An evening in Berlin – By Never118
Agent Serena Smith arrived at Fraulein Schmidt's Tea Rooms early. She was wearing a gold satin pencil skirt, a white silk blouse with capped sleeves and gold vertical stripes, open a couple of buttons at the front, and a pair of high heeled shoes. Her chestnut brown hair was pinned up at the back, and her large eyes sparkled with mischief. She looked, as much as Fiona Gemston hated to admit it, as good as she had the first time they had met.
Fiona lurked in the back of the tea shop. She was sipping from a cup of Earl Grey that tasted revolting and had too much lemon and not enough milk in it. She had brought a paper that was outlandishly big enough to hide her from view, and was wearing a hat with a broad brim down over one eye. The chaps at the office had been most complimentary, although it probably had more to do with the green silk blouse that was open several buttons, black pencil skirt, broad black leather belt and, mercifully, a pair of boots with a slight heel, than the hat.
She watched as Agent Serena Smith sat down primly in the window seat and ordered a cup of tea. It was difficult not to admire the woman. For a start, her spy-craft was excellent and it had taken Fiona and the chaps at the office several weeks to track her down and work out where she operated and some of her habits. It didn't help that she was bold, devious, and more than a little attractive, even if Fiona was holding out for Roger Crompton in Operations to pay her some attention.
As she watched, Serena produced a newspaper and read it briefly, skimming the pages. She did the crossword just enough to look like she wasn't just looking for coded messages in it, flicked to the horoscopes, and then paid her bill and headed out of the teashop.
Fiona drained her cup of Earl Grey and paid, not bothering to rush. She and Fred Pevensey had developed a net of surveillance that would allow SOE to keep an eye on Serena and funnel her to just the right spot. She headed out of the tea house and walked to the end of the street, noticing the heavy military presence of British and American soldiers in this sector of Berlin, and smiling to herself at the role she and Pevensey had played in that.
She looked along the road to her left, seeing a manned checkpoint of British soldiers, standing and waiting, rifles on their shoulders, and speaking to each individual trying to move past them. In front of her, a British Army cordon around an 'unexploded bomb' that hadn't been there when she had entered the tea house closed off the street for several yards. Behind her, she could hear the sound of an American patrol marching through the streets, and behind that she had glimpsed another American unit searching people.
All of those things would have pushed Serena to the right. Heading that way, she passed a man reading a newspaper, who tipped his hat to her and winked. Cheeky bugger, she thought to herself. She'd have to have a word with Pevensey about the poor tradecraft of some of his chaps when she got back to the office. Ignoring it for now, she saw Serena walking purposefully towards a side street to the left, only to then drift away from it as two British men, dressed conspicuously well in matching tweed suits with raincoats and hats that were too warm for the season, appeared out of the street, one of them reaching into his inside pocket, while the other lit a pipe. They weren't armed, they were play-acting, but it had the desired effect of spooking Serena.
Fiona quickened her pace, seeing the other woman start to move towards another street further down the road. She checked her watch and smiled. Unfortunately for Serena, she had studied her movements well, and although she varied the routine, the plain fact of the matter was that there were only so many ways to navigate around the bombed out ruins of Berlin, especially with all the standard checkpoints. Fiona had memorised all her routes, and then isolated a pattern to them.
It came as no surprise, then, when Serena veered away from the next street as well, this time due to a British soldier stood at the entrance to it, waving people away due to a 'gas leak' down the road. There was another street just ahead on the left, but three men lounged in the junction, two reading the paper, the other smoking a pipe, all dressed in unseasonal rain coats and hats, all looking obviously out of place in a surreptitious sort of a way. Obvious enough to scare somebody looking for that sort of thing, which, of course, Serena was. Fiona saw Serena do just as she had predicted, and head right instead. A furtive glance over her shoulder told Serena all she needed to know. She spotted Fiona and sped up.
Fiona followed, still in no rush. She stepped into the street just as she saw Serena's slender ankle disappearing into a building where the door had been left tantalisingly unlocked. Pevensey stood opposite it, obviously immersed in his newspaper, while a patrol of British soldiers had blocked off the rest of the street. Fiona walked quickly towards the door as Pevensey stood up from his bench and folded his paper smartly. He smiled and tipped his hat, passing her a briefcase that had a reassuring weight to it.
"Have fun, old girl," he called cheerily. Fiona smiled back, then when he winked, she stuck her tongue out at him, making him chuckle. "Behave yourself," he said, his voice filled with mock reproach. Then he turned to the British soldiers down the street. "Chaps, make sure the lady doesn't leave unescorted, eh? Give her a lift back to the office when she's ready, okay? I'll clear it with the brass," he added.
"Thanks, awfully," Fiona said as Pevensey walked towards her.
"Not at all," he said. "Say hello from me."
"I will," said Fiona.
Without another word, and with her heart hammering in her chest with excitement, she followed Serena into the block of flats and up the stairs, searching the darkened hallways for her. The sound of heels on the floor told Fiona which corridor Serena had fled down, and she turned off the stairs along the third floor corridor, seeing Serena duck into a flat two thirds of the way down.
She allowed herself a smile and hurried after her.
As she reached the flat doorway, she could hear Serena inside trying to open one of the windows, which Fiona already knew were nailed shut from outside, as she had instructed Pevensey's men to do yesterday. It was a safe house that she had seen Serena use a couple of times to meet contacts, but it also had a balcony that reached others, and then to the roof of a neighbouring building. A muffled curse revealed that Serena had worked that out.
