Sarah Jane Smith had always been an early riser, even on Sundays. Nevertheless, she was a little perturbed when there was a knock at the front door at a little after six when she was just enjoying her first cup of coffee of the day. She was even more perturbed when she opened the door to find Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood on her doorstep smiling like a toothpaste advert actor.
“Nice robe,” he said. “Ventarian silk, isn’t it? Present from the man himself?”
“Yes, it was, actually, not that it matters. Why are you….”
“I need to talk to you, Miss Smith. It’s… kind of business, sort of personal. Is that fresh coffee I can smell?”
“Come in,” she said. “But keep your comments about my ‘robe’ to yourself or I’ll have K9 shoot you. His laser will sting for hours.”
“Best behaviour, I promise,” he said. “On my honour as an officer and a gentleman!”
Sarah Jane was never entirely sure if Jack Harkness was either, but she let him in and brought him to the kitchen. K9 was under the table. He whirred softly as the Captain’s long legs stretched out close to him. Sarah Jane poured coffee.
“I’ve thought about this for a very long time,” he said after sipping the coffee twice. “About coming here and telling you the whole story. I put it off…. But this seems like a good day to do it.”
“What story?” Sarah Jane asked, intrigued despite herself.
“It’s about Lavinia Smith....”
“My Aunt Lavinia? How do you even know….”
“That’s the story I want to tell you,” he said. “Did you know that Lavinia was a spy in World War II?”
“She never was. She was a scientist. A brilliant scientist. She worked in Cambridge throughout the war.”
“Later, she did. But in 1939, when war broke out, she was lecturing at Berlin university.”
Sarah Jane thought about that. Even in her lifetime, when Aunt Lavinia could have retired and had a quiet life, she was always off doing lecture tours. She had gone with her on many of the jaunts in the school holidays. It was what awoke her own interest in travel, although she hadn’t known then just how far she would go.
It made sense that Lavinia would be somewhere like Berlin at the worst possible time to be there.
“She had seen what was in the wind long before then, and contacted the British authorities. She was a member of SOE before it even had an official name. But she also cultivated friendships with Germans in high places. She managed to convince them that she was sympathetic to the Nazi cause, and they could use her as propaganda – a young, beautiful English intellectual who sided with the Germans even after war broke out.”
Sarah Jane said nothing. She was having trouble with the young, beautiful part, let alone the idea of Aunt Lavinia as a double agent. She had only known her from late middle age.
“Oh, she was,” Captain Harkness said with just too much of a look in his eye for Sarah Jane’s liking. “A real hottie.”
“That’s my aunt you’re talking about. I hope you never….”
“Never,” he promised. “And as far as I know, Brigadeführer Hans Kohl didn’t either. But she gave him enough encouragement to think he might have a chance.”
He opened a leather document folder he had brought with him and showed her copies of newspaper articles. They were in German, but she got the idea from the photographs that they were about high level social engagements at which a man in SS uniform was accompanied by a slim brunette who looked very stylish in evening gowns. Sarah Jane recognised her aunt as a young woman.
She recognised somebody else, too.
“That’s YOU in the background,” she said. “In a Nazi uniform.”
“I always liked wearing uniforms,” Jack Harkness admitted. “But not that one, especially. I was undercover, too. Not for SOE, but for the Time Agency.”
“You were a time agent?” Sarah Jane asked. The Doctor had talked about the agency from Earth’s far future once. He was more than a little disparaging about them. Amateurs, he said. Trying to stop paradoxes in time and causing more of them than they solved.
“I was sent to 1939 to ensure the safety of Lavinia Smith. Her survival was very important. I didn’t know why at the time. I didn’t know you then, or how important it was that Lavinia became your guardian when your parents died, allowing you to become the woman you are – the one who would eventually meet The Doctor and be instrumental in so many threads of time.” Sarah Jane was obviously wondering how much Jack Harkness knew about her time with The Doctor. “Your role in the defeat of the Mandragora Helix for example, or what happened at the Priory in 1910, even the fact that you were there when he regenerated for the third time. The things you did in your younger days – the things you’re still doing now - have important consequences in generations to come. But all I knew then was that I had to get Lavinia Smith out of Germany alive.”
