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David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Seventy-Two

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. They fail to kill Hitler. David and Wallis volunteer to help France. Leon receives orders to go to France. The Windsors escape oncoming Nazis.
David and Wallis slept late the next morning in their suite at the most luxurious hotel in Barcelona. They felt as if they had earned it. He dressed and left Wallis munching on toast and sipping coffee as he went downstairs to send a cable to the British Foreign Office to inform officials they had arrived safely. They would move on to Madrid where they planned to pretend to be interested in Spanish pleas that they stay there. He was confident the message would be passed on to MI6.
When he returned to the suite, David found Wallis snuggled under the covers. Her half-eaten toast was back on a small plate by her coffee cup on the nightstand. She stirred a bit when he shut the door and opened her eyes only long enough to growl a command.
“Don’t you dare wake me up. I plan to sleep until I have completely forgotten that dreadful drive in the rain.”
With that she rolled over, exposing her boney derriere in her silk night gown. David smiled and poured himself another cup of coffee before settling into a comfortable padded chair. Briefly he watched Wallis to consider what kind of God’s creature was she. No one would ever call her beautiful, but everyone flocked to her when she arrived at a party. She knew all the rules of etiquette and knew when she could break them. She seemed frail and vulnerable, but was capable of abominable violence. Wallis was the opposite of every woman he had ever seduced, and yet he found himself falling in love with her, which was against all the rules of civilized espionage.
After he finished his coffee, David changed back into his pajamas to slip into the bed next to Wallis. He began to feel the toll of the last twenty-four hours. David didn’t know for sure if he could sleep, but he did feel comfortable in the bed next to her. He felt her body warmth. He heard her soft breathing. He smelled her heady expensive perfume. It was though they were married in spirit as well as in law, and they were truly in love. What a comforting sensation, he thought. Soon he was deep asleep.
Two days later they settled into their suite at the Ritz in Madrid. That night they celebrated David’s forty-sixth birthday with petite broiled steaks, fresh blanched peas drizzled with olive oil and baked potatoes. They were on their second bottle of champagne. Wallis lifted her glass.
“Here’s to your entering middle-age.” She had a wicked smile.
“Thank you for reminding me.” His tone was less than enthusiastic.
“Don’t worry about it.” The wickedness disappeared from her lips. “You’re Peter Pan. You’ll never grow up.”
“And how about you?” David looked down to cut his steak. “You’re only a few years younger than I.”
“That’s why I’m having such a good time now. I’ll be an old wreck, but I’ll be happy I went on the ride.”
The Windsors had just started their rum raisin ice cream when a courier presented a cable to the duke.
“Oh damn,” Wallis muttered. “I was enjoying myself until that thing arrived.” She paused as David read it. “Well, don’t leave me hanging. What is it?”
“We’ll be staying in Madrid a little longer,” he replied. “My brother Harry is due to arrive in Lisbon to commemorate Portugal’s 800th independence anniversary.”
“That means we have longer to experience this Spanish cuisine. I’ve heard of this marvelous dish called paella. It’s supposed to be peasant food, but it’s chocked full of pork, chicken, shrimp and sometimes squid.” She paused to consider the sullen darkness which had fallen over him. “What’s with the long face?”
David shrugged. “Oh, it just means more interminable meetings with Spanish officials trying to talk me into staying here for the duration of the war.”
“Is that all? You’re not really upset about not seeing your stolid brother Harry, are you? He’s so boring he puts me to sleep.” Wallis laughed until she noticed David was still glum. She leaned forward. “I’m your chum. You can tell me. I know you really adore George, but I didn’t think you care a hill of beans for the rest of them. Or do you?”
“If you’re my chum, you wouldn’t have to ask that question.”
When the Windsors arrived back in their suite, they found an envelope on their bed. David opened it to find two tickets to the afternoon bull fights at the Plaza Toros Las Ventas.
“We’ve been invited to watch little men in fancy costumes kill animals, my dear,” he announced.
“By whom?”
“Who knows?”
“Obviously by someone with no sense of true entertainment,” she replied. “Back home in Maryland if we wanted to kill a cow we’d just walk out to the field and blow its head off with a shotgun.”
The next afternoon they chose their clothing carefully. Their usual Paris high fashion would stand out even in a stadium filled with 25,000 peasants. Eventually they walked out on the street and hailed a local couple about their age, height and weight to offer them stunning clothing in exchange for their common street wear. The Spaniards were apprehensive at first, of course, but David with his down-to-earth personality and inadequate use of the Spanish language charmed them into venturing in the most expensive suite at the Ritz.
Once the exchange was made, the Windsors had to rush to be at the Plaza Toros Las Ventas in time for the opening ceremonies. As they walked to their seats the municipal band Espana Cani played pasadoble tunes.
“Thank God our seats are in the shade.”
“They‘re more expensive.”
“I don’t care.” Settling in, Wallis looked at David and smiled. “You make a handsome peasant.”
He glanced her way. “So do you.” After a pause he added, “Don’t look at me that way. I’m becoming aroused.”
“Don’t do that, old boy,” a voice interjected from behind them. “Don’t look around. It’s just your kindly old general.”
They both sighed in relief. They didn’t really want to stay to see the killing of a bull.
“You will be exchanging cablegrams over the next few weeks with Churchill over what your assignment will be during the war,” Trotter began. “First you’ll be insulted that you were not brought home for a more active role. Wallis, you must demand that someone sneak into the Riviera to retrieve your green bathing suit from La Croe.”
“That ugly old thing?” She seemed shocked. “I hope nobody does it.”
“Probably not,” Trotter replied, “but it will make a good headline.” He put his hand on David’s shoulder. “You’re going to be the governor of the Bahamas.”
“Hmm, I’ll need a whole new wardrobe,” Wallis murmured. “Nothing in green.”
“And what will our mission be?” David asked.
“An Australian chap by the name of Harry Oates practically runs Nassau. He has ties to the Germans, the American Mafia and who knows who else. You become close to him, see what he knows and if he knows too much—kill him.”

Remember Chapter Twelve

Previously: Retired college teacher Lucinda remembers her favorite student Vernon. Reality interrupts when another boarder Nancy scolds her for talking to her daughter Shirley. She remembers letting it slip to Vernon that she didn’t like Nancy.
Inside she stopped at the bottom of the stairs and considered the effort she would have to exert to return to her room. She thought she heard her bed calling her to come rest awhile, and she obeyed.

Lucinda had just nestled her head in her pillow and endured the squeak of the mattress springs when a knock at the door jerked her back awake.

“Miz Cambridge? It’s Miz Godwin. May I come in?”

“Of course, Mrs. Godwin.” Lucinda lifted herself from the bed and stood, forcing a pleasant look upon her face as Bertha came in.

“They said you was feelin’ poorly. I wanted to check on you.”

“How kind. I’m much better.”

“Good, because I need some advice.” Bertha stepped forward with the urgency of a life insurance salesman at the front door.

Lucinda’s body twitched. “How may I help you?”

“I suppose you’ve heard the fuss about the fire marshal.”

“Yes, some improvements have to be made.” Without thinking, she slumped into her rocking chair.

