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Subject: Chapter 310 - Part 2 (16 and above) (end of chapter 310)

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Date Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 07:27:45am
In reply to: KatherineG. 's message, "Chapter 307 - Part 1 (16 and above)" on Monday, October 22, 07:10:11am

He was just buoying himself with this idea, Ackerman coming over to check on him brusquely, when they heard the sound of the family dog barking furiously in the distance. The fugitive pair looked at each other in alarm, before Bill turned back to their helpers, his look of rage intense; Michael was relieved that he still held the man's gun--didn't want to know what would have happened, otherwise. But the pair before them started moving so quickly, neither of them had the chance to say a word.

It was their protectors who did the speaking, all in urgent, whispered voices. While Sophie urged Ackerman to help her move Michael--her actions needing little translation--Stephan started to brush a pile of dung across the barn. Within the next few seconds, the airmen realized that the ex-actor had been lying on a trap door which opened to reveal a cramped little hole of a storage area, with a few wine bottles on shelves around its walls. "Say nothing," was the last order Sophie gave, as the pair hurried the escaping airmen into it, putting the wooden panel back on top a moment later. It was one of the few times that Ackerman didn't need a translation at all.

The pair who were now hidden had little idea of what was happening above them, could only judge from the sounds--the darkness which surrounded them absolute enough to be especially disorienting. While the dim light of dawn which had started outside hadn't been much, the family's few lanterns not intensively bright, it was still a bit of a shock; their ears pricked up, listening intently. As the dog continued to bark furiously, there was a good deal of shuffling, followed by the sound of hooves on the boards above their heads. Then, they heard Stephan leave the barn--and all that sounded was their own heartbeats, as they waited for the enemy to arrive.

It was possible that it was all a false alarm, of course, that the dog was barking at some passing animal, rather than an approaching troop--but neither of the airmen really believed it. The animal which had supposedly welcomed them to the farm had proved far cannier than he had first appeared. If he were barking like this, he was clearly acting as a sentry.

The barks finally ended a moment later, although they weren't certain exactly why. At least there had been no gunshot to silence them. A canine guard such as that one would have been difficult to replace.

The two of them stood there, completely still, waiting--even their own breathing seeming far too loud. Once they started to hear voices approaching--mostly German, accompanied by a few baying dogs and some supposedly confused French explanations, as well--Ackerman had to lower Michael carefully back against the ladder in their hiding place. Apparently, he wasn't at all certain about being able to hold him up for good.

Such changes were unimportant, went entirely without comment. The hunted pair retrieved their guns, holding them as steadily as possible, aimed up at the door. Then, they waited and prayed--hoping that they would be fortunate enough to get out of here uncaptured and alive.

Every moment of their unwanted vigil seemed an eternity, as they listened to the conversation above them--or as much of it as they could make out, given the door which blocked out some of the sound. Part of it was in German, incomprehensible to Michael--despite some of the actors and friends he had made in Hollywood, only a word or two familiar. He might have seen *Der Blaue Engel* in its original language, when it had first been released in America, but it had had subtitles--and he had been given no reason to be a scholar enough of other languages to pick it up at first hearing.

He almost wished that he *had* had such a motivation; it would have served him admirably now. As it was, all he could do was try to judge by the French side of the conversation. But everything he did hear was enough to make a weaker man panic.

The fact that he was not such a man was shown by his utter, if highly tense, calm, as Stephan answered some accusation of a German officer. "The cow? She's about to give birth." There was another garble of German, as Michael clearly heard his own heart beating. "The dogs? What about the dogs?" They continued baying, sniffing very close to the fugitives' hiding place; Ackerman shifted, apparently pointing his gun more intensely. While Stephan seemed as though he were trying to understand, Michael had to wonder whether this might not be yet another skill his protector were hiding. But, given his current tone of voice, it seemed that he was an excellent actor, as well.

This probable charade went on, the German officer's voice sounding more irritated by the second. The injured man noticed the set of Ackerman's body, the space too small for privacy; he might simply be tense, but he almost seemed to be listening very closely to the sounds, making his comrade wonder if he understood more than he let on, as well. He let out an inaudible sigh, supposing that this was nothing new. All of them were probably hiding something.

What he could make out of the conversation distracted him from this observation, however, Stephan seeming every bit a timid and slightly imbecile old man. "The cow dung?" There was a moment of silence, as the officer's irritation nearly radiated down to the unknown pair below him, and Michael realized that the pregnant cow must have been led over to stand above their hiding place. "She's a cow. It's a barn." Michael suspected there was probably a Gallic shrug at this point, as the man explained the obvious. "What do you expect of her, a commode?"

The German officer apparently lost his patience at this point, started to bark out his next statement. Still, to make the old man's point clear, the cow evidently let out a stream of urine--some of which began to make its way past the minute edges of the trapdoor. Ackerman let out the smallest of hisses, which was fortunately covered by the noises above them, and tossed the ruined sheet which had been thrown in after them into the space in front of Michael. His comrade wasn't entirely certain whether his unwilling companion had done it to protect the injured man's leg or to silence any potential sounds of dripping. Still, he was thankful for it--and it wasn't a situation where there was any room for complaints.

This final insult to the Nazi's dignity seemed the last thing he could stand. His yelling grew louder, followed by the terrified yip of a dog. Then, to the injured man's horror, there was the sound of a shot followed by a gasp, the latter of which, at least, seemed likely to be from Sophie; Michael nearly stopped breathing, terrified--the guilt of the old man's death, if that was what had just happened, far too strong to bear. Still, the sound of boots stomping away and the patter of dogs' paws followed soon thereafter. Maybe they had gotten far luckier than he had hoped.

This fact was still difficult to bear, the myriad possibilities of what had saved them far less than a comfort. Perhaps Ackerman's body was relaxing again beside his, but that told him nothing. The man was, generally, singularly lacking in compassion. Stephan's death would mean nothing to him.

It was in this state that they were left, no answers given. Nothing could even be said, there being no real assurance that a guard hadn't been left behind. All Michael could do was close his eyes and pray that their temporary survival hadn't been at the cost of their kind protector's life. It was only little miracles he could hope for now.

Extra note: *Der Blaue Engel*--or, in English, *The Blue Angel*, was Marlene Dietrich's breakthrough role as a woman who seduces and ruins a schoolteacher. An English version of it was made simultaneously, with the same cast and crew, as well--both Hollywood and Berlin often making two versions of the same film for release in both countries in the early days of sound (*Anna Christie*, Greta Garbo's first sound film, is another example I can think of, an American one, this time). Still, it's not impossible that Michael would have seen its German version.

[End of Part 310]

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Chapter 311 - Part 1KatherineG.Monday, November 05, 06:41:06am

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