Disclaimer: The characters of Xena, Gabrielle, Argo, Janice Covington and Melinda Pappas all belong to MCA - Universal Pictures and Renaissance Pictures. No infringement of their rights is intended.

Sexuality: This is to be considered an R rated Alt fan fiction story and so is intended for mature audiences, that is, folks over the age of 18. It depicts the loving relationship between two couples who happen to be consenting adults/lesbians. The sexual content of this story is extremely graphic in nature, therefore should this type of story be offensive to you, please leave now...run, do not walk to the nearest exit.

Final Disclaimer: This story is a continuation of one l began a bit ago called 'The Grecian Affair'. It was followed by 'Resistance & Resurrection'. It is importantthe that you read these other stories in sequence otherwise you won't have a clue. Because l saw the need to avoid the German occupation of Greece in the first two, l decided to have Greece fall in 1944 and have them attack the island of Cyprus soon after. Most of the events in this story actually took place...l just altered the time frame to suit my own nefarious needs. There be angst here, and hurt/comfort ahead.....and violence, but then, this was a violent period in history.

As l don't enjoy living in a deprivation tank, please feed the bard. Offerings, burnt or otherwise, can be sent to ArdentTly@yahoo.com



Reflections In A Golden Eye



by ArdentTly



Chapter One

Polis, Cyprus

March, 1944



Jan sat on the edge of the bed, one hand lifting up her left breast. She inspected the stitches again. Yup, that was gonna scar..no two ways about it. Running a hand through her hair, she gazed into the mirror and sighed.

Between the digs she organized, the sites she visited and the boxes of inventory she went through, every inch of her skin was rapidly being covered with bumps, bruises and numerous scars. It wasn't that she was clumsy...Jan wasn't sure why, but she seemed to take chances now....getting herself into precarious situations for nothing.

She arched her eyebrow and sighed as she gazed down the length of her naked torso...yup, looking like a patch quilt there, Covington. She sighed once more, thinking about the stupid incident over at the museum.


She'd been showing one of the new assistants some of the relics they'd found at the site in Larnaca, Cyprus. One of which was a fancy breast dagger. The woman had doubted that someone could actually remove the item from between their breasts quickly and efficently and throw it with any degree of accuracy.

Jan, of course, had taken it as a personal challenge. Not only had they set up an area where some 'target practice' could occur, but had managed to gather quite a few spectators from various areas of the museum.

Her aim had been a little off the first few tries, managing to knick her hands up pretty good, but had improved to the point that bullseyes were becoming common. It was when Cierani had come over and checked the placement of the breast knife that Jan noticed the sly grin.

She wasn't sure why, but the idea of a confrontation entered her head..made her blood rush quicker.

Thinking the woman might have a trick up her sleeve, Jan had moved to protect the tender flesh surrounding the knife. An innocent tussle had turned into a free for all, leaving Jan with a nice two inch gash as a momento and a very bewildered and contrite looking Cierani Nanscouri.

The woman had apologized profusely, furthering Jan's discomfort as she tried to staunch the flow of blood. She'd tried to explain, muddling things up further, but then Cierani told her she understood. Something about being tied down and pussy whipped. That had almost caused another fight until Jan saw the sly smile.

Carefully removing the knife tip from the inside swell of her left breast had caused further seepage. The whole incident had only fueled feelings of frustration. Jan decided that what she really needed at that moment was a nice bender and a good fight.

The look on her assistant's face as Jan had cleaned the wound was enough to show just how Melinda was going to respond...she knew her behavior of late had been erratic and thoughtless. She felt like a spring that had been tightened too much.

Jan hadn't even been able to stitch the wound herself, having to rely on another of the new girls to do it. Luckily, Solari Mazontis, a vivacious young brunette who'd been working with the museum for the past six weeks, had taken industrial first aid.

The more time Jan spent with Solari the more she liked her and began to have a few ideas about matchmaking. Her thoughts traveled back to Peter van Oppen and she sighed rather deeply. Thinking of him still languishing in the Netherlands while the allied forces made their moves to oust the nazi regime made her not only angry but frustrated, too.

She'd promised Mel that she'd leave the fighting to others after having her request for discharge granted. Really, it had been an easy choice at the time. Seeing Mel's bleeding body on the floor of the museum with Hudson Callisto standing over her...well, she was very aware of just how much she had to lose now and jeaporizing it for any reason was just not worth contemplating.

However, feeling helpless was really not one of the things Jan did well and so, unbeknownst to Mel, she had put some inquiries in regarding training instruction...in a civilian capacity, of course.

The Third Reich had tried to get a foot hold on the island and were still bedevilling the shipping lanes. If she couldn't actually participate, then damnit, she'd help train some of the men who could! All those months training with Special Ops couldn't just be thrown away.

She heard the front door open and then silence. Figuring that Mel would be coming back late from her daily sojourn to Mr. Christopolis' antique shop, she decided to just lay low and make as little fuss about her wound as possible. She just hoped they wouldn't get into an argument about the main reason for her injuries.

She was rather surprised when the bedroom door was opened and Mel stepped in, looking rather composed and relaxed. Jan thought she looked particularly serene.

"Well, hi, birthday girl. You'all have an interestin day? What'sat sayin? A little bit older and deeper in debt? I don't think the latter applies much, but..."

Jan cringed as she suddenly remembered that today was her birthday. Geez, another year older...thirty-three years old...shit!

Jan lay back on the bed, a frown on her face, hands clasped over her stomach. Her feet twitched in silent rhythm as they dangled just above the floor.

"Well, l see yer gettin into the spirit of things...wearin ya birthday suit n all." Mel smirked, letting her eyes roam over the muscular figure of Jan with appreciation.

She noticed the wound by one of Jan's breasts and sighed. The 'accidents' were becoming more common place...almost every day now. It took everything not to either take the woman in her arms and see that she was truly alright or take her in her arms and shake some sense into her. Knowing that neither was going to help the situation any, Mel decided to just see when Janice would bring it up herself.

"I kinda forgot it was my birthday, Mel...l wish you wouldn't make a big deal out of it...geez, so l'm older...that's cause for celebration?!"

Melinda cleared her throat, feeling the past year weighing heavily on her shoulders. "When l even think about how many times, Janice Covington, l've come close to losing you...yes, damnit! Ever day we can spend together is cause for a celebration...doncha see?"

Jan set her jaw, thinking of her time in Amsterdam...how close that bastard Gestapo officer had come to doing what countless others had tried in vain. She knew her destiny: it wasn't at the end of no damn nazi's blade either.

Mel slipped off her high heels and sat on the side of the bed, tucking her feet beneath her. She gently pushed a few strands out of Jan's face, leaving her hand to linger on the softness of her beautiful face.

"What's the matter, Jan? Something happen at work? You wanna talk about it?" Mel tried to remain calm but inside she was quaking. What if...had Jan's wanderlust returned? It had been five months since she'd limped home from her duty in the Netherlands. Perhaps she was getting restless and unhappy...

"Mel..." Jan propped herself up on her elbows and took one of Mel's hands in her own. "....it's not you, its not us...l had this incident at work today...just a silly accident with this great breast dagger..." Mel noticed how animated Jan was becoming as she described the artifact... "it was so great, Mel...really well tooled, fit real well in my hand, and sharp! l hardly had to clean it up even...." Mel watched as her lover's eyes seemed to glaze over. She cleared her throat.

Seeing the arched eyebrow, Jan grinned weakly..."Ah, yeah, well...anyway, so the new assistant, Cierani....she kinda dared me...hey, not my fault...she wanted a demonstration about throwing it with accuracy."

Jan smirked, thinking about the nice grouping she'd made on the target board. "Let's just say she aint wonderin any more...hehehe."

Mel looked at the cuts and gashes on her lover's hands...and it hurt..deep inside.....was she gonna slowly kill herself before my very eyes? Mel wondered sickly. Deciding to put a brave face on and just coast, Mel neatly pushed back her worries and tried to soldier on. lt was Jan's birthday, after all..she smiled weakly.

"And so, Miss Smarty Pants, just how did the teacher get injured? You'all get a little too enthusiastic whipping it back in there?"

Now Jan hesitated...oh, this was gonna be good...what to say?

"Um, well...no....l...it happened when she...um..Cierani was tryin to see the placement of the...dagger..between my breasts..and um...well, l thought maybe she was gonna...pull...something...and...."

"She was gonna 'pull' somethin, was she? Well, gee, should l be jealous here, Jan...letting some woman put her hand in there? My oh my..."

Seeing the smirk on her face, Jan reached over and grabbed the woman's collar, pulling her close so their noses touched.

"Oh you are bad, Melinda Pappas...jealous my ass. You know there'd be nobody else but you...ever. You like to see me twitch and squirm?"

"Do l like to getcha worked up?", she purred, "Well, sure, Jan...l can tease ya, can't l?"

Jan growled deep in the back of her throat and covered Mel's mouth with her own. Mel felt herself being forced back onto the bed. She smiled as she felt her wife's hands begin to pull at her blouse, carelessly popping the recalcitrant ones that refused to co-operate.

Mel began running her hands through Jan's hair, from temple back, luxuriating in the golden softness. She moaned with desire as she ran her hands down to the sides and then middle of Jan's back, feeling her shiver in response.

They had always been so receptive to each other's touch, look and emotions. And it had only increased, become more intense, more ineffable as time went on.

But the last couple of months there was a distance she had begun to feel from Jan. She tried to talk to her about it but Jan just brushed it off. That had cut so deeply. She wasn't sure just what to do about it...feeling that maybe Jan just needed some time to work things out in her mind.

It seemed like forever since the last time they'd loved each other with any intensity and spontaneity. Oh, she knew Jan still loved her. There was no doubt about that...she could see the love in her eyes, feel the bond with her heart. But something was missing now...it seemed to have been lost over in Europe.

