Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the spy world is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. Each are on the Tanganyika Express to get their hands on the stolen Crown Jewels.
After her adventure in Tanganyika, Wallis settled back into her usual busy schedule of shopping, lunching and gossiping. On this particular day she planned to paint her nails with an expensive polish called Midnight Lust. Then she was going to curl her hair so she would look her best at Ernest’s regimental dinner. It might be boring as hell but she was intent on being the most glamorous woman there. Besides, Ernest was such a good sport she liked to please him, unlike her first husband Win. Ugh. Wallis was about to finish her left pinky when the telephone range. It was Connie Thaw, wife of Ambassador Benjamin Thaw, one of Ernest’s more interesting friends.
“Wallis darling,” Connie gushed. “You and Ernest must save me this weekend. My sister Thelma, Lady Furness, is hosting a hunting party in honor of the Prince of Wales at her Melton Mowbray estate in Leicestershire. Benjamin’s mum has taken ill and we have to rush to Paris to tend to her. Could you and Ernest take our places at Mowbray?”
Wallis almost dribbled her bottle of Midnight Lust. “Well, we won’t know anyone there. I don’t even know Thelma that personally.”
“I wouldn’t have bothered you but Benjamin’s friend Gerry Greene of the home office recommended you. He said he met you once in Paris.”
Wallis paused to recall her first meeting with MI6 agent Gerry Greene. He was the one who introduced her to this new life of espionage. This weekend must have had something to do with her next assignment. She had no desire to meet the Prince of Wales. His pictures in the papers made him look like such a namby-pamby.
“Well, I suppose it would be a laugh to meet the prince. Of course I’ll have to check with Ernest.”
Ernest was thrilled, as Wallis knew he would be. The weekend was all he could talk about at his regimental dinner.
“I’ve always wanted to meet him,” Ernest declared, almost spilling his champagne. “His pictures in the newspapers make him look like such fun.”
Wallis found comfort in the fact she now had a reason for a quick round of shopping before Saturday. It was, after all, October of 1930, and she had absolutely nothing to wear.
Both packed heavily for the trip and tipped the porters double for taking extra care with their luggage. Once on the train they tried to concentrate on the countryside whizzing by, but the fog was too thick to see anything. Wallis developed a terrible case of the sniffles.
The drive from Mowbray station to Thelma’s place Burrough Court was just as appalling. Wallis decided the low, long brick house was dreary, only partially brightened by the surrounding garden. Once inside the house, Thelma informed them the prince and his entourage were delayed by the fog and suggested they refresh themselves with cocktails in the drawing room, already inhabited by people dressed in beautiful attire, dutifully awaiting the arrival of the royals. Wallis expected to see Gerry Greene in attendance, but he wasn’t there.
Ernest made a valiant attempt to carry on a conversation with the strangers, but Wallis preferred to slouch back in an upholstered chair by the fireplace. She held her cocktail glass to her temple nursing a growing headache. When the hall clock chimed seven, Wallis decided if the prince had not arrived by eight, she would take a hot bath and go to bed.
At seven thirty an automobile engine broke the outside silence as it came to a stop in the front driveway. Everyone stood in attention. Coming through the door was Brig. Gen. Gerald Trotter, Edward, Prince of Wales, and his youngest brother Prince George.
“It’s about bloody damn time,” Wallis muttered to Ernest who elbowed her.
Thelma walked her distinguished guests around the room introducing them. Most of the women curtsied with style and grace but a few embarrassed themselves with awkward genuflections. Wallis was confident. She had practiced her bow on the train until the sniffles set in. She noticed Prince Edward used his left hand to shake hands with the men. She found the affectation wearisome. General Trotter lingered with one older couple while Prince Edward and Prince George made their way to Wallis and Ernest. Finally she found herself face to face, eye to eye, with the Prince of Wales.
My God. He’s shorter than I am.
“Mrs. Simpson, I’ve heard so much about you. I am please we have finally met,” Edward murmured.
She nodded at Prince Edward then turned to Prince George and smiled. “And I can see why the press calls you the handsome brother.”
“He is rather pretty, isn’t he?” Edward agreed.
Wallis noticed George’s eyes sparkled.
“Mrs. Simpson, may I say you are one of the most attractive women I have ever met in my life.” Rapture filled Prince George’s baritone. “There’s something about you that is not like any other woman I have met.”
Ernest laughed from his belly which caused his shoulders to bounce. He grabbed his wife around the waist with a force that was a bit gruffer than his usual nature, Wallis observed.
“Two princes are interested in my wife.” He beamed. “That makes me rather important, doesn’t it?”
My God, I think the silly ass means it! Wallis coughed, turning away from her husband as though to cover her mouth.
“I get confused.” Her brow wrinkled. “Which one becomes king when the old man dies?”
“I do,” George piped up. “If my three older brothers somehow die before me.” He lifted his thumb to his lower lip and licked it. “What do you say? Do you want to take a chance on me and possibly become queen of English and hope for total disaster to wipe out the rest of the house of Windsor?”
“You forget she already has a husband,” the Prince of Wales added without amusement.
“He looks like a sporting chap. I’m sure we could come up with some sort of arrangement.” George winked.
Ernest laughed again. “I am half-American, you know, and we Americans love to strike a good deal.”
“Ernest, this conversation has become quite dreary. I can forgive Prince George because he has been taught he has a right to be naughty, but you would know better.”
Prince Edward took a minor step forward. “How about me? Do you forgive me?”
“There’s nothing to forgive.” Wallis was in full rage and nothing could still her sharp tongue now. “You’ve done nothing but stand around like a bump on a log. You have failed to live up to your legend as a bon vivant, sir.”
He only smiled with royal patience.
“Oh dear,” Ernest said in mock concern. “Is there anything I can do to win back your good graces?”
“Go to our room immediately and draw me a hot bath so I can soak before supper. And in due time I may forgive you.”
Wallis turned to find Thelma so she could tell her to send a servant to her door to announce supper ready. After conferring with Thelma, Wallis chatted with each lady in the room. By the time she climbed the stairs, she found Ernest had drawn her bath and laid out her evening attire.
Slowly her headache eased off as she daydreamed that her eventual husband and spy partner would turn out to be Prince George. His reputation as an international playboy would fit a life of espionage. He could be found in any region of the world at any given time and all he had to say was that he was on holiday.
She dressed, checked her image in the floor length mirror and joined Ernest in the sitting room where he looked lost in pleasant thoughts. The clock on the mantle struck nine p.m. Looking up he smiled.
“Wallis, you are beautiful.” He pecked her cheek. “I hope your headache is better.”
She smiled. “Darling, I feel much better. I hope I have been placed next to the prince.”
“George, of course.”
As they entered the dining room, she looked around. Prince George was not to be seen. Thelma approached her and took her elbow. “A fellow named Jim something—I think American—hustled his Highness out the door in just a twinkle of an eye.” She nudged Wallis. “It’s no big deal. I had planned on seating you next to the Prince of Wales anyway.”
Wallis felt her headache return.
They were well into their salad course when Edward cleared his throat. “Mrs. Spencer, as an American living in England, do you miss central heating?”
The question caught her in mid-gulp of what was actually a very fine wine. She swallowed hard and put down her glass to stare at him.
“I’m sorry, sir, but you have disappointed me.”
“In what way?” A bemused smile crossed his lips.
“Every American woman who comes to your country is always asked the same question. I had hoped for something more original from the Prince of Wales.”
The rest of the meal went unusually silent. She thought he would have had more pluck than to leave her harsh observation go unchallenged. After dessert, the group adjourned to the drawing salon where the prince chose to play bridge, leaving Wallis with the poker players. When she realized they were betting real amounts of money, she giggled nervously for the remainder of the evening.
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the spy world is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. Each are on the Tanganyika Express to get their hands on the stolen Crown Jewels.Leon kills an agent to save Wallis.
Leon was a bit miffed. When he stabbed the German on the Tanganyika Express, the blood spurted all over his white linen suit. Leon took a detour through Cairo to buy a new one. He remembered Mrs. Ribbentrop years ago commenting on the high quality of Egyptian fabric. Even though he was quite pleased with the purchase, Leon mourned the passing of his first white linen suit.
Back home on Eleuthura, he ran down the dusty road to his hacienda. Jessamine bolted out of the gate and threw her arms around him. She did not comment on his new clothes which bothered him. If she truly loved him, he reasoned, she should have noticed and complimented him. Leon dismissed the thought as six-year-old Sidney raced to him and leapt into his arms.
“Papa! I’m so happy to see you! Let’s play!”
