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.
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.
The November air in Berchtesgaden 1929 was bracing. Joachim Von Ribbentrop stood on the balcony of his hotel taking in the view of the beauty of the Bavarian Mountains covered in snow. Berchtesgaden was on the southern border of Germany and Austria, not far from Munich and the Black Forest. Although the weather and scenery always reinvigorated his spirit, Ribbentrop could not help but think back to his exotic encounter with Wallis Spencer in Paris over a year ago. Wallis expertly removed every layer of clothing from his body but only stripped down to her satin slip. She could do things with her hands and mouth that threw him into a sensual madness.
He read in the newspaper she recently married Ernest Simpson. He hoped she remembered it was his help with finding a lawyer that made her new-found happiness possible. Ribbentrop felt he had to be with her again and give her another white carnation in tribute to their experience.
A knock at the door broke his revelry. A slender young man dressed in a crisp shirt and slacks and a jacket with a swastika on the sleeve, stood attention when Ribbentrop opened the door. He knew he was looking at an emissary from Herr Adolph Hitler, the most powerful politician in Germany.
“Herr Hitler requests your presence at Berghof.”
Ribbentrop smartly clicked his heels, put on his overcoat and followed the young man downstairs to a waiting black limousine. He settled into a comfortable position in the back seat while the brown-shirted boy sat in front with the driver. On the long, winding drive through the mountains, Ribbentrop congratulated himself in his skillful manipulation of his socially influential friends to gain an audience with the man who one day would rule Germany—indeed, all of Europe with an iron hand. His mind, however, could not help but wander back to Wallis. He knew she would be impressed when she learned he was close friends with Adolph Hitler.
When the car made a final turn to reach its mountaintop destination, Ribbentrop was disappointed to see that Berghof was a rather small, unimpressive hunting chalet. He expected Herr Hitler to have more awesome accommodations. The limousine came to a stop in front of the entrance, and a teen-aged girl scurried out, opened his door and curtsied.
“Herr Hitler is waiting for you in parlor,” she said as she escorted him into a plain vestibule, turned right and opened a door to a darkened room.
All the curtains were closed and a movie screen hung on the far wall. Several comfortable chairs were centered in front. A black and white cartoon of a dancing mouse on the deck of a boat played across the screen. A catchy little tune filled the room along with male laughter.
“Herr Von Ribbentrop?” a voice called out.
Ribbentrop thought how he could be late since he could go nowhere until Hitler’s limousine arrived at the hotel.
“Don’t worry. No one can live up to my exacting standards.”
Hitler stood and turned toward Ribbentrop, his face illuminated by the glare of the movie projector, a dancing mouse flitting across his forehead.
“I have heard many good things about you. You are an excellent salesman of a totally useless product—champagne. I admire that. That’s what a good leader is, you know, a salesman.” He patted the armchair next to his. “Come, sit.”
As Ribbentrop sat, Hitler stared at him and raised a knowing eyebrow. “I am sure you are thinking how this man can be the future of Germany and live in such an ordinary house. Well, I am renting it from Herr Wachenfield. I plan to buy it soon and turn it into a show place to rival the grandest castles on the Rhine.” He sat back to continue to watch the cartoon, which played over and over again. “That mouse, he’s very funny. He’s small but he always wins, always. That’s like Germany, you know. It’s small, but it can win, always win, when it has the right man at the helm of the steamboat.” He glanced at his visitor. “Do you think I’m a good steamboat captain?”
“Yes, Herr Hitler.”
“Good. You have skills beneficial to my cause. You are a celebrity among the London social crowd, are you not? You can do much to win them over. They are particularly vulnerable since they already open to the idea of following a supreme leader like a king.” He spat in derision. “That stupid man. I tried to interest the Prince of Wales in our Princess Stephanie. She’s a Jew, but nevertheless beautiful and completely loyal to me.”
“I know Stephanie very well,” Ribbentrop interjected. “She asked to introduce her to the prince.”
“Yes, I know,” Hitler replied with a sly smile. “I know everything.”
“What can I do for you, mein fuhrer?” He swallowed hard.
“Since Stephanie was unable to seduce the prince into being our surrogate,” Hitler explained, “we have to find a way to demoralize the English people to the point of discarding their own government and welcome me as their ruler.”
“How can I do that?”
Hitler leaned in, but first peeked at the screen and smiled at the mouse’s antics. “I love how that little mouse dances. Walt Disney is the only American I have any respect for.” After a pause, he continued, “Help me to steal the crown jewels of England.”
“What?” Ribbentrop blinked.
“This is not a new idea. It was in an English novel. Arthur Conan Doyle. One of those Sherlock Holmes mysterious.” He raised an eyebrow. “You must read British literature, don’t you?”
Ribbentrop blinked again. “I prefer the German classics.”
“Well, of course. But you must open your mind to new ideas, even if they come from the English.”
“Of course, mein fuhrer.”
“Once the English people realize I was able to steal the jewels from the Tower of London, they will see their government is completely impotent, incompetent. Demoralized, they will turn to me to lead them.”
“How can we steal the jewels.” Ribbentrop felt himself getting drawn into Hitler’s vision.
“Out of your many acquaintances in London, surely someone has a connection with a person who works at the Tower of London. Use your influence to have them steal the diamonds.”
Ribbentrop smiled. “I think I know such a woman. A Mrs. Barnes. Her husband is the ambassador to Tanganyika. They are currently in London but will return to Africa within the month. I have had desperate telephone calls from her begging for a rendezvous before she leaves.”
“Does she love you?” Hitler looked up to the projectionist. “That’s enough for today. Come back tomorrow.”
“She loves sex.”
“Are you sure she’s British?”
“Yes. I’ve found it is mostly the men who are the cold fish, especially the rich ones.”
“Continue.” Hitler showed no emotion.
“She talks all the time about her brother-in-law who is the assistant administrator at the Tower of London. She’s having sex with him too and is afraid her husband will find out. Her lover has direct access to the crown jewels. The little idiot doesn’t even understand the importance of what she said.”
“Can you trust her?”
“Of course not. She doesn’t have the sense to be trusted. That’s why I would not tell her who will get the jewels eventually.” Ribbentrop pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He began to relax with the fuhrer “I have an idea. I’ll tell her I have connections to a secret world-wide crime organization which will pay handsomely for the diamonds. They will be able to re-cut them and sell them on the open market. She will receive a handsome payment.”
Hitler’s face clouded in suspicion. “Is there such an organization?”
“Oh.” His eyes widened in surprise. “No. Of course not. I just thought of it. You inspired my imagination.”
“Of course I did.” Hitler leaned back with a smug smile.
“Then I’ll instruct her to take the jewels with her back to Africa for transfer to the, um, organization.” He waved his cigarette about nervously. “Ambassadors’ luggage is rarely inspected by customs agents. Then one of your men can secure the diamonds from her on the train in Tanganyika.”
Hitler grimaced in deep thought then stood. “Good. Do it. You may leave now.”
Ribbentrop stood, clicked his heels and bowed. He found it hard to smile because Hitler stepped closer to examine his face. Perhaps the fuhrer sensed he was lying about the organization.
