Original Military Historical Fiction

The X-Code and The Genie

By

The Tactical Hermit

 

casablanca

 I.

1942 – Casablanca, German Abwehr HQ

 

 Lt. Bernard E. Stokes of the Special Operations Executive or SOE, was dying of massive internal bleeding from a brutal interrogation session when his captors sat him down at a table in front of his MK III radio set.

After a few minutes  Stumbannfuhrer (Major) Hans Gruedell of the Gestapo came into the room smoking a french cigarette. Gruedell was your proto-typical German officer. Slim and tall, around six feet two with sharp, angular features and sandy blonde hair.  After taking a seat across from Stokes, being careful to avoid the blood and vomit, he handed over two pieces of paper to Stokes.

The first was his one time pad and signal plan copied from a silk handkerchief the Germans had found sewn into Stokes pants. It contained the times, frequencies and three-letter call signs Stokes used to communicate with his handlers back at Baker Street. The second piece of paper was a message the Abwehr wanted Stokes to transmit. The Major offered Stokes a cigarette before lighting up another. Stokes declined.

“Lt. Stokes let me be clear on some things before you begin to transmit that message.” The major spoke pristine English with just a hint of Bavarian.

“We know your specific teams fist or style in addition to knowing your specific duress signals, so please do not insult us by trying any so-called shenanigans in trying to alert your superiors in London to our presence or I promise you the beating you just received will seem like gentle love-taps. Are we clear?”

Stokes looked up at the Major through his one eye that was not swollen shut and nodded in the affirmative.

“Wunderbar” the Major replied smiling while looking at his watch.”The next transmission time is at 6:32 precisely, I believe, that gives us right at five minutes, so prepare yourself Lieutenant.”

Looking at the message he was about to transmit with his one good eye, several things ran through Stokes’ mind. The first was that his long-held suspicions were now confirmed. The Moroccan SOE circuit definitely had a mole in their ranks. His capture 12 hours ago was not because of bad tradecraft or even bad luck, he had been set up by somebody in their cell. This suspicion was further confirmed by what the Major had just said “We know your specific teams fist and duress signals?” How the hell could they have known that information unless it had been reported to them?

The second thing was this message. It was a piece of pure disinformation from start to finish. It stated a high-ranking Abwehr agent would be in Casablanca for a highly secretive meeting three days from now and that this would present a perfect opportunity for a “snatch and grab.” This was nothing but an attempt to lure more SOE agents in for the express purpose of interrogation and torture.

Stokes coughed up more blood, this time with small pieces of lung mixed in. He could feel his body wanting to shut down, but he also knew he had to warn London somehow before he died. As he prepared to transmit the message, the Major hovered over him, watching him like a hawk. Stokes suddenly became dizzy and his head flopped down on the table with a loud “Whop!” in a performance that would have made Hollywood proud. The Major panicked and quickly walked out of the room to fetch a Doctor, leaving Stokes alone. Stokes seized this moment. He quickly changed the dial to the emergency frequency and the three-letter call designator and transmitted the following one letter: ” X”.

He then changed the frequency and call sign back to the original just as the Major came back in with a beady eyed and bald Nazi Doctor. The Doctor opened a small black bag and removed a syringe and promptly gave Stokes an injection and a curt slap in the face.

“That should keep him alert for the next 30 minutes or so, after that he is beyond medical help. If you wanted more use out of him, you should have not let your goons beat the goose shit out of him. Heil Hitler!”

The Doctor raised his hand in a quick salute and walked out. Stokes gave a faint smile hearing that, because although he knew he would be dead in the next hour, he also knew he had done his duty despite the enemies best efforts. “For King and Country…” Stokes muttered as he felt the amphetamine injection kick in and he began clicking off the message.

———————–

London, Noresby House (SOE HQ)

 Major Peter Reynolds, The on-duty watch officer, had just poured his second cup of tea when one of the young girls who monitor the North African frequencies burst into his office waving two pieces of paper frantically. Upon reading both, Reynolds immediately got up and walked to the watch safe. Slowly Turning the tumbler with the combination, he opened the thick safe door, moved the Loaded Webley Revolver to the side (a safeguard in all SOE safes) and broke out the Duty Officer Emergency Procedures (DOEP) Binder and started going down the Standard Operating Procedure list. “Get on the Phone and Wake Everybody Up.” he snapped to the girl as he walked back to his office looking at the binder.”Everybody sir?” The girl asked with a quizzical look. “If they have a pulse, wake them up” Reynolds replied curtly. Sitting down at his desk he turned to the red divider labelled “X”.

Upon receiving the pre-designated one one letter code “X” on the designated NAC (North African Circuit) trouble frequency (7133.766) and verifying the three letter call sign (XPD). Complete Circuit Penetration and Compromise of Network and Agents must be assumed. The following steps are to be taken with much haste:

  1. Contact NAC’s on following frequency: 7145.894 and three-letter designator:  VBW.

  2. Transmit ONLY the Following Code: X9

  3. Repeat this Transmission in (4 ) minute intervals for precisely One Hour (15 Transmissions Total)

  4. Receipt Code is: H9. Under Duress Receipt Code is: P9.

  5. All Agents Must Be Accounted For within 12 Hours from First Transmission.

Reynolds quickly got up from his chair and yelled for the Chief Radio Operator. A fair-haired and freckled Lt. not barely 21, came running from behind a bank of radio’s. “Follow these instructions verbatim Lieutenant, if you have any problems, come directly to me, understood?” The Major handed the boy the instructions. He could see fear in the Young Boy’s face as he scanned over the papers. “Yes Sir!” the boy replied, trying to look competent. The Major smiled at the boy’s effort. “It will be alright son, just keep focused on the task at hand and Work the Problem” The Boy nodded and ran off to his station. By that afternoon, Reynolds staff had done everything possible to warn all SOE agents in the North African Circuit of the compromise. Reynolds yawned and checked his watch. It was a quarter past 8 in the evening. Reynolds had been up for close to 30 hours straight. He could barely keep his eyes open. He seriously considered collapsing on his small office couch instead of making the 15 minute drive to his home in Epsom when his phone rang. A woman’s voice on the other end politely told him that his presence was requested at #10 Downing Street immediately. A Car had been dispatched and would be picking him up in fifteen minutes. Reynold’s drowsiness instantly disappeared. Arriving at #10 his credentials were verified by the two Armed guards outside. Upon walking in, he was greeted by an attractive young woman who led him down a hall to a heavy-set of mahogany doors. Knocking once, a gruff voice on the other side boomed “Enter!” As Reynolds was led into the room, he was immediately greeted with the smell of  thick cigar smoke and French cognac in the air. Reynold’s noticed there were three men in the room. His boss, The Minister of Economic Warfare and Head of the SOE,  Roundell Palmer, was sitting by a large window in a plush leather chair, a glass of cognac in his hand. Another man, an American, whom Reynolds did not recognize, sat beside Palmer. And in the middle of the room, Sitting on the corner of his desk, a cigar in one hand and a large sifter in the other, was the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. “Come in Major.” Churchill’s said as he got up off his desk. He met Reynolds half-way across the room and shook his hand. “So good to finally meet you.” Churchill said. His handshake was firm but Reynolds noticed his eyes were tired and full or worry. “Thank You Prime Minister.” Reynolds replied. “Can I get you a drink?” Churchill asked, making his way over to a rather large bar set up on the opposite wall. Not wanting to be the odd man out in this crowd of professional drinkers, Reynolds replied “Yes Sir, please, Whiskey and Plain Water will be fine.”  Churchill poured Reynolds drink and freshened up his own. Reynolds walked over to accept it, trying not to make it too obvious he was suspiciously eyeing the man sitting beside his boss. Churchill smiled at Reynolds. “Before we continue, Major Reynolds, I  suppose I should introduce you to our American cousin. This is Colonel William Donovan of the OSS.”

