Chapter 8

Written by: Gabrielle Burt

In a familiar gesture, Brian rubbed his stubbly chin.  

“Wait! I’ve changed my mind.  Can you read that one last…?” 

He stops mid-sentence and quickly slips the yellowed envelope into the back of the pile. His eye roll says it all, but I don’t want to hear ‘what concerns whom’ just yet. Embarrassed, I take a big sip of tea. It’s too hot and scalds my mouth. I hastily reach for iced water to soothe the burn.

Patiently Brian opens the next envelope and begins to read. The letters are in no particular order. I wonder who might have neatly tied and stored them in my backpack. For me to find? Some are sealed and some are not.  It doesn’t matter. I listen intently as each one reveals another piece of the jigsaw.  

The letters tell of life in the French Resistance Movement. I can feel the author’s rage as he battles to keep one step ahead of the Gestapo. The war is destroying his dreams and tearing his life apart – and with it, his family. Finally, despair threatens to disable him as it saps his will for a future that might have been. 

His writing is brutal and raw and sad and funny and I find myself crying and laughing in turn. Perhaps he was only able to achieve this depth of honesty with the belief he was baring his soul and sealing all his deepest emotions in an envelope that would never be posted. Or perhaps it was Russian roulette! An outrageous defiance against the creative cruelty of the Nazis.

‘14a Bartholomew Rd, London   16 July 1980.’

My jaw drops! A new address. This was on mail we regularly received at Aunty Emma’s.

‘Dear Em,’ ‘Eiffel ...  MI6', ‘Operation Jericho-18.02.44'. It is signed ‘Claude’. Nothing else is legible.

We are speechless – each with our own thoughts. 

"Let's get to the hospital!" Brian recovers, crushing the letter into the backpack as we head for the door.


                                                                         * * * * * * * * * * * *

Marie listens without expression until we finish, then closes her eyes for so long I think she may be unconscious – or dead.

“Marie?” I whisper. “I remember regular mail. Gifts too, sometimes … from Bartholomew Rd.    My mother ….” I can hardly breathe. “He was my Grandfather – wasn’t he?”

“Tamara - not your grandfather. No. He was Claude Du Bois - my father. A hero in the Resistance Movement. Your grandmother was newly widowed when they met. Your mother was just a child. He - they ran the underground, smuggling British airmen safely out of France. The night your grandmother died there was a low-level Mosquito strike, to free them from Amiens prison where they were being held. Shrouded in secrecy, it was rumoured MI6 was behind it. My father deliberately stepped on that mine, trying to save her. She died. He was left a cripple. The Eiffel Tower. It’s the key.” Marie’s eyes flutter tiredly.

“The key to what?”


What a great chapter! You took my Chapter Seven to new heights of mystery and excitement. Congratulations. Two more to go. Where will it end?
Thanks so much Kalli. I thought Chapter 7 was excellent (as were all the previous chapters) - it was great to be able to add to the story. Can't wait to see what happens next. And as Ray Stone commented - it would be really good to have 1000 word chapters!
What an interesting and super chapter. The same goes for yours Kalli. Your writing is energetic and so creative. The characters....fabulous!
Thanks so much Suraya.
My only comment - Great work.
Thanks Ray. I really appreciate the feedback.