Fiona pushed the door open and walked down the small hallway to where Serena was stepping away from the windows. She turned and saw Fiona and gave a small smile of resignation. "I should have guessed you would hold a grudge," she said.
"Not at all, dear girl," said Fiona. "I just wanted to make sure I returned your rope," she added. She put the briefcase down on a small table between them and smiled. "Don't make this difficult, will you," she added.
"Not likely," Serena replied with a thin smile. "Just had my nails done," she added with a sarcastic smile. Fiona ignored her, taking off her broad brimmed hat and placing it on the table.
"I'm afraid," said Fiona, calmly unlocking the briefcase and lifting the lid. "The chaps that I work with are rather keen on having a word with you, Agent Smith," she continued.
"But it's just you here right now," said Serena. "You had enough men out on the streets. Why not just round me up?"
"This was much more satisfying," Fiona told her with a smile. "Beating you at your own game? Much more fun," she added.
"And your plan is…?" Serena prompted.
"Oh, I wouldn't worry," Fiona said. "I'll be handing you over to the boys from the office, alright, but I think it's time I wrapped the parcel for them," she added.
"Of course," Serena muttered.
"Hands behind you," said Fiona. "And place your hands so you're holding your opposite elbows," she added. Serena raised an eyebrow, but did as she was told, lazily crossing her arms across her back, forearm to forearm, so that her left elbow was nestled in her right hand, and her right elbow in her left hand. Fiona plucked a coil of black cord from the briefcase and proceeded to bind her arms, securing her wrists together (allowing Serena to slide her arms further apart now) and cinching the coils of rope tightly. Serena drew in a sharp breath as the knot was pulled tight.
"Oh, don't be such a baby," Fiona scolded. She produced another coil of rope, this one much longer, and wound it around Serena's body and upper arms, above and below her breasts, then between her right arm and her side and up around the back of her neck, then down between her left arm and left side. The effect was to push Serena's shoulders back and her breasts out. It also provided a useful harness to then tie her wrists to ensure her movements were restricted even further.
"Is this really necessary?" Serena asked. "Couldn't you just call your chaps in from the street?"
"Not yet," said Fiona happily. "Right. Shoes off, and kneel on the chair, please," she instructed. Serena glared at her, but kicked off her high heels (shrinking a good three or four inches as she did so) and then carefully slid onto the chair so that she was kneeling, facing the backrest. Fiona used a third coil of black rope to bind her ankles together and cinched it tightly.
"Right. As a matter of professional pride, see if you can get out," said Fiona with a grin.
"Oh, really? Now this really is a bit much," said Serena bitterly.
"I can gag you as well if you like," Fiona told her.
"I don't think that's necessary," Serena repied, rolling her eyes. She wriggled a bit, tugging her arms at the bonds around her arms and wrists, finding them as snug and secure as Fiona had wanted. She watched as Serena squirmed and tried to move her fingers to explore the knots, but the positioning of the knots and the way she was bound made it almost impossible. After a minute or so, she stopped and glared at Fiona.
"So, what now?"
"Oh, the chaps from the Office will be along relatively soon," said Fiona with a mischievous smile. "For now, I think I need to keep you quiet so that the neighbours can't hear you," she added. Without another word, she produced a silk handkerchief from her briefcase, and a long, thick, black silk scarf folded into a broad band.
"Oh, now, really," Serena grumbled. Fiona ignored her and folded the handkerchief into a tight pad, which she pushed between Serena's lips and behind her teeth, filling her mouth effectively and rendering her protests almost entirely silent. She then pressed the middle of the black scarf firmly on top of the pad and drew the ends behind Serena's head, knotting them firmly at the base of her skull. Her mouth was forced open by the broad, thick silk band, and the thick wad of silk in her mouth would quickly dry out her tongue and make trying to talk painful.
"There. Much better, I think," said Fiona. "Now, sit back and try and get loose if you like, but I guarantee that you won't manage it." Serena rolled her eyes.
Serena shifted and settled herself back on the armchair, sitting now, and glaring irritably at her captor. Fiona smiled sweetly at her and made a rotating motion with her hand. "Come on, old girl. Give it a proper go," she said with a grin.
Serena continued to struggle fruitlessly, tugging at the thin black cords that kept her bound, her complaints emerging as muffled grunts and mumbles, swallowed by the thick silk pad in her mouth. Serena fell back into the chair.
"So, Agent Smith," Fiona said, sitting down in an armchair opposite Serena. "You and I need to have a chat," she added. Serena glared at her over the gag and mumbled something into the silk. "At the moment, I'll stick to simple 'yes' or 'no' questions, so I don't have to remove the gag. Then maybe we can move on. How does that sound? Good?" Serena continued to glare at her until Fiona raised her eyebrows quizzically. Eventually the bound woman nodded.
Fiona nodded, feeling a little bit smug and knowing she shouldn't. The chaps at the office would tell her it was most unattractive, but then they seemed to think that about anything a young lady did that wasn't agreeing entirely with them.
"Right. Do you have Professor Van Krupt?" She asked. Serena paused, then shook her head.
"Do you still have Professor Van Krupt's wife?" Another pause. Eventually Serena nodded.
"Is she still alive and perfectly healthy?" Another pause and then a nod. Fiona paused, narrowed her eyes as an unpleasant thought popped into her head, and looked at Serena pointedly. "She isn't still tied up, is she?" Serena appeared to glare at her even more vigorously than before, which Fiona thought was rather clever, given how angry she had appeared before, and shook her head.
"Good. Does your organisation know where Professor Van Krupt is?" A pause. A shake of the head. "Were you tracking down a lead?" A pause. A nod. "Was it a credible lead on Professor Van Krupt?" A pause. A nod.
