From Chapter Ten

      Cambremer sat on the top of a steep hill, and its streets were silent. The half-timbered houses and storefronts were closed tight like fists, and the town had the look of a place that had been interrupted in the middle of something.

      I took off my shoes, even though the ground was wet in places from the rain that had been falling off and on since we'd crashed. I slid against the building, deeper into the alley. In the distance, I could hear the cracking of gunshots. I froze until it stopped, counting the seconds till it started again, and I wondered how many miles away it was, how far sound could carry in the night.

      I thought I would slink down the alley and come back behind the buildings so that I could approach the house with the open window from the other side of the street. I slid back, back, back into the shadows until I was out of sight of the open window. When I was deep enough in shadow, I turned around, and found myself nose to nose with Gravois.

      "Bonsoir," he said.

      Before I could scream, he clamped a hand over my mouth. "Idiot girl," he whispered. "Do you want to get us killed?" I thought about biting him, but I was too frozen. I glared at him over his hand and he glared back at me.

      Finally he said, "Okay?" I nodded. He took his hand away. "You should not have come." He took my arm and dragged me deeper into the alley.

      I said, "Where are the Germans?"

      "They do not go out alone because they are afraid of being killed in the streets. Or perhaps they have already come and gone. Moved on to the bigger villages." He stopped and motioned for me to stop too. He peered around the edge of a building and then he started pulling me along again.

      "But why are the people still hiding?"

      "Curfew."

      "How did you find me? I was coming to find you."

      "When O'Connell left the map for you, I knew you would come after us."

      "You're not sending me back, are you?"

      "Yes." He led me down another alley and although I didn't want to, I admired the way he moved, so soundless — even loaded down with his gear — like it was second nature. We went back the way I'd come, through alleyways and over the humpback bridge where the rivers met. We walked through the fog bank that surrounded the town and then through the woods just on the outskirts, only a mile or so from where I'd run into the Germans. There was a ruin of a farmhouse, as if the place had burned long ago and all that was left was the shell.

      I said, "Please don't send me back. Please keep me with you. I'll stay out of the way. I'll do what you need me to do. Just please don't send me back there to strangers."

      He said, "Je suis désolé." I'm sorry. But I could tell he wasn't, not one bit.

 

      Gravois and I crept back over the hedgerows that lined the road and through the woods, back past the murdered German motorcycle patrol, stopping only so Gravois could loot the bodies for ammunition and supplies. We walked in silence, and every now and then he held up his hand and we stopped. We would hear the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire in the distance, and then we would press on. He walked so fast sometimes I had to hurry to keep up with him. He didn't need a map, and seemed to know the way by heart.

      Finally I stopped walking. I thought, Let's see how far he gets if I just stand here. He kept on, broad through the shoulders, black hair gleaming under the moon. I thought he had the look of a wolf about him.

      He turned, his eyes flashing at me. "Are you hurt?"

      "No." We talked in whispers. "I'm just not going any farther."

      He shook his head at this and said, "Come," like he was talking to a dog. And he kept walking.

      I didn't move.

      He turned back and said, "We must go." His voice was cold. "It is not safe for us to keep you. We are on a mission, and we cannot pull you into it; we cannot let you ruin it. If we're captured, we will be executed, and because you are with us, you will be executed too."

      I said, "Please don't leave me there." We stood looking at each other — the guns rat-a-tat-tatting in the distance, the breeze gusting through the trees, making the limbs and leaves dance, blowing my hair across my face. He sighed and I thought: He's going to back down on this. He's changed his mind. And then he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and kept right on walking.