Penny looked at Steven in amazement. “Do you really want us to break into the terminal building and get onto the roof as a test?” She asked. “If we were caught it might give the whole game away.” “I think we need the practice,” replied Steve, “Besides we need to be certain that we have line of sight on our targets from there. If we don’t we may have to relocate to the top deck of the multi-story car park. I have been up there and I know it has the view we need but it is further towards the west end of the runway rather than the centre like the terminal building.”
“Right oh,” said Penny, “If you think is worth the risk. When?” “Tomorrow night,” replied Steven. “The terminal never closes. There is a flight in from Berlin at midnight 30 every day and it often takes a couple of hours for the passengers to clear arrivals. The first flight out is to Leipzig at 05:00 and check-in opens two hours before, so it is not worth closing the building. But as the last departure is a 22:30 to Nuremberg, the departures public areas are extremely quiet between about 22:00 and 03:00 with only a few stragglers and cleaners to be seen. I have found the door that gives access to the roof and as luck would have it, it is in departures. It is not alarmed, nor covered by CCTV and I have obtained a key card from one of our number who works at the airport.”
Shortly after midnight Irena drove up to the barrier to the multi-storey car park, paused for a moment while the camera read the false number plate on the stolen car. The machine hummed and printed a ticket. She took the ticket and the barrier lifted. Irena drove in and parked in a quiet corner on the first floor away from CCTV coverage. The two snipers and their spotters retrieved their bags from the car’s boot and followed the signs saying ‘Odhod’. The departures hall was deserted with all the shops shuttered and every other light out. If challenged they had tickets in false names for the Leipzig flight and their story was that they had been touring, had run out of money and were going to sleep in the departure lounge until check-in opened.
As there was nobody around and the door wasn’t covered by CCTV they headed straight to it and Penny used the key card to open it and the party slipped through. Not wanting to turn the stairwell lights on they each produced a powerful torch and climbed the stairs to the roof. Penny checked the door out onto the flat roof for an alarm and found nothing. It was a simple crash bar exit designed to stop people landing on the roof entering the stairwell but to serve as an emergency exit. Penny replaced her torch with her trust Glock and said to no one in particular, “Here we go,” and pressed on the crash bar to open the door.
The team exited the door and the last person out slid a softwood wedge under it to stop it closing completely. They split into pairs, Penny heading to the east side of the building and Irena to the west where they quickly assembled and set up their sniper rifles while the spotters each set up three laser designators on mini tripods hitting the fast jets. The laser beams were invisible to the naked eye and each sent a different series of coded pulses which were scattered into the air for the incoming munitions to read and home onto.
Penny was happy that they had proved their part of the mission was quite possible so she issued the order to pack up and withdraw. The lasers went back into the spotter’s bags, while Penny and Irena broke down the sniper systems and popped them back into the gun bags. They went back into the stairwell, removed the wedge, closed the door and descended to the departure area door which had a simple handle on the stairwell side. Now came the trickiest part of the extraction, because it was a solid door they had no idea if anyone was on the far side. Penny took a dentist’s mirror on a telescopic arm from her pocket and dropped to the floor behind the door. Once again she put the Glock in her right hand, but this time she held the mirror in her left hand. The other three stood behind the solid wall on either side of the door.
Penny signalled to Irena, who silently cracked the door open. Penny slid the mirror through the crack and swivelled it around to see if anyone was around. Seeing no one, Penny opened the door a bit more. She ensured the area was empty before getting to feet and walking through the doorway swiftly followed by the rest of the party. The last out ensured the door was shut gently, silently and properly closed before heading back to the car park.
Irena remembered to put on a long peaked cap and pulled her hood up over her head because a CCTV camera observed the pay machine. Donning a pair of surgical gloves she popped in the ticket and paid the fee in cash. The machine retained the ticket but popped up a message saying they had 15 minutes to exit the car park. They had no intention of taking that long. Once again they paused at the barrier while the camera read the number plate and the computer ascertained they had paid and lifted the barrier. Penny sighed with relief as they headed for the RP, from where another driver was to take the car to where the local boy racers burnt out their stolen cars.
