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Thread: Swords Made of Letters

  1. #31
    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Estemeed reading ladies and gentlemen readers,

    Since I want the little book to be more than just a novel, I want to make it slightly interactive. Despite seeing the characters from the perspective of other characters and especially through their actions, it would be a good idea to give some background on them, to understand them better and to hopefully give a better understanding of the whole novel.

    The cast of characters will be continuously updated, as the novel advances.




    Swords Made of Letters


    Main Characters

    Alexandre Reythier -

    A senior officer of the Deuxieme Bureau (French Counterintelligence) and an experienced fighter, son of a decorated World War I veteran, Reythier is the key man for the Deuxieme Bureau as they investigate the increasingly frequent appearances of foreign spies from across all


    Horace Benningham

    A lowly member of the MI6, the British counterintelligence, whom he joined only 2 years ago when he turned 22, his desire to earn more money ended up with him being an important piece in solving a problematic issue of the MI6. He was privately employed by Sir Ian Beckett, a member of the British Parliament, who sent him to protect his mistress.


    Richard Elbe

    Early member of the SA, World War I veteran and close to 48 years old, Elbe is in charge of overseeing the spying efforts of Nazi Germany on the border with France and Belgium, initiating attacks.



    Secondary Characters

    Mathilda Adams Elbe - Beckett's mistress, she would prove to be of huge importance

    Klaus Romain - Reythier's superior on paper, Klaus supervises the Deuxieme Bureau along the western border


    Episodic Characters

    Sir Ian Beckett - a corrupt member of the British Parliament, interested only

    Lord Andrew Howe - a high ranking member of the MI6, the British Counterintelligence, second in command to the Chief of MI6 and the one responsible for cover action

    Thomas Elbe - Richard's brother, Mathilda's husband and a member of the Luftwaffe
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 07-29-2018 at 00:30.
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  2. #32
    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XVII - Heavy Scents

    ------

    7:45 PM
    15th of December, 1938
    Special Operations HQ
    London
    United Kingdom


    "Sit, Horace."

    It smelt of leathery perfume, a small trace of it wafting through the air as Sir Howe entered his personal office. Horace followed behind his superior, sliding past the door and towards the desk placed in the middle of the ornately furnished office. It was heavy, with opulent leather chairs and a mahogany desk right in the middle, surrounded on all four corners by bookcases. A still burning cigarette stood on the edge of a silver ashtray. Horace went to untie his neck knot when he caught Howe's gaze.

    "May I?"

    Howe smiled. "Of course. We're part of the Special Operations, we're not the stuffy army boys."

    Horace laughed. "Good to know."

    He threw his tie on the edge of the plush leather chair and crashed into the soft pillow. Horace saw Howe did the same, albeit more elegantly, on his leather chair. The S.O. chief extended an open palm to Horace.

    "I believe you have something to tell me Horace."

    "I do, Sir Howe."

    "Well then, go ahead. Start with the beginning, since I believe this won't be exactly easy. How did you get into Beckett's pay?"

    Horace straightened his posture. "My commanding officer actually suggested I do that. He knew I needed some more money so he proposed to be after four or five months in my duty that I can earn by working with Sir Beckett. I accepted right away, without knowing, but I shouldn't have."

    Howe waved his hand. "Not a problem, son. Continue."

    "Lord Beckett was cordial in the beginning, earning both my respect and I earned his. The pay was very good since it nearly doubled my yearly salary and the tasks were menial in the beginning. Pick up a letter from there, send it there, take care of my wife. These kinds of issues. Minor."

    "And at some point, he changed."

    Horace nodded. "About six months in, almost after a year since I joined the S.O., Beckett thought he trusted me enough to make sure I would now protect, follow and learn everything about his mistress."

    "Why so much protection?"

    Horace hesitated. "He... he fell in love with her, Sir."

    Howe raised his eyebrows, suppressing a laugh. "He fell in love?"

    "Yes, Sir. He would write poems, sing to her, send her flowers every day. And I had to do all of that."

    "Sixty five year old Beckett fell in love for a pretty English teenager? How old is she?"

    "Twenty Sir."

    Howe laughed. "Twenty and married too. She's a real catch."

    "She came from a lowly family but she caught Beckett's attention. And the SA's attention too."

    Howe narrowed his eyes. "Good point. How did she end up with the other side?"

    Horace rose up from his chair and headed to a window just an arm's length away, giving him a clear view over the Thames River. "I'm not sure, to be honest with you Sir Howe. When I started following her, Mathilda was only interested in Sir Beckett because he could improve her station. And somehow she slipped between the cracks because 4 months after I had started following her she got married. I remember Beckett that day, furious and raging constantly, smashing glasses and drinking three bottles of whisky that night."

    "He's a liability, that's what you're saying."

    Horace looked meekly at Howe. "Yes Sir, he is."

    Howe rose up from his chair and drew up to Horace, both men quite on the same level as they reached 6 feet each. "Do you think he's on the other side?"

    "He definitely slipped her some secrets because I heard her talk about some factories and energy services. Probably when drunk."

    Howe looked outside the window. "How often does he visit her?"

    "Three times, maybe even more a week."

    Howe turned to Horace. "What's his wife doing?"

    "I suspect she knows but she turns the eye towards that."

    "Poor woman." Howe was not really sorry, judging by the flat voice.

    "He bought Mathilda a flat. That flat down Court Road, where I was spying Sir, it's Beckett's house."

    "He bought a house for his mistress, who's married?"

    Horace shrugged. "Yes, Sir."

    "Does he know who her husband is?"

    "He does, but not the full extent. The man is called Thomas Elbe and he's a rather average officer in the Luftwaffe. Nothing too special. I saw his dossier."

    "Anything that stands out?"

    "He's a link to the Gestapo and the SA. He's a counterintelligence officer too."

    Howe turned to Horace, looking at him straight. "We have a counterintelligence officer running around?"

    "He's followed, Sir."

    "Little solace."

    Howe turned away from the window and returned to his desk, shuffling around his papers until he found a yellowy dossier with a red stamp on it. He rose the dossier and handed it over to a curious Horace.

    "Your bedtime reading. That's the dossier of a man called Richard Elbe, whom you might realise who it is. Adding to that, you have the file of a French counterintelligience officer named Alexandre Reythier who will be linking up with us in the very near future. Read it, and get back to me as soon as possible. We've got work Horace."

    Horace saluted. "Yes, Sir."

    Horace was about to exit the office when Howe signalled.

    "Oh, and consider your paid doubled. No more Beckett."

    ---
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 07-30-2018 at 23:13.
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    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country.

  3. #33
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XVIII - Battle Plans

    Presenting Richard Elbe's perspective, the chapter focuses on the building tension between the espionage of the two countries... and some twists as well.

    ----

    9:15 PM
    14th of December 1938
    Oberkommando HQ
    Aachen outskirts
    Germany


    Inside his office the only sound was the constant humming of the typewriters in the headquarters, the clicks and clacks reverberating all the way to the upper floor into his study.

    Elbe paused for a moment. A slow, meticulous and calligraphic movement stopped in mid-word, rendering the informative document only half complete and with a sudden ink blotch on the side. He heard footsteps on the metallic staircase that led to his study and soon enough, Wilhelm, dressed in the customary brown shirt and the tie knot a bit too tight around his neck, gave two rasping knocks on the open door. Without as much as a moment of hesitation he leaped forwards and thrust in front of Elbe's face a yellowy envelope. Rather irritated by the lack of elegance in Wilhelm's movement, Elbe rose his eyes slowly and ripped apart the envelope with a dissatisfied smirk. The hard paper was tough to open, and quite unpleasant to touch even, but it made for sturdy documents. Elbe's eyes glanced over the small note inside.

    "What happened now? asked Elbe.

    Wilhelm straightened his posture. "The farm has been attacked by someone. One of our men even reported gunshots and we've sent men to investigate."

    "The farm? What farm?"

    "The farm where we captured the informant three days ago. Just outside Aachen, heading towards the border."

    Elbe nodded slowly. "When did this happen?"

    "45 minutes ago."

    Elbe's eyes narrowed. 45 minutes ago, he thought, this was quite a brazen attempt. They went straight for the informant they had captured a couple of days ago who had been feeding information about the troops to the French intelligence services. The informant refused to talk but the trove of documents they found on him was more than enough to land him in the harshest prison in the land. Elbe rose slowly from his seat and nodded to Wilhelm.

    "Get the car ready, get a team of 8 men ready and let's go."

    They grabbed their coats and existed the headquarters in haste, linking up quickly with 8 other men and Elbe's personal bodyguards. Three BMW limousines rushed outside the small iron gate and revved into the night, rushing through the streets of Aachen to the other side of the town. It took them only a meagre twenty odd minutes to arrive at the farm, drenched in utter silence and with only a flicker of a flashlight circling around the entrance. Elbe and his men exited their cars and quickly huddled inside the farm for some warmth and light, followed by the three men who investigated the incident. In the corner of the hall of the farm stood the boy Reythier had attacked, smiling slightly to the medic who took care of his rather superficial arm wound.

    Elbe saluted the men and paced around the farm, looking around for clues of the fight.

    "So? What happened here?"

    Alexander, a tall and rather stocky Swabian cleared his throat. "We came here after one of the neighbours informed us of gunshots. According to what the boy told us, a foreign man, tall and with an overcoat and a top hat came inside the farm and started asking questions."

    Elbe drew up to the boy.

    "What questions?"

    The question was not adressed to Alexander or the boy in particular, but it became clear the boy would not be able to answer that too clearly.

    ALexaner cleared his throat again. "He was searching for the owner of the farm."

    "Herr Alofs?"

    "Correct."

    "Did he tell him what happened to Alofs?"

    "He did."

    "Good. That should put him off for the moment."

    "The man left immediately after, stealing the Opel Blitz truck that was just outside the farm."

    Elbe narrowed his eyes. "He's close then. That truck is far too slow. Let's leave, we have to find him."

    Leaving the injured boy behind, Elbe and his men paced back to their cars and returned to the road, heading southwards into the dense forest that covered the area towards the border. The bright headlamps of the three cars did not make much inroad in the thicket of darkness that was made all the worse by the dense forest. The cars trudged forwards, eating up the paved kilometers for a good half an hour at least until one of the men spotted a dark shadow on the side of the road. Elbe's car, the leader of the pack, reduced the speed to a slow trot until the three cars created a formation that directed the headlamps to the blocky shadow at the edge of a small hill. The shadow was the Opel truck, abandoned in soft mud at the base of the hill, hidden from plain view by the trees that made up the thick forest. Their flashlights focused on the cabin of the truck, the door of it wide open but to their dismay the truck was empty. Someone had abandoned it and left by foot.

    Elbe cursed.

    "Find the tracks. He shouldn't be far away."

    Just as they were about to leave, two shots rang out in the distance.

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

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    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country.

  4. #34
    Ja mata, TosaInu Forum Administrator edyzmedieval's Avatar
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XIX - Silence of the Forest

    More intrigue, more questions to be asked by Elbe's team.

    Thank you everyone for reading Swords Made of Letters in 2018!


    ----
    10:20 PM
    14th of December 1938
    Ardennes Forest
    Near the border of Belgium
    Reich Germany


    Wisps of steam flowed through the darkness.

    Elbe panted slightly, knelt and tilted at the base of a tree. It did not take long for the Opel Blitz truck stolen from the farm to sputter in the silent night, a hoarse engine crackling underneath the cabin, leaving the driver stranded by the edge of the forest with an empty fuel tank. Elbe and his party stopped by the truck at the edge of a hill and quickly scurried away in the darkness of the forest, close enough to the edge of the forest to catch glimpses of the road. Judging by the heavy boot tracks, the driver fled through the forest in pitch black darkness. Elbe sighed and shook his head towards Wilhelm and the rest of the party. The driver knew there was a search party for him. The farm was under surveillance after all.

    10:08 showed the clock when the driver left the truck. The man had an almost fifteen minute advantage. Elbe motioned to this men.

    "Let's go, back in our cars. We will advance slowly with the car and look down the road."

    Wilhelm tapped on Elbe's shoulder. "Are you sure, Herr Elbe? Our headlights are not standard lights, we have our military cars."

    "We don't have any other choice, do we Wilhelm?"

    "We can go back, Herr Elbe."

    "Absolutely not. Time is something we do not have. Find the driver, let's go."

    With obscured headlights, and not even very bright ones as well, finding the driver of the Opel truck would have been quite a useless endeavour but they persisted in Elbe's order.

    Despite Elbe's order for time, the 2 groups lost precious seconds as they extracted their cars from the soft mud at the base of the hill. Worse, the two gun shots they had heard in the distance only added to their curiosity but they had to wait until they would reach either Aachen or the first police post to get some information. A dim noise hummed around them as they went inside the forest, a low speed cylinder hum amplified in the night by the silence around them, scaring two wandering animals that happened to scamper around the edge of the forest. As was expected, the obscured, military headlights pierced only specific lines in the darkness, creating pockets of light in an otherwise impenetrable darkness that was only engulfed by the cloudy sky above. Wilhelm stood beside Elbe on the backbench of the limousine, clutching an MP-40 submachine gun on the edge of the window. The second group followed suit with small lanterns and their guns clutched tightly around them, the cold barrel aimed at the pitch black forest around them. They were slow, methodical even, stopping at regular intervals to twist the cars sideways to the headlights could illuminate the trees but there was little they could effectively do.

    Sighing, Elbe tapped the driver of the lead car to stop. The car stopped and Elbe went to the second car, closely followed by Wilhelm.

    "Where is the nearest police post?" asked Elbe.

    Wilhelm intervened. "Two kilometres from here. It's a police post at the edge of Aachen."

    "So you're saying he's close enough to Aachen?"

    "Probably in the city already."

    "Follow us. We need to get to the police post, we need information."

    Less than ten minutes later, a policeman saluted with the customary hand gesture and welcomed Elbe and Wilhelm inside the post. Elbe nodded and pointed to a map of the Reich in the entry hall.

    "Richard Elbe, counterintelligence. We are looking for a potential spy, possibly of French origin, who has made contacts with a local farm north of Aachen to supply them with information. The farmer has been captured but the spy has not. Has anything

    The policeman, a rather tall, serious looking man in his early 30's nodded. "Herr Elbe, two gunshots were heard on the outskirts of Aachen. A quick police escort was sent there, we found a man who had been beaten unconscious by the side of the road."

    "What was he?"

    "German. But that's all we know about him, he was taken to the hospital."

    Elbe frowned. "That's all you know?"

    "We found some documents on him and a set of his car keys. But he could not talk yet, he is still unconscious."

    "Any witnesses?"

    "We are questioning 2 men now, they said someone quickly left with a car from the direction they heard the gunshots from."

    Elbe glanced at Wilhelm, who narrowed his eyes. "How far away is the border with France from here?" Wilhelm and the policeman approached the map. "It seems it is less than forty five minutes away."

    The policeman nodded. "Quite so, yes."

    Elbe patted Wilhelm on the shoulder. "Go, we need to reach the border right now."

    With a quick signal of the hand, the two limousines revved up their engines and zig-zagged around the cobbled streets of Aachen, empty and desolate at this late hour and on a cold winter day, darting for the exit that led southwards towards the border with France. The low hums of the BMW engines were replaced by high revving cylinders, blasting through the exhaust crackles and guttural noises that broke the customary countryside silence. Elbe's driver feathered the throttle gently on the tighter bends, opening up the valves completely whenever they could to reach the border point before their man would. The second car followed quickly behind, leading a small pack of 8 men to a possible confrontation based on Elbe's hunches.

    They reached a small thicker of trees less than twenty odd minutes later, stopping to a halt the groveling of the engines that whirled in neutral gear. Two border guards jumped out of their post and aimed their machine guns directly at the windows of cars.

    "Stop! Identify yourself!"

    With rather ferm movements, Elbe rose out of the car.

    "Halt! Richard Elbe, counterintelligence!"

    The two border guards drew closer to the car, their machineguns pointed directly at Elbe's head.

