A Time of Betrayal - a fiction short story
Julie pedaled faster on the bicycle, in fact, she pedaled as fast as she could. She looked up at the the black rain clouds rolling in from the west. She had to make the Landau farm before the cloud burst. A chill raised up in the air as she diligently pedaled on. Her dark curls were whipped behind her from below the beret on her head, as the wind, now cold, rushed into her face.
Huge raindrops, one by one, started to fall. They stung as they hit her face and her hands that gripped the handlebars. The wind cut right through her gray cardigan sweater and through the thin blouse underneath. Then, the rain began to fall faster.
She looked up to see the gate of the Landau farm. She skidded to a stop, swung open the gate, passed through, and then closed and hooked the gate. She took off pedaling at top speed to reach the farmhouse door. The cold rain was falling and stinging with no respite now.
The lights of the farmhouse flickered on even though it was only early afternoon and Julie felt some warmth flow through her as she finally reached the farmhouse door. She descended from the bicycle and leaned it up against the house trying to get as much of it under the overhand as she could.
She burst through the door with a smile while shaking the rain from her beret that she had whipped off her head. There sat Rachel and Simon eating lunch, but they both jumped up to hug her as she entered the warm kitchen. Julie grabbed them both up in a hugh embrace.
"How are my two favorite kids in the whole wide world?" she exclaimed. Rachel and Simon giggled, "We're fine," the eight-year-old twins said in unison as they licked grape jelly from their fingers.
"Where is Madame Landau?" asked Julie
"Here I am," she answered as she entered the kitchen with a basket of freshly washed laundry. "How are you Julie? We have missed you these last several days," she said.
"Oh, I've been so busy working at the inn, and yesterday I took the train to Avignon on some personal business. But, I am here today to get caught up on what these two little munchkins have been up to," she said laughing.
Rachel and Simon squealed with delight because Julie was present and Madame Landau had to remind them to sit and finish their lunch. Then she began preparing coffee for Julie and herself.
Julie had found Rachel and Simon four years ago in the upstairs apartment next to the inn where she worked behind the reception desk. They spoke some French, but mostly German and had not eaten or seen their parents in three days.
Julie had scooped them up and taken them to Andre, her contact in the small town of Laurette, France. The two of them had investigated and found out the parents, German Jews, had been rounded up by the French Vichy soldiers and put on a train going east. They had never been heard from since. Over the years, Julie and Andre sadly had discovered that "east" meant the labor concentration camps the Germans had created.
Julie and Andre found the children a home with the Landau's, a middle-aged farm couple, who had never been able to have children. The Landau's embraced the children as their own, and Rachel and Simon thrived under their care. Julie became like an older sister to them and she taught them French - they were bright and eager to learn - and gave them French names as to further hide them within German occupied France. Rachel became Suzanne and Simon became Stephan, and so the town of Laurette came to know the children as Suzanne and Stephan Landau, the adopted children of the Landau's. But, to Julie they would always be Rachel and Simon.
The children finished their lunch and quietly played in the living room area as Julie and Madame Landau talked over coffee and bread with jam.
"How goes your work?" whispered Madame Landau.
"It is difficult - we have a drop tonight in the meadow, but we don't know what, 'the drop' is yet. It could be food, supplies, guns and amunitions or a person for all we know right now, said Julie.
"Be very careful," said Madame Landau. "I hear the German's are advancing this way and could come through Laurette at any time."
"I know," said Julie. "Andre was notified with that information yesterday, so we are all on alert!"
Julie had arrived in France four years ago from London, England as a British agent stationed in Laurette to assist Andre in his work in the French Resistance. Her flawless French, learned during her school days in Paris, was an asset that made her the perfect agent for German occupied France. The job at the inn had been arranged for her by Andre as her cover.
She and Andre had worked this southern part of France from the time the Germans had rolled into and occupied Paris. Julie had come to love her work here in Laurette and had come to love Andre, too. Now, four years later, the Germans were moving further and further south within France. Madame Landau was correct - the German's could be here anytime.
