The wind rushed through the open window in the cabin while outside it caused the trees to sway, and one in particular was making Zoe quite annoyed. It was hitting the side of the wooden cabin making a scraping noise.
Zoe lay near the window on a bed that felt more like a cement block when compared to her more comfortable bed back at the house. A woolen blanket covered her, and although she was cold, it didn’t matter to her.
The cabin was a large L shaped cabin built in the woods. It was her brother Thieri’s cabin. He had cut down the trees and painstakingly built it as a present to his soon-to-be fiancée, but he never got the chance to present the house. The war with the Italians saw him volunteer along with his brothers Michael and Theodore. All three brothers died in that battle with the Italians.
The main room was the dining room and entrance, and off to the side was a bedroom, although there was a skeleton frame in place and no wall. Thieri didn't have time to build the wall, but the small section was the bedroom. Another smaller room was going to be the kitchen; that too was not finished.
Zoe put her hands behind her head and looked up at the ceiling. The only family she had left was Aunt Stella in Thessaloniki and her cowardly uncle Dion, who had shipped himself off to America as soon as a hint of war was talked about. Zoe stared at the spider which had taken up residence on the corner, where it had spun an intricate web. The spider had become a silent companion while Zoe had raged against God, the Nazis and cowards in general.
Zoe chose the cabin to let out her anger because of its seclusion. She didn't want to see anyone, didn't want to speak to anyone and definitely did not want anyone's pity. She screamed out her anger and pain alone in the woods and took an axe to a tree, and when she wasn't yelling at God, she sat for hours on Athena's Bluff watching the majestic scene before her, its beauty totally lost on her.
"Damn you to hell!" Zoe screamed. "I hope you all burn for eternity!"
There was silence except for the wind rustling the fallen leaves outside. Just silence.
"Are you tired of my yelling, Calliope?" Zoe asked the spider, her voice a little husky.
The spider ignored the human down below and just sat in the corner minding her own business.
"You have a great life, Calliope." Zoe continued her one sided conversation. "You sit there, not caring about the Germans, the Greeks, the flies." Zoe sat up and swung her legs to the edge of the bed. Her feet touched the dark red flokati rug, her favorite rug, which had been brought up from the farm after her mother died.
Zoe got up and stretched. She closed her eyes as the breeze from the open window brushed against her face. She could smell the hint of rain in the air. She went to the window and looked out. The "bedroom" overlooked Athena's Bluff, and on any other day Zoe would have admired the view, but she didn't care for it at that very moment.
Zoe turned away from the window and grabbed her skirt. Sitting underneath the skirt was her gun. She gazed at it for a long moment before she turned and got dressed.
"I suppose I'll have to catch something if I don't want to starve." Zoe glanced up at the spider. "If I catch a rabbit, do you want the leg or the breast?" She shook her head at her own silliness and picked up the gun.
"Come on, Athena, we have work to do," Zoe said to the gun. She stuck the gun in a rucksack and slung it over her shoulder. She opened the door and blinked as the sun hit her eyes.
Zoe ventured outside towards the large fallen tree, which was located away from the walking track that led up the hill. It was obscured by the thick trees and perfect for Zoe's makeshift lavatory. She went about her business and covered up the hole in the ground with dirt and leaves in time to hear footsteps.
Zoe quickly hid behind the large tree trunk and grabbed her bag, which had been sitting on top of the fallen tree. She could not see who was coming up the track but she could hear them. One set of footsteps and then a scraping noise.
Zoe lowered herself onto her belly and waited.
Eva stopped and sighed. This trek up the hill was tougher than she had thought. The incline had tested her legs and her back but she was determined to get to the top. From what Despina had told her, it was one of the most beautiful parts in Larissa. Larissa’s beauty was totally lost on Eva and she doubted anything could be beautiful there.
Eva had told no one of her little trek, and she had left the house before the town had a chance to rise. She did get a few raised eyebrows from the guards but no one stopped her. No one wanted to be the one to stop Eva Muller, daughter of Major Muller, and question where she was going. She was hoping this would be the case and was very relieved when she didn’t see her regular shadow, Sergeant Henry Franz.
The walk from the village to Athena’s Bluff was long and tiring, but Eva was determined. Halfway there she thought she had lost her mind, but she continued forward. She felt compelled to go up that mountain.
Eva stopped just before the clearing and leaned on her cane. Her back and legs were screaming at her to stop. She took a deep breath and walked into the clearing.
What she saw took her breath away. The clearing was a short distance to what had to be Athena’s Bluff. The lookout was surrounded by trees but at the base it was flat with several boulders on either side. An overhanging tree cast its shadow over the outcrop.
"This is beautiful," Eva muttered as she took several steps forward. She stood gazing out at the valley below. A train weaved its way through Tempe Gorge and through the trees. The Pinios River ran through it. She took a step forward and looked down at the rocks below. She stood there mesmerized. Could she? It would end it all for her and that is what she wanted. She was alone and there was no one to stop her.
Zoe smiled for the first time in days. She glanced up into the heavens with a gleeful look on her face. She mouthed ‘thank you’ to whoever was answering her prayers. This one place, at this time. Just her and Eva Muller. Alone. No bodyguards, no means of escape except down the gorge.
Zoe pulled her bag closer and took out her gun. She kissed the barrel and smiled. She lowered herself behind the tree and very quietly made sure the gun was loaded. Having checked that it was, she lifted her head above the fallen tree. Eva was still on the ledge, almost transfixed by the view.
Just stay put, Fraulein, just stay put. Zoe aimed her pistol, and having Eva in her sights, she fired. The gun clicked and nothing happened.
Zoe suppressed the urge to scream as she lowered herself behind the fallen tree again. She checked the gun. Not finding anything wrong with it, she shook it before she half rose to take aim. Eva had moved. She was now standing near the boulder, which made the shot a little harder since the tree branches were in the way, but Eva was still visible.
Alright, let’s try this again. Zoe took aim and fired. Nothing. The gun didn’t make any noise. Zoe was about to stand and rush Eva. They were both going to fall down the gorge but Zoe stopped. She looked around the spot where she was and for some unknown reason she hesitated. Someone else was in the brush behind her. She sat back down and turned hoping to see a friendly face, but she was alone.
Alright, Zo, you have lost your mind. Without a word, Zoe was about to stand when she heard someone running up the hill. A man’s tread and one in a very big hurry. She quickly hid behind the fallen tree.
Sergeant Henry Franz woke at 4 am. Unable to sleep due to someone yelling in the distance, he tossed and turned until he decided to get up. Being quiet so as not to wake his room-mate, he dressed and grabbed his boots from outside.
Henry sat on the front step of the main residence as silence descended on the village. "Ah, so now everyone shuts up, when I’m awake," he muttered as he put on his boots.
Henry stood up and for a moment wasn’t sure what to do. Taking a cigarette from his pocket, he lit it and set up walking towards the sentry at the gate. The guards nodded to him as he walked out and down the street. Since he had some time before Eva woke, he would check with his friend Anton, who was on duty, and see if he had had any luck in the poker game the previous evening.
Henry noted the villagers were starting to wake but it was still generally very quiet. To his surprise, an old woman was walking towards him with a smile on her face. That had never happened to him. Usually it was a scowl, or they just turned their backs on him. Henry stopped and looked behind him to see if there was someone else who the old woman had seen. Seeing no one behind him, he turned back to the old woman, who had stopped in front of him.
"Good morning, Sergeant."
"Good morning, yiayia." Henry used the affectionate and respectful Greek term for grandmother.
"You’re up early."
"I am. So are you."
"I’m always up, never sleep anymore," the old woman said and touched Henry’s hand. "Are you trying to catch up with that young Fraulein you guard all the time?"
Henry blinked. "Fraulein Muller?"
"Yes. How many young women do you guard?" The old woman gazed up at Henry.
"You saw her this morning?" Henry asked, ignoring the old woman’s cheeky question.
"Are you sure it wasn’t yesterday? We did take an early morning walk---"
"She was walking alone, and unless you were invisible, it was this morning."
Henry groaned internally. Oh, Eva, don’t do this to me again! "Do you happen to remember which way she went?"
"Where? How do you know that?"
"Where does this road lead?" The old woman indicated with her hand.
"To the church."
"The church is not open. It’s too early even for Father Haralambos."
"What’s beyond that?"
The old woman sighed and shook her head. "Athena’s Bluff."
"Follow the road, young man, and you will see," the old woman replied with a smile and patted him on the arm before she walked away.
Henry looked back for a moment before he turned and took off running down the street, his footfalls echoing down the cobblestone street. He did indeed follow the road and then the road stopped. He wasn’t sure where to go until a farmer showed up in his cart and gave him directions to Athena’s Bluff.
Eva turned at the sound of her name and shook her head.
