A Flying Visit
Wednesday 17th August 1996
As Juliette sipped her water, she sat back and looked at her laptop screen. With the information Agnes and others had supplied, she had been able to put together one of her great-aunt’s “war stories” as she was calling them.
“I’d need to reword it for the book – if I get permission,” she said quietly as she re-read what she had written…
Nobody was looking up as they walked through the city the poverty and deprivation could not be denied. It had been one of the most hit targets in Italy, and the ruins spoke of their own stories.
Having said which, as Jane Huntingdown walked down the street, things were not as bad here as she had seen in France. When the word had come through that she was needed in Italy, she had left Annabelle to continue their work with the resistance groups, and managed to get a trip across the bay and slip quietly into the city. With the recent Allied landings in the south, the time was right.
She was wearing a simple grey dress and shawl, her hair tied under a blue headscarf, and shoes with the soles coming away on her feet – all the better to blend in with. The last thing she needed was for the Germans she saw patrolling the streets to know who she was.
As she looked up, the Palazzo Sentova stood proud over the city – her destination, miraculously undamaged. Even the Santa Chiara had been damaged, but somehow the castle stood firm. It needed a special person to get her here – and this was a very special person. She walked along, smiling as she heard the footsteps behind her.
As she rounded a corner, she stopped and waited, unsure of who was following her – ever since the word had reached her that Princess Alexa had disappeared, she was cautious wherever she went, with good reason.
The man who walked past was tall, Italian, with short dark hair, and far too well dressed for these times. She waited as he looked round, slipping the shiv from her sleeve before she stepped behind him, pulling his head back and placing the thin blade to his throat as he said “you just made a serious mistake, my friend.”
“You are as skilled as your reputation implies,” he said with a smile, “on behalf on Don Martello, welcome to Naples Dr Huntingdown.”
“A welcome to Naples comes with a great price.”
“Indeed – but the reward is so much greater.”
Jane nodded as she removed the knife and let him go. “I thought my disguise was good.”
“It is – but I am trained to see the real person behind the disguise. I am Carlo Martello, Don Martello’s son. I will be – how you say – your eyes and ears during your visit and discussions.”
Nodding, Jane said “then we need to be quick – I would prefer to reach the Palazzo before the curfew.”
“Agreed, our German friends can be somewhat unforgiving. This way…”
As she looked out over the bay, Sofia di Cambrello was frowning. The winds told her a great change was coming, and she hoped the city and her lands were ready. Her quiet support for the allies meant she was in danger herself, particularly if…
She turned and smiled as she looked at her housekeeper. “Maria?”
“Two guests have arrived via the rear entrance, craving an audience. A man and a woman.”
Sofia nodded as she came into the main room, smiling as she sat down and said “bring them in Maria, and fetch some refreshment.”
The housekeeper bowed and indicated as Carlo and Jane came in, Carlo kneeling and kissing Sofia’s hand as she said “Marchesa, thank you for granting us this audience. May I present Dr Jane Huntingdown.”
“The honour is mine,” Jane said as she also knelt and kissed her hand.
“No the honour is mine – I welcome you Dr Huntingdown, and offer sanctuary in my home.”
“We received your message,” Jane said as she sat down, “and I was dispatched by YY to offer what assistance I can. Have you spoken with Cardinal Morcelli?”
“He dined here last night, and we discussed the news,” Sofia said as Maria brought some food and drink in, Sofia waiting until she had left. “How does the invasion go?”
“Slowly, but we knew it would be a hard fight,” Jane said as she accepted the hot drink. “The end is coming, Marchesa, although there is still much pain to come.”
“You have seen the German guards patrolling?”
Carlo nodded as Jane said “I suspect they think the fat man is ready to turn,”
"They may be right… My family have and never will be fascists Doctor. We have learned over the years to keep our opinions to ourselves, and to share what we really think and feel with none but the most trusted of friends and relatives."
"I understand. Are you familiar with the Princess Alexa?"
Sofia smiled as
she said “we are distant cousins – a most remarkable woman. I know she plays her part, quietly – as do
I. As does my husband - he, and others
like him in the navy are prepared at the opportune moment to surrender and put
themselves at the disposal of the allies."
