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David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Twenty-One

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.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Twenty

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.
“Which word?”
“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.”
“Very well.”
“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.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Nineteen

Ernest Simpson
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.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eighteen

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.
“No, sir.”
“Very good.”
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.
“Special appreciation.”
“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.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Seventeen

Jessie Donohue
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 kills an ambassador in Shanghai.
After her bizarre experience in China, Wallis returned to the United States because Win’s deployment in the Far East was completed and she had promised the Foreign Office to stay with the boozehound until they told her she could divorce him. The situation with Win’s increased drinking bothered her because, if he became too much of a sot, the Army would sack him and she would lose that delightful $250 a month. The British spy service had promised her money, jewels and luxury. She had not seen any of that yet. The agency told her to have patience. Wallis had never learned patience and she certainly was not going to start now.
Things perked up a bit when a MI6 message reached her while she played golf at her country club in Washington, D.C. She was visiting her mother who had married for the third time, the latest husband being a Veteran’s Administration official who made a comfortable living. The British contact dropped a note in Wallis’s golf bag.
“Plaza, week before Labor Day.”
Wallis and her aunt Bessie gleefully packed their bags and were off again. Bessie, worn out by the train ride, napped while Wallis unpacked at the Plaza. There was a knock at the door. When she opened it, she saw a maid.
“May I help, ma’am?”
“No thank you. I don’t need any help.”
The woman smiled and replied, “Oh yes, you do.”
They sat on the rim of the tub in the bathroom as the maid quickly informed Wallis of the Donohue situation. Her assignment was to bump into the Donohues and remind them they knew her uncle Sol, the clever inventor from Baltimore, and suggest they celebrate Labor Day together, since the Donohues knew the best night clubs in New York.
“Suggest to Jessie she wear her best gems for the evening out. Tell her you’ve always had a passion for glittering objects.”
Wallis’ thin lips creased into a serpentine smiled. “Maybe she’ll give me one.”
“Well, let’s not be too optimistic.”
The ostensible chance encounter took place in the hotel lobby with the best results; after all, social manipulation was Wallis’s specialty. The Donohues were instantly taken by Wallis’s sparkling personality and Jessie immediately agreed to the Labor Day outing along with the full array of accoutrement of diamonds, rubies and pearls. Wallis found Jessie a bit frumpy but James was a divine dancer. Of course all of her efforts were for naught. The jewels were stolen anyway, and Jessie did not offer Wallis one multi-faceted souvenir of the night. Wallis didn’t understand why MI6 was interested in the bloody baubles in the first place.
The next day Wallis returned to her mother’s new house in Washington, D.C. She paced in her room. What bothered her was the fact that she had not had the opportunity to torture or murder anyone yet. She thought she would have been given some Chinese opium dealer to practice on. No. Instead she was given the thankless duty of providing cover for the agent assigned to assassinate the ambassador. At least the part of being a belly dancer in the marketplace was fun. She had hoped to behead someone chasing the agent but the best she got was skimming her sword along the ground. The agent himself was not impressive. He was too short and thin, though his appearance played well in the role of an ancient derelict.
The person she actually could not get out of her head was the young black man in casual Caribbean attire running alongside of the British agent. She could tell he was aware of what was going on. But how would he know the ambassador was going to die? Who did he work for?
Her ruminations were interrupted by a knock at her bedroom door. When Wallis opened it there stood Win, trembling with his hat in hand. She invited him in and he entered hesitantly.
“Please, please give me a divorce.” His voice quavered. “Even the thought of a reconciliation has sent me into the bottle. I don’t care about my career—“
“Neither do I,” she cut him off as she lit a cigarette. “And I’m not the innocent little girl you married. I know I can take care of myself.”
“Thank you. I’ll start the paperwork now.”
“No.” Her voice was sharp. “We need three years residency in Virginia to divorce but even then we need a cause. You have to have an affair. In the meantime you will finance my living some place pleasant, out of the way. I enjoyed holidays with mother and Aunt Bessie to Warrenton in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I liked hiking in the forest. So many fascinating plants grow there.” She turned to Win and blew smoke in his face. “You have no idea what I’m talking about, do you?’
“No,” he whispered.
“Good. You’re better off being stupid. Except for flying those airplanes. I don’t understand why you’re so clever with airplanes.”
“Neither do I,” he mumbled. “And thank you. I’ll even increase your allowance. But please stay away from me.”
Wallis smiled. She knew MI6 would contact her soon to inform her who her next husband would be. That did not mean a marriage would be imminent. Perhaps he would need a divorce from his current spouse.