“Well, Emma is hell bent – excuse my language – on not doin’ a thing. She’s the most stubborn woman in the world.” She smiled as though she had been caught not being a proper Southern lady. “I should know, bein’ her sister.”

“And you want to know if I think you should inform the authorities of her noncompliance?”

Bertha paused, as though her mind had to translate into her Texas vernacular what Lucinda had just said. Eventually, she nodded. “I’d never hear the end of it if she knew I was the one who turned her in. But I don’t want to wake up some night with flames all around me. The way she smokes, I know it’s goin’ to happen.”

“I learned long ago not to make other people’s decisions for them.” Even now she shuddered at the advice she had given Vernon. “You have to look within yourself for wisdom.”

“You’re afraid you’ll lose the roof over your head too?” Bertha asked in sympathy.

“No, that’s not—“

Emma’s voice rang throughout the drafty old house. “Bertha! Come wash these dishes!”

“I’ve got to go.” She headed for the door. “You’re right. It’s my decision.” She looked back and added with what seemed to be sincere concern, “Now you git your rest.”

Before she knew it, Lucinda was back at her desk at the college, and Vernon, dressed in blue jeans and a pull over sweater, entered carrying a notepad and a textbook.

“Vernon. I’m sorry I displeased you earlier.” At that time in her life, Lucinda was not very good at apologies. “I hope any little arguments we have don’t disrupt our friendship.”

“What argument?” he asked as he sat.

“In the hall. You were in your gym shorts and we were talking about—“

“Oh, that was months ago,” he cut her off with a wave of a hand. “I’ve already forgotten about that.”

“Good.” She sighed in relief and focused on his notepad. “What do you have here?”

“It’s that paper you wanted me to do on Dante’s Inferno. And that poem I had to write about death.” He opened the notepad to the page where he had scribbled a few words. He shook his head. “Gosh, Mrs. Cambridge, this is hard.”

‘Well, do you see why I wanted you to write it?” Lucinda relaxed, comfortable in her old element of the classroom.

“Sure, if you go to – um, Hades, that means you must be dead and if we write a poem then we kinda know what Dante must have gone through to write his poem,” he explained with uncertainty.

“That’s right. So, read me your poem.” She leaned forward with anticipation.

Vernon blinked a few times and then began to read, forming each word with care, “One night on a dark country road/ I sped on my way home./ With thoughts lingering about my date/ I didn’t think of what was ahead./ Suddenly before my car/ Was a rabbit frozen with fear/ Fixed in the middle of the road./ The headlight glare caught the shock and fear in his eyes./ Then he died./ And I cried.”

“Very touching, Vernon.” She stood to walk around to his desk and read it again from over his shoulder. “I assume that really happened.”

“Yep.”

“I’ve no quarrel with the free verse with the rhymed couplet. But it is very brief. Perhaps in here – “she leaned over to point at one section “–right before the rhymed couplet you could relate some other experience facing death.”

“I haven’t had any.”

She looked at him. “Surely one of your grandparentshas died.”

“No.” He shook his head, averting eye contact. “All of them are still alive.”

“Oh, there’s someone you’ve known who died.” She became aware of his aftershave, which she recognized as a common brand like her husband had used. “You just don’t remember. And there’s been some experience in your life when you’ve been faced with your own mortality.”

His shoulders shuddered a bit. “But I don’t want to think about it. It scares me.”

“Well, Vernon, dying scares all of us.” She was practically whispering in his ear. “Part of living is overcoming the fear of death.”

“Sometimes, late at night, I think about what it’s going to be like not to exist anymore. Not to feel, be hungry, be happy, look forward to doing things.” His voice took on a mournful, frightened quality.

“Only atheists believe death means not existing anymore.” She pulled away when she was aware she had entered a realm of preaching instead of teaching. She always prided herself on keeping the two issues separated.

“I know that.” He exhaled. “But if I’m not here I’m not existing. Being in heaven is something I don’t know anything about. That won’t be existing like this is existing.” He turned to look at her face. They were very close. “I’m not saying this very well.”

She smiled. “I think you’re saying it beautifully.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter 100

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Duff holds his last cabinet meeting posing as the president.
As Stanton walked out, Duff heard voices in the adjoining bedroom. It was Alethia and Mrs. Keckley.
“I feel strange today,” she was saying to the dressmaker. “When you return next week, I may have lost weight.”
“Oh.”
“That means you’ll need to go back to my old patterns.”
“Of course.”
Duff sensed Alethia wanted to say something else to Mrs. Keckley but did not know how.
“Thank you for being a friend.” She paused. “A friend is one who accepts you for who you are, and not who you seem to be. You understand what I mean, don’t you, Mrs. Keckley.”
“Of course, Miss Lincoln.”
“You’re a very wise person, Mrs. Keckley,” Alethia said. “I’ve been enriched to have known you.”
“You’re much too kind, Miss Lincoln.” Mrs. Keckley added in a whisper, “And may God bless you, whatever happens.”
“Thank you,” Alethia replied, her voice cracking. “And good-bye.”
“Good-bye, miss.”
The door opened and shut, and Duff came around the corner to find Alethia sitting on the bed, her hand gently touching her cheek.
“I heard what you said to Mrs. Keckley. It was nice.”
Alethia turned her nails into her flesh and pulled down. His larger hand covered hers and pulled it away from her cheek, which was already showing a welt.
“Please, don’t. Come with me for a carriage ride. It’ll do us good.”
Nodding woodenly, Alethia, without a word, Duff down the staircase and out the door to the carriage. She brightened, in accordance with the role she played, to wave and smile at pedestrians who called out greetings. Once the carriage passed from downtown to the countryside, Alethia slumped back in her seat, putting her hands to her forehead.
“Alethia,” Duff spoke in a low tone so the driver could not hear, “I know I’ve hurt you deeply, for which I’m terribly sorry, and I understand you cannot forgive me. The worst part is that I have to hurt you again, and you’ll probably hate me even more.” He paused for a response; when none came, Duff continued, “Your friend, Rose Greenhow, is dead.”
“What?” Her eyes filled with tears. Her head snapped toward his face.
“She drowned when her ship sank off the coast of South Carolina. She was returning from London.”
After moments of searching his face, Alethia collapsed against his shoulder, sobbing. He patted her back and began sputtering words of comfort. Alethia stiffened.
“Don’t you dare,” she whispered furiously. “How dare you try to console me?”
“I’m sorry,” Duff replied.
The carriage continued for miles in silence until they had returned to the city, where they again began waving and calling out to the crowd. After dismounting from the carriage, they entered the Executive Mansion and climbed the staircase. Alethia turned abruptly to glare at him.
“We’ve only a couple more hours together. Don’t speak to me again. After tonight, I’ll return to Bladensburg and open my bakery—I hope to be a better person for the lessons I’ve learned here. And you, I don’t care where you go or what you do as long as you never enter my life again.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Nine

