You Must Remember This Pt. 04byfreddie_clegg©
Haystack: Lisbon, January 1942
At least Sandy managed to get me a contact, Clegg thought as he made his way into town.
Potentially this was the most difficult part of his mission. He had a name – Irena Lanz – of someone that might or might not be in the country. That was about all he had to go on in a city he didn't know; in a country whose language he didn't understand. The one consolation was that the place was a hot bed of refugees and the intelligence services of the Allies and the Wehrmacht. Deception, evasion, and desperation were the currency of many of those that had come to the city in the last few months. That at least was something Freddie felt comfortable with.
Clegg's hotel was welcoming enough. The suite he had booked into was comfortable if a little faded. The bar seemed as good a place as any in which to start. Clegg ordered a beer and took it to a corner table, using the opportunity to watch the ebb and flow of men and women, couples, groups forming and dissolving.
He'd been watching a man and women deep in almost conspiratorial conversation when a short dark man appeared beside his table. "The Comtesse suggested that you might need someone to show you around."
Clegg looked up. The man was neatly, almost fastidiously, dressed. His hair slick, greased, flat against his scalp almost as though it was painted on. A thin moustache stretched across his upper lip.
"Eduardo," the man said extending a hand. "Mr Clegg?"
Clegg shook it. "Freddie. Call me Freddie. Would you like a drink?" he said, waving to the girl behind the bar.
"I'll take a vinhos verdes," Eduardo responded as she arrived at the table. "What are you looking for in Lisbon?"
"A woman," Clegg answered.
Eduardo peered around the room A good half of the couples there looked as though they were looking for a room you could rent by the hour. He leant forward. "That should pose no problem in Lisbon, Mr Freddie. Unless of course you seek a particular one."
Clegg smiled, tolerantly. He summarised what he knew from his own researches and what Sister Sarah had been able to extract from Heidi, Helga, Anna and Tereza. It wasn't much. "In her twenties," he said. " May be Czech possibly Nordic but has certainly spent time in Prague. Name of Irena Lanz. Arrived in Lisbon within the last two weeks, most likely by plane from Paris via Madrid."
"If that is how she came then it should not be difficult to track her down," Eduardo said encouragingly. "I have friends at the airport, friends in the customs service. They will know. Give me a day." Eduardo finished his wine.
"Of course," said Clegg. He pointed to Eduardo's glass. "Another?" he suggested.
Eduardo shook his head. "Thank you but, no," he said. "I will see what I can do this evening. Perhaps I can find my friends in relaxed mood." He got to his feet, picked up his hat and left.
Clegg spent the following day wandering around the city. Eduardo joined him again in the bar of the hotel that evening.
"A difficult day, my friend," he said. "You are sure of the name?"
"No," Clegg responded. "She could be travelling under another name, of course."
"Certainly no one of that name has flown into Lisbon in the last month, from Madrid or anywhere else. There have been a number of Czech's entering the country. From North Africa and Spain. There are many refugees but few of them can afford to fly. Those that get here try to reach America. Or the more foolish try to return."
"Why on earth would anyone want to return to Czechoslovakia, now?"
"Well, one man would. A thorn in the side of the occupying forces. A man that has rallied opposition to the Nazi's where ever he has gone. Viktor Lazlo."
"You say that name like I should know him."
"He is famous to all who oppose Hitler and his gang."
Freddie shook his head. "Sorry, never heard of the chap."
Eduardo sighed. "No matter. He understands the Czech emigré community. He may be able to help you. But there is not much time. He leaves for America soon. With his wife."
Piri Piri , Hot Stuff : Lisbon, January 1942
Clegg entered the restaurant. Eduardo was sitting at a table with a pale, aesthetic looking man in a white suit and a striped shirt. His wavy hair gave him an almost boyish look but his hooded eyes and the white streak of hair from his forehead spoke of darker times and places.
Beside him sat a woman of luminous beauty, dressed in a white silk dress, her stole looped loosely over her blonde hair. "Freddie," Eduardo beamed. "Come! This is Viktor and this," he gestured to the woman, "is his wife, Ilsa."
