The X-Code and the Genie (Chapter 2)

A World War II Novelette of Espionage

Part 1 of the OSS Trilogy

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II.

 12 Miles West of Setaat, Morocco, 1942

The sound of the lumbering transport planes engines faded into the distance as the three agents landed without incident under deployed white canopies in the soft, brown desert sand of French Morocco at a quarter past 4am local time. It was a moonless night, but clear, and the millions of stars appeared as pin pricks in the thick black curtain of night. After a compass heading and a few miles of hiking, they arrived at the road to meet their contact. At 0627 as dawn was just beginning to break, Chandler saw the faint glow of headlights in the distance. All three men drew their pistols and held them behind them. The van gave the pre-arranged signal and flashed it’s headlights three times on approach. Chandler kept his pistol behind his back as the van slowly rolled up. The driver rolled down his window. Chandler asked the driver the code question to verify his identity. “Excuse me what is the name of a good French restaurant in Casablanca?”.  The driver smiled. “That would be Le Cyne Blanc monsieur. The Absolute best in French Cuisine!” Both men smiled at each other and gave a nervous laugh. “Captain Logan Chandler.” Logan reached through the window and shook hands with the driver. “Henry Toulere at your service, Captain.” The man replied. “Let’s get going shall we, I want to get back before anybody sees you.” Chandler nodded and all three men jumped into the back of the van.  Toulere was a 30-year-old Parisian that had joined the Resistance the day after the Germans invaded France. He had jet black hair and dark eyes that showed the maturity of a man twice his age. He was dressed as a construction worker and the van was full of tools and materials to contribute to the charade. Looking at Toulere’s hands, Chandler could tell right away he was a seasoned operative. He had taken the time to rough up his hands with sandpaper and smear paint on them. “The devil is always in the details.” Toulere said smiling, noticing Chandler looking at his hands. “I have all the equipment and weapons you requested at the safe house. We also have another van that you can use to commute to Casablanca.” Toulere said, looking at Chandler as he drove. “All your papers are in order, yes?” Toulere asked. “Yes, everything has been triple checked for accuracy. Our forgers are top-notch” Chandler replied. “Yes, they are top-notch because of our intel. The Germans just started using a new kind of ink on identity cards last month. Between the Gestapo and The Gendarmerie, I am not sure which one is a bigger royal pain in the ass!” Toulere responded with a laugh. “I will introduce you to the rest of the team this evening. In the meantime, best to stay out of sight in the house. Get some rest.” Toulere replied. Chandler nodded in agreement even though the adrenaline was pushing him to get cracking right away. They drove through the small farming town of Setaat, which like most of the older town’s and villages in North Africa, consisted of a town square with a public water well in the center. The outlines of the old buildings in the diffused morning light reminded Chandler of an oil painting he had seen a few years back in London. The safe house sat a few miles out-of-town on a hill which overlooked the entire area. Being there was only one road in and out, a person could stand on the front porch and see who was coming from either direction for miles. “La douceur du foyer.” Toulere said smiling as he turned off the engine. “Very nice.” Chandler replied.

The house was a bone white, two-story late 19th century french colonial affair. In the front of the house they had planted several small olive trees, shrubs and flowers. Walking up to the porch, Chandler noticed a pair of mixed breed hound dogs laying in the soft, black dirt. “Our early warning system.” Toulere said, grinning as he petted both dogs. “I have prepared two rooms upstairs for you and your men Captain, follow me, I will give you the nickel tour.” Chandler and his men followed Toulere inside the house. Walking in, Chandler noticed the front door had been reinforced and two deadbolts installed. “This place was donated to us by a prominent French businessman’s family. He was killed by the Nazi’s early on in the occupation for aiding the enemy. OK, to the left is the dining room and study and to the right is the kitchen.” Toulere said, guiding the three men through the large house.”We typically have our meetings here in the kitchen or study. Our resident chef, Ethan, typically cooks dinner for us every night depending on what is going on. Come on upstairs and I will show you where you will be staying.” The four men walked up the stairs, the old wood creaking under their weight. “So, this is my room here, next room is Ethan and across the hall there is Celia, and next to her the last two rooms there are yours. Unfortunately, there is only one bathroom upstairs, it’s  at end of the hall, down there.” Toulere pointed down the hall and then opened the door to The first room and turned on the light. “Lieutenant Squires and Blakeley, this is your billet.” Chandler said matter of factly. Both men quickly moved into the room and began unpacking on the two beds.  Toulere and Chandler walked into the next room. “Did I hear you say there was a woman staying here?” Chandler asked as he unpacked his gear. “Wee, Celia Devereaux. She has been with us since the beginning in Paris. You can meet her tonight. Until then, I will leave you to get settled and get some rest. Dinner at Eight?” Toulere asked smiling. “Sounds good.” Chandler replied. “I am really glad to be helping you Captain, maybe we can make a difference, aye?” Toulere asked, extending his hand. “I sure hope so Henry, I sure hope so.” Chandler shook his hand and smiled. When Toulere left, Chandler took his boots off, set his 1911 on the side table and collapsed on the bed. The last thing he thought of before drifting off was the name of that woman Toulere had mentioned; Celia Devereaux.