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam’s girlfriend Jessie becomes ill and dies.
Good Friday—the last Friday—arrived with slivers of morning light coming through the curtains into Duff’s bedroom, awakening him to sadness and fear. Alethia’s withdrawal saddened him; he had hurt her deeply and was sorry for it. He did not know the manner of death Stanton had planned for them, but he knew it would be tonight. A soft rap at the door interrupted his thoughts.
“Come in, Tom Pen,” he called out.
The old man entered and with humble deference deposited the morning newspaper at the foot of the bed.
“Thank you, Tom Pen.”
“You’re welcome, sir.” He looked down.
“You’re a good friend to Tad.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“And a good friend to me.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Tom Pendel kept his eyes averted as he left the room. He knew Duff was not the real Lincoln, but Duff was not going to dwell on what the servant might think. The dead did not care what the living thought.
Opening the newspaper, Duff noticed one small item on the front page. Rose Greenhow had drowned in late March off the coast of South Carolina when her ship sank, aborting her triumphal return from England where she had been the belle of London society after her book was published. Gold coins sewn into her–skirt, meant to redeem Southern soldiers from Yankee prisons–had dragged her to the bottom of the ocean.
At ten o’clock, he went to his last Cabinet meeting. Duff was never comfortable maneuvering through the Byzantine debates, walking the tightrope of following Stanton’s orders yet maintaining an appearance of independence. From time to time, he relished the chance to defy Stanton or embarrass him in front of Cabinet members.
Looking up at the door after hearing a soft knock, Duff saw General Grant and smiled. He felt at ease with the general, whom he had met several times in the last two years. They shook hands.
“General, good to see you.”
“Thank you, Mr. President. Have you heard from Sherman?”
“No. I’d hoped he’d contacted you.”
“Not a word.”
After his march to the sea, Sherman and his army had turned north to cut a swath through the Carolinas. No one had heard anything from him since.
“I’ve no doubt he’s successfully raising hell,” Grant said.
“General,” an old, cracked voice called out. “Have you heard from Sherman?”
Duff smiled when Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles walked in. The old man had been his mainstay and comfort through the years.
Other Cabinet members arrived in quick succession. Secretary of the Interior John Usher: Duff did not like him as well as Caleb Smith, who had died early in the term. Usher had accompanied him to Gettysburg, and Duff had sensed a tinge of irony in Usher’s compliments on the address. Perhaps he just had not liked the address—no one much did—and his cynical tone had not meant he knew Duff was an impostor.
Arriving next was Hugh McColloch, who had replaced Salmon Chase, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Duff had found Chase too smug and implacable, but he appreciated McColloch’s colorless and efficient qualities.
He also liked the honor, high-mindedness, purity, and dignity of the new postmaster general, William Dennison, who had replaced Montgomery Blair. Duff had admired Blair’s openness, but it had disappeared after the incident in which his niece was caught with bottles of quinine sewn into her skirt. Dennison slipped into the room and sat down.
Coming in rapid succession were James Speed, who had replaced the aging Edward Bates as attorney general; Frederick Seward, son of Secretary of State Seward who was recovering from a carriage accident; and Secretary of Interior James Harlan, whose daughter was marrying Lincoln’s son Robert.
Duff regretted the retirement of Bates, a gruff defender of the Constitution; he did not know enough about Speed yet to have an opinion. Sighing, he was relieved Frederick had come for his father, because Seward always scared him with his solemn owl face. Duff was pleased to see Harlan; after all, he was going to be family—what was he thinking, Duff scolded himself. Who was in the Cabinet and who was not was no longer a concern to him, because he was a dead man.
With all the Cabinet members present except Stanton, Duff pulled the cord to call Noah Brooks into the room to take notes. He hoped the meeting would be over before Stanton arrived. This last day would go better without him.
“Now that we’re all here—”
“Not all,” Brooks interrupted. “Mr. Stanton isn’t here.”
“We’ve a quorum,” Duff replied. “We must consider reconstruction.” He felt he owed it to Lincoln to push his plan as long as he was in the Executive Mansion.
Before Duff could go any further, he heard a coughing at the door. Stanton entered the room. Sighing, Duff sat back and gave up hope to help Lincoln’s efforts for an easy transition to one nation. Again he reminded himself: business of state would no longer concern him after tonight.
“Any news of Sherman?” Welles asked.
“No.” Stanton sat at the table. “But it’s of little consequence. Lee surrendered. The Confederate government is on the run. The war’s over.”
“But—” Welles began.
“The war’s over.” Stanton slapped his hand on the table.
“There’s no need to bang on anything,” Vice President Andrew Johnson said, his Tennessee accent dipped in bourbon, as he entered and sat at the table. “You need to learn manners, Stanton.” He crossed his arms across his big chest as he stared at the war secretary.
“And you need to learn to stay sober,” Stanton replied through clenched teeth.
Several Cabinet members shifted in their chairs, Duff noticed; he heard some whisper about why Johnson was even there. Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin, had never attended Cabinet meetings.
“Sir,” Welles addressed Stanton, “it’s of great importance. If General Sydney Johnston vanquishes General Sherman, then all hell will break out. The South will be resuscitated—”
“Mr. Welles,” Stanton interrupted, “you see defeats where there are none. It’s foolish to waste our time worrying about something that cannot happen. We’ve more substantial problems to deal with.”
“One of those problems is why you insist on running this meeting.” Johnson’s voice was barely below a bellow.
“That’s enough,” Duff interceded. He liked Johnson very much. He might be a drunk, but he was honest to the core.
“Yes, sir.” Johnson hung his head. “I know I don’t belong here.” He recovered his spirit and pointed at Stanton. “But I can still smell a skunk.”
Stanton cleared his throat, took a notepad from his pocket, and took over the meeting. Duff clenched his jaw and sat glassy-eyed through several hours.
“Mr. President, that’s all I have to report,” Stanton’s declaration roused Duff from his stupor.
“Thank you,” he murmured.
The meeting was over. His duties were ended. As the group milled out of the room, Duff felt himself being spun around by Johnson, who gave him a big bear hug.
“I’m sorry I embarrassed you, Mr. President,” he blubbered. “I’m on your side, you know. It’s just I hate Stanton so much.”
“I know, I know.” Duff pulled away. “Go drink some coffee. You’ll feel better.”
As Johnson staggered from the room, Welles came to put a warm, comforting hand on his shoulder.
“It’s over, Mr. Lincoln. I see the weariness in your face. Remember, your second term will have no war. Reconstruction will provoke intense political debate, but it’ll be in peace.”
“Thank you, sir.” Duff looked down in melancholy.
“Stanton is taking far too many liberties,” Welles added in a whisper. “I get nothing clear and explicit from him, a lot of fuss and mystery, shuffling of papers and a far-reaching gaze.” He leaned into Duff’s ear. “Remember, you’re the president. You’ve the power to remove Stanton from office. Exercise that power.”
Tears formed in Duff’s eyes, so he nodded, turned away, and walked down the hall to his bedroom, where he put his large hands to his face. By force of will, he commanded his tears to halt. Stanton entered the room and closed the door.
“I’ve arranged a carriage to take you to the river port.”
“Very well.” His voice was hollow.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Seventy

