Once Upon a Boston Christmas.
If memory does not deceive me, and it rarely does even now, the winter of 1947 was one of the coldest on record. Sir Bartholomew and I had both been safely discharged from our wartime duties, and as quickly as the post-war period of austerity, and a Labour government would allow were attempting to revive something of our pre-war lifestyle. Such endeavours, however, were not helping to fill the gnawing emptiness we both so keenly felt.
It had been my idea that an extended winter vacation in the United States visiting old friends might take both our minds off of recent events. The efforts we had put in while working in the European theatre had taken much from both of us, especially the sights we saw in that stockade in the Bavarian forest. Lady Rhymaes had been a tower of strength during those post-war days, but then when Lady Gladys had been stricken with tuberculosis, she had on the advice of her physician gone to a sanitorium in the Swiss Alps, accompanied by her sister.
Her absence was keenly felt by both Sir Bartholomew and myself, and even such actions as lifting the Bartlett Diamonds from the premises of Messer’s Anderson and Cartwright had been unable to alleviate that gap in our lives. When I had communicated with her, she had strongly agreed with my suggestion of an extended break amongst friends, and communicated as much to her husband.
So it was, and with no particular destination in mind, that we had embarked upon the Queen Elizabeth at Southampton bound for New York. The ship was only really just regaining its former glory after its wartime service, and though the master and I were fully appreciative of the luxury, and standard of service, it did little to alleviate our moods of gloom.
New York - well it was as ever still New York. Garish, flashy, but throbbing even in deep winter with a heartbeat that pulsated. Despite the usual feelings of disorientation that any traveller will feel when alighting in the early hours of a December morning, we soon began to be lifted by the atmosphere which we had not sampled for many years.
Our original plans had been to take a suite at the Waldorf-Astoria and see what might develop, and we spent an interesting week there both visiting old friends and accomplices, and visiting the many new night clubs and similar establishments that had sprung up since our last visit before the lights had gone out in Europe.
It was about 7 days after our arrival that I took at the door of the suite a cablegram addressed to “Sir Barty, Waldorf-Astoria.”
“A telegram for you, sir,” I said as I brought the missive to Sir Bartholomew, who was relaxing with his after-breakfast cigarette. He was wearing a tweed three piece suit with white shirt and blue tie, with black Oxfords – a suitable choice of clothing which I had laid out.
“Now this is interesting Jayes old chap,” he spoke after reading the missive. “It’s from Jane Huntingdown, she’s requesting our help with a mystery she is trying to solve. Can you believe the great forensic detective is requesting OUR aid?”
I was busy making sure the ornaments were properly arranged as I said “Well if I might say so sir, as varied as the talents of Dr. Huntingdown are, we do possess certain advantages that she does not possess.”
“She says,” he continued, “that Annabel and Rocky are driving up tonight and that would we be dears and accompany them?”
“Well,” I said with a small smile, “I will admit that making the re-acquaintance of Mrs. Rockland and her husband would be a pleasure sir.”
“Do you think the divine Annabel still…?”
“I’m sure she is as beautiful as ever sir.”
“You know bally well that isn’t what I mean Jayes, I was wondering if she still ventures out to…”
“From one or two reports that I read during the war in American newspapers sir, I believe it is safe to say that Mrs. Rockland has kept her hand in so to speak.”
“Jayes,” he said as he stood up, “proceed with the packing of suitable clothing. In addition, I believe we will both need a stiff whisky and soda before they arrive.”
“Very good sir,” I said, “but may I enquire as to why we might need the fortifying liquids?”
“Because if you’ve forgotten how Annabel drives,” he said, “I dashed well haven’t.”
“Ah,” I said quietly. Occasionally, Sir Bartholomew showed a wisdom those who only knew him socially did not believe was possible. “I do take your point then sir, yes maybe we should partake before our journey.”
Mrs. Rockland was as always like a breath of fresh air, lively, vivacious, and still stunning. Mr. Rockland was also as always, solid, dependable, and totally besotted with his wife. She was wearing a Dior suit and white blouse, the collar over the neck of her jacket, while Rocky was wearing a double breasted suit with a hat set at just the correct angle.
Their new Cadillac was a sight to see for British eyes, a veritable monster, a kind of miniature drawing room on wheels, and at least still to an eye still used to the constraints of petrol rationing, a veritable guzzler of gasoline as they call it in the USA.
The drive from New York to Boston was marred only by two encounters with the forces of law enforcement when Mrs. Richmond was pulled over for speeding, an occurrence that she faced with total equanimity as though it was a totally everyday matter, which now when I think back upon it, it probably was.
On our arrival in Boston, we were greeted by Doctor Jane Huntingdown. Dr. Huntingdown remained the handsome woman she had always been, just one or two little lines to betray her age, but as always the soul of good manners and hospitality. She enquired after young Master Richmond, pleased to hear he was settling in Yale.
“I was so shocked to hear of Gladys’ illness Barty,” she spoke as she ushered us into her combined laboratory and apartment on Beacon Street. I looked at her, in her blue jumper and skirt, and wondered again at the ease with which she carried herself.
“Well her sister is with her, and I was assured that my presence might have been more hindrance then help, Jane.”
“Knowing your propensity to worry, and how much you love each other,” she said with her shy smile, ”why does that not surprise me in the least? Speaking of which how did either of you cope while separated from each other by your various wartime activities?”
“With difficulty old thing. With difficulty,” Sir Bartholomew said as he shook his head.
“By the way Barty,” she then said, “congrats on both yours and Gladys’ gongs, and of course to you on your rather splendid decoration Jayes.”
“Well one did one’s bit Mrs. Rockland,” I found myself blushing. “And I’m sure your government found a suitable way to recognize your work…”
“What for sitting behind a desk in Washington as some kind of glorified secretaries?”
“Quite so sir.” I had forgotten that Mr. Rockland had not been privy to the activities of the two ladies on behalf of the OSS during the late conflict.
“Now Rocky here parachuted into Normandy on D-Day and fought his way all the way to Paris.” Mrs. Rockland smiled proudly.
“Well as Jayes put it, one did ones bit.” It was Mr. Rockland’s turn to blush.
That evening I had the privilege of being treated as a guest as Miss Huntingdown served us all a late supper, and refused my offer of assistance in helping clean up. I found it all rather disconcerting to tell the truth, but these modern times had led to many changes.
At some point in the conversation Mr. Rockland stood up and yawned and announced he was taking his leave of us and driving to the Copley Plaza, and that could we bring Mrs. Rockland along with us in a cab.
As he left, Jane looked round and said “Good - now we can talk seriously.”
“That sleeping draft took forever to work Jane, I swear Rocky is developing a tolerance for it.”
“I’ll need to make you up some stronger doses.”
“Now if I might interrupt ladies,” my employer said as he swirled his whisky round, “what was so bally damn important that you felt you had to invite us up here the week before Christmas Jane?”
“Did either of you,” Jane said as she looked at us, “come across the name of the Princess Alexandra Malverino in the course of your wartime activities?”
“I’m afraid I did Doctor,” I said quietly, “she was a leading member of both the Canaris Group and of the Catholic resistance, my activities in Bavaria and Austria caused my path to cross hers on a couple of occasions.”
For a second I choked back a memory, before I said ’It was truly a tragic day when she was reported missing. She was a true lady, of amazing courage.”
“Quite so Jayes, I also had met her.” the Doctor said in a small voice. “I understand her niece has had her death added to the charges she faces.”
“And this matter of yours has what to do with her Jane old dear?”
“I have heard from an unimpeachable source here in the Boston underworld Barty, that certain of the Malverino family jewels, including Lexa’s legendary engagement ring are being offered for sale by some mysterious European refugee currently here in Boston.”
“Wasn’t the main stone in her ring the legendary Light of Venice?”
“You still remember your jewels Barty,” Mrs. Rockland laughed her musical little laugh. “Did you know the late Prince never told her of the diamonds name or its provenance, in case it caused her to reject it as too ostentatious?”
“No, that I never knew Annabel.”
“Well it’s my view that the Princess’s jewellery rightfully belongs to her descendants, and that we should somehow find a way to acquire…”
“Without paying of course.” Mrs. Rockland again laughed.
“…And return to her family those precious objects.”
“Well I’m game for a lark old girl.”
“And I’m fully in agreement with Sir Bartholomew Doctor,” I said as I stood. “My meagre talents are at your disposal.”
“Good – there’s an old friend of yours that I want you to call on tomorrow, Jayes. I think you’ll enjoy it...”
It was therefore not without some degree of trepidation that the next day I found myself in the offices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Boston, awaiting the arrival of one Special Agent Michael Kelly. It isn’t that I hold any particular grudge against the officers of the law, it’s just that keeping my distance from them has always in the past proved to be a prudent activity. On this occasion, however, all four of us felt that this particular agent would be a useful contact for our endeavours.
On hearing the door to the office I was sat in open, I stood and saluted the man who entered. It was a slightly incongruous sight, I grant you – me in my dark suit, white shirt and tie, and the new arrival in a grey suit, blue shirt and grey tie, the bulge in his jacket showing his weapon’s resting place.
“Major Kelly…SIR!” I clicked my heels as I spoke clearly.
“Sergeant-Major Jayes,” the American smiled as he returned my salute, before he embraced me in a most alarming fashion. “Jayes you old bastard, I can’t tell you how good it is to see you here and alive. The last time I saw you, you were coming out of the window of the new Soviet headquarters in East Berlin under fire from both sides. How the hell did you escape that?”
“I regret to say, Major Kelly, that is one of my little secrets.” He looked well, for a man who had exchanged one form of government service for another.
“What’s this damn Major thing,” he said as he indicated a chair, “we are both civilians now, just call me Mike.”
“Very good Sir…I mean Mike,” I half smiled as I sat. “I am here to see you in your official capacity…”
“Oh?” his eyebrow lifted, “that sounds like one of us still isn’t a civilian.”
“On the contrary Mike, I am happily restored to my old position as Sir Bartholomew’s gentleman’s gentleman.”
“How is Barty by the way? I heard about poor Gladys.”
“She is recovering sir.” I could hear the concern in his voice – as great the efforts that Sir Bartholomew and I had exerted, they paled into insignificance when compared with the work Gladys undertook in occupied France.
“Mike remember,” he grinned. “So what’s the problem?”
