PLEASE READ THIS DISCLAIMER: This story is set during World War II, and it depicts an action that many women suffered during war. There is a very short rape scene that is used to set up the rest of the story. The scene is not glorified, nor used as shock value, but to isolate and shift a characters behavior. I apologize if this offends anyone, and that is not my intention. If this bothers you, then please do not read this story.
Other than that no disclaimers are required for use as the character and plot are my own. 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. Comments, questions or suggestion may be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercy that Sadness Brings
Part VI: The Sowers
(poster link: http://www.openstore.com/posters/sowers.jpg )
"Sit down or I shoot you both," Dagmar cried.
"Then do it," Henri said. "I'm not afraid to die!"
"But your prissy sister is," Dagmar said, waving the gun at Sophie. "Do you want to watch her die?"
"Shit," Jackie mumbled against the door. Her fingers were slick against her gun, but she couldn't see anything through the crack, which made her options very limited. Rushing into the room might give the woman time to shoot one or both of her captives.
"Let Sophie go," Henri said. "She's not part of this. It's me the Germans want."
"How pathetically brave, Monsieur. My problem isn't with you it's with her."
"This is about Caron, isn't it?" Sophie asked. "Why? She obviously doesn't like you." "You have no idea when to shut up, do you?" the maid said, moving across the room.
Jackie saw the shadow pass her field of sight and she smiled. "You've captivated her! She only sees you," the woman said, her voice raising in tone. "She doesn't know I'm alive anymore. She dismissed me tonight! Dismissed me like I wasn't needed. She always needs me."
"What are you talking about?" Henri asked, anger in his voice.
"Your bitch sister isn't going to beat me, is what I mean. Caron may need you, Monsieur, but I need her And little Sophie isn't going to take her away." Her hand cocked the gun, the sound of metal moving against metal almost deafening in it's near silence and meaning. Jackie felt her throat go dry, and she knew her time was now. The situation had just taken a horrible turn. She checked her watch and hoped that the men were on time. If so she counted down from ten, her heart beat signaling each second she was well past zero and beginning to give up hope when an explosion rocked the night. With a slight smile tearing at her face she shoved her shoulder against the door and rolled into the room
"Get down!" she yelled, trying to direct her body towards the woman.
It all happened so fast. A gun shot sounded, shattering the air around Jackie's head, and she wasn't sure if it was her gun or the woman's. Next she heard Frenay cry out just as her body impacted with the woman and they both crashed to the floor. Jackie's gun was knocked from her hand as she fought for a superior position with the smaller, wiry woman. They were so close that Jackie inhaled great gulps of the woman's strong perfume and it was making her dizzy. Behind her she was slightly aware of another woman's cries, but the German was trying desperately to throw her off and all Jackie's strength and concentration went into the fight. With a great effort she raised her fist and connect with the woman's jaw, and she rolled off to get a better position.
As she moved she could feel rather than see the German reaching for her gun and beginning to raise it. Before Jackie could react another gun shot tore through the room and the German's body hunched over and her face lost all color.
Jackie's head turned almost in slow motion, her peripheral vision catching Sophie on her knees, and Jackie's PPK pistol fully extended and still smoking in her hands. As Jackie's eyes moved between Sophie and the dying German, she felt the gun turning on her. Sophie's finger was jumping against the trigger, and her eyes held nothing.
The American's hands raised in defense and she started to stand.
"Stop!" Sophie cried. "Don't make me shoot you too!" The girl's voice was hard, but scared. Jackie could hear it.
"Sophie," Jackie began. "I'm here to help."
"Shut up!" Sophie cried. "No one really wants to help me. You all lie!"
"I don't," Jackie replied, her mind ticking off the precious seconds they had to escape this place. She looked at the scared young woman, her ice blue eyes trying to empathize with her, and as much as she wanted to feel for her position, she couldn't. "Listen we have to get the hell out of here, understand?" When the girl didn't lower the gun, Jackie shook her head. "Aw, Christ, Sophie. Trust me."
"Shut up! I can't trust anyone. You can stay here Henri and I are " Her head turned, and for the first time Jackie noticed that Henri hadn't moved since the first gunshot. "Henri?" Sophie cried, and the gun was dropped from her hand as she crawled over to her brother.
Jackie climbed to her feet, prudently picking up the discarded gun and shoved it back into her waist band. Her eyes never left the girl, who now kneeled over Frenay, her hands already covered in blood. Sophie looked up at her, her green eyes so unsure of what to do. Without thinking, Jackie grabbed a pillow and stripped the case off. "Here," she said, thrusting the sheet at Sophie. "Use this."
The girl took the cloth, but shrugged. "What do I do?" she asked, her body shying away from Jackie when she dropped to her knees next to her.
"Use it to stop the bleeding," Jackie said, her larger hands covering Sophie's and pushing them down against the oozing wound.
The bullet had caught Henri in the middle of his right shoulder, and already he'd lost a lot of blood. Different scenarios ran through her head as Sophie began applying pressure to the wound. Grinding her teeth she jumped to her feet and stalked to the window, hoping to see something of the fighting outside. Unfortunately the room didn't offer a good vantage point and all she could see were random muzzle fires in the night.
"What are we going to do?" Sophie asked, her head only turning slightly to acknowledge Jackie.
Jackie crossed the room and knelt down next to Frenay. Her fingers felt for a pulse, and then she began slapping his face until Sophie grabbed her hand.
"Stop it! You're hurting him."
"I'm trying to wake him. This is his decision."
"To stay here or try and make it out with us," Jackie said with little emotion. "It's his choice."
"He's coming with us," Sophie cried.
Jackie reached out and lifted the girl's bloody hands and pointed at the gunshot wound. "Look at that, Sophie. If and with every second we waste that if gets bigger if we get out of here, how are we going to treat him?"
"He's my brother! I can't leave him."
"If we leave him, then the Germans will give him medical treatment. He'll get what he needs, and what we can't give him. He could die. Think of that."
"No!" Sophie cried, replacing her hand. "He's coming." She began to climb to her feet and started to pull on Frenay's arms, but her brother's dead weight was too much. She dropped his arm and glared at Jackie. "You said you were here to help. If that's true, then do it," she yelled, reaching down and trying to lift Frenay again.
Jackie hesitated only a moment before climbing to her feet and helped Sophie haul Frenay to his feet. The man groaned, and an overwhelming sense of apprehension gripped her. She knew Frenay had a better chance if he stayed behind. 'Hell," she thought. 'So do we.'
"He's heavy," Sophie said, trying to shift Frenay's weight.
"Listen," Jackie said, motioning for Sophie to thrust her shoulder under Frenay's arm. "You can't slow down, got it? I can't carry him and protect us all. Do you understand? Even if we make it, he might "
"Just shut up and get us out of here," Sophie said, her tone biting in it's command.
