Note: Though this is a sequel to "The Wolves of Paris," it is not necessary to have read that story first. "You never kill anyone you want to in a war." -Ernest Hemingway, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" *** June 1, 1944, Paris: 1,440 days under occupation. The streetlamp flickered, but did not go out. A pair of uniforms lurked on the sidewalk up ahead. Riquet's feet wavered, but if they saw him run away they'd surely chase, so he kept walking, readying his identity card and mentally referring to a list of excuses for being out late.
He plucked at his priest's collar; it was useful on these occasions. Even the Germans knew that too many priests in the jails rubbed the locals the wrong way. "Good evening," he said. "Good evening, Father," said one the policeman, an older man who had the look of one who might have retired already.
"You're out late. I'm sure you know when curfew is." Riquet shrugged and looked at his feet, as if grasping for an answer. Being too quick with an alibi was suspicious. "I want to lie, but I shouldn't," he said.
"The truth is, I was meeting a man selling false ration cards." He affected his best pained expression. "I know it's against the law, but so many more people are coming to our church hungry these days.
What am I to do?" It was a good story, as far as it went. Black market food sales were technically a crime, but most flics had stopped bothering to arrest anyone for it. Many were dealers themselves. Still, they were obligated to make a token objection. "Buying from a black market dealer after hours?" said the younger officer. "And you, a priest?" Riquet wrung his hands. "It's a sin. But God gave us a world in which we must sin to survive." The policemen conferred with a glance and the younger one stuck out his hand.
"Turn over the contraband and go straight home." Riquet fished a card out. Some belts would have to be tightened, but better they walk away with these than with the incriminating material hidden in his other pockets. "God bless--" he said, but before he could say anything more a terrified, bloodied man ran up and grabbed him. The stranger burst from a nearby alley like a wild-eyed apparition, his black-and-grey SS uniform soaked with blood. When he saw Riquet he threw his arms around him and tried to hug the priest's body, as if to shelter under it.
"Mir helfn!" he screamed: Help me. Riquet reeled and the policemen stared, dumbfounded. He tried to pry the bloody man loose without shoving him away and his hands were soon smeared with gore." It's all right," Riquet told him.
"You're safe. We will find a doctor and--" Then they heard it: a howl, like that of a dog, but louder and deeper. A huge shape emerged from the alley, something dark and bulky on four legs. It paused at the sight of the men, lowering its head and growling. The German screamed and collapsed. Riquet froze. The young policeman tried to run away but then froze too, huddled in the street with his arms over his head. The older one stood his ground and even had his hand on the butt of his pistol, but he didn't seem able to draw it.
The beast's paws scraped the paving stones. It bent its head toward the unconscious German and the flickering streetlight reflected off its fangs. Its yellow eyes held them all in the grip of a spell. Riquet looked at the fallen German. He could run away and leave the man here.
This was war, after all. But this man has not been shot by Communists or blown up by a package bomb. This thing menacing him was unholy. Even under occupation, Riquet had obligations beyond war, beyond Germany and France. Stepping over the fallen SS man, Riquet held up his rosary and said: "Go away." He meant to shout the words, but all that came out was a whisper.
The beast threw its head back and howled again, a sound that made Riquet feel as if he were shaking to pieces. Lights flashed on in the windows overhead. The beast took two steps forward and seemed about to charge. Without thinking, Riquet reached into a secret pocket and brought out the other crucifix, the special one he'd carried for 20 years, all the while hoping he would never need it again.
Raising it, he said, rather louder: "GO AWAY!" The monster stopped. It lips drew back over its fangs. Confused voices cried out and a brave few stuck their heads from their windows.
Riquet felt a single drop of sweat run down his face. His fingers trembled and he expected death at any moment, but he didn't run. And then… The monster vanished. Once it was out of sight the cold fear that had stopped Riquet's heart disappeared too. Sagging, he put the crucifix away. He had thought, for a moment, that it wouldn't work, that the gigantic wolf would rush him, and then. But it had worked. He was alive. He had stared down the monster.
This time. He almost tripped over the fallen German as he turned around. With regret tinged by ambivalence, he realized there'd been no need to protect the man after all: he was already dead. It almost seemed like he'd been struck down by the beat's howl. Maybe he had been. Riquet rolled the corpse over and flinched, both because of the awful expression on the dead man's face and also because he recognized him: Max Heiliger, the banking magnate, until tonight one of the richest and most powerful men in occupied Paris.
His injuries suggested he'd been attacked from behind. "Don't touch him," said a voice. Riquet had forgotten the policemen. The young one had run away, but the older was still there. He had not let go of his gun. Riquet gently moved the man's fingers from the weapon. "You stayed," Riquet said.
"Few people have the courage. You've never seen anything like that before, have you?" The policeman looked at him. "Have you?" "A long time ago. I hoped I never would again." "What was it?" "Something worse than a war. Now, let me leave." The policeman blinked. "You'll have to go tell the Germans about this murder," Riquet said. "I can't be here when they come." "You're a witness." "They'll turn me over to the Gestapo.
I saved your life. So please: Let me go." Riquet didn't plead. He merely asked. After a moment the policeman nodded. "Wait!" he said when Riquet had turned around. He took out a handkerchief and wiped the priest's bloody hands. "There. Now go." Riquet went. When he sat down to pray that night, he found the words wouldn't come. He'd grown used to war, over the years, and he no longer feared for his own life.
But tonight, for the first time, he feared for his soul. Tomorrow would be worse: he'd have to ask for help from the one person he'd hoped never to call on.
It would be a dreadful burden to put on one so young. But those were the times they lived in: The old, the good, and the wise were all gone. Those who were left had to fight on as best they all could. *** June 2: 1,441 days under occupation. At first Bethanie thought it was a policeman at the door, which would have been bad enough. Then she realized that the uniform was not that of the Paris police but instead of the Militia and she almost grabbed the gun out of her laundry basket and shot him right there on the doorstep.
Instead she swallowed her rage and said, as politely as she could, "Good morning. How can I help you?" "Official business. Let me in." She held the door open. The steamy air of the laundry poured out, only a little hotter than the morning outside. The Militia man removed his cap. He was young, full-cheeked, and mustached.
His uniform did not fit him very well. The Militia: Vichy's answer to the Gestapo. The sight of a Frenchman wearing a traitor's uniform made Bethanie sick. And they even had the nerve to call themselves the "Free Guard." Pigs. She set the laundry basket on a counter and commenced sorting its contents. She knew precisely where the gun was, so that she never had to give herself away by looking at it. The Militia man peered around the workroom.
"There are so few people here," he said. "All our men were sent off to work in the German factories." "Happy volunteers in our labor exchange program," the Militia man said. "Now we few girls must work twice as hard to replace the missing men. But at least the Germans all have freshly laundered clothes." She allowed just the right measure of scorn in her tone. As always, she was playing a part: a downtrodden but beaten young woman, someone who resented the status quo but would rebel no more openly than an icy barb or a muttered aside.
It was fine if the Germans and the traitors thought her a malcontent as long as they didn't also think her a saboteur and a spy.
The Militia man said his name was Kerman. He did not bother to give rank or any other identification. He sat on an overturned basket and took a notepad and pencil from his breast pocket. "And you are?" he said. Automatically, Bethanie gave the fake name on her forged ID. Kerman looked at his notepad. "Claire Chevalier? That's strange. It says here that your name is Bethanie Chastel. You're 18 years old, born in Nantess, and your parents were Ernest and Janine Chastel, both deceased.
You have one older brother, Paul Chastel, presently incarcerated. You were raised by your paternal aunt, Sophia Chastel, also now incarcerated.
In the four years since her arrest there has been no official record of you anywhere and no small speculation that you're dead, and now I find you working at this laundry service under an assumed name?" He borrowed a sock from a basket to wipe the sweat off his brow.
"Or am I mistaken?" Bethanie's fingers twitched. She wanted to shoot him more than she wanted to continue breathing. But no; if he was here to arrest her he would have done it already. Plainly he had evidence enough. His game was something else. Blackmail, maybe. If she killed him it would only invite scrutiny from his superiors, who perhaps could not be bought off as easily as he would be.
So, against her every instinct, she let him live again. "I don't know any of those people are." "Is that so?" said Kerman. "On one hand I have your word and on the other the intelligence given by my contacts. Which of those should I find the more compelling?" "Since I don't know who told you these ridiculous things I can't imagine.
But I'm sure they're all wrong." The Militia man looked at her. She looked back. The hiss of steam from the machines punctuated their stares. He knew she was lying. She knew he knew. He could do almost anything he wanted and she had no rights at all. And yet. "It seems I'm in error. I won't bother you again." He flipped his notebook closed and left. He didn't even pause to be shown out, but went himself and shut the door behind. He was gone so quickly that Bethanie had to blink to clear the faint outline of his figure from her vision.
She held her breath, listening for the thud of boots, and the heavy bang of the door being kicked, and the shouts of policemen and maybe also voices in German, but nothing happened.
Betraying nothing, she busied herself with the laundry. The humidity of the workroom disguised her fear sweat. After 40 minutes she decided she'd waited long enough and, taking her basket (and her pistol), she went to the back of the workroom, passed the machines and the presses and the scattered washerwomen, and found the door.
Not a hidden door; not even a locked one. Just a simple door that led down a flight of steps into the cellar. Once on the other side she heard the telltale click of a hammer drawn back in the dark.
"A stranger was here," said a voice. "Are you alone?" "You think I'd lead them here?" "That isn't an answer." "A Militia man was here, but he's gone now. I'm going to talk to Velin." For a second there was no reply and she thought she might be shot anyway, but then the sentry showed himself: a pale young man with precisely pressed clothes. Fabien. She followed him into the cellar. As soon as the lower door opened she heard the tumult of the newsroom, including the roar of the press that churned out stack after stack of newsprint day and night.
The room swarmed with men and women, a hive of activity just beneath street level, the noise muffled by the hillside and the constant racket of the laundry. Lucienne was working the press with her one arm; she'd lost the other in an accident years ago, but she was still the best and the fastest operator they had. Velin was at the typesetter's desk, the corner of the workroom where they not only laid out each page but also forged counterfeit IDs, ration cards, and other necessary papers.
Velin: young, smiling, a pacifist and, unlikely though he was, both their editor in chief and commanding officer. Standing at his elbow in an ink-stained apron was Dulac: middle-aged, dour, and Velin's right hand. Tomas, the big, quiet American, lurked around doing small tasks.
On the desk between them all was a page with a giant headline: "THE TRUTH ABOUT ALSACE." Each page of newsprint, paper, ink, lead, and everything else, was contraband, smuggled into the city at incredible risk or stolen straight from enemy supplies at an even greater one. The masthead was their group's name, the name of the paper, and their battle cry: COMBAT. Velin and Dulac were so deep in their argument about the headline that they paid Bethanie no mind even while she stood two feet away.
