You Must Remember This Pt. 02byfreddie_clegg©
Play Time : London, October 1941
Freddie always found it hard to resist a pretty face. One way or another.
On this occasion he hadn't.
Third Officer Angela Parsons sat up with a grin. "Nice apartment," Freddie Clegg said from the door to her bedroom. He was clutching two cups of tea. "I couldn't find the saucers," he apologised. Clegg sat on the end of the bed that he'd just left and passed one cup to Angela. "Handy for the Admiralty here in St James's."
Angela pushed a strand of blonde her back from her face. "Yes," she said, "Daddy's been very good. It's frightfully expensive. I don't know how the other girls get by on just their service pay."
The same way you are doing, Clegg thought to himself as she took the tea.
Angela's uniform was scattered across the bedroom, evidence of the enthusiasm with which the two of them had embarked on a night of carnal amusement. Clegg had to admit that the had enjoyed himself. If you were going to be seduced by a female intelligence officer then Angela ought to be near the top of your list, he felt. Not the most sophisticated lover perhaps but she'd had an enthusiastic approach to the sexual act that made up for any lack of technique in Clegg's view. And once she'd shed her uniform the body underneath it was every bit as appealing as he had expected it to be.
Clegg sipped his tea. He wasn't sure why she'd been asked to bed him. Surely they didn't think it gave them any leverage? Elly was well beyond worrying about what he got up to when the two of them weren't together. And they couldn't imagine he'd have said anything to compromise the business, unless their understanding of how he operated was a great deal worse than he would have expected. Added to that of course it was downright unfair, asking the girl to get involved with him. In other times he'd have been tempted to add her to his catalogue. These days he was being a great deal more selective but they weren't to know that.
"You're a kinky man, Mr Clegg," Angela smiled. "And you owe me a new pair of stockings. You've ruined them tying them around my wrists like that. Still, it was fun. I've never been tied up for sex before."
Clegg smiled back. You've joined a elite group, he thought, there's not many women tied up by me that end up getting loose again. "Not even with Strangways?" he said. "Or is it the other way round with him?"
"Does he look like a playful man to you?" Angela asked.
"Maybe not," said Clegg."Maybe he just likes playing second hand."
Angela looked offended. "You're not suggesting he asked me to sleep with you?"
"Of course he did. I'm just sorry not to have given you what you wanted."
"You're too modest," Angela laughed. Clegg thought she was deliberately misunderstanding him. "I had a lovely time." Angela rolled over on the bed. The sheet slipped from her naked back. Clegg could see the bite marks he'd left on the nape of her neck and remembered how she'd whinnied when he'd given them to her. She'd sounded genuine enough then but the best ones always did.
"Is he a good pimp, otherwise?" Clegg reached across and patted Angela's backside.
"That's not a nice way to talk about the Lieutenant Commander," Angela chided. "I don't make a habit of this."
"How many does it need to be for a habit? One a week? More?"
Angela threw a pillow at Clegg. He ducked. It missed. When he sat up Angela was toying with the ruined pair of stockings. "Since these have been laddered beyond repair, I don't suppose it matters if we try that again does it?" she asked flirtatiously.
Clegg took them from her. "No, not at all," he said, approaching her on the bed.
Angela looked up at him. "Oh, Freddie," she said, "I just don't know what I'd do if you tied my wrists to the bed rail. I know you said you don't like the nautical life but you do seem to know a few sailor's knots."
"Let's find out," said Clegg with a grin, advancing towards her.
Underground : London, October 1941
Eight hours later, Clegg was walking along Haymarket in the early evening. He was pondering the problem of the girl that he was planing to pick up later that night.
Added to that, Angela had wanted the two of them to get together again. Their tumble had been fun but he'd got work to do and that came first. The problem with the new girl was going to be transport. He had a buyer but they weren't keen on coming to London.
Freddie couldn't blame them. He side-stepped a small pile of rubble that had been shovelled out of the road. The blitz had eased but it was hardly the healthiest environment. Worse than that, though, it was getting devilish difficult to ship merchandise through conventional channels. No flights from London naturally, the threat from the Luftwaffe was too great unless you could persuade a squadron or two of Hurricanes to provide an escort and Freddie knew that even his persuasive powers wouldn't stretch to that. There were the BOAC Dakota's and Albatrosses from Bristol but they were hardly a substitute for the sort of capability he use to have with the seaplanes. As for transport by sea; well it was hard enough to get space on a freighter and there was the problem of the U-boats too.
