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Thread: Swords Made of Letters

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Swords Made of Letters

    Swords Made of Letters - A new project, something fresh, which happens to be a novel.

    It's a novel, which I will write bit by bit, a novel set in December 1938, just before the war. It starts with a Prologue set in Eastern Europe, but the main action will be in Western Europe - right on the borders, and right in that period just before the war. You will hopefully enjoy a window into that tumultuous period which I will try and evoke as richly and as accurately as possible. You will recognise some parts, such as the stories from Night Train and Clouds of Smoke, which are part of the novel.

    Please enjoy it, read it, share it and feedback as always is very much appreciated.

    Happy reading!




    Swords Made of Letters

    ---

    Prologue - Part I

    12:45 AM, 2nd of December 1938
    Athenee Palace Hotel
    Bucharest
    Romania


    They never listened to her.

    And she told them countless times. Time and time again she told the shift manager, but they never listened to her. The cheap detergent the hotel kept buying caused Helen's skin to crack whenever she had to wash the dishes and cutlery for the patrons who came to the English Bar. They never listened and her skin always looked more than her twenty eight years of age. And it was the same endless story tonight as well. The water gushed from the tap onto the white dishes inscribed with the AP initials of the hotel, breaking off the relative silence of the bar.

    Tucked in the corner of the lobby, the English bar was made as a retreat for the patrons of the hotel, and the ladies who would often wait for them. Cosy, with dim lights and somehow reeking of a combination of musk and heavy tobacco, the bar was heavily populated at all times. But tonight it was empty. The 1st of December always brought empty cosy bars - and rather houses full of people partying a national holiday. The holiday left Helen alone in the bar with four men huddled at a low table in the opposite corner of the room, chatting and laughing between hushed tones. They never raised their voice, they never raised their eyesight to her and they spoke as little as possible when she went to take their order. She found that odd but Helen had seen her fair share of oddities so she only delivered their order and went about her business.

    But even so, it was too quiet. It was as if the men were never there.

    She gave them a quick glance and returned to her duties, satisfied they were there and not causing any trouble. But the four men, all dressed in black uniforms with odd white patches on the side, were different than any other guests she had encountered. No other guest kept their silence, and neither of them would speak in hushed tones or laugh as quietly as possible. Helen's back arched slightly at the implications. She was warned about foreign elements within the country and perhaps they were some of those elements. Helen sighed. The water kept gushing from the tap until she slammed it shut and waited for the dishes to dry. As the sudden silence beckoned, a couple of words trailed off before the guests realised they were no longer covered by the sound of the water.

    Helen recognised the language.

    Three weeks before, a rather charming Englishman came up to her while she was at the bar and paid her a generous tip. The man specifically asked for her to report whenever she heard this language, and she was promised a hefty reward every time she would call him. Somewhere in her pocket she had his room number - the man after all was a legate at the embassy and lived often in the hotel - but she decided to listen to the conversation in order to get an even heftier reward. Helen picked up three glasses and opened the tap again, letting the water slide gently in the glasses as she pretended to clean them. Her ears were honed on their conversation, picking up bits and bobs from the words that she understood of that language. Despite her being a bartender, Helen spoke five languages, courtesy of a very ambitious mother. She finished her washing about two minutes later, gently easing the tap until she could hear and decipher some parts of phrases the men spoke between them. Helen had no more dishes or glasses, and there were no other patrons, so she glided gently out of the bar and left for the lobby to excuse herself from a potentially awkward situation.

    She returned to the bar four minutes later, only to find it empty.

    On the table the men left a considerable amount of money, including a hefty tip, despite them not knowing exactly the price of the food and drinks they ordered because Helen never even got them the check. She shrugged, counted the money and returned to the bar. She glanced around, looking from the place at the bar out into the lobby, but the men were not there either. SOmewhat confused, Helen smirked and counted the money. She kept what was hers and put everything into the books. Satisified, she closed the ledger and beckoned to the receptionist. It was the end of the shift and she wanted to go home. With the tip in her pocket and five minutes later her uniform exchanged for more confortable clothing, she bid goodbye to the coworker taking her place and exited the hotel.

    The night was cold and cloudy - it was December after all - forcing Helen to button her overcoat up to the last top button. With the silk scarf huddled around her neck, she turned left from the Athenee Palace hotel and reached for the side streets behind the imposing Atheneum. In her desire to reach her house she did not notice the three men casually resting against a black Mercedes limousine parked beside the hotel. Helen beckoned even faster, oblivious to the men eyeing her behind, hoping to reach her house before it started raining. As she turned into the street behind the conservatory, a hand gently slid between her and her torso, pinning her to a halt.


    "Good evening, Mrs. Helen."


    ----

    Keep a close eye on this thread, regular updates will come as the story develops and unfolds.

    Website coming soon!

    As always, feedback appreciated!

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 05-01-2017 at 23:02.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Part II of the Prologue.



    ---

    Firm, but gentle, the man drew up in front of her and gave her a rather disconcerting smile. His white teeth were bared, smiling almost ironically to her, his eyes a mixture of contempt and curiosity. Helen glanced at him, her hands trembling beneath her coat, unsure what to make of him. She realised he was one of the guests, but what did she do?

    "Good evening, Mrs. Helen," the man repeated. "I believe you and I are going for a walk."

    Helen stammered. "What... why... who are you?"

    "Oh I believe you will recognise me. The man from the bar earlier. I was with three friends, remember?" The man gave her a pout of his lips, putting her off guard. "Of course you do remember me darling. I was there just twenty minutes ago, you can't forget me even if you tried. Let's go for a walk darling, fresh air is good for the soul."

    Despite her initial resistance, there was no use for Helen to try and resist. The man grabbed her arm, violently this time, and dragged her behind him. There was no use for Helen to even try to resist. There was nobody on the street at this hour, and worse, she was about half his size. He dragged her all the way from behind the Atheneum to the car at the side of the hotel where the men from the bar were waiting inside. Without any words spoken, Helen found herself thrown inside the car, in the middle of backseat, surrounded by four men in black uniforms, buzz cuts and stern glances. All of them wore caps, concealing their facial features but only to an extent, enough for her to not discern who was which compared to the men that she saw earlier in the bar. Without any other words, her assailant tapped the driver on the shoulder and the black limousine sputtered forwards into the closest intersection in front of the hotel. The junction formed a three way connection between the main Victory Boulevard, the hotel and the Royal Palace just opposite of the hotel. Despite the junction being a frequented area, the driver didn't bother to look.

    Helen only remembered the crash.

    A grey limousine smashed into the front portion of their car, turning it sideways and releasing thousands of bits of mangled metal into the air. Violent impact as it was, the driver of the grey limousine saw the black limousine driven by Helen's assailants moments before the crash and slammed onto the brakes, easing up on the impact that could have had serious repercussions. As things stood, only the cars were damaged and everyone escaped rather unscathed. Helen smacked her head into the shoulder of her assailant during the impact, but apart from that, she was fine. The side passenger from her car was quite injured, bleeding profusely from his right arm. Her right side backseat colleague was unscathed and the driver seemed fine, along with her assailant. Helen expected the men to check on their injuries, but that did not happen. All three of them, minus the side passenger, exited the car and drew up to the destroyed grey limousine stopped only a couple of metres away from their own.

    In a matter of moments, Helen watched through the broken windshield as the simple conversation turned into a violent brawl.

    Angered by the lack of respect from the uniformed men and the clear arrogance, the four men from the limousine, dressed in grey matching suits and Panama hats, rose up from the wreck of the car and attacked the three men, quickly neutralising them. Not content with the job, one of them took out a Thompson submachinegun from the wreck of their car and pointed it at the black limousine. Before Helen realised what the barrel meant, a quick salvo of twenty bullets broke through the car, ripping the windshield to pieces. The bullets tore through the the seats, the dashboard, the steering wheel and even through the back window. Helen ducked as fast as she could, hitting her head in the process in the side of the door. Neither bullet hit her, as the barrel was aimed too high, but it was enough to cause her a shock beneath the backseat of that limousine. They found her two minutes later, breathing heavily.

    One of the men opened the back door, his gaze connected rather quickly with her own. Helen saw he had a moustache that resembled a Frenchman from the Jazz Age, and that was the only thing she discerned between him and that Panama hat he wore on top. He gave her his hand, which she reached out for, dragging her out of the car in a rather gentle manner.

    "Are you hurt?" he asked, giving Helen a quick scan.

    She shook her head. "No, no, nothing touched me."

    "Sorry about your friends."

    Helen chuckled. "They kidnapped me, they are not my friends."

    The man gave quick glances to his comrades. "Do you know who they are?"

    "No idea. Clients of my bar before."

    "Your bar?"

    "I work in the English Bar at the Athenee."

    "They were here before?"

    "Yes. Half an hour ago."

    To her credit, Helen could still stand on her own, which prompted the man to leave her to her own legs. Helen saw as the man clicked from his fingers twice and pointed to the knocked out assailants.

    "Check their uniforms, I hope we haven't beaten some of our own army guys."

    Helen watched as the man with the Thompson, almost identical to the man who plucked her out of the car, roamed around the men with his gun pointed towards them.

    "They don't look our men to me, boss," said the Thompson wielder.

    "Search them."

    The Thompson gunner nodded and gave one of the assailants a quick pat down, unearthing two documents of identification and a small notebook with weird symbols on it.

    "Anything?" asked the chief.

    "Something you should see." The Thompson gunner handed the documents and the notebook. "Recognise these?"

    Helen watched as the chief slightly recoiled, twitching his right hand in discomfort. "Let's leave. We have to see the boss." He turned to Helen. "And you are coming with us."

    It took them the better part of twenty minutes to find a car that would take them to the house of their mafia boss, but that was to be expected at 1 AM after a national holiday. The car took them through the side streets, as the moustached man ordered, streets which Helen did not recognise at all. They eventually arrived to a white coloured house, or beige, Helen did not manage to discern, a two storied villa in fact built in American Art Deco style with small round windows on the top floor and large open windows on the bottom floor. They got out from the car and entered the courtyard, which prompted the moustached man to turn to Helen.

    "All right, a quick rundown. We're at the house of Mita Zilieru' (Mita the Builder), he's an important mafia boss around these places. Just tell him what you know and what happened and be thankful you got saved, okay?"

    They did not wait for Helen's answer. Without other words, they entered the house. A superb chandelier illuminated the entrance hallway, marbled on the floor and with a spectacular round mahogany staircase running to the upper floor. The place was decked in expensive wood, giving it a rather distinct feel. Music rang out from both sides of the house and party goers casually danced in front of the guests, up the stairs, down the stairs, sideways... it was clear that a party was going on. Helen watched in awe, and bemusement, the whole spectacle. Her mood quickly sombered when she met the gaze of the chief who motioned her to go to the left of the hallway.

    They entered a large dining hall where about eight men and women dined and laughed but with what Helen presumed was Mita himself at the top of the table eating from a white bowl of soup. With his hair cut short, a rather piercing gaze and a quite sturdy build, dressed in a blue vest and blue pants, Mita looked the mafia boss part but his average height did not. He motioned them to come closer, which the moustached man did with reverence. He saluted Mita and presented him Helen. With the introductions done and dusted, the chief, or Mita's lieutenant, started to stammer. Mita gave him a curious glance.

    "All right, what happened?"

    Mita's lieutenant gave him the documents. "Four men in a black limousine simply came into our driving lane. We smashed into their car and then they wanted a fight so we gave it to them."

    Mita stopped eating from his soup. He gave an initial chuckle at the story but his party mood quickly soured as he glanced at the documents with weird symbols. He held up the little notebook that showed the symbols.

    "Are you guys maniacs? You beat down a couple of those fanatics? Are you insane? Do you have any idea in what kind of problems are we in now?"

    "Boss, look, we had no idea. I thought it was from Capistrano or some other guy."

    Mita rose up from the table gave his lieutenant a slap. "After all these years you still can't identify what those other guys wear? Why are you even my man if you can't distinguish purple from blue?" Mita shook his head. "Where did you leave them?"

    "In the middle of the road."

    "IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD?" Mita slammed a hand down the table. "If something happens in the next couple of days, I will hang you out to dry."

    "Boss, look, I tri..."

    Mita's lieutenant did not have time to finish. Loud crackles erupted from outside the house, crackles that turned into screeching sounds as bullets ripped the windows of the house and tore through the wooden decking on the bottom floor. The firefight lasted no more than ten seconds but that was enough to destroy at least the front part of the house, most of the windows and two crystal chandeliers. Shards of glass were littered all over the floor

    "Call Capistrano. And Colonel Tomescu from the police. We need help. I'm a mafia boss but I need the police now."


    ---

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    In the shadows... Member Vuk's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    It has been a long time since someone has shared a writing on the Org. I'll have to read it when I am back from work.
    Hammer, anvil, forge and fire, chase away The Hoofed Liar. Roof and doorway, block and beam, chase The Trickster from our dreams.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Looking forward to your feedback, Vuk.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Part III - Prologue.

    Last part of the prologue before the action starts.


    ***
    3:45 AM
    2nd of December, 1938
    Bucharest
    Romania



    "Stop here."

    At the end of the railroad tracks, the unfinished train station was just a block of empty cement surrounded by tall, old buildings that dubbed as ammo warehouses during the Great War and as storage places now. And just as the rest of their surroundings, the warehouses were empty, devoid of any stored items or any people for that matter. Light fog hovered around the tracks, the unfinished block of cement and the buildings around them. That, and probably the occasional smoke that wafted from the trains down the tracks and onto their headlights.

    Mita motioned to his driver to stop the limousine.

    There were three of them in the car, but they were backed up by four other cars behind them. Mita, his driver and poor Helen who had no choice but to join Mita in his car. He tried to make her at ease, cracking jokes and telling stories about the Great War and the fabulous period of ten-fifteen years ago, but to little avail. Helen barely cracked a smile, uptight and attentive, glancing sideways every other second to her surroundings. With a sweeping flick of his hand, Mita motioned for Helen to go to the front seat while he exited the car. The four cars behind his own formed almost an arrow, a formation of cars they didn't plan but looked good anyways to Mita's eyes. He smiled and patted himself. His chief lieutenant with the moustache exited from one of the cars and nodded.

    "Boss, Capistrano is coming now."

    "When does now mean now?" replied Mita, his eyebrow slightly arched and his hands in his pants.

    "Five minutes, at most."

    "He better."

    Three cars drove up to their formation less than a minute later, black limousines just as theirs. The colour was imperceptible but that mattered little to Mita. He just wanted to see Capistrano and his smug face. In a chorus of laughter, Capistrano exited from one of the cars and gently trotted over between the limousines owned by Mita. True to his colourful demeanour, Capistrano was dressed in a white suit but without a tie, something that Mita noticed. Before either of them spoke, Mita pointed to his neck.

    "No tie, Johnny?"

    Capistrano waved him off. "Spare me, Mita." He ran his fingers through his French moustache. "This better not be some stupid joke or a ploy from your part or else you will pay. What's all this about, waking me up from my sleep after the party? I partied with the camarilla close to the bosses."

    Mita only nodded. "Wait and see, Johnny. I've got Colonel Tomescu come up to us right now."

    "Wait wait wait. Hold up. You called Colonel Tomescu? For what?" Capistrano drew close to Mita. "Are you trying to frame me?"

