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Mercy that Sadness Brings
Part II: Dont Let the Shadow Touch Them
(poster link:http://www.nara.gov/exhall/powers/shadow.jpg )
A bump shook Sophie awake, and it took her a second to place herself inside a large automobile. A yellow glow from the front seat bounded off the ceiling, casting the interior of the auto into a soft haze. Her body was screaming in pain, and a moan escaped her lips. A light touch caressed her hair, and Sophie instantly remembered what had happened to her. Despite the pain she started to sit up. A firm but gentle touch on her shoulder forced her back down.
"Poor, poor dear," a womans voice cooed, and another stroke touched her hair. "Always the poor women who suffer the ravages of war. You were very brave, my little peasant. Your suffering was so sweet."
"Who are you?" Sophie asked, her voice very small.
"Fear not," the woman whispered. "I will protect you ... if you trust me."
"The pigs!" The womans voice became hard, and Sophie felt her body tense. A light was flicked on, and Sophie looked into the icy gray eyes of a stunning woman. Her blond hair was cut in a short bob, but loose strands danced around her face, making her look dangerous and unpredictable. A generous amount of red lipstick coated her supple lips, and one corner of the womans mouth twisted up in a feral grin, revealing perfect white teeth.
It was then that Sophie noticed the black leather coat and the Nazi swastika pin displayed on the breast. Her instincts made her want to move away, but her body hurt so badly, that she allowed the woman to push her firmly back against her lap.
"Ah, ah, ah," she warned, the pressure from her hand growing. "Youre in no condition to move, so stay put."
"Gestapo," Sophie blurted out.
"How bored I am with that reaction," the woman said, waving her hand. "Im also your savior, little Sophie. Rather ironic, considering your reaction, wouldnt you say?"
"What do you want?"
"What do I want?" the woman said, her head twisting to one side quizzically. "What do I want?" she repeated, before her gray eyes settled on Sophie and an eyebrow rose. "I want to help you. Help my sweet little peasant." A smile spread across her face, which didnt quite reach her eyes. "Do you believe that?"
"Youre German!" Sophie said, trying to sit up again, but the Gestapo agent pushed her down, and held her firmly against her lap.
"And you hate me," the woman replied with a shrug. "I can live with that." The woman leaned over. "Between you and me, Im not all that German. Sssshhh."
Sophie opened her mouth to speak, but two warm fingers were placed over her lips. However, after Sophie closed her lips, the fingers remained. The woman smiled, her finger gently tracing the contours of Sophies lips before moving her hand and resuming the stroking of her hair. Sophie forced herself to concentrate on the touch because it helped her forget the rest of the pain that consumed her body and confused her mind.
The car twisted and turned in the night, and Sophie felt herself being lulled back into oblivion by the movement. In her head she knew that her life had just taken a turn for the worse, but maybe this woman did mean to help her.
"Whats your name?" she asked quietly.
"Ssssshhh," the woman answered, brushing her lips with the warm fingers again. "Rest. There will be time for introductions later."
"It hurts, so badly," Sophie said, unable to keep the pain at bay any longer.
"I know, little one. Believe me, I know."
Sophie swallowed, a revelations forming in her head. "It happened to you?"
The German pushed her away with a force that caused Sophie to cry out in pain. "Who told you!" she demanded. "How do you know about that? I took care of all of that. No one knows anymore."
Sophie pulled herself into the corner of the car, her green eyes watching the blond woman fidget with her coat. Finally the woman looked over at her, and Sophie felt her breath catch in her chest. The Gestapo agents eyes were glazed over, and Sophie had the strangest feeling that she didnt even see her. In the briefest second the face melted, and a warm smile spread across the Germans face.
"Feeling better, I see." She reached over and took Sophies hand. "Well, youre not fooling me. Lay back down, and ..." The German stopped speaking when Sophie shook her head. "No games, my little peasant. Do what I say!" The tone was one of total dominance, and Sophie had no choice but to obey. "Thats better. You need your rest, dont you?"
Sophie nodded her head, feeling the leather coat slide against her face. Dear God, she prayed silently. What has happened to me?