That would have been bad enough but his latest client wanted him to take the risk on the shipment. Life was getting too complicated Freddie felt. Maybe he could get the client to take delivery in Morocco or somewhere like that. He'd be able to organise a boat or something to get there.
He was still deep in thought when the black Daimler pulled up alongside him. As the window wound down a familiar but unwelcome face stared out. It was Strangways. Much to Clegg's disappointment he didn't have his Wren officer in tow but then, Clegg thought, I guess Angela's done the job he wanted her to do. A shame that Strangways wasn't getting any benefit from it .
"I wondered if you could spare an hour," he said. "There's someone that wants to see you. A friend of the General."
Clegg sighed. None of this boded well but he got into the car anyway. It pulled away from the curb, drove up to Piccadilly Circus and then doubled back on itself, heading back towards Trafalgar Square and Whitehall.
The Daimler swept by the Admiralty -- Clegg had half expected them to stop there - and on, down Whitehall, passing Horse Guards Parade. It turned into Great George Street and stopped outside the heavily sandbagged entrance of a large building. A soldier stepped forward and opened the car door. "After you," said Strangways to Clegg as the two of them left the car and headed inside passing a saluting sentry and a sign saying "Office of Works". They turned down a corridor, threading their way through piles of building materials. There was a strong smell of new paint and freshly sawn wood. Outside the rising and falling wail of air raid sirens announced the start of another night's attacks by the Heinkels, Dorniers and Junkers of Goering's Luftwaffe.
Strangways led the way through a door guarded by another sentry, flashing a pass at him to gain entry. They went down stairs into the basement of the building. Clegg looked in surprise as the stairs led down through a four feet thick slab of solid concrete. As they left the stairway it became obvious that a vast warren of offices, meeting rooms, and communications centres had been built beneath street level.
Strangways stopped outside a door with the sign "65a" and knocked. "Come!" a voice bellowed from within and Clegg found himself being ushered into the presence of the British Prime Minister. "Lieutenant Commander Strangways, sir," Strangways said coming stiffly to attention and saluting. "This is Mr Clegg."
"Ahh, good, good." Churchill was sitting at a small desk; a bed to his right was made up ready in case some crisis that night prevented him from returning to Downing Street. He was exactly as Clegg had imagined from his photographs and the newsreels; the pugilistic expression, spotted bow tie, pinstriped suit, gold chain stretched across his waistcoat, seeming to keep his belly in check. Churchill folded the papers he was working on and slid them into a file.
This boded ill as far as Clegg was concerned. He could imagine that Churchill was less likely to take no for an answer than Stangways had been. On the other hand, if you were going to get suckered in to a project for British Intelligence once that had the direct backing of the PM was probably a better bet than one that didn't.
There was one other in the room, a young intense looking man who was busy polishing his spectacles. Churchill took a long look at Clegg before breaking into a smile. "Right Clegg," he said, "what do you know about GC&CS?"
"Sir!" Strangways exclaimed with a pained expression, "Mr Clegg's not cleared." "No, I don't suppose he is," Winston responded, "but it will make things a little difficult if he doesn't know what we're asking him to do." Now Clegg knew he was really in trouble.
Freddie was able to reply with honesty. "Absolutely nothing sir."
"I'm very glad to hear it," Churchill chortled, his eyes twinkling. "Very glad to hear it indeed. GC&CS is the Government Code and Cipher School. Very clever chaps. Helping us a lot. Trying to break the German codes. Give us a bit of warning about what the Nazis" -- he pronounced it 'Narzees' with an inbuilt sneer - "might be up to and when."
"You're trying to crack their Enigma machines, then?" Clegg asked quietly. Strangways made a choking noise and turned pale.
The other man in the room looked up from polishing his spectacles. "Yes, we are actually," he said quietly.
"Sorry," said Churchill, "should have introduced you. Clegg, this is Turing from GC&CS." Clegg nodded. "Can I ask how you know about Enigma?"
