophie," she said, her voice as firm as she could make it. "Just tell the story."

The girl inhaled deeply, and Jackie turned her body slightly to give her a reassuring smile. She knew Violette saw it, and the French spy mumbled something under her breath, but Jackie just nodded for Sophie to continue. "Start at the beginning."

"I was going back for the final load," she began. "You were putting the things in the truck and Violette wasn't doing much of anything." She stopped to sneer at the French spy.

"Go on," Jackie said.

"I went into the store room and I was going to just grab the box and leave, but," she shrugged. "I thought I'd give the room one last look to see if we missed anything of use."

"How dedicated of you," Violette quipped, raising her palms. "This story doesn't sound too convincing, Jacqueline, no?"

"Let her finish," Jackie snapped.

"I put the box on the table and began down the far aisle. I really didn't expect to find anything, but you never know. I turned and made my way up the aisle next to the brick wall and there I found a can of kerosene. I figured we might be able to use it, so I grabbed for it. That's when I saw it."

"Saw what?"

"The words scribbled on the back of the wall. Caen . . . Luc sur Mer . . . Villers-Bocage . . . Anastasie . . . American spy."

"I wouldn't have thought you capable of reading, Cherie," Violette sung. "Are you sure you read it right?"

"I read it perfectly, you bitch. I read the message you left. The message telling them exactly where to find us."

Jackie did nothing to interrupt this rant. She was too busy searching Violette's face for the truth. In her heart she knew it was true, but she searched desperately for any reason to not believe it.

"I did nothing of the sort," Violette said, turning to Jackie. "For all we know Jacqueline might have left those words."

"Oh bullshit," Sophie yelled. "Jackie didn't write that message. You did."

Violette raised her finger. "But you have no proof that I wrote it, do you Cherie?"

"Do we need proof?"

"Yes," Jackie found herself saying. "We do."

"What?" Sophie said, turning on her.

The American shook her head, but couldn't come up with anything to say. "Violette, do you have anything to say before I make a decision?"

The French spy's eyes widened in shock. "But how could you? You just said that you needed proof."

"Yes," Jackie began. "But sometimes enough coincidences add up to a no doubt conclusion. We don't have any proof that you wrote those words, but we have enough doubt and inconsistencies about you to draw a conclusion." She looked at the ground for a moment before lifting her head to meet Violette's eyes. "That conclusion is that you're a danger to us."

"No more a danger than you are, Jacqueline. Or that little twit friend of yours, for that matter." She smirked. "At least I'm not being hunted by the Gestapo."

"That's not the point. You've been unable to explain the reason you're in France."

"It's the same reason as yours."

Jackie shook her head. "I really don't think so."

"I have a mission, Jacqueline. A very important mission, and I have to complete it."

"So you've said. However, I haven't been able to figure out exactly what your mission is, or why Allied Command would risk sending you into France right now. You have enough information in your head to destroy so many. Hell, Violette, you helped plan Overlord. I can't believe Command would risk that!"

"Obviously Allied Command didn't think it necessary to consult you on their high level decision, so it would be best for you to just not question it."

"That's a snippy response for someone whose life is hanging in the balance."

"You don't know what you're talking about, Jacqueline. You are listening to these lies against me and not listening to what you really know."

"And what do I know?"

"That I'm not a traitor!"

"But you can't explain why you're in France, Violette. You can't explain why you left a message with our destination and exposing me."

"Oh think about it!" Violette cried, throwing her hands out in exasperation. "I was supposed to meet Anastasie tonight. He was going to lead me to the Resistance in Villers-Bocage and from there I was to complete my mission."

"Thanks for the recap."

"I had to leave the message. I had to take the chance that Anastasie or some member of the Resistance would find it and know that I was with you and we were on our way to Villers-Bocage."

"And Caen?"

Violette shook her head. "A ruse. Planted to throw off anyone who found the message by mistake. So they wouldn't understand it."

"But the Germans raided the shop this morning. What Resistance member would risk entering the store?"

"You did," Violette pointed out.

"But we didn't know."

"Think about it, Jacqueline," Violette repeated. "I have no reason to betray you, but I could not rely on just you and the girl to help me to Villers-Bocage. I needed to leave a message to say I was still alive and moving forward."

Jackie closed her eyes. It was making sense. But it didn't. Or maybe she just wanted to believe Violette to avoid killing her. She didn't know. Her eyes opened. It was time to make a decision. "I've heard enough." Her head turned slightly. "Sophie?"

"What?" Violette cried. "You're going to ask her?"

Jackie turned ice blue eyes on the French spy. "It's her life, too. She has the right to vote."

"This isn't a bloody democracy!" Violette yelled. "If you're going to kill me, then just do it. Make that decision." She pointed at Jackie. "If you can."

"I can," Jackie said, withdrawing the pistol from behind her back. "But Sophie has a say."

"Right," Violette spurred. "You could make the decision, but you'd never be able to pull the trigger." Her brown eyes swung to Sophie. "So you're going to pin the guilt on her."

Jackie raised the gun. "I'll kill you if I have to Violette. I'll make the decision on my own, too. But," she lowered the gun. "I want to hear what Sophie has to say."

"I'd like nothing better than to kill her," Sophie said. "But I'm not completely sure that what she said isn't true."

"Then you believe her story about leaving the message for the Resistance?" Jackie couldn't believe her ears. Violette was partly right. She wasn't a hundred percent sure about Violette and she needed Sophie to help her decide. She never expected to hear the girl advocate Violette.

"I don't know if I should believe her or not. I do know I don't trust her." She stood shoulder to shoulder with Jackie. "And I know I don't want her travelling with us. She left that message for some reason. If it was for the Resistance, then she'll find some way to complete her mission."

"And if it wasn't for the Resistance, then we're safer not having her with us," Jackie finished. Her chin lifted and she contemplated the French spy. For the first time Violette looked nervous.

"So that's it?" she said. "You're leaving me here. In the middle of no where?" Her eyes beseeched Jackie. "I'm a comrade, Jacqueline. An ally. How can you do this to me? Jacqueline," Violette said. "You can't do this."

"I just did, and believe me it's the best you could hope for." She nodded towards Sophie. "Go get in the truck."

Sophie hesitated only a moment before passing behind Jackie and walking quickly towards the truck. Jackie waited for the door to slam before addressing Violette again. "I trusted you once, Violette," she said. "I don't know what you're really up to, but all I want is to get myself and that girl out of France safely."

