Inspector Collier turned onto the road outside the gates of Lambert Manor. Earlier, light snow had fallen making the road slick. An inky, cloud spattered and brooding sky blotted out the moon. Gusts of wind rattled windows in the Wolseley. His unfamiliarity with the country route made driving conditions treacherous. He slowed down. At each turn, light from his headlights splashed off the embankments but on the straightaway barely sliced through the moist-laden darkness. The route’s edge had become his only means of navigation as it shimmered at the periphery of the car’s beams. Beyond the shoulder lay deep, unforgiving gullies. A film of perspiration had formed on his forehead
Captain Hall turned on the overhead light.
“Oi,” complained Collier. “Turn off that damn light.”
The car swerved one way then the other before sliding to a stop.
He reached up to turn the light off when her hand locked onto his wrist like a trap. Gently with strength she redirected his intent.
If Collier could have spit bullets he would have done it right then and there. Biting down on his lower lip, he let his eyes say it instead.
For a long moment neither said a word. Finally she broke the silence.
“I’m sorry.” She looked out the windshield before turning back. “I was thoughtless. But, I thought if I could decipher the code before we got back to the Station…Well…it would speed up things.”
“The one I found in Werner’s bedroom.” She pulled up her collar and wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the chill.
“You took it? Was that wise?”
She smiled. “No, I didn’t take it, at least not in a manner of speaking. It’s here.” She pointed to her head.
“Uh-Huh. Okay. Is he likely to know that someone has been rummaging through his things?” He shifted uncomfortably in his seat.
“Not likely, there wasn’t enough time. The paper the code was scribbled on was in plain sight. So either he hadn’t decoded it or he had and hadn’t yet dispensed of it in the fireplace. I think his sweet tooth got the better of him. Remember? That’s how I met him, in the pantry.”
“I remember. You took a bit of risk doing that.”
“Perhaps,” she replied with a dismissive shrug. “It’s interesting, you know.”
“When your quarry doesn’t know he is the quarry and that he’s been found by the hunter.”
“Well…” About to rebut, Collier rethought it. “So, what did you think of him?”
She stared at him for a long moment before replying. “I felt as if I’d been licked all over by a cat and now I’m in need of a bath.”
Collier shivered from the image she had just conjured up. “Evil, aptly described.”
“Since we’ve stopped and the light…well…it’s on, do you mind?” She held up her notepad and pencil retrieved from her shoulder bag.
He cleared his throat and surveyed the weather outside. “Weather doesn’t…appear…to be…getting worse. I guess not. But, are you sure it can’t wait…”
His words trailed off when he realized she was no longer listening to him. He watched with great interest as she wrote numbers grouped in threes on her page.
“How could you possibly remember all of that?” he asked, pointing at her notebook.
“I have an eidetic memory.” She hesitated. “It has its good side and bad side.”
She scrutinized the coded message for a few seconds before shaking her head in disgust. Hurriedly, she began to translate it:
INTEL HIGHEST PRIORITY
PREPARATIONS FOR FALLWEISS CONCLUDED 20 AUG.
When she was completed, she hammered the point of her pencil into the page. “There! Now, why anyone would continue to use a QWERTY code is beyond me. No matter. This here, I think, ” pointing to (………) “R “Q “I ! “is the signature of the sender. And, based on our Intel, there’s a very good likelihood that signature belongs to an Otto Imhoff—a key person in Werner’s sleeper cell. Beyond that we know nothing else about him. The informant who was to pass that information on to us disappeared. And, the NKVD whom we believe do know won’t—to say it politely—share with us.”
“The Russians are part of this?”
“As it turns out, the NKVD is important to getting your son and his fiancé safely home. Whether you know it or not the Soviet Union has the most active and best-resourced intelligence organization in the world. Our asset is that they hate fascists. But, more often than not we are at cross-purposes. And there, Inspector, lies the rub.”
He attempted to discern the full translation but was unable to since most of it was in shadow. “Any idea what GLEIWITZ CONFIRMED means?”
She nodded. “Thanks to ‘Queenie’ we do. But I can say no more.” She closed her notepad and returned it along with the pencil to her bag. “Queenie has an important job to do this night if our plan is to work.”
He sighed deeply. “You appear concerned.”
“Not about that.” She opened the car door. “Switch spots.”
Before Collier could complain she had made her way around to the driver’s side and pulled him out, taking his place. “Hurry up,” she shouted, patting the passenger seat. Once he was seated, she turned and smiled at him. “I thought it best.”
Putting the vehicle in gear the back wheels spun. Then, with a sudden jerk, the wheels gripped the road and the Wolseley sped off.
“I don’t know whether I told you, Inspector, but I used to drive racing cars State side. So, you’re in good hands. Anyway, from where I come from, I’ve had a lot of experience driving in this slop.”
Unnerved by her driving, Collier held on tightly to his seat as they slid, yet again, into another bend in the road.
Humpty Dumpty once on Lambert’s wall stood
His intent to bring a great fall within;
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t stop Humpty from killing all within.
Werner Gruener felt a great deal of satisfaction as he walked through the gates of Lambert Manor. The Robert McTavish disguise discarded, he was ready for the next leg of his mission.