"What in God’s name are you doing?" Henry asked as he leaned against the tree to catch his breath. "I should get more fit."
"Early morning walk."
"Early morning run to an early grave." Henry wiped the sweat from his brow and sat down on the boulder. "Your father is going to kill me when he finds out."
"My father has other concerns."
"I thought we agreed you wouldn’t do this again."
"In France," Eva replied with a slight smile as she sat down next to Henry.
"What are you doing here?"
"Admiring the view," Eva replied as she gazed at the vista before her."
"Can we go back to the house before your father unleashes the demons from hell and then we can talk about it?"
"I like the view."
"I would like to stay alive for my next birthday. Come along." Henry took Eva’s hand.
"Alright. Let’s go." Eva smiled at Henry as she took his arm and they trekked back the mountain, oblivious to the hidden Zoe.
Zoe couldn’t quite believe the scene before her. The useless gun lay at her feet and any chance of her killing Eva was as dead as her gun.
In absolute frustration, Zoe kicked the log at her feet. "God damn it!" She muttered as a rabbit hopped into the open. She gazed at it for a moment before she picked up her gun.
"Aren’t you lucky this gun is useless," Zoe addressed the rabbit and pointed the gun. She pulled the trigger.
To Zoe’s amazement, the bullet struck the rabbit and it fell where it stood. She shook her head, looked at the gun and with a heavy sigh went to pick up her breakfast.
The saint’s eyes moved. Eva was sure of it as she stepped forward and looked into Saint Peter’s eyes. The artist had created an illusion that made her smile. She was alone in Father Haralambos’ office, so she took some time to admire the art in the form of various icons that were displayed around the room. She loved art and the room was decorated with several pieces. Daniel and the Lions were displayed prominently and she noticed the same style in both artworks.
"His eyes move."
Eva turned to find Father Haralambos leaning against the doorjamb with his arms folded. "I thought they did but I wasn’t sure. That is really beautiful work."
"It is. It was created by one of our own here in Larissa."
"I would love to meet him. I love art and artists always fascinate me," Eva said as she turned back to the artwork.
"Unfortunately she is no longer with us," Father Haralambos replied as he shut the door and placed a ribbon to indicate the room was being used as a confessional. He walked forward to come and stand next to Eva. "She passed away a year ago."
Eva stood still for a moment. "She died at my father’s hand."
"She did. Helena Lambros. She was a very talented artist---"
"There’s a painting in my room of the valley with Lambros on the corner."
"How do you remember that?" Father Haralambos sat down at the nearby chair.
"It’s in the same style. It’s a beautiful painting and it’s the last thing I see before I go to sleep. It’s very peaceful and she evokes a time when this place was just a sleepy village," Eva quietly explained. "It talks to me."
"Yes, I remember that painting."
The two remained quiet for a moment before Eva pulled out a folded piece of paper out of her cloak and handed it to Father Haralambos. "That makes four, right? That means the whole family can travel?"
Father Haralambos nodded and smiled at Eva. "That does make four. They will escape."
"How much love that father has for his daughters that he didn’t want to leave them behind until everyone’s papers were in order," Eva said with a touch of amazement in her voice. "To have a father like that…" Eva took a breath. "I’m really glad."
"You have made a difference to these people. The last six months have been heaven-sent for them."
"We may have a problem."
"Eva, your nurse has a name," Father Haralambos gently scolded. "She does a lot of good in looking after you."
Eva looked up at the ornate ceiling and sighed. "Nurse Edith," she amended and gazed back at Father Haralambos with a smile. They shared a quiet laugh. The last six months had been both a comforting and an increased joyous time for Eva. She had found a friend in a hostile village. Her well-guarded friendship with Father Haralambos had given her some respite from the hate.
"What is the matter with Nurse Edith?"
Eva giggled. "Other than her unrequited love for my father?"
"I don’t think it’s unrequited."
"Ah, didn’t you know the village priest knows everything that happens in a village? The confessional gives me more than enough gossip." Father Haralambos smiled. "Now what is the matter with Nurse Edith?"
"She was asking Sergeant Franz about my visits here and how long I’m staying."
Father Haralambos nodded as he stroked his beard, lost in thought. "It’s interesting that she asked the young man who has a crush on you."
Father Haralambos chuckled. "My dear, have you not seen how that young boy’s face lights up when you are around?"
Father Haralambos nodded. "Take it from me --the boy has a crush on you."
"Just what I need."
"It’s not a bad thing. You are only a few years older than him. Now how do you know that Nurse Edith asked him?"
"He told me. He said she was asking how long I’m in the church and why he didn’t come in with me. She also wanted him to tell her if I was speaking to anyone outside."
"Do you think she suspects?"
Eva looked up at the crucified Christ for a moment. "I don’t know. I think she will continue to snoop around. I didn’t call her Nurse Gestapo to be mean. She is like the Gestapo."
"This is going into a dangerous phase."
"I can handle it."
"No, Eva, you cannot handle this on your own. I know you are very brave and you have given quite a number of people a chance at escaping. We have to be even more careful now."
"Are you saying I should stop?"
"No, of course not, but you can’t be seen coming to the church as frequently as you have been. Even the villagers have noticed."
Eva gave Father Haralambos a wry smile. "The villagers notice if I sneeze and then they know that I’ve caught a cold long before I do."
A quiet chuckle echoed in the room as Father Haralambos nodded. "You have made an impression on the village." He looked at Eva with a worried expression on his face. "My job is to protect you."
"No. Your job is to protect those poor souls."
"I’m sorry," Father Haralambos said and looked down at his black robes before he turned his attention back to Eva. "Since when did you become the village priest?"
"Eva Muller, my job is to protect you and to protect them." My job is to know when you are in danger."
"I’m not in danger. Nurse Edith is just being a little gossipy."
"No, your dear nurse has your father’s ear and that means he will hear her suspicions and act upon them," Father Haralambos said. He took Eva’s hand and held it.
"So what do we do?"
Father Haralambos sat motionless for a long moment as he stared at the painting of Daniel. "You haven’t hired a maid, have you?"
"No. I don’t want any of the villagers to get anywhere near me."
Father Haralambos looked at Eva with a knowing smile. "Someone from the village already has."
Eva frowned for a moment trying to discern what Father Haralambos was talking about when it finally dawned on her. Her face creased into a smile. "I don’t count you as part of the village."
"No? Do I live somewhere else?"
"You know what I mean." Eva gently tapped Father Haralambos’ arm. "A maid will see all of me."
"Unless she was blind in one eye, yes, she would."
Eva couldn’t help but shake her head. "You don’t understand."
"I understand. I do. We all have scars, little one. Some of our scars are visible and some are invisible. The invisible ones are the worst," Father Haralambos gently said as he put his arm around Eva. "What those demonic people did to you is horrible but you can’t let them win."
"The visible ones are just as bad."
"I’m sure they are, but we have a problem here that will become extremely dangerous. You have to get a maid."
"What good will a maid be to me?"
"A maid can go to church without rousing suspicion."
"You want me to hire someone in the Resistance?" Eva asked incredulously. "Do you realize that those people want to kill me?"
"No, they don’t. The Resistance doesn’t want to kill you. If that was the case, they would have killed you twelve months ago."
"Wonderful," Eva replied as she let her head fall back against the back of the chair. "Do you have someone in mind?"
"I may have. The less you have to do with me and the church, the less suspicious Nurse Edith will be. You need to start on your journey to Athena’s Bluff."
"I’ve been there already."
Eva nodded. "Yes, I went last week."
"That was not nice, Evy, to do that."
"I know but I had this idea in my head…" Eva stopped when she realized she had said too much. One look at Father Haralambos told her he understood the reason she had gone to the outlook just out of town. "You don’t have to say it."
"But I will."
"I know. God knows."
"God knows," Father Haralambos agreed as he gently tipped Eva’s face toward him. "He knows, but taking your own life is a sin."
"I know. You’re still here to talk to me!" Father Haralambos replied, making Eva smile. "You are making a difference and saving lives. One day, you will see, your goodness and loving kindness will be rewarded."
"I’m not after a reward. I just want my life to end."
"For someone who wants to end their life, you are reaching out and helping others. That’s a little different to someone who just doesn’t care. No." Father Haralambos shook his head. "Your life has value and meaning. You are loved---"
"By one person, you." Eva gently poked Father Haralambos in the chest.
Father Haralambos took Eva’s hand from in front of his chest and kissed it. "No, dear child, there is one far more important than me that loves you. God loves you. There is no one more important than that. No matter what the world does, God loves you."
"It always feels I’m alone."
"But you’re not. He always sends someone to help you, to guide you. He sent me and I know He will send others. You are never alone when you have God’s love."
Eva bowed her head. "A nun befriended me in Aiden and she said the same thing."