Fiona nodded and paused, looking at her bound captive and wondering what to do next. She needed more information, and the gag made that almost impossible. Serena's mouth would have dried out now to the point that she wouldn't be able to speak around the silk wad in her mouth, and the fear of choking would prevent her from speaking anyway. Fiona wondered where the unit was. Surely Pevensey should have ordered them in by now to secure the floor of the apartment block?
"I'm going to take the gag off for a minute," Fiona said, carefully. "No screaming, okay?" Serena rolled her eyes but eventually nodded.
Fiona walked over and carefully loosened the knot in the gag, pulling the scarf down to hang around Serena's neck, and then gingerly pulling out the wadded up handkerchief. Serena coughed. "Oh, don't pull that face at me, young lady," Fiona said. "Count yourself lucky," she added. "You're going to tell me what the lead was so that I can follow it up. You can also tell me whether Van Krupt is expecting you or not. Then we'll get you back to the office for a proper debriefing," she said. Serena didn't speak, continuing to glare irritably. Fiona settled back into her chair and tried to look calmer than she felt.
Where on earth were the chaps?
"What if I say no?" Serena asked quietly.
"We can get it out of you back at the office," Fiona said, simply.
"What if I don't want to go to the office?" Serena asked.
"You don't have a choice. Now are you going to answer, or shall I put the gag back in?"
"No, no," Serena said quickly. "Just wanted to know my options," she added with a thin smile. Her chestnut coloured hair slipped over her face and she tossed it back with practised ease. There was something oddly seductive and unruffled about her, even in her captive state, which Fiona couldn't quite understand. In Serena's position, she had been more than a little apprehensive, and after this amount of time it had bordered on panic (although she had gotten herself out of it surprisingly well, she thought to herself).
"So. The lead?"
"We were following a link with the Professor's mistress," Serena sighed.
"Mistress? But he has a wife," Fiona said, incredulously. "And a very pretty one, at that," she added. Serena smiled weakly and rolled her eyes, slightly.
"Well, apparently he's a little friskier than we would have expected of a man his age," she said. "His mistress is a German woman, hidden down in the French zone, apparently. I was headed there when your cheap tricks sent me in here," she added.
"No need to be rude," Fiona told her. "They worked, didn't they?"
"Oh, definitely. Even if I could see them coming," she added.
"Why play along then?"
"Well," Serena said, grumpily. "Get arrested in the street? No thank you. Spend a little more time with my favourite SOE agent? Much more exciting, although I had hoped it would be you in ropes again," she said.
"Charming," Fiona replied. Serena gave her a sarcastic smile.
"Are you really going to hand me in to SOE?"
"Yes," said Fiona, confused at the question.
"What about honour among thieves, and all that?" Serena asked.
"I think that wore off when you left me tied up in a dingy little flat and threatened to call in my office to find me in an embarrassing position," Fiona told her. "Surely you didn't think I'd forgotten?"
"No," Serena said.
"Right. Name and address of the contact, please?" Fiona asked. Serena told her. "Good. Right. I think the gag needs to go back in for now. Once you're back at the office I'll make sure you get a decent enough room," she added.
"Is that really necessary?"
"No," said Fiona. "But it is fun," she added with a grin. She stood up and bent over in front of Serena, raising her eyebrows. "Open wide," she instructed. Serena did as she was told, and Fiona pulled the thick black scarf back between her teeth and tightened the knot. It needed to be tighter now that the silk handkerchief was no longer in Serena's mouth, keeping her jaws apart. She pulled it firmly, the band so think that Serena's lips were forced apart around the silk.
"Right," Fiona said, stepping back from the chair. "You sit there like a good girl, and I'll make sure the chaps are on their way, okay?" Serena sighed and nodded, a faint mumbling noise coming from behind her gag. Fiona walked to the telephone and picked up the receiver, dialling the number she had memorised quickly and waiting.
"Tim's Stationers," came the response.
"Timothy. Package and I are awaiting pickup. Any sign of our chaps and the delivery van?"
"No sign, you say?" The voice asked.
"None at all," said Fiona, a little confused by this reaction.
"Are your doormen still there?" The voice asked.
"Hold on, please," Fiona said, picking up the cradle and carrying the telephone to the window so she could look down into the street below. The flat they were in overlooked the front entrance, so she should have been able to see the soldiers Pevensey had left to guard her. No sign. "Timothy?"
"No sign of them," she said. "I think my doormen have taken the afternoon off," she added.
"I see," said the voice. She felt panic rising up and glanced nervously over her shoulder at Serena, still sitting bound and gagged on the sofa, unmoving. "Do you still have your care package?"
"Yes," said Fiona, knowing he meant the briefcase.
"Check the panel at the bottom. A little reassurance should be in there. Once you have that, suggest you move yourself and the package to another location. Perhaps Madame Helga's," the voice told her.
"Right you are, Timothy," she said.
"We'll have a second delivery van come and meet you there, okay? No need for alarm," he told her. Fiona nodded to herself, knowing that final instruction had been given to calm her. She had felt her voice tightening up as she had been speaking. She sighed and placed the phone back on the cradle and returned it to the coffee table. She then walked around to look at Serena and crouched in front of her.
"Are your chaps in the area?" She asked. Serena looked as though she was about to try and argue with her around the gag, but the look on Fiona's face must have convinced her otherwise. She simply shook her head. "Are you sure?" Serena nodded.
