GAMES AT DEAUVILLE is the sequel of FLIGHT AT PEENEMŰNDE. Hopefully, you'll find it as appealing.
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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.