"Your mission may be in tatters, Jacqueline, but mine may yet be salvaged. Will you deny me the help I need to accomplish that?"

"I'm sorry," she said. "Good luck." Without taking her eyes off the French spy she began to back towards the truck.

"You're making a mistake," Violette cried.

"This isn't a mistake."

Violette stood, her gaze level with Jackie's. "It's a mistake, Jacqueline," she said. "It's a mistake because I can save her," Violette's eyes drifted towards Sophie. "And you cannot." Her brown eyes snapped back on the American.

"What are you talking about?"

"A deal." The French spy nodded. "A simple arrangement between us. Mutually beneficial."

"Not interested," Jackie said, shaking her head emphatically.

"You should be."

"Why?"

Violette looked again at Sophie. "Because if you don't then you'll probably be responsible for her death."

"Not if I can help it."

"Oh Jacqueline," Violette shook her head sadly. "Can't you see what a mess you are in? There is very little chance one of you will escape let alone both of you."

"There's always a chance." She had no idea why she was standing here arguing with the French spy.

"Not a chance like I'm offering." Violette took a step closer. "If you get me to Villers-Bocage by tomorrow then I will guarantee your safe passage out of France."

Jackie felt her skin prickle and she had the strongest urge to just turn and run. The weight of the gun in her hand became noticeable and she remembered thinking that she should just lift it and fire. End it all there. But instead she just stood there, shocked into silence.

"Don't look at me like that," Violette said. "It's not for you to judge me. I've already done enough of that."

"You are a traitor," she whispered.

Violette shrugged. "Not by my choice, you understand."

"I should kill you," Jackie said, not comprehending why her arm wouldn't raise the pistol.

"But you won't." The French spy smiled. "You won't kill me because you need me." When Jackie didn't respond, Violette continued. "You need me, Jacqueline, and I need you."

"But . . ."

"But nothing," Violette said, her voice harsh and commanding. "What I'm doing has nothing to do with you. Leave it like that and you and that girl can go home. Take issue with it, and you're both as good as dead." Her eyes narrowed. "Of that I'll make quite sure."

"So I help you or you have us killed?"

"Must it be so black and white? It's far too complicated for us to discuss here." She smiled. "Or to be discussed at all."

"I can't do it. I can't sacrifice my conscience to help you betray everything I've fought for and others have died for."

"That's rather melodramatic, isn't it?" She shook her head. "Face it, Jacqueline, you'll do it for a reason far stronger than your sense of duty." Violette pointed at Sophie. "You'll do it because for the first time in your life you love someone. And believe me, Cherie, that is the most powerful motivator in the world."

Jackie found her eyes following Violette's finger and even before she looked at Sophie she knew the French spy was right. She knew from the way her heart was beating that at all cost she had to save Sophie. Had to save her because she loved her. Loved her more than she thought possible and at that moment, nothing else mattered.

"You know I'm right, Jacqueline, no?"

She chose not to respond and give Violette the satisfaction of knowing she was right. Instead she forced her eyes back on the French spy. "If' I'm going to do this," she said. "I need to know why you're doing it."

Violette laughed, but her voice shook slightly. "Because I have no choice," she responded. 'Because much like you, I have someone to watch out for."

"What information are you giving the Germans?" She found the words difficult to get out, and she already knew exactly what information Violette had to give.

"It's best not to ask," Violette said, crossing her arms over her chest and shivering. "Do we have a deal?"

Jackie's jaw clenched. "You swear to get Sophie out of France and I'll get you to Villers-Bocage." Her head cocked to the left and her hand tightened against the grip of the pistol. "But if you betray me then," she raised the gun and pointed it at the French spy. "I'll kill you before you speak one word."

Violette's eyes focused on the gun. "I told you I wouldn't betray you."

"Swear it!" Jackie demanded. "Swear to get Sophie to England safely."

"I swear, Jacqueline. You have my word."

Jackie nodded, avoiding direct eye contact with the French spy. "Then I'll get you to Villers-Bocage by tomorrow." She tucked the pistol back into her waistband. "Get in the truck."

"You won't regret this," Violette said as she passed by on her way to the truck.
Jackie shook her head. 'Neither of us will live long enough to regret it,' she thought, giving Sophie a half smile when she saw the girl's shocked look.



Caron tossed the flashlight as the soldier who waited by the door. "Fetch me a map of the area," she ordered. "A good one," she yelled at his back. "And send for my car, too."

Her stomach was all alive and jittery. There was such a feeling of electricity jumping through her body that she found it hard to stand still. Sophie was trying to reach her. That thought coursed through her body with increasing speed until she was unable to keep a grin from her face.

She was standing there smiling when the soldier returned. As he handed over the map his brow wrinkled in confusion, and Caron forced herself to adopt her well worn Gestapo appearance. "At attention," she ordered, ripping the map from the man's hand. Pulling it open she sighed at all the small towns listed between here and Caen. She didn't have time for this. "Show me Villers-Bocage," she said to the soldier, but not moving the map to accommodate him.

"It's here, Oberfuhrer," he said. "Near Caen."

"I know it's near Caen," she said. "Show me exactly."

"It's a small town, maybe ten kilometers West of Caen. Here," he said, placing a chubby finger over a dot. "I was stationed there."

Caron waited for the soldier to move his finger before seeing the town's name on the crowded map. Caen was the biggest city in the region, and if the size of the dot was any indication of the size of the town, one could probably drive through Villers-Bocage and never know they were there. It hardly seemed a likely place for Sophie to be running or the French spy either, for that matter. "Tell me about it," she said to the soldier, not removing her eyes from the map.

"The town is rather charming. Not much to see, but a beautiful . . ."

Caron's eyes lifted and stared hard at the man. "Tell me about what you did there. Not about the damn countryside."

The soldier bristled slightly, but to Caron's delight he didn't show his anger. Instead he told her what she wanted to know. "I was assigned to a small unit that served as back up for the Caen battalion."

"As far as I know," Caron began. "It's not common to break a unit off from the battalion."

The soldier shrugged. "I wouldn't know about that. I just do as I'm told."

"Wasn't your unit vulnerable being stationed so far from support?"

"The town was quiet."

"That's also unusual," Caron commented, wondering what this simple man could tell her that would be of use. "What about Resistance?" she asked, taking a gamble.

