You Must Remember This Pt. 05byfreddie_clegg©
Parting : London, January 1942
Elspeth Grant sat at her dressing table, staring into the mirror. It had been a busy few weeks. She looked out through her bedroom window and across Kensington Gardens on a cold crisp morning. It was time to go.
Behind her, the woman in Elly's bed stretched with a contented sigh. Elly looked across at Angela Parsons and then at the telegram delivered the previous evening that meant it was time to bring their short but mutually enjoyable relationship to a close.
Angela had proved a far more engaging project than Strangways. The Wren had been happy to share her recent life. Elly suspected Strangways boss had encouraged her but she felt she'd had the better end of the bargain.
Freddie would be pleased to hear that the girls from Paris had arrived safely, if somewhat bruised, dazed and confused. Although Angela hadn't given much away, it sounded to Elly as though they were already proving their worth. Freddie would be pleased that his efforts had been worthwhile, Turing and his team were happily beavering away (if that was the word) at Station X and the results were already beginning to come through. The only problem was that the Bletchley team weren't restricting themselves to the deciphering capabilities of the Major's "Codebook".
Word was that the girls were also helping to alleviate the out-of-hours boredom of those working deep in the Buckinghamshire countryside. Not that anyone in the Intelligence Services had much time. The fall out from 7th December 1941 was still settling and many of the crypt-analysts had been focussing on Japanese material rather than worrying about Strangways' Czechoslovakian problem.
Elly had been able to convince Strangways that it would be useful for her to be around when the Lysander brought Tereza and Anna back to the UK. It hadn't been difficult. Strangways was as susceptible to her charms as Freddie had been to Angela's. More so, to her considerable relief , she hadn't actually needed to bed him to get her way.
Freddie wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Sandy had been as competent as ever in shipping the two girls from Paris. They had been well packed in the Lysander's pod for their trip, although Sandy's concerns would have been more for their safety than their comfort.
They must have had a frightening experience, Elly felt. She had some sympathy with them. She could imagine the terror that they must have felt as they were being strapped up, loaded in and then surrounded by the kapok filled bags that had been packed around them to give them some protection against the cold and vibration of the flight. Still, that must have been nothing to the sensations that they must have felt as the pod was fitted beneath the aircraft, and the noise vibration and cold as the plane had bounced across the field, into the air and off over the Channel. They had both looked relieved when the Lysander's pod had been lowered to the tarmac and opened.
Unfortunately their relief hadn't last long. If the girls had expected to be freed of their straps they were disappointed.
Strangways had supervised. The two had been lifted from the pod and carried across to a waiting military truck. With his two charges dumped in the back under the guard of a bored looking, cigarette smoking, lance corporal, the driver had saluted and driven off with two other cars following. Elly couldn't be sure but sitting in the back of one of them was someone that looked an awful lot like the Prime Minister.
"Are you coming back to bed?" Angela called across to Elly, interrupting her thoughts.
Elly shook her head. "No, I've got to go." She rummaged in the drawer of her dressing table pulling out two hanks of cord, a scarf, a pad of cotton material and a small bottle labelled, "chloroform". She slipped them into her handbag. She never went far without the tools of her trade.
Angela looked sulky. "Will you be long?"
Elly pulled an envelop from her handbag. She looked again at the telegram that had let her know that Freddie was on his way back. Angela hadn't bothered to tell her – maybe she didn't know in any case. Strangways hadn't told her either and he certainly would. "A while," she said, knowing it was unlikely that the two would see one another ever again.
"I have to go out myself," Angela said.
I'll bet you do, thought Elly, believing that they were both headed to the same destination.
"Have you heard anything from Lisbon?" Angela asked.
Elly couldn't tell if she was asking because she didn't know or because she was interested to learn whether Elly had some other source of information. She shook her head. Lying came easily to her.
"The Lieutenant Commander is being very dull," Angela said. Elly felt Angela shouldn't be surprised but she'd become used to Angela's way of trying to wheedle information out of her, dropping the odd little fact and waiting for Elly's reaction. By now she should have worked out she wasn't getting anything back. "There's some material that's proving impossible to crack. They're hoping that the arrival of the fifth girl will solve that."