“You can go now,” she told Win. “I have to shop for clothes. I have nothing suitable to wear in the mountains.”
“Of course. Anything you say. Thank you.”
After acquiring her new wardrobe, Wallis moved to a resort in Warrenton in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She found agreeable people with whom to pass the day golfing and riding. In no time at all she became a regular at the most fascinating parties in town.
Wallis flirted outrageously with the best looking men, just to hone her social skills. One night at dinner the waiter placed a cup of coffee in front of her. When she lifted it she saw written on her saucer in dark chocolate, “Hike the waterfall trail.”
The next morning she followed the instructions and when she reached a point along the path where she could hear the water crashing against the boulders, a nondescript man joined her.
“Are you ready to meet your next husband?” He spoke in a soft English accent. A bit less sophisticated than a Londoner. Perhaps Northumberland.
“Of course I am.”
“He holds dual American and English citizenship. He doesn’t know about your MI6 connection. Generally he’s not a very observant person. He’s respectable looking and is wealthy from his family’s shipping business. The only drawback is that he’s married.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m married.”
“Both divorces can occur simultaneously. I think it’s time for you visit New York again.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Sixteen

Shenanigans at the Plaza
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 kills an ambassador in Shanghai.
David was miffed. He was not in London long enough to have an intimate evening with Lady Elvira Chatsworth or even Freda Ward before Tommy Lascelles informed him that the Foreign Ministry had recommended to the King that it would be a good idea to send the Prince of Wales to New York City to participate in the U.S. celebration of Labor Day.
“Labor Day?” David raised an eyebrow. “What? No Tory Day?”
“It’s not that kind of labor. It’s to acknowledge the American working class.”
“Tommy, I was making a joke.”
“I know. I was ignoring it.”
On his first evening out from Portsmouth, David found the selection of ladies rather depressingly sparse at dinner, so he took a walk along the deck which was shrouded in a particularly dense fog. As he was about to flick his cigarette overboard an old woman, who was dressed more as a street peddler than as an ocean liner passenger, walked up in a fit of giggles.
“Pardon, yer majersty,” she gurgled in a hardly understandable Cockney, “but could I please have yer butt? As a souvenir of meeting your worshipful holiness.”
“Excuse me. What did you say?”
The current group of strollers harrumphed and hurried away. David leaned in to the old woman and cupped his ear.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t quite catch your comment. Will you please repeat?”
“Yer butt,” she said loudly, which caused the next couple to rush along. “You know, yer fag butt.”
David’s brow over his sagging eye arched. “I must say, my dear lady—“
“Oh, get over yerself, David,” she rasped. “Steam room. Seven in the morning.” The old woman grabbed the burnt-out cigarette and tossed it into the ocean before she fumed into the fog.
The next morning David awoke early, went for a light run around the deck and entered the steam room. Wrapping a towel around his middle, he sat, waiting alone for details for his next mission from MI6. Exactly at seven, a pudgy old man entered from the locker room and sat next to him.
“Begging your pardon, David,” he whispered in a familiar Cockney. “Me old lady can be rough around the edges. You know we’ve been doing this since the old queen died.”
“Think nothing of it. Now what is this important business in New York?” He wiped sweat from his brow.
“They want you to steal an American socialite’s jewelry and then mail them back to her a month later. No return address, of course.”
David sat up. “What? That’s the most preposterous thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Don’t jump down my throat.” The old man looked away and sniffed. “I don’t make this stuff up. I just pass messages along.”
Leaning back, David smiled. “You’re much too sensitive for this line of work, you know.”
“Come close to getting killed too, you know. Me old lady pulled me chestnuts out of the fire, many a time.”
“Very well. What else?”
“You heard of Woolworth’s Five and Dime? It’s his daughter. Jessie Donohue. They’re one of the richest families in America, but because their money comes from selling cheap stuff to poor people, other rich folks give them the cold shoulder. That’s why she buys so much jewelry. It’s worth $600,000.”
David was already becoming bored, but he dared not make any more brash remarks before the old man was finished.
“The problem is her husband. He spends all his time gambling and romancing both men and women around the world. Scuttlebutt has it the husband had contracted the organization to steal his wife’s jewels to pay off a blackmailer who knows he’s just broken off an affair with a black male dancer. And I know you’re thinking what does this have to do with the national security of the British Empire. Your own brother George is a well-known philanderer visiting both sides of the street.”
“Well,” David interjected in a sardonic tone, “he is considered to be the handsome brother in the family.”