Needing to feel the power and passion - the total energy that they once used to enjoy, Mel began pulling her lips away so that each new kiss was brief, gentle and oh so soft...'birdy kisses', her Daddy used to call them. She feasted upon the lips before her, casually nipping and sucking at them; a swipe here, a dart there. It seemed to heighten Jan's response and soon it was Mel that becoming caught in her own web...deepening the kisses once again.

She brought her hands up and slowly began to trace her love's areola's. When she pulled a bit on them, she felt Jan wince, a sharp intake of breath following.

Gently pushing Jan away, she looked deeply into her eyes and said, "l know you're feeling restless, Jan. l can see it in yer eyes. Why do ya put yerself in a position where ya know yer gonna get hurt? l know you have a devil-may-care attitude, Janice Covington, but yer gonna get herself hurt bad. Ya like collectin scars, do ya?"

Jan sighed deeply and rolled off of Mel, lying along side with one arm over her eyes. She felt so...discouraged...she didn't like feeling so useless...she liked being on the edge...feeling the energy flowing through her very veins.

"I'm sorry, Mel...l thought l could be happy just working here at the museum, being the Director...overseeing the various digs...but l need more." She sighed again and sat up.

Mel lay there, resigned to the discussion she knew they had both been avoiding.

"Go on." she said, trying hard not to sound dejected.

Maybe things hadn't been going along as well as she'd thought. Maybe Jan wanted some time alone...to sort out her feelings. Mel felt the sharp pain of a very bad headache beginning behind her eyes.



Chapter Two





Peter went with her when she walked down to the waiting plane. The pilot swung her small kit bag up into the belly and began preparing for lift off.

Peter gently took Jan into his arms, mindful of her injury and just held her. They had shared so much together and Janice was loath to sever their bond.

"Look, Peter. I wanna ask you something, alright. And don't take my head off. You and Anneke. You love her, don't you? I can see it in your eyes. Even when Jannie was alive. You and she, you have a history, right?"

"Yes, Janice. Anneke was Anya's friend. We were like the three musketeers. We were always together, always laughing. We both joined the resistance when Anya...when she..died. Then Anneke found Jannie and..."

"If you love her, you'll tell her. Hey, she can only say no, right. Nice big handsome guy like you? And if it doesn't work out, there are lots of fish in the sea, Peter. You come down to Greece sometime...Mel and I , we'll fix you right up. Okay?"

Peter kissed her cheek and ruffled Jan's hair. "Are you always this indestructive, Janice Covington?"

"I am...invincible!" Jan shouted in her best Indiana Jones impersonation.

Peter grinned. Why was he so attracted to the women he couldn't have, he thought. He sighed as he watched Jan get into the plane and head down the temporary runway.

"A safe trip, Janice Covington. May God watch over you. May God watch over us all." Peter slowly made his way back up the beach. He had many things to think about. Yes, he would have to broach the subject with Anneke. She couldn't be expected to forget Jannie just as he would never forget Anya. But there was love and so there was hope.

And oh so many train stations to wreck and mayhem to cause the Third Reich. So many targets, so little time. Peter chuckled as he made his plans. He might just show up on Jan's door step some day. He would like to see this Melinda. Yes, someone who could steal Janice's heart must be a force of nature indeed.

Peter dodged between the vehicles...narrowly evading the maurading nazi patrol. He heard gunfire....assumed it was for the small twin engine plane carrying Janice to safety...he smiled..with her luck, she would be in heaven a full hour before the devil even knew of her passing.

He made his way back to the abandoned warehouse and the rest of the cadre. News began filtering in that the Allies were just beyond Belgium...that freedom would soon be at hand.

Frans and Jaap had begun to argue about where the cadre was going...Frans wanted to continue on their way to Antwerp; Jaap wanted to make a stand in Amsterdam, his home town.

Peter tried to feel his way around the tension they all felt when Janice Covington left. The loss of Jannie had hit Anneke extremely hard. They hadn't been able to take the body with them...carrying the wounded Sergeant between them had taxed them all.

In the days following the assassination of General Christiansen, the National Socialistische Beweging der Nederland began rounding up anyone they could get their hands on...many were women and children. They were hanged in the town square which was horrible enough. However, much to Peter's abhorrence, they had strung up the body of Jannie as well.

He had become extremely worried about Anneke's withdrawal. She had gone stone cold when she had seen her lover swinging in the wind. She hadn't shed a tear, nor cried once...it wasn't healthy, Peter tried to tell her. What he got for his efforts surprised him.

The more protective he became, the more dependant she acted. Soft words of affection were soon replaced with tentative touches and sweet caresses. It was all happening much too fast, but neither one seemed able to arrest its momentum.

The wise and sometime willful blonde warrior was slowly being replaced by a poor facsimile...as if the real Anneke were somehow being seen through the lense of a marble...a golden one, to be sure, but it painted a false image nevertheless.

She became tentative, subordinate and ill at ease. Her sleep was interrupted nightly with horrible dreams...they seemed to only be soothed one way...at first Peter felt it was wrong to have sex under those circumstances. However, both his libido and Anneke's wanton behaviour chased the wise little voice of reason back into the recesses of his mind.

Jaap and Menno began keeping to themselves...neither one happy with what they considered a betrayal of Jannie's memory.

"How can you? You two...rolling around like crazed weasles! It's not right." Jaap had given his brother a look; Menno sighed deeply and had shaken his large lion's head. They both shared a sigh and then turned to leave.

Jaap had left a note on the table telling Peter that they were returning to Amsterdam. Very detailed plans regarding the cadre there were included, as if they were giving the two of them a bread crumb trail home.

Frans had stayed on, deciding that his moment in history lay in the town of Antwerp.

They set out a couple of days later, deciding to get in contact with a few of the bigger cadre's.

Having made their contacts, the three of them had bedded down in a local field, exhausted but happy to have a purpose once more.

Frans had tried to be discrete, leaving the lovers alone whenever possible..however, it was becoming painfully obvious that something was going to happen between Peter and Anneke...something disastrous.

He overheard them speak of Jannie...and Anneke had cried bitter tears of a love lost. Peter had tried to rationalize that perhaps things happened for a reason...after all, they had each other now...a resounding smack was heard and Frans came running.

"How can you say this? You know how much l loved Jannie. Hoe kon je dat zeggen? Je weet hoeveel ik van Jannie hield." How can you just dismiss her life...as if she were just a means to an end." A look of utter disgust passed over her face. "Oh, Peter...what have we done?"

Peter just stood there, stunned, eyes watering with pain. Anneke stood tall, squared her shoulders and had left both men standing in the lonely field. While one was left pondering his future, the other embraced what she knew to be her destiny.



Chapter Three



"I have this horrendous headache, Jan darlin. Couldn't we leave this for another time?"

Jan moved closer to where her wife was lying and stroked Mel's face. Her heart felt like breaking as she saw a tiny tear make its way out of the corner of Mel's right eye.

"Mel....look, honey...l know l said...but l can't...l've really tried...l need to.....shit, l don't know what l need any more. All l do know is l love you and l want to be with you. That will never change....but l can't just sit still while the Germans the Italians try and get a foot hold on this country. l can't just pretend it doesn't exist. Can't you see that?"

Jan stood and went over to her chair, quickly putting on her clothes, and then returned to sit by Melinda. The southerner had taken a hanky from her sleeve and was trying to staunch the flow of mascara-laiden tears. She finally sat up and straightened her clothing.

"I know you tried...l guess l've been foolish to think you could be tied down to one place, Jan. You should never have gotten out of the Army. I had no right to impose my insecurities on ya."

"Now look. This has nothing to do with 'us'. It has nothing to do with me getting out of the Army...well, okay, so it does, kinda have something to do with that. I'm not gonna tell ya that l shouldn't have gotten out. But l am gonna tell ya that you will always be a part of whatever plans l do have."

Then she proceeded to outline the ideas she had for training the forces that were left behind. The majority of the population was fighting in Crete, trying to keep the German airborne from overrunning the island.

The attack on Crete was the first airborne assault in any war known to man. The German casualties had been extremely high - nearly 75% - but they were winning. It didn't look good and Jan was determined not to let it spread onto the mainland.

"I suppose...well, we could take a leave of absence...go on a vacation?"

Jan scratched her chin, "yeah, right. Some vacation...out in the mountains, roughing it with a bunch of uneducated grunts, gettin down and dirty, target practice, drills...." Mel noticed she had a wistful smile on her face...she grinned as she saw the light come back into her lover's eyes.

"Now, Jan. I know you gotcher contacts from Special Ops, but...well, maybe we should wait a little, just ta make sure yer all healed up?"

Jan arched her eyebrow and began unbuttoning her shirt. A sly smile was playing on her lips as she kicked off her shoes. "Why don't l let you be the judge of that..."

"Oh, Jan......"

Jan reached over and removed her wife's glasses, carefully folding them and placing them on the dresser. She continued to remove her clothing, her eyes taking on a rather smoldering look.

"So, it's my birthday, huh? That means l get spoiled, right? A person should get their fondest wish....or desire....right? C'mere...."

Melinda slowly got to her feet and made her way over to where Jan was standing. She looked down into the woman's eyes and felt herself falling...falling in love all over again.

Jan reached up and drew her wife's face down until their mouths were only millimeters apart...their breaths co-mingling. Jan could see each eyelash, every pore, the laugh lines around Mel's mouth. She took in the strong jaw line, the high cheek bones, the full sculpted lips, the slight bump on the side of her nose that indicated a break sometime in the past, and the glorious memorable always fetching cerulean blue eyes anyone could ever want to drown in. And she thanked her lucky stars that this woman, her wife, her bonded soul mate, loved her every bit as much as she was loved.

Jan took in a slow deep breath and then captured Mel's mouth with her own. The southerner moaned as she felt hands creep up under her blouse, cupping her breasts and then slowly make their to the back hooks. Mere seconds later, she felt her nipples begin to harden under Jan's inquisitive fingers.

