She stood shivering behind the cover of the ancient yew tree, wisps of hair blowing across her face in the gentle breeze, trying not to breathe too loudly. They were sure to hear her, she just knew it, even the pounding of her heart could give her away but she could not stop now. If she could just cut the power and reach the bell in the courtyard to sound the alarm.
The clock down in the village struck the hour and she counted along with the chimes, unsure if it was 11 o’clock or midnight, nine, ten, eleven, and there it was the twelfth chime.
She could hear the noise of the officers inside the house, laughing at some unheard joke, chinking their glasses together in yet another toast, the laughter louder and wilder now as the night wore on. The music from a radio wafted across the lawns to her, thin and shrill, the words obscured by the breeze and the rustling of the leaves. A sentry would be passing this side of the house within a few minutes, their rounds punctual but mercifully brief.
She had rehearsed this moment a thousand times in her mind, the steps of her route to the power lines etched like dance moves into her feet, the sequence of cuts to the wires practised in her fingers like an intricate piano piece. She began to creep along the clipped laurel hedge towards the first gate and the main courtyard beyond, every sound of every breaking twig magnified a thousandfold until even the gentle breeze was a thundering tornado in her ears. Through the gate and no-one was near, sixty-seven steps to the door of the power-room.
She reached the cover of the long stretch of stone buildings, the moonlight appearing and disappearing behind the scudding clouds, the wind picking up and deadening the sound of her steps. Precisely on cue the sentry appeared around the front of the house, his routine like clockwork, down to the lighting of his cigarette and the momentary pause before the flight of steps to the entrance. Hidden in the shadow of the buildings she had reached the door now and turned the handle slowly, her hand, damp with fear, slipping on the cold metal. As planned it opened without resistance, Karl had done his work. She stepped through the doorway and turned to her left in the dark, three steps forwards, a turn to the right and just six more steps to make when she stopped still and froze.
“Good evening Mademoiselle,” said a voice behind her………….
ALL PHOTOS © JANE MORLEY
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