Chapter 9

Yvonne was back at her table now. Von Koln's beefy hand held hers, which was okay because it left her other hand free to drink with. Although the champagne was of an excellent vintage and was expertly chilled, she'd make sure the next bottle von Koln bought was something much stronger. This evening she would need something much, much stronger.

She glared at Captain Heinz and longed to have the pistol back so she could shoot him right in the middle of his fat, sweaty face. He was a creature without conscience, without mercy, without a wisp of humanity with him. He sat at a table surrounded by his fellow scum, dressed in their dreary grey and black.

The Nazis had commandeered Sam's piano and began to bellow out some German song about the "Vaterland." Their language was an offense to the ear and to the soul as well, sounding like beer bottles being ground up in a cement mixer.

Suddenly, Laszlo passed in front of her as he stormed over to Rick's house band. "Play La Marseillaise!" he told them.

This command was met with looks of surprise and fear.

"Play it!"

They hesitated for just a few heartbeats, and then the first few uncertain notes rang out.

Laszlo sang, "Allons enfants de la Patrie!" and much to Yvonne's surprise, by the end of the line, customers were joining in. A tableful of Vichy police were already scrambling to their feet to stand at attention. The strolling guitar player began singing in her warblely voice, and she was Spanish.

"The day of glory has arrived!" A man here stood, singing. A woman there. Berger, the Norwegian. Karl, the German Jew. All were getting to their feet, sprouting up like mushrooms in a spring rain.

"Against us, tyranny has raised the bloody banner." More and more people were joining, all across the café. Singing defiantly, raising up in loyalty to France and to liberty. English, Bulgars, Slavs, even Sasha the crazy Russian.

"Do you hear in the countryside . . ."

Now Yvonne was singing too.

"The howling of those ferocious soldiers?"

She sang for her dead schoolmates, for her dead parents, for her dead brothers.

"They are coming right into your arms . . ."

Major Strasse frantically led his men in their song, trying to use it to drown out the music of this defiance. The look on his face revealed that he knew his efforts were a waste.

"To slit the throats of your sons and women!"

Tears of amazement gathered in Yvonne's eyes. Emotions swept over her, feelings so powerful that she could barely keep singing. But she couldn't stop, not for the world!

Then Strasse gave up and sat down. His officers had no choice but to follow him.

Laszlo squared his shoulders and practically roared the lines, "To arms, citizens! Form your battalions!"

By now, everyone was on their feet. One old man in the middle was enthusiastically waiving his fist.

"Marchons, marchons! Qu'un sang impur, abreuve nos sillons!"

A cheer went up. It swept around the room and kept going and going.

Yvonne couldn't help but cry out, "Viva la France!" She looked right into the eyes of a shaken von Koln. "Viva la France!" she shouted at him. He turned away. At the table of Nazis, Captain Heinz sat bewildered, too stupid to understand what had just happened. "Vive la France! Vive la France!" And at Major Strasse, who looked as if someone has just shoved a haddock up his rectum, Yvonne shouted once again, "Vive la France!"

The End