Hey everyone! Another Echoes of Honor Part. I have no idea why I’m posting on a Thursday but I am…
Quick Note –
Echoes of Honor Pt. 17 “Of the Shadow of Death” is the most emotional, sensitive, and dramatic story part I’ve written within this serial series. It does contain some violence. I cannot possibly write a WWII Resistance story without some violence, so there really was no other way to write this part. I don’t want to sugar-coat historical pieces by keeping everything perfect. We live in a fallen world, no one has ever gone on a journey without bumps in the road. We shouldn’t try to make things seem better than they are, by leaving out human rawness and pain. Of course, people could go overboard with that advice, and write books that are totally inappropriate.
I don’t want to sugar-coat stuff that, at least from a historical standpoint, or in reality, is not sugary. We, as writers, need to create realistic scenes with caution, keeping in mind to always honor God with our writing!
If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a quick message through the contact page.
I hope you enjoy.
“Philippe!” Sophie grabbed his arm and yanked. “We have to hide.”
“What are you talking about?”
“We have to get out of here!”
“We can’t just run, Sophie. There are kids following us. What’s the matter?” Philippe glanced behind his shoulder, then turned Sophie around to face a bakery window.
Petr lagged, his mouth wide open at the sight of freshly baked pastries.
Sophie swallowed hard. “I saw the same German who took the baby girl Wilhelm had with him when he was shot! If you look to the left, you can see him sitting in the car that just pulled around the block.” Philippe turned his head, and Sophie grabbed his arm. “Don’t look now! I think he’s watching for someone.”
“We can’t run,” Philippe said firmly. “That will call attention to us.”
“This would be a perfect time to have an invention that would help us talk to Karl and Wilhelm right now. Where are they hiding? Do you think we could get their attention?”
“No. They’re further down the street.” Philippe’s forehead wrinkled in thought. “Ugh! Someone must have tipped the Gestapo off about us coming here.”
“You don’t think Dav—” Sophie paled. “I can’t believe it!”
“It could be, Sophie. The soldiers are probably waiting to round us up when we reach the end of the street. We have to slip away.”
“What about the children behind us?”
“Petr,” Philippe said suddenly, drawing the boy close and walking a few steps forward. “Can you do something brave for me?”
The boy cocked his head. “Brave, like ‘Ophie?”
Sophie smiled. How the boy thought she was brave, she didn’t know.
Philippe smiled at Sophie. “Yeah, Petr.” Philippe reached up and pulled the ribbon Sophie had used to tie back her hair before getting out of the car. It was crimson. “You see those kids we helped, Petr?”
The boy nodded his head. “One of them is my age!”
“Yes, I see that. Do you think you can take them to Wilhelm and Karl? All you have to do is keeping walking down the street and wear this ribbon around your left arm. Wilhelm and Karl will see you and meet you behind those trash bins.”
“Philippe! What are—”
Philippe shook his head at Sophie to silence her. “You think you can do this, Petr?”
The boy nodded vigorously. “I likes being brave.”
“Alright then, keep walking down the street and look like you’re having fun. Those kids following us will go with you.” Philippe gave him a little push forward.
“What are you doing, Philippe! You can let a little boy walk down the street by himself.” Sophie moved to go after him.
Philippe grabbed her shoulders. “You have to let him go. The soldiers won’t notice him as much as they would you and I.”
“But what if they catch him!”
“Stop being selfish. There are more lives at stake here then Petr’s.”
“I’m not selfish! You are! If you want to risk someone’s life, risk your own!” Sophie tried prying her arm away from him.
“I’m trying to keep us safe…Trying to keep you safe. If that German commander sees you himself, he’ll drag you off to prison, or worse, your execution!”
“I can take care of myself! Let me go with Petr!”
Philippe gave her a shake. “Don’t you get it, Sophie. I like you. I like you a lot! At first, before Wilhelm came into the picture, I thought you liked me too. I never said anything when I thought David liked you. It’s stupid I know, but I care about what happens to you. I get that Wilhelm already has your attention, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop caring.”
“You mean you, you—” Sophie words caught in her throat.
“Yes. Don’t say anything. Forget it. It was a stupid boyhood fancy.” Philippe shuffled his feet. “Now if you want to get out of here, start casually walking the other way. We are a brother and sister out on a stroll, and we’ve decided to go home. Our younger brother ran off to a friends house.”
“Philippe, what about—“
“Please don’t think about it. I feel stupid for bringing it up. Now just turn around and walk, please!”
Sophie obeyed, feeling a blush creep into her cheeks. Had Karl noticed Philippe’s boyish admiration for her? Was that why he seemed to be encouraging Wilhelm and Sophie in their relationship so Philippe wouldn’t get hurt?