He laughed ruefully. "Yes, the Resistance."

Caron waited until she was sure the man wasn't going to speak again. "What about the Resistance?" she asked, twisting her head until her neck cracked with stress.

"I don't understand, Oberfuhrer?" the soldier said, his slopping forehead sticking out like a badge of stupidity.

"Why did you laugh?" Caron said, pushing her fist against her leg to keep it from hitting the man. "Tell me what you know about the Resistance around Villers-Bocage."

"They are protected," he said as if it was the simplest thing to follow.

"Protected by whom?" Caron demanded.

"I don't know," he said. "Someone important, I'd guess."

Caron took a deep breath. "And tell me how you arrived at this conclusion."

"All I know is my lieutenant ordered us to prepare to attack the Abbaye du Bec-Hellouin. It's quite a beautiful church," he added.

"I'm sure it is. Tell me why you were ordered to attack."

"We didn't attack."

Caron clenched her jaw. "But you were ordered. Tell me why."

"The lieutenant had discovered the Abbaye was being used by the Resistance. A sort of safe haven, I guess. He was doing what he thought right by planning a raid."

"You disagreed?" Caron asked, not sure if this man had the mental powers to disagree with anything.

The soldier shrugged again. "I had no opinion. Like I said, I do what I'm told."

"Okay," Caron said, her voice tight and forced under control. "Just tell me why you didn't attack this Abbaye!"

"We were ordered by a major we'd never seen to stand down."

"Why didn't your lieutenant give the order?"

"He'd been relieved of command."

"Interesting," Caron said, beginning to draw a picture of the climate in Villers-Bocage.

"If you think that's interesting, then what about our unit being broken up and everyone being reassigned?"

Caron smiled. "Is that what happened?"

"Yes. I got St-Lo. Others, like the lieutenant, weren't so lucky. Russia," he whispered.

"How wonderful," she said, smiling wider as everything became clearer. "Are there any German units in Villers-Bocage now?"

The man's head shook. "I don't know."

Caron sighed. "Then I have no further use for you." She dismissed him with her hand. "Go find my car."

She watched him scurry off with a sly smile on her face. It was amazing how perfectly everything was progressing. Sophie was with her and all the clues were leading her towards this Villers-Bocage. There she would find her Sophie.
The smile fell from her face when she remembered Lillian Rolfe and her pesky plans for that French woman Szabo. It was more distressing to remember what she planned on doing to Sophie.

It didn't make sense that she could be so close to winning and yet ultimately lose. A furrow wrinkled her brow and her lower lip pouted out. It wasn't fair. She shouldn't lose what she wanted most. Sophie should be her reward. Her prize for a job well done. This Lillian Rolfe was interfering where she didn't belong.

As her long staff car slid to a stop, Caron's mind was in such conflict that she didn't even notice her Sargent open the door and help her into the back. Torn between self preservation and selfish desire she sat staring aimlessly at the back of the headrest until her Sargent cleared his throat. Her gray eyes moved slowly to him, but she didn't know if she should be upset or not. It was as if her world had been suddenly picked up and dumped.

"Where would you like me to take you, Oberfuhrer?" the Sargent asked, softly.

Caron clenched her jaw, the words from the store room pushing themselves into her mind's eye with such fortitude that it made her right eye twitch. She knew there was a decision to make. A decision that would eventually take her down one of two roads. One road could bring her happiness and the other could bring her glory. It terrified her that she didn't know which road she wanted.

"My hotel first," she whispered to the Sargent. "Then Villers-Bocage." She leaned back in the seat and took one last look at the dark store front. 'I'm coming, Sophie,' she thought. 'You'll be mine or you'll die. But whichever way, I'll be there for you.'



With the truck's wheels once again humming down the road, Jackie finally took a second to relax and breathe normally. The tension coming from Sophie's side of the cab was enough to snap her spine, but the girl had said nothing about Violette's presence. In fact she'd said nothing at all since the three of them got back in the truck.

Several times Jackie had started to explain, or at least try to explain what she could, but an angry exhale of breath had always stopped the words on Jackie's tongue. So they drove on in silence. She could feel Violette's smugness, and it disgusted her.

"I'm lost," she said, knowing it meant more than just the direction they were travelling. "Does anyone know where we are?"

"I thought you knew everything," Sophie said, crossing and uncrossing her arms. "You don't need my opinion, do you?"

"Sophie . . ."

"We're heading for Vire," Violette said. "Or at least that's what that sign said back there."

"Back where?" Jackie said in alarm.

"About five minutes ago. I thought you saw it."

"I saw it," Sophie said. "But you don't need me to tell you anything."

"Shit," Jackie said, both to Sophie's sarcasm and the road they were on. "Vire has two German battalions. We don't want to go there."

"Well, that's where we're heading."

"Okay, think, Jackie," she said, trying to rack her brain for any map she could remember. "Villers-Bocage is East of here. I know that." She pounded the steering wheel. "But I can't remember what road to take."

"That looks like a town ahead," Violette said, pointing at a few scattered lights.

"But what road are we on?"

"There's a sign," Sophie said, leaning forward. "Torigni -sur-Vire, two kilometers. Or, the next road takes us to Caumont."

"What road?" Jackie cried, not wanting to head into the next town. For all she knew the Germans could be waiting for them. By now they were probably widening the search outside St-Lo.

"It doesn't say, but . . ." Sophie's voice trailed off. "There," she said, pointing ahead.

"What?"

"Turn there. Now!"

"Where?" Jackie said, peering into the darkness. "I can't see anything."

"The road, Jacqueline. Turn now!"

Jackie slammed on the brakes and spun the wheel to the left. She felt the truck fishtail on the loose gravel and she fought to regain control. With the truck's small light slits, she could barely see the dark pavement and she silently prayed they didn't slide off into a ditch.

"Jesus, Jacqueline," Violette said, throwing her hands against the roof of the truck to keep from falling against Sophie and crushing her. "Slow down."

"I'm trying," Jackie cried, pulling the wheel one way and the other before the rear end began to respond and she could straighten the truck out. The truck rolled a few more feet before the brakes finally brought the vehicle to a stop. "Sorry," she whispered, leaning over the wheel and breathing deeply.

"No harm done," Violette said, her hands still braced on the roof of the cab.

Sophie didn't say anything, and Jackie slowly lifted her head to check on the girl. She found Sophie staring at her with fire in her green eyes, and Jackie didn't know if it was for the turn or Violette. "Are you alright?" she asked, wanting to reach out and touch the girl.

