He could no longer hear the screams of his men. He could no longer hear the sound of rifle fire. Time stood still, and cold, and it seemed that sound kept ebbing, and ebbing ...

There was stillness. He didn’t think that he had blacked out yet. And he didn’t think that he had died.


But still, time had passed. Sped like light, drifted like a slow current...

The stillness remained.

Then there was a dim sense of sound and movement again.

Footsteps. Walking. Hard on the ground. He tried to turn. He felt something on the earth at his side.

Heard language that didn’t register in his mind.

He blinked hard. His sight seemed to be dimming to a tiny peephole surrounded by a haze of red and black.

Yes, something by his side. He blinked again, fighting to remain conscious, yet knowing that he would lose the battle any minute.

Yet, there, yes... a boot. A man’s black boot, planted against the muck and mud and blood of the earth.

Black, and something shining despite the caking mud that spattered it.

Just as his eyes closed completely, he recognized the shining insignia on the boot.

A swastika.

The thought registered ...

Then there was no more thought. The world faded into a haze of crimson, and then ...

There was nothing but blackness.


“He has changed since you last saw him. He has simply changed.” Ann waved her hand in the air as she spoke, the plume from her cigarette creating a swirl of smoke.

Tara stared at her cousin blankly. She was exhausted—she had managed to cross the Atlantic without even a catnap, despite the overnight duration of the flight when traveling eastward. She wanted nothing more than to reach her grandfather’s little chateau on the outskirts of Paris, but after picking her up at the airport, Ann had insisted they stop for petit dejeuner before heading out of the city.

And now, though she wasn’t putting it in so many words, Ann was trying to tell her that their grandfather was senile, or suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Tara narrowed her eyes, perplexed, as she watched Ann. She shook her head, taking a long swallow of her cafe au lait. “Ann, if Grandpapa is ill, then perhaps he should come back to the States—”

“Phui!” Ann wrinkled her nose, inching it higher in the air. “Why must you always think that there will be something better in the United States?”

“I didn’t really mean that,” Tara said, then lowered her eyes, biting her lip. The medical care in France was excellent. She did have that tendency to think that the best of everything had to be in America.

Except for croissants, perhaps. And cafe au lait.

She looked at Ann and grimaced ruefully. “Sorry.”

Ann shrugged.

“But if you’re trying to tell me that he has lost his mind completely—” Ann sighed deeply. “No, no, it’s not that! Really, it’s not that at all.”

“You think, though, that he is becoming senile? He’s certainly old enough to be allowed some eccentricities.”

Ann shrugged again at that. “Mais oui. He claims he does not know how old he is himself. He said that he was older than most of the boys in the Resistance, and lord, World War II ended in nineteen forty-five! So, yes, he is up there in years. He has had the respiratory trouble, as I told you on the phone, but I’ve had him out of the hospital now for several days, and though I chide him and tell him he must be careful, he is up and about a bit each day. But he sits in his library when he is up! He shuts himself in, and he talks about something that he calls the Alliance all the time.”

“Perhaps he is reliving his war years.”

Ann appeared troubled, drawn, and weary, which was not like her. Tara had always thought her cousin was one of the most beautiful women she had ever seen. Her eyes were deep, penetrating blue. He hair was dark, her complexion very fair, and the contrast was startling and appealing. She was tall and elegantly slim, with curves just where they should be.

There had been times in Tara’s life when she had hated the visits of her French cousin. She’d had too many friends in high school and college who all but drooled openly when Ann came around. She could admit to a certain amount of jealousy over the years, but she also loved her cousin, more so once she had gotten older, when high school and college were long in the past. Ann had spent enough time in her house when they were growing up to make it a rivalry that sisters might have shared—except that in Tara’s case, her “sister” had come with a fascinating accent and the allure of being an exotic foreigner. Ann came to the United States frequently; Tara and her family went to Paris just three times in the years when she was growing up. Ann spoke both French and English perfectly, while Tara’s French was poor and her accent far too obviously American. Jacques DeVant had fallen in love with their grandmother, Emily, an American nurse, at the end of the war. The two had married, and moved to the United States. Their son, David, had, in turn, fallen in love with a French artist, Sophie, during a summer term of college in Paris. He had remained, while their daughter, Tara and her brother Mike’s mother, had married Patrick Adair, a first generation Irish American.

