In a Wine Glass, Darkly
Intrigue and infighting within the tangled
circles of Nazi theology & technology
© 2017 by Richard B. Messer
The rain had ceased falling long after midnight. A fog drifted around the stately mansions along the thoroughfare, and clung in low-lying patches across the yards in the earlier morning hours.
At one mansion a vehicle stopped at the inside of the ornate gate where a figure climbed out of the passenger side and proceeded to unlock it. When the gate was closed and latched, the Renault automobile turned northwards along the dank and dreary lane.
Inside the vehicle, Renard the fox servant and one of the monkey house servants sat in the front seat while a Brittany spaniel and Roe deer, both femmes, were quiet in the back seat. The two women were still drowsy; both couldn’t sleep due to the excitement of the prior evening’s dinner and the gathering in the salon afterwards.
Menie DuMond had retired early when the guests had left, though Rica Mader had remained with Tainkong Shanlao for a while longer before she turned in. But she knew that the French/Vietnamese head of the Sisters of Isis would had been busy burning up the telephone lines in getting messages sent to her controls in Paris about what was occurring across the border in Germany. Afterwards, the feline had some of her servants prepare a small steamer trunk with clothing of an older and plainer style to fit her guests as she knew there was very little time to lose in getting them out of country.
A quick breakfast for deer and canine came early in the atrium as the feline hostess outlined what was about to happen for the pair. At certain points along their journey the two would be handed off to teams of French agents as they moved out of France to Luxembourg then into Belgium where they would board a ferry to England.
“Why England?” a half-nodding Menie asked.
The dark-furred feline femme took a small draw of her cigar in its silver holder before answering.
“We have an agreement with members of the British intelligence service there in getting people out of the continent. Once you reach Dover, they will take over and move you down to Portsmouth where you’ll be put upon a British Overseas Airline’s flying boat to America. Afterwards, it will be up to the Americans about seeing you to further safety.”
Both doe and canine merely nodded as they tried to concentrate on finishing breaking their fast. Afterwards they were led back to their rooms by the monkey maids who helped them into different clothing than they were used to. The style was older and plainer, though to Menie it reminded her of what she was familiar with when growing up in southern France,
Rica had to pitch the rest of her special cigarettes in order not to attract undue attention their way. That also included hiding her mother’s cigar/cigarette holder in the trunk, along with the monocle and black shawl. She even had to leave behind her beloved alpenstock as well. For the diminutive cervine it was like losing a close friend.
“I’ll give you a spare holder from my collection,” said Tainkong Shanlao as she finished her tea and set the stub of the cigar into an ashtray. “And a small selection of cigarettes to carry with you as well.” She gave an apologetic smile as a means of calming the deer’s anxiety of not being able to enjoy her own smokes.
“Now then. Renard will be taking you ladies up to Nancy and to a safe house outside of town for a few days, just to make sure no one is following you. When everything appears to be safe, another team will then take you both northwards to Thiorville for another pause in your journey.
“There after, a third set of agents will then conduct you across the border into Luzembourg before taking you to Bruxelles.”
“To Brussels?” asked a confused cervine femme, trying to sip her tea without spilling it into her lap.
Tainkong Shanlao nodded, her black curls bobbing about her head. “It is there you will receive your final set of papers and passports before leaving the Continent. The people there will help you in finalizing your new identities. Once you are in England, Rica Mader and Menie DuMond will no longer exist.”
No longer exist?
The thought haunted Rica as she gazed out the car window at the rolling countryside with its scattered farms and fields. After several kilometers, the automobile began passing over a stone bridge that spanned a river the likes the Roe deer wasn’t familiar with. For one thing it was straight and even-sided; not as any waterway she had ever seen. There was a broad graveled pathway along both low banks, and long slender boats traveling in opposite directions on each side, each being pulled by a horse harnessed to a rope that was tied to the bow of each boat. And down the center of river there passed a wide barge traveling under its own power.
“What a strange looking river,” the doe commented to no one in particular.
“Ah, that is the Canal de la Marne au Rhin!” answered the tod at the wheel.
“It’s the Marne to Rhine Canal, Rica!” said an excited Brittany spaniel as she watched the water course out her side of the car. “It was built in the early days of the last century, like so many other canals across France! This one ties the Marne River to the Rhine just east of here, for small commerce to be carried where the trains could not reach!”
