Previously in the novel: Mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the spy world is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David and Wallis are told to kill American millionaire James Donohue, but Donohue’s son Jimmy beats them to it.
David sat on the terrace enjoying the autumn colors in his garden at Fort Belvedere as he had his coffee and toast. He noticed an item in the London Times about the death of James Donohue, playboy husband of Woolworth heiress Jessie Donohue. Sources said the cause of death had yet to be determined but it was suspected to be an ear infection or an accidental overdose of bichloride mercury. The funeral, the Times reported, was one of the largest in Manhattan in years.
Accidental overdose? How could you accidentally overdose on a medication that’s supposed to be applied directly to the skin? Being considered a bon vivant of international fame, David was familiar with the curative powers of the drug. Oh well. At least we don’t have to bother with a trip to America anytime soon.
The butler stood in the door to the terrace and coughed, interrupting David’s thought.
“General Trotter is here, sir.”
“Oh, send him out. And prepare him a cup of coffee.”
Soon David and Trotter settled into a nice conversation about how the garden was progressing. The swimming pool had been installed, though at this time of year the temperature prevented it from being used on a regular basis. Once they were sure the servants had gone on about their business, Trotter scooted his chair closer to the prince.
“I assume you read the story in the Times,” he whispered.
“Indeed. Either an ear infection or an overdose of a syphilis salve. Quite sad.”
“Yes, quite.” The general sipped his coffee. “Our sources say the organization had a hand in it.”
The organization?” David arched an eyebrow. “Evidently he had inconvenienced more than the House of Windsor.”
“Quite.” Trotter looked at David’s plate. “Do you think I could get some toast? My wife burnt mine this morning so I begged off. Now I’ve starving.”
“Of course.” David rang a bell. The butler appeared at the door. “The general wants some toast. Be generous. And take care not to burn it.”
After the butler disappeared Trotter leaned in again. “By the way, good job in Argentina. George now seem amenable to marriage. We just have to find the right woman for him.”
David cleared his throat. “Has Wallis had any missions lately?”
“You know I can’t tell you that.” The general cocked his head. “And why would you care?”
“Oh, I don’t.” David looked up. “Ah. Here comes your toast. Would you like blackberry jam? Picked from my own garden.”
The butler placed the plate of warm toast in front of Trotter and moved the small pot of clotted cream to his side. With a bow, he left the men alone.
“The main purpose of this visit is to put you on notice that another attempt might be made to embroil George in new controversy as soon as the news gets out he is about to propose marriage. Frankly, we can’t trust the boy not to muck it up again.” He bit into his toast. “We also think the organization is behind this whole ugly sex and drugs state of affairs.”
“Bad business this. George is such a good man, really. He has potential. He and I have always been chummier than my other brothers.”
“So you have a vested interest in this mission. Good.” After another sip of coffee, he added, “And MI6 has decided it’s time for the next step to bring you and Wallis together as a team. Plan one of your weekends here at the fort. Invite the usual crowd and include the Simpsons, both of them. Sometime during the party you must kiss Wallis on the lips in front of everyone.”
David scheduled the gathering for the last weekend in January of 1932. He’d leave the planning to Thelma. She’s such a good egg to put up with me. Oh well, she made the decision not to marry me years ago. She usually made out the guest lists for such social occasions. He would think of some way of casually suggesting the Simpsons. He was somewhat eager, and he didn’t know why.
The last Friday night in January finally arrived, and all of their guests, including Connie and Ben Thaw, had arrived, except for the Simpsons. David stood in the foyer waiting their arrival. As the hour grew late, he smoothed out his kilt and looked into the octagonal parlor where the others had settled into card games and putting together jigsaw puzzles. David jumped a bit when the butler opened the door and invited the Simpsons in.
Servants took their luggage upstairs, and David escorted the Simpsons into the parlor, a pine paneled room with yellow velvet curtains.
“Yellow velvet? My, how brave you are.” Wallis laughed and walked over to Thelma for a hug and kiss.
“Isn’t she a scream?” Ernest said with a laugh.
“Yes, hysterical.” David crossed to Wallis and took her elbow to guide her to another table. “Please, I’ve saved you a spot at the poker table. I’ll sit next to you to help.”
As she sat, she smiled. “Oh yes, the last time we met was at a party at Thelma’s place in town. I was quite dreadful at cards, wasn’t I?”
When the dealer dealt the next hand, David stood and leaned over Wallis’ shoulder, his cheek grazing hers.
“Oh yes, this is a very good hand. I suggest—“
“Let me guess,” she interrupted him and within a couple of rounds she had won the pot. “Surprise. I’ve been practicing.”
“So you have.” David drifted over to a jigsaw table and sat.
In a few minutes Thelma went to the Victrola and put on a record of Tea for Two. She tapped on David’s shoulder and soon they were dancing in the middle of the room. Connie Thaw was the first to cut in to dance with the prince. Every woman had their turn except Wallis, still seated at the poker table. David grabbed her hand and twirled her to the middle of the room. He snuggled her neck.
“MI6 says I need to make my first advance on you tonight. Get ready to be kissed.”
“If MI6 orders it,” she whispered back. “Oh well, for King and Country.”
David stopped in the middle of the room, in sight of all the guests, and impressed a long kiss on Wallis’s lips, like a scene out of a silent movie. Among all the subdued gasps, he was sure he heard a man giggle.
The next morning his guests slept in per his instructions, but he arose early, put on his work clothes topped with a baggy sweater and attacked encroaching vines in his garden. He kept alert to anyone coming out on the terrace. Eventually, the Simpsons appeared carrying their cups of coffee. David walked over to them.
“I’m waging war on the laurel. It will absolutely triumph over the garden if I let it.” He paused to smile at Ernest. “Would you like to join me?”
He watched as a big smile spread across the face of Wallis’ husband.
“Why, it would be an honor, your highness.”
“Well, go up and get a heavy sweater. It’s cold out here.”
“Yes, sir!” Ernest ran inside like a giddy school boy.
Wallis looked at David in askance. “What are you going to do? Ask his permission?”
“Yes, I think I will. It would be the proper approach. Don’t you think he’ll approve?”
“Of course he will. If you’re not careful, he’ll send me to your bedroom tonight.”
Within half an hour, David and Ernest were hacking away at the weeds.
“You have an extremely attractive wife, Mr. Simpson.”
“Oh. Call me Ernest, sir. And yes, Wallis is lovely and vivacious.”
“I want to have an affair with her.” David grinned. “Would you mind? It’s a bit like cutting in at a dance.”
“Of course! I understand!” Ernest stepped in toward the prince. “I’m off to tend to my shipping business in New York quite often, which will be quite convenient, won’t it?”
“And convenient in another way. I’ve always taken an interest in Wallis’ friend Mary Raffray. She’s recently divorced and, well, available. You won’t tell Wallis, will you?”