At his introduction, Donovan got up from his chair and shook the Major’s hand. He was a large man with massive hands and an infectious, irish smile. “Major, it’s a pleasure.” Donovan said. Reynolds smiled back. “Thank You Colonel. Alright, now that we have the introductions and pleasantries out-of-the-way, let’s get down to brass tacks.” Churchill said as he motioned for both men to sit down. “Minister Palmer has just briefed me on the recent unfortunate events in Casablanca.”  Churchill said as he took a seat behind his desk. Reynolds immediately went into briefing mode as was his usual custom. “Yes Prime Minister, we have taken all appropriate measures to warn not just Casablanca, but all of our North African Networks of the compromise. And what of the agent who sent the warning, Stokes, was it?” Churchill asked, his eyes dead focused on Reynolds. “We have had no further communications from Lt. Stokes Prime Minister. Unfortunately we fear he has been killed by the Gestapo.” Reynolds replied. “And the message that proceeded the warning? What do you make of it?” Churchill replied. “Well Sir, we obviously have to view it as pure fiction. It is my belief, as I have shared with Minister Palmer in my initial report, that Stokes somehow was able to transmit the warning code “X” before transmitting this message under duress, which would of course render the entire message moot.” Reynolds replied. Minister Palmer leaned forward in his chair. “The Message also confirms our long-held suspicion that we have a mole in the Casablanca cell. The Germans knew of our cell’s specific “fist”, or way of transmitting morse, in addition to knowing the specific duress signals. Those signals are routinely changed, so the only way they could have known is somebody in the network told them.” Churchill sat back in his chair, digesting the information. He drew on his cigar and the tip became a cherry red ember, then he exhaled the blue-gray smoke to form a large cloud that hovered over the four men.. He then nodded his head toward Donovan for him to take the floor. “The Prime Minister has filled me in on all the details of your problems gentleman and I think I may have a solution. The way me and my fellow associates at the OSS see the situation is that you need to do two things here to get things rolling again in Morocco, because shutting down Operations is just not an option with things set to kick off in November with Torch. The first is to flush out this mole in your network. The Second is to strike back at the Gestapo and the German intelligence apparatus for this heinous act. Would you two gents agree with that summary?” Donovan’s eyes twinkled with excitement. Both Palmer and Reynolds nodded in the affirmative. “Great. What I have in mind is an insertion of a three-man team into Casablanca via airdrop. One of mine and two of yours. I have a man specifically geared for this type of work. He trained with the newly formed Army Rangers in Northern Ireland and has been working with the Polish Resistance ever since. His name is Captain Logan Chandler.”

“Colonel, I have no problem with a mission of this type but if I may ask, what do you have in mind for striking back at the Abwehr?” Palmer asked. Donovan shot a glance over at Churchill and smiled. “Me and your Prime Minister have had a very fortunate event fall right into our laps to help you do that very thing. A French Diplomat who is now in exile here in London has a niece who works for the Vichy French Interior Ministry in Casablanca. She is a former lover of my deputy in Bern, Allen Dulles. Through some very hard work on the part of Mr. Dulles, this young woman has turned into a very valuable asset and has been feeding us treasure regarding all German activities in North Africa for two solid months now via coded letters she sends to her uncle here in London once or twice a month.” Donovan took a breath and took a long drink of his whiskey, letting the information sink in with Palmer and Reynolds. “That is some amazing stuff Colonel.” Reynolds remarked, a thin smile on his lips. “Oh, hang on to your hat, because I have not even got to the good stuff yet…” Donovan replied, looking at Churchill again with a cheshire-cat grin. Churchill smiled back and toked on his cigar. “Our French Asset can give us a profile of the Gestapo Major who had Lt. Stokes executed and has provided us with the code name and description of the mole inside the Casablanca network.”  You could have heard a pin drop inside the room at that moment. Palmer and Reynolds looked at each other dumbfounded. “So you see Gentleman, we will be sending this team in with everything, and I do mean everything, they are going to need to get your Casablanca networks up and running again and also put some serious hurt on the huns!” Churchill stood and raised his glass. “I do believe this calls for a toast gentleman.” All three men stood and raised their glasses. “Down with Hitler.” Churchill exclaimed in a loud voice, the tone somber and deep, like one of his great speeches of 1940. The sound of the three men’s voices repeating the phrase echoed loudly in unison and could be heard by everybody at #10 Downing Street that late evening in 1942.

————————————-

RAF Tempsford Airfield (SOE/OSS Staging Area) 

Captain Logan Chandler walked into Briefing Hut #2 to find the other two members of his team waiting on him. Chandler was  just over six-foot with a stout frame, nearing two hundred pounds. His Scots-Irish roots gave him his dark hair, eyes and complexion which had him mistaken often for a Frenchman. He wore “sterilized” common green GI fatigues with no name-tape or rank. On his web belt he wore a Government issue 1911 Pistol in a cut-away flap holster and Fairbairn/Sykes OSS Dagger. Both men stood as Chandler approached. The first man was a small and skinny with round wire rim glasses and resembled a book-keeper in fatigues. His locks of reddish hair added to his boyish looks. “Lt. Archie Squires, Communications and Linguist.” Squires saluted as Chandler approached. Chandler returned the salute and shook hands. “How is your German Squires?” Chandler asked. “Mein Deutsch ist sehr gut Sir, es hat einen Hauch von München Akzent Ich habe gesagt worden.” Squires responded with a huge smile. Chandler smiled back. “Very Good Squires! A Munich accent will come in very handy!” The second man was bigger, with blonde hair and light blue eyes full of mischief. “Lt. Peter Blakely, Explosives and Aviation. I can blow anything up and fly anything with wings should the need arise.” Chandler smiled at the remark. “That may come in very handy Lieutenant.” Chandler shook hands with Blakely and asked both men to be seated. Behind Chandler was an enlarged map of French Morocco plus several aerial reconnaissance photos. “This Operation has been named BLACKJACK and is being pressed forward at the very highest levels of Government, so I will not waste your time with bullshit. This is a find and kill mission, pure and simple. You have both been briefed as to the particulars, but I will go over the plan in some broad strokes. Our cover identities and documents have us listed as French laborers from Lyon. I know you both speak French but it would also be prudent to work on your Lyonese accent and also be knowledgeable of the history of Lyon in general. I would not put it past some asshole Vichy Gendarmerie or SS stooge to ask you questions if he feels suspicious.” Chandler picked up a long wooden pointer near the board. “We will be dropped in 20 miles outside Casablanca, where we will then rendezvous with a member of the French Resistance in Morocco. He will then transport us to a safe-house near the town of Settat, here.” Chandler pointed to a small red dot on the map. “Our plan as it stands right now is to stay clear of all SOE network safe-houses. As you all know, the warning signal for total compromise of the network, the X-Code, was transmitted after Lt. Stokes was captured and subsequently executed. HQ received receipt of the code by all agents in country and as of this morning we were notified they had all made it out of Morocco without incident and are en route to England as we speak” Chandler flipped the board over where several black and white head shot pictures were displayed. “OK, so on to identifying this fucking mole. Counter-Intelligence has cleared all five SOE agents working in Morocco and Algeria. The only agent that has not been cleared, is a French asset that was recruited six months ago that goes by the code-name of GENIE.”

“As you can see we have no picture and we obviously cannot wait for the agents to return to England to give us a description. Luckily, we have an ace in the hole. A source that was developed within the Vichy Interior Ministry in Casablanca has told us the mole is indeed a woman, a french national around the age of 25 to 30. Dark Hair, Dark eyes about five foot seven in height. The source also added this woman has had musical training at the Conservatoire International de Musique in Paris, so keep that in mind, it might help in identifying her. As Chandler took a break and got a drink of water, Lt. Blakeley raised his hand. “Captain what of the other target, the Gestapo Major, can the source help us find him too?” Chandler shook his head yes and picked up the pointer. “Yes. Our source has verified that this man, Major Hans Gruedell.” Chandler pointed to a photo on the board. “Was indeed the officer who had Lt. Stokes executed. Apart from that we know he has been attached to the Abwehr operations in North Africa for some time. Hitler as you all know, has severe distrust of his own Intelligence agency, so he keeps his SS and Gestapo goons close by. Concerning Gruedell’s location, we are fairly certain with some help from the local French network that we should be able to locate him. It has also been suggested by Command that if we do get the chance to kill more  than one Gestapo, SS or Abwehr oficer other than just Gruedell, we should be prepared to do so, which is where your explosives come in, Mr, Blakeley.”  Blakeley responded with a loud “Yes Sir!” “As far as our exfil plan, per SOE procedure we have worked up a primary and contingency. Our primary exfil will be a French Freighter named The Tourterelle or The Turtle Dove, she will depart Rabat one week from tomorrow at midnight. Our contingency exfil will be to steal a plane at one of the local airports. I have the name of several contacts in the French network that can help us in finding one. Being there are three of us, I hope you can fly a transport or something with three seats Blakeley. So Gentleman that is the plan in a nutshell. Any more questions?” Both men shook their heads no. “Well then I suggest we all get some rest. We are set to be wheels up in just under 12 hours if the weather holds.” Squires and Blakeley both got up and  shook hands with Chandler and left  for the barracks. Chandler lingered behind. So many thoughts raced through his mind before a mission. Had he thought of everything? Had he prepared adequately? He let out a long sigh and before walking out the door said a quick prayer. “Dear God, please don’t let me screw this one up.”

To Be Continued…..

 

The X-Code and the Genie

ca

II.