"I know there are many in the Italian military who will do that." Jane nodded. "But I have to tell you, the best information that we have is that the Germans will not let Italy surrender Marchesa."
"That tallies with what we are hearing as well,” Carlo said. “They will insist the despite what the King might do and say, that Mussolini will be propped up in power."
Looking at Sofia, Jane said "are you in safe contact with Royal Court circles?"
"Si, there are people there we can trust."
"What about within the Vatican and the broader church?"
"We know who our friends are, and just who are our enemies."
“Cardinal Morcelli,” Maria said as she showed the tall, thin man into the room. Sofia stood and knelt, kissing his ring as she said “I was not expecting you again tonight.”
“Circumstances have changed - but you have guests.”
“May I present Carlo Martello and Dr Jane Huntingdown.”
“The criminal scientist? So you are the agent sent in our hour of need.”
“The honour is mine,” Jane said as she bowed, Carlo kneeling and kissing the ring as well.
Jane sat back and said “so why ask one of YY to come?”
As she spoke, Sofia heard the air raid sirens.
the bombing of Naples will continue?"
"We hate it,” Carlo said quietly, “but we accept it as being inevitable."
"What is the opinion like amongst the ordinary people?"
are in fear of their lives naturally,” the Marchesa
smiled grimly, "but the majority just want this war over and they are
concentrating on one simple thing..."
"Survival," Jane nodded as she interrupted, "I understand that."
"We asked the allies to send us someone to help us both to demoralize our enemies, and to help us help the allied cause."
"That was explained to me," Jane nodded. "You know that in Sicily my government has done a deal with certain parties in return for their help?"
"I do, and given this family's roots in Sicily Doctor you don't have to be ambiguous. I know very well who La Cosa Nostra are."
“Then I can do what is needed, and talk with Don Martello and the other leaders, inform them of what was decided in Palermo and seek their agreement.” Sipping her tea, Jane then said "There is a German officer here in Naples who I'd very much like to interrogate Marchesa. in return for having me at your disposal can I beg your aid?"
"Who is this officer?"
Sofia nodded as she said "I am aware of this man."
"I thought you might be," Jane smiled, "and given who your family is, I suspect you know the reason we are anxious to talk to him."
in Sentova have got word out what he and the other
Germans are planning."
"The Tre Valli are a natural fortress as you well know, we need to know what extra defences the Germans have installed, and is there any way we can capture them, and Sentova itself without huge loss of life as we advance north?”
“I applaud your decorum,” Sofia said as Carlo nodded. “If it can be done, it will be done.”
“Thank you. First, how good is Buchholz's personal security?"
"To be frank its excellent. They know how valuable he is and they protect him diligently."
strong a Nazi is he?"
he might be Wehrmacht, but he has the soul and ideology of an SS man."
"So not a
chance of getting him to voluntarily telling us what the German plans
deference to His Eminence," the Marchesa smiled,
"not a chance in hell."
forgiven for the expression my child," the Cardinal smiled.
"So he's their top fortifications engineer. the Tre Valli are a natural fortress, and we can't go round them." Jane paused, "only he can tell us any weak points that he has as yet not corrected."
“I perhaps should not hear more – but I understand you are skilled in extracting information,” the Cardinal said as he looked over. “You are here to speak to the families as well?”
“I am,” Jane said with a smile.
“So, how do we persuade the General to talk?”
“A question for tomorrow – for tonight, you are my guests. Maria – show them to their rooms…”
The next day found Jane and Carlo sitting in a small café opposite the German headquarters, Carlo looking at the tall bald headed man as he said “that is General Buchholz.
Jane looked at
the man as he sat in the back of the open topped car, and said "Oh come
on! With the monocle, and the duelling scars he looks like a Nazi villain in
one of the comic books."
how they are depicted?"
Jane paused, "and sorry - I forget that your being Italian you
wouldn't get the cultural references."
after the war I might get to see them."
what you mean about his security," Jane watched the General's convoy pull
away. "Grabbing him is not going to be easy."
have some information that can help," Carlo Martello smiled. "There
is a place where the German insists on privacy."
where that might be?" Jane continued watching as the staff car and its
escort pulled away.
frequents a certain high class brothel I've discovered."
