Valerie is not my real name of course, it is a pseudonym I use when on “assignment” as I like to call these random, but increasingly frequent requests to divert attention, and ‘deliver the spoils’. The war years is where I really gained my experience, and made connections, which are still very dear to me today.
Betty Croxted from Huddersfield, is what is on my original birth certificate. Betty is not quite as alluring as Marguerite, Helene, or any of the many sexy pseudonyms I employ during my work as a seductress. All my ‘names’ have characters to suit, and a wardrobe which compliments the whole persona. With wigs, make up and dresses, I pass for American, German, Russian, French or Dutch, of course I take my work seriously, I may not be officially employed as an agent, but I take the same risks and am invaluable to agents in achieving their goals. As the only girl in a family of 5 boys, I learnt how to defend myself, even before I had to fight off unwanted attention from officers. I am not being arrogant here, but I always knew that I was blessed with a figure many would die for, flawless skin, doe eyes that could shed a tear just by thinking about it, and a silky mane. Standing at 5feet 8 inches, still tall for a woman. My natural talent for picking up accents and foreign languages belies my modest beginnings as a Yorkshire lass.
I don’t often get this opportunity for moments of reflection, but I am feeling the enormity of the magnitude of this assignment, and am feeling uneasy that 24 hours later, no-one has yet arrived to retrieve the document. Crickey! at one point, I thought that I would never retrieve it from that shoe heel, as it was virtually sealed shut. However, my instructions had been to wait. So here I am pacing back and forth, in this small well furnished apartment. All I have eaten in 24 hours is an apple and copious amounts of coffee and a few shots of whisky. There is enough here to prepare a three-course meal for 4 adults for the next four days, but food and its preparation are the last thing on my mind right now. These mild palpitations are reminiscent of previous dangerous encounters. Sometimes there really is no clue as to what lurks ahead, I just feel a deep sense of foreboding, a knowing even. It is this ‘knowing’ that now plagues me.
I’m feeling relief that I’d told my family that I would be visiting friends for a fortnight, and so, on that score I’m covered for another 5 days at least. I have no interest in the item I recovered, but I feel like my professional pride is at stake, I am keen to do a job well.
Betty now sat, as she lit yet another cigarette, and gazed nonchalantly at the reproduction of Constable’s Kitchen Garden, her mind wandered through the hills and valleys to a time when she was not old enough to do more than tie shoe laces properly. As she remembered making daisy chains, skipping, picking dandelions and playing hide and seek in the undergrowth until dusk accompanied by the family dog Pookie. She imagined Pooky licking her face as a ray of sunlight caressed her cheek, as it stretched through the soft cotton clouds in a clear blue sky. The corners of her mouth were now upturned in a glorious smile as she sunk further into the dark brown Chesterfield and let her arms dangle to the sides, and there she dozed off, overcome with exhaustion.
Betty jerked from her slumber and opened her eyes, as she was brought back to reality by what sounded like a knock on her door. Her cigarette had now slipped from her fingers into her whisky glass. She stood up quickly, straitened her dress, checked her wig and makeup in the mirror. She now listened again for the rhythm of the knock. For a while there was nothing, then, knock-knock; knock-knock; knock -knock-knock silence. This rhythm was repeated once more and Betty knew it was time to open the door.