THE SPY WHO LAUGHS
First episode, taken from The Rover issue: 1065 September 4th 1943.
A new kind of war story. Laughs and shocks from a British Spy.
Different from all other spies.
THE JAPER AT WORK.
big German lorry, strongly guarded by Nazi soldiers who brandished Tommy-guns,
moved swiftly down one of the main streets of
Nazi Major went reeling. Then dropped a hand to his hip for his revolver. The
colour had flamed to his face. He nearly choked with indignation. The Italians
and Germans were allies, but all Germans despised Italians. In a rising flood
of passion, the German drew his revolver and shot the first Italian officer he
saw. Unfortunately it was not the one who had struck him. That hero had darted
into the crowd and disappeared. The report of the revolver, the yell of the
Italian, was followed by a roar from the crowd. They surged forward, expecting
excitement, and they got it. In a moment every Italian in the street was flying
at the throats of the Germans. Junior “Wolves,” in their stocking caps and
foot-long tassels, Carabinieri with their patent-leather tri-corn hats, along
with ordinary soldiers, all rushed to avenge the murder of their countryman. No
such riot had been seen in the centre of
broad Scots voice demanded: “But who are ye anyway?” The man with the plumes in
his hat grinned again. “It doesn’t much matter who I am, except that I’m a
British agent. Here in
THE TUNE THAT CAUSED A RIOT.
Oberkommandant Hertz had cooled down somewhat by nine that evening, when he stepped into Maxim’s restaurant and was greeted with the clicking of heels and salutes on all sides. The orchestra played the Nazi anthem in his honour, and everyone stood to attention. A lean, spare waiter, with black moustache and blue eyes, bent over the Oberkommandant and asked his requirements. In a harsh voice the Nazi governor ordered a heavy dinner and a good deal of wine. This was duly brought, and he settled down to enjoy himself. Envious eyes were on him from all over the room, but he looked at no one, scowling at his plate as he shoveled the food into his mouth. He was thinking of this epidemic of escapes of British prisoners, and wondering what he could do about it. There were a lot of Italian officers in the room, and the sound of their voices made him angrier still. “Dirty little rats! I wish they had never been our ally,” he thought. “They’re more trouble than they’re worth. They’re nothing but dressed-up dummies.” The same waiter hovered around him anxiously, obeying his slightest whim, fitting his glass, asking if there was anything he wished the orchestra to play. “I don’t care a hoot what they play!” snarled the Oberkommandant, who could scarcely tell one tune from another. It was after one of these consultations that the waiter walked over to the orchestra leader and said: “The Oberkommandant orders you to play Koroido at once!” The orchestra leader pale. It was a Greek tune, now forbidden, for it was a deadly insult to the Italians. The Greeks had been forbidden under pain of death to even hum it. “But-but he can’s be serious!” gasped the musician. “He—it is against the law.” The Oberkommandant is never other than serious,” said the waiter, with a glance at the table where the stout Nazi was still stuffing. “He makes the laws. You must obey, or take the consequences.” White faced, but with a shrug of his shoulders, the band leader whispered to his men, and a few moments later the forbidden tune rang through the room. Every Italian recognised it, and went red. A Fascist Colonel leapt to his feet, drew his revolver, and made for the band. “Are you mad? Stop that tune at once!” he ordered. With sweat running down his face, the band leader pointed with his baton at the unconcerned Oberkommandant. “Signor Colonel, it was his orders! I dare not stop until he tells me to. It is to him you must appeal.” The Italian went white with rage, turned to his brother officers and snarled: “You hear that? The Nazis make fun of us. The Oberkommandant himself ordered the Greeks to play it. Are we going to take this insult.” “No!” roared the Italians.
They picked up their bottles and their glasses, and hurled them at the Oberkommandant’s table. Missiles of all descriptions suddenly rained down upon the unsuspecting Hertz, who staggered to his feet with a bleeding forehead and a cut head. Horrified German officers rushed to the aid of their local leader, and within three minutes a free fight was in progress. Chairs were used as weapons. Table knives, and finally revolvers. Some of the lights went out. The Oberkommandant was squeezed into a corner against a door, and seemed likely to be mobbed by Italians when the door opened behind him. Herr Excellenz, this way!” hissed someone. It was the waiter who had been so attentive to him all the evening. “Come along this passage, and I will get you to your car.” The Oberkommandant gladly slipped through the doorway and along the darkened passage, the hands of the waiter guiding him gently. The noise of the battle died away in the distance, and finally the Nazi officer reached the street, where patrols were running to see what the uproar was about. Without as much as a word of thanks to the man who had smuggled him out, the Oberkommandant hurried towards a patrol-car, shouting orders. The waiter drew back into the doorway, ripped off his waiter’s collar and black tail-coat, stood revealed in torn jersey and shabby trousers, ruffled his hair, drew a dirty hand over his face, and completely changed his appearance. “Sounds as though they’re enjoying themselves inside!” he murmured, in English. “Let’s hope it means a few of the blighters are put out of action for good.” It was The Japer, and in his pocket he had a wad of papers which he had abstracted from the Oberkommandant’s pocket when hustling him along the passage. He wanted to get somewhere quiet to read these, and dived down the street to the left, keeping to the shadows. More and more patrol-cars were racing towards Maxims. Before it was over, the clash between the Germans and the Italians would develop into a pitched battle. The Japer considered this so much the better. Not many minutes later he slipped into a grimy little Greek restaurant which smelled strongly of cheese, and where after a nod to the greasy man behind the counter he retired to the furthermost table and proceeded to absorb the coffee which was brought him. Here was his opportunity to examine the papers he had captured. He ran them through rapidly. They were of all kinds, and highly important, but what interested him the most was an order for the execution of a Greek patriot named Neolea and an alleged British spy named Captain Sommers.
