“And you didn’t wait in the corridor. You were seen in one of the inner rooms.”
“A girl I knew from the canteen waved at me. I stuck my head in to wave back, but I didn’t go in.” Osla looked from face to face. “What’s this about?”
“Did you take anything from Hut 3, Miss Kendall? Files, perhaps?”
“Of course not. Has something gone missing?”
They didn’t answer that. They didn’t have to. Osla’s mind flashed to the box files she thought might have been rifled the day of her godfather’s visit—but Travis had said Hut 3, not 4. “I didn’t take anything,” she repeated, pulling her flying thoughts together. She’d just about convinced herself she must have imagined that whisk of furtive motion the day Uncle Dickie came; now all her doubts came roaring back. She was about to unpack it all when Travis spoke again, even more icily.
“You have taken things from your section before.”
“Oh, really. I smuggled out a few blank pieces of paper to prove how easily it could be done.”
“Were you trying to prove something again?”
“No. I’m dished if I know what happened in Hut 3.” Though Osla wouldn’t have been surprised if someone else had reached the same conclusion she had, about how easily files could be snatched. Never in her life had she wanted so badly to say I told you so.
The florid man in the pin-striped suit—MI-5 or MI-6, Osla was suddenly, unpleasantly certain—cleared his throat and opened a file under his arm. “It’s my understanding that you are, ah, involved with a certain Prince Philip of Greece.”
Osla blinked. “What has that to do with anything?”
“Answer my question.”
“That wasn’t a question. It was a statement.” A statement with a nasty little implication ladled over the word involved, I might add. But this was not a man with whom she could afford to get snippy. “Prince Philip is my boyfriend, yes.”
“You two went out last Thursday to the cinema.”
“That Hamilton Woman. Not a very good picture.” Philip had howled with laughter at how the Battle of Trafalgar was depicted.
“Did you happen to . . . give your boyfriend anything that night?”
“What on earth do you mean?” Osla asked frostily.
“You are aware several of his brothers-in-law are members of the Nazi party?” There was a superior note in the man’s voice. As if she was too dense to connect the dots. “He’s related by blood and by marriage to a pack of Nazis.”
“So is King George,” she shot back. “It hasn’t snaffled his game any.”
“Don’t be flippant.”
“Philip’s relatives are neither a matter of choice nor a reflection on him.” She could feel rage shortening her breath. “He abhors his family connections to the Third Reich. He just passed his lieutenant’s exams for the Royal Navy. If he has the royal family’s approval, to the point where he’s allowed to correspond privately with the future queen of England, how can he be considered a risk?” The man in the pin-striped suit looked peevish. He couldn’t lose face by backing down, Osla knew, but he couldn’t say the king was a dupe, either. She crossed her arms. “Now you’re the one who hasn’t answered my question.”
He shifted tack instead. “Are you quite certain he doesn’t write to those sisters behind enemy lines? Who knows what he might be telling them. Especially when one considers his girlfriend has access to so much critical intelligence.”
“Don’t talk slush, sir.” Osla could feel Philip’s tousled hair under her hand, the exact feel of it. The roughness of the reddish beard he’d been growing on leave. “He does not write to his German relatives. And even if he did, he has no idea that I have access to critical intelligence. He thinks I have a boring office job.”
“Oh, come now, Miss Kendall. Not one single cozy confession over a pillow?”
Icicles dripped from Osla’s voice. “There is no pillow.”
“No need to be indelicate,” Travis said at the same time, looking rather disgusted.
Pinstripes shrugged, unapologetic. “You have to admit it looks bad. She’s careless with rules, knows how to smuggle information, let things slip to her godfather—”
“I did not—”
“—embroiled with a damned wog who has a pack of Nazis in the family tree. Specifically reported to us for turning up in Hut 3 where she shouldn’t have been—”
Someone reported me? Osla thought sickly. Who would do that?
“—and Canadian, to boot.”
“Like the Canadians who are fighting for England right now?” Osla’s voice rose. “Are those the Canadians you mean?”