Leon swung him around and Sidney’s legs flew straight out. The boy giggled. Before Leon could toss the boy in the air, Jessamine grabbed her husband’s arm.
“Did everything go all right?” Her brow furrowed. “Pooka said something would go wrong.”
“Pooka always says something will go wrong.” Leon carried Sidney past her to their door.
She scurried behind him. “But something went wrong, didn’t it?”
“I didn’t get paid, if that’s what you mean.”
They entered through the garden to the front door. Leon looked down to see his mother Dorothy on her knees pruning the vegetables.
“Mama, get up.” He kept walking into the house.
“I like your new suit,” Dorothy called out as she struggled to her feet.
The next morning Leon arose early, put on an old ragged shirt and shorts and ate breakfast with Sidney, Jessamine and his mother Dorothy.
“You are a big boy now.” He tousled his son’s hair.
“Yes, I am.”
“When I was your age, my father took me out on his fishing boat. Do you think you would like to go out on a fishing boat?”
“No, you will not!” Jessamine snapped.
“The boy needs to learn how to earn a living, dear.”
“We are wealthy,” she retorted. “He will not need to fish for a living.”
“Life is unfair.” Leon kept his eyes down as he bit into a scone. “Life is uncertain. What we have today can be gone tomorrow.”
Jessamine looked at Dorothy. “You can’t agree with Leon! Your own husband died on a fishing boat!”
The old woman put her fork down, pushed away her plate and turned to stare at her daughter-in-law.
“My husband was a good, honorable man. He lived for his family. He died for his family.”
“Well,” Jessamine huffed, “Sidney is too young. Leon was much older than six when he first went out on the boat.”
“No,” Dorothy was firm. “Jedidiah was a good man. He would have never let the child do anything that would hurt him, but a man must learn, build his body to provide for his family. Leon knows what he is doing. “
Jessamine pouted. “I shall have to talk to Pooka about his.”
Leon slammed his hand on the table. “You will tell Pooka nothing about our lives! That old witch knows too much about us as it is!” He stood, took Sidney’s hand and marched out the door.
Walking down the path to the Eleuthura dock, Leon waved to a fisherman on his boat. After he tossed the fellow a few coins, he lifted his son into the boat, jumped in and set sail.
“I like the water.” Sidney lifted his head and sniffed the breeze. “I think Mama’s trying to scare me.”
“But you’re not going to let her do that, are you?” Leon tugged on the line.
“Do you want to help me cast the net to catch fish?” He smiled at his son.
After hauling in a load of fish, Leon patted Sidney’s head. “Then you won’t mind working for the man who owns this boat, will you?”
Sidney’s eyes lit. “You mean, Jinglepockets?”
“His name is Nicholas.” Puzzled Leon asked, “Why do you call him Jinglepockets?”
“He’s always jingling coins in his pockets.”
Leon laughed. “That’s good. It’s always good to have coins to jingle in your pockets.” He paused. “Tomorrow you will start going out on Jinglepockets’ boat to learn to be a fisherman. The money you make, give to grandma. She’ll know what to do with it.”
“Does Mama know about this?”
Looking out to the horizon, he shrugged. “No, but don’t worry about it. I’ll tell her.”
“Oh, I’m not worried.”
They cast the net a couple more times and headed back to the dock.
“You know how grandpa died, don’t you?” Leon asked.
“A shark ate him.”
“Does that scare you?”
“Like you said, you do what you have to do to fill your family’s bellies. And everyone has to die. If you die for your family, all is good.”
Leon tossed the rope to Jinglepockets who tied the boat to the dock. The three of them unloaded the fish. Leon and Sidney began to walk away, but the boy stopped.
“What about the fish?”
“They belong to Jinglepockets.”
“Why?” Sidney wrinkled his brow. “We caught them.”
“But he owns the boat.”
“I saw you pay him, so the fish belong to us. Jinglepockets owes us money.”
“You’re a smart little boy, Sidney.” Leon put his arm around his son’s shoulders and guided him home. “Jinglepockets reminds me of Old Joe who taught me many things. He will be your Old Joe.”
The next day, as Leon and Sidney ate breakfast, Jessamine muttered her disapproval the entire time she tossed apples, cheese and bread into the tote bag for their lunch. They walked down to the dock. Leon lifted his son into the boat where Jinglepockets waited for them. When the fisherman cast off, Leon jumped into the boat with them. Sidney looked surprised.
“I thought I was working for Jinglepockets.”
“You are.” His father smiled. “I didn’t say I wasn’t coming along with you.”
They cast their nets as the sun rose in the sky. At noon, they paused to eat their lunch.
“Nicholas, do you know what the boys in town call you?” Leon asked.
“Jinglepockets,” he called out from across the boat. “Everyone calls me Jinglepockets but you.”
Leon leaned into his son. “Do the other boys pick on you?”
“No. One of the older ones wagged his finger in my face one time and called me a name. I grabbed his finger, bent it back and broke it. Nobody bothers me now.”
“Good for you.”
“You taught me that.” Sidney spoke around a chunk of cheese in his mouth. “Strike fast. Hurt them as much as you can.”
“Enough lunch!” Jinglepockets yelled. “Time to fish!”
When they docked that afternoon fish filled the boat. The three of them unloaded the fish from the boat onto the dock. Jinglepockets tossed a coin to Sidney. Leon took his hand and they walked down the road.
“Do you think you could kill a man?” Leon’s voice was soft and somber.
“You kill people, don’t you?”
“Not people. Just men.”
“Why not women? Don’t some women deserve to die?”
Sidney was quiet a moment. “I think I could kill a woman, if she was bad.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with being good or bad. Sometimes people will pay you a lot of money to kill men. Or steal jewels. Or kidnap old men.”
“That’s how come we have a nice big house, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.” Leon considered his thoughts. “Does it bother you?”
“No.” Sidney paused. “There’s a couple of boys I’d like to kill for free. Will you teach me the best places on the body to hit people to make them die fast?”
Leon glanced at the flower pot by the gate. Nothing was askew. “There will be time for that.”
“Papa.” Sidney stopped walking. “If I find something else I’d like to do to feed my family, it would be all right, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course, son. Family is most important.” Leon sighed. “I remember when I came home, you said, ‘Let’s play.’ I don’t think I’ve given you enough time to play.”
Sidney giggled. “Papa, anytime I spend with you is play.”
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in a kidnapping because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer, who dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest. Each are on the Tanganyika Express to get their hands on the stolen Crown Jewels.
Ernest Simpson was such a nice, decent and easy-going husband, Wallis thought as she boarded the Tanganyika Express in the heart of Africa amidst dreadful plains which seemed to go on forever. The sky was dark, like it was going to storm again soon. Her mind went back to her husband. It was a shame that she did not love him. He was reasonably good looking, an excellent dance, an understanding, giving lover, and not at all clinging or overly inquisitive. But when MI6 contacted her for a mission, she was required to go. For instance, when she was notified of her latest assignment she was in a fitting at her favorite London designer. A note was slipped into the bodice of her new gown.
“Noon. White Chapel. Queen Betty’s Fish and Chips.”
Wallis thought it humorous to rendezvous in the district known for its ladies of the night and Jack the Ripper. A waiter seated her in a booth in the back by the kitchen. Within a few minutes an old man sat opposite her.
“The crown jewels have been stolen.” He had a thick Cockney accent.
“Don’t look at me.” Wallis puffed on her cigarette. “If I want jewels I just sleep with a man and then he gives them to me.”
“We know who stole them.” The old man pushed an envelope across the table toward her. “Be on the Tanganyika Express. Walk by the designated compartment at midnight. A door will open. A hand will appear and will drop a velvet pouch in your purse. Immediately return here and give the pouch to me.” He tapped the envelope. “The tickets, everything you need to know, are in here.”
“I don’t get to kill anyone this time?”
“If you’re lucky. Maybe. Take your knife.”
That evening in their Bryanston Court apartment over a small supper comprised of soup, mashers and bangers, Wallis announced to Ernest she was leaving in the morning for Africa.
“One of my girlfriends told me of a witch doctor living in the wilds who claimed a cure for heart disease. I must dash off, obtain the herbal potion and rush to America to administer it to mother. After all, when we visited her recently she looked dreadful.”
“Didn’t she also inform you your brown dress looked dreadful?”
Her hard slit of a mouth turned up in a passing imitation of a smile. “Ernest, darling, you are way too sensitive. You must learn to live and let live. Forgive and forget.”
Ernest stood, picked up his dishes and those in front of Wallis to carry them to the kitchen. “I’ll write you a check before you leave tomorrow. You must always travel in comfort, even if you are on a mission of mercy.”
