Main The Book of Lost Names
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One of my favorite reads last year.
31 July 2021 (15:44)
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02 August 2021 (00:43)
Thank you for downloading this Simon & Schuster ebook. Get a FREE ebook when you join our mailing list. Plus, get updates on new releases, deals, recommended reads, and more from Simon & Schuster. Click below to sign up and see terms and conditions. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP Already a subscriber? Provide your email again so we can register this ebook and send you more of what you like to read. You will continue to receive exclusive offers in your inbox. To my Swan Valley sisters—Wendy, Allison, Alyson, Emily, and Linda—who understand, as only writers and readers truly can, that books shape destiny. And to librarians and booksellers everywhere, who ensure that the books with the power to change lives find their way into the hands of the people who need them most. Chapter One May 2005 It’s a Saturday morning, and I’m midway through my shift at the Winter Park Public Library when I see it. The book I last laid eyes on more than six decades ago. The book I believed had vanished forever. The book that meant everything to me. It’s staring out at me from a photograph in the New York Times, which someone has left open on the returns desk. The world goes silent as I reach for the newspaper, my hand trembling nearly as much as it did the last time I held the book. “It can’t be,” I whisper. I gaze at the picture. A man in his seventies looks back at me, his snowy hair sparse and wispy, his eyes froglike behind bulbous glasses. “Sixty Years After End of World War II, German Librarian Seeks to Reunite Looted Books with Rightful Owners,” declares the headline, and I want to cry out to the man in the image that I am the rightful owner of the book he’s holding, the faded leather-bound volume with the peeling bottom right corner and the gilded spine bearing the title Epitres et Evangiles. It belongs to me—and to Rémy, a man who died long ago, a man I vowed after the war to think of no more. But he’s been in my thoughts this week anyhow, despite my best efforts. Tomorrow, the eighth of May, the; world will celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. It’s impossible, with all the young newscasters speaking solemnly of the war as if they could conceivably understand it, not to think of Rémy, not to think of the time we spent together then, not to think of the people we saved and the way it all ended. Though my son tells me I’m blessed to have such a sharp mind in my old age, like many blessings this one is mixed. Most days, I just long to forget. I blink away the uninvited thoughts of Rémy and return my attention to the article. The man in the photo is Otto Kühn, a librarian from the Zentral- und Landesbibliothek in Berlin, who has made it his life’s mission to return books looted by the Nazis. There are apparently more than a million such books in his library’s collection alone, but the one he’s holding in the photo—my book—is the one he says keeps him up at night. “This religious text,” Kühn has told the reporter, “is my favorite among the many mysteries that occupy our shelves. Published in Paris in 1732, it’s a very rare book, but that’s not what makes it extraordinary. It is unique because within it, we find an intriguing puzzle: some sort of code. To whom did it belong? What does the code mean? How did the Germans come to possess it during the war? These are the questions that haunt me.” I feel tears in my eyes, tears that have no place there. I wipe them away, angry at myself for still being so emotional after all these years. “How nice it must be,” I say softly to Kühn’s picture, “to be haunted by questions rather than ghosts.” “Um, Mrs. Abrams? Are you talking to that newspaper?” I’m jolted out of the fog of my memory by the voice of Jenny Fish, the library’s assistant manager. She’s the type who complains about everything—and who seems to enjoy suggesting at every opportunity that since I’m eighty-six, I might want to think about retiring soon. She is always eyeing me suspiciously, as if she simply cannot believe that at my age, I’d still want to work here. She doesn’t understand what it means to love books so passionately that you would die without them, that you would simply stop breathing, stop existing. It is quite beyond me, in fact, why she became a librarian in the first place. “Yes, Jenny, indeed I am,” I reply, without looking up. “Yes, well, you probably shouldn’t be doing that in front of library guests.” She says it without a trace of irony. “They might think you’re senile.” She does not have a sense of humor. “Thank you, Jenny. Your advice is always so very helpful.” She nods solemnly. It is also apparently beyond her comprehension that someone who looks like me—small, white-haired, grandmotherly—is capable of sarcasm. Today, though, I have no time for her. All I can think about is the book. The book that held so many secrets. The book that was taken from me before I could learn whether it contained the one answer I so desperately needed. And now, a mere plane flight away, there’s a man who holds the key to unlocking everything. “Do I dare?” I murmur to the photo of Otto Kühn. I respond to my own question before doubt can creep in. “I must. I owe it to the children.” “Mrs. Abrams?” It’s Jenny again, addressing me by my surname, though I’ve told her a thousand times to call me Eva, just as she addresses the younger librarians by their given names. But alas, I am nothing to her but an old lady. One’s reward for marching through the decades is a gradual process of erasure. “Yes, Jenny?” I finally look up at her. “Do you need to go home?” I suspect she says it with the expectation that I’ll decline. She’s smirking a bit, certain that she has asserted her superiority. “Perhaps gather yourself?” So it gives me great pleasure to look her right in the eye, smile, and say, “Yes, Jenny, thank you ever so much. I think I’ll do just that.” I grab the newspaper and go. * * * As soon as I arrive at my house—a cozy bungalow just a five-minute walk from the library—I log on to my computer. Yes, I have a computer. And yes, I know how to use it. My son, Ben, has a bad habit of pronouncing computer terms slowly in my presence—in-ter-net and e-mail-ing—as if the whole concept of technology might be too much for me. I suppose I can’t blame him, not entirely. By the time Ben was born, the war was eight years past, and I’d left France—and the person I used to be—far behind. Ben knew me only as a librarian and housewife who sometimes stumbled over her English. Somewhere along the way, he got the mistaken idea that I am a simple person. What would he say if he knew the truth? It’s my fault for never telling him, for failing to correct the error. But when you grow comfortable hiding within a protective shell, it’s harder than one might expect to stand up and say, “Actually, folks, this is who I am.” Perhaps I also feared that Ben’s father, my husband, Louis, would leave me if he realized I was something other than the person I wanted him to see. He left me anyhow—pancreatic cancer a decade ago—and though I’ve missed his companionship, I’ve also had the strange realization that I probably could have done without him much sooner. I go to the website for Delta—habit, I suppose, since Louis traveled often for business and was part of the airline’s frequent-flier program. The prices are exorbitant, but I have plenty stashed away in savings. It’s just before noon, and there’s a flight that leaves three hours from now, and another leaving at 9:35 tonight, connecting in Amsterdam tomorrow, and landing in Berlin at 3:40 p.m. I click immediately and book the latter. There is something poetic about knowing I will arrive in Berlin sixty years to the day after the Germans signed an unconditional surrender to the Allies in that very city. A shiver runs through me, and I don’t know whether it’s fear or excitement. I must pack, but before that, I’ll need to call Ben. He won’t understand, but perhaps it’s finally time for him to learn that his mother isn’t the person he always believed her to be. Chapter Two July 1942 The sky above the Sorbonne Library in Paris’s fifth arrondissement was gray and pregnant with rain, the air heavy and thick. Eva Traube stood just outside the main doors, cursing the humidity. She knew, even without consulting a mirror, that her dark, shoulder-length hair had already doubled in volume, making her look like a mushroom. Not that it made a difference; the only thing anyone would notice was the six-pointed yellow star stitched onto the left side of her cardigan. It erased all the other parts of her that mattered—her identity as a daughter, a friend, an Anglophile working toward her doctorate in English literature. To so many in Paris now, she was nothing but a Jew. She shuddered, feeling a sudden chill. The sky appeared foreboding, as if it knew something she didn’t. The shadows cast by the gathering clouds seemed to be the physical embodiment of the darkness that had fallen over the city itself. Courage, her father would say, his French still rough around the edges, with the vestiges of a Polish accent. Cheer up. The Germans can only bother us if we let them. But his optimism was unrealistic. The Germans were perfectly free to bother France’s Jews anytime they wanted to, whether Eva and her parents acquiesced or not. She looked skyward again, considering. She had planned to walk home in order to avoid the Métro and the new regulations—Jews were to ride only in the last, sweltering, airless car—but if the skies opened up, perhaps she’d be better off belowground. “Ah, mon petit rat de bibliothèque.” A deep voice just behind Eva jarred her from her thoughts. She knew who it was before she turned, for there was only one person she knew who used “my little book rat” as a pet name for her. “Bonjour, Joseph,” she said stiffly. She could feel the heat creeping up her cheeks, and she was embarrassed by her attraction to him. Joseph Pelletier was one of the only other students in the English Department who wore the yellow star—though unlike her, he was only half Jewish and nonobservant. He was tall, his shoulders broad, his hair thick and dark, his eyes a pale blue. He looked like a film star, a sentiment she knew was shared by many of the girls in the department—even the Catholic ones, whose parents would never allow their daughters to be courted by a Jew. Not that Joseph seemed the type to court anyone. He was more likely to seduce you in a shadowy corner of the library and leave you swooning. “You look awfully pensive, little one,” he said, smiling at Eva as he kissed her on both cheeks in greeting. His mother had known hers since before she was born, and he had a way of making her feel as if she were still the small child she’d been when she first met him, though she was now twenty-three to his twenty-six. “Just wondering if it will rain,” she replied, inching away from him before he could notice that the physical contact was making her blush. “Eva.” The way he said her name made her heart skip. When she dared look at him again, his eyes were full of something disquieting. “I’ve come looking for you.” “What for?” For a split second, she hoped he would say, To invite you to dinner. But that was perfectly ridiculous. Where would they go, in any case? Everything was closed to people who wore the star. He leaned in. “To warn you. There are rumors that something is brewing. A massive roundup, before Friday.” His breath was warm on her ear. “They have as many as twenty thousand foreign-born Jews on the list.” “Twenty thousand? That’s impossible.” “Impossible? No. My friends have very reliable sources.” “Your friends?” Their eyes locked. She’d heard about the underground, of course, people working to undermine the Nazis here in Paris. Is that what he meant? Who else would know such a thing? “How can you be so sure they’re right?” “How can you be sure they’re not? As a precaution, I think it’s best for you and your parents to go into hiding for the next few days.” “Into hiding?” Her father was a typewriter repairman, her mother a part-time seamstress. They barely had the means to pay for their apartment, let alone a place to lie low. “Perhaps we should check into the Ritz, then?” “It’s not a joke, Eva.” “I dislike the Germans as much as you do, Joseph, but twenty thousand people? No, I don’t believe it.” “Just be careful, little one.” It was at that moment that the sky opened up. Joseph was swept away with the rain, vanishing into the sea of blooming umbrellas on the fountain-flanked sidewalk leading