Backing up, Jan found her buttocks pressing against her bureau and she eased up until she was sitting comfortably. Mel took the opportunity to remove her lover's blouse and unzip the pants.

Jan reluctantly removed her hands and began disrobing Melinda at a rather rapid rate. Soon clothes littered the area around them. Breaking the kiss, Mel stood back a little and glanced and Jan's breasts.

"I don't like to complain darling, but how am I gonna love ya with that wound? I really like yer breasts just the way God made em....alterations are not required."

Jan smiled and began kissing Mel once again. In between each sweet kiss, she mumbled "Pretend it's not there...ignore it...just don't get too carried away."

Mel chuckled deeply and positioned herself between Jan's legs. She reached under the woman's buttocks and pulled her closer until Jan's legs naturally wrapped around her torso.

"Gotta get rid of these trousers....l want to feel you, Jan...." And with that thought in mind, she picked her wife up and slowly made her way back to the bed. Slowly laying Jan back onto the covers, Mel stood and unzipped her own pants and shed them. Jan pulled her own down and then off, depositing them over the side of the bed. Soon both women were taking in the sights before them...hungrily consuming each inch of flesh with eyes smoldering with passion.

Mel slowly knelt between Jan's legs and began running her finger tips up and down the flesh of her legs and upper thighs. Jan sighed as she felt the goose bumps break out over her skin.

"Mel...l want you...put your mouth on my breast...l need you, love...oh, so very much."

Mel groaned, feeling herself respond to Jan's every word...and began feasting on her lover's right nipple, carefully avoiding the stitches and reddened flesh of the woman's left breast.

She began running her hand up and down Jan's belly and lower rib cage. For some reason Jan enjoyed tightening her abdomenal muscles under Mel's large hands...it seemed to incite a higher level of passion, as if drawing the heat from her very core.

When Mel felt the abdomenal muscles contract, she slipped one hand down and began stroking Jan's inner thighs. Feeling their slickness, she slowly slid two fingers through Jan's folds. She groaned as she felt the woman's legs open wider, her hips rise in anticipation.

"Oh gods, what you do to me...take me", Jan managed to moan before her mouth was seized once again, Mel's questing tongue matching the movements of her hand.

Jan felt the power of her impending orgasm like the oncoming rush of a freight train...gathering speed and momentum...building faster and faster until, with a strangled cry, it hit her full force, knocking the air from her lungs.

As she slowly came back into herself, she became aware that Mel was working her way down between her legs. She felt her knees being pushed up and then groaned with utter satisfaction as Mel began to lavish all of her attention on her labia and clitoris.

Feeling her heart rate increasing once again, Jan tried hard to concentrate on something other than what was happening right at that moment...it was coming too fast...she wanted...needed it to last...but it...was....coming....too..."OH GODS YES MELINDA YES FUCK ME!!" She screamed as she felt herself entered once again.

Mel increased her tempo and felt Jan's vaginal muscles begin to spasm once more...she revelled in the power that Jan so willingly gave her...trusting her to be both gentle and strong...allowing her to enjoy her own need for control every once and a while.

Over the years, Mel had evolved into a rather confident lover...one who was sure of her own sexuality, her own prowess. Jan had nurtured every facet of her libido, encouraging her fantasies and exploring her every need, want and desire. The sexual energy they both enjoyed in each other's company was truly liberating.

Jan lay spend beneath Mel, who had come up and taken her into a full embrace. She blinked slowly, wondering why this time had been so intense. She moved her jaw a bit and noticed a total lack of tension. She slowly rotated her neck and shoulders and smiled up at her wife with a look of wonder.

"Hey, woman. Know what? I don't know about you, but my tension is gone, gone, gone. I guess we shoulda had this conversation earlier, huh? How's the headache?"

Mel grinned at her, and then kissed her deeply. "Headache? What headache?"

Jan laughed, bringing a finger up to outline her wife's jaw line. Mel leaned into her warm hand and closed her eyes tightly.

"Oh gods, Jan...I love ya so much...I hate to see you unhappy...we'll do whatever you need to feel better about yerself. I want to see this fire in yer eyes forever..."

"And so you shall, my love...forever." They kissed again and Mel smiled as she felt Jan's mouth on her breast.

"Happy Birthday, baby." Mel chuckled as she felt Jan inch her way slowly down her responsive torso.

"Oh, Jan...."



It had taken a few days to get word through the British embassy but it had come. Jan was to report to barracks ASAP and start intensive training with the local militia.

The local scuttlebutt had been very discouraging: Mussolini had begun to get carried away as warlord and had attacked the British forces on Malta. 'Operation Hercules' had resulted in the island being under siege by the Germans and now they were readying their assault on Greece in earnest.

Crete had fallen the day before, the casualties to the New Zealand forces under Major General Bernard Freyberg were horrendous. The German casualties were even highter and would force Hitler never again to attempt another large-scale airborne offensive.

Word had come down that a few men from Special Ops would be joining Janice in rallying the remaining able bodied Greeks. A small British force of one brigade could be spared....along with a ragtag group of refugees, mostly made up of those who had managed to flee the onslaught in Crete and Malta.

Jan had begun to feel the real fear of defeat, that perhaps the Allies were not going to win this damnedable war. Well, if that was their fate, Jan was going to go down fighting, taking as many of the bastards as she could. And until then, she was gonna train as many patriots as she could.

Mel had decided that her skills as a linguist would best be employed as an interpreter; aiding British retired Colonel Thomas Barrinson with his dealings regarding both local Cypriots and refugees from Greece, Malta and Crete. Her winning ways were already making a difference...the usual animosity between the Maltese and Cypriots was almost non-existant.

The BBC had reported that King George VI had awarded the George Cross to Malta for their courage and resistance in the face of certain defeat. Their homes, churches, public and historic buildings had been reduced to rubble, civilian casulaties and food shortages were mounting. This seemed to rally the troops, uniting them against a common foe...

The British forces had just made the German's suffer 'eight days in hell', whereupon the RAF shot down more than 100 enemy aircraft for the loss of 27 of their own planes.

'Operation Pedestal' was in full swing. It was the largest convoy ever to be sent to Malta in an all-out attempt to bring relief to the island. With less than a fortnight's food stocks left on the island, a convoy of four ships had gotten through. Never again was the population to suffer the privations of a siege.

Jan came racing into camp after being out on manuevers over night and informed Mel that the Special Ops team had arrived. Jan had tried to keep a straight face when telling Mel but found she just couldn't.

"Okay, okay...l'll tell...it's Dan! Yup...l couldn't believe it either...seems he got a field promotion last month and as soon as the trouble with Crete began, volunteered to come down here and help out. What a guy! Shit, it's gonna be nice to see him, huh? Coulda been better circumstances, but hey...."

"Oh, Jan...l hate to think of him here...what about Shelley? She must be worried to death. And them just married for six months. It just isn't right...l know we all have to do our duty, Jan...but what if...what if he.."

Jan swept her into a tight embrace which served to staunch the tears. Both of them knew the price freedom would be...either they made a successful stand here in the Mediterranean or the Axis powers would over run all of Europe. The tide had already turned in North Africa and Jan could only hope that Malta would remain in Allied hands until they could get a break.



Chapter Four



Amsterdam ~ Antwerp


Menno signaled to Jaap who in turn motioned to the cadre leader the all clear sign. Picking himself up from the ground, Jaap dusted himself off and went to give his brother a hand.

"It was too easy to get back into Amsterdam. I don't like it. I don't know this Stephan....he is not Peter, that's for sure."

Menno nodded sagely, hefting both their packs. He usually said very little, happy to be the brawn to Jaap's intellect. "I don't like it either, Jaap."

Both men wiped hankerchiefs over their faces, only succeeding in smiring the dust and grime more evenly. It was a balmy 94 degrees fahernheit and still only morning.

As they quietly made their way towards the town square, Jaap noticed that Stephan was no where to be found...he turned and just out of the corner of his eye, noticed the man sneaking back out the way he'd come. Motioning to Menno, they quickly left the small group and followed him out of town.

Hugging the walls of the buildings along the way, they stopped just short and watched with anger as their 'leader' hurried over to a Gestapo agent. Jaap gritted his teeth and then went to get the others. No reason they shouldn't be able to escape too.

Menno removed his belt, feeling for the hidden pouch within. Finding the wire, he pulled it out slowly, letting the length play over his thick fingers. He waited until Jaap was back with the half dozen others. He cocked his head at his brother, indicating he had some work to do. Jaap looked solemn and left by a different route.

Menno made his way forward, using every shadow available. Taking his knife in his right hand, he waited patiently for the right moment. His mind flashed back to Jannie and her prowess in the art of silent death. He sighed, gritted his teeth and stood quietly, girding himself for what had to be done.

Jaap explained what was happening to the others and noticed a look of awareness pass over one of their faces. He smirked to himself, thinking 'why am l not surprised - second in command...'. He had decided it must be so; they were always together.

He walked over to the man and whispered something into his ear. "Luister, ik heb iets dat ik je wil laten zien." Listen, l have something to show you.

He didn't notice one of the women sneak away from the group, secreting herself in the shadows... watching with keen interest.

The man smiled and nodded, following Jaap over to the side alley, away from the others. Without a second thought, Jaap plunged his bayonet deeply into the man's stomach, pushing until the weapon completely bisected the man's liver.

Jaap watched dispassionately as the man's hot blood pumped out over his hand, soaking the front of both of their shirts. He felt no sorrow as he watched the traitor sink to the ground.


Looking down at his palms, he thought of all the blood the German's had on their hands for this war. Then he crouched down, dipped his two hands into a small puddle and wiped them carefully off on the pants of the corpse before him, then slowly walked away.

The tall woman knelt and unhurredly went through his trousers, taking what little she found and putting it into her own pockets. She watched as the killer slowly walked back to the others...trying to wipe the now nonexistant blood from his hands onto his pants.

"Kismet", was all she said, grinning coldly.