    "Elbe, counterintelligence." Rather displeased, Elbe took the badge of his pocket. "Take it and examine it, gentlemen."

    Satisfied with the badge, the two border guards saluted Elbe.

    "We are sorry, Herr Elbe. We were doing our job."

    "And you did very well. Tell me," said Elbe as his men drew closer "has there been anyone who has left through this border post in the past hour?"

    Both border guards shook their head. "None, Herr Elbe. We have been alone even before dinner."

    Elbe smirked.

    "Curious. We were expecting an unwelcome guest to dart for the border and leave, but apparently he did not."

    "No Sir, he did not."

    Elbe turned to Wilhelm, tapping the wheel arch of the car, rather lost in thought.

    "He's still here. Find him."

    ----
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 12-25-2018 at 23:56.
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    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country.

  5. #35
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXI - Dossiers and letters

    In espionage, information is everything.

    -----
    10:30 PM
    14th of December 1938
    Tottenham Court Road
    London
    Great Britain


    The old chair creaked under his weight.

    It was rather annoying, he thought to himself, but he couldn't complain about the little apartment he owned. A small desk light flickered intermittently above his head, illuminating the yellow dossier on the desk in front of him, switching from light to darkness until he adjusted the electrical cable. Horace grabbed a small flask on the edge of his apartment desk and took a swig. The cool, exquisite cognac erupted in a flurry of warmth inside his stomach. The cognac woke him up ever so slightly, his eyes now turned to the dossier in front of him. He opened the dossier and dumped the contents on the table, a sheaf of classified documents, unclear photographs, medical analysis documents and old letters sprawled all over his desk. Horace sifted through the documents, classifying them in small heaps until he managed to make some ends of them. Most of them focused on his allies but he had quite the comprehensive report on the men he was about to tackle, courtesy of Lord Howe. He took the main report and the adjoining photographs and started reading.

    "Alexandre Gaston Reythier. Quite the long name."

    According to the information offered to his colleagues by the Deuxieme Bureau, the French intelligence service, Alexandre Reythier was born on the 8th of July in the year of 1910, shortly before the outbreak of the war. His father had been a WW1 war veteran and soon enough, not for a lack of better opportunities but because of his military inclinations, the young Reythier joined the Saint Cyr academy. He distinguished himself soon enough and the Deuxieme Bureau took him with both hands, employing him in both field work and desk work, something that the intelligence officers noted that he did not like the latter at all. Reythier was now assigned to the Alsace region, right on the border, tasked with gathering information and exchanging it with the allies of the French Republic.

    "Fairly straightforward. Should be a good chap to work with," said Horace to himself.

    He slid Reythier's documents to one side of the desk, right underneath the pillar of the desk light and glanced at the white dossier with a clear red stamp on it. Highly classified. He snatched the smaller dossier and opened the first page, revealing a full photograph of Richard Elbe, dressed in a ceremonial military uniform of that of a Prussian junker. Odd, thought Horace, the old Prussian junker military class was no longer welcomed in the new commandments. The photograph looked very similar to that of a painting and soon enough he realised the photograph was actually a coloured stencil of a painting, illustrating Elbe in an official portrait. Horace flipped the portrait, noticing a small writing on the corner of the stencil. One of the counterespionage agents of the Deuxieme Bureau had seen the portrait and drew it himself. Horace widened his eyes in surprise.

    Leaving the stenciled portrait to one side, Horace glanced over two written reports. Richard Elbe was indeed apparently of the old Prussian military class but he quickly threw in his support with the new leaders as early as 1931, quickly becoming one of the top military commanders around the contested Saarland. With the Saarland recovered and attached back to the Reich, Elbe became the top espionage officer. Fair enough and straightforward, thought Horace. What did catch his attention was the second report which confirmed what he had seen in the last couple of days. Elbe had a brother, a Luftwaffe captain, the brother he had fought with after entering Mathilda's apartment. Not only was Elbe's brother also an espionage agent but he had been infiltrated with important political figures for quite some time, as early as 1933. Five years he had gone unhindered. Five years he had supplied secrets to the Reich, clearly undermining the security of Great Britain. And nobody had discovered it until now, since the report was from 1934 and only had a minor impact.

    "1934. 1935. 1936. 1937. 1938. Five years."

    Horace shook his head as he contemplated the amount of information that may have leaked. Mathilda was just a pawn in the game and Lord Beckett as well.

    "Five years nobody did anything about this. Why?"

    Horace cursed. Somebody enabled Elbe's brother. There was a mole in the government, in the Parliament and in the Royal Family. Lord Beckett was only a back-bencher, someone up the chain had enabled him.

    Within the dossier there were multiple notes, a couple of random assorted bits of information and surprisingly, a list of people that Elbe interacted with back in 1933. The list was five years old and unsurprisingly, Lord Beckett was on the list over there. The list featured four other people he recognised, two of them members of the House of Parliament, one of them a member of the military branches and a prominent businessman. But there were sixteen other people on the list and four different ambassadors. Elbe's brother was very well connected for some reason. And this was a serious danger.

    Horace cursed again. He slid the documents back in the dossiers, grabbed them from his desk and left the apartment down to street.

    He did not manage to reach his car.

    ----

    Thank you for reading SMoL in 2018!
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 01-02-2019 at 23:57.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Wonderful readers,

    I will be constantly updating the first post, the one at the top, with an index so you can read the chapters much easier. The index will link all of the chapters to be read in individual posts.

    And as always, feedback is more than welcome!
    Ja mata, TosaInu. You will forever be remembered.

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXI - First Escape

    ------------

    10:45 PM
    Ardennes Forest
    Border with Belgium
    Germany



    For the moment he escaped.

    Reythier was grateful to the old Opel truck as it hurred slowly towards the French border. He was even more grateful for the narrow military headlights it had, allowing him to blend in the night with ease after he darted from the farm. The truck followed a sinewy hillside road, turning left and right in a successive manner, until the heavy truck slowed down to a crawl that made it counterproductive for him to continue. A casual purr went out in the silence of the trees as the engine stopped in a muddy trail by the edge of a small, dense pack of trees that linked to the forests lining up the Belgian - German border in the Ardennes region. Fifteen minutes at most was the advantage he had, maybe not even. Reythier had to move.

    The Frenchman dumped the truck and churned his way through the mud, guided by a small, scratched out silver naval compass he kept in his pocket. Shone in the narrow headlights of the derelict truck, the compass indicated south-west, which meant he was slightly off track. Hurtling towards the Belgian border through the trees was only possible by going west so after a quick adjustment, he lapped westwards on the soft earth, angling to reach the relative safety of neutral Belgium. Step by step he inched closer to the border, crackling the dried twigs underneath his leather boots, dodging pieces of cracked wood creeping dangerously close to his eyes. Before leaving his post near Colmar he studied the local geography, making a mental note of the four miles between the border and the farm. Shaving off a mile after driving the truck, he estimated he had about 3 miles left, maybe a bit more.

    Reythier panted. He had walked maybe five or six minutes, ticking away another twenty seconds as he put the wristwatch to his ear until he heard the hum of an engine echoing in the distance. Shouts and orders followed. Small echoes darted through the trees right to him but the men were not close enough to be of any danger. With the wristwatch to his ear and the other ear honed in on the sounds, Reythier waited for the tick of another fifteen seconds. The wristwatch mechanism gave off a pleasant, soothing sound, enabling him to focus on the cacophonic bustle in the distance. Fifteen seconds more. The orders grew in length and volume, the engine had been shut down but the men were not gaining any ground on him. Ten more seconds passed until the sounds slowly drifted into the mist of the midnight, leaving Reythier alone with his thoughts and the sound of a solitary owl humming peacefully in the night air. Less than three miles to safety, Reythier thought.

    With one last look behind him, he resumed his steady pace through the forest and the crackle of twigs underneath his feet as he advanced towards the border. There was no full moon in this dark December evening, maybe a faint half-moon loitering lazily above the treeline, but it was cloudless and there was enough light to guide him through the thickets. He had no doubt the German search troops would return and start searching for him but a solid head start would make him almost impossible to catch.

    "As long as I don't end up in another German town", Reythier said out loud.

    Somehow, the sound of his voice made him more comfortable, relaxed even, the words reverberating a slight echo through the forest. He adjusted his step over the thickets and twigs as he advanced, in tune with the imaginary sound of a second hand from his wristwatch turning inside his head. Three miles became two, then one and a half and then the trail broke into a wide-open valley flanked by the same forest edging to the outskirts of a small village. Out in the valley, he pulled out the scratched compass and glanced at the black marker. He deviated slightly, perhaps even south-west towards France, but this should be Belgium, he thought. With measured steps he descended within the town, his nervousness turning into relief as he darted past a police post sporting a sign written in Flemish. He was in Belgium.

    Reythier checked into a shoddy, downtrodden local hotel, paying double to the innkeeper to not ask any questions. The man duly obliged, handing him a scratched gilded room key inscribed 412. Cabin 412 was a creaking, wooden mess of a lodging room but at least it had a small fireplace where the orange embers happily danced over a small log. Reythier fell asleep as quick as he came.

    The wristwatch mechanism clicked 6:15 AM. But it was not the lack of sleep that bothered Reythier, no, it was the black limousine with a familiar face that stood just outside the hotel that bothered him.

    "Get in." said the driver, pointing towards the passenger door.

    "What are you doing?" asked Reythier. He stood pinned to his spot, right outside the door of the hotel.

    "Trying to make amends. For the record, I have not betrayed Mr. Alofs, who I learned is your contact at the border with Germany, and that has been nothing more than slander to me. It did not take me long to find you if you're asking that as well, Mr. Reythier. "

    "You have explanations to give, Mr. Henri. You've been appointed as a source."

    "I am willing to drive back to the base in Colmar, Mr. Reythier. Under your orders."

    Reythier approached the car. "Everything you know about Mr. Alofs and the rest of the shenanigans that happened at the border, I need to know."

    "It started with Richard Elbe, Mr. Reythier."

    "Good. Long way to go to Colmar, so I'm all ears."

    The old Citroen limousine hummed with a low growl as it departed from the hotel.
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 10-16-2019 at 23:14.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXII - Sabotage

    15th of December 1938
    1:45 AM
    Colmar Railway Junction
    France


    -----

    Fury was useless at this moment.

    For hours on end, Elbe berated his men for the escape of the foreign spy, aiding and abetting a counterespionage mission that had evaded their information networks. Much to his chagrin, only the jammed Opel truck and some muddy footprints were all that was left. Despite their efforts, the tracks stopped within the edges of the forest as the pine foliage protected the soil from snow and water, hardening the earth strong enough to prevent the imprint of any boots that might have wandered through it. It took the better part of twenty minutes until they stopped searching, winding down the night with their portable lamps hoisted from the back of their car. Elbe ordered a swift return to the car and with deft moves he directed the driver to march onwards to the border. A quick salute fifteen minutes later with the guard, they dropped the car at the side of the border post and took off by foot, trailing through the forest in the guidance of a dim moonlight peeping through the cracks left by the empty tree branches. Elbe took point, a leather gloved hand firmly clutching his Walther pistol, followed by the driver, Wilhelm and another soldier whom he forgot his name in less than two minutes after meeting him.

    A quick reconnaissance at the border post gave them what they needed. West of the post, as the dimly lit, tattered map in the border soldier's guard tower indicated, was a railway junction that connected the lines between Strasbourg, north towards Metz and slightly westwards to the small town of Colmar. From the border they had a walk of four kilometers to reach the first train tracks and northwards another one and a half to reach a small train station post, reserved only for train engineers, which coordinated the junction they searched for.

    Two and a half kilometers in, stooping low to avoid some fallen branches, the ragtag group broke into a small open area within the trees, a forest eye of sorts, lightning them fully as they advanced. Elbe turned his head to his men.

    "This should leave us another kilometer or so left to reach the tracks. It's the open area we saw on the map." Elbe panted. "Is the dynamite ready?" asked Elbe, poking forwards with his pistol to indicate the direction.

    Wilhelm nodded. "Yes. We have about three packs with us, so it should be enough to destroy the junction and the tracks around it."

    Elbe panted. "How long will the train tracks be out?"

    "About a week at most."

    "Enough to send a message."

    Wilhelm nodded. "Should be enough. A week if they repair it normally, but they can do it even in 3 days."

    "That's enough for us. Next time we'll have more messages to send."

    Wilhelm shook his head. "We should be more men next time, Herr Elbe."

    "This will do. Now shut up and move faster."

    Wilhelm bowed his head. "Yes, Herr Elbe."

    With measured steps, they pushed forwards, small crackles pinging in their ears and in the silence of the forests as the thawed soil cracked under the boot soles. Once they were back in the forest Elbe urged them to up their pace, turning the zigzag between the trees into a slalom race to reach the tracks faster. To Elbe's satisfaction, there had been no one following them, no border guards to avoid, no soldiers to carefully study and perhaps shoot. Nightfall was their cover and their accelerated pace gave them more time to return under the cover of the same moon. But by now, all of them started to pant ever so slightly, the forest an unwieldy friend to rely on, the tree branches and roots tripping, scratching and hitting them whenever the light that broke through was not enough to guide their race forwards. For the better part of two hours, the moonlight guided them until they finally reached a brook between the trees, a brook piercing through the heart of the forest with a long metallic line in it's midst.

    Elbe pointed with his pistol.

    "There's the railway track. North we go to Metz and Sedan, somewhere we loved to be some years ago, south we go to Strasbourg." Elbe straightened to catch his breath. "Now onwards, we have that junction to reach."

    Four men jostled northwards by the side of the railway, their soles now crackling with the sounds of small pebbles instead of thawed soil. The track was flanked by forest and by nothing else, making it another solitary road for the next forty five minutes until the track twisted to the left, leading to a wide opening that connected multiple tracks that bended from all directions. The forest ended there, replaced by a junction of three railway tracks and two side tracks leading to nowhere, housing various empty train carriages. Idle, silent and illuminated only by the moon, the junction was a rather strange place, with a small wooden post placed in the very midst of it that seemed to guard nothing but the junction. The post seemed empty, desolate and upon further inspection, with the door blown off. Elbe motioned to his men.

    "Halt. We take the sides, let's not go directly there."

    Elbe pointed to the side of the tracks and they approached the post crouched and with their pistols and machineguns drawn, eyeing in every corner for any potential guards. But there seemed to be none so Elbe motioned forwards to Wilhelm and the other soldier. Taking a shovel from the driver, they placed the dynamite in four different points, placed at the links between the tracks, with fuses long enough for them to use without getting hurt. One hundred and sixty seconds was all it took, Elbe calculated. With a thumbs up, they left from their place beside the guard post and dragged the fuse with them.

    As they turned to reach back to the forest, six shots rang from the tracks.

    ----


    Thank you for reading Swords Made of Letters in 2019!
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXIII - Surprises, Surprises

    09:30 AM
    15th of December 1938
    Colmar Railway Junction
    Alsace
    France


    -----

    "Here is the report, Monsieur Reythier."

    Hurried, Reythier grabbed the folded dossier from the secret service lieutenant's hands and opened it. Six files were nestled within the rough paper dossier, detailing the four men who sabotaged the railway junction, their movements along the border and the personal effects they had on them. Three of them had escaped back in the forest as soon as the border forces opened fire, back over the border most likely, but the driver tripped soon after the bomb planting, leaving him at the mercy of the soldiers who stopped firing after the other three fled between the trees. Reythier was soon called back to Colmar, spending less than two hours back in Strasbourg after his own mission, and also told to expect a special guest that would arrive in Strasbourg in the next hours. He sifted through the personal files of the four, throwing away the last vestige of the Turkish cigarette into the soft snow around his boots. Most of the files were rather empty, with only a blurry clipped photograph attached to them. Nothing of real value, Reythier thought.

    He turned his back to the broken railway lines, unexploded fortunately but clipped in the portions were the bombs had been placed. Reythier walked to the little guard post, broken and desolate as it was, motioning to his companion Klaus who was searching around for any further bits and clues. Klaus shook his head.

