Evelyn bent over her knees a few feet into the woods, catching her breath as Gene leaned against a tree, holding his leg in pain. Despite the bad shape his leg was in, he’d still pushed himself, half running, half hobbling with Evelyn to balance himself on. They’d made it to the woods in good time, but at a cost: now, it didn’t look like Gene could stand to put any weight on his bad leg, and Evelyn didn’t think they would make it very far without the Germans spotting them if they were to slowly make their way through the woods, with her helping him walk. They were stuck, and she wasn’t sure how to get them unstuck.
“How’s your leg?” Evelyn asked quietly, praying that there weren’t any Germans within earshot.
“Not good,” he groaned. When he took his hand off of his leg, she saw that his leg was swelling, bad. “I don’t think I can walk, anymore.”
Evelyn took a deep breath trying to keep herself from panicking. She’d been afraid that that was the case.
She began to look around, looking for anything she could use to make a splint for Gene. They were surrounded by trees, all of which had branches that were a good thickness for splints, but she was too afraid to use any of it; all the branches she could see that she could use were still attached to trees. It would make more noise than they could afford to get them. It seemed that Gene’s leg would have to wait.
“We’ll get you help, soon,” she said, putting his arm over her shoulder. “Just hang on for a few more-”
A twig snapped behind them.
Evelyn grabbed her gun and pointed it in the direction of the sound.
When she turned, she’d expected to see a German soldier. Instead, all she saw was a man, wearing a trench coat, khaki trousers, boots, a scarf and a hat. He held his hands out towards her, as if trying to show her that he didn’t have a weapon in them.
“Don’t shoot!” he said. “I’m a friend, I swear.”
Evelyn found herself relaxing, but she still held her gun up. “How do we know we can trust you?” The man sighed, shaking his head.
“Did Vera and all them really not tell you about me?” he asked. “I was told to get you two to a safe house.” Evelyn slowly put her gun back in its holster, but kept her eyes on the man; she still wasn’t entirely sure that she could trust him.
“Who are you?” she asked as he walked over and took Gene from her.
“Gilbert Norman, at your service,” he said. “We need to get moving. There’s a German patrol about a mile away from here; I don’t think they’d appreciate seeing us sneaking around.” They began making their way through the woods as fast as Gene could manage with his leg.
That was the last time they talked for almost a half an hour. In that time, they moved through the woods as quickly and quietly as they could: they wove through the trees, avoided the many twigs that scattered the ground; in that space of time, the woods seemed to be deserted, with only the three of them in it. They couldn’t even hear any birds chirping in the trees, or see any squirrels zipping across the branches above their heads. The woods were beautiful and green, but everything around them still seemed to be dead. It only managed to add to the nerves Evelyn was feeling.
After that first half an hour of ducking behind trees and scanning the horizon to make sure there weren’t any Germans, Evelyn saw the first signs of occupation: just a few meters in front of them was a German patrol, making sure that nobody was in the woods.
Evelyn quickly put her back to the tree so the Germans wouldn’t see her, her heart pounding against her chest. When she saw that Gilbert and Gene were about to come out from behind their tree, she began waving them back. They quickly backed up without another sound, just as the Germans began walking towards them.
She began to take some deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down. She couldn’t think; her mind was blank with terror. All she could seem to do was take her gun from her holster, again, and hold it close to her chest as the footsteps and the voices that belonged to them grew closer and closer. They were arguing about something: a woman both of them had an eye for, from the sounds of it. Neither of them seemed aware of the spies that hid in the trees before them, of the cocked gun that waited to be fired on them.
Just as the Germans reached the tree, however, they stopped; it seemed that whatever they were talking about was important enough to distract them from their job.
Evelyn slowly peeked behind the tree at them. They were turned toward each other, one with their arms folded over his chest defensively.
Evelyn looked back over at where Gilbert and Gene were hidden. To her surprise, she saw that Gilbert was peeking out from behind his own tree, holding a small pistol. He began to wave to the side, as if signalling for her to get away from them, as he aimed his pistol at the Germans.
She nodded and ran for the next tree.
Crack! The loud sound of a twig snapping under her feet rang out through the woods like a gunshot.
Evelyn’s blood ran cold as she turned around to see that the Germans had seen her, thanks to it. They were pointing their guns at her, ready to shoot her, as they yelled at her to stop and that she was under arrest.
Instinctively, she held her hands up in surrender, praying to God that they wouldn’t shoot her.