The car slowed and came to a stop by a guard hut. Sophie lifted her eyes as a flashlight was shone into the interior, and a Wermacht soldier jump to attention when the light feel on her Gestapo agent. A crisp "Heil, Hitler," was shouted through the glass, and the blond gave a half hearted wave in return. In seconds the car was again speeding into the night, and Sophie had no choice but to remain still while the German stoked her hair.
"Where are we?" Sophie finally asked, and she bit her lip when she felt the blond freeze.
"Cant you be quiet for a second?" the woman snapped, her voice hard and biting. "I said Id take care of you ... but not if Im going to be questioned to death."
Sophie didnt open her mouth until the car pulled to a stop before an imposing facade. She recognized it as the Chateau de Valogues, and with a sinking heart she knew that shed allowed the woman to take her into the jaws of the demon.
The Chateau was the German command center in Lower Normandy. Surrounded by high fences and guarded by elite troops, it was impregnable. The basement of the Chateau was a place of death and suffering, and Sophie had known many whod disappeared behind the sixteenth century walls. As her eyes ran over the cold stone exterior, she knew there was very little chance of her ever leaving the Chateau again. Shed allowed herself to be duped, and as the realization hit her, she could feel the intense gaze of her captor.
With a small laugh, the blond jumped out of the car, and slammed the door behind her. Sophie wanted to throw open the door and sprint across the dark field, but she knew she wouldnt get far. Shed either be cut down by machine guns or caught because her ravaged body wouldnt move fast enough. Either way she knew death would claim her soon enough.
The door was opened and the woman looked in. "Give me your hand," she ordered, thrusting a leather gloved hand into the car. When Sophie hesitated, the hand shook impatiently. "Now!" the woman commanded.
Trying to control the shaking was almost impossible, but Sophie managed to place her hand in the womans. She expected a jerk, but instead the woman gently guided her to the door. Before she could step from the car, the German moved aside, and motioned a large SS soldier forward. Sophie swallowed her scream and quickly jerked herself back into the car fear tearing at her.
"I wont help you!" Sophie cried. "I wont tell you anything! I swear it."
The woman swept the SS guard aside so fast he almost tripped, and Sophie moved away as she climbed into the car. The blondes face was a study in patience and control, and looking directly into this woman's gray eyes only reinforced the danger of her situation. Sophie flinched when the woman lifted her hand, but instead of the blow she expected, the woman simply removed her leather glove and settled her bare hand over Sophie's. A strange tingle shot up her arm, but it was replaced by fear when the grip tightened.
"Poor little Sophie," the woman said. "You dont trust me, do you?"
"Why should I?" Sophie managed to whisper.
"Because I saved your life!" The womans voice had a shrill tone to it. "Ive told you, that I wont hurt you!"
"Why were you there?" She surprised herself with the question, but resolved to push it. "Youre Gestapo, and ..."
A gloved finger was placed against her lips, the rich scent of leather filling her nostrils. "I was there, Sophie because the lieutenant ... I never trusted him, and ..." Her voice trailed off.
"But the Res ..." Sophie bit her lip.
The woman laughed, her head thrown back in forced humor "Yes, the little French Resistance." Her hand waved in dismissal. "I care nothing about that, dear one. And as for that propaganda rag you write ... very amusing."
Sophie just stared at the woman, unwilling to respond and give more away. How could she want to believe in her enemy? Unless this woman really wasnt her enemy. She looked down at the hand holding hers, and was surprised at the warmth coming from the touch. Her green eyes raised slowly, meeting the intense gray stare of the blond woman.
"Whats your name?"
The woman laughed, a deep chuckle that Sophie sensed was only loud enough for her ears. "How charming, my little peasant." The eyes went serious. "Are you trying to gain power over me?"
The question surprised her, and she shook her head.
"Of course youre not. Very well, my name is Caron," she said with a shrug. "Caron Von Rundstedt."
"Get out of the car, Fraulein Oberfuher," a commanding voice announced, and Caron rolled her eyes.