    "I wish I was Johnny. Nothing would make me happier than see you in a jail cell for the rest of your life while I take your houses, your men and all of that gold you stashed in German banks. Something else is up, and it involves something I just mentioned."

    Capistrano frowned. "My gold?"

    "None related to you. I'll tell you when Tomescu comes."

    "Then?"

    "Wait."

    "I can't wait with Tomescu. He's the second in command of the Bucharest police. You better tell him something good or else we're both going to have issues you little builder."

    "I mean it, Mister Capistrano. Wait for Tomescu."

    "I brought my men here, just in case."

    "You'll need them. But not now."

    Twenty odd minutes they waited in the light fog, the smoke and the ocassional screech from the train leaving the main station of the city. Despite Mita's rather jovial mood, he was in no mood to crack jokes with Capistrano, his local mafia nemesis. They never met in public unless it was by accident, but Mita's request made Capistrano rather weary and all the more the tone of the messenger. Both of them came from different backgrounds - one being a lowly street urchin, the other being part of a rich merchant Italian family - but they both converged on the city at the eastern border of Europe to make it their own playground. Neither of them spoke during those twenty minutes, neither them, nor their men. They all waited, bouncing from one foot to another, for Colonel Tomescu. Some of the men had brought their Thompson guns but neither chief bothered with that.

    Colonel Tomescu came rather unassumingly.

    A simple police limousine, reserved for colonels and commisars, followed by an escort car, drew up to the seven limousines parked on the unfinished train station block. There were now nine cars with their headlights brightly illuminating the area, which should have raised some concern from the local police had they not been severely drunk from the parties that were still raging. As the main police limousine drew up, the driver and the two bodyguards exited the car to open the door to Colonel Tomescu. The colonel came out of the car, a tall, imposing figure dressed in the usual police uniform he wore daily. He gave a curt salute to the men and nodded almost imperceptibly to both Mita and Capistrano.

    "You took me from my party with the chiefs of the police. You, Mita, and I see you have John Capistrano with you. In all other circumstances I'd have you both arrested for life right now but I'm curiously intrigued by your encounter."

    Capistrano pointed to Tomescu. "Encounter?"

    "Yes, Johnny, my men had an unfortunate encounter with four men in the middle of the city," replied Mita.

    "What's so special about that encounter to warrant such a meeting, Mr. Michael?" countered Capistrano.

    Mita took out the little notebook from the pocket of his pants.

    "Domnilor." (Sirs)

    With economic movements, and a quick side glance to Capistrano, Colonel Tomescu took the notebook and opened it on the first page. The runic symbols were clear enough for him and for Capistrano to understand.

    "Where did you find this?"

    "My men did. In fact, they didn't find them. They were found. And they found a woman with them too."

    Tomescu looked askance. "A woman?"

    Mita nodded his head to the car. "She's inside my car."

    With a quick flick of his hand, Mita invited them all to the car. Mita, Colonel Tomescu and Capistrano entered the car together, with Mita in the middle, Tomescu to his right and Capistrano to his left. Helen turned from the front seat to face the three men. Colonel Tomescu was the only one who took his hat off, revealing a rather stern looking police chief, with a straight nose, piercing eyes and thin lips. He bowed curtly to Helen and invited her to speak.

    "Four men, Sirs. Four men. They spoke German. I speak a bit of that, which allowed me to understand a bit of what they were saying. Something about infiltrating over here and entering into the local market, something about finding more information and something about getting inside the mayor's cabinet. I do not know why they talked like that. They talked only in hushed tones, and whenever I looked at them they stopped talking and only stared at each other. When I took their order it was the exact same. I gave them no attention, they even paid me a generous tip, but when I left the hotel to go home they attacked me right behind the Atheneum and dragged me back to their car. No words back in the car either. And all it took was that crash for them to burst and react like this."

    Silence. There was only silence, an awkward silence which left Capistrano tugging at the lapels of his white jacket and Mita scratching his temple.

    "Well gentlemen," said Tomescu, adjusting his colonel's cap back on his head "it seems we have a war on our hands.

    Silence was all that followed.

    ---

    Feedback welcome!
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 05-15-2017 at 22:46.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter I.

    You might already recognise this as the opening of Night Train - it is in fact that, because Night Train and Clouds of Smoke are parts of the novel, but with subtle differences and obviously continued.



    ---
    9th of December 1938
    Gare du Colmar
    Alsace
    France
    6:35 PM




    Cold as it were
    Cold as it came
    The dashing of war
    Was nobody's gain


    It echoed inside his mind for years, those faint words. He heard stories of the Great War from everyone older than him, but given that he was a small child back then, he had no personal recollection of the war. Except for that poem. He heard it from a war veteran on the streets of Amiens in the north of France, injured and ignored, begging on the street where his uncles lived. Alexandre came up to him and gave him some money to which the veteran only gave a faint smile and the utterance of that poem he kept remembering. That was in 1920. He was five years old. All he could do was grow up and do his bit to avoid another one.

    Eighteen years have passed since then. And another war loomed.

    Horns blared in the distance, twice then, thrice even, shattering the utter silence that engulfed the little train station where he waited. The shrill of the train made his spine tingle, forcing him upright and making him forget for a fleeting moment the bitter cold that crept under his woolen overcoat, somehow inadequate against the galloping winter. It was a cold December evening, and he was all alone on a small train station platform on the border with Germany. France was tingling with worry, the newspapers were rolling out in record numbers, global diplomacy was failing and here he was on the border with a hostile country. He sighed. Small snowflakes gently fell on the train tracks in front of him, illuminated by a half-moon that made joyful light pockets around his leather boots. Everything else however was a dark, lifeless maze. Around him there were six lampposts, each one of them holding a small oil lamp, but only two of them were lit. But none of that mattered to him now. The train was coming.

    The horns blared again. The train was getting closer. His fingers dug deeper inside the side pocket of his overcoat and reached for a cigarette. He brought the cigarette to his mouth and fumbled about for an entire minute until the wind died down to allow him to light up the heavy Turkish blend. Flurries of snow wafted around the station with increasing intensity but even the cold mattered little by now. He was curious. And his curiosity would be quenched once that curious train would stop in the station.

    Moments later, he caught glimpse of the steel behemoth. In the darkness of that December evening, there was not much to distinguish from a nondescript black locomotive that chugged along on the railway lines. But the red stripes on the side of the locomotive were evident, causing him to frown a bit. Red stripes usually indicated trains that would stop in big cities, not local train stations. And Colmar was far from being a city. At most it was a local town, a border outpost. Despite his sudden worry, the train stopped in the station as planned, dropping off one single passenger who waved meekly as he approached.

    “Good evening, Alexandre.”

    The man from the train shook Alexandre's hand firmly. Dressed in a similar woolen overcoat, he wore a generic brown fedora on his head and twisted the collar of his overcoat upwards to protect himself from the rushing flurries that swept through the station. Somewhat shorter than his station guest, he bowed his head slightly, indicating Alexandre as his superior, even if on paper he was the one of higher rank. The Frenchman gave a curt nod.

    “I see you have changed trains, Klaus,” replied Alexandre.

    “Sort of. There was a murder on the train from Strasbourg to Colmar, so they sent over one of the trains that was supposed to take the Geneva – Paris route.”

    “A murder?”

    “Nothing related to our concerns. A triangle of love, as is rather the norm these days.”

    "Hah, a triangle of love. The gutter press loves those kinds of stories."

    "Indeed they do."

    “So you came with the red stripes?”

    Klaus nodded. “Quite. I got here in record time, I did not expect to arrive at 6:40.”

    Alexandre gave a quick glance to his white gold wristwatch. The sleek line of the bezel stood out in the darkness, the two thin hands showing fifteen minutes to 7. He slid his hand back into his pocket and nudged his fellow companion onwards. The two men walked away from the station in silence in the crackles of the snow crunching beneath their boots, echoing even louder in the almost complete silence of the small town. Colmar was a quiet place, with rows of timber-framed houses huddled around a small bridge over the river Lauch. Small pockets of lights indicated that most of the inhabitants were inside their houses with the snow rumbling through the streets. Most of the population had sympathies with the French republic, but there was more than just a vocal minority who would be more than happy to see the Nazi Party install the swastikas on the roof of the town hall. Alexandre knew that, Klaus as well, but neither of them spoke of this openly.

    They trodded through the beaten path from the station down to the centre of the village, whisking themselves to the snow-capped bridge over the Lauch.

    “It's been one month, Klaus.”

    Klaus nodded, more to himself rather than in acknowledgment.

    “One month since that ugly night.”

    Alexandre nodded. “That night, what was it you called it, Kristallnacht?” he said, accentuating the German word with a particular Parisian twist. Klaus smiled to himself but nodded in agreement. “Yes, that night. A shame, and a cause of worry.”

    “The outlook is grim, Monsieur Reythier, it's grim.” He glanced to his French companion, but the man only stared at him back. “But I suppose you already know that.”

    The Frenchman nodded. “Kristallnacht scared a number of locals away. Colmar is now turning into a ghost town, and it's not good for our cause. No matter how we put it, we cannot convince the locals to stay around these places unless they're committed to our cause or committed to their families.”

    “This place sits right on the border, I would expect them not to stay around.”

    “Some do.” Alexandre sighed. “Why have I been called here?”

    Klaus stopped. For a moment he stood silent, unsure on what to say. He fumbled his hands in the air, trying to force his words to come out, to express at least some semblance of a coherent idea, but nothing came out of it. He felt Alexandre's stare on him. Klaus sighed and pointed towards a row of houses, even if they were not what he wanted to convey.

    “We caught two Germans trying to infiltrate themselves around these places. They went right under our noses, and worse even, we caught them with a Frenchman who lived in the villages down the south of the Maginot line.”

    “That's all they've done?”

    Klaus shook his head. “The plan was rather well conceived. They posed as tourists from the Far East, even if they looked as every bit from here as possible, and tried to ask around about the Maginot line. One of the local farmers even took them to a deserted area of the line that we have not even bothered to repair or even take care of.”

    “Spies?”

    “More than that. Something is going on around these places, and I don't like it.”

    "More than spies?"

    "Not full fledged infiltrators, but close. At the very least they are doing terrain reconnaissance around these areas. Not a welcome idea to Paris, and definitely not to our military brass."

    Alexandre rolled his eyes. “And what am I supposed to do?”

    “Interrogate them, that is all.”

    Alexandre suddenly looked downwards. Interrogation was something he hated, but given that Klaus was his superior and his close friend, he could not say no. By now they reached the curiously deserted centre of the town. The narrow Lauch river ran right in its midst, but given that this was mid-December, the river was frozen solid. Alexandre glanced over the bridge, down the length of the Lauch, watching the snow fall down on the slanted roofs of the houses built about a century ago. Snow crunched and crackled underneath their leather boots as they walked in silence between the houses huddled around the riverbank. It was bitterly cold, the snow had picked up in intensity and even they struggled to utter any other word except for a prolonged sigh as they weathered through the streets.

    They snaked their way down the length of the riverbank in silence until they reached a small plaza. The junction connected four smaller side streets, but Klaus led Alexandre into a timber-framed two story house right on the edge of the riverbank. A small light above the door waned and flickered as the wind blew. Klaus twisted the handle and pushed the door aside, closing it behind them with the wind howling one last time in their ears. A small flight of stairs led them to the first floor, which was nothing more than a room adjoined by four separate doors in the dim light of another flickering light. Klaus pointed to the first door on the right.

    “After you, Alexandre.”

    The Frenchman raised an eyebrow for a moment but said nothing. He quickly twisted the door handle and entered the room, a rectangle shaped meeting area with two windows overlooking the plaza below and a large table with eight chairs occupying most of the space. In the back corner two wooden bookcases were filled with papers and binders full of documents, which Alexandre speculated those were the local police records.

    Two men stood at the table, both of them lazily puffing from their cigarettes, their eyes fixed on this tall newcomer and his more known companion. At first, they did not pay much attention to the newcomer but Klaus ordered them to stand up and salute in military fashion. The men rose from their seats and did so as they were ordered, receiving a curteous nod from Alexandre in return. The Frenchman threw his overcoat on the table and glanced around.

    “Where are they?”

    “Locked in the prison below, Monsieur,” replied one of the policemen.

    “Bring them. Let us have a personal chat with them.”

    The two policemen nodded in approval and left the room, leaving Alexandre Reythier, lieutenant of the French intelligence agencies, alone with Klaus. They spoke nothing before the policemen returned with two young adults, no more than twenty years old each, dirty and ragged, dressed in brown tattered clothes and reeking of body odour. The two policemen threw the prisoners onto the desk with alarming brutality, chaining them down to the small wooden chairs underneath. Not content with the chain, they pinned them down to the edge of the table and took out their pistols, sticking them against the prisoners' necks. Reythier said nothing, and neither did Klaus, since neither of them had any idea of how dangerous these two prisoners were.

    Reythier took up a chair and sat down, eyeing both of the blonde boys.

    “Apparently, both of you tried to gather information about the Maginot line. Can I ask why were you so curious about it?” asked Reythier in perfect German.

    Neither of the boys said anything. Their eyes were fixed on Reythier, but he only returned an elegant smile with the corner of his mouth. He turned his head to Klaus and nodded, to which the German-born Frenchman produced from his overcoat a small notebook. Alexandre took the notebook and opened it on the table, hunching closer to his prisoners.

    “Two weeks, that's all it took you. Two weeks in which you bought rifles, war grenades, stabbed two innocent farmers and proceeded to investigate the south part of the Maginot line. And on top of that...” Reythier paused, extracting two files from the back of the notebook. “You two are apparently part of the Nazi youth. Top recruits.”

    Reythier expected no reaction. He got none from them, except two dismissive shrugs and a roll of the eyes. Alexandre flipped the notebook around.

    “All of this gets you prison for life. Or, in the worst case, a quick hanging in the woods just down the river.”

    The remark hit a soft spot. One of the boys, a short-haired blonde with scratch marks all over his face, hissed towards Reythier.

    “Herr Hitler will save us.”

    Reythier laughed. “Your own superiors won't even know you're missing by the time the local judge orders your execution. So, in case you want to live, help us. I believe you can help us answer the question of what were you doing around the Maginot.”

    “We were doing nothing. We are tourists, nothing more!”

    Reythier sighed. He nodded off to one of the policemen, who saluted and left the room, leaving Klaus to attend to one of the prisoners. Alexandre closed he notebook, rose from the table and headed for the window behind him. The window's handles were black, rotten bits of wood, forcing him to twist the mechanism by itself, before the window finally budged from its position. Cold winter air swept inside the room with an almost destructive force. The unsecured papers on the shelves and on the table quickly flew through the room. It didn't bother Klaus, or Reythier for that matter, who lighted up another one of his Turkish cigarettes at the edge of the window. It was only a short puff before he heard the crackle of the gun echo in the Colmar silence.

    Before Reythier reacted, and before Klaus even understood what happened, the door swung wide open and stopped violently against the edge of the wall. A lone gunman, dressed in a beige overcoat, held up a large calibre revolver and barged inside the room. With quick movements he shot the last policeman square in the head, before he aimed for Klaus who ducked underneath the table. The gunman shot at Klaus but missed his target, shooting off the last bullets in the two prisoners who did not even turn their heads to face the gunman. In a rather late reply, Reythier took out his own pistol and fired two quick shots towards the gunman. The bullets hit the assailnt in the chest and the neck, severing the carotid artery, before he collapsed in a pool of blood by the edge of the door.

