The powerful launch crunched onto the sandy beach and the sisters jumped down onto the dry sand. Turning to wave goodbye they saw the launch was already reversing into the light surf. Jinnie led Penny up the beach heading towards the intermittent flashes of torchlight. The silence of the night was broken only by the sounds of the waves breaking on the shoreline and the distant rumble of the retreating launch. As they reached the tree line Simone emerged from the shadows and raised a finger to her lips and beckoned them to her.
At the edge of the wood, Simone indicated that they should drop to the ground. A couple of minutes later two German soldiers passed by about 50 yards away and emerged onto the beach and stood looking out to sea. The launch was no longer visible and the rumble of the engine was now lost in the sound of the breaking waves. The Germans had a short conversation, which Jinnie caught snatches of, apparently cursing whoever had reported a suspicious boat on the beach. One of the Germans pulled a compact radio from his pocket and reported-in that this was a total waste of time, there was absolutely nothing happening here and they were returning to their post in the next bay. Before leaving they stopped to light cigarettes and then stomped off in a most disgruntled manner.
A few minutes later a double click came from the digital radio in Simone’s hand and she turned to Jinnie and said, “Welcome back to France, I’m sorry about that, but my people were on top of the situation all the time.” With that several people appeared from the shadows including two who the Germans must have been nearly standing on. “We thought it better to let them report it was a false alarm than to kill them and set off a manhunt.” Jinnie was impressed, Simone had obviously been working hard on her group’s training.
The group walked quietly through the woods until they came to a Nice taxi that was well hidden at the other edge of the wood. Simone pointed at the completely empty car park. “That’s where the Germans parked their transport and followed the footpath to the beach. We had eyes on them the whole time. They are so predictable.” The sisters’ suitcases were put in the boot of the taxi and Simone handed them the keys to the seafront apartment that had been procured for them saying, “I will leave you with Pierre, he will take you to the flat. It is better that you appear to have just arrived on the overnight sleeper from Paris. I will call in and see you in the morning and we can discuss things then. Oh, and don’t forget to pay Pierre, things have to look authentic.” With that, she kissed both girls on both cheeks and headed off to the other side of the car park where a powerful-looking motorcycle was waiting for her.
Pierre insisted on carrying the sisters’ suitcases into the apartment building where the concierge welcomed them, took them up in the lift to the penthouse apartment and opened the door for them before handing Jinnie back the keys. He then went back down to bring up their bags. Penny looked around the entrance hall that was as big as the living room in Potters Bar and extremely plush, even with its own chandelier, she was impressed and said so. Jinnie pointed out that as wealthy young women they would have expected nothing less.
The concierge showed them around the four double en-suite bedrooms, drawing room, dining room, TV room, breakfast room, kitchen, utility room and two further WCs (one for the staff), a huge balcony running across the front of the building connecting two of the bedrooms and the drawing-room. In addition, there was an enormous roof terrace with sun loungers, umbrellas and an infinity pool. When the concierge had finally left them Jinnie said, “I think I could get used to this life. I didn’t think to ask the Wrens for a bikini, I think we need to add them to our shopping list.”
The girls chose the two front bedrooms, they were south-facing with magnificent views over the Promenade des Deutschland and the wide sandy beach. From the balcony, the girls had a panoramic of the undefended seafront which amazed them. Unlike the south coast of England, there appeared to be no concrete structures, no tank traps on the beaches, no hedgehogs peeping out of the sea topped with mines. The Germans clearly didn’t expect an invasion on this coast.
The girls unpacked and as it was still early morning they thought about breakfast and had just located the coffee and a percolator when the doorbell rang. Penny found the intercom and found herself speaking to their cook and maid who had arrived for the day. Chloe and Elise bustled around and Elise, the cook, soon had a pot of coffee brewing. Having brought fresh croissants with her, Elise quickly had the girls dipping them into bowls of black coffee like true French women. Chloe fussed around the girls’ few clothes and insisted that she should press them all as they had become creased from travelling. Chloe cornered Jinnie in her bedroom while collecting things for ironing and confirmed to her that she was their contact to the resistance and not to speak in front of Elise as she, although not a German sympathiser, was not in the resistance.
