The alarm on Paolo’s phone pulled Jinnie out of her doze. She looked over at him, as he roused and turned off the alarm, feasting her eyes on what she saw. He stretched and reached for his shirt while she visually searched the room looking for where she had dropped her bra. Catching a view of herself in the mirror she remembered that for the first time in a year she wasn’t wearing his pendant. In her now good, but not yet quite fluent Italian, she explained and he kissed her and said that he understood and he knew it made no difference whether she was wearing it our not he still loved her. She smiled, kissed him and said, “And I love you,“ and meant it. Paolo scrabbled on the bedside table, picked something up and wearing just his shirt dropped to one knee in front of her, took her hands in his and said, “Marry me.” She didn’t have to think about it, quickly replying, “Yes, oh Yes.” Paolo slide the ring pull from a can of Fritz Cola onto her finger and said, “Sorry, I promise you I will get you a proper ring.” Jinnie laughed, held his head in her hands and kissed him deeply.
Ten minutes later they were sat respectfully on a sofa in the hotel reception when Simone walked in hand in hand with Jan followed by her father and Jan’s parents who where deep in conversation, switching backwards and forwards between French and German. Jan and his parents went to check in and M. Beaufort made his way to the gents. Simone looked at Jinnie and said, “What have you’re been doing, you are positively glowing!” Jinnie quickly explained that she was engaged. To which Simone said, “About time too,” and went to talk to Jan.
Madam Beaufort wanted to meet her prospective in-laws before the party and had invited them all for a buffet lunch. Again M. Beaufort was the taxi driver, so ‘Elise’ and Paolo said they would get a taxi and Simone scribbled the full address on the back of a beer mat to make sure the taxi got them there. Jinnie and Paolo snuggled up in the back of the Taxi whistled up by the hotel doorman and arrived at the Beaufort’s townhouse simultaneously with M. Beaufort’s Citroën C5. Madam Beaufort was waiting at the door and Simone introduced all the guests.
The buffet lunch was magnificent, Jinnie now knew where Simone got her skills in the kitchen from and wished she had half her ability in the kitchen. After lunch the two mothers, who seemed to be getting along just fine started to clear up and to load the dishwasher and the two fathers disappeared into what Jinnie thought of as the lounge with glasses of beer. Simone suggested the four youngsters go and sit in a sunny spot in the garden for a chat. In the sun it was warm enough to sit with just a pullover on. Jinnie had to explain to the other three what had happened to her since she last saw them. She switched to German which was a good common language for the four of them and told them all that had happened to her, the war, the SAS, the railway viaduct, Cambridge, Dirk, being recruited by MI6, getting a medal and meeting the Royal Family and the PM and her mission. She deliberately didn’t mention her inheritance.
The two boys said they wished they would still be in Nice to help but both were due to travel home on the 2nd and the obergruppenführer wasn’t due to lay the foundation stone of the new exhibition hall until the 5th. Jinnie’s Submarine was due back on the night of the 7th to take her back to Portsmouth. Simone explained that she had been asked to start up a small resistance group in Nice. She had recruited half a dozen people but as she had only been able to be with them during university holidays. It had been proving difficult to train them or to carry out any major missions. They had plenty of weapons and explosives in store, mostly buried in nearby woods but their prize weapon was the sniper rifle, which none of her group could use effectively. They had been promised that if ever they had a need to use it a sniper would be sent to them.
Two taxis arrived at 16:30 to take those staying at the Nova Hotel back there to prepare for the engagement party. Paolo was very correct in saying his goodbyes but while saying goodbye to Jinnie, he gave her an enormous wink which thankfully only Simone saw. Jinnie’s bedroom shared a Jack and Jill bathroom with Simone’s room. She was just putting on her stockings when a knock came from the door of the shared bathroom. Simone wanted the back of her dress zipped, it was a white equivalent of Jinnie’s little black dress and she looked stunning. Simone looked at Jinnie and said, “Wow. You have been hitting the gym hard.” Jinnie said, “Partially, but I have also been running most mornings and going on exercises on most weekends with the cadets, rock climbing and fell walking. It has given me muscles I didn’t know existed.”