Clegg explained, "I used to own a few." Strangways gave another strangled grunt. "The Germans produced a commercial model. Used by banks and the like. I had quite a large business concern in the '30's. UK, Europe, USA. Our branches needed to exchange information and some of that information was, let's say, commercially sensitive. Fortunately I came across the products of Chiffriermaschinen-AG. Bought some of their early models. Met a chap called Scherbius. Very bright fellow." Turing looked up again. The penetrating way in which he stared at Clegg suggested that he agreed with Freddie's assessment. "We had, oh I suppose, six of their machines in all. Worked very well for what we wanted. Certainly none of our competitors ever managed to get to grips with any of our coded material as far as I know. I can imagine that German coded transmissions must be more or less impregnable."
"Yes. The Germans think that too," said Turing. "They know that it's virtually impossible to read anything that has been encrypted with the machine. As you'll know, you need the rotor setting, the plug board settings, and the starting position. Of course, if you know some of those then it becomes mathematically possible to discover the content of messages."
"Only if you find some way of doing sums extremely quickly," Clegg muttered.
"Yes," said Turing, without elaborating further. "Quite."
Churchill looked at Turing who said no more. The Prime Minister continued, "the Germans use five rotors and select three for any day's transmissions. We have acquired a large quantity of encoded text from a source in Czechoslovakia. We suspect this text may contain information of value to the war effort. We need insights into what the Germans are planning in the East. Mr Stalin may be able to stop their advance, they may of course succumb to the vastness of Russia and the Russian winter just as Napoleon did. But, Herr Hitler and his henchmen will have plans for what they intend to do with all that 'lebensraum' on the plains of Mother Russia." Churchill spoke the German word as though it left an unpleasant taste in his mouth. "We don't know what these documents are and we haven't found a way to break into them yet. We need a way into the code -- what Mr Turing's friends call a 'crib'. Some hint about how they were encoded."
Strangways was looking more unhappy by the minute but Turing appeared relaxed and Churchill seemed happy to continue. "One thing we do know is that the documents were produced under the direction of a Gestapo Major while he was in Prague late last year. We also know that this Major had a sense of humour and an eye for the ladies. Had quite a little collection of them by all accounts and lets say found a way of mixing business with pleasure when it came to encrypting his documents."
Clegg wasn't a fan of the Nazis -- if nothing else they'd seriously disrupted his business - but he was interested by the unknown Major.
Churchill went on. "Somewhere in Europe, according to our information, there were five women each with a sequence of numbers and letters tattooed on their backs. These are the rotor settings and plug board settings that we believe were used to encode the documents. Apparently, or so our sources say, our Gestapo Major would get the girls together whenever he needed to encode or decode the information. He'd line them up, strip them off, set the rotors and plug boards from their tattoos and off he'd go."
Churchill stopped to allow Clegg to consider his words. He mistook Clegg's look of impressed disbelief for one of distaste. "It's deviant, I agree, Mister Clegg but, from what the intelligence services tell me about some of those in Herr Hitler's entourage, hardly the greatest depths of depravity that is to be found in those places subject to the heel of the Nazi boot."
"Disgraceful," said Clegg, dryly, "I don't know what the world is coming to."
"My information, Mr Clegg, is that you are a man that could find these tattooed women and arrange for my friend Mr Turing to have access to them." Turing looked embarrassed at the thought. "I have hopes that then Mr Turing and his friends would then be able to let us know exactly what the documents are, That might allow us to embarrass or otherwise exploit those named in the papers. I imagine you can see the value to our war effort."
Clegg could see Churchill's point. Winston was staring at him over the rim of his half-rimmed spectacles. Clegg nodded.
"Unfortunately," Churchill continued, "the Lieutenant Commander here tells me that you are less than keen. I just thought I'd add my own encouragement. You see I'd have thought it was much more your sort of thing than, say, enlistment and a posting in the Merchant Marine. I was sure you'd much rather be dealing with something like this."
The PM's intelligence was excellent thought Clegg. There were few things he relished less than time at sea and the opportunity for a close up confrontation with the Admiral Dönitz's U-boats. He'd said as much to Angela. "Fuck," he thought.
