Chapter Thirty Six
Private Kurt Barkow stood outside Major Muller’s office, where he had been waiting for his commanding officer for the last hour. Muller had entered and then left without giving the soldier as much as a glance. Barkow wasn’t sure whether to leave or stay.
"Private, why are you loitering out here?"
Barkow snapped to attention on seeing Captain Reinhardt.
"I’m here to see Major Muller."
"It’s important, sir."
Reinhardt waved Barkow inside the office and shut the door. He took a seat behind Muller’s desk.
Barkow shuffled his feet and looked pained as he stood in front of Reinhardt. "Sir, Major Muller assigned me to guard Fraulein Muller."
"Yes, I am aware of that." Reinhardt leaned back on his chair and regarded Barkow. "You have been doing a great job."
"Yes, sir, thank you."
"So other than getting praise for doing your job, what did you want?"
"Major Muller asked me to also report to him if I saw anything out of the ordinary."
Reinhardt leaned forward, his arms resting on the desk, and waited for Barkow to continue. "Yes?"
"Y—yes sir, um—"
"What is it, Private?"
"It’s about Fraulein Muller, sir. I don’t know how to tell you this."
"Start with the first word," Reinhardt suggested, quickly losing his temper. "Out with it before the war ends."
"I saw Fraulein Muller and Fraulein Lambros holding hands…"
Reinhardt leaned back in his chair and chuckled. "Have you been around women, Private?"
"Yes, sir, but--"
"They often hold hands and talk about nonsense things. Zoe is Eva’s maid."
"They were also kissing, sir."
Reinhardt’s smile disappeared. He got up from his seat and walked around the desk to stand in front of Barkow and glared down at him. "Choose your words carefully. Did you see Fraulein Muller kissing Fraulein Lambros?"
Barkow was puzzled by the question and stared at Reinhardt. "I don’t understand the question, sir. They were kissing."
"Chaste kiss on the cheek?"
"Who else saw this? Did Franz see it?"
"No, sir, Sgt. Franz went to relieve himself and didn’t see anything. I didn’t mention it to him because it was getting dark."
"When did this occur?"
"Yesterday, up on Athena’s Bluff, sir."
Reinhardt sat on the edge of the desk and sighed. "Alright, leave it with me."
"Yes, sir." Barkow saluted and left the office closing the door behind him.
Reinhardt grimaced and shook his head. "Eva, Eva, Eva, you are still a pervert," he whispered. Muller had been right to order him to watch Eva.
His orders were clear --keep an eye on Eva and report back to her father. It wasn’t a difficult job, since he enlisted the aid of her guards at various times.
"I wonder how you seduced that child," Reinhardt muttered and tried to work out what was the right time to tell Muller. There wasn’t any right time, especially now that they were falling back, but it had to be done.
"What?" Muller lowered the telephone handset and just stared at it, unbelieving. Propaganda, it had to be. Propaganda made up by the Resistance. Athens couldn’t fall that quickly. While it was true that the majority of the troops had left with the train bound for Thessaloniki, the troops that remained were hardened soldiers.
Muller moved his attention back to the phone and he raised the handset to his ear. "What about General Kiefer?" He asked, running his other hand through his hair and holding the back of his head. "Are you sure? Yes. ... Yes, fine. ... I’ll see what I can do here." He hung up the phone and fell into his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose between a thumb and forefinger as he loudly blew out a breath.
There was a knock on the door and, after a pause, Reinhardt walked in, moving to the front of Muller’s desk and patiently standing at attention for several moments.
"Athens has fallen," Muller stated, not looking up.
Reinhardt sighed. "What about General Kiefer?" He asked.
"He is being held as a prisoner by the Americans."
The phone’s shrill tone startled them both. Muller picked it up. "Yes?"
Reinhardt watched Muller’s face turn a pasty white as he slumped further into his chair.
"When?" Muller asked as he glanced at Reinhardt. "Yes, General. Heil Hitler." He replaced the phone on the hook. "What else could go wrong today?"
"What happened, sir?"
"The troop train going to Thessaloniki was bombed an hour ago by the Resistance. The train fell down the gorge. The track is useless."
"What are you going to do?"
"We are pulling out. General Rhimes has ordered us to withdraw to Thessaloniki. Well, we can’t catch a train on those tracks. The bridge and line have been totally destroyed. The only way out is by truck. See to it," Muller said dismissively and turned to start collecting paperwork.
Reinhardt remained still, a look of total indecision on his face. Muller frowned as he noted Reinhardt hadn’t left to start carrying out his orders.
"Is there anything else, Captain?"
Muller looked up sharply at the sound. "Out with it, man, I don’t have all day!"
"It’s about Eva, sir."
"What about Eva? Is it so important that you have to tell me now?"
"Yes, sir. We have a problem."
"One of many, Captain," Muller growled, now annoyed with him. "Out with it, man! What problem do you have with Eva?"
"Her guard, Private Barkow, came to me earlier and told me that he had witnessed Eva kissing Fraulein Lambros."
Muller’s blue eyes turned to ice. His face had turned a bright shade of red as he sat at his desk, his fists balling up in fierce anger. A problem with Eva, especially this problem, was the last thing Muller had wanted to hear about in the middle of this crisis. "I thought you told me differently in your last report?" He asked dangerously.
"Yes, sir, but I believed her. She wasn’t faking anything with me."
"She obviously is a very good actress if she could fool you. What did Barkow say?"
"He saw them kissing, sir. It’s not Zoe’s fault, sir. I don’t believe it is --I believe Eva has corrupted her."
"Mein Gott," Muller whispered, sitting back in his chair. With all that was happening, he wasn’t ready to deal with Eva’s betrayal again. But he knew he had to deal with it now, decisively and with no remorse. He sat back up and trained dangerous eyes on Reinhardt. "How long has this been going on? Under my very nose? In my house?" His voice rose and he thumped his desk.
Reinhardt jumped. "I-I don’t believe, it’s been—"
"I don’t care what you believe!" Muller screamed. "I gave you an assignment to watch her, and you are engaged to her. How did you not know?" He looked daggers at Reinhardt. "I have no daughter from this moment on." His calm voice belied his rage. "I will get someone else to start the redeployment. Your assignment now is Eva. Take care of it." Muller stared at Reinhardt. He had warned Eva, had told her in no uncertain terms that if she relapsed, he would kill her. Her betrayal of him now, when he was in such a vulnerable position, was inexcusable and Reinhardt’s ineptitude compounded the problem.
Reinhardt, still standing at attention in front of his desk, was looking nervous and uncomfortable. As well he should, Muller thought. His anger flared again and he narrowed his eyes at Reinhardt. "I will deal with you after you have fixed this problem. Your incompetence astounds me, Reinhardt. Now get out of my sight!"
"How... I mean the problem, how should I handle it, sir?"
Muller cursed. "Do I have to tell you everything? How did you become a captain? Did your father buy you this commission? Kill her. She is no longer my daughter. Get the hell out of my office and go and deal with it! Now get out!"
Chapter Thirty Seven
"Athens is free!" Apostolos declared and raised his arm in salute at the other Resistance members. They cheered loudly and began to sing "Ymnos eis tin Eleftherian", The Hymn to Freedom. Their voices harmonized even as they laughed. Finally, their dreams of a free Greece were going to be realized and the war would soon end.
Apostolos saw Zoe standing out near the edge of the group. He frowned for a moment and left the circle of celebrating men. Walking over to Zoe, he gently took her arm and silently guided her over to one side. "We got word that the line was destroyed about an hour ago."
Zoe lowered her head and Apostolos held her for a few moments. "Did anyone...?" She asked softly against Apostolos’ shoulder.
"No. No survivors. The train went down the gorge," Apostolos replied, not bothering to tell Zoe that the soldiers that survived the wreck were shot dead by the Resistance. Some things were best left unsaid.
They stood there, amidst the celebrations, each feeling their own grief at losing a beloved friend. "Alright, we’ve been told the Americans are on the move. I’m not sure when they will get here, but I think it’s our duty to help our German friends out the door."
Dimitri, the Thessalian Resistance leader, trying to get Thanasi’s attention, yelled to be heard above the din of the celebrations.
He came over to where Thanasi, Apostolos and Zoe were now standing, a little apart from the others. He clasped Thanasi on the shoulder and grinned. His smile turned to a scowl when he saw their faces. "What’s the matter?"
"The train was blown," Zoe said quietly.
"Oh." Dimitri looked down and sighed. He had forgotten about the train amidst the good news from Athens. They had lost another hundred and one people from the village. We will mourn when the war ends, he thought. They still needed to focus on killing as many Germans as they could. He turned to Thanasi. "Leftheri has gone to Muller’s place. As soon as the bomb is detonated we can begin---"
"What bomb?" Zoe interrupted Dimitri, her eyes wide with alarm.
"The one that will blow Muller straight to Hell," Dimitri replied.
"No, wait!" Zoe cried out. "Eva is in that house!"
"So?" Dimitri asked and shrugged.
"But you can’t kill her!"
"She’s a German. Or are you going soft on them?"
