An episode, taken from The Wizard issue: 1876 January 27th 1962
The little black bag that’s worth two million pounds!
of the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police, halted
abruptly for the excellent reason that a German S.S. trooper was pointing a
rifle at his stomach. A second German covered January’s colleague, Captain
Tissigny, of the Free French Military Police. It was a misty afternoon during
the last war, and the incident occurred on a bridge over the railway near the
French town of
Both Captain January and Tissigny wore grimy berets and boiler suits. Both had red, diamond-shaped patches on their backs. The two men had not shaved for a couple of days and looked thoroughly scruffy. The two burly, scowling Germans thought that January and Tissigny were fugitives from a French slave labour force. Thousands of Frenchmen had been conscripted by the Germans to work for them. Now that the Allies were driving the German armies back towards the River Rhine, and there was confusion in the territories that the Germans had held for so long, many Frenchmen—as well as Belgians and Dutch—were slipping away from the labour camps and trying to find their way home. The S.S. troopers thought that in Captain January and Tissigny they had nabbed a couple of these deserters. The Germans had the idea that they were dealing with half-starved fugitives who were dead scared of a German uniform. The S.S. was a private army of the Nazis. They were the personal troops of Hitler, the German leader. The Germans would probably have been safer if they had disturbed a couple of spitting cobras instead of January and Tissigny. The railway bridge was in a dreary area of the town. The gasworks were on one side, but no gas was being made because of the shortage of coal, and the gasholders had sunk to their lowest level. On the other side of the bridge were the semi-derelict buildings of an old iron foundry. The German trooper who levelled his rifle at Captain January glared at him ferociously and spoke in limping French—in fact, it limped so badly it was hard to understand. “Where have you come from?” the trooper demanded. Captain January created a surprise for the troopers, and he did it by speaking to Tissigny in German. There was nothing limping in the way January spoke. His tones were as Germanic as sauerkraut—the favourite German dish of pickled cabbage. His plan in speaking German was a simple one. He hoped to bluff the two S.S. troopers into believing that he and Tissigny were German secret agents in disguise. It was a plan that could easily work, for there were many such agents knocking about in the battle areas. “Ach! They are a pair of conscientious fellow, Oberscharfuhrer!” exclaimed Captain January. “They keep their eyes open!” Tissigny’s wits worked with the speed of forked lightning, and if he was surprised at being addressed as Oberscharfuhrer, which meant a superior class of leader, he did not show it. “Yes, yes,” he replied in German. “We shall not have to report them for inattention to duty.” Captain January gave the storm trooper who had him covered an admiring look. “You need not apologise for pointing your rifle at me,” January declared. “In fact, it is a tribute to our disguise.” The trooper instantly swung his rifle back to the port and clicked his heels, an action copied by the man who had held up Tissigny.
January’s bluff had worked. The troopers had taken him and Tissigny for fairly
high-ranking German officers in disguise. Once the troopers had put up their
rifles, it took Captain January only a split second to lock a judo grip on the
big German’s wrist and send him crashing against the parapet of the bridge. The
German uttered a gasp of pain and dropped his rifle. The other German writhed
in the grip that Tissigny had put on him. Captain January let go. He picked the
rifle up and slung it over the bridge on to the railway embankment. The second
rifle followed when Tissigny had disarmed the other German. “Start walking,”
snapped Captain January to the two dazed troopers. “I’m carrying a pistol, and
I’ll use it if you try any tricks.” Captain January and Tissigny hurried the
troopers off the bridge and steered them through a gap in the crumbling wall of
the iron foundry. They had just got inside when a lorry crammed with German
soldiers passed along the road. The foundry looked as if it had been bombed.
This was not so. The Allies had done very little bombing in the area. They
avoided attacks on French towns and cities as much as possible. “Why had you
been posted on the bridge?” Captain January asked. One of the German troopers
gave him a surly look. “We were told to watch the bridge, that is all I know,”
he answered. Tissigny jabbed his prisoner in the back with his automatic
pistol. “Is a special train expected?” he asked. The German shrugged. “It is
possible,” he replied. “Reichmarshal Sturm’s special train?” pursued Tissigny.
