Chapter 1 April, 1944
The limousine wound its way thru the dark streets of London, made even darker by a light fog, which had set in about three hours earlier. The driver no doubt would have had difficulty finding his way, if he had not been to this same address many times before. The two passengers in the back seat were thankful for that and for the fog, because the skeletons of the bombed-out buildings, silhouetted against a moonlit sky, would have been truly depressing.
The few buildings left standing on both sides of the street were sandbagged almost to the curb. Pedestrians using the sidewalks during the daylight hours had to walk single file or walk on the edge of the street. This made for hazardous driving conditions, particularly in this up-scale part of the city, where the streets were narrow and the traffic was at its heaviest.
The Blitz had come and gone but the rocket sites on the northern end of the continent had not yet been destroyed, so there was a continuing need for the population to pack inside the bomb-shelters every night. The city was far from normal. There was still a blackout. And the headlamps from the few automobiles on the streets were still painted over to let only a small sliver of light shine thru. It was just barely enough to be seen by another driver, while completely invisible from the air.
Petrol was heavily rationed, so there was little civilian traffic, except for the occasional taxi. The taverns were closed at this late hour and only a few night workers could be seen hurrying to their places of employment. Viewed altogether, the city exuded something of a sense of peace and tranquility. But this was superficial, because there were still the rockets that could be heard exploding with far more force than that experienced by aerial bombs. And the wail of the fire trucks racing thru the streets could be heard from dusk to dawn.
Deep down, the feelings of the citizens were running at fever pitch. The cause for this concern, beyond that of the falling rockets, was the long awaited Invasion, which at long last appeared to be imminent. Although they were unaware, it was this very subject that had brought the two-limo passengers out at this late hour. Actually, they did not know why they were out; save they had been summoned to the residence of the Prime Minister for lunch.
Most Britons might think of Winston Churchill as something of an eccentric; but few would ever say so. Great Britain was a Constitutional Monarchy. The seat of power lay with the Parliament and the recognized leader was the Prime Minister. Never more so than now and never more so than with this particular prime minister. So the term eccentric was never used in describing him, for perhaps Britain had never had a more respected leader in the long history of the Commonwealth than Churchill.
Still, lunch at midnight could hardly be viewed as a commonplace affair, even in war torn Britain. But the two government officials on their way to his residence hardly gave it a second thought, when the invitation was extended for this late hour.
The limo pulled over to the curb at number ten Downing Street and parked. The driver hurried around and opened the passenger door where he was joined by two Royal Marine sentries. They had emerged from covered guard posts secluded well inside sandbagged barricades. They were dressed in full battle gear and each of them was equipped with a shouldered Sten machine gun.
The first one stepped forward to take the identification cards of the two passengers, which had been handed to the chauffeur. He immediately retreated to the hidden light of the guard post where the cards could be scrutinized. They were then handed back and the two passengers emerged from the automobile. Both of the marines, who now recognized the occupants as army officers, saluted, even though the two of them were in civilian clothes. They walked toward the large oaken door that was the entrance to the residence. When the door was opened from the inside, their credentials were again verified, and then an Officer of the Royal Navy escorted them thru the hall leading off the foyer.
A stairway led down three flights of stairs. They chose to walk down rather than wait for the elevator, which would only accommodate two of them at a time. On the ground floor they emerged into a large reinforced bunker that contained some one hundred rooms. This was the command post and wartime residence of the Prime Minister. They were led thru his conference room into a private dining room, which contained a mahogany table and chairs to seat eight people, with an additional half-dozen more lining the walls. The escort then seated them at a table prepared for three people. A waiter entered the room immediately and announced that Sir Winston would be with them momentarily.
Precisely at midnight the PM entered with an aide who was carrying a brief case. The aide set it down and then pulled out the other chair and held it out for the Prime Minister. He then whispered something out of earshot of the others and retired.
The two officers were cousins. They were also distantly related to Churchill thru his dowager grandmother the Duchess of Marlborough. The three were old friends from Cadet days at Sandhurst. Indeed, they had all three served as sub-lieutenants in the same regiment in the Sudan, when Britain interfered in an effort to subdue the Mahdi uprisings.
They were both of royal lineage and were now formerly addressed by Sir Winston as Lord Edward Wycliffe and Brigadier Anthony Gale, Earl of Dunston. Thereafter, they referred to each other as Eddy, Tony and Winnie as they had when they were young men at school.
Churchill began the conversation by asking them if it was all right if he ordered for them. “Our chef prepares an excellent sole,” he said. “I’m sure you will be pleased.” The other two recognized the comment as being a polite way of saying that perhaps it was all that he had to offer. Certainly the Nations leader could have had anything he wanted to eat. But he wanted them to understand that he ate what the common man ate. And as his guests, they were expected to do the same.
Churchill often invited guests to his quarters at night. He disliked eating alone. And then too, it gave him a welcome respite from the heavy burden of government and the loneliness of his quarters. But he found it difficult to relax completely, because the war was usually not too far from his mind. Tonight was to be no exception. It was no coincidence that his two guests were from British Intelligence. Wycliffe was head of MI-5 and Dunston commanded the overseas division known as MI-6.
He apologized for the late hour and for the disruption of their routines. “I used to work during the day like normal people.” He said. “But then what is normal these days. I never evacuated to the Underground like everybody else when the war started. I tried it once but then I was just too tired the next day. After we built this place, I had my bed moved over here near the war room. Then I found that I couldn’t sleep because of the bombs. Now it’s the rockets. I became a night owl. Now I’m afraid I have a habit that won’t be easily broken.”
They chatted amiably for a few minutes, as old friends were wont to do. But the officers were reluctant to lead the conversation into any serious subject, because time would not permit. They both knew Churchill had something on his mind. And they both knew from years of experience in his company that he often arrived at what he wanted to say by a very circuitous route.
“Do you recall the first battle of the Somme,” he said, not expecting an answer. Both of them had served honorably in that terrible war and both of them had been in the meat grinder known as the Somme from early in July until November of 1916. It was not likely that anybody who was there would have forgotten one horrible moment spent in the trenches. Churchill knew this having served for a brief period on the Western Front. It was just his way of beginning the journey toward the point he intended to make. And they both knew he intended to take every minute of the time scheduled for lunch before he made it. And they were both equally sure when it was made that it would require some action on their part.
“Recall how Dougie made a perfect mess of things?” He had reference to another personal friend of theirs, Lieutenant General Sir Douglas Haig. And in particular, how much of the British Expeditionary Force under his command was squandered in the face of German machine guns.
Haig had engaged in maneuvers inland of the French coast for several weeks before he made up his mind where he wanted to commit the BEF against the entrenched Germans. When he did make up his mind, he believed an overwhelming artillery attack would render the German infantry helpless. His forces would then prevail along a seventy-mile front. But instead of a victory, which might have ended the war, it would come to be known as the worst defeat ever suffered by British arms.
The artillery did not have the expected effect on the morale of the German soldiers. They hunkered down inside well-fortified bunkers and rode out the barrage that lasted for days. Neither Haig nor his advisors believed any human could withstand such a shelling. But the Germans did. Then when the British advanced across “no mans land” under a “rolling barrage;” they were met by withering machine gun fire.
One of Haig’s problems was lack of communications. His shells had cut his own telephone lines. When this happened, his officers at the front of the advancing troops could not advise him of the situation. Wave after wave was cut-down, as those in the rear, unaware of what was happening, continued to advance. And the few who made it to the German trenches were impaled on the wire, which had remained intact.
Finally, after some seventy thousand men were lost, the majority in the first twenty minutes, the attack was halted. It was not stopped by Haig, who was at his Headquarters miles to the rear, but by junior officers. They risked being court-martialed for cowardice. But if they had not taken matters into their own hands and disobeyed orders, most of the British Army would have been lost. As it was, the lines on the Somme were stretched very thin. And had the Germans been fully cognizant of the lack of British reserves, the war might have been lost there and then.
Something drastic had to be done or all might still be lost. They expected that it would take the German Secret Service just a few weeks to discover the true nature of the situation.
“You know Eddie that organization of yours was in its infancy. But I truly believe that the scheme they came up with on the spur of the moment saved us all.” Churchill was talking, as he looked up at the waiter.
Just in case the details might have been eroded by time, he intended to spend the next few minutes rehashing the events. Not only did it appear that this almost forgotten part of military history played a major role in the affairs of the Nation at that time; but it may well be the basis for another plan that was churning around in the active mind of their friend and superior.
“I am a firm believer in military intelligence. I have seen many a battle, and so have the two of you, that hinged on a commander knowing what to expect from the enemy. But there is an equally important side of your work. It was paramount then and might well be so today as we approach the time for Invasion.”
So that was it then. They were both thinking the same thing as they glanced knowingly at each other. But why did he not come right out and tell them what was on his mind? Because they both knew it was not his way. And they both knew he did not intend to interfere with the details of their work by telling them exactly what he wanted.
“We were in a sorry state in those days.” He said. Churchill had taken several bites of the sole, which he found to his liking, and he was beginning to warm up to his subject. They both knew he liked nothing better than to talk. And they enjoyed listening to him. He did have a way with words, although he was not known to get to the point quickly. He was famous for this, much to the consternation of some ranking military officers. General Eisenhower would say of him, after their meeting with Stalin at Casablanca, that he thought he would drive them all to distraction with his convoluted approach to a problem. And he did have a penchant for monopolizing the conversation, which bored the American to distraction.
Churchill was a maverick who had a reputation for conducting warfare by what had been termed “strategy by impulse.” Indeed, his Chief of Staff would write, “he had ten ideas a day and only one of them was any good. But I was always at a loss to know which was which.”
The Prime Minister continued on with his story: “We had no idea what we were going to do. We expected the Germans to find out we had only a few reserves left. And when they did, they were going to take maximum advantage of the situation. That’s where your gang came in Eddie. Misdirection is the name of the game. You two lads know it well and are famous for it, I might say.
“We only had two divisions of infantry left here in London. What we did have, we decided to use in a little game of Three-Card Monte with the Germans. We knew they had spies all over the place and we intended to take full advantage of the fact, if we could.
“Remember when we loaded all the troops into covered lorries and transported them up north. And then we put them on trains and headed them back south again. We off-loaded them at Waterloo Station. And then we put them on lorries and sent them down to the debarkation points. We did this during the day so the Germans could watch us. We even went so far as to have the men march aboard the ships waiting to transport them to the front. After the bands stopped playing and the women stopped waving, and when we figured the Germans were in their schnapps, we quietly moved them off the ships again. Then in single file, we route-stepped them about two miles inland in the dark. Sometimes we hauled them back by lorry and sometimes by train. Anything we could think of to keep the Germans guessing, we did. After the troops had a short rest we had them do it all over again. I have no idea how many trips back and forth some of them made. But I remember hearing from relatives that some of the tuba players in the bands at Waterloo and on the quay got awfully tired.”
The three friends began laughing at the charade they remembered so long ago. And then Dunston grew more serious as he said, “You know Winnie, some of those boys did yeoman duty during those crucial months. They were far more valuable to us here than they would have ever been in France.”
Lord Wycliffe looked up from his plate and wiped his mouth with his napkin. And then he began to chuckle all over again.
“It worked.” Churchill said. “It fooled the Germans into believing we had virtually an army of reinforcements. And it gave us about a three-month respite that we would not have enjoyed otherwise.”
“Indeed it did,” replied Wycliffe, giving the appearance that the three of them were having a luncheon conversation and not listening to a military briefing, which they were. “It gave Kitchener the time he needed to conscript and train a whole new Army.” He volunteered.
“Yes, now the opportunity for another little Monte game might be in the offing.” Churchill said this with a twinkle in his eye as he stood up and motioned for the two of them to join him in the conference room. What he had to say to them next was of the highest security classification. And then it was only discussed in the presence of those who had a clear need to know.
When he had personally secured the sound proof door behind him, he said, “That scheme you worked out with the Americans, Eddie, is paying dividends, I’m talking about the one where you have that fake army poised to strike them across the straight at Pais de Calais.”
During one of the battles for the so-called “soft under-belly” of the continent, General George Patton’s forces underwent a severe shelling. Later, the General chose to make one of his frequent inspections to a field hospital. He was there, as much as for anything else, to show his support for the wounded and to award some medals for valor.
After he placed a medal on a wounded and unconscious soldier’s pillow, the General kneeled and whispered something into his ear. When he stood-up, he noticed what appeared to him to be a perfectly healthy soldier sitting on the edge of his bunk. He asked the man what was wrong with him. The soldier began crying and said he could not take it any more. When Patton asked him what it was he could not take, the soldier replied that he could not take the shelling any longer. Words were exchanged with the soldier and the medical staff accompanying him. Patton became enraged. And during a tirade about cowardice, and his disapproval of the soldier being quartered with those he referred to as “these brave men,” Patton slapped him.
The medical staff had just suffered a tongue lashing at the hands of the General. When he left, they were still smarting and were eager to report what had just happened. The story found it’s way to the Supreme Commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. And within hours, he had given orders to have Patton relieved of his command.
Patton was returned to England where Eisenhower believed he could more easily control his precocious field commander. There was no doubt about it, he was the best the American Army had to offer; but he was unpredictable. This fact did not go unnoticed by the German High Command.
Field Marshall Erwin Rommel immediately suspected some kind of trick. He could not believe Eisenhower would relieve his best combat commander over such a trivial matter. His suspicions, and those of Adolph Hitler, were confirmed when Patton was given command of the newly formed Second Army. But the Second Army was not an Army at all; it was a sham, dreamed up by Lord Wycliffe and his American associates.
Construction of a typical army installation had begun six months earlier. Steadily, it increased in size as the expected time of the Invasion drew near. It was complete with water tanks, barracks, streets and even a baseball diamond. It was calculated to make the Germans believe it was an American Army forming for a massive assault across the Channel.
Wycliffe had spared no expense or effort in making his creation look real. The best artists and special effects technicians that could be found in the American movie industry assisted him. There were columns of tanks massed on the outskirts of the camps. And fighter aircraft of all descriptions were deployed next to landing strips. They had constructed roads leading from the main arteries. And they had even built railroad spurs from the main lines to warehouses on the base. But it was one gigantic mock-up. Nothing was real. Everything was made of canvass and wood.
The problem was it looked too real. Although the Allies enjoyed air superiority, they were still bothered by the occasional fighter-bombers making strafing and bombing runs. They gauged the effectiveness of their work by the number of times it was struck and by how often they had to effect repairs. They repaired it often. So realistic was it that German photoreconnaissance interpreters believed it was the main invasion force.
Communications were set up between Eisenhower’s Headquarters and the new “Headquarters” of George Patton. But instead of an actual army discussing the routine problems of maintenance and supply, there were only a few communication technicians, who were acting out parts.
It was not only the British and the Americans that practiced this kind of subterfuge; the Germans had their successes as well but not on such a large scale. Churchill, who liked a funny story, stopped in mid-sentence to tell them just such a tale that was apropos to the subject:
“I heard this the other day at a staff meeting with the Americans. It seems the Germans had built a fake aerodrome, with accompanying fake airplanes, off the coast of France. It accomplished what they wanted it to do all too well. Our aircraft strafed and bombed to their hearts content and each day it was put back together again. And then we detected a mistake of some kind or other that gave the show away. Instead of laying on a high altitude raid by the American bombers that would have blown it to kingdom come, our lads were good sports. They made a final low-level bombing run. But this time it was with wooden bombs.”
The resulting laughter of the three of them served to break the tension that had been building since the subject of invasion had come up.
“Gentleman,” said Churchill, “Rommel and Von Runstedt actually believe the Invasion is coming from a point here on the Channel. They believe it, because this is where our previous ill-fated effort at Dunkirk was launched. And of course, this is where the French beaches are easily accessed. And it is the shortest distance between here and there. But, moreover, that is where Hitler believes it is coming.
“I need not go into the details of the two or three elaborate schemes the two of you have engineered to make him think so. Suffice it to say his astrologers and soothsayers of various stripes have also agreed with his military professionals in this respect. But my friends, that is not where it is coming. It is coming at Normandy. Just when, I am not at liberty to tell even you.
“But what we must do is to continue to reinforce this mind-set of theirs. We must make them so certain of what they now believe that several days after the actual landings at Normandy they will continue to tell each other the main thrust is still coming from Pais de Calais. They must believe that Normandy is only a large-scale raid designed to draw off their defensive units.
“We know from capturing the ”Enigma” code machine, that Von Runstedt, at Hitler’s insistence, has withdrawn Field Marshall Model’s Tenth Panzer Army from the Eastern Front and stationed them equal-distant between Pais de Calais and Normandy. This way he can strike in a timely manner, once the main attacking force has been determined. If they guess right, and the panzers are released before we breakout, our forces at Normandy will no doubt be driven back into the sea at a tremendous loss of life.” Churchill paused for a few seconds to pour his guests a glass of port. Dunston took this opportunity to seek permission to ask a question.
“Why if we know where the Panzer Army is, do we not destroy it now?” he asked Churchill.
“Because,” he answered, “we would lose one of our most important assets. I refer to the “Enigma“ machine I was just talking about. So the goal then is to keep the Germans from deploying those tanks until it is too late. And that is where you lads and the Americans come in. And the Resistance fighters and the Free French, as well, I suppose.
“If we could get them to keep their eyes on the face card, and since we know where it is at all times, we would have them where we want them,” he said.
“Sometime when we have time, I will tell you about the fair that my father took me too when I was a boy. He explained to me how the Monte dealer used the cards to shill the spectators. He didn’t rely as much on slight of hand as he did on misdirection. He used their knowledge of what they thought they had seen to make up their minds. And by looking clumsy, he made it look simple. They looked to the obvious. Everyone just knew where the face card was. And once their minds were made-up, they were seemingly unable to change them. That’s why they lost, consistently.
“And that is why you my friends, with your knowledge and understanding of the true facts and the vagrancies of human nature, are in a unique position to euchre them out of a victory once again.” With that last statement, Winston stood up. It was a signal that his time was up. He had pushed a buzzer underneath the table and a waiter opened the massive door and entered with their coats and hats.
Back in the limo, the two rode silently for some time. Each was engrossed in his thoughts. Then Dunston spoke, “Eddie, I have to confess to being naive, but I have never actually seen that game played have you?”
“No, but I assume it is akin to the pea in the shell game.” Wycliffe said. “The operator moves the shells around a few times so that the observers can keep their eyes on the shell containing the pea. He relies on them seeing it at the outset and then following it with their eyes. It looks so simple that they sometimes stand in line to place their bets. Once they make up their minds to what they see, they are reluctant to change. And that’s the point Winston was making. The Germans have concluded the Second Army is the invasion force and come hell or high water they are not going to change”
Dunston spoke again. “Our job then is to keep this idea reinforced in their minds. They must not be allowed to look away from the pea, or the face card in the Monte game, which is actually the Second Army.
“Let’s meet tomorrow for lunch,” Dunston said. “Get some sleep and then lets talk some more about how we can cause the Germans to lose their knickers. And we just might have their ‘guts for garters’ in the bargain.”
The American Air Base at Polebrook, just northeast of London, was the home of the 379th Bomb Group. They were the first of those deployed to the United Kingdom and had, perhaps, some of the most experienced aircrews in the Army Air Corps.
One of their aircraft commanders was lounging on his bunk reading a magazine. It was 1000 hours and the sky was overcast with a heavy rain and fog. It was one of those rare days they could not fly and they were taking a much-needed rest from combat.
The door opened to the Quonset hut, which housed a number of the Group’s officers. An orderly they recognized from the Commanding Officers office stepped inside and inquired of a Captain St Ives.
St Ives stood up and asked him what he wanted. “Sir,” he said, “the Colonel would like to see you.” St Ives put on his raincoat. As he moved towards the door, he received some gentle chiding from some of the others, who were inquiring about what kind of trouble he had gotten himself into.
He took a bicycle from the rack next to the metal building and pumped the half-block thru the mud and water to Headquarters. He hung up his coat and hat and combed his hair and then knocked on the Commanding Officers office door. A voice from inside told him to enter. He walked in and crossed the small office to a desk where the Commander was sitting. He was talking to another officer of the same rank, whom the Captain did not recognize.
St Ives saluted and was asked to take a seat. He was introduced to the visitor, who was a representative of the Division Commander at the next higher Headquarters known by the radio code name as “Pinetree.”
“Captain,” the visitor said, “I am in a hurry to get back before it starts raining so I’ll get straight to the point.” He said this with a smile on his face.
“I have been talking to Colonel Armstrong here and he informs me that you are one of his best officers. Your record indicates you are a graduate of the Military Academy and as such you are one of us. And always, as you know, we are expected to lead out. And by that I mean we are expected to show the way by accepting those assignments which might not be the most desirable. But I have been directed to tell you that the assignment you are going to be asked to take now is extremely hazardous. At the risk of seeming melodramatic, I want to tell you the results of the up-coming Invasion might well rest squarely upon your shoulders, if you elect to accept. You are, of course, under no obligation to do so. Nobody is going to say or think the less of you if you don’t. And whatever your decision, you are formally advised this conversation must not go any further than this room. In fact, it never happened.”
“Of course I’ll do it,” replied the Captain. What ever it was, he did not expect it would be much more dangerous than flying bombing missions into Germany. Short of a suicide mission, he did not see how it could be. And he knew Americans never required this of anybody. He had said he would take the assignment without thinking and now he could not easily change his mind.
“What is on anyway,” he asked?
“I am not at liberty to tell you, even if I knew, which I don’t. But suffice it to say it is most important and of the highest security classification. I want you to leave in the morning for London. That is with your Commanding Officer’s permission of course,” he said.
Armstrong looked at them both with an affirmative nod. It was a mere formality.
“You are to have dinner at the Savoy, where there will be a room reserved for you. Don’t worry about the expenses. Major General William Kepner’s Aide will pay for the dinner and the room. You will be the General’s dinner guest at seven. He will tell you what he wants you to know. If he wants you to stay in London for more than two days, you will advise your Commander. When you return, you will brief him on only that part of the mission necessary to get the job done. At all times it is on a need-to-know basis. Colonel Armstrong understands this. No other member of this organization will be told anything, other than that you have been given the customary few days off after a long stint of combat. It must look like a routine rest trip to London. Are we all clear on this?” He spoke with finality to his voice, requiring no answer from either of the other two officers.
St Ives arrived at King’s Cross station in the early afternoon and boarded the Underground. He then walked the few additional blocks to the Savoy Hotel. This was one of the finer hotels in London with a worldwide reputation. It was not available to the public, having been appropriated by the Government for the duration of the war.
The Captain checked at the desk and found his reservation was in order. The elevator had been purposely rendered inoperative, to prevent an accident in the event the building was damaged from a near miss. He carried his bag up the steps to the second floor suites. The rooms he was assigned were perhaps as nice as any he had ever seen, let alone any that he had ever occupied. As he set his overnight case on the floor and sat down on the velvet sofa across from the bed, he began to think. The thing that had been bothering him the most was how everything was working just as he had been briefed. That indicated to him the mission really was of some importance. And by the looks of his rooms now, he was surer than ever that it was. And then there was General Kepner, the officer he was to have dinner with that evening. Kepner was not just anybody. In fact, he asked himself as he sat there, why was he meeting with such a high-ranking officer at all? True, the Hotel was not that far from Eighth Air Force Headquarters at Bushy Park, so it was no big thing for Kepner to meet him there for dinner. But to meet with a Captain was not something Generals did without a very good reason and certainly not the deputy to the Eighth Air Force Commander. This is one of the things that bothered him. And why was he not instructed to meet him at his office? And what was all the secrecy about, anyway? And why was he singled out to do this job, whatever it was? And was he, perhaps, some kind of sacrificial lamb being shown a taste of the good life before being led to the slaughter? These thoughts were traveling around in his head, as he lay down on the bed. And then like a good soldier, he took a nap, believing that in wartime, you should eat and sleep whenever you had the chance.
That evening, he was seated at the General’s table in the main dining room. He had only been there a few minutes when a Group Captain entered and made his way to the table. St Ives stood up as the RAF officer introduced himself. He told him he was one of two aides to General Kepner. His chief duties, he said, as he sat down, was to function as a liaison between the American military and components of the British Government. He also informed him the General would not be dining with them; but rather he would see him at a meeting at the British Home Office in the morning at 0900 hours.
During the course of their dinner conversation, St Ives was told a staff car would pick him up in front of the Hotel at 0830 in the morning.
He had very little association with the British, although he had been in their country for sometime. And he had almost none at all with officers from the RAF. He admired them immensely, particularly those who flew the fighter planes in the “Battle of Britain.” But he still thought they were rather a stuffy lot. The Englishman, on the other hand, had long since changed his mind about the stereotypical Americans being rustic. This was due to his long association with men like General Kepner.
It took the two of them very little time to get acquainted. And when they did they were well on their way to becoming good friends. They spent the next two hours talking about things far from the war. After he learned that the Group Captain knew nothing about why St Ives was in London, they found other things to talk about.
They were both regular officers in their respective services. Both had graduated from military academies and they were both near the same age. They liked each others company and agreed to meet again the first chance they had.
The staff car was waiting at the curb precisely at 0830 the next morning. St Ives was hoping it would be late. He was still looking for an indicator that maybe this assignment did not have the priority he had been led to believe.
It took only a few minutes to reach the front entrance of the large building, which was the Home Office. This is where much of the important business of the British government was conducted. Just as he was wondering where he was to go and what he was to do, he saw his friend from the night before. They saluted and shook hands. And then St Ives was escorted past the security checkpoints to a set of offices on the third floor. He was instructed to enter and to tell the secretary inside the door who he was. His friend did not linger but appeared to be in a hurry to depart. As he did so, they reaffirmed their promise of the night before to meet again. They had exchanged phone numbers and St Ives promised to give him a call on his next trip to town.
But he still had a funny feeling in his stomach that all might not be well. Indeed, as he watched his new friend depart down the hall, he began to wonder if he was ever going to see London again.
The secretary was expecting him. He was given a temporary identification badge and after signing some papers, he was escorted thru some paneled halls and then into an impressive looking conference room. There were three people seated at a long oaken table. One of them was an American who was a Major General. St Ives assumed, of course, that he was General Kepner. But who the two civilians were, he had no idea. He guessed rightly that they were British. And now his curiosity was beginning to overcome the feelings of apprehension, which had been bothering him.
St Ives suspected he ought to salute the General but then he thought better of it as Kepner began speaking to him.
“Come on in Captain and have a seat right here.” He said. “My name is Kepner and these two gentlemen are Lord Wycliffe and Brigadier Gale, the Earl of Dunston. They represent the two branches of British Intelligence. My purpose here this morning is to greet you and to run interference for you, if need be. We must make sure you get everything you need to carry out your mission, which you will be told about straight away.”
The gnawing feeling in his stomach had returned and was getting worse. This operation did, after all, have the highest priority. And he knew this kind of activity spelled danger. What had he gotten himself into, he wondered? And why did he volunteer? But then he remembered, he had had very little to say in the matter.
He expected the two Englishmen would outline the program and then turn the details over to others to instruct him. Likewise, he expected Kepner to depart after making the introductions. But when two assistants entered the room with pots of coffee and tea, and another followed carrying a tray of cakes of some sort, he knew they were here to stay. And then it dawned on him why. It was security. That was it, the number of people who knew about this thing, whatever it was, was sitting right here in this room. And now he was really beginning to wish he had never gotten himself involved.
“Captain,” the Earl said, “this job we want you to take on is as important as any of the war, heretofore, and it is not without danger. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what it’s all about and then give you a chance to volunteer. Once we have told you about it, I am afraid you’re stuck with it old boy.
“We are in a game here. That’s what we do, my friend Lord Wycliffe and I, we play a lot of games. True, the loser usually pays a high price for losing. And it is unfortunate but the price for losing is lives and not chips. That’s what makes it so different and so difficult,” he said, as he paused while looking directly into the eyes of St Ives. Then he began again. “Now we are in a game of trying to out guess our enemy. We want him to think the main effort for the Invasion is not at Pais de Calais. We will make several large-scale penetrations before we launch the main force. Hopefully, we can keep him confused about which is which until it is too late. By too late, I mean too late to deploy Model’s Panzer Army that is waiting to counter attack. If he can bring it to bear against our actual Invasion Army, I am afraid we might be looking at another Dunkirk or something even worse.”
He stopped for a minute to let his guests digest completely what he had just said. St Ives thought to himself, but only for a second, that Dunston was something of an actor, who might be playing a roll. But that was just what he was doing.
“You have flown over General Patton’s Second Army many times I am sure.” Dunston said. “And I am also sure you have observed each time you pass over, it has become more up to strength. Well, it is now about ready to go. What we do not want the Germans to know, and I must say that we do not want them to know at all costs, is that the Invasion is coming from this point. All activity before and after will be a ruse. A feint, as it were.”
While Dunston paused again to pour a cup of tea, Wycliffe began to talk. “Captain what we have in mind is a little plan that the two of us have put together. We want the Germans to stop believing that General Patton’s Army is the main Invasion force. And I might add, only the two of us have been involved in this little scheme. Even General Kepner is hearing about it for the first time.”
“That is correct Captain,” Dunston interjected. “It needs be this way to insure your safety. The last thing we want is for this little party to be compromised. We don’t want it to backfire. And we do want to bring you back safe and sound.”
That last statement did it. Now the cat was out of the bag. St Ives mind had shifted into overdrive. He had concluded they wanted him to cross over the channel and to do something. Something that is going to cause the Germans to believe the main thrust is some place else, while Patton drives right into their center with his Army. But why not a “ground-pounder,” he wondered? And then it dawned on him; they want him to fly an airplane over there and then somehow get it and himself on the ground. How he was going to do it was the thing which had him worried, as he listened to Dunston tell him more about what they had in mind.
“We want a bomber to crash land in France. We want you to fly that bomber and then we want you to contact the French Resistance and tell them the Invasion is actually coming on the Normandy coast. I know you are asking yourself, why a bomber? Why couldn’t we just drop one of our people with a parachute, or for that matter, why could we not just radio them? These are all good questions. But we must do something out of the ordinary to draw the Germans attention to you. Above all you must not tell them that the real Invasion force is Patton’s Second Army.”
“You see Captain,” Wycliffe added, “we suspect the Resistance has been penetrated by the Vichy. They will go straight to the Germans with your information. When they do, the Germans will shift their forces to repel an attack at Normandy. That should put the Tenth Panzers out of position for at least twenty-four hours. By the time they realize they have been fooled, General Patton’s Army will be off the beaches and deployed well inland.
“It won’t be difficult to convince the Germans you are legitimate, because they will see the aircraft and realize you survived and are in the hands of the Resistance.” Wycliffe was going slowly now watching for any signs that either of the two were becoming confused. “But why would you be expected to know anything about Invasion plans?” He asked rhetorically? “This is not something that an aircraft commander on a bombing mission is privy to. And why would the subject even come up for that matter? The answer has to be that we intentionally set up a scheme, whereby, you were there for no other reason than to brief the Resistance.”
“It shouldn’t be too difficult to stage a scene where the Germans capture you after they find out what you have told the French.” Dunston said. “The fact of the matter is it would be difficult to keep it from happening, given the political situation in the area where we want you to land.
“We want them to interrogate you, which of course they will. After you have given it your best effort to resist, you will tell them the Invasion is coming over on the coast of Normandy. And that you were not really on a bombing mission after all but fell out of formation purposely. Tell them your real mission is to brief the French so they can get prepared.”
Wycliffe grew even more serious as he said, “Captain, the key to this whole thing is to resist as long as you possibly can before you tell them anything. They are going to rough you up a bit. And we expect they will even threaten to shoot you if you do not tell them whether what you have told the French is true. You must hold out to the end. We do not believe they will shoot you, if you can act scared enough to convince them. But try to wait until they do threaten your life before you start acting like you’re very frightened.”
The General interrupted to ask a question. “What is going to stop them from declaring that he is a spy and shoot him anyway?”
“That is the chance we have to take. But I don’t think they will.” Dunston answered him. “We have taken it into consideration. But our escape plan to get him away from them and back here will make that point moot. He will be in uniform. They will check and find out, he is in fact a bomber pilot, and then think twice before they accuse him of being a spy. But they certainly will pay close attention to what he tells the Resistance, else why is he there in the first place?”
“You see,” said Lord Wycliffe, directing his remarks to Kepner, “while they are waiting for Berlin to digest the information he has given the Resistance, we will have the needed time to put the machine into gear to effect an escape. Trust us on this gentlemen, we are organized to do this. As a matter of fact, we have done it before and more than a few times.
“We want you to land right here with your wheels up and with two of your engines feathered.” Wycliffe continued talking, as he stood up and went to a sidewall and pulled down a map of France. “Please note this exact location. You will want to plan on landing right here.” He picked up a pointer and directed the Captain’s attention to a spot that had been marked. When he was certain that St Ives and Kepner had the place firmly in mind, he removed the marking pin.
“We will have British operatives waiting for you. They will take you to the Resistance just like they would if you had really lost two of your engines over England and had limped across the channel. You will have, of course, jettisoned your bombs.” Wycliffe told them.
“Now this brings up the problem of your crew,” said Dunston. “We want you to prepare just the way you do for any other mission. Your crew must not suspect what is going to happen. This is most important, because I can assure you the Germans will be watching. Anything out of the ordinary will alert them. When they recap your mission, after they take you into custody, they will be sure to pick-up on any deviation from the norm. They will be trying to convince themselves that you are a set-up. And if they do, they will not pay any attention to what you have to tell them.
“That is why everything must go just as it usually does, right up until the time you give your crew the order to bail out. Yes, we feel it’s the best way to go. You could land with them on board in France but then what would they do. Their lives would needlessly be put in jeopardy. And there is better than a good chance that some one of them might compromise the entire program.
“Where and how you do this is of course up to you,” the Earl continued. “We do suggest, however, that you run your engines up before regular start engine time. Tell your crew chief that you thought two of your engines were a little ragged on your last mission but that you forgot to enter that fact in your maintenance forms. Then tell your co-pilot you suspect something might be wrong. And that you have checked them out to make doubly sure they are all right. The point is you want to be on record as suspecting your engines. Rest assured this will be reported to the Germans during their investigation.”
“This is very true,” said Wycliffe, “we know, and so do you, that the Germans have spies everywhere. The daily news broadcasts from Berlin attest to that. We all know this ‘Lord Haw Haw’ fellow is getting his information from somewhere. We really don’t pay much attention to him. We have not made a concerted effort to close him down, because he isn’t privy to anything of real importance. But something like the status of your airplane is right up his alley, to use one of your expressions.”
Dunston went on to say, “we want them to believe we went to elaborate ends to get you into the hands of the Resistance, therefore, what you have to say to them is of the utmost importance. Do we all understand this?
“But I want to reiterate once more before we adjourn: under no circumstances, even at the peril of your life, Captain, must you tell them or even imply that the real thrust is coming from Patton’s Second Army. If you do, you will put the entire invasion force in jeopardy and perhaps allow the Russians to occupy all of Europe.