 1942 -12 Miles West of Setaat, Morocco

The sound of the lumbering transport planes engines faded into the distance as the three agents landed without incident under deployed white canopies in the soft, brown desert sand of French Morocco at a quarter past 4am local time. It was a moonless night, but clear, and the millions of stars appeared as pin pricks in the thick black curtain of night. After a compass heading and a few miles of hiking, they arrived at the road to meet their contact. At 0627 as dawn was just beginning to break, Chandler saw the faint glow of headlights in the distance. All three men drew their pistols and held them behind them. The van gave the pre-arranged signal and flashed it’s headlights three times on approach. Chandler kept his pistol behind his back as the van slowly rolled up. The driver rolled down his window. Chandler asked the driver the code question to verify his identity. “Excuse me what is the name of a good French restaurant in Casablanca?”.  The driver smiled. “That would be Le Cyne Blanc monsieur. The Absolute best in French Cuisine!” Both men smiled at each other and gave a nervous laugh. “Captain Logan Chandler.” Logan reached through the window and shook hands with the driver. “Henry Toulere at your service, Captain.” The man replied. “Let’s get going shall we, I want to get back before anybody sees you.” Chandler nodded and all three men jumped into the back of the van.

 Toulere was a 30-year-old Parisian that had joined the Resistance the day after the Germans invaded France. He had jet black hair and dark eyes that showed the maturity of a man twice his age. He was dressed as a construction worker and the van was full of tools and materials to contribute to the charade. Looking at Toulere’s hands, Chandler could tell right away he was a seasoned operative. He had taken the time to rough up his hands with sandpaper and smear paint on them. “The devil is always in the details.” Toulere said smiling, noticing Chandler looking at his hands. “I have all the equipment and weapons you requested at the safe house. We also have another van that you can use to commute to Casablanca.” Toulere said, looking at Chandler as he drove. “All your papers are in order, yes?” Toulere asked. “Yes, everything has been triple checked for accuracy. Our forgers are top-notch” Chandler replied. “Yes, they are top-notch because of our intel. The Germans just started using a new kind of ink on identity cards last month. Between the Gestapo and The Gendarmerie, I am not sure which one is a bigger royal pain in the ass!” Toulere responded with a laugh. “I will introduce you to the rest of the team this evening. In the meantime, best to stay out of sight in the house. Get some rest.” Toulere replied. Chandler nodded in agreement even though the adrenaline was pushing him to get cracking right away. They drove through the small farming town of Setaat, which like most of the older town’s and villages in North Africa, consisted of a town square with a public water well in the center. The outlines of the old buildings in the diffused morning light reminded Chandler of an oil painting he had seen a few years back in London. The safe house sat a few miles out-of-town on a hill which overlooked the entire area. Being there was only one road in and out, a person could stand on the front porch and see who was coming from either direction for miles. “La douceur du foyer.” Toulere said smiling as he turned off the engine. “Very nice.” Chandler replied.

The house was a bone white, two-story late 19th century french colonial affair. In the front of the house they had planted several small olive trees, shrubs and flowers. Walking up to the porch, Chandler noticed a pair of mixed breed hound dogs laying in the soft, black dirt. “Our early warning system.” Toulere said, grinning as he petted both dogs. “I have prepared two rooms upstairs for you and your men Captain, follow me, I will give you the nickel tour.” Chandler and his men followed Toulere inside the house. Walking in, Chandler noticed the front door had been reinforced and two deadbolts installed. “This place was donated to us by a prominent French businessman’s family. He was killed by the Nazi’s early on in the occupation for aiding the enemy. OK, to the left is the dining room and study and to the right is the kitchen.” Toulere said, guiding the three men through the large house.”We typically have our meetings here in the kitchen or study. Our resident chef, Ethan, typically cooks dinner for us every night depending on what is going on. Come on upstairs and I will show you where you will be staying.” The four men walked up the stairs, the old wood creaking under their weight. “So, this is my room here, next room is Ethan and across the hall there is Celia, and next to her the last two rooms there are yours. Unfortunately, there is only one bathroom upstairs, it’s  at end of the hall, down there.” Toulere pointed down the hall and then opened the door to The first room and turned on the light. “Lieutenant Squires and Blakeley, this is your billet.” Chandler said matter of factly. Both men quickly moved into the room and began unpacking on the two beds.  Toulere and Chandler walked into the next room. “Did I hear you say there was a woman staying here?” Chandler asked as he unpacked his gear. “Wee, Celia Devereaux. She has been with us since the beginning in Paris. You can meet her tonight. Until then, I will leave you to get settled and get some rest. Dinner at Eight?” Toulere asked smiling. “Sounds good.” Chandler replied. “I am really glad to be helping you Captain, maybe we can make a difference, aye?” Toulere asked, extending his hand. “I sure hope so Henry, I sure hope so.” Chandler shook his hand and smiled. When Toulere left, Chandler took his boots off, set his 1911 on the side table and collapsed on the bed. The last thing he thought of before drifting off was the name of that woman Toulere had mentioned; Celia Devereaux.

———————————–

12 Rou Karachi, Apartment 365 – Casablanca

 The young woman lay in bed frustrated. She had been awoken by the bright morning light piercing its way through the window like an unwanted guest. Her lover had forgotten to close the blinds again on his way out to work this morning. “So typical of that self-centered asshole.” She thought. Huffing like a child, she threw back the covers and stomped over to the window naked and shut the blind. An opaque, comfortable dimness fell over the room. She reached into her purse and moving aside the small Walther .32 Pistol, found her gold cigarette case and lighter. Both had been a gift from her lover. Just one of many in the past few months. She reached to her neck and fondled the heart-shaped  diamond pendant he had given her two weeks ago when they drove up the coast for a weekend holiday. Lighting the slim french cigarette, she smiled as read the inscription on the cigarette case out loud: “To Anna From Hans, Always”. She really had this one wrapped around her finger she thought to herself. As she got up to go to the bathroom, she paused as she passed the dresser mirror. She admired her dark, raven hair and unusually tall frame, tossing her hair to one side, she looked at her profile and examined the curves of her thighs, the suppleness of her skin. For a brief moment she got lost in a daydream. She went back to her grandmother’s farm near Orleans where she spent her childhood after her parents both died of typhus. It was a place of refuge, a soft, green, lovely place, away from all this war, all this hate. She remembers her Grandmother waking her up in the middle of the night in 1940. She had just turned 18. The Germans had invaded France and would be here soon her Grandmother told her. She was to go to Paris to live with her cousins “until all this passed”.  “No! I want to stay with you granny!” She had cried. Suddenly, she was shook back to reality when she saw her lover’s spare uniform cap on the corner of the dresser. The Silver death’s-head Skull below the nazi eagle stared back at her mockingly. It’s black eyes as dead and lifeless as her lover’s had been the previous night.

————————————-

Setaat SOE Safe House

Chandler suddenly awoke to several people’s laughter coming from downstairs. For a moment he was confused. He quickly grabbed his pistol and listened. His room was pitch dark, save the light coming from the hallway underneath his door. Gradually he realized where he was and what he was hearing. Getting up, he slid on his shoes, stuck the gun in his small of his back under his shirt and made his way to the bathroom where he washed his face and got himself presentable. Making his way downstairs, Chandler could tell there was quite a few people in the kitchen talking, almost all of them French. Making his way into the kitchen he saw Squires and Blakeley sitting at a table eating with Toulere. Another man and a woman were over by the stove cooking. “Ah, Captain, you are finally awake! We were wondering if you were dead up there!” Toulere said smiling. “Please have a seat and join us, are you hungry? We are having Ethan’s famous lamb stew.” Toulere asked. “Yes, starved, thank you.” Chandler replied, still a bit groggy. The woman who was over by the stove came over and brought a huge bowl of steaming stew and sat it down in front of Chandler. “Bon Appetit” The woman said smiling. “Captain Chandler, may I introduce Celia Devereaux.” Toulere said as he helped himself to more stew. Chandler stood up to shake the woman’s hand. “A Pleasure Miss Devereaux.” The woman smiled. “I just love American courtesy! You French brutes should take a lesson!” The woman gushed as she shook Chandler’s hand. Chandler was immediately taken with the woman’s beauty. She was rather tall for a French woman, at least five foot seven or eight. She had raven black hair that was drawn back into a tight pony tail and dark hazel eyes. She was wearing a powder blue dress that accentuated her athletic frame and gentle curves.  “And lest I forget, this is our resident chef and explosives expert, Ethan.” Toulere said, still eating.

