The Return Home
“Teams have started to arrive in London for the first Olympic Games since 1936. From all over the world they have come – by boat and by train, seeking to show humanity can unite in the name of good sportsmanship.”
The Pathe newsreel showed pictures of groups of men and women arriving at ports and railway stations, dressed in the uniforms of their teams. Mary was sat, watching with her husband by her side, as the film carried on.
“Here we see the American team arriving at London airport after their trip from New York. They received a rapturous welcome at the dockside as they disembarked...”
Mary tried not to yawn as she watched the men and women disembarking from the plane, but as she started to close her eyes for a moment she saw something that made her sit up and stare at the screen. She watched the tall, thin blonde haired woman disembarking from the plane, staring even more intently as she did so.
Mary looked at her husband, who was staring back at her. “Is something wrong, love? You gripped my arm very tightly there for a minute.”
“NO, George – I just thought I saw a ghost,” Mary said as she sat back in her chair, listening to the sound of the opening strains to the music for Oliver Twist. It had to have been a coincidence – that was all...
“So, how does it feel to be back in the old country?”
Andrea turned from the dressing table and placed her hairbrush on the surface. “I’m not sure,” she said as she looked at the well built man sitting on the bed in his vest and trousers. “I never thought I would come back here, and yet here we are.”
“Yes, here we are,” he said as he stood up, walked over and put his arms around his wife. “Don’t worry, darling, nobody knows you are here, and nobody will know. You are perfectly safe with me.”
As she turned her face up and kissed Carl, Andrea hoped that he was right. After all, she had had to think long and hard about accompanying him to this event, and had taken every precaution she could. “All will be well,” she kept saying to herself, “All will be well...”
“Come on, Mary – how long does it take you to get ready to go shopping?”
“When we’re going to Harrods, it takes as long as it takes,” Mary said as she walked out of the room, fastening the wide leather belt around her pale blue jacket as she did so. The outfit was made from cotton, with the tailored jacket buttoned up the front and the skirt flowing out to just above her ankles, while her black leather shoes complemented the belt.
Looking in the hallway mirror to pin her pillbox hat in place, Mary turned to Alice who was standing there watching. She was also dressed for the occasion, in a grey knee length skirt and jumper, with a raincoat over the top. Both women had strings of pearls around their necks, and while Alice had a pair of lace mesh gloves on her hands Mary was pulling on a pair of close fitting black leather ones.
“So, a bit of shopping and then tea in the West End. Ready?”
“Ready,” Mary said as she opened the front door, locking it behind them before both women started to walk towards the bus stop. It was a warm early August day, and it appeared that a lot of people were taking the opportunity to head out and buy new outfits. Although clothes rationing was still in place, and food rationing seemed to have got worse instead of better, there was an air of optimism in the air – one that seemed to enthuse people to want to look their best.
It was a short omnibus ride to Knightsbridge, and within an hour the two ladies were looking through the clothes racks in the ladies’ fashion department of Harrods. As they walked round, looking at the prices and admiring the styles, there was a steady stream of other customers walking past. Mary particularly noticed the steady stream of foreign visitors.
“They must be here for the games,” Alice said as one group of particularly loud French women passed. Mary looked at them as they chatted amongst themselves before a frown crossed her face. “They may be right,” she said to herself before noticing a strange look on Alice’s face.
“I did not know you spoke French,” she said as she looked at her friend. “Oh,” Mary said as she blushed slightly, “I... I studied it at school. One of those things that never quite goes away. Come on – let’s go and see if there is anything in the...”
Her voice trailed off as she looked at a couple a few feet away. The man was tall, but well built, and his suit was immaculately cut. The woman with him was tall, with blonde hair that fell in curls around her head, and dressed in a white linen blouse and skirt with a large headscarf tied over her shoulders. They were chatting quietly amongst themselves, paying no attention to the others around them.
“Mary? Mary, are you all right?”
Alice looked at her friend who was staring straight ahead, her face pale and drawn as if she had been frightened by something. The couple picked up a few things and turned round, but if they saw Mary standing there they did not acknowledge it. She stared at them as they walked into another part of the sales floor, before she grabbed Alice and said “I’m sorry, Alice – I’ll telephone you later” before hurrying after them.