    "Nothing."

    Reythier held up the dossier. "Nothing here either." Reythier sighed. "We don't have any information about them, anything of real value. Some names, some dates of birth, some ideas of who they work with and how they work, but nothing tangible."

    "The dynamite they used is standard Heer army explosives, nothing of note. Something you could probably steal from a military warehouse."

    "You're saying these are amateurs?" asked Reythier.

    Klaus shook his head. "Not quite. But I highly doubt they are some specialised spying or sabotage team sent out to judge our reactions and see where it takes them."

    "You know something, Klaus."

    "The driver is not even a military designated driver, he's a civilian who joined the Border Force about two weeks ago." Klaus pointed in the distance towards the side of the road that led to the junction. Four limousines and two trucks were posted by the end of the gravel road that led to the railway tracks, six soldiers with their rifles posted around the perimeter to guard both the prisoner and the special interrogators. "They've questioned him briefly. He doesn't know much except their first names, which we have already, and that they went through a border post close to the city of Aachen." Klaus paused. "Something you might know."

    Reythier nodded. "Most probably the same group who followed me."

    "As expected."

    "We're working in the blind here, we need more information otherwise it's just guesswork."

    "They left behind some bits of info which probably dropped from their pockets. Two Luger pistols engraved with Polizei markings, a map of the area including the border of Germany and two small bags of explosives which they discarded down the road. Same ordnance, standard military grade."

    Reythier despaired. "That's still nothing."

    "Correct. Which is why we're meeting, wait a minute let me check my paper, a certain Mr. Horace Benningham from the Foreign Services of the United Kingdom. He's coming down here in Strasbourg later today to meet with us."

    "Who's this?"

    "Foreign services. Counterintelligence. Apparently they want to follow the same ends as we do."

    ----

    Nestled within the back of a small Alsatian cafe was a private room with two tables, opening up within the courtyard of a traditional timbered-framed house that was oh so common in the Alsace-Lorraine region and also in neighbouring Baden-Wurttemberg region. A dark red, burgundy like colour adorned the wooden structure inside the room, giving off a certain kind of warmth that was needed in this near freezing temperature outside. Reythier and Klaus barged inside as quick as they could, giving a quick salute to Horace Cunningham who had been there for almost an hour, waiting in silence. Dressed in a black overcoat with a black hat, Cunningham wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible, his chiselled features hidden by the of the collar of overcoat turned upwards to disguise him in the crowds. They sat down at the table closest to the windows, the other table hosting a couple of hastily thrown about papers scribbled in pen.

    Reythier saluted once again as he stood down, introducing himself and his companion. Horace smiled to them and took out two dossiers which we placed beside him on the table.

    "Gentlemen, I will be as brief as I possibly can. I've been instructed by the head of the foreign intelligence service of my nation, Lord Howe, to work with you on a possible investigation that could aid our efforts into discovering what is the Reich doing in our neck of the woods in terms of espionage. I understood that you are interested in a certain man, named Richard Elbe, who also happens to be of a certain point of interest for us in aiding a Parliamentary investigation that is currently under secrecy. In short, Mr. Elbe is of interest to us as we believe he is very active in espionage within the United Kingdom." Horace lifted a dossier from his side of the table and handed it over to Reythier. "You will find all of the information that we have within these two dossiers that we have prepared for you to use."

    It all seemed the same to Reythier, the same information they had the English had too, except one detail. Elbe had a brother. Reythier folded the dossier and turned to Horace, placing his finger under the name of Thomas Elbe.

    "He has a brother."

    Horace nodded. "Indeed." Horace lifted the other dossier. "This is about his brother."

    Reythier took the dossier, flipped through the pages and put it down. "How does this impact our work, Mr. Horace?"

    "From what intelligence was shared with us, you have an interest in Mr. Richard Elbe who is running a counterespionage and espionage division in the western side of Germany. Our belief is that he operates within an Oberkommando in Aachen, close to the military installations of the city and close enough to the border with Luxembourg and Belgium to roam freely without being noticed. His espionage efforts translate to his brother, who is a military attache to the German embassy in London. Thomas is listed as a Luftwaffe officer but we have received reports of him being sighted at various points of interest in the south of the country, particularly around civil power stations." Horace cleared his throat. "Worse, he is married to an English lady who happens to be the mistress of a Member of Parliament. Unfortunately some of our secrets have leaked over to him."

    Reythier suppressed a laugh but kept a wry smile. "One of your members of Parliament is supplying information?"

    "Unwillingly and also unwittingly. However, we can now control the flow of information and we can supply planted information which should help us discover their intentions."

    Reythier raised an eyebrow. "Is Thomas still in your country?"

    "He will be expelled in the next 48 hours, since this is considered a national security threat. From what I understood from his wife, whom we turned into an information source, he will be posted as an attache in the Netherlands."

    "That's not really helping our cause."

    "Correct." Horace leaned forwards. "We also have other information, pertaining to both Netherlands and Belgium, that the Heer will plan military exercises to replicate the Schlieffen Plan of 1914."

    A stunned silence soon fell on the room, Reythier's eyes transfixed on Horace's words, Klaus to his side slowly bowing his head to digest the heavy information that was passed on.

    "How fast can we obtain more information on this?" asked Reythier.

    "You will need to develop your own network of sources on the western side of Germany. With my government I will be able to extract information from the Belgian foreign services, but we will have to keep watch on Thomas Elbe whilst he is in the Netherlands. My source of information, so in other words his wife, will keep me updated on any developments but any direct action on him is more or less out of the scope for us now that he has moved to the Netherlands."

    "Which leaves Richard Elbe for the taking."

    "Correct. But you will need to assess him first and to judge his intentions, Mr. Reythier."

    Reythier paused for a moment. "Mr. Horace, how long are you here?"

    "As long as I am needed, Mr. Reythier. Why?"

    "Have you ever visited Germany?"

    Horace shook his head. "Never. Why?"

    "I think we can arrange a trip. Very soon."

    ------

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    A small update - for those of you who read on Wattpad often, you can check out the first five chapters of Swords Made of Letters over there as well. More to come, and of course, all of the chapters will be available there as well.

    https://www.wattpad.com/story/210140...ade-of-letters
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXIV - Evaluations of No Laughing Matter

    22:20 PM
    15th of December 1938
    Oberkommando HQ
    Aachen
    Reich Germany

    -----

    They failed.

    That was as obvious as one could note but what irked Elbe was the abject failure that the whole operation had been, with a particular highlight being their disjointed plight from the railroad tracks back into the cover of the thick forest. With the exception of the captured driver, all of them escaped and yet they escaped with injuries and a gunshot wound inflicted in the upper right arm of Wilhelm. Poor fellow had to discharged for a while until he recovered which also meant that his trusted man who carried out his orders was not available for a while. Failure, failure, an abject failure, and a dismal retreat to top it all off that gave the enemy an upper hand which he did not expect he would concede so easy. Elbe had tried to rally the two men in the forest, away from the shots of the border guards, but neither of them had the courage to go back and finish the mission. Sticks of dynamite, pistols, even maps were all thrown away and left to the French to peruse at their own discretion. At least the French did not follow them back to the border which gave Elbe and his men some respite. Six hours later he was back at the grey warehouse of the Oberkommando, shutting himself in the commander's room to compose a report which he threw away after three lines.

    Elbe stood up from his chair, leaned over and grabbed three maps of the border which he duly imposed over each other to form a three-way map of Western Germany and Eastern France. The map highlighted all of the railway junctions and put a special emphasis on railway connections rather than roads, highlighted by the arrows to and from Paris and some of the military bases around it. Elbe's orders were as clear as they could be - strike at the French key junctions, be they railways, roads, fortifications or cities to impede them in the case of a German attack. Within the officer circles a war with France had become inevitable but when that would be taken up on was anyone's guess. Remilitarised Rheinland was the sole indicator of a possible war but until then it was Elbe's job to coordinate. He sighed as he remembered the morning. Their first attempt was an utter shambles and he had to explain to his superiors what had happened. He had to save his skin first and foremost and only then he could think of some excuses.

    "Get Reinhard in here, please."

    A slight knock, almost imperceptible even, slid over the metallic door that barred the entrance to his command office. Middle height, wiry, dressed in the same grey uniform as everyone else, Reinhard Brunnenfeld was one of the counter-espionage military advisers, a rather too serious Prussian fellow who grew up in old Konigsberg back when Chancellor Bismarck had just departed the leadership. Elbe motioned to him with two fingers to approach and survey the maps laid out on the table. Brunnenfeld saluted, nodded and gave a glance over the maps, noting the overimposed layout that covered some details but highlighted others.

    "Yes, Herr Elbe, what would you need my advice on?"

    Elbe studied Reinhard's implacable expression. "I need your help Reinhard. Our mission this morning to enact a first sabotage on the French railway lines was a disaster. We were chased away by the French border guards who fired at us right back to the border. Yes, it was an exploratory mission to see their reaction, but it was a failure. I need to save my skin and propose an alternate battleplan that would cover our strategic mission of taking out the French defences in the case of our planned invasion." Elbe pointed at the sides of the maps. "These maps show all of the links of the railway lines and the roads that lead from Paris to the border with France, border with Luxembourg and border with Belgium."

    "No Switzerland?" asked Reinhard.

    "Not of interest for us. The Swiss will remain neutral as expected." Elbe pointed to Luxembourg. "This should be a focal point to drive our attack through, at least to mirror the Schlieffen Plan. But what would you do in our espionage and sabotage case, Reinhard? Are the railways crucial to our attack?"

    Reinhard cleared his throat. "Small junctions such as the ones near Lille in the north or near Metz near the border post with us should not be considered, Herr Elbe. They are inconsequential to our plans."

    "You're asking to strike bigger?" Elbe raised his eyebrows in surprise.

    "Perhaps that would be of more use." Reinhard pointed at four lines that drew away from Paris. "You see, most of the heavy railways would carry tanks, guns and support equipment and not necessarily troops. Most of the troops would already be stationed by the border once the idea of immediate conflict would be noted down."

    "So where's our element of surprise then?"

    "Our commanders have tested out various tactics in the Spanish Civil War. General Guderian and his men are advising the usage of fast, mobile tank battalions that would be hard to counter unless it would be by other tanks and artillery."

    Elbe pointed to a line in the south of the map. "Maginot line?"

    "We have to go around it. And it does not cover the whole defence line of the French army as you can see. A simple strike through the Ardennes forest, a strike through Belgium and one through Luxembourg and we have successfully bypassed them."

    Elbe circled the Ardennes forest with a pen. "How do you want tanks to go through here, Reinhard?"

    "Roads, Herr Elbe. And plus, we have the element of surprise so they do not have a clear counter to our battalions."

    Elbe put his hands on the maps. "We, and I mean our Oberkommando, has to destroy certain railway links to limit the resupply and supply of tanks and artillery."

    "Reaction is not useful, Herr Elbe. Take action I would say. My advice would be to form a swarm of small attacks that impact directly the bigger lines." Reinhard pointed to small cities around the border but also well inside the French topography. "Focus on small junctions, with multiple links, while at the same time gathering information from local sources that would give us a very clear understanding of how to proceed when we do attack."

    "Such as?"

    "Strike near Strasbourg, near Metz, near that city of today of Colmar, near Reims, near Lille. Small attacks but multiple, to disrupt the entire flow."

    "Multiple attacks you say." Elbe motioned with his fingers. "How many men do you usually need for a small blocking of a road, let's say? As a military advisor."

    "Ten to twenty five men, I would say. With the equipment."

    Elbe made some calculations on the side of the map. "In our case, five to eight men per sabotage mission would be enough. But this would mean that a concentrated attack would require fifty to eighty attacks once our invasion is launched."

    Reinhard nodded. "Most likely, Herr Elbe. Resources will be required."

    "Reinhard, prepare yourself with these maps and conduct a clear battleplan. We would need to liaise with our military commanders to review the invasion plans and to integrate our sabotage movements into them."

    "Will do, Herr Elbe. I do have one suggestion though."

    "What is that?"

    "Any possible invasion is still a year away at the very least." Reinhard flashed a quick, mischievous smile. "But, unburdened by the shackles of the military, you can act from now Sir."

    Elbe smiled. "I'll take that into account. Thank you Reinhard."

    ----

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXV - A Walk in the Park

    8:55 PM

    16th of December 1938
    Amsterdam
    Kingdom of the Netherlands


    --------

    It took him the better part of four hours to finally notice the younger Elbe brother in the small crowd huddled in the streets by the side of the Amsterdam Centraal train station.

    By now the night had fallen over the city, quieting down the usual raucous streets of the city by the canals, leaving way to a muted hum of voices, a slew of cars, some trucks and groups of party-goers who insisted on spending their time on the streets by 9 o'clock. Horace spotted a carefully crafted movie poster earlier, advertising a new movie from the United States about Christmas, a poster that drew enough people in the neighborhood around the train station to arouse his attention. His interest served him right as soon after the younger, dashing Elbe brother showed up around the cinema selling movie tickets with a smiling Mathilda by his arm. Dressed in a white dress and walking gently in arm with Elbe, she looked the part in the cosmopolitan Amsterdam. And so did he, but any close examination would show the pin that was not something the locals would be excited about. Horace smiled himself. His eyes were fixed on the couple as they arrived and placed themselves in the line for tickets, probably the last showing of the day for that movie.

    For some reason, the Luftwaffe officer, dressed in civilian garb that resembled his somber uniform and sporting a Luftwaffe coat pin, decided to saunter around the cinema rather lazily with Mathilda for a while until they left abruptly. Horace raised his eyebrows as he noticed the couple appear and then disappear from his eyesight in a matter of seconds. Only a couple of minutes after appearing in his line of sight for the first time, the couple dashed through the streets beside the train station and much to his chagrin, Horace had no chance of following them through the streets. Just as fast as they appeared they went back into hiding. Had they spotted Horace?

    "Improbable," Horace said to himself. "Or maybe he did. But hard to say."

    Luck, however, smiled on him as he stood his ground, reclining against a lamppost underneath a warm and rather dim street light. All but two hours later, an agony of waiting for the Englishman, Elbe's brother returned to the cinema, this time alone, eyeing in a very interested manner the poster of the movie. Why was Elbe so interested in the movie?

    That mattered little. Horace eyed the officer, mirroring his steps at a respectable distance from the other side of the street. For about ten minutes the officer hesitated around the poster and then at the ticketing office but in the end decided against it, placing his top hat on his head and returning to the streets. Sliding the Dutch newspaper he pretended to read underneath his armpit, Horace started a small gallop to close the distance to the officer which became closer and closer until they both entered a small block of apartments just three streets away from the train station. Horace entered just as the door closed, taking a couple of moments to adjust his eyes to the difference in light.

    Unnerved, he slid the newspaper from under his arm and held it in front of him.

    Elbe's brother missed his punch seconds later, and missed by a mile, making him an easy target for an experienced brawler like Horace.

    With a quick lunge, the Englishman struck Elbe's knee, collapsing him to the ground in a matter of seconds. A rapid-fire of careful punches immobilised the Luftwaffe officer which allowed Horace to drag him into the apartment on the bottom floor, tie him up to a chair and place him in the middle of an expansive room lined with maps, documents, and geographical instruments.

    Horace's eyes darted from corner to corner, spotting a large map of Northern Europe placed on the far wall overlooking the entire room. A mixture of old Barocco furniture and some Art Deco pieces, a jumble of tastes more like it, the room was probably created as Elbe's office. The large map on the wall was rather detailed, highlighted with numerous points darted around the edges of it, explanations scribbled on the side in various coloured pens. The main teak desk was scattered with documents, unopened envelopes, and a Reich engraved envelope opening knife. Horace smiled at the random elegance of the silver knife. His eyes turned from the documents to his prisoner.

    "So, care to explain what you were doing in my country, casually walking around power plants and military airfields?" Elbe's brother gazed at him blankly. "One time I can understand, we all make a mistake of walking into a military airfield. But sixteen times? Sixteen? You nearly got arrested twice. And the police reported back to the intelligence four times."

