Jinnie parked her very nearly brand new British Motors Mini in a free slot outside the main building of Fitzwilliam college, close to a sign pointing her to reception. She was early, her designated time to arrive at the college and pick up the keys to her shared flat in the hall of residence was still twenty minutes away. She sat back in the cream leather seat and breathed in that new car smell. She looked around her at the car she had only owned for two weeks but already loved. 3 months ago she couldn’t have dreamt of owning her own car, but then the war had just ended and she was at a loose end, unable to resume her university course in Berlin because Britain and Nazi Germany were still at loggerheads. No longer needed to fight for the English Resistance Army, jobless, she had spent early June doing virtually nothing, until that Monday morning when everything had changed.
When Jinnie had discovered the dead body of Ethel Jennings, the sweet old lady who had been responsible for her being recruited into the English Resistance Army, Jinnie had no idea of how her circumstances would change. On that morning she had been lazily eating her breakfast when a letter had been hand-delivered to her parents home where she was living. It invited her to visit a local solicitor’s office, with photo ID, as Ethel had left her a legacy in her will. It transpired that Ethel, who had no living family, had been a very wealthy woman owning her own retirement flat, other investments including valuable antiques, while having a substantial bank balance and gold bullion in the bank safekeeping. The will called for the liquidation of her assets, and after-tax and fees, their distribution to 3 close friends in the retirement complex, plus Jinnie and her sister Penny. The legacies left various percentages to the legatees with Jinnie’s inheritance amounting to the vast bulk of the estate. Only two days after the meeting with the solicitor just over £1.3 million had been paid into her bank account.
On returning home, stunned at the development, she had picked up the mail and had two further shocks. The first had been invited to an unsolicited personal interview at a Cambridge college to read for a three-year degree in German with French. The letter said she had been recommended to the college and after racking her brain she had concluded that it could only have been her Professor of German in Berlin who had also been her resistance leader. She believed he was in touch with British Intelligence.
Her second letter had informed her she had been award a George Cross for her resistance work, although it was to remain a secret and she was yet to attend an award ceremony. That had been an amazing day and she had eventually gone to bed with her head still spinning and not managed to drop off to sleep until the early hours.
Jinnie’s dad, ever the practical one, had come up with an investment plan for her spreading the money into various areas. However, knowing she was still young he had put aside what he called some “mad money”. She had talked about buying her own flat, but Dad had said she should wait until she knew if she was going to Cambridge or not, as having an empty flat for three years wasn’t really sensible. In addition, he pointed out that by the time she graduated she might have met someone special. That made her think of Paolo and the pendant from him that she always wore.
Jinnie had been unsure what to do with her life, but if she was likely to be going to get into Cambridge then she decided she could take a temporary job until the term started in the autumn. It would help her pass the days. Not that she now needed the money, but she took a job as a barmaid in one of the town’s pubs, The Strafford, where a pretty blue-eyed blonde was seen as a huge asset drawing in the young lads of the town who fancied their chances. Also, it was only ten minutes walk from home so was very handy. She quite enjoyed the work and the banter, but was careful not to encourage the lads too much.
Not being able to drive, Jinnie had used the train from Potters Bar to Cambridge for her interview and was amused to have to get off the train at Welwyn Garden City to join a bus to Welwyn North because the viaduct was still out of commission. At Cambridge station, she had grabbed a taxi to Fitzwilliam College. The interview panel consisted of three professors and was conducted entirely in German. Jinnie was quite happy with this as her conversational German was excellent after having lived in Berlin and being taught in German for a term. The interview was quite extensive and went on for nearly an hour, at the end of which the panel’s chairman announced that he was happy to offer her a place on the degree course starting in late September. He continued that they would be writing to her with confirmation and further details. Then he added that the cost of her course and halls of residence would be covered by a bursary. She was too shocked to be able to tell them the bursary was unnecessary as she had funds, but was told that her place was being sponsored and that her university place was dependent on its acceptance. That really got her thinking.
The first thing she decided to spend money on was learning to drive. Until now she hadn’t had the money to do so, but she talked with a local instructor and he talked her through what to do. First, she needed to get a provisional license, then start driving lessons, study for and pass her theory test, finally take and pass her driving test. It all seemed like it was going to take a long time but her instructor told her there were ways to speed things up like taking an intensive driving course where you have several lessons a day for a number of days, she could book her tests now and put in for a test cancellation. Jinnie now had the money to take an intensive course so she decided to pursue this direction. She took to driving like a duck to water and by the middle of August was the proud possessor of a brand new driving license.
Jinnie asked her dad to accompany her to the new car showroom as she didn’t think she would be taken seriously if she had to haggle over the price. On her very first driving lesson, she had stopped at traffic lights outside the local Mini dealership and seen a black one with cream leather upholstery in the showroom window. She said to her instructor “That one’s got my name on it.” He laughed and said, “We’ve got to get you through your tests yet”. Now she had passed her driving test she had checked and the car she wanted was still on display. She didn’t even look at the price, she didn’t care she knew she had the money. The Mini brand had been owned by BMW and it had looked like following England kicking out the Germans it would disappear from the UK market, but the Government had been desperate to retain a car manufacturing industry and encouraged a British investment group to take over the UK factory and brand.
