|Christmas Eve 1940|
Colonel von Strohm arrived at the school early in the morning and asked to see Miss Annersley.
‘I need your help, Miss Annersley,’ he said. ‘I need to borrow Frau Matey.’
‘But she is a prisoner of the Wehrmacht, Colonel,’ Miss Annersley said, playing the innocent.
‘You know that is not the case, Miss Annersley. Headmistresses of posh schools should not tell porkies.’
‘Colonel, is it not the case that Matey was released by the Gestapo into the custody of the Wehrmacht?’
‘That is true,’ the Colonel allowed. ‘But your girls vere involved in her escape.’
‘My girls were in the village carol-singing, Colonel. It is Christmas after all.’
‘I am not going to prosecute them for helping in the escape. I vill even let you have her back tomorrow. But I need her urgently.’
‘Is someone ill, Colonel? We have Dr Russell here who could help.’
‘No, no-one is ill. General von Klinkerhoffen is visiting and I need my prisoner to be in prison!’
Miss Annersley was sympathetic. ‘I would help you if I could. But Matey isn’t here and I have no idea where she was taken when she was rescued from the army truck.’
The Colonel’s shoulders slumped. ‘If the General thinks there is a lot of Resistance activity here and I am not dealing with it, he will replace me and send me to the Russian Front!’
Miss Annersley rose to usher her guest out. ‘If I do find her, I promise I will lend her to you until the General leaves.’
As soon as the Colonel left, Miss Annersley set off for the café. If anyone could sort out this mess, it was Robin.
‘It’s ok, Miss A. I’ve got it all under control,’ Robin assured her headmistress, a little while later. ‘I sent out a search party and they’ve found the Resistance girls but not Matey.’
‘What happened to the Resistance after they took Matey?’
‘It wasn’t them who took her. They were ambushed on the way here and their raincoats, berets and socks were taken!’
‘Where have they been since yesterday?’
‘They were too embarrassed to show face so they’ve been holed up at their HQ, drowning their sorrows! They didn’t know Matey had been taken after all.’
Miss Annersley looked grim. ‘We don’t need to look far for the culprits. Robin, please get a message to the school that I want the Sixth Form down here pronto.’
‘Ok, Miss A. Will do.’
Half an hour later, the Sixth Form arrived and Miss Annersley confronted them, René having lent the back room for the purpose.
‘I assume you are not going to deny responsibility for kidnapping Matey?’
‘No, we aren’t denying it,’ Violet said. ‘And we aren’t giving her back either. Not until our demands are met.’
‘What happened to all the respect for elders, honourable behaviour and consideration for others I have taught you? You girls are naughtier now than you were as Middles!’
‘Don’t start all that honour and duty stuff,’ Cornelia said. ‘It’s everyone for herself now. We’re stuck in occupied territory because you were too stupid to get us off the island when all the signs were that the Germans were going to invade.’
‘Very well. What do you want?’
‘Hot baths in the morning,’ Polly said.
‘No looking after Joey’s squalling babies,’ Violet added. ‘And Resistance lessons like Madame.’
‘No medicine,’ Ruth put in.
Miss Annersley sighed. ‘Ok. You've got it. Now will you please return Matey? Colonel von Strohm needs to borrow her. He’s got his General here.’
‘Why are we co-operating with the Colonel? He’s supposed to be the enemy.’
Hilda rolled her eyes. ‘Have you got no brains, Polly? He’s a pussy cat. If he gets sent to the Russian Front we could get someone who would object to our hiding British airmen and working with the Resistance! Now go and get Matey and take her to the army HQ please.’
‘We want the agreement in writing first,’ Cornelia said.
A little later, clutching the agreement, the Sixth Formers ran up to the attic, to Madame Fanny’s room.
‘Sorry to interrupt the chinwag, Matey, but we’ve got to lend you to Colonel von Strohm.’ The girls explained.
Matey said her farewells to Madame Fanny, promising to return soon to visit and allowed herself to be taken over to Colonel von Strohm’s office.
‘Just in the nick of time!’ he said, relieved. ‘General von Klinkerhoffen is on his way.’
One of the guards led Matey away to the cells and the girls were just about to leave, when Helga came in.
‘GENERAL VON KLINKERHOFFEN,’ she bawled.
The General strode in and looked in astonishment at the room being filled with schoolgirls.
‘Vhat are these children doing here?’ he asked the Colonel.
Colonel von Strohm floundered for an answer.
‘We came to inform the Colonel of an attempted escape,’ Violet said, stepping forward. ‘But he had already foiled the plot himself.’
‘Really?’ The General looked sceptical. ‘You obviously have hidden depths, Colonel.’ He turned back to the girls. ‘Ok, kids. Scram before I lock you up.’
‘That’s terrible slang,’ Cornelia muttered to Violet as they left. ‘He obviously didn’t go to a decent school.’
They went back to Café René, where Robin and Miss Annersley were waiting for a report.
‘Yeah, we got the old bag over there before the General arrived,’ Cornelia confirmed. ‘What I want to know is, how long have we got in peace before the Colonel gets fed up and sends her back?’
‘What I want to know is, where has she put the bloody painting?’ Miss Annersley said.
Author's Chapter Notes:
It's time for Matey to be transferred to a new prison and for the Resistance to rescue her. But as with everything in CS-land and the world of Cafe Rene, it's not straightforward.