Larry woke early on Monday morning, he had a feeling that everything was OK and Jinnie would be back later this morning. He didn’t know why or how but he was certain she would be back later and that he should take up his place behind the curtain on the window sill later and look out for his human friend. He had no idea of the time only that it was early and he could hear Paolo’s gentle snoring. He thought about going back to sleep but knew that if he didn’t go and empty his bladder he would never get back to sleep so he popped out of the cat flap and over the fence at the bottom of the garden. They had a nicely dug flower bed that was ideal.
Larry went back in through the cat flap and decided to go and see if Penny’s bedroom door was open. If Jinnie wasn’t there she was second best and she always made him welcome and let him sleep on her duvet, Paolo was more inclined to shove him off. He squeezed through her slightly open door, lightly jumped up on Penny’s bed and found a nice comfy spot where he could feel the warmth of her body and dropped off to sleep with an ear open for unusual noises.
When Penny woke, she looked at her clock radio and realised her alarm was due in five minutes, it had been Paolo closing the front door that had woken her, that and the weight of a cat laying on her! She moved her feet and Larry grumbled at being disturbed. She looked at him and said, “I suppose you’re ready for your breakfast.” Larry meowed a couple of times but didn’t move, he knew she would only get him his Felix after she had washed and dressed and that would only happen after that horrible alarm had gone off. Still, she was quite nice so he moved up the bed and nudged one of her hands with his head so that she would stroke him.
Unlike most people, Penny rather liked Mondays. She spent all morning with Dirk learning German and she no longer struggled like the first week where she had been thinking of giving it up. She now was feeling much more confident and had even started talking in German to Paolo and Jinnie around the house. She still spoke to Larry in English, she swore he understood every word, but was worried he wouldn’t understand German. Monday afternoons were short, she only had one French lecture and that was conversational French at which she was pretty good.
Then Penny worked in the student bar in the evening. She got on with the manager, Steve, and the other couple who worked the same shift, but best of all she would see Jimmy who she rather fancied. Jimmy was in the same year as her but he was studying engineering, so their paths rarely crossed in uni. Last Thursday he had asked if she needed an escort to walk her home safely. She reluctantly had to say ‘No thanks’ as she had driven herself and later regretted having not asked him if she could give him a lift. Tonight she would ask him, she didn’t care if she looked pushy as she definitely fancied him and her long-time boyfriend was at uni in Scotland
When she backed her little car off the drive in front of the house she noticed Larry had taken up a position on the interior window sill and had pushed aside the net curtain to improve his view. Penny knew he was waiting for Jinnie, he only sat there to say goodbye or hello to her. How Larry knew she would be home that morning Penny didn’t know, neither she nor Paolo knew but the cat did and, in her experience, he was invariably right.
Penny took her usual seat in Dirk’s study and they immediately began conversing in German. This morning he was testing her out on some reading he had asked her to undertake on her last lesson. But he was also happy to engage in conversational German and asked her about her weekend. On Saturday she had been on an OTC trip to the Longmore range near Liphook, so she had been able to read the article Dirk had set several times while on the coach there and again while travelling back. The trip had been to familiarise Charlie section with using the SA80 A2 individual weapon as the butts in Cambridge were too short to accommodate them.
Sgt Thompson had been anxious to see how Penny handled the rifle. He had been excited to learn that Jinnie’s sister was joining the unit, but had been a little disappointed when he discovered she wasn’t an experienced shot like her sister. Mind you, he was delighted with how quickly she had picked up the use of the Glock 17 pistol, it must be something in the genes! Although not as good with it as her sister, he was happy to introduce her to the competition pistol shooting team. Now he wanted to see if she also had a natural aptitude for rifle shooting and was worth taking under his wing. In training she had handled the rifle very professionally and he was full of hope.
The unit members were taking it in turns to fire at various targets, putting into practice the gun handling procedures they had been taught. Sgt Thompson was used to correcting cadets as they prepared to fire but was delighted to see that Penny was word perfect and followed procedures perfectly. When she was ready to fire he gave her permission and watched as she hit the target with her first shot but nowhere near the centre of the target. He closely observed and watched her slightly adjust her stance and her aim and then score a bull with the next five rounds that had been loaded in the normal 30 round magazine.