As she entered the hall, Mary could see the couple heading towards an exit. She hurried after them as fast as she could, keeping them in her sight as much as possible, before they stepped out onto the high street. As they stood there, the man held out his arm and stopped a black cab as it drove up to them. He held the door open, and as she stepped in the woman caught a glimpse of Mary standing there, her dark hair blowing in the slight breeze. Mary could have sworn she recognised her, but before she could call out the man jumped in and the car drove off.
“Is there something wrong, darling?” Carl said as he sat opposite his wife in the back of the vehicle.
“That woman,” Andrea said as she stared at her husband, “God help us, Carl, I think I know her. What am I going to do?”
“Did she recognise you?”
“I don’t know – but I recognised her, and if she even believes she has recognised me then she’ll keep digging and look for answers. Sooner or later she will find me, and then...”
“Don’t worry, darling,” Carl said as he leaned forward and took her hand, “Tell me her name.”
“Mary- Mary Donovan when I knew her, but she may have married since then. Carl sat back and looked at his wife. “Well, I’ll ask the charge d’affaire to do some digging. She used to work with you?”
Andrea nodded. “Very well then, forget about it for now. If she asks questions, we will know, and then – well, then we will decide what we need to do about it.”
A few days later, Mary was sat at home reading the newspaper when there was a knock on the door. Her husband was not due home from work for some hours, so she assumed it was just another door to door salesman when she stood up and walked to the door. She was dressed casually, in a white long sleeved top with pale blue horizontal stripes and a long cotton skirt, so when she saw the well dressed man standing in her doorway she simply said “I’m sorry, I’m not interested in buying anything today.”
“I’m not selling,” he said with a clipped accent as he handed Mary a card. She looked at the card, then at the man, before saying “I appreciate your offer, but I really have no need for brooms at this time.”
“As you wish, madam,” he replied, “but I wonder if you may be interested in our range of hand dusters.”
Mary nodded as she stood to one side, allowing the man to carry his small case in as she closed the door behind him. Watching him put the case down, she motioned to him to come into the living room, where she sat opposite him.
“We got your message,” he said as Mary looked at him. “So, you believe it is really her?”
“I don’t know – but if it was not, then she has a double out there. I thought she had – well, disappeared after the incident. I really believed she was dead. And now I see her alive and well in Harrods?”
“We cannot be sure it is her,” the man said as he took out a notebook, “but if it is then we would like to talk to her. There was a lot of unfinished business from when the OSE was disbanded, and we tend not to like loose ends.
“So, when did you first see her?”
Mary shuddered. “It sounds crazy, but it was in a newsreel – they showed some of the athletes from the US arriving, and there she was. I thought it was just my eyes playing tricks with me, but then when I saw her the other day, I knew I was not wrong.”
“And the last time you saw her?”
“Operation Storefront,” Mary said. “I don’t need to go over the details with you, do I?”
“Forgive me, Mrs Brown,” the man said as he took a pen out, “but the records are a little confusing. Please, tell me all that you can remember of the operation.”
“Well,” Mary said as she sat up, “Andrea and I had been parachuted into the South of France to work with the resistance, and after a few months we received orders from London by the usual method...”
Southern France, October 1942
“... and that is the news from London.” Andrea switched the radio off and looked at Mary as the tow of them lay on the straw.
“So, they intend to go ahead with it,” she said as they listened to the sound of the nightlife outside.
“So it seems,” Mary said as she sat up. “We will need to find a way into the chateau before we can carry out those orders.”
“I think I know a way,” Andrea said as she got onto her feet, “but it will require a little risk taking. Feel up to it?”
“Always,” Mary said as the two of them slipped out of the barn and into the dark outside, listening out for passing German vehicles as they returned to the farmhouse they were using as a base. Slipping into the house, they climbed the staircase into their attic den and checked their supplies, knowing they had a task to perform the following day.
As the sun dawned, both girls came down to the kitchen, where Henri sat while his wife prepared breakfast.
“Did you receive your instructions last night, then,” he said as his wife placed two mugs of coffee in front of the new arrivals.
