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“How do you girls keep this pace up?” Giles groaned, sprawled in a tweed heap of limbs behind his desk. “You’re all bally inhuman.” Peggy and Beth looked at each other, shrugging. This was just going to be another Matapan. They’d done it before; they’d do it again.

But there were always a few hours before midnight when things slowed down, and every night Beth found herself heading back into the furls and byways of Rose. Word had come back from the request she’d filed for all traffic flagged by Dilly and all associated frequencies. “It was filed as low priority,” the clerk said.

“I’ll take it.” A whole, lovely page to work with, not these frustrating scraps. “If the type of indicator on this machine is the same as the regular Enigma,” she muttered, pencil flying, “it would look the same, but maybe . . .”

She had her foot in the door.

It was the fifth of June.

“NOW’S THE TIME to go back to your billet and get some sleep,” Peter Twinn directed at sundown. “Starting midnight, it’s all hands.”

Most of ISK headed for the door, but Beth went back to her desk. After midnight the invasion traffic would swallow everything—she’d rather work Rose than try to catch a few hours’ restless sleep or try not to think about whether Harry was already in a plane headed for the channel. Surely he wasn’t finished training yet, but she’d heard horror stories about pilots rushed into cockpits with just a handful of flight hours . . .

She gave a hard blink and banished Harry, reaching for the long Rose intercept. She got one wheel position, an R, and after evaluating a dizzying number of key-blocks, put a Z into the next. Beth looked at that for a while, then wondered if the message might have been wired to the key C-Z-R, for czar. It was supposedly a Russian intercept . . .

She poked her head next door, where ISK now had Typex machines set up. All the decodists had left; Beth hesitated a moment, then took a crack at the nearest machine. It took a while to figure out how to set it up, but eventually Beth got the wheels locked into CZR for a starting position, then sat down and began painstakingly typing the ciphered message in.

“What’s that?” Peggy’s voice sounded behind her, but Beth didn’t turn around.

“Go away.”

“Hang on, let me see . . .”

“Peggy, go away.”

Heels clicked off, offended, and slowly the deciphered message unspooled. “Come on, you.” All Beth wanted to see was if it came clear; she didn’t care what it said—probably it was dummy traffic, the Russians experimenting with a captured machine. Beth just wanted to know that she’d broken it. If she could crack Rose, she could crack anything that would come at her in the invasion rush.

She was so used to seeing clumps of gibberish turn into clumps of German, it took her tired brain a moment to realize what she was seeing. It wasn’t German; it was English. She raised her eyebrows, hesitated, then carried the sheet back to her desk, got the folder with the rest of the intercepts, and tried running them through on the CZR setting. Machine settings changed every midnight, but sometimes operators got sloppy . . .

Not this time. It all came out rubbish, so Beth abandoned the Typex machine and went back to the decrypted message. She began separating the five-letter clumps into words, but her eyes raced ahead of the pencil.

Beth stopped dead.

“I’M SORRY, COMMANDER Travis isn’t in yet.”

Beth stared at the middle-aged woman typing placidly behind her desk. The mansion was eerily quiet, half the offices deserted. “I need to speak with him. It’s urgent.”

“Everything’s urgent today,” the woman sighed. “He’ll be in by midnight. Everyone’s coming in at midnight.”

Midnight? That was more than four hours away. Beth could hear her own heart thudding. She was clutching the folder of Rose messages to her chest like a shield. “I need to speak to him now,” she repeated. It was all she’d been able to think when she read the cipher message in English.

“Well, he’s probably getting a few hours of sleep. If you’ll leave your folder—”


“Then I’m afraid I can’t help you,” the woman said, clearly out of patience.

“Listen, you dozy cow—”

“You listen, Miss Finch. Simmer down, or I’ll have you tossed out on your ear.”