Chandler shook hands and greeted him, his thoughts still on this beautiful woman in front of him. “Now everybody, let’s eat, so afterwards we can drink!” Toulere exclaimed, smiling. “Spoken like a true Frenchman!” Ethan replied laughing. The rest of the room howled with laughter at the remark also. For the next ten minutes, not much was said as the group literally inhaled the pot of stew. Toulere was one of the first to finish. “Ethan, as always, that was delicious my friend. Now, on to my favorite part of the evening; Let us all retire to the study for some whiskeys and brandy!” Toulere exclaimed as got up from the table, letting out a small belch. Everybody finished up their bowls and slowly one by one, made their way into the study. Chandler was taken a back by how large the room was. In one corner sat a polished Steinway grand piano and on every wall was an eight foot tall book-case filled with hundreds of leather-bound volumes. Chandler  found a seat in a leather easy chair as Toulere handed him a whiskey and soda and then poured one for himself. Squires and Blakeley sat on the sofa, both looking full and content as ticks. Toulere soon brought them over their drinks. After a few moments, Ethan and Celia made their way in, Toulere pouring them both a brandy. With the room full, Both of them sat at the piano bench.

“So Captain, I think this would be a great time to hear your plan so we can all coordinate our efforts.” Toulere said taking a drink, “Certainly. The first order of business as you all most likely know is identifying and eliminating this Mole in the Casablanca cell. This person sold out one of our best agents, Lt. Stokes, which resulted, we believe, in the Gestapo executing him.” Chandler paused and took a drink. He noticed Celia watching him intently from across the room. “What can you tell us about this mole Captain? Henry told me you had some type of description?” Celia asked. “Yes. From a source that has been cultivated inside the Vichy Interior Ministry we know the mole is a woman, age 25 to 30, with dark hair and dark eyes. Is around five foot seven in height and goes by the code name of ‘GENIE’. We were also told she studied music in Paris, so that may be something else we can use to find her.”  Chandler replied. “That is certainly some good information Captain. I think with these details we should be able to find your mole. After all, Casablanca is not that big of a city to hide in.” Toulere replied, that infectious smile still on his face. “And what about the second part of your mission? Something about finding a Gestapo Major who had Lt. Stokes executed?” Ethan asked from behind the piano, smoking a cigarette. “Yes. Our source has told us he is most likely still in Morocco, so again, if you could use your contacts on the street to help locate him, that would be a huge help.” Chandler replied. “Of course! We will use any and all resources to help you locate this bastard mole and this German piece of shit!” Toulere exclaimed, draining his second glass of whiskey. “Celia, how about some music to lift our spirits?” Toulere exclaimed, giving her a wink from across the room. “Oui.” Celia replied. Ethan got up from the piano bench and came around the piano to refill his glass, also giving Celia a wink. Celia began playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat.

The rich sound of the piano’s chords filled the study. Chandler was amazed at the acoustics of the old house, it was as if each note reverberated into the wood and came back in tune. Blakeley and Squires sat on the couch mesmerized. The potent combination of whiskey and music casting a familiar spell. Chandler even caught himself being pulled under by it all. The sheer beauty of Celia Devereaux combined with the skill in which she played was amazing. Wait. Chandler’s mind suddenly began racing. The mole has skill in music? Could that mean skill in playing the piano? Chandler’s heart began racing in time with his mind. He could feel the blood hot under his skin. Dark Hair, Five foot seven? Chandler sat up in his chair. He could feel the pistol against his back. He was tempted to slide his hand behind him and grip it, but he didn’t. Chandler made the effort to keep his face calm. He could see Toulere looking at him out of the corner of his eye. Act natural. Remember your breathing. His thoughts raced as to his next move. Should he try to warn Blakeley and Squires? He could see both of them were now half-drunk and oblivious to what was going on. The song was nearing it’s end. Chandler could feel sweat popping out of his pores on his back. He casually wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. The music stopped. Suddenly, he was jolted out of his thinking by applause in the room. Celia was standing at the piano, giving a bow and smiling. Wait, where were Toulere and Ethan? They had moved. Chandler glanced to his right and noticed Ethan behind the couch where Blakeley and Squires were sitting, both of them unaware he was behind them. Chandler could feel somebody was behind him also. He casually set down his drink to get up and turn around while at the same time moving his right hand behind him to grip his pistol. That is when he felt the cold steel barrel of a gun to his head.

“Now, Now Captain Chandler, there is no need for that.” Toulere said, reaching down and taking Chandler’s pistol. “Just sit back down and relax.” Toulere came around in front of Chandler, a P-38 Pistol levelled at him. To his right Chandler saw Ethan, armed with a Sten sub-machine gun, disarming Blakeley and Squires as well.”Well I’ll be damned!” Blakeley spoke up. “You piece of shit French turn coats!” “Lieutenant, that will be quite enough.” Chandler replied, his stony gaze levelled at Toulere standing in front of him. “OK Gentleman, that is quite enough with all the gun play, put them down.” Celia spoke as she walked over to the bar and refilled her glass of brandy. Toulere and Ethan both dropped the muzzles of their weapons. Celia came over and sat across from Chandler. She sat her drink on the side table beside her and retrieved a cigarette from her engraved gold cigarette case and lit it with her lighter. “Cigarette Captain?” Celia asked, holding the Cigarette case toward Chandler. “No thanks.” Chandler growled. “So I imagine right about now you are a tad angry and confused.” Celia said, dragging on the cigarette and exhaling the smoke. Chandler said nothing, his face growing redder by the minute. “So what should I call you, Celia or GENIE?” Chandler snapped, his eyes hot with hate. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all let out a loud laugh. “Oh my Captain, you are confused, aren’t you!?” Celia exclaimed, her face animated with concern. “You killed one of our agents you traitor bitch!” Chandler yelled, coming up out of his chair in rage. “Easy there Captain!” Toulere exclaimed, again levelling the pistol at his head. “Please Captain! Let me help clear some things up.” With that, Celia reached up with her hand and gently pushed Toulere’s pistol barrel to the floor. “Put the gun away Henry.” she said in a hoarse whisper, her voice sad and tired. “I want to show you something Captain.”

She reached over and handed Chandler her gold Cigarette case. “Captain, would you please read the inscription on that case aloud?” Chandler snapped the case away from Celia, still giving her a hard look. As Chandler’s eyes began reading the inscription, suddenly his whole countenance changed. “What does it say Captain?” Squires asked from across the room, a look of concern and confusion on his face. Chandler shook his head in disbelief. “It says To Anna from Hans, Always.” “Who the Fuck is Anna and Hans?” Blakeley exclaimed, his face red with anger. “I am Anna, Lieutenant.” Celia said as she stood up and ground out her cigarette in the ashtray on the side table. Chandler was still shaking his head in disbelief as the puzzle pieces fell together in his mind. Chandler looked up at Celia. “And Hans would he Major Hans Gruedell of the German Gestapo here in Casablanca, yes?” Chandler asked. Celia smiled as she took a drink of her brandy. “You would be correct Captain.” “Wait a fucking minute! You mean Gruedell, the same hun we are here to kill?” Blakeley exclaimed. “The very one Lieutenant.” Celia replied, still staring at Chandler. “That still does not explain how Stokes was betrayed.” Chandler asked, returning Celia’s stare. “Well Captain, before I get into that, I think you and me are gonna need another stiff drink, do you mind?” Celia offered Chandler her glass. Chandler got up from his seat and took her glass. He walked over to the bar and refilled his glass with whiskey and Celia’s with brandy, all the time Toulere watching him like a hawk. Handing the drink back to Celia Chandler sat back down. “Ok, so tell me the story Anna or Celia or whoever the fuck you are.” “First things first Captain. Your Lieutenant Stokes is alive. Gruedell did not have him killed after he transmitted that fake message. He figured he might need him for something later. He is being held in a Gestapo jail outside Casablanca.” Celia spoke matter of factly now. Her voice was Flat, with no emotion. “Bullshit.” Chandler raised his hand like he was brushing away a fly. “Our source in the Vichy Interior Ministry confirmed his death.” Chandler spat. Again, Celia, Toulere and Ethan laughed loudly in unison. “Your so-called source in the Vichy Interior Ministry is a German double-agent Captain. She is the one who betrayed Stokes and has been feeding the OSS and SOE command a bullshit supper for months.” Celia lit another cigarette. Chandler wanted to speak, to give some kind of rebuttal, but he couldn’t, he was dumbfounded.

