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View Full Version : Inger Svensen (Altmeier Saga) Part 2 (long)



paulhager
01-02-2006, 04:19 PM
20 May 1944, evening, Inger€s apartment, Bergen
€What to wear,€ Inger wondered. It was always important to begin a tour with a show of elegance. Later, when the men saw how athletic she was on ski or when carrying a backpack, it would enhance her mystique.

Tonight she was meeting her first clients in nearly two months. This represented an unusually long hiatus for Inger. In the past she had always been insulated from the seasonal fluctuations of the Bergen tour business because she was the biggest attraction on any tour she conducted. Bad weather merely gave her more opportunities to demonstrate to her favored client (or clients) that her prowess at €œindoor sports€ exceeded even her obviously formidable skills at outdoor ones. It wasn€t just the tour business that was slow €" the tempo of Inger€s social life had slowed as well. She hadn€t been squired to any parties since early March. No business or social contacts translated to little or no intelligence, particularly in the area of new subs.

While searching for an appropriate pair of shoes - €Maybe the black leather pumps with the five-centimeter heels €¦€ - Inger pondered why she seemed to have become a social pariah. Could it be age? She was turning 25 next week. She looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Harold Greenbaum was right €" €I am a dish.€ She leaned close to examine her face. A few wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, some smile lines. Nothing some light makeup wouldn€t cover. No, the problem wasn€t with her. €Blue! The blue suede pumps from Stockholm and blue strapless evening gown!€ As she began putting on the gown the problem suddenly became obvious €" her social network was being systematically destroyed. Many subs weren€t returning from patrol and the veteran officers were being killed off. The young replacements didn€t know Bergen and weren€t around long enough to develop an interest in what she had to offer, either as a guide or a high-class escort. The Allies€ success at killing the enemy, perhaps due in no small part to her own efforts over the past three years, was paradoxically having the effect of limiting her own success at spying.

Once again appraising herself in the mirror, she saw the blue ensemble would work, particularly in the smoky, dimly lit interior of the Berliner. Her white, sequined handbag, pearl necklace, and sable fur wrap would be the perfect accessories. Inger pulled her hair up onto her head €" €Yes, I€ll wear it up tonight.€ With the heels, it would make her look to be over 190 centimeters tall. Regal and imposing. It€s frequently a good tactic to be a little intimidating to men. Men liked the challenge and appreciated her €œsurrender€, when it came, that much more.

Taking frequent lovers €" even Germans - was one of the perquisites of being a spy. Inger sometimes thought of herself as an anthropologist whose area of study was the male half of mankind. For Inger, a new lover was a new subject for study. Someday she should write her own treatise: €œComing of Age in the Kriegsmarine.€ First and foremost, Inger found men intrinsically attractive €" particularly their strength. Much of the pleasure she derived from seduction was learning to control and tame these powerful animals. Each man was a little different and she had to vary her technique for each €" it was a game that never became stale. The one thing missing was that she had never met a man who operated on her level. There was Sammy but he wasn€t even in the game. What would it be like to meet her male counterpart? Erik wasn€t it, though he probably came closest.

As for Erik €" he had put her off the past two weeks saying he was too busy for her to visit. She didn€t need to go to Stockholm €" she was just bored €" so the fact Erik had made himself unavailable was irksome. Inger saw this as indicative that a crisis was looming with Erik €" how could he be €œtoo busy€ to see her? She was going to visit him on the 26th - the day after her birthday €" with the expectation that he was going to present her with some sort of ultimatum. And that would be the end €" Inger was not going to be dictated to by Erik or any other man. In her mind, Inger was already adjusting to life without her €œboyfriend€.

One benefit of the trip to Stockholm was that she would see Harold again. Unfortunately, she could construct no scenario that would allow her to get him into bed. They couldn€t be seen together wandering about Stockholm and, with Sammy present, she couldn€t get Harold alone in the hotel room. Inger considered and then quickly dismissed that there might be some problem attached to sleeping with her American contact. Besides, her reading of Harold was that he wanted her just as badly as she wanted him. Inger could feel her body starting to react as she thought about Harold. If she didn€t have to walk out the door, she€d relieve the building tension immediately. For now she€d have to tamp her emotions and save her fantasies about Harold for a later time.

20 May 1944, later, the Berliner restaurant, Bergen
When Inger arrived, the foyer of the Berliner was clogged with people waiting for a table. She didn€t see Jr. Lieutenant Gustav Unterhorst among them so it followed that his party had already been seated. She worked her way to the matre d€ station.

€œHello, Per.€ Per Josephsen, one of her old €" meaning, pre-invasion - lovers, was the Berliner€s matre d€.
€œInger. How nice to see you.€
€œI€m looking for an officer named Gustav Unterhorst €" you may have already seated him.€
Josephsen looked over his list. €œYes, table 20, in the back.€ He lifted the velvet rope and pointed toward the table.

As Inger made her way to the table she saw that, in addition to Unterhorst and another officer who must be his friend, Georg Rausch, there were two girls €" young blondes probably 17 or 18. This was not part of the plan and would have to be dealt with.

€œAh, Inger,€ Unterhorst stood as Inger reached the table. €œYou look stunning.€
Inger smiled €" a polite, artificial smile. She had decided the situation called for the Nordic Princess. €œOf course I look stunning. Now, abase yourself before me.€ €œGustav.€ She extended her hand, palm down. Unterhorst clicked his heels, bent forward and kissed it. She gave him a broad smile. €œThat€s better.€
Unterhorst seated Inger between Rausch and himself and sat back down.
€œIntroduce me to friends,€ imperious, but with politesse.
€œOf course. The gentleman to your right is Jr. Lieutenant Georg Rausch.€ Rausch nodded. The young ladies are Vibeke and Kirsti Skjoldbj¦rg.
€œI€m Vibeke, she€s Kirsti,€ said the blonde sitting next to Rausch. €œWe€re first cousins.€ Both girls tittered inanely.
€œHow nice,€ said Inger. Blonde, young, and she now saw, blue-eyed. Germans had a fixation with blue-eyed blondes €" her own hazel eyes didn€t fit the €œAryan€ ideal.

With the exception of the women in her immediate family, Inger didn€t particularly like other females. From their late teens to their late 30€s, they were potential competitors for available men. The rest were too uninteresting to merit her time. Her most dangerous competition came from teenage girls. Men were drawn to them like bees to spring flowers. Teenaged girls intuitively know that youth is the true aphrodisiac and the source of their power over men. But, this was counterbalanced by the fact that the young are often na¯ve or just plain stupid. Inger observed that the Skjoldbj¦rg cousins were both.

Turning to Gustav, €œSo, girls dates just tonight or coming with?€
Gustav threw his arm around Kirsti€s shoulder and pulled her close. €œThey€re coming with us €" right, sweetheart?€ He planted a kiss on Kirsti€s cheek - she responded with a simper.
€œExcellent,€ Inger smiled broadly. €œSince cousins I charge you only extra 50 Krone day.€ Unterhorst frowned.
€œI thought your fee was only for me and Georg.€
€œMore people, more cost. I give discount. You not be able afford?€ Inger said it with just enough regret in her voice to convey that if he didn€t come up with the money, there would be no tour, while also putting him in the position of looking cheap in front of his €œsweetheart€.
€œOf course, you€re right €" I didn€t think.€ €œNo you didn€t,€ agreed Inger.

€œYou men new to Bergen.€ Inger turned to Rausch. €œYes?€
€œYes,€ answered Rausch. €œWe arrived within €¦ what? €¦ three days of each other. I€m captain of the U-1250. Gustav is captain of the U-1183.€ He didn€t need to emphasize €œcaptain€ to pique Inger€s interest.
€œYou just meet?€
€œOh, no,€ this time Unterhorst spoke. €œWe trained together in the Baltic. Both assigned to the 11th Flotilla.€
€œNice, friends reunite.€ Inger picked up her menu. €œYou order?€
€œNo, not yet,€ said Unterhorst. €œDo you have any suggestions?€

Inger took over, explaining the menu items. The house specialty was the marinated whale steak and vegetables. A bottle of the Châteauneuf du Pape 1934 would stand up to it well, she added. Inger had the men€s attention and the Skjoldbj¦rg cousins started fidgeting. Vibeke piped up. €œLet€s get the whale. That€s what I always get.€ She was ignored by the men and Inger continued as though the interruption had never occurred. When she finished, Inger closed her menu and announced, €œI not always get whale steak like Miss Skjoldbj¦rg but I think I have it tonight.€ Unterhorst turned to Rausch, €œWhale?€ The latter nodded.

