The train began to slow as it approached Bellingham village. I peered out of the window of my compartment, trying to see through the hoarfrost that had rimed it all the way from London. We're in for a cold winter, I thought.

I was home. And a fortnight before Christmas. "Well done, Petersholme," I mumbled, congratulating myself, "despite Max Molloy's best efforts to ruin it."

I tried to envisage myself submerged in the Hall's Christmas preparations, but the farmer in me kept coming to the fore. As the train continued to slow, I began to tick off a list of tasks I'd need to deal with.

Forcing thoughts of farming from my mind, I stood and stretched to loosen muscles cramped by the long trip. I watched as the station began to appear and smiled as I spotted the man who had become the love of my life standing in the centre of the platform. Barry Alexander peered into each carriage as it moved past him, looking for me. I couldn't help smiling.

He wore a plaid coat, earmuffs, and stocking cap that covered his head and which instantly caught my eye. It was a flaming orange, setting off his ginger hair absurdly. The bright green of the ball at the end of its tail made the effect even worse.

I shuddered and hoped that no-one else had seen him wearing it. No Englishman would wear anything so outlandish. I chuckled to myself then. Barry was definitely no Englishman, though he put on a fairly decent act of it in London where his classmates at the School of Economics might see him or his grandmother would collapse in shock.

He was a warm, witty, intelligent American who did things the American way. And I loved him - partly, I suspected, because he was so absurdly American.

I still didn't know how he'd got past my defences during the summer, but I was happy that he had. The two years since I had inherited my title had been lonely ones - until he entered my life.

My carriage reached the platform and the train shuddered to a stop. I hoped that he'd remain in England after he had earned his degree from the London School of Economics. An absurd and forlorn hope, I supposed, but my hope none the less. I buttoned my coat.

Stepping from the carriage, I was hit by a bracing chill.

"Miss Elizabeth arrived yesterday afternoon, Lord Petersholme," Barry said loudly as I stepped onto the platform. Barry was playing the role of servant - and failing  miserably. Here in Northamptonshire, he was my housekeeper's nephew and, in public at least, our relationship was entirely formal as it had to be. Barry made me realise the subservience of one class to another was absurd. We could well learn a thing or two from the Americans, I thought.

"I brought her friend and the brother down to catch their train back to Leeds half an hour ago-" He grinned as he reached me, his freckles spreading across his face until he looked like a young imp. "And waited around for you. It was an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone."

"Today is what? Friday? You last saw me at the beginning of the week - before you left London with Willi."

"Lord Molloy's had you under his thumb since we all returned from Poland, your Lordship." He arched a brow playfully. "I don't know what he's been doing to keep you so occupied - but this past month it's like your mind's been a million miles away. But, here, I've got you for the next three weeks and there's no Foreign Office, no Lord Molloy, and no affairs of state to keep you away from me."

Barry had definite plans for me, and I suspected that I would have little say in how they were carried out. And he was quite right - Molloy had kept me more than occupied since I had escaped the talons of the German eagle and brought with me the young boy who was now my son. I was now an active member of the Foreign Office group charged with countering Berlin's diplomatic efforts.

"How's Willi?" I asked.

"Your new son still misses his real dad but he's coming around nicely." Barry lowered his eyes and asked quietly: "Aren't you even going to tell me that you're looking forward to being with me as much as I am with you?"

"I love you, Barry," I told him, gripping his arm for emphasis. "I've missed being with you the last month and a half - at least, I've missed concentrating on you." I took a deep breath and smiled as sheepishly as I could. "I've been neglecting you since we got back from Poland, and I promise that will change just as soon as we're in a quiet corner of the Hall. You're going to have my undivided attention for the rest of the month." I wasn't promising that simply to make him feel better. I was promising it because it made me feel better.

"I can hear Miss Alice and Willi now, dressing you down the first time you ignore them for me, Robbie," he chuckled. "You're going to have to give the farm and your factories some time. The family's going to need you too. I'll be glad to just have you hold me in the evening or make love to me without most of your mind being on whatever Max and his buddies have cooking over there in Europe."


* * *


We pulled to a stop at the front entrance of Bellingham Hall and, before Barry could turn off the ignition, the big oak doors had flown open.

"Uncle Robert!" came a scream in German as I opened the car door and began to turn. "Uncle Robert, you're here at last!" A ball of energy crashed into me, pushing me back against the gear box and Barry. Somehow, it landed in my lap and transformed itself into a five year old boy with his arms encircling my neck and his face buried in my coat.

"Willi." I ruffled his hair and returned his hug, tears welling in my eyes. "You must speak English here, you know," I told him gently, surprised at how happy I was to be holding him again. I looked up and saw Aunt Alice standing in the entranceway, shaking her head slowly and smiling at us.

Barry pulled the key from the ignition. "Carry him inside, Robbie," he said to me as he opened his door. "I'll get your things."

"Glad to see me, are you?" I asked Willi, holding him, as I walked towards Alice.

Willi nodded against my chest and then looked up at me, his eyes blue as the Prussian sky. "I thought you were never going to come, Uncle Robert. I thought that you had decided not to spend Christmas with me."

"I promised, didn't I?" I asked. He nodded. "I always try to keep my promises, Willi."

"Promise me that Father Christmas will bring me a horse for my very own then, Uncle Robert."

We had reached Aunt Alice and I hugged her to Willi and myself.

"This lad of yours has driven everyone insane asking after you, Robert," she grumbled, patting his back and hugging us both.

"I have not!" Willi said indignantly.

"Don't believe her, Robert," Elizabeth said from the step. "Our Aunt Alice has had her heart completely stolen by young Wilhelm."

Alice Adshead harumphed and pulled away from us. Before she could get away, Willi leaned over and placed a wet kiss on her cheek. She smiled.

"May I steal a small kiss from your Uncle Robert, Willi?" asked Elizabeth.

Willi permitted my cousin to kiss me - as he had Aunt Alice's hug earlier.

"How do you like the wreaths?" he demanded before Elizabeth could step back.

I looked at the double doors. Boughs of holly had been shaped into two wreaths, one adorning each door.

"They're pretty," I told the boy. "Did you make them for us?"

He nodded, beaming. "Miss Murray and Aunt Alice helped. Let's go inside. I want you to see what's there."

My eyes suddenly watered and I blinked back tears. This was the first Christmas since I was younger than Willi that I had not helped prepare the Hall for Christmas.

"Uncle Barry said he would help me put up the Yule tree, Uncle Robert," he said as I stepped into the house. "But I wanted both of you to help me, not just him."

I smiled. "We'll do it this Sunday then, lad. But we'll need to make it a family project. If we're not careful, the ladies will think we don't need them."

I felt Elizabeth poke me in the side. Hard. Alice chuckled. Willi sagely nodded his understanding.


* * *


Logs burned in the fireplace of the sitting room. Willi sat on my lap, holding on to me and sucking his thumb as he slipped into sleep. Near the fire, Aunt Alice knitted. Elizabeth and Barry were going on about Schöpenhauer's suicide in quiet voices. I began to doze.

The Foreign Office had impinged on my life. I had come to know far more about the state of the world than most Englishmen - and far more than I was happy knowing. During the last month and a half, I had woken to nightmares of the German eagle spreading its wings across Europe and a bloodied England caught in its talons.

Most of those nights, Barry had been in the bed beside me. Elizabeth and Willi were in their own rooms in the Mayfair house. The nightmares had seemed more real in London and had separated me from those I loved. Here, they had already begun to retreat into the distance. Now I was home, my sense of perspective seemed to be returning.


I jerked, pulled from the safe, comfortable haze I had slipped into. I looked over to Alice and saw that she was watching me. I hoped that she hadn't realised I was napping.

"Are you going to stay for New Year, Robert?"


"I mean, you aren't going to have to dash off to London because of this business with the Foreign Office, are you?"

Barry and Elizabeth stopped talking. I shifted the child on my lap and faced them. "Aunt Alice, the only government thing that I'm involved with is the Lords," I told her and felt my face flame at the transparent lie. "I only helped Max out with that excursion to Berlin-" I was burying myself deeper. I could see it on Barry's face.

"All right," I said, changing tack. "It's probably safe to say that I have been roped into doing some work for Whitehall." For a moment I wondered how much I should reveal. "But it will not interfere with our Christmas. I won't allow it." I smiled at the three of them. "I'm home. I am with the people I love. This is where I want to be." I forced myself to chuckle.

"Robert," Aunt Alice frowned, chose her words with care, and went on, "what exactly is going on in the world that has made you so concerned?"

I forced a smile to my lips. "You understand that there's much I can't tell you - any of you?" All three of them nodded that they understood.

"Very well then - you know Hitler has gobbled up Czechoslovakia? Not just the Germanic Sudetenland that Chamberlain surrendered to him at Munich but the Czech and Slovak lands as well?"

Each of them nodded but I noticed that Barry seemed to be holding himself back. Of course, it had been Barry who had held me in his arms when the nightmares had got too bad.

"The government has told Berlin that there can be no more territorial acquisitions. It will be war next time."

"War?" Alice gasped.

"And-?" Barry asked.

"We've got a nasty situation," I answered. "Look at the face of Europe. Spain has gone fascist. Italy is already fascist and allied with Germany. Hungary is as well. They have Austria and, now Czechoslovakia. The Low Countries and Scandinavia are neutral. That leaves only us and the French - and France is pacifist."

"And-?" Barry asked again.

"Britain needs five years to re-arm - if we are to go into a war with Germany on an equal footing."

"And we don't have five years?" Elizabeth asked.

"We don't," I admitted.

She glanced to Barry. "What about the Americans?"

"Impossible," he said, answering for me. "It'd take the Krauts bombing New York to push us into war." He shook his head slowly. "The America First crowd has half the Congress eating out of their hand; Roosevelt could never talk them into it."

"So, we stand alone?" Elizabeth groaned, looking at Barry and then to me. "Have we started to rebuild our army yet?" she asked.

I sighed. "No, we haven't. But we can defend against a general invasion with the Navy - besides, the Wehrmacht would have to get through France to threaten us. Where we will hurt the worst is in the air. Hitler's generals proved how effective the aeroplane can be in Spain. We'll be bombed - far worse than in the Great War. It won't be pretty."

"I think, Robert," Alice said, firmly changing the subject, "that it is time for a certain young man to be put to bed." She smiled tightly. "I also think that this is probably not the most pleasant topic of conversation, given the season."


* * *


Early on Saturday morning, I left Barry asleep and stole downstairs to my study. There were two months of reports from the Petersholme factories in Coventry waiting for me in addition to the farm manager's reports. The time spent in Germany for the Foreign Office had played havoc with my business commitments.

Around nine, Barry knocked quietly at the door and backed in, carrying a breakfast tray. "You need nourishment, Robbie," he said as he laid his tray on the table beside the window.

Before I could protest that I wasn't hungry, my stomach growled. "Perhaps I do," I agreed as I stood up. "Will you join me?"

He grinned. "I did have Cook make enough for two-"

I laughed. "So, you are joining me then?" He nodded.

He poured the tea. "Do you still have money, Robbie?"

"The tractor factory is still profitable-"

"Sounds like you've got good men running it then." He grinned. "As I remember from this summer the fertiliser plant makes money all by itself. And your farm manager is a jewel as well."

I looked up at him. If I knew anything about Barry, it was that, when he began to close off lines of conversation, he had one particular thing he wanted to talk about. "To use your phrase, what's up?"

He nodded absently and sipped at his tea. "What have you got that boy for Christmas?"


"Last time I looked, Wilhelm von Kys, now William Adshead, sure looked like a boy, Robbie - have you got him anything for Christmas yet?"

Blast! This practical American had me on the spot, and he knew it. Max had kept me so busy since I escaped from Germany that I hadn't had time to think about Christmas presents.

It wasn't just the family, either. Tradition dictated that I give each employee a gift, farm and factory.

"Have you got him anything yet?" I asked defensively.

"It arrived in London last week - just before we left for Bellingham Hall." He grinned. "A cowboy outfit, including the boots and a toy six-gun. Caps too. Mom sent it over from New York. What about Elizabeth and Miss Alice?"

I quickly glanced down to the reports on my desk to avoid his gaze. "I haven't … Do you think perhaps you and Eliza-?"

He smiled so sweetly at me. "Robbie, come Monday morning, you, Elizabeth, and I are driving over to Coventry. We have some shopping to do."

"I couldn't possibly-"

"You owe it to your people, Lord Petersholme," he said quietly, hitting home. "And you'd better get the family and servants something nice - or I'll write you off faster than you can spell Mississippi."

"Damn," I growled.



After Barry had left I called in Aunt Alice. She had already bought gifts for the staff in anticipation of my forgetting to do so. With the exception of putting up the tree on Sunday, there was nothing left for me to do.

I telephoned the managers of my factories and authorised the customary five shilling Christmas bonus in the pay packet of each man who had been with Petersholme for at least a year. I intended to do the same for the farm hands later when I met with the farm manager.

I could hear young Willi running through the great hall, goading Alice to hurry up. Barry had told me that he would be entertaining Elizabeth by reading the American poet Walt Whitman. I was home and in the arms of my family. I couldn't think of a place that I would rather be, even if I was working instead of playing.

A knock at my door pulled me from the reports in front of me. "Come," I called.

"M'Lord," Miss Murray said as she opened the door.

Looking towards the door, I saw Max Molloy stand aside to allow a short, pudgy man to enter the room. I recognised his bulldoggish face immediately, even if there had not been the thick cloud of cigar smoke around his head to identify him. Winston Churchill! I swallowed as both men stepped into the study. What could he possibly want with me?

Miss Murray closed the door behind them.

The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I knew that something was going to happen to ruin Christmas for us and I feared it, whatever it proved to be. For a moment, the idea of hiding crossed my mind. I stepped out from behind my desk instead and walked over to Molloy and Churchill.

"Happy Christmas, Max," I said. "And to you as well, Mr. Churchill."

Molloy stepped closer, his blue eyes intense and serious. I realised that he'd lost the several inches of extra girth that I'd noticed in September. I thought that Alan Dudding was having a nice effect on my friend until I saw his face. His round face actually seemed haggard. "You know Mr. Churchill then, Robbie?" he asked.

"We haven't actually met but, of course, I recognise him." I glanced from Max to Churchill and back. "Would you like tea, gentlemen?"

"Thank you, no, your Lordship," Churchill said, wagging his cigar. He stepped into the centre of the room and control gravitated to him naturally. "Lord Molloy and I need to return to London this afternoon." His gaze held mine and I knew I would agree to any request he made of me. "May we just sit for a while?"

"Lord Petersholme," Churchill said after we were comfortable in front of the fire. "I understand that you are pretty cool-headed -nothing like the firebrand that the press makes me out to be-" He paused and smiled. I found myself instinctively smiling back. "I fear," he continued, "that Fleet Street has been drawing me with longer fangs than the mirror tells me I have."

His gaze moved quickly over the room. "You haven't changed a thing, Petersholme," he said a moment later.

"Mr. Churchill?"

"I stood in this same room with your father that first year of the Great War." He chuckled and looked at me as a proud father would his son. "I even held you on my lap for a few moments-"

"The tanks we made for the Crown," I said, remembering my father's pride at the contract Petersholme had garnered. We had built the first British tanks.

Churchill laughed. "We were so afraid they would become known as water closets for Russia."

"Water closets, sir?" I asked hesitantly.

"Our lads at the Admiralty were calling them hot water tanks for Russia to keep them secret. Several wags had already started calling the water closets. That was before I talked with your father." His nose wrinkled and his bulging eyes flashed. "But that was an earlier war. Almost a gentleman's war, if you will. It's no longer Kaiser Bill, but Uncle Adolf-"

I was quickly drawn in by his intimate, yet hoarse, barking voice and the brilliance that drove it. "We are going to have a war, Petersholme. The signs are now so obvious that even our Prime Minister has begun to see them." He nodded towards me. "From what you said in your debriefing, you, sir, have seen them yourself - the long Wehrmacht troop trains in Berlin, that damnable rocket they tested while you were at Peenemünde, their occupation of Czechoslovakia, and their increasingly insufferable attitude. We have less than a year, Petersholme. Less than a year."

He studied me for a moment and I felt as if I were a small boy summoned by the headmaster.

"England will sorely need every friend it can find, Petersholme. Molloy here and Mr. Dudding from the Admiralty have been instructed to make you aware of how woefully unprepared we are for this coming war." He glanced to Max, and my old school chum nodded in agreement. "At present, we have only the French in Europe as an ally. Our most accomplished diplomats are vying with von Ribbentrop to win over the Bolsheviks in Moscow."

"We have the Navy-" I said, reflexively parroting the common line.

"You are a flyer, sir. You can well imagine what a powerful and modern air arm can do for a country at war - look at what those Stukas did to the Spanish Republicans a few years ago. They gained air supremacy and then bombed the Loyalists into surrender. Worse from Britain's point of view, a young Army Air Corps officer in America named Billy Mitchell proved what an aeroplane could do to a Navy a couple of years ago. He sank one of America's largest destroyers with bombs from just one aeroplane. The Germans will have more than one hundred divisions in a fully trained and modern army by the summer - they have the men for them now that they have Austria and the Sudentenland."

"Will we be able to bring men in from the Empire?" I asked, conscious of my ignorance.

"Hardly, Petersholme. Germany is allied with Japan, and they're already casting hungry glances at our possessions in the Orient. We'll have to keep both the Navy and the bulk of the army in India and beyond - Hong Kong, Singapore and the Malay peninsula especially - to hold them at bay."

I knew that I had been snookered. Of course, I had known that the moment I saw Churchill standing at my door, his bowler in hand. "What do you need me to do, Mr. Churchill?" I asked in surrender.

The corners of his lips twitched and I suspected that I had seen the ghost of a smile there. "Petersholme, I'm not on the King's official business today-"

"Churchill, you may not be the Prime Minister; but you need me to do something - something for my King and country." I shrugged and tried to smile. "I suspect that I have just volunteered."

Churchill slowly brought the fingers of both hands together to make a steeple and nodded. "You know that the present French government is even more pacifist than ours is-?" I nodded. "We do have a friend there - Paul Reynaud … Do you remember him?"

"I can't think-"

"He was a hero in the Great War - quite well known to his people. He's the Minister of Justice in the present government." I remained silent. "He and I have similar doubts about Hitler. We both see war on the horizon, and he has some support in both the government and army." I waited. "He is quite interested in this rocket business of the Germans, Petersholme. He would like to be briefed on everything you saw in Germany."

This didn't sound dangerous. I allowed myself to smile. "You want me to go to Paris then, Mr. Churchill?"

He chuckled. "Actually, Monsieur Reynaud has invited you to his country place in Deauville. It would be more private, you understand."

"You're thinking only a few days then?"

"No more than two or three, Petersholme. You'll be back well before Christmas and your family obligations here."

"Mr. Churchill?" Max asked. Churchill and I both turned to Max. "Robert has both his cousin and an American guest here for Christmas - both of them students at the  School of Economics. They would provide him with any cover that he might conceivably need - a British nobleman showing his cousin and guest the French sights, you know."

Cover? I glanced sharply at Molloy and saw the faint whisper of a smile touch his lips. It dawned on me then what he was doing, and my face began to burn.

"Cover?" Churchill asked, as surprised at Molloy's suggestion as I was.

"I'm not suggesting he actually needs a cover, Mr. Churchill. But one doesn't know, does one? If this Barry Alexander and Robert's cousin Elizabeth accompany him, they'll provide cover if someone becomes too interested in why a member of the House of Lords is spending time in France this close to Christmas."

"You may be right, Molloy." Churchill pursed his lips and thought a moment more. "Yes, definitely. We'd have everything on the ground to draw away any suspicion that could conceivably arise. Good thinking, sir. Very good thinking."

He turned to me. "Petersholme, I'll have an aeroplane from the Fleet Air Arm waiting for you on Monday morning. It will fly the three of you to Paris. I'll also have a car collect you at nine o'clock and take you to Coventry." I instantly nodded my acceptance. "Good. I'll telegraph Monsieur Reynaud to have a driver waiting for you then."

"Should I fly over then?" I asked. "If there's need for me to have cover, that is? Perhaps I should take the ferry and train?"

Churchill smiled. "Jerry won't know that you're coming and we do want to get you in to meet Monsieur Reynaud and his friends from the French army. If there's need for you to seem to be something you're not, that need will come after you're in France and in Deauville." He shifted in his chair and began to rise. I had the distinct impression that he considered the interview closed. I didn't. There were still aspects of this assignment I wanted clarified.

"Mr. Churchill, this Reynaud chap is their Minister of Justice," I said and the man sat back to wait for me. "While you've said he was a war hero, I can't conceive of him gleaning anything from what I might tell him. He's not military. It took your lads at the Admiralty to see a military significance in what I saw in Germany-"

He chuckled. "Reynaud is a strange one, Petersholme. He's surrounded himself with military men since he's been in government. Presently, he and a Colonel de Gaulle and his clique are quite tight."

"De Gaulle?" I questioned.

"Quite a brilliant chap, so I understand - armour. St. Cyr too. But far too iconoclastic. A few years back, he wrote a book on tank warfare-" He chuckled again but I sensed nothing mirthful there. "Our lads think the German general staff have been eating that book whole. I hear that they even tested his theories in the Spanish civil war - along with aerial bombardment of civilian populations."

"Iconoclastic?" I asked.

"Unlike Reynaud, I don't trust him. And neither does the French general staff. He's reputed to see himself as a law unto himself. He has no network of friends. He uses allies to get what he wants and, then, discards them."

"Should I be careful what I tell him then?"

He pursed his lips again. "Your friend von Kys had permission to show you this rocket thing of theirs. The Nazi high command obviously wanted that reported back to us and, presumably, France - probably to frighten us. French and English visitors have seen the troop trains you saw in Berlin. They've also seen armament trains loaded with tanks." His eyes glazed for a moment as he pulled his thoughts together. "Tell de Gaulle anything he asks. With the exception of that damned rocket, he's probably already heard it all. If you take any other missions for the Crown that involve him however, remember to be careful with what may get back to him."

Churchill rose from his chair and Max stood.

"Thank you for seeing us this afternoon, Petersholme," Churchill said. "You've quickly become invaluable to England in this difficult time."

I shrugged. "I'm happy to be of service."

"A car will collect you and your party at nine on Monday, my Lord. And Reynaud will have you met in Paris."

He took a deep breath and held it for a moment. "As your ward will be going with you, I feel I should mention this-"

"What's that, Mr. Churchill?"

"One of the aviators flying you to France - Pettigrew his name is - has a reputation as a lady's man." His lips twitched. "He's a young, handsome lad. A word of warning-?"











I stood in the drive in front of the Hall and watched as Churchill and Molloy motored away. The realisation of what I had agreed to finally began to sink in.

I was flying to France after the weekend - on His Majesty's service, part of my brain pointed out, trying to reassure me. The Christmas preparations I'd promised to make would have to wait until I returned.

I tensed as I thought about what Churchill requested. It sounded innocent enough, but my harrowing escape from Schloß Kys was still fresh. I forced myself to relax. This time, there would be no danger in the offing, and I would have Barry with me - and Elizabeth. I should be able to work in a day in Paris before we returned. That would take care of my Christmas shopping. It would also be jolly good fun to introduce my cousin and my lover to the city of light.

Willi's horse! I'd almost forgotten! And the boy was so set on having one too.

A gentleman should be able to ride, and I intended to raise the lad as a gentleman, didn't I? Wilhelm von Kys, now William Adshead and my heir, was young at five to have his own horse - but not too young. My father had put me on a horse when I was three. I had my own before I was seven. I could do no less for my newly adopted son.

A gentle mount would go perfectly with Barry's gift to the boy. A cowboy outfit indeed! Janus von Kys would absolutely chortle at the vision of Willi riding across the flat plains of Prussia dressed like some escapee from an American wild west film.

A horse that was used to children was a necessity. The farm manager could help me there. He was a good man, and he had a good sense for horseflesh. He'd find a suitable one for the boy while I was away.

I shivered and realised that I'd walked my visitors to their car with only a pullover on.

I stepped back into the Hall and, before I could reach the study, Miss Murray approached me. "Is everything all right, m'Lord?" she asked.

I smiled as I nodded to Jane Murray. I was glad to have her, and not only because she accepted what her nephew and I had between us. "Send someone down to the farm manager and tell him to join me." She said nothing but her brow arched in question. "Elizabeth, Barry, and I will be away most of next week," I said in way of explanation. "You'll need to tell Cook that she won't have us that week to fatten up for Christmas dinner."

She started to turn but a thought struck her and she stopped to look back at me. "Was that Mr. Churchill who came to visit just now, sir?" she asked. I nodded. "Nothing good comes from that man," she mumbled.

"Why's that, Miss Murray?"

"I hear that he's looking for a war with those Huns, sir. I just hope he doesn't find it, or a lot of good boys won't be around to take care of their mums when they've grown old."

"Some American general once said that war is hell, and I suspect that's he's quite right about it, Miss Murray," I told her. "But, in this case, I fear the Germans are readying themselves for war and, if it comes, England will have to fight it. Perhaps alone. We'll need Winston Churchill then."

Miss Murray nodded sadly and started towards the kitchen.


* * *


I stepped into the library and pulled the doors closed. Barry stopped reading Whitman's Leaves Of Grass and looked up. Elizabeth sat watching me. I cleared my throat. "I have something to tell you," I said.

"That's quite obvious, Robert," my cousin said. "And what did the Honourable Mr. Churchill ask of you?"

I stared at her, taken by surprise by her perceptiveness.

Barry laughed. "Robbie, it's pretty obvious. Molloy and this Churchill guy come here, you three hole up in your study, they leave, and you come and say that you have something to tell us. What else could it be?"

"You'll both need to pack a few things for Monday," I told them. "We're going to France."

            "France?" Barry yelped, staring at me in surprise.

"We fly to Paris on Monday. I assume that we'll then be driven out to Deauville where we will stay for several days-"

"Deauville?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes lighting up.

"Deauville?" Barry asked suspiciously. "What's there?"

"A casino," she explained to him, "gaming tables, the latest fashions, even actors from the cinema-"

"Ooh-la-la!" he said and rose. Reaching Elizabeth, he raised her hand to his lips. "Mademoiselle! I vill sveep you off your feet-"

"My God!" I yelped.

Elizabeth tapped her foot. "Barry, I said actors - from the French cinema. Like that darling man Maurice Chevalier. Not Germans."

I groaned for their benefit but still smiled. They were looking forward to this little junket. And they would help to make it fun for all of us.

"And, Robert, why are we going to this place mal famé?" she asked, turning to me, suspicion written in bold characters across her face.

"I need to meet with their Minister of Justice, Eliza. You and Barry will accompany me to make me appear to be just another mad Englishman - if anyone is interested."

I turned to look at Barry. "And you will accompany this girl everywhere while we're there. Aunt Alice would have my head if the virtue of a Petersholme ward were ever compromised."

"No good-looking Frenchmen allowed within ten feet?" he asked, his eyes sparkling with the same mirth as my cousin's.

I tried to imagine how Mr. Churchill would handle this repartee if he were here. I knew then that he wouldn't have. I decided simply to ignore it - and enjoy the time the three of us would share once there.

"Willi is not going to be a happy boy, Robbie," Barry said, his face suddenly serious.

"We'll be back home before the end of the week," I told him.

"Of course we will," Eliza seconded quickly.

"I don't know - the poor kid has had a whole series of knocks in a really short period of time," Barry explained, looking directly at me. "You're the one secure thing in this whole new world that he's been thrown into. And you need a chance to relax completely - away from all that stuff that filled your head all the time in London."

"Dagold arrives for Christmas tomorrow," Eliza offered. "And Willi will have Aunt Alice watching over him like a mother hen. He won't even know we're gone."

            "You'd better tell him," Barry said. "Privately. Robbie, make it a man-to-man talk - maybe he'll understand that your going is a duty or something."

"I suppose so," I mumbled as I turned back to the hall, already planning how I would handle telling the boy. I thought, however, that Barry was greatly exaggerating how Willi would take my departure. The boy had behaved perfectly normally the last month in London since I'd brought him to England.


* * *


I followed the path through raised flower beds and found Aunt Alice sitting on a bench in the centre of the garden. The green of the holly bushes and the red of their berries added a festive colour to the winter bleakness around us.

Willi ran back and forth along the path that led back to the outbuildings. He had what looked like a model aeroplane in his hand. I nodded to her and looked down the path to see my new son pretending to be a bomber.

"He's a good boy, Robert," she said softly, following my gaze. "He will be a Baron worthy of you when that time comes."

"I can only hope, Aunt." I took a deep breath and looked back at her. "I'm going to France for a few days."

"That's what that Mr. Churchill wanted with you then?"

"You knew he was here?"

She giggled like a small girl, her strong face breaking into a broad grin. "Robert Adshead! There is nothing that happens at Bellingham Hall that I don't know about. Nothing."

"Elizabeth and Barry will be with me." She arched a brow and fixed me with her gaze. "It's nothing dangerous, Aunt. They're perfectly safe. I'm only going to brief a member of the French government about what I saw in Germany - him and some officers from their army."

"And Elizabeth needs to accompany you?"

"Max convinced Churchill that the two of them would provide me a cover if anyone became interested in my presence there."

"You'll watch her carefully?"

"If I get involved, Barry will accompany her everywhere, Aunt Alice."

She stood and pulled her coat close. "Then I think you'll need to tell your heir about your plans, Robert." She glanced up the path at the boy now moving towards us. "I'll leave you men alone."

"Hello, Willi," I called to the boy. "Please come here. We need to talk."

I heard the rustle of my aunt's skirts as she left me. I watched as my son came closer, his face lit up by both the air's chill and an inner fire I could only guess at. "You've decided Father Christmas can give me my own horse then?" he asked as he neared me.

I chuckled and held out my arms to him. He dropped his aeroplane down in a flower bed and flew to me, nearly knocking me over. "You'll say yes to Father Christmas, won't you?" he demanded against my ear. "About the horse?"

"Do you think you're old enough, Willi?" I asked. "A horse is a lot of responsibility, you know-"

"Please, Uncle Robert!"

"We'll see, Wilhelm. I really must think about it first, though." I set him down. "Let's walk a bit, shall we?"

We walked along the garden path, Willi holding my hand possessively. I couldn't remember a time in my own childhood when my father had allowed me to hold onto him as this lad now did me. My throat tightened; his hand in mine felt damned good. At that moment, I pitied my father for never having learnt how good a young boy's trust felt.

We reached a bench and I sat down, pulling him to me. "You're a big boy, aren't you?" I asked in German. I wanted him to understand me completely.

He stepped back, pulled himself to attention, and studied my face. "I am not an infant any more, Uncle Robert. I am the Graf von Kys."

"Good!" I breathed a sigh of relief. I told myself that this was not going to be anything like difficult as Barry had imagined. "His Majesty's Government have asked me to carry a message to France-" He continued to study my face. I felt strangely like a bug under a microscope. "I have to go, Willi - but I'll be back in plenty of time for Christmas," I finished hurriedly.

"You can't go!" He stared at me, his blue eyes large.

"Oh, let's be serious here, lad. There's nothing dangerous about going to a stodgy old government minister and delivering a message to him. I'll be home before you can even miss me."

"You're going to leave me then?" He pushed off my lap, his feet finding the ground.

"Dagold will be here tomorrow, before we leave-"

"I don't want to see Vati's whore!" he cried.

"Willi!" I growled with shock. Where had he learnt that word?

His face contorted and his small hands became fists. "I'm tired of speaking English all the time," he hissed, continuing to speak in German. "It is a pig's language. And England is a pigsty."

Tears welled in his eyes and began to run down his cheeks. "I am here because of you. To escape Mutti. But you don't want me! I want to go home - to the Fatherland - where I belong-" He turned then and began to run towards the house.

He reached the kitchen and slipped inside.

So much for any special understanding between the boy and myself. I took off after him.

Von Kys, what in God's name have you got me into? And what was I to do with a five year old child who was angry and hurt? One who was now legally my son?

If this were twenty years earlier, my father would have seen the boy's behaviour as a childish tantrum. When I was still five, I was allowed to see him for no more than an hour a day. Nurse would have me on my best behaviour for the event. I doubted that the man cared much for my feelings and thoughts. I was his heir and that had been the extent of his thinking about me when I was Wilhelm's age.

But I was not a product of the nineteenth century. I cared for the boy whom I had brought back from Germany and whom I had taken responsibility for. He made my life somehow more complete by being in it and a part of it.

I reached the great hall in time to see Barry and Elizabeth reach the foot of the stairs. Aunt Alice breathed hard as she set foot on the landing above me. I held back then.


* * *


Alice Adshead had been discussing with Cook how many Christmas cakes to bake in the coming week. She stopped in mid-sentence and looked towards the door as it slammed open.

Willi ran through the kitchen and skidded to a stop before the door to the hall. She saw that his face was screwed up and heard him breathing in hard gasps as he pulled the door open and pushed through. She turned to Cook and told her to decide on dinner and started after the boy.

He was stomping up the last of the stairs as she reached the bottom of the staircase. "Willi?" she called to him. He reached the landing and ran along it to his room, ignoring her.

She followed after him.

"Willi?" she asked as she opened the door to his room.

He turned into his pillow and Alice heard him sob. She hurried to him and sat on the bed beside him. "What's wrong, child?" Her hand went to his head and stroked his hair.

"Nein!" he wailed. "Nicht mehr auf englisch." He buried his face deeper in the pillow and cried louder.

Alice's hand caressed the boy's shoulder absently. She sat quietly beside him. She could not understand what he had said but sensed that she could not push him until he'd finished crying.



Barry had heard the door slam out in the hall and turned in time to see Willi begin to climb the stairs rapidly. Before he could do anything, however, he saw Alice Adshead quickly cross the hall and start up the stairs after the boy.

"I think Robbie just blew it with the kid," he told Elizabeth and started for the hall.

"What do you mean?"

"The kid's madder than an old wet hen. He ran up to his room and Miss Alice just went up after him. Want to go and see if we can help smooth things out?"

They climbed the stairs and started along the landing, following the sound of the boy's sobbing to his room. Barry smiled when he saw Alice sitting beside the boy and trying to console him. Elizabeth stepped into the room and Alice glanced up to see the two young people. She shrugged at their unspoken question.

Barry moved to the bed and knelt beside Wilhelm. "Come on, big guy," he said softly as he leaned closer to the boy. "Nothing can be this bad."

Willi sobbed louder. Barry took the small fist from the pillow, wrapping his hand around it.

"What's the matter? Come on, tell Uncle Barry-"

Willi lifted his head and looked at him. "No! I'm never going to speak English again," he wailed in German and buried his face in the pillow again.

Barry looked to the two women. "What did he say?" he mumbled.

"Something about English," Elizabeth offered. Alice shrugged and continued to stroke the boy's shoulder.

"Willi," Barry said softly, leaning closer. "I can't speak German. I speak English. Talk to me, buddy - so that I can understand."

Willi shook his head vehemently against the pillow. "English is a pig's language," he sobbed in German. "I'll never speak it again."

Barry glanced to the two women again. "Schwein is pig, I think," Elizabeth offered. "And Sprache is language." She forced a tight smile to her lips. "I think young Wilhelm is really quite angry, Barry."

The American nodded and looked back to the boy. He didn't know what Robbie had told the kid about their trip to France but, whatever it was, it hadn't been taken well. "You know that we love you-" he began.

Willi turned his head to gaze directly at Barry, tears rolling down his cheeks. "You don't love me, no-one loves me!" he said, speaking English slowly. "Only Vati loved me, and he's dead. I heard Dagold say that Mutti killed him when he was taking me to the aeroplane. She'll do that to Uncle Robert there in France too."

Barry leaned back slightly and smiled down at the boy. "The King of England has asked Robert to go to France for him, Willi. Robert loves you - he loves us all - but this is his King asking him to do this. He can't refuse to go."

"He'll die. But maybe Mutti won't have him killed if I go back to her. She always said that I was a son of the new Germany. She said that I belonged to Germany. The Reichsführer said it too the time that she took me to his house. Let me go to her, Uncle Barry. That way, Uncle Robert will be safe. All of you will be."

Alice harumphed and stood, looking down at the boy. "This creature who killed your father, Willi - your mother. She can't touch you here - this is England. We don't allow things like that. Robert is only going to France, and that's a free country. That woman can't touch Robert there. We're all safe from that  mess."

"Elizabeth and I will be going with him to France, Willi," Barry told him. "That way, he'll be safe. And we'll have him back here all in one piece a whole week before Christmas."

The child blinked. "You'll go with him to keep him safe?" he sniffed.

Barry nodded. "I think I can convince him that you're big enough to have that pony you've been talking about too. Would you like that?" Willi nodded slowly. "Then you're going to have to get up and wash your face, kid. Big boys don't cry and carry on like this. We've got to show Uncle Robert that you're old enough to have that pony."

"You'll take care of Uncle Robert?" he demanded. Barry nodded again. Willi looked to Elizabeth. "You will too?"

She smiled. "I love Robert as much as you do, young man," she said. "I'll bring him home alive and well. I promise you that - Barry and I both will."


* * *


Clive was sprawled across the tractor seat, his left leg resting on the tyre. He raised the jug of plum brandy and took a mouthful. Swallowing, he passed the jug down to his friend Neville leaning against the gear box. He looked back up towards the manor house.

"It's bloody cold out here, Clive," Neville said as he lifted the jug to his lips.

"You ain't ever satisfied, mate," the blond youth answered. "It's always too hot or too cold for you." He dropped his foot to the floor of the tractor. "At least, we ain't spreading manure and sweating our bollocks off in this weather. Me balls itched wicked all bloody summer doing that shit."

His eyes narrowed as he remembered his Lordship sentencing him - and all he'd done was try to have some sport with that queer Yank.

He and Nevie were just looking to have a bit of fun with the American. The Yank'd have enjoyed it too - being all snooty and proper all the time. A regular nancy boy, he was. Clive figured every queer wanted dick. They had been going to give it to him too.

Only, the Yank fought them. He'd known some funny moves too - Nip moves, he reckoned. Busted his nose, the Yank had. Clive was in pain for a good month after that. He was also sure he would never breathe right again.

And his Lordship. Bloody arse! Giving him and Nevie a choice of gaol or slaving at the dirtiest jobs on the farm. And the farm manager had found every one of them too. Pitching manure all through the autumn. Sweated his bollocks off, he had. And smelling that shit!

He wondered what it would be like, fucking a pansy like that Yank was. Fucking anything was more like. He was seventeen and his dick had only known his hand. He glanced down at Neville and his cock twitched. He tried to push the thought beginning to take shape out of his head.

Nevie and him, they'd been mates since they were wearing nappies. They even shared a cottage now that they were grown up. Just the two of them. His lips twitched. He could think of one way to warm Nevie up. Him too, most like. And no-one would ever even know. Maybe Nevie would like it - like that Yank would have.

"Wonder where that stuck-up bitch is going?" Neville asked, his words pulling Clive from where his thoughts had taken him.

"Who's that?" the blond asked, sitting up - his dick forgotten as the possibility of something interesting happening took possession of him.

"That girl who works in the kitchen now."

"That tease!" Clive growled as his gaze found her coming down from the manor, his thoughts diving back into what was in his trousers. "Remember back at school how she'd look us boys over, even handle the goods a bit?"

Neville nodded. "She'd toss a lad off, all right. But she'd never drop her knickers for us to have a look-see."

Clive laughed. "She knew better, she did. It wouldn't have stopped with a look-see, and she knew it. All of the boys tried, but no-one managed to get those knickers down so we could see her fanny." For a moment, he watched the girl as she came closer. "Wonder if a lad ever found his way in to give her what's what?"

"I heard she's sweet on a lad from the tractor plant in Coventry now," Neville told him. "Only, her dad's right there when he comes to visit, keeping his eye on the two of them."

Clive watched the girl pass the tractor shed and sniggered at her giving it a decent berth. "She's going down to the cottages," he said.

"She's probably off from the kitchen then," Neville offered. "Her daddy would want her to come straight home."

"Naw, they'll be still cooking his Lordship's supper up there now. I'll wager they sent her down here to get the farm manager for our haughty Lordship to question and all."

"Whatever the reason, I wish that she'd have come closer," Neville chuckled. "I got me something that would make her forget those manners she's learnt up there at his Lordship's."

"Now, mate, don't be having that sort of thoughts," Clive told him. "You'll be too randy around me." He laughed. "I wouldn't want to hurt you none, mate. Lest you be the one bending over - and that wouldn't hurt you at all."

Clive watched the girl from the kitchen in silence until she'd reached the manager's cottage and knocked on his door. His fingers stroked his growing erection through his woollen trousers, imagining what he could do to her. It wasn't until his bollocks were drawing up against his shaft that his thoughts began to move to the purpose of her visit.

It'd only been the week before when he and Neville had been down at the pub in the village that the blacksmith had sidled up to him and put a new pint of bitter in his hand. Nevie was leaning against the wall, his eyes glazed, already pissed. But then the lad never could handle his spirits, they went right to his head.

"You're young Clive from up at Bellingham Hall, aren't you?" the smith had asked.

"Aye." He looked down at the full pint in his hand. "And thank you," he said.

"Lord Petersholme pay you well up there, does he?"

Clive shrugged. "As well as any other bloke, I figure."

"I hear that you don't particularly like his Lordship, Clive."

"Why should he have everything and a bloke like me have to work his arse off for a few shillings a week?" the youth answered with more feeling than he'd meant to show.

The smith smiled and nodded. "A man with a good head on his shoulders then." He took a long draught of his beer before continuing. "Would you like to make a bit of money now and then - on the side, that is?"

Clive had studied the smith closely. The man was young and big. Very big. Clive thought of muscles on top of muscles as he took in the man's chest and neck. Curly, black and unruly hair covered his ears and reached almost to his collar. His moustache was the same colour and extended out past the planes of his cheeks. He dug into his memories and found the smith's name. David Rice.

Clive was sure that David Rice had something underhanded up his sleeve. It sounded like it. He allowed a small smile to pull his lips up. "And what would I have to do to make this bit of money?" he asked.

Rice grinned broadly and patted him on the shoulder. "That's a good mate, Clive. I thought you would be interested-"

"Perhaps," Clive said, holding up his hand. "It depends on what I'd have to do."

Rice nodded and drained his pint. "Just keep your eyes and ears open there at Hall. I have friends who are interested in the doings of Lord Petersholme. Him and his friends - but him mostly."

It had turned out that David Rice wasn't interested at all in Miss Elizabeth or Miss Alice or even the Yank jessie boy. But he'd paid five shillings to know that German brat had arrived on the farm - more than a day's wage, it was.

Clive wondered what he'd pay to know whatever was going on at the Hall now to have them send a girl down to the manager's cottage. He knew he'd better find out what it was if he wanted to make any money out of it.

"Drink up, lad," he told Neville. "Mum said this jug was from her best lot."

"Can't get too pissed, Clive," Neville mumbled, bringing the jug to his lips. He took a long draught from it.

"You can handle what's there. It's almost gone."

Neville up-ended the jug and drained it. Lowering it back to his lap, he smacked his lips and grinned to his friend. "Good to the last drop, Clive," he said, his words slurring. "My compliments to your ma. She makes a good brew."

The blond laughed. "Nevie, it's time for you to lie down a bit." He saw the girl step out into the sun followed by the farm manager. "Can you make it down to the cottage on your own, lad?"

"I'm not some child, Clive!"

"Course you're not. You just need to sleep off the brandy, that's all."


"You want to go to the pub tonight?"

Neville hung his head and, conceding defeat, slipped carefully off the tractor. He made a show of raising his arm and pretending to sniff. "You'll wake me in time to get ready?" he asked as he stood and looked back up at his friend. "Got to smell pretty in case there's some tart around."

Clive nodded.

"I'll be off then." He began to make his way along the path, stumbling towards the cottages. Clive watched the farm manager shake his head as he and the girl passed Neville.

Clive grinned. He thought that it was just as well that the manager's attention was drawn to his friend. That kept it away from him and his doings. He waited until they had passed him and began to follow them.

From behind the nearest outbuilding, he watched the girl lead the farm manager into the kitchen. When they were inside, he ran across the clearing to press against the stairs to the terrace off of the ballroom. Pressing against the wall to catch his breath, Clive reckoned his Lordship would interview the manager in his study. Staying close to the wall, he moved along the backface of the house peering in each window until he saw light filtering through the thick curtains. He could just make out the bookshelf on the far wall and Petersholme sitting at a desk. He grinned when he heard the knock at the interior door and knew he would be able to overhear whatever was said inside. He could almost feel the smith's coins weighing his pocket already.

Clive listened as the two men exchanged the pleasantries a landowner and his manager made. He recognised them for what they were and ignored them. His ear pressed against the cold glass of the window as Petersholme told the man that he was leaving for France the coming Monday and would be taking both his cousin and the American with him. They expected to be gone only three days but would definitely be back in residence by the end of the week.

Clive was already pulling away from the wall when he heard his Lordship mention that another guest would be arriving before they left - a German named Jorsten. He left when the men's conversation moved on to the Christmas bonus Petersholme intended to give the farm help.












Barry watched as Willi burrowed deeper into his coat. They were alone on the railway station platform in the village. The sun was bright, gleaming off the rails as they could see. For several minutes, the boy attempted to amuse himself by exhaling and watching his breath condense.

"It's so cold," he groaned finally and, throwing his arms around Barry's waist, pressed his body harder against his leg.

"Want to go inside?" Barry asked.

At that moment, a shrill whistle sounded beyond the trees and Willi pulled away. "No!" he answered. "I want to see the train."

He looked down the track, in the direction of the sound. Unable to see past the first line of trees, he leaned forward, his hands on his bare knees, to try to follow the gleam of the tracks through the woods. The cold was forgotten. Barry's hand found his shoulder.

"May we get closer?" He grabbed Barry's hand with both of his and looked up at him. "Please?" he pleaded.

"Not too close. Stay back from the edge, Willi." Barry smiled and, taking one of the boy's hands, stepped closer to the tracks. "Think you could see better if I put you up on my shoulders?"

"Ja!" the boy cried, momentarily lapsing into German, his eyes wide instantly at the unexpected treat.

Barry lifted the boy, swinging him onto his shoulders. Barry's hands covered his reddened knees. "Your hands are so warm," the boy told him, wiggling around on his shoulders to find the most comfortable place. "They feel nice."

"Can you see better now?"

"Much better now, Uncle Barry." He peered down the track and saw puffs of steam and the gleam of metal through the trees as the locomotive came nearer. Its brakes had become a constant squeal. "Do you think Dagi will like Bellingham Hall?" he asked over the noise.

"He liked the house in London, didn't he?"

"Yes, but there he was always talking about the things he could do in London, Uncle Barry. Things that big boys can do. I don't think that there's that much around the farm for them to do."

Barry snorted. "Christmas is a time for family, Willi. It doesn't matter if it's your own family or one you adopt for the season - it's the warmth and love that makes it Christmas."


"Well, your Uncle Robert and I - and Elizabeth - have sort of become Dagold's family since he came back to London with us. And we've become his family too."

"Ja." He raised his bottom off Barry's back and leaned over to look upside down into the American's face. "He was in love with Vati, wasn't he? Like you and Uncle Robert are in love?"

Barry blushed. He couldn't help it. His face suddenly felt far too warm for the middle of an English December. "Why do you think that?" he asked carefully.

"I could tell. They were always together. And they were always sending me off to play when I was with them."

"What do you know about love, Willi?" Barry asked carefully, wondering how much he was going to have to explain to the child. Blood pounded in his temples.

"I know a lot!" he answered indignantly and pulled Barry's orange stocking cap off his head, holding it as far over himself as he could.

"And what is that?"

"My Vati loved me. He loved me so much that he asked the best man in the whole world to bring me up when Mutti killed him."

"You loved him, didn't you?"

"Ja! But I also love you and Uncle Robert. You love me too."

Barry chuckled. "Yeah, we love you too, brat - even when you're bad."

"What is this word 'brat'?"

"It means a mischievous little boy - like you are, Willi."

"What does this 'mischievous' mean?" he asked suspiciously. Before Barry could answer, Willi hollered: "There it is! See?" His thighs tightened around the American's neck as he raised up. The engine cleared the trees. "The train is so big, Uncle Barry!" he said as the engine began to bear down on the station. "It is like a - what is the word? - a house. A mountain even - how do trains ever move?"

"They do weigh a lot, Willi," Barry answered slowly, trying to remember a little of his year of high school physics. "But they burn coal inside this furnace thing that takes up all of that front part-" He pointed to the engine that was now almost upon them. "That heats up the water and makes it into steam. That keeps building up pressure until it forces the wheels to start to move-"

He couldn't see the boy's face, but he could already tell that he had lost him with his explanation before Willi spoke again. "Do you think Dagi will still like me?" he asked as the engine began to pass them, its brakes screaming as it continued to slow.

"Why wouldn't he?" Barry asked as the coal car eased past them.

"I think that I said a naughty thing about him when I was angry that Uncle Robert was going to leave me."

"You didn't mean it, though?"

"Nein, I didn't mean it. I was angry and was afraid for Uncle Robert."

"Dagold didn't hear it either, did he?"

"Of course not, silly. He was still in London yesterday."

"Then, he won't know about it and won't be mad at you."

"But if it was a naughty thing-?"

"If you feel that way, then you should tell Dagold what you said - that and ask him to forgive you."

"And if it was really, really naughty, Uncle Barry?"

"Are you ashamed of saying it?"

Willi was silent for a moment. "I didn't mean it," he said slowly. "I don't even know what it means. But, yes, I am ashamed-"

"Then you need to tell God in your prayers and ask him to forgive you. And, if you still feel bad about it, you need to tell Dagold and let him forgive you too."

Steam billowed into a cloud around the engine. Metal squealed harder on metal. Barry looked out at the carriages beginning to cross slowly in front of them and his gaze followed them back towards the line of trees. He saw the blond hair first. In moments, he could make out the German's face as well.

Barry shook his head slowly. He couldn't believe it. The damned boy had opened his window and stuck his head out to watch his arrival in Bellingham. The nut was going to have his face covered with a sheet of ice! And soot too!

"Do you see Dagold, Willi?" he asked.

"Ja!" he cried. Barry felt the boy wave. All of his small body seemed to become a part of his greeting. "Dagi! Dagi!" Willi cried, his body bouncing on the American's shoulders.

Dagold waved, and Barry smiled. The German was one of the best looking men he'd ever seen. The only one who looked better was Robbie. The man pulled back into the carriage and disappeared. Only a minute later, he was standing at the top of the steps at the front of the car as it shuddered to a stop. He waved to them again.

Barry grinned. Yeah, the boy shouldn't have stuck his head out of the window. He'd washed the soot off his face, but that shade of chaffed red just did not go with his ash blond hair at all.

"Let me down, Uncle Barry," Willi demanded and the American quickly lifted him over his head and lowered him to the platform.

Barry watched the boy walk slowly to within a couple of feet of the train and stop. He was surprised at the grave dignity that the five year-old took on. Willi raised his head and seemed almost to come to attention. As Dagold stepped onto the platform, Barry heard Willi say: "Welcome to Bellingham Hall. We are happy that you could come." Metal screeched again and the train shuddered to a stop.

Dagold was obviously having none of the boy's formality, Barry decided. He scooped him up and hugged him. Willi laughed and threw his arms around his neck.


* * *


"What does 'whore' mean, Dagi?" Willi asked as he pulled Dagold Jorsten's arm around his shoulders. They walked through the garden between the manor and outbuildings. Willi had insisted on showing the young German Bellingham Hall almost before their car had pulled into the estate's drive. Dagold had laughed and agreed that he did indeed want the Graf von Kys to show him around - but only after he'd put away his bag.

"What?" he yelped and stopped to look down at the boy. "What did you say, mein kleiner Graf?" he demanded as he squatted before his dead lover's son and looked into his face

"What is a 'whore'?"

            Dagold blinked. He wished he knew how to answer the boy. Almost anything he said could be wrong. They had been speaking in German and the boy had used the German word. He reckoned that he could dismiss the idea that the boy had learnt the word here in England. That left Germany. "Where did you hear this word, Wilhelm?" he asked more sharply than he'd intended.

The child looked down, unable to continue to meet the man's gaze. "Mutti used it, Dagi-"

"It is a very vulgar word, kleiner Graf. A gentleman would never lower himself to use it - your mother called someone this word?" Willi nodded and looked away.


Willi tried to pull away. "Please, Dagi - I don't want to say."

"Wilhelm, Graf von Kys, look at me."

Willi slowly brought his gaze up to meet the only man who worked with his real father who had been his friend. "You aren't going to like me any more, Dagi," he sniffed. "You're going to hate me."

Dagold pulled the boy to him and hugged him. "I could never do that," he whispered against his ear. This boy was his one remaining connection to Janus. He could never hate him. He loved him. "Who did the Gräfin call that word?"

"You," Willi sobbed.