Thompson was delighted, this showed great promise. He wanted to get her, and one other from the unit, aside and further test their skills but he couldn’t ignore the purpose of the trip, to familiarise the unit with the SA80 A2. So he carried on getting them in turn to fire at longer distances and from different stances. By early afternoon he was certain the two cadets he had earlier identified as natural shots were in fact head and shoulders above the rest of the unit. He dismissed the remainder of the unit, suggesting they get a brew before the coach journey home and asked Penny and the other cadet if they would like to try the L129A1 sharpshooter rifle. They both jumped at the opportunity and were soon busy hitting targets. Both cadets were showing great promise, although Penny was fractionally better. Thompson was happy, it was unusual to get one decent shot in a unit but two was exceptional. He now had to decide how to proceed.
Dirk listened to Penny’s tale of her Saturday, but didn’t comment. Instead, his mind started turning. If Penny was showing promise as a shooter how could he help? He knew the SIS put new employees through a training course and had instructors based at Vauxhall Cross but they were for pistols and Penny was already a pretty good pistol shot. It was a rifle instructor he needed. Did he know anywhere that could help? Well, Stirling Lines was out, they took skilled soldiers from other units and they would clearly expect recruits to be able to shoot adequately. So, if he went back another step, what about his original regiment, the Paras? Now that was a possibility, could he get them to help? Well, he could only try.
Dirk was more than happy with Penny’s progress in learning German, her conversational German was, as far as he was concerned, like her sister, indistinguishable from a native of Munich. He was pleased with her reading and writing progress, but it still had a way to go. She could read and understand a menu or a newspaper but she still struggled a bit with some of the compound words. Words that you had to know as the literal translation was strange. When he had explained that a light bulb was die Glühbirne, a ‘glow pear’ and that a vacuum cleaner was der Staubsauger, literally a ‘dirt sucker’, she had realised just how much she needed to learn by rote.
From chatting to French lecturers, he knew that they were happy that despite missing many conversational French lectures she was among the top students in her year and had already been picked out as someone capable of a First Class Honours degree. Dirk wondered if he could pull her out of lectures for a couple of weeks and organise an intensive rifle course? It would make her much more useful to SIS as she could be used on missions just as her sister had been.
Penny left Dirk without knowing what he was scheming, only that he never seemed satisfied. Whatever she did he only piled more work on her. This time she had been asked to read a technical article about cars, now that was a challenge to learn some new compound words. What the hell was “der Scheinwerfer”, she was going to hitting das internet. Penny headed for the refectory for a quick lunch before her French lecture. She wondered if she might spot Jimmy but was out of luck, instead she enjoyed her cheese omelette and chips with a couple of other girls from her French course.
Larry continued a vigil on the windowsill for what he judged was most of the morning. His stomach started rumbling and he decided he could spend a few minutes visiting the old lady five houses up the street. She was always willing to welcome him at lunchtime and share a bit of her sandwich filling with him. He particularly liked it when she had cold roast beef from her Sunday lunch although she had realised he didn’t like that yellow stuff she smeared on her beef. Larry hurried out of the cat flap, took the opportunity to visit the neighbour at the back of the flower bed and got to the old lady’s house in double-quick time. She had cold gammon in her sandwich today, one of the human meats he enjoyed. She cut him a big slice and cutting it up into small pieces dropped it on her patio adding a few of her cheese and onion crisps, something he had come to like, particularly when they were fresh and crunchy.
Larry wolfed down his al fresco lunch and rushed back to his perch stopping only for a drink of water from his shiny metal bowl. He had only been back a very short time when he sensed that Jinnie was getting close and a few minutes later her car arrived on the drive. He watched her get out of her car and then rushed around to be there to greet her when she came in the door.
Jinnie bent down and stoked him and said hello to him. He responded by rubbing himself around her legs and meowing loudly. Jinnie scooped him up and carried him upstairs and plonked him down on her bed while she unpacked. As Larry watched her, he realised she was wearing clothes he had never seen before and guessed she must have purchased them on her trip. The style was not something he had seen before and wondered where she had been? He listened in while Jinnie phoned Paolo and they discussed whether to eat out that evening or should she cook? In the end, it was decided that he would get burgers for the three of them on the way home. Jinnie asked where he would get them and he said Jet Burgers because he liked to watch them cook in their open kitchen. She suggested a half-pounder with cheese for Penny, it was what she always ordered, and a Messy Burger for herself. Paolo had no idea what a Messy Burger was and she explained it was with a fried egg, mushrooms and salad.
