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Copyright 2014 Hidden Wirral
By Tony Franks-Buckley
Jim was slumped in his chair keeping warm from the wintery weather that was creeping into the room. The evening news was on the radio station, discussing the day’s events. Jim had been busy working on his half finished crossword for a couple of hours now; this was something that he enjoyed each day.
He lived alone and there was never much else to do on the island of Jersey, especially on the northern side of the island in which he lived. The windows and doors of the cottage were knocking and rattling in motion with the gusts of wind that had engulfed the island. In the distance the bells were ringing from the parish church indicating it was ten o’clock.
There was a knocking at the door, which alerted Jim to look up from his newspaper, which he quickly dismissed as only the wind; he got back to his crossword. A few seconds later the knocking came again, he got up from his chair and proceeded to look out of the window. As he opened the curtains there was nobody there.
“Damn wind” He said whilst closing over the curtains and returned to sit in his wooden chair, which clicked just like his old knees that had seen better days. Just as he had became comfy once again, the door knocked once more, but this time it was much louder. Jim slammed down his newspaper and again arose out of his chair and without checking the window he approached the door.
After unlocking the two large iron bolts followed by the latch, the door creaked open and through the blistering snow, Jim could just about make out a figure covered in a thick overcoat.
“Who goes there” He shouted through the strong blistering winds.
“Hello dear sir, I was wondering if you could help me. My ship has become washed up on the shore and I am unable to reach my destination in this weather. Could I trouble you for a bite to eat and roof over my head for the night.” The man asked as he removed the scarf to reveal his face. Jim gave the stranger a good looking over before responding........
”Come in, come in.” He said whilst stepping back from the door.
The man hobbled inside, the cold temperatures had set in throughout the bones in his body for sure. Jim threw a couple of logs and lumps of coal onto the fire raising the heat within the room.
“Here, here give me your coat and get by the fire, you’re frozen through.” He said whilst walking over to take the unbuttoned coat off the stranger.
“Thank you, you are too kind.” The stranger replied whilst kneeling in front of the fire rubbing his ice cold hands.
Jim went into the kitchen; a pan was still on the stove from earlier, which Jim turned on the gas to reheat before returning back into the front room.
“I am warming you some soup, will potato and leek do?” he asked.
The stranger was starting to improve from the warmth of the fire.
“That would be absolutely delicious, just what I need right now.”
Jim sat back down in the chair, looking at the stranger giving him a good look over.
“So, what is your name and where was you heading?” Jim asked curiously.
The stranger turned from the fire and was now sat looking directly at Jim still shivering.
“My name is Elliot sir, Elliot Tarnby. I have been travelling from France heading for the North-West coast of England. My ship was caught in the storm and was pushed upon the shores of this island.” Elliot turned back to the fire and began to rub his hands back together.
“Mr Tarnby, you do realise that the year is 1942 and we are at war, how in the heavens did you make it away from the shores of France?” Jim asked.
There was a sound of rattling coming from the kitchen as the lid danced upon the pan.
“Ah the soup, I nearly forgot, I won’t be a minute.” Jim said as he hurried out of his chair to the pan which was starting to boil frantically.
Jim served the soup in a metallic bowl, braking off a crust of bread to accompany the warm delights of potatoes and leeks, before returning to Elliot who was making full use of the warm fire.
“Here you go, this will warm you, it was my mother’s recipe one of the best.”
Elliot accepted the tray from the hands of Jim and began to eat in a rather fast manner, for he had not eaten for several days.
“You see, you say how we are at war with the Germans, I have not actually been fighting in the war exactly.” Elliot said in between mouthfuls of soup.
“You’re not at war; you must be in your early thirties, everybody your age is required to register for the war.” William said slightly confused.
“Ah, but I said I had not been fighting in the war, I did not say that I was not involved in the war. There is a difference.” Elliot replied whilst finishing off the bowl of soup. He then used his bread to clean up the remaining puddles situated around the bowl, ensuring that none went wasted. Jim waited until Elliot had finished before asking his next question.
“So what exactly have you been doing in the war then, if as you say you have not been fighting Germany?” He leaned a little out of his chair in anticipation, awaiting Elliot’s reply.