"Fine," Jackie said, aware of the cold look the girl gave her before fixing her green eyes on the door. It was getting harder for her to find any compassion for this woman, and as she started out of the room she realized that her sense of duty and honor was starting to tick her off. "Should have stayed put in the good ole USA," she mumbled, using her right hand to pull the pistol from her waist band.
The hallway was empty, and with a nod of her head she moved them out.
They had two choices for egress, but with Frenay's weight on them both, each direction offered their own set of dangers. Her original thought was to leave the way she'd come, but from the gun fire coming from outside, she might be leading them right into the thick of it. She knew from the plans that the front door offered a clear path to the tree line, and if they were lucky and moved quick enough they could reach the trees with ease. Of course getting them all across the perimeter fence was another problem, but one they'd face then.
"C'mon," she said, moving towards the large double staircase, shifting more of Frenay's weight onto herself, in the hopes of getting Sophie to move faster.
"What if she's down there?" Sophie hissed from the other side. "Caron won't just let me leave."
"Who's Caron?" Jackie asked, straining under the weight of Frenay.
"The devil," Sophie replied, pulling back slightly. "She'll never let me leave her. Not now." The girl came to a stop, almost pulling Jackie off her feet.
"For Christ's sake, will you get a grip and keep moving?" Jackie cried, the muscles in her shoulders burning. "She can't be as bad as you think. If so, we'll deal with her," she said, and she thought she heard Sophie laugh, but to her credit, the girl began walking again.
Caron heard the explosion, but barely turned her head to acknowledge the rising smoke and machine gun fire. Instead her eyes were riveted on the front door of the Chateau, her blond hair being tossed back and forth nervously. Her body appeared to shake from an invisible energy. "This is absolutely thrilling," she whispered, the barrel of the sniper rifle pressed tightly against her face.
"Should be any time now," Francois said.
"Then pay attention, you oaf!" She thrust the rifle at the Frenchman. "If he gets away you die."
"What?" Francois cried. "I'm not going to shoot him." He pushed the rifle away. "He's my friend."
"Then why are you here?"
Francois blinked. "Because well, because "
"Because I'm paying you, that's why. You and your miserable family out of France for Frenay. That's our agreement, traitor."
"I won't do it, Fraulein Oberfurher. I agreed to bring Frenay to you. I told you where to find his sister and I've brought him to you. Our agreement is over."
A dark eyebrow rose in challenge above cold gray eyes. "Lieutenant?" she called into the darkness, a small chuckle escaping.
"Fraulein Oberfurher," a tall SS officer responded, stepping out from behind a tree.
"Withdraw your sidearm, Lieutenant," Caron ordered. "And point it at our dear Frenchman." The officer did as he was ordered, and Francois began sweating.
"He's my friend," he repeated, trying to take a step away.
"I don't see how that matters to me," Caron said. "Now, take the gun. And your aim better be true." She held the sniper rifle out again and this time Francois took the gun. With a satisfied smile Caron turned her eyes back to the Chateau.
From behind her she heard the Frenchman pull the bolt and check the weapon before the tip of it was lifted and aimed at the front door.
"Shoot him if he lowers the gun or refuses to fire on my command," Caron said to the lieutenant who nodded in understanding.
She peered over the railing, and as far as she could tell the path to the front door was clear. With a silent nod she began down, Frenay's feet dragging down the first steps. Shaking her head she knew it was going to be hard once they got outside. She hoped that all of her training would serve her now that she needed it most.
"Stay with me," she said, to Sophie as the reached the bottom of the stairs. "Once we get outside we need to make for the tree line."
"No," Sophie said. "Run the other way."
Jackie stopped and looked over. "Why?"
"She'll be waiting for us. I can feel it."
"Sophie I know the plans for this place. The forest is the best chance we have for escape."
"I don't care! Find another way!"
"Listen to Jackie," Frenay mumbled, and Jackie noticed he was trying to lift himself off her shoulder.
"Henri " Sophie said quietly.
"Do it, Sophie. Listen to her."
Sophie looked at her brother and then at Jackie. She nodded her head.
"Then we head for the trees," Jackie said, starting down the steps again.
Outside they could hear the guns still being fired, and Jackie knew that at least the Maquis were keeping the German's busy. Maybe, if they were very lucky, they would be able to just sneak by unseen.
"Can you help us, Henry?" she asked, as the front door loomed like the gates of hell before her. "It's a long run."
"Don't worry about me," Frenay said, leaning his head close to her ear. "Leave me if you have to, but just promise me that you'll take care of Sophie." She opened her mouth to make some remark, but Frenay shook his head hard. "Promise me, Jack."
"You'll make it," she said almost to hear the words herself, but one look at the pain on Frenay's face and she knew he probably wouldn't make it far.
Obviously Frenay had the same feeling because his hand grasped Jackie's arm. "I need a promise," he gasped.
Jackie looked up at Sophie. "I promise," she said, nodding seriously. "I'll take care of her, Henry."
"Good," he said, his head lopping against his chest again.
"Save him," Sophie whispered, her hand still pressed hard against the blood soaked cloth, her fingers stained.
"I'll try," Jackie said, opening the front door and moving them into the night.
Caron saw the front door open, and she could barely contain her smile when three figures emerged. "Is that Frenay?" she asked the Frenchman, who dropped the tip of his rifle an inch. "Is it?" she demanded. "Tell me Now!"
"Yes," Francois whispered. "That is Henri."
Caron laughed, and then stopped when she caught a flash of Sophie's golden hair reflecting in the halo of the portico lights. Her brows furrowed and her lips tightened. "What's does she think she's doing?" she asked, her eyes moving with evil precision towards the dark haired woman who seemed to control the small group. "Who's that?" she said, her gloved hand grabbing for the Frenchman's hair and tugging his sight towards the woman.
"The American spy," Francois cried, stepping back when Caron released her hold.
"I didn't plan it this way!" Caron said, taking an involuntary step towards her Sophie.
"Fraulein Oberfurher?" The lieutenant's voice startled her and she spun around to find the younger man pointing at the Frenchman who had dropped his rifle.
"Raise your gun, you pathetic snake," she ordered, her head turning to watch as the three figures moved away from the Chateau. "Shoot Frenay," she said over her shoulder. "Shoot him now!"
"I can't do it, Oberfurher." Francois dropped the rifle to his side.
"I'd reconsider that foolish decision," Caron said, lifting her own pistol and placing it against the Frenchman's head. "Think, d'Silva."
"Henri is my boyhood friend I won't kill him."
Caron lowered the pistol, her head cocking to one side. With a smile she shrugged. "That's fine," she said, smiling broader when the Frenchman turned to her, surprise on his face.
"You mean "
"Sure," she said, raising the pistol again and squeezed the trigger.
Francois' head was thrown backwards, the look of surprise even more exaggerated on his face. A grunt escaped from his open mouth.
"I'll just do it myself," Caron said, catching the sniper rifle from the Frenchman's hands before his dead body thudded to the ground.