“Your job is to get the aircraft on the ground.” Dunston went on to tell him, occasionally shifting his glance toward Kepner. “Our job is to get you into the hands of the Resistance. And to get you back safely. After you tell them your story, things will move rapidly according to plan. We do not think for a moment that you are going to be in any extraordinary danger. If you have any questions later we will be in touch with you and maybe set-up another meeting in a few days.” With that said, the three of them stood up and shook his hand. And after he saluted the General, he turned and walked across the room and out the door while the others sat back down.
Kepner was the first to speak. “Gentleman, I have some questions that’s for sure. What are we doing here anyway?” He said this with an edge to his voice.
Dunston did not hesitate to answer him. “We thought you might,” he replied. “The three of us know that Patton’s so called Army is a ruse. But the Captain doesn’t know it. And we have it on good authority that the Germans don’t know it either. I know that some of the things we told him do not bear close scrutiny. And we did for sure pass quickly over that spy business. But let me tell you the real plan.”
“Please do.” Said Kepner, who was now acting like a General. In fact, Wycliffe and Dunston both felt for a minute as though they were going to get dressed down by one who had a reputation for being an expert in this area. Wycliffe, to ward off what they were both sure was coming, hastened to get to the point.
“General, we don’t expect the Germans to swallow any of the story he has been instructed to tell them.”
“Then what is the point of telling them...?”
“Please General let me explain,” said Wycliffe, interrupting him.
“Captain St Ives believes Patton’s army is the main strike force. The Germans are not interested in anything he has to say about anything else.”
“Yes but they will torture him and more than likely when he holds out to the bitter end they will shoot him.”
“Not really, General, because after they go through the motions of interrogating him they will give him an injection of Scopolamine.”
“What is that?” He wanted to know.
“It is something new the bounders have developed.” Dunston was quick to answer. “As best we can determine it is some kind of a truth serum. They will give it to him and he will tell them every bit of the truth. But it will be the truth, as he understands it. He will tell them exactly what they want to hear: the main strike force is not landing at Normandy but at Pais de Calais. But the three of us know that is not the truth.”
“Then that is why you were so sure they wouldn’t shoot him. There would be no need too.” Kepner said. “In fact they might even go out of their way to see that we get him back.” The two Englishmen looked at each other knowingly as Kepner said this. Dunston wanted to tell him he was quick to catch on. But he thought better of it and said nothing.
“Do they know you know they have this drug?” The General asked.
“No, and that’s what makes the plan so workable.” Dunston replied.
Three days after St Ives returned to his base, Col Armstrong called him into his office to tell him the next mission laid on by “Pinetree” was to be Bordeaux on the coast of France. That is all he said. The fact he had been told to alert St Ives personally was a signal to both of them. And Armstrong did not ask him what it meant. He knew he would not tell him, even if he were to ask.
An hour later, St Ives was in base operations looking at the maps kept there for the benefit of the Group’s navigators. He helped himself to one of them and then without looking at it, he departed. He climbed back on his bicycle and peddled out to the revetment where his ground crew was working on his airplane. He asked the crew chief if he could run up his number one and number three engines, after telling him he forgot to enter the fact there might be something wrong with them in the maintenance forms. He briefed the sergeant regarding his suspicions about his engines and then climbed into the airplane and sat down in the left-hand seat. With the crew chief listening to the engines, St Ives checked the magnetos. The two of them observed the drop in RPM. He gave them both a final run-up and then shut them down. Everything appeared normal to the crew chief, who signed the maintenance write-up as “ground checked ok.” St Ives did not depart the airplane immediately behind the crew chief but waited until he could see him from his side window. Then he went back to the navigator’s compartment and switched on the overhead light. He removed the map from his jacket and rolled it out on the table. He observed the location of the docks at Bordeaux and then drew a line from the target to the inland city of Château roux. He then drew another line from Polebrook to intersect the line he had just drawn. That would be the point where he left the formation, regardless of the direction the Group was headed.
Chapter 3 California, 1970.
As St Ives turned the corner and headed down the street towards his house, he could not help but notice the leaves swirling in the street behind him. It was as in the Santa Claus poem, he thought...“dry leaves before the wild hurricanes fly, when they meet with an obstacle mount to the sky”...Odd he thought, thinking about something like that. But more and more, just just this sort of thing was distracting him; flashbacks mostly to the last combat mission he flew during the war. He wondered if that was what old age was all about? And would he eventually prefer the company of his own mind to that of people in the real world?
He was becoming concerned about this constant daydreaming. And he wondered if it had anything to do with the depression, which had been bothering him for several months.
It was almost like a fugue. Yes, fugue was the word he was looking for. The mind entered into a sort of hypnotic state called a fugue sometimes when under a great deal of pressure, or if afflicted with a mental illness. It was more absorbing and far more riveting though than a daydream. And it lasted longer, he thought.
Recollection of this strange word prompted his mind to race across time and distance to a court-martial, where he heard it for the first time.
The chief pharmacist at a base hospital some twenty years before claimed he could not remember how to fill prescriptions. The hospital commander did not believe him and had him up on charges for malingering. The defense maintained he had lapsed into a fugue, as a result of being under severe stress from problems at home. In the end, however, he was convicted and served time in the guardhouse.
Fascinating, how just now his mind was able to recall the incident with such clarity, and to make the word association with daydreaming, which he was almost sure were unrelated.
There was the usual number of parked cars in front of his house, friends of his kids no doubt. He could see them as he turned the corner. There was also his wife’s car and another belonging to somebody else, parked in his driveway blocking his garage.
He could see them also and he could feel the anger begin to build just as it always did. It never mattered how often he brought up the subject of the garage and the gang of kids who seemed to live at his place. No matter what he said or did, whether he coaxed, pleaded, or threatened, his kids still took no notice of him.
It was as though he did not exist. And when he raised his voice to press the issue and to instill some discipline into their lives, his wife would take their side against his. As often as not, she would verbally attack him in a way that was out of all proportion. And she was prepared to escalate the argument to the point of threatening him with bodily harm.
On those occasions when she started screaming, he would escape to his bedroom, where he would read or watch television until it was time for bed. Usually in the middle of the night, he would get up and fix a sandwich. The sight of the dirty kitchen, with the unwashed dishes and empty pizza boxes strewn about, would disgust him to the point where he would spend the next hour or so cleaning-up before going back to bed.
It had been long in coming, because he did not want to admit that they had failed as parents and as a family. But now, after twenty-five years of marriage, he was prepared to believe things were never going to change, unless he took some kind of direct action to change them.
Divorce was not an option, because of the unfavorable settlement laws that affected the military husband. Some kind of counseling was in order; but she would hear none of it. She liked things just the way they were.
She had her bridge activities and her club activities and something she called a tea once a week. From each of these time wasters, she came home with a look about her of one who had been too near the flowing bowl.
As long as there was sufficient money coming in, so she could indulge her every whim, and as long as he kept out of her way, and he made no demands on her whatsoever, she was happy.
He had long ago realized, and he had told himself over and over of late, she and the children were nothing more than leeches. And he believed they intended to continue on in this way for the rest of their lives. But what truly frightened him was, because he was in the Service, there was absolutely nothing he could do about it, and they knew it.
They had him. And in a real sense he was indentured to them. He was their captive who was being held for ransom, a bond slave, so decreed by the courts.
But even this was not what bothered him the most, he told himself. What really deep down angered him, what grabbed at his gut and would not let go, was the fact they had no respect for him.
They were not remotely aware of the sacrifices he made during the war. He had tried to tell them many times but they never would listen, they just did not care. It was as though he never lived or accomplished anything. They held him and his life’s work in the utmost disdain. That is what hurt. And that is why he would never forgive them.
That is also why some direct action, something in keeping with his real and not perceived nature, would be forthcoming. And whatever the final plan would be, the operative word would be action; something that would be decisive and never to be forgotten by them. And make no mistake about it, he told himself; he had the resolve to carry it out. Anybody who thought otherwise had badly misjudged him. And it would be easy to do, because he had long ago ceased to care anything about any of them.
As these dark thoughts continued to occupy his mind, he began to think about his last combat mission and how he had never told his son about the role he played in successfully bringing about the greatest military invasion in history. His destination had been the shipyards at Bordeaux. When he saw the route from East Anglia to South Hampton and then to Cherbourg, Le Mans, Limoge, and then approaching Bordeaux from the North, he knew that his part of the plan was on. The route passed within a few miles of the Chateauroux area. All he would have to do was to report engine trouble and then make a long sweeping left turn to head home. But he had no intentions of going home.
A few minutes before his Group reached the Channel, he called to report the oil pressure on two of his four engines was fluctuating. He told the group leader his crew was bailing out. But by the time he had made up his mind to turn back, the engines were running smoothly and the oil pressure had returned to normal. He advised his group leader that it must be his instruments and not the engines and he radioed him he was continuing on behind the formation.
He had never told her much of the story either, about how he dropped his bombs over the Channel, and then reported engine failure on two of his engines just after they reached the coast of France. And she was only vaguely aware of his capture after he crash-landed near Chateauroux. He tried to tell her once about what had happened; how he was tortured, and finally forced to tell the Germans what he knew about the Invasion coming at Normandy, as he had been instructed to do. She gave him an excuse for not wanting to listen. She said the recounting of the event was too stressful. She told him that talking about such things was not good for his depression, which even then was beginning to bother him. And anyway the war was over, she said, and he should forget about the whole thing.
His memory of that mission had returned piecemeal over the years. Usually it was during one of his frequent flashbacks. He would recall years later how the Germans had given him a shot of something in a needle. They told him it was to prevent infection from the many cuts and scrapes he suffered during the landing.
For the longest time, he thought this mission was for naught. Because he knew he had told the Germans it was coming at Normandy, which it did. He always wondered why he was told to tell them that thus jeopardizing the element of surprise? Not until the world became aware of Scopolamine, did he realize he had not given away the true Invasion plans after all? But he had been drugged into telling the Germans only what British Intelligence wanted them to hear?
In a way he was a hero. He was directly responsible for causing the Fuehrer to hold the Tenth Panzer from attacking in support of the Seventy-Six Panzer Division outside of Caen. As a result the Seventy- Sixth was forced to break off the attack of the beachhead to keep from being encircled and annihilated. As a result, the attacking infantry divisions at Omaha finally made it ashore. And once inland, they were able to disburse before the Tenth Panzer was allowed to deploy. By the time they did, it was too late; and then American fighters and medium bombers quickly took the panzers in hand. They never played a significant role in the battles that followed.
Years later, he became aware of all of this. But he was neither at liberty to divulge the secret role he played, nor that of British Intelligence, to other people in the Service.
This situation weighed heavily on his mind. He thought he was being penalized, somehow, for not completing his combat tour. But he came slowly to realize as he was consistently being promoted ahead of his peers, that men like General Kepner and Col. Armstrong remembered his deeds and were looking out for him. He was most appreciative but it was not the same thing. What he wanted as much as promotion was recognition from his peers. And above all, he wanted some kind of recognition and appreciation from his family.
Edward St Ives, Colonel, USAF, son of a wealthy Idaho potato grower, left his office late, as he did almost every night. He did not stay because he was a workaholic like most of his colleagues but stayed because he had no place else he wanted to go to. Lately, he had formed the habit of dropping by the Stag Room of the Officers Club before going home.
This room was a new Club addition, a way of making off-duty time spent on base less formal. It was a kind of sop tossed to aviators to make the Service a little more attractive, in an effort to keep more of them out of the cockpits of the major airlines.
The Stag Room, so called, really had no formal name. The reason for this was to keep from offending some sensitive soul. But even more important, it was to keep the base commander from coming to the attention of some member of a congressional watchdog committee. So there were no regulations restricting anybody from attending. But custom here, as in so many other areas in the Service, dictated the rules.
Women were allowed. However, they were never in attendance. Bachelors, who lived on base, and who did not care to don coat and tie in the evening, were the most frequent visitors. Aircrews, who had just landed from a long flight and were still in flying clothes, were also welcomed. Then there was the occasional drop in by a senior officer, who was welcome; but by custom would not stay long, because of the informality of the place. His continuing presence might be seen as placing a damper on the conversations.
So, Col. St Ives would order a beer, intending only to stay for one. But truth be told, he would usually stay a little longer than was customary. He ran the risk of indulging in this rather boorish behavior for the simple reason he liked it there. Of all the places he could think of, this is where he preferred to be. These were his real sons, these young pilots. And he felt almost as close to some of them as any father would toward a natural son in a well-adjusted family.
Talk was usually about aviation in some form. But the only subjects forbidden, because of a time-honored tradition, were religion and politics. Rank was strictly observed in these informal settings. To have it otherwise would be to erode good order and discipline, so necessary for the effective functioning of the organization. Everybody knew this without being told or reminded. They were all professionals. They were in the Air Force by choice and not because they had to be.
So, St Ives would attend for just a little while, promising himself he would not over stay his welcome. But he hated to leave. Each time he left, he wondered why he came in the first place, knowing that just when he started to enjoy himself, he would have to go home.
He would go just about every evening for an hour or so, telling himself that he was not really so much interested in socializing with them, as much as he was there to get a feel for what they were thinking. But he knew they were never candid and that they spoke to him as they might to their own fathers.
As he drove towards home, he lapsed into one of his typical reveries. He wondered what it would be like to have one of these young officers for a son, instead of the one he had. They were the crème, no question about it, he thought.
All of them were over-achievers. As far as he knew, they were all university graduates. He did not know for sure but he thought it was a requirement for flight training these days.
They were all patriots, every one of them. They were drug free and goal oriented. Any father, he said to himself, would be proud to call anyone of them, son.
As he drove home, he began to think about the routine of a popular comic, “now you take my wife, please?”
“Yeah, and take my son too,” he whispered under his breath. “Yeah, you can have him. I don’t want him. He lacks ambition and he is little better than a bum.”
But as he ran on in his mind, sinking deeper and deeper into his thoughts, he realized this was old ground he had covered many times before. What he had not often thought about though, was why he had such a strong kinship with these young officers. After going over the many obvious reasons, his mind settled on one thought. He loved them for the very exact opposite reason he hated his son and the rest of his family too. These young men respected him. It was as simple as that, he told himself.
They saw in him, the man they wanted to become. Each one of the medals he wore on his tunic meant something to them. They imagined what it had been like, hour after grueling hour, in combat in the skies over Germany and France. They were aware of the tremendous number of casualties suffered in that air war. They also knew the Eighth Air Force suffered more casualties among their officers than the total number of all other branches of the Army fighting in the European Theatre.
In the beginning of the air war in Europe, it was mathematically impossible to survive. Twenty-five combat missions were designated as an arbitrary number for completion of a combat tour of duty. When he started flying bombing missions, the average number accomplished was nine, before being shot down.
Most of his close friends had been killed or crippled outright, while others crash-landed, or jumped in enemy territory, sometimes spending years in captivity, living on starvation rations.
And they knew this as well. And they afforded him the respect he was due. But to his son, it might as well have happened to a total stranger, who came from another world.
The clan Saint Ives had its historical beginnings during the dark days of the Middle Ages. They were Scotsmen who lived on the border of the area that was given over to the Viking hoards as a homeland. But the English kings did not turn over this land to the Scandinavians out of the goodness of their hearts, rather; they did it to stop them from raiding along the Scottish and the English coasts.
The Scots posed little threat to the Vikings. And in fact, they were quick to adopt some of their customs. One of the more important was their law.
The Viking law or Dane Law, as it would come to be known, was much preferred by them over the English common law as pertained to the passing of title to the land.
Dane Law held that the eldest son, under the rights of primogeniture, inherited the land from his father. Second and third sons remained at the suffrage of the eldest. But, since the farms were small, and the land poor, it could not usually support more than one family. The younger men, lacking other career opportunities, signed on-board the long boats bound for England and plunder.
The English practice of land management was similar but varied in one important aspect; the king owned the land. It was parceled out to noblemen and then to serfs who worked it and paid taxes to the Crown.
These fiefdoms were a form of slavery and did not sit well with the freedom loving and rebellious Scots. The English did not always give the Scots the same latitude they gave the Vikings and it became the cause for bitter struggles between the two, lasting for many generations.
Ongoing battles between the clans and the English kings resulted in hatred for the English, and in many cases, displacement of clan leaders. In many instances it was necessary for them to leave Scotland for the New World. And even when a Scot was not under warrant, he often chose to immigrate, if and when he got the chance.
Many emigrants, be they Scot or some other nationality, moved west in fulfillment of the Nations “Manifest Destiny.” Thus in due time, the great-grandfather of St Ives, a descendant of a displaced person, found himself on the Oregon Trail.
Like most pioneers, the elder St Ives was looking for land. Farm land in Idaho was there for the homesteading, to be shared with Mormon pioneers, who were moving up from Utah Territory, to settle and to form new branches of their Church.
Small homesteads were the rule at first, being only as large as one family could work with a team of horses. But there was nothing to prevent an enterprising farmer, with a growing family of sons, from purchasing adjacent land. And as farming became more mechanized, larger holdings began to appear. And the larger they grew, the more prosperous they became.
Certain areas of Idaho were best suited to the growing of potatoes. And as the big estates came into being, co-ops formed, and some of the larger companies incorporated and expanded.
Within just a few short years, technology changed the face of the potato industry. By the middle of the century, the backbreaking labor that was so necessary in St Ives youth, was pretty much a thing of the past.
By the 1960’s, large companies would contract for land, and using machinery exclusively, would plant, harvest, process and distribute potatoes to grocery stores. They were also able to ship frozen French fries to fast food chains without their product ever being touched by human hands
In the 1930‘s, however, during the height of the Depression, potato growers throughout Idaho and Utah were just getting by. Tractors and other machinery were available to speed up production, and to make the work somewhat easier, but the market was depressed and not many farmers were in a financial position to buy them.
But the big problem to major expansion was labor. At that time, no one had discovered a way of getting the potato from the plowed ground, sort it, grade it, sack it and then load it. At least not as cheaply as the farm laborer could do it.
At that time, potato farming was as backbreaking as any labor to be found anywhere. It was to be avoided if at all possible but for St Ives and his brothers, it was not possible.
Their working day, during the harvest, started at five in the morning. First there were the chores, and then after a quick breakfast, they were into the fields.
Their father would hitch-up the horses to the potato plow and then start out well ahead of the pickers.
St Ives and his brothers would each take a row. As the potatoes were plowed-up, they would bend over and fill a bucket. When the buckets were full, they would pour them into a “gunnysack.” Then they would bend over again and walking along stooped over, they would fill another bucket and another and still yet another.
Bucket after bucket and sack after sack they crouched along until they thought their backs would break. The hot sun beat down on them but there was no let-up until about an hour before dark and then the sacks would be hauled to the storage sheds. Evening chores would follow and then a late supper and then to bed. All they had to look forward to for weeks on end was another backbreaking day, followed by another, until the harvest was in.
The Colonel often reminisced about those hard years growing up and when he did, he thought about his son. And he would compare him to the other male members of his family. His son was always found wanting in the extreme.
Frankly, he told himself once, he could never remember having seen his son do anything involving real labor. Not for a day, even for an hour. He had never held anything remotely resembling a job and he was incapable of understanding what his father’s youth had been like. Neither did he want to know. Why should he, thought St Ives, it never involved him. And as long as his mother was there to fend for him, it never would.
Working hard was for suckers. In fact, work, period, was for suckers. He told his father this one day and it sent him into a silent rage that lasted for a week.
When the Colonel’s father was nearing retirement age, he visited a lawyer and had a family trust drawn-up. He was cognizant of the need to pass on his estate to his sons as equitably as possible. He was also aware of the many farms that had been sold-off because they had been devised to several heirs in equal shares.
Then too, there was a case he knew of where the eldest son, who had been doing most of the work for years, had been given the largest share of the property as a reward. But, unlike in Dane Law, his father had given minor interests to several of his siblings. The eldest son was then obligated to pay them their share.
It took him years of scrimping and saving to pay-off what was not his responsibility in the first place. And in all likelihood, he would never recover a cent, because he would never sell the property.
St Ives father knew these things. He knew that families had been torn apart because they had deviated from the old ways. Still in all, he wanted to do what was right by the younger boy.
When his father made up his mind what he was going to do, he called a family council. He explained to them that it was his desire that his estate be held in joint tenancy by the older brothers. The younger would be given the opportunity for a family financed college education. After the books were audited each year, he would also be given a small percentage of the profits.
This money was not to come to him directly but was to be invested in a mutual fund, so that by the time he was fifty years old, he would be quite well off.
It was suggested that he enters the University of Idaho for one year and then tries for an appointment to West Point.
His father was a contributor to one of the political parties in the State and he had business associates that had political connections. He believed an invitation to sit for a competitive examination for one of the senatorial appointments was a very definite possibility.
This was very much to the liking of the young man. At any rate, he figured it was the best he could hope for, and it would allow him to pursue a career away from the potatoes, with which he had a love hate relationship.
His father and his brothers were true to their agreement and to the arrangements made at that meeting. His estate grew as their holdings grew. And now as he was about to retire from the Service in just a few short weeks, he calculated in his mind that he might, indeed, be well situated financially.
As he reminisced and talked these things over with himself, he wished his own family were as thoughtful and loving as his extended family. But that was not to be and he realized he was powerless to make it happen.
As he dwelled on the differences between his family and his brothers, he swore an oath that their largess and hard work would never go to benefit any of the slackers who lived with him.
No, not one red cent of his potato money was ever going to find its way into their pockets. But he realized he was going to have to do some serious planning, if he was going to keep it out of their clutches and that of their lawyers.
He attended a genetics class while at the University. He had been around livestock all his life and heard terms he never understood. And he wondered if the old timers, who talked about such things, knew themselves what they were talking about.
While he was sitting at his desk one day, his mind wandered back to his freshman year and to the brief encounter he had with the subject. Terms like dominant and recessive characteristics came to mind, as well as zygotes, genotypes, phenotypes and first and second filial generations. And he wondered if they really could predict the color of a horse or a cow?
If certain genetic traits were inherited by plants and the lower animals, why not humans? And if these theories did pertain to humans, how come people were so different? Were his son and daughter really part of the hard working St Ives gene pool? If so, then how come these acorns fell so far from the tree? Was there really potential here for achievement and how far below the surface was it?
How much of the responsibility for their monumental failure then could be blamed on society, and how much was predestined, because of some genetic fowl-up? Was it because their pregnant mother refused to obey any of the doctor’s instructions? Could it be because she drank heavily and made no pretense of quitting smoking? Were their young fetal minds pickled before they had a real start in life? Perhaps genetic science would be interested in studying their heritage or maybe social science? But then he asked himself, who cared?
It was Christmas a few years back, he recalled. His son had received a present that needed assembling. The boy eagerly volunteered to help in order to expedite things. His father, in a magnanimous mood, accepted the offer. They agreed to team-up. The father would do the assembling while he assigned his son the job of reading the directions.
It was during this simple father and son activity that he discovered a horrible truth. The boy was functionally illiterate. He could not even read the simplest of sentences.
It was like a kick in the stomach to him. He had no idea. She had continually assured him the boy was above average and progressing nicely. “After all,” she asked rhetorically, “isn’t he getting promoted each year?”
He could not deny that he was, however, he berated himself for not taking more of a hand in things. But when he would ask how he was getting along, she and the teachers continually assured him that all was well.
Well, all was not well. And he had received a shock from which he never recovered.
It was at this point, he told himself, that he really began resenting the boy. He was resentful of his sloth, which had resulted in his failing in Reading, Mathematics and English as well.
Oh, he passed the courses well enough. And he was promoted on time. But for the first time, he became aware that he should have paid more attention to the conversations of his friends, when they discussed the school policy of never holding anyone back. “He can’t read or write, but you ought to see him finger paint.”
He over heard a friend say that once of his own son. But he thought he was joking.
But what was he to do? Could he really have made a difference? Should he have ordered him to study? And what good would that have done? She would have jumped in and taken the boy’s side against him and then it would have ended, as it always did, in a family squabble.
She loved confrontation on any subject. “Leave him alone,” she would say.
How much then was his fault and how much was hers? And how much of it was the boys? Is he a bad seed or is he just lazy? Did he lack for training or is he just human? And is it human to always want to take the easy way just because you can?
As he pondered these things, his mind wandered to a staff meeting once at Curtis Le May’s Headquarters. The General was commenting about the unsatisfactory performance of one of his wing commanders: “There is the unfortunate and then there is the incompetent. But I do not have the time or the desire to debate the difference, since the results are always the same.”
So, whatever his reasons are for failing, he is still a failure, he thought. And nothing can be done about that. But more to the point, he told himself, there is not enough time left in school to make much of a difference. Not even if a miracle occurred and the boy changed completely.
No, he will not be able to go on in school, which is all right. But he is not prepared to learn a trade, and he lacks the ambition to hold a job, if he had one. No, he told himself, the best he can hope for is to be a member of the low paying unskilled labor market.
I wonder how he intends to support himself? And then the answer came to him in a rush. He intends to rely on his mother and she intends to rely on me. And they both have their eyes on my potato money.
Yes, he said to himself, whatever he needs to get by, he intends to get from me. He smiled, as he thought about the plan forming in his mind that would lead to a rude awakening. And it was coming to them all, and soon.
When it came, it came fast, and it left him devastated. He had been expecting it but he had postponed this day in his mind. By not thinking about it, he figured it would go away. But it was as inevitable as his demise and now it was here. It was actually going to happen this afternoon.
Just after lunch, his secretary, joined by one from another office, spread a tablecloth over one of the desks. He saw them do it and it struck a panic nerve deep in his stomach. He imagined this was how a condemned prisoner felt when he was served his last meal. But unlike the prisoner, he could not hope for a reprieve. This was to be final. This was to be his last day on active duty. He loved the Air Force and his heart was about to break.
The secretaries came in with a large cake and a bowl of punch. He had been to many of these “goodbyes” held for other people. He had eaten their cake and drunk their punch and all the while wondering where it came from. Where did they hide it from the condemned until the last minute?
He supposed it was hidden like dirt at a gravesite. They kept it covered with some kind of artificial grass so that it did not stand out as dirt. Just as a loved one is not really dead until that same dirt is replaced, so the secretaries keep the cake hidden like the dirt. Nothing is going to happen, says the subconscious, until they have brought out the cake.
When all is ready, the call goes out to the various offices that coordinate their activities with the office of the new retiree. And then in about an hour, everybody comes sauntering in one at a time, as though it was not all planned. It looks as though they just accidentally popped-in, and since they are there, they might as well have some cake.
The entire ritual is choreographed to effect an air of indifference as though it is no big deal, this retirement. You are in the Service one day and on the golf course the next, lucky you.
He smiled as all his friends came by and shook his hand. But deep down, he was fighting waves of panic. He could not bear the thought of tomorrow. It sent his mind racing away on some escape adventure to avoid yet another spasm of panic. The last thing he wanted to do was to breakdown. But he realized he was on the verge of doing just that.
The going out ceremony was short and simple. No one had the time anymore for full dress parades. Not like in the old days.
The retirees, he and two enlisted men, stood at attention. The base band played a stirring Souza march. One of the senior officers, who had been designated for the occasion, gave some military commands. There was some presenting of commendation medals, some more saluting, and some congratulations, which all took place in front of the Headquarters building. And then the formal part was over.
Some people came by and shook his hand. Some of the wives of his close friends kissed him on the cheek. And as at the graveside service, when the minister says Amen, they began drifting away, the better to separate themselves from him. It was as though he had some contagious disease they might catch if they stayed too long in his presence.
But they tried not to act as though it was a funeral. Rather, they appeared to be in a hurry and had to get back to their office to take care of some pressing business. Above all, they tried not to look at him too long, because they were afraid they might see him with a tear in his eye.
He started to walk towards his car, because that is the procedure. No going back to the office for something you forgot or forgot to do. That is not playing by the rules. It sets the whole emotional thing going again.
No, goodbye is goodbye. It is just as final as at the gravesite. No climbing back out after they have stuffed you in.
Usually, the newly retired walks to his car accompanied by his wife or a close relative. Not so, Col. St Ives. No one showed-up and the no shows were conspicuous by their absence.
He did not want them there anyway. He would have had to say something nice to them and he just could not do that. And then there would have been his son, standing around with his hands in his pockets, looking for all the world like he was on drugs, and not even having the social presence to shake his fathers hand. No, he was glad that none of them had come.
It was better this way. But he and everyone else present saw it as a breach of social etiquette, something that was considered to be extremely rude, maybe even gauche.
To him, it was even more than that. It was seen as one more reason to expedite the planning. The sooner he figured out the details, the sooner the Plan could be implemented; and none too soon to suit him.
Suddenly his queasy stomach felt a little better, as he realized he had work to do tomorrow after all.
A few weeks before he retired, St Ives again went by the Stag Room after work. Standing talking to one of the employees behind the bar was an officer he had seen there once or twice before. He had been introduced to him once and he recalled his name was Rasmussen. He knew he was an attorney and that he worked in the Base Legal Office. Other than that, he knew little about him.
He had thought about meeting and talking to a legal officer many times about his family situation; but he was torn between divorce and trying to make a go of his marriage. Now he spoke to Rasmussen, and when the man behind the bar moved into another room, he engaged him in light conversation. He had no intention of saying what he said next, so he was quite surprised to hear himself ask Rasmussen if he might drop by his office sometime?
Rasmussen asked him if there was anything specific he had in mind, whereupon; St Ives told him hesitatingly, that he was interested in knowing something about divorce laws and how they might affect someone who was retired.
He told Rasmussen, for want of something better to say, that he knew they were different for civilians but just what that meant, he did not know. The legal officer sensed the Colonel was somewhat embarrassed and needed help with the conversation, so he eased him into the subject.
He told him things were different and that he should probably drop by his office for a chat. Without further discussion, Rasmussen suggested that he make an appointment, so as to be sure he was in his office when he dropped by. St Ives said that if it were all right with him, he would stop in for a few minutes after work the next night. Somehow, he felt that by keeping it as informal as he could, he would not have to commit himself to a course of action. He was trying to delay what he thought was the inevitable and he knew it.
He showed up the next evening, which surprised them both. Rasmussen sensed that he wanted information but was reluctant to pursue the subject. He realized he was uncomfortable. He was like many people in this regard, who came to see him for advice.
The lawyer did not want to pry too deeply into his affairs. He had planned to answer only the questions asked of him. But instead, he told him there were two cases, which had been published in a recent law review. He had reread them that day, he said, and he thought they might fit his situation. He went on to say that he would tell him what was in the legal review, and then if he had any questions, or if there was anything he did not understand, they could discuss it.
He told him: “an army officer by the name of Major Mandrell had returned home from Vietnam broken in body and in spirit. He had stepped on a land mine and it had severed both his legs and made him a paraplegic.
“His wife, who was a comely lass, was said to be having an affair while the good major was in combat. When she was given the news of the extent of his injuries, she promptly sued him for divorce. Although she later remarried, and was financially well off, she sued him for fifty-percent of his retirement pay.
“She alleged that since her divorce was filed in California, his retirement pay was subject to the Community Property laws of that State. The State Supreme Court found in her favor.
“Following his recovery, sufficient to be medically discharged from the army, Mandrell was consigned for the rest of his life to a veteran’s hospital with a ninety-percent medical disability. This meant that his remaining pay was exempt from federal taxation in that amount.
“When she heard about it, she promptly sued him for half that as well. Again, she alleged that she also had earned that money during the course of their marriage. It too was upheld.
“A challenge to the US Supreme Court was made at considerable expense to Mandrell.
“While all of this was going on, an Air Force Colonel by the name of McAuley suffered nearly the same fate as Mandrell, that is to say, his wife sued him while he was in combat. She, likewise, wanted half of his pay and half of his retirement pay when he retired.
“The California courts agreed. It was as though California was a sovereign nation in this regard and the United States was a subservient jurisdiction. It too was appealed,” Rasmussen told him.
“Both cases were argued successfully in the Supreme Court by both petitioners but at considerable expense. The Court ruled against California, stating that money owed an ex-wife should be based on need and that it was not a vested right by virtue of marriage. Also, they emphasized again, a serviceman’s pay was protected from seizure by the states where they had served.
“Most legal scholars, outside of California, expected this reversal,” he said. “But it was viewed as a major setback in the agenda of The National Organization of Women, who made directly to the office of their champion on the Armed Services Committee, one Betsy Schroeder, of Colorado.
“Betsy promised them she would rectify this Supreme Court oversight, forthwith,” Rasmussen added.
“She was true to her word, because she attached a rider to an important Armed Forces Appropriation Bill. In due course, it became law. Now it was only necessary for a divorcee to show she had been married to a service man, regardless of the length of time involved. And when he retired, as long as thirty-five years later, she still had a vested interest in half. And now, and your not going to believe this,” he said, “it didn’t matter that he had not heard from her in all those years, and both had remarried and there were no children involved, she still got half.”
He went on to say. “In some cases, the second wife, who had been married to the serviceman, all those many years, was obliged to go to work after her husband retired, in order to satisfy the debt to his first wife. And believe it or not, the first wife may have been married to him for only a few months and the second for many years. And there may have been dependent children from the second marriage.
“Congress, realizing they had been finessed by NOW, and that the new law made absolutely no sense, woke up and overturned it. Some would later call into question Ms. Schroeder’s judgment and exercise of zeal, by asking her if she was not hurting more women than she was helping?
“Eventually, a period of ten years was established as the criteria.” But he said, “this too, in my opinion, is flawed. There is no way of knowing how many potentially good marriages are ending in divorce when they don’t otherwise have too. What is happening, the servicemen are opting out in the ninth year, to avoid what they think might be a lean on their retirement pay later on,” he said.
When he had finished with his narrative, he asked St Ives, “Have I thoroughly confused you?”
“Not in the least,” he replied. “I understand perfectly. You have covered the subject pretty well and I want to thank you. How about letting me buy you a beer?”
He thought to himself, as they walked to their cars, that this Rasmussen was a pretty good Joe. He felt comfortable with him and he made up his mind he would get to know him better.
Later, St Ives told the lawyer, he figured things were about what he had been told they were. He did not want to go into it in too much detail right now. But he did tell him that at one time, he had seriously considered divorce as a way out of his dilemma. He told Rasmussen this, without explaining too much about what he meant by the term dilemma. But the controversy and the unsettled position of Congress on this issue, as he understood it, had caused him to postpone his plans, he told him.
Now it was out of the question, he told Rasmussen, because his family under the present laws, which had just been explained to him, would go right on living much as they had been doing. And of course that was unacceptable. The comment confused Rasmussen but he did not think it was appropriate to ask for an explanation.
Still later, after he had left his new friend, he told himself again that divorce was not an option. Some other means of divesting himself of his family must be sought. Some other way to extricate himself from his servitude must be found.
The first step of any good plan was to establish the criteria on which the plan was to be based. One of a number of criteria in this case, he told himself, was to force his family to face the real world every day just as countless millions did. In order for them to do this, they must go to work.