"Shut up, you idiot!" She yelled right in Dimitri’s face. "You don’t understand. Eva and Father Haralambos were working together!" Grabbing his arm, she pleaded with him, "When is Leftheri going to detonate the bomb?"
Dimitri checked his watch. "In ten minutes. You’d better run. You don’t have much time to get her out."
"I have to stop him!" Zoe cried, running away from the gathering and down the nearest alleyway.
Zoe’s heart was beating so hard it felt as though it would explode from her chest. As she ran, her thoughts were only on Eva and reaching the house in time. Her awareness returned just in time to see the slow moving horse and cart ahead of her. It stopped, blocking the exit from the alley. Running up to the cart, she saw that its load had shifted and fallen to one side, the contents of the wheat-filled bags spilling on the ground all around the cart. There wasn’t enough space to squeeze around the sides and the spilled bags blocked the route underneath. She was trapped in the godforsaken alley while precious seconds ticked away against Eva’s life. Meanwhile, the old man driving the cart still hadn’t moved from his seat. He was sitting halfway turned, forlornly gazing at his spilled cargo.
"Come on!" Zoe yelled. "Move!"
"What’s your hurry, little Zoe? Is the devil after you? You young people have no patience," the old man grumbled, as he slowly climbed down to the cobble-stoned surface, limping around to take hold of the horse’s lead and trying to coax it to move.
"Damn it, Pappou!" Zoe cursed and scrambled up the piles of wheat, slipping several times before she made it to the cart and climbed over it. Jumping off the seat to the ground, she tripped as she landed awkwardly on her ankle. She got to her feet and began to run, despite the pain shooting up her leg with every step. She had to get to Eva in time, before Leftheri blew up the house.
Reinhardt was shaken and angry. He closed the door to Muller’s office and stood there for a moment trying to get his control back. The guards looked at him but didn’t say a word. They had heard the yelling coming from Muller’s office and were quite content to be outside rather than in there with their commanding officer.
Reinhardt straightened his uniform and checked his gun. With a scowl, he turned and stomped up the steps to Eva’s rooms.
Eva stood at the window watching the trucks being loaded. The door opened and Reinhardt entered. He had composed himself and was smiling.
"Jurgen, what are the men doing?"
Reinhardt came to stand behind Eva and looked out at the soldiers loading the trucks. "Packing up; we are moving out," he said and put his arms around Eva’s waist. "Athens has fallen to the Americans."
Eva turned in his embrace with a smile on her face. "You mean we are to leave this hell-hole?"
"Yes." Reinhardt nodded. "Does that please you?"
"Yes. Where are we going?"
"Thessaloniki We will try and stop the Americans there with General Rhimes."
Eva nodded and turned back to the men below. Reinhardt watched the back of Eva’s head for a moment. "Where is Zoe?"
"She went to get my two dresses from the dressmaker. When are we leaving?"
"You will be leaving sooner than everyone else," Reinhardt replied cryptically, which made Eva turn around to face him.
Reinhardt sat at the end of the sofa with all the control he could muster and regarded his fiancée. "I know what you have done."
"What do you mean?"
"You had me fooled, Fraulein, you are a very good actress." Reinhardt slow clapped his fiancée. "You fooled Nurse Edith, you fooled Dr. Baer and you fooled me. You never fooled your father."
Eva shook her head and smiled. "You really think I would be with a child like Zoe?"
"Who said anything about Zoe?" Reinhardt rose and came towards Eva, who took several steps back. "I didn’t mention Zoe."
"You’ve been lied to."
"Really?" Reinhardt stopped and regarded Eva. "What lie is that? The lie that you loved me? The lie that you wanted to marry me? Have I been lied to? Yes." Reinhardt spat out and grabbed the front of Eva’s shirt, "Which lie?"
"Shut the fuck up," he yelled and backhanded Eva, who lost her footing and fell to the floor. "You are a deviant and a lying bitch."
Eva looked up in shock with a hand to her cheek where she’d been struck.
Reinhardt snarled, "Get up! You’re going to write a note to your whore. You will tell her you need to meet her at Athena’s Bluff, at the cabin." He was yelling the orders at Eva as he grabbed her arm painfully and yanked her to her feet.
Eva stood unsteadily, still reeling with shock, before being jerked toward her desk by the hand still tightly gripping her arm. She was shoved into her chair and a gun was waved in her face. "I said, do it!" Reinhardt screamed at her.
Her hands shaking, Eva picked up her pen and began to write the note. When she finished, Reinhardt grabbed it and folded it in half, setting it before her again. "Write ‘Zoe’ on it in big letters!" He demanded and then he set it on the front of her desk, prominently displaying the name to get Zoe’s attention.
"Get up. You give me any trouble now and I swear, I will have that whore of yours begging me to kill her. Now move!" Reinhardt took Eva by the arm again and half dragged her downstairs. He poked his head into the kitchen where Despina was cooking.
"Despina! Fraulein Muller and I will be at Athena’s Bluff. Make sure Zoe knows where we are and tell her to meet us there," he instructed and then left without waiting for a response.
Despina frowned. "That man has the manners of a pig," she spat out. A few minutes later, the kitchen door opened and a curly-topped young man entered. "Leftheri, what are you doing here?"
"Kiria Despina, I have to get you out of here!" Leftheri said and took the older woman by the arm, turning to drag her out of the house. Despina stood her ground and he fell backwards to land with a thump on the kitchen floor.
"What is going on here?"
Leftheri sighed and got up from the floor. "Look, the house is going to get bombed! Now please, can we get the hell out of here?"
"Well, why didn’t you just say so?" Despina groused. She took off her apron and followed Leftheri out of the door.
They walked outside, calmly crossing the street and heading down the sidewalk toward the alleyway. It appeared they were just out for a stroll, the young man politely assisting the old woman.
The guards watched them and one of them recognized Despina. He shrugged and shifted his attention elsewhere, unconcerned. After a moment longer, the other guard did the same. Despina and Leftheri had just managed to turn the corner into the alley when the building exploded, sending debris flying everywhere causing the building to catch on fire.
Leftheri peeked around the side of the wall and grinned. "Boom, boom!" He said. He and Despina watched, staying hidden in the shadows, as the remaining soldiers ran to the burning building to try and put the fire out and look for survivors.
They never got the chance.
As the soldiers reached the front of the burning building and waited for orders, the remaining Resistance fighters began their assault from hidden positions. A gun battle quickly ensued, but the German soldiers rapidly found themselves on the losing end, many of them having foolishly left their weapons behind in the panic that immediately followed the explosion.
Leftheri, watching the battle, felt his shirt being tugged and Despina urgently calling his name. He looked at her to see her pointing in the other direction and crying, "Look! Isn’t that Zoe?"
Looking down the street in the direction she was indicating, he saw a figure running awkwardly toward them. After a second, he recognized the figure as Zoe, a pained and panicked expression on her face.
"Zoe!" Leftheri yelled to get her attention, without any effect. Before Zoe reached the alley, Leftheri jumped out in front of her. He couldn’t let her run right into a raging gun battle.
When Zoe still appeared to ignore him and tried to hobble past, Leftheri quickly grabbed her around the waist and carried the struggling woman into the alley.
"Eva!" Zoe screamed, seeing the remains of the building, and realizing she had been too late to save her lover.
Zoe fought against Leftheri’s hold and he gripped her even tighter, enduring her blows and kicks. As she tried to twist and squirm away, he finally lost his balance, collapsing against the alley wall, still desperately hanging on to the screaming and sobbing Zoe. They slid down into a heap, Leftheri finally able to wrap his legs around hers and grab her wrists to hold her still.
Zoe was reduced to an inconsolable sobbing mass, the long run and then the struggles to get free having sapped her remaining strength. "Eva...oh, Eva..." She was half sobbing, half wailing the name.
Despina waited as Leftheri finally got the distraught woman under control and was instantly at Zoe’s side, holding her and stroking her hair, trying to help Leftheri calm her feeble hysterics. "Shhh...there, there, little one." She gently tilted Zoe’s face, wet with tears, so she could look at her. "You could have been hurt if Leftheri hadn’t stopped you! Didn’t you see the soldiers and hear the guns?" She asked, concerned.
"B-but the building...Eva...oh God...I tried to get to her!" Zoe stumbled over the words in between sobs.
"Eva wasn’t there, sweet child," Despina said with a soft smile as she started drying Zoe’s face with a small kerchief. "She wasn’t in the building. She left a short time earlier with Captain Reinhardt." She gave Zoe a small kiss on her forehead, seeing her calming at her words.
Leftheri finally released Zoe and helped her to her feet, noticing that she was favoring one leg a bit. He helped brush her off, and then brushed off his own clothes as Zoe and Despina hugged each other.
"But," Zoe was saying, "she really wasn’t there? You saw her leave?"
Despina nodded. "Eva has gone to Athena’s Bluff. She and Captain Reinhardt said you were to meet them there."