Simone stayed chatting to Jinnie while she finished getting ready. She straightened her stockings and clipped them to her suspender belt. She took the little black dress out of the wardrobe and put it on. Simone reciprocated and zipped it up for her. Jinnie sat at the dressing table and put on her makeup, brushed her long blonde hair, picked up a little black clutch bag and said to Simone “OK, I’m ready.” For the second time that day she was thankful for the forethought of those Wrens. Simone looked at Jinnie and said, “You look fabulous. I hope Paolo appreciates the effort.” Jinnie replied, “Well you look stunning so let’s knock em dead.” Simone looked at her strangely, obviously the phrase didn’t translate directly in to French.
So that they could have a drink, M. and Madam Beaufort had arranged for a large taxi to take them all to the hotel. They want to be there before the engagement party started at 19:30 as they wanted to greet the guests as they arrived, about 120 were expected. Jinnie thought it must have cost the Beaufort’s a small fortune, there was a buffet groaning with food, a free bar and musicians playing a mixture of europop and standards. When they started playing ABBA, Jinnie was reminded of the night she and Simone had met Paolo and Jan.
The band broke into ‘I have a dream’ and for Jinnie. It reminded her that Simone was singing it in the shower the night she sleep walked in to her room. As she quietly sung along, Paolo appeared next to her and joined in. Jinnie dragged him onto the dance floor and whispered, “Do you remember them playing this on the night we met?” Paolo said, “Of course, how could I forget? A beautiful English girl talked to me and I was so scared I would say or do something stupid. I desperately wanted to meet you again. I think I fell in love with you that night.”
M. Beaufort tapped the microphone a few times and made one of these embarrassing speeches that the father of the bride usually makes at a British wedding. He ended up by saying that the bar would be open until one o’clock and for those still hungry, burgers would be served at midnight, but in the meantime waiters were now circulating bringing Champagne so that everyone could toast the newly engaged couple.
After the toast, the band struck up again and the dance floor suddenly got very crowded. A little while later Simone and Jan danced close to Jinnie and Paolo. Jinnie said to Simone that they looked good together. Simone spoke in Jinnie’s ear so that no one else could hear and said she and Jan were desperate to be on their own for half an hour but it was impossible, they would be immediately missed. Then she added, “No one would miss you for half an hour and Paolo has a room upstairs.” Then she danced away grinning. Taking Simone’s hint on board Jinnie manoeuvred Paolo closer and closer to the ballroom entrance until she finally pulled him through it and into the lift to the bedrooms.
Around about 11:30 Jinnie found Simone alone at the bar nursing a glass of chilled white wine. Jinnie asked where Jan was and she said her father had dragged him off to meet a couple of rich old aunts whom he was hoping were going to leave him their money. She had made the excuse that she needed the toilet and slipped into the bar to sit down for a bit to rest her feet. Jinnie laughed saying that Simone’s mother had ‘borrowed’ Paolo, in his official capacity as best man, to introduce him to some members of Simone’s family. The two friends spent the next 25 minutes having a girlie chat before the waiter interrupted with the midnight burgers.
Jinnie woke late the following morning and for a moment was unsure where she was, before realising she was at Simone’s home. Having washed and dressed she wandered downstairs to the kitchen where Madam Beaufort was sat in front of large bowl of coffee into which she was dunking a croissant. Jinnie had watched Simone consume this breakfast many times and knew all about this French habit. She was more than happy to cup her hands around the bowl to drink and to dunk a fresh buttery croissant. She and Madam Beaufort chatted about the party and the previous evening. M. Beaufort was to take Jan and his parents to the airport for their early afternoon return flight and Simone was to travel to the airport with them to see her fiancé off. Madam Beaufort had volunteered to drive Paolo to the station for his 14:08 TGV departure. He was returning via Genoa to his parents home in Livorno. His family had been staying with relatives in Milan for Christmas and subsequently he had arrived from there. Madam Beaufort suggested ‘Elise’ should come with her as she had noticed how close she was to Paolo.