Secondly, they must be stripped instantly of all income provided by him. This was the only assurance he would ever have that they would actually become part of the work force.
Next, all property or assets which could be turned into cash must be sold and the money either given to charity or placed where they could not reach it.
They must suffer a devastating shock, which would leave them homeless and penniless. Then, the only means open to them for survival would be to get jobs. He would give anything or do anything, he told himself, for the privilege of eventually knowing they had all done an honest day’s work.
A couple of weeks after their conversation about divorce laws, St Ives met him again at the little bar. He was beginning to enjoy his conversations with Rasmussen and he suspected it was mutual. On one of these occasions, they started to talk about what provisions had been made for a widow after a Serviceman had retired. Rasmussen’s answer quite surprised St Ives. Although, what he said was not foreign to him, it was not something he had thought about in a long time.
“I’m afraid it is a lot like civilian life,” Rasmussen told him. “If you do not make some kind of effort to see your family is taken care of while you are still in the Service, after you pass away, they are going to be in financial straits. Your retirement pay stops and they are going to be dependant on Social Security alone. Unfortunately, people who came into the Service when you did, do not have much Social Security accrued because the military did not come under this protection until the middle of the nineteen-fifty’s. There are a few dollars appropriated as some kind of pension but not enough even to talk about“
“Tell me about it, I have never heard of it,” said St Ives.
“Well, you of course know of General Arnold. But you may not know too much about what happened to his widow. Arnold was the wartime designer, builder and administrator of the modern Air Force. Many historians believe he and Gen. George C. Marshal, Army Chief of Staff, were the two outstanding people of that era. Certainly they contributed much more to the war effort than some of those who received more credit. General Arnold worked tirelessly, long hours of the day, seven days a week, from before the advent of Pearl Harbor, until the end of the war. He worked so hard and doggedly that when he retired he was in ailing health. He had in his bank account at the time, the munificent sum of five thousand dollars.
“He took the money and bought a small home. And then shortly, thereafter, he died. The country mourned his passing for days. The Congress mourned him by insuring that his widow was paid the handsome sum of fifty dollars a month for the rest of her life. This made her eligible for welfare, which she would have had to resort too, if it had not been for the generosity of her two sons.
“In 1968, when veterans began to retire in fairly large numbers, Congress, shamed by the Arnold affair, provided future widows with a generous benefit plan. But it was dependent upon whether the serviceman elected to sign-up. If he did, as you know, he was required to give up a rather large monthly sum of money to insure his wife’s financial future.
“Most everyone joins the Survivors Benefit Plan, as it is called. I don’t have much to do with it. But to the few people who ask me, I tell them it is a good deal. It is certainly a lot better than what Mrs. Arnold had to live on,” he told him.
Soon after the draft began for the build-up of the wartime Armed Forces, Congress instituted a National Service Life Insurance program. They made a ten thousand dollar term policy available to all service personnel for six dollars a month. After the war, they allowed them to convert to a paid-up plan. St Ives chose to do this, believing at the time that it would be used for an educational fund for his yet unborn children, as well as insurance for his wife. He would later change his mind on both counts.
“Is there anything you want to ask me about paid-up NSLI, while we are on the subject?” Rasmussen asked him.
“No, I’m pretty well squared away on about everything now,” he said. “And thanks again.”
Three weeks into retirement, Ed St Ives was becoming seriously despondent. Where before, he was suffering only mild depression, he was now experiencing several attacks of panic a week. And once he was rushed to a hospital with a suspected heart attack.
He had no place to go and nothing to do. He sat for hours each day on his patio listening to the ranting of his wife and thinking about his plan to extricate himself from her clutches. But under the circumstances, he was having a difficult time concentrating. She, in turn, was constantly nagging him to get out of the house, and to go get a job, or just to do something to keep out of her way.
He was disrupting the normal routine of their lives. They did not feel comfortable anymore, lying around all day in a filthy house in front of the television, not with his disapproving eyes watching them.
Fights and squabbles were even more frequent than before and she gave him no peace. He thought a couple of times of going back to his office for a visit, or over to the Stag Room for a while, but then thought better of the idea. He was not up to it. Not yet anyway. He told himself that maybe later on, perhaps in a few weeks.
He had heard of a General who did this. He would go back to his headquarters periodically for a full command briefing. It was the same briefing as the one given to the man who replaced him. But any such outward interest, or appearance of having an interest in the affairs of his office, by someone of his rank, would look ridiculous.
Anyway, St Ives problem was more homesickness than it was reluctance to turn over the reins. And as he became more bored, he became more depressed.
His plan to work on his plan was not working out. He would start to write down the essentials of what must be done and how it was to be accomplished, then off he would go into a deep daydream. Clearly, he was becoming a candidate for a nervous breakdown.
He hit upon the idea of getting away from his family for awhile. But he knew it would be only a temporary solution to his problem. He thought about going to Idaho to see the farm and to pay a visit to his brothers. He had not seen them for a year or so and he needed to talk to the custodian of his mutual fund.
According to his father’s trust, he had been eligible to make withdrawals for some time now. He had only an estimate of the amount that had accrued over the years but he thought it might be considerable. Now, he wanted to know exactly how much was there. But when he found out, he was not sure exactly what he was going to do with the information.
St Ives had not been driving long from his home in Riverside, when he began thinking about the family he had just left. As a matter of fact, he was usually thinking about them. He always seemed to be trying to justify his feelings. He would go over and over in his mind, the reasons why he disapproved of them so.
His young daughter, who had once been his favorite, was now ranked along side the other two in his esteem. He did not want to admit it but she was as big a washout as her brother.
He was pretty sure that she too could just barely read and write. But in her case, it was not entirely her fault.
He always thought if your parents were reluctant to help you or encourage you, at least thru the second grade, you were never going to develop a love for reading. And if you did not like to read, school was going to be difficult, and you probably would miss out on a lot.
He mused about what he knew about teaching kids to read. He remembered taking a course in psychology once, where some of the lectures were about learning, and specifically about learning to read. It seemed the time-honored method of teaching reading phonetics was going to be eventually replaced by something called the Sight Method. This new scheme would have the pupil memorize each word in the vocabulary.
He thought at the time the idea was flawed. Why abandon a perfectly good system, which had long proven effective for something little more than an idea?
He later heard they were going to try it first in California, which did not surprise him.
He never helped her. Her teachers told him that sight and phonetics could not be taught simultaneously. It was one or the other and not both. And the ineffective sight system was the one in vogue when she started school.
So, on those few occasions when he tried to help her, his wife got all over him for confusing the child.
She did learn to read a little but only slightly better than her brother. And neither of them was able to overcome their handicap. As far as he could tell, they never thought it was very important to do so.
It was to her credit though, he told himself, that she went to school everyday. However, that is where her friends were. But most important of all that is where her boyfriend was. So perhaps, he thought, in the end he might be giving her too much credit. But more to the point, was she learning anything that was going to do her any good? He inquired once of her mother about this and he was curtly told to mind his own business.
She was a pretty girl and she was not at a loss for male friends. There were always several of them hanging around his house. When he expressed his opinion about her spending too much unsupervised time alone with them, his wife told him that this too was none of his affair.
He knew that she had been sexually active for at least two years. When he brought this up with his wife, he fared no better than he did with any of the less sensitive subjects he tried to discuss with her. In this case, he was thankful he had an excuse for not getting further involved. But nevertheless, he knew she was headed for trouble and that her mother was having little influence on her.
He was positive that she had had one abortion and perhaps more. But he could only be sure about the one. He came home late one night and found the two of them having a shouting match in her room. From the conversation he overheard, he concluded that his daughter was little more than a tramp, who had no respect for him or for her mother. He would also learn from the same incident that she was involved in other unsavory matters as well. This would be corroborated by the local police, who divulged the fact that her mother, unbeknownst to him, had picked her up at the station for conduct unbecoming a good citizen on more than one occasion.
She was a candidate for Juvenile Hall. When her mother unloaded on her about all her moral shortcomings, she laughed at her and told her she was from the dark ages. She had a smart mouth and a sharp tongue like her mother. She also loved confrontation and continually fought with her brother and the two of them fought with their mother. He thought once that his home resembled the infamous Bedlam.
As he drove along, thinking about them, a passage from the Bible came to his mind. He could not quote it but he remembered it had something to do with the siring of “a generation of vipers.” Yes, that is exactly what they were; a den of unloving self-centered and selfish human beings, whom he had come to think of literally as the enemy. And like enemy, they would be dealt with accordingly.
He remembered that it was somewhere around Victorville when it happened. He would later conclude that it was probably caused from the months of severe depression and brought on now by the added stress of recalling events in his daughters wasted life. He first had a peculiar feeling come over him. Then he lost his ability to think clearly, followed by the realization that he had all but lost his powers of concentration.
He pulled off the road into a rest stop, just as the scene began to unfold. It was not like any daydream he ever had before. He was at the Los Angeles airport. Of course he did not know what was happening to him. He did not realize that he had entered into a fugue over which he had no control.
He purchased a ticket and was surprised to find that he was boarding an airplane, which was scheduled to land at Orley field in Paris. Throughout the flight, he kept wondering why he was going to France. Yet, that was where he wanted to be. It was almost like a compulsion, this need to reach Paris.
He recognized the place, having been there before. And after clearing customs, he rented a car and drove south out of the city.
Then he realized with a start that his final destination was Château roux. And it came to him in a rush of excitement that he was going back to see her.
His reason for wanting to see her was to find out if she was married. He knew she would be there. The French were unique in not wanting to move too far from where they were born and raised. He knew that if she had moved, he probably could find relatives who knew where she was.
She had worked at the Catherine Wheel, a quaint wooden hotel that was more than a hundred years old. It was named for the large rear wheel of a royal coach. In fact, there was just such a wheel mounted near the front entrance.
He remembered the hotel featured a number of small rooms with a spacious restaurant. Her mother had been the owner and concierge. All the more reason to believe he could easily find her.
He reasoned that since she had been a waitress and a bookkeeper for her mother, there was a very good chance she was still at the hotel in some capacity.
The first time he met her was when she was just fourteen years old. He had crash-landed near her home during the war. And now eight years later, when he saw her again, she had grown into a beautiful young woman.
The Americans had built a large aircraft overhaul depot near her city. Its purpose was not only to service aircraft but for strategic reasons as well. Their plans were calculated to reduce the probability of global war and to offset the continuing huge Russian military build-up of the past several years. They did this by locating a number of Air Force bases in Europe and nearby countries. These bases were close enough for the new jet bombers, which would be coming off the assembly lines in two years, to reach the heart of Soviet Russia.
The scene continued on as intense as before. And he remembered well the first year, after he came back the second time. It was after the war in 1951. They were some of the happiest months of his life. He did not miss the constant pressure, which had been thrust upon him by his wife and her dominant personality. Away from her and the constant bickering and fighting, he was enjoying a newfound freedom. And there were new awakenings within him that made him feel that each new day was going to be an adventure.
He was a young man but had not felt young in years. Now he felt the way he did ten years before. The object of his newfound feelings was the twenty three-year-old daughter of the owner of the Catherine Wheel.
It started innocently enough, as an affair often does. And it stayed that way physically but emotionally; it was far from innocent. He was madly, crazy in love with Elaine and he had been for months, perhaps, in a way he always had been.
He ate at the hotel as often as he could afford too. He always sat where she would wait on him and he would always act as inconspicuous as possible, so as not to attract her mother’s attention.
She spoke English with a thick accent, which absolutely energized him and set his heart racing. It thrilled him to hear her speak. He never tired of hearing that sweet feminine voice.
He remembered that she was intelligent. Yet, she was not the least bit egotistical or domineering. Her personality and demeanor, he thought many times, was as completely different from that of his wife as any two people could possibly be.
She liked him too. In fact, he could tell that she liked him a lot. But that did not mean she was going to let him touch her. On the contrary, she was Old World Catholic and not even a single man was allowed to be alone in her company, without hiding from her mother and her neighbors.
He was married, of course. And she had told him straightaway that she was the French equivalent of off-limits to him. But all of this not withstanding, she had fallen in love with him and had managed to find a way to tell him so.
He had always thought that some of the most beautiful country in the world was in that part of France. The nobility, who predated the Revolution, must have thought so too, because they dotted the landscape with their mansions.
The city, which really was a large town, was an easy drive from Paris. It was situated among rolling hills, crisscrossed with small rivers and streams.
The area was steeped in Old World tradition. It was slow paced and devoid of any pretense. Most of the people came from families that had lived there for generations.
They were not wealthy nor were there any truly poor among them. They led simple lives, for the most part. In fact, the produce market was also the town social center. It had always been that way and he thought it would probably continue on for many generations to come.
He remembered telling a friend once about why he thought it would be a great place to raise a family. He commented that he would not mind spending the rest of his life there. But even as he said it, he knew it was only a casual observation, a passing fancy.
As his mind continued on in the deep trance that had possessed him for the past hour, he saw again very vividly, the beautiful autumn landscape of France. And he seemed to be experiencing the exact same feelings, which had overwhelmed him on one day many years before.
Elaine had coaxed and had gotten permission from her mother to go for an afternoon drive in the country. She had packed a picnic basket and he had borrowed a car from a friend. The innocence of the situation and his feelings for her that day came flooding back. And it was as though he was living it for the first time. And he remembered. And his pulse beat faster even now, as her closeness overcame his better judgment, and he confessed his love for her. She responded with a declaration of her love for him. But she reinforced his understanding that nothing was possible outside of marriage and under the circumstances this could never happen.
They stopped by the side of the road at a breathtaking scenic overlook. And he marveled again at the beauty of the place. They ate their lunch there, and then motored a short distance to the birthplace of George Sands, the legendary mistress of Chopin. On the way back, they stopped at a medieval church where they sat and talked for a while about what it would be like if things were different.
All in all it was the best day of his life. And he would tell himself many times thru the years, he would give anything to live it over. And now, thru some extraordinary aberration of the mind, it had become possible.
The scene began to fade away and was replaced by another from his early-married life immediately after the war. Life was good then, and although they did not have a lot of money, they lived well. Then too, they had each other, and they were in love.
The future for him looked bright. He had graduated in 1942 from the accelerated class at West Point. He was then commissioned and sent directly to flying training. Upon graduation, he transitioned into the B-17 bomber and then it was on to more training with his new crew and finally to England and combat.
He was a survivor of the bloody air war over Europe. He rose steadily thru the ranks and at the relatively young age of 26, he was promoted to the rank of Captain. Following his return from France, just before the Invasion, he was promoted to Major.
She reveled in her newfound social status. She had an engaging personality, and she was well liked by all their friends, which were many, and were sprinkled throughout the ranks.
Their social life was full. She learned to play bridge and Mah Jong and she spent much of her time engaged in these activities.
She attended all the women's club luncheons. And it was there that she first participated in a cocktail before lunch, not because she liked alcohol particularly, but because everyone else had one. First it was one and then out of boredom, it became two or three.
She could not remember and neither could he, when she began to like the stuff, or when she began looking forward to a cocktail before dinner.
There were the usual dances, as well as the bridge parties and the dinners at friend’s homes. Always there was alcohol present. She soon gained a reputation for one whom occasionally over indulged. But she always managed to stop short of embarrassing the two of them, at least in the early years.
She had been raised in the Midwest during the Depression. Her family was not poor, but like most people, they had to budget their money to provide for the essentials of middle class living.
Food was not scarce in their home, as it was in some others, but only the staples could be said to exist in quantity. Meat, milk, and desserts were considered to be luxuries and not part of the daily menu.
After she married St Ives, all of this began to change. When they went out for dinner, she felt free to order anything she pleased in any quantity. This newfound freedom to indulge her senses in all the things that had not been readily available to her while she was growing up began to change her personality. No longer was she grateful for her daily bread, so to speak. But she began to believe that extravagance was a privilege of her husband’s rank, the mantle of which fell so easily about her shoulders.
Without restraints of any kind in her new life, she began to lead a more sedentary existence. A lack of exercise and an increase in calorie intake began to show on her hips and stomach.
She started to lose her youthful figure, and before long she resembled some of her women friends, who were much older.
The quarreling began in earnest in those years. It started because of her lack of self-control, and then became worse, when he discovered that he had married a truly domineering woman.
She hated herself for what she had come to look like. And she became even more cold and less of a loving person. He in turn withdrew from her. They went days without talking to each other. And he did not show her any outward affection for weeks at a time.
It was at this point that they were posted to Norton Air Force Base, San Bernardino, California. He was there for the purpose of receiving training in the operation and management of an aircraft repair depot.
An Air Depot Wing, as it was called, was forming in the spring of 1950. It would later split into three groups; each one would form a cadre for three wings, one of which would be stationed at Château roux. The other two would be in Germany and French Morocco.
The tour of duty at these new bases was a year and a half. If you took your wife with you, it was three years. She chose the first option. Just like that. He had no say in the matter. She did not want to go traipsing all over the world. She wanted to stay right where she was with her new friends where she was comfortable.
He was powerless to persuade her to change her mind, so he gave into her demands. It was not the first time she had made a major decision on her own that would have a major effect on their lives. It was the continuation of a pattern, which would prevail throughout the rest of their marriage.
She had exercised an old weapon she had used against him many times before. That is, she would just make up her mind to have her own way, and then refuse to negotiate.
As the chemical imbalance in the neurotransmitters of his brain, which had been responsible for a near nervous breakdown, changed back to a more normal state, St Ives was able to recognize that he had been in a deep trance.
He slowly came to realize that the events of the past two hours were not real but had taken place only in his mind. It was like awakening from a deep sleep. Yet he realized he had not been asleep; this was something quite different. It had been far more real than a dream. It was, he thought, when analyzed in the cold light of day, when he was completely rational, much like watching his life unfold on a movie screen. That was the best he could do.
He was quite shaken at first. But as he sat there in his car, now quite lucid, he began to contemplate the singularity of the thing and he wondered if it might not happen again.
As he continued thinking about what had just occurred, he realized that the psychiatrist, testifying for the defense at the CourtMartial he served on years before, had pretty well described what had happened to him. He thought that perhaps the court had made a mistake. Maybe in their ignorance and smugness, they had convicted an innocent man.
There was nothing he could do about that now. Anyway, he told himself, all he wanted to think about was Elaine. He just wanted to sit there and savor the moment.
It was as though he had been in her very presence. He thought if he concentrated, he could again smell her hair and the sweet scent of wine on her breath.
He finally drove off, confident he could control the vehicle. When he reached Barstow, he debated for a moment whether he might stop by the hospital. But then he quickly abandoned the idea.
What exactly were they going to do for him? What did he want them to do? Frankly, he thought to himself, as a smile crossed his face, I don’t want to be cured of anything. He figured they would probably look him over and conclude that he had a stroke or something. Worse yet, they would not understand. And not taking any chances, they would notify the police and they would take away his driver’s license, leaving him stranded out there in the desert.
No, he was all right. In fact, he said to himself, I am better than all right. I feel better than I have felt in years. My mind is clearer than it ever was. And he thought that maybe for the first time, he would be able to put together the pieces of the plan he had been mulling over for months.
By the time he reached Las Vegas, he had a rough draft in his head. He knew generally what he was going to do and he was filled with enthusiasm at the thought of doing it.
He would take an overnight driving break. He would treat himself to a good meal and rest-up. He was very tired in a pleasant sort of way and he was still feeling the euphoria he had experienced at seeing Elaine again. Yes, that is what he would do. And then on the next leg of the trip, he would finalize the details of the plan in his mind. But for now, all he wanted to think about was Elaine.
The depression, which had nearly consumed him, had vanished. The thought of Elaine, and the realization that he had at last a workable plan to solve his family problems, had a calming effect on him.
The first step was to determine how much potato money he had. Next, he would meet the custodian of his mutual fund and have him turn it all into cash. The money would be placed into a checking account, minus several thousand dollars he would need for expenses.
He would visit with his brothers, but before he left them, he would ask them to redirect the trust money to some one else in the family. Maybe they could set up an educational fund; that would be a nice touch. But the real objective was to have all future monies vanish. It must appear to any investigator that it never existed at all.
After a warm and friendly two-day visit with his family, and having given instructions to his broker and banker and to his brothers, he motored south to Idaho Falls. He bought an airline ticket to Lucerne, in French speaking Switzerland. He had to change planes in Denver and New York and then again in Zurich. But after a pleasant first class flight, in which he whiled away the time thinking about Elaine, he arrived in Lucerne.
He took a taxi to a good hotel in the heart of the city. Although it was early in the evening, he went straight to bed. He told himself that he had a busy day tomorrow and he wanted no problem with jet lag.
He slept about ten hours. When he awakened, he ordered the complimentary breakfast, and read the English language newspaper that was delivered to his door. He then walked down the street and sat down outside at a quaint side walk cafe. He ordered another coffee and watched the passing parade of busy people on their way to work.
He thought to himself how he was enjoying this experience as much as any tourist. But he was reminded by another thought: his purpose there had nothing to do with sightseeing.
He noticed a sign on a building across the street that spelled out Banque du Lucerne. He walked across and entered the marble foyer. He noticed that the interior of the structure was well appointed without being pretentious. It was the way a bank ought to look, he thought. He decided on the spot that it had the stability he was looking for.
He was ushered to the desk of one of the vice presidents. He told the banker that he wished to open a numbered account in the amount of ten thousand dollars. Further, he told him, he wanted all of his money transferred from his Idaho account. When asked if he knew the amount, he handed him a deposit slip that indicated there was well over two million dollars.
He asked how long it would take to complete the transaction and he was told that it should be done before the closing of the next business day. He then signed the necessary papers.
He left, satisfied that they would live up to the Swiss reputation for being competent and discreet. He had asked his new banker friend during the course of their conversation, if he could recommend a reliable private investigator.
He was given the name of a firm the bank had used in the past. They called and arranged an appointment for him two hours hence. This gave him just enough time for lunch at another sidewalk cafe. With twenty minutes to spare, he hailed a cab for a spirited ten-minute ride thru traffic to his destination.
He was introduced to a detective who offered him a glass of wine. This is a French custom calculated to break the ice and to put the new business associate at ease. St Ives remembered that this ice-breaking period could be quite lengthy. Sometimes it was used to render the customer at a disadvantage by offering him several more glasses than was appropriate.
While the Colonel sipped the wine, the detective sat back and listened without interruption. St Ives told him what he wanted without telling him why. He told him he wanted him to find a certain French woman from the town of Château roux. He gave him her full name and then told him he wanted to know if she was deceased. If she was living, he wanted to know her address. If she had moved, he wanted to know that too. These were the absolute essentials, he told him. But he would appreciate knowing anything else he could find out, including her marital status.
He told the investigator that any further employment would depend on his findings. If he found she was living, and by a stroke of luck was single, he was to hold himself available to act as St Ives agent and courier. The specifics of any follow-up activity would be explained to him later.
They discussed the agent’s fee and then he signed a contract. He then gave the investigator the name of his hotel and the room number. They shook hands and he told him that he wanted to hear from him in two weeks at the most. He also told him he wanted his case given priority attention and that he would stay in Lucerne until he reported back.
He sat around the sidewalk cafes while he waited. He did not feel like participating in anything, which would interrupt his chain of thought. He preferred to just sit and think about his plan and of course about Elaine.
He thought endlessly about what his life was going to be like, if perchance she was single, and what he might do if she were married.
All good plans have a fallback position, he told himself. And he spent hours in conceiving and discarding options. Of one thing he was sure; he intended to make his permanent home in Château roux. If for some reason his plans did not work out with Elaine, and it was odds on that they would not, then he planned to seek out another woman as near like her as he could find. He was locked into the idea of finding another French woman and falling in love with her.
He would not consider that this option was fraught with pitfalls. In his present state of mind, he was unable to come to terms with anything which might dissuade him from what he viewed as the solution to his problems. His next mate must not be a dominating shrew and she must above all be a friend and a companion.
He would kill two birds with one stone: the perfect scheme. He would disappear, and he would make a new home where the women, he believed, were less worldly. Elaine at any rate was less worldly and he supposed the others were the same way.
If he could not have her, he would try for someone else who would love and respect him. What he did not want was another ungrateful competitor to complicate his remaining years.
The week he spent waiting for the investigator to return from France was one of the best he could remember in a long time. With his depression all but over, he was sleeping well. He had not given serious thought to his family in several days or to any of his other problems for that matter. He had put them all out of his mind. But he knew it was just temporary.
This particular morning, he was sitting as usual in his favorite sidewalk cafe. His mind had seldom left Elaine for a moment. Now as he watched the passers-by, he was thinking about the first time he saw her. She had been a young girl in her teens She had slipped into his room in the Catherine Wheel to wash and dress the many wounds and abrasions he had suffered during the crash landing of his bomber. Then too, he had been badly beaten by his captors when they attempted to extract information from him.
Her mother had sent her. She reasoned, and rightly so, that the girl stood a better chance of persuading the guard to allow her to enter his room. He had been brought there by the Gestapo and turned over to the Army when they were thru with him. What they intended to do next was uncertain. But Elaine knew her mother was privy to information that he might be shot as a spy. Her mother had also told her that his captors might stage a fake escape and shoot him as an escapee.
He had just ordered a hot chocolate, which was the specialty of the sidewalk cafe, where he sat basking in the sun. His mind was still on Elaine and the role she and her mother played in his escape.
The two of them slipped into his room the following night. For some reason the guard had temporarily left his post. The older woman gave him a knapsack, which contained food and money. When he saw the guard was missing, he remembered the conversation he had with the two British intelligence officers several days before. They said they had inside connections within the Vichy government and he was told not to worry about escaping. It would be arranged, they said.
The two women wished him good luck and then Elaine’s mother kissed him on both cheeks but Elaine did not. She put her arms around him and kissed him on the lips as she started to cry. Later, he was to think about this for the longest time. But in the end, he would chalk it up to the times, and the stressful situation. Then too, she was young and impressionable, and perhaps in the short time she knew him, she had taken pity on him. And then again, she might have developed some kind of crush on him, an older man, he thought.
Elaine’s mother had escorted him down the quiet stairs and out the back door into the stable behind the hotel. As they passed the kitchen, they saw the sentry sitting at the table drinking coffee and eating something. St Ives was surprised at the sentry’s behavior and he began to worry. It was almost as if the Germans were encouraging him to escape. It was almost too easy. He thought that any moment soldiers might appear and shoot them all for some reason he would never discover.
He sat in the dark stable long after she left thinking about what the mother had told him. She had cautioned him about talking to any Frenchman other than those referred to in his verbal instructions. She only told him where to meet his first contacts and not who they were. Whatever questions he might have should be directed to them, she said. She was obviously part of the plan to help him escape. But whom she worked for, he did not know. And when he asked, she would not tell him.
She handed him a bundle of clothes and then slipped back into the hotel without another word.
He had been directed to report to a house on the Rue de St. Cyr. And even now he could remember the two men who were waiting for him. He was given a glass of wine and then hustled into a dilapidated Citroen and driven south. He never could remember much about the car trip. He slept most of the way as the car sped thru the night and the dark countryside. It was not until the sun was coming up and they reached the Garonne River that he felt awake. When he thought about it later, he suspected he might have been given a sedative in the wine. The drivers had no interest in making friends. He guessed they did not want to be recognized and later identified, if they encountered trouble along the way. Their job was to get him to a point on the river where they would turn him over to the crew of a small barge. And the less he knew about them, or what they did and looked like, the better.
The trip to Toulouse took the better part of three days. During this time he was kept below decks. The crew did not contact him nor did any one on board speak to him. He had been told the Vichy had penetrated the Resistance. And from time to time, cells were being uncovered, and anyone involved with assisting downed airmen was summarily shot. The whole operation from beginning to end was very dangerous.
He was dressed as a civilian. He had left his uniform at the hotel and was wearing some of Elaine’s father’s clothes that her mother had given him. And now if the Germans captured him, he would be shot as a spy. And so would any Frenchman suspected of helping him. He thought, as he sat in the dark hold of the barge, that if there had been any plan on the German’s part to let him escape, it had all gone by the wayside now. The Resistance certainly knew of no such plan, he reasoned. And from the beginning, he had been in extreme danger. But why did that surprise him. He was being quite naive if he thought he was entitled to any special treatment. How far did the protection of British intelligence extend, he wondered? And then the answer came back to him; not anymore than it did for any other downed flier. He had accomplished what he was expected to do, and as soon as he left the hotel, he was in the hands of the Resistance. He was dependent on them exclusively for survival and they had little to do with the British or the Americans at that point.
The British had not exactly deceived him but they had not been frank with him either. The entire mission was shaping up as being far more complicated and dangerous than he had ever been led to believe.
He sat now, sipping hot chocolate, watching the passing sidewalk traffic, and thinking back to the tortuous escape route leading from Chateauroux to St.. Girons. And then to the arduous and dangerous fifty-mile trek that was planned across the Pyrenees Mountains to the Spanish village of Esterri d’Aneu. And as he thought about those years, he could not help but think about Elaine at that young age, and how she had grown into the beautiful woman he knew in the early years of the fifties.
He would learn after the war that the planned route over the Pyrenees was the same route that hundreds of airmen had used to escape from France. It was known then as the “Chemin de Liberte” or “Freedom Trail” to Spain, a neutral country.
It had been a time when Resistance members, many of them no older than the twenty year-old aircrews they helped, did great heroic deeds. And many lost their lives and all of them lived in constant fear of being discovered and shot.
For these heroes, the times demanded action. They weighed the dangers and decided to act. They chose not the way of the saboteur but the equally dangerous activity of helping to place aircrews back in the cockpits to fight another day. An enemy army occupied their country and they chose to fight the only way they knew how.
That is how he met Marcel. That was not his real name. But he was his first contact after he left the barge at Toulouse. He explained how he would be taken inside his hay-wagon and turned over to a woman, who Marcel referred to as Madame LeFevbre. St Ives suspected it was not her real name. But he was not to find out until after the war and now he had forgotten. She was responsible for the fate of almost every airman who made good his escape over the Pyrenees. And after the war she would be singled out as a National hero.
Many survivors would pay tribute to her and many would journey back to thank her personally. St Ives was not one of them. He could not bring himself to do it, because of the things that later happened. He suspected they were most necessary. But still they did happen and he was slow to forgive. In some cases, he found he was unable to forgive at all for many of the things that had happened in his life.
Upon his arrival at Madame Le Fevbre’s home, he recalled, he was fed and given a place to sleep. He expected to immediately move into the processing organization responsible for the actual transit across the mountains; but it did not happen. In fact, he soon came to realize he was in semi-confinement. He was locked in a room where he was fed and given little else. No one talked to him. And he remembered seeing armed guards inside her home. They wore no uniforms and carried no firearms that were discernable. But they were there to guard him nonetheless. Madame Le Fevbre said absolutely nothing to him during the two-week period he stayed with her.
She was a middle-aged woman, who wore her hair in a straight combed-back bun. It gave an appearance of being more severe and business like than she actually was. Later, he would be told she was quite charming and that she had a rather droll sense of humor. But as far as he was concerned, she was aloof and uncommunicative. At one point he became rather forthright in his demands to know what was going on. Madame gave him absolutely no answers, but simply nodded to one of her guards, who produced a German machine pistol and pointed it at him.
Later, she would apologize for her actions, telling him why they thought he was an infiltrator. She explained how they took no chances with their guests. They assumed each one was a potential Vichy or German agent. And, until their identification tags had been verified by intelligence sources in London, everyone was considered to be an enemy. In the case of St Ives, verification took twice as long as did the others. And now as he thought back on the incident, he concluded it was because his case had interest at the highest levels of the American and British governments. But, he remembered Madame telling him that whatever the reason for the delay, it increased her suspicions, and it almost got him shot. But the fact that she would have had him shot then was not what would ultimately bother him the most.
Her dark dress and manner allowed her to blend in with the other women in the community. She made daily trips to the market place for fresh produce, which she paid for with money given to her by the Resistance, who in turn received it from agents of the American OSS. On her way home, she often stopped at a specialty wine shop. The business of the owner was indeed, wine. But he was also a master forger, who had served time in a French prison before the war. Now he had been drafted into the Resistance movement. And he well knew the consequences, if he did not cooperate. But they were not taking any chances with him turning them over to the Vichy for a price. So to ensure his continuing loyalty, he was paid large sums of money. He in turn, supplied Madame with excellent documents. Her guests would use them to penetrate German checkpoints on the road from St Girons to the starting point, and beyond, in their forthcoming trek to Spain.
Madame kept a large sum of money in a secret safe under a bidet in her bathroom. The fixture was not functional. But only Madame knew this. Now, on the night of the two-week anniversary of his entering her home, St Ives recalled being assigned a “companion.” He arrived after midnight, and was later introduced to St Ives, who was awakened from a sound sleep, when he heard them speaking rapidly in their native tongue.
One of the required classes at West Point was French, because at the time, it was considered to be the international language of diplomacy. All the courses at the Academy were taken seriously. But when he saw the French course on the plebe schedule, he thought perhaps it would be treated like most language courses in other American schools. That is to say, he thought he might get by with a few hours of study a week. This would enable him to use the rest of his time in the pursuit of the requirements of the sciences, which he suspected were going to give him the most trouble.
But he was soon to find out that a mere effort was not going to see him thru. And in fact, he was told by several upperclassmen, one of the quickest ways of being sent down was to founder in French.
When he failed to get passing grades on the first two of his weekly tests, because of this misunderstanding, he became fair game to the upperclassmen bent on hazing him. They had been directed to do so by his instructor who’s sole interest was to get him started out on the right foot. But their practice of verbally testing him in French continued throughout his first year. He was thankful for the attention, when one of his close friends failed his final first year examination, and he was returned to the ranks of the Regular Army.
He was thankful then he had received a firm grounding in the subject but he was always a little reluctant to agree that the time and effort he was forced to expend was ever going to be worth the effort. He continued in this thinking after graduation and right up to the present time. Now he was grateful for the experience and the training.
But he soon realized when he fell into the hands of the Resistance that he had never been all that proficient in the first place. But within a few days it started coming back to him. And he found he was rapidly adding more words to his vocabulary.
Now, at this late hour, the two of them were loudly discussing money. He could just make out the words. What they were talking about was whether his escort was to be paid more money. The guide felt he was entitled to more money, because payment was based on rank, and St Ives was not only a Captain, but he was also someone special. And because he was special, the escort suspected the Germans would be more on the lookout for him than they would have been for someone else. One of the main discussion points, he could just barely make out, was whether Madame’s people had actually observed some newly reported roadblocks between St. Girons and Aunac.
As St Ives continued to eavesdrop, he got the definite impression that the Gestapo and the German Army intended to mount a search for him well into the foothills of the mountains. He thought he recognized enough of the conversation to understand that the man talking to Madame knew of such roadblocks and that they had not been there until a short time before he arrived. But whether he was just telling her this to get more money, or whether there was actually trouble ahead, he could not tell
But whatever they had decided, the business at hand was concluded, and the two of them entered his room with the announcement they were ready to start immediately.