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12 Rou Karachi, Apartment 365 , Casablanca

 The young woman lay in bed frustrated. She had been awoken by the bright morning light piercing its way through the window like an unwanted guest. Her lover had forgotten to close the blinds again on his way out to work this morning. “So typical of that self-centered asshole.” She thought. Huffing like a child, she threw back the covers and stomped over to the window naked and shut the blind. An opaque, comfortable dimness fell over the room. She reached into her purse and moving aside the small Walther .32 Pistol, found her gold cigarette case and lighter. Both had been a gift from her lover. Just one of many in the past few months. She reached to her neck and fondled the heart-shaped  diamond pendant he had given her two weeks ago when they drove up the coast for a weekend holiday. Lighting the slim french cigarette, she smiled as read the inscription on the cigarette case out loud: “To Anna From Hans, Always”. She really had this one wrapped around her finger she thought to herself. As she got up to go to the bathroom, she paused as she passed the dresser mirror. She admired her dark, raven hair and unusually tall frame, tossing her hair to one side, she looked at her profile and examined the curves of her thighs, the suppleness of her skin. For a brief moment she got lost in a daydream. She went back to her grandmother’s farm near Orleans where she spent her childhood after her parents both died of typhus. It was a place of refuge, a soft, green, lovely place, away from all this war, all this hate. She remembers her Grandmother waking her up in the middle of the night in 1940. She had just turned 18. The Germans had invaded France and would be here soon her Grandmother told her. She was to go to Paris to live with her cousins “until all this passed”.  “No! I want to stay with you granny!” She had cried. Suddenly, she was shook back to reality when she saw her lover’s spare uniform cap on the corner of the dresser. The Silver death’s-head Skull below the nazi eagle stared back at her mockingly. It’s black eyes as dead and lifeless as her lover’s had been the previous night.

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Setaat Safe House

Chandler suddenly awoke to several people’s laughter coming from downstairs. For a moment he was confused. He quickly grabbed his pistol and listened. His room was pitch dark, save the light coming from the hallway underneath his door. Gradually he realized where he was and what he was hearing. Getting up, he slid on his shoes, stuck the gun in his small of his back under his shirt and made his way to the bathroom where he washed his face and got himself presentable. Making his way downstairs, Chandler could tell there was quite a few people in the kitchen talking, almost all of them French. Making his way into the kitchen he saw Squires and Blakeley sitting at a table eating with Toulere. Another man and a woman were over by the stove cooking. “Ah, Captain, you are finally awake! We were wondering if you were dead up there!” Toulere said smiling. “Please have a seat and join us, are you hungry? We are having Ethan’s famous lamb stew.” Toulere asked. “Yes, starved, thank you.” Chandler replied, still a bit groggy. The woman who was over by the stove came over and brought a huge bowl of steaming stew and sat it down in front of Chandler. “Bon Appetit” The woman said smiling. “Captain Chandler, may I introduce Celia Devereaux.” Toulere said as he helped himself to more stew. Chandler stood up to shake the woman’s hand. “A Pleasure Miss Devereaux.” The woman smiled. “I just love American courtesy! You French brutes should take a lesson!” The woman gushed as she shook Chandler’s hand. Chandler was immediately taken with the woman’s beauty. She was rather tall for a French woman, at least five foot seven or eight. She had raven black hair that was drawn back into a tight pony tail and dark hazel eyes. She was wearing a powder blue dress that accentuated her athletic frame and gentle curves.  “And lest I forget, this is our resident chef and explosives expert, Ethan.” Toulere said, still eating. Chandler shook hands and greeted him, his thoughts still on this beautiful woman in front of him. “Now everybody, let’s eat, so afterwards we can drink!” Toulere exclaimed, smiling. “Spoken like a true Frenchman!” Ethan replied laughing. The rest of the room howled with laughter at the remark also. For the next ten minutes, not much was said as the group literally inhaled the pot of stew. Toulere was one of the first to finish. “Ethan, as always, that was delicious my friend. Now, on to my favorite part of the evening; Let us all retire to the study for some whiskeys and brandy!” Toulere exclaimed as got up from the table, letting out a small belch. Everybody finished up their bowls and slowly one by one, made their way into the study. Chandler was taken a back by how large the room was. In one corner sat a polished Steinway grand piano and on every wall was an eight foot tall book-case filled with hundreds of leather-bound volumes. Chandler  found a seat in a leather easy chair as Toulere handed him a whiskey and soda and then poured one for himself. Squires and Blakeley sat on the sofa, both looking full and content as ticks. Toulere soon brought them over their drinks. After a few moments, Ethan and Celia made their way in, Toulere pouring them both a brandy. With the room full, Both of them sat at the piano bench.

