Authors: A.L. Sowards
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Peaceful Woman with Long Wavy Hair
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Cover design copyright © 2015 by Covenant Communications, Inc.
Map copyright © 2015 by Briana Shawcroft
Published by Covenant Communications, Inc.
American Fork, Utah
Copyright © 2015 by A. L. Sowards
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any format or in any medium without the written permission of the publisher, Covenant Communications, Inc., P.O. Box 416, American Fork, UT 84003. The views expressed within this work are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Covenant Communications, Inc., or any other entity.
This is a work of fiction. The characters, names, incidents, places, and dialogue are either products of the author’s imagination, and are not to be construed as real, or are used fictitiously.
First Printing: February 2015
Readers who hunger for a great espionage thriller with an extra helping of romance will devour
The Rules in Rome
. A.L. Sowards is at the top of her craft with this terrific WWII suspense/spy novel. It is definitely a book not to be missed!
Do No Harm
The Rules in Rome
has it all: romance, adventure, and epic themes illustrating the unconquerable human spirit. From the moment Gracie met Bastian, I knew I would love this book. He’s the perfect hero, and Gracie is his match. I fell in love with these characters over and over again. Thank you, Sowards, for another fabulous read!
author of The Twisted Tales trilogy and
Jane and Austen
For VaLynn and Elaura
Because being the oldest has its challenges, and being the
youngest does too. Plus, I know you both like “kissing books,”
and this story is about as romantic as I get.
First of all, I’d like
to thank the readers who connected with me on Facebook and helped name my characters. Thank you, Lane, Randa, Tracy, Elaura, Vanessa, Lela, Mark, and Suzanne, for your suggestions. I apologize
if I missed anyone.
A special thanks goes to the members of my writer’s group: Linda White, Terri Ferran, Kathi Oram Peterson, and Nikki Trionfo. Their feedback made this book far better than it would have been without their help. Likewise, I’m grateful to my test readers: Melanie Grant, VaLynn Woolley, Candice N. Toone, Ron Machado, Stephanie Fowers, and Carli White. They not only got rid of typos but also gave suggestions that added depth to this story. Special thanks to George Evans Jr. for looking over the motorcycle scenes.
Thanks also goes to my publisher, Covenant Communications, especially
my editor, Sam. This was a fun story to write, and I’m grateful for their help
in getting it to the public.
Special thanks also to my mapmaker, Briana Shawcroft, who graciously fit my project in despite a very busy schedule.
And I couldn’t have written this without the support of my family, who
have courageously put up with years of lazy cooking while my mind and fingers have been busy with the 1940s.
—Italian military policemen loyal to the Italian king and
disbanded by the Germans
Members of the Patriotic Action Groups, mostly Communist,
working to rid Italy of the Nazis
German Army officer, rank similar to a US Army captain
—Nazi officer, rank similar to a US Army first lieutenant
—Office of Strategic Services. US intelligence and sabotage agency
that operated from June 1942 to January 1946
—Armed fighters resisting Nazi occupation
—Nazi officer, rank similar to a US Army major
—Nazi officer, rank similar to a US Army second lieutenant
—German armed forces
Forty-five miles north of Rome, Italy
Bastien Ley gripped his tommy
gun in the darkness, listening for the Nazi convoy scheduled to pass along the narrow country road ten yards ahead of him.
Marcello, positioned mere feet to Bastien’s left, lifted a hand and tilted his head to the side.
“You hear something?” Bastien asked his friend in Italian.
Marcello nodded, and after a moment, Bastien heard it too. He hoped whatever was coming was large enough to be worth their effort but small enough that it wouldn’t overwhelm their four-man team. As the noise
grew closer, Bastien could pick out the roar of motorcycle engines.
“It seems the hunters have become the hunted.” Marcello stood and signaled to the two men stationed across the road.
Bastien followed Marcello into the thicker underbrush while they waited for the motorcycles to pass. The Nazis were getting smarter, and Bastien’s group was getting smaller. Bastien had parachuted into Italy a month ago to help local fighters harass the Nazis. Every truck they ambushed meant fewer supplies for the German Army; every guard assigned to protect convoys was one less soldier on the front line. Throughout October, their work had gone smoothly. Their attacks had been quick—a few grenades thrown, a few clips of ammunition emptied. And before the Germans could organize a response, Bastien and his men had melted into the night, regrouping at dawn in a nearby barn to plan their next raid.
That had changed when the Nazis started using motorcycles. Bastien and his men chose their ambush sites where trucks would have a difficult time leaving the road to chase them. But the motorcycles could follow them through the fields, and three days ago, they’d gunned down two of Bastien’s men. Attacking a convoy with motorcycle escorts involved more risk than Bastien and Marcello were willing to take tonight.