“We did – we move out tonight. Henri, we cannot thank you enough for your help, but we must go today. If this goes well, we will have struck a blow for freedom, but if not we cannot place you in any danger.”
“We understand,” Henri said as he drained his own cup. “Wherever you go, ladies, may God go with you in your endeavours.” He stood up and embraced his wife, before heading into the fields. She watched him go, before turning and saying “You are the bravest women I know” and returning to her chores. The two women sat in silence before leaving their dishes and retiring to the attic, to plan and to prepare.
As dusk fell, they left the farmhouse and made their way into the village, posing as peasant girls taking their produce to the local store. Once inside the village, they abandoned their bicycles and made their way down the side streets, slipping into one particular back alley and quietly walking towards a door set into the high wall. Looking round, Mary stood guard as Andrea slipped a pair of thin wires into the lock, listening to the faint sounds until there was a loud click and the door swung inwards. They moved inside, closing the door behind them and listening to the sounds coming from the far end of a corridor that led off from the room they were in.
Looking at each other, they reached into the inside of the coats they were wearing and drew out service revolvers before walking quickly down the corridor. Throwing the door open, they looked at the two women sat in the room, who stared back at the intruders before slowly raising their hands as the pistols were pointed at them.
“Good afternoon, Ladies,” Mary said in a flawless local French accent, “Please, follow us to the bedroom – we need you to do as we ask and not raise the alarm.”
“This is for your own protection,” Mary said as she held the cloth in front of the brunette’s mouth. “I do not believe you,” was the terse reply as her captive stared back at her from her seat on the large bed. They had forced the two women to strip to their underwear, before using strips from a torn up bed sheet to bind their wrists together as they sat back to back. More strips had been used to tie their arms together above their elbows, and then their ankles, thighs and calves as they sat there. Now Mary was holding a rolled up headscarf in her hands, made from brown cotton, as she stood in front of the first woman.
“Tough,” she said as she watched Andrea pulling the woman’s hair. As she opened her mouth to scream, she pulled the cloth between her teeth and drew the ends behind her head. The woman grunted as she tried to close her mouth, but her teeth barely made an impression on the cloth as it was secured in place. “Now then,” Andrea said as she turned her attention to the younger blonde haired girl, who was quietly sobbing, “I need you to give me the password to the chateau for tonight. You will not be harmed, I promise you.”
“But they will kill us if they know we told you.”
“And I will kill you if you don’t” Mary said as she cocked the pistol and pointed it at the girl’s head. “The password, please.” The blonde looked at both women, before swallowing and starting to speak.
As the bathrobe cord was pulled into her mouth to hold the washcloth in placer, she watched Mary changing into one of her friend’s outfits, squeezing the hand bound to hers as she did so. The reassuring pressure that was returned gave her some comfort, as she watched the two armed women putting on the clothes that had been chosen for that evening – the low cut silk dresses fitting them almost as well as they had themselves. Wrapping some furs around their necks, the two women left their captives in the darkened room, saying as they want “Do not try to escape – the resistance are watching, and if they see any signs of you calling for help it will be the last thing you do.”
As the evening grew darker, the car drew up outside the front door of the house, the uniformed Lieutenant jumping out and opening the door as Andrea and Mary walked out. “Good evening, Ladies,” he said as he snapped to attention, holding the door open for them as they stepped inside, “The Oberstleutnant is expecting you.” He closed the door and climbed in the front, barking an order to the driver as he set off.
A short time later saw the car arriving in the courtyard of a small chateau outside the village. As the door was held open, the two women stepped out and entered the brightly lit hallway. The officer sat at the desk stood up as they approached. “He is expecting you, ladies,” he said as he escorted them down the hallway, up a marble staircase and into a large bedroom. “Please, wait here,” he said as he closed the door on them.
“Now what,” Mary said as she looked in the small clutch bag she was holding. “Now we do our job,” Andrea said as she looked round. “You know where the munitions room is? I will deal with our little lieutenant colonel when he gets here – you deal with the destructive side.”