"And why would I be angry with you for what she said?" he asked, nuzzling the boy's ear with his cheek. The memory of kneeling naked before the fat woman, looking up at her and the pistol pointing at him, flooded through his mind. He could still taste the fear that had paralysed him as he accepted that he was going to die.

"I-" The boy sobbed and began to shiver.

"Come, kleiner Graf. There is nothing to fear. I am your friend."

"I said it yesterday. I called you that-"

"Why?" Dagold asked softly.

"I was angry, Dagi. Uncle Robert goes to France tomorrow. Mutti will find him there - I know it!"

Dagold pushed the boy back a step and held his chin, forcing him to meet his gaze. "You were angry - and frightened. You said something bad, but did you mean it when you called me that?"

"No!" Willi threw himself back against the man. "Never. It was just that I was so scared. I didn't want Uncle Robert to go. I don't want Mutti to have a chance to do to him what she did to Vati. Uncle Robert said that you would be here with me - I told him that I didn't want you." He sniffed. "I didn't mean it, Dagi."

"I know." He patted the boy's back and continued to hug him close. "It's all right."

Willi pulled back and studied the man. "You forgive me?" he asked softly.

"Of course, I do." Dagold leaned forward and gave the boy's nearest cheek a small peck. "Willi, France is not like Germany. Your mother cannot hurt Lord Petersholme there. The insanity that has taken over our old country is there only. The French are not crazy - they're like the English."

"You promise?"

"I promise. Shall we continue our walk then?"

Willi extended his hand and Dagold took it as he stood. "So, what does 'whore' mean, Dagi?"

"It's a very naughty word."

"I promise not to use it - ever. I just want to know what it means."

"It's a woman who makes love for money."

Willi thought about the explanation for several minutes as they continued along the path in silence. Finally, he stopped and turned to look up at Dagold again. "How can that be?" he asked suspiciously.


"You say a whore is a woman - but Mutti called you a whore. You're a man, Dagi."

Dagold force a smile to his lips. He had no idea of how to handle the question that lay behind this one. The boy was only five years old. "I am a man, yes," he said, deciding to answer the boy's specific question.

"But Mutti called you that - why?"

"Your mother can think some very strange things, Willi. I suspect she meant it only as a nasty insult to me."

The boy continued to study his face for another moment. He nodded slowly then. "Mutti is like that. She gets very naughty sometimes."

"And, now, are you going to finish showing me your new home, mein kleiner Graf?" Dagold asked, breathing a mental sigh of relief.


* * *


"Baron Petersholme?"

I looked up at the open door. Dagold Jorsten stood there, his face red from the cold. I smiled. "Come," I told him.

"I would speak with you privately, if you can permit me the time, sir," the German said as he entered my study.

I chuckled. "Lad, I'll permit you the time only if you'll relax a bit. This is England, and we don't want people to be automatons."

Dagold appeared surprised and, then, a guilty look stole across his face. "I have done something wrong, sir?"

"Relax and take a seat over by the fire," I told him as I stood and began to move around the desk. I watched young Dagold cross the room and was struck by his - I wasn't sure of exactly what it was that had struck me. There was an aethereal aspect to him that I couldn't put my finger on. I could, however, see why my friend Janus had been so struck by him. If ever a man could be described as truly beautiful, this was the man.

"I meant," I began as we sat across from each other in front of the fire, "that you need to relax, Dagold. You are among friends here at Bellingham Hall. You do not have to behave formally at all times with us."

"But you are a Baron-"

"And you are my invited guest. We are both men, held close to our family's bosom at Christmas time. And, before you say it, my family is yours, Dagold. You are a member of this family here as long as you want to be."

"And this means-?"

I laughed. "It means, dear boy, that you don't have to stand at attention or click your heels. You don't have to run to get whatever it is that one of us may want. You are here with us, one of us. You're not our servant. It means that you should relax and have a good time with us." I glanced to the sideboard. "Would you like a whisky?"

Dagold Jorsten continued to sit by the fire as I mixed our drinks. It was obvious that something was bothering him. I forced a smile to my lips as I handed him his whisky and sat down. "What's the matter?" I asked.

"It's the kleiner Graf, my Lord," the German said. "I am concerned that I have handled his question the wrong way for him-"


            "It seems that he called me a whore. He asked me about it just now. I told him what the word meant-"

"Not graphically, I hope!"

His face flushed instantly. "No! Nie, Baron! Only that it was a woman who sold her love-"

I smiled, though I suspected that I would be as uncomfortable with the subject as he was were I trying to answer my newly adopted son. "And-?"

"He asked how I could be a whore then."

"Deucedly embarrassing moment, I would imagine."


"And you said-?"

"Only that the Gräfin was capable of wrong-thinking, my Lord."

I pursed my lips as I sought to figure where Dagold was carrying this.

"The boy is very bright, my Lord. Perceptive is a good English word with which to describe him. I fear that his curiosity may grow about the Graf and me - and perhaps about you and Barry. I'm sorry. I never thought that I would be an embarrassment to you, to your household."

I gulped my whisky as I attempted to sort this out. "Jorsten, do not think that you have been or will be an embarrassment to Petersholme or me personally. You're much too nice a sort for that ever to become a problem." I finished the spirits in my glass. "As you said, Willi is perceptive. He is quite bright. But he's also quite young. He can't understand what you and his father were doing together. I reckon that you two were usually rather circumspect. By the time he can understand, his memories of you and Jani together will have faded."

Jorsten relaxed, a smile creeping across his face. "I was so worried, my Lord. I thought that I'd handled it wrong."

"You love the boy, don't you?"

He looked down at his glass in his lap, studying it for several moments. "Yes. He is all that I have left of Jani - of the Graf."

"I think it's time you knew the whole truth then, Dagold."

The young German looked over at me, his eyes wide. "The truth, sir?"

"That night in the stables - you heard the Gräfin say that your brother had been killed, didn't you?" He nodded slowly.

"Not only is he all that you have left of von Kys, Willi is all that you have left of your brother as well," I told him and stood. I needed another whisky. Perhaps two.

"Emil? My brother? How?"

"It seems that Gisele had an affair with your brother - understand my only source of information here is what von Kys told me-"

"Emil did like large women. My parents and I - we never understood. He was so handsome and athletic. But the Gräfin?"

"Von Kys married her to give Willi a father. I suspect that the reality of the growing possibility of a Nazi state was involved too. He would be married, with a child. No-one would assume that he was an invert."

"Yes! That explains it." He nodded his head vigourously. "I finally understand now."

"Von Kys loved the boy. He was raising him as his son. He also loved you."

Dagold's face spread with a smile. "The kleiner Graf is my nephew then?" he asked hesitantly. I nodded.

"You will make him a father of whom he will be proud, my Lord," he said.

"And you will be an uncle of whom he can be proud. I hope you will join Barry and myself in raising the lad to be the best man he can be."


* * *


Clive nipped at a jug of plum brandy he'd lifted from his mum. He'd sat down on the ground inside the tractor shed. So that he wouldn't be caught, he'd told himself. Sunday drinking was what had got his dad sent off to gaol and the folks at the Hall seemed to always be watching him to see if he was going to be like his dad.

He heard voices from up closer to the manor and put the stopper back in the jug of plum brandy. He eased his way to the front of the shed, making sure not to make any noise. He saw the Hun brat first. Then a young man who had his arm around the boy's shoulder. He listened hard but couldn't understand a single word. "Hun talk!" he growled to himself.

He thought to go back to the jug of plum brandy. The youth, however, held his attention. Clive had never seen a man or woman as … He wasn't sure of how to describe the man. Blond and slim, he was beautiful. Clive's lip formed a snarl. Men weren't beautiful. They couldn't be. But this Hun was.

Like one of the angel in those paintings at church, he was. Perfect. Clive had never seen anyone like him. He'd never imagined anyone looking like him.

The brat seemed to be calling the angel Dagi. What a dumb name for a man. He wished he knew what they were saying.

The man held the boy to him and, moments later, Clive watched them move back along the path towards the house. He wagged his head slowly as he re-entered the shed to retrieve the jug.











Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt sat at his desk on Sunday morning and stared at the copies of the radio transmissions the Sicherheitsdienst had forwarded the night before.

            The cow was going to love this. It was everything she'd dreamt of this past month. Aloud and often, Schmidt mused. Her hatred for the English baron was insanity but, somehow, she'd managed to get the Sicherheitsdienst to notify her of anything they heard about him. He wondered who she'd slept with to accomplish that.

            He reached up and touched the insignia of his rank on his uniform jacket. It had been one month and five days since he graduated officers training school and earned the rank of Obersturmführer of the Waffen-SS. He had reported to his duty assignment one month ago exactly.

He had been assigned to the only woman in the service. The Gräfin von Kys had been well known in Party circles even before the Reichsführer had given her a command in the Waffen-SS, a short fortnight before Schmidt had to report to her. Even the commandant of the officers training school knew of her.

It had been he who warned Schmidt - the day before graduation. Gisele von Kys was fat and was reputed to be sexually insatiable. She was known as the black widow among some of the men in the Party who had fallen into her web.

Schmidt shuddered as he remembered one of the rumours the commandant had mentioned. Some boy at university had made her pregnant - before she married the Gräf. Even from the Mädelsbund, she thrumped a rape charge against him and saw to it that he'd faced a firing squad. The rumour was that she'd had an orgasm when they shot him.

Schmidt had avoided the Gräfin's clutches for the month he had been her adjutant. He also carried a contraceptive in his wallet in case she ever did manage to corner him so that he did have to perform. He hoped that he would never be put in that position.

He might well find himself there with the information from the Sicherheitsdienst in his hands. He shuddered once again and picked up the telephone.


* * *


Gisele von Kys woke on Sunday morning to the incessant ringing of the telephone beside her bed. She pushed her sleep mask onto her forehead and sat up. "Gefickt!" she growled and glared at the telephone as she quickly pulled her thoughts together.

Only her own office in the SS and Reichsführer Himmler himself had this number. It was only to be used for official business. That was the reason that it sat on her bedside cabinet instead of out in the flat where her servant could answer it. This was the first time in the two months that she had become a part of the Reich's security service that it had rung.

It was impossible that the Reichsführer would call her - not on a Sunday morning. That left her office. And it would have to be important. She pulled her thoughts together quickly and, smiling, reached for the receiver. "Von Kys," she said as she brought it to her mouth, trying hard to put that perfect sense of authority in her voice that was integral to the personae of senior party members.

"Are you alone, Gräfin?" the soft, Rhenish-accented male voice asked. She instantly recognised her assistant's voice and pictured Stefan Schmidt standing before her in his Feldgrau uniform. Before she could react to that image, it altered and his large hands were on her breasts, his fingers tweaking her nipples. A warm tingle spread through her.

Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt was the perfect example of what the Führer intended to make of the men of the German Volk - tall, blond, blue-eyed, broad-shouldered and narrow-waisted - definitely enough of a man to satisfy any woman.

She sniffed. It had been far too long since she had a man, much less one as attractive as Stefan. It had been at least two months. A wisp of desire sprang to life between her legs.

She wished that she was not almost thirty. It would be pleasant to be again a young twenty as Stefan Schmidt was. She forced the image away from her.

"Of course, I'm alone," she answered, running her fingers through the tight, peroxided curls of her hair. She wondered if she should have another permanent put in. "I'm still in mourning, Stefan. Why have you called?"

"Something that may be important came in from England last night, Gräfin. About your son and that Briton who kidnapped him."

"Tell me," she demanded, totally awake now. She sat up in the bed, the satin of her nightgown riding up her thick thighs.

"The Baron Petersholme flies to France tomorrow-"


"Our contact doesn't know. Gräfin, we are dealing with simple farmhands - they do not know what is important."

"He flies?" she demanded but continued on before Stefan Schmidt could answer. "So, Petersholme is to arrive in Paris on Monday. Find out why from our informants in Paris, Obersturmführer. Continue."

"Your son and your husband's murderer will be at the English nobleman's estate in the north of England. They will be alone there, except for an old woman - this Baron Petersholme's aunt."

"No-one knows of this informant? He isn't a plant?"

"No one. He is a trusted employee on the estate-"

"Then why does he betray his Baron?"

Schmidt chuckled. "He is English, Gräfin. They know no loyalty, except to money. They are like the Jews in that way."

Gisele's mind whirled with possibilities. Stefan's information was the best that she'd had since she had woken in the stables at Schloß Kys surrounded by fire. "Meet me at the office tonight, Stefan-"

She thought of Horst Müller, her late husband's Party aide, then. He had been transferred at her request to her service when she transferred to the SS. The man was totally loyal. "Call Hauptscharführer Müller and have him join us there as well. 2000 hours."

"Heil Hitler!" Stefan Schmidt said and hung up the telephone.



Gisele von Kys continued to hold the receiver for several minutes. A smile grew across her face. She would finally have her revenge on the last Jorsten boy. It was a shame that he would to be die over there in England. A proper firing squad would be better - like the one his brother had faced. She wished she could watch it as she had his brother's.

She would be able to rid the new German world of that meddlesome Englishman too. And she would pull the trigger that ended his life. The Baron Petersholme would be like her husband Janus. Dead. But, then, that was what the world needed - to kill off the leeches that the landed aristocracy were. This was a new day and the new order was already rising out of the ashes of the past. Yes, she would have to shoot Petersholme - personally. She would enjoy that.

And she would again make Wilhelm a son of Germany. He was her son. She had made a mistake in allowing Janus to become close to him - the boy had become too soft. But he was bright enough to enter school already. He could be easily shaped into what German youth was to become.

"Yes!" she whispered as she imagined the boy in the uniform of an Adolf Hitler infant school. Even better, a boarding school; he was almost old enough. The boy would be shaped into the strength that the Führer demanded of the new Germany. A boarding school was definitely the proper place for him. She would be free to give herself completely to the party then as well. She grinned. Perhaps a school in Bavaria and far from Berlin.

She had to devise a plan. A two-pronged plan - one to kill Dagold Jorsten and reclaim the boy, the other to kill that Petersholme. She had plenty of time, however. It was not yet ten o'clock, and she had until eight that evening to make her plans. She called her maid to draw her a bath. She always thought best in a warm bath.



She tried to avoid looking at the left side of her forehead in the mirror as she put on her make-up. Her gaze, however, kept being drawn there. To the scar that extended out a centimetre from her hair line. She snarled when she realised that she was again looking at the mark that bastard Petersholme had put on her for life. She quickly finished applying powder to her cheeks and, pulling her gaze away from the image of the round-faced woman with the throbbing scar nearly at her temple, turned to watch her maid make up her bed.

He had shot her that night. Her husband's friend from England. Petersholme had shot her. He'd almost killed her.

She'd found that schwuler Dagold Jorsten taking his pleasure with Janus in the stables. Having his way with her husband - as his brother had with her.

She had thought that she was in love with him, the queer's brother. Emil Jorsten had been perfect. Tall, blond, athletic, bright, manly - a god. Gisele had given herself to him. Her virginity and her soul. She had made herself available to his every whim.

She snorted at how much of a fool she had been. She had even cleaned his room each day so that he could have his way with her on a made up bed. She had cooked for him. She had been his dog, a slave to his every desire.

She had already joined the Party. Anyone could see that National Socialism was the wave of the future in 1932. She had been in her final year at the university. She had been Emil's lover for three months when she learnt that she was pregnant.

"Mein süßes Kühchen," Emil had laughed at her. "You will need to see the doctor in the university's student health department." He had smiled beatifically. "I hear he does many little cleansing operations for the female students. A week after yours and we will again be making mad, passionate love."

She had insisted that he marry her. She was still Catholic, though she was a member of the Party. She wasn't going to have an abortion.

He had taken his key from her and told her to go back to her hall of residence. Emil Jorsten had left her in that condition, exiling her from his life.

She sniggered as she remembered him less than two months ago. He had quaked as he stood in front of the firing squad. She still couldn't believe how much she had enjoyed watching those bullets tear through his body. It had made everything that happened these past five and a half - almost six years - worthwhile. He was one pig who would never again leave a girl in the family way.

His sweet little cow indeed! She had thought that it was an endearment when she thought she loved him. But it had rankled for these past five years. She was a full-figured woman. She had a Rubensesque figure. She was not a little cow.

Of course, she had known that Janus von Kys was an invert. She had known everything there was to know about him before she married him. The party leader at the university had been there to help. And Janus was a new and unmarried instructor in the chemistry department. She'd been pregnant. He would give the child inside her legitimacy and she would give him a future in the new Germany.

Hauptscharführer Horst Müller had become Janus' party watchdog after he and Gisele were married. An old fighter from before the party came to power, he had been handpicked to keep her husband out of trouble for her while she rose higher within the Bund Deutscher Mädel. She had found him after she had given birth to Wilhelm. After the party began restoring the Reich and she was at the BDM. She had wanted more for Janus than just a job as a university instructor.

Reichsführer Himmler had been generous with his appointment for her husband. Müller had come with Himmler's appointment. And he had proven to be faithful to her.

Müller had been the one who told her that Janus and the boy were doing it. But seeing them kneeling in that stall, their trousers down to their knees and the boy moving against her husband's bottom had been more than she had bargained for.

Janus should have known better. He had a brilliant mind and he had helped her hide her mistake by marrying her, but she could never accept him allowing himself to be buggered by the brother of the man who had impregnated her and left her. Not after she'd had to expend so much effort to put Emil in front of that firing squad.

Of course, she had had to kill Dagold. It would be reported to Berlin that the boy had attacked the Graf in a rage, killing him. She had merely performed a summary execution.

It had been exhilarating to stand over Dagold, pointing her pistol at his face, and have him looking up at her, his eyes pleading for his life. Janus had been yelling something at her but it hadn't mattered. She'd just put her finger against the trigger when she looked up and saw that damned English Baron standing there, his weapon pointing at her. She'd looked back down at the Jorsten boy and began to pull the trigger then.

And everything had gone black.

She'd awoken to heat. Unbelievable heat. The fires of hell had been her first thought. She'd barely been able to see but quickly understood that the stables were on fire. The stall she and Janus lay in was the centre of it, but flames had already spread everywhere. She remembered that the front of her husband's shirt had been bloody as the flame touched it. Blood had still trickled from his open mouth.

She had managed to crawl out of the stall. Somehow, she'd pulled herself to her feet and staggered to the door. She started towards the house. And that was the last she could remember - until the Waffen-SS soldier was covering her with a blanket.

Petersholme's bullet had only creased her skull, but it had left its mark. That one centimetre discolouration of her perfect skin just before and above her temple. The doctor told her that it would always be there. She was marked for life. Because of that damned Englishman.

Gisele von Kys would have Petersholme's head for that. He was coming to Paris which would only make her revenge that much easier.

She turned back to her dressing table and selected a shade of lip rouge that complimented her features perfectly.

It wasn't revenge that she wanted, she resolutely told herself. Not for her, even if that was part of it. The Englishman had interfered with her carrying out a perfectly legitimate execution of an undesirable. He had nearly killed her and she was an official of the party - that was enough to earn Petersholme a death sentence.

He had also stolen from Germany the child she'd brought into the world. And he had spied on Germany's rocket programme. His death would be an execution under the law. A legitimate execution. One that the Reichsführer himself would approve of.

She puckered her thick lips and leaned close to the mirror to ensure that she rouged them perfectly. She was both a Countess and an Obersturmbannführerin in the SS central administration - she had to be perfect so that German women would know how to mould themselves to what the new Germany required of them. Her lips needed to appear narrow and well-arched as was the German ideal.

She would take Obersturmführer Schmidt to Paris with her tomorrow then. Together, they would execute the English Baron. There, in France, of course. There was no reason to give the English any reason to rally their people to their puppet King.

Petersholme's death would be made to look like a robbery. The party had friends in France, people who would rule France when the Versailles Diktat was finally thrown in the mud where it belonged. They would help.

She smiled at the image of herself in the mirror. Perhaps, she could have a few moments alone with Petersholme before he died. He was a virile man and handsome - and Germanic too. Yes, she could enjoy his body before he died.

She dabbed at her lips. A sudden thought struck her then. Perhaps, she could kill him at the exact moment he ejaculated. He would have to be bound, and she would have to ride him.

That wasn't her favourite position. But, if a man was big enough in that department, it could be pleasurable. In this case, it would be absolutely necessary. The bastard was going to die. She was as sure of that as she was that Adolf Hitler would lead the Fatherland to even larger horizons of greatness.

When she had met Petersholme, at the party at Reichsführer Himmler's home, she had thought that he appeared to be sufficiently endowed. Well, she would find out. She smiled. She would be the last woman ever to do so.

She would have to retain absolute control of her emotions, of course. It would be very difficult - to reach her own orgasm and to kill at the same time. That would truly be sweet. She grinned widely. Yes. Very sweet. And she would have proven that she was the epitome of what the Führer intended to create out of the German race. At least she would have proven it to herself.

Her grin grew. Perhaps she could prove it to Obersturmführer Schmidt too. He could watch. Discreetly, of course. He'd be there to protect her. But, then, she would be assured that Petersholme's execution was carried out, even if she failed to be as strong as she thought she was. She wondered if she should plan on copulating with him then - before the body of Janus' English friend. She wondered how big the Waffen-SS man was where it counted.

She stood and stepped to the chest of drawers. She turned back to the maid just as the other woman finished smoothing the bed covers. "Come," she told her as her fingers closed on the undergarment. "Help me on with my corset."


* * *


That afternoon, Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt watched himself in the mirror as he dressed slowly. He enjoyed the feel of the dark grey wool of his uniform trousers against his legs and the soft cotton of the blouse caressing his chest. The Waffen-SS was the best thing that had ever happened to him. It had pulled him out of Essen and was showing him the power of the new order.

He had come a long way since he was twelve and learnt there were horizons far greater than wondering if his mother had kept enough money from his father to feed them through the week. The Party had been there at each step along the way to show him what could be his in the new Germany. All he'd had to do was keep himself focused.

            He snorted as he buttoned his collar and reached for his tie.  He'd remained focused these past nine years all right. Thanks to Gauleiter Riet, he had.

            He had passed the exams and entered gymnasium, the first member of his family to do so. He had graduated even, thanks again to the Gauleiter and other Party members who had tutored him. He had even learnt to speak properly - his accent was still Rhenish, but now it was middle class instead of that of undesignated workers from the mean streets near the river.

            He remembered those mean streets. His house one of a row a block long. His family'd shared the always smelly communal toilets that marched along the back of those houses, shared them with the row of houses that faced the street behind. Everyone on that square block could hear his father beating him or his mother in one of his drunken rages.

            He grinned as he smoothed his tie down the front of his blouse. There hadn't been any more drunken rages from his father - not after Gauleiter Riet had the SA send a squad to meet the man outside his favourite pub. They had enough food after that. Schmidt had still been twelve then. His father had had the good grace to contract cancer after that - and died quickly.

He pulled on his uniform jacket and buttoned it. The buttons shone in the electric light of his room. Becoming a Waffen-SS officer had been the best thing that had ever happened to him, all right. Thanks again to Gauleiter Riet.

He nodded as he took his greatcoat from the coatrack. Definitely, the greatest thing, thanks to the Gauleiter. He turned again to the mirror. His lips pursed as he studied his reflection.

Gauleiter Riet had shown him how to use his looks to get ahead. Stefan suspected he would need everything he'd learnt with his mentor - along with all of his intelligence as well. God, what a cow!

He'd never forced himself to bed anyone as fat as she was before. He hoped that he would be able to perform when he did let her get him in her bed.

The Gräfin wanted his body. Her sexual interest coloured their every encounter, from the moment he'd reported to her straight from officer training school to his call that morning. He wished that he had been attached to any other officer but was determined to make the best of the situation he'd found himself in.

She was a decadent aristocrat, this Gisele von Kys. An aristocratic predator like those who'd given the Reich the Versailles Diktat. And she was bloated like a Zeppelin. After the coming war, Schmidt was convinced that the Party would have another purge.

That was the only way to rid itself of the aristocratic leeches so that real Germans would lead the new world. The Gräfin von Kys would never be a real Obersturmbannführer. Until then, he would bite his lip and do what was necessary to stay on the Gräfin's good side.

He stepped through the door of his flat and bounded down the three flights of stairs to the clean, crisp winter air of Berlin.


* * *


The Gräfin von Kys stood at the window of her office and gazed out at the Reichskanzlei lighted against the night sky. She was dressed in uniform, her hands held behind her back. Obersturmführer Schmidt waited in the outer office for Horst Müller to arrive.

She had been assured earlier in the afternoon by the SD's officer of the day that she would have French sympathisers to help her get to Lord Petersholme. An agent, a mole unknown to the English, had been found in Coventry, near Petersholme's estate, to aid Müller there. She nodded absently to the building across the night from her. She would have revenge on all fronts for what had happened at Schloß Kys. Petersholme and that schwuler Dagold Jorsten would be dead and Wilhelm would be back in the Fatherland.

A knock brought her thoughts back to the office. "Come!" she called as she pivoted to face the opening door. Horst Müller took three steps into the room, came to attention, clicked his heels, and raised his right arm in salute. She studied him for a moment. He looked good. Virile. Yes, grizzly but definitely virile. "Sieg heil," she returned his salute perfunctorily and stepped behind her desk as Schmidt entered the room and shut the door.

            "Be seated," she told both men and sat at her desk. "We won't stand on formality here," she continued. "We're here to carry out the party's needs to the best of each of our ability." She smiled at the Hauptscharführer. "Müller-"

He was out of his chair instantly, ramrod straight. "Jawohl, Obersturmbannführerin?" Gisele von Kys thought that he was a perfect picture of the Germany that was to come.

She chuckled. "You'll have to force yourself to be less German for the assignment I have for you, Müller. Be at ease, faithful one." She watched him relax. "And be seated, please."

"I've already spoken to our documents office and you'll be able to pick up your papers tomorrow morning, along with your tickets. You leave tomorrow for England. You go as a civilian. You won't wish to call attention to yourself or the service."

The Hauptscharführer arched a brow slightly, consciously ensuring with the gesture that the Obersturmbannführerin understood that he accepted her order and was merely waiting for her instruction.

"There, you are to kill that Drecksau my late husband was so fond of-" She watched the man before her nod slightly, the barest smile touching his lips. "And return the kleiner Graf to the Fatherland."

"There will be someone to help me, Obersturmbannführerin - to find my way around?"

"You will be met in London by one of the Fatherland's supporters-" She paused and looked down at her notes at the strange sounding name. "James Crooksall is his name - you had him in a class five years ago? Some class on military training that you taught for the Waffen-SS?"

Müller frowned as his hand rose to cup the back of his neck, the palm of his hand nuzzling the stubble that was his hair. "Crooksall?" he mumbled, attempting to place the name with a face.

"I am assured that he will remember you, Horst." Gisele von Kys told him, dismissing the possibility that either man would fail to recognise the other out of hand. He will accompany you to Coventry from where the two of you will go to a place called Northamptonshire, there in England."

A quick smile crossed the Hauptscharführer's face. "I remember him now," he told her. "He couldn't help but slaughter our language every time he opened his mouth. I suspect that he does little better with his own language."

She chuckled. "The English Volk do slaughter their language. Only their upper classes can speak it intelligently. Be that as it may, this Crooksall is yours to command while you carry out your mission, and will provide you an escape route to the English Channel. The Navy has already dispatched a submarine that will be off the coast near Dover on Friday-"

"This U-boat the Navy sends - I will know exactly where it will be waiting for me and the kleiner Graf on Friday?"

"Your control is your old Colonel, Müller. He will meet you at half past six tomorrow morning at his office and go over the specifics with you. You can pick up your ticket and papers on the first floor of this building after a quarter to eight." She smiled at him. "And your train leaves the Bahnhof at nine thirty. You'll have plenty of time."

Horst Müller shifted in his chair, preparing himself to be dismissed. "I'll need to pack, Obersturmbannführerin."

"Of course." Gisele von Kys nodded to him. "Be on your way then."

The Hauptscharführer pushed himself out of his chair, smoothly coming to attention again before her. "Heil Hitler," he saluted her.

She raised her hand to return the salute. "Good night, Müller. We'll see you aboard the train in the morning-"

He looked puzzled. "You and the Obersturmführer are coming to England as well?"

She smiled. "No. Not to England. Obersturmführer Schmidt and I have business in Paris. Good night."

Both she and Schmidt watched as Horst Müller marched to the door and let himself out. "A good man," Schmidt observed after they were alone.

Von Kys sat back in her chair, allowing herself to relax. "The security officer with our embassy will meet us in Paris upon our arrival," she told him.

"Are you saying that we will travel as officers of State Security or of the Waffen-SS then, Gräfin?"

"Make us both a whisky, Stefan." She smiled tiredly at him.

"We should pack uniforms?" he asked as he moved to the sideboard. He opened a decanter and poured. He brought both glasses to her desk and sat in the chair that the Hauptscharführer had occupied. She still had not answered him.

"I think not. Yes, we go in our capacity as agents of the SS. We meet our security officer in Paris who will recognise us as agents of the Reichsführer's office. We'll do nothing to hide that from him." She sat forward and reached for her drink. She leaned back with the glass of whisky in her hand.

"There, however … There, we'll become something else. We will meet French sympathisers and shall need to appear French to the casual observer." She sipped the whisky and studied the man sitting across from her. "You are Rhenish, as I am - can you speak what fools call the language of love?"

"Un peu-" He held up his thumb and forefinger, separating them less than a centimetre. "I grew up in the Rhineland but my parents are Hessian. French was barely better than detestable." He snorted. "There is no way that I could present myself as French, Gräfin."

She held up her hand. "Please. Don't be so formal, Stefan. National Socialism is already making the old aristocracy increasingly obsolete."

She sipped at her whisky. "You know that your duty will include helping to kill a man on this mission, don't you? If I fail for any reason, you'll have to kill this Englishman."

Schmidt gulped his whisky. "I had thought that would be so, Gräfin," he said, consciously keeping his voice level.

Von Kys had noticed the faint hesitation but said nothing. She filed it away in her memory, however. It could be a useful tool if the youth balked at her orders later - or at her other plans for him. She smiled as she guessed that he was a sexual virgin and again imagined him naked and aroused. She would make a man of him - a complete man - of that she was sure. Stefan Schmidt would be a true son of the new Germany when she was through with him.

His sexual education would have to wait a little longer, she decided, regretting her decision. His passion would be heightened when they were into the hunt, however. That would be the time for her to carry him all of the way into manhood - when his blood flowed its hottest. She smiled at him and softened her voice. "Go home and pack, Stefan. Comfortable clothes for the countryside. Tomorrow, you give yourself to your destiny as a son of the Fatherland."











Willi sat at the window, his face pressed against the glass, and watched as the boot of the Rolls was filled with everybody's bags. Tears welled in his eyes as he saw Elizabeth finally come into view and got into the car. Barry followed immediately after her - then Uncle Robert. He watched them closely through his tears, his hands fists against his cheeks. "Don't go," he mumbled. He wished that, somehow, he could stop them from leaving.

He did not hear the door of his room open behind him or hear it close slowly. "You love the Baron, mein kleiner Graf," Dagold said in German as he sat on the ledge beside the boy, his arm going around Willi's shoulders. "That is good. A boy should love the man who teaches him to be a man."

The boy turned and Dagold saw his tears. "But you are sad - why?" he asked.

Willi sniffed and hugged the man beside him, burying his face in his pullover. "They won't come back," he sobbed and the dam inside him burst. "I know it!" He began to cry and Dagold pulled him onto his lap, allowing the boy to cry himself out. Outside, the Rolls followed the drive out to the roadway.

When the sobs had subsided, Dagold took a handkerchief from his pocket and pulled the child's face from his chest. He dried Willi's cheeks and held his chin in the crook of his hand. Smiling, he asked: "Why do you think that they won't come back, Graf?"

"Mutti will get revenge, Dagi. I know it. That's the way she is. I should have stayed in the Fatherland, then she would be happy. She would leave Uncle Robert alone then."

"She won't bother the Baron. She can't. Barry travels with his Lordship to keep him safe. He meets with government officials, so there will be security there. And France is a safe place; it is a strong power. It is a strong country, as strong as Germany - and it's a democracy. It's as safe for his Lordship as England is for you."

Willi sniffed. Sitting in Dagold's lap, he looked up. His gaze locked on the man's, holding his. "Really, Dagi? Or are you just telling me that?"

"Really. Baron Petersholme and Barry are as safe there as we are here." He grinned and bounced the boy he now knew was his nephew on his knee. "Now that you have me all to yourself the rest of this week, what do you want to do first?"


* * *


Reality teased my thoughts as I settled into the back of the Rolls with Elizabeth and Barry.

Churchill had visited me on Saturday and, two days later, I was on my way to Paris to meet the French Minister of Justice. I was travelling in a car that belonged to the Royal Navy and I was to be flown to Paris in one of their aeroplanes. It was more than passingly strange. Winston Churchill was a Tory backbencher whose loyalty to his party was often questioned.

How could a backbencher of questionable party loyalty dash around the country with my friend Maximillian Molloy in tow? How were a Rolls Royce, an aeroplane, and a naval officer to escort us possible?

We began to pick up speed and the young, dark-haired officer sitting beside the driver turned to face us as our car turned into the roadway. "I'm Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew at your service, my Lord," he said, "The Fleet Air Arm has an aeroplane waiting for you at Coventry. It's fuelled and ready; and I can even vouch for your pilot, sir."

So, this was the young man Winston Churchill had warned me about. He was definitely a good looking lad; he would quite likely have the ladies lined up.

Pettigrew's smile broadened. "The lad was a classmate of mine at flying school - quite an aviator too. Flew rings around me, I must say - and that was nearly impossible." He paused for the moment it took for that to settle in and then grinned broadly. "Besides, I'm going to be right there looking over his shoulder to make sure he does it right."

I chuckled. This Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew was full of himself and he knew it. His enthusiasm was infectious, however. "What does the Navy intend to fly us in?" I asked.

"The Fleet's very latest acquisition - a HP42, sir-"

"The Handley Page aeroplane?" I asked, my interest piqued. Like most people, I travelled by railway - or ship if going to the continent. But I had read about the HP42. It was reputed to be on the cutting edge of technology, and its manufacturer promised that it would change the way Englishmen travelled. Even the farthest outpost of the Empire was now but eleven days away from London.

"Right, my Lord. Four Bristol Jupiter engines, 550 horsepower each. Fast and quite comfortable too. The Heracles class HP42-" He grinned. "With the modifications that we required, of course. The Fleet Air Arm only began acquiring them a year ago - they've still not made it out to the whole fleet. Budgetary restraints, I suspect. At least, that's what we keep hearing."

"Chamberlain's putting in a supplemental budget for the military," I told him. "It should reach Parliament in January."

"About time, I'd say!" Lieutenant Pettigrew grumbled, grimacing.

"We're only three years behind Jerry," I said, knowing full well that I was off by two years. "But with Stanhope at the Admiralty, we've made a good start."

His smile returned, boyish - even impish, I thought. "I'd understood that you were with us, Lord Petersholme. At least, that's one vote for sanity in the House of Lords. If nothing else, you'll offset my father's vote."

"Your father?"

"The Earl of Lancashire, sir."

"I know him!" I groaned, instantly remembering the fatarse who had become the major apologist for Hitler's Germany behind the Duke of Windsor in the year since Edward abdicated. "He's in Windsor's camp in the Lords." I could not imagine this man coming from his loins.

The sub-lieutenant's face flushed and he glanced down to his hands. "Please don't remind me, my Lord. It's a bit embarrassing with me being in the Navy." He raised his head and looked back at me. "My brother and I have attempted to talk to him. I don't think that he's one of Oswald Moseley's goosesteppers or anything. He's more like that aviator Charles Lindbergh in America, and his America First crowd."

"Oh?" Barry asked, becoming interested now that his country had entered our conversation.

"Right," the sub-lieutenant said, turning to look at Barry as well as myself. "Jerry has this thing against the Bolshies. And he's at least three years ahead of us in developing his war materiel, as his Lordship said. So, leave him an open road to Moscow they say; and Anglo-American culture won't be touched. There won't be a communist left when it's over and Jerry will be stretched so far he wouldn't dare do anything. If we stand in his way, however, we're going to take a real blow. We might even lose-"

"That argument does have a logical symmetry," I offered, trying not to sound vicious towards Pettigrew's father. "The problem I have with it is that, once Hitler has Russia, the British Empire lies open to his threat. He will control the geopolitical heartland." I thought it best not to mention what I knew of at least one new addition to the German armoury that I had seen up close. The thought of that raining down on London had become my worst nightmare.

"Right, sir." The young officer snorted derisively. "Only, dear old dad refuses to see past the tip of his nose."

I smiled back at him. "I hope there are enough of us to help keep things on an even keel, now that Chamberlain is finally waking up." I glanced to Elizabeth then, deciding that she'd been a remarkably good sport about not being included in our conversation. "My cousin has never flown, Pettigrew - and I got the impression earlier that you're an aviator yourself - perhaps you could tell her what she can expect."

The sub-lieutenant turned to Elizabeth and nodded. "Ma'am, you'll be in very good hands as the Earl of Stanhope personally put me in charge of your comfort until we have you safely on French soil."

"I would hope so then," Elizabeth answered, arching her brow. I caught the merriment in her voice and knew the poor lad was in for it, regardless of his reputation. I hoped for his sake that the Royal Navy trained its fledgling officers to repartee with young ladies. Either that or he had a sister from whom he had learnt something. "How long will we be in the air?" she asked.

He grinned - thinking that he had an innocent damsel to impress, I suspected. I had seen that same male appraisal during my years at Oxford. From everything that I'd heard of my cousin's first two months of university, she was not impressionable. The twinkle in Barry's eyes told me that he was prepared for an interesting ride to Coventry. I sat back and tried to do the same thing.

My only distraction was wondering how Winston Churchill had managed to commandeer the Royal Navy.

Elizabeth had played with young Pettigrew on the drive to Coventry and the lad had alternated between seeming on top of the world when he thought he had captured her interest and sinking to the bottom of the sea each time she pulled back and showed her intelligence. It had been a good show - simple word play between young people who were becoming comfortable with each other, one step removed from sexual innuendo with the line never crossed. It was all in good fun - even Aunt Alice would approve of their tête-à-tête.

I was only seven years older than these two - I wondered when I had ceased to be young.

I was quite happy that Aunt Alice's plans over the past several years for marrying me off had come to naught - and not simply because I had Barry as a result of my successful escape. I figured Pettigrew to be Elizabeth's and Barry's age. He would learn, or his mother would have him safely married before he did.

Pettigrew had entered the cockpit after he ensured that the three of us were strapped in and ready for take-off. While entertaining us appeared to be his primary assignment, he had proudly admitted to being the co-pilot on our flight to Paris. He would not return to Elizabeth's tender mercies until we were airborne.

Elizabeth was strapped into her seat beside Barry. I sat across the aisle from them as we bumped along the track and picked up speed. I felt the Handley Page jerk as it gained speed and left the ground. We quickly began to climb. I glanced over at my companions and saw that Barry was squeezing Elizabeth's hand tightly. I smiled and looked away before either of them could see that I'd noticed.

So, Barry had a fear of flying. Interesting. I remembered then that he had already flown. He had come with Molloy, Dudding, and the chaps from MI-6 after I was in Warsaw.

I smiled as I remembered flying von Kys' de Havilland Dragonfly out of Schloß Kys. I would have felt more protected with the metal skin of this aeroplane. But I knew that we'd have been too heavy and would never have made it above the trees. All of us would have died there on the flat plains of northern Germany.

The passenger cabin was spacious. I could well believe that the civilian version would seat up to 38 passengers. And I'd been surprised to see a small kitchenette as we entered. What was the world coming to? The aeroplane I was sitting in was as nicely appointed as one of those blimps the Germans had introduced for international flights. I supposed that I might even find a toilet if I looked. It seemed the articles I'd read on this aeroplane were accurate enough - it did appear to have all the comforts of home.

Barry had stood and Elizabeth was stepping out into the aisle. He followed and stood aside as she slipped back in and peered out of the window. He saw that I was watching them. "She wants to look out of the window, my Lord."

I beckoned him to me. "Do we have to keep up this pretense, Barry?" I asked quietly when he stood beside me, his hand resting on the back of the seat. "It's quite unnecessary." I wanted the comfortable equality we had worked ourselves into over the summer, before I had gone to Germany. My life had seemed sublime back in September. It had become perfect when this man and I had consummated our love for each other.

He stood in the aisle and studied me for long moments. "Robbie, if you guys are right and we do have this damned war, you're going to be involved - up to your eyebrows," he said quietly and stepped over my legs to take the other seat. "Your nose has to be cleaner than clean. Mine too - because I'm going to be right there beside you every step you take." He took a deep breath, his face becoming a grimace. "I've thought about this a lot the past couple of months. Unless we're alone, I'm going to be formal - we both are. You can't afford a scandal." His lip curled towards a smile. "And I sure can't afford one that got back to America."


"No buts, Robert Adshead. Here in England and in public, you're always Lord Petersholme for me and I'm always going to be your housekeeper's nephew. That's just the way it is, and we're going to accept it because it isn't worth fighting the system to change it."

I looked into the pale face covered so improbably with freckles. He was right of course. He so often saw things more clearly than I did. "I love you, Barry," I told him quietly.

Elizabeth cleared her throat and I blushed, realising that she had almost certainly overheard my profession of love. My gaze did not waver, however. My eyes still held his. My hand came up to find his. He smiled as I squeezed his hand. "Me too," he mouthed.

His hand was sweaty and I remembered his earlier fear. "You're not afraid of flying, are you?" I asked. "Didn't you fly over to meet me in Poland in October?"

His ears turned the colour of beetroot, then his face. "I didn't have a chance to think about it. I came home worried about not hearing from you, I found Lord Molloy pacing a hole in the carpet - and, before I knew it, he had me packed, in his car, and getting into the damned aeroplane. I kept my mind on you so that I didn't have to think about thousands of feet of just air between me and very solid ground."

I smiled reassuringly. "You're going to love flying," I told him.

"I'm not convinced yet," he admitted, allowing me a glimpse of the degree of control he had brought to bear.

Pettigrew entered the cabin from the cockpit. He came down the aisle to Elizabeth's seat and glanced to me. I nodded and he slipped in beside her. He bent close to her, looked out of the window, and began to explain what she was seeing.

Barry glanced out his window before turning back to me. "Seems those two are going to be preoccupied for a while," he whispered. "Want to tell me what it is down there that I'm seeing?"

I grinned. "At the moment, you're seeing me," I whispered.

"I suppose that I deserved that one." He chuckled. "But don't think for a minute that I won't get you back for that, my Lord." He turned back to the window and peered out. "Everything's so small - even the trees!"

I leaned over him, trying to see out the window as well. The feel of his back against me was comforting. I could almost forget Elizabeth and Pettigrew across the aisle behind us. I told myself that I was going to enjoy simply being with Barry.



Barry watched the sub-lieutenant as he left Elizabeth's side, walked up the aisle, and let himself into the cockpit. The grin on his face warned of devilment on its way. Beneath us, England had given way to the waves of the Channel.

I wanted to be invited to join Pettigrew in the cockpit. I wanted to see this aeroplane, even be invited to fly the thing. I wanted to see the technological advances Handley Page had made to aviation. After all, the HP42 was a world-class flying machine. Imperial Airways had used it to open routes as far away as Suez and India. They had even linked up with Australia in the past year.

"You have an admirer, Eliza," Barry told her.

Elizabeth looked over at us startled, her face flushing slightly. A smile tugged at her lips almost immediately, however, as she brought her thoughts around to parry with him. "John is a good-looking boy," she admitted, the smile spreading. "Perhaps you two could show him a thing or two."

Barry's face whitened, brown freckles standing out on suddenly milky alabaster skin. I wished I was anywhere else than sitting between them. "He might like that," he answered slowly, "but his mama would probably prefer that a lady like you save him for posterity." He leaned forward, going on the attack. "Just think of all the little Pettigrews that you and he could give the world."

"Barry!" I gasped.

"She started it."

"I suppose I did," she chuckled. "Lighten up, Robbie. We're just having some fun."

"So, what do you think, Eliza? Should Robbie here invite John to Bellingham Hall for a weekend so that Miss Alice can meet Lieutenant Pettigrew?"

"I think not," she answered.

"Oh?" I asked, weighing in. "He did seem smitten, Eliza-"

"I'm not interested," she said. "I'll admit that he appears to be a lot more interesting than that Louis D'Archer Aunt Alice was going to put me with several months ago."

"But-?" Barry asked.

"Pettigrew is but a boy, like you, Barry. He is charming, witty, and quite fun; but he's young still - not at all marriage material yet. Another ten years or so and he'll be ready."

"Ouch!" Barry groaned.

"So, Eliza-" I said. "How are you liking your maiden flight? Think you're ready to become another Amelia Earhart?"

"She'd better stay away from the Empire of Japan if she is," Barry opined and glanced away quickly.

I wondered about that. Did the Yanks know something about the loss of their aviatrix that I was unaware of? Even The Times had followed her last flight.

He might be right, I thought. Her aeroplane had last made contact with the world from within Japanese territory. There was, of course, the nasty war in Manchuria. But Earhart's flight path had been considerably south of all that and well out from the Asian mainland.

The American public would not have had any more information than we had from the Times. I wondered if he might have overheard something his father had said. The man was, after all, some sort of official in their government.


* * *


Louis-Philippe d'Orléans stood beside the black Stella and looked out along the macadamised runway that the English aeroplane was to land upon. Dirty snow rose on either side of the runway, an ugly scar that marred the smooth pristine beauty of the winter French countryside. He frowned.

Le Bourget had grown large in the two years since he'd been here last. He remembered it as much smaller - two hard-packed dirt runways and a small building for  passengers arriving in Paris. It was amazing what installing radios in aeroplanes had done to aviation. In the buildings behind him there was now a radio room from which pilots were directed to land and even a small bar. And a customs building for new arrivals to France.

Le Bourget had grown and aviation had changed in the four years since he had learnt to fly in his final year at university. He wasn't sure that what the aerodrome had become was better.

He reached into his uniform greatcoat and pulled out his cigarette case, the gold shining in the sunlight. Opening it, he took out a Dunhill and brought it to his lips. Returning the case to his pocket, he removed his glove and reached into the other pocket for his lighter.

He leaned against the car, pulled his glove back on, and drew deeply of his cigarette. The chill seemed to deepen and  he pulled his greatcoat tighter around him. He doubted he would ever grow accustomed to the cold. Even after three years at university in Belgium and another three in the army, stationed on the Rhine, he still hated the northern winter. He exhaled and watched the smoke and breath condense and become a fog in the cold air.

He was the Comte de Paris. He was a son of France. France was his blood. Even if he had lived most of his life in Moroccan Larache. He had been raised from his earliest memories to be the future King of France, if France ever called him or his father to the throne. It did not matter that no d'Orléans had sat on that throne for nearly a hundred years. He accepted his duty to his people, even if they had not yet called him to it.

He snorted and dropped the cigarette. France had definitely not called him to his duty. He ground the cigarette out. No. He had had to beg just to be allowed into France, to serve his people. Because of the law of exile.

The Third Republic had proven to be afraid of royalty, of his family. Fifty years ago, still in its infancy, it had been even more afraid. Less than twenty years after the last Bonapartist debacle, the republicans had exiled the man who would be King of France and his heirs for all time.

The Republic had decreed that no heir to the throne would live in France or be allowed to serve the Republic. It had been blind fear, of course. What could his father - or  he himself - do? Exiled or not, if the people of France called either of them to serve them, no law of the Republic would prevent it.

His father had been forced to leave France when his uncle died heirless. His whole family and him as an infant with it were forced to leave everything they knew, the moment his father became the Dauphin. As the Duc de Guise, his father had even been stopped at the Spanish border when he sought to join the army at the beginning of the Great War, when France called upon all of her sons to defend her. Stopped and turned away, like a common criminal.

The d'Orléans were not allowed to set foot in la belle France under the law of the Third Republic. But the Bonapartes could. Who had lost the war with the Boche in 1870? No King of France had. Napoleon the Third had. Prussian troops had occupied Paris because of him and his family. He had lost France, serving it up like a roast pig to Bismarck's Prussians and giving them all of Germany for their empire.

Admittedly there were no direct descendants of that Corsican left alive. And France had had its fill of Bonapartist dreams of conquest. But it still grated that the Republic would discriminate against the d'Orléans but not the Bonapartes.

He had begun to petition Paris when he was still only sixteen. He'd wanted to return. He'd wanted to attend St. Cyr and serve France in her army. Again, he snorted as he shivered in the cold.

An idealistic boy, that was what he had been. And Louis-Philippe still was idealistic, he understood that about himself. He would never be able to divorce himself from France, whether it remained a republic or again became a kingdom.

It had been Paul Reynaud who had managed the private bill through the legislature that permitted Louis-Philippe to return to France and join the army. Only he had been allowed to return, not his father. Not his family.

France's greatest hero from the Great War had breached the loi d'exil for him. In his last year at university, Louis-Philippe had finally been allowed to return home. To defend it against any who would seek to destroy it. And to be a man of honour in his own eyes and those about him.

He held his arm out and inspected the three gold galons on his sleeve that proved he was a captain in the Army of the Republic of France. He smiled and fingered each stripe.

He was grateful to Paul Reynaud. He would always owe his allegiance to the man who was now the Minister of Justice for his help. He was also grateful to France's greatest military mind in the twentieth century who had accepted him into his command. Charles de Gaulle.

Despite his fascination with aviation, Louis-Philippe had immersed himself in tanks and how to use them in warfare. Finally allowed to enter the land of his birth, he was unable to conceive of himself being under the tutelage of anyone other than Colonel de Gaulle.

He still could not believe the man who was his division's commanding officer. De Gaulle was a giant in military thinking, even if the tired old marshals and generals did not think so. He was also a real giant. A little more than 147 centimetres tall, Louis-Philippe still found it difficult to imagine the Colonel's height of more than 203 centimetres - even after the nearly two years that he had served under the man. And how he ever managed to fit himself into a tank! Impossible! But he did it.

Yet, here he stood on a deserted runway at Le Bourget, waiting for a minor English nobleman. Waiting to chauffeur the Englishman to Deauville and a meeting with Reynaud. To escort him and his party around the small town, like a common corporal.

It was an insult. The only good thing he could see coming from it was that he was to be de Gaulle's eyes and ears at this meeting between Reynaud and the Englishman. The idea of making rockets weapons of war excited him, however - even as it frightened him. It was the only thing that made the insult even remotely bearable.

The driver wound down the glass of the Stella and suggested that he sit in the car where it was warm, pulling Louis-Philippe from his thoughts. He realised that he was shivering.

He chuckled and nodded to the man as he opened the door to the car and returned to the warmth. That was the thing about the French people, they were so eminently practical.











A light flashed above the entrance to the cockpit.

I sat up in my seat, gripping its armrests. My mouth was suddenly dry, my breathing shallow. Insane thoughts of our crashing in flames whirled in my mind. Resisting them, I told myself that I was worse than an old woman.

Barry felt my tension and turned to me, his hand covering mine. Ignoring the doubt I saw in his eyes, I forced myself to be rational. What could the light mean?

The flight continued to feel smooth. I smelt nothing burning. No-one had entered the passenger cabin from the cockpit, in an agitated state or otherwise. Pettigrew still calmly chatted with Elizabeth across the aisle from us. The only difference from this point in our journey and the rest of the flight that I could make out, was that the whine of our three engines had grown deeper.

The significance of the light began to dawn on me. We were descending or were about to. I suddenly felt foolish. My face flushed. I should have known better; I was an experienced aviator after all.

I snorted. Less than three months ago, I had flown an overloaded Dragonfly out of Prussia and managed to get my passengers to safety. I glanced back to Barry and found him watching me intently, his jaw set.

I smiled at him and, squeezing his hand, leaned across him to see the pristine blanket of snow that covered France below us. Sitting up, I saw that damnable light still flashing over the entrance to the cockpit. I was comfortable that it wasn't a danger signal but still wondered what it was. I glanced to young Pettigrew half standing and holding onto the back of the seat in front of Elizabeth so that he could see out her window.

I supposed that he was explaining to her where we were and other bits of information that he hoped would make her find him interesting.

"I say, Pettigrew," I said.

The poor man instantly had his weight on his feet and was pushing himself to attention. To all appearances, he'd instantly forgotten my cousin. He pivoted and faced me. "Sir?"

"There's a light flashing above the entrance to the cockpit," I told him.

He glanced quickly forward before slowly turning back to me. A smile tugged at his lips. "It's a device Handley Page has installed in its fleet of aeroplanes, my Lord. The civilian version of the Heracles sits 38 passengers and has a steward who serves drinks and even dinner. The sign there is to alert the steward to have everyone put on their safety harnesses."

"Ah." It was all that I could say as I felt my face again burn.

"His Lordship has never flown commercially," Barry told the sub-lieutenant from beside me, coming immediately to my defence.  "I saw it and was worried," he lied.

Pettigrew nodded, accepting the explanation. "I understand it's new." He shrugged. "Actually, I'd not noticed it before myself." He stepped out into the aisle.

