Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest.Ribbentrop meets Hitler.
The years between 1925 and 1929 were probably the happiest and most prosperous time of Leon’s life. His customer from the New York jewelry job had been extremely generous so Leon found himself able to pick and choose new assignments for almost three years. During this period he had become his son Sidney’s best friend. He taught the boy how to walk, how to wrap his tongue around English words, as well as other languages such as French, German and Spanish. Mastery of those languages would assure him of the best pay on the European continent. When Sidney was older, he would learn the more complex languages of Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese. That was later. There was plenty of time.
One day late in October 1929 Leon played in the surf of the Caribbean with his son as the morning sun rose high in the sky. A fishing boat on the horizon brought back memories of his own father. Leon could still smell the ocean spray after a rain, fresh and salty. Each fish had its own peculiar aroma. Most of all, he recalled the scent of his father. He smelled of love. Leon picked up Sidney and pointed to the boat.
“Do you know what that is?”
“Would you like to go on one of those someday?”
Sidney wriggled in his father’s arms. “Today! Today!”
Leon laughed. “Not today.” He put the boy down and extended his arm out above the boy’s head and flexed his muscles. “Jump up and see if you can grab my arm.”
Laughing, Sidney jumped several times before latching on. “I did it! I did it!”
“Good job. You did not give up. You fail only when you give up.” He lifted his arm a little. “Now lift yourself until your chin touches the top of my muscle.”
Sidney grunted and tried to lift himself several times until he fell to the sand. He looked up at his father. “Did I fail?”
“No.” Leon lifted his son and hugged him. “You just did not succeed today. You will try again tomorrow.”
“No! Try again now! Now!”
Leon began to walk back to the hacienda. “There is a time to try and a time to eat lunch. Come. Let us fill our bellies.”
They jogged along the sandy road until Leon saw the flower pot in front of their gate. It was slightly askew. He put Sidney down and told him to run inside and tell his mother how he jumped so high he could grab his father’s arm. Leon frowned as he stood over the pot. It meant a new assignment was finally here. He missed time away from his son. He pondered ignoring the message. He had plenty of money, enough to last some time to come. But eventually, however, the funds would be expended and once an agent had turned down a job, he would never get another one. And Leon vowed never to fish for a living again. He loved this new life of his too much. Eventually he bent over, lifted the dead plant and took out the message.
“Tonight at the Rialto.”
Laughter dominated the dining table. Sidney bounced around like a ball talking about their walk up the beach. A wave of his arm knocked over his glass of milk. Jessamine slipped to her knees and wiped up the milk and gathered together the shards of glass.
“What a boy!” She beamed as though he had just won a game with the other island boys, which he often did.
“He’s just like his grandfather Jedidiah.” Granny Dorothy smiled at Leon with affection and pride.
He detected a glistening tear in her eye which she quickly daubed away. Taking a mouthful of grilled bass into his mouth, Leon announced, “I will be leaving on another one of my business trips soon.”
“I will clean your white suit,” Dotty announced.
“I want to go with you!” Sidney’s face brightened as he bounced in his chair again.
“No, my son. You are still too young. One day. It will come before you know it.”
Sidney jumped down and ran to his father. “No! I wanna go now!”
“What a tone to use with your father!” Jessamine changed aprons and returned to the table. She picked up her son. “You need a nap. I can tell.”
“No! I don’t want a nap!”
“Listen to your mother,” Dotty said absently as she stood and headed upstairs to the bedrooms. “When do you need your suit clean.”
“I have to leave for Nassau in an hour.”
She turned to look at her son. “That won’t be enough time.”
Jessamine was already up the stairs with a sleeping Sidney draped across her shoulder.
Leon stood. “Don’t worry. I shall be back late tonight. My trip won’t be for some time.”
“I’m getting old.” Dotty shook her head. “Of course. I know. I remember now. Like all the other times.”
An hour later Leon walked out of the hacienda gate wearing his white linen suit. He inspected the suit and decided Dotty did indeed worry too much. His suit was in fine condition. He looked around as he felt arms around his waist. It was Jessamine. When he turned she kissed him on the lips and then snuggled her face into his neck.
“Pooka said you would be leaving soon.”
“I wish you wouldn’t listen to Pooka,” he mumbled. “I don’t believe anything she says.”
Her eyes widened. “But Pooka is never wrong.”
Leon loved his wife very much. Perhaps she might not have been the brightest woman on the island, he conceded, but she was the sweetest and the most loving. He pecked her on the forehead and again began his amble down to the dock. As he walked he considered the absence of Old Joe who had died a few years ago. Leon supposed Joe died of old age. But he did miss him terribly. Who else could he trust to share his deepest worries and doubts? In a few moments he reached the dock and connected to his new fisherman who transported him to Freeport. He caught the ferry to Nassau. By sunset he walked into the casino puffing on a cigarette. He went straight to the lovely lady at the blackjack table. She had matured from the first time they had met over cards in the Rialto. More seductive. More buxom. But still cynical. She was always cynical. The blonde dealer dealt him a hand which contained the ace of diamonds with a tightly folded note taped to it. In one smooth motion Leon detached it and slipped into his inner jacket pocket.
“Tell me.” Leon lit another cigarette. “Does someone pay you to pass on these notes and you ask no questions, or do you know what you’re truly doing?”
As she dealt another hand, she pouted her red lips. “You’re the most handsome man I’ve met, but you’re still a jerk.”
“That isn’t an answer.”
“That’s the only answer you’re going to get.” She looked down at the cards. “You lose. Again.”
Leon laughed and walked away. Within the next hour he was on a ferry back to Freeport. Sitting in a chair under a deck lamp, Leon took out the noted and read it.
“Tanganyika Express Nov. 3.”
He knew Tanganyika was in Africa. That reminded him to insist Sidney be taught world geography by a knowledgeable person. He grunted. Certainly not Pooka. He stood and wentto the rail where he casually let the note slip from his hand into the deep waters below. He wondered what the weather was like in Tanganyika this time of year.
“Your drink, sir.”
Turning, Leon saw a waiter with a glass he had not ordered. He said nothing, took a bill out of his wallet, placed it on the small silver tray and took the drink. The waiter bowed and left. Leon noticed the napkin stuck to the bottom of the glass had writing on it. He went back to his chair, sat, began to drink leisurely and unfolded the napkin. He glanced around the deck to see if anyone was strolling about before he read it. Leon learned the number of train, the departure place and time. His assignment was to seduce an English lady named Barnes. In her purse would be a velvet pouch of priceless jewels which she would give him. He then would pass it on to another agent when the train reached its destination, where he would be generously paid.
This was his first assignment which relied exclusively on his romantic skills. He was not intimidated. Leon remembered quite well his sexual interlude with Mrs. Ribbentrop many years ago. Leon hoped the Barnes woman was a Bolshevik too.