Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by ADMIN-TOM
Walking Away from Midnight
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Albert steered his Citroen 7 through the wide street of the Rue de Rivoli, turning left into a side street. The erratic swish-swash of the windscreen wipers toiling to clear the fine spray of drizzle constantly landing on the screen made Albert peer hard into the misty gloom. He guessed he was where he should be and brought the car to a final stop a few metres down. Albert sat with the engine idling, waiting for a sign. The drizzle made it hard to see anything let alone a sign, and the windscreen wipers jerked their way across the glass, smearing rather than clearing the fine rain. Nevertheless, Albert saw the sign, which duly appeared a few metres further on. A man, stood close to a barber’s chop, pulled out a red handkerchief, removed his straw boater hat and wiped his face.
A straw boater in this weather? A little too incongruous for me.
Albert shut the engine off and opened the car door. With a grunt, he squeezed himself out of the tight-fitting Citroen, stood and stretched. He shut the car door and walked slowly toward the man now wearing the boater and using the red handkerchief to wipe the sleeve of his dark red blazer, its gold buttons twinkled in the early afternoon sunlight.
As Albert approached, the man turned fully toward him and made a show of surprise.
“My dear, Albert,” the man said loudly in an effusive show of delight. He walked the few remaining paces to Albert and grasped Albert’s hands, shaking them up and down vigorously. “What a pleasant surprise. What brings you here on a sunny Sunday?”
“I decided I needed a haircut.”
The secret phrases dispensed with both men regarded each other with a little bit of suspicion, topped with a degree of urgency. In Albert’s role he was expected to follow up mysterious messages and carry out clandestine meetings with other Military Attachés from other embassies. But this time it was different. There was a war coming, time was precious and both men knew it.
“Forgive me for being impolite and not introducing myself. But you appreciate, these days it pays to keep one’s business to oneself. I have the rotors for the machine. Once fitted and calibrated, the German’s secret transmissions will be a secret no more.”
“Very well,” Albert said. “I’m told Paris and London are already working on the code machines and all they need is the final rotors to complete their work.”
“I would not put my trust in the work Paris is doing.”
“No, I do not mean to cast aspersions, they, the French, are good people, but the Germans, when they attack, will be in Paris within days. Should the cryptographers be caught, all is lost. No, this device needs to go to London, as soon as possible.”
“Fine,” Albert said, producing a dark red suitcase from nowhere. He opened the briefcase, and the man plunged his left hand into his expansive dark mackintosh and pulled out a small bundle, wrapped in oily cloth. He dropped the package into Albert’s briefcase and turned to leave.
“Do you not want a receipt?” Albert asked.
The man looked over his shoulder. “You are British, always the stiff-upper lip. I am glad to be rid of it. That which is now in your possession, can be a death sentence if certain people find you have it.” And with that he was gone, into the building and moving as far from Albert as possible as quickly as possible.
“You must ensure this is kept both secret from anyone who approaches you and from my family. I should have been doing this errand myself but have no time to ensure it is completed. So, I rely on you Basil. Make sure you get this to my brother at the house.”
Albert’s diplomatic chauffer nodded, taking the proffered briefcase from his boss.
“Very well, sir. I’ll do my best.”
Albert watched as Basil walked to the Citroen, he had used the day before, got in, started the engine and with a wave from the open window drove out of the courtyard and onto the road.
Albert sighed heavily. He allowed himself one last look at the departing car before entering the embassy.
“I hope this goes well,” he muttered to himself as he opened the side door into the embassy and walked in.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2022
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