|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 9||October, 2001|
(Continuing part one, from Volume 3, Number 7.)
From the start, it was clear they knew who I was. They took the Resistance fighters off towards a group of several lorries and began to herd them on with jibes and kicks. I was stuffed unceremoniously into the back of a rather swish staff car and told, in English, not to move. This was a very bad sign.
A soldier got in the back with me and we set off down the muddy road. Through the darkness and the rain, which flecked the window gently, I could only make out the shape of the lorry as it churned away in the opposite direction. My guard spoke not a word for the whole journey and I was equally chatty.
Some time later, I don't know how long, the car slowed to a halt, wallowing in the rutted road before settling. The rain-streaked window was rolled down, admitting mist and drizzle into the car. A distinctly soggy soldier peered in, pulling his scarf away from his mouth, and asked for the driver's papers. These were handed out, then back in, and we were waved on our way. The driver did not close his window again, perhaps preferring the bouncing drops of water that splashed on the window frame to the rather stuffy atmosphere of the car. We moved through the checkpoint and past a succession of dull grey buildings, before we pulled up outside what I guessed was the main administration building, judging from the emblems that covered it. Flag, eagles, swastika banners, that sort of thing, from top to tail. Inside it was pretty much just more of the same. I was shown in to an oversized office, at one end of which was a very large desk with a corpulent army officer sitting behind it. I ambled over towards him.
"So, Herr Woodbine, I have the pleasure of your company at last." The man chuckled, which made his chins wobble.
"Oh, the pleasure is all mine, I assure you," I replied.
Now I new something had most assuredly gone awry. Not only did they know where I was from but they knew one of my aliases. From that moment I considered the mission over. More than likely my contact in Le Mans had already been compromised. If not, anything I did to reach him would more than likely lead the Germans to him. Instead, I was just going to have to concentrate on escaping and if previous expeditions into the Nazi-occupied regions had taught me anything, it was that an escape attempt was likely to be fraught with danger and probably a car chase. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The guard standing by my right shoulder was well within arm's reach. Reaching round behind me, it was the work of a moment to grab the soldier's rifle, smash his nose with the butt, and point the gun at the officer.
I took his pistol off him and knocked him unconscious with a sharp blow to the head.
I walked over to the office door and opened it a crack, peering out. There were maybe a dozen armed guards in the main hall, with people coming and going all the time. I didn't rate my chances of getting out through the front door. Not undisguised, anyway. I wandered back over to the prone form of my erstwhile guard, prodding him lightly with my left foot to check he was still out cold. That uniform looked like it could just about fit me. I put down the rifle on the floor and began to take off his jacket. I had to roll him on to his back to undo the buttons, which took me ages. All fingers and thumbs. I dragged his arms up above his head and began to pull on the cuffs, inching the jacket off him. I thought I heard a slight ripping noise but pressed on. Eventually, I had the jacket in my hands, apparently without any damage to the fabric. I slid my hand into the sleeve and pulled it onto my right arm. Yanking it up to my shoulder, it became rapidly apparent there was no way I could fit into this man's uniform. The sleeve was a good four or five inches too short. I took the jacket off and dropped it on top of the guard.
I shoved the officer out of his chair and sat down to think. It surely wouldn't be long until his next appointment, so I would have to get out of here somehow. The window was big enough to get out of but was far too visible to anyone and everyone outside. I poured a glass of brandy from the drinks cabinet and waved it under the officer's nose. It didn't seem to have any effect in waking him up, so I drank it and slapped him till he came round. Groggily, he opened his eyes. "Listen," I said to him, "I'm going to walk out of the door to this office with you and we're going to turn right, then go down the corridor. Don't try to raise the alarm, or we'll both end up dead."
We left the office quickly, pausing only for me to unload the rifle and drop it by the desk. I kept my pistol concealed. The office door opened out directly into the main entrance hall, with passages leading from all sides. By the look of the stone used in the building's constructing, it occurred to me that we might be inside a mediaeval castle. I hadn't seen much outside, of course. Luckily, no one was looking in our direction as we stepped out. I nudged my captive with the barrel of the pistol. He walked off down the passageway, I keeping up within a foot of him. Suddenly I spotted a soldier at the junction of the passage, perhaps thirty yards distant.