“I momentarily considered sticking my tongue into the dimple on your chin.” Hitler extended a finger and touched Ribbentrop’s cleft. “But I changed my mind.”
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 and marries Ernest. In one of their first assignments working separately, they fail to stop the theft of Jessie Donahue’s jewels.
Jessie Donahue sat in the tea pavilion of Cielito Lindo, her Palm Beach mansion, on a late morning of October 1929. She puffed on a cigarette between sips of champagne and black hot coffee, occasionally pausing to nibble at a buttered croissant.
Even in her early thirties, her receding chin was disappearing in crepe-like fat. All the jewels she wore could not hide her frumpy figure. All the latest Paris fashions could not hide the fact she looked like a fishmonger’s wife.
But she found comfort in the fact she did not have to be beautiful. Her father was Woolworth of five-and-dime fame, and it was impossible for her to spend all her money in her lifetime. All her millions could not buy her entry into the prestigious Four Hundred which irritated her like an itch on her back she could not scratch. One thing her money could buy was James Donahue. He was tall, handsome, dark hair, bright blue eyes, a wonderful dancer and a glib conversationalist. He came from a relatively rich family in the fat rendering business. Also, when it came to sexual attraction he held no prejudice against either gender.
Old man Woolworth cried on Jessie’s wedding day. He stopped long enough to walk her down the aisle. Her mother did not object to the marriage; of course, by that time she was institutionalized for dementia. James paid attention to Jessie long enough to give her two sons Wooly and Jimmy.
James, dressed in elegant mauve silk lounging pajamas, finally emerged from their mansion and wandered to the tea pavilion. He plopped in a chair, ignored the coffee and went straight to the champagne.
“Good morning, darling,” he purred with a lazy smile.
Jessie put out her cigarette in a half-eaten grapefruit.
“Jim, you know I adore you. You are a beautiful, delightful creature. You have given me two wonderful sons.”
And I worship you, dearest.”
I don’t mind that you are unfaithful to me. I don’t mind you lose millions gambling each year. Anything to make you happy.”
“I appreciate your tolerance, sweetheart.” He leaned over to peck her cheek. “And I am happy. Deliriously happy.”
Jessie pushed him back and leaned into his face, her eyes narrowing into evil, angry slits. “But I don’t like losing my jewels.”
“Of course, Jessikins.”
“You took them.”
Jim’s mouth fell open as he bit into a croissant. “Why, I thought that detective Noel Scaffa—whatever his name was—took them and pretended to retrieve them from the alleged thief for an exorbitant ransom. He spent six months in prison, didn’t he?”
“He was convicted of perjury, not theft.”
“What difference does it make? He shrugged his broad shoulders. “You got your jewels back.”
“I didn’t get back my blue sapphire. I loved that blue sapphire.”
“Remember, Jessie,” Jim interrupted in a tutorial tone, “it was just a cold, unfeeling stone. It could never love you back.”
“You stole my jewels. You broke my trust and my heart!”
He pulled out a cigarette out of her pack on the table, lit it and took several rapid puffs in irritation. “The Fifth Avenue boys arrive on the noon train. They’re coming over this afternoon for a swim party. I hope you had the pool house cleaned properly. The glass must be crystal clear so the sun can properly heat the water. And I don’t want to be embarrassed if they smell that awful pond scum, or whatever it is.”
“I’ve never had any dirt on my estate in my life and you know it. You always pull that when you know you’re losing an argument. Just because you grew up in a house that smelled of pig fat doesn’t mean there are odors in my house.”
“Whatever. Can I go change now? I bought five new bathing suits and I don’t know which one to wear for the party.” He petulantly blew smoke through his nostrils.
“I want you to obtain new jewels for me,” she continued.
Her voice lowered which made Jim drop his nonchalant attitude and listen.
“Special jewels that will have to be re-cut before I can wear them. No one must know what they really are, but I will know. Perhaps then I will forgive you.” Jessie reached out, took his hand and squeezed hard until he grimaced. “Believe me. For you own safety, you want me to forgive you.”
Snatching his hand away, Jim took a quick gulp of champagne. “And how the hell am I supposed to do that?” He tried to expel a masculine grunt, but it sounded more like a whimper.
“Contact the same organization which stole my jewels.”
He stood and paced about the pavilion. “A special mysterious organization that knows how to get away with crime? You’re delusional.”
“No,” Jessie replied with slow sinister composure. “You’re delusional if you thought you could hide your crime from me. I knew about this organization before we met.”
“You did?” Jim blinked, and his cigarette slipped from his fingers. “How?”
“My father told me about it.” She sat back and lifted her double chin. “You don’t think he made all that money selling trinkets, did you?”
“Jessie, darling, I’m sorry.” He began to speak rapidly. “I did it for you. I was being blackmailed. I didn’t want you to be embarrassed by the publicity. I’ll never steal from you again. If a bastard tries to blackmail me, I’ll have him killed. Honest, we’ll work together on it—“
“Shut up, Jim.”
“So enjoy your little party with the boys; but right after that, make your contacts. I want new jewels.”
“How long do I have?”
“I’m generous. A year. Two at most.” She stood to walk back inside her mansion. Looking over her shoulder, Jessie added, “And pick up your damned cigarette butt.”
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 and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward and Thelma Furness. MI6 wants him to seduce Princess Stephanie of Austria.
A month later Joachim von Ribbentrop invited David to a party at his elegant suite at the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly across from Green Park and down the street from Buckingham Palace. Neither Freda nor Thelma were available so the prince went stag. As he exited his Ace roadster outside the hotel, a beggar woman walked up and extended him an apple. He waived her off.
“Oh, bugger you, David,” she rasped. It was the MI6 contact. “The Austrian princess is in the house. Don’t muck it up.”
As he rode the elevator to the von Ribbentrop apartment, David lit a cigarette and mused how much a bore all this was. He was joking with himself, of course. He loved to crack wise with himself. Once inside, the attendant took his hat and overcoat. David scanned the room and identified a new woman in attendance. Good posture accentuated her height; shiny dark hair surrounded piercing eyes, and rouged lips screamed to be kissed. It had to be Stephanie. He was sure and took decisive steps in the other direction, seeking out some middle-aged, paunchy, balding diplomat for a boring conversation. One can never be too obvious when seducing a new woman.
Within a few minutes, David felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned he saw Lady Elvira Chatsworth. Oh hell. He had no time for her now.
“Elvira, what a lovely surprise,” he purred, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since that trip to Shanghai. You know, I’ll always consider that crossing to be one of the happiest moments in my life.”
She giggled. “My husband is out of town for two weeks.”
“What a shame. So am I.”
After another quick peck, David slipped away toward the foyer to retrieve his coat and hat. This was not working out the way he anticipated. Perhaps he was playing too hard to get. Ah well, he told himself, other opportunities would present themselves.
“Your highness,” a deep male voice called out, “I hope you are not leaving so soon.”
David recognized it to be his host Von Ribbentrop. He turned and smiled. “Of course not. I just saw someone on the other side of the room I didn’t know and wanted to strike up a conversation.” He extended his hand. “And how are you, Herr Von Ribbentrop?”