Zoe looked at Despina and frowned. "Why would Eva go with Reinhardt? Unless…" The blood drained from her face as she realized that Muller must have found out about her and Eva. "Oh, dear God!" She turned to Leftheri and grabbed his arms. "Can you run and get Thanasi? Tell him Eva is in danger and Reinhardt has her. We have to save her. Tell him to meet me at Thieri’s cabin. You show him the way!"
Leftheri looked at her, confused. Zoe shook him gently, her eyes pleading with him. "Leftheri, please? Please, don’t let her die! Eva has been working with the Resistance! You must find Thanasi, quickly!" She released him when he nodded at her, then started painfully running towards the bluff as Leftheri went to find the Resistance leader.
No soon had Zoe dispatched Leftheri, Henry came around the corner and collided with her. He barely had time to grab hold of her before she fell over.
"Henry! Eva is in trouble."
"Where? The house is on fire," Henry yelled as she started to remove his shirt to go to the fire. Zoe stopped him.
"She’s not there, Henry. Reinhardt found out about us."
"He’s gone to Athena’s Bluff with Eva. I’ve sent Leftheri to round up some of the men. We need to rescue Eva. Did you tell them?"
"NO! I’ve protected Eva since Aiden. Why would I betray her?" Henry yelled in response. "It must have been Kurt! That bastard, I’m going to kill him."
They started running towards Athena’s Bluff until Zoe stopped when she got entangled in some washing which had come down from the line. She disentangled herself and looked up at Henry. "Take off your uniform," she said and threw him a large shirt and pants. "I would rather you didn’t get shot."
Henry took the clothes and without any shred of shyness, he stripped off his uniform and threw it away. Seconds later, Zoe tapped him on the shoulder and they started running away from the burning building and the ensuing mayhem.
Chapter Thirty Eight
Eva’s head was spinning and she felt her blood run down the side of her face from where Reinhardt had slammed her head into the wall as soon as they entered the cabin. The blows to her head and body were sickening. She tried to stay conscious. If only to see Zoe for one last time.
One of the guards who had accompanied them had tied her arms and legs tightly to the chair and placed the chair in the center of the room. Reinhardt sat across from her holding his gun across his lap.
"Does this give you pleasure?" Eva said hoarsely, trying to focus on Reinhardt. She hoped Zoe wouldn’t see the note they had left on the desk.
"What a stupid thing to say!" Reinhardt sprang up from his chair and backhanded her with his pistol. Eva cried out as blood seeped into her mouth. She spat it out at Reinhardt’s feet.
"This doesn’t give me pleasure. I loved you and you betrayed me! You lied to me." Reinhardt grabbed Eva’s hair and yanked her head back. "I gave you a chance to be an officer’s wife," he said, inches from her now swollen and bloodied face. "You, worthless bitch." He spat and slapped her again.
Reinhardt sat back on his seat and wiped the blood from his hands on Eva’s skirt. "You know, Eva, I did so enjoy watching Greta being pushed onto the train with those Jewish swine. I wish you could have been there to see it," he said with a grin. "She didn’t look all that healthy to me."
"You know, your father wanted me to kill you. Did you know that? He said that you weren’t his daughter anymore." Reinhardt wanted the denunciation to hurt Eva.
"Doesn’t...surprise me." Eva sighed. Her father would have killed her back in Germany if he had thought he could get away with it. But in the Fuhrer’s regime, he would have appeared weak and useless if it got out. A man who couldn’t even control his own daughter wouldn’t be worth much to the Fatherland.
Reinhardt laughed. "Ah, yes, I suppose it doesn’t surprise you. You know, I would have enjoyed watching the beating you took. It would have made up for all the times you refused my advances. You’re worthless and so ugly that no man would touch you now."
Reinhardt sighed and checked his gun before looking at his watch. "You’re going to die in a backwater shitty town. I’m going to hang you for the birds to feast on you, but before that happens, you’ll see that Greek slut of yours die." He chuckled and the guards joined him. "Was she a virgin when you perverted her, Eva? Maybe little Zoe didn’t have a good man around to show her how it’s done." He sneered.
Eva was sickened by the thought of what they had in mind for Zoe when she arrived. She prayed for Zoe to be delayed, that the explosion they heard after they were outside of town would have distracted her, or that Despina would have sent her on an errand — just something, anything to keep her from seeing that note on her desk.
Eva could not focus and Reinhardt became a blur; she blinked trying to stay conscious. For a brief moment she saw her beloved mother. "Mutti," she whispered.
"You know, I have one more secret," Reinhardt told her. He took out a cigarette, lit it, and watched the smoke drift up. "One more secret. Your mother was killed on orders from your father," he said and watched Eva’s face go from indifference to absolute shock. He smiled.
"He found out your mutti knew you were a deviant and she hadn’t told him. She lied for you. So it’s your fault she was killed."
No physical blows could come close to the absolute devastation Eva felt at that very moment. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, unwilling to give Reinhardt the satisfaction of watching her cry.
Reinhardt smiled. "My parting gift to you before I kill you. We have to wait for Zoe. It would be quite rude to start without the guest of honor. I really liked that kid, smart mouth and all. It’s too bad she’s been corrupted and I have to kill her." He leaned forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Tell me, how did you seduce the poor girl? Such a sweet innocent child. Has she seen your ugliness?"
Eva’s head slumped forward and she remained mute.
"You see, it is our duty to root out perversion and destroy it," Reinhardt continued. "And you; you are a freak, a perversion."
"You are a pervert," Eva managed to say, although it sounded like garbled mush to her ears.
The blow came quickly as Reinhardt punched her. It threw her head back and the pain exploded behind her eyes. She looked up at Reinhardt, who was standing over her.
Reinhart was furious. His face had turned red and the veins in his neck were visible. He backhanded her again with the hand that held his gun, the butt of the pistol striking her in the side of the head, and laying the skin open above her eyebrow. The chair fell sideways and she lay on the floor, her blood starting to pool beneath her head.
"You dare call me perverted? The Reich is my father and my mother. That is no perversion." Reinhardt bent down to yell at Eva as she lay bleeding on the floor. "You were with me in the Hitler Youth. You were touched by the Fuhrer. He stood right there in front of us and shook our hands. Didn’t you feel like you were in the presence of Christ himself?"
"Didn’t...wash for months," Eva retorted weakly, knowing that would infuriate Reinhardt further.
"You filthy whore! How dare you speak of our great leader like that! Oh, I am going to take great pleasure in killing you."
Reinhardt kicked Eva several times in the ribs and then sent a kick to her head. "You bitch," he spat out and prepared to kick her again when his corporal distracted him.
"Sir?" The man timidly said.
"Sir, perhaps we should wait for the other girl," the young soldier said.
Reinhardt paused, then nodded. The soldier was right. He straightened his jacket, which was splattered with Eva’s blood, and went over to sit back down. "It’s not going to work, bitch. You’ll still see her die before your eyes."
Eva struggled to breathe. Her world was rapidly spinning out of control and she was close to blacking out. She was sure he had broken her ribs. She could taste the blood and the sickly smell made her want to throw up. She lay on the floor trying to get her bearings. Reinhardt signaled to the guards to haul her back up. She stifled a groan as she and the chair were roughly handled and set upright.
Reinhardt glared at her. "I’ve got something much better planned. Something I will enjoy a lot more," he said as he controlled his temper.
The door to the cabin opened and all eyes went to it. Eva sighed in relief when she saw Barkow walk in. Reinhardt sighed in frustration.
Barkow entered and saluted his commanding officer. He avoided looking at Eva, who had hours ago been his charge. "Sir, that explosion we heard---"
"What now?" Reinhardt asked, glaring at Eva.
"The Resistance has bombed Major Muller’s residence," Barkow blurted out, looking at the captain and then at his fellow soldiers.
"Resistance forces have attacked the soldiers at the building after the explosion. Also, we got word that the American tanks are hours away from here."
"The Americans are not important. Are you sure Major Muller is dead?"
"The house was blown up and it’s engulfed in flames."
Reinhardt glared at Eva for a moment.
"Corporal, have the men prepare to move out. Commandeer every available truck. We will fall back to Thessaloniki. Go!" Reinhardt ordered. He watched as the guards who were with him ran out of the cabin. He looked at Eva, his eyes filling with hate. He turned to Barkow and tossed him the rope.
"Find the tallest tree and prepare the noose," Reinhardt ordered. "I didn’t want us to part this quickly, Eva, but I have other pressing matters."
Reinhardt pointed the pistol at Eva and fired. She didn’t hear the gun fire, but she felt the bullet hit her in the chest. Her body reacted, causing the chair to fall over backwards. She hit the floor, still tightly bound in the chair. "Zoe," she whispered before blackness overtook her.
"Where are they?" Zoe muttered as she huddled behind a fallen tree with Henry. They had managed to come up the pass through the dense bush and away from the often used track. Zoe’s knowledge of the surrounding bush land came in useful as soldiers ran up the track to the cabin.
Zoe spun around when she heard the Resistance team coming up the same route. Thanasi was in the lead followed by three more Resistance members.
"Patience, Zoe," Thanasi counseled.
