Operation Kingfisher

Operation Kingfisher by Hilary Green Read Free Book Online

Book: Operation Kingfisher by Hilary Green Read Free Book Online
Authors: Hilary Green
ration.’
    ‘That would be wonderful!’
    While Marie cooked, Bernard drew the barge alongside the canal bank and moored it. Very soon they were sitting down to omelettes and ersatz coffee. Marie sliced bread into four pieces and shared it round. Christine handed hers back.
    ‘We can’t eat your rations, Madame. The omelette on its own will be enough.’
    ‘Eat it!’ the woman said. ‘God knows, it doesn’t taste like bread should. I don’t know what they are mixing with the flour these days. But you are more than welcome to share.’
    Christine did not argue further. She took a plate to Luke and, to her relief, he heaved himself into a sitting position and cleared it.
    It was not until the meal was over that Bernard said, ‘Now, tell us how you came to be hiding among our cargo. What are you running away from?’
    Christine took a deep breath. She had felt from the start that she had nothing to fear from these kind strangers, but this was thecrucial test. In as few words as possible she explained the situation, concluding with their final jump from the train.
    Marie clicked her tongue. ‘
Bon Dieu
! It’s a miracle you weren’t both killed.’
    ‘You were lucky to get away without broken legs, at least,’ Bernard agreed. ‘So, what are your plans now?’
    ‘I don’t know,’ Christine said and felt the sting of tears behind her eyelids. She had been so caught up in the needs of the moment that she had not thought ahead.
    Bernard looked at her thoughtfully. ‘You say your father is English. What is his name?’
    ‘Beecham – Roger Beecham.’
    ‘And you were born – where? In England or in France?’
    ‘In England.’
    ‘So what brought you to live in France?’
    ‘My grandfather, my mother’s father, owns a vineyard. He had a stroke and can’t do anything for himself, so we came here to look after him, and the vineyard.’
    ‘A vineyard, you say.’ Marie leaned towards her. ‘What is the name?’
    ‘It’s called Cave des Volcans.’
    ‘And your mother’s maiden name was Thierry, no?’
    ‘Yes! How did you know?’
    Marie sat back and exchanged looks with her husband.
    ‘You forget, we have connections in the wine trade. You have seen our cargo. And when we moor for the night and go to the local
estaminet
, we meet others in the same line and people talk – gossip perhaps I should say. It was a good many years ago now, but I still remember the scandal when your mother decided to marry an Englishman. People were horrified at the idea of the Cave des Volcans going out of French hands.’
    ‘Yes, I know,’ Christine said. ‘But you understand now? You believe me?’
    Marie smiled. ‘Yes, I believe you. So, Bernard, what can we do to help these two youngsters?’
    ‘You need to get to Montbéliard, you say?’
    ‘Well, somewhere near there.’
    ‘Have you considered the possibility of travelling by boat, instead of on the train?’
    ‘By boat?’ she repeated.
    He reached into a drawer and spread a map out on the table.
    ‘Look. We are heading for Digoin. That is the junction with the Canal du Centre, which joins the Saône at Chalon-sur-Saône. From there, it is a short distance up the Saône to Saint-Jean-de-Losne, where it links with the Canal du Rhône au Rhin, which goes to Montbéliard and on to Mulhouse on the border, where it joins the Rhine. It would take longer, of course, but there is less chance of being stopped and asked for papers.’
    Christine gazed from the map to his face.
    ‘And that would be possible? Can you take us that far?’
    He shook his head.
    ‘I’m afraid not. We are bound for Nevers on the Canal Latéral à la Loire.’
    ‘Oh,’ Christine felt the hope that had sprung up dissipating again.
    ‘Wait.’
    She saw Bernard and Marie look at each other and the woman nodded as if in silent agreement.
    ‘We may still be able to help you. You see, there are ways – people who are willing to take a risk to help people like you – though usually they are

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