He put another copy of a newspaper article in front of her. This one was in English. It was dated 1946. It was an obituary for her aunt. Evidence had only just come to light of her murder at the hands of Nazi war criminals six years earlier. Until then it had been believed that she was a collaborator who had changed her identity and gone to work in one of the secret German scientific facilities. The article completely exonerated her, revealing her SOE membership and declaring her to be a heroine of the underground war against the Nazis.
“But…” Sarah Jane protested. “Aunt Lavinia didn’t….”
“This document was kept in the Time Agency headquarters in the fifty-first century,” Jack explained. “It was protected by a null time field so that even after the time line was rectified, the evidence of what could have happened if we hadn’t acted remained. It was sometimes necessary for us to do that in order to prove our interference was justified.”
“But….” Sarah Jane tried again to say something about the article she was looking at.
“I know that’s a very upsetting thing to be looking at, but you know that WAS an alternative timeline. You know what really happened. Your aunt died peacefully at a ripe old age in 2001, her life celebrated by the whole scientific community. The wreath sent from the MOD was probably missed among the many others.”
“Sarah Jane….” Jack reached out and touched her hand gently. “Let me tell the story. And any questions you have, I’ll answer them afterwards. I hope most of them will answer themselves.”
“Ok,” she said. He took another gulp of coffee and began in earnest to tell her about something that happened so far back in his life but was still very firmly fixed in his memory.
The young time agent known to his friends as Jack was known by those same friends to be fairly loose with his morals – even by relaxed fifty-first century standards. Even he, though, was revolted by Nazis. He hated putting on the uniform every morning and acting as Untersturmführer Johannes Hirsch, aide-de-camp to Brigadeführer Hans Kohl. He hated being in the presence of such a man. He made his skin crawl and it took all of his best efforts not to show it.
Lavinia Smith had to be at least as good an actor as he was judging by the way Kohl was fawning over her when Johannes entered the Brigadeführer’s office with the morning mail. She was doing a very good job of not minding his hand on her knee through her silk dress.
“I had better leave you now, meine leibe,” she said, gently moving his hand. “It was lovely having breakfast with you, but now I must not distract you from your work.”
“You are a delightful distraction,” Kohl responded. “But you are quite right. The work of the glorious Reich must come first. I shall see you tonight for dinner?”
“I have a brand new dress for the occasion,” she told him. “Auf Wiedersein, mein schatz.”
She moved away and blew him a kiss from the door before departing. Kohl sighed, and then nodded to his aide, who stepped up to the desk, saluting neatly.
“A fine woman, yet that English reserve is so very trying. She has not agreed to spend the night with me.”
“Ah,” Johannes responded. “So she merely joined you for breakfast this morning.”
“Are you jealous, Johannes?” Kohl asked. “Yet you have not agreed to spend the night, either.”
Jack tried not to look too disgusted. Men were being dragged off to concentration camps for far less than he was suggesting. Senior SS men were above the laws that oppressed everyone else. Kohl put his hand over his as he put the mail on the desk.
“Brigadeführer, it would not be appropriate for me to return your affection while we are both in the uniform of the SS,” he said.
“Ah, Johannes, mein freund,” Kohl replied. “You, also, remind me of my solemn responsibilities. But tonight, perhaps we could get out of uniform.”
“If Fräulein Smith does not give in to your charms, perhaps I will be an acceptable substitute,” Johannes responded. “Not on your life,” he thought. “I’d rather hand myself in as a spy.”
The ringing phone brought the conversation to an end. Johannes saluted crisply again and turned on his heels. He went to the outer office where he sat at his desk and pulled up the sleeve of his tunic. His vortex manipulator was recording every telephone call that the Brigadeführer made or received. A tiny device in his ear allowed him to listen in. Most of it was vile stuff, and it burned him to know that simply going back into that room and emptying the Luger in his pocket into Kohl’s head wasn’t permitted. It was a matter of historical record that the Brigadeführer committed suicide on the day the Allied forces reached Berlin. Until then he couldn’t be harmed. If he did anything to change that part of history he would be subject to some very severe penalties.