“Quite,” I said as I composed myself. “Well, to cut to the chase as you say, while I am officially retired, an old acquaintance asked me to look into the activities of someone who has entered the United States as a refugee…Quite unofficially of course.”
“Oh of course VERY unofficially,” Mike said as he leaned back. “Well Jayes, if this someone is of interest to His Majesty’s Government, chances are he is to mine too.”
“May I then call on you for a little help?”
“Oh unofficially of course,” he grinned broadly. “So who is this person?”
Whilst I was renewing my acquaintance with Major Kelly, Sir Bartholomew went shopping in the city with Dr. Huntingdown. Whilst they did manage to acquire some gifts for friends, the principal commodity that they were seeking to purchase was information.
The magnificence and sheer variety of goods available in the shops was, according to my master, greater then he’d ever seen in Regent St. and Bond St. in the pre-war era, and to eyes used to the scarcity back home, magnificence beyond dreams. I had to share his view when I saw the gown he had purchased for Lady Gladys.
In company with Doctor Huntingdown, he had returned to find me making our hotel suite habitable sometime towards afternoon teatime.
“Jayes, your ability to make anywhere feel comfortable is beyond description.” Jane sighed as she sat back on the sofa and relaxed as she accepted a cup of tea from my hands. “If you should ever wish to leave Barty’s service as I know that I have said more then once, you can always find a home with me.”
“Thank you, Doctor, but I am quite happy in my current position,” I said with a small bow.
“Hey Jane, doncha know it’s beyond bad taste to try steal a chaps man?”
“I do,” she laughed, “I’d probably find it easier to steal Gladys away from you then Jayes here.”
“Quite so Doctor,” I allowed myself a small smile. “Might I be allowed to enquire as to the success of your expedition?”
“Well there are definitely some very hot rocks on offer here in old Beantown.”
“Yes as Jane quite rightly says Jayes, we heard one or two of Jane’s snitches as she calls them, positively bursting to tell us all about them.”
“And did they give you a name for the vendor Sir?”
“A certain Laszlo Victor…”
“Quite obviously an alias Jayes,” the doctor sipped her tea, “how immigration so stupidly let anyone in using such an obviously false name is beyond me.”
“It is to be regretted at times that those we trust to watch our borders can be so slapdash.” I shook my head, at the same time admiring the audacity of this person, to use a variation on a name from a classic film.
“Well anyway, he’s our chappy, can you set Mike Kelly and his bloodhounds on his jolly old trail now?”
“Major Kelly was keen to offer his help. For some reason he believes I may be acting on official business…”
“Well you did enough of it together during the war Jayes.” The doctor finished her cup. “Is there more of this please?”
“Of course Doctor – I shall communicate with him in due course.”
“Well, until Mike comes through, we may as well relax,” Jane said as she sat back. “Have you managed to talk to Annie?”
“I spoke with Mrs Xavier before I came over,” I said as I sat down, “she has recently become a grandmother again – her third.”
“I miss her, you know – but her business has grown so much that I imagine she is unable to take much time off.”
“Well, her boys have joined the business now they are back as well. I understand they are expanding into new areas of interest as well.”
“Oh,” Jane said, “such as?”
“I am not in a position to divulge the details, but it is proving most profitable...”
There was a knock on the door to the suite, and I went to enquire of the arrival, returning to say “Mrs Rockland.”
“Hey,” she said as she came in and sat down, “what news?”
“If you will excuse me, Ladies, Sir, I shall contact Major Kelly and ask for his assistance.”
It was another hour before I received a call from Major Kelly, informing me of the location given on arrival for one Lazlo Victor. I then informed him that there were suspicions he was involved in espionage, and once I had confirmed my own suspicions he would be handed over to his tender care. I always believed in co-operation where it is to mutual benefit.
“We have an address, sir,” I said as I joined the others. “Perhaps, if you excuse us for a short while, Mrs Rockland and I may visit the establishment? It is in South Boston?”
“You sure Jayes? It’s not the nicest of areas?”
“Doctor Huntingdown, after the events of the last few years, I find it hard to believe anything there could upset me.”
“Well,” Annabel said as she stood up, and noted the address, “I’ll meet you there in ninety minutes Jayes. I need to change into more suitable apparel for a late visit.”
Considering that it was then a good twenty years since I had first made her acquaintance, Mrs. Rockland still had a remarkably trim figure for the years. A gentleman never says these things in public, but I noted this as we prepared to break into the South Boston boarding house that Major Kelly had given us as the only known address for Laszlo Victor.
Like myself, she was dressed in black trousers, and a black sweater, with black leather gloves to leave no tattle-tale fingerprints. Unlike myself however she wore a black cap with her hair pinned up and hidden underneath, and whilst I fixed my classic black eye mask, she tied a black headscarf around her head, then pulled it up to cover her nose, masking her face.
Entering the establishment posed no difficulties, as we found the number for the room.
“Do you have a weapon Jayes?”
“This is not wartime Mrs. Rockland…”
“But it can still be as dangerous,” she whispered as she passed me a .38 caliber pistol from within the small black purse she held, and which rather unwillingly I tucked into my waistband.
“Shall I do the honours?” I asked as I passed her a small torch.
“Please, be my guest,” she said as she held the light steady while I manipulated the locks.
“Your technique is still impeccable I see Jayes.”
“Well one does ones best,” I replied as I eased the door open.
Inside the light was on, and immediately I tensed, but then something inside me told me exactly what I was witnessing. The furniture was commonplace, the cover to the bed slightly stained, and the signs of a hurried departure clear.
“It looks like our bird has flown Mrs. Rockland.”
“I can see Jayes, and by the looks of it in a hurry too,” she looked at the drawers on a dresser left open but empty, the empty wardrobe, and the crumpled bed that it looked like our quarry had literally leaped out of.
“Quite so, and might I say rather recently,” I pointed out the remains of a burning cigarette in an ashtray.
“Less than half an hour I’d guess,” she said as she picked up the end, “but we’d need Jane here to tell us precisely.” She walked over to the open window, and looked outside. “There’s a fire escape out here – he left this way I’d guess.”
“If I might be bold then,” I said as I looked round, “I am fairly certain someone warned Mr. Victor that we were coming.”
“I’d agree.” Mrs. Rockland nodded then pulled down her mask so it hung round her neck. “Oh he had a lady visitor as well.” She pointed to a lipstick stained cigarette end in the tray on the other side of the bed.
“Blazing Sunset,” she looked closely at the cigarette remains, “not exactly an expensive or exclusive shade. Therefore, almost impossible to trace.”
“Just so, well I think we have seen we are going to see here Mrs. Rockland, I think maybe it is time for us to make our exits and call in Major Kelly and his cohorts from the FBI.”
We made our way out of the boarding house, stopping at a local hostelry as I called Major Kelly and informed him of the situation, and then headed back to rejoin Sir Bartholomew and Doctor Huntingdown.
Upon our return, Mrs Rockland closed the door quietly as we listened to the conversation.
"Did you manage to
phone Switzerland Barty?"
"Yes thank you
Jane,” I heard Sir Bartholomew say, “I managed to speak briefly with Gladys,
she sounded much better poor old thing."
"Well after her
wartime experiences Barty it's always going to be
that any illness she gets will hit her more severely than most."
"So her doctors
have told me."
sign yet of Jayes and Annabel?"
"No, and I am
starting to get a trifle worried..."
"And why might
that be Barry?" Mrs. Rockland replied, as Sir Bartholemew
and Dr. Huntingdown realised that we had been
standing in the doorway listening.
"So how did it
"It was a washout
Jane," Mrs. Rockland removed her cap and shook her hair out.
"Somebody had warned our rat, and he had vamoosed."
Doctor said in a harsh tone.
"So who split on
"I could not
currently say Sir, but since I am confident in every person in this room, let
me perhaps hypothesize that the FBI has a leak?"
"Well that's a bit
jolly unfair, aren't they supposed to be the good guys?"
"Quite so Sir. I have arranged, with your permission, to meet Major Kelly for breakfast tomorrow to discuss possible sources of the leak. In the meantime, may I suggest we spread the word that we are interested in purchasing the jewels? IT may help lure him to our tender attentions."
“Jayes, you are a genius,” Mrs Rockland said as she kissed my cheek. “We’ll do just that.”
Major Kelly and I enjoyed a fine repast at something he called an Automat – the idea of the meals been pre-prepared, as with much of this new world, was a novelty, but the waitresses were charming.
On our return to his office, I settled in a seat, brushing some lint from my trousers as Major Kelly sat on his desk.
“Is it safe to assume, Jayes, that you’d inspected the scene before calling upon me and my flatfoots?”
“I can assure you it was left precisely as I found it Major…sorry Mike…” I could see his raised eyebrow and slight look of exasperation. “I do apologise, but as a gentleman’s gentleman one does acquire certain habits of speech.”
“I understand Jayes,” he said with a smile, “but I fear that your old world of respect might be falling very quickly at this time of history.”
“Unfortunately so,” I said with a nod, “and standards of behaviour with them, I am very much afraid to say.”
“They did after the last Great War, but I think this time the social changes might be permanent, we are about to witness the rise of the great middle-class common man.”
“It is a prospect I freely confess I view with dread.”
“Anyway can I offer you a drink…and I will not inflict our coffee upon you, three years working at Combined Intelligence HQ in London gave me a taste for your tea.”
“If it is Earl Grey?”
“Imported from Fortnum and Mason – someone told me it was the finest.”
“Well,” I said with a smile, “in that case how can I refuse?”
“Two cups of tea, please Britta,” Agent Kelly spoke into a device on his desk.
“Anyway…Mike…if I might be permitted to return to the matter in hand?”
“Please. Go ahead Jayes.”
“As competent as I am sure your laboratories are here, might I request that whatever small evidence you may have been able to collect might be shown to Dr. Huntingdown?”
“Oh is Jane involved in helping as well? I guess that also means the lovely Annabel?”
I merely nodded.
“It’s almost like a YY Group reunion isn’t it?”
“Well,” I said quietly, “when one is acting unofficially one finds it necessary to call on the expertise of old friends.”
“Quite,” he said as he sat down and leaned back. “Yeah, I’m sure our lab boys won’t mind Jane dropping over and looking.”