"Sister Abigail. She was this tiny thing and old. She was feisty too, and told the lamest jokes I’ve ever heard." Eva laughed at the memory of the old woman who had comforted her so much when she needed it the most. "She told me that when I needed God, He was always there."
"He is there. He sent Sister Abigail and now He sent me. God knows what you require."
"Hm, if you say so."
"Indeed. Now you must go back to Athena’s Bluff and make that a priority."
"The maid will bring the identity papers to you?"
"That is what I had in mind," Father Haralambos replied as he put the forged identity papers Eva had given him in the drawer of his desk. "I will arrange for you to meet your new maid and then she will come to you at the house."
"If I must have a maid, then alright."
"Good. Now when you were here the other day, you said you wanted to ask me something?"
Eva ran her hand through her dark hair and wondered if it was the right time to ask; there was no harm in asking. "I don’t know if you can help me with this."
"Why don’t you ask me and then will both know."
"You’re the village priest and like you said, you know what happens in the village."
"I do. Sometimes I wish I were deaf," Father Haralambos joked, making Eva feel a little less uncomfortable. "We are friends. You can ask me."
"Major Hans Muller is not my father."
"No, he’s my stepfather."
"I don’t know who my real father is. My mother and this man were courting and they were intimate."
"Yes, you are the living proof of it."
Eva’s eyebrows rose. "You are not a typical priest."
"I’ll take that as a compliment, thank you. So your mother and this mysterious man courted, were intimate and then what?"
"Then I don’t know. I don’t know what happened to him. Mama was from this village. I think my stepfather chose to be stationed in Larissa in a sick, twisted way of proving something. Or maybe he just thought he would hurt me or maybe it was just luck."
"He is a very strange fellow."
"Sadistic bastard--" Eva put her hand over her mouth when she realized she had sworn in front of the priest and in a church. "I’m sorry, Father."
"It’s perfectly alright on this occasion, since he is a sadistic bastard."
"You know everyone in the village. You would have been here when my mother was here."
"What’s your mother’s name?" Father Haralambos got up from his seat and stood in front of a bookcase.
"Her name was Daphne. Her parents were Eva Theresa and Petros Mitsos."
Father Haralambos stared at the ground. Eva watched him as he twisted the gold cross that hung down his chest. After a long moment, he looked up and smiled.
"Let me tell you a story." Father Haralambos smiled when Eva groaned in frustration.
"Do you have to tell me one of your stories now? Can we talk about this question?"
"Yes. Have patience little one." Father Haralambos sat back down. "A very long time ago, a sheepherder fell in love with a young woman, much younger than himself. As is customary, the woman’s family had already picked out a husband for her. The young woman, as things go, didn’t want to listen to tradition. Her heart fell in love with the sheepherder, even though he was older and a very poor sheepherder at that. Her father was against this union, so they called a halt to it, much to the deep and aching sadness of this sheepherder and the young woman. There was a slight problem. She was pregnant with his child."
"You are talking about my mother, aren’t you?"
"Indeed." Father Haralambos hesitated. "Daphne was sent away before anyone learned she was with child. It was a miracle of sorts, because it’s hard to keep a secret in such a small village as this. Her father wasn’t going to allow them to marry, so he sent his daughter away from the village and away from the sheepherder. I don’t know where he sent her, and I don’t know what happened to her."
"That doesn’t tell me who my father is."
"Ah, but I haven’t finished the story yet." Father Haralambos looked into Eva’s eager blue eyes and softly said, "The sheepherder lost his one true love, or so he thought, and decided that no other would, or could, replace her in his heart. A little melodramatic perhaps, but he loved her so." He cleared his throat and said, "So the sheepherder decided to enter the priesthood..."
Father Haralambos watched as the realization surfaced on Eva’s face. "You! You’re my father?" The shock was evident in her voice, although her eyes were bright with excitement at the news.
"I am your father," Father Haralambos answered and smiled. "And you are my daughter. You are more beautiful than I had imagined."
"You are my father?" Eva repeated as she put her hand over her mouth and stared at Father Haralambos. "Why didn’t you run off with my mother?"
"I was a poor sheepherder. Where would I go? Petros Mitsos was a war hero, a revered man in the village."
"Do you think my father knows about you?"
"I doubt it," Father Haralambos replied with surety. "I almost blurted out your mother’s name when I first saw you."
"You knew I was your daughter?"
Father Haralambos closed his eyes and took a deep breath before he opened them again to see Eva’s eyes gaze back at him. "You are the spitting image of your mother. There is no denying who you are, Evy. When I saw you for the first time, I knew who you were."
"You didn’t say anything."
"What was I supposed to say? ‘Hello, I’m your real father and not that fool that is standing next to you.’ Is that what I was supposed to say?"
Eva shook her head. "You have known who I am for the last twelve months."
"Yes, but I didn’t know if you knew that Hans Muller was not your father," Father Haralambos reasoned. "There were times when I wanted to say something but I held back. The time was not right."
"I wasted two years."
"No, you didn’t waste them. You and I became friends and God has answered my many prayers. He does give you what you desire at the appropriate time." Father Haralambos crossed himself and then brought the cross up to his lips and kissed it.
They looked at each other for a moment before Father Haralambos took Eva into his arms and held her against him as he kissed her tenderly on the top of her head.
"Zoe! Zoe! Zoe!"
"I’m here, Klim," Zoe called out from the other side of the cabin, where she was skinning the rabbit she had caught. She heard running footsteps and a dark haired boy hurtled around the side of the cabin and came to a screeching halt, his shoes skidding on the rocks.
"Zoe!" Klim bellowed as he tried to catch his breath.
"I can hear you. Don’t yell."
"Apostolos wants to see you."
"That man won’t take no for an answer," Zoe muttered under her breath as she placed the skinned rabbit aside. "What does Apostolos want?"
"How important is it?"
Klim sighed deeply and pulled Zoe’s shirt sleeve. "Zoe," he whispered and was cut short by Zoe’s raised eyebrow.
"Why are you whispering? We are alone up here unless you think the trees are collaborators."
Klim scanned the trees and turned back to Zoe. "It’s about the collaborator."
"Are you absolutely sure Apostolos said collaborator?"
Without a word, Zoe went back into the cabin. She picked up the sack she used as a makeshift bag and also her gun. She closed the door to the cabin and hurriedly walked down the track. Klim quickly followed.
They did not speak as Klim led Zoe to the designated location just a little way out of town to the north. Leaving Larissa and following the road, Zoe’s mind turned to Stavros, who had promised he would take care of her, a promise he would now never be able to keep owing to the traitor amongst the Resistance. Zoe wanted to know who it was that had betrayed them. Now she was going to find out and demand justice --justice for her cousin and the others that he had betrayed.
Klim walked hurriedly along the path and through dense bush land until they came to a cave, one of the many caves that littered Larissa’s hills and were last used during the war of Liberation from the Turks.
"Zoe, you’re here. I wasn’t sure if you were going to be at the farm or at Athena’s Bluff," Apostolos said. "Come with me."
Zoe didn’t have a chance to ask questions. She just followed Apostolos through the cave and onto the other side, to an area dense with bush land. In the middle of a cluster of trees was a clearing.
"Let’s sit for a minute."
Zoe wasn’t in the mood to talk but she reluctantly sat down on a fallen log. Apostolos sat beside her.
"I want you to know that I feel your pain. Stavros was like a brother to me and his betrayal cuts me to the bone." Apostolos reached out and took Zoe’s hand. "What I am about to tell you will not be easy."
"What is it?"
"We know who the traitor is."
"Klim told me that you did. Who is it?"
Apostolos remained quiet for a moment and glanced to the two men who had walked out of the cave. He shook his head and they went back inside.
"Vassili Petrakis," Apostolos quietly said as he cast a worried look at Zoe. She stared at the ground for a long moment. "Zo---"
"I want justice."
"I know you do and we will mete out justice but---"
Zoe shook her head. "I want justice by my hand."
"No. No, Zoe. No, never."
"You are not listening to me. I’m not asking you. I’m telling you."
"It’s too much of a burden to bear. I cannot allow you to do this."
"I’m not new to the Resistance. My father told me to be brave and to do what is right. I know what he meant; I didn’t at the time but I do now."
"I know." Apostolos covered Zoe’s much smaller hand with his own. "I was with your father and he was courageous and strong but he would never want me to give you this heavy burden to bear."
"My father isn’t here," Zoe quietly responded. "I am here. Blood for blood, an eye for an eye."
Zoe and Apostolos looked at each other before a noise made them look up. Father Haralambos came out of the cave and slowly made his way towards them. With a slight nod, Apostolos got up and walked away, leaving the priest and Zoe alone.
"Does Apostolos think you will change my mind?"
