The White Mouse: Beautiful but Deadly
January 13, 2014
“What is it, Ruthie?”
“Bernie! Come here. You must see this!”
“Not now, dear! I’m watching something. If it is photos of pets wearing clothes, I am not interested!”
“But Bernie, you would want to see this! I am sure.”
“Can’t it wait?”
“If you wait, you will get mad because I didn’t show it to you, now!”
“Just a minute, dear!”
“Bernie, are you coming?”
“Godammit.” Bernie mumbled out loud but low enough so that Ruthie didn’t hear.
“Come on, Bernie. I know you—you are cussing, but you must see this.”
Ruth Horowitz was staring at an article she had pulled up from the London Daily News, on the computer screen. She got up out of her chair and hobbled over to the kitchen table and lifted up one of the dinette chairs and kind of dragged it over to where she was sitting—as best as her arthritic sixty-six years would let her. She was panting slightly from the exertion.
“Look here, Bernie!” I have got you a chair where you can sit next to me. Isn’t that cozy?” She sat back down.
“Okay, okay, Ruthie. This better be good. Bernie sat down in the padded dinette chair.
“There! Look!” Ruthie pointed.
Bernie pretended disinterest but when he happened to catch sight of the photo of the beautiful woman, he became alert—his eyes zoomed in for closer examination. “She’s quite a looker!” Bernie exclaimed. The caption for the picture of the striking, voluptuous woman in the jaunty beret explained that she was Nancy Wake, the most famous member of the French Underground Movement in WWII. “She’s a spy?” Bernie asked.
Ruthie replied, “More than that. Look at her good. Look carefully.”
“Now would you believe that this woman, Nancy Wake, killed a Nazi with her BARE HANDS?” Ruthie couldn’t wait for Bernie’s reaction.
“Nah. That never happened. A woman? Bare hands?”
“But she did, Bernie. How come we never heard of her until now?”
Bernie moved closer to read the whole article while mumbling, “I don’t know, dear. It seems like we should have heard of her.”
“We should have known of this brave woman. Our own parents barely escaped death in Auschwitz. Their talents were the only things that saved them, kept them out of the gas chambers,” Ruthie said as bent forward, put her face in her hands and wept.
Bernie put his arm around her. “Shhhh! Please don’t cry, Ruthie. It’s over. They got to come to America. They tried to put that all behind them. They prospered right here, mine in Queens, yours, in New Rochelle. Somehow we met, fell in love and got married. Remember those dances we went to—remember that first dance? That is a good memory, no?”
“I know, Bernie,” Ruthie said, as she wiped away her tears. Surely someone in our community would have told us the story of Nancy Wake by now—the woman who killed a Nazi with her bare hands.”
“Ruthie, how did you find this story?”
“She died in 2012 and when she did, they started writing more and more stories about her. I wonder why they waited so long?”
“She was a spy! I imagine there were still people, Nazi sympathizers, still alive, that would have liked to do her harm. She was getting old. The stories were kept hushed-up to protect her in her old age. Don’t you think?”
“Yes. That must be it,” Ruthie agreed.
Bernie summarized the highlights of the article about The White Mouse aloud.
“Hmmm, says here…born in New Zealand and raised in Australia…she was a bratty child. Imagine that—bratty! But this caused her to rebel and go to Europe. She had some jobs involving journalism. She was impressed with wealth and married a wealthy man who could indulge her. He was from Marseille. While she was visiting England World War II broke out and she was drawn to the drama of war—she wanted to sign up! She tried to join in England and they wanted her to do a cream-puff canteen job, so she went back to France. She was able to become a message-carrier for a downed RAF crew trying to get back to England through Spain. Her husband’s wealth financed the operations to get them back home. They would try to escape over the Pyrenees. As a messenger, Nancy outfitted herself to the hilt in tailored clothing, silk stockings and heels. Eventually she escorted the actual fliers, one at a time, under the noses of the pro-German French authorities, a very dangerous job. She was even arrested once, but a bluff got her out of her predicament. She and her comrades got the men back to Britain. At this point, in London, she was taken in by SOE’s French Section in London and trained in codes, surveillance and combat. She was then able to hide supplies and weapons, arrange air drops and even shot her way through enemy patrols and roadblocks.”
“Oh my goodness. What a brave, brave woman,” Ruthie concluded.
Bernie continued his summary. “It says here she preferred high heels to army boots and when her vehicle was strafed by a German fighter plane and wrecked, she crawled out of disaster hanging on to a packet of tea, a jar of face cream and a satin cushion! She could have used her womanly wiles to seduce many men, but she was always faithful to her husband, Henri. Her involvement with the French Underground movement delayed the second SS Panzer Division heading for Normandy by sixteen days!”
“But what about killing the Nazi with her bare hands?” Ruthie asked.
“It was a highfalutin’ karate chop of some kind, it says here—it only took just one. Dead! We will have to read in greater detail somewhere else.” Bernie explained.
* * *
“Is that Bernard?” Ruthie called in from the kitchen to her husband, Bernie, after he had lifted up the receiver to the phone.
“Listen, Bernard, I want that you should do your old Papa a favor on the way over here,” Bernie said into the phone. Yes, run by the bookstore and I will pay you back. Be sure to bring it, now, even if you have to be a little late.”
Ruth came in from the kitchen where she was preparing roasted chicken to confront Bernie. “Why didn’t you let Bernard talk to me. his mother, Bernie?”
“Oh, for gosh sakes. He will be over here in just a little bit. The kitchen is starting to smell awfully good, Ruthie.” He smiled as he tried to change the subject.
All was forgiven when Bernard walked in with a few fresh flowers for his mama’s supper table and a copy of the complete biography of The White Mouse—filled with photographs. Yes, Nancy Wake was a brave woman who received many honors including a British George Medal, the French Legion d’Honneur and three Croix de Guerre. At her own pre-arranged request, her ashes were scattered in the Auvergne.
Please click the book cover image to read more about Sara Marie Hogg and her novels.