“So Captain, I think this would be a great time to hear your plan so we can all coordinate our efforts.” Toulere said taking a drink, “Certainly. The first order of business as you all most likely know is identifying and eliminating this Mole in the Casablanca cell. This person sold out one of our best agents, Lt. Stokes, which resulted, we believe, in the Gestapo executing him.” Chandler paused and took a drink. He noticed Celia watching him intently from across the room. “What can you tell us about this mole Captain? Henry told me you had some type of description?” Celia asked. “Yes. From a source that has been cultivated inside the Vichy Interior Ministry we know the mole is a woman, age 25 to 30, with dark hair and dark eyes. Is around five foot seven in height and goes by the code name of ‘GENIE’. We were also told she studied music in Paris, so that may be something else we can use to find her.”  Chandler replied. “That is certainly some good information Captain. I think with these details we should be able to find your mole. After all, Casablanca is not that big of a city to hide in.” Toulere replied, that infectious smile still on his face. “And what about the second part of your mission? Something about finding a Gestapo Major who had Lt. Stokes executed?” Ethan asked from behind the piano, smoking a cigarette. “Yes. Our source has told us he is most likely still in Morocco, so again, if you could use your contacts on the street to help locate him, that would be a huge help.” Chandler replied. “Of course! We will use any and all resources to help you locate this bastard mole and this German piece of shit!” Toulere exclaimed, draining his second glass of whiskey. “Celia, how about some music to lift our spirits?” Toulere exclaimed, giving her a wink from across the room. “Wee.” Celia replied. Ethan got up from the piano bench and came around the piano to refill his glass, also giving Celia a wink. Celia began playing Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat.

The rich sound of the piano’s chords filled the study. Chandler was amazed at the acoustics of the old house, it was as if each note reverberated into the wood and came back in tune. Blakeley and Squires sat on the couch mesmerized. The potent combination of whiskey and music casting a familiar spell. Chandler even caught himself being pulled under by it all. The sheer beauty of Celia Devereaux combined with the skill in which she played was amazing. Wait. Chandler’s mind suddenly began racing. The mole has skill in music? Could that mean skill in playing the piano? Chandler’s heart began racing in time with his mind. He could feel the blood hot under his skin. Dark Hair, Five foot seven? Chandler sat up in his chair. He could feel the pistol against his back. He was tempted to slide his hand behind him and grip it, but he didn’t. Chandler made the effort to keep his face calm. He could see Toulere looking at him out of the corner of his eye. Act natural. Remember your breathing. His thoughts raced as to his next move. Should he try to warn Blakeley and Squires? He could see both of them were now half-drunk and oblivious to what was going on. The song was nearing it’s end. Chandler could feel sweat popping out of his pores on his back. He casually wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. The music stopped. Suddenly, he was jolted out of his thinking by applause in the room. Celia was standing at the piano, giving a bow and smiling. Wait, where were Toulere and Ethan? They had moved. Chandler glanced to his right and noticed Ethan behind the couch where Blakeley and Squires were sitting, both of them unaware he was behind them. Chandler could feel somebody was behind him also. He casually set down his drink to get up and turn around while at the same time moving his right hand behind him to grip his pistol. That is when he felt the cold steel barrel of a gun to his head.