    "You've done your job." Emotionless, calculated. Cold. "Good work."

    "Thanks. We strive to do our best." Horace turned to him. "Are you gonna tell me or am I going to keep you here until you tell me?"

    "As you wish."

    "Annoying you are."

    "You broke into my house."

    Horace raised a finger. "You spied in mine." Horace turned back to the table and the carefully organised wall of information. "What do I see here?"

    "What you want."

    "Dashing," replied Horace, with a smirk only to himself. "A map of northern Europe, with points placed along the borders, military airfields, defensive military posts. If I didn't know you better, I would say you're aiming to do the same thing as 20 years ago, aren't you Herr Elbe?"

    "No, of course not."

    Horace nodded. "Sure. That's why I see all of the military sites you spied while you were living in Tottenham with your lady Mathilda. Which reminds me, where is she?"

    For the first time, Elbe's brother stood silent, brooding in his chair, his chin pointed downwards and in a complete refusal to divulge any more information."

    "Fine, leave her aside, I have no interest in her." Horace knelt beside the chair. "Are we doing the same thing as we've done twenty years ago, are we not?"

    "Is that what you think?"

    Horace pointed to the wall. "Well, that's what you're planning to do. But why you of all people, a Luftwaffe officer?"

    The remark struck a nerve as Elbe rose his eyes from the ground. "You ignore the power the air squadrons have now?"

    "I fail to see how you can take over two countries or more with just airplanes. You need people on the ground."

    "Yes, yes, of course."

    Non-combat again, Horace thought, something is wrong. A wall clock sounded in the background, probably from another room of the apartment, indicating 10:00 PM.

    "Herr Elbe, have you been arrested in the Dutch provinces? I would hope not." Horace smiled. "At least not for our precious Mathilda's sake. Let us say this meeting never happened, yes?"

    "I have recorded every word you said, Englishman."

    Horace feigned disappointment. "You don't know my name? Shameful."

    "Does it matter?"

    "I would hope it does after you shot yourself in the leg with me near you."

    Elbe's brother rose his eyes and shot Horace a penetrating look. "I do not concern myself with petty trivialities like this, Englishman."

    "Fine. Stay here, I will make sure my time will be well rewarded."

    Angling to finish the job fast, Horace opened every drawer, nook, and wardrobe searching for briefcases. He eventually found three, which were spacious enough for him to carry all of the maps and documents strewn across the office without making it too difficult to carry them. It mattered little for form as he threw the maps inside, the documents, printed or handwritten, all of the notes, pens even and some envelopes marked as secret and stamped with Reich insignia on them. Elbe did not protest but his agitation in his seat suggested otherwise. These were sensitive documents and Horace only cared about them. In the grand scheme, Elbe's brother mattered little. And he wanted to avoid any problems.

    A good twenty minutes later, Horace knelt once more near the chair and looked directly at Elbe's brother.

    "We'll meet again my friend. Say hello to Mathilda for me."


    --------

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 02-25-2020 at 00:04.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXVI - Quellenhof Ball


    9:20 PM
    16th of December 1938
    Aachen
    Germany


    ----

    Reythier blew for fun in the night air, small clouds of mist drifting above his head.

    Slipping into Aachen was rather easy for him. There were no controls, no restrictions, a free-flowing movement of goods and people that did not seem to announce anything ominous. Only to those who worked in the higher echelons, the reality was different. But to most people, every new day was more or less like the last one. A small cluster of clouds brought the first snowflakes over the city a couple of days before, settling over the meadows around it for a couple of days as the temperatures went lower and lower with the advent of winter. Aachen, much like the rest of Germany and France, was preparing for the kindest period of the year and not for the ominous clouds that seemed to hover around the continent.

    Leaning slightly against the edge of a building overlooking the Hotel Quellenhof, hidden in the shadow of a streetlamp that cast a weak, flickering light into the street, Reythier had a clear view over which was used by the Party as the main nightlife attraction particularly at the end of the year. Imposing, with a white facade casting an elegant glow during the day, the Quellenhof was often used by the Party as a makeshift headquarters. Small pockets of light flickered in between the darkness of the December night. Reythier found out the Party was throwing a ball. And most likely Herr Elbe was there. Reythier listed slightly forwards, drawing his wristwatch into the light of the streetlamp in front of him. 9:20 PM. The ball had started at eight, based on what a local guard had told him, and it was due to finish at 10:30 PM. One hour and ten minutes were all that he had. Whilst the Quellenhof was in the midst of the city, the Oberkommando HQ which he sought was hidden somewhere towards the south, at the tail end of an industrial park that was, in fact, a gunpowder and artillery factory. The reports from his intelligence colleagues had been correct; on his way to the Quellenhof he took a quick glance around, the factory was heavily defended.

    And yet the Oberkommando headquarters was not.

    Fifteen minutes to get there, thirty-five minutes at most to sift through what he could find. He took one last glance at the flickering lights that bathed the ball at the Quellenhof and returned to the back streets in a zig-zag of movements to lose his track to any curious onlookers. He reached his car, an old Horch parked near the garage of a small brick house, shifting it into gear and jogging towards the headquarters which he had seen earlier. He arrived just outside of the compound, a compound of four hangar-like structures that were built by the side of the road with easy access to the main military pathways the army had carved from Aachen towards the Rhineland back in 1936. Reythier left the car.


    Much to his chagrin, the compound for the Oberkommando was lightly defended. Five guard posts were constructed at each key point of the entrance but only three guards stood about, all of them concentrated on some jokes one of them said which left the other two in a chorus of laughter that emanated in the night. Without much difficulty, using the shadow of the outposts, Reythier slipped inside the compound and headed towards the closest structure which had a small heraldic symbol plastered by the front door. The Oberkommando HQ.

    Just as he had expected, the hangar-like structure was deserted at this hour but in between the lights he could make out the endless rows of intelligence officers' desks in the shadows. He left them behind, carefully sliding to the right side of the hall where a large metal staircase led to Elbe's office. He jumped through the stairs, opening the door that led to the office.

    To his surprise, Elbe's office was remarkably spartan.

    Nothing of any particular value stood out on his desk, planted in the middle of the office, a small fireplace made out a jumble of wood in the corner. Three chairs stood to his right, one of them occupied with what he presumed was his army officer uniform that he used a couple of days ago. With one ear to the sounds that emanated from the hall below, Reythier stood down on the desk chair and looked around the desk. Jumbles of documents were on the corners, with some documents with official Party stationery were huddled around a group of fountain pens which Elbe probably signed with. The stationary on the documents indicated official correspondence but the content was not of great value to Reythier. Simple advancement in positions,

    Slow, methodical, Reythier opened the drawer desks on both sides.

    Four maps with military plans, each of them centered around key border points around the French, Belgian and Dutch border indicated specific target areas with a clear delimitation of army divisions and their force details. Underneath every division were plotted small groups which Reythier presumed

    "What are we trying to do, Herr Elbe?" he asked himself.

    To him, it was a clear analysis of military points but it was easy to get carried away. He remembered the Deuxieme Bureau, the French intelligence services, often plotted the same plans on the borders with the almost the same key points and simulation war game results. Nevertheless, the plans were important. And to him, the small brigades, or divisions, of intelligence teams were crucial to neutralize their actions. Reythier took a couple of seconds to calculate all of the intelligence units operating around the border. Forty-seven units. Reythier jolted his neck sideways, a nervous move to calm himself down. He only had four teams. Elbe had forty-seven.

    "Forty seven."

    Reythier repeated to himself. But to no avail.

    -----

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 03-12-2020 at 22:10.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXVII - A Bureau of Cartographers

    8:20 PM
    17th of December 1938
    A suburb of Paris
    France

    ------

    A soft whimper on the wooden table, a pleasant touching sound made by the papers canvassed into the yellowy intelligence dossier. A large red SECRET stamp was affixed on the cover, as was required by law, but whom only a few people ever got to see. On Reythier's orders, most of the highly sensitive material from the last days was destroyed, known only to the people who took part in the actions. Ethical, that was quite debatable but useful it definitely was since no unwelcome questions were ever asked on his return from the border actions he undertook. Page by page, the clumps of information were collated by an army of intelligence gatherers, crypt deciphers and Deuxieme Bureau field agents who pieced together a rather disjointed picture of the foreign army's capabilities, particularly those at the border. There were far too many gaps in the data for Reythier to fully rely on it. And in some cases he suspected the data they gathered was overestimated.

    Reythier's return to the conspiratorial house was not something he looked forward to.

    A light tap, possibly a knock but Reythier was too tiried to discern, followed his thoughts. Klaus entered the main analysis room, dressed in a grey woolen overcoat and a tophat which he placed without a sound on the edge of the table where a whole raft of maps, scribbled notes and dossiers were thrown together into a jumbled mess.

    "I trust you're doing fine," said Klaus with a cordial voice.

    "Fine is not the word I would be using, but thank you for the trust, Klaus. I trust you are?"

    "None any better since you're doing miserable. What's going on? There's been rumours in the Bureau over here that you and a number of the boys had an unwelcome encounter by the border in Alsace."

    Reythier smiled, rather sardonic. "Correct. Nothing escapes this place, it seems."

    "That's our job."

    "Apparently we're not doing a good one it seems, since we tend to overestimate how many men our close friends have. Or how many they don't have. Or how many they have in the first place, I don't know, all of this is a mess and I can't make heads or tails out of it." Reythier took the top map out of the pile and laid it out. "So, what do we have? A considerable number of border points and a considerable number of intelligence groups. I made a little trip down to the Oberkommando and before you widen your eyes and think I'm crazy, I'm back here, in the Bureau, listening to the gossip."

    Klaus narrowed his eyes. "You took a huge risk. France could have been dealt a significant problem if you didn't escape."

    "But I did. Now, the problem is rather simple my dear Klaus - our friends have almost fifty intelligence units available to them, most of them manning between ten to thirty operatives, which can be used at any time for intelligence gathering. One of those from a couple of days ago was probably one unit, even if they had only a dozen men around."

    "Are you not satisfied with what you found?"

    "We have four units. Four groups of men we send out regularly to gather information up and down the border. That's it."

    "Not enough?"

    "Is it?"

    "I don't believe so."

    "Then you have your answer." Reythier took a stylus pen and circled some points on the map. "These are choke points, around the border with Belgium at the Ardennes Forests, some here near the Maginot line and some here near Colmar and Strasbourg. In case they all decide to take a little vacation to visit our homelands, we have very little chance of stopping them."

    Klaus stood up from the table, tapping the tophat in a rather methodical manner. "Are you sure your information is correct?"

    "Why would I doubt it? They're actively working against us, it's obvious by now."

    Klaus motioned with his finger. "No, not that." He paused for a moment to reflect. "You have been complaining often in the past about the quality of data that has been collected by our teams, saying that it is often unreliable. What makes you think some documents that you took from a localised intelligence headquarters will reflect on what you've been provided with before?"

    Reythier looked at him askance for a moment. "I'm not sure."

    "So why believe it?"

    "I don't think I have much better information, to be frank with you. That's as much as I can get in this short period of time. And our window is even narrower now."

    "What's your action then?" Klaus stood back down. "My dear Alexandre, you've been active, you've been reactive, you've gathered the data, and our team has been working on it as well. And we have Mr. Horace from the British working with us. If all of us are wrong in this case, and we will find out at some point, then something is really wrong."

    Reythier stood up, extracting form the pile a couple of papers inscribed with Party insignia. He selected four of them which

    "Here's what I got from our friend Elbe and his private room. As I've said, operational units close to fifty, but they are currently training hundreds of potential agents and are actively cultivating cells in our internal society to then use in the case of a conflict. Apparently they compromised one British Member of Parliament, which I hope Horace can enlighten us about, and four members of our own Parliament are in contact with them. What's more is that they have a very comprehensive map of the chokepoints and easily attackable areas for the army to move through, and rather fast, with all of the detailed battle plans drawn up already and ready for execution. Klaus, I'm sorry, but the threat is real and I really don't want to have the Bureau just an office of cartographers."

    Klaus looked up. "Fine. The information is there. What's your proposal?"


    "Well, here's my problem. I don't know. Right now, well, we wait."

    -----

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXVII - Linking The Puzzle

    8:45 PM
    18th of December 1938
    Battersea Embankment
    London
    Great Britain


    -----

    "Good evening, Mr. Reythier." The entry guard tipped his black felt tophat, distinctively lacking any military insignia. "Sir Horace is expecting you."

    Shuttered behind a number of decrepit looking houses and right by the edge of the Thames River, the intelligence house was, as expected, as nondescript as one could imagine. Despite the rather large surface, surrounded by a red brick wall that blended it with the house, the local headquarters of the MI6 was a square two storied house overlooking the river, ivy branches sprawling on the sides of the building from the roof all the way to the lower levels. Charming it's way, thought Reythier, but rather forgettable. As it should be. Alexandre saluted the guard and entered inside the house, gazing at a spiral mahogany staircase that led to an upper floor, bathed in a warm chandelier light and a soft carpet running from the top down to the last stair. Horace Cunningham, his contact and ocassional working partner, soon joined him and shook hands together.

    "I trust you arrived well, Mr. Reythier," said Horace with a sly smile, his shining hair motioned to a side and now sporting a thin moustache.

    "A house by the docks, Mr. Horace? How ungentlemanly of you and the intelligence officers."

    Horace smiled. "We use it to monitor the traffic up and down the Thames from here. Plus, we have an easy way out of the country and out of the city should we need to."

    "You escape by boat?"

    "Sometimes. There's a small wharf just a couple of meters away from the entrance, two small motor boats are moored over there. Whenever we need to, we can get it, use it and drive away."

    Reythier nodded, rather absent. "Interesting. Did you arrive early after your escapade?"

    "Not so. In fact, just a couple of hours ago. With one of those motorboats."

    Reythier raise an eyebrow. "Crossing the North Sea in a small dinghy?"

    Horace straightened. "Well, you see, Mr. Reythier, it's not really a small boat. It's a commercial yacht that's been modified by us. But anyways, on to more important discussions, so let us go upstairs. Lord Howe, the chief of the bureau from the political side is waiting for us to discuss."

    They went up to the second floor, the soft carpet on the staircase lifting Reythier into almost cloud-like steps, taken inch by inch until they reached the war room. Motioned inside by an intelligence officer, probably doubling as a guard, they were greeted by Lord Howe and two military advisors sitting beside him as they analysed a cluuster of maps and documents that Reythier judged were stolen by Horace in Amsterdam. Howe stood up, dressed impeccably in a custom-made three-piece suit with a golden pocket watch adorning his jacket pockets. Wiry, with a crop of grizzled hair, he shook Reythier's hands firmly and smiled to him.

    "Bonjour, Mr. Reythier. I am glad you could come here to our little headquarters."

    "Likewise, Mr. Howe. I think we have a lot of worrk to do."

    Howe nodded, rather impatient. "We do, yes. Horace brought us back some important pieces of intelligence."

    Howe's imposing demeanor struck a chord with Reythier. Alexandre placed a hand on the nearest silk-lined chair and glanced at Howe.

    "I trust we've forgiven Agincourt and Poitiers?"

    Howe looked up at Reythier, rather bewildered, changing his expression to a slight smile. "It's been five hundred years, give or take. I think we can work together by now, our ancestors won't mind."

    Reythier smiled. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

    "I cannot argue against that in good faith, Mr. Reythier. We've fought side by side the in the War, so now it's up to us to fight again to prevent another one."

    "Do you think we can prevent another one?"

    "No."

    Lord Howe's blunt answer took Reythier aback, frowning slightly. "No?"

    "No. It's a given." Howe waved his hands around. "But what we can do is to prepare for it, to be best equipped to fight what we see will come ahead." Howe extended his hand. "Please, sit. Let us discuss. Tea?"

    Reythier nodded while a butler left the room and returned minutes later with four pots of freshly brewed tea, wisps of steam sauntering around the room all of a sudden. Howe raised his hand.

    "Horace, the discussion is yours. I understood Mr. Elbe's brother was rather fazed by your visit."