"I don’t know what you have decided. I came to give the last rites."
"You are going to give the last rites to a collaborator?"
"We are all God’s children. Vassili made a mistake. He will pay for that mistake but it’s not my job to be his judge."
"Pah!" Zoe picked up a stone and threw it against the cave wall, where it bounced.
"What have you decided?"
Zoe took Father Haralambos’ bible. "The Bible says, an eye for an eye, a life for a life."
"An eye for an eye? Is that what you want to do? You want to exact vengeance?"
"Blood for blood," Zoe replied. "Vassili was Stavros’ cousin. He betrayed his own cousin. He is my family. It is my job."
"You have been through enough---"
"Who do I give this job to, Father? Apostolos? He has been through a lot as well. We all have. None of us knew that we were going to be in a war but here we are. Who do you want me to give it to if not me?"
"You are far too young to make such a decision."
Zoe gazed sadly at Father Haralambos. "I was young and naive once. I’m not anymore."
"You are determined to do this?"
"Yes. I know am I am right." Zoe sat down and took a deep breath. For a long moment she didn’t say anything. "Are you with us or against us?"
"I’m doing God’s work. God is on our side, so yes, I am on your side."
"Good. Go and give that bastard the last rites so I can send him on his way to hell."
Father Haralambos pulled Zoe into his embrace and held her. Zoe shook her head trying not to let the tears overwhelm her but she lost the battle. She sobbed against his black covered shoulder.
Zoe sat alone in the cave, her eyes fixed on the ground. She could hear Father Haralambos’ voice from outside the cave talking to Vassili. Her heart beat loudly in her ears and the enormity of what she was about to do made her hands shake. She closed her eyes and tried to steady her nerves. She opened them again to see Apostolos had sat beside her.
"Did you learn anything?"
"Nothing we didn’t already know."
"Has Father H finished?"
"Right." Zoe stood. Her knees trembled under her pants but she stood still waiting for the fear to subside. "I’m ready."
"You don’t have to do this. Let me do this for you? Please." Apostolos put his arm around Zoe’s shoulders. "Allow me to take this burden from you."
"No. I know you care about me, but---"
"I don’t just care about you, Zo. I love you," Apostolos replied quietly. "I asked your father for your hand in marriage."
"I know." The corners of Zoe’s lips curled but she refrained from smiling. She had suspected Apostolos had asked her father. Nicholas Lambros was a very happy man after he came out of his barn with Apostolos a few days before their world exploded. Now she knew why --her father had given his blessing.
"Yes. Stav told me how sweet you were on me."
"Your father gave me his blessing. I know Theo would have given me his blessing as well. Is that a yes, you will?"
Zoe shook her head as she gazed up at Apostolos. "Tolis," she addressed him using a nickname she had for him when she was younger. "You are my friend and have been for a long time. I love you."
"I love you as my brother." Zoe smiled sweetly and cupped his bearded cheek. "You and Theo were like brothers and that’s how I see you. I love you because you want to take this burden off me. It’s what a brother would do, but you can’t."
"I understand," Apostolos replied. He leaned down and kissed Zoe tenderly on the cheek. "I am going to be jealous of the man that wins your heart."
"Pity the poor man," Zoe replied with a quiet chuckle. She picked up her gun and held it in her hand. "Let’s do this." She took Apostolos’ hand and they walked through the cave and into brilliant sunshine.
The clearing was now surrounded by members of the Resistance. Father Haralambos stood to the right, his Bible clutched firmly to his chest. In the center of the clearing was Vassili, tied to a chair and with a black hood placed over his head.
Zoe took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. Her legs felt like lead with each step she took. She was meters from Vassili. "Take the hood off."
"Zoe--" Apostolos stopped when Zoe glanced at him. He removed the hood.
Vassili Petrakis was a black haired man who resembled her cousin Stavros so much it made Zoe’s heart ache. His dark brown eyes met hers and he blinked.
Zoe gazed at Vassili for a long time before she took a step forward. "Why?"
Vassili turned his tear stained face away from Zoe, who wondered if he was ashamed or remorseful for what he had done.
"I did it to save my family."
"You did it to save your family," Zoe repeated. She knelt beside his chair and gazed into his eyes. "You did it to save your family?"
"We were your only family. Stavros was your first cousin. That was your family. I don’t believe you. How much money did they give you?"
"I’m sorry, Zoe." Vassili pleaded with Zoe. "Please, don’t do this."
"Why don’t you want me to do this?"
"You are my family."
"You are not my family. Do you see everyone here?" Zoe pointed to those gathered around. "Every one of them is my family. They were your family and you betrayed them. You are our Judas. You betrayed Stavros and you betrayed all us of us for thirty pieces of silver."
"I’m so sorry."
"I know you are." Zoe cupped Vassili’s cheek. "I know you are, because you were found out."
Zoe stood for a long moment. "Look at me." Vassili turned his head and gazed at her, tears running down his face. "An eye for an eye, a life for a life."
Zoe raised her gun, she blinked back the tears that threatened to become a river, and then she fired.
Eva entered the church. As usual at this time of the morning it was very quiet. She saw Sister Maria lighting a candle off to the far right of the room. Eva made her way across to the altar. She stopped for a moment, bowed her head and then crossed herself before moving away and heading to Father Haralambos’ office. He looked up from his studies and smiled when he saw Eva through the open door.
"I have some news." Eva reached into her cloak and brought out two identity papers and handed them to Father Haralambos, who came around his desk.
"Ah, this is good. I’m glad you’re here. I want to introduce you to your new maid."
"I’m afraid my church visits are going to be very limited."
"Ah, did Nurse Edith convince your father---"
Father Haralambos smiled. "He is still your father. Now did Edith convince him?"
"Yes, as we feared."
Father Haralambos put his arm around Eva and led her away from the office towards the back. He opened a door which led into pitch darkness.
"You have a cellar?"
"Yes, Father Alamanios used to store his collection of wine down there before the war and now we just use it for storage."
"Where are we going?"
"To meet your maid," Father Haralambos replied as he lit the oil lamp. "Now do you want to stay up here? There are a lot of steps."
"How far down is it?"
"About twenty steps."
"I’ll come down with you," Eva replied taking Father Haralambos’ offered arm.
"Zoe, it’s just me," Father Haralambos called out as they descended.
"I’m in the wine room," Zoe’s muffled voice filtered back up.
"She sounds very young," Eva whispered.
"She’s fourteen but works hard and has a good heart. I’m quite sure she will like you and you will think she’s a little too chatty."
"I’m not chatty, Fath---" Zoe came out of the wine room holding an old bottle and stopped dead when she saw Eva’s tall form behind Father Haralambos. "What in God’s name is the cripple doing here?" She spat out, and then she turned and went back inside the wine room. Moments later she came back out with a gun and aimed it at Eva’s head.
The gun jammed.
Zoe swore and glared at the gun and fired again at Eva. "For the love of Christ! This is the second time this stupid gun hasn’t worked on this bitch. She-demon," she muttered as she checked the barrel of the gun.
"Put the gun down, Zoe, and what have I told you about swearing in the house of God?" Father Haralambos shielded Eva from the enraged young woman.
"No! Get away from her, Father, or else."
Father Haralambos stood his ground. "Or else what? You will shoot me? Here? In the house of God?"
"The gun is cursed, so you’re safe."
"Zoe Lambros!" Father Haralambos exclaimed in outrage. "That is not what I expect from you!"
"Sorry, but the sight of this bitch makes my blood boil!"
"The sound of your swearing is going to send me to an early grave! Haven’t there been too many deaths already today?"
"This will be a justified death. Now step away from her."
"Do you think I can’t call on my guards at this very moment?" Eva asked in Greek as she peered over Father Haralambos. She wasn’t sure why she wanted to goad Zoe but she couldn’t help herself.
Zoe shook with rage and leveled the gun at her.
"Your gun doesn’t work, little girl."
"I am cursed with a stupid f--," Zoe stopped herself from swearing and then glared at Eva. "What is the cripple doing here in the holy of holys!"
"Since when has the wine cellar been the holy of holys?" Father Haralambos asked shaking his head in astonishment.
"It’s in a church."
"My god, you are insufferable!" Eva exclaimed. "Father, I can’t work with this child!"
"I’m not a child, you Nazi cripple!" Zoe spat out, and before she could react Father Haralambos reached out and grabbed the gun from her hand. "Father!" Zoe protested.
"I told you, no swearing in church. Now sit down and listen." Father Haralambos pushed Zoe onto a crate. Eva chose to stand as far away from her as possible.
"You can’t expect me to be in the same room with this..." She was about to swear again but stopped herself. "With this...whore!" Zoe gave up and threw her hands up.
Zoe looked at Father Haralambos as if he had grown another head. "Were you not at the hanging? Or did you forget giving the last rites to them?"
