David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eighty

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails a mission because of David, better known as the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer is also a spy. MI6 makes them a team. David becomes king. David abdicates and they marry. Leon dies. His son Sidney mourns his death but joins the ‘organization’. MI6 describes their duties in the Bahamas.
Wallis had a headache. If she had not escaped the reconstruction dust at the Government House she knew her head would explode. Her throbbing temples had not abated as she sat at the dining table at Westbourne House in the posh Cable Beach section of Nassau.
Both the host Harry Oakes and his business partner and personal chum Harold Christie smoked large cigars. During the infrequent times they placed their smokes in the ash trays by their plates, they shoved a large bite of roast beef into their mouths, and carried on a conversation while chewing. Wallis was amazed they didn’t choke to death. At the same time, however, her stomach felt queasy.
On one side of her at the table was Oakes’ young wife Eunice who was charming and educated but ultimately boring. For one thing, Wallis did not approve of Eunice’s choice of dark mahogany paneling throughout the house. At least there weren’t any dead animal heads on the walls.
“The grandest thing about Harry being named a baronet was that it increased my chances of meeting a movie star,” Eunice announced in a sweet simpleton voice. “Many people have mentioned to me Nancy looks like Katharine Hepburn.”
Wallis forced a tightly slit smile while glancing at Nancy sitting on the other side of Count Alfred de Merigny.
I met Miss Hepburn and didn’t think much of her appearance at all.
“I especially love English leading men.” Eunice’s eyes twinkled.
“Well,” Wallis replied with a dry enthusiasm, “I hope you meet a star, very soon.”
The duchess turned to the person on the other side of her, Count de Merigny. He was tall, gaunt and almost cadaverous. All these features would make him look dead but the fact he possessed the deepest tan Wallis had ever seen on a man.
“Count, I understand you met the Oakes through your hobby of yachting.” She smiled again. “I wish David and I were able to partake in such a charming pastime, but we’re too busy attending to the affairs of state here in the Bahamas.”
“Yes, we are very fortunate to have two such international luminaries governing us.”
Merigny’s voice startled Wallis. The deep, rich baritone reeked of an accent from some small country hidden in the mountains of Western Europe.
“And you are a very close friend of Nancy.” She paused and looked at Nancy sitting on the other side of the count. “You don’t mind my talking about you to the count, do you?”
“Why, of course not.” The girl giggled.
“Good.” Wallis narrowed her eyes as she returned her focus to Merigny. “She’s very young, isn’t she?”
“Yes, very inspiring to a person approaching middle age, such as I.”
My dear Count, I think you have finished approaching middle age and have arrived at the station with all your baggage. She briefly considered saying it aloud but prudence ruled the moment.
Before Wallis could say another word, David spoke with a genial grace which she knew he used when prying for information.
“Sir Harry, I must commend on your estate,” David smiled so hard his dimples burst out in all their glory. “It reminds me of my own estate in England, Fort Belvedere.”
What a lie. Wallis restrained herself from guffawing. Belvedere was tastefully decorated. Besides that, it wasn’t even his estate anymore.
“Why, thank you, Your Highness.” Oakes had just swallowed a chunk of beef, sparing his guests from seeing it go down his gullet. “Coming from you that is high praise indeed.”
“And your casino, the Rialto, is an equally successful architectural wonder,” David continued.
Uh oh, here it comes. Wallis tapped her mouth with her napkin and returned it to her lap. As they unpacked before dinner, David set forth his ideas about the Rialto’s gambling operation. Oakes was using it to launder money. It was up to us to find out if it were for the Nazis, mob or the organization.
“The Rialto is not a casino,” Christie, with firm hospitality, corrected him. “Casinos are strictly forbidden in the Bahamas.”
“I have embarrassed myself.” David chuckled. “I am so fortunate to have two such esteemed citizens to guide me in my new duties as governor.”
“The Rialto is a high-class supper club. We have a ballroom with a range of top dance bands from around the world performing there.”
“I’m hoping Daddy will book Frank Sinatra.” Nancy twittered. “He’s so dreamy.”
Harry ignored his daughter. “And our restaurant is well known throughout the Caribbean for its cuisine and the views from our terrace.”