Rica looked confused as she turned towards her companion. “Who owns the boats?”
Renard spoke up again. “Generally the barges are owned by a family, and that is how they make their living. They buy and sell either farm goods or small manufactured items that would not be profitable to be shipped by train. That big motorized barge in the main channel, it’s owned and operated by a business that can afford to transport larger cargo for a greater profit.”
This was still rather confusing to the cervine medium, but it was still too early in the morning, and not having enough sleep caused her to settle back into the corner of the seat and try to drift off once more.
It was nearly noon when the automobile drove through the small town of Nancy. Renard pulled into a filling station to top off the fuel tank. A couple of attendants in greasy overalls came out to fill the car, check the oil and wash the windows. The two femmes stepped from the back seat and asked directions to the ladies facilities. One of the canine attendants directed them to the washroom inside the garage before continuing his cleaning of the windows. After several minutes the pair was done and got back into the car. The fox servant paid for the service before heading out of town northwards towards their next destination.
They hadn’t gone ten kilometers before the Renault was turning off onto a graveled road into the wooded hills. In the distance they could spot a small farmhouse with several outbuildings behind it. As the car came to a stop, a gray poodle couple in farm clothing came out to greet them. Renard and the silent monkey servant unloaded the two small suitcases from the boot after they had unlashed the trunk from the rack on the roof and brought it down. Then all and sundry went inside where the tod made his goodbyes before returning to Strasbourg.
Jerome and Simone Chauvet were a middle-aged canine couple who had lived on this farm long before the Great War. Even under German control during the conflict, they had managed to assist in smuggling Allied prisoners who had escaped from numerous prisoner of war camps through the lines. They had also passed along vital information about troop concentrations and movements to the French High Command.
Now they invited the newcomers to their table for coffee and croissants. To Menie, it felt like coming home as she had been raised on a farm. But the setting was a bit foreign to Rica who was use to a large estate. She would winter within the stone walls of the manse before spending the summer months traveling with her grandmother’s people. The colorful wagons would pull out of the valley to make their way via little known trails and pathways to other towns and provinces surrounding the family’s lands.
“So, Himmler is hot on your trail for something who took from him, hmmn?”
Monsieur Chauvet sat down heavily in his chair while addressing his guests. From his place at the table he picked up a battered briar pipe, tamped the contents with a rough fingertip, and then struck up a match from the ashtray. Once he got the fire going, the poodle settled back to puff.
The cervine femme picked up her coffee, took a sip, and sat up startled.
“A problem with the café, mon cher?” asked the wife.
Rica shook her head. “I’ve never had coffee this strong before.”
The poodle femme pushed across a ceramic jar towards her. “Maybe some honey will help?”
Taking up a spoon, the Roe deer femme dipped out some of the golden syrup and stirred it into the cup. Then she tried another sip. This time the honey took out some of the bitterness in the coffee.
Taking the pipe from his mouth Chauvet addressed his charges: “With orders from the government, we are to help in the first step of your make-over as you are passed from hand to hand on your journey out of country.”
“What does this make-over entail?” The Brittany hunter sounded cautious.
The canine shrugged his shoulders. “Part of this involves clothing and how to act in public as different people once you arrive in Luxembourg. But the last team will put the finishing touches on that in Thiorville.”
His wife nodded, looking to the doe. “Oui, and part of the polishing is to make yourself believable as being French. Your German accent is very noticeable, so we’ll start softening it so you could pass as a resident of Alsace.”
Taking a sip from the deadly cup of café that now was softened by the honey the Silesian doe reached into her handbag for her cigarette case and holder. She was surprised to pull out an identical holder as Tainkong Shanlao’s, only this one was a soft gold tone instead of silver. She looked to her hosts for permission. Both nodded; Monsieur even lit a match for her. After fitting one of those cigarettes the brown furred feline gave her, Rica accepted the flame and drew in the smoke, only to cough it back out again.
“Scheisse!” exclaimed the Roe deer femme as she got her breath back. “What in the hell did she give me?”
Mdm. Chauvet took the holder from her guest and sniffed the burning smoke. Even she flinched from it.
“Mon Deu!” she called out as well, taking the cigarette out of the holder and stubbing it into the ashtray.
