You Must Remember This Pt. 03byfreddie_clegg©
Parisian Walkways : France, December 1941
The Mercedes pulled away. Clegg sat back watching the early morning light creep across the French countryside. Sandy pulled a Gauloise from a pack lodged in the pouch on the back of the seat in front of her. She offered one to Freddie. He shook his head. It was too early in the morning to have the skin taken off his throat.
"How do you come to be working with the French Resistance?" Freddie asked.
"Well I was somewhat upset by the loss of the Château as you can imagine. Besides, I thought it was rather appropriate, given my interests, Freddie. I'm a sort of Maquis De Sade."
Clegg winced at the pun. He'd never got used to Sandy's rather cavalier attitude to the business that they both were in. He'd always favoured a quieter, more personal approach to the business of abducting and trading women as slaves. The flamboyance of Sandy's European operation wasn't for him, although he had to confess fond memories of some of the parties she had thrown for her clients.
The car motored on. Sandy's blonde driver did a competent job of steering the car round the occasional pot hole left by the fighting from the previous year. Mostly they'd been filled in. The Germans were good at that sort of thing. Clegg saw the sign for Versailles. 10 or 12 miles from here he thought. They'd made good time. A motor cycle overtook them, the rider not giving Sandy a second glance. Clegg began to feel more comfortable.
As they swept through the old city wall at the Porte d'Issy an old Frenchman scowled at the passing car while a squad of soldiers came to a halt as their Obergefreiter threw an enthusiastic "Sieg Heil". It was obviously a good enough disguise, Clegg decided.
They drove on. They passed the Ecole Militaire and red, white and black swastika flags hanging limply from masts in the Champ De Mars. driving in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower as it looked down with what seemed sullen disapproval at the grey clad troops marching around its base and the the Champ de Mars. They crossed the Pont D'Iena and turned along the bank of the Seine, the Trocadero on their right. They drove on into Passy. Finally the car turned through gates with the sign "Notre Dame De Grace".
Dear heavens, Clegg thought, she's set up shop in a convent.
They stopped. Sandy and her driver got out and Clegg followed them. One of the nuns emerged and drove the car away to park it in what Clegg took to be the convent's stable block.
"You'll want to press on with your task," Sandy said as she showed Clegg through into the rooms she had arranged for him. Clegg nodded.
"I need to track down a girl," he said. "Well, three of them actually."
"How very unusual," responded the Comtesse with heavy irony. "Well, let me know if I can help."
"Thanks," said Clegg. "I will." He spent the morning tramping the streets of Paris, getting the feel of the place once more. He went back up to Montmartre. The Belle Aurore was deserted. There was no sign that it had been opened since the Germans had arrived. He thought maybe he could make use of the cellar if things didn't work out with Sandy's operation but it would be a whole lot easier with her help and she seemed willing enough so far at least.
He headed back towards the Seine. He was lucky. Passing the Trocadero he saw a poster. The Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire were performing that night. Clegg decided to treat himself to an evening's culture.
Wagner, Beethoven, Bruckner. The programme was predictable, Clegg guessed, given the sea of grey uniforms in the audience and certainly better than Hindemith. The Beethoven and the Bruckner were fine, thought Clegg but when it came to the Wagner he agreed with Mark Twain. When he'd said that Wagner's music was better than it sounded he'd hit the nail on the head.
The concert gave Clegg the chance to study Tereza Aucune. From his seat in the circle, peering through his opera glasses, he could clearly see the girl, staring fixedly at the conductor, fingering the strings and bowing her cello with intensity. From what he could see the Major was evidently a man of taste. But then Freddie knew that already from Annette and Louise.
The concert ended. Clegg was in the street by the stage door as Tereza emerged, hefting her instrument. Keeping his distance he followed her as she searched in vain for a taxi. Giving up, she decided to walk. It wasn't an easy task given the size of the cello but she had evidently had the practice. Clegg felt a bit guilty but then helping women out of difficulties wasn't really his style.
She didn't have too far to go. Clegg watched as she stopped outside a house in Passy. She wrestled her cello up the short flight of steps to the building's columned portico. As she reached the top of the steps the front door of the house opened. Waiting to welcome her in, highlighted in the glow of a light within the hall, was a young blonde woman. As she stood the doorway, Clegg could see she was wearing a black skirt, white shirt and black tie. On her arm she wore a red armband that carried the Nazi insignia of a white disk and black swastika. "Ah," thought Clegg as Tereza went inside, "that could make things more complicated."