“Ah, and here is our tea. Jayes can I present one of the most indispensible members of our team. This is Britta my Norwegian angel.”
“Oh I’d hardly describe myself as an angel,” the exceedingly tall blonde woman had the look and bearing of a Valkyrie, or at least one as presented on stage in Wagner’s operas. There was the slightest hint of a Nordic trace to her accent, as she placed the tray on the table and poured the milk into the cups.
“Britta was with some of our Nordic friends during the war. Her entire unit was trapped in a burning building, and she was the only escapee.”
“I was very lucky, I escaped with comparatively minor burns,” the woman smiled as she poured her tea.
“Since I’ve seen them, I can tell you they are hardly minor.” Mike shook his head. “The one on your upper left arm, on the underside is particularly nasty.”
“Well those days are long since gone, and I pray to God will never return.” Britta said as she handed us our cups then discretely left.
“Exceptional woman…you know she was one of our very best agents in Norway, we only knew her team by each of their code names, but boy did they do vital work.”
“She seemed slightly familiar,” I shook my head, “but even my brain is far from infallible Mike, I might just have seen her at Headquarters, one trained oneself not to look too closely at other faces.”
“Well I doubt it was there Jayes, she never left Norway, in fact none of us even knew what she looked like till after the war ended, and Norway was liberated.”
“Is that a fact Major…Most Interesting.”
As I sipped my tea, I knew I had learned two important facts. Firstly, the fact that Britta had been unknown was most suggestive.
And secondly, one really should not put the milk in the cup before the tea – even tea as exceptional as this.
As I left the offices of the Bureau, I had to admit that something was still nagging at the back of my memories. What it was, I could not say for certain, but when things like this happen, I usually find a walk in a park helps.
So, having first called to inform Sir Bartholomew I may be delayed, I took myself to one of the many public parks in Boston. Even that did not assist my musings, however, so I returned to the abode of Dr Huntingdown, and reported what I had discovered that day.
When I mentioned Britta, Dr Huntingdown looked interested, especially when I described her.
“She was a survivor of a fire that took out the entire group? That must have been the Blavik group in Oslo. I remember seeing some of the photographs – not a nice thing to view.”
“I did hear rumours of them as well, Jane,” Sir Bartholomew said, “but only rumours.”
“Which means we need to turn to our human information retrieval system.” I watched as she poured some coffee into a cup and handed it to Mrs Rockland. “Now Annabel,” she said as she sat down again, “what can you remember of the Blavik Group and its work in Norway?”
“Annabel? Oh of course,” Sir Bartholomew said, “of course she would know.”
“You were the one who was YY’s liaison with mainstream intelligence, you saw their files.”
“Don’t rush me lover,” Annabel said quietly, “I need to think.”
“I thought you were the one with the so-called photographic memory old sport?”
“Barty even photographs fade with time you know?”
“Annabel…CONCENTRATE!” the doctor urged her old friend on.
“Alright, Alright!” Mrs. Rockland started to think deeply. “The Blavik group was very hush-hush, for the highest eyes only. They operated both in gathering intelligence, and performing acts of sabotage and resistance.”
“Very brave people,” I said quietly, “if I might be so bold.”
“Very brave YOUNG people Jayes, the thoughts were that they were a combination of last year high school students, and students from Oslo University, recruited because they were thought either politically neutral, or even active supporters of Quisling and his stooge government.”
“That would have given them a small freedom to do their work,” I nodded.
“The tragedy was that the fire that killed them was set by their own people who herded them together and set an old house on fire to kill them as traitors.”
“Which raises a question in even my mind old thing,” Sir Bartholomew said, “how did this Britta manage to be the only escapee?”
“That Barty is something we need to find out.” Mrs. Rockland smiled.
“You look troubled Jayes – what’s wrong?”
“My apologies, Sir, Ladies, there is something giving me some mental consternation regarding this young woman. Something Major Kelly said about the injuries she sustained...”
Shaking my head, I said “returning to the subject at hand, what Blavik was, essentially, was a cell whose members were known only to each other, not to our people, not to the other Norwegian Resistance Groups, not to the Nazi’s?”
“That was the assumption Jayes.”
“If I might be so bold can you perhaps remember how they were supplied and how communications were first established, Mrs. Rockland?”
“I think so,” she said quietly, “they first made contact in 1942, they were always supplied by dead parachute drops in remote areas.”
“And how did they get intelligence out old thing?”
“By a dead drop to the Military Attaché at the British Embassy in Stockholm Barty.”
“If I might venture a question,” I said quietly, “was there ever any doubt about them, was their intelligence always reliable?”
“If you are asking were they an Abwehr or Gestapo false intelligence operation, some thought so at the time, but after certain revelations that proved 100% reliable and which we know for sure the Nazi’s would not have given us, their intelligence was treated as gold-plated.”
“I have two questions,” Doctor Huntingdown said as she played with her spectacles. “First how the heck were they in wartime able to get sensitive information into neutral Sweden? And secondly who the damn were they to be just that good and have such sources?”
“I wish I didn’t find this smelling like old cheese Jane, but honestly old girl it does stink.”
“If I may interrupt sir? Just remember our people were not stupid you know. A phone call to Sir James Gresham at the British Embassy in Washington might answer a few of our questions.”
“You think old Grumpy Gresham would talk to me,” Sir Bartholomew said as he sat back, “he has rather disliked me since he fagged for me at Eton.”
“Yes Sir,” I smiled, “but he was the head of the Nordic Office, if anyone can verify Blavik for us, then it will be him I’m very much afraid.”
“Well, he won’t discuss it over the telephone,” Sir Bartholomew said as he rubbed his eyes. “Jayes, send a telegram to the Embassy, his eyes only. Tell him we will call on him tomorrow, and word it in such a way we will wish to discuss wartime events with him. Then book tickets on the first train to Washington in the morning.”
“Sir,” I said as I left the room for a moment, and sent the required message. As I returned, Sir Bartholomew said “Jayes, I shall be taking Mrs Rockland and Doctor Huntingdown out to dinner tonight. Will you join us?”
“Thank you, but no Sir. With your permission, I shall have an early supper and then make the preparations for tomorrow.”
The later evening found me in a reflective move, as I say in the hotel suite, thinking over the events of the day so far. Mike’s comment about the YY reunion was rather apropos, even if he like many was unaware of the true connections between that group.
It had been obvious to those of us who followed these events that, after Chamberlin had achieved his ‘agreement’ with Chancellor Hitler, it was only a matter of time before war would happen, and it was equally obvious we would have to play our part. A series of meetings took place between the board of The Agency, and our counterpart organisations in France, Belgium and other countries.
We also discussed matters with the American equivalent – the pacifistic bent of their politicians notwithstanding, people such as Mrs Rockland and Dr Huntingdown also wished to offer their assistance.
The discussions took place in secret, facilitated by Mrs Annie Xavier, but out of the discussions came the group within Allied Intelligence known as YY. They were known of in the higher echelons of Intelligence and Military command, and to them were a crack undercover group, operating behind enemy lines, providing logistical and tactical support to local groups.
All four of us had played our part – Sir Bartholomew and I spend the two years from May 1943 to May 1945 in the European theatre, in Italy at first and then the western theatre following the events of June 1944. Lady Gladys, as I believe I mentioned earlier, was in France at the time.
And as for our American friends, they worked officially for the OSS, but in reality were the main contacts for the YY group with our American allies.
Many of us served in that capacity and most returned to civilian life – but not all. As it was, I ended the war with the rank of Sergeant Major in the Royal Engineers, and Sir Bartholomew as a Captain in the Special Boat Service – officially.
I allowed myself the luxury of a small malt and stood up, looking out of the window onto Central Park. Something was still nagging at the back of my mind – and thinking of the group in Oslo, and Princess Malverino, reminded me of one of the rare failures of my time in Germany.
It was in November of 1944, and I had been making my way back to a rendezvous with Sir Bartholomew, but before joining him I had agreed to make contact with one of the small groups who were impeding any attempts by the German army to fight the onward advance. The leader of this group lived above a tobacconists in the small town, and I usually entered by the rear.
My fears of the situation as I found the door open, and examined the splintered wood around the lock, told me all I needed to know of the story. The man in question lived above the store with his wife, both in their early thirties, but it was obvious what had happened. The overturned chairs and the ripped up mattress told its own story.
On slipping out of the store, I saw a pre-arranged sign, and cautiously walked over to where I found one of the group. He informed me they had been taken by the SS that afternoon to the local barracks – he needed say no more than that. I offered my condolences, but I also said I would see if it was possible to liberate them. I owed them that much for their courage.
The local headquarters were a fortified building in the centre of the town, but in that respect to was no different from a jeweller or a bank – the trick is not getting in, it is getting out without been seen. As such, in the dark of the midnight hour, gaining entry was not an issue. It was moving inside without been detected, and if detected making sure the alarm was not raised that was the issue.
In wartime, and in the work I was doing, it was necessary to ensure the alarm was never raised by those I found. I take no pride in what I had to do, but I tried to make it quick and merciful. So it was I found myself looking down through the grill in a ceiling at what could only be described as a torture chamber.
The wife of the leader was sat in what seemed to resemble a dentist’s chair, her wrist and arms held to the heavy wooden armrests with leather straps. Further straps had been used to secure her legs to the footrest of the chair, but it was not that caused me the most grief. It would be hypocritical of me, in my chosen profession, to be angry at her restraints, even if they were excessively tight.
No, it was the disgraceful way she had been treated in other matters, obviously with the intention of making her husband divulge information. Her mouth was forced open by some form of ring, which had been forced between her teeth and strapped around her head, while her clothing had been ripped off to reveal her flesh.
Flesh which showed the signs of torture – bruises, consistent with those caused when a whip is used, and cigarette burns, as well as bruises on her face and neck. Two SS officers were standing over her, as one pulled her head back by the hair and then let it drop.
She was unconscious, and I was grateful for that when I took in the sight of her husband. He was hanging from the ceiling, naked, his wrists bound together with rope and blood literally running in streams down his body. It was plain that he had been tortured, but as I looked at the person doing the questioning, I have to admit I was shocked – his interrogator was a female?
