Category Archives: Novels

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixty

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Now they’re on their way to kill Hitler.
Wallis stuck her cigarette in her mouth to keep from laughing at the two men who obviously had been crawling around under a giant miniature train display so they could pop their heads up through a hole in the middle of it. Nothing seemed as ludicrous as crawling on the floor for a former king of England and the absolute leader of the Third Reich right before a magnificent tea party in the German Alps.
David extended a hand to Hitler to help him stand. The Fuhrer ignored it. Wallis grabbed her husband’s elbow and directed him out of the room.
“Am I mistaken or was there murder in your eyes?” she whispered.
“If you had been one second later, I would have stomped his head in.”
“Now, now, you know that would have been much too messy.” She jerked him toward the reception hall where all of the finest people gathered to participate in an authentically replicated high English tea. Wallis pushed him toward a bosomy blonde looking merrily quaint in her dirndl. She was in that marvelous time of life when no one could tell if she were twenty-five or thirty-five nor really cared.
“I must introduce you to our hostess, fraulein Eva Braun.” Wallis leaned into his ear. “She’s Hitler’s version of Freda Ward.”
“Does she speak English?”
“God, how would I know? Just try not to stare at her bosom too much.”
As David walked over to Eva, Wallis puffed on her cigarette and tried not to stare at Eva too much herself. Some time had passed since she felt an urge from her other physiology. She enjoyed the dresses and makeup too much. And nothing matched the exhilaration of bringing a man to ecstasy through the infliction of delicious pain. Every now and again, a woman—usually a blonde—would remind her of the condition she was born with. Most of the time she ignored it. Such a revelation would shock Aunt Bessie, and she was such a naïve dear. And of course, once the word got out she would not be invited to those divine parties. And sometimes she felt like she wanted to punish the sweet little blondes for reminding Wallis of what she was—not what she chose to be nor what society allowed her to be. The last time she felt such an attraction was for KiKi Preston, the girl with the silver syringe. Wallis found KiKi alluring yet such a bane to the existence of the Royal Family, which she had pledged to defend and protect. Eva, on the other hand, looked like a lost child wandering down a posy-strewn path to hell. Wallis was relieved she only had to kill Hitler and not his mistress.
Ach, duchess, you left before I had a chance to show you, as you so quaintly called them, my choo choos.”
Wallis made a quarter turn, then looked over her shoulder through the black fur of her fox wrap to flutter her eyes at the Fuhrer.
Hitler stopped, his mouth dropped and the words that managed to escape his lips made no sense at all.
Half-covering her face with her fur piece was a cheap trick but it worked every time. Wallis walked slowly to the Fuhrer and extended her hand to be kissed—the same hand, by the way, which wore the opal ring which contained the poison.
“I’m sorry, Herr Hitler, you must repeat your last question. My German, unfortunately, is very weak.”
“I was going to say you are one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in my life. The newsreels do you no justice. It is a shame we are both married. You to the former king of England—
“But I thought you were single.”
“—and I am married to my beloved Germany.” He bent to kiss her hand again.
“No no.” She withdrew her hand. “No time for seconds. You must introduce me to all these fascinating people.”
Hitler stuck by her side as they made their way around the room for introductions. She remembered none of their names. Wallis was grateful none of them wished for piss on earth. German women, in particular, had trouble pronouncing the English word peace which turned into “piss”. Hitler, however, kept running his fingers up and down her back. It repulsed her, but she knew she must continue to lead him into her trap. Occasionally, she looked around at him, fluttering her eyes through the black fox fur.
“After the reception is over,” he whispered, “when these people have left and before your limousine arrives to take you back to the train station, you must see my choo choo set, up close and personal.”
“Shall I bring the drinks or shall you?”
Hitler gulped. “I will. What do you want?”
“A Cuba libre.”
“Of course, I will free Cuba too, but it will take time.”
“You don’t know what a Cuba libre is, do you?”
“No.” His dark penetrating eyes searched her face. “This is the first time I’ve told the truth to anybody. What is this strange hold you have over me?”
“Meet me in the choo choo room, and I will show you.” She winked.
For the next hour Adolf Hitler could not remember anyone’s name or title. He kept his hands to himself, now that he had been promised more than he could have hoped for. Finally, a short woman wearing too many pearls promised Wallis piss on earth. Hitler was still in his delirium and was unable to correct her pronunciation. Eventually the crowd began to drift away leaving only a core of diehard sycophants—field Marshall Hermann Goering who was in deep conversation with David, obviously about the train display; Joachim Von Ribbentrop who could not keep his eyes off Wallis; and Eva Braun who still wandered around like a lost waif.
“You must excuse me, Herr Hitler. I must freshen up a bit, if you don’t mind.” Wallis peeked through her fox stole again.
“Of course.” Hitler cleared his throat. I’ll be waiting for you in the—well, you know where.”
“And I’ll bring the drinks.” Wallis went directly to the cloak room where she had left her overcoat. She recovered from an inside pocket the drab gray uniform she had absconded from dress factory days earlier. She slipped it on over her fitted suit with the fox collar. After taking a moment to cover the fur with the uniform collar, she left and went to the bar. Along the way she commandeered a white servant’s cap. Poor girl was so intimidated by working in Hitler’s private residence, she said nothing when a strange woman snatched the cap from her head. Wallis properly adjusted the headwear before going to the bar where she ordered one Cuba libre.
The bartender presented it to her on a small silver tray. She then assumed the subservient posture of a servant as she passed through the reception hall. Wallis didn’t think even David noticed her. Right before she went into the train display room, she quickly opened her opal ring, emptied its contents into the drink and then turned it around on her finger so it appeared to be a plain band. Hitler was already positioned in the center opening.
“How dare you!” he barked. “How many times have you people been told to knock before entering?”
Wallis said nothing but tossed off her cap, unbuttoned the gray uniform and shimmied until it began to fall from her thin shoulders. She deftly switched the tray from one hand to another to allow the dress to land on the floor.
“I thought you were bringing two drinks,” Hitler commented in a dull school-boy voice.
“I drank mine at the bar. A double.”
“You don’t mind joining me in control central, do you? You have to crawl.”
“I won’t spill a drop of your drink. I’m quite agile, you know.”
Hitler let out a slight moan.
Wallis paused only briefly as she crawled under the table. She noticed the Fuhrer had already removed his pressed black slacks. Remembering her pledge to MI6, she trudged onward. Once she entered the central opening, Wallis rose like a navy-blue hyacinth. She heard Hitler breathe in deeply.
“You are one of the most fascinating women in the world, or am I repeating myself?”
“No. Earlier you said I was the most beautiful woman in the world. To be beautiful and fascinating blend together well, I think.” Smiling, Wallis added, “David and I must be back in town for the 6 p.m. train, so let’s get this choo choo out of the station.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.” He stepped closer. “I am developing a strategy I will call the blitzkrieg. The world will be astounded.”
“Well, before you astound me, please drink your Cuba libre. It may astound you.” Wallis lifted the tray.
The door swung open with a bang, and a wide-eyed Ribbentrop stood there like a frightened boy. “The duke is looking for the duchess, and is quite upset. They must leave now to make their 6 o’clock train.”
Wallis dropped the tray and glass to the floor before Hitler could drink it. The bastard couldn’t die now. The Germans would know for certain that she did it.
Wallis dropped to her knees. “I’m on my way.” She looked Hitler’s way. “The Fuhrer has a few things to put in order before he can join us.”
The Windsors were almost in the limousine when Hitler ran down the steps, smoothing out his trousers, reached for Wallis to pull her close for a kiss.
“You would have made a remarkable queen.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Three