Jinnie explained to Alberto she had set up a test of his “at home” dinner idea with Belinda the guinea pig and had asked her to produce her idea for a dinner party menu. She told him she expected Belinda to push them to the limit with a traditional British menu, but she was typical of the customer they were targeting, money-rich, time-poor who appreciated good food and good service. Further, she lived in a road of similar people close to the Turners Hill restaurant. Alberto said he wished he had thought about her as a test subject, he knew she would be brutally honest.
The following morning Jinnie took a call from Belinda who asked if she had a sheet of paper and a pen as she and Brian had come up with a menu which they would like to serve to six guests, so eight people in total. Jinnie started writing –
Amuse Bouche – Individual Cucumber Carpaccio.
Starter – Smoked Ham Hock and Apricot Terrine with Mustard Purée and Ciabatta Croute.
Soup – Roasted Tomato with Croutons.
Palate Cleanser – Gin and Tonic Sorbet.
Main – Grilled Prime Fillet Steak, Potatoes Anna, Honey Glazed Parsnips, Bouquetiere of Vegetables and Port Wine Jus.
Dessert – Trio of Chocolate Mini Desserts, comprising Chocolate and Chestnut Cheese Cake, White Chocolate and Green Tea Delice, Milk Chocolate and Hazelnut Paris-Brest.
Cheese – Stilton, Mature Cheddar and Wensleydale served with Crackers, Celery and Grapes.
Coffee and Tea, Petite Fours.
“Gosh, that sounds wonderful,” said Jinnie, “is that what you would normally serve at a dinner party?” “Well I have pushed it a bit,” answered Belinda, “but it’s all things I have served and guests have enjoyed.” “I’m not surprised,” said Jinnie, “Every one of those courses sounds delicious.” For a moment Belinda was silent then she said, “I’ve been thinking, Brian and I have been your guests on several occasions now, why don’t you and Paolo join us it would still only make ten.” “I’d love to,” Jinnie replied, “but we are a little restricted with the twins.” “Why not ask your mum to babysit?” Belinda suggested. “I bet she would love to have the babies to herself for an evening. You could drive over in the afternoon and we could have tea on the patio and a wander around the garden, it is looking at its summer best at the moment.” Jinnie thought, ‘I really am going to have to get used to leaving the twins sometime.’ So she said, “OK, that’s a yes, with the proviso that mum is willing. She is at work right now, but I’ll call and ask when she gets in this evening and ring you then one way or another.”
Jinnie texted the menu to Alberto and he rang her almost immediately. “That’s a nice menu,” Alberto said, “I think we could pinch some of those dishes for our posh meal delivery service! I particularly like the gin and tonic sorbet.” “I’m going to phone Alphonso in a bit and get him to get a chef and waiter over as soon as possible. I have already given him a heads up and he is happy to give the system a try.” “I had better tell you,” said Jinnie, “Paolo and I have been invited to the dinner party, but it all depends on mum babysitting for us.”
Alberto continued, “I had a meeting with the companies taking a kitchen this afternoon they like the van idea and after much discussion we decided the vans should say ‘Trattoria Trevi Deliveries working with’ and then their names in alphabetic order in their company font with all of equal size. You guessed right, they want the phone number and a website. I now have a few extra jobs for our project manager, get competitive costs for three white delivery vans, sort out the artwork for the graphics, get competitive quotes for the design of, manufacture and installation of the vehicle wraps. We will also need a freephone number and a website.”
“Gosh,” said Jinnie, “there are more and more things to do occurring all the time.” “True,” said Alberto, “One other thing, Brian rang. He logged into the accounts remotely, while I logged in on my office PC. He confirmed that were correct, that we have really made that profit, but he advised we could be in line to pay Corporation Tax if we can’t set enough expenses against it, so we better be careful to have enough money in our savings account to pay if things keep going that way.”