The rifle butt nestled snuggly into the curve of her shoulder, and she twisted her hair from her neck as she brought her eyes up to the long distance scope. There was just enough light from the building to make out everyone's faces. Her sights lingered on Sophie and her finger tightened on the trigger. "It would be so easy to punish you, my sweet," she said to Sophie. "But then again " she swung the gun towards the dark haired woman who obviously carried most of Frenay's weight.
"The mysterious American spy," she whispered, the tip of the gun dancing all around the dark beauty. "I could shoot you in the leg, my dear or the arm or right between the eyes." She smiled, her cheek sliding against the wood stock of the gun. "But " the gun swung towards Frenay, and she waited for the cross hairs to center on the bridge of his nose before she popped the trigger and braced for the rifle's recoil.
A delighted squeal escaped her lips when Frenay's head snapped back and then forward. She moved the sight to Sophie, a deep chuckle rising in her throat. The girl had no idea the her brother had just been freed from the pain of life, but she swung the gun over to the American. 'Aaaahhhh she knew.' Fear had surfaced in those eyes as they scanned the darkness, and Caron could almost see the intelligence trying to perceive the next move.
"But I'm smarter," she said, aiming at Frenay's chest and pumping two rounds into his lifeless body.
There was no way Sophie could have missed this time. The impact of the two bullets ripped Frenay from their grasp, and Sophie actually took a few steps forward before realizing. Almost as if in slow motion she turned, saw her brother on the ground and with a scream threw her body on top of his.
Jackie had stopped. She knew he'd been killed from the first bullet, and she was scanning the tree line when the next two shots struck him. She saw a brief muzzle flash from in front of them, and she crouched to the ground, pulling her pistol and aiming it towards the tree.
When she heard Sophie's scream she turned, the tree line shooter forgotten and her promise to Frenay raising in her gut. The sight of the girl trying to protect the dead man with her body was more than she could comprehend, and she reached out, her fingertips brushing the girl's shirt. 'We have to get out of here,' she thought, looking back at the trees. 'We're just waiting for the next shot.'
"Henri!" Sophie cried, as Jackie stood, her hand closing around the girl's upper arm and yanking her off her dead brother.
"Let's go!" she shouted. "Now! Move!" The girl struggled against her, and Jackie had to use all of her strength to drag the girl to her feet and move her away from the forest.
"And where do they think they're going?" Caron asked, lifting the gun again, and centering it on the American's back. "This isn't part of my plan," she said to the American. "And I won't tolerate your interference any longer." Her finger tightened on the trigger just as the American moved up next to Sophie, putting the girl dangerously close. Too close for Caron's pleasure, and with her teeth clenched she fired off an unaimed shot near the American.
Jackie sensed instead of felt the bullet whiz by, and she tugged harder on the blonde's arm. "Hurry!"
"Sophie!" a woman's voice cried from the edge of the forest. "Don't run from me, Sophie!"
The girl slipped from her grasp, and Jackie stopped unable to believe Sophie had stopped. Sophie was staring at the forest as a figure emerged. The woman's blonde hair seemed to shine like a halo, and Jackie knew this was the Gestapo agent she'd heard about.
The woman was about a hundred or so yards from them, and each second they delayed could mean the difference between being trapped and being free. Almost without a conscious thought Jackie raised her gun towards the woman and she squeezed off three rounds. The German didn't even slow down as all three bullets whizzed past her.
Sophie seemed rooted in place, her eyes focused on the blonde German. Jackie grabbed at her arm and pulled her hard, but the girl refused to be moved.
"Damn it, Sophie! I'm not going to lose you now," she said, her hand closing around the back of the girl's collar and pushing her in front, her superior strength propelling the smaller woman forward.
"You can't escape me, Sophie!" Caron cried, but Jackie kept her hand on the smaller woman's back. "Stop now and I'll still help you!"
The German's voice was closer, and looking over her shoulder Jackie saw that the blonde was gaining on them. She gave Sophie a push forward, and turned, trying to take aim before squeezing the trigger again.
This time a bullet struck the German in the leg and she went sliding forward into the ground with a cry. Her blonde head lifted, and for a long second the two adversaries stared at each other, a tacit understanding passing between them. The eye contact broke when Jackie heard the shrill whistle of the approaching SS soldiers, and with the German's laughter ringing in her ear she spun around and began running after Sophie.
Her longer legs brought her up to the girl in a few seconds, and without saying a word she steered them away from the smoldering communication building and the last remnants of gun fire, and into the darkness that lay beyond.
"I can't run anymore," Sophie said, her breath coming in painful gasps, but the dark woman behind her just gave her back another shove and kept her moving forward. "I have to stop," she cried, steps from collapsing on the dark grass.
"You can't stop not yet," the woman said, her run still smooth.
"Then leave me," Sophie said, side-stepping the woman and coming to a stop. "Go on!" she yelled, the night air burning in her lungs. "I don't need you!"
The woman halted a few feet away and turned slowly, her eyes scanning the terrain they'd just passed. "Two minutes," she barked. "But we keep walking."
"Why did we leave Henri?" she asked, her body still straining to get oxygen.
"We couldn't help him anymore."
"You wanted to leave him before, too." Sophie stepped away.
"He was dead, Sophie."
The girl swallowed hard, and forced herself to look away. "I know," she whispered. A moment passed before she turned cold, dead eyes back on the American. "But you didn't have to make me leave him," she said, her voice growing harder. "I could have made sure he had a decent burial."
It was obvious the American didn't know how to respond because her mouth opened several times but no words were issued. Sophie watched this with no feeling. This woman was probably no different than Caron.
"I promised Henri I would save you," the woman finally said.
"Promises aren't worth anything to me," Sophie responded.
"Well they mean something to me." The dark head turned and scanned the ground in front of them. "Are you ready to run again?"
Sophie nodded, and when the American pointed a direction she began running. Her side ached with each step and she didn't know if she would be able to keep up. The American didn't even appear winded, and staring at the woman's strong, powerful back she hated her.
Caron's voice echoed in her ears and she shook her head to clear the sound. She looked over her shoulder and into the darkness. The Gestapo agent was somewhere in that inky blackness. Will she come looking for me? Sophie thought.
"Do you need to rest again?" the American asked, slowing her jog to come up next to her. This time the woman's voice was softer, and after Sophie nodded the woman stopped completely.
"Sit there," she commanded, pointing to a spot under a tree. "I'm going to scout ahead."
"Are you coming back?" Sophie asked, unable to look at the woman.
"I made a promise, didn't I?"
"Don't do anything on my account," Sophie shot back.
"Don't worry. I won't," the woman responded, taking off into the dark.
Sophie followed her progress until the night consumed her. Already a dampness was seeping from the ground and the growing wetness combined with her burning lungs made it difficult to breathe. She dropped her head between her knees and tried to calm her racing heart. Her hands began to shake, and before she knew it tears were streaming down her face.
