Jinnie put the pet carrier down on the kitchen floor and she could see that Larry was itching to get out, but first she wanted to get his familiar things in place. Nigel and Camilla carried Larry’s stuff in and placed them where directed. Jinnie lifted Larry out of the carrier and sat on the floor chatting to him as she took off his old collar and replaced it with a new Cambridge Blue one which she told him would open the cat flap. Carole and Jason joined them and Jinnie introduced them to Larry.
Jinnie whispered to Larry, “Well what do you think?” and Larry nudged her hand with his head. He wandered around the kitchen sniffing things and getting used to his new surroundings. Larry investigated the house from top to bottom wandering into every room, testing the beds and chairs and generally making himself familiar with the property. Eventually, he joined them all in the lounge where the housemates were watching TV and enjoying a snack. Larry jumped up on the sofa and snuggled up next to Jinnie with his head on her lap. Carole looked at him and said, “I think Larry approves of his new home.”
On Sunday morning Jinnie was up early, she wanted to be sure she got the Mail on Sunday as she was sure it would have a follow-up on last week’s story. But first, she wanted to check on Larry. Entering the kitchen the cat basket was empty and her heart skipped a beat. She needn’t have worried, within seconds Larry came in through the cat flap and bounded over to her and rubbed himself around her legs. She said to him, “I thought I had lost you,” and rubbed behind his ears. Before going out she topped up his water and gave him his breakfast. She then told Larry she was popping out to get a paper.
This week she managed to get the paper in the first shop she visited. Larry was on the inside of the living room window sill looking out for her when she returned. He was clearly settling in. Jinnie sat down to read the paper and Larry immediately jumped onto her lap. As Jinnie expected, the MoS was featuring a follow-up story. They had found someone who had told them that the Nazis had not just shipped out Jews and British senior officers, but had cleared the occupied area of anyone and everyone who they considered a problem, they had emptied the mental hospitals and rounded up gays, Communists, Gypsies, any politicians they didn’t like, the seriously disabled, in fact anyone who didn’t fit their idea of the normal. But the biggest revelation was the claim that these people had been sorted on arrival on the Continent into those who could work and those who couldn’t. The paper said those who could work were then worked until they died, while those who were too old, young or infirm were immediately exterminated in gas chambers.
To Jinnie this was not new, she had heard it all before and knew that it was the standard German method of operation with all countries they occupied. But she could see the hand of the prime minister behind the steady drip, drip of the information being leaked to the paper. There was still lots more to come out, but Jinnie was wondering how what had already been leaked was affecting public opinion? Were the government doing private opinion polls to find out? Perhaps the thing she wanted to know most was had the Commonwealth and the United States picked up the story and if so what were their public and politicians saying? She was expecting her usual mobile call from the PM following a big revelation. She had plenty of questions to ask him.
It was after lunch when Jinnie’s phone rang. The PM’s first question was about Larry and if was he settling in. Jinnie said he was making himself at home and seemed to be extremely happy. He had been begging bits of the housemate’s roast chicken Sunday lunch and was now curled up asleep on one of the sofas. Nigel said that was excellent as he was calling a press conference the next day to tell the world that Larry had retired and to introduce a new young cat to the country. It would be good to be able to say that Larry was happy in his new home. He had decided to invite the country’s under 10’s to suggest a name for the new rescue cat.
The PM moved on to the MoS article and Jinnie asked how long he intended to go on feeding them the story? The PM chuckled and said, “Just as long as it takes we have plenty to feed them.” Jinnie asked if the leaks were moving public opinion in the country and the prime minister said, “Yes, particularly among the young,” and continued saying that he would leave it a week or two before quietly starting to place a few armaments contracts. Without prompting, he said that the story was making it onto much of the Commonwealth’s media and several PMs had been on the phone to enquire if the “disappeared” applied to their troops. Mr Farage said he had explained that in particular black Caribbean, African and Indian forces seemed to have suffered. The American’s president had also been on the phone asking if he would share information with the CIA.
Nigel then asked Jinnie if she had seen a little piece on page 35, Jinnie hadn’t. It was about several coordinated attacks on bus and tram fleets in a number of Third Reich towns and cities. Apparently fire had destroyed public transport fleets in many countries. Nigel drew Jinnie’s attention to the attacks in Berlin and that 8 different garages in the city had been attacked simultaneously. He told Jinnie, “I understand your old cell was heavily involved and that everyone is OK.” The PM explained that the cabinet had decided to tell the media about many more attacks to show the British people that there were many people in the Third Reich who were willing to fight for their freedom.