Of course Mrs Walsh said yes, she would love to babysit the twins. She would have to feed them but they would happily take a bottle of baby milk and go back to sleep. When Jinnie phoned Belinda to tell her, Belinda said, “Great. I must say you guys don’t waste any time. The chef has been round and was pretty happy with the fact that I have a double range with eight gas burners, two ovens and a microwave. We are sticking with the menu I gave you but he is going to pre-prepare some of the cold dishes like the sorbet, terrine and the dessert in the restaurant kitchen.” “I hope you don’t mind me asking,” said Jinnie, “but will I know any of the other dinner guests?” “Oh yes,” answered Belinda, “I have invited Melissa and Andrew, my other daughter Miranda and her husband Noel and Brian’s brother Neil and his wife.”
Paolo drove to Belinda’s house on Saturday afternoon. After 9 months of Jinnie not drinking he said it was only fair that she should be chauffeured. Paolo parked on the drive next to what Jinnie told him was Melissa’s car. They recovered the magnum of Champagne and flowers for Belinda from the rear seat and pressed the bell push. Belinda answered the door herself looking totally relaxed. She led them through into the massive expanse of garden, saying how wonderful it was to have a chef and a sous chef busy in her kitchen preparing dinner while she was free to entertain guests. Brian and Melissa were sitting in the sun at the side of the croquet lawn with glasses of iced lemon barley water. Brian immediately greeted them and offered them a drink, which they accepted before he took them off on a guided tour of the massive gardens, lake and woods.
When they returned half an hour later Belinda and Melissa had been joined by Andrew, Miranda and Noel. Belinda explained that Neil was working and he and his wife were not expected until about 19:30 for pre-dinner drinks. Belinda said she had popped into the kitchen to put the Champagne in the wine fridge to chill and had been chased out. The only thing she could report was it smelt wonderful! About 16:30 a waiter, who Jinnie recognised from Turners Hill, brought a tray of tea and biscuits out to them. The tea was welcome but the biscuits were hardly touched.
As expected Neil arrived at 19:30 and as if by magic the waiter appeared with a tray of glasses of nicely chilled Champagne. Dinner was served at 20:00 and Jinnie was delighted to see the waiter had a girl assistant who was tasked with making sure wine and water glasses were topped up and empty plates whizzed away. Jinnie was delighted, the food was excellent, the wine carefully matched and the service impeccable.
Jinnie was seated between Noel and Neil and discovered Noel was a head teacher at a large foundation school while Neil owned and ran an employment agency that specialised in placing catering staff. He explained that there was a lot of demand in the Crawley area as there were a lot of food outlets at Gatwick Airport as well as several companies supplying flight catering. Jinnie asked if he only covered the Gatwick area and he said no he had branches that served Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester.
“That a pity,” said Jinnie, “we may be looking for quite a few chefs soon in Potters Bar.” Neil said, “Is that anywhere near Luton as we are looking to open a small office near there. But we don’t have a lot of staff of this quality on our books. The airports tend to mop up a lot of short-order chefs, you know burgers, fried chicken, even Chinese.” “It’s about 25 miles and that is exactly the bulk of the chefs we will need, although we might need some high-quality staff as well.”
Neil fished a business card from his wallet and suggested Jinnie should give him a ring on Monday morning. Then he said, “You have me intrigued. What sort of business requires all those different sorts of chefs?” Jinnie saw Belinda, who was sitting opposite was listening to the conversation with a smile on her face and realised she had been manipulated. She said to Neil, “It’s no secret now it’s been in the national papers but we are opening a Dark Kitchen which will initially prepare and deliver 6 or 7 types of cuisine on behalf of takeaway businesses. Belinda is doing all the work so I thought you might have heard about it.”
“Of course, I read the story in The Times but I have not heard a word from Belinda,” he said, “she knows how to keep a client’s business confidential. She certainly did when she refurbished my Crawley office. But I have come to the opinion that we were deliberately sat next to each other.” Belinda joined in the conversation but moved the subject on to the meal saying that everything so far was perfect and would Trattoria Trevi be offering the ‘At Home’ service because if they were she would love to use it in the future? Neil’s wife said, “Me too, you can’t imagine what a stress it is to plan and cook a dinner party while trying to host it and eat. There’s many a time I have gone to bed shattered with awful indigestion.”