As the motorcycles and the five trucks they guarded rumbled past, Bastien frowned. He needed to rethink his strategy because the US Office of Strategic Services hadn’t sent him to Italy to watch Nazi trucks roll south with supplies. He was supposed to be helping the war effort. If he couldn’t do it here, he needed to do it elsewhere.
When the convoy’s sounds faded, Bastien and Marcello found the other members of their team, Roberto and Giovanni.
“He drove within three feet of us,” Roberto said. “I almost shot him, but I didn’t think I’d be able to outrun his partner, and then the guards in the trucks would’ve been alerted.”
“Can we get more men? If we have teams for each motorcycle, plus men to attack the convoy at the same time—” Bastien stopped when Marcello held up his hand. It took him a few seconds, but then Bastien heard what
had caught Marcello’s attention: another motor. “Back to your stations.”
The men climbed into position. They had already agreed on their plan: Marcello and Bastien would attack first, then Roberto and Giovanni would join in. The vehicle came into view, traveling at the maximum speed it could safely navigate the small, winding road. Marcello hurled a grenade at the vehicle the way star pitchers threw baseballs, and the resulting explosion instantly halted the machine’s progress. The driver scrambled out and tried to escape, but either Roberto or Giovanni shot him. Bastien also fired a few shots, but his went through the vehicle’s canvas cover, so he couldn’t tell if he’d hit anyone.
“One car. Hardly worth our time,” Marcello said.
Bastien nodded but knew hitting something without taking any losses would at least be good for morale, and maybe someone important was inside.
Marcello covered Bastien as he approached the transport, a Kfz.1 personnel vehicle that reminded him of an American jeep. Bastien took out his flashlight to check inside. The lone occupant lay dead in the rear seat. Bastien gave the corpse a superficial glance before focusing on the leather attaché case on the floor. He grabbed it and stepped to the side of the road to look through the papers, letting the others finish their search of the wreck.
The documents were in German, but Bastien had lived in Germany until he was in his early twenties. He sat and skimmed a letter of introduction. The man they’d shot was on his way to join a German headquarters staff in Rome. He’d somehow earned an Iron Cross during the siege of Leningrad, and his specialty was building fixed defenses, like gun emplacements,
bunkers, and mine fields. Bastien was glancing through the man’s engineering achievements when Roberto distracted him with a string of Italian profanity.
“You look as if you’ve seen a ghost, Roberto. What is it?” Marcello asked.
“Look at him.” Roberto pointed inside the car.
Marcello examined the corpse with his light, then aimed the beam at Bastien.
Bastien turned away from the glare. “Stop shining that in my eyes.”
“Capitano Ley, you didn’t leave a twin in Germany, did you?”
“No, of course not.”
“Come look at this. He looks just like you.”
Bastien rolled his eyes as he got to his feet. He didn’t doubt there were plenty of tall German officers with blue eyes and light-brown hair, but that hardly made any of them his twin. Yet as he studied the man’s face, Bastien was shocked. It wasn’t like looking in the mirror—not exactly—especially with the hole from a .45-inch bullet in the man’s temple, but all the same, the resemblance was startling.
The four of them stared at the dead soldier. “Roberto, go keep lookout,” Bastien said.
Roberto nodded. As the team’s youngest member, he was used to following orders. His eyes flitted between Bastien and the dead German a few more times before he climbed the rise at the side of the road.
“What did the papers say?” Marcello asked.
“You interrupted me before I could finish. He was heading to Rome.”
“Returning, or going for the first time?”
“Transferring. Looks like the poor man just recovered from an injury on the Eastern Front. He’s an engineer. Probably sent to build up the Gustav Line.”
Marcello walked around the car to stand next to Bastien. “So no one in Rome has ever met him before?”
Bastien shrugged. “How should I know?”
“How’s your German?”
“Better than my English or my Italian. Why?” But Bastien already had an idea of what Marcello was about to suggest.
“Do you have any idea how valuable it would be to have a plant inside German headquarters in Rome?”
Bastien shook his head. “I’d be dead in two days, Marcello.”
Marcello fingered the thin black mustache on his upper lip. “No, I think this could work.”
“It’s not your neck on the line, is it?” But even as his instincts argued against it, Bastien could see the value in having intimate knowledge of the massive defenses being built to stall the Allied push north. And what other information could a German officer learn? Which convoys to attack? Weaknesses in the supply chain? Battle plans? Impending roundups targeting Italian partisans and the OSS men working with them?
I want to do something more effective than watch Nazi convoys drive by, don’t I?
It was a calculated risk; if caught, he’d be killed. But the potential was huge, and in
comparison, the value of Bastien’s life seemed small. “Find his papers.”