    The whole encounter lasted less than twenty seconds. And Alexandre quickly realised that the two policemen were now dead. And so was the assailant. But so were the two prisoners.

    Only Alexandre and Klaus survived.


    -----

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Website coming soon!

    Furthermore - it's also on Wattpad, for those who want to read it. -> https://www.wattpad.com/myworks/1102...ade-of-letters
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter II - Swords Made of Letters

    Please enjoy this next chapter of the series.



    ----
    9th of December, 1938
    Interrogation Room Nr. 2
    Colmar, Alsace
    6:50 PM



    There was nothing they could pursue.

    From the little window of the adjacent room, Alexandre watched as small snowflakes gently dropped from the white winter sky, drifting through the air until they latched on the cobbled streets that were teeming with snow. Those words came back to him, the words of that war poem, but between them the words of those two youngsters flashed inside his mind. Their declaration of allegiance, so open and so brazen, left Alexandre brooding. There was no remorse. And there was no remorse from their killer either in that room. It had been swift and calculated and somehow the assassin knew about the room. Alexandre and Klaus left the room intact, waiting until the local Colmar police would come. Klaus went outside by himself for some air but Reythier stood behind and waited by the window of this little chamber opposite of the interrogation room. Beneath his heavy overcoat the service pistol was in the pocket of his pants, easy to access should the need arise again. With two spies interested in the Maginot line, and a killer who killed them both, there was nothing else they had. They were blank.

    Just like the snowflakes gently drifting through the streets of Colmar.

    Alexandre turned round from the window and glanced around the little chamber. There was nothing in it, apart from a little desk with three chairs, two on one side and one on another. There were two other chairs in the back of the room but everything else was a simple yellowy wallpaper and the window he watched the snow from. He glided out of the room, down the small flight of stairs and reached for the door. He hesitated for a moment, keeping his hand in the middle of the air. With one quick movement he spun sideways and glanced back to the stairs and towards the two rooms. The room with the window led to a small backstreet. But the interrogation room had the window right into a major street of this little town. They had been noticed from outside. And someone knew that this building was used for police interrogation.

    Reythier smirked. He spun on his heels, back towards the door and exited into the gentle snowstorm of Colmar.

    Huddling inside his overcoat, with a small cloud of steam rising from his hands as he clutched two mugs of hot tea, Reythier watched as Klaus slowly approached him. He gave is mug-carrying friend a smile and pointed towards the building.

    "Go inside, I'll be back in fifteen minutes."

    Klaus frowned. "Where are you going in this storm? The constable is away, he won't be here for a while. He's been notified and he is coming to us as soon as he can."

    "Yes, I realised that. I'm going for some fresh air, keep the tea warm for me."

    Without a second glance, Reythier adjusted his hat and left Klaus to his tea, steam columns and a strong desire to enter the building to escape the cold. He turned left, going around the interrogation building and up a little hill that junctioned with another main street of Colmar in a T shaped intersection. From the top of this small hill Alexandre turned on his heels and glanced at the police building. He was right. It wasn't that hard to spot the building, and worse, the window was low enough for someone on the hill to look directly into it and glimpse some random figures. As the interrogation room had no curtains, something he just realised right now, Alexandre could only frown in disbelief. He did not even had to look at the other streets or even the buildings around it. The attacker could have easily seen what was going on within the room.

    Dismayed, Alexandre could only alternate between a nervous laugh and a clenched fist. His eyes drifted from the hill further upwards to the street that ended with a row of timber-framed houses on the top of it. In fact, most of the houses in Colmar were timber-framed and despite their similar shapes, they somehow managed to look different because of their exterior decoration. The interrogation building had no decoration except the timber-framing. But all the other houses near it had some sort of exterior decoration. Alexandre raised an eyebrow.

    He returned less than ten minutes later back into the room on the left, the chamber now invaded by the aromatic scent of green tea. Klaus glanced at him from the edge of the table, holding the mug tight in his hand to capture the warmth of the tea into his palms.

    "You said fifteen minutes."

    "Yes, well, that took much earlier than expected." Alexandre pointed to the little hill junction. "All it takes is to just look closely and maybe jump a bit."

    "What are you talking about?"

    "It took me less than five minutes to understand how it happened. The window of the interrogation room is so low that it can be seen from an angle on the little hill behind this building. You cannot see it if you're standing directly underneath it but from the junction it's clearly visible." Alexandre waved his finger. "And why are there no blinds for this thing? The attacker saw everything."

    "Are you sure?"

    "All it took for me was to walk up and turn around."

    "And you saw this how?"

    "I did not even have to try, Klaus. It was there for me to see. Look at it in a slanted angle, just twist your body sideways, and you will see at least a portion of the interrogation room."

    "Did you look from the other sides?"

    "There was no point. I saw everything from the hill. All he had to do was walk around and see us.

    Klaus sighed, his hands still clutched on the mug. "Was it on purpose?"

    Alexandre drew up to the table and raised the mug of warm tea.

    "I think we were set up on purpose."

    ----

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 05-29-2017 at 22:38.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter III - The White Club

    You will recognise this as the beginning of Clouds of Smoke, which was initially a short story. This weaves in into the novel, as you will see below and in the future.


    -----------
    9th of December 1938, 19:00
    The White Club
    Mayfair, London
    United Kingdom



    "Tea, Sir?"

    The waiter came up to their table with a fresh pot of mint tea, boiling inside a white china set decorated with blue motifs, a gentle refreshing smell swirling around their noses. The waiter presented the pot as if it was some sort of trophz, turning it slightly inwards to show the boiling concoction.

    "Yes, please. Pour some more in my cup but bring me a glass of Scottish whisky first. With ice. And make sure the ice reaches the top of the glass."

    The waiter nodded. "Certainly, Sir."

    "Thank you Williams."

    "I will be back in ten minutes, Sir."

    "Jolly. I want that whisky cold as it can get."

    The waiter bowed and walked away from the table.

    With mixed curiosity, Horace watched as the young waiter sauntered away, walking gently to the backrooms reserved for the staff, leaving him with Lord Beckett in a wafting smell of expensive tobacco, a slight fog caused by that particular blend of tobacco and a number of smartly dressed men relaxing in the red velvet chairs strewn across the smoking lounge. White Club was no stranger to these men - nor to Lord Beckett - and neither of them were strangers to each other. The ritzy club in Mayfair with its white stucco facade was built for men like Lord Beckett, rich, powerful and with a certain affinity for expensive tastes. Sitting on the other side of the round wooden table from Horace, Beckett, lazily puffing from his tobacco, joined the smoking lounge dressed in a dark three piece suit with his customary top hat, which he always left to the concierge rather than to the helpers manning the clients' clothing. His double chin peeked slightly over the edge of his collar, amplifying the gentle moustache he always kept in a rather French style. Bulging occasionally out of his shirt, Beckett was a man of fine tastes, always matching his dark olive eyes with the occasional green handkerchief.

    Horace gave Beckett a customary scan and noticed the absence of his wedding ring, something that struck him as odd. He never commented on what his benefactor was doing, but he couldn't dismiss the sense that marriage started to bother Beckett. And quite significantly.

    The waiter returned faster than in the mentioned time, bringing Beckett a crystal glass filled to the brim with five ice cubes, placed on the edges of the each other until the top cube touched the inside edge of the glass. Beckett gave Horace a curt smile, picked up the whisky from the waiter's hands and rose it towards his companion.

    "For your devoted service to my interests, Horace. And to your duty as a man of the services to the country."

    Horace nodded slightly. "Duly noted, Sir."

    Beckett sipped the cold, smoked whisky with gusto. He smiled to Horace, a wry smile, his eyes slightly narrowed and the wrinkles turned at the edges.

    "Any news for me?"

    Horace looked at Beckett, straight into his eyes. "Grave news, Sir."

    Beckett's eyes widened. "Something happened to her?"

    "Her, Sir?"

    "Yes, Mathilda!"

    Horace smirked. "No, Sir, not her."

    Beckett dropped the whisky glass on the table. "Spare me of anything else, Horace. Tell me about her!" Beckett pointed his finger. "You're following her, as I've told you, I hope."

    "Sir..." hesitated Horace. "She is not of our concern."

    "Yes she is!" countered Beckett.

    "Sir, I beg to differ. Please, pardon my insolence but she is not out concern right now. Your mistress is second in importance to the news."

    Beckett waved him off. "Horace, I am not hearing you."

    "Sir, not her."

    "I don't hear, Horace," replied Beckett, slapping Horace's knee to draw his attention. "Listen to me. Anything else can wait. Tell me about her."

    "Sir, we have grave reports of foreign spies acting on our territory."

    "I don't care, Horace."

    Horace groaned. "Sir, please."

    "Horace I do not care! I don't care! Tell me about Mathilda!"

    Horace drew to Beckett's face. "Sir, the spies..."

    "One more word Horace and I will have you stripped of your rank." Beckett reached for his whisky glass. "In fact," said Beckett between sips "get out of here and go watch over her. I want to know what she is doing. Anything else can wait."

    "Sir."

    "Horace, now."

    "I refuse, Sir."

    Beckett placed down his whiskey glass, his eyebrows slightly raised. "You... refuse, Horace?"

    "Sir, I do. She is of no importance right now."

    "Horace, please do spare me next time of your opinions. Only her counts." Beckett adjusted his jacket, visibly irritated. "Now, if you still want to earn that money you need for your family, you do my bidding. What's your take?"

    Horace smirked and looked sideways, realising he had no other choice. With one curt nod, and with his eyes fixed on Beckett, he rose from the velvet chair and exited the smoke filled room for gentlemen. From the walnut doors of the smoking room on the first floor he raced down a flight of marble stairs, saluted the concierge with a nod and exited into the cold Mayfair evening.

    And as he had expected, he was not alone outside the famous White Club.

    Three steps resounded from a black Cadillac parked just outside the ritzy club, revealing a burly man dressed in a grey three piece suit and a hat to match. The burly man drew up to him, took off his hat as a sign of respect and shook Horace's hand.

    "What did Beckett say?" asked Ryan, Horace's subordinate at the intelligence services. A joyful Irishman, Ryan O'Hara was the local strongman, assigned to do Horace's duties whenever he could not. And the more particular ones too.

    "Ryan, if I lie to you right now, what would you do?"

    Ryan laughed. "Alright then. So I guess he said nothing."

    Horace turned to his Irishman and looked him straight in the eyes. "He said nothing, but I will. I'm sick of this and I want to resolve it now. I'm going to have a chat with that woman and I'll find a way to get rid of her nicely."

    "Rid of her?"

    "Nothing will happen to her, I just don't want to see her any more."

    "And if she tells Beckett?" Horace stood silent, raising his eyebrow slightly. "All right, in that case, all good to go."

    "Get your men here. I will have a talk with her but I want you guys to be ready."

    "For?"

    "For anything that happens."

    Ryan shrugged his shoulders. "Really Horace? Anything can happen. The war can start in five minutes and I can view this as something of a foreshadowing of yours. Mathilda can shoot you in the leg and then you tell me you expected this. Or maybe Beckett wants to find himself another mistress, who knows!"

    Horace smirked, looking around the empty street. "Get your boys ready, and stay inside. Tell the concierge you are waiting for an important call."

    "And you are off to?"

    "To Mathilda. Just by the Court Road my friend."

    Ryan placed a hand on Horace. "What exactly are you doing?"

    "Having a chat."

    "Armed with 2 pistols? That's what you call a chat?"

    Horace tilted his head sideways. "Smart man. Observing fine details now I see."

    "I work in intelligence. My duty is to protect you, Horace."

    Horace balked. "You have fifteen men waiting for your orders."

    Ryan laughed. "You give the orders, not me."

    "Good. Then we have a plan. You stay inside and wait for my call. If all goes well, no need for you and the men. If not, you're going to have to rescue me off a building on Court Road that is literally full of foreign agents spying for different countries."

    Ryan shook his head. "And why shouldn't we come with you?"

    Horace loaded his engraved .45 Colt, hiding it underneath his suit jacket. "I'd rather deal with this alone. And I don't want Beckett anywhere else than this place."

    "Why?"

    "Don't ask questions, Ryan."

    "Beckett and staying here." Ryan paused. "If I didn't know you better, I would say you're planning to throw Beckett under the bus to the intelligence teams."

    Horace smiled. "You know Ryan, sometimes you're not that bad."

    Ryan grinned, taking out a cheap cigar from his back pocket. "This is Beckett's, but it's those cheap ones he gives as gifts. Still good." Ryan lighted the cigar, puffed from it with gusto and then smiled. "Not a bad one."

    "Keep an eye on him. I'll be back in one hour."

    "I'll be smoking these cheap things here."

    "Throw them away," said Horace, walking towards his car.

    ----

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter IV - Letters from Across



    ---
    7:05 PM
    9th of December 1938
    Colmar, Alsace
    France



    "Look what I found."

    Reythier rose his eyes from the ground, his glances lost somewhere as he smoked a cigar just outside the interrogation building. Outside Colmar the light slowly began to fade, leaving way for the illuminated lampposts of the town. For more than twenty minutes he stood outside, glancing aimlessly at the ground. His only discernible memory were his black boots which made a distinctive chromatic difference in contrast with the whiteness of the snow flurries. Reythier exhaled his puff of cigar smoke and glanced towards Klaus who offered him two envelopes.

    "What are they?" asked Reythier.

    "Letters. I found them on the two men."

    Reythier took them and glanced at the envelopes. One thing stood out right from the beginning.

    "Sealed with wax?"

    Klaus nodded. "Quite odd."

    "That's something a Prussian Junker would do a hundred years ago, not those two right now. Why are they sealed with wax?"

    "I have no clue."

    Reythier held up the envelopes. "I'm opening them as part of the investigation. When the constable of Colmar comes, make sure you note that down and you explain it to him."

    Reythier slid his thumb finger underneath the lid of the envelope, running his index finger over the smooth texture of the red wax. The envelopes were yellowy, identical in shape and size, with no discernible heraldic symbol stamped on it, which made it even odder. Wax seals held heraldic symbols as a matter of identification and guarantee; these ones were almost blank. There was no writing on the envelopes but the red wax seemed of very fine quality. Reythier gently applied pressure with his fingers on the wax seal until it broke diagonally, revealing a battered, even yellower piece of paper inscribed with blue ink. He gave Klaus a curious glance and unfolded the first letter in the light of a lamppost.


    Dear cousin,

    Such good news from you makes my heart jump. I'm still back at home, waiting for my turn. I miss the times when we used to play together without a care in the world, like that school camp we went together to. You managed to get out and live your life, I still have to complete the last part in order for me to finally do the same. My parents are eagerly awaiting for me and hopefully we will get to meet each other again very soon so we can talk now like men.

    Speaking of that, I heard you obtained your qualifications! I am very very glad for you - make sure you put them to good use so when you come back home we celebrate together in the tavern, drinking a good beer. I heard Helga is still waiting for you, so do not disappoint her. And keep your eyes open, we don't want anyone else to steal you from her!

    When you have some time, please call me, I am more than eager to hear what you have been doing lately.