Clegg joined them at the table. "Mr Lazlo, an honour. I've heard much of your efforts," he lied, shaking Viktor's hand. "Mrs Lazlo, a delight." That, at least, was true – Ilsa managed to draw every eye in the room towards herself. If Clegg had been asked to explain why he would have found it difficult; her flawless complexion, perhaps; her look of complete openness; the way she moved. Freddie wasn't sure. What he did know was that she was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. And he'd seen more than a few.
Viktor and Ilsa both smiled. "How can I help, Mr Clegg?" Viktor said.
Freddie explained his quest. It was hard to be explicit. He didn't want to mention Strasser, the other girls or their tattoos. Viktor listened attentively interrupting only occasionally to ask questions or to clarify some point or other. He seemed content for Freddie to tell his tale but as the story unfolded Ilsa seemed to get progressively more nervous. She drew her stole more closely around her neck, peering closely at Clegg as he spoke, twisting her wedding ring nervously. As Viktor finished his meal, Ilsa got up and excused herself.
"I have to go back, darling," she said. She turned to Freddie. "A pleasure to meet you, Mr Clegg." Viktor kissed his wife as she left.
Viktor watched her go. "A remarkable woman," he said. "You have no idea what she has sacrificed for me and how much she has contributed to our cause." He turned back towards Clegg. "And can I ask why you seek the woman you are looking for?"
Clegg spread his hands. "The less we know of each other's reasons for what we do, the better, I feel." Viktor nodded understandingly. "Let us just say this woman has been involved with the Germans; perhaps the SS, perhaps Gestapo, perhaps Abwehr. To what end I do not know but there are those who wish to discuss her work, to understand more of how the Germans can be defeated, to help liberate the people of your country, Viktor, and the other oppressed peoples of Europe."
"Well spoken, Mister Clegg," Lazlo exclaimed. "You remind me a lot of a man I met recently. Someone that claimed he stuck his neck out for nobody but still proved himself one of the bravest defenders of freedom. I will do what I can to help you but, I confess, I cannot think of anyone within the Czech community here that fits your description. My wife and I leave for America at the end of the week but I will do what I can before then." He got to his feet. "And now, if you will excuse me..?"
Clegg nodded and thanked him. "Of course," he said. "Please let me know if you hear anything that could help."
"Naturally," said Viktor as he left.
Eduardo looked glum. "I'm sorry, Freddie," he said. "I had thought that Viktor would be able to help."
Clegg reassured him. "Do not worry, Eduardo, I am sure that we will make progress. Let's have some more wine."
As Eduardo went in search of a waiter, Freddie sat thinking. He wondered if the Ilsa that Rick had gone off with in Paris had been as beautiful as Lazlo's wife. If she was, it was no wonder that Rick had been so infatuated. Even so she had seemed uncomfortable, as though she felt Freddie knew more about her than he was revealing. It puzzled Clegg. Generally, he knew a lot less about what was going on than most people gave him credit for. He'd asked Elly once why that should be. She'd told him not to worry about it. "The trick's working," she'd said, "just keep it up."
He hoped Rick was all right. Clegg had half expected to hear something either from him or of him but, although he'd mentioned his name a few times in Paris no one had heard anything there. That wasn't surprising, thought Freddie. They were all more worried by what was going on around them.
Maybe, when he'd finished all this, he'd try and find Rick. Get across to Marseilles somehow. If he'd got a bar there it would be the best place in town to drink at anyway. Someone would know where he'd gone.
Eduardo reappeared. Another bottle of wine arrived shortly after. Eduardo was scowling over his glass. "I'm not sure," he said, "that Lazlo was as helpful as he could have been. I will go over to his hotel and ask him if he can suggest another line of enquiry. He is not long here in Lisbon but perhaps he knows someone else we could talk with."
Freddie nodded. "Well," he said, "I've no other routes right now and I'd hate to disappoint London. Anything else Lazlo can tell us would help."
Clegg and Eduardo finished their wine. Freddie didn't like leaving a half full bottle but it was better for Eduardo to do as he'd suggested. They left the bar heading off in different directions; Freddie to his hotel, Eduardo to find Victor Lazlo.
Bedroom Manoeuvres : Lisbon , January 1942
Clegg got back to his hotel. It was late. He made his way along ornate corridors with their slightly faded décor, to his suite. As he entered the suite he stopped. Draped across one of the chairs was a white silk dress. Beside the chair, a pair of high heeled sandals lay discarded on the floor.