"Fine," Sophie said, her voice tight and even. "Let's get going." She broke eye contact and turned to stare out the window. "Or let's stay. My opinion doesn't matter."

"Sophie . . ." Jackie began again.

"Let her be, Jacqueline. You'll have plenty of time to explain later."

With an audible sigh, Jackie turned her head forward and eased the truck into gear. She needed to find time to talk with Sophie before Villers-Bocage. She had to explain why she'd done it and why she was going to do what she planned. The girl had to understand. As the truck jumped forward, she knew her time was running out. "So," she said, trying to push her fear behind her. "We're on the road to Caumont?"

"That's what the sign said," Sophie mumbled, her voice muffled against the window.

"I guess it gets us closer to where we need to be."

"So drive, Cherie."


Caron waited in the car while her Sargent fetched her luggage and stowed it in the back of the car. She'd never felt so distracted in her life. Usually there was such focus and sense of purpose that she felt like her destiny just pushed her along. This time she felt dragged, and totally unwilling. Deep inside she knew that going to Villers-Bocage would force her to make a decision she felt unable to make. Oh, she'd make it. There was no doubt about that, but Caron wondered for the first time in her life what the cost would be.

"Fraulein Oberfuhrer," her Sargent said, rapping on the window to get her attention.

Caron's gray eyes lifted slowly and she raised an eyebrow in question.

"The Captain wishes to speak with you. I told him you weren't to be disturbed, but he insisted."

Caron waved for the man to open the door. "Fine," she said, almost anxious for any distraction from her chaotic thoughts.

"Fraulein Oberfuhrer," the captain began, bending down to look in the car. "I fear your fugitives have escaped St-Lo."

Caron rolled her eyes. "How perceptive, Captain." She squared her jaw. "Pray tell me where they have gone."

"It appears they did take the store's truck and fled moments before we could apprehend them."

"How resourceful, but I asked their destination, not their mode of transportation. We knew about the truck, didn't we?"

The captain swallowed. "One of my men reported that a truck left the alley shortly after we arrived and headed south."

Caron's brows rose. "And this man didn't feel the need to stop the truck?"

"He had no orders to do so."

The Gestapo agent nodded, and locked eyes with the man. "How tragic for you, Captain."

"Yes, Oberfuhrer. It was my fault."

She liked it when someone took responsibility for their actions. It was so rare in the German command. With a smile she waved the man closer. "I will give you one chance to redeem yourself, Captain." She saw the look of relief flood the man's face. "You will follow my orders to the letter or you will find yourself in a most unpleasant situation."

"Yes, Oberfuhrer."

"I want a company of men sent to Luc sur Mer." She didn't know why she was wasting time on the small town. Her gut was telling her it meant nothing, but she didn't want to risk losing Sophie on an oversight. She grabbed the captain's tunic and pulled him even closer, close enough for her breath to spread across his clean jaw. "I want every rat hole in or out of that town guarded. No one is to leave without my permission. If they try, then shoot them. Anyone trying to enter the town will be detained until I say they can go."

The captain's head shook. "That is out of my jurisdiction, Oberfuhrer. You will have to request that action at Headquarters in Caen."

"I'm not done," Caron whispered, her grip tightening on the man's tunic. "I also want a check point set up at every road West of Villers-Bocage. All cars are to be stopped and any vehicle carrying three women will be detained and I will be notified immediately."

The captain struggled to pull back and finally Caron released her hold. "Fraulein Oberfuhrer," he began. "I have no problem with your commands. I would give my life to follow them," he took a deep breath. "However, I am bound within certain rules."

Slowly, Caron withdrew the letter Lillian Rolfe had given her. She'd never opened it, but she knew without a doubt that it contained enough authority to override any local problems. She handed it to the captain and waited for him to open it. From the backside she could easily see the embossed seal of the Reichfuhrer's Office, and a small grin tugged at her face when she saw the captain's hands begin to tremble. Leaning forward she reclaimed the letter and dropped it on the seat next to her. With her hand on the door handle she gave the captain one last look. "I have absolute authority, Captain," she said. "Fail me again and you will see exactly what that means."

The captain jumped back to avoid being hit by the door and threw a clumsy salute as Caron slammed the door and settled back into the leather. She waited until her Sargent had slid behind the wheel and moved them down the street before glancing at the letter.

"Perhaps," she said, grabbing it and fingering the fine linen paper. A plan was forming in her head.



Jackie figured they had driven about ten kilometers since turning towards Caumont. There had been no signs announcing the distance or the road. She knew many roads in the area had been de-signed by the Resistance to keep the German's off balance. Of course she knew the Germans were far too organized in recognizance and mapping to be effected much.

But it did leave them at a distinct disadvantage. As far as she could remember Caumont was a small town just Northwest of Caen, which would put it somewhere north of Villers-Bocage. All she could do was hope once they reached Caumont there would be some sign for Villers-Bocage or Caen. If not, they would just have to shoot in the dark.

Sophie hadn't said another word after her last outburst. Jackie didn't know if she should be pleased or not. She didn't like having this thing unsettled between them, but with Violette in the truck there was no way to talk to the girl without giving away her . . .

"What's that?" Violette said, interrupting Jackie's thoughts.

"What?" Jackie said, her gaze following Violette's finger.

"I saw a light ahead."

"I don't see anything," Sophie said, her voice bored.

"Well I did," Violette said. "There it is again."

This time Jackie saw it. It was a quick flash of yellow light, and she felt her heart sink. "Oh shit," she breathed. "How far ahead do you think it is?"

"Again," Violette pointed.

"I saw it," Sophie said. "Maybe half a kilometer," she guessed.

Jackie's palms became wet and she swallowed quickly. "It's a checkpoint. We have to go back."

"How can you tell?" Sophie asked.

"Turn around, Jacqueline," Violette said, her voice high pitched and nervous. "I should have known."

Jackie had just started to apply the brakes when a flood light was snapped on ahead. The light hit Jackie in the eyes, blinding her. "They've spotted us," Violette screamed, lifting her hand to block the light. "Turn the damn truck!"

With the vehicle still travelling too fast, Jackie cranked the wheel to the left and pressed hard on the brake. She felt the rear end of the truck pull around, and she moved her foot to the accelerator to spin them around. She knew the road wasn't wide enough, but she prayed to clear it anyway. The narrow beams of the truck just caught the edge of the ditch before the truck roared over and slammed into the other side.