“If darker forces realize they can hire the organization—the biggest, most successful crime syndicate in the history of civilization—to blackmail a rich American family, what is to stop them from extorting the royal Windsors?”
“I thought I had been so outrageous that anything the rest of the family did would be too dreary for the public to notice.”
“Mixing the races and not mixing the sexes is quite a different matter. Now don’t get me wrong. Personally I don’t care about what goes on behind closed doors but the rest of the world is not as advanced as me.”
David sighed and slid down on the bench. “Oh well, at least I’ll be in New York. It’s a fine town. Maybe I can make it out to Coney Island for a hot dog.”
“You’re kidding me! That’s why me old lady and I took this job. Love those hot dogs. And Coney Island is like Brighton Beach, but less hoity toity.”
Another man entered the steam room, and David’s companion made a quick exit. When a suitable amount of time elapsed, he also left. After bathing, and changing into his new plaid slacks and a powder blue shirt complemented by a purple ascot, David sauntered into the breakfast lounge. Once being seated, he ordered black coffee, a bagel and half a grapefruit. As he awaited his meal, David lit a cigarette and considered how he would have to join diplomatic officials for pictures with the New York mayor and attend the Labor Day Parade—he presumed there would be a parade. Americans loved to march. When the server brought his food, David asked that the latest editions of all the New York City newspapers be delivered to his suite. His enjoyment of his grapefruit was ruined when a photographer suddenly appeared in the door with his camera and flash holder. Damned nuisance.
Over the next couple of days David read about the Donohues in the society pages. They traveled in circles of actors, athletes, nouveau riche, oilmen and exiled foreign royalty whose company could be purchased for the price of a roof terrace hotel suite. How could anyone be so desperate to be bought by classless Americans, he asked himself.
Currently the Donohues resided at the Plaza while their house on East 80th Street was being modernized. They had two sons, Woolworth, twelve, and James, ten. A nanny tended the children every night as the parents went to glittering nightclubs. That gave David a window of opportunity to break into their apartment. Labor Day. After the parade. After decent people were at home asleep in their beds.
The day arrived, and David appeared at the mayor’s office with his diplomatic entourage, posed for photographs and sat in a reviewing stand on the city hall steps to watch the parade. He ate with a group of energetic American capitalists, then excused himself to his hotel suite since the last few days had been so fatiguing, with the ocean crossing and all.
After midnight, he dressed in his black turtleneck and trousers with the mask in his back pocket. Slipping into the basement of the Plaza Hotel, he slinked up the backstairs until he reached the Donohue suite. Once inside he made his way to what his research showed to be their bedroom. Just as he was about to turn the handle, he heard a child’s voice.
“”Hello, I’m very pleased to meet you. My name is Jimmy Donohue. And who are you?”
David turned to see a ten-year-old boy with brown hair and remarkably clear blue eyes staring at him.
“I’m nobody.”
“Oh, so you don’t have any money. That’s all right. I have enough money for everybody. Of course you have to do anything I want if you want me to give you any.”
“Um. Excuse me, young man. I’m rather preoccupied at the moment.”
“You sound English.”
“I’m in a frightful hurry.”
“No need to be. Mother and father will be out until dawn. They’re nightclubbing with this woman from Baltimore. She’s supposed to be important but I don’t know why. She’s not rich. My parents are paying for everything. People say she’s supposed to be beautiful but I think she has the face of a horse. I can’t remember her name but it’s a man’s name. Isn’t that odd?”
“You like to talk, don’t you, young man?”
“Of course, I do. I’m fascinating.” Jimmy looked at David’s hand on the doorknob. “You want to steal something from my parents’ bedroom.”
“What makes you think that?”
“You’re wearing a mask, and your hand is on the knob.”
“Very observant.”
“What do you want? My mother’s jewelry? I know where it is. I can get it for you.”
“Why would you do that? Do you hate your mother?”
“No. I love my mother. If you stole her jewels then she could have the fun of buying new ones.”
“I hate my mother and father.” David did not understand why he said that. The boy must have cast a spell on him.
“You need to see a psychiatrist,” Jimmy advised.
“So show me where the jewels are.”
Jimmy opened the door, and David followed. The boy went straight to a large, ornately carved wooden box and lifted the lid. Nothing was there. He looked up at David.
“Someone beat you to it.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fifteen

The man in his white linen suit
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 kills an ambassador in Shanghai.
