Chapter 8

Sam returned to the chateau to pass along Etienne's messages, assuming he would say his goodbyes to Yvonne and the children and get back to work. He was quite sure there would be plenty of broken machinery ready and waiting for him there. He knew George had been in touch with the officers at Bertangles though he hadn't asked what excuses the captain might have given for his absence. He hoped he wasn't in trouble, though he wasn't sure he cared; somehow he felt like this was where he needed to be.

Denis was, not surprisingly, out with the pilots and mechanics "helping" them with the planes. Yvonne and Madeleine were making themselves useful around the chateau by cooking and cleaning. George said he'd make a few calls and find someone to buy the meat.

"It'd be a shame if it went to waste," George told Sam. "If I can shift a few things around in the budget I'll take some of it for my boys. I'll get on it immediately."

"Thank you, Sir," Sam said. "I, uh, guess I'd better be getting back to Bertangles now. You'll see that Yvonne and the kids get back home all right?"

George had picked up the telephone receiver as if Sam had already been dismissed. He held it at shoulder level, ready to use as soon as he answered Sam's question. "Yes, of course. Though if you wouldn't mind, there are a few things here we'd like you to take a look at before you go."

"Of course, Sir." Sam was actually relieved at that. He couldn't put his finger on anything specific, but he felt more and more strongly that his mission would soon be revealed and that it had something to do with someone here at the chateau. Besides, he'd be working wherever he went.

The courier had chatted volubly while Sam tightened the chain on the motorbike. But, friendly as he was, the man complained of never having the chance to see any action which meant the repair would likely neither save his life nor cause his death. As the man rode off Sam held out a faint hope that it meant an important dispatch would now get through, even if the courier didn't see the glamour in that. But Sam felt not the slightest tingle of an impending Leap. As he moved on to his next job he told himself firmly that just because he was still here didn't mean that job hadn't been important.

He told himself the same thing after each job, all afternoon long. At the very least he was resolving a problem for each of those people, making their life a tiny bit easier. He enjoyed talking with them and accepted their gratitude with an easy grace. But none of them produced even the tiniest blip on Sam's Leap radar. He couldn't shake the feeling that this Leap was rapidly drawing to an end, but he was darned if he could figure out how or why. It was frustrating.

To make matters worse, by 4:00 he was working on his last project. He'd managed to take care of all the requests and would have no choice but to return to Bertangles shortly. He'd replaced a broken spoke in a wooden wheel and was in the process of mounting it on the axle of a truck. Lorry, he reminded himself; these guys refer to it as a lorry.

Al stepped through the Imaging Chamber door. "Hi, Sam. How's it going?" he asked cheerily. He bent closer to inspect Sam's handiwork. "Hey, looks like you're gonna keep someone from singing that old Country Western song." Using his cigar as a conductor's baton he broke into song. "You picked a fine time to leave me, Loose Wheel."

Sam winced at the pun, but couldn't help laughing just a little. He'd needed something to lighten his mood, even a little bit. "We couldn't have that, now could we?"

"You're a mess, Sam. You got grease all over your uniform; there's some on your nose, too."

"I've been doing my job, Al," Sam said in a matter-of-fact tone. "I'm a mechanic; mechanics get dirty. Do you have anything for me, or did you just drop in to suggest I change clothes?"

"No, sorry, Sam. You know, it's weird. Ziggy can come up with little tidbits like the fact that Herman Goring will take command of Von Richthofen's squadron, Jasta 11, in July of this year." Al broke off to make eye contact with Sam. "You do remember who Goring was, don't you?"

"Yeah. Too bad I didn't manage to get him shot down, too," Sam said.

"Really," Al said with feeling. "But what I mean is, she can't find enough info on the rank and file soldiers to be able to make any predictions."

"I got that, Al," Sam responded. "I even understand it, a little. You can't know if some guy will be important in the future if he's killed today. And why are you still going on about Von Richthofen? He's dead and I'm still here."

Al looked slightly offended. "He's history, Sam."

"Yes, he's dead, he's history. So what?"

"No, Sam. I meant he's literally a part of history. He's famous. His name is synonymous with daring young pilots risking their lives at the beginning of aviation history. He's one of the men you picture wearing goggles and a leather jacket with a dashing white silk scarf. Hey, do you know why they wore that scarf?"

Sam looked confused at the sudden change of topic. "No, but I have a feeling you're about to tell me."

"It's interesting, Sam," Al defended his attitude. "You of all people ought to find these little historical tidbits fascinating. It's cold up there when you're flying, see. They didn't have heaters in the cockpits."

"They didn't have roofs on the cockpits, what good would a heater do?" Sam interrupted.

