A matter of life and … what’s worse than death – Episode 16

For a story that was conceived during those long boring hours flying in a steel cocoon, striving to keep away the thoughts that the plane and everyone in it could just simply disappear as planes have in the past, it has come a long way.

Whilst I have always had a fascination in what happened during the second world war, not the battles or fighting, but in the more obscure events that took place, I decided to pen my own little sidebar to what was a long and bitter war.

And, so, it continues…

 

The message I sent to Forster, in London, was short and to the point,

‘Castle in hands of Germans led by Thompson, others, and a further 12 soldiers parachuted in.  Defectors, our original soldiers? and villagers held captive in dungeons.  Resistance limited to five plus self.  Available resources cannot retake castle and will have difficulty in intercepting incoming package.  Suggestions?’

Marina read it and added her name before it was sent.  Now, all we could do was wait for a reply, though I was not sure what Forster would make of my request for suggestions.  I was supposed to make decisions in the field, but that was when we had a full complement of resistance fighters.  What I’d discovered was the worst-case scenario, and everyone in London was hoping that would not be the case.

I wondered what happened to the two men who had been following me, hoping I would lead them to what were now the remaining resistance members.

“Did you see the two men from the castle that had been following me?  I told the two who had captured me, a man and a woman, though the man emphatically denied he worked for the resistance, about them before the woman shot me with a tranquilizer gun.”

Martina looked puzzled.  It was obvious the two hadn’t mentioned anything about my situation to her.

“That did not come up in the debriefing.  The man is, in fact, a farmer, Leonardo, who doesn’t advertise his involvement, and only works with us if we need him.  Chiara tends to shoot first and ask questions later.  You were lucky her gun wasn’t loaded with bullets.  What is this story of yours, then?”

“One of the guards released me from my cell, and then set me free with the intention of following, not too close, to see if I led them to you.  I was hiding from them when they passed by, shortly before you people turned up.  They would have had to see them if they came from the village.”

The implications of what I just said only dawned on me after I said it.

“That might mean…” I said.

She put her hand up, not wanting me to continue.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but I will have to talk to them.  If anything, they would have avoided them or ignored them.  We don’t use that track from the village to the castle for the simple reason we might run into any of them.  Whether they were originally our allies, or not, we never trusted them.”

“Did they bring me here?”

“No.  We have a separate meeting point for intercepts like yourself and the defectors.  Then, if we think it’s safe to do so, we bring them here.  Only three of us know about this place, and two of us are here now.”

“The third?”

“You’ll meet him later when he brings some food and wine.  His name is Carlo.  He used to be a gardener at the castle, and his mother was the cook.  The Germans killed her the first time they were here, and now he hates Germans.”

Good for us, very bad for anyone at the castle, particularly if they are German.

“Pity we didn’t know about that earlier so we could organise a trap for them  We could do with two fewer adversaries, and quite possibly we might get some information out of them.  They might be still in the village.”

She stood, and put on her coat, and put a gun in the coat pocket where she could easily reach it.  “I’m going to have a word with Chiara, and warn Carlo that you’re here.  He’s a little trigger happy too.  Nothing much is going to happen until we hear back from the Colonel.  I suggest you get some rest, we have a few long days ahead.”

Carlo was a surprise.  Six foot ten, over 250 pounds, and carrying a sten gun over his shoulder, not a man to become an enemy of.  He came into the room without warning, and it was clear he was expecting to see me, and equally that I might be the enemy.

It was clear that he knew how to use the weapon, and had it ready in case he had to use it.

“You this Anderson character?”

He was more English than Italian, but could certainly pass for an Italian.

“I am.”

“From up yon castle?”

“Escaped?”

“How?”

“The lower level, where there are a few storerooms turned into cells.  The passage ran alongside the outer wall to a room that had a door to the outside.  Not one you’d easily pick.”

“Neat the communications room?”

“Probably above there.”

“You know the castle?”

“A little.  I used to be an archaeologist before this war came along, and had been to the castle before the war.  I’m familiar with the above-ground parts, but not so much below.  You were, I was told, a gardener?”

“Once.”

“Then you’d know your way around?”

“Possibly.  Why?”

“Because at some point we’re going to have to retake the place, and it would be good to have someone who knows their way around.  At least, better than I do.”

“Taking prisoners?”

“No.    We will be assuming anyone there whose not a prisoner is hostile.”

“Good.  Count me in.”

He dropped a basket he’d brought with him on the table in the corner.  “Dinner.”  Marina will be back shortly.

“You’re not staying?”

“Guard duty.  So you can eat in peace.”

With that, he was gone.  A large man, but a very quiet one.  I didn’t hear him arrive, and it was very nearly the same when he left.  A useful man in a fight indeed.

 

© Charles Heath 2019

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