"I haven’t forgotten. It’s not what you think. You remember when I said it is best if our left hand does not know what our right hand is doing?"
"Yessss." Zoe let out a frustrated breath. "What does that have to do with...her?"
"Zoe, Zoe, Zoe. You need to cultivate patience."
"Father, Father, Father," Zoe mimicked Father Haralambos sarcastically. "I need to get out of here before I kill someone in this church." She tried to get up, but Eva had moved and was standing before her. She was pushed back down by the tall woman.
Zoe pushed her hands away in disgust. "Don’t touch me!" She yelled. "I don’t want your bloody hands on me."
"Stop behaving like a two year old and listen to Father Haralambos before you give yourself heart failure. At this point I vote for you to continue but I don’t think Father Haralambos would like it," Eva told her in Greek, but Zoe’s response was to bolt to her feet and spit at her. The spittle landed on Eva’s cheek and dribbled down her neck. She wiped it from her face with her hand.
"So you can speak Greek. I knew she was a spy! I knew it!"
"My god, you are an imbecile!" Eva retorted and wiped her hand against her cloak.
"Zoe!" Father Haralambos exclaimed and took out a handkerchief from his robe and handed it to Eva. "Need I remind you that you are in the house of God!"
"It’s okay, Father." Eva wiped the spittle from her face. "We are dealing with a child having a temper tantrum. I understand her hatred even though she can’t articulate it without sounding like a drunken whore."
"What would you know about hatred other than being the one doing the hating?" Zoe snarled and crossed her arms over her chest. "You’re a Nazi whore and a spy. You can fool the priest but you don’t fool me."
"Oh, no! You brilliant child, you have found me out. What am I going to do now! Oh, no, the game is up." Eva mocked Zoe and shook her head.
"Ladies!" Father Haralambos got in between Eva and Zoe and glared at both of them in turn. "Will you please treat the church as Switzerland and call a truce? Zoe, I think you owe Eva an apology."
"Like hell I do!"
"Zoe." Father Haralambos shook his head. "You need to calm down."
Zoe paced around in a circle trying to calm herself. "Father, if I didn’t know better, I would say you were a collaborator."
"We now go from imbecile to moron," Eva muttered.
"Eva! I want the both of you to stop talking," Father Haralambos pleaded and pointed to the upturned crates. "Both of you sit down."
Eva sighed deeply and took the largest upturned crate and sat on it. Zoe took a crate on the opposite site and continued to glare at Eva.
"Zoe, this is Eva Muller."
"I know who she is," Zoe spat out bitterly. "Fraulein Muller is the devil’s spawn."
"No, you don’t know who she is. And stop interrupting me!"
"Zoe, what Father Haralambos is trying to say is that I’m not the person you think I am."
"Oh, that’s even better. I don’t know who Father Haralambos is, you’re not who I think you are, and you expect me to sit here and believe it? By the way, I’m not who you think I am either. In fact I’m a German spy sent here to live a miserable life as---"
"Do you remember when Lucas had to warn the British airmen that the Germans were trying to find them?" Father Haralambos sat down and pulled Zoe down with him, clasping his hands over hers.
"Yes. We got them out in time but what---"
Father Haralambos pressed his fingers to Zoe’s mouth to quiet her. "How do you think we got that information?"
Zoe shrugged, pulling Father Haralambos’ fingers away from her mouth. "I don’t know. Maybe Fraulein Muller gave you the news," she said sarcastically. "This is worse than that drama Petrakis put on last summer. That stank too."
Father Haralambos looked at Eva, who nodded at him. Zoe looked between the two of them and sighed. "A few months ago I approached Father Haralambos and gave him the news about the airmen whose whereabouts were being sought by the Germans."
"Oh, how noble of you, Fraulein," Zoe mockingly responded. "Is that your good deed for the week?"
"What? Father, are you telling me that she gave you the information? Do you really want me to believe that?"
"Yes," Eva said simply.
"Oh, right, and I believe it because Fraulein Bitch tells me."
"Why is it so hard for you to believe?" Eva asked.
Zoe’s eyebrows hiked in surprise. "Oh, I don’t know, could it be that you’re the enemy!" She yelled at Eva.
Despite the seriousness of the situation, Eva laughed, knowing it would probably make Zoe even more enraged. She didn’t know why she laughed, but she did. The sight of this fiery and fearless petite young girl made her want to applaud, which was a very odd reaction. She continued to smile when Zoe stood up and stepped over to her.
"I’m going to kill you," Zoe said very slowly. "It’s not a threat. I swear on my mama’s grave, I am going to shoot you."
"Not with that gun, you won’t," Eva responded with a sneer.
"You have a smart mouth for a cripple."
"You’re a feisty little thing, aren’t you?" Eva asked, which only earned her a growl. "Feisty and stupid. Almost as entertaining as a two year old."
"Someone should shut that smart mouth of yours," Zoe spat back.
"It won’t be you. You can’t reach it," Eva responded and then chuckled.
"Eva is my daughter," Father Haralambos announced. Zoe turned to him with a look of disbelief on her face.
Zoe blinked. "Your what? You have a daughter and it’s her?"
"See, I’m not Satan’s spawn, I’m his spawn," Eva said on seeing Zoe’s green eyes darken in anger. The vein in her neck pulsed to such a degree, she was certain Zoe was going to indeed have heart failure.
"Eva! You’re not helping." Father Haralambos admonished, and turned to Zoe, who was now completely outraged.
"You are a priest!"
"Yes, I know I am."
"Priests don’t have sex."
Father Haralambos smiled. "There are more things in heaven and earth."
"That was William Shakespeare."
"An English poet..." Eva began to explain, but was silenced by the hate-filled look she was getting from Zoe.
Zoe let out a frustrated growl. Shaking her head, she bolted up the stairs and out of the church into a downpour.
"Oh, great!" Zoe looked up into the heavens, now soaked.
The rain fell steadily as Zoe thumped the ground in frustration. She was cold and angry. Angry with Father Haralambos for taking Eva’s side and angry with herself for not killing her when she had a chance. She splashed through the mud and sat on an old motorcycle that lacked a wheel. Muddy water had pooled in the sidecar and she watched the rain fall. The old motorcycle was a project she was helping Father Haralambos with.
Father Haralambos stood under the overhanging shingle and sighed. "Zoe, come back inside. Eva has left and we really need to talk." Please."
"No," Zoe mumbled and straddled the bike.
"Getting wet won’t help. You’re going to catch a cold."
"So what?" Zoe replied. "If I die from a cold or if I die from a German bullet, what would it matter?"
"It would matter to me." Father Haralambos held out his hand. "Come back inside. We have to talk."
"What’s left to be said?"
"You would be surprised." Father Haralambos smiled as Zoe got off the bike and made her way towards him.
Zoe accepted the towel from Father Haralambos and dried her hair. She followed him inside the small office. With the towel around her wet hair, she stood by the window, her head resting on the glass as she watched the rain falling lightly against the pane, making a kaleidoscope trail down the window. She sighed as she traced a droplet with her finger, disappointment weighing heavily on her shoulders. "You’ve complicated matters."
"Oh, how so?"
"I was going to kill her," Zoe said quietly. "I had it all planned out. I was going to avenge my mama’s murder. Now you tell me she’s your daughter. How can she be your daughter? You have never married. Priests don’t marry and they don’t commit fornication. That isn’t right."
"I have never lied to you about anything. Why am I going to start now?"
Zoe shook her head. "I don’t know. How can she be your daughter?"
"That answer is not for today. I want to talk to you about how you are a useful member of the Resistance."
"Yeah, right." Zoe continued to watch the rainfall. "Very useful, and I have the most useless gun ever made."
Father Haralambos got up and walked over to Zoe, gently placing his hands over hers. "You can be very useful."
"If I was useful, why didn’t I help Stavros or Kiriakos or Antonios? How useful was I to Giorgos or to the others who have died?" Zoe turned and looked at Father Haralambos, her green eyes glistening with unshed tears.
"You can’t stop the war by yourself, my child. It’s going to take the might of the Allied powers to deliver the deathblow to the Nazis. Just as a hand needs the rest of the body to accomplish its desired action, so do we. We need the Allies to help us to defeat them. You are useful."
"How? I haven’t done anything, apart from a lot of crying and watching my friends die."
"You were very brave. Brave enough to have witnessed the death of your friends so they left this earth knowing their lives were not in vain. And you are here for moral support to your friends who still live. It takes a lot of courage to continue when death is all around you. Don’t cry for the dead, for they are with our Lord in Heaven. Cry for the living who need your help. Remember the job I recommended you for?"
"Yes, how can I forget that?" retorted Zoe sarcastically.
"Why do you think I recommended you to Eva?"
