You Must Remember This Pt. 01byfreddie_clegg©
Do you ever wonder, as you sit and watch a movie, about what happened to those characters on the screen before the story you are watching starts? Or what was going on elsewhere as the movie tells its tale? Or about how their lives pan out after the movie ends and you have left the cinema and made your way home? (All right, maybe I've just been to see some dull movies lately.)
This tale features some of those characters, immortalised on film by Bogart, Bergman, Dooley Wilson, Paul Henried, Claude Rains and Tim Moxon.
There's a couple of people from the real world in here too but of course this story is as fictional for them as it is for the characters that we've known from favourite movies.
As for our hero, the story picks up not long after the conclusion of "The Golden Age". Avid fans of Freddie's Tales will recall that "The Golden Age" ended with Freddie in Florida and some thoughts about what happened to Freddie next. In fact, as is often the case with information about Freddie Clegg, this turns out not to have been entirely accurate.
The suggestion that he had been involved with the Special Operations Executive now appears to be wrong. Although Freddie did get involved in secret operations in Europe it wasn't quite as it originally appeared. Nor did Sandy flee France in the face of the German advance as had been previously thought. She stayed and made her own special contribution to the war effort as you'll learn.
I'll leave you to work out who should be playing Freddie, Elly, Sandy and the others when they come to make the movie of "You Must Remember This".
As for the rest of it, Robert Harris isn't the only one with insights as to what was going on at Bletchley Park in the 1940's.
Bar Talk : Paris, June 1940
June 13th, 1940. Barely three weeks after the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk was completed, German forces were pressing closely on the outskirts of Paris.
In the cellar of a small café in Montmartre, one Englishman was hard at work.
Freddie Clegg tightened the rope that held Mademoiselle Louise Barchant to the solid wooden chair on which she was seated, ignoring the gagged groans of Louise and those of her friend Annette Coursonne as she struggled against her own restraints. Clegg fussed at each knot, checking the tension of the rope, the lay of the cords, the way in which the ropes wound securely around the limbs of his victim and the rungs and struts of the chair. It was, Clegg, concluded, still the part of his work that he most enjoyed; the simple craft of restraining a captive so that she is held securely, unable to escape, and yet with no more discomfort than was absolutely desirable. It made a pleasant change in some ways, Clegg thought, He'd been disappointed to have to break up the old organisation but, with the war, it was all getting too big and too complicated. There were some benefits, however, he reflected. It meant he could go back to this; doing what he was good at, what he enjoyed.
Louise gave a frustrated groan of impotence as her struggles failed to make any impression on her captivity, her evident anger and frustration stifled by the cloth that filled her mouth. Freddie smiled, pleased that she was still showing such spirited resistance. That was the good thing about girls from the night clubs; they were used to working hard for their living. The Trocadero made it so easy too. It was never any problem for an ardent admirer to get to see the girls. And with all the uncertainty and panic in the city no one was going to miss them. Freddie waved at Louise and Annette with a mock salute and headed off towards the stairs that led up and out of the cellar prison. The girls scowled at him as he left them. He picked his way through the wine cases and barrels that were piled, untidily around the room. Most of the good stuff had been drunk. There was no point in leaving that for the Germans. Clegg locked the door behind him., ignoring the plaintive muffled groans of the girls.
He emerged into the bar of La Belle Aurore. Rick, the owner, was sitting at a table near the bar. On the far side of the room Sam, the bar's pianist and one of the finest jazz musicians in Paris, was chatting with the small knot of girls that had gathered around him as he improvised a short tune at the keyboard.
Clegg leant on the bar and ordered a Pastis. He turned to Rick. "One for you?" he asked.
Richard Blaine looked up from the table and shook his head. "Come on Freddie," he said. "You know I never drink with customers."
Freddie looked apologetic. "Sorry," he said. "I guess you've got other things on your mind right now, too."
"Haven't we all?" Rick nodded towards the open door of the café. Outside the streets were quiet except for the not so distant thump of German artillery. The sound of the shell fire was louder, closer, than it had been that morning. Clegg looked down at the milky coloured drink, pondering for a few moments whether he preferred the smoother French take on aniseed flavoured alcohol over the Greek or the Turkish. There wasn't much to choose, he decided, sinking the contents of the glass.
