The Girl Next Doorbyscheherazade_79©
Charlotte Cavendish hurried through the chill November air, head down and shoulders hunched as she hugged the laundry bag tight to her body. It was unseasonably cold and she couldn't get to her small apartment on the Ku'damm quickly enough. Besides, at this time of night the streets of Berlin were no place for a woman to be out alone. As she rounded a corner the wind picked up, slicing through her thick overcoat and blowing a trail of brittle leaves into her path. Instinctively, Charlotte stepped over them and moved into the shadows of the walls. In this day and age, it was impossible to be too careful. But being attacked was the least of Charlotte's worries. What no one would guess from her long dark hair and perfect figure was that at 28, Charlotte Cavendish was trained to kill.
To those who knew her in the city she was Frau Schlûssmeyer, the widow of a high-ranking German officer who'd won the Iron Cross. She kept herself to herself, but played the part well enough to secure a waitressing job at a nearby bar. The fact it happened to be a favourite among Nazi officials was certainly no accident. While Charlotte had an awareness of danger, she knew no fear of it and throwing herself into the jaws of the beast was her second nature. She'd been that way all her life, despite private schooling, a Cambridge degree and the very best of her parents' efforts.
At the beginning of the war she'd leapt to join the Wrens, but soon became bored and frustrated with the menial tasks she was given. As far as her conduct around men was concerned, Charlotte more than lived up to the organisation's ideal of the 'perfect lady' – but only because she had no interest in the opposite sex at all. Instead, she embarked on a series of passionate affairs with her female co-workers. Ratings, senior officers, typists, and even an admiral's daughter – when it came to beautiful women, Charlotte always got what she wanted without fail.
For the most part, her Sapphic inclinations went by undetected, but it was always too good to last forever. When the moment of her discovery came, she went out in a blaze of glory with her tongue buried deep inside a pretty young Wren's cunt – all while her commanding officer looked on in horror. It was agreed that both women should leave immediately. And as abruptly as it began, so Charlotte's career ended.
Although the episode was kept quiet out of respect for the two families, Charlotte knew that she needed to get away for a while. Without employment, she was stuck on her father's Hertfordshire estate with nothing other than her wild imagination to keep her occupied. She craved female company, but more than anything else, she craved excitement and her independence. When Churchill formed his taskforce of Special Operations Executives, Charlotte was among the first to sign up.
It was dangerous work and her father objected strongly, but with her flair for the German language and all its regional variations, she was a natural candidate. After several months of intensive training, she was air-dropped deep into the German countryside, completely alone for the first time in her life. It wasn't her first time in the country. As a student she'd spent almost every summer in Berlin, enjoying the progressive cultural scene and frequenting almost every lesbian bar and club within the city boundaries. But that was then, and this was now. One by one, all of her old flames and acquaintances had stopped writing. Some had simply disappeared overnight, others had emigrated and many more had just decided to conform, leaving the past behind them and marrying men who'd never make them happy. The chances of her being recognised were slim, but it still played heavily on her mind that in this stifling atmosphere, she was as much the hunted as the huntress.
She rounded a corner and heard gunshots echoing in the distance. It was a familiar sound. She fumbled clumsily with the keys in the lock, cursing the cold that had number her hands. A sharp click and she was in. No light shone under the doors of the other tenants. It was only ten o'clock, but everyone seemed to have given up on the day. Hardly surprising considering the steadily decreasing rations. She crept up the stairs, avoiding the creaky floorboard at the top, and let herself into her apartment.
Charlotte shot quick glance around the shadowy room. It was as she'd left it. She crossed to the window and peered into the street below. Also deserted. It was as well to be careful. During the spring of that year, an SOE wireless operator had been captured in the Netherlands and within a week, almost the entire network of Dutch agents had been ensnared. Losing their military grip, the Nazis were compensating by tightening their hold on the domestic front. How Charlotte had survived this long was a combination of luck and her own awesome willpower.
