There he is again, slithering directly behind me.
This soldier won’t leave me alone.
I scurry a little faster, hoping to lose him in the crowded street, but he keeps up, maintaining an uncomfortable distance.
I just want to get home.
His eyes, dark under the pulled down military cap, stare intently at me when I glance back to see if he’s still there.
Seek help from a stranger, that is the only answer.
Reaching out to the first man I see, I plead “Monsieur,can you please help, this soldier is following me.”
Looking up, surprised from the distractions of his ground-focused attention learned through years of NAZI occupation, the gentleman is a bit startled.
The soldier comes closer.
He’s not keeping his distance any longer.
“What is the problem, madame?” the gentleman says, just as the soldier sidles up to tower over him.
“Move along buddy” the soldier says, “my girlfriend and I are having a lover’s chase, if you know what I mean.”
“This soldier is not my boyfriend” I exclaim with all authority.
The gentleman is dazed, confused, and clearly wants to get somewhere away from this soldier.
Shoving the gentleman on, the soldier turns to me, his back to the other man.
“Look here sweetheart, we’re going to resolve this.” He says as he grabs my hand.
“LET GO OF ME!” I scream.
The gentleman stands there, stunned.
“Come with me Lucille!” the soldier projects loud enough for all to hear.
A crowd begins to gather around. The gentleman is still standing there, not knowing what to do.
“My name is not Lucille. I will not go with you. I don’t know you. Let go of me!” I demand.
Yes, a lot of noise, a crowd, attention. The last things he wants!
The soldier lets go of my hand as he turns to the crowd.
“Fine, have it your way honey. I’ll see you at home.” He says as a parting blow to my status among the strangers in the crowd.
It worked, I am free of this monster.
“I do not know him.” I plead as the crowd dissipates with knowing expressions.
How dare he besmirch me near my home, this Cretan!
Scurrying home,I turn on several wrong streets to make sure the soldier is not following me.
I can’t have him know where I live.
Finally turning onto my street, I see my building entrance in the distance.
Home, safety, freedom.
Making my way toward the entrance, I look around me.
The soldier is nowhere to be seen.
I walk through the outer gate, entering the front courtyard of the building.
As I approach the front door, I look around again.
I’m not opening this door until I know I’m safe.
No one is around. I am alone.
I reach into my purse, clasping the key to the door in my right hand.
Looking up at the lock, a shadow breaks over mine on the door.
Swiveling around, I am prepared. The key to the door is locked between my forefinger and my middle finger.
It’s not much, but it would hurt if jabbed in the eye in a quick thrust.
Thrusting my arm, I see whose shadow it is.
“Good evening Monsieur Horbac” I say in a startled voice as I let my hand fall to my waist.
“Allow me to get the door, Madame.” The kindly old gentleman says to me as he reaches up.
How did he surprise me?
We enter the building, Monsieur Horbac heading to the elevator, and me to the stairs.
“Good evening Monsieur Horbac” I offer as I start up the staircase and he enters the open elevator.
I’m almost home.
My right foot just touches the first stair as the door behind the entrance to the staircase closes with a loud slam, and I hear “Hello again Lucille.”
Following the liberation of Paris in August 1944, the fighting units of the Allied armies pushed on through Eastern France toward Germany. Some of the soldiers from these armies decided to make their way back to the City of Lights, rather than fight on the front. For most, this was a chance to get out of the fighting, keep a low profile, and simply sit out the remainder of the war. For others, this was a chance to take advantage of the military uniform to steal, assault, rape and murder without compunction. Paris and other liberated cities were hit by a wave of violence and crime not often discussed after the war. Up to 50,000 American and 100,000 British soldiers deserted their units during World War II. Between June 1944 and April 1945 the US Army investigated over 7,900 cases of criminal activity. Forty-four percent of these were violence, including rape, manslaughter and murder. Eventually, law and order were restored in the liberated cities of Europe, but it took to the end of the war, and the reintroduction of strong civilian police authorities, to make this happen.
The Deserters: A Hidden History of World War II by Charles Glass was the source of information for this story.