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 with 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…
Neither of us knew what to expect, and I had tried to steel myself for the worst. It was war, and I’d seen some awful things, but when it had happened to people you knew, and to a certain extent civilians that were nothing to do with the war, it was all that much harder to both understand why, and see.
There were dead, I counted at least ten, villagers who were innocent of any crime other than the fact they didn’t like Leonardo. They had no chance, shot and left to die in almost the same positions I’d seen them when I’d left earlier.
But, after checking everywhere, I could not find Martina.
Then Jack appeared. He came up to me and tugged on my trouser leg. “So this is where you got to?” I said. Why had he come back, though?
He headed back further into the cavern near where we had been earlier, a doorway I had not seen. It was ajar. Jack simply stood still, looking at it.
I pulled out my service pistol, not wanting to be caught unaware, and moved quietly towards the door, then slowly pulled it open.
At first, I saw nothing, then, looking down, I saw a figure on the floor. I knelt down to see who it was. The boy, Enrico. I’d seen his parents earlier, both dead. He must have escaped and hidden in the room, and, luckily, no one had followed him.
Except for Jack. Or had Jack come back, having sensed something awful had happened?
I checked him but there didn’t seem to be any wounds, and, when I shook his shoulder, he jolted, and jumped up ready to attack me, until he saw who it was, then grabbed hold of me. He was shaking, and suddenly sobbing. He had seen what had happened, and it was not something he was going to forget.
And he was going to want to exact revenge.
He was not the only one.
It took ten minutes before he had calmed, and managed to sit, leaning back against the wall. The room was where empty bottles were stored on wooden boxes, and he must have hidden among the crates. Anyone searching quickly wouldn’t venture much past the doorway.
It had saved his life.
Then, when I asked, he related what happened.
It was over very quickly. There had been a pounding on the door, and Martina had assumed it was Chiara returning. Chiara, he said, had said she had a small errand to run before locking herself in with the others.
When Martina opened the door, Leonardo was there, and they captured her, then set about killing everyone else. Enrico had been in the rear of the cavern looking for extra places for the others to camp when he heard the shots being fired.
Instead of going back to see what was happening, he hid in the bottle room, afraid for his life. Afraid for his parents and the others, but he had quickly realized there was nothing he could do. Leonardo had used the act of surprise.
One of Leonardo’s men had come back to where he was hiding, and just as he put his head in the door, Leonardo had called him back. They had to leave before Carlo and I returned. One of his men suggested they remain and capture us when we came back, but Leonardo said we’d come to him as soon as we saw what had happened.
He was right.
Carlo had made up a list of the dead and found that not only Martina was missing, so was Giuseppe and Francesco.
I told him Chiara was still alive, but barely, that Leonardo and his men had almost killed her, extracting the other’s whereabouts.
Martina and the others were most likely receiving the same punishment Chiara had received, up at the castle in one of the dungeons.
We were going to have to rescue them if they were still alive.
In fact, now that Thompson had sent reinforcements, the fight was going to be a little more in our favor with six of us, instead of two. Perhaps seven, if I could not persuade Enrico not to come, but that was going to be difficult. In his place, I would feel exactly the same.
When Enrico was ready, we went back out to the main cavern where Carlo was sitting, head in hands. It was probably the only time he would get to mourn his fellow villagers/
Jack was seeking forgiveness for deserting me, but I was not mad at him. That he was able to give some form of companionship to Enrico probably saved him from making a mistake thinking he could exact revenge on his own.
I told him Leonardo would pay for this, and, predictably, he told me that he would be coming with us. I promised myself that I would find some way of keeping him safe.
© Charles Heath 2020