She introduced his guide, whom she referred to as Henri. He was a couple of years younger and a few inches taller than St Ives was. He wore a black beret, and as he stood silhouetted against the light of the naked bulb in the hall, with a French cigarette dangling from his lips, he was an imposing figure. He looked to St Ives as though he might be trying to affect the persona of the movie version of what a working member of the Resistance might look like. Then he saw the Sten machine gun carried across his shoulder, and a muslin bag, which he referred to as a musette, crisscrossed over the opposite shoulder. He suspected it contained grenades and extra clips of ammunition. This was no movie character from one of a number of movies being made these days, he thought. In fact, he made a bet with himself, as he stood up and shook his hand, that this man might be able to count on his fingers the number of moving pictures he had seen in his lifetime.
He was right about Henri. He was not born to the city. He had been a shepherd for most of his life. When France fell he left his father’s farm in the Pyrenees and became engaged in the smuggling of contraband from Spain across the mountains. And then he naturally gravitated to the smuggling of Allied airmen. He was used to being alone. He had spent most of his life by himself and St Ives realized at the outset that he was not going to be much company.
Henri was in excellent physical condition and his lungs were adapted to the high country. He was used to carrying heavy packs at a blistering pace. Once he started out, he preferred to continue climbing. And he resented the frequent rest stops often demanded by his charges.
St Ives was given a pack, which contained enough food to see him thru to the next stopping point at Aunac. He remembered Aunac and the trip from St. Girons, as being one of the most trying ordeals of his life. It was worse, he thought, than the most brutal day he ever spent in the fields at home. The hike took only four hours but it was up past the foothills and into the mountains. He was not in the best of shape. Long hours in the cockpit and then several days as a guest of the Gestapo had taken their toll. And the ensuing walk was almost too much for him. His guide chided him good naturedly for going to war in such poor physical condition. St Ives replied that he never in his wildest dreams believed, because he was an aviator, he would be called upon to walk halfway across France. Still, he would not be the first one to do so and he supposed he would not be the last.
Henri watched him with more than passing interest. If they came upon a patrol of German soldiers, or worse yet, a group of Vichy bounty hunters, St Ives was going to be a definite liability. And he wished now that he had demanded more money from Madame.
He was thinking about the quaint farmhouse where they stayed the first night, as the waiter at the cafe took his order for another cup of chocolate. He did not indicate he was interested in St Ives ordering any thing more. Sidewalk cafes are something of an institution in France and Switzerland. If you order and choose to sit in the open on the sidewalk, you must pay extra for the privilege, and then you generally can sit as long as you like. It has always been that way as far back as anyone could remember.
The farmhouse at Aunac reminded him of the childhood home of George Sands, and the time he visited there with Elaine, many years before. The stable and the barn were part of the house, where he and the guide slept, buried in the hay above the animals below. He was completely worn out. And he wondered out loud to Henri about the condition of his feet.
His military street shoes had been worn inside his fleece lined flying boots. The combination made them too heavy for sustained walking. But Madame had replaced them, not because they were unsuitable particularly, but because they were too conspicuous. She had procured new work shoes from the man who made the identification cards and they had not been properly broken in. Henri told him to stand in the horse trough until the leather was thoroughly soaked. Then, he said, the next morning they would be dry, and they would not only be softer, but they would fit better.
He had an old football injury to his knee. It had completely healed two years after it happened, or so he had thought. And then on an elk hunt with his brothers thru the mountains near his home, he discovered after two days, that he could go no further. The knee began to swell and they had to return home. He wondered as he lay in the stable, if it would happen again.
The terrain on the hike to Aunac was much like the mountain areas of Idaho. In fact, he had remarked to Henri about how similar the countryside was. The foothills of the Pyrenees were crisscrossed with ravines and gullies, just like the wilderness area at home, where he liked to hunt and fish. And the trees and brush were the same; it was thick and difficult to walk thru when off the trail.
They had left the road hours before. Henri explained to him how the Germans liked to surprise escapees walking along the road, just when they thought they were in the clear.
St Ives, for want of something to talk about, as much as anything, explained why they were not seeing German spotter airplanes. He told Henri that the American bombing forces had shifted their priorities. They had originally set out to destroy German aircraft factories. But the Germans had dispersed them. They had hundreds of mini-factories scattered throughout Germany. Many of them had been set up in the basements of buildings and some even in homes. And actually, he told him, reports back from OSS operatives indicated that bombing had had very little effect on overall production.
When Henri looked puzzled, St Ives told him that the Allies were still bombing all right; but they were bombing different targets. He said they had switched to oil refineries and transportation. Not only had they all but curtailed oil production but they had crippled the railroads as well. Even if the Germans had the fuel for their aircraft, there would be no way to transport it to the fighter bases in France, he said.
Henri told him they may not have fuel for their aircraft but they apparently had enough to patrol the roads in their automobiles? He phrased it as a question. And then he made the remark that, come to think of it, the cars they were using had been converted to gas, which came from charcoal made in the local area.
About half way between Aunac and Subera, his knee did begin to swell. They were now well past the foothills and into the high mountains looming ahead. The pace had all but come to a standstill, as the terrain became even steeper. At one point they stopped walking altogether. Henri made camp by a cold swift running stream. He told St Ives to remove his trousers and to immerse his entire leg into the near freezing water. This helped some, but when he tried to walk again, the knee had stiffened up. He found that it would not bend. And he was forced to walk stiff legged.
St Ives asked Henri if they could stay where they were for a couple of days. Henri replied that it was not possible. And then he told him there was a good chance they were being followed. He said the bounty hunters could not be everywhere at once, so they hired informers from among the general population. He supposed they had been spotted moving towards the mountain trails and no doubt had been seen and reported. In the past, he said, they always assumed this had happened. But they did not pay too much attention, because the hunters were at a disadvantage. By the time the informers were able to make contact with the hunters, the escapees were miles ahead of them. But because they had been going so slowly they might only be a few miles back, he told St Ives.
Henri went on to say that he had no intentions of abandoning him unless they were ambushed. And then if it happened, he was on his own. They sat talking for another half-hour and all the while Henri was becoming more apprehensive. In fact, St Ives thought he was beginning to look extremely agitated and nervous.
As Henri sat and smoked, St Ives could not help but think about how much money he was being paid for the two-week’s work. He guessed it was plenty and that Henri was quite well off by the standards of the time and place, anyway. And he then he thought again that he might really be doing quite well financially.
He was not exactly interested in Henri’s personal affairs. But in this case they affected him. He wondered when they arrived in Spain, if he was going to be asked to sign a receipt. And would Henri then take the paper back to Madame to collect the remainder of his fee? If they had such a procedure, it might well decide what the next step might be. If he had already been paid the total amount, Henri might just walk away, telling him that he should wait until his leg got better, and then try to get back to Madame’s home on his own.
Henri stood up and shouldered his weapon. He knew St Ives could not walk, so he must be going to leave him. Then he surprised him when he said he was going back down the trail a few miles and wait. If there were bounty hunters in the area, he intended to ambush them. But he told him under no circumstances was St Ives to move for at least two days. Henri said that if he was not back by then to turn around. St Ives did not think he even had to say it, because the idea of moving further into the mountains on his own was just too preposterous to contemplate.
Even with Henri carrying his pack and St Ives hobbling along behind, they were doomed to failure if they tried to go on. Henri figured they could not even get to the five thousand-foot level before their supplies ran out. That would leave them days from the Carberous Pass at the eight thousand-foot level. Then there was the Clauere Pass, which would have been another two more days at the rate they were going. And it could be reached only after climbing thru some of the most difficult terrain to be found anywhere. The Clauere was the Spanish border. From there it was downhill to traveled roads leading thru villages to the town of Esterri de Aneau. But they could expect no help until then.
They could not delay another hour, Henri told him. If the hunters did not get them then the ice and snow covered mountain would. They had no choice but to abandon the trail. But first he must check to see that the way was clear back to Aunac.
He removed some cheese and salami and a large part of a loaf of crusty bread from his pack and placed it inside his musette with his extra ammunition. The rest he left with St Ives along with a Luger, a large knife, and some francs. They shook hands and Henri started down to a place where he intended to wait for anyone who might be coming up the trail. But before he left, he sat back down and lit yet another cigarette. St Ives remembered the conversation that followed as if it were yesterday, because what Henri told him next sent chills down his spine. He told him not to trust Madame. Never one to mince words, Henri simply blurted it out that she would not hesitate to have him shot if he returned.
The only other way, he said, for him to get out of France was by railroad. And as far as he knew no one had made it that way before. The Gestapo congregated at the railroad stations and several of them were aboard each train going and coming from the coast. But he confessed he did not know how many had tried. But the point was, he said, Madame would not take the chance of him being captured and revealing the escape organization to the Gestapo.
St Ives thought several times of telling him what his mission had been. He thought Henri might be able to contact some OSS operatives, and to tell them to contact London. How important his information was to them, he could only speculate. But in the end he said nothing. It was too dangerous. If Henri were captured, the Gestapo would have tortured him before he was shot. So he said nothing, as he waved good by, and wished him luck.
Henri had only been gone about an hour before it dawned on him that Henri was not coming back. Even if he could get back, there was nothing he could do to help him. He could not carry him. And it was not likely that he would be able to find someone he could trust. The big problem was finding somebody you could trust. He had to make up his mind he was on his own. He must start thinking for himself, rather than reacting to what others had planned. Now he was not only in danger from the Germans but the Vichy and the Resistance as well. He could not go back to Madame’s home.
He was a cripple and there was no way back to England, which did not involve a good deal of walking. He was a liability, and in his present state of health, he was viewed as a danger to her and her organization.
His mind left Henri and the Pyrenees Mountains momentarily. And he began thinking about other things. He had been sitting at the cafe in the warm sun for about and hour. He was very comfortable and enjoying a kind of peace of mind. The kind, he thought, which had eluded him for so many years. Then, for some reason, his thoughts drifted back to the conversations he had with his good friend Rasmussen.
Funny, he thought, how you could become lifelong friends with someone in a relatively short time. He had seen it happen to several of his friends. It was quite common in combat, he knew. It had even happened to him once or twice. He wondered if it was the way people were put together or if it was some kind of gift reserved for soldiers. He speculated that civilians, of course, made friends with each other. But he was willing to bet those friendships were not the same. They did not have the same ingredients. He told himself he was no psychologist. So he supposed any conclusions he might come to about this would probably be in error anyway. He just knew it happened. And he knew it was one of life’s great pleasures.
He had talked about this with Rasmussen once and they had concluded that sometimes military friendships were actually stronger than family ties. Rasmussen admitted he was out of his field, as well. But he did say that maybe the reason why St Ives had not tried harder to gain the love and respect he wanted from his son was because he found this need, this fulfillment, as he put it, elsewhere. He called it sublimation, a word St Ives had heard in school, but had all but forgotten.
Maybe the Service had been his family, after all. Maybe the Service satisfied the role a family played in the well-adjusted psyche. The old saying, “you found a home in the army” was not too far off in his case. And maybe in a lot of others as well, he thought.
There was no question about it; his family life was a tragedy. The thought tended to ruin the good feelings he had awakened with that morning and he vowed in the future to try and rid his mind of anything depressing.
St Ives, for some reason, had told Rasmussen something about the role he had played in “Operation Overlord,” the code name for the Invasion. He supposed it might still be classified but who knew. And at the time, he felt he had to tell someone. He had to tell someone who was close to him and who cared. Rasmussen was about as close to him as anyone, other than his brothers.
It was during one of their evenings at the Stag Bar that Rasmussen had asked him how he managed to get out of France. He replied that it really had less to do with the Resistance than it did with luck and training. Not training exactly. At least not the kind of escape and evasion training they had nowadays for downed aircrews, he said.
In those days, Hollywood had put together a team of actors, directors, and producers at the suggestion of the Army Air Corps. It was not long after Pearl Harbor, when their first films began showing up at basic training centers around the country. In the beginning, they were just extensions of the lectures on such things as hygiene, handling of firearms, and the like. But then they started to produce some real classic pictures about how to escape from a prison camp and how to survive in places like the Arctic and the Jungle. One of their best, he told Rasmussen, was nearly a full-length feature. He said he remembered it well. It featured several recognizable movie stars.
The film centered on several groups of escapees from a prison in Europe. Each one selected a different method to try and get away. Most of them went directly to the closest railroad station where they congregated. He said they were so obvious that the Gestapo had them all rounded up before nightfall. Those who made it onto a train faired little better. Then he said those who chose less obvious ways had the highest probability of success.
The film cautioned about forming up in large groups. The fewer the better seemed to be the message. And even better yet, you should strike out on your own, when you got the chance; anything to keep it simple.
He told Rasmussen about one crewmember who succeeded in getting back. He remembered how it was done. He said the incident was not only worth knowing about, but at the same time, it was very entertaining:
This fellow, after several false starts, which almost got him captured, stumbled upon a bicycle. He did not know what else to do so he started pedaling away. He was in plain sight of everybody and he expected to be stopped at any moment. But it did not happen. Not the first or the second day either, for that matter. And to his great surprise, it did not happen at all. He worked his way across France, waving at German sentries and people working in the fields. Dozens of patrols passed him without even giving him a second glance. He made an effort to appear conspicuous, and by doing so, he blended into the background of the towns and villages he passed through. He foraged for food at night, and he even milked a cow he found loitering nearby, in a field where he planned to sleep.
In his case, he told Rasmussen, he could not ride a bicycle. He could not even walk. So the first order of business, after Henri left him, was to figure out a way to use his swollen leg. He stayed put, as he had been instructed to do, for two days. When it became obvious that he was on his own, and his food supply was getting low, he looked around for something with which to build a crutch. He found a suitable tree limb and then spent most of the day whittling and scraping. Not only must it be functional but also it could not be conspicuous either, he said.
Rasmussen interrupted him to ask him if he knew what had happened to Henri. The Colonel told him that just hours before he decided to move towards civilization, he heard the rattle of a machine gun in the distance. He never knew, he said, whether Henri killed his pursuers, or they killed him.
He made a simple splint to keep his knee from bending. He did not want anyone to question him about it, so he placed the splint inside his trousers. His plan was to let the French think he was a returned war veteran. If anyone asked, he was going to say simply, Le Gare. These few words would convey the idea and would not be enough for them to detect an accent. And since he could get the jist of most conversations, he intended to just nod his head.
German patrols, who routinely checked papers, could not speak as well as he could. If he was confronted by them, and found himself in some kind of a situation, he intended to speak rapidly. He did not intend to pay much attention to what he was saying. He expected them to catch a few words, enough to understand that he was trying to get to the next town, and that shrapnel had shattered his knee.
It worked too, he told Rasmussen. They always wanted to appear more knowledgeable in the language than they really were these German soldiers. So if his papers were in order, they acted as though they understood, and they let him pass. It had happened several times. And after his first encounter and he had gotten control of himself, he suspected he might say anything as long as it was French.
He hobbled along for several days on a road that paralleled the Garonne. And then when he thought he could walk no further, he came upon a fisherman, who was the owner of a small very old and dilapidated rowboat. St Ives acted like he could not talk, because of a throat wound. He pointed to his throat and then to his knee and mumbled a very guttural Le Gare. The Frenchman understood. And then he asked St Ives how he could help him. He pointed to his boat and to his fishing pole and then he fidgeted around in his pocket for the money Elaine’s mother and Henri had given him. The Frenchman told him he did not want to sell. And anyway, he said he did not have nearly enough. He then paused, as though he was about to change his mind, and then asked if he had something else of value, maybe some cigarettes? St Ives shook his head and then he thought about the pistol that Henri had left him. The Frenchmen knew it was worth much more than the boat. So much more that St Ives thought an even trade would cause him to suspect he was not who he said he was. He realized he might be in danger of being reported, so he nodded his head, indicating to the fishermen that he wanted something back in return. He had some francs, which he offered St Ives, who hoped it was enough to make the transaction appear to be legitimate.
At any rate, he told Rasmussen, he had no choice. He hurriedly accepted the fishing pole that was offered to boot, when St Ives hesitated. And then he acknowledged the trade by shaking the Frenchman’s hand. He untied the boat and paddled out into the slow moving current, leaving the man on the bank with a slightly quizzical expression on his face.
The Frenchman walked along side of him for several yards and then motioned him to come back to the bank. He told him he had something else to say to him that was of considerable importance. St Ives complied by tossing a line to him that was coiled up in the bottom of the boat. The Frenchman gestured for him to climb out and have lunch with him. They tied up the boat and sat in the shade. His new friend, or so he hoped, gave him a piece of his bread and a large slice of cheese and he opened a bottle of wine he had been dangling over the side of the boat.
The Frenchman began to speak and to immediately allay St Ives fears that he was anything but a Free French sympathizer. He told him he knew who he was. He said he suspected an American, even one that spoke fairly good French, who was this close to the trail over the mountains, was a downed airman. He said it was quite obvious he was going to try to use the boat to get to Bordeaux. Furthermore, St Ives could forget about being turned over to the Vichy. True, he would receive an award. But turning him in would no doubt place him in jeopardy of his life. You see, he said, the Resistance knew just about everything that took place as far as the Gestapo and the Vichy Police were concerned. If he were to turn him in for a bounty, both he and his family would no doubt be shot before St Ives would. So he said if he would relax and tell him what his plan was for escape, he would try to help him with information, which could be essential for his survival.
St Ives was cautious about the offer being made. But there was no doubt the Frenchman knew who he was and a continuance of the charade was pointless.
He told him he had no immediate plans. The only one he had, he said, was to use the boat to get near the Atlantic and then to possibly get aboard a ship belonging to a neutral country. He said it had been done before. But, he told him; he had not been planning anything so daring until he just now saw the boat.
The Frenchman was not going to help him until he saw the pistol. Then he realized the American could just as easily have shot him. That way he would have had the boat free and there would have been no danger of being reported. All things considered, the Frenchman said, he was indebted to St Ives. And he was, therefore, prepared to give him any help he could.
St Ives was elated. His friend presented a case weighing heavily in his favor. He figured he could be trusted, anyway the odds of getting much further without some kind of help, were too much against him.
Look, the Frenchman said. It is obvious you cannot walk more than a few miles on that leg so you must use the boat. But you have a long and dangerous journey ahead of you. We are on the headwaters of the Garonne River. It flows from up there in the mountains 400 kilometers to the Dordogne where it becomes the swift and treacherous Gironde. There it opens up quite wide, becoming a tidal river before disappearing into the ocean.
But the big problem with the Gironde is that the entire estuary empties and refills with the tide. This is very important. It means there is a much stronger current running, first one way and then the other. It is more dangerous than anything that you will find here. The current is rather swift though on this river after it is joined by several more good-sized streams. But after that you will have a long rest where it flows thru rather flat farmland country for a distance of some 50 kilometers. The current becomes stronger and then subsides again until after you pass Toulouse. After that it picks up before it reaches Agen about another 140 kilometers down stream. There are a few dams along the way but they will be no problem; you will have no trouble with this boat. But if you have any problem at all it will be if you are asleep when you go over one of them. Then you might get a rude awakening.
St Ives interrupted him to say that he came up from a town, probably Agen, on a barge and the current did not seem to be too strong.
The Frenchman smiled and then told him that he had not been on the Garonne but the Lateral Canal. He said mostly motorized barges and horse drawn boats used the canal. He said it ran parallel with the river and was located about a mile east. He went on to say that it had over 50 locks, which reduced the current to almost nothing. He told him he was glad St Ives had brought the subject up, because after he had been drifting on the Garonne for a few days, he was going to be tempted to switch to the canal. But he cautioned him against it, because the locks were sometimes guarded. And often, anyone not recognized by the guards was checked, he said. In this case, the guards were Vichy Police, and his accent would be easily recognizable. But there are no locks on the river proper and, therefore, no such danger, he told him.
He said his best opportunity to get provisions would be to tie up at one of several floating docks he would see before entering Toulouse proper. He said it did not make much difference which one he chose, since a Vichy sympathizer might be running any one of them. I cannot help you there, he said.
The best I can do for you now is to give you the rest of my food and wine. He told him the water was safe to drink and would be until it mixed with the Lot River further on down stream. He said he was about two miles above St. Martory now and about 120 kilometers from Toulouse.
They sat and talked for another half-hour. St Ives was reluctant to go and the Frenchman understood. Then he said something to St Ives, as though it were an afterthought. You know there is another way you might consider. The Canal du Medi intersects the Garonne at Toulouse. It runs the other way to the Mediterranean. The problem is getting somebody to let you travel with him on his barge. There are many locks between there and the sea. And anybody caught with you will be shot for a traitor. So, I guess, perhaps your original plan is the best. But you have a long time to think about it. Then too, when you get used to the river, you will have a better idea of whether you want to chance the Gironde.
Speaking of the Gironde, he said, your best bet to get out of France is on a Swedish freighter. Spanish will do just as well, though, he said. But you have it figured right; your only hope is to get aboard a neutral vessel. The size does not particularly matter; just so long as it is leaving France and does not put in at a German controlled port.
St Ives asked him what chance he thought he had if there were no neutral vessels in the estuary when he got there? You mean, he asked, what kind of chance will you have if the current takes you to sea? Well you will not have a problem with breakers but you will run into some very large swells and choppy water if you catch the tide wrong. Either way, it will take several hours after you enter the ocean before the current carries you past the mouth of the estuary. What ever you do, it is going to be dicey.
There is one big problem that we have not discussed, he said. The Allied Air Forces make low-level sweeps and high altitude raids on Bordeaux all the time. For that reason, a captain does not want to bring his ship up into the river during daylight, nor does he want to get caught in the open ocean during the day. Whatever you are going to see if you see anything at all, will be at night. And with a real strong current running, you are going to have a tough time getting aboard. If they see you, they will no doubt help you. But you can bet all hands will be turned too. They may not even have a lookout. What is the use, he told him. There will be no lights showing, anyway. They will be in one big hurry to get their cargo off loaded and to get out of there.
The only way you are going to succeed is to plan ahead and to anticipate the worst, which is to float out to sea a couple of miles until the current brings you around and into some place near San Sabastian. It has been tried many times by Frenchman, who wanted to join up with De Gaul. And yes, many have gotten messages back. So we know it has been done.
My last word to you is not to panic. If you can keep up your courage, and just go along with the current, you have a chance.
With this last statement, he stood up and thanked him for what he was doing for France. And then he shook his hand and walked away.
St Ives could tell that Rasmussen was very interested in what was going to happen next. And he remembered the look on his face with a kind of nostalgia, as he sat reminiscing, and watching the people of the Swiss city walking by. He was aware that if things worked the way he had them planned, he might never see his friend again.
He remembered finishing the story. But he could not remember whether it was at that time or later. Anyway, he told Rasmussen, he began floating down the river to Saint-Girons. Here the river was quite shallow and very fast. It was only suited to rafting and swallow draft sturdy boats like the one he had just purchased. When he was not fighting the current, he lay basking in the warm spring sun. From time to time he would awaken from his doze to set the prow back into the center of the river, which was now becoming busier with small boats. But he knew when he reached Toulouse, he was going to start seeing larger craft, like the one that brought him up to Toulouse. He realized he was going to have to pay closer attention, or run the risk of being sunk
He told Rasmussen he was getting low on food and water so he planned to take the Frenchman’s advise and pull in at Toulouse. But he had no real idea of how much further it was.
He had been passing thru some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. This part of France had not been torn apart by the armies of World War 1. And they would remain pristine for another two months before the Invasion. But for now, he viewed the lazy float trip as being one of the best times of his life. One day followed another and he actually could not remember how far he had come. He would tie-up to a branch along the riverbank at night and then move out into the stream several dozen yards after the sun came up. He seldom used his oars, letting the river do the work. When somebody looked him over closely from the bank, he would dangle his pole into the water. He would make believe he was float fishing, just like on the Snake River in Idaho.
One morning about sun-up, he saw a large city. He suspected it was Toulouse. He saw a floating wharf projecting out into the river and he made to tie-up. The swelling in his knee had almost subsided. But he knew it would return if he did any more serious walking. He did not intend to. All he wanted was some provisions and some water. And he hoped he could find a store close by. He wanted to make his purchases and be on his way. But it did not work out that way, he told Rasmussen.
When pressed for details, St Ives told him he had removed the splint from his knee, but retained the makeshift crutch, as he climbed the ladder up to the dock. He pulled the boat back fifty yards or so and hid it against the bank underneath some shrubs. He walked back to the wharf and entered a bait shop of some kind. He went into his now rehearsed act about being unable to speak. He paid the proprietor a small tie-up fee and then with sign language inquired where and how far it was to a shop that sold food. The shopkeeper told him in rapid French that it was about two blocks away. But when he saw his crutch, he suggested he consider stopping on the corner about a half-block away and taking a cab. St Ives nodded a thank you and went out the door. But for some reason, he told Rasmussen, he thought the bait man was acting rather strangely. Then on impulse, he turned around and went back. He was in time to see him dialing the telephone. He did not hesitate. He knew instinctively he had not bought his act and that he was calling the Vichy police. With out hesitation, he struck the man on the head with his heavy crutch. And as he fell forward on the counter, he struck him again.
He said he did not know what to do. If he left him and got back in his boat he would be sure to be picked up. He did not want to kill the man. But he said he would if needs be. He could not just leave him. So he dialed Madame LeFevbre, without thinking about whether or not it was a good idea. She came on the phone immediately. And when she heard his voice. She told him to give her the address of the bait shop. And then she hung up without saying another word. A scant ten minutes later, a 1937 Citroen classic, with a white inverted “V” painted on the grill, pulled up to the wharf. Two of Madame’s men loaded the proprietor into the back seat and then invited St Ives to join them.
He remembered the fine meal that night and the down mattress he slept on. The next morning, before the sun was up, he climbed back into her automobile and was driven back to that same wharf. His boat was still in place and the closed sign was still hanging in the door window. All was quiet, as he kissed Madame good-by on both cheeks. She had become extremely friendly the night before, after he told her his plan. She realized immediately that he did not intend to become a burden to her. And so there was no need for her to devise an alternate route, with all the attending dangers. The point was moot anyway, because anything short of a train trip to Bordeaux, required miles of walking, which she realized, was out of the question. And anyway, the trip to the coast by train was too dangerous. She had never heard of escaping to Bordeaux by rowboat before. But when she heard about the details of his plan, she smiled and pronounced it to be good, maybe even masterful. It was then he felt relief. He was not going to come missing after all, as he suspected the shop proprietor would.
They did not speak about Henri. He preferred to think he perished or that he had at least done everything he could to help him. At any rate, he was not high on his list of people he wanted to meet again, so he let the matter lie.
Rasmussen asked him if he suspected Madame was going to really let him go? There was still the danger of you falling into the wrong hands and exposing her organization, he said. Why then would she bother to let you go? He asked the question much like an attorney would ask a witness.
I thought a lot about it, he answered, and I thought a lot about what Henri had told me.
What did you do, just paddle on out and hope for the best?
No. I loaded the supplies she gave me into the boat. I stayed hidden that day and the next, waiting. If she was going to send her people looking for me, they were going to wait until they could see me coming down stream before they paddled out to intercept me. Of course, when I did not come by the first night, I rather suspect they thought I had crossed over to the far side of the river. But I had no idea if they knew anything about what Henri had told me.
I waited until the next night just to be sure and then I did paddle directly across the river. I had to point the bow almost up stream and then I had to pull hard on the oars in order to keep from floating down to where I suspected they were waiting for me, he said.
The city of Toulouse is built up on both sides of the river. He told Rasmussen that when he got close, he changed his disguise from a fisherman to somebody who was just interested in proceeding thru the city via the river.
The river traffic started to subside as he again came into farmland surrounding both banks. He said he was hugging the West Bank as best he could. He said he was scared to death, because he could not get the conversation with Henri out of his mind. The river was becoming broader as several large streams emptied into it. But he was still well within easy rifle range, if somebody on the far side wanted to do him in.
He said he was floating along thinking he had misjudged Madame and her people when a shot rang-out. And then there was another. This time a rifle bullet made a small hole a few inches above the water line and narrowly missing his outstretched leg. When he heard a third shot, and the bullet zipped by his head, he fell sideways into the water and held on to the boat for protection.
And then much to his surprise he heard the distinctive sound of a German machine pistol and then everything was quiet.
Why would the Germans shoot the people following you, Rasmussen asked him?
I don’t know if they were Germans? He said. In fact, to this day, I have no idea who it was? All I know is that the firing from the East Bank stopped as quickly as it started. I always thought it was Henri, who had been following along looking out for my interests. You know there is more than an implied relationship between guides and their patrons in Europe, he remarked. It is well understood among alpine guides. But maybe not so strong among the wartime mountain guides, who were mostly shepherds. Still, he said, he thought he and Henri had become good friends. And for sure, Henri did not approve of Madame’s tactics. The killing of an American officer in cold blood was something that might be rather difficult to cover-up. Then too, the war was winding down for the French. And who wanted to become involved in this kind of business at this late date. So maybe it was Henri after all. But for sure, he said, it was somebody.
Rasmussen asked him if he thought Henri might have been planning to ask him for a personal favor, like sponsoring him for citizenship or something like that.
St Ives told him there was always that possibility. But nothing ever came of it if he did, he said.
He remembered telling his friend that for the longest time he thought the Resistance had abandoned him on purpose. And in later years when he became depressed, he actually came to believe that it had been planned all along. He thought that his game leg had been just the excuse Henri had been looking for. And maybe even British Intelligence wanted him out of the way at that point. He knew for a fact they did not want the story to surface again later, if the plan was other than that which he had been briefed. And something else, he told Rasmussen, he could never understand, at the time, why the Allies divulged the Normandy Invasion Plans to the Vichy by sending him over there in the first place.
British Intelligence did have a parochial interest in protecting their various schemes, which involved the Resistance. And it was no secret, he told Rasmussen, that the Resistance was riddled with traitors to France. The whole story had never been told and the French people preferred it that way. So here again was another potential source of embarrassment, if he were allowed to return to England.
And what better way to reinforce the German mind-set about the whole thing then for you to get shot, Rasmussen commented.
That’s right, he said. I wondered for years after, if perhaps there might have been enemy spies reporting back to Germany. Certainly, if I did not come back, they would report the fact that this was further evidence the Invasion was coming at Pas de Calais and not Normandy, as he had been so eager to tell them?
Anyway, he remarked to Rasmussen, there was a half-dozen scenarios he came up with while he continued floating down river. All of them were quite plausible. Everybody’s interest would be best served if he never returned to England. At least that is how he saw it. And he would continue thinking and worrying about it well after the war was over. The need to confide in somebody became almost too much at times. The person he should have been talking to was his wife, and on some level his son, but that just never happened.
So, as he sat at the sidewalk table in Switzerland, he could not help but think how he was going to miss the conversations he had over the years with his friend Rasmussen.
He went around to the bank the next morning and he was assured that his funds were in order. True, the interest rate was considerably lower in Switzerland, but his money, as far as the US was concerned, had all but disappeared. And with a two million dollar principal, the tax-free interest would guarantee him a comfortable living.
A week later, he was awakened from an afternoon nap by a knock on his door. It was the investigator, who announced that he was prepared to brief him and to submit his formal report.
He began by telling him the good news. Elaine was a widow who still lived in Chateauroux. She had inherited the Catherine Wheel from her Mother and had sold it two years ago when the old building became too expensive to maintain. After the Americans left, the restaurant had fallen on hard times and was just barely breaking even.
After she sold the hotel, she opened some kind of shop about two blocks away. She was in good health and was the mother of two grown children.
He paid the agent the remaining money he owed him and then retained him for another trip to France.
He returned to the bank the next day and talked to his friend. He asked him for a safety deposit box and was given one gratis for life. He then executed another document making Elaine co-owner. Inside the box, he left a letter to her and enclosed the number of his bank account.
The banker was given instructions to open the box and to contact Elaine in the event of his death or incapacitation. His written instructions read that he was to presume one or the other, in the event that he was not contacted by a letter or a telegram, at least every two months. Otherwise, if all was in order, he was to make monthly interest payments at a place St Ives would specify at a later date.
The banker could not help but feel that his client might be in some kind of trouble. He prided himself on being a rather keen judge of people with a lot on their mind. This was particularly true of Americans, who usually banked with the Swiss when they were interested in secluding large sums of money from their government. But this American was somehow different. There was something about the way he was trying to cover his tracks, which made the banker believe he might be in serious trouble.
Chapter 10 California, 1970
When he was suffering most from depression, there were a number of times when he was not thinking too rationally. It was during one of these times that he settled upon what he thought was a foolproof plan. He would rid himself of the depression demons plaguing him, and at the same time, it would insure him that his wife would never receive more than a monthly stipend from the Government.
It was the simplest, that was for sure, he told himself. And in his confused state, it was perhaps the best he could come up with.
He had been thinking about taking his own life. That is how strongly he felt about depriving his family of their continuing life of privilege that his hard work had provided for them. But if he was a professional planner, as he held himself out to be, having worked with the Nation’s War Plan for fifteen years, then on second thought, he ought to be able to come-up with something better than that.
But after his strange but vivid encounter with Elaine, any such course of action was out of the question. For the first time, he knew exactly what he was going to do, having put the first stage of his plan into operation. And now he approached life with a new found enthusiasm, having put the idea out of his head forever.
A week after he came back from Switzerland, he drove out to the Palm Springs area. He nosed around several small airports until he found a helicopter pilot who had a reputation for being skilled while not being too particular where he employed those skills.
He gave the man one thousand dollars cash with a promise of another thousand when the job was finished. He had to agree to listen to his proposition though. If he did not like the idea, he could keep the money and he would be sworn to secrecy.
He agreed, which came as no big surprise to St Ives.
He then went to the local blood bank and told them that his doctor had told him he suffered from something sounding like hemochromiosis. He said he had read in a magazine where men with this condition had an abnormally high incidence of heart attacks. The only way you could keep it under control, he told them, was to give blood frequently. This, he said, reduced the amount of iron in the blood, and kept it under control.
The problem was, he said, he had hepatitis once in his life, and that made his blood contaminated. They confirmed all he had told them. But they were quick to point out why there was nothing they could do for him.
He told them he would pay for the extraction at the going rate, or if they preferred, he would make a substantial donation of money. He would even volunteer some of his friends, he said.
This was not the first such request they had received, since the recent study had been published. And they said they expected their policy to change sometime soon.
After talking some more, they told him they were quite busy. But, they said they would remove 500 cc. They refused to take any money, probably, he thought, because they had no accounting procedures in place.
He watched closely as the technician made the collection bag ready. He watched the man on the next bed to see how they shut-off the bag before they removed the needle. When his own bag was a few minutes from being full, he waited until no one was watching, and then he removed the needle, undid the bag, and slipped out with the bag under the sweater he was carrying. He strolled out into the parking lot, bypassing the ladies with the punch and cookies in the next room. He opened the door to his new light pick-up truck and stored the sweater and the sealed bag behind the seat.
