فصل 14

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فصل 14

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CHAPTER FOURTEEN

‘I should have known it all along,’ exclaimed Tuppence.

She was calming her nerves with a large glass of brandy, and was smiling broadly at Tommy and Mr Grant and Albert, who was sitting with a pint of beer and grinning from ear to ear.

‘Tell us about it, Tuppence,’ urged Tommy.

‘You first,’ said Tuppence.

‘There’s not much for me to tell,’ said Tommy. ‘A complete accident in Haydock’s bathroom led me to the secret wireless transmitter. I tried to pretend I thought it must have belonged to Hahn, the previous owner of Smugglers’, but Haydock was too clever for me.’

Tuppence nodded and said, ‘He telephoned Mrs Sprot at once. And she ran out into the drive and waited for you.’

‘After that,’ said Tommy, ‘the credit belongs entirely to Albert. He was investigating around Haydock’s place because it was the last place I’d been. I did some intense morse-code snoring and he understood it immediately. He went off to Mr Grant with the news and the two of them came back late that night. I did some more snoring! The result was that I agreed to remain in the cellar so that we could catch the people in the boat when it arrived.’

Mr Grant added his part of the story, ‘When Haydock went off this morning, our people took charge at Smugglers’ Rest. We captured the boat this evening.’

‘And now, Tuppence,’ said Tommy. ‘Your story.’

‘Well, to begin with, I was the biggest fool all along! I suspected everybody here except Mrs Sprot! Then Tommy disappeared. I was just getting a plan together with Albert when suddenly Anthony Marsdon arrived. He seemed all right to begin with - he was the usual sort of young man that Deborah often has around. But two things made me think a bit. First, I became more and more convinced as I talked to him that I had never seen him before and that he had never been to the flat. The second thing was that, though he seemed to know all about my working at Leahampton, he assumed that Tommy was in Scotland. Now, that seemed all wrong. If he knew about anyone, it would be Tommy since I wasn’t here officially. That seemed very strange to me.

‘Mr Grant had told me that Fifth Columnists were everywhere. So why shouldn’t one of them be working in Deborah’s department? I was suspicious enough to lay a trap for him. I told him that Tommy and I had fixed up a code for communicating with each other. I told Anthony we used the saying Penny plain, tuppence coloured in letters and said we spelt plain as Playne.

‘As I hoped, he believed it completely! I got a letter this morning, which gave him away totally. I’d worked out all the arrangements with Albert beforehand. All I had to do was to pretend to be ringing up a dressmaker to cancel a fitting but really I was phoning Albert to let him know that Anthony was a traitor and that N or M, or both of them, wanted to know more about me and what I knew.’

‘It gave me a shock,’ said Albert. ‘I drove up with a baker’s van and we poured a pool of aniseed just outside the gate.’

‘And then…’ Tuppence took up the story, ‘I came out and walked in the aniseed. Of course it was easy for the baker’s van to follow me to the station and then someone else, who was also following me, came up behind me and heard me book a ticket to Yarrow. It was after that that it might have been difficult.’

‘The dogs we’d brought followed the smell of the aniseed well,’ said Mr Grant. ‘They picked it up at Yarrow station and again on the track the tyre had made after you kicked your shoe on it. It led us down to the trees and up again to the stone cross and where you had walked over the hills. The enemy had no idea we could follow you easily after they had seen you set off walking and had driven off themselves.’

‘All the same,’ said Albert, ‘it made me very worried, knowing you were in that house and not knowing what might be happening to you there. We got in a back window and caught the foreign woman as she came down the stairs. We came in just in time to save you.’

‘I knew you’d come,’ said Tuppence. ‘The thing was for me to keep things going as long as I could. What was really exciting was the way I suddenly saw the whole thing and what a fool I’d been.’

‘How did you see it?’ asked Tommy.

‘Goosey, goosey, gander,’ said Tuppence promptly. ‘When I said that to Commander Haydock he went absolutely mad. And not just because it was silly and rude. No, I saw at once that it meant something to him. And then there was the expression on that German woman’s face - Anna - it was like the Polish woman’s, and then, of course, I thought of King Solomon, who ruled Israel thousands of years ago, and I saw the whole thing.’

Tommy gave a sigh of exasperation. ‘Tuppence, if you say that once again, I’ll shoot you myself. Saw all what? And what on earth has Solomon got to do with it?’