MI6 had issued all the funds she needed for the assignment, so she used the money Ernest gave her to drop in at Paris on her way. She had decided to take the route to Cairo, down the Nile and make the connecting trains to the Tanganyika Express. The Express had the reputation had a reputation of serving only the elite of European society. She wanted to fit in. In Paris shops she bought a black velvet hat with a brim so wide it dropped in front, covering both her eyes and nose. It revealed only her crimson lips. The crown concealed a giant pin to serve as a back-up weapon if she couldn’t get to her knife fast enough.
Her leopard skin coat had giant deep pockets in which to hide the crown jewels. A thought wafted through her brain that if the authorities did not have an exact count of missing diamonds she could sneak one away to squirrel into one of the dark crevices of her leopard coat pockets. They probably did count them, Wallis decided. Damned insufferable English efficiency. It was for the best anyway. They took only the small jewels and who wanted a small diamond even if it were part of the royal jewel collection?
The Nile proved tedious to Wallis. Just a bunch of dirt and mud buildings. Even the ones shaped like pyramids. All the good stuff had been taken out of them. She did catch up on her sleep. Wallis led a very active life and every now and then her body would beg for an extended sleep, which on this trip she has able to provide. When she reached the headwaters of the Nile she connected to a train which took her to the station where she could board the exotic Tanganyika Express.
Wallis’ dining experience on the Tanganyika Express was boring. No man offered to sit with her. Probably was the huge hat. Just as well. MI6 gave her strict orders not to be identified. The worst part of the evening was observing Mrs. Barnes, wife of the British ambassador. The middle-aged woman had not one socially redeeming quality—she was dumpy, her unattractive clothes did not hang well on her body, she wore too much makeup and her table manners were atrocious. She was a nymphomaniac which made her a prize above measure for men. At least three sat at Mrs. Barnes’ table during the meal. The first was a tall German gentleman with blond hair and impeccable manners. Wallis turned her head to eavesdrop on the conversation. She could not understand a word he said but she nearly swooned at the guttural tones emitting from his throat. A well-dressed young black man passed the table a couple of times. He wore a lovely white linen suit. Wallis could tell he was interested in talking to Mrs. Barnes but as long as the German sat there wooing her, he continued his exploration. Wallis felt it was an intelligent decision since interrupting the German could Start World War II in an inconvenient space.
After he seemed to give up the cause, the well-dressed black man left the dining car. Wallis could not help but follow his departure. Her attention quickly was drawn back to the Barnes table where she had shrieked something unintelligible, stood by table facing a sandy haired gentleman who had a slender frame. She decided the man had a certain élan which made him more fascinating than the German. Wallis was right. Within a few moments the German stalked away, allowing the remaining gentleman to sit, lean forward and begin whispering sweet nothings to the ambassador’s wife. Suddenly the thought struck her that Mrs. Barnes was the one with the diamonds. Who would be dumb enough to trust her with the stolen jewels? They parted and exited at opposite ends of the dining car. Wallis never saw the man’s face. All she could determine was that he carried himself as though he knew he was better than anyone around him and he was comfortable with that fact.
One of those three men would open Mrs. Barnes’ compartment door at midnight and drop a pouch of diamonds into her purse. Which one she did not know, nor cared. She looked at her watch. An hour before midnight. Wallis had time for a nightcap in the lounge car. When she entered she saw Ambassador Barnes in a corner with a group of men. Wallis sat close to them so she could hear their conversation.”
“This is my last one.” A man announced. “I am passed my bedtime.
“Oh God no,” Barnes slurred. “Please stay and be my excuse for returning late to my wife.”
“And why is that?” another man asked. “I thought your wife to be—“he paused awkwardly to come up with the right word “—sweet.”
“My God,” Barnes muttered, “that’s the bloody worst thing you could say about a woman. Heaven’s sake, she is. Sweet, that is. I want to wait until after midnight. Hopefully she will be asleep by then.”
That’s good. That way he won’t be in the middle of some messy political intrigue. She took her time sipping on two martinis until the clock neared midnight. As the hands of the clock were straight up, the Tanganyika rains returned. Sauntering out and into the sleeping car, she saw a compartment door open and a man’s arm, sans shirt, extended out with a small velvet pouch. As she walked by, she opened one of the wide pockets of her leopard skin coat and the pouch dropped in. She kept walking at an even pace and exited the sleeping car and, trying not to be pelted by rain, was about to enter the next when the door opened behind her and Wallis felt a power arm around her neck. Wind caught her broad brimmed black velvet hat and carried it out to the dark African countryside. The German looked around into her face and smiled.
“Herr Von Ribbentrop will be surprised to learn you were involved in this.”
Before he could say or do anything else, Wallis yanked her knife from her purse. The German went limp which gave Wallis a chance to twist around and cram the knife up under his ribcage. As the German fell, a crash of thunder accompanied a flash of lightning which revealed another knife was stuck in his temple. She quickly stepped aside and allowed the body to fall from the train and into the darkness. Wallis was surprised to see the black man in the nice white linen suit step forward. His right jacket sleeve was splattered by the German’s blood.
“I don’t believe in killing women,” he said in a Bahamian accent.
“I can take care of myself.” Wallis tried to figure out how to extract herself from the predicament without losing the diamonds.
“Don‘t worry. You can keep the jewels. I didn’t need the money from this job anyway.”
Wallis smiled and pursed her thin lips. “In that case, thank you.”
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest.
Hitler wants Ribbentrop to steal the Crown Jewels.
David thought traveling was such a bore with his valet Tommy Lascelles hanging around like a snoopy younger brother—witnessing his social indiscretions and eagerly reporting back to Papa and Mama. Tommy believed in the old order of royalty, honorable without any hint of moral turpitude. He rarely smiled, obsessed with duty, stiff, and emotionless. Like a marble statue Tommy was unable to feel love, joy, anger or pain. An eternal life of nothing. It’s not like Tommy Lascelles had not experienced sexual pleasure—he had a wife and children. At some point, Tommy let down his proper British face to bask in wanton fleshly delights with his wife, both legally and morally his own.
Well, David told himself, Tommy’s private life was strictly his own and not open to criticism, even by the Prince of Wales. He had more a more pressing agenda—retrieving gems stolen from the Crown Jewels of England. David stopped before entering the dining car of the Tanganyika Express hurtling its way through the night to Dar Es Salaam during one November’s frequent short rainfalls. He regarded his reflection in the dark window pane. Every hair was in place. His tanned face was without flaw. He smiled. His teeth gleamed. Adjusting his shoulders, David made certain the center button in his hand-crafted dinner jacket was fastened. Last he made sure all the trouser buttons at his crotch were secure. His father often forgot to button after visiting the loo, creating an awkward situation at the palace.
He looked through the window into the dining car to spot the ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Edith Barnes—the lady who possessed a stash of gems from the crown jewels. The man who actually stole them from the Tower of London—her brother-in-law and assistant tower administrator—had been immediately apprehended. The thief wasted no time confessing Mrs. Barnes had seduced him into stealing the jewels. Now no one in the justice community cared about punishing wife of a British ambassador. All the British government wanted was the jewels back. They knew that Ambassador Barnes and his wife Edith took an ocean liner from Portsmouth to Leopoldville, rode a steamer up the Congo and then transferred on several trains to reach the capital of Tanganyika territory. The ambassador used most of his travel time in conference with African officials trying to iron out lingering details of land concessions made by Germany at the end of the Great War.
David noticed a gentleman had taken the seat opposite to Mrs. Barnes at her dining table. He sat with his back to David who felt comfortable making certain assumptions about the man. He was tall, and, from the way his jacket hung on his frame, he was athletic. His blond hair was closely cropped. And though he could not see the man’s face, David was sure he was handsome because of the glint in Mrs. Barnes’ eyes.
The prince made an unobtrusive entrance and slid into a chair at a table across the aisle from Mrs. Barnes. He had met her at several cocktail parties in the Mayfair district. Whether he had bedded her, he could not remember—probably did. She had not become close enough to be given the honor of using his family name of David instead of the royal Edward. Once her gaze drifted from the stranger’s eyes she would see him and immediately abandon her latest glittery toy. David slumped slightly in his chair, lit a cigarette and puffed away like he didn’t care. The man must have been more intriguing than David thought because he didn’t hear her shriek of recognition. Soon his attention was drawn to the fact a waiter had not appeared to offer him a glass of wine. He leaned a couple of inches toward Mrs. Barnes so he could hear the conversation. Her companion was speaking.