Female SS Officers were rare – the best known example being Brigitte von Furstenheim, the Bitch of Belzec as the press had labelled her. This was not that woman, but she was obviously one who considered herself Aryan – about six foot tall, long blonde hair, held back in a ponytail, and wearing a white shirt and black knee length skirt with boots. Her jacket hung on the wall carried the insignia of a captain – in itself not unusual for an interrogator, but for a woman...
I watched as she retrieved a poker from the heater, and – well, in consideration that there may be women reading this memoir, I will merely say it was pressed in a most sensitive and painful position. For my part, I had seen enough, and drew my weapon from my holster as I made my way to the entrance to the room.
As I listened at the door, I heard one of the men say “I do not think he can stand much more, Hauptsturmfuhrer Wessel.”
“You seek to question my judgement on the situation, Untersturmfuhrer?”
“No – no Madame, but I fear he is near his end.”
“Very well then – perhaps my tender care to his wife will loosen his tongue...”
I had heard enough by that point, as I kicked the door in and opened fire, killing the other male officers before I aimed my pistol at the captain.
“Well, this answers my main question,” she said as she looked at me, “May I know who their rescuer is.”
“Forgive me if I decline to answer,” I said quietly, “release him.”
“If you insist,” she said as she walked to the table a knife was sitting on, but instead and before I had a chance to stop her, she drew her pistol from a holster and shot the local leader between the eyes.
I was sore tempted to kill her as well, but before I had the chance the alarm was sounded – mainly due, I suspect, to the explosives I had placed to provide a diversion to our exit. I had placed them near their munitions room, after all.
She looked at me, and then ran out, shouting as she did so. I could see it was too late for her male captive, but I released his wife from the seat, and took her out through a storm cellar.
I made sure she was taken to a safe house, and returned to my journey. For obvious reasons, she left the country after the war, and I had heard she had moved to somewhere in New England...
Suddenly I sat upright. I had remembered what had been nagging at me about the events of the day, and I knew what was needed. Picking up the telephone handset, I dialled a number.
“Mike? It is Jayes. My apologies for calling you at home, but I need you to arrange for a certain woman to visit Boston – and to do it out of FBI jurisdiction. I want her presence to be a secret for now.
“I will explain upon my return from Washington – Sir Bartholomew and I have to visit tomorrow. You will find her...”
To those of the modern generation, it may seem inconceivable that people would spend the day on the train, but in those days it was a much more pleasurable way to spend the day. It also meant spending the night in Washington, but I had secured first class tickets in each direction, which at least would afford us the opportunity to relax on the following day.
We left from Boston South station at eight the following morning, enjoying the scenic route as the train made its way round the bay and then through Providence. We then took the opportunity to partake of a late breakfast as the train made its way down through the Newport bay, and relaxed as the train progressed through New Haven and Providence, arriving in Penn Station in New York just after one. The trip thus far was pleasant, the scenic view over the Atlantic with the sailing boats providing a welcome diversion from the thoughts on both our minds.
At New York, we quickly changed trains and progressed from there to Newark, and hence south to Philadelphia. It had been some years since Sir Bartholomew and I had visited the cradle of American democracy, and as we approached we reminisced of that visit, and the interesting results of what we obtained that day.
The scenery outside was becoming more industrial now, a sight presaged as we approached Philadelphia through the coalfields, but made much more real now as we passed the shipyards and steelyards that lined the approach to Baltimore. It was beginning to grow dark, and the flames from some of the mills most certainly brought the words of Blake to mind.
It was a pleasure after Baltimore to see the naval shipyards, a reminder of the conflict so soon resolved, before we arrived in Washington at just after five, slightly ahead of schedule. A short cab ride brought us to the Adams House, where I had secured a suite for the night.
As I obtained the keys, I was handed a note, which I passed to Sir Bartholomew.
“Grumpy will meet us at the bar at eight, Jayes – for now, let us change and refresh ourselves,” he said as he read the note.
“Of course sir – this way...”
“You’ve had an answer to the advertisement Jane?”
I stopped setting out Sir Bartholomew’s evening attire on the bed and came to listen to the conversation.
“You haven’t fixed a time yet have you? Good, make sure Mike is informed. We will be back...”
“Slightly before six tomorrow evening sir, all being well.”
“In time for an early meal. If you and Annabel can meet us at the station, we can exchange information then.”
As he replaced the receiver, he looked at me and said “It would appear things are advancing in our absence, Jayes. There has been a response from this Victor fellow, asking for a meet. We’ll discuss tomorrow.”
“Very good Sir – but we must hurry if we are to make our appointment at the bar.”
“Quite so Jayes – give me ten minutes and I will be ready.”
As we entered the bar, we could see our guest for the evening sitting in a corner booth. Sir James Gresham, DSO and Bar, had been the ambassador for the last six months, a reward for his service in the war as part of the group that coordinated resistance efforts in the European theatre. He was a slightly portly man, but if you looked in his eyes, there was a look so many of us shared.
As we walked in, he stood up and extended a hand. “Barty, Jayes, good to see you both again,” he said as we shook his hand and sat down, “I took the liberty of ordering some drinks. Jayes, I think you will find the beer to your taste.”
“Thank you, Sir James, it was most kind of you,” I said as we sat down, and the waiter brought the drinks over. “It is also most kind of you to agree to meet us at such short notice this evening.”
“Well, it was a surprise to hear from you,” he said as he sipped his brandy. “How is Lady Rhymaes, Barty?”
“Doing well,” Sir Bartholomew said with a small smile. “Grumpy, would you mind if we got straight to business, and then we can enjoy a more relaxing meal.”
“Okay,” Sir James said as he raised an eyebrow, “putting that aside for the moment, what do you want to talk about?”
“The Blavik group.”
Nodding, Sir James sat back and said “bad business that, very bad business. They should have been honoured, and instead... So why have they come to your attention?”
“Jayes, perhaps you would care to explain?”
“Without going into too many details, Sir James, both Sir Bartholomew and I are undertaking a small task in this country.”
“I had heard you had both retired with the thanks of a grateful nation.”
“Quite, Sir,” I said with a significant nod, “but nevertheless, we are looking into an issue, and as part of that investigation the question of the Blavik group and the veracity of the information they provided has been an issue. Given your position in those years, we come to ask your opinion on them and the part they played in the war effort.”
Sir James looked at both of us, before he leaned forward in a low voice and said “for your ears only, all right?”
“Of course, Grumpy old thing.”
“If I told you that the group was referred to us by a nephew of King Haakon, what would that say to you?”
“It would add greatly to the vermissitude of their credentials,” I said quietly. “So they were openly supportive, to allow them some freedom?”
“Indeed – and I have to tell you, we had similar doubts to those you may have had, but every bit of information they passed to us was true, and of value, you will understand why they were held in such high regard.”
“So how exactly did they manage to get information from Norway to Sweden?”
“Well, that was a work of genius,” Sir James said. “They had a contact in the Red Cross, who – shall we say – bent the rules a little? It was through him we learned of the final fate of the group.”
“We were informed they were all trapped in a building, which was set on fire by those who thought they were collaborators.”
“That was the report we received as well,” Sir James said, “our contact watched the events unfurl, powerless to stop them. You will remember the ‘punishment’ meted out to the girls who ran the Underground Railroad in Belgium?”
I nodded – I had talked with some of those unfortunate women during my return to England, to convey our sincere apologies and thanks.
“Well, this was the same sentiment – that quiet resistance they had shown for four years literally exploded. A pity – we would love to have known and honoured them, or at least some.”
Both of us nodded as I said “a toast, if i may gentlemen – to the secret army.”
“The secret army,” they replied as we toasted the group. “So only one of the group escaped that fire,” Sir Bartholomew said as we put our glasses down.
“That was my understanding. She somehow made her way to Denmark, and surrendered to the American forces there.”
“How did she manage to identify herself as one of the Blavik group?”
“You’d have to ask the Americans that one – our new lords and masters have a very different relationship with Truman than Churchill had with Roosevelt.”
Waving the waiter over, he said “let’s have another drink, and then I know a nice little restaurant near here, where we can talk more...”
“Jayes, attend,” Sir Bartholomew said as I brought him his evening drink. We had spent the rest of the evening with Sir James, exchanging stories and enjoying the food of the fine establishment he had suggested, and as he sat in his dressing gown it was clear he had been thinking.
“I await your pleasure, Sir.”
“I think you will agree, based on what Grumpy said, that the Blavik group were the real deal?”
“I was minded to believe so, Sir, but the reports of Sir James certainly confirmed my feeling.”
“So the question becomes was Britta really one of the group. You are the one who has seen her Jayes – thoughts?”
He noticed my silence, as he turned and said “Jayes, i know that silence. What do you know I do not?”
“It is not my place at this time to say, Sir. Suffice to say, I have made some arrangements which I am confident will provide answers.”
“Well, if you say so Jayes,” he said as he drained his glass. “I shall retire for the night now, breakfast at seven tomorrow?”
“Indeed Sir- we need to be at the railway station for nine for the return journey.”
“Very well then – wake me in time Jayes.”
It was as i was preparing the morning cup of tea that a telegram arrived for me from Mike Kelly. Quickly scanning the contents, I put the note carefully into my jacket pocket, and entered the bedroom to find Sir Bartholomew already up in bed.
“Good morning Sir,” I said as I laid the tray in front of him, “I trust you had a restful night.”
“Not really, Jayes,” he said as he rubbed his arm, “I dreamt of Basel again.”
“Ah yes Sir – I completely understand. If you will have your breakfast, I will see your clothes are laid out and the bag packed.”
As he sipped his tea and ate the bacon and pancakes, I packed his clothes into the bag, and laid out the clothes for the day before running his bath. As I came into the room, he said “Jayes?”
“The world is changing you know – do you wonder if we are been left behind?”
“Sir,” I said quietly, “no matter what happens, there will be Gentlemen, and therefore the need will continue for the Gentlemen’s personal Gentlemen. If I may be more informal for a moment...”
“In the war, we were equals, and helped each other. It is my privilege and honour to repay that support from you by supporting you. Your bath is ready when you are, Sir.”
We managed to find our seats on the north bound train, and settled for the journey back, relaxing more as we left the industrial areas and watched the lights on the darkening sky over the Atlantic. Not a lot was said during the journey – Sir Bartholomew was attempting to read the latest book by Dashiell Hammett, but it was obvious his mind was in Switzerland, while I had other matters on my mind.
