Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)

2,827
05.03.2019

‘Oui, mais oui, oh, yes!’ I stuttered, a bit too hysterically, and everybody frowned at me. I handed both photos back – the one that will break Julie and the one that could save her. ‘Give them these.’

‘Good –’ said the photographer, cool and neutral. ‘Good, it will make less trouble for me if some of the prints are produced on time.’ I am so – just dead humbled by the risks everybody takes, the double lives they all lead, how they shrug and go on working. ‘Now we take your picture, Mademoiselle Kittyhawk.’

Maman made a fuss over me and tried to make my hair pretty. Hopeless. The photographer took three shots and began to laugh.

‘Your smile is too big, Ma’m’selle,’ he said. ‘In France, we do not like these identity cards. Your face must be – neutral, oui? Neutral. Like the Swiss!’

Then we all laughed, a bit nervously, and I think I ended up glaring. I do try to smile at everybody – it is one of the only things I know about being undercover in enemy-occupied territory. That and how to fire a revolver using the ‘Double Tap’.

Can’t begin to say how much I hate Paul.

The photographer had also brought me a pair of lined woollen climbing slacks belonging to his wife, good ones, well-made and not much used, which he gave to me after he put away his equipment. I was so surprised and grateful I started to blub again. The poor man took this the wrong way and apologised for not bringing a prettier dress! Maman descended on me, mopping my tears with her apron with one hand, showing how warm and thick the slacks are with the other. She worries about me a good deal.

Paul turned to the photographer and made a remark in a matey undertone, as though they were sharing a pint in a pub. But he said it in English, so that I could understand it, and no one else would.

‘Kittyhawk won’t mind trousers. What she’s got between her legs she doesn’t use anyway.’

I hate him. I hate him.

I know he is the organiser, the keystone of this Resistance circuit. I know my life depends on him. I know I can trust him to get me out of here. But I still HATE HIM.

The photographer gave Paul an embarrassed chuckle – man to man, jolly saucy joke – and gave me a sideways glance to see if I got it – but of course I was blubbing away in Maman’s large French farmhouse embrace and looked like I probably hadn’t heard. And I pretended that I hadn’t because it was more important that I thank the photographer properly than that I tackle Paul.

HATE HIM.

After the photographer left, I had to go and have another target practice session with Paul. He STILL doesn’t keep his hands to himself – even after being told off at gunpoint, even with Mitraillette watching – doesn’t let them stray, but just leaves them on your arm or shoulder for much too long. He must know how much I’d like to blow his brains out with his own gun. But he obviously thrives on danger, and despite my violent dreams I don’t really have it in me. Expect he knows that too.

The last weekend in every month Maman is permitted to kill a specially authorised chicken so she can produce Sunday dinner for half a dozen Gestapo officers. Because of Etienne being local his family has to entertain his superiors pretty regularly, and of course the Nazis know the food is better on the farm than in town. I spent the whole three hours of their last visit gripping my Colt .32 so tightly that four days later my hand is still stiff. By squinting sideways through the slats in the barn wall I could just make out the bonnet of their gleaming Mercedes-Benz where they left it parked in the courtyard, and got a glimpse of the hem of the captain’s long leather coat which caught on the mudguard as they got back in.

It was La Cadette, the little sister, who told me about the visit. La Cadette is really called Amélie. Seems a bit daft not to write the family’s names now, as the Nazis are so familiar with them anyway. But I’ve come to think of the Thibauts as simply Maman and Papa, and I can’t think of Mitraillette as Gabrielle-Thérèse any more than I can think of Julie as Katharina. The family lets Amélie do most of the talking when the Nazis occupy their kitchen – she appears to have a head full of feathers, but utterly charms the visitors with her fluent Alsatian German. Everybody likes her.

They try to make this monthly visit informal – everyone wearing civilian clothes, though they all defer to the Gestapo captain as if he were the King of England. Both Mitraillette and her sister agree he’s dead scary – calm and soft-spoken – never says anything without consideration. About the same age as Papa Thibaut, the farmer. His subordinates all live in terror of him. The captain doesn’t make favourites of anyone, but he likes talking to Amélie and brings her a small gift every time he comes. This time it was a matchbook embossed with the crest of the hotel they’ve taken over for their offices – C d B, Château de Bordeaux. Amélie has passed it on to me, sweet of her, but I’m not keen to set fire to anything in here!

They start with drinks. The men all stand about the kitchen sipping cognac, La Cadette serving, Mitraillette sitting awkwardly in a corner with the sullen German lass who gets dragged everywhere as the captain’s secretary/valet/slave-girl – she’s also their driver. Doesn’t take cognac with the men, as her hands are full holding the captain’s file folder and gloves and hat during all the small talk.