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. They fail to kill Hitler. David and Wallis volunteer to help France.
Leon and Sidney raced on the beach of Eleuthera not aware of the increasing war clouds gathering over Europe. Euphoria filled Leon’s lungs which gave him strength to focus on the palm tree down the shore a distance. He could tell he was getting older and more easily winded, but he wanted to stay ahead of Sidney as long as he could. His son was thirteen years old now and stronger and swifter than he was at that age. He didn’t dare to look over his shoulder or else he would see how close Sidney was. As soon as Leon passed the tree he threw his arms.
“I win!” Bending over, he gasped. He couldn’t have gone another step.
Sidney whizzed passed him and kept going several yards down the beach.
”I win! I win!”
Fortunately, Leon regained his breath. “No! The race was to the palm tree!”
“That was your race! My race was to run further than you!”
Leon smiled. “That’s not fair.”
“I don’t care. I still won.”
Walking toward his son, Leon wagged a finger. “I’m going to have to teach you a lesson.”
Sidney grabbed his father’s arm and twisted it up behind his back, causing Leon to fall down. Sidney put his sandy foot on his chest and looked down and smiled. “You’ve already taught me.”
“And very well,” Leon agreed.
Sidney extended his hand to help his father up. They began to walk back to their hacienda.
“When will I meet my contact?” he asked.
“Not for a long time,” Sidney replied. “You are very strong. You know how to fight. But your mind has not grown enough to make the right decisions on a mission.”
“I know the rules,” his son insisted. “You must always remember you do this to fill your family’s bellies.”
“Yes, but that means more than hunger.”
“I know. Protect their lives.”
“And your family is more than just the people who share your blood. Right now you think your only family is your mother and me. But you have more people who are family.”
“Who are they?”
“You will learn soon.”
Sidney was silent for a moment. “Is Jinglepockets family?”
“Of course he is.”
“What about Pooka?”
“No!”
“All right. She’s not family, but I would not kill her because she is a woman, right?”
Leon chuckled. “I don’t know. I might make an exception in her case.” He looked up, and they were almost home. The dead plant in the pot was askew. “Run ahead and tell your mother we are back from our walk.”
When he was alone, Leon looked up and down the road carefully to see if anyone was watching him. He lifted the plant and took out the note.
“Rialto. 8 p.m.”
That evening in Nassau Leon, dressed in his white linen suit, walked into the casino. The room was full. He looked for the blonde card dealer. He smiled. She wore a bright red jacket with no blouse under it. He walked over to her.
“Deal me in. I feel lucky tonight.”
“Not that lucky.” She pushed cards his way. “You look hungry.”
Leon looked down and saw a note attached to one of the cards.
“Ask for table fifteen and order the grilled salmon.”
As Leon waited for his dinner to be served, he felt the chair behind him bump his back.
“Your new assignment is to protect the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as they motor from Antibes, France, through Spain to Portugal.” It was the man with the southern accent. “We believe the Germans either want to kill them or kidnap them, so Hitler can put them on the English throne. Our client does not want this to happen. Be at the Miami airport tomorrow morning. A ticket will be waiting there for you to New York LaGuardia. There you will be given a ticket to a location in France where you will be told where to start shadowing the Windsors.”
The server brought the salmon plate to Leon.
“Go now,” the man with the southern accent ordered. “The salmon is for me. I haven’t eaten all day.”
Leon walked past the poker table.
“Bonne nuite, monsieur,” the blonde dealer called out.
When he arrived at his Eleuthera hacienda at midnight, Leon found Jessamine in tears. Feeling perturbed he had to stop to comfort his wife instead of preparing for his late night cruise to Miami, Leon breathed out and put his arms around her.
“What’s the matter?”
“Pooka came by tonight and told me she had a vision you were going away and would never come back,” she whispered between the sobs.
“That old witch. I told you not to listen to her.”
“But you are leaving tonight, aren’t you?”
“Of course.”
“So—“
“So it is nothing. I go on my trips all the time.” He kissed her. “Now help me pack.” He looked at the top of the stairs where Sidney was standing. “Come down. I want to talk to you.”
His son passed Jessamine on the stairs.
“So what do you think about all this?” Leon asked.
“I think it is my job not to think about it,” the boy replied.
“Good answer.” He looked back up the stairs before staring into his son’s face. “But you will have to have an opinion about everything eventually. Always be sure to make it your own decision. Don’t be influenced by your mother, by Pooka, by any beautiful woman who tries to sway you, not even by me. You must make your own decisions. That is the only way you can be sure to keep your family’s bellies full.”

Remember Chapter Ten

Previously: Retired college teacher Lucinda remembers her favorite student Vernon. Reality interrupts when another boarder Nancy scolds her for talking to her daughter Shirley. Later she remembers how she tried to teach Vernon how to dance.
Lucinda gathered her wits and walked downstairs to the large kitchen where Emma served Spartan meals to her family and boarders. She had her hand on the doorknob when she heard Cassie and Emma talking loudly. Lucinda never knew if one of them were hard of hearing. Perhaps the late Mr. Lawrence was deaf, and they never broke themselves of the habit of talking at the top of their voices. Then again they might just be uneducated Texans who didn’t know any better than to holler.

“I think she’s sweet,” Cassie announced with a giggle in her voice.

“And I say there’s nothin’ worse than someone with an education and no common sense,” her mother retorted.

Lucinda decided she did not want to hear any further discussion of her character so she opened the door and entered. “Good morning, ladies. I’m sorry I’ve detained luncheon.”

“Cassie almost collapsed,” Emma pronounced as an accusation.

“Oh, mama.” Cassie rolled her eyes.

“You know how strange she can act; well, it’s even worse when she don’t git to eat on time.”

Lucinda noticed Shirley was on the verge of laughing when Nancy scowled at her. Bertha was trying her best to smile as though what was going on was normal. Lucinda sat next to Shirley, which, she noticed, did not improve Nancy’s disposition one bit. “It’s just that I’ve developed a terrible stomachache.”

“If you got the belly flu I want you out of my kitchen right now. I don’t want Cassie catching anything from you, and you’ll have to figure out how to get a lunch on your own.”

“I understand,” she replied. “If only I could burp I think I would feel better.”

“Watch your language!” Emma’s eyes flashed indignation. “We never use common words like that around here!”

“Yeah.” Cassie slurped her chicken and stars soup. “Daddy always said belch.”

“Cassie, shut up, and you’re not supposed to started eatin’ until we’ve prayed over it.” She tossed a disapproving glare Lucinda’s way. “Well, you’ve been warned about lunch.”

“Yes, Mrs. Lawrence.” She knew when to be subservient. After all, she had been a teacher for more than forty years.

Emma bowed her head but did not close her eyes until she was sure everyone had followed her example. “Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you so much for Buster Lawrence who—unlike other husbands we know—provided us with a home and money to pay for vittles. And forgive them’s who too stupid to be grateful for what they got. Amen.”

“Oh goody, chicken soup with stars!” Cassie started slurping again.

Bertha sat staring at her sister, tears welling in her eyes. “Emma, I don’t know why you have to be so mean in your prayers. I know you’re talkin’ about my husband. Merrill couldn’t help it if he had kidney stones. His three operations took up all the money we’d saved.”

“Yes.” Emma arched an eyebrow. “Sellin’ cigarettes at that department store. And you two made such a big thing out of bein’ church members.” Smugly she put a spoonful of soup to her pursed lips.

“He couldn’t help sellin’ cigarettes. They said work at the tobacco counter or quit.” Her hands trembled so badly she couldn’t dip the spoon into the soup bowl without clanking loudly.

