He took the kids off to the side. "Look, kids, for this to work, you all have to be very quiet, even if you hear gunshots, even if there is a fire. Your relatives over there" -- gesturing at the emaciated men and women feasting on bread and wine (one of the advantages to hiding on a vineyard) -- "they have bags of sand. If the Germans try to set the place on fire, we will be safe and make it look like there is no one here. Do you understand? Not a peep! Those are the rules of the game. There's a prize if you win." The kids nodded and he dismissed them to enjoy their bread and grapes.
Minutes passed. After a few false starts, the kids settled down and enoyed some whispered stories of sunny days before the Nazis invaded. As they slept, in the darkness, Le Salle heard his men settling down for the night. The worst part of the ordeal was the faint smell of Moreau's stew over the aroma of fresh dirt and wine stomping buckets.
He thought back on the railroad crossing, how the prisoners had intermingled with the refugees. He thought about his two men in disguise within the group, and how Martin flushed out the German spy. Things were going well. He wished Molly could be there to see him, but she'd be terrified if she knew what terrible danger her brother was in.
Sometime around midnight, a young woman approached him. "So, we are just supposed to sit here?", she whispered.
"Yes. Many of my men are camped some distance away. Our sentries look like they are guarding the other camp, and that they happen to be stationed near the shed, you know, for cover."
"If the Germans attack, they will retreat to the camp and leave the shed unguarded. It's locked and looks abandoned. They should leave it alone, concentrating on the main camp. Sgt. Bernard is an able soldier; the camp is in good hands."
They chatted for a bit, then she withdrew. Perhaps half and hour later, he caught her trying to open a window, which had been sealed shut. With a sigh, he quietly dispatched her. He had suspected someone of leaving a trail; his men had reported that the refugees were unusually clumbsy with their possessions. Thinking back, he was certain it was her.
Since then, things had been uneventful. Only two more days to the French Mediterranean and freedom. He sat up to quiet a snoring man, but his wife swiftly took care of it. She shrugged at him.
Le Salle was left to wonder why the Americans sent in experts like him rather than the real troops. He knew they didn't want to become involved, but there was little he could do except Indian-style raids. Hitting that concentration camp had been risky, but worth it. The Germans had only pursued them this far to make an example of them. Or maybe they had figured out who some of the 'refugees' were.
A twig snapped and he instantly became alert. Dozens of fearful eyes flew open and stared at him in the dim moonlight, which oozed through the shed's grim-covered windows. He barely heard quiet footsteps skimming between the bushes -- Durant, no doubt. Then, a struggle. He fought his instincts to run and help; the others noticed his silent quivering.
Someone discreetly tried the door. Durant had lost.
"Allo?", the voice said in Deutsch-tainted French. Little Thomas was about to answer -- bless his heart! -- but Richard, a brave boy of six and two years his senior, reminded him silently about the promised candy. Thomas held his tongue. The steps receeded toward the camp. Thomas reminded him a bit of Jimmy, his nephew.
The shooting started soon afterward. To his relief, it turned out that Durant hadn't been killed. Le Salle heard his distinctive battle-cry a few moments later. He had allowed the German to think he'd been taken out, waited for them to advance, then he and his men sprung a ambush from the rear. His German wasn't perfect, but the refugees' smiles confirmed that Durant had done some real damage.
Gutsy move, Le Salle thought. He was going to recommend Durant for officer's school after he beat him for taking such a stupid risk.
The Germans played their parts beautifully. As he'd suspected, a torch broke the window and poked through. Damp rage covering their mouths, they gently took it and burned a trellis in front of the window. It must have looked enough like a large blaze was going on inside, at least until the troops had well past.
By dawn, his men emerged victorious. He'd chosen this spot because it was easily defended, and because of the hills, the Germans could do little but send in infantry. The grapevines and orchards beyond made for excellent cover.
He doled out the peppermints as promised.
Over the next couple of days, Le Salle brought the refugees to the shore and they took boats to safety. His mission brought two crucial scientists to America and saved dozens of lives. He was decorated for his efforts, and ended up being elected to Congress.
Ed. Note: When the Second Civil War broke out some eighty years later, Le Salle's remembered his grandpa's story and tried the same trick in a vineyard in California. He felt that with heat-reflective blankets, they'd be safe from IR goggles. Unfortunately, Coalition forces also had a field terrahertz imager, easily saw through the stone walls and his ruse, and captured his group with minimal fighting.
This was actually a full technicolor dream I had last night. I may revise the story once I've had a chance to think about it, but I wanted to type it up and share this morning.