Old Joe, the Eleuthera fisherman who had always given Leon a free ride back home, was dead. That was the word on the Freeport dock as Leon returned from the Far East. Yesterday morning someone dropped by his thatched roof bungalow and discovered him in his bed, clutching a couple of half crowns. Leon grimaced when he heard the news. Joe had been like a father to him in the last few years; however, when they last saw each other as Leon left for Shanghai, their friendship was strained. When Leon disembarked from the fishing boat at Freeport he handed Joe him two half-crown coins. Leon intended it as a gesture of appreciation. He could see in Joe’s eyes he had taken it as an insult, as though Leon was setting himself up to be the old man’s superior. Leon searched for the right words, but Joe gruffly pushed his boat away from the dock before Leon could explain. Now he would never be able to explain.
Perhaps it was just as well, Leon thought. When he went back through the Panama Canal after his mission, he took a quick tour of some of the shops in Panama City and bought himself a white linen suit, a wide brimmed hat and a new traveling bag. Leon conceded to himself that old Joe might have been right, because he did take considerable pleasure in hailing a boatman to take him back to Eleuthera. The man bowed deferentially as he loaded Leon’s new bag. The wind caught sail and impelled him homeward. Leon languidly leaned back, puffing on a cigarette of fine Egyptian tobacco.
When they landed, he placed a single half-crown in the man’s palm which made the boatman grin broadly and scurry to extend the plank to the dock and carry Leon’s bag ashore. At the last moment, Leon handed the man another coin to carry the bag down the dirt road to Leon’s house. He sauntered a few steps ahead of the carrier, lit another cigarette, tossing the match into a nearby sand dune. Soon he saw the high severe wall surrounding the Ribbentrop hacienda house. It still had the thick wood doors. Leon paused to take a long drag on his smoke, grabbed the bag from the boatman and dismissed him with a nod of the head. He removed a key from his pocket and unlocked the door.
The house was now his. The courtyard, once filled with exotic flowers, now overflowed with vegetables and fruit trees. He saw his mother Dorothy on her hands and knees between the rows pulling weeds.
“Mum!” Leon called out. “I told you to hire a village child to tend the garden.”
Looking up, she smiled. “I enjoy it. If I didn’t kneel down, soon I wouldn’t be able to.” She rose with great difficulty. “And then what good would I be?”
She walked to her son and kissed him. “My pretty little boy is home again safe at last.” Her wrinkled hand smoothed out the lapel of his linen suit. “I see you bought yourself a new fancy suit of clothes.” Her fingers ran down the sleeves. “Good for you.”
Behind him he heard a baby crying. He turned to see the pretty smiling face of his wife Jessamine. Though she was a mere slip of a woman, her slender arms ably held her child. Leon embraced both of them tenderly, showering their faces with little kisses. Though he did not even know the gender of the child, which had been born while he was half a world away trying to kill an old white Englishman, Leon already he loved this baby. He vowed he would be as good a father as his father had been to him. He would teach the same lessons of defeat, humility, defiance and brutality. As his father died to fill his belly with food, so would Leon die to feed his child.
“Say hello to your son Sidney,” Jessamine announced proudly.
“Is he strong?” Leon examined the tiny hands and feet. Sidney’s hand reached out to clutch Leon’s little finger. “Yes, very strong.”
“You are lucky you weren’t here. I screamed my head off, calling you all sorts of names.”
“How did the Freeport hospital treat you?” he asked.
”I didn’t go to the hospital. Pooka delivered him.”
“Pooka! That old witch! I gave you money to go to the hospital.” He stroked the baby’s cheek. “Only the best for my child.”
“Pooka is not a witch,” Jessamine corrected him. “She is the high priestess of Obeah.” She pulled a wad of bills from her dress pocket. “And I still have the money.”
Leon looked deeply into her eyes. “Obeah is one of many religions created by our people brought here from Africa in chains. We don’t need that. We can take care of ourselves now.”
One of Leon’s earliest memories of toddling down the beach was a plump, beautiful baby in the arms of a woman his mother called Auntie Millie. Millie, who was Dorothy’s best friend, kneeled down so little Leon could see little Jessamine better. Even then he knew he would spend the rest of his life with her. Jessamine grew into a slender woman who was not afraid of hard work. She always had a song on her lips even when times were tough. She was a passionate lover. But she was not as smart nor as skeptical as his mother. She let Pooka fill her with lies and fears. What of that, Leon told himself, because Jessamine was the sum of his reason to live. He took Sidney into his arms. No, he corrected himself, Jessamine and Sidney were his reasons to live.
“Besides,” Jessamine continued, “Pooka said things would not go well for you on your trip.”
Leon held Sidney up so the baby could see his white linen suit. “Does it look like it didn’t go well? I was paid handsomely. I won’t have to work again for a long time.”