Minutes seemed to tick by in slow motion....the eb and flow of life turning and changing...rising and falling...

Menno saw his opportunity and threw his knife, catching the Gestapo officer at the juncture of his throat, the hollow made horribly big as the knife tore into the flesh and cartilage of the man's windpipe.

The man's eyes went wide, he clutched frantically at the knife, then gasped dreadfully, and sank, hand outstretched to Stephan. Stephan backed away, looking wildly for any means of escape and only found the cold dead eyes of his executioner.

"Waarom zo je dit doen?" Why, asked Menno, not expecting an answer.

Stephan made a run for it and fell, seemingly under the weight of his guilty soul. He lay with the wind knocked out of him as Menno landed on his upper back with both knees.

"Jij smerige bastaard!"

Menno reeled out the wire and quickly fastened it around Stephan's throat. The man tried to plead, tried to explain...but there was no one willing to listen, only death.

Menno's biceps bulged as he began to garrotte the traitor; the man's arms windmilling in an effort to drag Menno off. He noticed, as the man dug his fingernails into the cobble stones, that he might have been digging his own grave for all the good it did him.

Both men met back just outside the town, seeking refuge near a boarded up hostel. Just in time, as a troop truck of German soldiers came screaming around the corner. Menno looked at his brother's hands and then at his own. They exchanged a look...one that spoke volumes of the love they had for their country and each other.

They briefly clasped hands and then herded the group back toward's Antwerp.



Anneke sat in the cafe, ignoring the rude glares from some of the local women. The Dutch woman was so lost in thought that she hadn't bothered to put a kerchief over her hair. She hadn't tried to tone down her mannish clothing whatsoever. This was not good. Anneke took another drink of her ale and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.

She glanced up just in time to see three Dutch nazis heading her way. As the she beckoned the waiter over she tripped him and then beat a hasty retreat out the back way. As she was headed around another building, she glanced quickly behind to check on pursuers....and ran smack dab into a group of young German soldiers. They made some crude jokes and then one of them made the mistake of trying to kiss her.

"Kommen sie hier, Fraulien. Wieviel verlangen sie pro stunde.."

Trying to keep the fear from her voice, Anneke put her shoulders back and said, "I hate you!, Ik haat je! Man! Je bent zo egoοstisch...zo ongevoelig!"

She kicked him hard in the groin and then brought her fists up and proceeded to punch one in the nose and then elbowed another in the mouth before she was tackled to the ground. She felt her trousers being unbuckled and she tried to scream, feeling a dirty hand press over her mouth. Tears of shame and anger began to course down her cheeks....no!

And then....she felt bodies being flung in every direction, combined with the howls of quite a few men who would never procreate again. Suddenly, she was being pulled to her feet.

She raised her eyes and took in the most wonderous site....not only were Peter and Frans busy taking care of the German soldiers but it was a gorgeous woman who was holding her hand, helping straighten her clothing.

"You are well? I am Helena Mazontis."

Anneke merely stood there, mouth agape, trying to take in the person before her. The woman was about 5'9, had lovely long brown wavy hair and beautiful grey eyes. Anneke could see a strength to this woman and she simply radiated charm and compassion. And that accent! A Greek Goddess!

"Griekse Godin." she muttered.

Helena stood a bit closer to this lovely woman, wishing only to dive into her irredescent blue eyes. She was the taller of the two, lankier and of lighter bone structure, while Anneke was medium to large boned. Both women looked at the other and saw perfection.

Peter threw a right cross and the last soldier went down. He stood grinning, shaking his hand out. Frans wiped the blood off his nose and rubbed his right shoulder. The wound he'd suffered a few months before was still a bit stiff and would probably remain so for a while yet.

The two men slowly walked towards their friend looking rather hopeful that they would have been forgiven for whatever transgression Anneke judged they were guilty of.

Peter saw the look in Anneke's eyes...he was....happy. Yes, he supposed, if he was to be truthful, he must be. They could never have been truly happy..and while it hurt to realize that they had used each other to get over a very bad time in their lives, Peter would try to accept it and move on.

Frans cleared his throat and Anneke's head turned, breaking eye contact with the Greek woman.

She arched her eyebrow at both men in question and grinned.

"Ah, this would be Helena Mazontis. She was with this other cadre...it was a horrible experience, Anneke...not one l wish to dwell on right now. Oh, and nice to see you and you are welcome..." Peter grinned and dragged the woman into a fierce embrace. He kissed her just below the ear and said, "I'm sorry, my dear Anneke...l would never hurt you...l have that terrible disease that sometimes afflicts the male of the species: Openmouthstickinfootinitis. Will you forgive me?"

Anneke blushed and gave him a gentle push. "Ja, you will forgive me also? I knew it was wrong..l think we both knew this, yes? It is over...we are friends again?"

Peter shook his head and Anneke began to frown. "No we are not friends 'again'...we cannot be 'again' if we never stopped, yes?" He was swatted for his attempted humour and noticed how naturally Helena had put her arm around Anneke's waist.

Frans lost his smile when he heard one of the soldier's begin to groan. Pushing his friends before him, he herded them all down a rather dirty alley and then out into the

deserted side streets.

Pulling a neckerchief out of her back pack, Helena helped Anneke tie her hair back. Now the men made an effort to look less intimidating...they hid their weapons and adapted an easy going gait to their walk.

Looking around, Helena noticed two things: the city was virtually empty and what men they had seen were rather old and decrepit. Voicing her concerns, she jokingly offered to find some dresses for the two men so they could travel without suspicion.

For some strange reason, the idea was just too funny to Frans. Their big strong fearless leader in a frock? Peter, however, was not amused. The idea that he might think she was serious left Helena holding her sides painfully.

Helena had decided to follow the two men when they had headed towards Antwerp. The other people decided to find another cadre to join. Helena was not too sure she wasn't just going to go home. She longed to see her sister once again.

However, she was convinced by Peter that he knew what he was doing. The thought that he had actually been instrumental in the Christensen assassination was credit enough. And then Frans had told her about Janice Covington. An American? This Peter had strong contacts, she thought. With that in mind, she decided to keep their company.

Now that she had met Anneke, she was very happy she had decided to do so. She smiled as both women left the farm house and went back into town for food.



Chapter Five

Polis, Cyprus


Mel stood in the kitchen of their house trying to prepare them a lunch. Jan sat out in the sun deck. She was still in her desert cams, looking like a truck had just run over her. Her sleeves were rolled up and she wore her long golden hair in a pony tail, the sweaty bangs hanging through at odd angles under her hat. Not her favorite but it sure beat the hell out of constantly sweeping the stuff out of her face. It was either that or the scissors. And Mel had squashed that option right off the bat.

The German's had almost total control of the shipping lanes around Malta and very little supplies were getting through. They'd always been able to count on their contacts in Britain for the better part of the war. Even Mel's stateside uncle had been able to get coffee and other hard to get gems. With the major attack on Malta, it had all dried up.

Mikael Christopolis slowly made his way down the street carrying a nice package of Greek pastries and other delicacies. He cocked his head and turned around, thinking a very large truck must be coming down the road.

Jan was just sipping her Retzina when she thought she heard a plane. Must be doing practice runs, she thought. Mel came out and placed a nice cold platter of vegetables, cheese and flat breads. She stood, hand on hip, wine glass in hand, looking out over their flower garden.

Jan's heart began to race...she recognized the hum...meant twin engines...big...heavy planes..."Shit! Oh, fuck! Mel, get back inside...NOW!"

Mel had just taken a drink of her Retzina when she heard Jan yell...the wine went up through her nose and then all over the deck. Coughing and sputtering, she turned to see Jan's eyes wide with concern.

Jan gave her a quick push and then scanned the horizon for what she feared was the worst news yet.

Yes, she saw a few specks there, off to the east...

Christopolis increased his speed as he realized what the noise actually was...there, the house was just a bit farther....His heart began hammering in his chest, making him wheeze.

Mel ran around their bedroom, frantically thinking about what to pack...she and Jan had gone over what to do in the event they were attacked...gods, please no! she thought as she shoved clothing into one of Jan's duffle bags.

Jan dragged deeply on her cheroot and swore. "They did it! They fuckin did it...broke through the British blockade at Alexandria...goddammit! Mel! Come on...if the bombers got this far, it won't be long before the landed paratroopers get here. Hell, they could be on the outskirts already. Shit! Shit! SHIT!!"

Jan grabbed the bannister and took the stairs three at a time...when she got to the bedroom she found Mel standing in the middle of it with a strange look on her face.

Taking Mel into her arms, Jan gently rubbed the woman's back and whispered, "Come on, Mel...we hafta leave...l know you don't want to leave the house, our things...but, honey, they *are* just things...okay?"

Mel hugged the woman back and brought a hand up to Jan's chin. "Why Jan, l know that, darlin....l will miss some of my things, but really, l'm not worried 'bout that."

"Oookaay...so, what? You worried about the damned nazis? You know l won't let anything happen to ya, right?"

"Why, Janice Covington....nazzies...fools...just evil fools, the bunch of em. No, l do believe l am scared *for* them. l mean, really, Janice. When you get mad...well, it is a sight to behold. But, with Xena's blood flowin thru ma veins...well, lets just hope she makes an appearance, huh? Why, A'd love to march all the way to Burr-lin, just so's Xena could kick that horrible man's butt."

Janice snickered, but seeing the look on her wife's face, had no doubt it could happen. She reached up and tangled her fingers in Mel's loose hair...pulling the woman's face down for a most passionate kiss.

Christopolis staggered up the stairs, wheezing, huffing and puffing.....grabbing the door frame he tried to catch his breath.

"They are....the planes....German's...." Then there were a few explosions heard in the background. The walls of the house began to shake.

She hefted the duffle bag over her shoulder and they helped Mr. Christopolis back down the stairs then took off at a run and brought the jeep around to the front. Loading everyone in, she took one last look and grinned...be careful what you ask for, Covington....you wanted more...well, you got it.