Lavinia Smith walked at a measured pace through the checkpoint at the front of the SS headquarters. She kept her expression carefully neutral as her ID was checked by the same guard who checked it two hours before when she arrived for breakfast with Kohl. She pretended not to notice that he was looking her up and down, noting her sheer silk stockings and couture dress, both paid for by the Brigadeführer.
“Everything is correct, Fräulein Schmidt,” he said at last.
“That’s MISS Smith,” she responded. She put her ID card and papers in her pocket and walked through the raised barrier, out into the public street where she mingled with the ordinary Berliners. She noted how grey the city was now. It used to be an exciting place, with music and drama, passion and romance. Now it was just grey. The people who gave it all of the colour and excitement had either left of their own accord, been taken away, or had disguised themselves in the grey that now prevailed.
Everyone walked with a measured pace. Nobody hurried. Nobody dawdled. Either would attract the attention of the troops who were everywhere.
She walked with her eyes fixed forward, avoiding eye contact with anyone. That was made easy by the fact that nobody else wanted to make eye contact with her, either.
She especially made sure to avoid acknowledging the young man who was walking a few yards behind her. She knew he was a tail sent by Kohl to keep a watch on her. She wasn’t sure whether he suspected her English allegiances or whether he was jealous of any other men she might know, but either way he was a nuisance.
It was a little over half a mile from the SS headquarters on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße to her rooms overlooking the Spree, close by the university. The young man kept his close watch on her all the way. He couldn’t follow her into the building without giving himself away as an undercover agent to the elderly gateman who let her in with a polite, “Guten Morgen Fräulein Schmidt.” Of course, he could do that. One old man was nothing to the SS. But she didn’t think Kohl wanted to show his hand just yet.
She looked out of her window carefully when she reached her nicely furnished drawing room and assured herself that the young man was standing by the corner of the bridge over the Spree, looking up at her window. She resisted the urge to wave and turned away. She put the kettle on the hob in the tiny kitchenette and made herself a pot of tea. She sat down to drink it.
There was a knock at her door. She opened it and let in the man she was expecting.
“Keep well away from the window,” she told him. “I was followed.”
“I know. Don’t worry. I came in through the tradesman’s entrance in a bakery van. You’d best make it quick, though. He might start to wonder how long it takes to deliver bread to a university campus.”
“Turn your back,” Lavinia said. Her contact did as she asked. She lifted her skirt and unfastened one of her garters in order to slip the carefully folded piece of tissue thin paper out of the leg of her knickers. She made herself presentable again before allowing him to turn to face her. “It’s a good job Kohl didn’t try getting too fresh with me,” she said. “That isn’t the best place to hide something like that.”
“You copied it exactly?” the contact asked.
“Yes,” she replied. “Those are the addresses of five SS spies living in England. Relay the information to London and you can have them in custody by tonight.”
“You really should think of getting out of Germany, Professor Smith,” the contact told her. “Kohl won’t be strung along for much longer. His infatuation with you… He’s not a fool. He is a senior SS man, after all. Herr Hitler doesn’t promote idiots. Besides, it is inappropriate for a woman of your accomplishments to be seen to be… courted… by such a man.”
“There’s another list of names,” Lavinia answered. “I’m pretty sure they’re agents living in the Irish Free State whom they intend to slip into Britain via Ulster. I might be able to get that list tonight when I have dinner with Kohl.”
“He takes confidential documents of that sort to his home?” the contact was surprised. “Maybe he is a fool after all.”
“The trouble is, I might not be able to leave until the morning,” Lavinia added. “He fully expects that I….”
She dropped her eyes. She didn’t want to look at the contact’s face.
“We all make sacrifices in war, Professor,” he said without emotion in his voice.
“No!” Sarah Jane protested. “Aunt Lavinia never… She wouldn’t. She didn’t…. Besides, how could you know what went on in her room when you were in the SS Headquarters?”
“Because Lavinia’s home had been bugged. She didn’t know it, but the old man on the gate wasn’t so benign as she thought. He let the SS in when she was lecturing one day. They planted their listening devices all around the apartment. And I knew because I had my own devices in Kohl’s office, among other places.”
