DESTINY SHADOWS swiped the circle table off one more time, slower this time. Her ears perked up, heart tripping up a pace or two. She strained to make out what the two business-looking men were saying, in a thick German-accented French.
“We must get him out,” Destiny caught one man saying in a casual tone, and she knew at once why they were speaking French. So they wouldn’t attract attention. Besides, the German tongue was pretty infamous by now.
The War had ended, and the Allies had won. But Nazis were still running at large, and every day more were getting farther and farther away from inland Europe.
“Yah,” the other one agreed, still in that casual tone.
Destiny paused in her wiping the table and wiped her face with the back of her hand. Her forehead did have a few dibbles of sweat, but her real reason was to stall time at the pretty-near-spotless table of her family-owned La Café. She wanted to hear all she could from these German-accented men. Possibly Nazi officers escaping country? She didn’t know, but she couldn’t be too careful at such a time as this.
“This food is delicious,” the first man told a passing waitress, with a smile.
From her view Destiny could tell the girl was flattered. The men were nice-looking for their age, she had to admit, but she would not be flattered by such a tongue. She had lost her cousin to a Nazi, and she was definitely not losing her heart to one. Rats! There goes any more listening-in, she told herself as she saw the two men in their late thirties stand up to leave. Just when I was going to find out something…
Then, something else broke her concentration of trying to hear “just a little more info”. Or, rather, someone. One of their waiters in his mid-twenties, French-born Marq Clef whose father was an American veteran of WWI, was just stepping over to the now-spotless table. Destiny stood up from her wiping and groaned inside when she felt her slightly-wrinkled-dishwater hand against the thick rag.
“Hey,” Marq gave a wide-teeth-showing smile. He bent over to give the spotless table another wipe with his rag. “Having trouble wiping this table?”
“Hey,” Destiny returned and turned her eyeballs sideways to watch the German-accented men leave. One was cradling an overstuffed duffle bag.
When she looked back she found Marq looking at her with raised eyebrows. She shook her head, thinking to answer him, “Just finished.”
“I see.” Marq craned his neck to look where Destiny had been eyeing sideways. “Captivating people eat here, don’t they? I bet you thought those old men were nice-looking.”
“Don’t be sarcastic, Marq.” Destiny gave the two men leaving another glance. One was glancing around with a wary-looking eyes.
“But you stayed at this table for over ten minutes!” Marq nodded his head in the direction of the other dirty tables on the brick walkway with a wide blue-and-white-striped awning. “Work to be done. Now.”
“Quit being so bossy,” Destiny grumbled, and followed him over to wipe the other dirty tables. “Guys are just like that.”
“Like what?” Marq glanced back while scrubbing away on a tabletop.
“You forget that I’m the owner’s daughter.”
“Then I’ll just say I’m the owner’s son,” Marq didn’t take the slightest cue of her annoyance. “Besides, your Dad told me we had to hurry. Important job for us to do.”
“What?” Destiny scrubbed away at the tables, and glanced through the glass bay window where her mother was putting away the leftover pastries and a couple loaves of French bread from the shelves on-looking the street. “What important job does my Dad have for us to do?”
Marq glanced around to make sure nobody was listening in on the street; then, said lowly, “Little girls shouldn’t ask such big questions.”
Destiny began to frown so Marq simply stated, “Secret.”
Security retain. Abbreviated: SEC. RET. Destiny’s heart thumped a beat, and tripled. That meant there was business to do. Real action with those scary moments that she remembered so well during the War that had just passed. They had been stationed there since October 1939, right after Poland had fallen into Nazi hands, and their days had been spent in ceaseless caution from hiding her brother, Tom, and her father to rescuing Jews in the Underground. Destiny thought now that the War was over, the action was over. But she wrong.
“I’ll be good, old man.” Destiny finished the last table with grin.
She looked around the La Café. Nobody else was there besides her mother locking the bread-safe and register. All the other waiters and waitresses had gone. “Now don’t give me the heavy side of the tables like you usually do.”
Marq chuckled. Rather, he usually all but carried the round tables into the interior La Café. Destiny more or less put her fingers under one edge and walked forward while he had to walk backwards, with all the weight.
Minutes later Destiny found herself leading Marq up the steps of their townhouse and into her father’s office. Mother was out window-shopping, a thing that she hadn’t done since back in the States. Throughout most of the War they had all but been confined into their houses unless they were buying something. It was too dangerous to be out on the streets with Nazis swarming around like bees. Besides, her mother hadn’t known French and didn’t like going out too much without her husband translating.
“Papa,” Destiny fell silent in the doorway when she saw two men in suits, in their late thirties; one carrying an overstuffed duffle bag.
She glanced up at Marq who gave her a slight high-eyebrow. Destiny pretended she was picking some dry skin off her nose, and barely whispered with exasperated eyes, “Too old.”
Marq nodded once, and crossed his arms. The two men’s backs were to them, and Mr. Shadows hadn’t noticed them yet so Destiny backed up from the doorway and walked into a corridor. This jumbling house was a two-story brick structure full of hidden rooms, corridors, and walls. It was said that a suspicious rich man had it built to hide his money in, and even had a foreigner build it so the locals wouldn’t know where everything was.
Marq followed and leaned his back against the wall, arms crossed. “So, what do we do here? Wait for those captivating people to leave,” here he rolled his eyes, “or go barge in there.”
Destiny raised her first finger to her lips, “Shh. I’ve got news. About them.”
Marq’s dark French eyes lit up with an inquisitive stare, waiting to hear what would come next. Destiny motioned him over.
“They have German accents,” she whispered behind her hand, and he bugged his eyes in response. “One even said, ‘We must get him out’. And that’s all I heard.”
Marq nodded once, and whispered back, “So that’s why you stayed there for ten minutes. No catching-eye-deal then, huh?”
Destiny screwed up her nose in disgust and shook her head violently “no”. Marq then flattened himself against the wall between her and the office, hearing a loud voice speaking with that German accent. He stealthily pulled out his side handgun and Destiny cringed. She’d almost gotten used to that thing during the War, but now that War was over she hated for it to be used. But if it was necessary…
A single shot rang out in the office, and Marq expertly dove into the doorway without a noise. Destiny followed, whipping out her handgun in the process, and a groan from inside the office made her mind whirl. Was it Papa or one of the strangers? They soon found out. There lay Papa headfirst on his desk before him, the Germans with aimed handguns at him. Thankfully, a sign Papa was still alive.
In two seconds another two shots rang out, and Destiny blinked and stared at two uplifted bleeding hands. The Germans’ hands. Marq was now barking to them to raise their hands above their heads, gun leveled and slowly walking towards them. Destiny remained planted in the doorway, stunned. Could Papa really be dead, after all?
Then, Marq drove the fuzz out of her brain when he called to her, “Call the authorities. Give me your gun, and I’ve got them covered.”
Destiny rushed over to the phone on Papa’s desk, and made the quick call. The moments that followed were spent in a tense numbness as she waited. She gingerly felt her father’s neck for his pulse. Still beating, thank God! She then breathed a prayed of relief, and asked God to keep him alive until the ambulance would come.
Destiny heard the heavy tramp of boots coming up the stairs and sighed in relief. Then uniformed men burst into the room, handcuffing the two German men, and a team of medics rushed over to Papa with a stretcher.
“He’s…still alive,” Destiny said brokenly, finding tears rolling down her numb cheeks. She still couldn’t believe it. Her father had just gotten shot.
“Yes, Miss Shadows. Still alive,” one medic said, darting his eyes at the slumped man. He and two others gently lifted Mr. Shadows onto the stretcher and hurried him out of the room, down the steps, and into the waiting ambulance in the street just outside the front door.
Destiny followed blindly, chewing on her thumbnails out of anxiety. Behind, she heard Marq dialing the number of a shop to contact Mrs. Shadows.
“Emergency.” Marq was repeating for the hundredth time. He wiped back his short black hair in exasperation. “Mr. LeBlanc, tell the street-guard to find Mrs. Shadows. Mrs. Shadows, I repeat. Mr. Shadows has had an accident. Find Mrs. Shadows. Hospital. Good day!”
“Destiny!” Mrs. Shadows’ face was ashen and her eyes were completely open in a scared-way. “What has happened? Tell me!”
Destiny buried her head into her mother’s shoulder, and sobbed. Papa was in surgery now, getting his bullet taken out of him. A very critical surgery, the doctor had said grimly before rushing him in on the operating table.
“I believe I can answer that, Mrs. Shadows.” Marq said quietly, looking down at the sleek painted concrete floor. “I was there, too. Just me and Destiny and your husband…and the two Germans.”
“Oh, mercy!” Mrs. Shadows gasped, clutching her jacket collar.
“We came in and there were two Germans talking to your husband,” Marq explained briefly with a swallow. “They didn’t see us. One shot your husband. That’s when we came in on the crime-scene.”
There was a pause, only broken by the two females soft crying.
“We still haven’t found out why they made that shot,” Marq shrugged grimly. “But we’ll soon know. The Germans are behind the wires now.”
“Thank God,” Mrs. Shadows said shakily.
Destiny finally looked up, “I’m not really…awake…am I? Please tell me I’m having a nightmare.”
The doctor’s cleared his throat behind them all and they turned around, “Mrs. Shadows, the surgery is over and your husband is in the recovery room now. In a few minutes, you may see him.”
Just then, Tom came rushing towards them with an anxious face, “I just heard the news. How’s Papa?”
“I was just telling them,” the doctor spoke for them all. “Just passed through surgery, and is in the recovery room.”
“Thank heavens!” Tom’s face relaxed, and he turned a fierce expression towards his mother and sister. “What happened?”
“I believe it’s what you call a business transaction.” Marq clenched his jaws after the doctor had left. “Germans.”
“I believe after this, I can finally talk your father into retiring,” Mrs. Shadows took a deep breath. “It’s time we went back to America, anyway. Six years is quite enough for business.”
“But Mom!” Destiny glanced wildly over at Marq. “We just can’t pick up and leave…and leave our café. Can we?”
Mrs. Shadows said nothing, and Destiny wanted to protest no more. Papa was on his deathbed and there should be no fussing. But…could she really leave La Café and all her friends there? And…could she really leave her detective days in mysterious France? If so, she wanted one last chance to pick up the old scent that she had left off when the War had stopped, when Hitler had committed suicide on April 30th. Just one more time…