away from the library. Eva swore under her breath. Raindrops pelted the pavement, making it slick as oil in the late afternoon half-light, and as she dashed from the steps toward the rue des Écoles, she was drenched in an instant. She tried to pull her cardigan over her head to shield herself from the downpour, but doing so only meant that her star, as big as the palm of her hand, was now front and center. “Dirty Jew,” a man muttered as he passed, his face hidden by his umbrella. No, Eva wouldn’t be riding the Métro today. She took a deep breath and began to run toward the river, toward the soaring mass of Notre-Dame, toward home. * * * “How was the library today?” Eva’s father sat at the head of their small table while her mother, her hair wrapped in a faded handkerchief, her stout body swathed in a threadbare cotton dress, spooned watery potato soup into his bowl, and then into Eva’s. They had all gotten caught in the rain, and now their sweaters hung drying just inside the open window, the yellow stars facing them like three little soldiers all in a row, silently watching. “It was fine.” Eva waited for her mother to sit before taking a small taste of the bland meal. “I don’t know why you insist on continuing to go,” Eva’s mother said. She paused for a spoonful of soup and wrinkled her nose. “They’ll never allow you to get your degree.” “Things will change, Mamusia. I know they will.” “Your generation and its optimism.” Eva’s mother sighed. “Eva is right, Faiga. The Germans can’t keep up these regulations forever. They make no sense.” Eva’s father smiled a smile they all knew was false. “Thanks, Tatuś.” Eva and her parents still addressed each other with Polish terms of endearment, though Eva, born in Paris, had never set foot in her parents’ native country. “So how was your work today?” Her father looked down at his soup. “Monsieur Goujon does not know how much longer he can continue paying me. We may have to…” His gaze flicked to Mamusia, then to Eva. “We may have to leave Paris. If I lose my job, there’s no other way for me to make a living here.” Eva had known this moment was coming, but still it hit her like a punch to the gut. If they left Paris, she knew she would never return to the Sorbonne, would never complete the degree in English she had worked so hard for. Her father’s employment had been in jeopardy for a long time, since the Germans started to systematically remove Jews from French society. His reputation as the best typewriter and mimeograph repairman in Paris had saved him for the time being, though he was no longer allowed to work inside any government offices. But Monsieur Goujon, his old supervisor, had taken pity on him and was paying him for off-the-books work, most of which he did at home. In fact, there were eleven typewriters in various stages of disassembly currently lined up in the parlor, indicating a long night of work ahead. Eva took a long breath and dug deep for some hope. “Perhaps it would be for the best if we left, Tatuś.” He blinked at her, and her mother went silent. “For the best, słoneczko?” Her father had always called her that, Polish for “little sun,” and she wondered if he saw the bitter irony in it now, as she did. After all, what was the sun but a yellow star? “You see, I ran into Joseph Pelletier today—” “Oh, Joseph!” Her mother cut her off, placing her palms on her own cheeks like a smitten schoolgirl. “Such a handsome boy. Did he finally ask you for a date? I always hoped the two of you might end up together.” “No, Mamusia, nothing like that.” Eva exchanged glances with her father. Fixing Eva up with a suitable young man seemed to occupy an absurd proportion of Mamusia’s thoughts, as if they weren’t in the middle of a war. “Actually, he sought me out to tell me something. He heard a rumor that as many as twenty thousand foreign-born Jews are to be rounded up sometime within the next few days.” Eva’s mother frowned. “That’s ridiculous. What on earth would they do with twenty thousand of us?” “That’s what I said.” Eva glanced at her father, who still hadn’t spoken. “Tatuś?” “It’s certainly a frightening thing to hear,” he said after a long pause, his words slow and measured. “Though Joseph seems the type to embellish.” “Surely not. He’s such a nice young man,” Eva’s mother said instantly. “Faiga, he has made Eva upset, and for what? So that he can puff out his chest and show her that he’s well connected? A decent fellow shouldn’t feel the need to do that.” Tatuś turned back to Eva. “Słoneczko, I don’t want to ignore what Joseph said. And I agree there is something brewing. But I’ve heard at least a dozen rumors this month, and this is the most outrageous. Twenty thousand? It’s not possible.” “Still, Tatuś, what if he’s right?” In response, he rose from the table and returned a few seconds later with a small printed tract. He handed it to Eva, who skimmed it quickly. Take all necessary measures to hide… Fight the police… Seek to flee. “What is this?” she whispered as she handed it to her mother. “It was slipped under our door yesterday,” her father said. “Why didn’t you tell us? It sounds like a warning, just like what Joseph said.” He shook his head slowly. “This isn’t the first one, Eva. The Germans rule with fear as much as they do with their weapons. If we cower every time a false notice goes around, they will have won, won’t they? They will have taken our sense of security, our sense of well-being. I won’t allow that.” “At any rate, we haven’t done anything wrong,” Eva’s mother interjected. “We’re productive citizens.” “I’m not so sure that will matter in the end.” Eva’s father leaned over and patted Eva’s hand, then touched his wife’s cheek. “But we will be all right for now. So let us eat before the soup grows cold.” Eva had already lost her appetite, though, and as she pushed potatoes around in her bowl, her stomach twisted with a sense of foreboding that her father’s words couldn’t banish. Later that night, after Mamusia had gone to sleep, Tatuś found Eva in the small library off the parlor, shelves piled high with all the books the two of them treasured so much. He had taught her to love reading, one of the greatest gifts a parent could give a child, and in doing so, he had opened the world to her. Most evenings, she and her father read here in companionable silence, but for now, Eva was too distracted. Instead, she sat on the couch, doodling in a notebook, a nervous habit that dated back to her childhood, when sketching the people and things around her had made her feel more at ease. “Słoneczko,” he said softly. She looked up, her pencil pausing over a detailed drawing of the modest chandelier overhead. “I thought you were in bed, Tatuś.” “I couldn’t sleep.” He came to sit beside her. “There’s something I need to tell you. If the Germans come for your mother and me, I want you to go see Monsieur Goujon immediately.” Eva stared at him. “You said you didn’t believe Joseph.” “I don’t. But terrible things are happening here all the time. I would be a fool to pretend they can’t happen to us. But you, słoneczko, you should be safe. You are French. If we are taken, you need to flee before things get worse.” “Tatuś—” “Get yourself to the free zone—and if possible, on to safety in Switzerland. Wait there for the war to end. We will come back for you.” She felt suddenly numb with grief. The free zone? The border lay many kilometers south of Paris, slicing off the half of the country the Nazis had agreed to leave to the French. Switzerland felt worlds away. “Why can’t we all leave together? Now?” “Because we would be too conspicuous, Eva. I just want you to be ready for the day you might have to go. You’ll need documents that don’t identify you as a Jew. Monsieur Goujon will help you.” She felt as if the breath had been knocked out of her. “You’ve already spoken with him?” “Yes, and I’ve paid him, Eva. Everything I had in savings. He gave me his word. He has access to everything needed to make you a set of false papers. It will be enough to get you out of Paris.” She blinked back tears. “I won’t go without you, Tatuś.” He reached for her hands. “You must, Eva! Promise me you will, if it comes to that.” “But—” “I need you to give me your word. I cannot survive if I don’t believe you are doing all you can to do the same.” She looked into his eyes. “I promise. But, Tatuś, we still have time, don’t we? Time to find another plan that allows us to leave for the free zone together?” “Of course, słoneczko. Of course.” But his gaze slipped away. By the time he looked back, the despair in his eyes was deep, dark, and Eva knew he didn’t believe his own words. * * * It was just past four in the morning two nights later when the first knock came. Eva had been sleeping fitfully, dreaming of fierce dragons encircling a castle, and as she lurched to the surface of consciousness, her chest seized with fear. Joseph was right. They’re here. She could hear her father moving through the apartment, his footsteps slow and steady. “Tatuś!” she called out as she grabbed her robe and jammed her feet into the worn leather boots she had placed beside her bed for the past year in case she needed to flee. What else would she need if the Germans had come for them? Should she pack a bag? Would there be time? Why hadn’t she listened to Joseph? “Tatuś, please!” she cried as her father’s footsteps stopped. She wanted to tell him to wait, to stop time, to freeze for one last moment in the before, but she couldn’t find the words, so instead, she lurched out of her bedroom into the parlor. She arrived just in time to see him open the door. She clutched her robe around her, waiting for the barked order from the Germans who were surely on the other side of the threshold. But instead, she heard a female voice, and could see her father’s face soften slightly as he stepped back. A second later, Madame Fontain, their neighbor from the end of the hall, followed him into the apartment, her face pinched. “Tatuś?” Eva asked, and he turned. “It’s not the Germans?” “No, słoneczko.” The lines on his face hadn’t fully relaxed, and Eva knew he’d been as afraid as she’d been. “Madame Fontain’s mother has fallen ill. She was wondering if you or your mother would come sit with her daughters while she takes her to Docteur Patenaude’s apartment.” “Simone and Colette are still sleeping, so they shouldn’t be any trouble,” Madame Fontain said, not making eye contact. “They’re only two and four.” “Yes, I know how old they are,” Eva said stiffly. Just the day before, Eva had happened upon the girls in the courtyard. She had bent to say hello, and the older one, Colette, had begun to cheerfully chatter about butterflies and apples, when suddenly, Madame Fontain had appeared out of nowhere and hastily pulled both girls away. As they’d disappeared around the corner, Eva had overheard her scolding them about the danger of socializing with a Jew. “I tried other apartments but no one else would answer the door. Please. I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t necessary.” “Of course we will watch your daughters.” Eva’s mother had emerged from her bedroom, her nightgown already replaced by a simple cotton dress and cardigan. “That’s what neighbors do. Eva will come with me. Won’t you, dear?” “Yes, Mamusia, of course.” The girls’ father was gone to the front, possibly dead, and they had no one else. “Eva, get dressed, quickly.” Eva’s mother turned back to Madame Fontain. “Go. Don’t worry. Your girls will be fine.” “Thank you,” Madame Fontain said, but still, she wouldn’t meet their gazes. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.” She pressed a key into Mamusia’s hand and was gone before they could say another word. Eva quickly threw on the dress she had worn yesterday and smoothed her hair before rejoining her parents in the parlor. “You do know Madame Fontain’s feelings about Jews, don’t you?” Eva couldn’t resist asking. “Half of Paris feels the same,” her mother said wearily. “But if we shrink from them, if we lose our goodness, we let them erase us. We cannot do that, Eva. We cannot.” “I know.” She sighed and kissed her father goodbye. “Go back to bed, Tatuś. Mamusia and I will be fine.” “Good girl,” he said, kissing her cheek. “Look out for your mother.” He kissed Mamusia gently, and as they stepped out into the hall, he closed the door. It latched with a gentle click behind them. Two hours later, with Colette and Simone still asleep in their beds and Mamusia snoring lightly beside her on the sofa in Madame Fontain’s apartment, Eva had just dozed off when a banging in the hall startled her awake. The faint light of early dawn was filtering through the edges of the blackout curtains. Perhaps Madame Fontain and her mother had returned. Eva rose from the sofa, careful not to disturb Mamusia. She crept to the door and put her eye to the peephole, expecting to see Madame Fontain fumbling with her keys. What she saw instead made her gasp and draw back in horror. Trembling, she forced herself to look again. In the hall, three French policemen stood in front of Eva’s own apartment a few doors down. The same banging sound that had awoken her came again; it was a uniformed officer pounding on her door. No, Tatuś, Eva screamed silently. Don’t answer! But the door to the apartment swung open, and her father stepped out, dressed in his best suit, his yellow star affixed perfectly to the left side. One of the policemen, the one holding a neat sheaf of papers, said something to him, but Eva couldn’t quite make it out. Biting her lip so hard she could taste blood, she pressed her ear to the door. “Where is your wife?” Eva could hear a deep voice asking. Another officer shoved his way inside the apartment, pushing Tatuś aside. “My wife?” Tatuś sounded strangely calm. “Faiga Traube, age forty-eight, born 1894 in Kraków, Poland.” The man’s voice was taut with impatience. “Yes, of course. Well, she’s out caring for the children of a sick friend.” “Where? What is the address?” “I’m afraid I don’t know.” “Well, when will she be back?” “I’m not certain of that, either.” Eva could hear the policemen mumbling to each other. The officer who’d gone into the apartment emerged and shook his head. “And your daughter?” The first officer spoke again, his tone angrier. “Eva Traube? Age twenty-three?” “She’s with her mother.” Her father’s tone was suddenly icy. “But she was born here in France. You have no need to bother her.” “She is on our list.” “Your list is wrong.” “We are never wrong.” “You think there is anything about this that is right?” her father retorted, his voice finally rising, and Eva heard a muffled thud and a sharp intake of breath. She dared look through the peephole again and saw her father clutching his nose. One of the policemen had struck him. Eva clenched her fists, her eyes prickling with tears, as she pressed her ear back against the door. “Enough of your insolence. You will come with us now,” the man said. “Or if you prefer, we will be happy to shoot you right here. One less Jew for the trains, no matter to me.” Eva stifled a gasp. “Let me just pack a bag,” her father said. “Oh, we’ll come back for your valuables, don’t worry.” When Tatuś didn’t reply, Eva looked back through the peephole just in time to see her father pulling their door closed behind him. He glanced once over his shoulder, in the direction of the Fontains’ apartment. Did he know she was watching? That she had heard everything? But it didn’t matter. Tatuś was gone before she could blink, and a minute later, the front door of the building closed with a loud thump of finality. Eva raced to the window, pushed the blackout curtains aside, and stared down at the street, which was clogged with dark police trucks and a swarm of uniforms leading men, women, and children—some of them looking bewildered, some angry, and some crying—away from their homes. Eva recognized the Bibrowskas—the mother, Ana, the father, Max, and the children, Henri and Aline, who were just toddlers—and the Krosbergs, the elderly couple across the way who always waved to her as she left for the university in the mornings. Eva watched, her hand to her mouth to muffle her sobs, as her father was shoved toward a truck. A hand came from the back and pulled him in. Just before he disappeared, he glanced up toward the building, and Eva pressed her palm against the cool glass. He nodded, and Eva was sure he had seen her, sure he knew that her silent wave was a promise that she would look out for Mamusia until he returned. “Eva?” Her mother’s voice sounded thick and groggy behind her in the darkened room. “What on earth are you doing?” Eva watched the vehicles pull away before turning to her mother. “Tatuś is gone,” she whispered. “The police…” She couldn’t finish her sentence. “What?” Her mother leaped from the couch and lurched toward the door. “Where? We have to go after him! Why didn’t you wake me, Eva?” Her words were choked as she clawed in vain at the locks. But her hands were shaking, and Eva was there to catch her when she collapsed to the floor, sobs racking her body. “Why, Eva? Why didn’t you stop them? What have you done?” Eva felt a surge of guilt. “Mamusia,” she said gently as her mother wailed in her arms. “They were also here for you. And me.” Mamusia sniffled. “That’s impossible. You are French.” “I am a Jew. That is all they see.” Just then, a sharp cry came from the girls’ bedroom. “Maman? Where are you, Maman?” It was the older daughter, Colette, her voice high and scared. Mamusia looked up at Eva in anguish. “We have to go after your father,” she whispered. She grabbed Eva’s hands, her grip like a vise. “We have to save him.” “Not yet,” Eva said firmly as Colette cried out for her mother again. “First, we must figure out how to save ourselves.” Chapter Three Dawn broke an hour later, and with it, silent chaos. The street below the Fontains’ window filled with people, but there was hardly a sound. Neighbors clustered together, whispering, none of them wearing the yellow star. The Jews of the Marais district had vanished last night. “We must go look for your father,” Eva’s mother said, hugging herself as she rocked back and forth on the Fontains’ sofa. The two little girls, still in their nightgowns, sat on the floor, staring at her with wide eyes. Eva finally took a deep breath, turned from the window, and crossed the room to kneel between them. She put one arm around Colette, the other around Simone. “We’re not going anywhere,” she said with forced cheer, squeezing the girls’ shoulders. “Not until Madame Fontain returns.” “When is Maman coming back?” Colette whimpered. It was clear that she could read the fear in the room, though she couldn’t understand it. “Soon, my dear.” Eva forced a smile. “There’s no need to worry.” “Then why is Madame Traube so afraid?” Eva glanced at her mother, who was pale as an unbaked baguette. “She’s not,” she said in a tone firm enough to get her mother’s attention. Mamusia looked up, her gaze unfocused, as Eva added, “She’s simply not feeling very well. Are you, Mamusia?” Her mother still didn’t respond. Colette searched Eva’s eyes for a minute, and then her face relaxed. “Shall I get her something to help her to feel better?” “I think that’s a wonderful idea, Colette. Why don’t you take Simone with you?” Colette nodded solemnly before grabbing her sister’s hand and leading her toward their shared bedroom. Eva turned to her mother as soon as the girls had disappeared. “You need to pull yourself together.” “But your father…” “Is gone,” Eva said firmly, though she couldn’t keep the tremor out of her voice. Fear always found its way in through the cracks. “We will come up with a plan to secure his release. I promise. We can’t do anything if we’re arrested, too, though.” “But—” “Please. I just need to figure out how—” “Madame Traube?” Colette’s voice interrupted their hushed conversation, and they turned to see the four-year-old standing in the doorway, wearing a paper crown and clutching a little metal tiara in her hand. She held the tiara up. “When I’m feeling blue, sometimes I like to play dress-up. If you want, you can be the princess and I can be the queen.” “Dress-up?” Mamusia looked dazed. “It’s a game where you pretend to be someone you’re not.” Colette frowned. “Don’t you know what dress-up is, Madame Traube?” Mamusia didn’t answer, but Eva felt as if a lightbulb had gone on in her head. “Yes, of course,” she murmured, her heartbeat suddenly accelerating. She thought of her father’s words about Monsieur Goujon. If her father’s boss had been paid to help her, surely he could do something for Mamusia, too. She and Mamusia would just have to become different people, on paper at least—a dress-up game with the highest stakes. “Mademoiselle Traube? Do you want to play, too?” Eva knelt beside the little girl. “No, Colette, but you’ve just given me a wonderful idea. Look out for Madame Traube, will you?” She turned her attention to her mother and added, “If Madame Fontain returns, Mamusia, you stay right here in her apartment, no matter what she says. I’ll come back as soon as I can.” “But where are you going?” “To see someone who will help us.” * * * In her own apartment, Eva groped her way through the darkness, thankful for the bit of daylight filtering in through the shades, enough that she could see the outlines of their furniture. She knew the rooms well enough that she could probably find her way in pitch blackness under normal circumstances, but her head was spinning, and she didn’t trust herself. Nor did she trust that her neighbors wouldn’t betray her if they heard her moving around inside rooms that were meant to be empty. Had one of them reported on her family? It made some sense that the names of her parents, both of whom had emigrated from Poland in their early twenties, would be among those to be taken away to labor camps; Joseph’s dire warning had been about foreign-born Jews. But who had added her name to the list? Someone who wanted her gone, too, so her family’s apartment would become available? The Traubes had lived here for more than twenty years, and there was no denying that theirs was one of the nicest units in the building, twice the size of most of the other apartments. Could jealousy and greed have turned a neighbor into a traitor? Eva pushed the dark thought away. There wasn’t time to be consumed by anger. No, her only job now was to get her mother safely out of Paris. After the roundups, they couldn’t walk around with the yellow stars on their chests, of course, but simply discarding them would be even more dangerous. The second they ventured out, they would be at risk of encountering a French policeman or a German soldier, and if asked for their papers, they would be immediately arrested for the crime of leaving their stars at home. No, they had to become other people entirely, and the key to that lay in the typewriters that sat, silent and hulking, in their living room. She would bring one back to Monsieur Goujon, using it as her ticket into the prefecture. Tatuś had said that his old boss had promised to make false documents for her; she would need to persuade him to do the same for Mamusia. It was their only hope. Eva moved silently into her parents’ bedroom, where she pulled out three of her mother’s best dresses, several blouses and skirts, an extra pair of shoes, and a heavy coat, though the July day was sweltering. But who knew how long they’d be gone? She placed all the items carefully into the family’s beat-up leather suitcase. In her own bedroom, she added three dresses, a pair of trousers, a skirt, a few blouses, a coat, and a pair of boots to the suitcase, then picked up her carte d’identité, stamped with the word JUIVE in bold capital letters. Her mother’s card was even worse, for it immediately marked her as a foreign-born Jew, prohibited from travel. She zipped up the suitcase and moved back into the living room, where she folded one of the typewriters into the carrying case, her identity card and her mother’s tucked beneath it. Perhaps Monsieur Goujon would need them to help craft their false documents. As soon as she’d closed her apartment door behind her, leaving the filled suitcase behind for the time being, she took off briskly for the stairs, grasping the handle of the typewriter case with white knuckles and keeping her head down. Venturing out without her star was a risk, but she was banking on the fact that the police were too busy arresting other Jews to pay her much mind, especially if she looked confident about where she was going. After all, why would a Jew be fleeing straight into the heart of Paris with a typewriter and a smile? * * * It took Eva twenty minutes to walk as casually as she could to the soaring préfecture de police, the city’s police and administrative headquarters, situated just across the Seine on the Île de la Cité. It was where her father had worked before the first anti-Jewish statutes had come down, and it was surely where last night’s raids had been orchestrated. She was walking into the belly of the beast, but there was no other way. Holding her head high, she glanced back at the soaring twin towers of Notre-Dame, which loomed just behind her. As she opened the door to the prefecture confidently and strode inside, she wondered how the police commanders who worked here every day, the ones who were carting Jews off like yesterday’s trash, could do such evil things in the shadow of God’s house. “Mademoiselle?” A