Jackie's body jerked forward until the steering wheel impacted with her chest and she let out a low moan. From the corner of her eye she saw Violette's arm crash against Sophie's chest to hold her back, and the French spy was thrown violently to the floor. Overhead the spotlight had disappeared, but she knew any second it would be replaced with the smaller beams of soldiers. "Get out," she wheezed, the air scratching against her bruised lungs.

"Jackie," she heard Sophie's voice and felt the girl's hand on her arm.

"Come, Sophie," Violette said. "Open the door and get us out of here."

The American felt the cold burst of air on her face as the passenger door was thrown open. Violette's hand lifted and she pushed Sophie from the cab. The girl seemed to hang momentarily in mid air before falling with a loud splash into the ditch below. Violette waved at Jackie before crawling to the seat and jumping out after Sophie.

It took Jackie only a moment to regain her drive and she pulled herself to the other side of the cab and jumped after Sophie and Violette. The French spy was helping Sophie out of the water, and even in the darkness Jackie could see the girl's teeth chattering with cold. There wasn't time to deal with that, and Jackie pulled the pistol from her waistband and motioned Violette up the embankment. "Get up there and keep low," she hissed. "Head straight and then East. I'll come find you."

"I'm staying with you," Sophie said, her freezing hand grabbing Jackie's.

"Go with Violette," Jackie ordered, her gaze moving to the French spy. "Take care of her," she said, her teeth clenching.

Violette gave Sophie a shove towards the muddy embankment. "Of course, Cherie. I promised, didn't I?"

Jackie leaned close to Violette. "If she dies, you die." She pushed her away. "Go."

Violette climbed the slippery embankment with little trouble, and Jackie watched as the French spy lowered her hand to pull Sophie to the top. The girl turned towards Jackie, but Violette grabbed her and they disappeared into the darkness.

The cold water in the ditch was seeping into her boots, and she knew she had to get out of it before she squeaked and sloshed with every step. Right now she needed every advantage possible to get them all out of this.

Two quick steps brought her teetering on the edge of the embankment. She could feel her weight sinking into the mud, and she leaned forward to grab the side. She needed to look over the edge and get her bearings.

Lifting her leg she kicked it hard into the soft earth to create a foothold on the steep bank and lifted herself to the edge. The ditch was deep enough that even with her new foothold, she could just see over the edge. Immediately she began searching for lights. They weren't hard to find in the inky blackness.

The large floodlight had been replaced by two bobbing, hand held torches. Jackie surmised that meant at least two soldiers were heading for the truck, but there could be more. Looking around she needed to devise some sort of attack plan. If they reached the truck alive, they would discover Sophie and Violette's escape route and track them like dogs until . . . "That's not going to happen," she said, lowering herself back into the ditch and moving off in the direction of the lights.

She suddenly felt like a pivotal piece on a chess board, and she needed to out think her adversary in order to survive and win. That meant trying to remember every piece of her covert training and capitalize on everything. With her heart pounding in her chest she tried to move as swiftly as possible without making too many splash noises. The other problem was she couldn't see anything but blackness in the ditch and she had no idea if the ditch followed the road or if it was turning her away from both the road and the approaching soldiers.

'Only one way to find out,' she thought, stopping to pull herself up the ditch again. The embankment was lower here, and with the wet grass brushing against her face she peered over the edge.

The two lights were closer, and Jackie quickly dropped her head back beneath the embankment before the halo of the lights caught her. She pressed her body against the dirt and waited. The direction of the lights pointed the soldiers directly at her, and she feared moving and alerting them to her position. She needed every element of surprise.

Mentally she began counting, prepared to move only after reaching 100. It was the longest count of her life, and by the time she reached 90 her breath was coming faster than the numbers. '96 . . . 97 . . . 98 . . .' She grabbed the top of the embankment. '99 . . . 100' With all her strength she propelled herself out of the ditch and rolled flat, her head lifting to find the soldiers.

From the narrowest part of the light beam she figured them to be about twenty feet away. That put them about a hundred yards from the wrecked truck. They were moving slowly, and Jackie couldn't help but wonder why. Perhaps the soldiers were just being cautious, or maybe they were just lazy. Jackie offered a quick prayer for the latter.

Rolling on her back she lifted her legs into the air and held her breath as a slosh of cold water ran from her boots and down her legs. She waited until most of the water emptied, and as she slowly rolled to her feet she hoped that her boots didn't squish with each step. Her life depending on getting to those soldiers quietly. She took a step, relieved to hear only a tiny noise from her boots. With any luck no one else would hear it.

As far as Jackie could tell she had two targets. Like any good operative she knew that one would be the weak link. The choice became between breaking the stronger or weaker first. There was no good answer, so Jackie decided to not decide.

She stuffed the pistol back into her waistband and leaned over to pull her commando knife from its leg sheath. Knife had been the best portion of her training, and she felt comfortable with the six inch blade in her hand. Turning the tip of it around so the blade just brushed against her forearm, she lowered her head and moved off towards the lights.

Her eyes became accustomed to the darkness and she began to make out various shapes in the distance. She thought she could even see the outline of the truck. Her steps were sure and quick, and keeping her body low she moved closer and closer to the two lights.

She froze and hit the ground when machine gun fire erupted. Out of instinct she pushed her head under her arms and held still until identifying the sound of bullets bouncing off metal. Lifting her head she saw the muzzle bursts and the sparks as the bullets hit the truck. 'Nothing like shooting first and asking questions later,' Jackie thought, unsure how to proceed now.

"Heilige Scheiße!" a voice near her screamed out a curse, and without moving Jackie searched for the voice's position.

"Hast oben, Dieter. Sie vermissen den ganzen Spaß," a deeper voice from near the truck cried back, telling the man to hurry before he missed all the fun.

"Arschloch," the voice near her mumbled, and a match sputtered to life less than three feet from her.

'Jesus Christ,' she thought. 'I practically ran into him.' She watched as he pushed the match against a cigarette and the tip glowed in the dark. From the glow she could see he was young. No more than twenty, she guessed, squeezing the knife in her hand.

He turned towards the other soldiers and he exhaled a puff of bluish smoke, the plum circling his head before disappearing into the night. "Rucke. Sie sind entweder tot oder sind entgangen." He condemned his comrades for shooting first, before spitting at the earth in disgust.