“I’m jest thankful Buster Lawrence made his livin’ sellin somethin’ good and nutritious like Moon Pies.”

“Moon Pies rot your teeth!” Bertha screeched.

“They do not!” Emma retorted. “Moon Pies is good health food.”

Bertha stood in righteous indignation and shook a finger at her sister. “I don’t see why you’re so proud of Moon Pies being healthful when you ruin your health with those cigarettes.” She turned from the table and headed for the door. “I ain’t hungry no more.”

After the door slammed shut, Cassie looked at her mother, her eyes twinkling. “Can I have Aunt Bertha’s chicken and stars?”

“Of course, you can.” Emma took another spoonful of soup. “Your daddy paid for it so why shouldn’t you have it?”

Lucinda felt a tightening in her chest. She forced a smile on face. “Isn’t it a lovely day? North Texas is always so nice in the spring.” She tried to eat the soup but couldn’t eat more than a couple of swallows down. “Perhaps after luncheon I shall take a walk outside. Perhaps fresh air will make me feel better. I love the smell of honeysuckle.”

Shirley tapped her arm. “Mrs. Cambridge?”

Lucinda turned and smiled. “Yes, Shirley.”

“You said you didn’t feel good. When I feel bad I suck on a throat lozenge. The cherry ones are good.”

“That won’t necessary,” She replied gently. “I don’t think I can put anything in my mouth with this upset stomach.”

“Sometimes eating a Tums will make my upset stomach go away.” Shirley little voice got even softer. “They have all sorts of good flavors.”

“Thank you. It’s very kind of you.”

Shirley looked at Emma at the end of the table then leaned into Lucinda to whisper, “I think what Mrs. Lawrence said was very mean.”

“You shouldn’t judge your elders, Shirley,” Lucinda replied. “It’s not very nice.”

“I know.”

“What are you two whisperin’ about down there?” Emma demanded. “Don’t you know that’s rude?”

“She knows,” Nancy snapped. She elbowed her daughter. “Now shut up and finish your soup.” After a moment, she looked at Emma and snarled, “And you leave my kid alone. She ain’t as rude as some of the people in this house!”

“She wasn’t even supposed to be here for lunch,” Emma muttered.

“School let out early for Good Friday.” Nancy finished her soup and pushed the bowl away.

“You shoulda told me ahead of time.” Emma matched her, glare for glare.

“I didn’t know ahead of time. Listen, old woman, you better start treating us better or I’ll call the fire marshal and tell him you haven’t made the changes he ordered.”

Emma stood and took her soup bowl to the sink. “Lunch is over, so get the hell out of my kitchen.”

Nancy lifted Shirley by the arm pit out of her chair. “When are you going to stop making trouble around here?”

“Mommy, you’re hurting me.”

Nancy pushed Shirley out of the door. Lucinda picked up her soup bowl, deposited it in the sink amd went to the door to the back yard.

“Lovely luncheon.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Eight

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam’s girlfriend Jessie becomes ill.
Adam turned back to Jessie and touched her shoulder.
“Please go away,” she murmured.
“Don’t you know? You can’t get rid of me that easily.” He took a cloth, dunked it in a bowl, squeezed it, and wiped her brow. “Maybe if I sit here long enough, wipe away enough perspiration, you’ll finally realize how much I love you.”
“It’s too late.”
“It’s never too late. I love you,” he whispered as he rested his head against her shoulder. “Please tell me you love me too.”
“I’m so tired.” Jessie could hardly form the words.
“Please tell me you love me.”
Her hand weakly reached up to his and patted it, then went down to her side. Adam heard her breathing. It was shallow. He leaned over to kiss her cheek, then walked out of the ward at a pace so fast the nurses and patients could not notice his wet, red eyes. Instead of taking the omnibus, he trotted across the Mall and the iron bridge over the slough. His racing heart helped his mind to clear. Jessie was young and strong. She must survive.
He walked up the service drive to the Executive Mansion. He picked up the luncheon tray, and delivered it, hardly noticing the Lincolns and Gabby. Instead Adam concentrated on Jessie’s pat on his hand. It had to mean she loved him, Adam told himself, as he went up to the second floor.
“Private!” Tad called out when he appeared in the hall. “I haven’t seen you in the last few days! Richmond is a mess!” He hugged Adam. “Did you see the parade last night? It was great!”
Adam could not look at the boy who had his arms around him. He could not look into the eyes that in two days would be filled with tears because Adam had conspired to have his father assassinated, but he did return Tad’s embrace.
“Yes, the parade, that was fun,” Adam mumbled.
“You’re gonna stay, ain’t you?” Tad looked up at him. “After Friday, I mean?”
“I don’t know,” he lied. “I’m a soldier. I never know where the army will send me.”
“I hope they let you stay here,” he said with a big smile. Running down the hall to the grand staircase, he yelled for Tom Pen.
When Adam entered the president’s office, he found the double in a pensive mood.
“Sir? Is there anything I can do for you?”
“No, thank you.” Duff paused. “Are you staying after we leave?”
“No, sir.”
“Then run away now. Go out West. Pan for gold. Don’t finish their game.”
“I can’t.”
“Why?”
“My girlfriend—my friend—is sick. I can’t leave her.”
“Very well.” He looked at Adam. “Is she very ill?”
“We think it’s influenza.”
“Oh.” He put his head in his hands. “Then maybe it’s for the best.”
Seeing Lincoln’s double recede into his thoughts, Adam went down the hall to knock on Mrs. Lincoln’s bedroom door.
“Who is it?”
“Private Christy, ma’am.”
“Come in.”
Opening the door, Adam found her in the same pensive mood as the president’s double. She was more melancholy today than he had seen her since they had met. Of all the characters in Stanton’s plan, she was the only one who was always optimistic, which had many times lifted his own spirits. He wished he could say something to make her feel better.
“Do you need anything, Mrs. Lincoln?”
“No, thank you.”
“Do you need any help with your packing?”
“No. You’re very kind.”
“If you don’t mind, I want to go to Armory Square Hospital this afternoon. I have a sick friend there.”
“Of course.”
Adam exited quietly and went downstairs to clean the chamber pots, which did not bother him as much as it usually did, because his mind was on Jessie, hoping they would have a future together. Walking through the kitchen with the pots, he ignored Phebe, which had become easier to do over the last few days. After the last pot had been washed and returned, Adam ran out the service entrance and down the street to the Mall, across the iron bridge to the Smithsonian and on to the hospital.
Huffing, Adam stopped inside the ward door as he saw a couple of orderlies carry a small body wrapped in a sheet from the back room. His mouth dropped when they passed, and he saw a tuft of red hair peeking from the top of the sheet. In the distance, Miss Dix daubed her eyes, and the strange man patted her shoulder. Adam walked to them.
“I knew she should have gone home,” Miss Dix said in a small voice.
“A true American patriot.” The strange man, his eyes welling with tears, looked at Adam. “An immigrant, fresh from Scotland, devoted herself, body and soul, to mending boys broken by war. She gave all she had and, when the war was over, she made the ultimate sacrifice for her new homeland.”
Adam looked from one to the other, wondering what Jessie’s last words had been, hoping they had been about him. But she was gone now, and her last words did not matter. His life did not matter. His thoughts turned to Gabby.
“Sir, Miss Zook’s brother needs someone.” Adam’s eyes were pleading. “May I send him to you? Can you help him?”
“I’m sorry, my young friend, but death has been upon me too much the last few days. Miss Zook’s life slipped away. And Miss Home—it’s happened so quickly. I wanted her to live. I wanted her to love you. You and Miss Home were my remedy to war. Love conquers all, I thought, but evidently not.” He shook his gray head. “I must go home.” He smiled sadly. “I need my mother.”
“You can’t desert us,” Miss Dix cried. “We need you.”
“I’ll be back,” he replied. “I don’t know when. Not long.”
Miss Dix reached out to touch Adam. “Send the poor man to me,” she said. “I’ll take care of him.”
“Thank you.” He smiled. “Thank you both.”
Adam turned to leave, knowing he would never see them again. As he walked back to the Executive Mansion, the clouds parted to reveal the sun. In the middle of the Mall, Adam realized how silent it was for a busy Thursday afternoon. Silence still sounded like death to Adam, but, he decided, death comforted him. It made the pain go away.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixty-Nine