"Well, that's what you'd expect, I guess," Elly responded enigmatically. She wondered idly for a moment whether Angela would be better trussed and gagged in the closet or tied to the bed but in the end decided that would only cause more problems; there was no reason why Angela shouldn't meet the flight. It just meant that Elly would have to stay out of her sight at the airport.
Elly looked again into her handbag at the ropes, the cloth and the chloroform. No, they were destined for someone other than Angela, she thought.
BOAC Flight : Bristol, January 1942
The De Havilland Albatross carrying Clegg and the drugged and barely conscious Ilsa landed at Whitchurch Aerodrome on the outskirts of Bristol.
As the aircraft taxied up to the terminal building, Clegg peered out to see Strangways waiting for them. Beside him Angela, neat in her WRNS uniform, presented a picture of military efficiency.
The aircraft rolled to a stop. Strangways waved an ambulance forward. Clegg helped the groggy and confused Ilsa to stagger down the aircraft steps and into the back of a military ambulance. As the doors closed one of the nurses helped Ilsa onto a bed and then proceeded to strap her down. The drugs were wearing off. Ilsa put up a bit of a struggle but the nurse was obviously experienced in dealing with unwilling patients and soon had her subdued. The ambulance started to move off towards the road for Bristol and the A4 to London.
"So, five out of five," said Strangways with reluctant admiration. "You must be pleased."
"If it keeps you off my back, old man, I'm delighted. I think you'll find you've got all that there is of the Major's code book."
"The others were not shipped in the best of condition."
"My handling agent in France assured me they would be provided with adequate packaging."
"It wasn't the packaging. There was some suggestion that staff at your handling agent had been doing just that."
Freddie grinned. From what he remembered of the Comtesse's operations, she'd never discouraged her staff from amusing themselves with her guests as long as it didn't interfere with what she was hoping to get for them. He could just imagine the sort of treatment that the haughty nature of Anna Prozisc might have provoked and Tereza's bemused state wouldn't have saved her from the attentions of Sandy's guards, either.
"It didn't interfere with the tattoos, did it?" Freddie said.
Strangways, shook his head. "No. It's just, well, not the sort of thing we expected."
"Sorry, old man, Clegg responded cheerily. He was confident that Strangway's concerns were very much his own rather than those of his superiors. "You didn't say you wanted them in mint condition. Anyway your bosses will just be happy that you've got what you wanted."
"Well, the PM is happy enough, certainly. And Turing is very confident he'll be able to do something now he has all five girls. "
"So, can I leave Miss Lanz or Lund or whoever in your capable hands?"
"Yes, of course."
"Good. I'd keep her strapped down if I were you. She's apt to be a little lively. But if you're happy with the goods, I'll bid you farewell." It saddened Freddie to be parting with a woman without some exchange of cash but, he thought, I suppose it's all for King and Country.
"Don't you want a lift back to London?" Strangways clearly thought Clegg had taken leave of his senses. "The PM wants to see you tomorrow. He's got a lot on his mind at the moment. Thought you might pick up a project he's thinking about in Singapore."
Clegg was pleased that he had other plans. After what the Japanese had done to Pearl Harbour the further away from the Far East he could stay, the better. He just look back at Strangways blankly.
Strangways didn't appear to be in any position to press him further. Clegg took his chance to leave. "I'm sorry to disappoint him," Clegg said, "but I've got some private business to deal with and I need to be on the flight back to Lisbon. Give Turing my regards. Tell him not to have too much fun with the girls."
"No risk of that," said Strangways caustically as Clegg turned back towards the aircraft. "Heaven knows how I'm going to explain this to Winnie."
As he got back on the 'plane he was greeted by the stewardess. "Welcome aboard, Sir," she said.
The voice was familiar. Clegg realised that it was Elly and smiled broadly. "Excellent," he said, "excellent." He looked around the cabin. Only two of the other seats on the flight were taken. He spoke quietly as Elly pulled the door to the aircraft closed behind him and the engines fired up. "I take it you're not actually in the employ of British Overseas Airways?"
Elly shook her head.
"And can I assume that the uniform you are wearing, in fact belongs to someone else?"
"I thought so," said Clegg. "It's a little small for you and while I wouldn't complain,..."
"Please take a seat, Sir and fasten your seat belt," Elly interrupted. "We'll be taking off shortly."