“But it didn’t go the way you expected, did it?”
“No, it didn’t but I was paid more than I thought.” He rubbed noses with his son.
“See, Pooka was right.”
“I am home. I am holding my son. My wife is healthy. I have money. Even my mother is having fun playing in the dirt. Do we have to talk about Pooka?”
The next morning Leon awoke, dressed casually in shirt and shorts and took a long walk along the beach. By the time he returned home for breakfast, he noticed the plant pot outside his front gate was askew. Another assignment, he thought. So soon? He smiled as he took the message out. Good. More money the better.
“Tonight, Rialto.”
Rialto was the most popular casino in Nassau. Leon had to leave now to reach Nassau by evening. That night when he walked into the casino in his new linen suit, Leon looked around, certain someone would make a sign. One black jack table was empty. A tall blonde in a tailored tuxedo coat and silk blouse sat in the dealer’s chair. She stared at Leon.
He sat at her table. The woman immediately dealt him a hand. When he picked it up Leon noticed a note was tapped to the ace of diamonds. Discreetly detaching it he slipped it into his trousers’ pocket. Leon pushed the cards back at her.
She scowled. “Finish the damn hand, jerk.”
“Only if you smile for me.”
Parting her red lips, she revealed even white teeth. Leon also noticed she was much younger than the way she was dressed and wore makeup. She could not have been more than fourteen or sixteen, he decided, the same age when he had to grow up too fast. Not only did he finish the hand he also played three more games, losing all three pots but at least she smiled at him.
Leon took the midnight ferry back to Eleuthera. Sitting in a deck chair he pulled the note from his pocket to read it.
“Lobby of Plaza. Labor day.”
Leon knew of only one Plaza Hotel, and it was in New York City. His stay at home was being cut short. Wadding up the note, Leon tossed it into the midnight waters of the Caribbean.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Fourteen

Tommy Lascelles, too decent

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 kills an ambassador in Shanghai.
Upon his return to London, David cloistered himself inside his suite at York House, a wing of St. James Palace down the mall from Buckingham. He slept in his heavily curtained bedroom for more than twenty-four hours. Once he felt refreshed, David took a long bath, wrapped himself in a plush terrycloth robe and sat down for black coffee and toast. He chatted with his personal secretary Tommy Lascelles, an affable young man who did his best to create reasons for the Prince of Wales to take extended holidays to exotic locales for hedonistic pleasures.
“How was your voyage to the Far East?” Tommy asked, opening his activities book.
“Marvelous,” David replied, sipping his coffee. “Four different very sociable ladies going and coming. Please note when Elvira Chatsworth returns to London. Include me in some event where she is expected to attend. Has Freda called? Arrange dinner for us tonight.”
“I’m afraid that will be quite impossible, sir.” Tommy kept his eyes down as he wrote in his notebook.
“And why is that?”
“Her husband is back in town.”
“Oh, bugger that.”
“It seems his grandmother Mrs. Lavinia Ward is celebrating her ninetieth birthday and all members of the Ward family are required to attend,” Tommy informed him.
“I wish that old bag would die. She’s hampering my love life,” David muttered as he lit a cigarette. He noticed a pause in the conversation. “Do I shock you, Tommy?”
“Of course not, sir.” Clearing his throat, he added, “You must have luncheon at Buckingham Palace today. Your parents have made inquiries and know you are back from your trip to Shanghai.”
“Good God. Now I have to come up with some sort of diplomatic reasons to have been there. Have any ideas?”
Tommy raised his pen from the book and scratched the back of his head with it. “Did you speak to the ambassador?”
“Lord Chatsworth? Only in passing on the Wyndemere.”
“No, no. The other one. Stationed at the embassy. The one who died.”
“I scheduled a luncheon with him but he died the previous evening. That was odd, wasn’t it? So sudden. His head plopped into a bowl of egg nest soup.”
“So you didn’t see him.”
“Oh, I glimpsed him in a crowd. I was within spitting distance but didn’t get a chance to speak.
Tommy groaned. “Spitting distance? Oh the phrases you pick up.” He made a quick note. “I wouldn’t share that one with the King.”
“Actually, I was going to drop it on Mummy. She turns this delightful shade of coral when I embarrass her.”
“Tell your father the Foreign Ministry asked you to drop in on the ambassador. You couldn’t help it if the old man dropped dead.”
“Indeed not.”
“Oh. Your tailor is waiting outside.”
David’s face lit. “Does he have the plaid slacks ready?”
Tommy arched an eyebrow. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Send him in.”