Colonel Barrinson held the field telephone to his ear...a red faced man of 56, he had been retired for two years because of bad health. He had decided that the nice safe and quiet island of Crete might be right up his alley. Unfortunately, the German's seemed to have their eye on it as well, forcing he and his wife to take refuge in Cyprus at the beginning of 1943.

A wiry man of nearly six feet, he was totally bald, had a rather bulbous nose, a ruddy complexion and a pair of very thick eyebrows. He'd had to retire when the surgeons found he suffered from gout. It was so bad, the poor man couldn't even get a shoe on because his big toe had swelled to the size of a plum. Not only was he in constant pain, but the sight of his own gangrenous flesh was enough to have him nauseous most of the time.

"I say, dash it all! I don't bloody care, man. We must have some pilots on this accursed island!" Barrinson mopped his red face with his hand and took a breath. Calmly, he thought...more flies with sugar...righto. "I say Captain, didn't we get a couple of those Special Operations fellows from Heathrow? Can't they do something? We really are getting our royal arses kicked here, man. We shan't be able to hold out without some air support."

Jan jumped on the brakes and brought the jeep to a sudden stop. Mel clutched the windshield and let out a very relieved squeak. My heavens! she thought..what ever she did with Janice, it sure got her heart pumping! Life was always at 90 miles an hour. Never a dull moment!

She adjusted her glasses and tried to smooth down her rat's nest hairdo..not a pretty sight. Checking the side mirror she sighed deeply, took Jan's proferred hand and got out of the jeep. Jan smirked at the hairdo but had the sense to keep her mouth shut and just handed Mel a scarf.

Barrinson looked up, rather peevishly noting that two women...in trousers, yet!...were coming into his tent. The bloody gall! Then he squinted, did a double take, and then gruffly acknowledged Sgt. Covington's presence.

"Oh. Covington. Yes. Well, what d'you want. Come along, be a good girl.....and then run along." He wore a smirk when he said this and watched in fascination as the woman with Janice stepped forward with a scowl on her face.

Before Mel could open her mouth, Jan walked up to the Colonel and gave him a friendly shove, pushing him back into his chair.

"Ah hah....didn't have our medicine this morning huh? You know better, Tom...do l gotta nurse maid ya like l did back in London? Fer cryin out loud...what put a bee up yer butt?" She removed a couple of packets and threw them on his desk.

"Don't worry Mel...this guy's okay...just upset 'cos he has gout...too much rich food, huh, Tom? Oh, by the way, this is my wife, Melinda Pappas, so keep it up and l'll wipe the floor with ya. Better yet, l'll let her do it....she's dangerous, Tom...just look at them eyes...a real killer."

Mel tried not to laugh but it really was just too hard. Soon the Colonel and Jan were joining her.

Tom picked up the packets and grinned at Janice. "Thank you for the Allopurinol...and you are right, as usual...l ran out yesterday, dash it all..the wife can't find anything else to sell to the black marketeers...damnedable sort. Have to deal with them, l suppose."

Jan sat on the edge of the desk, taking out one of her cheroots. As she stuck it in her mouth, Mel cleared her throat and arched an eyebrow. Jan grinned and put her matches back in her breast pocket. Another explosion rocked the area, bringing Jan to the point.

"Say, Tom...the reason we came by...those planes..they're JU 88s....we're gonna need some pretty big guns to knock em out...saw em as we came over...about ten of em...lookin pretty heavy, too...must be packed to the rafters with bombs."

"I know, Janice....just got off the field phone. We won't be getting any air support until they can remuster the planes from Ismalia."

Jan stood, wiping her hand across her face and pulled out the chair for Mel. She noted the appreciative look the Brit gave her wife's legs, pants notwithstanding. Mine, she thought, all mine.

"You know I'm just here as an advisor...an instructor for some of the raw troops. Well, l can tell ya, we can't wait for the remuster...no way. Things are gonna start going from bad to worse real fast. We've got one chance...l know one of the pilots..good guy, lotsa combat experience. Major Butterworth, Dan Butterworth. If I can get in touch with him, well, maybe we can work somethin out. No promises, but..."

Mel looked up in alarm..what was Jan planning? She didn't like that gleam in the woman's eyes....it usually meant Jan was gonna throw herself down a well, or some such foolishness.

She sat quietly while the two of them went over some of the finer details, getting Dan on the field phone and okaying his part in everything. She was beginning to feel the heat and tension of the day seep into her very bones, sucking the energy from her. Just as she felt herself begin to nod off, she jerked forward at the mention of her name.

"Oh, my. I am sorry. I musta dozed off there for a minute... What were y'all sayin?"

Mel flinched as her chair wobbled with yet another explosion in the distance. The dust began wafting in through the tent flaps. Mel was finding it hard to concentrate..a few coughs wracked her body and she wondered what the damnedable Jerry's were doin to her house.

The Colonel began discussion of the different ethnic backgrounds present in the troops Jan had been training. They were at a point where just mimicing someone dismantle a weapon wasn't good enough...they needed someone to go through it, piece by piece...and then there was the matter of following simple directions once out in the bush...finding some common words that they could all use. Mel grinned, thinking of the many different challenges that would entail.

She lurched to her feet, removing her glasses and rubbing her eyes. Jan finished up with Dan on the phone and walked to the tent flap. Mel looked at the Colonel expectantly...and then back at Jan.

"What? Aren't we gonna do anything tonight? We have at least twenty minutes before nightfall."

Jan walked back to her wife and gently took her by the elbow. Mel blinked a few times and shrugged. Why fight it? Stifling a yawn, she allowed Jan to gently pull her out of the tent and back into the jeep. They'd stay with Christopolis tonight, his shop basement being the best shelter in the city. Besides, they had promised the old man a hand at burying the many artifacts he had...he'd rather destroy them than have the nazi's get hold of em.

By the time Jan had driven ten miles, it was evident where the bombs had dropped. The main road was almost completely impassable and the small town of Polis was virtually in rubble. Gunning the engine, Jan took the corner at high speed, throwing Mel against her before lurching to a stop.

The sight before them left Mel weak with fear. The shop that Mikael Christopolis had lived in was in total ruin. Only one of the walls was still standing and the garden where the fine old gentleman had tended both his flowers and his vegetables, was no more.

Mel leapt from the jeep and ran towards where the entrance used to be. Jan caught her arm and pulled her to a stop. Mel yanked her arm back, tears streaming down her face, and tried to get to the front of the destroyed building once more.

"Mel! Stop..don't go....darling..no..." She held Melinda tightly against her as the woman collapsed in a fit of tears. Sobs wracked Mel's body as she thought of the old man who had become more than a friend; who had come to be a very decent substitute for her deceased father.


Chapter Six


Jan climbed back into the jeep and felt around in the descending darkness for the flashlight she knew was there. She and Mel had sat in the rubble trying to make sense of it. Christopolis had become a fixture in their lives. He was like family and Jan owed him more than she was ever able to repay....he had taken care of Mel, had even been instumental in helping them find their last dig and therefore more Xena Scrolls and had almost single handedly stopped the rape and pillage of the island's archaeological treasures.

She made her way back to where she'd left Mel and they both felt along in the darkness for some way past the broken bricks and stonework. It looked totally impassable...Jan put her ear to where the door had been and listened. A full five minutes passed before she knew in her heart that Mikael Christopolis must be dead. Surely nothing could have survived a direct hit like this.

A couple of people came by with their torches and helped the two women to their feet. Quite a few of them recognized the pair and offered a hasty meal.

The butcher stepped forward and offered his home for the evening. Mel wiped her tears and smiled at him. The man blushed nicely and tried not to look important to his neighbours...this American goddess had chosen his house to adorn...

They lay on the mattress in the corner of the room, just holding each other. Each lost in the memories of Mikael Christopolis. Like an old movie, Melinda could see their first meeting, feel the warmth from this man who didn't even know her but wanted to befriend her anyway....the man who had plied her with hot apple tea and spanakopita...had accepted her love for Jan so easily..and had loved her like a daughter. He had done so much for them, for the island of Cyprus and for the preservation of antiquities in Greece.

Jan held Mel until the wee small hours of the morning when the southerner was finally able to nod off. The door opened at 5:30 am and the butcher's wife came in with some hot Cypriot coffee.

After gently removing her arms from Mel, she stood awkwardly, trying to get the kinks out of her shoulders and then gratefully quaffed the thick sweetened java. She gave her wife one last look and then followed the woman out into the kitchen area.

"We have heard...is terrible. He was such a good man. The Germans have been spotted in Nicosia, professori. We must settle in and make the best of the occupation, yes? We have a long history of being conquered but also of resistance...even if they cannot see it. My husband Yanni, he goes with you today. He is good with his hands and has a good heart."

Jan nodded and she and Yanni left. She asked the woman to keep an eye on Melinda; try to keep her from dwelling on things.

As they left, the woman went to peek in on the foreigner and discovered her awake and putting on her shoes.

Melinda had a confident air about her. She was not going to just accept it. She decided that after looking for a way in, she'd go back to the camp and help out with the language problems.


"Thank you, Mrs.......Souris, isn't it? D'you have some overalls? Something from your husband I can wear? I'm goin over to Mr. Christopolis' place and I intend on gettin in there. If only to settle my mind that he is....that he passed on. I don't think its right to leave his body there...not in this heat. Do ya understand?"

Lena Souris was well aware of the growing friendship that the two Americans had forged with Mikael. He was a good man and a good judge of character. This woman's actions served to prove this. Seeing the determined look to Melinda's face, she decided not to interfer with whatever this kind woman wanted to do.

Pinning her hair back, Mel accustomed herself to the clothing she'd been given. She looked rather lost in the huge overalls, but they were functional. She took a big breath and then walked purposefully towards the decimated building.

After two hours of backbreaking labour, Mel looked up as another pair of hands began removing some of the bricks and stone work. She smiled as Mrs. Souris pushed the rubble away. It wasn't too long before several sets of hands were helping as well. It did Mel's heart good to know that these people loved Mr. Christopolis as much as she did.

