Eye Of The Needle

Chapter 15

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"We did," Kincaid said.

"Perhaps the harbour-master could look around all the regular moorings," Bloggs suggested.

"I'm with you," Kincaid said. He was already dialling. After a moment he spoke into the phone.

"Captain Douglas? Kincaid. Aye, I know civilised people sleep at this hour. You haven't heard the worst: I want you to take a walk in the rain. Aye, you heard me right..." Kincaid put his hand over the mouthpiece. "You know what they say about seamen's language? It's true." He spoke into the phone again. "Go round all the regular moorings and make a note of any vessels not in their usual spot. Ignoring those you know to be legitimately out of port, give me the names and addresses and phone numbers, if you have them, of the owners. Aye. Aye, I know... I'll make it a double. All right, a bottle. And a good morning to you too, old friend." He hung up.

Bloggs smiled. "Salty?"

"If I did what he suggested I do with my truncheon, I'd never be able to sit down again." Kincaid became serious. "It'll take him about half an hour, then we'll need a couple of hours to check all the addresses. It's worth doing, although I still think he hitched a ride."

"So do I," Bloggs said.

The door opened and a middle-aged man in civilian clothes walked in. Kincaid and his officers stood up, and Bloggs followed.

Kincaid said, "Good morning, sir. This is Mr Bloggs. Mr Bloggs, Richard Porter."

They shook hands. Porter had a red face and a carefully cultivated moustache. He wore a double-breasted, camelcoloured overcoat. "How do you do. I'm the blighter that gave your chappie a lift to Aberdeen. Most embarrassing." He had no local accent.

Bloggs said, "How do you do." On first acquaintance Porter seemed to be exactly the kind of silly ass who would give a spy a lift half across the country. However, Bloggs realised the air of empty-headed heartiness might also mask a shrewd mind. He tried to be tolerant-he, too, had made embarrassing mistakes in the last few hours.

"I heard about the abandoned Morris. I picked him up at that very spot."

"You've seen the picture?"

"Yes. Of course, I didn't get a good look at the chappie, because it was dark for most of the journey. But I saw enough of him, in the light of the flashlight when we were under the hood, and afterward when we entered Aberdeen. It was dawn by then. If I'd only seen the picture. I'd say it could have been him. Given the spot at which I picked him up, so near to where the Morris was found, I say it was him."

"I agree," Bloggs said. He thought for a moment, wondering what useful information he could get out of this man. "How did Faber impress you?"

Porter said promptly: "He struck me as exhausted, nervous, and determined, in that order. Also, he was no Scotsman."

"How would you describe his accent?"

"Neutral. The accent minor public school, Home Counties. Jarred with his clothes, if you know what I mean. He was wearing overalls. Another thing I didn't remark until afterwards."

Kincaid interrupted to offer tea. Everyone accepted. The policeman went to the door.

"What did you talk about?"

"Oh, nothing much."

"But you were together for hours."

"He slept most of the way. He mended the car-it was only a disconnected lead, but I'm afraid I'm helpless with machines-then he told me his own car had broken down in Edinburgh and he was going to Banff. Said he didn't really want to go through Aberdeen, as he didn't have a Restricted Area Pass. I'm afraid I... I told him not to worry about that. Said I'd vouch for him if we were stopped. Makes one feel such a bloody fool, you know, but I felt I owed him a favour. He had got me out of a bit of a hole, y'know."

"Nobody's blaming you, sir," Kincaid said.

Bloggs was, but he didn't say so. Instead, "There are very few people who have met Faber and can tell us what he's like. Can you think hard and tell me what kind of a man you took him to be?"

"He woke up like a soldier," Porter said. "He was courteous, and seemed intelligent. Firm handshake. I take notice of handshakes."

"Anything else?"

"Something else about when he woke up..." Porter's florid face creased up in a frown. "His right hand went to his left forearm, like this." He demonstrated.

"That's something," Bloggs said. "That'd be where he keeps the knife. A sleeve-sheath."

"Nothing else, I'm afraid."