"I'm going to untie your legs, my girl, and we're going to have to leave quickly. No arguing, and certainly no causing a fuss. Is that clear?" Serena nodded quickly, a look of nervousness creeping across her face. Fiona nodded and quickly released the knots on the rope binding her ankles together and dropped the ropes back into the briefcase quickly. "Stand up," Fiona instructed. Serena did as she was told without argument and Fiona looked for something in the flat to hide the thin black cords binding her prisoner. It wouldn't do to get caught with a bound and gagged woman in public, and neither of them had worn a coat today.
"I'll have to untie your arms, and take the gag off, too, but I warn you, I am armed," Fiona said irritably. Somewhere downstairs, they both heard a door bang closed and the sound of movement in the stairwell. Serena nodded.
It took more time than she had wanted, but Fiona took the ropes from Serena's upper arms and chest and dropped them into the briefcase. She then eased a small panel off the bottom of the briefcase and revealed the Walther PPK automatic that Timothy had mentioned. She pushed it into her handbag quickly and then closed the panel, snapping the briefcase shut, and then looking at Serena. "Right. Gag off, okay? But I will thump you if you scream," she added. Serena rolled her eyes and nodded.
Fiona slipped the gag out of Serena's mouth, but left the scarf hanging around her neck. Serena's nose wrinkled. "It's damp," she said, irritably.
"It can go back in if you like," Fiona snapped.
"Fine," Serena sighed. Fiona had left her hands bound behind her, hoping that they could move quickly enough that nobody would really spot it. Keeping to the back streets, they could easily get to Madame Helga's Boarding House without being spotted or going through a checkpoint. They just needed to get out of the building first. Fiona grabbed Serena's arm above the elbow and steered her towards the door, picking up the briefcase as she went.
They could both hear footsteps on the stairwell, and Fiona wondered if she had taken too long to move. She pulled the Walther out of her handbag and held it at her side in her right hand, steering Serena through the door and into the deserted hallway with her left. "This would be faster if you untied me," Serena said.
"Not going to happen, old girl," Fiona muttered distractedly.
"Then hurry up," Serena replied. "Go right," she added.
Fiona didn't argue, but pushed Serena to the right as they left the door, making sure that she stood slightly behind her so that her body masked some of the fact that Serena's hands were still tied behind her. The footsteps behind them were getting louder, and Fiona chanced a quick look over her shoulder. So far the hallway was clear, but it wouldn't be long before something happened. If it was soldiers, they would be filling each floor from the bottom up to ensure it was secure. They would be advancing slowly.
They would be almost here.
"Fire escape," Serena hissed, jerking her arm towards the left. "Quickly," she added.
"Do stop going on," Fiona muttered. She heard footsteps behind them, even louder, and turned a little. The door at the other end of the hall was beginning to open and the sound of footsteps was even louder. They reached the fire escape and Fiona pushed it open so that Serena could go through. She followed her just as the first man cleared the door, closing the door quickly behind them. There was no mistaking the sight of soldiers as they cleared the stairwell, moving in quick, well ordered precision. They knew where they were going.
"Upstairs," Serena whispered.
"Clever," replied Fiona, nodding. "Your flat upstairs?"
"How did you know?" Serena asked.
"You aren't as good at your job as I am at mine," Fiona told her with a wink. She guided Serena up the stairs, thankful that she at least had the sense to walk on her tiptoes so that her heels didn't make a noise on the steps. It might not work brilliantly, but the men behind would assume they would head down. They could head up and find another way out. "I wish you hadn't worn heels, love," Fiona muttered, feeling Serena begin to tire of having to walk on the balls of her feet.
"If you untied me I could use the banister," Serena told her.
"Stop asking," Fiona hissed, doing her best to help her along. She could hear the soldiers moving.
They made their way onto the next floor up and then along the hallway there. Serena nodded towards a flat at the opposite end of the hallway. "It has a balcony that connects to the next building's fire escape, close enough. We can get out that way," she said. "Unless you nailed that window shut as well," she added.
"No," Fiona said. "We didn't know about that one," she muttered to herself. Serena snorted and rolled her eyes at her over her shoulder. Fiona flushed irritably. "Come on," she said. They reached the door and Fiona paused, looking at Serena with an eyebrow raised.
"Key, dummy," Fiona said. Serena sighed.
"In my bag. Downstairs," she said.
"Well that's not useful. You could have said something," Fiona said.
"I was gagged," Serena replied irritably.
"Not the whole time," Fiona told her.
"Not helping," Serena hissed. "Just kick it," she added.
"I was hoping you wouldn't say that," Fiona muttered. She looked over her shoulder, listening carefully to the sounds down the hallway. There were the sounds of doors being kicked in downstairs. If she timed it well enough, this door would blend with the others. Fiona stepped back and pulled her skirt up a little, freeing her legs enough.
"Saucy," Serena said with a grin.
"Shut up," Fiona muttered. She smashed her foot into the door, jarring all the way up to her hip. She did it again and the door clattered open. Serena looked at her pointedly. "What?"
"You made a bit of a meal of it," she said.
"I can gag you again," Fiona snapped.
The sound of boots on the stairs stopped Serena's response in her throat. "Inside," Fiona hissed and shoved her through the door. Serena did as she was told and Fiona followed her through, pushing the door closed and holding it for a moment. Serena hissed at her and nodded to a shoulder bag on a hallway table. Fiona nodded and pulled the hall table into place behind the door to keep it closed.
Fiona paused to have a look around. She saw Serena walk through to the drawing room and flop onto a plush sofa. She was slightly irritated that the flat appeared to be better decorated and resourced than her rooms at one of the local boarding houses. She walked through, admiring the large mirror, coffee table, and gramophone. "You must have the nicest place in Berlin," Fiona muttered.