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. They fail to kill Hitler. David and Wallis volunteer to help France.
Wallis took on her duties of renovating La Croe into a French officers’ convalescent home with the same enthusiasm she had when she decorated it as their pleasure dome on the Riviera. Every soldier unfortunate enough to have been wounded would receive the same accommodations as a former king of England. She recruited the ladies of nearby Antibes to knit stockings for the patients to wear as they strolled around the building. For the French soldiers on the front, they made sweaters, socks and gloves. Wallis turned the knitting sessions into regular tea parties, except she served champagne instead of tea. While the French army fought just across the border in Germany, certain luxuries such as champagne were still available to be shipped in from Paris. Wallis designed her own military-style suit to give the event a hint of solemnity.
During such afternoon socials when all the upper crust ladies were well on to their second glass of champagne they jumped at the opportunity to talk about the ladies who did not attend. Some of them had intimate ties with German nationals and in secret waited for the glorious inclusion of France into the Third Reich. Another group of ladies were not as enthusiastic about being inducted into the Hitler regime. They prided themselves on expediency and supported a movement led by General Petain. Petain was already making overtures to Nazi sympathizers to retain a certain autonomy through a government in Vichy, a leading wine-growing region.
“Well,” Wallis chirped as she clicked her knitting needles, “I assure you none of this champagne came from Vichy.”
All the ladies tittered as they returned to their work, only to find they had to undo a row or two of their work. Evidently knitting, champagne and gossip are not conducive to quality work. Wallis smiled graciously as she intently memorized the names, titles and jobs of the suspected conspirators. After her friends left in the late afternoon she went straight to her bedroom where she made copious notes.
A couple of days later she drove into Antibes to buy other necessities for the men on the front, such as toiletries, soap and cigarettes. As she left one tobacco shop a peasant woman limped up to her holding out an apple.
Une pomme, madame?” she asked.
Wallis turned to appraise her and smiled. “You speak French with an American accent.”
“I have been told that many times,” the peasant replied.
“You look exhausted.” She nodded to a café across the street and extended a coin to her. “Buy yourself something and I’ll join you in a few moments.”
As the peasant woman gimped away, Wallis decided that even though she did have a wooden leg she did have a certain style about her. Wallis first deposited all her shopping items in her car before she returned to the café. The woman sat in a back table next to the toilet door. Her dowdy clothing seemed to make her fade away against the wall of ancient wallpaper. Wallis sat and ordered a coffee. She noticed the woman had ordered the same.
The woman’s high cheekbones and dogged chin drew Wallis in, making her remember a fact she had spent most of her life trying to forget—she was physiologically a man though her hormonal balance leaned toward a feminine disposition. Most of the time it was blonde-haired women who drew her attention, but she found this brunette undeniably attractive.
“Do you sell many apples?”
“You’d be surprised.”
“As you may know, I am Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, and I have converted my home into a convalescent facility—“
“And you need plenty of apples for your patients, I know,” she interrupted. “I can get all the apples you want as long as you have something for me.”
Her bluntness made Wallis reel. A moment or two passed before she could reply. “I can give you a ride to La Croe where you can make arrangements for apple delivery while I go upstairs to retrieve something for you.”
“Then let’s not waste time.” The woman stood and limped to the front door.
Soon they were in Wallis’s car motoring along the coast to La Croe. The woman stared straight ahead and didn’t speak. Wallis tried to follow her example but her natural talkativeness won.
“Have you seen my husband?” she asked.
“Yes.”
“Is he well?”
“As far as I could tell.”
“I understand he’s flying a lot.”
“I did see him by an airplane once or twice.”
“Did he say anything?”
“He said clouds are gathering over Holland.”
Wallis was frustrated by the conversation. “It’s getting pretty damn cloudy here in France too.”
“Sure as hell is.”
Wallis was getting weak-kneed. “Look, I know agents aren’t supposed to say anything, but it’s just us two girls alone in a car. Couldn’t we share something?”
“I read the newspapers. I know all about you.”
“Dammit, at least tell me how you lost your leg!” Wallis returned her attention to the road. “You’re so rude. You made me lose my temper.” She exhaled in exasperation. “I really like that.”
“I was hunting in Turkey. As I climbed over fence, the gun went off and took off my leg. I know. So sad. Now let’s get on with winning this war.”
“One last question, you and I talk alike. I don’t mean the cussing, but where are you from?”
“Box Horn Farm.”
“I knew it! Maryland!” Wallis searched her mind. “Box Horn Farm. I think I’ve heard about your family. Big estate. They had a daughter but didn’t talk about her much.”
“Shut the hell up or I’m going to have to kill you.”
“I love it when you talk dirty.”
The spy looked at her with a raised eyebrow. “You know I’m not delivering any damn apples.” She stayed in the car while Wallis ran into La Croe to retrieve her notes. When the agent saw her return, she got out of the car to take the correspondence.
“Can I drive you anywhere?” Wallis asked.
“No thanks. I can handle myself.” She turned to walk down the driveway.
“I bet you can,” Wallis murmured.
The English military had turned down the Windsors’ offer to treat English soldiers and the Windsors’ offer to donate money to help the British cause. Both of the Windsors assumed the rejections came Buckingham Palace itself. The French army eagerly accepted their help. Every available doctor in France volunteered to join the army to treat the wounded soldiers coming in from battlefields in Germany, Holland and Belgium. More wounded French officers’ flooded La Croe, a sign Wallis knew meant disaster was not far off. On May 10, 1940, Wallis walked out on the La Croe terrace and saw a young officer stretched out on a chaise lounge. He stared into the Mediterranean, ignoring the doctor trying to take his vital signs.
“He hasn’t spoken a word since he came here,” the doctor whispered to Wallis. “Some call it battle shock. If he cannot force himself out of it, it will remain with him the rest of his life. Quelle domage.”
Wallis sat next to him. She noticed his exposed veiny left arm. She caressed it.
“No fat on you,” she purred in perfect French. “I can tell. Look at the veins on your arm.”
The soldier looked back at Wallis and wrinkled his brow.
Que?
“You must have a sweetheart back home aching to have your arms around her again.”
Que?
“Don’t act like the school boy around me.” She leaned in to whisper, “You love her, don’t you? Every moment you think of her, long for her.”
Que?
“What is her name?”
“Claudette.” He smiled.
The doctor stood, patted Wallis on the shoulder. “Merci.
Before she could say anymore, she saw David enter the room and walk directly to her.
“Ah, it is my husband. Sadly I must go.” She looked at young officer sternly. “Never a word about our conversation to anyone, especially Claudette.”
Que?
David took her arm and guided her upstairs. “As soon as I received Gen. Gamelin’s permission, I came directly here. We must leave immediately. The Germans have broken through and are headed in this direction.”

