Sticky End [Flash Fiction] [WW2 SOE]
Sticky End is my flash fiction for the first round of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge this year. The first round was last weekend and the group I’m in were assigned a spy genre story to be set in a prison cell and featuring glue. The story had to be under one thousand words and written within 48 hours. (Last year I wrote Down the Harbour and Burning to Leave for the 2017 flash fiction challenge).
I spent a bit of Saturday thinking about it, the hard bit for me was trying to work in the glue naturally and believably. Some help from Google showed me that the WW2 Special Operations Executive (SOE) used to include tubes of bostik adhesive in the containers that they dropped to the Jedburgh teams. The bostik was used to camouflage improved explosive devices (IED) and to stick them to things.
So Sticky End formed to feature an SOE agent captured with a mostly used tube of bostik glue on him. Also his colleagues in the resistance use some to help rescue him from the Gestapo. It’s possible that one of the people that helped to rescue him is Dot from Planting the Past and Hunting Nazis.
Anyway. I hope you enjoy Sticky End. Leave me a comment to let me know.
Sticky End synopsis
Jack is a British Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent in France in the latter half of 1943, we meet him as he is thrown into a prison cell by the Gestapo. Betrayed, but not by the tube of bostik found in his pocket, Jack is rescued by his comrades.
“It’s clean enough. Out!” the guard gestured at the woman to take her mop bucket and leave the cell. Dirty water slopped out as she hurried past the guards. A headscarf covered her and she kept her eyes on the floor. Jack thought they didn’t treat the locals any better than the prisoners.
He stumbled on the threshold and fell headlong onto the concrete floor, the guards slammed the steel door shut leaving him alone in near darkness. The only light came from a barred narrow window set high above the bed. The only other furniture was a metal bucket with a wooden lid.
Jack lay there in the puddle of cold dirty water, and who knew what else. His shirt was torn and had lost buttons. Bruises showed on his face, his left eye swelling closed.
Slowly he peeled himself off the floor, propping one arm and then the other until he could reach the bed. He levered himself onto the bed, the mattress was thin and lumpy. The blanket threadbare and filthy. Despite this sleep came quickly.
A bucket of cold water woke him, drenching the bed. Before he could react hands grabbed him and put a hood over his head. He was half dragged, half carried, stubbing his toes again on the threshold leaving the cell.
“Can I clean it now?” a woman asked.
“Quickly.” a guard answered.
A clank and splash behind him betrayed her entry to the cell.
The guards carried him down the corridor, up stairs that he stumbled on every single step on the way up. They took his hood off in an office. There was a desk, a chair and a row of battered metal filing cabinets. The desk was clear except for a telephone, a lamp, papers wrapped in cardboard and a flattened almost empty tube of bostik glue that Jack recognised as his.
The light flashed on in his face, blinding him. A man spoke softly into his ear in accented English.
“The game is over Jack. We know who you are.”
“Je ne comprends pas, que dites-vous?”
“We know you are an English secret agent sent here to commit sabotage.”
“Je ne parle pas allemand.”
“Stop pretending Jack, you are one of Prosper’s men. He told us where to find you because we promised to keep you safe.” The Gestapo man paused, waiting for Jack to own up to being a spy.
“No matter. Even without Prosper’s help, this gives you away.” He picked up the tube of bostik. “This was made in England. After three years of occupation only spies and saboteurs have any.”
Jack sat impassive and wondered how long until the time pencil ran out. He’d used the bostik with waxed paper to make the bomb waterproof before dropping it into the locomotive’s water tank.
Jack could still smell the familiar sharp odour of the bostik when they took him back to the cell. Was his mind already going? He’d been in captivity less than 24 hours. Sun shone through the window, and he got a better look at the cell. The floor had dried, the bucket was clean. The filthy old blanket swapped for two clean ones. They were folded on the bed. Jack stood on the bare mattress and pulled himself up to the window. The bars were finger thick, and set into the cement outside the window. The window was at ankle height on a quiet side street. If the bars hadn’t been there he could have easily climbed out.
The smell of the bostik persisted. He was beginning to feel light headed. Jack spotted the window opened slightly, and pushed it to get some fresh air. His imagination couldn’t be that powerful. Had the Germans smeared the glue in the room to taunt him?
Jack sat down on the bed, and decided to arrange the blankets. As he shook out the first one a slip of paper fell out. Jack quickly scooped it up, and unfolded it.
Be ready. Friends are coming. Apologies for the smell,
we’ve glued the lock shut to stop the Boche taking you
to Paris before we can get you out.
Jack checked the other blanket, but there were no other messages. He settled down to wait. While he did he thought about who had betrayed him. It wasn’t believable that Prosper would have sold out his own network, but clearly someone was telling the Nazis what was going on.
Gradually it grew dark. A meal came through a slot in the bottom of the door. It was on a metal tray, with dark bread and a vegetable stew. Jack realised how hungry he was and wolfed it down without tasting it. Who knew when he’d get to eat again.
Maybe an hour later a torch shone into his cell from outside. It flashed Morse at him.
Jack stood on the bed to see out the window so that he could acknowledge the signal.
A woman was attaching a sticky bomb to the bars.
“Under the bed!” She said.
Jack jumped off the bed and rolled as he landed to get under the bed as fast as possible. He counted in his head. At five hedgehogs an eardrum shattering blast pressed him into the floor. Then a moment of stillness, followed by tinkling rain as glass and other debris bounced off the walls and fell. There were fragments of glass all over the cell.
A rope ladder came through the window, and hands on either side grabbed and pulled Jack up as he climbed. A car engine roared to life, and a burst of sten gun fire and grenades round the corner announced Jack’s new found freedom.
“Come on, we need to go.” The woman’s voice was familiar.
Jack looked at her as he got into the car.
“That’s me.” She smiled as the car lurched away from the police station.
“You’re the cleaner!”