Clegg took a good look around the outside of the house, avoided a squad of German troops as they marched by, and then headed back to the convent. Sandy was as good as her word when Clegg asked if she could arrange some a surveillance of the Passy house and its occupants. Late the following afternoon, Sister Sarah was able to offer Clegg the results of her visit.
"It is a very grand house," she said. "Occupied by a Major Strasser." Clegg was pleased by that piece of information at least. "It had been commandeered from a French family, of course, but they are no longer there."
"You had a good chance to look around?"
"Oh yes. Tereza Aucune is a good catholic girl. She was only too happy to see me when she heard I was collecting alms for the convent. Major Strasser is away but Mademoiselle Aucune continues to live there. There are two others in the house. Two of Major Strasser's people. Heidi and Helga they are called. Whether they are babysitters, or guards I could not say."
"How easy would it be to enter the house unobserved?"
"Not so difficult, I think. The gardens at the rear are not overlooked – Mademoiselle asked me to take tea with her there. There is a conservatory that opens off the lounge. But any action you plan will need to be taken soon. I suspect that the occupants are about to leave."
"For what reason?"
"Who can say. All I can tell you, Monsieur Clegg, is that the house is full of boxes, crates, packing cases. And Mademoiselle Aucune is very upset. While I was there a despatch rider arrived bringing a telegram. I was just leaving. I heard Mademoiselle Aucune crying, weeping, sobbing. Distraught. I offered to comfort her but Heidi, I think it was, asked me to leave."
Clegg was pleased with the report but concerned at the urgency that the turn of events at the Passy house seemed to urge. "Thank you, Sister," he said as the young nun took her leave. Clegg turned to the Comtesse. "I will need a van," he said. "And two men, if you can spare them."
Sandy provided everything that Freddie had asked for. The van was a small Citroen; rusting, non-descript and unlikely to attract attention. The two men, Jacques and Jules, both long standing members of Sandy's team, turned up with a bored manner that Freddie found comforting. He hated enthusiastic amateurs.
Freddie found himself in the garden of the Passy house with Jacques. Jules was around the side of the house in the van waiting for their signal. As Sister Sarah had said, there was little effort needed to get inside. Clegg easily slipped the catch on the conservatory and the two of them were soon through it and into the lounge. The darkened room was filled with crates and half packed boxes just as Sarah had told them.
They heard a voice from the corridor outside. "Ich setze es in das Hinterzimmer ein, Helga. Im großen Fall."
That will be Heidi, Clegg thought and she's coming in here to put something in that big case. A moment later, only just giving Clegg and Jacques enough time to get behind the door, Heidi came in. As she groped for the light switch Clegg grabbed her wrist, pulled her into the room and pushed her back against the wall. The papers that she was carrying went flying. He had his hand over her mouth before she could cry out. Jacques, helpfully jammed the barrel of his pistol against her throat. Heidi understood what was required of her and froze staring in terror at the two men. Clegg pulled a scarf from his pocket, knotted it and pushed the knot between Heidi's teeth. He tied the scarf tightly in place, forcing a moan from the girl.
Jacque kept the pistol pointing at her as Clegg grabbed her arms and pulled her wrists behind her back. A handy length of rope from the one of the packing cases served to bind her wrists, ankles, knees and arms. Clegg pushed the helpless Heidi to the floor and then jerked her ankles up to her wrists to leave her hog-tied. He smiled at Jacques and gave him a thumbs up sign, then pointed to the door and upwards indicating that their next quarry would probably be on the first floor. Jacques nodded and smiled in response and then followed Clegg as the two of them slipped carefully out of the lounge and onto the main staircase of the house. From above they could hear the sound of a cello, its plaintive air filling the house.