“How do you know all this?” Squires spoke up from across the room. “I am Major Hans Gruedell’s lover, one of the most senior members of the Gestapo and Abwehr in Casablanca and have access to his mind, his conversations and paperwork, that is how I know.” Celia said flatly. “The source in the Interior Ministry was developed by one of Donovan’s top agents in Bern.” Chandler replied, still trying to shoot holes in this crazy story being presented to him. “Yes. a Mr. Dulles, correct?” Ethan spoke up this time, walking from behind the couch with the Sten gun. “Correct.” Chandler replied. “Yeah, Dulles was the target of a Disinformation program by the Abwehr. They exploited a relationship between a French diplomat Dulles was friendly with and the Diplomat’s niece working in the Interior Ministry. It took them six months, but they were successful.” Ethan laid down the Sten and got a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and lit it. “How come you did not notify HQ of this? Why are you just telling us this now!” Chandler asked angrily, his face beginning to get red again. “Think about it Captain. Your entire North African network was compromised. We were not about to transmit this information to HQ only to have it fed back to the Germans and then get hunted down like dogs and killed! No, the only way we were going to do this was face to face, with the team they sent, like we are right now, and even then, we were taking a chance that your team were part of the deception too, sent here to kill us, so you can see why we were being cautious” Celia took a final drag of her cigarette and crushed the butt. Chandler shook his head and looked at the floor. “I’ll be damned.” he said softly to himself. “It’s a classic disinformation program guys.” Chandler said looking at Squires and Blakeley. “The Germans fed us all these details about Celia down to her being a music student to further convince us she was the mole so we would kill her, no questions asked, once she was exposed!” Chandler got up and walked over to the window, still trying to absorb it all. “You started out by telling us that Lt. Stokes is alive. Do you know where he is?” Squires asked. “Not only do we know where he is, we have developed a plan to break him out.” Toulere replied smiling, walking over to the couch and sitting down, slapping Squires on the back. “And as you say in America ‘To put the cherry on top’ of all this, Celia has developed a plan to not only kill Gruedell, but also the traitor vichy bitch at the Interior Ministry. It is a two for one deal, no!” Toulere laughed hysterically at his own joke, slapping his leg.

Blakeley got up and walked over to the window with Chandler. “What do you think of all this Captain?” Chandler stared out the window blankly, as if trying to divine an answer from the darkness. “It a crazy business we are in Blakeley. It’s not black and white like they tell you in training. It’s much more complicated than that.” Chandler replied. Squires walked over and joined them, feeling as if he had to close ranks. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all sat down on the couch together, holding hands. “So, Captain Chandler. there it all is. We are offering to help break your man out of jail and in addition kill a high-ranking Gestapo officer and a German double agent who has been feeding your OSS and SOE high command a steady diet of bullshit for the past few months, what do you say?” Celia asked smiling. Chandler continued looking out the window for a moment. He then turned around and faced them, a look of concentration on his face.”First things first. Give us our fuckin’ guns back. ” Celia smiled at that and nodded for Toulere to give them their guns. “Next. Celia, you Show me you plan from start to finish. Toulere and Ethan, take Blakeley and Squires here and show them all your hardware and explosives.” Chandler walked over and extended his hand to Celia. “Do we have a deal?” Celia stood up and shook his hand with a firm grip. Chandler was again impressed at her self-confidence. “I have one question before we begin Captain.” Celia said. “What’s that?” Chandler replied. “How did your HQ in London know that the message Lt. Stokes sent was dis-information fabricated by the Germans?” Celia eyes were wide waiting for the response. “Oh that was easy, he sent the X-Code before the transmission.” Chandler replied. Celia laughed and looked at Toulere and Ethan in disbelief. “You have no ideal how much that drove the German’s crazy! Gruedell talked about it for days!” Celia exclaimed. Chandler smiled at that and fished a cigarette out of a pack in his front shirt pocket. Celia promptly lit it with her gold pencil lighter. “Well, let’s see if we can’t manage to aggravate these German sons-of-bitches a little bit more, whatta you say?” Chandler asked, looking at the whole group, his eyes gleaming with excitement. Toulere let out a wild French yell and soon the tension and anxiety were replaced by excitement and joy. Lt. Stokes was alive and Major Hans Gruedell and the lying vichy bitch were soon going to die.

It was a good day for the OSS and the French Resistance.

 

To be Continued….

 

The X-Code and the Genie

sten

III.

1942 – Setaat SOE Safe House

Miss Celia Devereux and Captain Logan Chandler sat on the couch in the study and marvelled at the hilarious spectacle before them. Not thirty minutes prior, the tension in the room had been palpable. Each team unsure of the other’s motives and unsure of what to do next. Guns had been drawn, accusations made, and emotions running dangerously hot. But thankfully, cooler heads had prevailed and now, Toulere, as was his fashion, had taken up his role as court jester and being just shy of fall-down drunk, was on the piano leading the whole team in a terribly out of tune, but charismatic chorus of La Marseillaise with Ethan, Blakeley and Squires all arm in arm, swaying to the music. Celia reached over and took Chandler by the hand and led him into the kitchen where they both sat down at the table. “It’s too noisy in there. I just wanted to tell you I will be leaving soon. I have to meet Gruedell tonight at the Apartment.” Chandler looked over at Celia. Damn she was a beautiful woman. Her hazel eyes were soft and round. Her mouth perfectly shaped and inviting. The thought crossed his mind to kiss her, but he soon discarded it. They had a mission to both plan and execute and besides that, a man’s life hung in the balance. “I don’t know how you do it Celia, sleeping with that monster…” Chandler remarked. Celia smiled and reached into her purse. She took out the small Walther pistol and checked that it was loaded. “Every time I am with him, I have to remind myself of the reason why I am doing it.” Chandler could see a deep sorrow sweep over her face. He hesitated in proceeding further. Sometimes dredging up the past was not wise. Celia sensed his sensitivity to the subject. “It’s OK, I don’t mind. Both my parents died of typhus when I was four. I was raised by my Grandparents on a farm outside Orleans. It was an idyllic, simple, country life. My grandmother had been a teacher and she taught me science, mathematics, languages and music. My grandpa taught me everything else. He had been a soldier in the Great War, so I learned about guns, knives, boxing, hunting, you name it. He even taught me how to hot wire a car. My grandpa died of a heart attack when I was fifteen, so after that I had to help my grandmother take up the slack around the farm. When the Nazi’s invaded in 40′, my grandmother sent me to Paris to live with cousins, thinking it would be safer.

After a few months there, I made some inquiries about her and I found out she had been rounded up with the rest of the farmers in the area and sent to the camps in the east.” It took a moment for what Celia was telling Chandler to sink in. “Are you saying your family was Jewish?” Chandler asked, his mouth half-open in disbelief. “But Devereux is not a jewish name!” Chandler asked, amazed. “Oh Captain, you know when you are in the Resistance you to have at least three nom de guerre’s, right?” Celia smiled, a twinkle in her eye. “So what is your real name?” Chandler asked, smiling back. “Let’s save that for another conversation, shall we?” Celia replied, a playful tone in her voice. Celia laughed. “You have to admit Captain, the irony is just so poetically profound! Sometimes I am not sure what is the best thing about what I am doing with Gruedell. The fact that he is in love with a Jewish girl and that I am a spy with the Resistance and he is unaware! It’s hilarious, no!?” Celia laughed out loud and then lit a cigarette. “You have been full of surprises Miss Celia Devereux, that is for sure!” Chandler replied, smiling. “So tell me about Toulere and Ethan, how did you meet?” Chandler asked, lighting a cigarette of his own. “They were in the same Paris Resistance group as my cousins when I joined. When both my cousins were killed in a Gestapo raid in 41′, they became my family.”

Suddenly Celia’s face became serious again. “You know we all have lost somebody in this God-awful war, but those two men in there have lost everything.” Chandler noticed tears welling up in Celia’s eyes. “Hey Celia, I’m sorry to bring all this up…” Chandler said, trying to apologize. “No, its important you know these things so you know the kind of people you are working with.” Celia said flatly, wiping the tears away quickly. “Toulere had a wife and two sons. He and dozens more of the Resistance in Paris had their families moved out of the city for safety when the Germans invaded. Somehow the Gestapo got an informant inside the group and found out the location of where the families were hiding and killed all of them. Thirty six women and children murdered in cold blood….” Celia’s eyes were wet again, staring at some distant place past the wall in the kitchen. “Son-of-a-bitch!” Chandler cursed. “And Ethan…poor Ethan. We found him in a gutter, starving, left for dead by the SD.” Celia was sobbing now. “That poor kid had to watch his entire family be slaughtered in front of him because they were Communist. So when our bosses offered all three of us a chance to come to Casablanca and work, we all jumped at the chance. Paris had become too dangerous. It is riddled with traitors and informants and has too many bad memories.” Celia suddenly looked at her watch. “Oh Shit!” She jumped up from her seat, went over to the sink and washed her face. “I’ve got to hurry or I will be late. If I am not there when he arrives, he might get suspicious. I will see you tomorrow afternoon and we will work out the plan, yes?” Celia asked as she grabbed her purse off the table. “Sure, you bet.” Chandler replied. “Au Revoir Captain.” Celia said smiling as she walked out of the kitchen. “Au Revoir Miss Devereux.” Chandler replied. “God Speed to you.”

