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The Eagle Chronicles 4: Occupation

Title: 4. Occupation
Series: The Eagle Chronicles
Word Count 4478
Summary Steven does some "work" in Nazi-Occupied Paris
Author's NoteI had either read something or watched the History Channel regarding the Nazis stealing art treasures, especially from Paris. What if they had a little competition?



4. Occupation


July 1940

The young man strolled along the boulevard, hat at a rakish angle and cigarette dangling from his lips. The shops were opening again and the majority of the activity in the streets was that of the Germans as they kept watch over their new acquisition. They had better enjoy it while they can, he thought. Once the French became organized, the Germans would have a fight on their hands.

He went to his favorite cafe, one of the few that were still open. There were a few German soldiers, but the patrons were mainly older couples having lunch. He sat at his usual table from which he had a good view of the street. A man in his fifties came to take his order. "Bonjour, Gaston."

"Ah, Simon. What can I get for you today?"

"Something light, I think. How are the omelettes?"

"We still have fresh eggs, if that is what you are asking. For how much longer, I do not know."

"You won't have to worry about closing as long as the Germans eat here."

"The sacrifices we make," Gaston murmured, looking at the soldiers flirting with one of the waitresses.

"Genevieve better be careful or they might take her at her word."

"I keep telling her that and she assures me she knows what she is doing." Gaston went inside.

Simon took a camera out of its protective case and began to take photos of the soldiers enjoying themselves. He already had shots of them at the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe. One of the soldiers saw him and came over. "Was ist das?"

"Presse," he replied in German. "Amerikaner."

The soldier smiled. "Papers?"

Simon handed him his passport and his press identification. He watched nervously as the soldier compared his picture to the real thing. Satisfied, he handed them back and returned to his comrades.

Genevieve came out with his coffee and toast. "Your omellette is on the way."

"Where's Marie? She's normally here in the morning."

"She and her family left the city. I do not know how far they will get."

"How come you didn't leave? I would have thought a young girl like yourself would have taken advantage of this."

"My mother refused to leave and I could not leave my parents. Your omelette should be ready now." She left him.

*****************************************************************

After his meal, Simon headed for the Hotel Crillon to see if General Stutnitz, the military commander of Paris, had posted any new proclamations. On a bulletin board beside the door, he saw a formal document posted. It guaranteed the safety of the inhabitants as long as they were calm and peaceful. It outlined acts of sabotage as damage to and misappropriation of crops, military provisions, and the defacing of posters belonging to Germans. All the utilities, railways, canal locks, and art treasures were under German supervision.

It also listed acts that would be answerable to a War Tribunal. Some were:

1. Aid given to non-Germans in occupied territories
2. Aiding civilians to escape occupied territories
3. Giving of information against Germany to persons outside occupied territory
4. Contact with prisoners
5. Street gatherings, distribution of leaflets not approved by the High Command

Simon copied everything down in his own shorthand. He'd transpose it later at his apartment to send to his friend in New York. From his own point-of-view, what interested him was the mention of art treasures. It would be harder than ever to get them out now. He didn't feel like staying in Paris any longer than he had to.

He wandered the streets of Paris, taking shots with his camera, snatching pieces of occupied life. There were soldiers in the cafes, the stores, the parks, and all the monuments. One of his eeriest photos was of the swastika hanging from the Arc de Triomphe. He smiled. Wouldn't it be ironic if he won a Pulitzer? At least the fake Simon Townshend would. He didn't dare use his real name--Steven Taylor was a wanted man in the States.

Back at his hotel, Steven took out a map of Paris he had hidden under a shelf in the closet. With a red pen, he marked where he had seen a high concentration of guards and other officers. The places where they had hidden the art treasures were circled in yellow. Such details would make his escape easier, as long as he updated it everyday. When he was done, it went back in the closet.

******************************************************************

He slept in the next morning, not waking until 10:00. He had no idea why he was so tired. No matter. He was up now and had to finish his article and take it over to the propaganda office for them to look it over before he sent it on to the London office. He changed into his least-wrinkled shirt and suit. He'd grab a quick bite to eat later at Gaston's.

He made his way to the Propaganda Offices and waited with other reporters for the censors to go through their articles to make sure they met the German requirements. As he was the only American reporter still in Paris, he was looked on as something of an oddity. The French thought him a Nazi sympathizer and the Germans thought him a spy for the Allies.