It all happened again. She saw the blood pouring from Henri chest. The chest that he'd always held so proud. Even as a boy she'd been proud of Henri. He'd always done things right. He'd always treated her right. He was all she had left in the world, and her arms jerked as she relived the shot that had ripped her brother from her arms. She could again see the dead glass look in his eyes and the blood that dripped from a single shot to the head. She could feel the hands of the American pulling her from his body. She didn't care. Henri meant nothing to her. 'I mean nothing to her. I mean nothing to no one anymore,' she thought.
She stared off into the darkness and only to have her attention drawn back by the woman's approaching footsteps.
"C'mon," she said. "We've got to keep moving."
"Why bother?" Sophie asked. "They're going to catch us." She said it very matter-of-factly, her shoulders giving an involuntary shrug as if she didn't care.
The woman stopped in front of her and squatted down, her one knee cracking as she did so. "Listen to me," she said, peering down until Sophie lifted her head to meet her gaze. "I'm not ready to give up, and I made a promise to your brother to keep you safe."
"You didn't even know him," Sophie said, her eyes welling up beyond her control.
"I respected him."
"Why?" Sophie asked, lowering her eyes as a tear rolled down her face. She looked up when the woman lifted a finger and lifted the tear from her face.
"Because he was a good man." The woman stood up, and held her hand out. "And if it kills me I'm going to do everything I can to get us safely out of this."
Sophie looked at the hand, but instead of accepting the help she crawled to her feet unassisted. She stood silently her eyes focused on the distance, waiting for the woman to start off. When the tall woman didn't move and Sophie was forced to turn and look up into her face. For the first time she noticed the woman's intense blue eyes that seemed to shine in the darkness and contrasted so strongly against her dark hair that had begun to fall loose from it's ponytail. The woman just stared at her and Sophie shrugged. "What?" she said.
The woman gave a sheepish smile. "I just realized we haven't been what you called formally introduced." She held out her hand again. "Jacqueline Bradford."
Sophie hesitated before grabbing the woman's hand for a curt shake. "Sophie Frenay."
"Well, Sophie," Jackie said. "Can you run again?"
"Where are we going?"
Jackie shrugged. "First I'm just trying to get us off the Chateaux's property. From there " she shrugged again. "I dunno."
"How comforting," Sophie said, breaking into a slight jog, just slow enough for the woman to catch up and lead her into whatever direction she decided.
The darkness consumed her. Everywhere there was nothingness, and Caron wanted to feel it in every pore of her being. She didn't know how it happened, but Sophie had escaped. Even seeing that Maquis spy's cold, lifeless body didn't give her any pleasure. If she'd been physically able, she would have kicked Frenay's corpse for making her lose what she once held so tightly.
Her leg had almost gone numb and she couldn't feel her toes. With her face pressed against the cold, wet grass she'd ordered her soldiers to pursue Sophie and the American bitch, but instead they had stopped to tend to her. She sensed their fear and panic, and if she'd been able she would've shot them for such poor judgment skills.
A medic had been called, and Caron had no choice but to lean against a broad chested SS soldier while waiting. Her eyes never wavered from the last spot she'd seen her Sophie, and her teeth gritted against the pain and anger that swept through her.
An overweight, underage medic appeared before her and with large puffy hands began inspecting her bullet wound. Caron watched his movements with caution, and slapped his hand away when he tried to cut her black pants.
"Be careful, you oaf! Where is that incompetent doctor that haunts this place?"
"He's been sent for, Fraulein Oberfurher."
"Fine," she said, turning her head until she saw a glint of a needle. "What's that?"
"Morphine," the medic said. "I think the bullet has lodged against the femur bone. This will help with the pain."
Caron pulled her leg back, grinding her teeth against the burning pain. "Not a chance, you idiot! Obviously you don't know what is at stake here. Now bind up the wound and get out of my sight."
"Fraulein Oberfurher," the medic began, his broad face sweating despite the cool night air. "I have to send you to the doctor so he can perform surgery."
The Gestapo agent removed her pistol from her leather coat and laid it across her good leg. Her eyes were cold as they bored into the corpulent medic. "Bandage my leg and then go," she said, her voice measured but hard.
The medic did as he was ordered, his hands moving fast to wrap gauze and cotton against her leg. He looked up only once to ask a nearby soldier to bring her crutches. At this Caron gave a small smile. She loved it when someone anticipated her needs. The medic tied off the bandage and stood back, his face pensive as she placed the crutches under her arms and hauled herself to her feet. Her face squeezed up in pain as she began moving off after Sophie. She'd taken maybe five steps when she had to admit to herself that she couldn't make it.
"Bring me a chair!" she screamed, her gloved hands tensing and releasing against the crutch handles.
Sitting on a folding chair with her leg propped up she resigned herself to directing the hunt instead of being there to track her prey. For the next half hour she fought both the pain and her selfish anger as her men scoured the darkness for Sophie and the American bitch. The medic brought her some aspirin, which she gladly downed with canteen water. She dismissed the man with a wave and reclined like an annoyed tiger to await her men's success.
"Heil Hitler, Fraulein Oberfurher," a sergeant called, saluting her.
"Report," she barked, her mood foul and her temper worse.
"Four more Resistance members have been detained, bringing their number to ten total caught or killed," the soldier said, his eyes focusing on anything but the blonde woman in front of him.
"And?" Caron said, her dark eyebrow raising sharply.
"There is no sign of the girl or the American."
"Unacceptable! Find them find them or you die!"
"Ja vol, Fraulein Oberfurher!" the man snapped to attention.
"Don't stand there!" she barked. "Go."
The man disappeared into the darkness, Caron's cold gray eyes following his progress like a gargoyle. She leaned her head back and felt the night air against her face, her body trying to sense Sophie's distance from her. The Gestapo agent wasn't sure why it hurt so much to know that Sophie had left her. There was anger that she'd attempt to leave, but deeper down Caron realized that a part of her sincerely needed the girl. She also knew that nothing was going to make her lose Sophie. So she sat staring into the night, consumed with the darkness and glad for it.
She heard rather than saw the General's approach, and with exaggerated slowness she turned to face his corpulent sweating form. He looked so much like a pig dressed for a costume party that Caron found herself utterly disgusted with his lack of discipline. Her eyes roved up his body and with a slight squint she froze him in his tracks.
"Quite a mess you made here tonight, Fraulein," he stated, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping at his face.
Caron said nothing, but let her gaze return to the dark woods.
"I assume you'll be returning to Berlin," the general continued. "The Maquis Resistance is crushed Frenay is dead. Looks like you'll get your silver cluster after all."
"You sloven pig," Caron said, refusing to grace him with another look. "Your incompetent troops almost cost me everything. All of it, including your lack of cooperation will be in my report." She gave him a snide look. "With any luck I'll have you wintering in Russia ... if not worse."
"Now you listen to me!" the General said, stepping forward, his face red with rage.
"No. You listen to me, Herr General. I want my prisoners," Caron ordered. "Find them for your sake find them."