Chandler awoke the next morning with a terrible hangover and his head feeling like a frozen pineapple. “These damn French, it happens every time…” he muttered to himself as he crawled out of bed, slipping on his trousers. He could hear the familiar clicking of the telegraph in the next room as Squires talked with London. As Chandler walked to the bathroom praying there were some aspirin in the cabinet, Squires came out of his room. “Ah, Sir, you’re up. Perfect. We just got a message from HQ. They wanted to know the status of the mission.” Chandler kept walking to the bathroom. “The status of the mission is there is no mission yet Squires, you know that. We sit down tonight with Celia and the others to plan it out.” Chandler shut the door to the bathroom as Squires tried to follow him in. “But sir, what do I tell them then?” Chandler cracked the door. “Tell them our Resistance contacts are currently busy with subversive activities, as is their mandate, and we are in a holding pattern as far as planning the mission. As soon as we have details we will let HQ know.” Chandler slammed the door this time as if to put a period on the conversation. When Chandler made his way downstairs he was surprised to find Toulere and Ethan sitting at the table eating and talking. “Good Morning Captain!” Toulere said with vigor. “Good God, I forgot about you French, you people can drink like fishes!” Ethan and Toulere laughed at the remark. “Would you like a omlette captain?” Ethan asked getting up. “No, just coffee thanks.” Chandler sat down with Toulere. “Last night was a real party, aye!” Toulere said smiling. “Yeah, I guess you could call it that.” Chandler said smiling as Ethan sat a steaming mug of black coffee in front of him. “Today, I thought we could go over weapons and explosives and tonight when Celia gets back we can go over the plan in detail.” Ethan said as he sat back down. Chandler shook his head in the affirmative as he sipped his coffee. “Sounds good. Do you have a place around here where we can shoot and not draw attention?” Chandler asked. “Wee, Toulere and me found a real nice spot about 10 miles from here, very secluded and private.” Ethan replied. “Sounds perfect, but let’s play it smart and only bring one sten and one welrod to practice with, everything else stays in the cache spot. I will gather my guys and meet you at the vehicle in half-an-hour?” Chandler asked, looking at both Toulere and Ethan. “Perfect!” Toulere said getting up from the table. “Ethan you get the guns, I’ll bring the beer!” Chandler slowly shook his head as he rubbed his temples and muttered under his breath. “Beer? You gotta be kidding. These damn French are gonna be the death of me…”

———————————

 10 Miles South of Setaat SOE Safe House

 The small, green clearing Toulere and Ethan had chosen was a few miles off the main road in an orchard of olive trees. “You sure the man who owns this orchard won’t report us to the krauts when he hears the shooting?” Chandler asked Toulere as they drove up. “Positive Captain, he is a trusted friend of the Resistance.” Chandler nodded as he wiped his forehead with his handkerchief. He had forgotten how hot North Africa could be this time of year. It was barely Noon and already the rancid alcohol was seeping out of the pores of all the men, making it smell like a brewery. Ethan walked downrange with Squires and put up a few makeshift targets with tin cans. When they returned, Toulere began walking the men through the hardware. “For security reasons we only brought the one sten and one welrod and a little ammo to practice with. But per the Captain’s orders, here is the latest complete inventory for all weapons, explosives and gear for the mission:

  • Three 1911 .45acp Pistols and nine magazines

  • Three P-38 9mm Pistols and six magazines

  • One Luger P-08 9mm Pistol, Two magazines and uniform Flap Holster

  • One Walther PPK .32ACP Pistol, two Magazines

  • Four 9mm Welrod Suppressed Pistols

  • Four Sten 9mm sub-machine guns, twelve magazines

  • Two K-98 8mm Rifles

  • Eight MK-II American Pineapple Grenades

  • Four British Smoke Grenades

  • 7 Blocks of Comp-B Explosive with Det Wire, Pencil Detonators and Timers

  • Two-hundred rounds of .45ACP, Six hundred rounds of 9mm ammunition, fifty-rounds of 8mm, fifty rounds of .32ACP

  • Two captured Wermacht soldier uniforms with caps and boots

  • 2 Pre-loaded syringes of surgical sleeping agent

  • 2 Pre-loaded syringes of tranquilizer agent

  • 8 Cyanide pill vials

The rest of the day the men spent practicing with each of the guns. Squires was the one with the least trigger time, so all the men gave him tips they had learned in the field. “With the Sten, don’t fire a burst when one shot will do, remember, less is better!” Chandler told him. “With the welrod, I have learned to aim just a tad high if they are more than twenty feet away. Remember, if from the front, shoot them in the face, if from the back, aim for the base of the skull. Our aim is to sever the spinal cord and cut out all motor function.” Ethan told him, pointing to the appropriate areas on Toulere’s head as he explained and Toulere doing his best impression of a dead nazi all the while. Chandler looked at his watch. “Let’s head home, Celia should be back soon and we can start going over the operational plans.”

————————————

Setaat SOE Safe House

Celia  arrived at the house around eighteen hundred and Chandler wasted no time laying out the operation that was to take place the next night. “Before I start I want to go over our escape. As most of you know, we were set to catch a French freighter in Rabat two days from now. Since the freighter’s schedule cannot be altered at our beckon call, Command has provided a London Express Transport. The landing strip designated ‘GARBO’ will be used and the plane will be on the ground at 2345.” Chandler rolled out a map of the city and surrounding area. “Garbo is here and the jail is here.” Chandler circled the two locations in red. “Celia, HQ has green lit the assassinations of Major Gruedell of the Gestapo and the double-agent at the Interior ministry, their code names are HAMMER and STAR, respectively. You are certain you can kill both of them and then link up with us at GARBO in time?” Chandler asked without looking up from the map. “Positive Captain.” Celia answered flatly. “Ok, so the assault on the jail is as follows. Guard strength is estimated at four to six. Stokes is the only prisoner so we don’t have to worry about freeing anybody else. We go in quick and quiet with the welrod’s and only go loud with the sten’s if we have no other choice. Squires and Ethan will pull security at the front while me, Toulere  and Blakeley go in and get Stokes, understood?” Everybody nodded their heads. “I am not sure what kind of shape Stokes is going to be in, so we have to be prepared to carry him out, understood?” Again everybody nodded their heads. “We leave here at 2200 tonight. Celia, we will expect you at GARBO at 2340.” Chandler looked at Celia earnestly. “I will be there Captain.” Celia replied. “You know the plane can only stay on the ground for five minutes, so if you are not there by 2350, you will be left.” Chandler looked at Celia seriously. “Understood Captain.” Celia replied again, this time giving him a playful wink. “Anybody have any questions?” Chandler asked looking around. Everybody shook their head no. Toulere raised his hand. “I vote since the mission is not until tomorrow night, and this very well may be our last night on earth, we all get drunk and have a party.” Toulere said with a smile, walking over to the piano. “I second that motion.” Ethan said laughing, going over to the bar and pouring drinks. “I think you better grant their request Captain or you may have a mutiny on your hands.” Celia said laughing as she got up to get a drink. “Can I get you something Captain?” Celia asked. “Yeah why not, Whiskey neat.” Chandler replied. Celia brought the drink over and sat beside Chandler. Both Celia and Chandler drank in silence for a few minutes as Toulere, Ethan, Squires and Blakeley blew off some steam singing at the piano. “So what are our odds Captain, honestly?” Celia asked, looking at Chandler seriously.  “I say 70/30 in our favor. We got a good group of people and surprise is on our side.” Chandler replied taking a long drink. Neither one of them spoke for several moments. Only the sound of the men’s laughter filled the room. Ethan left the room and came back with a framed picture of De Gaulle he had hidden in his room. He propped up the picture on the piano and Toulere burst into another horrific but patriotic rendition of La Marseillaise as everybody else joined in.

———————————–

323 Rue Socrates, Apartment 114 – Casablanca

The next day Celia kept to her regular schedule and then around seventeen hundred headed to STAR’s apartment. Celia was amazed at how fast she remembered how to pick a lock. In under fifteen seconds she was out of the hallway and into the flat. Glancing at the clock on the wall as she entered, Celia estimated the woman would be home in ten minutes or less. The place was clean and neat. “Just like a German” Celia muttered under her breath. The woman obviously lived alone, judging from the clothes in the closet and the amount of food in the cupboards. Celia looked over the layout, trying to decide the best hiding spot. A linen closet just off the main hall would suffice she decided. Checking to ensure the welrod was loaded, she carefully slid off her shoes and then slid her body into the closet and closed the door. Five minutes passed and then Celia heard a key inside the front door lock. Celia heard footsteps and a shadow pass the door. She then heard the woman in the kitchen, keys jangling on the table, the refrigerator door opening. Celia quietly opened the closet door and slid her slim body out. Walking heel-to-toe down the small hallway, Celia slowly turned the corner into the kitchen. The woman continued to put up groceries for a few moments until she felt Celia’s presence behind her. She slowly turned around to face her. “I am glad they sent a woman to do it.” The woman’s words fell out of her mouth as Celia pressed the trigger. The pistol burped the spent gases in a “pfttttttt” sound as the nine-millimeter round entered right below her right eye, sending a spray of blood and brain matter out the back of her head painting the white and yellow cupboards behind her in a visceral red mist. The woman’s body crumpled to the floor with a light thud. Celia waited a few seconds and then loaded the welrod again. Stepping over the body, she pressed the muzzle to the womans head and shot her again. Satisfied, Celia stuck the pistol in her purse and calmly walked out of the apartment and headed to her place, four blocks away.