Churchill retrieved one of his trademark cigars from a case, clipped the end and lit it. He prodded it towards Clegg. "Can I assume you'll help?" The smoke from his cigar curled upwards creating a hazy halo above his head.
"Can I ask how you know about these young ladies?" Clegg countered, avoiding giving Churchill a direct answer. He was annoyed with himself for giving away his lack of enthusiasm for a nautical life but in all conscience if Churchill had set his mind to something there probably wasn't much choice anyway. Besides, the evening with Angela had been fun and if he was going to be persuaded anyway maybe it had been worth it.
"Yes," said Strangways, joining in for the first time. "You know two of them already. Louise Barchant and Annette Coursonne. We found out quite a lot from them."
"Bugger," thought Clegg.
"The General was most puzzled by the marks on their backs. Surprised you didn't notice them yourself."
Clegg looked back, surprised by the PM's coarseness. "I prefer to conduct myself with ladies in a face to face manner," he said.
Churchill chortled. "Better than Mon Général," he said. "The man fucks like a duck!" Turing and Strangways both coughed with embarrassment at the PM's indiscretion. Clegg wondered how he knew or if he was simply being insulting. "Still, gentlemen, if you'll excuse me." Churchill took his watch from his waistcoat pocket. "I have a cabinet meeting in five minutes." From above there was the dull thump of bombs detonating nearby. "There's a war on, you know. I'll leave you three to sort things out."
Strangways pulled himself up, saluted and turned towards the door. Clegg followed him, puzzled by the fact that Turing appeared to be remaining behind for the meeting of the War Cabinet. Outside in the corridor, Clegg said, "I didn't think I'd actually agreed, did you?"
"That's rather his way," the Lieutenant Commander replied. "Do you want me to tell him that you didn't?"
Clegg shook his head. The thought of life on a freighter or tanker didn't appeal, even without what he'd heard about the successes of German submarines. "No. You'd better tell me where a bit more about these women."
Strangways showed him into another office and the two men sat down at the table. He took some photographs from his briefcase and pushed them in front of Clegg. "Mademoiselle Barchant," he said pushing one forward, "and Mademosiselle Coursonne."
Clegg looked at the sequences of numbers tattooed on the women, low down on their backs. "So that's what we're looking for," he said peering at the marks. "Two down, three to go. Do we know who the others are? And who is the mysterious Major? "
"We know about two of the other girls. Tereza Aucune and Anna Prosizc. Both Czech, from Prague originally but according to Coursonne they are now in Paris. As to the other one, we're not sure about her identity. We're hoping the next two will be able to help. As for the Major. His name is Strasser, Heinrich Strasser. He was in Paris too for a while, still has a base there, we think. He now seems to be acting as some sort of military attaché in Vichy France."
"A couple of other things," said Clegg. "Why do you need the women themselves? Wouldn't photographs of the tattoos do?"
"At a pinch yes. If we were certain about how the arrangement worked. We'd really rather like some of our people to talk to the girls though, get an insight into how the Major worked things. These two have given us some pointers but we're not there yet. If you can't get the girls them a photograph would do but we'd rather have the whole thing."
Clegg grunted. It made things more complicated but no doubt he'd find a way of getting them back. Assuming he found them. "All right," he said, "but won't the Germans suspect you're cracking their codes if we pick these women up? "
"We don't believe so. All our information is that this was an illicit operation; completely unapproved. Strasser will be very reluctant for his amusements to come to the attention of his superiors and as far as they are concerned these are just five women that have been part of his department at various times. He won't be making a noise about it and no one else will understand the significance."
Clegg was disappointed, he'd though that he had found an out, but there were the more practical difficulties. "Paris is a big city. Any thoughts where I might start looking? I found the other two young ladies rather by chance." Clegg thought back, remembering that he'd spotted them in the Belle Aurore, Rick's bar. He wondered where Rick, Sam and Ilsa had got to. He hadn't heard anything since he'd seen Sam leaving for Ilsa's hotel and the train for Marseilles.
"So we understand. Well, Tereza Aucune shouldn't be too difficult." Strangways pulled a rolled-up poster from his bag and spread it out on the table in front of Clegg. On the previous Thursday, if the poster was to be believed, Tereza Aucune had given a performance of Hindemith's Cello Concerto in G with the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire under Charles Munch.