Napoleon watched from between the carved posts of the decorative railing, hoping no one noticed him in the darkness. It was the perfect hiding place, no adult would fit in the little spy hole and he doubted anyone even remembered its existence. The old Italian house was full of passageways and little half-hidden rooms that were perfect for spies. All of them were tiny, barely large enough for him so he doubted any of the adults even realized they were perfect for a boy his age to use.
When he had brought Simone and Paulo here, he'd thought he was doing the right thing. Now they were trapped with his grandparents and the three guards who had not left with everyone else when the war began. Every night they listened to the radio, hearing the words that told of German triumphs over the Empire. His grandmother wept as the numbers of the dead were broadcast. His grandfather frowned more every day. The guards took to sleeping with their weapons loaded and within easy reach.
Only the fact that this was an embassy protected them. Every single building on the street was filled with people from other embassies and they all surrepticiously kept an eye on the lone remnant of the British Empire. The other members of the Empire had quietly left the country before the hostilities had grown so tense. The Canadians had been quietly stubborn. Of Italian stock, they quietly organized escape routes and unground resistance cells, preparing them for the coming war. But they had not recognized their own danger until it was too late.
"Please understand, I cannot promise anything." The man's accent wasn't one he could easily recognise, but Napoleon thought it was Dutch. "And it will be dangerous. The Italians are hunting for the boy. He was seen by the guard. The other one, he will be easy to get out. The Argentinian ambassador will be by tomorrow morning. They will take him directly to the airport with their own children. As far as anyone will know, he is one of theirs. Their plane will stop breifly in Lisbon to refuel. Someone will meet him there."
"And Simone?" His grandfather spoke softly, but the acoustics of the old sitting room brought his words up to the hidden balcony.
"Mussolini himself signed her papers. She will be free to go with the Argentine children." The visitor handed a sheaf of papers over. "He said he owed Eduard a debt that would be paid in full. But he refused to speak about either of the boys."
"Thank you, Alexander. My family will always owe you a debt of more than gratitude for your help." Napoleon's grandfather accepted the papers gratefully. "And the guardsman? Will he live?"
The dark haired man shook his head. "No, the bullet did too much damage. The doctor says he will be dead before tomorrow night. That is why I cannot a safe way for him to get out. We willhave to send him through the underground. They are going to be coming for him as soon as the guard dies. Until then he is safe."
"He'll be ready to leave in an hour."
"I'll be waiting. Ambassador? What about you and your wife, sir?" The man asked quietly.
Napoleon's grandfather halted at the doorway and half turned. "We will be unharmed. Uncomfortable, that is a certainty, but safe. As soon as they realize what we've done we will be either deported or jailed. But the children will be safe."
Alexander nodded and waited for the ambassador to leave the room. As soon as he did, the man turned, eyes skimming the room until they found the little hidden alcove. The man smiled grimly at Napoleon and bowed his head in acknowledgment of his presence.
"Go, lad. You need to get ready." He called softly.
Wide eyed, Napoleon pulled back from the alcove and darted down one of the concealed passages. It hadn't taken him long to memorize the ways around the building. He knew the Italian police were under orders to arrest him if they saw him. He was very careful that no one from outside ever saw him. Not the cook, the two frightened maids, not the intensely interested visitors who looked around so avidly while they spoke to his grandfather. This strange man was the first adult who to see him since his arrival.
"Napoleon?" Paulo's pained voice startled him. He slipped through a concealed door and into their room. The younger Solo lay in his bed, most of his head and face hidden by bandages. "Napoleon? Are you there?"
"I'm right here, Paulo." Napoleon quickly crossed the room to his brother's side. He gently took the outstretched hand and held it tightly.
"I couldn't hear you. Were you in the wall again?"
"I went to get something for you." Napoleon unwrapped the small piece of chocolate he had gotten from one of the guards. He placed it against his brother's lips, waiting patiently for the younger boy to take the candy from his fingers.
"Chocolate!" Delight flooded Paulo's voice. "You got me chocolate."