She drew the blackout curtains and clicked on a dim bedside reading lamp. Without even stopping to remove her coat, she tipped the contents of the bag out onto the bed, sifting through them in search of anything unusual. It had been weeks since she'd received any world from London. The last communication had been just an acknowledgement of the work she'd already done. One car bomb, four railway detonations and the theft of some vital documents from a high ranking Nazi officer. It was a case of 'Well done, Charlotte,' – then nothing further by way of guidance. She lived in the hope that no news was good news, but couldn't quite shake the feeling that somehow the transmissions were going astray. What she needed to know was when to leave. According to city rumours, the Allies were planning a massive bombing campaign. Hamburg had been bad enough, but if reports were to be believed, it was nothing compared to the pounding that Germany's capital was about to receive. Surely her bosses wouldn't leave her in a city that was about to be razed to the ground?
Her fingers suddenly fell upon some papers and a rush of excitement went through her. They seemed to be lots of them - glossy and unless Charlotte was mistaken, bound firmly along one side. A magazine. Charlotte lifted it up and smiled. Still nothing from England, but as far as continental contraband was concerned, Ilka, her German wireless operator had excelled. It was an explicit Dutch lesbian magazine filled from start to finish with pictures of naked women – twisted legs, smooth skin, rouged lips and pussies that were filled with fingers and tongues.
She pushed the laundry off the bed and settled down with a cigarette, her eyes losing focus as she gazed at the shots through the blue haze. The only action Charlotte had seen since arriving in Berlin had been with Ilka. It had filled the void but was far from satisfying - firstly, Ilka was a curious, but reluctant married woman; secondly, she just didn't have the temperament to be able to handle a livewire like Charlotte, and it wasn't long before the passive and unimaginative housewife began to grate on her nerves. She would never have admitted it in a million years, but Charlotte craved women who gave her a run for her money. She was strong, but had a deep-rooted desire to be tamed and swept off her feet. As Ilka showed no potential for either, Charlotte soon dissolved their liaison on the grounds that work and sex are never a good combination.
Charlotte turned through the pages slowly, totally absorbed by the images in front of her. Judging by the dog ears, Ilka had taken a very good look before passing it on. She smiled. There were women eating pussy in every conceivable angle, even groups of them clustered around an individual, spreading her open and examining her from all sides. Charlotte slid a hand inside her panties and instantly found her throbbing clit. It was larger than most she'd seen and easily aroused. A quick stroke and her finger travelled down towards her entrance. She was already soaked.
On an impulse, she began tearing off her clothes, tugging at them hard and scattering them on the floor around her. Her bed became a frenzy of movement. First came her coat, then her shoes. Her blouse was next and then her skirt – until all that stood between her and total nudity was a red bra and matching pair of satin French knickers. In her hurry to remove them, Charlotte's elbow accidentally caught the small table lamp. There was a loud crash and then darkness.
"Shit!" she whispered, annoyed with herself for not having more self-control.
A faint cough came from the apartment next to her. Charlotte froze. Evidently someone was still awake. Another cough followed by the sound of a chair being dragged across the tiles. It was Fräulein Westerfeld – about whom Charlotte knew almost nothing. Since arriving, Charlotte had made a point of getting to know absolutely everyone who lived in the block. It wasn't out of friendliness – although Charlotte had a natural charm that was hard to resist. To her, the people all around her – the railway workers, war wives, shopkeepers, factory staff – were all cogs in a bigger machine. Knowing them and using them to the best of her means was Charlotte's job. Gabriele Westerfeld, however, remained a total enigma. She was a blonde thirty-something with piercing blue eyes, who lived directly next to Charlotte, but kept herself to herself. She didn't work; neither did she have any visitors. There were some who swore she was a writer, and others who claimed she was a disinherited duchess gone mad. But in the spirit of the age, no one dared question her directly. Besides, there was something about Fräulein Westerfeld that almost defied snooping. It was ironic. Of all the people Charlotte knew in Berlin, it was the girl next door whom she knew least of all.
Cutting her losses, Charlotte spread her legs out across the bed and ran her fingers over her bare breasts. Her nipples were hard, and grew harder by the second under her touch. She was beginning to squirm, the firm muscles of her ass grinding hard against the sheets. She needed release, she needed to –
Charlotte leapt out of her skin as she heard a sharp rap on her door.
"Who is it?"
"Fräulein Westerfeld. May I come in, Frau Schlûssmeyer?"
