Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. Each are on the Tanganyika Express to get their hands on the stolen Crown Jewels.
Ernest Simpson was such a nice, decent and easy-going husband, Wallis thought as she boarded the Tanganyika Express in the heart of Africa amidst dreadful plains which seemed to go on forever. The sky was dark, like it was going to storm again soon. Her mind went back to her husband. It was a shame that she did not love him. He was reasonably good looking, an excellent dance, an understanding, giving lover, and not at all clinging or overly inquisitive. But when MI6 contacted her for a mission, she was required to go. For instance, when she was notified of her latest assignment she was in a fitting at her favorite London designer. A note was slipped into the bodice of her new gown.
“Noon. White Chapel. Queen Betty’s Fish and Chips.”
Wallis thought it humorous to rendezvous in the district known for its ladies of the night and Jack the Ripper. A waiter seated her in a booth in the back by the kitchen. Within a few minutes an old man sat opposite her.
“The crown jewels have been stolen.” He had a thick Cockney accent.
“Don’t look at me.” Wallis puffed on her cigarette. “If I want jewels I just sleep with a man and then he gives them to me.”
“We know who stole them.” The old man pushed an envelope across the table toward her. “Be on the Tanganyika Express. Walk by the designated compartment at midnight. A door will open. A hand will appear and will drop a velvet pouch in your purse. Immediately return here and give the pouch to me.” He tapped the envelope. “The tickets, everything you need to know, are in here.”
“I don’t get to kill anyone this time?”
“If you’re lucky. Maybe. Take your knife.”
That evening in their Bryanston Court apartment over a small supper comprised of soup, mashers and bangers, Wallis announced to Ernest she was leaving in the morning for Africa.
“One of my girlfriends told me of a witch doctor living in the wilds who claimed a cure for heart disease. I must dash off, obtain the herbal potion and rush to America to administer it to mother. After all, when we visited her recently she looked dreadful.”
“Didn’t she also inform you your brown dress looked dreadful?”
Her hard slit of a mouth turned up in a passing imitation of a smile. “Ernest, darling, you are way too sensitive. You must learn to live and let live. Forgive and forget.”
Ernest stood, picked up his dishes and those in front of Wallis to carry them to the kitchen. “I’ll write you a check before you leave tomorrow. You must always travel in comfort, even if you are on a mission of mercy.”
MI6 had issued all the funds she needed for the assignment, so she used the money Ernest gave her to drop in at Paris on her way. She had decided to take the route to Cairo, down the Nile and make the connecting trains to the Tanganyika Express. The Express had the reputation had a reputation of serving only the elite of European society. She wanted to fit in. In Paris shops she bought a black velvet hat with a brim so wide it dropped in front, covering both her eyes and nose. It revealed only her crimson lips. The crown concealed a giant pin to serve as a back-up weapon if she couldn’t get to her knife fast enough.
Her leopard skin coat had giant deep pockets in which to hide the crown jewels. A thought wafted through her brain that if the authorities did not have an exact count of missing diamonds she could sneak one away to squirrel into one of the dark crevices of her leopard coat pockets. They probably did count them, Wallis decided. Damned insufferable English efficiency. It was for the best anyway. They took only the small jewels and who wanted a small diamond even if it were part of the royal jewel collection?
The Nile proved tedious to Wallis. Just a bunch of dirt and mud buildings. Even the ones shaped like pyramids. All the good stuff had been taken out of them. She did catch up on her sleep. Wallis led a very active life and every now and then her body would beg for an extended sleep, which on this trip she has able to provide. When she reached the headwaters of the Nile she connected to a train which took her to the station where she could board the exotic Tanganyika Express.