Johannes appeared to be working at his desk, but he was alert to a lot more going on in the building. He knew when the contact was stopped in his bakery van and arrested. He knew when he had been brought to the basement of the building in Prinz-Albrecht-Straße and exactly when they started torturing the poor unfortunate prisoner. Johannes switched frequency, not because he hadn’t the stomach to listen to the screams, but because there were other rooms he had to listen in to.
In particular he was interested in what Brigadeführer Kohl’s two visitors had to say to him. One of them brought a large metal case that he didn’t allow Johannes to carry into the office for him. That wasn’t surprising. It was a portable tape recorder with the evidence of Lavinia Smith’s deception captured on it. Listening to the sound effects of Lavinia finding the paper in her underwear, Johannes couldn’t help wondering exactly where the listening device had been planted. But there were more important things being discussed in the room. Lavinia’s life, not her lingerie, was in immediate peril.
“Shall we have her arrested?” one of the men was asking.
“No,” Kohl answered. “I will deal with Fräulein Smith myself. You will tell nobody of what you discovered. You will not make any written report about this. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Brigadeführer,” the man answered. “But… she is clearly a spy. She has stolen important information already. She intends to steal yet more… our Irish agents….”
“All this is of no concern of yours. I will deal with this traitor myself. Go, now. And say nothing of what has taken place in this office or you will incur my displeasure.”
“Yes, Brigadeführer,” the two men both said at once. There was a click of heels that went with a salute. A few moments later, the door opened. The two men swept through the outer office without a backwards glance at Johannes, who appeared to be busy with his own paperwork.
A few moments later he was summoned to the Brigadeführer’s office.
“I shall need you to be present tonight at my apartment,” Kohl said.
“In uniform or out of it?” Johannes asked with a slightly raised eyebrow and a pretence of complete innocence.
“In uniform,” Kohl snapped. “At least to begin with. Afterwards… I may require….”
“I understand perfectly, Brigadeführer,” Johannes answered, supressing his real feelings about Kohl.
“You are a very loyal officer,” the Brigadeführer added. “You will not find me ungrateful for such extra services.”
Johannes didn’t reply to that in words and giving a heel-clicking salute before mentioning the reports he still had to complete. Kohl again commented on his loyalty and diligence before he saluted again and left the office.
Lavinia dressed carefully for dinner with the Brigadeführer. She took special care over her underwear. The lace and silk foundation garment which she had no intention of letting Kohl see even for a second had an extra layer of silk forming a pocket where a sheet of paper folded very small might be hidden without spoiling the line of her dress. This was going to be the last time. She knew she couldn’t string Kohl along much longer without him becoming suspicious, and she had no intention of becoming his mistress for real. The very thought made her skin crawl. But one more piece of information that the British authorities could use would make it worthwhile.
A car had been sent. The driver was the young officer who usually sat in Kohl’s front office writing up reports. He bowed his head politely to her as he opened the car door. She acknowledged him coolly. He was a handsome man, with piercing blue eyes that she might have found attractive if she wasn’t tired of men with blue eyes wearing that foul black uniform. He was a junior officer in the SS. He did the bidding of men like Brigadeführer Hans Kohl. He had innocent blood on his hands.
She didn’t speak at all as she was transported to the Brigadeführer’s apartment on Ebertstraße overlooking the Tiergarten. She didn’t look out of the window. She didn’t want anyone to see her in a military car and take her for what Kohl regarded her as. Even if they were strangers who would never see her face again, she didn’t want them to think that was what she was.
Johannes had been instructed to follow Fräulein Schmidt up to the apartment on the top floor of the house. He was to act as manservant, pouring the pre-dinner drinks. He had been told that they were unlikely to get past the pre-dinner drinks, so he didn’t need to worry about serving food. Johannes had not asked why. He was a loyal officer who understood that he should not ask questions of his superiors.
Kohl, on the other hand, didn’t ask questions of his loyal subordinate. He trusted him to prepare the cocktails while he relaxed in the drawing room with his guest. Kohl, dressed casually in a smoking jacket and open necked shirt, accepted the drink from him with a surreptitious smile and wink that Johannes carefully didn’t respond to. He gave Fräulein Schmidt her drink and waited dutifully.