“My dear, never have I seen such beauty in one woman.”
He had a German accent but otherwise spoke clear and distinct English.
“Forgive me for my bluntness for I am a blunt man.” The German’s voice was deep and throaty.
David thought Mrs. Barnes was going to orgasm right there between the salad course and the entrée. There was no doubt this was the agent sent to retrieve the Crown Jewels from the ambassador’s wife. Was Hitler behind the plot? He shook his head. His imagination was running away with his good sense. But who else would want to steal the Crown Jewels? Who would be crazy enough to try? He tapped his long slender fingers on the table, trying to decide whether to hope if Mrs. Barnes would notice him on her own or should he introduce himself, before the German swept her off her feet and into her compartment.
Just as the stranger extended his large hand to touch hers, she glanced away and saw David. She sprang to her feet and gasped loud enough to be heard all the way in Rhodesia. “Oh my God! The Prince of Wales!” She attempted an elaborate curtsy which resulted in her right hand slapping the German’s face. “I had no idea your Highness was in Africa!”
The German melted into the background and eventually out the door. David could not help but notice however that he lingered outside, peering through the window.
With a weak smile, David said, “Have we met?”
“My dear Edward, we met at Upson Downs last season.”
“Oh yes. You were in the large blue hat.”
She giggled and gave him a playful slap on his shoulder with the back of her hand. “You naughty boy. You know we all were in blue for the races.”
“Hmm, your husband is in the diplomatic corps.” He crinkled his nose as in thought. “Barnes….that’s it. Mrs. Edith Barnes.”
“I would ask you to join me but I have a rather intense headache at the moment,” she whispered.
“My goodness.” An evil grin flitted across his thin lips. “You must remember how I can make headaches go away.” David glanced at the window in the door. The German was still there. “Perhaps your husband could join us.”
“Oh! He’s in conference two cars down. He’ll be involved with Tanganyikan officials until dawn.” She cocked her head. “I thought perhaps you were on the train to advise them in their deliberations.”
“No.” He puffed on his cigarette. “I’m on safari…hunting big game.”
“Fascinating. You must tell me all about it.”
“But I thought you had a headache.”
Her hand stroked his tanned cheek. “You’ve already made that go away.”
“In that case, please sit down and join me in a bottle of champagne.”
Mrs. Barnes sat and eventually succeeded in making David remember how they had made mad passionate love in a luxury hotel suite in the West End of London.
“Didn’t we see a play first?” David asked.
“Of course. It was written by Jerome Kern.”
He looked at the door and saw the German gone. He smiled, took her hand and kissed her fingers. “I think it’s time for an encore.”
She whispered her compartment number into his ear. “Meet me in fifteen minutes.”
When David glimpsed the door, this time he saw Tommy glaring at him. They returned to the prince’s compartment. After they entered and David latched the door, he sighed. “What’s happening now?”
“We’ve received a wire about your father.” Tommy was grim. “It’s not good.”
“Is he dead?” David tried not to sound too hopeful.
“No. But very close. He had another stoke. We must leave immediately for London.”
“Do you know the last thing he said to me?”
“No, sir. I do not.”
“He said, ‘You dress like a cad. You act like a cad. You are a cad. Go away.’”
Tommy looked down at a notepad. “A car will be waiting for us at the next stop. From there we will motor to the nearest airport where we will plane to Casablanca and embark on a naval ship to Portsmouth. You have less than thirty minutes to pack.”
“In thirty minutes I plan on bedding the wife of our ambassador.”
“Your father was right. You are a cad.”
David turned and, without a word, left the compartment and went directly to the next car where Mrs. Barnes was awaiting on him. As he passed between cars he noticed the rain had stopped. When David arrived Mrs. Barnes stood in her doorway talking to a black man dressed in a stylish white linen suit with a white straw hat in hand. Her left hand twirled her locks while she moistened her lips. As David walked up, she giggled like a shy school girl.
“My dear Mrs. Barnes,” David murmured, “I’m so glad you waited for me.”
“Hmm?” She glanced at him but returned her attention to the man in the white linen suit.
David glared at the man who stole the interest of his lady. He had the strange feeling he had seen this guy before; not only once, but many times even in that same suit. David pulled out his cigarette case, extracted one and smiled at the stranger. “Have you a light?”
“But of course.” He pulled out a silver lighter and lit the prince’s smoke.
“Have we met before?”
“Heavens no,” the stranger replied with a distinctive Bahamian accent. “You are a great gentleman, and I a mere colonial.”
“You look so familiar,” David pressed. “The man I met had one of those dreadful diseases. I hope it wasn’t you, and if it were, I hope it has cleared up.”
“Oh.” Mrs. Barnes’ eyes fluttered. She looked at both men, stepped inside her room and shut the door.
David smiled. “So sorry about that.”
“Think nothing of it.” The man bowed. “Such are the fortunes of romance.” He turned and sauntered away.
“Rapping on Mrs. Barnes’ door, David whispered, “Surely, my dear, you didn’t mean to turn me away as well.”
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest.Ribbentrop meets Hitler.
The years between 1925 and 1929 were probably the happiest and most prosperous time of Leon’s life. His customer from the New York jewelry job had been extremely generous so Leon found himself able to pick and choose new assignments for almost three years. During this period he had become his son Sidney’s best friend. He taught the boy how to walk, how to wrap his tongue around English words, as well as other languages such as French, German and Spanish. Mastery of those languages would assure him of the best pay on the European continent. When Sidney was older, he would learn the more complex languages of Arabic, Hindi, Chinese and Japanese. That was later. There was plenty of time.
One day late in October 1929 Leon played in the surf of the Caribbean with his son as the morning sun rose high in the sky. A fishing boat on the horizon brought back memories of his own father. Leon could still smell the ocean spray after a rain, fresh and salty. Each fish had its own peculiar aroma. Most of all, he recalled the scent of his father. He smelled of love. Leon picked up Sidney and pointed to the boat.
“Do you know what that is?”
“Would you like to go on one of those someday?”
Sidney wriggled in his father’s arms. “Today! Today!”
Leon laughed. “Not today.” He put the boy down and extended his arm out above the boy’s head and flexed his muscles. “Jump up and see if you can grab my arm.”
Laughing, Sidney jumped several times before latching on. “I did it! I did it!”
“Good job. You did not give up. You fail only when you give up.” He lifted his arm a little. “Now lift yourself until your chin touches the top of my muscle.”
Sidney grunted and tried to lift himself several times until he fell to the sand. He looked up at his father. “Did I fail?”
“No.” Leon lifted his son and hugged him. “You just did not succeed today. You will try again tomorrow.”
“No! Try again now! Now!”
Leon began to walk back to the hacienda. “There is a time to try and a time to eat lunch. Come. Let us fill our bellies.”
They jogged along the sandy road until Leon saw the flower pot in front of their gate. It was slightly askew. He put Sidney down and told him to run inside and tell his mother how he jumped so high he could grab his father’s arm. Leon frowned as he stood over the pot. It meant a new assignment was finally here. He missed time away from his son. He pondered ignoring the message. He had plenty of money, enough to last some time to come. But eventually, however, the funds would be expended and once an agent had turned down a job, he would never get another one. And Leon vowed never to fish for a living again. He loved this new life of his too much. Eventually he bent over, lifted the dead plant and took out the message.
“Tonight at the Rialto.”
Laughter dominated the dining table. Sidney bounced around like a ball talking about their walk up the beach. A wave of his arm knocked over his glass of milk. Jessamine slipped to her knees and wiped up the milk and gathered together the shards of glass.
“What a boy!” She beamed as though he had just won a game with the other island boys, which he often did.
“He’s just like his grandfather Jedidiah.” Granny Dorothy smiled at Leon with affection and pride.
He detected a glistening tear in her eye which she quickly daubed away. Taking a mouthful of grilled bass into his mouth, Leon announced, “I will be leaving on another one of my business trips soon.”
“I will clean your white suit,” Dotty announced.
“I want to go with you!” Sidney’s face brightened as he bounced in his chair again.
“No, my son. You are still too young. One day. It will come before you know it.”
Sidney jumped down and ran to his father. “No! I wanna go now!”
“What a tone to use with your father!” Jessamine changed aprons and returned to the table. She picked up her son. “You need a nap. I can tell.”
“No! I don’t want a nap!”
“Listen to your mother,” Dotty said absently as she stood and headed upstairs to the bedrooms. “When do you need your suit clean.”
“I have to leave for Nassau in an hour.”
She turned to look at her son. “That won’t be enough time.”
Jessamine was already up the stairs with a sleeping Sidney draped across her shoulder.