Sam was closing the lid on his piano; the girls waving as they left. He came across to where Rick was sitting. "Time to go, Boss," he said. "You don't want to keep Miss Ilsa waiting and the Marseilles train ain't gonna wait for either of you."
Freddie reflected on the impact that "Miss Ilsa" had had on his friend. He was just disappointed that he hadn't had the chance to meet the woman that seemed to have made such a change in Rick's life.
"Sure Sam," Rick said getting to his feet. He turned to Freddie. "It's good of you to close things up here."
"That's OK," Freddie replied raising his glass of pastis. "I guess the Germans don't have quite as much interest in meeting me as they do you and I've got a few loose ends to tidy up. It will be another day before they're in the city anyhow."
"Well, make sure you get yourself out of here soon. Paris isn't going to be too healthy, even for a man of your resources."
Freddie acknowledged Rick's remarks with a nod as he downed the last of his drink. "Well, thanks for the use of the cellar," he said.
Rick shook his head. "I don't want to know," he said. "Somehow, Freddie, I don't feel everything you get up to is quite legal." He smiled as he grabbed his hat and trench coat. "Come on Sam," he said moving to the door.
Sam was trying to collect up his sheet music. "You go on, Mr Richard," he said. "I'll catch you up." Rick pulled his hat on and stepped out onto the streets of Montmartre as they glistened in the late afternoon rain of a summer storm. Sam pushed the piano back against the wall. He disappeared upstairs for a while and then came back down with a small battered suitcase. He went back to the piano to retrieve his music.
Freddie watched as Sam pulled the sheets of music together into a bundle. "Rick's changed," he said.
Sam looked up. He seemed reluctant to leave but he was never the most talkative of men, especially when it came to discussing his employer. "I wouldn't know about that, Mr Freddie," he replied.
"Oh, come on, Sam." Clegg admired Sam's loyalty but sometimes he appeared to be trying to seem dumber than anyone could be in reality. "This Miss Ilsa must be quite something."
"He sure thinks so." He turned back to the pile of music on the chair of the piano. "Songs From The Shows," said the top one, "Everybody's Welcome – Hermann Hupfeld". Clegg looked at it sceptically. Hupfeld? What sort of name was that for a songwriter?
Freddie poured another glass of the aniseed liquor. "Well, good luck in Marseilles, or wherever," he said lifting his glass in a toast as Sam collected his case. The phone on the bar rang, Clegg picked it up. "Hi Rick," he said. "No, he's still here. I guess he was just leaving. OK. Sure. I'll tell him. No, it's no trouble." He put the receiver down.
"Ilsa's not at the station," he said. Sam rolled his eyes in apprehension. "Rick says can you stop by her hotel on the way over?"
"Sure thing," Sam said, looking no happier. He picked up the bundle of music. "I guess I should be going, anyway."
A face appeared at the door. A French urchin child was waving an envelope. "Message for Mr Blaine," he called. Sam grabbed it, seeing the crest of Ilsa's hotel. "I got a bad feeling about this whole thing, Mr Freddie," he said, pushing the letter into his pocket as he headed out.
"Tell Rick to call me in London," Freddie said. "When he gets to where ever he's planning to go. Look after him, Sam."
"Sure thing Mr Freddie," said the pianist as he elbowed his way around the urchin and out, pushing the door shut behind him.
Clegg watched him go. The bar was suddenly quiet enough to allow the complaining grunts of the two girls in the basement to become faintly audible. It wasn't a problem for Clegg, he didn't expect to have to keep them there long.
The door to the bar opened again. An enormously tall man in French military officer's uniform, his kepi adding to his height so that he had to stoop to pass through the door, entered. He was followed by two troopers.
Clegg looked up and raised his almost empty glass. "Mon Général," he smiled. "It doesn't sound as though things are going so well." The sounds of German artillery fire were getting closer still and there wasn't much evidence of any returning fire from the French positions.
The Frenchman shrugged. "For now things do not look good," he said. "But whatever happens some of us will fight on."
"And in the mean time you look to your amusements?"
"What else can we do? Are things as agreed?"
"The two young ladies are available for you down stairs," said Clegg. "I assume that you have transport available. You'll no doubt wish to examine them before parting with the fee."
The general gave a nod. Clegg gestured towards the door to the cellar. The two men went through the door and down the steps.