Larry got into a routine, he had his breakfast, had a wander around the garden, popped back in through the cat flap to say goodbye to the housemates when they went off to university. He then went to see the old lady two houses down who was a cat lover and was always good for a few cat treats. He would stay with her for an hour or so before heading home for a sleep. He preferred to sleep on Jinnie’s bed as it had her “smell”, then he would go and sit on the inside of the living room window where he could see Jinnie’s car when it arrived. On Saturdays and Sundays, when Jinnie didn’t go to uni, he would nip out into the garden then climb the stairs and jump on Jinnie’s bed and snuggle up to her nudging her with his head until she gave in and got him his breakfast. Some weekends Jinnie went off to do something with the “cadets”, whatever they were, Carol was in charge of his food on those days so he jumped on her bed. If Camilla was staying for the weekend he liked to spend time with her as she definitely was a “cat person”.
One day a new turquoise car appeared outside the house shortly before Jinnie was due home. Larry wondered whose it was. A few minutes later Jinnie arrived home and she got out of her car and instead of coming into the house, she headed to the other car the driver of which got out and they hugged each other. Larry headed for the front door and was waiting for them when they came in. Jinnie bent down and stroked Larry and said, “Larry meet my sister Penny, she is staying the night.” Larry walked over to Penny who bent down, rubbed him under the chin and said, “Hello Larry, I’ve heard lots of good things about you.” Having a good sniff, Larry realised she smelt just like Jinnie. Larry thought ‘we are going to get on’ and headed to the kitchen to push his metal bowl about a bit to remind Jinnie it was feeding time.
Having negotiated an evening off from her job at the student bar, Jinnie invited all the housemates out for a meal at the Riverside steakhouse. Jinnie had read that it was the best steak house in Cambridge. The food was excellent and the steaks too big for the girls who all left some, so they asked for a “doggie” bag. Jinnie joked that what they actually wanted was a “cattie” bag as the leftover steak would bulk out a couple of Felix meals for Larry. Penny didn’t want to go out drinking after the meal as her interview was fairly early the following morning. As the next day was Friday Jinnie suggested Penny stay a second night and they could all have an evening out then instead. Nigel informed them that Camilla was coming to stay the weekend and she would love to meet Penny. Penny then asked if they could go to the student bar as she felt that if she got a place she might be a regular there.
Jinnie suggested to Penny that she should expect her whole interview to be conducted in French and to drop into the conversation that her sister was already there reading German with French as she was sure some of the panel would be her lecturers and she got on well with all of them. Dirk had asked them both to pop into his study in the afternoon for a chat so the sisters agreed to meet in the refectory for lunch and then go and see Dirk.
When the girls met in the refectory Jinnie wanted to know how the interview went. Penny said she thought it was OK, one of the professors had complimented her on her French accent and as Jinnie had suggested the whole interview had been conducted in French. She hadn’t had to bring Jinnie’s name into the conversation as another of the panel had asked her outright if Jinnie was any relation. When she had replied that they were sisters the questioner had smiled and simply made a note. The interview had lasted nearly an hour. They had read the piece that they had requested she prepare for them and they had talked about all sorts of things from politics to sport. When Penny said she had met the prime minister while campaigning for her father as a local councillor she was asked if she was photographed with the PM. She said she had and another of the panel said, “I don’t know if that is why you look familiar or if it is your likeness to your sister.” Penny had been told that she would be written to when all the interviews were complete.
Dirk was his usual cheery self. He told Penny that he had spoken to the panel and that she was going to be offered a place and she didn’t have to worry about getting written confirmation. He added that he was willing to pull rank and insist on her being offered a place on security grounds, but there had been no need they had already decided that based on her interview and school recommendations she was in. However, they wanted to make it dependant on her A level results. So he encouraged her not to let her work standards slip.
Dirk explained that, like Jinnie, he wanted Penny to join the Officer Cadets. He didn’t expect her to be the expert shot that Jinnie was but he felt that the gun handling, leadership and discipline they taught would be important. Finally, he said there was a mission coming up after Christmas and he wanted them both on it. At the moment he couldn’t tell them anything about it as it was still in the very early stages, but it might mean Penny being late back to school in January and if that turned out to be the case he would clear it with her headteacher. However, it might not be the right time for the mission. It might be postponed until later in the year or even the summer. It all depended on circumstances. Jinnie and Penny left the professor’s study none the wiser as to what this mission could be but it obviously needed French speakers.