"I probably should go forward and help the poor man find his way to the ground," he told me, his smile growing. "He may fly rings around me, sir - but his landings leave something to be desired." He turned to Elizabeth. "If you'll forgive me then, Miss Elizabeth-?" She nodded and he turned to me. "My Lord? Mr. Alexander?"

Moments after Pettigrew had entered the cockpit, the areoplane began to nose forward. It shuddered slightly as I fastened my harness. The pitch of the engines changed again, becoming even deeper.  Barry's hand gripped my arm hard. I turned to face him.

"It's all right, love," I told him softly. "We're just coming in for a landing." I smiled reassuringly. "It's all perfectly normal."

His grip on my arm loosened. His fear still showed in his eyes, but he now had it under control. "Thanks. I think."

"You think?"

"I'll know for sure when both of my feet are firmly on the ground and I'm walking on them," he answered, his voice still obviously under tight control.


* * *


Through the window of the Stella, Louis-Philippe unhappily watched the aeroplane begin its final descent. He was not going to enjoy the week ahead of him.

Colonel de Gaulle, however, had personally requested that he act as host to the English party until the Minister could arrive in Deauville. He suspected that Major Urnazy, his superior officer, had been behind the assignment. But what was he to do? De Gaulle himself had asked him.

Instead of the warm desert breezes of Morocco, he was going to freeze this next week in Normandy. He wondered idly if Doña Esmeralda still held the soirees in her salon. Her parties were brainless but relaxed - like she was. Lareche would be far more pleasant than the week that lay before him - escorting old, and boring, English politicians.

He expected an English entourage that would remind him of that bulldog of a man he had met during the summer. Winston Churchill was a wise man - the kind of man it would take to lead the English against Hitler's Boches - but he didn't relish giving up his Christmas leave for people Churchill's age and who looked like him.

He opened the door of the Renault car as the English aeroplane touched the ground. He remained seated and pulled on his gloves as he watched the landing. As the aeroplane began to taxi towards the radio tower, he pushed himself out of the car and stood. He raised his hands and clapped as the bi-plane taxied towards him.

The pilot had been good. He had brought the bi-plane down in a perfect landing. He nodded slowly to himself; the English taught their aviators well.

The portal in the rear of the aeroplane opened less than five metres away. A young man in the uniform of the English Navy pushed the folding steps down to the ground with his foot. Louis-Philippe pulled himself to attention as the young Englishman reached the ground and stood at attention.

A man his age stepped out of the aeroplane behind the aviator. Blond, he was at least ten centimetres taller than Louis-Philippe. He was well-dressed and carried himself with the easy grace of a nobleman.

Philippe allowed a smile to tug at his lips. He would not be totally surrounded by les anciens after all, even if he was giving up his Christmas leave. The man turned at the foot of the steps and, looking back to the cabin, extended his hand.

He gasped when a young woman reached out and took the Englishman's hand as she stepped onto the top stair. A small gust of wind lifted her skirt up her calf and he was looking at a leg that would make even the greatest danseuse green with envy. Her free hand dropped to hold her skirt in place. Strands of chestnut hair caressed her cheeks.

Mon Dieu! This woman could not be English! He had seen English women. Women with faces that properly belonged in a stable stall. Women with no taste in clothing. Women who were poorly educated and insisted on displaying their ignorance.

This woman, though! She was - she was … He had no words with which to describe her. This woman made Doña Esmeralda pale by comparison.

She reached the ground and, smiling up at the blond Englishman, leaned against him. He recognised it as an act of close friendship and - yes - even love. He instantly envied the man the pleasure of such a beautiful woman's companionship.

The young officer started towards him as a red-haired youth stepped out of the aeroplane and joined the man and woman. The three of them behaved with an affection and easy familiarity towards each other that suggested they were on intimate terms.

The English officer stepped up to the French captain and came to attention. His hand came up in a formal military salute and, instinctively, Louis Phillip returned it.

"Sub-lieutenant Pettigrew, sir," the aviator introduced himself as the civilians started towards them. "I have the honour to present Baron Petersholme, his cousin Miss Elizabeth Myers, and their guest Mr. Barry Alexander."

"Merci," Louis-Philippe answered. So, Elizabeth Myers is the Baron's cousin, he told himself. And she's not married. A smile tugging at his lip. "Be at ease," he continued in English.


* * *


I watched Pettigrew reach the French officer and salute him. The Frenchman's heels clicked and he smartly saluted back. He was a good looking man with light brown hair. My age, perhaps four inches shorter than my six feet. His complexion was darker than I remembered the people of northern France having - almost as if he were still tanned from a summer in the south of France. As I took him and his actions in, I also watched him pull himself together, becoming completely military.

We approached them as the lieutenant was introducing us. The Frenchman kept stealing glances at Elizabeth and the whisper of a smile touched his lips. Elizabeth was going to have plenty of opportunity to practise her flirting.

"Welcome to France, Monsieur le Baron," he said. "I am Capitaine Louis-Philippe d'Orléans. The Minister of Justice has assigned me to be your escort until he can free himself from affairs of state."

I offered my hand. "We English aren't that formal, Capitaine d'Orléans," I told him. "Anything friendly that you want to call me will suffice."

As he took my hand, I noticed the medal on his greatcoat - a knight's helmet with a crested helm. Armour. Churchill had told me that I would be briefing this de Gaulle chap. I guessed that the good Colonel was accepting responsibility for my party's safety.

D'Orléans. The name struck a bell, as did his Christian names. Louis-Philippe had been the last King of France, almost hundred years ago. And - yes, I remembered now - the d'Orléans family were the heirs to the French throne. As I recalled the history of the French Revolution, Robespierre and his murderous Jacobins had been quite effective in rounding up the Bourbons who unwisely remained in the country and putting them under the guillotine.

I imagined Aunt Alice rubbing her hands in glee at the prospect of studying his bloodlines, especially after watching him take stock of Elizabeth.

"Lord Petersholme," Pettigrew said, "Capitaine d'Orléans will be your escort while you're in France, sir."

"And where will you be when we're ready to leave?" I asked.

Pettigrew managed to hide most of the smile that stole across his face. "I'll remain in Paris until you're ready to return to England, sir. We'll be ready at a moment's notice."

I smiled back. I knew very well what young, healthy men would do with several days of freedom in Paris. "Thank you for a pleasant voyage," I told him. "And enjoy yourself - but make sure that Capitaine d'Orléans' office knows how to track you down."

Turning back to d'Orléans, I said: "This is my friend from America, Barry Alexander-" Barry had his hand out instantly and the Frenchman took it.

Behind me, I heard Pettigrew make his farewell to Elizabeth. "And my cousin, Elizabeth Myers," I continued.

D'Orléans bowed and took her hand, bringing it to his lips. "My pleasure, Mademoiselle," he said.

D'Orléans' driver joined Pettigrew and our pilot in quickly getting our luggage from the aeroplane to the boot of the car that bore a slight external resemblance to a Rolls Royce.



We sat in the back of the car, Barry and Elizabeth on either side of me. D'Orléans opened the jumpseats in front of Elizabeth and sat there, facing all three of us. "We have a journey of approximately 120 kilometres to Deauville, Baron Petersholme," the Frenchman told me as the car pulled away from the end of the runway. "Have you been to Normandy?"

"No. Just Paris, I'm afraid - and only by night coach then."

"And Mademoiselle?"

Elizabeth blushed. "Unfortunately, no, Capitaine," she answered in French. "I fear that I've led a sheltered life-"

"This is your first visit to France then?" d'Orléans asked, his voice incredulous, and leaned closer to her.

"It's my first time in France too," Barry whispered at my ear. "I don't see him showing much interest in my lack of worldliness."

I turned to find him smiling at me - freckles and all.

I glanced at Elizabeth. There was a sparkle to her eyes that I'd not seen before and it seemed to me that she waited with bated breath for d'Orléans' next statement.

"If your cousin permits, may I show you the casino at Deauville this evening, Mademoiselle Elizabeth?" the Frenchman asked.

I looked over at him. "That could prove enjoyable," I said and turned casually to gaze through the window beyond Barry at the snow-covered homes and gardens as we began to pass through the outer suburbs of Paris. I conscientiously pretended that I did not see the smirk that covered his face.

Aunt Alice was going to have me drawn and quartered before Christmas. Liza's interest was exactly what my aunt'd worked so hard to develop the past couple of years. Perhaps, if d'Orléans had a title, though …

"And the cabarets of Deauville, Mademoiselle," Louis-Philippe said to Elizabeth. "They are risqué, but so much fun. Perhaps-" He smiled apologetically at me. "Monsieur le Baron, perhaps I have misspoken? Is it proper to invite an English lady to view such a performance - accompanied of course by yourself and Mr.-?"

"Alexander, Capitaine," Elizabeth supplied in French, her hand grazing the sleeve of the Frenchman's greatcoat. "His name is Barry Alexander."

D'Orléans looked sheepish as he turned to Barry. "I am most sorry, Mr. Alexander. Forgive me please?" Barry nodded and the Frenchman's gaze returned to me. "The cabarets in Deauville are quite sedate compared to some of the revuës available in Paris-"

Elizabeth and Barry had found their way to some of the more ribald shows that London offered; and I had said nothing. In fact, I had joined them once - and enjoyed myself immensely.

It was still early afternoon. I could not see a cloud in the sky. The suburbs had given way to countryside beyond the car. The sun reflected brightly off the snow in the fields. Our drive into France was quickly promising to be fun. Pettigrew's interest in Elizabeth on the flight over had been amusing. She had clearly enjoyed flirting with the sub-lieutenant, but I only had to look at how her eyes flashed and her cheeks flushed when the Frenchman spoke to her to see that she was smitten.

"We aren't that sheltered from the world, Capitaine," I told him, choosing to pretend to ignore his attraction to Elizabeth and hers to him. "I think the three of us might enjoy a bit of humour."

"Très bien!" He grinned happily. "We will have a night on the town then, as you would say it. Tonight the casino and tomorrow, perhaps, the cabarets?"

I decided not to tell him the expression he had used was American, not English. "When will Mr. Reynaud be available to hear my report, Captain?" I asked, remembering what had brought me to France.

D'Orléans paused, his eyes seemed to blank for the barest instant. He managed to make his whole body an apologetic statement. "Monsieur le Baron, I regret that the Minister of Justice is involved in very delicate negotiations-"


"It is the nature of the Republic, you understand? Everyone has his position - his agenda - every party has. And no-one wishes to appear to have capitulated. The negotiations, whether finished or still - ah …" He obviously sought a word. "Hovering - yes? One hovers over something until one is committed, n'est - ce pas?"

He shrugged. "He will be with you no later than this Friday evening to hear your report."

"Friday?" I groaned. Where were Churchill's three days? I had obligations, not the least of which was making my son happy.

"Unfortunately, yes, Baron Petersholme."

"There's nothing to do for it than to meet your Colonel de Gaulle then. I'll brief him on the German rocket programme and we can return to England."

Again, d'Orléans managed to epitomise an apology from the top of his head to the toes of his boots. "That, too, is impossible, Baron."

I stared at the man. "Why?"

"Colonel de Gaulle has already retired to his estate for the holidays."

"He was to receive my report with this Reynaud chap!" I groaned.

"He asked that I sit in on your conference with the Minister, Baron Petersholme." He shrugged. "I am fully qualified as a field grade officer in the Army of the Republic. In addition, I am an amateur aviator."

D'Orléans glanced at Elizabeth and smiled. "Perhaps, Baron Petersholme," he said, "you will win at the gaming tables at the casino in Deauville this evening."

I shrugged. "We're at your disposal, Captain," I told him. "The casino will be fine." Elizabeth giggled.

I consciously forced myself to study the land as we passed through it. Black and white Frisian beef cattle foraged through snow-covered fields in search of corn. We passed a farmer stocking a shelter with hay from his wagon. I became lost in the idyll of the French countryside.

Barry elbowed my arm. "Look at the cows, Lord Petersholme," he said when I turned to him. Every muscle in his face fought against the grin threatening to take hold there. "Don't you think they'd be a good addition to the stock at Bellingham Hall?" he asked, his eyes twinkling with merriment. "Bringing in new blood could improve your stock, you know."

Accepting the situation, I smiled to myself. Elizabeth had thoroughly enjoyed playing match-maker through the spring and summer to Barry and myself. It was almost as if they had worked together to dismantle every wall of my defences. I now had five days in which to feed her some of her own medicine.











Maximillian Molloy stood before the window of his office, his hands stuffed into his trousers pockets. He was not looking out at central London, however. Instead, his brain flitted from one thought to the next, never staying long enough for him to concentrate on any one thing.

Alan Dudding was already in Belfast with his family, taking a fortnight's leave from the Navy. Molloy was still unsure of how the Irishman had managed that. But the flat they'd shared the past three months had felt so lonely the night before that he seriously considered returning to the house off St. James where he officially lived with his wife and son.

Only, he'd known he would be just as lonely there. More so, really - with his son and wife already in the country. A smile touched his face as he thought of his four-year-old son. Cecil already had his grandfather wrapped around his stubby little finger. He snorted. The little monster had him wrapped around his finger too, just as he did the old Earl.

That mess with the farmhand in his father's barn had been forgiven and possibly even forgotten, now that he had a son to guarantee another generation of the house of Molloy. He suspected, however, that the old man had been won over more by the boy's loving nature than by the mere fact of his birth. The Earl had become astonishingly doting with his grandson.

His wife had been accepting of Alan from the first. That still surprised Molloy, how Sarah had taken Alan Dudding in stride. He'd always thought women were fearfully protective of their nests. She'd taken to Alan, however, even insisting that they entertain him in their house - her house. It was almost as if the two of them - he and his wife - had become old girlfriends.

It might be an idea to see how that German child Petersholme had just adopted got along with his son. What was his name? Wilhelm - William now, he guessed. The boy was a bit older than his lad, but it was never too soon to forge the links between the next generation of their two families - he and Robbie worked well together. They always had, even back at Rugby.

His friend was off to France on His Majesty's business, and everyone else was already with his family for Christmas - or thinking about doing it. He'd felt bad putting his friend in that situation, but England's position grew more precarious every day. As far as he could see, Churchill was the only hope for the country now - and the man had wanted his French friends briefed and kept in line. Voilà! Off to France Robbie had gone.

He took a deep breath and reminded himself of the gnawing knowledge that had become part of his everyday thinking. England was more important than any of them. The country was more important than any one person, even a friend who was as close to him as Robbie was. Poor Petersholme.

The door opened behind him and he turned to see his secretary place the  morning's post on his desk. "Thinking of being with Lady Molloy and young Cecil, my Lord?" the older woman asked.

Molloy blinked as he turned to face the woman. "Did I look so far away?" he asked.

"It is warm in here, sir. And there's not much happening this close to Christmas-"  

"I suppose my mind was a million miles away then," he chuckled.

She smiled. "Perhaps not that far away - would you like tea, sir?"

"Tea and biscuits might be good," he admitted.

"I'll bring them straight away." She took a step back from the desk. "There's something from the Navy in your packet there. You should probably look at that while I'm getting your tea. It's for your eyes only-"

"The Navy you say?" She nodded. "If it's been routed to me, I suppose the Secretary has already left-"

The woman reached the door and turned back to him. "You're all that's left in the building today, my Lord - from your department, that is." She smiled and her voice became conspiratorial. "The fate of the Empire rests in your hands alone."

"There's no-one else?"

"No, sir. Seems everyone has come down with a cold. It started yesterday, I believe."

He laughed and reached for the papers she'd placed on his desk. "I hope the Empire's security hasn't really fallen on me," he said. "We're certainly doomed if it does."

He knew where the others were. They were home enjoying their families. Not because it was almost Christmas - not exactly. It was as plain as the noses on everybody's faces that a storm was about to break on the continent. They had decided individually but collectively to enjoy the lull before that storm struck. When it was upon them all, there would be no time for anything but duty. Maxmillian Molloy suspected that the storm would be worse and last longer than any England had seen before.

He shuffled through the small pile of papers until he found the sealed envelope bearing the imprint of the Royal Navy. "Encryption section?" he mumbled and quickly tore back the flap. He pulled out the two pages clipped together and started to skim the cover letter.

And stopped. An encoded radio message to Germany from Bellingham in Northamptonshire? He stared at the letter. Petersholme!

He turned to the message. "Subject to leave for France Monday … Child now in residence … The criminal in residence also."

Molloy sat back in his chair, unable to take his gaze from the two sheets of paper still in his hands. It was Petersholme all right. There was a spy watching him. How? His friend had got out of Germany safely. Him and the boy. And von Kys' lover as well. Thanks to von Kys setting that fire, there had even been no witnesses.

That Polish agent and Petersholme had both been specific about that during their debriefings in Warsaw. The two Gestapo agents and that local Gauleiter had been dead and von Kys dying when they left the stables at Schloß Kys. The Pole had given each of them the coup de grâce - a bullet to the head.

Von Kys' wife had been wounded as well - and passed out. When Petersholme flew back over the manor and outbuildings, the stables had been burning. Both men had been adamant about that, too - no-one had survived.

Why had Berlin put someone in Northamptonshire to watch Robbie, then? Molloy shuddered. Either the Gräfin von Kys had managed to escape after all, or one of von Kys' house servants had been more than the seasoned Polish operative had thought.

He stood and absently began to make his way around the office as he tried to make sense of the German interest in his friend. He stopped before the cricket bat hung on the wall beside the window - the one that he'd used in his last game at Rugby. They'd beaten Marlborough in that game and were undefeated. He and Robbie had been inseparable that year, and he'd thought that he was in love with his friend.

Molloy's finger absently stroked his nose. There had been no official requests for the child's return. The German embassy was informed that Petersholme had the child as well as the terms of von Kys' will. Everything had been legal under German law. Robbie had adopted the lad without even a word being raised against it. It had certainly seemed logical to assume that the child's mother was dead. If she had survived the fire, it was inconceivable that she wouldn't have wanted him returned.

So, why was there now a German spy watching Bellingham Hall? It didn't make sense. Berlin certainly didn't know that Petersholme had been brought into the Foreign Office or co-opted into Churchill's plans to keep England from being isolated. The only men who knew that were the members of the informal group the Foreign Minister had put together. And MI-6 had vouched for each of them.

As far as Berlin knew, Petersholme had been forced at gunpoint to fly a Polish agent and two Jews out of Germany after von Kys and his wife had been killed. And nothing had been said at all about the child Petersholme had brought back with him.

On top of the filing cabinet beside the bat stood a framed photograph and Molloy smiled as he looked at it. Von Kys and Robbie stood on either side of him, their arms around his shoulders. They were all dressed in tennis togs. He remembered that the picture had been taken the spring of his and Robbie's first year at Oxford. They'd met the German early that year, and the three of them had become fast friends by the spring.

There had been diplomatic channels for Germany to have asked for the boy back. They hadn't, but that was explainable due to the instructions in von Kys' will. It certainly made no sense that they would spy on Petersholme and want to know that the child would be at Bellingham Hall alone, he and Jorsten. Not from what German authorities would have gleaned from von Kys' house servants. And both Petersholme and that Polish agent had been quite certain about that.

Closing his eyes, Molloy wondered if von Kys' wife surviving her wound and the stable fire somehow changed that equation. Both Petersholme and the Pole had thought that the woman was an ardent Nazi as well as being free with her sexual favours with the party brass. If she had been incapacitated by the wound for at least a month after the escape from Schloß Kys, it was possible that the Germans would make no effort to retrieve the child when Petersholme was adopting him. But recovered?

She had had a dislike for Dagold Jorsten. In fact, she was about to kill him when Petersholme had shot her. That much had come out during Petersholme's de-briefing.

Molloy supposed it wasn't difficult to see that she might hate his friend for stopping her from killing her husband's lover. He had shot her, after all. Of course, she'd be angry about that. She'd also want to finish off the Jorsten youth. It was inconceivable that she wouldn't want her son returned to her as well.

But she'd only been some sort of official with the Nazi girls' federation. Putting a spy on Petersholme surely required more political leverage than she had in October, even if she was sleeping with some official or the other in the Sicherheitsdienst and could get what she wanted out of him.

He sat back down and smiled at the posed photograph of his son that took up part of the left side of his desk. God! How he loved the lad. Beside it, a smaller photograph showed his wife sitting and holding the boy. He and Alan stood on either side of them.

The secretary opened the door and carried a tray of tea and biscuits over to the sideboard. Molloy was only half aware of her pouring him a cup of tea. She placed it on the desk before him and retreated from the office.

He wondered if the Gräfin von Kys had perhaps used her bedroom connections to move into a position politically stronger than an official in the federation of girls would normally enjoy. Opening his eyes and sitting up, he saw the cup of tea waiting on his desk for him and glanced around for his secretary. Smiling, he reached for the cup and told himself that, if he was ever promoted to a larger office, he would ensure that he took the woman with him.

He drained the cup of tea and stood. There was no reason why he shouldn't learn something about this German woman. He left his office for MI-6.


* * *


From the window in his office, Lord Molloy watched the sun begin to sink behind the tops of the buildings of central London. He pulled at his ear. He would have to leave London tomorrow.

He smiled and mumbled: "At least I'm not going to blame influenza for early Christmas leave." He figured that he had to go to Bellingham Hall before he could join his family in Easthampton-Mares. He owed Petersholme that. Besides, he would still have a full week in his father's house - with his son and wife. And God only knew how many cousins.

There was no need to bother Petersholme in France with this spy mess. Robbie had to bring that Reynaud chap around - him and whatever part of the French army Reynaud had on his side. He had to tie them firmly to England's apron.

He'd sent Robbie there. He and Churchill had; and it was Churchill who had insisted that Petersholme brief the bloody Frogs before Christmas. But it was Molloy that Petersholme was doing it for.

It was his lot to make sure Robbie's home fires were still burning when he returned. They went all the way back to that first year at Rugby together - nineteen years.

He'd be careful not to frighten old Alice or the child. He'd just stay a night and make sure that the staff had a defence set up against any intruders.











The household staff stood before the entrance of the château as our car pulled to a stop before them. The chauffeur quickly moved from the car and opened the door for us.

D'Orléans stepped out and turned back to help Elizabeth out of the car. Holding Elizabeth's hand, he started towards the entrance as Barry and I got out of the car.

The butler bowed from his waist to d'Orléans. "Welcome, Monsieur le Comte," he said and slipped into a short speech.

"Hmmm," Barry said in a whisper a moment later, grinning as he looked at me. "Seems Elizabeth has caught the attention of a very big fish," he said out of the side of his mouth as he watched the tableau develop before us.

"Big fish?" I didn't recognise the expression and couldn't make it out, though I was listening to the same conversation.

"Our captain turns out to be the-" He frowned. "France doesn't have a King, does it?"

"Not that I've heard."

"Seems these people think that our boy Louis-Philippe is the Crown Prince then."

"You speak French?" I asked before I could think to stop myself.

He chuckled. "Americans aren't totally uncivilised. Besides, my family used to spend our summers on a lake in Québec and my best friend was Québecois. I started learning French when I was nine."

"I see." I did see - I had put my foot in it again. I was quickly coming to agree with Barry Alexander that being British did tend to make one a bit insular. He made it a practise not to take offence when I made a fool out of myself; he simply - and gleefully - made me aware of it.

"Our boy's the Count of Paris," he said.

"I know." I studied d'Orléans as he thanked the butler and then the staff of the château. The man was the Heir Presumptive to the throne of France. The man holding my cousin's hand. He was a gentleman, at least. Aunt Alice would certainly approve if something came of this. I took a deep breath, wanting to laugh.

My dear cousin appeared as smitten as d'Orléans did. That surprised me. Liza was always in control of herself. She had always being so unflappable, even when she was a young girl coming to terms with her mother's death.

 I looked forward to seeing how things developed between her and the Comte in the forthcoming week. Perhaps I could even return the favour and put her and the Frenchman together as she had Barry and myself.

D'Orléans turned back to us and introduced us to the staff. The butler bowed to me. Not as deeply as he had to the captain, but he bowed. The rest of the staff bowed or curtsied on cue. I smiled and joined Elizabeth and the Comte de Paris at the open door. Barry jauntily followed me.



After being shown to our rooms, I crossed the hall and knocked on Elizabeth's door.

She smiled demurely as she let me in. We stood in the suite's drawing room. "Eliza," I began the moment the door was shut behind us.

"Robbie, why didn't you forewarn me that Philippe was - well …" She looked towards the fire, her face reddening. "So interesting." She giggled. "I expected some unpleasant old man."

"Eliza, we must be serious."

"About what?" she asked innocently.

I collapsed on the chair nearest me and stared up at her. "Do you know who this man is?"


I nodded.

She giggled again. "Robert Adshead. I went to the finishing school that Aunt Alice picked out, remember? You also remember that finishing schools for proper young English ladies teach French - don't you?"

I remembered what she'd just called our French captain. I tried to imagine what I would call one of our two Princesses were I to become friends with them. Certainly not Elizabeth or Margaret Rose. "Philippe? When did you start using that name?"

"He asked me to use it - as we were coming into the house."

"He's the heir to the rightful claimant to the French throne, Eliza," I said, telling her what she already knew.


"He's interested in you-"


"You seemed more than just passingly interested in him," I mumbled.

She knelt beside me, taking my hands in hers, and looked up at me. "Robbie, I'm still Eliza. I'm still your best friend-" She giggled suddenly. "At least, I'm still your best co-conspirator."

"I don't want you to get hurt," I told her, admitting to my one concern.

"I find Philippe to be very handsome. He's also quite bright. I find myself attracted to him." She smiled up at me. "And I understand that worries you."

"Only if you're teary-eyed as we're leaving." I made my features blank as I stifled a laugh. "Pettigrew would be quite upset at me if that were the case."

She giggled. "We wouldn't want to make the sub-lieutenant too upset, would we?" She instantly became serious. "Did I throw out obstacles when you were first learning to love Barry?"

"Are we talking love already, Eliza?"

"I don't think that I'm in love with Philippe, Robbie. Yes - I'm attracted to him; I find him to be a very interesting man. But I've lost none of my senses that I can tell."


"Why don't we simply leave things alone - and see how they develop? I promise that I'll keep my head about me." She grinned impishly. "I'll even be a very good girl and make sure that you or Barry are always there when Philippe and I are together. Will you trust me - as I trusted you with Barry?"

"He's not just any member of our sort-"

She laughed. "He's also probably a Catholic - can you imagine Aunt Alice's face when she realises that?"

I chuckled. "What're you saying then?"

"I'll keep my eyes open, Cousin. I'll keep the key to my heart locked away. Let's all just relax and enjoy ourselves, shall we?"

"A pleasant little interlude?"

"I find it interesting to feel this way, Robbie. It's a strange feeling, different from anything I've ever experienced. Do you ever feel like you're in a boat floating on a gentle current? On a summer outing, I mean. It's a heady feeling. Let me enjoy it, please."

I smiled at her as I stood up. I took her hands and raised her to me. And kissed her forehead. "Elizabeth, there is no better feeling in the world than to love someone - unless it is to feel them love you back." I left her, closing the door behind me.


* * *


Barry watched me as I entered the common drawing room of our suite. He continued to watch me as I crossed to the sideboard and poured myself a whisky. "Want one?" I asked without looking back at him.

"Not now. Come sit by the fire," he suggested as I raised the glass to my lips. He sat on the sofa and patted the seat beside him. I studied his face and saw only concern there. I smiled and joined him.

His fingertip traced my jaw. "Do you want to talk about it, Robbie?" he asked.

"I'm not sure I know how to handle this," I grumbled and brought the whisky to my lips.

"You mean this thing with Elizabeth?" he asked.

I nodded. "It happened too bloody fast," I growled and sipped my whisky. "I thought she was just playing - as she was doing with Pettigrew on the flight over."

"Love's a strange thing, Robbie - it sneaks up on you and pounces when you aren't looking." He leaned over and nuzzled my cheek. "Just look at us."


"Yeah. I remember I thought you were an attractive man and I wanted to have you. But I was thinking just sex those first couple of days - or thought I was. All I thought I wanted was a summer fling. Then, when you kept brushing me off, I kept falling right back into your path. I was shameless, and love made me that way."

I laughed. "You were. You even enlisted Eliza to help you. What you didn't know was that I wanted you and couldn't stop thinking about you. My resolve just kept weakening every time I saw you. Eliza's bringing us together destroyed what little resistance I had left."

"Perhaps we should be like Elizabeth was with us," he said softly against my ear. "At least, we could just stand back but be there if and when she needs us."

"There's no 'if' to it, love," I mumbled, trying to forget Eliza and concentrate on Barry. "He's the heir to the Pretender."

"She's an English noblewoman, Robbie-" His lips had begun to make little butterfly kisses down my neck, his fingers were loosening the knot of my tie.

I began to relax under his fingers. "He's almost certainly Catholic. And God alone knows how the French would feel about an English Queen - if they ever restore their Monarchy."

"Elizabeth knows this, doesn't she?" His fingers had loosened my tie and were now working at opening my collar.

"I suppose. Yes, she does." I swallowed the rest of my whisky and sat up. "And  one of us will be right there any time he's with her. Elizabeth's virtue is still going to be intact when you get her back to England."

He pushed off of the sofa and, smiling, reached down to me. "Let's find a bed, Lord Petersholme," he whispered against my ear. He led me to his bedroom.



That evening, rested and refreshed, we drove to Deauville. I sat against the far door with Elizabeth immediately beside me; Barry faced d'Orléans, who again sat on the jumpseat. I had suggested the seating arrangement as we lay together in my lover's bed. Even faced with Barry sitting across from him, however, d'Orléans had eyes only for Elizabeth. Barry and I were forgotten adjuncts to his night out with her.

The Comte de Paris and heir to the man who would sit on the French throne peppered her with questions. He surprised me that he listened intently to her answers, and I wondered if I had been so obvious when Barry had entered my life. I prided myself that I hadn't fallen as completely or as quickly as d'Orléans had - not until Eliza had begun her campaign to throw us together. Even after we started doing things together with her as our chaperone, I hoped that I hadn't been as oblivious of everyone and everything as this Frenchman was.

D'Orléans' behaviour indicated that he was seeing an intelligent, witty person when he looked at Elizabeth, a woman whom he enjoyed being with. That was much more than the simple male attitude of seeing a pretty woman and wanting to bed her. And, whether something came of this encounter or not, I did have to accept that her emotions were hers alone to protect. Barry or I could only be a sympathetic ear - were she to need one.

As we entered the village, d'Orléans turned to me. "Monsieur le Baron, my commanding officer has suggested a hunting party for Wednesday morning-"

"A hunting party?" I mumbled.

"A stag hunt. In your honour, of course, Baron Petersholme. A hunt is a pleasant way of spending the day. The deer are plentiful and some of the stags are magnificent animals."

My mouth watered at the thought of venison. I had no idea of how Americans felt about hunting and looked to Barry to learn his reaction to the idea. He didn't meet my gaze. "That would be nice," I said finally.

"Good," the Frenchman answered. "I will make the plans for our hunt then."

Our car pulled onto a drive that quickly led to a palace. Not a converted manor, but a palace. As d'Orléans promised that he would teach Elizabeth to play la bocha like a professional, I stared at the well-lighted, ivory-coloured, two-storey building rising before us.

"Monsieur le Baron-?"

D'Orléans and Elizabeth were both looking at me. "Yes?"

"In addition to the gaming tables, there is a cabaret inside - as well as three restaurants…" D'Orléans managed to shrug as he sat there on the jumpseat in front of Barry and Elizabeth, bringing his entire body to the gesture as only the French can. "We could have eaten here, but Monsieur Reynaud's staff would have been insulted - I thought it best …"

"Of course," I agreed. "Our dinner was quite good."

"Thank you." He turned to gaze at Elizabeth. "There are roulette wheels - in both the English and the French styles - and tables for vingt-et-un and la bocha." He smiled at her before turning back to me. "I have offered to show Mademoiselle Elizabeth how to play la bocha and to win at it. Do you and Mr. Alexander have a preference for a particular game?"

I glanced past Eliza to Barry. He simply smiled. "Not really," I told the Frenchman. "We're here to be entertained." I nodded towards the casino. "Anything will be fine."

Our car came to a stop before a columned portico. A doorman opened d'Orlèans' door, bowing from the waist. The Comte de Paris led Elizabeth up the steps, with Barry and I following. The staff proved to be as effusive in their reception as Reynaud's had been.

I was beginning to wonder just how strong republican feeling was in the country that gave the world liberté, egalité, and fraternité - and the generation of war that the first Napoleon's rule brought Europe. There were no more Bonapartes to threaten the Third Republic, but there were the d'Orléans.

"Do you think our Comte de Paris has figured us out, my Lord?" Barry asked softly as we moved through the glazed portico following d'Orléans into the lounge inside.

Our French host had remained formal whenever he addressed me. And I realised that he had avoided speaking to Barry in my presence.

"Do you think that we've been obvious?" I asked.

"I don't think so. But the distance he keeps putting between himself and us is becoming uncomfortable - me especially. It's like I don't even exist."

I frowned. "Perhaps, it's just Elizabeth," I suggested. "He seems to be completely taken with her."

Inside the casino, it was obvious that the republican disregard of title and ancient privilege was still alive and well in bourgeois France. D'Orléans appeared to be treated like any other field grade army officer. The staff was effusive, but they appeared to be treat all of the guests the same way.


* * *


Something felt different about the cottage. Something wrong. He was instantly wide awake. He didn't move as he used his ears to find what had woken him.

Clive snored in his bed next to Neville's. Whatever had woken him couldn't have been his mate. He opened his eyes into slits and looked at the side of the room that he could see without moving, peering hard into the dark shadows.

"Clive?" The voice was a low whisper behind Neville at Clive's bed. "Clive! Wake up, lad!" The bed complained as his mate was shaken roughly.

"Wh-?" Clive grunted.

"Sshh! You'll wake him. Get up, lad. We need to talk."

Neville mumbled nonsense and smacked his lips as he'd seen Clive do many times in his sleep. He wanted to turn over. He wanted to see who was in their cottage. But he didn't dare. He guessed it was best that he pretend to be asleep. The cottage was totally silent. He couldn't even hear anyone breathing. He snorted and breathed loudly through his mouth, hoping to convince Clive and whoever the other man was that he was still sleeping.

An eternity later, Clive slipped out of their bed. "It's bloody cold!" Clive complained in a whisper as he left the bed.

"Get dressed, boy. We need to take this outside."

"Give me a moment, Dave."

Dave? Neville wracked his brain for someone - anyone - on the farm with that name. There wasn't anyone. So who-? Dave Rice? The blacksmith in the village? He and Clive knew him, but-

He remembered the last couple of times that they'd been to the pub then. Clive always seemed to find a moment to chat with the smith there - alone. But why was the man here in their cottage? Waking Clive up? It made no sense at all.

Neville shut his eyes and started to snore loudly.

"I'm ready," Clive grumbled a few moments later.

"Let's go then."

"This had better be bloody good, Dave."

Neville heard the door open and then squeak as it was pulled shut. He opened his eyes and looked around the cottage to make sure they'd left.

He stared at the door for what seemed to be an eternity. He wanted to know what had caused the smith to be in their cottage, but he didn't want them to know that he was awake and knew something strange was happening. Still, if he was going to know, he had to listen at the door. He took a deep breath and let it out. "It's the only way I'm going to know what Clive's about," he told himself and threw back the blankets.

The fire was just embers and the cottage was cold. The floorboards on the bottoms of his feet were even colder. Neville moved steadily to the door, trying to ignore the chill that seemed to be seeping into his very bones.

Pressing his ear against the door, he heard David Rice say: "The man'll be here Wednesday. You'll need to show him around so he can get on with his orders."

"That's going to cost. I have other things to do than be a tour guide for anybody - and I expect this lad's going to be a Hun on top of that."

"I've been authorised to pay you five quid to show him around - another ten if he needs help from you."

"Let's see it."

Neville heard the rustle of paper through the door. Five pounds? More than a week's wages, that was! Bloody hell! What had Clive got himself into?

"Five notes here, Dave, me boy," Clive chuckled. "I'm all yours."

"This Horst Müller who's coming over here doesn't speak English, Clive. He'll have an Englishman along with him to make himself understood."

"That's two of them - that's double the coin, Dave - else, it's nothing that involves me."

Neville could imagine Clive offering the blacksmith his money back. That would be just like his mate, offering the money back and knowing full well that it wouldn't be taken. Clive had guts, he had. But where was this heading? Neville knew that, wherever it was, he was there too.

He made his way back to the bed then. He wanted to hear anything else that might give him a hint as to what they were planning but hadn't dared stay at the door listening until Rice said goodnight to his mate. Clive was quick - quicker than he was. He'd have been inside before Neville could make it to the bed, much less get the covers over himself and pretend to be asleep.

Whatever Clive had in mind would involve him. But he had to pretend he didn't know anything until his mate told him. Clive had a temper, he did. A nasty one too. It was really best to keep quiet until Clive decided to tell him.











"Heil Hitler!" Hauptscharführer Müller said, coming to attention just inside the door of the train compartment, his hand extended out in the perfect plane of the Party salute. Gisele von Kys wondered how long it took old fighters like Horst Müller to perfect the salute. He could even stand at military attention with the rolling of the train under them and do it.

Stefan Schmidt closed the door to the compartment and returned to his bench across from her.

"Sit, Müller," she told him. "There, beside the Obersturmführer." She watched as the man who had served her husband lowered himself onto the bench beside Schmidt. Müller sat ramrod-straight, watching her, waiting patiently. He was in civilian dress but there was no way to conceal that he was a military man.

"Your detailed orders-" she said and reached into her handbag for the sealed envelope. "These are to be memorised and destroyed before you reach the French coast, Hauptscharführer."

He nodded once in understanding and waited.

"You are to continue to Le Havre on this train. There, you will take the Channel ferry to Dover and a train into London."

She glanced at Schmidt. So tall and slim. He was beautiful. She'd still not got him into bed. She hoped that he wasn't an invert like Janus had been. It would be such a waste to have to kill him.

Stop it, Gisele! she told herself sharply. You're here on Reich business. She smiled slightly. But there was no reason that they could not mix business and pleasure once they were at their hotel.

She turned back to Müller. "In London, you will be met by an Englishman. One you know-"

"This James Crooksall whom you mentioned yesterday, Obersturmbannführerin?" he interrupted.

"Yes. He will escort you on to Coventry and take you to our operative in the village near Petersholme's estate. He also will need to work out your escape route with you. You are in charge there, Hauptscharführer. You may use this Crooksall in any way that you feel necessary."

He nodded at the instruction.

"You will execute the Drecksau Jorsten there and return my son to the Fatherland - the execution order, signed by the Reichsführer, is with your orders. There can be no failure. Are there any questions?"

"None, Obersturmbannführerin. It will be as you have ordered."

"Good. You may leave then, Müller."

"Heil Hitler!" the old fighter answered, effortlessly rising to his feet, coming to attention, and saluting.

She looked out her window as Stefan Schmidt showed Horst Müller out of the compartment. They were already in the eastern suburbs of Paris. Dusk was rapidly settling.

She'd been angry when she learnt that Petersholme would already be in Deauville before she got to France. She was still several hours away. It was more likely four hours - because the security man from the embassy would fawn all over her and have already mucked things up. But it could not be helped. She would catch up to the Engländer by the middle of Tuesday.

She smiled at her reflection in the darkening window. The SD's mole in Colonel de Gaulle's regiment had been quite clear in his report. Petersholme would not meet with the nationalist firebrand Reynaud before Friday. De Gaulle was already at his estate for Christmas. And the French had put Petersholme in the hands of a novice officer who knew nothing about security. The son of the French Pretender no less! She could not imagine such stupidity, even in the French. The damned Engländer would be able to do nothing before she had killed him.


* * *


A short, fussy man broke from the crowd on the platform and trotted towards her as Gisele von Kys left the carriage at Gare du Nord. He stopped in front of her and clicked his heels. "Obersturmbannführerin, it is my honour to welcome you to France," the man said to her - too loudly. "And you as well, Obersturmführer. I am the security officer at the embassy and am at your complete disposal." People leaving the train glanced strangely at them as they passed them.

"Get a hold on yourself," she growled at the man. "Or I'll report you to Berlin. We are not to be identified as members of the security forces." She glanced towards the terminal. "I'm going inside," she told the man and rolled her eyes at Schmidt over the short man's head. Neither of them was publicly travelling as an official of the Reich. Why then did this moron insist on identifying them as such? The man endangered her mission by calling attention to her. Couldn't he understand that?



Beyond Paris, their car slowed on the main roadway to Normandy and turned onto a lane that immediately entered a copse of trees. The security officer had explained to the Obersturmbannführerin and her subordinate the arrangement for them to meet the men who were to help them in France.

Stefan Schmidt peered through his window, trying to make out the car that was supposed to be waiting for them. Von Kys stared straight ahead, pointedly continuing to ignore the embassy security officer as she had since leaving the train station in Paris.

"There's the car," her subordinate said, turning to his two companions as their sedan slowed to a stop. He opened the door and walked around the boot to open the door for her.

She stepped into the snow. She heard one of the men mutter: "Une femme! Mon Dieu!"

Smiling as she approached them, she brought her arm up in a short salute. "Heil Hitler," she greeted them. "I am Obersturmbannführerin von Kys - and my assistant, Obersturmführer Schmidt."

"Waffen-SS?" a cultured voice asked and she decided that it had been the older, taller man who had spoken.

"Of course."

"I am Major Urnazy of the Army of France," the man continued, speaking in German low enough that he would not be heard by the occupants of the other car. "My companion is Maurice Pelletier of the Sûreté. We are at your service."

The men were alone; they would not be overheard as they drove out to Deauville. They would be able to speak freely. She glanced back at her car and watched as the chauffeur opened the boot. "If we may transfer our luggage-?" she said as she looked to the man from French internal security.



Gisele von Kys relaxed as the French car pulled back onto the main roadway. She had been uncomfortable with the embassy's security man and his driver. She accepted that the two Frenchmen in the front seat were more than just sympathisers - they had been cleared by the Sicherheitsdienst for this mission. But the embassy's security officer had seemed like the type who didn't know how to keep his mouth shut.

She leaned forward so that both of the Frenchmen could hear her. "You understand the mission? This British nobleman is to be killed before he can give Reynaud's people his information." Pelletier from the Sûreté nodded glumly and silently continued to drive.

Urnazy smiled. "We understood as much, Gräfin von Kys. I have guaranteed that we have time to carry out the mission properly. A staff officer was assigned as Baron Petersholme's escort during his stay here so that things will remain a bit muddled. Several our our friends in the Premier's party are finding ways to prolong Minister Reynaud's negotiations-"

"Jude!" von Kys hissed at the mention of the French Premier. No wonder the French sided with the English - they had the damned Jew, León Blum, leading them.

Soon, though - as soon as the Führer ordered the Wehrmacht to unleash its Panzer divisions - France would be quickly brought into the Teutonic fold where it belonged. The Pretender might even be put on their vacant throne to keep them in line - like Mussolini kept Vittorio Emmanuele on the throne in Rome.

The major waited several moments before continuing. She thought that he seemed to be studying Schmidt more closely than she would expect and wondered if the Frenchman was a Schwul like her husband had been. "The officer ensuring the Baron's well-being is of noble birth-" he said finally and chuckled. "He will be able to keep the Englishman entertained."

"Isn't he the heir to your uncrowned King?" Schmidt asked. Von Kys was surprised that he had interrupted but didn't show it. It pleased her that the man had read the reports as closely as she had. It showed that he had more than just a perfect Aryan body. He would go far under her direction.

"He is, Obersturmführer." Urnazy smiled as he turned to face him.

For the barest moment, von Kys thought that she saw recognition in the man's eyes, but it disappeared almost as quickly as it had appeared.

"As hidebound as the English are, I thought it would be a nice touch to put this Petersholme in the hands of a member of Royalty. It should keep him pleasantly amicable to having to wait for the Minister - while we put our plan for his death in place."

"You've already given thought to that?" Gisele asked sharply, pulled back from wondering about the major's sexual tastes.

"I have suggested a stag hunt on Wednesday to Capitaine d'Orléans. He thought it would be a pleasant interlude for the English Baron. I meet with young d'Orléans for breakfast tomorrow to plan it."

"Is there a wooded area from which we can shoot him?" she asked. The major nodded and she laughed. "Good! The Baron Petersholme becomes the stag and we, sitting in our blind, become the hunters." She glanced quickly from Urnazy to Pelletier. "We will follow this plan. I will need one of you as a back-up marksman to me."

"To you?" Pelletier grunted from behind the wheel.

"To me, Herr Pelletier. I take the point position."

"Gräfin!" Urnazy gasped. "Why? You have both Maurice and the Obersturmführer-"

"My orders are to kill the Englishman, Major," she told him as she sat back in the seat. "And I learnt to use a rifle from my father as a child. I don't need a back-up but shall have one - just in case." She glanced over at Schmidt before returning her gaze to Urnazy.

"The Obersturmführer will ensure that escape remains viable. You, Major, should be in the hunting party. That leaves Herr Pelletier to support me in the blind. Is this acceptable to everyone?"


She turned to face Schmidt.

"I am your second-in-command on this mission - shouldn't I be with you?" he asked.

She chuckled. "Killing the spy is our mission, but I would just as soon enjoy the view of the Reichskanzlerei from my office again. Making our escape a safe one is the most important thing you can do for this mission, Obersturmführer." She turned back to Urnazy. "I will want to see the entire area tomorrow, Major. We must be meticulous in planning this operation-" She paused to allow the silence to touch the three men. "And we must look for the ingredients of a second plan-"

"A second plan?" Pelletier groaned.

"As the major will tell you, things can go wrong and make a plan untenable," Gisele answered. "If an operation is to succeed, it is imperative to have a fall-back position."


* * *


Elizabeth Myers shut the door of her sitting room and leaned against it. She felt - she couldn't describe her feelings. She was almost light-headed. Giddy perhaps? She pushed away from the door and entered the room.

Warm? Yes, definitely. As if it were already spring and the very air around her was alive. She dropped her gloves and coat on the sofa and approached the fire. She could feel the fabric of her dress caressing her knees. She felt tingly all over. A smile curled her lips as she remembered the dance floor at the casino. And the music. She began to sway as she hummed. When Philippe had held her and-

"Robbie isn't going to like this at all!" She giggled as she imagined his face. She flushed as her cousin's perplexed face transformed into Philippe's in her mind. So close. Almost as if he were about to kiss her.

"And Alice!" She laughed, the image of Alice Adshead's eyes nearly popping now in her mind. She had to sit down.

Again, Philippe's face swam into view. His eyes so brown - so bright and warm. And tender - yes, tender. And kind. And loving. Touching her. Caressing her. But almost sad as well, as if he carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

His lips! They were so inviting. Sensuous even.

"You're being ridiculous, Elizabeth!" she told herself, consciously making the decision to be serious. She promptly giggled again. She couldn't help herself. It felt so good. Warm and cozy, like a thick blanket wrapped around her that would hold her forever.

She'd never wanted to kiss anyone before. On the cheek perhaps - but not like they did in the films. Not like Robbie and Barry had that time she'd surprised them. Not on the mouth.

But Philippe? She knew that she could kiss him all day, every day. She knew that she would never get enough of his lips on hers. There was the promise of pleasure there. Pleasure that she could only imagine but that she wanted to experience.

"Silly, silly girl!" she hissed, making her voice sound like Aunt Alice's. She giggled again.

An eternity later, she forced herself to stifle the continuing giggles. "So, this is what love is?" she mumbled to herself.

Love? Yes. It had to be. She'd never felt this way before - not even when she'd been a little girl and dreamed of growing up to marry Robert and becoming his wife. It was at least the strongest infatuation that she could imagine.

She could hear Robert's calm voice in her mind: "Think, Eliza. Think this through."

Did you, Robbie? she demanded mentally of her cousin's voice. Did you think through what you were doing? With Barry? True enough, you did resist. It took some real effort to keep putting you two together - but I could tell that you were head over heels for him.

But she knew that he was right. She did have to think this through.

Philippe was royalty. It didn't matter that his family had not sat on the French throne for nearly a hundred years. He was still the same as a crown prince. There was little chance of anything coming of this week that they were together. In fact, it was absolutely impossible that it could happen. She had to realise that and protect herself from being hurt.

She stood and moved closer to the fire, swaying in time with the music that continued to play in her head - Tommy Dorsey's Begin the Beguine.

A prophetic song title definitely, she decided as she danced around the sitting room to the music only she could hear. Especially when Philippe had taken her hand and led her onto the platform before the orchestra. She had practically melted into his arms and they had flowed perfectly with the music. They had become the music together.

Philippe wouldn't hurt her. She knew that he didn't have it in him. It was herself that she would have to worry about. 

But that was completely silly! She had never felt as alive as she had since she met him. She couldn't believe it had only been a few hours. She couldn't remember being sad or even worried once. It was almost as if she'd never had a care her whole life. It felt as if she'd known Philippe her whole life.

"But I will be sensible," she said aloud as she waltzed into her bedroom and began to undress. Robert was right about that.

But she was going to continue to enjoy herself while she was here. And enjoy how Louis-Philippe d'Orléans made her feel when he was with her.

As she slipped on her nightgown, Elizabeth wondered if this was how Barry felt when he had Robert's attention. She hoped so. Barry deserved to feel good.











It was evening before Viscount Molloy's train pulled into Bellingham. It had begun to snow and the station's small platform was covered as he left his carriage.

            "Lord Molloy?" The heavily accented voice caught at him and he turned towards it at the far side of the platform. Max squinted, trying to make out the man who had only then begun to move towards him.

He was young. And definitely blond. The platform's lights illuminated the other man's face then and Max Molloy recognised Dagold Jorsten from his debriefings in Warsaw. There was an ethereal quality to the man's looks that was almost the very definition of beauty. Looking on it was almost like receiving an electric shock.

"Dagold Jorsten!" he called in greeting. "I'm glad you're here," he said as the man neared him. "I'd have hated to tramp out to Petersholme's place."

Dagold stopped in front of the nobleman and smiled as he reached out to take Molloy's hand. "Fraü Alice asked that I drive to the Bahnhof to meet your train, Viscount Molloy. I have just now come."

"Please tell me that you drove a car, Jorsten," Molloy said. "I fear that I would  turn blue by the time we arrived back at the Hall, if we were to take an open carriage." Behind them, the train began to pull away.

"I drive well, my Lord," Dagold said, raising his voice to compete with the departing train. "I was Graf von Kys' chauffeur." He nodded towards the dark end of the platform. "Lord Petersholme's Bentley is not difficult for me." He reached out and took Molloy's overnight bag from him. "Was your trip from London a pleasant one?" he asked as he began to lead the other man towards the far end of the platform.

"The rail service was up to its usual standards."

In the car, Molloy adjusted his lap blanket and looked towards the German beside him. "Jorsten-" He took a deep breath and, for one last moment, sought a more comfortable way to broach his appearance in Northamptonshire. He let it out. "Jorsten, my trip here tonight isn't just to wish Mrs. Adshead a happy Christmas."

"I wondered, Viscount Molloy, but it was not my place to question."

"Someone near this village sent a message on Saturday to Berlin. They were quite specific that his Lordship was going to France on Monday, that the boy was here, and that you were scheduled to arrive that day."

The silence in the car grew deafening as they followed the narrow road out of the village and continued until they turned onto the lane that would lead them to Bellingham Hall.

"There are spies even here then," Dagold mumbled finally. "I had not thought about it before, but it is logical."

"It's probably nothing. Just someone reporting on Petersholme's movements-"

"No, Viscount Molloy, it is more," the German growled. "As you said, the spy was specific about Willi being here and my arrival. The Gräfin is alive and has somehow found a way to reach her fist out to even this small place-" He nodded to himself. "She wants to finish what she was not allowed to do at Schloß Kys." He pursed his lips. "I am to be killed this week." His eyes widened, and he glanced across to the Englishman. "And she will have Willi taken back to Germany as well."

"I hope that you're only imagining monsters under your bed, Jorsten; but I did check on her this afternoon with our intelligence people. Gisele von Kys is alive all right. And she has transferred from the German girls' union to the Office of State Security - to the SS. She now has a rank comparable to our lieutenant colonel."

Dagold Jorsten's voice was lifeless as he said: "It was Lord Petersholme who shot her at Schloß Kys. She will want him dead as well. With the SS at her disposal now, she will have men to do so - although she has me executed and her son returned to the Fatherland."

"None of it will happen, Jorsten. Our intelligence people are already working on that radio transmission - we'll have it tracked down within the week."

The German glanced again at Molloy. "And in the meantime, my Lord?" he asked softly. "What of Lord Petersholme in France - and of Willi and me here?"

"We'll have armed marines out here by the end of the week, Jorsten - and men in France as well," he answered. Max Molloy silently cursed himself for not having already contacted the embassy in Paris to get men to Petersholme. It was one more thing that he would have to cover with Churchill when he telephoned him in the morning. "In the meantime, I came down to alert you and to make sure Petersholme's people on the farm are ready to fend off anything that might happen before we have people in place."