"You’re here!" Zoe greeted Thanasi man with a hug before they turned their attention to the cabin. Thanasi sent one of the men to look inside through the side of the building that was the least exposed.
"They haven’t killed her yet. The guards are still there," Thanasi said. He watched the scout running back, carefully dodging behind cover to hide his movement.
"They have her and there are six soldiers plus Reinhardt," the scout whispered, and then looked at Zoe. "She doesn’t look good. They’ve beaten her quite badly. They’re not doing anything now, just standing around like they’re waiting for something."
"What?" Thanasi asked.
Zoe looked back at the cabin, her anger coming to the surface. "Not what. Who. He’s waiting for me," she said as she looked at Thanasi, making a decision. "They want me? Well, why don’t we give them what they want?"
"No way am I going to let you go in there! I promised Father Haralambos!" Thanasi said, shaking his head.
Zoe glared at him. "I don’t care what you promised. Eva is in there! I’m not going to stand out here arguing with you and let that woman die. Got me?" Zoe seethed, trying to keep her volume down. "Thanasi, if she dies, I’ll die. Then we can both tell Father Haralambos how we fucked it up. I’m going in there and if you want, you---" Zoe stopped talking when the cabin door opened and two soldiers ran out.
One of the soldiers went to his motorcycle, got on and roared down the track. Zoe watched the other soldier, who she recognized as Kurt Barkow, and sneered. He was looking around for something and Zoe wondered what the hell he was doing. It soon became apparent when Barkow chose a high tree and threw the rope over the lowest hanging branch.
"Oh, no, no, no," Zoe exclaimed and turned to Henry. Henry was already moving stealthily behind the cabin and around to the other side. He pulled out his gun, walked up to Barkow and tapped him on the shoulder.
Zoe watched, with some satisfaction, as Henry said something to Barkow and seconds later the gun went off and shot him in the head. Henry stood over the dead man for a moment before more soldiers started to run out of the cabin. Henry was now shooting at his former comrades and was being joined by some of the Resistance cell.
"Now!" Zoe ordered and was stopped in her track by the sound of a single gunshot from the cabin. She was out of the bushes and heading towards the sound before Thanasi could grab hold of her.
The remaining Resistance cell followed Zoe. Thanasi shook his head as he ran and started to shoot at the soldiers. Zoe threw her gun away, since it had run out of bullets, and picked up a dead soldier’s gun. There was only one place she wanted to be and she rushed through the door of the cabin.
She stood at the threshold, stunned. Reinhardt was standing, laughing over the prone body of her lover, who was tied to a chair. Blood covered Eva and pooled around her body.
"Get away from her!" Zoe yelled.
Reinhardt turned and grinned, raising his pistol in Zoe’s direction. "Well. You took your time coming here. I had wanted---" Reinhardt couldn’t finish his sentence because Zoe raised her gun and fired. He looked down at his chest in surprise and then crumpled to the floor. His eyes grew round as Zoe approached him. Momentarily she stood over Reinhardt, spat on him and raised her gun again.
"An eye for an eye," Zoe screamed and fired into his head and body, emptying the clip. "Fuck off, you bastard!" She threw the gun down and it hit Reinhardt in the head, where it bounced and fell to the floor.
Zoe jumped over Reinhardt and fell to her knees in front of Eva. She untied Eva from the chair and gathered her into her arms, ignoring all the blood that had now saturated her clothes. Zoe held Eva tenderly, hoping she wasn’t too late.
Chapter Thirty Nine
Three Days Later.
The rain started to fall again but Zoe didn’t mind it at all. She looked out of the window and watched the muddy puddles become deeper as the American trucks rolled over them. All around her were American medical personnel treating soldiers and civilians. She had spotted some British soldiers and Australians as well. The temporary hospital was full of people. Greek and English voices intermingled. Zoe didn’t understand a word the Americans were saying, but she was happy to see them. Eva was placed in a semi sitting position near the back of the makeshift hospital, and a privacy screen blocked her from the men who occupied the other beds.
It had been a tumultuous couple of days. The Americans had rumbled into town and some of the German troops escaped while the others surrendered to them and the Greek Resistance. Larissa was liberated. It was a dream come true, the moment Zoe had waited years to see. But she didn’t see it – didn’t savor the victory.
While the Americans were liberating her home, Zoe was trying to keep Eva alive.
It was a moment in her life Zoe would remember forever. Reinhardt standing over Eva’s body enraged her. She had shot the captain so many times she didn’t think anyone could recognize the kraut even if they had tried. Killing him wasn’t out of vengeance for herself, but to save Eva. Zoe shook her head at how the fates must be laughing at her. She had vowed to kill Eva, made a solemn oath, and here she was killing someone to save the woman.
Waiting for help from Leftheri, who was the only medic left, Zoe held onto Eva knowing Eva could slip away from her. She prayed like she had never prayed before begging God to listen. She promised Him everything if only Eva lived.
Zoe was grateful for Thanasi’s help in the cabin. He had organized everything, and for that she would love him for all eternity. He had come through for them when she thought everything was lost. Seeing a bloodied Eva on the floor had broken her heart. She wasn’t even aware of how long she sat there while Thanasi tried to stop the bleeding. It was all a blur for Zoe.
Zoe looked down at Eva and smiled. She brushed away the dark bangs. One very bloodshot blue eye opened. The other was bandaged and Eva turned her head and gave a weak smile to Zoe. "Hey," Eva whispered.
Zoe sat on the chair she had occupied for the last two days and held Eva’s hand. "Do you know where you are?"
Zoe laughed. "Not quite. Yesterday you were in Berlin."
"You’re here," Eva rasped. She tried to smile, but winced instead. "Ow."
"You put a dent in the cabin wall. That’s not how you decorate the cabin, Evy." Zoe wagged a finger at Eva, causing her to smile. She quickly looked around to see if anyone was heading their way. Everyone was either lying in a cot or caring for those in the cots. She leaned down and very tenderly kissed Eva on the lips. "Shh, don’t tell anyone."
"This is how we got into this mess."
Zoe turned around to see Henry had hobbled over on crutches. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. "How’s the boss?"
"Sore," Eva replied. "What happened to you?"
"Well." Henry sat down on the seat offered to him by Zoe, who sat on Eva’s bed. "I got shot."
"Did Zoe shoot you?"
Henry sat back in his chair and laughed as he ran his hand over his bald head. "No, because if she had, I don’t think my mama would recognize me. My comrades shot me. Might have something to do with me shooting Kurt in the head, but that’s just a guess."
Eva’s eyebrow rose as she gazed at Henry for a moment before she turned to Zoe. "See, Zoe, Henry can shoot."
It took Zoe a moment before she realized Eva had made a joke and started laughing. A very familiar visitor popped his head around the privacy screen.
"Thanasi, guess who is awake and telling jokes?"
"Is she still in Berlin?" Thanasi smiled down at Eva and dropped down on his haunches to greet her.
"Morning, Thanasi," Zoe said, and glanced at the young Australian medic by Thanasi’s side. His orange hair stuck up at awkward angles and the smattering of freckles on his face made Zoe grin. "Funny. Now you’re a comedian."
"I try, little one, I try," Thanasi retorted and grinned. He turned to Eva. "You’re looking a little less like a punching bag today. Has Zoe told you about all the excitement?"
"It’s been a little busy."
"A little," Thanasi replied before he brought the man that was standing behind him forward. "This is Captain Anthony Jenkins. He’s a medic. He looks like he is only fourteen, but he isn’t. They breed them to look young." He turned to Anthony and repeated what he had said in English.
Anthony laughed and went to Eva’s side. He stumbled over his Greek and then frowned. He turned to Thanasi. "What’s the Greek word for ‘examine’?"
Thanasi told Anthony and he turned back to Eva and repeated what Thanasi had said. After he completed his examination and pulled the blanket back up around Eva, he quietly gave some instructions to Thanasi before getting up to attend to his other patients.
Anthony tried his Greek again and gazed down at Zoe. He looked puzzled when Zoe scowled at him.
Zoe was not impressed. She wasn’t a married woman and he had just called her ugly. Thanasi laughed at Anthony’s use of the language. He explained to Anthony what he had said and his face turned the brightest shade of red that Zoe had ever seen.
"Oh, no! Tell her I think she’s beautiful," Anthony stammered.
"Come on, let’s get you away before you get Hurricane Zoe going after you," Thanasi replied, and he steered Anthony away from the two women.
Zoe shook her head and Eva tried desperately not to laugh. They looked at each other and smiled.
"I agree with him."
"What? That I’m ugly?" Zoe asked.
"No, that you’re beautiful." Eva smiled.
Zoe smiled back shyly as she fussed over Eva.
"It’s true," Eva said.
Zoe didn’t respond directly. She set about trying to make Eva more comfortable, all the while making small talk. Eva had closed her eye and Zoe’s voice soothed her to sleep.
The day dragged on for Zoe, who had her own "wound" tendered to. Her ankle had swollen up after her rampage through the streets to get to Eva, but the pain was nothing compared to what she had won. Zoe sat beside Eva and tried to occupy her time. There wasn’t much she could do for Eva, so she decided to go and grab a hot cup of tea and watch the world go by outside the tent.