“Never better.” As Ribbentrop shook hands he made a proficient bow and clicked his heels.
David tried not to roll his eyes. He hated men who clicked their heels. He felt as though they were about to break out in a tap dance. Instead, he lifted his head to survey the room.
“And where are your lovely wife and children?”
“Ah. My wife Anna is probably busy in the kitchen attending to the final details of the dinner. She is such a hausfrau. And the children are back in Berlin with Anna’s aunt. London can be such a tiresome place for German children.”
“Is that so? English children don’t seem to mind it so much. Of course, they’re used to it.”
“Quite so.” Von Ribbentrop gently touched David’s elbow. “Actually, the reason I came over is because I wanted you to meet my guest of honor, Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe.”
“I would have thought a man of your reputation would have heard of Princess Stephanie of Austria.” His index finger smoothed through his moustache.
“Oh, that Princess Stephanie. Show her to me.”
They wriggled through the crowd to Stephanie who was holding court in front of a battery of dashing young men, who were enthralled by her every word. Ribbentrop tried to intervene to introduce the prince. She gracefully held up a gloved hand.
“Please. I must finish my story.”
David smiled as he observed Ribbentrop flushing. A moment later, the attending beaux applauded politely, and Stephanie turned, flashing a brilliant smile.
“Yes. May I help you?”
“I would like to introduce His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales,” Ribbentrop said with the utmost pomp and circumstance.
Stephanie let forth with a rapid succession of sentences in German. She stopped abruptly and a hand went to her cheek. “Oh. I’m sorry. You’re British, aren’t you, and you don’t speak German, do you?”
Without a pause, David replied in fluent German. “You see, it is my mother tongue.”
“My, you are clever.” She smiled again. “So how may I help you?”
“Stephanie, I told you. This is the future king of England,” Ribbentrop replied in a measured tone.
“Then you don’t need my help, do you?” She nodded toward David.
“Oh, you would be surprised,” David replied, focusing his squinty eye on the bodice of her gown.
The doors to the dining room opened, and Anna Von Ribbentrop appeared and announced, “Dinner is served.”
“Oh, thank God,” Ribbentrop muttered as he began prodding his guests to the table.
David extended his arm, and Stephanie took it. Remarkably, they were seated next to each other and exchanged witty repartee for the next two hours. And then he proved his excuse to Elvira Chatsworth to be true by driving the Austrian princess out of the city to Fort Belvedere.
“We just finished the renovations last week. You can still smell paint. Full staff. They’re from one of Mama’s places up north. They know their jobs.”
It was after midnight when they arrived. He unlocked the door and escorted her in.
“Be quiet,” he whispered. “The servants have retired and if they hear us, they will be tedious in their efforts to attend us.”
“But I can’t spend the night,” Stephanie protested. “All I have, in clothing, is what I have on. Whatever shall I wear to bed?”
David took her into his arms and kissed her on the mouth. “We’ll think of something.” As he led her upstairs, he added, “You can send for your things in the morning. By the way, where are you staying?”
“Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.”
“Ah, not far from the Ritz. That will make directions for my man easy.” He paused to grin. “After all, you will be staying for a couple of weeks.”
She stopped on the last step before reaching the second landing. “Two weeks! Why would I want to stay two weeks?”
“You do want to get to know me, don’t you?” David took her hand and kissed it. “It takes a good two weeks of constant companionship to know me extremely well.”
Stephanie took the last step to the bedroom floor. “As long as you put it that way.”
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be 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 and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward.
In September of 1929, David found himself again handing out rosettes for prize-winning cattle, this time in Leicestershire. As he awarded best in show, the crowd broke out in polite applause. He did not know whether it was for him or the bull. Nevertheless he smiled graciously and nodded until he noticed a lovely woman standing in front who was not clapping. She seemed to be more concerned with adjusting her gloves than according him accolades for attaching a ribbon cluster to the bovine’s harness. Without stopping to speak to the local mayor, David approached her.
“My God, you are as beautiful as a movie star.”
“That’s because I am one.” She retrieved a cigarette from her hand bag. “Do you have a light?”
“Of course,” he replied, pulling out a book of matches. “Tell me about your movie career.”
After a puff, she explained, “I formed my own movie company in 1923 so I could be a star.”
“Impressive.” David smiled with interest. “What were they? Maybe I’ve seen some of them.”
“I doubt it.” She shrugged. “Making movies turned out to be such a bore.”
“What a shame. I hope you didn’t lose much money.”
“Don’t worry about it. Daddy’s rich. He’s American diplomat Harry Morgan.”
“My daddy is rich too.”
“I know. King of England. You’re the Prince of Wales.”
“And if you tell me who you are then introductions will be complete.”
“Thelma Furness, wife of Viscount Marmaduke Furness. That’s why I’m at this dreary country fair. Former wife. The ink just dried on our divorce papers.”
“Then that means you’re free for the weekend.”
Without further encouragement Thelma hopped in David’s Ace roadster and sped off to Fort Belvedere. She commented his car looked just like Victor Bruce’s auto that won the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I’m just dippy for it,” she said.
David shifted into first gear and stirred up a cloud of dust on the country road. He enthusiastically explained the renovations which were underway since his father finally agreed to give it to him.
“You won’t believe what he said when I first asked him for it,” David said with his infamous lopsided grin. “’What could you possibly want that queer old place for? Those damned weekends, I suppose.”
At that moment they turned a corner, and Fort Belvedere appeared with scaffolding half-way around it.
“I’m absolutely dippy for it,” Thelma announced.
“Don’t worry about the workmen,” he confided. “They won’t be back until Monday.
After they parked, David guided her through the front door and gave her a tour of his bedroom which lasted until the next morning. When he awoke, Thelma was gone but he smelled coffee from the kitchen. They settled into the breakfast nook for a small meal Thelma had whipped up. David decided she looked beautiful even with most of her makeup smudged away. He was about to explain his special relationship to Freda when a reflective mirrored light from the woods beyond the lily pond caught his attention.
“You know I’m quite peculiar,” he began, not knowing how to explain why he had a sudden urge to stroll through the grounds.
“Oh, I know all about Freda,” she said as she stood and collected the dishes. “And I know you’re devoted to your gardening. First thing every morning, playing in the dirt. It’s in all the social pages.” Thelma leaned over to kiss him on the lips. “You’ve been royally had, my dear. You’ve been in my sights for years.” She winked. “I love to share.”
When David first went out the door he started straight for the woods but thought better of it. He turned instead for the shed where he grabbed a few tools. He needed to make Thelma think he was going to play in the dirt. Upon arrival among the silvery birches, he recognized one of his main contacts from the MI6 headquarters. David knew this assignment must be of the highest importance.
“At first I didn’t think you saw my signal,” the man said. “Let’s take a few steps back. No need to alarm the young lady.”
“Nothing would alarm that one,” David muttered as he followed the man around one of the larger trees.
“You know about Princess Stephanie?”
“She’s from Austria, isn’t she? Married a prince or something or other and after the divorce she kept the title.”