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent.
“You may have me, but as my last act as chief inspector of Scotland Yard I will arrest the Man in the Red Underwear!” Tent’s voice was filled with unbowed haughtiness.

Cecelia, Millicent and Eddie were shocked. “You will?”

“Yes!” He turned dramatically to point at the lounge. “I arrest you! Lord Andrew Taylor!”

The accusation broke momentarily his concentration on Bedelia and he reverted to his dressmaker affectations. “Oh inspector! How quaint! How droll! How divine! You’re bringing the giggles out of me!”

“Do you dare drop your pants and let us see your underwear?”

“Here!?” Andy stood and swished over to Tent. “Oh inspector! I don’t know what to think! I mean, I hardly know you.”

“Cut the act, Taylor. I’m on to you.”

“Ooh! I don’t know what you mean!” Andy futilely feigned feyness one last time.

“Drop ‘em.” He sounded like a boot camp instructor ordering a recruit to do twenty push-ups.

Bedelia, Eddie, Cecelia and Millicent broke into poetry tinged with a sense of urgency.

Don’t do it, Andy, it’s a trap to catch you with your trousers down.
So keep them up, don’t give the chief inspector cause to send you to jail!
He has no proof no way to say you are the Man in the Red Underwear.
It’s just his word against the word of everyone so don’t you dare
Reveal your underwear so he can cart you off to jail.
But if you do, don’t fret, don’t stew, we’ll pool our dough to make your bail!
Don’t drop your pants! You got no ants! So under no dire circumstance
Don’t drop your pants!
Don’t be naïve. It’s not the time to wear your heart upon your sleeve.
Remember Tent is the real crook; so don’t you let him off the hook.
He’s the one that’s criminal. We must be sure he’s off the street.
We’ve worked so hard, we’re almost there. He’s down and out. He’s almost beat.
We all love you, you’re our best friend. We’ll root for you right to the end.
So keep your trousers ‘round your waist. Please take your time, no need for haste!
Don’t drop your pants! You got no ants! So under no dire circumstance,
Don’t drop your pants!

Andy stared into Tent’s eyes, squared his jaw and dropped his pants, revealing red underwear.

“Come along, Lord Taylor. We have a date at headquarters.” Tent took Andy by his elbow.

Eddie stepped forward. “Excuse me, chief inspector.”

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Why do you think Andy is the Man in the Red Underwear?” One might supposed that Prince Eddie was, indeed, the dumbest person in the British Empire, but a rare intellectual glint in his eyes made one pause.

“Because he’s wearing red underwear, you idiot!” Tent retorted.

“Is that yo’r only evidence?”

“Of course not!”

One who loved to be in the middle of any conversation, Cecelia added, “What other evidence do you have?

“Miss Smart-Astin just announced, ‘I’d know that kiss anywhere!’ You are the Man in the Red Underwear!”

Millicent smiled broadly, a sign that she knew what Eddie was trying to present as Andy’s defense. “Bedelia, darling, do you remember saying that?”

“Me? Why I never said such a thing.”

“Liar! Liar! Pants on fire!” Tent paused, realizing he had lapsed into schoolyard behavior. “I still have him in red. That is evidence enough.”

“Wull, that ain’t no evidence at all.” Eddie nodded to the others indicating it was time for an all-out poetry performance, starting with Cecelia.

It’s plain to see you have no fashion sense, you dummy Malcolm Tent!
No one in London doesn’t know
That all the best dressed jills and joes
Are wearing red from head to toe!