Simone arrived mid-morning with Juliette in her buggy. Juliette had turned into a beautiful toddler and immediately stole everyone’s hearts. The girls withdrew to the roof terrace and Elise brought them coffee and “Juice” for Juliette. Simone said that if she had known they had a terrace with a pool she would have brought their costumes. Jinnie said, “Next time.” While Juliette played with her toys and tried to colour some pictures, the girls started planning. Simone suggested that the first thing to do was to introduce themselves to the manager of the local branch of ‘their’ bank as they may need his help accessing cash and in any case, he was a resistance man, as was the concierge. Jinnie said to Simone, “Just like Berlin”.
Simone suggested a light lunch in one of her favourite restaurants in the old town where tourists could be stung, but she would introduce the sisters to the manager, another of her recruits, who would look after them. Then a little clothes shopping in the afternoon, while Juliette had her nap and Chloe kept an eye on her. Elise asked if the sisters would be dining at home that evening. They said “Yes” and Elise then said what did they like to eat, would they mind a slow-cooked chicken dish as she only worked until 18:00. They said that would be lovely and they wouldn’t be eating dinner in very often, maybe if they wanted to hold an occasional dinner party would she do the catering for them and they would be happy to pay the double-time for the overtime? She quickly said, “Yes.”
The bank manager turned out to be a very amicable man who was more than happy to help wherever possible. The surprise came when during a special tour of the branch they were taken into the vault and the manager pulled two Glock 17 pistols from a safety deposit box and 200 rounds from another. Simone explained he was the group’s armourer and these were to be for their personal protection and Chloe would show them the prepared hiding spaces in the bathrooms. Again Jinnie said, “Just like Berlin.” Simone said, “Yes, but this is different,” and hid the guns and ammunition in a secret compartment under Juliette in her buggy.
The restaurant in the old town was lovely, with many tables outside under an awning in the middle of the square where it was located. Simone said to avoid them, that was where the tourists gathered, instead eat inside the restaurant proper where it was air-conditioned and less crowded. The manager said hello to Simone and was introduced to the sisters. Simone asked for the menu and was brought the local’s version with the lower prices and said to the manager, “These are the special guests we have been expecting.” “Welcome,” said the manager, “I expect to see a lot of you over the next couple of months,” and winked at them. Jinnie thought, ‘Simone has been working hard on this network since I was last here.’
Penny ordered a cheese omelette with sauté potatoes explaining that if she was to do justice to the chicken that evening she didn’t want anything heavy. Simone joined her while Jinnie chose similar but mushrooms instead of cheese. Simone was correct, the restaurant was good, the omelettes were light and fluffy and the potatoes crispy outside and soft inside. The service was excellent and the ‘locals’ price very reasonable. Jinnie, who viewed the restaurant with a now professional eye, vowed to return.
They strolled in the warm spring sunshine back to the penthouse apartment to drop off Juliette for her sleep. Chloe showed them the hiding places and how they worked. The bathroom’s walls were covered in large grey ceramic tiles, Jinnie guessed they were at least 300 x 400 mm. Chloe said they just had to remember 4×2, four rows up x two tiles across for Jinnie and four tiles across and two up for Penny. Chloe suggested they tap on the appropriate tiles and they sounded exactly the same as all the others. Jinnie was told to press on the top right and bottom right corners of the tile at the same time and was told the pressure was enough for the sensors to release the tile.
Jinnie detected no movement of the tile and asked how she now got it to open. Chloe removed the toothbrush holder from the wall next to the designer washbasin, it was held on by a suction cup as was the toothmug holder, and placed it on the tile dead centre between the two spots that had been pressed on. A hidden magnet in the toothbrush holder finally released the tile and, using the holder as a handle, the tile swung opening revealing a metal door with a single keyhole. Chloe asked if Jinnie had seen the lockable musical jewel box on her dressing table? Jinnie said yes, Chloe explained that it had the key to unlock the safe door, but it was the key underneath it that wound up the clockwork music box that was necessary, if the other key was used it jammed the lock.