"It's not bad," Serena sighed.
Fiona walked over to the window and slid it open, looking out at the balcony.
"Come on," she said.
"You're so bossy," Serena muttered. She got up, slightly unsteady with her hands still bound behind her. Fiona helped her and steered her towards the window. "I can't climb over that without help," Serna said. "Or you could untie me," she added.
"No," said Fiona. She gestured for Serena to sit on the window-sill, and once she had, Fiona helped her swing her legs back over the window ledge and then onto the balcony. She followed quickly, then turned round to close the window.
"Hurry up, then," Serena told her.
"I really am regretting taking that gag out," Fiona muttered.
Half an hour later, they had reached Madame Helga's Boarding House. It was a small boarding house with fifteen rooms, each one large enough for a double bed, a sofa, a table and chairs, and a bathroom, and the owner (Madame Helga herself) asked no questions about what you got up to in your room. This was, Fiona suspected, largely because Madame Helga knew what was good for her and also knew that the vast number of people not in the military and not with their own home in Berlin were probably spies, agents, or secret police.
Fiona suspected there were probably a couple of Nazi sympathisers hiding in one of the rooms, although she had never been able to prove it, and had no intention of hanging around the place long enough to find out.
The Office had a standing order set up at the boarding house, renting out two rooms at all times, tucked away at the back of the building on the top floor, with only one set of stairs leading up to them. Having arrived safely, Fiona was feeling rather proud of herself for two reasons. The first, she had only got lost once, and only for a minute while trying to avoid a Russian patrol when they took a wrong turn near the Russian occupation zone. Secondly, she had only threatened to thump Serena once on the way to the boarding house.
Serena was now sat, still wearing her satin blouse and pencil skirt, on one of the straight-backed wooden chairs, her wrists tied to the sides of the chair, her ankles and knees bound together, and the thick black silk gag and the wadded up handkerchief back in her mouth. She had made several mumbled insults which Fiona had studiously ignored, although she had needed to resist the urge to roll her eyes when some of the language turned more colourful. In the last few minutes, though, the brunette had fallen silent and sagged back into the chair, allowing Fiona to think a little more clearly.
The arrival of the Russian soldiers at Serena's safe house had been a concern, and not just because they had come so close to getting caught. Fiona suspected that Serena's cooperation (or at least, lack of open hostility) had been caused by the fact that they had both come to the realisation that whoever had been a mole in the Office and had compromised Fiona's first mission to collect Professor Van Krupt, had potentially also passed on her movements to the Russians to compromise Serena's safehouse, which meant neither one had a decent cover identity.
Fiona sighed and sat on the sofa, crossing her long, shapely legs and looking over at Serena. She still, irritatingly, looked stunning, despite the fact she was bound to a chair and thoroughly gagged. In fact, Fiona thought, the ropes seemed to accentuate her bod shape and her slender, delicate beauty. Forcing her thoughts back to the matter at hand, Fiona picked up the telephone and dialled the number.
"Hello Timothy. We've just arrived," she said.
"Good news. Was it a little crowded on the streets out there? The trip seemed to take you a while," said the voice.
"Had to secure the package once I arrived," Fiona said, watching as Serena rolled her eyes with a grimace, hearing herself described as a 'package'. She made a mental note to do it a few more times to see how much she could annoy her. "Any information on the delivery van?"
"It should be on its way in the next ten minutes. You'll only have to wait a little longer," said the voice. "Seems like you've had a busy day."
"Not too bad," said Fiona. "Although I think I need a good strong cup of tea," she added.
"Quite right," the voice said. "Well, not long left."
"Thanks awfully," said Fiona.
"Cheerio," said the voice. She hung the receiver back on the cradle and sat back. Serena let out a mumble, which Fiona suspected was probably a curse or an insult, and resolved to leave the woman's gag firmly in her mouth. She stretched out on the sofa and then tucked her legs up underneath her, trying to get comfortable and realising that the sofa itself rather made that impossible. It seemed to have developed a number of lumps in the last two minutes that hadn't been there before.
Serena was glaring at her over the thick black silk scarf of her gag, so Fiona closed her eyes with an exaggerated yawn.
"I don't know why you're looking so grumpy," she said. "You're perfectly safe here."
"Grmph," was all that Serena managed through the thick black silk. Fiona shrugged and watched as Serena tugged at the ropes that bound her to the chair. The way she was tied forced her chest out a little, and her fitted satin blouse moved seductively over her body. Fiona wasn't interested in that sort of thing, but her time in North Africa had given her an appreciation of female bodies and the effect of ropes on them. She would have to be careful when the chaps from the Office arrived to take her in that they kept their minds on the job at hand.
Fiona sighed and flopped back on the sofa, studiously ignoring Serena's muffled grunts and moans as she struggled to get free. Fiona wondered where the extraction team were as she flexed her toes and thought about taking her boots off.
She yawned again, this time genuine, and stretched her legs out again, lying back on the sofa and closing her eyes. Serena made a muffled noise again, but Fiona ignored her. Serena made another noise and Fiona opened her eyes again, staring at her captive irritably. She was about to speak when the telephone rang and made her jump.
Irritated with herself, Fiona picked up the receiver, glaring at Serena as she did so.
"Hello, madam," the voice said. "Timothy here."
"Hello, Timothy. Any news on the delivery?"
"Afraid so, old stick, and you won't like it," said the voice. Fiona rolled her eyes. Something told her this was going to be another one of those days, where everything seemed to go completely wrong. A bit like the last time she had attempted to speak to Roger Crompton and had just ended up slopping tea all over the place. Only worse.