Clegg smiled and found his way to his seat. It wasn't long before the countryside of Somerset, Devon and Cornwall was slipping away beneath them. They left the mainland behind and the plane headed out over the Scillies and on towards the Bay of Biscay.
If the uniform Elly was wearing was a little snug on her, it was nothing to the snugness of the ropes wrapped around the girl that it had originally belonged to. In a small hut on the edge of the airfield she sat, roped to a chair, wearing only her underwear, her mouth stuffed with a wad of cloth, another cloth wound around her eyes as a blindfold. On the far side of the room a brutish looking man sat guarding her. "Now, don't you worry my dear," he said in a friendly tone. "We're going to spend a little time here and then there's this gent I want you to meet what will help you find a whole new interesting career." The girl gave a distressed mew as she struggled on the chair but she wasn't in any position to disagree.
As the ambulance carrying the tranquillised Ilsa headed off towards Bletchley, Strangways travelled back to London.
When he got there his boss was furious that Clegg had just waltzed off. "The PM isn't going to like this at all," Admiral Messervy said, with a scowl. "In fact, I think we had better organise a little trip to get you out of the way for a while. How do you feel about a posting to Jamaica, say?"
Reunion : Brazzaville, February 1942
Much to Clegg's irritation, the train he was travelling on with Elly was making painfully slow progress. It was taking forever to make its way up the Congo Valley, inland from Pointe Noire. It seemed to gasp at every bend and incline as it tried to cope with the uneven track and the tropical heat.
The journey gave Clegg some time to think about the girls that were now back, he assumed, in Station X. He had some concerns. At least with his usual clients he knew how the girls would be treated. He was much less confident that the yahoo's from the English public school system that filled British Intelligence had the slightest idea of what to do with a woman. Still, he thought, philosphically, it was hardly his problem.
Eventually the locomotive coughed its way around the last curve of its 300 mile journey, and sighed with apparent relief as it slid to a halt in the ramshackle station in Brazzaville.
It was the letter, card and photograph in Ilsa's handbag that had brought them here.
The photograph of Rick and Ilsa beside the Eiffel Tower had confirmed Freddie's suspicion that Ilsa was the woman that Rick had met in Paris. The card from Rick's Cafe Americain, Casablanca had provided their destination if Freddie was going to find Rick and tell her of Ilsa's fate. The letter? Well, it had looked like a lot of personal stuff. Freddie didn't really read it, just taking in that it was in Rick's handwriting. The dateon it had been from when they were both still in Paris.
Clegg and Elly had made their way from Lisbon to Casablanca. They'd been lucky there. That was where Clegg had met the fat man. Ferrari had bought the Cafe Americain when Rick left. Sam was still there too, of course, but he wasn't saying anything about his old boss. Ferrari had told Freddie as much as was known about the events of the past few weeks.
He'd told them to try the Free French garrison in Brazzaville.
Clegg peered out of the carriage window. At the end of a platform a dapper looking French police officer was waiting patiently. As Clegg hefted their suitcases from the train and Elly followed him out on to the platform, the Frenchman approached. "Monsieur Clegg?" he asked. "Monsieur Freddie Clegg?"
Clegg, wary as ever at being approached by the police, held out his hand and nodded slowly. The Frenchman shook it warmly took one step back and saluted. "Captain Renault," he announced. "Louis Renault. At your service."
Clegg understood at once. He'd heard about Renault from Ferrari in Casablanca.
According to Ferrari, Lazlo and Ilsa had turned up in Casablanca. There had been some fuss about letters of transit to allow them to leave. Strasser had been there too, looking for the same letters. Strasser had been shot at the airport. The police were still looking for the culprit. They'd been interviewing the usual suspects but without result. Renault and Rick had left shortly afterwards. Ferrari had his own idea as to who was responsible. The rumour was that Renault and Rick had gone to Brazzaville. It looked like the rumours were right.
"A pleasure to meet you, Louis," Freddie said. "Señor Ferrari sends his regards. He hopes you will stay away a little longer – the roulette wheel is doing better in your absence." Renault gave a half embarrassed smile. "This is my associate, Elspeth Grant." Clegg noticed Renault's appraising look. Renault was evidently as incorrigible as his reputation had suggested. Still, Clegg thought, Elly was well able to look after herself. "I was hoping to meet up with Rick," Freddie said. "Don't tell me he's off in the jungle."