"My point exactly! It's cold and the pilots, they all wear these heavy leather jackets." Al puffed up his cheeks and moved his arms slightly away from his body to indicate someone all bundled up. "When the collar on that jacket gets cold it gets stiff and hard. Now the pilot needs to be constantly on the lookout for the enemy, so he's all the time turning his head this way and that." He demonstrated in an exaggerated fashion. "And that stiff collar rubs his neck raw. The soft silk scarf prevents that."

Sam nodded in understanding. "And here I thought it was just so they looked like daring pilots to the girls."

"Well, that too," Al conceded. "I've gotten off topic, here. I was gonna tell you that they're gonna hold Von Richthofen's funeral about an hour from now. In the village of Bertangles. You ought to go, Sam."

Sam looked marginally surprised. "Why would I want to? I'm surprised the Allies are even having a funeral for him; he's their sworn enemy."

"There's still some elements of chivalry in this war. The Allies have allowed German planes to cross the lines today so they could drop wreaths in honor of the Rittmeister."

Sam mentally translated that as "riding master", apparently a hold-over from the Baron's cavalry days. "I guess they hope the Germans would do the same for one of our guys."

"Sure. It's all about respect. The 5th Australian Division had a wreath made up with the inscription 'To our gallant and worthy foe.' Though because the villagers wrongly thought he was responsible for bombing their villages at night they'll desecrate the grave. The funeral isn't long, Sam; but you shouldn't pass up the opportunity to be there," he entreated. "I wouldn't miss it!" he added as extra incentive.

Sam thought about it for a minute while Al looked on expectantly. Something felt right about going to the funeral, but what about his feeling that someone here at the chateau was important to his mission? Could the two pieces somehow go together? "Al, I think you're right. From the beginning you told me that the Red Baron had something to do with this Leap, and I think I finally know what it is."

Sam stood at attention with the rest of the soldiers as six Australian officers carried the casket into the small cemetery, followed by a firing party with rifles reversed. As the pallbearers gently lowered the coffin to the ground Sam turned his head to check on Yvonne and the children. He'd talked them into coming with him believing it would be important; but he worried a little that Denis and Madeleine were so young to be seeing this.

Denis caught Sam's eye and waved his hand as if he were glad for the comfort of Sam's presence. Madeleine gave her brother a quick hard stare, then deliberately bowed her head for the coming service. Sam could see Al standing among the trees behind the cemetery; he was wearing his admiral's uniform, standing at parade rest with his hat under his arm. Sam took their hint and returned his attention to the front.

The chaplain read a simple service, and the pallbearers lowered the coffin into the open grave. The firing party let off three volleys. A bugler played the haunting notes of "The Last Post." The soldiers formed up ranks and marched off; Von Richthofen's funeral was over.

Sam was glad he'd come; there was something to be said for paying last respects to any soldier yet the service had had an indefinable air of history-in-the-making as well. People would be interested in this event 100 years from now and, like being in Dallas in November of 1963, he'd been a part of it.

Sam stayed behind because he was to take the Fortiers home. "You'll remember this day the rest of your lives," he told them. "You can tell your grandchildren about it."

"And then I will have to tell them who this baron was," Yvonne responded.

"No, I think he'll be remembered as a valiant warrior for a very long time," Sam told her.

"But he was an enemy, a bad man," protested Madeleine.

Sam knelt down to get on the kids' level. "Are the Allied soldiers bad men?" he asked.

"No," replied Denis. "They're here to help protect us."

"The German soldiers help protect their people, too," Sam explained.

"But Papa says they started the war," Madeleine protested.

"The German leaders started the war," Sam corrected her. "I don't think the German people want to hurt us. They're just like you; they want to live and not have their houses destroyed and not lose fathers, sons, and brothers to the war."

Madeleine cocked her head in thought. "I can understand that. The soldiers are just doing what their officers tell them to do."

"That is so," Yvonne agreed. "Yet what are we to do but defend ourselves when they come into our country?"

"Maman, Monsieur Beckett – what is happening over there?" Denis asked in a worried voice. He pointed to the grave site.

Sam turned to see a group of local people gathered around the grave, spitting into it and cursing. As he watched someone snatched up one of the wreaths and began pulling the flowers off, handing them to others who put them on nearby graves. "I, uh, I think we'd better get out of here," he told them. He stood up and reached for the children's hands.

Yvonne moved to block their sight of the mob. "Yes, let's leave. They take out their anger for all they've lost, even if this man did not do it all himself. We do not want to be caught in their madness." She began shepherding the children away from the area.

Denis hung onto Sam's hand, but twisted around to see. "What will they do?" he asked.