Before she could reply a still sleepy Simone arrived and poured herself a bowl of coffee. From experience Jinnie knew that Simone needed her morning coffee and croissants before she was good for the day. While Simone’s mother went off to raise her father Simone told Jinnie that she had arranged to borrow her mother’s Citroën C1 later and would show her the point she had picked out to shoot from. It had a clear view of where the foundation stone was to be laid but she was worried it might be too far away for an accurate shot.
Madam Beaufort discreetly opted to stay in the car while Jinnie saw Paolo to the ticket barrier. After a long lingering kiss, Jinnie told him that she would see him soon, she didn’t know how but the Nazis were not going to keep them apart. One last kiss and he was gone. Back in the car Madam Beaufort said, “I understood Paolo was in love with a blonde English girl called Jinnie and was worried that he would never see her again. I would never have guessed you could be English without seeing you together. You don’t have to worry, I won’t mention it again. I have no idea how you managed to get here but it has delighted Simone. Now we must get home as Simone wants to take you to meet one of her friends.”
The chosen firing point was on the flat roof of a tall apartment block. Simone had acquired a key to the door onto the roof and one of her group, Sylvie, met them there. The three girls emerged on to the roof and immediately crouched low so that the parapet wall protected them from being seen from the ground. Simone pointed out the construction site and exactly where the stone was to be laid. The site was still shut down for the holiday and there was nothing moving. Jinnie said “It is a very long shot, any idea of the actual distance?” Sylvie pulled a laser rangefinder from her pocket and Jinnie discovered the shot was to be almost 1250 metres, she just prayed that it would be a windless day. Simone told her that a pair of motorcyclists would be supporting her on the day. One would be her transport to and from the apartment building while the other would deliver and return the rifle to storage in the woods. She assured her that the rifle had been zeroed in by the group’s armourer and was ready to go.
The ceremony was timed for noon, Simone’s parents had returned to work so they had the house to themselves that morning. Jinnie had a run before breakfast and actually felt quite relaxed. She didn’t want to be on the roof too early, the shorter the time she was exposed there, the less chance there was of being discovered. The motorcyclist was due to meet her in the next street to Simone’s home and to drop her off at the building in time for her to get onto the roof before noon just in case the ceremony was running early. They were to rendezvous with the other motorcyclist who would hand over a sports-bag containing the sniper rifle.
Jinnie settled herself behind the parapet wall and opened the sports bag. It contained the sniper rifle, ready assembled with telescopic site, suppressor and bipod. There were also 3 x 5 round magazines each loaded with jacketed hollow point ammunition, a laser rangefinder, a pair of powerful binoculars and a handheld digital anemometer which told her that thankfully there was virtually no wind. At four minutes to noon, Jinnie popped her head above the parapet and made her third check on the site. On the two previous checks all Jinnie had seen were a reception party who had looked bored. This time they were looking at the main gate where a Mercedes was entering the site. Action time thought Jinnie.
The target got out of the car, shook a few hands and accepted a bouquet of flowers and made his way to a rostrum to make a speech. This was the time the target was going to be stationary for the duration of the speech. With the bipod legs resting on the parapet wall Jinnie controlled her breathing, got her heart rate down and focused in on her target. She laid the cross hairs on his head and to allow for the fall of the bullet over the distance moved them up a few centimeters. She squeezed the trigger and waited what seemed a lifetime but it couldn’t have been more than a second and a half before the obergruppenführer’s head exploded. Calmly Jinnie dropped back behind the wall, folded the stock, repacked the sports bag, including the cartridge case, had one last look to ensure she had left no obvious evidence and headed through the access door, remembering to lock it.
The motorcycle was ready and waiting and within less then two minutes of the shot being fired they were off. The handover of the sports bag took seconds and they were off again. Within fifteen minutes she was sitting at the kitchen table and Simone was making strong coffee for them both. There was no mention of the assassination on the one o’clock news, nor the two o’clock, nor the three o’clock. Simone took a call on a burner phone that confirmed the killing and that the local police were stumped. They were struggling to work out from which direction the shot had come as the obergruppenführer’s head had been splattered all over the watching dignitaries. The police were searching buildings within a 500 metre radius. News of the incident was being suppressed by the Propaganda Ministry but police patrols were being stepped up.
