The group in civilian clothing set off first. After all, the whole charade would be up immediately if anyone was to see them climbing out of the back of an Sd. Kfz. 251/1. Everyone checks their weapons. Piotr and Taffy have Lugers, as is normal for an SS officer; the rest have to make do with bayonets secreted around their persons.
So Haim leads them out of the deserted warehouse and they walk for 15 minutes before they arrive at a tram station. Ten minutes later and they are onboard the tram for the Old Town.
Piotr waits thirty minutes following the civilians departure before telling Taffy and Terry that it’s time that they should leave. For them it is an easy ten-minute drive to the town centre. Once again, the guards on the bridge don’t bother stopping them to ask for papers. Terry parks the half-track around the other side of the Na Zdrowie club, in Ludwika Solskiego Straße, thinking it wise not to bring too much attention to themselves.
The supposed SS members arrive around 8.15pm. The club is pretty busy – around three-quarters full. Around a quarter of the clientele are Nazi officers. Piotr tries to hide his contempt for the amount of Polish women – collaborating bitches – who are accompanying the Nazi scum.
He sees with some relief that the other half of the party dressed as civilians were able to enter the club – he was worried that they might not be allowed in as their clothes were less than impressive. Sensibly they have taken a booth in the corner of the club so as not to attract attention. As safe as it might be, however, they are not going to obtain much in the way of information sat there.
Piotr remembers his position as a senior SS officer and swaggers into the place with Taffy and Terry following behind him. He offers lazy, arrogant salutes to the other officers and then stands at the bar. He clicks his fingers for a waitress to bring Schnapps for the three of them, standing back and surveying the room for a while.
A little under ten minutes later and the lights go dim with a spotlight on a piano on the club’s simple stage. A pianist starts to play and he is joined after the first couple of bars by a gorgeous-looking singer who starts singing some sultry torch song to rapturous applause from the audience.
Lodd starts dribbling.
Piotr takes advantage of the fact that all eyes are on the glamorous blonde singer by casually sauntering over to the booth occupied by the civilians. He has a fake smile on his face as he hisses to Haim:
“Haim, nie tylko, kurwa, siedzieć. Początek sieci albo nigdy nie będziemy mieć szansę, aby jakieś kontakty tu i tego wieczoru będzie całkowita strata czasu.”
Piotr offers up his glass as a toast to the table of civilians and then walks back to the bar so as to enjoy the show with his SS companions. Haim, looking nervous, excuses himself from the others and also heads to the bar – albeit at the opposite end from where Piotr is standing.
For the next thirty minutes, everyone apart from Haim sits back to enjoy the show. The singer starts to move around the room, toying with all of the male patrons of the bar, taking the German officers’ hats for a while and sitting on laps until any of them try to touch her, at which point she moves on, leading to loud chuckles from everyone in the room. As she continues with her performance, the party members notice that Haim is engrossed in conversation with someone standing behind the bar. He is not dressed as a barman – it looks as if he must be either the manager of the owner.
The others watch on as Haim and the manager, or owner, continue to talk. Haim then slowly starts to move towards the toilets, glancing at Piotr as he does so. Piotr waits for half a minute, watching the crowd carefully before heading after him.
Piotr takes a stall next to the one that is locked, realizing by process of elimination that Haim must be in there. Piotr waits until the place is empty before he whispers:
“So?” he asks.
“The chap I was speaking with is Henryk Hellecki, the owner of the place,” Haim whispers back to him. “We spoke for a while. We spent ten minutes dancing around any issues, but then he told me that he has a daughter living in Chicago who is married to a Yank. I took this as a good sign – that he is not as pro-Nazi as one would think from the company he keeps.”
“I took a risk. I asked him if he knew of any way that I could contact the resistance. He went quiet and told me to be at the Florianska Gate at 2.00pm tomorrow. He then told me to make sure that I told no one of the conversation and then headed off to speak with another client.”
“Hmmmmmmmm,” Piotr ponders. “Maybe he’s for real. Maybe he is leading us into a trap. No way we can tell, but it’s a lead at least.”
“You tell your group of this and I will tell mine. Now go.”
Haim heads off back to the booth and relays the conversation to the civilians. Piotr relays the information to Taffy and Terry.
The chanteuse is continuing to sing and work the room. She spies Lodd who is looking at her with eyes the size of saucers, heads over to him and sits on his lap. She looks into his eyes and sings sweetly to him until she gets the uncomfortable feeling of something hard rubbing against her behind, at which point she moves back to the stage.
Her performance is at an end. She bows graciously to the hearty applause and grabs a few flowers that are thrown upon the stage.
