When Jinnie arrived at her parent’s home in Potters Bar she found her sister sitting on the patio reading. Penny had just finished her A-Levels and been told by her school that she was no longer needed to attend classes so she was ‘relaxing’ until she was to start work in late July at Vauxhall Cross. Jinnie became aware of Larry meowing and let him out of his carrier. He immediately came over and said ‘hello’ to Penny by bumping his head against her. He then headed off down the garden to reacquaint himself with it and the mare. Alone with Penny, she told her they were going to have a trip to France in early August and they decided that they should talk to each other in French as much as possible just to prepare themselves.
Jinnie went to unpack and from her bedroom window, she could see Larry being nuzzled by the skewbald mare who was obviously happy to see him. She smiled to herself as she was only too happy to see the old cat enjoying his retirement. Following their evening meal, the sisters decided to take advantage of the weather and visit the pub for a drink in the pub garden. Penny had recently had her 18th birthday and was now able to drink spirits if she wanted. Mr Walsh was on his way to a council meeting so he gave them a lift and they decided that they would walk home.
The evening was pleasantly warm and the two girls found a table at the far end of the garden so that they could talk French. When Jinnie went to get them a second drink the landlord asked her if she was free to work behind the bar again for a few weeks as one of the regular girls was going to be off for several weeks as she was having an operation. Jinnie said she was sorry, but in a week’s time she was going to be working full time over the summer for the employer who was sponsoring her at university. On the way back with the drinks and two bags of peanuts it suddenly struck her that Penny might like a job for a few weeks.
Penny jumped at the idea and shot off straight away to seek out the landlord before he approached anyone else. Ten minutes later she was back grinning from ear to ear. She was hired and he had promised to train her. He had offered her a mixture of daytime and evening sessions and she had agreed to start the following lunchtime when it should be not too busy for a trainee.
Penny took to bar work like a fish to water and just as when Jinnie had worked there, prior to university, she became a magnet for local lads who fancied their chances. The only problem was sometimes she was a bit bothered about walking home alone in the dark after an evening session. She didn’t like taking her car as it meant she couldn’t have a drink, so Jinnie took to picking her up. Jinnie usually parked in the public car park over the road from the pub as the small pub car park was usually full when she arrived a few minutes before closing time.
One evening as she parked she noticed two men sitting in a car keenly observing people coming out of the pub. ‘Police’ she thought. Twenty-five minutes later the sisters came out of the lounge bar door and crossed the road to the public car park. As Jinnie went to start the Mini one of the police tapped on her window. “Here we go again,” thought Jinnie as she lowered the driver’s window. The officer said, “Good evening, Miss, having just observed you coming out of the pub and now smelling alcohol in the car, I have reason to believe you have been drinking.” Jinnie replied, “Yes, one Pepsi Max”. From the corner of her eye, she could see the second office typing her number plate into a tablet device. The first officer was pulling a breathalyser from his pocket when the second officer called him over pointing to the screen on his tablet. Within seconds the first officer was back and said, “Thank you, Miss, you are free to go.” He turned on his heel and headed back to his car.
As Jinnie drove home Penny wanted to know what had just happened. Jinnie explained about being stopped previously, on her way home from Portsmouth and Dirk’s theory that her details, and the car, now had an SIS marker on the Police National Computer. Dirk had said that consequently the police would treat her with kid gloves. Penny wanted to know how she could get a similar marker!
On the afternoon of the first Thursday in August, the head of the department Jinnie was assigned to at Vauxhall Cross, called her into his office and told her to get straight down to meeting room B2. “Action at last,” thought Jinnie. Dirk was already in the room with three suited men, one of whom Jinnie recognised as a cabinet minister but couldn’t place. A minute later Penny, who was now also working for the summer at Vauxhall Cross, joined them. Dirk said, “Good we are all here now let’s get on with things.” One of the suits continued explaining that he was the case controller and that this mission was top secret, highly sensitive and politically extremely important. He then introduced the other two “suits” as the head of the SIS and the Foreign Secretary. “Blimey,” thought Jinnie, “This must be important”.
The case officer explained that he was sorry that this mission had taken so long to come about but a lot of things had to come together for it to happen. He explained that basically, the mission was to escort someone back to the UK from Paris. Negotiations had been protracted over the defection of the man and it had to coincide with him paying a state visit to France. The whole future of the resistance campaign in Europe depended on the success of this mission. The Foreign Secretary then took over the narrative. He explained that the defector was an Italian speaker hence it was important to have someone on the mission who spoke Italian and as it was happening in Paris it was important to have French speakers. This was one of the reasons the girls had been selected, another was the personal recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Now Dirk continued that for over a year one of his ex-Berlin group had been talking to the Italian trying to get him to defect. At first, the potential defector had been doubtful that the resistance could get him out of Italy safely and that he would be treated fairly in the UK. It was only when a personal letter from King William had been received did he finally agree and only then if his partner and children were extracted at the same time. While the sisters were occupied in Paris, resistance teams would be busy all across Italy extracting family members.
