I returned to Madrid in the early spring of 1941 and put up at a small bed-and-breakfast lodging-house in Gran Vía. More enthusiastic than ever, I was ready for action. I telephoned Federico and arranged to meet him at the Café Negresco near the Bank of Spain on the way to the Puerta del Sol.
I invented a long story about my friends, the Zulueta brothers; through them, I said, I had been approached by the Bank of Spain’s Foreign Exchange Police Section and asked to go to Portugal on their behalf to contact a man who wished to buy pesetas in exchange for escudos. I said that I had monitored the transaction and brought the escudos into Spain while the pesetas were to be handed over to the Portuguese man’s trusted contact in Madrid.
Interspersing lies with the truth, I explained to Federico that my main interest in the transaction had been to get to Lisbon in order to become a resident there and so gain a resident’s visa, both of which I had accomplished.
We then started to talk about the possibility of my taking up residence in Britain and I told him how easy that would be for me now that I had a new passport with a valid visa; all I needed was a motive to be there, such a job as a correspondent for a Spanish newspaper or magazine.
He agreed to study my suggestions in depth and we made a new appointment to meet at a later date. In the end we had more than five interviews. However, it was clear from these interviews that I would have great difficulty in becoming the British correspondent of a Spanish newspaper; most papers already had people accredited to London as it was the nerve centre for Allied news.
After a month I was anxious to speed things up and finalize our deal, I told Federico that I had an important document to show him. We were sitting in a café so, feigning extreme caution, I slid a piece of paper out of my pocket and pushed it towards him under the table, making sure that no one else in the café saw it.
It was one of the bits of paper I have had specially printed in Lisbon now filled in with my name and giving me a diplomatic assignment to travel to London on a special mission for the commercial attaché’s administrative department.
I let Federico have a quick glance at it, then folded it up and put it back in my pocket. I asked him to keep my mission a secret as it was confidential and the government did not want anyone else involved. Finally, I told him that I was expecting to leave in about ten day’s time.
Federico swallowed the story, hook, line and sinker. He brought me a bottle of invisible ink, some secret codes and the sum of $3,000. Then he briefed me about the kind of reports they expected me to send them.