She couldn't explain it, but she knew that in some way it was important to her to be able to put the man to rest...almost as if she was being allowed to see her own father off. His murder at the hands of Judith's brother had really been hard. The fact that Jan's father had become friends with her own was a saving grace. And the fact that they had both realized their dream of holding onto a piece of the Xena mystery was wonderful...Mel had a feeling in her heart that both men were watching over them...even now. She smiled thinking of that, wiping a weary hand over her forehead.

She stood and took a look at the progress they'd made. It would take another 5 or 6 hours before the hole would be big enough to ease into.

She stopped a few times to get water from the nearby well and some of the other women offered to share their meager food with her. It was now noon: the hottest time of the day, when most people put any ideas of work in the back of their minds, grabbing a nap when they could.

Rolling her sleeves back up, Mel approached the now expanded hole, peering into the darkness, hoping that perhaps Christopolis would be there, unhurt, to greet her. Mel let out a slow shuddering breath...and stepped through, sliding a bit down the loose skree of the interior.



Thomas Barrinson unwrapped his tender foot, trying his best not to look at the offensive flesh. How could one's body betray them...and so easily? He sprinkled another packet into his water canteen, stirring it with his tea spoon. Shaking his head sadly, he quaffed it back and shuddered. Horribly bitter, he thought.

The field telephone rang and the Colonel picked it up. He grunted a few monosyllabic replies and sat looking at the entrance to his tent expectantly. He tented his fingers, tapping the two index fingers against his jowls.

Soon, the sound of laughter and joviality was heard, heralding the arrival of Sergeant Covington and Major Butterworth. Both seemed to be reminiscing their honeymoons.

"Oh, I say, Janice...really...that is far too much information, thank you! But I'll wager Melinda looked positively ravishing in that number you purchased in London...you really are quite a lucky sod, you know."

Jan sucked her teeth and grinned. "Yeah, when yer right, yer goddamned right, Dan. But you and Shelley....now there's a match made in heaven, huh? I gotta tell ya....she is one beautiful woman. You like em well built too, huh?"

Dan turned and looked at his friend. "D'you know, Janice...I could almost be worried here...if I didn't know for absolute certain that my wife loves me, not to mention seeing that rather blatant hunger in your eyes when you see Mel....look, but don't touch, right mate? Or I shall have to get Mel's Dutch Uncle to rough you up some."

Jan's face lost its sparkle and she cleared her throat. "Uh....well, yeah....see, Mikael bought it last night....direct hit from one of those fuckin JUs....totally destroyed his shop. At least he musta died quick. Really upset Mel...she took it real hard, Dan. Left her with some of Christopolis' neighbours...maybe they can help keep her mind off things."

"Oh, god, Jan...I'm so dreadfully sorry....how awful for Melinda...you really should be with her, you know...damnedable war....fucking German's...no, that's not fair of me...fucking nazis."

The Colonel had sat listening to the banter but now cleared his throat. "If you are quite finished.....thank you. Right. We've got a problem here, Major, one l think you might be able to help us with. You've no doubt had the run down from the Sergeant here...yes, just so...and you do know what's expected of you?

We'll have to see that as many of their planes carrying more troops get forced off before they can deploy their chalk of airborne troops. Not going to be easy, not by a long shot. We've only got your plane at the moment...should have reinforcements from Alexandria within the day."

The three of them sat brainstorming until it was tea time. It was decided that the Major would fly the new P-51 Mustang, having far more combat experience than any of the other available pilots.

The British Purchasing Commission, having decided to get more of the Curtiss P-40's manufactured, were finally pursuaded to have a new company design and develop a new fighter.

After one of the most intense design and development efforts in the history of aviation, the prototype airframe was completed in 102 days, the wheels being borrrowed from an AT-6. For reasons of availability, the engine was the 1325 hp Allison V-1710-87 which rapidly lost power at height and was suitable only for operations at low level.

The USAAC had magnanimously loaned the plane to the RAF for testing and evaluation and it had ended up on the island of Cyprus.

Dan was just like a child in a toy shop....it had a Hamilton propeller with four paddle blades with root cuffs, restressed fuselage and wings, modified radiator installation, modified ailerons, six 12.7 mm guns, two in the nose, and the wings were fitted with upper and lower lattice airbrakes and racks for two 117 kg bombs. It had two fuel tanks consisting of 682 litres and could reach level speeds of up to 710 kmh.

As the two Brits sat sipping afternoon tea, Jan went and turned on the radio. She stood in silence as she heard the BBC announcer say:

"....the hard fighting in the Greek mountains, heavy German artillery continually had to be employed in order to force a breakthrough. Above the flash of the guns and smoke, the white peaks of Olympus rise in eternal peace."

Jan gritted her teeth, fists clenched at her side as she thought of the many friends she and Mel had still in Greece.

"The main resistance has been broken at Thermophyle. Mechanized columns follow the rapid advance of the German tanks. Allied fire is still occasionally directed against the line of advance but can no longer be held up. I am sorry to report that Greece has fallen. News has reached London that Il Duce was deposed and imprisoned by his own Grand Council in Sicily, prompting Hitler to send a force to free him...."

The two men got to their feet, the Colonel unaware that he'd opened the wound on his foot. His normally ruddy complexion was pale and cold...he was positively seething. Jan switched off the radio and took a deep clensing breath.

They all turned as the Colonel's batman came running in holding a pamphlet. Hearing the last part of the broadcast, he came to a stop, mouth hanging open.

"Bugger me! Oh, pardon, Colonel, Mayja, Sergeant. One uv these fings just dropped from the sky...them Jerries are pitchin them outta the planes...corr, I fought it were jus propegander....have a look, Mayja."

Janice blinked, trying to make sense of the man's thick Cockney accent, failing miserably. She stood beside Dan and began to read:

"The entry of the German troops has once more brought law and order to Greece. A letter addressed to the Fuhrer by the People's Commission of Alexandropolis, the capital of the Greek district of Ebros, provides especial confirmation of this fact:

"The population of Alexandropolis, who for three days have now lived in the

territory occupied by the glorious German troops, have today voluntarily

gathered together in order to express their heartfelt thanks to Your Excellency as Supreme Commander of the Glorious German army. They promise always to give testimony to their unalterable gratitude for the great civility and true chivalry shown by the courageous troops of occupation to the population. Life, honour, property as well as customs and national tradition have remained untouched. This is already demonstrated by the fact that life is continuing just as before along the same paths."

Jan checked the signatures at the bottom: President Anas. Pentzos and General Secretary Manganaris. Her nostrils flared as she recognized an name...Bishop Pataron Heletios.

She turned to the Colonel, a wicked little smile on her face...."It's a fuckin lie. Oh, I don't doubt that Greece has fallen...only the implied acceptance of the occupation. Nah...I know this Bishop. He's a hard ass..hates the nazis somethin fierce. If he signed it, well, you can bet there is somethin up his sleeve."

The Colonel ordered all the pamphletes to be gathered and burned. It wouldn't stop the spread of harmful rumours, but might show the troops exactly what they thought of the whole thing.

Jan clasped hands with her friend and then watched as Dan walked towards his jeep. The driver through Jan a jaunty salute and the two men took off in a dust cloud.

"Shit. What the hell can one man do? And where the hell is that air support?" Jan was getting a funny feeling again. Something was just not right.



Chapter Seven



By June of 1944, the German army in the West had advanced on a very wide front to the attack across the German western frontier, in order to forstall the intended allied push towards the Ruhr district.

From the very first days, the air force screened the land army, destroying planes and land bases, smashing the infantry and tank concentrations in their preparations for counter-attacks.

Specially selected units of the German air force, employing the very latest means of warfare, occupied the most impregnable forts of the allies. The airborne and landing troops occupied the aerodromes in the rear of the allies and held the important means of communications.

North and South Belgium had been pentrated, the allied tank units annihilated, while Nineth French Army were overrun by a mechanized and infantry divisions on a front of 60 miles. Brussels, Louvain and Malines are in the hands of the Germans. The Germans now looked to Antwerp.

Although the Germans had control of the shipping lanes and their air force dominat the Channel, the British were making a stand. They still had a score to settle for their annihilation at Dunkirk.

British warships gained temporary control of the Mediterranean and sank or damaged Vichy French ships at Oran and Mers-el-Kebir and Algeria.

Peter watched the action in town through his binoculars...taking notes on just when the Gestapo watch came on. Security in the area had been increased. Their guerilla tactics were making the local bullies very nervous.

He was becoming very impressed with their newest member. Helena had a lot of upper body strength and could be counted on in a hand to hand combat situation. A true virago. In some ways, she was very reminiscent of Janice, he thought. But not as pretty.

Not that Anneke would agree. They had gone from holding hands to sneaking little kisses when they thought no one would see them. Frans thought it was kind of cute, and seeing Anneke happy was worth it.

Helena came over and offered Peter a trail bar. Without missing a beat, he kept his eyes on the goings on and stuffed the bar into his mouth. He hadn't realized he was that hungry. He tried not to sound bitter or trite and just appreciate the woman for being the warrior she was.

Anneke sat by the cold fire pit, mixing a bowl of fruit, nuts and oats. She added some honey they had managed to get out of a farmer's bee hive. The smell was very enticing and as she dipped her index finger into the bowl, a shadow fell across her. She looked up into the very dark and amorous eyes of a certain Greek woman she was becoming very fond of.

She grinned and slowly brought her finger up to her mouth. She watched as Helena's tongue came out and licked at her lower lip. Anneke carefully put the bowl away, slowly getting to her feet.

Helena stood stock still, her pupils fully dilated...breath slowing down to what felt like ten beats per minute. She groaned aloud as Anneke stepped closer and then slowly inserted the honied finger into her waiting mouth.