“Very close. She was born in Vienna to Jewish parents. Her father was a dentist, a lawyer or some such that they had a bit of money but nothing to brag about. She did quite well in ballet school and became renowned for her beauty. She had an affair with Archduke Franz Salvator who impregnated her. This was a problem because he was already married. Stephanie then talked Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe into thinking the child was his. They were married a few years and divorced. She kept the child and the title of princess.”
“I can get all this information on the cocktail circuit.” David grew impatient. “What does this have to do with me?”
“This is what concerns us. She’s kicked around Europe and most recently Germany where she has become close friends with Adolph Hitler.”
“No one seriously thinks Hitler has any chance of becoming chancellor, do they?” The more he heard, the more David wanted to get on with pruning his roses.
“Everyone is taking Hitler seriously and so should you,” his MI6 contact said in a stern voice. “We have it on good sources that Hitler wants Stephanie’s next husband to be you.”
David laughed out loud. “My God, the man is mad. Why would he want that?”
“He’s gotten the idea you’re warm to the idea of fascism in Great Britain. With an Austrian wife and the English crown, you would welcome an alliance with a Hitler regime.”
“Why would he think that?”
“The cocktail circuit you just mentioned. You’re quite popular with many right-leaning socialites,” he intoned.
“That’s just balderdash. Too much liquor. Too much philandering.”
“Oh, you misunderstand. We don’t disapprove. We want you to take advantage of this misperception to seduce Princess Stephanie. Cultivate her as a source of information in the coming years.”
“So you want me to bed her.” He gazed back at the house. “Well, I hope she’s as beautiful as they say.”
Joachim Von Ribbentrop
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be 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 and marries Ernest.And throws in an affair with German Von Ribbentrop.
The next few days were quite a whirlwind adventure for Wallis. Joachim von Ribbentrop, besides owning an international champagne enterprise, was a member of a highly prestigious military family. And just for fun he was a great tennis player. When he played Wallis on a Paris court, he found her to be an exhilarating opponent.
“My dear, you play tennis like a man,” Von Ribbentrop complimented her after he won a very close match.
“I’ve been told I do many things like a man.”
They immediately adjourned to the club house for a cold drink.
“And you speak English like you were born in London,” she observed, sipping her champagne and reaching for a basket of crackers. Leaning back, she eyed him over the rim of her glass. “You use your tongue and lips very well.”
“When you sell champagne around the world you have to learn many languages.”
“I’ve learned if you flash enough money around people, they learn to speak English pretty fast.”
“Ah, but you see I am trying to get them to flash their money. That requires a certain amount of finesse.”
“That’s fine for you but I’ve never had to sell anything in my life.”
“But that’s not true, my dear Wallis. You are the most expert salesman I have ever met. In fact, you are trying to sell me on doing something for you right now.”
Wallis waved at the waiter for another glass of champagne, crunched on a cracker and then lit a cigarette, blowing the smoke out of the corner of her slim slit of a mouth.
“If truth be told, I am in pique. My uncle changed his will. Originally the five million was going to be mine but now it will establish a home for indigent dowagers, whatever the hell that is.”
Von Ribbentrop leaned forward. “Do you want your uncle forced to change the will back to you and then have him killed? It can be done. I have access to an elite group of assassins.”
“Oh really?” Wallis stopped puffing on her cigarette and raised a brow.
“My family has a long history of flirting with the dark side of humanity. I had an uncle, Heinrich, who married one of the Romanov cousins. He got a tip from the organization that someone was out to assassinate her. So he moved them to the Bahamas, thinking they would never find them there. Well, they did but instead of taking her out they took him out instead. The newspapers said it was a heart attack but the family knew what happened. My aunt disappeared somewhere out in the American West. Even the organization doesn’t try anything among the cactus and rattlesnakes.”
Wallis fluttered her eyes. “Well, now you have my attention. And who might run this organization?”
“If I tell you I’ll have to kill you.” He reclined in his cushioned chair and smiled.
Wallis grunted a laugh. “You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that one before.” She shrugged it off. “No, the old bastard’s dead already. What I need is a good lawyer to contest the will.”
“I can help with that too.” He grinned rakishly and reached for the bud vase on the table. Von Ribbentrop lifted a white carnation from the vase and handed it to Wallis. “White carnations are for remembrance. Now what could you do for me that you could remember fondly by looking at a white carnation?”
Taking the flower, she crumpled it in her right fist. “I can do all sorts of things with my hands.”
Von Ribbentrop stood and extended his arm to her. Wallis took it, and he guided her to his hotel suite. The next morning when she left, he handed her a business card for Virginia State Senator Aubrey Weaver.
“He’s the best man I know in the United States for contesting wills and marriages.” He emphasized the word marriages with a wink.
Good luck with that one, Wallis thought. She had no room for a German on her future husband list. At least he was easily satisfied sexually. Back in the states, she deposited Bessie in Baltimore and stopped over in Richmond to confer with Aubrey Weaver. Wallis went through three cigarettes explaining the situation. After listening to her case against Uncle Sol, the senator shook his head.
“I’m sure I could do something to have the will overturned. It seems his health was declining and an argument could be proffered he made the changes in a state of unsound mind. These things can linger in court for years. Most of the money, I assume, was in stocks and my sources on Wall Street tell me the overheated market is going to pop sometime in the next year.” He shrugged. “What’s left of your Uncle Sol’s money after that may not be worth the bother.”
Wallis crushed out her butt in a dirty tray on the lawyer’s desk. “It’s always worth the bother. I don’t care if it’s fifty dollars, I want it.”
Weaver smiled. “Remind me never to be on your bad side.”
“I’m going to need a divorce soon. I’m told you’re good at those things.”
“Yes, little lady, I am.”
The next morning Wallis was on the train to Warrenton in the Blue Ridge Mountains to resume her active social life among the young wealthy elite. Just a few days later she was playing a round of golf with her buddies when she missed an easy putt. One of the women—whose name Wallis had not caught—laughed merrily.
“Well you know what they say. It always isn’t a win-win situation. Sometimes it’s a lose-win situation.”
Wallis was back in Weaver’s office within a week or two and hoped for better news than he had given about Uncle Sol’s will.
“Now, it is absolutely necessary here in Virginia to prove you and your husband have not been in close physical proximity of each other in three years.”
“We met for a few moments a couple of times so he could give me money,” she replied. “Will that be a problem?”
“I don’t think so if your husband won’t mind making a slightly dishonest statement to the court,” Weaver replied. “Do you think he would risk perjuring himself?”
“My dear Sen. Weaver, I thought I had made it perfectly clear both my husband and I have been blessed with a total absence of scruples.”
Submitted to Fauquier County Court in December of 1928 was this letter from Winfield Spencer:
“I have come to the definite conclusion that I can never live with you again. During the past three years, since I have been away from you, I have been happier than ever before.”
The court fell for it, and Wallis was relieved to receive her divorce decree. She said good-bye to her social circle in Warrenton and moved into her mother’s Washington home where she proceeded to make a spectacle of herself by flirting with as many eligible bachelors as possible. This masked her intentions to marry Ernest as soon as his divorce became finalized.
In the spring of 1929 she read in the social column of a New York newspaper that the popular Simpsons had divorced.