"And he said he was going to Banff. That means he's not. I wager you told him where you were going before he told you where he was going."

"I believe I did," Porter nodded. "Well, well."

"Either Aberdeen was his destination, or he went south after you dropped him. Since he said he was going north, he probably didn't."

"That kind of second-guessing could get out of hand," Kincaid said.

"Sometimes it does." Kincaid was definitely no fool. "Did you tell him that you're a magistrate?"

"Yes."

"That's why he didn't kill you."

"What? Good Lord."

"He knew you'd be missed."

The door opened again. The man who walked in said, "I've got your information, and I hope it was fuckin' worth it."

Bloggs grinned. This was, undoubtedly, the harbormaster: a short man with cropped white hair, smoking a large pipe and wearing a blazer with brass buttons.

Kincaid said, "Come in, captain. How did you get so wet? You shouldn't go out in the rain."

"Fuck off." the Captain said, bringing delighted expressions to the other faces in the room. Porter said, "Morning, captain."

"Good morning, Your Worship."

Kincaid said, "What have you got?"

The captain took off his cap and shook drops of rain from its crown. "The Marie II has gone missing," he said. "I saw her come in on the afternoon the storm began. I didn't see her go out, but I know she shouldn't have sailed again that day. However, it seems she did."

"Who owns her?"

"Tam Halfpenny. I telephoned him. He left her in her mooring that day and hasn't seen her since."

"What kind of vessel is she?" Bloggs asked.

"A small fishing boat, sixty feet and broad in the beam. Stout little craft. Inboard motor. No particular style-the fishermen round here don't follow the pattern book when they build boats."

"Let me ask you," Bloggs said. "Could that boat have survived the storm?"

The captain paused in the act of putting a match to his pipe. "With a very skillful sailor at the helm maybe. Maybe not."

"How far might he have got before the storm broke?"

"Not far-a few miles. The Marie II was not tied up until evening."

Bloggs stood up, walked around his chair and sat down again. "So where is he now?"

"At the bottom of the sea, in all probability, the bloody fool." The captain's statement was not without relish.

Bloggs could take no satisfaction in the likelihood that Faber was dead. It was too inconclusive. The discontent spread to his body, and he felt restless, itchy. Frustrated. He scratched his chin; he needed a shave. "I'll believe it when I see it," he said.

"You won't."

"Please save your guesswork," Bloggs said. "We want your information, not pessimism." The other men in the room suddenly remembered that, despite his youth, he was the senior officer there. "Let's, if you don't mind, review the possibilities. One: he left Aberdeen by land and someone else stole the Marie II. In that case he has probably reached his destination by now, but he won't have left the country because of the storm. We already have all the other police forces looking for him, and that's all we can do about number one.

"Two: he's still in Aberdeen. Again, we have this possibility covered; we're still looking for him.

"Three: he left Aberdeen by sea. I think we're agreed this is the strongest option. Let's break it down. Three A: he found shelter somewhere, or cracked up somewhere mainland or island. Three B: he died." He did not, of course, mention three C: he transferred to another vessel-probably a U-boat-before the storm broke... he probably didn't have time, but he might've. And if he caught a U-boat, we've had it, so might as well forget that one.

"If he found shelter," Bloggs went on, "or was shipwrecked, we'll find evidence sooner or later-either the Marie II, or pieces of it. We can search the coastline right away and survey the sea as soon as the weather clears sufficiently for us to get a plane up. If he's gone to the bottom of the ocean we may still find bits of the boat floating.

"So we have three courses of action to take. We continue the searches already going on; we mount a new search of the coastline, working north and south from Aberdeen; and we prepare for an air-sea search the minute the weather improves."

Bloggs had begun to pace up and down as he spoke. He stopped now and looked around. "Comments?"

The late hour had got to all of them. Bloggs' sudden access of energy jerked them out of a creeping lethargy. One leaned forward, rubbing his hands, another tied his shoelaces; a third put his jacket on. They wanted to go to work. There were no comments, no questions.