"Find them yourself," the general said, tugging at his uniform. "I'm calling my men back to barracks. As far as I'm concerned the job is done."
Caron dragged herself onto the crutches. "No! You can't do that. They must be found."
The general shrugged. "I'm not going to threaten the safety of my men for your French slut."
"You'll regret this, General."
"I highly doubt that, Fraulein, but if I do at least I'll know I stood up to you." He turned to go.
"Where is Dagmar?" Caron asked, allowing the comment to pass. "Send her to me at once."
The general turned slowly, a smile trying to raise his flabby cheeks. "I'd much prefer to send you to her," he said with a sneer.
"What do you mean?"
"Only that your precious prostitute is dead. Shot and stiff on your floor." He shrugged. "My men found her about an hour ago."
"Why wasn't I informed at once?"
The general waved his hand. "I'm telling you now."
Caron sank back onto the chair, the news not as crushing as the sudden sense of being powerless.
"I imagine you'll be wanting to leave the Chateau as soon as possible," the general continued. "Please let me know if I can be of assistance."
Her eyes lifted, a low burn beginning in the pit of her stomach. "You'll be asking me for favors, Herr General. Mark my words." She waved him away. "Send the sergeant to me."
"I told you I was recalling the men."
Caron pulled herself up again. "All you control is that worthless Wehrmacht Army. By Wafen-SS Special Order I have the right and authority to commandeer all available SS Troops. Now give me control, or I'll have you arrested for treason against the Fatherland."
The general stared at her for a long second before dipped his head. "As you wish, Fraulein Oberfurher. Do with them what you please."
"I plan on it," she said, resuming her seat and dismissing him from her view. "You'll be mine, Sophie. You can't escape that. You can't escape me."
Jackie knew it was late, yet she kept the obviously worn out Sophie walking. The girl hadn't said a word to her since their last stop, but Jackie could feel the girl's eyes burning into her back. There was so much hatred in the girl's face. 'And pain,' Jackie thought. 'Too much pain for someone so young.' She vowed to be easier and more understanding on the girl. 'Not that she's making it easy for me.'
"How much farther are you going to make me walk?" the girl's voice sounded weak, and Jackie stopped and turned. Exhaustion stared back at her.
"You've got to try and keep up," Jackie said. "You're doing great."
"I don't need a pep talk," Sophie said. "Where are you taking me?"
Jackie looked blank. The map she'd thought burned into her brain was suddenly useless when running in the dark with German troops behind them. She knew they were generally heading Southeast towards Quineville, but how far they were was a mystery. " I don't know," she finally said. "That stream we crossed was the border of the Chateau, I think." She shrugged in defeat.
"Great," Sophie said. "You're the great American hope my brother was so excited about?" The girl laughed, but it was a shrill, emotionally drawn laugh.
"It wasn't supposed to go like this," Jackie replied, unsure why she felt the need to defend herself.
"So my brother wasn't supposed to die?" Sophie said, her voice biting.
"Of course he wasn't," Jackie said, taking a step closer. "But he knew the risks, and he was prepared for that."
Sophie turned away. "You're just full of comforting words, aren't you?"
"What do you want from me?"
"I want my life back!" Sophie cried, spinning around and charging Jackie.
The young woman's fist crashed against her breast and forced Jackie to take a step back to hold her footing. Despite their close distance Sophie still managed to deliver one blow after another until Jackie could get her hands around the girl's wrists and pull her arms tight against her chest.
"I hate you!" Sophie cried, her head turning back and forth. "I wish you'd never have come!"
"This would've happened with or without me," Jackie whispered.
"Is that supposed to make me or you feel better?" Sophie said, her body suddenly going still and Jackie found herself holding the girl's full weight.
"I'm sorry," Jackie said. "I know it's not much, but I'm sorry." She released the girl's arms and tried to step back, but the smaller woman's hands slinked around her side and pulled her closer. Jackie stood there, completely unsure what to do. She felt the girl's body shake with a sob, and closing her eyes she almost reluctantly put her arms around the girl and held her.
She lifted her hand to stroke Sophie's hair, but as her fingers ran down the strands the girl suddenly pulled away, her face awash with rage. "Don't ever touch me!" she said, stumbling backwards. "Do you hear me? Never touch me!"
Jackie opened her mouth to tell her she wasn't the one who started it, but she thought better of it. "Gotcha," she said, turning away. She began walking again, but turned back after a few yards. "Are you coming or not?" she asked, clenching her jaw.
Sophie stood there for a moment, her hand still shaking by her side. "And where are you taking me?" she asked.
Jackie raised her hands and waved them at the girl. "You know what? Stay. I don't care anymore. All I want to do is get the hell out of this country." She turned and began walking. "Some agent I turned out to be," she mumbled. "It all seemed so perfect before my feet hit the ground. Now I'm stuck here. No way to " She turned her head when Sophie caught up and began walking next to her.
"We need to go this way," Sophie said, not looking at her. "Quineville has no Maquis sympathizers. Someone will turn us in."
"So where then?"
"You're the big spy," Sophie said. "What was your brilliant plan?"
"I told you I don't know. All I want to do is get as far away from the Chateau and Valognes as possible before trying to hide out."
Sophie nodded. "That's just a short term plan."
Jackie stopped, her head tilting back to stare at the moonless sky. "I don't know what time it is," she said. "Or where we are or even if there is anywhere to hide." She looked back down at the girl. "I don't know what to do." She looked away again. "I don't even know if I should trust you."
"It's me who should be questioning trust. Besides, you made a promise, remember?" She gave a short snort of disgust.
"Have you always been such a bitch?"
Sophie took a step back, looking like Jackie had just slapped her. "No," she whispered. "Do you think " she fell silent.
Jackie raised her hand to apologize, but let it fall with the words unspoken. "C'mon," she said. "We need to keep moving."
She did take Sophie's advice and turned them more directly South. The next town of any consequence was St-Lo, and she knew it was more than 20 miles away. There was one American agent there who had access to a radio, but getting in touch with him might be tough.
The girl trudged silently beside her. Glancing over she could see the exhaustion pulling at her face, and Jackie even felt her own body beginning to fail. They had to stop soon.
She lead them up a hill that burst them out of the forest and into a farmer's field. She stopped by a tree and just stared. From what she could see there was no cover anywhere out there. From the time they left the forest they would be exposed vulnerable
"Do you recognize any of this?" she asked over her shoulder.
"No," the girl responded, and Jackie waited for some snide comment, but there was nothing.
"We need to find some shelter." She looked to the east, catching just the faintest sliver of gray in the distance. "It'll be morning soon."
Jackie turned around. The girl was leaning against a tree, her hand rubbing at her eyes. She looked so young so tired and so sad.
"C'mon," Jackie said, holding her hand out again. "Just a little further."
This time the girl did take her hand, and Jackie led them into the field.
"Do you think they're following us?" Sophie asked, and for the first time Jackie didn't hear any accusations in her voice.
