'The Orgreve Plan Incident'
by Phineas Redux
Summary:— Fiona 'Fay' Cartwright & Alice 'Al' Drever are lovers, and private detectives, in an East Coast American city in the 1930's. The detectives are drawn into politics when a secret military plan is compromised.
Disclaimer:— All characters are copyright ©2020 to the author. All characters in this story are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Caution:— There is some light swearing in this story.
The Army General and his retinue sat on the uncomfortable chairs in Fiona Cartwright's and Alice Drever's private office, all looking as ill at ease as the situation demanded. With him were two Colonels and two Sergeants; all four lower ranked soldiers liberally besprayed with medals, as was the General himself, going by the rainbow lines of ribbons stitched to everyone's chest.
The morning, of this Thursday 14th June 1934, was cloudless and warm; the whole of Delacote City NH, basking in a heatwave as the group sat in the offices of Drever and Cartwright, Private Detectives, on the 5th floor of the Packer Building on the corner of 12th and Rosemartin Road.
"General Staveley," Fiona opening for the defence, neither she nor her lover beside her liking the tone the officer had started off with. "Threatening us with horrible consequences if we don't keep your information to ourselves is not helping the matter, you know. By nature all our cases are strictly private; your being military making no difference there—so give over with the frowns and threats, or we'll kick ya all back out in'ta the street, an' forget ya ever existed—savvy?"
Caught unawares by this sudden frontal attack Staveley, a big-framed guy with thinning grey hair, sat back to gather his forces for the necessary counter-punch; then decided for common-sense instead.
"Ah, yes ma'am, we do seem to have started off on something of the wrong foot; no sense in decrying our own, eh?" His voice, for such a large man, being more in the tenor range than expected. "What I meant to say was what I have to discuss with you both is of the most serious military consequence, and must be kept under wraps as far as the Public, or any other Law office, goes."
Alice grabbed this offered opportunity in a flash.
"So you're giving the Police the go-by, too, then? Why?"
"Because Police are too open." Staveley's acidic expression clearly stating his opinion of this amateur force in the Law and Order stakes. "Tell them a secret, and two days later the whole country's talking about the fine detail over their breakfast grits. No, no, won't do. Private detectives, such as yourselves, being the only logical or viable alternative."
Here Fiona stepped in, with her two cent's-worth.
"General Staveley, you talk mighty handsome about total secrecy, but look right here." She eyed the assembled group of decorated officers with a sad but gimlet eye. "Two further levels of military rank, four other officers; all, granted, likely to keep their mouths shut, but details seep out nonetheless. If you are goin' to give us the inside dope on whatever your problem is I suggest we lose three-quarters of your retinue straight-off. When I talk secrets I don't like doing so in front of a Public gathering."
This second attack on his person and methods did not sit well with the high-ranking officer; he being used to both his orders being carried out without question, and a high level of subservience all round in the doing so.
"Aah. Well, let me see." He frowned darkly; this menacing expression having served him well in years gone by; but with these two women,—nothing, apparently. "Aah, Hopkins, take the sergeants and wait for me back at the cars—you stay, Mackeson. I do need at least one assistant, ladies, you know."
A couple of minutes later, with the new set-up feeling much easier for the detectives, they could finally get down to the nitty-gritty.
"What's your case, General?" Alice coming out fighting, she presuming this would be to the officer's liking. "Something big, obviously; and we can and will keep it under our hats, OK?"
Staveley wrestled with his conscience for a few seconds; the light handling of State affairs never being to his taste, then buckled under necessity and started talking.
"As long as you understand that fact, ladies, and stick to it. Not a threat, just a request, is all." He sighed deeply, crushed the top of his peaked cap in his hands some more, then came out with the marrow of the problem. "The Orgreve Plan, we believe, has been compromised."
The ensuing silence in the long office, with its row of windows looking out on the busy street five storeys below, might have lasted as long as the last Ice Age if Fiona hadn't broken the spell.
"And just what in He—what is the Orgreve Plan? And why should we here, or anybody else, be concerned about the matter?"
Now on familiar ground Staveley sat forward eagerly; pinning the women, or so he happily imagined, with his eagle gaze.
"You know about that crass fool now presently in control over in Germany?"
"—er, er—" From Fiona, not particularly up on International politics.
"Hitler." From her companion, always to be relied on for the juicy gossip of the whole world. "Adam, I think, or is it Alec?"
"Adolf, ma'am," Staveley showing that he, at least, had a proper grasp of the important things in Life. "but the person doesn't matter; it's the wider aspects we're concerned with. We already know he's,—the Fuhrer, he calls himself, faah!—got some inkling of the general principles of the Plan; what we want to do now is cut off his information stream at source; and for that we're going to need your undivided attention to the case in hand."
"Ah." From Fiona, still pretty much in the dark.