Soon it was his turn. He went into the small office cubicle. A non-descript man sat behind the desk. "Donnez-le-moi," he said, reaching out his hand without looking.

"Guten Tag, Herr Schmidt," said Steven, handing him the article. "How are you?"

Herr Schmidt looked up from the article. "Oh, you are the American. Sit down, please." Steven sat and watched as Schmidt read and re-read the article, crossing out words and phrases he thought too revealing of life in occupied Paris. When he was done, he stamped the envelope with his seal then handed the changed product back to Steven. "You can now send it. Auf Wiedersehen."

Steven smiled as he left the office. He then switched the censored article with a copy of the original and mailed it in the approved envelope to London. He then walked along the avenue and saw soldiers dressing up the monuments and draping bunting from windows. ""What's all this?" he asked one of them. "Why all the decorations?"

"Der Furher will be arriving tomorrow."

"Oh, really? Are the press allowed to ask him questions?"

"You may ask, but he doesn't have to answer."

"Thank you very much." If they were decorating all the places Hitler was going to visit, it would be easy to figure out his itinerary. He made notes of the monuments getting special attention. If he could get an interview with photographs...It would be such a coup! Security would probably be extra-tight so he'd have to have extra money for bribes.

He was too far away from Gaston's at this point, so he stopped at a different cafe for a glass of wine. He was slowly sipping from his glass when two Germans came up to him. "May I help you, gentlemen?"

"You are Herr Simon Townshend?" asked one in English.

"Why should the Gestapo wish to know?"

"Please come with us, Herr Townshend."

"What if I refuse? You can't very well make a scene with an American citizen."

"We will if necessary. Please, come with us."

Steven didn't feel like aggravating them so he went with them. He could put them off the scent long enough for him to pull his job. "All right. No rough stuff or I call my embassy."

He was escorted to a windowless room in Gestapo headquarters. He sat down in a straight-backed chair. A Gestapo colonel came in "Guten Abend, Herr Townshend. Thank you for coming."

"It's not like I had any choice, Herr Oberst. Now, if you'll please skip the pleasantries, you can tell me why you had these two come get me."

"Straight to the point, you Americans." He sat down behind the desk. "You have been asking many questions about troop movements."

"I'm a reporter. That's what I'm supposed to do."

"Yes, but these are not along the normal lines for a reporter."

"Well, I've never been considered normal. If you'd just tell me what it is you don't want me to ask, I promise to leave that area alone."

"You are being most cooperative, Herr Townshend. As you can guess, there is much involved in moving into a city. There are many moves and confusion and usually not everyone knows what is happening. That is why we have knowledgeable people handling press releases."

"So you're telling me not to report anything unless I'm told, to help spread your propaganda."

"Consider it the truth instead of unsubstantiated rumors."

"Certainly, Herr Oberst. Whatever you say. Can I go now?"

"I don't think I have anything else to say. Is there anywhere my men can take you?"

"Thanks, but no. It wouldn't be good for my image to be seen with Gestapo, if you know what I mean." Steven stood and walked out.

Colonel von Leibnitz spoke to the lieutenant standing at the door. "I want him followed. Keep me posted of where he goes and who he sees."

"Jawhol, Herr Oberst." He left.

Von Leibnitz walked back to his desk and sat down. "One way or another, Herr Townshend, you are going to slip, and I will have you--spy."

*******************************************************************

Hungry and frustrated, Steven headed for Gaston's for a good meal and a sympathetic ear. He wasn't ready to face what the Gestapo had done to his rooms. Gaston immediately fetched a bottle of wine when he saw Steven's condition. "Mon ami, what happened?"

Steven gulped his wine. "I've just been with the Gestapo. Could you get me some food? I haven't had a bite all day." While waiting for his meal, Steven told him what happened. "They think I've overstepped my boundaries as a reporter. So I'm only supposed to write what I'm told. This would happen the day before Hitler arrives."

"What was that?"

"Hitler is coming here tomorrow. Couldn't you tell by all the excitement? I think I've figured out where he's going. Now they won't let me near him. What's the use of being a reporter when you can't report a top-notch story like this?"

"You must remember, mon ami, that in an occupied country, there is no such thing as freedom of the press." Gaston shooed away Genevieve, who stopped to listen after bringing the meal. "What will you do now?"

