Thanks for coming back to read yet another episode of FLIGHT AT PEENEMÜNDE. That's a real vote of confidence.
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Petersholme remains in East Prussia. After his Lordship has been wrapped around a small, 5 yo finger, he finds himself pulled deeper into the maelstrom that Molloy had placed him. He is awakened by a Polish agent who has been assigned to help him get the scientists out and learn what he can of the German rocket programme. There are things afoot that Molloy failed to inform him about or had only alluded to. The danger zone is fast approaching.
The emphasis swings back to the thriller theme in Germany, and most of the rest of the story will be centred in East Prussia.
The copyright to FLIGHT belongs to me. It cannot be reprinted in any medium without my express permission. If you're under 16-18 yos, you shouldn't be reading stories from the Nifty archives -- however, this story will not lead you into orgasmic prurience (mum and dad can read it over your shoulder, in other words). If you enjoy reading stories being stored at Nifty and are desirous that they remain free, donate a couple of bucks to Nifty so that they will continue being free to you.
I was pulled out of the soundest sleep by -- something. I thought I had heard a noise but, now as I strained to hear, there was only silence. I lay in the dark, my eyes open, and looked about the room without moving my head. And sought to understand what could have awoke me.
The curtain fluttered at the opened window, pulling my attention there. I forced myself to relax when I remembered I had left it open when I retired. I smiled to myself then, accepting that perhaps a gust of wind had done the deed.
In my peripheral vision, a shadow moved near the door. So softly that there was no noise and so slowly that I was not sure I had seen it, though I had. I moved my head in that direction, knowing now that it had been the door opening and closing that had awoken me.
Tensed now that I had something physical to connect with my awakening, I continued to lay still and waited for whoever it was to move again.
My imagination dredged up men from the Gestapo dressed in their cheap suits, slinking into my room to take me without Janus' knowledge. Men who obeyed no law -- moral or legal -- like the rubbish at the central railway station when I arrived in Berlin. I could see young Dagold Jorsten marching me to the walls of the stable so that other black uniformed men could line up and shoot me. And young Willi in his high, child's voice giving the order to fire.
Perspiration beaded across my forehead even in the night-chilled room. I struggled to remain calm but was rapidly losing to my rampant fears. I had almost begun to sit up and jump towards where I had seen the movement.
A thick, callused hand covered my mouth and pushed my head back into the pillows. "It is I, Herr Baron Petersholme, the Polish agent who is to watch out for you," a male voice whispered against my ear. Somehow, my heart found its way out of my throat and back into my chest where it belonged. "Will you not give alarm?" the voice asked in strangely accented German. I nodded and his hand left my mouth.
I was not at sure what I would do to Maximillian Molloy once I was returned to London, but do something I would. I had lost ten years of life to the fear of the few moments I'd lain there under the Polish agent's power. Molloy deserved nothing less. It is what friends got for putting their pals in such situations. I was exceedingly pleased that I'd not had a coronary right there and then.
"May I sit up?" I asked in a similar whisper.
"Of course, my Lord. Only, you may not turn on the lights. The Schloß has been under Gestapo observation for the past three days."
My eyes widened. Did von Kys know? What sort of bloody hell did the Third Reich visit upon those who served it? "Under observation?" I asked quietly.
"The two local bullies. They have nothing else to do so they sit in the wood behind the Schloß and freeze during the night." He chuckled softly. "Perhaps someone thought it was a good way to be rid of them."
"But you are here?"
The agent snorted. "I am intelligent, Herr Baron -- although it takes very little to deceive the two brothers who operated the local abattoir before someone in Berlin made them policemen." He stood then. "I am Colonel Alexis Kolawaski, Army Intelligence, Republic of Poland."
I smiled and reached out in his direction. His hand found mine and grasped it. "I'm happy to meet you, Colonel Kolawaski. But how did you get in?"
