Courier to Marrakesh - Valentine Williams - ebook

Courier to Marrakesh ebook

Valentine Williams

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Perhaps Valentine Williams’ finest mystery thriller. Set in WW2, folk singer and guitarist Andrea Hallam gets caught up in a Nazi spy ring while travelling alone in Morocco. Kidnapped by Nazis who believe she holds a dossier on Hitler, the tale travels from entertaining wartime banter to sinister suspense and back again. She is swept into a plot to destroy or blackmail Hitler with some secret documents. But that enterprising villain Clubfoot (Dr. Grundt), wants to retrieve these documents. An exciting and emotional book from beginning to end. „Courier to Marrakesh „ is the last entry in the seven book series about the evil Dr. Adolph Grundt. There are 7 books in the „Clubfoot” series of secret agent action novels, featuring Dr Grundt, an agent of the German government as the „baddie”.

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Liczba stron: 450

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Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER V

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER I

I was dreaming my dream again. Always the same dream–at least, ever since that day at Rabat–with the plane plunging and shuddering and the sleet hissing past the windows. The rough going hadn’t scared our little gang particularly. We had had more than one such on our tour of the war areas–crossing the Irish Sea to Belfast, for instance, or our flight in the sirocco from Gib to Casablanca.

That terrifying dream. Always the same scene. Jack, peering into his cards and joshing me out of the corner of his wry comedian’s mouth, and Laura and Dirk across the gangway, helping Diana with her crossword puzzle. I would always wake up before the actual crash, but filled with such a sense of impending disaster that I would lie there gasping with fright.

This time, somehow, the dream was different. I was still playing gin rummy with Jack, but he was shouting at me, and in such a curious voice. It was high-pitched and hoarse, and seemed to come from a distance...

Then suddenly I was awake. I gazed about me wildly. This wasn’t my little hospital room where I had groped my way back to consciousness. All was dark about me save for a panel of starry sky in the open window at the foot of my bed, but I could make out gay curtains and bright leather cushions on a couch against the wall.

Memory came struggling back. The long, cold bus-ride from Rabat; Captain Stracer, who met me at the terminal, warning me that I was to dine with the American General before my concert; dinner at the General’s and the thrill of being the only woman in a roomful of officers vying with each other to make a fuss of me; and to crown all, the shabby movie-house, crammed from floor to roof with men in uniform, the never-ending encores, the charming friendliness of everyone. As a final reminder, the slender tower of the Kutubiah beyond my window, which Stracer had pointed out to me on my arrival, told me that I was at Marrakesh and that the voice quavering out of the dark was the muezzin calling to dawn prayer.

The hotel had given me one of a series of ground-floor rooms, each with its own little porch looking out across the hotel gardens at the city and the snowy Atlas peaks beyond. In dressing-gown and slippers I ran outside. The air was frosty and still, its emptiness filled by that disembodied voice reverberating against the mountains across the jumble of minarets and domes and flat-topped houses dimly white beyond the gardens. “La illaha illa’llah!” it flung in a closing challenge to the paling sky and ceased.

Silence then. Already, over to eastward, the sky was faintly lemon. The birds were stirring in the palms below the porch and little sounds began to mount from the city, waked into life by the muezzin’s call. This was the real Orient, I told myself, not the bogus thing, debased and defaced by the West, which I had found at Algiers. My spirits soared. I was at Marrakesh and I had a whole week in which to explore this magic city.

For so the doctor at Rabat had stipulated when the Special Service people had come along with this emergency date at Marrakesh: they wanted me to fill in for a party of entertainers held up somewhere along the route. I had sustained a severe nervous shock, my nice Medical Corps major pointed out; there could be no question of my resuming my regular concert routine at present–the Special Service people spoke of further dates after Marrakesh. If he consented to this one concert, it must be on the clear understanding that I was to take things easy for at least a week afterwards and rest every afternoon.

Special Service was quite agreeable. The idea was that from Marrakesh I might go across to Sicily or even Naples–it would take all of a week to book dates. For myself I felt equal to anything; all I wanted was to get out of that damned hospital and into the war again, and so I told the Major. But he was adamant and we left it at that: the one appearance at Marrakesh, a week’s lay-off, and then, if all went well, these dates in Italy. Even so, I was thrilled. To go to Naples, right in the zone of the Armies–I felt I could hardly wait.

Well, I had paid my respects to the American General and given my concert, and here I was at Marrakesh, free to loaf for a whole week. If only Hank were still here! He had certainly been at Marrakesh three weeks before, because he had wired me from there to Rabat. Such a sweet message. He was appalled by my accident, of which he had only just heard as he had been away, but glad that it was no worse. Would I please take things easy and make a good recovery? He was trying to get leave to come up and see me. But he never appeared, and, as he gave me no reply address, I could only write him to his A.P.O. number when I knew I should be at Marrakesh myself, but had no further word from him. When he didn’t show up at my concert I guessed that he must have gone away again. The curious thing was that neither the General nor Captain Stracer nor anyone else I questioned seemed to know anything about him. But, of course, it was a man-size Army now and Hank was only a lowly captain–the trouble was that I had no idea what his job was or where he was stationed.

It was most disappointing. Hank was a dear friend of mine, and if he had been on the spot to take me round, it would have made my holiday quite perfect. Apart from this, I had made a little plan for Hank. I was counting on him to take me to hear this marvellous Marrakesh singing woman, the Sheikha Zuleika, of whom my Swiss friend, Herr Ziemer, had told me, coming on the bus from Rabat.

