a visit to a man two streets over from where Arthur was living. Something about a radio antenna with wash hung out to dry on it. He remembered that man. Never wore any clean clothes. Obviously suspicious. But dear old Professor Hodgson? And his poor speech-impaired wife? She could hardly talk. What could M.I. have wanted with them? He was just a teacher or something. Never went out. How could he have been a spy? And who were those guys in the blue uniforms?
Those guys in the blue uniforms were English sailors attached to the Military Intelligence office at the port of Southampton. Hence the notice on the door. Why did the Navy send two men all the way up to London to pick up Professor Hodgson and his wife? It was simple: Major Hodgson wanted to make sure that whoever picked him up as Professor Hodgson didn't know him as Major Hodgson. So he called in a favor from an old friend in the Navy. Could his friend spare a couple of men for an easy assignment in town? The major would provide the car, the details and the guns. Even send some one around to pick them up at their base. No problem? Good. And do send up one of your "OFF LIMITS" posters for the door, would you? The sailors didn't question the assignment. It got them a couple of days off in London and a car. (With a tank of gas no less!) Don't argue, guys. Just go pick up this old gentleman at this address. Put this notice on that door. Take him to that address and hand him over to the person waiting there. Enjoy your stay in London, boys. Here's the keys to the car. It was a gift.
To ensure the proper treatment of himself, without the possibility of some sort patriotic abuse, the sailors we told they were picking up a university professor considered at risk. Not a spy, but some one the Germans might want to incapacitate in some way. A civilian vital to the success of the war effort. That's all they had to know. The Hodgsons were treated with courtesy and respect by their armed guards and handed over to what appeared to be a civilian at a home outside the city. They were dismissed and told to report back to their base in 48 hours. The car would be retrieved from Southampton later that week. Leave the keys with your commander. Leave the guns here. An easy day for all concerned.
Edward Hodgson and his Austrian wife spent the remaining months of the war in their own home outside of London. It was their groundskeeper who took custody of them from the Navy men. And now it was their groundskeeper who would be running Professor Hodgson's errands, as he had before the war. While it seemed to be a silly exercise in circle running, there was some good to come of it: On the same day Major Hodgson returned to his home from London, six of Professor Hodgson's German contacts in town were also picked up by M.I. They did not fair nearly so well as Maria's family back home. There was, after the war, a very happy, tearful family reunion.
Arthur didn't know what to do. He couldn't help Hodgson, he was sure of that. Right or wrong, the professor was on his own now. And he probably wouldn't be needing this fresh paper any time soon. He reluctantly opened the door to his own apartment and went inside, leaving the door open behind him. Arthur dropped his satchel on the floor and slumped down across his bed. What to do? And why do anything? If good people were being picked up by the military, which side was the good guys? And if Hodgson really was a spy, what was the use of an honest attempt when the enemy was so cunning? He laid there on the bed for nearly an hour. Arthur fell asleep pondering life in London in these troubled times. He woke up wondering how long he had laid there. Did he really fall asleep? Was he that worn out? Arthur decided it was time for a break. Blackfriars and Charring Cross could do without him for the afternoon. And Professor Hodgson wouldn't be enlisting his services anytime soon. Arthur emptied some things out of his satchel- then thought about it and left it on the floor. Travel light. Just for this once. He left his parents a quick note on the table about going to the park. Be back tonight. Not to worry. Arthur headed out the door and back to the surface.
Arthur Smith Crutchfield's adventure of a lifetime began with a simple walk through London to Hyde Park. He passed through Trafalgar, dodging military vehicles and bicycles. He couldn't help but look- Was Hodgson in on of those cars? Was his own mother pedaling on of those bicycles? He saw neither and continued on toward the palace, cutting through the back alleys and mews. He kept his eye on Buckingham Palace as he ran through the traffic towards the park. Busy place, even in wartime. No sense in dying in a silly road mishap. As if the bombs made more sense. No sense in dying at all, he decided. Once in the park, Arthur relaxed a bit. He made his way toward the center of the grounds, as far as he could get from the surrounding roads and traffic. Few people in the park today. Very nice. Very peaceful. Arthur thought he'd have a little lie down under one of the trees. It looked quite comfortable, and it was. In no time at all, Arthur Crutchfield was asleep in the shade beneath a huge old oak tree near the center of Hyde Park. For Arthur, the world stopped revolving and the war came to a halt. It was good to sleep above ground again. The fresh air was positively narcotic. Arthur dreamt of the countryside as the city spun towards sunset. What happened next, some six hours later, is a topic for another file. Arthur Smith Crutchfield's involvement in the Second World War was over. His own personal war was about to begin.
To Be Continued...
Copyright 1996,2010, Chip Haynes
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