It was after two o'clock in the morning when Camille heard a knock at her door. She sat up in her bed, instantly alert, reached under her pillow, and pulled out the deadly Walther pistol. She listened; the knock came again, more insistently. Not the Gestapo, she reasoned; they knocked with axes, not knuckles. But she took the pistol with her as she lit an oil lamp and went to the door in her long white gown. She almost bumped into Mouse, the little man standing wide-eyed and frightened in the hallway. She put a finger to her lips as he started to speak, and then she walked past him to the door. What a damnable mess! she thought angrily. She'd barely gotten the sorrow-racked girl to sleep twenty minutes before, the fool Brit had gotten both himself and adam killed, and now she was stuck with a Nazi lunatic! Only a miracle could save this situation, and Joan of arc was dust.
"Who is iti" Camille asked, making herself sound sleepy. Her heart pounded, and her finger hugged the trigger.
"Green Eyes," said the man on the other side.
No hand in Paris had ever moved faster to unlock a door.
Michael stood there, hollow-eyed, his jaw and chin in need of a shave. He wore a pair of brown corduroy trousers that were two sizes too small, and a white shirt meant for a fat man. On his feet he wore dark blue socks, but no shoes. He stepped into the apartment, past Camille, who stood openmouthed. Mouse made a choking sound. Michael closed the door gently behind him and locked it. "Mission," he said, "accomplished."
"Oh," someone said: a rush of breath. Gaby stood in the bedroom doorway, her face pale and her eyes rimmed with red. She still wore her new blue dress, now misshapen and full of wrinkles. "You... died. I watched you... take the pill."
"It didn't work," Michael said. He walked past them, his muscles sore and stretched, and his head throbbing with a dull ache: all aftereffects of the change. He went to a bowl of water in the kitchen and splashed his face, then took an apple and crunched into it. Camille, Gaby and Mouse followed him like three shadows. "I got the information," he said as his teeth whittled the apple down to its core; it also served to clean his teeth and get out the last of the crusted blood. "But it wasn't enough." He looked at Camille, his green eyes shining in the lamp glow. "I promised Mouse I'd take him to Berlin. I have my own reasons for going there as well. Will you help usi"
"The girl said she saw you surrounded by Nazis," Camille told him. "If the cyanide pill didn't work, how did you get away from themi" Her eyes had narrowed: it was impossible that this man was standing here. Impossible!
He stared at her, unblinking. "I was faster than they were."
She started to speak again, but she wasn't sure what to say. Where were the clothes he'd left here ini She looked at his stolen trousers and shirt. "I needed a change," he said, in a calm and soothing voice. "The Germans were after me. I took clothes hanging on a line."
"I don't..." She glanced at his shoeless feet. He finished the apple, tossed the stripped core into a trash basket, and reached for another. "I don't understand."
Gaby just watched him, her senses still wrecked. Mouse said, "Hey! We heard it on the radio! They said a dog got loose in the Opera House and raised hell! We saw it, too! Right up on our car! Didn't wei" he prodded Gaby.
"Yes," she answered. "We did."
"The information I got tonight," Michael said to Camille, "has to be followed up. It's vital we get to Berlin as soon as we can. You can help us get there, by arranging the route."
"This... is such short notice. I'm not sure I can-"
"You can," he said. "We'll need new clothes. Identity cards if you can get them. and it'll have to be arranged for Echo to meet me in Berlin."
"I don't have the authority to-"
"I'm giving you the authority. Mouse and I are going to Berlin, as soon as possible. Check with whoever you want to. Do whatever has to be done. But get us there. Understoodi" He smiled slightly, showing his teeth.
His smile chilled her. "Yes," she said. "Understood."
"Wait. What about mei" Gaby finally shook off her shock. She came forward and touched Michael's shoulder to make sure he was real. He was; her hand gripped his arm. "I'm going to Berlin with you."
He looked into her beautiful eyes, and his smile softened. "No," he said gently. "You're going west, back where you know your job and you do a damned fine one." She started to protest, but Michael put a finger to her lips. "You've done your best for me. But you wouldn't survive east of Paris, and I can't be your guardian." He realized the nail of the finger pressed against Gaby's mouth had blood crusted under it; he took it quickly away. "The only reason I'm taking him with me is because I made a bargain."
"Yes, you sure did!" Mouse piped up.
"and I'll honor it. But I work best alone. Do you seei" he asked Gaby.
Of course she didn't. Not yet. But she would see, in the fullness of time; when this war was over, and she was an older woman with children and her own vineyard where German tank treads once tore the earth, she'd see. and be glad that Michael Gallatin had given her a future.
"When can we leavei" Michael turned his attention to Camille, whose brain was already working feverishly on the possible routes from Paris to the diseased heart of the Reich.
"a week. That's the soonest I can get you out."
"Four days," he told her, and he waited until she sighed and nodded.
Home! Mouse thought, giddy with excitement. I'm going home!
Damnedest mess I've ever been in in my life, Camille thought. Gaby was split; she yearned for the man who stood before her-returned miraculously from death-but she loved her country more. Michael had two thoughts. One was of Berlin, and the other was a phrase, a key to a mystery: Iron Fist.
In the bedroom, as the candles burned low, Gaby lay on the goosedown mattress. Michael leaned over her, and kissed her lips. They sealed to each other with moist heat for a moment-and then Michael chose the cot, and lay down to ponder the future.
Gaby reached for his hand, and he took hers.
The night went on, and dawn broke with crimson fire.