Charlotte hesitated. Now that her eyes had grown accustomed to the gloom, she spotted several things among her laundry pile that shouldn't be seen - among them a Walther P38 and a small cache of bullets.
"I'm in bed!"
"Oh... I just wanted a small word."
The disappointment in her voice sounded genuine, and eventually Charlotte's curiosity got the better of her.
"Hold on," she muttered, leaping to her feet and throwing on a silk robe. A small word? At this time of night? The woman was probably just crazy. A recluse who only decided to talk when people had gone to bed. She really needed to watch her step if that was the case. The Nazis had eliminated her kind from the Aryan race a long time ago.
She wrapped up the items in her clean bed linen, and kicked them under the bed. Flooding the room with light from the overhead, Charlotte opened the door slowly and peered into the hallway.
"May I come in?"
Despite the lateness of the hour, Gabriele Westerfeld was fully dressed to kill in a red evening dress and heels that added at least another two inches to her towering figure. Her blonde hair was swept back off her face into an immaculate French plait and her make-up seemed fresh.
"Yes – sorry, I forgot myself. Please come in. Is there a problem?"
Charlotte felt herself being looked up and down by her neighbour. Brazen at the best of times she coloured up immediately under the cold stare, becoming acutely aware of her untidy hair, the telltale flush across her cheeks, and the haphazard way in which she'd draped the robe around her. As a gust blew in from the hallway, Charlotte realised that the top of her left breast was exposed. She moved away quickly, turning to the wall as she adjusted the material. It may have been her imagination, but even with her back turned, Charlotte could feel Fräulein Westerfeld's blue eyes burning into her.
"I heard a noise," she began coldly, "I also know that you came in very late tonight and on several other nights."
Charlotte strengthened her resolve. It was the moment she'd been both dreading and preparing for since she'd arrived in Berlin.
"I am a trained nurse, Fräulein Westerfeld. There are men out there dying. Were it not for my husband's express wishes, I'd be out there on the battlefield a long time ago. I do what I can. The wounded are being brought home in their hundreds. Our boys. So I break the curfew. I work nights at a field hospital at Charlottenburg, and to hell with anyone who tries telling me I shouldn't!"
Inwardly, Charlotte smiled. She had almost convinced herself. Gabriele Westerfeld took a step back and gazed at a distant point in the room. After an awkward silence, she cleared her throat.
"I beg your pardon, Frau Schlûssmeyer. I just was just concerned..."
Charlotte held her indignation well, but could hardly have been prepared for what the woman suggested next.
"... There are so many war widows in Berlin these days. A woman has to get by any way she can – and with so many soldiers in the vicinity..." Gabi's voice trailed off again, allowing what was left unsaid to echo around the apartment
"Fräulein Westerfeld, if you're suggesting what I think you're suggesting, then I'd like you to leave immediately," said Charlotte, suddenly fighting the urge to laugh. Her neighbour's face, on the other hand, was expressionless.
"No shame in it at all. We all get lonely from time to time, but evidently I jumped to the wrong conclusion and I'd like you to accept my apology."
"Please – call me Gabi." Gabriele extended her hand and Charlotte reached out to take it. It was ice cold, but as their fingers touched, small bolts of electricity rushed through Charlotte's spine.
"Charlotte," she blustered by way of introduction, taking care to pronounce the e at the end in the German way. Ilka usually abbreviated it to Lotta.
Gabi's grip was firm and unless Charlotte's imagination was playing tricks on her, lasted quite a while longer than was necessary. The blonde's eyes were again locked on her, and for the first time in the presence of another woman, Charlotte felt distinctly uncomfortable.
"Well, I should probably sleep..." she began with an unusual shyness, "It's late, and I have work tomorrow..."
Gabi raised her eyebrows in mock annoyance.
"I've been chatting with my neighbour for less than two minutes and already she wants to go to bed?"
Charlotte had no idea whether the pun was intentional or not, but it filled her mind with a series of erotic images that made her want to go back to what she'd been doing before the interruption. Gabriele Westerfeld was a striking woman. She rivalled Charlotte in height, but possessed a frame that was altogether more solid. She was in peak physical condition and carried herself more with the grace of an athlete than a single woman in a war torn city.