voice to her left startled her as the door slammed closed. She turned and swallowed hard when she realized it was a German soldier standing there, staring at her. “Oui, monsieur?” She was trembling, sweating. But he merely looked exhausted, not suspicious. “Where are you going?” he asked, his German accent thick. As she hesitated, he looked her up and down, his eyes lingering on the swell of her breasts beneath her dress. By the time his gaze returned to her face, she knew how to play this. With a deep breath, she flashed him her most flirtatious smile, batting her eyelashes. “I hadn’t realized how handsome those uniforms are up close, all those perfect creases.” His face turned red as she added quickly, “You see, I am delivering this typewriter on my father’s behalf. He repairs them, but he is ill, and I’m told it’s needed today.” She held her breath as the German, who couldn’t have been more than eighteen or nineteen, studied her. If he asked for her identity papers or searched the typewriter case, she was done for. “Who are you going to see?” “Monsieur Goujon, second floor.” “You know where his office is?” “Oh yes, I’ve been here many times before.” It was true. When she was a young teenager, long before the Germans had come, Eva had loved accompanying her father to work when classes were out. All the stamps and pens and machines fascinated her, and Monsieur Goujon had often given her a stack of paper and a pencil to occupy her while her father fiddled with the typewriters. She had loved sketching and had become good at it, good enough that Monsieur Goujon told her father that she should think of pursuing a career in art. But drawing was never her passion the way words were, and she told her father that just because one was good at something did not mean that one had to spend a lifetime doing it. Her father had chuckled and told her to count herself lucky that she had such a talent. One day, he said, you will appreciate God’s gifts. “Go ahead, then,” the young German said, his shoulders sagging again with fatigue. Eva was already moving toward the stairs. “Merci!” she called over her shoulder. Her heart was still thudding after she’d scaled the second flight and opened the door to Monsieur Goujon’s office without knocking. He was alone behind his desk and he looked up, his eyes round and surprised beneath bushy gray eyebrows, as she pulled the door quickly closed behind her. “Eva Traube?” he asked, blinking at her as if certain he was seeing things. His hair had grown much whiter since she’d last seen him, and he looked a decade older than her father did, though she knew they were roughly the same age. The circles under his eyes were pronounced, and his jowls sagged as if they hadn’t the energy to keep up with the rest of his face. “Why, I haven’t seen you in years.” “Monsieur Goujon, forgive the intrusion.” He stood and embraced her. “I heard about the roundups, and I thought perhaps—” “My father was arrested,” she said firmly, cutting him off. “My mother and I were on their list, too, but we were fortunate enough to be out of the apartment.” The color drained from Monsieur Goujon’s face and he took a step back. “Oh dear.” “We haven’t much time, monsieur. Please, I need your help. My father told me he had spoken with you, arranged things. He said you would make me false papers. My mother and I need to leave Paris as soon as possible.” Monsieur Goujon’s eyes went first to the typewriter case in Eva’s hands and then to the door behind her. Finally, his gaze settled back on her, his lips drawn tightly together. “But what can I do? I promised him only that I would help you, not your mother.” “I can’t leave her behind. I won’t.” “She has an accent, Eva, and frankly, she looks like a Jew. It would be too risky. She’ll surely be caught. And then if she reports me…” “Surely you’re not refusing to help us.” Eva’s panic began to harden into anger. “My father worked for you for many years, yes? He was reliable, kind.” Monsieur Goujon’s forehead creased, and for a second or two he looked as if he might cry. “Eva, I want to help you, but if I were to be caught forging documents, especially for a Polish-born Jew…” “You would be arrested, maybe executed. I know.” Eva took a step closer and lowered her voice. “Monsieur Goujon, I know what I am asking you. But the only chance we have is escaping to the free zone, and then I can figure out a way to come back for my father.” “I—I cannot do what you’re asking.” He looked away. “I have a wife and child to think about, and—” “My father trusted you. He paid you the last of what he had.” He took a deep breath, but he didn’t say anything. “Please, monsieur.” She waited until he looked at her again. “I’m begging you.” Finally, he sighed. “I will give you some blank identification cards, Eva, some blank travel permits. This is all I can do. You were always a good artist, I remember that.” “You—you want me to do the forgeries?” The spaces for personal details—name, place of birth, date of birth—would be easy enough to fill in, but how would she fake the rest? “But you promised my father, Monsieur Goujon!” He ignored her protests, continuing in a voice that was barely audible. “I will try to find you some art pens in the colors of the stamps. There should be some in our supply cupboard. But you can’t stay here. And if anyone finds out what you’ve done, I will deny any knowledge. I will say you stole the documents.” “But—” Eva began as he brushed past her, out the door of his office. She stood there, breathing hard, considering her options. Should she insist, beg for his help? She had never attempted anything like what he was suggesting. He reappeared after a few minutes and held up a small envelope. “Here. It should be all you need. Use your real documents as a guide, and see if you can cut up some old photographs to serve as pictures for your identity cards; your current ones are probably stamped indelibly in red. I also included a canceled travel permit so you can see how they’re meant to look. You and your mother will each need one to cross to the free zone. I added a blank naturalization certificate for your mother, too, to explain her accent, as well as a blank birth certificate for you. They should be easy enough to fill out.” “But I don’t know how—” “Tuck this underneath the typewriter,” he continued, rolling over her objections as he grabbed the typewriter case from her and opened it on his desk. He carefully lifted the machine from its case, slid the envelope in, added a stapler, and tucked the typewriter on top, closing the latch again. He handed it to her. “Walk out like you know what you’re doing. They won’t stop you, and if they do, simply act offended. Most of the soldiers here are young boys simply pretending to be tough.” She tightened her grip on the handle with her right hand. “Monsieur Goujon, I am not a forger! This is all impossible.” “It is all I can do. What is it your father used to tell you? That God gave you the gift of artistic skills? Well, now is your chance to use that gift.” Her head was spinning with a thousand questions, but the one that finally escaped her lips was, “But… where will we go?” He stared at her for what felt like a long time. “I have heard from my wife’s cousin of a town called Aurignon, some eighty kilometers south of Vichy.” His words fell swiftly. “I have heard that they are sheltering children there, helping them to get to Switzerland. Perhaps they would do the same for you and your mother.” “Aurignon?” She had never heard of it. “And it’s near Vichy?” The spa town had become synonymous with the puppet government of Prime Minister Philippe Pétain; surely it was crawling with Nazis. “Aurignon is a tiny town, tucked into the hills at the foot of some old volcanoes, nothing strategic about it. No reason the Germans would have any interest in it, which makes it a perfect place to hide. Now go, Eva, and don’t look back. Godspeed. I have done all I can do.” He turned around so quickly that she wondered if she had imagined the conversation. “Merci, Monsieur Goujon.” Ducking her head, she left his office and strode confidently down the stairs, every muscle in her body tense, a smile frozen on her face. The young German officer was still there at the bottom, and his eyes narrowed slightly as she passed. “I thought you were dropping that typewriter off,” he said, stepping in front of her. “This is a different one that needs repair,” she said without missing a beat. She batted her eyes again. “I really must go.” “Why are you in such a hurry?” His eyes were on her breasts again, shamelessly, like she was something he could have, something he had the right to possess. She forced herself to remain calm and to widen her smile. “Lots of work to do, you see. The prefecture is busy with all the arrests of last night, I imagine.” The German nodded, but he was still frowning. “They deserved it, you know.” She felt suddenly ill. “Pardon?” “The Jews. I know the arrests seemed cruel, but those people are a menace.” “Well,” Eva said, already walking away, “I, for one, am hopeful that all the vermin who pollute our grand city will get what they deserve one day soon.” The German nodded enthusiastically. “Exactly right, mademoiselle. Listen, if you’re ever interested, there’s a group of us who meet most days at five o’clock at a café in the Latin Quarter called Le Petit Pont. I could buy you a drink…” “What a grand invitation. Perhaps I’ll join you.” He beamed at her. “That would be terrific.” She waved goodbye, her smile genuine, for she knew that with any luck, she and her mother would already be on a train bound for the south by the time the German sat down for his first beer. Chapter Four Twenty minutes later, Eva let herself into her family’s apartment again. She would need to move quickly, before a neighbor came scavenging. On the dresser sat a framed formal photograph of her parents on their twenty-fifth anniversary three years earlier, one of her father holding two typewriter cases and beaming, and another of her mother in Cabourg on holiday in the late thirties. There was also one of Eva on the same Côte Fleurie vacation, and one taken after she graduated le lycée four years earlier. She grabbed them all and removed them from their frames. She found a pair of scissors in the parlor, beside one of the typewriters, and quickly carried it into the kitchen. Using the existing picture on her mother’s identity card to measure the correct size, she carefully cut her mother’s face and shoulders from the anniversary photograph, and then did the same with the images of herself, her mother, and her father from the other photographs, too. Eva stuffed the identity cards and the six makeshift identity photos into the typewriter case and closed it again. She took one last look at the wooden shelves that lined the walls, stacked from floor to ceiling with beautiful books, their pages full of knowledge she had eagerly absorbed over the years. Most of them had belonged to her father before her: texts on typewriter repair techniques, reference books about medicine, the solar system, chemistry, even a first edition of the English-language The Adventures of Tom Sawyer—one of the first novels written on a typewriter, and one of her father’s most prized possessions. She had devoured them all and saved up her own money to buy more. They had been her escape, her refuge, and now they would be all that was left of her in an apartment she might never return to. “Goodbye,” she whispered, wiping away a tear. Then, with a final glance back at the only home she’d ever known, she left, grabbing the packed suitcase and the typewriter in its case before locking the door behind her. When Eva knocked on the Fontains’ door seconds later, it was Colette who answered, her eyes wide. “Where is my maman?” she asked. “She hasn’t come back yet, and you said she would, Mademoiselle Traube.” “And she will, Colette,” Eva said firmly as she stepped past the child and closed the door behind them. “Don’t worry.” After all, Madame Fontain was as Christian as they came. If an officer tried to sweep her up with the Jews, no doubt she would pray so loudly and indignantly for his soul that he’d be convinced of her allegiance to Jesus even before she produced her papers. The problem was that Eva couldn’t in good conscience leave the girls alone. She and her mother would have to wait to flee until Madame Fontain returned. Mamusia was exactly where Eva had left her two hours earlier, curled up on the sofa, staring blankly into space. “Mamusia?” Eva said, crossing to her mother and placing a hand on her shoulder. She was trembling. “Are you all right?” “She still doesn’t want to play dress-up,” Colette reported when