Unterhorst ordered for the table when the waiter arrived. When he asked for the Châteauneuf du Pape 1934, the waiter positively gushed, €œExcellent choice, Sir! I can see you know your wines!€

Throughout the dinner, the cousins attempted to join the conversation. Their German was excellent but their comments merely emphasized their immaturity. For her part, Inger was in her element, laying out the history of Bergen and the great men who had been born there, notably the composer, Edvard Grieg. €œYou must go Bergen symphony. Next month do Grieg Piano Concerto. You know it?€ No, neither officer did. She vocalized a couple of bars and Unterhorst said he thought he recognized it. Inger leaned over, lightly grasping his tricep, €œI knew you cultured man, Gustav.€

Raucous laughter from near the stage drew her attention. A group of officers was engaged in a boisterous celebration of some kind. A couple of empty bottles of akavit were in evidence. Inger was surprised any of them was still conscious. She thought she recognized one of the officers but his back was to her. When another officer began speaking to him, the familiar-looking officer turned €" in profile she realized it was her €œtall submariner€, Herbert Altmeier.
€œThey very happy,€ she said to Unterhorst. He didn€t immediately respond. Inger saw that while she was diverted, Kirsti had surreptitiously begun running her hand along his upper thigh. It was an obvious escalation €" the only area remaining where the cousins had any chance of competing with her. Inger reached over and placed her hand on Unterhorst€s shoulder. As he turned in reaction, she leaned closer. €œThose noisy men - you know?€
Unterhorst twisted to look and Kirsti€s hand fell away. €œNot personally €" they€re not part of our unit. Hey, Georg €" aren€t they the guys who lost their captain?€
€œHuh?€ Rausch was also being attended to by a cousin.
€œThat drunken bunch over there €" aren€t they the ones who lost their captain?€
€œOh, right €" the U-1197,€ replied Rausch. €œSeventh Flotilla. The captain was critically injured in an air attack. No one else hurt. They were very lucky.€
€œSeventh Flotilla here?€ Inger knew the answer but asked anyway.
€œNo,€ Unterhorst answered. €œFrance.€
€œThey very happy to lose captain?€
€œNo, they€re very happy to be alive.€

Inger knew Unterhorst was right about most of the men from the U-1197 but she had a feeling that explanation didn€t suffice for Herbert Altmeier. This was the same man who had been so controlled and serious when he was awarded his medal €" gaiety and mirth didn€t come naturally to him. Some of it was the akavit. But, it was something else, too €" Inger was sure of it. Her tall submariner was relieved at losing his captain. Whether this was from ambition or some other motive she couldn€t discern.

€œYou not go out yet?€ she asked Unterhorst.
€œPatrol? No. We both just got here. We were training."
€œOh, yes €" training in Baltic. Now remember. Sorry. Must be scary in U-boat.€
€œNot at all €¦ unless you get depth charged.€
€œWhat €˜depth charged€?€
€œDestroyers drop a bomb in the water right on top of you. If it hits your sub, you€re dead.€
€œYou very brave man, I think.€
€œI just do my duty €" like everyone else.€
€œSo, if you depth charged, how you survive?€
€œWe learn how to escape from destroyers . . . tactics, use of decoys, things like that.€
€œSo you come back to Bergen, yes?€
€œYes. So we €˜come back€ €" right Georg?€
€œRight you are,€ answered Rausch. €œAbout the only thing I€m worried about is those bomblets €" the €˜hedgehogs.€€
€œHedgehogs? Little animals?€
€œNo, clusters of small bombs €" €˜hedgehogs€ is what the enemy calls them. They don€t interfere with the enemy€s ASDIC the way depth charges do. Very nasty.€
Inger knew precisely what hedgehogs were €" interesting that these men knew the Allied name. €œI sorry, but I not understand. Unpleasant too. Let€s talk something else. How about plan for tomorrow?€

Inger laid out the itinerary. She ticked off the adjustments that would have to be made because the cousins were coming along. They needed two more train tickets. There would be additional hotel room charges. €œHotel charge more if two people in room and I know you not sleep alone.€ Unterhorst grinned but the cousins acted embarrassed. €Imbeciles.€ €œGirls need hiking equipment €" you have?€ she looked at them in turn. Vibeke spoke for both, €œOh, yes €" we like the outdoors.€ €We€ll see about that.€

The waiter came to clear away the dishes €" the entertainment was about to get underway. The first performer was announced €" €œDirect from Berlin€ €" a singer in her late 30€s named Lola. Lola€s act was a mix of current favorites and old standards. She had a decent voice, albeit a little throaty. €Probably a smoker.€ Inger didn€t smoke €" it stained the teeth. Lola€s program was well chosen and perfectly suited to her style. Inger appreciated Lola€s ability to judge what would move an audience emotionally. It was rather like her ability to understand and control men through their emotions. This led Inger to muse on the possibility that being adept at handling individual men might translate to handling large groups of people. €If you can manipulate one person, you can manipulate a million.€ It was a disquieting thought €" wasn€t Hitler a man able to hypnotically control millions of Germans? For the first time, Inger considered there might be a moral dimension to how she used her power over men. But, she quickly rejected the idea. A horse, like a man, is a strong animal €" both are much stronger than a woman. Yet, no one considered it immoral to saddle and bridle a horse. How was it wrong if Inger did the equivalent with men? Besides, she always treated her men very well.

Lola wound up her set with €œLili Marlene€ €" a crowd-pleaser that to Inger was cloyingly sentimental. Herbert Altmeier got up and made his way somewhat unsteadily to the bathroom. Inger could tell from the rigidity of his facial muscles that he was controlling powerful emotions €" trying so hard, in fact, it made him easy to read. €So, my tall submariner has a sweetheart.€ A reasonable extrapolation was that the sweetheart was French. If she was correct, Herbert Altmeier was adrift in a sea of troubles, mostly of his own making.

After Lola finished, Inger said her goodbyes. She would be seeing a lot of the two German officers and their vapid girlfriends over the next few days. There was also an interrupted fantasy she wanted to rejoin €¦ urgently.

21 May 1944, evening, a hotel lobby, Norway
Inger sat on the couch, reading the Oslo newspaper. Even though it was heavily censored, a great deal was revealed by what was left out. The glaring absence of news from the East Front suggested that things were going badly for the Germans in Russia. Finally tiring of puff pieces and propaganda, Inger tossed the paper onto the coffee table. She leaned back and reflected on the day€s events.

Inger led the group from the hotel at 10 AM in order to reach the Folgefonna overlook by noon, where they would eat a packed lunch, view the glacier, and then hike back. The hike could have been made at a very leisurely pace in about an hour but she took them on a roundabout trek with the intent of running the cousins into the ground. Because of their youth and the natural athleticism Norwegians seem to possess, the cousins managed to avoid early collapse. The men, in contrast, were breathing heavily after fifteen minutes. Submariners are a sedentary lot and, in Inger€s experience, tend to be poorly conditioned. Eventually the cousins asked for the first break about a half-hour into the hike. Inger kept that and the other breaks short and pushed the pace just enough so that male vanity kept the men from protesting, leaving it to the cousins to call for each stop.

At the glacier, Inger gave her usual presentation €" a mix of geology, history, and mythology €" while her audience ate and tried to recuperate. As she expected, when it was time to leave, the cousins importuned the men to return to the hotel via the cable car and the men were happy to comply. Inger told them to go on and she hiked back to the hotel by the direct route.

Inger caught up with them in the hotel bar forty-five minutes later, after she had bathed and changed. They were amazed to see her back so soon. She explained that she had gone easy on them because they were amateurs €" when she said the word €œamateurs€, she looked directly at the cousins. €œI have much stamina,€ she elaborated. €œUseful for many things.€ She left unsaid what the €œmany things€ might be. Not too long afterwards, first Unterhorst, then Rausch, left with their respective girlfriends, presumably for their hotel rooms.