Without waiting for them to finish their argument she said, "A man was here, looking for me. He knew my real name. He was with the Militia." Everyone shut up. Velin leaned back a little. Dulac hunched forward. Nearby, Tomas stirred. "But he didn't arrest you?" Dulac said. "You can see that." "Blackmail then?" "Maybe, but he didn't mention it. He seemed just to want me to know he knew." "Did he give you a name?" "A fake." "I got a look at him," Fabien said.
"I think his uniform was fake too." Velin had still not said anything. Dulac looked at him. "What do we do?" "Blackmailing Gustav?" Velin said after a moment. "Gustav" was the only name they knew her by; women agents were often assigned men's names as aliases.
Velin shrugged. "For now we do nothing. If he didn't arrest her and he hasn't brought anyone along to raid the place then he's probably hiding something from his superiors, which could be good for us. But if he disappears they might investigate and we don't know what trail he's left that will lead them here.
So we wait." "Shouldn't we at least send Gustav away? She's been compromised." Dulac said. "He's right," Bethanie said. Velin shook his head. "That will just endanger whatever other circuit we send her to. For now the damage is done, whatever it may be. So let's all get back to work until we know more." Dulac scowled. Velin clapped him on the shoulder. "Nothing has changed: So Gustav might be arrested? So they might raid us at any moment? We assumed these things and a thousand worse ones when we got up this morning.
They're only a little more likely now." And that was it; nobody would question Velin when he made a decision, not even Dulac. This was the world they lived in, and Velin was their only safeguard. It had started with a few hundred printed sheets in one city, and now they had workshops all over France, distributing 250,000 copies a day, printing the truth about the war, the occupation, the Germans, and most of all about Vichy's lies.
They answered to the Special Operations Executive in England, but only Velin could contact them. The fascists obeyed orders because they were too stupid and callous not to, but the men and women in the print shop and the thousands of others all over the occupied countries obeyed orders because they wanted to live.
Alone, they would falter and drown. Of course, they might anyway. Bethanie left the back way and guided her bike into the alley. Only Germans were allowed to drive cars anymore. The metro was out of the question too, since Germans rode for free and the trains were always swarming with soldiers. A bike was the best way. In the basket Bethanie carried her grocery bag. Frenchwomen took grocery bags everywhere these days, as one never knew when a rare opportunity to buy food might present itself.
In Bethanie's case, the bag had a false bottom, in which she hid documents. Her gun was there too. She was rarely without it. Even before the war her aunt had put her in the habit of going armed. "You are a Chastel," her aunt told her, "which means you're never out of danger." She rarely thought about those warnings now, though.
Everyone was in danger these days. Being a Chastel no longer made any difference, or so she told herself. She reviewed her day's appointments. The work was mundane, but vital: passing messages, picking them up, dropping off or retrieving supplies. "Liaisons" these chores were called, small work fit for a girl, but crucial. Information and supplies were their lifeblood. And though she was not ambushing Germans or blowing up railway lines, it was just as dangerous: death or Ravensbruck prison awaited her if caught.
The laundry job was her cover. She worked there a few hours in the morning, did her real job in the afternoon, went home at curfew and ate potatoes cooked for six hours over a heater until they were soft enough to chew, then slept a few hours and did it all again the next day.
This was the way a French girl went to war. It was a hot day, and part of the heat came from too many people. Paris was a city of crowds, and a city of lines: lines to find out if there was food, lines to find out if there was fabric, lines to find out if there was word about a family member in prison. It was a city of fatigue and hunger, of blue-uniformed policemen and green-uniformed Germans and beautiful women and worn-looking old men.
A city of empty, boarded-up shops, and yellow signs warning: "No Jews." A city where bicycles and pedi-cabs and even horses had replaced cars. A city of orders and propaganda, of fascism against Communism, of midnight shootings and daylight bombings and round-ups and executions. It was an old city, but in the face of a long, hot summer it was being born again, though as what no one could say.
Everywhere Bethanie went people were talking about the news, whether it be rumor or Vichy propaganda or even updates from the forbidden BBC: "The Russians are in Crimea," people said. "The Allies are moving on Italy," said others. "The Americans will land in Dover." "No, in Normandy." "General de Gaulle is with them." "No, the British have arrested de Gaulle." The Germans were in retreat. The Allied invasion was imminent. Everyone knew it, and everyone was afraid.
The Germans might destroy the city before surrendering it. And would the Allies impose their own government when they came? Some, like Bethanie, yearned for the coming of General de Gaulle and his Free French Army. But he was a distant savior, one none of them really knew. Rescue from that front seemed like an improbable dream. Paris was burning: The fire spread, person to person, street to street, anger and fear and even a kind of despair.
But not Bethanie. Bethanie was cold. Hot-blooded people, people with bad tempers or who made stupid mistakes, were already in prisons or in their graves. If you wanted to live through this war, you had to be cold. She found the apartment block she wanted and brought her bike in. A bicycle cost as much as a pre-war car now, and she didn't dare leave it outside. She climbed the back stairs, trying her best not to pass too many people but giving a smile to those she did encounter.
Her role today was the fun-loving girl out on the town, the silly doll sneaking off from her parents for some laughs with a girlfriend, occupation or no. When she found the apartment she wanted she knocked once. Her heart beat a little faster when she heard footsteps on the other side. Any door she knocked on could be answered by the police or the Gestapo. Any errand could mean betrayal, arrest, and interrogation.
Any night could end in a cell, with her hands tied and an SS man standing over her with a sharpened length of wire while she sweated through the ropes and-- A tiny, pale girl answered the door.
She was called Hueguette. She spent almost all of her time in this apartment, coding and decoding telegrams. She was probably 15 years old and had not spoken to her family in at least a year; they surely thought she was dead.
Bethanie met many Huegettes these days, lost girls in strange place who spent the war hunched over radios and documents. Did the British know that the top secret information they were trusting to civilian agents behind enemy lines was being handled by teenage runaways? Well, there was no one else to do the job. Bethanie's next stop was the Rotisseri de la Reine Pedauque.
Normally, meeting in cafes and cinemas was forbidden, as they were constantly watched, but this time was different. As she came in a ruddy, rotund man with a blond mustache was waiting for her.
She squealed and ran into his arms. The other patrons looked at her. Another role to play now: a French girl meeting her German lover. But who were any of them to judge? If they had the time and the money to be eating here it meant they were surely traitors themselves.
Bethanie sat down and chattered. She crossed her legs and played with her hair. Her dining partner played his role equally as well. Anyone who looked at them would see a silly girl and a German veteran of the last war, now a wealthy tourist in the great city. That much at least was true: This man, Antoine, had fought in the war and had lived in Germany for a time, but in reality he was a Frenchman, now posing as a German in an incredibly dangerous game.
It was the ultimate cover, but a horrible risk. Antoine had a secret weapon: perched on his collar was a genuine German medal of valor. Twenty years ago he'd saved a German soldier from drowning in a ditch in the middle of a battle.
("I hesitated, of course, but in the end he was human and I was obligated to help him," he said later, a statement Bethanie did not agree with). After the Armistice the Germans sent him the medal as part of their peacetime diplomacy efforts. Now it was the lynchpin in his cover: No German who realized the authenticity of it dared question Antoine. He passed for one of them right under their noses, and he was Bethanie's best contact.
They talked about made-up trivialities. "Mother still refuses to let me wear what I want to the dance hall," she said. "She's such a disappointment." "You should speak nicely about your mother. Good German girls always speak nicely of their mothers." "I'm not a good German girl," she said, lowering her eyelashes.
"Not yet. Maybe someday." He took a bite of meat off his fork. She ate far too much. What was in front of them cost enough to feed 50 starving Parisians. There was so little food in the city that people had taken to raising chickens and rabbits in their apartments and making vegetable gardens of their lawns. Only the Germans, and those traitors who worked closely with them, could afford to eat like this, and knowing that made the wine taste bitter.
The circumstances of Antoine's cover demanded that they eat this food, but she felt it was her duty not too enjoy it too much.
Only in the final minutes, as she prepared to leave, did they arrive at the entire point of meeting: "A very old friend of mine is calling at the hotel today," Antoine said. Bethanie's heart jumped.
That meant an Allied agent would be coming into Paris. "Today" of course meant tomorrow night, and "the hotel" meant the anonymous street corner they had agreed upon the last time they met. Nothing else was certain: Not whether the man would be British, American, or Free French, not what his specialty was, not whether he had a particular mission or was sent in to support their efforts here, and certainly not how he was being smuggled into the heart of the occupied city in the first place.
All Antoine could say was that a man would be coming here, and he was asking her help retrieving him. "I would very much like to meet him sometime," she said, linking arms with Antoine as they strolled out of the cafe. They parted in opposite directions.
Bethanie had one more meeting. The shadows were long by the time she reached the church. Churches always made her nervous, another Chastel trait. She wheeled her bike inside, relieved to find that the place empty except for her contact: the Jesuit, as he was known, a middle-aged priest.
Everyone, it seemed, knew the Jesuit. In the very first days of the occupation he'd made a name for himself smuggling refugees out of country. How he had remained free and alive so many years was anyone's guess. God had blessed him, maybe. When she arrived he was sweeping broken glass off the floor. One of the church windows had shattered. "A bomb," he explained. "Not here. Outside." "Was anyone hurt?" "Not in here." Rather than throw the broken glass away he poured it into a box.
"Every part of the church is holy," he explained. "I couldn't part with a fragment of it any more than I could part with one of my hands." He went to the confessional. Bethanie followed, though it made her more nervous still. Churches were good for meetings because there were multiple exits.
Trapping herself in a tiny box with one door ran contrary to everything that kept a smart agent alive. Besides, it reminded her too much of a coffin. But there was nowhere else so private, and if she couldn't trust the Jesuit of all people then the movement had been doomed from the start.
So she closed herself in and settled on the kneeler (another thing she didn't care for; a Chastel shouldn't kneel to anyone, her aunt always said) and muttered the appropriate words, but before she could say anything more the Jesuit whispered through the screen: "You're in danger." It was an odd thing to say. Of course she was in danger. They all were. That was the whole idea. But the Jesuit's voice communicated a particular sense of urgency. "Why?" she said.
"I know who you are," he said. "I know that your name is Chastel." Bethanie twitched. Twice in one day someone knew her real name! Had the Jesuit, of all people, set her up? Was Kerman waiting with a cadre of police right outside the vestibule?
The urge to reach for her gun welled up again, but she pushed it down, exhaling slowly. "What if it is?" "Your ancestor Jean Chastel killed the werewolf of Gevaudan almost 300 years ago. On his deathbed he swore an oath that his descendants would never rest until all monsters were wiped from the face of the earth." "A family legend." "It's not a legend.