"You will not take Willi with you when you leave then?"

"I'll come back and stay here until the Hall is properly guarded. But taking the boy away shouldn't be necessary, Jorsten. It would take Berlin at least a week to mount any sort of attack in this part of England - and they would only have received the message from here on Sunday. There wouldn't have been anyone to make a decision, much less authorise it, before this morning. We'll have men from the Navy out here in plenty of time."

Dagold Jorsten slowed the Bentley down and turned into the drive that led up to the manor. He said nothing. He understood that it was impossible for the English to appreciate how well-oiled and efficient the German state had become under the party. It was a machine now that was at full-power twenty-four hours a day. An unthinking machine that followed whatever orders it was given. Dagold Jorsten had no doubt that the Gräfin von Kys had given it an order to kill Lord Petersholme and himself, and to return Willi to her.

He knew that he had to keep his nephew away from whatever the Gräfin had planned for him. The boy was all that was left of his brother and probably of his parents as well; he had to be kept safe.



After breakfast the next morning, Max Molloy stood at the fireplace in the sitting room. With him were Alice Adshead, young Dagold Jorsten, and the farm manager. Outside, it had finally stopped snowing, and the sun peeked from behind the clouds blowing slowly eastward.

He had already called Churchill at Chartwell. It hadn't taken much to convince the man of the possible dangers facing Petersholme both at home and in France. Churchill promised that Royal Marines would be at Bellingham Hall by Friday and that Petersholme's group in Deauville would be immediately reinforced as well.

Molloy smiled at Alice and moved away slightly from the fire as its heat began to roast the back of his legs. "Mrs. Adshead, I came down last night because there's the possibility of a measure of unpleasantness before Petersholme can return home at the end of the week. It's being taken care of, of course-"

"Max Molloy, you have the subtlety of a charging elephant," Alice said and sat back in her chair. "Please just tell us what the danger is and what is being done to avoid it."

After he'd laid out the same information that he'd given Jorsten on the drive up from the village, he explained that he'd spoken with Winston Churchill already that morning and that several Royal Marines would be arriving at the end of the week while intelligence searched out the German operative. Turning his attention to the farm manager, he said: "It's not likely that the Hun will be able to mount an attack here before the beginning of next week, but you will need to keep a sharp look-out inside and outside, nonetheless."

"That I will, sir."

"And you, Jorsten - did they teach you to fire a rifle?" The German nodded. "Then, I would suggest that you borrow one from his Lordship's cabinet and sleep with it. If someone should get in here, they're coming after you, lad."

"I'll be armed as well, Max Molloy," Alice Adshead said sternly. "No-one enters this house without an invitation."

Molloy tried to stop the smile that threatened his lips as he imagined the woman as one of the Beefeaters at the Tower of London, marching to and fro across the landing with a shotgun to her shoulder.

"Max-" Alice's voice broke into his reverie. "I think that you need to take young Wilhelm to Easthampton-Mares today. That child is my nephew's son and heir - nothing can happen to him."

"He'll be perfectly safe here, Miss Alice."

"Viscount Molloy," Jorsten interrupted. "This is a very large house. During the day, there is a proper staff - but, even so, you or I could go through it and not be seen. At night, it is very easy to enter and even to leave - again, unseen. The Grafchen should not be here if there is any danger at all. You must take him where he will be safe."

"M'Lord," the manager interjected from the door before Molloy could answer. "That boy is Lord Petersholme's son and heir, sir. He can't stay here until this business is sorted out, and that's a fact."

Molloy's gaze flitted from each of his companions to the next as he quickly calculated. Wilhelm was five years old, more than a year older than his own son. But they could still keep each other occupied the rest of the week. And in Easthampton-Mares and under Molloy's father's roof, the boy would be far safer than here. It would mean a time-consuming journey there and an equal one back, but there seemed to be no help for it.

"My bag is still packed, Mrs. Adshead," he said to her, smiling. "Perhaps if you'd put together some things for the boy, we can still catch the early train?" He turned to the young German. "If you'll drive us, Jorsten-?"


* * *


Stefan Schmidt seemed to begin to droop as their car entered Deauville - like a flower that had been plucked. He dragged himself into the lobby of the Normandie. And he claimed to be tired as they were registering. Gisele'd watched him close the door to his room on her and she had been shocked. Her young Obersturmführer had become like an old man before her. Decrepit and frail.

He hadn't even given her a chance to entice him into her bed, and she'd slept alone. She'd figured that Schmidt had somehow seen through her and had used the ruse of being tired to escape her. She'd wanted him, the feel of him against her; and he actually dared to avoid her. Verdammter Schweinhund!

Or worse - ein verdammter Alter. A damned old man - useless to any woman.

Yet, he was so young.

She threw back the bedcovers and sat up. Yes, Schmidt was avoiding her all right. He was being just too obvious for it to be anything else. Angrily, she crossed the room to the mirror over the chest of drawers. She had to see what it was about her that he didn't like. She studied the woman staring back at her.

She raised her head and looked down her cheeks at her reflection in the mirror, forcing her chin out and the skin of her neck to tighten. Her hands cupped her breasts through the silk nightgown and raised them. "A real woman's bosom," she told the reflection, "what any man should want." Her hands moved down over the silk onto her belly. "And a rubensesque figure - the sign of a real woman."

Schmidt was young, just in his early twenties. Her body should appeal to him - if he was the man he looked to be. If he wanted a woman like a real man did. The bastard!

He was so damned perfect. Handsome, athletic. Virile - the perfect German. Like Emil Jorsten had been. And he was ignoring her. Avoiding her. Avoiding her damned bed.

Perhaps that squat little Sûreté creature? At least, he had a member that he would know what to do with. He would fall over himself to have a true Teuton in bed. And he would not care if a couple of centimetres of her temple were discoloured because that Engländer pig Petersholme had shot her.

She stepped back, the thought of Pelletier refusing to disappear from her thoughts on its own. She frowned. If she could not have perfect German manhood between her legs … Perhaps.

"I have work to do!" she growled at her reflection, forcing the thought of sex from her. She pulled the nightgown over her head and marched naked back to the telephone on the cabinet beside the bed. "That Schweinhund can round up our French help while I dress," she mumbled as she picked up the instrument.

She smiled as the switchboard of the Hotel Normandie routed her call to Schmidt's room. She hoped that she awoke him. It would serve him right for not being on the pillow beside hers this morning.

"Heil Hitler!" he greeted her on the second ring.

She frowned. "Obersturmführer, it is not recommended that you act like a member of the Party when you are on a clandestine assignment."

"I forgot, Gräfin."

She smiled. He sounded so contrite. Like a boy caught in an embarrassing moment. "It won't happen again."

"I hope not," she answered, forcing herself to sound angry. "Have our allies in my sitting room in half an hour. We must organise our mission so that there are no mistakes, Stefan. Such cannot be allowed - even if we are forced to use these Frenchmen to carry it out."

"I will have our two comrades there in half an hour, Gräfin. Will there be anything else?"

"Have coffee brought," she said and rung off.


* * *


Neville watched Clive at the other end of the wagon as he thrust his fork into the hay bale before him and lifted it. He was still trying to understand why the smith had been in their cottage last night and what his mate had agreed to.

"Come on, Nevie!" Clive growled at him. "We're both supposed to be feeding these bloody cows, mate. Get on with it." 

Neville buried his pitchfork in the bale before him and hoisted it over the side of the wagon.

"Good shot," Clive congratulated him and Neville followed his friend's gaze to the bale of hay that had broken open when it hit the ground. "Old Bessie might let you get up behind her and take your pleasure for that one," Clive chuckled before spearing another bale with his fork.

"Clive-?" Neville began but paused.

Clive looked up and met his friend's gaze. "Yeah, mate - what's the problem?"

Neville took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching it turn to mist before him in the cold morning. "Why was David Rice in our cottage last night?"

Clive's face instantly showed his surprise and slowly turned into a smile. "So, you were awake?" Neville nodded. "It doesn't concern you," his friend said dismissively.

Neville almost let the matter drop. It was what Clive expected him to do, what he'd always done before. He knew, somehow, that this was too important to ignore. "When the smith from the village comes into my cottage in the middle of the night, it does-"

"Your cottage?" Clive grumbled, looking up and studying Neville closely.

"Our cottage then. I live there too. His Lordship gave it to me along with you. And I'm just as responsible for what happens there as you."

Clive leaned against his pitchfork and studied his mate for several moments before speaking. He hadn't thought of involving Nevie - this business of keeping an eye open for what Lord Petersholme and his family might do had seemed to be just a lark when David suggested it. But he was going to have a Hun underfoot soon enough - and the Hun's English friend too. There was no way he was going to be able to hide it from Nevie.

He nodded. "You know that kid, the one who's taken over the manor the past week or so?"

"His Lordship's son?"

"His son?" Clive asked suspiciously.

"Yeah. Lord Petersholme adopted him - made him his son, he did. It's all over the estate, Clive - don't you pay any attention at all?"

"His Lordship stole the boy out of Germany is what I hear. I know that his ma wants him back. That's why there's a Hun coming, to take him back."

"Really?" Neville couldn't imagine his Lordship kidnapping anybody's child. He was a magistrate, after all. It didn't sound right at all. But, then, one could never be too sure of things when an aristocrat was involved. A lad just lived his life quiet as he could and prayed that he didn't step over some invisible line.

Clive nodded.

"So, what is this business you have with Mr. Rice from the village? And this Hun what's coming to visit?"

Clive repositioned himself and heaved the bale of hay out of the wagon, hurling it out into the field before answering. "Do you think a young boy's proper place is with his ma, mate?"

Neville frowned. "I suppose-" He had to admit that he did. Only, this young boy was now his Lordship's son. The whole of the farm and everything else that was Lord Petersholme's would someday belong to that boy. It made his head hurt to try and think what all that could mean.

"Well, I agreed to help David's Hun to find his way around this farm here and rescue that brat  his fucking Lordship has taken a shine to."

"Ain't that against the law, Clive?"

"Nevie!" Clive groaned. "How can it be against the law to do the right thing?"

Neville had to admit that Clive had him on that one. He couldn't think of a single reason against it to give his friend. But it still didn't feel right. "Somebody could get hurt, Clive," he mumbled.

"Who could possibly be hurt?" Clive looked down at the bare board of the wagon floor. "There's only old Miss Alice and the house staff at the manor this week."

"There's that German," Neville answered. "The one what looks to be our age. Him or Miss Alice could get hurt."

"That Hun!" Clive growled. "He's got a price on his head back in Germany, Nevie - a criminal, he is."

"A criminal?" he whispered. Lord Petersholme was sheltering a criminal here at Bellingham? That didn't sound right at all. Something was definitely wrong with what his friend was involved in, but Neville didn't know enough to even guess what it was. "A price on his head?" he asked, his voice a little louder.

"This Hun what's coming - he's a copper for their government over there," Clive told him. "He's legal, Nevie lad." He grinned. "We'll be helping out the authorities, we will - what's more legal than that?"

"So, he's going to rescue the boy and nab this criminal?" Neville asked slowly, trying to set the parameters of what he knew he was going to be involved in with his mate.

"Yeah." He laughed. "And we can do anything we wants to that Hun before he's taken away in chains too."

Neville looked sharply at his friend then. He had an idea of where Clive's thoughts were taking him and he didn't like it. It sounded too queer to him. Like Clive was a jessie boy even, thinking about doing that with a stranger. And a criminal at that.

"Let's get this hay thrown, Nevie. I got a bit more of me mum's plum brandy hidden back at the cottage. We're going to need something to warm our bollocks after this morning."


* * *


Horst Müller glowered at the woman on the seat across from him but said nothing. Her brats sat quietly beside her, but whispered to each other incessantly. He should have paid for a private compartment. Only, it had seemed such a waste of money when he was buying the ticket in Dover.

He sat ramrod-straight with his eyes closed, trying to ignore the woman and her whispering children. Hauptscharführer Müller forced his mind to concentrate on his mission.

The success of his mission - both aspects of it - was ultimately dependent on these  people. That worried him, but he accepted that there was nothing he could do about it.

He didn't trust the English, no matter what the official Party position was. Not the nearly illiterate members of the English party under that strutting peacock Moseley and not the cadre that the SS had been training to be a fifth column once the war began. They were racists, proud of their Aryan ancestry. But that was all they were.

Prejudiced, small-minded men driven by fear of losing their jobs was what they were. They did not understand the scientific underpinnings of National Socialism, he suspected that they were incapable of understanding it. No member of the Party hated the Jews, or Slavs, or even Gypsies and Africans. It was simply that science had proven them inferior before the German people and that there was room on Earth only for the Germans or the sub-humans. Not both.

It was an Englishman who would guide him to the child and Jorsten, however. And the same Englishman would get him, with the child, to the Channel coast where they were to meet the submarine that would take him back to the Fatherland. A bourgeois Englishman who slaughtered the German language when he used it.

Horst Müller was not a man who allowed himself to worry. He followed orders. He would prefer to be back in the early days when he had fought the Red battalions on the streets of Berlin. But he accepted the conditions that were a part of his mission. And he would succeed, even if he had to work around those conditions. He always had done so before - regardless of the conditions - and he was a Hauptscharführer because of it.

He opened his eyes as the train began to slow. The three brats were glued to the window, but he was able to see enough of the buildings that he discerned they were entering the hub of the London terminus. The carriage bucked as the train continued to brake, the screech of metal on metal a continuous sound around him.

Horst Müller concentrated on the young Engländer who was to meet him at the station in London. James Crooksall had been the best of the English cadres he had trained - an adequate subordinate, he supposed, for an uneducated oaf.

Inside the station, he spotted the Englishman almost immediately. Müller moved out of the flow of people leaving the platforms behind and permitted himself several moments to observe James Crooksall without the man being aware of it.

The Englishman had become tidier since he left cadre-school two years before. At least, he had changed his barber and his hair lay properly on the top of his head.

He still looked like a clerk in an accounting office, however. He wore thick glasses, and Müller was certain that the man had acquired several inches around his waist since he was at camp. He frowned as he studied the Englishman.

How old was the man waiting for him? Crooksall had only been eighteen or nineteen when he was at camp. He shook his head in disbelief. James Crooksall was obviously the product of an England gone totally bourgeois.

Müller sighed and moved quickly across the floor, stopping in front of the Englishman. "You are James Crooksall, yes?" he asked, keeping his voice low so that the people in the station did not hear him speaking German.











"Capitaine d'Orléans, this hunting party for the English Baron needs to be kept small-" Urnazy laid his spoon down and studied the boiled egg before him now that he had opened it. Its yolk was a rich yellow gel inside the starkness of the firm white.

Spending his morning with that German cow had left a bad taste in Urnazy's mouth. She was so stupid; because of her, it had taken them two hours to work out how to kill one Englishman. The same plan that he'd put in effect when the order had first come from Berlin on Monday - this stag hunt he was now finalising with d'Orléans.  He still could not believe it.

He brought his coffee cup to his lips and sipped. "Are you sure that you won't have breakfast?" he asked, looking over the rim of his cup at d'Orléans. "It's quite good."

"Thank you, but I've eaten already, Major," d'Orléans said. He sat across the table from Urnazy in the Hotel Normandie's dining room and wondered what Elizabeth was doing. He watched his superior officer resume eating his late breakfast.

"It is nearly Christmas, of course," Urnazy continued, "and few of this English Baron's sort here in France would want to leave their families and disrupt their plans for a simple hunt - even if they were close by. So, I think four or five of us at most."

He smiled at the croissant on his plate. He tore a piece off and smeared gooseberry jam over the tear. "Yes. You, this English Baron, the American, myself, and the Minister's estate manager - that should be enough to make this Petersholme feel appreciated." He sipped his coffee again, before setting the cup down for the waiter to refill it. "And it would be no great inconvenience to anyone except the two of us."

"I have talked with the Minister's estate manager, Major," d'Orléans told him. "He will have four of his young men in position to run deer towards us as soon as we're in place."

"Good!" Urnazy said. "We won't be out in the cold all day then. It'll be over fairly quickly - this Englishman kills his deer, the staff carries it back to the château, and we stand around in front of a roaring fire and drink brandy to celebrate a good hunt." He scooped up more of the egg with his spoon and raised it to his mouth. "And, of course, the kitchen staff will cook a roast from the deer they killed during the Minister's hunt last week," he continued when he'd swallowed the egg.

"Is that how the English do these things?" d'Orléans asked to make conversation.

The major laughed. "The English do not have many wild deer, Capitaine - they raise them in herds like cows mostly. They expect a hunt from us here on the continent, however - all of the English nobility do. They have a taste for venison - and the stags of Normandy are considered to have the best taste."

Urnazy finished his coffee. "Will you be bringing them into Deauville tonight?"

D'Orléans nodded. "I took them to the casino last night. Tonight, we attend the cabaret near the beach. The Baron and his cousin showed interest-"

"Why not bring them to the casino for dinner then, Capitaine? All three of its restaurants are quite good. I will join you there and return to the Minister's château with you afterwards." He smiled. "It is best to get an early start on this hunt so that it will be over and we can again be warm."

D'Orléans nodded. He wasn't especially enthusiastic about tramping through snow-covered woods looking for deer himself. An hour or two of that and he would be ready for a hot fireplace. And the chance to be with Elizabeth Myers again.


* * *


Louis-Philippe d'Orléans leaned back in the seat as his car left the winding cobblestone streets of Deauville and started inland towards the Reynaud château.

Elizabeth Myers. She was beautiful. As beautiful as any woman he'd known. And she was actually interested in him. Not his family or his titles, but him.  He had enjoyed the drive from Paris to Deauville, because of her. He had enjoyed the evening at the casino, again because of her.

"I have been so bored!" he yelped. Why hadn't he realised it before? Boredom was the perfect word with which to define what his life had become. He had always done what was expected of him. He was the heir to the Throne of France, and that reality defined not only who he was but what he did. He had been bored his whole life since he could remember - until yesterday when Elizabeth Myers stepped onto French soil and into his heart.

His heart? Him in love? Non! Impossible!

He could not imagine not having her with him - beside him - however. Her smile. The sound of her laughter. The twinkle of her eyes as she smiled.

Mais oui. Impossible but true. He had seen the symptoms of this particular malady of the heart many times. Enough of his friends at university had fallen in love. He chuckled. It didn't matter. He felt too good to be concerned.

Besides, it was probably but a momentary infatuation - une affaire du coeur. He had not had one before, but-

Elizabeth was beautiful. She deserved men kneeling before her, worshipping her beauty. It was her due. Her legs! Her figure! Her face! And her mind most of all.

D'Orléans had never understood how the ancient Greeks could have gone to war against Troy simply because of their Helen. He had not, before he met Elizabeth Myers. But this young British gentlewoman could most certainly launch a thousand ships. He imagined that he would die happy if he could but touch her pale, perfect skin. Or be allowed to kiss her smiling lips.

He had to know more about her.

He had talked about himself so much yesterday that she must think him a conceited fool. He had learnt practically nothing about her.

He wondered what her pleasures were. Did she cook? Knit perhaps? Sit around with the other women and gossip about others of their sort? All of those things his mother and the ladies who attended her did? Or did she enjoy doing things in mixed company?

Of course she did. She was perfect.

She probably was a fair horsewoman - he'd heard that the English nobility taught their children how to ride before they could even walk properly. She was also here with Baron Petersholme and the American, wasn't she? And she had enjoyed herself at the cabaret. And at the tables-? D'Orléans rolled his eyes. He could not believe last night was the first time she had played cards. She had won more than 200 francs at la bocha.

There had been the hint of an interest in politics last night. And history as well. He could not remember a single woman - not even his mother - who understood such things. But, perhaps, Elizabeth Myers did.

He sat up then, a scowl quickly darkening his face. He had gone on and on about himself. He had ignored the American completely and, nearly so, the English Baron as well. How embarrassing!

Elizabeth had held him so enthralled. He had been unable to think of the Baron or the American. It had seemed so important to have her attention. To hold it, as she did his.

He resolved to rectify immediately his neglect of both the American and the Englishman. The scowl eased quickly into the lines of a smile. He could absolve himself of his social gaffes yesterday and still learn more about Elizabeth Myers. At the same time. All he would have to do was pay attention to the two men, listen to them - and keep their attention and the conversation on Elizabeth.

How absolutely Machiavellian! It was perfect.

What was the red-haired American's name again? Alexander. Yes, Barry Alexander. He was young, and he seemed - well - perhaps in awe of the Baron. As if he might be naïve.

D'Orléans grinned broadly as his car pulled onto the drive leading up the château. Yes, he would definitely make Monsieur Alexander feel welcomed to France. And learn everything that he could about la belle Elizabeth Myers from him.


* * *


Barry Alexander stood at the French windows of the solarium, gazing out over the snow-covered gardens of the Reynaud château. He wondered if he could possibly get Robbie outside for a snowball fight, maybe he and Elizabeth could gang up on the man - or maybe d'Orléans would even join in.

He wondered if the Frenchman even knew what fun was about; he was a Prince after all. He'd sure been all business at the airport - before he fell all over himself for Elizabeth. He grinned at that thought.

"Monsieur Alexander?"

Barry jumped. His heart still pounding, he turned to face Louis-Philippe d'Orléans.

"Please forgive me for startling you," the Frenchman said as he stepped closer. "I should have made a loud noise to announce myself." A smile tugged at his lips. "I also must apologise for neglecting you yesterday, Monsieur Alexander-" The smile widened as he shrugged. "I was far more pre-occupied by Mademoiselle Elizabeth Myers than I realised."

Barry grinned. "She's a very attractive woman, sir - and just as intelligent as she is good looking. She's a student at university in London with me."

"University?" d'Orléans asked as he sat facing the American.

"Yes, sir. At the London School of Economics."

D'Orléans was surprised that Elizabeth was a student. He could think of no woman in his circle who had done more than go to finishing school before they married. The women he knew in Larache or among the chic salon nobility of Paris had no interest in an education. He thought even more highly of Elizabeth Myers than he had before.


He looked up to find Barry's gaze on him. "Yes?"

"What should I call you? You've got to remember that we don't have Lords and Comtes and Kings and Dauphins in the States, and I don't want to insult you because I don't know how to address you properly."

D'Orléans laughed. "You do quite well, Monsieur Alexander - for a republican."

Barry's face paled. "I may not have voted in an election yet, sir; but I'll never be a damned Republican-"

The Frenchman looked surprised for the moment that it took him to remember the principal parties on the American political stage. "I owe you an apology, Monsieur Alexander," he said quickly. "I meant to connect you with the political system of your country, not with one of your political parties."

"It was my mistake, sir," Barry said and smiled sheepishly. "I've got to remember that the same word doesn't always mean the same thing in another country."

"And, at university, you are studying diplomacy, yes?" d'Orléans asked quickly. "You will be a credit to the people of America, Monsieur Alexander, when you are at your Department of State."

Barry felt blood rushing across his face, flushing it, and into his hair. "You got me, sir," he mumbled.

D'Orléans studied him for a moment as he watched the American blush. "I got you?" he asked slowly. "It is an idiom, yes?"

"Yes, sir." Barry moved to a chair near d'Orléans'. "May I sit with you?" he asked. The Frenchman nodded and Barry pulled the chair closer. "What it means is that you guessed something about me that isn't common knowledge. Your guess embarrassed me."

"I see. And you are then studying the art of diplomacy?"

Barry nodded. "Yeah - I mean, yes, sir - along with economics."

"Please, Monsieur Alexander, we do not need to be formal. You may call me Philippe when we are alone-" He smiled quickly back at the American. "And use only the occasional 'sir' when there are Frenchmen around who may overhear us."

"Call me Barry, Philippe." He extended his hand and d'Orléans took it. "At least, you aren't some old stuffed shirt," he mumbled as he retrieved his hand a moment later.

"Stuffed shirt?"

"We're friends, right?"

"Of course, Barry, we are friends - you and I. How does this-?"

"It doesn't really. I just meant that you are a really nice guy. If Elizabeth Myers had to fall for some guy, I'm glad it was you."

"Elizabeth?" D'Orléans looked around the solarium, as if he would find some obvious connection in the room.

"How do you feel about her, Philippe - really feel, I mean?"

The Frenchman sat back in his chair, his eyes nearly closing as he thought of how to answer Barry's question. "I am intrigued by her - attracted to her even. Her beauty and her intellect appeal to me. I admit to having been captured by Mademoiselle Myers-" He smiled. "And I suspect that I have fallen a little in love with her."

"Love is like being pregnant in one way," Barry told him softly, "there's no such thing as 'being a little in love', any more than there is 'being a little pregnant'."

D'Orléan's eyes widened and his smile spread across his face. "Très bien, Monsieur Alexander! It is certainly the truth! Love is an absolute thing that possesses you completely."

Barry laughed then. "And you've got it bad too, don't you?"

The Frenchman chuckled, scrunching deeper into his chair. "I suppose that I have."

Barry looked back out past the French windows. "It's beautiful out there. Back in New York, people our age would go on sleigh-rides when they got together at times like this."

"A sleigh-ride?" D'Orléans sat up and stepped quickly to the window. "Absolument! Oui!" He looked from the snow-covered garden to Barry. "Will you and the Baron - and Mademoiselle Elizabeth - join me in a sleigh-ride as I show you the Minister's estate?"

Barry chuckled and turned towards the corridor. "You round up the sleigh and horse, sir - I'll get the others."

"Round up?" d'Orléans mumbled to himself as he watched the American pass through the doorway.



Barry glanced from the sleigh to d'Orléans and back again. Robbie decided to stay curled up in front of the fire with Agatha Christie's latest thriller. The Frenchman's attention was totally centred on Elizabeth. From the looks of things, Barry figured they could forgo the sleigh ride and neither of his companions would even know it.

He sighed. At least the horse looked firmly attached to the sleigh. "I'll drive," he offered brightly and climbed into the driver's seat and looked out over the horse's back.  I am not going to spy on them, he told himself resolutely. Driving them around is the closest that I'll get. D'Orléans helped Elizabeth up onto the seat and followed her.

Moments of silence followed and threatened to become even longer. Barry couldn't resist his curiosity any longer. He was just sitting there. They all were. He turned to look over his shoulder.

The Frenchman had placed a lap rug over their legs. He sat beside Elizabeth and held both of her hands in his. He seemed to have become lost in her eyes as she had in his.

Barry jerked his head back around and flipped the reins against the horse's back. "Right," he mumbled as they began to move.


* * *


Müller allowed himself to relax slightly as he entered the compartment he and Crooksall were to share and leaned back against the door. They would be alone, and he could begin to ensure that his mission would be carried out smoothly.

"How much do you know about my mission here, Crooksall?" he asked the Englishman in German as their train began to make its way out of London.

"Very little, Herr Hauptscharführer," the Englishman answered. "I will be told that I was to make myself available to you in every way." Crooksall's brows knotted. "I mean that I was told that."

Müller cringed at the Englishman's inability to use the correct verb tense; it was  a slaughter of the Herrensprache. "And this you will do?"

"Of course. I am yours to command, Herr Hauptscharführer."

"Good. Our orders are the same then. Firstly, when we reach this Coventry of yours you will secure motor cars and a route that will take me to the Channel coast."

"Cars? A route, Herr Hauptscharführer?" Crooksall was wide-eyed as he stared at him.

Müller almost allowed himself to worry. He took a deep breath and snorted. "A route, Crooksall. Berlin thinks that I should not remain in England after I am finished, and I tend to agree."

Crooksall sat up and pulled a notepad from the pocket of his coat. He began to search for a pen.

"I hope you have the brains to memorise what I will tell you, Crooksall. Writing notes to yourself can cause us unnecessary problems - and I do not want to hang because you lack intelligence." 

Crooksall flushed and hastily put away the notepad. "Of course, Herr Hauptscharführer. I wasn't thinking-"

"Don't think. Just do," Müller said, his voice softening slightly. "Listen to your orders and carry them out; do not try to improve on them. If we all do exactly that, the new order will be established smoothly in the world."

Crooksall nodded, his face still flushed with his embarrassment; and Müller continued: "You need to have a car waiting for me every one fifty kilometres along the route to the Channel. The route should avoid cities with substantial police forces - country lanes are best for my purposes. I'll also need a motor launch waiting for me at the Channel. Can your comrades be trusted to set this up without mishap?"

The Englishman's face was a study of concentration as he mentally repeated to himself Müller's instructions. The Hauptscharführer almost laughed at how like a young schoolboy the pudgy Englishman before him looked.

Instead, he kept his face stern and continued. "I shall have a child with me as we cross England. He could well not be happy to leave those who have him now. At any rate, however, these drivers will need to be prepared for the child's presence. And they will need to know, as you already do, that my instruction is final."

Crooksall nodded. "When will you need our people to be in place, Herr Hauptscharführer?"

"This is Tuesday morning. The U-boat will be in the Channel above Dover at 2400 Friday night and remain there until first light." He looked at the Englishman. "Can we cross this island in one night by car?" he asked.

"You'll want to take backroads-?"

Müller nodded.

"And you'll want to stay hidden during the day?" Again, the German nodded. "We can get you perhaps three-quarters of the way to the Channel - say - Thursday night and the rest of the way before midnight that Friday - what day do you take the boy?"

"That is for me to decide, Crooksall - after I know the circumstances of my escape. Can you have the route in place by tomorrow?"

The Englishman nodded.

"Then we will take the child, as well as execute the traitor that night."

"Wednesday then." Crooksall sat back on his seat and mulled over their conversation. "That will work, Herr Hauptscharführer," he said finally.


"Yes. Tonight, I'll drive you out to Bellingham village and turn you over to our man there, David Rice the blacksmith. I will have to be back in Coventry that night and the next day-"


Crooksall looked up sharply. "I'm in partnership with my father, Herr Hauptscharführer. We have three funerals tomorrow - and I have to prepare two of those bodies tonight."

Müller cringed. A Leichenbestatter? He was sure that he could feel icy fingers touching his heart. He forced the revulsion he felt away. And began to wonder just how cold-blooded this English undertaker was.

"David Rice speaks no German, Herr Hauptscharführer; you will have to remember that he is a simple man - a village smith." He smiled, spreading his hands. "I'll return Wednesday evening and will help you carry through your mission."











Gisele von Kys pursed her lips as she watched Major Urnazy leave.  She turned towards the squat Sûreté agent and forced a smile to her face.  "Isn't that like every army in the world?" she mused in heavily accented French.  "Leaving before the real work is done and leaving it for the security forces to do-"

            Pelletier chuckled as he fingered his collar.  He saw her watching him and managed to look apologetic as he shrugged. "It is very warm, Comtesse - and the laundry used too much starch in my collar again."

            Gisele nodded.  "We shall need to be out anyway, Herr Pelletier.  The Obersturmführer and I need to see this minister's estate-"  She shrugged.  "We need to know how to get away quickly, once we've carried out our mission.  I can't imagine that you'll want to remain here afterwards, either."

            "Comtesse, it is always good to be familiar with the terrain one must walk," the Frenchman said.

            "Do you know how to find Minister Reynaud's château, Monsieur Pelletier?" Schmidt asked.  The man nodded.

            "Then, you'll drive us there now," Gisele told him as she pushed herself from her chair.  "I'd like to work out how I'm to escape the huntsmen with their rifles."



"What is that?" Gisele demanded, pointing over the seat towards a single stone building off from the road.

            "It appears to be a barn," Schmidt mumbled, avoiding her hand as it shot past his face.

            "It appears to be abandoned, Comtesse. Shall I pull the car in?" Pelletier asked as he began to slow down and did so without waiting for her reply.

            Gisele stood beside the car.  She glanced towards the road less than ten metres from where she stood and back to the weather-beaten side of the barn.  "How far from here is the château?" she asked both men.  "Five kilometres perhaps?"

            "It is almost four kilometres to the Minister's house from here, Comtesse," Pelletier answered.

            "And how far to the woods where Urnazy will take Lord Petersholme hunting?" she asked.

            "Perhaps two kilometres," the Frenchman answered.

            "There'd be sufficient time for me to make it here from the woods and then get away cleanly from any of the Englishman's fellow hunters, yes?"

            Pelletier shrugged.  Schmidt guessed at Gisele's thoughts - he nodded and straightened nearly imperceptibly.

            "Good.  Now, I want to see the inside of this barn."

She began to lead the two men towards the entrance on the side of the barn.  "We'll also develop a contingency plan while we're here, in case it becomes unfeasible to kill the Englishman while he hunts."

She stood in the entranceway and allowed her eyes to adjust to the darkness inside. From the smell, she knew it was used to store hay. Like the Junkers did in Prussia.

Schmidt and the Frenchman stood behind her, waiting for her to tell them what she wanted. She pulled her greatcoat closer around her against the cold of the barn and stepped inside.

The barn reminded her of the stables at Schloß Kys. The Englishman had left her for dead there. It'd be fitting if this became his funeral pyre. She smiled at the thought.

"This will be where we'll bring him."

"I thought we were going to shoot him in the woods - while he's hunting," Schmidt grumbled.

She pivoted then and faced the two men, her hands going to her hips. "We are developing a secondary plan, Obersturmführer - in case Pelletier and Urnazy are unable to give me a clear shot at him." She turned to the man from the Sûreté. "Pelletier, if you and the Obersturmführer have to kidnap him and bring him here, how long would we have before they found this barn?"

"The farm workers would know of it, of course," the Sûreté man mused. "But they would not know which direction we'd taken - I would say an hour at most, Countess."

"And how far to the Belgian border from here?"

"By car?"

She nodded.

"Two hours would push it if you take the route national. Three more likely."

Gisele von Kys turned and peered deeper into the interior of the barn. This would be where that meddlesome Petersholme would take his last breath. It was the justice that he deserved - for what he had done to her.

She took a deep breath and started back towards the entrance. "I'll see this woods now," she said as she strode towards the door, passing the two men.


* * *


Once they were on the road again and driving towards Deauville, Schmidt turned in his seat to look back at her. "Gräfin, it will be much better if we kill the English Baron while he's hunting," he said, meeting her gaze. "Kidnapping him will mean a much greater danger for all of us. Even if we are lucky enough to succeed, some of us will be captured, if not killed-"

            "Better to die by a bullet," Pelletier grumbled from the driver's seat. "If captured, any of us would meet the guillotine. Only Urnazy would face a firing squad - because he's army."

            "Why would it be easier simply to shoot him?" she asked, keeping her voice even so that the men would think she was actually considering their opinions.

            "Because the men on the hunt will be spaced out and in the woods," Schmidt told her. "There will be gunfire all around - so the shot that brings him down will not mean anything to them immediately. The marksman will have time to escape before the Baron's death is even discovered."

            "And because it will take the hunters more time to realise that one of them did not shoot him," Pelletier added. "Especially with Urnazy pointing a finger at each of them." He shrugged. "Both of you - and I - will be in Deauville before anyone becomes wiser. And we'll be on the Paris train before they think to look in the town. Major Urnazy and the Dauphin return to Colonel de Gaulle's corps and resume their duties. All of us escape suspicion and the Englishman is dead. That is what Berlin wants, is it not? A successful but quiet little assassination?"

            "Of course it is," Gisele answered. She could not tell the damned Frenchman that his life did not matter to Berlin - or even that Schmidt was expendable. And, while Berlin would be unhappy if Urnazy was killed, she didn't care what happened to him either.



"I'll expect to have you report this evening, Monsieur Pelletier, on the plans you and the major will have made this afternoon," she told the Frenchman as Schmidt stepped out of the car and held the door for her. "Come to my room at 2100 hours." She slid across the seat and stepped out in front of the Normandie before the man from the Sûreté could answer.

            "Attend me in my room," she told Schmidt over her shoulder as she started up the steps.

            He caught up with her. "Gräfin?"

            "There are things that must be done, Stefan - things that I cannot do as this Petersholme knows me by sight." She paused on the top step and, looking over her shoulder, smiled at him. "You need instruction, Junge," she continued sultrily, "and I will provide it."

            She stopped by the desk and ordered cheese and bread sent to her room, along with a bottle of wine. As she marched to the lifts, Schmidt gulped and followed her.

             Gisele had decided that her subordinate was naïve. It was the only explanation she could accept for Schmidt's failure to respond to her hints. He was a virgin and he was in her hands, to teach.

            He would fall in love with her, of course. She'd have to be careful about that; she was sure that the Reichsführer would be unhappy otherwise. But Schmidt would know what a real woman was like, and she was certain that, when they had returned to Berlin,  he'd only want Rubensesque women.


* * *


"Tonight, you'll need to explore this verruckte village for us," she said as they entered her room. "Shut the door, Stefan."

            "What should I search for?" he asked, closing the door and turning back to face her.

            "The English Baron and his party. Major Urnazy will be with them if he's to be there in time for tomorrow's hunt." She smiled at him seductively. "You'll be able to find them - just look for them at the casino and any cabarets Deauville can boast of."

            A knock at the door brought a temporary end to Gisele's instruction. Schmidt opened it and stood back as a waiter wheeled in a trolley. Gisele sat at the table and waited for him to serve her. Schmidt crossed the room and took the chair opposite her.

She smiled at him. "Take off your jacket," she told him after the waiter had left. "Make yourself comfortable." She took the loaf of bread and tore it.

Returning half to the dish for him, she told him: "It's fresh, Stefan - do you smell it?"

He nodded.

"There is nothing more heavenly than fresh baked bread-" She licked her lips with  the tip of her tongue, just enough that Schmidt would see it and get the idea that she was interested. "The only exception I can think of is sex."

His hand stopped in mid-air, nearly to the bread dish. His face flushed and Gisele smiled as his ears flamed dark red as well.

A naïf, definitely. A young virgin. And he was hers - to have and to teach. Her heart throbbed as she wondered how long it would take to get him undressed and into her bed.

"Pour the wine, Stefan," she told him and cut a large slice of cheese for herself. She was already wet. She could imagine him moving in her. She could feel his naked buttocks under her hands as he drove into her. She stifled a moan.

            First things first. She frowned as her duty to the Reich again became paramount in her thoughts. "Tonight," she said, her voice hardening, "while Herr Pelletier bores me with the minutiae of our little hunt tomorrow, you'll allow yourself to be young and carefree, Stefan."


            "You'll visit Deauville's night spots and enjoy yourself." She smiled. "Of course, you will search for Petersholme and his party."

            He brought what remained of the loaf of bread to his own plate and cut a small slice of the cheese. "If this Urnazy doesn't meet them, or does so only later, how will I know them?"

            "They will be young and speaking English, of course. There won't be many Englishmen in Normandy this time of the year."

            "I don't speak English."

            "Perhaps they'll speak French then as they'll be with this French pretender's son, but with horrid accents. Besides, you'll recognise English if you hear it. It's like Dutch - a bastard version of the Herrensprache."

            Schmidt nodded as he tasted the cheese. He swallowed. "And what will I do once I have found the Baron, Gräfin?"

            "You'll note who his companions are and what they do together - but concentrate on Petersholme."

            He cut another slice of cheese. "But I don't speak English-"

            "I want to know as much as I can about my quarry, Stefan. I want to know of any companions I will need to be prepared to watch for tomorrow in the woods. I want to know of any distinctive mannerisms, anything I need to watch for. One does not simply march into another country and execute a man - not if one wants to return home with one's head attached to one's body. Verstehst du?"

            He shuddered and nodded.

            "Good. You'll be my eyes and ears tonight, Stefan." She pushed her chair back and stood. "This afternoon, however, I think we'll satisfy our other senses, yes?"

            "Other senses?" he gulped, looking up at her.

            "Have you known a woman yet, Stefan Schmidt?" His gaze fell to the table and he turned the colour of beetroot before her. She knew then that he was a virgin.

            "This afternoon I will teach you," she chuckled. "Learn well, Obersturmführer, and you will never be alone in your bed again. Come," she said, rising and moving towards her bed.



Gisele von Kys sprawled across the rumpled sheets and wondered how she would ever convince herself to get up.

            She was sated. Stefan had indeed been a naïf, a resistant one even - at first. But, like any youth, he was erect before his trousers were past his feet. He was endowed. And, best of all, he stayed erect.

            She touched the areole of her left breast with her fingertip and wondered at how sensitive it was. She definitely was going to have to teach her Obersturmführer to alternate between both breasts next time. He had suckled, tongued, and even bit her through all three bouts of rutting sex - and it had always been the same breast. It would take at least a week before it again felt normal.

            She had been foolish to wonder if he a warmer Bruder, like her late husband and that Jorsten boy. Stefan Schmidt performed quite adequately with a woman.

            She grinned and licked her lips. Yes, quite adequately indeed.

            She realised that her bedroom had grown dark and sat up. That squat little man from the Sûreté was coming to report at 2100 hours. And she would need to bathe and eat before that. She did not want to reek of sex when he arrived, though she could imagine what he might be like in bed.

            She giggled. "Yes. That could prove interesting. Pelletier was nothing to look at; he could not even hold a candle to Stefan. Still, there was something to be said for the experience that an older man brought to a coupling. And French men were supposed to be the most adept in the world at giving a woman pleasure.

She giggled again as she pushed off the bed. This trip to France might well prove to be one that she remembered most fondly. She would definitely keep Stefan now that she had pulled him out of his shell, but that was no reason for her not to enjoy all that France had to offer as well.


* * *


"Cow!" Stefan Schmidt hissed under his breath as he soaped the wet flannel. He lifted his hips in the bath water and began to scrub his pubis.

            He had known what the damned bovine wanted from the first day that he reported to her after graduating SS officer training school. She had been so obvious then, and she continued to be obvious. Well, she had finally got him. He hoped she was satisfied with his performance.

            It was just as well that the Gräfin had assumed that he was a virgin, inexperienced in the ways of sex. He had hoped that the charade would save him from her bed. As it was, however, it had provided him an excuse when he bit one of her breasts and the other little gaffes he'd committed.

            At least, he'd managed to keep his erection before and during their sex. He chuckled at that. It had been no small feat. He'd had to imagine that her quim was the small perfect arse he'd speared so many times at officer training school to keep his erection.

            He wondered how his former sex mate was doing in his first duty assignment in Prague. He missed their sex. The man had been as insatiable as the Gräfin, but so much more enjoyable. There had been many mornings that he'd had to report to first roll call without a bit of sleep because of him. He had a warm place in his heart for the man - the man had been the first to let Stefan mount him.

            He shook off the memory. He was a new German, the future of Germany now by virtue of being an officer in the Waffen-SS. And the new Germany allowed no room for warme Bruder. He glanced down at his erection and smiled.

            Maybe it didn't. But he still got harder and lasted longer for a good looking man than he did for any woman. He was still surprised that he had been able to penetrate the Gräfin, she was so fat and ugly.

            He chuckled that she had somehow convinced herself that he was an innocent virgin to tutor, like he was a chick learning to peck at its mother's side. He would have to find a way without being found out to look at his own dossier once he was back in Berlin. Apparently, Ralf Riet had protected him after all. It had been so hard to know when to trust the man. But it had still been the Gauleiter who lured him into sex with men that first time.

            His fingers tightened around his erection and began to stroke as he shut his eyes to remember that time better.

            He had been twelve the summer of 1929 when he met Gauleiter Ralf Riet for the first time. He and his friends were at the summer camp that the Party provided for the boys of Essen, even if their parents couldn't afford to pay for it. And, despite his voice breaking and climbing up and down the octaves to embarrass him, it had been fun to be in the country with his friends.

            They had been divided into Kameradschaften and, by the third day of camp, his squad had meant everything to the boy Schmidt had been, cementing the bonds of friendships. It had helped that his friends were there beside him.

            That first week, each squad competed against other squads in everything. They ran races, played football, boxed, and played war against each other; the winning squad always was allowed to be first - at meals, at swimming, even at washing up. The most important thing for each boy was for his squad to be stronger and better, faster and smarter than every other squad of boys.

            Schmidt had excelled from the beginning. It wasn't that he was stronger, faster, or smarter than the other boys. He just didn't like to lose. He didn't want to be like his father or the other men in his neighbourhood who did not have jobs and who lived off their women or the churches. He did not want to be the last one to eat, getting only the dregs that would have been thrown out except for the losing squad. He did not want to wash in cold water late at night and still have to wake at five hundred hours for their morning run. He had excelled; it had been his only option.

            He had carried his squad into the winner's circle every day after the first one, often by his own effort alone. His friends in the squad followed him, quickly idolising him and making his success theirs as well. Boys his age in the other Kameradschaften hated him, but Stefan Schmidt didn't care.

            The Gauleiter had come to camp after their first fortnight. The winning squad was to be presented to him and allowed to join the Deutsche Jungvolk, their uniforms provided free. The Jungvolk did everything, just as the older Hitlerjugend did. Every boy in Essen looked up to them when they marched by.

            He and his friends had never thought much about being in the DJ; it was for middle-class boys, boys whose fathers had jobs and money to spend on their sons. The Deutsche Jungvolk was an impossible dream for them.

            But, suddenly, it had become possible. And the Hitlerjugend afterwards, when he turned fourteen.

            When they had won, they were allowed to eat dinner at the Gauleiter's table. They ate as well as the Gauleiter too; and the kitchen had outdone itself to honour the Party chief. Schmidt had been impressed. He knew he would do anything to become important, like the Party official.

            The Gauleiter returned to Essen that night and invited Stefan to join him. Alone. Of course, he was being taken home to spend the night with his mother and the driver would return him to camp in the morning; but he would be alone with the Gauleiter for the two hour drive. He had two hours in which to learn how to become an important man like Gauleiter Riet.

            He never reached his home that night. He spent it with the Essen Party leader in his bed, learning to be important. He also learnt that his body was attractive to the man.

            Soon, he learnt that there were other men like Gauleiter Riet, men who were members of the Party and who did not want their preferences for pubescent boys known. They paid well for both his body and his silence. And the few women who had availed themselves of Riet's services had been the sweet filling inside the torte.

            He stroked himself faster now; he was almost to his orgasm. He groaned as he began to erupt.











From the landing, Barry watched Elizabeth reach the door to her apartment and disappear inside.

            She was his best friend as well as being his lover's cousin. He was worried about her now that he had watched her during the sleigh ride with Philippe. He didn't want to see her hurt. Not, he hastened to remind himself, that the Comte seemed like the kind of guy who would hurt her.

            But Elizabeth Myers was acting every bit like a young girl in love for the first time.  She'd been quite giggly on the sleigh ride. And her eyes were twinkling all the time. Yeah! She had it bad, all right. He shivered as he thought back to the early part of summer when he was falling in love with Robert. "Yeah," he mumbled, "she's flying higher than a kite."

            While kites soared, they also tumbled - deep swoops even, some of which the guy on the other end of the string couldn't control. And, some times, those kites crashed into the ground - hard.

            It'd been that way with him - except that there had been no crash. He'd just arrived in a country where things weren't always the way they seemed and he'd fallen for a nobleman. That roller coaster he'd been on early in the summer had had some real doozies for dips and curves too - until Elizabeth had become his friend and showed him the way to get to her cousin.

            Showed him, hell!  She'd pulled poor Robbie down to him. With the poor bastard kicking and screaming the whole way. He chuckled; the image of ever-so-proper Robert Adshead kicking and screaming was funny. Okay, Robbie had resisted then - in a dignified, proper way.

            God! He'd been ready to pack up and take the first steamer back to New York, he'd been so dejected. But Elizabeth'd put him in place and brought Robbie to him. Until Robbie had finally forgotten about class and duty and had gone for what was right for the two of them. And it would never have happened without Elizabeth guiding both of them to each other.

            He didn't want her to have the kind of dips and curves he'd had. That hurt too much and he had come to love the woman like a sister. Only, he didn't know the lay of this land like she had known her cousin and the whole English way of doing things. He suspected she didn't, either.

            The French were Catholics, almost to a man. Their nobility was practically married to the Roman church - at least, their Monarchy had been. It'd been one of the Huguenot Henrys who'd converted to Catholicism to become king. Barry was pretty sure that there was something from high school history about there being a French influence behind whatever Mary Queen of the Scots was doing in England - before the English beheaded her. Sure that was three hundred years ago, but Europeans got caught up in all that old stuff and didn't let it go.

            So, what would that do to any feelings Louis-Philippe d'Orléans might have for Elizabeth? Even if he didn't have his head buried in all that history, the men who advised, suggested, and whatever else the muckety-mucks over here did almost surely had their heads stuck all the way into all that history. So, what would they do to any feelings the French Prince might have for Elizabeth?

            Robbie didn't seem especially worried, though - not after he'd talked with Elizabeth. Not about class differences or national differences at any rate. Of course, Robert Adshead sometimes buried his head up his ass, and it took both Barry and Elizabeth to pull it back out again.

            Robbie was figuring this thing between Elizabeth and Philippe for just a fling - something that would last for the rest of the week while they were in France and then disappear. Just like Barry had figured it.

            Only now, he wasn't so sure. He'd seen the two of them on the sleigh ride just a little while ago. He'd watched them - well, listened to them was more like it.

            Before the ride, he'd pretty much thought the same as Robbie, that it was just a fling. God only knew how many times he'd fallen for someone back in Rye and even down in the city, once he could get down to New York on his own. He'd see a cute guy, and the guy was interested … Well, the nobility apparently didn't get physical over here in Europe - at least not when it was a woman of the same class. So, there wouldn't be any hanky-panky going on.

            Robbie was a lot surer of that than Barry was. He actually trusted the Frenchman to keep his flies buttoned around Elizabeth. Barry wasn't so sure - a man was a man after all and, Prince or pauper, they all came to think alike - with their dicks. He shrugged. If something did happen and Robbie was wrong about the Frenchman, Elizabeth could always go to the family doctor and get herself cleaned out with whatever doctors called it - like a lot of girls did back home. It was her emotional frame of mind that he was worried about.

            He decided that he'd better talk to Elizabeth and started down the darkening corridor. If nothing else, she'd know that he was concerned for her.



"Hi," he said as Elizabeth opened her door to him. "Got a minute?"

            She smiled and stepped back, inviting him in. As soon as she'd closed the door, she turned to him and asked: "Isn't he adorable?"


            She nodded.

            "I guess." Barry shrugged, keeping his expression blank.

            "Barry Alexander!" she hissed and crossed to the settee.

            He followed and took her hand in his as she sat down. "Dear Elizabeth, I'm not noticing men any more-"


            "Not since I have your cousin. He's proved to be enough man for me." He chuckled then. "So, tell your brother all about it, honey," he said.

            "He's got the loveliest eyes. Only, sometimes, they seem so sad-"

            "Uh oh," Barry groaned.

            Elizabeth looked up at him, focusing on his face. "What?"

            "You’ve got it bad, girl." He sat beside her. "Didn't Miss Alice teach you to keep your heart under control?"

            "It's too good, this feeling is. I won't bottle it up, pretend it isn't there, and go around plotting what I can do to the poor man like one of those gold-diggers in your films from Hollywood. I refuse to be mercenary, Barry. Or to submit myself, like Aunt Alice would expect of me. I'm simply going to enjoy it while it's happening."

            Barry shook his head slowly. "Like I said, you've got it bad, girl."

            "When it's no longer fun, I'll let go of it." She squeezed his hand and met his gaze. "I promise."

            "Just be careful, Elizabeth-"

            "Oh, dear! Barry, a gentleman knows his place. And Philippe is a gentleman; he would never take advantage of me."

            "That's what Robbie says too.  But I'm not worried about you two doing something - that's pretty natural when two people want to be around each other."

            She made a face but chose to ignore the implications behind his remark. "Then what does worry you, Barry?"

            "I just don't want you to get hurt, Elizabeth. Not like I would have been if you hadn't been there to guide Robbie and me towards each other."

            "Why do you think I would?"

            "You're acting dizzier and dizzier. You're starry-eyed. You hang on this guy's every word." He grinned. "I even suspect that you're practising walking on air."

            She giggled. "Dizzier?"

            He held up a hand. "Don't ask."

            "I thought it had something to do with blondes-"

            He met her gaze. "Where did you learn that?" he asked in surprise.

            Elizabeth laughed. "I've been reading those hardboiled, pulp detective stories from out of America - Mike Hammer, those lads. What trash!"

            "Yeah, and you aren't even blonde, either."

            "You still said I was being dizzy, Barry-" Her brow arched questioningly.

            "You look just like Robbie when you do that."

            "I hope I don't!  Can you imagine my cousin in a dress?"

            Barry laughed as he tried to and couldn't. He shook his head.

            Elizabeth took a deep breath and smiled at him. Her hands clasped his tighter. "Are you satisfied that I'm still me, my very best friend in all the world?"

            "I never doubted-"

            She shook her head, like a teacher rejecting a poorly thought out excuse. "Barry Alexander! You shouldn't tell fibs, dear."


            "You thought that I had become one of Mr. Hammer's dumb blondes.  That I had fallen madly in love with Philippe."

            He looked down at their joined hands. "Yeah," he whispered.

             "I am quite fond of Philippe. He is everything a girl could want-" She paused before adding, "This girl especially."

            Barry realised that she was speaking slowly, consciously thinking her way through her words.