Faber was awake. His body probably needed sleep despite the fact that he had spent the day in bed; but his mind was hyperactive, turning over possibilities, sketching scenarios... thinking about women, and about home.

Now that he was so close to getting out, his memories of home became near painfully sweet. He thought of things like sausages fat enough to eat in slices, and motor cars on the right-hand side of the road, and really tall trees, and most of all his own language: words with guts and precision, hard consonants and pure vowels and the verb at the end of the sentence where it ought to be, finality and meaning in the same climactic terminal.

Thoughts of climaxes brought Gertrud to mind again: her face underneath his, makeup washed away by his kisses, eyes closing tight in pleasure then opening again to look with delight into his, mouth stretched wide in a permanent gasp, saying, "Ja, liebling, ja..."

It was silly. He had led the life of a monk for seven years, but she had no reason to do the same.

She would have bad a dozen men since Faber. She might even be dead, bombed by the RAF or murdered by the maniacs because her nose was half an inch too long or run over by a motor car in the blackout. Anyway, she would hardly remember him. He would probably never see her again. But she was important. She stood for something... for him to think about.

He did not normally permit himself the indulgence of sentiment. There was in his nature, in any case, a very cold streak, and he cultivated it. It protected him. Now, though, he was so close to success, and he felt free-not to relax his vigilance, but at least to fantasise a little.

The storm was his safeguard so long as it continued. He would simply contact the U-boat with Tom's radio on Monday, and its captain would send a dinghy into the bay as soon as the weather cleared. If the storm ended before Monday, there was a slight complication: the supply boat. David and Lucy would naturally expect him to take the boat back to the mainland.

Lucy came into his thoughts in vivid, full-colour images he could not quite control. He saw her striking amber eyes watching him as he made a bandage for her thumb; her outline walking up the stairs in front of him, even clad as she was in shapeless man's clothing; her heavy rounded breasts as she stood naked in the bathroom; and, as the images developed into fantasy, she leaned over the bandage and kissed his mouth, turned back on the stairs and took him in her arms, stepped out of the bathroom and placed his hands on her breasts.

He turned restlessly in the small bed, cursing the imagination that sent him dreams the like of which he hadn't suffered since his schooldays. At that time, before he'd experienced the reality of sex, he had constructed elaborate sexual scenarios featuring the older women with whom he came into daily contact: the starchy Matron; Professor Nagel's dark, thin, intellectual wife; the shopkeeper in the village who wore red lipstick and talked to her husband with contempt. Sometimes he put all three of them into one orgiastic fantasy. When, at age fifteen, he'd seduced, classically, a housemaid's daughter in the twilight of a West Prussian forest, he let go of the imaginary orgies because they were so much better than the disappointing real thing. As young Heinrich he had been greatly puzzled by this; where was the blinding ecstasy, the sensation of soaring through the air like a bird, the mystical fusion of two bodies into one? The fantasies became painful, reminding him of his failure to make them real. Later, of course, the reality improved, and he formed the view that ecstasy came not from a man's pleasure in a woman, but from each one's pleasure in each other. He had voiced that opinion to his elder brother, who seemed to think it banal, a truism rather than a discovery; and before long he saw it that way too.


He became a good lover, eventually. He found sex interesting, as well as physically pleasant. He was never a great seducer... the thrill of conquest was not what he wanted. But he was expert at giving and receiving sexual gratification, without the expert's illusion that technique was all. For some women he was a highly desirable man, and the fact that he didn't know this only served to make him even more attractive.

He tried to remember how many women he had had: Anna, Gretchen, Ingrid, the American girl, those two whores in Stuttgart... he could not recall them all, but there could not have been more than about twenty. And Gertrud, of course.

None of them, he thought, had been quite as beautiful as Lucy. He gave an exasperated sigh; he had let this woman affect him just because he was close to home and had been so careful for so long. He was annoyed with himself. It was undisciplined; he must not relax until the assignment was over, and this was not over, not quite. Not yet.

