A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 22

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

When we arrived back at the underground site Martina was waiting, and it was clear she was extremely annoyed.  Word, somehow, had filtered back of what just happened.

“Are you totally mad?” she snarled.  “You know what’s going to happen now?”

I had a good idea but chose not to speak.

“They got what they deserved,” Carlo said.  “They found the missing man that you left on the side of the road, by the way, and it was lucky we were there when they found him.  Whether they believed it was an accident or not, they were heading to Chiara’s, and we had to do something about that.”

“And you didn’t think that might have consequences?”

I think all of us had considered what would happen as a result of what could only be described as an ambush.  And, while I thought, as no doubt the others had also, it might lead to retribution killings, it might not.  Wallace could not afford to be seen acting like the Germans, who certainly would have lined up a dozen villagers and shot them and might not do anything.

But, when he realised I was involved, and that the so-called remnants of the resistance could and were willing to cause him trouble, he would have to do something about it.  Especially with a high-value defector coming his way.

“Wallace certainly can’t do anything about it, other than come and ask questions.  He can’t afford to be seen acting as anything but a British officer.”

“But he could get Leonardo and his men to do it for him.”

“Surely he wouldn’t kill the same people he’s lived with all his life.”

“Leonardo’s allegiance’s go to anyone who hands him a free meal ticket.  Until the so-called British arrived at the castle, it was fine to be the resistance because he was being paid handsomely for his help.  When the Germans left the castle, he considered his job was over, and we all went our different ways, hoping the war was over for us.  Of course, that was only wishful thinking.  Even when the British turned up at the castle, with the express intention of capturing and repatriating to England any Germans who wanted to defect, his advice was to let them do what they want.”

“What changed?”

“The man in charge, Wallace you call him, sent out a message for those who had been in the resistance to come up to the castle to talk.  Leonardo thought it might be an opportunity to get back on the payroll.  Carlo and I and several others didn’t go.  There they were told they would be paid for each defector they collected and brought to the castle.”

“Didn’t he think that might be a little suspicious since it was just as easy for Wallace to send his own people to collect them, and not have to pay anything?”

“Now that we know they are Germans masquerading as British, it makes sense.  But Leonardo is little more than a fool and greedy.  He doesn’t care who pays so long as they pay.  I suspect he has no idea who he’s working for, or what happens to the people he collects.  Anyone who opted out of the new arrangement seems to have disappeared.”

“Many?”

“Three that we know of.  They’re probably locked in the dungeons with the others you saw there.”

“How come he hasn’t come after you?”

“Too much trouble, and possibly because it’s a fight he can’t necessarily win.”

“He might not have a choice now.  Wallace is going to have to do something about us, simply because he can’t let the defectors fall into our hands, and especially now that we know that’s why he’s here.”

“Then if it’s a fight he’s looking for, then we’ll have to give him one.”

“On that, I just had a thought on how we might be able to even up the odds a little, but I have to give it a bit more thought.”  

An idea came to me, one that might just work because I was counting on the fact Wallace would have to do something and depending on… “In the meantime, we have to do something about the rest of the villagers, just in case I’m wrong about Wallace.  How many people are left in the village?”

“About twenty.  All the rest scattered when the Germans came the first time, and half of those that remained were killed for one reason or another.  The previous commander of the castle frequently lost it when any of us refused to co-operate.”

“Then send Carlo out to round them up and put them somewhere safe.”

“There are no safe places anymore,” Carlo said, “None that they don’t know about.”

“What about here?”

“It’s the only place we have left that no one knows about.”

“Well, you don’t have much of a choice.”

Martina was not happy.  Her isolated resistance effort was steadily becoming a large-scale attack, not the sort of operation she had intended.  But I don’t think it would have stayed that way for very long, given Carlo’s actions.

She turned to Carlo.  “Go and round them up and bring them here.”

“And if they refuse?”

“Then we’ve done all we can for them.  But tell them that it’s a distinct possibility they will die if they stay where they are.  Take Chiara, and hurry.  I doubt it will be very long before the castle finds out what happened to their men.”

Carlo and Chiara grabbed a weapon each and left.  When they returned, it would be to formulate a plan to take down Wallace and the others at the castle, hopefully before the defector arrived.

That plan that was evolving in my mind didn’t exactly involve the villagers, but the three or four remaining members I was now working.  Leonardo might not know of all of them, or even if he did, one of them would be Wallace’s first calling point.  It just depended on who he sent.

And if I was a betting man, and if he knew that one of his men was ‘seeing’ Chiara, then that’s where they would go.

The only question to be asked at this point, would we be too late to take advantage of an opportunity to reduce the odds?

© Charles Heath 2019

2 thoughts on “A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 22

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