An Extract From Night Flight to Paris by David Gilman

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I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Night Flight to Paris by David Gilman and would like to thank Florence Hare at Head of Zeus for inviting me to participate. As Night Flight to Paris is very firmly on my TBR, following the extract I have to share with you today, I just can’t wait to read the whole of the book.

Published by Head of Zeus on 9th August 2018, Night Flight to Paris is available for purchase here.

Night Flight to Paris

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Paris, 1943.

The swastika flies from the top of the Eiffel Tower. Soldiers clad in field grey patrol the streets. Buildings have been renamed, books banned, art stolen and people disappeared. Amongst the missing is an Allied intelligence cell.

Gone to ground? Betrayed? Dead? Britain’s Special Operations Executive need to find out. They recruit ex-Parisian and Bletchley Park codebreaker Harry Mitchell to return to the city he fled two years ago.

Mitchell knows Occupied Paris – a city at war with itself. Informers, gangsters, collaborators and Resistance factions are as ready to slit each other’s throats as they are the Germans’. The occupiers themselves are no better: the Gestapo and the Abwehr – military intelligence – are locked in their own lethal battle for dominance. Mitchell knows the risks: a return to Paris not a mission – it’s a death sentence.

But he has good reason to put his life on the line: the wife and daughter he was forced to leave behind have fallen into the hands of the Gestapo and Michell will do whatever it takes to save them. But with disaster afflicting his mission from the outset, it will take all his ingenuity, all his courage, to even get into Paris… unaware that every step he takes towards the capital is a step closer to a trap well set and baited.

An Extract from Night Flight to Paris

1

Paris

February 1943

The darkness moved. The night sky, black and heavy with menace and constant drizzle, curled in on itself as the massive swastika rippled in slow motion. Languid authority ruling over silent cobbled streets below. The gusting wind threw curtains of light rain, rushing over the echoing sound  of running footfalls. A desperate clattering of fear in the curfew hours.

In the blacked-out room on the third floor of a five-storey walk-up, a curtain twitched. Through the sliver of glass, an old woman peered down at the dark street in the Eighteenth Arrondissement. Dim figures raced around the corner. Across the street others dared to ease back a curtain or a shutter, dousing their house lights, fearful of being seen, not wanting to be drawn into whatever was happening to the desperate fugitives below. The curtain twitcher saw two men and two women running for their lives. The older of the women snatched at a younger girl’s arm as she almost stumbled on the wet cobbles. Ahead of them one of the men, perhaps inhis forties, ran into doorway after doorway, desperate to gain access and escape from whoever was pursuing them. As he beat his fist on one door, the second man did the same to the next.

Every door was locked and no one who cowered in the dimly lit rooms was foolish enough to let the strangers in, despite their cries for help. The sound of fast-approaching studded boots told the old woman behind the curtain that the men and women were facing certain death. A dozen German soldiers turned the same corner, a couple skidding on the wet street. But then a command rang out: the soldiers stopped and raised their rifles. The old lady let the curtain fall back and retreated into her room. There was no need to witness what would happen next. She settled herself in the threadbare chair and pulled her shawl around her, bowing her head, gnarled hands covering her ears. Dreading the shattering crack of rifle fire.

Hail Mary, full of grace…

*

Despite the chilling rain, Alain Ory was sweating. Fear and desperation kept him banging on every door as they ran down the street. He begged; he cried out for help. There was no response. Soldiers appeared in the distance, spectres in the shifting rain. A voice called for those running to halt. Alain turned to the women, who had faltered. Suzanne Colbert had kicked her shoes off so she could run silently and with less risk of slipping. He had always desired her. She was similar in age to him, a courageous and beautiful woman. Now she huddled with her daughter in a doorway. In this desperate moment, he felt a surge of sadness that threatened to overwhelm him. He would have to abandon them.

He did not hear the German officer’s command to shoot. Rifle fire rang out. Suzanne and her daughter clung to each other. Alain threw himself across them, smelling the musk of her daughter’s hair and the acrid tang of urine as terror emptied her bladder. Bullets tore into the running body of their companion. The young man pirouetted silently, arms akimbo, turning almost gracefully on his toes. The illusion was shattered by the ripping of flesh and the sickening crunch of bone as he fell face first on to the cobbles. Blood seeped from beneath his body.

Alain pulled the women out of the doorway. He heard the mechanical slide of rifles being cocked, then pressed the women against the wall as another volley rang out. Bullets ripped stone fragments above where they crouched. A ricochet hit Suzanne’s leg. She stifled a cry of pain and limped behind the others as Ory turned into an alley, hurrying the younger woman with him. He pressed against the wall, dared to peer around and then stepped back into the street to drag Suzanne after them. The soldiers were running and would not fire again until one or more of them saw their targets and then stopped and aimed. One leg was twisted under Suzanne; blood flooded her hand, which squeezed the wound. Her agonized look told him everything. She wasn’t going to make it.

‘Go!’ she gasped.

He could not help her. She was pushing her identity card down the street drain. He turned and ran back into the alley.

‘Save her!’ cried the terrified girl.

He gripped her arms and tried to push her further into thedarkness. ‘No. We leave her!’

The girl wept, ‘I can’t. She’s my mother,’ and pulled back from him.

‘Christ, you fool. Danielle, come on!’

She shook her head and tried to run past him back into the street. He pressed her shoulders against the wall, but she threw him off, her terror more powerful than his strength. For the briefest instant he cupped her distraught face in his hands. ‘I can’t help you. Good luck.’ He turned and ran into the void as she spun around and stumbled to her mother.

‘Danielle. No. For God’s sake!’ Suzanne begged, raising a hand to stop her.

No sooner had Danielle knelt next to her wounded mother than headlights flooded the street and the soldiers dragged her away, screaming. Tyres skidded to a halt, doors opened, and she was bundled into the back of one of the cars. It quickly reversed and turned. The headlamps of the second car, parked off to one side, threw long fingers of light across the wounded woman and the soldiers, standing with rifles now slung, smok-ing cigarettes as their officer spoke to one of the men in the car. Soldiers toed the man’s dead body as others stood over Suzanne. She raised a hand to shield her eyes from the light and saw her daughter’s face pressed against the back window as the car sped away. A German officer barked something and two of his men leant down and grabbed her arms; then they dragged her across the cobbles to the waiting car. Suzanne cried out as her wounded leg scraped on the uneven surface. The pain made her vomit. They cursed and one of them hit her on the back of the head with his fist. Stunned, she smelt the warm comfort of the car’s leather seats and was flooded with fleeting images, memories of better days. A lover who became her husband; a leather sofa and the excitement of their first sexual encounter. Love and warmth. All that had long since fled. Now only cold dread remained.

(And now you can see why I’m desperate to read Night Flight to Paris!)

About David Gilman

Gilman Publicity

David Gilman has had an impressive variety of jobs – from firefighter to professional photographer, from soldier in the Parachute Regiment’s Reconnaissance Platoon to a Marketing Manager for an international publisher. He has countless radio, television and film credits before turning to novels. From 2000 until 2009 he was a principal writer on A Touch Of Frost.

You can visit David’s website and follow him on Twitter @davidgilmanuk for more details. You’ll also find David on Facebook.

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