Your aunt showed you that it's true." Bethanie turned her head. "Did you know my aunt?" Then she bit her tongue. "No, don't tell me that. Just tell me why this is important now." "There is a werewolf in Paris." The back of Bethanie's neck prickled. "You're sure?" "I saw it with my own eyes. It killed Max Heiliger. I drove it off with wolfsbane hidden in a crucifix." Bethanie sat back in the vestibule, ordering her thoughts.
She felt that her entire life up until now she'd been sealed inside an egg and now, without warning, it had broken open. "So you want me to kill it?" "No," said the Jesuit, "I want you to run away." Bethanie scoffed.
"What about my family Oath?" "The Oath is the reason you have to leave. You're the last Chastel. If you die, that will be the end. Your responsibility it to preserve the bloodline." Bethanie wanted to reach through the partition and grab the priest.
"You want me to run off and have babies rather than fight?" "Yes." Bethanie laughed. "You don't know how dangerous a thing this is," said the Jesuit. "All the more reason to kill it." "And what if it's one of our own?" Bethanie paused. "It killed Heiliger," the Jesuit said. "Perhaps that was a coincidence, but perhaps not. It could be one of your own compatriots." "It could even be you." "Now you're using your head," said the Jesuit. "Could you kill me, if you had to?" "I could kill anyone if I had to." The Jesuit sounded sad.
"This isn't the life you should have. I can help get you out of France. The best thing for all of us is for you to forget the war and just live." When Bethanie said nothing the priest sighed. "I didn't think you'd listen to reason. Still, I had a responsibility to try. Here." She heard a rustle as a bulky enveloped passed through the gap.
When she opened it, six bullets tumbled into her palm. "Made from silver smelted from holy icon of Saint Columba of Rieti," the Jesuit said. "They should be quite effective." "Yes, but." "What is it?" "These are the wrong kind: My Beretta takes .35s. These are too big. Do you know how hard it is to find another gun in Paris these days, how much it costs?" There was a pause. Bethanie realized, gradually, that the priest was embarrassed.
"I didn't think. The man who made them, I just told him to.I can't get more. Even getting those meant--" "Never mind," Bethanie side. She put the bullets back into the envelope and slid it into her bag. "How will I know when I've found the person I'm looking for?" "Only God knows that. Although if I were you, I'd worry that he'll find you first." The partition slid shut. Bethanie tasted something metallic at the back of her throat.
She swallowed it. The sun was disappearing when she left. The meeting had taken longer than it should have. She peddled like mad, but there was no point; she would never make it back to her flat before dark. Curfew violations were serious these days.
In the old days you could trust a sympathetic policeman to let you off with a warning (especially if you pretended to cry, or if you were pretty, or if they mistook you for a German because you were blonde), but these days the traitors were getting eager to lock anyone up for any reason just to prove to the Germans how hard they were working for them. Bethanie turned down a different alley. She couldn't make it home, but she could just barely make it to the laundry.
There was always someone sleeping in the shop. Some even lived there for weeks at a time. On the way, she thought about what the Jesuit had told her. She'd always known about the Oath and the Beast of Gevaudan. Every generation of Chastels had their own chapter in the family's never-ending crusade against the devil's wolves.
Even Bethanie's old aunt had lived up to the Oath when her time came. But Bethanie had never thought her time would really come. This war was her whole life. She didn't have room for another.
The laundry was dark, though she suspected that, down in the cellar, Velin would still be working. He never seemed to sleep, but he never seemed to tire either, or at least did not show it, for the sake of morale. Lucienne might be there too, cleaning the press with her one good arm.
She wondered about those two sometimes. They spent too much time together. Those sorts of attachments endangered everyone. Bethanie was careful to make no friends in the circuit. Because she was the youngest the others tried to look after her, and Lucienne in particular seemed to want to act a mother, but Bethanie never allowed it.
A good agent should have compatriots, but not friends. Good agents loved their circuit, but not their circuit members. Good agents were willing to lay down their lives for each other, but were just as willing to let each other die for the good of the mission. The more you knew about each other, the more you could be made to give up under torture. In the hands of the enemy, a friend was a weapon. She thought about this as she kicked together a bed of cleaned clothes.
She dumped her boots and slung her jacket over the back of a chair, but other than that she slept fully dressed, as was her custom. In the old days, being too obviously unwashed made you stand out, but now all but the richest Parisians looked as ragged as Bethanie. She liked it better this way. Soft living made soft people. She wanted to be hard as well as cold.
Her new enemy would be cold and hard too, she knew. That was their way: hunters and hiders, in equal turns. The priest said the wolf killed Max Heiliger. She was a fan of its work already. Maybe, with any luck, it would kill a few more Germans before she had to kill it.
Maybe-- Someone struck a match. Bethanie jumped up and grabbed the man in the dark corner, digging her bare feet against the floor in hopes of finding enough traction to throw him. She was small, but she'd been taught to fight since she was old enough to stand.
She could overpower a larger man if she took him by surprise. But in the flickering light of the match she saw that the man was Fabien. He waited for Bethanie to let him go, and then touched the flame to his stub of cigar. "You startled me," she said. "You weren't paying enough attention." "You could have just said something." "What if I'd been the Militia?
Would they say something or just shoot?" Bethanie was annoyed, but pride was for hot-blooded people, just another way to get killed, so she quenched it. "You're right," she said, and sat back down. Fabien sat down too, his back to the adjoining wall. He passed her the cigar and she accepted it.
She felt foolish for not realizing he would be here. Fabien had arrived in Paris only a few weeks before and he had nowhere else to go. They'd been baffled to find him hiding in the back of a truck full of stolen paper.
When he identified himself as "Colonel" Fabien of the FTP they were even more puzzled. Everyone knew who he was, of course, but he was supposed to be dead, and he would not account for why he wasn't or why he'd stowed away in the truck or what his mission in Paris might be. Tomas thought he was a spy and almost shot him on the spot, but one of the lifters had met him before and identified him.
After that he'd simply hung around, filling vaguely defined security roles. He'd hinted that he could not rejoin his previous circuit, but wouldn't elaborate on why. The political gamesmanship of the Communist factions was known, so no one pressed the question too hard. Now Bethanie watched him, trying to recall everything she knew about the man.
He was almost a myth, like the wolves. She gave his cigar back, and then pulled her gun out. Fabien's eyes widened only a tiny degree. She handed it to him. "I need you to get me another one. Something that will take .44s." "What do you need it for?" "I don't ask your business." Fabien shrugged and accepted the weapon. "Women don't usually carry guns." "I don't care about what's usual." "Is this normal for Gaullist women?" His tone was meant to provoke her.
Maybe he wanted to test her temper more. "You're a Gaullist, aren't you? A follower of the great general?" He saluted. "Easy enough for the general to be a war hero off in exile and leave us to do the real fighting." "I suppose Comrade Stalin is down in the trenches himself? And where was Stalin when the Germans came?
A friend who comes too late is as bad as an enemy.
De Gaulle was with us from the beginning. What have the Communists ever done for us?" "Killed Germans," said Fabien. Bethanie grunted. Again, he was right: No one was more ruthless with guerilla attacks than the Communists.
She was a great admirer of their work. "Three years ago you shot one of them on a metro platform," Bethanie said. "Everyone knows about it. Was he your first?" "Why so interested?" "I haven't killed anyone.
I want to know what the first one is like." "The Germans killed your family, didn't they?" "They killed my aunt." And probably her brother too, but she wasn't about to tell him that. "And your parents?" "A wolf killed my parents." "A wolf?" Bethanie saw his eyebrows rise just a little. She bit her tongue. She hadn't meant to say that. A terrible certainty seized her then: It's him, she thought, he's the wolf.
Now he knows who I am, and I don't have anything to fight him with, since I gave him my gun and the holy silver bullets wouldn't have worked in it anyway. Any second now he's going to kill me. But it didn't happen. Fabien just said, "A wolf," again and sat back. Bethanie realized her heart was clamoring. For a second she'd been absolutely sure that this was the end, and it had terrified her. She felt ashamed of the fear. She'd thought about dying many times and always assumed she would show the necessary resolve when the time came.
But this had been different: The idea of the wolf's teeth sinking into her flesh and then dying the way her parents and grandparents had was too much. A gun barrel in the back of the head; the coarse necklace of a noose around the throat; even the burning white glare of an exploding bomb, these things she'd thought about in idle moments since she was 13.
But the jaws of the wolf were something she wasn't prepared for. It wouldn't be a good death. The faint rustle of Fabien turning to go to sleep snapped her out of it. She looked at the outline of his face in the bare illumination, coming to a kind of decision. Standing, she stripped off her blouse and removed her skirt.
She sat on Fabien's lap, rousing him with a start, and plucked at his trousers. "Take these off," these said. Fabien blinked. "How old are you?" "Don't ask questions about me." "It's a thing a man likes to know." "This isn't my first time. Is that good enough?" Truth be known, he wasn't much older than she was, although being a man he assumed a greater degree of authority than he had. He shifted a little beneath her so as shimmy his pants down.
He tried to pull her in for a kiss but she pushed his hand away, and he contemplated this for a moment. "Why do you want this?" he said. Questions were annoying. "If a German came in and put a gun to my head and told you to surrender, what would you do?" "I would try to kill him." "Even if it meant he would kill me?" "There are worse ways to die." "Trousers off.
Now." It wasn't a long engagement; both were too exhausted. It wasn't a tender thing either; they were the wrong sort of people. He put his back to the wall and she sat on her knees over him, pushing down and flinching as he went in.
As she'd said, it was not her first time, but it wasn't a frequent enough occasion for her to yet be used to the feeling either. She didn't let it bother her. She moved her hips in a circle, letting the hard length push against her insides until a kind of pleasant hum traveled to the base of her tailbone and lit up her nerves.
She did it a few more times and even let her eyes close, but then snapped them back open, reminding herself that they would have to be fast about this. This was a risk; it distracted them both, made it harder for either to react to whatever else happened in the room, and made noise that could give them away. It was also something that would deflate the fear and anxiety that had been hovering over her all night, so she wanted to do it and have it done as fast as she could.
With that in mind, she held Fabien against the wall and pushed onto him deeper and harder. She held her breath as long as she could (almost until she was dizzy) to avoid telltale noises and when she let it out she made it a long whisper, like the hiss of the machines when they were turned on.
There were machines all around them, including the press downstairs, pumping along day in and day out until the job was done. Bethanie wanted to be like them; a machine might heat up if you worked it long enough, but it was always cold underneath.
They didn't kiss, but she did let him put his hands on her body--almost forced him to, in fact. She never touched anyone except Antoine, and that wasn't really a touch at all, just part of her cover. She realized now it created a kind of suspense that was distracting, so it was time to get rid of it. She put Fabien's hard hands into her blouse and let him knead her small breasts, then directed them higher to trace wrap themselves around her bouncing curls.