No one met her for dinner so Inger had eaten alone and was now killing time in the lobby with nothing to do. A couple of men had tried to strike up conversations in the course of the evening but she put them off - a pity because one of them was definitely interesting. As she was musing on the many sacrifices she was called on to make for the war effort, two men walked over and sat down, one in the adjacent armchair and the other next to her on the couch.
€œAnything to read?€ the man in the armchair asked in Norwegian.
Inger picked up the newspaper and handed it to him. €œYou be the judge.€
The man glanced at it and tossed it back on the coffee table. €œNot much there.€
Inger shrugged.
€œAre you here alone?€
€œIt would appear not,€ she smiled weakly.
€œOh, of course,€ he laughed. €œYes. Well, I€m Torbj¶rn and that€s my friend Morten €" we€re from Oslo.€
Inger was always suspicious of young Norwegian men who could afford to visit a resort. €œVacationing?€ She didn€t volunteer her name.
€œBusiness, actually. We€re engineers here to inspect the funicular.€
€œI seldom use it.€
€œOh, you needn€t worry €" it€s perfectly safe.€
€œNo doubt,€ she smiled, beginning to warm to Torbj¶rn the engineer. €œI don€t ride because I prefer to walk. But, now that I€ve met you, I€ll be sure to try it out.€ She smiled again.
€œI didn€t get your name.€
€œIt€s €¦
€œInger!€ It was Unterhorst. €œThere you are,€ he spoke in German.
Torbj¶rn€s smile froze at the sound of the invaders€ language.
€œHello, Gustav.€
€œI didn€t mean to interrupt. Are these friends of yours?€
Before she could answer, Torbj¶rn stood and interjected in Norwegian, €œI see we are intruding.€ His manner was frosty. €œIt was nice to meet you.€
€œYou don€t have to leave on my account,€ Unterhorst said to Torbj¶rn.
€œBitte €" Ich spreche kein Deutsch,€ responded Torbj¶rn as he and Morten walked away.

Unterhorst took the spot on the couch so recently vacated. €œThey left in a hurry. Who were they?€
€œStrangers.€
€œStrangers with an eye for a beautiful woman.€
€œWhere girlfriend?€
€œKirsti? She€s in the hotel room. Did you know she really likes you?€
Inger didn€t respond.
€œReally likes you?€
€œShe change mind tomorrow after next hike.€
€œWhy don€t you come up to the room and join us?€
Inger laughed. €œI no compete with little girl.€
€œWho said anything about competing?€
€œMe. I give man undivided attention. Little girl be in way.€
€œI€ll give you 500 Krone if you come up and spend the night with us.€
€œGive me 1000 and I spend night with you and Georg. Send little girls home.€ She laughed again.
Unterhorst was unprepared for Inger€s riposte. €œSo you won€t come up for 500 Krone?€
€œWhen you tire of little girl, come see Inger €" bring 500 Krone. I be available.€ She got up and walked away, leaving him sitting alone on the couch.

22 May 1944, evening, Inger€s hotel room, Norway
Inger lay back against the pillows and tested them for comfort. Something wasn€t quite right. She made an adjustment and then lay back again €" €Perfect€. Just as she took the book of Ibsen plays off the night table, someone knocked on the door. Inger expected it was Gustav Unterhorst. In a hundred different ways, he had shown today that she had supplanted Kirsti in his favor. At dinner he had completely ignored the girl while lavishing all his attention on Inger. Kirsti€s confusion and embarrassment was evident, and thoroughly satisfying to Inger. Another, more insistent knock. €œOne moment.€ Inger replaced the book on the night table and went over to the door.

€œYes?€
€œInger, it€s me €" Gustav. Can I come in?€
Inger opened the door. €œDecide to play with big girl for change?€
He started to walk in but Inger didn€t move from the doorway. €œYou forget something.€
€œRight €" 500 Krone. I have it.€ He pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket.
Inger reached out but instead of taking the proffered money, grasped the front of Unterhorst€s shirt. €œThen come in.€ She pulled him through the doorway.

22 May 1944, an hour later, Inger€s hotel room, Norway
€œYou€re an incredible woman.€
€œSo, you come visit me in Bergen. Yes?€
€œI€d like to. But now I€m broke. I can€t afford you.€ He laughed €" Inger joined him.
€œYou very good lover. I not charge. Now visit?€
€œOf course!€
€œHow long before go patrol?€
€œNext Saturday.€
€œThat soon €¦ I hope you come back.€
€œI€m planning on it €" and I think my odds are pretty good.€
€œHow that?€
€œWe€re going to be spending most of our time reporting on the weather and not hunting enemy convoys. Should be a lot safer.€
€œNot understand, but I glad.€
Unterhorst expressed surprise, €œI think you really are.€
€œGlad? You come back? Yes.€
€œSo, I €¦ mean something to you?€
€œYes, right now. I love many men over years €" now all dead. I learn not get too attached. You €˜mean something€ now, while here. On patrol €" dead.€ Unterhorst drew back. €œSorry, but I always tell truth. Is best. You want committed lover €" you have me next few days. After that, no promises. If come back €¦ we see what happens.€ She rolled over and kissed him. As he began to respond, someone started pounding on the door.
€œGustav €" are you in there.€ It was Kirsti.
Inger rolled across Unterhorst and grabbed her robe. The pounding continued while she put on the robe and walked over to the door.

Inger came through the doorway into the hall and slammed the door behind her, almost bowling Kirsti over in the process. €œBe quiet!€ Inger said it in a loud whisper. €œGo back to your room!€
€œNot until I€ve seen Gustav,€ Kirsti was defiant.
€œAre you stupid? Who do you think is in charge here? You? Me? Gustav Unterhorst commands a U-boat in the German Navy and you think it€s smart to throw a fit in the hallway and embarrass him?€
Kirsti was becoming unsure of herself. €œI just want to talk to him.€
€œGrow up! Right now Gustav wants to be with me. Maybe in thirty minutes he was planning to go back to his room to be with you. But, that€s much less likely now, isn€t it?€
€œI don€t know.€
€œYou have a lot to learn and I have neither the time nor the inclination to teach you.€ Inger hesitated. €œHere€s a suggestion. If you don€t want to go back to your room, go knock on Georg Rausch€s door.€
€œWhat do I do then?€
€œI have no idea €" just use your brain. Goodnight!€ Inger went back in her room, leaving Kirsti standing in the hallway with a puzzled expression on her face.

€œThat was quick.€ Marveling. €œWhat did you say to her?€
€œI said, €˜Grow up.€ Man choose woman €" learn to accept. Maybe you come see her later in room, maybe not.€
€œThat€s what you said?€
€œSure.€
€œWhat would you say if I went back to my room now?€
€œI say, €˜Have fun.€ Then I read book.€
€œI think I€ll stay.€
€œGood.€ She laughed. €œYou more fun than book.€

29 May 1944, mid-afternoon, a hotel room, Stockholm
€After the war I€m going to buy a big bathtub.€ Bathtubs were designed for some idealized average person, which meant they were a shade too small for Inger. €œTo really luxuriate, it needs to be about two meters long,€ she figured. She edged forward and worked the hot water valve with her big toe €" the bathwater was starting to cool.

As expected, it was over with Erik. He waited until last night to tell her he had proposed to Katya and that it was their final weekend together. Her reaction had been to laugh and congratulate him on following her advice to marry Katya. €œNow I can be your mistress,€ she had said. He hadn€t found that comment humorous. Erik had become rather dour in recent months and, she realized, tiresome.

Inger turned off the hot water with her toe. €I€m tired of men,€ she thought ruefully. But that overstated things €" she wasn€t tired of men per se, rather the men forced upon her by circumstance. It helped to keep the men, the war, and her mission in separate compartments in her mind €" in fact, it was essential that she do it in order to be effective. Self-examination was not a profitable endeavor and might even be dangerous.

€œDangerous€ was not the word Inger would use to describe her life as a spy €" €œboring€ was much closer to the mark. The dangers were real enough and the consequences of exposure horrific €" she would be tortured to death and most or all of her extended family would be executed. But, with reasonable care, the actual risks were close to zero. Her cover was perfect €" perfect because she was mostly what she appeared to be: a high-class prostitute. Had the war not intervened, would her life have been substantially different? It was a question with no answer and, besides, Inger knew it led to exactly the sort of introspection she actively tried to avoid. €I am a prostitute getting rich off the German invaders, who also spies on them for the Allies. Nothing more, nothing less.€ Being a prostitute first was the key to success and survival.

All of these musings put Inger in mind of Harold Greenbaum. He had conjured up a romantic vision of her as a master spy that was completely at odds with the prosaic and somewhat tawdry reality. By now, Sammy must have given him all the sordid details of her career. Even if he hadn€t, when Harold saw the paltry few scraps of information she had to show for nearly two months of espionage his heroic image of her would crumble.

The bathwater was starting to cool again so Inger pulled the drain stop with her toes and got out of the tub. She toweled off and applied lotion to those areas that had started to prune, then donned her robe and dried her hair, wrapping it in a towel. Her report was going to have so little content that she decided to take a few minutes and write it up before getting dressed. She still wasn€t quite sure what she wanted to wear. It would probably be the sweater, blouse, and skirt, which was conservative and secretarial and rather fit her mood.