    Yours,
    Alex



    Reythier did not make much of it, so he opened the second envelope in the light of the lamppost, drawing even closer as by now night was in full swing. To his dismay, the second envelope was almost identical to the first but with some notable changes. There was no cousin; it was nephew. Helga was replaced by Hilda and Alex now became Helmuth. Reythier slid the letters back in the envelopes and gave them to Klaus.

    "They're coded."

    Klaus frowned. "What?"

    "Coded. Encrypted. They don't show the real meaning. And it has two meanings, one which you can understand and another one which you have to find out."

    Klaus took the letters. "They're very similar, almost identical. I don't see how the have different meanings."

    "Klaus, think of it from a different perspective. Who keeps letters from their cousin and their uncle in the hidden pocket of their pants?"

    "They do."

    "Yes, but it's not uncle or cousin. Usually you keep letters from your girlfriend, wife or mother. Not your cousin."

    "I'm not following."

    Reythier placed his finger on the envelope. "Uncle is the commanding officer, cousin is the platoon sergeant. The nephew is the leader of the group, the cousin is the follower. A private in name. And it's all part of a military group, and we have no idea which one it is, why are they doing this and how come it all ended up like this. We've got too many questions and not enough answers." Reythier glanced at his watch. "Where's that constable?"

    "Five minutes."

    "Good."

    "I don't understand. How did you figure this out?" asked Klaus.

    "Read it throughly. Matter of fact, read the second letter out loud."


    Dear nephew,

    I have no words, no words but joy at such news, my dear nephew. Such good news from you makes my heart jump. I'm still back at home, waiting to hear about everyone's good deeds. I miss the times when the whole family used to gather and eat together without a care in the world. You managed to get out and live your life, I still have to complete the last part in order for me to finally do the same. Everyone is eagerly awaiting for news and hopefully we will get to meet each other again very soon so we can talk now like men.

    Speaking of that, I heard you obtained your qualifications! I am very very glad for you - make sure you put them to good use so when you come back home we celebrate together in the tavern, drinking a good beer. I heard Hilda is still waiting for you, so do not disappoint her. And keep your eyes open, we don't want anyone else to steal you from her!

    When you have some time, please call me, I am more than eager to hear what you have been doing lately.

    Yours,
    Helmuth



    Klaus held it up.

    "So, explain to me."

    "The nephew is one of the men. The joy is that he completed his training and the CO is waiting for the news about their mission. Remembering old times is about the training back at base camp, and as for keeping your eyes open, it's a gentle reminder to not get caught. As for the last bit, inform the base immediately after mission completion."

    Klaus smirked. "You think this is it?"

    "It has a second meaning too. But until we get to Paris, we have no idea what it is. And the problem is we might have a surprise on our hands before we get to Paris."

    Reythier pointed to the building, ushering both Klaus and himself inside as the snow flurries intensified.


    ----

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 06-21-2017 at 23:07.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter V - Orders



    ----
    9th of December 1938, 9:00 PM
    Obergruppen Aachen HQ
    Aachen
    Germany


    It reeked of tobacco smoke.

    Tobacco smoke, cheap tobacco smoke, wafted around the whole office and no matter how much they dared to leave the windows open, the tobacco smoke was better than the bitter cold outside. Most of them smoked in the office, a rather large space that housed more than ten men who served primarily as the links and bureaucrats of the group. Neither of them was known to the public and it was best served that way. Not even the higher in command knew of these men, except for a select few, because these were the ones who were supposed to not have any single link to any government whatsoever. It would have been bad public relations if they were to be found. Not that it mattered by now. Neither of the men in the office were supposed to be known. They all had to follow orders. Be they his, or be they someone that trusted in him.

    Richard Elbe was the heaviest smoker in the room. And the leader of them all.

    Leaning against a black wooden desk, with two bare chairs beside them, Elbe scanned with his grey eyes the constant flurry of activity that went on around the office. The men under his command, none of them older than twenty four, were tasked to link with the field agents and provide information as quick as possible. Elbe's group was a paramilitary hidden group of young men who acted as the eyes of the government. Few knew about them and none of them even held local passports. Elbe was a registered Frenchman, hailing from Alsace, with Norman ancestry. At least that's what he trained himself to say whenever someone asked him where he was from. There were no brown shirts, white shirts or black shirts in the office which he held. In this industry, everyone was free to wear whatever they wished so long they did not omit a small round rune attached to the collars of their shirts. Elbe in contrast had three. He was the general and the chief of the unit and it had to be mentioned as such.

    He stumped the cigarette in one of the small glass ashtrays. That was his sixteenth for the day, enough for him to get to his ratio of almost a pack a day. The cigarettes made him no calmer. The news of the capture of his two men made him agitated, so much so that the messenger on duty felt the need to apologise for giving such news. When the messenger came to his office, he expected smiles and thunderous applause. All he got instead was a meek apology and a rather fast exit from the messenger who had to report on the news that the two men had been captured by the French counterintelligence. And of all places, in Colmar, a small border town with only four policemen. Elbe walked away from the table and climbed a small flight of black stairs to a small heightened platform that was actually built as part of the attic. The platform was half open, allowing him to view the two long tables that made up the battlestations for his men as he called them.

    Ten radios, endless sheets of paper and a constant flurry of activity and telephone calls. That was the Obergruppen HQ like. They had an important task to do and Elbe was there to supervise it.

    He tapped his knuckles against the railing of the platform.

    "Walther and Karl, in my office!"

    Elbe's office was totally different from the spartan like interior of the hallway. It resembled a magical wooden attic fit for a children's fairy tale book. With a mahogany table in it's midst and two windows behind it, the attic was bathed in a warm glow from two small lamps hung from the ceiling, illuminating dozens of bookcases on each side, children's toys strewn on the floor in the corner and small cushions piled up just beside the office table. Elbe found it like that when they bought it from a local owner. He kept it the way it was because it reminded him of his childhood in the Schwarzwald. Elbe sat down on his chair, folded his arms and waited. And waited. And waited so for ten minutes, idle and silent, until Walther and Karl came.

    Two brothers, two identical brothers with matching white shirts, both of them fairly tall and well built, came inside the office. Both of them smiled, something which Elbe picked up but said nothing. They saluted in the typical fashion to Elbe.

    "Those two are your men. What in the world happened?" asked Elbe, his voice as calm as the river running in the midst of Aachen.

    Walther, to Karl's right, gave his brother a quick glance. "They got captured. We don't know how."

    "Did you not do the proper training?" asked Elbe, in the same eerily calm voice.

    "We did."

    "Then?"

    "They failed."

    "So you want to ditch them, that's what you're saying?"

    "We've already taken care of it," countered Karl.

    "How?"

    "We sent another one of our men to make sure they say nothing."

    "So we are going to lose, or probably did already, two men. Because they were incompetent or you were incompetent?"

    Both brothers shifted nervously, glancing at each other without saying a word.

    "Well?"

    "Herr Elbe, we trained them. We instructed them. We do not know why they acted like this," replied Walther.

    Elbe rose from his chair, rather methodically, his leather boots emitting a familiar clacking sound against the wooden floor of the attic.

    "I hope they will not say anything. Because the next time there will be a price to pay. And the next time you will dearly hope the French counterintelligence is going to catch you."

    Both brothers bowed their heads.

    "One last thing. I want every single detail of the capture investigated and known." Elbe turned around to face his office. "And the next field mission is on you. Both."

    -------

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 07-17-2017 at 22:44.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter VI
    (part 2 of the Night Train)



    ***
    Colmar, Alsace
    9th of December, 1938
    9:15 PM

    Klaus slowly lowered the receptor, visibly dismayed as he gave Reythier a smirk in the corner of his mouth.

    “I phoned to Paris, told them what happened. They couldn't give me much help but they told me to look out for anything suspicious.”

    Reythier shrugged. He heard that before. Two hours before they were close to solving the problem of the Nazi spies, now they were both injured, almost murdered by a lone gunman and with no leads to follow. A whole team of local policemen and two experts joined in from Strasbourg to examine the crime scene but it would take a bit more time before they could tell them more information than they knew already. Worst of all, they were easily spotted.

    Reythier stood on a chair in the room adjacent to the interrogation room they used before, standing at the desk of the local constable. Klaus stood by the edge of the whisky coloured table, phone receptor still in hand, looking at Reythier as if to ask what to do or where to phone next. Reythier motioned with his hand and Klaus dropped the receptor back in its place. He watched as Klaus took a beige wooden chair and drew up near him.

    “So, what now, Alexandre?”

    Reythier raised his eyebrows, twisting his hand to his colleague. “You tell me Klaus. You came here and brought me in this mess in a small town by the edge of a perilous border. Why did you come here in the first place? Just for the interrogation?”

    Klaus shook his head. “No. And yes.”

    “No and yes? That makes no sense.” Klaus hesitated. "Or maybe it does." Reythier straightened his posture, suddenly curious. “There's more to this. You were expecting something from those Nazi boys.”

    Klaus nodded. “I did. Let me call the constable.”

    Klaus stood up and returned a couple of minutes later with the local constable of Colmar, the chief of the police of this little snowy town, visibly shaken and greeting rather meekly Reythier whom he met a couple of hours earlier. Sporting a sleek moustache, the man's greying hairs were overtaking his little remaining hair, somehow accentuating the deep wrinkles on his forehead. Border constables are not exactly having an easy time, Reythier thought. The constable was dressed in the typical dark uniform but he kept his pistol unholstered this time, visible and always at hand in case any more gunmen would have a swift swipe at Reythier and Klaus. The police officer took a wooden chair from the corner of the room and placed himself on the other side of the table, facing Reythier directly.

    Bonsoir again, Monsieur Reythier. I believe you wanted to speak to me.”

    Reythier switched his position and smiled to the constable. “Oui, c'est vrai, monsieur Pernod. I asked to speak to you and I will be short about it. Have you experienced this before?”

    Constable Pernod shook his head. “No, clearly not like this. But I have heard many stories and read more than a dozen reports about random people asking about our troops, our defences, our police even. Someone even asked whether the mayor of Colmar has a gun in his house.”

    Reythier gave Klaus a quick look, underneath his eyebrows. “When did this happen, Monsieur Pernod?”

    Constable Pernod dabbed for a few moments. “First report arrived on my table about four months ago. Ever since they have been increasing weekly, but nothing serious has ever happened until this very incident.”

    “Four months. Did you know about those two young men?”

    Pernod nodded. “I did. Two months ago one of my policemen came to inform me about them two posing as tourists, asking around about the Maginot line and other military objectives. One of the local farmers became suspicious and related that to one of my men.”

    “Who then reported to you.”

    “Correct. We counter-spied them, watched their movements, but nothing ever happened.”

    “Until they stabbed those two farmers.”

    “We knew it was them immediately. It happened just outside a deserted guard post. So I gathered my men and we arrested them quite quickly.”

    “And brought them to us,” added Klaus, to which Pernod nodded.

    Reythier nodded, but nodded out of reflex more than anything. The constable knew nothing more, and that was evident. They were no closer than they were a couple of hours ago. Reythier looked at Pernod.

    “Constable, have you had any trouble with your men lately?”

    “Yes, I have, but minor incidents. Why would you ask, Monsieur Reythier?”

    Reythier did not immediately answer. He glanced around the room, scanning every inch of the desks, until he noticed a sheaf of blank papers in the corner just beside him. Sliding a piece of paper to the constable, he took out a fountain pen and wrote in the very corner of the paper: Do you suspect any of your men?

    Much to Reythier's dismay, Pernod nodded.

    The constable coughed. He coughed again, and again, and then stopped, pointing with his fingers towards the sheaf of papers. Three times. Three men he suspected, three men of aiding these foreign spies who were liquidated by a member of their own and nearly killed Reythier and Klaus as well. Reyhier looked at his undercover companion who motioned quickly with his fingers, signaling that Pernod should leave. The constable understood the motion, bowed slightly and stood up.

    “Monsieur Reythier, I will send you more information once I have it.”

    “Merci, Monsieur. Let us know as quick as you can.”

    The man nodded in agreement, shook their hands and left the room to return to his policemen, leaving Klaus and Reythier alone in the room with their thoughts, suspicions and an awkward silence. Reythier leaned back on his chair and tapped the edge of the desk, lost in thought, using the fountain pen in a rhythmic movement that somehow did not annoy neither of them. He switched his gaze from the white gold nib to Klaus, whose rugged features and a slight six o'clock shadow were amplified by the lost look he wore for the past hours. Out of them, it was Klaus who was the shocked one, but Reythier had his moments when he needed his friend to slap him back into the real world. The Frenchman rose from his chair.

    “I'm lost. What now?” asked Reythier.

    Klaus kept rubbing his forehead. “Pernod was fidgeting too much.”

    “Excuse moi?”

    Klaus looked up at Reythier and nodded. “Yes. He was fidgeting quite a lot, he seemed nervous, his right foot was always jumping up and down. You could not see it, it was hidden by the desk, but I kept my eyes on his movements. For a police constable he was far too nervous.”

    “You think he is hiding something?”

    “I think there's more to it than the three suspicious policemen under his watch. And three...” Klaus stood up and held up 3 fingers. “Three policemen is three too many for this little place. How many does he have in the first place? 3 policemen out of 12, that's a quarter of his force. If 3 policemen are aiding these guys, then we should be lucky we escaped alive.”

    “Keep in mind two of them have been killed.”

    Klaus shook his head. “Those were our men. Counter-intelligence. I told them to disguise as local Colmar policemen.”

    Reythier pointed to the door. “Did Pernod know about it?”

    Klaus shook his head. “No. I kept him in the dark. I only asked for the room and for his silence on the matter.”

    Reythier said nothing more. A number of moments later, a young policeman, no more than twenty years of age, pale skinned and rather shy in approaching them, knocked on the opened door. He bowed curtly, removed his cap and handed Klaus a crumpled note.

    “Monsieur Pernod sends his regards.”

    “Our salute to him. Thank you!” replied Reythier.

    The policeman bowed again and left, leaving the two men alone. Klaus looked at Reythier, then back at the crumpled note. Reythier watched as his companion opened the note, revealing a small scribble in black ink.

    “Follow the Night Train. What night train, what's this all about?”

    Reythier took the paper from Klaus's hand. “Train, train, are there any trains coming back to Colmar this evening?”

    “I have no clue. Let me check on that.”

    Klaus phoned the train station and waited for a couple of minutes until a groggy foreman answered him. He slammed the phone receptor thirty seconds later.

    “There's two more trains coming to Colmar. The next one is in 15 minutes and it's a regional train, stopping in Metz. The second one is coming back from Lyon, the red striped train I came with.”

    “When is it coming?”

    “In 35 minutes.”

    “Arm your pistol, get two more cartridges with you and let's go. We'll wait at the station.”

    -----

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  13. #13
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter VII.

    Elbe's character is slowly being shown, and he has some unexpected links too.


    ----
    9th of December 1938, 10:00 PM
    Obergruppen Aachen HQ
    Aachen
    Germany

    Tap, tap, tap.

    Tapped again, and again, and again. Synchronised, coordinated, honed at the military academy which he quite despised but was obliged to attend. Elbe's glazed leather jackboots tapped repetitively against the wooden planks of the child like office of his. The echo of the taps reverberated inside the headquarters, over the heads of the radiomen and link men hurriedly working to dispatch orders and coordinate the spying and sabotage groups. The flurry of activity rose a humdrum of noises, creaks and occasional shouts up towards his office but it made no difference to him. Just as the taps of his jackboots barely made an impact on the men below. Elbe was lost in his labyrinthine mind and the headquarters was bustling with the coming and going of men. In both cases, they were working for the same goal.