It even hurt a little when he pulled, but pain had its uses too. Pain kept her in the present. Sweat dappled her body, and she liked the feeling; hot at first, but cool when a few seconds passed. Fabien seemed to be uncomfortable, so she pulled him away from the wall and pushed him all the way down, straddling and hunching over him, working back and forth and waiting for the hot, sharp feeling between their bodies to spike.
Not long now. She actually put her hand over his mouth to muffle his reflexive grunt when the moment came. A hot, quivering sensation flushed her insides and she felt his body coil up like a spring and then relax. She bit her lip and counted silently: one, two, three, and then climbed off of him.
She counted again until her heart rate and breathing returned to normal. Then she held a hand out: it was steady. She nodded. She had not herself had time to finish, but that was all right. The exertion had cleared her head sufficiently. She cleaned up, and Fabien did too.
They slept clothed and back to back, not really touching (she had no desire to) but not entirely separating either (the floor was cold, and body heat relieved it a bit). Fabien nodded off right away, but Bethanie took a long time to sleep. Her mind would not slow down. She knew, rationally, that the strange noises she seemed to hear from outside were only a product of her mind and that even had they been real she wouldn't be able to hear them from here.
But they didn't go away. *** June 3: 1,142 days under occupation. Normally, six people lived in this apartment, situated above an operational sawmill, but none of them were home now.
The ruckus from down below was good cover for people coming in and out and sometimes the family here agreed to hide someone for a few days. Today that noise would cover up something else. The man was tied to a chair in the kitchen. He was a pudgy, sweating mess of an Englishman. He had mustache, which Bethanie found amusing. Men with beards were assumed to be trying to disguise themselves, so a mustache was considered less obtrusive, but in his case it didn't suit him.
She didn't really know who he was; only that he was apparently a traitor, and they'd been asked to deal with him. That was Tomas' job; Fabien was here too, mainly to give him something to do, and Bethanie was here to do the one thing neither of them could. When the knots were secure, Tomas turned on the stove, grabbed a pan from the sideboard, and took a packet of sewing needles from his coat pocket. He dropped the needles into the pan and watched the acrid smoke curl up as they heated, then pulled a chair in front of the prisoner.
"I've been questioned by your friends in the Gestapo," Tomas said. "I'd like to show you what I learned from them. When I'm done, you'll tell us what you learned from them. Sound fair?" The man in the chair sweated. "You should step outside," Tomas said, his comment encompassing both Bethanie and Fabien. Fabien looked like he was about to say something, so Bethanie pushed him out of the kitchen. They went to the tiny bedroom in back and shut the door.
She sat by a window with the curtains tacked shut. Fabien lurked around the door and Bethanie soon realized he was straining to listen. In a few moments he was rewarded: There were, distinctly, muffled sobs coming from the kitchen. "You should let him work," Bethanie said. Fabien looked at her. "Why did Velin send you?" "To make sure Tomas did not torture the man while questioning him." "So why aren't you stopping him?" "I don't want to.
And there's no stopping Tomas when he decides to do something. What do you care what happens to some traitor anyway?" "I care about orders." "Tomas follows the orders that ought to be followed. Besides, it wouldn't be safe to step in." "Why not?" There was a challenge in his tone, but Bethanie was not sure whether it was meant for Tomas or for her. She considered what she knew about Tomas before answering: He was an American, but had been raised in France by his French mother until he was 10.
He spoke the language perfectly, knew several French towns and cities intimately, and was comfortable with the customs and culture of the country, and so was considered an ideal infiltrating agent. The only other things she knew was that he was a homosexual, and that he had probably killed more people than anyone else she'd ever met.
Three weeks after he parachuted into the country, a young German approached Tomas in a cafe. He behaved very strangely and at first Tomas thought he was about to be arrested, but gradually he recognized the signals the German was dropping.
The two became lovers. It was even more dangerous for both of them than they realized: The German never knew that Tomas was an American spy, and Tomas didn't realize that the German was with the Gestapo. Not until Dulac recognized the German, that is, and told him. That night, he and the German met at Tomas' apartment. They spent the night together, like always. Then, once the German was asleep, Tomas reached into the space between the bed frame and the wall.
Where he had hidden an icepick. Bethanie told Fabien all of this, the same way Velin had told her. "He told me so that I would know to be careful around Tomas. Now I've told the story to you. Do you feel careful?" From the kitchen came a sound like a man gargling. Fabien didn't look impressed; he didn't flinch or grow pale or react at all.
But he did step away from the door. It was almost two hours until Tomas was done. When the door opened he nodded at Bethanie. "Come now." Bethanie followed to the kitchen.
The Englishman didn't look hurt, but he did look exhausted, as if he had been awake for a week just since the last time she'd seen him. His pants, shirt, and even the ropes dripped with sweat. Bethanie dribbled a rag under the sink and wet his lips so he could speak. Then she stroked his cheek with her fingertips. He flinched at first, but she went on comforting him in this way until he became used to it. In English, she said: "Do you want to talk now?" The Englishman hung his head, but nodded.
"You can talk to me. We'll send the others away." With a gesture she dismissed Tomas and Fabien. Alone with the traitor, she brought him a drink of water and tipped it into his open mouth slowly, so that he didn't choke, then wiped the sweat from his face and neck.
"I'm going to loosen these ropes. You still won't be able to stand up or move your arms, so don't try, but it'll hurt less." "Thank you," said the Englishman. Bethanie talked as she worked with the knots. "Where are you from?" she said. "Northampton." "You've been in the country a long time." "I was one of the first men SOE sent in." "And you haven't been caught in all that time.
It's remarkable. .except it's not, is it? The reason the Germans never caught you is because you've been working for them. We know that already." The traitor said nothing. Bethanie sat on the floor and looked him in the eye. She assumed the most sweet and unassuming demeanor she could, as if she were talking to an infant. "Do you have a family?" she said. "I'm not married." "Parents?" "My mother is still alive. She's very old." "My parents are dead.
I was raised by my aunt, but she's dead too. They sent her to Ravensbruck after someone informed on our circuit. I was the only one who got away: I was younger then and small enough to hide in a box when the Gestapo men came.
Do you have family in London?" He didn't answer. "I was just thinking about the bombings. What if the Germans dropped a bomb right on your mother? It's not as if they mark the homes of triple-agents on the Luftwaffe map's with a message saying, 'Don't go here.'" "What's your point?" "It's funny that it's just as possible that the Germans might kill your family as mine." She scooted a little closer.
"Is family the reason you're working for them? Do they have someone you know in a camp somewhere? My brother is in a prison camp. We don't know if he's still alive, which almost certainly means he's dead." "I don't know any prisoners." "Was it money then?" "No," said the Englishman.
He picked his head up for the first time. "I did what I thought was best. SOE didn't know that I was a member of the British Union.
We believed in Hitler, and we hated Stalin. I got my orders to infiltrate Special Operations, and I carried them out. That's all." So that was it: He was just a fascist. The answer was ugly in its simplicity. At least she knew what to do about that. Fascists were all the same, whether they be German, French, or even British.
The cure was quick and permanent. She told Tomas what she'd learned. He nodded. "I thought as much," he said. "But we had to know for sure." "You're sure he's telling the truth?" said Fabien. "I'm sure that I believe him," said Bethanie. "You'll take care of this?" Tomas nodded again. "I'll go report." She took pains not to let the mill workers see her leave.
The foreman worked for Velin, but there were probably informers in the work crew, particularly since they had all apparently escaped being sent to the German factories.
Bethanie biked by a newsvendor. It happened again the previous night: Two more Germans dead, and news of Heiliger's murder had leaked as well. The official papers didn't carry it, of course, but people found out anyway. The manner of the killings left little doubt that they were committed by the same culprit but, oddly, no circuit had claimed responsibility yet.
When she arrived at the laundry, Velin was beside himself. "If the sidewalks keep filling up with dead SS men even the Vichy papers will have no choice but to talk about it." Lucienne tossed the ink-stained rag at her feet.
"I've never seen you happy about people dying before," she said. "Not even Germans." Velin's smile flickered. "I'm not happy when anyone dies. Not even Germans." Bethanie made an impolite noise. Velin ignored it. "But this is a story for people to talk about.
If all of Paris goes around talking about the Wolf then they won't be talking about the Germans, or the occupation, or the shortages, or whatever Vichy is telling them about the war. They won't be afraid. We need this. We need them to feel like we're winning." Lucienne didn't look convinced, but she patted his arm with her one hand before going back to work.
An olive branch. Velin smiled after her. Bethanie felt a little twinge. They were close, weren't they? Dulac saw her watching and nudged her with an elbow. "Velin is a handsome man." "How should I know?" "You have eyes." "My eyes are for watching enemies." "You're watching Velin now." Bethanie was annoyed, but when Velin passed she gave him a courtesy glance: She supposed he wasn't unhandsome.
Men and women followed his orders. And she knew he was brave. Velin was a pacifist, but he carried a gun anyway. He'd been arrested three times and the last time he'd been tortured.
After that he got the gun, swearing the Germans would never take him in alive again.
Bethanie admired Velin. But she also admired the printing press, and her Beretta. They were all good in a fight. But that was all. Fabien was a handsome man too. And he was also a good weapon. And unlike Velin, he wouldn't get softhearted about her. Maybe, if times were different, other things would be different too. But Bethanie had work to do. She reported to Velin about the traitor. She omitted the parts he was better off not knowing.
Then she went to her tiny cubby of an apartment. She didn't come here often and would have preferred to have no residence at all if she could have managed. Outside, Paris was blue twilight and grey shadows, studded with winking yellow lights. Antoine's man was coming into the city. Liaison after dark was particularly dangerous, but not as dangerous as leaving an Allied agent alone in the middle of the city, so she didn't have much choice but to go.
She dressed for a night out: a light sweater, a short, pleated skirt, striped stockings and flat shoes, like the cafe girls all wore, very zazou, perfect for a teenager sneaking out after curfew. She went out on foot so that the noise of her bicycle wouldn't advertise her coming, though it meant it would take over an hour to get there and escort the agent to his safe house. It was an insane risk, but someone had to do it.
If she were arrested or killed, well, it had been bound to happen. And if the werewolf found her.she hugged her sweater tight around her, so she could pretend that her chill was from the night air, even though it was, in fact, a warm evening at the start of a warm summer.
She thought about the death notices the Germans posted, the familiar red flyers with black borders and the names of the condemned in black, along with the litany of charges: "Shot for sabotage." "Shot for spying." "Shot for participation in anti-German demonstrations." "Three Communists guillotined." "Reward of a million francs to whoever denounces the perpetrators of the following attack." The gun, the noose, the guillotine.
She thought, let it be one of these that kills me. Not the wolf. The night brought her a nasty shock: at the meeting place she found not one man but three, one American, one Englishman, and one Frenchman. They explained to her that they were a "Jed Team" initiating "Operation Sussex." The words meant nothing to her. They wanted to be taken to her superior officer but she explained (as politely as possible under the circumstances) that if all four of them went wandering around much longer they'd be reporting to no one but the police.