“We were not told any details,” replied the German. “But the Reichmarshal’s
train is in the region?” Tissigny exclaimed. “Yes,” grunted the German. Captain
January looked for somewhere to leave the Germans. He had belonged to the
Special Investigation Branch of the Military Police from the day it was formed.
The Special Investigation Branch was to the Military Police what the Criminal
Investigation Department was to the civil police. Captain January was a
detective in khaki. His special task, now that the war was nearing its end, was
to make sure that top-ranking Nazis who had looted art treasures and valuables
in the occupied countries did not get away with that loot. There was reason to
believe that Marshal Sturm had in his possession one of
KLEPE THE CREEP
During the day
there had been no activity in the railway yards at
Captain January and Tissigny picked
a way through the maze of sidings. The clanking of a shunting engine drowned
the rumble of a van that was on the move. In the nick of time Captain January
saw the van’s dark shape loom up and pulled the Frenchman clear. “Thanks,”
gasped Tissigny, for he had had a very narrow squeak. He had been on the track
right in the van’s path. “Don’t mention it,” replied Captain January. January’s
shin suffered as he tripped over a ground signal that was not lighted. Moving
about a railway yard in the dark had its perils. The two men kept moving
cautiously until they were near the motive power depot. Then they stood in the
deep shadow of a great stack of briquettes. French locomotives burned
briquettes. German engines were fuelled by ordinary coal. A shaded lamp cast a
downward glow on two big German locomotives, each with huge smoke deflectors,
that were coupled together. The engine crews were preparing them for the road.
The leading engine was a
A few minutes afterwards, Captain January and Tissigny were in an empty coal waggon, a big steel vehicle that stood on a siding adjacent to the main line. The two men had judged as nearly as they could the position where the engines would be changed.
There was rain in the air. “The
train’s coming,” announced Captain January when he detected a rumble to the
west. A long, heavy train came slowly round the curve. It was pulled by two
French locomotives that showed dimly against the sky. The locomotives passed the
coal waggon, and ran on for the length of two vehicles before wheezing to a
stop. Both the leading vehicles of the train were baggage cars. Coaches, with
windows blacked out by shutters, stretched back a long way. A light glimmered
behind the tender of the second engine. Obviously it was cast by the lamp of
the shunter who was about to do the uncoupling. “Shall we go?” demanded
Tissigny. “Wait,” snapped Captain January as he looked out of their waggon.
“There’s a posse coming along.” Tissigny took a look. A shaded torch bobbed
about. Three men were walking along the side of the train. A door at the front
end of the third vehicle opened, and a faint shaft of light shone out. An
officer of the S.S. peered down from the carriage door. “Is that you, Klepe?”
he exclaimed. “Yes, Kommandant,” replied Klepe. “Have you had a trouble-free
journey?” “All has gone well so far,” was the gruff answer. “And you?” “We are
exercising the utmost vigilance,” Klepe answered. “Two of my troopers, careless
buffoons who will be punished, were discovered in a cellar nearby. “They had
come off worst in an encounter with two dangerous fellow, probably men of the
Marquis, who have so far dodged us.” Captain January looked at Tissigny and
smiled. At least, they wouldn’t have to worry any more about the two Germans
they had shut up. “Himmel! That’s bad!” snapped the train commandant to Klepe.
“I will warn my men. I have a sentry posted at every door.” He added a hasty
“Auf wiedersehen” – farewell – stepped right back into the train, and slammed
the door. Klepe and his two troopers came on in a single file. “We will watch
the engines being changed and make sure everything is in order,” rasped Klepe.
For an instant Captain January thought this decision would cramp his and
Tissigny’s style. Then an idea flashed into January’s head and he passed it on
to Tissigny in a whisper. They drew the two bolts that held the big, ponderous
downward-opening door of the waggon in position. Then they crouched behind it.
Klepe and the troopers were just below, walking past the waggon, as Captain
January hissed “Now!” He and Tissigny gave the steel door a push. It swung
outwards on its hinges and descended on the heads of the Germans. They dropped
as if they had been coshed. The released locomotives started to puff away.
