|Café René – next day|
‘You see, in me, a very confused man,’ René announced to an invisible audience in his empty café. ‘Maria Cecile has told me that the sausage which contained the fake painting, concealed in a tree to make Herr Flick think it was the original, was the original which had been sewn into pink sheets instead of white because of the Matey switching the labels. So now Herr Flick has two paintings, one fake which he thinks is a fake and one original he thinks is an original. Fortunately we still have one painting only known about by Maria Cecile, Lieutenant Gruber and me. Lieutenant Gruber thinks it is the original. Until yesterday Maria Cecile and I thought it was the original but now we know it is a fake…..’
Robin appeared with Michelle in tow. ‘She appeared through the window while I was cleaning the back room,’ Robin told René. ‘Nearly frightened the bleedin’ life out of me. I wish you’d make her use the back door, like other spies.’
‘I’ve tried. She’s Resistance. It’s the nature of the beast,’ René said.
‘Leopards and spots,’ Michelle agreed. ‘I would like to use doors but it is not possible.’
‘What do you want anyway?’ René asked, less than hospitably. ‘The café will be opening shortly.’
‘Listen very …..’
‘PUT A SOCK IN IT,’ Robin and René yelled in unison.
Michelle looked offended. ‘I hear that the Germans are in possession of the original painting.’
‘How do you know that?’ Robin asked. ‘We haven’t said a word to anyone!’
‘I am Resistance,’ Michelle said with dignity. ‘It is my business to know.’
‘It’s true, but I don’t see what it has got to do with you,’ Robin said.
Michelle gave an impatient gesture. ‘Everything has to do with us. We do not like the Germans having the real painting. It must be stolen from them.’
René looked at Robin. ‘Why do I think I know what’s coming next?’
‘Because you do,’ Robin told him. ‘Leopards and spots.’
‘You go and get it then,’ René said to Michelle. ‘You’re the expert on covert operations.’
‘I am too busy winning the war,’ Michelle said loftily. ‘You got yourselves into this mess and you will have to get out of it. Or I will shoot you.’
Michelle left and the other two looked at each other. ‘It makes me sick the way she uses that gun to throw her weight around,’ Robin said. ‘She’s like a school bully.’
‘Unfortunately the café is dependent on that school bully for survival,’ René pointed out. ‘And your school even more so.’
Madge dropped in to the café for a coffee on her way to Advanced Radio Operation class.
‘Jem’s kicking off big style at having to look after the sprogs,’ she told Robin. ‘Every time he tries to palm ours off on to Joey she mutters the word “relapse” and he has to back off. She’s smart is my little sis.’
‘Is it going to curtail your Resistance activity?’ Robin asked.
‘Is it Hell,’ Madge told her. ‘I’m going on to Advanced Dynamite-Handling next week. It’s like being in the Guides, only more fun. But why so gloomy, Robin? I thought you liked being at the café?’
‘I do,’ Robin said. ‘I couldn’t go back to being a schoolgirl now. But sometimes the responsibility is too much. Miss A depends on me a lot to help her, Madame Edith relies on me to help in the kitchen because Yvette and Maria are always off sha-, er, entertaining the Germans and Matey is a complete liability.’
‘I see what you mean, Robin,’ Madge said sympathetically. ‘Still, if we can shove Matey off to the farm she’ll be less bother and the Sixth Formers will be busier, which will relieve some of Miss Annersley’s woes, as they won’t have time to be so mischievous.’
‘She could do with cutting down on the G&Ts as well, Madge. I’m trying to get René to reduce the supply but he says payment has suddenly become really good.’
This caught Madge’s interest. ‘Suddenly?’
‘Mmm,’ Robin answered, reflectively. ‘He used to be a bit reluctant to take payment. He said it was exhaustion but I think she just wasn’t a very good lay. However now there’s no stopping him.’
‘I wonder at the recent improvement,’ Madge said. ‘You don’t think she’s been sneaking out to the airmen do you?’
Robin shook her head. ‘Don’t see Hilda going at it in the henhouse, do you? Not really her style.’
Madge got up. ‘Well as good as it is to see you for a gossip, Robin, I’ll need to get on. There’s a war to be won.’ She patted Robin’s cheek. ‘You’re doing a great job, poppet. Don’t let it all get you down.’
‘I won’t,’ Robin promised. ‘But you will call in for coffee again, won’t you? It’s nice to have a chat.’
‘Try and stop me,’ Madge said. ‘I can’t talk to my prissy little sister about the things you and I discuss, Rob.’
Madge left and Robin went through to the back room, where René was deep in thought.
‘How can we find out where Herr Flick is keeping the painting?’ he asked. ‘And how would we know which is the original if we got into Gestapo HQ?’
Robin shuddered. ‘Don’t even think about breaking into Gestapo HQ, René. I’ve got the makings of a plan.’
Author's Chapter Notes:
At Cafe Rene, Robin is trying to deal with the fall-out from Matey's revelation.