Lincoln in the Basement Chapter Ninety-Seven

Previously: Stanton holds the Lincolns and janitor Gabby captive in the White House basement. Private Adam Christy takes guard duties. After two years of deceit, love and death, the war is over. Stanton forces Adam into a final conspiracy. Adam meets Booth and his gang.
The next morning when Adam delivered the breakfast tray, he kept his eyes down when serving the Lincolns. Hoping his face was not red from shame, Adam tried to move on to Gabby as quickly as possible.
“You’re not still worried we’re mad at you, are you?” Mrs. Lincoln asked with a note of concern in her voice, her hand touching his arm.
“No, ma’am,” he replied. He knew she would be a widow on Friday. “I know. I appreciate it.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Lincoln was behind the French lace curtain, sitting up on his cot, a place from which he had rarely stirred since the end of the war.
“That’s all right, Mr. President.” Adam went to the curtain, looked in, and tried to smile. “I know you don’t hold any grudges.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.” The deep shadows under Lincoln’s sunken eyes frightened Adam. “I know what’s going to happen. Don’t bear the guilt. I know who’s responsible.”
Adam blinked and opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He turned toward Gabby’s corner. The janitor was already awake, his knees pulled up under his chin.
“Good morning, Mr. Gabby.” Adam put the plate on the floor in front of him. “Fried eggs, just the way you like them.”
“Private, what’s going to happen to me, now that Cordie’s dead?” His large eyes were filled with tears.
Squatting in front of Gabby, Adam began his explanation slowly, since he had no idea what would happen to Gabby, to himself, or to Jessie. He did not want to lie to the old man again. No gloomy predictions of living on the streets, which possibly could happen, because Adam did not want to scare him any more than he already was; but he could not tell him he would have a warm place to live and plenty to eat, either.
“I wish I could assure you everything will be fine, but I can’t,” Adam said. “But I won’t let you down. I’ll do everything I can to help you.”
“Promise?”
“I promise.”
“Now I feel hungry.”
“What do you want done with the rest of your sister’s things?”
“I don’t need them.” Gabby’s attention was drawn to the eggs. After a big swallow, he looked up. “Ask the ladies at the hospital. Maybe they need some clothes.”
“Yes, Mr. Gabby.” He smiled. It was another chance to try to change Jessie’s mind. “That’s a good idea.”
After Adam retrieved the tray and cleaned the chamber pots, he caught an omnibus to the Surratt boardinghouse on H Street. Bounding up the stairs with a large burlap bag, he entered Cordie’s room, gathered her clothing, and tossed it in the sack. He was about to leave when Reverend Wood blocked the door.
“I didn’t like that feller last night.”
“I don’t like him, either. But we don’t have to like him, as long as we get what we want.”
“What’s that?” he asked, nodding at the bundle under Adam’s arm.
“The old woman’s clothes.”
“Mama could wear those. If only I could get them down to Florida.”
“I’m taking them to the hospital. For the nurses.”
“Oh.”
Adam quickly left. Sighing with relief when another omnibus arrived, he ran down the boardinghouse steps to H Street. As the omnibus rattled down the street, Adam tried to think of a new way to win back Jessie. Hugging the burlap bag, he wanted a happy future. The omnibus turned south on Thirteenth Street. As he covered his nose when it crossed the open sewer by the Mall, Adam wondered if the most direct words would be best—I love you more than life itself. He had to think of the right thing to say. When the omnibus stopped at Independence Avenue, Adam stepped off to run down the street, past the red towers of the Smithsonian, to the rows of low barracks of the hospital.
Immediately upon entering the ward, Adam scoured it, trying to locate Jessie; instead, Dorothea Dix’s pinched face was in front of him.
“You’re the young man who’s always around Miss Home.”
“Yes.” He gulped before continuing. “Miss Zook’s brother wanted me to bring her clothing here for the ladies who need it.”
She opened the burlap sack to examine the dresses.
“Very good. It was very kind of her brother. Miss Zook was a good person. I miss her.” Miss Dix looked into Adam’s eyes. “What are your intentions toward my Miss Home?”
“Most honorable, ma’am,” he replied.
“I thought so. Go find her and take her home. She hasn’t been well since Miss Zook died. I told her to rest, but she won’t listen to me. She never listens to me.” She paused. Adam thought she was about to cry. “I don’t want to lose another dear one.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
Miss Dix turned away quickly and began fussing over a wounded soldier. Adam scanned the room for Jessie’s red hair. Almost ready to give up, Adam heard a loud shout from a far corner. His throat constricted as his eyes focused on Jessie’s frail body, on the floor in front of frightened young man on a cot. Adam ran to her, knelt by her side, and felt her moist, hot forehead.
“She was replacing my bandage when she fell over,” the soldier said. “I hope she’s all right.”
Swooping her up into his arms, Adam walked to the back room where Cordie had died. Behind him was Miss Dix.
“I told her she should go home to rest. Now she can’t be moved,” she said. “Put her on the cot.” She hovered over Jessie, feeling her forehead and taking her pulse. “This isn’t good. I think it’s influenza.”
His eyes widening, Adam found he couldn’t speak.
“Can I help?” the odd-looking man asked as he appeared in the door.
“Get me a bowl of water and a stack of cloths,” Miss Dix replied.
“May I stay awhile?” Adam asked.
“Yes, please. Wipe her brow. I have to attend to the wounded.”
After she left, Adam sat on the edge of the cot, waiting for the odd-looking man to return with the bowl and cloths.
“Jessie? Can you hear me?” He paused. “I love you.”
“What happened?” Her green eyes fluttered open and focused on him.
“You fainted. Miss Dix thinks you’ve got influenza.” He took her moist white hand and squeezed it. “And I’m going to take care of you.”
Once her bleary eyes saw Adam’s hand over hers, Jessie pulled away and rolled onto her side. The odd-looking man entered with the bowl of water and cloths.
“How is she?”
Adam looked into the odd-looking man’s clear blue eyes and saw intelligence. Stanton believed himself to be smart, but Adam did not see anything like that in his eyes. He saw imagination in Booth’s eyes, but not intelligence. He sometimes sensed a deeper intelligence in Gabby’s eyes, but it was blurred by terrible torture and bewilderment. Yet this man had pure intelligence.
“Awake but she doesn’t feel like talking,” he murmured.
Perhaps this man’s pure intelligence could help him, Adam thought, but he did not want to tell him anything that could endanger his life. He had endangered too many lives as it was.
“I’ll be back later. She’s in good hands now.” The man smiled and left.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixty-Eight

Previously: Mercenary Leon fails on a mission because of David, better known as the Prince of Wales. Socialite Wallis Spencer, also a spy, has an affair with German Joachim Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. David becomes king. Wallis divorces, David abdicates and they marry. They fail to kill Hitler. Woolworth heiress tells her son she wants to buy a king.

