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Windows for Remy

“Windows for Remy” describes the fiery crash and death of a World War II fighter pilot in France two months after D-Day.

The local populace responds by venerating his body despite Nazi threats of reprisal.

an excerpt from this historical novel …

CHAPTER ONE

Juliette heard the roar of engines and looked skyward. Four sleek planes were lined up in a row, hanging in the air like beads on a thread. Three gun barrels beneath each wing were clearly visible on the lead craft. The full set of war birds dangled delicately in the air for a fraction of a second with tails high.

There is no more sobering sight than a P-51 fighter coming in for the kill at full throttle directly over your head.

The teenager raised a cupped hand to her brow, squinted coffee-colored eyes to fight the sun’s glare. She rotated her body as the first fighter leveled out and passed above.

An instant later she heard the chatter of guns and saw white puffs trail the leading airplane. The attackers were only a hundred feet high and closing, so near the sound of their machine-guns reached her almost as soon as they fired. She stood transfixed as the second airship’s weapons opened up, then the third.

Clearly, the pilots targeted the train everyone in town knew was hidden beneath huge hemp nets on a set of nearby side tracks.

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Juliette realized how exposed she was out in the open walking parallel to the seldom used trunk line. A thrill of fear ran up her spine.

Her older brother, Grange, was a few meters ahead of her in the field. Late afternoon and school was over for her, farm work done with for him. Her brother had cut a switch to prod rocks or swat at lizards which scurried away from his approaching boots. Now he held the end of the stick to his shoulder pretending to be a rifleman.

Juliette came to her senses as the fourth plane leveled out from its dive and began to fire. She screamed Grange’s name, then bolted across Old Tandant’s mustard field toward the farm house adjoining a dirt road. Her long gangling legs, which until this summer had been those of a colt and much too skinny, easily leaped between the field’s furrows as she ran now more like a filly. The knee length brown skirt of her Catholic school uniform billowed with every running step she took.

Grange did not immediately respond. He remained stock still and gazed admiringly at the screaming beauty and powerful grace of the American-built Mustangs.

Somewhere beyond the windbreak of trees, German gunners began to throw their shells at the attacking aircraft. But the fuses were set long and exploded high. Balls of flame followed by resounding thunder indicated where each missile went off. Ugly black insects swarmed into the air amid the puffs of smoke.

The awesome display mesmerized and held Grange where he stood. He heard his sister yell his name but it did not occur to him it was quite stupid to stand idly by while a German munitions train was being attacked. The danger, however, was real and it would probably become much more intense.

The Mustangs were powered by Rolls-Royce engines built in America to British specifications. You don’t hear a Rolls at work even in an airplane because of the close tolerances within which the lifters and valves and pistons operate. You do hear the intake of a diving P-51’s air scoop and the prop wash whistling over the fuselage and you really hear the .50 caliber machine-guns firing up to 400 rounds a minute when you live in a war zone.

It was August 2, 1944, D-DAY plus 56, nearly two months after the invasion of Normandy. Although the French anticipated imminent liberation, German ground forces continued to put up fierce resistance and Allied progress from the coast was slow. It was field by field, town by town and the Battle of France did not actually begin until July 18 with the fall of Saint Lo.

The tide of battle in the air, however, had definitely turned. The Luftwaffe was on the run and British-based planes took the war to the enemy. The squadron of American Army airmen attacking Remy, where Juliette and Grange lived, came from across the Channel. Mid-summer sunlight reflected from their silver wings as the planes made their way into France.

Coming out of his trance, Grange took out after Juliette. Both ran as fast as they could toward the refuge of Old Tandant’s farmhouse. They were still running, backs to the rail line, as the first plane fell out of sight behind the trees. The other attackers followed in quick succession, fuselages flattened, their angle of attack achieved. The young people continued to hear blazing guns and felt the air shudder with every German response.

As they approached Tandant’s garden plot, Grange managed to cry between breaths, “Get behind the wall.” He panted hard and was surprised to see he was not gaining but merely keeping pace with his sister.

She understood and veered to the right. In ten long strides she reached a perimeter of cemented stones that separated garden from field. The masonry was rough and typical of the country where they lived. Without slowing, Juliette placed one hand on the meter high top stone and leaped like a cat over its lip to crouch behind.

Grange was still several paces in back of her. He attempted the same maneuver but overshot and came to rest in a plot of roses. Thorns licked his arms as he scrambled to conceal himself below the protection of thick rock wall. He made himself as small as possible as the whumping 88’s were briefly silent.

There was a moment of quiet during which they held their breath and shut their eyes. Juliette cautiously rose and peered over the stone lip but Grange pulled her back. “Don’t be foolish,” he insisted. “You could have your head blown off.”

The calm was broken as shrapnel rained down on the thatched roof of the nearby farm house and tore a gaping hole in its reeds. Aware of the damage the metal fragments could inflict, the two took prone positions lengthwise along the base of the wall in the crevice where rock met dirt.

Perhaps that is why they survived. and his men waited to begin and his men waited to begin

A power beyond anything they ever imagined shook the ground beneath their bodies and reverberated across the surrounding farm land. They were lifted off the earth where they lay, shaken like bits of sand and dropped back into place none too gently. The temblor lasted several seconds but left the impression of having gone on considerably longer.

The quake was followed by a violent rush of wind that blew over the edge of their protective barrier. Tendrils of hot air lashed exposed parts of their bodies but the stone wall held.

Old Tandant’s thatched roof, on the other hand, leaped from its moorings and peeled back from its rafters like a hair piece. Juliette forced her eyes open and watched astonished as the dry material, a thick curled lip, rose to the vertical and burst into flame.

At that moment the concussion struck. Juliette’s insides felt the deep shudder of a basso profundo work its way from bone to bladder and force an exit out her open mouth. She was unaware she was screaming, her eyes involuntarily shut tight, as she covered her ears for fear the drums might implode.

This terrible fury was unlike anything she had ever experienced and seemed to last longer than the earthquake. The sound wave eventually passed and she opened her eyes to glimpse Grange with fingers splayed over his big ears staring wide-eyed directly at her. His short punch-bowl hair cut stood on end.

He would have been laughable to look at if the situation were not so frightening.

That is when the Mustang with its dead pilot strapped in his seat slammed into the earth a dozen meters from them, cart wheeled twice, broke through their protective wall literally within centimeters of Grange’s toes and came to rest at the base of Old Tandant’s stone house.

This novel is 194 pages long, available in PDF format.
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