    The Motherland.

    Elbe had mixed feelings about his duty, however. Born in a Prussian junker family but with a French mother, this whole duty to the motherland seemed both honourable and quite off putting at the same time. He avoided combat, gradually rising through the ranks of the paramilitaries due to this father's connections and an exceptional organising skill. The military superiors who knew about the Obergruppen knew this; so did Elbe, who took advantage of every inch, connection and link afforded to him. Four months ago he met one of the leading figures of the brown shirts working for the party and for the country. That meeting left him with a sour taste but he laboured onwards with his task. His only hope was for this war to be quick.

    Oh yes, war.

    Elbe smiled to himself. This incoming war, because a war it will be, has already made it difficult. Spying on your country, your family, your adoptive country, in his case being France, your friends and even your mistresses. Elbe suddenly reminded of Mathilda, his brother's wife. She was in love with him, and then with his brother, and now she was working to extract secrets from a British MP. Elbe smirked, only to himself, alone in the office. He had plenty of these movements as he waited for information, orders and... letters.

    Lost in his myriad of thoughts, Elbe did not hear the knocks on the door.

    "Herr Elbe?"

    Elbe shook his head and turned around. Karl, dressed in a customary Heer uniform but with notable missing pieces due to their unofficial status, brought him a white envelope. Elbe however noticed the rank patch on the side, which Karl never wore. He took took the envelope and held it up.

    "What's this?"

    Karl raised his eyebrows, the corners of his lips twisting sideways. He tilted his head slightly leftwards, as if avoiding Elbe's gaze.

    "Well?" said Elbe.

    "Orders, Herr Elbe."

    "Orders?"

    "From the headquarters."

    "We are our own headquarters."

    "Headquarters, Sir."

    "Obergruppen is an HQ, Karl."

    Karl shifted awkwardly. "From Munich, Herr Elbe."

    Elbe lowered his gaze to the envelope. "Take care of the duty in Colmar, Karl."

    Karl nodded in acceptance and left Elbe's office.

    A white envelope. Elbe tapped it against his left palm, looking at the symbol on the top right corner and the symbol that held the two lips of the envelope together. He turned on his heels and sat down at his desk, bringing the yellow lamp closer to the envelope that now turned brown in the light. With calm movements, he slid his index finger underneath the seal and opened the envelope. A cursive, black ink writing flowed neatly on the white paper.

    Herr Elbe,

    You are kindly expected in Munich. With the exception of your closest of men, do not inform anyone of this.

    We expect your presence upon the fourth day after the deliverance of this letter.

    Our warmest wishes,
    Oberkommandant


    They never signed these letters of envelopes. Nobody had any names on them. For the best part, it could have simply been a forgery to deceive him but the symbol on the right hand corner indicated the special unit from which this envelope was sent from. Elbe rose from the desk and headed to the fireplace where the logs crackled playfully in the hearth. With one swift movement, he threw the envelope in the fire.

    And just as the fire engulfed the envelope, he noticed another note which somehow he missed. Elbe quickly plucked the envelope from the fire, scattered the ashes on the sides and unfurled the fire-crumpled note that was somehow hidden in a flap inside the envelope. A simple word stood written in big letters, stamped underneath it.

    SABOTAGE.

    Elbe nodded. "That's it, I guess."

    Turning again on his heels, he threw the envelope again in the fire, took his cap and left the office.
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 08-18-2017 at 22:34.
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter VIII

    Horace's story arc slowly blends in. It's part 2 of Clouds of Smoke.

    ----
    8:45 PM
    Court Road, London
    United Kingdom


    For more than twenty minutes, Horace Benningham kept his eyes fixed on the entrance of that red-bricked block of flats, a typical English working class building down by the infamous Court Road. In it's heyday, Court Road was the average working class neighbourhood. But as the country grew, so did the neighbourhood. It was no longer the quiet neighbourhood it once was, particularly in the restive Friday and Saturday nights. Now that the threat of war was looming, spies from all places gathered around in quiet London neighbourhoods to do their work. From the intersection with the Circus, which was behind Horace, the whole street was lined with small houses or small blocks of flats, no more than three stories high, with exterior railings that dubbed as stairways for whenever it was needed. It took him no more than a fifteen minute drive from the White Club, a casual stroll in his nimble Citroen Traction Avant he got as a gift from Lord Beckett. He was after all looking for Mathilda
    now.

    Horace narrowed his eyes and scanned the cars down the street. By chance, one of Ryan's men gave him a vital piece of info, simple happenstance as the man walked by just as Horace was about to leave. Mathilda was no longer alone in the apartment she owned on the second floor. Horace smirked. He made a mental note of that detail and holstered the Colt pistol underneath his suit jacket. He got out of the black Traction Avant and gently closed the door, careful to make as little sound
    as possible, just as a gust of wind slapped his face. Taking one last glance around the empty street, Horace casually strolled down to the block. The four storied building had a simple wooden door entrance with horrid cast iron railings by the stairs, about as ungainly as an abandoned house. Horace slid inside, his polished patent leather shoes touching the red carpeting that blanketed the stairs.

    "Good, no noise," he whispered to himself.

    He gently went up the stairs and slid to the edge of the dark brown door where he knew Beckett's mistress lived. He was about to knock on the door when he heard the shouts booming from inside.

    "I knew it! You're seeing someone else, aren't you? I knew it! How much did it take for that to happen, how much time? 6 months? How long have we been married? Not a lot it seems, and it looks like you've been marrying me just so you can have someone to impress!"

    Horace narrowed his eyes. He had no idea who the man was, but he was sure this was Mathilda's apartment so the idea of her being married added to the difficulty of the whole Mathilda affair. He didn't have much time to think it over when he heard the woman scream in terror as she struck some sort of object, causing a chorus of other sounds of breaking objects to follow suit. The man screamed at her again, echoing throughout the stairwell of the block.

    Horace breathed. He had to act before someone noticed him.

    Using a small silver clip attached to his jacket pocket, he slid it inside the golden lock of the apartment door and fumbled his way until the lock clicked with an audible sound. Horace gently opened the door, sliding sideways inside the apartment, closing the door behind him just as stealthily as he opened it. The apartment in itself was not large by any means. A small hallway from the door, if it even was a hallway, led directly into a large room that dubbed as a bedroom on the left side and a living room on the right side, with a small bathroom just beside by the door. The room was split into two sides by a sliding door.

    And at the bottom of that sliding door, with her back against the wall, stood Mathilda, gazing in horror at the man that towered above her with his arms pointed at her.

    "Six months we've been married, six months, and all you did was use me!" yelled the man, clenching his fists as close to her face as possible. Horace couldn't see anything but his back and the uniform the man wore.

    Beckett's man would have wanted the man to stay attentive to Mathilda, yelling at her as hard as he could, but it was Beckett's mistress who gave him away as she noticed his presence. The husband turned, almost by instinct when he noticed Mathilda's expression change, glimpsing Horace's silhouette as the Englishman approached him. For a couple of brief moments, they analysed each other, weighing their options as they faced a stand off in Mathilda's living room. Horace faced a rather tall, handsome husband, dressed in a black military unifom with golden tresses on the right shoulder and a small airplane insignia on the left hand side of his chest. But what drew his attention was the symbol on his left arm, the symbol embroidered on the uniform. The man was a foreign spy. And Mathilda most probably fed him the secrets Lord Beckett gave to her while drunk.

    Before Horace had a chance to react, the man leaped at him and smashed him against the living room wall with such force that the Englishman thought his bones had broken into fine pieces. The man did not stop, smashing a fist into his ribcage and a subsequent jawbone punch that nearly knocked Horace out. Horace crashed sideways onto a small padded chair, struggling to regain his composure. Before he managed to do the man took him by the suit and threw him accross the living room, sending him crashing into a wooden table. Horace's crash destroyed the table into the pieces, collapsing him on the ground right at Mathilda's feet.

    But the angered husband was not done.

    The man leapt at Horace and lunged for his neck, an ill timed move which Horace easily deflected with a parry and a strike to his opponents' jawbone. Before the man could parry back, Horace reached for his pistol and slid it out of the leather holster, drawing it enough for it to threaten his opponent. Angered, the man leapt once more at Horace, ignoring the obvious threat of the Colt pistol directed at him. He lunged straight for Horace's arms, trying to block the pistol, only to make matters worse as the men struggled on the floor.

    Two shots rang out from the Colt M1911.

    ----

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter IX.



    ------

    Colmar, Alsace
    9th of December, 1938
    9:35 PM



    10 minutes later, they left the police station and headed off back into the cold, the snow and the crackling sounds of white powder crumpling underneath their leather boots. Reythier said no word of their early departure, moving on without a word away from the police headquarters with Klaus trotting alongside him in silence. As they passed the petite boulangerie by the edge of the bridge over the Lauch, Klaus took a quick look behind him and patted Reythier slightly on his left arm.

    “We left more than twenty minutes earlier than the train. It takes us at most five more minutes to get there.”

    Reythier nodded, walking onwards without a side glance. “I don't believe Pernod.”

    “Because of what I told you?”

    “That too. But I have my own doubts. The story he told us is far too fantastic for me to even believe it.”

    “What if he's right?”

    Reythier shot Klaus a dubious glance. “What are you saying?”

    “Pernod might be right.”

    “The Lauch has higher chances of defrosting in a snowstorm than Pernod being right.” Reythier nodded over to the train station, slowly becoming visible in between the timber frame houses of Colmar. “No chance.”

    “Then what are we doing here now?”

    “Looking for three men.”

    Klaus rose his hands in despair. “So you believe him!”

    “Partly. He's got three accomplices, that's true.”

    “How did you guess?”

    “You'll see.”

    “What are we looking for then?”

    “Three men casting weird looks around this place. Should be easy to spot them.”

    “In a crowd?”

    “What crowd? Colmar doesn't even have five thousand people any more because of the threat of the war. What crowd? Who comes here in the middle of the winter? Ten people at most will come from the train. Look closely.”

    “And if they're not there?”

    “Then you keep looking.”

    They arrived at the train station approximately one minute and a half earlier before the train arrived, allowing them to slide away from the station itself and into the waiting room. A dim light illuminated a small room on the side of the little house that dubbed as an office for the chief of the station and a waiting room, separated by a hastily constructed wall that was part white part grey because of improper finishing. A row of chairs were set on the right side as they entered, with their backs against the windows, which forced both Reythier and Klaus to take them and switch them around so they could see the incoming train. Both men stood down and placed their hands inside their pockets, clutching the grips of their pistols as they waited for the earlier train.

    One minute later, already overdue even by their estimates, the black locomotive chugged along in the station and dropped off around twenty people who soon went to their business into Colmar. Because of the windows that overlooked the train tracks rather than the station, they could see neither of the passengers, forcing Klaus to protest with a measured gesture of his neck towards the train. Reythier watched his gesture but moved his head slightly downwards in disagreement. Unmoved, but fidgeting slightly, the two men waited for another thirty seconds in total silence until one man dressed in a black fedora and a woolen overcoat entered the waiting room.

    Bonsoir,” said Reythier, smiling slightly and inviting the man to sit down.

    The man stopped for a brief moment, his hands still on the edge of the waiting room door.

    Bonsoir.” The man watched them from the edge of the entrance, somewhat confused and unsure of the two well dressed men sitting in the waiting room, chairs overturned towards the incoming train. “Are you waiting for the train?”

    “Well, no. I am waiting for someone.”

    “Ah. Well, everyone has left. It is just me now.”

    Reythier moved his head. “Is it?”

    Reythier's measured words somehow made the guest react hastily. Before he could pull out the pistol from the pocket of his overcoat, Reythier lunged at the man from the chair in one single swoop, smashing him against the wall of the waiting room. Immobilised, the man tried to react against the sudden fury of a tall Parisian who dealt two successive blows to his ribcage, shattering two ribs and forcing him to collapse sideways in pain. Overcome with pain and fear, the man could only watch as Reythier dealt a furious jab to his forehead, knocking him out cold right beside the entrance of the waiting room. The man slumped to the ground, inadvertently kicking the window of the waiting room door that was enough to alarm his friends.

    Before Reythier had a chance to untangle himself from the battle, two men entered the waiting room from the opposite side, pistols at hand, aiming directly for Reythier's torso and head. But as Reythier had hoped, Klaus took out his own pistol in a clean arching maneouver, firing three successive rounds into the two assailants. Two of the bullets hit the first assailant in the right leg and right arm, forcing him to drop his pistol and collapse against the wall of the waiting room. The last bullet hit the remaining assailant in his left kneecap, throwing his face down against the cold pavement of the waiting room. All of them were still alive, but neither of the assailants were able to put up a fight any more.

    Satisfied, Reythier motioned to Klaus who kept his pistol outstretched. The tall Parisian took the knocked out guest and dragged him over to the chairs in the wails of his comrades who were slowly bleeding on the waiting room floor.

    “Shouldn't we get an ambulance, Alexandre?” asked Klaus.

    Reythier looked at his watch. “Eight minutes. It's already on the way. I left a note for the junior policeman who helped me earlier.”

    “Junior policeman? How come you trusted him?”

    “Eager to serve the headquarters. The only one who could be trusted.”

    Reythier sighed. The assailants were quickly searched and their pistols taken away, a precautionary measure to prevent any mishaps like four hours ago. He looked at the pistols and while two of them were of French origin, the last one, which belonged to the knocked out guest, was made by Walther Firearms. German. He raised the pistol to Klaus.

    “Walther PPK. Foreign spies.”

    Klaus looked at the two bleeding assailants. “How in the world did you guess, Alexandre?”

    “Two details.” Reythier lifted up a finger. “Who knows the interrogation quarters of the police headquarters apart from Pernod or his close men? It's a random house hidden in the middle of a small town named Colmar. You want me to believe these foreign spies knew about it? Those two young men... Pernod knew about them. And the shooter was one of ours. Frenchman. Born in Alsace.”

    Klaus muttered under his breath some words. “Second detail?”

    “Pernod left the headquarters immediately after we spoke with him, instead of staying with his men to continue his investigation. That made me suspicious, along with what you told me, of him fidgeting during our quick conversation. So I figured out it had some connection with the night trains that come because of the note he gave us. But you would think of the night train that it would be the last one. Not the one before.”

    “He tried to throw us off.”

    “Correct.”

    “Tres bien. I give up now. Tell me how you managed to notice the first one.”

    “Pernod's police cap.”

    Klaus rose an eyebrow. “His cap?”

    “Constables wear a slightly different cap than the rank officers. And Pernod happened to be a reasonably important constable around here, so he had his own fashion touch to it. A blue and white ribbon.”

    Klaus frowned. He took a glance around at the injured conspirators and took one of the hats lying on the floor, immediately noticing a small blue and white ribbon attached on the edge of the tip. Small, but noticeable. He showed it to Reythier.

    “This?”

    “Yes. That ribbon. It's their own mark of identification without having to talk.”

    Silence quickly followed. Reythier watched as Klaus stood stumped with the hat in his hand, drawing his fingers slightly over the edge, right over the blue and white ribbon that somehow represented the flag of France. Or at least a portion of it. Reythier's friend held up the hat.

