About an hour after Gilbert and Yvonne left, Evelyn found herself in the kitchen with Denise, helping her make some lunch. On the menu that day was a kind of sandwich Denise called a croque monsieur: a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. Per request, she would put a fried egg over top, making it a croque madame. It smelled absolutely delicious, and though she didn’t have much of an appetite, Evelyn couldn’t help but be excited for when she would get hers.
Eventually, they all sat down at the dinner table, with the exceptions of Gene and Dr. Cartier, who sat together in the living room. Evelyn felt a little bad about taking his spot at the table, but he insisted that it was all right; apparently, he needed to check up on Gene to see if the swelling had gone down, anyway.
Once everyone was seated, Henri said grace and they began to eat.
Now that Evelyn was sitting at the table with the family, she truly realized just how large of a family it was. Denise and Louis had seven kids, their ages ranging from nearly twenty to six years old. Henri and two of the youngest were boys, while the middle children and the youngest were all girls. With how small the house was, it seemed to be some sort of miracle that not only were they able to live under one roof, but they were able to take in two more people for the next few days.
As Evelyn bit into her sandwich (which tasted just as good as it smelled,) the young Cartier child sitting next to her began staring up at her. It was one of the younger girls, with light brown hair that was put into a braid down her back, big brown eyes, and rosy cheeks, though whether or not that was from being outside or because that was her natural complexion, she wasn’t sure. She had a curious look on her face, and in all honesty, it kind of made her feel a little uncomfortable.
“Are you new here?” she asked. Evelyn found herself a little taken aback by that. Did she really know much about what her brother and her father were involved in? Evelyn and Gene must not have been the first allied agents to pass through the house for any considerable amount of time.
“Édith, be polite,” Denise scolded. “She may not want to talk about it.” The little girl - Édith - muttered an apology and looked down at her barely touched sandwich.
“It’s alright,” Evelyn said. She looked down at Édith, who was now looking back up at her. “I am new here, yes.”
“Is that why you speak funny?” she asked. Denise gave her daughter a warning look, but she didn’t say anything, that time.
“Do I speak funny?” Evelyn asked. Suddenly, she found herself worrying about whether or not she’d manage to blend in in Paris; if a little girl could pick out her accent so quickly, she had no doubt in her mind that the Germans would be able to hear it just as fast.
“A little,” Édith said. She looked over at Gene as he did his best to politely eat his sandwich. “Not a funny as he does, though.”
Denise began rubbing her temples, obviously embarrassed, while Gene simply laughed. “My accent isn’t that bad, is it?”
Louis began to rub the back of his neck. “Well, it could definitely use some work, but believe me, it’s not as bad as it could be. We can work on that over the next few days while you two are staying here.” He took his last bite from his sandwich and began checking Gene’s leg, again. Even from where Evelyn was, she could see that it was still bruised black and purple from the break and that the swelling seemingly wasn’t going down.
“How does it look?” Gene asked, wincing as Louis gently pressed against his leg.
“The swelling has gone down a little, but not much,” he said. “Your leg probably won’t be ready for a cast for a few more days, but it’s ready for a splint. I’ll put one on your leg as soon as I’m finished eating.”
“Take your time,” Gene said. “You don’t have to bend head over heels for me; I really think I’ll be alright-”
“You broke your leg, probably in multiple places,” he said. “You’re not alright. In fact, you’re lucky that it doesn’t look like you need surgery on it.” Louis took a bite from his sandwich. “Besides, splints are a very simple thing; it isn’t very much trouble, at all.”
“How long will he be in it?” Evelyn asked. She hoped it wasn’t too long; she wanted him to get better before they were supposed to do something to the Germans. The last thing she wanted was for him to get killed on a mission just because he landed wrong coming into France.
“Just until his swelling goes down more,” Louis said. “After that, I’ll be able to put his leg into a cast. By then, I’ll have his crutches ready and made, and the two of you can be on your way. All and all, it should take a week or two.
Evelyn found herself relaxing a little as she took a bite into her sandwich. There was the one good thing about this little misadventure, she supposed. Louis sounded very optimistic about Gene’s healing, and the way he was talking, he could be one-hundred percent better in a month or so. She hoped that was right.
“So, where are you two from?” Louis asked. “Francis has been pretty cryptic about you two. I think he’s just a little paranoid about what happened with Carte.”
“Carte?” Evelyn asked. Louis gave both of them a weird look, and so did Denise.
“They didn’t tell you guys?” she asked.