She had a hard time keeping up with Philippe’s long, strides. She knew he was hurt. All this time and she hadn’t been aware of treating him like a little boy instead of the man he was becoming. He had feelings and emotions just like any other human being. How had she missed them? Of course they would always be friends, but Sophie felt like she had missed out on telling him herself she didn’t care for him in that way. He was like a brother.
“Philippe,” Sophie said softly. “I’m sorry for hurting you. I should have realized before.”
He shrugged. “It was dumb. Forget it.”
He was hurt. Only time would make that better. For now, Sophie decided to let it rest. She promised herself that she’d do something to make it up to him, and she knew exactly how to do it. It started with Marie…
“I knew I should have gone with Sophie!” Karl smacked his hand against the ground he knelt on.
“Don’t do that, Karl. You’ll hurt yourself.” Wilhelm pulled him up. “You think the Germans would have noticed a man with your size and build strolling down the street without wondering why you aren’t in the Fuhrer’s army?”
Karl pulled away. “Doesn’t make it any easier. They’re fifteen minutes late. It shouldn’t have taken them that long to walk down the street.”
“Wait a second, Karl.” Wilhelm peered out through the slats of the now rotten wood door that had been built into the alleyway entrance. “I see Petr. He’s walking down the street and—, and he has Sophie’s hair ribbon tied around his arm. Something’s wrong. I don’t see Sophie or Philippe.”
“Any kids with him?” Karl nudged Wilhelm out of the way to look himself.
“I saw about seven kids. Some family probably didn’t want to part with their children.” Wilhelm touched the pistol beneath his coat. “We need to get behind those garbage bins. That’s where Petr’s leading them. So far I don’t see a single soldier looking at him.”
Karl pulled his jacket over his weapon and buttoned it. “Let’s get going, and I hope that Sophie and Philippe are someplace safe.”
The soldiers came out of nowhere.
Sophie and Philippe had turned into an alleyway to hide, and there they had been, waiting.
Three of them pounced on Philippe, and two others grabbed Sophie by the arms.
“Stop it!” She cried, fighting them.
The two soldiers clamped her wrists together in front of her with iron handcuffs and forced her to sit on the damp ground.
Philippe’s captors kept kicking him, knocking him down each time he tried to stand. They weren’t only here to capture but to torture.
Blood rolled down Philippe’s face, and both eyes were turning black. His muffled groans became cries of pain each time they shoved him down. He couldn’t defend himself with both hands cuffed behind his back.
“Stop it!” Sophie screamed. “You’re going to kill him.” Tears ran down her face, and she tried to crawl towards him.
She was yanked back.
“Your friend, Wilhelm, is receiving the first part of his punishment for being the ringleader of your little resistance group.” One of the older soldiers breathed into her face.
“Wilhelm?” Sophie gasped. “No, his name isn’t Wilhelm! You have the wrong person.”
“I don’t believe you.”
Sophie tried to speak, but the soldier smacked her.
“You are a liar, girl! You lied to us before and you won’t again!” He pulled her to stand, squeezing her arms so tight they ached. “You’re little group has an informant.”
“Commander, bring him out.” The soldier turned her around to face the dark end of the alleyway.
Two figures emerged. A man in chains, being pushed forward by another who carried himself like a king.
“So we meet again, Sophie Hoffman.”
Sophie gasped. It was the German commander who had taken away the baby that night so long ago, and—David, the friend that had betrayed them.
“You see, Sophie Hoffman, I know more about you then you’d like me to know. As you can see, I knew where you’d be today. I’ve been looking for you for quite a while. You and your little Resistance. Your friend here so kindly informed me.”
“It isn’t my Resistance,” Sophie said boldly. “And you,” she turned to David. “Are a traitor. Not only to your friends but to the cause of freedom! You are no friend of mine, David Cohen!” Sophie spit out the words. She would have slapped him if two cuffs hadn’t restrained her arms. “You should be ashamed.”
David didn’t even lift his head. “I told them that Wilhelm was the once they wanted, not you, not Philippe.”
“What price did they offer you to do this to the people you once claimed to love?”
David jerked back and looked up at her, his eyes filling with tears.
“Enough!” The German commander bellowed. “Bring that Wilhelm character forward.”
“His name isn’t Wilhelm!” Sophie cried. “He isn’t the one you want.”
The Commander pushed Sophie aside. “I’ll deal with you after your ringleader.”
Philippe couldn’t even stand. The two soldiers dragged him between them and tossed him at the Commander’s feet.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” The Commander demanded.