    “And, what now? What happens with them?”

    “Pernod left, but he will caught soon. I spoke with one of the policemen to deliver a note to the secret services in Lyon. Pernod is just a cog. We're in for bigger problems.”

    Klaus threw the hat in one of the conspirator's faces and turned to Reythier.

    “I'm worried.”

    “You should.” Reythier adjusted his own hat. “Pernod is a little wave, something you feel when a wave touches your leg when you go to the sea in Biarritz or Saint-Tropez. We're in for a large wave, a destructive wave, that will sweep us away. Away, or sideways, either way it will be violent.” Reythier sighed. “Klaus, we're in for a war.”


    ---

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter X.

    Swords Made of Letters will be split into books, and this is the end of Book I.


    ----

    Hurr, crackle, roar.

    From the inside, it felt like a lazy afternoon stroll down the boulevard. But once in a while a double tailed exhaust grumbled behind, crackling and roaring on the dainty streets of Munich. Despite the mechanical whirring of the steel orchestra and the heavy weight of the car, the ride was remarkably smooth on the leather bench in the Mercedes limousine. With a soft hum in lower gears the Maybach V12 engine pushed the massive limousine forwards but the cylinders groaned heavily whenever the chauffeur pressed the pedal, unleashing a sudden burst of acceleration that felt distant, almost like in a movie replay on slow motion, on the soft leather seats. Elbe cushioned himself against the backseat, leg over leg, his arms outstretched and his eyes set heavy on the expansive Prinzregentenstrasse of Munich. There were no words between him and the chauffeur, only nods and simple pointing of fingers. That's all he got and he knew that was all he was going to get.

    At least the ride was smooth.

    He stopped in the Munich Train Station some six hours after he left Aachen, a train event as uneventful as it could get. No one stopped him, no one questioned him. As he exited the station, tucked behind a row of columns and hidden in a corner reserved for military cars stood the chauffeur with his Mercedes-Maybach limousine. The man stood in his military uniform and pointed two gloved fingers towards Elbe, indicating him as the package that needed to be... delivered. The limousine snaked its way from the train station and onto the royal boulevards of Munich carefully expanded by the Party. They left the main streets rather quickly to switch to quieter side roads where the whirring of the V12 was the only thing they were hearing. Forty five minutes after they left the station the car stopped in front of a four storied building on the outskirts of the city. Elbe recognised the neighbourhood because of the junction only metres away. The building sat at the junction between the Autobahns leading to Berlin and those towards Vienna.

    Without any words, the chauffeur nodded his head towards the building.

    Elbe got out of the limousine and headed to the entrance of the building. Four storied, and not particularly impressive, the building was a combination of eclectic end of 19th century design, adorned with stucco architectural details and large windows. He rose up a flight of stairs and entered the building where two officers immediately saluted him.

    "Herr Elbe. Wilkommen. You are expected on the fourth floor."

    Fourth floor. At the top of the building. Elbe returned the salute and glided up a massive marble staircase that adorned the middle of an expansive hall that doubled as the entrance but probably was a ballroom in the better days it had seen. First floor, second floor, third floor... fourth floor and silence. The whole floor was split into two parts, with the north-eastern side of the building occupied by eight rooms, four on each side of the corridor while the north-western side had just one single office. Elbe headed to the office on the north-western corner of the building, find the door to the study wide open.

    It was expansive, to say the least, as Elbe noticed when he stepped inside the well-furnished study. Long, teak panelled furniture doubled as shelves for hundreds of books, adorning the beige coloured walls. The study was homely, inviting even and Elbe was not the least bit surprised when behind the main desk just underneath a window stood a small fireplace. The hearth was filled with crackling logs, orange leaps of fire jumping joyfully within the small enclosure. It smelled of burning wood but also of tobacco and oud, probably for the perfume of the commander. Which Elbe had not seen.

    Lurking behind the door stood Oberkommandant Wilhelm, Prussian junker blood just like him but more devoted to the country and party phase than Elbe would ever be. Elbe turned around on his heels after Wilhelm coughed to get his attention, spotting a man in his late fifties in full military garb and a white moustache that seemed to copy Chancellor Bismarck. Oberkommandant Wilhelm wore glasses whenever he was on headquarter duty, giving him the look of a man who could easily replace Motlke the general in a World War I portrait. Elbe made the salute, which Wilhelm replied to with a customary salute, a nod and an invite to sit down.

    "Make yourself at home, Richard. Prussians are always welcome in my home."

    Elbe smiled. "I have never been to the headquarters when you were around. Every time it was either someone from the Heer or someone from the other branches, or even your lieutenants."

    "I know, Richard, I know." Wilhelm sat down on the brown leather chair behind his mahogany desk. He took a brown cigarette from a gold-plated metallic box on the desk and placed it underneath his nose. "Say Richard, how is everything in Aachen going?"

    "Well, Sir. We have some issues accross the border but we are

    "Issues?" Wilhelm raised an eyebrow.

    "Yes. I lost two men in Colmar because of inexperience."

    "Ah." Wilhelm lit up the cigar. "Just that?"

    "For the moment. We will see for the rest."

    "I understand."

    With economical movement, Wilhelm slipped a hand underneath his military jacket and produced a white sealed envelope with the same insignia as the one Elbe saw before in Aachen. Richard took the envelope and opened it, revealing a host of folded maps of the French defenses along the borders, information about strategic points and about informants.

    "Your orders are simple Richard. Down the path of the Maginot Line and all of the defences of France down the Rhine, Ruhr and Saarland you will be tasked to find points of weakness. I want the weaknesses exposed and when you can expose them by yourself, do so. Your orders are immediate, you can carry out your own orders and you have full command of your men."

    Elbe glanced at Wilhelm's stern expression. "I carry out my own orders?"

    "Sabotage the lines. That is all that is required of you."

    "Only that?"

    "And direct disinformation campaigns." Wilhelm put down his cigar and smiled. "Remember, swords are made of letters too, after all."

    -----
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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    New updates coming soon - and until then, feedback welcome!
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Book 2 of Swords Made of Letters.

    Chapter XI - House of Cards

    ----
    10:30 PM
    White Club
    Mayfair, London
    9th of December 1938



    Horace placed his hands gently on the teak-paneled bar counter.

    "Where's the chief?"

    Martin, a rather burly bartender with a thin French moustache, gave Horace a curious glance. The bartender was washing the glasses, cleaning them meticulously with his hands running on every single inch and side of the crystal objects he had been handling for hours by now. He smiled to Horace. Martin knew better than to simply point in a direction or another in such a setting. With a curt smile, he dropped his head slightly downwards and to his left, indicating the little tables that stood by the edge of the staircase that led to this second floor of the White Club. There were eight tables, most of them with two plush chairs each, but only two of them were occupied. And one of them was occupied by Lord Howe, the chief of the intelligence services and Horace's very own superior.

    Horace handed a five pound note to Martin and strutted with swagger towards Howe's table. He gave a curt but warm smile and shook Howe's guest' hand. Turning to Howe, he saluted in a military fashion, who was rather amused at the theatrical gesture. Almost bald, but with two piercing emerald green eyes, Howe was of a tall stature and always fitted in three piece pinstriped suits. Blue, as it was often the case, was the colour of the night. That was his own trademark and no one else around the White Club could match it or even imitate it. Howe smiled and rose his whisky glass, a touch of amber-coloured liquid swirling around the clear ice poured by Martin earlier.

    "Horace! What a pleasure!"

    Horace smiled. "Good evening, Sir. Please excuse my rather direct approach, but may I please request your presence in the Ivory Saloon in approximately five minutes? I say that this is of the utmost importance."

    Lord Howe rose a thin eyebrow, placing his whisky glass on the wooden table. He brought his palms together and glanced at Horace.

    "May I ask why, Horace? This is private duty after all, we're not at our offices."

    "Sir, private duty is of no matter now. This is public duty."

    Lord Howe glanced at his guest then back at Horace. "Very well Horace. I trust your judgement, I see you have a sense of urgency. But may I remind you this better be worth the time. I shall see you in five minutes in the Ivory Saloon."

    Horace bowed and left Lord Howe with his guest.

    ***

    Ivory Saloon, as it was labelled on the ivory-coloured door, had some connection to the ivory trade back in the old days but the saloon now was all teak wood, some marbling on the supporting colonnades and above all, a massive fireplace in the midst of it to bring warmth and cosiness to the guests. It held an oval table in it's midst with eight chairs around it, two of them at each "top" of the oval. The top of the table near the fireplace was empty but on one side, to Horace's left, stood Lord Howe, flanked by Lord Beckett, while on the other side stood Howe's guest, a bookish man at around forty years in a red suit jacket and two men clad in black suits which Horace presumed worked in the intelligence just as he did. Howe's guest in fact was a member of the House of Lords commissions on internal matters, which made all the more sense, Horace thought. From the other top of the oval, Horace brought his hands together and made a sweeping gesture.

    "Sirs, I thank you all for coming. Lord Howe, Lord Beckett, Sirs, I have called upon you all to discuss a matter of grave importance I have recently found out." Horace made a pause for effect. "It concerns Lord Beckett."

    Howe turned to Beckett. "What have you done, Beckett?"

    Beckett shrugged. "I do not know, Sir. Maybe Horace here will care to enlighten us." Beckett pointed towards Horace as he spoke, shooting an icy glance when he finished his words. Horace nodded in return.

    "Yes, Mr. Beckett, I understood that ugly glance. It concerns your mistress, should you be so interested to know about this."

    Beckett snorted. "My mistress?"

    "Yes, Mr. Beckett, your mistress. The English mistress you have been dallying with in the past months."

    Beckett clenched his fist. "My personal matters is none of your concern, Horace."

    Horace shook his head. "Sire, it is in fact."

    Howe held a hand. "What is this, Horace?"

    "Sire, Lord Beckett's mistress is in fact a German lady with a husband who is part of the enemy services, the branch of the airforce. Matter of fact, during your drunk escapades into her arms, all of the info that you have slipped to her without wanting, or perhaps wanting, has been regularly conveyed back to the enemy lines. She married this man because it was imposed on her, but you had no idea and yet somehow all of the information was leaking to our foreign spies. Your dalliances with her are of great concern to us because of the information leak."

    Beckett slammed a hand on the table. "Horace, your mouth. Keep it sealed."

    Howe swished his hand. He gave Beckett a sharp glance. "Go on, Horace. Beckett seal your mouth or else I will."

    Beckett growled underneath his moustache but could not say anything. He waved off to Horace.

    "Mr. Beckett has been seeing Miss Mathilda Muller for approximately four months, during which he has requested that I keep an eye on her at all times when I am off duty. I will not avoid the subject of that. Mr. Beckett has been most kind as a benefactor for me to earn more than my regular salary. However, my concerns about Miss Mathilda, despite them not being my business, have not been taken into consideration despite them being no longer a private duty but rather of public interest. I repeatedly told Mr. Beckett to be warned about her, to not say any private information to her, but it seems that it had no effect."

    Howe cleared his throat. "How did you find out, Horace?"

    "Mr. Beckett ordered me to follow her, but I had had enough, so I went to her apartment to inform her. I had enough of the spying."

    "And?" asked Howe.

    "As for that, well, during my encounter it turns out her husband was there. He attacked me when he saw me and the fight for my pistol turned into two shots. They hit him, but he survived. Four men came to pick him up twenty minutes later."

    Beckett rose to his feet. "You shot Mathilda?"

    "Her husband, Sir."

    "Is he alive?"

    "Yes, Sir."

    "Horace!" shouted Beckett.

    "Beckett! Sit!" growled Howe.

    Beckett sat down in a chorus of mumblings.

    "Where is the husband?" asked Howe.

    "In a hospital in London."

    "And Mathilda?"

    "Outside, in my car, under close guard."

    "Where was this?"

    "By the Court Road, Sir."

    Howe narrowed his eyes. "This happened in the middle of London?"

    Horace nodded. "Yes Sir."

    "When?"

    "Last night, Sire."

    "That's all that happened between you and him?"

    "Yes Sir. I spoke with Mathilda afterwards, after I had taken her from the apartment and into my car to protect her. It was there that she told me everything, but I still have my doubts."

    Howe flicked his hand. "Doubts on what, Horace?"

    "She's not telling the whole truth. Mr. Beckett told her some confidential information because apparently her husband has been roaming around the country with access to all sorts of factories and industries that pertain to our own national defence."

    Howe ran a hand over his face in despair. He stood like that for a couple of moments until Martin entered the saloon with a piece of paper in his hand. He bowed to Horace and showed him the scribbling.

    "The man is fine Sir. He is under close guard."

    "Thank you Martin."

    The bartender exited, leaving Howe and Beckett fuming but for different reasons. Without any expectation whatsoever, Howe rose from his chair and tapped Beckett on the shoulder.

    "Four men heard this story. You better come up with a good defence in Parliament, Beckett." Howe left the table and headed for the door. "Horace, you've got minutes to go downstairs. I will see you at the office and I need all of the details. Including Mathilda."

    Horace could only nod in acceptance.


    -----

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XII - Paris Briefing

    Continuing the story, picking off in Paris.



    ---
    12th of December, 1938
    7:00 PM
    Paris
    France


    Wisps of steam formed around the edges of his mouth, slowly evaporating in the cold area of a December night in Paris. Reythier wilted ever so slightly, his black leather boots clacking with a specific and rather satisfying sound on the cobblestones of the Parisian street. He always liked to hear that sound, for some odd reason. It made him smile, it made him feel in a position of power. Particularly when he walked towards a mission. That clacking sound was ever so recognisable by his subordinates, preparing their orderly salutes in fashion before he even arrived. One thing he did not like however was the direction his boots were taking him. After all, it took two days. Two days had passed since Colmar and all he got was a summoning to Paris. No other explanation. Reythier left his friend Klaus in charge of the little border town and took a red-striped train to Paris, arriving in a rather quick four hours in the midst of the French capital. After a rather short taxi drive to the 7th Arondissement, Reythier climbed out of the Citroen Traction Avant and headed up the street.

    It took him a slow walk of fifteen minutes to arrive at the villa.

    Reythier arrived in front of a Parisian villa on the outskirts of the 7th rd Arrondissement, an edifice built in the 1890's with an air of merchant wealth surrounding it. Mildly imposing, with one story and an expansive attic, finished with Greek colonnades and round corners, the villa was used often as a conspirator safe house for those who had links with the Deuxieme Bureau. The Bureau, or what the foreign intelligence services were called in France, called him up for an impromptu meeting. Reythier had no choice but to duly oblige. Careful to conceal his identity before entering, Reythier rose his overcoat lapel, covering his ears. With one swift change of direction he entered the house.

    It was warm, and the steam went away in an instant. He took off immediately his black hat just as he was greeted by an uniformed military policemen.

    "Good evening, Mr. Reythier. In the saloon please."

    The saloon was barely lit, being no more than an oversized kitchen built in one of the round corners of the house. The kitchen counter ran from end to end and all that was in it's midst was a small, four person table. A man stood with his back turned to Reythier, motioning with his hand in a circular motion as he turned around. He was in his sixties, having been born immediately after the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. Rank by rank, he rose up to an important position in the Bureau, coordinating the efforts of the foreign intelligence along the eastern border of France. Of mid height, with greying and balding hair, Reynauld Chartier was the main link for Alexandre Reythier. Chartier came to the table just as Alexandre did.