            "I may be a little in love with him too," she continued and smiled. "Unfortunately, the lexicon at Bellingham Hall doesn't define where fondness leaves off and love begins."

            "That means that you can end up getting hurt, Elizabeth. I don't want to see that. You mean too much to me for me just to stand back and let it happen."

            She smiled then, and he thought it seemed almost sad. "I've led a very sheltered life. We're the same age - you and I - and I've never known love." She shrugged. "Not like this, Barry."

            She squeezed his hands again. "You're going to have to give me some time - allow me to experience this myself. Like you have. Just be there to catch me if I really do fall and hurt myself, promise me that."

            "You've got that. Robbie and I both will be there. But-"

            "No. No buts here, my friend. This is an experience I want to have. I promise to walk into it with my eyes open, though."

            Barry searched her face, looking for an excuse, an entrance - anything. Finally, he sighed. "I guess that's the best I'm going to get out of you, isn't it?"
            She nodded.

            "Just keep your eyes open. And remember that, no matter what your heart tells you, these things almost never work out."

            "I can do that." She giggled suddenly. "Don't you have someone across the hall whom you'd find far more interesting than I?"


            "My dear cousin himself." She grinned mischievously. "And, remember, you can even become intimate with him over there and no-one will think any less of you than they do now."

            "Ouch!" he groaned as he sat up, accepting that she wanted him to leave her. "That was a low blow, Elizabeth."

            "I'll be here if you get hurt. You can come and cry on my shoulder."

            He stood and shook his head as his gaze held hers. "That was even worse," he grumbled.

            "Go to Robbie, Barry," she chuckled. "He's where you belong."


* * *


Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt began his search for the Petersholme party at the casino. It was the most logical place to look, he told himself. Most businesses in Deauville catered to a summer traffic of the upper middle class taking the sea air as an antidote to the heat that descended on the cities. But it was nearly Christmas, and those businesses were closed. There were only the casino and a small cabaret that were still open to entertain the rich and the gamblers.

            He smiled as the doorman bowed to him. He had come a long way from the ghetto section of Essen in which he was born. Mentally, he thanked Gauleiter Riet again for making his new life possible. And for hiding his old life so well that he could now wear the Waffen-SS uniform of the new Germany. He would never again have to visit the outdoor toilets behind the terraced houses that had been his home.

            It had been the Gauleiter who'd showed Stefan how to behave in places like the casino. He would invite Party officials to parties at his home and used the Deutsche Jungvolk and Hitlerjungend as waiters. A select number of the boys had done more than just serve champagne and hors d'oeuvres, however. The best looking and most willing boys.

            Young Stefan had soon become a member of that select group of boys. His mother received a hundred Reichsmarks a month while her son spent his weekends helping the Party. When his father died of cancer before Stefan's thirteenth birthday, the local Party paid for his funeral. He excelled at pleasing visiting party dignitaries, and he was popular because he knew how to comport himself both in and out of bed.

            Yes, Stefan Schmidt knew how to perform in the kind of glitter he found in the Casino. He had learnt well from the Gauleiter before he became too old for the man's tastes. But, by then, he was in such demand from the Party official's regular visitors that he remained in the man's select service through his years at gymnasium.

            It wasn't yet 2000 hours as he entered the casino. The idle rich of Berlin and Essen didn't eat until this hour, and he assumed that their French counterparts had similar habits. Those who had come to spend Christmas in Deauville would bring their habits from Paris with them. He made for the main restaurant to begin his search for the English Baron and his party.

            Inside, he went directly to the bar without once looking at the people in the dining room. He ordered a cognac, keeping his voice low and hoarse in the hope of disguising his accent from the bartender. When the man had moved back to the other end of the bar to take an order from a waiter, Stefan turned to study the dining room.











"Gott im Himmel!" Schmidt gasped. He instantly realised that he'd spoken aloud and quickly glanced towards the end of the bar and the bartender there. The man was still washing a glass and didn't appear to have heard him. Schmidt breathed a sigh of relief at that and turned back to look at the red-haired youth who had so reminded him of his friend from officers training school.

            No, now that he was studying him, this man didn't look much like his friend at all. His complexion was darker and he had freckles. His eyes were spaced further apart, his nose was not aquiline at all, and his lips were fuller. The cut of his clothes was strange as well. He was handsome, but he wasn't his friend.

            Schmidt pulled his attention from the ginger-haired man and turned it to all of the people at his table. The woman with the chestnut hair, she was most attractive. He smiled. It would be a pleasure to bed her. So much more of a pleasure than the Gräfin von Kys this afternoon.

            He saw the French major then and his eyes widened. So, this was the English Baron's party. He wondered which one was Petersholme. It couldn't be the ginger-haired man - that one was far too young to have crossed the Gräfin.

            There were two other men at the table in addition to the woman and he concentrated on them. One would be the Englishman and the other the Dauphin. They were both Aryan, as perfectly so as the Party could hope for in German men. The brunet seemed to be taken by the woman. A Frenchman? Perhaps the son of the French pretender? Yes. He was wearing the uniform of the Army of France.

He turned to the other man and recognised the English cut of the blond's clothing. Baron Petersholme, I presume? he asked mentally. Yes, of course you are. Whatever did you do to the Gräfin von Kys to make her hate you so?

He shrugged as he continued to study the blond Englishman. It is a pity that you die tomorrow, Herr Baron. He raised the snifter of cognac to his lips and smiled to himself behind it as he felt his member stir. I would certainly have liked to have had time to get to know you better.

He motioned the head waiter to him. "I'll eat, after all," he told the man in poor French. "May I have the table beside the young people over there? They don't look as stodgy as some of your other guests." He slipped the man a ten franc note as he stood and followed as the head waiter began to lead him across the dining room.

"Robert, Philippe suggested this afternoon that I watch Monsieur Reynaud's cook create French art while you men hunt," Stefan heard the girl say as he was being seated.

He nodded. Yes, they were speaking French and he could understand them. "But," she continued, "I think I would like to join you in search of a stag instead."

"Eliza-" the blond said, his voice a warning.

            "I'd be happy to stay at the château and learn something about French cooking," the redhead grumbled and Schmidt had difficulty understanding him through a strange accent he'd not heard before. "Or read a good book perhaps-"

            "You do not like to hunt, Monsieur Alexander?" the brunet asked. "The Americans do not hunt the stags to cull their herds?"

Definitely a Frenchman. And, of course, that made the man the French Dauphin. Louis-Philippe d'Orléans, Comte de Paris. Schmidt stole a quick glance at their table to get a better picture of the man. After all, there was talk that, once the Führer had established the new order throughout Europe, he might put this Frenchman's father on the throne as he was supposed to want to do with that English King that abdicated the year before.

And the redhead was American. How strange! He looked as normal as the others at his table. He even exhibited the same manners as the others. Nothing at all like those yelping wild Indians who had populated the films he'd watched as a boy at the cinema.

Why was an American with Petersholme? And one so young at that?

As far as Stefan Schmidt knew, relations were not strained between the Fatherland and America. He wondered if the American were entranced by the girl - they could be young lovers. But it was d'Orléans who appeared totally enthralled by her, not the American.

So, who was this American and why was he a member of the Petersholme party? Schmidt found himself wishing that Major Urnazy had been more complete in his report to the Gräfin earlier. He wanted to study the American more closely.

"Of course, he will enjoy this hunt, Capitaine," Urnazy said at the Petersholme table. "And it would be inadvisable for Baron Petersholme's cousin to join the hunt."

Schmidt felt as if the major were gazing at him, though he was studiously avoiding looking over at their table. Somehow, it felt as if the Frenchman's gaze was a veiled threat. For the first time, he allowed himself to wonder if the SD's man in Colonel de Gaulle's office could be playing both sides.

"I'm not particularly thrilled at the thought of shooting some poor dumb animal," the American mumbled in his defense.

The younger Frenchman chuckled. "Then, you must not shoot, Barry. Still, you must come with us - there is a cameraderie that unites men who hunt together-"

"So, it's men bonding together that you want tomorrow then?" the woman asked. Schmidt decided there was a playful quality to that voice. And it was so refined - yes, he would like to pleasure her. "Like young boys playing together?" she continued and he now definitely sensed the mirth behind her voice, like a mother permitting her son to play with his friends.

"There is something of that to it, Eliza," Petersholme answered.

"Something almost feudal," Barry Alexander grumbled.

"Has the Minister been able to put together a compromise on this piece of legislation yet?" Petersholme asked, clearly changing the subject of conversation at their table.

"Ah, no, Robert - not yet," d'Orléans answered.

"So, you've heard from him?" the American asked.

"His secretary called just before we were to leave the château - I forgot to mention it. Please accept my apologies."

Schmidt hazarded a quick glance at the table as the waiter began to serve him and saw that the ginger-haired American was grinning and that d'Orléans was actually blushing. The girl's eyes twinkled knowingly and Petersholme just smiled as he watched the Frenchman. How very strange, he thought to himself. But, then, the nobility was always strange. It would be best to make them puppets, he decided - just as the Führer was said to have decided.

He stopped trying to listen to the conversations beside him as he started to eat and turned his thoughts to trying to understand the Petersholme party's dynamics.

The redheaded American - Barry Alexander, he remembered - stood out as incongruous. He was far too young to be a government official. Schmidt would guess his age as twenty or twenty-one years at most - probably younger. And he was unattached to the girl - the Baron's cousin, if Urnazy was correct. Logically, he should not be with them; yet, he was seated at the same table and seemed to know them well.

D'Orléans was obviously smitten by the girl and the other members of the party knew of his feelings. It was not difficult to imagine that his interest was returned by her; he was quite handsome. There was also a natural grace to his movements that was appealing.

Schmidt could understand the English Baron, d'Orléans, and the girl together. That would be natural to their sort - the suitor and his lady with the accompanying chaperon. But Barry Alexander? Why was he there?

That was definitely not obvious. It bothered Stefan Schmidt, gnawing at the very fabric of the order that he had managed to establish over his world. He had no doubt the Gräfin would be as interested as he himself was.

He frowned. Hopefully it would be interesting enough for her to forget about making him her sex toy. A good looking-woman like Lord Petersholme's cousin wanting him would be a pleasant diversion. But the cow who had corralled him that afternoon? It was a wonder that his equipment had been able to perform, but he was thankful that it had.

It was almost like the American was with the Baron. As the girl was with d'Orléans. Was that possible? That the Baron was queer? He grinned at that and had to force himself not to turn and stare at the men sitting at the Petersholme table.

The Englishman was definitely handsome enough to turn a warmer Bruder's head - both he and the American were. And they did make a handsome couple.

Would Urnazy have picked up on the sense of the two men being together? Stefan would give anything to be able to question the French major at that moment, learning everything he knew or guessed about the Baron and his companions. The Gräfin would want to question him too. He already knew that she was insatiable if something was sexual.

Only, they were not going to have Urnazy to question. He was with the Petersholme party and would return to the château with them. And the hunting party was tomorrow.

Still … Stefan could easily imagine the two of them in bed. And they became three as he joined them. It would be a good fantasy for lonely nights.

He would not have to see Urnazy again. That was a relief. He still did not understand why he felt so threatened by the man at the other table. It was as if Urnazy knew about him, about his past, and was daring him.


* * *


Maximillian Molloy crawled around the nursery on his hands and knees before the fire. He had removed his jacket and collar in anticipation of this time to play with his son. Willi rode his hips and little Cecil his chest. Petersholme's adopted son had his arm around Cecil's chest, holding him on his father's back.

            Molloy was surprised at how well the German boy had taken to his son. Willi was an only child, and Molloy had assumed that he would be spoilt rotten. But the moment the boy was introduced to Cecil, it was as if Petersholme's newly adopted heir had taken responsibility for the younger boy.

            There had been no suggestion of it from Molloy or the other adults, no directing the older boy to consider Cecil. He just had.

            "Are you all right there, Willi?" Molloy asked over his shoulder.

            "Jawohl!" the boy called back, his legs squeezing Molloy's waist tight. "I like this riding of the horse. You are a good horse."

            Molloy looked down his chest at his belly hanging there. He'd lost weight since he'd been with Alan, but he needed to tighten those muscles. It was definitely time he began an exercise regimen, he told himself.

            "I mean, do you mind looking after little Cecil, lad?"

            "Warum nicht, Herr Molloy? He is my brother. I must do so; it cannot be other than this. We are good together."

            His brother? Wherever had the boy got that idea? Molloy smiled then. That sort of attitude bode well for the continued friendship between their two families that he and Robbie had begun.


            Molloy looked up to see Cecil's nurse standing at the open door. He sighed as he was pulled away from the simple pleasure of enjoying the boys. "Yes?"

            "It's young Cecil's usual bedtime, sir - would you keep him up longer?"

            "No, I suppose not." He looked over his shoulder at the two boys.  "Hop off, lads."

            "No!" Cecil cried. "I want to ride the horsey more."

            Willi bent forward and whispered something in the other boy's ear. Molloy didn't hear what was said, but Cecil instantly dismounted his back followed by Willi.

            "I'll sleep with my friend Willi," Cecil said to the nurse and, taking the German boy's hand, started for her.

            The nurse looked questioningly to Molloy.

            He nodded as the woman began shooing the boys through the door.

            After they were gone, he stood and buttoned his shirt. He groaned as he saw his collar and tie. The Earl would die of apoplexy if his oldest son dared to appear in public undressed and, at Easthampton-Mares, in public meant anywhere other than the bath and one's own bedroom. Molloy dressed and started down the hall towards the stairs that would lead him to the sitting room where his father and his wife would be waiting for him.



They were in their bedroom and Max was sure his father was already snoring in his bed. He hadn't believed how much port the old Earl put away after he had joined them. He hoped that his drinking hadn't become a nightly occurrence.

            "Alan got away to Belfast then?" Sarah asked as she pulled pins from her hair.

            He finished removing his collar before answering. "Bloody lucky!" he answered. "He left - what? - three days ago now. A fortnight he's got off."

            "And what about you, Max?" she asked over her shoulder.

            He chuckled. "There's no rest for the weary."

            She turned to face him. "You're not going to have to go back to London this week, are you?"

            "Not London, Sarah. Bellingham Hall. I'll need to stay through Friday-"

            "Whatever for?" she demanded, coming closer.

            "Alice Adshead and that young German Petersholme rescued are there alone."

            "And-?" She demanded, studying him closely.

            Molloy collapsed on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. "This is all hush hush, Sarah."

            "Go on."

            He sighed. "There's a spy in place at Bellingham. The Navy intercepted a radio message telling Berlin that Petersholme was off to France and that both Willi and the German lad were at the estate - that's why Willi is here. We want to keep him safe."

            "My God!" she hissed. "This is England, Max - they can't do anything here!"

            "They can and they well might." He sat up and faced her. "Sarah, it's Willi's mother who's behind this. She survived that mess that Petersholme was in a couple of months ago, and she's managed to get herself transferred over to state security. It's a good bet the Hun's going to try something at Bellingham Hall before Petersholme can finish up in France."

            "Why not just turn it over to the police?"

            "We don't know who the spy is - it could even be the local constable for all we know. Besides, if they are up to something, it'll be with guns and it'll be nasty - the constabulary would be useless."

            "The army then?"

            Molloy snorted. "Sarah! Those lads would stir up enough dust that you could see them coming for a hundred miles. The spy and everyone else around would know the army's there."

            "What will you be able to do there then, Max?"

            "Firstly, no-one will know that we are on to them. Then, this German lad who's there was trained in their Waffen-SS-" He smiled at her. "You know, the lads in those black uniforms you liked in the newsreel we saw a fortnight ago? He was one of those before this Countess tried to kill him."

            "What do you know about military operations, Max? Or how spies operate for that matter?" She crossed to the bed and stood over him, watching him closely.

            "Sarah, I learnt to shoot as a child. We'll be armed to the teeth - Petersholme has a full gun cabinet, thanks to his father. And we'll have Alice Adshead with us as well. You've met the old girl - in the middle of the night, she'd scare a Hun stealing into that house to death. Besides, there wouldn't be more than one or two of them - if they try to do anything at all."

            "So, you're going to Bellingham Hall, like a little boy off on a great adventure … Max, you could get killed. Others could. This mess is a matter for the police - or the army."

            "Robbie's my best friend in all the world, Sarah-"

            "Better than Alan?"
            Molloy blushed. Though she knew and approved of his relationship with Alan Dudding, he was still embarrassed whenever the subject of his lover was brought up in front of her. "The situations are different - between them, I mean. But they're both my best friends then - equal …"

            "But different?"
            He nodded, still embarrassed by the subject.

            "And Cecil and I are-?"

            "The same," he mumbled.

            "But different again?" she asked as she sat beside him.

            He again nodded.

            She shook her head slowly, her gaze continuing to hold him. Molloy saw the twinkle in her eyes then and relaxed. "I suspect this is why I'm so fond of you, Max - this sense of duty of yours. Even when it's dead wrong, you won't be stayed-"

            "Petersholme would do the same for me, Sarah."

            "Just remember this can be a serious situation, Max. If a German spy does break into Bellingham Hall, he'll be armed."

            He chuckled and bent to kiss her forehead. "I'll hide behind Alice Adshead; she'd have him packed off to Hun Heaven before he could point a pistol."

            "When will you leave, Max?"

            "I'll start out first thing tomorrow morning and be there in time for tea."


* * *


He waited just inside the doorway of the stairway, watching the entrance to the Gräfin's rooms. A smile touched his lips as he watched Pelletier step out into the hallway and start towards the lift. The man fastidiously cleaned his hands with his handkerchief as he glanced quickly up and down the corridor.

            It took no imagination for Stefan Schmidt to know what the man from French security had just gone through. He suspected Pelletier would scrub himself thoroughly before he went to bed. Gisele von Kys had that effect on men.

            "Cow!" he hissed under his breath as he remembered his own sense of uncleanliness from that afternoon. He heard the elevator stop on the floor and its gate open. He pursed his lips.

            The Frenchman was gone and that left him to report to the Gräfin. Alone. He hoped that Pelletier had satisfied her and she would leave him alone.

            He didn't begrudge the Gräfin her sexual appetite, he reminded himself as he entered the corridor and started for her door. It was just that she shouldn't direct that appetite towards him. Not only did he not want it, it was almost un-German. Using her position to coerce him was.

            It brought into question the new order that the Führer had given the German people.

            He paused as a new thought struck him. He could report her once they were back in Berlin.

            Quickly, he glanced up and down the hallway to ensure that he was alone.

            He knew the answer almost as soon as the thought became conscious. The one word of advice that the commandant at officer training school had given him was never to cross the Gräfin. He had whispered it in the next breath after he'd given Schmidt his first duty orders.

            She was too well placed, had too many influential friends. If Schmidt or any subordinate was seen to betray her, he would face a firing squad.

            But, if she were out of the way, he would not have to service her on demand like a stud bull. He grinned as he had another thought. If he performed well on this mission, he would be practically guaranteed a promotion - especially if the Gräfin von Kys were not in the picture.

            He quickly forced that thought away and made his face blank. He crossed the hallway resolutely and knocked on the Gräfin's door.

            She wore a dressing gown when she finally opened the door for him. She looked rumpled. "What?" she demanded.

            He forced back a smile. "I have something interesting to report, Gräfin," he said, keeping his voice neutral.

            "At this hour, Obersturmführer?" she growled but stepped back to permit him to enter. "This had better be good."

            "The English Baron was in the casino's restaurant with Major Urnazy and the French Prince, Gräfin," he said as she closed the door behind them. "There were also his female cousin and a young American man with him. It appeared that the cousin and the Prince were-" He paused, unsure of the exact word that would describe their relationship. "That they were interested in each other."

            "He brought his damned cousin with him?" she demanded. "That is strange-"

            "Not as strange as the relationship I saw between the Baron and the American, Gräfin."

            She looked up at him sharply. "Relationship?"

            "I think that they were lovers."


            "The American was too young to be attached to his government, Gräfin. There was no obvious reason for him to be there. And there were glances between them-" Schmidt suddenly realised that nothing he'd seen at the casino had been untoward. The two men had behaved properly at all times. Yet, there had been that overriding sense of togetherness he had felt. "They seemed to be together. I can't explain any better than that. Perhaps Major Urnazy can."

            "Urnazy knows about these Schwulen?" she gasped.

            "I think he suspects, Gräfin. He was at the table, enjoying himself with the others. He appeared comfortable with the Baron and American."

            "I didn't know you spoke English, Stefan."

            "No, but the conversation at their table was in French."

            "Urnazy has made no mention of these queers-"

            That bothered him. Why would a German agent leave out such a detail? It made no sense.

            An image of the major began to coalesce across his mind. Younger and dressed in civilian clothes. He almost gasped and covered himself by coughing.

            He knew Urnazy now. He had serviced the Frenchman at the Gauleiter's home. Seven years ago. Stefan had been fourteen and had just entered the Hitlerjugend, and Urnazy had been insatiable.

            "This explains everything-" the Gräfin mumbled.

            His mind leapt back to the room and his report to the fat woman.

            "Petersholme was my late husband's best friend when he attended university in England," she mumbled, nodding her head. "This explains that - the damned English Baron was banging my husband in the arse."

            "Perhaps Urnazy-"

            Her eyes became focused and her gaze fixed on him. "Perhaps he what?" she demanded.

            Schmidt shrugged. "I don't know, Gräfin. Forgive me please - I was just thinking aloud."

            She nodded as a smile began to tug at her lips. "And I like the way you think, Stefan." She began to pace. "Urnazy is definitely a man of the world - that is obvious in his every mannerism. Yet, he has chosen not to report what he knows about the Baron - at least, what he suspects. That is suspicious."

            "We arrived in France," he said slowly, "and were put together with a major from the army and an agent of French internal security-" Stefan Schmidt knew he was trying to sow discord as he spoke the words; he had decided to do so just at that moment. It had come to him then and he'd had no time to think it through.

            Urnazy had been a visitor to the Essen Gauleiter's home and had used the youths from the local Hitlerjugend that the Gauleiter made available. He had used Stefan.

            That should mean nothing. Other guests who had bedded him had eased his way into the SS-officer training school. But Urnazy had seemed threatening, especially earlier that evening.

            Schmidt understood that he had to tread carefully. Urnazy was an agent of the Sicherheitsdienst. They were as committed to the new order to the same degree that the SS was. If the SD knew about his past, it would be the end of Stefan Schmidt. Urnazy would protect himself, but he could get Stefan.

            Ultimately, it did not matter if Urnazy was a threat to him. He suspected him and that was enough. If he was right about the Frenchman, he would be dead. Schmidt preferred to think of the Frenchman dying instead. Only that meant that he did not make the Gräfin suspicious of himself while he directed her suspicions to play on the Frenchman.

            He realised that the Gräfin was studying him and forced his thoughts away.

            "Tomorrow I'll hide in the woods where Pelletier takes me. I'll wait for the hunting party there and you'll stay with the car - just as we've planned."

            Schmidt brought himself to full attention and clicked his heels. "Of course, Gräfin."

            "Only, you will not remain with the car. You will follow behind us, but stay hidden. Pelletier must not know that you are nearby."

            He smiled as he allowed himself to relax. He did not have to worry that she would be suspicious of him after all. "And-?"

            "You will keep Pelletier in your sights while we wait for the hunting party to arrive in our little woods, Obersturmführer-" She paused but he said nothing. "If Pelletier makes no move to harm me before they arrive," she continued, "you will concentrate on Urnazy." She smiled as he nodded. "You will kill the Petersholme's American queer when I shoot Petersholme. Then, with your second shot, you will kill Major Urnazy. Together, we'll return to the car and drive to Belgium."

            "And the man from French security, Gräfin?"

            "He will follow behind us. When we are away from the woods, kill him. Afterwards, you will lead me to the car and our German driver."

            Schmidt grinned. "I like this new plan much better, Gräfin. It does not force us to depend on men we can't trust."

            Her brow furrowed with thought. "Yes. One last thing then, Obersturmführer," she said a moment later. "Find a call box away from the hotel, one that French security will not have tapped. Call our embassy and have a car here by first light tomorrow morning. Insist that the driver and anyone else involved be German."

            "First light, Gräfin?"

            "You will need to show the driver where that barn is. Have him bring you back before parking there and waiting for us." She grinned suddenly at him. "We'll depend on Germans. We leave the woods for the barn and the embassy car, not the car that Pelletier knows about." She studied him for another moment. "Go make that call, Stefan."

            He snapped to attention. "Jawohl, Gräfin!"



Stefan Schmidt lay in his bed in the dark, his arms behind his head. His thoughts raced.

            He had Gisele von Kys' permission to kill Urnazy tomorrow. With him dead, there was no way the Sicherheitsdienst could learn the details of Stefan's youthful work for the Party. And, if Urnazy's controller in the SD didn't know about it, no-one in Waffen-SS or the Reichsführer's office was going to know about it.

            And Pelletier would also be dead. The Sûreté was state security. There was no telling what the man might know about him. With him dead, Schmidt would feel much safer.

            He chuckled as a new thought entered his mind. It would be doubly pleasant if Pelletier killed the Gräfin before Schmidt killed him.

            There was, of course, no cause to believe that Pelletier would kill her. But he might react in such a way as to do something like that after seeing Urnazy killed. He would think that he was protecting himself. Schmidt wished that there was some way that he could put that thought into the Frenchman's mind.

            It would be all too pleasant to arrive back in Berlin with his first mission successfully completed. That would be what the brass in Waffen-SS would see - a successfully completed mission.

            It would matter little that his superior officer did not return to enjoy that success with him. It would be a pity, of course. It would also remind Berlin of French duplicity. He laughed at that thought. Of course, Berlin would believe that Urnazy and Pelletier had planned the Gräfin's and his deaths. Schmidt would tell them so. He would create a story they would have to believe.

            He would have barely escaped the French trap. Berlin would believe that. They would have to. There would be no-one alive to dispute him - as long as the cow was dead. If she wasn't, Stefan Schmidt would face a firing squad, if the Gräfin didn't find some dirty way to kill him first.

            Did he dare carry the Gräfin's orders that final step?


* * *


Barry snuggled against me on my bed, his face against my breast. I stroked the back of his head, enjoying just the feel of him beside me. "I spoke with Philippe this morning and with Elizabeth after we had our sleigh ride this afternoon."

            "How is their romance developing?" I asked, unable to stiffle a snigger.

            "Robbie, it looks like it's coming along too well-"

            I realised that he'd lifted his head and was looking down at me. "How do you mean?" I asked, not at all sure that I wanted an answer. I could see Aunt Alice standing over me, tapping her foot.

            "Philippe shows all the signs of being one ever more smitten boy-"

            "What does that mean?"

            "He's in love with your cousin, Robbie. And she's in love with him."

            "So-?" I couldn't imagine that there was anything wrong with that. I'd been in love hundreds of times as a youth and even as a young man at university.

            "I mean that they're really in love - the wedding bells kind, if they were back in New York."


            "But that can't happen with them, can it?"

            "I don't know - but why shouldn't it?" I shrugged. "Assuming they both feel this way when Eliza is back in England."

            "He's Catholic, isn't he? And don't the Catholics and the Church of England have some heavy duty problems?"

            "Philippe and Eliza are both civilised people, Barry. They come from generations of civilised people. A little thing like religion would be the least of the problems lying ahead of them."

            "Sure, it is," he growled.

            "I'll talk with Philippe tomorrow, Barry. We'll come to an understanding about this."

            He buried his face in my chest again. "I really don't want to go on this hunt tomorrow, Robbie," he said, his voice muffled.

            I could just make him out in the dim light from the sitting room. My arms went around his back, holding him closer. "Why not? Surely, you have this sort of thing back home-"

            "Yeah, we do. The hunting party gets into place and labourers start scaring the deer towards the hunters. It's like - like shooting fish in a tub."

            "Fish in a tub?"
            "You catch the fish before hand - usually trout or bass. Big ones. Then you put them in a shallow tub or even a pool. It's shallow enough you can see them swimming around. Then, the hunters start shooting the poor suckers. There's no sport in that, Robbie." He lifted his head. "And the poor stags you guys shoot tomorrow - there won't be any sport in that, either."

            "Like the grouseshooting we had for the guests last spring at the farm?"

            "Yeah." Barry sat up then, the blanket falling down his chest to lie in his lap. "Exactly like that, Robbie. Grown men shooting poor defenceless animals that have no chance to escape."

            My lad's voice was becoming louder. "Philippe is under orders to keep us occupied until this Reynaud chap can get free," I said slowly, hoping to calm him by appealing to his sense of responsibility. "I gather it's this or the gaming tables in town for us men."

            Barry groaned. "At least you got in some reading this afternoon while I was chaperoning Elizabeth."

            I grinned. "I finished the book too."

            "It was one of Agatha Christie's mysteries, wasn't it?"

            "I don't read much else when I'm away from home."

            "So, who did it?"

            "The butler," I told him, my voice serious.


            I laughed then.

            "That Major Urnazy gives me the willies, Robbie-"


            "He - I don't know - he's sort of creepy," he continued. "I don't trust him."

            "He gives you the willies?" I asked, repeating his words as I began to suspect that I had just learnt another American expression. "This means that you find him creepy?"

            "Yeah. What did you think it meant?" His face began to swim slowly towards mine.

            I breathed a sigh of relief. "Willie is used quite often to refer to a child's penis, Barry. I would suggest that you consciously avoid using that expression again - at least, when you're in the presence of Englishmen." I anticipated his lips and puckered mine in welcome.



He lay astride me, his chest touching mine and his knees straddling my hips. His lips nibbled at my earlobe. "Was it just me?" Barry breathed at my ear, "or was Urnazy sort of sneering at me at dinner tonight?"

            "I didn't see anything," I told him, comfortable just to be holding him against me.

            "It was sort of like he had us figured out, Robbie. Except that he had me pegged for a gold-digger. It felt kind of like there was a sexual energy there, all one-sided-" He sat up and looked down at me. "There was a - I don't know . . . sort of like the guy who's just about to rape a girl - like he wanted me, but it was more like he wanted to possess me."

            I chuckled. "You are a lovely trophy, lad. Any sort with a Wildean bone in his body would want to bag you."

            "I'm serious, Robbie." He shuddered. "I felt dirty after sitting at the table with him during dinner."

            "After the hunt in the morning and dinner tomorrow night, you won't see him again." My hands moved to his hips as he continued to sit astride me and my fingers began to caress his smooth bottom.

            "Didn't you say that Churchill told you that he didn't trust this de Gaulle guy?" Barry asked suddenly.

            I nodded up at him.

            "And both Philippe and this Urnazy are in de Gaulle's command, aren't they?"

            Again, I nodded.

            "Why wouldn't Churchill trust de Gaulle, Robbie? Do you think it's because somebody in England's military intelligence thinks he may have a spy in his organisation?"
            "That's a bit far-fetched, Barry," I groaned. The middle of the night in my bed and being properly sated was not my idea of a reasonable time and place to discuss spies.

            "This Major Urnazy is going to be on the hunt with you and Philippe, isn't he?"

            "Of course, it was his idea I think-"

            "Of course it was - I'm going hunting with you tomorrow." He rolled off of me and began to slide towards the edge of the bed.

            "Where are you going?" I demanded.

            His feet found the floor and he stood up. He turned back to face me. "Robbie, I'm going to my own bed."
            "Whatever for?"
            "If I'm going to get up at the crack of dawn, I need my beauty sleep." His hands went to his hips and, though his voice was petulant, there was the hint of a chuckle in it. "I for one don't want crow's feet under my eyes when I'm twenty-six. Besides, we don't want to cause an international ruckus if some maid finds my bed unslept in."


            "Ta ta, love." He blew me a kiss and scampered for the door.

            I was wide awake, damn it.











For someone who thought a stag hunt was as exciting as shooting fish in a barrel, Barry was certainly alert and full of himself at first light.

The damned lad was dressed in a flaming flannel shirt as if he were prepared for the murkiest corner of the arctic tundra. He had me awake and dressed before the sun could actually be seen over the tops of the trees beyond the château. He absolutely refused to be still while I tried to pull myself together.

We joined d'Orléans and his major in the kitchen as the sun's orb touched the tops of the trees outside. Fortunately, Reynaud's cook was up and about in her kitchen and nothing would do her but that each of us had a mug of her coffee and hot buttered croissants in the gun room before we began the hunt.

The caffeine infusion woke me enough that I understood why Barry had brought my coat with his. I was even able to speak with each of my companions and seem conscious. I was almost awake when the four of us stepped out into the bone-chilling cold of a Normandy December morning to join the estate manager.

The four of us chatted amiably as we trudged through hardened snow behind the Reynaud's farm manager. Major Urnazy laid out his plans for a Corsican holiday in excruciating detail and d'Orléans found a number of questions about Eliza to ask. Barry was silent and lagged several paces behind the rest of our party during our trek. I tried to ignore him and the suspicions he'd voiced during the night.

Snow crunched under our boots and Major Urnazy had got into deepening details of just how friendly the barmaids were on that island that gave the world Napoleon Bonaparte, the first megalomaniac of modern times.

As my breath continued to freeze just past my nose, I had arrived at the similarities between the German Führer and that first French emperor. I could only hope that England would again do its duty and save the world. I had nearly walked into d'Orléans before I realised that our party had come to a halt.

 The manager pulled a watch from his trousers and took in the time. He glanced to the woods to our right and nodded. Far in the distance, a shot was fired, followed by several more. Barry looked around nervously.

"My men from the farm, gentlemen," the manager said and smiled at Barry. "They start the deer towards us. We have three - perhaps five - minutes before they are here." He glanced back to the woods. "There, we take our positions behind the hedgerow. The deer will not see us as they enter this clearing and you will have clean shots."

To distant shouts and occasional shots, Barry and I followed the three Frenchmen to the hedges that began at edge of the woods. D'Orléans cocked his gun and raised it to his shoulder, aiming vaguely towards the far reach of the clearing; I did the same.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Barry was turned away from the rest of us, peering into the woods behind us. Urnazy moved towards him, stepping between the American and myself. I turned my attention back to the small clearing now laid out before us.

If the manager's men had succeeded in rousting a herd of deer with their shots and shouts, the stag would hit the clearing first, leading his hinds to safety. We would have to be alert and ready. I brought my rifle to my shoulder and sighted along it in the direction from which the herd would come.

Seconds passed and, in the silence that covered us like a fog, they seemed minutes stretching into hours. I watched the edge of the clearing, garnering my senses and concentrating them on the most probably spot that the deer would break from.

At a distance, I heard a rifle bolt pulled back to pull a shell in its chamber and I wondered which of my companions had forgotten to cock his gun. Any noise at this point could turn the deer herd away from the clearing.

"M'Lord-" Barry began and groaned. I heard the report of a rifle as I turned to see what he wanted. His eyes were wide as mine met them. His face began to screw up as pain spread over him.

It didn't make sense.

I saw the hole in the upper right chest of his coat. I realised that red was spreading across his coat. I heard another rifle bolt being pulled back. I accepted that the red I saw spreading across his coat was blood then.

Adrenaline began to rush through me. Only a moment had passed since Barry had been hit but it felt like hours. The world moved in slow-motioned and I with it.

I grabbed Barry, dropping my rifle as I reached for him, and pulled him down. An angry buzz sounded near my ear. I was being shot at!

"Get down!" I yelled to the others as I covered Barry with my own body.

There was a soft thud from where Urnazy knelt, but I didn't dare raise my head to look.

"Mon Dieu!" d'Orléans cried.

Two rifles fired just beyond me as I held Barry to me. Bolts quickly pulled back and they were fired again. The manager began to shout a stream of French invectives interspersed with calls for help.

"It hurts, Robbie," Barry groaned beneath me.

"Where?" I asked, my mouth at his ear.

"My shoulder - it's all wet too. How did it get wet, Robbie?" His voice sounded weak in the now continuous gunfire around us.



Pelletier continued to stare at the body of his countryman as Gisele rose to a squat. Bent, Schmidt started to make his way further back into the woods.

            "Are you joining us?" she asked as she turned to follow her subordinate.

            Pelletier looked back at her and, shaking his head as if to clear it, stood up straight. He had watched as Major Urnazy's head disintegrated before his eyes. "Why did the Obersturmführer kill the major?" he asked her.

            She smiled at him as she passed him. "As you said yesterday, my friend, he was the only one of us who would not have lost his head if we're caught." She nodded to where Schmidt had stopped to wait for them. "Will you join us? Or do you prefer to stay here until they find you?"

            Pelletier took a step towards her. Surprise spread quickly across his face. Gisele smiled as she heard the report of rifle fire from the clearing and ducked lower. Pelletier looked from her to the ground as his body began to crumble, the surprised look still on his face. "Your countrymen have done their duty, pig," she said to him as his knees hit the snow. "Now, we won't have to kill you."

He fell forward.

Gisele continued to smile down at him as she aimed her rifle at his head and fired.

            "Hurry," Stefan Schmidt called to her. "They know where we are. We have to get away now."

She started after Schmidt, zigzagging her path to lessen her risk of being hit by the same rifle fire that had taken the Frenchman down.



Men were shouting around us. I raised my head slightly and saw that d'Orléans and the farm manager were crouched looking up into the woods with rifles at the ready. Between them and myself, Urnazy sprawled belly down in the snow, his head hidden from my view. It took a moment for me to realise that the snow above his shoulders for several feet was stained red.

            "Are you all right?" d'Orléans asked and my gaze left the major to return to him. He was watching me closely, worry written across his face.

            I nodded.

            "And Barry?" he asked.

            Oh God! I was smothering him. I pushed off of him and looked down.

            His eyes were closed and his face looked peaceful. I almost had time to relax. Then, his coat caught my attention.

            The right side of his jacket, from his shoulder to below his ribs, was red.

            "Barry?" He didn't respond. "Don't die!" I choked. I sank my weight on my knees and reached for his wrist. There was a pulse. It felt regular - normal. I relaxed a fraction.

            "He's wounded, d'Orléans," I said, unable to pull my gaze from Barry's blooded coat. "He's still alive, though." I looked up, meeting the Frenchman's gaze as he duck-walked towards us.

            "Several of the manager's men are strapping together a gurney," he said and glanced over his shoulder at Urnazy's body. "It was to be used to carry his body back to the château, but Barry will need it more."

            "He'll need a doctor-" I mumbled.

            His hand closed over my wrist. "My Lord Petersholme, the youngest of the labourers was already sent to call for one-" He jerked his head towards the body behind him. "Before we knew that he was dead - or that Barry was wounded."

            He knelt before me and released my hand. He began to unbutton Barry's coat. Moments later, he was lifting Barry's shirt to look at his chest. "Bién," he muttered as he took in the wound. "It appears to be a clean shot, Robert, my friend. Your young man will live."

            I forced myself to concentrate on what he was saying about Barry, pulling myself out of the shock that had descended over me to hold me in its grip. "How do you know that?" I demanded.

            "Look! The blood does not spurt from the wound," he answered without looking at me. "No artery was damaged. And, see-" He lifted the shirt higher. "There is not a large exit wound, yes?"

            I saw what he was saying. The shot had struck Barry in the back just below his collarbone and it's trajectory had been at only a slight angle. It had missed his ribs. It had missed the artery that fed blood to his arm. Most important, it had missed his heart. I realised that I had been holding my breath. I took a large gulp of air and instantly choked on the icy air as it entered my lungs.

            "One of them is dead up here!" a farmhand yelled from within the woods as I succumbed to a coughing spell. "We've killed one of the murderers!"


* * *


"Hurry, Gräfin!" Schmidt called back to her. "It's not much further to the car."

            Behind him, Gisele huffed loudly as she doggedly followed after her subordinate  into the frozen woods. Branches slapped at her face and pulled at her clothes. She was growing tireder with each step that she took. She was angry at herself.

            She had missed that damned queer Englishman. She'd had a perfect shot; the back of his head had filled her sight, the crosshairs centred just above his damned neck. He should be dead - his brains splattered across the snow of the clearing.

            At least, the Frenchmen were no longer alive to tell Berlin how she'd fouled up the mission. Only Stefan Schmidt could do that. If he dared.

            It would only take a careless comment about his superior officer made at a bar, however. Like any man beating on his chest and telling the most outrageous lies to prove that he was a real man to the other men with him. Only, they would be about her. His superior officer. The one woman in a command position anywhere in the Waffen-SS.

            She would never see a promotion. She would be relegated to sorting files and reading about other units making the Reich secure for the Party.

            She knew that would be her fate - if Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt was still alive when she returned to Berlin. She squinted to see him ahead of her. Of course, he could be found out by the English, with him made to be the assassin. They would kill him quietly, unlike the French who'd probably try him publicly before they guillotined him.

She smiled as she imagined him standing before the contraption and coming to attention. And shouting "sieg heil" before they put his head into the hole that would hold him in position for the blade.

            He was such an innocent. He had proved to be so good in bed too. It was going to be a pity to lose him. She hoped that his death could be made fast and painless - he deserved that. She needed to rest. Surely, a few minutes to catch her breath would be safe.

Schmidt crested a hill and watched her as he waited for her to catch up. "We're almost to the car now, Gräfin," he told her as she pulled one foot out of snow and placed it resolutely in front of her. She was only a metre away from him now. "Just past the top of the next hill and we'll have reached the car."

He grinned and took off through the snow towards the bottom of the hill. She hissed and, beginning to follow him, turned her thoughts to how she could turn him over to the English without him knowing what was happening - and without her involvement in it reaching Berlin.

It would have to happen in Brussels. If she attempted to alert the English before they reached the Belgian capital it would be too obvious that she was up to something. And, on her own orders, she had a driver from the embassy to contend with in addition to Stefan.

She pushed through the bare branches ahead of her, following Schmidt's footsteps in the snow.

"Ah, Gräfin, you are here finally," her subordinate greet her as she broke through the last of the undergrowth, his voice mildly mocking. She looked up to see him smiling at her as he opened the door of a car for her. Aryan perfection or not, she hated him then.

 She slipped into the car far enough for him to close the door but not enough for him to think that he could sit on the seat with her.

Schmidt walked around the boot and got in beside the driver. "To the Normandie," he told the man.

Gisele looked up then, surprise showing in her face. The car pulled out onto the road and started towards Deauville. "I thought-" she began.

Schmidt turned back to her, his face an innocent boy's. "I need to eliminate the English Baron, Gräfin - for our mission to be complete."


"He does not know me, nor do the farmhands," he said, cutting her off. "He'll be confused by the death of his lover and the Frenchmen. I'll be able to get close enough to get him."

She studied the youth facing her for several moments, her mind racing. Without realising it, Obersturmführer Stefan Schmidt had given her the time with which to set up his removal.

The château would be closely guarded now that they had made their move in the woods. And Petersholme would be more closely guarded - probably by Englishmen in addition to French security. Still, Stefan had proved himself to be a true marksman back there in the woods. It was possible that he would succeed in killing the Englishman.

And he would still be in France, near the scene of their attempt on Petersholme's life. It would not be difficult to contact the English embassy and alert them to Schmidt's presence.

Yes, Stefan Schmidt would be going back to Berlin all right. In a coffin. And, definitely, not on the same train she herself took.

She wondered if she should have him in her bed this afternoon. It would be his one last time to perform as a man before he died. It was a pity that his body wouldn't receive a hero's welcome. She couldn't imagine anyone who had caused an international uproar as he was going to do being seen as anything but a pariah in official Berlin.

As they pulled into the drive of the hotel, she decided that Stefan Schmidt did deserve the warm reception that she could give him. "Attend me in my room at 1300, Stefan," she told him as the driver pulled to a stop in front of the Normandie. "We'll need to make plans for your mission."

She slipped across the seat and opened the door before he could open his door. She stepped out of the car and climbed the steps to the lobby alone, smiling at the generosity she had decided to show her subordinate on his last day on earth.

Inside, she turned towards the dining room.  Her smile grew as she waited to be seated. She would feast first in Stefan Schmidt's honour like the gods of old had honoured the brave men about to fall in battle. Then, she would make herself ready for him. Once his plans were made, she would call the English so they could set up their ambush.


* * *


I had followed the makeshift gurney carrying Barry back to the house. A young farmhand had run out to tell us that the gendarmerie were already at the château and that le Minister's personal doctor was on his way from Deauville to attend to Barry and should meet us at the house when we arrived. He had also mumbled something to d'Orléans about more Englishmen having arrived - but my attention was on Barry's face and its slack-jawed appearance.

            Consciously, I knew that d'Orléans was most probably right about Barry's condition. But knowing and believing were proving to be two entirely different things. If ever I'd had any doubts, I now knew that I loved the American. Without reservations. And I was afraid that he was going to die, regardless of what France's uncrowned Crown Prince had said.

            There were so many things and places that I wanted to share with him. There was my whole life that I wanted to hand him to do with as he would.

            My own insecurities had held him at bay for the entire summer just past - when we could have been sharing ourselves with each other. He had been there, waiting patiently; and it still had taken me almost five months to understand that I loved him and finally come to him.

Since September, however, there was this damned situation with Germany. The more I became aware of it, the more it held me by the bollocks. And the less time I had available to give myself to Barry.

That was going to change. I would find time for him. He would know that I was his, as much as I knew that he was mine. I had a lifetime of love to shower on him. He had to live!

            D'Orléans' hand on my arm pulled me from my thoughts as two farmhands carried Barry into the house. We stood together until we were alone. I waited for him to speak, even as part of me followed Barry. "I am so sorry, Robert," he said finally in a choked voice, unable to meet my gaze.

            I was looking at him, even as my mind stayed with Barry. I forced myself to see him. "It wasn't your fault, Philippe," I told him. "I suspect they were trying to get me-"

            "They were, Robert. But it was my duty to protect you." He looked down at his hands. "I failed and a nice man has paid for my failure to do so."

            "You said it was a clean shot, a flesh wound," I groaned, a wall of fear crashing down around me to imprison me.

            "It was," he said hurriedly. "Barry will recover, my friend. But I have failed France herself."

            I blinked. "How?" I asked.

            "Your Admiralty has sent your pilot to be your guard now, Robert. And a man from your Embassy - from your MI-5 I suspect. They're inside now, probably ensuring that Barry is taken care of and that Elizabeth is well-"

            I racked my brain for a moment, trying to remember the sub-lieutenant's name. "Pettigrew is here?"

            "Yes." He chuckled weakly. "Rousted out of bed and sent racing here from his appearance."

            "His appearance?"

            "He's unshaven and still smells of cheap perfume," he said, allowing a grin to cover his face. "It is truly a sad day when an Englishman must be pulled from his paramour's bed and, unwashed, go out to save a countryman in France. I hope that he had time to pay the lady for her favours before he had to leave."

            I laughed. Despite Barry lying inside the house with a wound meant for me, despite Major Urnazy dead because of me, I laughed. At the droll humour that had been in what Philippe had said.

            "Please inform the sub-lieutenant when you see him, Robert, that I'll personally stand outside your door with revolver drawn in order to guard you with my life while he makes himself presentable - assuming that he had time to bring a change of clothes-"

            I laughed again. And, almost immediately, stopped. "Elizabeth?" I asked.

            He nodded. "I had the labourer ensure that she was safe before he returned to us in the woods. She's inside, Robert, probably holding Barry's hand. She's very fond of him, you know." He studied me until I began to feel uncomfortable. "Almost as fond of him as you are, my friend."

            I didn't flinch. "You know?"

            D'Orléans shrugged. "But, of course. It is very obvious, your feelings for each other."


            "Robert, this is the twentieth century. I am also an enlightened man. It is not for me, but it harms no-one and-" He smiled. "And it appears that you are both happy - so, where is my right to judge that you should not be lovers?"

            "Thank you."

            "Robert, I have something important to ask of you, my friend."

            I met his gaze and swallowed the lump that had so suddenly appeared in my throat. "And it is-?" I forced myself to ask.

            "I have not spoken to Elizabeth about this yet but-" He looked out at the snow-covered gardens behind me. "If she agrees, may I have her hand in marriage?"

            I blinked. I almost laughed. Instead, I pretended to cough until I had myself again in control. I had expected anything but this.

            "Are you sure, Philippe?"

            He nodded. "Absolutment, Robert!"

            "Your parents?" I asked.

            "They will be surprised. Perhaps maman has some Spanish or Italian Princess in mind - but they will accept when they are sure that I know my own mind."

            "She's not Catholic, you know-"

            "Our children would have to be, of course - at least nominally. But religion is not a serious obstacle for me."

            "May I speak with her before I give you my answer?"

            "Certainment! I would not have it any other way, Robert."

            I smiled. "The two of you do make a lovely couple."

            He chuckled, his eyes twinkling. "Almost as lovely as you and Barry do."



Barry had regained consciousness when I entered our apartment. I suspected ammonia from the lingering odour. A middle-aged man was filling a syringe from a vial, and Eliza was holding the hand attached to Barry's good arm.

            "Robbie!" Barry mumbled and smiled weakly when he saw me.

            "Damn!" I groaned dramatically. "You did survive after all."

            "You better believe I did," he answered, managing for a moment to sound alive. "And don't you even dare try to imply that you had something to do with this."

            The middle-aged man turned and bowed slightly to me.  "Monsieur le Baron, your travel companion will recover. I have dressed his wounds with sulfa to lessen infection-" He looked to the syringe in his hand. "I give him morphine now to ease his pain and help him sleep."

            He moved closer to Barry and held his wrist. My gaze moved upward to meet Barry's as the doctor gave him the sedative. "I love you," he mouthed without making a sound.

            The doctor stood back and deposited the spent needle in his bag. "If there is any problem, Monsieur le Baron, I will come at once. The staff knows my number."

            "Thank you, Doctor," I said and stepped to Barry's side.

I took his hand and squeezed hard as I stared at the bulky dressing on his shoulder. He squeezed back but with considerably less pressure. Moments later, his grip loosened. I looked over to see that his eyes had closed and his lips parted.

I eased my hand from his and it came away easily.

"He's asleep, Robbie," Elizabeth said and smiled across the bed at me.











Molloy sipped tea in his father's study and tried to ignore the fact that he was going to drive halfway across England in the hours ahead of him.

            He owed it to Robbie to ensure that the man's home was protected. That was justification enough for him to go to Bellingham Hall and to stay until the Navy had its lads in place on Friday. He would only be gone from Easthampton-Mares for two days. And Robbie's son had taken well to being moved.

            The old Earl seemed smitten with young Willi. And little Cecil doted on the German boy's every act. The boy was well protected here.

            It was that Dagold Jorsten and Miss Alice who were in danger - if there was danger. They were still at Bellingham Hall and in the centre of that damned radio message of last Saturday. Jorsten was.

            There hadn't been a direct threat against the farm in it. But it was definitely better to be safe than sorry. Only the damned Navy wouldn't get anyone out to Petersholme's place before Friday. So, he was driving to Bellingham Hall and staying there for the next two days.

            "It'll be a quiet couple of days, at least," he mumbled to himself. Besides, he could always ogle that Jorsten lad, he told himself and smiled at the thought.

            The German had been the first man to have caught his attention that way since he became involved with Alan Dudding.

Alan provided him with everything he needed or wanted from another man. But Max Molloy refused to believe that it hurt anything if his imagination created fantasies that didn't exist and would never be allowed to exist. Alan would never know of those dreams because Max wasn't about to tell him.

He would dream of what he and Dagold Jorsten could do together while he was a proper guest with Alice Adshead under Robbie's roof. And he would sleep alone.

His cup was drained and he stood, wishing that the Navy or MI-5 had been able to put at least one man at Bellingham Hall immediately. He started for the door.

It was that damnable radio message that would have him drive across country - Jerry must be laughing in his sleeve at the havoc he'd caused with the implied threat to both the farm and to Petersholme.

"Petersholme!" Molloy groaned as he stopped in mid-stride. His friend was in as much danger as his home and family could be.

            He turned and walked to his father's study and the telephone there.  He bit at the chapped skin on his lower lip as he waited for the operator to place him through to Chartwell. He prayed that he wasn't too late. When the butler came on, he asked for Winston Churchill and identified himself.

            After another long wait, the Tory backbencher spoke into the phone.

            "Sir, there are naval officers with Petersholme in Deauville, aren't there?" he asked, ignoring the pleasantries.

            He frowned as Churchill told him that the fliers were staying in Paris until Petersholme was through with his mission. Molloy began to rub his temple with his index finger. He told Churchill about the radio message from somewhere near Bellingham Hall that had been intercepted and he was on his way there to remain until the Navy could get men out to protect it on Friday.

            He listened as Churchill cursed. "Sir," he said as the other paused to breathe, "if there is really any danger, it's as likely aimed at Petersholme as at his family."

            The pause at the other end of the conversation grew. Finally, Churchill said: "I'll get word to our embassy in Paris as soon as I've rung off with you. Those boys who flew Petersholme over there will be out at Reynaud's house by evening."

            "I hope that'll be soon enough, Mr. Churchill," he mumbled numbly. He pulled on his coat and started for his car, fear icy fingers closing over his heart.


* * *


"Bellingham is a pretty little place, Herr Hauptscharführer," James Crooksall said as they began to enter the village. The silence in the car the past hour had been maddening - even preparing a body for burial wasn't as nerve-wracking as driving Horst Müller from Coventry to meet David Rice.  When he was preparing a body, at least it didn't breath heavily.