Everyone else—except Tent and Billy, of course—came forward.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Six

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union
Riotous celebration over the end of the war lasted until the late afternoon, leaving Duff depleted and nervous. His office was filled with revelers opening bottles of wine and drinking with elation. Duff was trying to slip from the room when Brooks caught up with him.
“Where are you going, sir? Everyone wants to toast your return.”
“War Department,” Duff replied.
“You look drained, Mr. Lincoln. Why don’t you stay here, and I’ll go for you.”
“No, thank you, Mr. Brooks.” Retreating hastily, Duff replied, “I’d rather go myself.”
Walking swiftly through the turnstile gate onto the War Department grounds, Duff went to the office of statistics and approached the front desk.
“Do you have fatality lists for Michigan from 1863?”
While he waited for the clerk to return, Duff breathed deeply, feeling his stomach tighten. On the U.S.S. Malvern returning from Richmond, a Union sailor had sneaked into his room as Duff slept, crouched by his bed and awakened him with a thump on the head.
“What are you doing pretending to be president, Duff Read?”
Duff’s mouth had gone dry, his heart pounding.
“Who are you?”
“Grover Kenton.”
Grover Kenton, Grover—then Duff had placed him; a boy from a neighboring farm who always liked to torment him.
“What are you going to do?”
“Nothing. You’re already dead.”
“What?” Duff sat up. “What do you mean?”
“You’re dead.” Kenton rose, turning away. “It was in the local newspaper. You died in some battle. I don’t know which one.”
“My family, how did they take it?”
“I don’t know.”
Duff’s thoughts went to his elderly mother and father, and how they must have felt when they read his obituary. Perhaps his family was proud he had died a hero.
“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?”
“Why? You’re dead.” With that, Kenton left.
The clerk plopped the fatality file for Michigan on the front desk, rousing Duff from his thoughts. He quickly flipped through the pages until he found his hometown. Sliding down the page, his hand stopped at his own name: killed in action at the Second Battle of Manassas, August 1862.
“Did you find what you wanted, Mr. President?” the clerk asked.
“Yes, thank you.” Duff forced himself to smile, and then a thought crossed his mind. “Will you bring me the file for Ohio fatalities, please?”
As the clerk walked away, Duff wondered if from the beginning Stanton had planned to have him killed, and if Stanton also planted Adam’s obituary early on; if so, all of them were to die, including Alethia.
“Here it is, sir.” The clerk put the file in front of Duff.
Where was Adam from? Steubenville, he remembered. Duff thumbed through the pages until he came to Adam’s hometown, then stopped abruptly. Adam Christy had been killed in action, Second Battle of Manassas, August 1862.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary, Chapter Fifty-Nine

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Now they’re on their way to kill Hitler.
On the morning of their last day in Germany, David tried to relax in Adolf Hitler’s private train car on their way to the Fuhrer’s Wolf’s Lair in Berchtesgaden. He and Wallis would be guests of honor at an afternoon tea attended by every Nazi political leader in the German Alps. Perhaps the same dignitaries would be there who attended the military policy conference in January 1935 where David had secreted himself into the affair dressed as a waiter. He wearied of all the tours of the training schools for the elite death squads of the SS, the Berlin War Museum, the Pergamon Museum and finally a boring dinner at the home of field Marshal Hermann Goering who incessantly complained that the Fuhrer had stolen his model train set. Goering informed David that while he was attending the official tea, Hitler had restricted him from the train room. Goering wanted David–if he were invited to see the trains–to please report back to him on their condition.
All that was left to complete their mission was the most important task: to kill Adolf Hitler.
MI6 handed the assignment to Wallis, which nettled David. He could not understand how they could have passed over his plans for the murder for any method that the American woman devised. Sighing, David leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes to convince himself schwermut once again held him in its grip.
He wanted to complete this mission and go home, except he had no home to go to. If it were within his power he would return to his beloved Fort Belvedere and putter in its gardens, but the abdication made that wish impossible to come true. He didn’t even have family any more. George was always good for a laugh. Bertie could be sympathetic and supportive. Frankly, he didn’t give a damn about Harry. David was, for all intents and purposes, a non-entity. Most of all he missed his friend and confidante Louis Mountbatten. But his mother the queen ordered him and Wallis to be persona non grata.
Not that Wallis was not entirely unpleasant as companions went. She could always make him laugh, and didn’t all the experts on marriage say a good sense of humor was vital? And he liked the way she would slap his hand if he picked up a leaf of lettuce from a salad bowl on which to nibble. His own mother would have said not a thing, raised her eyebrow and made a note to his governess to lecture him on table manners the next morning. The occasional slap at the dinner table was all the exchange they had which could be interpreted as love.
Of course, David had to admit this love conundrum was his fault. His romantic habits began with the insistence that his paramours be another men’s wives. That way he would never be bothered by those pesky notions of love. The closest he had come to a deeper emotional connection was Thelma and Freda, but they were so far in the past they were hardly worth thinking about any more.
Wallis nudged him. “Wake up. It’s time to go kill us a Nazi madman.”
A rough elbow to the ribs. A terribly insensitive joke. Close enough to pass off as love for right now.
A chauffeur in a black Mercedes convertible greeted them at the station. All sorts of SS guards on motorcycles and cockroach automobiles with Nazi flags unfurled surrounded them.
“God, I hope this guy drives better than Dr. Ley,” Wallis whispered as they slid into the back seat. “On these mountain roads he could drive off a cliff.
“That wouldn’t be good,” David replied.
“Damn right. It would wrinkle my dress.”
David laughed the rest of the way up the mountain to Berchtesgaden and the Wolf’s Lair which was ten times more elegant than it was when he valeted there a couple of years ago. Hitler himself waited on the grand front steps for their limousine to pull up to a gentle stop and let the semi-royal couple alight. The Fuhrer looked dapper in brown Nazi Party jacket, black trousers and black shoes, which did not quite match Wallis’s tailored navy blue suit draped with a fox stole dyed black, David thought, but everything could not be perfect.
After a round of hearty handshakes and fake kisses to cheeks, Hitler led them into an entry hall and through doors to the large room where the previous conference was held. “Before our other guests arrive for the tea, I would like a private word with his majesty,” he requested in a voice quite different from his usual oratorical glory.
Wallis smiled and nodded in acquiescence. Hitler led David through a couple sets of doors until he arrived at his model train room. David took a moment to stop and consider the magnificence of a collection previously thought to belong in the world of little boys’ dreams.
“Follow me.” Hitler gracefully went down on all fours to crawl under the immense miniature world.
David, without a second thought, did the same—drop to his knees, crawl and stare at the Fuhrer’s butt for the next twenty seconds. Because he was well bred in the house of Windsor, David made no reference to the inconvenience but did pronounce the layout of tiny buildings, mountains and choo choos to be the most glorious he had ever seen in his life.
“Yes, I enjoy it very much,” Hitler replied trying to sound humble. “Ach, you should have seen it in the basement of Herr Goering’s house. He had built it for his children’s amusement.” He looked at David and shook his head. “Can you imagine such perfection being ruined with awkward children’s fingers all over it?”
“A sacrilege.” David considered himself a superb liar, but his years with Wallis had polished his skills so they shone with the brilliance of the diamonds in the crowns on display at the Tower of London.
“As you well surmised, I brought you here for more than just displaying the ‘New Europe’.” He paused as he often did when delivering an important message to world. “I want to assure you that Germany has only one enemy in the world at this point in time, the Soviet Union….”
David tuned out the rest of the diatribe. He had heard it many times over the radio, but one phrase used by the Fuhrer did catch his attention. He described his model train layout of the “New Europe.” David casually looked around the huge diorama and noticed red tape marked the boundary of Germany. That red boundary included sizable amounts of Austria. He felt rage rising from his abdomen.
“No, no, no.” His declaration was not issued loudly but with a determination that even Hitler could not overlook.
“I beg your pardon, Your Royal Highness?”
“Umm.” His mind scrambled for an explanation. “Wallis and I just honeymooned in the Austrian Alps and the Austrian pine tree is not that exact shade of green. Not that bright. Not that garish. They are a darker hue, which is indicative of deep, strong roots.”
Hitler smiled. “You are well known for your attention to details. I didn’t know it went that far.” He guided David to another section. “Now over here you will not be able to pick out inconsistencies because it only exists in my imagination.”
A moment passed before David realized he beheld a new Berlin of marble and gold. Giant buildings and broad avenues. Stadia which could seat half a million people. Almost Roman or Greek except without the curved columns and recognizable symmetry. No. These giants sprang from architectural genius that created a new esthetic which bespoke massive strength and eternal domination.
“Isn’t it glorious?” Hitler whispered, entirely too close to David’s ear. “Our buildings will make more magnificent ruins than the Greeks.”
David stepped away. “Yes, think of the jobs they will bring to the lower classes. All German men will stand proud. Their families will never go hungry again.”
Like a well-trained border collie, Hitler herded David to one last niche of his “New Europe.” It was a replica of London. He had not changed it much. More open park space. David could not quite figure out which buildings were gone, but Buckingham Palace was still there. His eyes widened as he focused on the balcony where two figures in full royal regalia stood.
Himself and Wallis.
David was on the verge of twitching and he couldn’t figure out which emotion was overcoming him at the moment. “How wonderful. Thank you for showing it to me. I’m getting a bit claustrophobic in here. Perhaps we should rejoin Wallis for tea. She has such a ravenous appetite. For all things.” With that, David went to his knees and began crawling through the underground of “New Europe.”
“No, please,” Hitler stammered. “I must always lead.” He at once fell to his knees and scrambled to catch up.
By the time David made it through and stood, he could see Hitler’s head emerging. He fancied kicking the Fuhrer’s temple and as he rolled over moaning, David would stomp the leader’s throat with the heel of his shoe. David knew he would be instantly executed for assassination, but his schwermut told him “What the hell, life wasn’t worth living anyway.”
Wallis burst through the door right then. “There you are. We’ve been looking for you. Herr Goering thought you might be playing with your toy trains. David, you look so happy. I should buy you a choo choo for Christmas.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-Two