Steven was delighted with the result of the incursion. It had gone completely undetected according to several of their people who worked at the airport. Photos from the roof proved the view into the aircraft shelters and had allowed him to pinpoint the permanent positions of the air defences. The operators were totally relaxed, sitting around smoking. Clearly an attack was the last thing they expected. The local resistance had not been actively attacking targets for several years and the Nazis obviously thought they were a thing of the past. Maya’s force had, unknown to them, infiltrated every major element of the city and had bided their time concentrating on intelligence gathering. Steven was confident that in just 10 days time when the attack was launched it would come as a complete surprise in this area.
In the Adriatic, Commander Powderham held HMS Agamemnon under the water and raised the electronic mast. The boat’s sensors had indicated he was in an empty stretch of ocean and the scan from the mast proved it. He gave the order to send the flash message that had been composed, coded by the computer and compressed earlier, up to the military satellite, geostationary thousands of miles above the equator, where it was retransmitted to the Royal Navy comms centre at Northwood. It was simply a situation report saying the boat was on station and operationally ready.
A minute later the computer spewed out the reply which simply said carry on with the exercise as planned, except that the Commander knew this wasn’t an exercise and that the computers had the target information for all of the 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles he was carrying on this trip. The boat normally carried a 50-50 split of Tomahawks and Spearfish heavy torpedoes. But this trip there were only 8 Spearfish in the racks and as soon as the crew had seen the dockyard maties removing torpedoes and replacing them with cruise missiles the rumour went around that an attack was coming. Powderham took the boat back down to its loiter depth and continued his cruise, making random turns at a low speed and searching for traffic on all sensors.
Newly promoted Second Lieutenant Joey Jones was busy directing his regiment’s Challenger 3’s into the belly of the huge tank landing ship docked in Brindisi. As he watched another tank backing in through the clamshell doors he wondered if this was the real thing or yet another practice landing. In the last two weeks they had completed three test landings. Unusually these had not been on beaches but in ports usually using roll-on roll-off facilities.
The test landings had been remarkably successful with the tanks swiftly roaring off the ship in double quick time. Joey wondered where they were going this time around. Brindisi was opposite Albania and although he didn’t really think that a major target, he had looked at a map and considered that if it was to be Albania he fancied a landing at the port of Durrës and a race to the nearby capital city of Tirana.
The last tank backed in, the vehicle bridge lifted and the clamshell doors closed tight. Joey headed up the gangplank and headed to the wardroom that the CO had commandeered for what was shown on the orders of the day as a “loading debrief”. As he walked down the companionway he heard the pitch of the engines increase and the ship starting to move. Entering the wardroom from the crowd there, it became immediately obvious that this wasn’t just going to be a simple debrief.
Joey saluted the CO and reported that all 30 tanks were safely aboard and shackled down. The CO said, “Thank you, lieutenant, that was the best time yet.” He then told him to take a seat before continuing, “I suspect that most of you have realised we are underway so it’s safe to tell you that this time this is not an exercise, we are about to conduct a landing on enemy territory.” He moved to a large display which he uncovered. “Before I continue I better remind you that the ship is now locked down and the only communications will go through signals. Mobile phones will not work as the ship’s jammers have been turned on. This is just a general brief, full details will come through your direct line of command. To continue on the map you will see our target is the port of Trieste. We have been assured that the landing will be unopposed as the port will be in the hands of the Resistance and the nearby local Nazi naval dockyards will be out of commission. Now you know why we have been practising rapid unloading at a ro-ro ferry port. In general, we will split the force in two with A squadron protecting the town, port and our HQ against counter-attack and protecting reinforcements being landed. B Squadron will head for the airport which, all things being equal, should have been grabbed by the resistance and reinforced by Paras. It will be your job to add some steel to the defences until we can get further forces there.”
In Chapter 28 – D-Day dawns.
© WorthingGooner 2023