Willie's War Ch. 09bySnurge©
"Looking at the moon?"
Tom Soames did his best to ignore Michel, his pick-up for that night who was sitting cross-legged on the bed. The small room was stuffy after their earlier heated encounter, and he stayed in the chair near his workbench, fiddling with electrical components and contentedly gazing out of the window.
"No, the moon isn't up yet, its still daylight outside." he replied, "I'm just thinking. I have things to do. Plans to make."
"Are you thinking of that girl you had here the other night?"
Tom felt a flash of anger but didn't show it. "Don't be childish. There are other things in life apart from sex."
Michel was wearing just a plain maroon-coloured bath robe. Perching on the edge of the bed he drew his slender legs under him and the sash of the robe loosened to reveal the bare flesh of his thigh. "I was walking a dog. I saw you and I know who it was. It was that girl from the big house. That foreign tart. Weak and puny." He spoke in a hushed child-like voice, but he was not a child and he was anything but innocent.
Exasperated, Tom's eyes went to the ceiling. "For goodness sake, can't you think about anything else but buggery?"
Michel pulled the flannel robe more tightly around his thin body, his green eyes sleepy and reticent as he took in his date. He himself was nineteen and attractive in an off-beat sort of way. His features weren't perfect because his nose was strong and, according to his own warped belief, too big. His teeth weren't perfect either, but right at that moment nothing could convince him that he didn't have a beautiful smile that was disturbingly alluring even when it didn't try to be.
"Are we finished for tonight?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think we are." Tom was doing his best not to look at him, keeping his eyes on the landscape outside his window where, when darkness descended, parallel strings of white light would denote the military camp in Foxley Wood. In the dusk of evening they would seem to give off illumination not unlike that of a fairground.
Michel uncurled and bent forward to pick at an unpainted toenail, his eyes fixed on what he's doing while his nakedness beneath the robe remained blatantly on offer. Tom could be frustrating, he remembered, able to deflect unwanted attention with a very real excuse of an urgent assignment. But he shouldn't be in any kind of rush that night. Not after all the trouble he'd gone to chat him up and bring him to the cottage. The atmosphere in that small room had been electric a short while previously, but now there was only one kind of electricity in the air. Tom's fascination with wireless was almost annoying.
"Amateur radio is forbidden." he said in a warning voice, "The police would go loopy if they saw all the stuff you have here."
Tom conjured up a glib smile. "I'm not an amateur, radio is my job. The police may not like it, but I'll have a good excuse ready for them if they get nosy."
"Great." Michel said. When Tom glanced over his shoulder he caught his eyes, held them for just a little too long and then executed a languorous stretch, extending his legs and flexing his feet. He arched his back, displaying parts of his naked body and opening it towards him. From under thick, dark lashes he offered a killer look, his eyes full of allure and invitation, then he shifted position in a series of fluid adjustments that made it impossible not to think of other adjustments his body might make, without the clothes.
Tom caught the deliberate flash of youthful flesh, the pale recesses of high inner thighs, but he was so preoccupied he did not react as most men would.
Michel was a foxy youth who had avoided conscription by contriving to have no fixed abode, and who had lately become a fixture behind the bar at the Fenman's Rest. It was unnatural for Tom to be in the same room with him and keep his distance, but he had other urgent business on his mind that night. Earlier he had been near enough for him to breathe in the fragrance of his youthfulness, near enough for him to feel the warmth of his naked body crushing against his own, and close enough to know the fierce heat of intimate flesh clutching his rampant manhood as it pierced the depths of him.
He made a sound in the back of his throat, and it took all his willpower not to launch himself at the bed again. One final flying dive to placate a belated rise of unrequited lust.
Feeling peeved Michel pulled his knees up to his chest and wrapped his arms around them. All closed off now. After a moment he climbed from the bed and sauntered across to a small dresser. An atmosphere that was intentionally erotic embraced him as he moved. It was pervasive, purposely intended to seduce a man's senses. He unscrewed the top of a green gin bottle and poured out two drinks. "One for the road." he said.
When Tom didn't respond Michel stared at him like a cobra and his voice slowed and became theatrically sleazy. "That girl, the one you had here the other night. She looked like she'd got a nice set. Bet you couldn't wait to get into that one. What was she like? Show you a good time did she? As good has me? Go like a bunny, did she?"
