An Escape in Two Phases

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It was months since he had been taken prisoner by the militia. Lucien had not been denounced by a neighbor envious of his “award for an act of bravery” as was often the case. He had been outrageously betrayed by his own family. His own daughter had informed on him and got him sent to this prison for renegades. Every week, they took him to a sham doctor who questioned him without respite for a whole hour. He wanted to know everything about Lucien. His childhood, his passions, his life with the Resistance. But Lucien said nothing. He would never have betrayed his brothers in arms. He was even planning his escape. His plan was perfect. 

That Tuesday in July, at 12:45, Lucien had managed to make a call from the telephone box in his prison corridor. The person he spoke to seemed to have some difficulty understanding him. Yet, within the team, they were all supposed to be totally up to speed with the regular changes in the code. Lucien had had to repeat his orders several times, which had almost gotten him spotted. Then he had returned to his cell, and pretended to be totally absorbed in reading an old romantic novel. 

At 13:13, the noise of an engine woke Lucien from the doze that had crept up on him. He scanned the road from his window and saw a strangely dressed young man park his moped outside the building. A red moped. Wasn’t there anything less flashy? But Lucien still managed a sly smile as he watched the man discreetly leave the key in the ignition. 

At 13:14, Lucien left his cell to take advantage of the authorized daily stroll. He mixed with the other prisoners and sat nonchalantly on a bench, near the moped. His heart was beating wildly, but he took care not to let it show.

At 13:18, when he was sure that his guards were fully occupied questioning the young man, Lucien did not hesitate. He stood up quickly and got on the moped even more quickly. He started it up and made the tires squeal on the gravel as the machine took off.

At 13:30, Lucien was speeding along a country road. He was basking in the caress of the wind and the smell of petrol around him. For a moment he sized up the moped by the vibrations it was producing under his control then, satisfied, decided to take the direction of the mountains, towards the hideout. He would reach it in a little over an hour, if he managed to get through the village without any problems.

At 14:03, the moped showed signs of fatigue. Lucien slowed as he approached the village. The militia would surely be out looking for him on the surrounding roads, little used since traffic within the small town had been reorganised. Lucien was going to be more cunning. He had taken care to dress as well as he could, and chose to cross the village discreetly. He took conscientious notice of all the yield signs, and drove carefully. Perhaps too carefully...

At 14:12, as he was passing the last stores in the village, Lucien heard a voice call out to him. Someone had recognized him! The butcher, no doubt, with whom he used to deal regularly in the old days. The man had always been friendly towards him, but Lucien could not take the risk of falling into a trap. The militia might have already warned his informers... Without turning round, he yanked roughly at the controls of his vehicle, which spat out a puff of foul-smelling smoke before speeding off down the road.

At 14:15, a cow was convinced that the grass was better in the meadow on the other side of the road. Lucien swerved spectacularly, just missed the animal, and finished up in the middle of a pasture. The moped breathed its last. As the grass had softened his fall, Lucien soon recovered his spirits. His skid marks were clearly visible, but he hoped that the trampling of the herd would soon hide them. But he could not abandon the machine, which would soon be spotted. With some effort, he got the moped back on its two wheels and pushed it to the end of the meadow, to the edge of the neighboring wood.

At 14:20, Lucien took a little dirt track which cut through the forest and led to the hideout, a group of former farm buildings smelling sweetly of wood and new grass. As if to remind himself of it, Lucien breathed in great gulps of the pure air. Despite the injuries he had recently suffered, he was happy. He was free. The moped seemed suddenly a light burden.

At 14:35, Lucien reached a little clearing, where he recognized the Stross farm. This family of farmers would definitely have helped him by giving him clean clothes and a piece of smoked ham (anything other than the awful prison soup!), because they hated the militia. Old Mr. Stross had been deported at the beginning of the war and the sons had joined the Resistance. But Lucien did not want to get them into any trouble. If the militia found out, that would be the end of the entire family.

At 14:48, Lucien reached the hideout at last, utterly exhausted. The place had been very poorly maintained. The walls of the building were so overgrown with ivy that the windows were obscured, and the old stone steps were covered in a thick layer of dust. Despite his fatigue, Lucien was outraged. He put the moped in the barn and painfully climbed the steps leading to the garden. He was delighted to find the old Mirabelle plum tree sagging under the weight of its fruit. Lucien picked a few and, exhausted, lay down under the tree to recover his strength while waiting for the others to bring him his false identity. When he opened his eyes, he was surrounded by men in uniform...

At 16:00, the police brought Lucien back to the door of the Mimosas Retirement Home and the pizza delivery boy, still shocked at what had happened to him, was able to recuperate his moped, although now in a pitiful state. It didn’t matter. Lucien had a new escape plan. A perfect plan.

Translated by Wendy Cross


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