Mamusia didn’t answer. “You know, Colette, I think she might be feeling rather ill. Dear, would you and your sister put away your dress-up things before your mother returns? You wouldn’t want her getting upset.” “Yes, mademoiselle.” Colette scooped up the ribbons and dresses she had strewn about and beckoned to her sister. The two of them scampered away. Eva bent quickly beside her mother. “I have a plan, Mamusia, but you need to snap out of it. We need to get out of Paris as soon as possible. You must keep the girls occupied while I get to work. And if Madame Fontain returns, distract her while I finish.” Mamusia blinked at Eva a few times. “What is it you’re doing?” Eva leaned in. “I’m making us false papers.” “Forgery? You don’t know how to do such things!” Eva swallowed hard and tried to muster confidence she didn’t feel. “I will learn. But there’s not much time, so I need you to listen. You will be Sabine Fontain.” Mamusia gasped. “You are giving me Madame Fontain’s name?” Eva had been thinking about it since leaving Monsieur Goujon’s office. They would need names of real people, just in case they were detained and an official decided to check their identification cards against records. “I think it’s safer that way,” Eva said. “The name Sabine could be Russian, too, and I think that’s important. It would explain your accent. If anyone asks, you emigrated from Russia after the revolution in 1917. Of course, you married Madame Fontain’s real husband, Jean-Louis Fontain, a French patriot missing in action at the front.” Her mother blinked at her. “What about you?” “I’ll be Colette Fontain.” “But the real Colette is just a child.” “By the time anyone thinks to verify a birth year, we’ll be long gone.” “But how will you make these papers?” Mamusia persisted. Eva briefly explained her visit to Monsieur Goujon and the blank documents and supplies he had given her. “I’ll do the best I can,” she concluded. “There’s no way this will work,” Mamusia said. “It has to, Mamusia.” In the kitchen, Eva opened the typewriter case, lifted the machine, and pulled Monsieur Goujon’s envelope from beneaththe keys. Inside, there were three blank identity cards, three blank travel documents, a blank naturalization certificate and birth certificate, and four pens, in navy, bright blue, red, and black. The envelope gave up perhaps its greatest prize last: adhesive stamps with images of coins on them, the only part of the documents that would have been impossible to forge with limited supplies. There was no way she could have purchased stamps at a tabac today without arousing suspicion. She closed her eyes, whispered a thank-you to Monsieur Goujon, who had come through in at least a small way for her, and spread all the materials on the table in front of her alongside the real identity cards belonging to her and her mother. She took a deep breath. She could hear her father’s voice in her head. One day, you will appreciate God’s gifts. She began with her mother’s identity card. First, Eva had to convincingly forge the handwriting of a busy but efficient clerk at the prefecture. She carefully examined her mother’s real card, reminded herself that her own flowing, meticulous script had no place here, and dove in. With the black pen Monsieur Goujon had given her, she filled in the blanks in short, neat block letters. Nom: Fontain née Petrov. Prénoms: Sabine Irina. Née le: 7 août 1894. à: Moscou. She continued, filling in her mother’s real hair color, eye color, height, and more. She gritted her teeth at the blank for Nez, nose, which was included to help authorities pick out Jews. She wrote moyen, medium, and moved on, penning a false address and a false registration number and finishing with the grand and sweeping signature of someone who spent the day putting his name to other people’s lives. She sat back for a second and studied her work. The handwriting looked very much like the one on her mother’s original documents, certainly official enough to convince a stranger. Eva pulled the photograph she’d cut earlier from her parents’ anniversary frame and placed it in its spot on the card. Carefully, using the stapler Monsieur Goujon had added to the typewriter case, she attached the picture and sat back to make sure the document looked authentic. It wasn’t perfect, but it would do. She affixed her own photo to a second identity card, added the adhesive stamps to both cards, and quickly filled in the blanks for the false Colette Fontain, born 1920 in Paris, with brown hair, brown eyes, and of course a medium nose. By the time she was done forging the signature of an imaginary clerk, the ink was dry enough to begin forging the documents’ official stamps, the part of the process Eva was most worried about, for it required a sure but light hand and left no room for error. The marks couldn’t look hand drawn, and they had to exactly match the mass-produced ones the French police and German soldiers would have seen thousands of times. She began with her own identity card, figuring that if she made a mistake, she might be less suspicious than her foreign-born mother. The stamp on her real document was patchy and uneven, evidence that the ink pad had been running dry. There was no way to fake that kind of fading, Eva thought, but if she could mimic the exact lines of the stamp, it should appear real, if slightly too bright. She started with carefully drawing perfect blue circles on both the top and bottom of her card, making sure that the higher one slightly overlapped her photo, and then she carefully filled in the logo of the Police Nationale. The hardest part of the stamp was the lettering, but Eva steadied herself and carefully wrote out the characters, allowing herself a few seconds to admire her handiwork when she finished. She duplicated the stamps on her mother’s card, and then used the darker blue pen to forge a date stamp. On both identity cards, she blotted the ink with one of Madame Fontain’s hand towels, sighing in relief as the sharp lines softened and smudged just a bit, as if they’d been placed there with real rubber stamps. By the time she sat back to gaze at the cards, she was breathing hard, but the terror that had been a weight in her chest since she’d watched her father being hauled away had been squeezed aside by something buoyant, something that felt like a tiny bubble of hope. She had done it. The job wasn’t perfect, but the cards might just pass muster if they weren’t examined too closely. The travel documents were easier; all Eva had to do was fill in the blanks—name, date and place of birth, profession, address, nationality, etc.—using the typewriter, so she quickly set that up and went to work. The only piece of art necessary on the documents was a forgery of the black stamp of the Reichsadler, the heraldic Nazi eagle. Eva carefully copied the spread-winged bird sitting atop a swastika, as well as the German lettering that arced across the top of the round image. Over the eagle’s body, she carefully handwrote the words Dientstempel: Cachet in what she hoped looked like stamped letters. For Lieu de Destination—place of destination—she hesitated and then wrote down the name of the town Monsieur Goujon had mentioned: Aurignon. My God, she wouldn’t be able to find it on a map if asked; she knew nothing about the place. But she silenced her doubts and reminded herself that Monsieur Goujon wouldn’t have risked helping her with the cards only to steer her wrong at the end. The naturalization and birth certificates were the easiest of all; she simply had to vary her handwriting, making her script tall and narrow, and fill in the blanks with false details. The required stamps, one in blue and one in black, felt like child’s play after the more complicated ones she’d drawn on the other documents. She was done in no time. She was just about to start on her father’s false documents—which she had saved for last in case she ran out of time—when she heard a key scratching in the front door’s lock. She leapt up, stuffing all the supplies and false cards down her shirt and staining herself with blue ink in the process. “Girls?” Madame Fontain’s voice piped in from the entryway as the door closed. “Maman!” Colette and Simone raced down the hall and threw themselves into their mother’s open arms just as Eva entered the parlor. Madame Fontain squinted at Eva and didn’t take her eyes off her as she knelt and hugged the girls. “You’re still here, Mademoiselle Traube?” she asked when she finally straightened, emptying the girls from her spacious lap. “Yes, of course,” Eva replied. But instead of thanking her, Madame Fontain frowned. “And your mother?” “I’m here, too.” Mamusia emerged from down the hall, her eyes still glassy and dazed. Two strips of her hair hung in flat plaits, where the girls had apparently been braiding it. “Is your mother all right, Madame Fontain?” Madame Fontain sniffed. “My mother is none of your concern. And I’ll thank you to leave my apartment immediately.” Mamusia blinked a few times. “I was simply being kind.” “I don’t need the kindness of a Jew.” Simone was dancing around in a circle, babbling to herself, but Colette watched wide-eyed, following the exchange like she was watching a match at the Stade Roland Garros. “You didn’t have any qualms about asking for our kindness last night,” Mamusia said, her voice sharp. The blank stare was gone from her eyes, replaced with pure ice. “Yes, well, now you’ve put me in the position of harboring fugitives.” Madame Fontain sniffed. Mamusia opened her mouth to reply, but Eva swiftly crossed to her side and put a firm hand on her arm. “We were just going, weren’t we, Mamusia?” “How could she act as if we’re unwelcome here after we’ve done her a kindness?” Mamusia cried. “After we watched the police haul your father away?” “Well, they got one of you, at least.” Madame Fontain waved dismissively. “How dare you—” Mamusia began, but Eva was already dragging her toward the door. “Madame Traube? Mademoiselle Traube?” Colette asked, her voice tiny. “You’re leaving?” “I’m afraid we must, dear.” Eva glared at Madame Fontain. “It seems we have overstayed our welcome.” “Won’t you come back and play another time?” asked the girl as Eva moved past her, still pulling her mother. She grabbed the suitcase, leaving the typewriter behind. It was too unwieldy to bring along, and too conspicuous. “Oh, I think not,” Madame Fontain answered, giving Eva a smug smile. “In fact, it looks as if the Traubes are leaving forever.” And then the door closed behind them, leaving Eva, her mother, and all their worldly possessions alone in the cold, dark hallway. “What do we do now?” Mamusia asked. “We go to the train station.” “But—” “Our documents aren’t perfect, but they should at least get us out of Paris, God willing.” “And if they don’t?” “We have to believe,” Eva said, starting toward the stairs. For all she knew, Madame Fontain was already calling the police, reporting two Jews who had slipped through the sieve. “Right now, hope is all we have.” Chapter Five “Where are we going?” her mother asked in a small voice ten minutes later as they hurried along, heads down, Eva clutching the suitcase in one hand, Mamusia’s trembling arm in the other. The day was hot, oppressive, and Eva could feel herself sweating. “To the Gare de Lyon,” Eva said as they passed the Place de Vosges, where Tatuś had once taught her to ride a bike, where he had picked her up countless times after she’d skinned her knees. Her heart ached and she pushed thoughts of him away. “The Gare de Lyon?” her mother repeated, breathing hard as she struggled to keep up. She had unbraided the lopsided plaits the girls had given her, and now her hair hung in waves that clung to her neck. Ordinarily, Eva would have slowed down, been more sympathetic to the fact that her mother didn’t do well in heat and humidity. But the longer they were out on the streets, the more exposed they were. Paris was deserted today, and that would only make Eva and her mother more conspicuous. “We’re going south.” “South?” Mamusia panted. Eva nodded as they made a sharp turn onto the tree-lined Boulevard Beaumarchais, a street she usually found beautiful. Today, though, the soaring buildings on either side made her think of walls holding them in, funneling them toward an uncertain fate. “To a town called Aurignon.” “What on earth are you talking about? Your father is here, Eva. How can you be suggesting that we travel to a place I’ve never heard of?” “Because he’s trapped right now, Mamusia!” Eva said, frustration quickening her pace. “And the only chance we have of saving him is to save ourselves first.” “By running?” Mamusia yanked her arm from Eva’s grip and spun to face her. “Like