Excerpt of Chapter One of my work in progress, an espionage novel set in France during the Second World War.
Movement in the courtyard beyond his immediate field of view, not a German…no they would not take the frère away, bad for business, very bad for business. He tossed the pictures away and let them land openly on the floor the dreams he made out of them dissipated. Put himself together and thought about meeting his guests with his British English impression…time for tea?
Not now. He had some sense left after all the little voice that took over when he entered the church every day to do Mass…now he presided over the dead skeletons from the village…not good but it would do…he looked at himself in the mirror lit through the window. Guests in the courtyard go see what they want…he trudged down the rectory stairs lighter in one hand…cigarette in his pocket tried to light…tumbled down the stairs. Not worth bending over. Went out to the courtyard door, opened it to the night demons…liked that turn of phrase. Demons held his attention as seminary, the one lecture on Beelzebub and Lucifer…much better than the plodding through Milton the blind old twat as the English would say.
A girl and her admirers…suitors…out in the courtyard glistening with perspiration. Steel submachine gun barrels shone in the night…a girl and her admirers still but in partisans’ clothes just flannels with bandoleers like big game hunters not Paris suits and party dresses. Paris was funny…had been…not anymore. All Germans and resistance now…partisan Parisians, funny turn of phrase.
“Father,” the girl said while her admirers watched out from the archway into the courtyard. “I need a place for us to hide.”
Illuminated her face with the lighter. “Yes, yes,” he said softly. His confession voice. Pretty girl, very easy. She had serviced him many times in exchange for forgiveness…her womanhood was a sewage pipe but he found it attractive. “Yes, yes,” he said nodding to her looking into her eyes. Pupils were great black chasms…seen to many men. Tried to close it up with men not knowing it only made it wider. Seminary teachers called it the God-Shaped-Hole…or maybe the little voice wrote it into the sermon…very good turn of phrase, a good idea. “Come in, stay in the attic,” he said in his Confession voice.
“Thank you Father,” she bowed her head.
He shut the door and locked it while imagining a German rifle stock bashing it in. Mauser Karabiner ninety-eight Kurtz very good rifle based on the old one from the last war, his war, fired with a crack not like the pounding boots up the stairs. He took them down the hall with the curtains shut for the blackout with spider webs on them. Good pets, he liked them, kept flies out. He coked his head at the little girl. “Staying with me?”
“No, father,” her head snapped around to her partisans. Her Queens Own…he knew too much of the English, he decided. No…simply made to many references. Time to stop.
“Father,” she said. “This is attic, right?”
“Yes my dear, rest up here for the night.”
Morning light through the kitchen window. Seven-thirty said the kitchen clock. One hour until Tuesday mass when the agnostics before the war became converts and good Catholics and all the good Catholics became nihilists. He looked out the window; down the hill a German car, Kubelwagen, parked at the foot. If he were a Protestant he would call it the City on the Hill like an Englishman in the New World.
A German in black said something to the driver in German…of course he would…and started up the steps to the door of the rectory where he would have to spiral around the hill and then go through the courtyard. Like a Gate of Ishtar but not because that was Pagan and this a Catholic rectory and Church…part of The Church. Obvious. He put the dishes in the sink with the others where the Spiders lived. He imagined the dishes were like a little cave network for the spiders. He took papers from the counter…wather one corner. He wrote down his sermon for the day…explaining…which verse was it? Had to get the book out, upstairs in his study…he studied more on Jane’s Armies of the World…knew about the German forces and American and his country’s little stunted aborted forces.
He got up. Went to the study, attic cord bounced from his forehead in the narrow passage and dusted off one of the books. The men in black…uniform designed by Hugo Boss, he could kill to get one. Rubbed his chin and tucked the book under his arm, saw the German snooping around the grounds admiring the church and the rectory. It was a very admirable church…he liked that. Respectable to the observer until you get a close look at it…too much to think about though.
He went down the stairs to the kitchen like Priest. Might be my last supper…last breakfast…all the same really.