            "I'll remember to visit it after England is a part of the new Europe," he answered.

            Crooksall was glad that he would soon be rid of the Waffen-SS sergeant. The man was as warm as he imagined a snake would be.  Cold-blooded and mean, that had been Horst Müller's reputation even when Crooksall had trained in Germany. But he was known to be efficient.

            The mission that night required cold-blooded meanness, however. And efficiency. Otherwise, the last thing James Crooksall would feel was the rope of the hangman's noose tightening around his neck as the floor fell from under his feet.

It was a job for Hauptscharführer Horst Müller, all right. Crooksall wanted to live to see the new, national socialist England that was coming; he wanted to be a part of building it.

            He spotted the ramshackle, open shed beside the road in front of them and slowed the car. Crooksall pulled to the side of the road in front of the shed. "We're here," he announced brightly as he turned the car off.

            Müller's hand on his arm stopped him from opening the door and he looked towards the German. "This village smith speaks no German, yes?" Crooksall nodded. "And he knows I speak no English?" Again, Crooksall nodded.

"Good!" Müller said. "It will be a pleasure to hear myself think again."

            Crooksall felt his ears burn at the insult but said nothing.

            "And you'll return this evening?" The Englishman nodded again. "Good. He will leave me in peace then and, tonight, you'll give him his instructions-"

            "To take us out to Bellingham Hall and introduce us to the farmhands who're helping us there?"

            "And to wait where we can find him easily - he'll have to bring us back to your car after we complete this mission."

            "I'll be back as soon as we've buried our last body, Herr Hauptscharführer - it won't be much before eight-"


            "Twenty hundred hours."

            Müller nodded his understanding. "You'll bring chloroform with you tonight, Crooksall."

            "Chloroform, Herr Hauptscharführer?"

            "I don't feel like listening to or holding onto a screaming brat, Crooksall. I think that it is best that the Graf's son sleeps until we are safely on the undersea boat and on our way back to Germany."

            The German opened his door and stepped out onto the roadway. "Come, Crooksall," he grumbled. "It is time that you introduce me to the village blacksmith so that you can be on your way."


* * *


Neville had dressed quietly and left the cottage before Clive could awaken. Three hours later, his stomach growled constantly to remind him that he had missed breakfast.

            Neville, however, was not paying attention to his stomach. Clive occupied his thoughts - and what his friend had tried to get him to do. He couldn't shake the memories as he loaded hay onto the wagon, not as he drove out to the far pastures, and not as he began to fork it out to feed his Lordship's cattle.

            His mate was all ready to do it to him. Bugger him and make him queer. His best mate in the world. He'd even said that he did it to him before - when he was sleeping off a drunk. Taken advantage of him, Clive had. Like some loose woman.

            Clive had to be pulling his leg.

            Or maybe he wasn't at that. Neville knew well enough that Clive would still his dick into anything - at least, he'd always said he would, given the chance. Clive well could have done the nasty to him. But he wasn't about to think about that. He'd just make damned sure he never got pissed around Clive again.



Clive sat just inside the tractor shed - he could see out through the cracks in the door but no-one could see him. The farm manager was a real arse about what he called slackers. If he saw a lad taking even a moment for himself, he always had something nasty for him to do.

Clive wondered if the man had ever been young and alive. He doubted it. From the way he'd heard it, the bastard had been running the estate for the Petersholmes since before his present Lordship was born.

            He shivered. The cold had a way of working its way into a lad, it did.

He wished he had Neville in the shed with him. The queer could warm him up good. He rubbed his crutch though the corduroy of his trousers.

            It wouldn't take much to talk him into it. Last night, he could see Nevie wavering. He'd just need a little more coaxing - maybe even a jaw to the lip. Yeah, old Nevie was a jessie boy, all right. And he'd know it himself soon enough.

Clive laughed. Well, now that he knew what Nevie was, there was no reason that he had to go without any more. They said that a hard dick had no conscience and Clive guessed that was so. His didn't. It didn't matter to his manhood whether it was a bum or a cunt that it was being stuck into. It'd take what it could get.

            And it now had Nevie. Or it would right after Clive had coaxed into taking that last step and dropping his trousers like a good queer.

            Only, neither one of them dared to let any of the lads on the farm know that Nevie liked dick. That'd have the queer kicked off the estate fast enough, and Clive would be back to having only his hand with which to relieve himself.

            No, Nevie was only going to be a nancy boy when he was in bed - with Clive. At least, he was until Clive found himself a girl and got married. Then, the queer could let his secret out and everybody in the world could know about him for all Clive cared.

            He considered pulling it out and wanking but decided that it was definitely too cold for that. He'd have a frozen prick for his efforts.

            His thoughts turned to the coming evening. David Rice was bringing that Hun out to the farm. A real Nazi, the man was supposed to be - some kind of combination policeman and army. The way Rice had talked about this SS thing the man was in, it sounded like the Hun could take on a whole company of gurkhas by himself. He was supposed to be a real superman.

            Clive didn't really believe it, of course. There were no supermen; those existed just in those cartoon magazines from America that he'd seen once in Coventry. And he'd learnt that David Rice tended to exaggerate what he did know. He was just the village blacksmith, after all. Clive was willing to wager that David didn't know much more about the world than he himself did.

            But the man did have money. Ten quid for just showing two blokes around the farm. Yeah, he had money - and spent it freely. Even if it was Hun money he was spending.

            He wondered what time Rice would bring the Hun around. He'd even volunteer to nab the brat for another fiver.


* * *



            He placed the chicken leg back on his plate and looked at Neville across the table. "Yeah?"

            "Last night-" Neville picked at his food, pushing it around on the plate but not putting it in his mouth.

            "Don't make yourself sick over it, Nevie," he said and cut a bite from the potato. "I always wondered if you might be queer. Last night you were right on the lip of proving it for both of us."


            The forkful of boiled potato stopped inches from Clive's mouth as he studied his friend. "Nevie, I'm not going to tell a soul about you. And we're going to have many a night where we make each other feel good, mate." He chuckled and pushed the potato into his mouth. "Until some lass comes along and manages to hogtie me so her brothers can carry me to the altar, you've got free rein of my best feature," he continued, speaking around the food in his mouth.

            "But I don't want to be queer, Clive."

            "Why not? As long as it's only the two of us who knows, I mean? You'll like it, Nevie. I'll make you feel real good."

            Neville continued to push his food around on his plate. He didn't look up to meet Clive's gaze.

            Clive swallowed and picked up his drumstick. "So, it's all right that we help each other out - us both liking it like we do."

            "But I don't like it, Clive," Neville mumbled, looking down at his food. "You did do it me when I was pissed, didn't you?"

             Clive dropped the piece of chicken back on his plate and stared at his friend.

            Neville looked up then, meeting the other man's gaze.

            Clive sat back in his chair. Nevie was being more difficult that he'd imagined. He understood instinctively that, if he told the man to shut up, he'd lose what he was planning would be his nightly pleasure.

            "Nevie, lad, you're probably not even queer at all, you know?"

            "I'm not?"

            "No. It's probably just a phase. Like little kids playing army - they grow out of that just as you'll grow out of this. In the meantime, though, there ain't no reason we shouldn't both enjoy it."

            "And if I don't grow out of it, mate?"

            "Then, you'll just have to get married like any other lad. Only, we'll continue to be mates and we can get together to do things-"

            "With a wife and kids, Clive?"

            "Why not, lad? Did your da take your ma - or you - to the pub when he went out with his mates? Did mine? Bloody hell, Nevie, you get married to get a son, not to become some - some hermit."

            Neville retreated back to pushing his food around the plate and Clive picked up his drumstick.

            "You're expecting me to get into the bed naked tonight then?" Neville asked as Clive pushed his chair back from the table. "And you're expecting to bugger me?"

            "Not tonight, mate. That Hun's coming for me to show them how to get to the brat."

            "Clive," Neville groaned, "you aren't really going to do something with those men, are you?"

            He picked up his plate and stepped to the rubbish bin. "Of course I am, Nevie. It's only right that Hun brat be with his ma and they capture that criminal his Lordship is protecting. It's even better that David Rice is paying me to guide them up to the house."

            "Clive, if those Huns are right, let them take their case to the police! We've got justice in this country."

            "Ain't his Lordship the judge for these parts? He sure acted like he was when we were brought up before him this summer - all because we was going to give that queer Yank mate of his some fun. You know what he's going to decide, don't you?"

            "But it ain't right, Clive," Neville said, even as both of them knew he was backing down. "This smacks of kidnapping."

            "Lord Petersholme just ain't letting those Huns get to the kid - or that criminal up in the house." He scrapped his plate and took it to the sink. "He's a nobleman, you know - he's got more rights than a normal body."

            "What're you going to do with David tonight?" Neville asked, resigning himself to Clive doing whatever it was that he'd decided to do. With him helping his mate do it, like he always did.

            "Just show him and this Hun how to get up to the house - the Hun's translator too." He turned back to Neville, his face a smile. "And maybe make another fiver - or more - if they want some help getting that brat and criminal away. Maybe we can both make a fiver each out of this. A week's wages for doing nothing - it beats forking hay all day out there in the cold for sure."

            "No-one's going to get hurt, are they?"

            Clive stared back at Neville in surprise.  "Why should they, mate? The Hun will arrest the criminal, put him in chains, and pick up the brat. That's pretty simple, ain't it?"

            "What about the old lady, his Lordship's aunt?"

            "What's she going to do? The Hun and his translator both will have guns with them. That'll keep her quiet whilst they do their business."











Miss Murray opened the door Wednesday afternoon and stood back as Max Molloy entered the great hall of Bellingham Hall. "Welcome, m'Lord," she said as her gaze took in the bag in Max's hand. "So, you've decided to stay with us after all?"

            "Only until Friday," Max answered. "We'll have some marines here by then."

            "Only Cook and myself know that the young master left with you, Lord Molloy," she told him. "And we live here in the house, so it's not had a chance to get down to the cottages."

            "That's wise, Miss Murray," Max told her as he followed her to the living room.

            "I'll fetch Miss Alice, sir." Her gaze returned to his bag. "And take your things up to your room."



"Lord Molloy! It's nice to see you again," Alice Adshead greeted him as she entered the living room. Behind her, Miss Murray pulled the doors closed. "How's Willi taking his visit?"

            Molloy chuckled. "My boy has taken to him, Miss Alice, like William is some hero who can do no wrong."

            "And Willi?" she asked as she sat. "Is he behaving himself?"

            "Very much so." He sat across from her. "In fact, he's accepted the protector role with vigour."

            "That's good then, my Lord," she nodded. "There will be another generation of Molloy and Petersholme working together then."

            "Miss Murray mentioned that you've managed to keep his departure from the Hall quiet-"

            "Very much so." She scrowled. "Not even the kitchen staff knows. Fortunately, young Mr. Jorsten has been quite willing to eat the boy's share of cottage pie."

            "I suspect that lad's not eating right now that he doesn't have someone fixing dinner for him." Molloy felt his stomach lurch but managed to smile, he hoped, endearingly. He remembered Petersholme's many complaints about his aunt's cottage pie over the years. "Hopefully, my arrival will be an occasion for Bellingham Hall to celebrate."

            "I had planned on roast chicken tonight," she said, "with potatoes, of course. I'll have Cook add another chicken."

            "That will be fine," he said as he pushed himself from the chair. "There weren't any problems last night, were there?" he asked as he began to pace.

            "Very quiet, actually."

            "We've learnt that this Monsieur Reynaud Robbie's supposed to report to is tied up in Paris until Friday.  Which, of course, means they won't be home until the weekend now."

            "I thought Mr. Churchill told Robert that he would meet his man Monday and then could come home," Alice Adshead said.

            "We suspect that Nazi sympathisers in one of Blum's coalition partners have managed to hold things up. And that's held Robbie's party in Deauville."

            Alice studied Max Molloy closely. She said nothing but her eyes betrayed her concern.

            "We think that they'll try something in the next two days - before the weekend."

            "Is Robert protected there in France, my Lord?" she finally asked.

            "He is. He's got two officers of the French army there with him as well as a number of Reynaud's farmhands." He frowned. "Before I left Easthampton-Mares this morning, I called Mr. Churchill. He's sent some of our people to the minister's place as well."

            "Our people?"

            "Royal Navy. Having come to know Mr. Churchill, I suspect MI-5 will be sniffing around Monsieur Reynaud's château as well."

            "So, Robert and Elizabeth are protected?" He nodded. "And Barry as well?"

            Again, he nodded.

            "I see. That leaves us here then."

            "Like sitting ducks," Molloy hissed, expressing the emotions building in him since he'd left this house the day before. "At least, until we have Marines in place - Friday."

            Alice nodded. "I had wondered about that."

            She sat up straighter and her gaze held Molloy. "Well, we have you, Jorsten, and myself. And we have a veritable armoury here in the Hall. We'll handle them if they come in these next two days, my Lord."

            "It might be wise to bring in your manager, Miss Alice."

            "No. We won't disrupt the farm any more than we have to."


            "Lord Molloy, Robert's man will be available if we need reinforcements for any reason. So will the men of this farm; to a man, they're committed to their Lord. But they are committed because he ensures that they're employed and housed well enough for their needs - and because he makes very few demands on them, other than their employment.

            "Petersholme must be seen as sufficient of itself, my Lord, in addition to being a considerate employer.  That's the creed three generations of Baron Petersholme have held to; for reason, I might add - there is grave danger to the very social underpinnings of our way of life here, otherwise."

            "You're a wise woman, Miss Alice," Molloy told her, giving voice to his admiration for her grasp of reality. "Those are the very traits that keep England's aristocrats credible in the twentieth century."

            "And Petersholme will remain credible, my Lord."

            A knock at the door interrupted them. Molloy looked askantly at her and Alice sniffed. "That'll be Miss Murray with our tea."



"I have concerns, Lord Molloy," Dagold Jorsten said to the Englishman as they sat in the study with their coffees after dinner.

            "They are?" Max asked.

            "Firstly, I must ask - have you found out if the Gräfin von Kys survived the fire at Schloß Kys?"

            "She survived. MI-5 has her presently being attached to the Waffen-SS, carrying a rank comparable to lieutenant colonel."

            "A Obersturmbannführerin," Jorsten groaned, nodding as he assimilated the information.

            "What does that mean - exactly?"

            Jorsten looked blankly at him.

            "I mean, what exactly does her survival and transfer to the military arm of state security have to do with a possible attack on Bellingham Hall?"

            "Not just Lord Petersholme's estate, but on his life as well," the young German answered.


            "She is insane, my Lord. She had my brother shot because he had not married her. She had a much better marriage - to Graf Janus. It was a marriage that elevated her and her unborn child to the highest levels of the old Prussian aristocracy. But she hated my brother and, when she was in a position to do, had him tried on a trumped-up charge of rape in a People's Court. The night that Jani - Graf Janus - died, she said she'd watched him put before the firing squad."

            Max shuddered. Jorsten's words had the ring of truth about them; they fleshed out the bare bones of the story that Petersholme had given him. He could not imagine a woman - no, he corrected himself, a creature - as demented as this Gisele von Kys appeared to be.

            "She now has a position of authority, my Lord," Jorsten continued. "She can seek what she thinks of as revenge outside the borders of the German Reich."

            "And she'd have spies watching Petersholme here?"

            "They would be Sicherheitsdienst, not Waffen-SS. But it does not matter. She would know about them. Their reports would get back to her immediately. She would see to it."


            "So she could watch Lord Petersholme. So she could find a way and a time to strike at him for preventing her from killing me and for almost killing her - and for taking the Graf's son."

            "You think that his going to France offered an opportunity to get at you then?"

            Jorsten shrugged. "She hates my family because my brother wouldn't marry her. Then, I was her husband's lover. And she wants Wilhelm-"

            "Why? If she had your brother executed because she became pregnant with the child-?"

            Jorsten chuckled. "She is insane, my Lord. On one hand, the kleiner Graf is the symbol of her loss of honour; on the other, he is the heir to von Kys and her connection to the new Germany. She wants him in Germany - to show him as a breeder would show a horse. He is her pride."

            "So, you believe that there will be an attack here?"

            "Of course there will be, Lord Molloy. I still live, and she believes that Willi is here. She probably sent Jani's Hauptscharführer to England …" A small smile split his thin lips. "Yes, she would send him. He knows us both and he is completely dedicated to the Party."


            "Horst Müller. He was Graf von Kys'-" He paused, searching for the correct word in English. "Sergeant Major?" He looked to Molloy for confirmation. "The non-commissioned officer who ensures that everything runs smoothly in an operation?"

            "That sounds right, Dagold. But why - or how - would he become involved?"

            "He's Waffen-SS himself and you said that the Gräfin is now as well. She could have him assigned to her for this mission."

            "Does he speak English?"

            "No. But that wouldn't stop him. He's an old fighter, follows orders, and has no fear. He would be perfect to come after us, secluded as we are during the holiday."

            Molloy pursed his lips. "Who would she send after Petersholme then? This man sounds like the perfect assassin."

            "She would go herself, of course."

            Molloy's eyes widened as he tried to imagine a woman shooting a man. "Why?"

            "She is a proud woman, my Lord. Her pride is overwhelming. And she is not especially rational."

            "I still don't see-"

            "He prevented her from exacting her revenge on me, he shot her, and he took the kleiner Graf. Each of those actions would be a direct insult to her. She would demand to hold the gun that killed him. As a Waffen-SS Obersturmbannführerin, her demand would be honoured."

            "Unfortunately, Petersholme won't be able to leave France until the weekend. We'll have Royal Marines to the farm by Friday-"

            Jorsten smiled and pressed his fingers together over his lap. "And, until then, you are here to help protect us, yes?"

            Molloy nodded.

            "Are you a marksman with a pistol, my Lord?"

            "A pistol? I thought that I'd take a shotgun to bed-"

            "That's but one or two shots - and you would need to reload the firing chamber each time. A revolver carries six shots and you have only to pull the trigger; a machine pistol like my Luger has nine shots. You have a better chance at wounding your target with either - before he can wound you." He shrugged. "Or kill you."

            Molloy nodded. "I'll take a pistol with me then."

            "You and I will need to stand watch tonight, my Lord - and tomorrow night as well - until these English Marines are in place here."

            The young German's suggestion sounded good and Molloy wished that he'd thought of it. He wasn't comfortable with this military sort of thinking and it probably showed far more than he'd have liked. He didn't like the images that quickly flooded his mind and, as quickly, disappeared. The whole household could so easily have been killed in their beds. "I'll take first watch," he said. "But I don't think that we should disturb Miss Alice with this detail."

            "We'll also need to relocate our sleeping arrangements to one wing of the house," Jorsten said.

            "Whatever for?" Molloy growled without thinking.

            "Hauptscharführer Müller would like nothing better than to kill us one by one - without any of us ever awakening." He shrugged even as his gaze never left Molloy's face. "You, Fraü Alice, and myself should have adjoining apartments, my Lord - one's with locks on the doors. When the attack comes, the extra moment we can give ourselves can mean life or death for us."

            "That sounds like a sound idea, Jorsten," Molloy told him. "But, we'll have to work this out with Miss Alice - all except the standing guard - you understand?"


* * *


"Drive your car behind the shed here," Rice told Crooksall as he left the bellows and started towards the man, pointing to the nearly over-grown dirt track that ran along the side of the building.

            Moments later, James Crooksall stepped from the side of the shed carrying a bag. "You're dressed like a bloody undertaker, mate," Rice said as the other man reached him.

            Crooksall stopped and met the smith gaze. "I am an undertaker, comrade. And I've just left my third funeral of the day. Is there someplace where I can change?"

            Rice stepped quickly back, instinctively making a warding sign.

            "Don't worry," Crooksall laughed mirthlessly. "I didn't bring the man on the white horse with me tonight - at least, not for us. He rides for this useless anachronism from England's medieval past and his friends."

            "You mean his Lordship?" Rice asked carefully as he hadn't understood the other man's expression.

            "If the other team has followed its orders, Lord Petersholme is already dead. Now, we just have to follow ours and execute this German criminal in addition to returning the child to his mother." As he spoke, he moved closer to the entrance of the shed and glanced inside. "May I change inside, comrade? I'll freeze my bollocks if I got out of this costume out here."

            Rice led him through the shed and opened the door to the house. "In here. You can tell that kraut that it's time to go as well."

            "He's inside?"

            Rice snorted. "If somebody in the village did want a smithing job this close to Christmas, I didn't want him meeting up with this man Müller now did I?"



Crooksall sat across from the Hauptscharführer in the back of Rice's van as they left the village. From the front, they could hear the clop of the horse's hooves as they struck the cobblestone of the high street and Rice muttering nonsense to the animal.

            "You'll need to tell that man to hide his wagon when we reach our destination," Müller said.

            "Will he come with us then?"

            The Hauptscharführer's look of scorn embarrassed Crooksall. "Someone must lead us to these cottages and point us to the one that is our destination, comrade," he said softly. "Your man Rice appears to be the only one of us able to do that."

            Crooksall didn't risk making more of a fool of himself by answering. He nodded and hoped that the faint light from outside didn't show how red his face was. He was glad that the sun had already begun to set.

            "He'll stay behind once we have our guide to the manor. He can stop any one who would follow us." Müller chuckled. "He is big but dumb - it's all that he's good for."

            "The farmhand who's to lead us, he's a bit slow as well," Crooksall blurted. "Our rural people are, it seems."

            "The clodhoppers are in every country, comrade, even in the Fatherland."

            Crooksall nodded and relaxed slightly at the other man's agreement.

            "Once we are inside the manor, can you find the sleeping quarters, comrade?" Müller asked.

            "I've never set foot in Bellingham Hall, Hauptscharführer, but we performed a funeral service for a gentlewoman last year. The aristocracy here in England tend to duplicate each other's houses."

            "So, you will be able to find both the boy and the criminal?"

            "I think so."

            "Good!" Müller leaned back against the side of the van. "Do we have any idea how many people we'll need to contend with?"

            "Contend with?"

            "How many people there will be inside the manor!  Think, damn it! Your life and mine depends on it."

            "His Lordship is out of the country-" Crooksall answered nervously. "My instructions said that he'd taken his ward and his American house guest with him."

            "The Baron is dead by now."

            Crooksall smiled. "And the others too?"

            "The others with him are meaningless. They pose no threat to the new order."

            "Here, there'll only be the old woman, the boy, and that criminal we have orders to execute."

            "And the servants?"

            "I don't know - but they'll be on the top floor. We should be in and out before they even know we're there."

            "Would that it be so," Müller hissed. "But don't count on it."

            Horst Müller looked towards the front of the van and sighed. "Have you arranged the escape route for the brat and me, comrade?" he asked finally.

            Crooksall breathed a sigh of relief at the new direction of the conversation. Getting the damned German out of England had been something he could arrange for. "There will be a total of three motorcars, Hauptscharführer, between Coventry and the coast. Your drivers know the route and the rendezvous points. They only know that you are taking a rescued German child back to his mother."

            "And not one of these men speak German, I assume?"

            "No, Hauptscharführer. That would have been too much to arrange. As it is, each man knows the geography of his part of the route well. There won't be any problems getting you to the Channel."

            "It makes no difference." Müller shrugged. "I do not have to have a person with whom I can have an intelligent conversation. I'll be in a u-boat with other Germans soon enough if these men simply follow their orders. And the Willi von Kys will safely be on his way back to his mother."

            He looked back at the front of the van. "Please, comrade, remember to find out who is in this house from your farmboy. I do not like surprises, yes?" He reached into his coat pocket and clutched something.

            Crooksall saw what it was as the German pulled out a dagger and recognised it as the service dagger of the Waffen-SS. In his mind, he could see the eagle on the hilt, its talons gripping a wreath containing a swastika inside it.

            Müller said nothing, watching intently as he moved the cutting edge of the dagger across the skirt of his coat. He smiled, his teeth showing, in the near darkness.

            Crooksall assumed that the Hauptscharführer had found the blade to be sharp enough. He closed his eyes and wished he was not afraid.

            Crooksall felt the van slow and opened his eyes. He looked over at Müller, surprised that he had fallen asleep and even more surprised that he had.

            At first glance, the German looked to be asleep, curled in on himself as he sat. Outside of the van, Rice began to apply the brakes. At the first squeal of wood meeting wood, Müller sat straight up, his dagger moving horizontally in front of his face. "It's all right, Hauptscharführer. We've got to where we're going is all."

            Rice opened the door in the back of the van and they silently began to follow him through knee-high drifts of snow.

            "It's bloody cold!" Crooksall grumbled to the other two as he trudged up yet another hill. "How much further?"

            Before Crooksall knew it was happening, Müller had pulled his dagger from his pocket and had its blade at the Englishman's throat. "Shut up, little man!" he growled low. "This is a mission that demands all of the surprise we can have on our side. This whining only alerts anyone listening to our approach."

            Crooksall stared down his nose at the part of the blade between his chin and the Hauptscharführer's gloved hand against the hilt. He glanced over to Rice who was watching impassively. He nodded and felt relief flood over him as the point of the dagger left his adam's apple.

            Müller looked to Rice and whispered to Crooksall: "Tell him to lead on, comrade. We don't have all night."


* * *


Rice pushed open the door of the cottage and stepped inside. Crooksall and then Müller followed him. Neville looked sharply around from the sink at the sound of the door opening. His jaw opened in surprise at seeing the three men walk in. Clive stood up from the table and nodded to them.

            "About time you got here," Clive said, speaking to Rice.

            "I don't like this at all," Neville said as he moved alongside his friend.

            Müller looked out at the night a last time and, seeing no-one moving, shut the door. "This hovel is worst than I expected," he said to Crooksall as he crossed the room and came to a stop in front of the two farmhands. "And these dogs don't look smart enough to find a rabbit."

            "These two lads are Clive and Neville, comrades," Rice said. "Clive here is going to lead you to the house."

            Crooksall translated and Müller studied the blond youth closely. "If he can find his way to the toilet, we'll be lucky," he mumbled and swung back to face Crooksall. "Tell the smith that he is to kill the other one when we've gone. Wait until we're out the door and find an excuse to call him to you."


            Müller shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Never leave a witness, comrade."

            Crooksall nodded and turned away from the others to hide the blush that had his ears burning. He would never be as happy as when he had put the Hun on his way.

            "Now," Müller continued, "give them some pretty talk to make them think that I've given you instructions on how to keep their heads out of a noose." His lips turned into a frown. "Then, we must be going. We're running out of time."

            "This other one - he's to die too?"

            "Of course, comrade. But at the manor, once we are inside. Give them your speech and let's get going."











"Pettigrew," I said as I entered the study and saw him standing with his back to me, gazing out the window.

            He about faced instantly, already at attention when he faced me.

            I fought against the smile that threatened at the corners of my lips. I concentrated on looking him up and down. He was in uniform, and I suspected that it was the same one that he'd worn on our flight over. It also looked to have been worn since Monday. There was also a bit of stubble on his chin. "It would appear that you weren't prepared to come to my aid when the call came," I said in a neutral tone.

            He flushed. From the collar of his uniform blouse to his hairline. "Sir!" he began, sounding like a first week cadet facing his commanding officer, "the First Sea Lord himself-"

            "Stanhope? He personally called you out of a lady's boudoir?" I asked, guessing at where a randy young lad would most likely be, if he had several days of leisure available.

            He looked ready to start trembling.

"Pettigrew, relax and have a seat, man," I grinned, relenting. "We're countrymen and, I hope, friends." My grin disappeared instantly as I realised why he was here. "John, I need you to help protect Elizabeth - and I certainly don't wear my morals on my sleeve like a certain member of the Lords we both know."

            If anything, Pettigrew reddened even deeper at the reference to the Earl of Lancashire. But he did relax.

            "I assume that you weren't given time to pack a change of clothes?"

He looked down at his hands and nodded.

"I promise that I won't mention that aspect of our current situation the next time I see your father," I told him, unable to stifle the goad.

            A laugh from behind me caught me unaware. It caused Pettigrew to pause as he moved towards the chair closest to the window. He took a deep breath and sat down. I turned to face the man who'd laughed.

            "Lord Petersholme, please forgive our young sub-lieutenant his appearance," the man said as my gaze reached him. I was facing the most nondescript man I'd ever seen. I did not doubt for a moment that I would never be able to describe him adequately, even on pain of death. "I walked into that boudoir you mentioned and pulled our randy young gentleman out of the lady's bed and threatened to shoot him in the head if he weren't dressed within ten seconds." He grinned. "He made it too, except for a few buttons."

            Pettigrew groaned behind me.

"You are?" I asked the man.

            "Dunham, my Lord. Brigadier Dunham of His Majesty's Service. It is to His Majesty's advantage that I was never here and that we never met. If you will, let's keep me away from the sub-lieutenant's visit to Deauville."


            "He's MI-5, Petersholme," Pettigrew mumbled from behind me.

            "Mr. Churchill personally telephoned me this morning, my Lord. It seemed that the situation here was important enough that I should lose a bit of the cover that I've managed to acquire." He glanced beyond me in Pettigrew's direction before returning his gaze to me.

            I nodded and turned to face the sub-lieutenant. "Look, John." I smiled. "Go up to my apartment, the one I'm sharing with Barry - the American from the flight over. There's a bathroom there and you should be able to wear Barry's clothes. Freshen up and come back down when you're finished."

            "Will you be safe?" he asked as he stood.

            "I don't plan on going outside for a while. And Elizabeth is with Barry."

            "How is he, sir?"

            "He took a bullet in the shoulder. The doctor said it was a fairly clean wound - his clavicle was broken with the shoulder blade broken as well, but the artery wasn't nicked. He gave him a dose of morphine."

"The poor man." John Pettigrew grimaced as he started towards the door. "I won't disturb him, sir."

            Brigadier Dunham closed and locked the door behind the sub-lieutenant. He turned back to me. "If you will, my Lord, I'd like to hear what happened this morning," he said. It was obvious to both of us that he had taken complete control of our interview.

            I recounted everything that had happened that morning from my first cup of tea to the shots that had brought Barry down and killed the French major. The nondescript man from MI-5 had me revisiting almost every moment, poking and prodding. I was almost to the point of wondering if he wanted the details of my visit to the toilet, he was so bloody thorough.

            He frowned finally. "Our French friend was two-timing us as well as his own country then," he grumbled.

            My eyebrows rose, seeking my hairline. "What?"

            "Major Urnazy. He was a double agent."

            I felt pasty. My face must have been the colour of stone. "He was one of ours?" I managed.

            "Not exactly. We caught him in an awkward moment several years ago. Rather than let us tell the French about him, he decided to work for us as well as the Germans."

            I laughed. "Every Frenchman in the world wants it known that he's a cocksman in bed, Dunham. How did catching him in a delicate moment threaten him?"

            The brigadier smiled back at me. "No Frenchman wants his country to know that he likes to be buggered by young lads, my Lord."

            "Oh-" My ears burnt suddenly.

           "We knew he worked for the Sicherheitsdienst but he confirmed it when we caught him in that compromised position. It was his orders from Berlin that we were interested in - not how he took his pleasures."

            "Did he inform you about the attack on us then?" I asked, giving voice to the sense of awareness growing in me.

            "He did, my Lord." He sighed. "In an indirect way."

            "He what?" I felt weak. "You let them nearly kill Barry?"

            "I said 'in an indirect way', Lord Petersholme." He looked towards the fire. "His messages held no urgency. It was decided that we could wait until closer to the weekend to move."

            "Barry was shot!" I growled. "He almost died out there this morning - because you decided that you could wait until closer to the weekend?"

            "Urnazy was a consummate actor, Lord Petersholme," Dunham said without a trace of emotion. "He also was apparently completely married to the Nazi cause. We didn't know."

            "Bloody hell with not knowing!" I growled as I jumped up.

            "Sir, we now have to ensure that you and your party remain safe until Minister Reynaud can get away from Paris and meet you."

            I looked up at the ceiling and mentally counted to ten. It didn't help.

            "This was a Waffen-SS operation from what we've been able to piece together," the man said with a shrug.

            "Piece together? You had a man in on the attack-"

            "Urnazy wasn't exactly forthcoming." The man smiled. "In fact he had us misdirected completely. And, of course, he's dead now."

            "Lovely. So, why do you assume that it was Waffen-SS then?"

            He shrugged. "Because if it had been an Sicherheitsdienst operation, you would have been dead, my Lord."

            I groaned. "Why do I feel like a fox that's just been let out of its cage and now hears the hounds baying in the distance?" I demanded, not expecting an answer.

            "I'll be here tonight and I'll get with the chap from the Sûretè who's here and work out a plan to protect you and your party for the rest of your stay." He bowed slightly and reached for the door. "I know all of this has been most trying for you - especially your-" he paused for the barest instant, "your friend being wounded like this. Thank you for allowing me to have some of your time, Lord Petersholme."

            I watched him leave the room with the sure knowledge that the nature of my relationship with Barry was now known in London. Fear of what that would mean was a lump in my throat that refused to be dislodged, regardless of the number of times I swallowed.


* * *


John Pettigrew slipped quietly into the bedroom. The American was lying bare-chested in the bed, the right side of his chest bandaged from his neck to the bottom of his ribcage and extended down his arm to his elbow. The sub-lieutenant thought that he looked pale but peaceful. Elizabeth, sitting beside the bed, had heard the door open and was looking at him as he entered the room.

            "I was pulled out of Paris rather quickly this morning, Miss Elizabeth," he told her quietly and felt his face flush. "Without so much as a change of clothes I have to admit. His Lordship suggested that I could wear some of Mr. Alexander's-"

            Elizabeth nodded and pointed to the chest-of-drawers between the windows. "I suppose he's unpacked and placed his things there, Sub-lieutenant."

            "How is he?" he asked as he crossed the room.

            "Dead to the world - oh!" she yelped and her eyes opened wide in surprise as she realised what she'd said.

            John smiled and moved to stand beside her. "Right - he'll be that through the night. His Lordship said that he was given morphine."

            He caught a whiff of himself, the odour of stale sweat and even staler sex. He stepped back from her then, his ears again flaming. "I'm a mess. I guess that I'd better get those clothes and find the bathroom."

            She smiled up at him.

            "It's a pleasure to see you again, Miss Elizabeth." He stepped quickly to the chest-of-drawers. "Perhaps we'll have a chance to chat later?"



In the bathtub, John scrubbed his chest furiously with the flannel. It wasn't that he was ashamed of having spent the last two nights in a woman's bed. In fact, it would add another conquest to his reputation amongst the lads in his squadron, once it had got around.

Lancashire's youngest son would definitely not be thought of as a poofter. And he wasn't ashamed that Petersholme knew about it, either. It established him as a man in the his Lordship's eyes.

            His scrubbing moved to one arm and, then, the other. No, it wasn't having been found out that bothered him.

            It was the way that he'd been gathered up. His clothes thrown to him as he sat up in the woman's bed. Hurried out of her flat without even a moment to clean their sex off of him.

            He was bloody angry with himself for having left his Lordship's party in the haphazard care of that damned French captain! That he'd had to be rousted out of a woman's bed to come to their aid because the Frenchman hadn't been able to. And that he'd let the Yank nearly get himself killed while he was dallying in Paris.

He'd let a lovely lady down. He'd let a confidant of Churchill's and the First Sea Lord down - and the man had nearly been killed for it. He'd trusted a Frenchman to assume his own responsibility. It was his fault alone that the damned American had been shot.

Even if that never found its way into his Navy dossier, he'd still know it. That was enough. Whilst he'd shown that he could do a woman with the best of them, he knew that he'd still failed the test of being a real man.

He raised his foot out of the water and began to scrub vigorously, paying special attention to between his toes.

            He couldn't leave Petersholme with that impression of him. He might be an officer in the Royal Navy, but he was a very junior one with a number of men in position to judge him. Petersholme knew them all - at least, he knew Churchill, and that was more than enough.

            He reckoned that he'd always be seen as Lancashire's youngest son after this. The sympathiser's whoring son, more like. He'd never be thought of as a man to be entrusted with responsibility by the men who counted.

            He had to prove himself to Petersholme.

            Flirting with Elizabeth the next few days simply would not help him to do so. Walking the perimeters of  this château with a pistol strapped to his belt and peeking behind every curtain wouldn't go very far in doing so, either.

            Brigadier Dunham had been quite certain that there was going to be an assassination attempt against Petersholme on the drive out from Paris. He hadn't said much - in fact, he'd been mum almost the whole time - but that much he'd been sure of. And it'd already happened when they arrived at the château.

            What he needed to do was capture the Jerries behind the attempt this morning. At least one of them. That would make Petersholme sit up and take notice - London too.

            He nodded and raised his other foot. He washed it more gently than he had the other one.

            Capture himself a Jerry - that would be sweet, for sure. He shook his head slowly. It didn't take brains to understand that would be a lot harder to accomplish than merely thinking about it.

            Pettigrew strongly suspected that the MI-5 agent planned to do nothing about this morning. There would be no English effort to find the assassins. He was going to let the French follow through on it while he disappear back to Paris, now that he had Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew of the Royal Navy in place to guard Petersholme and his party.

Pettigrew could easily guess what the French were going to do about it. Nothing. They'd let the Germans escape just to avoid a bit of ugliness. After all, they'd had two of their own killed this morning and at least one of those dead Frenchmen had proved to be an undercover agent. He didn't doubt they both were.

The French would let things lie fallow for that, of course. It wouldn't do at all to cast mud on any of their own.

But, if it was a German operation like MI-5 thought it was, the Germans had failed to kill Petersholme. If they knew they'd not got the man they came after, they'd try again. That was so plain that even a five year old could make it out.

He laid back in the tub, letting the warm water lap at his chest and legs and relax him.

Somebody had killed the French major who'd turned out to be a Nazi himself. And the other Frenchman had been killed on the knoll where the assassination team had hidden. It didn't set right somehow to imagine that team had been French, however, not with them killing their French partners it didn't. And Dunham had said it was a German job.

Pettigrew told himself that there had to have been Germans in the woods shooting at everyone. Germans who'd travelled across France to reach Deauville. Germans with no confederates left alive in France. Germans who needed to eat and sleep.

With the temperature hovering at the freezing mark, the sub-lieutenant had no problem guessing that there had to be a room or rooms in Deauville occupied by Germans. At least, there had been - and, if they knew that they'd missed Petersholme, they'd still be around because they had so far failed to accomplish their mission. They had to make another attempt, and it would come before the weekend.

He sat up and pushed himself out of the tub. Quickly towelling himself, he dressed in the American's clothes. All he had to do was find them and alert MI-5, and the danger to his Lordship would be past. He grinned at the thought of that being recorded in his dossier.

As he exited the bathroom, he saw Petersholme enter the American's bedroom. The man hadn't seen him and had left the door open. Pettigrew crossed quickly to the doorway but held back from entering as he realised that he'd be intruding if he made himself known to his Lordship and his ward.

Even holding back, he'd heard the man tell his cousin that the French captain had asked for her hand. He shrugged as he slipped out of the sitting room. So, his Lordship's cousin was going to be one of the women who slipped through his fingers. It was too bad, but there were other women, a whole world of them in fact. Waiting just for him.


* * *


Neville sat on the edge of the bed, glancing out of the corner of his eye at David Rice standing before the fire. He didn't know what to do or, even, what he could do. And he didn't like Rice standing there like the man was guarding Neville. It was almost as if he was in gaol and awaiting a date with the hangman.

            He knew that whatever the Hun and that Crooksall were up to was no good. That much was as bleeding obvious as the nose on his face.

Only, Clive was involved in it, too. Just before the men had arrived, Clive was talking like he might do more than show them how to get to the house. That mixed things up into a pretty stew. Clive was his best mate, after all. He couldn't just desert him - even if he could get past Rice. And he couldn't tell on him, either.

            Here he was in their cottage whilst Clive was moving further and further away from him with every step. And David Rice was standing in front of the fire, his arms crossed over his chest. Standing between him and the door, he was - like he was some kind of guard in the cells of gaol.

            He pushed himself off the bed and, forcing a smile to his face, approached the blacksmith. "How long do you think they'll be then?" he asked, trying to keep his voice casual.

            Rice just watched him. He didn't move and he didn't speak. His eyes seemed to glower as they stayed on him. Neville knew something was wrong.

            He wondered why Crooksall had come back after they'd left and called Rice outside. Something was definitely wrong.

            Rice was so much bigger than him. If the man ever got a hold on him, Neville knew he'd be done for without so much as a fuss. He reckoned then that was their plan. He stopped walking towards the man when he reached the foot of the bed, his brain trying to comprehend this.

            The big question on it was what Rice was going to do to him. Only, he couldn't stop wondering if Clive knew what the men were planning all along. If he did, maybe Neville wouldn't be hurt too bad - as long as he didn't try to escape. They were mates, after all. Been since they were in nappies. Clive wouldn't let him get hurt. Maybe things would be all right, if he didn't do anything suspicious before Clive and the others got back.

            Only - what if Clive wasn't in on what the men were planning? Rice had called the other two comrades - and that made him either a Nazi or a communist. Them as well, most like. And Neville wasn't about to believe that Hun was one of those communists by any stretch.

            They were in danger - him and Clive.

            Neville's heart pounded in his chest. Clive could be about to die, just as soon as he showed those two where the Hall was and how to get in. Just like he was, whenever Rice got around to doing him in.

            Neville gulped and looked over at David Rice again, studying him for anything that would give him away.

            There was nothing. Just the smith watching him. Like a hawk watching a mouse.

            He glanced towards the door. He hadn't meant to. He understood instinctively that Rice would see it and know that he was now thinking about escape. He pulled his gaze back and gasped when he saw Rice take a step towards him.

            Neville looked back to the door, gauging the distance to it. He didn't think about his chances of reaching it, getting it open, or getting out into the night. He had to try, else he was dead.



Rice started across the room, moving directly towards the farmboy. He'd caught Nevie's glance at the door and reckoned he knew what that had meant. His hand went into his coat pocket and found the knife there.

            He might as well get it over with. That undertaker had been clear about killing him, like they were going to do to Clive. He'd been thinking about doing just that as he'd driven them out from the village, and it hadn't bothered him at all. It was him or them.

He had to stay in the village after the Hun had the brat and was gone back to Germany. He had a business there, and he didn't relish the idea of swinging on the end of one of His Majesty's ropes. With both boys dead and the Hun gone, there wouldn't be a risk of that.

He'd never killed anything bigger than that hog on his uncle's farm when he'd been sixteen. That hadn't bothered him - in fact, he'd enjoyed it. As he neared Neville, he wondered what it was going to be like to kill a man.

Only, he wished that the boy would run for the door. Anything. Instead, he stood beside the bed, frozen - like a hare caught in the beam of an electric torch.

Even the hog had tried to escape. It had struggled before he could get his knife to its throat, too. Its bucking and squirming had almost got it away from him - until he'd already cut its throat. But he'd managed to hold it down until it was too far gone even to struggle. Blimey! There'd been so much blood.

Nevie, though, just stood there, letting him draw closer with each step. The boy wouldn't even reach the door if he bolted now. Of course, he'd have never got through it, even if he'd run before David started towards him. David Rice was big all right - strong too - but he was fast. Faster than any farmboy he'd ever seen.

"Please don't, Rice," Neville said, his voice low and strained. "Don't do this, please. I won't tell anybody anything."

David Rice took another step, delighting now in how wide the boy's eyes were as they watched him approach. Definitely like a rabbit, Rice told himself. Knowing what was about to happen - the eyes wide with fear and the whole body frozen with it. He almost laughed. He had the knife by its hilt but kept it hidden in his pocket.

Neville bolted for the door suddenly, breaking out of his trance. Rice's big hand grabbed the boy's cotton vest and pulled him back towards himself. The smith's other hand came out of his coat pocket, still holding the knife, and encircled the boy's chest, entrapping both his arms.

"Don't hurt me, mate," Neville whimpered. "I'll do anything you want. Just don't hurt me." He felt the point of the blade through his vest as it rose up his front. "Oh, God!" He jerked then, lunging forward to break away from Rice's hold on him.

The smith tightened his grip, pulling the boy closer. His hand let go of the vest and moved to cover Neville's mouth.

The knife rose over the rest of the boy's chest and Neville felt its tip touch his neck. He looked down, along the sides of his nose and over the hand on his mouth at the big hand holding the knife to his throat.

            "No, please-!" he tried to yell but couldn't get his mouth open enough. The sound of his voice was muffled. He felt the metal move across his skin towards the side of his head.

            He felt the blade pierce his skin then, just below his ear. He started to scream but the knife slit quickly around over his adam's apple towards his other ear and the only sound he made was a gurgle.











"Eliza," I called to her softly as I entered Barry's room and saw her sitting beside him.

            She looked up and, seeing that it was I, smiled. "Hello, Robbie. Did you men get it all figured out with those interviews they asked for?"

            "I suppose," I answered, entering the room. "I did not like the chap from MI-5, though."

I looked down at Barry lying there. He looked so peaceful. And undisturbed.

"Who was it? The Germans?"

"So it appears. They think it's an Waffen-SS operation because it seems to have been quite bungled. And von Kys' widow is now in the SS - it was probably Gisele."

"Bungled?" she yelped. "Two men dead and Barry lying here wounded-?"

"The chap from MI-5 believes it was me they were after. I do too. Major Urnazy was a German agent - a double agent really - but there was little reason to kill him whilst we were on the hunt. At least, that MI-5 chap didn't indicate any."

"The other dead man?"

"They still don't know who he was."

"And Barry?"

"He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time apparently. The moment before he was hit, he'd been between me and the knoll where the assassins were-"

"Assassins, Robbie? How many of them were there?"

"Two from the footprints in the snow leading away from the knoll." I looked down at Barry again and noticed the beads of perspiration that covered his forehead. "Should he be perspiring so?" I asked.

"You might want to bathe his face with cool water." Elizabeth pointed to the pan sitting on the bedside cabinet nearest us and stood.

"Are you leaving then?" I asked as I wrung out the flannel before folding it and bending over to wipe Barry's face.

"I thought that you might like to be alone with him for a bit," she chuckled.

I looked up at her and saw the merriment dancing in her eyes. I took her seat, refolded the flannel and laid it across Barry's forehead. "I think that we need to chat a bit before you leave."


"The Comte de Paris has asked me for your hand, Eliza. I think he'll spring the big question on you in the near future."

"He what?" She stared at me. I saw the smile tugging at her lips. Now she was an actress.

"Don't act so shocked, Eliza," I told her, turning my attention to Barry. "You've known all along that the poor man was smitten with you."

"Well, yes, I supposed I did-"

"Oh, and I suppose you aren't smitten with him as well," I continued, knowingly laying it on a bit thick. I permitted myself a slight tug at the edges of my mouth but did not allow the smile to grow. I rather liked this game she and Barry were always working on me, now that the shoe was on the other foot for a change. "At least a little."

"I didn't think that it'd go this far, Robbie," she said softly and I picked on the seriousness that had entered her voice. "I'll admit that he's made me feel good - being with him, I mean. And I'd reckoned that I was in love with him a little. He is very interesting - but marriage?"

I looked up at her then. "Let your heart decide, dear Eliza," I said just as seriously. "He is a good man and he loves you - and you love him as well. Those are very good reasons to get married."

"I'll have to think about it, Robbie," she answered looking away. "Marriage is rather final, you know."

I shrugged. "It is. But love doesn't come along every day, either."

"This war that you think is coming - would Philippe survive it?"

"Will any of us survive it, Eliza? He's in a position to have a better chance than most men will." I pursed my lips. "And I think that you're being more than a bit selfish, if that's one of your criteria for marrying him."

"I'd like to have the opportunity to grow old with him and enjoy our children-"

"Wouldn't any woman - any human being - want that of her partner?" She hung her head. "It shouldn't be something that you use to decide whether you marry Philippe, Cousin. If he makes you happy and you do the same for him, you should enjoy the time that you have - no matter how long or short it is. No-one can beat chance or know the future."

"It is selfish," she mumbled shakily. "It's just that I want him with me forever-"

"Accept his proposal then. Enjoy whatever time God gives you."

She laughed and turned back to face me, her face flushed. Even in the darkening room, I could see that her eyes were puffy. "You sound just like the vicar, Robbie - or Aunt Alice."

I smiled. "Go on with you, lass. Go find Philippe and let the poor lad make his request." I studied her for a moment more and knew that I adored her as much as I did Barry. "Get that first proposal under your belt, Eliza."

She stood indecisively for another moment. "I should go see if I can find a decent cup of tea," she said finally. "Would you like some?"

"I think not. Enjoy, Eliza." I looked back at Barry then. "That's what you're supposed to do with life - enjoy it as it comes."

"Thanks, Robbie," she whispered and was gone.

            I remained seated on Barry's bed, watching him and letting my mind wander. I took his hand in mine and held it, trying in some way beyond the normal senses to impress on him my love.

            My mind wandered.

            It had been Urnazy who'd insisted on the stag hunt. He'd used Philippe to plan it, of course - at least, the part that I'd known about. He and a still unidentified confederate had plotted the rest of the scheme - my elimination at the hands of Gisele von Kys. The man from MI-5 had suggested that she was involved - even as he was saying nothing.

            So, Janus' wife had thought to pay me back for my shooting her in the stables of Schloß Kys.

           As she was involved, it was obvious why Barry had been shot - if, somehow, she had found out about us. Of course, she had. She'd had Urnazy as an informant - and both Barry and I had picked up on his interest in us last night.

It made sense in an insane sort of way for her to try to kill Barry. It would have been a way to hurt me before I was done in myself. As she had started to do to Janus in that damned stable. As she had done to Dagold, for that matter.

If I was right, I had to expect another attempt on me before Reynaud arrived at the weekend.

Barry could well be killed this time, too. And Elizabeth.

But why wasn't Gisele trying to get Willi back? And possibly finish what she'd started with young Dagold back at Schloß Kys?

I dropped Barry's hand and stood.

I began to pace. I couldn't wait until the Justice Minister of France finished his verbal duels and political games necessary to arrive at compromise with the other parties in the Government coalition.

I had promised Churchill that I would brief Reynaud and de Gaulle. The voice of armour in the French army had elected not to hear my briefing, relegating me to Philippe. That lessened the value of my giving information by at least half.

Why shouldn't I merely brief Philippe and let him get the information to his people?

I would be able to get Barry to a doctor who could at least speak English. He'd be in a top drawer hospital as he recovered. I would also have Elizabeth and myself out of France where Gisele was presumably acting like some American cowboy with unlimited guns and ammunition.

I wondered if Philippe had popped the question to Elizabeth yet. If he hadn't, it would probably be bad form merely to announce that I was going to brief him and, then, pack up my party and have young Pettigrew drive us back to Paris.


* * *


The narrow path up to the Hall from the cottages had been cleared since the last storm. But there were small patches of ice.

            Crooksall's foot landed on one and, before he had realised that he was on ice, he'd put his weight on it. Both Clive and Müller watched him try to keep his footing before both legs shot out from under him.

            Crooksall went down silently. Clive laughed.

            "Schweigen, Schweinhund!" Müller hissed at the boy and moved carefully to pull Crooksall to his feet. "This rubbish has to remain silent, comrade," he told the Englishman as he helped him up. "Until we reach the manor - then, I'll silence him permanently."

            "Clive, you've got to stay quiet, lad," Crooksall said quietly as he brushed snow off his coat and trousers. "We get caught and it's the dickens for all of us. You as well as us."

            "You were funny," he answered. "Like one of them puppets at the fair, you were." The boy managed to get control of himself, stifling the last of his chuckles.

            They trudged silently along the path after that - Clive in the lead with Crooksall between him and Müller.

After they'd walked what the Hauptscharführer was sure was a kilometre, he began to wonder if, perhaps, this English farmboy was as slow witted as he'd initially thought. Instead of being greedy as well as dense, he could well have alerted the nobleman to what the smith had paid him to do. He could now be leading them into a trap. And that ox he'd left back at the cottage to finish off the other dunce and his bumbling would be the cause of it.

He speeded up to catch the undertaker. "How much further?" he whispered to Crooksall.

Clive stopped when he heard the whispering and looked around at the two men behind.

"How much further?" Crooksall asked softly in English.

"See them woods jutting out there ahead of us?" Clive asked, pointing to the even darker area of the shadows in front of them. "Just after them, we'll come out amongst the outhouses and all. It's only a hop, skip, and jump from there to the kitchen - maybe a couple of furlongs as the crow flies."

Crooksall translated and Müller, squinting, tried to see into the shadows. "Why would he lead us to the kitchen? There's more danger of being found out there than any other part of the manor, isn't there? Don't servants do the aristocracy's work here in this country?"

Crooksall translated the essence of the Hauptscharführer's questions without including the man's suspicion.

Clive grinned cheekily at both men. "They leave the kitchen unlocked so eggs and stuff can be brought in and the fire started before the cook is up. Everything else is locked." His grin widened. "Maybe they expect us to come after them with pitchforks or somesuch - and they don't think we're smart enough to know that they're leaving the kitchen as a way in."