As Dr. Huntingdown would later tell me, she and Mrs. Rockland had not been exactly idle whilst we were in Washington. With Mr. Rockland off on a business trip to Chicago, Mrs. Rockland had moved into her friend’s apartment from the hotel. Together they tried calmly to analyze the information they had to hand as to the likely whereabouts of Mr. Laszlo Victor.
Working with the idea that Victor was being shielded by a screen of ex-Nazi’s and former Nazi sympathisers, they ran a check in the records of the FBI, and discovered little except the fact that drinking the coffee in FBI headquarters in Boston was certainly a bad idea.
It was, however, the very lack of information though that triggered a thought in the good doctor’s head. As it was told to me and Sir Bartholomew, she realized that given the fact that Boston had been a hub of the anti-interventionist and anti-British movements before the war, then there really should have been a lot more in the records. “It was although they had been cleaned with Pepsodent,” was her pithy way of putting it, “files had been removed and expunged.”
As confirmation of a traitor within the FBI building, that was actually a pretty damning conclusion. It was certainly a strong signal that we needed to keep our activities a closely guarded secret.
Before we received that information, however, we had time to return to the hotel from the station, where we received word that Mrs Rockwell and Dr Huntingdown wished to meet with us for dinner, and afterwards to accompany them to a nightclub.
Those who have had cause to read the memoirs of our adventures may wonder at the fact on this occasion, Sir Bartholomew and I were acting as equals to the ladies, and perhaps mare surprisingly to each other. These were different times, however, and to be frank our wartime experiences had truly made us equals.
So it was that on this particular night we both wore suitable attire and joined the ladies in the hotel lobby, and from there to a meal where we discussed what we had both learned through that day.
It was at about ten when we took a table near the stage of a club in what may be politely described as a backwater of the city centre. It was not that we did not fit in with our attire, but more the atmosphere of the locality. Scollay Square had not yet achieved the total notoriety that led to its demolition some years later, but it already had a rather seedy reputation. As we crossed the square, we could see the Old Howard Theatre, which had already a reputation as a home for Burlesque. On other occasions, I am sure Sir Bartholomew at least would have enjoyed the entertainment provided there, but the sailors and young students who were milling round gave it a different feel from the establishments he would attend.
The nightclub itself, the KitKat Club, was entered through a side alley. You first had to negotiate a doorman, and then descend a set of red lit stairs into an open floor, with a variety of tables and chairs around. In itself, it was clean, and the service acceptable, but it was not an establishment I would have chosen for myself or Lady Rhymaes, let alone Sir Bartholomew.
As we took our seats, I coughed and said “May I enquire as to why I have been asked to come along Doctor?”
“Because Jayes,” Dr Huntingdown said as she ordered champagne, “we need a second gentleman to protect us in such a notorious night club as this…”
“Doctor…” I interrupted, “having seen you snap a man’s neck with your bare hands in the war, I would hardly think that you need our protection.”
Sir Bartholomew nodded as he said quietly “Quite so Jayes.”
“Be that as it may be,” Dr Huntingdon said with her sweet smile, “this is my home city, and certain proprieties need to be maintained.”
“I understand that Jane Lover, but just why are you so insistent we catch this singer?”
“Because Rose Kelly is both a torch-singer, and a canary…”
“Pardon my lack of knowledge of your American slang old thing, but to say she is both isn’t that a bit redundant?”
“No Barty, she sings on stage as a torch-singer, but off stage, and for a price she sings like a canary about what she knows is going on in the Irish underworld.”
“Oh now I get you.” Sir Bartholomew sipped his champagne.
“So we shall enjoy the performance, and then seek a private audience,” I said as I sipped the drink.
“Indeed – and here she comes now,” Jane said as the spotlight shone on the stage. The band started to play, as a very beautiful woman with a full head of red hair stepped out and began to sing a song by Irving Berlin.
She was a good singer as well, her voice deep and yet having the timbre required to carry these iconic tunes. As she looked to our table, she smiled and nodded at us, before moving off around the other tables.
When she finished her performance, and made her way backstage to the applause of the clientele, Dr Huntingdown put her glass down and said “shall we?”
The four of us rose and made our way to the backstage area – negotiating our way past two rather large gentlemen that looked as if they worked out art a local gymnasium. They recognised Dr Huntingdown, however, and after we exchanged pleasantries we found ourselves by a door with “Rose Kelly” written on a card pinned to the door.
“Let me take the lead,” Dr Huntingdown said as she went to knock on the door, and then held her hand up. “Jayes?”
I nodded as I placed my ear to the door, and heard a woman – I presumed Miss Kelly – saying something and then screaming “NO!”
There was then the unmistakable sound of a pistol firing twice, before there was something breaking. Dr Huntingdown trued the door handle, but found it locked. I therefore stood back, said “Please move aside Ladies, Sir Bartholomew,” and then kicked at the door handle, breaking it inwards as we went in.
Rose Kelly was lying on the floor, her lifeless eyes staring up as a dark red stain spread over her chest. There was a cold breeze, and as Mrs Rockland looked out of the open window she said “Someone jumped out here – I can see the tracks in the snow...”
Dr Huntingdown knelt down and put her finger to the singer’s neck. Shaking her head, she said “no good – she’s not going to sing for anyone anymore.”
“Shall I see if the assailant can be chased, Dr Huntingdown.”
“Nobody’s goin anywhere!”
We all turned to see a tall, prtly man standing in the doorway, his dark hair receding. He wore an ill fitting suit and dark shoes, but the gun in one hand and the badge in the officer announced him as a member of the Boston Police Department.
Mulligan, what a pleasant surprise," Dr Huntingdown
smiled at the policeman who stood in the open door.
"Oh God!" the
policeman moaned as he put his gun away, "if it aint
bad enuff that I have a dead shantoosey
on my hands, I arrive and find you leanin' over the
think it happens regularly?" Dr. Huntingdown
"Wid you it duz." the cop
came into look at the dead singers body. "Give me one good reason that I aint arresting you and your friends right now for
she said as she stood up, “I didn't do it, secondly if you did I’d sue you for
false arrest, thirdly I'd..."
"I said one good
reason Doc." The inspector stood up
and looked round before he said “so why are youse
"We heard the
shots from outside, broke down the door and found her just where you see her,
and the window open."
"So yer sayin' somebuddy
shot her here in her dressin' room, then took a
powder outta da
"That was my
He looked over at Mrs
Rockland, before saying "and don't think I don't remember youse also Mrs. Rockland, or your connexshuns
with certain people."
"Isn't it nice to be so warmly thought of," Mrs Rockland said as she looked at us. “A pleasure to see you as well Inspector – I trust the ulcer is not giving you too much trouble?”
"And who are dese two birds?" the Inspector enquired as he looked at us.
"Oh,” Dr Huntingdown said with a smile, “just two former wartime colleagues."
"How did I knows you werse gonna say that Doctor?"
“Barty, Jayes, this is Inspector Mulligan of Boston Police Daprtment. Inspector Mulligan, Sir Bartholomew Rhymaes and his manservant, Jayes.”
“Pleasure, old pip,” Sir Bartholomew said as he held his hand out, only to retract it at one look at the Inspector’s grim visage.
"Inspector if you
might be so good as to ring Major Kelly at the FBI, I believe he can vouchsafe
for us." I spoke.
"Oh this gets even better," he groaned, "you want me to drag in the head spy chaser wid der feds. Why can't I ever get a nice simple mob moider any time?"
“Well, you could leave that until later,” Dr Huntingdown said as she looked at us. “Unless you are actually going to do the bonehead stupidity of arresting us for something we did not do, we will leave you to get to work. You can find us at my apartment.”
“Youse got my usual in stock?”
“I always have some Bushmill’s in, in case you wish to come and chat Inspector. Until then,” Dr Huntingdown said as she led us out.
“Jane, what did you not show him?”
“Two things,” Jane said as we walked out, “I’ll show you back at the apartment.”
“All right,” Mrs Rockland said as we sat in the apartment, “what did you get?”
“Well, I picked this up,” Dr Huntingdown said as she held up a lipstick, looking at it and saying “Blazing Sunset – coincidence?”
“Unlikely – any idea what she was shot with?”
“Oh yes – I found the casing,” she said as she tossed it over to Sir Bartholomew. Looking at it, he said “It’s from a Luger P08, I think.”
“That’s my guess too – I think we’re rattling some cages folks, and they want us stopped.”
“To quote a certain rabbit, Jane,” Mrs Rockhold said, “they don’t know us too well, do they?”
“Apparently not – so what’s our next move?”
“If you will permit me, ladies,” I said quietly, “I suggest we gather tomorrow to meet with Major Kelly. It is time a theory I have was tested...”
As is often the case, however, it was necessary to postpone the test – when I contacted Major Kelly the next morning, he told me the person I had asked him to bring in secret needed time to recover from the journey.
After breakfast, therefore, Sir Bartholomew and I returned to Dr Huntingdown’s apartment, to find Mrs Rockland alone.
“Jane had to go and pay a social call,” she said as we removed our coats, Sir Bartholomew sitting down while I hung them on the stand.
“Oh – anyone we may have heard of?”
“I doubt it Barty – he moves in very different circles from those you occupy in either world.”
We all looked to the door as Dr Huntingdown came into the apartment.
"Well I made a
deal with Dandy Jack," the doctor said, removing her fur coat as she came
in, "but you aren't going to like it."
I offered what we were all drinking as I stood.
Sir Bartholomew looked at her as he said "Who I might ask is Dandy
"He's Mr. Jack
Donnelly, and in effect he's the boss of South Boston Barty?"
criminally, or politically, Jane old thing?"
"Might I venture
to say,” I said as I offered her a glass, “he sounds rather an unsavory character?"
"You might very
well say that Jayes," the doctor said as she took
her drink and sat down.
"So what am I not
going to like Jane?"
Sighing, Jane took a
swallow and said "remember that small favour he asked last time we needed
his help Annabel?"
"Oh I certainly
do," Mrs. Rockland giggled.
"Oh no,” our other
friends said as she leaned her head back, “don't tell me he wants us to do
the doctor shook her head.
Looking at her watch,
she said "oh, in about three hours."
"And I have
nothing really suitable to wear Jane..."