It’s around 10.30pm now. Each group decides to have one last drink before calling it a night. Before they have finished, the singer comes out. She talks a little with the German officers and some of the best-dressed Poles before coming over to Lodd.
“Ich habe dich nicht hier gesehen. Ist dies das erste Mal in Krakau?” she asks him.
Lodd slowly stands up from his outer seat at the booth. Unused to hard liquor, he steadies himself with a hand on the pockmarked old wood of the table. He looks down at the singer, this most exquisite form, truly the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Her haunting rendition of ”Rosemarie“ and “Westerwald” touched every man’s heart. Even the almost scandalous ”Lili Marlene” (an Allied popular song) was greeted with enthusiasm.
As he stood there, it was as if all eyes were on him. Sweat started pouring out from behind his neck while he looked longingly into the cool blue eyes of this blonde-haired seductress. He dared not look anywhere else. He was more than sure that most of the German Officers from the last few tables she visited had followed her with their eyes. He would jeopardize the whole team if he didn’t think fast.
Luckily the Padre had done the thinking beforehand.
Lodd slowly reached for his collar and pulled it gently down revealing a very professional small white bandage taped to the right side of his throat. Lodd pointed at it then pulled his finger across his pouting lips. Haim who had returned to the table some time ago tells the singer the pre-planned excuse.
“My very strong cousin, Marek here, recently took a war wound to the neck," Haim explains nervously in Polish. "The Doctor said it would heal in a few weeks, but it’s best if he did not speak. Poor boy, thank goodness he has so much endurance. All the other parts of his body work very well, however.”
As the world’s greatest wing-man explains Lodd’s strange condition, the Slav takes up a paper napkin from the table and begins folding it.
When Haim is done talking of how his silent friend held up the crumbling building to allow the orphans to gain safety, Lodd holds up an origami rose made of white napkin paper and offers it to the soft, smooth hand of the lady. He then nods his head to the door that leads outside to the patio and grabs a half drunk bottle of Vichy Water and some glasses then offers her his arm. She takes it with a smile and allows herself to be escorted to one of the tables placed outside on the Old Town Square.
“Strewth, cobbers, that was a close one,” The Padre whispers while exhaling deeply. “Thank the Almighty that she was a dumb blonde; a brunette would never have fallen for such a lame excuse.”
“I don’t trust Lodd not to still screw things up now he thinks he’s pulled it off,” Bob says. “I think we had better extricate him from there fast – give up while the going is good.”
“I agree,” Haim says quickly – he’s obviously desperate to leave the place as soon as possible.
He asks for the tab, which they pay quickly, not wanting to hang around for the change.
They follow the direction that Lodd and the girl took.
Lodd’s eyes are wide and it looks as if he is just about to go in for a kiss when Haim comes up to him and coughs loudly.
“Es ist fast 11 Uhr, Marek,” Haim says pointing at a non-existent wristwatch. “Sie wissen, dass wir wieder in der Pension vor Mitternacht benötigen, oder wir für die Nacht gesperrt werden.”
Both Lodd and the girl look disappointed, but the look on The Padre’s face tell him that he has little choice in the matter.
“Auf Wiedersehen, mein Liebling,” the girl says as Lodd gets up, offering a peck on his cheek as a consolation prize.
“Auf Wiedersehen, mein Liebling,” Lodd mumbles back in his best attempt at a German accent.
In case he changes his mind, The Padre and Bob stand either side of him, practically frog-marching him away from the club.
Still stood at the bar, Piotr, Taffy and Terry had been nervously watching the whole encounter and are relieved when they see that the civilians have left now.
“Let’s slowly finish up our drinks and then head off after them in ten minutes,” Piotr whispers as he takes another sip of Schnapps.
At this late hour, the streets of Krakow are fairly empty. Haim looks around nervously as they head towards the tram stop. After ten minutes of walking, Haim starts looking even more panicky than he usually does.
“Chaps,” he whispers, “Don’t look round right now, but I think we are being followed. Someone tall and well-built dressed as a civilian. He’s on the other side of the road about 100m behind us. I think that he’s been following us ever since we left the club.”
Having saluted all of the remaining officers in the club, which is now fast thinning out, Piotr leads Taffy and Terry back to the half-track, which is exactly where they left it. They take the same route back to the warehouse as the civilians will be taking.
“There they are,” Piotr, who is riding shotgun, says with relief as he sees the group ahead of them.
Taffy is in the rear of the Sd. Kfz. 251/1.
He comes forward to speak to the others at the front:
“I might be wrong, but I think the others might have picked up a tail. See that tall, well-built chap behind us on the opposite side of the road dressed in civvies?”