Müller nodded to himself as Crooksall translated. Clive turned and they began to move along the path again.

English nobles closed up their manors at night. Müller could understand their reasoning, but it would seem that English peasants were more revolutionary than German peasants were. At least, the aristocracy who ruled them thought that they were.

He smiled. Locked doors would not protect these relics of feudal times - not after the Führer had liberated all of the Volk and brought them under the same banner. Then, greater Germany would finally rid itself of the useless relic that the aristocracy was. No door would be able to withstand the force of history.

The quarter moon had broken through the clouds when they'd made their way through the woods. Crooksall saw the outbuildings and turned to Müller. He smiled as he pointed to them.

Like some child, the Hauptscharführer thought. Crooksall was as mindless as the farmboy. And nearly as useless. He wished that he could handle the undertaker the way he intended to do the boy. Unfortunately, the undertaker held his key to escape - and he had to carry the Obersturmbannführerin's son back to Germany.

They halted in the shadows of the outbuilding closest to the kitchen and Müller surveyed the manor carefully. The entire upper storey was dark, but he could see a faint light in the west wing on the first floor and another on the ground floor west of the kitchen.

"They had electric put in three years ago," Clive volunteered, "just before the old Lord died. That and the telephone."

"Where is everybody?" Müller grunted.

"Miss Murray and Cook, they're on the top floor," Clive told them after Crooksall had translated. "Miss Alice now - she keeps an apartment on the ground floor over there," he pointed to the west wing where Müller had seen the light. "Her and Miss Elizabeth both do." He leered.

Müller could see the glint of his eyes. "Who is this Elizabeth?"

"She's His Lordship's young cousin and quite an eyeful, I must say."

The Hauptscharführer reckoned that the boy had watched the young aristocrat through her windows. That made Clive both stupid and a leering pervert. "And the others?" he demanded, a sharper edge to his voice. Crooksall translated.

"All the sleeping quarters are on the first floor there."

"The child too?" Crooksall translated and the farmboy nodded. "And the escaped criminal as well?" Again, Clive nodded.

"Which rooms are theirs?"

Clive looked back to the woods beyond the outbuildings.

"Which rooms?" Müller growled.

Clive turned back to the other men before Crooksall could translate. He didn't look at them but intently looked at the dark shadow at their feet. "I've only been inside the Hall once. And that time only to his Lordship's study."

"So, he doesn't know then," Müller groaned. He instantly imagined them searching from room to room for the dead Graf's son and lover. He could only hope that there was only the old woman, the Graf's Schwul, and the child inside the house. He was beginning to revise downward the chances of his getting the brat out of England.

He reached into the left pocket of his greatcoat to find his dagger and looked at the farmboy gazing at the back of the manor. The dagger was the standard, ornamental issue that was part of the dress uniform of the Waffen-SS - with the German eagle holding the swastika enclosed in a circle of laurel leaves. Horst Müller had found that the steel was good however, and had the blade sharpened.

"Find out from him where the unlocked door is, comrade," he told Crooksall as he began to edge towards Clive. "That and anything unusual he might remember. But hurry! We must be back to this Coventry of yours and on the road to the coast as close to midnight as possible."

            Clive and Crooksall spoke together for several minutes while the Hauptscharführer inched closer to the farmboy. There were but inches separating them when he stopped moving and reached into his greatcoat for the dagger.

"Ask him if there is any reason that these aristocrats might guess that there is a threat to them," he told Crooksall, slipping the dagger out of his pocket so that it was pressed against the greatcoat's sleeve unseen.

Watching the farmboy shake his head and answer the question, the Hauptscharführer worked the blade of his dagger around so that it jutted out from his hand, ready for a quick jab to the boy's back.

Clive turned to peer up towards the Hall. Müller's right hand clamped over his mouth, pulling the boy back towards him while his left hand thrust the dagger into his back. The Hauptscharführer stabbed him three more times before he felt the body go limp in his arms. He held him close to himself for another minute to make sure that he was dead.

Müller let the body go and watched it collapse. He reached over and cleaned his dagger on the boy's jacket. "Let's get inside," he told Crooksall. "Just stay within the shadows, like we taught you at camp in the Fatherland."


* * *


John Pettigrew drove into the village. It hadn't taken the majordomo but minutes to find car keys for him. He hadn't even had to explain why he wanted them. That had surprised him; he had expected to be grilled about why he wanted to go out alone. After all, there'd been two men killed and one wounded only hours earlier.

He snorted. The French were always so damned efficient, even when they were being insanely inefficient. He only hoped that it wouldn't be as easy to get inside the château as it was to leave it.

It was Elizabeth who occupied his thoughts as he drove towards Deauville. She was a lovely thing - far more interesting than the girls his mother had had around for him to look over. Lord Petersholme's cousin was one he'd enjoy a bout with in the kip, but it'd have to be on the quiet. And take some planning. It was never just a quick roll in the hay when the girl was one of his sort.

He drove past the casino before parking. Less than a block ahead of him stood the Normandie and the Germans he reckoned to be there. According to the majordomo at the château, there was only one other hotel in the village - one that didn't cater to gentlefolk. It was also in a shabbier part of Deauville.

Germans were ostentatious in Pettigrew's experience, at least the Nazis were - those were men who thought themselves the equals of their betters. It would be logical not to call attention to themselves, to take rooms at a hotel that was simple and did not call attention to itself. It's what he would have done if this had somehow been his mission. The less exposure, the better.

Only, the few Germans he'd had occasion to meet didn't seem to think like that. They wanted people to be aware of them, of their presence. To Pettigrew's mind, that meant that the Jerry who'd tried to kill Petersholme and very nearly succeeded in doing so with the American would not try to hide himself.

He continued to sit in the motor car and studied the front of the hotel. He'd left the château enthused at doing something that would square him with Petersholme and have his dossier show him to be ingenious. He'd only thought far enough along that he found Jerry, but now he realised that wasn't even half of it. What happened if he did find one or more Germans encamped in Deauville?

He frowned as he accepted that, in itself, meant nothing. Germans were allowed to move about in France, just as they were in England. He had to make sure that the Germans he found were connected to the assassination attempt that morning. He had to have evidence.

"Bloody hell!" he groaned aloud to himself. "I'm as dense as dear old pater ever was," he mumbled to himself, continuing his train of thought. "I need a plan of action."

If he did find Germans at either hotel, he told himself, it wouldn't mean anything - not by itself, it wouldn't. He could envision himself bursting in and proudly reporting what he'd found to Brigadier Dunham agent at the château. The man would love that - le jeune homme Anglais proving what he probably already knew. Pettigrew felt his ears burn as he imagined the man laugh at him.

No, he needed more than just confirmation that there were Germans staying in Deauville. French internal security had to have that information already. He needed something that was more concrete than that. He needed something that would place any Germans he found inside the plot to kill Petersholme.

He grinned. He'd studied German at Marlborough, just as he had French and Latin. He reckoned that he could read anything he found in a room occupied by a German. He'd know all right if he had intelligence that the chap from MI-5 would have to act on.

His grin broadened as he thought of the kiss that Elizabeth Myers would give him once she knew how thoroughly bright he'd been in finding her cousin's attempted murderers. He could even smell her perfume. Of course, she would permit him to show her London after this was over. And he'd turn on all the charm his dear old mum was always saying that he had in order to make sure she fell into his bed.

Pettigrew pulled himself back from the direction his thoughts were taking. It didn't matter if Elizabeth became interested in him or not. He was, after all, an officer in His Majesty's Navy. Putting a stop to a plan to kill any man on His Majesty's business was his duty. Finding evidence of such a plan and being able to identify the killer would certainly gain the attention of both Churchill and the First Lord of the Admiralty.

So, how did he get into a Jerry's room, he asked himself.

Firstly, he'd have to learn if there was a Jerry at the hotel. The best way to do that, he reckoned, was simply to ask at the desk. Desk clerks were forthcoming if they were palming money in all those films he'd seen in the cinema; Pettigrew had no reason to believe they were any different in reality.

He pulled his wallet from the American's trousers and felt cloth gather up against his genitals in a strange way. He paused and curiously ground his bottom against the car seat. "Blast!" he grumbled. "The whole bloody cut of these pants is wrong."

He allowed himself a moment to wonder how the Yanks could endure the way the seam cut into a man's wedding tackle. American underpants weren't cut sensibly at all. He'd be walking queerly inside a day if he had to wear these things all the time. Thank God for sane English tailoring.

Pettigrew remembered his wallet then and opened it, turning so that he had some light to see by. He had twenty-five Francs left. He wished he had more. But it would have to do. He figured he could offer no more than five Francs to the desk clerk to learn if the hotel had Germans. Not if he was then to have enough to buy information as to whether any German he found was in his rooms or not.

He had ten pounds in his wallet. He quickly calculated that was worth more than fifty Francs at the official exchange rate. It should be enough for what he wanted.

 He pulled the Francs from his wallet and shoved them into his front pocket. Placing his wallet in his greatcoat, he stepped out of the car and started towards the  Normandie.



He strolled leisurely up to the front desk, just as he imagined Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes would do on a similar case.

            He smiled kindly at the balding man behind the desk and asked in French: "Do you have any Germans registered? I'm looking for a friend who was supposedly was coming to Deauville."

The clerk opened a ledger and nodded. "Oui, Monsieur. Two. A Gräfin von Kys and her aide."

"Gräfin?" John Pettigrew asked, picking through his memory for translations of German titles.

The clerk nodded dourly. "Countess for us in the civilised world, Monsieur," he said softly in a Breton dialect.

"Why would a countess be here at Christmastime?" Pettigrew wondered aloud.

"To play the games at the casino - she said."

Even through the dialect, the sub-lieutenant made out the man's disbelief. "And she has yet to visit the casino?" he asked.

"Is she the friend you seek, Monsieur?"

"Definitely not. The chap I'm looking for attended university with me - in England."

"Mais oui! This Boche is a cow - no! A hog! She eats like one and wallows in her rooms as if it were a sty."

Pettigrew pulled a five Franc note from his pocket and placed it near the clerk's hand. It seemed to disappear into thin air. "Is she in now?" he asked.

The clerk shrugged. "I have not seen her go out this evening and it is most difficult to miss her."

"Her aide? What about him?"

"He's called Stefan Schmidt. I saw him leave almost twenty minutes ago."

"Stefan Schmidt?" Pettigrew pulled another five Franc note from his pocket and, watching more carefully, was still unable to see the clerk pick it up. It still disappeared before his eyes. "I wonder if this is he's same Stefan Schmidt I knew at university?" he mumbled. "What room is he in?" he asked more forcibly.











Alice Adshead couldn't sleep. She'd tried to find a comfortable position for what seemed like hours. She'd fluffed her pillows twice and even got up and smoothed out the creases in the lower sheet once. Nothing had helped. She was still wide awake.

She assumed that her insomnia was because she wasn't in her own bed. That, and this nasty business of secret agents planning to attack Bellingham Hall.

Max and Dagold had prevailed upon her to move out of the apartment on the ground floor that had been her home for twenty years and take up temporary residence in the guest apartments of the first floor. She now lay immediately above the kitchen in the second room off the landing. Only Willi's room separated her from the landing itself.

At least, young Willi was safe, with the old Earl in Easthampton-Mares. But that poor Jorsten lad wasn't; and, she guessed, neither Molloy nor she were as well.

She'd always thought being so far from Coventry, from any place large, had been ideal. It had shielded the farm, and the core of Petersholme itself, from the waves of turmoil that began crashing over England with the new century. Now, however, she realised that the Hall's very seclusion worked against its owners.  They were open to anything that the Hun chose to throw at them. Wide open. And too far away for the city to be any help before it was too late. They were now - isolated. She decided that was the proper word to explain their situation.

Her hand slipped over the side of the mattress to the floor to find the loaded shotgun she'd put there when she went to bed. Her teeth clamped tight as she frowned. Just let one of those Huns try something at the Hall.

The Hall was defended, though. She had the two men - and herself. They were enough.

There was always room for one more head in the trophy room. She'd do it too - mount it herself - if one of those barbarians dared to threaten her home and guests. The idea of something like that happening was so un-English that it was preposterous. Only, both Molloy and young Jorsten seemed seriously convinced that it would happen.

She wished that Robert were here. He would be able to represent Petersholme properly in this mess. Her nephew seemed to know instinctively what to do at times such as these.

She gritted her teeth at the exterior kitchen door protesting being opened and wondered irritably why servants on their own couldn't think to oil hinges. She assumed   the men were bringing in wood for the stove and attempted to clear her brain of everything so that she could somehow slip off to sleep.

She relaxed and permitted her mind to wander. She could feel her body releasing the tension that had held her since Lord Molloy arrived, sleep beginning to touch her.

A stair groaned, sounding as if it were right beside her bed.

Alice sat up with a start and pulled her alarm clock to her.  She swallowed hard as her fingers found the clock's hands and told her that it wasn't yet even midnight. Part of her had known as much, but she'd almost ignored its warning.

Only, the groan of the outer kitchen door had meant someone had entered the Hall. If she actually had heard it.

She told herself that she'd not really heard anything. That she was having a case of nerves. That she was being a hysterical woman. Only … She was so sure that she had heard the kitchen door being opened.

She pushed off the bed and pulled her dressing gown about her. She knelt beside the bed and found the loaded shotgun where she'd put it. She stood again, facing the door, her index finger automatically moving to the trigger.

"So, you came after all, did you?" she hissed between clinched teeth. "Despicable rubbish!"

She started for the door, moving carefully so as not to make any noise. There, she paused and pressed her ear against the thick oak. She knew that she wasn't likely to hear anything from the corridor through it, not unless it was as loud as a cavalry charge; but she had to be as careful as possible.

Pressed against the wall, she opened the door slowly. In spite of the situation, she smiled that this door's hinges had been oiled. It opened silently. She inched into the doorway, holding the shotgun at waist-level as she peered into the darkness of the corridor for anything that should not be there.

The darkness steadily grew more impenetrable the deeper into the house that she looked. Molloy and Jorsten had rooms farther down the corridor than hers was. Neither of them would have heard the kitchen outer door.

She inched further into the doorway and looked towards the landing. There was more light there coming from the quarter moon shining through the cathedral window. If the sounds she'd heard were real, if they meant the Huns had actually invaded the Hall, their attack would come from there. She could make out a form, deciding that it was the chair directly across the corridor from the door to Willi's room.

Movement caught her eye and she squinted, concentrating on the top of the stairs.

Her teeth clinched tighter. She made out a figure rising from the chair. She stepped into the hallway, aiming the shotgun towards it. Her eyes were mere slits as she tried to make it out. The figure stretched and groaned softly.

Alice allowed herself to relax slightly then. She was sure that the figure was Molloy. She nodded as she accepted that the men had set up a watch at the entrance to their bed chambers. And, like men everywhere with a woman, they hadn't bothered to include her in their plans.

She decided it had been Max that she had heard before and wondered idly if she should join him in his vigil or return to her bed. She decided to say something to him and took a step out into the corridor.

Behind Max, at the head of the stairs, a figure materialised. It was far shorter and more indistinct than Molloy was. Alice stared spellbound at it for a moment as it rose up and blended with the figure she knew to be Molloy's.

Molloy grunted once. There was silence then as the combined figures seemed to melt to the floor.

The figure hissed something in German - Alice made out the word for child - and another figure materialised at the head of the steps and started towards Willi's room.

The threat to Willi pulled Alice out of her stupour, galvanising her to action. She raised the shotgun and aimed at the figure making its way towards the child's room. And fired both barrels.

"Scheiße!" a hoarse voice growled.

Alice watched as the figure nearest Willi's room stopped, pausing for a moment before beginning to collapse in on itself. She couldn't move.

She felt, more than heard, an angry hum near her ear and a thud as Müller's bullet hit the oaken door jamb behind her. "Crooksall?" the same German-accented voice called.

Her eyes registered the nearly continuous flashes that began in the corridor behind her then. Bullets hit the wall, sending sparks from the stone. They hit furniture as well, before finding that combined figure huddled before her in the corridor.

Alice's first feelings were the hand grabbing her shoulder and pulling her against a warm, smooth chest. "It's all right, Fraü Alice," Dagold Jorsten told her. "There is no more danger. They're dead."

"Molloy?" she asked, her voice muffled against his shoulder.

"I think-" he began but Alice shivered violent against him. "No," he continued. "I'll hold you more and watch carefully, yes?"


* * *


Pettigrew closed the door and leaned back against it. He was in Stefan Schmidt's room, and it had only cost him his last fifteen Francs to get the key from the desk clerk. It certainly had proved to be a good thing that the French weren't fond of the Jerries.

He took a deep breath and looked slowly around the room, wondering where a man would leave anything incriminating.

He quickly pulled off his gloves and unbuttoned his greatcoat before walking across the room towards the desk beneath the window. He opened drawers and quickly shut them when he saw there was nothing there. It took only moments for him to see that the desk held nothing that would identify Stefan Schmidt for him.

He opened the wardrobe and studied the German's shirts and trousers hanging there. Neither the workmanship nor the material were of what Pettigrew would call superior quality. They were, however, of good quality and indicated a man who took pride in his appearance.



Stefan Schmidt entered the hotel lobby in time to see the hotel clerk hand a key to a handsome, young man. A man with hair that was so dark that it was nearly black; yet, with a complexion so light that Schmidt could make out the freckles on his jaw even across the lobby.

Smiling, he watched as the dark-haired youth took the stairs to the first floor two at a time. And wished that he had a few hours to come to know the other man and, perhaps, to explore mutual pleasures.

He shook his head sadly. A few hours were something that he did not have. He had to develop a scheme that would enable the Gräfin to kill the English Baron. It had to be one that left her beholden to him enough that she would see to his promotions while protecting him from someone like the late Major Urnazy fingering him as a Schwul gigolo. And it had to make him safe from the fat woman's attempts to hide her mistakes. There was no time for pleasures of any kind.

A scheme. That was what he needed. One that would get him safely back to Berlin, even if the Gräfin had to die to make it so. And it was already too late for anything to work - the château had to be swarming with the French police by now. He started across the lobby.

"Monsieur Schmidt!" the desk clerk called to him in German.

Stefan arched an eyebrow in question as he approached the man. "Is something the matter?" he asked when he was close enough to speak the words in a normal voice.

"Your friend from the English university has gone to your room, sir," the man told him and Stefan was able to bite back his surprise before he had shown it. "I gave him the extra key just now."

"The young man with the dark hair?" Schmidt asked quietly. The clerk nodded and Stefan smiled. "I thought I'd recognised him but then - I did not expect to see him in Deauville this time of the year." He nodded. "I'll go up to my room and greet him properly." He handed the clerk a ten Franc note and thanked him.



John Pettigrew was still feeling through the pockets of the trousers hanging in the wardrobe when he heard a sound behind him. He froze when he felt the muzzle of a pistol shoved up against his back.

            "Come out - slowly," the German said in halting French. "Your hands - up."

            Pettigrew gulped down his fear and began to back slowly out of the wardrobe, his hands holding the back of his head.

"I speak German," he said as his feet reached the floor of the room. He hoped that if he was helpful to the Jerry behind him that he would live long enough to sort out a way out of this mess. He tried not to think of how weak his legs felt.

"Turn around then," Schmidt said in his own language.

Pettigrew did so, slowly. And found himself looking into the muzzle of a Luger aimed at a point between his eyes.

"Take off your coat. Drop it on the floor."

Again, the sub-lieutenant did as he was told, his gaze never wavering from the hole at the end of the machine pistol pointed at him.

"Good!" Schmidt told him. "Now, I can see you if you try something." He studied Pettigrew for a moment. "You are English, yes?"

Pettigrew nodded.

"You are a very foolish Engländer. You steal into the rooms of an officer of the Waffen-SS, and you bring no weapon. Unglaublich!"

"I-" Pettigrew felt his ears burn as he accepted how big a fool he had proved to be.

"Most foolish indeed, Engländer."

Pettigrew looked from one elbow sticking out past his face to the other. "May I take my hands down now?" Schmidt nodded and the sub-lieutenant let both arms fall to his side.

"Sit there at the desk," the German told him. "I had many questions, Engländer, immediately when I found you in my room," he continued as the Englishman moved to the chair and sat, "but I am most interested, I think, in why you are here."

Pettigrew gazed at the blond standing beside the bed, trying to think of an explanation for his presence that would not sign his death warrant.

"I am waiting, Engländer." He grinned. "And I hope that your excuse is a good one."

"I-" The sub-lieutenant decided at that moment that he would paint himself as a common thief. The German would simply call the police, and John Pettigrew was reasonably certain that he could convince them that he was not a criminal and to let them go. He felt certain that Petersholme would vouchsafe for him. "I reckoned that you'd have some valuables," he answered. "I figured to pinch them for myself."

Schmidt studied him for a moment, his eyes hooded. "I think that you should remove your shoes, Engländer. Then, your shirt and trousers."


The Obersturmführer's smile broadened. "Of course, if you would prefer to be shot-" He raised the Luger so that it was pointing at the centre of Pettigrew's chest. "It makes no difference to me when you die."

The sub-lieutenant gulped. "You're going to kill me then?" he asked hesitantly.

"Perhaps. Perhaps not. I haven't yet made a decision."

"Well, I would prefer that you didn't."

Schmidt laughed. "You English, you have such a delightful sense of humour. Now, if you will please undress?"

"If I don't?" Pettigrew asked, looking directly at the blond man.

Schmidt shrugged. "I will kill you."

"And if I do?"

"We'll see then, yes?"

Pettigrew lifted a leg and crooked it over his other leg. He quickly unlaced his shoe and took it off before repeating the action with his other foot. He knew that he had no other choice. He quickly unbuttoned his shirt and slipped it over his shoulders. "The trousers too?" he asked, his voice announcing his resignation to being in just his pants with this man.

            "The trousers too, yes. Pull the belt out of them as well and hand it to me." Schmidt smiled. "And do so slowly, Engländer - unless, of course, you want me to shoot you so soon."

Pettigrew unbuckled the belt and pulled it out of his trousers. The thought of using it to lash the German's arm did come to mind but, nearly as soon as it had appeared, he rejected the idea. He was five or six feet from the blond and sitting - and the German had a pistol aimed at his chest. He could see that there was no chance that he would survive the attack. He rose from his chair slowly and handed the man the belt.

"Remain standing and remove the trousers, Engländer." Schmidt watched the dark-haired Englishman unzip the corduroys and push them over his bottom. As they bunched around his ankles, the German said: "Turn around now and put your hands behind your back."

"What're you going to do?" Pettigrew asked, his mouth suddenly dry as he stared at the Luger still pointed at him.

"I'm going to bind your hands with the belt, Engländer. That is all for the moment."

Pettigrew turned around slowly and moved his hands to rest on the upward curve of his buttocks. He prayed that the Jerry wasn't going to kill him, not nearly naked as he was. He thought that a gentleman shouldn't die in such a way that would embarrass his family.

Schmidt quickly tied his hands and crab-walked him to the bed. He pushed Pettigrew face-down onto the mattress and pulled his trousers off of him. "Let's see who you are, Engländer," he said conversationally as he searched Pettigrew's pockets. "Coins, keys to a motor car," he said, providing a verbal inventory of the Englishman's pockets. "But no wallet, no identification papers - nothing." He moved to the desk and laid the trousers over the back of the chair before glancing down at Pettigrew watching him over his shoulder. "I have never been fond of cyphers, Engländer," he explained. "Where would you have carried your wallet if not in your trousers?" He glanced at the greatcoat on the floor before the wardrobe. "Perhaps there in your coat?" he asked rhetorically and stepped over Pettigrew's outstretched legs to reach it.

He picked up the coat and rifled through its pockets. He grinned and pulled the sub-lieutenant's wallet from the breast pocket. Schmidt laid the greatcoat over the trousers on the back of the desk chair and opened the wallet.

Pettigrew watched fearfully as the German pulled out his identification and studied it. The game was up as he'd known it was the moment he found himself looking down the wrong end of the man's Luger. He tried to remember why he'd be so hellbent on doing something as stupid as entering Jerry's room without even a weapon on himself. He just hoped the blond man would allow him to dress before killing him.

"Was bedeutet 'Royal Navy', Engländer?" Schmidt asked, tripping over the English words.

"I'm an officer in His Majesty's Navy," he told him and was glad that his voice did not betray his fear.

"And why is this officer in the English Navy in my room going through my things? Are you a spy, Engländer?"

"No! I'm an aviator, not a spy."

"You were then thinking to fly your aeroplane into the hotel? Into my room?"

"Under the Geneva Convention, I only have to give you my name, rank, and serial number. I'm John Pettigrew, Sub-lieutenant, Royal Navy. Do you want my serial number?"

Schmidt shrugged. "I have no use for it." He crossed to the bed and sat beside the bound Englishman. "So, Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew, what am I going to do with you now that I have captured you?"

Pettigrew understood the playful tone in the blond's voice, but he sensed too that the man was in no rush to kill him. He turned on his side to see the German better. "You could start with giving me your name and rank," he said perkily.

Schmidt's eyes twinkled. "Yes, I do like the English sense of humour very much. We are to pretend that I am your prisoner now, yes?"

Pettigrew thought better of answering that and remained silent.

"Ah, I see no harm in this pretence - as long as I'm not expected to untie you - I am called Stefan Schmidt and I am an Obersturmführer in the Waffen-SS, a rank analogous to leutnant in the Wehrmacht."

"It's nice to meet you then, Stefan," Pettigrew said. "I'd shake your hand but I seem to be tied up at the moment."

Schmidt stared at him for a moment before he accepted that the man's words were nothing more than more of his sense of humour. He laughed as he stood and studied the dark-haired Englishman appraisingly.

John Pettigrew reminded him of his sex-partner from officer-training school - young-looking with a nearly hairless body. Handsome like a boy still at gymnasium. And with a plump bottom that invited plundering. He felt himself stir beneath his wool trousers.

And why shouldn't he? It would cleanse the feel of the Gräfin from him better than all the soap and water in the world could. The sub-lieutenant would not stop him. He could not stop him, even if he tried. It would be a pleasure to feel such a fine body under his again. He could simply kill the Englishman afterwards if he acted as if he would report their tryst.

But, firstly, he needed more information.

"You are with Baron Petersholme's party at the château of Minister Reynaud, yes?"

Pettigrew studied him. "I don't think that I should answer that question, Obersturmführer," he said finally.

"You don't know," Schmidt told him playfully. "I may want to defect but only to the English."

Pettigrew stared at the young German. Defect? And not kill him? Perhaps this was going to be his lucky day after all. "Were you with the gunmen who tried to kill Lord Petersholme this morning?"

Schmidt had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. It had been so easy to get this Englishman to give him the core information that he'd sought. Instead, he said: "The Reich is also a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, Sub-lieutenant. What was it you said? I need only give you my name, rank, and serial number, yes?"

"But you said you wanted to defect!"

"I said that I might want to, John." He reached down and touched the small of the Englishman's back.

Pettigrew jerked at the touch and turned onto his back, his gaze locked on the German's face. "What do you think you're doing?" he demanded.

"You're very handsome." Stefan smiled as his fingers slipped under the waist of Pettigrew's underpants. Your bum looks delectable."

"You!" Pettigrew's face burnt with embarrassment. "I'm not that sort."

"Perhaps not, John. But you want to live-" Stefan smiled at him as his other hand went to the other side of the Englishman's underpants. "And, if I do let you live, you would like nothing better than to have me defect, using your good offices I imagine. That would ensure a promotion, would it not?"

Pettigrew watched in shock as the blond pulled his pants over his legs and tossed them behind him.

"Lovely. I definitely like what I'm seeing of England's youth, John," Schmidt told him, gently sliding his fingertips along the inside of his thigh from the knee to the bollocks.

"I don't-!" Pettigrew yelped. In spite of himself, he felt himself begin to grow.

"You're a virgin? I'll take great care then, lieber Hans. Turn over."

Pettigrew stared into the man's eyes, unable to think of anything to say. He felt his hand move along his hip to cup his bum. "Please-?" he groaned.

"I've got lotion for skin; it won't hurt at all," Stefan told him as he turned him over to expose his bottom.


* * *


Schmidt smiled at the desk clerk as he walked through the lobby. He was sated; and he was surprised to find that he was thinking much more clearly than he had been the past few months that he had been on duty in Berlin.

Yes, Sub-lieutenant Pettigrew had certainly been a fortuitous elixir. But what did he do with him now? That question pulled him up short as he reached the drive in front of the Normandie. What in the devil did he do with him?

He could kill him but that would mean that he'd have to dispose of the body. There would be too much opportunity to be caught.

He could leave him in the hotel room, bound and gagged. That would probably be the easiest course as the Englishman would not be found until after he and the Gräfin were already on their way back to Germany. John Pettigrew would still be there to satisfy him with his body until they left but would be in no position to alert the authorities to his presence in Deauville.

Pettigrew had not been in the hunting party; Schmidt would have seen him if he had been. Yet, he was now in Deauville hours after the attack - an officer of the English Navy. If nothing else, his presence indicated that security had been ratcheted up since the morning - with English intelligence agents and probably their French counterparts now at the château to prevent another attack against the Baron.

It would be foolhardy to attempt to kill the man now. They'd had surprise working for them in the woods; it would not be there again. If he and the Gräfin attempted an attack on the château, they would be killed. Or captured - and France had the guillotine. And he preferred that his head remained attached to his body.

No, any attempt they made now would make no sense. The risks were simply too high.

The hatred Gisele von Kys felt towards the Englishman, however, was illogical. As Schmidt strolled towards the casino, he could see that clearly. The whole operation had been insane from its very inception. Thinking on it now, he was even willing to wager that she had not cleared their plans with superiors in the Waffen-SS. In addition to putting him, Müller, and herself in harm's way, she had endangered Sicherheitsdienst operations in both France and England.

Because she had birds between the ears. Many more birds than just one.

The Obersturmführer didn't doubt that Gisele could avoid a reprimand once they were back in Berlin. She had the money and the connections that placed her on the same level as the highest echelons of the service. That was something he didn't have.

The commandant of the officer training school had warned him to be careful with her. Even from the Mädelbund, she'd been able to have one man face a firing squad. A lover from university, it had been rumoured. That had been all over Berlin two months ago. Everyone had heard about it.

Now, she was his commanding officer. His life was in her hands. And he could see that it rested there most precariously.

He had seen her flub her assignment. And she knew he had. Even if he did develop a scheme that got them into the Reynaud château, allowed them to kill Petersholme, and escape safely, she could still have him dragged out before a firing squad himself.

That was not an attractive thought. Stefan Schmidt enjoyed living and breathing. He especially enjoyed his body being just as healthy as it was.

He would not become indispensable to the Obersturmbannführerin if he found a way for her to finish what they had come to France for - and escape afterwards. Pulling her chestnuts out of the fire would not help him with her.

She would see him as a liability - someone who knew something dark about her. It did not take a university professor to guess what the woman could do to ensure his silence and her continued power in the service. Would do, he corrected himself.

And if he did not devise a scheme for them to kill the English Baron?

He did not want to think about it. It was enough to know that he almost certainly wouldn't live to see Berlin again.

He was dead whatever he did - by an English bullet or a German one. And that simply would not do. There were too many things that Stefan Schmidt wanted to do now that he had pulled himself out of the poverty of his childhood.

His was not a pretty dilemma.

He shoved his hands deeper into his greatcoat as his gait slowed.

There had to be a way for him to escape the death staring him in the face.

He chuckled as he remembered how he'd told John Pettigrew that he was thinking about defecting. In his room and with the proximity of sex with the Englishman, the idea had only been a ruse to lessen the other man's fear of dying. Now, he wondered if he should actually consider it as a possible course of action. It would certainly keep him alive.

Only, he knew very little that could be his coin with the English - or even the French. And he knew that he didn't want to throw himself on the mercy of the French. The Sicherheitsdienst had very obviously infiltrated both their army and their security apparatus. Only that morning he'd killed one mole while the Gräfin killed the other. The French would not be happy to see him. Besides, the eagle's talons would soon destroy them. If he were to defect, it would have to be to the English.

The English, however, would want far more from him than he could give. He knew so little. His knowledge would be useless to them. He couldn't even speak their language.

Even if, somehow, they accepted him and gave him his freedom on their island, what would he do to keep himself alive? He spoke no English. He knew too little about anything to be valuable. He'd starve in England. A slower, more agonising death than a bullet to the head perhaps, but still death.

            A motorcar accelerated nearly beside him and he looked up. Across the motorway, he saw the lighted casino rising before him out of the night. He nodded to himself - life was indeed a gamble. Each breath a man took was.

            He pivoted and started back towards the Normandie. He wanted to go back to Germany. He wanted the life that was there waiting for him to live it.

If killing the Baron meant his death, if not killing him also meant his death, and if defection was not an option, what did he have left? What was a safer gamble than those three options?

If only Obersturmbannführerin Gisele von Kys didn't exist.

Stefan Schmidt grinned suddenly.

If she didn't exist, his life would be perfect. And he could make sure she didn't exist much longer. That she no longer lived before she do anything to him. All he had to do was to put her in a position where the English killed her.

Not the French - the Reich would destroy them soon enough. The English - with their channel of water to protect them from the Wehrmacht. No-one in Berlin would know then.

His grin broadened. He could even use Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew to arrange things so that the Gräfin died in Deauville. And it would obligate lieber Hans to him. He felt his Latte grow inside his trousers at the thought.

All he had to do was convince the English that he wanted to become a double agent. If they paid him money, he would even give them titbits of useless information. Better, he would tell his superiors in Berlin and let them select the information he gave the English. That way, his allegiance to the Fatherland would never be questioned.











He'd been bloody buggered!

            John Pettigrew sniffed and rubbed his face across the pillow to get rid of his tears. Here he was - a grown man - and crying like some child.

But if any man had a right to cry, he did. Damn it! He'd enjoyed the bloody Jerry ploughing his arse. He'd been hard from the moment he felt Stefan Schmidt's pubic bush crushing against his bumcheeks. He'd pushed back to get the man back inside him, just like the woman he'd serviced the last two days. And he'd had an orgasm with the German's dick buried in him.

He'd experimented as a child. He guessed all the boys at Marlborough did when puberty started and hormones began to rage. He'd even let a couple of lads in his backdoor as they had him. But they'd been just lads then - maybe age thirteen. Just first formers.

He was a man now, however. More importantly, he was an officer in the Royal Navy. He'd still had an orgasm whilst being buggered.

Worse, he was erect now, just thinking about it. His dick caught between his belly and the bed covers. One of his own socks stuck in his mouth. Wanting it again. Thank God the German had dressed and left after having his way with him. He'd die of shame if the man saw that he was ready for more.

His legs were bound to the foot of the bed. He tried to pull one leg and then the other up towards his body. He tried to bring them together. Nothing he could think of worked. He was bound spread-eagled and securely.

He'd had sex women. He thought them beautiful, especially unclothed and waiting to be ravished. He'd never felt that way with any boy when he was experimenting in school; he didn't feel that way towards Stefan Schmidt now.

He just wanted the German's hard cock in his bum again.

That made no sense at all.

Either he was a bloody invert or he wasn't. Either he wanted women as sex partners - or he wanted men. Either he wanted what was natural or he didn't. Yet, somehow, he wanted both. And, right now, he wanted the Jerry ploughing his arse again. His body did.

He forced himself to concentrate on his hands. Schmidt had taken the belt off after he'd done the nasty on him and tied each hand to either side of the bedboard. Tight too. He couldn't even move them, much less get his fingers on the rope.

He tried rubbing the rope holding the sock in his mouth against the pillow. He tried to pull his lower jaw back so the damned rope would slip past his lip. The rope rubbed his face but didn't bulge. The damned thing was tied tight behind his head.

He hoped Stefan returned soon, he was freezing.

His bottom felt like he was sitting on a cake of ice. His whole body did. It was cold in Stefan's room. He wished he wasn't naked. He wished he could think of something other than the bloody Jerry sodomising him.

He wished he could reach his erection.


* * *



Dagold switched on the electric torch and, together with Alice, surveyed the corridor before them. Handing her the torch, he pulled bullets from his dressing gown and reloaded the ammunition clip of his pistol.

"Fraü Alice," he said as he snapped the clip back into place, "reload your shotgun. I want you to train it on the single one there near Willi's room while I turn on the lamp and see to Lord Molloy and the other one."

"They all look dead to me," she said in a small voice, the enormity of what had just happening beginning to descend upon her.

"They do, gnädige Fraü, but we would not want a surprise, would we?" He crossed the corridor and turned on the lamp sitting on the table near where Molloy and his murderer had fallen.

"Hauptscharführer Müller!" Jorsten growled as he recognised the German.

"Who?" Alice asked.

"My Graf's sergeant major, Fraü Alice. He is - was - what the Party calls an old fighter, a Party paramilitary since before the Nazis came to power.

Müller was on his back, his eyes staring blankly at the ceiling; his Lordship laid face-down on the floor. Jorsten moved to the two bodies and knelt at their heads, his Luger pressed against Müller's forehead as he reached for the Hauptscharführer's wrist. The dagger slipped from the man's fingers as Dagold felt for a pulse.

He smiled when he felt none. He studied the blood-soaked front of Müller's coat. He nodded to himself. Those interminable days of target practice had proved useful after all. He had hit Müller four times in the chest and once in the stomach.

Dagold turned to Lord Molloy then. He reached for his wrist but knew the man was already dead. Blood still seeped from the wound between his ribs just left on his spine where the Hauptscharführer had stabbed him. There was no doubt in his mind that the dagger had entered the man's heart.

"Ärmer Herr Molloy," he mumbled as he felt nothing and lay the man's arm back on the floor. He looked up at Alice then. "Lord Molloy is dead," he said, his voice a rasp in the stillness of the corridor. "So is his murderer."

"And this one?" she asked through clinched teeth, her face a mask of resolve, her shotgun still pointed at Crooksall's prone body.

Crossing the hallway, Jorsten turned the body onto its back with his foot. He knew the man was dead just from the blood that covered the front of his greatcoat. From the looks of it, both of Alice's shots had hit him in the chest. He felt for a pulse but found none. "He is dead also, Fraü Alice," Dagold told her, looking up at her.

She seemed to shrink before his eyes. Her body shuddered. He stood and moved quickly to hold her. "It is all right, gnädige Fraü. They are dead, and we are safe."

"Are we?" she whispered and buried her face against the breast of his dressing gown. "Are we really? Will we ever be safe again, Dagold? Will this ever be over?"

"You must take control of yourself, Fraü Alice. We must search through the Hall and ensure that it is secure."

He felt her take a deep breath. Her body stiffened against him. She lifted her head and met his gaze. "I'm sorry," she sniffed.

"Are you all right now?"

"Yes. It's just - I never believed something like this could happen in England."

"Miss Murray - she lives here in the Hall, doesn't she?" he asked.

Alice glanced towards the stairs. "Upstairs, in the servants' quarters. She and Cook both do-"

"Are there others here as well?"

"No. Only the two of them."

"It would be best if you awakened her then. We need to secure the Hall. She can arm herself with his Lordship's pistol-"

"I'll take that and give her the shotgun," Alice said firmly.

 Jorsten studied her for a moment and she turned back to meet his gaze. "Have you ever fired a pistol, Fraü Alice?" he asked finally.

"My late brother insisted that I learn to fire one - during the Great War."

He nodded. "You'll take Lord Molloy's pistol then. Please bring Miss Murray as quickly as you can."



Dagold had dressed by the time Alice returned with Jane Murray. Cook followed behind them, peeking between her fingers. He had pulled on his coat as well.

"Will you be going out then?" Alice asked when she saw him as she reached the first floor landing.

"After we've looked through the Hall. We need to know if the property is safe as well as the house."

"And we'll need to call in the police," she said.

"Oh, my God!" Jane Murray groaned, staring at carnage at the beginning of the corridor. Cook groaned and ran back up the stairs.

Jorsten quickly glanced to her and followed her gaze to the dead men.

"It is a nasty mess," Alice said, moving to take her in her arms. "But it's all right now, Jane." She turned to Jorsten. "Cook can cut and chop any meat you put in front of her, Dagold, but she's afraid of a little mouse." She nodded towards the carnage. "We've found something else that she's afraid of."

"Miss Murray, can you fire a shotgun?" Dagold asked.

"Me?" the woman asked in surprise, pulling her gaze from the dead men to look at Alice and then Jorsten. "I-"

He smiled. "It's all right. All you have to do is aim it and everything within five metres will be hit."

"I couldn't-"

"We must make sure there's no-one else in the Hall, Jane," Alice told her.

"You and Fraü Alice will need to cover me as I look for more of these men. Can you do that, Miss Murray?"

"I - I guess I could," she mumbled, looking down at the shotgun at Alice's side. Fearfully she looked back up at Jorsten. "Do you think they're still here?" she asked in a small voice.

"No," he answered without hesitation, knowing that he had to soothe her doubts quickly. "Anyone who might have been with those two would have heard the gunshots and then our voices and us moving around - they also wouldn't have seen their friends return. They would have escaped - if there were any others. But we do need to make sure - so that we all remain safe."

"I heard them," Alice told them. "I heard them enter the kitchen." She shook her head. "I thought I was imagining it - just an old woman allowing herself to become hysterical." She chuckled at her comment, knowing that she was helping Jane Murray to grapple with the reality of violent death before her. "It was only when I heard a sound on the stairs that I knew I wasn't dreaming."

Her eyes widened. "I opened my door and that's when I saw-" She sobbed. "I saw that man kill Lord Molloy," she gasped, tears suddenly rimming her eyes.

Dagold shuddered involuntarily as he thanked the God above that it had not been him who had stood guard over the corridor when Horst Müller attacked.

He glanced over his shoulder at the body of Maximillian Molloy lying at the entrance of the corridor, shame spreading through him like a gorge. His Lordship's death had taken the murderers just long enough that he and Fraü Alice could kill them.

And, now, they had to be in control of themselves - all three of them - in order to search the Hall. Or Lord Molloy would have died in vain.

He forced his shoulders back and faced the women. "We must be strong now, each of us. There is much to do and no time for us to become hysterical."

He took a step towards the head of the stairs. "I'll go down first and watch my right side. Fraü Alice will follow three steps behind me and watch our left side. Miss Murray, you'll stay here at the top of the steps and watch for any movement. If you see any, aim at it and fire."

Alice squared her shoulders and nodded as Jane Murray muttered a weak "yes, sir". Dagold took the first step and tried to swallow his heart that had somehow lodged in his throat.



"We seem to be clear of them," Alice said as they stood in the kitchen.

"Should I make tea?" Miss Murray asked, looking from one to the other of them.

"Go tell Cook that she's safe and we need her in the kitchen," Alice told her.

Dagold frowned. He would like coffee. That would settle his nerves better than anything. But coffee was one thing the English seemed totally incapable of making. "It will need to be strong."

"No-one will be able to sleep then!" Miss Murray yelped.

"I doubt any of us will anyway, Jane," Alice told her.

"While she's making the tea," Jorsten told Alice, "Miss Murray and I can go to the cottages for help."

"I'll call the police then," Alice told him while the housekeeper hurried to get Cook.


* * *


David Rice pulled his watch from his fob pocket and frowned as he looked at the time.  Crooksall and that stuck-up Hun bastard had been gone more than an hour. His gaze moved idly to Neville's body on the floor.

Blood covered most of the floor on that side of the room. Who'd have thought the kid had that much in him. A line of it had made its way almost to the door before it clotted. And it smelled like an abattoir. Anyone who entered the cottage would know instantly that there had been a murder - even without seeing the body.

If he continued to sit in the cottage, he'd be found out.

That led him to the thought of having to take those thirteen steps up to the hangman's noose. He shuddered and pushed himself out of the chair. What was taking Crooksall and that Hun Müller so long?

He believed in the new order all right - especially cleaning up the race and making sure that whites like him ruled the world, it was their natural-born right to do so. But he didn't believe in it enough to get himself hanged. He understood that was exactly what would happen if he was cornered in the cottage.

If anything had gone wrong up at the Hall and word got back down to the cottages, the farm manager would come for Neville - for both him and Clive to go help out at the Hall.

They'd find Neville, all right. Dead.

They sure as hell didn't need to find him with the body, though. If he tried to escape, he'd be shot like some dumb animal at the charnel house - and he'd hang if he surrendered.

He stood with his back to the dying fire and stared at the door.

It was cold outside and he didn't know how long he'd have to wait for his two companions. If he went out there to wait for them.

If something did go wrong with the scheme-? He'd be quietly warming his hands when the farmhands came looking for the boys. Armed.

It wasn't healthy to stay in the cottage, no matter how warm it was. Rice sighed and put his coat on. He started for the door, making sure that he didn't step in any blood, and pulled on his gloves. Pulling the door to behind him, he slipped unseen into the midnight silence.

He made his way to the toilet behind the cottage and circled it, looking for a vantage point from which he could watch any activity from the cottages as well as movement along the path from the Hall. The important thing was that he not be seen, that he be able to slip away if Crooksall and that Hun weren't back soon. He crouched down beside a bush several yards behind the toilet.

He pulled his watch out and lighted a match so that he could read the time. Almost two hours! He blew out the match. They'd been gone two bloody hours!

They weren't but about a mile from Bellingham Hall - a fifteen to twenty minute walk for healthy men. So, where were they?

How long did it take to kill one Hun boy and take a child from his bed? Not a whole hour, it didn't. Not even if they had to fight the boy and the old woman who lived there.

He shoved his hands into his arm pits. It was cold. A still, numbing cold. The cold of death, it was. David Rice could almost feel the mask covering his face and the coarse hemp of the noose settling around his neck as he sucked in the cold air through his nose and stared up the empty path that led to the Hall.

His ears were burning they were so cold. He covered them with his gloved hands and shivered. He almost didn't see the heavy woman dart along the path from the Hall. He looked up in time to have a sense of something - someone - there where there had been no-one. He saw her when she'd passed in front of the boys' cottage, between their cottage and the next one as she hurried along the path.

He stared after her for a moment. Something had gone wrong. That was his one thought as he stood. He saw the man on the path then, following the woman and his rifle held at the ready. Something had gone wrong, and he had to get away. He started for the trees beyond the cottages.

As he made his way around the cottages, he prayed that both Crooksall and Müller were dead. That was the only way that he was ever going to escape the gallows. Tears glazed his eyes and froze on his cheeks as he made his way to the tracks he and the other two men had made as they'd come in.

"Just be fucking dead, you bastards!" he hissed as he began to follow them back to the wagon. "Be dead and carry your tales with you."











There had been no-one in the corridor as Stefan Schmidt walked quickly from the landing to his room. He left the door ajar so that he could see the lamp on the table beside the entrance. Switching on the lamp, he saw that the Englishman was watching him over his shoulder.

He saw, too, the fear in John Pettigrew's eyes as they followed his every movement. His gaze travelled down the length of the naval officer's body; a smile touched his lips as it lingered on the man's pert, inviting bottom. He felt his cock begin to fill out and he pulled his attention back to Pettigrew's eyes.

There was something more in the other man's eyes than just fear, he decided. He sensed sexual desire. His smile grew as he shut and locked the door. The boy - no, the Englishman was a man - wanted him. His brain concentrated on the two nouns he'd used. Sub-lieutenant John Pettigrew was neither boy nor man - not a man like Urnazy. Not old. He was young. Youth. That was the word to describe the Englishman before him. Young and enticing, yet a man still.

He crossed the room and sat on the edge of the bed, his hip just below that of the Englishman's. His fingers touched and began to caress Pettigrew's furthest arsecheek before moving over his hip and shoving their way between the youth's body and the bed cover. "You are happy to see me again, yes?" he asked in German as they found the Englishman's erection.

Pettigrew seemed to tremble through every fibre of his body at the touch.

"If I remove your gag, lieber Hans, will you remain silent?"

The Englishman nodded his head slowly, rubbing his cheek against the pillow. Schmidt reached up and untied the kerchief behind his head, and Pettigrew spit the wadded sock from his mouth. Schmidt's fingers had returned to his buttocks and were gently kneading it.

"We must discuss things, my friend."

"What things?" Pettigrew croaked, his mouth dry and his throat rough.

The German chuckled. "What I will do with you. What you can do for me. These sort of things."

"Are you going to bugger me again?"

"Is that what you want, lieber Hans?"

Pettigrew was afraid to say anything; anyway, the German had already found his erection and it seemed that his dick was doing all the talking - just as it had when he was a first former.

"It is what I want. But I suspect that I will need you very much in the next day - and I don't want to force myself on you if you are unwilling."

"You're going to need me?" Pettigrew looked over his shoulder at the man and studied him suspiciously.

"I do not wish to discuss my reasons, John; but I wish to defect-" He paused and it was obvious in his face that he was thinking deeply. "Not defect. I do not want to leave the Fatherland - it is my life. I will … help-" He smiled. "That is the correct word, I think - help. I will help the English. Give them information, I mean. At least, until your England has sued for peace as it did before when Napoleon's armies ruled all of Europe."

"This information - what do we need to do in order to receive it from you?" Pettigrew asked, his mind instantly turning from wanting the German inside him again to this new situation. He almost forgot that he was nude, bound, and that Schmidt's fingers were still kneading his arsecheek.

"Is MI-5 at Reynaud's château or is it just the French who are there?"

"MI-5?" Pettigrew asked suspiciously.

Schmidt pursed his lips. "We won't play games, lieber Hans. You must understand that this is much too serious for that," he said, leaning closer to the Englishman's ear. "As you must also understand that I am not stupid. There is no time for games. If you want to live to be dressed again, much less have me mount you again, you will tell the truth." He sat back up. "Now, is there an MI-5 agent at the château?"

Pettigrew nodded. "Along with a man from the Sûreté and gendârmes."

"I see." Schmidt fell silent for a moment, his fingers ceased kneading Pettigrew's bottom. "The French cannot be allowed to know about this," he muttered finally and, pulling his dagger from his greatcoat, turned to the Englishman's feet.

He quickly cut the rope from Pettigrew's feet before standing and moving to the head of the bed. He freed his prisoner's hands, crossed the room to turn a chair to face the Englishman, and sat down.

Pettigrew sat up slowly, his hands falling on his lap to cover himself. He looked over at Schmidt.

"I must talk with your MI-5 agent - tonight. None of the French can know that I wish this or where he is going. You will bring him here - no!" He thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes. Across the boulevard from the casino there is an alleyway. The two of you will be there at eleven hundred hours."

Pettigrew snorted. "I suspect that man would rather I not be there."

"You will not tell him where the meeting is and merely bring him then. I will not speak to him without you there. I would not know him to recognise him. You must be there."

"I'll be there with him."

"Are you angry at me for taking pleasure with you earlier, John?"

"It wasn't exactly the treatment I expected when you caught me pilfering your room," Pettigrew answered as a smile threatened his lips.

"Helping to turn an officer of the Waffen-SS should be noted in your dossier. It should help you receive your next promotion more quickly than usual-" He smiled across at the Englishman. "It should impress your superiors." Schmidt studied the other man for a moment. "Will you accept what I am giving you as fair payment for what I did to you?"

"I'll take it, but why are you doing this?"

"I don't want to die just yet, John Pettigrew. And I find myself with only this escape from that reality."

"Why don't you just defect then?"

"I have nothing to offer England - no way to earn a living. I would not be able to live comfortably there. Besides, I love the Fatherland, even if I must hurt it a little in order to live. Why don't you get dressed now and bring your MI-5 agent back to meet me? There is much still to be done tonight for this to work correctly."

"What reason do I give to ensure that the French know nothing of all this?" Pettigrew asked after he'd pulled his underpants up over his wedding tackle.

"Tell your man only that one of the men killed today was a senior Sûreté operative, the other one was a Major in the French Army. They were both paid agents of the Sicherheitsdienst. I want no record of my treason kept in France; it would be too easy for the wrong eyes to read it." Schmidt fell silent and watched the Englishman as he finished dressing.

Pettigrew sat on the edge of the bed to tie his shoes before succumbing to the silence and looking over to the German. "Second thoughts?" he asked softly as he stood.

"None," Schmidt shook his head. "There is only one course of action for me and it is the one I've now started in motion." He took a deep breath and looked down at his hands. "I regret, however, that I cannot have a week with you to share in bed. You would make a wonderful lover."

"Maybe-" Pettigrew had already started to give voice to the thought before he realised it.

Schmidt grinned up at him. "We'll meet again then - you and I - alone. But, now, you must find your man and convince him to come to Deauville." He quickly pushed himself from the chair. "Let me ensure that the corridor has no prying eyes, lieber Hans. Then you should leave by the back way. It is safer." He crossed to the door and opened it.

Pettigrew waited just inside the door for the German to check the hallway. He saw Schmidt motion to him from the end of the corridor and slipped out of the room. He was quickly out into the cold night and making his way to his car.



John Pettigrew had been unsure if he could believe what Stefan Schmidt told him and Brigadier Dunham in the alleyway between two businesses across from the casino. He'd been so cold and his teeth were chattering so, he'd wondered if he had somehow misunderstood the German. Even now, lying under a goosedown quilt with a fire still burning in the fireplace, he doubted it was possible.