Sam tugged on the boy's hand. "C'mon, Denis; you don't want to get hurt."

But now Madeleine, holding Sam's other hand, stopped to watch. "I don't blame them for being mad."

Behind them the crowd was getting louder, and they could hear occasional shouted obscenities.

Yvonne pushed her daughter ahead with enough force to get her attention. She was far more worried about escape than being gentle. "We must get home; you don't need to see this."

Sam picked Denis up and held him in his arms, head against his chest so the boy couldn't see the maddened villagers. Yvonne did the same with Madeleine and they both ran out of the cemetery.

They reached the safety of Sam's car and put the children down. "One more car ride and you'll be home," Sam told them.

Al had caught up to them and stood by, making shooing motions toward the car.

Denis scrambled into the car but Madeleine planted her feet and faced her mother. "I did need to see this," she said firmly. "I don't blame those people for being mad at the German soldiers, but there are no others here and they cannot hurt a dead man. It would have been better if they'd done something to stop the soldiers coming. It has made me think of what you said a few minutes ago, Maman. You said we could defend ourselves from the soldiers – but we can do more. We can do things to help our own soldiers. We can make it harder for the enemy soldiers if they dare to come to our farm. If enough people do this, perhaps it will make a difference; perhaps the enemy will go away."

"A little naïve maybe, but she's on the right track, Sam," Al said. "We both know that war will come to this country again."

"You're talking about the French Resistance?" Sam asked.

"Resistance, I like the sound of that!" Yvonne said. "Yes, we will resist them. As you said, Monsieur Beckett; even small actions can have a big effect. Though I pray that this will not happen again."

"We will be ready if it does," Madeleine said sagely.

"There is a gendarme; we will go and report to him what is happening and then you may take us home." Yvonne beckoned to Denis to go with her; at the moment she wanted her children with her no matter how much she trusted this American.

As they walked away Al beamed at Sam. "You did it, Sam! Little Madeleine will become an important part of the French Resistance in the Second World War. She takes the things her parents are doing in this one and improves on them. She needed to see that war affects everyone, not just her home and family. She needed to see that misplaced anger after the fact isn't effective, but channeling that anger into helpful activities is a far more valuable strategy."

Sam raised his eyebrows in misgiving. "I hate that she had to witness that, but I think you're right. I'm afraid she'll see far worse things the next time around, but she'll be strong in her faith that she's right and that she can make a difference."

"She'll make a big difference," Al assured him. "Her efforts will save a lot of lives, and she'll teach her methods to others."

"She'll live through the war?" Sam asked.

Al poked at the handlink for confirmation. "Oh, yeah, sure. It won't be easy, but she'll make it just fine. I'll give you three guesses what her brother does – and the first two don't count."

Sam laughed at that. "He'll be a pilot, of course!"

"That wasn't hard to figure out," Al agreed with a grin. "Too bad you can't tell him he'll be an Ace."

"He'll figure it out in good time," Sam said. "So that just leaves one thing – what happens to John Beckett?"

"You don't remember?" Al asked in surprise.

"Should I?" Sam asked in return.

"Well, he's your Great Uncle after all. You remembered him on your very first Leap, when your brain was Swiss-cheesed as Hell. Well, okay, technically it was your second Leap." Al looked at his friend expectantly, making a rolling motion with one hand as if to help elicit the memory.

Sam shook his head. "It's been a rough few days, Al. He doesn't die over here, does he?"

"Nah, I'd have told you that first thing," Al said. "I'd have said 'Sam, you've gotta save your uncle's life' and we wouldn't have spent this whole time guessing what you were here to do. You really don't remember?"

Sam shrugged and looked completely clueless.

"He moves to Australia and marries Peggy," Al announced.

"Peggy?" asked Sam. "Oh, yeah, Reggie's sister. Pretty young girl."

"Your uncle thought so, too. I can't help but wonder if she wasn't the real reason he went to visit Reggie and Billy in the first place," Al smirked.

"But Reggie said she was married…oh, I guess that means her husband was killed in action," Sam said.

"I'm afraid so, Sam. Not every story can have a happy ending."

"I don't know," Sam began. "As stories go, this one seems to be ending pretty well."

Yvonne and the children walked up to Sam. "Monsieur Beckett, the gendarme will see that we get home so that you may go back to your aerodrome where you are needed," Yvonne said.

"All right, then; you be careful," Sam said. He spread his arms wide and all three crowded into his embrace. He began to feel a familiar sensation.

"I will think of you often," Madeleine said. "Adieu."

Sam barely heard her words as the blue aura surrounded him and he Leapt.

9