“Tell us what?” Louis, Denise and Henri didn’t say anything, which only made Evelyn more nervous than she already was. Whatever Carte was, it looked like it wasn’t good.
“Carte was the last network the British set up here before this one,” Louis said. “They were pretty big, too; they had thousands of members at its prime.”
“What happened to them?” Gene asked. Evelyn wasn’t so sure she wanted to know the answer to that question, and to her surprise, Gene didn’t seem like he wanted to know, either.
Louis sighed, running a hand through his hair. “The Abwehr found a list of their agents and took them down. There’s a few that managed to get out of France before things got ugly, but most of them were arrested. No one’s seen any of them since.”
Evelyn looked down at her sandwich, suddenly not hungry. “How long ago was that?”
“It’s been a few months,” Henri said, staring down at his own food. She had a feeling that something had happened during that incident that affected him more than the rest of the family.
“No wonder Francis is paranoid,” Gene muttered to himself.
“He was one of the few people who was here during Carte and hasn’t been deported, yet,” Louis said. “I’m fairly certain he had a lot of friends arrested during that incident, but he doesn’t like to talk about it. All he says when I ask about it is that he won’t let what happened to them happen to us.”
“And do you believe him?” Evelyn asked. Even though everyone seemed to place a lot of trust in their leader, she had some doubts; how could she trust her life in the hands of a man she hadn’t even met?
Louis took a few seconds to answer that, something that Evelyn wasn’t so sure she liked. “I think he’ll do everything in his power to keep everyone safe, but it’s the things that he can’t control that I’m most worried about. It only takes one person to make everything go south. All we can hope is that everyone they bring here is as careful as Francis is.”
Before anyone could say anything else, there was a quick rap at the door. Denise stood up, looked out the peephole, then opened the door, revealing a luggage toting Gilbert.
“I come bearing gifts,” he said, holding up one of the pieces of luggage. Evelyn recognized the other one: it was a standard SOE radio, disguised as a suitcase.
Evelyn stood up as Gilbert walked into the kitchen, Denise shutting the door behind him. “Did you have any trouble getting that?”
“Nothing that I know of,” Gilbert said as Evelyn took the radio. It was just as heavy as she remembered it being. “We may not be perfect, yet, but our people are fast. I bet they were gathering up your things before we even got to the safe house.” Now that Gilbert had a free hand, he pulled a very well loved zippo lighter from his pocket.
“You’re going to want this, too,” he said, offering her the lighter. Evelyn took it, inspecting it in her hand. It looked to just be a normal - albeit beat up - zippo lighter. “There’s a message in it. Send it over the Baker Street so they know the two of you are alright.” Evelyn nodded and shoved it into her pocket.
“What’s in that one?” Gene asked, nodding to the second piece of luggage.
“A day’s change of clothes for the two of you and some night clothes,” Gilbert said. “Nothing too fancy, but since we don’t exactly have any sort of formal thing going on any time soon, that won’t matter too much.” He set the suitcase down, propping it up against the wall. “How have things been here?”
“Nothing’s changed too much,” Louis said as Evelyn walked to the room she and Gene would be staying in. She didn’t hear the rest of the conversation outside her door; she closed the door and got right to work.
She plopped herself and the heavy suitcase down on her bed and opened it. The set of knobs, wires, dials and keys that made up a standard radio greeted her when she did. It was almost comforting to see something as familiar as the radio, even though it posed a huge danger to her and Gene. It was the one thing that was distinctly British that they would have while they were there.
Next, she pulled out the zippo lighter and took the bottom off. Sure enough, there was a small slip of paper in it, with a message scribbled in scratchy handwriting: ROSE AND PRIVET ARE SAFE. WAITING FOR FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS.
She put on the headphones, opened up the code book included with the radio, tuned it to the right frequency, and began tapping out the message on the morse key.
In that minute, instinct took over. The world around Evelyn dissipated as she tapped out the message, creating dots and dashes with her finger and remembering the deliberate spelling errors that were her security check. Her mind calmed and cleared, remembering all the things she learned while in training.
It was only when she was finished with her message and turned off the radio that she realized how dangerous what she’d just done was. The Germans could intercept radio signals; everyone was painfully aware of that fact, even though the SOE and the SIS had done everything they could to try and keep them from doing that. They could be receiving that message right then, realizing that more spies were in Paris, despite the fact that they’d just finished arresting the members of Carte. As far as she knew, that would the message the Germans used to find them.
She hid the radio underneath her bed, pocketed the zippo lighter, and walked out of the room and back into the world, praying that she hadn’t just sealed their fate.