Jinnie had just put her phone away when Penny arrived home. She let herself in the front door and shouted hello to Jinnie. Jinnie shouted back that she was in her bedroom unpacking and within seconds they were hugging. Penny told Jinnie she was delighted she was back safely from wherever she had been. Jinnie said, “I shouldn’t really tell you, but if I can trust anyone it’s my sister. I have been to Poland and I met Jan, Simone and beautiful little Juliette.” Penny picked up a blouse Jinnie had just put on a hanger and said, “That explains the awful fashion”, and they both collapsed laughing.
It was just before six when Paolo got in with the burgers, chips, a large bottle of Pepsi Max and a big tub of cookie dough ice cream. Jinnie said to Paolo, “You really know how to treat a girl,” took a huge bite out of her Messy Burger and egg yolk ran down her chin. Penny polished off her cheeseburger and then got stuck into the ice cream with a dessert spoon. Checking her watch, she said, “Good I’ve got plenty of time to clean my teeth before work. Sis, have you got any breath fresheners?” Jinnie looked at her quizzically and asked if she was going to work or on a date.
Monday nights were not the busiest of evenings in the student bar, but it was good enough for the three people working behind the bar and Steve the manager to be kept fairly busy. Steve told Penny for the umpteenth time how pleased he was with sales of Hooky and how her sister had manipulated him into selling it. Penny was getting worried, it was nearly nine-thirty and Jimmy still hadn’t arrived. She began to wonder if he would be in, had she misread the signals or maybe put him off? It was just after 10 when he took a seat at the bar and Penny nearly pushed a fellow barmaid, Denise, out of the way to serve him. He sat at the bar nursing a pint of Hooky and Penny regularly drifted over to chat to him. Just before closing time, Denise whispered to Penny that Jimmy only had eyes for her, from the amount of time she spent with him it was obviously mutual and that if she wanted to get away quickly she would clear up for her. Penny thanked her and promised to reciprocate for her if the occasion ever arose.
Jimmy jumped at the chance of a lift home and Penny didn’t need directions as he was living in an apartment in the same block Jinnie had lived in. Penny drove into the same spot Jinnie used to park her Mini in and turned the engine off. Jimmy looked at her sadly and said how sorry he was that he couldn’t invite her in for a coffee but it was not allowed by the rules. Penny said she understood as her sister had once lived in the same block. But before he got out, he kissed her good night and asked when he could see her again, explaining that as a student he couldn’t afford to pay to drink every evening to talk to her. Penny explained they she worked in the bar on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and it was on Wednesday she had OTC. Which left Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays provided that she was not doing something with the OTC. Jimmy laughed and suggested that he should join the OTC if he wanted to see more of her, but they provisionally agreed to meet on Friday evening and she would pick him up at the hall of residence provided her weekend remained free.
It was just before midnight when Penny let herself into the house. She headed for the kitchen for a glass of water and said hello to Larry who was comfortably curled up in his basket. Larry didn’t bother to move but opened one eye and watched her, ready to react immediately if Penny went anywhere near the cupboard where the Cat Treats were kept. But she didn’t, so he went back to sleep. Penny headed off to bed happy that her plan had worked.
Wednesday evening was OTC. Like Jinnie before her Penny had taken to parking in the supermarket car park. Now that the basics of drill were over Penny was quite enjoying her training evenings, particularly the weapons handling and, strangely, first aid. She had become competent at both and wondered if she would ever get the chance to use either in anger.
Sgt Thompson took the firearms session that evening on L85A3 the official name of the SA80 A3. Tonight it was how to use the add-ons, the torch, the laser designator and the AG36 under-barrel grenade launcher. He took the lecture at the pace of the slowest student which frustrated Penny and one or two of the others. At the end of the lecture, Sgt Thompson dismissed the section but called Penny back for a quick word. He had received a phone call from his captain telling that word had come down from on high that Cadet Walsh was to be told there was a place for her on an advanced course on small arms and individual weapons. It was a full-time two-week course and was to be run just before Christmas by the 1st Battalion Parachute Regiment at their St Athan, Wales, base. The Sgt. had always thought that the Walsh cadets had a connection with the intelligence community, this confirmed it to him. No ordinary cadet would be offered a place on a similar course but 1st Para were permanently attached as support to the Special Forces. Someone in the Powers That Be was pulling strings, but he didn’t care, she was a bloody good cadet, maybe not as good as her sister but she was getting there.
In Chapter 13 – Jinnie’s next mission.
© WorthingGooner 2022