Churchill’s Secret Agent


Chained to a stone pillar, the glare of the floodlight was blinding me. Did I smell smoke? A coal furnace? The smoke seemed to be moving closer to where I was seated on the examination table. To my right, I could barely see a man in a white smock. He pulled out red hot branding irons along with an array of instruments which he laid out on a side table. Was this yet another test we should add to our training, a scene producing drama and anxiety in the prisoner? They’ve created an operating room—a meticulous setup indeed! I was becoming impatient. “When is their play going to start? I know I’m the star. Does Mr. Churchill even know I’m here?”

A man smoking a cigar appeared on the left. From beyond the floodlight, a loud voice spoke to me. “What is your name?” Textbook—same old routine.

“Michel Carbonell,” I answered. The smoker approached and put out his cigar on the bottom of my right foot, twisting it slowly between his fingers—right, left, right, left. All my nerve endings screamed. This classic torture was far more painful than I ever expected. Then, a man advanced toward me on the right, rhythmically swinging a red rubber hose less than a meter long. “Probably buckshot inside,” I thought.

“You must excuse me. When I asked you your name, we were interrupted by my friend who needed to put out his cigar. Will you repeat your answer, please?” I considered how grave my situation was. Though agitated, I restrained myself and replied evenly, “Michel Carbonell.”

The hose whipped across my thighs, ripping flesh and causing blood to splatter. “If you come out from behind your screen and show me your face, I’ll tell you all that I know! If you’d take the time, you could read it in your dossier. I’m sure the facts are all there. Maybe I have a hard head, but if you don’t stop these barbaric tactics, I will refuse to open my mouth!” My seething rage was much greater than the pain. Once again I confessed the lie I had prepared. “I parachuted outside of Neufchâteau. I had become acquainted with a French man and his sister in Paris during the time of France’s defeat. The three of us became close friends. When it was clear that France was defeated, he and I took the opportunity to take a boat from Dunkirk to England. His sister stayed with her parents near Vincennes. He and I saw each other regularly while we were in London. One day, he told me of his decision to hire a private plane and parachute back into France. Not only did he want to find his family, but more important, he needed to contact the French partisans to let them know of the proposed Allied landing somewhere on the coast of southern France. He asked if I wanted to join him. As he was wealthy, money was not an issue. I accepted right away. You see, I was in love with his sister and wanted nothing more than to see her again. That is all.”

That is why you parachuted into France?” he responded in disbelief. The stunning pain of the hose again, this time on my thighs and chest. I gasped for air. Then I pretended to faint thinking this might cause them to stop the torture.

“Drag him to a cell and hang him by his thumbs! Let his toes barely touch the floor. But before you hang him up, remove all of his clothing. I plan to visit him often. I have a special way to make him tell the truth.”

After pulling me along the icy floor, they tossed me face down into a cell, the floor of which was covered with human waste. One held me up while the other tied leather straps to my thumbs. They hoisted me to the ceiling and tied the straps to small rings. My feet could barely reach the floor. After they left, I tried to get some of the shit off my face by grimacing and blowing through my lips. The more I tried, the more seeped into my mouth.

Then—the sound of steps advancing toward my cell! Two German soldiers were talking about two Gestapo higher-ups who had discovered a better way to make prisoners talk. The method was to gather roaches and ants, put them in boxes and bring them to the interrogation room. Without warning, they would dump the roaches on the head of the prisoner and observe his reaction. Sometimes the prisoner would break, sometimes he wouldn’t. If he did not talk, they would take the other box filled with red ants and dump it on his head. This was always more effective because the ants would crawl into the nose and ears. As they passed my cell, I didn’t move or make a sound. I thought to myself, “At least, I know what’s coming next.”

Or did I? Despite the pain and biting cold, I had only one thought. Escape.