Jackie watched him suck hard on the cigarette, his head shaking slightly. She crawled silently to her feet, her height easily towering over the man. She stood still, waiting for the perfect moment to make her move.

"Du moron, Dieter," the other voice cursed back before calling the man forward. "Jetzt Hast."

Jackie's knife felt slick in her palm, but she couldn't stop now. His back loomed and as she lifted her arm to circle his throat another burst of gun fire erupted and the man shook his head. "Arschloche," he mumbled again, and Jackie was close enough to hear the tobacco sizzle as he inhaled again.

The American's arms circled him, her left hand grabbing his chin to force his mouth closed and her right hand quickly drawing the blade across the soldier's throat. He struggled, but Jackie kicked at his knee and forced the soldier's weight back against her. When she'd bent him back far enough she lifted the knife and plunged it right into his heart. In an instant all movement ceased, and his body became heavy.

"Dieter? Sie kommend?" the voice called back to inquire again.

"Ja," Jackie rasped back, struggling against the soldier's dead weight.

"Hast Sie moron," the voice ordered, as Jackie twisted out from under the dead soldier and stuck her leg out to keep his body from thudding to the ground.

'Three soldiers,' she thought, still seeing the two lights. 'At least three,' she corrected. She leaned down to wipe the dripping knife on the soldier's leg and contemplated her best attack perspective. It was then that she saw the shadow of one of the other soldiers and she smiled. Grabbing the dead soldier's helmet she slid it onto her head. In the dark they wouldn't know until it was too late.

Her knife was slid back into the sheath against her leg and she grabbed the soldier's unfired machine gun. Muffling the sound against her chest she pulled back the cocking mechanism which slid the first bullet into the chamber. With that done she moved forward, keeping her movements languid to not draw attention.

The one man who'd been calling to the dead soldier heard her approach and Jackie saw his head turn slightly. "Über Zeit," he said, disappointed in the time it had taken. "Gehen hilfe überprüfen den träger."

Jackie's steps halted. The man was ordering her to go help check out the truck. She knew that moving towards the truck would put her at a tactical disadvantage. The soldiers would see her and she'd be hard pressed to shoot them both before getting shot herself. Quickly she searched for the other soldier, but his light was hidden behind the rear of the truck. And, she peered towards the truck, could be more than just the two soldiers she could see?

"Hast, bevor ich über Sie berichte." The other man threatened to report her if she didn't hurry. Jackie watched as his light slowly turned towards her, and without calculating the pros or cons she lifted the machine gun and fired.

The gun jumped in her hand and she fought to keep the barrel level and to control the number of bullets fired. The flashlight jumped into the air and twirled around, the beam for a brief second illuminating the soldier's distorted face and the spray of blood that exploded from his chest before spinning to the ground and laying there.

Jackie rolled to the ground before the dead German and using her elbows she pulled herself into what she hoped was a flanking position. She knew she needed to be far away from the spot she fired before the other soldiers targeted her. An acidic smell of gunpowder drifted from the tip of the barrel to her nose as she searched the darkness for her next target.

"Jakob?" A new voice called from behind the truck. "Dieter?" She tried to pinpoint the location. "Antwort." The voice demanded an answer.

Raising her hand to her mouth to muffle her voice she moaned for help. "Hilfe," she cried in German. "Helfen Sie mir."

"Jakob?" the voice asked. "Was geschah?" He demanded to know what had happened. "Wo ist Dieter?"

"Hilfe," Jackie moaned again, trying to make it sound desperate. She needed to lure him into the open.

"Wartezeit, Jakob. Ich komme." The voice told her to hold on, that he was coming to her aid. Jackie licked her lips like a spider.

"Nein, Zimmer. Es ist eine Falle."

'Oh shit,' Jackie thought. 'There's another one, and he knows it's a trap.'

"Ein . . . zwei . . . " Jackie was on her feet by the time she heard two and with her head down and her legs moving as fast as possible she ran before she heard "Drei." The air whistled and not knowing exactly where she was Jackie dove to the ground and pulled her arms over her head.

The grenade exploded close enough to toss dirt all over her, but other than a light ringing in her ears she was okay. Lifting her head she knew she needed to move again before that bastard started counting again. The other soldier must have switched off his flashlight because Jackie could only see the useless beam of the soldier she'd shot.

"Auslieferung," the man who'd thrown the grenade told her to surrender. "Reddition." He repeated his demand in French.

It was on the tip of her tongue to yell some half assed remark back, but she knew the man would use it to target her just like she was doing to him. From the distance of his voice she figured him to be maybe five yards away, somewhere near the front of the truck.

"Zimmer," the man yelled to the other soldier. "Bewegen Sie nicht." He ordered him to not move.

"Jawohl, Sargent," Zimmer yelled back, and Jackie realized from his voice that she couldn't be more than a few feet from him.

'Please talk again,' she begged, pulling herself slowly forward.

"Was sollte ich tun?" Zimmer asked the Sargent what he should do.

"Halt die Schnauze!" the Sargent hissed for Zimmer to be quiet, but it was too late. Jackie knew where he was, and lifting the machine gun she pressed the butt firmly against her shoulder and clenched the trigger. The muzzle flashed violently as she pulled it back and forth in the direction of the voice. She heard screaming and wasn't sure if it was her or Zimmer. She held the trigger until the gun fell silent, and dropping the weapon she rolled several times to her left.

"Zimmer?" the Sargent yelled, but the man didn't respond. Jackie heard fear in the man's voice. That would be his undoing, she decided. "Sie sind tot, bastard!" the man yelled his curse into the darkness.

'I don't think it'll be me who'll die, you bastard,' Jackie thought, crawling towards what she hoped was a dead Zimmer. Her hand brushed against the cold metal of the truck's back bumper, and she used it as a guide.

Overhead she heard the whistle of another grenade, but was thrown randomly and it exploded too far away to do any damage. The Sargent didn't know where she was, and with a smile she swung her legs over the edge of the ditch and slid silently down the side. Her boots struck against something, and she knew without thinking it was Zimmer's body.

With her hands pressed against the cold dirt of the ditch, she lowered herself to the German's still warm body. She closed her eyes and leaned forward to search him for anything useful. The cold metal of the flashlight was the first thing she recognized and she grabbed it and stuck it between her feet. Her hands went back to work, jumping slightly as her fingers wandered through the blood that was still oozing from Zimmer's wounds. Grinding her teeth together to keep from retching, she continued to search. She found a grenade attached to the man's field vest, and pulling it free stored it with the flashlight before searching for the machine gun.

