The bombers were coming again, the sirens screaming. Rita pulled away from the crowd exiting the nightclub and started toward the coat check station. She could bear the cold but not what would happen if she didn’t make it back to the club. If someone searched the pockets of uncollected coats for an address and found the folded note she’d left behind.
Two steps and a sweating, fat woman blocked her path.
“Excuse, so sorry.” Rita tried to squeeze by.
The woman would have none of it. “Cheeky,” she said, from a red, down-turned mouth.
“Please. I’ve left something.”
An arm clad in blue wool caught Rita’s. “Move along,” the policeman said. “That’s a lass.”
She was outside, winter air stinging her cheeks. People behind pushed her farther into the road.
“Damn. God bloody damn.” Rita heard the anguish in her own voice.
“This way, ladies and gents.” It was the policeman again, directing them to a shelter. Hundreds of pounding feet drove her down and down into the underground train tunnel, the crowd a hot surf at her back, roaring its thousand spoken fears, then spreading out, finally, in the poorly-lit cavern.
She crawled away from the others and sat, trembling, on the cement floor. Uneven tiles pressed her spine, cold and feeling wet through her silk dress. She longed for her coat. If only she’d kept the piece of paper in her purse instead of her pocket. Rank amateur, really. She sniffed. If only the man in the grey fedora hadn’t been waiting at the table where she’d expected to meet Tony.
“Oi, it’s you.” A woman with blond, Betty Grable curls and a wad of gum in her cheek bent over Rita.
“Who are you?”
“Nobody remembers me, sweetie. Coat check? Thought you might need this.”
She dropped a coat into Rita’s lap. Her jaw unclenching, Rita slid her fingers into the coat’s right-side pocket and caressed the list of names, those German English in Berlin, with their fake papers, their fake allegiance to the Führer, and their coded messages. British Intelligence must never know she’d stolen it.
“Thanks,” she said. Then, on a whispered breath, “Danke.”
Kim Mary Trotto is a retired journalist. Three of her stories are published in webzines and her horror story, “The Gold Fish” was published in the print magazine, Luna Station. Kim has also written feature stories and essays for local newspapers.
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