"What do you want, Herr General?" Caron said from the car. "Im otherwise occupied, so run along."
"Ive discovered your plans, and I will not allow that Maquis spy in the house," the general said. "Either take her to the interrogation section, or shoot her now."
Caron Von Rundstedt was out of the car in an instant, her black coat flying behind her like a cape. "Shes no spy, and you shall not tell me what I can and cannot do, Herr General. Im in charge now, and after this, my dear General, youre hanging by a tiny thread!"
"I will not be spoken to that way," the general said, his voice betraying a fear that Sophie could tell her blond German enjoyed.
"Question me again, General, and youll never be spoken to again." A bare hand was extended back into the car, and Sophie knew better than to refuse it this time. Closing her eye, she lowered her hand into the Germans. Very slowly, she was taken from the car, and the waiting SS storm trooper was motioned forward. Carons eyes remained on her, as she was hoisted into the mans arms.
"Send that sorry excuse for a doctor to me immediately," Caron ordered as they swept past the general. "Youre being very brave, little one," she whispered in Sophies ear, as they entered the Chateau.
It took Jackie and her two new compatriots almost a half hour to fit thesupply boxes into the back of the empty chicken truck. The work was done in the dark, and words were used with economy. A light sweat clung to Jackies back as she climbed into the rear of the truck, and waited for Francois and Henri to take their places up front. She stifled a yawn, and absently wondered if shed made the right decision to stay Henris sisters house. It had to be well past three in the morning, and her mother would fall over dead if she knew her daughter was walking into a persons home before eleven in the morning.
"Course she did a good heart clutching routine when I told her I was joining the war effort," Jackie said, pulling her wool jacket tighter. "Guess this might be just a minor etiquette infraction."
"What was that, Jack?" Henri called from the front.
"Just my exhaustion talking," she answered.
"Well, Sophies place is just up the road. Well drop you there, and Francois and I will take the supplies to the cave, oui?"
"Sure. Thats great."
She settled back against the crate, and let the old truck bounce and shake its way down the road. Sleep had almost overtaken her when they came to a stop, and she waited for the back doors to open. Henri offered her his hand, but Jackie pulled herself out of the truck by herself. The Frenchman did help her with her pack, and it took all of Jackies control to let him hold her belongings.
"Cmon, Henri," Francois said, coming up behind the truck. "Its very late. We have to get this stuff out of the truck and eggs into it very soon, or we risk running into a patrol."
"I know," Henri replied. "Let me just run her up to the house, and then were off."
Jackie followed Francois eyes towards the well lit house. He must have sensed her gaze, for Francois snapped his attention back to Henri.
"Theres no time." He pulled the pack out of Henris hands, and thrust it at Jackie. "Sophiell be fine. We have to go, Henri. Now."
"Theres some time, Francois. I havent seen Sophie in a few weeks. Ill say hello, and well go. Five minutes."
"No." Francois eye twitched. "Shes probably asleep. It is late."
"Whats going on, Frankie?" Jackie interjected, her voice hard and unyielding. "Youre acting real nervous."
The Frenchman cocked his head, and narrowed his dark eyes. "Nervous? I seem nervous?" he said, taking a long step towards her. "You damn Yankee spy, how dare you question me."
"I have every right to question you ... I dont trust you."
"Well, Miss Jack-de-Rabbit, Great American Spy, I dont trust you. So what do you think of that?"
Jackie let her pack fall to the ground, and her hand clenched at her side. Her mouth opened to fire back a sharp retort when she felt Henris hand on her arm.
"Its okay, Jack. Francois is nervous because its late. The closer it gets to dawn the more patrols we risk running into. Thats all."
"And with this," Francois banged the crate. "Wed be shot on the spot. So, while youre safe here in a warm bed, we might be lying dead in some ditch."
"Francois ... thats unfair. Jackie is here for us."
"You were always so naive, Henri. The Americans are just using us, and ..."
"This isnt the time, or the place" Henri said, cutting Francois off. "Im still in charge of this outift, so get back in the truck."
"Oui, mi captain," Francois said with a short bow, his dark eyes boring into Jackie, before he disappeared around the side of the truck.