Leon stood. “Don’t worry. I shall be back late tonight. My trip won’t be for some time.”
“I’m getting old.” Dotty shook her head. “Of course. I know. I remember now. Like all the other times.”
An hour later Leon walked out of the hacienda gate wearing his white linen suit. He inspected the suit and decided Dotty did indeed worry too much. His suit was in fine condition. He looked around as he felt arms around his waist. It was Jessamine. When he turned she kissed him on the lips and then snuggled her face into his neck.
“Pooka said you would be leaving soon.”
“I wish you wouldn’t listen to Pooka,” he mumbled. “I don’t believe anything she says.”
Her eyes widened. “But Pooka is never wrong.”
Leon loved his wife very much. Perhaps she might not have been the brightest woman on the island, he conceded, but she was the sweetest and the most loving. He pecked her on the forehead and again began his amble down to the dock. As he walked he considered the absence of Old Joe who had died a few years ago. Leon supposed Joe died of old age. But he did miss him terribly. Who else could he trust to share his deepest worries and doubts? In a few moments he reached the dock and connected to his new fisherman who transported him to Freeport. He caught the ferry to Nassau. By sunset he walked into the casino puffing on a cigarette. He went straight to the lovely lady at the blackjack table. She had matured from the first time they had met over cards in the Rialto. More seductive. More buxom. But still cynical. She was always cynical. The blonde dealer dealt him a hand which contained the ace of diamonds with a tightly folded note taped to it. In one smooth motion Leon detached it and slipped into his inner jacket pocket.
“Tell me.” Leon lit another cigarette. “Does someone pay you to pass on these notes and you ask no questions, or do you know what you’re truly doing?”
As she dealt another hand, she pouted her red lips. “You’re the most handsome man I’ve met, but you’re still a jerk.”
“That isn’t an answer.”
“That’s the only answer you’re going to get.” She looked down at the cards. “You lose. Again.”
Leon laughed and walked away. Within the next hour he was on a ferry back to Freeport. Sitting in a chair under a deck lamp, Leon took out the noted and read it.
“Tanganyika Express Nov. 3.”
He knew Tanganyika was in Africa. That reminded him to insist Sidney be taught world geography by a knowledgeable person. He grunted. Certainly not Pooka. He stood and wentto the rail where he casually let the note slip from his hand into the deep waters below. He wondered what the weather was like in Tanganyika this time of year.
“Your drink, sir.”
Turning, Leon saw a waiter with a glass he had not ordered. He said nothing, took a bill out of his wallet, placed it on the small silver tray and took the drink. The waiter bowed and left. Leon noticed the napkin stuck to the bottom of the glass had writing on it. He went back to his chair, sat, began to drink leisurely and unfolded the napkin. He glanced around the deck to see if anyone was strolling about before he read it. Leon learned the number of train, the departure place and time. His assignment was to seduce an English lady named Barnes. In her purse would be a velvet pouch of priceless jewels which she would give him. He then would pass it on to another agent when the train reached its destination, where he would be generously paid.
This was his first assignment which relied exclusively on his romantic skills. He was not intimidated. Leon remembered quite well his sexual interlude with Mrs. Ribbentrop many years ago. Leon hoped the Barnes woman was a Bolshevik too.
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol, has an affair with German Joachin Von Ribbentrop and marries Ernest.
The November air in Berchtesgaden 1929 was bracing. Joachim Von Ribbentrop stood on the balcony of his hotel taking in the view of the beauty of the Bavarian Mountains covered in snow. Berchtesgaden was on the southern border of Germany and Austria, not far from Munich and the Black Forest. Although the weather and scenery always reinvigorated his spirit, Ribbentrop could not help but think back to his exotic encounter with Wallis Spencer in Paris over a year ago. Wallis expertly removed every layer of clothing from his body but only stripped down to her satin slip. She could do things with her hands and mouth that threw him into a sensual madness.
He read in the newspaper she recently married Ernest Simpson. He hoped she remembered it was his help with finding a lawyer that made her new-found happiness possible. Ribbentrop felt he had to be with her again and give her another white carnation in tribute to their experience.
A knock at the door broke his revelry. A slender young man dressed in a crisp shirt and slacks and a jacket with a swastika on the sleeve, stood attention when Ribbentrop opened the door. He knew he was looking at an emissary from Herr Adolph Hitler, the most powerful politician in Germany.
“Herr Hitler requests your presence at Berghof.”
Ribbentrop smartly clicked his heels, put on his overcoat and followed the young man downstairs to a waiting black limousine. He settled into a comfortable position in the back seat while the brown-shirted boy sat in front with the driver. On the long, winding drive through the mountains, Ribbentrop congratulated himself in his skillful manipulation of his socially influential friends to gain an audience with the man who one day would rule Germany—indeed, all of Europe with an iron hand. His mind, however, could not help but wander back to Wallis. He knew she would be impressed when she learned he was close friends with Adolph Hitler.
When the car made a final turn to reach its mountaintop destination, Ribbentrop was disappointed to see that Berghof was a rather small, unimpressive hunting chalet. He expected Herr Hitler to have more awesome accommodations. The limousine came to a stop in front of the entrance, and a teen-aged girl scurried out, opened his door and curtsied.
“Herr Hitler is waiting for you in parlor,” she said as she escorted him into a plain vestibule, turned right and opened a door to a darkened room.
All the curtains were closed and a movie screen hung on the far wall. Several comfortable chairs were centered in front. A black and white cartoon of a dancing mouse on the deck of a boat played across the screen. A catchy little tune filled the room along with male laughter.
“Herr Von Ribbentrop?” a voice called out.
Ribbentrop thought how he could be late since he could go nowhere until Hitler’s limousine arrived at the hotel.
“Don’t worry. No one can live up to my exacting standards.”
Hitler stood and turned toward Ribbentrop, his face illuminated by the glare of the movie projector, a dancing mouse flitting across his forehead.
“I have heard many good things about you. You are an excellent salesman of a totally useless product—champagne. I admire that. That’s what a good leader is, you know, a salesman.” He patted the armchair next to his. “Come, sit.”
As Ribbentrop sat, Hitler stared at him and raised a knowing eyebrow. “I am sure you are thinking how this man can be the future of Germany and live in such an ordinary house. Well, I am renting it from Herr Wachenfield. I plan to buy it soon and turn it into a show place to rival the grandest castles on the Rhine.” He sat back to continue to watch the cartoon, which played over and over again. “That mouse, he’s very funny. He’s small but he always wins, always. That’s like Germany, you know. It’s small, but it can win, always win, when it has the right man at the helm of the steamboat.” He glanced at his visitor. “Do you think I’m a good steamboat captain?”
“Yes, Herr Hitler.”
“Good. You have skills beneficial to my cause. You are a celebrity among the London social crowd, are you not? You can do much to win them over. They are particularly vulnerable since they already open to the idea of following a supreme leader like a king.” He spat in derision. “That stupid man. I tried to interest the Prince of Wales in our Princess Stephanie. She’s a Jew, but nevertheless beautiful and completely loyal to me.”
“I know Stephanie very well,” Ribbentrop interjected. “She asked to introduce her to the prince.”
“Yes, I know,” Hitler replied with a sly smile. “I know everything.”
“What can I do for you, mein fuhrer?” He swallowed hard.
“Since Stephanie was unable to seduce the prince into being our surrogate,” Hitler explained, “we have to find a way to demoralize the English people to the point of discarding their own government and welcome me as their ruler.”
“How can I do that?”
Hitler leaned in, but first peeked at the screen and smiled at the mouse’s antics. “I love how that little mouse dances. Walt Disney is the only American I have any respect for.” After a pause, he continued, “Help me to steal the crown jewels of England.”
“What?” Ribbentrop blinked.
“This is not a new idea. It was in an English novel. Arthur Conan Doyle. One of those Sherlock Holmes mysterious.” He raised an eyebrow. “You must read British literature, don’t you?”
Ribbentrop blinked again. “I prefer the German classics.”
“Well, of course. But you must open your mind to new ideas, even if they come from the English.”
“Of course, mein fuhrer.”
“Once the English people realize I was able to steal the jewels from the Tower of London, they will see their government is completely impotent, incompetent. Demoralized, they will turn to me to lead them.”
“How can we steal the jewels.” Ribbentrop felt himself getting drawn into Hitler’s vision.
“Out of your many acquaintances in London, surely someone has a connection with a person who works at the Tower of London. Use your influence to have them steal the diamonds.”