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. The good guys finally get the goods on Tent.
In the meantime, Bedelia pulled away from Andy, an air of recognition engulfed her body. She was so filled with rhapsody that she broke out in verse right then and there.

I’d know that kiss anywhere! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
Those lips! Those hips! They say you care! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
How could I have been so blind?
You’re the man that’s completely kind!
It was really dumb of me, I have to say!
It’s clear to see you love me! You are not–

Andy was equally aroused by romantic compulsion and kissed her again which piqued Tent’s curiosity immensely. Billy was licking his lips remembering the hot kiss Cecelia had laid on him. Eddie opened the packet, but Millicent and her mother snatched it from his hands and began to read.

“Does it tell us everything we need to know?” Cecelia asked.

“More than enough,” Millicent replied. “Tent and his gang will be in prison a long time.”

Bedelia pulled away from again and regaled the group with the second verse of her revelation.

I’d know that kiss anywhere! You’re the Man in the Red Underwear!
Oh Andrew dear, please hold me near, tell me you forgive my frowns.
I thought you loved to sew those gowns!
But you’re the bravest man in town!
Only you can make me feel this way!
How on earth could I doubt you’re not–

Andy kissed her once more which would lead one to believe he was trying to stop Bedelia from revealing his scandalous persona.

Taking as imperious tone as he could muster, Eddie stepped forward and pointed at Tent, “Chief Inspector Malcontent—“

Andy and Bedelia stopped their amorous lip lock to look at Eddie and correct him in perfect unison, “That’s Malcolm Tent!”

“Whoever.” He cleared his throat and proceeded with a proper English accent, a miracle long prayed for by the royal family, “I, Prince Edward, by the authority of Granny Vicky—I mean, Queen Victoria of England—do hereby arrest you on charges of—of—“

Unfortunately the miracle was not permanent and soon he was floundering and looking around for help.

“Extortion,” Cecelia provided the correct judicial terminology.

“–of doin’ folks dirty. Here’s the evidence to prove it!” He pointed to the packet now in Millicent’s possession.

“Yes! We have the money and a note from the merchant!” Millicent’s eyes flamed in righteous indignation.

“Yup. Yo’re done for,” Eddie said.

“And besides that, you’re a terribly impolite guest at a gala,” Cecelia added a zinger which was intended to crush his sense of social decorum.

Bedelia’s face expressed supreme bewilderment. “You mean you were the villain all along?”

“Yes!”

“Then you didn’t mean all those things you said to me?”

“No!”

The situation finally dawned on her. “Then you didn’t really want to take me on a cruise?”