Their cultural differences therefore, despite their grandparents, were great.

But those old times seemed long ago now. When Tara graduated from college, she had spent a summer at the old chateau. Her grandmother had died and her grandfather had moved back to Paris by then, taking up residence in his family home, where Ann had grown up. Ann’s parents had retired, and spent most of their time in a little house on the beach at Costa del Sol.

To call her grandfather’s house a chateau was, perhaps, a bit presumptive, but it had been called Le Petit Chateau DeVant since it was enlarged in the seventeen hundreds, and thus it remained. The war had basically destroyed what hadn’t exactly been a family fortune, but a decent portfolio, and now, though somewhat decayed, the little estate did have tremendous charm. The house itself was two stories with an old-fashioned hall rather than a parlor or living room, a magnificent library, and beautiful upstairs bedrooms with balconies that overlooked a courtyard. The carriage house still housed a small buggy and Daniel, an incredibly old, gentle, gray draft horse who did little more these days than amble around the adjoining pasture.

Ann suddenly shook her head and crushed out her cigarette, leaning forward. “It’s not the war. Perhaps his writings have gotten to his mind. Maybe he read too many American comic books. He is distressed, thinking that he deserted ... something. He does talk about the war, saying that the realities of it made him forget what he was, who he was. And then, going to America, and he should have known, because it was there, even in America.”

“What was there—even in America?” Tara asked.

Ann threw up her hands. “I don’t know. He suddenly becomes disturbed, as if he has spoken too much.

Maybe you will do better with him than I have. I took time off from work when he was so sick ... but I can’t now, or I won’t have a job anymore. I don’t make a fortune, but I love my work.” Tara felt a twinge of guilt that it had taken her so long to make it to France. But she had a few deadlines of her own.

She and Ann had taken different paths, but oddly enough, wound up working on similar projects. Ann was an editor with a company that purchased and translated English and American tides. Tara was a commercial artist who was frequently hired for book covers.

“You can do a lot of work at home, though, right?” Tara asked her.

Ann laughed. “I have to come home to work half the time, what with the phones and the meetings all day long. But that’s just it—I have to be at those meetings.”

Tara nodded. “Well, I am here now.” She yawned. “And really tired.”

“Does that mean I’m not taking you celebrating to any local bars tonight? There are some exciting fellows around now. You said on the phone that you had split with the stockbroker.” Tara nodded. “Yes, we split. But should you really go bar hopping? What happened to the new love in your life?”

Ann wrinkled her nose. “We, too, have split”

“A nasty split?”

“Nasty?” Ann raised a brow with perfect contempt. She sighed. “There was an art meeting in my office that ran very late. You know, of course, that I met Willem when he came in to take over as head of the sales force. About a week ago, he was to lock up for me—he was finishing some business with the art director and the models hired for the ad campaign—and meet me at— well, meet me at a hotel room. I left to pick up some food for a romantic dinner, but I had forgotten a manuscript I wanted to work on, and went back to the office. He had not been expecting me, nor had the model for the advertising campaign. I found him in a compromising position with the girl. I left.”

“It was your office?”

“I assumed he’d be out of it by the time I went back the following Monday,” Ann said dryly.

“And he was, I take it.”


“How bad was it? Did he call? Did he try to apologize? Did he have an excuse or an explanation?”

“He called. I assured him he had nothing to say that I would like to hear.” The man had hurt her Tara decided. But Ann also had a tendency to see the world in white and black.

She could be totally unforgiving when she chose. Pride and direction were important to her.

“It must be difficult. I mean, he’s still with the company. You two still work together.”

“He does not work in my office.”

Tara was silent for a moment. Ann had talked about Willem with such great enthusiasm. She had expected to hear that her cousin was engaged at any time.

“All right, let me get a little more personal here. Just what was he doing?” Ann flashed her a glance and rolled her eyes. “The girl was on my desk. He was bent over her. What more do you want?”

“Everything,” Tara said. “Were they—dressed?”

“They had clothing about them.”

“Then maybe—”