As they made their way up the stairs, Helga's voice could be heard calling. "Heidi, wo bist du? Komst du mir helfe, bitte." Clegg and Jacques stepped quietly along the corridor. Heidi wouldn't be coming to help Helga any time soon. The door to one of the bedrooms was standing partly open. Clegg peered around it. Helga was standing with his back to him, packing clothes into a suit case. She was half undressed, her skirt tossed across the bed rail, her stockinged legs emerging from beneath the tail of her white shirt. Clegg and Jacques approached the woman silently from behind. As they closed on her she straightened up. Jacques sensing the risk of discovery brought the butt of his pistol up sharply catching the girl in the back of the skull just where her two blonde pigtails split out from her head. She gave the quietest "Nnngh" as she toppled forward to slump across a pile of clothes, unconscious.
"I will deal with this one," Jacques said, reaching for a pair of stockings from the suitcase and using them to tie Helga's wrists behind her back. Clegg could tell that he wasn't being gentle about it. Then he took the belt from her skirt and jerked that tightly around her elbows, dragging them together until they almost touched. Another pair of stockings served to secure her ankles.
Clegg could see she was starting to recover consciousness. "Looks like sleeping beauty is getting over it. Better do something to keep her quiet," he said.
The Frenchman nodded and then smiled. He pulled the red white and black swastika armband from the girl's sleeve and pushed it between her lips as she started to stir.
"Gaa—ark," the girls spluttered as she revived. Jacque pulled a scarf across her mouth to hold the armband gag in place. "One day Hitler will have to eat his words," Jacques said. "For now though this will do."
Clegg looked down at the captive Helga. She was already struggling, trying to free herself and snarling at her captors. Sprawled on the floor she had already laddered her stockings in her efforts and rucked the tail of her shirt up to her waist. Freddie was enjoying the view and it was enough to confirm that she wasn't tattooed as Louise and Annette had been. She wasn't one of the girl's he was looking for. Somehow he didn't think that Heidi was either.
With Heidi and Helga taken care of, Jacques and Freddie were free to turn their attention to Tereza. If the sound of the cello was anything to go by, she had not noticed what was happening. Clegg and Jacques climbed the stairs to the second floor following the doleful sound. Freddie recognised the music; Elgar's Cello Concerto. It was good to hear some English music after the previous night's concert.
They crept up to the door of the room from which the sound was coming. Clegg stood to one side of the door, Jacques to the other, pistol at the ready. Clegg pushed the door open slowly.
In the middle of the room, Terza Aucune sat bowing with passionate intensity at her cello. She was, as far as Clegg could tell, completely naked. Tears ran down her face, leaving it streaked with mascara. She seemed unaware of them as they crossed the room. It was only as Jacques and Clegg stood directly beside her that she looked up her face distorted with grief. She extended her right arm pointing with her bow to the table at the side of the room.
Clegg walked across and picked up the telegram laying there. "Regret to inform you," it said, "Major Heinrich Strasser killed this evening in the course of duties at the airport in Casablanca. Police units of L'État Français are investigating. Heil Hitler. Heinze. German Consul to Morocco." More complications, Clegg thought.
Tereza looked again at the pair of them. As if coming to her senses she looked back and forth between Freddie and Jacques. Slowly she dropped her bow and brought her hands up to her mouth. "Oh good," thought Clegg, "she's going to scream."
Luckily Jacques standing closer to her had the same thought. He was beside her, clamping his hand over her mouth before the scream left her lips. Freddie caught the neck of the cello as the instrument slipped from her grasp. In almost the same instant Tereza fainted, the weight of her naked body limp in Jacques' arms as he lowered her to the carpet. It made things easier. Clegg laid the cello down, took some cord from his pocket and secured her wrists behind her, noticing as he did so that she carried the tattoo that Strangways had spoken of. At least it was the right woman he thought.
"Can you get her downstairs?" Clegg asked Jacques.
"Sure." The Gallic shrug suggested he regularly had to deal with naked, unconscious, women. Freddie thought about it for a moment. Knowing the sort of work that Sandy used him for, he probably hid.
"Find three crates and get her, Heidi and Helga out onto the truck. No one is going to be worried about a few more packing cases leaving here. I need to have a look around if I'm going to get a fix on the other girls."
"Sure," said Jacques again, lifting Tereza up and putting her over his shoulder, curling one arm around her buttocks as he carried her, still limp, out of the room.
Freddie set to looking for clues. The telegram might help, he thought. As he picked it up he noticed a photograph on the table beneath it. The black and white picture showed a group in a restaurant. Mainly girls, Clegg thought. He could see Tereza, and recognised Louise Barchant and Annette Coursonne as well. There was a man in the middle in a German officer's uniform. "So, is this Strasser?" Clegg thought. There was another woman in the photograph that Clegg didn't recognise. "And in that case is this Anna Prosizc? Or the mysterious other woman?"