“Well, I wouldn’t say that.” Tent’s smile was crooked and on the verge of vulgarity.

“But I don’t understand why I didn’t figure it out, since I am the illegitimate daughter of the recently retired chief inspector of Scotland Yard?” Bedelia shook her head.

“Because your father was stupid! He never solved a case in his life!”

“Oh. Maybe that’s why.” She walked slowly to the lounge and sat, her entire self-image in shambles.

Andy, dismayed by his true love’s mournful sighs, joined her, putting his arm around her in consolation.

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Five

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Six months later Richmond falls to the Union
Adam took the chamber pots out the service entrance to clean them. He kept thinking of Lincoln’s words, forgive and forget. How could he forgive himself? How could he forget? Cleaning the pots took longer each day, so that by the time he had finished and returned them to the billiards room, the breakfast tray was ready to return to the kitchen. He put them next to the sink where Phebe stood.
“Hello,” he whispered.
Her face hardened as she continued to look down.
“I’m sorry,” he added. This was not his first apology. He had lost count of the times he had tried to seek her forgiveness. Each time, stony silence met his offer.
After lunch, he left the Executive Mansion and walked down the street, where crowds were gathering to greet Duff upon his return from Richmond. Several men slapped Adam on the back and offered him mugs of beer, which he refused. Since October he had stopped drinking. Crossing the iron bridge over the slough, Adam headed for Armory Square Hospital. He had to apologize to Jessie again, hoping against hope she would finally forgive him. Standing just inside the door to the ward, he watched her wash a soldier’s brow. She was about to stand, and he was ready to intercept her, when a shout arose from Pennsylvania Avenue. He knew he had to go. Quickly looking back into the ward, Adam made eye contact with Jessie. He smiled and waved, but she stared blankly.
Back at the Executive Mansion, he watched Duff pass down the hall, surrounded by enthusiastic admirers. Alethia rushed to give him a long embrace.
“Private Christy!” Tad called out.
Adam looked down to see Tad jumping in front of him.
“It was great! The ship went adrift, then we spent the rest of way on a barge rowed by sailors and when we landed they shouted, ‘Glory hallelujah!’ and I got to play in Jeff Davis’s house and—”
“Come, Tad,” Alethia called out.
Tad bounded toward her as she smiled at Adam. Looking out the window, he noticed the sun was lower in the sky, a sign it was time for another meal in the basement. He walked down the service stairs, crunching the straw mats, vaguely remembering how once he had thought silence sounded like death. Now everything sounded like death. When he entered the kitchen, he saw Phebe putting the plates on the tray.
“Hello, Phebe,” he said, trying to put his hand on her shoulder. “Please say something. I’m so sorry.”
Phebe pulled away sharply, grabbing a knife from the sink and pointing it at Adam, her eyes ablaze with hatred. A tall, older black man, the new butler brought in the day after Neal’s death, entered the room. Cleotis was his name, and Adam found him affable, a quietly confident, educated, freeborn man from Rhode Island. He swept in between Adam and Phebe, taking the knife and putting his arm around her.
“The tray’s ready,” he said. “Here’s a War Department wire for Mr. Stanton. Do you know where he is?”
Nodding, Adam’s gaze remained fixed on Phebe, as he noticed for the first time, a slight swelling in her belly.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fifty-Eight