Beth stumbled out, her mouth dry. She came to a halt between the stone griffons flanking the mansion’s entryway, at an utter loss. The lawn stretched green and smooth down to the lake, but no codebreakers were playing rounders today in the long summer twilight. Men and women alike moved at a sharp clip between blocks, and the sky lowered gray and ominous. South of here, beaches designated Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno, and Gold rippled with calm, unbloodied waves. They wouldn’t stay unbloodied for long.

What am I supposed to do? Beth looked at her folder with the decrypted message and its horrifying revelations. She couldn’t take it back to ISK—anyone might have seen it there, sitting on her desk while she tried to run the other Rose messages through the Typex. It was in English; anyone could have wandered by and read it—Peggy had come up behind her while she was putting it through the Typex machine. Had she seen? Had one of the others seen? What if—

Stop panicking, Beth told herself, but couldn’t think where to go, what to do. She couldn’t leave it unattended. She couldn’t trust anyone in ISK. And when Travis came in, would he listen to her? The invasion launched in a matter of hours. Nothing would be more important, today and tomorrow, than that. Not even what she’d read in the decrypted message.

So keep it safe, she thought. Until it can be dealt with.

For now, “safe” was not Bletchley Park.

She thrust the folder under her cardigan and went through BP’s gates at a flat sprint, heading for the nearest corner. She had never hitched a ride from a stranger in her life, but she hitched one now, flagging an ancient Vauxhall rumbling through town. “Sir, it’s an emergency. Can you run me up the road to Courns Wood?”

Chapter 62

* * *


* * *

Take heed . . . how you awake our sleeping sword of war.” Good old Shakespeare. It may be a different enemy today than in Henry V’s era, but the sentiment remains the same as we look toward France.

Godspeed, boffins and debs.

* * *

Waiting for the transport bus?” Giles was sauntering along with that fair-haired ISK colleague of Beth’s—Peggy, Mab remembered, that was her name—and the two of them fell in beside Mab as she passed through Bletchley Park’s gates.

“I was off at the usual time, but I’ll return at midnight for the crush.” Mab shifted her handbag from one arm to the other, trying to avoid Giles’s gaze. She was still so embarrassed at having fallen apart in his bed, she could barely look at him.

He frowned. “You look like you haven’t been sleeping, Queen Mab.”

“I haven’t.” She’d cut down on the gin, and without its comforting haze she tossed and turned for hours before dropping off. Last night the dreams had all been of chasing Lucy through a choking maze of ash and rubble, and she’d wakened herself weeping.

“Well, that won’t do,” Peggy said briskly. “We need everyone fresh for tonight. Quite a thing, isn’t it?” She nodded in the direction of the village. “We know the invasion is happening, and they don’t have a clue.”

“I’m not worrying about it until barges hit beachheads,” Giles shrugged. “Have either of you seen Beth? I wanted to ask her to a concert or something after the imminent rush.”

“She was at ISK when I last saw her.” Peggy sounded irritated. “She bit my head off.”

“I’m thinking maybe I’ve got a chance with her, now Harry’s out of the picture . . .”

“She’ll bite your head off too. I don’t know how she’s got any friends left.” Looking at Mab. “I must say, you and Osla are more forgiving than I would be.”

“What do you mean?” Mab frowned.

“You mean the Coventry raid?” Giles asked Peggy.

“Yes, I was—”

Mab stopped on the corner. “What about the Coventry raid?”

Peggy looked chagrined. To Mab, every detail of her face stood out in peculiar clarity: the fair flyaway hair, the thin intelligent face. “Have I put my foot in it? Look, I assumed after your husband’s funeral, she would have apologized for . . .”

Mab’s ears buzzed as though she stood inside a beehive. “For what?”

“Not warning you all to stay away from Coventry. I assumed she didn’t, or else you’d never have gone. Beth broke an advance report about the raid—I was at the next desk.” Peggy’s eyebrows went up. Giles looked shocked. “. . . She didn’t tell you?”

Chapter 63

Beth?” Mrs. Knox blinked in surprise, opening the door. “What on earth—child, you’re white as a sheet.”