"Go home, I guess. Why should I stay when I can't report my own stories my own way? And I'm not about to compromise either. Maybe once I get home, I can tell the story of my treatment here..." He drifted off, composing his article in his head.

He left an hour later, thanking Gaston for his advice. Walking down the avenue, he noticed that he was being followed. Knowing that his nerves weren't deadened enough to face the mess he knew his apartment would be, he stopped at a store and bought a couple of bottles of wine then went home.

He cautiously opened the apartment door and knew that his room had been searched. Most people wouldn't have noticed, but Steven made a living out of such things. He put down the wine, went to the bedroom, and searched for listening devices. He found one on the lamp by the bed and smiled. These guys were so predictable. They played right into his hand. This would be fun. He checked his closet and saw that his map of Paris was untouched. He folded it and placed it in his inside pocket. All his research joined it. Now it was showtime. They were expecting a drunk and they were going to get one.

He found a half-bottle of wine and popped the cork right next to the transmitter. He then began bemoaning his fate and bad luck. Well, they wouldn't have him to push around anymore. Tomorrow he would leave for home. That should make them happy, he thought.

**************************************************************************

He woke the next morning and started to pack his things. Simon Townshend would board a train for the coast and try to get across to England. Maybe the Gestapo would provide the boat themselves. With Simon gone, Stefan Taffe could make his appearance. He got all his belongings together and headed for the station. He left by the back door so the Gestapo wouldn't know he was awake. He put his bags in a locker at the station then set out to follow Hitler, camera in hand.

Steven caught up with Hitler and his entourage at the Eiffel Tower. There were some reporters from occupied countries and some from Germany. He weaved in closer to the Furher and took some photos. A guard came over and, to avoid bloodshed--his own--he pulled out his papers. "Voici ma carte d'itentite." He decided not to let them know he spoke fluent German. His papers were accepted and he was allowed to tag along.

He jotted down miscellaneous information in his notebook. His "ignorance" of German was a great asset. They said things in front of him that they normally wouldn't. "What of the art treasures?" Hitler asked. "You do have proper security?"

"Jawhol, mein Furher. Hauptmann Schwinn will inventory them and load them on a truck for Germany. They will leave tomorrow with an escort."

Tomorrow? Christ! That meant he had to get to work and get those treasures out tonight. He looked at his watch--4:00. That didn't give him much time. He slowly stepped away and headed back to the station. The one thing he adhered to about pulling a job: always be ready for any contingency. He knew there was a chance that he would have to impersonate a German officer so he had connections in London make him a uniform and all the necessary papers. He just had to pin on the correct insignia and fill out the name on the identification. He then had his bags shipped to London. He glued on a fake mustache and prepared to face the world as a member of the Master Race

He gave in to the temptation of visiting Gaston's in his new guise. He took a table near the avenue and looked appraisingly at Genevieve when she came to take his order. "Ein Glas Bier, bitte."

Genevieve winked. "Are you sure I cannot give you anything else?" she flirted.

"I might think of something before I leave." He sat there at his table watching the people go by. He smiled at the thought of Genevieve's flirting. The disguise passed muster because she had never given him a second look. He saw Gaston approaching. What had he done to deserve the owner?

"Excuse-moi, Capitaine, but as you are my 500th German customer, you have the opportunity to chose any bottle of wine from my cellars."

"Merci, monsieur. I would be honored." Steven followed him inside the cafe. They stopped in the room that served as Gaston's office. "Was ist das?"

"You look very good in that uniform...M. Townshend," said Gaston. Steven didn't say a word.

"I have a good memory for faces, especially one as handsome as yours," remarked Genevieve.

"Where did I go wrong? Couldn't I pass as a German soldier?"

"You were being too German. We have to learn to watch for these things."

"Let me guess. Resistance?" Gaston nodded. "Wonderful. I'm onto one of the biggest jobs in my life and I have to get mixed-up with politics."

"I knew you were not a journalist from the beginning. You were sent here, yes?"

"No, it was kinda voluntary."

"C'est formidable! We could use a man like you."

"No way. I'm sorry, but once I finish this job, I'm home."

"Please, M. Townshend. I need to get my father out of the country. The Germans are keeping him prisoner."

"The next thing you'll tell me is that he's a scientist with some secret invention or formula that could change the outcome of the war."

"Yes."

"You're serious."

"Her father is Dr. Philippe Jonteau."

"The physicist?" This changed everything. "What the hell. We use my plan, right?"