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. On their honeymoon they derail a train. Now they’re on their way to kill Hitler.
A glorious October morning crowned the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as they descended the steps of the Nord Express at Berlin’s Friedrichstrasse Station. They were not the first notable Britons to visit Germany in the last year. Former Prime Minister Lloyd George and prominent politician Lord Halifax had paid their respects to Herr Hitler as well. The station was festooned with Union Jacks and swastikas. A brass band played “God Save the King”. And, as a thrilling conclusion to the auspicious welcoming ceremony, head of the National Labor Front Dr. Robert Ley presented Wallis with a box of chocolates.
“Chocolates,” she murmured. “How quaint.”
David graciously translated it into German.
“I told them you said, “Chocolates, my favorite.”
“I expected as much.” She extended her hand to allow the labor leader to slobber on it. She subtly wiped her hand on David’s trousers. “How much worse can this get?”
Wallis received the answer to her question sooner than she thought when Herr Ley escorted them to his black Mercedes limousine which he drove himself—like a demon straight out of hell.
She leaned into David. “I swore my life to defend God, my Country and my King, but not to surrender it to some Nazi race car maniac.”
Fortunately they soon arrived at the Kaishorfhof Hotel and went to its most luxurious suite. After they unpacked but before they settled into a bottle of champagne, both David and Wallis checked the walls for minuscule pin pricks through which Nazis could pry on private conversations. Then they closed the curtains to the balcony and settled on a sofa to sip their champagne. David opened the box of chocolates to see what assortment it offered.
“Are you sure this powder of yours will work?” David asked as he bit into a square of dark chocolate.
“Well, it worked on Uncle Sol, didn’t it?”
“Well.” David smiled. “It fooled the Americans. Whether it will fool the Germans is quite a different matter.”
“You’re talking nationalities. I’m talking about men in charge of criminal investigations. For the most part men are stupid.”
“I suppose you’re right.” He took a napkin to wipe away a bit of smudged chocolate from his mouth. “They all seem to be fascinated with you.”
Wallis couldn’t decide if she liked that comment, so she changed the conversation a bit. “And what was your favorite form of assassination? Spitting some vile concoction into a man’s face which killed him several hours later over dinner? How was that better than my plan?”
David raised an eyebrow. “Well, I did have a backup plan.”
“And what was that?” She was reeking of self-righteous indignation.
“Well, there was a lovely belly dancer in the market place who was supposed to lose control of her sword, sending it twirling across the market where it would decapitate the man.”
“You think you’re so clever.” Wallis moved closer to him. “And I’m finding it altogether too charming a quality.”
That evening Dr. Ley drove them in his black Mercedes to several posh night clubs at a speed that made Wallis’ stomach queasy. David, on the other hand, found the ensuing theater of burlesque quite amusing.
The next morning the German officials took the two Windsors in different directions. Wallis visited the Nazi Welfare Society workhouse where drab women made even drabber dresses. Wallis smiled in approval but knew she would never be caught dead wearing any of them. She did ask for a sample to take back to London to show to English designers. The German matron in charge giggled in delight.
David toured the Stock Machine Works where cameras flashed about him with unending devotion. German newspapers prominently displayed stories through the years about the Duke’s defense of the common working man. At one point David felt obligated to lift his right hand in a somewhat vague variation of the Nazi salute.
That night as they prepared for a lavish dinner he bragged about his feat of legerdemain.
Wallis focused on her hair in the mirror. “Considering we’re here in Germany to gain the people’s confidence, I’d say you did a commendable job indeed.”
As David and Wallis stood in the receiving line at the beginning of the banquet, they endured one German after another trying to speak English properly enough to impress the former king.
“We applaud your efforts to improve horsing conditions for the cumin man.” A stout man with long white mutton chop whiskers sounded pleased with himself with not too much Teutonic inflection at all.
A pinched-faced wife of an industrialist bowed impressively low before Wallis. “All the world wants world piss which can best be achieved with an open-minded monarch on the English throne with a queen who is a gin-you-wine lady.”
Wallis could not contain herself. She let forth with what most of her fellow Americans from the Appalachian region would have called a horse laugh. Her hand went to her face as David patted her on the back.
“You must excuse the Duchess,” David began. “I’m afraid she is not familiar with the brilliantly brisk German air and may be coming down with a touch of a cough to be remedied later this evening by an over qualified German physician.”
As the Duke had predicted, her doctor prescribed a potent cough syrup which kept Wallis happy all the next day during their tour of a miners’ hospital where all the men were emaciated with a debilitating condition the doctors had not quite been to diagnose.
Wallis leaned into David. “I’ve seen this in coal towns in Appalachia. Tuberculosis. They’ll all be dead in two years.”
“Ssh.” David tried to quiet her. “They have the best coal mines in the world.”
“And how did you come to that conclusion?” Wallis’s voice filled with skepticism.
“They told me so themselves.”
“But of course,” she replied. “I should have known.” After leaving the hospital they sat in the back seat of Dr. Ley’s black Mercedes. “They’re not going to make us go through one of those black holes of hell, are they?”
At that moment Dr. Ley got behind the driving wheel. “I hate to disappoint you, Duchess, but I have cancelled our tour of the largest coal mine in the world. The Duke felt it unwise considering your frail health. The doctor turned the ignition and was about to speed down the dusty road when David pointed to a ramshackle building.
“And what is that?” David asked.
Dr. Ley looked over quickly then smiled. “Oh, that’s cold meat storage, nothing more.”
David whispered to Wallis. “I have it from the highest authority of MI6 that the building was actually an inmate facility.”
Wallis blew cigarette smoke out of the side of her well-rouged mouth. “Well, so much for talk about world piss.”

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty-One

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia. Cecelia woos Billy. There’s a whole lot of wooing going on.
Before Cecelia could finish her proposition, Tent, Bedelia, Millicent, Eddie and Andy enter from the ballroom, swinging and swaying to a ragtime beat. After Andy closed the door, the music faded away, and the gang settled into more sedentary forms of partying.

“Billy! Come here!”

Everyone jumped because the inspector forgot to use his inside voice.

“Just a minute, boss.” He gobbled down the last canapé. “You sure do know how to cook, Lady Chatalot.”

Cecelia smiled seductively. “Oh, that’s just one of my many talents.”

“Billy!” Tent was losing his patience, if he had any in the first place.

“You can cook some more for me later.” He licked his thick lips and then stood. “Comin’, boss.”

Tent led Billy over to the window to discuss their business matters away from prying eyes. Andy, Eddie and Millicent joined Cecelia at the chaise lounge to compare notes while Bedelia took a devil-may-care pose by the fireplace and tried to keep an eye on everyone.

“Did everything go according to plan?” Tent whispered.

“Aye, boss.” Billy nodded and handed Tent a packet.

“What’s this?” He opened the packet, expecting to find a wad of bills but came a letter along with the payoff dough.

“A note from the merchant,” Billy replied.

Tent’s eyes widened as he read the letter. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Billy was right on his heels as they began their escape. “Aye, boss.”

When Tent opened the door, a rousing rodeo hoedown blared through, knocking them back on their heels. Eddie jumped on the lounge and clapped his hands.

“Hey that’s my kind of music! I love that sound! Let’s go to town with the rodeo hoedown!”

Cecelia grabbed Billy, Millicent took Tent by the elbow, Andy put his arm around Bedelia, and they began to prance around the room, following Eddie’s every command.

We git real low down, go round and round! Do si do the rodeo hoedown!
Yell yee haw, like your ma and pa with all your might!
Stomp your feet, clap your hands and hoedown through the night!
Gals line up to one side ‘cause that’s what you do.
Gents line up facing gals, even Billy too.
We’ve had fun, but now it’s done. Tune out the racket.
I’ll tell you just when to try to grab that packet!
Go Milly, boo Billy, why don’t you get bent!
Go Andy, you’re dandy! Stop that Inspector Tent!
Milly’s mom, you’re the bomb! Stay by Billy’s hide!
The packet, we got the packet! Hooray for our side!

At one point or another during the reel, every participant had hold of the incriminating packet. When Bedelia snatched it from Andy, Cecelia–like a bat out of hell—swooped in, grabbed it and handed it forthwith to Eddie on the lounge. Cecelia planted a huge wet kiss on Billy, distracting him from knocking Eddie from his perch and retrieving the object of everyone’s desire at that moment. Bedelia, in her misguided allegiance to the chief inspector, tried to go after the packet again as well, but Andy wrapped his arms around her and smothered her in smooches.

“Curses!” Tent thundered.

“Yes, I know!” Millicent retorted in triumph. “Foiled again!”