The dark haired girl nodded at her as the door opened and a tall, well built German officer walked into the room. “Good evening, Ladies,” he said a she held the door to allow a trolley to be brought in with food and drink laid out on it. “Thank you for joining me here this evening – I trust you are hungry? I thought a little refreshment would be in order before we started the...” He looked at the two women closely as the door was shut behind them. “I do not believe I have ever had the pleasure...”
“I assure you,” Andrea said as she drew the pistol from her bag and pointed it at the officer, “the pleasure will be all ours. Go.” Mary nodded as she slipped out of the room, leaving her friend to deal with the officer.
“I take it,” he said as he watched the door close, “that you are not a local resident – although your accent is good. Not flawless, but good.”
“Shut up,” Andrea said as she walked forward, “and get down on your knees. I want to see if you are man enough to face me when I shoot you.” The officer looked Andrea in the eye as he knelt facing her, before saying “I think you need to hear me out, Fraulein – there is something you need to know.”
Mary slipped into the munitions room and looked round. A heavy metal grid was over the supplies, but there was a gap between the rails large enough for her purposes. Reaching under her dress, she pulled out a lump of gelignite, gingerly removing the wrapping that had protected her skin. Taking from her bag a small timer, she attached it to the lump and tossed it into the stack of ammo, before making her way out of the room and back up the staircase to the main hall.
As she opened the door, she saw with a sense of shock Andrea been escorted from the building by the officer. Although her wrap was around her, from her viewpoint Mary could see the way her arms were pinned behind her back, and the officer holding a gun against her. Mary wanted to intervene, but the mission was primary – they had all been told that. She watched as they left from the front door, before slipping out and heading for the kitchen.
A guard stood at the rear door, blocking her way and saying “Password?”
“Ecstasy,” Mary said quietly, noting the leer on the guards face as he stood to one side and opened the door. Quickly, quietly, Mary slipped out of the chateau and made her way to a hill some distance away, stopping to watch as the crimson and yellow flames billowed from the building, a large bang following soon afterwards.
“Forgive me, Andrea,” she said quietly as she slipped into the countryside, the alarm bells ringing in the distance as she made her way to where the local resistance would rendezvous with her.
“Obviously, I knew she had been captured, and when she never returned I had resigned myself to the fact that she had died. If that is her, however...”
The young man closed his notepad and placed it back in his jacket pocket. “I do not think it is her, but I will make enquiries with the US embassy and see if they know anything. In the meantime, if you see her again, do not approach her, Mrs Brown. Contact us instead – your heroics have no place in this.”
Mary nodded as she stood up and escorted him out. “Thank you for calling anyway,” she said as she held the door for him, “but I do not think I will purchase anything today.”
“As you wish, madam,” he said as he put his hand to his hat and walked out, the neighbours watching as he closed the gate and walked down the street. Mary closed the door and returned to the newspaper she was reading, flipping through the pages until she stopped with a start and stared at the photograph in front of her.
“Colonel Carl Hennessey of the US Equestrian team prepares his mount for the opening day of the Olympic competition.”
Looking at the picture, Mary realised two things. One was that this was the man she had seen accompanying the woman she thought was Andrea at the store. The second was that she had seen him somewhere else – six years earlier in France...
As the coach turned off the A33 and made its way down the narrow country lanes towards Church Crookham, Mary sat and looked out of the window. She knew she should have contacted the office again, but if she had done so they would have told her to stay away – and she had to be sure. One way or another, she could not rest until she knew what had happened that night – and avenged her friend.
Eventually, the coach pulled into a large field, which had been turned into a car park for the duration, and the driver said “Tweseldown Racecourse - have your tickets ready when you disembark please.” Mary joined the queue leaving the coach, tightening the large silk head square that she had tied over her shoulders as she left and felt the cool air outside. The square hung over the shoulders of a dark brown tweed tailored jacket and skirt, while she had a pair of sensible walking shoes on for the day. The rows of buttons on the front of her jacket helped hold the shape, while leather gloves were on her hands. She passed through the entrance, handing her ticket over, and found herself at the Equestrian venue for the Olympic Games.
