A matter of life and … what’s worse than death? – Episode 39

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…

Leonardo was a fool, not that any of those who followed him would say that to his face, but all of them knew it and accepted that he made the best leader.

The reason for that, they all knew if anything went wrong, then the leader would be the first to be held accountable.

They all also knew that what Leonardo had done to Martina and Chiara, and the cold-blooded murder of the villagers, justifying it by saying they were collaborators, was also wrong, and had refused to take part in it.

Leonardo just thought they didn’t have the stomach to do what was necessary, failing to realize he was committing a crime, war or not.

Alberto, arguably the next man to take over the resistance group if anything happened to Leonardo, was nominally second in command and was there because he had the respect of the men, far more than their current leader.

He was the one who suspected there was something wrong at the castle, that the British soldiers there were not quite doing what they said they were there for.  He had seen, even directed, Germans seeking sanctuary in England in exchange for information, come, but not go.  Not like they did in the beginning.

And that man called Atherton, the one who arrived just before the paratroopers, he was British, and they had captured him.  The talk was that he was a German collaborator, but Alberto wasn’t convinced.

But, not having the full allegiance of all the resistance fighters, he could not say anything or try to organize the men to be more careful in their approach to those at the castle.  Leonardo still held sway with them. 

For now.

.

The Italians had their own section of the cells in the dungeons where they stayed, Leonardo, deeming it not safe in the village.  Alberto agreed because he had made several forays down there, only to discover that Leonardo would be shot on sight if he showed his face there again.  Some resistance they made, he thought, where they didn’t have the confidence of their own people.

Leonardo was up supping with the devil, as Alberto had been known to say, put of Leonardo’s earshot, and several of the men were resting.  The others, more loyal to Leonardo were in the cellar cell drinking their way through the wine stock and were most likely drunk and passed out.

Alberto didn’t care for the vintage, a subject that he was well versed in because before the war he had worked for the family of winemakers.  The wines stored, he had recognized when they’d first discovered them, as being of inferior quality, and had been left there rather than throwing it away.  Leonardo would not have known the difference.

“Something is not right.”  A voice from the corner, belonging to a man named Bolini, broke his reverie.  The truth was, he was tired and wished it were all done with.

“What makes you say that?” He asked.

“Killing the villagers.  What did they do wrong, other than just trying to survive?  It’s what we’re all trying to do.  It’s not our war.”

“You know what it’s like, stuck in the middle.  It’s a bit like the in-laws.  You don’t want them, but you’re stuck with them.”

“In-laws.  Don’t get me started.”  The other, a man named Christo, weighed in.  

“You do realize we may be held accountable for what happened back at the village,” Bolini had obviously been thinking about the repercussions.

“We brought the only witnesses here, and they sure as hell aren’t going to last long.  Not after what Leonardo did to them.”

“That’s possible, but we all know what happened.”

“But there are others outside who also know what happened, and if we want to keep out of trouble, we are going to have to take care of them,” Bolini said.

Alberto hadn’t quite got through considering the ramifications of what Fernando just did, and the fact they’d helped him.  Bolini was right, even if they hadn’t been as reckless, they were still going to be tarred with the same brush.

And Atherton was still out there.

The trouble with trying to clean up a mess is that eventually there’s a bigger mess to deal with.  Maybe it was time to get rid of Fernando.

The man called Wallace, the one who seemed to be in charge, came around the corner and stopped when he saw Alberto.

“Where’s your leader?”

Alberto pointed his head in the direction of the wine cellar.

Wallace shook his head, knowing what that meant.  “Tell him he’s got another pickup.  Two hours in the village.  A family, with two children.  Tell him to sober up, and if he doesn’t in time, you have my permission to shoot him.”

Surely the man wasn’t serious.

“Well, what are you sitting around for?  Get moving.”

Wallace cast a disapproving glance over the three, shook his head again, and left.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

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