"Probably. It's not like the German's to just give up."
"She won't give up," Sophie replied, her voice guarded.
"Who's she?" Jackie asked.
"Caron." Sophie pulled her hand away and began walking slower.
"What happened, Sophie?" Jackie asked, slowing her steps, too.
"I don't want to talk about it," Sophie said, pulling her arms over her chest. "I'm cold," she said, and Jackie knew a subject change when she heard one.
"We've got to keep moving for as long as possible."
"And then what?"
"Find some shelter, I guess." She grabbed the girl's hand and pulled her forward. "We'll have to hide out during the day, so it'll have to be an inconspicuous place."
"I'm so tired," Sophie whispered.
"A little further," Jackie said, trying to pick up the pace and get them across the field faster. "Tomorrow will be bad," she added. "They'll use the daylight to scour the countryside for us. And I doubt if we've gone more than a few miles." She looked down at the alfalfa that grabbed at her boots and pant legs. "Who knows how far this field goes either."
"What about the coast?" Sophie asked. "It's not more than a few kilometers from us."
"And crawling with Germans," Jackie added. "We'd be caught in no time."
"But they wouldn't expect us to go that direction, would they?"
Jackie thought for a moment. The Channel Islands weren't a bad plan. For the most part they were left alone by the Germans and Allied command had made use of that fact by keeping submarines nearby. If they could radio one
"Shit!" Jackie said, suddenly remembering that all subs had been ordered out of the area in previous months to complete the picture of an impending coastal attack.
"What?" Sophie asked.
Jackie shook her head in disgust. "Nothing," she said, pushing the air from her lungs in a disappointed sigh. "We've got to head inland."
Sophie stopped walking. "What about my brother's Maquis?"
The American stopped, too, her shoulders slumped in defeat. "We can't count on them," she said. "We can't count on anyone but us."
"Then where can we go?"
"Let's just find someplace to hide," Jackie said, pulling herself together and stuffing her fear down deep. She didn't need to let the girl see what little confidence she had for their ultimate escape. "We'll make some decisions tomorrow, okay?" She turned and gave the girl a smile. To her surprise the girl smiled back.
Holding out her hand again she closed her fingers around Sophie's hand and gave it a tight squeeze. "We'll be okay," she said.
"Don't make promises you can't or won't keep," Sophie replied.
Caron checked her watch again and cursed. It had been over six hours since Sophie had escaped her grasp, and the Gestapo agent was fit to be tied. Already her soldiers were terrified of reporting their failures, so for the most part the leather clad woman sat alone.
"Sergeant!" she yelled, grabbing for her crutches. "Bring my car immediately!"
"Ja Vol, Fraulein Oberfurher."
She stood, her gray eyes taking in the beginnings of the sunrise with disdain. She knew by now that Sophie and the American were probably holed up somewhere and finding them would be almost impossible. But damn she was going to try. A smile touched her face when she realized that without the Resistance network the American was stranded, and that might make her an easier target.
"Especially if she's letting my little pigeon guide her."
"Your car, Oberfurher," the sergeant called, holding open the door to her sleek Mercedes.
With less grace than she normally demonstrated Caron hobbled over to the car and lunged into the backseat. Her driver sat alert, with his hands on the wheel and awaiting instructions. Problem was that Caron didn't have any instructions to give him.
"Just drive," she ordered, waving at the man.
The car pulled into gear, and Caron settled back into the leather to sulk. Her heart hurt and for the first time in her life she felt completely alone. Her brow furrowed as she considered the sensation. It was unfamiliar, and she knew it was Sophie's fault for feeling this way.
"Excuse me, Oberfurher?"
"Drive, you oaf!" She leaned forward, her hand reaching for the back of his collar. "Find her," she said, releasing his collar and leaning back.
Without a word the driver turned out of the Chateau's property and onto one of a thousand small country roads. The early dawn cast an eerie haze over freshly cut hay fields, but each empty field only echoed the heavy weight she felt in her chest.
The driver drove in random patterns, the black car creeping down roads like a panther, and Caron's blond hair blowing in the breeze as her eyes scanned every inch of landscape that swept by them. It has stopped being about proving something to Sophie and suddenly was only about finding her because she wanted her. It never occurred to her to consider that Sophie may not want her. In the Gestapo agent's mind that wasn't an option.
"Look for anyplace two women could hide," she ordered her driver. "Houses, rocks, bushes, anything. I want them found."
There was a barbed wire fence at the end of the field, and Jackie held the wires apart as Sophie crawled through safely. She waited while the smaller woman returned the favor, but Sophie's size made it hard for Jackie to fit through, and her jacket snagged on a barb. When Sophie reached down to help free Jackie, her hand scraped against the fence and she cried out. Jackie pulled away, a portion of her jacket tearing lose. She climbed to her feet to find Sophie holding her hand against her mouth.
"Here," she said. "Let me see."
Sophie turned her hand over, a nasty puncture wound oozing blood from the palm. Jackie gave the hand a good squeeze, forcing more blood out.
"Ouch," Sophie cried, trying to pull her hand back.
"Ssssshhh," Jackie said, grabbing the torn cloth off the fence and pressing it against Sophie's hand. "Make a fist and hold this tight to stop the bleeding."
"Are you okay?" Sophie asked, surprising Jackie with the question.
"Yeah, thanks." She looked briefly at the girl before turning to study their surroundings.
The field had ended near a ravine, and Jackie tried to guess its depth in the gray dawn light. Her eyes roved across the land surrounding them and with a sigh she knew they had to descend or risk being caught on open ground.
It looked to be about forty yards to the bottom of the ravine, which meant they would be completely out of sight. 'Unless the Germans decide to search it,' she thought.
"We're going to head down here," she said out loud to Sophie. "It'll be too light to travel soon."
"Where do you think it goes?" Sophie asked, stepping up next to her.
"I don't think it goes anywhere," Jackie replied. "It'll keep us moving slightly South, which is good, but we need to find a place that is secure for the day."
Sophie stepped closer. "Do you think they'll find us?"
Jackie removed her pistol and checked the clip. "Not if I can help it." She tucked the gun back into her pants. "C'mon," she said, holding her hand out. "I'll help you down."
"I'm fine," Sophie replied sharply, starting down the hill without assistance.
The fine earth that had covered the field gave way to a rock scattered, rain hardened ground. Some of the rocks were very loose, and Jackie barely caught Sophie when her feet slipped. The girl fit easily into her arms, and Jackie had the strangest feeling that she lingered there longer than necessary before standing and moving down the hill again. She looked quizzically after the girl, hoping she might turn and confirm her feelings, but she just kept moving.
They reached the bottom without any further missteps, and Jackie looked up the embankment. It was difficult to see the rim, and that might just keep them safe. The ravine was almost invisible from across the field, and she hoped that unless one of the Germans stumbled across their path they would remain untracked all day.
Now they needed to find a place to sleep. The girl looked half dead on her feet, and Jackie knew she needed to refresh her mind and body if they were to make any good decisions.
