Nighthawks

“And you’re sure no one saw you?” Cossette murmured.

Didier nodded and took a drag of his cigarette.

“Easy-peasy,” he replied, exhaling a long stream of smoke. He looked around suspiciously and whispered, “Stashed it next to the rose bushes in the front yard, as you directed.”

“OK, good,” she nodded. “Phillippe should have picked it up by now. Everything is going according to plan.”

She produced a roll of bills from her purse and handed it to Didier. He gave the cash a cursory glance and pocketed it. He took another puff on his cigarette.

These days, the streets of Rouen were deserted as soon as night fell. The war had made life difficult for everyone. Tonight, at Cafe Madeleine was no different. It was 6:00 pm on a late summer evening and only they and one other patron had ventured into the once-popular bistro. Years gone by, the now-empty dance hall across the street would have been filled with young mademoiselles and monsieurs out for the evening, preparing to dance the night away.

But now most of the windows in this part of town were empty, the streets desolate, as people preferred to spend more time with their families. Many of the young people had gone off to war, which was now in its third year.

“Would you like another coffee?” It was Emile, the late cafe owner’s son. Cafe Madeleine was only one of few eateries that was still in business and the only one on Rue Michele. It was only a matter of time before Emile was off to war, closing down the bistro, and removing the last vestige of social interaction from the tiny street.

Cossette nodded. “I’ll take another and one for my friend here too.”

Emile took their cups and poured the refills. “So, you think the war will end soon?” he asked.

It came out as more of a plea that it would be over, than as a question of the duration of the war.

Didier shrugged and stubbed out the cigarette butt in the ashtray. He took out a new one from the packet in his jacket pocket.

“Who knows?” he answered. “All we know is that the Germans have taken over Rouen and our lives are no longer our own. But mark my words –” he pointed a cigarette at the young Emile, “– those Germans won’t know what hit them when we retaliate. There will always be a Resistance in France against those who seek to occupy us!”

Cossette put a hand out to quiet the animated Didier. He was usually a calm man, but he was becoming more vocal as the seemingly endless war raged on all over the continent.

Didier continued and slammed his fist on the bar counter. “Tomorrow, they will see what we are made of!”

“Tomorrow? What will happen tomorrow?” came a voice from across where they sat. The patron seated across from them stirred. Up until now they had taken no notice of him, sitting alone, hat pulled down low over his face, and quietly sipping his coffee.

The stranger looked up from his coffee and smiled straight at Didier. But there was no warmth in his smile. On the lapel of his coat, he wore a distinctive “SS” pin and he spoke with an unmistakable German accent.

Edward Hopper "Nighthawks" 1942. Public Domain
Edward Hopper “Nighthawks” 1942. Public Domain

Inspired by the Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Find a Muse in the Masters.
In today’s writing challenge, you’ll choose a scenario (or invent your own) and write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.

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