“Well, in 1933 when the rise of the Socialist Workers Party began, I was specially chosen along with nineteen other men to join an elite task force. For three years we spent hours of gruelling training sessions, preparing ourselves physically and mentally. We trained in all weathers, in the daytime and sometimes at night.”
Jim had become intrigued by Elliot’s story and moved his chair closer towards the fire.
“Be a good lad and pass me that bottle from behind you.” Jim said as he pointed to the bottle of whiskey on the mantelpiece. After pouring two glasses, Jim remained silent waiting for Elliot to continue his story.
“So, once our training was complete we were given our first task.” Elliot took a sip out of his glass, just enough to send a burning sensation down his throat.
“We were given the first task, and that task was to infiltrate the German ranks and retrieve information on what Hitler and his Generals had in store, to try and prevent war from happening.” Elliot took another sip.
“Well you obviously failed your task because as you can see, we are at war.” Jim said whilst pouring out more whiskey into the two glasses.
“We managed to steal vital information from a few loudmouthed drunken generals, which actually prevented the war from starting, the information we took was plans to attack London in 1936, in an attempt to gain power over parliament and all of its ministers. Following the failure of the proposed invasion, it was then that Hitler diverted his attentions towards the Jews.” Elliot drank some more whiskey to moisten his lips which were still burning from the hot bowl of soup.
“After Hitler had found out who had leaked the information to our team, he had them assassinated, all but one were shot.”
Jim began to take larger intakes of whiskey as he listened to what Elliot was saying.
“You say all but one of them was shot, what happened to the other person, did he survive?”
Elliot’s throat was violently burning and his voice was pitching at a higher note; maybe due to the fact he had not drunk whiskey in many years, never mind several glasses of it in succession.
“The last survivor managed to escape after hearing of our plans to inform London. I never did see his face, nor did he ever see mine.” He said whilst looking up at Jim, who was staring back.
“Apparently he was last seen boarding a cargo plane from Berlin to France.”
Jim leant back in his chair, stopped to think for a moment before he asked his next question.
“So what did you do once you finished the mission?”
“We all got assigned new roles throughout the forces. Some joined the forces at sea and some joined the growing land forces. But three of us remained as a unit.”
“How about some cheese, would you like some?” Jim asked.
“I would love some, thank you” Elliot replied.
Jim got out of his chair and walked into the kitchen. After grabbing the block of cheese that he placed specially on a wooden board he carried it through to the front room along with a sharp knife and a packet of crackers. He pulled over a small table that and placed the items down so that they were placed in the middle of himself and Elliot. He sliced a few sections of the matured cheese up one by one in equal blocks, so that Elliot could help himself, which he did without hesitation placing a piece on a slightly stale cracker, biting into it as if he had not tasted cheese in a long time, in which he had not.
“Delicious.” He said, as he tasted the strong creamy blend activate his taste buds like they had not been tantalised in a very long time.
“So you say that you and two others continued together. What did you do next?” Jim asked.
“Well the war finally broke out and officials in London advised us to keep a low profile and blend in with the locals in Paris. We became part of the resistance movement and helped many Jews hide from the Nazi’s. But apparently there was somebody else in the area, supplying the Nazi’s with information and many of the Jews were caught and we had to flee before our cover was blown. So we moved on to Rouen and blended in with the locals there.”
Elliot felt like another slice of cheese, but there was only the block remaining and Jim was clinging onto the knife.
“Excuse me sir” Elliot said as he pointed to the knife.
Jim hesitated before passing it over to the waiting hand of Elliot.
“Thank you. Yes we spent the next year living in Rouen and made several friends and again became part of a resistance group in which we hid many more Jews from the Nazi’s.” Elliot took another large bite out of the cheese and cracker; he really was enjoying its strong and creamy taste. Jim refilled the two glasses with more whiskey, which he was starting to drink in higher volume.
“So what about you Jim, what have you done with your life?” Elliot asked.
“Well I was born here and have lived here all my life, just worked on the farm and a few other things, pretty basic but a happy life, not much to tell really.” He took another sip of his drink.
“So tell me, you had been living in Rouen for nearly a year, what happened next?”