Fiona waited. "There's been a bit of a to-do in central Berlin, old girl," the voice told her. "Some sort of unexploded ordnance and a number of problems with jurisdictions and such," it said.
"I see," said Fiona.
"Afraid it means that all the roads to you are closed down. Well, all the roads in central Berlin, for that matter. I'm afraid we can't get our delivery van to you at all today. Any chance you could baton down the hatches and keep mum until tomorrow?"
"Looks like I'll have to."
"Good girl," the voice said. It made Fiona wish for a full, steaming teapot.
"Thanks awfully," she said.
"Don't mention it," said the voice. Fiona hung the receiver back on the cradle and sighed irritably. Serena looked over at her, raising an eyebrow in a manner that made Fiona feel oddly guilty about the fact she was bound to a chair.
"We're stuck here for the night, my girl," said Fiona with a sigh. "Better make you more comfortable, I suppose," she added. Serena's eyes widened slightly over her gag, and she let out a whimper. Fiona ignored her and started to loosen the ropes binding her to the chair.
At least she could get in plenty of practice at knot tying.
Twenty minutes later, Fiona and Serena sat opposite each other at the small dining table, cups of tea in front of them, steaming softly. Fiona had felt guilty about re-tying Serena straight away, and she had been remarkably cooperative so far since being caught, so she had decided a cup of tea couldn't hurt too much. Serena hadn't even thrown it at her, which had been something of a surprise, although she had probably needed to wet her mouth again after being gagged for so long. Fiona watched her adversary carefully as they drank from the dainty cups.
"Are you going to volunteer any information?" Fiona asked, in a non-committal voice.
"Who you work for? How you knew an Agent Smith was going to be on-site?"
"Oh. Not right now," Serena replied, pouting slightly in a manner that made Fiona like her a little bit more again. She could be quite witty when she wanted to be.
"I don't suppose the problems in Central Berlin are anything to do with your lot?" Fiona tried.
"No. Not us. Too bold for us," Serena said with a smile. There was a hint of professional pride in her voice that Fiona admired. She had thought it was a slightly amateurish thing to do, shutting down the roads with a fake bomb scare. Nowhere near as clever as her plan to funnel Serena to a certain place. She supposed it was the Russians. "Russians?" Serena ventured.
"Probably," said Fiona. "Or the Americans. They're not very subtle, either," she added.
"True," said Serena, winking. She flicked her hair back over her shoulder, and Fiona admired her delicate skin and posture again. Watching her, her confidence and her beauty, Fiona was reminded why Serena was such an effective agent. She was charming, beautiful, and competent. She was the complete spy, while Fiona, with her olive complexion that marked her out in Northern Europe and her slight clumsiness whenever she was near china crockery or tea, still had a lot to learn about a certain type of spy-craft. Fiona felt a pang of jealousy and hoped, very strongly, that Roger Crompton in Operations didn't ever meet Serena when they brought her in.
Although, she had beaten her, Fiona thought to herself, allowing herself a small smile.
"You're a strange one," Serena said.
"Well, you're clearly very good at your job. You put together an operation that funnelled me where you wanted me, and then you manage to get us both out from under the noses of the Russians, and yet you still haven't worked out who I work for."
"Should I know?"
"At a pinch, I'd have said the Yanks, but that makes no sense. You're too professional for the French, and you haven't got the accent for a Russian."
"All true," said Serena, sipping her tea.
"So the only logical suggestion is that you don't work for any national organisation," said Fiona. "The only problem is, I don't know what that might be," she added.
"I see," said Serena.
"It can't hurt to tell you, I suppose," said Serena. "You'll find out one way or another, and our operatives are already in position."
"Well then," said Fiona with a dismissive wave that she hoped suggested more confidence than she felt. At least she was getting something.
"It's called COUNTER," said Serena, putting down her cup and sitting back, smoothing her gold pinstriped blouse as she did so. "It started life as a British off-shoot of the SOE, created as an undercover, covert operations unit designed to work behind enemy lines and gather intelligence to share with our chaps about possible atomic testing by the Germans. It's how we know SOE's operating procedures and radio frequencies. Eighteen months ago, when it became clear that SOE, the OSS, and the KGB were all trying to recruit German nuclear scientists and rocket scientists, our high ups got a little upset."
"Go on," said Fiona.
"Officially, they dissolved the organisation, then sent in reports of agents dying and the trial and execution of a number of agents for desertion. Unofficially, we went dark and kept an eye on both sides."
"Exactly what we feared we were being used for. Collecting the capacity for each side to make more and more terrifying weapons."
"Well. They Yanks already did that," said Fiona irritably. She didn't like the thought of being referred to as an accessory to the stealing of nuclear secrets. She pushed aside thoughts of why she might have been sent after Van Krupt as they came to mind.
"They did. But they won't be happy with them. Any time soon they'll be making something bigger or more powerful. So we're intervening."
"And you took Van Krupt's wife to lure him away from us?"
"And the Russians," said Serena. "Surely you can see it's safer that way?"
"That isn't really the point," Fiona said, irritated at Serena's implications, even if she happened to agree with her. "And the Professor's mistress?"
"Probably gone by now. I was going today because we got word she might scarper. She's a little jumpy, carrying on with a nuclear scientist and the husband of an SOE agent."
"Everybody knew about Agent Smith," said Serena dismissively. "She really was terrible at it," she added.
"Tried hard, though," Fiona said quickly, without thinking. Serena nodded and shrugged, sipping her tea again. It was getting late, and Fiona realised she needed to prepare for the next day, and to secure her captive again.