    Horace went to the edge of the table and plucked out a detailed map of the Belgian and Dutch borders, highlighting several border points and blockage points around the common delimitation lines.

    "As things stand, there are rather conflicting reports. Most of the information that I've gleaned from Elbe's papers is that they are actively considering another attack through Belgium and Netherlands, but at the same time, the Ardennes Forest is a key target for them. A high number of tank divisions are massed right around Luxembourg, or will be massed, we shall see, and from there they can attack either sideways or frontal through Luxembourg and then right into France. Either way, this is very delicate, as they will be supported by hundreds of aircraft of all types including heavy bombers which they developed in the last three years."

    "Some of them are known to us, their airbases, and we can do a measure of a retaliatory attack," countered Howe.

    "Yes, and no." Horace pointed out strategic areas around the border with Luxembourg. "These are heavily forested areas, easy to defend and it will cause a lot of aircraft damage. Can happen but ineffective."

    "Preemptive strike?"

    "Possible. However, despite the plans that I've found in Elbe's apartment, from what sources we have right now there are no tank divisions or even brigades stationed there. There is only one infantry division used mainly as a border guard."

    "Is it possible they will amass later?" asked Reythier.

    "Possible. Hard to know. So far they indicate no build-up, which we find odd."

    Howe raised a hand. "Not so odd. They're focused on the Eastern side first."

    "That does not explain the presence of just one division. Invading Czechoslovakia required almost no divisions and shots fired. And neither did Austria."

    "Still their focus."

    Horace relented. "Correct. But ii might not be all. We have some reports of them preparing for an invasion of Poland."

    Reythier motioned forward, glancing from Howe, then to the two silent advisors, then to Horace. "This will trigger our alliance." Reythier's response was rather meek, a matter-of-fact reply to a delicate situation. He didn't like his own response, shifting awkwardly in his seat afterwards.

    "It already did. But we failed to act upon it. And in reality... well, I guess there was little we could do."

    Reythier pointed to the documents. "What else did you find, Mr. Horace?"

    "All kinds of battle plans that were linked to the aviation rather than the army, but they were useful. Some information about intelligence officers operating in our territory which we will use accordingly and these maps, or plans as we call them, about a possible new front in the future war."

    Howe raised his hand. "Horace, what happened to Elbe?"

    "Nothing."

    "Horace."

    "I used him as bait, I called up his contacts and just like in London, a whole team showed up to protect him and take him out from the apartment. Whoever he is, he's very well connected, he's not just a simple aviation officer. There was a small list of numbers taped to the back of his desk. A quick call solved that."

    Howe frowned. "Not ideal."

    "Gentlemen, while taking care of Elbe is our business, what are our next plans in accordance to what we expect?"

    Howe stood up. "You want my honest opinion? Nothing. We wait. And in the meantime, we send our men to military training."

    ----------
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXVIII - Report Your Findings

    9:20 PM
    18th of December 1938
    Quellenhof Hotel
    Aachen
    Germany


    ------

    It seemed different, eerie to a point of shudder.

    Hairs rose on his arm. The tea he drank was warm enough but the memory of hearing so much laughter and joy from only a night before, only for it to be replaced by heavy silence seemed too much to him. He shuddered, recoiling at the thought, his back arched into the soft silk cover of the chair. The hot ceramic of the tea cup imprinted itself into his palm, a constant source of warmth that gave him comfort in his anxiety. Dressed in his officer's uniform and his patent leather jackboots, Elbe looked like a real military careerman except he was anything but. He worked his entire life in intelligence but his brother's arrest was both a personal and professional failure. Elbe was seated in his superior's office, Oberst Reinhard Muller, the leader of the military intelligence for the Western border.

    "Elbe. Welcome, hope the tea is good."

    Elbe smiled. "It is, Herr Muller. I trust you are well?"

    Muller sat down, shrugging his shoulders. Of middle height, Muller always wore his officer's cap even inside, creating him a grave air whenever he spoke. His bushy eyebrows and dark eyes made him a rather imposing figure and was a well respected leader of the intelligence services, continuing his tradition of organising the Western intelligence front since World War I. He took off his cap, revealing a crop of grizzled hair that was cut on the sides as was the fashion in the late 1930's, brushing his hand through it as he adjusted himself on the chair. Muller produced three papers from his desk, which he placed in front of Elbe who glanced at them with narrowed eyes and a considerable amount of visible worry imprinted on his expression. Muller took on a grave expression.

    "Elbe, I need a victory. The Party needs a victory. I need you to recoup your brother's arrest."

    "I know, Herr Muller. I know."

    "Do you know the outcome of your brother's arrest?"

    Elbe shook his head. "Something wrong?"

    "Yes, very wrong." Muller's stuffy eyebrows arched in a menacing way, his eyes focused on every inch of Elbe's face. "Your brother's carelessness lead to us losing battle plans, military intelligence, marked maps and official letters, with state insignia, right to the British and most probably the French."

    Elbe bowed his head. "Can we recover it?"

    Muller waved his hand. "Too late now. Do you even think you can? Of course not. You cannot." Muller pointed a finger towards Elbe. "Solve it, and solve it quickly. We're right now under enormous pressure to hide this from the generals and when I have to go and tell them that the British and the French know of our plans, and eventually the Belgians and the Dutch, we have to scrap everything and do everything again."

    With another wave of his hand, Muller pointed to a large map of Europe placed right behind his chair, circling in the air around their position.

    "See that? We need to know everything about our place."

    Elbe shifted in his seat.

    "Herr Muller, with all due respect, my brother was infiltrated in the British Parliament to proide us with information."

    "Your double-agent supplied us with nothing interesting!" Muller slammed his fist on the table. "Nothing, absolutely nothing, nothing of value, nothing that was useful to us. Just idiotic Parliament gossip which we could have found anyways from those useless tabloids! That's it!" He leaned back into his chair. "Worse, we have an intelligence leak right now."

    "What do you ask of me?"

    "We need to know their defensive capabilities, plant information and find a way to counter what they know with what they already have."

    Elbe tilted his head. "We have information. The Maginot line, all of the construction plans. Everything."

    "Don't fool me Elbe. That's not enough."

    "Is it?"

    Muller learned forwards, eyeing Elbe again with a menacing gaze. "Are you taking me into contempt, Elbe? Should I send you to work the mines in the Ruhr, because that's what usually we do to incompetents."

    "So why is Keitel in the Oberkommando of the Army then? If you talk about incompetents, Herr Muller."

    "That's none of your business, Elbe. Solve this debacle your stupid brother made and maybe you'll find yourself in a comfy chair too, and not in your surly hangar that's colder than the Arctic."

    Elbe nodded. "I need resources."

    "You'll have everything that you need. Go do your intelligence plan and you will get all of the resources that you need. Just do it."

    -----
    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 03-24-2020 at 23:38.
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    Chapter XXIX - Bring Out the Papers, Plans and Projections

    8:10 PM
    19th of December 1938
    Oberkommando HQ
    Aachen
    Germany


    --------

    It was quiet.

    A rare moment of calm, a silent night before some holidays, a light breeze of December wind that wafted inside the spartan interior of Elbe's office. The light crackle of the wood burning in the fireplace lighted his spirits ever so slightly, the smoke from cigar breezing through the room. Elbe glanced to the maps strewen accross his wooden desk then to his watch. They were supposed to arrive. A meeting, a subtle meeting between his top lieutenants in a calm December evening, an evening that would plan out the months ahead. He's been given his marching orders from Herr Muller so now he had to give his to his men.

    Eight men entered the room exactly 25 seconds later, dressed each in their uniforms. Only one was recognisable, Wilhelm, the rest were given to him now.

    "Gentlemen, our orders have been given. Our marching orders to be more exact because we don't have much time to plan ahead. Our recent expeditionary failure has become news in our community so as expected Herr Muller has tasked us to wash away the shame. In other words, we have to act, act fast and create the opportunity that we have missed when we took a little scouting mission through the woods." Elbe paused for effect, rising from the chair. "Now, over here we have the detailed plan of the Maginot, all of the border points that we are looking at and of course other avenues of entering France. Any questions so far?"

    None of them registered as much as a sound. Elbe nodded.

    "Good. After our infiltration, our next task would be to spread out the teams and act accordingly, planning sabotage cells and local spies in order to infiltrate and execute once the order is given. Any questions?"

    Wilhelm, the buzzcut wearing private rose his hand, alebit only to the reach of his waist.

    "What order, Herr Elbe?"

    "Our army will attack France soon, Wilhelm."

    An uneasy silence spread throughout the room, Wilhelm with his hand slightly outstretched still. Elbe glanced at their expressions, most of them blank, emotionless, as they had been trained to me. But most of them shifted from one foot to the other, the creases on their pants making sounds in the silence of Elbe's office.

    "Yes, we will attack France. And it's our duty to prepare the infiltration beforehand, to divert their attention. We are the scouts, the eyes ahead, so don't disappoint me or the army." Elbe paused. "Let's move on. We will strike simultaneously before the attack but we will do also a diversionary infiltration very soon, which will be a repeat of what we will do later on when needed. Exact same . Manfred, do you have the plans and projections?"

    A medium-height man, with a similar buzzcut to Wilhelm but wiry and very sharp in his movements slid out of his hands a large dossier. He laid out the plans

    "Present them to me, Manfred." said Elbe.

    Manfred cleared his throat, following with a rough, guttural voice. "There are fourteen points of infiltration along the border and we will use them all as we will advance and do our preparations. Fourteen teams of eight men will infiltrate each point and then proceed to key points such as train stations, post stations, critical junctions on the road and police stations. Any police will be avoided on the street but in case be, do not hesitate to fire."

    "And fire you will," said Elbe.

    Manfred nodded. "Don't hesitate. We need total control, their Maginot line is very well defended and we need to know every inch of it."

    "Same goes for the other points around the border. Two teams will infiltrare Belgium as well at the same time."

    "And four others in Netherlands. This is a practice for what is to come, but we will take all of the necessary steps right now," replied Manfred.

    "Indeed. Equip yourselves with everything you need, this will be delicate and difficult."

    Manfred rose his hand. "One last detail, Herr Elbe. The whole operation will be coordinated by the High Command so keep yourselves professional."

    "Any questions?" asked Elbe.

    Silence followed, only to be met by a gust of wind that shrieked inside the office.

    "Good. Now execute. You have forty eight hours to launch."

    ----

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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    I would like to express my gratitude for everyone who has read at least a part of Swords Made of Letters, more than 12.000 views in 3 years almost. Thank you very much for that.


    With the Chapter 30 coming up we will move into the last part, Book 3 as I called it, focusing on the final confrontation and the eventual impact this will have not only on the region but on the whole of Europe.


    Thank you once more.
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    Chapter XXX - Spark of Dominoes

    19:30 PM
    20th of December 1938
    Deuxieme Bureau HQ
    Paris
    France


    -------

    Sleek, quiet and rather elegant under the night lamp of the cobbled Paris street, the unmarked Citroen limousine slithered without trace towards the Deuxieme.

    A slight rasping sound reverberated in the back half of the car. Probably the leather bench, Reythier thought. He glanced to his left at Klaus but was lost in his thoughts, looking aimlessly through the back window of the limousine into the darkness of the cold December evening. They had been taken under express orders from their commander, followed by another car for protection, whisked away to the confine of the headquarters of the Bureau in the north of Paris towards the forests leading to Normandy. Neither of them said a word, rather understanding why the leadership had requested them in the office. Multiple trespassings of the border, illegal all of them, had occured in multiple points and the gravity of such a move was not lost on the intelligence officers. Between Klaus and Reythier stood three folders, each stacked with maps, documents, interrogation papers and other stationery they were obliged to bring for the meeting. Reythier glanced once more at his companion.

    "Lost somewhere, Klaus?"

    Startled, the man turned towards his friend and coworker. "Sorry, I was not following."

    "Lost in thought?"

    "No, I'm lost in the meaning of it all."

    Reythier looked ahead towards the road. "We're delaying the inevitable. War will erupt."

    "So it shall. But are you not worried we are going to be caught with our pants down?"

    "Just like the first time? I see no reason why things have changed."

    Klaus flashed a wry smile. "Remind me to never go to the casino with you. I'll always lose."

    "The casino house always wins, my friend."

    Flanked by high side walls and a rather large wrought iron gate, the Deuxieme Bureau was a rather typical Haussmann project that one would see in the downtown of Paris. Except this one was hidden quite well behind the walls and with a small forest hiding the back entrance that housed the cars, armory and everything else that was needed. The two limousines pulled up to the front staircase and the men were whisked rapidly inside, huddled in a large, baroque study dominated by a massive laminated wood desk and five men arguing brightly as they entered. Reythier and Klaus nodded in salute, removing their coats and drawing up to the men who seized them

    "Gentlemen," saluted Reythier "I believe you are already planning the victory in our war."

    "You're so sure of that Reythier, I ought to give you a medal already. Take your pick, which one do you want?"

    Reythier smiled. Commandant Merthon, a grave and often sardonic figure, the leader of the Bureau, motioned with a quick flick of the hand for the two men to approach. Dressed in a burgundy riding outfit and wearing jackboots, the Commander was an odd figure but a sharp military officer.

    "Alexandre, please meet the figures you will meet today. Officer Chatillon, commandant Levecq, commandant Henri and officer Houllard. All of them are part of the planning that we are undertaking in these specific moments to counter the intelligence invasion."

    "It's already here, Monsieur."

    Merthon glanced at him. "Reythier, don't get ahead of yourself."

    "Monsieur, we are unprepared."

    Merthon raised his eyebrow. "Oh, you would like to tell these gentlemen this thing as well?"

    "Yes."

    "Very well, then do it." Merthon giggled, incredulous at Reythier's insolence. "Levecq, Houllard, let me know what you make of him."

    "All I'm saying is we need more men, resources to be deployed, and a constant watch for every single border point."

    Houllard shook his head. "Impossible."

    "Why is that, Officer Houllard?" asked Reythier.

    "Too many of them," countered Merthon. "Alexandre, instead of alienating your colleagues, share with us your ideas."

    Rather unceremonious, but withtout caring, Reythier made way between the men.

    "Our situation is as follows. We are right now outnumbered fourteen to one. They have fourteen times the number of intelligence officers we have who do active duty. Should they disable every border post and decide on any invasion or action, we are in a point of no return. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will be able to stop them. Maginot is useless, it's thirty years old. There's no chance of us stopping them without more men. And to make sure we effectively nullify their threat, we need a three point approach. One, constant pat

    Merthon glanced at Reythier. "Alexandre, do you think we have all of those resouces?"

    "Make them available, Monsieur.

    Merthon laughed. "Make them available? Out of thin air?"

    "This is no joke."

    Merthon turned grave, his eyes fixed on the insolence of his officer. "Do you think we play war games here, because we like it? Want some alcohol, some cognac with those remarks, Reythier?"

    "I'm only relaying what I see."

    "Get some new glasses, my optician is good enough for me," replied Merthon.

    The commander

    "You've got these resources. Make do the best of what you can. And as for your estimates, they are wildly off, Reythier."

    ---------

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    A heartfelt thank you to those who read Swords Made of Letters in the past 3 years, almost 14.000 views. Thank you so much.
    Ja mata, TosaInu. You will forever be remembered.

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    Chapter XXXI - Rolling Towards the Line of Battle

    22nd of December 1938
    8:20 AM
    Dunkirk outskirts
    Picardy Region
    France

    ------

    Knick, knack, knick, knack.

    For some reason, probably due the stress that in the end had got to him, Reythier heard those train wheels way too loud in his mind. It unnerved him, it made him fuss about on his leather train bench, jolting sideways, faffing and pacing through his own cabin up and down relentlessly. It was probably the nerves, he thought, the nerves of knowing too well what the operation meant. The steam locomotive chugged along at a constant pace through the French countryside after it had left Dunkirk with another passenger. Horace had joined the French intelligence team and was now in a different compartment, most likely having lunch with Klaus and the rest of the intelligence officers. Reythier refused their invitation at first but he indicated to Klaus that he would

    He paced three times back and forth again, two and a half steps between the table that sat in the middle of the leather benches and the lacquered sliding door that opened to the hallway.

