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Robin finally corners Matey on the whereabouts of the painting. But she doesn't like what she hears....

New Year’s Eve, 1940

Sometimes Robin wondered how she had been satisfied with the peaceful life of a schoolgirl – and she knew she could never go back to that life, whatever the duration of the war. Living in occupied territory, helping to disguise the school being British, co-operating with the Resistance and dealing with forged paintings beat the Hell out of being a dutiful and obedient CS girl.

Joey was still reigning supreme in the San., but had recovered sufficiently for Madge to take her back to her own apartment for a short while to visit the trips. Madge gave Robin a wink over her shoulder as she dragged Joey out of the San. with Matey clucking protectively and issuing instructions the whole while.

Robin suggested a cup of tea, hoping Madge would be able to keep Joey for a while, or that the latter would have an uncharacteristic maternal streak and want to stay with her babies as long as she was allowed to.

When they were comfortably settled in armchairs in front of the big windows overlooking the tranquil garden, Robin gently brought Matey back round to the subject of the painting.

‘I didn’t want Herr Flick to find it in my cupboard,’ Matey said. ‘So I put it in a sausage.’

‘And where’s the sausage, Matey?’

‘Well in the pantry of course. Where else would a sausage be?’ Matey asked indignantly.

Robin jumped up and started to dress rapidly.

‘Robin, you’re still not well, you can’t go anywhere!’

‘I’m feeling a lot better and this is urgent, Matey. I need to find that sausage and get it to Herr Flick. Then he’ll stop crawling all over the island and making things difficult for everyone.’

Robin tore out of the San. and down the stairs to the kitchen. Miss Wilson passed her on the stairs.

‘Robin, no running please!’ she said sharply.

‘Go and boil your head,’ her erstwhile model pupil retorted, not halting in her stride.

There was no sausage in the pantry. Robin went cold. She ran out of the kitchen and stopped the first girl she found, who happened to be Mary Shaw.

‘Mary! Have you had sausage for supper recently?’ Robin asked, grasping her by the arm.

‘Just yesterday,’ Mary said, her mouth dropping open as Robin brushed past her and raced up the stairs.

Matey looked up in surprise as Robin burst into the San. Fortunately Joey had not yet returned. ‘There’s no sausage in the pantry,’ Robin gasped.

‘No, silly child. I meant the pantry at the café,’ Matey said. ‘Madame Edith was here for Café et Gateaux and I asked her to put it in there for me.’

‘Does she know what it contains? What if they eat it?’

‘Of course she doesn’t know what’s in it. But she knows it’s a fake sausage. I told her it contained some of my recipes in English and I didn’t want them falling into the hands of the Germans.’

Robin sighed. ‘But Matey you could have got Madame Edith and René into big trouble if that had even been true. I’m surprised Madame Edith was willing to do it.’

‘She’s a lot braver than you think,’ Matey said. ‘And as she said, why would anyone look twice at a sausage in the pantry of a café?’

The café was busy and it was a while before Robin could get René on his own so she could explain the latest development.

‘So go and get the sausage and we can think of a way of getting it to Herr Flick,’ René said. ‘He needs to believe he has discovered it or he will think it another fake. But I would rather he didn’t discover it in my café.’

‘There is a problem, René. You see I put the real painting in there in a sausage as well. I won’t be able to tell which is which without taking one apart and checking the colour of the sheet the painting is sewn into. Then it will have to be re-sewn. It will take time.’

René thought for a moment. ‘If we could get both sausages out of the pantry and up to your room, you could check them and put the one with the original back.’

Robin shook her head. ‘Too dangerous. Madame Edith could discover they are missing before morning. I need to work on them in the pantry but it means getting Madame Edith out of the way for at least two hours.’

‘She needs a distraction,’ René said, scratching his head. ‘But what?’

Robin grinned.

‘Oh no, Maria Cecile,’ René said emphatically. ‘I have had to do a lot of things for my country but that is going too far.’

‘It’s New Year’s Eve,’ Robin said. ‘What about keeping her busy with a party for the staff and some guests at midnight?’

René decided that this suggestion was more palatable and went off to organise an impromptu get-together for the staff and some of the regulars, including the Colonel, Captain Geering, Lieutenant Gruber and Helga. ‘Better they’re here where we can keep an eye on them,’ René suggested and Robin agreed.

Madame Edith was delighted at the idea of a party and, just before midnight, Robin went into the pantry with a torch, kitchen scissors and her sewing kit.

Everything was going according to plan until Madame Edith, with several glasses of white wine inside her, wondered aloud where little Marie Cecile was.

‘I sent her up to bed,’ René said. ‘She is too young for this revelry.’

‘Oh, René, you spoilsport!’ Madame Edith pouted. ‘I think we should go and get her. Follow me everyone!’

Unable to stop events, René watched helplessly as Madame Edith formed a conga line and started towards the stairs. The line twisted and turned along the corridor and up the stairs. As soon as it was out of sight, he ran downstairs past the kitchen and threw open the pantry door.

Robin nearly jumped out of her skin but relaxed when she saw it was only René.

‘We’ve got to get you out of here!’ he told her. ‘Madame Edith has started a conga line and is going to get you out of bed. There’s no time to explain.’

Swiftly they re-hung the half-completed sausage and left the pantry, just as the conga line, having found Robin’s door locked, was coming down the basement stairs.

‘René, what have you been doing with that child in the pantry?’ Madame Edith asked.



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