He chuckled. "Remember, I am the lover of young Wilhelm's nurse. I have also been ordered to make myself available to you if you require assistance."
"Do you know why I am here?"
"To learn if the Germans have a rocket programme and, if so, the extent of that programme."
I nodded, studying the burly man I had seen in the potato field earlier in the day. London had certainly had great faith in my abilities; I wondered why Molloy even bothered to enlist me on this little adventure. He could have just sent me off singing "God Save The King". He probably thought I could have walked across the Channel. "Is that your assignment as well?"
Alexis grunted angrily. "Six months ago, elements in Warsaw woke up to the possibility of a German menace. I was ordered to develop a picture of that from inside Germany. Once I was here and the Graf had me well hidden in his service, London apparently asked my country to learn what we could about Peenemünde as well."
"There is a German menace to Poland," I told him, remembering my earlier discussion with Janus.
"I knew that within the first week that I was in the country," he snorted. "There are ten divisions of Wehrmacht massed within twenty kilometres of the border. There are another forty divisions placed at several other points along the Corridor."
"It sounds as if they are ready."
"No, Baron Petersholme. Not yet. They will take the rump that is left of Czechoslovakia and digest it before they move against my country. It will come in another six months to a year, however -- and my country shall fall quickly."
"How do you know that?"
The Pole sighed and stood. "We have handsome young men mounted on the most attractive horseflesh in the world. Those young men have beautifully ornate swords. They look much like your Guards units trooping the colours before Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the Germans have Stuka divebombers and mechanised infantry. They will slice through us as if they were a hot knife cutting through butter. Poland's army is like a group of young boys playing at war, Germany's army is a well-oiled war machine. Remember, Berlin has already trained this army in the Spanish Civil War that brought that Generalismo Franco to power."
A gust of wind blew against the curtain and it became a ghostly streamer stretching out into the room. Kolawaski jumped and turned at its touch, his whole body stiffening. A horse whinnied in the stables and its sound reached us in the still night.
"I fear I have grown too old to do this sort of work," the Polish agent grumbled and turned from the window.
"How does Warsaw view your intelligence then, Colonel?" I asked, remembering that Molloy had voiced no concern over Poland.
Kolawaski snorted derisively. "The government is short-sighted as only reactionary governments can be. When the German intentions become obvious -- in the few months before they attack us -- then official Warsaw will wake up. Until then, Berlin's diplomats tell us that all is well between us and we believe them."
I nodded. London had much the same problem. Chamberlain had no intention of waking Britain with something as inconsequential as war on the continent. His backers among the Tories were still worried at what sort of mischief Gandhi would next start in India.
He walked to the large window and gazed out at the night. "My position has become difficult these past three weeks, Herr Baron." He turned to face me. "The Waffen-SS has begun rounding up ethnic Poles in this far eastern area of Prussia. The old, women and children -- they are being taken to the border and sent across. The Nazi, however, keep the single men they find for more extensive questioning -- so they say. But those young, single men disappear into the interior."
"That would endanger you..."
"It does. Yet, my papers show me to be a German born in Gdansk -- that's Danzig to the Germans. I did grow up there but, if someone intelligent enough questioned me, they would wonder how the son of a pre-war German shipfitter came to be forking potatoes in hectolitre baskets -- it wouldn't fit."
"And you have the information on German troop movements you came for?" He nodded. "You shall be going home soon then."
He nodded. "I waited for you to arrive. To learn if you would need me."
"My situation seems satisfactory at the moment."
"I have some of the information you were sent to gather."
I studied him closely. There was no sense in duplicating our efforts and endangering me for no reason at all. Mine was but a fishing expedition. Between what I had learnt from von Kys and what this man had seen on the ground here, Whitehall would have enough to begin piecing together what the Germans were doing out here. "Will your people allow MI-6 to debrief you then?"