"Uum." From Alice, her suspicions and doubts of the whole concern growing with every passing second.
"The Orgreve Plan was put together some eight years ago, by General Stanford Orgreve, now deceased—"
"Sad to hear it, General." Fiona butting in with sympathy she soon discovered wasn't needed.
"—aah, uum; General Orgreve was an experienced Alpinist." Shunted so suddenly onto an unwanted side-line Staveley struggled to recapture the mainline. "Two years ago nonetheless, on leave, he fell off one—from a great height."
"Oh." This being, at short notice, the only reply Fiona could think of.
"Anyway, the Orgreve Plan." Staveley, now he had regained his ground determined, unlike the unfortunate Orgreve, to stay there at all costs. "It consists of a detailed method for an army, ours of course, to cross Western Europe and bowl into Germany with little opposition."
It was now Alice's turn to annoy the general.
"But what about all those Defences we keep hearing about in the newspapers?" She having some notion of what she was talking about. "The Maginot Line, and the, er, Siegfried Line. Ain't they supposedly impassable barriers to any wide-scale attack?"
Finding the chance thrown into his lap so perfectly General Staveley grasped it with both hands.
"Those Lines are certainly there, ladies; and certainly meant to do exactly what you describe; but, in reality, they will almost certainly prove impotent, if you will allow me the phrase. Large though they are they can be circumvented pretty easily, I think."
"Circumvented?" Fiona raising her eyebrows as if challenging the Army officer to come up with a really good reason. "What sort of weapon, if it ain't secret as well, would ya use t'do so?"
"No, no, ma'am; circumvented—gone round. Go to the end of the Line, and go round there." Pretty sure he had made his point Staveley went further, just to be quite certain. "Instead of attacking head-on, you would use a flank attack, reaching behind enemy lines by slipping round unnoticed where the Lines stop, without the need for a frontal offensive battle; thereby saving weeks in time, large numbers in wounded, and cocking a snook at the enemy as well; probably take weeks, if not months, off any war itself. All these being positive outcomes across the board, ladies."
Fiona and Alice took a minute to absorb this information; but nothing could keep Alice's ingrained need to scrape at the sore point from coming to the fore.
"All sounds pretty simple, as a plan at least." She sniffed austerely. "So simple, in fact, I doubt the Germans haven't already thought the same, on their own account. Sort'a obviates your original Plan, don't it?"
But, fine officer as he was, Staveley took this on the chin without flinching.
"All in the details, ma'am." He nodded wisely, as one in the know. "Logistics; when to move, where to move, how many forces to move with, and how fast. Timing being everything in a matter such as the present, the exact details of such a Plan would be manna from Heaven for any opposition, you see. The Orgreve Plan took cognisance of all these areas, by necessity, and formed precise tactics and strategies to overcome them. If the Orgreve Plan has been compromised, then we, in America, have a difficult time ahead of us, to regain our former footing in the logistics of War Planning."
This explanation got right up Fiona's nose, however; she having some personal experience in the matter.
"General, you make war sound like a board game." She took a deep breath then went at the man full force. "I was in the Great War, an ambulance driver on the Front for a year. I saw things, by God I did. And what did I get for it all? No medals, apart from campaign ones, and several pieces of shrapnel in my right side that still give me trouble today. War ain't a game, General; I'm surprised to have t'tell someone of your standin' that?"
General Staveley looked at Fiona for several seconds before replying, a hint of something resembling respect glinting in his eye.
"All War Plans are games, before they're set in motion when the necessity dictates; then everyone is glad of their presence. What is it Kipling says? 'it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, go away"; but it's "Thank you, Mister Atkins", when the band begins to play'. Hits the mark, I think."
An hour later, the military element having departed, the detectives were left alone to consider the matter placed before them.
"Secret Government War Plans?" Fiona was just a trifle unbelieving. "Sounds like something Sherlock Holmes would'a reveled in."
"On the surface; but what the General said about these things being necessary in reality struck home." Alice being pragmatic as all get-out. "I mean, if there's got'ta be a War, best to prepare for it beforehand, ain't it?"
Fiona, her personal experiences during the last conflict still being fresh in her memory, had more of a pacifist outlook these days; she being a lover of the League of Nations and its intentions, over in Europe.
"Anyway, first things first." Alice getting down to the nitty-gritty, consulting her well-filled notebook. "How're we to gain an invitation to one of Miss Anneliese von Schulze-Kettlenberg's Wednesday soirées?"
"Should be easy enough." Fiona wrinkling her nose officiously. "We just get Fred Rosenstein, on the Delacote Daily News, t'drop a few hints of our interest in all things German to all an' sundry who matter, who trail round Kettlenberg''s heels; then wait fer the inevitable invite, is all."
"Fay, you're either a fool, or a genius; lem'me just sit back here for a few minutes, to work out which, will you?"