In the alleyway, he'd kept his greatcoat pulled close around him and wished that his gloves were furred. But Stefan had kept Dunham spellbound. Him too, he reckoned - at least, he was gomstruck when he wasn't realising just how cold he was.

If only half of what Stefan had told them was true, the Gräfin von Kys had to be one daft woman. And, bad for him, she was his commanding officer. Some member of her family needed very quietly to have her committed to some fine, secluded, and very private sanitarium like his family had his uncle years ago.

Instead, she was something akin to a colonel in the Nazi Party's army. And she'd decided to kill Petersholme on her own, with no orders from higher up. That was one of the parts of Schmidt's story that he found hard to believe. Pettigrew had no problem accepting that Dunham and the men of MI-5 would kill a foreign official. But he accepted as an article of faith that there had to be a very good reason to do so and that the order from the highest authority in Whitehall. Such an order probably even carried the PM's initials on it, it would come from so high up.

This Gisele von Kys seemed to be a loose cannon, however. She was able to make her own law and, if someone tried to thwart her, she trumped up capital charges on him. Or she simply had him killed - like she was doing according to the rumours Schmidt had heard about the night her husband was killed. She might make her own law, but there surely seemed be a rumour mill over there in Berlin. After he and Dunham were back in the car, he had to suspect that a lad couldn't even take a pee without somebody knowing about it.

And there was another part to this sordid mess, too. The bitch had sent some sergeant major and English Sicherheitsdienst agents to kidnap her son from Petersholme at his home in Northamptonshire. That much of it sounded right - a mother should want her son back. But her husband's will had make his Lordship the boy's guardian - he guessed that the man must have known a lot of dirt about his wife to do that.

Dunham had bought Stefan's story. He accepted that the lad would be killed if he went back to Berlin in her tow and they had failed to kill Petersholme. And it was pretty obvious with all the French police guarding the château, that'd he be killed if he joined her in another attack on Petersholme there. It had been decided then that England were going to acquire a guest of His Majesty's government - to wit, one Gisele von Kys.

He, John Pettigrew, was to keep the gendârmes guarding the entrance on the east side of the château tomorrow night occupied from ten to twelve o'clock. Dunham told him any distraction would do. Only what would distract them? He decided to corner the brigadier in the morning on that one; all he could think of was gambling with them.

Stefan would lead the von Kys woman into the house and up the stairs to where the English party were quartered. Dunham would nab them then. Stefan might have to take a flesh wound on the arm but he'd get away before any of the French showed up to mess things up. And they'd have the Gräfin von Kys in quiet custody. Dunham would let the man from the Sûreté take her apart before flying her back to England.

Dunham had left him the moment they were back in the château and called London. He wanted to make sure Petersholme's people were all right before reporting to him.

For the first time since leaving the German's hotel room, Pettigrew allowed himself to remember Stefan as he prepared to enter him. Instantly, he was erect and didn't stop himself from remembering the whole sexual encounter while he relieved himself.


* * *


Dagold stood in the path that led between the cottages and peered into the darkness for any sign of movement. Behind him, using both hands, Miss Murray beat on the farm manager's door; the noise unnaturally loud in the stillness of the winter night. He held the rifle he'd brought from the Hall at the ready.

 He was sure that there were no more assassins on Lord Petersholme's estate. In the months that he'd known Horst Müller at Schloß Kys and at the base on Peenemünde, the man had always been disparaging of the English students he'd trained at the Party's war school. Jorsten doubted the man would have put his life in the hands of more than one Englishman at a time.

Jorsten supposed that there was a dead farmhand's body somewhere near the Hall; Müller would have needed a guide to find his way to the house, but he would have killed the man to keep him silent. Probably the fellow was the same one who had radioed Berlin.

But Müller would have carried through his mission with only the one man who was with him, the man who had been supposed to get him out of England. There would be no-one else left to attack them again - this time. But, with the Gräfin involved, there was almost certainly going to be a next time.

He heard a muffled grunt behind him and Miss Murray stopped pounding on the door. He turned in the sudden silence and saw the cottage door swing open. A tall, muscular man stood in the doorway pulling a dressing gown close around him.

Miss Murray went to pieces then, crying incoherently and burying her face against the farm manager's chest. Dagold stepped closer to the two people at the door.

"We were attacked up at the Hall," he told the man. "Lord Molloy is dead as are the two men who came to murder us."

The farm manager nodded his understanding. "There may be more of those Huns around still," he said. "I'll just get the Missus to take care of Jane Murray here; then, we'll round up the hands and go search for them."

"There probably aren't any more of them," Jorsten told him. "But the dead men weren't know and probably needed a guide to lead them to the Hall." He shrugged. "We'll probably find at least one of the hands dead before this is over."

"Right," the manager told him as his wife joined him in the doorway and took Miss Murray from him. She led her back into the cottage. "Let me put on some clothes and we'll round up everybody."



Behind Dagold and the farm manager, two men were already dressing. They walked up to the third cottage. "These lads are our farm's troublemakers, Mr. Jorsten," the manager told him, "but they're still good lads. They'll be out fast to join us."

            Dagold stepped up to the door and knocked on it. It pushed open as his fist hit it. "Verdammt!" he hissed softly, crouching quickly and bringing up his rifle. "Bring the electric torch here," he called over his shoulder while keeping his gaze locked on the darkness inside the cottage.

He sensed the farm manager come up and stand behind him. "Shine it inside," he told the man.

He blinked as the interior of the cottage flare into sudden light. "Blut!" he gulped as he figured what the dark pools on the floor before him were.

"This don't look right at all," the manager mumbled from behind him.

Cursing himself for not bringing his pistol, Jorsten leaned forward and pushed the door all the way open. The manager began to move the light around the one room of the cottage. "Gott im Himmel!" he yelped when it reached the body lying in even more blood.

"That looks to be young Neville," the manager told him.

"Whoever he was, he's dead."

"He can't be. Why, the boy's barely seventeen, Mr. Jorsten."

Dagold rose and stepped inside, moving to stand over the body. Kneeling, he picked up the boy's wrist and felt for a pulse. There was none. "He's dead all right." He turned the body onto its back. He squeezed his eyes shut when he saw the jagged cut across the man's neck. "Someone cut his throat," he told the farm manager still standing in the doorway and forced himself to swallow the bile that was suddenly in his mouth.

He stood quickly and hurried back to the door. He had seen enough death that night to last him a life time. Outside, he felt more bile surging out of his stomach and knew that he would not be able to fight it back this time. He stepped quickly away from the cottage and, bending forward, began to retch.


* * *


 "I wasn't able to get the constable in Bellingham," Alice told Dagold as he entered the kitchen. She sat at the small table beside the fire she and Cook had laid. "The night operator put me through to the main station in Coventry." She shook her head. "The night duty officer there told me he would have men out by dawn - and that he'd contact the Home Guard as well."

She realised then that Jorsten had entered alone and had shut the door. "Where is Jane?" she demanded.

"The manager's wife kept her at his cottage. She'll be along shortly, with several of the wives I suppose." He moved across the room to the teapot. "At least one of the farmhands is dead - one of the young ones. Neville," he told her without turning to see her. "His throat was cut." He poured himself a mug of the thick tea.

"Neville? He was so young - what about Clive then?"

"That was the boy sharing the cottage with him?" he asked, finally turning back to face her. She nodded. "The manager and his hands are searching for him now."

Alice saw how pale Dagold was then. "Are you all right?" she asked.

He snorted. "I fear that I am finally beginning to react to what happened tonight." He frowned, tears welling up unexpectedly in his eyes. "They meant to kill me as well as take Willi with them - back to Germany," he said thickly and turned away. "I am sorry that it was Lord Molloy who was killed instead of me. I thought the Hauptscharführer would wait until midnight to attack. I should have taken the first watch."

"Nonsense, lad!" Alice said sharply, rising from her chair quickly and moving to stand beside him. "I'm just glad that you're alive and here with us now."

"Lord Molloy was important to England; he had a young child," Jorsten said in a choked voice. "I am unimportant and have no children. It should have been me." He sobbed.

"Listen to me!" Alice growled sharply. "Turn around and face me, boy," she continued. She knew he was losing control of himself now. She guessed that he was reacting to killing one man and seeing two others killed. And, from what this lad had said, the murderers had been none too gentle with young Neville. Seeing a body that had been brutally murdered would make even the strongest man weep.

She knew that she had to establish control over young Jorsten before he lost all control and pull him back into a proper state of mind for a man. Doing so was no different than how she'd managed to keep Robert and Elizabeth behaved all these years since Robert's mother had died. Dagold Jorsten was still a boy in many ways. She knew just how forcefully she had to pitch her voice to pull a person out of the emotional abyss.

"You will pull yourself together now, Dagold," she told him. "You're the man of this house now - until Robert returns. You'll act like the grown man that you are."

He turned back to her slowly. He sniffed and wiped his eyes with the back of his coat. A smiled tugged at his lips. "You sounded like my mother just then, Fraü Alice."

Alice smiled back at him. "There are only one way to raise a boy, Dagold - and your mother did a remarkable job raising you. She'd be proud of you, lad."

The farm manager opened the door and stepped inside. Seeing Alice, he doffed his cap. He looked from her to Dagold and back again.

"Miss, we found young Clive," he reported to her. "He's dead too. Stabbed in the heart, he was."

"Which one of the outbuildings is clear?" she asked.

"Everyone of them but the one by the stables has things stored in them from the Hall here or what we use for the farm, ma'am."

"That's what I thought," she said nodding. "All right then, have the men lay out the bodies in that one. Cook and I will find sheets they can use to cover them."

"And young Neville too?" the manager asked.

"Of course, bring him up too. As soon as the police are through with their investigation, the undertaker in the village can prepare the bodies. Our dead, at least-" She looked puzzled. "For the life of me, I don't know what to do with the murderers. I don't think they should be buried here, though I suppose they should have a Christian burial."

"They shouldn't, ma'am, not here on the farm with our good people," Cook told her. "There's potter's field in Bellingham village - that's good enough for their sort, I say."

Alice nodded, still looking at the manager."You'll need to have some men inside then. We've got three bodies lying on the landing. Lord Molloy is one of them."

The manager made to open the door but Alice stopped him. "Do you know when  Jane will come back up to the Hall?"

The man shook his head. "Send a man down to get her," she told him. "Several of the other women too, I suspect - to help us clean up the mess before his Lordship comes home from France."

            As the manager let himself out the door, she turned to Cook. "We'd better get busy, you and I. We've got hungry men to feed." She frowned. "And another load of them arriving at dawn."











The knock at my bedroom door began to pull me from my sleep. "My Lord?" an English voice called, and it was enough to push me on to the shores of awareness. I opened my eyes. It was still dark in the room.


I was completely awake, pushing back bed covers even as my legs sought the side of the bed. "A moment please," I called and pushed myself to my feet, moving quickly to the foot of the bed and pulling my dressing gown on.

I opened the door to find Dunham standing there waiting for me. I glanced quickly towards Barry's bedroom, but the door was closed. I felt no sense of glumness about Dunham and relaxed. "Yes?" I asked.

"Mr. Churchill is on the telephone in the study, Lord Petersholme," the man from MI-5 said. "He's at Chartwell and would like to speak to you for a moment."

"Let me put on my slippers," I told him and returned quickly to the bed, all the while wondering what the Honourable Member wanted of me now.

Churchill wasted no time on pleasantries and had me instantly gomstruck with his tale of the attack on Bellingham Hall the night before. I was assured that my family was safe before he told me that Max had been killed.

I was in shock from that when he requested that I work with Dunham to bring the culprits to heel. I agreed and we rung off.



Standing at the Minister's desk, I was still trying to pull my thoughts together when Dunham pulled the doors of the study closed behind him and we were alone.

"My Lord?"

I turned to face him.

"Young Pettigrew seems to have lucked into an end to this two-pronged attack on you."

"Oh?" I suddenly was unable to pull my gaze from the nondescript man.

"The lad's a bit impulsive but has good instincts-"


"You know that it's this Gisele von Kys who orchestrated both attacks on you?" I nodded. "Her subaltern is willing to lead her to us-"

"Why in the world?" I demanded.

Dunham smiled ever so slightly. "It would appear the poor lad has decided that his commanding officer is quite daft-"


"He felt that his life would be in jeopardy if she wasn't quickly incapacitated."

"Good God!" I knew that I shouldn't be surprised. Gisele was daft. But I was. "Why?"

"It seems that she'd rather it not get around back in Berlin that she'd failed to kill you. She and this young man are the only ones on their side left alive, either here or in England. I guess it's the old adage, sir - dead men tell no tales."

"So, he thinks she'll kill him if they don't get me?"

"And if they do as well, sir."

I nodded, finally seeing the backdrop behind this lovely mess. "Her mission wasn't approved by her government then?"

"Not that we're able to tell."

"Why doesn't he just - is 'defect' the right word?"

"It would be better for His Majesty's government if he remained in the Waffen-SS and gave us information from Berlin."

"I see," I said. "Gisele is going to try to kill me and this lad, her subordinate, is quite happy to appear to help. You'll be there to ensure that she's captured before she gets the lucky shot off. Where and when does this caper take place?"

"Tonight, sir - here at the château."

"In my apartment - mine and Mr. Alexander's - I suppose?"

"Yes, my Lord. That's the scheme Obersturmführer Schmidt and I came up with last night."

"I see. Elizabeth and Mr. Alexander will be quite safe while all this is going on?"

"I'll personally hide in Mr. Alexander's room until the Jerries make their move, sir."

"In his room?" I groaned. "You're going to let Gisele get that close to him?"

"We have to, sir." He shrugged. "Sub-lieutenant Pettigrew will keep the French away from the entrance on the east wing. They'll steal up the servant stairs there and make their way to your apartment."

"Pettigrew? How did he get involved in this?"

"Schmidt seems to trust him."

"And Elizabeth? Will she be safe?"

"She'll be in her own apartment-" he paused, then added, "or with the Comte. Either place, she'll be well away from the action as it develops."

"I hope," I mumbled. A thought struck me then. "I've not heard a word from you about the Sûreté man or these gendârmes who're all over the place - is this purely an English exercise then?"

He looked away. "I'm afraid so, sir. It seems the second man killed yesterday was with the Sûreté - and a German agent. Young Schmidt doesn't want any record of his collaboration kept in France. He doesn't know who is on the Sicherheitsdienst's payroll and who isn't, and he doesn't want to take any chances. And we don't know exactly who to trust at this point."

"He's taking his chances with us English then?"

Dunham pursed his lips. "He hasn't said and now's not the time to pursue it - but I get the sense that it's common knowledge in Berlin's official circles that France will find herself caught in the German eagle's talons if there's a war."

"So, this is now a completely English scheme then?" I wanted to make damned sure that I understood this.

He nodded.

"What time does the Gräfin expect me to breathe my last?"

"They're due to arrive at a barn several kilometres from the château around ten o'clock tonight and come in by foot from there."

"Between eleven and twelve then?" He nodded. I shrugged. "For King and country then. I'd best be off to wash," I told him and chuckled. "It certainly wouldn't be proper to be unclean when I meet the man on the white horse, would it?"

"No-one's going to be hurt, sir. We'll take this woman into custody and whisk her off to England where she'll be put away quietly."

In spite of the bad feeling I had about the scheme, I decided to accept his assurances and let things unfold as they would. "I'm in then," I told him. "Carry on with it, Dunham."


* * *


As she followed him through the woods, the Obersturmbansführerin wondered idly how she would kill her subordinate.

It was, of course, a pity that he had to die. He was so perfectly what the Führer wanted the new German male to be like. And he was good in bed as well. But, there could no chance of his loose tongue wagging once they were back in Berlin. He would have served his purpose as soon as she was in the château and had her Luger aimed at the Drecksau's heart.

Bare twigs caught at her hair and her coat.

She suspected that the damned boy enjoyed leading her through bushes and knee-high snow. Boys, and even men, took a perverse pleasure in leading women into the worst possible situations. And making her way through these woods behind Stefan Schmidt at twenty-three hundred hours was about the worst possible situation she could imagine at the moment - especially now that she'd stepped into that knee-deep patch of snow and it had got inside her boot.

A tree branch snapped as she pushed it away from her face and Schmidt turned back to her. "We must be quiet, Gräfin. We're only about a hundred metres from the house now. Our mission fails if we're found out."

She grunted her acquiescence and studied him through slitted eyes. He'd be dead soon. She might kill him immediately after taking care of Petersholme. A smile touched her frozen lips at the thought. She could even use the Baron's own pistol to do it.

She forced that thought away quickly. The Reichsführer was more than willing to allow his field-grade officers to set their own programmes. He would not mind at all that she had planned this mission. He would mind, however, if it failed. And Himmler would be absolutely livid with her if a the body of a Waffen-SS officer, her own adjutant no less, were found lying beside the man they had come to kill.

No, dear Stefan would have to die elsewhere, anywhere other that the château of the French Minister of Justice.

He couldn't be found at the Hotel Normandie either; they'd arrived together and registered as Germans - she wished now that she'd thought that through before they'd done it. She'd have to do it between Deauville and the Belgian border, though.

She nodded as that thought expanded in her mind. It would be simple really - she had the embassy driver to help her, after all. She'd simply kill Stefan as he sat beside her in the car, maybe as he dozed, in the hours before dawn that lay ahead of them after they had completed their mission. And the driver could strip him completely; that way there would be nothing to link him to the Reich or her when his body was found.

Petersholme would be dead as would her late husband's Schwul and she would have her son back to give to the Reich. There would be no link to the Waffen-SS. Reichsführer Himmler would be pleased with her resourcefulness.

She smiled broadly at her ingenuity and sped up her steps to catch Schmidt. They reached the edge of the woods behind the château together.

            "We'll go through the door in the east wing, Gräfin," he told her as they studied the manor before them. Light shone from the windows of most of the ground floor, but most of the upper storeys were dark.

"How do you know where we're going?" she demanded in a low voice.

He looked at her in the moonlight, his face angelically innocent. "I told you, Gräfin. I happened upon one of the maids in service here-"

"And, no doubt, she was a lovely girl as well," she grumbled, wishing now that it had been her who'd had Stefan between her legs. It was a waste that he had to die.

He chuckled and looked away. "Reasonably so. But she did manage to give me a layout of the château before she had to leave this morning. That and where the gendârmes have positioned themselves to protect the English Baron."

"And this door on the east wing?" Gisele demanded in a low voice.

"She's left it unlocked so that I may enter-"

"Thinking that you're coming to her in the servants' quarters, I suppose."

He shrugged nonchalantly and smiled at her. "Of course."

Gisele von Kys resolved then that, once they were back to the car waiting for them at the abandoned stables, there would be a detour back to the Normandie. She would have Stefan a last time. He would die, but he would also have the best possible sex as a reward before her bullet entered his brain.

"Gräfin, if we move along the edge of the woods, we'll have shadow almost to the door," he told her, pointing out the path he was suggesting.

She forced thoughts of him inside her away and forced her gaze to follow his finger pointing towards the end of the wing.



Schmidt ran in a crouch across the two metres of moonlighted snow to reach the door, his Luger in his hand. He reached for the knob hesitantly, now afraid that the English intelligence agent had lied to him. Or, worse, that John Pettigrew had opted for revenge and that he was about to walk into a trap that would ensnare him as well as the Gräfin.

He was satisfied with Brigadier Dunham's scheme, although he would have preferred that the Gräfin died tonight. If there was a war as everyone in Berlin expected, England would be defeated. It was possible that, like France, they would be occupied as well. If that happened, the Obersturmbannführerin would be released and he had no doubt that her memory would be long. He had to risk that, however, to free himself from the death sentence he knew she held over him as long as she was free.

The knob turned in his hand and he carefully began to open the outer door, bringing his pistol up to cover the interior opening to him. He smiled as he accepted that it made no sound. Perhaps things would go well, after all. He could always learn English and be in the first wave of the Waffen-SS to arrive in England. He would ensure that there were no records of his treason or witnesses to it - except perhaps John of the rounded, sweet and compliant Arsch.

He knelt and peered into the darkness between the outer door and inner door. He saw the stairs, exactly as the English brigadier had said. No-one was there guarding them. John had not opted for revenge then. Thinking about it, Schmidt was certain that the young officer had enjoyed their coupling of the night before as much as he had. When he entered England after their defeat, he could have John Pettigrew assigned to him. He grinned at the possibilities that offered up.

He shined his electric torch and quickly doused it. He took several steps inside and opened the inner door just enough to peer inside. The noise it made sounded loud and he held his breath as he leaned closer to look through the crack. He saw light from an open doorway a quarter of the way down the corridor and wagers being made in French. There was no-one in the corridor, however, and he shut the door.

He motioned to the Gräfin to join him. It was time for her to meet her fate.

Inside, he hushed her with a finger to the lips and slowly started up the stairs to the first floor where the brigadier had said the Baron's apartment was. She followed after him; and, by the fourth step, he could hear her breath becoming rasping. By the time they reached the landing on the first floor, Schmidt was sure that her breathing was loud enough to wake the dead.

He could only thank the God in Heaven that this was an English scheme already. If it had been a real assassination attempt he had no doubt that, the moment they opened the door in front of them now, both English and French riflemen would open fire on them.


* * *


Louis-Philippe d'Orléans was reaching for the handle of the water closet in the toilet next to the stairwell when he heard the creak of the door that opened to the servants' stairs. He paused.

His first thought was that the sentry in the servants' stairwell was coming inside. He instantly changed his mind and remained still when the door didn't open further. He pulled his hand back from the lever.

His second thought was fear for Elizabeth in the parlour at the other end of the corridor. He rejected that just as quickly as he had the idea of the sentry coming in to warm himself. The door had been opened, but not much. Not enough to allow a man to pass through.

That left only two possibilities: a second attack on Elizabeth's cousin or he had imagined the door creaking. He pressed his ear to the wall, hoping that he would hear no sound there.

Muffled, he heard heavy breathing, as if someone had just completed an exercise regime, someone whose body was unfamiliar with the regimen. He smiled and almost chuckled before he remembered the men who had been placed in the château by the police. None of them had appeared out of shape. The servants hadn't, either.

His smile changed into a frown then. He listened as the heavy breather began to climb the stairs.

He opened the door to the toilet slowly and looked into the corridor. The door to the stairwell was closed. Down the hall, the gendârmes were playing cards with the English aviator. Beyond them was the parlour where Elizabeth waited for his return. And, beyond her, were the main staircase to the first floor sleeping quarters.

He hurried down the hallway to the card room, keeping an eye on the door to the servants' stairwell as he moved. In the room, he saw all five gendârmes sitting with the English pilot, their attention riveted to their cards. The Englishman had the most chips.

"Citizens, you're supposed to be defending a guest of France," he growled, "yet, you sit here gambling away next week's wages and hear nothing!"

"What's there to hear?" Pettigrew asked quickly without looking up. Philippe noted subconsciously that the Englishman's French perfect except for the slightest accent. "We're just whiling away a boring night, Capitaine. Relax and pull up a chair."

"Someone is climbing the servants' stairs now," d'Orléans told them. "Where was the sentry there in the stairwell when he entered the château? Are our guests defended?"



Pettigrew looked up at the French Army captain then. "His Lordship is being protected, as is Mr. Alexander." He smiled broadly, hoping to satisfy the other men around the table. "And Miss Myers has you defending her, I would assume."

If he had dared to say something comparable to an English officer, trivialising his concern, he would have been headed for a court martial that he doubted even MI-5 could help him escape. But d'Orléans was French, he could only be insulted; he could not bring Pettigrew up on charges. And Brigadier Dunham had stressed the need for him to keep the French police occupied. He was doing exactly that. He hoped that the man knew what the bloody hell he was doing. Besides, this Frenchman had somehow got to Elizabeth, winning her heart.



"Are you in the pay of the Boche as was my superior officer then, Sub-lieutenant?" d'Orléans demanded. Every man at the table could hear his teeth gnash as he spat out the words.

Pettigrew stiffened. "That's an insult, d'Orléans. I am an English officer and a gentleman-"

"Fine!" The Frenchman's eyes blazed. "I will apologise after we have searched the first floor and the servants' stairs - if we find nothing there."

He looked to the gendârmes sitting at the table and watching them. "You will follow me, please. And one of you will bring this English officer and gentleman with us. If he makes to warn anyone on the first floor, shoot him."

Pettigrew knew that he could push the Frenchman no further. Dunham be damned! And Stefan too - if that buggering Jerry got killed, Pettigrew would be well-rid of him. He laid his cards face-down on the table and rose. Smiling to the policemen, he said: "Let's go see what we will see."

"Two of you," d'Orléans ordered as he turned back towards the door, "go to the stairwell and guard against anyone trying to escape that way. The rest of you, follow me up the main staircase. And watch the Englishman," he said, glancing at Pettigrew as he stepped to the doorway.

            Elizabeth stood in the hallway outside the parlour. A smile began to transform her lips when she saw d'Orléans leave the card room but it quickly disappeared when he was followed by Pettigrew and the five gendârmes. She watched as two of the men broke from the others and start for the door at the end of the corridor.

It seemed almost as if the other three were flanking Pettigrew as guards would a prisoner.

"What's the matter, Philippe?" she asked as he approached her.

"I heard someone on the servants' stairs. We're going upstairs to take a look."

Her face went white. "Robbie?" She looked towards the staircase in the centre of the château.

"Stay here, Elizabeth. We're going to see. It's probably nothing, but-" He took her hand. "Stay here where you're safe."

D'Orléans let go of her hand. "I'll be back in just a few minutes," he assured her and started towards the stairs. Pettigrew and the three gendârmes followed after him.


* * *


Elizabeth watched the men start up the stairs. Her thoughts went to Robbie and poor Barry were up there. And, if Philippe was right, someone was on their way to attack them. There was no way that she would play the part of a shrinking violet and stay quietly in the parlour while her family was in danger.

She needed a weapon. Elizabeth's gaze scanned the corridor quickly. She and Philippe had explored the rooms of the ground floor together on Tuesday. She smiled to herself as she remembered the trophy room directly across from her. Next to it and opening onto it was a gun room. Philippe had told her that the Minister was well-known as a gun collector and was proud that every gun in his collection was kept in working order.

She crossed the hallway and slipped into the trophy room before the last gendârme had set foot on the bottom step of the staircase. She slipped into the gun room and turned on the lamp that sat on the table beside the inner door. Before her stood the large gun cabinet she remembered.

She opened it and selected a shotgun, then started opening drawers looking for shells.

Armed, she returned to the corridor and determinedly began to climb the dark stairs.











Barry had been sedated a second day and lay in his room, dreaming whatever dreams morphine imparted those injected with it. I didn't envy him the pain or the necessity to relieve it. I also did not allow myself to worry that morphine was a derivative of opium, an addictive drug. I wanted to get him home to England where I knew he would receive the best care in the world.

Dunham was secreted in Barry's room. Less than ten minutes earlier, I'd peeked out into the sitting room and saw that the door to his bedroom stood slightly ajar. A moment later, the man had told me to get back to my room and to stop offering my head for target practice. The Brigadier was on duty. I gripped the pistol he'd given me earlier and returned to my bed with no increased sense of security for its presence in my hand.

It was silent in the château. But I could not sleep, it was much too early for that - only a few minutes before eleven. I wasn't allowed to read, however. Dunham had insisted that I have no light in my room. Bored, I tried to sort out what could be going through Gisele von Kys' mind to entice her to follow through on this caper.

 Janus had once intimated that his wife was insane when he was still alive, but the strikes against my home and my person this past week forced me to believe my dead friend. I lay back against the pillows of my bed and allowed my thoughts to roam freely.

It took an insane person to launch an attack on my home. True, the presumed goal was to retrieve Willi - but she could have done so through the courts when I was seeking to adopt him. No English court of law would have awarded him to me, no matter his father's will, if his natural mother had made any effort to thwart me. Instead, she had remained silent in Berlin and allowed me to gain legal custody and even adopt the boy. And, all the while, she'd plotted an armed expedition against my home.

Worse, it had been a two-pronged attack with more military precision than any one had reason to expect. The second prong had been aimed at me personally. That was the most insane part of her whole scheme.

Admittedly, I would have been quite miffed at someone who had shot me and left me unconscious in a stables that was about to burst into flames. In that regard, I couldn't see that I was different from her.

But Gisele had carried it further than simple anger. Much further. She had set out to kill me and destroy my home. To destroy Petersholme. And she had done so in her official capacity within Germany's ruling party's military arm. She had involved her government, making my destruction a German goal.

I allowed myself to wonder if I would ever again be able to move about freely, like any Englishman had the right to do. And I knew that I wouldn't - not as long as Gisele von Kys remained alive.

But I would not be able to kill her tonight. I could disarm her. Even wound her if it came to that. But I could not conceive of killing her, or any woman.

The slightest creak sounded as the door from the sitting room to the corridor opened. I sat upright, staring at the closed door of my bedroom and gripping my pistol.

 I forced my heart out of my throat and slipped silently off the bed. In a crouch, I hurried to the position behind the door that I'd given myself earlier. Holding my breath, I listened for another sound.

It was as still as a grave.

Light flared and wobbled beneath my door. An electric torch, I guessed.

"Which room did your whore say was his?" Gisele asked in a hoarse whisper.

I pressed my back against the wall. I allowed myself to wonder how the woman could be so stupid as think that we would not defend against a second attack. I blanked that out of my brain as the light beneath the door grew brighter as someone approached it. I reckoned that her companion had told her where to find me - the same companion who had set her up for this with Dunham the night before.

"Kill the Baron's Drecksau, Obersturmführer," she said and I heard her step towards my door.

In the dim light, I watched as the knob turned and, in a moment, the door begin to open. I saw the cone of light from her torch touch the wall opposite me and begin to search my bedroom as the door continued to open.

I held my breath, my finger on the trigger of the pistol at my waist, pointing at the door where I assumed her body to be.

"Verdammt!" she hissed. I saw her gloved hand holding the torch then.

"Halt!" a voice in French commanded.

The light arc-ed crazily back across the room, as Gisele pivoted to see who had interrupted her.


* * *


D'Orléans reached the first floor landing and positioned the three gendârmes behind him in a line that spread across the corridor. His hand closed on Pettigrew's arm. "You come with me," he whispered. "And not one sound, Englishman."

They moved silently along the corridor towards Baron Petersholme's apartment. D'Orléans saw the torch switch on and hurried his pace, pulling the unresisting Pettigrew along with him.

The door to the sitting room was open. D'Orléans squatted before moving into the open doorway. Two of the gendârmes took up positions on either side of the door while the third slipped past him and entered the sitting room.

To his right, he could make out a large figure with a lighted electric torch in one hand and the knob of a door that was partially open in the other.

"Halt!" he commanded, aiming his revolver at the figure.

"Verdammt!" the figure hissed.

D'Orléans was surprised to hear a feminine voice. He watched as the light quickly swung around towards him. "Drop the torch, Mademoiselle," he ordered her, but it had already moved to blind him.

Fire exploded in his arm then. In reflex, he squeezed off a round at the woman as she fired a second time.

All of the gendârmes fired and continued shooting as the large female figure jerked. Her pistol lowered and slipped out of her hand as her legs buckled. She looked down at the floor before looking back at d'Orléans.

"Drecksauen!" she grunted as she collapsed to her knees. Her gaze never left d'Orléans as her body began to topple forward.


* * *


"Hold your fire!" I called from behind the door where I'd been hidden when the fullisade began.

I stepped out from behind the door as Dunham opened the door to Barry's room. "He's one of ours," I cried to the Frenchmen. "Don't shoot!"

"Switch on a lamp," Dunham ordered as he stepped into the sitting room, speaking French with no accent. "We need to see to sort out this mess."

When the light came on, I saw a young German was standing against the far wall, his hands over his head. I wasn't the only one who saw him; two gendârmes pointed their revolvers at him. He glanced to Brigadier Dunham fearfully. "Bitte," he pleaded.

"Le Comte is shot," the third gendârme told us.

"Hold your fire," I told the two covering the German and stepped over to Philippe. He held his left arm over his chest and the whole left side of his uniform jacket was soaked. "Where are you hit?" I asked.

"The arm," he answered.

"Let's see."

"See to your traitor first, Robert. He's in the corridor unless he's escaped."

I looked to the open doorway and saw Pettigrew move to look into the room. "What's this about you being a traitor, lad?" I asked.

He looked at me sheepishly. "It seems our French captain thought I wanted you left unprotected."

"You had the policemen occupied then?" Dunham asked, moving to stand beside the German.

"Just as you ordered me to do, Brigadier," Pettigrew answered.


"This German is one of yours?" d'Orléans growled. I noticed that he'd begun to pale.

"He's one of ours," Dunham told them. "Now, we need to get him out of here so that he and his driver can get to Paris."

"Who is he?" d'Orléans demanded.

"No names, gentlemen," Dunham told them as Elizabeth ran into the room and stopped beside young John. "There can't be any record of him being here."

"Elizabeth, Pettigrew," I called them to me. "Help me with Philippe. Elizabeth, you get some water and, John, help me strip off his tunic and blouse." She leaned the shotgun against the wall and was gone. I heard the echo of her running down the corridor beyond the door.

Admittedly, I knew little about treating gunshot wounds, but there seemed to be far too much blood. Barry had not bled as much.

"Are there men at the foot of the servants' stairs?" Dunham asked the two gendârmes still guarding the German. One nodded. "Good thinking. I'll need one of you to go back downstairs via the grand staircase and approach your men normally." He pointed to the fittest looking man. "You. Tell them that all is well and that we'll be coming down." He looked to a second man as the first sprinted out into the corridor. "You'll come with us."

"One of them needs to call a doctor," I said. The first man slipped into the hallway.

Dunham stepped over to Gisele and felt her wrist. "She's dead," he told the room in English.

"Was bedeutet 'dead'?" the German asked.

"Tot," the MI-5 agent told him.

I glanced up in time to see a smile tug at the German's lips. 

Pettigrew had knelt on d'Orléans' other side as I unbuttoned his army tunic. He helped the Frenchman slip his good arm from the sleeve. With his help, I had Philippe stripped to his waist in moments.

He had taken Gisele's bullet in his upper arm. Fresh blood welled in the jagged wound with his every heartbeat. "Give me your belt, Pettigrew," I told my countryman.

I didn't know if d'Orléans' artery had been nicked but, from his paleness, I thought that a tourniquet wasn't a bad idea. Pettigrew didn't argue. He quickly stood and pulled off his belt to hand it to me.

I was fixing it to d'Orléans' arm at the shoulder when Elizabeth returned. "Is he going to be all right?" she demanded as she came up to us. Pettigrew took the bowl of water from her and she knelt at Philippe's head, cradling it in her lap.

"I think so," I told her. "I've had the doctor called."

Pettigrew reached for the flannel in the bowl of water and squeezed it before beginning to clean the Frenchman's arm.

"It's nothing," Philippe mumbled and tried to pull his arm from John. Pettigrew was having none of it, however, and held him in place against his thigh.

D'Orléans attempted to sit up but instantly collapsed back against Elizabeth before his head left her lap.

"Fiddlesticks!" she yelped, looking down at him. "You lie still, Philippe." Her hands went to his cheeks and she looked up at me then, her eyes searching my face. "Robbie-?"

"I've stanched the flow of blood, Liza," I told her. "And John is cleaning the wound. We'll have a doctor here soon. He'll be fine, you'll see."

I glanced over to where Gisele's body lay. Even with the greatcoat around her, she appeared to have put on weight since I'd seen her in Berlin only two months earlier. Relief flooded over me then. Willi was mine now - totally. There was no-one left in Germany to try to claim him.



Brigadier Dunham motioned Schmidt to him before turning to the gendârme he'd designated to join them. "We need to get this man back out to the woods so that he can make his escape," he told the Frenchman. The gendârme nodded and led them into the corridor.

"Swear to me that there will be no record of our agreement in France," Schmidt said as he followed the intelligence officer to the servants' stairs.

"There won't." Dunham assured him as they followed the Frenchman down the steps to the ground floor. "Officially, the Obersturmbannführerin and an accomplice will have broken into the château on an ill-conceived mission to murder Lord Petersholme. The accomplice will have escaped when Petersholme's guards fired at them."

"That'll be good," Stefan told him as he stood at the outer door. "I can make up a story that fits that record."

"We have everything we need from you, Obersturmführer. We'll be in touch with you in Berlin," Dunham told him as he opened the door for the German.

Schmidt paused and looked back at the Englishman. "Your man in Berlin must be very discrete, Herr Brigadier. I don't want to return to Berlin only to have my head chopped off."

"No-one will know," Dunham promised.

Schmidt nodded and stepped out into the night.












Alice Adshead stood on the first floor landing of Bellingham Hall, her hand on the balustrade, and surveyed the area in front of Willi's room for the second time Friday morning. Sunlight flooded over the landing from the cathedral windows of the great hall.

            She decided again that the women from the cottages had done a good job. She could see the nicks in the door jamb of the boy's room. Her face reddened in embarrassment. Shot, she reminded herself, from the shotgun blast that had brought down the man who'd thought he would take Willi from her and Robert. They'd just have to be filled in and painted over come spring.

The table across from the child's room was bare. Its doily was still soaking in bleach, but she doubted that horrible Hun's blood would ever come out of it. She would have to find a nice piece of linen with which to replace it. She shook her head at the deadly precision that nice German boy had shown, using an entire clip of bullets firing into the shadows and somehow knowing that man was there with poor Max's body.

She folded her arms over her chest and nodded to herself. It was as clean as it was going to get. There was nothing left that would give poor little Willi nightmares, except the nicks in the door frame. In front of him, they could pretend that nothing had happened and he would be none the wiser.

She knew better, though. Robert would never stop and think before he spoke in front of the boy. For that matter, Elizabeth was nearly as oblivious as her cousin.

At least, there was now practically nothing to remind the child of what had happened. He could hear Robert and Elizabeth, and even Barry, talk about it; but there was nothing for him to link their words to the Hall.

There were too many shadows along the corridor, however. Young boys were prone to imagining things existing in dark places. She would have to talk with Robert about putting in more lighting for the whole floor. Willi was almost too bright, he didn't need dark places for nasty things to breed in his mind.

Alice turned and started slowly down the stairs. She hoped she never had to live through another two days as ghastly as these last two had been. And the very worst of it was poor Max.

She smiled as she remembered him when he would stay at the Hall with Robert during school holidays. He'd been such a gentle boy then. She'd never been able to reconcile her memories of that boy with the man who'd made that homosexual approach to Barry in Robert's very home in London almost three months ago now.

She reminded herself that she was not going to be the one to harbour evil thoughts about the dead or, even, unpleasant memories about them. Whatever he might have done in his life, Maximillian Molloy had died most honourably. He had died in defence of his friend's family against an enemy of his King and country, no less. No man of their sort could ask for a more noble death than that.

Alice reached the foot of the stairs as she looked around her at the gaily decorated great hall. She frowned suddenly.

Should Bellingham Hall be so festive after what happened only yesterday morning? She wondered if she should have Jane Murray take down some of the ornaments and replace them with something funereal. It would be proper, after all, to join with the old Earl and Max's wife and son in their sorrow.

It would be proper, she told herself frowning; but what would it do to young Willi? In an hour - two at most - he would be home. Returned from a house that had been thrown into sorrow yesterday. There was no telling what someone might have said in his hearing. He needed the normality of the season most of all.

Besides, the Earl's youngest son wouldn't be entering Bellingham Hall. Dagold had been kind enough to meet him and Willi at the village station. She'd spoken with the undertaker yesterday and make arrangements to ship Max's body to Easthampton-Mares on the afternoon train with Max's brother. No-one from the Earl's household was going to see the lack of funeral decoration at the Hall.

But Willi would see the Christmas decorations that had been there when he left. That was the normality that a child needed. The continuity of things. As Robert's aunt, she would see to that continuity before anything else for his heir.

She nodded her agreement to herself at her decision. Yes. Life did go on - even in the face of death. It was necessary for Willi to see that and know it with all his heart - especially after everything the poor child had been through over there in Germany.



Willi was running from the car towards the entrance before Dagold could turn off the ignition. He burst into the great hall and stopped, surveying the decorations suspiciously.

He broke into a grin as he realised that nothing had been changed since earlier in the week. "Goddamned Huns didn't stop Christmas!" he yelled, beginning to jump up and down with excitement as he accepted that he would have Christmas after all.

"What did you just say, young man?" Alice demanded, hurrying along the corridor from her room.

Still jumping with his joy, Willi turned to her as she swept into the great hall. "Goddamned Huns killed Cecil's Vati, but they didn't stop Christmas after all, Aunt Alice!"

In shock, she stopped, her left hand going to her breast, and stared at the boy. Where had he learnt such vulgar words?

Carrying the boy's suitcase, Dagold entered the hall then. He turned to close the doors and only realised something was wrong when he'd turned back to the great hall. He glanced from Alice to Willi and back again. The woman's face was the colour of beetroot, it was so red. The boy was still jumping around happily, oblivious to whatever had upset Alice.

"Is something wrong, Fraü Alice?" Dagold asked.

"He - that boy … Such language!" she sputtered.

"What did he say?"

"I - I certainly couldn't repeat such file language, Dagold."

Willi began to realise that he'd upset Aunt Alice and stopped jumping up and down. He studied her for the moment it took Dagold to reach him.

"What did you say to your Aunt Alice, Willi?" he asked, squatting beside the boy.

"I said nothing, Dagi," he answered, lapsing into German. "I didn't even see her come from her room."

Dagold fought against the smile that threatened to take over his face. "What were you yelling then whilst jumping around out here?"

"Oh that!" Willi grinned and put his arm around Dagold's neck. "I was so happy when I saw all the decorations still here."

"But what did you say?"

He looked down at the floor, realising that his words had meant something entirely different here at Uncle Robert's house than they had at Cecil's. "I said 'The Goddamned Huns didn't stop Christmas', Dagi. Was that wrong?"

Alice cringed as she heard the offending words once again.

"Where did you hear this, kleiner Graf?" Dagold asked in a troubled voice.

"Cecil's Großvati," the boy answered, finally realising what had so bothered Aunt Alice. "He kept stomping around the house saying it as the servants were taking down the Christmas decorations there." He sniffed. "Poor Cecil. He's not going to have Christmas now that his Vati is gone."

Dagold looked up at Alice. "He says Earl Molloy was using the words all day yesterday as he had his servants take down the decorations."

She nodded, accepting the explanation. "Willi," she said. "Those are very naughty words. You must forget them."

"But the Earl said them, Aunt Alice. Is he a naughty man?"

"No, but-" She looked helplessly to Dagold.

"Willi, do you know what this season is about?" he asked

The boy raised his head and looked into his eyes. "Of course, Dagi. It's about good boys like me being rewarded with nice gifts."

Dagold chuckled. "Yes, it is that," he admitted. "But it much more. It's our way to honour the birth of the Son of God, Willi."

"That too," the boy conceded.

Dagold smiled. "It isn't right to use God's name in vain then - not ever, but especially when we're about to celebrate the birth of his Son."

"But I didn't-"

"Willi, 'Goddamned' means Gottverdammt. It's very naughty. Father Christmas could punish you for using it."

The boy studied his face for a moment. He could see that Dagold was telling him the truth and averted his eyes.

"You won't use it again then?"

Willi nodded without looking up.

"And the word 'Hun" means us German to the English. It's not a nice word, either."

"They were saying that about us?" the boy asked quietly.


"Cecil's Großvati and his Önkel too. They both kept saying the bad words all day. Are they bad men?"

"Not bad, Liebchen - just very upset. They had just lost someone they loved very much. Now, promise your Aunt Alice that you won't use such words again, Willi," Dagold told him.

The boy turned to face Alice.

"Promise her in English, kleiner Graf. That way, she'll know what you're saying."


* * *


Barry had been given another dose of morphine and his wound cleaned with a solution of carbolic acid late the night before after the doctor had seen to Philippe and declared that the son of the Pretendant would indeed live. Though, sedated since Wednesday, Elizabeth had managed to feel him gruel from the kitchen on several occasions.

As I sat with him Friday morning, holding his good hand in both of mine, he still slept the drugged sleep French medicine had declared for him. I thought that he did look better. His eyes were still darkened shadows but his face didn't look as pinched as it had Wednesday and, even more so, Thursday. His colour was better, as well.

I was still concerned. True, I had never been involved with anyone who was recovering from a gunshot wound, but injecting Barry with morphine to keep him sedated didn't seem the most logical way to help his body heal.

            I wanted him seen to by a specialist, an English-speaking specialist preferably. Instead of Coventry, we would fly into London. We might be a day or two late arriving at Bellingham Hall, but I now knew them to be safe and the danger past. In London, I could have my doubts eased and never once seem to be calling into question the quality of French care.

"Monsieur le Baron?"

I looked towards the door, pulling myself from my thoughts about Barry's care as I did. The château's majordomo was watching me, his face expressionless.

"The Minister has just arrived. He has asked that you make your presentation in fifteen minutes."


"In the study, sir."



I arrived at the study at the appointed time to find Philippe d'Orléans and several men I didn't recognise stand and clap as I entered the room.

A burly, middle-aged man broke from the others and began to descend on me. "Monsieur le Baron Petersholme," he said barrelling across the room at me like one the tanks Colonel de Gaulle recommended in warfare in his book. "I am Paul Reynaud," he continued, slowing to a normal walk as he approached. "My very good friend, Winston Churchill, recommends you so highly. Thank you for coming during this special season to describe what you've seen in Germany," he gushed as he grabbed my hand and began to pump it.

Paul Reynaud was my stereotype of a politician. I couldn't imagine why Churchill thought so highly of him.

"Come, Monsieur le Baron," he said, keeping hold of my hand. "I want you to meet the one man in all of the Republic who most wants to hear your report." I was pulled after him towards the other men in the study. All of them wore Army uniforms.

There was Philippe in his sling, of course - smiling at me. The older man to whom Reynaud was pulling me looked be well into his sixties and had the most medals and braid I'd ever seen on a man. And there was another officer. I blinked. The man towered over me.

"This is Marshal Pétain," Reynaud told me, stopping in front of the older man. "He thought he should hear of your tale of Peenemünde, even if it does entail but a child's toy."

I smiled to the man and extended my hand. "Marshal Pétain," I said, "Your genius saved France in the Great War."

He took my hand and shook it once before releasing it, without saying a word.

"And this is Colonel de Gaulle, Baron. He is our genius of the future of warfare," Reynaud said as his hand on my elbow moved me past the Marshal.

I looked up. I was nearly six feet tall, and this Frenchman had me by nearly a head. "I've read your treatise on the use of the tank, Colonel." I extended my hand once again. "It makes a tremendous amount of sense-"

The Marshal harumphed and left our group for the sideboard and the whisky decanter there.

"And you, Lord Petersholme," Charles de Gaulle said in barely accented English, his eyes twinkling with merriment, "would naturally be interested in the tank as a weapon. After all, your factories supplied Britain with theirs in the great war - those of the Russians too, I believe."

I felt my ears grow warm. It appeared that I was not the only one who brushed up on people I was about to meet officially. "Thank you for coming," I said.

His eyes twinkled even more. "I wouldn't have missed it, even if the Minister hadn't threatened me with a court marshal tonight and execution at dawn tomorrow, Lord Petersholme-" He paused for the space of a heartbeat. "He even suggested that he'd use the guillotine rather than allow me to face a firing squad."


* * *


It had only taken Pettigrew a couple of telephone conversations to bring the HP-42 that had been assigned to me from Paris to Deauville and to gain clearance for us to fly to London instead of Coventry. After only the briefest conversation between the two, de Gaulle had given Philippe a fortnight's leave to visit us and fly on to Morocco to spend time with his parents. We were airborne by one o'clock that afternoon.

I had heard about Pettigrew's near altercation with Philippe and I suspected there was more to it than young John's effort to keep faith with Brigadier Dunham. I was concerned that it might carry over into our flight. But, as our aeroplane climbed into the clear skies over Normandy, my concern was focused on Barry.

He had lapsed into unconsciousness whilst I briefed the Minister and warlords of France and was running a fever as we covered him in blankets to carry him to the car. Airborne, he was burning hot with fever and I was squabbing his forehead with a flannel continuously. Elizabeth had offered her help but I shooed her back to her own wounded man. It was no longer a matter of consulting a London specialist to ease my doubts; it was become a necessity.

"My Lord?"

I looked up to find Pettigrew standing beside me. I'd been aware of his checking on us a few times but paid little attention to him. "Yes?"

"I've spoken with London, sir-" He glanced to Barry. "About Mr. Alexander, sir."

"I didn't ask-"

"Sir, I am the commanding officer of this mission - anything that happens on this ship when it's in the air is my responsibility."

He looked at Barry again. "Anyway, sir, the First Sea Lord himself has ordered the Navy's senior surgeon to meet us the moment we're on the ground. He'll be taking charge of Mr. Alexander, sir."

I looked up sharply. "I have my own surgeon meeting us at the aerodrome-"

"Sir, it appears that Lord Stanhope has decided to take charge of Mr. Alexander's health at Mr. Churchill's request."

"What?" I yelped, staring at him in shock.

"We're flying to Portsmouth, sir."

I swallowed my shock and the expletives that went with it. "When did Mr. Churchill have time to plan this?" I asked with resignation.

"I reckon after I called him this morning, sir."

"You called him?" He nodded. "From that château in Deauville?"

"Yes, sir."

"And why did you do that?"

He was concerned about Mr. Alexander, my Lord. He told Brigadier Dunham to have me call him in Chartwell the moment that Minister Reynaud arrived."

I had to admit that it did feel good to be taken care of. To have my every concern met before I even knew that I was concerned. But I felt more than a little disquiet as well. I was, after all, fully capable of thinking for myself.












Pettigrew was out of the cockpit as we taxi-ed towards the hanger and walking down the aisle towards us. He stopped to look at Barry for a moment but said nothing. I continued to hold Barry's hand and didn't look up. His gaze went to Philippe. "It would be best if you let our lads look at your arm too, Captain," he said to him.

"The doctor-"

"He treated Mr. Alexander too, sir - and he's burning up with fever now."

"It might be best, Philippe," Elizabeth said. "That doctor was probably very good, but I'd reckon that he doesn't see too many gunshot wounds."

He sighed. "I guess it won't hurt anything-"

"Right," Pettigrew said brightly. "After all, we can't have Miss Elizabeth's beau coming down sick whilst visiting the family of his intended, can we?"

I wondered when he'd learnt about Elizabeth.

He moved towards the back of the cabin then. A moment later, the engines were cut and Pettigrew threw open the portal. Before I knew it, I was asked to move aside and two Royal Navy medics were efficiently helping a nearly unconscious Barry Alexander from his seat. A moment later, they had him strapped to a gurney and were carrying him towards the back of the aeroplane.

"Barry?" I mumbled as I watched him being carried down the aisle.

Pettigrew's hand closed on my arm. "Come along, my Lord, we'll ride with him."

Numbly, I allowed him to lead me out onto the tarmac and into the ambulance that had been waiting for our arrival.

I was in shock.

There was the letdown that was the aftermath of the attacks on me, that had left Barry wounded and killed my best friend. But there was also the reality that I had simply been unprepared for Barry's life becoming so precarious so suddenly.

He had been so full of life from the moment I met him. His smile, his warmth, and his love had become a cushion that protected me from the world around me.

Now, however, there was no smile. His face was lax and he'd slipped over the edge of consciousness. His eyes had been dark and sunken as the medics laid him out on their gurney. His breathing had become increasingly laboured since we left France and his skin looked pale and pasty as the ambulance carried us across Portsmouth Naval base. There was only his body warmth now and I couldn't even touch him to feel that. It was almost as if he were dead.

I instantly closed the mental door to that line of thinking. I was not able to think about Barry Alexander dying. I could not, would not, do it. Besides, it was simply impossible. He was only sick, after all - probably some sort of infection; the Royal Navy doctors here at Portsmouth would give him an antibiotic and he'd be himself again in the morning.



I stood at the open door of the ambulance and watched as the two medics carried Barry into the hospital. "He's going to be all right, Robbie," Elizabeth said from beside me, her voice pulling me out of the shock that had descended over me.

I looked at her and she smiled up at me.

Pettigrew appeared at the entrance of the hospital. "Capitaine d'Orléans," he called and I felt movement as Philippe turned his attention to John. I hadn't even realised that Elizabeth's fiancé had been standing at my other side.

"Yes?" he called.

"There's a surgeon inside who'll look at that arm of yours," Pettigrew told him.

"Robbie, I think perhaps we should go inside," Elizabeth suggested. Together, they led into the hospital.

A nurse met us as we entered and motioned Philippe to her. Elizabeth looked from him to me and back. "Go with him, Eliza," I told her. She smiled acknowledgement and followed the man she'd chosen for herself.

"My Lord, the base commander is in the waiting room to meet you," Pettigrew informed me, giving me his name, as we were left alone in the entrance corridor.

"The base commander?" I asked, my interest piqued.

Pettigrew grinned back. "I think that Mr.