Her dad had warned her not to walk straight up to the car she had chosen, it was a big “tell” to the salesman and she wouldn’t get a decent discount that way. She didn’t really care about a deal, she just wanted that car. As it happened a salesman was showing someone else around “her” car, so they had a look at a couple of other models before a salesman descended on them. He had assumed that her dad was the customer and engaged with him, allowing Jinnie to wander around and eventually look closely at “her” car when the salesman and prospect moved to another car. It was metallic black, came with loads of extras and the more she sat in it the more she wanted it.
Jinnie drifted back to her dad and the salesman, who were discussing the finer points of the model her dad was sitting in and at a break in the conversation, she said, “Dad, have you seen that black one?”. Playing along, Mr Walsh glanced at it and said, “Yes dear, it’s very nice, but I think it might be out of our price range.” The salesman jumped right in saying, “We’ve had that one on the floor for a while now, I think my manager might be willing to do a deal to shift it.” Mr Walsh asked how much discount they could expect on the displayed price and the salesman said 10%. Mr Walsh said No, but the salesman thought he had hooked him and asked what discount he was looking for. Mr Walsh thought nothing ventured nothing gained and replied 15% for cash. The salesman said he would have to talk to his manager and made off out the back of the showroom. Mr Walsh had bought enough cars in the past to know sales tactics and that the salesman was probably chatting with one of the mechanics.
When the salesman returned he said they couldn’t do 15% how about 11.5%. A bit more haggling, another trip out the back and they settled on 12.5%, a full tank of fuel, a full years tax and two years servicing, shook hands on the deal and headed to the salesman’s desk to fill in the paperwork. Having sat down at his desk the salesman asked Mr Walsh for his details for the sales form. He looked shocked when Jinnie gave him her details and then pulled out her shiny new black debit card for the payment.
Waking up from her memories, Jinnie got out of the car and walked over to the college reception where she was issued with a college photographic swipe pass that doubled as an electronic key to the flat she was sharing. The flat turned out to be in what seemed like a new block. Her college pass opened the front entrance and she walked into a smart, clean, small entrance area with three orange tub chairs, just like an office reception. There was even a direction board pointing to the toilets, TV lounge, stairs and lift, it even told her that flat 4 was on the first floor. Walking down the first-floor corridor the smell of fresh paint was overpowering. The doors to each flat were in different bright colours. Jinnie couldn’t help but wonder if it was to make it easy if you came home drunk. Flat 4 had a post box red door which issue a whirring sound when she swiped her pass and the door open an inch.
The sound of Phil Collins greeted her as she entered, so she called out “Hello” and a tall skinny bloke with a hipster beard and what her dad called National Health glasses popped out of one of the rooms. He said, “Hi, I take it your one of my new flatmates. I’m Nigel.” Jinnie already had him labelled as a geek. Nigel had already grabbed one of the four on-suite bedrooms so she chose the one furthest away, which had a nice view to the front of the building and had the advantage that she could see her Mini in the car park. Jinnie dumped her suitcase and went back to her car to get the rest of her stuff. On the way back she saw the geek watching her from the kitchen/dining room/living room window. Back in the flat, he was back in his room with the door shut. Not only a geek but a creepy geek thought Jinnie.
Halfway through unpacking Jinnie heard the front door open and someone shouting “Hello”. In the entrance, struggling with big suitcases here a small dark-haired brown-eyed girl and an average height sturdily built man, both of around her age. She was just greeting the final two flatmates when Nigel put his head around his bedroom door said “Greetings” and disappeared back into his room. The other three collapsed in laughter. The new arrivals introduced themselves as Carol and Jason. Jinnie had assumed that as they arrived together they were a couple, but it quickly became apparent that they had only met when they were collecting their keys.
Carol and Jason were as friendly as Nigel wasn’t and the three of them got on well from that first Monday morning. They decided to lunch together, called to Nigel that they were going to try the college refectory and was he coming with them, which they got a muttered “no”. It being freshers week, everywhere they went were notices of events to go to, trestle tables canvassing clubs and societies, booths from all the banks offering student accounts, older students were offering guided tours of the uni and the town and there were loads of freebies ranging from notebooks and biros to condoms. They decided to have lunch and then spend a while seeing what they might fancy doing for the rest of the day as tomorrow there were a few more formalities to undertake. They had to officially register with the college for their courses, meet the course lecturers and tour their departments.
The refectory was bright and clean and looked like it too had recently been repainted. They joined the self-service queue and Jinnie choose a large piece of battered cod, chips and peas and followed it with treacle tart and custard. Having finished eating, her companions decided that their first priority was to open bank accounts and wanted to see who had the best offers for signing up. Jinnie of course already had an account and both credit and debit cards so said she would have another cup of coffee and arranged to meet them in an hour. Jinnie had nearly finished her coffee when a familiar voice spoke from behind her in German. “Good afternoon Miss Walsh, may I join you for a few minutes.” Turning, Jinnie was astounded to see Professor Dirk Scholz standing there, leaning heavily on a pair of crutches.
In Chapter 2 – Dirk’s Story.
© WorthingGooner 2021
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file