She walked round the open areas, looking at some of the displays and stalls that had been set up, before making her way to the dressage circle to watch the competition. To her, this form of horse riding had always been a closed book, but she could appreciate the precision and skill involved in leading a horse through the paces and turns.
From the other side of the paddock, Andrea was looking towards the paddock, waiting for Carl to be called out and take part, when she caught a glimpse of Mary in the crowd. Stepping back slightly, she signalled to a well dressed young man nearby and borrowed a pair of binoculars from him, looking at the people around the field and stopping to look in one particular spot for a few moments. She turned to the young man and talked to him for a few moments, before handing him back the glasses and allowing him to look amongst the sea of caps and scarves. He looked at the same place for a few minutes, then nodded and turned away as the announcer said “Next to the arena, Colonel Carl Hennessey of the United States of America.”
Mary watched as the tall, well built man rode into the arena. He was dressed in full formal military dress, but even with his greying hair and different outfit Mary recognised him instantly as he passed by. His manner, his way of carrying himself – all of a sudden she was in that chateau again, walking out of the room as Andrea covered him.
She watched as if in a trance as he rode the horse through the various movements, before starting to walk slowly towards the rider’s area as he stopped and saluted the judges. Reaching into her bag, she felt the cold metal of her revolver, and started to mentally prepare herself for the next few minutes.
It proved remarkable easy for her to slip past the officials and watch as Colonel Hennessey rode into the paddock, slipping off the horse and patting him on the shoulder as the groom led him away. As he approached Mary, she stepped back slightly to allow him to pass before saying “Good Afternoon, Herr Oberstleutnant.”
The Colonel stopped in his tracks, before turning and looking at Mary. “I’m sorry,” he said with an accent that suggested he was from New England, “Are you talking to me?”
“I am,” Mary said quietly. “The last time I saw you was in the South of France, and you were escorting a friend of mine somewhere. I want to know what happened to her, and I want you to pay if she was harmed or killed.”
Carl Hennessey continued to look at Mary, before saying “I wondered if we would meet, Miss Donovan...”
“Its Mrs Brown now – not that it really matters.”
“Ah, but it is important – we need to know who to contact to reassure them you will be back in a few days.”
“What do you...” Mary started to speak, but she was taken by surprise by a sudden pin prick in her neck. She turned slowly to see a young man behind her, a hypodermic needle in his hand, before her sight clouded over and she started to fall to the ground. As Carl caught her back, the young man picked up her legs.
“Gently, gently,” Carl said as they carried her towards a horse box, “I don’t think my wife would ever forgive either of us if her friend was harmed more than necessary.”
Mary was running down a long corridor, the sound of gunfire and soldiers shouting coming from somewhere far off as she tried to find her way out. She was confused, uncertain of which way to go, and her head was hurting.
Suddenly, she heard Andrea shouting “This way,” and she turned to see a patch of light in the distance. She started to run towards it, watching as the light grew larger and brighter, until she ran through and...
“Can you hear me, Mary?”
Opening her eyes, Mary saw Andrea sitting in front of her, wearing a red and black riding jacket over a white blouse, cream coloured jodhpurs and black riding boots. She was sitting on a bale of hay, looking at Mary as if they had just parted company a few hours before, as opposed to six years earlier. She tried to stand up, only to find that she was unable to do so.
“Here,” her friend said as she stood up and produced a flask. “Sip this – it always used to make you feel better.” She held the lip to Mary’s mouth and allowed her to swallow the liquid inside, before sitting back down. As she swallowed the whisky, Mary looked to her side and saw the she was lashed to an old wooden chair, her arms pinned to her side with ropes that went around her chest and through the ornate wooden fretwork in the chair back. She raised her head up and looked again at her friend.
"What happened? We lost touch with you in 1942 – and now here you are? We thought you were dead."
“All good questions,” Andrea said, “and I do want to answer you. First, however, we had to – invite you to stay for a while with us. You were about to something that you, and I, and quite a few other people would have regretted, and you had to be stopped. I assure you, it was only a mild anaesthetic, and you will not have any long lasting effects.”
“I still don’t understand – what happened to you? More to the point, what are you doing with that man – he was...”