There was the problem of avoiding going back on the supply boat. Several solutions came to mind: perhaps the most promising was to incapacitate the island's inhabitants, meet the boat himself and send the boatman away with a cock-and-bull story. He could say he was visiting the Roses, had come out on another boat; that he was a relative, or a bird-watcher... anything. It was too small a problem to engage his full attention at the moment. Later, when and if the weather improved, he would select something.

He really had no serious problems. A lonely island, miles off the coast, with four inhabitants. It was an ideal hideout. From now on, leaving Britain was going to be as easy as breaking out of a baby's playpen. When he thought of the situations he had already come through, the people he had killed-the five Home Guard men, the Yorkshire lad on the train, the Abwehr messenger-he considered himself now to be sitting pretty.

An old man, a cripple, a woman, and a child... Killing them would be so simple.

Lucy, too, lay awake. She was listening. There was a good deal to hear. The weather was an orchestra: rain drumming on the roof, wind fluting in the eaves of the cottage, sea performing glissandi with the beach. The old house talked too, creaking in its joints as it suffered the buffeting of the storm. Within the room there were more sounds: David's slow, regular breathing, threatening but never quite achieving a snore as he slept deeply under the influence of a double dose of soporific, and the quicker, shallow breaths of Jo, sprawled comfortably across a camp bed beside the far wall.

The noise is keeping me awake, Lucy thought, then immediately: Who am I trying to fool? Her wakefulness was caused by Henry, who had looked at her naked body, and had touched her hands gently as he bandaged her thumb, and who now lay in bed in the next room, fast asleep. Probably.

He had not told her much about himself, she realised; only that he was unmarried. She did not know where he had been born; his accent gave no clue. He had not even hinted at what he did for a living, though she imagined he must be a professional man, perhaps a dentist or a soldier. He was not dull enough to be a solicitor, too intelligent to be a journalist, and doctors could never keep their profession secret for longer than five minutes. He was not rich enough to be a barrister, too self-effacing to be an actor. She would bet on the Army.

Did he live alone, she wondered? Or with his mother? Or a woman? What did he wear when he wasn't fishing? Did he have a motor car? Yes, he would; something rather unusual. He probably drove very fast.

That thought brought back memories of David's two-seater, and she closed her eyes tightly to shut out the nightmare images. Think of something else, think of something else.

She thought of Henry again, and realised-accepted-the truth: she wanted to make love to him.

It was the kind of wish that, in her scheme of things, afflicted men but not women. A woman might meet a man briefly and find him attractive, want to get to know him better, even begin to fail in love with him, but she did not feel an immediate physical desire, not unless she was... abnormal. She told herself that this was ridiculous; that what she needed was to make love with her husband, not to copulate with the first eligible man who came along. She told herself she was not that kind.

All the same, it was pleasant to speculate. David and Jo were fast asleep; there was nothing to stop her from getting out of bed, crossing the landing, entering his room, sliding nto bed next to him...

Nothing to stop her except character, good breeding and a respectable upbringing.

If she were going to do it with anybody, she would do it with someone like Henry. He would be kind, and gentle, and considerate; he would not despise her for offering herself like a Soho streetwalker.

She turned over in the bed, smiling at her own foolishness; how could she possibly know whether he would despise her? She had only known him for a day, and he had spent most of that day asleep.

Still, it would be nice to have him look at her again, his expression of admiration tinged with some kind of amusement. It would be nice to feel his hands, to touch his body, to squeeze against the warmth of his skin.

She realised that her body was responding to the images in her mind. She felt the urge to touch herself, and resisted it as she had done for four years. At least I haven't dried up, like an old crone, she thought.

She moved her legs, and sighed as a warm sensation spread through her. This was getting unreasonable. It was time to go to sleep. There was just no way she would make love to Henry, or to anyone else, tonight. With that thought she got out of bed and went to the door.

Faber heard a footfall on the landing, and he reacted automaticalty.

His mind cleared instantly of the idle, lascivious thoughts it had been occupied with. He swung his legs to the floor and slid out from under the bedclothes in a single fluid movement; then silently crossed the room to stand beside the window in the darkest corner, the stiletto knife in his right hand.