Captain January and Tissigny crept forward for twenty yards or so before
getting right down and crawling under the front carriage just behind the
leading bogie. The shunter waved his lamp as a signal. At least two other
railwaymen, one a sergeant of the railway battalion, stood with him. Captain
January and Tissigny heard the German locomotives backing down on the train.
The shunter flicked his lamp to red as, with a thud, the buck-eye couplers of
the rear engine’s tender and the leading coach engaged. The shunter turned the
lamp to white, and passed it to the sergeant while he ducked under the buffers
to connect the brake and steam pipes. This was soon done, and he stepped clear.
The sergeant directed the lamp on the coupling and pipe connections to make
sure that everything was in order. Then he stepped away and gave the guard the
green light for the train to move off. Captain January started to wriggle
forward under the bogie. “This is where we get on or get left,” he muttered.
The railwaymen, their done, began to move away. Captain January and Tissigny
rose between the tender of the second engine and the end of the baggage car.
The locomotive nearest the train, the
A SHOCK FOR STURM
Reichmarshal Sturm sat at the table in his private bulletproof car. He turned the scales at eighteen stones, but was tall in proportion. He had several double chins, and yet he was a hard man. His eyes were bright and beady. He wore an ornate tunic with the badge of the German eagle in gold. A map was spread out on the table. He was reading a report.
His Adjutant, Colonel Triber, a tall Prussian, and another aide, Major Count Desendorf, who wore an eyeglass, were with him. “When am I going to get my dinner?” demanded Sturm. Triber looked at his wrist watch. “It was ordered for , Excellency,” he replied. “It is a quarter to seven now.” The door at the leading end of the car flew open and a German fell in backwards. He appeared to be dead. Sturm and his companions stared as if mesmerized as two grimy men wearing filthy boiler suits and berets sprang in and shut the door. Count Desendorf came out of his trance very swiftly and made a stab for a bell-push. Captain January fired and, despite the swaying of the train, his aim was accurate. The Count lost his fingertip and screamed with pain. Tissigny slithered to the table. He rammed his gun into Sturm’s stomach. “Where is the Collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece?” Tissigny demanded. Sturm stared at him and spluttered. “We know you have it,” Tissigny added. “Oh, put a bullet into his fat stomach,” snapped Captain January. “We’ll find it—” Sturm’s complexion went blotchy. “No, no!” he burbled. “I have the Collar. I—I was arranging for its safe custody.” “There’s no need to lie, you fat robber,” rasped Captain January. “Where is it?” Colonel Triber made a sudden leap for the other door. Captain January’s gun fired and the German staggered and fell. “Um, he showed more courage than sense,” snapped Captain January. Sturm, his face glistening with perspiration, put a key on the table. He pointed to a heavy leather brief-case placed on a settee at the side of the car. Captain January reached for the brief-case and inspected the lock before inserting the key. “We’ll make sure he isn’t bluffing,” he said. He opened the brief-case and slid out a box that looked like an antique. It was made of leather and tooled in gold. Upon it was the cipher of the French King to whom the Collar had once belonged. Captain January opened the box. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, opals, and pearls shimmered in the light. An exquisite enameled plaque with the emblem of the Golden Fleece, bordered by jewels, hung from the collar on golden chains. “Whew, you can well believe it’s worth two million pounds,” breathed Captain January. Tissigny made a quick bee-line for the door and stood at the side. It opened, and a stately servant stepped in. “Dinner is served,” he began. Tissigny put a hand round the scruff of the servant’s neck, heaved him into the saloon, shut the door, and locked it. Captain January shut the jewel case. “We’ve got what we came for,” he said to Tissigny. “It’s about time we got going!” He reached for the communication cord and pulled it down. There was a rasp from the wheels as the brakes made a semi-application. The train started to slow down. Sturm glared at them furiously. “What has happened to my guards?” he spluttered. “Some we shot, some we coshed, and one went through a window,” replied Captain January. “Cheerio, Marshal! Your name is on the list of war criminals, so I suppose you’ll be hanged in due course.” The train came to a stop, and, while there was confusion and alarm among the officers and guards in the back half of the train at the unexpected halt, Captain January and Tissigny jumped down and vanished in the darkness.
CAPTAIN JANUARY – 31 Episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1872 – 1902 (1962)
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2006