Whisper on the Wind - By Maureen Lang


August 1914

Louvain, Belgium

Edward Kirkland kicked through the ashes, staring at the black dust as if seeing what it had been just yesterday: his home. All that was left was a pile of charred ruins amid the shell of the hotel his father had managed. And there, not far in the distance, was the university. He could see the vestiges of the library from here, with nothing but rubble in between. Compliments of the German Imperial Army. There wasn’t a thing Edward or all of Belgium could have done to stop it. Not that they hadn’t tried, but a mouse couldn’t fight an eagle.

Edward turned to leave. He shouldn’t be out anyway, with German soldiers still roaming the streets, keeping the peace they’d broken with their arrival. He needed to return to his mother and brother in hiding at the church.

Something on the ground glimmered in the faint afternoon light. Though he stopped to investigate, scraping away fragments with the tip of his shoe, Edward knew nothing of value was left. Before they set the fire, the Germans had carried anything of worth out to a waiting cart to be shipped to Germany as spoils of war.

Then he saw the rose and a flash of silver light. With a lump in his throat, Edward bent and picked up the picture frame. He saw that the glass was broken and most of the photo burned away . . . except for the middle, where a shard held it intact. And there, smiling as if the world were a happy place, was Isa Lassone’s face.

Isa, his mother’s young charge, who’d fled with her parents before the invasion. She was safely ensconced in peaceful, prosperous America. She had both her parents, both her silly, selfish parents, while his father lay dead and the remains of their home smoldered.

The picture might have fallen without the glass holding it down. Bracing the photo in one hand, with the other he brushed away the broken pieces. He should let it go, let it join the wreckage of his home.

But Edward’s thumb pressed it back into place, firmly within his grip.

Slipping the frame into the pocket of his coat, he made his way through the brightening streets. The ground was strewn with debris—bricks, glass, even a stinking dead horse here and there, the carcass oozing under the early August sun. Half the city was gone, along with Edward’s father. Shooting and looting had lasted all night, but he’d had to see the hotel and university himself before he’d believe that they, too, had succumbed to the fires.

Something inside told Edward he should pray, reach out to God to help him face this day. That was what his father would have done, what he would have wanted his son to do.

Edward turned up the collar of his coat against an ash-laden breeze and walked away, trying not to think at all.


Edward did so because to refuse a soldier’s orders was to be shot. He’d seen it done.

“You will come with me,” came the awkward command, followed by a firmer, “Es ist ein Befehl!”

Edward raised his hands, sorry for only one thing: his death would multiply his mother’s grief.

Part One

September 1916


Scope of War Broadens

Rumania joins Allied Powers with hopes of shortening the war

Germany has declared war in response, claiming Rumania disgracefully broke treaties with Austria-Hungary and Germany. The Allied Powers, at the forefront including France, Britain, and Russia, welcome additional men and arms. They remind the world which country was the first to break a treaty when Germany marched into Belgium in direct defiance of an agreement to respect Belgium’s neutrality should international strife begin.

Fifteen nations are now at war.

La Libre Belgique

* * *

“Oh, God,” Isa Lassone whispered, “You’ve seen me this far; don’t let me start doubting now.”

A few cool raindrops fell on her upturned face, blending with the warm tears on her cheeks. Where was her new guide? The one she’d left on the Holland side of the border had said she needed only to crawl through a culvert, then worm her way ten feet to the right, and there he would be.

Crickets chirped, and from behind her she heard water trickle from the foul-smelling culvert through which she’d just crept. Some of the smell clung to her shoes and the bottom of her peasant’s skirt, but it was Belgian dirt, so she wouldn’t complain. The prayer and the contents of her satchel reminded her why she was here, in this Belgian frontier the occupying German army strove to