Charles had eventually come right, by the time his valet had started preparing his evening wear. He was ashamed to have been so put under, for so long of a period, by alcohol and more ashamed, indeed astounded, to find out that Alexa had not drunk anything at all and was still on the dancefloor when daylight raised its head.
“She really is quite a girl!” He said to himself as he prepared his shaving kit. It was beginning to get dark outside and Charles found the experience of shaving at dusk quite bemusing. Not something he’d like to make a regular occurrence, but was a welcome change to the rigid structure that had been imposed on his grooming by his father.
“The dawn of a new age.” Charles said to his doppelganger in the mirror.
“Sorry sir, do you need assistance?” Jack said from outside the door.
“Oh, no sorry Jack, my fault, just talking to this handsome chap in the mirror.”
There was silence in return. Charles knew this meant that his valet was passing silent judgement on him, but he didn’t really care, because Charles was also aware, that Jack had a female interest of his own.
It had been two days and nothing had happened. Well, nothing had happened that Charlie was aware of. In dark rooms, with no windows and multiple locks, things were happening, things that would eventually have dire consequences for Charlie. However, for now, Charlie felt OK.
He was keeping his manic paranoia to reasonable levels and was now only looking out the window once an hour, rather than spending his whole life looking for the inevitable black van. Deep down he knew it would come at some point, so why waste what time he had left. Yeah, he was telling himself that, but the fear was rising in his gut, like the vomit does when you’ve had 3 too many beers.
The relationship between himself and Gina had stabilised to a general standoffishness, a personal cold war, tense, silent, but as yet non lethal. Charlie should have been planning his escape, but he was experiencing a form of P.T.S.D brought on by the soaring high and crashing low of his life over the last few months.
Then he saw the note hidden between the sofa cushions.
YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE THEY ARE COMING FOR YOU
The naughty weekend away was now a distant memory for Daniel, as he had been thrust into the cold loneliness of an operation the moment he had returned from the trip. He was in an East German car driving through East Berlin, on the way to a meeting with a potential defector.
Lovingly codenamed Hermann the German by his department. He was a mid level East German military intelligence officer, with a sick wife who wanted to be treated in the West. It was Daniel’s job to check the couple out and if possible bring them both in, with all the intelligence they could gather.
He pulled the car into the designated meeting spot, turned the rubber band engine off and waited.
He was caught unawares sometime later, by a knock on the passenger door. He reached over and opened it, letting a short, slightly bald, rotund man sit down next to him.
“Es tut mir leid mein herr. Ich heisse Hermann. Ich liebe edelweis schokolade, und du?”
That was the codephrase the man had been told to use, now Daniel simply needed to use the reply phrase and they could begin the dance.
“Guten abends Hermann, Ich liebe dich.”
“Inspector Deacon, as much as it pains me to say this, after what you put my family through during your murder investigation, I am glad to see you. Please sit.” Charles motioned to a very ornate seat, next to the fireplace in the elaborate front room of his house.
“Thank You Lord Yates.”
That was very rich thought Charles. He’d never called Charles; Lord Yates during the murder investigation, but now he was all airs and graces. Well, Charles thought, I suppose my wife has just died.
“Please, just call me Charles. Now, do you have any information on my wifes death?”
“She was found by the housekeeper in her dressing chair. She was holding a letter.”
Charles knew what was coming next.
“Yes a letter. Luckily your housekeeper didn’t touch it and my first man on the scene was quick enough to realise that it was important, so only touched it wearing his traffic gloves. Saved his life. The letter was covered in a fast acting poison, we’ve only ever seen it used against spies and the like.”
Charles paused for a moment.
“This letter, it was addressed from Pale Clara I assume?”
“Yes it was sir.”
It was Christmas 1917. The war should have ended two Christmas’ before, America joining in had moved things along, but there was still a war to fight.
Charles had returned home to his country house and was reading a letter from his father in law, providing details of the funeral of Alexa who had been buried in her family cemetery. Charles had wanted her buried in the graveyard in the grounds of his house, but had heard of the plans too late to be able to change them.
“Excuse me sir.”
Charles turned to find his valet, Jack standing next to his chair. He hadn’t heard him approach.
“Considering you have a leg injury stopping you joining up Jack, you move very quietly.”
Jack smiled. “Indeed Sir.”
“Did you want something Jack?”
“The staff and I, we just wish to convey our condolences on your loss. Lady Alexa was held in high regard in the house and was kind to many of us. We would like to give you this.”
Charles was handed a small, exquisitely wrapped parcel. He unwrapped it carefully, exposing a round silver locket containing a beautiful painting of Alexa.
“My lord Jack, what a wonderful gift.”
Charles had just woken up. He had tried to move, but the throbbing in his head rapidly put paid to that idea. He opened an eye and paused, no further pain, so he opened the other. He wasn’t in his own room, he could see a mirrored table with an ornate lamp and a grand door, on which hung a black satin nightgown.
He tried to recall the end of the night before, but his memory had a large hole after he had consumed his sixth post dinner Martini. He knew he’d been at the Ra Ra Lounge, but where that was and how he had gotten to and from there was beyond him. One thing was for sure though, Alexa knew how to make the most of her city.
He risked stretching an arm out from under the pillow and soon came across skin and someone else's skin at that. This was something Charles hadn’t been expecting, he was going to have to roll over and see who it was.
With a huge force of will, Charles heaved his alcohol soaked body over and was met with the grinning face of Miss Alexa Alberforce.
“Good morning, how’s the head?”
Charlie was shivering. He had sat in the field all day, it was now dark, no one had arrived at the station, no one had gone in or out of the house and now the house was aglow and he could see smoke coming from the chimney.
He had been subconsciously humming ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by The Clash for the last half an hour, whilst fantasising about pizza. He was currently imagining a large pepperoni with BBQ sauce and sausage stuffed crust.
“So Charlie boy, what you gonna do? Stay out here all night or go back and do something.”
The sound of his own voice shocked Charlie for a moment, he hadn’t been aware he was going to speak, so was a little surprised when he heard himself.
“Weird.” Charlie said out loud.
It was no use, Charlie was not going to stay in the field for the whole night and if no one had come his way so far, then perhaps he was just making a mountain out of a molehill. He stood up and began walking back to the house.
In a control room, far far away, a note was made.