As a result, when Clegg pushed open the door to his bedroom he wasn't surprised to see a woman in his bed. Neither was he surprised to see that it was Ilsa.
"Mrs Lazlo," said Freddie, coolly, "I think you may have the wrong room. Possibly even the wrong hotel."
She looked at him with a coy expression. Sprawled back against the pillows, a sheet pulled up almost to her neck, it was still obvious that she was naked.
"Please," she said, "call me Ilsa. Ilsa Lund. I always think it vulgar to mention my husband's name at times like these."
Freddie sat down at the end of the bed. "Vulgar to mention his name but not to appear naked in another man's bed, Miss Lund?" He was intrigued by the woman, not least because it had been an Ilsa Lund that Rick had been seeing in Paris. If this was the same woman he wondered what had happened in the intervening time. How come she was now married to Lazlo? When had she and Rick split up? In Marseilles or after that? In any case, he was wary. The last time that he had encountered a naked woman sitting up in bed he'd ended up talking himself into his current situation.
Ilsa smiled, ignoring Freddie's seeming disapproval. "Champagne?" she suggested pointing to a bottle in an ice bucket beside the bed. "I found the Piri Piri so hot earlier." She pushed a strand of hair back from her face, clutching the sheet around her with her other hand as she knelt up.
Never one to turn down a glass of champagne, especially in the company of a beautiful woman, Clegg reached for the bottle and pushed out the cork with a satisfying pop. "It was spicy, but I haven't felt the need to tear off my clothes," Clegg said.
"Is that your famous English reserve?"
"Perhaps. Maybe it's my famous English reluctance to bed another man's wife." Clegg poured two glasses of the sparkling wine and passed one to Ilsa.
"In these times? Surely with death at every door we owe it to ourselves to take our pleasures when we can."
"Perhaps. Perhaps," said Freddie. "And I am sure it would be a pleasure, indeed." Ilsa turned away from him, reaching out to place her glass on the bedside table. As she did so the sheet slid down her back and Clegg saw, emerging from behind it, a series of numbers tattooed on the lower part of her back just above her right buttock. In the same moment he knew that he had found the last of those he was searching for. He also suspected that he knew why she was there. "Well," he said, "it would be most ungentlemanly to in any way disappoint a lady. Wouldn't it help you to cool down if you removed that sheet?"
Ilsa laughed, pulling the sheet closer to her. "Perhaps you should take it from me?" Clegg came closer as she lay back. The telephone in the other room rang. Its insistent tone was sufficient to divert Clegg.
"Don't go too far," Clegg smiled as he stood up, putting down his glass of wine alongside Ilsa's. "I must answer that."
He crossed the bedroom and stepped into the lounge. The telephone on the desk continued to ring in irritated fashion. He picked up the receiver. Eduardo's voice on the other end hissed, "Freddie, are you safe?"
Clegg looked over his shoulder at the reclining Ilsa. He doubted it. He pulled the door of the bedroom closed. "Of course," he said. "What is it?"
"It's Lazlo," he said. "He's dead. Shot in his hotel room. I went back to see him as we agreed. He left me for a few moments and didn't come back. I found him on the floor. Quite dead. Ilsa has gone too. Do you suppose it is the work of German agents?"
"Hmm," said Freddie, distracted by the thought of Ilsa in the other room and her possible intentions. "Why don't you stop by the hotel in an hour or so? Be careful."
Clegg was about to put down the handset when her heard the click of another receiver being replaced. Ilsa had evidently been listening on the bedroom extension. As he stepped away from the desk he noticed Ilsa's handbag poking out from under where she had discarded her dress. He picked it up, surprised by its weight until he saw the pistol within. He sniffed the barrel. It had been fired recently.
"Freddie," Ilsa's voice called from the bedroom. "You are neglecting me." Clegg slipped the pistol into his pocket and returned to where Ilsa was waiting. He slipped off this jacket, leaving it on the floor beside the bed. As he sat down Ilsa slid towards him, her hands gliding across his chest, unfastening his shirt as the sheet that covered her fell away. Ilsa pulled back and crossed her arms across herself, covering her naked breasts with an unconvincing attempt at modesty. "Champagne," she said, turning around to pick up a glass. "We should toast stolen pleasures."