    The plan in itself had significant flaws. They recognised as such. But Reythier was more concerned with the impact once the lines would break, leaving the counterintelligence officers of the Reich to roam free in the Eastern part of France without any significant opposition. Reythier slid to the edge of the table and looked at the map again. Four points were of significant interest. One at Colmar, one at Strasbourg, one just north of Metz and one near the joint Belgian-French border where the guard posts were notoriously lax and were even susceptible to attacks since the Belgians took little into consideration the threats from the Reich. They countered off the Belgian point as indefensible so they focused their efforts on the three other choke points scattered around the border. Even so, with an improvement in officers, assigning around sixty field officers to do counter-espionage and to have the local Gendarmerie supporting the border posts was not enough. The Reich's men would not attack a defended guard post. No, of course they wouldn't, thought Reythier. They would simply go around it.

    Reythier scratched his head, his hand slipping down to his cheek. A slight stubble grew on his face, unshaven as he was for the past 2 days. Neither of the officers took his suggestions to heart but he shrugged them off. He was not in the business of pleasing people.

    A slight knock echoed on the window of the sliding door, forcing him to turn around. A restaurant waiter smiled at him from the other side.

    "Monsieur Reythier, I have been instructed my Monsieur Klaus to invite you over to the restaurant compartment. We are serving an easy breakfast right now as the light has now bathed our little train."

    Reythier smiled. "Yes, tell them I will join immediately."

    "Merci, Monsieur."

    Reythier looked back at the map. What if the intelligence was wrong? Judging from the reports they had received in Paris, for every man they had as a counter-espionage agent, the Reich would be able to muster four and some other auxiliary teams that were linked to the paramilitaries. Worse, some of them were already infilftrated. The reality was rather grim; there was little they could do about it but fight back. There were not enough resources mustered to them and worse, the Army Command ignored their warnings. Horace was joined by three other intelligence officers but that was about the most they could hope to get extra. In short, nothing. Reythier wrapped the map inside a cloth napkin and slid out of the compartment, reaching the exquisite dining place of the train minutes later. The waiter from earlier smiled to him and

    "Ah, Alexandre, welcome to the table!" said Klaus as he smiled, inviting Reythier to join him and Horace for breakfast.

    "I trust I do not interrupt your conversation, gentlemen," replied Reythier.

    Horace grinned. "Not at all, Mister Alexandre. Is that how I pronounce your name?" Horace made an attempt to imitate a French accent but it sounded rather like a radio garble, lost in the accents of the vowels. Klaus laughed.

    "Close, but not quite Mister Horace," replied Reythier. "So, what shall we eat?"

    Arranged on silver platters were bits and bobs of a small French breakfast, duly finished with fresh butter croissants, local jams, some tea for their English guest that was to be in ample supply hidden in white ceramic teapots. Reythier helped himself to some fresh sausage and handed over the folded napkin with the map to Horace, who smiled when he saw the map.

    "Never a moment of pause I see. And the map is scribbled from top to bottom."

    "I'm worried, Mister Horace," replied Reythier.

    Horace raised his eyebrows, drawing a cup of tea to his lips. "I've got three other men who are specialised in counter-intelligence. Post two of them to the headquarters in Strasbourg and another one comes with me for the field assignments. We know and they know a war is coming up so it's best that we know where, when and how they're doing it."

    "What's your take then, where are they going to strike?"

    "Belgian border or near Metz or Sedan. Somewhere close enough to their base."

    "They have bases everywhere."

    "Elbe is based in Aachen." countered Horace.

    "That makes it at most a four hour drive to Metz without the guard post. And it's been snowing lately." Reythier trailed off. "Which is perfect cover in fact."

    Klaus looked up to them. "Do we expect an imminent attack?"

    Reythier shrugged from side to side. "Yes, and no. They will infiltrate because we have no resources to counter so the problem is, how do we catch them?"

    ------

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    Chapter XXXII - Take Up Your Arms

    22nd of December 1938
    9:55 AM
    Oberkommando HQ
    Aachen
    Germany

    -------

    It sounded pleasant when the neatly folded paper revealed itself from the envelope. It was nothing of importance, a simple note informing him that more intelligence officers were assigned to his unit in preparation for the next operation that was planned for the next twenty four to forty eight hours. Elbe was not worried. He smirked to himself. He felt nothing, a devoid blankness that was rather uncommon for him, the usual excitement of complex operations wiped away by a rather nasty realisation that war was the upcoming goal and he would have to be either on the frontlines, or behind the frontlines, to direct both officers and actual army troops if he would to be assigned to any of the Army Corps. He crumpled the paper in his fist and threw the note into the trash. For a couple of moments he forgot about the fact that Wilhelm, his eager and rather stern appearance, stood in front of him and rather expectant as well. Elbe glanced at him and shook his head.

    "Yes, Wilhelm?"

    Wilhelm shifted in his position. "Herr Elbe, I am waiting for your orders."

    "My orders?"

    Wilhelm slightly raised his eyebrows. "Yes, Herr Elbe, I am here to be assigned my orders about our operation."

    "You want them now?"

    "If you have them ready, Herr Elbe."

    "Not now, Wilhelm, I have to think a bit. Let us get together later with the rest of the officers, this is a delicate situation."

    Elbe saw Wilhelm's confused expression but made no effort to address his concerns. His intelligence soldier saluted and left the office, leaving Elbe to slouch in the leather chair with his eyes lost in space, transfixed on the emptiness that was now the area around the open door to his office. In the background the secretaries from the Oberkommando hangar turned headquarters typed furiously, their clattering of thousands of keys reverberating like a melody through his lost thoughts. Would all of this still be here in a couple of years or will it disappear? Is their operation a warning, is it going to be successful?

    From his perspective, they held all of the advantages that one could think of. Men, resources, planning, weapons, intelligence, everything was accounted for and the headquarters planned accordingly. The teams were ready to go, raring to go in fact, and all he had to do was issue the orders. In a small drawer within his desk stood four false passports under various names, ready to be used once they would transport themselves to Strasbourg int he next twenty for hours to ostensibly participate in the holiday events as part of the local German community. That was false, and probably the Deuxieme Bureau knew about it, but they had to go

    No, that was not it. Elbe extracted from a pile of documents the little note from the northern headquarters. It concerned his brother.

    His younger brother had been humiliated by the British intelligence officers, and worse, the news had spread out not just to the Army but also to the public. The Dutch gossip newspapers were reeling over this fantastic spying story, complete with a charming, beautiful wife that had betrayed one of the men, or so they spun the yarn. None of it was true but none of that mattered. While he had to clean out the reputation of the family there was this worrying idea that the French and the British are expecting them. Either his brother was beyond careless in allowing himself to be apprehended again after the British fiasco in London or their counterintelligence was of top quality. The risk was real.

    He picked up the phone receptor from his desk and called for his henchmen to joust themselves immediately to the office. The men duly obliged, springing a group of eight men, including a confused Wilhelm, into his crammed office. Elbe stood up, saluted and pointed to a large map on the far wall.

    "Gentlemen, so good to see you again, because I will not be seeing you any time soon most of you. We will start our operation, and we start it fast, because we have no time left and I have received indications that our war will start in the East in about six months." Elbe paused for effect. "If any of you are shocked about this, please get a different job. If not, then what I will tell you right now is of the utmost importance."

    Elbe stood down on his chair, cupped his hands together and looked at his standing officers.

    "Our plan will spring into action right now. Fourteen intelligence teams will go over the border and create intelligence cells, which will gather information for us about every single military aspect in France. We have numbers to overwhelm them and while our initial endeavour was a failure, this time it will not be. We need networks, we need information, we need to overpower them. You will get the resources, the cash, the weapons, the documents and of course the safe houses. We start today, under the cover of the joyful events of the winter holidays."

    Elbe stood up.

    "As you all know, my brother has been rather humiliated by the enemy. Make no mistake, our enemy is strong. He's not a fool. So be on your step and fight to the end." Elbe paused. "As for me, I will be directing a small troop into Strasbourg tomorrow, under the cover of the events of the German community in Alsace, where I will be living for the next year gathering information and coordinating our teams." He gave all of them an individual salute. "Gentlemen, it is an honour to fight with you. Let's get to work, I will see you on the other side of the border."

    -----

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    Chapter XXXIII - Overzealous

    22nd of December 1938
    4:15 PM
    Oberkommando HQ Aachen
    Aachen / Alsace border post
    Germany - France border


    --------------

    "Are you ready, Herr Elbe?"

    With a swift movement of his arm, Elbe indicated to the three other men to jump into the limousine. Sleek, quiet and most important of all, black, the Mercedes limousine started at the first flick of the ignition key and roared for a couple of moments until it settled into a low, continuous whir of cylinders. Wilhelm and Elbe stood in the back, with the driver Andreas and another bodyguard Manfred sitting in the front. Behind them the trunk of the car kept machineguns, pistols, bags of cash and supplies, along with forged documents, all of them carefully concealed in boxes filled with holiday presents. They dumped their overcoats and jackets on top of the wooden boxes, slammed the lid and locked it tight to keep all of it together. Manfred was the only one who kept a small Luger pistol hidden underneath his shirt. Everyone else was defenceless, in case of an unpleasant moment.

    "Are we ready?" asked Elbe, looking around the car. Andreas and Manfred gave a curt nod, Wilhelm however glanced from Elbe then towards the window.

    "Are we sure they're not expecting us?" asked Wilhelm, pointing his finger towards the trunk.

    "Well, we have to find out I guess. Andreas, let's go. South towards Staufen, take the road leading to Kehl and then towards the border post linking to Strasbourg. We should arrive there by late evening."

    There was some preparation beforehand for their trip. There would be no police escorts for them to the border but there was some preparation beforehand for their trip, the comfortable Mercedes encountering very little traffic that would slow them down. Snow flecks sometimes encouraged caution but there was not enough to bother them more than the usual driving safety that Andreas practiced. Focused on saving as much time as possible, Wilhelm phoned in beforehand to the border posts on their side of their border, ensuring a smooth transition to the French border post. By the time they arrived at their own border post, they were the only car around the area and were waved through their own side of the border without any interruption. They spent the next thirty odd seconds driving slowly through no man's land, a stretch of land that was neither French nor German. It was a diplomatic limbo, a stretch of land designed to prevent any border incidents. Andreas had slowed down the Mercedes to a crawl, a mere ten, fifteen kilometers an hour, ensuring that the beam lights were set to the maximum in order to alert beforehand the

    "Are you sure it's wise to alert them, Herr Elbe?" asked Andreas in a shaky voice, betraying the uneasiness.

    "We come in peace. Well, at least now. Everything else will not be."

    "They might expect us and block our access, or worse, arrest us."

    "None of that will happen."

    "I hope you are right, Herr Elbe."

    As they got closer and closer to the French border post, the shadows flickering at the base of the trees became visible in the powerful beams of the Mercedes lights. But the flickering shadows were not just men. The border post had been heavily militarised, with six men manning the border post and three others posted at the very barrier blocking the entry to France. Behind them two small armoured carriers stood guard, their machinegun positions trained towards the road into the country. Wilhelm and Andreas were right, the French were expecting this package of information. Elbe swore under his breath.

    "Steady. I see they expect us but I'm not sure they know who we are."

    Andreas stopped the Mercedes just in front of the barrier, the men and guns starting to circle around the car. One of the border guards, presumably the leading officer, beckoned Andreas to drop down his window. Andreas saluted respectfully and spoke in heavily accented French, handing the false passports towards the border guard. Glancing around the car, the officer scanned the faces of the four men with a mobile light and then beckoned to Andreas to stay in his car. Outside of the car the soldiers attached to the border post circled around the car, some enjoying the beautiful lines of the limousine, some rather more interested in the people who were inside the car. Neither of them were dressed in any particular way, keeping their suits and overcoats as expected to match the fashion of the day. Their uniforms were long forgotten in the headquarters.

    After six, seven minutes, which to Elbe seemed rather short, the officer returned with only one of the passports. He beckoned to Andreas to lower the window again.

    "One by one I will ask. Your purpose?"

    Andreas made a circling motion. "We're all going to Strasbourg for the cultural events for the holiday, with the German cultural exchanges."

    "One by one, Mister Andreas, did I not make myself understood?"

    Andreas nodded. He asked each one of them in German and then translated to the border guard who noted their answers on a piece of paper, using the car's bodywork as a writing plank. He nodded to Andreas and returned to his border post.

    "What was that all about?" asked Elbe.

    Andreas shrugged. "They're examining us. And our soldier friends are very interested in this car."

    Five minutes more passed. The officer returned, but this time with Elbe's passport.

    "Mister Richard Dietrich. I could not find you in the official register of the event that will occur tomorrow evening in Strasbourg. I have telephoned and asked for their list, and your name does not appear there."

    Elbe replied in German to Andreas, despite knowing French rather well. "Tell our friend that a certain Mr. Otto Muller, the host of the event, has invited me on a personal list. Ask him to find the name Otto Muller."

    The border officer drew up to Elbe's window and beckoned him to lower it. The intelligence officer obliged, flashing a curt smile to the border guard.

    "I trust Mr. Muller is expecting you, Mr. Dietrich?" asked the guard in perfect German.

    Elbe paused for a moment, returning a wider smile. "Excellent German, Sir. Yes, Herr Muller is indeed expecting me tomorrow night at the event. Hence why I am with my associates, they will be joining me."

    "All four of you will go?"

    Elbe hesitated. "Not all of us. Myself and Misters Wilhelm and Manfred will join me. Mr. Andreas will take care of our beautiful car."

    The guard smiled. "Beautiful it is. French cars are better however."

    "Yes, of course, I am sure some of them are better. No doubt."

    The guard flashed a wry smile, looked one more time at the false passport and returned to his border post. A small wooden house, that clearly could not house all of the military men sttationed at the border, was the border post near the city of Kehl. Five more minutes passed, another five, another fifteen then another thirty minutes until finally the border guard returned with all four passports and handed them over to Andreas.

    "It took some time gentlemen. You can never be too safe in these times. Have a good evening, and enjoy your event in Strasbourg!"

    With a small, rather mechanical move of the arm, one of the guards rose the barrier and waved the Mercedes inside France. The four men saluted the border guards and set a course for the city of Strasbourg, their nerves rattled and sweating profusely through the suits. Elbe was sullen faced.

    He knew the French knew.

    -----



    About 15 chapters left!
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    Chapter XXXIV - Shadows

    22nd of December 1938
    7:45 PM
    Kehl - France border post
    Alsace
    France

    ------------

    "Otto Muller, Otto Muller, who are you actually?"

    "He doesn't exist. It's a rather Otto M. Waltz that's in fact the host of tomorrow evening's event in Strasbourg," replied Reythier. He gave a curious look to Klaus who stood beside him in the border post, well away from any side glances that might have revealed them from prying eyes in the Mercedes limousine. "Mister Waltz is the one we are looking for, in fact."

    "So why did we let them go then?"

    Reythier smiled. "My dear Klaus, you do not interrupt the enemy when they make mistakes. Besides, we will have to go to that event, to keep an eye on them."

    They made handwritten copies of their false passports, noting down individualities and even side markings on the back pages to make sure they had registered everything about their unwelcome guests. The Mercedes was scanned by a significant number of soldiers but unbeknownst to their guests, two military attaches stood in the personnel carriers with their photographic devices trained on the car, spotting out the four men inside it. Reythier knew of Elbe and his henchman Wilhelm; the other two, Andreas and Manfred, were unknown to him or to their colleagues in the Deuxieme Bureau. Richard Dietrich was elbe, Wilhelm was a certain Hans Seydlitz and the other two most probably were listed under their real names. Odd, Reythier thought, it made no particular sense to

    "Something wrong, Alexandre?"

    Reythier leaned back in his chair, pensive, holding up two files indicating two different passports. "Why would you travel under false names for two people, while the other two kept their real names?"

