Channel Crossing and Reunion
At the Port of Dover, the train ferry was split into equal sections on tracks at the port and starboard sides of the S.S. Hampton. Though Captain Hall had traveled this journey before, until tonight, she had never stayed awake long enough to watch. She marveled at the specially enclosed docks with sea locks that kept the ferry and railway tracks at a reasonably constant level. She peered at her wristwatch. The journey across the Channel to Dunkirk would take about three hours before the train continued to Paris. The turbines revved up and the ferry pulled away. In open waters, the rhythmic hum of the engines was mesmerizing, and she drifted off. That is, until she heard a tap at her door. “Yes?!”
“It’s me. Open up.”
The Russian accent was unmistakable. “What do you want?” When she received no reply, she begrudgingly opened the door a crack. Her gaze met Pavel’s grinning face holding a bottle.
“It’s genuine Russian. The best. Only one. Please. We need to talk. There’s something you need to know.”
“I don’t have any glasses and I’m…”
He wagged his finger at her. “I have two.” He patted his pocket. “I’m tired, too. But we do need to talk. It won’t take long.”
Reluctantly, she stepped aside.
One glass led to two, then three. By the time he poured the forth, Pavel had spilled the story of his life. In it, he shared his apprehension about being called back to Moscow. “Stalin sees enemies where there are none. Too many comrades have been called back and then disappeared.” He snapped his fingers.” Poof, just like that.” He held up his glass, Tvoye sdorovye! He clinked her glass.
Through her alcohol-induced haze, Captain Hall was intrigued by the fact that he neither slurred his words nor showed signs of inebriation. Already three sheets to the wind, she felt uncomfortable.
He leaned in and smiled. “After all this time, Captain Hall, I don’t even know your name.”
“Lynn. My name is Lynn.” He kissed her. Though surprised by his action, she did not push him away. “Why did you do that?”
“Because you’re a beautiful woman. And, smart too.” He shrugged. “What can I say, I’m attracted to smart, beautiful women.” He sat back. “Soon we must go our separate ways.”
“Must we?” She found it difficult to redirect her gaze from his ruggedly handsome face.
He sighed. “We must. My comrade will meet you at Paris Gare du Nord and take you the rest of the way.”
“How will I know him?” The broad toothy smile and dancing playfulness in his eyes had disappeared.
“It’s a she not a he. You’ll recognize each other. You’ve met before.”
“We have? Who is she? Why so secret about it?”
“I want it to be a surprise. Anyway, it’s better you don’t know. You understand how these things work.”
A long moment passed. He kissed her. Her compliant body pressed against him. Tongues hungrily searched each other out. Hands feverishly removed each other’s clothing. When their bodies finally melted together, time became serenely lost in the present without a thought to the future.
When he rose from her bed, she called out to him to stay. He sat on the bed and took her hands. “I…I can’t Lynn.”
“We can’t just part like this. Never to see each other again.”
“What makes you think we won’t see each other again?”
“You! Comrades who have disappeared.” She snapped her fingers. “Poof, just like that.”
He smiled. “I exaggerate. Too much vodka. But there is something I must tell you.”
She snuggled against him. “And what is that?”
“The Gestapo is aware of you. They even have a nickname for you.”
“Nickname?” A cold chill ran up her spine.
“The limping lady.”
Outside her window, the French countryside passed by. Captain Hall peered at her wristwatch. The train was on time. Expected ...