“And don’t forget our theater on the top floor.” Harold blew a ring of smoke from his cigar. “We’ve got dance girls that make them Follies Bergere dames look like slobs.”
“I’m sure they do,” Wallis murmured which made Marigny laughed.
“I have no doubt, but Wallis and I were there a couple of nights ago and passed through what was labeled as ‘The Lounge’ where people were undeniably playing blackjack with dealers who were attractive young ladies seductively dressed in tuxedo tops only.”
Oakes shrugged. “The Lounge was designed to give customers the opportunity to have a beverage and smoke while discussing intellectual topics with their friends without distraction.”
“But everyone was at a table playing poker, and I saw money being exchanged,” David persisted.
“Ah!” Christie bellowed smoke from his mouth like a backfire from a large delivery truck. “There’s a difference. In a casino they use chips and cash them in through the business where the gambling occurs.”
“Then you admit there is gambling on the premises.” David leaned back and smiled.
He sounds like a lawyer. Wallis licked her lips. Some of the most fascinating men I ever met were lawyers.
“Well, gentlemen are allowed their vices, aren’t they?” Christie’s eye brows lifted lazily, as though he were giving the hundredth performance of the same play. “For example, if Harry and I were sitting in the lounge swirling our warm brandy, we could have a bit of fun wagering on the color of the dress on the next dame to come through the door. I say red and Harry here says blue and, bam, a lady in red enters. So Harry pays off his debt. Nobody’s business but ours.”
Merigny leaned forward with a very wicked turn of the lips exposed beneath his mustache. “So that’s why I can’t get a free martini during a game.”
Nancy frowned and shook her head. “Alfred, please. You promised to behave tonight.”
“That’s right, Alfred.” Harry forced a laugh. “Stop trying to get free drinks at my place, dammit.”
Nervousness made Eunice erupt into giggles. “Perhaps we could move on to a different topic of conversation.”
“My apologies.” David nodded to his hostess. “I know England can be quite priggish about things like this, but Wallis and I have lived in France the last few years and have noticed, well….”
“A dirty, stinking business, ain’t it?” Harry shoved mashed potatoes into his mouth. “When you went to the Rialto I’m sure you and the Duchess noticed some colored folks eating dinner.”
“Frankly, no.” Wallis stared at Harry with no regrets.
“Must have been a slow night,” Harold interjected.
“Our point is that if the colored person can pay our prices and dress up nice, why we don’t mind taking their money,” Harry explained.
“Like a white linen suit.” I don’t know why I said that. Perhaps it was the man on the Tanganyika Express who saved my life.
“Yeah, sure.” Harold puffed on his cigar. “Them colored like those suits. But they have to have money to buy them. We ain’t running no charity here.”
“Is that the general opinion of the Bay Street Boys?” David asked.
Uh oh, another touchy subject. Wallis ran her tongue across her teeth to ensure no lipstick had stuck to them. During his briefing Greene informed us that the Bay Street Boys’ practice of underpaying the natives might undermine the economic and social balance in the region.
Harold threw his napkin down on his plate. “I don’t know what you’re getting at, Duke; but yes, I’m proud of being a Bay Street Boy. And so is my buddy Harry here.”
“Nothing thrills me so much as a man who is proud of being who he is,” Wallis added in a subdued tone.
Caught off guard, Harold displayed what might be interpreted as an honest expression on his face. “Thank you, ma’am. I appreciate that.”
My God, he took it was a compliment. How stupid could he be?”
“And what is it they call the black men who sweat for slave wages around here?” Merigny’s eyes twinkled. “Ah yes. The Burma Road Boys.”
“Alfred! I don’t know why you want to upset Daddy that way!” Nancy huffed.
Eunice was almost in tears. “I think it’s time for coffee.” She turned her head and called out, “Sidney!”
A young black man in a white servant’s jacket appeared with a tray of coffee cups. He went to Wallis first.
“Would you care for coffee, madame?”
She looked up at the servant to reply but stopped, her mouth agape.
Except for an age difference, this boy looked like the man in a white linen suit I met on the Tanganyika Express. I know it’s been several years but I never forget the face of a man who saved my life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *