Arthur nearly kicked his way through the emergency room doors. _________ was limp in his arms, and the coat he had wrapped around her was saturated with her blood. His heart thumped in his chest like artillery fire. The nurses in the emergency room looked like nuns with their hair kept up in white caps to match their starched white uniforms. They jumped to their stations moments after his dramatic entrance. Two came forward with a stretcher while another brought pads of gauze when she saw the blood, asking Arthur quickly but calmly, "What happened?"
"Gunshot wound," Arthur said, his voice shaking, "We had a break-in, and the stupid fool shot her—" Arthur's voice caught as he momentarily let his emotions get the better of him, "He shot her..." While this was true, all he could think about was how this was all his fault. When they took _________ from his arms and started to wheel her away, he began to follow the nurses down the hall. But the third nurse stopped him at the double doors that led further into the hospital, "Pardon, monsieur, but you must wait here."
"I must go with her—"
"She is in good hands, monsieur. We will do everything we can, but you must wait here."
Arthur tried to step around her, "No, you don't understand, I need to stay with her! She—"
"I am very sorry, monsieur, but you really must wait here."
A hand gripped Arthur's good arm and he turned slightly, furious, to see Francis at his side. The nurse disappeared through the doors, leaving them alone in the emergency room.
"Arthur, we can't stay 'ere. We 'ave to go back and clean up ze mess at ze 'ouse." Francis tugged on his arm, insistent and anxious.
The frantic pressure that had been building inside Arthur's chest suddenly burst and he shouted, "To hell with the house! To hell with the mess! And to hell with you!" He threw a blind punch at Francis. Francis neatly dodged him and then, in turn, punched Arthur in the mouth. Arthur staggered, a little stunned and tasting blood.
Francis tried hard to control himself, "Pull yourself togezere! Zere is nothing you can do for 'er right now. She could be in surgery for hours. You might as well spend zat time 'elping me cover your tracks."
Arthur licked his bleeding lip, shaking. "It's all my fault," he choked. He felt as though his legs would give out.
Francis grasped him by the shoulders and shook him, "You can't sink about zat right now."
"This all happened because of me. I was supposed to protect her—I promised her father..."
Francis promptly slapped Arthur, snapping him momentarily out of his shocked stupor, "It is not your fault."
He grabbed Arthur firmly by the sleeve of his dressing gown then, "Now, you are a soldier. Start acting like one and come with me."
Arthur stumbled at first and then followed Francis back to the car mechanically. As they motored away from Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, Arthur stared out the passenger window numbly. He did need to pull himself together, he knew perfectly well, and he had exactly ten or fifteen minutes within which to do it. As much as he hated to admit it, the best thing he could do right now was put __________ out of his mind and focus on what he had to do next. First and foremost, to hide the bodies of the three Germans.
One body was risky enough to deal with, but three? Where in the world could they discretely dispose of three bodies in the middle of the night? He checked his watch and then realized that he wasn't wearing it anymore. "I don't suppose you know what time it is?" He asked Francis, who seemed overly-intent on driving, tight-lipped and hands clenching the steering wheel.
"It was after midnight when ze Nazis showed up, so I imagine it's after one by now."
So they still had a few hours of darkness left to work with, then. But where oh where could they dispose of three bodies? When they pulled up to the house, Francis backed the car up to the front door and parked. The Germans' car was still parked on the street. No doubt the keys were on one of the bodies. Francis turned off the car and the two men listened and looked intently up and down the street for any signs of movement. If so much as a curtain in one of the windows fluttered, it could indicate someone was watching and they could be caught. Everything was still and quiet. Eerily quiet. The two men exchanged a glance and then Arthur said in a low voice, "It might be best if we load up the bodies into their car. That should hopefully be enough for me to drive away without being stopped or questioned."
"You'll need 'elp getting rid of ze bodies."
"I'll manage." Arthur stared down at his hands, still covered in _____________'s dried blood.
Francis contemplated for a minute and then spoke softly, "While I appreciate zat, I don't know 'ow I can explain ze gunshots. Ze neighbors will certainly want to know what 'appened, and if zey don't ze authorities might."
"Just tell them they fired into your roof to threaten me when I resisted arrest. Then fired at me when I wouldn't cooperate and mistakenly hit Popsie instead."
Francis mulled the idea over and said carefully, "It would be ze cleanest way to do sings..." he glanced at Arthur, "But you know, you won't be able to come back for 'er. Zere wouldn't be a way for us to contact you either to tell you if she lives."