"Look girls, can I
please ask what you are bally going on about?" Sir Bartholomew
interrupted, "and Annabel you have so many clothes, you must have outfits
"Not for robbing a
bank I don't Barty." Mrs. Rockland laughed.
"Well I have a man’s
suit that might do for me, and no do not ask where it came from Annabel?"
"That doesn't help
me though Jane?'
"Might I suggest
one of Sir Bartholomew's suits might be about the right size Mrs.
"Oh you could be
on to something Jayes."
"I have in mind one that we had made and that is rather small on
"Hold on Jayes,” Sir Bartholomew said, “you cannot give away my
suits just as you like."
"If through this action, we are going to gain admittance to the secret of where the jewellery is to be sold, it sounds like we may have to Sir."
“Oh dash it all – very well then, but I cannot help on this. I cannot do an American accent to save my life.”
“That will be unnecessary, Sir. Mrs Rockland, if you will accompany me back to the hotel, we can do the necessary preparations there.”
“Where and when?”
“2 pm, Stuart Street.”
“We will see you there Dr Huntingdown,” I said as I accompanied Mrs Rockland to the entrance, and then hailed a cab.
And so it was, at ten minutes to two, I alighted from a can near the branch of the Boston Municipal Bank on Stuart Street with Mrs Rockland. Only you would never have recognised her as such – she was wearing a men’s double breasted suit, complete with a shirt and dark tie I also borrowed from Sir Bartholomew, her blonde hair up and under a fetching trilby so that it looked as if she had short blonde hair. I was similarly attired, having agreed I should come to lend a hand and keep a fatherly eye on proceedings.
“Over there,” she said as she looked towards two black sedans, and adjusted the black leather gloves she was wearing. I followed her, looking around carefully as climbed into the back of one of them.
“And who, pray tell, is this Dr Huntingdown.”
“Dandy Jack,” Dr Huntingdown said as she looked out from under her grey trilby, “meet Roddy the Axe. He happened to be visiting my friend when I passed on the message, and offered his services as well.”
“And can I trust him,” the local leader said as he looked at me.
“I would sure hope so,” I said in an Irish accent, “Big Jimmy O’Shea is a close personal friend.”
Dandy Jack smiled as he looked at me. “Well, if O’Shea says you’re good, you’re good.” He then tossed a pump action shotgun at me, as he said “let’s do this.”
The two sedans started to move slowly down the street, as both Dr Huntingdown and Mrs Rockland took grey silk bandanas and secured them around their herads, covering the lower half of their faces as they did so. I had brought a large black men’s handkerchief for the same purpose, which I now used to cover my own mouth and nose.
We stopped outside the entrance to the bank, as my two female friends looked at each other and nodded. We stepped out quickly, three similarly armed and masked men joining us from the other car, as we burst through the doors of the bank.
“All right ladies and gentlemen,” Mrs Rockland said in a deep masculine voice as she fired a shot into the air, “kindly lay face down on the floor and do not move. This is a robbery.”
The bank was full of men and women, obviously conducting some business before the holidays began, but this was business, as Dr Huntingdown walked over and aimed her gun at the tellers. “Now, you fine ladies and gentlemen just take a walk out of there,” she said in a Southern accent, “and join these fine customers. You two – go and invite the manager to join us out here.”
Two of the other men went behind the counter, forcing the staff out while I and the third man kept guard over the customers and others. It was a strange experience, watching them at work as the manager was forced out, and Mrs Rocklad walked pu to him.
“Unless you want to die now,” she said as she pressed her gun into hsi rather large stomach, “open the vault and let my friends here make a large withdrawal.”
“I’ve got the tills,” Dr Huntingdown said as she walked quickly over and started to empty the contents of the cash drawers into a sack.
“Hey – did we say youse could move,” the other man said as he poked his gun into the back of one of the security guards. I walked over and gave him a moat regrettable kick in the ribs, before saying “Just stay still, or I will kill you.”
“Just stay calm folks,” Mrs Rockland said, “and we will be out of your hair in a few moments, giving you something to tell your family about...”
The sound of the gun blast made all of us look to the vault entrance, as one of the men came out and said “he tried to sound the alarm.”
“Well then, he paid the price,” Dr Huntingdown said, but i could see the regret in her eyes. “the vault?”
“Got everything here,” the other man said as he carried two bags out.
“Got the money as well,” Dr Huntingdown said as she came out.
“All right then,” Mrs Rockland said as she looked round, “everyone count slowly to one hundred, and stay where you are until then.”
She covered our egress as we made our way back to the cars, jumping in after myself and Dr Huntingdown while Dandy Jack closed the door.
“We got it,” Mrs Rockland said as she handed over a safety deposit box to him.
“Good – you’ll get your fair share fo the takings eventually – even you Roddy.”
“Thanking you,” I said as Dr Huntingdown pulled her scarf down. “We held up our side of the bargain, your turn,” she said as she looked at him.
“This guy you’re looking for has some high powered friends – one of whom is putting him up at the moment. If you’re that keen to find him, I hope you know what you’re doing...”
“Who is it...”
Dandy Jack handed a piece of paper to Dr Huntingdown, who read it and whispered “you’re not joking. Our thanks Dandy Jack – we’ll take it from here.”
“Hey – he a Nazi you think?”
We all nodded as he said “not surprising, giving HE’s helping him. Kick his goosestepping ass for me, will ya?”
“With extreme pleasure,” Mrs Rockland said as we drove off.
“There you are,” Sir Bartholomew said as we walked into the flat, “I was worried something may have happened.”
“No worries, Barty old boy,” Dr Huntingdown said as she removed her hat, letting her hair fall down, “apart from the poor bank manager not surviving, it went like clockwork.”
“Good lord, one of you didn’t...”
“No – it was one of Dandy Jack’s men,” Mrs Rockland said. “Which is why we don’t like doing this for him. They’re a little trigger happy.”
"Well I have to
say that was an unusual experience Doctor. Rather outside my bounds of previous
"Even we, though,
have to be adaptable Jayes."
"I am happier
though being back in my own milieu so to speak."
"Here drink this old man." Sir Bartholomew pressed an over-sized Whisky and Soda into my hand.
“My thanks Sir,” I said as I sipped the drink. “So the question is, Dr Huntingdown, where is Lazlo Victor?”
“He is currently a house guest,” she said as she removed her tie, “of one Joseph Crowinshield.”
“Crowinshield? You don’t mean the biggest appeaser this side of old Joe Kennedy?”
“The very same, Annabel,” Dr Huntingdown said as she sat back, taking a drink from Sir Bartholomew, “which means not only is he well protected, it explains how he was able to disappear so easily.”
“If I may enquire, ladies?”
“Oh sorry, Jayes – you need a crash course in Boston society. Just like you have your more elite families in England, so do we in Boston – the Boston Brahmin.”
“A most intriguing name, Dr Huntingdown.”
“They like their little jokes,” she said with a smile. “Essentially, they are the first families of the original settlers on the Mayflower, and can trace their family roots back to there. Sam Adams, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge – All Boston Brahmin. Half the major politicians of the last century and a half were – and Harvard and Yale conceivably would not have existed without them. Like any elite, they keep themselves to themselves, and tend to only talk to each other. What’s that thing of Bossidy, Annabel?”
“The Boston Toast?
And this is good old Boston,
And the Cabots talk only to God.”
“Very amusing,” I said with a nod of the head. “So do you know any of this group of families currently?”
“Well, I know Daniel Cabot, he’s the deputy mayor of Boston,” Dr Huntingdown said, “he’s a good bloke, as is his cousin Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Then there’s Hettie.”
“Henrietta Constance Lodge,” Mrs Rockland said. “Before the war, we used to tace each other on the track. She has a teenage son now, called Tom. We meet up for drinks every so often.”
“And don’t forget Lev.”
“Oh dear lord, how could I forget our former governor? Leverett Saltonstall, Governor of the fair state of Massachusetts during the war, and one of the few people who know the role Jane and I really played. He’s a Seantor now.”
“But they are possibly the exceptions,” Dr Huntingdown said, “the other families do not mingle, and Black Joe Crowinshield is one of the worst. He openly opposed any form of involvement in the war.”
“And that’s the worst of a fairly bad bunch,” Mrs Rockland said as she refilled her glass. “Including Daniel’s current boss, The Right Honorable James Michael Curley. A real Irish-Bostonian, but Father would never be seen in the same room as him. Uncle Jack was more his cup of tea.”
“I’ll see you Mayor Curley,” Dr Huntingdown said, “and raise you with Father Coughlin.”
“Now you’ve put me off my drink,” Mrs Rockland said. “Charles Coughlin, parish priest and our answer to Lord Haw Haw. I really do not want to think about him, bu it know Crowinshield was one of his financial backers.”
“I see,” I said as I sipped my drink, “and as for you and Mrs Rockland.”
“Oh no,” Mrs Rockland replied, “as New York Irish, we are amongst the lowest of the low, despite our wealth.”
“And as for the Huntingdown family, we were definitely of yeoman stock rather the refined airs they occupy.”
“Well, if you will allow me to comment ladies, you are the better for it,” I said a sI drained my glass. “So, how do we get to view Chez Crowinshield?”
“From a distance - let us get changed and we’ll take a drive out.”
It was already getting dark by the time we made our way out to an area Dr Huntingdown called Lake Forest, and looked from a distance across a well maincured grass pampas behind a metal fence.
“Note the armed guards on patrol, and the dogs,” Mrs Rockland said as we looked on.
“So noted,” I said quietly. “Is it possible to obtain a plan of the house?”
“I’ll call some friends at City Hall, see what I can do,” Dr Huntingdown said quietly, “right now, let’s go and get some dinner – there’s a steakhouse a mile down the road.”
The establishment itself looked pleasant enough, and as we went we soon had a corner booth to ourselves. As I looked round, however, I saw something that made me slightly nervous.
“Jayes old boy – something wrong?”
“Someone i would rather did not see me,” I said as I turned round. “The blonde haired woman at the table three along, two up.”
Dr Huntingdown looked discretely over and said “got her. What about her?”
“That,” I said quietly, “is Britta.”
“Mike Kelly’s angel?” Mrs Rockland looked over, and then said “so why don’t you want her to see you?”
“Because,” I whispered quietly, “I believe she may be the informant, but I cannot prove it. If she sees me with you, we may all be placed in danger.”