“Quelle domage,” the columnist quipped, “but c’est la vie. We hope Ernest will be in high spirits for the summer social season.”
Ernest was not only in high spirits by July but also celebrating his marriage to Wallis. The only let-down for the New York set was that the nuptials occurred in the Chelsea Registry Office in London early one morning. They hosted a champagne brunch for their English friends, then motored to the coast where they sailed for France. Wallis and Ernest had a swell time dining, drinking and shopping in Paris upon their arrival in the late afternoon.
By the end of the long exhausting celebration, actually about four a.m. the next day, Wallis faced a serious decision. Was she going to drug Ernest for her big reveal or take her chances with him not being under the influence nor chained to the bed. She decided her new husband was of a different temperament than Win. Nothing ever seemed to faze him. She had never witnessed him angry, even on the mildest level.
Ernest, already totally nude, brought two glasses of champagne to bed. Wallis took her drink and slammed it back.
“Do you know what I like best about you, Ernest?”
He chuckled as he drank his champagne. “My father’s money.”
“Your devil may care attitude. Nothing ever shocks you.”
“Oh. Yes. That’s true too.”
Without another word, Wallis removed her nightgown. Ernest barely batted an eye and smiled.
“Well, there are many, many ways to have a good time.”
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer.
By the summer of 1928 Wallis was planning another trip to Europe with Aunt Bessie. She loved traveling with her mother’s spinster sister. Bessie wasn’t pretty, witty or judgmental. She had her head in the clouds. What better companion could a young woman want? Before the departure, she told her aunt she had to return to Warrenton to maintain her Virginia residency so she could finally escape the horrors of marriage to aviator Winfield Spencer.
Her actual destination was the old homestead in Baltimore where Uncle Sol, according to rumor, was on his death bed. This was her last chance to exact revenge for the horrible deeds he had inflicted upon her when she was a little girl.
Wallis lingered out on the street until she saw the nurse leave Sol’s house. Looking around the empty neighborhood she picked the lock to the front door and slipped inside. She crept upstairs to her uncle’s bedroom. When she entered she saw him swallowed up by sheets and blankets.
“Uncle Sollie, so glad to see you’re alive.”
Sol’s eyes fluttered open. When they focused on his visitor and he recognized his niece, they widened in fear. He quickly moved a pillow to his crotch.
“Bessiewallis, no. Please, no.”
She sat on the edge of the bed. “Besides hearing you were dying, I also heard the nasty gossip that you had changed your will. Instead of leaving your millions to me, you decided to create a home for destitute ladies in memory of that wicked mother of yours.”
Sol’s lips quivered. “But you have so much money now. I didn’t think you would mind.” He stopped short when he saw Wallis pull a long hat pin from her stylish black lacquered straw hat with a white satin ribbon around the crown.
“That wicked woman did not approve of my father. She didn’t even attend his funeral. Of course, I hadn’t even been born then but Aunt Bessie told me.”
“Bessie was wrong. Mother was there.”
“Now, now, that’s no way to talk about Aunt Bessie. She may be as dumb as a cow, but she does pay attention when it comes to who attends a funeral and who doesn’t.” Wallis removed the pillow from between his legs and leaned in with the hat pin.
“Oh God, no, Bessiewallis.”
She leaned back. “Just kidding. You always look so funny when you think you’re getting the pin.” Wallis stuck it back in her hat and stood to walk to the night table. Holding up her hands, she began to remove her gloves, revealing a large opal ring. “You don’t mind if I take my gloves off, do you?” Not waiting for a reply she added, “Have you had your morning coffee?”
“Oh my. Let me pour it for you.” With her back to Sol, Wallis opened the top of her opal ring, emptied a white substance into the coffee cup and stirred. “Here, you must drink it all.” She lifted it to his lips.
With apprehension he emptied the cup and fell back on the bed.
“I told you of my adventures in China, didn’t I? I loved exploring all the shops in the Shanghai marketplace. It was so sinful. I found an old woman who sold all sorts of fascinating potions. I bought a powder ground from some herb with such a long name I can’t even begin to remember how to pronounce it. Do you know how long it takes for that poison, once ingested, to work its way through the body and kill you? A week! That gives me time to go to Europe. Before you die.”
Tears filled his eyes. “I’ll tell. You won’t get away with it.”
“I forgot to mention the first symptom is immediate paralysis of the vocal cords. You won’t be able to tell about anything.”
Sol opened his mouth to speak. No sound came out. The potion had already taken effect.
“Good-bye, Uncle Sollie,” Wallis said, walking to the door. “You be a good boy. And, by the way, burn in hell.”
A week later, Wallis and Bessie strolled along the Champs-Elysees when they stopped at a news stand to buy a paper. Actually, Wallis was the one who wanted something to read because Aunt Bessie was prattling on about the upcoming debutante season in Baltimore. Wallis had grown beyond her aunt’s interests. The world of espionage was much more fascinating.
She tapped her foot as the man in front of her took too long buying a magazine. Wallis imagined he was more concerned with flirting with the newsstand girl. He was a tall man in a vanilla ice cream colored suit. His black hair was slicked-back. When he finally paid, he turned, smiled and gave a smart bow. Wallis found it impossible to remain miffed because he had a pencil-thin moustache and an appallingly deep dimple in his chin.
After he moved on, one particular headline on the front page caught her attention.
“Baltimore Inventor Dies.”
Wallis pulled coins from her purse to pay for the newspaper and scanned the story to see if it speculated on cause of death. She smiled when she read the words “natural causes.” Then she handed it to Aunt Bessie who looked at the headline.
Without any emotion she commented, “I never much cared for Sol.”
“Oh, he was all right, as long as he was going to leave everything to me.”
“Does the story say anything about the will?” Bessie asked.
In a few moments they were seated at an open air café along the Seine. Before Wallis could continue reading Sol’s obituary she was distracted by the sight of the man in the vanilla ice cream colored suit sitting at a table across from them. He lifted his champagne glass as though in a toast. Doing her best to ignore him, Wallis slammed back her own glass of champagne before returning her attention to the story about Uncle Sol.
“Finally,” she announced. “Here it is. Mr. Warfield’s will left his entire fortune of five million dollars to build a home for destitute dowagers.”
“Destitute dowagers?” Bessie repeated. “I don’t think I know what that means.”
Wallis wadded the newspaper up and threw it in a nearby trash can. She motioned to the waiter to bring her another champagne. She was in the process of slamming it back when she heard a deep male voice.
“You mustn’t toss back champagne like it were a lager in a beer garden.”
“And who appointed you queen of etiquette?” Wallis looked up to see the man in the vanilla ice cream colored suit standing over her. She blew smoke in his direction.
“I’m in the champagne business. I sell wholesale to all the best restaurants in Europe.”
“In that case, sit down and point out the best champagne on the menu.”
“Only if you promise not to guzzle but sip.”
Wallis appraised him and smiled. “You’ve got a deal.” She refused to acknowledge Aunt Bessie’s profound sigh of resignation.
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite.