Arthur looked down at his hands again, a heavy weight sinking in his chest again. "I know," he said softly. He didn't want to think about that now. He couldn't.
The two men sat in silence for a long moment, pondering. Finally, Francis said, "Well zen, let's get to it."
They both got out of the car and entered the house. Francis went to turn on the lights, but Arthur stopped him and whispered, "We can't afford to wake any of the band members that might be here. Not to mention any neighbors who might see."
Francis nodded silently and the two climbed the stairs to Arthur's room.
The three Germans were still lying on the floor in various positions of death. Everything had happened so quickly when Arthur and ________ had taken the two guards out that he hadn't even remembered how they had been killed. Now it came back to him that the one he had thrown over his shoulder had landed directly on his head, snapping his neck. But the other, he actually had no idea how he had died. Arthur stooped to inspect the second man in the darkness but couldn't see any immediate indications for the cause of death. Instead, he started patting down the dead man's pockets, searching for the car keys. When he didn't find them, he began checking the second man and succeeded in procuring a set of keys from the man's coat pocket. Pocketing the key, he nodded to Francis. Francis grabbed the legs of the first man and Arthur turned to lift the body's other half under the arms. Arthur's stomach lurched slightly when the dead man's head fell back loosely on it's broken mount at an unnatural angle and wobbled grotesquely when they started walking. They moved quickly and silently, carrying the body down the stairs and stuffing it into the back seat of the car. Arthur adjusted the body and shoved the dead man's head into a corner to hold it fast so that it would look like he was merely asleep.
They returned for the second body, and when they were outside under the light of the moon, Arthur could see a small mark on the dead man's temple with the tiniest trickle of dried blood. So, he had hit his head on something then. Arthur could only guess that he had either been hit hard enough that he died on impact, or else the blow had knocked him unconscious and then hemorrhaged internally and killed him. Either way, It was quite a clean business with the first two. Beilshmidt on the other hand...
The man was still lying face-down in a pool of his own blood. The entry wound was somewhat small, having taken out a small part of the big man's cheekbone and flesh, but a large chunk of the back of his head had been blown out where the bullet had exited. Although he hadn't bothered to look closer earlier, Arthur had no doubt that blood had probably speckled the walls and everything else Beilshmidt had had his back to when he met his untimely end. There was also the puddle of __________'s blood to tiptoe around and clean up.
The two stared at the mess, contemplating. They were both wondering how to clean up the blood and hide the evidence. Arthur was taking enough of a risk driving away in a Nazi car full of three dead Nazis. They might be able to pass as sleeping if he got pulled over and questioned anywhere, but towels or sheets covered in blood? No, he couldn't risk that much.
Francis murmured in low tones, "I sink I can clean up ze blood later. For now, we'd better get you out of 'ere before ze sun rises."
"Yes," Arthur nodded, "And I'll need to make a call before I go."
Francis looked at him fearfully, but Arthur reassured him, "It's a contact that might be able to help me. We're trained to talk in code, so it won't be suspicious."
Francis still looked skeptical, but he nodded mutely. Then he said, "I was just sinking...zere are some bombed out areas of ze city. Zat might be a good place to get rid of zem, no?
"Indeed." People tended to avoid the bombed-out houses and buildings, due to their reputation for being rather unstable and unsafe. Not to mention the fact that sometimes the bodies of pets or even people sometimes got buried in the rubble and started to smell after a few days. It was their best chance of hiding the bodies in plain sight without ever getting caught.
"If we remove their uniforms, it's likely that no one would recognize them, even if they were to be found in the rubble." Arthur crouched down,
"Come to think of it," he whispered, "The uniforms could come in handy..." He bent and heaved Beishmidt onto his back to get a better look at the front of the black Nazi coat. The way the German had fallen had caused the blood to pool away from his body, so virtually none of it had gotten on the uniform.
"Here," he whispered to Francis, "before we move him, help me get this uniform off of him. Have you got a towel or something to wrap his head in?"
"Un moment, s'il vous plaît." Francis padded softly out of the room and returned minutes later with a couple of towels and an old laundry bag.
"We can put ze bag over 'is 'ead to 'ide 'im."
Arthur nodded approvingly, and then the two set to work stripping the body and wrapping up the oozing head first in a towel and then the laundry bag. Silently, Arthur donned the uniform himself, tucking the pants into the boots and flaring them out at the bottom. Francis made sure everything was in order with the uniform; then they moved the body down to the car. After stowing away the third Nazi in the back seat, Arthur took the unbloodied cap of one of the other Nazis to complete the outfit and then the two men returned inside the house one last time. They headed for the kitchen, rather than the upstairs. Francis showed Arthur the telephone, where Arthur immediately made a call to the town of Cosne.
