Felipe Espil, one of Wallis’s lovers
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite.
Wallis stopped abruptly when she heard his subtle mention the words “hat pin.” Now how the hell would some little bastard from England know about that? She fumbled with her purse as she pulled out another cigarette. For the first time in her life, her fingers trembled. The man offered her a light.
“What did you say?”
After lighting her cigarette, he remained uncomfortably close and whispered, “We’ve read the military dossier on you and Win. The American jackasses don’t believe it, but we do. Also we’ve had collaboration from the Argentinian Embassy. Don’t worry. Felipe Espil is very discreet, but he did think we’d be interested in your many talents. And we are.”
“I’m sorry. You’re confusing the hell out of me. I am an American in Paris who is attending a party at the American Embassy. You tell me you know about my—shall we say friendship with an ambassador from Argentina. So just the hell are you?” She blew smoke in his face.
He took her by the elbow. “Let’s take a stroll in the gardens. Americans are very clever at growing flowering bushes, if not anything else.”
Wallis yanked her arm away and resisted the temptation to inflict permanent harm on his little British body. “You have some bollocks to manhandle me like this!” she spat.
“His Majesty’s secret service.”
They maneuvered their way through the crowd, onto a broad balcony and down marble steps to a garden reeking with lilacs and filled with dark shadows perfect for talking espionage.
“Let me properly introduce myself. I am Gerry Greene and officially a member of the diplomatic corps, but my actual affiliation is with MI-6. You do know what MI-6 is, don’t you?”
“Why should I?” She blew smoke in his face again.
“Oh dear. I have to be blunter with you than I had wished.”
“I prefer it that way.”
“The British Empire has two sections to its intelligence organization. Domestic cases are handled by MI-5. International cases are handled by MI-6. And MI-6 wants you to spy for Britain.”
Her high pitched guffawing broke the proper atmosphere of the embassy garden as if a firecracker exploded. “You must be kidding!”
“We know about your Uncle Sol, Winfield Spencer and many others. You have invented a new singular use for a hat pin that will never be patented. Life in the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains taught you what can be accomplished with exotic plants. Your memorable methods of mayhem are quite impressive. The finest part is like a deadly virus. You are uniquely bereft of morals.”
“That’s a nasty way of putting it.”
“But still true.”
Wallis threw down her cigarette and smashed into the garden dirt. She took an extra moment to find the best words to respond.
“I’m American. I’d love to be British but sadly I’m not.”
“It makes no difference to us. Your country clings to old-fashioned ideas about patriotism and a woman’s place—“
“But I’m not a woman,” she interrupted.
“We know. That’s why you captivate us.”
His smile annoyed Wallis. “What’s in it for me?” She didn’t know if she were tiring of the conversation or being sucked into the possibilities of an even more glamorous and profitable lifestyle.
“Money unlimited. Enough to buy all the pretty things you love. Living in the finest hotels and mansions in the world is possible.”
The word money hooked Wallis’s attention. “When does this money start showing up in my bank account?”
“Immediately. Greene stepped closer. “And more important than money, this job offers you the opportunity to torture and kill men to satiate your intrinsic hatred and lust.”
She loathed this man for knowing what lurked inside. Like a peeping tom he saw into her soul. “So what do I have to do? Pass some dreadful test or something?”
“First you have to reconcile with Win and move with him to China. Don’t worry. We have a more suitable cover for you. In a couple of years you can divorce your husband. Marry someone else but eventually you will marry the man who will become your partner.”
“You’re choosing the men I will marry?”
“Does it make any difference? You haven’t done that well on your own.”
“How rude of you to remind me.”
“I must impress upon you. This is a life-long commitment which requires enormous amounts of patience. And that life time may be very short.”
“Thank God. I’d hate to be bored.” Wallis shrugged her shoulders and glanced around the garden as if she were bored right now.
“Then listen carefully.” Greene lowered his voice close to a whisper. “You will receive a telegram from Win begging for reconciliation. Don’t ask how but recently someone has convinced him an impressive promotion would be his if he proved himself to be happily married.”
“Is it really true? About the promotion, I mean?”
“Do you care?”
“Once you join Win in China you will meet a charming man by the name of Robbie who will offer you a guided tour of China’s most fascinating—and might I add, most sinful—cities where you will be taught the most intricate of oriental martial arts.”
“I hope it involves something kinky.”
“The Chinese do not have a word for kinky. “
“Just because they don’t talk about it doesn’t mean they don’t know what it means.”