He heard the door open, heard the intruder step inside, heard the door close again. At that point he started to think rather than react. An assassin would have left the door open for a quick escape, and it occurred to him that there were a hundred reasons why it was impossible that an assassin should have found him here.

He ignored the thought-he had survived this long by catering to the one-in-a-thousand chance. The wind dropped momentarily, and he heard an indrawn breath, a faint gasp from beside his bed, enabling him to locate the intruder's exact position. He moved.

He had her on the bed, face down, with his knife at her throat and his knee in the small of her back before he accepted that the intruder was a woman, and a split-second later acknowledged her identity. He eased his grip, reached out to the bedside table and switched on the light. Her face was pale in the dim glow of the lamp.

Faber sheathed the knife before she could see it. He took his weight off her body. "I am very sorry," he said. "I-"

She turned onto her back and looked up at him in astonishment as he straddled her. It was outrageous, but somehow the man's sudden reaction had excited her more than ever. She began to giggle.

"I thought you were a burglar," Faber said, knowing he must sound ridiculous.

"And where would a burglar come from, may I ask?" The colour rushed back to her cheeks in a blush.

She was wearing a very loose, old-fashioned flannel nightgown that covered her from her throat to her ankles. Her dark-red hair spread across Faber's pillow in disarray. Her eyes seemed very large, and her lips were wet. "You are remarkably beautiful," Faber said quietly. She closed her eyes.

Faber bent over her and kissed her mouth. Her lips parted immediately, and she returned his kiss. With his fingertips he stroked her shoulders, her neck and her ears. She moved underneath him. He wanted to kiss her for a long time, to explore her mouth and savour the intimacy, but he realised that she had no time for tenderness. She reached inside his pyjama bottoms and squeezed. She moaned softly and began to breathe hard.

Still kissing her, Faber reached for the light and killed it. He pulled away from her and took off his pyjama jacket. Quickly, so that she would not wonder what he was doing, he tugged at the can stuck to his chest, ignoring the sting as the sticky tape was jerked away from his skin. He slid the photographs under the bed. He also unbuttoned the sheath on his left forearm and dropped that. He pushed the skirt of her nightgown up to her waist.

"Quickly," she said. "Quickly."

Faber lowered his body to hers.

She did not feel the least bit guilty afterward. Just content, satisfied, replete. She had had what she so badly wanted. She lay still, eyes closed, stroking the bristly hair at the back of his neck, enjoying the rough tickling sensation on her hands.

After a while she said: "I was in such a rush..."

"It's not over yet," he told her.

She frowned in the dark. "Didn't you?..." She had been wondering.

"No, I didn't. You hardly did."

She smiled. "I beg to differ."

He turned on the light and looked at her. "We'll see." He slipped down the bed, between her thighs and kissed her belly. His tongue flicked in and out of her navel. It felt quite nice, she thought. His head went lower. Surely he doesn't want to kiss me there. He did. And he did more than kiss. His lips pulled at the soft folds of her skin. She was paralysed by shock as his tongue began to probe in the crevices and then, as he parted her lips with his fingers, to thrust deep inside her... Finally his relentless tongue found a tiny, sensitive place, so small she had not known it existed, so sensitive that his touch was almost painful at first. She forgot her shock as she was overwhelmed by the most piercing sensation she had ever experienced. Unable to restrain herself, she moved her hips up and down, faster and faster, rubbing her slippery flesh over his mouth, his chin, his nose, his forehead, totally absorbed in her own pleasure. It built and built, feeding on itself, until she felt utterly possessed by joy and opened her mouth to scream, at which point he clapped his hand over her face. But she screamed in her throat as the climax went on and on, ending in something that felt like an explosion and left her so drained that she thought she would never, never, be able to get up.

Her mind seemed to go blank for a while. She knew vaguely that he still lay between her legs, his bristly cheek against the soft inside of her thigh, his lips moving gently, affectionately... Eventually she said, "Now I know what Lawrence means."

He lifted his head. "I don't understand."