"I dont like him," Jackie announced.
"Francois okay, Jack. Ill vouch for him."
Jackie shook her head. She suspected that Henris friendship blinded him to his comrades occasional slips, but she wasnt going to be fooled.
"Get going," she said to Henri. "Ill crash in the barn over there. Come find me tomorrow afternoon, and well meet the rest of your men. Our mission is scheduled for tomorrow night, and if the intel is correct, well put quite a dent in the Germans communication system."
"My men are now youre men, Jacqueline, but you will not sleep in a barn. Not when there is a warm bed, and a hot meal available. Youre safe tonight, so enjoy it."
"I dont want to intrude..."
"Get inside, my American friend. My sister will welcome you, and Ill confess, she has a weakness for Americans. Get ready to answer lots of questions."
Despite her trepidation, Jackie found herself smiling. "Fine, and Henry ... thanks. If your sisters half as nice as you, then Ill count myself lucky tonight."
Henri patter her arm, and gave her a gentle push towards the farm house. She stooped to reclaim her pack, and with a shrug began her short walk to the porch.
Behind her she heard the truck roar to life, and the crunch of the tires on the gravel as it pulled onto the road again. Her eyes were pulled towards the barn, and she almost turned and headed for the dark building, but with a deep breath she walked to the door, and knocked quietly.
There was enough light coming from inside that Jackie knew someone had to be home, but no footsteps moved to answer her knock, and she debated about repeating her actions. Lifting her arm again she rapped on the wood, and to her surprise the old door drifted open with a long squeak.
"Hello?" she called from the threshold. "Hello? Mademosille Frenay?"
Jackie pushed the door open a bit further, and her blue eyes ran across the room. Things werent right. Everything was in disarray, and in the corner she spoted the overturned printing press. The Americans hand went to her pistol, and slowly withdrew it from its hiding place. She could smell the danger in the room, and ... She sniffed the air again. She could smell death.
With out a sound she lowered her pack to the ground, and with her back pressed against the wall she rolled into the room, here eyes scanning every corner. It was too quiet, almost like a tomb, and Jackie felt the hairs on her neck tingle.
What looked like a brownish trail lead to a side of the room, and with silent steps she followed the trail to the open portal. Taking a deep breath she counted to three and moved into the room, her gun held out in front, and her heart in her throat. At the sight of the black uniforms Jackie almost fired her gun until her brain registered the death poses.
The room held five men. Three lay near the bed, and another soldier, his pants around his ankles had been rolled off the bed, a gaping head wound oozing a dark pool onto the old wood floor. A lieutenant lay near-by, one shot between the eyes. Jackie dropped into a crouch by him first, using her pinky to probe the size of the hole.
"9 mm," she mumbled, standing up and surveying the scene again. "Excellent shots," she said, shaking her head at the skill it must have taken to take down all five men where they stood.
It wasnt hard for her to piece together the scene, and from the rumpled bed and pantless soldier, she knew there had been a rape. Bile rose in her throat faster than the rage that twisted her stomach, and she stumbled from the room with her hand over her mouth.
Jackie leaned against the wall, unsure what to do. Nothing like this had been in her training, and right that second her boring translation job looked very good. Her eyes were drawn to a picture sitting on a nearby table, and she reached to pick it up.
The young man was defiantly Henri, although she hadnt seen him smile like that, and suspected he hadnt done so since the beginning of the war. Next to him sat a pretty young woman, her hair loose around her shoulders, and her eyes sparkling with innocence and hope. Jackie put the picture down, wondering what those eyes looked like now.
"If shes even alive," she muttered, taking one more look at the woman. "Shit!" she yelled, narrowly halting her fist from hitting the wall. In one moment a perfectly planned mission had taken on complications that would put everyones life at risk. She knew the moment Henri knew about this, no plan she put forth would be carried out with the precision it needed. "Take out the leader, and the team falls apart," she said, remembering her training.
Jackie lowered herself to the floor, her gun held loosely between her legs, and her head bowed in defeat.
To Be Continued in Part III ...
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