Penny loved the student bar. Officially she was still too young to drink spirits, that German law had not been changed, but it didn’t preclude her from drinking beer. Jinnie introduced her to Steve who immediately asked if she could serve at the bar like her sister, because if she could he would have a job for her. Then she got chatted up by one of the students in Jinnie’s year and Jinnie had to tell him she was her younger sister and was up for an interview. Much to the girl’s amusement, he quickly withdrew. As the housemates chatted Carol suddenly blurted out, “Why don’t you come and live with us next year?” Penny said, “I’d love too but there isn’t a spare room.” Carole replied that her room was wasted. She rarely used it these days, and hadn’t slept in it yet that term! It would make sense if next year she just moved in with Jason officially and that would leave a room for Penny. They agreed that it was nearly a year to go and it would be silly to make a final decision now but all things being equal it was a good idea.
As Christmas approached Larry started to get a little bothered, all the housemates, including Jinnie, were talking about going home for Christmas, but as far as he was concerned this was home. He only hoped Jinnie wouldn’t put him into a cattery, he had had enough of being in a cage at Battersea. But he needn’t have worried, one evening when he was sprawled on her lap, Jinnie started talking to him. She told him that she was going to take him with her to somewhere called Potters Bar for the holidays. She told him she would take his cat basket and blanket as she knew how much he loved them. He would have the run of her family home, she just knew he would love her mother and father and he had already met her sister Penny. He purred at that, he liked Penny. Jinnie told him that her father had already installed a cat flap for him so he could go out into the garden and explore whenever he wanted. She told him to be careful as Bonnie the Beagle lived next door and she loved to chase cats that ventured into “her” garden. She told him that there was a big field at the bottom of the garden and a lovely friendly skewbald mare and her foal lived there. On the other side of the field was a wood with a stream flowing through it, although it might not be in very good condition as it got scorched in the War of Liberation. Larry went to his basket that evening no longer apprehensive, but was really quite excited. He had never seen a horse and wondered if he could understand her. But he really wanted to get into those woods and explore.
When the time came to go to Potters Bar Larry happily climbed into the pet carrier. When he knew where he was going and why, he didn’t mind in the slightest. He watched as Jinnie loaded his basket and blanket onto the back seat together with his new favourite squeaky rubber mouse that Camilla had given him as an early Christmas present. Jinnie put the carrier on the front passenger seat and secured it with the seat belt, he was happy with that, as he could keep his eye on Jinnie. Before he knew it he had dropped off to sleep and was dreaming he was young again and stalking pigeons on the roof of the factory.
When the car stopped, at first Larry wondered where he was, and then remembered what was happening. Penny had come across the green to greet them and opened the passenger door and lifted his carrier out. He meowed a greeting to her and she said, “Hello Larry, I bet you’re desperate to get out, it’ll only be a minute more, as soon as we are in the house I’ll let you out.” She picked up his cat basket and blanket in one hand and the carrier in the other hand and walked across the green with Jinnie who had several bags and parcels.
Jinnie greeted her parents and was chatting while Penny put the carrier down and organised the cat basket next to brand new bowls and litter tray. Then Jinnie let Larry out of the carrier. He didn’t rush, he strolled out and seemed to sniff the air before walking all around the kitchen getting his bearings before introducing himself to Mr and Mrs Walsh by rubbing himself around their legs. Mrs Walsh had a chicken pie cooking in the oven and Larry was sniffing all around the oven, he seemed to approve.
Larry woke the following morning and hoped the new collar that Jinnie had put on him last night worked the cat flap, he didn’t want to use the litter tray unless absolutely necessary. The flap clicked reassuringly when he approached it, so Larry headed outside. He decided not to use Mr Walsh’s nicely dug vegetable patch but to climb over the fence into next door’s garden. Remembering the warning about the dog he wondered which side she lived. Well, it was a 50:50 chance of avoiding her. Fortunately, he chose correctly. Before heading back inside Larry decided to have a quick look around the garden. He approved, it was big, there were a couple of trees to climb and a big shed he could sit on the roof of and command a good view all around. The field was only separated by a barbed-wire fence and looked interesting. When he got back indoors he was still the only one up so he headed upstairs to find Jinnie, he wanted his breakfast!
Jinnie told Larry that she was supposed to travel up to London some days to work for the SIS. But he would be OK as someone would be there most days but even if there wasn’t anyone during the day he could go out and there would always be someone home to get him his evening meal. Larry explored the field and the woods, got barked at by Bonnie whom he ignored. It took him a while to get to know the mare and her foal, but he eventually got friendly with her and was delighted that he could understand her even if she couldn’t really understand him very well. She told him how Jinnie had saved her and her previous foal from the Germans during the fighting.