‘Do you remember that two women came to Solomon with a baby and both said it was hers, but Solomon said, “Very well, cut it in two.” And the false mother said, “All right.” But the real mother said, “No, let the other woman have it.” You see, the real mother couldn’t face her child being killed. Well, the night that Mrs Sprot shot the other woman, you all said what a miracle it was and how easily she might have shot the child. Of course, it ought to have been quite clear then! If it had been her child, she wouldn’t have risked that shot for a minute. It proved that Betty wasn’t her child. And that’s why she absolutely had to shoot the other woman.’

‘Why?’

‘Because, of course, the other woman was the child’s real mother.’ Tuppence’s voice shook a little. ‘Poor thing - poor hunted thing. She came over to England as a refugee, with nothing, and so she was grateful when Mrs Sprot asked if she could adopt her baby and gave her money.’

‘But why did Mrs Sprot want to adopt the child?’

‘Camouflage! It would be hard to believe that a master spy would involve her child in the business. That’s the main reason why I never considered Mrs Sprot seriously. Simply because of the child. But Betty’s real mother had a terrible longing for her baby and she found out where Mrs Sprot was living and came down here. She waited around for her chance, and at last she got it and went off with the child.

‘Mrs Sprot, of course, was terribly worried. At all costs she didn’t want the police to get involved. So she wrote that message and pretended she’d found it in her bedroom, and she made sure Commander Haydock was brought in to help. Then, when we’d tracked down the poor woman, Mrs Sprot couldn’t risk being discovered, so she shot her. She pretended not to know anything about firearms when, in fact, she was a very fine shot! Yes, she killed that poor woman - and because of that, I’ve no pity for her. She was bad through and through.’

Tuppence paused, then she went on, ‘Another thing that ought to have given me a hint was the likeness between Vanda Polonska and Betty. It was Betty the woman reminded me of all along. And then the child’s strange play with my shoelaces. How much more likely that she’d seen her “mother” do that - not Carl von Deinim! But as soon as Mrs Sprot saw what the child was doing, she placed a lot of evidence for us to find in Carl’s room and added the master touch of a shoelace soaked in secret ink.’

‘I’m glad that Carl wasn’t involved,’ said Tommy. ‘I liked him.’

‘He’s not been shot, has he?’ asked Tuppence anxiously, noting the past tense.

Mr Grant shook his head. ‘He’s all right,’ he grinned. As a matter of fact I’ve got a little surprise for you there.’

Tuppence’s face lit up as she said, ‘I’m terribly glad - for Sheila’s sake! Of course we were idiots to suspect Mrs Perenna.’

‘She was mixed up in some IRA activities, nothing more,’ said Mr Grant.

‘I suspected Mrs O’Rourke a little - and sometimes the Cayleys…’

And I suspected Bletchley,’ put in Tommy.

And all the time’, said Tuppence, ‘it was that silly creature we just thought of as “Betty’s mother”.’

‘Not exactly silly,’ said Mr Grant. ‘A very dangerous woman and a very clever actress. And, I’m sorry to say, English by birth.’ Tuppence said, ‘Then I’ve no pity or admiration for her - it wasn’t even her own country she was working for.’ She looked at Mr Grant. ‘Did you find what you wanted?’

Mr Grant nodded. ‘It was all in that old collection of children’s books.’

‘The ones that Betty said were “nasty”!’ Tuppence exclaimed.

‘They were nasty,’ said Mr Grant dryly. ‘Little Jack Homer contained very full details of our naval operations. Johnny Head in Air did the same for the Air Force. Details of the Army were appropriately hidden in There Was a Little Man and He Had a Little Gun.’

‘And Goosey, Goosey, Gander?’ asked Tuppence.

Mr Grant said, ‘That book contains, written in invisible ink, a full list of all the important people who have agreed to assist in an invasion of this country. Among them were two chief constables, an air vice-marshal, two generals, the head of an armaments works, a cabinet minister, many police superintendents, commanders of local volunteer defence organizations, and various military and naval junior officers, as well as members of our own Intelligence Force.’

Tommy and Tuppence stared at him.

‘Incredible!’ said Tommy.

Grant shook his head. ‘You don’t understand the force of the German propaganda. It appeals to something in a man, some desire for power. These people were ready to betray their country not for money, but in a kind of superior pride in what they themselves were going to achieve for that country. In every other country it has been the same. And you can see that, with such people able to issue contradictory orders and confuse operations, the invasion would have had every chance of succeeding.’

‘And now?’ said Tuppence.

Mr Grant smiled. ‘And now,’ he said, ‘let them come! We’ll be ready for them!’

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