"Because I can clean and cook?" Zoe replied bitterly.
"Indeed you can, but Eva is going to need someone to help her to get us any information she comes across that would be useful in our struggle. She has noticed that her nurse and her father have been watching her closely, so she might want you to deliver the information. So, what do you say?"
"I won’t kowtow to the Germans. I don’t care if one of them is your daughter!"
"It doesn’t matter that she’s my daughter. What matters is that we need you. You need to put aside your anger and understand that you will be doing your comrades a service and possibly saving lives as well. Can you see how you are needed here?"
"Killing Eva would only have caused more deaths to our brothers."
Zoe shivered as the darkest memory of her life once again made its way to the surface to torment her, a torment so painful that she was not even aware of the tears silently rolling down her cheeks. Nor did she feel the embrace of Father Haralambos as he tried to comfort her. Zoe was completely absorbed in her torment and in her memories.
"It’s going to be alright, Zoe. We have lost too many loved ones, I know, my child. We can grieve for them, but they are in a better place."
Zoe wiped away the tears and accepted the handkerchief Father Haralambos had handed to her. She nodded her thanks and sighed. "Remember that day my mama died?"
Father Haralambos nodded.
"My belief in God died with her," Zoe whispered.
"I know, my child, I know."
Zoe sighed again loudly. "What do I need to do?"
"Eva is expecting you, so I suggest you go and get cleaned up and report to Kiria Despina." Father Haralambos stood up and wiped a tear from Zoe’s cheek. With a twinkle in his eye he chuckled. "And try to be meek and humble when you are talking to Major Muller."
Zoe glanced up at a drawing on the wall. It had a shaft of light descending from above, illuminating the figure of Daniel in the cave with lions around him. "Well, I think I’m about to learn what Daniel felt like. Although those animals were tame compared to Major Muller."
"You have a guardian angel like Daniel did."
"Well, if I do, then I need to report him for not being on the job," Zoe replied as she continued to look at the painting.
"Would you like to pray with me? I know you don’t believe in our Lord, but I do, and I would want you near me as I ask for His help," Father Haralambos said, taking her hand.
Zoe nodded. "All right, Father, but I have to warn you, once our job is done, I’m going to kill the b—erm—I’m going to kill your daughter."
"I know you will."
"Right. You do know that when I say I’m going to do something, I do it."
"I know that."
"Good. Now let’s get on with the prayer so I can go over to Satan’s lair."
As they knelt, Father Haralambos put his arm around Zoe. They bowed their heads and he offered a prayer.
Zoe straightened her shirt one more time and then rounded the corner. As she spotted the major’s residence, she wiped her sweaty palms along her skirt. The house was hard to miss; it was the largest estate in Larissa. It used to belong to the Faksomoulos family, who had owned property from Athens to Thessaloniki before the war with the Italians. Danalos Faksomoulos saw the coming troubles and packed up his family and fled. Zoe had thought him a coward and it was fitting his estate would be occupied by similar cowards and murderers. There were two properties --the larger house where Major Muller made his base, and the small house, once used as a guest house, where Zoe knew that Eva Muller was located. For as long as Zoe could remember, the guest house was always called ‘the small house’ but it was a misnomer. The ‘small house’ was larger than two normal village properties.
A small stone fence separated the property from the street. Standing on guard next to the front gate were two soldiers. Zoe scowled as she approached the gate, and to her surprise, the guard nearest the gate latch opened it and let her in.
Zoe walked through and proceeded to walk up the driveway. She stopped momentarily and looked back at the guards. With a slight shake of her head, she resumed her journey.
Slowly, Zoe made her way up the stone steps where two other soldiers stood guard before the entrance. Above them the Nazi flag hung limply in the drizzling rain. One of the soldiers brandished his gun and pointed it at her. She stopped when she was about to take the final step to the landing. She looked up at the sky. Now would be a good time to show up, guardian angel.
Zoe was prepared for a long drawn out argument but instead the door opened and the soldier she recognized as being one of Eva’s bodyguards stepped out. She inwardly groaned on seeing Henry. The extremely tall, bald man with piercing green eyes crooked his finger at her to follow him.
"I listen and obey," Zoe muttered in Greek as she stepped through the threshold. The house didn’t look any different, other than the swastika which adorned the main entrance, from what it had been when she had visited the house as a young child. She was expecting more guards than the two outside and the two inside, but was very surprised not to see any others.
Henry stopped suddenly, causing Zoe to nearly crash into his broad back. He turned around and faced Zoe.
"If you throw as much as a rumpled piece of paper at Fraulein Muller, I will kill you."
Zoe looked at Henry’s face. "How long did you practice that, Goliath?"
"I mean it."
"Yes, I know," Zoe patted henry on the hand, surprising both herself and him. "I’ve watched you walk next to her for months."
"That was a lucky throw."
"You should have given her a helmet."
"I should have shot you," Henry growled back. He opened the door to an office downstairs and indicated for Zoe to walk through.
Zoe entered the room, which looked quite sparse --a desk sat in the middle with a solitary lamp on the left hand side. That was it. There was nothing personal about it to indicate its owner and the room was devoid of anything to suggest someone actually occupied it.
"This is Captain Reinhardt’s office."
Zoe studied the room again and slowly shook her head. "It’s cold. There’s nothing to say who it belongs to. He doesn’t even have a piece of paper on his desk." She bent her knees slightly and tilted her head to the side to inspect the desk surface. "It’s also dusty."
Henry sighed as he looked at the ceiling. "Do you always talk so much?"
"No, not always. When I’m throwing rocks, I am very quiet." Zoe smiled when Henry gave her a disgusted look.
"I don’t know why they are hiring you. You are a menace."
"You’re worried I’ll want to kill her."
"No, I’m not worried."
Henry stared at Zoe. "You won’t get another chance. I will kill you first."
"How old are you?" Zoe asked expectantly.
"I want to know."
"You’re very strange."
"No, I’m just bored," Zoe replied and inspected the room to find a spot to sit down. There weren’t any chairs other than the one behind the desk. "Where is your master?"
"He is busy--"
"Stop that," Henry admonished and lowered his voice. He glanced behind him at the open door before he turned to a very bemused looking Zoe. "You want to help Fraulein Muller, don’t you?"
Zoe gazed up at Henry and looked behind her for a moment before she turned her attention to him. "I am Frau Muller’s maid."
"Fraulein Muller," Henry corrected.
"Evil bitch from Berlin, yes, that one."
Zoe grinned. "You like her."
Zoe observed Henry. His green eyes narrowed as she gazed at his face. He avoided her for a few moments but then lost that war with himself.
"What?" Henry asked finally.
Zoe’s response was cut short when Captain Reinhardt entered the room and took a seat behind the desk.
"I’m Captain Reinhardt," Reinhardt introduced himself in German and glanced briefly at the piece of paper in front of him. "You are Zoe Lambris?" He asked in Greek, taking Zoe by surprise.
"Lambros." Zoe scowled at the very obvious mistake in her name.
"Zoe Lambros," Reinhardt repeated and sat back in his chair. "Are you a good maid?"
"No. I’ve never been a maid before."
Reinhardt looked up with a slight smile. "I’m quite sure you will learn very quickly. Where are your belongings?"
"You are moving in. Didn’t Kiria Despina tell you?"
Zoe glanced at Reinhardt with a very confused look on her face. "I live right across the street."
"Yes, I know you do, but you will move into this house."
"Like hell I will," Zoe muttered and glared at Reinhardt. "I’m a maid, not a servant."
"That’s the same thing," Henry muttered under his breath just barely audible for Zoe to hear. He tried to hide a smirk when Zoe glared at him.
"Fraulein Lambros," Reinhardt said reverting to German. "You are moving into the top floor of this house to be with Fraulein Muller. Do you understand?"
"Good. How old are you?"
"Can you read and write?"
Zoe glanced at Henry, who was standing to attention and deliberately not looking in her direction. She turned back to Reinhardt. "Yes, can you?"
Reinhardt burst out laughing. "You are very funny. I like you. Sergeant Franz, take Fraulein Lambros to Fraulein Muller."
Zoe glanced back at Reinhardt, who was still chuckling as she left the room. They turned the corner and found the stairs.
Eva sat at her desk, her long, raven hair falling across her face as she looked at the photo she held in her hands. The smiling face of a young girl, her arms around an older woman, looked back at her. Eva remembered, so vividly, the day that photo was taken. She had been excited to join the Bund Deutscher Madel, the League of German Girls from fourteen to eighteen years of age. She raced home to tell her beloved mother how she and her friend Greta had signed up.
They found out they were going to parade in front of their leader and the following months saw them practicing how to march in formation. The night before the big day, Greta had stayed over and neither of them had slept. The following morning, thousands of Hitler Youth paraded before the Führer.