Jinnie had been wracking her brain trying to work out who the defector might be and finally Dirk put a name to the defector, the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Now it made even more sense, although an old man now Berlusconi was a notorious philanderer with an appetite for young pretty girls. The idea was to make it look like Berlusconi had gone off to spend the night with the girls, while he was actually heading for the coast to be picked up by a submarine and taken to the UK. With any luck, everyone would be back in England before anyone in Paris realised he was gone.
On Friday morning Jinnie said goodbye to Larry and told him that she and Penny were going away for a couple of days and that they should be back on Sunday afternoon. He would be OK as her mother and father would look after him. Larry wasn’t worried, it was only a few days and he liked Mother Walsh. She was kind and always remembered to feed him. In fact, she often gave him tasty leftover scraps on top of his Felix, he had particularly liked the bits of cold roast chicken last weekend.
Jinnie and her sister drove down to Portsmouth where she parked in her usual spot. The two Wrens were waiting to sort out them out and as usual had been briefed as to what clothing was required. The girls were given ordinary things to travel in. As they were going in both directions by submarine so they had jeans, sweaters, jackets and sensible shoes. They were both equipped with small overnight bags with sexy party dresses. The Wrens suggested that the sort of girls they were supposed to be would wear sexy underwear and found them matching lacy bra and pantie sets with suspenders and stockings. As Penny tried hers on she wondered to Jinnie if she could keep them as she said it would help her attract a boyfriend. Jinnie ask her if she had anyone in mind and Penny replied she was still with Daniel, the head boy, but he was painfully shy and slow off the mark and she was wondering if she might be better off with one of the boys she had met while being a barmaid!
After dark, the launch was waiting for them at the quayside with its engines burbling and Jinnie explained to Penny that it would ferry them to the submarine at Spithead, off the Isle of Wight, so that it could remain hidden to prying eyes. Jinnie was delighted to see that it was the same boat she had travelled to Nice on and that Commander Dobiecki was there to welcome them aboard. He explained that he hadn’t bothered to allocate them bunks this time but if they wanted to join him in his quarters for a meal that would take up most of the time crossing the channel before they rendezvoused with a French fishing boat. Jinnie immediately said yes as she remembered the submarine captain’s liking for fillet steak.
The transfer to the fishing boat was completed in the dark and the sisters were secreted in the wheelhouse as the boat chugged into La Harve. After the dockers had unloaded the catch the sisters slipped ashore and into the back of an old Renault van amongst the morning’s purchases from the fish market. A few miles from the port they met a large Mercedes and switched to the back seat. Sliding in, Jinnie was delighted to see the front passenger seat occupied by her old flatmate Simone, who handed both the sisters a Glock. The car set off at a fair lick and Simone explained that they had rooms reserved at the 5* Hotel Bristol where Berlusconi had a suite. Simone suggested that the first thing the sisters needed was a shower to get rid of the smell of fish!
The hotel was magnificent and the three girls had invitations to Prime Minister Berlusconi’s party in the ballroom and they arrived together wearing party dresses. They immediately caught the eye of a number of the men including Berlusconi. The girls took glasses of Champagne from a passing waiter and joined in a conversation with two other girls who were also in the party wear. The two girls were high-class call girls hired to entertain guests and loosely connected to the resistance in that they often passed on information that they heard by way of their business transactions. Jinnie watched a continuous stream of guests disappearing upstairs with various girls. Eventually, Berlusconi came over to talk to them and had obviously been well briefed as he recognised them. A few minutes later the three girls and the Italian PM headed off to his suite, where he told his bodyguards that they would not be required until the morning. The bodyguards had been through this situation many times before and as the whole floor was booked out to the Italian PM’s party they withdrew to cover the lifts and the staircases.
As soon as they entered the suite, Berlusconi disappeared into the bedroom where he changed out of his evening suit and put on an immaculately cut dark lounge suit and overcoat. Penny had been briefed to open the balcony doors and let in four hefty armed resistance men who had rappelled down from three floors above. Their job was to lower the Prime Minister to the ground in a sling, which worked perfectly. Jinnie had a ransom note to leave in the room to mislead the bodyguards and the police in the morning. The girls all followed the PM to the ground and while the sisters and the PM were put in a limousine for the journey back to Le Harve, Simone said goodbye and was driven to the station to catch the TGV to Nice. Simone made a quick change in the back of her limousine and she was unrecognisable from the party girl in the ballroom.