Sophie put her chained hands over her mouth. Philippe couldn’t even lift his head.
“You might have won today, Commander, but tomorrow—La résistance and the goodness of truth will always win.”
“Fitting that you, a Frenchman would use the words La résistance. Your country had a revolution. Resistance against the government—they didn’t succeed now did they.”
“Our Resistance is not one of bloodshed. It is one of truth. You and my misguided countrymen sought to destroy, we seek to save those that have no voice.”
“Shut your mouth!” The Commander bellowed. “You have sealed your fate, Wilhelm.”
“My name is Philippe. I know you will not believe it, but at least know the name of the man you’re going to kill before you do it.” Philippe collapsed when then the soldiers holding him backed away.
Sophie cocked her head to the side. She thought she heard the faint sound of squealing tires nearby.
“I’m not going to kill you first.” The Commander chuckled. “I’m curious to know what it would do to you if you were forced to watch your girlfriend experience something similar to what you have in the past ten minutes.”
“She’s a woman.” Philippe gasped.
“Woman, Resistance leaders, they all get the same punishment if they go against the Fuhrer.” The Commander yanked Sophie up by her chains. “Enjoy the hospitality of my soldiers, Sophie Hoffman. I hope you will come to see that your plans will never come to pass. Men like myself will snuff out the flame of your Resistance, so that no one, not even the generations to come will know it even existed. The echoes of our great new regime will be the ones heard, ten, twenty, one-hundred years from now. Your echoes, echoes of so-called honor, will fall dead.”
“I wouldn’t count on it.” A voice said from the dark end of the alley. “Our Resistance has something your Third Reich will never have. People devoted to one another. Deep friendships that can’t be broken by threats or demands.” A figure stepped out of the darkness. “You might succeed in silencing the Resistance for now, but it will never die!”
“Wilhelm!” Sophie cried. “They have guns!”
Wilhelm chuckled. “They have guns, but we have an absent-minded driver who may, or may not exactly be able to see where he’s going.”
The sound of a revving engine blasted through the alleyway. The bright headlights of a car showed behind Wilhelm. “Let me introduce Karl. He’s new at this whole driving thing. I’d look out if I were you!” Wilhelm leaped out of the way as the car lurched forward.
The soldiers scattered in different directions as the car came barreling out of the darkness. Even David melted into the darkness.
Yelling a string of words Sophie didn’t care to hear, the Commander whipped out his pistol. The car screeched to a halt.
The Commander pulled Sophie against him. “If anyone makes a sudden move, the girl is dead.”
“Let her go, Commander!” Karl yelled from the car. “You dropped your gun when I blew the horn.”
“I can still hurt her.” The Commander growled. He jerked his head towards Wilhelm. “You, get back in the car and stay there until I’m gone. The girl comes with me.”
“I don’t think so!” Wilhelm stepped forward, and Sophie screamed.
“He’s hurting my arm, Wilhelm!”
“Let her go!”
“I will not be ordered about by a hot-headed boy! Get back in the car or I will hurt her!”
With a stricken look, Wilhelm backed up towards the car.
The Commander turned with Sophie to flee into the dark alley. A smart move on his part because the car couldn’t turn to chase him, but a foolish move considering Philippe was struggling to his feet and moving towards him.
The Commander was knocked off his feet when Philippe pounced on him. His hold on Sophie loosened and she scrambled away.
The man only laughed. “You think I’m going to let some boy ruin my plans?”
Philippe turned to Sophie. “Run to the car! Get out of here.”
“No! We aren’t leaving you.”
“Be smart Sophie. Remember what I said about more lives at stake than just ours!” He pushed her to her feet. “Run! Get out of—“
“Philippe, look out!” Sophie screamed. “He has a gun, run!”
Philippe, instead of running, grabbed Sophie and forced her onto the ground, shielding her with his body.
Two explosions, one right after the other made Sophie’s ears ring. She felt Philippe jerk and heard him cry out, but he never moved. He kept protecting her.
Running footsteps made her look up. Wilhelm knelt beside them both and carefully pulled Philippe off of her.
“Is he—?” Sophie’s voice broke as she struggled to her feet.
Wilhelm placed his fingers beneath Philippe’s jaw. “He has a pulse.”
“Come on!” Karl hollered from the car. “There might be more backup coming.”
“Get in the car, Sophie.” Wilhelm lifted Philippe off the ground. “We’ll be right behind you.”
Karl glanced in the review mirror to his three best friends in the back seat as they sped down the abandoned streets. Philippe was propped up between Sophie and Wilhelm with the rescued children and Petr cowering in the narrow space behind the back seat.