The truth was that evening Tom had given no thought at all to Willie Froehlich; he had been constantly aware and moodily obsessed with the manner of Michel's proximity to adolescence. The tart may have been nineteen but he acted like a sixth-former. At times he enjoyed that and it encouraged him to give him the benefit of his rearing tumescence, but he'd finished with him now, he'd got something else on his mind.
"Would that be a problem? You know the score. You weren't born yesterday."
"Not hardly," Michel said, "If it makes you feel any better, I've done a lot." He raised his glass in a salute. "God save the King." Tom didn't bother turning. He was examining something among the clutter of paraphernalia on his work-top. "Absolutely," he agreed without moving. "And death to all his enemies."
"You'd better get going." he added a moment later. "I'll see you in The Fenman's Rest on Saturday, and maybe afterwards we'll have an all-nighter."
Michel set his empty glass on the cluttered bench and looped his arms around Tom's neck, moulding himself as close as possible to his body. "You've got your motorbike outside. Fancy giving me a lift to the bus-stop?"
Startled, Tom stiffened for a moment, then he observed him with a blank expression, noting Michel's habit of pursing his lips into a girlish pout whenever he wanted to be particularly persuasive.
"Ummm," he said, shrugging him off. "It's only a mile and it's not dark yet. You can walk."
"You're thoughtless and selfish. You're cruel to me."
The faggot was right, thought Tom. He was probably the most selfish and insensitive person one could ever meet, and the idea pleased him. Being insensitive always had the magic to make people worry more about him than themselves.
He raised a telling eyebrow. "Man is made to be a warrior, sweetheart, just as women - and those men not truly manlike - are made to please the warrior." He smiled, finding it amusing to twist a quote of Nietzsche so cleverly.
Nevertheless, being clever didn't make him invulnerable. His nostrils quivered as they detected a scent, the faintest hint of a perfume that Michel favoured that was both passionate and feminine. He stared at his stomach and the belted towel gown riding on his lean hips. He looked as soft as a rag-doll and sinfully sexy.
It made him respond, he couldn't deny that, and in a split second he experienced a physical affliction that demanded satisfaction. The front of his slacks began to swell wantonly and he had the familiar desire to grind his hips against the shrewd, lewd bitch near him who had flaunted himself so shamelessly all evening.
Engrossed in his own longings, Michel heard him say almost harshly, "You win, my horny lover, on this occasion at least. Get back on the bed. If you make it good for me a second time I'll give you a ride home."
On his return to Lilac Cottage Tom threw out the gin bottle and put on the kettle to make cocoa. Outside the countryside was silent but for the occasional shriek of a night bird.
When he was not employed in radio monitoring on the coast he spent a lot of time in his little cottage, tinkering with wireless apparatus and making plans. At heart he was still a student, and like all young students he brimmed with impatient ideology and had endlessly discussed with a few trusted people about the need for change in order to make the world a better place. Adolph Hitler's brand of fascism had attracted him. The uneducated masses he realised would have to be guided into believing new ideas, which meant there may be a need to make them obey.
He had returned to England just prior to the war intending to join Mosley's British Union of Fascists, but the war had prevented that. Oswald Mosley had been imprisoned and the British fascists had been suppressed. But there was more than one way to strike a blow for the side he favoured. He knew that in Foxley Wood just a couple of miles from his home an entire armoured brigade was assembling prior to being moved abroad.
In his role of an RAF officer he had manufactured a pretext to visit the place once, and had calculated that under the trees there were up to a hundred Cruiser and Infantry tanks with their crews billeted in huts nearby. Everything was in such close proximity that a single heavy bombing strike by the Luftwaffe would cause utter devastation. If they could find it they could blow it off the map.
Tom groaned inwardly. Getting to his feet, he opened the window and took a deep breath.
There was a problem of course. Wasn't there bound to be? Goering, now Deputy Fuhrer as well as overlord of the German airforce, considered his aircraft too vulnerable to risk in daylight attacks and he would only allow them to make their bombing sorties at night when British interceptors found it hard to find them. And the problem was that all targets were completely blacked out during a night raid.
