Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1)

2,830
05.03.2019

‘In trouble’ with Paul, yeccchhh.

He and I bicycled off together to someone else’s house to refine my bomb-making and gun-firing skills. It is such a relief to focus on some neutral thing – how much plastic explosive you need to blow up a car, how to wire up the switches, how to use a magnet to attach a detonator, how to hit a moving target with a pocket pistol – a borrowed one, as Käthe doesn’t normally carry a gun since she would get arrested if she was caught with it. Thank you, Jamie and Julie Beaufort-Stuart, for the first few shooting lessons. Today’s moving target was not an Me-109 or a pheasant, but an empty tin on a stick, waved about by a very brave soul at the other end of the garden. The noise is hidden by the sound of a sawmill adjacent to the house. I don’t know if they normally work on a Sunday afternoon or if the noise was laid on specially for us.

‘It is a pity we cannot keep you, Kittyhawk,’ said the man whose house it was. ‘You were born to be a soldier.’

Huh. Makes me quite puffed up with pride and yet fills me with scorn all at the same time – what rubbish! I wasn’t born to be a soldier. There’s a war on, so I’m delivering aeroplanes. But I don’t go looking for adventure or excitement, and I jolly well don’t go around picking fights with people. I like making things work. I love flying.

Have to remind myself I am still Maddie – haven’t heard my own name for 7 weeks. And my stunt double Käthe is going to be pushed to her limits in the next few days.

She – I – am supposed to deliver the message – invitation? – to Julie’s recruit, the German slave-girl secretary, Engel. Why me? Because I’m not local and with luck I won’t still be here after the next full moon. Engel doesn’t know my face, very few people do. But I hadn’t ever seen her before today, so we arranged for me to get a good look at her before I have to approach her in the street tomorrow. Paul and I came back to the Thibauts’ farm before the Nazi visitors left, and we waited – waited – waited for them to come out.

We’d closed the gate. So the Gestapo Mercedes had to stop, and Engel, who is their driver, had to get out to open the gate.

There was me, standing at the side of the road with my murdered man’s bicycle, waiting well back from the Merc with my head down and wearing one of Maman Thibaut’s motherly kerchiefs. There was Paul, feeling up the German girl bold as brass – I am sure no one gave me a second glance because what a performance he put on. He let the poor lass get the gate open about a foot or so then put one of his big hands over hers, to help, right, but he managed to get his other hand spread across her bum as they pushed the gate open together. I think it is safe to say she now hates him as much as I do. She scurried back to the car clutching her coat and skirt tight round her legs, and Etienne was in the back seat laughing.

But all Paul’s fooling about did give me a good look at her. She’s tall, about my age, dark brown hair in a severe crimped bob, a bit old-fashioned. Astonishing pale green eyes. Not pretty but interesting – she’d probably be a knockout in a red cocktail dress, but looked dead frowny and drab in her sensible shoes and dust-coloured overcoat.

Oh, I sound like Julie. ‘I say, Nazi Slave-Girl, you’d look super if you’d let me have a go at your eyebrows.’

So Engel stormed back to the car and stalled it getting into gear – she was that angry. Started it up again right away though, pulled away smoothly – didn’t even look at Paul as she drove off, left him to close the gate himself.

Don’t think any of them noticed me; they were far too busy watching the Paul and Engel romantic comedy.

I got a look at the Gestapo captain too.

I know I was supposed to keep my head down. But I couldn’t stop myself gaping a little. That is the man who interrogated Julie, the man who will order her execution – or who already has. I don’t know what I expected, but he just looked like anybody – like the sort of chap who would come into the shop and buy a motorbike for his lad’s 16th birthday – like your headmaster. But also – he looked like he was on his knees. Dog-tired, absolutely haggard with it. He looked like he hadn’t slept for a week. The pilots all looked like that in September of ’40, during the worst days of the Battle of Britain – the vicar’s lad looked like that, running out to his plane, the day he was killed.

I didn’t know then – I mean, I didn’t know earlier today, when I saw the captain’s face and thought how tired and worried he seemed – but I know now that the Ormaie Gestapo is in uproar not only because of the captain having made the mistake about allowing Penn’s interview, but also because they have been burgled. Mitraillette dragged this out of Slave-Girl Engel during the ritual cognac at the Thibauts’. A set of keys went missing for an hour early last week and then turned up again in the wrong place, and nobody can account for the time they were gone. Every single one of the staff has been grilled by the captain and tomorrow the captain himself goes to be grilled by his commander, the dreadful Nikolaus Ferber.