Two gunshots rang out, making Evelyn jump out of her skin; however, none of the bullets hit her: the two Germans fell to the ground in front of her, dying from bullet wounds to their stomachs.
She leaned against a tree, taking a deep breath in an effort to calm her nerves as Gilbert and Gene made their way to her. Thank god, she was still alive.
“Are you alright?” Gene asked. Evelyn nodded as she put her gun back in the holster.
“The Germans probably heard that,” Gilbert said, looking around them. “We aren’t far from the safe house, but they’ll be on us if we aren’t fast.” He looked at Gene. “What are the odds of you being able to run on your own for a few minutes?”
Gene began to test his leg, gently putting some weight on it, then shook his head. “Not good.” Gilbert cursed.
“Alright,” he said. “I guess we’ll just have to hope the Germans either didn’t hear that or are a little ways away.” With that, they began to make their way to the safe house, going as fast as Gene’s leg would allow them to.
After a few more minutes, they reached a small cabin that looked to be deserted. The wood on the outside was old and chipping, the windows were either broken or covered in so much dirt, you couldn’t see through them, and a door with the finish worn off. The awful condition of the cabin was the main reason why Evelyn was surprised when Gilbert led them to the door.
“Home sweet home, for the next few hours,” he said as they walked up the creaky porch steps. He put Gene back on Evelyn and pulled up the welcome mat, revealing an old, tarnished key. “If you two ever need to hide out, this is the place to come.” He picked up the key and unlocked the door, revealing the inside of the safe house.
The inside of the cabin was in just as bad of shape as the outside was. Everything around them was covered in a fine layer of dust, with every piece of furniture covered in white, dingy dust covers. The walls were covered in discolored, peeling, floral wallpaper and old picture frames, and the floorboards creaked with even the most delicate footfall. Even though everything took on a look of desertion, it became apparent that it wasn’t: there were tracks in the dust that covered the floor, revealing the scratched, warped boards beneath; it seemed that they weren’t the only ones who’d been there in the past few days.
“Welcome to the safe house,” Gilbert said as he shut the door behind them and locked it. He ripped the dust cover off of a chair and set Gene down on it, allowing him to rest his leg.
“This place looks abandoned,” Gene said as Evelyn looked at one of the pictures framed on the wall. It looked to be a family portrait, taken during happier times: a happy, beautiful woman was holding a baby boy in her hands, while a smiling man was standing behind a boy who was missing his front two teeth. “How long has it been like this?”
“Well, we’re not entirely sure,” Gilbert said as he helped Gene prop his leg up on a footstool. “When we first got here, there were a few newspapers on the kitchen counter. The latest one dated to the beginning of 1940.” He stood up and shoved his hands in his pockets. “The Germans still think the place is abandoned, and we would like to keep it that way; try not to make too much noise or light the fireplace or anything like that.” He looked over at Evelyn.
“There’s a change of clothes in the powder room for you,” he said. “We don’t have your sizes, so I hope they all fit.” Evelyn nodded and walked into the powder room.
Sure enough, there was a change of clothes waiting for her in the tiny room, folded up and placed on the toilet seat. As she changed out of her soiled clothes and into the clean ones that had been provided, she discovered that they did, in fact, fit her. The white, short sleeved blouse came in right at her waist; the dark green skirt fell just below her knees and fit snugly around her hips; the worn oxfords were the right size, as were the socks and the gray coat; it was as if it had all come out of her own closets at home.
After she put on the black beret, she examined herself in the mirror. Everything about her was the same: her pale blonde hair was the same, her gray eyes were the same, her milky skin was the same; and yet… it still managed to be different. The features no longer felt like they belonged to Evelyn McIntyre, the child of a wealthy Scott and a Frenchwoman. They now belonged to Yvette Barteau, the native Parisian she’d been training to become.
Evelyn could feel a pit beginning to form in her stomach. This was real; all of this was really happening. That whole day, everything had felt so surreal, like she was stuck in a dream. Now, everything was beginning to feel all too real.
When she walked outside of her room, she saw that Gene and Gilbert were right where she’d left them. Gilbert was examining Gene’s leg, which was even more swollen than it had been, before; it didn’t look like his pants would come off without a knife.
“What are we going to do about his leg?” Evelyn asked.
“We’ll get him to Dr. Cartier when he’s ready,” Gilbert said. “He’ll have everything we need to get his leg healed up, soon.”
“Then, I guess we’ll all have to make ourselves comfortable,” Gene said. “I’m nowhere near being ready to move more than an inch.”