“Well we were living amongst the people and some of us become more settled than expected, becoming lovers with a couple of French girls. I myself met a lovely girl, full of character with a loving heart. However this was not to last long, our movements were tracked and the Nazi’s had been searching the whole city looking for us. Apparently they had been tipped off by the same person that had been watching my team’s movements in Paris. Late one evening, they came into out quarters and opened fire killing everybody within the building. I was out helping the resistance preparing to move more Jews across the border to Spain. Upon my return I found my dear Sophia riddled with bullets, she never had a chance,”
Elliot took a larger sip of whiskey to hold back his tears.
“That is a very sad story, so why are you heading back to the North-West of England. Is that were you are from?” Jim asked.
“I contacted headquarters and told them of our situation, or should I say mine. They told me to hang fire and go underground into hiding and will send instructions as soon as possible. That was six months ago. I waited patiently each day, hiding amongst the people whom I had befriended, helping out where I could. Then finally a message came through of a new assignment, this assignment I was happy to complete more than any other. So I managed to capture a boat and set course for England.” Elliot gulped down the last of the whiskey in his glass.
“So you’re heading back to England to complete your next mission then?” Jim asked.
“I said I was setting sail for England, I did not say where the mission was going to be, some secrets cannot be told. It is treason after all.”
“My apologies” Jim said as he tried to calm down the tension that was building in the room.
“You seem to be a man who has lived many years Jim. I am sure you have many tales to tell yourself.” Elliot asked.
“Not really, I just work on the farm; tend to the cattle and sheep. A farmer never has many tales to tell apart from the livestock that has passed through each year.”
“Well I am sure the last two years have been quite a strain for you.”
“How do you mean it is just the same as any really?” Jim said.
“Well you have been occupied by the Nazi’s for the last two years, is this not the island of Jersey?” Elliot asked.
“Well, yes, I see what you mean now. We may have suffered a little bomb damage and loss of life, but nothing of great significance, the invasion passed through smoothly with minimal damage.”
“Bit of look that really wasn’t it, the harbour being targeted and your farm situated on the other side of the island. I would call that quite a blessing from god, would you not agree?” Elliot said as he twirled the silver crossed pendant in his fingers.
“You could say something like that yes.” Jim replied.
Elliot got up off the floor and headed across to his coat.
“Here, let me show you a picture of Sophia.” He reached into his coat pocket to pull out the picture, in which he then took to Jim to admire.
“You see, I never actually told you what my last mission was did I.” Elliot said whilst standing over a Jim who was now slumped in his chair in a state of paralytic shock at the sight of the photograph.
“When I was contacted by headquarters they told me that the next mission would be the completion of an old mission. The capture of the last surviving member of the generals who defied Hitler, yet this one never really defied Hitler and was never in fear of being killed. For this man was a close friend of Hitler himself and fought in the same unit during the Great War. That friendship also got him promoted when Hitler came to power.”
Jim’s hand was shaking as he raised the glass to his mouth.
“Just like Hitler he was also not a German but was the son of a farmer from a little island called Jersey, fancy that hey what are the odds, but how did he get back in the good books of the Fuhrer? Maybe he did this by demonstrating his complete loyalty, handing over vital information and layouts of his home island. Resulting in the capture of the island in July 1940”
Jim’s hands were now gripping the two arms of the chair; his hands were turning white with strain, matching the colour that his face had also turned.
“From displaying this loyalty, he was brought back into the game and became a part of Hitler’s secret intelligence service based in France.”
Elliot put his arm round behind his back, lifting up his green jumper and pulled out the revolver that was stuffed down the back of his trousers.
“If I was to say to you Lerne leiden ohne zu klagen (Learn suffer without to complain) what would you say hey Jim?”
Jim arose from his chair and raised his arm out to a forty-five degree angle, standing up straight with his face looking directly forwards.
He simply replied. “Heil Hitler”
Elliot raised his revolver and placed it firmly against Jim’s head.
Closing his eyes and he pulled the trigger.
I guess, my interest of the World War II inspired me to write this short story. This was another attempt of moving away from Historical fact as well as Novel writing. I finished this story before I had completed The Inventor's Quest, in aim of focusing on pure short fiction stories. Having now finished my other novel, I will continue with work on short Fiction Works, Who knows what I will create next? Enjoy the Story.