Jackie looked again at the spreading dawn and guessed their backs to be north. "This way," she said, pointing in front of her. "Be careful," she reminded. "We're both tired, and with this uneven ground we could fall."
"I'm not a child," Sophie said. "I know how to walk."
"Just a suggestion," Jackie replied, starting off. "Sorry. I'll try and not care."
Jackie guessed they had walked about a quarter of a mile through the ravine before she spotted the small dot on the hillside. A slight smile crossed her face and her steps picked up energy.
"Look," she said, pointing. "I think it's a cave."
Sophie rubbed at her eyes and nodded. "Can we stop then?"
"I know you're tired."
"Then do something!" Sophie spit out, and then turned. "I'm sorry."
Jackie didn't reply. Instead she motioned for Sophie to stand while she crawled up the hillside. A bird flew at her when she pulled herself around a small sapling and peered into the cave. It looked just big enough to hide them. She smiled and turned to wave Sophie up the hill.
"You sure it's safe?" Sophie asked, standing on the small ledge the jutted out from the rock lined cave. "It looks really dark in there."
Jackie leaned over and threw a large rock into the cave and waited. She shrugged. "Nothing rushed out."
"Great," Sophie said with a twist of her head. "You first."
"Hold on." Jackie looked around her, a smile pulling at her face. "Be right back," she said, moving back down the hill a few paced and grabbing hold of a small, weak looking tree. "Camouflage," she called up to Sophie before wrestling and tugging at the tree until the trunk cracked and she twisted it free.
"Are we supposed to hide behind it?" Sophie asked as Jackie climbed back up the hill.
"Get in the cave and I'll show you," Jackie said, kneeling down and backing into the cave after Sophie. She laid the tree at an angle across the opening, hoping it would break anyone's sight line and help them go unnoticed.
"She'll find us, won't she?"
"The Gestapo agent?" Jackie asked, pushing lightly at the tree to make it look like it had fallen in a storm. "I doubt she's even looking anymore."
"She's looking," Sophie said, as if delivering a well known fact.
"What happened?" Jackie asked again, her curiosity peaked more now that she could concentrate.
"It smells funny in here," Sophie said, diverting her answer once again.
Jackie sniffed the air, instantly aware of the musky, slightly rotten smell that hung in the air. "Yeah, it does," she conceded.
"Smells like something must have died " her voice trailed off.
"Well, it's not that bad," Jackie said quickly, aware that the girl had again remembered Frenay. "Think you can sleep here?"
Sophie didn't respond, and the American watched as the girl crawled across the small cave and pulled her legs up against her chest. Jackie felt very awkward knowing there was nothing she could say to make the girl feel any better.
"We'll be okay here," she finally mumbled, the heel of her boot absently digging into the dirt. She looked up expectantly, half hoping the girl would say something, but instead Sophie just nodded and lowered her head to her knees.
Jackie rubbed at her tired eyes and stifled a yawn. She scooted her back against the opposite side of the cave. She pulled her pistol from her waistband and laid it across her leg. She looked again at Sophie, and with a hard swallow she shifted her gaze out the cave opening.
An uneasy silence settled between them, and Jackie found herself concentrating on the increasing sunlight. 'It's probably after 6 already,' she thought making mental note. Across from her she could hear Sophie's breathing, and from the sharp intakes of air she knew the girl was probably crying again. With nothing to say to make her feel better, Jackie just let her cry.
"Why don't you try and get some sleep," she finally said, fighting hard to keep her own eyes open.
"I don't think I can sleep," Sophie responded.
"You should try."
The girl's head shot up, rage clearly displayed on her tear streaked face, and Jackie quickly raised her hands in defense. "Okay," she said. "I know. Quit treating you like a child." Sophie's eyes narrowed sharply, and Jackie shrugged. "So here's the adult version, Sophie. I'm taking us out of here at dark and we won't have the luxury of stopping to rest. Get your sleep now."
Without another word Sophie lay down on her side, her arm tucked under her head and her green eyes trained hard on Jackie. For a long moment Jackie continued the eye war with the girl, but then casually moved her gaze back to the cave opening.
Caron pushed herself deeper into the leather seat of her roadster, her eyes dancing from the neck of her driver to the endless countryside. She'd ordered her driver to make circles around the property in the hopes of cutting Sophie and the American bitch off at some point. Her limited knowledge of the land surrounding the Chateau infuriated her, and yet she refused to accept her driver's excuses for not following her orders. The idiot seemed to think they had to stick to the roads, which left huge areas of land unexamined by her.
"Where are we now, you moron?" she spat from the back seat.
"Coming around on the North side of the Chateau, Fraulein Oberfurher. We are approximately 8 kilometers from the main residence."
"And have we found them yet?"
"The sun is up now, Sergeant. Do you think they would be stupid enough to just waltz across one of these damn fields?"
"I do not know, Oberfurher."
"Of course you don't. I'm the only one with any brains here." She leaned forward, her elbows spanning the black leather seat, and her mouth pulled close to the soldier's ear. "Time is of the essence," she whispered. "And it isn't wise to disappoint me." She leaned back. "I don't care what you have to do, Sergeant but find them."
"Ja vol, Fraulein Oberfurher," the sergeant said, his voice wavering slightly with fear.
"Trust that fear, Sergeant," Caron said, lighting a cigarette and blowing the blue smoke forward. "It's never lead me wrong before."
Her dreams were chaotic. She didn't know what was going on. All she felt was an overwhelming fear as one nightmarish image after another ran across her mind. It was hard to catch her breath. Caron was there then the SS soldier that horrible maid and the American. All wanting something from her. Each placing her in a position that she couldn't control.
And then there was Henri. Her beloved brother. His chest exploding before her eyes and his face so deathly still. Those beautiful green eyes that had always shone on her no longer saw her.
She was transported to childhood. Her brother spinning her in an open, green field. Her parents laughing nearby. Joining in their laughter, she turned her head to find Caron standing nearby. The Gestapo agent's black leather coat was open, exposing her naked, milky white body that contrasted so sharply with the black leather skin she wore to cover herself. She turned her head again to find the American hidden in a foggy haze, but her hand held out to her and her voice asking Sophie to trust in her. She heard Caron's shrill laughter at this statement, and as her head turned Caron was standing completely naked before her, and Sophie wanted
She awoke with a start, her senses disoriented and her heart pounding. She sat up quickly, her hand wiping a sheen of sweat from her forehead and trying desperately to remember where she was and how she got there. Across from her the American spy was asleep, her dark head leaned back against the cave wall and her hand resting near her gun.
Her dream still tugged at her consciousness, but she could make no sense of it. Everything was upside down, and nothing matched anymore. It seemed just yesterday that she was pretending that everything would be okay. The war would be over soon and her life would return to normal. Henri had promised that they would move to Paris or even America and she could pursue her writing. 'No,' she told herself. 'That no longer existed.' Her green eyes grew cloudy as she let them rove up the sleeping American. 'It's all your fault,' she concluded, not sure if she ordered her body to move or if she moved without thought, but she found herself crawling across the cave and her hand reaching for the pistol.