“Now, Now Captain Chandler, there is no need for that.” Toulere said, reaching down and taking Chandler’s pistol. “Just sit back down and relax.” Toulere came around in front of Chandler, a P-38 Pistol levelled at him. To his right Chandler saw Ethan, armed with a Sten sub-machine gun, disarming Blakeley and Squires as well.”Well I’ll be damned!” Blakeley spoke up. “You piece of shit French turn coats!” “Lieutenant, that will be quite enough.” Chandler replied, his stony gaze levelled at Toulere standing in front of him. “OK Gentleman, that is quite enough with all the gun play, put them down.” Celia spoke as she walked over to the bar and refilled her glass of brandy. Toulere and Ethan both dropped the muzzles of their weapons. Celia came over and sat across from Chandler. She sat her drink on the side table beside her and retrieved a cigarette from her engraved gold cigarette case and lit it with her lighter. “Cigarette Captain?” Celia asked, holding the Cigarette case toward Chandler. “No thanks.” Chandler growled. “So I imagine right about now you are a tad angry and confused.” Celia said, dragging on the cigarette and exhaling the smoke. Chandler said nothing, his face growing redder by the minute. “So what should I call you, Celia or GENIE?” Chandler snapped, his eyes hot with hate. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all let out a loud laugh. “Oh my Captain, you are confused, aren’t you!?” Celia exclaimed, her face animated with concern. “You killed one of our agents you traitor bitch!” Chandler yelled, coming up out of his chair in rage. “Easy there Captain!” Toulere exclaimed, again levelling the pistol at his head. “Please Captain! Let me help clear some things up.” With that, Celia reached up with her hand and gently pushed Toulere’s pistol barrel to the floor. “Put the gun away Henry.” she said in a hoarse whisper, her voice sad and tired. “I want to show you something Captain.”

She reached over and handed Chandler her gold Cigarette case. “Captain, would you please read the inscription on that case aloud?” Chandler snapped the case away from Celia, still giving her a hard look. As Chandler’s eyes began reading the inscription, suddenly his whole countenance changed. “What does it say Captain?” Squires asked from across the room, a look of concern and confusion on his face. Chandler shook his head in disbelief. “It says To Anna from Hans, Always.” “Who the Fuck is Anna and Hans?” Blakeley exclaimed, his face red with anger. “I am Anna, Lieutenant.” Celia said as she stood up and ground out her cigarette in the ashtray on the side table. Chandler was still shaking his head in disbelief as the puzzle pieces fell together in his mind. Chandler looked up at Celia. “And Hans would he Major Hans Gruedell of the German Gestapo here in Casablanca, yes?” Chandler asked. Celia smiled as she took a drink of her brandy. “You would be correct Captain.” “Wait a fucking minute! You mean Gruedell, the same hun we are here to kill?” Blakeley exclaimed. “The very one Lieutenant.” Celia replied, still staring at Chandler. “That still does not explain how Stokes was betrayed.” Chandler asked, returning Celia’s stare. “Well Captain, before I get into that, I think you and me are gonna need another stiff drink, do you mind?” Celia offered Chandler her glass. Chandler got up from his seat and took her glass. He walked over to the bar and refilled his glass with whiskey and Celia’s with brandy, all the time Toulere watching him like a hawk. Handing the drink back to Celia Chandler sat back down. “Ok, so tell me the story Anna or Celia or whoever the fuck you are.” “First things first Captain. Your Lieutenant Stokes is alive. Gruedell did not have him killed after he transmitted that fake message. He figured he might need him for something later. He is being held in a Gestapo jail outside Casablanca.” Celia spoke matter of factly now. Her voice was Flat, with no emotion. “Bullshit.” Chandler raised his hand like he was brushing away a fly. “Our source in the Vichy Interior Ministry confirmed his death.” Chandler spat. Again, Celia, Toulere and Ethan laughed loudly in unison. “Your so-called source in the Vichy Interior Ministry is a German double-agent Captain. She is the one who betrayed Stokes and has been feeding the OSS and SOE command a bullshit supper for months.” Celia lit another cigarette. Chandler wanted to speak, to give some kind of rebuttal, but he couldn’t, he was dumbfounded.