    "Good evening, Alexandre."

    Reythier nodded. "Bonsoir, Reynauld."

    Reythier was about to take off his coat when Reynauld stopped him.

    "Don't. This will be brief."

    Reythier fastened back his overcoat and slid his hands in his pockets. "I'm listening."

    "You're going to meet someone in another safe house. In fact, it's going to take you a while until you solve that thing in Colmar. So your best bet is to find out from the underground what they know."

    "Aren't we the underground?"

    "Not quite. There's another layer between us."

    "And they are?"

    "The streets. The street sometimes knows details that we don't. So go meet the street."

    Reythier narrowed his eyes. "I don't get it."

    "Beggars. Street handlers. Local workers. The lot who stays on the street and knows every bit of gossip in town." Reynauld took a sip of the coffee. "And even about mistresses."

    "You're asking me to meet beggars?"

    Reynauld put down his coffee. "Not quite. You need to meet their chief. In the outskirts of Paris."

    Reythier growled under his breath. He hated being given straight orders, particularly with no more info attached to them. Respectful, he saluted Reynault and left the house.

    Fifty five minutes it took for Reythier to arrive outside a house on the southern side of the city, flanked by small two storied houses and surrounded by a small courtyard with an oversized gate. Reythier pushed the gate aside and entered the courtyard which to his surprise dabbed as a small farm, a smithing workshop... and a gun armoury. With the house to his right side and the workshop to his left embedded in the wall, the back of the courtyard displayed a wooden wall which had over thirty types of small guns, ranging from shotguns to rifles, muskets and even a small pistol. As he delved deeper into the courtyard, a mid-sized, wiry man with a slight moustache approached him. Well built, muscular, dressed in a white shirt and black pants, his green eyes gave Reythier a quick scan.

    "You're Reythier?"

    Reythier nodded. "Yes. I presume you're Alain Poitou."

    Poitou extended his hand. "Good to meet you. Tell your boss Reynauld he owes me a good payment for this. Come inside."

    They entered the house, a small, simple building inside that could have been replaced by any other typical French farmhouse. But this one was owned by an underground chief, one who housed thirty weapons inside his home. They sat down in a small, bookish room, flanked by books and the occasional smattering of heavy dust floating around in the air. A small fireplace crackled in the corner, bringing some much needed warmth and relief. On the table however were tens of dossiers, stacked together in a huddled mass that could have tumbled down at any minute. Poitou smiled and

    "This. This is what you need."

    Raising a thin eyebrow, Reythier took the dossier. "This? What's this?"

    Poitou took another smoke from the cigarette. "The man you should be looking out for."

    Reythier glanced at the name. Richard Elbe.

    "Who's this?" asked Reythier.

    "A local commando chief."

    "Why are we interested in a local chief?"

    Poitou grabbed him by the hand and led him to an extended, detailed map of the French - German border.

    "Elbe leads the Aachen commando group, which is here." Poitou pointed to the city. "Not that far off. He coordinates things from there."

    "So you're saying he dealt the whole Colmar attack to us?"

    Poitou nodded. "That's what you're after, non?"

    Reythier smirked. He pulled up a chair, sat down and beckoned for Poitou to do the same.

    "Now explain to me why and how did you get this info."


    ----


    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 01-29-2018 at 00:46.
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    Rocker Member Arnulf Floyd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Good story set in interwar period, edyzmedieval, I wait next chapter

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Thank you very much.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XII - Secret Briefing

    Small step forwards.

    ---
    9:45 PM
    Intelligence Villa
    Westminster, London
    United Kingdom


    "Have a seat, Horace."

    Stuffy it was, filled with the smell of leftover cigar smoke that embedded into the tapestry, the chairs and even the curtains. On the second floor of a small Victorian villa a couple of streets away from the major landmark of the neighbourhood, the meeting room hoisted a number of plush velvet chairs around an ivory coloured lacquered table. Two windows brought enough light into the room where it was only Horace and Lord Howe. The chief of the intelligence sat down at the top of the table, with Horace standing by the chair on the opposite end, casually slouching into the chair with his hands folded.

    "I'm listening Horace. You've made a fuss of it, and you're accusing a member of the Parliament. That's no easy thing."

    Horace straightened his posture, drawing his jacket downwards to project a feeling of strength. And to buy more time.

    "Lord Howe, I don't do this lightly. And I was supposed to turn this in to my superiors anyhow since I had enough of this."

    "What did he ask you to do, Horace?"

    "Follow his mistress. He was afraid he was cheating on him."

    Howe raised an eyebrow, almost smiling. "His mistress, cheating on him? Doesn't he have a wife?"

    "He does, Sire."

    Howe smirked. He cleared his throat, making his heavy, throaty voice even stronger. "Dubious. Continue, Horace."

    "Lord Beckett has known Miss Mathilda for quite some time already, I believe that it's already been a year." Horace shifted slightly on his legs. "More than a year in fact. We discovered the information leak quite late."

    "A shame." Howe brushed his hands against his fists, his eyes straight on his subordinate.

    "She was... well known to us. In fact, she is the daughter of a diplomat, which raised some alarms.

    "And nobody bothered to tell him that?"

    "Nobody listened to us, Lord Howe."

    Howe raised his head, his eyes viewing Horace at an odd, titled angle. "Nobody?"

    "Beckett gave us no importance."

    "Good job, Beckett. Go on."

    "I had been following her for almost a year when the first reports came to me."

    "A year. Good job, Horace!"

    Horace shifted again. "Sire, I tried to warn him."

    "Relax, I understand. Go on."

    "Bekcett employed me privately and I followed her continuously for some time. Initially it was just a number of nights, then it became my entire off duty."

    "And why did you stop?"

    "With her, I wanted to tell her that I had enough and that Beckett was following her, so just be careful. Turns out she was married already, so she was cheating on Beckett, but with her own husband."

    "Who's the husband?"

    Horace tapped his shoulders. "Air force officer, probably a pilot. Maximilian Elbe."

    Howe flicked his hand in the air, implying that he wanted more info. "Anything we know about him?"

    "Not much as of this moment. I found out what he had been looking for through a report passed down to me by my colleagues in the Internal Security department. Multiple people reported of a tall man lurking around various important objectives for days on end, sometimes seen with a photography camera in hand too."

    "What exactly are those objectives?"

    "Do you have a map, Sire?"

    Howe's assistant brought a large map of the United Kingdom three minutes after the request, which the two men unfurled on the table. Patches and patches of various sizes and colours were applied on certain spots around the map, indicating various levels of importance for the places highlighted by these items. Horace held up four fingers.

    "Four different objectives. One just south of London, an armament factory. Second one slightly westwards close to Cornwall is a power station supplying the whole south of the country. Third, eastwards, close to Grimsby, he was spotted around the naval dockyards which he did again in the north close to York."

    Howe pointed to the patches. "Right, all of these are of national security importance. How sure are we it's the same guy?"

    "Extensive notes taken by our Internal Security, based on what the locals were telling us. He did not use the same car twice but it was easy to recognise him by the third try. They had one man follow him throughout the journey."

    "All right, but how do you know him?"

    "Mathilda told me who he is."

    Howe brushed his palm over his face. "Fair. Did you send her in?"

    Horace nodded. "Yes, Sire. She's on her way to the interrogation room in our central headquarters."

    "Good." Howe returned to his chair and picked up the jacket he left on the back of the chair. "Horace, I'm off to the headquarters. Return to the scene, find out more information about him and keep an eye on Beckett."

    Howe drew up his man, locking his grey eyes on Horace's own.

    "I don't trust Beckett. Follow him."

    ----

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 02-05-2018 at 23:29.
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  23. #23
    Rocker Member Arnulf Floyd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thanks for update

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    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XIII - Carry It Out, Officer

    A new chapter, focused on Elbe.


    ---
    14th of December 1938
    9:32 PM
    South of Stuttgart
    Baden-Wurttemberg Region
    Germany



    A certain sound, formed by the gushing of rain stomping on the pavement, on the earth and on the cars. That sound formed a nighttime orchestra that echoed throughout his mind, like a little blanket put behind his back to shield him from the cold. It was cold outside, a dreary December night in the south of Germany where everyone stood huddled around fireplaces and not outside waiting for official permission to continue. They stopped at a military checkpoint, approximately thirty miles south of the city of Stuttgart, heading for a military retreat deep in the woods of Baden-Wurttemberg. The watchman checked their papers and phoned in at the headquarters for clearance, which Elbe and his driver duly received after another inquisitive glance from the young guardsman. The Mercedes sedan roared onwards, the heavy radial tyres munching through the muddied gravel road that led to the military retreat. The twelve minute road to the retreat through the dense forest was not particularly welcoming as the trees themselves cast heavy shadows over the road, a slight mist and a game of darkness floating above the two yellow electrical eyes of the car.

    Twelve minutes onwards and the car braked in a small plaza, each side of the square central point flanked by a certain type of military building. To the west and north were three military barracks, guarded behind by a taller armoury while in the midst of the plaza, slightly off centered towards the east, stood an imposing villa with a watch tower. Eight cars were parked beside the entrance of the villa whilst three armoured personnel carriers stood by the entrances of the barracks. The whole plaza was silent, mist roaming around the tops of the armoury and the villa, the only sound being the drenching of the rain as it flushed through the graveled paths.

    Elbe's driver drew up the Mercedes at the entrance, forcing Richard as quickly as possible outside the car and into the villa. The intelligence officer entered the foyer of the villa, immediately greeted by two uniformed men who smiled at him. Maximilian Ober and Richard Muller. Both of them good friends of his, both of them in the army. And both of them his liaison with the miltary. Maximilian, of average height but with a charming smile and golden tresses by his sides, stepped forwards and gave Elbe a heavy hug.

    "You gained weight, Richard. Aachen must be good for you," quipped Maximilian.

    Elbe faked a brushing of Maximilian's tresses. "Don't get too confident Ober, I'm here to get your position. Aachen is boring."

    "Well, not for long it won't be. Up we go, come on!" replied Maximilian.

    They hurried to the first floor of the villa and were ushered inside a command room filled with military maps hung on the walls, automatic rifles were dropped on an adjacent table, uniforms were tossed in a corner. The villa was a military compound, a local headquarters, and it showed. Two men stood huddled around the map

    "Good evening Richard." said one of the men.

    Maximilian glided around Elbe and put himself between the two generals and Elbe.

    "Richard, allow me to introduce Herr Gunter and Herr Willich." Gunter, rather tall and his head covered by the army cap nodded whilst Willich, shorter but with a rather fierce expression stood motionless. "They will be your liaison, Richard."

    "Herr Gunter, Herr Willich, glad to meet you."

    Neither of the two men said anything except but give the smallest of nods. Gunter, with a rather economic flick of his hand, motioned Elbe closer to him and to the map.

    "Herr Elbe, as we understand, you command the Aachen group. Correct?"

    "Correct, Herr Gunter."

    "Good. As we know, Aachen is very close to the border and will be of imperative importance to our future operations that we may decide to conduct. All of them are considered."

    "All?"

    "Yes, all of them. That includes military options, Herr Elbe."

    Elbe scratched his nose, slightly bowing his head. "Understood, Herr Gunter."

    "Good. How many men do you have? I have been told you have 26 in total."

    "Forty six in total, but twenty of them are auxiliaries."

    "Strong enough. Have they carried out missions before?"

    "Yes, they have."

    "Good, very good. How fast are they? Do you rate them as capable?"

    "Yes."

    "Then you have a mission."

    Gunter took a long cane from the table and pointed westwards of Stuttgart, somewhere along between the Ardennes Forest and the city of Strasbourg, converging around the pocket of Colmar.

    "The Maginot Line."

    Herr Gunter smiled for the first time to Richard. "Carry on with it, Herr Elbe. Maximilian here will guide you."

    "Herr Gunter, please, if I may, I already had a meeting with Oberkommandant Wilhelm. He traced some guidelines for me already."

    "Correct, Herr Elbe. Oberkommandant Wilhelm is our superior and he wanted to judge how eager your team is to carry the duty for our fatherland. He judged as you as capable so he sent you to meet with us, to get your actual orders. Now, if you will excuse us, we have to plan other things."

    "Yes, Herr Gunter."

    "Carry it out, officer. And fast."

    Despite knowing very well his job, Elbe left the room with a smirk and a sour taste in his mouth. Gunter's orders were demeaning. A simple pawn he was now. He scurried down the stairs with Maximilian in tow who grabbed him by the arm as he was about to exit the villa. Maximilian looked at him directly in the eye, raising his chin slightly.

    "Your reaction is odd."

    "My men are more capable than just sabotaging some railway lines, Max."

    "Those are the orders, Richard."

    Richard brushed aside his friend's arm. "Guard your place, I'm sick of Aachen, get ready to step in my place and me in yours."

    "I'm not worried. Just make sure you take Gunter's place instead."

    Elbe smiled.

    "Happy sabotage, Richard!"

    "It will be. I didn't come for another pointless meeting just to get some useless orders."

    ---
    Ja mata, TosaInu. You will forever be remembered.

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  25. #25
    Rocker Member Arnulf Floyd's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Thanks for another excellent update for this good story

  26. #26
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters



    Thank you so much!
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  27. #27
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XIV - A Den of Spies

    Another chapter, this time focused on Reythier.

    And also - one year since the first chapter!

    ----

    12th of December, 1938
    3rd Arondissement
    Strasourg
    France
    7:50 PM


    By the sound of the cracked voice that buzzed through the police phone, Klaus seemed concerned. Often times he was concerned, scurrying from every police and intelligence headquarter with information, but his voice seemed unusually off to Reythier. They had captured a man linked to the Colmar attack they had endured but as expected, the man refused to talk. What really worried Klaus, Alexandre guessed, were the items found on the man. And a name.

    Six and a half hours from that phone call he arrived back in the local police headquarters in Strasbourg, driven by a military police officer through the rough country roads. Full of potholes, soiled by water that turned into a muddied abyss and occassional traffic jams by local cow herds, the road was mightily unpleasant. But Reythier had no choice. By now the Office of Counterintelligence had become suspicious so Reythier had to subject himself to the orders of scurrying away from the city centres and into the more desolate side roads. The military police officer drove him to the back of the intelligence headquarters, right into a small courtyard that housed four blackened cars with muffled headlamps. The courtyard was befitting the small conspiratorial house, a grey bricked house with two stories that was rather unassuming just on the edges of the city centre.

    Two officers saluted Reythier as he entered, invited immediately into the commander's room.

    Just beside a small corner table, smoking from an almost empty pack of cigarettes stood Klaus, hand over crossed legs, staring blankly towards the wall. His fedora cap stood on the table, drizzled with cigarette ash and obscured by a plume of smoke. He only rose his eyes towards Reythier as he entered.

    "I feel more like a fireman than a policeman, Klaus," Reythier quipped.

    Klaus raised one of his thin eyebrows, his grey eyes slightly narrowed. "Why?"

    "I'm responding to issues rather than actively working to solve them. We're two steps behind, all we have is someone we captured by accident and we know some of our policemen were bribed." Reythier stood beside the table. "That's all."

    "Who turned against their country, you mean."

    "That too."