"Oui, mon capitaine."

******************************************************************

That night Steven, Genevieve, Gaston, and some other members of the Resistance arrived at ERR Headquarters dressed in German uniforms. "Do you know where they might be keeping your father?"

"Hans told me--"

"Hans?"

"One of the soldiers who visited the cafe. I was not just flirting. He told me that he was kept on one of the middle floors."

"That narrows it down quite nicely."

"Monsieur, he said he thought it was on the same floor as M. Rosenberg's office."

Once inside, Steven presented his papers to the guard and told them that his men would begin loading the art treasures into the truck. "You were not expected until tomorrow, Herr Hauptmann. I also thought that they would be going by train."

"That was said so that the Resistance would not suspect alternate transportation. The train will go on as planned but the treasures will not be on it. My sergeant will supervise the men in loading. Fraulein Gruber, my assistant, has informed me that Herr Rosenberg is having some questions as to the authenticity of a Rubens. We are here to look at it."

"Herr Rosenberg is not here. He said nothing to me of a Rubens."

"As I am somewhat ahead of schedule, he must have forgotten to mention it. If you will just direct me to his office..."

"I am not so sure..."

"I am here with the express consent of the Furher," Steven said, taking on a strict tone. "Now, tell me the way to his office, schnell!"

"Jawhol, Herr Hauptmann." The frightened guard gave Steven the directions he asked for.

They took the elevator to the proper floor and quietly proceeded to check all the doors. As they turned a corner, they saw a guard posted outside a door. "This must be the place," Steven whispered. "Let me bluff this one. Go along with whatever I say."

Steven approached the guard who came to attention and saluted. Steven returned the salute. "I am here to take Dr. Jonteau." The guard was dumbfounded. "Don't just stand there, man! Let me see him!"

"Jawhol, Herr Hauptmann." The guard opened the door and Steven strode in followed by Genevieve.

Dr. Jonteau was the sole occupant of the room. Steven placed him at about 50 years old. He could see a resemblance to Genevieve around the face. His hair, once black like his daughter's, was starting to turn grey. He was startled to see a German officer at this hour--until he saw his daughter, also dressed in a German uniform. She put a finger to her lips to keep him from saying her name. "What is the meaning of this?"

"You are Dr. Philippe Jonteau? I am here to take you to Berlin. There are people there who wish to have words with you."

"Not the least of which, I'm sure, is your Furher."

"Since we will be traveling together for some time there is no need to make it any more unpleasant. Now, get your coat and pack your belongings. The truck is waiting. Fraulein Gruber will help you."

Fifteen minutes later, father and daughter re-appeared. Steven could see the gleam in their eyes. "If you will walk with me, Herr Doktor. We have kept the others waiting long enough." He took the bag and followed them down the hall and into the elevator.

Once inside, Dr. Jonteau grabbed Steven's hand and began to thank him profusely. "Genevieve has told me what you have done, M. Townshend. If there is anything I can do for you..."

"We're not out of this yet, Doctor. I won't feel comfortable until we're in Switzerland along with the treasures. Has Genevieve told you the plan?" He nodded. "Good. Once these doors open, head straight for the truck waiting outside. Gaston will take care of you."

The doors opened and Genevieve escorted her father out the door while Steven talked to the guard. "You can tell Herr Rosenberg that it is a real Rubens. Goering should be very happy. Heil." He saluted and walked out.

He made for the truck and checked with Gaston. "Everything is loaded. We left room for some blankets and a pillow so you can take turns sleeping. We also picked up your bags from the station."

"Merci, Gaston."

"You too, my friend." Gaston kissed him on both cheeks. He looked into the cab of the truck at Philippe and Genevieve. "God be with you, mes amis. I shall miss you."

"Bon chance, Gaston," said Genevieve."

"Vive la France," added Philippe.

Steven sat behind the wheel and drove off, leaving Gaston and the other Resistance members to vanish into the Parisian shadows.

*****************************************************************************

The three drove on in silence, not wanting to make a sound lest it break the quiet cloak that kept the Germans from finding them. They were on the outskirts of Melun when Genevieve started drifting off to sleep. "Why don't you go lie down?" said Steven. "If we keep a good pace we should reach the border sometime in the morning. The Germans won't suspect anything until the real Schwinn shows up."