cowards?” Eva’s eyes darted around quickly. She could see a man watching them from a shop window across the way. “Mamusia, don’t do this here. You’re making us look suspicious.” “No, Eva, you are making us look suspicious!” Mamusia grabbed Eva’s wrist, her nails digging in. “You with your fancy plans of fleeing, like we are spies from one of your books. You can’t be suggesting that we simply abandon your father.” “Mamusia, he’s gone.” “No, he’s—” “He’s gone!” A sob rose in Eva’s throat, and she choked it back as she pulled away from her mother and began walking again. After a few seconds, her mother followed. “I promise I will come back for him. But we have to go now.” “Eva—” “Trust me, Mamusia. Please.” Her mother went silent then, but she kept pace, and that was all Eva could ask. Fifteen minutes later, the station was in view. “Just act as natural as possible,” Eva whispered to her mother. “We are middle-class French citizens who don’t care one way or the other about what happened here last night.” “How convenient to so easily turn your back on your own people,” her mother muttered. Eva tried to ignore the words, but they pierced her heart as she went on. “We are secretaries, both of us. You are a Russian émigrée, and I am your daughter. My proud French father—your husband—has not returned from the front. We fear him dead.” “Yes, Eva, let’s pretend your father has been killed.” Mamusia sounded furious. “Just listen to me, Mamusia! Our lives could depend upon it. We will buy train tickets to Clermont-Ferrand, via Vichy.” “Vichy?” “I looked. It’s the fastest way to Aurignon.” “What is this place?” “Your sister, Olga, lives there,” Eva said firmly. “She is ill and has begged for our help with her three children.” Mamusia simply rolled her eyes at this. “Mamusia, this is serious. You need to remember everything I’m saying.” “But why this Aurignon? I’ve never heard of it.” “There are people there helping Jews escape to Switzerland.” “Switzerland? That’s ridiculous. If it’s near Vichy, it has to be three hundred kilometers from the Swiss border.” The thought had been bothering Eva, too, but she pushed it away. Perhaps that was what made it the perfect place to hide. “It’s our only chance of escaping, Mamusia.” “So now you want us to leave France without your father?” Mamusia’s tone was aggrieved, her voice rising an octave. “No,” Eva said. “I want us to find people there who will help us get him out.” * * * By the time the 2:05 train pulled out of Gare de Lyon, chugging southeast and crossing the Marne just as it split from the Seine, Eva was breathing a bit more easily. Buying the tickets had been simpler than she’d expected; the agent had barely looked at her documents, yawning as he returned them. Eva supposed that it wasn’t his responsibility to catch those who were fleeing. But the young German soldier who had come by just after Eva and her mother had boarded had glanced at their papers with disinterest, too, and handed them back without a word. Eva allowed herself to feel a bit of hope—and the teensiest bit of pride in her handiwork—as the train picked up speed, sailing into the countryside beyond the suburbs. Then she noticed her mother crying beside her, shoulders shaking with silent sobs as she pressed her forehead to the window, and she tensed again. “Mamusia,” she murmured, keeping her voice low. The train car was only half full, and most of the other passengers were absorbed in reading books or newspapers, but it was only a matter of time until someone noticed them. “Please, you must stop. You’ll draw attention to us.” “What does it matter?” Mamusia hissed, whirling on Eva, her eyes flashing. “We are fooling ourselves, Eva. We won’t get away.” “We have, Mamusia. Look. We’re already out of Paris.” “They’ll find us wherever we are. We cannot simply disappear. How will we eat? Where will we live? How will we get ration cards? This is madness. We should have stayed. At least in Paris, we know people.” “But people there know us, too,” Eva reminded her. “And it’s impossible to predict who to trust.” Mamusia shook her head. “This is a mistake. You took advantage of my grief to persuade me.” “Mamusia, I didn’t mean…” Eva trailed off, guilt sweeping over her. She’d been in such a hurry to escape, to find a way out, that it hadn’t even occurred to her that staying might be safer. Was her mother right? As the train continued south, crossing trestle bridges over rushing rivers and speeding past deserted farmland, Mamusia finally fell asleep beside her, snoring lightly, but Eva was too stirred up to relax. She had made this decision for both of them, and it would be her fault if it resulted in their capture. Should they have stayed in a place where friends could have helped them? But who would have risked such a thing? They were fugitives now, whether they liked it or not. Even Monsieur Goujon, who had always seemed to be a decent man, had been in a hurry to send them away. * * * The train stopped in Moulins for a half hour, during which two dozen German policemen boarded to inspect papers, but they all looked dull and weary. A young, dark-haired German with ruddy cheeks examined Eva’s and her mother’s travel permits only momentarily, his eyes already on the row behind them. Eva released the breath she hadn’t known she was holding, but she didn’t truly relax until the Germans had disembarked and the train was moving again. “So this is Free France,” Mamusia murmured as the train slowed an hour later to crawl into Vichy, which, even in the late evening light, looked beautiful. Window boxes overflowed with blossoms, and palatial nineteenth-century buildings reached for the sky. They stopped in the middle of a rail yard, and Eva kept watch for Germans, but outside the window, only French officers patrolled. Then again, it was the French police who had come for Tatuś the night before; they could trust no one. When the train began to move again, Eva gazed out the window, wondering if she could catch a glimpse of the palace that Pétain and his ministers had decamped to when they abandoned Paris, but all she could see were parks, apartments, and cafés. Night was falling by the time the train crossed the Allier River into vineyard-dotted farmland, and it was fully dark by the time they made a quick stop in Riom and began moving south again. It was just before nine o’clock when the train finally shuddered to a halt within the boxy Gare de Clermont-Ferrand. “Now what?” Mamusia asked as they disembarked with two dozen other passengers. “Surely there won’t be buses departing this late to anywhere.” Eva took a deep breath. Even after crossing into unoccupied France with false documents, this felt like the riskiest part of the journey. “Now we wait.” “Wait for what?” “For morning to come.” The station was quiet, but Eva and her mother weren’t the only ones who would need to spend the night on its hard wooden benches. More than half of the other passengers who had arrived on the train were also carving out corners of the platform, laying their heads on valises and using coats as makeshift blankets, though the air was warm. “Try to sleep, Mamusia. I’ll keep an eye out for trouble.” * * * It was late afternoon the next day by the time Eva and her mother finally boarded a bus to Aurignon. The journey took an hour and a half through streets lined with old stone houses that gave way to verdant forests and farmland. Aurignon sat surrounded by dense pines at the top of a hill, and as the bus rumbled into the town, the engine straining with the climb, Eva could just make out the shadows of a stout mountain range to the west. She pressed her forehead to the glass and stared at the fog-cloaked slopes until the bus turned a corner and came to a slow, squealing stop in a small square surrounded by short, boxy stone buildings. “Aurignon!” the driver announced to the half-dozen people on the bus. “End of the line!” Slowly, the passengers stood, gathering bags and shuffling toward the door. Eva and her mother exited last, and it wasn’t until the bus was pulling away that Eva finally relaxed enough to gaze around and take in their new surroundings. They’d really made it. Aurignon looked nothing like Paris, or indeed like anyplace Eva had been. When she was small, her parents had taken her on a few trips north to the Breton coast, where sea air swept the faces of wooden buildings, turning them gray as the wings of a dove. They had even ventured a handful of times an hour or so beyond Paris, where small houses dotted endless pastures threaded with streams, and the towns themselves were small, quaint, and orderly. This town was more condensed, structures with narrow windows crowded together in a way that looked almost haphazard, as if they had started in neat rows but the earth had shrugged them off as it rose toward the sky. Stone paths meandered up the hill, and some of the roads that led away from the town square looked too narrow for even a single car. At the crest of the incline sat a small stone church with stained glass windows and a simple wooden cross above the front entrance. The thing that stood out most to Eva was how alive the town felt, though only a handful of people hurried through the square. In Paris, since the Germans had come, people walked around clad in gray and black, heads down, as if trying to blend in with the buildings around them. Colors had leached from the landscape; in many places, the plants and flowers that had once thrived and brought the city to life had wilted and disappeared. But here, window boxes overflowed with peppermint, chervil, and geraniums of pink, lilac, and white, while ivy crept cheerfully up the walls of stone buildings that looked as if they’d been here since long before the French Revolution. Clothes dried on lines strung across wooden balconies, and even the church overlooking the small town seemed to glow, the lights inside illuminating the colorful windows. The town square was anchored by a stone fountain featuring a bearded man with a cross in one hand and a pitcher of water in the other. Water gurgled cheerfully around the statue’s feet. This was a town whose heart hadn’t yet been trampled, and for a few seconds, Eva didn’t know what to make of it. “What is this place?” Mamusia whispered, and Eva exchanged tentative smiles with her mother for the first time since her father had been taken. She felt tears of gratitude prickling at the back of her eyes; for a few seconds, things felt almost normal. Eva swallowed the lump in her throat. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” “It reminds me of the village where I grew up.” Mamusia breathed in deeply and closed her eyes. “The fresh air of the countryside. I had almost forgotten.” Eva took a deep breath, too, the faintest scents of primrose, jasmine, and pine lingering just beyond reach. When she opened her eyes, there were two little girls staring at her, each of them clasping their mothers’ hands as they hurried by. She quickly gathered herself. They were out of Paris, but they weren’t out of the woods; they were traveling on false documents and needed to find a place to stay before they became even more conspicuous. “Come,” she said to her mother. With Eva toting the suitcase and Mamusia hurrying along a step behind, they wove away from the square as if they knew where they were going. In truth, Eva felt more lost than ever, and while she forced herself to walk casually, she scanned the alleys for a sign for a boardinghouse. Surely there was something available close to the center of the small town. But it took four more fruitless turns before, finally, a shingle hanging ahead announced the location of a pension de famille. Eva sighed in relief and surged forward, her mother following behind her. The door was closed and locked, the curtains pulled tightly over the windows when they arrived in front of the narrow stone building a block and a half from the main square, but Eva knocked anyhow and then knocked again, more insistently, when no one came to the door. She pounded on the door a third time and was just about to give up when it swung open, revealing a short, portly woman in a dotted housedress, glaring at them. Her gray hair was spiky and wild, and her cheeks were as round and red as tomatoes. “Well?” the woman demanded by way of greeting, her eyes blazing as she looked back and forth from Eva to Mamusia. “Which one of you was making such a racket?” “Um, madame, hello,” Eva said uncertainly, forcing a smile as the woman turned on her, her nostrils flaring. In that instant, she looked just like a wild boar. “We—we were looking for a boardinghouse with a vacancy.” Some of the indignance seemed to drain from the woman, but she didn’t budge. “And