“How do you know all this?” Squires spoke up from across the room. “I am Major Hans Gruedell’s lover, one of the most senior members of the Gestapo and Abwehr in Casablanca and have access to his mind, his conversations and paperwork, that is how I know.” Celia said flatly. “The source in the Interior Ministry was developed by one of Donovan’s top agents in Bern.” Chandler replied, still trying to shoot holes in this crazy story being presented to him. “Yes. a Mr. Dulles, correct?” Ethan spoke up this time, walking from behind the couch with the Sten gun. “Correct.” Chandler replied. “Yeah, Dulles was the target of a Disinformation program by the Abwehr. They exploited a relationship between a French diplomat Dulles was friendly with and the Diplomat’s niece working in the Interior Ministry. It took them six months, but they were successful.” Ethan laid down the Sten and got a cigarette out of his shirt pocket and lit it. “How come you did not notify HQ of this? Why are you just telling us this now!” Chandler asked angrily, his face beginning to get red again. “Think about it Captain. Your entire North African network was compromised. We were not about to transmit this information to HQ only to have it fed back to the Germans and then get hunted down like dogs and killed! No, the only way we were going to do this was face to face, with the team they sent, like we are right now, and even then, we were taking a chance that your team were part of the deception too, sent here to kill us, so you can see why we were being cautious” Celia took a final drag of her cigarette and crushed the butt. Chandler shook his head and looked at the floor. “I’ll be damned.” he said softly to himself. “It’s a classic disinformation program guys.” Chandler said looking at Squires and Blakeley. “The Germans fed us all these details about Celia down to her being a music student to further convince us she was the mole so we would kill her, no questions asked, once she was exposed!” Chandler got up and walked over to the window, still trying to absorb it all. “You started out by telling us that Lt. Stokes is alive. Do you know where he is?” Squires asked. “Not only do we know where he is, we have developed a plan to break him out.” Toulere replied smiling, walking over to the couch and sitting down, slapping Squires on the back. “And as you say in America ‘To put the cherry on top’ of all this, Celia has developed a plan to not only kill Gruedell, but also the traitor vichy bitch at the Interior Ministry. It is a two for one deal, no!” Toulere laughed hysterically at his own joke, slapping his leg.

Blakeley got up and walked over to the window with Chandler. “What do you think of all this Captain?” Chandler stared out the window blankly, as if trying to divine an answer from the darkness. “It a crazy business we are in Blakeley. It’s not black and white like they tell you in training. It’s much more complicated than that.” Chandler replied. Squires walked over and joined them, feeling as if he had to close ranks. Celia, Toulere and Ethan all sat down on the couch together, holding hands. “So, Captain Chandler. there it all is. We are offering to help break your man out of jail and in addition kill a high-ranking Gestapo officer and a German double agent who has been feeding your OSS and SOE high command a steady diet of bullshit for the past few months, what do you say?” Celia asked smiling. Chandler continued looking out the window for a moment. He then turned around and faced them, a look of concentration on his face.”First things first. Give us our fuckin’ guns back. ” Celia smiled at that and nodded for Toulere to give them their guns. “Next. Celia, you Show me you plan from start to finish. Toulere and Ethan, take Blakeley and Squires here and show them all your hardware and explosives.” Chandler walked over and extended his hand to Celia. “Do we have a deal?” Celia stood up and shook his hand with a firm grip. Chandler was again impressed at her self-confidence. “I have one question before we begin Captain.” Celia said. “What’s that?” Chandler replied. “How did your HQ in London know that the message Lt. Stokes sent was dis-information fabricated by the Germans?” Celia eyes were wide waiting for the response. “Oh that was easy, he sent the X-Code before the transmission.” Chandler replied. Celia laughed and looked at Toulere and Ethan in disbelief. “You have no ideal how much that drove the German’s crazy! Gruedell talked about it for days!” Celia exclaimed. Chandler smiled at that and fished a cigarette out of a pack in his front shirt pocket. Celia promptly lit it with her gold pencil lighter. “Well, let’s see if we can’t manage to aggravate these German sons-of-bitches a little bit more, whatta you say?” Chandler asked, looking at the whole group, his eyes gleaming with excitement. Toulere let out a wild French yell and soon the tension and anxiety were replaced by excitement and joy. Lt. Stokes was alive and Major Hans Gruedell and the lying vichy bitch were soon going to die. It was a good day for the OSS and the French Resistance.

To be Continued….

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