dinsdag 3 maart 2015
The Woman in Red: Chapter 17
17. The raid
It was in the middle of the night. The night following the day that Jean-Pierre had thrown his life upside down. He dreamt he was walking on a white beach, just above the high water mark. Shells and seaweed as long fingers were witnesses of the tides. The warmth of the sun scorched his naked shoulders. Suddenly he felt the earth shaking.
Then he woke up and looked in Katarina’s startled eyes who was shaking him. ‘Come, quick. We have to hurry. The General left us a message there would be a police raid. Put on your clothes quickly. We have to escape to another place.’
Jean-Pierre’s eyes look was very surprised. Just not fully awake, he wondered what this all meant. A raid on the castle. Then his brains began to function again. Obviously the authorities weren’t too happy about the lucrative activity of the Baroness and her companionship. The fear and panic jumped over on Jean-Pierre. How should he explain his presence? They probably had seen him together with Katarina. He wasn’t here against his wish. No, if he didn’t want to do jail time, he had to go with Katarina.
After he had dressed, Katarina took the escape route through the secret panel in the wall. She pushed a hidden lever in the corridor, and the entrance closed again. Lit by a bar-shaped lamp, they hurried through the corridor. It didn’t take long before they saw a long stair down in front of them.
‘This way,’ Katarina whispered. It wasn’t an easy job with her stiletto heels to take this obstacle, but obviously it wasn’t her first time. Even faster than Jean-Pierre, she went down the stairs. It was a lot cooler at the bottom. Jean-Pierre noticed the underground and the walls existed solid earth ground supported by heavy rafters. Here they had to walk beneath the surface.
Katarina stopped for a moment and laid her finger upon her lips, a sign Jean-Pierre had to be silent. ‘I don’t hear a thing; we’re escaped. Come with me, this corridor leads to a place in the woods where we’ll be on ground level again.’
It felt as an unreal picture. Two of them, under the ground, scarcely lighted, and walking half bent because the corridor was less high here. Jean-Pierre was quite out of habit. It made him think of a war movie he had seen about people of the resistance who undertook actions behind enemy lines. However, he didn’t feel like such a hero. Maybe the police were waiting for them in the woods, and they would shoot at them. They used real bullets, not props.
Katarina reached the end of the corridor where a little step ladder led to a double sided lid with a padlock on of which she, fortunately, possessed the key. She pushed both halves of the cover open, and Jean-Pierre smelt the green of the forest. It was very dark because of the heavy clouds. Now and then the moon shined through the cloud cover and at that time he saw they were arrived at an open place in the forest.
‘And now what?’ Jean-Pierre asked in a loud voice. Probably the fear that was talking, but Katarina didn’t pay attention to it. Obviously she thought it was safe. Otherwise, she should remind him to stay silent.
‘About five hundred meters from here, there’s a road. Normally the General should have taken care to leave a car there… in any case that’s what I hope. Otherwise, we have to walk at least five kilometers till the next village.’ She removed her shoes and walked barefoot through the wood. Jean-Pierre looked at her very surprised. That must hurt her feet. Katarina didn’t complain and was almost out of sight. Jean-Pierre rapidly followed her. He didn’t want to be left behind in this dark place.
Indeed, after five hundred meters they were on that road. But now sign of the car Katarina had spoken of. Therefore, they couldn’t but walk to the next village. Not an adventure without a risk, Jean-Pierre suspected. The police would have a search for them when they realized the birds had flown.
After a five minutes’ walk, they heard a grumbling behind them. Two lights in the distance indicated a car that was approaching.
‘Quickly, here behind the bushes,’ Katarina yelled and she ran away behind the shrubbery at the roadside followed by Jean-Pierre. With trembling knees and feeling their heart beating in their throat, they sat their bent in their hiding-place, waiting till the car had passed.
The black passenger car stopped a bit further from the place they were hiding. A man with a hat left the car and looked around. ‘Hey, where are you, I was sent by the General. I’ve seen you on the road, come out. I know you’re there somewhere.
‘Katarina and Jean-Pierre were both relieved. Bruised by branches and berry bushes where they were hiding behind, they left their refuge. ‘Here we are,’ Katarina shouted and waved at their rescuer.
The man turned around and then Katarina recognized him. ‘Jacques? Is it really you, what are you doing here? I thought you were… dead?
© Rudi J.P. Lejaeghere