    "You mean Elbe now being Dietrich?"

    "Their driver and bodyguard kept their real passports, but faked.

    Klaus was lost for a second. "Real, but faked?"

    "Their real names, location, characteristics, all of them were real. But their actual passports were brand new, spotless of any markings."

    "It depends what do they plan on doing with those two."

    "Scapegoats?"

    Klaus frowned. "For what?"

    Reythier stood up and drew to the side of the table, glancing at Klaus who was now forced to look upwards also in the light of the only bulb bathing their little guard post.

    "What would Elbe be doing at an event of the Alsatian German community in Strasbourg? I mean, yes, community, cultural and everything else that you could possibly imagine without any bad intent. But he's a high ranking intelligence officer, he's deliberately putting himself in jeopardy."

    "I doubt it's in jeopardy."

    "Why then?"

    "Intelligence gathering?"

    Reythier laughed. "From a bunch of local Alsatians who are mostly loyal to our government but want to keep their old traditions? Look at Jean-Jacques Waltz, he's German but rather French. And rather adamant about it too."

    "He's only one."

    "Not the only one, Klaus."

    Klaus spread his hands. "Alright. Say you're right. It makes no sense for us, but for them it does. What would it be so important at that event to put himself into our lap?"

    "This is what I do not know. And you're going to have to find out."

    Klaus leaned back in his chair, the shoddy wooden frame of the thin chair creaking like an old boat wracked by waves. "Me?"

    Reythier took out from his overcoat a small envelope which he handed over to his friend. "You're going to the event tomorrow night. Make sure you dress up properly."

    It was a surprise, a rather welcome and unwelcome one, as Klaus opened the delicate envelope with a frown, an amazed look and trembling hands. Sure enough, the invite was under his name and it was handwritten by a certain Otto M. Waltz who took deliberate pains to write in as much of a cursive script as possible. This made no sense to Klaus whatsoever. Why would someone invite him? Unless there was a reason.

    "Waltz is a false name as well, isn't it?" asked Klaus.

    Reythier nodded in silence. "There's no Otto M. Waltz. His name is Friedrich Rohm and he's the leader of the local Alsatian German community. The important part here is that he's been a sympathiser to the other cause and a double agent for almost twenty years now. He's the organiser and he's the main point of contact." Reythier smiled. "I hope you enjoy the dinner Klaus, I heard the food is excellent."

    -------

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    Chapter XXXV - Masquerade For Me, Please


    23rd of December 1938
    8:10 PM
    Hotel de Ville
    Strasbourg
    France


    -----

    It slipped perfectly on his weathered skin, the soft Egyptian cotton woven into the tuxedo shirt that touched his arms and his back as he slid it on.

    Two cufflinks followed, a slow reveal from underneath the striped cuffs, elaborate golden fleur-de-lys imitating the imposing flowers on the medieval banners of France. Klaus felt they were a good touch, something to remind him that he owed his devotion to the country he was born in. And as a reward of that devotion, he got to wear these beautiful jewelry pieces handed down to him by an uncle who was part of the nobility during the time of Napoleon the Third. Not so long ago in fact. A black tuxedo jacket followed, all of it tied together with a discreet silk bow tie that was rather too tucked inside the collar. Satisfied with his look in the mirror, his crop of grizzled hair slightly spiking towards the sky, Klaus left his hotel room all dressed up and left for the Hotel de Ville where the reception banquet was held. One of the military officers was assigned as his guard duty but that was not needed. The hotel was shadowed by multiple teams of officers, with Reythier himself disguised as one of the cellar workers, so all he had to do was inform.

    Slightly late, Klaus worked himself up the carpeted stairs of the hotel and into the lobby of the Strasbourg mayory, converted into a New Year event banquet. Stands of flowers overflowed on every corner of the first floor halls and rooms, their delicate touch and smell overwhelming the heavy scents imposed by the local notables from their expensive French perfumes. He knew no one within the banquet but that mattered little. Somehow Mister Rohm knew him, as he spotted a tall, lanky man reach out to him with a wide smile as he entered the banquet hall on the first floor. Rohm shook Klaus's hand, a strong, firm grip, his blue eyes shining brightly as he stared down the French intelligence officer.

    "Mr. Langstross, so great to see you!"

    Langstross. Reythier gave Klaus his own fake German sounding name for the list. Klaus, Klaus Langstross now, woke up from his reverie and smiled back, baring his teeth. Otto Waltz was his name, don't forget that, thought Klaus.

    "Mr. Waltz, is that correct? I believe we have not met yet but I do know you well from the business community. Heard a lot about you!"

    Rohm, or Waltz, smiled back. "Indeed, we did not have the pleasure of meeting. But I have heard of you quite a lot, being an important member of the security forces around this area, so it's very important to us to have you for our event. Please, join us, your table is close to the main centre table where me and the rest of the group leaders sit. I trust this is good with you!" yelled Rohm over the sound of the suddenly booming orchestra blanketing the entire hall with loud music.

    Klaus judged the event to have close to three hundred invitees, most of whom he guessed were either members of the community, business partners or infiltrated agents. There was no sign of Elbe and his goons yet but he expected to see them rather soon. Waltz hosted him at a table slightly towards the right hand side of the hall, placed well enough to give him a rather good view of most of the invitees but a complete lack of visibility on the back side. That matter little, it was easy for him to turn around. He sat down at his table, smiled and saluted the six other people at the same and waited

    "Looking for someone? Mister... Langstross, have I said that correctly?"

    For a moment Klaus was startled, woken from his deep thoughts, then smiled to the stocky, bald man seated to his left. "No, no, all is good, I am curious about the other people. I do not know anyone here so naturally I am interested."

    The man extended his hand. "Ludwig Benningsen. I'm a lawyer in Strasbourg, good to meet you Mr. Langstross!"

    Klaus smiled and shook the man's hand. A lawyer, good, he will know people, Klaus thought. They exchanged words for a couple of minutes until Waltz came into the midst of the hall and beckoned the orchestra to stop their music.

    "Ladies and esteemed gentlemen," thundered Waltz, his heavy voice resonating through the banquet hall "welcome to the event of the German community of Alsace. With the dawn of a new year coming upon us, and with this delicate times ahead, I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude for joining us tonight to celebrate our community and our friendship. I will beckon the orchestra to start once more to sing but before that, I would like to make an announcement."

    It was in that short pause that Elbe revealed himself, standing with an observing eye in the other corner of the hall, flanked by his men at a table to the right of the leaders'. Wilhelm was there and Manfred the brute was there as well, his bulky stature overpowering everyone at their table. The driver was not there however, conspicuously absent, probably in the car, Klaus thought. He shifted his gaze away from Elbe and back to Waltz.

    "Tonight I would like to announce, and cherish of course, the fact that our community has never been more united and never more in spirit with our fatherland, all while respecting the laws, regulations and of course the communities in which we live in. I would like to extend a toast to our fatherland Germany and to the community that we are here today." Waltz rose a glass of champagne. "Thank you everyone, and have a wonderful evening!"

    Thunderous applause enraptured the audience, some of them giving the five fingered salute in response. Shadowy, delicate even, but the salute was there. Elbe and his men abstained from any overt celebrations but were visible enough to have a host of men go up to their table and shake hands. It was enough for Klaus. They were spotted. All he had to do was wait now. Klaus took a glass of champagne and pointed it in the direction of every single person at his table, cheering with them and initiating small chat to know them better and to understand who they were. Apart from Herr Benningsen, with the odd name, everyone else was mostly the socialite group of Strasbourg. No significant interest to him.

    Klaus glanced back to the orchestra, now picking pace in their sonatas as the waiters immediately appeared with heavy trays of food laden with all sorts of local specialties. Roasted chicken, braised lamb, warm pastries on golden platters as small snacks and of course, endless amounts of wine to grease up the conversation made it a splendid banquet which he would have enjoyed had it not been for his work. Benningsen initiated discussions more than a few times, a rather chatty fellow for Klaus's thoughts, but he tried to make sure he got as much information as possible. After a couple of minutes he held up his hand

    "Mr. Benningsen, since you're a well known lawyer around these places, what does Mr. Waltz do for a living? I will confess I have never met him."

    Benningsen placed the champagne glass back on the table, rather surprised. "You have not met him yet? Curious. He's very well known in our communities."

    "Oh but I do know of him. I have not met him personally."

    "Oh, yes, indeed, apologies. Well Mr. Waltz is a commissioned artist in his free time but in his day to day job, he is the head of the clerks. Let us put it as the chief bureaucrat, the man who handles all the papers but has no political power. No one knows of him in Paris but we all know him here."

    Infiltrated at the highest level of government, Klaus thought. Not a good sign.

    "For a long time?"

    "Oh yes, it's already been ten or more years. He's an important member of the administration."

    Not an encouraging sign but Klaus nevertheless thanked Ludwig for the bureaucratic gossip. He took a couple of more nibbles and excused himself after five minutes, heading back to the entrance of the Hotel de Ville where he casually leaned himself amid the carpeted stairs to one side. By clockwork, thirty seconds later Reythier appeared, dressed in a waiter's tuxedo with an empty golden tray beckoning up the stairs. He gave a curt salute to Klaus.

    "We found him. Towards the main table, to the left of it as you enter."

    Reythier heard the words, slipping from his pocket a small envelope to Klaus as he walked past into the building. Klaus opened the envelope.

    "Wait for him, talk to him, engage. His driver is ours."

    Good, Klaus thought. The driver is ours. He glanced at his golden Doxa watch, the yellow gold hue matching perfectly with his cufflinks. 8:50 PM. Elbe would come out for a smoke in twenty or thirty minutes. He had nothing else to do but wait.

    ----


    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 05-24-2020 at 00:02.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXXVI - Enchante, Monsieur! (Enchanted, Sir!)

    23rd of December 1938
    9:08 PM
    Hotel de Ville
    Strasbourg
    France


    -----

    "Careful, Sir, those wooden tables are rather flimsy. I would not lean against them, they're just for show."

    The waiter stopped beside Klaus, his eyes widened in concern for the French officer who leaned against a tall wooden table placed by the edge of a door in the main hall. Klaus was eyeing the main door of the hall on the first floor, not particularly paying attention to the eager young waiter who blocked his view. Klaus looked at him rather irritated for a couple of moments until he realised the waited only meant to help him. He took his hand off the table and nodded in agreement.

    "Yes, of course, sorry. I apologise."

    The waiter nodded and scurried off rapidly, leaving Klaus to his own thoughts. Ten minutes had passed, perhaps more than then, but the main course was not over yet and there was nothing he could do but wait. He watched Reythier juggle along four times from the makeshift kitchen to the hall on the first floor, bringing food, drinks and rapid movement to an otherwise lethargic waiter corps that was not particularly eager to serve the guests. Small groups of ladies, lined up in their exclusive furs jutted down to the small rear garden for an evening breather despite the bitter cold and the occasional gust of wind that swept through the city. Klaus fidgeted from one

    He glanced at his watch again. Twelve minutes. He sighed. Klaus placed his hands in his pockets and watched as one of the waiters tried to impress one of the younger ladies. He did not have much luck but he did manage to steal a laugh or two out of her. The sound of her laughs reverberated through the main hall of the building, adding a cheerful note to his otherwise gloomy evening. Klaus looked again at his watch. Fourteen minutes.

    "A drink, Sir?"

    Klaus turned around, startled at the sudden voice that erupted in the back of his ear. The waiter from before, smiling and reverent, returned with a silver tray laden with three glasses of bubbling champagne. The fizzing drink caught Klaus's eye, tempted as he was to down one to lift his spirits but before he had a chance to respond a slim hand snatched one of the glasses and raised it to his eyes.

    "A drink, Sir?"

    Elbe. Klaus faked a smile and then snatched one of the other glasses, his fingers clenched tightly against the glass. He was not a field agent, that was clear enough, but Elbe did not seem to notice that.

    "Yes, of course. Klaus Langstross, nice to meet you!"

    "Enchante, Monsieur. Je suis Richard Deitrich." (Enchanted, Sir. I am Richard Deitrich)

    Klaus faked another smile. Elbe knew French, and with a good accent. "Mr. Deitrich. It is good to meet you, an esteemed member of this community."

    Elbe smiled. "Ah, people talk, as usual. Mr. Waltz recommended that I have a chat with the new people in our community and he recommended me that I have a chat with you. Allow me to introduce myself. I work for the German Foreign Ministry, as a cultural attache. This is why I am here, helping out the German speaking communities around the border."

    "So I've heard. Anyhow Mr. Waltz has thrown a spectacular soiree over here, I am quite glad to be part of this community. Paris has sent me over here to oversee the civil administration and the civil service, so I believe I will be working closely with the community."

    "Ours?"

    "Yes, of course. I am glad to be invited here."

    "You are of course, of our own origin?"

    Klaus smiled. "Yes, somehow. I believe it to be so. And I believe this is also why Mr. Waltz invited me here."

    Elbe laughed. "Truly. He knows everything, I often suspect him of being a French intelligence officer. Where are you from?"

    "I am Alsatian but my family is originally from Staufen. My mother's family at least. We speak everything in our house, including English and some more dialects from the south. My cousins are from the south, they taught me Occitan."

    Elbe raised his glass. "I'll drink to that. I never heard about that before." He downed the entire glass, placing it with careful movements back on the table."Do you know many people from this community?"

    "I have only met Mister Bennigsen earlier. A nice fellow, a local lawyer I understood. I presume I will be working with him quite a lot."

    Elbe smiled, his gaze suddenly turning away from Klaus and towards the hall where a burst of laughter erupted. He folded his hands and drew closer, leaning slightly on the table.

    "Mr. Langstross, I know you're with the French intelligence. But I assure you, we're only here with good intentions. We're only here to support our communities, that's all."

    "Just that?"

    "Just that, I assure you."

    "Why would you need to assure me of that? Is there something I should know in my civil service about this community?"

    Elbe raised his hands. "Not entirely, I do not think so. But we are here with peaceful intentions, nothing more."

    Klaus placed down his champagne glass. With economical hand movements he extracted a small note from his jacket pocket, unfolding it as slow as possible to capture Elbe's attention away from any distractions. He held the little note up to their eye level, the cursive handwriting indicating Andreas's rather swift arrest and the search of their car. As Klaus and Reythier had suspected, the trunk revealed more than they had hoped for.

    As if by clockwork, two gunshots rang in the distance.

    ----



    Spicy times ahead!
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXXVII - Need a Hand?

    23rd of December 1938
    9:35 PM
    Hotel de Ville
    Strasbourg
    France


    -------------

    "Need a hand?"

    Klaus blinked, stunned at Horace's thin smile under his even thinner moustache he faked with glue to blend in as a waiter. He was still dressed as waiter but for some reason small red dots were staining his dress shirt at random areas. Klaus blinked again, realising the heavy ache on his beck and back. It happened too fast for him to comprehend, from the moment Elbe saluted and left him, to the moment where he went to the kitchen to look for Reythier only to be violently kicked in the chest all of a sudden, sending him through a wooden door. He smashed through the door of the pantry and collapsed on a row of empty wooden barrels on a lower level, crashing with a force that almost knocked him out and left him reeling for the better part of a minute. But the assailant never materialised, only for Horace to show up instead.

    "Come on, get up," said Horace.

    "Someone kicked me in the chest."

    Horace nodded. "Yeah, he won't be any danger any more. Come on, up you go," motioned Horace, drawing Klaus to his feet. "Are you all right?"

    "I'm injured, my back hurts, I think I got kicked in the chest."

    "Yeah, leave that. We've got problems. Hard ones. Reythier is injured, critically, he's been shot by that stupid driver when he tried to escape."

    Klaus exhaled. "How bad?"

    "Tough to say, he's in a rough spot the old lad. He's being patched by a team of soldiers who were with us but we'll see."

    "Driver?"

    "Yeah, about him, no need to worry about him any more."

    Klaus raised his hands. "We're supposed to capture them, not finish them off."