The reason the fair, for she was the blondest of the blonde, Miss Anneliese von Schulze-Kettlenberg was so much in demand was wholly because she was the daughter of the Honorable Bernhard von Schulze-Kettlenberg, the German Diplomatic Minister to New Hampshire—the German Authorities believing that, though an overall German Ambassador to the USA was well established in Washington, it also did no harm to have political representatives scattered wholesale throughout the individual States, as well. She bearing the brunt of the German Legate's public entertaining capabilities.
General Staveley had made it clear that suspicion, of organising a secret strategy to gain sight of the Orgreve Plan, could almost certainly be laid at the lady's door; this misgiving being behind his request that the detectives infiltrate their way into the German lady's good graces, and pick her mind of its nefarious intentions.
"What're we supposed to do?" Fiona had asked this pertinent question earlier in their office. "Pretend to love all things German? Their Culture, Arts, Literature, Architecture, an' what-all?"
"Well, something like, anyway." Alice, not entirely sure of their method either.
"Have you taken any note of what those thugs, over in Krautland, are up to, as we speak?" Fiona waxing crude, because her inner nature required it. "They've gone hard on the Jews, across the board; treat 'em like non-persons. They're strict on morals an' freedom of speech, too. And they're obviously brain-washing the public into accepting a kind of military-based political and social system, where the iron fist comes first, an' you need never think of usin' the velvet glove. Show a German a velvet glove an' they wouldn't know what the hell it was, dear."
"Yeah, and have you seen the uniforms?" Alice fingering a detail she had taken note of herself, through reading a multiplicity of popular magazines. "Almost everyone in Germany seems to be in uniform these days. Hell, they even have the kids, girls as well as boys, in some kind'a pseudo-military organisation that necessitates them swanning around in uniform in public like a miniature army."
"Those meetings, too." Fiona considering yet another illustration of German Society en masse. "What d'they call 'em? Oh, yes—Rallies! Have ya seen newsreel of that huge rally-ground they got, over there?"
Alice sat back on her chair, musing on the whole nine yards.
"How's all this gon'na help in getting us a free pass to Miss Kettlenberg's private boudoir?"
Fiona considered this important detail, humming quietly to herself.
Inspiration, good luck, the roll of the dice favouring the brave for once, and the Delacote newspaper hounds, re the ladies' contacts, having dark acquaintance with all manner of underhanded ne'er-do-wells, the end result arrived through the letterbox of the detectives' office two weeks later; ie, an engraved invitation from Miss Kettlenberg asking if they would have the grace to attend a small private gathering, two days from today, at 7261 East Hamilton Drive, Todmorton, site of the German Legation.
"We're in!" Alice all cock-a'hoop at the news.
"Took 'em dam' long enough." Fiona being sarky, because she felt like it that morning.
"Oh, I don't know." Alice pondering on the various side-roads of Life. "If we'd pushed any harder she'd certainly have smelled a rat."
"Anyway, what d'we do when we get there?" Fiona asking the pertinent question.
"I dun'no." Alice throwing all the responsibility for such on her amour's shoulders without the slightest sign of shame in the doing so. "Got a plan?"
"Yeah, a plan; you know, figure out what we want to do, when to do it, and how to gain our victory over the forces of evil, leaving them all shattered wrecks in our wake."
Fiona took some considerable time, sitting at their shared desk, to simply look at the woman who was all in all to her. Sometimes it being, even to her, almost an impossibility to understand how the brunette's mind worked.
"Would ya go through to reception, an' ask Helen to concoct a polite reply to the Kettlenberg, sayin' we're free an easy an' will sure as grits an' honey be at the stated rout come hell or high water,—there's a dear."
Alice was up for this, as she rose to carry out her lover's request.
"Ah, you're gon'na spend the intervening time working out some devious, nasty plan that'll knock her sideways? I get it; started already, have you? Tell me the details when I come back, won't take five."
As Alice disappeared into the outer reception room Fiona idly picked up the illustrated newspaper and similar magazine her other half had been reading, it being a quiet morning.
"What's this? Die Hausfrau, and Die Woche? I'll be dam'med; does the girl have no limits to her inquisitiveness? Where in hell'd she find these, in Delacote City?"
The German Legation lay in Todmorton, the most salubrious district of Delacote City. It sat on the longest thoroughfare there, East Hamilton Drive, being the latest incarnation of an old Dry Goods millionaire's villa. Built around 1892, it had all the gigantic presence and solidity of a battleship, being faced at least in brownstone. The ground floor, three further floors above, topped by a Mansard roof with a line of attic windows reflecting the daylight, allowed the building to sit contemptuous of all surrounding piles, no matter their size.
"God, showing away like Billy-be-dam'med!" Alice all of a twitter at first sight of the antique, almost anomalous, building. "Trust the Krau—er, Germans, to bag the biggest and most horrendous pile within five mile."