He had purchased the truck a few months before. He had traded in his older second car for the truck, telling himself he would use it to go back and forth to work. After he retired, he would give it to his son, who was about the age to get his license. But even as he thought it, he knew it would never happen. He had no intentions of ever giving the lad anything again. And as he thought about it, he was reminded all over again of how hard he had worked for his first automobile. And there was no doubt about it, if his son was ever to own a car or anything else, he was going to have to earn it.
He went to a sporting goods store and told them he was going to take up camping as a new hobby. He asked them to lay out all the things he would need, such as a tent, cot, stove, and lamps. When he left, he had all the trappings of a real enthusiast. He loaded all his new gear into his truck along with an old motor scooter, which he had stored in the back of his garage.
When he was a boy he had bought an old scooter and overhauled the engine with the help of his older brothers. He rode it all over, preferring it to a horse, which was the mode of transportation used by his friends. He rode it to school in the spring and the fall and he even tried it once or twice without much success, when he missed the bus in the winter.
He was feeling nostalgic once, two years back, when he saw an old scooter advertised for sale. He bought it on a whim with the idea of fixing it up. He thought it might be a good project for him and the boy to do together. He figured he would teach him a little bit about engines and the two of them would have some fun riding it around. But it worked out the same way all of their other mutual projects had worked out. That is to say, it did not work at all. His son had no interest in mechanics and no interest in spending time with his father. He preferred his friends and hanging out doing absolutely nothing, further eroding his father’s respect for him.
He thought about selling the scooter a couple of times but he never got around to it. He was glad he had kept it; he had a use for it now, that was for sure. But he had to know it would work when it was needed.
He had gone ahead and made the necessary repairs to put it in running order years ago but it had been sitting collecting dust. So it was anybody’s guess whether it would run.
He took the carburetor apart and cleaned the fuel lines. And then he pulled the spark plug and cleaned that. When he fired it up, it ran with no problem. He adjusted the needle valve so that it would not over heat. When he was satisfied, he loaded it in the truck with his other equipment.
An automobile pulled alongside the curb in front of St Ives house. Two men dressed in coats and ties sat in the front seat. They sat for two or three minutes before either one spoke and then a brief conversation ensued. It appeared as though they might be rehearsing a scene, which would be played out momentarily.
The doors of the car opened and both of them emerged with brief- cases in hand. They moved easily thru the maze of junk out in front of his place, as though they may have been athletes.
They stepped upon his porch and rang the bell several times. Finally the door cracked open and she asked them what they wanted.
“My name is Special Agent Welker of the Air Force Office of Special Investigation and this is Special Agent Franklin of the FBI,” he said.
“What do you want with me?” She asked them with a hint of irritation in her voice.
“If you are Mrs. St Ives, we would like to ask you some questions.”
“May we come in?”
“Now is not a good time,” she said rather coolly.
“Would you rather come down to the office?” Franklin asked her, leaving no doubt by the tone of his voice that they might becoming a little out of patience with her attitude already. “We will wait until you get dressed.”
She opened the door and stood aside. As they walked in, they looked at each other knowingly. They could see at a glance why she was hesitant to invite them in. The place was a shambles. Not merely in disarray but it was in need of a thorough cleaning. They could see into the kitchen area as they stepped thru the living room. Dirty dishes were strewn around and an empty liquor bottle was sitting on the cabinet.
They sat down without being asked. They had no intentions of being intimidated by what they had been briefed to expect was a domineering woman.
“What exactly do you want with me?”
Franklin asked her, “When was the last time you saw your husband?”
“So that’s what this is all about. He went gallivanting up to Idaho to see his worthless brothers. Nutty as fruitcakes, the whole bunch of them if you ask me. Oh, a couple, no, maybe three weeks ago. I don’t know. Actually, I have seen him since then. Now that I think about it, he went up there for awhile and then he took off again. I haven’t seen him since. Don’t tell me he has gotten himself lost or worse. It wouldn't surprise me any. He goes around half the time in a daze.”
Welker asked her if he had said goodbye or if he had told her where he was going.
“No he didn’t.”
“Didn’t you think that’s strange?” Franklin asked her.
“He was always doing something strange. For instance, don’t you think it’s strange that a grown man runs off without saying anything? And when he comes back weeks later, he starts playing around with a motor scooter? What exactly is this about anyway?”
“We have reason to believe he is missing,” said Welker.
“What has that to do with you guys? I thought things like that were the business of the cops. Anyway, I haven’t reported anything to anybody so what’s the fuss?”
Both of them wondered about her lack of interest in his welfare, as though she knew something that she was not telling them. Why had she not asked straight away if there was a possibility that he had been injured? Why no showing of any outward emotion? Either they were dealing with a very cold person or she was mixed up in something that might yet turn out to be something she could be held for as a material witness, or worse yet, an accomplice.
“Mrs. St Ives, what do you know about what your husband did while he was on active duty?” Welker, who was a Commissioned Officer and a plain-clothes agent, asked her, as he prepared to take over this part of the questioning.
“I never knew or particularly cared.”
“Well then, let me tell you. Have you ever heard of the SIOP?”
“Skip it for now. I‘ll come back to it later.”
“Mrs. St Ives, is there any reason why your husband might want to fake his death and then disappear? Before you answer, I would like agent Franklin here to read you your Miranda rights. Do you know what that is?”
“Sure she replied flippantly, I watch TV.”
“Just the same,” said Franklin, as he began to read her the rights against self-incrimination.
Her eyes began to brighten as she took a new interest in the conversation. “Did Ed really try to make you think he killed himself?”
“We think so.”
“We were hoping you could tell us,” said Franklin.
The demeanor of both agents had taken on a sense of urgency from the time they walked in. It was all out of proportion to a regular missing person’s inquiry. As far as she was concerned, something like this should have been handled as routine. And given his track record for eccentricity, it should be all the more reason to be low profile. But she was beginning to suspect that something might be radically wrong. She did not have the slightest interest in his whereabouts. But if anything had happened to him that might have caused his death, well that was another matter entirely. She knew about the widows Survivor Benefit Program and she knew it was substantial but it was several steps down from her present financial position. Still there was nothing to get excited about, she told herself.
But she better start playing things closer to the vest. If there was anything amiss that involved high-level security, they might just try to hang something on her, she thought.
“Mrs. St Ives,” Franklin continued, “let me tell you what we know and then you tell us what you know and then we will get out of your hair for now. But we are in a tremendous hurry. If you know anything about what we have been talking about, I would strongly recommend you tell us. If we think you are holding back or if we think you have played a role in any of this affair, we will arrest you immediately. Do you understand us?”
Welker began by telling her that the SIOP was the most highly classified plan the Air Force had. He said that it was an acronym for Single Integrated Operations Plan and those that worked with it possessed a Top Secret Crypto Security Clearance.
“Because of this, he might have been abducted or he might have met with some other kind of foul play. Somebody might have taken him and tortured him. They might have killed him and then staged a suicide, after they got what they wanted, to cover their tracks.”
“Is Ed really dead? Have you been kidding me? What are you guys up to anyway?” She asked them with the sound of absolute shock in her voice.
“They have to find him and prove him dead before they stop his retirement pay don’t they? Are you telling me that somebody killed him and that you can’t find him? How long have you been looking for him?”
“We are telling you nothing of the kind,” continued Franklin.
“Well that’s a relief,” she said with a sigh. “Don’t scare me like that.”
They both looked at each other. They were working-up more and more of a dislike for her.
“Do you know,” Welker asked, “that he redeemed his paid-up NSLI life insurance policy and a twenty thousand-dollar annuity he had been carrying on the children?”
“He did that? He can do that?”
“I am afraid so,” one of them replied.
“And then he closed out your joint checking and savings accounts, as well. All you apparently have left, is a few hundred dollars in your personal account,” said the other one.
“That is really none of our business but you should be aware that you’re going to be writing some hot checks.” Franklin told her, with just the trace of a smile on his face.
All of a sudden it dawned on them both: what they were actually investigating was a family who had a husband and father who had abandoned them. Still, they could not rule out certain behavioral patterns that smacked of defection for a large sum of money.
“Mrs. St Ives do you know a Major Rasmussen?” Welker asked her.
“ I know his wife. Why?”
“Well your husband mailed him a letter. But actually it could have come from anybody. Do you know of any reason why your husband would not have wanted you and your children to attend his funeral?”
“You can consider that letter authentic, if that’s what you’re getting at. That sounds just like him.”
“Anyway, it gives Rasmussen power of attorney to dispose of your husband’s personal items and to see that he is properly buried,” he said.
They suspected that when Rasmussen contacted them about St Ives suicide story, they might be involved in a case of sell-out and defection. The information that St Ives had was still current and it involved highly sensitive procedures regarding command and control of the Strategic Air Command’s bombers and missiles. He was also an authority on the SIOP as well as NATO plans.
They had to assume, until it could be proven otherwise, he had been kidnapped or that he had defected. Because of the large sum of money, which had recently passed from Idaho to Switzerland, it had to be a consideration. All they had to go on at this point though, were preliminary reports from agents working in Europe.
Franklin had never worked on this type of investigation before. In answer to his question to Welker about why time was of the essence, Welker explained to him that when an officer with St Ives’ security clearance disappears under suspicious circumstances, a Red Flag alert sets in motion a series of events. The Air Force and the Central Intelligence Agency are eager to find out, as quickly as possible, if any procedures affecting the War Plan have been compromised.
These kinds of alerts are infrequent. But when they do occur, a whole host of agents from other organization are available to support the OSI thru the first few hours. Once it has been determined that no damage has been done, support diminishes accordingly.
Welker and Franklin, working as part of a composite team, saw as their immediate objective, the breaking of the news to her about her husband. They planned to do it in such a way as to determine her duplicity, if any. She might also have information that might tell them exactly what he was up too. How they intended to go about doing this in the shortest possible time was what they were discussing in the car. So far, she had not told them much. And they had to confess, they were not completely prepared for her “do not care” attitude.
If he had not defected, there was still a question of whether any laws had been broken. But assuming he was still alive, was it a crime to stage your death just to stop payment of your retirement pay to your spouse?
“The Government must suffer a loss.” Franklin, who was a lawyer, volunteered his opinion to Welker. “There has to have been some kind of fraud perpetrated.”
“Yeah, the only fraud perpetrated here is on her and I don’t care,” added Welker.
The two of them had read the dossier on St Ives that had been put together by several security agencies over the years. The one thing that stood out was the temperament of his wife and their poor relationship.
Welker commented that it was so poor as to be a problem with getting the clearance. But they also recognized that parts of it had been indexed with a code indicating there were extenuating circumstances. When Welker explained this to Franklin, he made the comment that he wondered what it could be. And then, as an after thought, he asked Franklin, who wasn’t sure what he was talking about, if he had any ideas.
The two of them had been whispering while she went to put on some clothes. She had been sitting there in front of them in her negligee, trying unsuccessfully to keep them from staring at her. But she was far from stirring the imagination of either one. Later, one would remark to the other how thankful he was. He said she guessed she had no idea what a spectacle she was making of herself. Maybe, the other one said, with a certain lack of graciousness, she thought she was pretty sexy.
While she was still out of the room, Welker told his partner that it looked to him as though whatever the Colonel had in mind; he botched the job.
“Mrs. St Ives,” Franklin began again as she sat down, this is apparently what happened.
“He went to Switzerland after he saw his brothers. We now know he deposited a large sum of money while he was there.”
She interrupted him to ask how much.
“In the neighborhood of two million dollars,” said Franklin.
“Nice neighborhood” replied Welker, trying to be funny.
But all of a sudden the fiery temper they had read about in the security dossier asserted itself. She swore an oath and then lit into Welker. She told him to grow up and to shut up, if he could not be more professional.
She was not mad at him as much as she was her husband. She had been snookered and the large sum they referred to was from his inheritance not from any defect money. In an instant, she realized that the odds of getting her hands on any of it was nil; once it was squirreled away in Switzerland, it was gone.
“How do you know how much it is?” She asked Franklin, who had been doing most of the talking.
Franklin told her they had people getting the necessary legal papers to force the Idaho bank to reveal the exact amount. But the tally was off considerably from the amount his brothers told agents in Idaho was deposited and the amount that one teller told the FBI had been transferred.
“He went to Switzerland, because we know that he bought a first class ticket there. And we know he transferred some mutual fund money to a bank in Lucerne. The possibility that all of it was not from a mutual fund is what has us worried.
“If you know something, feel free to jump right in,” Franklin said to her.
She was still quite angry and would not speak. That was all right, because as long as she remained reluctant to talk to them, they would suspect her of knowing something, she thought. She did not of course. But if they thought she did, then they might suspect the whole thing was far more complicated then it was. In the meantime, as long as they suspected them of doing something real bad, they would continue to look for him. That was her only chance of ever recovering any money. But just how that was going to take place, she had not figured out yet. Things were just happening too fast to suit her.
“Mrs. St Ives, do you know where the extra money came from? Unless it was from a pay-off, you would have had to know. Remember what I told you about going to jail for obstructing an investigation?” Franklin warned her once again.
“We are just trying to find out whether we have a case of espionage here or just another screwed-up marriage. If you get my meaning,” exclaimed Welker.
She shot right back at him, “Oh, I get it all right but I don’t like it.”
“We don’t care a whit what you like or don’t like but my patience is wearing thin,” said Franklin.
She did not reply but her body language indicated that she was becoming less aggressive. She wanted to talk to an attorney but she did not have the slightest idea what about.
Franklin continued on with his story in the hopes that he might say something that would trigger a reaction from her, which might in turn lead to something. “After he came back from Europe, he hired a helicopter. It picked him up way out in the desert and flew him to a spot on a road. He had a motor bike or scooter stashed out there. We know this because we found where he had it hidden and we saw the tracks. Anyway, he used it to get back to civilization.”
“Why, what for? I mean what was he doing out there in the desert in the first place.”
“Because he wanted us to think he had killed himself,” Welker said.
“He drove a truck about ten miles off the road, after he unloaded his motorbike,” continued Franklin.
“Then he hung around out there for a couple of days. He shot off a pistol and left the gun and the shell casing where we would find it. After he did all that, he set the truck on fire. He might have done it before he fired the gun. We don’t know all the details but it doesn’t really matter.” Welker said.
“The only reason we can figure out for destroying the truck, was to keep you from recovering it,” Franklin added as an after thought.
“Now, this is what doesn’t make too much sense. He poured a lot of blood on the ground; it was his by the way. We guess it was to make it look like he shot himself. Then he dragged something about the size of a body out into the desert, sprinkling some more blood along the way, while brushing out his footprints. Then the chopper picked up him and the thing he was dragging and hauled them both away,” said Welker.
“Why would he do all that?” She was fascinated by the ingenuity of her husband, yet growing angrier by the minute because she figured it was an elaborate ruse to cheat her out of what was hers.
“To make us think he was dead and the coyotes got him,” explained Franklin.
“How do you know they didn’t?”
“Because coyotes don’t hunt in packs, at least around here they don’t. If a couple of them found him they would have eaten him on the spot, at least some of him. But we can’t find a single body part and that’s where he outwitted himself.”
Welker added, “a body that big would have been too much for a coyote or a pair of them to drag very far. No, agent Franklin is right.”
“Yes it appears that your husband is alive and well,” said Franklin. “Now will you tell us what you know about his whereabouts?”
Her answer to that was “so then in your report you are going to say he is alive?”
Her mood had instantly shifted from wary and sullen to one of exuberance and elation once she realized she was not going to have to rely on the widow’s Survivors Benefit Program.
“I’m afraid my report, unless something changes, will read that your husband is alive and presumed to be living out of the country.” Franklin told her.
“But for the record, I want to ask you once again, was your husband rat-holing a large sum of money, which would be of interest to the IRS people and did you at any time have any knowledge of it?”
“You must be out of your mind,” she answered.
“I take that as a negative,” Franklin remarked.
“You can take it any way you like,” she said, her old belligerence asserting it’s self once again.
She sensed that the two agents would very much like to charge her with something. She also knew they could not, so she did not care much what she said to them. She was beyond their reach and she was enjoying herself. It didn’t hurt, she thought, to know that she was going to have a satisfactory income for the rest of her life.
“Well in that case, we will be leaving,” said Franklin, as he nodded to his partner.
“Oh, by the way, your husband maxed out his credit cards and he ran up a few thousand in bills that you are going to be liable for. And, come to think of it, he intentionally missed the last payment on your car and the truck. If you don’t look into that, they are going to repossess the one and attach something for payment of the destroyed truck.”
Welker was determined to have the last word. As he turned with a shrug of his shoulders, he told her that her husband never left her a thing.
“You never had any Survivor’s Benefit like you thought you did. Your husband never joined the program before he left the Service.”
“Any other good news?” She asked sarcastically.
“None that I can think of,” answered Welker.
“You will be sure to let me know if you do think of anything?”
“Count on it, Mrs. St Ives,” said the other agent.
After they left she could hardly contain herself. She started to laugh out loud. What do I care about any lousy SBP, she told herself.
Can you believe him, faking his death in order get back at me? And then botching it up like that.
That stupid Ed; he can’t divorce me and he can’t ever show his face around here again. He must owe the IRS a fortune. And what they won’t take, if they get their hands on him, I will.
No divorce and no split, and without him around, I’ve got one less mouth to feed, and none of his expenses. It looks like things worked for him exactly opposite of what he had planned.
So I don’t get any of his inheritance, which by rights is half mine, since it was earned during our marriage. So what, the kids and me are going to be okay.
She continued telling herself how well off she was thanks to his stupidity, as she made her way to the shower and yet another luncheon engagement.
“Listen,” Franklin said to Welker, as they departed, leaving her absolutely ecstatic over the way things turned out. “There are a lot of things which don’t make sense to me about this whole mess.
“I’ll tell you for sure, I think we are underestimating his intelligence. I’ve got a kind of an itch deep down in my kidneys. I can’t put my finger on it but that’s the way it is.”
“What’s bugging you anyway?” Welker asked him, as he negotiated a turn on the way back to their office. “It’s pretty simple the way I see it, he said.
“St Ives is just another guy in the Service,” Welker continued, “who would have gotten ripped off by the unfair divorce laws had he stuck around and gotten rid of her like any body else would have. But I sense he was not much like anybody else, so he split the way he did. Not exactly your average scenario, but then, as I said, he is not average anything. And something else, he may not have had both of his oars in the water, either.
“Congress, and particularly their Armed Forces Sub-Committee, is responsible for these unfair divorce laws that really cause a lot of problems. And that’s not the only thing. They have been jacking around with these people for years just because they can. Let me take a minute and tell you what I am talking about,” he said, as he parked and shut-off the engine.
“You’ve got a gut feeling that St Ives sold out and then split? You may be right, I won’t argue with you. What surprises me is that it doesn’t happen more often.” Welker told him.
“I’m not defending him or anybody else but the Congress sure doesn’t look out for his or her welfare and it’s bound to result in some grudges.
“Let me be more specific and I think I can show you that you have a better case than you think you do.
“Back in fifty-seven, somebody told Congress that the Country’s balance of payments was out of whack by several billion dollars and had been for a lot of years. Do you know what they did? Well they didn’t do anything, really. But they figured they had to make some kind of an effort, so they restricted overseas travel to military dependants. That meant that some poor slob had to go overseas for a year and a half with- out his family. The Congress figured that if they weren’t there they couldn’t spend any money.”
“You got to be kidding me” chided Franklin.
“No I’m not. I know, because I was newly commissioned and just out of school. I had been married about three months when I was posted overseas. While I was looking around for some place to live, my commanding officer told me I needn’t bother looking further, because I couldn’t bring her over.
“How was that going to appreciably help the balance of payments?” He asked Franklin, not expecting an answer. “Do you really think that kind of stuff endears Joe blow GI to his Government?
“I’m not kidding you. In fact, every screwball idea that comes down the pike, the flaming liberals on the Armed Forces Sub-Committee will try it out on the Military. Take women in the Service, for example: Have you talked to any field commanders? They were told to make it work and when the Congress asks them how it is going, they reply ‘just fine sir.’ What else are they going to say? The job of the Services is to kill the enemies of this country. Do you really believe enlisting some fat little female is going to enable some commander to do it more efficiently? Do you ever wonder what effect that politically correct baloney has on the morale and loyalty of men like St Ives?”
Listening to him spout off like that made Franklin feel a closer kinship with him. Maybe, he thought, I could get to be real friends with this guy.
“There are some other things too that keeps the blood boiling of the St Ives of this world.” Welker started up again. “Take the gay problem. There didn’t used to be one until that Committee got mixed up in it. Time was, if somebody was queer we kicked him out. If he was queer and didn’t do anything or tell anybody about it we ignored it. Quite obviously he wasn’t queer was he? He was as welcome as the next guy. Nobody went around playing like they were affiliated with the old Japanese Thought Police.
“Now you wait and see, sooner or later men are going to be forced to soldier along side of the openly gay and that is going to cause a bigger rhubarb than those dim bulbs ever believed. Yet, when some Committee member asks how things are going they will hear, ‘just fine’ and like as not, she will answer back, ‘see I told you.’ And then she will tell the newspapers, ‘you see, this military business is not all that complicated. Why anybody can run it and those know-it-all officers have just got to start listening to a benevolent Congress, who knows what's in their best interest’
“But the big thing lately is divorce. No segment of society has been singled out for more special attention by the Congress on this subject than has the Military. You haven't and you’re an employee of the Government. Why not, because your ‘Union’ wouldn’t stand for it, that's why.
“What representation does the dogface have? It’s supposed to be this same Armed Services Committee but they are the problem.”
Welker continued warming up to his subject. “You know Frank, we in the OSI sweat nails that some disgruntled kid, who is making a little more than a minimum wage, and who is sore at the Government, won’t run into a Russian agent someday and make himself rich.
“These guys get worked over all the time. And when they feel like throwing in the towel, what is to stop them from seeking out some KGB agent waiting in the wings?
“You know you FBI weenies spend most of your time chasing down criminals. We, on the other hand, see a lot of espionage stuff, things that you can’t always put your finger on, but they are there never-the-less. Let me give you a couple of examples and then I want to make a point.
“This sharp Captain came into my office one day when I was working out of Headquarters, Eighth Air Force. He was down from Thule, Greenland, on another matter. He came by my office to talk to me about an incident of suspected espionage. He said that on New Year’s Eve around midnight, some of his people came to him with a story about a civilian who was working for a contractor on the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System. He sought them out and started a conversation with them about what they were doing up there. He thought they were drunk, or that they should have been, and he was asking all kinds of questions they felt were very inappropriate.”
Franklin interrupted to ask him what they were doing.
“Well they were aircraft mechanics who were part of a support organization for a special reconnaissance unit, he said. “They were using modified jets with special camera equipment to map Russia. We needed more accurate maps in order to target our new ICBM’s that were still in the production stage.
“Anyway, this guy gave himself away by asking them questions about things that were highly classified. But in some cases they didn’t even know about it themselves.
“Here is an American or a Canadian, who was pumping others about one of the most classified projects we had going, and he was doing it right on an American base. See what I mean?
“Sit still for another minute,” he said, “I want to tell you some more. I want you to see that this is a real problem and perhaps St Ives and his activities, if that is in fact what he is involved with, is not so unique.
“We built a repair depot a few years back at a place called Nouasseur outside of Casablanca. The commanding general had a civilian working for him. He was supposed to be a facility engineer, whatever that is. This guy either bought or made a model of what the base and it’s facilities were going to look like when it was finished. The General was really proud of him and his model. The guy made endless pitches to visiting dignitaries. He created a job for himself. He became the expert on how the thing was going to be built.
“He claimed he had to coordinate his activities with other construction experts up in Germany, so he goes up there about once a month for three or four days at a time. The General sees nothing wrong with this. He figures he is just doing his job of getting ready for construction.
“On one of his trips, he falls prey to the KGB. And when he starts going up there more often, some people back at the base get suspicious. Another junior officer goes around the General, because he figures this guy has him completely snowed. Well, he calls us on the radio up in Germany and tells us of his suspicions. The next time the facility guy comes up, he lets us know and we put a tail on him. We get pictures of him entering and leaving the Russian Embassy.
“We arrest him with some good-sized money in his brief case. He confesses and tells all, implicating a ring that included some military and German civilians as well. When we asked these lower ranking airmen we caught how they could get mixed up in these kinds of things, they cited as reasons some of the very things I have been talking about.”
Welker paused for a second to give Franklin a chance to comment and then he started again. “This jabroni made off with thousands of dollars of the Russian’s money. It turned out to be a big joke because the Depot was not important at all in the great scheme of things. The important thing was the long reinforced runway that was to be used by SAC’s global bombers and tankers. That was really the main purpose of the Base. He didn’t know that the depot was one big excuse to build an airbase to support SAC’s War Plan. So, he was filling them up with a lot of useless information they were paying plenty to get.
“Do you want another laugh? When we told you guys about it, you told us that you were on to him all along. You said you were just waiting to make your move. You’re as bad as those CIA hotshots, always looking for the credit.”
Franklin had a laugh and then he said, “all you have managed to do with your stories is to make my itch worse.”
“I guess what I have been trying to tell you is, that this kind of thing happens,” said Welker, starting all over again. “That it doesn’t happen more often is what surprises me. But the Russians are always there with their money to take advantage of the weaker ones who are disillusioned from something or other.”
When he was thru talking, Franklin asked him if he thought some of the money in St Ives account got there because he sold secrets. Welker told him he did not know. But, he said, they had better find out before the CIA did or the guy that they had grown rather fond of in the past few days might meet with an unavoidable accident some dark night.
As they sat at their desks wondering where to start on their preliminary report, Franklin asked him why the Russians would pay such large amounts of money to somebody like the Colonel. Welker stalled him with some evasive answers before deciding to tell him that it was because of the SIOP and the command and control information he had access too.
“What exactly is that?” he said, “I have heard you use that expression before.”
“I believe I told you that it is an acronym for the Single Integrated Operations Plan. It is the Top Secret plan that outlines the details of all the bomber, submarine and ICBM targets in the USSR. Any more than that, I can’t tell you, even if I knew.
“But almost as important, is the command and control procedures of our bombers and ICBM’s in the under ground silos and in subs cruising around the oceans. You see SAC has bombers headed toward their targets around the clock. They have to be stopped and turned around at some point or there is no more Russia. Wouldn’t you like to be a Russian General and to know where those bombers were at all times and to know and to have the capability to turn them from their targets?”
Franklin did not quite understand, so he asked him. “Do you mean they are actually thinking of attacking us?”
“Who knows?” He answered. “But they would like us to think they will. But they also want us to know they can. It lets them believe, whether true or not, that they are world players.”
“Maybe that is what Detente is all about,” Franklin stated, with a certain finality to his voice, which meant that maybe they ought to get to work.
“Just one more thing though before we put it to bed,” said Franklin. “We have been kicking this two million bucks around, thinking that his brothers gave it all to him.
“That is a lot of potatoes, pun intended. I believe you have just started to scratch my itch. I can see for the first time why we can’t rule out a pay-off, even if we don’t like considering the possibility.
“What I think we had better do before we jump to any false conclusions, is to take another look,” he said.
“Another look at what exactly?” Welker asked.
“Well take that camping trip for instance. Did you ever see anything so obviously staged in your life? Do you really think he was trying to fool us? I think he was trying to make us think he was trying.
“Look, this investigation had to fall into somebody's lap, either the CIA or us. And we both know where the sharks swim. I have been giving some thought to this thing and it always struck me as being too pat. It was always too slick, always so neatly done-up. It seems to me, he wanted us to conclude early on that he had marital problems and wanted to do a number on his wife and kids. Why would he want to do something like that? I mean, why would he want us to think in that direction?”
“Go on,” said Welker, “I’m listening.”
“St Ives knew the first thing we would do was to check the dossier on his background investigations. And he knew we would see that he had been on the edge of divorce for years.
“He reasoned if we came to the conclusion we did, nothing was going to happen. I mean, he knew it was unlikely we would have done anything at all. He knew we would figure it out that what he was actually about was only a wild scheme to cheat his wife. And if we did that’s all there would have been to it. But if he had done nothing at all, I mean if he had just run off with all that money, the Company would have concluded the obvious: he was a traitor and a defector, and they would have put out an international contract on him. Right now they don’t know a thing about this. And when they see our report, this incident will go into their computers as routine.”
Welker had a look on his face that said I believe you but I don’t want to believe this of a fellow officer.
“Wait, there is more,” said Franklin. “They have what is best described as a bounty fund. People in the intelligence community, as they euphemistically call themselves, are aware that they will payout large sums of money for information on defectors like St Ives. There doesn’t seem to be any place you can hide if they want to find you.”
“Just like the Old West,” commented Welker. “They post you to the wall of the sheriff’s office. I guess St Ives’ major interest was to stay off the sheriff’s wall.” He chuckled to himself. But he really didn’t see anything very funny.
“Exactly,” said Franklin. “He could care less about us. All we represent to him is capital gains income tax problems.
“I know an easy way to confirm it all.” Franklin told him.
“Let’s check the bank up in Idaho again.” Franklin said.
“Welker old buddy, I’ll bet you a dollar to a doughnut there were two checks deposited. One came from the brokerage firm and the other was a cashier’s check from another bank. And that second check represents the pay-off.
“There had to be two checks because he could not have made more than a mil from his mutual funds, in spite of what his brothers are saying. One of our agents reports it like that, anyway. I had the Idaho Falls’ office check on his father’s recorded Trust. And although it doesn’t specifically state how much will be paid in each year, it does speak of a percentage. Using this figure and the brother’s income tax returns over the years, we think we have the figure at about a million. The Swiss are paying about three percent so it gives him an annual income of about thirty thousand.”
“The last I heard, it wouldn’t go too far on the Riviera,” said Welker, apropos of nothing.
“But he wanted us to believe there was no pay-off and the two million total deposited in Switzerland was all from his mutual funds. So the pay-off gets laundered and we report it just the way he planned. And the sharks are none the wiser,” observed Franklin.
A week later, while they were writing their final report, a young CIA agent walked into their office.
“My name is Jensen,” he said. “I’m down from Langley. Doing some things in L.A. and my boss asked me to pop over here. I understand you two are single point on the St Ives thing.
“Listen,” he said. “Let me touch base with you. Here it is quick and dirty. Got to get the Red Eye back tonight, so I've got to get back to LAX.
“That Colonel you’re looking for is a Russian Mole. The skinny is, but wait, how about a little Quid Pro Quo from you guys? Never know when you can use it.”
They both were absolutely astounded at what they had just heard. But they did not interrupt him. As they listened, Welker could not help thinking that these Ivy Leaguer’s are all the same: cute beyond belief. Look at him, Brooks Brother’s suit, button down collar and the whole nine-yards. Super smart and super savvy. No wonder the Russians are having such a hard time keeping up with them.
“You guys know by now that he was stationed at a place called Chateauroux. Did you know he was a card carrier? Right, got mixed up with them thru that French babe.
“That whole airbase locale was the area headquarters of the party. Big trouble in River City; they had some real dust-ups with our guys.
“Why more than half of the local civilian employees were Commies. It was a bad situation. Here we are training Communists to work on our aircraft, we even had to let them in on some classified stuff.”
Listen to him, said Welker to himself, he was hardly born yet and he sounds like he was there. You have to give them credit though, they are sharp and they do their homework.
“The Colonel was real sweet on her, he started hanging around outside after the meetings just to get to talk to her. Had big trouble with her mama. She was going to have him roughed up a little if he didn’t stay away.
“Sweetie parlays the old “Dialectical Materialism” with him. She thinks he is as interested in politics as he is with her. She talks it up with the party chief who tells the NKVD or KGB or whatever they were calling it then.
“They feel him out and then they think they have used the persuasive power of the buck to convert him. He signs up and they sweeten the pot. About that time he gets in touch with us. Good thing he did or he would have spent the next ten years in Leavenworth prison, because we had penetrated those cells and we knew his every move.
“He played along with them for the next twenty years. He always managed to give them stuff, which had just become obsolete.
“We weren’t working him though. Like I said, he was a Mole. The file on him says he wouldn’t have it any other way. We stayed out of the way for a couple of reasons: we were transitioning from the OSS in those days and we still had a lot of Frenchmen on board he didn’t trust. Thought maybe he would be compromised and terminated. Can’t say as I blame him. The second reason was that we didn’t understand the War Plan. It didn’t matter even if we did; the Air Force wouldn’t let us have access to it anyway.”
Franklin interrupted him to ask if he knew about the Swiss bank money.
“Oh yeah but understand, what information we have we found out just a couple of weeks ago. He hired a private dick to do some snooping around for him over in France. This guy turns up some major war time bad feelings. And this guy with the bad feelings tells him more than he ever expected to find out. He goes back to the Colonel. He gives him the info he paid for and then he figures the rest is his to do with as he pleases.
“The guy who had the bad feelings had it in for the girl’s mother on account of some collaboration with the Germans and some squealing that went on in the Resistance. You know they got a lot of credit for things they didn’t do. They weren’t that effective, simply because they couldn’t get organized. The Vichy penetrated them and informed to the Germans who shot a lot of them. There are a lot of hard feelings and accusations to this day about who was in bed with the Vichy. Must have been a real sporty course, if you ask me.
“Oh, you asked me about the money. Well the Swiss PI gets in touch with us. You know it’s generally known we are always in the market for reliable stuff.
“The French guy the dick contacts thinks he is getting St Ives in trouble with us, kind of payback for the mother. When he shows up over there, that’s where he is you know, the French guy calls the PI and tells him that St Ives is not just another run of the mill tourist and that we might be interested. The PI calls us and they both get a few extra francs for their trouble.
“We sent one of our agents over to talk to him. He isn’t a bit bashful, he tells us everything he has been doing. Now get a load of this: he has been pocketing the Russian’s money and putting it in a mutual fund along with his savings. That’s right, he has been investing in the market a little at a time to make it seem as though he has a legitimate reason for his growing account. We knew about it in case the IRS got snoopy. He finally deposited the whole thing in a bank in Idaho. And then he put it all into a Swiss account, which I presume you already, know about.
“We have warned St Ives about the French. Somebody who we think is the French has made him. Anyway, somebody has told the Russians. And they are going to be really mad when they find out what he has been doing.”
Agent Jensen stopped talking for a minute as he gathered his notes. He placed them in his briefcase and then he started again.“That production of his in the desert was not for our benefit but for the Russians. But now it looks as though it was for nothing. Even worse, since we didn’t arrest him for espionage, after we discovered it was a sham, the Russians rightly surmised that he was with us all along, and not them. But he has nothing to worry about from us. That is one of the things my boss wants you to understand. The KGB, though, that may be something else. He also wants you to look at putting him in the Witness Protection Program.
“One thing more before I go. When our agent saw him a couple of weeks ago, he looked like he was under a lot of strain. He might have been for a long time.
“Really, the quicker you get moving on that protection thing the better. This guy is a real hero. Tell him we will support you and to bring the girl along if he likes. And tell him he can stay in Europe if he wants too. But tell him to get out of that part of France and to do it quick.”