Whispering soft words in Greek, Helena began tonguing the woman's finger...in and out, until both women were breathless. Anneke closed her eyes as she felt her breasts cupped, thumbs moving over her hardening nipples.

"Je bent zo mooi, Helena."

Removing her finger, Anneke licked her lips and then reached up and pulled the Greek's face down, covering her mouth with her own. As the kiss deepened, she brought her hands around and pulled Helena closer, her hands finally resting on the tight buttocks of the woman.

As the broke the kiss, both woman waited, looking deeply into the other's eyes and then....

......"vor der Kaserne, vor dem grossen tor stand eine Laterne,

und steht sie noch davor, so woll'n wir uns da wiedersehn,

bei der Laterne woll'n wir, steh'n wie einst,

Lili Marleen!"

Frans came into the campsite, his arms filled with a gunny sack. He grinned, having caught the two women....at least Anneke had the good manners to blush.

She tried to step back from their embrace but Helena was having none of it. She glared good naturedly at the man and proceeded to sit back down on the log, pulling Anneke down onto her lap. She smiled wickedly as Anneke yelped with surprise.

Peter entered through the bushes, a frown on his face. "That music...where...?"

"I have a present...Luister, ik heb iets dat ik je wil laten zien. I heb een radio!"

He pulled a beaten up looking box from the gunny sack, beaming with pride as the group leaned forward with intense interest. A radio!

Helena snuggled closer to the Dutch woman, slowly rocking with the song. Not knowing the German version, they all took up the song...in English:

"In front of the barracks, in front of the big gates

stood a lamp-post and it is still standing there.

Let us meet there again

let us stand by the lamp post

as we used to, Lili Marleen."

Helene surprised everyone by kissing Anneke deeply and then singing the last verse in such a beautiful voice, it brought tears to their eyes:

"Out of the silent past

Out of the land of my dreams,

Your loving lips call to me...

Lili Marleen."

Peter cleared his voice. "Ahem...this is good news, yes? We now can hear some of the current information. It has been too long, I think, that we have been away from other people." Seeing that neither woman was going to budge, he tilted his head towards Frans and they left them alone.

Peter went back to his look out post...feeling very frustrated. Seeing the two women falling in love had been difficult. He had felt much more for Anneke than she had for him. The realization had hurt him deeply. More than anything, he missed the easy closeness that he and Anneke had first enjoyed...as friends. There was no sexuality...just a nice feeling of oneness.

Frans came and sat beside his friend, offering an apple. He could see the hurt on Peter's face..but he himself couldn't help but feel happiness for Anneke. He didn't know Helena well enough to feel either way...but Anneke..she needed that bond in her life...the sexuality, the emotions...she had been so adrift when Jannie was killed. Neither women had been apart for the two years they'd lived together...but for a few days here and there while working a mission, of course.

He knew that it was all going to hit Anneke...yes, certainly...but only when the woman had a moment to slow down and think of what she had truly lost. It was going to be very painful. He hoped that perhaps Helena would be the one to pick up the pieces.

"Peter. You are hungry? I have some potatoes in this bag. I scrounged some apples, the radio and some dried venison. We will eat tonight something other than trail bars, yes? I think our bowels would thank us..."

He sighed, seeing his attempt at humour was ill recieved. He placed his hand on the man's shoulder and they both sat, watching the afternoon turn to evening.

Anneke turned so that she was straddling Helena's hips. The Dutchwoman smiled and cupped the full breasts before her, again feeling the nipples harden almost immediately. She bent in for another kiss and was rewarded with a low moan of arousal.

Pulling back a bit, she left the next move up to Helena...who was certainly up to the challenge, as she began darting her tongue in between the woman's lips. Anneke hungrily began to suck on the proffered member while her hands made short work of the buttons...the only barrier between her and sheer heaven.

Anneke began to feel quite light headed...a pulse beginning to be felt between her legs..the heat spreading until she felt it would surely consume them both.

"I want so much to make you happy. Ik er alles aan doen om je gelukkig te maken."

She cried out in surprise as she felt a warm mouth envelop one of her nipples...the nipping and pulling by teeth driving her need up another notch. Helena leaned her lover back onto the soft ground, her lips never leaving the taut pebbled surface of Anneke's silky breast.

Whispering words of Greek, Helena softly kissed the skin as she removed her lover's shirt. Anneke felt as if a flood gate had been opened...the sorrow she'd felt, overwhelming her every waking moment since Jannie had died, had begun to eat at her...throwing her into a situation with a dear friend that should never have happened.

The raw passion, the emotional rush, the all consuming lust she felt now with Helena....had been missing with Peter...as much as she wished it weren't so. Her love for the man wasn't deminished because she felt more comfortable with loving women. To deny herself meant denying life.

Propping herself up on her elbows she watched as the Greek woman slowly removed every bit of her clothing. Anneke's figure had been honed to perfection these last few months...the physical demands of their guerilla methods of hit and run had improved her stamina, increased her upper body strength and had wasted away any useless body fat...leaving a perfectly formed and oiled work of art.

She watched as the lust filled Helena's eyes...then slowly, the woman stood and began to disrobe. Anneke watched with anticipation...she'd felt the strength of those arms, the fullness of her pert breasts, the flat surface of her abdomen....she wished to see it all..all in its glory.

As Helena knealt beside her, Anneke was filled with the raw sexual energy they were both creating....and she let it wash over her.

Anneke's breath caught in her throat as Helena ran her index finger from between her breasts down to her mons. Her legs fell open in anticipation...the heat building to a fevered pitch.

"So beautiful, so soft...you are..." Helena spoke in such a way that Anneke knew without a doubt, Greek or no Greek, the woman was speaking words of desire, words of love.

She looked up into her lover's eyes and covered Helena's hand with her own.

"I love you very much, my Greek Goddess. Ik hou heel veel van je, mijn Griekse Godin."

She slowly drew it down over her pubic bone and sighed as a finger slipped inside.

"Oh, Anneke...you are wet, so ready for me...you want this, you want me, yes? I want to make love with you, Anneke...l want you to want me...very much."

Anneke lifted one leg, bringing her knee over to her elbow. She gasped as another finger probed along side the first. Helena groaned in response, feeling the warmth surrounding her digits...the muscles clenching in spasms.

Just as Anneke was going to say something, her body was wracked with the first wave of her orgasm...she grunted, her torso shuddering as the full strength of her climax washed over her.

Helena looked on in rapt attention as her every movement seemed to illicite an intense response from the woman. She brought her other hand up and began pinching and pulling at one of Anneke's nipples, causing the woman's breath to come in gasps.

"Ja....ja, o god!"

Helena pushed in again, begining to build a strong rhythm and Anneke shouted out again, the walls of her uterus contracting around the probing digits once more.

A light sheen of sweat had broken out all over the Dutch woman's body. She had never felt her climaxes so intensely before. Every touch this woman laid on her skin seemed to leave a trail of fire in its wake.

Looking down upon the beautiful woman before her, Helena was struck with the absolute 'rightness' of the situation. It was as if everything that had happened in her life had brought her to this moment in time. This perfectly wonderful moment in time.

She bent in and took Anneke's half opened mouth with her own and kissed her soundly. She stilled her hand, feeling the last of the orgasm leave her lover's body. Such a feeling of peace and contentment came over Helena. It was always more important for her to give physical love than to receive it.

She had known a few lovers in her time, but none seemed to ignite her....to stoke the flames within her to the point where she was totally consumed. She had decided that such a thing could only be in romance novels.

And then Anneke sat up, her lover's fingers still inside. She gently pushed the woman down and lay between her legs. She sighed sadly as Helena's fingers were withdrawn from their warm embrace.

"Je bent zo mooi, Helena."

Anneke wasted no time and before long Helena was moaning as her breasts were being devoured. Each nipple was given the utmost care and attention, Anneke's tongue and lips bringing the flesh to hard points.

Each square inch of flesh was kissed, nipped, licked and savoured as Anneke slowly made her way down to Helena's lower belly. She raised the Greek woman's legs and placed her shoulders under Helena's knees.

Helena propped herself up by her elbows and watched in fascination as Anneke began kissing and using the tip of her very talented tongue to caress and excite the flesh of her inner thighs. She tried very hard to keep her eyes open but failed miserably as her head fell back, her mouth open, gasping as she felt a hot tongue play at her entrance.

Anneke began to nibble at her clitoris, then probe shallowly at the entrance and back again, driving Helena to unknown heights of ecstacy. Both of the woman's legs wrapped tightly around Anneke's shoulders in an attempt to somehow bring the woman closer, drawing her within.

"Please.....Anneke...I need your hand..." was all she could get out as a mini orgasm flowed through her body. Anneke began lavishing all of her attention on the woman's clit, bringing the Greek closer and closer to explosion. Just as Helena's fists began to tighten at her side, Anneke pushed four fingers deep into her vagina.

"Aieaaaaa....oh....yess.....please.....Ann....ek....e....!" And then she screamed as a very powerful orgasm shook her body. Anneke found herself being bucked and had a hard time holding onto the writhing woman beneath her. She sucked hard on the woman's clitoris, pulling the swollen nub into her mouth, her teeth grazing it every now and again. Helena's inner thighs were slick with fluid, the evening air filled with the pungent sweetness of it.

Suddenly, Helena almost sat up, her hands grasping tightly onto the woman's shoulders as Anneke bent to her task...and Helena yelled once more. Anneke's four fingers felt as if they were being held in a vise, such was the power of the muscles surrounding them. Pushing a little harder, she felt the tissues of Helena's vagina relax a bit and then the whole length of her hand was buried deeply inside.

Anneke flexed her fingers within, bringing on another shudder from the Greek. Helena threw herself back onto the ground, her chest heaving, her eyes wild. Gritting her teeth, she began rocking against Anneke's hand.

Anneke began to suck on the bundle of nerves once more, feeling her fist becoming wetter, the friction decreasing. Hardly moving her hand at all, she let Helena select the rhythm and depth.