She was just about to put pen to paper when there were three quick wraps on the door. €œEarly for Sammy,€ she thought. The knock was different, too.

It was Harold Greenbaum €" Sammy was nowhere is sight.
€œAre you Miss Liv Ousdal?€
€œYes. Please come in.€

€œWhere is Sammy?€
€œHe€s working on €¦ other things now. I€m your new handler.€
€œI rather like the sound of that€¦€
€œMaybe I should have said €˜operator.€€ His eyes strayed to her half-open bathrobe. €œI guess I€m early.€
Inger laughed. €œThere is no set schedule. Sammy always took about two hours even if it was only a ten minute trip €" I thought he was a tad excessive about security. If you can manage it in an hour, that is fine by me.€
Harold walked over to the table, placed the attaché case he was carrying next to it, and looked down at the pen and blank sheet of paper. €œYou were getting ready to write your report?€
€œSuch as it is, which is not much. I can easily dictate it if you like.€
Harold sat at the table and picked up the pen. €œShoot.€
€œ€Shoot€?€
€œUh, it€s an Americanism €" it means €˜proceed.€€

Inger removed the towel from her head and walked into the bathroom. €œI€ve two captains for you: Gustav Unterhorst, U-1183 and Georg Rausch, U-1250.€ She began brushing her hair. €œThey had just completed training.€ Harold scribbled rapidly as she spoke.

Inger walked next to Harold and continued. €œUnterhorst and the U-1183 presumably sailed sometime Saturday, 27 May.€ She walked over to the closet and began examining her clothes. €œRausch is supposed to sail today €" obviously I have no way of verifying that. I had very little contact with him €" most of my information comes from Unterhorst.€ She turned and waited for Harold to finish writing. When he looked up at her, she removed her bathrobe and draped it over the back of an adjacent chair as she spoke. €œAnd, I very much fear, most of it is not very interesting. I see you aren€t writing.€
€œUh, no €¦ I was waiting for €¦ you know, American women are a lot more modest than Scandinavian women.€
€œWhat is your preference?€
€œI €¦ well €¦ I€m not complaining but would you like me to wait in the hallway while you dress?€
€œIf I wanted you to leave the room I would have said so.€ Inger turned her back to him and removed a slip from its hanger. €œWhere was I? The course of training apparently covers Hedgehogs. They even used the word - in German of course.€ She turned to face Harold as she put on the slip. He continued to watch her. €œAs I said, not very interesting.€
€œHuh?€
€œThe report. Not very interesting.€ She struck a pose in the slip, €œWhat do you think?€
€œWell, it isn€t very interesting if that€s all you€ve got.€
€œNo. What do you think of the slip? I bought it this weekend.€

Harold burst into laughter. €œHandler.€ He laughed even harder. Inger was puzzled €" it was not the reaction she expected €" but his laughter quickly became contagious. Finally, their laughter subsided. €œWhy were we laughing?€ she asked.
For a moment it appeared as though her question was going to set him off again, but he exerted control. €œI said I was your €˜handler€ before €" it€s pretty obvious that you€re too much for anyone to handle.€ He chuckled. €œYou€re way beyond me €" that€s for sure.€
€œNot at all, Harold. You can be my handler any time you want.€

Inger took the print dress out of the closet and continued, €œPart of the training €" Unterhorst€s at any rate €" was in meteorology.€ She turned back to Harold and stepped into the dress. €œWeather.€ She pulled the dress up. €œThey taught him about measuring instruments €" barometers, anemometers, that sort of thing. He is supposed to concentrate more on weather than sinking ships.€ Harold was writing again. €œCurious, don€t you think?€
€œVery.€
€œHe had a week€s worth of classes, supposedly,€ Inger added.
€œHow do you do it?€
€œDo what?€
€œGet men to spill their guts to you.€
€œIt is a secret of the spy trade, Commander.€ She turned her back to him, pulled her hair onto her head and said, €œWould you zip me, please.€

Harold came over and zipped her up. Inger turned quickly and let her hair fall. She put her hands on his waist and ran them up to his chest. As she raked her nails expertly across his shirt, stimulating his nipples underneath, she felt him take her by the wrists and gently but forcefully remove her hands. €œInger, I have to stop this. I don€t want to €¦ but I have to.€
€œIf you don€t want to, then don€t.€
€œIt€s unprofessional. I know how corny that sounds. But, as long as we are working together I€m not going to get €¦ romantically involved with you, no matter how much I might want to.€
Harold released her wrists and Inger stood, digesting his words. She searched his face for some indication of ambivalence. She couldn€t find it. He was adamantine. Granitic.
€œYou do want to,€ she said. €œI can tell.€
€œYes.€ He smiled and nodded. €œDefinitely yes. Just not now.€
€œAfter the war,€ she said.
€œAfter the war,€ he echoed.

Harold walked back to the table and sat as Inger found a pair of sandals. As she put them on she said, €œIf you like, I can produce an educated guess as to which U-boats are overdue or probably lost.€
€œIt wouldn€t hurt. But, what do you mean, €˜educated guess€?€
€œAs you know, I have €" or have had - many lovers. Clients, if you prefer.€
€œActually, I didn€t €¦ but I€d kinda€ thought it was something like that. Sammy didn€t tell me much about you €" he just said, €˜She€s yours, old boy,€ and left. Literally. He€s not in Sweden any more. But €¦ okay. Back to €˜educated guess.€€
€œOver the past two months, a lot of men I would have expected to call me when they got back to Bergen have disappeared. Never came back. I can give you the list of men and what subs they were on.€
€œJust the subs will be fine,€ he said.
Inger walked over to the table. €œLet me write it. I€ll list the subs and how confident I am each was killed.€ She started to write and then stopped. €œThere€s something else I can add. A submarine from the 7th Flotilla put in €" the U-1197. The captain was lost in an air attack. There€s a highly decorated young Jr. Lieutenant on board named Herbert Altmeier.€ She started writing and stopped again. €œTell your pilots they need to improve their aim,€ she said, more to herself than Harold.

After she completed the list, she handed the paper to Harold. €œSorry.€
€œWhat for?€
€œYou know €˜what for€. That.€ She pointed at the paper.
€œI€m disappointed but not with you. Just the opposite. I €¦€ his voice trailed off. €œI know if it€s humanly possible, you€ll find out about that new sub and you€ll get the information back to us. By the way, with all the distractions I almost forgot €¦€ he picked up the attaché case. €œYou need to read through this before I go.€ He handed it to her.
€œIt€s heavy.€
€œIt€s everything we have on the new sub €" maybe I should say possible new sub. I€ll help you go through the stuff I think you€ll find most useful.€

It was after 4 PM when they finished. Inger thought most of the intelligence wasn€t of much relevance to her. Still, it was time well spent because she discovered how much she enjoyed working with Harold. Until Sammy became her €œoperator€, Inger had always worked alone. In any case, she didn€t work with Sammy so much as she worked for him €" it was very clear that he was her mentor and boss. Harold, in contrast, treated her as an equal, as a partner. He was patient with her questions and interested in her observations. He also managed to inject just enough levity into the process to keep things light without it becoming a distraction. Harold was so pleasant to be around that Inger almost forgot how much she was physically attracted to him.

€œSorry this took so long,€ Harold said as he closed the attaché case. €œI know you need to get back.€
€œNot to worry. It went a lot faster than if I had tried to figure it all out by myself.€
€œSo, I€ll see you €¦ I guess, when you decide to come back to Stockholm.€
€œIt might be a while €" I broke up with my Stockholm boyfriend. Or rather, he broke up with me.€
Harold raised an eyebrow. €œI find that hard to believe.€
Inger laughed €" her most musical trill. €œOh, it€s true. Since I turned 25, I€ve been rejected by every man I know.€
Harold started to say something, hesitated, and finally said, €œWell, good luck,€ and he held out his hand. Inger took it but didn€t shake.
€œHarold, would it be unprofessional to hug? Just hug?€ He responded by pulling her close and enveloping her with his arms. As they stood, embracing, Inger was surprised to discover that sometimes the reality is better than the dream.

paulhager
01-02-2006, 04:19 PM
20 May 1944, evening, Inger€s apartment, Bergen
€What to wear,€ Inger wondered. It was always important to begin a tour with a show of elegance. Later, when the men saw how athletic she was on ski or when carrying a backpack, it would enhance her mystique.

