You Must Remember This Pt. 02byfreddie_clegg©
Hindemith! Freddie rolled his eyes. He didn't know much about music but he knew what he didn't like. Suddenly the North Atlantic convoys were sounding more attractive.
Still, on the up side, Freddie thought, a classical cello soloist shouldn't be too difficult to find. "Any ideas how I might get there? I'm told the Golden Arrow isn't running just at the moment." Clegg asked.
Strangways smiled tolerantly. "We'll fly you in. Dalton's agreed that SOE will support this."
"Better than a bloody boat, anyway." Clegg was always happier in the air.
Strangways outlined the details and wound up the discussions. He showed the way out of Churchill's bunker and back up towards the street. As they left they passed Third Officer Angela Parsons. At least she had the decency to look embarrassed, thought Clegg. She went through a door marked "CinC North Atlantic" before they reached her. Clegg hoped the officer on the other side of the door was keeping his wits about him.
Insertion: Sussex, November 1941
It was dark, Clegg stood in the lee of the hangar with Elly. Clegg was clutching the battered suitcases that contained all he would take with him on his trip into occupied France. Clegg preferred flying but he preferred doing it from the pilot's seat. He wasn't by nature a passenger.
Strangways appeared from inside the hangar, accompanied by Angela. That's convenient, thought, Clegg. He'd been going to get Elly to take a look at her; just in case there was any need, you understand. It wasn't that he held a grudge, she'd only been doing her job and he'd enjoyed himself anyway but business was business.. Maybe she'd be good for the General. He'd be looking for a substitute now that he'd had to give up Louise Barchant and Annette Coursonne.
Two aircraftmen were manhandling the large hangar doors, opening up the cavernous building. "What chariot of delight have you got for me, Strangways?" Clegg called. The last time he had flown to France he'd been piloting his own racing seaplane. He'd missed flying since war broke out but even he couldn't get fuel for private flying and given the choice between dodging Messerschmitt's in RAF Fighter Command or the German night fighters and ack-ack in Bomber Command, he'd decided to avoid both.
There was the cough of an aero engine starting up inside the hangar. The cough and splutter was followed by a sullen throbbing sound. As soon as he heard it, Clegg knew that what awaited him was no sleek, streamlined, high performance machine. "That's a Bristol Mercury," he called. "I'm not going over in a bloody Lysander, am I?"
Strangways didn't need to answer. The ungainly looking, high winged mono-plane, taxied slowly out like a pelican in search of its lunch. Elly looked across at Clegg. She knew he wouldn't be pleased. Clegg watched as the 'plane almost waddled towards them. It stopped. Strangways stepped up to it and slid back the rear half of the canopy. Grabbing his hat to keep it in place as he stepped into the wash of the Lysander's propeller, Clegg stepped up to the short ladder. Strangways shook his hand and wished him good luck. "Piccolo," he said. Clegg looked puzzled. "Your code name," he said with exasperation. Clegg had been told about it many times. "Your contact will use it to identify themselves, use it if you need to contact us; when you're ready to come back." Clegg nodded. He understood perfectly but it was hard to resist upsetting Strangways. The Wren could see Freddie was teasing Strangways, she hid her grin behind her hand and a cough. Strangways scowled at her. Freddie could see Elly was studying her carefully with an experienced eye. That was the good thing about working with Elly, Freddie thought, she always had an eye for opportunities.
Clegg climbed into the cabin. The great expanse of perspex left him feeling very exposed. Elly gave a nod. He nodded back. They didn't much go in for fond farewells. Strangways slid the canopy shut and the aircraft taxied out onto the pitch black field.
There was no exchange of radio messages with the tower, just a single flash of a green light. With a further cough the Lysander's engine was coaxed into progressively higher revolutions and the aircraft began to bounce, almost loping across the field. Elly looked across at the aircraft. Clegg was peering out. He didn't look happy.
The pilot didn't bother climbing to any great height. As Clegg looked around the battered interior of the plane he felt he understood why. Somehow the whole thing seemed safer as long as it was closer to the ground.
It was a moonless night and cloudy as well. At least thought Clegg, there would be little risk of fighters spotting them. The RAF's night time operations were mainly directed at Germany itself and the fighters would be up over Holland and Belgium as Bomber Command headed off to Frankfurt or Cologne. From what Clegg had heard Bomber Command couldn't hit anything in daylight, so they had bugger all chance of getting within miles of the target at night. It did mean that the Germans had little real night fighter activity over this part of the continent, though.
The Lysander was slow but even so it wasn't long before Clegg saw the coast of France approaching. Heaven only knew how the pilot could find a landing ground in the dark like this. The pilot pointed out of the cabin towards the ground. Clegg followed his gesture. For one brief moment a car's headlights came on and then, almost at once, flicked off again.
It wasn't much but it was obviously enough for the pilot who started his approach.