"Who cares about the exterior?" Fiona focusing on more important aspects of their visit. "What matters is the inside—specifically who's inside, an' why."
"Mmmph." Alice still holding dire qualms about the whole business. "Though, I got'ta say, the guy over in Germany has made those big long fast roads—what're they called? Oh, autobahns. They're a vast social improvement."
Fiona wasn't having any of this cosying down with the enemy, however.
"Lady, Mussolini's made the dam' Italian trains run on time for the first an' only time in their entire history; but that still don't make him anyone's favourite Uncle, by a long way."
Further discussion was cut short as they walked through into the vast entrance Hall, under escort of a butler, two female servants both of whom had the unmistakable aura of military training enfolding them, and a German officer, apparently of some Army sub-division, in full regalia; entirely black from head to foot, except for a single red armband sporting the ubiquitous emblem, with ancillary decorations, stripes, insignia, and enameled pins.
"Obersturmführer Gerhard Stanlitz, at your service, ladies."
The officer gave them the full salute, with clicking heels; obviously meant to overbear, if not actually frighten, the recipient; but Alice and Fiona merely gazed at the young man as at something new and strange encountered in the zoo; an attitude, judging from his slight pink blush, he was unused to at all levels.
"—er, yes; so, if you please to follow me, I shall bring you to Herrin von Schulze-Kettlenberg—this way."
"Cuts an impressive figure," Fiona whispering into Alice's ear as they followed the dramatically attired soldier in his resplendently polished black knee-high boots up a long flight of stairs, he keeping some four or so paces ahead. "if chocolate soldier is your go-to style concept."
After traversing a long corridor on the second floor the officer tapped imperiously on a door, stepping aside to allow the visitors to enter the room ahead of him. Inside Fiona and Alice found themselves in a bright, somewhat overbearingly chintzy, drawing-room; two tall windows showering the interior in light. On a long sofa sat a tall elegant lady in her early thirties, attired in a flowing silk afternoon dress of pale pink with printed green roses. She now rose, advancing to greet her visitors with a broad smile which lightened the expression of her square-jawed face; full blonde wavy locks to her shoulders giving the impression of a film star resting in her spare time.
"Guten Tag, meine Freunde." Her voice displaying a sharp edge like splintering granite. "So nice of you to come zu meinem kleinen nachmittagsempfang; er, my little tea-party. The other guests will be arriving shortly. Will you take tea?"
Five minutes later they all sat on sofas and comfortable chairs, sipping tea and chewing on biscuits, while their hostess elaborated on the tone and intent of the small gathering.
"Only a little chat, really," Miss Kettlenberg hoisting her perfectly straight nose in the air with an aura of superiority to all around. "just a few close friends. I thought we might discuss the great and radical changes now going on in the Fatherland, under our revered Fuhrer, no? There is, of course, so much for us to be proud of; for instance,—"
The next ten minutes were some of the most trying, morally as well as physically speaking, the lady detectives had ever suffered through in the cause of American freedom and Justice. What Miss Kettlenberg had to say on the subject of German Society, and its proper place in the World at large, contained some of the most dubious, even downright odious, ideas and beliefs Fiona and Alice had ever heard. It coming as an intense relief when their Hostess had to break off to welcome the other three guests on their arrival, again shepherded by the German officer.
"Allow me to introduce Mrs Bertha von Becker, she is a most honorable lady; leader of one of our District Bund Deutscher Mädel, in Germany; how would you say? Ah, German Girls' League, yes. Also here is Miss Elfriede Lange, a most important political officer; who will, I have no doubt, open your eyes to the way we Germans do things, in a most agreeable manner. Finally, here is my friend Mrs Hanna Brandt, wife of a high-ranking officer in the Geheime Staatspolizei back in the Fatherland: a most important person. Ladies, please meet Miss Alice Drever and Miss Fiona Cartwright, detectives in this beautiful city; who have expressed a sound wish to hear more of our glorious German Society."
Just over three hours later the detectives, slightly disheveled from a moral point of view, were back on home ground in their office. A pot of coffee, an expletive-soaked rant each, and the great joy of flinging something heavy, in this case the Delacote City Compendium, at the nearest wall, settling their nerves somewhat Fiona and Alice sat back to discuss their late meeting with persons of another world.
"God! What a bunch."
"Yeah, with ya there, lover." Fiona shaking her head over memories still fresh in mind. "If those are the calibre of people who'll be inhabiting Hell when I finally get there; well, I won't go, is all."
"Ha!" Alice giggling at this quaint idea. "Yes, you're right, of course; there's neighbours; then, there's neighbours—and those bozos sycophanting round la Kettlenberg and her ilk are certainly one of a kind."
Fiona took a deep draught of the potion that revives, sighing delightfully as she did so.