Tonight she was meeting her first clients in nearly two months. This represented an unusually long hiatus for Inger. In the past she had always been insulated from the seasonal fluctuations of the Bergen tour business because she was the biggest attraction on any tour she conducted. Bad weather merely gave her more opportunities to demonstrate to her favored client (or clients) that her prowess at €œindoor sports€ exceeded even her obviously formidable skills at outdoor ones. It wasn€t just the tour business that was slow €" the tempo of Inger€s social life had slowed as well. She hadn€t been squired to any parties since early March. No business or social contacts translated to little or no intelligence, particularly in the area of new subs.

While searching for an appropriate pair of shoes - €Maybe the black leather pumps with the five-centimeter heels €¦€ - Inger pondered why she seemed to have become a social pariah. Could it be age? She was turning 25 next week. She looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror. Harold Greenbaum was right €" €I am a dish.€ She leaned close to examine her face. A few wrinkles at the corners of her eyes, some smile lines. Nothing some light makeup wouldn€t cover. No, the problem wasn€t with her. €Blue! The blue suede pumps from Stockholm and blue strapless evening gown!€ As she began putting on the gown the problem suddenly became obvious €" her social network was being systematically destroyed. Many subs weren€t returning from patrol and the veteran officers were being killed off. The young replacements didn€t know Bergen and weren€t around long enough to develop an interest in what she had to offer, either as a guide or a high-class escort. The Allies€ success at killing the enemy, perhaps due in no small part to her own efforts over the past three years, was paradoxically having the effect of limiting her own success at spying.

Once again appraising herself in the mirror, she saw the blue ensemble would work, particularly in the smoky, dimly lit interior of the Berliner. Her white, sequined handbag, pearl necklace, and sable fur wrap would be the perfect accessories. Inger pulled her hair up onto her head €" €Yes, I€ll wear it up tonight.€ With the heels, it would make her look to be over 190 centimeters tall. Regal and imposing. It€s frequently a good tactic to be a little intimidating to men. Men liked the challenge and appreciated her €œsurrender€, when it came, that much more.

Taking frequent lovers €" even Germans - was one of the perquisites of being a spy. Inger sometimes thought of herself as an anthropologist whose area of study was the male half of mankind. For Inger, a new lover was a new subject for study. Someday she should write her own treatise: €œComing of Age in the Kriegsmarine.€ First and foremost, Inger found men intrinsically attractive €" particularly their strength. Much of the pleasure she derived from seduction was learning to control and tame these powerful animals. Each man was a little different and she had to vary her technique for each €" it was a game that never became stale. The one thing missing was that she had never met a man who operated on her level. There was Sammy but he wasn€t even in the game. What would it be like to meet her male counterpart? Erik wasn€t it, though he probably came closest.

As for Erik €" he had put her off the past two weeks saying he was too busy for her to visit. She didn€t need to go to Stockholm €" she was just bored €" so the fact Erik had made himself unavailable was irksome. Inger saw this as indicative that a crisis was looming with Erik €" how could he be €œtoo busy€ to see her? She was going to visit him on the 26th - the day after her birthday €" with the expectation that he was going to present her with some sort of ultimatum. And that would be the end €" Inger was not going to be dictated to by Erik or any other man. In her mind, Inger was already adjusting to life without her €œboyfriend€.

One benefit of the trip to Stockholm was that she would see Harold again. Unfortunately, she could construct no scenario that would allow her to get him into bed. They couldn€t be seen together wandering about Stockholm and, with Sammy present, she couldn€t get Harold alone in the hotel room. Inger considered and then quickly dismissed that there might be some problem attached to sleeping with her American contact. Besides, her reading of Harold was that he wanted her just as badly as she wanted him. Inger could feel her body starting to react as she thought about Harold. If she didn€t have to walk out the door, she€d relieve the building tension immediately. For now she€d have to tamp her emotions and save her fantasies about Harold for a later time.

20 May 1944, later, the Berliner restaurant, Bergen
When Inger arrived, the foyer of the Berliner was clogged with people waiting for a table. She didn€t see Jr. Lieutenant Gustav Unterhorst among them so it followed that his party had already been seated. She worked her way to the matre d€ station.

€œHello, Per.€ Per Josephsen, one of her old €" meaning, pre-invasion - lovers, was the Berliner€s matre d€.
€œInger. How nice to see you.€
€œI€m looking for an officer named Gustav Unterhorst €" you may have already seated him.€
Josephsen looked over his list. €œYes, table 20, in the back.€ He lifted the velvet rope and pointed toward the table.

As Inger made her way to the table she saw that, in addition to Unterhorst and another officer who must be his friend, Georg Rausch, there were two girls €" young blondes probably 17 or 18. This was not part of the plan and would have to be dealt with.

€œAh, Inger,€ Unterhorst stood as Inger reached the table. €œYou look stunning.€
Inger smiled €" a polite, artificial smile. She had decided the situation called for the Nordic Princess. €œOf course I look stunning. Now, abase yourself before me.€ €œGustav.€ She extended her hand, palm down. Unterhorst clicked his heels, bent forward and kissed it. She gave him a broad smile. €œThat€s better.€
Unterhorst seated Inger between Rausch and himself and sat back down.
€œIntroduce me to friends,€ imperious, but with politesse.
€œOf course. The gentleman to your right is Jr. Lieutenant Georg Rausch.€ Rausch nodded. The young ladies are Vibeke and Kirsti Skjoldbj¦rg.
€œI€m Vibeke, she€s Kirsti,€ said the blonde sitting next to Rausch. €œWe€re first cousins.€ Both girls tittered inanely.
€œHow nice,€ said Inger. Blonde, young, and she now saw, blue-eyed. Germans had a fixation with blue-eyed blondes €" her own hazel eyes didn€t fit the €œAryan€ ideal.

With the exception of the women in her immediate family, Inger didn€t particularly like other females. From their late teens to their late 30€s, they were potential competitors for available men. The rest were too uninteresting to merit her time. Her most dangerous competition came from teenage girls. Men were drawn to them like bees to spring flowers. Teenaged girls intuitively know that youth is the true aphrodisiac and the source of their power over men. But, this was counterbalanced by the fact that the young are often na¯ve or just plain stupid. Inger observed that the Skjoldbj¦rg cousins were both.

Turning to Gustav, €œSo, girls dates just tonight or coming with?€
Gustav threw his arm around Kirsti€s shoulder and pulled her close. €œThey€re coming with us €" right, sweetheart?€ He planted a kiss on Kirsti€s cheek - she responded with a simper.
€œExcellent,€ Inger smiled broadly. €œSince cousins I charge you only extra 50 Krone day.€ Unterhorst frowned.
€œI thought your fee was only for me and Georg.€
€œMore people, more cost. I give discount. You not be able afford?€ Inger said it with just enough regret in her voice to convey that if he didn€t come up with the money, there would be no tour, while also putting him in the position of looking cheap in front of his €œsweetheart€.
€œOf course, you€re right €" I didn€t think.€ €œNo you didn€t,€ agreed Inger.

€œYou men new to Bergen.€ Inger turned to Rausch. €œYes?€
€œYes,€ answered Rausch. €œWe arrived within €¦ what? €¦ three days of each other. I€m captain of the U-1250. Gustav is captain of the U-1183.€ He didn€t need to emphasize €œcaptain€ to pique Inger€s interest.
€œYou just meet?€
€œOh, no,€ this time Unterhorst spoke. €œWe trained together in the Baltic. Both assigned to the 11th Flotilla.€
€œNice, friends reunite.€ Inger picked up her menu. €œYou order?€
€œNo, not yet,€ said Unterhorst. €œDo you have any suggestions?€

Inger took over, explaining the menu items. The house specialty was the marinated whale steak and vegetables. A bottle of the Châteauneuf du Pape 1934 would stand up to it well, she added. Inger had the men€s attention and the Skjoldbj¦rg cousins started fidgeting. Vibeke piped up. €œLet€s get the whale. That€s what I always get.€ She was ignored by the men and Inger continued as though the interruption had never occurred. When she finished, Inger closed her menu and announced, €œI not always get whale steak like Miss Skjoldbj¦rg but I think I have it tonight.€ Unterhorst turned to Rausch, €œWhale?€ The latter nodded.