As the rain came down, a little softer now, Julie felt safe in the warm Landau kitchen, surrounded by those she had come to love.
Rachel and Simon ran to the kitchen with a storybook demanding Julie read them a story.
Julie took the children into the living room area, plopped down on the couch with Rachel and Simon on each side of her snuggled in close and began reading the story.
Madame Landau looked on, smiling wistfully, thinking Julie and Andre should be married and raising these two young, lively children, instead of playing spies and secret agents for the French Resistance. Julie and Andre had their whole lives before them, even during this awful war, and were too young for this dangerous work.
By the time Julie finished the story, the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to emerge from the sky. She kissed Rachel and Simon, who begged her not to leave, but she reluctantly got up, told them to be good for the Landau's as she had to get back to the inn. She was scheduled to work that evening.
As Julie left the Landau farmhouse and hopped on her bicycle, she felt better now that the sun was coming out. But, it was still early spring and she had five miles to bicycle back to the town and she wanted to make it back before dark.
A handsome stranger
Julie had gone several miles when she came upon a man, who seemed to be in his thirties, tall blond and with dazzling blue eyes, flagging her down. She slowly stopped the bicycle.
"I think I've broken or sprained my ankle. Can you help? I need to get to Laurette before dark. It is quite important - I have a delivery to make," he said.
Julie noticed his French was of the area dialect. "What happened to you? Where are you coming from?" she asked.
"I turned my ankle on a rock as I was walking and I'm having quite a time of it. I'm coming from Aneil, over the hill there. I'm the village postman - here is my sachel with some letters for the Laurette mayor. It is quite important," he said breathlessly.
Julie examined the satchel and letters and the letters indeed were for the mayor of Laurette. "Well, I'm on my way to Laurette to work at the inn - hurry up - hop up on the basket and I'll try to pedal us both to Laurette," said Julie hurriedly,
The last two miles were agony as Julie pedaled the bicycle with the added weight of the man. She found out his name was Pierre and he said she was saving his life by helping him to deliver the letters on time.
When they reached Laurette, Julie delivered Pierre to the mayor's office - helping him into the building and to the office. Then, she dashed to the inn, just making it by 5 p.m. She was on duty until 11 p.m.
She had no sooner run a comb through her hair and settled down with the reservation book, than the door flew open and in walked three German officers, barking orders in German.
Moniseur Alain, the inn owner, rushed down the stairs when he heard the commotion. Julie froze in her seat. One of the officers spoke some French and demanded three rooms - they had come ahead, as tomorrow German troops were to occupy the town of Laurette. Julie's heart sank as she and Moniseur Alain kept their composure as they worked to accommodate the request. They really had no choice in the matter. Julie found three clean rooms and had the officers sign the register book as Moniseur Alain handed them their room keys.
Julie ran ahead to the rooms to make sure there were enough towels and toiletries for the men. It had happened. The Germans had arrived. Now, she had to get word to Andre.
Moniseur Alain went into the bar and restaurant as the officers were hungry and thirsty and wanted to eat and drink before retiring for the evening.
"I have to get to Andre," thought Julie, "but with the German officers now here, how would she get away?" Next, to Julie's surprise, Pierre walked into the inn looking for a room. Julie helped him register and found a room for him, but it was next to the German officers.
"I see we have visitors," said Pierre with a serious nod to the bar.
"Yes," said Julie nervously, "the German's have arrived. The only room we have left is one next to their rooms, so beware," said Julie sadly,
"I know," said Pierre softly, "that was the information I was delivering to the mayor. I didn't think they'd arrive so early. This is unfortunate."
"I know," said Julie quietly, "I have to get a message to a friend and now the German officers are here. If they discover I'm gone, they might become suspicious."
"If you are quick, you can leave and I'll watch the reception desk for you. I can't go anywhere with this ankle, and frankly, they are drinking and singing 'Fatherland songs,' so I think they are occupied for the near future," said Pierre with a wink.
"Oh, would you watch the desk for me? That would be so helpful," exclaimed Julie quietly. "I won't be more than a few minutes as my friend is nearby."