Johannes suppressed a gasp of shock when Kohl suddenly pulled a pistol from inside his jacket and pointed it at Fräulein Schmidt. She put the barely sipped glass on the table beside her chair and looked with surprising calm back at the Brigadeführer.
“Hans, what is this?” she asked. “Some kind of joke?”
“No joke,” he answered. “You have been exposed as a traitor. Your contact was questioned this afternoon and confessed everything.”
“My contact?” she tried to laugh as if it was all a mistake. “Hans, mein Schatz, I really don’t know what you’re talking about. Somebody has been telling you lies about me. I know there are some who are jealous….”
“Enough,” he snapped. “The evidence was brought before me. I know what you have done. You would be in a cell by now, except I have two uses I might put you to.”
“First, you will become my mistress. If you refuse I shall have you tortured and then executed. Second, you will become a double agent. You will carry false information to the British.”
“I will not,” Lavinia answered firmly. “I would prefer to die than do either of those things.”
“Then… you will die. I will… kill… you… now….”
In the quiet room the sound of the safety catch disengaging was loud and ominous, but Kohl was having trouble holding the pistol. His hand was shaking and his aim was wandering all over. Lavinia kept very still and watched as the gun fell from his hand moments before he keeled over onto the floor.
“What happened?” she asked as Johannes moved quickly from his unobtrusive place by the door and examined the Brigadeführer. “Is he… dead?”
“Unfortunately not,” Johannes answered. “Only unconscious. Come on, we have to move quickly. I haven’t got the recipe completely right. I never know how long they’re going to be out for, or how much they’ll have forgotten when they wake.”
“Recipe?” Lavinia was puzzled. “You mean… you put something in his drink? You….”
“I’m not a Nazi,” he said as he began to bind and gag Kohl with ripped up strips of the linen cloth from the dining table. “Don’t let the uniform fool you. I’m on the same side as you.”
“You’re SOE?” she asked.
“Something like that.” His accent now was a soft American one and he switched from German to English. “Call me Jack, by the way. I’m sick to death of Johannes.”
“Jack… I’m grateful to you. But….”
We’ve got a little time. Kohl intended to be undisturbed tonight, one way or the other. But we should get out of this apartment as soon as possible.”
“Wait,” Lavinia said. “I need the paper… the names of the Irish agents.”
“The one he brought is worthless,” Jack told her. “That was his first bit of mis-information he was going to give you. I’ve got the real list with me, along with a couple of other useful bits of intelligence.” He patted his inside pocket with a warm smile. “It was my job to type them, of course. A simple matter to put an extra sheet of carbon onto the roller and keep my own file.”
He smiled warmly at her. Lavinia began to return the smile, then she thought of something.
“How do I know you’re… what if this is a trick. You could take me back to the SS Headquarters….”
“That’s true. I guess you’ve just got to trust me, Lavinia. Look beyond this damn uniform and believe I really am on your side.”
“America isn’t even in the war….”
“I am. Please, WILL you trust me?”
She looked at his face and weighed up the evidence of her own eyes. He had drugged Kohl, tied him up. He was now asking her to trust him to get her out of the apartment, perhaps out of Berlin.
“All right,” she said. “I’ll trust you… for now. But….” She reached for Kohl’s gun, still discarded on the floor. “I’m keeping hold of this. And don’t think I don’t know how to use it. If I think for one minute that….”
“All right,” Jack said. “Just come with me, now, quickly.”
It was very nearly too late. Kohl was starting to come around from the experimental drug his drink had been laced with. Jack got ready to knock him unconscious again with an old fashioned upper cut when Lavinia got there before him, smashing him around the head with the butt of the gun.
“Nice one,” Jack said. “But seriously, it’s time to go now. Come on. Walk beside me, slowly, down the stairs. Don’t look as if you’re running away from anything. If we’re lucky, he won’t be found until the morning when his housekeeper comes in. We’ve got to be a long way from here by then.”
Lavinia was shaking as she walked down the stairs. She leaned heavily on Jack’s arm as he kept her at a steady pace. He really wasn’t sure they could have got away with it if anyone had seen them at that point. She was just too shaken and nervous. By the time he’d driven to the railway station she had calmed down a little. She managed to keep her composure as they boarded a late train to Hamburg.