Jinnie and Simone went out for a walk around the local area and nothing seemed any different to normal. The SIM card from the burner phone was broken up and dropped into several different street drains while the phone itself was smashed and dropped in the river Var. Shortly after disposing of the phone Simone’s own phone rang. It was her mother who had come home to an empty house and wondered where the girls were. Simone said they had gone out for a walk and were on their way home. Madam Beaufort said she was a little worried there was a rumour going round at work that a serious incident had occurred that afternoon and the SS and Gestapo were active in the town. The girls said they had neither heard nor seen anything.
The next day was Jinnie’s last full day in France so she and Simone went shopping. Jinnie had a load of Reichsmarks in her purse and she decided to buy some presents for Simone and her parents. If the SIS didn’t like her spending their money then tough. She wasn’t being paid for her mission but she could easily afford to repay them if they turned nasty. She bought a pretty necklace for Simone, a broach for her mother whom she had noticed had quite a collection and a watch for her father. Simone was delighted and immediately put the necklace on, wearing it out of the shop. The other two presents were wrapped by the shop and the girls agreed that they should be presented after a last dinner that Madam Beaufort was preparing.
The 7th was a Thursday and as her parents were working Simone organised a taxi to take them to the station. As far as Simone was concerned Jinnie was catching a direct train to Paris shortly before 2 o’clock but she was actually getting the train to Menton that left 15 minutes or so later. The girls stood at the ticket barrier chatting and became aware that there were several men standing around watching people. They guessed Gestapo looking for an assassin. They seemed to be concentrating on youngish military looking men and didn’t give two young girls a second look, they simply didn’t fit the accepted profile of a sniper. Jinnie promised Simone she would be in touch, she didn’t know how or when but she would be in contact her. Simone promised to pass Jinnie’s love to Paolo when she saw him in Berlin in a week or so. Jinnie checked the departure board and saw the Paris train had been allocated a platform and said her goodbyes.
Jinnie let the Paris TGV go and switched platforms for the Menton train. The platforms were not visible from the station concourse so Jinnie had no worry of being seen boarding the ‘wrong’ train. The journey took less than 20 minutes and when she walked out to the station she found a public phone and rang the local number she had memorised. When the phone was answered she said, “I am waiting,” and rang off. Five minutes later a taxi picked her up and dropped her off at a small house on an anonymous street. The householder showed her into the small kitchen where she was to wait for dark and to be smuggled onto a fishing boat.
It was the same submarine as she had travelled out on and Commander Dobiecki welcomed her back on board. He had a rating take her to the same bunk as before. The rating said he hoped she was hungry as the skipper would like her to join him in his cabin for a late dinner and he hoped she wasn’t a vegetarian. The rating explained that the galley produced a menu with the choice of three main courses for dinner each evening and he invariably ate fillet steak, chips, onion rings and peas. Jinnie said she would love a medium rear fillet steak.
The Aberdeen Angus steak was beautiful and better for being a reminder of Britain. The Captain had a message for her from SIS congratulating her on a successful mission and saying that their contacts inside the Gestapo reported that they had found the remains of the round she had fired. After mushrooming when it hit the officers head it had passed though it and it then seemed to have ricocheted several time before it had hit a reinforced concrete block and had been squashed virtually beyond recognition. It had been tentatively identified as a JHP sniper round but they had not found where it had been fired from, still less by whom.
The journey back seem to take for ever but when she landed in Portsmouth there was sleet on the wind and the temperature was at least 10 degrees lower than Nice. The Wrens greeted her and started checking back into the store much of the clothing and other items. Because some items were started or used and could be re-issued, she was allowed to keep them. This included the contents of her wash bag, and the makeup bag, all the underware, stockings and three pairs of shoes. All were placed in a black plastic sack. As she was wearing a pair of jeans and a sweater she was also allowed to keep them. No one mentioned the money she had spent. The Wrens returned the black plastic sack that her original clothes had been placed in, her jewellery and her car keys. They told her that Major Sholtz wanted to de-brief her back in Cambridge and she was free to go. Walking to her car she thought the original black sack was heavier than it should be. Once in the car she looked in the bag and sitting on top of her things were the second pair of jeans and the Little Black Dress.
In Chapter 16 – Lent term begins
© WorthingGooner 2021