“I have a question for you before you go,” said Welker. “How come you let people operate on their own like that?”
“Because the Russians were determined to infiltrate certain key positions in the Air Force. Their objective was to get somebody inside our war planning operations no matter how much it cost.
“When somebody like St Ives falls into our lap, we have to make the most of it. We bring them along, knowing that they are spying for the Russians.
“We ultimately work them into a sensitive position, knowing they are going to be able to give out information that is outdated and virtually useless for a long time to come. And there is no way the Russians can check on it.
“Another reason we didn’t put a control on him is because we didn’t want a double agent like in the movies. What we wanted was to know that somebody else was not giving them information they could use. It was just one less worry for us.
“And again, we let him go his own way, because none of us knew what he was doing, and he was the best qualified to know what the Russians thought they wanted.”
As Jensen shook their hands and headed toward the door, he turned around and said, “We have always let him keep the money they paid him. But they have probably figured it out by now that they got badly shortchanged.
Following the defeat of the British at Dunkirk, and the surrender of the French Army, the town of Chateauroux had been talking about nothing but the new Vichy Government, which had been formed, and what effect it was going to have on all their lives.
Rumors were rampant about how the Germans had been rounding-up Frenchmen for transport to slave labor camps in Germany. Those who had professional and technical skills were being taken first. The skilled and then the unskilled laborers, as might be expected followed on the heels of these people. There was also talk about how some of the laborers were going to the Normandy area, others were going to work on the submarine pens at Brest, and still others on the fortifications at Pas de Calais.
The population was split on whether France should have given up after Dunkirk without a fight. Many could remember the horrors of the Great War and they would have done anything to avoid the carnage of 1914-1918. Still others were patriots, who would have died before they would have allowed another German soldier on French soil.
Talk was endless on this subject. It could be heard in the brasseries, cafés and in the market place. Wherever two or more people congregated, there was usually an argument in progress. Harsh words were being exchanged. Sides were being drawn up that would eventually tear France apart and take her to the brink of civil war. Some believed, in retrospect, that this would have happened, if it had not been for the German occupation forces.
Some, like old Marshall Petain, the hero of Verdun in the last war, hated the British for refusing to commit their Air Force against the invading tanks of the German Field Marshall Geuderian. Even though they saw the inevitability of France’s downfall and the military logic of the British commanders in not sacrificing their Air Force for a lost cause, they still blamed the British. Their grudge went all the way back to Verdun.
The British, in that war, had their hands full with the Germans on the Somme and they refused to aid the French at Verdun. The French saw what they thought was a needless loss of several hundred thousand men. And they realized they would have lost the war, if the Americans had not come to their relief. And now, as some of them saw things, the British had managed to betray them again.
Why fight for England, some of them asked? Wasn’t it England who started this war over that Polish Corridor thing? Who cared about the stupid Poles anyway? We lost a whole generation of our young men over that Sarajevo incident in the last one and now we are going to do it all over again. Its insanity some said, while others berated them for their cowardice.
But what will life be like under the heel of the Bosch, asked some? Others answered by pointing out the progress and prosperity enjoyed by the German people under Adolph Hitler. And they had wondered, even before the German invasion, if the French might not be better off if they too had a champion like him.
Still others who had joined the Communist party and had sworn allegiance to the philosophy of Karl Marks, were not so much interested in a National Socialist or a Free France as they were a Socialist France.
And the loudest of all, and certainly the most militant, were those who hated the Germans, and who were willing to back their beliefs with action. Some were talking among themselves about forming into bands and resisting the occupation forces now streaming into France. Many of the younger ones were hiding-out from the Germans, who were even now, rounding them up for transport to slave labor camps. They were waiting to be contacted by the Free French forces they had heard about on the outlawed British radio stations. General De Gaulle, the French commander in exile, was telling them nightly to escape France and to join up with him in England.
Loosely formed bands of young Frenchmen had come home after the surrender and were just standing by waiting to be contacted and told what to do. Some would later make their way to England, others would stay and join what would come to be called the Resistance, while still others would make their way to the large cities and join the Maquis.
Those patriots, who stayed in France and avoided the police and the Gestapo, were the most militant of all. The social unrest that existed during the early days of the occupation can be laid squarely at their feet. The pitched battles in the streets and the brawls that started in the bars and cafes were usually started by these determined young men, who took out their frustration on German sympathizers and their declared supporters.
Former friends and even close relatives, in many cases, were pitted against each other. This situation would exist thru the duration of the war. Each side would denounce suspected supporters of the other. The Gestapo would take hostages loyal to DeGaulle for immediate execution, in the event of civil disobedience. And members of the Resistance, targeted for assassination, those suspected of sympathizing with the Germans.
Marshall Petain was broadcasting daily on the radio, telling the population to remain calm. His message was one of peace thru submission.
He called on all good Frenchmen to go back to work and to take up their usual routines. And he told them if they did this, everything was going to be all right. The Germans are our benefactors, he said, and resisting them in 1914 was a mistake that should not be repeated.
He also told them he had established a new government in the city of Vichy and that one Pierre Laval was to be their President. Working hand in hand with the Nazi Government in Berlin, a New France would rise from the ashes, he proclaimed.
More than half of the Nation listened to Petain and supported him. The rest hated their former hero from that time on and they would continue to do so for generations to come. But these people kept their thoughts and ideas to themselves. They feared reprisal from the Gestapo and the new Vichy police, who were working undercover throughout the country.
Thousands lost their lives to German firing squads and to bands of Resistance fighters. Not since the Revolution, and the days of Murat, Robespierre and the Guillotine, had the Nation seen such a bloodbath of Frenchmen killing Frenchmen.
While the larger cities were being torn apart, the town of Chateauroux, which was unoccupied, was pretty much going about business as usual The cows still had to be milked and the crops harvested, regardless of the turmoil going on around them.
Yvonne Martin was riding in her horse drawn cart down a country road outside of Chateauroux one warm sun-shining morning. Her young daughter Elaine accompanied her and the two of them were bringing back cheese, wine and vegetables for the hotel restaurant. This was a monthly trip to the farmhouses, which Yvonne looked forward too. She chose to take Elaine with her this day because school had been suspended due to a teacher shortage. Many of the teachers had left, supposedly to join the Free French forces.
Her mother was grateful for the company but she was more interested in keeping her daughter as close to her as she could during this time of unrest. Elaine did not object. She was looking forward to the noon picnic that she had been promised. And then too, she preferred most anything to the alternative of working with her grandmother in the hotel kitchen.
The two of them were chatting about nothing at all, when Elaine called her mother’s attention to a loud deep rumble coming from behind them. In an instant, the noise engulfed them and startled the horse. He began to shy and pull at the reigns. It was all that Yvonne could do to stop him from bolting and spilling the cart into the ditch that ran between the edge of the road and the hedgerow.
She instinctively pulled the horse and cart as far to the right of the road as she possibly could, thinking that a large lorry was attempting to pass. She glanced out of the corner of her eye, while fighting the horse, and there almost beside her was a German officer in a scout car, with a column of tanks and support vehicles following immediately behind him.
The officer motioned to one of the soldiers sitting behind him. The man jumped from the car and grabbed the halter of Yvonne’s horse to steady him. Then responding to the officer’s nod, he led him down and off the road at the entrance to a farmhouse.
As the Germans passed, the officer looked approvingly at Yvonne and touched his hand to the visor of his peaked cap. Their eyes met for only a second but in that instant, Yvonne felt only contempt for herself for what she was feeling.
She had a handsome and devoted husband at home, and here this hated German, who was obviously ten years her senior, had made her blush. This casual encounter would affect her life in a very perverse way thru the next five years and it would become the subject of lengthy remarks in her diary and journal.
She hated the Germans or at least she told herself she did. And to take her mind from the incident that had just occurred, she forced herself to think about her husband. He and his two brothers talked about joining DeGaulle but they were not serious, she could tell. It was not so much a patriotic gesture, as it was a means to escape the German draft. In fact, a number of their relatives living in some of the larger cities had already been taken into slave labor battalions.
But all they did was talk. He told Yvonne, he did not want to leave her and the child with the sole responsibility of the hotel. And in the end, they did nothing.
Later that afternoon, as they were passing thru town, she saw part of the German column parked in front of her hotel. She could not miss the scout car and she could not help looking among the armed soldiers for the Officer. She saw him now, standing apart from the others. And as he turned, she could see that he was wearing the epaulets of the rank of Oberst.
A large crowd had gathered across the street. And she was horrified to see several hundred young Frenchmen lined-up in a military formation. As she continued to stare at the scene, she was horrified when she saw they were being loaded into the same trucks she had seen earlier on the road.
She drove the cart around to the stable behind the hotel with growing apprehension. She had just started to unhitch the horse, when Elaine came crying from the Hotel, telling her mother to come quickly. Yvonne ran thru the kitchen and out the front door just in time to see her husband and his brothers in the back of one of the covered trucks that was pulling away.
Chapter 13 California, 1970
Before agent Jensen left Franklin and Welker, he gave them a letter from his supervisor to Franklin’s superior. The text of the letter recommended in the strongest terms that a representative of the FBI leave immediately for France, and that he contact St Ives and explain to him in the most convincing terms possible that his life was in extreme danger.
Jensen also gave him a dossier. It contained, among other things, copies of the wartime diaries and journals of Yvonne Martin. They had been translated into English and placed in narrative form for ease of reading. There was also a synopsis of CIA involvement in the Communist activities of Chateauroux. It covered the period from three years after the war, thru the mid 1960’s.
Jensen told the agents that they could expect resistance from St Ives, based on the CIA’s conversations with him a few weeks earlier. He was unaware of the danger he was in. He thought the Russians had lost interest in him, now that he had retired, and they believed he was dead. But even if they had, which was doubtful, there was still a bigger danger from another source that he knows nothing about, he told them.
“It’s all there in the briefcase, the complete activities of the mother and why she did what she did. But the most important thing is how it affects the life of the Colonel now.
“I don’t know which one or maybe even both of you are going over there. However, I have been instructed to tell you that if either the French or the Russians suspect who you are, and that you are associated with him, then you can kiss him good-by. I suggest you read this material before and not after you get to France.
“When you make contact, you should do it in private. Don’t trust anybody. And don’t contact him more than once. Explain to him why the girl’s mother had so many enemies and then get out.
“You will find some info in there about how come he made a few himself. He probably won’t remember if he ever knew. But they do exist and they are dangerous.
“Try to convince him that we think the Russians have a contract out on his life. But then maybe the French will do it for nothing. I’m not kidding. We have good reason to believe this is highly probable. It might be a race to see who gets there first. But again, they may be working together. The town is half Commie still; nothing has changed since he was stationed there. Our thinking and why, is all in the dossier,” he said.
Welker thought over Jensen’s comments. And as he began reading the journal of Yvonne Martin, he reflected from time to time about what he had been told.
Franklin did not come with him. The FBI and the OSI had put their heads together and decided that Welker, being older, would pass easier for a tourist and would, therefore, be less conspicuous. Anyway, they reasoned that fewer people would be involved, if Welker went. The fewer the better, Welker thought, as his aircraft climbed to cruising altitude.
Chapter 14 France, 1939
The next time she saw him was in the hall, two days after she left her room. In spite of what he had done, she still got that peculiar feeling when he looked at her. While she was secluded, her mother had brought her meals to her and had told her the German had made the hotel his Headquarters.
The Oberst knew she was in her room but he said nothing to her mother. He would later tell Yvonne he understood her feelings and that he deeply regretted his actions. The men who had been transported were on a list that was given to him by the Gestapo when he got there. That list, he said, was compiled weeks before, and was based on the reported political views of those who were detained. He realized it was not totally accurate. But he hoped that Yvonne would understand there was nothing he could have done. He was under orders, he told her, and he was being watched closely by the Gestapo. He also told her that he would have tried to do something if he had known who her husband was. What exactly he would have done, he was at a loss to say. He said he understood her feelings towards him but he could not help himself. He hoped she would in someway understand, he said. And he hoped the two of them might become some sort of friends, because they would be living under the same roof for the foreseeable future.
When Yvonne heard his remarks about a prepared list, she immediately began thinking about the possible enemies they might have. And she wondered who among the Vichy sympathizers might have heard them bragging about going to join DeGaulle. She settled on one family by the name of Duffy. They were high up in the Communist party and she believed they were in sympathy with the Resistance only because they wanted a Socialist government for France. But the real problem was, that a few years before; the elder Duffy had made unwanted advances toward her. He stopped, only after she threatened to tell her husband.
She saw the officer every few weeks. She suspected the reason he was not at the hotel more often was because he was out of town visiting those installations, which were part of his responsibility. She had no idea what those responsibilities were. But she thought that because of his rank they must be important. She also thought several times of becoming friends with him in order to find out something about her husband.
During one of the periods he was away, a stranger who had been spending some time at her bar approached Yvonne. He offered to buy her a drink. She accepted and poured a glass of Calvados for him and a glass of wine, which she diluted with water, for herself. He paid for the drinks and left her a large tip, which made her suspicious, because that is the usual procedure when requesting assistance of hotel employees in France.
He told her he represented the forces loyal to DeGaulle. And then he said he wanted to talk to her later that evening in private. She was not particularly interested and told him so. Then he said something that changed her mind. He said she would be interested in what he had to say, because it concerned the whereabouts of her husband. She agreed to meet him. She gave him her room number and the time that night she would be available.
When she opened the door to let him in, he immediately put her at ease by explaining that he had no connection with the Resistance. He told her what she already knew; it was tricky to do business with them, because you might unknowingly be talking to a Vichy informer.
He explained how his organization was different. Everyone was screened thoroughly before they were recruited and no one knew more than two people. They knew the one they reported too and the one who reported to them. That was all, he explained.
She asked about her husband and he fended her off by telling her she would be told every thing he knew in good time. But before anything more is said, I must give you a warning, he told her. He said she must promise to say nothing to anyone regardless of whether she agreed or refused to help them. He said that if she said anything then or ever, he would summarily shoot her. There would be no questions and no appeal of any kind. All she had to do was to conduct herself in such a way as to cast suspicion on him and his activities. He went on to tell her he had no personal information regarding her husband’s whereabouts. But if he were being held captive in that part of France, she would be able to find out for herself. He told her not to take the assignment if her husband was the only motivating force behind her actions, because it was too dangerous. He told her she should do it for France.
When he was sure she understood all he had told her, and she had acknowledged her understanding and agreement to the conditions as he had explained them, he began to discuss her role in the intelligence operation of the Free French. Actually, they did not act solely on their own. Their activities were integrated into the allied network, he told her. Information she provided him would be supplemented with information from other sources. It would then be integrated into a bigger picture and used in the planning of allied operations.
He explained how it was she had access to information, which only the Germans had. Put a different way, he said, she had access to the German Chief of Intelligence for the southern coast of France, and he had access to information they wanted. It was an ideal set-up, he told her. She had a legitimate interest in her husband’s welfare. This gave her the reason to query the German about the specifics in which they were interested. She was in a unique position to do this without him becoming suspicious. That is, he would not become suspicious if she followed the program, which he said he would outline for her.
The first thing she was to do was to make friends with the Oberst by acknowledging that it was not his fault her husband was a slave laborer. She was to pretend she understood the officer had been placed in a situation, which was none of his doing. She was to sympathize with him and with the Vichy regime. And she was instructed to encourage him to talk to her about the plans the Vichy government had for the new combined German-French society after the war.
She was to become his friend and in due time his lover. He of course would confide in her when next he planned to leave and for how long he expected to be gone. This would be her opportunity to ask him where he was going in hopes of finding out where her husband was. She was to keep badgering him to tell her where her husband was working. And she was to ask to be informed when her husband was moved to a different location. She was also told to talk to him about the area where her new friend was spending most of his time and about any personnel problems he was having. They wanted to know who his superiors were and anything else, which appeared to be of a routine and personal nature. Whatever she could find out from him about anything, without making him suspicious, was what they wanted to hear.
Later, they expected he would fall in love with her. She was to convince him she loved him. And that her interest in her husband’s welfare was not so much because she still loved her husband but because he was the father of her daughter.
The Allies wanted her to eventually find out anything she could about fortifications in the south of France. They were particularly interested in Normandy and Point du Hoc. He said it was most important they acquire the status of the heavy guns at Point du Hoc. This was to be her first priority. But he told her that she was to be the judge of when she could approach him on these sensitive subjects.
As he got ready to leave, he enlisted her in the Free French Army. Her duties were as he had outlined them, he told her. He would see her approximately every two weeks. When he came into the hotel, he would go to the bar. That was her signal to meet him in her room that night. If any one asked who he was, she was to tell them he worked for the Vichy Government, which he said he did. She was to say that he made frequent trips from Vichy to Paris on Government business. And because of the length of the trip, and the uncertainty of the transportation, he often found it necessary to stop overnight at Chateauroux.
As he prepared to open the door and to check the hall, he told her she was walking a tight rope. The people in London had figured it was impossible to keep her future relationship with the German unknown to the Resistance. Yet, even though she was working in their behalf, she was not to let on in any way. It left her vulnerable to a Resistance assassin, he told her. But she had already figured that out.
He never came on the same day of the week and never on any set schedule, which would draw anyone’s attention to him. When the employees of the hotel discovered he was a Vichy official, they gave him a wide birth. No one would gossip about him, even to friends in the Resistance. They knew if anything should happen to him, they would be the first to be taken hostage by the Gestapo.
When he came to the hotel, he would go to the bar and order a Calvados. She would retire early and leave her door unlocked. If the lights were out in her room when he came by, they remained out. If the door was unlocked, he would slip into her room. He would receive a quick report from her and be gone to his own room within the hour. If the door was locked, he would assume she was entertaining the German, and he would try again the next night.
Meeting the officer was deceptively easy, as she knew it would be. She was a beautiful woman and he was lonely and away from home. She asked him if it might be possible to get a letter to her husband whom she thought might be working for the Occupation Army in Normandy. She purposely left out all reference to the term slave labor or anything of the kind, which might prove offensive. He said nothing at all to her. But two weeks later, he asked to be invited to her room. He told her he had something of importance to tell her.
This was the first of their many trysts to come. He would come to her room on the night he came back from one of his trips, unless she told him not too. He told her he could not get a letter to her husband. But he said he knew where he was and that he was well. She had no way of knowing if he was telling her the truth. But it gave her the opportunity and the excuse to pursue the subjects allied intelligence was interested in.
In the beginning, she suspected he might be making up the stories he told her about her husband, in order to curry favor with her. But as time went by, they became friends. And then their first attraction for each other blossomed naturally into a full-blown love affair.
Elaine was the first to recognize the change in her mother and to suspect what was going on. But she said nothing to her grandmother for fear that a slip of her tongue might result in reprisal by the Resistance. And then later she said nothing, because she was embarrassed and ashamed. She looked on her mother as a traitor to France and as a wife who was unfaithful to her husband. And she struggled hard just to treat her cordially.
But Yvonne could not help but notice the change in Elaine. She suspected that she knew. And she came to realize her new attitude toward her was prompted by feelings of contempt. But there was nothing she could do about it now, not even if she wanted to. And she did not want to. That was a big part of a growing problem with her conscience. What she was doing was immoral and reprehensible, she knew.
In the beginning, she told herself she was doing it for France. But that was a long time ago. She had been doing it for herself for many months now and she liked her assignment beyond anything she could have imagined.
Regardless of how discreet they were, the Resistance began to suspect her. They were inherently suspicious of a situation involving a handsome young officer and a French woman living under the same roof. But the walls of the Catherine Wheel were old and thin and what went on behind them was difficult to conceal for very long. An observant employee of the hotel was soon to confirm that which was suspected. So what began as a rumor around the town, was now common knowledge and everybody's business.
They met in a wine cellar. They were ten in number and were dressed in dark clothes with black berets. One of the young women present had contacted the leader of the group, using a rather cumbersome and admittedly dangerous method of notifying the members of the organization.
Her mother, who worked at a bakery, had received information that afternoon from another women who worked for the railroad. She in turn had heard it on the telegraph.
Soon after the Resistance formed, they began to train specialists. One of the areas they were interested in was the dispatch and switchyard office. One of the Resistance clerks, unbeknownst to the Vichy telegrapher, could understand Morse code. It was she, who passed on the information about a large shipment of tanks, which was being moved from the French coast to the Eastern Front.
The Germans erroneously believed that the telegrapher was the only one qualified, so they did not waste time encrypting and decoding classified information passed on to the center at Chateauroux.
Each evening, members of the group would stop by the bakery for a loaf of bread. If the bread handed them was dark instead of the more expensive white, it was the signal to meet at a member’s basement.
The leader of the group, who owned the bakery shop, began to speak. The tanks were coming thru Chateauroux later that night. The plan, which had been hastily formed, was to blow the rails in the middle of a bridge about 10 miles from the town.
Normally, in a case like this, they would have set the charges well in advance. But tonight it had to be done within minutes of the approach of the train and the Leader was going to ask for volunteers. They realized that the Resistance would be held responsible. But they planned for the Vichy telegrapher to be blamed for passing the information on to the saboteurs.
Who else could they blame? There was no doubt about it, he and his family and a half dozen of his friends, depending on the number of German guards that would be killed, would be taken hostage and shot.
They had no qualms about engineering such a plan for fear innocent Frenchmen would lose their lives. On the contrary, they were laughing and joking at the plight of the telegrapher for being a Vichy sympathizer. If perchance any of his friends were taken hostage, well that was their tough luck. It served them right for being friends with the hated Vichy in the first place, they told each other
They took great pride and enjoyment in planning raids with a dual purpose. Not often did an opportunity come along like this, which was worth the risk and the expenditure of the hard-to-come-by explosives. This one was going to be fun. They would blow the track in front of the train and the locomotive, cars, tanks and Bosch would all go careening into the river below. As an extra bonus, they would watch the train destroy the bridge trestle as it fell. And of course the Germans were going to have to find another trained telegrapher.
The Leader knew better than to ask for volunteers. He actually needed only two others beside himself. They would have all volunteered. And they were all equally suitable for the job. He decided to draw lots. The two picking a piece of paper with a black pencil mark were to meet him in an hour outside of town at a designated place. They were not to divulge who had the marked paper. Those who were not chosen to participate were better off not knowing the names of the ones who had been picked.
He did not always go out on these sorties, as they were called. But tonight he must, because he was the one who had the transportation. Some of the others had vehicles but they had no fuel. Gasoline was severely rationed and was all but non-existent for private use. He had an essential business permit. The Germans allowed him a couple of gallons a week, in order for him to transport flour and other supplies for his bakery.
The three of them crowded inside his small two-cycle engine Simca truck. The Torpex plastic explosives they were going to use were hidden inside of a sack of flour, which along with a dozen others, would be used for the next days baking. They had never used the truck before, because it was too conspicuous. They preferred to walk to their objectives whenever they could or to use bicycles when that was not practical. Always they stayed off the main roads to avoid German patrols.
They hid the truck in a copse of alder bushes about one mile from the trestle. They made their way along the riverbank, in the moonlight, in single file. The three of them knew the area well. They came here often as boys to swim and fish. Many times they would go up the river as far as the bridge to climb among the girders and to write their names on the steel beams. There was kind of a pecking order among the boys of the town, depending in part, on how high up the name was placed on the trestle.
This boyhood game had been abandoned a few years back when one lad fell off a slippery girder and drowned. Since then, the authorities posted the bridge and a stiff fine was levied against any father whose son was caught climbing on the bridge.
But tonight the authorities were Vichy. And hopefully they were all home tucked peacefully in their beds. As they made their way up the girders, they passed the bundle of Torpex up from one to the other because it was too heavy for one man to carry up by himself
The plan was to blow the rails while the train was crossing the bridge. They could have blown the support beams below but that would have required more explosives than they had. They chose to climb the bridge rather than to approach from down the tracks, because the Germans had sentries posted at either end of the bridge.
They knew from observing the sentries that they were required to inspect the track every hour and just before the train arrived. The idea was to wait until the sentries made their last inspection before climbing over the solid guardrail. When the two sentries met in the center of the span, they would exchange a few pleasantries and then move off rapidly. The last thing either one of them wanted was to be caught on the bridge at night with a speeding train bearing down on them.
They could have shot the guards as they talked but this would have required them to carry Sten guns, which was their weapon of choice. Handguns in the dark were extremely inaccurate and required a great deal of skill at any time.
Rifles and Sten guns were too heavy and cumbersome. And anyway it was just too risky. A patrol or somebody who would have reported it to the authorities might hear the shots. In general, saboteurs preferred stealth to violence and avoided the latter whenever possible. The main reason though, was that the guard on the end where the train was approaching was required to actuate a signal. The signal was studded with reflectors and could be seen by the locomotive engineer and by the guard riding on top of the first car behind the coal car. If the signal was not in the horizontal position, as the train approached, the engineer pulled the steam lever to the off position and applied the brakes in an emergency stop procedure.
They could see the two sentries’ faces as they lit cigarettes from one match. The leader thought to himself that one of them was hardly more than a boy. The Eastern Front must be taking a terrible toll on the youth of Germany. Just like Verdun in the last war, he thought.
They turned and began walking back to their respective posts at either end. The leader waited until he had counted to fifty and he could no longer see the glow of their cigarettes. He then touched the shoulder of the man lying beside him and the three of them crawled over the guardrail onto the tracks.
They figured they had less then twenty minutes to set the charges and to climb back down. This type of operation would have been all but impossible a few months ago. It would have necessitated the stringing of wire back down the trestle and hooking it up to a magneto detonator. There just would not have been enough time. But they had recently been supplied with a pressure type detonator that was secured to the top of the rail. When the locomotive made contact, the rail and the wheel were destroyed.
Ironic he thought, but he had heard German engineers specifically designed this device for destroying Russian trains on the Eastern Front.
The leader was the first to begin the climb back down the girders. He observed that dew had begun to form and the steel was beginning to get slippery. He whispered to the others to be extremely careful. But careful or not, when the party was nearing the bottom, the top man on the girders slipped and fell to the riverbank below.
Although he had broken his leg and injured his back, he had the presence of mind not to cry out. The others, seeing his predicament, hurriedly put a makeshift splint on his leg, using their belts and a piece of driftwood. They carried him about three hundred yards back toward the truck when they had to stop and rest
They were discussing what to do and as they sat there they heard the locomotive and almost at the same time a loud explosion. They heard, but they could only imagine, the spectacular sight of the mass of steel that was pummeling into the river gorge. The sound was deafening and it seemed to go on forever. But under the circumstances it was of only passing interest.
They could not wait any longer. They expected the guards might have already notified their command post. And they realized that patrols would soon be coming along the riverbank to search for them and to look for survivors. They were exhausted. The climb up and down the bridge, and the energy expended in carrying their companion, had left them fighting for breath. What should have been a time for a brief moment of relaxation and a glass of wine was in reality a time of confusion and near panic.
The leader stated the obvious; they could not carry him back to the truck. If the patrol discovered the truck before they could get there and drive it away, they would all be caught. The only solution was to hide him. They would make him as comfortable as possible under a blanket of leaves and driftwood and hope the German patrols would overlook him in their haste to reach the bridge.
The leader explained the situation to the injured man. They would return for him the following night when things quieted down. What he failed to say was that guard dogs would surely accompany the German patrols.
If the Germans missed him in the dark, they would find him the next morning. They would scour the area from the truck tire tracks to the bridge looking for clues. The three of them realized there was little hope of him not being found. But there was little to be gained by talking about it further.
A notice was published in the Town Square two days later. It listed the names of the three saboteurs, the telegrapher and his wife, and a number of others who were to be shot for wrecking the train. It stated that the execution was to be carried out within the next forty-eight hours.
Raoul Duffy was beside himself. He had no idea about what to do. The man who had broken his leg had been tortured by the Gestapo and had identified Raoul’s older brother and the baker as his accomplices.
All he could think of was to ask Elaine if he could talk to her mother. He tearfully explained to Yvonne, the circumstances of his brother’s plight, of which she was already aware. He asked her to prevail on her lover to intercede. Yvonne acted as though she was shocked at the boy’s remarks. She suspected the entire town knew and had for some time. But now she was forced to admit she had no more secrets from herself, more importantly, she had none from Elaine.
She dismissed the boy, telling him that he and his friends did not know what they were talking about. She would have liked nothing better than to have been able to help him. But if she had tried, she would have had to admit that she was in sympathy with the Resistance. And now more than ever she feared for her life and the life of Elaine.
Elaine recognized the situation her mother was in and held the Duffy family at least partially responsible. This was the beginning of a life long feud between the two families that was fed by the events of what was to happen next, she told her diary.
Yvonne reported to her Contact that she was now sure the Resistance knew about her and the officer. He told her not to worry, that everything would be taken care of.
One of the women who worked for Yvonne was a relative and a close friend of the Duffy’s. Yvonne did not know the woman had been spying on her and that she had been talking to the Resistance about her and the German. But her Contact knew thru his information sources and a few days later the woman was found shot. The town’s people were at a loss to understand why she had been killed; she had no apparent enemies that anybody knew about. But young Duffy and the Resistance knew what had happened and why. They saw it as a clear signal to leave Yvonne alone, which it was meant to be. But Yvonne knew who was really responsible. She knew it was not a signal from the Vichy or the Germans, as the town supposed it was. But for the rest of his life, young Raoul blamed Yvonne, and by association her daughter, for being the cause of the death of the women and his brother.
Yvonne was racked with guilt over these events and others that were to follow. Often when the Gestapo took a hostage to insure compliance with a civil directive, or as a warning to the Resistance to cease and desist in their sabotage activities, she was asked by some one to intervene. She never honored any of these requests, although she believed she might have succeeded, because by now the officer was willing to do almost anything for her. And the Gestapo, who also knew of their relationship, would have honored any personal request he might have made. Truth be told, the Gestapo never cared that much about whom they took hostage and later shot, just so long as they shot someone, as an object lesson to the others.
But Yvonne could not afford to show preferential treatment to anyone. She could not save them all, so she never tried to save anyone. This made perfectly good sense to her. But it made many enemies among her former friends.
As time went by, the Oberst became more and more enamored of Yvonne. And she had become more in love with him. He reported to her one day that her husband had fallen ill and had died of natural causes. She did not want to think about what the definition of natural might mean. She did not want to think about the pain and suffering he might have endured at the hands of her lover’s countrymen before he died.
She mourned her husband’s loss, to be sure. But not nearly enough to assuage her own conscience and not nearly enough to satisfy Elaine or her grandmother. Even after the war, when they were made aware of the truth behind her war time activities, they never completely forgave her for forgetting her husband.
The Oberst planned to divorce his wife after the war. A few months after the death of Yvonne’s husband, he proposed marriage to her and she accepted. This was known only to her and to her diary, which she intended to leave to Elaine. Her acceptance filled her with more guilt, which she sought to lessen with the thought that she was confessing to Elaine of her indiscretions and frailties.
During one of their meetings, he took Yvonne into his confidence. He poured out his feelings about his distaste for the Army. He told her how, as an officer, he had been obliged to join the Nazi party. And he told her how badly he felt about the loss of life, which had occurred as a result of their occupation. He said that he sided with the French against the Vichy Government. He also told her of the sadness he felt, because of the damage to the relationship between her and her daughter, which he realized he had caused.
As the war began to wind down, and the German forces acknowledged privately that they were fighting a war they could not win, many of them felt like confessing to somebody. The officer looked to Yvonne for forgiveness and restoration of his peace of mind. He was probably a good man, she reflected to her diary, but he was one of countless thousands, which were caught up in the insanity of the times.
But Elaine knew nothing of his feelings, and she would not have been as forgiving as her Mother was, even if she had known. She held the Germans responsible for the death of her father and her uncles. And there was another Frenchman that was not interested in forgiving any repentant Germans or collaborators either; his name was Raoul Duffy.
As time passed and the Invasion became more eminent, the Oberst’s problems increased. This was due to a marked increase in sabotage throughout the geographical area of his responsibility. His superiors in Berlin looked to him for an immediate solution to the problem. When he was unable to provide them with even a plan to stop the destruction of goods destined for German factories, he was threatened with transfer to the Russian Front. He had explained to her how court martial and demotion had been the common solution to these kinds of problems in the early days of the war. But as the problem escalated, they began to threaten those they viewed as incompetents with transfer to penal battalions, and then to units on the Eastern Front. This unjust pressure made him more disillusioned and made him even more receptive to Yvonne’s promptings for information. If he ever suspected her of spying against the Germans, he never said. And if he had, by that time, she was confident he would never have turned her over to the Gestapo.
She became more brazen in her questioning. She still had not discovered whether the heavy guns at Point du Hoc had been installed and she was receiving a great deal of pressure to find out. It was during one of the times they were alone together; she asked him if he thought German forces could stop a major landing if it came at Normandy and Point du Hoc? He told her not to worry. He said the Invasion was coming at the shortest distance across the channel, either at Pas de Calais or at Dunkirk, as it had once before. That area was not his responsibility. He was in no danger of being transferred to the Eastern Front on any trumped-up charge of negligence in that sector, he told her.
She began to play a game with him. What if they decided to come at Normandy instead of Pais de Calais? Could we stop them from just walking up the beach? What is at Point du Hoc that could stop an invasion fleet? He responded by telling her that he had seen over a dozen heavy field pieces with heavy fortifications on top of the bluff at Point du Hoc. That, he said, would be sufficient to sink any capital ship before it got within firing distance of the shore. So he said, she could put her mind at ease on that score.
There will be no Invasion, he said. The Allied forces will not attempt such a foolhardy operation. Why should they, their airpower is systematically destroying Germany and her capability to continue the war. She did not agree with him, although she did not say so. She believed they would attempt it in order to stop the Russian forces before they could occupy all of Europe.
We will both survive this war. You can sell the hotel or lease it as you choose. We can go back to Germany to an area untouched by the war. My family has money in a Swiss bank that will allow us to live comfortably until things return to normal, her diary read.
Yvonne reported to her Contact that the heavy guns were in place at Point du Hoc. And she also told him that the Allies could expect heavy casualties unless they were silenced.
Her diary went on to tell how her German officer was relieved of his duties within hours of the Invasion. He was one of a number of high-ranking intelligence officers who were blamed for not determining that the Invasion was coming at Normandy. He was subsequently reduced to the lowest commissioned grade and assigned to a forward rifle company. He never survived the war but was killed a short time later. One of his friends wrote her a long letter explaining the circumstances. His friend berated the system, and in doing so, he told her that it would not have made any difference what the Oberst had reported. Nothing he could have said or done would have made the slightest difference in the outcome of the Invasion, he wrote, because Adolph Hitler and the high command had made up their minds it was coming at Pas de Calais.
His death affected her far worse than the death of her husband had. This did not go unnoticed by Elaine and her grandmother. Nor did hotel personnel who were eager to report it to the Resistance overlook it. Without the support of the German, she was now in real danger.
The months that followed were a terrible time for Yvonne. She was in deep mourning for her lost love, plus she was in mortal fear for her life, and the life of Elaine.
