It was well past midnight when I left. From time to time, an Allied plane would stick its nose in-between the moonlit clouds. Then, in a quick turn, it would rise again, allowing itself to be swallowed into a dark recess. Its engine would drone on for a while, until it would be drowned out by enemy fire. German Oerlikons—large, rapid-fire projectile weapons—would blast one round of shells after another at the night sky.
Despite the noise, the place seemed as if everyone was asleep. Not a soul stirred, inside or out. I tried to convince myself that no one had noticed me, no one had seen me coming out of the building. I stopped for a breath under the monumental portico, then went down the stairs and across the grounds.
I walked fast. At the sight of the shadows I cast, shadows that flared around me with each and every explosion, I felt jumpy. Not before reaching the bank of the Orne River did I regain the sense of feeling safe.
Here, signs of the earlier battle, the battle over control of the Bénouville Bridge, were everywhere. For the enemy, they spelled defeat. Above me, a blown up German tank, outlined as a porous silhouette against the horizon, blocked the road. Behind it were more military vehicles—some melted, some charred—and more mangled tanks, one pressed onto the other.
To the left of me a distant boat, loaded with German infantry, labored to turn around. It floated aslant over the water, with a stern that must have been hit.
And to the right, an Allied guard could be seen up there. From time to time he paced back and forth, his helmet bobbing over the black mass of the bridge.
Below him, one of the Royal Engineers was still working, late into the night, perhaps to dismantle an explosive charge that had been attached under the bridge by the enemy. After all, taking the overpass intact served a critical purpose: to limit the effectiveness of a German counterattack.
I had to make a decision, which up to now I had managed to avoid. Should I turn right and go up to the bridge to join our forces, as I had originally planned? Or else—as Madame Vion had suggested to me last evening—should I cross the river, somehow, and forge my way to the other side, the side that was held in Nazi hands?
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Volume V: Marriage before Death
"Uvi Poznansky, a master story-teller, captures the sights, sounds and smells of World War II France, bringing them to life with an imaginative plot, excellent writing, a mastery of fine detail and the creation of imagery in her scenes. She draws you into the story as though you were there, experiencing what Lenny and Natasha experience."
~Bill Cronin, Author