“He was not what we thought he was, not by any stretch of the imagination.” Andrea looked at the gold watch on her wrist. “I have to go now – Carl is taking part in the show jumping, and I do not want to miss it.”
“How long have I been out?”
“Two days – don’t worry, we sent word to your husband that you had decided to spend a few days with friends. We made the note very convincing – a sudden illness, which is almost the truth.”
“I’ve been sick with worrying you might try to track us down and avenge me. As you can see, that would have been a mistake, but now I have to go.” The door to the room opened and a young man stepped in – one Mary vaguely recognised. “Joseph here will keep you company – you may release her from the chair, but do not allow her to leave the room until I return.” He nodded as Andrea walked out of the room, before kneeling and starting to unravel the knots that kept the rope around Mary in place.
The sun was setting through the high window, and the man had lit a number of oil lamps to provide light inside, when the door was unlocked and Mary saw both Andrea and Carl walking in. “Thank you,” Carl said as he placed the tray he was carrying on the bale of hay, “We will take care of things from here. Could you please make sure everything is in the car for the airport?” The young man bowed his head and left the room as Mary looked at Andrea. She was now wearing a blue jacket and skirt, with a cream ribbed blouse underneath, and smart leather shoes, while Carl was dressed in a suit, his clean blue shirt partially hidden by his country club tie.
“I’m really sorry this has happened this way, Mary,” Andrea said as Carl uncovered a plate of food. “I had hoped I would slip in and out quietly, but when I saw you in Harrods I realised I had met the one person who would not let things go.”
“I don’t understand,” Mary said as she took a sausage roll from the plate Carl was offering her, “If you survived, why did you never get back in touch? I mourned you, dammit!!”
“I know, and I’m sorry, but – well, after you left the room that night things got a little more – complicated.”
“Well, tell me about it,” Mary said as she put the food into her mouth, “It’s not like I’m going anywhere.” Andrea took a deep breath and said “When you saw me with the oberstleutnant, I was intending to carry out my orders and kill him...”
“Shut up,” Andrea said as she walked forward, “and get down on your knees. I want to see if you are man enough to face me when I shoot you.” The officer looked Andrea in the eye as he knelt facing her, before saying “I think you need to hear me out, Fraulein – there is something you need to know.”
“What could you possibly have to say that would make me want to spare your miserable life, after what your Fuhrer had done to my country?”
“For one thing, he’s not my Fuhrer.”
Andrea stared at the man, whose accent had changed from flawless German to American. “I’m guessing you’re British – OSE, right?” She slowly nodded while staring at him as he continued to speak. “I have to say, you girls put the bravery of 90% of our boys to shame.”
Andrea kept watching as he stared up at her. “Do you mind if I get up – this prolonged kneeling is playing havoc with my knees.” He slowly rose to his feet, Andrea covering him the whole time. “Allow me to introduce myself – Major Carl Hennessey of the OSS.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Operation Storefront – that is why you’re here, right? Destroy the munitions dump and get the hell out? I did wonder how the hell you were going to get in to do that, but taking the place of a couple of ladies of slight repute – that shows real class. Of course, it would be my bad luck that you picked the two I had asked to come over tonight. Would you like a drink?”
He walked over to the table and poured two drinks, handing one to Andrea as she lowered her gun. “I presume your colleague has gone to deal with the munitions?”
“She has – but why should I believe you? After all, you are...”
“A spy – actually, a thief and a spy if truth be told.” Carl took a swig from his glass. “I was recruited after I stood trial for a rather large jewellery robbery, and – invited to serve my country rather than a sentence. I have just finished liberating a rather large amount of gold from the Reich, and had planned to celebrate while the operation went down here. Sadly, you have prevented that. Where are the two ladies, anyway?”
“Secured in their home – I promised them there would be no repercussions, by making it look as if they had no choice.”
“I think they may enjoy that more than you imagine,” Carl said as he drained his drink. “The question is, how did you get into this business? Forgive me, but you do not strike me as the educated girl type they normally pick for these operations.”
“Funnily enough,” Andrea said as she finally took a sip of her drink, “I’m not. Like you, I’m serving my country rather than a sentence – I guess they saw in my what they needed for this line of work.”