The Lysander slid closer to the ground and seemed to slow to a walking pace as the great barn-door like flaps came down from the back of its wings. It skated over the hedge surrounding the edge of the field, sliding between two tall trees that were closer than Clegg would have liked. The plane dropped with a thump and a rumble onto the ground. They were still going too quickly towards the line of trees on the far side of the field for Clegg's taste but the pilot hauled the tail down onto the field and then applied the Lysander's powerful brakes. The plane shuddered to a stop.
"Terrific," thought Clegg, "almost twenty feet to spare. Nearly as much as we missed those trees by."
The pilot slid back the canopy of the aircraft and looked around to where Clegg was sitting. "If you would like to hop out, that would suit me nicely," he said. "I really don't like to hang around too long. Folk around here don't like planes dropping into their fields at night." Clegg climbed out, clutching his suitcase. He was barely off the ladder when the plane's engine roared and it bounced off across the field to make its take off run. Clegg watched it go, leaving him alone in the pitch dark field.
A crack of a twig to their left drew Freddie's attention. Instinctively he dropped into a crouch and turned to face the noise.
"Piccolo," said a woman's voice, "please, this way."
Clegg could just make out a human form in the shadows of the hedge. "Allez vous ens," he responded in his less than excellent French, inviting the woman to lead the way. The woman began to move along the edge of the field. Clegg followed her through a gate and onto a rough track. As they emerged from the gate, Clegg heard the sound of a car approaching. The woman gestured for him to crouch back against the hedge and the two of them waited for the car to slide to a halt beside them. The woman urged him forward into the back of the car and climbed in alongside him. Their driver let the sound of the departing Lysander die away before starting off.
"Where are we going?" Clegg asked.
"I don't know," the woman answered. "We take you to Evreux. Then you're someone else's problem. We don't know where you go They don't know where you came from. It's safer that way."
Clegg nodded. He used similar techniques for ransom pick-ups so he could hardly complain now. Even so, he was a little disappointed. The woman had looked attractive -- or at least as far as he could tell in the pitch dark of the field and now the car.
The woman didn't speak again until they passed the town sign on the edge of Evreux. "We will drop you near the railway station," she said. "Take the road towards the centre. Someone will contact you." The car stopped and the woman leant across Clegg to open the door. She didn't say anything. Clegg got out. The car drove away without anyone saying anything. It started to rain.
Clegg pulled the brim of his hat down, turned up the collar of his trench coat and started to trudge towards the town centre. He was passing a boulangerie when the flash of a match and the glow of a lighted cigarette drew his attention to the shop doorway. "My orchestra is looking for a piccolo," the voice behind the cigarette said. Clegg was pleased to note it was another woman.
"I prefer brass to woodwind," Clegg responded, giving the code words he had been taught in London. The woman beckoned for Clegg to come inside.
The smell of yeast and fresh baked bread filled the shop. "No problems getting flour?" said Clegg.
"We bake for the Boche," the woman said. "They seem to make sure that we get supplies." She shrugged. "At least we can divert a little to the local people." In the far corner three men were busily, disassembling, oiling, and reassembling rifles. "And a baker is expected to be working early in the morning. Nobody worries about our comings and goings."
Clegg nodded. It made sense. "I am headed to Paris," he said.
A familiar voice behind him said, "Perhaps I can give you a lift."
Clegg knew who it was at once. "Hello Sandy," he said, "how's the Chateau?" As he turned around to face Comtesse Sandra he drew in his breath sharply, almost choking as he saw she was wearing the full dress uniform of a Haupsturmfuhrer in the SS Leibstandarte - Adolf Hitler. "I assume you're still on our side," Clegg said. "In spite of appearances to the contrary."
"I might not like their politics," the Comtesse said, adjusting the collar of her tightly fitting black jacket, "but the uniforms are a lot better than anything the British army has, with the possible exception of the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. Besides, this attracts a lot less attention here."
Clegg thought this most unlikely given the way the uniform fitted her. "I think the boots suit you better that the kilt would," Clegg said, gallantly. "But isn't that a bit conspicuous?"
"Perhaps but the Germans seem to assume that if I'm wearing it I'm entitled to be wearing it. And it's worth it, Freddie, if only for the black leather coat." Freddie smiled. "Still come on. You said you wanted to go to Paris and I promised you a lift." She picked up her coat and her peaked officer's cap. She pointed to the door. "The car's out the back."
The Mercedes convertible looked a lot more comfortable than the Citroen that Clegg had been picked up in. In the front a blonde haired girl sat behind the wheel waiting for them. Clegg and Sandy climbed into the back of the car. Sandy leant forward and spoke quietly to the driver. "Put your bloody forage cap on, cherie, if you don't want a very hard spanking," she hissed. "And then take us to Paris."
© Freddie Clegg 2007
Not to be reproduced or reposted without permission. All characters and events fictitious.