She was receiving threatening letters from former friends. And to make matters worse, the Germans had moved out of the hotel leaving her with no way of replacing the lost income. On top of it all, Raoul Duffy was making Elaine’s life miserable by telling her that her mother was a traitor to France, and that her mother was on a list to be killed by the Resistance. He taunted her by asking where her mother’s benefactor was now. He told her over and over that the Vichy police could not save them.
With her German lover dead, and the Invasion landings at Normandy a reality, Yvonne’s usefulness to the war effort had come to a standstill. She never saw or heard from her Free French contact again. She confided to her diary that the reason she was not acknowledged for her sacrifices was because she had given Allied Intelligence erroneous information about the guns at Point du Hoc.
The Americans believed her reports about there being heavy artillery encased in fortified bunkers on the top of the bluff overlooking the sea, which was a scant few miles south and east of the Normandy beachhead. She was later told that the sixteen-inch guns from the battleships had scored direct hits on the bluff during the opening salvos of the Invasion. But the Americans could not be sure they had silenced all of the German guns, or if in fact if they had silenced any of them.
A battalion of Special Forces infantry climbed the cliffs. They expected to find the guns out of action and the defending Germans in route or too stunned by the shelling to resist. What they found was resistance in force. The Germans lobed grenades down on top of them and cut their grappling lines. Men fell off the lines on top of those below. And those that gained the top were machine-gunned and fell on those waiting their turn on the ropes. Only through outstanding leadership and an exemplary display of courage, did they finally secure the bluff, but not without a tremendous loss of life.
When the Americans finally secured their objective, they took the remaining Germans prisoners. They then saw to their horror that the highly touted artillery was in place, all right. But the guns were not real; they were mock-ups. They had been fashioned out of wood and colored artillery gray to fool the French Resistance and the American reconnaissance aircraft.
Her supposedly first hand information from the Oberst had been passed on to Allied Intelligence, by her Contact. And it corroborated what the Allies had been erroneously told by the Resistance. She was left to wonder for the rest of her life, if her German lover had been using her all along for just that purpose. Had she been set-up? Did he know for sure whether the guns were real or was he just going by what he saw from a distance, as had the French?
He was Chief of German Intelligence in that area or at least that is what she had been led to believe. How could he have not known? Did he concoct an elaborate ruse to use her when she approached him requesting information about her husband? Was her Contact actually with the Free French or was he loyal to the Vichy? And was he working hand-in-glove with the Germans? Was he a double agent, working for the Free French but actually passing on intelligence to them from the Germans and pretending all along that it came from Yvonne?
Yvonne stayed awake many nights after the Invasion and her lover’s death, trying to determine the answers to these and other questions. Because, if he was using her to feed false information to the Allies, then there was a very good chance he had been using her for every thing else. Did he really love her? Had this very important part of her life; the part that was filled with the fondest of her memories; those that she wanted to savor for the rest of her days; had it been nothing but a sham?
How could he have done this to her? Was he a kind and generous man, whom she intended to take as her husband for the rest of her life, or was he a Nazi officer, who was the personification of the stereotypical Bosch monster. Yet, why should she be so quick to judge him? How could she have made a mistake like that? How could she have been so mistaken about his professed love for her? Was it nothing but pure lust? Why did he have to propose marriage? And why did he have to lead her on about his true feelings for her and the French people? This was not necessary, if his main purpose had been to use her as an agent for his organization?
Of one thing she was certain, he knew the exact status of the gun emplacements on the Normandy coast. But did her love for him make her willing to accept without question anything he told her, including the whereabouts and the physical condition of her poor husband?
She would always hold herself partially to blame for the loss of life at Pont du Hoc. And her relationship with her daughter would never be quite the same again. But all in all, she comments in her diary, compared to millions of others, the war left her life relatively unscathed. But it left her forever wondering about the sincerity of her one true love. And this would cloud her memories and never give her peace of mind again.
As the Allied Armies approached Chateauroux from the south and from the west, what few Germans were left in the town simply vanished. Officials who supported the Vichy Government left close on their heels. Those who left early survived to live out their lives in another part of France. Some of the more notorious that were responsible for assisting the Germans in the execution of their innocent countrymen were hunted down and tried as war criminals. Still others, who waited believing they could ride out the aftermath of the war under the benevolent protection of the Americans, lost their lives to lynch mobs, which were comprised mostly of former Resistance fighters.
Women who had collaborated or fraternized with German soldiers, found their names on a list prepared in advance of the departing Vichy. Round up of these people by mobs of revenge seekers, and just plain revelers, who were drunk on anticipated victory, was swift. They were unceremoniously and rather roughly marched to the Town Square where they were made to stand in a group in full view of all their relatives and former friends. When all of them were assembled, they were made to kneel while their heads were shorn. This was done with a great deal of catcalling and hooting and hollering, which added to the discomfort of the victims.
Yvonne Martin was on this list. Her nemesis, the elder Duffy, saw to that. When her time came, the roar of displeasure from the unruly crowd grew in intensity. Duffy was offered the shears and as he stepped forward and grabbed Yvonne's head, Raoul, who had been allowed to accompany the mob, cried out to his father to let him do it. He was handed the shears to loud cheers of approval.
Yvonne would write in her diary that night how the whole scene was reminiscent of the guillotining, in the days following the Revolution. Raoul Duffy had the zealous look of approval of a young Madame Dufarge, she wrote.
It took Welker the better part of an hour to read Yvonne’s diary and journal. And another ten minutes to read the CIA’s appraisal of the problems that might be encountered by those who were negotiating for the building of the Depot in 1950. There were a number of them. All of them required a solution before the project could be started. And many of them had their roots in the politics of the war, which soon became evident to the reader of her diary.
The major hurdle was securing building permission from the French Government. This could be accomplished with money. But in no way did it address the issue of how to overcome the objections of the town’s citizens. Chateauroux was chosen for its location and accessibility to France’s railroads. But preliminary studies did not take into consideration that it was also the Headquarters of the Communist Party in that area and it had been since before the Second World War.
The CIA recommended dealing exclusively with the local head of the Party. They realized he would take his marching orders from the Soviet Union. But an all-out effort must be made, the report read, to persuade him that it would be more to his personal advantage to side with the Americans than it would be with the Russians. The CIA saw no advantage in requiring him to quit the Party. On the contrary, it would be better if he stayed where he was.
They first thought about offering him an out-and-out bribe. But their final recommendation was to offer him a highly paid job with a lucrative salary and an opportunity for advancement. This was settled on as the cheapest and best option.
The report mentioned the name of Duffy as the head of the Party. It also mentioned the name of his son, whom they recommended be given a job as well, to secure the cooperation of the father.
According to a profile analysis of the two, neither had been much of a success in life. They were just getting by. The Party was giving the father a small stipend while the son had a small delivery business, which afforded him a frugal living while allowing him to pay his debts. The probability they would consent to work for the US to get the Depot approved was excellent. They recommended the two of them be hired immediately as “consultants.” Their employment should be kept confidential, the report said.
Welker skipped the next two years, to the part directly involving St Ives. He read where there had been trouble brewing from the beginning between the enlisted personnel and the young men of the town. There were not that many good places off-base for the airmen to go in there off-duty time. Unfortunately, the same places were the haunts of the French, who usually outnumbered the Americans. Besides culture and nationality, there was the problem of divergent political views, and also resentment that the Americans had interrupted the routine of their lives. There seemed to be no consideration given to the fact that having the Americans in their town meant jobs and prosperity.
It started as name calling in bars. Then it erupted into scuffles and isolated brawls. Then the French in large organized bands began roaming around the town seeking out and assaulting smaller groups of airmen, who were apparently minding their own business.
The CIA suspected the Russians were involved. If enough trouble with the locals could be fomented, then public opinion nationwide might be brought to bear to have the Depot shut down.
Several meetings were held with the mayor and a committee of prominent businessmen. Duffy was there as an observer but he was expected to speak for the Americans. St Ives represented the Air Force. After an hour or so of finger pointing, they formulated what they thought was a workable agreement. But it was not practical, not as long as the KGB was allowed to roam freely among the local party members, keeping them in a continual state of agitation.
The Director of Maintenance of the Depot called Duffy into his office. He told him in no uncertain terms that he was dissatisfied with his efforts to keep the peace. And if there was any more violence that could be directly attributed to members of the Communist Party, he told him, he and other key personnel in the maintenance organization would be discharged.
Nothing changed, if anything it got worse. Then the situation in the town erupted. A large group of airmen, who were tired of being bullied, banded together and invaded a bar where Party members were known to congregate. A pitched battle that followed spilled out into the street and ended up in a major riot. The French were badly beaten, with some of them having to be taken to the emergency room of the hospital.
The incident received press coverage throughout Europe and the United States. The French Government in Paris realized for the first time that they had been dragging their feet when a major investigation was called for. They were severely criticized for not acting sooner when the local police first made them aware of a potential problem. And enemies of the Communists in the Parliament called for the removal of all French Communists from the American base. There was much posturing and speech making. But in the end nothing was done.
Behind the scenes, the French realized they must have a sacrificial lamb in order to assuage the hurt feelings of the American public. They were at a loss to understand how the French could be so inhospitable to the American Air Force, especially when the French owed them so much for their involvement in the past war.
An investigation by a combined team of locals, nationals, and the Air Force was made. St Ives again represented the Air Force. He singled out the Duffy’s as the principle troublemakers. That was the formal charge levied against them at any rate. But be that as it may, in reality they had become a liability. They had stopped representing the interests of the Air Force soon after the Depot was in operation.
The fall-out ended up being little more than the mayor recommending dismissal of some of his political enemies. At the Air Force’s insistence, he included the Duffy’s as well. Others of the ringleaders, who did not work for the Air Force, were given strongly worded letters to either keep the peace or risk going to jail.
The report was signed and hailed as still another example of old friends joining together in the spirit of camaraderie, which had prevailed thru two wars. The bonds of friendship were stronger now than ever they had been, ran one editorial.
The corrective action taken was a success. It was not because of anything they did. But it was because the French were so badly beaten-up that they wanted no more fist fighting with large groups of young American airmen.
The Duffy’s held St Ives responsible for the loss of their jobs. They had become accustomed to the good life and now it was gone and they vowed vengeance on St Ives.
Welker looked for an update of the intelligence synopsis and found it as a written report by the agent who had recently interviewed St Ives in Chateauroux. He stated that he suspected the Frenchman, the one the Swiss detective had contacted, and who had voiced such a hatred for Elaine and St Ives, was in fact Raoul Duffy. And if his suspicions were correct then St Ives could be in real trouble.
When Welker arrived in town, he went directly to the Catherine Wheel and rented a room. He made no effort to contact St Ives or to draw attention to himself in any way. He asked the concierge if any of the Martin family still lived in the area. He made it sound more like a comment than an inquiry. He told her he was a tourist and that he had been stationed there years ago. He commented about how he had liked the town and the food at the hotel as an excuse for asking about the Martins.
They exchanged some more pleasantries and then she told him Yvonne had died and that Elaine was living in town. She told him that Elaine had married and a number of trivial things of which he was already aware. But when she mentioned Elaine’s name, in passing, he said it over in his mind a few times to commit it to memory.
He found her name in the telephone book and called the number from a telephone outside the hotel. Her son answered in English and told the agent that his mother was not at home.
Welker introduced himself to the Frenchman. They chatted amiably for a while after Welker told him he had business with the Colonel. Then on the spur of the moment, he told him what he was doing there. Her son was astounded by what he was hearing. And he was hearing it for the first time, the agent could tell.
Then Welker asked him to get in touch with St Ives and to have him come to his room later that night. But before he hung up, he asked him for his name and then he gave him his phone number at his office in the US. He told him to get in touch with him, if any life threatening accident happened to either St Ives or to his mother.
He said that if something did happen, he could provide the police with enough evidence to point the finger directly at Raoul Duffy. Either Raoul would have been acting on his own, or the Russian Secret Police would have hired him, he told him. The young man was becoming angry at what he was hearing and he wanted to know what could be done about it before his mother became involved any further.
Welker said he did not know. At any rate, he told him, he was a visitor to his country and that he was there strictly to warn and to advise the Colonel. He said the he was sure St Ives would want to sit down and have a long talk with him after they had discussed the problem.
Later that night, St Ives called. He agreed to meet with Welker but not at the hotel. He told him he did not want to be seen there, because the concierge and most of the employees were Party members, he said. St Ives suggested he walk to a small cafe about two blocks away. He gave him the name and the directions and told him it was closed for the night but the owner, who was a friend of Elaine’s, would let him in.
They met a half-hour later. The owner directed him to a table in the back where St Ives was waiting. She set out a bottle of wine and some bread and cheese and then left them alone while she went to clean up.
Welker began by telling him he was in extreme danger. He said, “you know the CIA has it on good authority that a Frenchman told the Russians who you are weeks ago. We suspect them of putting a contract out on your life.”
“I wasn’t aware of it.” He said. “I was under the impression they believed I was dead. That is what the newspapers in the US said and I figured it was reported to Moscow that way.
“But if some Frenchman has recognized me and told the Communist Party I’m here, then it might be a different story altogether. But I don’t think the Russians are mad enough to kill me, even if they believe I’m alive, and I’m sure no one in town remembers me after all these years. And anyway, what do these people have against me?”
Welker continued his story, in an effort to convince the Colonel he was in danger. He covered the war time role Yvonne had played in the history of the town. He emphasized the part about young Duffy blaming her for the death of his brother. And he told him why he blamed Elaine as well. Not only because she was Yvonne’s daughter but also in his grief, he believed Elaine could have had more of an influence on her mother than she did. Then too, he felt helpless and just needed to blame somebody, Welker told him.
St Ives recognized the logic in all he was told. But he still did not understand why Raoul Duffy hated him so. Yvonne and Elaine yes, but why him? Not until Welker spent another fifteen minutes or so refreshing his memory about the trouble that they once had in Chateauroux, did he understand?
To make his point even clearer, Welker told him, “it was not only the loss of their livelihood when they were discharged but it was the loss of respect, which had caused them to harbor a grudge against you all these years.
“ When the Americans hired Raoul’s father, he became a somebody for the first time in his life,” he said. “And when you let him go, he really was nothing more than a Communist flunky after that.”
Welker ask him if he remembered the violence, which had been part of the early Depot history?
St Ives replied that he did.
St Ives then remarked, “I remembered at the time how the almost exact same thing happened in Los Angeles during the war. I was overseas at the time. But I remembered reading about it in a British newspaper.
“Hundreds of young Mexicans, who were for the most part in the country illegally and not eligible for the military draft, had formed into gangs. They were referred to as Zootsuiters, after a peculiar style of dress. They stood out from everybody else, because of their pegged trousers and long suit coats and exceptionally wide brimmed hats. Their attire clashed with most of the rest of the young men who were in military uniforms.
“They formed into gangs and called themselves the Pacheco’s. They roamed the streets of Los Angeles assaulting individual soldiers, sailors and marines. This went on for months until a Marine battalion; scheduled to go overseas to combat went into the city one night en masse.
“The marines and the army uniform of the day had a wide leather belt with a large brass buckle. These young men were famous for removing their belts when in trouble and winding them around their hands with the buckle swinging at the end. It was a formidable weapon, indeed.
“Well, to make a short story even shorter, dozens of marines went into the known Pacheco hangouts and assaulted anybody wearing these peculiar clothes. The idea apparently caught on, because the next night and the next, soldiers and sailors joined them. They went marauding all over the city; beating-up on anybody dressed in a Zootsuit. The Pacheco’s finally got the word. And like the communists in Chateauroux, they found something else to do in their spare time besides harass servicemen.
“Anyway,” St Ives said, “we don’t have much time left. The owner is going to want to go home and I don’t want to be seen with you on the street. What exactly do you want me to do?”
“We want you to borrow a car and you and Elaine leave here tonight. We want you to take her to some place out of town where she will be safe for a couple of weeks. Then we want you to take a plane to the States. We want you to go to this address and identify yourself. This is the office that handles the witness protection people. They know who you are and they will be waiting to help you. But you must remember one thing, do not come back to Chateauroux. Not for anything, do I make myself clear?”
“Answer me one question? What makes you so sure the Russians have hired this Raoul Duffy guy? Why don’t they use one of their own?”
“Because there is more to this than just get-even time.” Welker said. “It may be for Duffy but not the KGB. They want this Duffy, because he needs the money and he hates you and Elaine and everybody knows it.
“The way the CIA sees it happening is something like this: Duffy kills you and then gets caught. That’s why they want him. They want him to get caught. They will say that Duffy was acting on his own. But during the ongoing investigation, they will let it slip out that you have been an agent stealing their secrets. They will tell everybody in Europe and Russia who you are. They will tell them you are an officer who has been part of a Cold War plot for many years. They will enlarge on the point that our goal has always been to embarrass them and to contribute to the game of brinkmanship we both play. And they will say that this shows again why America talks a good game but that we don't really want peace.
“By making the connection between you and Duffy, it will get them off the hook.” Welker explained. “And in defending themselves, they can dredge up the whole war mess again.
“And if you think the cesspool that was wartime politics has dried-up, I mean Frenchmen killing Frenchmen, you had better think again. For example, how about that Klaus Barbie thing over in Lyon right now? Thousands of French Jews turned over to the Nazis and transported to Germany were gassed. And it was all engineered and carried out by other Frenchmen. The Russians are saying that Barbie was the perpetrator, and that the French Government is protecting him, and that we are behind them. Well, this is going to be more of the same thing.
“They will play this for a while and just when it is about to run out, they will infuse new life into the story by breaking the news that you really work for the CIA, which you don’t. But they will say you do. And then they will say the purpose for your coming back here is to set up a network so that you can observe and report on communist activity in the town.
“And what about Duffy? They will use him as a patsy. They will disavow any tie to him and leave him swinging in the breeze. They will say that he was mad at Yvonne and that you caused him to lose his job and that’s why he killed you and on and on, adnauseum.
“Am I getting to you Colonel,” he said with an edge to his voice?
“I got it but what can we do about it?” he answered
“Do as I have told you. If I can have your assurance now that you will, the FBI has assured me they will go to work on the KGB. They will start by sending them a letter thru the highest channels outlining in detail what we have been talking about. They will try to get the contract cancelled by threatening an immediate expose before anything happens. Then if it does, the Russians will be left with egg on their face. That is the one big ace in the hole we have. They will do almost anything to avoid looking foolish on the world stage.
“We know the Russians are going to want your guarantee you will stay out of Château roux and that you will keep what we have been talking about to yourself. If you do this, I believe the FBI will be able to convince them it is in their best interests to leave you alone. And as for as that other thing goes, without them, Duffy hasn’t a chance of finding you.
“Assuming all goes as you say it will, why do the Russians care if I stay in Chateauroux or not? Why can’t we just buy off Duffy and let it all go at that?” St Ives asked.
“Because you don’t understand the Russians completely.” Welker told him. “In any deal they make, they have to believe they have gained the upper hand. They need to get more than they give. We plan to let them put this thing you desire so much on the table as a bargaining chip. We will work it so they will agree to let you live here. That’s about all we have anyway.
“And there is something else; they will think your continuing presence here, living with the good party members and all, might yet embarrass them someday. You of all people know how paranoid they are.
“We pretty well know that they don’t want to kill you. It will make them look bad when we tell the world you were stealing war plans secrets for them. You see, once we tell them what we know, they will have lost the advantage and maybe, just maybe, they will lose interest in you.
“Look, don’t worry. If they don’t go for this, both the CIA and the FBI have other fish to fry. I don’t know what they are but they have them. Most, if not all of this espionage game, is scratching each other’s back.” Welker stopped talking for a moment as he looked at St Ives. He had a smile on his face that meant he had won him over. But the look on St Ives face indicated to him that maybe he had not. But what neither was very sure of was whether the unpredictable Russians would go along with the plan.
“All right, but I can’t leave just like that.” The Colonel told him.
“Because, for instance, I have a dental appointment the first thing in the morning. I have a tooth that has been bothering me and Elaine’s son Jean has prevailed on his dentist to work me in before his first appointment. I can’t take a chance on getting it fixed when I get to the States. And if I’m am not coming back here, when am I going to get it done? And there are a couple of other things too.”
“All right then,” Welker said, “we will continue to be in touch with you thru the FBI. And we will let you know the lay of the land, Okay? But don’t mess around here. For your sake take me seriously.”
As they finished the glass of wine in front of them, they both left a generous tip. Welker turned and asked him if there was anything he wanted him to say to his family. He stopped short as though he was going to be angry. And then he said, “you know so much about me, how come you don’t know the answer to that?
One month later, she was again lounging around the house in her negligee. It was just before noon when she glanced out the window to see an automobile with government markings pull up to her curb.
Franklin and Welker got out and made straight for her door. They rang the bell and she let them in without hesitation.
“Mrs. St Ives” began Welker. “We have some questions and then we have something of the utmost importance to tell you.”
“Shoot,” she said. She was still feeling high from the last time they were there. They could hardly blame her. It was not every day someone brings you news that all your problems have been solved and that all of your financial worries in life are over. “Give me the important news first and hold the questions until later,” she said, with a big smile on her face.
“I will. But first though,” said Welker, “have you ever heard of a place called Chateauroux, France?”
“Yes I have. Ed was stationed there some twenty years ago. Why, what’s up? Why do you want to know?” A look of panic was slowly creeping across her features and was beginning to replace the big grin she had been sporting since they came in.
“Your husband was killed in an automobile accident there three days ago.” Welker told her this with a genuine look of sorrow on his face.
“Interpol will probably notify the local police in a day or two. There was a fire and a problem with identification. The son of a friend of his notified us.” The rest of the conversation was a blur of words. She heard: car crash with a large delivery truck...round about under suspicious circumstances…friends will make the arrangements, if you like?”
“Under the circumstances it is better that he not be brought back,” Welker went on to tell her.
“What friends are you talking about? Oh, never mind, I don’t care,” she said, as she collapsed on the sofa.
She could hardly think. All of a sudden her world had come crashing down upon her. Then a silly line from a child’s story crossed her mind. “The sky is falling...the sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little. And then a more serious thought replaced it. “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?” She asked no one in particular, as she thought about poor Mrs. Arnold.
The line from “Gone with the Wind” came to his mind but Welker kept it to himself, as was befitting the occasion.
A shadowy figure emerged from an alley and walked down the narrow cobblestone sidewalk. He was dressed for the cold blustery night, common to that part of France this time of year. A light rain had been falling for most of the day and the cobblestones were slippery, as he picked his way along. There was no one about this hour of the night and only an occasional automobile, with its amber parking lights on, could be seen moving down the brick lined street.
He had planned it that way. The last thing he wanted was to meet someone he knew. He would have had to explain to them what he was doing wandering around the deserted streets at this hour and on a night like this.
He was not all that sure himself exactly what he was doing. He was tired he knew that. He had not had a decent night’s sleep since an American by the name of Welker had called him about his Mother’s friend. What he had told him was somewhat melodramatic, he thought. But now, in recent days, he had changed his mind.
He had been on his way to her apartment three nights ago. She was out of town and he was going to check-up on things and to water her houseplants. As he drew near, he saw a large white delivery truck belonging to Raoul Duffy, pull up along side the curb across the narrow street. He knew who it belonged to because of the name painted on the side and because he had seen it about town many times.
Seated beside Duffy, was one of his employees and drinking friends. He did not know his name but he knew that the two of them seemed to be inseparable. If you saw one of them, you were likely to see the other. He could see them both clearly now, from the light of a street lamp, a few feet away. They had positioned themselves so that they could observe both the apartment and St Ives rental car parked down the block.
He moved back into the shadows of the building, where he waited for two hours until they moved off. They were waiting in the same place the following night and the night after that. It was obvious, he thought, they were waiting for St Ives. But unknown to them, he was out of the country.
This appearance of Duffy in the lorry had set his mind to thinking. Why were they wandering around in a heavy truck? He knew he had a small three-wheeled pick-up. Why wasn’t he using it for transportation, as he usually did? Was whatever Duffy had on his mind in some way connected to the lorry? It had to be.
Well, whatever it was, he had to figure it out on his own and then do something about it on his own. St Ives was in the States and his mother was someplace in the south where the Colonel had taken her. And he did not expect the police to help him. He had told them of his suspicions about Duffy. And all they managed to do was to tell him why they had to have more to go on than what he had given them.
If you were going to murder a couple why not make it look like an accident? And the best way to do that, he thought, was to wait until they were together and then run into them with a heavy lorry? And if this was Duffy’s plan, why if he had it all figured out, could he not stop him?
Was there another way besides killing Duffy? He did not know. But as he stood watching him, he wondered what honest law abiding citizen would not kill to protect his mother? But would he kill to protect the life of the American? He did not know the answer to that either.
Jean Burgoyne met his mother’s old friend the first night he came back to Chateauroux. He liked him. In fact he liked him a lot. But he was incensed that he had placed her life in danger. What was he thinking anyway? He knew St Ives must have a plan. But what if he didn’t? Something had to be done to stop Duffy. He was convinced, having read his grandmother’s, diary, that nothing short of violence was going to dissuade him. But murder in cold blood? Even if he could do it, he thought, more than likely St Ives would get the blame.
He thought the two of them were planning to leave the area. But now he was not so sure. She had telephoned him several days ago, so he knew they were coming back. But for how long, he didn’t know. Maybe, he thought, they would leave eventually. But Raoul Duffy was here and now. And Jean was convinced he was going to act as soon as he got the chance.
That is what had him out on a night like this, playing like he was some kind of agent provocateur, which he guessed that maybe he was. But he had a plan of his own. It was not complete by any means. But at least it was something.
He had taken two weeks vacation from his work as an electronics technician at a radio and television repair shop. He was going to need the free time to do what he knew he had to do.
Earlier in the afternoon, he had entered the local medical dental building, which housed most of the few medical professionals in the town. He made his way into the basement and then to the furnace room. He climbed upon the pile of stoker slack and unlatched the coal chute window before making his way to the foyer and out again to the street.
And now hours later, as he again approached the building, he could see the watchman talking to the cleaning woman behind the glass entrance door. He turned away and walked down the delivery alley toward the unlocked coal chute window. He opened it and crawled thru into the basement. Using a small penlight with a focused beam, he moved out of the basement to the stairs and then to the third floor to his dentist’s office.
His dentist had been in practice in this office for years. He numbered among his patients, many members of the older families of the town. Jean had seen Raoul and several members of his family there before. They were not on speaking terms, so they sat across the waiting room from each other.
Jean examined the lock on the door and then inserted a credit card between the lock and the door. He had a kit of small tools in his shirt pocket but as he expected, the old style lock presented no problem. He suspected that half the locks in town were like this one. People did not seem to be too interested in changing them: what was the use? There was very little thievery. And what was there to steal in a dentist’s outer office anyway, he asked himself, besides old magazines.
He moved quietly across the room to the patient’s file cabinet adjacent to the receptionist’s desk. He opened the drawer marked with the letter “D” and holding the penlight between his teeth, he removed the folder of Raoul Duffy. He erased his name and printed in the name of St Ives at the top of the X-ray Mount. He knew the chemically prepared surface of the Mount was made to be used over again many times. And it was impossible to tell if a name had been erased. He then placed the Mount holding Duffy’s X-rays into St Ives’ folder. He then placed both Duffy’s folder and St Ives’ X-rays inside his coat to be destroyed later. Unless Duffy returned for treatment at some later date, no one was ever going to be the wiser. And tonight, Jean doubted he would ever need them again.
He left the building the same way he came in. This was the first time in his life he had ever done anything like this and his heart was racing. He was even shivering a little and not from the cold. But all had gone well. He thought that maybe he had missed his calling as a spy. Perhaps he had inherited some of his grandmother’s genes. But he did not indulge himself in this whimsy for long, because the stakes were too high for that.
Before he went to bed, he removed a gas can from his apartment storage area. He filled two demijohns with gas and placed a tight cork in each. He laid them in a packing container and placed the container in the small carrying compartment under the seat of his street motorcycle. Before he lowered the seat, he wrapped three pieces of long braided cotton strips around his grandmother’s souvenir Luger, and stuffed it in on top of the bottles.
There was a restaurant about ten miles out of town that had special meaning for the two of them. Jean would later discover that Duffy had followed them there many times. He had paid the manager to call him whenever the Colonel made a reservation.
So tonight, he was not surprised to find that Duffy was not in his usual spot. St Ives and his mother had returned that afternoon and apparently had dinner reservations. He thought it might be some kind of a celebration, having dinner in their favorite place, perhaps for the last time. Whatever their reason for going out, it played right into Duffy’s hand. If he was going to do something, Jean thought, he might well do it tonight.
Jean had called his mother and when he discovered she was not at home, he called the restaurant. The manager told him that they had arrived only moments earlier.
He had more than an inkling of what Duffy had in mind. It had come to him within hours of seeing the two of them in the lorry. He thought there was a good chance that he would at some time and place crash into his mother’s car at high speed and then claim that it was just another accident. They happened all the time on the narrow slippery roads of France. And given the difference in size of the two vehicles, it was unlikely that the passengers in the truck would be seriously injured.
He had set about building an explosive device, which he intended to mount under the gas tank of the lorry. He had the tools and the know- how to construct such a device in his workshop. It could be detonated from a distance of a quarter mile or so, using the paraphernalia common to a toy radio controlled automobile. A good idea, he thought at first. But then he realized that the explosive residue might be later detected and traced back to him. Still it was almost finished and might yet be useful. And then there were the Molotov cocktails in his motorcycle carrier compartment, although his plan to use them was just as sketchy.
Maybe it had been a mistake to notify the police of his suspicions. Now whatever happened, he or St Ives would be the first to be blamed. Why not just show Duffy the pistol, he thought, and threaten to shoot him? Would he forget about it, not likely? He would probably change his plans, all right. But he would probably include him as one of the victims. And now he realized for the hundredth time that he was not cut out for this sort of thing. St Ives was to blame; he should have never come back with his mother. They both should have stayed in the south until they decided for sure what they were going to do.
The roads were extremely slippery tonight. He thought it would be better if he had used his car but there was no time to go back home. When he realized where Duffy was, he sped out of town at a dangerous speed.
He expected to find Duffy and his friend somewhere near the restaurant waiting to ambush them. He should have stuck by his first plan. He should have blown-up Duffy and trusted to his first thought that the police were not experienced enough to trace the residue. Now he had no plan at all.
What was he going to do if the lorry was waiting? What was he going to do if it was not? He felt panic begin to set in as he raced down the slippery road. Then, out of the corner of his eye, about three miles from his destination, he spotted the white lorry well off to the side of the road. It was turned facing in the opposite direction for a quick get-away.
He was thinking that maybe he would be able to get there before they left and warn them. They had not been at the restaurant very long. Not long by French custom, anyway. But St Ives was an American and he was probably in a hurry to leave?
He pulled up to the doorman without shutting off his engine. He told him who he was and the man promptly informed him that they had just left. He realized he must have just passed them and that they were ahead of him now by only a few minutes. But could he catch them before they passed the lorry?
He saw tail lights ahead but it was not the sedan. As he sped even faster he saw the outline of the truck moving at a high rate of speed. He concluded that St Ives had seen the truck bearing down on him and had accelerated ahead to try to outrun him.
Jean remembered passing a traffic circle not too far in the distance. At the rate the three of them were traveling, disaster lurked ahead. And he sensed what might happen with an increasing sense of panic. He slowed down as the tail lights of the truck ahead dimmed and then faded out all together. Something had happened.
And then he saw it: first the lorry and then the sedan. The lorry had entered the traffic roundabout directly behind the sedan and was going too fast to negotiate the circle or to avoid the center divider. He had caromed off the cement divider into the perimeter barrier. The sedan had fared even worse. It had skidded on the slick bricks, which had been placed there to slow traffic, and had overturned.
He stopped before entering the traffic circle to avoid crashing into the wrecked vehicles. As he sat wondering what he was going to do, he saw two passengers in the lorry dismount. They started to run toward the sedan as if they were trying to help the injured. But he could see at a glance, and to his absolute horror, that they were not bent on helping anybody, because each of them was carrying a large club.
There was no time to reach under the seat for the pistol. At any rate he was not thinking about the pistol or anything else for that matter. He was reacting to instinct. His mother’s life was in jeopardy, which is all that registered in his mind.
He revved up the engine and slipped the clutch. The wheels of the bike almost accelerated from underneath him on the wet stones. When he gained control, he was headed directly for the back of one of the men running towards the sedan. As the man neared the car, he lifted the club to breakout the window on the passenger side. It was then that the motorcycle slammed into him. The impact dislodged Jean from the cycle and drove his mother’s would be assailant into the sedan, where he died instantly of a broken neck.
When Jean gained his feet, he was badly bruised but otherwise unhurt. The first thing he saw was the second man attempting to break the windshield, in an effort to bludgeon St Ives. Without thinking, he picked-up the club from the ground and struck the man in the head. He fell, never to regain consciousness. He then helped his mother and the Colonel from the car. Neither was hurt but both of them were badly shaken, as might be expected.
He was quick to see a plan in the making. It was better, he thought, than any he could have devised. But it depended on whether oncoming motorists, who might be expected to stop to see if they could help, interrupted him.
He ordered a dazed St Ives to help him put the body of Duffy in the driver’s side of the sedan and the other body back inside the lorry. But it was taking them far too long. Any minute somebody was going to come along and discover them. A few minutes ago, they might have explained away the accident with two dead men on the outside of their vehicle. But not now, anyway. Not with one body on the ground and another with his legs protruding from the window of a car owned by somebody else.
Elaine summed up the situation, and with out being told, moved as fast as she could to the edge of the circle. She had been there just a few minutes, when a car came by. She stopped him and told him there had been an accident. She told him he could not get through. And then she asked him if he would turn around and go to the closest farmhouse and telephone for the police and an ambulance.
Gasoline had been spilling from the sedan’s tank and from the engine. It could be seen running toward the lorry. Jean, inaccordance with his new plan, climbed into the cab of the lorry and pushed the corpse aside and started the engine. He then drove the lorry broadside into the sedan to make it appear the lorry had caromed off the barrier and hit the wrecked sedan, killing the occupant.
He told the Colonel to leave the area. He said he would pick him up in a minute about one hundred yards down the road. He told him to get off the road and to stay out of sight.
He started his bike and motored over to where his mother was standing guard. He put her up behind him and drove her passed the wreck and out of harms way. He told her to ride back in the ambulance when it arrived and to check into the hospital for observation. She was to tell them that the other occupant of the sedan had been St Ives. The occupant of the truck, she recognized as Raoul Duffy. She was told to tell them that she had seen Duffy slumped over the wheel before it caught fire. Jean then told her to go straight home and not to talk to anyone: this meant the press and the police particularly. Then he told her he would see her later on in the morning.