Carl smiled as he put his glass down. “So, the question is, what do we do about this now? I need to make a delivery, and you need to get out of here. I think I may need to escort you from the premises, and leave you where you can contact the resistance.”
“Perhaps,” Andrea said, “unless you need a partner – I’ve been thinking of going freelance anyway. There’s no guarantees I won’t get thrown back into Holloway once this is all done anyway.”
“You may end up in a lot more trouble that way.”
“Oh what the hell – I can still work with you in an – unofficial capacity. Maybe make sure we can build a little nest egg together.” She smiled as she walked up to him, putting her arms around her as she did so.
“Tempting,” he said as he looked into her eyes, “but I think a little precaution first – just to make sure you know who is in charge here.”
Spinning her round, he grabbed her wrist with one arm while producing a length of white parachute cord from the table. Andrea looked over her shoulder as he quickly bound her wrists together, cinching the loops before picking up her cloak and throwing it over her shoulders.
“I think you’re my prisoner now,” he said as he took her pistol and placed it back in her bag. “Allow me to carry this for you,” he said as he drew his own pistol and held it against her. “Just walk quietly ahead.”
“You bloody liar,” Andrea whispered as they left the room, “You’re not OSS. Just shoot me now.”
“I am,” he whispered as they headed for the staircase, “but if you want to get out of here alive you do exactly what I tell you.”
“Is there a problem, sir,” the orderly said as Carl and Andrea approached the desk.
“This little slut tried to kill me,” Carl said as they approached the door. “I’m taking her to the SS for questioning.”
“Of course, sir – I’ll have the car brought round,” he said a she picked up the telephone headset. “Car for oberstleutnant Grubber,” he said into the receiver before replacing it. “Forgive me, sir, but I need the password before you leave.”
“Of course – ecstasy,” Carl said as the door was opened. “Good work, sergeant,” he said as he and Andrea walked down the staircase and into the car. “SS headquarters,” he barked at the driver as they set off.
They had been driving for about fifteen minutes when the driver stopped suddenly at the sound of the explosion. He stepped out of the car, looking back at the plumes of flame and smoke rising behind them, before turning and saying “Her...” His silence came after the bullet left Carl’s pistol and penetrated his head, killing him instantly as he crumpled to the ground. He jumped out of the car and helped Andrea to get out, before taking the dead driver and placing him behind the wheel. Looking round, he turned the steering wheel and released the handbrake, pushing the car as it rolled down a slope by the side of the road towards an old abandoned stone building a little way down. The two of them watched as the car rolled down, gathering momentum until it slammed into the wall of the hut, the engine exploding from the impact.
“When they find that,” Carl said as they watched the fire, “they will presume the two of us were killed as well.”
“Very neat,” Andrea said. “So, what happens next?”
“Next, we get a change of clothing, and we head for my rendezvous. I’m sure I could persuade my superiors to provide some documentation and cover story for you – I think you may have skills we will have need of in the years ahead.”
“and that was the case – we worked out of Morocco for a while, running a bar until things got too hot there, and then we were parachuted back into Europe after D-Day to provide – well, let’s say logistical support to the resistance. When the war ended, we returned to New England, and I married Carl. When he was selected for the Olympic team, how could I not accompany him?”
Mary was staring at the two of them as the details of her former partner’s tale sunk in. As they had been talking, she had been eating the food and taking the drink that Carl had brought in, wondering just what was going on, but now she had a question in her mind.
“Did they know?”
“Did who know?”
“Our superiors – did they know you were still alive?”
“Ah – yes, I’m afraid they did, but not initially. I believe someone in Washington eventually talked to someone in Whitehall, but it was a year or two later.”
Mary sat down, contemplating what had just been said. “So, do you still work for – it must be the CIA now.”
“No,” Carl said as he walked behind Mary, “We are freelance. I retired from the Army, with full rank, and work as a breeder and instructor now. I’m very good at it – and the other ways we supplement our income.”
“It takes a thief to catch a thief,” Andrea said as she stood up, “and we will be returning to the States tonight – once we take care of one tiny loose end.”
“Oh – and what’s that?”