Chloe encouraged Jinnie to open the safe door and she found a green baize-lined space roughly the size of the tile containing several wads of cash, the deeds to the apartment and a will leaving everything to her sister. Chloe explained that all this was camouflage and showed Jinnie that if she pressed the two top corners of the rear wall it hinged down to reveal a space shaped exactly like her pistol and spaces for the ammunition. With Jinnie’s pistol safely stowed they moved on to Penny’s bathroom where the system was virtually the same only she had to press on the left-hand corners of the tile and the hinge was on the right-hand side. Her safe also contained cash and a will, but the back of the safe had to be pressed on the bottom corners and it hinged upwards.
The three women headed for the shops and the sisters spent a small fortune on the latest South of France fashions, arranging for almost everything to be delivered the next day. Back at the apartment, they found Juliette sitting on the floor with Chloe playing with some cuddly toys. When Simone said to her they were going home to see Mamie, she grumbled a little and asked when they could come again. Jinnie quickly said, “Come tomorrow, after your nap and don’t forget to bring your maillot de bain, so we can try the pool.” Juliette went off happy.
Penny knocked on Jinnie’s bedroom door early the next morning waking her up. She explained she had woken very early and had gone out onto the balcony to watch the sunrise. An Army truck had pulled up a couple of buildings to the east and two soldiers had jumped down from the back and were immediately replaced by two who came out of the building. The two newcomers then entered the building. The truck then moved on perhaps a 1,000 metres and the same thing occurred, then another 1,000 metres where it stopped for a third time before the truck turned off the promenade and headed inland. Jinnie looked at Penny and said, “Lookouts covering the beach?” “That’s my guess,” replied Penny, “I wonder how many stops that truck made before I saw it?”
After breakfast, the girls tried their new bikinis on and made their way to the sunny roof terrace. Penny pointed out the building she had first seen the soldiers go into and as their block was two stories taller they had a clear view down onto its roof terrace where they could see there was a wooden hut and two soldiers, one reading a paper in the shade cast by the hut and the second scanning the beach through a pair of field glasses. Penny said, “I could take out both of them with an SA80.” Crossing to the other side of the terrace they could see the hut on the roof of the truck’s next stop. Again the pair of soldiers were in plain sight, one casually smoking while the other was using the binoculars, at least this one appeared to be watching the horizon and not the topless girls on the beach. Jinnie said, “Now that’s a simple shot with a sniper rifle.”
The girls thought they could see the hut on the roof of the third building but it was too far away to be certain with the naked eye. Jinnie wished she had a decent pair of binoculars or a telescopic sight. The girls had a simple lunch of Elise’s salade niçoise and told her they would be out for dinner for at least the next four nights. They settled back and discussed what to do about the lookout posts. Although Jinnie hadn’t been told categorically that Nice was to be one of the Allies’ landing beaches but she was certain it was, otherwise why was she there and the SAS were coming.
Simone arrived with Juliette in her buggy and while Jinnie and the toddler splashed about in the shallow area of the pool Penny indicated the three lookout posts to Simone. Jinnie was amazed that Juliette was very confident in the water and could swim, only doggy paddle, but she loved the water. Her mother explained that she had been taking her to mother and baby swimming classes since she was tiny and she just adored the water.
With a worn-out Juliette dozing in her buggy, the girls sat in the sun-warmed pool and discussed the situation. Simone said she would send a pair of binoculars over with Chloe the following morning. They would not be military ones, that could raise suspicions, but most people who lived on the seafront had a decent pair of civilian ones and there were a couple of shops selling them in the town. Once they had established the exact location of the third lookouts they could decide how to deal with it.
The next problem was establishing if there were other lookout points earlier than the first one Penny had spotted. Jinnie suggested an early morning dog walker positioned about a 1,000 metres along the prom before the first known point. The discussion was interrupted by Chloe bringing a tray of coffee and cake for the adults and juice with a small piece of baguette spread with Nutella for Juliette. Simone asked her if she could pop into her house that evening to pick up a package for the sisters.