"No, no, not at all. A small difficulty. We had heard you were coming. Rick asked if I could meet you." Freddie and Elly followed Renault out to his car for the drive into town. Renault pulled up outside the battered, colonial style, Hotel Du Monde. The three of them went inside. Rick was sitting at a table in the bar staring at an empty glass. The half full bottle of Scotch beside it suggested that it wouldn't be empty for long.
Freddie looked around. If this was the best Brazzaville had to offer it wasn't much. On the other hand, he was glad to be there. He was pretty sure that if he'd stayed in London Strangways would have had him on a boat to Singapore by now. He wasn't planning to go back for quite a while. That's why he was pleased that Elly had turned up when she did. She would have guessed he wouldn't be stopping in England long.
Anyway, Freddie thought, even if he hadn't fancied the trip to Brazzaville, he had owed it to his friend to let him know about Ilsa.
Freddie decided that he had best get it over with. "Rick," he said. Blaine looked up barely recognising his friend through his liquor induced haze. "I brought you some news. About Ilsa." Rick blinked. Freddie could see that he'd heard what he said. "She's in England."
"I thought she was on her way to America. With Viktor," Rick slurred.
"She had a change of plan. It wasn't entirely voluntary."
"Not so lucky, I'm afraid. He died in Lisbon." Rick looked puzzled, as though Freddie's news had indeed broken through his alcoholic fog. Freddie knew that the best way to cope with Rick's drinking was to ignore it. He'd sober up soon enough. "She killed him, Rick. Shot him in his hotel room when she realised she was about to be exposed. Tried to kill me too."
Now Rick was alert. And sober too. He pushed the bottle and the glass to one side. "Exposed?" he said. "As what?"
"As a German spy, as Strasser's lover. One of his lovers. She was one of Strasser's agents. She was helping the SS in Prague. The Czech and Slovak population will not be disappointed that she won't be coming back."
Rick looked unbelieving but pressed Freddie to continue even so. "But she'd been in a Gestapo detention centre. She had this dreadful tattoo where they'd marked her with her camp number and origin. Letters and numbers. It covered most of one buttock."
"It was nothing to do with the camps, Rick." Freddie wasn't keen to elaborate on Ilsa's contribution of Strasser's code book. "Let's just say you did the Allies a great favour when you shot Strasser."
Louis Renault raised an eyebrow at the accusation, even though he knew that Freddie wold have been given every benefit of the Casablanca rumour machine. Rick grunted, unwilling to accept any praise. "And Lazlo? Viktor Lazlo had done so much there. What about him?"
"Genuine as far as I can say. She used him as her cover. He gave her access to places she could never had got to on her own. And when she no longer needed him... Well, I don't think she had any qualms about bringing Mr Lazlo's contribution to the war effort to an end...."
"But she had come to Casablanca to escape. If what you say is true, then she could have gone anywhere with Strasser's permission."
"Yes, but only in places where the Nazi writ runs. The whole 'letters of transit' thing was a scheme by Strasser to get Ilsa to the USA. Imagine the value of an agent there with the reputation of a resistance heroine, cruelly widowed from her freedom fighting husband, escaping from a war torn Europe."
Rick sighed, seeming to accept what Freddie was saying. "How do you know she was the Ilsa I'd been seeing in Paris? How did you get here?"
Freddie reached into his jacket and pulled out the envelop he had taken from Ilsa's handbag. "She was carrying this." Freddie tossed it across to Rick. "After that we followed the trail from Casablanca courtesy of Señor Ferrari at the Blue Parrot. By the way, Sam sends his regards. He says the place isn't the same without you."
Rick opened the envelope. Inside was the letter from Rick to Ilsa; the card from Rick's bar in Casablanca; the photograph of Rick and Ilsa standing at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
"At least she kept it," he said, holding up the photograph. "She'd said we'd always have Paris."
Freddie shook his head. "Let it go, Rick," he said. "Sink all the Scotch you like but let it go."
"I accused her of deceiving me, when she came to Casablanca. Asked if she'd left me for Lazlo or if there had been others in between." Freddie looked on sympathetically. "Asked her if she wasn't the kind that tells. Maybe I was closer to the mark than I thought." He downed his drink and poured another.