"You better pop to the bathroom," said Fiona. "You're not going to be able to move for a while," she added. Serena sighed and drained her cup, nodding. She got up and smoothed her gold satin skirt, walking back towards the bathroom.
"Would you like me to leave the bathroom door open?" She asked sarcastically.
"Go on then," said Fiona. She wasn't sure why she had called her bluff, but it felt delightfully wicked to say it out loud, and even better when she saw the flicker of irritation over her beautiful captive's face. Serena opened her mouth to protest, then shut it again.
"You really do hold a grudge, don't you?"
"Only a little," said Fiona. "Hurry up," she added.
Ten minutes later Serena was sat on the bed, stripped of her blouse and skirt and heels, wearing only her silk bra and knickers, and a distinct look of irritation on her face. She had, however, stopped glaring.
"You can tell this place used to be a house of ill repute," she muttered.
"How's that?" Fiona asked, coiling some of the ropes that she had left on the sofa.
"Satin sheets," said Serena, sourly.
"Well, at least you'll be warm and comfortable," Fiona told her.
"I still don't think you need to tie me up again," said Serena.
"I know," Fiona replied with a thin smile. "Now lie back on the bed, would you," she added. Serena sighed and did as she was told, lying back on the dark blue satin sheet that Fiona had spread out across the bed. Fiona walked over, deliberately looking slightly over her beautiful captive's shoulder, and brought one side of the sheet over Serena's body, tucking it under her shoulder and her legs. She then pulled the opposite side of the sheet over Serena, again tucking it under her shoulder at the top, and then winding the bottom folds of satin around Serena's legs so that she was firmly wrapped in silk. Serena sighed, and Fiona thought she detected a slight hint of satisfaction in it.
"Terribly," said Serena, although she didn't sound too angry. She wriggled in the satin cocoon and looked up at Fiona. "Another method you used for your friend the Sheikh?"
"Only occasionally," said Fiona. "And only for the most troublesome of his concubines."
"Should I be insulted, or complimented?"
"Whichever you like, really," said Fiona with a smile.
Turning, Fiona picked up a coil of rope and quickly wound it around Serena's ankles, pulling the satin sheet close against her body. She used four more coils of rope, tying them around her captive's body at the knees, waist, and then above and below her breasts, each coil pulling the satin tightly around Serena's body and accentuating her slender curves.
Fiona stood back and admired her handiwork. It would keep Serena securely bound, but shouldn't prevent her sleeping, or stop her blood flowing. "Very pretty," she said, sarcastically. Serena rolled her eyes.
"Well, I'm not going anywhere," she said. Fiona nodded and produced a final length of rope. "What, may I ask, is that for?" Serena demanded.
"Insurance," said Fiona, tying the final length of rope to Serena's ankles, then to the bed post. She didn't want to risk her rolling off the bed and hopping away, or injuring herself. Serena looked down at her ankles and muttered something unladylike under her breath.
"And I'm meant to sleep like this, I presume?"
"You could try," said Fiona.
"Thanks, awfully," said Serena, moodily. "I'm beginning to think you quite like all this tying-women-up lark," she added.
"Maybe I just like tying you up," Fiona replied, instantly regretting it and blushing. She decided to pretend she hadn't said anything and watched as Serena broke into a small smile. She wasn't sure whether it was because she had blushed, or because of what she had said.
"Don't suppose I could talk you into letting me loose, can I?"
"Not really," said Fiona. "I quite like having you here like this. It means I don't have to worry about what you're doing, or plotting. You or your organisation," she said.
"And here was me thinking you'd been following me anyway," said Serena.
"Well, now I don't have to. Plus the ropes make you look lovely," she added.
"Flattery gets you everywhere," said Serena with a slightly flirtatious smile.
"Right. Gag. Open up," said Fiona, holding up the dark blue satin pillowcase she had folded into a broad band and tied a knot in the centre of earlier.
"Now that really is not necessary," Serena protested.
"I really don't want to argue," said Fiona. "I don't want you calling for help while I'm asleep. Or snoring," she added.
"Fine," huffed Serena, opening her mouth so that Fiona could push the knot between her teeth and then knot the scarf at the base of her skull, pulling the silk gag tightly between her teeth. Fiona lowered her back onto the bed, lying on her side to avoid choking, and nodded to herself. It would have to do until the chaps arrived in the morning to get them out. She was relatively confident that Serena wouldn't call for help anyway, but the gag was partly to humiliate her and partly to remove temptation.
Fiona flicked the switch on the bedside lamp and headed back to the sofa so she could curl up to get some sleep. Serena made a few mumbled protests that were largely swallowed by the thick silk gag and Fiona had to steel herself to avoid feeling sympathy for her.
She sat on the sofa and looked at Serena's back, watching her body rise and fall as she breathed slowly. She was, undoubtedly, a perfect agent. Fiona found herself feeling a twinge of regret that they had to be on opposite sides, thinking they would probably have been very good friends otherwise (although she would have had to have kept her away from Roger Crompton in Operations).
Sighing, Fiona sat back, her eyes absently wandering over Serena's bound form again, admiring her smooth, lustrous chestnut coloured hair and her shapely legs through the rope and silk cocoon.
She allowed herself a smile as she thought about how she might have dealt with Serena had they met in North Africa, and how she could even have used the threat of the Sheikh's harem over her. She'd have looked good in the outfit, Fiona mused to herself with a wicked grin, consoling herself that at least in North Africa she would have had a major advantage over Serena.