Wallis’ dining experience on the Tanganyika Express was boring. No man offered to sit with her. Probably was the huge hat. Just as well. MI6 gave her strict orders not to be identified. The worst part of the evening was observing Mrs. Barnes, wife of the British ambassador. The middle-aged woman had not one socially redeeming quality—she was dumpy, her unattractive clothes did not hang well on her body, she wore too much makeup and her table manners were atrocious. She was a nymphomaniac which made her a prize above measure for men. At least three sat at Mrs. Barnes’ table during the meal. The first was a tall German gentleman with blond hair and impeccable manners. Wallis turned her head to eavesdrop on the conversation. She could not understand a word he said but she nearly swooned at the guttural tones emitting from his throat. A well-dressed young black man passed the table a couple of times. He wore a lovely white linen suit. Wallis could tell he was interested in talking to Mrs. Barnes but as long as the German sat there wooing her, he continued his exploration. Wallis felt it was an intelligent decision since interrupting the German could Start World War II in an inconvenient space.
After he seemed to give up the cause, the well-dressed black man left the dining car. Wallis could not help but follow his departure. Her attention quickly was drawn back to the Barnes table where she had shrieked something unintelligible, stood by table facing a sandy haired gentleman who had a slender frame. She decided the man had a certain élan which made him more fascinating than the German. Wallis was right. Within a few moments the German stalked away, allowing the remaining gentleman to sit, lean forward and begin whispering sweet nothings to the ambassador’s wife. Suddenly the thought struck her that Mrs. Barnes was the one with the diamonds. Who would be dumb enough to trust her with the stolen jewels? They parted and exited at opposite ends of the dining car. Wallis never saw the man’s face. All she could determine was that he carried himself as though he knew he was better than anyone around him and he was comfortable with that fact.
One of those three men would open Mrs. Barnes’ compartment door at midnight and drop a pouch of diamonds into her purse. Which one she did not know, nor cared. She looked at her watch. An hour before midnight. Wallis had time for a nightcap in the lounge car. When she entered she saw Ambassador Barnes in a corner with a group of men. Wallis sat close to them so she could hear their conversation.”
“This is my last one.” A man announced. “I am passed my bedtime.
“Oh God no,” Barnes slurred. “Please stay and be my excuse for returning late to my wife.”
“And why is that?” another man asked. “I thought your wife to be—“he paused awkwardly to come up with the right word “—sweet.”
“My God,” Barnes muttered, “that’s the bloody worst thing you could say about a woman. Heaven’s sake, she is. Sweet, that is. I want to wait until after midnight. Hopefully she will be asleep by then.”
That’s good. That way he won’t be in the middle of some messy political intrigue. She took her time sipping on two martinis until the clock neared midnight. As the hands of the clock were straight up, the Tanganyika rains returned. Sauntering out and into the sleeping car, she saw a compartment door open and a man’s arm, sans shirt, extended out with a small velvet pouch. As she walked by, she opened one of the wide pockets of her leopard skin coat and the pouch dropped in. She kept walking at an even pace and exited the sleeping car and, trying not to be pelted by rain, was about to enter the next when the door opened behind her and Wallis felt a power arm around her neck. Wind caught her broad brimmed black velvet hat and carried it out to the dark African countryside. The German looked around into her face and smiled.
“Herr Von Ribbentrop will be surprised to learn you were involved in this.”
Before he could say or do anything else, Wallis yanked her knife from her purse. The German went limp which gave Wallis a chance to twist around and cram the knife up under his ribcage. As the German fell, a crash of thunder accompanied a flash of lightning which revealed another knife was stuck in his temple. She quickly stepped aside and allowed the body to fall from the train and into the darkness. Wallis was surprised to see the black man in the nice white linen suit step forward. His right jacket sleeve was splattered by the German’s blood.
“I don’t believe in killing women,” he said in a Bahamian accent.
“I can take care of myself.” Wallis tried to figure out how to extract herself from the predicament without losing the diamonds.
“Don‘t worry. You can keep the jewels. I didn’t need the money from this job anyway.”
Wallis smiled and pursed her thin lips. “In that case, thank you.”