Marcello dug through the man’s tunic and handed Bastien a pay book and an ancestor pass. Bastien opened the pay book. Adalard Dietrich, the man they’d killed, was an Evangelical Christian, on paper anyway, and had owned a construction company in civilian life. He’d been recently promoted to hauptmann—the same rank as Bastien. He was from Ingolstadt, on the Danube. Bastien had grown up in Frankfurt am Main. He’d only been to Ingolstadt once. He remembered some of the buildings,
but if he was really going to do this, he’d need to avoid conversation with any Ingolstadt natives. The eye and hair color were right.
Could this work?
“He’s the wrong blood type,” Bastien said.
Marcello chuckled. “So stay out of the hospital.”
Bastien looked back at the papers. No wife listed; no minor children.
Bastien checked the man’s date of birth: 1911, two years earlier than Bastien’s.
He figured Dietrich wasn’t old enough to have any grown children, so that meant he had no family. Dietrich was an inch taller, but would anyone notice? And if they did, would they be suspicious or let it pass as evidence
of an overinflated ego? Dietrich’s shoe size was listed too—bigger than Bastien’s but only by a half size.
The other pages concerned Bastien far more than the minor physical discrepancies. “What do I say if someone asks me about the siege of Leningrad?”
“Curse the Communists, and complain about the weather.”
“That will work for two sentences. What do I do after that? And what do I say when someone asks me about the invasion of France?” Dietrich had been at war for years.
Marcello put his hand on Bastien’s shoulder. “What you’re doing here with us, it could get you killed. Pretending to be him could also get you killed, but you’re risking your neck anyway.” Marcello tapped Dietrich’s pay book. “More danger in Rome, maybe, but think of all you could learn. The other veterans, if they were in Russia, won’t want to talk about it. If they weren’t there, they won’t know anyway. And you read enough about
France in the newspapers to know what happened there.”
“I don’t even know who was in command of which division—this thing could fall apart in seconds.”
“What was his injury?” Marcello asked.
Bastien read through the book again. “It doesn’t give details. Just says it happened in April.”
“You were caught in a fire after a shell burst.” Marcello pointed to Bastien’s hands. They’d both been burned when Bastien was a child. “You also injured your head, and it affected your memory. Everything before waking up in the hospital is a blur of cold weather and loud Russian rockets.”
“How convenient.” Bastien glanced through Dietrich’s ancestor pass. He had a genealogical record that would make Himmler proud.
So do you
, Bastien reminded himself.
But actions are more important than blood.
“Look, Capitano, just set yourself up as a quiet man who keeps to himself. That won’t involve much pretending.” Marcello smoothed his mustache again. “Most people like to talk about themselves, so ask them a few questions and listen. Chances are, they’ll keep talking.”
“I’m not a real engineer.”
Marcello shoved his hands into his pockets. “Maybe the officer who promoted you valued party loyalty over occupational competence.”
Bastien had worked on projects with the Army Corps of Engineers during his initial enlistment, then studied architecture for two years before the National Guard called him back and gave him his commission. Would that be enough? He glanced at Marcello. “You really think this could work, don’t you?” Bastien pictured himself in Rome, pretending to be a German officer. Then he thought of how quickly he could mess it up. “You’re crazy. And this scheme of yours is crazy too.”
“So crazy that it just might work?”
“No. So crazy that it’s going to get me killed. Maybe if I had a few weeks to prepare, but if I’m going to be Adalard Dietrich, I only have until the next car comes barreling down that road to assume a new identity. I might feel better about it if I could contact headquarters and talk it over with them.”
“Anyone with half a brain at your headquarters would tell you to go for it. A chance like this doesn’t come along every day. Maybe once a war.”
Bastien looked through the papers again. “I’m not supposed to speak Russian or anything, am I?”
“I don’t know. I can’t read German.” Marcello laughed again.
Bastien wondered if he’d still be laughing if their roles were reversed. He stared at Dietrich’s pay book. His chances were slim, but what if it did work? The information he would gain could change the course of the war. And Bastien did want to change the war, make it end before he lost another brother. He looked at the scars on his hands as he thought about his family. His mother, two sisters, and youngest brother had depended on him the last eight years. They
him to return alive, but they didn’t
him, not anymore. If he died, they would grieve, but they wouldn’t starve. And few others would notice his absence. Bastien had little to lose, and the Allies had all of Italy to gain.
“Giovanni, take his clothes off. Check his skin for scars—anything that might explain his injury.” Bastien turned to Marcello. “You’ll need to hide that body where it will never be found.”
“Does the car still work?”
Marcello turned the ignition, but the engine didn’t start. Bastien strode to the front of the vehicle and opened the hood. He could see black scorch marks along the engine’s right side, and the grenade blast seemed to have repositioned most of the internal parts. He frowned, wondering if he could somehow slide the parts back into proper alignment.
Marcello stepped beside him and waved a hand. “Leave it alone. A broken car works to your advantage. Wait here until the next German patrol comes along, then act like an arrogant officer and demand they take you to Rome.”
“And what if some partisans come along and shoot me?”