This time it was Charlotte's turn to stare. She took in the high cheekbones and firm jaw line of her neighbour. Gabriele Westerfeld was the definitive Aryan beauty, strong, elegant, but cold to the point of being unobtainable. Charlotte struggled with herself and failed. Within a couple of seconds, her eyes descended lower – over the woman's neck, over her collar bones, over her chest... until they were fixed on a pair of firm breasts... so enticing, so touchable, so kissable... What in hell was she thinking?!
"Maybe we could meet tomorrow?" suggested Charlotte, snapping out of her trance and running her tongue across her dry lips. Despite her attempts to conceal it, there was a slightly breathless quality to her voice. Gabi nodded, a knowing smile playing at the corner of her lips.
"Then I invite you over for afternoon tea at my place tomorrow – three o'clock sharp."
Charlotte nodded. It was all she could do without giving the game away entirely. Once her neighbour had departed, she closed the door behind her feeling slightly shaken – as though Gabriele Westerfeld had intruded upon a lot more than her homestead.
The following morning came all too quickly. Charlotte was woken by the sound of bells ringing from the nearby Kaiser Wilhelm church and a steady stream of people on the street outside. Sunday - and for Charlotte especially, it was a time to pray. As she packed her bag and pulled on some clothes, the events of the previous night seemed a world away. Realising the importance of being on the ball the next day, Charlotte had sacrificed her urges and turned in for the night almost straight after Gabi left. It was only now that she noticed her prized magazine lying out in full few in the middle of the floor. There was no way that her neighbour could have missed it. It was unfortunate, but at this moment in time Charlotte was far too busy to care.
She must have checked the contents of her bag at least a dozen times before leaving her apartment. Charlotte was never normally like this and it bothered her. What she had in store for today was just a walk in the park, courtesy of a loose lipped Nazi officer who'd become enamoured with her in the bar. Her sources were reliable and her planning, as always, had been meticulous. But Charlotte still felt nervous. She had no idea why, but it was almost as though Gabi Westerfeld's visit had unsettled her very core.
As Charlotte stepped out into the street, the relief in the air was noticeable. Berlin had survived yet another night unscathed, and through the exhaustion shone a quiet defiance in the faces of those around her. She waited in the swirling mist for a while, stamping her feet from the cold and impatience. She had a long distance to cover in the space of three hours - several changes of tram until she reached the north-westernmost tip of the city boundary, and then at least an hour's walk into the surrounding countryside. She'd be cutting it fine to get back to Gabi Westerfeld's by three... She cursed herself silently. That woman again.
Charlotte battled to regain her focus, and luckily it wasn't long before a tram rattled around the corner. She boarded it and stared blankly out of the window as the streets blurred past her and the minutes ticked by. There were plenty of other people on board, but no one was talking or even looking in her direction. A wave of loneliness suddenly engulfed Charlotte. She had no one in the city she could call a friend, much less a lover. She bit her lip to stop the emotion from pouring out. It had to be over soon. Even the Germans were beginning to admit it behind closed doors. The Reich simply had too many enemies on too many fronts. It was just a matter of time. Within a year she'd probably be back at home, making love to some wild English beauty in the meadows, drinking champagne and living in luxury. This was the one time of her life when she could make a difference, and she wasn't about to turn her back on it just yet.
By the time Charlotte stepped off the final tram, everything seemed possessed a slightly surreal edge. The mist was finally beginning to lift, leaving behind a damp and stagnant landscape. She was in a run-down residential area with neat lawns and windows as far as the eye could see. It was a ripe hunting ground for curtain-twitchers, and Charlotte's pace quickened. The less time she spent out in the open, the better – and just to make sure, she intended to get home via a completely different tram stop.
She headed for an expanse of green at the end of the street. It was the end of Berlin and, because no established road lead from it, one of the few city exits where a checkpoint hadn't been set up. Just as well, because a baggage search was the last thing Charlotte needed right now. Considering the contents of her bag, she'd be lucky if she ever made it as far as the concentration camp. It was a long hike before she reached the railway tracks, and by the time they were in sight she had broken into a sweat. She glanced at her watch – ten minutes before the freight train laden with supplies for the Eastern Front would come rumbling through. Plenty of time.