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White Rose Black Forest
Author:Eoin Dempsey

White Rose Black Forest

Eoin Dempsey




AUTHOR’S NOTE

White Rose Black Forest is inspired by true events. However, certain factual elements and the timing of events have been altered for the sake of the narrative.






Chapter 1

The Black Forest Mountains, southwest Germany, December 1943

This seemed a fitting place to die. A place where she had once known every field and tree, every valley, where the rocks had names, where meeting places were described in clandestine languages adults could never understand. A place of gushing mountain streams shining like burnished steel in the summer sun. This was where she’d felt safe. Now even this place felt poisoned, ruined, all beauty and purity choked to death.

The quilt of snow was thick on the ground, unrelenting as far as she could see in any direction. She closed her eyes, pausing for a few seconds. The haunted howling of the wind, a rustle in the branches of snow-laden trees, the rushing of her breath, and the beating of her heart. The night sky loomed above. She kept on, the crunching sound of her footsteps resuming. Where was the right place to do such a thing? Who would find her? The thought of some children out playing in the snow coming across her body was too much to bear. Perhaps it would be better to turn back, to relent for one more day at least. A tear formed in the corner of her eye and slid down the numbed skin of her face. She walked on.

The falling snow began to thicken, and she adjusted her scarf to cover her face. Perhaps the elements would take her. That would be a most fitting end—a return to the nature she’d loved so much. Why was she even still walking? What was there to gain from wandering through the snow like this? Surely the time had come to just be done with it, to end the agony. She reached into her pocket and felt the smooth metal of her father’s old revolver through her gloves.

No, not yet. She continued forward. She’d never see the cabin again. Or anything or anyone for that matter. She would never know how the war would turn out, or see the National Socialists fall or that madman stand trial for his crimes. She thought of Hans, his beautiful face, the truth in his eyes, and the unimaginable courage in his heart. She hadn’t even had a chance to hold him one last time, to tell him that he was the reason that she believed that love could still exist in this grotesque world. They’d cut his head off, tossed it into the casket alongside his body, and laid him down beside his sister and his best friend.

The snow was still coming down, but she kept on, the trees of the forest on her left as she crested a hill. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, and something ahead caught her attention, a mound in the snow about two hundred yards away. A body, crumpled like a bunch of rags in the pristine white. No footprints leading to it. It wasn’t moving, but the still-attached parachute ruffled in the wind, licking at the snow like a thirsty animal. She instinctively swiveled her head, even though she hadn’t seen a living soul in days. She moved forward with caution, the paranoia ingrained in her making her perceive every shadow and every breath of wind as a deadly threat. But there was nothing and no one.

The snow was gathering on his unmoving body, much of him almost invisible against the film of white. His eyes were closed. She brushed snow off his face and reached for his pulse. The patter of his heartbeat came through the skin in his neck. Icy-white breaths plumed out from between his lips, but his eyes remained closed. She drew back, looking around in a desperate search for some kind of help. She was utterly alone. The nearest house was hers—the cabin her father had left her—but that was almost two miles. The closest village was five miles or more—an impossible distance in these conditions even if he were conscious. She brushed the snow off his chest to reveal a Luftwaffe uniform with the insignia of a captain. Of course he was one of them—one of the monsters who had destroyed this country and taken away everyone she had ever loved. Who would know if she left him to die? She should just leave him like this. Soon they would both be dead, and no one would ever know. It would merely amount to two more bodies in the snow to join the deluge. She trudged a few paces away. Her legs stopped moving, and then, before she realized she’d made the decision, she was bent over him once more.

She tapped him on the cheek, calling out. She pulled up his eyelids but elicited no response other than a gentle groan. The Luftwaffe captain was propped up by the backpack he wore, his head lolling back, his arms spread on either side. He was tall, probably six feet or more, and might have weighed almost double what she did. A claw of anxiety dug into her as she thought about the impossibility of carrying him back to the cabin. There was no way. Still, she tried to lift him and managed only a few inches before her legs gave way and she slipped, dropping him back onto the snow. His backpack must have weighed at least fifty pounds and the parachute another ten. The parachute could stay on for now, but the backpack had to come off. After a few seconds of trial and error, she undid the straps on his backpack and pulled it out from under him, causing his body to collapse back onto the snow with a gentle thud.

She put the pack to the side and glanced at the sky. The snow was coming heavier. They didn’t have long. She checked his pulse again. It was still strong, but for how much longer? An impulse drove her to plunge a hand into his jacket pocket. She took out his identification papers. His name was Werner Graf. He was from Berlin. And in his wallet was a picture of a woman she assumed was his wife, posing with two smiling daughters around three and five. He was twenty-nine—three years older than she. A deep breath billowed out of her lungs as she stood to stare at Werner Graf. She had trained and worked to help other people. That was who she had been—and who she could be again, if only for a few hours. She placed the papers back into his pocket before moving around behind him again. She put her arms under his armpits and heaved with every sinew of strength she had. His upper body moved, but his legs caught in the snow, and he let out a loud yelp of pain as they came free. His eyes were still closed. She placed him back down and moved around to examine his legs. His pants were ripped, and she almost recoiled as she felt broken bones pressing against his skin. Both legs were broken below the knee. It was possibly the fibulae but certainly the tibiae that were affected. They would heal in time if set properly, but walking was going to be impossible for now.

Perhaps it would be better to let him pass gently in his sleep and die here in the snow. She went to his backpack and opened it to find several changes of clothes, and more papers, which she placed at the side. At the bottom, she found matches, food, water, a sleeping bag, and two pistols. She wondered why on earth a Luftwaffe pilot would be carrying such things. Two guns? Perhaps he was dropping behind enemy lines in Italy, but that was hundreds of miles from here. There was little time. Wasting time on questions would cost Werner Graf his life. She thought of his wife and daughters, innocent of the crimes he might have committed on behalf of the Reich.

She wasn’t carrying much herself—just the loaded revolver. It was all she thought she’d need tonight.

Memories of the snowbound winters of her youth came to her, the times she’d spent in this very field. The tree line she’d been skirting was only a few hundred yards away, and that distance had proved the gap between life and death for Werner Graf. She would never have found him if he’d landed in there—even if he had survived the landing. She took the sleeping bag out of his backpack, opened it up, and spread it across him before leaning down in front of his face.