David noticed Tommy took special care not to slam his activities book shut. Poor chap, the prince thought. Such a decent fellow. I must shock him terribly, however MI6 specifically instructed me not to include Tommy in my secret activities. After all, he is a decent fellow.
Tommy opened the door. A short, rotund man with strands of black hair slicked across his glistening dome jiggled into the prince’s boudoir, extending a pair of slacks to his highness.
“Just as you required.” The tailor beamed.
David hid a smile as he observed Tommy rolling his eyes before exiting, closing the door behind him.
“I think you will find the crotch to be perfection,” the man announced in a loud voice.
“No need for that,” David informed him. “Tommy is not the type to linger around keyholes.”
“You never know about these blokes around here.” The man slipped into a very comfortable Cockney. He looked at the pants with askance and tossed them on a chair. “Are you really going to wear those togs, are you?”
David wagged a finger at him. “Now, now. It’s your attitude that keeps you from getting assignments to nice places.”
“You can keep your nice places. They give me the heeby geebies.” He leaned in. “Did the capsule work as anticipated?”
“Perfectly. The timing was chancy, biting and spitting at the same time. One good cough and I’d been the one with his face in a bowl of soup.”
The man smiled, revealing that a couple of his canines were missing. “Dee-lightful, ain’t they? We got the poison from a new agent we picked up from America. She’s a mean one, for sure. And she knows her herbs up in those Blue Ridge Mountains. She’s got a different one for every which way you want a man to die, she does.”
“I don’t like it when you tell me too much,” David informed him.
“Bah. It’s the only fun me and me old lady have in this business.” He paused to appraise the prince. “I keep forgetting you’re one of those royal blighters.”
David laughed. “Us royal blighters love gossip too. No, the less we know about each other the safer we are. And I don’t want anything to happen to your wife or yourself. Truly. No disrespect intended.”
“It’s hard to stay mad at a bloke like you, David.” The man grumbled and turned for the door.
“A man from the organization was there in Shanghai,” the prince whispered. “He almost ruined the whole gambit. Tried to shoot the ambassador. I knocked his gun away.”
He looked back. “I feel sorry for those rotters. Why would the organization be messed up in this ambassador business?”
“Chinese drug lords want to keep the political situation there unsettled, I’m sure.”
“Oh, think of the scandal that would have been.” The old man’s eyes widened. “MI6 said they wanted the ambassador dead, but they didn’t want it to look like no murder. Nothing controversial.”
“I took care of it. I hope.”

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Thirteen

Disappearing on the street in Shanghai.
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 seduces a diplomat’s wife on a slow boat to China.
On a lower deck of the HMS Wyndemere Leon began to rouse from his sleep. By 1925 he had been on many missions for the organization but this was his first voyage to the Far East. He kept focused on creating memories to share with his mother. He could not tell anyone else in the village about his job, not even old Joe. Nor could he keep a journal of his travels. If anyone from the organization discovered he had a written record, no matter how inconsequential, he would be summarily executed. He smiled at the absurdity of it. He never knew anything to write down. For this assignment he found the necessary tickets in a pot outside his front door. First a ticket from Nassau to Panama and another from Panama to Shanghai. In China he would receive further instructions. What or from whom he did not know.
Leon glanced in the mirror and was not pleased. He looked like a clean respectable beach boy from the Bahamas, a step up from a scruffy young fisherman walking home after a long hard day on the boat in the Caribbean. Leon wanted the appearance of one of those mysterious men dressed in white linen suits, who lingered in the corners of the Nassau casinos puffing on imported cigarettes.
He could not chastise himself too much. Leon provided well for his mother and sisters. They didn’t have to be servants any more. His bank account was growing. He could afford a proper home. He had even taken a wife, a girl he had known all his life. She had laughed with him as they played in the surf. She cried with him when his father died. And now she was bearing his first child. His life of sin had been good to him. But he still wanted a white linen suit.
A day later HMS Wyndemere landed in Shanghai. A buzz from the gang plank at the other end of the liner drew his attention. Photographers held high flash powder trays and set them off at a slender elegantly dressed young man, posing at the bottom of the plank with a cigarette between his fingers. Leon looked away at the street to see a rickshaw with a coolie standing in front holding a sign, “Eleuthera.”
He walked to it, climbed in without a word, and endured a short, choppy ride to a hotel, a more respectable hotel than he was used to. That evening he ate in the proper dining room. Next to him were two older British gentlemen who had drunk more brandy than they should.
“Ambassador Chatsworth landed today,” one of them said.