One end of the photograph had been torn away. Clegg looked around and under the table to see if he could find the missing part. It wasn't there. It wasn't in the waste paper basket either. Irritated at being unable to find the piece he pocketed the photograph and the telegram. He rummaged around some more looking for files or anything else that would give him a clue to the whereabouts of his remaining quarries but Strasser or his people had been thorough.
Tereza's handbag lay on the floor beside her discarded clothes. Clegg emptied out the contents onto the table. He picked his way through the pile of personal items. Lipstick, a powder compact, a cigarette case in gold and red enamel, a matching cigarette lighter and a small purse. Clegg turned the cigarette case over. On the back was inscribed, " HS To My Cryptic Clue TA"
Clegg looked pleased. That, at least, was a clue. He opened the case. As well as the cigarettes, the case held another photograph. It was the same German officer. Clegg was feeling more confident that this was the late Major Strasser. He turned the photograph over. On the back was written "For TA, to remember me by. H"
Apart from interrogating Heidi and Helga, an activity Clegg that thought might be amusing if unproductive, and maybe Tereza, there was one other possibility to try to find out something more about Major Strasser's "Code Book" as he called them. Heidi had been bringing in a heap of files when they had jumped her. Maybe they held something of use. Clegg ran back down stairs.
As he passed through the lobby, Jacques and his pal were wheeling out a large crate. From the muffled sounds within Clegg guessed it was one of the girls.
When Clegg went back into the room where they'd snatched Heidi. He found the pile of papers she'd been carrying and thumbed through them. Mostly they were routine; confiscation orders. arrest warrants; copies of reports to Berlin. One though looked helpful. It was a schedule of costs for Strasser's Prague office. There, on the second page, was a list of people in the various departments and sure enough the list for "Verschlüsselungsdienstleistungen" - "Cryptographic Services" - contained some familiar names. T. Aucune, L Barchant, A, Coursonne, A Prosizc. There was one other name, the name of the other woman he was seeking, Clegg guessed; I. Lanz. Handwritten alongside each of the surnames was "Tereza", "Louise", "Annette", "Anna" and "Irena". It wasn't a lot, thought Freddie, but it was a start.
The other document of interest was a letter informing Major Heinrich Strasser that he was to conclude his work in Paris and to report to the offices of Admiral Canaris's Naval Intelligence Unit in Lisbon, the Abwehr.
"Curious," thought Clegg, "obviously the girls were packing things up for the move but their boss had taken something of a detour if the telegram announcing his demise is right. And if he was supposed to be in Lisbon, what the hell had he been doing in Morocco?"
A Convent Upbringing: Paris, December 1941
It was an hour or so later when Clegg found himself back at the convent. Sandy was there to greet him. "Oh Freddie, you can't just come back with one woman, can you?" she scolded.
Clegg shrugged his shoulders. At least that was one Gallic custom he had no problem with assimilating. "It didn't seem wise to leave them there. They're not causing too much trouble are they?"
"No, not at all. Sister Sarah has been pleased to have the opportunity to help your two Bavarian ladies."
"Oh yes. The order here is particularly keen on humility as a virtue and I fear that is not a quality much shown by the occupying forces. This is a very strict order, great believers in mortification of the flesh as a way of achieving a better state. Let's say that Sister Sarah is determined to see that Heidi and Helga do just that."
Clegg had a good idea what she meant. It would be churlish to suggest, he felt, that Sister Sarah was taking any pleasure from the discomfort of two members of the military oppressors of her home city. "And how is Tereza?"
"Distraught," Sandy looked concerned. "She is securely held, of course. Manacled and in a cell. But I tell you Freddie if we were to sit her in the street she would still be there this evening."
"I need to talk to her," Clegg said. "I don't have a route to the fourth girl or the fifth beyond a couple of names."
"Of course. I'm not sure you will discover anything but I will take you to see her. She is still naked." Sandy saw Clegg's questioning eyebrow. "We have given her clothes but she ignores them. Anyway it's hardly like you to object! It's this way." Sandy gestured off to a side corridor and Clegg followed her.