An exerpt from David Orsini’s
The Woman Who Loved Too Well
Marc and Jean-Claude
Marc glared at his squadron leader. Though he had always liked him before, he positively loathed him at this moment.
“Do you know what you are saying?”
His staccato inflections turned the question into an accusation.
“Jean-Claude is alive, and we are not going to do anything to save him.”
The major eyed him directly. He was a tall, vigorous man whose ruddy complexion gave him the appearance of excellent health. He did not permit himself to glare back or to give any other sign of his displeasure. There was in him as usual an understated self-command and a hardened demeanor. No more than five years older than he, Yvan Pelletier had been through it all. His three closest friends, who had been among the squadron’s best pilots, had recently died in air battles over Berlin, Stuttgart, and Dresden. Only a week earlier, his girlfriend—a feisty nurse assigned to a London hospital—had been killed during Nazi strafing raids.
Marc understood all these things. He was also aware that Pelletier refused to pity himself and that he refused to pity others.
When he answered him, Pelletier spoke matter-of-fact words that set before him once again the dilemma facing them.
“There is nothing we can do to save Jean-Claude. A commando raid against the Germans who captured him might have worked, if they hadn’t moved him to a new prison. We don’t know where the Germans have brought him. Believe me. We have done all that we can. There is no way to free Jean-Claude.”
His dispassionate words did not keep Simone from urging him to see their problem differently.
“Yvan, this is not like you. You have never before refused to help a pilot in your squadron. There has to be something more that we can do.”
On this January afternoon in 1942, they were sitting in a booth within a shadowy corner of the pub that stood a half mile away from Marc’s and Pelletier’s air base in Lincolnshire. On any other day, Major Pelletier would have perceived Marc and Simone as one of the many romantic couples in the room. Marc Roussillon was tall and dark- haired, and his big-boned physique and manly grace suggested that he was a well-trained athlete. Marc’s brown eyes met him directly and drew him into their steely regard. Pelletier well understood that an encounter with this twenty-two-year-old pilot involved quickened awareness and subtle calculations. If he were to ask him to describe his scanning impression of the place where they were meeting, Marc would have offered an accurate location of entrances and exits, of the eight persons seated nearest those exits, and of the man and woman who were dining at the booth next to theirs.