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In the sudden stunned hush, Beth heard tinny voices from the ticket-booth radio: the Westminster Abbey choir, voices lifted in joyous clarion song. The royal couple were married.

Underneath her, Beth could feel Giles shuddering. She looked into his face inches under her own, and a wave of disgust and fury lashed her as she realized he was crying. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“I don’t—want—your sorry,” Beth spat, lungs still fighting for air. “You cut-price—second-rate—asinine little traitor.”

“I’m not—”

“That’s exactly what you are.” Osla limped up, panting, one shoe missing, and sat down in a billow of silver satin on Giles’s tangled legs. “Don’t even think about getting up. And by the way”—twisting off her emerald—“the engagement’s off. Never liked green stones, anyway.”

“Shall I spike him?” Mab placed one smart-heeled boot on Giles’s forehead, glaring down. He lay without struggling, tears slipping down his cheeks in tired gusts. Whispers were rising from the puzzled onlookers.

“Here now, what’s going on?” A policeman, red faced, indignant, the most welcome sight on earth. “Brawling on Her Highness’s wedding day, now, I won’t stand for that, not in Victoria station.”

Mab tried to explain, Harry’s voice sounded, and then people were shoving, voices rising. A railway conductor tried to haul Mab away from where she was still half standing on Giles, and Mike promptly clocked him. The man went down like a sack of turnips. Osla was gesticulating at the policeman, who shouted her down, and Beth was the only one to hear Giles’s terrified whisper.

“What’s going to happen to me?”

Beth looked down into his eyes. The man who’d stolen years of her life. Betrayer of her friends; betrayer of the future queen who was even now signing her bridal registry; betrayer of the stalwart stammering king who had walked her down the aisle. Betrayer of Churchill, who beamed beside the new prime minister in the abbey—Churchill, who had limped into Bletchley Park and told them the war couldn’t be won without them.

Betrayer of Bletchley Park, all that it was, all that Beth loved.

She pushed herself unsteadily away from Giles, not wanting to touch him. “Whatever happens to you,” she rasped, “it won’t be enough.”

“You are all under arrest,” the policeman trumpeted, and the world went right on sliding into madness.

Chapter 84

I missed the wedding of the century, Osla thought, contemplating her cell bars. Oh well!

The police had ended up arresting Giles, Osla, Mab, Beth, Harry, Mike, the man with the leather-bound book, and two ticket collectors. Now here they all were in a drunk tank, who knew where, with threats from the policeman that they could all bloody well stay there overnight or until the wedding celebrations were over, whichever came first. Somewhere further along the corridor Osla had seen Mab and Mike go into one cell, Beth and Harry and Giles into another. Giles was protesting, but not very clearly. Somehow in the scuffle before handcuffs came out, he’d tripped over Harry’s boot, crashed to the ground, and come up with a dislocated jaw. Sad, that. Osla smiled, contemplating the wreck of her silver satin Dior, hearing the rattle of bars. We did it, she thought.

Well, almost. Giles Talbot couldn’t talk his way out of this cell before Peggy Rock got through to someone at her GCHQ offices and rallied assistance—or, failing that, before Osla played her trump card. “If it’s not too too inconvenient, sir,” she’d already drawled to the sergeant, sliding a discreet pound note into his palm, “could I just bip out to the desk and make the teensiest ’phone call before you release anyone in our party?” Blinking her lashes, playing up the Mayfair vowels: clearly a female with the kind of family you didn’t want descending wrathfully on your doorstep to rescue their lost princess.

“Witless bloody debs,” the sergeant had muttered, but Osla just grinned. The phrase had lost its sting. Could a witless deb have helped catch a traitor to the crown? No. And the important people—her BP family, the consort of their future queen, and a highly secret portion of MI-5—knew, or would soon know, what she’d done. If the rest of the world continued to rate her low, well, that was their loss. Osla Kendall had proved herself to everyone who mattered.

“You’re definitely not my wife,” a voice commented from the other side of the cell bars. Osla looked up to see a tall officer in Rifle Brigade uniform.

“I don’t think I’m your wife either,” Osla replied. “Unless I’m suffering from spectacular amnesia.”

The officer turned to the sergeant. “Why exactly did I get called to the clink for some woman I’m not married to?” His voice sounded familiar . . .

The sergeant handed Osla’s overcoat over. “Your name was in the label, Major Cornwell. That desk clerk should have verified—” Commotion further along the corridor made the sergeant break off. “A moment, I’ll be back . . .”

He hurried off, and Osla looked at the worn-out overcoat she’d been hauling about since the Café de Paris. Looked at the man holding it: dark haired, a major’s insignia on his uniform, a Military Cross . . . “You’re J. P. E. C. Cornwell.” Her Good Samaritan with the low voice, so soothing in the aftermath of the explosion: Sit down, Ozma, and let me see if you’re hurt . . . Osla scrambled up, coming to the bars. “What do all those initials stand for? I’ve been wanting to know for years.”

“John Percival Edwin Charles Cornwell,” he said, still looking bemused, throwing a half salute. “Major, Rifle Brigade. First in Egypt, then with the partisans in Czechoslovakia—”

Osla reached through the grill, took hold of her Good Samaritan’s collar, drew his head down, and kissed him warmly on the mouth through the bars of her cell. She smelled heather and smoke—that wonderful scent that had long since faded out of his overcoat. “I’ve owed you that since you pulled me out of the rubble of the Café de Paris,” she said, drawing back with a grin. “For God’s sake, tell me: who’s Ozma of Oz?”

“L. Frank Baum’s lost princess. My favorite book.” He gave her a slow, thoughtful look. “Pleased to meet you, Osla Kendall. May I say, you have very nice handwriting.”

“Oh, blast. You actually got my message-in-a-bottle letters?” Osla had assumed those missives had dropped into limbo, considering the lack of response. She’d never written anything about BP, but still . . .

“They sat in a heap with my old landlady until I finally came back to London. I wrote you back then, but that Buckinghamshire address was defunct.” He regarded her with a nearly invisible smile. “Did you ever get over that chap who broke your heart?”

Osla waved a hand. “He’s last year’s news, darling.”

“Good. You sounded very low for a while there.”

“I’m really quite a fizzing sort, normally. You’re just always running into me when I’m in a blue funk. Heartbroken, or recently bombed, or incarcerated . . .”

“Yes, why are you in jail, exactly?”

“’Fraid I can’t say. Official Secrets Act.”

Major John Cornwell rubbed a hand through his dark hair, looking bemused again, but the sergeant’s voice interrupted. “You’re free to go, sir. Sorry for the inconvenience. And you, Miss Kendall, have been cleared to make your telephone call.”

“Don’t go anywhere,” Osla told J. P. E. C. Cornwell with a sparkling smile, breezing past him for the front desk. Where her trump card hit the table as she rang a number by heart:

“A message for Prince Philip, please—yes, the Duke of Edinburgh. I’m aware he’s at his wedding breakfast.” She lowered her voice and murmured for a long moment, as every policeman within earshot gaped. “No, I can’t give any further details. But he gave me this number for any moment of dire need, and that need is now.”

Chapter 85



21 December 1947

* * *

Our red-haired chap has been very talkative. After we’ve finished picking his brain, I recommend our Kiloran Bay facility in Scotland—significantly more secure, if more bleak, than the sanitarium which failed to hold Miss Finch.

One final thought . . . there are hints that our red-haired chap is not the only compromised individual in our circles. Once the current matter is finished, I suggest we divert our efforts toward this new information. Time to settle accounts.

It looks dead,” Mab said.

“Deader than Manderley after the fire,” Osla agreed.