    Horace beckoned to the door. "Tell that to your guys, they have no trigger discipline. The driver's gone, the car smashed to bits and they're moving in on Elbe and his guys. Since Reythier is no longer barking the orders, some officer names Alain is leading the men to surround this area."

    "What? That's a mistake, don....."

    Klaus's voice trailed off, covered by the loud crack of the door as the wooden planks were thrown aside and trampled. From their lower level, the pantry extended a flight of stone stairs up to an upper level balcony of sorts that prevented people from falling directly into the storeroom. That did not prevent Klaus from barging down the railing and into the barrels below but it made the two men who entered stop for a moment to assess where they entered. Their extended pistols were telling, their eyes scanning the illuminated pantry below, the destroyed wooden barrels and the planks scattered and splintered all over the place. Before they had a chance to react, Horace had taken out his M1911 pistol from underneath his shirt and aimed two perfect bullets, striking the two men at close range and without any chance. Both of them collapsed over the bent railing and onto another set barrels, silent from the .45 rounds planted by Horace's pistol. The rounds blasted through the closed, cavernous walls of the storeroom, forcing screams from the kitchen and Klaus to wince in pain as the vibrations barged through his ears. Horace placed a hand on Klaus, indicating calm, and went over to the two men.

    "Wilhelm and Manfred, the ones we looked out for." Horace turned to Klaus. "Elbe's missing, he ran off."

    Horace motioned to Klaus, beckoning him upstairs and back into the main foyer of the building. Some inquisitive eyes and ears asked about the loud sounds from the kitchen but before the panic could take hold, they both extracted themselves out of the building and lost themselves in between the darkened streets of Strasbourg. They stopped after a couple of minutes by the edge of a small boulangerie, a cutesy bakery, a row of five small lamps hanging by the side of the walls and into the narrow street. Klaus stretched his back, the vertebrae cracking with an audible sound.

    "Does it hurt?" asked Horace.

    "Not that much, but it's clear I need to see a doctor. I'm not getting any younger."

    "All right, let's think, you know the plans better than I do. What now?"

    "Elbe's making a run for it. How is he going to get out of Strasbourg I don't know, but I suspect he will, or either he will be hiding around here."

    "So we wait?"

    "No, we need to go check on Alexandre. And from there we need to go back to the border, scan the border and see if we can capture him. He knows we're watching, he got the message, but we need to capture him."

    Horace nodded. "All right. Off to the army barracks it is then. Lead the way, you're the local."

    Nodding in silence, the two men lost their trail in the dark side streets of Strasbourg.

    -----

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    Chapter XXXVIII - No News is Good News

    23rd of December 1938
    11:00 PM
    Deuxieme Bureau (Intelligence) Local Headquarters
    Strasbourg
    France

    -------

    Klaus nearly barged out of the car by the time it stopped in front of the intelligence building, opening the door with the white-walled wheels of the Citroen limousine still in motion.

    With Horace in tow and three other intelligence officers from the Paris teams they entered the small house under the cover of a small, dimly lit lamp that hung below a small arcade that made up the gate. They said their curt salutes and barged inside the house, rushing towards a large room at the back of the ground floor. Hushing noises floated in the error, small groups of men huddled around various corners of the room and around a large wooden table right beneath a crystal chandelier. The crystals were illuminated, bathing the room in a warm cosy evening light, not exactly what was needed for an intelligence bureau. They needed to be alert. Klaus rushed inside with Horace behind him and the three other officers, all of them panting and creating a ruffle of energy that made all of the men in the room

    Klaus saluted the men. One of them slid out of one of the six groups of men around the table and invited them to his end of the room. Alain Poitou. Poitou's grave expression was vividly visible in the glow of the crystal lights, his mouth drooped slightly lower, a telling expression of concern. He said nothing to Klaus, nor to the other men behind him.

    "Reythier's injured. Gravely. We don't know if he's going survive." Poitou paused. "Come, Klaus, come. We need to talk."

    Poitou extended a hand, his fingers pointing to his group of men, drawing up to the far end of the table. Poitou placed his fists on the table and glanced at the men who slowly left their groups and all huddled around the table. Poitou turned to Klaus who stood there expectant, still dressed in his elegant tuxedo, looking directly to him. Poitou grimaced, wincing slightly, his intelligence teams with all of their eyes aimed at him. Close to thirty men were in that room and with a couple of others who were still on the terrain around the city, searching for Elbe and his other teams if they even had others. Poitou straightened his back and wiped the back of his hand on his ears, his men still expectant, waiting for him to bring them up to speed. But the truth was that Poitou had no answers.

    "You're looking for answers, gentlemen, and you're looking at me. But to be honest with you, I have no answers. Reythier and his team left the Hotel to interrogate the driver, spotted earlier by one of the military teams. They interrogated him but the man had a revolver hidden underneath his belt and shot the team at close range. All three are in grave condition, most probably right now under surgery at the Strasbourg hospital. That's all we have on him." Poitou paused and glanced at Klaus. The Alsatian had not changed his posture, standing almost perpendicular to the table, his eyes fixed on Poitou. "As for what happened at the Hotel, we know that there were some gunshots heard from the lower areas, but we do not know if they were in contact with the driver."

    "The driver is no longer our business. And neither are the two other men with Richard Elbe," intervened Klaus.

    Poitou stumbled. He stammered for a few moments, visibly taken aback by the news. "All three of them?"

    "Yes. Two of them were handled by our friend from the English services." The eyes shifted from Klaus to Horace, who bowed his head out of pressure and perhaps a ting of shame for not capturing the two men. Klaus returned to Poitou, glancing from him and then to the table of eyes fixed on them. "Richard Elbe is on the run."

    "That we know," intervened Poitou. "He's running from us, he might have other men helping him."

    "Yes. I've met him at the gala, he came up to me and we had a direct chat." Klaus paused. "He assured me of his best intentions."

    "And you believe him?" asked Poitou.

    "Are we here to discuss childish jokes and games, Mr. Poitou?" countered Klaus, visibly irritated. "Elbe is on the run."

    "Any ideas?"

    "To the border," intervened Horace. By the third word his voice had become rather meek, drowned out in the attention given to him.

    "To the border, yes," added Klaus. "He's running away from us and we better capture him, or else our entire operation will be a failure. It's important we capture him to prevent them from alerting others."

    Poitou placed his fists again on the table. "I guess there's no time to lose, gentlemen. Block all of the border posts around the Alsace-Lorraine region, triple the guards and send 1-2 platoons around the main areas. We need all the eyes and ears we can get."

    "That won't be enough. Get a team and go inside the German territory, he won't use a border post. They tried that a couple of days ago, they went through the forests and over the Rhine with small rowing boats. The river is calm, it's a perfect opportunity."

    Poitou turned to Klaus, his concerned expression turned to one of shock. "Enter a foreign territory, and risk a war too?"

    Klaus sighed. "Do we have any choice?"

    ---------
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XXXIX - Escape

    24th of December 1938
    1:15 AM
    Rhine Forests
    Strasbourg / Kehl border
    France

    --------

    Something did not feel right.

    That particular feeling was after he met that grey-haired intelligence officer at the Hotel de Ville. It didn't feel right. No, there was something odd, something hidden, occult, menacing about him. While most intelligence officers are supposed to operate that way, he had a particular feeling about this one. After the heavy sounds rang from outside, he bid a courteous farewell to the man and rushed back to the gala only to find the patrons wholly unconcerned, catting as usual in their high society gossip. Good, he thought. Less panic, less prying eyes. Manfred and Wilhelm rushed to the door by then, seeing them with worried expressions about his long absence from the table. They told him the patrons were expecting him, one was even pitching a business venture, but that could wait right now. Elbe had to think. And fast, if possible, because he was sure what he heard were gunshots. He beckoned for Manfred and Wilhelm to follow the man they spotted earlier whilst he went back to the car to search for Andreas.

    But the car was not there.

    Worse, the car had been destroyed, blood trails along the pavement and Andreas missing from the car. Something was off at this point. Elbe reached for a cigarette from his pocket but he realised he had left them back at the gala. Better that he did, he realised the car was most probably under watch. Feigning the surprise of a bystander, he walked away from the car and turned into the nearest side street, dark and uninviting in the middle of a cold winter night that blissfully was without snow. He huddled against his overcoat, perched his collar up and walked in a rhythmic cadence to make sure he would identify any other sounds that would rise from the sides, from behind or even from ahead of him. He walked for good minutes alone, the thoughts his only companion until he reached one of the main boulevards in the city. For now, he lost his trail but there was no point in slacking off.

    He had to reach the border and he had to do it fast before they realised what had happened. Andreas, Manfred and Wilhelm had their backup plans so he was not worried about them. He was alone, however, so he had to extract himself now.


    Soon enough the first break for him appeared as a group of three taxis were a good two hundred meters ahead. Elbe bid good evening to the first driver, who saluted his friends and got inside an older Ford limousine from the first days of the decade. The taxi driver, a burly moustached figure, gave a curt salute.

    "Where to, Sir?"

    Elbe fumbled for a moment. "Can you drive me north, towards Lauterbourg?"

    The taxi driver narrowed his eyes. "North? Lauterbourg? At this hour? That's at the German border."

    Elbe pulled out a stack of French francs and dangled it in front of the taxi driver. "Drive. No questions asked. And all of this is yours."

    Sensing danger and both opportunity, both of which flashed in front of Elbe's eyes, the driver nodded and fired up the engine. Elbe slid back into the rather comfortable backbench of the limousine and watched as the dim lights of Strasbourg, the pearl on the Rhine, faded away and replaced with darkness pierced by the two front lamps of the car. The plan was rather simple. Get as close to the Lauterbourg border post as possible, where the river Rhine also narrowed, and find the three boats moored in a lower delta particularly for special escapes. If they were still there. The Ford roared through the national roads and after about an hour's drive, they entered into sleepy Lauterbourg, the small village completely asleep and devoid of any people. Only some streets were illuminated which made it both useful and perilous but the moon illuminated the clear skies well enough for him to judge. He threw the stack onto the driver's other front seat, slid away from the car and dove through the side streets, waiting close by until the car had left.

    The taxi driver had accelerated as fast as he could in his car, screeching tires and all, until the roar of the engine was only a faint, distant echo.


    Satisfied, Elbe huddled again against his overcoat and dove through the empty backstreets of a nondescript Alsatian village. The route he needed to follow diverged soon enough and he entered the forests close to the border zone, the calming sound of the water flowing perceptible to his ears. Through the thickets, with an occasional crack of a broken twig, Elbe advanced until he noticed three dots by the edge of the water when the trees cleared to reveal the river.

    The boats were there, moored against the trees. Three of them, as they had planned.

    The danger, and excitement, was palpable. He threw his overcoat on the edge of the boat, using it as a carpet to secure his entry into the boat, preventing any slips into the water. But he retreated immediately after in the shadow of the tree, waiting for any hidden lurkers that were out for him. Five seconds, twenty seconds, forty-five seconds. Only the sounds of birds chirping in the distance, and perhaps a sly nocturnal fox in the background, were the only vibrations reaching his ear. He seemed to be in the clear.

    Slow, meticulous, Richard entered the boat and cut the rope with his army knife. Using one of the paddles, he pushed against the shore and then against the thick trunk of a tree half-collapsed in the water, breaking free of the French border. Leaving the water to carry him southwards and towards the other shore, he gently guided the little boat into the German border, finding a small nook between the trees of the forests to dock his little boat. Securing the boat on to the shore, he jumped out of the boat and hid immediately in the shadow of a great tree, crouching at it's base and training his ears to the sounds in the distance.

    Nothing.

    Richard had escaped.


    -----

    Last edited by edyzmedieval; 06-04-2020 at 07:57.
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    Default Re: Swords Made of Letters

    Chapter XL - Where Do We Stand?

    24th of December 1938
    9:15 AM
    Deuxieme Bureau (Intelligence) HQ
    Strasbourg
    France

    ---------

    "Still bad".

    Poitou's words rang rather hollow. They knew Reythier was in a difficult situation but there was no change for him in the hospital. The injuries were still in the critical condition and there was no significant improvement in the past six hours. Stable, but nothing to write home about. Klaus stood on a leather sofa inside the main meeting room where they gathered last night, resting against the edge of the bench, his eyes fixed on the casual jump of flames in the fireplace at the other end of the room. Despite the warmth, he was still dressed in his overcoat, he had even slept in it, right there in the sofa. His soft shirt and the more rigid tuxedo were still underneath. Klaus glanced away from the flames and to Poitou, his superior's arm resting against the table with his fingers caressing some documents that were supposed to be sent out.

    "We have to put our plans into action, Mr. Poitou." He pointed a finger at the documents. "No use in delaying it."

    "I need Reythier to recover to lead the teams. We can wait another day."

    Klaus stood upright on the sofa. "Can we? I don't think we have that luxury."

    Poitou looked at him but said nothing. A junior officer appeared with two letters in his hands which he handed over to the chief of intelligence and went away from the room. Poitou opened the first one, scanned the note and discarded it but the second one caused a frown, the wrinkles of his sixty two years of age showing quite prominently on his forehead. He ran a hand over his beard, his fingers feeling the rugged beard unshaven over the past two days. Neither Poitou nor Klaus looked in good shape. Neither of them were too bothered by it, either. Poitou held up the note and threw it to the other side.

    "What is it?" asked Klaus.

    "Cryptologist note. From the cipher teams. The Germans are ramping up their equipment production and apparently a considerable number of the resources are being sent away from our border. But...," Poitou paused, looking directly at Klaus. "...more resources are being dumped in our area for their intelligence teams."

    "What about the army?"

    "No movement whatsoever. Guarding their posts, nothing specific."

    "Then what of the Eastern armies?"

    Poitou pointed to the note. "That's the details. They've intercepted Enigma transmissions in Poland and passed on the information to us as well. More divisions are being trained in the eastern part of the country."

    "Eastern part. Hmm. What about our intelligence men by our border?"

    Poitou sat back in his chair. "A couple of years ago we were contacted by a German intelligence officer who supplied us with Enigma rotors, codebooks, operating procedures, key settings, most of the information that we need. We passed on that work to the Poles as well who used it to intercept the encrypted intelligence messages sent out by both the army and the intelligence officers. Some of it we can understand over here, some the Poles can do it, some the Brits can do it. However we don't have a clear, overall picture. Fact of the matter is, we don't know the entire efficiency of the intelligence teams operating in France or around the border."

    "Our initial information and estimates focused around 200 something different teams, each with at least four five men assigned. Plus the entire corps of secretaries and dactilographers behind to send out info."

    Poitou shrugged. "Possible." His weathered face looked even more sullen this morning. "We don't know. Could be more, could be less, we could very well overestimate what they've done so far."

    "We know they have intercepted a lot of our own intelligence and they are operating here already."

    "True, true. That's why we should have captured Elbe when we had the chance."

    Klaus stood up. "We missed that." He walked around the room, aimless, casually glancing out of the window from time to time to look at the light snowfall perching in the garden. "He told me he only wants peace."

    "Sure, and we build tanks and battleships to bomb for peace as well."

    "I know he's bluffing. But it seemed very, how do I say this, very confident of him, to be there in person and to be with his own marching band."

    Poitou looked at him from under his eyebrows. "And you find this surprising?"

    "Kind of, sort of."

    "Do you remember the Colmar incident? It seems so far away but not a lot of time passed. They've attacked you and Reythier in broad daylight. No shame."

    "I suppose. What now?"

    "We wait one more day, let Reythier recover. In the meantime, you and I are off to Paris for a high level briefing."

    -------



    I want to make a little historical note over here - in this chapter I am referencing Gustave Bertrand and Hans-Thilo Schmidt, but also the Polish codebreakers who helped massively during the war.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Bertrand

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans-Thilo_Schmidt

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biuro_Szyfr%C3%B3w
    Ja mata, TosaInu. You will forever be remembered.

    Proud

    Been to:

    Swords Made of Letters - 1938. The war is looming - and Alexandre Reythier does not have much time left to protect his country.

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