Eva closed her eyes and could still see the stands at Nuremberg, the banners flying in the breeze. Adolf Hitler stood at the podium, waved at them and said, "You, my youth, are our nation’s most precious guarantee of a great future and you are destined to be the leaders of a glorious new order under the supremacy of National Socialism. Never forget that one day you will rule the world!"
The cheers had reverberated from the stands as thousands of young voices were raised in enthusiastic response. And then Kristallnacht happened.
Eva shook her head at the memory and sighed. "Oh, Mutti, you would have been so ashamed of me," she whispered to the woman in the picture as she brushed away tears. She put the photo aside and went back to the letter in front of her. A photograph of a young soldier lay on the side. She picked it up and gazed into the young man’s earnest face.
She looked up at the sound of knocking, and quickly composed herself. "Enter."
The door opened and Henry entered. Behind him came Zoe, clutching her bag. "Fraulein Muller--"
"Just a moment," Eva said not bothering to spare more than a glance at Zoe. She finished writing the letter and put her pen aside. She stood and walked around the desk and sat on the edge of it while she watched Zoe look around the room.
"You can go, Franz."
"Franz, you can go. She won’t attack me."
Henry scowled and held his ground for a moment before he turned and walked out. He closed the door behind him.
"So, this is how our slave masters live," Zoe stated flatly as she looked around the well-furnished room. She smiled grimly when she caught sight of a painting she recognized well.
"My mother painted that," Zoe said proudly. It had been the last painting Helena had sold before her death.
"She was very talented," Eva replied and glanced at the painting of the countryside.
"She was," Zoe whispered, cleared her throat, and then continued to look around the room. A desk was positioned near the window and a light breeze blew the curtain over the chair.
Zoe looked up at a photograph on the nearby wall and peered at it. She recognized Eva quickly as the gangly teenager with her dark hair in a ponytail who was taller than the man and woman standing on either side of her. The man wore a black hat which contrasted with his silver hair. A salt and pepper moustache gave him a comical look. He wore a dark suit and had his overcoat folded across one arm while the other was wrapped around Eva. The older woman wasn’t looking at the camera but smiling proudly at Eva, who had a medal hanging around her neck.
Still looking at the woman, Zoe realized she had never seen anyone wear so much jewelry in her life. She leaned in and scrutinized the pearls that were around the woman’s neck. A peacock pendant also caught Zoe’s eye.
"Find anything interesting?"
Zoe jumped a little at the nearness of Eva’s voice and she glanced back at Eva, who hovered nearby.
"What’s the medal for?"
Eva let a crooked smile grace her features for a moment. "Running."
Zoe glanced back. "Hmm," was all she said, and turned back to the photograph. She stared at it for a long time. There was something about the man that reminded her of someone, but she wasn’t sure who or why. "Who are these people?"
"You ask a lot of questions."
"Are you going to tell me?"
"Do I have to?" Eva responded, her tone a little irritated by Zoe’s inquisitive nature. "They are my grandparents."
"Your grandfather has gentle eyes," Zoe said, still gazing at the photograph. "Is he a Nazi?" She smiled when she heard Eva’s sigh behind her. She had to work with her, but Father Haralambos didn’t say she had to "behave" the entire time. Annoying Eva Muller was going to be fun, making her time more enjoyable.
"No, he was not a Nazi."
"He looks like one except for his eyes." Zoe cocked her head to the right and continued to gaze at the photograph.
"Can you stop looking at the photograph like you’re going to find the meaning of life behind it?"
"Is it bothering you?"
"No, it’s not, but I find it strange that you would look at it for so long."
"What are their names?"
"None of your business."
"Does he answer to Herr None of Your Business?" Zoe quipped, getting a very irate look in return.
"No, his name was Alexander Muller, and before you ask, he passed away when I was fifteen years old."
"I’m sorry for your loss." Zoe abruptly ceased her teasing and noticed a flicker of uncertainty cross Eva’s face. "Is your grandmother still alive?"
"She is, I think?"
"Can you stop interrogating me?"
"How else will I get to know you while I’m working with you?"
"You’re working for me."
"No." Zoe shook her head. "You are deluded. I’m working with you. Remember, this maid business is all pretense."
"No, it’s not. I do really need a maid."
"Oh, wonderful!" Zoe rolled her eyes. "Why do you need a real maid for?"
"To be a maid, silly," Eva replied. "You do know what a maid does, don’t you?"
"Do I look like I’m the village idiot?" Zoe scowled.
"No, you don’t."
"I know how to sew, how to clean, how to cook. My mama taught me how to be a good wife some day. Do you know how to do all those things?"
Eva shook her head. "No, none of those."
"Thought so." Zoe made a snorting noise and turned back to the photograph. "Your mama had a maid to do all those things for you?" She asked sarcastically.
"Actually, yes, she did." Eva was smiling when Zoe turned in surprise. "I’m not going to apologize for that."
"You better marry someone rich or else you will be doing the cleaning, the washing, and the cooking."
"If I need marriage advice, I’ll call you."
"You could always hire me as your maid," Zoe quipped, then chuckled at her own joke. She turned away and finally stopped staring at the photograph and focused her attention on the artwork nearby. It was one of her favorites, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s The Beggar Boy. She studied it for a long moment.
"You like that?" Eva asked. "Bart--"
"Bartolomé Esteban Murillo." Zoe finished the artist’s name and looked back. She gave Eva a knowing smile. "My mother was an artist, remember?" Her eyes went to her mother’s artwork before returning to the piece in front of her. "This was one of her favorite pieces."
"You are full of surprises."
Zoe watched Eva for a moment. "You speak fluent Greek. Where did you learn how to speak Greek?"
"My mother taught me." Eva sat down on the couch and motioned for Zoe to join her.
"Oh, yes, I forgot, you’re the bastard child," Zoe retorted, ignoring Eva’s request.
Eva took a deep breath and flexed her fingers. "How did the meeting with Captain Reinhardt go?" She asked, ignoring Zoe’s last comment.
"Other than him not getting my name right, he asked how old I was and if I could read and write."
"You can read and write?"
"Of course! We’re not all illiterate here, you know," Zoe said defensively. "I also know how to speak German," she muttered.
"I’m sorry; I didn’t mean it that way."
After a beat, Zoe looked at Eva. She reluctantly took a seat, but at the far end of the couch. "You never know when speaking German could be useful for a Greek. Do you know how to read and write?"
Eva smiled. "Yes, I know how to read and write."
"Well, you can’t cook and sew, but at least you can read and write. Your husband will be proud."
Another long sigh made Zoe smile inwardly. This is going to be so easy. After a few minutes of uneasy silence, she asked, "What were you doing before I came in?"
"You ask too many questions."
"Yes, it’s how I find out things."
Eva glanced at Zoe and shook her head. "I was writing a letter to a mother back home."
"He was killed last night," Eva responded tersely. "I write to all the parents after their sons have been killed or injured."
"Ah!" Zoe nodded. "That’s how you know how to copy your father’s signature."
"I don’t sign those letters --my father does."
Both women lapsed into silence for a few moments until Zoe couldn’t stand the silence. "So why are you betraying your Fatherland?"
Eva looked down at her hands, twisting the ring on her finger. "I have my reasons."
"What? Did Daddy not give you what you wanted?"
"Zoe, we are on the same side. I don’t want to fight with you."
Zoe shook her head. "You don’t get it. I’m not on your side. Your side killed my mother and I hate you."
"Why do you hate me?"
"Because you are a callous bitch."
"You don’t know me," Eva replied, sounding hurt by the bluntness of Zoe’s answer.
"You were there when my mother was killed. I saw you." Zoe looked up to find a very confused Eva looking back at her. "I heard you."
"You heard me? I don’t understand."
Zoe was not fooled by the innocent look. She was expecting it. Here was the demon she hated with all her soul, the woman she wanted to kill to avenge her mother’s death, and she was staring back at her with the most puzzled expression on her face, as if she truly didn’t know what Zoe was talking about. Zoe nodded. "I have to hand it to you --you’re good."
"I really don’t know what you’re talking about."
Zoe was angry. Angry with the woman sitting opposite her calmly denying what she had done. "When my mother lay dying, I heard you laughing. I saw you," Zoe said and waited to see if Eva reacted.
Eva sat back and shook her head. "I have never laughed when anyone was dying. I most certainly did not laugh," she said vehemently. "I wouldn’t do that."
"I wasn’t expecting you to admit it." Zoe shrugged. "You’re a Nazi and Nazis have no heart."
"You have me all worked out, don’t you? You think you know me," Eva replied angrily. She stood up and walked over to her desk, turning her back on Zoe. "You don’t know anything," she said quietly.