“How bad is it, Wilhelm?”
Philippe, coming out of unconsciousness interrupted Wilhelm’s reply with a laugh. “Only a scratch.” His clenched jaw betrayed him.
“Where was he hit?” Karl asked.
“It’s nothing.” Philippe insisted again. “Just a little wound.”
Wilhelm moved forward to whisper into Karl’s ear. “He’s hurt bad. Even though he didn’t have his front exposed the bullet somehow caught him in the chest. You’re the doctor, you get back there, and I’ll drive.
Slowing to a stop, the boys quickly made the switch.
Karl sat on the seat, supporting Philippe’s shoulders with his arms. Sophie knelt on the floor holding his limp hand.
“Philippe,” Karl’s usually strong voice shook. He put a hand on Philippe’s cheek. “Stay with me.”
“O-Okay.” Philippe coughed. “A lot of fuss over—” He curled forward with a cry, clutching his chest.
Karl pulled Philippe back and tore his coat open to inspect the wound. Sophie saw him exchanged looks with Wilhelm in the rearview mirror.
“Soph,” Karl’s voice was high and strained. “Maybe you should sit up there with Wilhelm.”
“I’m not leaving.” She said firmly. “He saved me! Now we’re going to save him.”
Without another word, Karl tore the bottom of his shirt off. “Philippe, this will hurt, but you have to trust me.”
Philippe closed his eyes. “Can’t hurt me worse than I already am.” A tear trickled down his cheek.
Sophie winced when Philippe yelled. She has feared something terrible might happen, but not this. The apparent pain Philippe was going through made her heart tear.
For several moments, the sound of Philippe’s labored breathing filled the car. Sophie squeezed his hand tight.
“K-Karl,” Philippe spoke, turning his head to the side and looking back. “You can’t stop the bleeding.”
Sophie looked up at her brother. His face was white.
“Don’t talk Philippe. Lie still.” Karl said.
Sophie saw the hand Karl had pressed up against Philippe’s wound tense. He was trying to save one of his friend’s lives, and he was failing.
“You’ll be fine, Philippe.” Even as Sophie spoke, she felt her voice breaking.
Philippe groaned, crying out as he gripped Karl’s arm. “It hurts.” He whispered when his groan died away. “It hurts so much.”
“You’ll be alright Philippe. We’ll get you back to the hideout and we’ll—“
“Sophie,” Karl reached his free hand over and touched his sister’s arm. “Let him talk.”
“It feels like we’ve only known each other for a short time.” Philippe coughed, trying to smile. “I’ve treasured every moment—T-Thank you for being m-my friends.”
“Don’t go, Philippe.” Sophie squeezed his hand, her tears dripping onto her dress front. “It’s not fair. I should’ve been more careful, and I should have seen the Commander sooner.”
“Don’t S-Sophie. Don’t do that. That kind of guilt can be a-a dangerous t-thing.” Philippe seemed to be having a hard time catching his breath. “We don’t always get certain choices in this life, but there’s a plan in this.”
“What kind of plan!” Sophie nearly shouted. “God’s plan? His plans always seem to include death and tears!” She jerked away from him and sank into a tight ball, sobbing.
Karl held Philippe in his arms. The boy has been like a younger brother to him for the years they had been together. How could he let him go?
It was unfair for any of them to ask Philippe to hold on. He couldn’t. His face, ashen, had taken on a look that Karl had never seen and now feared. Philippe struggled for each breath, and he kept squeezing Karl’s hand when tremors, of what Karl knew were pain, tore through Philippe.
“Sophie,” Karl said softly. “Please say goodbye. He’s holding on for you.”
Sophie stirred and looked up, eyes swollen from crying. “I can’t, Karl. He’s one of my best friends.”
“He’s suffering. Tell him it’s alright to go.”
Karl watched his sister get on her knees, and a sob wracked her body as she leaned forward.
“Philippe,” She whispered. “You can let go now.”
Philippe stirred. He was moving his hand into the interior pocket of his jacket. He fumbled at first but slid his hand inside. Slowly, he pulled out a delicate gold chain and locket.
“T-This belonged to my mother.” His voice cracked. “Please, please make sure M-Marie is safe. Make sure she gets this.” He pushed it into Sophie’s hand.
Karl felt his tough exterior melt. Philippe would never see his sister on this earth again, and it wasn’t fair.
Sophie nodded. “I will Philippe. I promise with everything in me.”
“God—He has a plan.” Philippe struggled for another breath. “Trust Him, and keep saving the Echoes of Honor.”
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I’m not even going to say anything. *Sobs*