Camille Is Coming

Who: Claude, Henrik
Where: Henrik's shack
What: Last communique
When: August, 1940

Arras
Coordinates : 17 2

A fine example of a French town. There is little sign of war here, the buildings are all in good condition - very good condition in fact, as most of them have been newly built. The last war was not kind on this area, after all. It all looks peaceful, at least on the surface.

It is currently dusk.

At the edge of town, the waterway's banks sport more than one warehouse, standing ready to recieve the fruits of France's once-flourishing river trade. Though the volume of shipping has dropped dramatically since the outbreak of war, the small tool storage sheds adjascent to the big warehouses still find use. One such use is as housing for the migrant laborers, Henrik being among the last remaining in Arras.

Claude comes quietly through the early evening dusk. Curfew is not quite upon the city yet but he still does his best to go about unseen. Out of the alleys behind one of the warehouses he comes, to Henrik's shed of a house. He creeps to the door, rapping his knuckles lightly against it.

There is very little sound from within for several moments. Shortly however- about the time a polite caller might consider knocking a second time, there is a scrape from within as a crossbar is removed from the door, and the thin portal opens slightly. Half of Henrik's face can be seen staring out.

Claude was about to raise his knuckles to knock again when Henrik's face appeared. He edges back a little, so the Swede can see his face in the dimming light. "Forgive me for disturbing you but I am…traveling. May I stop here a moment, Monsieur?"

Henrik frowns more deeply for a moment, before shrugging his shoulders once, and opening the door wide enough to let the man enter. He sets a stout 2 by 4 against the inside wall and turns around to walk deeper into the slant-roofed room. "Bar the door closed once you're in," he mutters.

Claude slips in, barring the door behind him. "Forgive my unannounced visit, Comrade Svensson but things have grown…uncomfortable in Arras. As I'm sure you've seen. I must be very careful over the next days if I am to avoid the fascists as I escape, and I fear this may be my last chance to make contact with you and yours."

Henrik nods curtly once, rumbling lowly, "Don't take the western road when you go." The unrequested advice given, he regards the frenchman evenly, facing the man and crossing his arms while awaiting Claude's further words.

Claude nods. He takes the advice wordlessly but he does take it. "When tomorrow comes, wait three days. Then have your friend, the woman with the cats, radio here." He digs into his pocket, plucking out a paper scrap with the necessary frequencies scribbled on it. "Tell them, 'Camille is coming.' No more. Those who work with me shall I understand. You may not here from us in quite some time. Just keep your eyes open, track any movements the Germans make that may have some bearing on their plans against Britain. We shall be watching, though you may not see us."

Henrik accepts the paper, briefly inspecting it to note whether the writing is clear, before eyeing Claude for the remainder of the frenchman's instructions. "If we find something very valuable. Use the same numbers to tell your people?"

Claude nods again. "But keep your communications sparing. Not more than once a week, and only with information of importance. We must keep those frequencies open as long as possible. If changes need to be made, you will be contacted. Have someone manning the radio as often as you can."

Henrik grunts with a frown at the instruction. "Hrm. Hard to do. Need to keep radios hidden. Fascists search often, we need to be very careful." Drawing and letting out a deep breath in thought, he adds, "Not more than once a week. Understood."

Claude nods. "Put feelers out to your fellows in the community. See if you can recruit any volunteers with radio experience. No one you do not have trust in, of course. But, if you think one would be of service to the cause, do what you can to lead them in." He pauses. "Have you anything to eat, comrade? I can forage well enough but, I would like something substantial in my stomach before I take to the roads."

Henrik mutters in reply to the latter words, "A few apples from friday. Should still be good. I think there's some bread left from this morning… There," he points out a thin linen cloth tossed over half a round loaf of wheat. "No meats or cheese. Can probably get some from the cafe before curfew." Only after that does he draw a fresh breath to answer, "We'll do what we can, comrade. In all things."

Claude shakes his head, digging into the bread, biting it in large chunks. "That will not be necessary. This will be more than enough. I thank you, comrade Henrik." He eats some more, before adding, "It is most important now that your people here come to trust each other. Rely on each other. Monsieur Chevalier, from my talk with him, does not seem to think you have a good opinion of him."

