Honoring our Veterans
|"You doin' that crossword again, Glo?" Frankie put an enamel mug of tea in front of the machinist. "Go on then, gi'us a clue?"
"Five letters - HIJKLMNO"
"Water ..." Gloria could tell from the looks on the girls' faces that they were none the wiser. "H to O - the chemical symbol for water." They still didn't get it.
"So what d'yer get fer sendin' it in, Glo?"
"Dunno. It's just the challenge." Gloria put the finished puzzle into an envelope and sealed it. It didn't need a stamp, it was marked OHMS. The address was a P.O. Box.
Gloria had never been to London before. As she left Paddington Station she wondered how she was going to get to her Whitehall destination.
A young woman in uniform approached. "Gloria Mount?" Gloria nodded. "The car's over there." It was a military vehicle, painted khaki, its lights shuttered. They approached an impressive building and Gloria was somewhat surprised when they turned into a back alley and entered the building through a rather nondescript rear door.
"ID." Gloria handed her identity card to the middle-aged woman. She was looked up and down, then a button was pressed. A door opened in what looked like a wardrobe. It was actually a lift, and it was going down.
Deep under the Capitol a series of tunnels led off from the lift. An armed soldier stood guard. "Wait here." He indicated a utilitarian metal and canvas chair, painted the ubiquitous khaki. Patience was obviously a virtue they were looking for. After two hours, Gloria was still sat in the uncomfortable chair.
"Hier entlang bitte" Gloria looked at the young officer and wondered why he was using German. She followed regardless. The room she was led to was more like a cell. Painted grey, it had no windows. A naked bulb hung ominously over a small table. Gloria was pushed into the one chair. A panel opened in the wall and an elderly gent entered.
"Woher kennst du Deutsch?" the man spat.
"Me Mum use'ta work for the Eppensteins. I played wiv their kids."
"So, how well do you speak German? Well enough to pass yourself off as a native?"
"I ain't that good."
"Did you have any help with the crossword?"
"What, from that fick lot, don't make me larf."
A million questions later it was time for bed. The dorm had twelve beds. Three were already occupied. Gloria felt self conscious in her hand-me-down wincyette pyjamas. One of the girls wore a silk nightgown. "Jamima Carrington-Smythe." The girl held out her hand.
"Gloria Mount, pleased ta meet ya." She pumped the girl's hand furiously.
"I ...I'm Angelica ...Jones." Angelica looked up from her bed-making but failed to make eye contact.
"And the young lady snoring over there is Brigitte Compton."
"Any idea what they want with us?" Gloria looked from one girl to the other.
" Didn't you know, darling, this is spy school."
Gloria stood at the open door thinking 'six weeks ago I wouldn't even go up in a plane, let alone jump out of one.'
It was Amalie Koch who landed, scrabbling to gather her shute. Over to the west a light flashed twice from deep in the wooded copse. Her contact, codename Koppler? She gathered her shute in her arms and headed toward the light. Hearing gunfire, she dropped to the ground. An explosion followed, lighting the sky to the far west. She could make out a figure, slithering in her direction.
"Wir haben Gesellschaft." Koppler tossed her a hand gun. "Kommen sie."
"It is okay here to speak ze English." 'Here' was a cellar under a large farmhouse on the edge of a village. "Your papers." Koppler handed Amalie an ID card and other documents. "You are ... how you say ... lady of the night. I am your pimple."
"The word is pimp."
"Ja, pimp. You make jiggy with soldiers, get secrets, tell me, I tell London."
Amalie would have to do things Gloria never would. But at least she wasn't a virgin, that would be hard to explain.
"Where will I be staying?"
"There is a house in the village ... a house for women ..."
"A brothel. Do the other women know who I am?"
"You come from Dusseldorf to work. Many soldiers at Schloss. You make good money and you get away from bombs."
Amalie was the Colonel's favourite. He liked to be punished. It was easy to get him to talk once he was tied and whipped to a frenzy. The allied forces were getting closer. It was imperative they knew what to expect, Amalie provided that information.
"Du bist ein sehr ungezogener Junge." The whip made contact with the Colonel's naked rear. Amalie asked each question with a threat, rewarded each answer with another punishment. She got what she wanted without even having to give herself.
"I know the positions of each unit. Give me a map and I'll mark it for you." Koppler was pleased and couldn't wait to forward the information. Amalie was deep in thought. The war would soon be over. How could she go back to being Gloria, stitching knickers, going down the Pally every Saturday night? And how would she explain the German baby growing in her tummy?