In April of 1927 David found foolish emotion creeping up through his body and felt his heart and mind working together to undermine the British Empire. Freda Ward, his mistress since 1918, began to occupy more of his thoughts since he returned from the failed mission to Manhattan. On the liner across the Atlantic, David encountered several ladies willing to share his bed but a strange thing occurred. He preferred to spend his hours writing letters to Freda.
This was a problem he had never considered when MI6 first approached him when he was in school to train to serve in the elite espionage corps. His love-deprived childhood and tortured school days filled with bullying convinced him true, nourishing enduring love was a cruel myth. At first his relationship with Freda was no more than his usual vent of sexual frustration and a convenient cover for his espionage activities. But now he considered the possibility that true love actually existed.
On this particular day David drove his Ace roadster coupe to unoccupied country home near Windsor Castle with Freda in the passenger seat. He gunned the two-liter six-cylinder engine.
“Now do you like my new car?”
“Very sporty, like you,” she said.
“It’s exactly like the one Victor Bruce drove when he won the Monte Carlo Rally in 1926. I was simply dippy for it so I special ordered it.” He kept glancing over at her trying to read her inscrutable face. Usually she glowed at him with something likening a mother’s love. Today he saw a hint of disapproval and exasperation.
“I was on a round of princing recently out here in Surrey—I had to hand out rosettes to a bunch of cows or some such foolishness–when I came upon this property and became quite dippy about it.”
“I wish you wouldn’t use that word,” she interrupted.
“Never mind. You’ve said it twice in consecutive sentences.” After a shake of her head, she smiled warmly. “Continue.”
They rounded a brushy corner and the manor house with its fanciful towers and curving walls appeared.
“There it is, Fort Belvedere. It screams gothic revival architecture, doesn’t it? Anyway, I did a bit of digging and found out it was built in 1750 as a folly. You know what a folly is, don’t you?”
“Yes, I do, but playing professor gives you so much pleasure.” Freda emitted one of her motherly sighs. “Do explain it to me.”
David parked in front of the house and jumped out to open Freda’s door. “This one was built to look like a military fort, but the only guns ever used around here were for hunting weekends. A small hunting lodge, just for fun, pretty to look at but not much use for anything else. My God, sounds like me, doesn’t it?”
“Well,” she paused long enough to give him a nudge, “you’re not all that pretty.”
He guided her to the front door and unlocked it. “It was expanded in 1828 to meet the requirements as a full-scale hunting lodge and used on and off ever since. Now the kick of it is that it’s one of my father’s properties and I’m trying to figure out a way for someone on his staff to insert the idea into his sotted brain to give it to me. My God, I am a grown man and I should have my own house, don’t you think.”
“Yes, I think it would do you some good to be responsible for something for once in your life.” Freda looked around at the dark wood flooring and paneling. “But it will need a bit of redecorating, I think.” Her eyes flashed with an idea. “Why don’t you make it a home for deprived orphans of coal miners?” She walked out of French doors onto a terrace overlooking a large wooded area. “Think of all the fun they could have playing among the trees and planting gardens and such.”
“Oh, there you go, playing angel waif again.” He gazed at her with a mischievous grin. “Now how am I to host weekend parties with plenty of naughty friends when all those children are around?”
“Well, that’s what I meant.” She gathered her thoughts. “Don’t you think it’s time to stop being naughty, at least on such a grand scale?”
He took her hand and guided her to the shade of the trees. “The same idea had crossed my mind. How do you see this as a honeymoon cottage?”
Freda’s mouth opened but nothing came out for a moment. “Remember, I am married.”
“But not happily. Otherwise, why would you be mucking around with me?” Before she could form a reply, David continued. “Of course, you couldn’t officially be queen, when it comes to that, but there is such a thing as a morganatic marriage—that’s where we could be legally married and our children would be royal but not you. That wouldn’t be so bad would it? I mean, I think the tweedy types would go for it. They like you. After all, your father is a member of Parliament and vice-chamberlain of the royal household. And you’re so discreet.”
He held his breath. He did not know if he really meant it or not. If he married—actually married and conducted a normal family life—his life as an espionage agent would be over. Being an agent gave his life meaning. But a life with Freda could also give it meaning.
Gently folding her fingers in front of her mouth, Freda said, “Do you remember earlier when I ask you not to use a certain word but I declined to say which word it was?”
“Yes, but before you say anything else, please consider this. We have been lovers since 1918. Ten years. Good grief, I know some people who can’t stay married for ten years. Do you remember when we met? It was at a dance hosted by some woman. I can’t remember her name. She had her brother there. I think she was trying to shop him around.”
She sighed and shook her head. “It was Maud Kerr-Smiley, and she wasn’t shopping her brother around. He was quite debonair and wealthy. In the shipping business, I think. Simpson, that’s his name. Ernest Simpson. Oh, here we go again. You can’t keep your mind focused and you drag me along into your wonder land.”
“No, no. All this has a meaning. In the middle of the dance we had to dash off to a bomb shelter where we became close, very close. I knew then. You were exceptional.”
“And you look at me with your puppy dog eyes and say sappy things like that.” She exhaled in exasperation. “Please let me finish.”
“You said you were dippy for this your car and then said you were dippy for this property.”
“Dippy is such a childish word.”
“”It’s a joke. It’s fun to use words like dippy.”
“David, I would divorce my husband because he is many years older than I and is rather, well, stodgy. But I am not ready to turn in an old codger for a little boy. When I do—or if—I remarry, I want to marry a man my own age, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, someone who would not use words like dippy.” She paused to wrinkle her brow. “Have I hurt you terribly?”
He smiled and turned away. “Oh, if you ever knew.”
David rested his butt on a moist stone wall and cocked his head. “You know how I seem to make fun of my duties, you know, calling it princing?”
“Yes,” she replied softly.
“Well, it’s all a series of stunts, camouflage and propaganda. Think about it. Why do they really need to be trotting me around the globe shaking hands?”
“Because you are so good at it?”
David chuckled. “I’ve been told that before.”
“Never mind.” He went to Freda to kiss her lightly on the lips. “No, I am not hurt and I understand.” He looked around at the house, the terrace and the woods extending into the horizon. When Daddy gives me this place, will you play hostess? Redecorate it for me?”
“Of course I will,” she replied, sounding more like a mother than a lover.
“I’m looking forward to doing the gardening myself. I really do like getting my hands dirty, you know.” He waved towards the trees. “A hundred acres of trees. Think of the things I could plant there, and nobody would ever know.”
“You scare me sometimes, David. I never know when you’re making a joke and when you’re serious.”
He pulled a small stuffed teddy bear from his jacket pocket and tenderly placed it in her palm and closed her fingers around it.
“This is for you. Always keep it with you. From time to time, pull it out and look at it to remind yourself of the one brief moment when the Prince of Wales was completely sincere.”
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite. David and Wallis are foiled in their attempt to protect a socialite’s jewels.
By Christmas 1926 Wallis was visiting her college chum Mary and her husband Jacque Raffray at their elegant apartment on Washington Square in New York City. Aunt Bessie was with her, like a proper chaperone, but she never got in the way of Wallis having a good time. When the two young women shopped and lunched, Bessie stayed in the apartment reading the latest fashion magazines. Wallis and Mary lingered in discreet cafes, sharing intimate details of mutual friends.