"D'ya recall what that woman, Mrs Becker was it, said?"
"About what, lover?"
"She said, to my face, she and her fellow citizens were the, what was it, oh yeah—the Master-race! Ever heard anything so dimwitted an' puerile as that before?"
"Nope, that certainly was a zinger, and no mistake." Alice nodding in agreement. "Judging from what they all said, they don't just think they're individually better than everyone else; they think they, as an entire citizenship, are top of the tree against all comers—idiots!"
"They surely got their heads in the clouds, an' no mistake." Fiona shaking her head gloomily. "Explains their antipathy to other people, other cultures; if you put yourself on a pedestal, you have to have someone to look down on in contempt—just to legitimate your own silly position. D'ya think they know they're foolin' themselves, an' making morons of themselves in front of the whole world?"
Alice declined to answer this unanswerable question; contenting herself in finishing her coffee, then looking around for the biscuit-tin.
"So, where are we now, vis-à-vis what General Staveley wants?"
Fiona sat back, contemplating this situation with lowered brows.
"Well, uum," She took the offered biscuit from her inamorata almost unseeingly, nibbling daintily as she continued. "We seem to have made a good impression on Miss Kettlenberg, God knows how. At least she's invited us back, next week."
"Yes, to a much larger crush, an evening one." Alice perking up at this good news. "Will we have to dress for the occasion, do you suppose? And what're we gon'na talk about? Should we try to case the joint, seeing we'll be inside for a couple of hours, at least?"
"Nah, too dangerous; we don't want the lady becoming suspicious of our intentions, right off the bat." Fiona shook her head with determination. "Just lets listen to what the other guests say; might pick up a gem or two that way. We can always spend the time inveigling our way even further in'ta Kettlenberg's good graces, if nothing else."
"God, I've only met her the once, and already I don't like her across the board." Alice saying it like it was. "If a beer truck ran her down in the street, I'd only be worried about the beer casks, is all."
The ensuing week sped past at a rate of knots, as far as the detectives were concerned; having their fingers in several other pies they ran two bank robbers out of town in a hail of gunfire; broke a long-grift operation; and caught a murderer in flagrante attempting to up their score. So, when the evening of Miss Schulze-Kettlenberg's swish rout came round the ladies had to rush to pull themselves together to look the part. This nervous make-up and dress fiasco taking place in their condo in the Collister Building, Casemount Street, The Heights; that caravanserai district of the comfortably upper middle-class, if such a thing could be said to exist in America.
"Where in hell's my bra?"
"Oh, that's helpful."
"What about my pale cream silk stockings?" Fiona casting a panoramic eye round their bedroom. "Can't see the dam' things anywhere."
"You never took them out of the wrapping, after you bought them, yesterday." Alice bringing her logic to bear as she finished dressing. "Are they in the top dresser draw, where you keep the rest of your stockings; just a guess?"
Fiona, taking her partner's advice though with a supercilious air, was mortified to find the brunette was right—there they were.
"God, can't remember puttin' 'em there, at all."
"Come on, come on." Alice becoming ventilated with growing anxiety. "I've got my dress on, why haven't you?"
"Gim'me a break."
"If I had my legs tied together and one arm tied behind my back I could still dress faster than you, doll."
"Alice, if ya really wan'na attend this dam' crush with a sore butt you're goin' the right way about it."
"Har, you'd have to catch me first, lover; and how're you gon'na do that, with no dress, one stocking half off, and a leg in the air like the mast of a racing yacht?"
"I'd find a way, I would." Fiona struggling with her apparel like a liner enveloped in fog off the Grand Banks. "Here, gim'me a hand with these dam' buttons at the back, will ya?"
Finally all was well and they raced down the stairs to the sidewalk as gracefully as their evening attire would allow; taking no note of some astonished glances from other tenants on their way. They took Fiona's DeSoto sedan for its spacious interior; Alice's Plymouth two-seater being far too small for the occasion. And so they set out once again for the enemy's territory in Todmorton.
On arrival they found the old brownstone Legate building lit like a palace hosting an International Occasion; all four storeys were blazing in every window, even the attics in the mansard roof were glowing brightly. The main door stood wide open, only guarded by a small handful of uniformed soldiers, in field-gray this time; though Obersturmführer Stanlitz, still sporting his jet-black rig with accessories, was well in evidence herding everyone from one room to another, as their particular social importance merited. Taking their chance, Fiona and Alice, having shown their engraved invites to an anonymous flunkey at the door, managed to by-pass the man in black and sneak into the main room where the majority of the guests had congregated; not least because this was the site of the main bar, where wine, bourbon, rum, and other esoteric items up to and including the Green Fairy herself, were all on hand for those with discerning tastes, or just the heavy drinkers in general. Fiona, having dissuaded her partner from partaking of the last named beverage and settling instead for a pink gin, took her arm and set sail for the other side of the crowded room, where all the action seemed to be momentarily concentrated.
"Have you heard about the happenings in the Fatherland? A putsch against the Fuhrer, apparently, but he overpowered them before it took effect."—"I hear they're going to make a film about him, directed by some female German director, can't remember her name offhand."—"I'm thinking of sending my children over, hear they have some excellent organisations perfectly suited to educating youngsters; fun and games, and camping and hiking and sports, that kind of thing; I'm sure the kids'll love it."—"Bought a record of German marching songs recently; very uplifting, I must say, lots of zing."
"I think I'm gon'na throw up."
This caught Fiona's attention.
"What? You're still on your first drink; say, is that gin? You know what I said about that dam' Green—"
"Yeah, it's gin." Alice snorted wildly at her partner's implication. "No, I ain't a drunk in training, thank you. What I mean is, listening to everyone around, I think I'm gon'na throw up at their beliefs and morals and what-not. Have you been listening to what everyone's saying round here at all?"
"Can't stop a person thinkin'; at least I don't think ya can." Fiona realised she was circling the wagons, and sighed. "I mean, what's in what someone thinks; it's what they do that matters."
Alice eyed her partner suspiciously.
"Fay, you been reading Nietzsche again; you know I told you not to?"
"Fool, anyway, what d'we do now?"
Alice glanced around at the crowd they now formed part of themselves.
"Head for the bar and another drink?"
"God! Look, there's Miss Lange, let's go an' spoil her evening."
Miss Lange, a head shorter than Fiona, could still look down on Alice; a position she immediately took up on turning to find herself surrounded on two sides by the resolute American duo.
"Ah, Miss, er, ah yes, Miss Drever, how nice to see you; and your, er, companion."
"Miss Lange, may I introduce Miss Fiona Cartwright? Miss Cartwright—Miss Elfriede Lange—er, I'm not quite sure of your,—aah?"
"I am an officer of the Propagandaministerium; we look to the goodwill and education of all German citizens—all proper citizens that is, of course." Miss Lange eyed her interlocutors as if dearly wishing to put them through a really good system of re-education, preferably back in the Homeland. "You are, yourselves, interested in the New National-Socialist Order being implemented in our gracious Fatherland by our wonderful Fuhrer's magnificent Arbeiterpartei?"
Neither Fiona nor Alice had any clear idea of the organisations referred to, so made do with outwardly looking the part—something, through long experience, they were both very good at.
"We've been mighty impressed by same, yeah." Fiona gabbling a little as she got into the swing of the thing. "That is, we've been reading about Germany, and its citizens and, er, what-all. Great advances going on, over there. Must make you proud, I'm sure?"
"It is, of course, all down to great Leadership; and in our wonderful Fuhrer, one can wish for no greater Leader." Elfriede's eyes glinted as she spoke, wholly enraptured by her subject. "Always right, never wrong; always looking to the improvement of our citizens' living standards, and the advance of the German State; looking to its borders, solidifying its defences against all aggression. We are a great People, and under the leadership of our revered Fuhrer we mean to show the World just how great we will be."
Silenced, even stupefied on Alice's part, the detectives stood mutely examining the young propagandist at work and play, clearly in her element. Both Fiona and Alice were well enough aware of the true nature of contemporary events going on in Germany to realise what they had just listened to was the most absolute poppy-cock imaginable; spouted by someone wholly self-hypnotised by their own lies and fiction. Fiona now, in her own and her partner's defence, attempting an organised retreat from the mind-numbing fray.
"Yes, most interesting; we agree whole-heartedly, of course—don't we, Al?"
"Eh, what?" Alice, caught off-guard, for a moment defenceless. "Ah, yes, certainly—couldn't agree more, Miss Lange. Say, have you any books, literature, on the subject? Fay an' I would dearly love to bone up, I mean read up on the whole subject."
"I shall have my people send you some." Miss Lange inclining her head graciously, at parting. "There is so much, I am sure you will find your eyes opened, across the whole panorama of German Social Reconstruction. Goodbye."
"Yes, I bet we would." Alice smiling sweetly as she made a mental note not to so much as open any book, magazine, pamphlet or brochure sent from the German Legation, before consigning all such to their Apartment-block garbage collection. "G'bye, nice to have met you."
Fiona waited till the representative of all things German had merged with the surrounding crowd before turning on her partner with a frown.
"Al, ya want a sh-tload of German propaganda stuffing up our letter-box? Have ya lost your mind?"
"Had to say something, dear; couldn't just stonewall the delicate flower, could I?" Alice, as was her want when criticised, waxing sarcastic to the full reach of her powers. "At least she thinks we're more than a little interested in her fantasies; that's got'ta be a positive note, isn't it?"
Finding no answer to this pertinent question Fiona looked around for relief; discovering such in the figure of Mrs Hanna Brandt, holding sway amongst a group of followers—who all seemed to find her every word gospel straight from the prophet's mouth, judging by the inordinate amount of attention they were giving her.
"Whatever she's talkin' about, it must sound like gold; look at those people, you'd think they were listening to someone discussing a new religion, or something." Fiona letting her natural stoicism come to the surface. "Lets mosey over an' listen in."
But their arrival had just the opposite effect to that the detectives wished; noting the presence of two important members of local society, Mrs Brandt took time off from her lecture, to greet the Americans as lost relatives, as if just back from trekking across a vast desert.
"Grüße, meine lieben Leute; allow me, meine freunde, to introduce two American, er, friends of our beautiful Fatherland—here is Miss Drever, and Miss Cartwright, both sehr bemerkenswert; er, what is it, notable in local affairs, I assure you all. So, Miss Drever, are you closer to deciding to visit unser großes Deutschland? I am sure you would find the experience eye-opening, nein?"
Slightly put-off by Mrs Brandt's curious duality of language, Alice took refuge in merely smiling brightly, as if agreeing unconditionally with everything said.
"And you, Miss Cartwright," Hanna going on, undismayed, spearing Fiona's attention like a fisherman reeling in a swordfish in the Bay. "what is your opinion of German Society, as we live it today, under our Great Leader?"
Having early found that pretending to enjoy, even adore, the subject under discussion, with important people representing that dubious ilk, was mind-numbing in its banality Fiona struggled to achieve the wide smile of pleasure she thought was expected of her.
"Ye-es, just so." Thinking on her feet, she grabbed at a passing idea, before it escaped. "One finds it always so distressing, not to be able to visit, oneself; to see the great modernisations under way in your fine country; not to understand at first-hand your political system; or to see German Society in full swing, as it were. But I, and my partner Alice here, rely on your expert knowledge to inform us of all we lack in those directions."
So much soft soap having been brought to bear Mrs Brandt purred like a kitten at this unexpected, indeed unwarranted, level of enthusiasm.
"My husband, Bernhard, is unfortunately hindered from being with me because of affairs of State—he being an important officer of the community, you know; the Staatspolizei being so important in Germany, you see." Mrs Brandt continued to preen herself in the glow of her husband's position; grinning all round at her captive audience. "However, in my own view, I am sure such intelligent and important members of the local community here as you both certainly are will be a great asset to relations with our Fatherland in the months to come. I have nothing but the highest opinion of you both, I assure you."
Taking this as it was meant, a gentle but firm leave-taking, Fiona and Alice nodded, smilingly widely at all round as if mighty pleased at such condescension from such an important personage as Mrs Hanna Brandt, then turned to escape the location before she thought of some further item dealing with German life which might be of interest to the two detectives—only for them to confront, face-to-face the man in black redivivus, ie, Obersturmführer Gerhard Stanlitz in the flesh.
"Oh God!—er, hallo again, Herr Stanlitz; everything going well?" Fiona stuttering in shock.
"I did not see you both arrive." Stanlitz letting them know in this manner he had his eye on them; for better or worse, in his view, still to play for. "But I am happy you are having a good time. Can I get you anything; or is there anyone you particularly wish to meet? There are some very important German officials here this evening."
Fiona visibly perked up at this tid-bit; she herself feeling that if they wanted to get ahead with delving into this Orgreve Plan nonsense the higher the German official they could collar in a corner and interrogate till his eyes popped the better.
"Oh, yes, who, for instance?"
Stanlitz cast his cold eye round the room.
"Over there, to the side of the lady in red, is Kommodore Martin Roth." Stanlitz nodded knowingly. "He is here to supervise a series of meetings between the Reichsmarine and your own Navy forces. Perhaps you would wish to speak with him?"
A minute later Fiona and Alice, now free of the Obersturmführer who had been called away on other matters, stood beside the Navy officer, who was in mufti on this occasion. Fiona started the conversation gently, feeling for the right tone.
""We hear you're here to make secret plans with our Navy, Kommodore? That right?"
The officer, the detectives taking only seconds to verify, stood some 5 feet 7 inches in height, was physically fit, with dark hair and a somewhat elongated weathered face; his eyes being piercingly blue, like ice chips. On replying his voice was no less cold.
"Meine Damen, it is most excellent to meet you." He glanced quickly at both women, visibly deliberating on their backgrounds in an openly cynical manner. "May I know the reasons for dein eifer; ah, what is it, your zeal to discuss such subjects?"
Alice, as always, had her line of defence ready.
"We're great friends with Miss Kettlenberg, and we've known Obersturmführer Stanlitz ever so long." She taking the art of lying to realms never reached before; with a straight face, too. "It was the Obersturmführer, only a minute ago, who suggested you would have information of great interest to share with us; we both being great admirers of the work your fine Leader is doing as we speak."
Roth's expression, listening to this inane smokescreen of nonsense, was almost an open book in itself. Expressing consternation, probably at the thought of sharing secret information with women he had never previously met nor knew existed; astonishment, at what Miss von Schulze-Kettlenberg and the Obersturmführer were possibly thinking in sending these American women to him for lessons on the state of the German Navy he had no intention of sharing with anyone less than an Admiral, and only a German one at that; and finally annoyance, at just how he could shoo these exasperating persons away without actually causing an International incident.
"Ladies, I fear sie wurden falsch informiert; you have been misinformed. I can have nothing to say on such, er, delicate matters outside the Pentagon itself, I am afraid to say. Ah, there is someone I need to speak with auf einmal—if you will excuse me."
Five seconds later Fiona and Alice found themselves alone in a crowd, abandoned to their own devices.
"Well, we didn't get far with him." Alice appreciating the truth of the matter.
"Nor probably will with anyone else here, tonight." Fiona having reached that violet border between despondency and outright melancholy of the Black Dog sort. "What I say we should do now, working it out as a plan, is to hit the street and go home quick as you like—this here being a busted flush if ever I saw such. You?"
Alice contemplated the massed ranks around them, of those who dearly loved a harsh dictator above peaceful Democracy, and came to the same conclusion.
"With you, all the way, dear. Which's the fastest way out, without meeting la Kettlenberg, or that dam' chocolate soldier?"
"Follow me, love, I'll keep ya right—this way."
The private office the next day of Drever and Cartwright, Private Detectives, Packer Building, Delacote City, was a scene of gloom and virtual despair. The detectives had just, it being now a jot past 11.30am, finished a long, almost interminable, telephone conversation with General Staveley which had left them more in the dark than previously. Murky thoughts and wraith-like suppositions were flickering through each woman's imagination, like a pea-souper in London; finally Alice broke the silence.
"That'll be me, dear."
"Urrph, what about General Staveley?"
Fiona considered the subject from several angles before replying.
"What about the jerk?"
Alice, meanwhile, had something to say; and meant to say it, come what may.
"Do you have the same feeling I have, about this whole Orgreve thing?"
Once again Fiona corralled all her intellectual capability to focus on the topic under discussion.
"What feeling would that be, love of my heart?" Fiona always having a cautious outlook on life.
Alice, having considered all the angles available, had now reached her firm and justified decision.
"I think we've been taken on a long-grift, ducks." She nodded to herself, certain of her conclusions. "I think there never was a General Orgreve; he never fell off a dam' Alp; and there never was a g-d'd-m Orgreve Plan, is what. We've been taken for suckers, all the way."
A silence reigned as Fiona absorbed this idea then, having digested the import of the thing, she spoke.
"Staveley was more interested in how we'd interacted with the Obersturmführer, and the ladies there, than the dam' Orgreve Plan; or what they, the Germans' en masse, thought about same."
Alice, by now, had it all down pat.
"He simply used us as patsy's to infiltrate the German Legate." She baring teeth in an incipient snarl, one strongly boding to develop into some thing rich and strange if given any encouragement at all. "Orgreve, my arse; he only wanted inside info on the Legate; how it operated, who was there, how the security functioned, who was in charge, what they were all up to, individually; in short, how the whole Legate carried on behind closed doors. We didn't give him much, from what we saw ourselves; but it's clearly enough for him to think about and make dark nasty future plans of his own over."
Fiona let this interpretation of recent events filter through her thoughts. Then, finding they had cleared the incipient fog of unknowing away to show far clear horizons, she sat up on her hard-backed chair.
"Dam', that does cover all aspects of the whole dam' thing." She gazed at her lover, acknowledgement of the way they had been expertly hoodwinked clouding and darkening her brown eyes. "Next time I have a telephone conversation with Staveley I ain't goin' to be caressin' his bloated ego with kind words, is all; they'll be something altogether more personal an' a dam' sight more expressive."
A horrid thought had just occurred to Alice.
"We might'a been killed, you know." She further elucidating her take on matters just past. "Stanlitz looked the kind'a guy t'me who wouldn't have thought twice about inveigling us into a dark corner, out of earshot of dam' everyone, an' shooting us with his Luger. Dam'."
Fiona considered the possibility and, finding it sufficient to the moment, gave forth with her own opinion thereon.
"G-d'd-m Staveley. That's the last time we get mixed up with the Military, ducks; they have no sense of proportion, at all."
"With you there, baby." Alice sighed heavily, glancing over to the sideboard where they kept their emergency supply of the liquors that soothed and pacified fretful feelings. "We still got that bottle of the Green Fairy, lover?"
"Yeah, pour me one too, will ya; think I need it."
Another 'Drever and Cartwright' story will arrive shortly.