"Done," said Pierre. Don't let the Germans notice you are leaving."
Julie slipped out the back door and dashed along the backs of the buildings until she reached the corner. She dashed up the stairs to Andre's apartment and knocked softly on the door. Andre immediately opened the door.
"Andre, the Germans are here. Three officers just took rooms at the inn and they are in the bar right now, drinking. The German army is arriving tomorrow to occupy the town," Julie whispered.
"I know," said Andre kissing Julie on the forehead. "The mayor just stopped by and informed me."
"What about tonight - in the meadow - the drop? What are we going to do?" whispered Julie.
"The drop is stilll on - we must make connections at the drop tonight before the German army arrives tomorrow. Tell Alain to keep serving the beer - get them good and drunk so they will sleep tight tonight," Andre said.
"Okay," said Julie. "For the first time, I'm really scared."
"It's imperative we are at the drop tonight - midnight sharp. Meet me at the arranged place," said Andre hurriedly.
"What is coming at the drop tonight?" asked Julie
"Guns and ammunition; so we must be there so it doesn't fall into German hands," said Andre.
Julie took a deep breath, "Okay, Andre, somehow I'll slip away - I'll be there."
"Good, I knew I could count on you," smiled Andre, as he lightly kissed her on the lips.
"I have to get back to the inn, before I'm missed," whispered Julie as she gave Andre a rushed hug.
Julie turned and left the apartment flying down the stairs, running back behind the buildings and back into the inn through the back door.
Pierre sat behind the desk grinning. "All clear," he said. "The Germans are still inside the bar - listen - do you hear them?"
"Yes!" giggled Julie nervously. "Thank goodness for beer!"
"Did you get your message to your friend?" asked Pierre.
"Yes and thank you," said Julie. "Mission accomplished."
"Good," said Pierre. "I'm off to bed and to rest this ankle," he said as he limped up the stairs. "See you tomorrow."
"I hope so," thought Julie as she knew there was no rest for her as she had a big night in front of her. "I hope I survive the night," she thought nervously.
As the time grew near to eleven o'clock, the German's singing grew quieter and finally stopped. At about 10:45 p.m. or so, the German officers stumbled out of the bar and saw Julie at the desk. The one that spoke a little French tried to flirt with her and said, "You should have joined us in the bar - tomorrow night you will sing with us!" he exclaimed as the other two laughed.
Julie smiled as if she hadn't understood a word he said, closed the register book, locked the desk drawers and turned off the desk lamp, and the Germans went upstairs to their rooms. A few minutes later, Julie turned and went to her room on the first floor.
A WWII Story
- "You can never return" - a fiction short story
Rachel Goldstein must get important documents out of Nazi Germany if anyone is to believe what is happening to the Jewish there in 1939.
Once in her room, Julie quickly undressed and put on her 'work' clothes. She pulled on a pair of black trousers, a heavy black turtle neck sweater, black shoes and black beret. Then, she darkened her face and hands with charcol. Inside the waistband of her trousers, Julie put a handgun that Andre had given her years ago as a necessary part of these sojourns. She quietly slipped out of her room and for the second time that night, she slipped quietly out the back door of the inn and immediately dashed off in the direction of the meadow. As she took off, she did not notice another dark figure slip from the inn and follow her towards the meadow.
Julie breathlessly reached the appointed area, a clump of bushes, where she was to meet Andre. She checked her watch. Midnight, exactly. Where was Andre? Julie slowly caught her breath and began to breathe normally. She craned her neck around to look for Andre. This was unlike him. He was always on time. At 12:02, Andre crept up behind Julie nearly scaring her to death. She had to clasp her hand over her mouth to keep from screaming.
"Sorry," said Andre. "I wasn't sure - I thought I saw someone else in the area - but after checking around, I didn't find anyone."
Julie and Andre crouched behind the bushes and patiently waited for the plane to arrive with the drop. By 12:05, Julie said, "Andre, why aren't we hearing the plane? They should be arriving by now."
"I don't know," said Andre nervousy. "Perhaps there are clouds further behind us and they are having a time getting here."