The general smiled as he saw the two helpless girls. The girls, eyes wide with terror, gave muffled grunts of confusion at the sight of their visitor. "Splendid, Monsieur Clegg, splendid. If only my troops were as successful at meeting their commitments as you are, then the Germans would not have taken a single step onto French soil." He stepped up to each of the girls in turn, staring at them closely, moving their heads left and then right in spite of their gagged protests, pushing up Louise Barchant's skirt to gain a better view of her legs. "Exactly as agreed. And collaborators too, I believe? All the better." He stood up and reached into his jacket, pulling out a battered leather wallet. "Now for my part." The general counted out a growing pile of £100 notes onto one of the wine barrels.
"The Trocadero's loss, is your gain, General. I fear their German sugar-daddy will miss them but such is war," Clegg smiled scooping up the pile of money. "I'm sorry it had to be Sterling, but you see how things are."
The general gave Clegg a supercilious look. "For now, perhaps. We will see how well you British do when the Germans are on your beaches and in your fields." He gestured to the two troopers. They trotted down the steps into the cellar and set to releasing the girls from their chairs. Keeping their wrists and ankles bound each hoisted one girl onto his shoulder and stood smartly to attention, steadying a struggling girl with one arm while saluting with the other. Not an easy trick, thought Clegg.
"Carry on," said the general and the troopers carried their wriggling captives out of the cellar. Clegg and the general shook hands. "Are you going back to London?"
"Go west," advised the general. "There will be boats leaving from Cherbourg and Saint Malo. I have to be in London tomorrow or the day after. I may see you there. As for my toys," he nodded towards the door the two girls had been carried through, "well, I am sure I will find somewhere to keep them."
"Well, good luck, General," Clegg said as the Frenchman picked up his kepi. "I hope you get the chance to enjoy them."
Air Raid Precautions : London, March 1941
It was dark and cold. The whine of the air raid siren sounding the "all clear" cut through the night, blotting out the hissing and crackling sound from the fires that raged a block or so from where Clegg was standing. "Inconvenient," he thought, "I wasn't quite finished." It wasn't too much of a problem though; it would be a while before folk emerged from the shelters.
As if to add to his difficulties, the wall of a nearby building collapsed with a crumbling crash, spewing a jet of dust across the roadway beside him. He scowled at the rubble, brushing himself down as he did so.
Freddie Clegg had found the blitz a lot less of an imposition than most of his fellow Londoners. While many of them were spending uncomfortable nights in the Underground or in makeshift shelters of their own, Clegg was hard at work. The raids were coming almost every night now. Two hundred bombers at a time or more they said. He'd watched them fly over many times - Heinkels with their soft rounded wings; Junkers, engines throbbing with a characteristic beat; Dorniers, slim as pencils and fragile looking but still capable of delivering a powerful load of incendiaries and high explosive. Anti-aircraft fire didn't seem effective and he'd seen nothing of the promised night fighter successes. Occasionally a bomber would be coned in the brilliant shafts of a pair of search lights and the concentration of fire would bring it down. But there still seemed plenty more to come the next night, and the next.
Clegg didn't mind, though - so many of his enterprises benefited from the black out. The police were busily occupied with coping with the effects of the raids. The streets were deserted; broken buildings left dark corners. As long as you took no notice of the falling bombs and the collapsing masonry and stayed away from the spivs and the black marketeers that were making the most of the opportunities for "liberating" bomb damaged property, you had the city to yourself.
An unconscious girl of twenty two or three, the latest focus of Clegg's attentions, was lying propped against a half demolished wall. Her unconscious state might seem to have been the consequences of German military activity. In all honesty, though, Clegg had to confess it was entirely due to the pad of chloroform he had pressed against her face. Her brown tweed coat fell open as Clegg dragged her wrists behind her back so that he could tie them with the length of cord he had pulled from his pocket. She was still wearing her steel helmet with the letters "ARP" on the front but Clegg noted with satisfaction that she'd obviously come straight from the club to take her turn on Air Raid Precautions, watching for fires. Her coat fell open. Clegg could see her cigarette girl's outfit beneath it. The absurdly short skirt gave Clegg an agreeable prospect of her stocking clad legs. He'd seen her a few times at the Windmill. No doubt Mrs Van Damme would be sorry to lose her.