On Christmas Eve the Raffrays held a party for their dearest and closest acquaintances. Everyone admired the decorations, table settings and music, but the party didn’t really begin until the bootlegger arrived. Bessie retired to her room early, as was her custom on trips with Wallis. After all, she didn’t want to be in the way. Amidst the giggles and chatter, Mary caught Wallis by the crook of her arm and guided her to a couple on the far side of the tree. They looked more than a little bored.
“Wallis, I want you to meet a fascinating man,” Mary whispered. “He’s in the shipping business and holds dual American and English citizenship.”
Wallis had not quite focused on the introduction until she remembered the part about dual citizenship.
“Hello, I’d like you to meet my friend Mrs. Wallis spencer.” Mary nodded to the couple. “Wallis, this is Ernest and Dorothy Simpson.”
Wallis looked at him closely. He was more than passably handsome, and his wife looked like she was in a perpetual state of grump.
She scooted closer to her man.
Wallis smiled and extended her hand, pretending not to notice the wife smiled back and extended her hand. Wallis grabbed Ernest’s hand instead. A low grumble escaped Dorothy’s lips.
“I just love a man with dark hair and mustache,” Wallis mumbled.
Ernest’s eyes twinkled. “Aren’t your husband’s hair and moustache dark?”
“Well, “she paused so a naughty smile could flicker across her thin, heavily painted lips, “some moustaches are better than others.”
“Ernest,” Dorothy interrupted with in a brusque tenor that could not be ignored. She paused to smile. Her own shade of lipstick was a soft, lady-like coral. “As I was telling you, I am coming down with one of my dreadful headaches. Really, we must leave now. I want to feel my best at Christmas dinner tomorrow with Mommy.” After a second, she added, with a condescending air, “Dear.”
Wallis raised an eyebrow. “Oh. You aren’t attending the midnight candlelight service at your church?”
“Why, no.” Dorothy seemed to be caught off balance. “Are you?”
“No.” Wallis caught Ernest’s elbow to lead him away. “Ernest, darling, you must see the view from the terrace. It’s really quite remarkable. You can see all the way to Times Square.”
They stood outside and looked in vain for the lights of Broadway. The breeze caused Wallis to shudder.
“Hmm, I was sure you could see Times Square from here.” She leaned into him. “Oh dear, it is a bit chilly, isn’t it?” Looking up into his eyes, she asked, “Now how exactly do you come to hold dual citizenship? It sounds exquisite.”
Before he could respond, Dorothy stormed through the door, already wearing her fur and extending Ernest’s overcoat.
“I must insist we leave immediately.” She shoved the coat into his hands and pushed him away from Wallis’s side. “It was simply wonderful meeting you, Mrs. Simpson—Spencer. I hope you have a safe trip home.”
Early in the morning, the day after Christmas, the telephone rang. Mary answered, listened then extended the receiver to Wallis who took it and purred a hello. Bessie sat in a nearby easy chair, reading the New York Times women’s section, particularly the wedding announcements.
“Hello, Wallis. This is Ernest. I hope you had a truly merry Christmas day.”
“Thank you, Ernest. How kind of you to call.”
“Have you ever visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art?”
“Why, no. I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
“Don’t you remember, dear,” Bessie said. “We were there last week.”
Wallis snatched the newspaper from Bessie’s hands and threw it on the floor while still talking on the phone. “I hate to admit it, but I’m much more of a country girl. Love tromping through the woods. I’m terrible, aren’t I?”
“Of course, not. I’m an outdoorsman myself.”
“Yes, you are terrible, Wallis.” Bessie bent over to pick up the papers. “Why on earth did you toss my paper on the floor?”
“Do I hear your aunt?” Ernest asked.
“Yes, the poor dear is having another one of her fits. It’s best that we ignore her.” Wallis wagged a skinny finger at Bessie. “I hope you are volunteering to take me to the museum.”
“Are you available this afternoon?” he asked.
“Of course, I am.”
“Think your aunt would like to join us?”
“She’s having one of her fits, remember? It’s best to leave her alone in her bedroom.”
“Well, I like that,” Bessie muttered good-naturedly.
“I really do want to be a cultured lady. What I don’t know about art I’m sure you could teach me. After all there’s more to life than…well, life.”
“Well spoken. I’ll pick you at noon for lunch and then we’ll take on the museum.”
After she hung up, Wallis giggled.
“You do know it’s just as easy to woo a single man as a married one.” Bessie settled back in her chair to resume her reading.”
“But I don’t want it to be easy. What’s the thrill in that?” Besides, Wallis thought, it was her duty to king and empire to seduce Mr. Simpson.
That afternoon Wallis took Ernest’s arm as they began to explore the galleries.
“It’s a shame Dorothy couldn’t join us.” She was surprised by how sincere she sounded.
“Yes, she has a terrible headache. Too much Christmas cheer, I think.”
He took time and particular relish to explain the impressionism found in a small Monet. After he finished Wallis pointed to the next painting. Her arm grazed across his chest.
“And what is that?” she asked with total innocence.
“That’s my chest,” he replied in amusement.
“You have your hand on my chest.”
“So I do.” She patted it. “How nice. Eventually she removed it and pointed again at the other painting. “I mean what is that painting over there?”
He smiled and placed his arm around her shoulders. “Well, let’s go find out.”
It had not been a full week into the new year when Wallis rang up Ernest with the excited announcement that Rose-Marie was coming to Broadway again.
“I am beside myself. I love the music though I’ve never seen it on stage. Please tell me you will be available the night of the 27th. That’s the opening night. It would be so much fun if we could see it together. Oh, of course, Dorothy if the poor thing is feeling well. Does she still have that dreadful headache?”
Wallis waited for a moment while Ernest chuckled.
“I do adore listening to you talk, Wallis dear.”
“It’s what I do best, darling.” She knew that was a lie. She could not share with Ernest what she really did best yet. It might scare him off. “So, how is poor sweet little Dorothy feeling?”
“Actually, she feels rather jaunty this morning.”
“Well, we do have three weeks before the opening.”
And on the premiere night of Rose-Marie Dorothy was not feeling well, neither unfortunately was Aunt Bessie. Mary and Jacque Raffray had tickets to another show. Wallis kept leaning into Ernest to ask questions about the play and he leaned back into her with the answer. She decided his breath smelled only slightly of tobacco and an interesting, expensive brand of gin.
As the winter weather softened, Ernest took Wallis on a personal tour of the docks where the Simpson family freighters were being loaded for their next voyage to England. She was dutifully awed by the length and breadth of the Simpson fortune.
Wallis tried to find a chic night club Ernest had not frequented, but, alas, he had been to them all. They had a good time anyway. In a dark corner they sat for the midnight performance of rhythm and blues. Wallis and Ernest scooted closer and closer to each other. They pretended the noisy music necessitated the intimacy. One night they found themselves kissing.
By the time spring officially arrived, they were taking leisurely day trips to soak up the Hudson River ambience. They took time, as they strolled through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, to kiss. Up the road a bit was the charming village of Wappingers Falls. The cascades were more like frothy rapids than actual falls, but that did not deter their stroll along the river bank.