“Is that so, Geoffrey?” the second replied, choking on his snifter. “What in the deuce is he doing here?”
“It’s that Shanghai Massacre mess last month.”
“Oh yes. The embassy mucked that up, didn’t they?”
“Yes, the embassy chief should be sacked,” Geoffrey announced.
“Wouldn’t that be admitting culpability? The King can’t have that, Liam.”
“I suppose you’re right, but it’s a bloody mess if you ask me.”
“You know who must be chortling over this? The damned opium overlords. As long as the government is in disarray they can do as they bloody damned please.”
Leon wiped his lips with a napkin and pushed away his plate. Perhaps that was why he was in Shanghai, to assassinate the British embassy chief to ensure continued political confusion. The waiter presented his check and moved on. Leon didn’t even look at him. When he examined the total he noticed in small letters at the bottom: “tomorrow noon marketplace.”
The sun was overhead and insufferably hot as Leon entered the bazaar. He wandered about looking at useless merchandise. The stuff sold in Freeport was better made and sold at cheaper prices. One show that caught his attention was a belly dancer. From what he could tell, under all that makeup was a Caucasian woman, skinny and not all that pretty. But she could move her hips and balance a sword on her head.
“Sir, sir,” a voice called to him. “Over here. Finest wood carvings from the Bahamas.”
Leon recognized the cue aimed at him. A toothless Chinese man extended a statue of a naked man and woman embracing. The man was too skinny and the woman’s bosom was too large. Leon waved it away, but the man pulled him closer.
“Look, look. See? Much better.”
As Leon regarded the rest of the merchandise the man slipped a small revolver in his pocket. He jerked away and walked behind a tall stack of Indian rugs. Slowly pulling the gun from his pocket, Leon read the note which stuck out of the barrel:
“Short fat bald white man in linen suit.”
This would be the day he would die. Leon knew there was no way to shoot a man in a crowded open space and escape unscathed. He hoped, at least, his mother would be properly compensated. Leon chose not to dwell upon his fate but rather chose to do his job well.
A clamor arose across the marketplace. He walked fast and with determination toward it. As Leon pushed his way through the crowd he spotted a short, fat, bald, white man in a linen suit. From the whispers around him, Leon realized this was the British embassy chief who had ordered the attack on the Shanghai students. The idle chatter he heard over dinner had been correct. With a deep breath, Leon pulled his revolver and took careful aim.
Out of nowhere a hand swooped down, knocking his gun away. An elderly Chinese man pushed him back into the crowd before storming toward the ambassador. The old man shouted a gibberish, a mishmash of Chinese dialects. The old angry man got close enough to spit on the official’s face.
“Look! Look! “A voice erupted from the crowd. “Man with gun! Look! Look!” People pointed in Leon’s direction.
The old Chinese man rushed Leon, pushing him away. “No complications!” the old man muttered.
Leon recognized the voice from years before. It wasn’t an old Chinese man. He was the man from Canterbury Castle. What was he doing there?
Police whistles blew. Uniformed Shanghai officers chased after them. As they ran by the belly dancer, she let her sword skip along the cobbled market place, causing the crowd to scatter, blocking the approach of the police.
The man grabbed the gun from Leon. “You don’t need that,” he grunted, pushing Leon down a narrow alley while he raced down the main thoroughfare.
Leon hid in the shadows and watched the man start taking off bits of his disguise until he revealed the persona of an ordinary British tourist, who leaned against a wall and lit a cigarette to watch the police run past.
That night Leon sat in the hotel dining room wondering how he would he get home. As usual his first tickets were one way. The room had been paid for one night. After he paid, he had no more cash on him. Leon berated himself for still thinking of himself as a street thug who mindlessly killed people so he could afford his next meal. He had money. He did not have to live like that anymore. He should learn to bring his own money on his assignments to deal with situations like this. A young Chinese woman dressed in a short dress flounced up and sat next to him.
“Hey, pretty boy. I give you good time.” Her hand went under the table and shoved a thick envelope between his legs.
The maître d arrived. “Excuse me, sir. She’s on her way out.”
She quickly leaned in to whisper in a completely different voice, “He’s dead. Good job.”
After the maître d dragged her off. Leon looked inside the envelope which included ship passage home and a huge stack of cash which he prudently chose not to count at that moment.

David, Wallis and the Mercenary Chapter Eleven

Felipe Espil, one of Wallis’s lovers
Previously in the novel: Leon, a novice mercenary, is foiled in taking the Archbishop of Canterbury hostage and exchanging for an anarchist during the Great War by a mysterious man in black. The man in black turns out to be Edward the Prince of Wales. Soon to join the world of espionage is Wallis Spencer, an up-and-coming Baltimore socialite.