“How did you have the right papers for us to travel?” Lavinia asked as the train rumbled through the outskirts of Berlin.
“Don’t worry about it,” Jack answered. “Get some sleep on this part of the journey. It’s not going to be quite as comfortable later.”
She tried to sleep, but she still wasn’t entirely certain that she could trust her apparent rescuer. He WAS still wearing the uniform of an SS officer. She dozed occasionally out of sheer exhaustion, waking with a start to find Jack sitting quietly, alternatively watching out of the window and watching the corridor outside the train compartment.
At Hamburg the uniform proved useful, though. They weren’t bothered when they passed through the inevitable checkpoint at the station. That proved, of course, that Kohl hadn’t yet been able to raise the alarm.
Jack again used his rank in the SS to commandeer a car in Hamburg. He drove through the night while Lavinia drifted in and out of broken sleep.
It was an hour before dawn when they reached the town of Norden. There, Jack spent a few precious minutes changing from his uniform to clothes that looked appropriate for a fishing community on the edge of the North Sea. He stole a small flat bottomed steam barge which, to Lavinia’s surprise, he steered easily through the shallow channels between sand banks and small islands that made that coastline a navigational nightmare.
By the time the sun came up, they were off the coast of the still neutral Netherlands and an hour later Jack moored the barge in a small harbour called Eemshaven.
After that it was easy. Lavinia telephoned the British embassy in Amsterdam. They arranged for her transport home to England with the confidential files Jack had copied on his typewriter. He remained in Holland. She never saw him again.
“She got out of the spy business after that, spent the rest of the war safely in Cambridge where she belonged,” Jack said. “I had other things to do. But… I kept an eye on her progress. Just to make sure the timeline had been corrected, of course.”
“Of course….” Sarah Jane wasn’t sure what to make of it all. She knew her aunt had an indomitable spirit, even a sense of adventure. But mostly she had expressed that adventure in her travels all over the world on the lecture circuit and her ground-breaking papers in various fields of science. This was a part of her aunt’s life she knew nothing about.
Jack put another copy of a newspaper in front of her. This one was from 1946 and was about the award of George Cross medals to a number of SOE men and women who had helped to defeat the Nazi regime from within, fighting in the resistance, or by gaining access to information right under the noses of the enemy as Lavinia Smith had done. There was a picture of her in a smart skirt suit proudly wearing her medal outside Buckingham Palace.
“Aunt Lavinia had a George Cross? I’ve never seen it.”
“She sold it in the early 1960s,” Jack said. “I’m not sure why. Perhaps her finances were a little tight. But….” He reached into his pocket and placed a small box on the table. Sarah Jane reached out slowly and opened it. “I located it and bought it back. It’s yours, now, Sarah Jane Smith. I’m sure your aunt would want you to have it.”
“Oh,” she said. “Thank you. I mean… you didn’t have to…. I don’t even… I’ve never been sure if I actually like you, Jack Harkness. There’s a lot about you I don’t approve of. But… Aunt Lavinia… she trusted you? I mean… what you told me was the truth? You didn’t embellish your own part in it? You really did help her as much as that?”
“I wouldn’t lie to you, Sarah Jane,” Jack answered. “Not about this, anyway.” He glanced at the kitchen clock. It was eight o’clock. His story had taken two hours to tell. “It’s Remembrance Sunday,” he said. “I came to London to go up to the parade at Whitehall. I always do. I’m actually the last living veteran of World War One now, you know, although for obvious reasons I don’t talk about that. One day in the future, I’ll probably be the last veteran of World War Two, as well. I hope I’ll still be able to remember the honest men and women I knew in both those wars. But I wondered if, today, you would join me in remembering your aunt. SOE veterans and their relatives are marching in the parade. You could wear your aunts medal. I could wear mine and join them.”
“Jack Harkness!” Sarah Jane smiled. “You’ve got a soft centre after all.”
“Don’t tell anyone, please,” he begged her. “It would be bad for my reputation. But will you come?”
“Yes,” Sarah Jane answered. “Of course I will.”