When the line finally connected, he whispered hurriedly, "Madame Marseilles?"
"Oui," the woman responded steadily.
"I'm sorry to call you so early, but my name is Arthur Kirkland, I'm a friend of your brother's."
"Ah, of course!" she spoke in a thick native accent, "What can I do for you?" Beneath the casual friendliness, he detected a slight note of caution in her tone.
He spoke in low tones, "I need to ask you for a favor..."
You were really getting sick of hearing the word "miracle." Between killing four Nazi agents and the fact that both your cover and Arthur's were blown, the fact that you were still alive seemed to be far from a miracle. It was due to the bullet having somehow missed all of your vital organs and exited clean out the back that all of the doctors and nurses were wagging their tongues over you. You could already see the papers flying off the press with the news of the nation's beloved Popsie getting shot. You had no idea how you were going to cover things up this time. You honestly wished that that bullet hadn't missed its mark. Now you and Arthur were left to clean up the mess and figure out how to hide Beilshmidt and his goons.
Now you sat on the edge of your bed with your hospital-provided nightgown pulled up, staring down at the sutures in your side, trying unsuccessfully to figure out what your next move would be. You replayed the scenes in your head over and over of waking up in the back of Francis's car as it jostled and bumped along to the hospital. Francis himself was at the wheel, and Arthur had had you wrapped tightly in his coat, petting your hair and murmuring, "Hold on. Just hold on..."
Your eyelids fluttered and you roused from unconsciousness enough to register how nauseated you were. The entire time you were awake you were certain you were going to be sick.
"Where...?" You asked weakly.
Arthur brushed your hair back and shushed you, "It's alright. You're going to be alright. Just hang on."
"No...hospital..." you pleaded. If you went to the hospital, everyone would know what had happened, and you'd all be finished. Maybe shipped off to one of those godforsaken death camps, or interrogated and tortured to death by the Gestapo.
Arthur held you tighter, "Just hold on, ______, we're almost there."
"No..." you moaned, "they'll...find...us..."
Arthur looked at you, his eyes hazy and red and conflicted, "_______, I can't let you die."
You absorbed this for a moment and then said, "Then we all die."
It hadn't been long after that that Francis screeched to a halt at the emergency entrance to the hospital and leaped out of the car, running around to open the door for Arthur. Arthur lifted you out of the back seat as though you weighed nothing at all and carried you through the doors. A lot of confusion had followed for you as you slipped in and out of consciousness. Scenes of lying on a table with doctors and nurses all around you with various instruments and pads of gauze to staunch the bleeding. You vaguely remembered waking up once and hearing the surgeon declaring it a miracle that you’d taken such a clean shot.
You only awakened once after that in a private hospital room alone. You weren't sure why you had been placed in a private room instead of a hospital ward, but you could only assume that one or several of the hospital staff had known who you were and had put you here to shield you from the unwanted attention of other patients who might recognize your celebrity status. You weren’t sure where Arthur and Francis had disappeared to, but the thought did cross your mind that they might have dropped you at the hospital and fled to save their own lives. But Arthur had already risked his life for you so many times as it was that you held onto the hope that he might still be near, figuring out some way to get you all out of this situation…
Now, as you sat staring down at the sutures in your side, you pondered what your fate would be. You were certain you would have to leave the country. Even if you could convince the public of your alleged innocence in the whole mess, it was risky. There would be too many suspicious German agents that would attempt to interview, interrogate, and in all likelihood kill you in their efforts to get to people like Arthur and Baba.
It must have been several hours since you were admitted to the hospital at this point, but still, you had seen no sign of Arthur anywhere. A nurse had come in once to check on you, and when you had asked if a tall, fair-haired man had been in to see you, she had been spectacularly unhelpful by insisting that you “rest and not worry about that right now.”
They had given you a blood transfusion after patching you up, but you still felt a bit weak and lightheaded - even a little sick. You started as a new thought suddenly occurred to you: What if the Gestapo already caught Arthur and Francis here at the hospital and carted them away to be interrogated? Or worse, executed? A bead of sweat rolled down the back of your neck. You felt like you were going to be sick. What if they were still alive, right now, and were being tortured for information? Nazis were merciless as it was, but the gestapo…. You remembered once overhearing Baba say he would be killed first before letting himself be taken by the Gestapo.