Allowing herself to hold onto that thought, Fiona curled her legs up under her on the sofa and allowed herself to drift off to sleep.
She was woken up at a sound like something dull hitting wood. At first, Fiona's mind dismissed it as part of whatever she had been dreaming about before waking (probably a couple of well-dressed female spies running away from Russians, although she couldn't have sworn to it). When the second thump came, her eyes snapped open and her hands were already moving towards where the Walther PPK sat on the small coffee table. Fingers curling around the grip of the pistol, she looked towards the door as it thumped against the doorframe, already unlocked and gaping open.
Serena was already awake, screaming dully into her gag and twisting against her bonds as two men in black combat fatigues carried her out of the door, still wrapped in the satin sheet, bound and gagged.
Two more men in black fatigues stood in front of her, pistols holstered on their thighs, and no markings on their uniforms. Fiona deliberately moved her hands away from the pistol and left it on the table.
"Tie her up," said a female voice from behind her.
She thought about fighting back, but the two men were on her in seconds, pulling her off the sofa and all-but carrying her to the high-backed wooden chair Serena had been tied to yesterday. In minutes, the two men had produced coils of white rope that were wound around her ankles, knees, wrists, and body to secure her to the chair. She didn't resist, knowing it would be a bad idea, and instead tensed her muscles as the ropes were wound around her body, hoping she had remembered that element of escapology correctly.
She looked at the woman who had given the instructions as the men tied her up.
She was tall. Taller than both Fiona and Serena, and she was very attractive, with large grey eyes, full lips, and long, thick red hair. She had very pale skin, and wore a silver satin blouse, a pale grey skirt that reached her knees, and a pair of high heeled shoes that made her legs appear almost endless. She was surprisingly well endowed in the chest department, Fiona thought, and was almost immediately struck dumb by the absurdity of what she thought.
As the ropes were cinched firmly around her wrists and ankles, Fiona bit back the yelps of pain. She wouldn't let them see that it hurt as they bound her securely to the chair. The woman watched with a strange detachment as Fiona was restrained, though Fiona noticed that she did watch every movement, as though checking the bonds were tight enough. Fiona tugged at her bonds experimentally, but they were incredibly firm.
"Good. Leave," the woman said. She had the hint of an accent, but Fiona couldn't place it well enough. She tugged the ropes again, surprised as she felt no movement in them at all, her hands bound firmly behind her, her ankles and knees secured as well. It took a moment until she realised that her wrists were bound to her ankles under the chair.
"I have retrieved my agent," the woman said. She sounded like a public school girl, the type that Fiona had never agreed with. "And she will be disciplined. You, my girl, are very resourceful, so I am going to leave you here, with a calling card. The number can be used to contact me once, and only once. Use it wisely to contact my organisation."
"Are you going to just leave me here?"
"Of course not, dear girl. But I am going to gag you so that we can get a safe distance from you," she said.
"You really don't need to," Fiona groaned.
"They all say that. Don't worry," she added, reaching into her handbag carefully and producing a large, gold coloured silk scarf with a brown border and yellow trim. "I'm using silk," she added.
"Thanks, awfully," Fiona muttered with as much sarcasm as she could muster. The thick band of silk was quickly brought between her lips from behind and the woman tied it snugly at the base of her skull.
"Very pretty. One of my chaps will come and let you go before your office arrives, my girl, don't worry. Unless I call Timothy's stationers first," she said with a wicked grin. "And I can assure you, whatever Agent Smith told you is quite inaccurate and misleading. She's like that, I'm afraid," the redhead told her with a dazzling grin. "Chin chin," she added.
Without another word, she was gone, and the door closed soundlessly behind her.
Fiona was left bound to the chair and gagged firmly. She tugged experimentally at her ropes, but found that they didn't give any slack at all. They weren't uncomfortably tight, or painful, but she was irritated that, once again, she had been bested by a shadowy organisation and left tied up. And it seemed to her that the chaps at the Office weren't all that bothered by it.
She tugged again at the ropes and felt no slack in them at all. As she grunted with effort (most unladylike, and certainly not a sound to repeat in front of her mother, she thought) she found only a faint gurgle came from behind the gag.
The ropes were snug. They held her firmly against the chair, making the silk of her blouse rub against her skin sensuously. It was a mildly erotic feeling, and she was concerned that her mind wandered back to Serena's bound and gagged form as well, and the fact that she didn't really mind the sensation of being bound and gagged herself. The silk scarves that had been used to gag her recently were certainly luxurious, and definitely better than the fabric based adhesive tape the Americans had been using to restrain Nazi high profile targets towards the end of the War.
At least this new organisation seemed to have a sense of style and occasion, she mused. Still, it wouldn't do to let on to anybody just how much she didn't mind it, or how much she had enjoyed tying and gagging Serena earlier.
Tugging at the ropes a little more, she concluded there was no shifting them, and certainly no hope of escape. She would be stuck like this for however long it took this new woman to call in to the Office, or to send one of her chaps.
This COUNTER organisation would definitely need dealing with, she realised. It was probably more important than dealing with the OSS, or the KGB, and definitely more important than rounding up the remains of the Nazi nuclear programme. Although, she realised, that was exactly what COUNTER was doing, so she could achieve two goals with one mission.
Of course, she sighed, doing either of those things would also require getting out of this chair, and that didn't seem to be possible until somebody came to let her loose.
She hoped it would be one of the men from COUNTER.
Then she could hit him.
She sank back in the chair and started to think of all the ways she could deal with the man who came to let her free. She realised she had plenty of time to think about it…
To Be Continued…