He stared over at the lights now shining in Foxley Wood. Visibility was always a problem for flyers and British air defence was so sharp these days that a raid in daylight was out of the question. But he knew by way of some of his service colleagues that some Germans squadrons were benefiting from a system called Y-Geraet which could guide aircraft onto a target despite darkness or dense cloud.
When he had been in Heidelberg studying radio technology he had heard of the German 'Knickebein' programme which used Lorenz radio beams to do that kind of thing. The system was an application of technology that placed a desired target at the apex of two radio cross-beams generated from the continent and guided aircraft onto it. Known as X-Geraet it had worked in raids on Coventry city centre and the Rolls Royce aero-engine factory in Derby, and although Foxley Wood was a much smaller target than a city the newer Y-Geraet would work there too if the precise coordinates were provided.
Assisted by some sly deals in military petrol allocation and with the help of an Ordinance Survey Map, Tom Soames had done a lot of work riding around on his motorcycle and had calculated those coordinates. He slapped his hands together graphically. With his help the Luftwaffe could plaster Foxley Wood right on the button.
It was foolhardy to make radio transmissions to the continent, but he only needed to relay a couple of messages with the authority of the recognised codename of Harmony, and he was willing to take that chance.
In other respects he was scrupulously careful. He never marked his Ordnance Survey Map, not even with a pin prick. If by some mischance the authorities became suspicious of him and searched his property he didn't wish to have evidence around, and wily intelligence officers always held maps to the light in a search for pin holes.
He pulled a chair in front of the radio set on the table and sat down, switched the apparatus on and waited for it to warm up. He was going to have to use a plus one code. Caesar had once used the same kind of cipher in letters to Cicero. It was schoolboy stuff really: A=B, B=C, etc, but he had no access to anything better, and it would do the job, while the codename, Harmony, would make people sit up and take notice.
He put on a pair of ear-phones and his eyes went to the tuning dials as he switched to transmit. Then he began tapping characters on the Morse-key
Willie had no idea just what the young man who lived in the cottage on the other side of the hill was planning, nor could he have prevented him doing as he wished even if he'd wanted to. A dark, frightening anger filled his expression when he thought of Tom Soames these days, banishing the intimacy they had so often shared in the past. There had been no element of love or caring in what had happened between them in Tom's abysmal cottage, and self-disgust had left a sour taste in his mouth.
Bitterly he contemplated what he had done and what he should have done. He should have controlled himself. He should have refused him. How could he have allowed the man to use him and make him feel so cheap? 'I only want you for your codename.' he had said, as if he wasn't worth knowing, as if he were no more important than a rug on the floor. As if he was contemptible. The contempt hurt, but he pushed the pain aside. This was not the time to dwell on wounded feelings. Life was for living. All he hoped was that Tom Soames would never bother him again.
That evening he was sitting on the bed in Deborah's room while his American friend packed a suitcase. Deborah was off on a journey in the morning and she was gearing up to meet her friends in Liverpool. The room was in disarray, full of pinks and creams and crammed with pre-war silk scarves, fur wraps and cosmetic bottles. It looked like a showgirl's dressing room, which was the way Debbie seemed to prefer it.
Willie loaded a small log onto the fire that was burning, wood that had been collected from the paddocks earlier because Debbie was constantly irritated by Mrs Whippet's stinging allocation of coal. "How long will you be away?" he asked.
"One, maybe two nights, depends if the boat comes in on time."
"It will be lonely here without you. Mortimer is very kind but he leaves early each morning and sometimes doesn't return until well into the evening."
"Jimmy and Toby will probably come down at the weekend, they usually do. And Jeremy will pop in too. I'm sure he will. He promised to give Mortimer a private briefing on Foreign Office stuff."
"Pooh," said Willie forcibly. He felt less than impressed. Toby was sweet, but Jimmy had the potential to be a misery. And Jeremy de Vere had barely looked at him since their walk on the hill the previous week, while his manner on occasions was like that of a family doctor; affable, impersonal and always just a little out of reach.
Deborah checked her lipstick in the glass of a small silver compact that Mortimer had given her for her birthday and when finally content her expression relaxed. Suddenly she pushed towards Willie a basket full of half-used cosmetics.