Unterhorst ordered for the table when the waiter arrived. When he asked for the Châteauneuf du Pape 1934, the waiter positively gushed, €œExcellent choice, Sir! I can see you know your wines!€

Throughout the dinner, the cousins attempted to join the conversation. Their German was excellent but their comments merely emphasized their immaturity. For her part, Inger was in her element, laying out the history of Bergen and the great men who had been born there, notably the composer, Edvard Grieg. €œYou must go Bergen symphony. Next month do Grieg Piano Concerto. You know it?€ No, neither officer did. She vocalized a couple of bars and Unterhorst said he thought he recognized it. Inger leaned over, lightly grasping his tricep, €œI knew you cultured man, Gustav.€

Raucous laughter from near the stage drew her attention. A group of officers was engaged in a boisterous celebration of some kind. A couple of empty bottles of akavit were in evidence. Inger was surprised any of them was still conscious. She thought she recognized one of the officers but his back was to her. When another officer began speaking to him, the familiar-looking officer turned €" in profile she realized it was her €œtall submariner€, Herbert Altmeier.
€œThey very happy,€ she said to Unterhorst. He didn€t immediately respond. Inger saw that while she was diverted, Kirsti had surreptitiously begun running her hand along his upper thigh. It was an obvious escalation €" the only area remaining where the cousins had any chance of competing with her. Inger reached over and placed her hand on Unterhorst€s shoulder. As he turned in reaction, she leaned closer. €œThose noisy men - you know?€
Unterhorst twisted to look and Kirsti€s hand fell away. €œNot personally €" they€re not part of our unit. Hey, Georg €" aren€t they the guys who lost their captain?€
€œHuh?€ Rausch was also being attended to by a cousin.
€œThat drunken bunch over there €" aren€t they the ones who lost their captain?€
€œOh, right €" the U-1197,€ replied Rausch. €œSeventh Flotilla. The captain was critically injured in an air attack. No one else hurt. They were very lucky.€
€œSeventh Flotilla here?€ Inger knew the answer but asked anyway.
€œNo,€ Unterhorst answered. €œFrance.€
€œThey very happy to lose captain?€
€œNo, they€re very happy to be alive.€

Inger knew Unterhorst was right about most of the men from the U-1197 but she had a feeling that explanation didn€t suffice for Herbert Altmeier. This was the same man who had been so controlled and serious when he was awarded his medal €" gaiety and mirth didn€t come naturally to him. Some of it was the akavit. But, it was something else, too €" Inger was sure of it. Her tall submariner was relieved at losing his captain. Whether this was from ambition or some other motive she couldn€t discern.

€œYou not go out yet?€ she asked Unterhorst.
€œPatrol? No. We both just got here. We were training."
€œOh, yes €" training in Baltic. Now remember. Sorry. Must be scary in U-boat.€
€œNot at all €¦ unless you get depth charged.€
€œWhat €˜depth charged€?€
€œDestroyers drop a bomb in the water right on top of you. If it hits your sub, you€re dead.€
€œYou very brave man, I think.€
€œI just do my duty €" like everyone else.€
€œSo, if you depth charged, how you survive?€
€œWe learn how to escape from destroyers . . . tactics, use of decoys, things like that.€
€œSo you come back to Bergen, yes?€
€œYes. So we €˜come back€ €" right Georg?€
€œRight you are,€ answered Rausch. €œAbout the only thing I€m worried about is those bomblets €" the €˜hedgehogs.€€
€œHedgehogs? Little animals?€
€œNo, clusters of small bombs €" €˜hedgehogs€ is what the enemy calls them. They don€t interfere with the enemy€s ASDIC the way depth charges do. Very nasty.€
Inger knew precisely what hedgehogs were €" interesting that these men knew the Allied name. €œI sorry, but I not understand. Unpleasant too. Let€s talk something else. How about plan for tomorrow?€

Inger laid out the itinerary. She ticked off the adjustments that would have to be made because the cousins were coming along. They needed two more train tickets. There would be additional hotel room charges. €œHotel charge more if two people in room and I know you not sleep alone.€ Unterhorst grinned but the cousins acted embarrassed. €Imbeciles.€ €œGirls need hiking equipment €" you have?€ she looked at them in turn. Vibeke spoke for both, €œOh, yes €" we like the outdoors.€ €We€ll see about that.€

The waiter came to clear away the dishes €" the entertainment was about to get underway. The first performer was announced €" €œDirect from Berlin€ €" a singer in her late 30€s named Lola. Lola€s act was a mix of current favorites and old standards. She had a decent voice, albeit a little throaty. €Probably a smoker.€ Inger didn€t smoke €" it stained the teeth. Lola€s program was well chosen and perfectly suited to her style. Inger appreciated Lola€s ability to judge what would move an audience emotionally. It was rather like her ability to understand and control men through their emotions. This led Inger to muse on the possibility that being adept at handling individual men might translate to handling large groups of people. €If you can manipulate one person, you can manipulate a million.€ It was a disquieting thought €" wasn€t Hitler a man able to hypnotically control millions of Germans? For the first time, Inger considered there might be a moral dimension to how she used her power over men. But, she quickly rejected the idea. A horse, like a man, is a strong animal €" both are much stronger than a woman. Yet, no one considered it immoral to saddle and bridle a horse. How was it wrong if Inger did the equivalent with men? Besides, she always treated her men very well.

Lola wound up her set with €œLili Marlene€ €" a crowd-pleaser that to Inger was cloyingly sentimental. Herbert Altmeier got up and made his way somewhat unsteadily to the bathroom. Inger could tell from the rigidity of his facial muscles that he was controlling powerful emotions €" trying so hard, in fact, it made him easy to read. €So, my tall submariner has a sweetheart.€ A reasonable extrapolation was that the sweetheart was French. If she was correct, Herbert Altmeier was adrift in a sea of troubles, mostly of his own making.

After Lola finished, Inger said her goodbyes. She would be seeing a lot of the two German officers and their vapid girlfriends over the next few days. There was also an interrupted fantasy she wanted to rejoin €¦ urgently.

21 May 1944, evening, a hotel lobby, Norway
Inger sat on the couch, reading the Oslo newspaper. Even though it was heavily censored, a great deal was revealed by what was left out. The glaring absence of news from the East Front suggested that things were going badly for the Germans in Russia. Finally tiring of puff pieces and propaganda, Inger tossed the paper onto the coffee table. She leaned back and reflected on the day€s events.

Inger led the group from the hotel at 10 AM in order to reach the Folgefonna overlook by noon, where they would eat a packed lunch, view the glacier, and then hike back. The hike could have been made at a very leisurely pace in about an hour but she took them on a roundabout trek with the intent of running the cousins into the ground. Because of their youth and the natural athleticism Norwegians seem to possess, the cousins managed to avoid early collapse. The men, in contrast, were breathing heavily after fifteen minutes. Submariners are a sedentary lot and, in Inger€s experience, tend to be poorly conditioned. Eventually the cousins asked for the first break about a half-hour into the hike. Inger kept that and the other breaks short and pushed the pace just enough so that male vanity kept the men from protesting, leaving it to the cousins to call for each stop.

At the glacier, Inger gave her usual presentation €" a mix of geology, history, and mythology €" while her audience ate and tried to recuperate. As she expected, when it was time to leave, the cousins importuned the men to return to the hotel via the cable car and the men were happy to comply. Inger told them to go on and she hiked back to the hotel by the direct route.

Inger caught up with them in the hotel bar forty-five minutes later, after she had bathed and changed. They were amazed to see her back so soon. She explained that she had gone easy on them because they were amateurs €" when she said the word €œamateurs€, she looked directly at the cousins. €œI have much stamina,€ she elaborated. €œUseful for many things.€ She left unsaid what the €œmany things€ might be. Not too long afterwards, first Unterhorst, then Rausch, left with their respective girlfriends, presumably for their hotel rooms.