But, with or without Hank, the exciting thing was to be in circulation again. I had been so restless at home. Before Pearl Harbour life for me had been pretty full, what with my concert and radio work; after five years of it I could still get a kick out of seeing my name on posters outside Carnegie Hall, the Detroit Auditorium, places like that: Andrea Hallam and Her Guitar: In Songs of the Nations. But with our entry into the war things began to happen to Americans outside the narrow circle of safety at home: the Pacific, North Africa, Italy, the Aleutians. I would have liked to have joined up with the Wacs or the Waves, but was sternly told at Washington that my job was to keep up morale, singing to the armed forces. They seemed to like me at the Stage Door Canteens, the camps and naval bases, not only my cowboy and hill-billy numbers, but even the old French and Italian ballads, the Spanish saetas and Portuguese fados, in my repertoire. It may have been my red hair, of course; our sailors and soldiers have never been known to have any particular allergy to redheads. But my heart was not at peace and I never rested until I persuaded Washington to send me overseas to sing at the camps.

That crash at Rabat ended a wonderful trip our little gang had, that summer of ‘43, first in England and Northern Ireland, and afterwards in North Africa. Of our party of five, Jack and Dirk were burnt to death when our plane made a forced landing flying from Algiers to Marrakesh. Of the three girls, I was the unlucky one. Laura and Diana, film starlets from Hollywood, were flung clear and merely bruised. Even so, I counted myself fortunate to have come out with only a damaged shoulder but with the old face intact, thank goodness! Some French soldiers dragged me out unconscious as the plane caught fire. The two men were pinned under the wreck. Laura and Di, the plucky kids, went on with the tour. Everybody was as nice as possible to me at Rabat, but, looking back, it seems to me that I only picked up the threads of my existence once more when this Marrakesh engagement came along.

It was chilly on the porch and presently I went indoors. Digging a warm sweater and a pair of slacks out of my one small suitcase, I slipped into them and set about brewing myself a cup of tea. I had my own tea-basket, the present of a British Guards officer who gave me quite a rush in London. He even wanted to marry me, coming out with his proposal, bless him, as casually as though asking for a match. A nice creature and quite unbelievably good-looking, but not for me, not for little Andrea. If I had been the marrying sort I could have settled down with Hank Lundgren at Milwaukee. It was in the fall of ‘39, soon after war broke out in Europe, that he came up with his proposal. I was only twenty-three then, but already I had carved out for myself a little niche as a singer of folk-songs, many of which I had collected during the three years I spent in Europe on the travelling scholarship I had won in Chicago.

I liked Hank tremendously, but the songs came first. Folk-songs were to me what butterflies and orchids are to the collector, and I could scarcely wait for the war to end to return to Europe on a further voyage of discovery. So I told poor Hank no, and when we entered the war he disappeared into the Army. He went to Europe very soon, probably on account of his languages: he spoke Swedish–he was of Swedish farming stock–German, too. We used to write to one another, but he never spoke of his movements in his letters to me; only of mutual acquaintances he had met, the weather, things like that: actually I had no idea that he was in North Africa until I had his wire from Marrakesh.

I was sipping my tea and thinking about Hank when my ear caught a faint, moaning sound outside. It was a dull kind of a whisper, rather like a child grizzling to itself. I put down my cup and went outside. On the porch next to mine a woman was lying in a long chair, one hand shielding her eyes against the sunrise, the other pressed to her side. She was dressed in one of those long house-coats to the ground, in white, and her bare feet were thrust into sandals. Her hair, jet black, was gathered in a thick coil resting on her shoulder. She was groaning faintly. “Madame!” I said to her. Then, realising that she was in pain, I swung a leg over the rail and landed at her side.

CHAPTER II

I said in French, “I have the room next to you. I’m afraid you’re ill. Is there anything I can do?”

She took her hand away from her face. Dark eyes gazed into mine. Still clutching her side, she motioned with her head towards the open door behind her chair. “If you would be so kind,” she murmured weakly. “The bottle of drops on the bathroom shelf.”

I flew for the bottle with its dropper and little glass. The bottle bore the label of a Casablanca pharmacy inscribed in ink: Gouttes pour la Comtesse Mazzoli. “Ten drops,” she said in a faint voice. I measured them out and gave her the glass. She did not move after she had taken the drops, lying there with her eyes closed. She was no longer young, for all the wealth and flawless blackness of her hair; but it was easy to see that she had been a dashing creature in her time with her faintly olive skin and lucent black eyes. Presently I saw that her eyes were open. “Thank you, my dear,” she said. “I’m afraid I alarmed you.”

“Are you feeling better, madame?” I asked.

She nodded. “I’ve been having these spasms of pain, but they pass. They fetched the hotel doctor to me last night, an imbecile who insists that I should undergo an operation. As you see, I’m all right again now.”

“I’ve just made some tea, if you’d care for a cup?”

“It would be very nice if it isn’t troubling you too much.”

When I came back with her tea she said, “You speak French well, but you’re not French. The English take their tea with them all over the earth. You’re English, I think?”

I shook my head. “I’m an American–in spite of the tea.”

She crooned a little laugh. “How proudly you say that,” she remarked in very good English. “Like my Roman ancestors with their ‘Civis Romanus sum!’ Stand round a little where I can see you!” She had a warm, caressing voice and a smile that lit up her whole face. She nodded approvingly as I stood in front of her, somewhat conscious of my trousered legs. “Your colouring is lovely, my dear. You might be a Venetian with your auburn hair and white skin–our Titian would have liked to paint you. What are you doing at Marrakesh?”

“I came here to sing to the troops.”

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