Smoking Is Hazardous To Your Heath : Lisbon, January 1942
As Ilsa passed him the glass Clegg noticed her cigarette case on the bedside table. It was identical to Tereza's. Clegg wasn't sure why he hadn't noticed it before. The bright red enamel shone like a beacon. Then he realised. When he had left the room it must have been face down, its gold, engraved face lying upwards. Ilsa had obviously moved it for some reason. As he lifted the glass of champagne towards his lips he suddenly realised why. He looked across at Ilsa and saw her watching him closely.
He threw the champagne in her face. She yelled, falling back on the bed. Clegg dived for his jacket, wresting Ilsa's pistol from his pocket.
Ilsa, wiping the champagne from her eyes, blinked as he threatened her with the weapon. "Please put your hands up, Mrs Lazlo," he said. "Or should it be Miss Lund or perhaps, even, Irena Lanz?"
Ilsa glowered at him.
"Out of bed, please," he ordered. Ilsa got up from the bed, completely naked, her hands raised. Clegg walked behind her, picked up the cigarette case and thumbed it open. Inside the two halves of a false cigarette, identical to the one in Tereza's case, betrayed Ilsa's intentions. "I don't imagine that the poison was in your drink, was it?" Clegg asked rhetorically. "Let's go through to the lounge," Clegg suggested with a wave of the pistol. "Somehow I'm not thinking of going to bed just now."
Ilsa walked ahead of him across the room. Clegg watched the perfect smoothness of her back and the exquisite line of her buttocks, cursing his luck. "She might have let me fuck her first," he thought. He followed her. "On the chair, here, please," he said picking up Ilsa's discarded dress and underwear. She sat down.
Cleg tied her wrists to the heavy arms of the chair using her stockings. She yelped as he pulled the knots tight. Clegg was less than sympathetic. He pulled them tighter still.
He tore two strips of cloth from her dress and used them to fasten her ankles one to each of the two front legs of the chair. With Ilsa helplessly bound, Clegg turned to pick up her handbag. He emptied out the contents on to his desk.
"My, my," said Clegg as he picked out an airplane ticket. "And I thought you were leaving for America by boat with Vitkor. Where does this take you, I wonder? Back to Paris?" He opened the paper folder. "Ah," he said, "to Prague. Does this suggest that your Gestapo masters are intending to rebuild Herr Strasser's operations, I wonder." Ilsa glowered at Clegg. He hadn't really expected a response. All she did in answer to his remarks was to struggle fruitlessly in an attempt to free herself from the chair.
Clegg went on sorting through the handbag's contents. He took out an envelop, a letter, a small card and a photograph. He read them through and knew what he had to do once he had dealt with Ilsa.
"If, you'll excuse me," he said, "I need to make some telephone calls." Clegg ripped another length of cloth from Ilsa's dress and pulled it across her mouth as a gag. Ilsa grunted in complaint.
By the time, Eduardo reached Clegg's hotel Ilsa's wrists and ankles were raw from her attempts to free herself.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything," he said as Clegg opened the door and he saw the naked and helpless Ilsa.
"Not in the least," said Clegg. "I thought we were going to enjoy ourselves but I didn't like the wine she offered me." Eduardo looked puzzled. "Don't worry about it. We need to get this young lady back to England. I wondered if you could help."
Eduardo tugged at his chin. "Hmm," he said. "I can move her pretty much anywhere in Lisbon but further than that is difficult."
"Yes, of course."
"That will be excellent. I have spoken to the British Embassy. There will be papers ready in the morning. A poor women unfortunately has to return to the UK after falling ill over here. She is being flown back on the British Overseas Airways flight leaving first thing tomorrow. Mrs Lazlo here will be that woman. I need somewhere to keep her until then and a doctor to see that she is suitably tranquillised for the flight. I understand it can be distressing for those that are unwell."
"That can certainly be arranged," Eduardo smiled. The naked Ilsa scowled. "I presume you want some clothes for her as well."
"If possible," Clegg smiled. "I'm afraid her dress got torn in a fit of passion."
© Freddie Clegg 2008
Not to be reproduced or reposted without permission. All characters and events fictitious.