The male canine looked worried. “What is the problem, cheri?”
“That damn Vietnamese bitch gave her Savoys!”
Jerome nearly choked on his pipe smoke as he broke into a fit of laughing.
“For someone who only smokes cigars, she has no idea what is a proper smoke!”
Simone glared at him. “And you think you do?”
“Pardon, ladies, but I’ve been smoking a pipe since I was sixteen years of age, so I know nothing about cigarettes, other than their stench. However, did Mdm. Bigeard give you any others?”
“She said that there were other brands for me to try until I found one that I like,” said Rica.
The poodle femme reached over and patted her hand. “We’ll worry about those later. But for now we must concentrate on what will be necessary to complete your make-over.” She paused and gave the Roe deer a critical eye, then said softly, “And that will include cutting your hair!”
Rica Mader nearly fell out of her chair at this news! Instantly her hands flew up to guard her braids as her large brown eyes threaten to fall from their sockets!
“Cut my hair? Seriously?”
The poodle femme nodded at first, then spoke softly.
“Those auburn tresses are like a red cape before a bull. You are too well known among your people to continue with them that long. The Gestapo are too well familiar with how you look and will keep a steely eye open for it.”
“But, cut my hair?”
“Let me ask you this,” said Jerome Chauvet after getting his pipe going again. “When you were with Mdm. Bigeard, did the two of you, by chance, meet with the Sisters of Isis?”
Menie DuMond, who had been silent during this conversation, looked to her employer and friend. Rica looked in return, then nodded.
The Brittany spaniel femme spoke up. “Mais oui, we had dinner with them the other night.”
The canine femme looked to her. “Did anyone of them have long hair?”
“Oui, there was that older rabbit lady with her niece, she had long hair. And it was done up in a large bun.”
Simone sat back with a smile. “That would have been Mdm. L’Olive y Clary. She is the oldest of the group and has been practicing her trade far longer than any of us have been alive! And was there anyone else with long hair present?”
Both her guests shook their heads.
“And her niece was wearing the short, oiled style of the American black-fur, Josephine Baker?”
The pair nodded.
“Anyone else with short hair?” Jerome Chauvet continued the questioning.
Between deer and hunter they recounted everyone else at the dinner table, except for one.
“There was the brown bear woman who sat to Mdm. Bigeard’s left,” said Rica.
Mdm. Chauvet nodded in return. “That would be Mademoiselle Pecheur. And she was very loud and straight-forward in her speech, correct?”
“Oui,” said Rica.
“And how long was her hair?” asked Monsieur Chauvet, making a gesture towards the deer femme with his pipe.
Rica thought for a moment, turning back the clock to the party and trying to remember everyone around the table. Then she set the fingertips of one hand well below the point of her shoulder. “And it was quite wavy as well.”
Setting her folded arms on the table, Simone Chauvet leaned towards the medium.
“All had various lengths of hair, but all are accomplished mediums in their own rights. And were there any women in your group with short hair?”
That caused the Roe doe to pause and think deeply. Practically all had hair as long if not longer than her own. Except for two: One otter femme had her hair cut into a chin length bob while a canine with pale blond hair wore hers in a shoulder length style. And they had been with the Vril Society far longer than she had!
The poodle femme smiled. “It is not the length of the hair that gives these women - and you – their unique gifts, but what is inside here.” She laid a hand over her heart. “It’s what is in here - in the heart and soul - which makes you ladies special. The tales of a witch’s powers lying in the length of her hair is all nothing but wives’ tales.”
She laid a hand on Rica’s again. “It is time to move on from what was, to what is. Do you think you are up to it?”
Turmoil filled the deer’s mind over what had been revealed to her against what she had grown up with. Her mother and grandmother, as well as most of the women of the Romani she had ever met, wore their hair down to their waists and below. But she had never given any thought as to what had been firmly believed all her life. And such a revelation still rocked her foundation of beliefs handed down by generations of femmes who plied the divination trade. Still, to keep her hair as it was would put her, and Menie’s, life in danger. So she must decide right then and there whether to cut her hair, or run the risk of meeting a bad end at the hands of the Gestapo.
Squaring her shoulders, Rica Mader looked Simone Chauvet squarely in the eye and said, “Right about here!”
She pointed to the spot below the shoulders where the bear femme wore hers!
to be continued