"What's in that room?" I asked, indicating a large wooden door on the left hand wall.
"Nothing important," replied the German.
I pushed the door open and urged him inside. The chamber we entered was decorated to be lived in, with a four-poster bed against the back wall, a dresser and a desk. Two armchairs sat beneath the window, which was barred. A small door lay in the wall to the right.
"What do you want?" came a voice from the adjoining room. A female voice. An female English voice, to be precise.
Out through the door came a woman, barely more than a girl, dressed in jodhpurs, riding boots and a white blouse. Her hair was dark, coming nearly to her shoulders. Her skin was tanned a sandy brown, while her eyes, currently filled with surprise, were green.
"Who are you?" she asked.
I hesitated. It seemed only fair to tell her my real name but I didn't want the German to hear it. I dealt him his second sharp blow to the head of the day and turned back to face the lady.
"My name," I said, "Is Piers Fielding. Are you a captive here too?"
"Yes," she replied, "Though the General finds it amusing to refer to me as his guest. My name is Emily Wilkinson, thank you so much for asking."
"I'm delighted to make your acquaintance, Miss Wilkinson. Tell me, had you given any thought to the possibility of escape?"
"Most certainly," she replied, "In fact, I plan to escape this very morning. You see, I was going to - do you have a gun, by any chance? It just cuts out a very difficult part of my plan?"
I told her that I did have a gun and showed her the pistol.
"Excellent!" she exclaimed, "We must leave at once."
It became clear as we wound our way through the castle that Miss Wilkinson had familiarised herself with the layout of the chateau, since she moved with ease from one room to another, always in an un-patrolled area. She knew of another exit, so she said, through which we could escape. However, as we hurried past a door that was slightly ajar, I was compelled to call her back and look inside the room.
The chamber was vast and filled with electrical computational equipment of huge size, clicking and whirring away in the pursuit of some mathematical target. I motioned to Miss Wilkinson and we crept in to the room and hid, crouched behind an old desk that fairly sagged under the weight of sheaves of paper. For in the centre of the room was a huge map of the Mediterranean, around which stood several scientific-looking types in white coats and several other figures. One, a slender man with thinning black hair and the lines of aged around his eyes and mouth, wore the unmistakable insignia of the SS. Standing beside him was an army general, though I did not recognise him from any dossiers. A third individual wore only a blue suit such as one might see anywhere on the streets of Europe. He alone was studying the map intently, drawing lines upon it at various points using a pencil and a compass.
"Listen," said the general, "Are you sure that the tablet found during Aktion Eisschloss is related to these others?"
"Definitely," replied the SS man, "There is a representative from Sonderkommando H on the way back from the south now what he reports is consistent with the format and language of the others. It is unmistakably Minoan."
"But really," continued the general, "How could ancient Greeks reach Queen Maud Land, Herr Eberle. Tell me that!"
The man in the suit rose from where he had been stooped over the map.
"General, my esteemed friend, Friedrich, said only that the artefact was Minoan, not that the Minoans themselves took it there."
"But still," the general blustered, waving his arms, "For an ancient people to travel so far - impossible!"
"However the second tablet got to Queen Maud Land," said the man in the suit, "If it can lead us to the remaining tablets, the power in our grasp will be unimaginable. Everything in the Thulegesellachaft archives indicate that the island's destruction is an event easily repeated, once we have the complete set. I trust you have begun to deal with the manpower requirements of the project?"
"Yes, yes, of course," said the general, "Even now, a flotilla of U-boats is on its way to Thera. The Eisschloss ships should be just off the shoulder of west Africa."
Miss Wilkinson and I exchanged glances. It was time to get going, for there was much to do.
To be continued...
|APAGear II Archives||Volume 3, Number 9||October, 2001|
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