"Arschloch? Wo sind Sie?" the Sargent's voice cut through the night questioning her position.

'Fat chance I'm gonna tell you where I am, asshole,' Jackie thought, her fingers closing around the barrel of the machine gun. She found it in the water, which meant it may not fire. But if everything went right, she wouldn't really need it. She prayed that the German keep shooting his mouth off.

"Sie Französisch?" the Sargent asked. "Vous Français?" He repeated his question in French.

Jackie strained to pinpoint the man's position. Either he knew exactly where she was and was trying to draw her into a trap, or he was just trying to draw her into the open. Either way Jackie had no intention of betraying her position or element of surprise. She had removed the clip from the Schmisser and smiled when no water poured from the perfectly stacked bullets. Quietly sliding the clip back into the gun, she knew that fact gave her a better chance of firing the weapon. She slung the gun over her neck and retrieved the grenade. That, she knew, was her best chance of beating the German without getting into an all out fire fight.

"Beantworten Sie mich.," the German demanded an answer. "Ich möchte wissen, wem ich beende."

"I'll tell you who you're not going to kill," Jackie mumbled, holding the flashlight in her left hand and the grenade in the right hand. The pin bounced against her fist as she moved towards the small tunnel the wrecked truck had created. If her calculations were correct the German was just on the other side.

'Fire the gun or throw the grenade now?' If she fired the gun and missed the German would know exactly where she was. But if she threw the grenade and missed , she would blow her best chance of keeping her position unknown.

With the water in the ditch swirling around her feet she stood there debating when she heard the sound of metal being pulled against metal. It was just ahead of her and she strained to identify the noise. She heard a small grunt and a few seconds later another explosion rocked the night. He'd thrown another grenade.

"Wo sind Sie?" he hissed his question again, and Jackie pinpointed him. If she tried hard enough she could even make out his dark outline. Without making any noise she flipped the flashlight in her hand and stuffed it in her front pocket. She did the same with the grenade, and lifting the machine gun she pointed it at the dark figure.

Inching her was forward for a cleaner shot she could hear the water slosh against her legs. The gun grip felt wet in her hand, and her finger jumped against the trigger.

"Ich weiß, daß Sie dort sind," the German said, turning his head towards her and proving that he did know exactly where she was.

Jackie heard another pin being pulled, and in a split second she squeezed the trigger and began backing up. She didn't know how long she fired or how much time had elapsed. She just knew she had to get out of there. Pulling her finger off the trigger she turned her back on the German and began running.

One step . . . the water was making it hard to lift her legs . . . two steps . . . did the German throw the grenade or did she . . three steps . . . shoot him before he had the chance . . . four steps . . . gotta get out of this ditch . . .

The first explosion blew her to the ground and her face into the ditch water. She lay there, just about to lift her head when a second explosion tore across her body and her back suddenly hurt. It took a second to realize her sweater was on fire and with a scream she rolled onto her back to extinguish the flames. That was when she saw the twisted truck burning against the night. The grenade must have landed under the gas tank.

All around her the grass was burning, casting an eerie daylight effect on the scene and Jackie slowly sat up. "Jesus Christ," she said, kicking at a hunk of metal near her feet.

There was no movement from around the truck, but Jackie pulled out her knife just in case the Sargent wasn't dead. She looked at the burning truck. Zimmer's body was burning, his face already unrecognizable. She felt her stomach twist at the sight and she forced her eyes away.

"Now who's dead, you bastard?" Jackie called into the night, almost daring the Sargent to respond. She felt a giggle bubble up from the pit of her stomach. It horrified her, but she couldn't contain it. Giggling she crawled out of the ditch, wincing at the pain from her back. In the firelight she easily saw the other two dead soldiers laying not far apart.

"Three men," she counted, swinging her steps away from the heat of the fire, but still on track to verify the fourth. With her pistol in one hand and her knife in the other she walked to the edge of the ditch and looked in. All she saw was a leg awkwardly separated from it's body and leaning against the opposite bank. It was good enough for her, and turning away she bent over and puked.



The sound of the explosion was enough for Violette to stop pulling at her arm and stop. Sophie turned as if in slow motion towards the noise, and in the pit of her stomach she felt Jackie die. 'No one could survive that,' she thought, her legs giving out from under her and the ground slamming against her frozen butt.

"Holy Mary protect us," Violette said, staring at the flames in the distance.

"She's dead," Sophie mumbled, not sure why she couldn't cry when that was all she felt like doing.

Violette's hand closed around Sophie's upper arm and the French spy tried to pull her to her feet. "Well if she is, then we need to get as far away from here as possible."

"I'm not going anywhere," Sophie said, trying to pull her arm back.

"Yes, you are," Violette corrected. "I made a promise and I will keep it."

"She can't hurt you now," Sophie said, her voice hollow with truth.

"We don't know that, Cherie," Violette said, kneeling down next to Sophie. "If she is alive then she will come. If not, then I owe it to her to get you to safety."

Sophie tried to force a sarcastic laugh, but all she could manage was a grunt. "You owe her nothing." The side of her face exploded with a stinging pain and she looked up to see Violette raising her hand again.

"Don't make me beat sense into you, Cherie." She lowered her hand and took a deep breath. "Now get to your feet and we continue."

"For what? So you can betray only me?"

Violette leaned close, so close her warm breath scorched Sophie still burning cheek. "Listen you little peasant. You will get to your feet and you will walk. You will walk until I tell you to stop."

"Walk to where?"

"Get to your feet," Violette ordered again.

Sophie shook her head. "No. I'm waiting for Jackie.."

"I don't have time for this," Violette hissed. "I have to be in Villers-Bocage by tomorrow night."

"I'm going to wait for Jackie," Sophie said, staring defiantly at the fire in the distance. "She'll come for me."

Violette grabbed her arm and squeezed hard. "She's dead," she screamed. "Get over it and get to your feet."

"No," Sophie repeated, refusing to look at the French spy.

Violette stood and exhaled sharply before looking down on Sophie. "Sophie," she said, her voice softer than the girl had ever heard it before. "Please get to your feet. I need you to go to Villers-Bocage with me because I need you to take my daughter back to England."