No one met her for dinner so Inger had eaten alone and was now killing time in the lobby with nothing to do. A couple of men had tried to strike up conversations in the course of the evening but she put them off - a pity because one of them was definitely interesting. As she was musing on the many sacrifices she was called on to make for the war effort, two men walked over and sat down, one in the adjacent armchair and the other next to her on the couch.
€œAnything to read?€ the man in the armchair asked in Norwegian.
Inger picked up the newspaper and handed it to him. €œYou be the judge.€
The man glanced at it and tossed it back on the coffee table. €œNot much there.€
Inger shrugged.
€œAre you here alone?€
€œIt would appear not,€ she smiled weakly.
€œOh, of course,€ he laughed. €œYes. Well, I€m Torbj¶rn and that€s my friend Morten €" we€re from Oslo.€
Inger was always suspicious of young Norwegian men who could afford to visit a resort. €œVacationing?€ She didn€t volunteer her name.
€œBusiness, actually. We€re engineers here to inspect the funicular.€
€œI seldom use it.€
€œOh, you needn€t worry €" it€s perfectly safe.€
€œNo doubt,€ she smiled, beginning to warm to Torbj¶rn the engineer. €œI don€t ride because I prefer to walk. But, now that I€ve met you, I€ll be sure to try it out.€ She smiled again.
€œI didn€t get your name.€
€œIt€s €¦
€œInger!€ It was Unterhorst. €œThere you are,€ he spoke in German.
Torbj¶rn€s smile froze at the sound of the invaders€ language.
€œHello, Gustav.€
€œI didn€t mean to interrupt. Are these friends of yours?€
Before she could answer, Torbj¶rn stood and interjected in Norwegian, €œI see we are intruding.€ His manner was frosty. €œIt was nice to meet you.€
€œYou don€t have to leave on my account,€ Unterhorst said to Torbj¶rn.
€œBitte €" Ich spreche kein Deutsch,€ responded Torbj¶rn as he and Morten walked away.

Unterhorst took the spot on the couch so recently vacated. €œThey left in a hurry. Who were they?€
€œStrangers.€
€œStrangers with an eye for a beautiful woman.€
€œWhere girlfriend?€
€œKirsti? She€s in the hotel room. Did you know she really likes you?€
Inger didn€t respond.
€œReally likes you?€
€œShe change mind tomorrow after next hike.€
€œWhy don€t you come up to the room and join us?€
Inger laughed. €œI no compete with little girl.€
€œWho said anything about competing?€
€œMe. I give man undivided attention. Little girl be in way.€
€œI€ll give you 500 Krone if you come up and spend the night with us.€
€œGive me 1000 and I spend night with you and Georg. Send little girls home.€ She laughed again.
Unterhorst was unprepared for Inger€s riposte. €œSo you won€t come up for 500 Krone?€
€œWhen you tire of little girl, come see Inger €" bring 500 Krone. I be available.€ She got up and walked away, leaving him sitting alone on the couch.

22 May 1944, evening, Inger€s hotel room, Norway
Inger lay back against the pillows and tested them for comfort. Something wasn€t quite right. She made an adjustment and then lay back again €" €Perfect€. Just as she took the book of Ibsen plays off the night table, someone knocked on the door. Inger expected it was Gustav Unterhorst. In a hundred different ways, he had shown today that she had supplanted Kirsti in his favor. At dinner he had completely ignored the girl while lavishing all his attention on Inger. Kirsti€s confusion and embarrassment was evident, and thoroughly satisfying to Inger. Another, more insistent knock. €œOne moment.€ Inger replaced the book on the night table and went over to the door.

€œYes?€
€œInger, it€s me €" Gustav. Can I come in?€
Inger opened the door. €œDecide to play with big girl for change?€
He started to walk in but Inger didn€t move from the doorway. €œYou forget something.€
€œRight €" 500 Krone. I have it.€ He pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket.
Inger reached out but instead of taking the proffered money, grasped the front of Unterhorst€s shirt. €œThen come in.€ She pulled him through the doorway.

22 May 1944, an hour later, Inger€s hotel room, Norway
€œYou€re an incredible woman.€
€œSo, you come visit me in Bergen. Yes?€
€œI€d like to. But now I€m broke. I can€t afford you.€ He laughed €" Inger joined him.
€œYou very good lover. I not charge. Now visit?€
€œOf course!€
€œHow long before go patrol?€
€œNext Saturday.€
€œThat soon €¦ I hope you come back.€
€œI€m planning on it €" and I think my odds are pretty good.€
€œHow that?€
€œWe€re going to be spending most of our time reporting on the weather and not hunting enemy convoys. Should be a lot safer.€
€œNot understand, but I glad.€
Unterhorst expressed surprise, €œI think you really are.€
€œGlad? You come back? Yes.€
€œSo, I €¦ mean something to you?€
€œYes, right now. I love many men over years €" now all dead. I learn not get too attached. You €˜mean something€ now, while here. On patrol €" dead.€ Unterhorst drew back. €œSorry, but I always tell truth. Is best. You want committed lover €" you have me next few days. After that, no promises. If come back €¦ we see what happens.€ She rolled over and kissed him. As he began to respond, someone started pounding on the door.
€œGustav €" are you in there.€ It was Kirsti.
Inger rolled across Unterhorst and grabbed her robe. The pounding continued while she put on the robe and walked over to the door.

Inger came through the doorway into the hall and slammed the door behind her, almost bowling Kirsti over in the process. €œBe quiet!€ Inger said it in a loud whisper. €œGo back to your room!€
€œNot until I€ve seen Gustav,€ Kirsti was defiant.
€œAre you stupid? Who do you think is in charge here? You? Me? Gustav Unterhorst commands a U-boat in the German Navy and you think it€s smart to throw a fit in the hallway and embarrass him?€
Kirsti was becoming unsure of herself. €œI just want to talk to him.€
€œGrow up! Right now Gustav wants to be with me. Maybe in thirty minutes he was planning to go back to his room to be with you. But, that€s much less likely now, isn€t it?€
€œI don€t know.€
€œYou have a lot to learn and I have neither the time nor the inclination to teach you.€ Inger hesitated. €œHere€s a suggestion. If you don€t want to go back to your room, go knock on Georg Rausch€s door.€
€œWhat do I do then?€
€œI have no idea €" just use your brain. Goodnight!€ Inger went back in her room, leaving Kirsti standing in the hallway with a puzzled expression on her face.

€œThat was quick.€ Marveling. €œWhat did you say to her?€
€œI said, €˜Grow up.€ Man choose woman €" learn to accept. Maybe you come see her later in room, maybe not.€
€œThat€s what you said?€
€œSure.€
€œWhat would you say if I went back to my room now?€
€œI say, €˜Have fun.€ Then I read book.€
€œI think I€ll stay.€
€œGood.€ She laughed. €œYou more fun than book.€

29 May 1944, mid-afternoon, a hotel room, Stockholm
€After the war I€m going to buy a big bathtub.€ Bathtubs were designed for some idealized average person, which meant they were a shade too small for Inger. €œTo really luxuriate, it needs to be about two meters long,€ she figured. She edged forward and worked the hot water valve with her big toe €" the bathwater was starting to cool.

As expected, it was over with Erik. He waited until last night to tell her he had proposed to Katya and that it was their final weekend together. Her reaction had been to laugh and congratulate him on following her advice to marry Katya. €œNow I can be your mistress,€ she had said. He hadn€t found that comment humorous. Erik had become rather dour in recent months and, she realized, tiresome.

Inger turned off the hot water with her toe. €I€m tired of men,€ she thought ruefully. But that overstated things €" she wasn€t tired of men per se, rather the men forced upon her by circumstance. It helped to keep the men, the war, and her mission in separate compartments in her mind €" in fact, it was essential that she do it in order to be effective. Self-examination was not a profitable endeavor and might even be dangerous.

€œDangerous€ was not the word Inger would use to describe her life as a spy €" €œboring€ was much closer to the mark. The dangers were real enough and the consequences of exposure horrific €" she would be tortured to death and most or all of her extended family would be executed. But, with reasonable care, the actual risks were close to zero. Her cover was perfect €" perfect because she was mostly what she appeared to be: a high-class prostitute. Had the war not intervened, would her life have been substantially different? It was a question with no answer and, besides, Inger knew it led to exactly the sort of introspection she actively tried to avoid. €I am a prostitute getting rich off the German invaders, who also spies on them for the Allies. Nothing more, nothing less.€ Being a prostitute first was the key to success and survival.

All of these musings put Inger in mind of Harold Greenbaum. He had conjured up a romantic vision of her as a master spy that was completely at odds with the prosaic and somewhat tawdry reality. By now, Sammy must have given him all the sordid details of her career. Even if he hadn€t, when Harold saw the paltry few scraps of information she had to show for nearly two months of espionage his heroic image of her would crumble.

The bathwater was starting to cool again so Inger pulled the drain stop with her toes and got out of the tub. She toweled off and applied lotion to those areas that had started to prune, then donned her robe and dried her hair, wrapping it in a towel. Her report was going to have so little content that she decided to take a few minutes and write it up before getting dressed. She still wasn€t quite sure what she wanted to wear. It would probably be the sweater, blouse, and skirt, which was conservative and secretarial and rather fit her mood.

She was just about to put pen to paper when there were three quick wraps on the door. €œEarly for Sammy,€ she thought. The knock was different, too.