"I know what I saw and what I heard," Zoe continued, unfazed by Eva’s emotional outburst. "I can’t deny that."
Eva took a deep breath, exhaled slowly and regained her composure. She turned around to find Zoe was staring at her. "You are wrong. I wasn’t laughing."
"Someone was laughing," Zoe replied.
"I’m sorry about your mother’s death but I didn’t laugh."
"You didn’t even know her. How can you be sorry?" Zoe stared at Eva. "I know what I heard." She stood and walked over to Eva and looked up defiantly.
"You are a Nazi and yet you want to help the Resistance. It doesn’t add up. I don’t buy ‘Father H is my father and that’s why I’m doing it.’"
"Why is it difficult to believe?"
"You are the enemy."
"You’re right in that I’m not helping because of Father Haralambos," Eva replied. "I’m helping the Resistance for my own reasons. My reasons that are none of your business."
"Very noble," Zoe replied. "I couldn’t care less about your reasons."
"Have you ever changed your mind?"
Zoe stared at Eva for a long moment. "Yes, I’ve changed my mind many times. I’ve changed my mind about killing you although that could change again."
Eva shook her head slightly before continuing. "I changed my mind about Hitler and about the Nazis."
"So you’re telling me that when you found out who your real daddy was, you jumped ship?" Zoe asked sarcastically.
"You’re not going to be easy to get along with, are you?" Eva blurted.
"No," Zoe replied. "Get used to it."
Eva sighed. She was getting tired of Zoe’s antagonism. She had enough hate to deal with in her life, and adding one more person who hated her was just overwhelming. Father Haralambos had told her that Zoe was going to be doggedly determined to hate her no matter what. She thought the priest was stretching the truth a little, but she could see that winning Zoe’s trust was going to be difficult, if not impossible.
"Do you know about the ‘Night of Broken Glass’?" Eva asked, motioning for Zoe to resume her seat on the couch.
"No." Zoe shook her head. For a moment, she ignored the Eva’s request, but then she sat down again.
"Kristallnacht," Eva said in German. "It was a night of shame. Our group had assembled and a few of the older girls and boys heard about a plan to scare the Jews. Greta, she was my best friend, wanted to go." Eva went to the window and stared out. "Greta wanted to go and she wanted me along, so I went. Mutti thought I was at Greta’s house." Eva tried to collect her thoughts. "I remember standing in the courtyard of a synagogue which had been set on fire. My friends were laughing and joking. For the first time I was ashamed to be in the Bund Deutscher Madel."
"You killed Jews?"
Eva didn’t turn around but continued to stare outside. "No. I helped to burn a few houses and a synagogue... I watched as a rabbi was beaten. I watched and did nothing. I might as well have been the one who dealt the blows." Eva was lost in her memories and she mentally shook herself as she continued. "I helped my friends destroy people’s lives and I didn’t stop them."
There was complete silence in the room except for the noise of the soldiers outside though the open window.
"I stood by and did nothing. I ran all the way home and that’s when I found out my mother had been killed."
"How?" Zoe asked, her voice no longer sounding angry.
"Someone thought she was a Jewess and shot her," Eva said, trying to regain her composure before turning around to face Zoe.
"Oh," Zoe whispered.
"So we both know how it feels to lose our beloved mother," Eva said. "You’re not the first to lose their parent." Eva slowly lowered herself onto the couch again.
"Is that when you decided to work against the Nazis?"
"No. It was after I went to join my father in France," Eva replied. She wasn’t about to reveal everything about herself to Zoe.
"Remember what I said about killing you?" Zoe quietly asked.
"Yes." Eva nodded. "I remember. It’s not something I can forget."
"I meant it. You are everything I hate."
"You don’t know me. How can you hate me?" Eva reasoned.
"I don’t need to know the devil to want," Zoe stopped for a moment, "her dead."
"Hitting me with a stone in the head won’t do it," Eva remarked wryly. "That just gave me a lump."
"Why didn’t you? Why did you choose a rock and not a bullet?"
Zoe took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I didn’t have my gun when I saw you," she replied honestly.
"Lucky for me."
"I also don’t think your life is worth a hundred souls."
"You represent everything I hate," Zoe said again. "How did you find out your real father was Father H? Did you roam the Greek countryside asking every priest you met if he was your real father?"
Despite the sarcasm, Eva found the question funny and chuckled, which only caused Zoe to scowl. Eva composed herself but couldn’t help the smile that creased her face. "You have a unique way of expressing yourself."
"It’s a gift." Zoe shrugged and folded her arms across her chest. "So, what’s the story?"
Eva paused and got up from her seat, went to her desk and took a photo. "This is my mother," she said and gave the photo to Zoe.
Zoe looked at the black and white photograph of a striking woman and a younger version of Eva. Without a word, Zoe handed the picture back. "So that’s how Father H knew who you were."
"My mother was from this village." Eva looked down at the photo and sighed.
"What’s her name?"
Zoe scratched her head in thought for a long moment. "I don’t know her."
"I didn’t think you would. She left Larissa in 1919."
"So your mother was from this village and you instantly thought your father was the local priest?" Zoe asked with a puzzled expression.
"No, the local priest knows everything about a village so I asked him if he knew who my father was," Eva replied. She could tell Zoe would need a lot of convincing to believe her good fortune.
"You just happened to find the local priest, who was your real father?" Zoe asked incredulously.
"A priest doesn’t marry, you know that, right?"
"I don’t think it’s my place to tell you the story. It’s none of your business. The truth is that Father Haralambos is my father. If you don’t want to believe it, that’s up to you, but it’s the truth."
"So out of all the folks in Greece, or even in this village, you found him." Zoe shook her head. "This is really worse than that Petrakis drama."
When it was put that way even Eva found it difficult to believe. "Yes. I would like to think of it as divine intervention, but I suspect Major Muller chose to come to Larissa."
"I don’t know."
Eva remained quiet; there wasn’t anything she could say to the young woman. They sat in silence for a while, each in their own world of pain, trying to come to grips with their own demons. For Eva, the gentle chimes of the antique clock were a decided relief, for they had broken what had been a puzzling train of thought. It was strange. Here she was, raised in a life of privilege as the child of a Nazi officer, educated in the best schools and yet in some strange way, she was overwhelmed by the feeling that she somehow did not quite measure up to this intense peasant girl with the soft green eyes, whose face was as beautiful as her name.
But there was more to it than that and Eva knew it. Already she sensed that there was something about Zoe. Something that was sparking emotions in her that she had not felt in a long time. Yes, it was indeed strange. In fact, as she sat there in the thick silence, it finally occurred to her that she admired Zoe’s courage and passion. The fire in her eyes when she spoke about the things she loved and her commitment to her homeland. How she spoke about the love for her family and her friends.
Cupping her hand, Eva stared down at her perfectly manicured nails as if they encompassed in this moment all that made up the universe. For what seemed like an eternity after the clock’s chime, she continued to sit there silently alongside the equally mute Zoe.
Eva found Zoe captivating, and had they been in another time and place, she wondered if they could or would have been friends. She wondered if the only thing in Zoe’s heart was a burning desire for revenge, for swift and terrible retribution for what had been done to her homeland and to her mother. And who in God’s name could blame her?
Finally, in a voice so low Zoe had to strain to hear, Eva said, "You realize, of course, the risk you are taking."
"Life is full of risks, both great and small." Zoe stared deeply into Eva’s eyes and slowly added, "For all of us."
"Yes," said Eva, returning Zoe’s mesmerizing gaze. "I suppose that is true. Well, I think Father Haralambos was right. You are perfect for the job."
"Aren’t you scared that I may turn around and kill you anyway?"
"You may, but that’s another risk I’m prepared to take."
From down the hall the heavy tread of Despina reverberated as she labored up the stairs. Eva stood up and in a clear voice asked, "You understand, then, what is expected of you?"
"Yes, Fraulein Muller," Zoe meekly replied, standing up as well. "I assure you, I am a quick learner."
As they heard the hesitant knock on the door, Eva said, "Good. You will begin your duties immediately."
"Yes, Fraulein Muller."
"Come in, Despina."
In a voice that seemed perpetually out of breath, Despina said, "Your lunch is ready, Fraulein Eva."
"Very well," pronounced Eva. She turned to Zoe and said, "At the moment I’m going to finish writing those letters. Will you please bring it up to me?"
"As you wish." The tone of Zoe’s voice was properly respectful, but as their eyes met, Eva thought she detected just a hint of grim amusement in Zoe’s expression.
"This way," Despina panted.
Without looking back, Zoe followed her out the door and down the hall. Eva stood at the door and watched Zoe as she patiently followed Despina as she waddled down the hall, and then as they disappeared down the steps. When they were gone, Eva’s gaze lingered for a moment or two before she quietly closed the door.
Back to the Academy