An hour later Thanasi found Zoe sitting outside on a crate, enjoying the brief break in the rain.
"Is Eva asleep?"
"She was when I came out here," Zoe explained.
"Good," Thanasi replied and sat down on the crate beside Zoe. "I need to discuss something with you."
"Well, it’s about you and Eva. I made a promise to Father H and I’m determined to keep it."
"What did you promise?"
"I promised him that you and Eva would leave Greece."
"Big promise to make, Ares," Zoe teased. "I don’t think there’s anything left for me here anyway. Father H asked me the same thing."
"This is your home--"
"Home is where you have family, and the only family I have is Eva. I don’t think she would want to stay in Larissa."
"You have me." Thanasi thumped his chest and then grinned at the effect it had on Zoe, who just laughed at him.
"You can come with us."
"I can’t. I have to stay and fight."
"Aren’t you sick of fighting? Come with us. I sure hope there isn’t a war on."
"I have to stay and fight," Thanasi repeated.
"On which side?"
Thanasi looked up at the Greek flag that fluttered in the wind before he turned to Zoe. "Monarchy. I want the King back."
"He can stay out of the country for all I care."
"Where are you going to go?"
"I think we are going to wait for Evy to get better and then we are heading to Egypt and a ship to Australia."
"Yes. Eva and I will have a new start there."
"It’s perfect," Thanasi said. "I think Father H would want you to go somewhere that’s as far away from here as possible — and Australia is very far away." He got up from the crate and kissed Zoe on the forehead. "I’m going to check up on a few of the boys and see how they are coming along."
Zoe watched him leave and sat alone for a few moments. Leaving Larissa wasn’t a hard decision for her. She had always wanted to go and see what was beyond Mount Ossa. Now was her chance.
Henry joined Zoe outside. He lit up a cigarette and offered it to Zoe, who shook her head. "How’s the leg?"
"It’s going to be fine. How are you?"
"Me? I’m fine."
"Really?" Henry asked dubiously. "Killing Reinhardt--"
"It had to be done."
"You could have let me do it," Henry replied quietly. "That’s not a job for a woman."
Zoe quietly laughed at Henry’s chivalrous offer. "You’re too sweet," she said and leaned against his shoulder. "Thank you, Henry. I should thank you for shooting Kurt."
"That bastard. He got what he deserved."
Zoe stared at Henry and looped her arm around his. "Are you going to get into any trouble with the Americans?"
"No." Henry shook his head. "Thanasi told them I was working with the Resistance."
"I’ve never really asked you --when did you meet Evy?"
"Aiden. Erik’s brother and I were friends and he introduced me to Erik. I was then introduced to Dr. Muller and got a job as Eva’s driver."
"Did he ask you to keep an eye on Eva?"
"So you were his spy?"
Henry nodded. "Yes."
"You didn’t do a very good job." Zoe giggled, knowing the story of Eva’s activities in France and the Resistance, which included Henry.
"I know. I’m a terrible spy." Henry laughed. "I’m a better friend."
"Yes, you are. You protected Eva for a very long time."
"I did, but what she needed was more than a friend." Henry put his arm around Zoe. "You are the best thing that ever happened to her. Please, don’t hurt her."
Zoe shook her head slowly. "I never will."
"Thank you, or else I will have to shoot you."
Zoe rocked back on the crate and laughed at the reference to their first meeting. "It’s a good thing I didn’t know how good a marksman you were."
"I’ll tell you a secret. I trained as a sniper," Henry revealed, making Zoe’s eyes widen in surprise.
"You were a sniper?"
"I was and then I was given the job of guarding Eva at Dr. Muller’s suggestion."
"Again to spy on her?’
"That’s what he thought."
"Where are you going to go? Do you want to come to Australia with us?"
Henry shook his head. "I won’t, but I will stay and escort you both to Egypt before I go back home."
"Are you married? You’ve never mentioned your girl back home."
"No, no girlfriend," Henry replied with a slight shrug.
"Time to find a girl, isn’t it?"
Henry got up from the crate and kissed Zoe on the cheek. "Yes, but I want to see the two of you safely on that ship to Australia and then I can look for the girl," he replied. "Now I’m going to eat something. I’m hungry."
Zoe watched Henry hobble away on his crutches.
"Eva, you were born under a lucky star to have a friend like that," Zoe exclaimed and crossed herself. After a beat she started laughing at how Dr. Muller had been beaten by two kindred spirits that he arranged to spend as much time with each other as possible. She got up from the crate and, still chuckling, she went back inside. Very quietly, Zoe resumed her seat next to Eva, who stirred and opened her eye. "Hey, thought you were asleep."
"Did I wake you?"
"No." Eva smiled. "Were you sitting here all this time?"
"Not really. I just went outside for a cup of tea. I also had a chat with Thanasi about our plans."
"To go to Australia. The first truck out of here when you are well to Egypt. Or do you want to go back to Germany?" Zoe asked, hoping the answer was no. She wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of living in a land that she despised.
"Alright, we set sail for Australia."
"Australia it is," Eva replied and shut her eye again.
After a brief silence, Zoe leaned in and whispered. "I asked Henry if he wants to come with us but he said no."
"He wants to go back home," Eva whispered back. She opened her good eye and smiled on seeing Zoe’s face.
"He wants to stay in Larissa until you are well enough and then see us to Egypt and on the ship before he goes home. You have such a good friend, Evy."
"We do," Eva mumbled and fell silent. Just as Zoe thought Eva had finally gone to sleep, Eva opened her eye again.
"What happened to Jurgen?"
"I killed him," Zoe replied. "He was taking something that didn’t belong to him. You belong to me."
"Yes, you do." Zoe nodded. "I’m not sorry I did it. He was going to kill you." Zoe saw glistening tears in Eva’s eye. "Don’t cry." She brushed away the tear that had fallen. "I would do it again if I had to. I love you."
"I love you, Zo," Eva whispered back, her eye glistening with tears. After a long moment she revealed, "Reinhardt told me that Muller killed my mother."
"He said that Muller," Eva stopped for a moment before continuing, "killed her because he found out I was--"
"That’s rubbish." Zoe shook her head. "Don’t believe that bastard. He only said it to hurt you."
"What if it’s true?"
"It’s not true." Zoe pulled the blanket to cover Eva. She straightened the covers around her and tried to make her comfortable. "Your father was a beast of a man but he loved your mama and I don’t believe he hurt her."
"You think so?"
"I know so," Zoe nodded. She didn’t, and it would have been a heinous crime by Muller, but he was capable of heinous crimes. The last thing Eva needed was to carry the guilt of her mother’s death.
"Okay. What happened to Muller?" Eva asked.
"Leftheri bombed the house--"
"Yes, very dead."
"What about Despina?" Eva asked in alarm.
"Don’t worry. Despina was taken out of the house before that. We found out that Athens had fallen and then all hell broke loose. Even little Paul...he climbed the flagpole and tore down the swastika and put the ‘blue and white’ up. I didn’t see it, but when Dimitri told me, it brought tears to his eyes. Then the Americans rumbled into town and here we are. Now, I think we’ve talked too much. Just be quiet and rest," Zoe ordered.
Eva gave a lopsided grin at Zoe’s command. She closed her eye and Zoe sat there watching her sleep until her stomach grumbled. She got up and stretched, leaving the tent for a walk outside.
They had managed to live through the war. Zoe never thought this day would come. She would go to church later and thank God for helping her through. She never thought she would go back to church either, but Eva had helped her see that God was not to blame for the death and the misery.
She would thank God for helping Eva. If only Father Haralambos were here to share in her joy. "I hope you’re behaving yourself, Father H," she muttered and looked to the heavens. She looked over at the flagpoles and saw the blue and white cross of Greece, her country. But now she would have a new country. She wondered how it was going to be, with new customs and language. No matter. They would manage. They had survived the war; they would survive Australia and all it had to offer.
Now, to find someone who can teach me some English before we get there. She spied Anthony and Thanasi at the mess tent and she walked purposefully over to them.
Six Months Later.
Zoe gazed at the ocean liner in awe --she had never seen a ship that large before. It was sitting serenely in the harbor at the Egyptian Port Said. The sea was tranquil compared to the sizable number of people on land. Zoe looked around at her fellow travelers --war weary and just as anxious as she was to start their new journey in Australia.
Eva stood next to her, scanning the faces of those around her. Zoe mentally sighed at Eva’s obvious discomfort. Eva had a very difficult six months with her recuperation in Larissa. Zoe put her hand on Eva’s back, which caused Eva to look down.
"You’ve been on a ship before, haven’t you?"
"Yes." Eva nodded. "A few times."
"What is it like?"
"Depends if you get sea sick," Eva quipped and smiled a little at Zoe. "Also depends on where they put us. Let’s hope we don’t end up sleeping next to Mrs. Austerlitz," she whispered, making Zoe try and muffle her laugh by putting her hand over her mouth.
"She can’t help it, Evy."
"Hm, that doesn’t help when you’re getting the fart in your face," Eva said in Greek making Zoe completely lose composure as she leaned against Eva and laughed.