It was Harold Greenbaum €" Sammy was nowhere is sight.
€œAre you Miss Liv Ousdal?€
€œYes. Please come in.€

€œWhere is Sammy?€
€œHe€s working on €¦ other things now. I€m your new handler.€
€œI rather like the sound of that€¦€
€œMaybe I should have said €˜operator.€€ His eyes strayed to her half-open bathrobe. €œI guess I€m early.€
Inger laughed. €œThere is no set schedule. Sammy always took about two hours even if it was only a ten minute trip €" I thought he was a tad excessive about security. If you can manage it in an hour, that is fine by me.€
Harold walked over to the table, placed the attaché case he was carrying next to it, and looked down at the pen and blank sheet of paper. €œYou were getting ready to write your report?€
€œSuch as it is, which is not much. I can easily dictate it if you like.€
Harold sat at the table and picked up the pen. €œShoot.€
€œ€Shoot€?€
€œUh, it€s an Americanism €" it means €˜proceed.€€

Inger removed the towel from her head and walked into the bathroom. €œI€ve two captains for you: Gustav Unterhorst, U-1183 and Georg Rausch, U-1250.€ She began brushing her hair. €œThey had just completed training.€ Harold scribbled rapidly as she spoke.

Inger walked next to Harold and continued. €œUnterhorst and the U-1183 presumably sailed sometime Saturday, 27 May.€ She walked over to the closet and began examining her clothes. €œRausch is supposed to sail today €" obviously I have no way of verifying that. I had very little contact with him €" most of my information comes from Unterhorst.€ She turned and waited for Harold to finish writing. When he looked up at her, she removed her bathrobe and draped it over the back of an adjacent chair as she spoke. €œAnd, I very much fear, most of it is not very interesting. I see you aren€t writing.€
€œUh, no €¦ I was waiting for €¦ you know, American women are a lot more modest than Scandinavian women.€
€œWhat is your preference?€
€œI €¦ well €¦ I€m not complaining but would you like me to wait in the hallway while you dress?€
€œIf I wanted you to leave the room I would have said so.€ Inger turned her back to him and removed a slip from its hanger. €œWhere was I? The course of training apparently covers Hedgehogs. They even used the word - in German of course.€ She turned to face Harold as she put on the slip. He continued to watch her. €œAs I said, not very interesting.€
€œHuh?€
€œThe report. Not very interesting.€ She struck a pose in the slip, €œWhat do you think?€
€œWell, it isn€t very interesting if that€s all you€ve got.€
€œNo. What do you think of the slip? I bought it this weekend.€

Harold burst into laughter. €œHandler.€ He laughed even harder. Inger was puzzled €" it was not the reaction she expected €" but his laughter quickly became contagious. Finally, their laughter subsided. €œWhy were we laughing?€ she asked.
For a moment it appeared as though her question was going to set him off again, but he exerted control. €œI said I was your €˜handler€ before €" it€s pretty obvious that you€re too much for anyone to handle.€ He chuckled. €œYou€re way beyond me €" that€s for sure.€
€œNot at all, Harold. You can be my handler any time you want.€

Inger took the print dress out of the closet and continued, €œPart of the training €" Unterhorst€s at any rate €" was in meteorology.€ She turned back to Harold and stepped into the dress. €œWeather.€ She pulled the dress up. €œThey taught him about measuring instruments €" barometers, anemometers, that sort of thing. He is supposed to concentrate more on weather than sinking ships.€ Harold was writing again. €œCurious, don€t you think?€
€œVery.€
€œHe had a week€s worth of classes, supposedly,€ Inger added.
€œHow do you do it?€
€œDo what?€
€œGet men to spill their guts to you.€
€œIt is a secret of the spy trade, Commander.€ She turned her back to him, pulled her hair onto her head and said, €œWould you zip me, please.€

Harold came over and zipped her up. Inger turned quickly and let her hair fall. She put her hands on his waist and ran them up to his chest. As she raked her nails expertly across his shirt, stimulating his nipples underneath, she felt him take her by the wrists and gently but forcefully remove her hands. €œInger, I have to stop this. I don€t want to €¦ but I have to.€
€œIf you don€t want to, then don€t.€
€œIt€s unprofessional. I know how corny that sounds. But, as long as we are working together I€m not going to get €¦ romantically involved with you, no matter how much I might want to.€
Harold released her wrists and Inger stood, digesting his words. She searched his face for some indication of ambivalence. She couldn€t find it. He was adamantine. Granitic.
€œYou do want to,€ she said. €œI can tell.€
€œYes.€ He smiled and nodded. €œDefinitely yes. Just not now.€
€œAfter the war,€ she said.
€œAfter the war,€ he echoed.

Harold walked back to the table and sat as Inger found a pair of sandals. As she put them on she said, €œIf you like, I can produce an educated guess as to which U-boats are overdue or probably lost.€
€œIt wouldn€t hurt. But, what do you mean, €˜educated guess€?€
€œAs you know, I have €" or have had - many lovers. Clients, if you prefer.€
€œActually, I didn€t €¦ but I€d kinda€ thought it was something like that. Sammy didn€t tell me much about you €" he just said, €˜She€s yours, old boy,€ and left. Literally. He€s not in Sweden any more. But €¦ okay. Back to €˜educated guess.€€
€œOver the past two months, a lot of men I would have expected to call me when they got back to Bergen have disappeared. Never came back. I can give you the list of men and what subs they were on.€
€œJust the subs will be fine,€ he said.
Inger walked over to the table. €œLet me write it. I€ll list the subs and how confident I am each was killed.€ She started to write and then stopped. €œThere€s something else I can add. A submarine from the 7th Flotilla put in €" the U-1197. The captain was lost in an air attack. There€s a highly decorated young Jr. Lieutenant on board named Herbert Altmeier.€ She started writing and stopped again. €œTell your pilots they need to improve their aim,€ she said, more to herself than Harold.

After she completed the list, she handed the paper to Harold. €œSorry.€
€œWhat for?€
€œYou know €˜what for€. That.€ She pointed at the paper.
€œI€m disappointed but not with you. Just the opposite. I €¦€ his voice trailed off. €œI know if it€s humanly possible, you€ll find out about that new sub and you€ll get the information back to us. By the way, with all the distractions I almost forgot €¦€ he picked up the attaché case. €œYou need to read through this before I go.€ He handed it to her.
€œIt€s heavy.€
€œIt€s everything we have on the new sub €" maybe I should say possible new sub. I€ll help you go through the stuff I think you€ll find most useful.€

It was after 4 PM when they finished. Inger thought most of the intelligence wasn€t of much relevance to her. Still, it was time well spent because she discovered how much she enjoyed working with Harold. Until Sammy became her €œoperator€, Inger had always worked alone. In any case, she didn€t work with Sammy so much as she worked for him €" it was very clear that he was her mentor and boss. Harold, in contrast, treated her as an equal, as a partner. He was patient with her questions and interested in her observations. He also managed to inject just enough levity into the process to keep things light without it becoming a distraction. Harold was so pleasant to be around that Inger almost forgot how much she was physically attracted to him.

€œSorry this took so long,€ Harold said as he closed the attaché case. €œI know you need to get back.€
€œNot to worry. It went a lot faster than if I had tried to figure it all out by myself.€
€œSo, I€ll see you €¦ I guess, when you decide to come back to Stockholm.€
€œIt might be a while €" I broke up with my Stockholm boyfriend. Or rather, he broke up with me.€
Harold raised an eyebrow. €œI find that hard to believe.€
Inger laughed €" her most musical trill. €œOh, it€s true. Since I turned 25, I€ve been rejected by every man I know.€
Harold started to say something, hesitated, and finally said, €œWell, good luck,€ and he held out his hand. Inger took it but didn€t shake.
€œHarold, would it be unprofessional to hug? Just hug?€ He responded by pulling her close and enveloping her with his arms. As they stood, embracing, Inger was surprised to discover that sometimes the reality is better than the dream.

paulhager
01-02-2006, 04:26 PM
This continues the story of Inger Svensen - a character in the Altmeier Story (http://paulhager.org/wordpress/index.php?p=75). It is intended that Inger's story interlineate the Altmeier Story - since I haven't done that at this point, the reader will have to imagine it. Part 2 is a companion with Episode 6 of the Altmeier story.

Here are links to the Inger story thus far:
<UL TYPE=SQUARE>
<LI>Part 1a (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/6541086283)
<LI>Part 1b (http://forums.ubi.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/857101043/m/8291091583)
[/list]