A stain of crimson spread outward from the bullet hole that had pierced the light blue shirt. The man’s pulse was thready and his breathing labored. John knew he had to get the man someplace safe — to a physician or skilled nurse quickly. Unfortunately, there was no place in Paris safe for either of them now. He knew he had to get him out of Paris, but roadblocks and checkpoints blocked every road out of the City of Lights.
“Think, think!” he muttered to himself as he looped the tall, muscular man’s limp arm over his own shoulder, and dragged him back to his 1933 black and green Citroën Rosalie coupe, just a few hundred feet away from the scene of the ambush.
John now knew he should have listened to The Face. The Allied agent had warned John that he suspected his three am rendezvous with Bad Wolf on the left bank of the Seine had been observed. But even still, John had insisted that The Face give him the intelligence tonight. In the end, Jack was convinced by John’s weighty argument about duty, honor, and sacrifice.
So they met at ten o’clock. And one minute later, Jack’s lightning-fast reflexes had neutralized three of four German agents who had bore down on them. But the fourth agent had shot Jack, and then bolted, presumably back to his commander to report his findings.
Because of his stubbornness, the most important American operative in France, who also happened to be his best friend, had been gravely injured. Not only that, both of them had been visually identified.
Nervously, John looked left and right down the dark alleys as he drove as casually as he could through the darkened streets of Paris. His alias, Jean Dupont, was a physician, which afforded him a modicum of freedom to move in and out of the city at all hours.
John had buttoned up Jack’s long, blue coat, and arranged him in the front passenger seat. To any casual observer, he would have looked like he was sleeping. John gripped the steering wheel as he approached a checkpoint, the first of several. His French was flawless, and he could charm an angry Nazi-trained German Shepherd. Luckily, he had not needed to charm this particular German foot soldier, who was obviously tired, cold, and bored. The wooden arm was raised, and John released the breath he had been holding as the floodlight on the guard house faded in his rearview mirror.
He progressed through three more checkpoints without any probing questions. As he approached the final checkpoint, the last barrier between himself and his destination, Jack began to groan. He then began to speak loudly, agitated, in English. His accent was unmistakably American.
“Papers,” barked the German soldier impatiently. He thrust his gloved hand through the open window.
Wordlessly and without making eye contact, John provided his identification and credentials.
“So you’re a physician, eh, Monsieur Dupont?” the soldier asked in broken French.
“Oui,” answered John.
Jack groaned loudly, catching the soldier’s attention. The soldier sauntered around to the passenger side of the vehicle. “Put your window down,” he ordered.
John hesitated for a moment, but then complied.
“Why’d you do it for him? Can’t he do it for himself?” asked the soldier, suspicious.
“Drunk like a donkey,” lied John. “He can’t hold his wine worth a damn.”
The soldier sniffed around Jack’s face. “I don’t smell any wine.”
“It was a very fine French wine. Very rare. It doesn’t have an aroma. Very rare,” he repeated. “It was a special occasion. He is to be married tomorrow.”
The soldier eyed Jack one more time, and then walked around the rear of the vehicle. He stood for a moment, his hand on the door of the guard house, but then turned, and lifted the arm, allowing them to pass.
John drove without stopping for three hours, and when he pulled up the long, gravel driveway of his destination, it was two am. The sky was inky black, and a sliver of the moon was hanging in the sky. A single light shone through one window, but the rest of the numerous windows of the old, ornate, stone building were dark. The many inhabitants of this residence would have retired long ago, knowing they would have to rise before dawn.
He did not expect a welcome committee, not here, but there she was standing behind the iron gate: the brave, stalwart Mother Superior of the Sisters of Our Lady of Peace.
“I’m so sorry to have disturbed you at such an ungodly hour, Reverend Mother, but I am seeking asylum and my friend needs immediate medical attention.”
“Who sent you, sir?” asked the tall woman.
“The Gallifreyan Brotherhood,” John replied without hesitation.
“Well, come on then. Let’s get your friend out of that motorcar, and I’m sure you’ll be wanting that motorcar hidden,” she tutted as she turned and pulled a rope which rang a small, but deep sounding bell. “We have rules. One, you may not tell us your true name, your alias, or your country of origin. Two, you may not speak to the sisters unless they approach you or they are immediately attending to your needs.”
“Attending to my needs?” Jack asked, quietly cheeky.
Mother Superior cast a disapproving glance Jack’s way, and John started to say his name in chastisement but then caught himself, remembering not violate rule number one.
“I will give you names, which you are to use while you are our guests. Which leads us to rule three. You are our guests. You are not to work. The work we do is our worship, as is serving our honored guests.”
“Thank you, Reverend Mother,” John replied kindly.
“Just call me Mother, please, and I shall call you…” she looked at John for a moment. “Skinnyboy. As for the disrespectful one, I think I’ll call him–”
“Call me Casanova,” Jack suggested groggily.
“That is not a name fit to be uttered in a convent,” she countered calmly.
John smirked, knowing that this woman was very astute, even though she had lived a cloistered, chaste life.
Three women dressed in black from head to tow hurried down the portico and joined the trio.
“Sisters, please retrieve the stretcher, prepare the surgery and wake the team. We have a patient.”
She stared at a significantly large crack in the white plaster ceiling that she had decided was roughly the shape of a rabbit.
She had failed her mission. Going home for reassignment was not an option. Stuck was the only way to describe her situation. She laughed at the irony: the night before last, she was singing sultry songs of love and loss. Her gown had been the most alluring in her wardrobe: black satin which hugged and skimmed every curve, bump, and dimple of her figure. The neckline was dangerously low, plunging deeply down her chest. Her lips had been painted cherry red and matched her nails and toes. Her lashes had been black and thick, and her face, powdered and pale like porcelain. Her hair had been curled and pinned in an elaborate and glamorous style akin to Betty Grable.
But now, all traces of glamour were gone. She had used laundry bleach to hastily disguise her naturally glossy brown hair, and then bobbed it above her shoulders in an attempt to disguise herself. She was expected to get up at five am, and slip into something black, but nothing like the black satin gown she wore while crooning Perfidia, Take Me, and Moonlight Serenade. She had a new identity now: Novice Marie Rose.