Genevieve didn't argue and went through the flap into the back of the truck. Once Philippe heard her gentle breathing, he turned to Steven. "I would like o thank you once again, mon ami, for getting both me and my daughter out of Paris. I don't know what we would have done without you. I have never felt so free, especially after being kept prisoner."

"Don't get your hopes up. We haven't reached Switzerland yet."

"Is there anything I can do for you, do not hesitate to ask."

"Well..."

"Anything at all."

"Could you pour me a cup of coffee? I think Gaston put a thermos under the seat."

Philippe smiled, poured a cup for Steven and one for himself. "As soon as I can, I will tell your superiors about this. You deserve a commendation."

"That's not necessary, Doctor."

"You deserve some recognition."

Just past Dijon, Genevieve and her father switched places. "Is there anything you need me to do?"

"Just ply me with coffee and keep me from falling asleep."

"Do you mind if I talk?"

"As long as you don't put me to sleep."

"When will we reach the border?"

"Another couple of hours or so."

"You seem to slip in and out of so many characters with such ease; from Simon Townshend to Stefan Taffe and Hauptmann Schwinn."

"One of the requirements of the job."

"I would not be surprised if Simon Townshend is not your real name."

"Not many in my line of work use their real name. It increases the risk of being caught." She thought he was a spy and he'd let her go on thinking that without saying anything definite.

"What do you plan to do next?"

"Somehow get home and start my next job. What about you?"

"I will stay with Papa. He will not have to worry about me that way. I think we will stay in Switzerland until it is safe to return to Paris." She decided to change the topic. "Have you been to New York?" He nodded. "Please tell me about America."

Steven told her of the people, the hustle and bustle, and of the buildings. He told her of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center, baseball games in summer, and hot dogs on Coney Island.

At 8:00 in the morning, Steven stopped the truck on the rise of a hill and looked down. "Once we get across that bridge, we're home free."

"How will we get past the border guards?" asked Philippe, just waking up.

"Very fast. Hold on tight. We might be shot at and it could be bumpy." He started up the truck again and headed downhill. They gathered speed, crossed the bridge, and broke through the border before the guards had a chance to do anything.

In his excitement, Steven sounded the truck's horn, long and loud. "We did it! We did it!"

"You were marvelous!" declared Genevieve and she kissed him on the cheek.

"I still can't believe it. All the way I had this great fear of being stopped by Germans." He yawned.

"You go sleep now. You have been driving all night."

"I'm not tired. Really."

"Then just lie down and relax."

He was going to argue, but saw the determined look on her face. "Okay. Just head for Bern." Steven went back on the bed and settled down. He wasn't going to sleep. He wasn't going to sleep. He slept.

**************************************************************************

What was that delicious aroma? Could that be coffee--fresh? Wait, were those croissants? He opened his eyes and looked into the cab. He was right. The Jonteaux were having a quick continental breakfast. "I thought I smelled food."

"Simon, you are awake. I trust you slept well." She poured him some coffee.

"Fantastic." He looked around at the town. "Where are we?"

"St. Blaise on Lake Neuchatel," answered Philippe. "We still have twenty miles to go."

"I just could not wait to get something to eat," put in Genevieve.

"I'm glad you did. I don't know the last time I ate." He took a bite of his croissant. "It's still warm." He finished breakfast. "Do we have enough gas to get there?"

"Yes, about 3/4 of a tank."

"Good. Let me just answer a call of nature then I'll drive."

They arrived in Bern at about 9:00. Steven took them both to the French Embassy. "Will you come in, Simon? Papa will make sure they know what you have done."

"No, that's okay. I'll stay here with the truck until they send someone to unload it. I didn't do this for the recognition."

"If you are sure?"

"I'm positive. Now go on. Your father's waiting."

"Merci, mon cher." She gave him a Gallic farewell--a kiss on each cheek--before she went inside and joined her father.

Steven watched her disappear into the building. Once she was gone, he went into the back of the truck. He wouldn't have much time before someone came to unload the stuff. He rummaged through the silver and took a small snuffbox, pillbox, and some jewelry. There weren't any paintings small enough, but those were the sacrifices one had to make.

"Pardonez-moi, monsieur, is everything ready to be unloaded?"

Steven looked at the guard for a moment. Had he seen anything? "Ah, yeah. That's everything." He stepped out of the truck. "Vive la France." Patting his jacket to make sure that all his new acquisitions were secure, he strolled out of the compound whistling Les Marsellaise. Now all he had to do was find a way home.

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