"Oh he does does he?" Jane turned and smiled at the young Camorra leader.
“Indeed – and tonight is one of the nights he visits…”
“How very interesting…”
“The House of Sorrows,” Sofia said as they talked in the palazzo, “oh I am aware of it. I meet the Madame socially on occasion.”
“Well, if the General is to be there tonight, then so will I – we need to talk to him.”
“Have you ever been inside such a place,” Carlo asked as the butler and housekeeper looked on.
be the first time that I've gone inside such places," a couple of memories
flashed through Jane's mind of some of hers and Annabel's past activities.
"Well I insist that I'm coming with you to grab him," the Marchesa gritted her teeth. “I wish to see him pay for what he has done to my people.”
"Marchesa! I refuse to let you do this," her butler protested.
"Doctor Huntingdown is going to need support, and please tell me who we know and trust well enough to do this with her?"
"It's still not right a great lady like you going in a place like that Marchesa," her housekeeper protested.
“If I do not go, I feel I have failed this city – what do we need to do?”
“Dress down – Carlo, we need to get a clear way in and out.”
“I will talk to my father,” Carlo said as he bowed and left.
“So – what do we wear?”
"Well do I
look like a 'lady of the night'?" the Marchesa asked
as she looked at herself in the mirror.
She was wearing a blue blouse with white polka dots, a grey skirt,
stockings and high heels, while Jane wore a tight grey jumper and skirt.
"Pretty much," Jane smiled as she out her hair up. "I'm not sure what your husband might say if he were here, but with the aid of our criminal colleagues and the Madame of the establishment I think we can infiltrate the place."
"Do you have the chloroform Doctor?"
"I do, and I'm armed as well," Jane opened the small handbag she was carrying and pulled out a tiny pistol "You had better carry this."
“I pray you do not need it, but just in case,” Jane said as there was a knock on the door, and Maria came in.
“Carol is waiting for you.”
“Good – we will see you in the morning,” Sofia said as both women walked out.
The House of Sorrows was a non-descript four storied house, that somehow had survived the bombing attacks – possibly because it was nowhere near the main civic centres. Carlo walked to the rear door and knocked three times, a hatch opening and a pair of eyes looking out before the door was opened.
“I will be waiting outside with transport,” he said as Jane and Sofia slipped in, to be greeted by a tall, dark haired woman wearing a long dressing gown.
“Elena – thank you for this,” Sofia said as she kissed the woman on both cheeks, “is he here yet?”
“No – I have a room ready for you. I’ll tell him you are recently arrived, and he has the honour of meeting you first. What happens when his absence is discovered?”
“We are prepared – when we leave, have your girls decamp to this address,” Sofia said as she handed over a slip of paper, “it is fortunate he is the only client tonight. It is the least I could do, given the loss you will experience tonight.”
“Security – at times, it is useful. Come – we have little time…”
The motorcade drew up outside the front door of the House, General Buchholz stepping out and looking round as he said “stand guard – I will come out when I am – refreshed.”
“Jawhol,” the guard said as he and his companion stood by the door, the General walking in as Madame stood inside.
“General – you honour us again with your presence tonight,” she said with a low bow. “As per your request, you are the only client, and I have something very special for you tonight.”
“Oh – and what would that be Madame?”
“Two new arrivals, recently come to our city from Pisa. They are experienced, and await your pleasure in the room upstairs.”
“Good,” he said as he walked up, the heels of his jackboots clicking on the stairs, as one of the girls looked out of the door.
“Everyone – out of the rear entrance. It would not be good to be here tonight…”
The General smiled as he knocked on the door, and came in as it was opened, looking at the small dark haired woman standing there.
“General,” she said with a smile, “Madame has asked us to see to your every need this evening.”
“You are new here?”
“We are,” he heard the second woman say as she closed the door, smiling as he turned round.
“You are indeed fortunate,” he said as the tall, thin woman walked forward, smiling as she said “may I remove your jacket?”
“Thank you,” Buchholz said as Sofia slowly unbuttoned his jacket, and let it slip down his arms, stroking a finger down his chest as she said “would you like to sit on the bed?”
“And what do you have to offer me little one,” he said as she sat down, Sofia smiling as she put her hands on his head and kissed him, making him groan as he held her.