"I'm not subtle," Henrik answers bluntly to Chevalier's perception of his disdain. "I think little of anyone, until given reason to think well. He's given me no cause to think him competant." Hard blue eyes hold claude's as the scarred soldier adds, "I can trust his heart and still doubt his mind. These people- they are decent enough. But they are not soldiers and I'll not get them killed by pretending they are."

Claude eats in silence for a moment, chewing his bread. He nods a little at Henrik's words, his face drawn in thought. "I was a university student when fighting broke out in Spain, comrade," he says, not meeting Henrik's eyes. "I could have gone to war. But I did not. I stayed in Paris. I wrote pamphlets, went to meetings and marches, involved myself in political causes. I told myself, men fight in different ways. When war came to Europe, to Poland, I left France. Took shelter in Britain. I told myself I was unwanted by my country. That I could do more good there." He sighs, looking tired and even a little ashamed. "Perhaps we all should have been soldiers. Before all of this. Before Germany was so strong. But some of us were blind to what we needed to do, until it was thrust into our faces. Chevalier is not a soldier. Not the one I thought he'd be." He smirks. "But he seems to have a will to become one. This war makes strange allies, comrade. But we must stand together, or the Germans will pick us all off, one by one."

"The fascists have been picking us off, one by one, for four years," Henrik retorts with a scowl. "As you say- you ignored it until the truth was thrust into your faces. "And now you will go back to England, while common people and foreigners remain behind. Waiting for the firing squads to start." The words, while sharp, are spoken in a curt, even voice. "The brave ones, and the strong.. the men and women who went to Spain. Not many came back. Now, your country depends on the weak. The small. France depends on them to grow greater than they have been before." His cold regard is fixed on Claude as he intones flatly, "Do not fail, comrade. Or there will be nothing left."

Claude looks back up at Henrik, nodding slowly. Nothing of that seems to sting him. It's likely nothing he hasn't thought of himself. "I do not think I will see England again, comrade. With luck, I shall be able to do my work in Calais. But I am back in France, for better or worse. I can, at least, try to do her a better service now than when I was a young man. In any case, do not discount Monsieur Chevalier, or the women. They may find resources to help free France, in their own ways. There is one last matter Chevalier spoke of, which I believe he could use your help on." He bites into an apple before continuing. "He wished to acquire a small quantity of poison for himself. Or something that could be used as a poison, should the situation call for it. I do not have the resources to get something like that myself here, and he did not seem to think himself able to get it through the medical people in town. I would ask you to aid him with this. Or whatever plan he has that requires the need of it."

"Poison," Henrik echoes with scorn. "I'll see what can be done," he rumbles flatly to Chevalier's proxy request. "The women have been more use than the men," he notes to Claude's caution not to discount. "Hrm. I am sure that all will do what they can," his expression hardens into the familiar stoic cast, "We will see if it's enough, comrade."

"It will have to be enough. It is all France has left." Claude finishes his meager meal in silence after that, standing when he's through. "I thank you for the food, comrade. And your aid in our cause. I must go now." But before he does he says, "There is one lingering thing that puzzles me. Monsieur Chevalier said he was not responsible for the deaths of the German soldiers. And, after meeting him, I must say I believe it."

Henrik simply holds Claude's eye and answers, "You are right. He's not a killer."

Claude returns Henrik's eye. But, finally, he just nods a little to himself. "It is perhaps best if I never know for certain. What is not known can never be told. Good luck, comrade." He edges toward the door. "You have done France a good turn. In many ways, I suspect."

"Its a start," the big man mutters in return. He does not specify what the start is toward. "Good luck, comrade." And without further ado, the small paper is folded and tucked away, and Henrik looks away from the departing Claude.

Claude unblocks the door and slips out of it, into the lengthening shadows. Night has fallen now, and he manages to melt into the darkness before he's long past Henrik's shack.

Henrik closes his fingers around the lumber crosspiece, barring the door closed again with a low, muted thud. He leaves his hand on the door a moment, before turning away and watching night settle over the river.

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