The document was worded:
“By the powers vested in me during the occupation of Greece, I hearby order that Kinos Neolea, and Captain Sommers, now prisoners in the Mataxas Prison, be executed at dawn tomorrow, the 12th inst.
It had evidently been the Oberkommandant’s intention to send this to the Governor of the prison during the night. The Nazis liked dooming men with dramatic suddenness, and the prisoners never knew they were going to be taken out and shot. The Japer rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He supped his coffee and did some hard thinking, finally paying his small bill and shuffling down the street peering into the gutters, apparently one of the thousands of starving citizens who seek the scraps thrown away by their German conquerors. But when he was opposite a certain shop door, he made a quick step into the porch, knocked in a certain way, and was admitted. The shop was that of an engraver, and looked as though there had been no business for months. The owner was a wizened old man with long beard, Greek hat, and horn-rimmed glasses. “Nicolas, I’ve a job for you—urgent!” whispered The Japer. “By altering one word for me on a document, and putting another, you may be able to save the lives of two men from the Nazis.” Nicolas led the way into his workshop, a discreetly lighted room at the back. Through his glasses he closely examined the order for execution, and looked enquiringly at his visitor. “Erase that word ‘executed’ and substitute the word ‘released’ in the same handwriting,” said the British agent. “For one as skilled as you in lettering it should be easy.” The ancient Greek bowed his head. “In an hour it will be done,” he promised. “Good! Then I’ll borrow your couch and have an hour’s sleep. I can’t remember when I last had one,” said The Japer.
THE LATEST RECRUITS.
It was the dark hour before dawn
when a motor-cyclist in Nazi dispatch rider’s uniform arrived at the main gates
of the Mataxas Prison and tooted his horn to be let in. After due scrutiny he
was admitted. A special dispatch from the Oberkommandant for the Governor,” he
said, and held out a sealed envelope. “It is urgent. If necessary the Governor
is to be roused.” There was no need for that, as the prison Governor was
working in his office on a list of suspects who were to be arrested and
incarcerated the next day. He looked up irritably when the dispatch was brought
to him, but his irritation became rage when he read the contents. “Here I am
trying to bring in all those likely to be of danger to the Axis, and the
Oberkommandant behind my back orders the release of two men who ought to be
shot!” he grumbled. “He must be crazy!...I’ll see a report of this goes through
to the right quarters.” His second-in-command looked dubious. “I expect, Herr
Gutten, that the Oberkommandant has a reason for this. I suspect he orders
their release because he knows he can pick them up as soon as he wants them. He
will have them trailed from the moment they leave here. Maybe he expects them
to lead his agents to someone else.” The Governor tugged at his moustache. “Ja,
you are probably right! He is no fool…Put the order through for their release.”
So it was that just after dawn a dazed British officer, in ragged civilian
clothing, and a stalwart Greek patriot, were turned loose outside the prison
gates. Even though they were free they could not believe it to be true. “There’s
a trick in it,” growled Sommers. “They’re either going to shoot us at some
corner, and pretend we were escaping, or we’re going to be followed.” “We’ll
soon find out,” replied Neolea, and led the way down a side street. He knew
every inch of
Stumbling in the darkness, the rescued pair finally found themselves in a large warm cellar where nine or ten men wrapped in blankets lay sleeping on the floor, and some Greek peasants were huddled near the fire. Everyone started up at the arrival of the newcomers, and to the astonishment of Neolea and Captain Sommers, the sleepers proved to be British soldiers in ragged uniforms. “Yes, we’re all friends together,” said The Japer. “You might remember me, Sommers, but don’t mention my name. The fewer who know it, the better. I’m glad I was able to save you from the firing-squad.” “Firing-squad!” echoed the other, who evidently did not yet place him. “Why do you say that?” “Because precisely about now you and Neolea would have been put against a wall and shot.” He told of the altered document, and of his pose as a Nazi dispatch-rider. “It worked smoothly. The Oberkommandant’s signature worked miracles. I’d like to hear what he says when he hears about this.” Everyone crowded round the newly arrived pair to hear their experiences. Neolea was one of the patriots who had helped the British when they landed. He had been grossly ill-treated by the Nazis, and was longing for revenge. “You’ll have it.” The Japer told him, swinging his legs from the table on which he sat. “We’re forming an underground army, composed of mostly British and Dominion troops, but with a few trusted Greeks. It is growing rapidly, and you are the latest recruits. Before long you will see some of the others. I don’t propose to keep you here very long. It’s just a clearing station.” “You mean to say you rescue many?” demanded Sommers, wonderingly. “Several hundred so far,” was the modest reply. “It’s not often I have the chance to rope in two lots in the same twenty-four hours. Tomorrow I hope to get you to our headquarters in the country.” “Surely that will be almost impossible!” objected Lieutenant Barry. “There are nearly a dozen of us.” “We’ll manage, thanks to the fact that the Eyeties have some kind of fete day planned.
They’re going to have a procession
such as they have in their own country, and have forced some of the Greek
farmers on the edge of the city to send waggons to be decorated and used to
carry some Italian tableau. I’ve an idea one of those waggons has already gone
astray…Is there anyone here who can drive a team of horses?” “Aye, I was a
© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd
Vic Whittle 2007