"Alright, I have the bags, now where do we go?" Henry announced his arrival with the porter in hand. He led the way through the crowds. His bulky frame caused the crowds to part, which only made Zoe smile. Henry had been like a brother to her in the last years of the occupation and in the last six months he had proven to be an ally in Zoe’s attempts to get Eva mentally and physically well.
There were so many people milling around that Zoe was feeling claustrophobic. One glance at Eva and she was certain that, given half a chance, Eva would bolt out to the deck.
"Why don’t you stay here? Henry and I can go find the cabin," Zoe quietly said.
"Hm, why do you look like you’re going to pass out? And it doesn’t have anything to do with that god-awful ugly cloak you’re wearing."
The edge of Eva’s lips curled at Zoe’s remarks. "I’ll go and sit out on deck."
"That’s a good idea." Zoe smiled on seeing Eva walk through the throng and find the nearest door.
"You are getting good at noticing her discomfort." Henry put his arm around Zoe as they walked behind the porter.
"It’s one of the few times she has actually admitted she wasn’t feeling well," Zoe replied while they passed other passengers down the narrow corridors. Some faces she knew well and others were total strangers. "That is progress."
"This is it," the porter announced and unlocked the door to the cabin.
Zoe stood at the threshold and glanced back at the corridor. "I think the corridor is bigger," she muttered as Henry tipped the porter to leave the luggage. The tiny cabin had room for two bunk beds, a small window and a table with one chair. There was just enough room for their two pieces of luggage in the wardrobe behind the door.
"It is tiny."
"This is going to be a very long two months," Zoe muttered as she sat down on the lowest bunk.
"I know what you did." Henry tapped Zoe on the knee and sat in the chair that was slightly too small for his frame.
"What did I do?"
"Thanasi told me."
"Thanasi has a big mouth," Zoe replied and smiled broadly when Henry leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek.
"That was very generous of you."
Zoe waved him away and shook her head. "No, it’s not. The refugee camp was hell for Eva. Sleeping in that dormitory with all those women was just…" Zoe shuddered. "You know how shy she is, and subjecting her to it again on the ship wasn’t something I wanted to happen. I couldn’t do anything about it at the camp but I can do something about it here."
"Have you told her?"
Zoe shook her head. "No. She still thinks we’re going to be in the same cabin they assigned us when we got the letter of acceptance."
"We’ve come a long way since you threw that rock, haven’t we?" Henry asked as he leaned back on the chair.
"We have and we survived, all three of us."
"It’s been a long and difficult journey. At times I thought the three of us would get caught, and we nearly did several times, but then Muller got distracted by something."
"Did he suspect it was us?"
Henry leaned forward and took Zoe’s hand. "Muller knew about the forgeries."
Zoe’s eyes widened at the revelation. She leaned forward. "How?"
"General Rhimes caught two poor unfortunates with the papers. The only thing that saved us was the bombing. Muller thought it was you. I overheard him talking to Reinhardt just after Rhimes visited."
"Now that was close. They didn’t suspect Eva?"
"Muller suspected, but Reinhardt said it wasn’t possible. He knew Eva’s handwriting."
"Muller was always quick to suspect Eva was behind everything that went wrong. If it rained, it was Eva’s fault. Now as for the other idiot," she said, "how he became a Captain I’ll never know."
"His father bought him the command." Henry shrugged. "His father was a general."
"So much for that. I hope they are both roasting in hell." Zoe scrunched up her face in disgust.
Henry got up from his seat and looked down at Zoe. "Kiria Despina came to me one morning and told me Eva had hired a maid. When she said it was you, I thought it was a joke."
"Is that right?" Zoe rose and looked up at Henry.
"I thought it was the worst decision she could have made, but she knew something I didn’t know."
"What was that?"
"You are the second most courageous woman I’ve met. The two of you, working together, allowed so many to escape. I’m sorry I doubted you." Henry put his arms around Zoe and hugged her.
"I’m glad you didn’t try and convince her not to."
"I did try," Henry revealed to a very bemused Zoe. "Eva told me she saw something in you and knew it would work but she didn’t know what that was. As much as she disliked you, she knew it was going to work out."
"You’re going to make me cry now." Zoe’s voice broke as Henry kissed her tenderly on the cheek. "I’m going to miss you."
"I will write, and your German reading will improve because I can’t write Greek." Henry tapped Zoe on the nose. "You will protect her, won’t you? Please, don’t hurt her, she will die over there and I won’t be around."
Zoe nodded. "You’ve been in love with her since Aiden, haven’t you?"
"Yes, and after Erik died, I thought she might have feelings for me but I’m like her brother rather than her lover."
"She does love you a great deal."
"I know, but she loves you, Zoe. Please, tell me you feel the same way?"
Zoe gazed up at Henry and nodded. "I fell in love with her a long time ago."
"You won’t allow her to brood; you know how she gets."
"I won’t allow her to brood even if I have to make her angry to get her out of her mood." Zoe grinned and started to laugh on seeing Henry’s eyes crinkle.
"You have figured out my ruse?"
Zoe nodded. "I figured it out when she wouldn’t go out of Despina’s house. You got her so angry she stormed out of the house and stayed out till late."
"She was out of the house." Henry raised his arms and shrugged.
"She was so mad at you for several days."
"Eva’s anger doesn’t last very long. She was just mad at herself that I outmaneuvered her." Henry chuckled.
"Why don’t you change your mind? Come with us to Australia."
"I can’t. I want to go home and see what’s left. We have to rebuild and it’s going to be very difficult."
Zoe pursed her lips for a moment. "Will you consider coming out to Australia one day?"
"Maybe." Henry nodded. "I don’t know but let’s see how it goes."
"Alright." Zoe put her arms around Henry’s waist and looked up at him. "I love you."
Henry smiled. "I love you too, little sister," he said in Greek, which made Zoe’s smile widen.
Reluctantly they parted and Henry put his hat back on. "I’ll go say goodbye to Evy and escort her back to this broom closet."
Without another word Henry turned and left the cabin, leaving Zoe alone. She sat back down and gazed at the drab and very dreary cabin.
Zoe turned towards the door, where a young woman stood. Her dark brown hair was tied in a ponytail. She appeared to be the same age as Zoe and her brown eyes crinkled.
"Hello." Zoe got up from the bunk.
"I’m your neighbor, two cabins to the left. My name is Elena Mannheim."
"Pleased to meet you, Elena, my name is Zoe Lambros. Come into my broom closet," Zoe introduced herself and patted the chair.
Chapter Forty One
Eva leaned against the railing and watched the water gently slap against the ship’s white hull. The sun glistened off the emerald colored sea; the color reminded her of Zoe’s eyes and she smiled. Her life had dramatically changed in the last two years. On a cold, damp day she noticed the young girl who defiantly stared at her during her father’s killing rampage. Eva wasn’t sure why she focused on Zoe but she did. Stormy green eyes stared back at her. Zoe’s undisguised hatred was clearly evident. The general hubbub behind her faded into the background as Eva stared down as the last two years played out in her mind. She brought the cigarette to her lips and took a long drag. The smoke drifted as a gentle breeze blew across the deck. Eva had lost her heart to this courageous woman even before she was aware of it. The gentle Sister Abigail, whom she had met in an Aiden church, told her the heart wants what the heart wants. Eva wasn’t sure what the elderly nun was talking about but she finally understood the meaning.
Eva shook her head in amazement at how the events had transpired. Two years ago she had no hope beyond living through the day. Now, she was on a ship bound for a country she didn’t know with a woman, she hoped, loved her as much as Eva loved her.
Eva felt a hand touch her back, which startled her a little. She turned to find Doctor Hannah Koch. Hannah was an older woman in her late fifties, almost as tall as Eva, with long silver hair which framed an oval face. Her amber colored eyes were hidden behind clear octagonal framed glasses. Hannah was a psychiatrist helping those who had survived Hitler’s Final Solution adjust to freedom and cope with their lives after they were set free. Hannah had gained Eva’s trust despite her hatred and mistrust in doctors.
"Oh, Hannah, I didn’t hear you."
"I’m sorry, Evy, I didn’t realise you were miles away," Hannah replied as she leaned forward and gave Eva a kiss on the cheek. "Now what are you doing here all alone? Where is Zoe?"
"Henry and Zoe went to the cabin; I was feeling a little claustrophobic."
"Hm," The doctor nodded. "Probably feeling quite hot as well since you’re wearing your security blanket."
Eva looked down at her cloak and then back up at her therapist with a knowing smile. "I need to wear it."
"No," Hannah shook her head. "You don’t NEED to wear it, you WANT to wear it."
"I feel safe."
"I know," Hannah said as she took Eva’s hand and led her to the deck chairs, where they sat down. "We haven’t seen each other for a few weeks; how are you feeling?"
"Is that my friend asking or my psychiatrist?"
"A little of both. You’ve been through a great deal and you’ve made great progress."
Eva looked out the brightly coloured streamers that were festooned across the railing. "I’m still not cured."