———————————–

12 Rue Karachi, Apartment 365 – Casablanca

Celia glanced up at the clock. It was ten minutes after ten. They would be on their way to the jail right about now, she thought to herself. Celia had been waiting for the past five hours for Major Hans Gruedell, aka HAMMER, to show up. He typically arrived somewhere around ten o’clock every night, like clockwork. No matter, she was not going to panic, she thought to herself. She wanted to take her time getting ready. This was a special night. A night of reckoning. She double checked her hair and makeup in the mirror and made sure to wear the new red dress Gruedell had bought her the previous week. As she walked out of the bathroom she noticed the picture on the dresser of her dear Grandmother looking at her. Celia felt herself wanting to cry and then she noticed the pre-loaded syringe of tranquilizer and the Block of Explosive with a timer laying on the bed and the sadness she was feeling turned into a smile. She wondered if Captain Chandler would be angry with her for taking those things without permission as she loaded a fresh magazine into her Walther.

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Gestapo Jail – 5 miles Outside Casablanca

Chandler and the rest of the men sat up the street from the jail watching. “We hope to be in and out in under six minutes. Keep the engine running and be ready to move in a hurry.” Chandler told Ethan and Squires, giving them both a serious look and a smile Chandler, Toulere and Blakeley were all dressed in black with black watch caps. Each of them wore a holster with a welrod pistol and a Sten slung across their chest. Chandler peered out the small window in the back of the van ensuring the coast was clear. The streets were empty and quiet. “Ok, let’s move”. All three men burst out of the back of the van and cleared the distance to the jail in seconds. All three men drew their welrod’s. “Toulere, you get the door.” Toulere quickly opened the door and Chandler and Blakeley went in. As they entered, a German soldier was napping at a desk, Chandler fired one round, hitting him just right of the nose, crumpling him to the floor. Chandler quickly reloaded. Another set of double doors led into the jail. Toulere tried opening them but they were locked. “Blakeley, slide over and open them.” Chandler whispered. Blakeley slid over the counter like a cat and opened the door. The three men proceeded down a small flight of steps that led down a long hallway. Chandler was in the lead and he could hear two Germans talking up ahead around a corner. He quickly threw up two fingers and then readied his pistol. As they turned the corner two soldiers were smoking and talking, Chandler shot the first one in the side of the head and Toulere the second, both of the bodies dropping on top of one another in a dull thud. Chandler reached down and patted the soldiers finding a silver key ring on one of the belts. The hallway continued for ten more feet and then dead ended at a single cell. Chandler found the key and opened the door. As the door swung open, the smell almost knocked the group down. “My God!” Toulere exclaimed putting his hand up to his face. Expecting to find a corpse, both men entered the dark cell. Chandler used his torch to search and there in the corner, next to a bucket of his own shit and vomit, lay an emaciated Lieutenant Stokes. He was covered in rags, his skin a series of blisters, cuts and sores. His hair was long and he was unshaven. Chandler gently lifted him up off the ground. Chandler noticed the bastards had cut off his right ear and now only a small hole remained. “Bout time you showed up Captain, I was seriously thinking of filing a complaint…” Stokes whispered weakly, his lips so badly chapped, they were bleeding. Chandler smiled at the remark. “Let’s get you the hell out of here Stokes.” He was so light Chandler had no problem picking him up like a child. “I’m gonna carry him to the van.” Chandler told Toulere as he slung his sten across his back and started out of the cell. Toulere ran ahead ensuring the coast was clear. As they exited the building, the streets were still empty. Blakeley met them at the back of the van, opening up the door. “Jesus Christ! Is he alive?” Blakeley whispered, his eyes wide. “Oh yeah he’s alive, even cracked a joke earlier.” Chandler responded as he gently laid Stokes in the back of the van on a blanket. “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Chandler said as everybody jumped into the van. Chandler turned around and took one last look at the jail and then hopped into the driver’s seat and sped off.

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12 Rue Karachi, Apartment 365 – Casablanca

Gruedell arrived at the apartment at 2235 carrying a dozen red roses and a bottle of schnapps.  Celia was sitting at the kitchen table drinking red wine. “I was about to give up on you.” she said smiling. “I am sorry my darling, work intruded. To make it up to you, I brought you this…” Gruedell replied smiling, laying the roses and schnapps down on the table and leaning over and kissing Celia. “How beautiful, let me get a vase.” Celia got up and walked to the kitchen cupboard. Gruedell walked into the bedroom and began undressing. “I am going to take a bath. I feel filthy.” he called out. When Celia heard the bathroom door shut and the water begin to run, she walked over to her dresser and opened the drawer. She removed the welrod pistol, a roll of thick packing tape, a pair of handcuffs, a pair of leg irons, a hammer, a hacksaw and the pre-loaded tranquilizer injection. She then went into the kitchen and got a chair and brought it into the bedroom. After everything was staged, she sat on the bed and waited. After ten minutes, she had forgotten how vain and self-absorbed this son-of-a-bitch could be so she figured she better entice him to move things along. She walked over to the bathroom door and in a deep, throaty voice called out “My Darling, please hurry up, your Fräulein is so hot, moist and ready…” Celia had to choke the words out they made her so nauseous. She was so glad the charade would end tonight! Through the door, Gruedell could be heard giggling like an adolescent schoolboy. “Oh my! Well in that case, here I come!” Celia backed up away from the door and stood to the side. Gruedell burst out of the bathroom, naked like some horny wildebeest, his manhood erect and his eyes wide and lustful, the steam from the bath pouring out around him like some demon escaping from hell. Celia quickly jabbed the needle into the side of his neck and injected the dose of tranquilizer. Gruedell shrieked like a wounded animal.”You fucking bitch! What was that!” He grabbed the side of his neck and then turned toward Celia to attack. Celia raised the welrod pistol toward him. He took two steps and then his legs turned into limp spaghetti. “What the hell?” Were the only words he muttered before he collapsed, his head hitting the wood floor with a slap.

When Gruedell came to he was gagged and taped to a kitchen chair, his hands handcuffed behind his back and his feet in a pair of leg irons attached to the chair. Celia sat across from him smoking a cigarette. “How do you feel my darling?” Celia asked with contempt, smiling through the hazy smoke. Gruedell responded with a grunt through the gag, his eyes bleary and unfocused from the drugs. “I want to show you something.” Celia said getting up from her chair and bringing over a small box and some pictures. “Hey! Pay attention!” Celia slapped him hard, his head rotating to the left with spittle and blood shooting out on the floor. “This is a picture of my dear Grandmother who raised me, her name was Anna also.” Celia held the picture up in front of Gruedell’s unfocused eyes. “You nazi pigs sent her to the camps to be gassed.” Gruedell’s head bobbed as he went in and out of consciousness. Celia slapped him again. She was angry now. She opened up the small box and removed a yellow Star of David holding it up in front of his eyes. “And this you make us wear like branded beast.” Gruedells eyes wavered, his head still bobbing up and down. She slapped him again, this time harder. She then walked over to her desk and opened up a drawer and removed some papers. Sorting through them, she found the one she wanted and walked back over to Gruedell. “See this!” Celia held up the document in front of Grudell. His eyes struggled to read the fine print, but when he finally did, his eyes grew wide with amazement. “That’s right you nazi pig, all this time you have been in love with a jew!” Celia turned the paper around and looked at it. It was her original birth certificate, stolen from the Orleans registry and replaced with a fake one before the Nazi’s arrived. “Anna Louise Weigel, Religion: Jewish.” Celia said out loud with pride. Gruedell could be heard cursing through the gag, his eyes wide and red with anger. Suddenly something boiled up in Celia that she could not control and in a blur she picked up the hammer, grabbed his penis, stretched it out on the chair and hit the head as hard as she could. Gruedell screamed through the gag, making a pitiful mewing sound, like a dog slowly dying. Blood and pieces of yellow cartilage splattered all over Gruedell’s stomach and legs as thick, almost black blood oozed out of the wound and dripped off the chair. After a few minutes of listening to Gruedell’s suffering, Celia glanced at the clock. “Time to get this show on the road, Sturmbannfuhrer.” She picked up the Walther laying on the desk and curtly rapped Grudell across the head with the barrel. The metal split the skin down to the bone and blood sprayed on the wall. The blow knocked him unconscious again, and Celia satisfied with the silence, lit another cigarette and prepared for round two of this wonderful night of overdue reckoning.