He nodded and returned to the side of my bed to face me again. "I need you to help me return safely to Poland," he said, his voice barely loud enough to hear as he made his admission and asked for my help. "I take two scientists with me back to Poland, my Lord -- men from Peenemünde whose lives are increasingly at danger. Jews who, I am sure, soon enough will be in England. Will you help me get these men out of Germany?"
"Of course. How do you suggest we do it?"
"I'm not sure. Two months ago, we moved their families to Warsaw."
"A Polish trawler -- it took three dinghies to carry them all. One of them even had his grandmother and two aunts taken to Poland."
"We can use the same way out for you and these two men then."
"I doubt it." I arched my brow in question. "The Germans had not started to build their prototype rocket then -- and the edict to begin evicting ethnic Poles had not yet come from Berlin. Now, they patrol the coast much more thoroughly."
I attempted to imagine that but couldn't. I let it drop. "How long do we have then?"
"The Nürnburg racial laws were released in 1935 -- three years ago. Those laws said Jews could not work for German companies or own companies in Germany. But there were exceptions. The village with only one doctor who was Jewish. The secret government programme that needed more skill than just the German population permitted. I hear, however, that the party high command will terminate all exemptions very soon."
"Would that explain the Gestapo watching von Kys' home then?"
"Possibly. Von Kys is the only German supervising Jews within a hundred kilometres." He smiled tightly. "And those two know everything that Germany has done to develop rocketry. The Gestapo would naturally be watching their German contacts."
"How about their families? You got them out of the country two months ago, you said. Hasn't someone noticed that they were missing?"
Alexis Kolawaski chuckled softly. "Ah, but, Herr Baron, Jews are officially vermin in the new Germany -- as bad as lice, so it is said. This is official policy in the Third Reich. No intelligent German is going to notice lice as it would draw attention to him -- unless he is bitten by them. So, two families of officially designated vermin made it to the shore one moonless night and disappeared. No-one will have noticed, even people who were good friends before 1933 when the Nazis came to power."
"And the Gestapo?"
Again Kolawaski chuckled. "Remember what is the Gestapo here in this area. Those two boys are only marginally brighter than the cattle they once slaughtered at the abattoir. They have dreams of becoming great and close aides to the Reichsführer-SS himself -- they would not lower themselves to notice lice or the lack of such vermin."
"Will that be the case with these scientists then?"
"No. That is not possible. They have had access to state military secrets. And they are building a prototype or a rocket right now at Peenemünde. Presumably, that means that the von Kys team believe they have learnt enough to make one of these things fly. Those two Jews do not have a life ten minutes after the Gestapo arrests them. Berlin will only be satisfied with a report of their deaths and their identification in hand."
"My God!" I groaned, finally understanding what it was like to be German in Nazi Germany. "Listen, Kolawaski, those two are watching the Schloß because those scientists are going to be picked up tomorrow."
He studied me for several moments before asking: "Why do you think that?"
"Von Kys intends to invite his team here tomorrow." I tried to remember what he'd said about it. "They're going to do something at Peenemünde tomorrow -- if it goes well, everyone is invited to a celebration dinner."
"So!" The man nodded to himself. "That would explain all of the extra work that has been going on there this past week. It is eminently sensible, yes."
"We're going to have to get those two men out of the party and away from here tomorrow night -- before they go home."
"Or they will never be seen again, is that what you're suggesting?"
"Warsaw can never have a trawler here in that time. A week -- perhaps longer. And the patrols..."
"Where could they be hidden then until...?"
"No place that would be safe. If they disappear and the local Gestapo doesn't have their identification to show Berlin, we'll have a division of Waffen-SS moving into this gau tomorrow. By tomorrow night, they would be conducting door to door searches. No-one will be safe then."
"How?" My eyes seemed to threaten to bulge out of my head as memory suddenly assailed me.