Today the brother, Etienne, had a great big ugly lump on his forehead over his left eye – quite fresh, a purple bruise with a bloody dent in the centre, still swollen. La Cadette was all over him with sympathy, Maman and Mitraillette a bit more restrained. They didn’t dare ask how he got it – well, his little sister did dare, but he wouldn’t tell her – he was also thoroughly embarrassed by the attention, the fuss being made in front of his boss and two colleagues and the other girl too.

So La Cadette turns to the captain and asks, ‘Does Etienne spend the whole working day scrapping with people? He might as well be back in school!’

‘Your brother’s very well-behaved,’ the captain answers. ‘But sometimes a vicious prisoner reminds us how dangerous a policeman’s work can be.’

‘Is your work dangerous too?’

‘No,’ he tells her blandly. ‘I have a desk job. All I do is talk to people.’

‘Vicious prisoners,’ she points out.

‘That’s why I have your brother to guard me.’

At this point the slave-girl secretary sniggers very, very quietly behind her hand – pretending to clear her throat and making a sketchy wave at Etienne’s bruised head – and she murmurs to Mitraillette beside her, ‘A woman did that.’

‘Did he deserve it?’ Mitraillette whispers back.

The secretary shrugs.

It is HELL not knowing what has happened, or what is happening to Julie. More than three weeks now, already into November. Complete silence – she might as well be on the dark side of the moon. Incredible, what slender threads you begin to hang your hopes on.

They don’t interrogate many women in Ormaie – usually send them straight to prison in Paris, I think. I am sure my heart actually stopped, for a second, when I heard it, and again writing it down.

‘A woman did that.’

Don’t know whether I’m disappointed or relieved – spent most of yesterday (Sun. 7 Nov.) trying to get out of France and now I’m back here in the same old barn – exhausted but whizzing. I’m able to write because it’s getting light already and Paul gave me a Benzedrine tablet last night to keep me going.

Glad to have these notes back. I left them here so as not to have them on me if I was caught during the 50-mile trek to the landing field. Of course as I’ve told myself a million times I shouldn’t be making the blasted notes in the first place, but I think I’ll take them with me next time. Felt a bit like I was pulling myself apart to leave them here, and it’s a treasonable offence to lose my Pilot’s Notes.

Rode in the boot of a small auto belonging to a chum of Papa Thibaut’s, a Citroën Rosalie – 4-cylinder engine, at least ten years old, running – just – on a disgusting mix of coal tar and sugar-beet ethanol. Poor engine hates it – coughing and spluttering the whole way – suppose I’m lucky I didn’t asphyxiate in the exhaust. Papa Thibaut has got a delivery van of his own for the farm, but it and his driver are so carefully regulated that they don’t dare use them for Resistance activity. On yesterday’s trip, a Sunday afternoon, there were no less than six checkpoints to get through, more than one every ten miles. They don’t always know where the checkpoints will be and it was a good way to find out so we could avoid them on the way home after curfew. I was in the back with a wicker picnic hamper and also a couple of chickens – laying hens – which were legitimately being taken to another farm. The fuss made over the chickens at the checkpoints is not to be believed. Unlike me, they had their own papers.

Dead clever distraction though. As soon as anyone opened the boot, which they did at half the checkpoints, the chickens began to carry on like – well, like chickens! The difficulty for me, curled at the back of the boot under empty feed sacks, was not in trying to avoid heart failure every time somebody looked in on us, but in managing not to give myself away with hysterical laughter.

It took ages to get to the landing field – getting dark when we arrived, minus hens which had been dropped off at their final destination. I had to wait in my hiding place for nearly an hour while the hen transaction was completed, but they saved a sandwich and a drop of cognac for me. Then on to the field, bit of an uphill slope, but not too bad, unfortunately some high power cables in the approach which I didn’t like the look of at all and ultimately neither did the pilot who didn’t land there – I’ll get to that –

In addition to me and the hens, our carload included Papa Thibaut’s friend the driver, Papa Thibaut for authenticity of chicken sales, Amélie and Mitraillette for authenticity of Sunday picnic, and Paul for general knowledge and execution of plan. Paul sat between the girls the whole way with Amélie purring on his shoulder. She is a wizard actress, La Cadette. Under the back seat they had hidden a couple of Stens – Mitraillette’s namesake submachine gun – and a wireless set. The field was right up at the end of a dirt track, three wooden gates to open and shut on the way – ‘guards’ of our own posted on each gate already. They’d all arrived on bicycles, hidden in the wayside shrubs now – a few of the riders had doubled up so that when the aircraft passengers left, there wouldn’t be extra cycles to take back with them. The local ‘ground crew’ set up our radio by attaching it to the poor Rosalie’s battery and sticking the antenna up a tree which conveniently hid the car from the air, as well. Reception was all right at first, though as the wind picked up later it got more and more difficult to hear anything.

We crowded round the headset as the BBC came on air, two or three of us to an earphone –

– ICI LONDRES –