If I were the captain I would clamp a muzzle on Engel – fairly certain she’s not supposed to leak information like that. Well – if she won’t come to us willingly perhaps we can blackmail her – now’s our chance –

And it’s down to me to pull her in. Can’t believe I told that intelligence officer I couldn’t do this kind of work! Couldn’t be more anxious than I am anyway – so relieved to be doing anything useful. Don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight though. I keep thinking about what Theo said after my first Lysander ferry flight – ‘We might as well be operational –’

FLY THE PLANE, MADDIE

Horrid dream about guillotines. All in French, probably very bad French – never imagined I could dream in French! I was using Etienne’s pocket knife to tighten up screws attaching a cable that lifted the blade, to make sure it would fall cleanly. Sickening – if it was a messy death it would all be my fault. I kept thinking, It works just like a choke – C’est comme un starter –

Aye right, miss, as Jock would say.

If I don’t end up in that foul hotel courtyard with my head in a tin washtub it will be a blooming miracle.

I sat in Amélie’s favourite café for an hour waiting for an old man whose name I don’t know to tell me, ‘L’ange descend en dix minutes – ’ Ten minutes till the angel comes down. That meant Engel had gone to get the car out of the garage so she can take the Gestapo captain to meet his dreadful C.O. Then all I had to do was walk past the front of the hotel just as she was ushering him into the car, and hand her a lipstick with a slip of paper hidden in the sleeve, which tells her where we have arranged her own personal cachette – if she wants to make contact with the Resistance she can leave a note in the kids’ café, folded in a linen handkerchief which is wedged beneath a table leg to stop it rocking.

Of course she can also set a trap for me now, since I will have to collect the note and she knows it.

You know what? If she’s going to rat on me she doesn’t need to set a trap. If she’s going to rat on me I’m already dead.

When I caught up with her this afternoon I knelt quickly at her feet, as though she’d lost something, when really it was me planting it there. Then I stood up and held out the little shiny tube. I smiled like an idiot and spoke half a dozen of the two dozen words I know in German.

‘Verzeihung, aber Sie haben Ihren Lippenstift fallengelassen – ’ Excuse me, you dropped your lipstick.

The captain was already inside the car and Engel hadn’t opened her own door yet. He couldn’t hear us. I wouldn’t be able to understand anything she answered, so I was just supposed to smile sweetly and if she didn’t take the lipstick I was supposed to say ‘Es tut mir leid, daß es doch nicht Ihr Lippenstift war –’ I’m sorry, it wasn’t your lipstick after all.

She looked down at the gold tube, frowning, then looked up at my bland, gormless grin.

She asked curiously, and in English, ‘Are you Maddie Brodatt?’

It’s a good thing I was already smiling. I just sort of let the smile sit frozen on my face. Felt utterly false, as though I had on a mask – like I was wearing someone else’s face. But I didn’t stop smiling. I shook my head.

‘Käthe Habicht,’ I said.

She nodded once – like a bow. She took the lipstick, and opened the driver’s door of the Mercedes, and climbed in.

‘Danke, Käthe,’ she said before she shut the door. Thanks, Käthe. Dead casual. Informal and cheeky, as though I were a little girl.

As she drove away I remembered that Käthe isn’t supposed to understand English.

Fly the plane.

I wish I could, I wish, I WISH I HAD CONTROL.

I’m not dead yet and we’ve got Engel’s answer. I collected it myself, getting quite confident about cycling into town as Mitraillette always uses the same checkpoint – they know me now, and wave me through without bothering to check my papers. Engel’s left us Julie’s scarf. I didn’t recognise it at first; it was lying under the table in the café and the lad who sweeps the floors handed it to me. ‘C’est à vous?’ – Is this yours? I didn’t know what it was, at first – a wad of dull grey cloth – but when I touched it I realised it was silk, so I took it, in case it was important. I knotted it round my neck, smiling my idiot’s smile – ‘Merci.’ Thanks.

I sat there for ten more minutes, my stomach turning over with fear and excitement, forcing myself to finish a bowl of the most horrid phoney coffee ever brewed, so I wouldn’t look suspicious leaving in a hurry.

Bicycled home like a demon, pulled the crumpled silk from round my neck and spread it flat on my bed in Etienne’s room. That’s when I realised it was Julie’s Parisian silk scarf –

I was only little when Dad died, but I remember how I used to open the drawer where he kept his ties, before Gran cleared them out, and take a big sniff. And the ties all smelled like Dad, still – like cherry tobacco and cologne and a whiff of motor oil. I loved the smell of those ties. It brought him back.

Julie’s scarf doesn’t smell like Julie any more. I did stick my nose in it. It smells like carbolic soap. Like a school. Or a prison, I suppose. There’s ink smeared all over one corner and the silk’s all perished down the middle, as though she and Engel have been playing tug of war with it.

That chemical smell, sweet and tarry. Not like Julie at all. It reminded me that Penn told us Engel is a chemist.

I ran downstairs. ‘Tu cherches Gabrielle-Thérèse – you want my sister?’ asked La Cadette, glancing up from her schoolbooks at the kitchen table.

‘Oui – tout de suite – right now. I need an iron – a hot iron – oh bother –’ Frustration, I had no idea how to say it. Mimed ironing. That kid is so sharp – got it right away, tossed Maman’s irons into the kitchen fire to hot up, pointed me to the ironing board and ran for her sister.