Eddie jumped down from the furniture and waved to Millicent and Cecelia. “Come on, Millie! You and yo’r maw help me figger this stuff out!”

Reluctantly Cecelia pulled away from Billy, whose eyes had taken on a romantic glow which probably had never been there before. “I’m sorry, my dear. I’m needed elsewhere. I shall return.”

“Yes, me Lady Chatalot.” He attempted a deep bow which did not come across as suavely as he might have hoped.

Millicent stopped in her tracks and looked quizzically at her mother. “What did he call you?”

“Never mind.” She waved at Eddie. “Look in the packet.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Eighty-Four

Previously: War Secretary Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby Zook captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. Mary talks Gabby into attacking Adam. Lincoln intervenes. Ashamed and distraught, Adam gets drunk and kills the butler who stops him from molesting the cook. Stanton and henchman Baker clean up the mess.
“I want my breakfast!” Gabby insisted, pounding on the door.
Stopping with the key in the lock, Adam shuddered at the tone of Gabby’s voice, the same tone he had used in October to demand that Adam stop hurting people. It was now April, and Adam had stopped hurting people. He also had stopped having dreams, goals, love, pain, or anger. His spirit was dead; his body barely functioned. Steeling himself, he finished unlocking the door and entered.
“It’s about time,” Gabby said. “You’re starving people in here.”
“Be quiet,” Mrs. Lincoln snapped, looking at Gabby with loathing. “Mr. Lincoln didn’t sleep well last night. Nightmares.”
“I have nightmares.” Gabby took his plate and headed for his corner. “Every night I see Joe dead under that wagon. If Mr. Lincoln can’t take nightmares, he shouldn’t be president.”
“Crazy old man,” Mrs. Lincoln sneered.
“Liar,” Gabby retorted. He looked at Adam. “Next time you beat up somebody, beat her up, the old liar.” He continued to mumble as he rounded the corner of crates and barrels.
“My husband’s nightmares are more important because he’s still president, and still makes decisions.” Mrs. Lincoln sat at the billiards table and began eating. “For several weeks he’s dreamed that Tad and I were on a shopping trip to Philadelphia and Tad, for some reason, pulled out a gun and started shooting people. He kept mumbling, ‘I didn’t pay enough attention to the body.’ I know he’s worried about how those people have treated Tad.”
Tad was just fine, Adam thought, no longer running amok, tearing at things, and kicking people as he did before. Now he was kind and loving, respectful of everyone. Mrs. Lincoln will be pleased, he decided, if she can ever be pleased with anything again.
“Then last night he dreamed of being awakened by loud sobbing. He found a casket surrounded by soldiers in the East Room. He asked, ‘Who has died in the White House?’ The soldier replied, ‘The president.’”
Not wanting to consider what Stanton had in mind for the president, Adam gathered the chamber pots.
“Don’t walk away while I’m talking to you,” Mrs. Lincoln ordered. “What’s that man doing in Richmond? He went down the same day the city fell, and he hasn’t returned.”
“I don’t know, ma’am.” Adam hated answering her questions. “You’ll have to ask Mr. Stanton.”
“You always say that.” Mrs. Lincoln took a long sip of coffee. “The last drop of coffee was cold.” Putting down her cup, she turned to stare at him. “I want to know when this war will end. Since their capital fell, the rebels can’t go on.”
“Jefferson Davis said being relieved of defending a capital has left the army free to roam at large and stage preemptive attacks on the Union.”
“So he thinks he can still win the war?”
“I don’t know, ma’am.”
“You don’t know,” she snidely replied. “Is there anything you do know?”
“Tad’s having fun in Richmond.”
“Tad’s in Richmond?”
Closing his eyes, Adam wished he had not told her.
“Who allowed my child into a war zone?”
“I don’t know.”
“That woman,” Mrs. Lincoln said. “She’s ruined everything.”
“The army made a thorough sweep of the city, making it safe for the president.”
“But that man’s not the president!” she blustered. She took a deep breath and returning her attention to the toast. “At least my other son is safe in law school.”
“Robert joined the army in January.” Adam did not know if he had slipped again, or if he had told her on purpose to hurt her and to allow her to hurt him. He wanted to be punished for his sins.
“Oh my God!”
“He’s on General Grant’s staff.”
“That butcher!” She put her head in her hands. “If I could only write him. If only he could write me.”
“I’m sure his fiancée has been writing him.”
“Fiancée!” Her face reddened. “When did this happen? And who?”
“February. She’s Mary Harlan, daughter of Senator James Harlan of Iowa.”
“That little mouse.” She rubbed her eyes. “At least her parents are respectable.”
“I must go now, ma’am.”
“Very well.” Mrs. Lincoln sighed. “I’m not asking questions anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” As Adam turned, he found himself confronted by Gabby, whose eyes were wide with anger and his mouth smeared with egg yolk.
“I want to know about Cordie,” he demanded. “I want to know how Cordie is.”
“She’s fine. I see her every day.”
“Liar!” Gabby slapped Adam hard across the face.
“Now, now, Mr. Gabby,” Lincoln said, walking through his curtain. “There’s no need to hit Private Christy.”
“He hit me!”
“That was last fall. It’s time to forgive and forget. Isn’t that right, Private Christy?”
“Yes, sir.” He hung his head.
“Go about your duties.” Lincoln looked at Gabby. “Why don’t you finish your breakfast?”
“My coffee’s cold.”
“The coffee’s always cold,” Mrs. Lincoln added.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twenty

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws a society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Tent woos Bedelia. Andy woos Bedelia.
A part of Bedelia was pleased to have aroused such a high level of jealousy in Andy, although she was dismayed with the way he articulated it. She was sure she had never heard the word “oodles” escape his lips before today. Brushing her concerns aside, Bedelia decided to press on with the jealousy ploy. “There’s more to marriage than mere physical attraction.”

