"Good morning."

"Thank you, Kat."

"My pleasure. Let me make you some breakfast."

"I've been so alone."

"It's alright, my sweet, you don't need ..."

It was the look on Pamela's face. It took her back to the top of that hill and seeing them blocking her escape, the same feeling of utter hopeless emptiness.

"You're such a good friend, you always have been. I needed not to be alone last night. I'm so grateful for your kindness ..."

She closed her eyes, concentrating on the feeling of where their bodies touched, trying to draw it inside herself to retain forever. Please, Pamela my love, please stop speaking now. Please.

"... I'm sorry, Kat, I couldn't ever love a woman. Not in that way. I simply couldn't."

[Historical afterword: this tale is, among other things, a bit of a love song to the great British war films of the 1950s, and if you weren't raised on those then you may find it quite heavy going. Kat's career is an invention based loosely on several actual agents. Because it's inspired as much by cinema as history, there's more than a little of Violette Szabo, the subject of perhaps the best of all those films. In addition there are traces of both Nearne sisters, Odette Hallowes and Noor Inayat Khan. Jacqueline Nearne appeared in a '40s film as the character 'Cat'; that's entirely coincidental and no connection is implied. Kat's sexuality is certainly not something I regard as wrong or shameful, but it is my invention and I'd like to make entirely clear that it was not drawn from any of those real women.

In outline, the story goes like this. At the outbreak of war in 1939, Kat is just about to start her studies at Newnham College, Cambridge. After a short period she drops out to do her bit and before long finds herself driving ambulances as a member of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. At some point in late 1941 she is recruited by the Special Operations Executive. She trains as a field agent and radio operator at, among other establishments, Wanborough Manor in Surrey. She spends almost a year in France during 1942-3, working as a liaison officer between French resistance groups and London. On her return, she continues to work at the UK end of the network; and it is during this period that she meets Pearl. Shortly before D-Day, in May 1944, she is parachuted back into France to help organise sabotage against German lines of communication; and is captured in late July. She is held briefly at Fresnes prison in Paris, where she is tortured; then sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp in eastern Germany. Few of the agents who went into Ravensbrück survived the experience, but Kat has the good luck to be transferred to a less secure work camp from which she escapes; and manages to find her way far enough across Germany to be liberated by the western Allies rather than the Red Army. Oh, and for any puzzled gun folk reading this, the M1 carbine was sometimes known as a 'Winchester' in its very limited British service.]

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