    Klaus held up from the table two sheets of scribbled, yellowy paper. "Recruitment papers from our fellow man. Reinhard Muller is his name, he's downstairs in his cell, he won't talk."

    "Why are we so worried about him?"

    "He's part of a group called the Aachen cell."

    "Why is that so important?"

    "All right, let me show you."

    Klaus rose from his chair, extinguishing his cigarette in a rather slow movement. He walked towards a large map of the border in the corner of the room, dragging himself along to the edge of the map where the city of Strasbourg stood. Just north, approximately 150 kilometres away, stood the old city of Aix-La-Chapelle. Or as it was called today, Aachen.

    "The Aachen group has been in the counter-intelligence objectives for a couple of months now after we have discovered intense activity just over the border near the city. I know it's not far off from the Saarland where they took over recently, but the activity, the sabotage, the intelligence gathering and the men they sent to spy on the Maginot line have got us quite concerned. Simply put, they are the headquarters of all of the sabotage and subterfuge activity in this area and there has to be a way to counter them." Klaus pointed to the papers. "I hope Herr Reinhard will help."

    "You're hoping too much."

    "He's a good source. Maybe he will talk."

    "Why exactly is Aachen group so important? Every other group is just as important."

    "They coordinate, as I've told you. They coordinate the whole border with us and I will not be surprised if Colmar, Maginot line and all of their activities are linked."

    "It might be the same group, you mean."

    Klaus nodded slowly. "That's right."

    "I'm going downstairs."

    From the warmth of the commander's room, the darkened stairs brought together not only a lack of light but also a cold gust that swept over the stairs and underneath his clothes. The makeshift prison cells downstairs were illuminated by a very dim light, almost casting no shadows against the walls. One of the officers at the entrance opened the prison cell, revealing a slightly more brighter light inside a cramped cell with only a small window to the world. Reythier entered the cell, a damp air that invaded his nostrils and serrated his sensitive airways. A midsized man stood on the floor

    "Good evening, Reinhard."

    Silence.

    "I will be direct and blunt. The Aachen group, do you know of it?"

    Silence.

    "Nothing?"

    Reinhard waved Reythier off. "I know nothing."

    "Really? We have your papers."

    "They are fake."

    "Signed by you?"

    "Fake."

    "Very well then. Who are you with then? What group?"

    "No group."

    "Then what were you doing here?"

    Reinhard looked at him, his gaunt appearance slightly jarring Reythier. "Farming."

    Reythier laughed. "Funny. I will keep that in mind." Reythier rose his finger. "I am going to Aachen. Should I know something?"

    Reinhard laughed. "Keep your head down."

    Reythier bowed and left the cell, hearing the heavy lock click in the distance as he raced up the stairs. He returned to the warmth of the commander room only to see Klaus propped against the main table, looking in the distance at the map. Reythier tapped his friend on the back.

    "I'm off to Aachen."

    Klaus frowned. "What? Why?"

    "No more reacting. We have to act on our knowledge, thin as it is."

    "You're going alone?"

    Reythier nodded. "Alone."


    ---

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 05-07-2018 at 23:00.
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  28. #28
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    The little story is more than 1 year old so perhaps some of you might have feedback, which I encourage you to share.

    Can even be in a Private Message!
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  29. #29
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XV - What Would You Do?

    A new chapter, focusing on Reythier's perspective - more and more concerned with the illegal activity and espionage.



    -----
    4:40 PM
    14th of December 1938
    Lauterbourg border post
    French border with Germany


    Click, clack, click, clack. The lacquered leather boots thumped on the concrete pavement flush with water, bringing the border guard closer to the Citroen limousine stationed before the barrier. A considerable amount of rain had brought copious amounts of mud onto the barely paved road, evident on the muddied tyres of the car and the drops of mud on the guard's boots. Clad in a black uniform, the guard approached the car apprehensively, unsure of the lone visitor that had bothered his writing of letters to his girlfriend. No cars ever passed through the Lauterbourg border post, unless they were official cars, and even then they were quite rare. Firm, the guard posted himself by the side of the Citroen as the driver rolled down the window.

    "Good evening. Welcome to the German border. Your papers please."

    There was no room for discussion, and there was no need for it either. The driver turned to his passenger in the back, giving him a slight wink. Reythier took out his fake documentation, freshly inked and stamped but properly aged, which he duly handed over to the driver who gave it to the guard.

    With two fingers, the guard motioned for the driver's papers as well, but he found those rather uninteresting, focusing on the other set. The guard slid slightly sideways, poking through the rear window to catch a glimpse of Retyhier looking at him directly from underneath a sturdy grey hat.

    "Herr Langstross. What is the purpose of your visit?"

    "Visiting."

    "Visiting? For what purposes? Are you a tourist?"

    Reythier, disguised as Wilhelm Langstross, shook his head. "My extended family is from Aachen, I would like to visit them, hence why I'm making this trip."

    The guard looked askance at him. "Family in Aachen. And yet you are French."

    "I am a German living in France."

    "I hope you are." The guard eyed Reythier. "Stay here, I will return."

    Reythier watched through the rain drops lazily zig zagging on the window as the guard retreated in a small wooden border post. His face was obscured underneath the officer cap but he could see the edges of a telephone receptor pressed against the side of the face. Reythier breathed slowly, monitoring his breath without wishing so, his eyes fixed on the receptor and whatever gestures he could discern from the guard. He shifted on his seat, his breath in check, attentive to the surroundings. It lasted no more than 40 seconds until the guard returned with the yellowy identification papers which he handed back through the window. For a moment he wanted to say something, still slightly unsure, but Reythier extended his hand and the guard duly shook him.

    "I hope you will return to the Fatherland soon, Herr Langstross."

    Reythier smiled. "What do you think I am doing now?"

    The guard smiled. He drew back from the car and raised the border barrier, allowing the rumbling Citroen to slowly pace away from France and into the heartland of the German forests. Reythier turned on the bench of the car and watched as the guard lowered the barried and slowly entered back his border post.

    "I hope he doesn't call on his friends too soon," said the driver. A stocky Belgian, Johann could pass by as a Frenchman, as a German or as a Dutch, it did not matter. What did matter to the Deuxieme Bureau was his allegiance to France and his willingness to help.

    "Don't bet on it. He's probably phoning them as we race down to Aachen. Just keep it steady and away from the main roads."

    "You've got a plan?"

    "No, not really. We'll see when we get there."

    From the border post in Lautebourg, the journey with the sturdy Citroen on the side roads transformed their lacquered car into a muddied mess, a mixture of earth and wet mud caking around the edges of the bodywork. The black paint slowly turned into a dark brown which to their advantage blocked out the French number plates attached to the back of the car. They stopped at various inns and guest houses, mingling in with the local crowds to gouge the war fervour of the country and their support for their politicians. Much to their disappointment, their curiosity was not satisfied so they soldiered on until they reached Aachen by the end of the day.

    Aachen was sheltered by the dark rain of earlier, a slight mist lowering itself on the towers of the Aachen Cathedral. It was just as cold as they had expected, a not-so-bitter outlook that enabled them to stand outside for a quick cigarette by edge of a sheltered guest house in one of the suburbs. They stopped for a quick dinner, which finished even quicker than expected as the innkeep had no desire for guests than night. Reythier and Johann stood outside by the car, huddled in their overcoats, their speech mist covered by the cigarette smoke.

    "I have no plan Johann. I only want to get a feel of this place, and find my way to their operations."

    Johann smirked. "Finding your way to problems, Monsieur."

    "What would you do, Johann?"

    "You're by the border, Monsieur Reythier."

    "Herr Langstross."

    Johann nodded. "Apologies, Herr Langstross. Our Belgian and Dutch friends should be of help if we request their help."

    "You know them, Johann."

    "I do, yes. There is a cafe in downtown Aachen called the Prussian Saloon. In fact, it's not far from the Hotel Quellenhof where our friends have set up their informal espionage base. Let us meet tomorrow at exactly 2:20 PM at the saloon, I will try and come with some friends."

    Reythier adjusted his cap.

    "See you tomorrow."

    ------

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 06-07-2018 at 20:51.
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  30. #30
    Ja mata, TosaInu Moderator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XVI - Shadow of Aachen

    Reythier chapter, yielding a first real encounter with the foreign elements.

    ----
    7:50 PM
    14th of December 1938
    Cafe Saarland
    Aachen
    Germany

    Reythier knew there was no need for the driver to return to Belgium.

    He knew that. It was a pointless duty, away from the Lauterbourg border post or even Aachen, that would have yielded little help for him. But he wanted to take this on alone and the driver would have been an unnecessary hindrance and unwanted attention. By the time the driver was back, he would have finished the encounter that he bet on. With his driver now gone over the border in Belgium, Reythier took his time in a local cafe, wasting a couple of hours until he decided to step out back into the city.

    Light rain peppered the empty Aachen streets as nightfall swept over the city, forming a blanket of silence, half darkness interrupted by occasional street lamps and a stray car or two that trudged past without as much as a second glance to the unwelcome foreigner. It was cold, Reythier shriveling slightly after he exited Cafe Saarland. In the darkness of the street he zipped up his overcoat, turned over the lapels and collar to cover his neck and face and started walking through the rain. There was a house he knew, a house of an informant of his, slightly north of the city. He calculated it was about 3 kilometres north, close to the villages of Ofden and Alsdorf, but far away enough from Aachen to not attract any suspicion. The house was a farm, a farm that housed more than livestock. It was a safe house in the middle of the border zone.

    And yet, there was a growing unease inside him.

    Despite it being a border city, and generally more lively than others, the local authorities imposed an unofficial curfew and anyone found on the streets after 8 PM was bound to be searched should they attract enough attention. Reythier whipped his watch out of his overcoat beneath a lamppost, the thin, elegant hands of the Breguet wristwatch indicating 8:10 PM. Without as much as a flinch he slid his hand back in his pocket and kept on walking, darting past rows of houses keeping the people away from the rain and the bitter cold of December. Reythier stepped up the pace slightly after spotting a policecar but to his relief the car turned away into a side street and melted into the night. He shifted his focus away from the houses and back onto the street, step after step, boot clack after boot clack, his soles splashing into the puddles formed by an ever increasing volume of water. Slowly he left the houses behind and moved into open field, hidden in the nightfall darkness, with only the dim light of the sky guiding him through the road. Above him were clouds but they were relegated only to Aaachen. Moonlight shone lightly in the distance, close to the horizon, casting enough light for him to walk unimpeded.

    For more than an hour he walked on an empty road until his eyes adjusted enough to notice the cluster of walls that formed the village of Ofden. The village was quite known because of it's mining importance but even more important were the farms that were built around the entrance. Reythier spotted the square-like courtyard of the little farm at the entrance of the village, a two-storied building surrounded by wooden walls that doubled as stables. He exited the road and trudged through the soft mud peppered by the rain, caking at his boots until the very act of walking became a challenge. A large Opel van stood at the entrance, idling in the rain and watching for any newcomers that might visit. He whittled past the van and the main gate into the courtyard, eyeing the sleeping cows and goats with the corners of his eye. Apart from the tapping rain the farm was completely silent.

    Reythier narrowed his eyes. Farms were never silent.

    Slowly, with measured steps and one hand on the Colt M1911 pistol he approached the main door. Reythier pushed the door slightly aside, sliding inside the illuminated hall of the farm until he felt a heavy long object smash into his back. The rather weak force of the hit tumbled Reythier to the ground but not hard enough for him to lose control, grappling the Colt even tighter. With one measured view he took two clean shots to the legs of the assailant, sending him tumbling down beside the farm door. Reythier only injured his right leg, he noticed, with a thin line of blood trickling down his boots.

    The man he shot was a boy rather, no younger than 17 or eighteen years old, dressed in a brown shirt. He looked at Reythier with cold eyes, furiously grappling still the wooden plank he hit him with. Reythier approached him, Colt held in his hand.

    "Who are you?"

    The boy hissed. "None of your concern."

    Reythier rose his pistol. "Are you sure?"

    The boy withered. "What do you want?"

    "What happened here? Why did you attack me? I am a visitor of Mr. Alofs."

    "Mr. Alofs is no longer here. We took over the farm."

    "Who is we?"

    The boy pointed to the badge. "SA."

    "Ah." Reythier paused. "You took everyone from the farm?"

    The boy nodded. "The animals too. Some were left but only for us."

    "Where is Mr. Alofs?"

    "They took him to Aachen. He's being imprisoned, his boys were taken by us."

    "You made them members?"

    "They had no choice."

    "So I see." Reythier pointed to the gunshot wounds. "Take care of them."

    "I need your help."

    Reythier narrowed his eyes, a plan forming inside his head. "Where are the medical supplies?"

    "Upstairs, in Mr. Alofs' room."

    With one eye on the boy and one eye on the stairs, Reythier scurried to the room on the second floor. The whole place had been ransacked, turned upside down and Mr. Alofs personal bedroom had been almost destroyed, the walls hacked into pieces with hammers in a probable search for information. Alofs had been a vital informant and the counterintelligence services had found out. Luckily for Reythier, Alofs never kept any information with him. Everything he had he handed over. Seeing there was no chance of any useful information, Reythier searched for the medical supplies and returned with a couple of tablets and packing gauze only to find out the boy had disappeared. A dark red trail of blood indicated the boy had scurried into the kitchen, most probably dragging himself there. Reythier had to act fast.

    With one quick flick he threw the small bottle of tablets into the other corner of the hall, yelling towards the boy in the opposite direction. With small, silent steps he headed over towards the kitchen, managing to hear a couple of whispered words transmitted over a telephone.

    "Hurry! One of them is here, he shot me in the leg. Yes, he's wearing a long overcoat and he has a foreign looking pistol. He's probably an American or something. Hurry!"

    In three hurried steps Reythier was out of the farm and back into the now heavy rain pouring inside the courtyard of the farm. From what he knew from reports, old man Alofs kept a couple of items necessary for the farm in a small box near the stables. He found the box rather easily, spotting a pair of small silver metal pins. The keys of the Opel van. Reythier ran to the van and much to his relief, the reliable vehicle started on the first key, despite the heavy handed noise it made. The van's engine roared as he ignition sparked the remaining fumes of petrol hidden in the greasy tank. Slowly it hunched on to the road and glided over the empty pavement, inching Reythier closer and closer back to Aachen. And just as he was about to floor the pedal, the unmistakable sounds of a policecar horn roared in the distance. Moment by moment the lights of the car got closer and closer to the van, forcing Reythier to slow down and clutch his pistol as tight as he could.

    But to his relief, the police car sped past him, rushing towards the now abandoned farm.

    Less than half an hour later he abandoned the truck at a junction near the Cafe Saarland, jumping back into the car of his driver who had waited for him. But instead of a warm welcome, Reythier slouched back into the leather couch of the limousine and pointed the pistol to the driver's eyes.

    "Somebody betrayed Mr. Alofs. It came to me that a couple of days ago he was taken by the SA, and someone told them about it. Who could be that someone? It has to be someone who knew, someone who exchanged the secrets that Mr. Alofs supplied to us and in turn who supplied him back with information and most importantly, money. And yet, Mr. Alofs is now gone, arrested by the SA, about to be executed. The farm is gone and the information is gone. Who could have betrayed him and us?"

    A silver bullet blew out of the hot barrel of the Colt.

    ----

    Thank you for reading!
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