you think you can just show up here, demanding a room?” Eva looked at the pension de famille sign and then back at the woman. “Well, this is a boardinghouse, so…” The woman’s lips twitched slightly, and Eva wasn’t sure whether she was fighting back a laugh or a growl. “And at this hour? What kind of people arrive so late? It’s nearly nightfall!” “We just stepped off a bus after a very long journey.” “A journey? From where?” “Paris.” The woman’s eyes narrowed, and she crossed her arms. “And what is your business in Aurignon?” “Um…” Eva trailed off, thrown by the rapid-fire questions. She hadn’t expected the inquisition. “We are secretaries, here to visit my sister, who lives nearby,” Mamusia said calmly beside her. “But she has three children and lives in a very small apartment, so there’s no space for us.” Eva blinked at her and tried to cover her astonishment. It was exactly what Eva had insisted she memorize, but she would have sworn her mother wasn’t listening. “Now, if you don’t have a room available, we are happy to go elsewhere.” The woman stared at Mamusia before her lips twitched into a small smile, but her gaze remained suspicious. “I hear an accent, madame. You are not French.” Eva’s mother didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and in the silence, Eva prayed that her mother wouldn’t get this detail wrong; a slipup here might make the woman summon the authorities, and then the game would be up. “My mother is—” she began. “Russian,” her mother said firmly, and Eva breathed a sigh of relief. “I left Russia in 1917 in the wake of the Russian Revolution and married here in France. My daughter, Ev—” She hesitated and corrected herself firmly. “—Colette was born here in France a few years later.” “Russian,” the woman repeated. “A white émigrée,” Mamusia clarified with confidence. “You and your daughter Ev-Colette.” The woman smirked, but her eyes were no longer as angry. “Just Colette,” Eva said nervously. “I see,” the woman said. She stared at them, but still she didn’t move. “Prekrasnyy vecher, ne pravda li?” she said, smiling sweetly at Mamusia. Eva froze. The woman spoke Russian? What were the odds? But Mamusia didn’t waver. “Da,” she said confidently. The woman’s eyes narrowed. “Vy priexali suda so svoyey docher’yu?” Eva forced herself to smile politely as she glanced at her mother out of the corner of her eye. “Da,” Mamusia answered a bit less certainly. “Mmmm,” the woman said. “Vy na samom dele ne russkaya, ne tak li? Vy moshennitsa?” This time, Mamusia looked completely lost. “Da?” she ventured. Eva held her breath as the woman stared for a long time at Mamusia. “Very well, madame. You and your daughter, just Colette, should come inside before it’s dark. We may be in Free France, but it would be a mistake to believe we’re actually free.” With that, she whirled on her heel and stomped heavily into the boardinghouse. “What did she ask you?” Eva whispered to her mother. “I have no idea,” Mamusia replied softly. They exchanged wide-eyed glances and followed the woman inside, shutting the door behind them. In the parlor, the woman was rummaging around inside a small desk when they entered. She emerged with a thin ledger bound in burgundy leather. “Here it is. The guest book.” She opened it up and gestured to Eva with an upturned palm. “Come then, let me see your documents. I haven’t all day.” Eva and her mother handed over identification cards and stayed silent as the woman examined them with narrowed eyes, nodded to herself, and filled in their details in her guest register. Eva didn’t allow herself to exhale until the woman handed the documents back. “Very well,” the woman said, holding out her pen and turning the book around for them to sign. “Madame Fontain. Mademoiselle Fontain. I am Madame Barbier, the proprietress here. There are few frills, but it is a safe place to stay, as long as you can pay. Speaking of which, you have money?” Eva nodded. “Very well. You’ll be in room two, end of the hall, though there’s just one bed, I’m afraid. There is a key to the front door on your dresser. How long will you be with us?” “We don’t know yet.” Eva hesitated. “Are there other tenants here, too?” Madame Barbier raised both eyebrows. “You two are the only ones foolish enough to take a mountain holiday from Paris in the middle of a war.” Eva forced a smile. “Very well. Thank you, Madame Barbier. Good night.” “Good night.” Madame Barbier turned to Mamusia. “Spokoynoy nochi.” “Spokoynoy nochi,” Mamusia replied politely, but she wasted no time in hurrying down the hall toward room two. Eva followed as Madame Barbier’s gaze burned into her back. Once alone in their room, Eva changed her traveling clothes for a nightgown and slipped wearily into bed. Exhaustion soon overtook her, and she slept soundly that night, curled up against her mother. * * * “Do you think she believed us?” Mamusia asked as Eva awoke the next morning, blinking into a room filled with sunshine. The light seemed clearer here, brighter than it was in Paris. “Madame Barbier?” Eva yawned and rolled away from her mother, finally releasing her hand. They hadn’t let go all night. “She must have. She took our details and let us stay.” Mamusia nodded. “You told her we had money, Eva. What will we do when she realizes we don’t?” Eva gave her a guilty shrug. “We do.” “What?” “I, er, liberated some francs from the kitchen drawer in Madame Fontain’s apartment.” “You what?” “I was looking for pens. There just happened to be some money there, too.” “Eva Traube! I did not raise you to be a thief!” Mamusia looked so indignant that Eva had to stifle a laugh. “I know, Mamusia, and I’ve never stolen a thing in my life. But we needed it, and let’s be honest, she would have sold us out to the authorities in an instant if she hadn’t been so busy worrying about her mother.” Mamusia’s expression softened a bit. “Eva, if she calls the police because she realizes we stole from her…” “Mamusia, we’re long gone. And what will the police do, add us to their list for a second time?” When they emerged from their room thirty minutes later, Madame Barbier was waiting for them in the parlor, a bowl of plump red strawberries in front of her. She gestured to seats across from her, and after exchanging nervous glances, Eva and her mother sat down. My God, Eva hadn’t seen a strawberry since before the war. “Eat,” she said simply, and Eva’s stomach growled so loudly that Madame Barbier raised an eyebrow. “We couldn’t possibly,” Eva said. “We don’t have ration cards, and—” “I grow these in my garden,” Madame Barbier interrupted. “And you both look—and sound—famished. So have some food. I won’t ask again.” Eva hesitated before nodding and reaching for a berry. She bit into it and had to stop herself from moaning with pleasure as the sweet juice filled her mouth. “Thank you,” she said after she’d swallowed. She reached for another berry, already wondering what the price of these would be. However, after Eva and her mother had polished off the bowl, Madame Barbier merely nodded. “Good,” she said, standing. “There will be potato soup for dinner at seven sharp.” “But we can’t—” Eva began, but Madame Barbier held up a hand to stop her. “We can’t have you going hungry. How would that look for my business?” And then she was gone, striding purposefully out of the room, the floorboards trembling beneath her. “Well, that was kind,” Mamusia said after a long pause. Eva nodded, but she was troubled. Madame Barbier had been looking at them like specimens in a jar while they ate, and she had the feeling that her mother’s attempt at Russian conversation last night had failed miserably. So what was their hostess up to? Still, they couldn’t afford to turn down free food. “I think you should stay in the room today, Mamusia,” she said softly. “Just let me go out for a bit on my own. I don’t have an accent, so I’ll attract fewer questions.” “My accent isn’t that strong,” Mamusia said defensively. “Mamusia, you sound like Władysław Sikorski.” Mamusia made a face. “Gdy słoneczko wyżej, to Sikorski bliżej.” Eva rolled her eyes at the popular saying exalting the Polish prime-minister-in-exile: When the sun is higher, Sikorski is near. “Just stay inside, Mamusia. And keep the window unlocked in case you need to flee quickly.” “Now you want me to leap out the window?” “I’m just being cautious, Mamusia. You must always be thinking two steps ahead.” “You speak as if I’m another Mata Hari, but look what happened to her,” Mamusia muttered, though she stood and shuffled back toward their room anyhow. Eva waited until she heard the lock click before heading toward the front door of the boardinghouse. Chapter Six In the full light of day, Aurignon looked even more glorious, the sun pouring honeyed rays over the narrow lanes and buildings, washing the stone in a warm glow. The flowers that had colored the window boxes the previous afternoon were brighter now in the morning light, painting the town in brilliant pinks, purples, and reds. The fresh air here, more than a hundred kilometers south of the occupied zone, tasted to Eva like freedom. But she and her mother couldn’t leave France without Tatuś. He had wanted her to flee, but she couldn’t, not if she had the means to free him. And she did, she was sure of it. She still had the blank identity documents Monsieur Goujon had given her, as well as her father’s photographs, all sewn hastily this morning into the lining of the jacket she had packed in the suitcase. It was nearly everything she needed to craft a new identity for her father, too, to demonstrate to the authorities that his arrest had been an error. However, she had left the art pens behind in Paris—they would have been a sure sign to any inspector that she was carrying tools of forgery. She couldn’t risk bringing them onto the train. The problem was that she couldn’t replicate the same sort of documents she had made for herself and her mother without the right kind of ink, and normal pens used for writing wouldn’t do. She needed art pens in red, blue, and black. But Madame Barbier was already suspicious of Eva and her mother; no amount of free strawberries could convince Eva otherwise. So it would be too risky to ask her for the location of a store that sold such things. Eva would have to find one on her own. As she walked briskly up and down the narrow lanes leading away from the town’s main square like crooked spokes of a wheel, she peered into every window, hoping to find a shop that stocked art supplies. The town was so quiet that Eva could almost believe she had the streets all to herself, a feeling she could never imagine experiencing in bustling Paris. Away from the square, the town was even more beautiful, with some of the stone structures giving way to half-timbered buildings that reminded Eva of the pictures in fairy-tale books she’d read as a little girl. By the time she’d turned onto the fourth lane, she had begun to relax, lulled into a sense of peace by this idyllic town that didn’t seem to know it was in the midst of a war. In fact, she was feeling so at ease that she almost didn’t notice the tall, slender man at the end of the lane, dressed in a trench coat that was far too warm for the summer day, the lapels pulled up. He was walking with a slight limp, his right leg stiff. She had seen him two streets ago, too, and now, as she turned another corner, she hurried into a doorway and held her breath, wondering if he’d follow. If he did, it was too much to be a coincidence, for what Aurignon resident would need to wind methodically up and down the spidery lanes in the same pattern as she? If he didn’t, she needed to rein in her runaway imagination. The seconds ticked by. No trench-coat-wearing man. Stop making everyone out to be a German boogeyman, Eva, she chided herself. As she stepped out from the doorway, rolling her eyes at herself, she was just in time to collide with the man as he made a quick turn around the building. She gasped and stumbled backward. “Oh, excuse me,” he said quickly, his voice deep and muffled as he ducked his face further into his lapels. Eva’s heart raced. He didn’t sound German, at least. He was perhaps in his mid-forties, with sandy hair, a narrow, pointed nose, and thick eyebrows. Was he a French policeman, tailing her because Madame Barbier had raised the alarm? But if he was, wouldn’t he simply demand to see her papers? As her mind spun quickly through the possibilities, she decided that the best thing to do was confront him. Certainly his limp would slow him down if she needed to run. “Are you following me?” she demanded. She had hoped to sound tough, but she could hear the quiver in her voice. “What?” the man took a step back, his lapels still covering the lower