“Lower your voice.”
“I will not. I left Montreal and came back to Britain to fight for this country. I have lied to everyone I love, including Philip, rather than violate the Official Secrets Act. I will not be labeled an outsider, and I will not be accused of being untrustworthy.” Osla unfolded her arms. “I would never have helped myself to a file of reports against all rules and regulations. I am as careful and clever a worker as you have ever hired at Bletchley Park.”
They looked skeptical. To them she was that silly girl who didn’t have a thought in her head but hijinks and handsome princes—who would believe a word she said?
“If you want to prove your loyalty,” Pinstripes said at last, “then I’m sure you’ll have no objection to turning over all your correspondence with Prince Philip.”
For a moment Osla couldn’t speak. Could an oath demand this?
Apparently it could. She jerked out a nod, tasting bile.
Pinstripes looked satisfied, but Travis put up a hand. “It would be better for BP if you broke things off with this fellow altogether,” he said bluntly. “A girl with your access to sensitive information cannot have Nazi connections, however thirdhand.”
Osla’s stomach rolled. Take everything, she thought. Just take it all, why don’t you. The two things that had brought her happiness after the shattering darkness of the Café de Paris: Philip, whose arms had become something like a home, and her pride in her job. So much for her shining hope, once she’d moved to translation duties, that she’d finally proved herself enough to be taken seriously. Her word of honor clearly meant nothing here. A girl like her couldn’t be trusted to keep her mouth shut around her boyfriend, so just break things off, you silly socialite. She wanted to lash out, pound the desk in rage.
“I understand, sir,” she forced out.
What else was there to say?
PHILIP’S VOICE DOWN the telephone line was jubilant. “I’ve received my posting, Os. Sublieutenant on the Wallace. Just an old Shakespeare-class destroyer, but she’s got teeth.”
“Topping,” Osla managed to say. He wouldn’t tell her where the ship would patrol, but she already had a very good idea, after translating so many reports on surface navy action. Probably E-boat Alley, that treacherous passage between the Firth of Forth and Sheerness . . .
“I’m off in two days. Any chance you can get to London for a final hurrah?”
Osla closed her eyes tight. She had to swallow twice, but her voice came out light, careless. “I’m simply knackered, darling. See you on the other side?”
Then she rang off, going upstairs to gather all his letters. The idea that someone would be pawing through their correspondence made her sick, but the sooner Pinstripes saw it was all innocuous, the better. Turn the letters over, and then she’d better start discouraging Philip from writing any more. Being close to a Bletchley Park translator was clearly agitating London intelligence about his loyalties—it was absurd, but Osla knew exactly how paranoid MI-5 could be. She’d heard all about the fuss they’d kicked up last year over an Agatha Christie novel, for God’s sake, just because the mystery writer had named a spy Colonel Bletchley . . .
Osla’s vision blurred as she finished bundling up Philip’s letters, but she wouldn’t let the tears fall. Any Agatha Christie heroine worth her salt would poker up here and do what she had to. Even if it meant breaking her own heart.
An Agatha Christie heroine might do a little digging, too, if she were in Osla’s situation. Might poke around after those missing files. Because this was the second set of files that had been either rummaged or nabbed, and Osla couldn’t help but wonder, disquiet running through her bones, if someone here was stealing information.
Ten Days Until the Royal Wedding
November 10, 1947
Inside the Clock
Back in the straitjacket again. One of the matrons, it seemed, had reported Beth’s throwing up her morning pills.
“Just until you’re calm,” the doctor said as she was buckled in.
“If I take those blasted tablets I am halfway to a coma,” Beth snarled, thrashing. “How calm do you want me, you pill-peddling hack?”
“An extra dose, doctor?” The matron spoke up, cream smooth—the same matron whose arm Beth had burned with a cigarette. “Liddell has been misbehaving lately. An orderly said she made indecent overtures to him, in a linen closet. These nymphomaniac types . . .”