“You,” Andrea said with a smile. “I’m really sorry, Mary, but we need to make sure you do not get a chance to prevent us leaving. Don’t worry, though, I promise you will not be hurt or knocked out again. We just need to make sure you are out of the way for a while.”
Mary stared at her friend, not realising that Carl had pulled her arms behind her back. The first she knew of what was happening was when she felt the rope tightening around the cuffs of her jacket as her wrists were tied together. “What the hell do you think you are doing,” she protested as Andrea picked up her headscarf and folded it into a wide band.
“Hush, Mary,” she said as she tied the band over her former friend’s eyes, “we’re just going to go for a little ride, that’s all.” Mary struggled as she felt herself been led out of the room, her feet clicking on the stone floors as the cool air hit her face. She allowed herself to be pushed into what she presumed was a car, before she felt and heard the engine starting and the car moving.
The journey continued in silence, until they came to a stop and Mary was helped out of the car. She could hear birdsong, and the sound of the wind in trees, but little else, and from the chill in the air and the lack of sound she figured it was after dark. As she was guided and asked to step up, she realised she was been taken into a building but when the blindfold was removed she was shocked to see she was in her own front room.
“It seems,” Andrea said as she stood in front of Mary, “You came home while your husband was working a night shift, and found two intruders had broken in. They made sure you were unable to raise the alarm before they fled with your valuables and a few other things.”
Mary saw Carl pass a length of rope over her head, as her arms were drawn tightly against her body, and stood still as the rope was passed above and below her breasts in a way that showed how good he was at securing someone. As the rope went around her neck and under her arms, tightening the bands as it did so, Andrea refolded Mary’s headscarf and tied a knot in the middle of it.
“Please sit down,” Carl said as he helped Mary to sit on a long brown couch, before kneeling down and wrapping some rope around her ankles, pulling and securing them together before doing the same around her legs below her knees. Placing a large cushion against the arm of the couch, he helped her to lie on her back before securing her legs together above her knees, wrapping her skirt around them as he pulled the rope tight.
“I guess this is goodbye, then,” Mary said as Andrea knelt next to her. “I’m afraid so,” the blonde said as she held the knot in front of Mary’s mouth. “We did try to warn you off, but you would not listen. I guess you’ll never change that way – maybe you need to channel those energies towards something useful. Goodbye, Mary.”
“Goodmmpgpfdg”, Mary said as Andrea pushed the knot into her mouth, forcing the material in so that her teeth closed round the lump as she pulled the scarf tightly around her cheeks and knotted the ends together at the base of her neck. She watched as the couple walked towards the door before calling “wl i c u gn?”
“Unlikely,” Carl said as he turned and looked at her, “but thank you for calling the right people. They contacted my people, and – well, this is how it has to be. I’m sure they will be in touch as well.” He saluted Mary and turned the lights off, leaving her in the dark as he took his wife’s hand and they walked out of the house.
Mary lay in the cool darkness, trying occasionally to call for help but failing as her saliva slowly soaked into the material in her mouth, making it expand to fill the space even more. Eventually, exhaustion set in and she felt her eyes closing...
“My husband found me the next morning and released me,” Mary said to the young man as he took some notes. “They had indeed taken some jewellery and other things –not enough to concern me. I just have one question of you.”
“What would that be?”
“Why didn’t you just order me to stay away? I would have done that if you had been straight up with me, Mister Steed.”
“I’m afraid I had my orders as well,” the young man said as he stood up. “We hoped you would stay away, but as we find out from time to time, that is not something that comes easily to the Odettes of this world.”
As he walked towards the door, he turned and looked at Mary. “Your friend did say one thing before she and her husband left.”
“Oh – what was that?”
“Take her back on – I believe you may have some talents we could still use, Mrs Brown. We’ll be in touch.”
Mary watched as he walked down the garden path, wondering exactly what he meant by that last statement.
That night, Mary and her husband watched the newsreel at the cinema, as she saw Colonel Carl Hennessey win the gold medal for the three day event.
“Lucky guy,” he said to Mary as the screen filled with a shot of Carl and Andrea.
“You don’t know the half of it,” Mary said with a smile on her face.
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