half of his face. “No, of course not. Excuse me, mademoiselle. Good day.” He hurried on, limping away from her, and she watched him, wondering if he would glance back. He didn’t, and when he vanished around a bend in the road, she let herself relax a bit. Perhaps she’d been wrong. Still, the encounter had unsettled her, so she walked more quickly as she scanned the shop windows. The feeling of peace was gone, and now Aurignon seemed as sinister as anywhere else. It took her another fifteen minutes before she found a small bookstore and papeterie that had a display case of ink pens near the window. She ducked in, hoping that they also stocked art pens. Inside, she closed her eyes for a second and breathed in deeply, the familiar scents of paper, leather, and binding glue transporting her back to her beloved Sorbonne library in Paris. Would she ever walk once more among its books, bask in its silence, revel in being surrounded by so many words and so much knowledge? Would Paris one day be hers again? “Mademoiselle? May I help you?” The old woman behind the counter was peering at her with a blend of concern and suspicion when Eva opened her eyes. “I’m sorry.” Eva could feel heat rising to her cheeks. “I—I was just thinking how much I love being surrounded by books.” The words had sounded strange, and Eva’s blush deepened. But the woman didn’t look put off. In fact, she smiled, her doubt melting away. “Ah. I should have known. You’re one of us.” “Pardon?” “You’re someone who finds herself in the pages,” the woman clarified, gesturing to the shelves all around. They were stacked high and haphazardly, reminding Eva of the layout of the town itself, chaotic but beautiful yet the same. “Someone who sees her reflection in the words.” “Oh, well, I suppose I am,” Eva said, and suddenly she felt peaceful. She wanted to stay here all day, but there was work to be done. “Can I help you find something?” the woman asked, following Eva’s gaze as it roamed over the shelves. “If you’re in need of some guidance, I know every book in this place.” “I—I wish I could buy one,” Eva said. “But I only have a bit of money, and I need to purchase some pens.” “Pens?” Eva nodded and explained what she needed, and though the woman looked disappointed that Eva didn’t want to discuss books, she went into the back of the store and returned with three art pens in black, red, and blue. “Is this what you’re looking for?” “Oh yes.” Eva reached for them, but the woman withdrew, her expression more guarded now. “What do you need them for? You’re an artist?” “Er, yes.” “And here I had you pegged as a book lover.” “I was. I mean I am.” Eva inhaled the familiar scents again and sighed. “I—I worked for a time at a library in Paris.” “In Paris?” Immediately, Eva realized she had made a mistake. Why was she telling the real details of her personal life to a stranger? “Well, I just—” Eva began as the woman turned to shuffle through one of the shelves behind her. “You must miss it. My son lived there, too, before he was killed. Paris was a magical place indeed, until the Germans arrived.” “Yes. It was,” Eva said softly. “And I’m sorry about your son.” “Thank you. He was a good man.” The woman turned and held out a book before Eva could ask anything more, and after a moment’s hesitation, Eva took it and looked at the cover. It was Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami. “This one takes place in Paris,” the woman said. “Yes, I’ve read it,” Eva said, puzzled. “It’s about a man who seduces practically everyone in the city.” The woman laughed. “Indeed. When it comes to books, the saucier, the better, don’t you think?” Her eyes twinkled. “In any case, I thought perhaps you might be missing your home.” “There’s not much to miss about Paris these days.” Again, Eva worried she’d said too much. The woman nodded. “I imagine that must be the case, but this tells of a Paris long before the Germans got their hands on it, dear. Please, take it. Consider it a gift with the purchase of your pens.” “But—” Eva was thrown by the kindness of this stranger. “Why?” “Because books bring us to another time and place,” the woman said as she handed over Eva’s pens and accepted the francs Eva gave her. “And you look as if you need that.” Eva smiled. “I don’t know how to thank you, madame.” “You can thank me by staying safe, dear.” As Eva walked out of the store and headed back to the boardinghouse, she scanned the streets for any sign of the limping man with the trench coat, and wondered how the woman in the bookstore had known that Eva needed all the wishes of safety she could get. * * * Eva spent the rest of the day and evening working on her father’s false papers and practicing her hand at drawing stamps on the pages of a newspaper she’d found sitting in the parlor of the boardinghouse. She would burn it in the morning. When Madame Barbier knocked on the door and announced brusquely that it was dinnertime in case Eva and her mother wanted some, Eva and her mother took a brief break to silently inhale some potato soup served in the dining room. Eva fell asleep at the desk in her small room sometime after midnight, still holding the blue pen in her hand. Something jolted Eva out of her slumber just after dawn, and she lifted her head from the desktop with a start, blinking into the dim room, which was just beginning to come alive with traces of sunlight. In the bed behind her, her mother slept soundly. On the desk where she’d been working lay the newspaper filled with false stamps, now damp with Eva’s drool. Just as she was wondering what had woken her up, there was a soft knock on the door, and Eva froze. Who could possibly be outside their room so early in the morning? Had Madame Barbier come to collect payment already? She quickly shoved the newspaper into a desk drawer and hid the pens and her father’s documents under the mattress. Her mother didn’t stir. Eva knew she had to answer the door, for if it was Madame Barbier, she would be suspicious if no one responded. And who else could it be? After all, if the authorities were here, they wouldn’t knock politely; they’d surely hammer at the door and break it down if it wasn’t answered immediately. Reassured that there likely wasn’t imminent danger lurking on the other side, Eva opened the door a crack and peered out into the dark hall. It took a half second for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting, and another for her to realize to her horror that it wasn’t Madame Barbier there at all. It was the man who’d been following her around town, the tall, thin man with the trench coat and limp. Eva gasped, stifled a scream, and tried to slam the door on him, but he wedged his foot into the opening at lightning speed. “Please, Mademoiselle Fontain,” he said quickly. “I mean no harm.” Eva shoved the door in vain. Her heart hammered. He had called her Mademoiselle Fontain, which meant that Madame Barbier had betrayed her, for who else could have given him her false name? “What do you want?” she demanded. He began to speak, but she cut him off. “If you take a step closer, I’ll scream.” She was suddenly acutely conscious that her mother, who could sleep through anything, was still in the room behind her. “Mademoiselle, please. There’s no need for that, I promise. I’m a friend.” “Friends don’t tail me through town and show up unannounced before dawn,” Eva shot back. “Actually, I waited until after dawn, you’ll notice.” There was laughter in his eyes, and Eva was struck by the fact that he looked kind, which was unexpected. Without his lapels pulled up to cover his face, she could see the rest of his features—a clean-shaven chin, a wide mouth, a childlike dimple on the right side. He looked younger than he had yesterday, not as menacing. A gold cross sparkled at his neck, just above the collar of his shirt. “Who are you?” she demanded. “I am le Père Clément,” he said. “I’m the pastor of the Église Saint-Alban, just at the top of the hill.” “A priest?” she asked in disbelief. “Why is a Catholic priest following me around town?” “I apologize, truly. I thought I was being more subtle.” He looked embarrassed. “That was, er, my first time doing that.” “Doing what?” He scratched the back of his head. “It’s just that, you see, Madame Barbier told me about your papers.” Her whole body tensed again. “What about them? They’re perfectly in order.” “Yes, actually, that’s what she said, too.” He hesitated. “She also said that your mother’s documents identify her as a Russian émigrée. And that she certainly isn’t Russian.” “Of course she is,” Eva protested immediately, her face growing hot. Père Clément looked uncomfortable. “You see, Madame Barbier was born in Russia. She actually was a white émigrée after the revolution. She was nearly positive that your mother is Polish, and is therefore traveling on false papers.” “Of course, you’re wrong.” Eva couldn’t meet his eye. “So what? Are you going to report us?” “No, no, nothing like that.” “Then what?” “I was just hoping you might tell me where you got your documents, though I think perhaps I’ve answered my own question.” “What do you mean?” “Your hands,” he said, his voice softer now. Eva looked down and realized with a jolt of horror that her fingertips were gray with smudged ink. “It’s not what you think.” He took a step back. “If you want to be left alone, mademoiselle, I will honor that, but you see, I have friends with ink-stained fingers, too. Madame Barbier was very impressed with your papers, and I—well, I think perhaps you and I could assist each other.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “You can find me in the church anytime today. I can provide you with better tools than you can find at the bookstore.” “But I—” “The Germans don’t just look for identification documents, you know. You’ll need more than some drawing skills if you hope to safely move on.” When she didn’t answer, he smiled slightly. “I can help you. Please, consider it.” He nodded and turned quickly. She watched as he strode down the hallway and disappeared around the corner. A moment later, she could hear the front door of the boardinghouse open and close, and only then did she release the breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. She had to move her mother immediately. Whether Père Clément had meant what he’d said or not, the fact remained that their cover had been blown—and it had been Eva’s fault. Chapter Seven “Wake up!” Eva nudged her mother, and as Mamusia blinked sleepily awake, Eva prodded her again, nearly shoving her onto the floor. “Come on, Mamusia. We’ve been found out. There’s no time to waste.” “What do you mean?” Mamusia was instantly alert, scrambling for the skirt and blouse she’d worn yesterday, which lay neatly draped over the back of the chair near the window. “What’s happened?” “Madame Barbier knows our papers are false. A man came to the door this morning asking about them.” “What?” Her mother’s face was white as she buttoned her shirt with trembling fingers and shimmied her skirt over her full hips. “Was he police?” She began to grab things from around the room, throwing them into the suitcase. “No.” Eva hesitated. “He was a priest.” Her mother stopped what she was doing. “A priest?” “That’s what he said.” “But—why did he come? Does he work with the authorities?” “I don’t think so.” Eva was still mulling over whether he was friend or foe. Certainly the fact that he’d left after issuing his invitation was a good sign, wasn’t it? “Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he was saying he works with other forgers. I—I believe he might have been asking me if I could come work with him.” The moment the words were out of Eva’s mouth, she wondered if she had completely misunderstood the conversation. A priest leading a band of document forgers? It sounded too far-fetched to be real. “What did he say?” “He told me he could provide me with some help. I don’t know exactly what he meant.” Her mother was staring at her with wide eyes. “Eva, he might be able to give you what you need to help locate your father and secure his release.” “It might also be a trap.” “Set by a priest?” “There’s no rule that all priests must be decent human beings.” “I don’t know much about Catholicism, but I’m fairly certain that’s part of the job description.” Eva shrugged. Her mother was right about one thing, though. The priest could hold the key to getting her father out of detention. And the clock was surely ticking. As long as she moved her mother, perhaps it was worth the risk of heading to the church to see if the man’s offer had been genuine. “Very well,” she said at last. “I’ll go see him—but not until I take you somewhere safe.” “Where will I go?” “I don’t know, but you can’