A story inspired by Castello di Brolio – Episode 37

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 with 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…

Johannsen hadn’t signed up for this. He’d been in the room when Leonardo reported to Wallace, to tell him that the villagers had been neutralized, and he brought the ring leaders of the so-called resistance to the castle.

By his reckoning, Leonardo and his men had killed probably 20 or so people who had nothing to do with the war, other than try to live around the war going on in their backyard.

In fact, when he had arrived at the castle, the intention was to work with the locals and the resistance to facilitate the onward movement of prized defectors. Until Jackerby arrived, and the dynamic changed.

Johannsen hadn’t realized that Wallace was a double agent, not until it was too late.

The thing of it was, Wallace thought he was a double agent too, a belief Johannsen had taken extreme care not to dispel. And, where it was possible, he had tried to help those caught up in Wallace’s trap.

Wallace was already in situ at the castle when Johannsen arrived with another four men to join those already there, on order from London to vet the incoming defectors. Those four he had met at the plane, and he hadn’t realized they were not who they were supposed to be. By the time the four had replaced were found, it was too late to stop the mission.

That brought the complement to 10 including Wallace and himself. Then he received a message, one he assumed was from Thompson, advising the arrival of a further 5, Jackerby, and four soldiers.

He soon discovered that those orders were false.

When Jackerby reported to Wallace, and the fact Wallace sent him out of the room, he stayed behind, hidden, to listen to the conversation. There he discovered he was in the midst of an enemy operation that had been recruited from the German Army.

He then tried to warn Thompson in a coded message, but that had been substituted by Wallace with another, causing another lamb to be sent to the slaughter, Atherton. When Jackerby first arrived, he advised Wallace, not Johannsson, that Atherton was not one of them, so he was captured and sent to the cells.

By the time the paratroopers arrived, there was no effort to hide who they were or what they were doing. The castle was, for all intents and purposes, a Nazi stronghold, there to collect and execute defectors. All he had to do was play his part, and try not to arouse the suspicions of Jackerby, whom, it seemed, trusted no one.

Wallace wasn’t all that interested in being as suspicious as Jackerby, who had to be Gestapo, or worse, one of the SS.

But luck was on Johansson’s side when he took a plan to Wallace that would essentially free Atherton, and then have Atherton lead them to the other resistance. It was also a masterstroke to select Burke, a simple man who liked to think everything was his idea.

That Atherton had got away was no fault of his, but those charged with following him. Jackerby had tried to mess with him, but Wallace intervened, telling Jackerby that he had had missing people too and should be out there looking for them.

With any luck, Johansson thought, they would be dead, a likely result since none of them had come back yet.

Now, all he could do was sit and wait for Atherton, and whoever was left from the resistance to come and stop Wallace.

Johansson knew that Atherton had a good working knowledge of the castle’s architecture because on one occasion they had been discussing archaeology. Johansson was not an archaeologist but had worked with one and an assistant, before the war, of several digs.

He was hoping Atherton had an idea where there might be a secret entrance to the castle. It was old, and in his spare time, he had been pacing out room measurements, looking for nooks and crannies, and anything else that would be useful.

He had found a room full of swords, not exactly in fighting condition, but might be useful in a situation that called for a weapon. After all, he had taken a few sword fighting lessons at the university.

He had traversed a number of stone passageways, found the way from the upstairs down to the radio room, two different ways, and beyond that, there was an exit or entrance, what in modern terminology would be called the tradesman’s entrance. A back door.

He had also gone around the whole perimeter of the outer castle wall, looking for holes. When he thought about it, leaving holes in the wall was asking for trouble because the idea was to keep people out, not to leave quickly and quietly in the middle of a siege.

And this castle had seen a few sieges in its time. More than once if he could travel back in time, he would have like to see what it was like 200 years ago, or more.

But, there were only three entrances or exits. There were no grates on the ground, or anywhere within 20 yards of the exterior wall, hidden in the forests.

He was also sure there were hidden passageways inside the castle that must go somewhere, a result of checking internal measurements of rooms, and a few came up oddly short a few yards.

Still down in the dungeon, the new arrivals guard had just appeared.

“The woman is awake.”

“Thanks.”

Now, if he could just get some sense out of her.

© Charles Heath 2020

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