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A BROKEN LAND

JACK LUDLOW

To Eric Gleadall

A friend who experienced everything under the sun: good fortune as well as setbacks, both financially and in his health. Yet he never, whatever his condition, let his smile slip, nor ceased to joke and be good company. Bravery is too shallow a word.

Contents

Title Page

Dedication

PROLOGUE

CHAPTER ONE

CHAPTER TWO

CHAPTER THREE

CHAPTER FOUR

CHAPTER FIVE

CHAPTER SIX

CHAPTER SEVEN

CHAPTER EIGHT

CHAPTER NINE

CHAPTER TEN

CHAPTER ELEVEN

CHAPTER TWELVE

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

CHAPTER NINETEEN

CHAPTER TWENTY

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

AUTHOR’S NOTE

By Jack Ludlow

Copyright

PROLOGUE

Cal Jardine was never himself entirely sure how he got so caught up in the counter-revolution that went on to become the Spanish Civil War. Many who knew him put it down to his inability to pass up on a scrap, but initially it was merely from being in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the company of the wrong people, like his one-time sergeant and now good friend, the boxing gym owner and anti-fascist street fighter, Vince Castellano.

His presence in Barcelona at the fateful time came about because he was doing a favour for a valued friend, one that also cocked a mighty snook at the pretensions of Nazi Germany and the stupidity of Aryan eugenics; given his openly stated antipathy to National Socialism, the idea of helping to facilitate, even on the margins, what was being called the People’s Olympiad appealed to him.

The Berlin Olympics, which Adolf Hitler was using as a showcase for his absurd theories on race, were due to take place in mid August; the idea of pre-empting that with a socialist set of competitions, as well as demonstrating there was another, saner world, had come from many sources, though it had to be admitted the organisers were no more Cal Jardine’s natural bedfellows than those who claimed to be part of the master race.

Far-left socialists and intellectuals, international trade unionists, syndicalists, anarchists and communists, both Stalinist and Trotskyist in persuasion, did not easily gel with a man of independent means, who had made his way in the world for a decade by running guns and advising on the tactics of guerrilla warfare.

Asked about his own political views, Cal Jardine was inclined to reply that he generally favoured a government that had no need to incarcerate or shoot you if you disagreed with them; beyond that and a deeply honed sense of what was just and equitable, he was fairly indifferent to politics on the very good grounds that most people he had met engaged in that pursuit seemed more than a touch fraudulent.

Even then, he could have been gone a whole week before the balloon went up; the reason he was not, and this surprised no one, was a woman. Florencia Gardiola, when he sought to expound his indifference to politics, insisted he was just selfish, but then she applied that accusation to anyone who did not share her passionate belief in anarchism, the end of wage slavery and the replacement of the capitalist system with a new society based on true democracy and a state managed by the efforts of worker cooperatives; that she did this occasionally in his bed at the very superior Ritz Hotel did not seem to her – and Cal Jardine tried to make a pun out of it – an anachronism.

All he got for his poor joke was a pummelling on his naked chest which, in seeking to contain her, ended up with another bout of frantic lovemaking with the very fiery and beautiful young woman who had been assigned to him as an interpreter. His friend Sir Monty Redfern had bankrolled some of the British athletes heading to Barcelona – he had agreed to pay for their accommodation – an act the Jewish millionaire had likened, in an expression typical of a man who had hauled himself up from East End poverty, to passing a hard stool through a haemorrhoid arse. Monty’s problem was that, much as he hated the far-left, he hated the Nazis more.

‘But, Cal, you think I am going to just give these madmen my money?’ he had cried. ‘They might send it to Moscow, the crooks, or use it to buy weapons. No, I have to make sure it is spent on their hostels.’

‘Hostels? I hope you don’t expect me to share their accommodation, Monty.’

The response had come with a delighted hoot. ‘That I should see, you in a workers’ boarding house, ten to a room, with the smell of nothing but unwashed feet and garlic farts.’

That the last words had coincided with the opening of Monty’s office door had made him look momentarily abashed, but not for long; as a man he was too ebullient for reserve, and probably, by now, his recently acquired assistant either had become accustomed to his vulgarity or lacked the colloquial English necessary to fully comprehend it. Elsa Ephraim was very attractive, with long black hair, alabaster skin and dark inviting eyes, and Monty, unseen by Elsa, gave a roll of the eyes that was a curse to his advanced years, not to mention a wife who would castrate him if he even looked like straying.

Cal had been gifted with a smile, having been instrumental in getting Elsa and her family out of Hamburg, crucially with a lot of their possessions, paintings and jewellery, so they had not arrived in England, like so many of their persecuted co-religionists, as paupers. Their extraction had turned out to be the last in a long line of successes; his name and activities had become known to the Gestapo, obliging him to get out of Germany himself, albeit by a different route. Not only beautiful but smart as well, Cal had brought her to the attention of Monty, who had given her a job.

‘You have the draft, Elsa?’ Monty had asked.

The slip of paper had been handed over, as well as a clipboard and a pen, which had made Monty frown. ‘My own shekels, Cal, and I still have to sign for them.’

‘Two thousand pounds is a lot of money, Mr Redfern.’

‘Child, there was a time in my life when two pennies was a lot of money.’

‘I should get out as quick as you can, Elsa, or the violins will start playing “Annie Laurie”.’

The girl had been confused and it showed, it being English so idiomatic it taxed her still-limited knowledge of the language. She spoke it well, but tended to get her tenses mixed up.

‘What this goy layabout means, Elsa, is that I am a sentimental old fool.’

Elsa had replied with a complete lack of irony, her look serious. ‘My father is that too; he cries often for what we left behind in Königsberg.’

     

 

2011 - 2018