Clegg felt a small pang of guilt as he tightened the cords. It was a shame that her public spiritedness in going out on fire watch should have placed her at risk from the likes of him. But at least the bombers had gone, he thought as he looked skywards for a moment. Her fire watching wouldn't be needed any more tonight.
Clegg considered the girl as she lay limply on the dust and rubble strewn linoleum floor of the bombed out building. He was pleased with his choice. She'd have plenty of chances to make a new contribution to the war effort. After all someone had to keep the Middle East on the Allies' side if they were going to keep hold of essential supplies of oil. London showgirls and hostesses still represented a valuable commodity with those whose influence counted in and around Baghdad. Clegg felt it was almost his patriotic duty to meet the demand.
The girl began to stir. Clegg thought for a moment. Should he gag her first or tie her ankles? She slumped back again, her head lolling limply, a trickle of dust from the wall above coursing down across her forehead. There wasn't much risk of her either running or crying out, Clegg decided. Since he still had cords in his hand he lashed her ankles together, his hands brushing across her nylon covered calves. "It isn't easy," Clegg, thought. "Too much risk of being distracted. People don't appreciate how hard I have to work to keep my mind on what I am doing." Forcing himself to concentrate on his task, he focussed his attention on the cords and the knots, threading the cords between her feet and ankles to cinch them tightly together. He pulled the girls own scarf from her neck, knotted it in the middle, pushed the knot between the girls lips and then tied the scarf in place as a gag. By now the girl was stirring again, this time with more effect. Realising her situation she groaned into her gag and struggled against the cords that held her arms and legs. Clegg bent down beside her. In what was intended to be a reassuring gesture, he reached forward to brush away a strand of hair from the girl's face. She, fearing a slap or worse, tried to pull away from him, taking no comfort from his look of concern.
Clegg's attention was attracted by the sound of bricks tumbling as someone made their way through the rubble. The girl, sensing rescue, tried to squeal. Clegg pressed his hand over her mouth adding to the muffling effect of her gag. Standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the flickering flames of the fires raised by the bombers' incendiaries, was a woman. As she came closer the girl saw she was dressed in a blue serge battledress with the insignia of the Auxiliary Fire Service on it. Worried that this newcomer would also fall prey to her attacker the girl courageously tried to kick out in an attempt to dislodge some of the bomb damaged wall as a warning. Her attacker, though, simply waved at the woman and turned around to pick the girl up from where she was laying.
Clegg hoisted the girl over his shoulder. "Did you get the appliance, Elly?" he asked.
Elspeth Grant nodded as Clegg carried the girl by her. She looked back into the remains of the room where the girl had been grabbed. The girl's ARP helmet, her gasmask case, her handbag, were all that there was to show where she had been. It would be enough. It would just be assumed that she'd been buried in the rubble. Heaven knew, enough of them were.
She stopped for a moment as she saw the girl's ration card sticking out from her handbag. That could be useful, she thought. She reconsidered. A missing ration card would look odd. Better to leave it there. Besides, Freddie wasn't exactly letting them go short. He had enough contacts in the black market.
The girl squealed again as she realised where Clegg was taking her. In the dark of the bomb damaged road, between the craters and piles of rubble, stood a small truck with the AFS crest on the side. A trailer pump, hung about with hoses and ladders was hitched to the back of the truck. Elly pushed by and swung open the back of the trailer pump, revealing a small false compartment. Clegg carefully set the girl inside it before Elly, ignoring the girl's cries of increasing distress, pushed the door back into place and twirled home the butterfly nuts that closed it securely.
Clegg walked around to the passenger side, Elly to the driver's. As she got in Clegg pulled a cigarette from a pack of Players Navy Cut. He struck a match, cupping the flame in his hands to light the cigarette.
"Oi!" came the voice of an officious ARP warden from some way off. "Put that ruddy light out!"
Clegg flicked the match into the gloom of the bomb damaged building. He stared at the flames streaming skywards in the aftermath of the raid. It looked like the East End had got it bad again. Another loud "crump", followed by a flash of flame and a cloud of smoke announced the detonation of another bomb; delayed action, maybe, or just a faulty fuse. "Put that light out!" thought Freddie as he stared at the way that the fires in the Docks cast an orange glow across the whole of the eastern sky. "Somebody ought to tell Jerry that."