"I don't like this," said Julie "The plane is never late."
"Relax," said Andre as he kissed Julie's cheek. "Let's move over to those gathering of trees. We'll get a better view of the sky."
"Okay," said Julie as she took Andre's hand and they ran toward the trees. When they reached the trees, suddenly Julie was surrounded by the three German officers from the inn, guns pointed straight at her. Two of the officers grabbed her arms and pinned her to a tree. One of the German soldiers said something to Andre in German and Andre answered back in perfect German. Julie was in a sickened daze. What was going on here?
"Finally, we were able to discover who you really are," said Andre to her in disgust. "You are really Mitzi Hauptmann, a German Jew from Berlin. You are not British or French for that matter, even with those beautiful blue eyes. You may have grown up in London, but you are nothing but a dirty Jew," he said, his dark eyes flashing as he slapped her face. The German officers laughed.
Julie was stunned beyond belief. Yes, she was Mitzi Hauptmann, but her family had moved from Berlin to London when she was two years old because her father was a diplomat assigned to London. During her school years, her father had been posted in Paris, and hence her school days there and her acquisition of the French language. After Paris, the Hauptmann's had returned to London to live. Julie had always felt English and always would.
"Andre," she said through tears, "We are suppose to be on the same side; fighting the Germans and saving Jewish people. What have we been doing for the past four years?
"Not me," said Andre. "The Jews that disappeared from Laurette over the years, who do you think notified the Germans and the French Vichy to pick them up and send them east? he jeered. We had quotas to fill - that was my job!"
Julie couldn't believe her ears. "My God, are you a double agent?" she cried incredulously.
All four men laughed at this point. "Yes," said Andre, laughing at her. "You are in for one painful night of interrogation, and, if you survive, you are on the German train east tomorrow!" he exclaimed. "Also, those two Jew children, what are their names, Rachel and Simon Goldberg, will be picked up also and sent east."
"No!" screamed Julile as she struggled to free herself, but to no avail. The German officers had her pinned tightly against the tree.
Suddenly gunshots rang out, and one by one each of the four men dropped to the ground, a bullet through each of their heads. They never knew what hit them. Julie stood shaking, not believing she was free. She looked up to see a dark figure walking out from behind a clump of bushes. As he approached her, she realized it was Pierre. She stumbled as she walked toward him, his beautiful smile gleaming out of a darkened face with his blue eyes flashing. He was holding an automatic rifle as he caught her in his arms.
"Who are you?" Julie asked incredulously.
"Actually, my real name is Peter Gallagher, and I am also an MI-8 agent from London and a sharpshooter. Thank goodness for beer!" he said with a smile. "We actually found out recently in London that Andre was a double agent, and really working for the Germans. London sent me here to protect you and take out Andre. However, the Germans arriving when they did messed up the plans.
"Your foot. You can walk," said Julie wide eyed.
"Yes, of course. I'm not so clumsy as to turn my foot on a rock," he laughed. That was a ruse to make contact with you and get to Laurette to be near you so I could get to Andre and protect you from just this kind of situation.
"How did you know about this "false drop?" asked Julie
"I didn't, but fortunately the mayor is on our side. Andre confided in him about a drop tonight so as to keep up his ruse. The mayor got to me while you slipped out of the inn earlier tonight to get to Andre. I just followed you from the inn and have been hiding in the bushes waiting. I wasn't sure if this was a legitimate drop of one like what just happened.
"Thank you, Peter Gallagher," said Julie as she began to quietly cry.
"You see, Julie, our side will ultimately win this war. We have more good men and women fighting for freedom than evil ones trying to take it away," Peter said with confidence. Tears of joy were streaming down Julie's face as they now heard a plane approaching,
"We're taking you home to London, tonight, Julie," said Peter quietly. "Your work here is complete. And don't worry about the Landau children. They are being evacuated to London also, even as we speak."
Never had the sound of a plane been so welcoming to Julie's heart, and never had the moon shined so brightly as Julie and Peter walked to the spot to catch the plane back to London.
Copyright (c) 2013 Suzannah Wolf Walker all rights reserved