He went back to the wreck. He parked his cycle on the kickstand and pulled the two bottles of gasoline from the carrier. He removed the fuses from around the pistol and soaked the ends in gasoline. He then placed one end of the fuses in the bottles and secured the corks. Climbing back on his bike, he lit the fuses and thru both bottles over his shoulder, breaking the glass against the two wrecked vehicles. Even as he sped away, he heard the explosion and felt for a moment the extreme heat generated by the burning fuel.
He stopped long enough to kiss his mother and then sped down the road to find St Ives. The two of them motored back to Chateauroux. But they did not stop, although St Ives wanted to. He told Jean that he needed his passport and a few things. Jean ignored him for the most part. But he did turn his head and yell loud enough for the Colonel to hear that he did not need a passport or anything else, because he was dead.
When they did stop, about thirty miles out of town, Jean explained to him testily, that he was indeed dead and that he had better get used to the idea. They went into a cafe and ordered coffee with a croissant for Jean. Then he swore at him and asked him why he came back when he was told not to. St Ives explained that he had met with the CIA and the FBI when he went back to the States. The CIA wanted him to work for them in France in exchange for getting Duffy and the KGB off his back.
He told him that if he and Elaine left the area, Raoul Duffy might in some way exact his revenge on Jean and his sister. He believed the only way of saving them was to get rid of Duffy once and for all and that is what he came back intending to do.
The next fifteen minutes were spent going over his finances again. He made sure Jean understood about the safety deposit box in the Swiss bank. And that he knew the name of the banker.
Then Jean interrupted him. And before the Colonel could say another word, Jean told him he expected him to marry his mother. He said he had more to fear from him than he did from France and her bigamy laws, which he said, were quite liberal. Anyway, he told him, you are not marrying her, you are dead. I want you to pick a new name before we leave and that is the person who is going to marry her.
You are free to use my name, he said. It is well respected and quite common. He then told him he was never to contact him again or to return to Chateauroux. If you do, I guarantee I will shoot you. I absolutely forbid you to have any more to do with spies and violence of any kind. The tone of his voice left no doubt in St Ives mind that he was serious.
He then gave him a telephone number of a friend. He told him to call and leave the number where he could be reached and he would get back with him. After the inquest and the memorial service, he would bring his mother to him. In the mean time, he was to lay low and decide on where he was going to make his permanent home.
St Ives was also told not to worry about the police, because he had switched dental records with Duffy. When St Ives asked him how he knew things were going to happen just the way they did, he was told that he had a plan. But the way it worked out was fine too, and just as permanent, he said.
Weeks later, the Colonel called his banker friend from his new home in the south of France. He told him more than he needed to know to carry on his business before telling him he was remarried. The banker congratulated him and then told him he was glad things had worked out the way they had. But, he said, nothing you have told me comes as any big surprise. I understand, and if there is anything you need like a passport or any thing else, please let me know.
After all Mr. Burgoyne, that is what Swiss banking is all about, he remarked.
Elaine and St Ives set up housekeeping in Arles. And then after six months of traveling around the southern part of France, they settled for the Garonne River valley. They first chose one of several villages but then decided that village life was too confining. They finally bought an apartment in her name in one of the better sections of Toulouse. It was comfortable but not too pretentious. The last thing they wanted was to attract attention.
They had only been there a few weeks when a letter arrived from the Swiss banker. Inside the envelope was an unopened letter from Welker and was postmarked Riverside, California.
Welker explained how he knew what had happened. He said he knew the complete story and that he suspected Rasmussen did as well. But he said his secret was safe with both of them. And then he told him that Rasmussen had supervised the settling of his estate, in accordance with military regulations. He told him that nothing was left and that within days his family had been forced to move to a small apartment. His wife had found work as a waitress in a restaurant, while she was attending a local real estate sales school. Their son had been looking around for work but only half-heartedly, Welker wrote. He had quit school and his mother, who was on to him, had forced him to leave her apartment. He finally found a job at a fast food outlet. He had moved in with two other school dropouts and was saving his money to buy a car.
Welker talked to him, although of course he did not know who he was. He said he had confided in Welker about his intentions to go to a remedial reading course at the local high school. He also told him, he intended to try and get a diploma. Welker stopped by once in a while and often talked to him. But he told him not to keep his fingers crossed about the boy. He said he was still in shock about the major disruption in his life. And whether or not he was going to make a serious effort to better himself was anybody’s guess, he wrote.
The newly married spent long hours on picnics along the riverbank and just walking and talking. He was gratified to find that Elaine had more than a passing interest in the major events of his life. He supposed one of the reasons might be because they shared so many of them in common. In fact she wanted to know as much about him as he was willing to tell her. And she was most eager to fill in many of the blank spots; particularly those that occurred after the Germans let him escape. He wanted to find out what her life was like during the war years. And he was most interested in what she had been doing immediately after the war and up to the present time. He quizzed her about her membership in the Party. And she told him that she had become disillusioned early on and had quit soon after he left for the States.
She was not at all reluctant to discuss her mother and her wartime activities. They had not been talking long about this subject when he realized she had been much more aware of things than he ever supposed. He always thought she had been too young to be aware of much at the time. But he was pleased to learn he was wrong.
She told him that she had always loved him. What he thought was a young girl’s crush on an older man was in reality much more than that. And they discussed endlessly the years when he was stationed at the depot in Chateauroux. And all the things they did and said, they talked over and over again. It was one of their favorite activities. And they spent hours reminiscing about the war and the period just after.
It happened during one of their many motor trips along the picturesque Garonne. They had stopped to sit and admire the scenery from a bluff above the river. St Ives remarked that he recognized what he thought was the very place where someone shot at him while he was escaping.
“Elaine,” he said, “I don’t believe I ever told you somebody tried to shoot me from about right here.” It was kind of his way of introducing the subject as she removed a picnic basket from the car and spread a blanket.
“I had been floating for several days,” he said, “when for no reason, somebody started shooting. And then when I jumped into the river, there was a rattle of gunfire, and then all I could hear was the water. I never knew who it was, although I have spent endless hours speculating about the numbers of people who didn’t want me going any further.
“You told me about your mother: how she was playing on both sides at the same time; how she was a patriot but in love with an enemy soldier. We both understand her dilemma and I suppose we sympathize with her. But to my way of thinking she was the only one in the area that was privy to much of the important information possessed by both sides. Did she ever talk to you much about what went on just prior to the Invasion?”
“Yes she did. But I’m not quite as ready to forgive her as you are. It is true she was loyal to France. And then too, she was never given much credit for the danger she faced, while extracting information from her German lover. But she enjoyed it too much. I understood in a way. But then again I viewed it as a complete betrayal of my father. I hesitate to say this, but I considered her loyalty to him as being more important than gathering intelligence for the Allies. She did, you know, and much of it resulted in the savings of thousands of lives during the Invasion. She also passed them vital information that caused many casualties but she did not do it on purpose. As far as I am concerned she was a patriot. However, I’m convinced the Germans were using her.
“She never told me about any of it until after it had all happened. And then she did, because she wanted me to understand why she was going to marry the German and move to his home. She wanted me to understand and to forgive her. She knew how, even as a young girl, I felt about you. She wanted me to know you arrived safely home just as soon as she could. She had to make sure I understood. And she did want me to believe he, so she told me the details of everything that happened to you after you left us. I suppose it made her feel better in those dark days, after the Liberation.”
“Elaine, did she know who was shooting at me?”
“Yes, and much more than that, she knew why.
“You see she had a promise from the Oberst that you would come to no harm, because of the way I felt about you. He had put several of his best operatives on you with instructions to see that you got back. At the time, though, Mother thought he was doing it for her. They wanted you to tell the English that you had convinced them the Invasion was coming at Normandy. What none of us knew, excepting the Oberst, and he never told her of course, was that they had used Scopolamine on you. Under the effects of the drug, you told the Germans the Invasion was coming at Pas de Calais. So you see it was most important to the Oberst that you get back to England. ”
“Yes, I realized that much later.” He said. “But I never faulted anybody for doing it the way they did. Under the circumstances they could not have told me the truth. And it could not have been pulled off in any other way.”
“She told me the Oberst was going to get you back safely to England just for her sake, because she wanted him too, which of course was a lie. He also promised to keep her informed and she promised to do the same for me. He kept his promise about this, I guess because it didn’t matter to him. Anyway, I was aware of what was happening to you all along your route.”
“Who was it that was shooting at me then?” He asked
“It was the Resistance.” She said.
“And the Germans tailing me, they shot them, right?”
The two of them had been speaking in French. In fact he spoke French all the time now. He only resorted to English when he had forgotten a word. But this was becoming more and more infrequent. His language skills suffered during the extended periods he was away. But he become more fluent each time he returned to France And now these last few weeks of talking in nothing but that language had resulted in his regaining most of his former proficiency.
He dressed like a Frenchman and ate the same things they ate. And he really preferred wine to soft drinks. So as they basked in the afternoon sun, he thought he might be well on his way to becoming a real Frenchman. Elaine noticed it as well and had voiced her approval.
“Do you know who Henri was and whom he was working for?” He asked Elaine as they lay back looking at the clouds and listening to the river.
“Yes I do as a matter of fact. He was a member of the Resistance, who was taking money from both the Germans and the Resistance. The Germans shot him when he had outlived his usefulness. If you had been able to go on over the mountain as was planned, they would have left him alone. But under the circumstances he knew too much and your continued journey had the highest priority.
“How could they be so sure that I was going to get picked up outside the estuary by a Spanish fishing boat? How did they know that I wouldn’t drown and spoil all their plans?”
“You know the Germans; they never leave anything to chance,” she said. “They had it arranged with the Spanish, who incidentally were playing both sides from the middle. If the boat missed you, they had a plan to alert one of several gunboats, which patrolled those waters. They simply alerted the gunboat to be on the lookout for you. And when they saw you they radioed the fisherman. They were watching you all along the way. They knew you were in danger most of the time. But they also knew that if you kept your head, you were going to make it to the ocean.
“How could they be so sure? I thought many times that I was going to drown”
“Well in a way they supplied you with the boat and they knew that even if did turn over, it would not sink. As I understand it, the Frenchman who sold you the boat and gave you the instructions was picked up soon after you left. He told them everything he had told you.
“The Oberst was nothing if not thorough. This kind of stuff was what he excelled at. And don’t forget, he was telling mother he was doing it for her, and she was telling me he was doing it all for me. In that way, I guess, she figured I might get to like him a little better. But I was never able to forget he was responsible for the death of my father. And my mother had wanted to become convinced at the outset that he could not have prevented any of that from happening. She was most interested in convincing me he was a great humanitarian and it had all come about because of the war. I guess it is one of the things I found the hardest to forgive.”
One week later, the two of them were sitting at a sidewalk I overlooking the river. Neither of them was saying much. Their marriage had matured to the point where they were very comfortable in each other’s company without having to say much of anything. So there were now long lulls in the conversation when they just sat alone with their thoughts, secure in the knowledge that the other was there. St Ives had not been looking for a topic to start a conversation; it just popped into his head, when he asked her, “do you ever think you might forgive your mother?”
She looked out of the corner of her eye at him. This was a subject that was sensitive to her. And she knew he would not have brought it up just to make conversation. It did not exactly make her angry but it did make her blood pressure rise slightly. And as a result she answered more quickly than she otherwise would have had she given it some thought.
“Edward,” she said his name with a kind of edge to her voice that she wished she could have retracted, “do you suppose you will ever forgive your wife and family?”
He was taken aback. In fact he was more than that. He was caught off guard and totally surprised. He had no idea she knew he was still married. He knew Welker had written letters to both her and her son soon after he had been reported killed. In one of them, it was obvious the agent believed the story that St Ives was dead. It was a letter of condolence to Elaine, wherein, he told her how much the Colonel loved her and that he had filed for divorce before he left. Elaine naturally thought he was divorced. But she later came to realize the suit had been terminated upon the report of his death. Her son, on the other hand, knew this would happen and did not care. To him their present status was far better than living together in an unmarried state. And anyway, her son told Elaine, if things had not happened so fast, they would have been divorced, because his wife made no indication she wanted a contest. She did not care whether they divorced, Welker wrote, because she would have been almost as well off divorced as she would have been if they were still married. All she was interested in was the money.
“I don’t know how to answer you,” he replied, after pausing to think what he wanted to say. While he was surprised she knew the complete story; he was glad she did. Now it was out in the open and he felt better.
“I don’t know how much you know. And I don’t care how you found out...?”
“Your friend wrote me,” she said.
“Yes, I suspected as much. But as I said, I don’t care how you know. I’m just glad you do. It’s no secret how I feel about my family and I suspect Welker has told you everything.
“You knew I wanted to fake my death to cheat my conniving family out of my retirement income and my inheritance. I have not broken any Federal laws, because I don’t collect any retirement pay either. She might have cause for a suit against me for some of my inheritance, if she ever discovers the truth. But I don’t care about that. Right now I have broken no laws that I know of. And all I want to do is to deny her what she thinks is rightfully hers.”
“And do you think you will continue to feel the same way towards your children?” She asked.
“I don’t know, probably. But then someday when they show me they have learned how to work and can hold a job, I might relent and help them in some way. Neither of them can read well enough to get in a university, no matter how they study to make up their grades. So, that is out of the question. I may be able to help them get set-up in a business of some kind, when and if the time comes. I don’t know?
“I may be able to work out something with my brothers. It would have to be strictly a gift through the family to the kids. If it has any color of a legal obligation that they’re paying off, then you can be sure she will be in the middle of it with her lawyers.
“I realize I have not answered your question. But all I can say right now is I don’t hate either of them. I never really did. I was just so disappointed in them that I couldn’t live with the way things were. And I must say, if I had not decided to do something about it, I would have been trapped in an untenable situation. It might have even resulted in a permanent loss of my mind, while in a way, I continued to contribute to their delinquency. From what I have heard though, they are all on their way to recovering their self-respect, something I thought was lost forever.
“And one other thing,” he said, “if I had not acted when I did, I would have never found you again. And that would have been the worst tragedy of all.”
He sat in an office of one of the smaller but more important bureaus of the KGB. That morning he had heard rumors of a major foul-up in one of their operations, which fell under his supervision. If the rumor turned out to be true, he might be in for some big trouble. It seemed, according to one of the secretaries who was quite highly placed in the organization, an American whom they thought had expired in a traffic accident might have defected, after euchring them out of a large sum of money.
These things happened all the time but not to his people. The story had it that one of his American agents, who had been working in the very important Strategic Air Command War Plans offices, had attempted to fake his death. It was not reason enough to get anyone interested higher than his office. But then, according to the rumor, something else had come to light that might require deeper involvement for his superiors.
He hated these deeper involvement cases. They were always losing propositions. If someone did not end up in Lubianca they could very well see their career placed in jeopardy. The trouble was, when these things did happen, there was always the suspicion of collusion on the part of the informer receiving the money and the staff officer responsible for paying it out. There was, in fact, enough paid out over a one-year period to set-up an army officer with a satisfactory income for life. The thing of it was though; no one knew for sure exactly how much was being paid to the agent. But there was no way to tell if he was shorting the agent and holding back some for himself. This is what made it so tempting: nobody knew; and that is why people in his job were watched so closely by their superiors. In fact everybody was watching everybody else all along the line.
He had been involved in this work for a number of years. Once you were in the business of controlling informers, they never seemed to let you change jobs. They had learned from experience that the informer did not like to keep meeting new people. They were always on their guard. And if change happened very often, they might just simply quit. Actually, after they made a few dollars, they wanted to quit anyway. They became frightened that the scheme was going to come unraveled. And they feared they might get caught and spend the rest of their life in a federal prison.
There was something else that bothered him about the rumor. He had known the informer they were talking about for years. And in a kind of perverse way, he considered the two of them to be friends. He had personally deposited large sums of money into his friend’s bank account. But not once had he ever questioned whether the information he was receiving from him in return was authentic.
He had always trusted the man they had code named Idaho. He never knew who dreamed up these names, some of them were really quite silly. But in this case the man had been born in Idaho, and that is where the money was deposited twice a year, so he supposed it made sense. He was never operating so many people at one time that he had to have a memory peg to remember them. So in reality, he would have remembered this American, regardless of what he had been named.
As he sat at his desk watching the snow accumulate outside his window, he wondered what it was like to live in Idaho. He thought at certain times of the year there might not be too much of a difference. There were other places though, he thought, where the climate was milder than winters in Idaho. He had traveled extensively in that country and he knew there were places where it was warm the year around.
He thought often about America and he wondered what kind of person would betray a country like that. Then upon further reflection he supposed it was all about money and seldom about ideals. The Americans he knew who were engaged in espionage never paid much attention to their ideals, if they had any.
Most of the people he worked with were like Idaho. They were military people. But with the exception of him, they were all from the lower ranks.
Not only did he trust him but Idaho had indicated to him many times that they were, indeed, friends. He had always been most cooperative. When a new supervisor came on board, and he had been pressed to show more spectacular results, Idaho always came thru. And then too, they had kind of a Quid Pro Quo. Not that exactly because it was a one way affair. But Idaho never complained when he must have sensed that there had been a leadership change in his division and the new man with the new broom wanted to impress his superiors.
Idaho also understood things better than the others did. He realized how things worked. He knew he operated on a budget. And he knew that he was not in a position to be always handing out money, indiscriminately. Then too, he was not paid by the individual document he turned over, which might account for why he was not constantly after more money. He was paid on a salary basis. Piecework required endless argument and dangerous contact. Neither of them liked it that way. In fact, they had hardly ever spoken to each other over the years. Maybe if they had, he would not have grown so close to him, if close was the word.
Why then did he want to go to all the trouble of twice faking his death? Why didn’t he just tell him it had all been a mutually profitable experience and now the time had come to retire? Why didn’t he just say he was leaving the Service and that he would be of no further use to him? I would have understood, he told himself. Why did all Americans distrust us, he wondered? Why were they always looking for an edge? Why could they never play it straight? That might be the main reason the two countries were never going to be friends, he thought.
He could have said something. Why did he have to do it the way he did? At the very least he could have sent him a short note in the diplomatic pouch saying, “so long old friend, I am quitting this business and have nothing left to offer you.”
But, maybe he had something else in mind? Maybe he wanted to disappear for another reason and he expected me to catch on without being told? Maybe, what Idaho was thinking was so obvious that it didn’t have to be said? And then again, maybe he wanted me to think he had faked his death, knowing all the time that he had not? Maybe he wanted me to just think his death was suspicious and to go thru the motions of an investigation and then to agree with the official version of things? And maybe it was for the benefit of some people within the CIA, who needed to be reassured that he was actually dead? And then, again, maybe he was afraid of retiring and having us later discover he had been giving us bad information? That is more like it, he thought. Anyway, if it is Idaho they are talking about, that is going to be the consensus. And the onus is going to be on me to find him and end it once and for all. And I am going to be expected to do it personally because he is my mistake and my dirty linen to wash, so to speak. And just the thought of the thing had already ruined his day.
As he continued to watch the snow gather on the windowsill, he thought about the dirty business he had chosen for his life’s work. And he thought again, as he had a thousand times, about what it must be like to lie around on a warm beach all day and to think uplifting thoughts, and to make truly reliable friends for a change. And to never have the specter of Lubianca looming in the background.
He turned around in his seat as his clerk entered the room. He saluted and then handed him the dossier he had requested. The complete file had been hand carried from the central classified file, which was kept in another building. He leafed thru the stack of personal documents he knew were there, pausing to glance at the photograph he had seen countless times. He was looking for a clue to the identity of the informer, who had a grievance so strong as to want to take the life of the Colonel, he knew as Idaho. That was the basis of the rumor anyway. Somebody had suspected his death in France might not be legitimate. And they had gone to the Soviet Legation in San Francisco to make their suspicions known. Whether it was for revenge or for money, at this point he did not know. It might well be for both, he thought, as he read the material again.
She noticed him for the second time. She thought it was the same man she had seen watching her the day before. Both times it was at the market. She knew she was an attractive woman and men often looked at her. And it helped that she did not dress in the long dark skirt and hose, which most women wore who shopped in that part of France. And neither did she dress to attract men. She dressed to please herself. She did not care if it resulted in an occasional glance of appreciation and admiration from those she passed on her daily rounds.
Elaine reported the second incident to St Ives when she returned home. Usually something like this would go unnoticed. If a man who had an attractive wife was to encourage her to tell him about all the incidents where a strange man took a second look at her, then that is all they would manage to talk about. But for some reason, Elaine felt apprehensive. And if she felt uneasy enough to mention it, the Colonel thought he ought to give the event at least his passing attention.
At first they discussed it as a subject of general conversation, with him interjecting a few questions here and there just to keep the conversation going. But the longer they talked about it the more interested he became.
“Look”, he said, “you have me curious. It may mean something and then again it might not.” But just the idea out in the open sent a shiver up his back. He had no idea how it affected her. But he was hesitant to ask, as though any further talk along this line was going to open up vistas he had put aside these past months. He had excused himself from thinking that if he simply voided them from his mind, they would go away.
He told himself at the outset that he had done everything he could. He had taken every precaution. He had done everything he could think of to cover his tracks. And he had convinced himself that he had nothing to gain by dwelling on what the Russians might do when they heard the news of his death in Chateauroux.
He was not privy to any inside information about the workings of the KGB. The methods they used to locate people were as mysterious to him as they were to everyone else. All he knew about them was what he had read in works of fiction and from watching movies made from works of fiction. But there was one thing he knew from instinct, if not from fact, they had ways of finding people, and when they did they were most ruthless.
If there was the slightest chance they suspected that his death might have been contrived, then the incidents in the market place might well be associated with an investigation. He did not see how he could afford to take the chance. And he realized he would be a fool not to be on the alert. On the other hand, if he became unduly alarmed and Elaine detected anything, which might tend to pique her curiosity, she might, unbeknownst to him, contact her son for advice. And if she did, and even if the two incidents amounted to nothing at all, he feared it would open up a can of worms. And it might prove to be very difficult to replace the lid. And if her son became involved, he realized he was going to have more problems than he cared to think about.
He stood back in the shadows watching the apartment. He assumed they were both inside because the light was on and nobody had left since he had been watching. The plan they had discussed was quite simple. Who ever did the job would wait for a chance to make a positive identification and then he would follow him back. He would knock on the door and when it was opened he would shoot him without a word. If she opened the door, he would shoot them both, and then leave.
He had brought two enlisted men with him from his office. They were trained investigators whom he expected would turn up any leads, if any existed. He had left them back in Chateauroux awaiting his return. They had early on discovered that a woman by the name of Elaine Burgoyne, who was known to associate with the Colonel before he was killed, had moved from the city. It was a small matter to trace her to Arles and then to Toulouse thru her apartment utility records. In France, a turn-on deposit must be paid and then it is later returned to a forwarding address.
If the Colonel was seen in the area he would be shot, he told his men. And if it turned out the woman they were looking for was from Chateauroux, and she was alone, then they could safely assume the Colonel had, indeed, perished in the automobile fire. At any rate he was the one to check it out and he would be the one who would do the terminating if any was required. He never told them that but then it did not need to be said.
They were told to stand-by for five days, and if he did not return in that time, they were to return to Moscow. He did not want them to stay in Chateauroux any longer for fear they would attract attention. At any rate, one way or the other, they were to report back that the case was closed.
He had been watching the apartment for about three hours. The lights had been off for at least that long and he was getting cold. He had been considering giving up for the night. It had started to drizzle with a light fog setting in. He could not help but think about other surveillance jobs he had been on during his career. And try as he might, he could not remember one that was not spent during inclement weather. As he stepped out from the shadows he heard footsteps in the distance. He looked hard to see if he could see a late night passer by. And as he looked, he stepped back into the shadows of an alcove in the next building.
The first thought occurring to him was that he was getting old for this kind of work. He had definitely lost his edge. For instead of being the hunter, he had become the hunted. No, hunted was not the word he was looking for. The word prey in Russian was more like it, he told himself, as he felt a long cold knife touch the jugular vein of his throat.
He responded to the threat by setting the suitcase he was carrying down on the cement and then whispering in Russian that he was not going to interfere with any effort that might be made to take the case. His first thought was that one or both of his associates had followed him. He immediately suspected they were bent on taking the case with the contents and then leaving him dead on the sidewalk.
How long had they been planning this, he wondered. About as long as he had been planning to defect, he thought. Maybe they all had the same idea. Maybe they knew for years that he had been squirreling away money for just such an opportunity. That was it then, the Russian agent with the knife was going to cut his throat and take the money.
But he could feel the hot breath on his neck and as his mind stood frozen in time, his last thoughts were that something was not right. The breath he smelled was not heavily scented with garlic, wine, and Russian tobacco. There was no mistaking that smell. But it mattered little now who it was, he thought, as he felt the sharp edge of the blade pushing harder now and pinning him against the wall of the building. He thought of striking out but he knew the slightest movement of his head would result in his death.
The man standing next to him with the knife was breathing harder as if to gather his strength. It was much like a matador poised to make the kill of the helpless and trapped bull.
He now suspected a Frenchmen had been watching him and was planning to kill him for the contents of his case. His assailant must have thought the contents held drugs and that he had been waiting suspiciously in the shadows for a pick-up that never came. He knew now it was not one of his men, because they were professionals who would have killed without hesitation. And here he had been standing for at least ten seconds. It seemed more like ten hours, as he waited for his assailant to plunge the knife deep into his throat.
He wanted to negotiate with the Frenchman. Perhaps he could dissuade him if he could explain about the money. He could have the large sum he was carrying if he would only remove the knife from his throat. And it just might help if he knew he was a foreign agent. He wanted to tell him that he had a back up man. He wanted him to believe that his man would spot him and shoot him, if he killed him and then grabbed the bag and ran. Anything was possible. But such thoughts were not going to be productive, because he could hardly say more than a few words in French.
Desperately, he began to mutter in English, hoping beyond hope he would be understood enough to cause the man to back off on the blade. He was sure he was drawing blood even now. Funny thing, he thought, he was about to die and his last thoughts were going to be about his new suit. He had bought a new suit in Paris last week and it was going to be ruined by his own blood.
Gregor Stelinovich spoke English with a thick Russian accent. Although he had a limited vocabulary, he thought it was better than passable. He thought he spoke like an educated Englishman. His wife told him that once after he graduated from the army language school. But then she told him a lot of things that were not true. She had been living a double life. He became suspicious and had assigned an agent, one whom he thought he could trust, to ferret out her secrets.
When he discovered she was seeing another man, he divorced her without fanfare. He had been risking his freedom and his career for her by shorting the operatives under his charge. He had never told her anything about this. He was going to wait until he had close to a million American dollars in rubles before he made his move. And then after he had chosen his new location in one of the small towns in southern Florida, he intended to defect. He would wait for the right opportunity and then take her with him. But she would not know about his intentions until they were on their way. That way, if she changed her mind and refused to leave, she could not turn him into the authorities
He did not plan a classic defection. He did not want the American intelligence authorities to have any part in his leaving. They would have, no doubt, been glad to help. But then he would have been tied to them for the rest of his life. They would have wanted military secrets in return. And he did not consider himself to be a traitor in any sense of the word.
In the beginning he only wanted to leave because of his wife. She was always complaining about the cold and the miserable way they had to live. They had a small apartment they shared with another couple. It was unheated for most of the winter and stifling hot during part of the summer months. It was nothing like the pictures in some of the American magazines he managed to get his hands on. Everyone there seemed to live better than they did. And after all, he was a field grade officer with elitist status.
He knew she had been unhappy for years. He thought the root of the problem lay in their continual lack of money. His marriage was unstable and he feared what finally happened would happen one day, if he did not do something. It was then that he decided to take the gamble of misappropriating large sums of money over a long period of time. He never spent any of it. He saved every ruble against the day he could leave the country.
How many millions of others would leave if they had the chance, he could not say? But he was willing to bet there were many who would have, if they had had the opportunity, and if they had a means of making a living in America.
Illegal immigrants from Russia were suspect of having ties to intelligence agencies and were usually quickly placed under surveillance. But he intended to avoid this by not going the route of the usual illegal. He was different. He did not need to seek employment and expose his identity to the American civil system, which he feared would alert other government agencies. He had enough money, he figured, to allow him to live comfortably the rest of his life. And he knew that if he did not seek assistance under the witness protection program, no one in the American intelligence community was going to know anything about him. And certainly none of his people were going to say anything to them. So he had a made to order set-up with guaranteed prosperity for the rest of his life.
But now he thought, as he felt the steel blade against his throat, everything he had planned and worked so hard for was going to be for naught. He was about to suffer an ignominious death at the hands of a common thief here on the streets of a strange city.
At first the Colonel could not make out what he was saying. Whatever it was, he was obviously pleading for his life. Had he used a gun instead of a knife, he was sure there would have been a struggle, as the man made a last ditch effort to save his life. But the knife made this all but impossible. They both knew that the slightest movement by either of them would result in the dirty nasty death of the Russian. And that was the last thing the American wanted.
Gregor Stelinovich began to take heart when he realized his assailant was hesitant to kill him. And then too, he had not yet made a move to take the suitcase he was obviously after. Could it possibly be he was not after the case after all? Then what was the purpose of assaulting him? Was it his man Idaho who was wielding the knife? He spoke as slowly and as distinctly as he could in short sentences in hopes he might be right.
“Colonel, is that you,” he whispered.
“Who are you anyway?” Came the reply.
“ Friend many years, tavarich. Please do nothing foolish.” He could not find the word for foolish in English, and he did not know the French word or anything like it, so he said it in Russian, hoping it made some sense.
“Are you carrying a weapon?” he demanded.
“Dah, I mean wee, I mean yes. In coat.” He began speaking rapidly in pigeon English mixed with Russian and a few words of French. Anything he could say he said, which he thought would defuse the situation and get the knife away from his throat. He was scared to death as he felt his knees begin to weaken. Any moment now, he thought he was going to faint. And if he fell the knife was going to cut his throat.
St Ives reached inside Gregor’s coat and removed a revolver. He cocked it and then placed the knife back in his pocket.
The Russian was breathing hard and was totally exhausted. The Colonel watched him in the dark as he slumped down the wet wall and sat on the cement inside the alcove off the street. He joined him, feeling a great sense of relief that the situation had escalated no further. But the man had come to kill the two of them. And he still had to be destroyed. Perhaps it would have been much better if he had done it when he was mentally and physically prepared to do so, he thought. Now he had just postponed the inevitable. And he would have to get up his nerve all over again. There was no other way. And then what? Where were they to go and what would they do? He decided to do it right there and then and work on a solution to the rest of his problems later. This man was seen as a threat and must be destroyed as soon as possible. How many accomplices he had waiting, St Ives could only guess.
He was sitting facing him about two yards away. He took aim with the pistol at where he thought his heart was in the dark. He started to apply pressure to the trigger. Gregor could not see the pistol but he knew the Colonel feared for his life. He wasted no time in telling him that he meant him no harm.
“Wait moment. No kill you. Want defect. Want help.”
St Ives could not believe what he had just heard. He lowered the pistol in the dark but he was not ready to release the hammer. He told Gregor not to make the slightest move, because the pistol was still pointing at him. The Russian replied in halting English again that he meant him no harm.
And then a whispered conversation took place between them for the next hour. They had both forgotten the cold and the fact that they were sitting on wet cement. Each was afraid to move for fear of the other. And each wanted to hear what the other had to say. Every word was important.
The conversation that followed should have conveyed the message in less than ten minutes. But because of the language barrier and the importance each placed on the correct interpretation of the others meaning, they had to go over and over it again. When they were thru talking, they both stood up. They shook hands and Gregor embraced him. He had been taught in school that Americans felt uncomfortable with this custom but he did not care. In fact he kissed him on both cheeks as he handed him his suitcase and St Ives returned his pistol with the hammer in the safe position.
St Ives arrived the next afternoon and took a taxi to the same hotel he had stayed at before. He carried his bags to the room and then called his banker for an appointment. He was ushered into his office the next morning and was asked to take a seat. The Colonel was pressed for time, so he asked him to dispense with the usual formalities, which were usually afforded a large depositor.
He thanked the banker for his past assistance and then moved quickly to the point. He wanted the contents of the bag he was carrying counted. And then he wanted it converted to dollars at the best rate given to their best customers. When he was satisfied it would be taken care of, he asked to have it deposited to a new numbered account. He was to be the beneficiary. And the entire amount was to be transferred to his account; in the event the bank was not contacted every two months. The Swiss banker listened carefully while making a few notes. He asked for the coordination or identification number of the caller who would be making the contact. He was given the initial G S.
St Ives marveled once again at the coolness and efficiency of the banker. He never questioned any of his instructions, nor did he ask were the dividends were to be paid. The American knew the banker suspected the dividends, and maybe some of the principle, might be transferred to another bank in due course. And since the transaction was in rubles, the banker was hesitant to ask questions, which might prove embarrassing.
Before he left, he was given an account number and a dollar amount and that was all. He put them both in a money belt he carried around his waist. But before he zipped it up, he looked at the amount and noted that it was just shy of a million dollars.
He landed at Orley field later in the evening and checked into a hotel at the terminal. The next morning he whiled away some time until it was exactly 1000 hours. Then he went quickly to the ticket counter of Air France and bought a one-way ticket to Miami. He turned around and walked directly across the terminal to a double row of seats and stood looking out of the window. When one of the seats became vacant, he sat down and pulled out a stick of chewing gum. When he had been sitting for a half an hour reading Paris Match, he removed the gum from his mouth and used it to stick an envelope to the bottom of the seat. Then he went out the revolving door and came back an hour later and sat in the same seat. He sat for another thirty minutes or so, knowing that Gregor was watching him. It was the Russians way of saying good-by to a man whom it turned out, was truly a friend.
He felt under the seat, as he had been instructed to do, and recovered a letter, which he put unopened into his coat pocket.
When the wheels of the airliner bound for Toulouse came up and the seat belt light went off, St Ives reached into his jacket in the overhead compartment. He retrieved the letter and then sat back down. It contained two sheets of paper. One was a list of names of Air Force personnel, with their rank, duty stations and serial numbers. There were no explanations, and as far as he was concerned, there were none necessary. He would mail the letter to his Swiss banker in the morning, with a request to forward it in a separate envelope to Agent Welker of the OSI.
The second paper was a short type written note thanking him for his kindness and professionalism in handling a touchy and delicate situation. He also thanked him profusely for his help, with emphasis on his decision to spare his life. He assured him that he would never have cause to regret his action.
The note was written in an obsolete prose that made the Colonel smile. He thought the Russian, whose name he did not know and whose face he had never seen, must have labored for an hour or so over the few words he was reading. Almost every word was stilted and many of them were in an antique form of the language. But St Ives understood. And he was elated at what he read. Regardless of the words used, the meaning was clear. He and Elaine would be left alone to come and go as they pleased.
Some of the events of this story are true and some are woven from whole cloth. Likewise, some of the characters are fictional, while others are living at this writing. I have made an effort to disguise the names of some of them. But I must confess I did rather a poor job in the case of one of the public figures.
The Indenture of Edward St Ives.
A Novel by Darrell H Egbert.
2001. Rewritten, Jul 2002.
All rights reserved.