Sophie's face titled up. "Your daughter?"

Violette held out her hand. "Please don't ask any more. I cannot tell you without endangering you. Just go with me to the Abbaye and I will keep you safe."

Sophie looked back at the flames. "Jackie . . ." the word slipped from her lips like a silent prayer.

"She knew," Violette said.

"Did she?"

"She was my chosen, Sophie. Now I have only you."

The girl's head shook. "But I can't leave her. She'll come looking for me. I know she will." The words were reassuring, even though they sounded hollow.

"Trust me, Sophie."

"But Jackie?" Sophie pointed at the glow.

"Oh, Cherie," Violette said, dropping to her knees again and caressing Sophie's cheek. "Jacqueline is a very good operative. If anyone can survive, it will be her."

"Promise?" Sophie asked, looking at Violette with her whole heart. "I can't lose her."

"Trust me," Violette said, standing and holding her hand out again. "Come with me. If Jacqueline is alive, she will find us."

At that moment it was so easy for Sophie to put her hand in Violette's. She took one last look at the flames and began walking away from them. The emptiness in her heart held little hope for Jackie's safe return, and even though she wanted to run back to the American, something kept her walking away.

"That's it, Cherie," Violette said. "Trust me."




Jackie dry heaved for a few minutes, her body trying desperately to shed the disgust and guilt her kills had infected it with. The carnage was everywhere and it disturbed her that she'd been so good at it. In the firelight she could see the dried blood caked around her fingernails, but she couldn't remember whose blood it was. At that moment she couldn't remember much of anything, but she sensed that she needed to remember something. Something important.
Her head snapped up. Sophie.

In that instant her body stopped shaking and her mind pushed all the killings away and she regained her purpose. She needed to find Sophie.

"Sophie!" she yelled into the night. "Sophie!"

She waited, but no response returned. It took a second to remember that Sophie was with Violette and they were running directly away from this place. That meant she could find them. Find them before Violette . . .

Fear coursed through her and she turned in circles trying to decide what to do.

Stumbling towards her second victim she lifted the still burning flashlight and began moving towards the road. She needed transportation and these dead men didn't. They had to have a truck or motorcycle or something she could use to find Sophie. With a renewed purpose she began running towards the road and the last place she'd seen a light on the road.

It took her about five minutes to reach the soldier's checkpoint. It consisted of an orange pylon and a German Kubblewagon with a machine gun mounted on the windshield. She threw the pylon into the high grass next to the road and slid behind the wheel. Looking back at the burning truck she knew there was no way to hide that, but she could hide the soldiers. Maybe that would buy her enough time to find Sophie and Violette and get out of the area. There was a good chance the soldiers knew nothing about them, and with the complexity of German bureaucracy they wouldn't figure it all out until too late.

The engine fired to life on one crank and Jackie slipped it into first gear. She steered right for the flames. In the short distance she decided to strip two Germans of their uniforms. She also needed whatever ammunition and supplies she could find. Flicking on the flashlight she noticed several cans of field rations and water canteens. That would give them something to eat. There were also a couple of blankets. With all that and the uniforms they might just have a chance of reaching Villers-Bocage.

Using the light of the fire, Jackie pulled the tunics off the dead soldiers and then their boots, pants and ID tags. She piled their guns, ammunition and grenades next to the clothes until everything was gathered. Next she dragged the bodies to the ditch and rolled them over the edge. Without their uniforms it might take some time to identify them. With any luck they might be considered victims of the truck and not Germans at all.

When everything was as clean as she could make it she grabbed the guns and clothes and dropped it into the back of the Kubblewagon. Tearing her own clothes from her body she quickly dressed in the largest of the German uniforms. It fit a bit loosely, but from a distance she thought she'd pass inspection. She didn't even try the boots, but put her own on again. With a helmet strapped to her chin, she was ready to start searching.

Her first task was to cross the ditch. The Kubblewagon's headlights were restricted and only cast a small spray of light on the ground in front. That forced Jackie to drive parallel to the ditch and use the flashlight to search for a shallow crossing point. When the ground finally slopped down, Jackie looked behind her to gage her distance from the burning truck. All she could see was a red glow, and that she had no idea where she was or where to begin looking for Sophie.

Once across the ditch she turned back towards the glow and retraced her path until she got close enough to the burning truck to see the flames. From there she turned the Kubblewagon to the right and into the unknown darkness.

She had no idea how fast or far Sophie and Violette were travelling, but she was going to find them. The narrow constricted headlight spilled onto the dark, fallow field, but Jackie's eyes were focused ahead of the light, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sophie. With her foot still on the gas, Jackie pulled herself over the windshield. "Sophie?" she yelled. "Violette?"




After the explosion Violette turned them to the East and in the general direction of Villers-Bocage. Sophie didn't comment on the change in direction. She'd become compliant since the explosion, and Violette could only believe that the girl had accepted Jacqueline's death and her role in this drama. The French spy could only hope for as much, but she didn't believe it.

Every few minutes she looked behind them to check for pursuit. She couldn't decide if things would be better should Jacqueline not find them or not. True it would be harder to reach Villers-Bocage by tomorrow, but then again, she wouldn't have to deal with the treachery she felt Jacqueline had planned.

As long as they weren't with Jacqueline, Violette felt she could control Sophie. She did need the girl now. That wasn't a lie. But she didn't know if she needed Sophie as a babysitter or a sacrificial lamb. Either way, she knew the girl would be important.

"I'm cold," Sophie said. "I can't feel my toes."

Violette had forgotten the girl had gotten wet and was probably freezing. The night air had become bitterly cold. "You must keep walking, Cherie," she said. "Otherwise you will freeze."

"I'm too tired to walk." The girl sobbed. "I want Jackie."

Violette moved closer to the girl until she could place an arm around her waist. "Keep walking, Sophie," she said, giving her a squeeze. "Jacqueline will find us, if she can." She had to keep up appearances for as long as possible. The girl had to come with her to Villers-Bocage. If she couldn't have Jacqueline, then Sophie would have to do.

"But I'm so tired," Sophie mumbled. "So cold, too."

"Come, Cherie," Violette said, rubbing Sophie's arm. "I will take care of you."

End Section X -- Conclusion in Section XI


Thanks for reading.  If you have any questions or comments, please email me at Pallas3@yahoo.com

Again, sorry for the long delay. I've really learned a lesson about taking my time when deleting files!


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