“Then don’t look round, old boy,” Sir Bartholomew said, “she’s heading for the exit now. She’s not looking our way at any rate – too busy talking to the other gentleman.”
“What does he look like,” I asked quietly.
“Tall, thin, dark hair – definite military bearing,” Dr Huntingdown whispered, “all right, they have gone now.”
“Jayes, explain all please?”
“I regret to say I cannot, Sir – but I will know if I am right or wrong in the morning. For now, I feel sustenance is called for – to coin your phrase, Mrs Rockland, what looks good?”
We spent the next day looking over plans for the current domicile of residence for Lazlo Victor, but when Mrs Rockland had to attend a meeting, we left Dr Huntingdown in the apartment and returned to the hotel.
“Care for a drink before we retire for the night,” he said as he looked at me, and as I nodded my acquiescence to that we made our way into the bar area. We entered to find it was a dance evening, with groups of men and women sat at tables round the floor as a jazz band played some pleasing tunes.
Sir Bartholomew was all for taking a table, and I was sore tempted, but the site of one particular group of four made me suddenly drag him to a table conveniently hidden behind a pillar.
“Come on Jayes – they’re not that bad!”
“Indeed Sir,” I said as I glanced round the pillar, “I have no objections to the music, merely to some of the company present. If you would direct your attention to the third table along on the other side?”
Sir Bartholomew looked over to see Britta sat at a table, wearing a red velvet gown with a deep chest opening, her blonde hair hanging loose. She was sittiing with three obviously well off gentlemen, and were talking in low whispers as they looked round.
“Now what is a secretary from the FBI doing dressed like that doing in a place like this?” Sir Bartholomew asked the obvious question as he looked at me.
“To that I cannot venture an answer sir,” I replied as I looked around the pillar that was serving as our hiding place, “but may I suggest the foxtrot?”
“JAYES! And people have the cheek to say that I am a bit unsound in the old rafters.”
“I’m sorry sir, I should apologise for my brief attempt at levity.” I snuck another peek, “but it would be nice to have Dr. Huntingdown with her universal knowledge of everyone here in Boston to identify her friends. The look of those gentlemen is somewhat worrying.”
“Dash typical of Jane not to be here while we need her.”
“Can I suggest Sir, that I go place a telephone call to the ladies, whilst you keep an eye so to speak on Miss Britta?”
“It might be an idea Jayes, after all she has seen your ugly face.”
“Quite Sir,” I withdrew towards the bank of public telephones in the hotel lobby, thinking about what little I had discerned from looking at them.
Fortunately, a booth was free, as I slipped in and dialled a number.
“Dr Huntingdown, this is Jayes.”
“Jayes? Did you leave a cosh here or something?”
“Nothing so trivial, I regret to say Doctor. Sir Bartholomew and I have seen Britta, Major Kelly’s secretary in the hotel night club, exquisitely dressed and with some rather unsavoury characters.”
There was silence for a moment, before she said “Why is she there?”
"If I was to
venture a guess, it would appear that the auction is in fact going down as you
say in this country right at this moment in the night club of our hotel."
"It would appear
he was not invited Doctor."
"Alright Jayes,” she said, “Mike Kelly is here, we will be with you
"Very good Doctor, we will await your arrival."
As I slipped back into the nightclub, Sir Bartholomew had ordered a bottle of champagne, and was keeping a wary eye on the table.
“There are six of them there now Jayes old boy,” he said as I glimpsed round, “and I took a walk to the men’s room. She is entertaining them to all intents and purposes.”
“I do not like this sir, I do not like this at all. We can only hope that Dr Huntingdown manages to arrive before anything happens.”
“I hope so as well,” Sir Bartholomew said as he sipped his drink.
We both turned suddenly to see Dr Huntingdown, Mrs Rockland and Major Kelly standing behind us, Major Kelly smiling as he said “Barty old boy – got a couple of spare glasses.”
“Of course I do, Mike – please, be seated, but with discretion. There is malice afoot.”
“Of what form?”
“Dr Huntingdown, there is a table with six or seven men and one women sitting at it a short way down the floor. Do you recognise any of the men?”
I watched as she took a quick look over, and then sat down.
“Two crime heads, at least one Family don, and other men of disrepute.”
“Then I was right – the auction is taking place in the open.”
“Auction? What’s going on Jane?”
“Dats wad I wanna know.”
I looked over to see the dishevelled form of Inspector Mulligan standing by the table.
“Well if it isn’t a representative of Boston’s finest?” Major Kelly grimaced at the sight of the Inspector.
“You keep to chasing youse spies and commies Kelly,” Mulligan said “I gotta moiderer to catch.”
“These are Nazi’s…”
“Nazi’s, Commies, whadda hells the difference?”
“One day I’ll sit you both down and explain.” Jane looked around our friendly pillar. “I’m sorry the Inspector is here Mike, I must be slipping that I didn’t notice he had a tail on us.”
“It may turn out to be useful, Dr Huntingdown,” I said quietly, “If all of you would care to glance casually at the dance floor, and in particular at the couple by the table of interest.
“Dat’s Molloy, from the North side,” Mulligan said, “who’s dat broad?”
“Say that’s Britta, my secretary Britta.” The Major’s jaw dropped.
“I’m rather afraid it is, Major Kelly. As Dr Huntingdown may have told you, I had my suspicions about her, hence my request to bring my old friend to Boston. Events, however, have overtaken us. Major Kelly, Britta is actually a former SS officer I encountered once before.”
I could see Major Kelly was vexed as he whispered “the lying, deceitful, stinking nazi bitch...”
“Michael Kelly remember there are ladies present,” Mrs. Rockland chuckled.
“So what’s going on Jayes?”
Looking at the others, I said “I will tell you all later Mike. For now, we need to find a way to spirit your secretary out of here without raising the alarm.”
“Which is where we come in,” Mrs Rockland said as she looked at Dr Huntingdown.
“She certainly seems to be getting friendly with the other men,” Major Kelly said as he glanced round. “That’s the third dance partner in ten minutes, and she’s been getting very personal with each of them.”
Doctor Huntingdown shook her head and smiled. "To use a Hollywood gangster term
gentlemen, I think the lady is here as the 'muscle'. She's here to guarantee
the safety of the salesman."
how dja cum to that conclusion?"
Rockland said, “haven't you noticed that while she dances with each man she is
also subtly patting them down for weapons."
"Oh is that what
she is doing Annabel old thing...I just thought she was just being overly
despair of you." Mrs. Rockland shook her head.
"When the salesman
arrives we will make sure that we separate her from the buyers and safely keep
her out of the way." Doctor Huntingdown nodded.
"Inspector if you'll accompany us, we will present you with your
"We on the other
hand will deal with the buyers and the person they have come to see." Mike
Kelly nodded as a couple of his FBI men came in.
and I will take possession of the goods so to speak." I spoke.
"That sounds like a plan to me gents."
“And, unless I miss my guess, I believe this may be the gentleman of interest now,” I said as two men in evening dress came in.
“Damn right it is – the taller guy is Joseph Crowinshield,” Dr Huntingdown said as we looked at the first man, his dark hair greying at the temples. The other man was smaller, with short fair hair, but he held himself with a military bearing.
“Good evening Mister Lazlo,” Major Kelly said as they joined the party at the table. Mrs. Rockland looked up as Britta headed towards the powder room.
"Well, I suppose this is as good a time as any to at least look over our quarry Jane... Accompany me to the powder room please."
“Good luck ladies,” I whispered as they went past.
“Jayes,” Mrs Rockland said, “when have we ever needed luck?”
“London, some years ago?”
“Point – we’ll be careful,” Doctor Huntingdown said as she kissed my cheek. “Coming, Inspector?”
"Jane have you got
these?" the doctor smiled as she produced a couple of old fashioned
cutthroat razors from her handbag.
"And what are dose
"Don't ask Flatfoot, just be content they both know how to use those things." Major Kelly smiled grimly, his memory as mine drifting back to a certain night in late 1944 in Vienna, when we had seen the ladies use the razors like the best of any street gang.
“Do you recognize him,” Major Kelly said as the women walked away.
“I am not sure, Mike,” I said quietly, “but, given my thinking on your assistant, I wonder if he is also former SS.”
“It’s likely,” Mike said quietly, “there have been rumours for some time that a number of high ranking German officials were able to escape the invading forces, and are seeking to reform in some way. There’s even a word that has been mentioned in a number of lines of information – Odessa.”
“So is this a way of this group raising finance,” Sir Bartholomew said.
“Could be – let’s see what happens next...”
What we did not expect, however, was what actually did happen next, in the supposed calm of the ladies rest room...
The tall blonde came out and walked to the washbasin, looking to her left at the blonde haired woman who was standing looking at her lipstick.
“Damn – it’s run out. I don’t suppose you have a one I can use?”
“I may have,” she said as she looked in her handbag, “is Blazing Sunset all right as a shade?”
“Perfect,” the woman said as she looked at it, “thank you. I’m Jane.”
“Britta – keep it,” she said as she closed her purse, and turned round – only to stop as she saw a third blonde haired woman, who smiled as she closed the external door to the washroom.
“Excuse me,” Britta said as she started to walk to the door, only to stop as the third woman locked the door. “Sorry,” she said as she smiled sweetly, “but my friend and I wished to have a little chat with you in private.”
“Oh – about what?”
“We’ve heard,” Jane said as she opened her purse, “that you are acting as a representative in the sale of some very nice jewellery. If that is the case, my friend and I are interested.”
“Well, I am afraid I have to disappoint you ladies,” Britta said with a smile, “but you have been misinformed.”
“Oh i don’t think so – you have most of the major crime bosses of the Boston area sitting at the table with you,” Annabel said, “and we are asking very nicely.”
“As I said,” Britta repeated with an edge to her voice, “you have been misinformed. Now, if you will excuse me?”
“Nein, ich glaube nicht, dass ich werde dich zu entschuldigen, ich glaube, Sie werden uns Kapitän zu hören. Ich denke, Sie werden sehr aufmerksam zuhören.”
Britta stiffened as she heard Jane speak, then slowly turned and said “So dass Sie für die Ehre des Führers diente als gut?”
“Oh nein Kapitän - wir sicher, dass die Ihrer Kräfte , die verletzt Unschuldige bezahlt den vollen und angemessenen Preis.”
