Moments later there was a crash and thud of bombs, joined by the chatter of machinegun fire. Up ahead a pall of black smoke started to rise slowly into the air, accompanied by the drone of retreating bombers. The crush of refugees reformed and continued to inch forward.
“Those trucks are like the one at the church this morning,” said Andre. They had eventually drawn level with the rising smoke. It was a small convoy of French troops, two of their trucks had been destroyed, proof that the bombers had found their mark.
Julia drew Andre down onto the seat, “Don’t look,” she said shuddering. The roadside portrayed a grizzly site, as surviving soldiers loaded the remains of their dead comrades into a truck. More infantrymen spread across the road blocking the way, allowing the truck to turn around and travel in the opposite direction. Soldiers rode on its sides shouting and waving, demanding right of way, the driver stridently sounding the horn.
As the bus got into motion again Andre stood and pointed through the cracked windshield, “A garage!” he announced. It was unmistakably a petrol station. The white glass bowls of the fuel pumps clearly stood out, advertising the name of their company.
“Good we’ll be able to tank up,” said Smith, “and I can see our turnoff just beyond. We’ll be able to travel faster now.”
“Do you think there’ll be questions at the filling station about our theft of the bus,” said Julia nervously.
“Don’t use the word theft. We paid for ticket...
... middle of paper ...
...stared at the bus.
“Just a moment,” she said, “I have an idea.
She climbed back on board and appeared to be searching. “Lunch,” she proclaimed holding up a basket. Smith and Andre quickly joined her. “It’s the peasant woman’s,” she explained. They all stared into the basket. Cradled against its bottom were two long loaves accompanied by two equally long bottles. On the top, about the size of a man’s fist was something wrapped in wax paper and tied with string. Julia touched it with her fingertips, “Cheese,” she said.
They descended and sat beneath the hedgerow munching on the crusty bread and breaking off lumps from the slab of cheese.
“Not Stilton,” said Smith between bites, “But delicious none the less.”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, besides we’re eating someone else’s lunch,” replied Julia.
Smith grinned, “I won’t let my conscience ruin my appetite.”
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