Ribbentrop smiled. “I think I know such a woman. A Mrs. Barnes. Her husband is the ambassador to Tanganyika. They are currently in London but will return to Africa within the month. I have had desperate telephone calls from her begging for a rendezvous before she leaves.”
“Does she love you?” Hitler looked up to the projectionist. “That’s enough for today. Come back tomorrow.”
“She loves sex.”
“Are you sure she’s British?”
“Yes. I’ve found it is mostly the men who are the cold fish, especially the rich ones.”
“Continue.” Hitler showed no emotion.
“She talks all the time about her brother-in-law who is the assistant administrator at the Tower of London. She’s having sex with him too and is afraid her husband will find out. Her lover has direct access to the crown jewels. The little idiot doesn’t even understand the importance of what she said.”
“Can you trust her?”
“Of course not. She doesn’t have the sense to be trusted. That’s why I would not tell her who will get the jewels eventually.” Ribbentrop pulled out a cigarette and lit it. He began to relax with the fuhrer “I have an idea. I’ll tell her I have connections to a secret world-wide crime organization which will pay handsomely for the diamonds. They will be able to re-cut them and sell them on the open market. She will receive a handsome payment.”
Hitler’s face clouded in suspicion. “Is there such an organization?”
“Oh.” His eyes widened in surprise. “No. Of course not. I just thought of it. You inspired my imagination.”
“Of course I did.” Hitler leaned back with a smug smile.
“Then I’ll instruct her to take the jewels with her back to Africa for transfer to the, um, organization.” He waved his cigarette about nervously. “Ambassadors’ luggage is rarely inspected by customs agents. Then one of your men can secure the diamonds from her on the train in Tanganyika.”
Hitler grimaced in deep thought then stood. “Good. Do it. You may leave now.”
Ribbentrop stood, clicked his heels and bowed. He found it hard to smile because Hitler stepped closer to examine his face. Perhaps the fuhrer sensed he was lying about the organization.
“I momentarily considered sticking my tongue into the dimple on your chin.” Hitler extended a finger and touched Ribbentrop’s cleft. “But I changed my mind.”
Previously in the novel: Novice mercenary Leon fails in kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury because of David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward and Thelma Furness. MI6 wants him to seduce Princess Stephanie of Austria.
A month later Joachim von Ribbentrop invited David to a party at his elegant suite at the Ritz Hotel on Piccadilly across from Green Park and down the street from Buckingham Palace. Neither Freda nor Thelma were available so the prince went stag. As he exited his Ace roadster outside the hotel, a beggar woman walked up and extended him an apple. He waived her off.
“Oh, bugger you, David,” she rasped. It was the MI6 contact. “The Austrian princess is in the house. Don’t muck it up.”
As he rode the elevator to the von Ribbentrop apartment, David lit a cigarette and mused how much a bore all this was. He was joking with himself, of course. He loved to crack wise with himself. Once inside, the attendant took his hat and overcoat. David scanned the room and identified a new woman in attendance. Good posture accentuated her height; shiny dark hair surrounded piercing eyes, and rouged lips screamed to be kissed. It had to be Stephanie. He was sure and took decisive steps in the other direction, seeking out some middle-aged, paunchy, balding diplomat for a boring conversation. One can never be too obvious when seducing a new woman.
Within a few minutes, David felt a tap on his shoulder. When he turned he saw Lady Elvira Chatsworth. Oh hell. He had no time for her now.
“Elvira, what a lovely surprise,” he purred, leaning in to kiss her cheek. “I don’t think I’ve seen you since that trip to Shanghai. You know, I’ll always consider that crossing to be one of the happiest moments in my life.”
She giggled. “My husband is out of town for two weeks.”
“What a shame. So am I.”
After another quick peck, David slipped away toward the foyer to retrieve his coat and hat. This was not working out the way he anticipated. Perhaps he was playing too hard to get. Ah well, he told himself, other opportunities would present themselves.
“Your highness,” a deep male voice called out, “I hope you are not leaving so soon.”
David recognized it to be his host Von Ribbentrop. He turned and smiled. “Of course not. I just saw someone on the other side of the room I didn’t know and wanted to strike up a conversation.” He extended his hand. “And how are you, Herr Von Ribbentrop?”
“Never better.” As Ribbentrop shook hands he made a proficient bow and clicked his heels.
David tried not to roll his eyes. He hated men who clicked their heels. He felt as though they were about to break out in a tap dance. Instead, he lifted his head to survey the room.
“And where are your lovely wife and children?”
“Ah. My wife Anna is probably busy in the kitchen attending to the final details of the dinner. She is such a hausfrau. And the children are back in Berlin with Anna’s aunt. London can be such a tiresome place for German children.”
“Is that so? English children don’t seem to mind it so much. Of course, they’re used to it.”
“Quite so.” Von Ribbentrop gently touched David’s elbow. “Actually, the reason I came over is because I wanted you to meet my guest of honor, Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe.”
“I would have thought a man of your reputation would have heard of Princess Stephanie of Austria.” His index finger smoothed through his moustache.
“Oh, that Princess Stephanie. Show her to me.”
They wriggled through the crowd to Stephanie who was holding court in front of a battery of dashing young men, who were enthralled by her every word. Ribbentrop tried to intervene to introduce the prince. She gracefully held up a gloved hand.
“Please. I must finish my story.”
David smiled as he observed Ribbentrop flushing. A moment later, the attending beaux applauded politely, and Stephanie turned, flashing a brilliant smile.
“Yes. May I help you?”
“I would like to introduce His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales,” Ribbentrop said with the utmost pomp and circumstance.
Stephanie let forth with a rapid succession of sentences in German. She stopped abruptly and a hand went to her cheek. “Oh. I’m sorry. You’re British, aren’t you, and you don’t speak German, do you?”
Without a pause, David replied in fluent German. “You see, it is my mother tongue.”
“My, you are clever.” She smiled again. “So how may I help you?”
“Stephanie, I told you. This is the future king of England,” Ribbentrop replied in a measured tone.
“Then you don’t need my help, do you?” She nodded toward David.
“Oh, you would be surprised,” David replied, focusing his squinty eye on the bodice of her gown.
The doors to the dining room opened, and Anna Von Ribbentrop appeared and announced, “Dinner is served.”
“Oh, thank God,” Ribbentrop muttered as he began prodding his guests to the table.
David extended his arm, and Stephanie took it. Remarkably, they were seated next to each other and exchanged witty repartee for the next two hours. And then he proved his excuse to Elvira Chatsworth to be true by driving the Austrian princess out of the city to Fort Belvedere.
“We just finished the renovations last week. You can still smell paint. Full staff. They’re from one of Mama’s places up north. They know their jobs.”
It was after midnight when they arrived. He unlocked the door and escorted her in.
“Be quiet,” he whispered. “The servants have retired and if they hear us, they will be tedious in their efforts to attend us.”
“But I can’t spend the night,” Stephanie protested. “All I have, in clothing, is what I have on. Whatever shall I wear to bed?”
David took her into his arms and kissed her on the mouth. “We’ll think of something.” As he led her upstairs, he added, “You can send for your things in the morning. By the way, where are you staying?”
“Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair.”
“Ah, not far from the Ritz. That will make directions for my man easy.” He paused to grin. “After all, you will be staying for a couple of weeks.”
She stopped on the last step before reaching the second landing. “Two weeks! Why would I want to stay two weeks?”
“You do want to get to know me, don’t you?” David took her hand and kissed it. “It takes a good two weeks of constant companionship to know me extremely well.”
Stephanie took the last step to the bedroom floor. “As long as you put it that way.”
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol and marries Ernest. In the meantime David has an affair with Freda Ward.
In September of 1929, David found himself again handing out rosettes for prize-winning cattle, this time in Leicestershire. As he awarded best in show, the crowd broke out in polite applause. He did not know whether it was for him or the bull. Nevertheless he smiled graciously and nodded until he noticed a lovely woman standing in front who was not clapping. She seemed to be more concerned with adjusting her gloves than according him accolades for attaching a ribbon cluster to the bovine’s harness. Without stopping to speak to the local mayor, David approached her.
“My God, you are as beautiful as a movie star.”
“That’s because I am one.” She retrieved a cigarette from her hand bag. “Do you have a light?”
“Of course,” he replied, pulling out a book of matches. “Tell me about your movie career.”
After a puff, she explained, “I formed my own movie company in 1923 so I could be a star.”
“Impressive.” David smiled with interest. “What were they? Maybe I’ve seen some of them.”
“I doubt it.” She shrugged. “Making movies turned out to be such a bore.”
“What a shame. I hope you didn’t lose much money.”
