Winter seemed reluctant to release its hold. The night was bitterly cold, as bitter as the hunger and the heartache that plagued most of Paris during this winter of 1943.
She was being followed. Giselle could feel it in her bones just as surely as she felt the cold. She pulled her scarf tighter around her neck and head, her hand gripped around the note in the pocket as if her very life depended on it. She knew it would cost her life, if the Gestapo caught her with it.
The click of her heels echoed loudly, so as she rounded the corner, Giselle took off her shoes despite the cold, running as fast as she could, barefoot and silent. Zigzagging down streets and alleys in a path meant to confuse; cutting through another alley just ahead and finally into an unlit shopfront where Jean-Pierre met her and closed the door behind them.
"You were followed?" Her brother asked, concern written on his gaunt, brave face, as he led her into the dim interior of the unused shop.
She nodded, catching her breath after the long run. "I can't be sure, but I think I lost him. I never saw who it was." She took the paper from her pocket and handed it to him. "You must wait until morning to deliver this. Don't go out tonight, Jean-Pierre; promise me you will wait." The gaze she fixed on the young man was stern, because she knew he would rather have joined a resistance group that hunted and killed Nazi's rather than this subversive group that seemed only to pass on information.
"There is a doctor," Giselle whispered, "He lives at 11 Avenue Foch. There is a picture in his window, for you to know you are at the right place. It is an unusual drawing, of a baby in a womb. Knock at the door of the apartment where you see this picture and give the note to the boy who answers. His name is Phillip, he is the doctor's son. He will know what to do with this message. I don't know what it is; it's in code. The man who gave it to me thought it best not to know, so that if you are captured and tortured, you can't give anything away."
She shuddered with foreboding and Jean-Pierre's eyes widened as he looked at the crumpled piece of paper in his hand, though they were both young and naive and had no real idea of the danger their involvement would bring.
They sat down in a darkened corner, and she unbuttoned her coat, removing a worn satchel and extracting a stale baguette and a round of cheese, which they shared eagerly.
After a time she stood, retrieving her satchel and covering her auburn hair with the scarf, buttoning her coat over her too thin torso, while Jean-Pierre stuffed the note into an inner pocket and stood with her.
He hugged her fiercely, fearing to be alone again when she left, but too proud to admit it. He was fourteen, after all; too old to be hanging on to the skirts of his older sister.
"Stay here until morning," Giselle warned him again, as he followed her to the shopfront. "Don't go home; don't go find any of your friends. Don't come to the club." She gave him that look again, and he nodded. There was too much fear to allow them to smile, but the look they shared, and the love it embodied, eased their spirits somewhat.
"You'll be safe here," she assured him, though she hugged her brother as though it might be the last she ever gave him. "Promise?"
He nodded again, locking the door behind her as she left, lingering at the window and watching until she disappeared from sight.
The nightclub was quiet tonight, just a few patrons drinking quietly at the bar. There was a fire burning in the stove near the piano, so it was warm as she took off her coat and sat, striking a low, lonely key before signaling the owner for a drink.
She was just finishing a slow love song when the door opened and the enemy in Gestapo uniform entered. Her heart constricted when he sat, menacingly, at the table directly in front of her, blocking her only exit. Giselle launched into the national anthem, La Marseillaise.
Viva la Resistance, she thought, determined to be brave and defiant to the end.