"No, you’re not, yet. That’s going to take time. Undoing the damage takes time, Evy. We have been working together for only a few months; you have to give yourself time."
"Time," Eva murmured. She looked down at her hands, which rested on her lap, before she lifted her head to meet Hannah’s gaze. "What if Zoe doesn’t want to wait?"
Hannah burst out laughing as she clutched Eva’s hand in her own and held it against her chest. "Oh my goodness, I’m sorry. We are talking about Zoe Lambros? About five feet five, with blazing red hair and green eyes. Right?"
"Yes," Eva replied, feeling a little sheepish at uttering the question.
"Goodness me, my dear Eva. Zoe isn’t going anywhere. That woman will wait for as long as it takes for you to be ready. Zoe is not a patient girl, but for you, she will wait an eternity."
"But," Eva looked around the deck to see if there were any other people around them but found it empty. She glanced back at the doctor. "We haven’t..um.."
"You haven’t made love to her. Yes, I know. You’re not ready yet."
"I tried a few days ago but—"
"You tried but you weren’t able to. Zoe understands that more than anyone else. You will get there if we continue to work together. We can’t undo the damage done to you overnight."
"Kissing her has become easier," Eva said shyly with a slight smile. "Like you said it would."
"Do you still feel nauseous?"
"A little, but not as bad as before. My legs go weak but I’m not sure if that’s because my head is telling me to stop or if it’s because I’m in love with her."
"I would say a little of both," Hannah replied with a smile as she put her arm around Eva’s shoulders. "That’s progress but—"
"I know, slowly slowly."
"We will work on this together, you and me. Nice and slow."
"Can’t we go a little faster?"
"No. It won’t be pleasant for you if we rush things. Just nice and slow."
Eva sighed and nodded. "Can you fix me before I turn forty?"
"How old are you now?"
‘Oh, yes, well before then," Hannah said with a slight laugh. The two women looked at each other and smiled. "I have to go but I will see you later tonight. Alright?"
Eva nodded. "Yes."
"Good," Hannah rose and saw Henry approaching. She greeted him with a hug and left the deck leaving the two friends alone.
"So you saw the cabin?"
"I did," Henry replied and leaned back against the railing and looked up into the blue sky above him.
"It’s a cabin."
Eva smiled at her ex-guard’s non description of her new home for the next two months. "Does Zoe like it?"
Henry turned to his friend, a knowing smile creasing his lips. "Yes, Zoe likes it"
"Oh, good, then that means we won’t have more than ten to a cabin."
"No, I don’t think you will."
Eva gazed at her friend as she reached out and cupped his bearded face. "I’m going to miss you. You’ve been with me since Aiden and I’ve trusted you."
"We’ve been on a long road together and now the road ends," Henry replied as he took Eva’s hand and they both sat down on a long wooden bench. "It’s time for your new life to begin."
"I never thought this day would come, Henry. I don’t know what to do," Eva said, threading her arm through the crook of Henry’s elbow.
"You live it. What else is there to do?"
"I don’t know."
"Are you having second thoughts about Zoe?"
"NO!" Eva exclaimed, causing a couple of the passengers nearby to glance her way. "Sorry," she mumbled to Henry. "I mean, no, absolutely not."
"So what’s the problem?"
Henry stared at Eva with a quizzical look on his face. "Zoe is the problem?"
Eva took a drag of her cigarette and inhaled. For a long moment she didn’t say a word as Henry patiently waited. "I don’t know if Zoe loves me or heavy likes me or where she is on that scale of hers."
Henry chuckled at his friend and put his arm around her shoulders. "Really?"
"Don’t laugh at me, Henry."
"I’m not laughing at you…no, wait, yes, I am laughing at you," Henry continued to chortle to himself. "You don’t know if Zoe loves you?"
"Why are you laughing at me?"
"I’m laughing because you are so blind. Zoe loves you. She said she loves you to you, to me, to Thanasi. She roused up half the Resistance in the middle of a firestorm. Have you thought about what she did?"
"Yes, of course I’ve thought about it, I was there."
"No, you don’t know what she did, Evy. She persuaded Thanasi and Apostolos to split up their teams and instead of both of them fighting the Germans, Thanasi came after you. I don’t know how that young woman did it. It’s a good thing Zoe was on our side," Henry replied as he took Eva’s cigarette and took a drag. "She killed that son-of-a-bitch for you; if that’s not love then I don’t know what else to call it."
"Are you in love with my girlfriend?" Eva teased her friend and pinched his cheek. They looked at each other and started laughing.
"I don’t think I could handle Zoe; the woman is unstoppable. Zoe loves you so much she even put up your moods. You are not an easy woman to nurse, Eva."
"I’m not that bad," Eva mumbled but knowing Henry was right.
"Yes, you are. Zoe has seen every side of you and here she is, on a ship bound for the other side of the world. If it’s not love,
what is it?"
"I don’t know. I just don’t want to think she doesn’t have options."
"Options? What kind of options? We’re not going over this again, are we? Zoe was being friendly; you know she loves the Australians. She told me the story about the Australian soldiers in ‘41. She loves the stories they told her," Henry shook his head at his friend. "Stop thinking that you’re going to lose her."
"I love her."
"I know. I’ve known that for a long time."
"You did not; don’t be funny," Eva gently slapped her friend on the arm.
"I knew you liked her before you knew you liked her."
"I saw your face whenever she started talking; you stood straighter, you lit up even when you were attempting to hide it; you stole a look here and there when you thought she wasn’t looking."
"She wasn’t looking."
Henry leaned back against the wooden beam and laughed and slapped his thigh as he tried to control himself. "Zoe is the most observant person I have ever met. She noticed."
"Isn’t it a bit late to tell me now?"
"I had too much fun watching the both of you dancing around each other. The night Zoe slept on the floor after your nightmare, she showed you how much she meant to you. It was a good thing Reinhardt didn’t find her on the floor because that would have been difficult to explain."
"Is that when you developed your mysterious cold?" Eva asked tapping the ex-guard on the knee. "I think you would have woken the dead by shouting so much."
"Reinhardt thought I had lost my mind. Stupid bastard. And it was a good thing Nurse Gestapo wasn’t around—"
"A very good thing," Eva replied with a knowing smile which wasn’t lost on her friend. He tilted his head a little and regarded her. "Zoe was responsible for the ‘accident’."
"I thought it might have been Zoe who orchestrated it," Henry chortled. "Other than her hating all the Nazis, why did she choose Nurse Gestapo?"
"Zoe found out that Edith was the one that laughed as her mama was dying."
"Ah!" Henry slapped himself on the side of the head. "I was wondering why Zoe’s mood changed when we were in the pantry together."
"You were in the pantry together?"
"Zoe was stacking flour and she asked me to come in and store it on the top shelf. Whilst we were in there, Edith and Uta were discussing you. Edith laughed and Zoe looked like she had had a revelation."
"She did and Edith saw the bottom of the gorge," Eva replied and snickered. "Oh, I’m horrible."
"No, you’re not. I wanted to dance around like a fool when the news came through," Henry glanced down as Eva rested her head against his shoulder. "Zoe does love you."
"She doesn’t love me yet; she just ‘heavy likes’ me."
Henry put his arm around Eva and kissed her on the cheek. "You are so blind. The woman loves you; just accept that finally something good has happened."
"Something good happened when I met you, Henry."
"You have a guardian angel looking after you, Evy. I looked after you and now it’s Zoe’s turn." Henry said as he put his arm around his ex-charge. The two friends sat in silence for a few minutes enjoying each other’s company. Henry turned to Eva and took her hand.
"I have to get going or the ship is going to sail with me on board."
"That wouldn’t be a bad thing."
Henry reached into the pocket in his jacket. "I have something for you," he said and opened the hand to reveal a ring.
"My mother’s ring!" Eva exclaimed on seeing the silver band with the intricate lacing. She snatched it from Henry’s hand and kissed it "How did you find it?"
"I went back into the rubble; the house was pretty much burnt down and I was looking around trying to see if my photographs were still in that tin box but I didn’t find them."
"You lost all your beautiful photographs? Oh, Henry, I’m so sorry."
"That’s war," Henry replied with a tiny shrug of his broad shoulders. "I did find the ring so something good came out of it."
"Thank you, my friend," Eva leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. She put the ring on her finger and admired it for a moment.
"It’s a beautiful ring."
"This ring was given to her by her sister Theresa before she died in a fire in Athens two years before I was born. My mother wanted to honor her sister by giving me part of her name," Eva related as she continued to gaze at the ring.
The two friends were startled by the call for all guests to disembark. Henry got up and held out his hand to Eva, who took it. "It’s time to say—"
"No," Eva shook her head. "I’m not going to say goodbye. I will see you again. It’s farewell until we meet again."
Henry put his arms around her and gave her a gentle hug. "Farewell, Fräulein Muller. It’s been an honor to protect you," he whispered as he held her and looked into her eyes. "I love you," Henry quietly said and gently kissed her on the cheek.
They hugged a final time before Henry smiled and walked away. He stopped and looked back at his friend for a moment before waving goodbye and disappearing down the gangway.
