by Kevin Schmitt
The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
The guard observed the approach of the hand pulled cart with his usual lackluster expression. But as its owner-operator passed through the large barbed wire gate, the middle aged sentry’s eyes widened almost as much as they did the day he was forced back into the Wehrmacht. Behind the shabbily dressed peddler was a collection of old musical instruments, including an honest to God sousaphone.
John “Busty” Brown, scrounger extraordinaire had been given permission to meet with the salesman in front of the delousing station. Many eyes were upon them, but since no one had any pest control issues at the moment, the two men were pretty much alone. Brown briefly examined the rolling stock and then shook his head in disapproval.
“Everyone of these instruments has at least one sticky valve.”
“I’ve made arrangements with a fix it shop to deal with those problems one instrument at a time,” said the peddler.
“Screw that, Wendal. You get your property fixed, then sell it to me.”
“I don’t have money to spend on repairs, but you do,” countered the peddler.
“I won’t after I’ve bought this junk,” declared Brown. “I’ll be tapped out for six months at least.”
“Oh, God you are such a lying sack of excrement. You deserve to be in jail the way you operate,” Wendal said loud enough for the guards and fellow P.O.W.s to hear.
That line caused some sporadic chuckling.
“Need I remind you that I am not a criminal,” the Englishman declared with a lofty expression. “I am a non-commissioned officer who was honorably captured while serving King and Country.”
“Please, Goebells gives us enough of that sort of crap on the radio. But I’ll take the sousaphone back and get that repaired with my own money.”
Brown picked up a cornet and pretended to point out a defect to the peddler.
“John Amery is a traitor. I have my suspicions about William Joyce as well.”
“You’d better have proof,” the man in the baggy suit muttered under his breath. “Those two won’t be easy to convict, and you will not be remembered with great fondness by your associates.”
“Scroungers are never popular. We’re envied too much.”
“And seldom seen in a patriotic light,” muttered Wendal.
“One last thing: I want you to keep an eye on Margery Booth.”
“The Abwehr has no doubt taken an interest in the fact that you meet with her. I don’t think—“
“Do it,” snapped Brown, “or your people can write me off as an operative.”
“You’re a bleeding heart,” muttered the salesman.
“And you threw yours away,” Brown countered.
The salesman was not insulted. He understood John Henry Brown very well and appreciated the fact that they were cut from two different bolts of cloth. Brown had started out as a Quartermaster Sergeant in the British Army. Mi5 recruited him for special service because he had been a member of the British Union of Fascists. It was arranged that he be captured at Dunkirk, and from there on he would have to improvise a way to become a traitor to his country.
This fit very nicely into a program that the Germans had devised to recruit collaborators from the British P.O.W. ranks. A sort of luxury camp was constructed near Berlin and designated Stalag 111d. There, Brown had made friends with the commandant, and a high ranking British traitor who secured him a position as a broadcaster on the German Concordia radio service. He then began to pass on coded information to a willowy opera singer named Margery Booth. He pretended to be infatuated with the lady; wanting to further her career even though she was a virtuous woman who remained loyal to her husband.
Unfortunately, Adolf Hitler was a real admirer, and that made Booth a person of interest to Heinrich Himmler. The singer didn’t notice for quite some time, but Brown could spot a Gestapo agent in a full scale air raid and he feared for his lovely contact, even though she was tougher than she looked.
Wendal saw things the same way. The only difference was that spying was his life’s calling, and as a true professional, he was able to view everyone as expendable, including himself. In the world of cloak and dagger, there were no mud filled trenches or gangrene infected wounds like in the first war. A few operatives even enjoyed champagne and chauffer driven limousines. But if you slip up, or Lady Luck steps out of the room----they shoot you. With or without the added discomfort of cigarette burns----they shoot you.
Kevin Schmitt lives in Minnesota and has been a factory worker for thirty-five years. His hobbies are camping, cross country hiking, kayaking, and playing the Boehm type flute (Irish folk music and marches.) When the weather is too God awful for anything else, he writes and practices a bit of Karate kata. He is not a cool person, and he is aging rather quickly.