"I'm sorting out things to make room for some new stuff coming over from the States, and you get to keep all the best items in my old arsenal."
Willie raised his eyebrows at the array of items presented to him. There were things there he had never had the wherewithal to own in the past. "You are giving away such a lot. Are you sure you wish to give it all to me? The lipsticks alone will cost a lot of money."
The American clucked humorously. "Grab it while you can little sister. All the stuff produced here these days as the texture of candle wax, and some of the girls in town have to make do with beetroot juice glossed over with Vaseline."
She breathed with a sigh. "It ain't like I don't like being in this country, but the war puts a strain on things. One can get used to two ounces of cheese and a weekly egg, but everything else is in short supply too. There's nothing in the shops. No lace, no ribbons, no coffee, no clothes, no hats... especially no hats. Everything is rationed, rationed, rationed. Gee! When I remember what I left behind in the States I go green."
"But you do not suffer. You have everything that would make a real woman envy you."
Debbie gave her usual devil-may-care laugh. "Self preservation, that's what it is. I've always chosen my men well. Before I hooked up with Mortimer I was the toast of the coast and did plenty of travelling. Did New York and 'Frisco. Did Rio and the Caribbean. Did Italy..."
"Italy, oh how lovely. There are so many famous works of art in Italy. It is the home of Michelangelo and Botticelli and so many other classical masters."
Deborah eyed his dreamy expression. "Yeah, plenty of statues and stacks of painted ceilings, but personally I prefer dove-white when it comes to interior decoration."
She lay back on the bed, put her hands under her auburn locks and became a little dreamy herself. "Italy was okay despite all those Blackshirts and that Mussolini guy, but the South of France is more my style. The Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. The casino, the Ville de Cannes, the boats, the yachts. Let me tell you, champagne is overrated, honey. Dom Perignon is rich man's soda pop. Not that I don't drink it when I'm offered, but if I have a choice I'll go for a shot of Jack Daniels any day."
The following morning Jeremy de Vere was there to drive everyone in the big black touring car to the railway station in Nuttsford. Mortimer was due to catch his usual train to London and Debbie would travel that far with him, before changing trains for the overland haul to Liverpool.
Everything at the railway station was black with soot and the air was acrid with the tang of coal smoke. Just minutes after they had arrived a big black locomotive, clanking and hissing steam and hauling a dozen coaches drew in. On the platform women in tatty furs and salesmen in threadbare overcoats readied themselves to board. A bunch of naval ratings moved to the back of the train, bent sideways by the weight of their kitbags as they began loading them into the guard's van. One of them paused to kiss a pregnant woman and squeeze her bottom.
When she boarded the train herself Deborah looked radiant. She was wearing a Watteau-style suit in blue velvet with a long, waist-cinched jacket and a flurry of lace at the cuffs and neck. On her head was a matching blue velvet hat, very fetching, pulled slightly over one eye. She said it was pre-war but she'd never had an occasion to wear it because Mortimer had never taken her to Buckingham Palace.
Willie went along essentially to see Debbie off, and on the way back he and Jeremy passed a party of soldiers laden with steel helmets and rifles, moving along the edge of the road and engaged in some form of military exercise. Everywhere people went there seemed to be reminders of the hazardous times they lived in.
"I do hope Deborah's friends reach Liverpool safely." murmured Willie, "And I have been thinking maybe Sir Mortimer will take me to London with him one day. There are many good art galleries there and I would like to look around."
Jeremy nodded. "Yes, there are plenty of galleries; it would injure public morale if the government closed them down. But I think you'll find all the best items will have been crated up and taken away to safe hidey-holes."
"It's a precaution against them being lost to the bombing. And of course it's a precaution against the Germans. Hitler's henchmen have a habit of carrying off all the best stuff everywhere they go and no one can guarantee they won't come here one day."
"Jimmy Hyde believes this island to too strong for Hitler now."
Jeremy pursed his mouth thoughtfully. "Jimmy as his own opinions and he can say what he likes. No one can say what may happen in the future. Hitler's Directive No. 16 - the order for the invasion of the British Isles - was never rescinded, it was only postponed. If he gets everything he desires in Russia before the winter sets in, he may well consolidate his gains and come back to finish us off next year."