It was luck that the safe house was near and luck that it had room for more and luck that the two extra men were not assumed to be spies and murdered on the spot. But Bethanie had trouble imagining luck would last her for the next big risk: getting to safety herself. It was another dark night. She kept to the alleys. Bethanie was just barely remembered when these streets and cafes and cabarets would have been full of people at this time, but those memories were another world now, leaving dark windows, empty sidewalks, and suspicion behind.
The sound of an engine at the mouth of the first alley warned her to stay back. Lights washed the walls a dingy yellow. Another six inches and she'd have been seen. This is never going to work, she told herself. But there was nothing else to do. Something stirred in the alley behind her. She turned around too fast but found nothing there except darkness and some debris in the wind. Then, another sound, like the first, but closer. She backed away. She could see nothing.but that didn't mean nothing was there.
She forced herself to stay calm. Panic was for dead men. She considered her options: Whatever it was, it was behind her, so the only thing to do was keep running. Keep running and don't think about what it might be until it showed itself. But she turned and walked straight into the pair of uniforms.
She gasped and backed up, then looked down as if embarrassed. "Pardon me," she said. "I was--" "It's past curfew. Show us your papers." She couldn't see either of their faces under their caps. They were blank shadows in the night. "Of course." Bethanie handed over her card. The German took it without looking at it. "I was just getting back from--" "You'll have to come with us." Bethanie widened her eyes and let her voice tremble. "I was only--" A gloved hand wrapped around her forearm.
Bethanie lost her balance, landing at the German's feet. Do I run, she thought? If I do they may shoot me in the back. But if she let them take her in.the memory of Tomas heating needles on the kitchen range firmed her resolve. If the German tried to help her up, she'd knock him down and run. She was strong enough for that, and he wouldn't be expecting it. If he didn't try to help she'd run anyway, though they'd more than likely catch her as she tried to muscle past. She tensed.
It was all over in a second. The German didn't see it coming, only felt, for an instant, hot breath on this neck, and then the leaping beast's jaws closed on his throat and, in the blink of an eye, he was gone. He didn't even get to scream. His partner barely had time to register that anything had happened before the huge black shape returned, and then he was gone too.
Bethanie saw the second German carried off of his feet, glimpsed the outline of a giant, shaggy creature of some kind, and heard the first impression of a scream before a wet sound cut it off, and then nothing was there at all.
She blinked, staring at the empty pavement. There were three drops of blood, but only three. She backed into the wall. Breathe, she told herself. She sucked in air and held it as a precaution against panic. Though she could see only a little blood in the alley the smell of more--much more--tingled in her nostrils. A spike of adrenaline shot through her, forcing her stubborn legs to move.
Which way did it go? Which direction would it come from next? She heard the same noise she'd heard before and knew it for what it was: the footstep of a huge, padded paw. It was out there, and it wanted her to know it was out there. She imagined its enormous nostrils filling with the scent of her fear sweat.
Fear made the flesh more savory. She ran. She no longer knew where she was or what direction she was going in. She had only one destination: away. Was it following her? She didn't look.
But when she realized the alley she was in was a dead end her feet skidded. She was about to turn around, certain that slavering jaws were waiting for her, but the sound of a door opening drew her attention.
Dingy yellow light silhouetted a man in a cheap suit, who tossed some trash into the alley and followed it up by flicking away a cigarette. Before he could close the door Bethanie screamed, "Wait!" and so surprised was he that he froze long enough for her to throw herself through the door.
She fell onto a thick carpet in a dimly lit room. She heard music and laughter from somewhere, but this anteroom was empty. The man in the suit stared, dumbfounded, as she stood up, ran to the door, shut it and bolted it, then slumped over. Without thinking, she grabbed the handkerchief from the doorman's pocket and wiped her forehead and neck.
She expected to hear something big and heavy trying to break the door down, but nothing happened. Maybe it didn't follow me, she thought. Maybe it didn't want to run out into the open. Maybe I'm safe. She tucked the doorman's handkerchief back into his breast pocket and became fully conscious of his presence for the first time.
He was still staring, of course, and Bethanie almost laughed, but stopped herself because she suspected that if she started laughing now she might not ever be able to stop. Taking a moment to straighten her clothes, she said: "Excuse me. I don't blame you if you think I'm some kind of madwoman, but I can explain everything. The truth is--" The excuse only got halfway out. She couldn't believe it; it was too impossible. But there, right in front of her, was Kerman, the Militia man from the previous day.
He had apparently traded in that uniform for a doorman's, and either he had shaved or his mustache had been a fake, but it was unquestionably the same man. He looked as surprised as she did. "What in the hell are you doing here?" he said. Before Bethanie could answer there was a peculiar knock. Kerman swore and pushed her behind the red curtain. She tried to object but he said, "They'll kill you if they find you here, so do what I say and don't ask questions." And then he left her blinking in the dim little room.
She was in some sort of boudoir, surrounded by eveningwear so garish that it might more properly be called costumery. Then she heard the heavy outside door open and Kerman say in German, "Thank you for coming.
Just one moment." He stuck his head in and made a series of furious gestures. The message was clear: play along. Bethanie, in turn, indicated that she would just hide in here, but he shook his head and assumed an expression that seemed so genuinely panicked that she immediately discarded the plan.
"Is there a problem?" said a voice in the entryway, and Kerman stuck his head back out. "A slight delay. Your usual girl is.not in tonight." "You should have called ahead." "We phoned your hotel, but you'd already left. We have a new girl instead. We think you'll like her." A pause. "Let me see her and then I'll decide." As soon as I see the opportunity, I'll run, Bethanie told herself. As soon as I can, I'll run. She stepped out. Kerman looked relieved. A man in a grey-green dress uniform waited for her.
She did her best curtsy, keeping her eyes down. "Good evening, sir," she said. The officer circled her, inspecting front and back. A listless blond woman with too much jewelry sat nearby, apparently having arrived with the German man. He took Bethanie's hand in his black-gloved fingers and kissed it. "I'm very charmed to meet you. Miss.?" Bethanie hesitated. Kerman blurted out: "Kitty!" Bethanie could have slapped him. "Yes, Kitty," she said. "Still very pleased to meet you. Mister.?" "Not 'mister,'" the German said.
He pointed to the red and gold patches at his throat. "General." *** Bethanie's general, Von Choltitz, was a peculiar specimen: short and stocky, with an oily complexion. Bethanie couldn't decide whether the monocle he wore was practical or an affectation. The blond woman seemed to be his mistress, and it was Bethanie's job for the evening to entertain them both, though the woman seemed barely cognizant of anything around her. Kerman took them through the other curtain, where Bethanie found that despite the building's ramshackle exterior there was a fantastic boutique, complete with crystal chandeliers and waiters in crisp tuxedos.
Germans (red-faced from too much drink) and coiffed, perfumed women (red-faced only from an excess of rouge) sat down to meals of appalling lavishness. She was presented with half a roasted pheasant garnished with tiny, whole onions and cream sauce. Looking around at the rows of plates conveying meals of equal lavishness, her blood boiled.
She wanted to smash every plate against the walls. Instead she picked up the bird with both hands and began cramming it into her mouth. "Grow fat on the food of your enemy," her aunt had taught her, though Bethanie suspected she was probably not speaking quite this literally. Von Choltitz watched her with his good eye; it made her skin crawl. He ate in bites so small she wondered whether it was even necessary to chew.
Once, when he set his knife closer to her plate than to his, she touched on the idea of driving it right into the center of that eye. She pictured a fountain of blood staining the pretty white table settings and ruining all this stolen food. Her fingers twitched. They'd kill her immediately, of course, but her life for a general's was a good bargain.
But the memory of the monstrous shape in the alley reminded her that she couldn't afford to throw her life away before her other duties were discharged. Still, it was galling watching this pig chew his meat and knowing that, by rights, he should be dead by her hand already.
So close. They weren't alone at the table. On the other side a man with no uniform kept company with two perfumed creatures. They gave her a sideways look and in return she gave them a wide grin and perfectly placed eyebrows, a look which translated, in any language, to "Get me killed and I'll make sure you regret it." They apparently decided they had enough problems between the two of them and returned to fawning over their faceless customer.
He and Von Choltitz were deep into an argument about matters of state, though the general seemed to believe that discretion was the better part of valor in such confrontations, as he said only one word to the stranger's ten. "All I mean to say is that we out here in the field have no notion of what's really happening," the man said.
"We're like ants in a thunderstorm: we contend with the drops that hit but have no notion of the size of the maelstrom." "You don't, maybe," said Von Choltitz. "That's the mistake of men with rank: You assume you're too important not to know what's happening.
But you have commanders of your own, and what commander ever told his subordinate everything in a war?" "Dietrich knows more than you think," the blond woman said.
It was the first Bethanie had heard her speak, and it was apparent right away that she was drunk and probably had been for some time. "Not long ago he met with the Fuhrer himself. Two entire days--" "Halt die klappe!" Von Choltitz said, so loudly and so forcefully that a man at a neighboring table dropped his fork. The blond woman blanched and buried her face in her wine glass.
Von Choltitz sat up straighter (something Bethanie wouldn't have thought possible) and said: "She speaks out of turn. Obviously if I had met with anyone I couldn't speak of it." "But you have met him before," the stranger said. "Once," Von Choltitz conceded.
"A long ago. I even met with him in the.I'm sorry, the words escape me. My dear, what would you call the 'Wolfsschanze?'" Bethanie realized the question was directed at her. She wiped her mouth and blurted out the translation before she realized what she was saying: "Wolf's Den." "That's it," said Von Choltitz.
"The Wolf's Den. That's what they called the eastern command in those days." The back of Bethanie's neck prickled.
"From the looks of you, you'd have been scarcely more than a child then. Tell me, have you always lived in Paris?" Behind his monocle the general was inspecting her like she was the last cut of meat at a market. She reminded herself that she was supposed to be playing a cover here--another perfumed pet here to entertain important men like Von Choltitz during their layover. She opened her mouth to produce a sufficiently cheerful and meaningless response--and at the last second changed her mind.
"Would you know the difference if I hadn't?" The other women stared. The general didn't flinch. "You must remember the day the occupation began. I often wonder what people feel under such circumstances." "Boredom," Bethanie said and, with one quick stabbing motion forked an entire half bird off the plate of the woman sitting nearest her (who was not eating anyway).
She sawed through it while keeping eye contact with Von Choltitz. "There was nothing to do all day, with everything closed and everyone frightened. I couldn't wait for things to just go back to normal. Isn't that what everyone was thinking?" She looked at the other women around the table and each of them looked away, one even having the grain of decency necessary to blush.