Berlusconi was delighted to have an Italian speaker and spent the first part of the 3-hour journey to the coast questioning Jinnie about plans to extract his family. Unfortunately, Jinnie could only tell him that an operation was underway as she had little more knowledge than he did. However, when he asked about the British PM and would he keep his promises, Jinnie assured him that she had met him on several occasions and trusted him implicitly. The Italian PM accepted this reassurance and was mostly quiet only asking questions on the plan for getting to England. Jinnie told him they would be travelling by submarine and so she hoped he didn’t suffer from claustrophobia. However, he was not happy at having to switch from the nice comfortable limousine to the smelly old Renault van, but he reluctantly went along with the extraction arrangements.
It was just after one in the morning when they transferred to the same fishing boat as they had arrived in earlier and it immediately sailed. The nuclear submarine was waiting for them at the rendezvous point and with the aid of a few submariners, the three passengers were quickly onboard and below decks. Initially, Commander Dobiecki used Jinnie to translate his welcome on board to the Italian PM, but it was then that the Italian choose to reveal that he spoke almost perfect, if slightly accented, English. The submarine’s captain turned over his accommodation for the duration of the short journey and suggested that Berlusconi might like a nap. He continued saying that they would be in Portsmouth before dawn and that breakfast would be served before arrival.
Alone with the sisters, the boat’s captain asked the girls to hand over their guns for safekeeping, as personal firearms were not allowed on board. The sisters happily complied and the two Glocks were locked into the captain’s safe, with the promise they would be returned on landing. The girls withdrew to the officer’s mess, where having two pretty girls onboard ensured a steady stream of off-duty officers were popping in for coffee or an egg banjo. Promptly at 3.30, breakfast became available and the girls took the opportunity to eat their first meal since fillet steak with the captain on the journey out. The full English and huge mugs of tea went down a treat.
As HMS Agamemnon came alongside in Portsmouth, dawn was just on the verge of breaking with the sky to the east lightening. The submarine docked under a huge awning that cantilevered out over the sea and hid the boat from the prying eyes of satellite observation. The girls, waiting for their turn to disembark, watched from the casing as the Foreign Secretary greeted Mr Berlusconi and led the slightly bedraggled Italian to his ministerial Jaguar. When they had driven away the girls were given their pistols back by Commander Dobiecki and they disembarked.
The waiting Range Rover Discovery took them to the massive clothing warehouse to collect their own things. The Wrens welcomed them and turned up their noses at the smell of fish and pointed them in the direction of the showers. Their own clothing was waiting for them when they emerged from the hot water and they returned the French clothing to the Wrens, who much to Penny’s delight separated the outerwear from the underwear. They explained that the outerwear would be dry cleaned for reuse but as no one wanted to wear recycled underwear and it was put into heavy-duty Ziploc bags which they handed to the sisters. The more senior Wren said to Penny, that she shouldn’t really ask, but had the girls just arrived with Silvio Berlusconi, as she understood from her male counterparts that he was in the male clothing store showering away the smell of fish! Penny replied that that was top secret but gave her a big wink. The Wren continued, saying that they understood he was being supplied with several Savile Row suits, shirts and ties and pairs of shoes and socks.
Halfway through the journey back to Potters Bar Jinnie’s mobile rang. The cars screen displayed “number withheld” but when Jinnie pressed the button on the steering wheel to answer the call, just as she expected, the voice of the PM filled the car. First, he asked if she was alone. When she replied that she wasn’t, her sister was with her, he said, “Good, I can thank you both at once for a job well done.” He went on to explain that Mr Berlusconi was on his way from Portsmouth with the Foreign Secretary and they would be lunching together to discuss the next part of the plan. He requested that the girls kept the Italian’s presence in the UK secret until the next part of the plan became public in a week or so. He also told them the ‘ransom note’ had been found and at the time of speaking no one had any idea that Berlusconi was in the UK. Then the prime minister changed the subject and asked after Larry, saying he was missing the old man and the new cat, although being young and active, didn’t have Larry’s personality. Jinnie replied that when they had left England last week he had been in good health and was enjoying being spoiled by her mum in Potters Bar.
In Chapter 25 – The plan for Italy is revealed.
© WorthingGooner 2021