The metal felt cold against her palm as her fingers closed around the handle. The gun was heavier than she imagined it, and she tightened her arm to lift it. The American moved slightly, but continued to sleep. Her breath was even and measured, her nostrils expanding with each deep breath. Sophie watched for a moment, the gun laying limp across her legs. The woman was beautiful. She could find no flaw on her face, and Sophie lifted her hand to touch her cheek. She didn't know why she did it, and she stopped centimeters from contact and dropped her hand.
"You're just like her," she whispered to the sleeping American.
She lifted the pistol, the black metal absorbing all light and reflecting nothing. She pressed it against her face, her eyes closed and her mind fighting for some clarity. Something nagged at her, telling her that the American spy wasn't her enemy. It was the same feeling she had with Caron. 'No,' she thought, 'that feeling was different. She made me feel something very different.' She remembered the touches the blonde German gave her, and Sophie swallowed hard. It was as if the touches had lingered
The gun was yanked from her hand, and Sophie snapped open her eyes to find the woman's face inches from her.
"What the hell are you doing?" she hissed, the American's warm breath spreading across her face and the woman's other hand closing tightly around her wrist.
"Let me go!"
"Not till you answer."
"You're hurting me!"
"And you were going to kill me."
"I wasn't," Sophie blurted out. "I was "
"I won't let you hurt me," she said, looking away. "Not like she did. I won't."
"So you were going to do what with my gun?" Sophie didn't respond, and Jackie's hand tightened around her wrist.
"Answer me!" the American demanded.
"I don't know," Sophie whispered, her voice barely audible in the small cave.
The American released her wrist and Sophie fell back, landing hard on her butt and she backed herself away from the woman.
"I'm sorry," Sophie whispered, turning her body away and pulling her knees tight against her chest. "I'm scared."
"You should be! I oughtta " she said, glancing outside the cave. "Forget it," she said, waving the gun towards Sophie. "It's not worth it."
"I don't think I was going to kill you," Sophie said, turning her head slightly.
"How comforting," Jackie responded.
"I was confused."
"Again, how comforting."
"You have no idea what I've been through," Sophie said. "And you're being so mean to me."
"I didn't have to come with you," Sophie added.
"And you didn't have to hold a gun on me either!"
"I was scared!"
At this the woman turned and crawled across the distance between them. She grabbed Sophie by the arms and wretched her body around. "You listen to me, you little " her voice tapered off for a moment. "What have I done that would scare you? I've tried to be nice. To understand. To care." She took a deep breath. "I was sent here to complete a mission, and your disappearance has cost us everything!"
"Let me go," Sophie said, wriggling her arms until the American released her.
"As far as I'm concerned you can stay in this cave or go back to that Gestapo agent that seems to preoccupy your thoughts."
Sophie stood up. "I hate you," she said, her words falling from her lips like acid and she hoped they stung the American.
"Then leave," Jackie said, pointing at the door. "I've never needed you."
"What about your promise, huh?" Sophie challenged, her body unable to move towards the cave opening.
"Your taking my gun absolved me of any responsibility for you," Jackie replied.
"That's unfair! I didn't mean " she shut her mouth. "I'm sorry," she said, and moved towards the cave opening. "I'll leave if you want."
Jackie looked away. "Leave," she said.
Sophie held out her hand, unsure why she would want to stay, but when the American didn't acknowledge her she shook her head and turned. Without a further exchange she exited the cave and made her way down the hill.
When she reached the bottom she looked up, half hoping to see the American's face asking her back, but all she saw was the tree branch laid back in place. So biting her lip for control she began walking. She had no idea where to go or how to get there. After a few steps she began crying, and with blurred vision she continued to make her way through the ravine.
Caron's head nodded off again, and she jerked it upright. It was almost noon and she still had no better an idea of where Sophie was then before. Her mood had grown worse as the sun rose higher and higher.
"There is another farm house, Fraulein Oberfurher," the sergeant said, pointing.
"Why do you keep pointing," Caron grumped. "It's not like there it's hard to see."
"Do you wish to stop?"
"Of course, you idiot! Have I told you otherwise?"
The sergeant turned the long black car into the farmhouse driveway, and Caron stared blindly out the window. She could easily see Sophie and the American bitch running across a field like this one and the thought infuriated her. It burned in the pit of her stomach like an unquenchable fire.
Yet another peasant woman opened the door and stood back in shock when she saw Caron hobble from the car. Her leg was throbbing so badly it was almost impossible to keep the pain from her face, but she managed to keep the cool exterior that she found necessary to intimidate.
"Come here," she ordered, leaning back against the car. "And where is your husband? Bring him."
"He's dead," the woman spat, coming closer but stopping just far enough to be annoying.
"Then who manages your fields?" Caron asked.
"Is he a member of the resistance?" Caron let a smile play at her lips, her eyes daring the woman to lie to her.
"No," the woman answered, her eyes dropping to the dirt.
"Then where is he?"
"He's not here," the woman responded, stepping closer. "I don't know where he is," she said, anticipating Caron's next question. "He's a good boy."
Caron nodded her head. "That doesn't concern me," she said, holding up her finger. "It doesn't concern me right now," she corrected.
"Then what do you want?" the woman said, and Caron smiled.
"You're perceptive," she said. "That's good." She moved and closed her eyes against the pain. "I'm looking for two women. An American and a French girl."
"I've seen no one."
"Shut up and listen to what I have to say," Caron said, opening her eyes. "I don't care if you've seen them or not. I want them, and you and your pathetic people are going to find them for me."
"I don't know what you mean."
"They are to have no shelter no food no help. If I discover any one has helped them, then I will have your son and all other men shot as a warning."
"That's not fair!" the woman cried, her hand going to her throat. "What if I have nothing to do "
Caron looked down her sleek nose at the woman. "Silence," she ordered. "I have stopped and given to warning to others. Make sure that everyone knows." She pushed herself off the car. "I will not tolerate assistance for fugitives from the Fatherland!"
The woman dropped her head. "As you wish. I will pass the word."
"See that you do," the Gestapo agent said, turning towards the sergeant. "Note this woman's location, and her son's questionable absence."
"I said I'd help!" the woman cried.
Caron ignored her. "Mark her for a follow up visit if our fugitives escape."
"Ja Vol, Fraulein Oberfurher."
She lowered herself into the car, purposely not looking at the woman's fear struck face. It never occurred to her that she may not have the right to threaten these people to find Sophie. All that matter was finding her, and if terrifying the French countryside was how she flushed them out, then so be it.'
"Take me back to the Chateau," she ordered. "We have to expand the search." She looked out the window to mark the angle of the sun. "They'll be on the move when it gets dark. I have to be ready by then."
END SECTION VI
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