She sighed. "I didn't realise it could be like that. It was lovely."

"Was?"

"Oh, God, I've no more energy..."

He changed position, kneeling astride her chest, and she realised what he wanted her to do, and for the second time she was frozen by shock; it was just too big... but suddenly she wanted to do it, she needed to take him into her mouth; she lifted her head, and her lips closed around him, and he gave a soft groan.

He held her head in his hands, moving it to and fro, moaning quietly. She looked at his face. He was staring at her, drinking in the sight of what she was doing. She wondered what she would do when he... came... and she decided she didn't care, because everything else had been so good with him that she knew she would enjoy even that.

But it didn't happen. When she thought he was to the point of losing control he stopped, moved away, lay on top of her, and entered her again. This time it was very slow, and relaxed, like the rhythm of the sea on the beach; until he put his hands under her hips and grasped the mounts of her bottom, and she looked at his face and knew that now, now he was ready to shed his self-control and lose himself in her. And that excited her more than anything, so that when he finally arched his back, his face screwed up into a mask of pain, and groaned deep in his chest, she wrapped her legs around his waist and abandoned herself to the ecstasy of it, and then, after so long, she heard the trumpets and cymbals that Lawrence had promised.

They were quiet for a long time. Lucy felt warm, as if she were glowing; she had never felt so warm in all her life. When their breathing subsided she could hear the storm outside. Henry was heavy on top of her but she did not want him to move... she liked his weight, and the faint tang of perspiration from his white skin. From time to time he moved his head to brush his lips against her cheek.

He was the perfect man to have this with. He knew more about her body than she did. His own body was very beautiful... broad and muscular at the shoulders, narrow at the waist and hips with long, strong, hairy legs. She thought he had some scars, she was not sure. Strong, gentle and handsome. Perfect. She also knew she would never fall in love with him, never want to run off with him, marry him. Deep inside him, she sensed, there was also something quite cold and hard. His reaction, and explanation, when she came into his room was extraordinary... she wouldn't think about it... Some part of him that was committed elsewhere... She would have to hold him at arm's length and use him cautiously, like an addictive drug.

Not that she would have much time to become addicted; he would, after all, be gone in little more than a day.

She stirred, and he immediately rolled off her and onto his back. She lifted herself on one elbow and looked at his naked body. Yes, he did have scars: a long one on his chest, and a small mark like a star-it might have been a burn-on his hip. She rubbed his chest with the palm of her hand.

"It's not very ladylike," she said, "but I want to say thank you."

He reached out to touch her cheek, and smiled. "You're very ladylike."

"You don't know what you've done. You've-" He put a finger over her lips. "I know what I've done." She bit his finger, then put his hand on her breast. He felt for her nipple. She said, "Please do it again."

"I don't think I can," he said. But he did.

She left him a couple of hours after dawn. There was a small noise from the other bedroom, and she seemed suddenly to remember that she had a husband and a son in the house. Faber wanted to tell her that it didn't matter, that neither he nor she had the least reason to care what the husband knew or thought; but he held his tongue and let her go. She kissed him once more, very wetly, then she stood up, smoothed her rumpled nightgown over her body, and went out.

He watched her fondly. She's quite something. he thought. He lay on his back and looked at the ceiling. She was quite naive, and very inexperienced. but all the same she had been very good. I could perhaps fall in love with her, he thought.

He got up and retrieved the film can and the knife in its sheath from under the bed. He wondered whether to keep them on his person. He might want to make love to her in the day... He decided to wear the knife-he would feel undressed without it-and leave the can elsewhere. He put it on top of the chest of drawers and covered it with his papers and his wallet. He knew very well that he was breaking the rule, but this was certain to be his last assignment, and he felt entitled to enjoy a woman. Besides, it would hardly matter if she or her husband saw the pictures-assuming they understood their meaning, which was unlikely, what could they do?

He lay down on the bed, then got up again. Years of training simply would not allow him to take such risks. He put the can with his papers into the pocket of his jacket. Now he could relax better.

