An exerpt from David Orsini’s
The Ghost Lovers
War-hardened and bitter, Marc Roussillon watched while Gaston and Fabien tortured and then questioned once more the first of the two men who had been accused of collaborating with the Nazis. All around him, candlelight was dispersing the dark energies of the crypt vault to which he had been summoned to participate in the interrogation and, if necessary, to witness the killings. Cavernous and austere, rooms in the distance glimmered upon his quick notice and then hurried beyond his clarified perceiving. They, too, held within granite enclosures the rotted bones of the long dead. Here, though, spools of bleak space also defined elliptically an imagery of living men who were carrying knives and handguns. That space encompassed even more clearly the well-honed muscularity of Benoît Lacombe, a young, brown-haired man whose naked and bleeding body lay bound by chains on a long table that had been purloined from the surgery of a hospital nearby.
On the long table next to him lay the equally rugged body of Raoul Lefebvre. His athletic handsomeness—usually intensified by his dark-red hair, blue eyes, aquiline nose, and full sensual lips and by the flawless proportions of his body—appeared disarranged as well as diminished by the fresh blood trickling down his chin onto his broad chest and by the purple welts and bruises that had overtaken the surfaces and contours of his form. Marc noticed how his eyes, half-shut because of the blows that had been directed at them, revealed nonetheless an incisive awareness and a defiant glare. Quickened by his presence, the eyes were studying him cautiously. They had been studying him ever since he entered the cavernous space of this vault. The mind behind those eyes was trying to interpret the reason for his being there. Had he come as friend or as executioner? Would he be the one to slit his throat or carve through his heart with a Fairbairn-Sykes knife? Was he the only one who has been chosen to strangle him or to shoot him with a Browning handgun as proof that he himself was not a double agent?
Marc returned Raoul’s squinting gaze with teeth-clenching detachment. He did not enjoy seeing this man who had been his friend lying there on a hospital table, naked and suffering.
The uses which the French Resistance was imposing upon the hospital tables might have, in a safe and more civilized era, appeared as incongruous and as subversive as the scenario that their freedom fighters were activating here in the Basilica of Sacré-Coeur, at 35 Rue de Chevalier de la Barre in the district of Montmartre, within the northern part of Paris. But the summer of 1944 in Europe was neither safe nor civilized. the German Army, Navy, and Air Force were destroying everything that was safe and almost everything that was civilized.