Bethanie ate her way through the rest of her plate with glacial calm. She knew the risks she was taking, but getting out of this place alive hinged on making sure Von Choltitz considered her not with his head but with his cock. If she had him pegged right, the scrutiny he was giving her right now was lustful rather than suspicious. And if not… "I believe there is a ballroom somewhere here," he said. "Do you dance?" "Not with the lights on." The general eyed her for a second longer and then, wiping his mouth on an embroidered napkin, he stood.
"You'll have to excuse us. All of us." The blond woman stood up too fast, almost knocking her glass over. Bethanie allowed herself to be led away by the arm. Your only job is to live through this, she thought. Upstairs, a darkened boudoir.
Bethanie found it claustrophobic and for a horrifying second she imagined it as like the tiny cells where the SS take you for questioning.
The thought of Von Choltitz touching her seemed only a marginally less grim a fate. Whether she let something of her revulsion slip or whether Von Choltitz was simply more self-aware than she'd have given him credit for, he seemed to anticipate this. "You have nothing to be afraid of," he said. "I wouldn't dream of forcing myself on you." Bethanie gave him the most sincere smile she had. "You wouldn't be." "I don't have any business with women. It's not in my nature. Putting my rude hands on you would be.criminal." He cleaned his monocle with a handkerchief.
"But I do like to watch." The mistress was slipping out of her sable furs and unzipping the back of her evening dress. The general fixed Bethanie with an inquiring look. "You can do that, can't you?" Bethanie marched across the room, cupped the blond woman's face in her hand, and kissed her right on her too-red lips. Then she looked back at the general.
"Of course." Von Choltitz settled into a chair in a dark corner, like some immense toad on a log. Bethanie and the blond woman regarded each other from opposite sides of the bed and Bethanie recognized the look the woman gave her, because it was the same one she herself had down not too long ago, the "Just don't get me killed and I don't give a damn what else you do" look.
Bethanie helped her out of her dress, reminding herself that she was putting on a show here and not doing the laundry.
She tugged the dress down slowly, letting the expensive material glide over the woman's body before dropping like a puddle onto the floor. She was a curvaceous woman, with bounty in places where Bethanie had comparable economy. This was hardly the first time Bethanie had ever seen another woman's body, but it was the first time she'd had occasion to examine it so thoroughly. Mindful of her audience, she spent a long time looking, and when the other woman appeared to grow uncomfortable Bethanie found that she liked it.
It was good to know that this preening, pampered woman was vulnerable in such a simple way. They landed on the bed in a heady cloud of the blond woman's perfume.
At first Bethanie found herself helpless as to how to start such a thing, but her counterpart seemed better versed. They fell into open-mouthed kisses and aggressive, grabby stroking and touching of both Bethanie's petite frame and the blond woman's ample one. When the blond woman presented her breasts a tangible sense of anticipation rose from the corner. She kissed them one by one and then returned to each to suck the swollen, too-large nipples. There came a grunt of pleasure from dark.
Still not letting herself think about what was happening, Bethanie pushed Von Choltitz's mistress onto her back and let their naked bodies twine around each other before her lips returned to their previous perch.
The woman mewled like a kitten. Bethanie thought the display too exuberant. But staying alive compelled such things sometimes. The little bedroom hemmed them all in. The mattress was thick and the sheets cool, but it was luxury stretched thin for troubled times, and the principle applied to Von Choltitz's mistress as well: beautiful, yes, and submissive, with a body ripe and full as the succulent birds being served below in the dining room and equally as easy for a man like the general to pick clean when his appetite demanded it.
But the makeup, the perfume, the glossy garments, all seemed calculated to cover an underlying weakness. Here was a woman who could not afford to not make the most of every extra trick.
These odd thoughts fluttered through Bethanie's head as she kissed and fondled her way down the woman's body, eventually reaching the place where her soft thighs met.
The blond woman's mouth froze in an O and an icy gasp floated in the air when Bethanie made contact. She touched with parted lips and then with the tip of her tongue, making small, experimental nudges, testing the feeling and the taste. She had no idea what she was doing, but since the point was just to look good she pressed her open mouth to it in a manner she hoped expressed abject desire.
The blond woman writhed and thrust her hands into Bethanie's curls while making small tortured noises. Bethanie closed her eyes and let the insistent bucking of the women's hips control her rhythm as she licked over and over and over, until they both lay naked, panting, sweating, and spent.
In the dark, unseen eyes were always watching. After, Bethanie lay on the mattress, not daring to actually fall asleep. The room was silent, the mistress asleep and Von Choltitz as silent as a corpse. How was she going to get out of here? Even if the general let her go, surely someone here was going to recognize that she did not belong and make a point of it?
Bethanie had lost track of the time, but dawn must be approaching. Maybe her best bet was to sneak out now. She was halfway through dressing again when Von Choltitz's sharp tones startled her.
"You're not leaving us?" She managed a look of simpering apology. "I have to be along. I work during the days." "And during the nights, too, and very hard. Be along, then." To reach the door Bethanie would have to pass by Von Choltitz's chair. The image of a coiled snake, ready to spring, came back to her again. I can't show any fear, she reminded herself. If he even thinks he detects something amiss, it will all be over.
She forced one foot in front of the other. Just walk by him and say something pleasant, she told herself. By the time he responds you'll be gone. Just walk by him and-- "My dear?" Again those hard-edged syllables, like ice down her back.
She was right in front of him now, the general's monocle glittering like a hideous magical eye. She waited for him to grab her, to train his pistol on her, to call for the police--or would he even bother with that?
Would he simply stand her against the wall and take care of her himself? It's not as if anyone would question him. To her surprise, all he did was stuff a few bills into her hand. "For the extra trouble I put you to. If you buy something pretty with it, maybe I'll get to see it on you when I come again." "I'm sure you will," she said and, as a final sacrifice to secure her safe passage, she kissed him, trying again not to imagine him as a squat fairy tale toad while she did. She made it eight steps down the hall before crumpling against the wall.
She had to find a way out of here, had to report in without being followed, had to find out (if she could) whether the JED team was secure. She tried to summon up on acceptable alibi if she was stopped on the way out but there was nothing to draw on. Nothing to do but go forward. Kerman was waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs. His tie was loose. He looked impatient. "You took long enough." And then, anticipating her planned response perfectly, he said: "You can hit me now and maybe even try to kill me and in the process get yourself arrested, or you can let me take you out of here and in all likelihood live at least until sundown.
"They're both tempting choices in their way and I wouldn't blame you one way or the other, so go ahead and decide now. But hurry it up." *** June 4: 1,143 days under occupation. Bethanie couldn't remember the last time she rode in a car. It made her disoriented. Paris seemed to be passing them too quickly, like a river that had burst its banks, and the vehicle itself felt confining, like a cell.
"So who are you really?" she said, after some time passed with Kerman saying nothing. "Ah, names. So much time spent on names." "Fine.
I don't really want to know anyway." "My real name is Jean Fontenoy." Bethanie started. "The fascist journalist?" "Ah: a fan." She laughed. Fontenoy looked alarmed. Before long she was bent over, holding her stomach. "I'm sorry," she said (which she wasn't). "I just never expected.what are you doing working in a place like that? As a doorman? You're supposed to be at the front." "And you're supposed to be dead. If it wasn't for me you really would be." "My gratitude is very limited.
Where are we going?" "Somewhere we can talk without extra ears around." "I have nothing to talk to you about." "Not even the werewolf?" That shut Bethanie up. Fontenoy offered no more answers until they came to his apartment. The place was dingy with a smell she faintly recognized as opium. He went to the kitchen and poured something in a glass.
She refused one of the same. She waited for Fontenoy to say something but all he did was sink into a chair and sip his drink. She tapped her foot on the carpet and finally broke the silence herself: "So you know my real name, and you know the family legend." "Yes." "And why do you buy into such a preposterous story? No one these days believes in werewolves." "I do." "Why?" "Because I'm a werewolf." Bethanie cocked her head.
"You're making fun of me." He shook his head. "You're serious?" He nodded. "Let's see then," Bethanie said. And she stabbed him in the heart. The knife she'd lifted from the dinner table was short, and not designed for killing, but she was strong and standing very close, and she punctured his chest five or six times in ten seconds. Red spots blossomed on his shirt and his body jerked, eyes widening in shock, but she didn't stop.
When she stuck the knife in for the last time she twisted it and stood back, panting. Her hands were all red. Fontenoy sat there. Then, very slowly, he got up, went to the kitchen, and fixed a new drink. Then he came back and sat in the same chair, all the while leaking like a sieve. The knife still protruded from his chest. He took a sip. "Convinced?" he said. Bethanie reminded herself to breathe.
A sense of morbid fascination compelled her to look very closely at the place where his flesh parted around the blade. "Does it hurt?" "Yes. But everything hurts when you're one of us." "But you're not the werewolf who chased me last night. You can't be.
So who is?" "My wife, Madeline." Bethanie gave him another incredulous look. "That's why I came to find you the other day. I wanted your help. Madeline has lived with the curse for her entire life, but things changed a few years ago. She went mad, for lack of a better word. Started to lose what made her human.
I've seen it happen before. Awful." He looked dreamily into his glass, swirling the ice, as he talked. "It happened while I was away, in Shanghai, in '37.
You've read my work about Shanghai? Seeing the Jap occupation, what they did to people.that's when I realized there was no winning against people like that. The Allies don't have the spine for it. When a thing like that rolls toward you the only thing to do is make sure you're not in the way." Bethanie made a rude noise.
"When I came back, she wasn't the same woman anymore. I don't know if something happened to cause it or if she just started to drift at some point, but…well, it got to the point that I had to lock her up. She's rabid, you see. In the official records she's dead, and I'm serving abroad. You know the drill: fake names, illegal lease. The landlord assumes we're spies and I have to pay him double. I had to keep her hidden. You understand, yes?" He seemed to be dozing off.
The exhaustion that must have been creeping in on him all night was mixing with the alcohol. "Two weeks ago she seemed to be getting better. Sounded more like her old self. I unlocked the door for a while, even though I knew it was stupid. And then of course--poof--she disappeared. Since then she's been out there somewhere, doing God knows what. She needs help. That's why I came looking for you." "You want me to help your wife?" "I want you to kill her." Bethanie gaped.
"There's nothing left of her anymore. I want someone to end it. I don't know if there's any peace for creatures like us, but I can hope.
Who else would I turn to?" He sagged a little more in his chair. "But when I finally worked up the courage to come talk to you I became afraid.
You seemed so angry, so.dangerous. So I ran away. And now here we are." Bethanie settled uncomfortably into another chair. The drafty apartment seemed that much colder now. "Now you know everything. Well, not everything, but as much as you have to. Tell me, do you know how to kill a werewolf?" Bethanie thought back to her Aunt Sophia's lessons: "The best thing is blessed silver.