“Don’t worry about it. Daddy’s rich. He’s American diplomat Harry Morgan.”
“My daddy is rich too.”
“I know. King of England. You’re the Prince of Wales.”
“And if you tell me who you are then introductions will be complete.”
“Thelma Furness, wife of Viscount Marmaduke Furness. That’s why I’m at this dreary country fair. Former wife. The ink just dried on our divorce papers.”
“Then that means you’re free for the weekend.”
Without further encouragement Thelma hopped in David’s Ace roadster and sped off to Fort Belvedere. She commented his car looked just like Victor Bruce’s auto that won the Monte Carlo Rally.
“I’m just dippy for it,” she said.
David shifted into first gear and stirred up a cloud of dust on the country road. He enthusiastically explained the renovations which were underway since his father finally agreed to give it to him.
“You won’t believe what he said when I first asked him for it,” David said with his infamous lopsided grin. “’What could you possibly want that queer old place for? Those damned weekends, I suppose.”
At that moment they turned a corner, and Fort Belvedere appeared with scaffolding half-way around it.
“I’m absolutely dippy for it,” Thelma announced.
“Don’t worry about the workmen,” he confided. “They won’t be back until Monday.
After they parked, David guided her through the front door and gave her a tour of his bedroom which lasted until the next morning. When he awoke, Thelma was gone but he smelled coffee from the kitchen. They settled into the breakfast nook for a small meal Thelma had whipped up. David decided she looked beautiful even with most of her makeup smudged away. He was about to explain his special relationship to Freda when a reflective mirrored light from the woods beyond the lily pond caught his attention.
“You know I’m quite peculiar,” he began, not knowing how to explain why he had a sudden urge to stroll through the grounds.
“Oh, I know all about Freda,” she said as she stood and collected the dishes. “And I know you’re devoted to your gardening. First thing every morning, playing in the dirt. It’s in all the social pages.” Thelma leaned over to kiss him on the lips. “You’ve been royally had, my dear. You’ve been in my sights for years.” She winked. “I love to share.”
When David first went out the door he started straight for the woods but thought better of it. He turned instead for the shed where he grabbed a few tools. He needed to make Thelma think he was going to play in the dirt. Upon arrival among the silvery birches, he recognized one of his main contacts from the MI6 headquarters. David knew this assignment must be of the highest importance.
“At first I didn’t think you saw my signal,” the man said. “Let’s take a few steps back. No need to alarm the young lady.”
“Nothing would alarm that one,” David muttered as he followed the man around one of the larger trees.
“You know about Princess Stephanie?”
“She’s from Austria, isn’t she? Married a prince or something or other and after the divorce she kept the title.”
“Very close. She was born in Vienna to Jewish parents. Her father was a dentist, a lawyer or some such that they had a bit of money but nothing to brag about. She did quite well in ballet school and became renowned for her beauty. She had an affair with Archduke Franz Salvator who impregnated her. This was a problem because he was already married. Stephanie then talked Friedrich Franz von Hohenlohe into thinking the child was his. They were married a few years and divorced. She kept the child and the title of princess.”
“I can get all this information on the cocktail circuit.” David grew impatient. “What does this have to do with me?”
“This is what concerns us. She’s kicked around Europe and most recently Germany where she has become close friends with Adolph Hitler.”
“No one seriously thinks Hitler has any chance of becoming chancellor, do they?” The more he heard, the more David wanted to get on with pruning his roses.
“Everyone is taking Hitler seriously and so should you,” his MI6 contact said in a stern voice. “We have it on good sources that Hitler wants Stephanie’s next husband to be you.”
David laughed out loud. “My God, the man is mad. Why would he want that?”
“He’s gotten the idea you’re warm to the idea of fascism in Great Britain. With an Austrian wife and the English crown, you would welcome an alliance with a Hitler regime.”
“Why would he think that?”
“The cocktail circuit you just mentioned. You’re quite popular with many right-leaning socialites,” he intoned.
“That’s just balderdash. Too much liquor. Too much philandering.”
“Oh, you misunderstand. We don’t disapprove. We want you to take advantage of this misperception to seduce Princess Stephanie. Cultivate her as a source of information in the coming years.”
“So you want me to bed her.” He gazed back at the house. “Well, I hope she’s as beautiful as they say.”
Joachim Von Ribbentrop
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer. Wallis, in quick succession, dumps first husband Winfield, kills Uncle Sol and marries Ernest.And throws in an affair with German Von Ribbentrop.
The next few days were quite a whirlwind adventure for Wallis. Joachim von Ribbentrop, besides owning an international champagne enterprise, was a member of a highly prestigious military family. And just for fun he was a great tennis player. When he played Wallis on a Paris court, he found her to be an exhilarating opponent.
“My dear, you play tennis like a man,” Von Ribbentrop complimented her after he won a very close match.
“I’ve been told I do many things like a man.”
They immediately adjourned to the club house for a cold drink.
“And you speak English like you were born in London,” she observed, sipping her champagne and reaching for a basket of crackers. Leaning back, she eyed him over the rim of her glass. “You use your tongue and lips very well.”
“When you sell champagne around the world you have to learn many languages.”
“I’ve learned if you flash enough money around people, they learn to speak English pretty fast.”
“Ah, but you see I am trying to get them to flash their money. That requires a certain amount of finesse.”
“That’s fine for you but I’ve never had to sell anything in my life.”
“But that’s not true, my dear Wallis. You are the most expert salesman I have ever met. In fact, you are trying to sell me on doing something for you right now.”
Wallis waved at the waiter for another glass of champagne, crunched on a cracker and then lit a cigarette, blowing the smoke out of the corner of her slim slit of a mouth.
“If truth be told, I am in pique. My uncle changed his will. Originally the five million was going to be mine but now it will establish a home for indigent dowagers, whatever the hell that is.”
Von Ribbentrop leaned forward. “Do you want your uncle forced to change the will back to you and then have him killed? It can be done. I have access to an elite group of assassins.”
“Oh really?” Wallis stopped puffing on her cigarette and raised a brow.
“My family has a long history of flirting with the dark side of humanity. I had an uncle, Heinrich, who married one of the Romanov cousins. He got a tip from the organization that someone was out to assassinate her. So he moved them to the Bahamas, thinking they would never find them there. Well, they did but instead of taking her out they took him out instead. The newspapers said it was a heart attack but the family knew what happened. My aunt disappeared somewhere out in the American West. Even the organization doesn’t try anything among the cactus and rattlesnakes.”
Wallis fluttered her eyes. “Well, now you have my attention. And who might run this organization?”
“If I tell you I’ll have to kill you.” He reclined in his cushioned chair and smiled.
Wallis grunted a laugh. “You’d be surprised how many times I’ve heard that one before.” She shrugged it off. “No, the old bastard’s dead already. What I need is a good lawyer to contest the will.”
“I can help with that too.” He grinned rakishly and reached for the bud vase on the table. Von Ribbentrop lifted a white carnation from the vase and handed it to Wallis. “White carnations are for remembrance. Now what could you do for me that you could remember fondly by looking at a white carnation?”
Taking the flower, she crumpled it in her right fist. “I can do all sorts of things with my hands.”
Von Ribbentrop stood and extended his arm to her. Wallis took it, and he guided her to his hotel suite. The next morning when she left, he handed her a business card for Virginia State Senator Aubrey Weaver.
“He’s the best man I know in the United States for contesting wills and marriages.” He emphasized the word marriages with a wink.
Good luck with that one, Wallis thought. She had no room for a German on her future husband list. At least he was easily satisfied sexually. Back in the states, she deposited Bessie in Baltimore and stopped over in Richmond to confer with Aubrey Weaver. Wallis went through three cigarettes explaining the situation. After listening to her case against Uncle Sol, the senator shook his head.
“I’m sure I could do something to have the will overturned. It seems his health was declining and an argument could be proffered he made the changes in a state of unsound mind. These things can linger in court for years. Most of the money, I assume, was in stocks and my sources on Wall Street tell me the overheated market is going to pop sometime in the next year.” He shrugged. “What’s left of your Uncle Sol’s money after that may not be worth the bother.”
Wallis crushed out her butt in a dirty tray on the lawyer’s desk. “It’s always worth the bother. I don’t care if it’s fifty dollars, I want it.”
Weaver smiled. “Remind me never to be on your bad side.”
“I’m going to need a divorce soon. I’m told you’re good at those things.”
“Yes, little lady, I am.”
The next morning Wallis was on the train to Warrenton in the Blue Ridge Mountains to resume her active social life among the young wealthy elite. Just a few days later she was playing a round of golf with her buddies when she missed an easy putt. One of the women—whose name Wallis had not caught—laughed merrily.
