Thursday, 23 September 2010
The one that got away 3
Squadron Leader Fanshawe crossed into Switzerland on the 15th March 1943. He wore a battered suit made from artfully modified remnants of uniform, prison camp blankets and bedding. His hat had been filched during a visit from the Red Cross and his suitcase carefully constructed from camouflaged cardboard.
He was weak from hunger, wheezing from the damp and cold of so many nights out in the open and limping from a leap from a train bound for Basel, during a document check.
He kept to the deepest shadows of the fir trees as he made his way down the mountain slopes. A meeting with an unfriendly Swiss border guard could have him bundled back across the frontier to, at the very least, further incarceration.
Then he saw the bright and cheerful light at the window of the little chalet nestling amongst the conifers. That single twinkling light embodied all the carefree spirit of his pre-war years, an indomitable refusal to submit to the bleakness and terror of war.
Fanshawe knocked tentatively on the door, rehearsing his cover story (he was a lost Swedish businessman travelling in typewriter parts), and it was opened by a rosy cheeked, roly-poly farmer’s wife.
“Come in, schatzi,” she beamed at him. “You are just in time for dinner.”
Inside was as warm as toast. She led him into a tiny parlour, took his hat, helped him off with his sodden overcoat, and settled him in a chair by a cosy fire with a glass of apple brandy.
A few minutes later her husband, a large man with deep-set eyes, came in and hit him a resounding blow on the top of the head with a blacksmith’s hammer.
Fanshawe had discovered the infamous cannibal family of the Eastern Alps, fifteen years before the Swiss Police did.