Series: Echoes Rising, Book 1 (2nd Edition)
Author: Anne Barwell
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.
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The light on top of the confessional blinked off, and an old man walked out, a dazed expression on his face. He muttered something under his breath too low for Michel to hear, glanced behind him, rapidly made the sign of the cross, and then repeated it. He then, to Michel’s surprise, prostrated himself in front of the altar and called out in a loud voice, “God, I beg your forgiveness for leading such a boring life.”
Someone snorted. Michel turned in time to see the brunet he’d observed earlier roll his eyes. Whoever was in the confessional masquerading as the local parish priest had an interesting sense of humor. He wondered idly who was in charge of this mission. The brunet certainly didn’t seem surprised by what had just happened.
Michel tentatively opened the now-empty confessional and entered, wondering what he was getting himself into. Whatever the priest had said to the old man, it was definitely atypical of the penance Michel remembered receiving in the past, courtesy of the clergy of the Catholic Church. Surely they couldn’t be condoning this behavior, although he was sure Father Johannes would have agreed for someone to temporarily use the confessional as a meeting place. He’d helped the Berlin Resistance on more than one occasion.
Playing the part of a priest would be the safest way of doing this for the person on the other end of the confessional, especially if he were caught. Father Johannes too, despite his protestations, knew to deny knowledge of anything or anyone if that happened. He would do his people more good here than in a Gestapo cell or a camp.
Michel knelt as the priest opened the small mesh window dividing the two compartments. Searching his memory for the correct phrasing, Michel spoke the precursory words for the sacrament. Confession might be good for the soul, but in his occupation, some things were better left unsaid, even to a priest.
“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” he began. “It’s been two years since my last confession and—”
A bored-sounding voice interrupted him. “Just get on with it, will you? I hope your sins are more interesting than the last person’s. I damn well hit my head when I started to drift off….”
The priest paused to catch his breath, and Michel spoke quickly, before the man could continue his tale of woe. “I’m homesick, and I’m often tempted to click my heels together and say ‘there’s no place like home.’”
There was a moment’s silence, followed by what sounded suspiciously like a very loud sigh of relief. “The answer to your problem is to follow the yellow brick road.”
Michel arched an eyebrow in the half darkness. Was this his contact? “Toto?” he asked.
“In the flesh. What took you so long? You’ve no idea what I’ve been through in here.” There was another moment of silence. “How can I help you, my child?” The man snickered. “Sorry, I’ve always wanted to say that.”
A loud creak was followed by the sun streaming through the now open confessional door. Michel blinked rapidly at the sudden change in light. The “priest” standing in front of him proffered his hand in greeting, although he was careful to keep his voice low so they couldn’t be overheard. “Matthew Bryant. Matt.”
“Gabriel.” Michel considered giving his name rather than his codename, but he didn’t trust this man or his team that far as yet.
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About the Author:
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.
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