“Of course. Like friendship. Friendships formed when nothing else mattered except being friends.” He paused to stare into her lovely eyes, but quickly giggled and looked away. “But I really don’t remember things like that.” Unable to resist temptation he turned back to her and whispered, “But if I were in love, I would want to be in love with you.” Andy was going in for a kiss when he heard the unmistakable clip-clop of Inspector Tent’s boots. “Wouldn’t it be peachy if we could go shopping together? I’d just love to pick out some material to make you a dress. He scrutinized her. “I don’t think pastels.”

“Would you care for another dance, Miss Smart-Astin?” Tent asked in a tone quite unsuited for the content of his proposition.

“Yes, inspector, that would be— “Her voice trailed off in unrequited longing.

Tent opened the door just as a male voice rang out, “Not another bloody tango!”

Both Bedelia and Tent beamed as they go into verse.

Let’s do the Russian tango! Let’s go as far as we can go!
Oh go girl go! Oh go man go! Let’s do the Russian tango!

They slinked out of the library in a sultry embrace. Andy glanced at the others and shrugged before engaging Cecelia in a dance clutch and followed them. Eddie and Millicent grabbed each other to join the crowd. The community spirit of ballroom dance did not last long, however, as Cecelia noticed Billy entering the front door. She quickly greeted him and led him into the library, shutting the door behind her, breathing deeply from the exertion of the sensual frolic.

“Where’s me boss, ducks?” Billy asked.

“You didn’t see him in the ballroom?” Cecelia approached him, like a cougar entrapping its prey. “He was dancing with Miss Smart-Astin.”

“Naw. I didn’t see nobody.”

“May I offer you a—“she hesitated provocatively “–glass of wine, Mr. Canine-erel?

“Naw,I don’t want no sissy wine.” He stood his ground, even stepping closer. “And stop callin’ me that stupid name. Me name’s Billy Doggerel, and I’m proud of it. If you can’t call me Billy then go—“he offered his own pregnant pause “–fly a kite.”

“All right, Billy.” She smiled seductively. “I just love it when a man is forceful. My late husband Sampson Elias Johnson could be quite forceful.” Cecelia nearly swooned from the aroma of his breath. “Would you care for some beer? I’m sure the servants have some in the kitchen, somewhere.”

“Not now, ducks. I’m on business.” He stepped toward the door. “Maybe later, if yer lucky. Now where’s me boss?”

“Yes, your business.” Cecelia sat on the lounge and patted the cushion next to her. “Please, Billy, come sit with me. I’d like to talk to you about your business.”

Billy rolled his massive shoulders forward with indifference and smiled. “Well, if me boss ain’t around, I wouldn’t mind takin’ a load off me feet.” He sat next to her on the lounge.

“You know, Billy, it’s never too late to turn from a life of crime.” Cecelia leaned in to inhale the full luxuriance of street rabble stench, which almost made her swoon.

“Who says I lead a life of crime?” He winked and smiled, revealing a mouth filled with yellowed teeth.

“Of course, you don’t.” Cecelia hit at his bulk playfully. “But if you did, you might prefer working for me instead.”

“That sounds like fun.” He paused to give her the once over. “Maybe I could call you Lady Chatalot, ‘cause you do like to chat a lot, doncha ducks?”

“You know me all too well, Billy.”

“So what would you have me doin’, Lady Chatalot?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe taking care of my chess board, my checkers and mah jong tiles.” Her hands made a pass across her ample bosom. “You know, all the things people like to play with.”

“You mean I’d be Lady Chatalot’s gameskeeper?”

“Yes, lover, what a novel idea.” Curiously enough, Cecelia caught the reference to this novel which hadn’t been written yet. Perhaps she connected telepathically better with Billy than Inspector Tent. “Of course, I’d have to bathe you first.”

“This is a big body, Lady Chatalot.” He puffed out his chest. “There’s a lot of dirt on it.”

“Oh, Billy!” The sexual badinage overwhelmed her, and she grabbed Billy and thrust her tongue into his mouth.

He aggressively leaned into her as though they were going for two-out-of-three falls when his foot wandered under the lounge and bumped into the previously hidden tray of liver-tinged delights.

“Me foot’s stuck on somethin’.” He leaned down to pull out the damaged goods.

“The canapés!” Cecelia gasped. Of all times to be reminded of her horrible culinary skills.

Billy shoved one into his mouth and started chewing. “Not bad. Did you make these, Lady Chatalot?”

“Yes I did.” She looked at tray.” But it looks like someone stepped on them.”

“Didn’t hurt ‘em none.” He stuffed in another one.

“You really like my canapés?” Cecelia’s face lit.

“Do I detect a ‘int of marjoram?”

“Why, yes.” Her hand impulsively went to his face to stroke his stubbly chin. “My, my, you do have a sophisticated palate, Billy!”

“Me ol’ mum used marjoram in everythin’ she cooked.” He swallowed hard as his eyes filled with tears. “I miss ‘er.”

“Oh, did your mother pass away recently?” She then stroked his cheek.

“Yeah, me ol’ man shot ‘er.”

Cecelia sat up in surprise. “How dreadful!”

“She tried slippin’ arsenic into ‘is meat pie. ‘E tasted it and blew ‘er brains out. I got me delicate palate from me ol’ man. Now ‘e’s in prison and I’m all alone.” Billy dissolved into sobs, hiding his head into her bosom.

Cecelia rocked back and forth as though she were comforting a baby. She whispered a spontaneously composed lullaby.

Billy dirty Billy, now don’t you dare cry.
Your own lady will make your eyes dry.

Even though she was romantically aroused, she had not forgotten her purpose and her allegiance to Lillie Langtry. “Um, Billy dear—you don’t mind if I call you dear, do you?”

He pulled a stained handkerchief from his back pocket to blow his nose. When he finished he looked soulfully into her eyes. “Me Lady Chatalot can call me anythin’ she wants.”

“Billy, dear, I have a business proposition for you.”

He looked around conspiratorially. “I’m all ears.”

“Frankly, I know that you have a packet to give to Chief Inspector Tent tonight. Now, if you give it to me instead—“