"It's your favorite." Napoleon said simply. He stared at his brother, tears forming in his eyes. Quickly coming to a decision, he pulled his hand free and unbuttoned his shirt. With swift, trembling hands he pulled a medalion over his head. "Unbutton your shirt, Paulo."
"Why? What are you doing?" The younger boy turned his head, trying to make sense of the sounds he heard. "Nappy?"
The whispered plea made Paulo freeze. His fingers uncertain, he unbuttoned his pajama top. A moment later Napoleon's hands were on his shoulders, helping him sit upright. Very carefully, holding the chain as steady as he could, the twelve-year-old eased it past the heavy bandages. With a soft sigh, he let the heavy medalion come to rest on his ten-year-old brother's thin chest. The golden crest gleam softly as Napoleon brought Paulo's hand to it.
"Dad's crest?" Wonder and fear made the boy's voice crack.
"You are going to be heading home. You have to take it." Napoleon buttoned up the pajama top, clenching his jaw tightly at the loss he felt. "It's your duty to keep it safe until you get back to Vancouver."
"But he gave it to you."
"And I'm giving it to you." Napoleon could hear his grandfather's footsteps approaching. "Now hush, you're supposed to be resting."
Gently disentangling his arm from his brother's grasp, Napoleon moved over to a dresser and placed his oldest clothes into his school bag. If he was going to go underground he was not going to need his best clothes.
"Napoleon?" His grandfather's whisper halted his packing.
"No white shirts, boy. They are too easily spotted." Grim lines marred the patrician face he knew so well. "And take all of your money, you'll need it."
Napoleon nodded and pulled out the shirt he had just placed in the bag. He opened his wallet, looking at the small pile of lira and placed half of it in a sock before stuffing it deep into the bag. The old man smiled and handed him a cloth bag to add to it. He looked up, a question forming on his lips.
"Napoleon?" Paulo whispered. "Are you leaving?"
Napoleon looked at his grandfather. The older man nodded and he moved back to his brother's bed. "Yes, Paulo. It isn't safe for me to be here. It is dangerous for you and Simone."
"Take my money too." For the first time, Napoleon heard his father's air of command in his brother's voice. "I won't need it and you will, won't you?"
"He will." Their grandfather answered quietly. "It is time to go. Say your goodbyes quickly."
Napoleon found himself pulled into Paulo's arms. He hugged him tight before letting go and stepping back. "I'll find you and Simone. You hear me?"
"I hear you, Nappy." Paulo's cheeks were red and his voice trembled.
"Take care of Simone."
There was no more time, Napoleon's grandfather took his arm and pulled
him out of the room.
They moved quickly, descending stairs and hurrying through empty hallways. His grandmother darted out of one room and pulled him into a fierce hug.
"I will pray for you, Napoleon." She whispered in his ear before sending him back to his grandfather's side.
The strange man in the worn clothes was waiting at the base of the main staircase. His face was calm as he watched them descend. When they reached him, the man reached for Napoleon's bag and slung it over his shoulder.
"Napoleon, this is Alexander --" his grandfather began.
"You'd best call me Uncle Alex, Napoleon." The man interupted. "Word came while you were upstairs. The guard took a turn for the worse. We have to be gone."
"Of course." Suddenly his grandfather aged in front of Napoleon's eyes. "Be safe, my boy. We will see you on the other side of the ocean." The fiery look he gave the man standing near them was met by an unflappable calm. "Take care of my grandson, Alexander."
"I will get him to London safely,"
They shook hands and then Napoleon followed the man out a side door even he hadn't known about. Behind them, the embassy disappeared as they walked calmly down a side alley.
"Do you like to sail, boy?" A man held up a fish in front of them, asking if they needed any fresh fish for their dinner.
"I can sail, sir." Napoleon answered easily.
"Good. We'll be fishermen for a little while then." Alexander turned their steps toward the harbor. Just a few streets away, a group of Italian police hurried up the hill toward embassy row. Moments later, their spotter nodded and moved silently into position, keeping the man and the boy in sight, watching their backs.