The call to arms for the girls didn’t come that Christmas which was probably a good thing as Penny was spending a lot of time with Daniel and explaining a sudden absence might have been difficult. Soon the day came for Jinnie and Larry to head back to Cambridge. Larry had enjoyed his holiday, he liked the mare, her foal and Walsh family and had got into a sort of truce with Bonnie, they just ignored each other! He had chased voles and mice in the woods and had even caught some. At times he felt like a young cat again. But he was ready to go back to Cambridge. He considered that his real home now, Potters Bar was a nice second, holiday, home.
Jinnie was doing so well with her Italian that Dirk was questioning the need to continue daily one on one lectures. Cate pointed out that what she really needed was to use her Italian when in the company of several native Italian speakers. It was OK her talking with Cate, but what she really needed was to hear rapid Italian being spoken by a crowd in a social situation. Cate said she knew of an Italian cafe in Bedford that served the Italian population who were employed in the brickworks. She proposed getting Jinnie working there one or two half days a week so that she would be immersed in the language just as she would be if in Italy.
Two days a week Jinnie drove over to Bedford and worked in the cafe. The first week she was only trusted with the washing up but once the owner realised she really could understand, speak, read and write Italian she was allowed, first to wait on the tables, then to take orders and finally to operate the till. Within a month she was accepted as a valuable member of staff and was more than happy to chat with the customers in the noisy cafe environment. None of the customers thought she was anything other than a native Italian. Jinnie built herself an Italian persona, and created a back story for herself. She came from a small village near the resort of Rimini, had invented a family, she had gone to college in Milan had been smuggled to Spain by the resistance and landed up in England where she was trying to complete her degree part time.
Jinnie had come to enjoy her time in the cadets and was pleased at how easy it was for her to give orders, plan operations and to lead on weekend exercises. It all seemed to come to her naturally. On several occasions, it was suggested to her that with her French and German skills on top of what she was learning in the cadets and not forgetting her small arms skills, she would make an excellent officer and should apply. She always said she would think about it when the time came. The only trainer who didn’t press her was Sergeant Thompson, she was sure he knew she was being groomed for the SIS and that her future was already decided. He was just happy to have her as a central part of the successful shooting team that was carrying all before it.
Larry enjoyed his Easter holiday in Potters Bar where he resumed his friendship with the skewbald mare. Now she had a new foal to fuss over, Larry didn’t like to ask her where her last one was. It was while talking to her that he saw his first fox. It was skulking around the edge of the field near the wood. The mare warned him that foxes chased and killed cats, but like dogs they couldn’t climb trees. She told him he was safe with her as the fox feared her. Once again the girls were not needed for a ‘mission’ and they began to wonder if it had been called off.
Back in Cambridge for the final term of the academic year Jinnie decided, during one of her weekly lunches with Dirk, to ask him if the ‘mission’ was still on. Dirk explained that it was, but it all depended on the actions of others on the Continent and there was nothing anyone this side of the channel could do but wait for the right circumstances. He told her the best guess was late July or early August so she should just concentrate on her end of term exams.
For some reason, the final term of the year was called the Easter term, finished in mid-June and was only about 8 weeks long. Jinnie knew that compared to other students she was lucky. Whatever happened, if all else failed, she was guaranteed a German degree and she had no work or exams to do for it. Likewise, her Italian was not subject to examinations. So it was only French she had to worry about and as that was only half her German with French degree she had a much lower workload than many other students. She was pleased not to be under enormous pressure as the student bar was always busy and filled three evenings a week. Then there was the Officer Cadets, since being promoted she was having to spend more time with them planning classes and weekend camps, as well as regularly being called on for shooting competitions.
Jinnie received many phone calls from the PM as the campaign to educate the public gathered pace. The existence of extermination camps was established by satellite photographs but many seemed to be no longer in use. Lists of missing officers were published, estimates of the numbers of people exterminated were drawn up. The ‘Final Solution’ became part of the school curriculum. More and more the actions of the various national resistance groups were being reported and the opinion polls were reporting the change in the views of the population. The press even started printing opinion pieces calling for action to be taken, but as yet there was no concerted pressure on the government for action or discussion on what sort of action.
On the last day of term, the exam results were posted on the college notice board and once again Jinnie need not have worried, she was right up among the top performers again. Carole had emptied her room ready for Penny to move in and Jinnie had told Larry he was going on his summer holidays and he was ready. He was beginning to look forward to his trips to Potters Bar, he liked wandering in the field and woods and everyone there knew him now and his love of all things chicken.
Just before she left the college to pick up Larry, Jinnie got a text message to call into Dirk’s study. Dirk told her that it looked like the mission would be on for early August and she should warn her sister they would be going to France for a few days. Other than that, he would not be drawn.
In Chapter 24 – Jinnie makes a trip to Paris.
© WorthingGooner 2021