He heard the child's voice, then Lucy's tread as she went down the stairs, and then David dragging himself to the bathroom. He would have to get up and have breakfast with the household. It was all right. He did not want to sleep now anyway.

He stood at the rain-streaked window watching the weather rage until he heard the bathroom door open. Then he put on his pyjama top and went in to shave. He used David's razor, without permission.

It did not seem to matter now.

Erwin Rommel knew from the start that he was going to quarrel with Heinz Guderian.

General Guderian was exactly the kind of aristocratic Prussian officer Rommel hated. He had known him for some time. They had both, in their early days, commanded the Goslar Jaeger Battalion, and they had met again during the Polish campaign. When he left Africa he had recommended Guderian to succeed him, knowing the battle was lost; the manoeuvre was a failure because at that time Guderian had been out of favour with Hitler and the recommendation was rejected out of hand.

The General was, Rommel felt, the kind of man who put a silk handkerchief on his knee to protect the crease in his trousers while he sat drinking in the Herrenklub. He was an officer because his father had been an officer and his grandfather had been rich. Rommel, the schoolteacher's son who had risen from lieutenant colonel to field marshal in only four years, despised the military caste of which he had never been a member.

Now he stared across the table at the general, who was sipping brandy appropriated from the French Rothschilds. Guderian and his sidekick, General van Geyr, had come to Rommel's headquarters at La Roche Guyon in northern France to tell him how to deploy his troops. Romme1's reactions to such visits ranged from impatience to fury. In his view the General Staff were there to provide reliable intelligence and regular supplies, and he knew from his experience in Africa that they were incompetent at both tasks.

Guderian had a cropped, light-coloured moustache, and the corners of his eyes were heavily wrinkled so that he always appeared to be grinning at you. He was tall and handsome, which did nothing to endear him to a short, ugly, balding man, as Rommel thought of himself. He seemed relaxed, and any German general who would relax at this stage of the war was surely a fool. The meal they had just finished-local veal and wine from further south-was no excuse.

Rommel looked out of the window and watched the rain dripping from the lime trees into the courtyard while he waited for Guderian to begin the discussion. When he finally spoke it was clear the general had been thinking about the best way to make his point, and had decided to approach it sideways.

"In Turkey," he began, "the British Ninth and Tenth armies, with the Turkish army, are grouping at the border with Greece. In Yugoslavia the partisans are also concentrating. The French in Algeria are preparing to invade the Riviera. The Russians appear to be mounting an amphibious invasion of Sweden. In Italy the Allies are ready to march on Rome. There are smaller signals: a general kidnapped in Crete, an intelligence officer murdered at Lyon, a radar post attacked at Rhodes, an aircraft sabotaged with abrasive grease and destroyed at Athens, a commando raid on Sagvaag, an explosion in the oxygen factory at Boulogne-sur-Seine, a train derailed in the Ardennes, a petrol dump fired at Boussens... I could go on. The picture is clear. In occupied territories there is ever-increasing sabotage and treachery; on our borders, we see preparations for invasion everywhere. None of us doubts that there will be a major allied offensive this summer, and we can be equally sure that all this skirmishing is intended to confuse us about where the attack will come."

The general paused. The lecture, delivered in schoolmaster style, was irritating Rommel, and he took the opportunity to interrupt. "This is why we have a General Staff: to digest such information, evaluate enemy activity, and forecast his future moves."

Guderian smiled indulgently. "We must also be aware of the limitations of such crystal-gazing. You have your ideas about where the attack will come, I'm sure. We all do. Our strategy must take into account the possibility that our guesses are wrong."

Rommel now saw where the general's roundabout argument was leading, and he suppressed the urge to shout his disagreement before the conclusion was stated.

"You have four armoured divisions under your command," Guderian continued. "The 2nd Panzers at Amiens, the 116th at Rouen, the 21st at Caen, and the 2nd SS at Toulouse. General von Geyr has already proposed to you that these should be grouped well back from the coast, all together, ready for fast retaliation at any point. Indeed, this stratagem is a principle of OKW policy.

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