Face in the Window
Sergeant Tom Torrence, jumped from the the C-47. His parachute opened, his decent was accurate, thus far no trees. Suddenly the wind shifted slightly and he found himself drifting toward a small white cottage. He landed on the roof the the cottage as silently as was humanly possible. He hoped he had not stumbled onto Nazi collaborators that were known in the area. He quickly shed his parachute. He rolled it up; the question was where to put it. He saw a light in the window furthest from where he landed. He moved quickly and quietly toward the window. His plan was to stay hidden. He saw the sillouett of a young woman in the window. He had to get off the roof before daylight, if he were spotted he would either be shot or captured and sent to a Stalag in Germany. Neither was a good prospect.
He made his way toward the window, gingerly. Once he reached the top of the domer, he slid himself carefully to the window. He tapped quietly; waiting and praying. He looked into the window. The girl gaped at him. She opened the window quickly; motioning him to come in. He climbed through the window. She spoke English:
“What are you doing here? Do you realize the danger you are in?”
“Look madamoselle I am part of the invasion. I got separated from my company.
I need to get out of here.”
She glared at him:
“My parents are German collaborators. I am going to have to hide you until I can get
you into the hands of the French Resistance. I can hide you in the barn. Come,
I must get you well hidden before Papa awakes.”
Tom, wasn’t sure of what to do. Could he trust this mere slip of a girl. How could he be sure she would not turn him over to her parents. He had no guarantees; he decided to follow her to the barn. She told him as they headed toward the barn, she was a member of the resistance. Tom was confused but continued to carry his parachute. He would bury it as soon as he found a place that would appear undesturbed. That was for his safety and hers.
“It will be sometime tomorrow before I can make contact with my friends. In the meantime,
you remain here in the barn. I will bring you food and water. During the day you must remain
hidden under the straw in the loft. No one ever goes up there. Papa and Mama feed hay from
the hay loft over on the other side. I must go now, they will be up in a few moments.”
Suzette hustled out of the barn; leaving Tom to contemplate his fate. Time seemed to stand still as he laid in the straw completely covered. He heard the barn door creek open. He heard rapid German being spoken. There was nothing he could do but remain still and pray. Finally, he heard French being spoken with a light airy voice; ‘must be the girl’ he thought. The German officer had a ‘thing’ for Suzette which would help Tom; although he had no idea at the time the German was a member of the French resistence, the Maquis. He had smuggled countless French Jews out of France.
At dusk, Suzette made her way to the barn; Tom heard the door open, Suzette’s soft voice:
“The Germans are gone. You can come out. I have brought you some food.”
“Why were those Germans here? They are no doubt looking for me.”
“No, that is not why they were here. The German Colonel is my contact to the
“Are you sure we can trust him?”
“Oui, I am sure. He has helped many escape the Gestapo.”
Tom, thought maybe the charming Suzette and the Colonel had something going. He could not bring himself to ask. He could not risk being caught now; they would execute him on sight. He was at Suzette’s mercy.
Later that evening, Suzette appeared with freshly laundered civilian clothes.
“There is a hay wagon coming this evening, it will take you to Paris to a safe house.
The resistance will get you back to England. God go with you.”
“Madamoselle, I don’t even know your name. How can I ever thank you.”
“No, I can not tell you my name; if you are captured the less you know the better
for all of us. The Gestapo has a way of making people talk.”
“I see, well my name is Tom. I hope someday to return to France. Maybe I can look up.”
“Maybe Tom, but first we must rid ourselves of the Germans.”
“I will alert you when the wagon arrives; once again stay out of sight until it is time.
Tom wasn’t sure if this made him feel better or worse but he vowed that he would find this lovely girl after the war and thank her for saving his life.
The hay wagon arrived toward dusk. Tom was dressed and ready to leave; Suzette walked slowly into the barn:
“Tom, the wagon is here. We have to hide you in the hay. I hope someday you do return to
France. You must hurry; there is no time to spare.”
The hay wagon creaked and moaned as it made its way along the dirt roads of Cherbourg. Tom felt every jolt. Planes flew over head, loud thunderous rolls of fire. Rat tat tat, rat tat tat sounds he would never forget. The driver of the hay wagon pulled over on the side of the road:
“Sergeant you must get out of the wagon, the planes are straffing us. Come we will hide in the
bushes until they have gone. “
The three men headed into the brush. A German Colonel arrived his Luger pointed at the men:
“Hurry, ve must get out of here now. None of us are safe here.”
Tom, moved toward the Colonel:
“you are the one that was at the farm earlier today.”
“Ja, I vas.. I come to inspect the family every week. Ze young lady lets me know vhat
iss going on. Ve vill be going to Paris. There es a safe house there. The Paris resistance will
return you to England. Now ve must go, before the straffing begins again.
Tom, hoped this Kraut was on the up and up. He had no desire to be shot as a spy or sent to one of the Stalags for the duration. Once again he hid in the pile of straw. The Colonel had changed clothes twice since they had met. Now he was driving the wagon; Tom just had to trust in God that all would be well.
The small group of men arrived in Paris two days later. The safe house was in downtown Paris not far from the Gestapo headquarters. This through Tom off:
“What is that building?” He asked as the Colonel knocked three times rapidly on the door.
The door opened very slightly:
“Sat on ze vall.”
The door opened there stood two men and one woman. Tom noticed that the woman shook.
“You are Sergeant Thomas Torrence. We have been expecting you. Tomorrow night
a Lysander is coming in to drop off an officer. We will take you to the plane. Move quickly
the plane can only stay on the ground for a moments.”
“I am ready, thank you for all your help.”
The following evening once darkness had seeped into the sky. The two men and one woman stood in the shadows of trees with Tom as they waited to hear the engines of the Lysander. Suddenly there was the sound. Torches were laid down so the pilot could see. He landed quickly. The gentleman that was being dropped off jumped out of the plane his suitcase in his hand. Tom would later learn that the suitcase contained a radio. Tom ran toward the plane like a man possessed. He jumped up into the plane as it was taking off. Tom, sighed as sigh of relief. He was on his way to freedom.
Tom Torrence arrived in Paris once again. He went to the safe house only to learn that the two men and woman had been captured a sumarily executed. He felt as if someone had gut punched him. He was determined to return to Cherbourg, he hoped that Suzette was safe.
He took the bus to Cherbourg later that day. Arriving early in the morning he made his was to the small white cottage. The barn was still standing; that was a good sign. He walked up the path to the door. The door opened and there stood Suzette:
“Hello, do you remember me? I am the Sergeant that you hid in your barn for several days,:
“Yes, I remember you, you made it safely to England?”
“Yes, but the resistance group that helped were found out and executed.”
Suzette turned always, her eyes filling with tears:
“I see, you once asked me my name: it is Suzette Brouchard. Your is?”
“Sergeant Thomas Alan Torrence, I am from Dallas, Texas.”
Tom entered the house as Suzette went to make coffee:
Suzette where are you parents? I never did meet them. I recall that you said they were
Suzette turned with tears in her eyes:
“The town found out about them toward the end of the war. They were executed. It is only me
Tom gathered her in his arms, kissed away her tears.
“Suzette, would you consider marrying me? I have a small ranch outside of Dallas.”
“Oui, but how?” “ Do you think the United States would allow me to live there knowing
my parents were Nazis?”
“It is in the past and you weren’t a Nazi.”
“Then yes I will marry you and move to this Dallas.”