“Well you know what they say. It always isn’t a win-win situation. Sometimes it’s a lose-win situation.”
Wallis was back in Weaver’s office within a week or two and hoped for better news than he had given about Uncle Sol’s will.
“Now, it is absolutely necessary here in Virginia to prove you and your husband have not been in close physical proximity of each other in three years.”
“We met for a few moments a couple of times so he could give me money,” she replied. “Will that be a problem?”
“I don’t think so if your husband won’t mind making a slightly dishonest statement to the court,” Weaver replied. “Do you think he would risk perjuring himself?”
“My dear Sen. Weaver, I thought I had made it perfectly clear both my husband and I have been blessed with a total absence of scruples.”
Submitted to Fauquier County Court in December of 1928 was this letter from Winfield Spencer:
“I have come to the definite conclusion that I can never live with you again. During the past three years, since I have been away from you, I have been happier than ever before.”
The court fell for it, and Wallis was relieved to receive her divorce decree. She said good-bye to her social circle in Warrenton and moved into her mother’s Washington home where she proceeded to make a spectacle of herself by flirting with as many eligible bachelors as possible. This masked her intentions to marry Ernest as soon as his divorce became finalized.
In the spring of 1929 she read in the social column of a New York newspaper that the popular Simpsons had divorced.
“Quelle domage,” the columnist quipped, “but c’est la vie. We hope Ernest will be in high spirits for the summer social season.”
Ernest was not only in high spirits by July but also celebrating his marriage to Wallis. The only let-down for the New York set was that the nuptials occurred in the Chelsea Registry Office in London early one morning. They hosted a champagne brunch for their English friends, then motored to the coast where they sailed for France. Wallis and Ernest had a swell time dining, drinking and shopping in Paris upon their arrival in the late afternoon.
By the end of the long exhausting celebration, actually about four a.m. the next day, Wallis faced a serious decision. Was she going to drug Ernest for her big reveal or take her chances with him not being under the influence nor chained to the bed. She decided her new husband was of a different temperament than Win. Nothing ever seemed to faze him. She had never witnessed him angry, even on the mildest level.
Ernest, already totally nude, brought two glasses of champagne to bed. Wallis took her drink and slammed it back.
“Do you know what I like best about you, Ernest?”
He chuckled as he drank his champagne. “My father’s money.”
“Your devil may care attitude. Nothing ever shocks you.”
“Oh. Yes. That’s true too.”
Without another word, Wallis removed her nightgown. Ernest barely batted an eye and smiled.
“Well, there are many, many ways to have a good time.”
Previously in the novel: A mysterious man in black foils novice mercenary Leon from kidnapping the Archbishop of Canterbury. The man in black turns out to be David, better known as Edward the Prince of Wales. Also in the world of espionage is socialite Wallis Spencer.
By the summer of 1928 Wallis was planning another trip to Europe with Aunt Bessie. She loved traveling with her mother’s spinster sister. Bessie wasn’t pretty, witty or judgmental. She had her head in the clouds. What better companion could a young woman want? Before the departure, she told her aunt she had to return to Warrenton to maintain her Virginia residency so she could finally escape the horrors of marriage to aviator Winfield Spencer.
Her actual destination was the old homestead in Baltimore where Uncle Sol, according to rumor, was on his death bed. This was her last chance to exact revenge for the horrible deeds he had inflicted upon her when she was a little girl.
Wallis lingered out on the street until she saw the nurse leave Sol’s house. Looking around the empty neighborhood she picked the lock to the front door and slipped inside. She crept upstairs to her uncle’s bedroom. When she entered she saw him swallowed up by sheets and blankets.
“Uncle Sollie, so glad to see you’re alive.”
Sol’s eyes fluttered open. When they focused on his visitor and he recognized his niece, they widened in fear. He quickly moved a pillow to his crotch.
“Bessiewallis, no. Please, no.”
She sat on the edge of the bed. “Besides hearing you were dying, I also heard the nasty gossip that you had changed your will. Instead of leaving your millions to me, you decided to create a home for destitute ladies in memory of that wicked mother of yours.”
Sol’s lips quivered. “But you have so much money now. I didn’t think you would mind.” He stopped short when he saw Wallis pull a long hat pin from her stylish black lacquered straw hat with a white satin ribbon around the crown.
“That wicked woman did not approve of my father. She didn’t even attend his funeral. Of course, I hadn’t even been born then but Aunt Bessie told me.”
“Bessie was wrong. Mother was there.”
“Now, now, that’s no way to talk about Aunt Bessie. She may be as dumb as a cow, but she does pay attention when it comes to who attends a funeral and who doesn’t.” Wallis removed the pillow from between his legs and leaned in with the hat pin.
“Oh God, no, Bessiewallis.”
She leaned back. “Just kidding. You always look so funny when you think you’re getting the pin.” Wallis stuck it back in her hat and stood to walk to the night table. Holding up her hands, she began to remove her gloves, revealing a large opal ring. “You don’t mind if I take my gloves off, do you?” Not waiting for a reply she added, “Have you had your morning coffee?”
“Oh my. Let me pour it for you.” With her back to Sol, Wallis opened the top of her opal ring, emptied a white substance into the coffee cup and stirred. “Here, you must drink it all.” She lifted it to his lips.
With apprehension he emptied the cup and fell back on the bed.
“I told you of my adventures in China, didn’t I? I loved exploring all the shops in the Shanghai marketplace. It was so sinful. I found an old woman who sold all sorts of fascinating potions. I bought a powder ground from some herb with such a long name I can’t even begin to remember how to pronounce it. Do you know how long it takes for that poison, once ingested, to work its way through the body and kill you? A week! That gives me time to go to Europe. Before you die.”
Tears filled his eyes. “I’ll tell. You won’t get away with it.”
“I forgot to mention the first symptom is immediate paralysis of the vocal cords. You won’t be able to tell about anything.”
Sol opened his mouth to speak. No sound came out. The potion had already taken effect.
“Good-bye, Uncle Sollie,” Wallis said, walking to the door. “You be a good boy. And, by the way, burn in hell.”
A week later, Wallis and Bessie strolled along the Champs-Elysees when they stopped at a news stand to buy a paper. Actually, Wallis was the one who wanted something to read because Aunt Bessie was prattling on about the upcoming debutante season in Baltimore. Wallis had grown beyond her aunt’s interests. The world of espionage was much more fascinating.
She tapped her foot as the man in front of her took too long buying a magazine. Wallis imagined he was more concerned with flirting with the newsstand girl. He was a tall man in a vanilla ice cream colored suit. His black hair was slicked-back. When he finally paid, he turned, smiled and gave a smart bow. Wallis found it impossible to remain miffed because he had a pencil-thin moustache and an appallingly deep dimple in his chin.
After he moved on, one particular headline on the front page caught her attention.
“Baltimore Inventor Dies.”
Wallis pulled coins from her purse to pay for the newspaper and scanned the story to see if it speculated on cause of death. She smiled when she read the words “natural causes.” Then she handed it to Aunt Bessie who looked at the headline.
Without any emotion she commented, “I never much cared for Sol.”
“Oh, he was all right, as long as he was going to leave everything to me.”
“Does the story say anything about the will?” Bessie asked.
In a few moments they were seated at an open air café along the Seine. Before Wallis could continue reading Sol’s obituary she was distracted by the sight of the man in the vanilla ice cream colored suit sitting at a table across from them. He lifted his champagne glass as though in a toast. Doing her best to ignore him, Wallis slammed back her own glass of champagne before returning her attention to the story about Uncle Sol.
“Finally,” she announced. “Here it is. Mr. Warfield’s will left his entire fortune of five million dollars to build a home for destitute dowagers.”
“Destitute dowagers?” Bessie repeated. “I don’t think I know what that means.”
Wallis wadded the newspaper up and threw it in a nearby trash can. She motioned to the waiter to bring her another champagne. She was in the process of slamming it back when she heard a deep male voice.
“You mustn’t toss back champagne like it were a lager in a beer garden.”
“And who appointed you queen of etiquette?” Wallis looked up to see the man in the vanilla ice cream colored suit standing over her. She blew smoke in his direction.
“I’m in the champagne business. I sell wholesale to all the best restaurants in Europe.”
“In that case, sit down and point out the best champagne on the menu.”
“Only if you promise not to guzzle but sip.”
Wallis appraised him and smiled. “You’ve got a deal.” She refused to acknowledge Aunt Bessie’s profound sigh of resignation.