“I know the most fascinating story of the Wappingers Indians and their role in the sale of Manhattan to the Dutch. Do you want to hear it?” Wallis asked.
“No.” Ernest took her into his arms and the fervent kiss took her breath away. When he finally pulled away from her lips, Ernest whispered, “I know you’re divorcing Win in Virginia. I want to divorce Dorothy. Then we can marry.”
Wallis was surprised. She was ahead of the agency’s schedule. Also, if she agreed to a future marriage, Ernest might pursue the possibility of premarital intercourse. She could not risk his being repulsed by her peculiar physical condition. If he were appalled after the wedding, it would make no difference because this wasn’t going to be a long-term relationship anyway.
“I don’t know. I think you’re wonderful but when I first met Win I thought he was wonderful too.”
“The difference between Win and me is that your unvarnished truth that you want a divorce would infuriate him. I, on the other hand, completely understand why you don’t to jump immediately into a romance with me.”
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite. David and Wallis are foiled in their attempt to protect a socialite’s jewels.
Leon sat on the white sands of the Eleuthera beach watching little Sidney tentatively take his first steps towards him. His wife Jessamine jumped and clapped her hands. When Sidney reached him, Leon extended his arms to hug the boy on his success. The toddler waved his arms, turned slightly and kept moving.
“No! Walk more!”
Laughing, Leon rolled around to watch his son waddle past him. His smile faded as he saw a dark outline against the Bahamian sun. Pooka stood there, her arms folded and her head wagging.
“You’re a lucky man, Leon Johnson.”
“Yes, I know I am.”
“If you had stayed away another week you would have missed seeing your son take his first steps.”
“And if frogs had wings they wouldn’t bump their butts on the ground when they hopped.”
Pooka walked up, towering over him. “What exactly is it that you do, Leon Johnson?”
He rose his feet with the grace of a ballet dancer. “I thought you would know, being a high priestess of Obeah.”
Jessamine brushed by them on her way to intersect Sidney before his feet reached the water. “No, no. Wait for me!”
“You are fortunate Jessamine is such a good mother.” Pooka stared into Leon’s eyes. “But one day when you are not here she might not see evil coming his way.”
“Now why would you want to threaten me, Pooka? If you are a high priestess you must sense a strong aura of power around me.”
Raising her hands, Pooka demurred. “No, no. I am not threatening. I am offering my help. Obeah can keep your son safe.”
“I’m sure. If the price is right.” Leon smiled. “That is what you are saying, isn’t it, Pooka?”
She spat on the sand and stormed away as Jessamine walked up with Sidney in her arms.
“What did Pooka want?”
“Money.” Leon took the boy into his arms and walked back to the ocean spray. Wading into the water up to his waist, he held Sidney high over his head and jiggled him as he laughed. “We have nothing to fear, do we, my son?
This was the happiest time of his life, he decided. No matter how much money he might make through working for the organization, Leon was sure nothing could surpass the peace and satisfaction of this moment. His beautiful hacienda-style home was completely his. No one could ever take it away. He had the satisfaction of providing a secure comfortable old age for his mother. His wife was utterly devoted to him and walked with pride along the paths of their Bahamian paradise. And he was going to teach his son the way his father had taught him. All this was possible because of one trip to New York City and the Plaza Hotel.
It was so simple. The night before the American Labor Day Leon went to the Cotton Club where he caught an early evening show. In a display of sophistication, he leaned back in the chair in his fine linen suit, a cigarette between his fingers. The troupe of ebony dancers finished their act and dispersed around the room. One of them, a tall, buxom woman covered in white feathers, sat at his table, oozing seduction. “You look like a man who enjoys a good time,” she murmured, taking the cigarette and puffing on it.
“Always. If the price is right.”
“Ask for Abe in the custodial closet. His price is fifty dollars. Then go to the sixteenth floor. Suite 1601. First room on the right. Jewels in a large ornamental wooden box.”
She blew him a kiss as she sashayed away.
Leon took a cab downtown to the Plaza Hotel where he found and bribed custodian Abe for his work clothes, pass key, work cart and identification papers.
Shortly after sunset Labor Day Leon clocked in. The crowds which had gathered for the parade had dispersed. Most residents settled into their apartments for the night. Others donned their best apparel for dinner and partying. Leon with his cart of cleaning equipment took the service elevator up to the sixteen floor and room 1601.
By this time he had perfected a limp in his left leg, dragging his foot behind. His mouth twisted in a bizarre way which required Leon to wipe his lips every few minutes with a dirty handkerchief. Each hotel guest that passed him kept their eyes straight ahead.
“Yassa, you have a good evening, you hear?” Leon was quite proud of his American Negro accent, which he knew white Americans expected to hear.
All of them deliberately ignored him. Leon had become the invisible man. He lingered in the hallway, vigorously polishing the wooden floors. An older woman dressed as a nanny left the suite. When he flashed his toothy smile, she sighed deeply and quickened her step.
Leon used his service key to enter, paused to look around the large apartment. Complete darkness. Total silence. He assumed that his organization knew the occupants would be out for the evening. The children were fast asleep. Why else would have the nanny left? Going directly to the master bedroom, Leon dumped the jewelry box contents into a trash bag he had taken from the cart. He jogged down the stairs to the custodial locker room and changed into his street clothes. Emptying the jewels into a small, non-descript suitcase, Leon was out the basement door hailing a taxi in a matter of minutes. He directed the cabbie to a prominent hotel in Harlem. Once inside he checked in at the desk.
“Have there been any messages for John Doe in Room 312?” he asked the clerk.
Fifteen minutes later there was a knock at his door. When he opened it, Leon saw a black female hand thrust into the room. In it was a thick envelope. He took it and handed the suitcase off. She grabbed him by his neck, pulled him into her and kissed him.
“I’ve been wanting to do that since I saw you in the Cotton Club last night.” The dancer winked.
“I hope you liked it.”
“Oh, I did.” She kissed him again. “I liked that one too.”
Leon was on the midnight train to Miami. By mid-morning he climbed into a shuttle craft to Freeport. His usual boatman waved when he saw Leon and ran to take his suitcase. As the sun set he walked through the courtyard of his hacienda and exulted in the welcome from his wife, child and mother. He trotted upstairs to unpack as Jessamine and Dorothy finished preparing his supper. Only then did he open the envelope and count the money. Leon could not help but smile at the amount. He did not know who these people were, and he did not care. There was enough cash in the envelope to allow him to stay home to watch his son grow up without another assignment for at least a year.
Two weeks later, Leon carried little Sidney out the door for romp time on the seashore when he noticed his flower pot was askew again. Frowning, he cursed under his breath and looked inside. A small bag of tobacco blended in with the soil. He opened it and found a large blue sapphire wrapped by a note.
“Jessamine! Hurry along! We want to play!”
Leon smiled and stuck the tobacco bag deep in his pocket. That was why he was so joyous with his family on the shore. Now he could stay home for three years. He hugged Sidney close to him as he sloshed out of the surf.
“Sidney, my son, it is time I taught you about our warrior ancestors in Africa. We were defeated, but we always remained proud.”