Wallis stopped abruptly when she heard his subtle mention the words “hat pin.” Now how the hell would some little bastard from England know about that? She fumbled with her purse as she pulled out another cigarette. For the first time in her life, her fingers trembled. The man offered her a light.
“What did you say?”
After lighting her cigarette, he remained uncomfortably close and whispered, “We’ve read the military dossier on you and Win. The American jackasses don’t believe it, but we do. Also we’ve had collaboration from the Argentinian Embassy. Don’t worry. Felipe Espil is very discreet, but he did think we’d be interested in your many talents. And we are.”
“I’m sorry. You’re confusing the hell out of me. I am an American in Paris who is attending a party at the American Embassy. You tell me you know about my—shall we say friendship with an ambassador from Argentina. So just the hell are you?” She blew smoke in his face.
He took her by the elbow. “Let’s take a stroll in the gardens. Americans are very clever at growing flowering bushes, if not anything else.”
Wallis yanked her arm away and resisted the temptation to inflict permanent harm on his little British body. “You have some bollocks to manhandle me like this!” she spat.
“His Majesty’s secret service.”
They maneuvered their way through the crowd, onto a broad balcony and down marble steps to a garden reeking with lilacs and filled with dark shadows perfect for talking espionage.
“Let me properly introduce myself. I am Gerry Greene and officially a member of the diplomatic corps, but my actual affiliation is with MI-6. You do know what MI-6 is, don’t you?”
“Why should I?” She blew smoke in his face again.
“Oh dear. I have to be blunter with you than I had wished.”
“I prefer it that way.”
“The British Empire has two sections to its intelligence organization. Domestic cases are handled by MI-5. International cases are handled by MI-6. And MI-6 wants you to spy for Britain.”
Her high pitched guffawing broke the proper atmosphere of the embassy garden as if a firecracker exploded. “You must be kidding!”
“We know about your Uncle Sol, Winfield Spencer and many others. You have invented a new singular use for a hat pin that will never be patented. Life in the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains taught you what can be accomplished with exotic plants. Your memorable methods of mayhem are quite impressive. The finest part is like a deadly virus. You are uniquely bereft of morals.”
“That’s a nasty way of putting it.”
“But still true.”
Wallis threw down her cigarette and smashed into the garden dirt. She took an extra moment to find the best words to respond.
“I’m American. I’d love to be British but sadly I’m not.”
“It makes no difference to us. Your country clings to old-fashioned ideas about patriotism and a woman’s place—“
“But I’m not a woman,” she interrupted.
“We know. That’s why you captivate us.”
His smile annoyed Wallis. “What’s in it for me?” She didn’t know if she were tiring of the conversation or being sucked into the possibilities of an even more glamorous and profitable lifestyle.
“Money unlimited. Enough to buy all the pretty things you love. Living in the finest hotels and mansions in the world is possible.”
The word money hooked Wallis’s attention. “When does this money start showing up in my bank account?”
“Immediately. Greene stepped closer. “And more important than money, this job offers you the opportunity to torture and kill men to satiate your intrinsic hatred and lust.”
She loathed this man for knowing what lurked inside. Like a peeping tom he saw into her soul. “So what do I have to do? Pass some dreadful test or something?”
“First you have to reconcile with Win and move with him to China. Don’t worry. We have a more suitable cover for you. In a couple of years you can divorce your husband. Marry someone else but eventually you will marry the man who will become your partner.”
“You’re choosing the men I will marry?”
“Does it make any difference? You haven’t done that well on your own.”
“How rude of you to remind me.”
“I must impress upon you. This is a life-long commitment which requires enormous amounts of patience. And that life time may be very short.”
“Thank God. I’d hate to be bored.” Wallis shrugged her shoulders and glanced around the garden as if she were bored right now.
“Then listen carefully.” Greene lowered his voice close to a whisper. “You will receive a telegram from Win begging for reconciliation. Don’t ask how but recently someone has convinced him an impressive promotion would be his if he proved himself to be happily married.”
“Is it really true? About the promotion, I mean?”
“Do you care?”
“Once you join Win in China you will meet a charming man by the name of Robbie who will offer you a guided tour of China’s most fascinating—and might I add, most sinful—cities where you will be taught the most intricate of oriental martial arts.”
“I hope it involves something kinky.”
“The Chinese do not have a word for kinky. “
“Just because they don’t talk about it doesn’t mean they don’t know what it means.”