Alone again, Simone nodded and said, “I know just the person. He has an oldish dog and he is always complaining that the dog gets him up early as it has a weak bladder.” Then Jinnie said she felt they needed a car. Again Simone knew just the person, another resistance man who ran a second-hand car dealership, but only dealt with better class models such as BMW and Mercedes. Jinnie felt a black Mercedes with leather seats fitted their supposed status.
The sisters called a taxi and headed to the restaurant in the old town for their dinner. While waiting for their coffee, the manager stopped by for a word. Firstly, without looking towards them he warned them that the two men sitting at a table in the window and watching them intently were German officers who were notorious for chasing pretty girls, especially those with money. Sniggering he said, “They get the tourist menu”. Then he said he had a message from Simone, the package had been collected and she would be around at about 11:30 as she had located a car.
The sisters were both awake early the next morning and in the shadows on the balcony. As they waited and watched, an old man wandered along the other side of the road with a giant of a dog plodding by his side. Penny asked Jinnie, “Is that an Irish Wolfhound?” and Jinnie replied, “I think so, do you think he is our man?” Ten minutes later the sun was just peeping over the horizon as the Army truck pulled up and the change of lookout took place. Penny whispered, “You could take out a whole truckload with a single RPG.” To which Jinnie replied, “And blow the whole mission.”
Chloe arrived just before eight and handed Jinnie a brown paper parcel. Jinnie opened it and found a pair of excellent Carl Zeiss binoculars. Maybe not military-grade but pretty damn good. After breakfast, the girls headed to the roof terrace and tried out the binoculars. They hardly needed them for the first post, but the second post came into sharp focus confirming to Jinnie that with a sniper rifle and a telescopic sight it was well within her capabilities to take out the two lookouts. For the third post, it became much clearer that the shot to take out the ‘resting’ solider was quite possible, but the ‘watcher’ was hidden behind what looked to be a small building either housing the water tanks or the headstock of the building’s lift. Some other method would have to be found to negate their threat to a landing.
Simone arrived on her own, it was Juliette’s day for nursery school. She was only attending one day a week until after the summer holidays when it would be increased to three. Simone reported that the dog walker hadn’t seen any other lookout post and there were only six soldiers in the back of the truck. However, as he was out with his dog every morning he would keep the truck under surveillance. As far as the 3rd lookout post was concerned she would report it back to London and see if they had any suggestions.
But the main reason that Simone had given up some of her day off from Juliette was that a car had been found for them. A year-old C Class with a full-service history and it was black with leather upholstery. They took a taxi to the showroom and the car was exactly what Jinnie had hoped it would be. Despite the money not being transferred to his account yet, the salesman let them drive it away. Saying if he couldn’t trust the resistance and the British Intelligence who could he trust?
Jinnie set the SatNav for Simone’s parent’s house and dropped her off. She wanted Jinnie to take a trip out into the countryside the next day so that she could start instructing some of her group with firearms. So she agreed to pick her up in the next street at 10:30 the following morning. Simone said she would bring a child seat for Juliette. Jinnie parked the Merc in her spot in the apartment building’s underground car park. She asked Penny how she felt about getting up very early the next morning and following the army truck back to its base, if it was a large one it could be a target for the invaders to take out to protect the landings. It could be a target for the SAS or a missile or two, that was for London to decide, but only if she could get its GPS coordinates and the car would do that for her.
The following morning Jinnie was parked in the street, where she knew the truck turned off the prom, with the lights out and the engine off. Watching through the rear-view mirror she had seen the man with the Wolfhound walk past about fifteen minutes ago so she was thinking the truck would be along any time now. It was extremely quiet with only a few cars and delivery trucks around and while waiting the sisters discussed whether it would be sensible to follow the truck all the way this morning. The chance of being detected was high when there was so little traffic around. They decided to follow them for a couple of miles and then break off and pick them up in roughly the same spot tomorrow. If it took them several mornings to locate the base so be it. They had weeks before D-Day.
In Chapter 25 – Preparations.
© WorthingGooner 2022