David and Wallis kept busy the first half of 1939 going back and forth from La Croe and their chateau in Paris. They hosted or attended small dinner parties whose guest lists included German sympathizers, usually British industrialists and bankers who realized their fortunes rested in cozy relations with the Third Reich. They avoided large lavish affairs where intimate conversation was logistically impossible. One such automobile magnate and his German wife revealed during a dinner at the Windsor’s Parisian chateau that they had recently returned from Berlin.
“We were at a reception for Herr Hitler and Fraulein Braun,” the husband said.
“Eva was quite forlorn,” his wife interrupted. “It seems her personal maid ran away in the middle of the night right before Christmas and has not returned. Eva said the woman had been so kind and loyal. A long time employee. Her departure confused Eva because she was under the impression the woman would have done anything for her.”
The Windsors smiled.
On September first of 1939 Germany invaded Poland on the pretext Poland made a peremptory attack on a German fortification in a peremptory attack. The German proclamation claimed a legal right to protect its own citizens against unprovoked aggression. Gossip at the Windsors’ dinners was that the invaders were, in fact, Germans dressed in Polish military uniforms. David and Wallis feigned disinterest. During the spring all of David’s official pronouncements urged conciliation with Hitler’s government. He even sent a telegram to Hitler to reconsider his actions to which the Fuhrer replied any war would not be his fault.
Three days later during a pool party at La Croe David received a telephone call that Britain had declared war on Germany. In the coming weeks the Duke of Windsor took several calls from London encouraging him to play an important role war effort by acting as morale officer to the troops. He had always been good at that sort of thing during the First World War.
By September 12 David and Wallis board the British destroyer HMS Kelly at Cherbourg to cross the channel for talks about his role in the war with the Foreign Office. Lord Louis Mountbatten and Winston Churchill’s Randolph were already on board. Winston insisted Randolph be included in the trip to give him experience in statecraft. Mountbatten, in serious tones, explained to David rumors of his being appointed as a morale officer were just rumors. Randolph just sat there, smiling and nodding, as though such a behavior could make such a disappointing announcement more pleasant. Instead, Mountbatten said, David would be assigned as the British consulting officer to French General Maurice Gamelin at the Maginot fortress along the border with Germany. Wallis, Mountbatten continued, could do anything she wanted as long as she kept her mouth shut and her face out of the newspapers.
“And for God’s sake, no more damn lavish dinner parties,” Mountbatten insisted. He then told them the rest of their visit to England was to be one long photo opportunity with them smiling patriotically with the high and low alike.
Randolph continued to smile and nod.
When they returned to their cabin they found General Trotter lounging in an uncomfortable chair.
“Now I suppose you want to know what you really are going to do in France,” he announced in his informal, MI6, way.
David and Wallis sat and listened. David would, indeed, be attached to the French Maginot line but he would ask to use one of their smaller aircraft for leisure flying over the countryside. MI6 intelligence had received information that Germany planned to bypass the massive French fortification and invade Holland and Belgium to enter France undeterred. Instead of flying over France, David would fly reconnaissance over Belgium. When he detected German troop movement, he should send coded messages through an American intelligence officer disguised as French peasant. Wallis will turn La Croe into a convalescent home for officers. Any information she might gather from the soldiers she would pass as a French peasant.
“How will I know it is him?” Wallis asked.
“She has a gimpy leg.”
“Fascinating. She travels fast with a gimpy leg,” she murmured.
When the Windsors arrived in London, they had to rely on old friend Lady Alexandra Metcalf to pick them up and take them to her house where they stayed for the duration of the visit. Wallis kept busy playing with the Metcalf children. David had an uncomfortable meeting with his brother the King and sat politely during several conferences in the War Office where he acted appropriately surprised when told about his assignment to Vincennes. David and Wallis were back on the destroyer Express to Cherbourg. Once at the British command, Maj. Gen. Sir Richard Howard-Vyse ordered David, the only British officer allowed at Maginot, keep his eyes and ears open so he could send back information on the condition of the French installation.
“You mean be a spy?” David’s mouth dropped open.
“Yes, that is the general purpose, Your Royal Highness.” The general was droll.
“Oh my. I don’t think I’ve ever done that sort of thing before.” David’s voice went soft.
“Yes, we know. Well, do the best you can.”
David kissed Wallis good-bye and sent her on her way to La Croe where she began preparations to turn the estate into a convalescent center. The War Office gave David strict orders to keep Wallis from the front lines.
Once David arrived at Maginot, he met Gen. Gamelin who with great pride gave him a tour of the facility, from its sun-ray rooms and movie theater to the cannon fortifications.
“It is the last word in defense,” Gamelin boasted. “We’ll dig in, just like the first war.”
The aging general reminded David of his own father. It was not a compliment. Seven months passed with David efficiently fulfilling his duty as outlined by Gen. Howard-Vyse. He listed the number of soldiers, rifles, and cannon but had trouble coming up with an exact count of aircraft. Some of the older models used in the first war, such as the Morane fighters, were unmarked. David was concerned with Gamelin’s explanation when questioned about the aircraft capability.
“You don’t want all the planes marked,” Gamelin huffed. “Then the enemy will know exactly how many craft we have. We used the exact same policy in the first war. Don’t they teach military history in British schools?”
By the end of the general’s tirade, David had come up with an ingenious plan of his own. “You’re quite right, General Gamelin. I am most trained in statecraft, not aircraft; however, I do know how to fly a fighter in the classification of the Morane. Would it be all right if I took it up for a bit of sightseeing tomorrow?”
“Sightseeing?” Gamelin sneered. “I suppose that’s all you’re good for. At least it will keep you out of my hair for a few hours.”
Early the next morning, David prepared for his flight. A young peasant woman limped up to him holding up an apple from her basket.
“Monsieur, une pomme, s’il vous plait?”
David smiled and pulled coins from his pocket. “You speak French with an American accent.”
“I have been told that before, monsieur.”
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll buy another apple from you.”
She curtsied and limped away. David took a bite out of the apple as he climbed into the old fighter. His ascension went smoothly. He assumed the mechanics did their job well. As soon as he had cleared the airspace around Maginot, David veered left toward the lowlands of Belgium. They looked so calm. Not at all aware of the hell of warfare that was about to descend upon it. All the intelligence David had studied showed the Germans were going to avoid the Maginot line completely. On this particular clear day, he saw no evidence of troop movement.
David allowed his mind to drift a moment as he enjoyed the freedom of solo flying. It was as though he was being lifted up and over all the cares of his life. He knew it was necessary for his family to hate him for the abdication in order to maintain his cover with MI6. But all the snubs did hurt, he had to admit to himself.
Before he knew it, David looked down and recognized the landscape of Holland. He had flown too far. As he began his maneuver to return to France David noticed the sky was turning black with approach of large German aircraft, out of which came paratroopers. The invasion of Holland had begun.