Looking up from her task, she was greeted with the image of a goddess beginning another wave of ecstacy.

"Helena...you are so beautiful...you are a goddess to me...I love to see you like this...for me..." And at those words, Helena cried out her lover's name and lay spent on the ground, eyes closed, hands lying loosely at her side, her legs flopping open.

Anneke began the process of removing her hand from deep within her lover. Each inch attained brought aftershocks and then the last few inches of her fingers were pushed out. She lay her face on top of Helena's vagina, slowly caressing the dark patch of fur.

She brought herself up to lie upon her lover, their breasts whispering against each other. They kissed softly, each woman speaking tender words of love...neither one realizing that they spoke in their native tongue..and both of them somehow understanding perfectly well what was being said.

The two lovers lay exhausted in each other's arms. Helena noticed with a smile as Anneke's breathing deepened and she murmured softly as she fell asleep. Lying there looking up the stars, Helena decided then and there that she would have to get them both out of Holland....home, to her Greece.

Her lover had talked of the loneliness she'd felt since the death of Jannie. She had no one left in Amsterdam, no reason to stay. Besides, there were far too many bad memories in the Netherlands for them both.

She reached over and grabbed her great coat, pulling it over the two of them. It would be her watch in about two hours. Until then, she was content to lie beneath her lover. Arching her eyebrow, Helena bent and kissed Anneke's blonde hair. "Kismet", she whispered.


Chapter Eight





"Oh, my!" Melinda whispered. Not knowing why, she had already begun thinking of this place as being a crypt. Her mind was telling her that perhaps....maybe...but her heart knew...no one could have survived the hit his shop had taken.

It was so cool, so quiet...so dark and dank. She felt around on the ground, finally finding the flashlight Jan had given her. She found herself in one of the store rooms...no windows and what she hoped wasn't a locked door.

A fine dust had settled over the articles around her and without air circulation, there was a musty heavy smell permeating everything. Getting to her knees, she blessed her own forethought in changing into the coveralls Mrs Souris had loaned her.

As she carefully made her way to the door...she heard a small rustling. Her heart in her mouth, Mel turned and saw the light reflected back from two small pairs of eyes...mice. Never having been seen what all the fuss some women made about mice, she stomped her foot and smiled as they disappeared back into the woodwork.

Taking a breath and crossing her fingers, Mel put her hand on the door knob and slowly turned it. It moved a little but then wouldn't budge. Putting her shoulder against it Mel finally got the door opened far enough to squeeze through.

She closed her eyes and said a small prayer to any and all gods, that please let her not find him dead...please.

She had another flashback...watching her friend roll up his sleeves and show her how to make baklava...layers upon layers of philo pastry, buttering each one and then piling mounds of pistachio nuts and honey....neither one of them being able to resist tasting...all under the guise that they had to test it....

Mel grinned and a small tear gently rolled down her cheek. There were so many good times with Mr. Christopolis..funny how she could never call him by his first name..no matter how close they had become. She had such respect for him...he was so utterly selfless.

She opened her eyes and took in her surrounds...trying to fix in her mind just exactly where she was. She was somewhat surprised at the amount of artifacts that seemed to have made it unscathed.

Sweeping the flashlight's beam slowly around, she saw that most of the south side of the building was caved in. She could just make out the stair case going upstairs...but only the first few steps.

She played the beam along, not wanting to break a leg getting through the rubble. Her breath caught as she saw something white reflecting back from the beam. It was...gods, no...yes, an arm.

She was torn between running and staying put. She stood frozen with indecision and then slowly moved one foot in front of the other. Her lower lip trembled as she could make out more of the body beneath the stones. And dark dried blood, painting the area around his head...she closed her eyes tightly and just slowly sat on the ground near the body.

She took a big shuddering breath and just tried to keep the tears at bay. Trying to empty her mind and just concentrate on steadying her breathing, Mel began to have thoughts of her own father. One memory in particular filled her with peace and tranquility.

Melinda Pappas stood and turned to the crowd. She smiled and recieved an ovation for being the Valedictorian of her school. The University of South Carolina's faculty was busy patting themselves on the back for all the great publicity they were getting. After all, it wasn't every day, even in Charleston, that a well to do debutante made the honour roll and Valedictorian.

Mel looked out into the crowd. She only had eyes for one person. She smiled at the man. He raised a hand and grinned. It was all Melinda could do not to rush down the stairs and fly into his arms!

Not lady-like, she thought with a smirk. Yes, she must, after all, live up to Mother Winnifred's high standards. After all, what would the towns folk think!

She grabbed her cap and very genteely made her way across the platform and down the stairs. Her heart was pounding and a silly grin was just beaming across her face.

The man removed his hat and bowed deeply. "My lady. You do me much honour. Will you marry me?" His eyes twinkled as he graced Melinda with a toothy grin.

"Why, my kind sir! You're twice ma age! Very good looking, mind you. Hmm. No, I guess I won't. After all, you are my Daddy!" She squealed and hugged her father tightly.

Melvin Pappas was a man of average height. His hair was rather a thin mousey grey but he was a very good looking Southern gentleman and a leader of the community. His only weakness was his daughter. He and his wife had parted ways years ago, both deciding that, of course, divorce was out of the question. Not with their standings in the world of the rich and famous.

"Melinda, my darlin. Wouldja do me the honour of goin out to lunch with me? Bein such an 'old' gentleman, I might need help until you can get ma walker for me."

Mel laughed and elbowed her father gently in the ribs. "Why, you dickens! Of course I'll go to lunch with ya. Where we goin, anyway?"

"Well, Melinda, my darlin daughter. It seems your old man has himself another job to go to. We'll drive down to Raleigh and you can put me on the train to New York, then it's off to Greece, or mayhaps the island of Cyprus."

Melinda felt the tears welling up and unable to hold them back any longer, put her face in her hands and wept bitter tears. How sad that one of most recent memories she'd had would be of him leaving her.

She wiped her eyes and face on the sleeve of her clothing and then, on her hands and knees, began removing the rubble from Mr. Christopolis'....remains. It was so hard to think of the kindly old gentleman as being dead. She sighed raggedly and then bent to her job.

Even though it seemed like forever, Mel had finally cleared the stones and bricks from the old man's body. She then began removing his tattered clothing. She had decided that the only respectful thing to do would be prepare him as any good daughter would.

She began to dust off his clothing as best she could...and discovered something in his jacket pocket. She saw, to her amazement, that part of a tablet was wrapped carefully, a small note attached.

Curiosity got the better of her and she sat cross legged by the dimming light of the flashlight...she could just make out some of it...

"Dearest sweet Melinda...you are happy l think with your Janice. Is good. You come to be marri age now for three year..is good also. I find something you should see.."

And then the flashlight flickered and went out. Mel sat there in the cold darkness beside her friend's body and just tried to process the whole thing. He had been preparing for their anniversary party next week. He had found something....what, she didn't know.

Suddenly, she heard a large explosion and lay flat over the body, trying to shelter him. It was reflex really, done without thinking. If she had stayed where she'd been, chances were that the large part of the ceiling that fell in would have crippled or killed her. As it was, she was merely bruised and cut by sharp pieces of wood and plaster.

She felt a sharp sting on her thigh and felt around, finding a sharp rather thick sliver of wood protruding. She grabbed the flashlight and flicked it on and off..trying to motivate the useless batteries.

Then the room was suddenly a bit brighter, and Mel could see the beam of a flashlight faintly from the direction she had come in at. She couldn't see the hole where she'd entered and decided that most of the upper floor must be heaped in front of where she was lying.

Well, she thought, Jan to the rescue again, I suppose.

"Janice? Jan, l'm in here.....l seem to have a little problem." What was it about the two of them and danger? They just seemed to attract it...and now she'd even done it while Jan wasn't around. Now *that* was a skill she didn't want. No siree.

Melinda put the tablet and message back into Mr. Christopolis' jacket and tried to work her way across to where the cave in was. Perhaps she could ease by it, thereby saving Jan a bit of time digging her out.

She could just make out two forms picking their way towards her. She shouted her greeting once more but silence was all she heard. Just as she tried to back away, getting a very bad feeling, she was grabbed and pulled to her feet.

Mel clamped down on the cry welling in her heart as man turned on the flashlight, blinding her. In one split second she took in his epilets and forge cap..he was a German Gestapo agent.

"Wie ist ihr name? Sprechen sie Deutsch? Englisch?"

The man had a twisted smile as he played the beam over Mel's body. He pursed his lips, "Machen sie sich keine sorgen..."

The other man stepped forward and cleared his throat..."Entschuldigen sie bitte..."

"Ja, ja.......es ist schade, ja?" said the Major, smirking to his Lieutenant. He took Mel's hand and tried to bring it to his lips. She drew her scratched hand away, trying to stand as tall as possible. They were of a height, but Mel's thigh injury prevented her from attaining her full stature. He smirked at her discomfort and then reached down and yanked out the piece of wood.

Mel staggered with the pain, feeling a gush of blood make its way down the inside of her pants. Neither man made any attempt to keep her from falling. One of Mel's knees buckled but she was determined not to seem vulnerable to the men...she knew that they'd be on her life a pack of wolves, sniffing out an easy prey.

Summoning up all of her courage, Mel regained her footing and stared coldly at the Gestapo Officer.

"Lassen sie mich in ruhe. Ich bin Amerikaner." The men stared back with open mouths, never expecting that the woman before them would be an American or be able to speak German.

Regaining his composure, the Major clicked his heels and made a small bow with his head.

"My name is Major Steiner. I am called Die Nadel...The Needle." He laughed and poked Mel in the shoulder. "I always get what I want. It may take time, yes.....time I believe we shall both enjoy, yes?"

Melinda drew back her hand and slapped him hard across the face. She may have been expecting shock or anger but what she got was a look of pure evil...deadly cold back eyes looked back at her and then she was hit with such force that she barely had time to register the fact that she was on the ground before she blacked out.


End of Part One