Your heart began to race and you swayed slightly where you sat, If Arthur and Francis have already been taken, it’s just a matter of time before they come for me…
You looked around the room for your clothes. You had to get out of here right away before anyone could get to you. You had no idea of whether you’d be able to help Arthur or Francis if they were even alive still, but you were no good to anyone dead. You stood and swayed, your head pounding and your side screaming in pain. You had to put your hand on the wall to steady yourself until your head cleared, and then you went straight to the wardrobe in the room in search of your dress.
As soon as you had the first wardrobe door open you remembered that you had been wearing nothing but your knickers and Arthur’s coat when they brought you in. You couldn’t very well wear that out of here. The coat would most likely have been thrown out anyway. The hospital gown would have to do, then. But if you could possibly steal a coat and a pair of slippers from the nurse’s station….That was as far as you could think at the moment. You pulled yourself toward the door.
You’d only moved maybe four steps, however, when there was a knock and the door opened. A nurse stepped in and closed the door behind herself. When she saw you standing she jumped slightly, the tray she carried rattling, “Oh, my! What are you doing out of bed? Sit down, sit down.” The nurse grasped you firmly by the arm and tried to steer you back over to the bed. You attempted to pull away, “No, please, you don’t understand. I must go—”
“You’re not going anywhere just yet. Now sit down, the doctor has ordered this injection for you.”
You noticed for the first time the large syringe on the tray she had brought it, and you thought it a little odd that such a large dose of anything was needed. You looked at the nurse again, and something felt off. She was a bit too eager to stick you with a needle. What’s more, she seemed a little nervous as well. Instantly an alarm went off inside you. Something about this woman wasn’t right, and the more firmly she tugged on your arm, the more uneasy you felt.
“What is it for?”
“It’s to prevent infection.” She had set the tray down on the table beside the bed and was now reaching to grab the syringe from it. She hadn’t even succeeded in making you sit and she was already going for the needle. She also hadn't even disinfected an injection site first. Definitely too eager.
“Could I speak with the doctor, please? I’d like to ask him about the injection first before you give it to me.”
She seemed irritated, “No, no, the doctor is far too busy at the moment, and I have others to tend to this evening. Now please, miss,” she at last succeeded in all but forcing you to sit back down on the edge of your bed, but you weren’t about to let her stick you with anything. She checked over her shoulder nervously and grabbed for your arm, clearly in a hurry now. You wrestled your arm away and insisted firmly, “I’m not taking anything until I can speak with the doctor.”
She could see you meant it and seemed to weigh her options for a moment, her face growing red with frustration. You thought maybe she might leave, then, and a part of you relaxed slightly for half a second. But all at once, she seized the needle and went after your arm with a vengeance. You shifted sideways and dodged her hand just in time. She lunged again and you caught her by the wrists and wrestling with her, grunting in pain as you fought for control. You both might have been evenly matched at one point, but between gunshot, blood loss, and shock, you were weakened.
Using the only defense you knew to use in your current condition, you shifted your weight on the bed and flipped around just as your strength gave out, using the nurse’s force against her and tripping her as she pitched forward to make her land face-first on the bed. Again you both struggled for control, but the new angle gave you the advantage and the syringe was in your hand now. Not knowing what else to do, you plunged the needle straight into the side of her exposed neck and depressed the plunger.
The nurse’s body began convulsing and shuddering grotesquely, and foam bubbled at the corners of her mouth. It only lasted about five seconds, and then her body sagged like a boned fish. You checked for a pulse but found none. She was dead.
Looks like you hadn’t been wrong about them coming for you soon. You tried to figure out how you were going to hide the body and get out of the hospital before they discovered a dead nurse and a missing patient. You panted and turned the nurse’s body over, wondering if maybe you could stuff the body into one of the larger cabinets. And then your earlier attempts to find your clothes in the cabinets hit you and you had an idea.
Working as quickly and silently as possible, you dragged the nurse’s body the rest of the way up onto the bed, and after pulling the syringe out of her neck, you began removing her clothes down to her undergarments. Stripping off your hospital gown, you tossed it onto the nurse’s lifeless body and drew the sheets up to her chin to hide her current condition. You dressed shakily in the nurse’s uniform and then fixed her cap on top of your head. You almost forgot to be sure and close her eyes to give her the appearance of sleeping before turning your back on her, still shaking; side screaming with pain; head still swimming.
You then went to the door and paused, taking a deep breath to compose yourself. And then, as calmly and quickly as possible, you walked out of the room and down the hall.