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10 miles from GARBO Airfield

Chandler did not see the Gendarmerie checkpoint until he crested the hill. “What the hell?” Chandler muttered under his breath. “That was definitely not here when we left.” Ethan exclaimed from the back. “Either they got wind of the jail break. or this is just a random security search. Ethan cover up the weapons and Stokes with that blanket, everybody else get your ID’s out.” Chandler stuck his 1911 under the seat. “If they want to search the van, we are gonna have to kill them.” Toulere spoke from the passenger seat as he did the same with his pistol. “I count two cars and five men, three of them with machine pistols, do you see the same?” Chandler asked Toulere. “I do.” Toulere responded. “Everybody be calm and let me talk.” Chandler said as they rolled up to the line of cars being checked. It only took a few moments before a Gendarmerie officer in full uniform and strutting like a peacock came up to the window. Chandler rolled down the window and spoke “Good Evening Officer.”  “Routine security check. identifications please.” The officer was a typical Vichy stooge, an SS wanna-be, trying to look and dress the part of his German masters. As Chandler handed him the ID’s, the officer shined his flashlight into the van, first looking at Toulere and then looking into the back. Chandler noticed the other four officers in a group watching. He glanced over at Toulere and then gripped his 1911 with his right hand. “Where are you coming from at such a late hour?” the officer asked. “We work construction. We had a big job and worked late today.” Chandler responded. The officer again shined the light in the back of the van. “What’s wrong with your friend back there, is he drunk?” “No, he was hurt today at work, fell off a ladder, we are just now on our way to take him home.” Chandler noticed two of the other officers start to walk over. “We are going to need to search the van.” The officer said flatly. “But sir, we have a sick man that cannot be moved.” Chandler’s voice was virtually pleading with the officers. “No matter, please step out of the…” As the officer reached to open the door, Chandler swung the pistol out of the window and shot the man point-blank in the face. In the same moment the two officer’s that were walking up drew their machine pistols and fired, the rounds piercing the windshield and engine block. Chandler ducked down in the seat while Toulere quickly exited the van, firing rapidly with his pistol while moving toward a ditch, his rounds hitting both of the officers in the legs and stomach. “Blakeley and Squires, disperse!” Chandler yelled as Ethan collapsed  on top of Stokes. The van door burst open and Blakeley and Squires, both armed with Stens, came around the van. The two remaining officers had taken position behind their cars, one-armed with a MP-40 and the other with a pistol. The wounded officers on the ground fired at Toulere in the ditch when Chandler raised up and fired through the windshield, hitting both of the officers in the chest, dropping them. One of the officers taking cover behind his car fired a burst at Chandler with the MP-40. Blakeley as he came around the van saw the man firing at Chandler and squeezed off a three-round burst with the Sten, the rounds catching the officer in the neck and head, dropping him in a wet thud. Squires broke right to engage the remaining officer behind the car. “I surrender” the officer yelled throwing his gun down and raising his hands.

Squires and Blakeley brought the officer out from behind the car with his hands raised. “Captain you OK?” Blakeley yelled. Chandler raised up from cover and peered over the dash. “Yeah, I’m OK”. “Ethan you and Stokes OK back there?”  There was no reply, only the labored breathing of Stokes, covered in Ethan’s blood, pushed his body off of him. “I think Ethan is Dead, Captain.” Stokes said weakly. Chandler reached behind him and felt for a pulse on Ethan. Nothing. “Shit!” Chandler exclaimed as he kicked the door open and got out. He walked around to the back and opened the door, pulling Ethan;s lifeless body off of Stokes. “You hit Stokes?” Chandler asked looking him over. “No, I’m fine.” Stokes responded. Chandler turned Ethan over and saw where two of the rounds fired through the windshield had caught him in the neck. Chandler closed Ethan’s eyes and then walked over to the ditch. “I think Toulere’s dead too Captain” Squires said as he walked up. Chandler knelt down and turned Toulere over. A round had caught him in the top of the head. “Yeah, he’s gone.” Chandler muttered. “What do we do with this one Captain?” Blakeley asked, looking at the Gendarmerie officer who was quietly praying.  Chandler calmly got to his feet, walked over to the officer and shot him in the back of the head. Blakeley and Squires both jumped back in shock. “Now come on and help me move Stokes to one of these cars, the van’s engine block is shot to hell.” Chandler voice was calm and even. “Captain! What the hell! That guy surrendered!” Squires exclaimed, almost crying. Chandler laughed walking back to the van “Surrendered? What the hell does that have anything to do with it? He was an enemy agent and had seen our faces, we had no choice!” Chandler said flatly. “Now come on and help me get Stokes into that car, we got a plane to catch!”

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Outside Gestapo HQ – Casablanca

Major Hans Gruedell awoke from a groggy and disoriented state to a state of extreme pain for the second time in an hour, this time sitting in the driver seat of a car. His head and groin hurt and while he wanted to reach and feel either one, he realized with horror that his hands had been taped to the steering wheel. He looked over beside him and there sat Celia, smiling, smoking a cigarette. “Hello lover boy, how do you feel?” Celia asked. “What the hell have you done to me?” Gruedell asked, trying to twist his body to get his arms free. “I wouldn’t move around too much if I were you, you are in a very fragile state.” Celia replied, smiling. “I went ahead and wrapped your dick, or what was left of it, in gauze and gave you a coagulant so you would not bleed to death before we could have our little fun.” Gruedell looked at Celia trying to understand what she was talking about and then he looked down. Gruedell realized that not only was his squashed penis wrapped in a layer of gauze but also he was totally naked and taped above his crotch were two, one pound blocks of Comp B-Explosive with pencil detonators inserted with a clock timer. “OH…MY…GOD….Celia, what have you done?” Gruedell asked, his voice cracking with fear. “Well, to put it simply, I have made you into a Bomb Hans, a rather large human, dickless, bomb.” Celia smiled at how funny that sounded and finished her cigarette, throwing the butt out the window. “What do you plan to do?” Gruedell asked, his voice low, his bottom lip trembling. “Plan to do? Oh I won’t tell you that Hans, that would ruin the fun, let’s just say it is gonna be a real blast!” Celia laughed at the remark as she reached over and turned the timer to two minutes and flipped a red switch. “Now just in case you were thinking of trying to reset the timer or mess with it in anyway, I have set a secondary switch. So don’t even think about that, OK sweetums?” Celia gave Gruedell a hard, evil look and then got out of the car and walked over to the driver side and opened the door. “Celia, whatever you are thinking about doing, we can discuss…” Gruedells voice trailed off as he watched Celia reach down into the floorboard and retrieve a broom handle that had been cut to length. Suddenly, Gruedell looked up and realized the car he was in was pointed directly at the entrance to Gestapo headquarters. “Burn in hell you nazi piece of shit.” Celia said as she placed the cut broom handle on the accelerator, pinning it to the floor. The engine revved with raw, angry horsepower as Celia backed up and then popped the transmission from neutral into first gear. Gruedell shrieked like a teenage girl as the car peeled off at high-speed, it’s engine roaring like low, rolling thunder. Celia turned around and walked calmly down the sidewalk, lighting another cigarette as the car crashed into the building, a cacophony of breaking glass, twisting metal, screeching tires and loud screams of panic filled the once peaceful night. As Celia rounded the corner to her waiting car, a huge explosion lit up the Casablanca night, as shards of metal and glass and parts and pieces of dozens of Gestapo and SS officers that ran to the car to help free Hans were dispersed all over downtown in a nazi meat shower.

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GARBO Airfield

Chandler and the team arrived in time to light the  signal fires needed for the plane to land. Chandler and Blakeley got Stokes out of the back while Squires loaded up the equipment and weapons. As soon as they were on board the pilot asked Chandler how much longer he wanted to wait. “Give her two more minutes.” Chandler replied over the drone of the planes engines. As Chandler was about to pull up the ramp, he saw headlights coming. As the car got closer it stopped and out popped Celia, running flat-out for the plane. She hit the ramp and Chandler grabbed her by the hand and pulled her aboard. Once inside Chandler gave the all clear sign to the pilot and the engines could be heard revving to full power. Celia quickly glanced around the cabin and saw Stokes but did not see Toulere and Ethan. She quickly turned to ask Chandler a question, but the look in his eyes told her what she wanted to know. Chandler just shook his head, a tear forming in his eye. Celia grabbed him and hugged him tight, burying her head into his shoulder and letting out a sob. Chandler looked over and saw Stokes looking at them both, tears flowing down his cheeks as he mouthed the words “Thank You.” extending his hand. Chandler reached out and shook it, still holding Celia tight as the engines roared and the plane banked north for England.

THE END