“Very nice – and what of your…”
His eyes shot open as the chloroform soaked cloth was pressed firmly over his nose and mouth, and he instinctively reached up to grab it – but the woman’s grip was like iron as he inhaled the fumes, his mind beginning to cloud instantly as he desperately tried to get free…
“Lay him on the bed and strip him,” Jane said as the General fell senseless to the side, both women turning and stripping him before Jane bound his wrists to the head of the bed, his arms stretched out, and then his feet.
“What do we do now?”
“I ask my questions,” Jane said as she opened her handbag, and took out a cloth package, Sofia’s eyes widening as she saw the medical instruments inside.
have conscientious objections to torture Marchesa?"
Jane said as she looked over.
Doctor, but given the fact that this might save thousands of lives then I've
mentally prepared myself to put them aside," she smiled at Jane, "I
spoke to the Cardinal and he told me that what we are about to do is a mortal
sin. He agreed though that sometimes in the name of a greater good such acts
have to take place."
meet my maker,” Jane said quietly, “I personally will have a lot to atone
"Do I wish
to know the details behind that statement Doctor?"
"Probably not," Jane smiled. "Now do you have your mask?"
"I do, but why I might need one I am not sure."
"Because,” Jane said as she fixed the mask over her eyes, “though the Camorra have said they will smuggle him south to the allies after we have finished, I don't wish to take the chance that somehow he might be able to escape and identify us."
"I understand," the Marchesa started to mask her face, "when will the chloroform wear off?"
The groan from the bed made Jane look as she said “now? Good evening General – comfy?”
“Who…. How…” He pulled at the ropes, and then stared at Jane as he said “Where are the women?”
“Gone – you have been left in my tender care, to answer some questions.”
“I will say nothing,” he said as he strained at the ropes.
“Many have said that,” Jane said as she took out a thin metal strip, “let us see how long you last. The Tre Vali – what are the fortification plans?”
“Go to hell, bitch,” he said as he spat at her.
“We’re already there,” Jane said as she slipped the metal blade under the nail of the General’s big toe, making him scream as he said “what defences are in place on the main approach?”
“I will not…”
Sofia watched as Jane pushed the blade further in, as she said “what defences are in place?”
“The… the palazzo is empty, nothing is left…”
He looked at Jane as he said “no more, please,” before he looked at his feet, the toe nails red underneath from the metal blades, his fingers broken and twisted. “Our… Our interrogators could learn much from you.”
“I have a different lesson in mind,” Jane said as she opened the door, four men walking in. “He’s all yours gentlemen,” she said as they untied the General, lifting him from the bed and carrying him off as Carlo came in.
“What of his escort?”
“they have been – removed,” Carlo said with a smile. “My father thanks you, and looks forward to seeing you tomorrow, Dr Huntingdown, but I suggest a swift exit – there may be a small explosion soon.”
Looking at her watch, Jane said “we have ten minutes, but I agree – let’s get out of here.”
“We are in agreement, Dr Huntingdown,” Don Martello said as he sat in his room, Jane opposite, “we will follow the example of our friends in the South, and when we are liberated, we will support the Allies in their endeavours, in return for the right to show our – displeasure with Il Duce.”
“This is all we ask, and all the Cardinal asks,” Jane said as she sat forward, “and in return, when the time comes, those I represent will show their thanks as well. I ask one further boon – support the di Cambrello family. They have kept many safe, and will wish to aid in the rebuilding as well.”
“It is a fair request, and we accept,” Don Martello said as he stood up. “When do you return?”
“Tonight – I have lunch with my hostess, and then I return to our efforts in France.”
“When the time comes, return to Naples, Dr Huntingdown, we will show our appreciation.”
“I hope to, one day,” Jane said as Carlo came in, “thank you?”
“It truly is a beautiful vista,” Jane said as she sat with Sofia, “I pray it will not be long before it can be seen in peace.”
“As do we all,” Sofia said, “I hope we meet again when that day comes.”
“I pray it is possible,” Jane said as she looked out…
Juliette, sat back, deep in thought before she said “no – I can mention she was in Italy, supporting and talking as the armies moved north, and that the General was handed over to the allies as they advanced, but more than that? That’s a tale for the family only…”