Other holy objects work: icons of saints, sacred relics, that kind of thing. Sometimes just enough trauma will do it: cut the head off or blow it up. But now and then they come back even from that. Silver is the only thing that works every time, as long as it's blessed." "That's true," said Fontenoy.
"But here is one other way: If the werewolf really wants to die, he can kill himself. Almost anything works then. Even aconite." He tried to set his glass down but he dropped it instead. Bethanie pulled her feet up, as if the spillage itself was deadly. "I'd been saving it for after Madeline is dead, but I'm not strong enough.
You'll take care of everything now, won't you? I know you hate me, but you'll do this because it's your duty. Right?" His eyes were red, pained, bleary with tears. She wondered what her own looked like. He seemed to drift into a fitful sleep then. After 20 minutes his breathing became pained. After 30 minutes he started to twitch and writhe. After 45 minutes he became sluggish, and his breathing was so shallow that Bethanie could not have heard it if not for the utter, icy desolation of the apartment.
After an hour he stopped breathing entirely and slumped over, twisted, sweat-drenched, and pale. The entire time Bethanie sat and watched, biting her thumb. Now she approached the corpse, daring to put her hands on the clammy flesh and feel for a pulse.
There were steps she should take to ensure permanent death, but she wasn't sure if she had the time or-- Fontenoy grabbed her wrist. She tried to pull back but his fingers were locked on. His eyes fluttered open, and they were the pale amber eyes of a wolf.
When his mouth opened she saw canine teeth flecked with spittle. The entire corpse jerked to its feet like a marionette and grabbed at her neck. She knew--from the vacant look in his pupils and the stiff awkwardness of his limbs--that Fontenoy was already dead, but the wolf in him was still in its final throws, lashing out at anything around it. If he died with his hands around her throat he would never release, she knew, so with some effort she grabbed the knife again and, with one shuddering blow, sank it into the soft flesh under his jaw.
Blood flowed and his yellow eyes rolled back in his skull. The fingers on her neck loosened. He fell with a vile thump, letting out one final sigh that sounded very much like a whimper. Bethanie stood panting over him. She dropped the knife and wiped sticky blood onto her pants. Numb, she stripped off her bloody clothes and left them there, fumbling her way to the apartment's tiny shower.
The cold, warlike part of her brain should have been telling her that staying was too risky, that if anyone came in and found her in the apartment with the dead man she'd be in a cell so fast the water would not yet have evaporated from her skin. But she hadn't slept in nearly two days and, by her own count, had almost died three times in that span. A malaise of shock and exhaustion made it impossible to care about anything. She scrubbed herself as best she could (she hadn't bathed in a while--running water worked only sporadically these days).
The voice in her head wouldn't let her go so far as to sleep in the apartment's only bed, so she bunked down in a closet filled with the sour smell of mothballs. While she slept, she dreamed (something else she had not done in some time), and in her dreams she remembered the first time she'd ever seen a German, at the old family house in Brittany. The Germans had taken over the house next door as their command post, and Aunt Sophia had feared they'd take this one too, but they didn't.
They shared a common well, and the soldiers in their green uniforms waited for Aunt Sophia to draw her water every morning before helping themselves. They were always polite, but she came in angry every day anyway. She warned Bethanie to keep out of sight of them. But one day someone knocked at the door and she, without thinking, answered it. There a man stood, starch-straight. He showed so many teeth when he smiled that Bethanie thought about the voice her Aunt Sophia used for the wolf in the fairy tales: "Little pig, little pig, let me in." In careful and precise French he said: "Would you allow me to pick some flowers?" Bethanie blinked.
Was he making fun of her? Apparently not. He added, by way of explanation: "For the captain's birthday." Bethanie consented, just to get the stranger off her porch.
Later, Aunt Sophia beat her for it. Sometimes she imagined she could still feel the bruises. She also dreamt about Paul. She'd been allowed to visit him once in the POW camp at Laval, not long after the surrender.
She wore the only good dress she had left, and she went alone. (Aunt Sophia couldn't stand seeing Paul a prisoner. "It's humiliating," she said, though it was not clear for which of them she meant.) Paul looked thin and tired. To Bethanie, there had always been something mighty and grand about Paul. When he'd trained for cross-country she'd stood on the fence and counted his laps, watching him run and run, like a machine that would never wind down. As her big brother, he was of course invincible.
Seeing him now, he looked almost timid. The war had not diminished Paul, but it had entirely outclassed him. The general word was they would all be sent home soon. "We suffer more from the idea of being prisoners than from the prison itself," he said.
Bethanie didn't understand this either, but nodded. They were allowed to talk for half an hour, at the end of which, very gently, she hinted that perhaps it was time for him to attempt an escape.
Paul said simply that he couldn't. "I gave them my word as a soldier," he said, and it was clear that to him that was the end of it. Bethanie had the idea that at least once he'd been allowed to leave the camp to attend something and after that he would have viewed going back on his word as a betrayal of the highest order.
"It doesn't matter," he told her. "We'll all be home soon.
What do the Germans need with a million prisoners? What would they even do with all of us?" He sent her home with a hug a promise that she should look after the household until he returned. "You're a Chastel," he told her. And she knew that meant, "Be brave." She wrote to him every week, but in September all of the letters came back in a bundle, unopened and stamped "undeliverable." Later, the newspapers confirmed it: All of the prisoners at Laval had been sent to Germany.
Some of them went to mines or factories. Others went to the camps. Bethany held out hope: When he realized that the Germans wouldn't keep their word, surely he'd try to escape after all. But they never heard tell of him. He was just gone. "I gave them my word as a soldier," he'd said, and they gave theirs back.
And then they broke it. And Bethanie would never forgive them. She woke unsure where she was. Then the smell reminded her: the apartment stank of death. She had to get out. Her clothes were ruined, so she went to the closet, finding some of Fontenoy's that suited her. Women in Paris had started wearing slacks just after the occupation, a quiet rejoinder to Vichy propaganda about the importance of motherly, feminine women who would raise a new generation of good little fascist children.
Nothing quite fit her, but with the shortages that wasn't unusual either. She emptied her old pockets of money, fake ID, and ration cards, then hesitated only a moment before pawing through Fontenoy's drawers and liberating a few extra francs he'd never need again. The corpse was still there. She'd been half afraid (and not without good reason) that it might not have stayed dead. She inched around it.
It was almost night again, and with a shudder she remembered what Fontenoy had told her: Madeline was out there somewhere. Bethanie had been gone at least 24 hours and Velin would surely assume she was dead--or, worse, arrested. She walked too fast, and her shoes went click-clack, click-clack on the stones of the old streets. Get there, report in, and then figure out what to do about the werewolf later, that was the plan. She didn't have the capacity for anything more specific yet.
She felt trouble before she actually saw it. A knot of people blocked the avenue ahead, and a single Gray Mouse (what they called the women volunteers of the Wuhrmacht) was testily trying to disperse them. From their recalcitrance, Bethanie knew there must be blood on the street.
Her feet wavered to change direction; but no, that would look suspicious. Instead she sped up, half-running, like any flighty Parisian girl hoping to gawk at the aftermath of whatever had happened before the Germans shooed everyone away.
Maybe the wolf had killed again. Or maybe…this was only a few blocks from the laundry and print shop. There was no particular reason to think something had happened to Velin and the others. No reason to feel so afraid. And yet, as she approached the intersection she felt she already knew what she's see there.
Bethanie shoved through the mob, letting her sharp knees and elbows clear a path. The Gray Mouse snapped at her but Bethanie ignored it. Up ahead, someone moaned in pain. "Why did you run?" said a voice with a German accent. He almost sounded sad. "It wasn't worth it." Bethanie couldn't see what was happening. She wanted to push everyone down and run in, but she didn't.
The Gray Mouse grew angrier and looked about to put hands on Bethanie when someone grabbed her arm from behind and jerked her back. She was getting ready to turn and hit her attacker when she recognized his voice: "They're looking for you. Come with me." Fabien. As they walked arm-in-arm, trying their best to look like a couple out for a pre-curfew walk, he told her everything that had happened: An hour ago someone had stuck the barrel of a gun through the ventilation ducts and shouted, "You're surrounded!" A raid, like they'd always feared.
It was chaos then: There was no way out. Velin killed himself on the spot. Max tried to run and they shot him, blood stains sprinkled like red stars on his printer's apron. Everyone was herded out into the streets. They grabbed Dulac and asked if there was anyone else, but he wouldn't answer. They beat him until he could barely stand, but he still said nothing. In the end he refused to turn around when they ordered him, forcing them to look him in the eye when they shot him.
A few of them made a break for it then; it was Lucienne whose cries Bethanie heard at the intersection a moment ago. She almost made it, but they'd shot her legs out from under her. Only Fabien managed to slip away. It was luck he'd spotted Bethanie and impulse that he stopped to retrieve her rather than finish his getaway. She knew she should admonish him for taking the risk, but in the moment she was simply grateful.
He took her to a flat, a rat-infested hole that had once been a storage closet by the looks of it. Locking the door he said, "We have an hour here, maybe two at most. When we leave, it must look like no one was ever here." The old springs of the thin cot groaned when she sat.
Fabien kept by the door, looking at her strangely. It was a moment before she realized why. "I wasn't there," she said. "We thought they'd gotten to you." "And you assumed I'd given you all up." "Most didn't. Velin in particular." Her heart hurt a little at the sound of his name. Was he really dead? Were they all? "Tomas wasn't there either," Fabien said. "I don't know what's happened to him.
But he's the one man even I wouldn't suspect." "It wasn't me. But you must know that already, or you wouldn't have taken me with you." "Yes." "What changed your mind?" He said nothing, but gave her a particular look.
Inwardly, she sighed. So even he wasn't immune to such things. Well, he was a man, after all. "That's very dangerous," she said. "And we both know nothing can come of it." "In an hour, nothing will. Where I go next, you can't follow." She understood.
She would have to find a safe house of her own, and that would be the last they'd ever see of each other. He'd go back to his own kind, she to hers (or most likely to her death), and the war would take care of one or both of them sooner or later. He'd already taken all the risks for her he ever would, and she'd have no opportunity to have to decide whether to return the favor. It was better this way.
Still, just one hour, and after that she'd really alone in the world… Hell with it, she thought, and kissed him, then let him push her down onto the cot. No time for any more talk; not much time even to kiss. Just enough time to forget everything else that had happened, at least for a moment.
She let him be on top this time; it suited his vanity. When she told him before it was not her first time she'd told the truth, but he still unused to it, and the other men had hurt her (without meaning to). This time she didn't care if it hurt, which made it all the more a relief when the feeling came and instead it was one of deep, aching satisfaction. If she'd moaned or cried out it would have echoed in the tiny space, so to keep quiet she bit down on his shoulder.