Von Kys and myself in our aviator's kit. We had both been avid flyers at Oxford. I maintained a small bi-plane at Bellingham Hall and still found time three or four times a month to fly. I had never been able completely to surrender the exhilarating freedom that was mine when I was in the air. And von Kys had been just as committed as I was. That was nearly six years ago, but I could not imagine the man simply giving up such a love.
"Have you seen an aeroplane anywhere on the estate, Kolawaski?" I asked carefully.
"The Graf was an avid aviator at university. It's difficult to believe he would completely surrender such a love in these past few years."
"The Nazis don't like their citizens having aeroplanes."
"Even a Waffen-SS Colonel?"
He studied me for a moment. "That could work in his favour."
"So have you seen an aeroplane?"
"No -- but then I've not explored every outbuilding there is on this estate. There may be one..."
"Please look tomorrow."
"Lord Petersholme, why not simply ask him?"
I stared at him standing beside me in the deep shadows of my room. "Von Kys?" I whispered. "He asked me to help these Jews to get out -- last night. Have you turned him?"
Kolawaski chuckled. "The Graf is as German as they come, Herr Baron. But he is an intelligent German, one who accepts his responsibilities. He knows of me and what I am about. He has helped the ethnic Poles to leave his estate comfortably. We work together when it benefits us to do so, and ignore each other when that is the wisest course."
I gazed at the Polish agent and renewed my respect for my friend. "You still must think of a hiding place if there is no aeroplane. These men have to escape while they're still at the house tomorrow night, Kolawaski."
"I doubt I can get into the Graf's dinner, Herr Baron. How do they get to me?"
"I can do that. The first outhouse can be our rendezvous point, don't you think?"
"The storehouse? I don't see why not. But it can only be temporary. But your secreting them from that dinner will make you an enemy of Germany, my Lord."
I gazed at him and finally chuckled. "Are you suggesting that flying a Polish spy and two Jewish scientists out of the Fatherland wouldn't make me an enemy then?"
He laughed softly. "Well said. One final thing and I shall leave you to your rest."
"Can you kill if you find yourself in a situation where you have to?"
I groaned at the images his words threatened to pull up in me. "I have never shot anything larger than a deer but -- yes ... If I find myself forced into that situation, I won't stop to think about it."
He smiled and nodded. "Tomorrow will be a long day, Herr Baron. Sleep well." He slid into the shadows nearest the door and, a moment later, I heard the door whisper on well-oiled hinges as it opened and Alexis Kolawaski slipped away into the night.
* * *
I lay awake for hours once I was again alone.
I was committed and had put myself into danger by doing so. But I could not in good conscience allow the thugs of the German secret police to murder two men who had done nothing but improve Germany's military position in the world. Especially if I could take those same men to my country where they could help us defend against what Germany could unleash. Von Kys had already asked me to get the men out of the country. Kolawaski had committed me to do so.
If the Pole and I were correct in our assessment of the situation and the Jews were to be arrested tomorrow evening, I had to involve von Kys in helping them escape. Either with an aeroplane, if there was one, or in some other way to keep the scientists hidden until the Polish government could get a ship to us. Or until we could somehow make our way through ten divisions of Wehrmacht on the German side of the Neisse River twenty or so kilometres to the east.
His involvement would expose him as an enemy of the Nazi state and, regardless of his rank in the Waffen-SS, he would be a dead man were we captured. I, at least, had a passport from the British Empire and it might save my life. I suspected Kolawaski would be in much the same predicament in which I, of necessity, was going to put von Kys come the morning.
I was still unsure of how it all had happened. I had retired a perfectly safe English gentleman visiting his friend and perchance about to buy a few head of milk cows. As dawn began to colour the eastern sky, I was become a spy with very little protection on any front. My imagination was very effective at producing images of me standing against a wall and the sounds of rifles cocking.
I wanted nothing more than to be holding Barry in my arms. To make mindless love to him. To walk the streets of London with him. To walk the hills and dales of Bellingham Hall with him. And once again be naïve about the world around me.