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| Category: || Mystery and Crime Fiction |
Posted:|| August 11, 2019 Views: 93|
Warning: The author has noted that this contains the highest level of violence.
"What The Blind Girl Saw #20"
by Sally Law
Strasbourg, France, near the German border, May 19, 1944.
David von Gil left the cave as promised and motored down the muddied hillside, waving his tweed cap as he disappeared into the noonday sun. He hoped to return to the cave by nightfall with Maman and Jeanne-Louise . . . if everything went according to plan.
Andre had done everything to make sure the rebuilt Renault truck would make the trip; filling another container with petrol and stashing it in the flatbed.
Andre drew a map of the area, highlighting known German checkpoints and how to avoid them. Most importantly, David carried French francs and German reichsmarks along with falsified identification papers tucked inside his trench coat. He suppressed his fears of the Nazis as memories flashed of the Brownshirts kicking and punching his frail grandfather.
But the hardest thing for David was leaving his wife, little Andre, and his young friend in the cavernous hiding place. He knew he was doing the right thing, though wiping away tears as he drove.
As day one of the trial of the murder of Andre Dupree had come to a close, I sat in a stupor, reeling from the gruesome details recalled by County Medical Examiner, Dr. Marie MacLavish. I could hardly wait to exit the courtroom and speed home as fast as Jackson could legally get us there. I longed for my tub of holy scrub.
King, on the other hand, wanted to play and eat, somehow knowing Chinese food had been mentioned.
Detective Mike Lembowsky caught me by the arm and asked for a word. He offered us dinner; we accepted, with King licking our police escort in hearty gratitude. I resolved then my bath would have to wait.
I thought it odd our detective friend wanted to meet for dinner at Andre Dupree's residence, which was now mine according to the terms of his will.
It seemed like a bad dream--walking into his house and not hearing his voice in greeting followed by a kiss on each cheek. The woodsy smell of Andre's aftershave still clung to the furnishings.
We decided to eat our Chinese takeout in his art studio as far away from the main house as possible. The studio was a converted sun porch; and a small addition Andre had added when he purchased the 1940s home in 2002.
We all sat on an emerald green settee amongst his beautiful oil paintings. Oh, how Andre loved to lie on this gaudy thing and nap in the sunshine!
Andre and I spent many days working the crossword puzzles, with me on the settee as he paced about thinking. "What word fit in 6 down or 10 across," he would ponder out loud. I longed to relive those days even now as my thoughts of him lingered.
"So, what's on your mind, Detective?"
"I know this has been an overwhelming year and time for you both," he said. "I just wanted to say how sorry I am for the graphic forensic testimony today. I'm sure it was upsetting."
"Thank you, Mike. Sitting with Prosecutor Owens for so many hours, rehearsing my testimony, toughened me up a bit. I know a strong forensic case is crucial to securing a guilty verdict," I replied.
Silence followed, and I knew it was a prelude to something that was very difficult for the detective to spit out. I felt it coming though, and set my food aside.
"Sally . . . Jackson, I have something to tell you that is so mind-boggling, I can hardly comprehend it all, much less communicate it to you both. All I can say is, I'll give it my best shot."
"Should I be worried?" I asked, gulping down fear.
"Oh, no. I'm just not sure if you realize who Andre Dupree really was," he said as his voice trailed off.
Maman held Jeanne-Louise close and gently coaxed her to eat the healing broth she had prepared. Her little girl needed a doctor badly, and she hoped Andre would be back soon. The nearest hospital was thirty miles from their farm.
"Was that a truck with a grinding gearshift?" she wondered. Maman peered out from the crack in the root cellar door to see Andre had made it back. She quickly gathered Jeanne-Louise and her dolly, wrapping her tenderly with a blanket. As she made her way outside to greet her son, David, dressed in Andre's clothes, walked towards her with arms outstretched.
"Oh, David, thank you. I am so glad you've come! But I fear Jeanne-Louise has taken a bad turn and needs medical attention. There is, or was, a fine hospital in the next town. Please, we must go now and take her there."
"Certainly. We will leave now as the day is late. Which way?"
"Head west down this road towards Paris . . . perhaps an hour or so," said Maman, pointing.
The approaching sunset filled the sky, setting the clouds in a golden glow. Maman noticed the radio mounted on the truck dashboard as she reached to pull down the visor. "David, does the radio work?"
"Yes and no. Adolf Hitler took over the airwaves and newspapers long ago. No news we can trust," he said in a somber tone.
David passed a few trucks loaded down with produce, and some peddlers heading home with their wares. A speeding German convoy appeared in his rearview mirror, catching up to them quickly. David pulled over to let them pass. "Most likely headed to the same hospital," he thought.
They arrived in the small town, a hamlet that had given way to the war-wounded. Maman gasped when they pulled in to see so many in need waiting outside the hospital's double-entry doors.
"Let me carry Jeanne-Louise inside, and you pose as my mother," suggested David to Maman.
"It's too dangerous for you, David. You look Jewish, and anyone studying you for more than a few seconds will see that. Absolutely not," insisted Maman.
Feigning deafness, David lifted Jeanne-Louise from her arms and walked calmly to the hospital door as he prayed. "ABBA, Father in heaven, send us your blessing upon this little one."
A nurse dressed in white from head to toe immediately pulled them aside into a room. "Sit here. I can see your child is sick and that you've come a long way. The doctor will be in as soon as possible."
The nurse brought a cup of water for Jeanne-Louise, then disappeared down the hall.
I sat in stunned silence at the news. "Andre Dupree is my uncle? How could that be?"
"Just to verify, is this Andre Dupree's handwriting, Jackson?" asked Detective Mike.
Jackson examined the journal and correspondence found in the secret room for about ten minutes and kept squeezing my hand to make sure I was all right.
"It appears to be. It hasn't changed much over the years," said Jackson.
"How did Andre find me?" I asked. " My mother was adopted not once, but twice."
"Love never gives up, my friends. You should know that by now."
Detective Lembowsky continued. "It says in this journal entry, and I quote: 'I knew she was the daughter of Jeanne-Louise as soon as I met her. The same spirit and twinkle in her eyes. Sally Jeanne-Marie Law is my niece--without question.'"
Jackson and King drew close to me as I sobbed uncontrollably.
Dr. Francois Segal looked at his little patient with great concern. "She will need to be admitted, but I'm afraid I have no more beds. However, my wife and I have no children and live within walking distance. She will have good care there and I will be able to administer the needed medications. She is also suffering from low iron levels--a severe anemia."
Tears welled up in Maman's eyes as she spoke. "How long will it take for her to recover?"
"It's difficult to say--at least two weeks." Doctor Segal sat with his arms crossed, staring past Maman out the window. "Are you close by?"
"No, but we will do our best to visit her and come back when she has recovered. I have money to pay for anything she might need," said Maman.
"I will ring my wife, Marie, and get our little patient tended to and fed," said the kind doctor.
David and Maman kissed Jeanne-Louise goodbye, leaving her in good hands.
They traveled into the moonless night, headed east towards the cave.
To be continued . . . .
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