With a heavy sigh Eva quietly saluted her friend and decided it was time to go and find out how uncomfortable she was going to be for the next two months. Eva put up the hood of her cloak even though it was quite humid, but she didn’t care.
Walking through the corridor she could see the various cabins which held six to ten bunks and winced on the thought she was going to be stuck in a cabin with no privacy. Eva rounded the corner and noted the number of the cabin. This was the number Henry had given her. No one was in the cabin but their luggage was there.
Eva stood at the threshold with a perplexed look on her face. "This cabin is smaller than the corridor," Eva muttered to herself. "This can’t be right."
"Yes, it is."
Eva turned around to see Zoe leaning against the wall and smiling at her. "How long have you been there?"
"Long enough to witness your disbelief," Zoe chuckled as she pushed herself off the wall and ducked under Eva’s arm, which was braced against the doorjamb. She entered the room and crooked a finger at Eva to come in.
"Are you sure this is ours?"
"Yes, very sure," Zoe replied and closed the door. Before she turned she locked it and turned to her very confused partner. "Hello there," Zoe put her arms around Eva’s waist and looked up.
"What’s this, Zo?"
"This is our cabin for the next two months."
"But our letters—"
"That was before I bought us a cabin."
Eva’s eyebrows rose at the revelation as she gazed down at the very satisfied look Zoe was giving her. "How?"
"I sold the fields that belonged to Michael—"
"No, Zoe, you shouldn’t have done that!"
"Calm down," Zoe took Eva’s hand and led her to the bottom bunk, where they both sat. Eva sat forward making sure her head wouldn’t hit the top bunk. "I didn’t want to share a cabin with ten other women; I’ve had enough of that at the camp."
"But it was your inheritance, Zo."
"Yes, and I’m quite sure my brother would think I put some dirt to good use," Zoe giggled. "It’s just dirt, Evy. I couldn’t bear the thought of not being able to kiss you in private for two months."
"No, I couldn’t and I didn’t want an audience."
Eva’s face hurt from grinning so much and she tried to stop but she just couldn’t force herself to do it. They both gazed at each other for a long moment before Eva threaded her hand through Zoe’s red hair bringing her lover closer. She captured Zoe’s mouth in a gentle kiss, teasing the younger woman with her tongue until she heard Zoe’s breathless moan.
Somewhere out to sea between Egypt and Australia…
"Can you please stay in the bunk?" Zoe pleaded for the umpteenth time and gently pushed Eva back into the bunk. She didn’t need to push hard --a gentle nudge was all it took for Eva to lie back down.
"I’m okay...argh, no, I’m not okay," Eva groaned and heaved again into the bucket Zoe held for her. Zoe patted her on the back and gave her a glass of water, then opened the cabin door to slip the bucket outside. It was bad enough that the cabin was small; they didn’t need that smell in there as well.
"I need to sit up, Zo."
"You’re staying in the bunk, right?"
"Any better?" Zoe asked as she helped Eva sit up. The tiny bunk, with its thin mattress, was almost too small for Eva. She had to sleep with her legs pulled up, lest they hang over the end.
"Oh, yeah, fine. Wish I could stop this cabin from spinning."
"Oh, is that all?" Zoe responded and kissed Eva on the forehead.
"Can I ask you something?"
"No, you can’t ask the Captain to stop the ship and get off. I tried," Zoe replied and got a chuckle from Eva. She perched on the edge of the bed and caressed Eva’s cheek for a moment, before moving her hand up to softly stroke her dark hair. "What do you want to ask me?"
"I know it’s not a good time and it’s not very romantic here, but..." Eva swallowed. She got out of the bunk and fell to her knees in front of a very confused Zoe.
"What are you doing?"
"Has your Heavy Like progressed yet?" Eva asked quickly, ignoring Zoe’s question.
"Huh?" Zoe replied and looked down at Eva for a moment before she realized what Eva was talking about. She went down on her knees and gazed at Eva. "I told you that I loved you in Larissa."
"You were asleep at the time."
"I was?" Eva asked and then sneezed, which started a coughing fit. After a few moments she looked at Zoe.
"I was waiting for the right moment and wanting to be sure that you truly felt the same. I think I passed ‘Heavy Like’ at Athena’s Bluff."
"Before or after I redecorated it in red?"
Zoe was caught off guard by Eva’s sense of humor and started to laugh. "Oh, way before that."
"Oh. You did?" Eva said in a small voice that sounded so young to Zoe, even though Eva was the older of the two.
"Eva Muller, I have bad news for you," Zoe said, suppressing a grin.
"Oh?" Eva sounded alarmed and looked up with a frown.
"I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. It’s too late to throw me back, as you know. I can’t swim," Zoe joked. Her eyes gentled as she gazed at the woman she had almost lost to the cruelty and hatred of war. "I love you so much that it hurts. That’s how much I love you."
"Oh!" was all Eva could say.
Zoe leaned down and gently wiped Eva’s face with the moist towel and kissed her. "So tell me, is that what you wanted to ask me,
"No, I mean...um...Zoe," Eva stammered.
"You know, that fever is going down. You remembered my name," Zoe teased.
"Will you be with me?" Eva asked quickly.
"I thought I was with you."
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
"Isn’t it a bit late to ask me that? We’re heading to Australia."
"No, I mean, be with me...together...um."
"We are together." Zoe was genuinely puzzled by Eva’s uncharacteristic fumbling that had nothing to do with her flu.
"I want you to be my…I don’t know what to call it, but if I could I would marry you."
"Um, are we allowed?" Zoe asked quietly.
"Not legally and I don’t think it’s allowed in Australia, but you know, in Ancient Greece it was allowed. I don’t see why we can’t follow your ancestors and their traditions..."
"That’s good. I’m sure there was a wild woman in my past."
"So is that a yes?" Eva asked tentatively.
"To what question?" Zoe teased.
"Will you spend the rest of your life with me?" Eva asked again.
"I would spend an eternity with you, Evy," Zoe announced and took Eva’s hands in her own. "I love you with all my heart and soul."
Eva smiled and produced a ring. "I promise to love you for the rest of my life," she said as she settled the ring on Zoe’s ring finger. "This was given to me by my mother and it was a gift to her from her sister."
"I love this ring," Zoe replied as she gazed at the silver band. "I don’t have a ring for you."
"You already gave me everything I could ever want." Silent tears tracked down Eva’s cheeks as she scooped up Zoe in her arms and kissed her. They stayed on the floor for a moment longer before Eva got back into the bunk.
"Can you please get some sleep?" Zoe fussed with the blanket and brought it up to Eva’s chin. The smile that greeted her made Zoe lean down and kiss Eva. "Go. To. Sleep." She enunciated each word with a kiss.
Eva giggled and snuggled down under the blanket as Zoe left the cabin with the bucket once again.
Zoe stepped out onto the deck and took a deep breath. The sea churned as the huge passenger liner slowly and steadily made its way towards its destination. The full moon above pierced the darkness of the night sky like a beacon, overpowering most of the stars and glinting from small waves in the black sea. The Patris was a huge beast which showed the wear and tear of heavy use during the war. Used first as a troop ship and now a refugee carrier, she had carried many thousands of people. If she could talk, she would certainly have some tales to tell.
Zoe’s chestnut hair whipped around her face as she stared up at the twin funnels. She could just make out the black smoke billowing into the air. This was the first time she had sailed and she wanted desperately to be back on dry land. That wasn’t going to happen for at least another month.
She braced her arms on the railing and stared off into the dark horizon. She had come a long way from Larissa. She had survived the war, lost family and many friends, but she had also gained a good friend in Thanasi and someone very precious — a lover and a best friend rolled into one very special person. Eva had come into her life and, although the circumstances were tragic, she had recognized a kindred spirit and couldn’t help being drawn to her.
The refugees were packed like sardines, something Eva had mentioned to her not long after they left port in Egypt. Eva made Zoe laugh when she screwed her face up and puckered her lips like a fish. They were luckier than most, though. They had their own cabin, although it was so small Eva thought it could have been used as a broom closet.
"I wish you could be here, Father H," Zoe said quietly into the night, tears tracking down her face as she remembered the dear priest who gave up his life like so many of her compatriots. She twirled the silver ring around her finger. It wasn’t much in worldly value, but it didn’t need to be. It was connected to Eva, her mother and her sister, and it was from Eva, serving as a reminder of the love she had for her.
A sound made Zoe turn around and she smiled. Standing near the door was Eva with a blanket around her. Zoe wanted to scold her for coming out into the night air, but she just smiled. Eva joined her at the railing.
"I couldn’t sleep and I wanted to be with you."
Zoe held out her hand. Eva took it, brought it up to her lips and kissed it before she put her arm around Zoe. They cuddled under the blanket and watched the stars twinkle as the ship churned through the sea.
Whatever lay ahead of them was going to be quite an adventure and they were going to face the challenges together. A new life awaited them in The Lucky Country, the land of milk and honey and new beginnings.
The story of Eva and Zoe continues in the next novel "Where Shadows Linger"
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