~ Echoes of Honor ~
Feeling ashamed, Sophie followed her brother farther into the alley, her heart pounding. Why was she so afraid? How could she stop being so fearful and anxious about everything?
“Sophie!” Karl cried, stopping so suddenly Sophie ran into him. “There’s a man lying here. Quick, turn on the flashlight.”
From her satchel, Sophie’s pulled out the flashlight and flicked it on. Both siblings gasped and Karl fell to his knees, grabbing the man’s hand.
Sophie swallowed hard, her knees quaking. She hated the sight of blood…the sight of someone suffering. Karl had called this person lying in the alley a man, but in reality, he was little more than a boy around her age.
“Sir,” Karl whispered, gently slapping the young man’s face. “Can you hear me?”
“Is he dead?” Sophie asked, creeping forward slowly and touching Karl’s shoulder.
“No…He’s still breathing.” Karl gently undid the buttons of the young man’s corse brown coat to get to his wound.
Suddenly a wailing cry pierced the dead silence. Sophie clutched her brother’s arm.
“D-Did that come from his coat?” She trembled.
Karl nodded, sliding his hands into the young man’s coat and drawing out a tiny, moving bundle.
“Soph,” Karl said softly. “You won’t believe this.”
“What is it?”
“A baby. This man had a baby in his coat.” As he spoke, Karl gently cradled the small bundle. “It’s tiny.”
Sophie leaned forward, trying to catch a glimpse of the baby’s face. Dark hair covered its head and little blue eyes filled with tears stared up at her.
“It’s so cute.” Sophie took the baby from her brother and wrapped it in the side of her coat. “Poor thing, it’s shivering. Do you think this young man is its father?”
“No, I don’t think so. He doesn’t look old enough to be a father.” Karl passed a hand over the young man’s hair. As he did, the stranger stirred, his eyes flying open.
He glanced from Sophie, who held the baby, to Karl. “Prosím!” The young man seemed to be pleading. “Nepřijď blíž!”
Sophie drew back with the baby. What on earth had he just said? In all her life she had never heard someone talk like that.
“Please…” The young man said in plain English now. “Go away. I don’t need your help.”
“You don’t understand,” Karl said impatiently. “We aren’t with those soldiers back there…We’re part of the resistance.”
Sophie gasped. How could Karl tell him that? Countless times he had told her never even to hint to anyone that they were part of the resistance but now he just told a complete stranger.
“The resistance?” The young man asked, some of the fear gone in his voice. “You both are part of the resistance?”
“Yes,” Karl said, slowly drawing near the young man. “And if I’m guessing right, you were the man we were supposed to meet.”
“Karl…” Sophie whispered, irritation growing within her. How could Karl know this was the man they were supposed to meet?
“It’s alright Sophie.” Karl pressed the young man’s coat into her hands. “He has the resistance badge sewn in the inside of his coat pocket.”
Sophie took the flashlight and examined the coat. Sure enough, the badge Karl and his group wore hidden in their clothing was the same one this young man had.
“What’s your name?” Karl asked, tearing the young man’s shirt over his wound.
“Wilhelm. Wilhelm Dvorak.”
“Dvorak?” Karl said in surprise. “That’s not German.”
“It’s Czech. My father was from Czechoslovakia. My mother was German.” Wilhelm replied as a little moan escaped his lips. Sophie glanced at his face and saw how white it was. Could he be dying?
“The soldiers,” Sophie said softly. “Were they the ones that shot you?”
“Yes. I saw you two running from the soldiers where I was hiding. I tried to follow you, but one of the soldiers followed me back here.” Sophie saw Wilhelm grabbed Karl’s arm and squeeze it.
“It’s alright Wilhelm,” Karl said. “I’ve treated dozens of gunshot wounds.”
The baby in Sophie’s arms gave a little cry.
“Is she alright?”
“She’s fine,” Sophie said, showing him how she had been holding him under her coat. “Is she yours?”
“No. She belonged to a Jewish couple that hid in our house. When the soldiers came…well, she and I were the only ones to escape.”
Sophie saw the tears in his eyes, and she reached forward to touch his arm. His story sounded so much like hers.
She saw Karl glance at her in surprise, then tap her on the shoulder. “Sophie, come with me real quick. Wilhelm, we’ll be right back.” Getting up, both of the siblings moved to the front of the alley.
“What’s wrong Karl?”
“Wilhelm is in bad shape Sophie. He’s lost a lot of blood, and his wound is deep.”
“What should we do?” Sophie cradled the baby in her arms and looked up at her tall brother.
“Soph, I…I know how much you hate,” Karl paused, glancing back towards where Wilhelm lay. “I know how much you dislike the resistance but…Wilhelm needs our help.”
Sophie almost knew what he was going to ask before he asked it, so she didn’t give him a chance.
“No Karl! I can’t go back to the basement by myself and get the others to help you with Wilhelm. The soldiers might be just around the corner and what if…”
“Soph! I think he’s dying.” Karl grabbed his sister’s shoulders and gave her a little shake.
“Please…Be brave just this once.” His dark eyes pleaded with her, but Sophie shook her head.
“I can’t Karl. I just can’t.”
Running a hand through his hair, Karl straightened up. “I’ll have to carry him, even in his condition.”
Sophie felt guilty and couldn’t meet her brother’s gaze. Would she ever be brave like him, or would every shadow frighten her?
“I’ll carry the baby.” Sophie offered, hoping to ease Karl’s disappointment with her.
“And I’ll carry Wilhelm.” There was sarcasm in his voice, and Sophie drew back into the alley. She knew how much her brother needed her help, but the thought of running back to the basement in the growing dark made her shudder. What if there were wild animals along the road? What if some of the soldiers…
“Come on Sophie.” Karl appeared out of the dark alley with Wilhelm slung over his shoulder. “Let’s get out of here.”