Her hair, damp with sweat, clung to her. Fabien's muscular body stretched and strained and she bowed underneath him, making her frame a kind of cradle, arms flung around his neck and legs wrapped tight around his waist. Every time his face lowered a little she darted up to kiss him; his lips were almost cool as hers touched them.
Her tongue slipped between them and for a second they held on to each other in a long, deep kiss that threatened to untie a knot in her chest she'd walked around with all of her life, or at least all of her life that she remembered and that mattered. She broke off and entwined him even more firmly against herself, encouraging him to go as hard and as fast as they could.
His admonishment that they could leave no trace would be spoiled if they broke the cot, but so many other things were broken already that this seemed unimportant. When she came she thought she saw stars in the dark. She was afraid one of them might look like the full moon, sacred to the demon wolves, but they remained stars until fading from view, and that was a comfort.
And that was it. They stayed in each other's arms as long as they dared, and when it was time to go they both knew it. He was undoubtedly off to make contact with some Communist circuit or another, most likely not even in the city. And where was she going? Like an idiot, she had not given it a thought. But naturally there could be only one place: to the Jesuit. If anyone had escaped the roundup it would be him, and he was the only person she could rely on not to turn her away.
Besides, she had a sense that he should know about Fontenoy's confession. Fabien left before her, so they wouldn't be spotted together. No time for goodbyes. He paused long enough--half a second, maybe less--to give her a single look, and that was as much of a gesture as either could afford. The room seemed colder once the door closed behind him.
She could just lie down here and wait to be discovered. It would be easier. Instead she put her boots back on. She could make it to the church before curfew fell. What would happen then she couldn't imagine, but at least she had a mission now: Get there. It was always easier with a mission in mind. A light was still on when she arrived, but the church door was slightly ajar. Bethanie wavered at the threshold. Once inside, she saw that precious candles were lit but being wasted on an empty nave.
She wanted to call out but her better instincts stopped her. She heard the faint creaking of a hinge. It wasn't the door behind her and it wasn't the rectory door, which meant it came from the confessional. She slid off her shoes and padded over to it. The floor was cold on her bare feet. She put her ear to the wall but heard nothing. The other compartment was open, so she stuck her head inside, trying to get close to the screen without creating a shadow on it.
She held her breath; cold droplets of perspiration crept down her face… And then a voice said: "Chastel." Wood splintered and the booth split apart. Bethanie fell and scrambled away, fingertips struggling for purchase on the smooth floor. Madeline Fontenoy stepped out. She was angular and pale, like the prisoners who escaped the camps. Her features protruded, as if her skull was not entirely the right shape, and her hands seemed to be misshapen too: too long, too rough.
She snaked her head from side to side and breathed deep, nostrils twitching. "I know your scent, Chastel. It makes me hungry. God I'm hungry." Bethanie slipped on a broken board. Her hands groped for her gun but she remembered she didn't have it. There was no weapon around except splintered timber too flimsy to matter.
Madeline's lips drew back over her teeth. "Madeline!" Bethanie said, and the sound of her name seemed to stop the other woman for a second. Bethanie stood. "You don't have to do this. I talked to Jean. He wanted me to help you." A pause. "Is he all right?" "He's…he didn't make it." Madeline screamed, and then she began to change.
Bethanie had heard the stories but never actually seen it happen: the body splitting apart as something too big to have ever fit inside it unfolded, the limbs twisting into new forms and the face stretching with the painful crack of bones and flesh turned to shapes they were never meant to have.
She looked away. She knew that the sick, helpless feeling that was coming over her would probably paralyze her in a second, like it did for almost everyone. The only plan she could think of was, perhaps, to use the wolf's size against it by finding some place it couldn't fit into.
The rectory? There may be a window. It was a pitiful chance, but she was out of time. She heard the heavy thump of a too-large body dropping to all fours.
She had to go now. Bethanie managed only a few steps before she tripped again and stumbled against the altar. That's it, she thought, that's the mistake that kills me. She'd lost a precious second, and the wolf was already too close.
She felt shock, anger, disappointment, and finally resignation. She thought about Dulac forcing the Germans to look him in the eye while they shot him.
She'd do the same, and then all of her obligations would be discharged. Something caught her eye as she turned, a crazed web of light on the floor: The ground was strewn with shards of colored glass. She had spilled the box with the remains of the broken window.
The biggest piece was almost six inches long. Without thinking, she reached for it. The sharp edges of the glass felt somehow reassuring as she wrapped her fingers around them. The werewolf was a dark shape in front of her, lean and mangy, but its head and paws huge. She was a ragamuffin girl, alone in the world, thin from hunger and wearing stolen clothes, with no armor and no real weapon. But at least she was a Chastel. Closing her eyes, she charged and waited for the inevitable death.
It didn't come. For a second the world turned to crystal, hanging still and suspended all around her. Then she felt a warm dribble of blood on her wrist and smelled the reeking breath of the werewolf as it groaned right into her face.
Confused, she opened her eyes. The beast lay crumpled at her feet, eyes rolled back in its skull, mouth twisted in the shape of its last bloodthirsty snarl. Somehow, it was dead.
It was a moment before she saw that the stained glass shard stuck in the monster's breast. She had run straight at it with the sharpest end pointed for its heart, but by rights it should have broken against the monster's ribs. Instead it had slid in as easily as a blade into its own sheath. Bethanie herself was unharmed.
It was insane. It was a miracle. It made no sense at all. Then she remembered what the Jesuit had said: "Every part of the church is holy." She looked at her hand. There was no wound from the broken glass.
Even the werewolf's blood had dripped off of her without leaving a stain. Madeline's body reverted to that of a woman. Not the crazed, starved half-beast she'd been a moment ago, but a real, recognizably human person. She looked small and frail in death. Her expression was not peaceful. Bethanie put her hand on Madeline's chest and detected no breath or heartbeat. She tried to close the corpse's eyes, but they wouldn't stay shut.
Bethanie was tired. She lay on the church floor, with her head pillowed on the dead woman. It seemed a respectful gesture. It's over, she thought. The candles were burning down, and she thought how pretty they looked. She also thought that it was wrong to kill someone and end up with no blood on your hands. She felt she should cry, but wasn't sure if she actually did. Maybe just thinking it was good enough. *** She woke up in the dark.
It was hard to move. For a fleeting second she thought she was in a coffin but then realized there were other people here, which made her think it was a jail cell instead. Only by listening for some minute to a whispering voice did she come to understand that this was a safe house. In fact, she was still in the church. Bethanie cognized this information slowly, and when it finally clicked she allowed herself however much relief as was appropriate under the circumstances.
Rather than any of a half dozen arguably more pertinent questions, the first thing she said was to the voice was, "Who are you?" A pause. "Since I've never actually asked you, this is as good a time as any: Do you have any sins to confess?" She threw her arms around the Jesuit.
There was just enough room. It turned out he'd been hiding here the entire time she'd confronted Madeline, who of course had come to the church to kill him, probably following his scent every night since he'd first encountered her. The Jesuit said Bethanie had been awake when he moved her, but she didn't remember it. She chided him for taking the risk of exposing himself to bring her here. He bore the criticism without comment. She was startled to learn that more than a day had passed; she'd regained consciousness several times but always drifted away again.
The men nearest the door in here, who could hear the chiming of a clock outside and dutifully relayed the time back to the others. Fabien's instincts had been right: The Germans had made a big move and raided a dozen other circuits across the city besides their print shop.
The other men in this closet were themselves all that was left of their own circuits, the few who slipped through the net. How long they could all remain here was a subject of debate amongst them. Bethanie and the Jesuit talked quietly. "How do you feel?" he said. "I don't really know. How is someone supposed to feel after that?" "Gratified, maybe. You proved me wrong.
You did your duty. What more can anyone hope for?" "Peace," Bethanie said, and shuddered. She wished there was more light, so she could stop imagining she saw Madeline's dead eyes in the dark. Time passed.
A commotion sprung up when a man whispered "Good God!" He'd discovered a sensitive communique in the pocket of his jacket that he feared had been lost and fallen into the hands of the Germans. Through the slim light of the crack under the door he uncoded it over the course of an hour. Bethanie listened, curious, as he painstakingly deciphered the encrypted phrases one letter at a time. The first line read: "The die is cast." It meant nothing to the man who had actually received a message, but someone else recognized it, along with the phrase that followed: "It is hot in Suez." It was another minute before Bethanie realized what the men were all saying.
"This is it," they repeated. It was the, the long-anticipated and all-important signal: The Allies were on the move. Invasion was imminent. Even now, on the other side of the channel, it was happening. Bethanie reminded herself to breathe. Some argued skepticism: Were they sure it was right? The messenger assured them was no question; every single anti-German group in France would be trading the same signal back and forth right now and putting the wheels of the SOE plans into motion: Operation Verte, to sabotage the railroads and stop the movement of German reinforcements to the beaches; Operation Pourpre, to cut the German's long-distance phone lines; Operation Bleu, to destroy the hydroelectric power lines; Operation Toirtois, to block off the roads to the beaches.
It was all happening, right now. Debate ceased. Everyone was in agreement: They were leaving. They had jobs to do. Stiff, hurt, and still exhausted, Bethanie stood too.
When the Jesuit went to help her, she let him. "We don't have to do this," he said. "You've done enough." "We've all done enough, many times over." "You've done more." "And none of it will matter if we fail now." Part of her really did want to stop. She quashed it. There was nowhere else to go and nothing else to do in any case. The voice on the radio was right: The die had been cast. June 6, 1944, Paris: 80 days until liberation. *** Dietrich Von Choltitz was appointed military governor of Paris on August 1, 1944.
He surrendered the city to the Allies on August 25, later claiming he disobeyed orders to destroy it. Some historians dispute this. He spent two years in a prison camp in Mississippi and eventually returned to Paris in 1956. Though arrested after the print shop raid, Lucienne Gueznnec was smuggled from the hospital by nuns acting as ant-German agents.
Her account of the events informed this story. Pierre "Colonel Fabien" Georges was killed by a land mine in Alsace in 1944. The Paris metro station where he assassinated a German officer now bears his name. "Tomas" remained in France after the war, taking a job in the new government and raising a family. He spoke of his wartime activities only under assumed names to select journalists and historians. Father Michel Riquet was arrested in 1944 and sent to Dachau, but survived long enough to be rescued by the US Seventh Army the next year.
Returning to Paris, he gave a sermon at Notre Dame Cathedral while still wearing his camp uniform. He is credited with helping over 500 Allied personnel escape from occupied territories.
Official Reich records indicate that Jean Fontenoy volunteered for a collaborator's corps, transferred to Berlin, and died fighting a few blocks from Hitler's bunker. Madeline Fontenoy's official cause of death is an airplane accident in 1937. Wartime records are notoriously unreliable, though. Bethanie Chastel immigrated to the United States in 1956, bringing three sons with her. She never married or revealed their paternity, so each of her children received the Chastel name. And everything that came with it.