“Und wir wissen, die Juwelen Sie sind Eigentum des Hauses Furstenheim - wollen wir sicherstellen, dass sie zurückgegeben werden.”
Britta smiled and said “Well played ladies – but you will not leave this room alive.” She reached into her bag – and then stepped back as she saw Jane open up her razor.
“To use a phrase I heard in a movie once,” Jane said as she walked forward, “quite frankly, I wouldn’t waste a bullet on you.”
“I’d listen to her,” Annabel said as she grabbed Britta, putting her arm round her throat and pressing a second razor to her throat, “she’s very skilled with that.”
“She is not the only skilled one,” Britta said as with one fluid movement, she grabbed Annabel’s arm and threw her over her shoulder, Jane jumping out of the way as she landed at her feet. Before Annabel could react, Britta had the blade in her hand, and was looking at Jane.
“Let me guess – OSS?”
“Think what you want, Britta – if that is your name – I assure you, this is a fight you will not win.”
“We shall see,” Britta said as she lunged forward, Jane stepping out of the way of the lunge as her blade sliced through the underside of her left sleeve.
“Nasty little burn,” Jane said as the sleeve flapped back, “right where the blood identification number would be tattooed. Let me guess, did it yourself?”
“Little bitch,” Britta hissed as she swung the blade again – and then shouted out as Annabel got her in an armlock, her arms under the blonde’s shoulders and her hands locked at the back of her head.
“Go on,” Jane said as she stepped forward, and pressed the blade to Britta’s throat, “give me a reason.”
Britta merely spat in Jane’s face, the doctor smiling as she wiped her face and glasses with a cloth, and then stuffed it into Britta’s mouth. Taking the razor, she then slashed two hand towels into strips, and looked at Annabel.
“Get her on the floor,” she said quietly, “and then get Mulligan in here quietly. We need to sneak her out.”
And so it was that Inspector Mulligan left our little party, Britta struggling between two of the finest the BPD had to offer, while the ladies rejoined us.
“Have fun,” Major Kelly said as he looked at them.
“Oh yes – a little workout, and Inspector Mulligan should find the gun in Britta’s purse was the murder weapon. And now, the main act.”
“Oh yes,” Major Kelly said, “shall we gentlemen?”
The other two agents nodded as the three of them approached the table, Sir Bartholomew and I following a few steps behind. The men looked over as Mike said “Good evening Gentlemen – I believe I may find a gentleman known as Lazlo Victor here?”
Mike smiled at the tall, broad shouldered gentleman who was asking, and said “And you would be?”
“Someone you should not be on the wrong side of, Mister...”
“Kelly – Special Agent Kelly, FBI, and these are my men,” Mike said, “so, I will ask again – which of you gentlemen is Lazlo Victor?”
The man next to Mister Crowinshield tried to stand up, but Mike walked over and put his hand on his shoulder. “Thank you, Mister Victor – or should I call you by your rank. What were you – Oberfuhrer? Gruppenfuhrer?”
“My name is Lazlo Victor,” he said quietly, “and I am here as a guest of Mister Crowinshield.”
“Well, that’s just dandy,” Mike said, “so both of you gentlemen will not mind if you and your friends come down to the office and answer a few questions. Just for the record, your female companion has just been arrested on the charge of murder, so she will not be joining you.”
“Was hast du mit Greta getan? Wo hast du sie getroffen?”
“Keine Sorge, Sir - Ich persönlich werde sie informieren, was passiert , wenn ich morgen sehen, wie sie.”
Lazlo Victor turned and stared at me, before Sir Bartholomew said “One moment, Agent Kelly – if I may?”
He looked at Lazlo and then said “Dr Huntingdown, may I borrow your knife please?”
“Of course, Captain Rhymaes,” she said as she handed over the razor, Sir Bartholomew smiling as he slit down the inside of Victor’s jacket, and extracted a velvet bag.
“How did you?”
“Professional eye, you Nazi fink,” he said with a smile as he handed the case over to Mike. “Have a nice evening, old fruit.”
We watched as Mike and his men led the prisoners away, before Mrs Rockland said “Well, I think we all deserve a drink.”
“Perhaps a small one, Madame” I said quietly. “I have a task to perform tomorrow.”
The next morning found Major Kelly and I at the precinct office, Inspector Mulligan grinning as he shook our hands. We had brought a special friend with us to help establish a few facts that remained unclear.
“She aint singing,” he said as we walked through, “but the boys in the lab confirm the gun she had was da one that shot Rose Kelly.”
“So she is either the assassin, or knew who was?”
“Indeed – so how do youse wanna play it?”
“Do me a favour Mulligan,” Mike said as he looked at the door, “give us half an hour on our own with her – no one else. Trust me – she will still be there.”
“Okays – you earned dat much,” Mulligan said as he looked in the room, then came out with a uniformed officer.
“Wait here, and do not be afraid,” I said to the third member of our party. “I will come and fetch you, and she cannot hurt you.”
I then followed Mike into the room, to see Britta sat at a desk, Her wrists and ankles secured with cuffs and chains linking them.”
“Mike,” she said as she saw us come in, “There’s been a terrible mistake. You have to tell these officers who I am – I was attacked by two women last night, and suddenly I’m been accused of Murder!”
“Well, Britta,” Mike said as he sat down, and I stood in the corner, “I would love to be able to help you out of this situation, but I have a small problem?”
She looked between the two of us, and said “what’s the problem?”
Leaning over, Mike whispered “Who are you really?”
“Mike? I’m Britta Skoorsgard – we’ve known each other for two years, I’ve worked alongside you...”
“No you’re not,” Mike said in a quiet, dangerous voice, “I was at the hotel last night. I saw all, I heard all. Lazlo Victor and the other men with you are currently at the FBI offices, answering some questions, and some colleagues from Washington are coming to collect those they wish to talk to.”
“Mike, this is crazy, I’m Britta...”
“NO YOU’RE NOT!!!”
Mike slammed his hand down on the desk and glared at her.
“May I intercede, Major Kelly?”
“By all means, Jayes,” he said as he swapped places with me.
“So,” Britta said, “do you accuse me as well?”
“Oh not as such, Miss,” I said quietly, “but you see, the other day was not the first time we have met. It took me a while to remember where I had seen you before, but I remembered in the end.
“I have someone I’d like to meet you – would you mind if she stepped in for a moment?”
Britta looked between both of us as I opened the door, and said “come in for a moment please.”
A woman, dressed in simple clothes, came in and looked at me and Mike, before she stared at Britta and said “You.”
“Du Bastard! Sie folterten mich , tötete mein geliebter Ehemann, vernarbt mich für das Leben - und ließ mich ein Krüppel!”
She spat at Britta, as I said quietly “Can you confirm, madam, that this is Hauptsturmfuhrer Greta Wessel of the Waffen SS?”
“Yes,” the woman said, “and may she rot in hell while my husband watches from Heaven.”
“Thank you,” I said as I walked her out, and said “Allow me to visit you before I return to England.”
“I would be honoured to host my saviour,” she said as she held my hands, “Bless you sir.”
“Make sure she gets safely back to her hotel,” I said as an officer escorted her away, and Mike came out.
“Well,” Inspector Mulligan said.”
“Sorry Inspector,” Mike said as he handed him a letter, “I have orders ot take her back to the office to transport to Washington.”
“Will she fry?”
“She may be sent to Nuremberg.”
Nodding, Mulligan said “Good – send me an invite.”
As we walked out, Mike
shook his head. "How could anyone
use the tragedy of what happened to those amazingly brave young people in
Norway, to cover their tracks and re-invent themselves
"I would think
that Britta is far from being the only Nazi to have done so Mike." I shook
my head. "With the amount of treasure that they looted, and which I'm sure
they know how to access, all these rats can probably hope to find a comfortable
hole to live on in..."
"Unless we can
catch and unmask them Jayes."
but with our attentions here in the west switching to the activities of our erstwhile
Soviet allies, a background as a Nazi might in some quarters be seen soon as a
virtue, not a curse."
"Well like you Jayes I saw far too much of the horror those bastards
committed to ever forgive and forget."
"I believe we all did." Nodding, i said “Dr Huntingdown would like to invite you to join us tonight. We are holding a small Christmas Eve reunion.”
“I’ll be there – see you later,” Mike said as we went in separate directions.
“I must say, it does feel good to have done some good,” Sir Bartholomew said as he sat with his drink. The four of us had just finished an evening meal, and we were awaiting the arrival of our friend Mike Kelly.
“Did you look at the jewels, Jayes?”
“In passing Mrs Rockland – I can confirm all were there, especially the ring.”
The doorbell led to Dr Huntingdown heading to the door, and returning with Major Kelly.
“Well, that’s a day I don’t want to live again,” he said as he took his coat off.
"So how are the
interrogations going Mike old boy?"
"They aren't Barty," Mike despondently shook his head, "they were taken by car to Washington by some colleagues. According to the official report, those boys from Washington were forced to shoot and kill our suspects after they tried to escape."
"You mean all of them?"
"So I'm led to
believe Barty,” Mike said as he sat down, “though no
one will let me or any of my men see the corpses."
a trifle suspicious old boy."
"God I love
British understatement." Mike shook his head again as I pressed a large
Scotch on the rocks into his hand.
everything as far as our government is concerned?" Dr. Huntingdown
asked with a concerned look on her face.
"Yes Jane, and I received a rather unsubtle warning as to what
might happen to my career if I did pursue this."
what about the jewelry? Returning it to the rightful
that I've been authorised to do Annabel, as long as it's done discreetly and
none of this comes out."
Mike pulled a large packet from the inside of his jacket. "Take these back
to the von Furstenheim's and Malverino's
with our best wishes. Just be sure to tell them that you recovered them in a
“We’ll take care of it, Mike,” I said as I held the ring up, the Star twinkling in the light. “We have some friends who can take care of this sort of thing discretely.”
“Inspector Mulligan made sure your friend got home,” Mike said, “and he’s happy she’s dead.” Rubbing his head, he said “How many more are there out there?”
“Who knows,” Mrs Rockland said as the door opened, and Mr Rockland came in. “Hey,” he said as they kissed, “did i miss much?”
“Not really – Barty, Jayes, you will join us for Christmas lunch tomorrow?”
“I would be honoured,” I said with a smile.