فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

On the sunny terrace outside, Miss Minton was knitting.

‘Good morning, Mrs Blenkensop. I do hope you slept well.’ Mrs Blenkensop admitted that she never slept very well the first night or two in a strange bed then added, ‘What a very pretty pattern that is you are knitting!’

Miss Minton looked pleased.

‘I’m not very good at knitting,’ Tuppence went on. ‘I can only do simple things like balaclavas for the soldiers, and even now I’m afraid I’ve gone wrong somewhere. I’d never done any before this terrible war. But one feels that one must do something.’

‘Oh yes, indeed. And you have a boy in the Navy?’

‘Yes, my eldest. Then I have a boy in the Air Force and Cyril, my youngest, is out in France.’

‘Oh dear, dear, how terribly worried you must be!’

Tuppence thought of her son. ‘Oh Derek, my darling Derek… Out there in terrible danger and here I am acting the part of a worried mother - when it’s what I really am!’ She said aloud, ‘We must all be brave, mustn’t we? I was told the other day by someone in a very high position that the Germans can’t possibly fight for more than another two months.’

Mr and Mrs Cayley had come out on the terrace. Mr Cayley sat in a chair and his wife put a blanket over his knees.

‘What’s that you are saying?’ he asked.

‘We are saying,’ said Miss Minton, ‘that it will all be over by the autumn.’

‘Nonsense,’ said Mr Cayley. ‘This war is going to last at least six years.’

‘Oh, Mr Cayley,’ protested Tuppence. ‘You don’t really think so?’

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I give it six years. You dear ladies are being completely unrealistic. Now I know Germany very well from my business dealings before I retired. I can assure you that Germany can continue practically indefinitely with Russia behind her…’ Mr Cayley went on, approval in his voice.

Mrs Sprot came out with Betty and sat her down with a small woollen dog with only one ear and a woollen doll’s jacket. ‘There, Betty,’ she said. ‘You dress up Bonzo ready for his walk while Mummy gets ready to go out.’

Betty started talking to Bonzo in her own language.

‘Truckle - truckly - pah bat,’ said Betty.

Mr Cayley, noticing that no one was paying him any attention, continued angrily, ‘As I was saying, Germany has such a perfect system of…’

Tuppence could feel someone behind her. She turned her head. It was Mrs Perenna, her eyes on the group. And there was something in those eyes - contempt?

Tuppence thought, ‘I must find out more about Mrs Perenna.’

Tommy was making friends with Major Bletchley.

‘You brought some golf clubs with you, didn’t you, Meadowes? We must have a game together. The course has lovely views over the sea. And it’s never very crowded. What about coming along with me this morning?’

‘Thanks very much. I’d like it.’

‘I must say, I’m glad you’ve arrived,’ remarked Bletchley as they were walking up the hill. ‘There are too many women in that place. It gets annoying. I’m glad there’s another man to talk to. You can’t count Cayley - the man talks of nothing but his health. If he went out for a good ten-mile walk every day, he’d be a different man. And I’m not sure about von Deinim.’

‘No?’ said Tommy.

‘No. This refugee business is dangerous. I’d intern the lot of them. We need to be cautious. Carl von Deinim came over here only a month before the war began. That’s a bit suspicious.’

‘Then you think…?’ began Tommy.

‘Spying!’

‘But surely there’s nothing of great military or naval importance around here?’

‘But it’s on the coast, isn’t it? And anyone could come over here and talk about their brothers in concentration camps. He’s a Nazi - that’s what he is - a Nazi.’

The Major won their game of golf, which delighted him. ‘Good match, Meadowes, very good match. Come along and I’ll introduce you to some of the others in the clubhouse. Nice lot. Ah, here’s Haydock - you’ll like Haydock. Retired naval man. He has that house on the cliff next door to us. He’s our local Air Raid Precaution Warden - you know, he patrols the streets at night to make sure no lights are showing to attract the German bomber pilots.’

Commander Haydock was a big man with intensely blue eyes and a habit of shouting most of the time.

‘So you’re going to keep Bletchley company at Sans Souci? He’ll be glad of another man. Rather too many females, eh, Bletchley?’

‘I’m not that much of a ladies’ man,’ said Major Bletchley.

‘Nonsense,’ said Haydock. ‘Not your type of lady, my boy, that’s all. Old ladies with nothing to do but talk about other people and knit.’

‘You’re forgetting the landlady’s daughter, Miss Perenna,’ said Bletchley.

‘Ah, Sheila. She’s an attractive girl all right.’

‘I’m a bit worried about her,’ said Bletchley. ‘She’s seeing too much of that German fellow.’

‘Hmm, that’s bad. He’s a good-looking young man, but we can’t have that sort of thing. Making friends with the enemy - we can’t allow that. There are plenty of decent young English fellows about.’

Bletchley added, ‘Sheila’s a strange girl - there are times when she will hardly speak to anyone.’

‘Spanish blood,’ said Commander Haydock. ‘Her father was half Spanish, wasn’t he?’ He looked at his watch. ‘It’s time for the news. We’d better go in and listen to it.’

There was little news that day. After commenting with approval on the latest activities of the Air Force, the Commander talked about his favourite theory - that the Germans would try to land at Leahampton simply because it was such an unimportant spot. ‘There’s not even an anti-aircraft gun in the place! Terrible!’ Haydock then gave Tommy an invitation to come and see his house, Smugglers’ Rest. ‘I’ve got a marvellous view - my own beach. Bring him along, Bletchley.’

It was decided that Tommy and Major Bletchley should come for drinks on the evening of the following day.

After lunch at Sans Souci, Mr Meadowes walked down to the pier. There were some children running up and down screaming in voices that matched the screaming of the seabirds, and one man sitting on the end, fishing. Mr Meadowes stood beside him and looked down into the water. Then he asked gently, ‘Caught anything?’

The fisherman shook his head. ‘I don’t often catch anything,’ Mr Grant said, without turning his head. ‘What about you, Meadowes?’

‘I’ve nothing much to report as yet, sir. I’ve made friends with Major Bletchley who seems the usual type of retired officer. Cayley seems to be a genuine invalid. However, he was in Germany frequently during the last few years. And of course there’s von Deinim.’

‘Yes, I’m interested in von Deinim. N or M may not be at Sans Souci, it may be Carl von Deinim who is there, reporting to them. Through him we may be led to them. But I can tell you in confidence, Beresford, that very nearly all Germans in this country are going to be interned.’

‘You’ve had the other guests at Sans Souci checked, I suppose, sir?’

Grant sighed. ‘No. I could ask the department to check easily enough but I can’t risk it, Beresford. I’m not sure we don’t have a traitor in the department itself. If anyone guesses that I’m watching Sans Souci, then the organization may find out. That’s why you’ve got to work without help from us. They must not know. There’s only one person I’ve been able to check up on.’

‘Who’s that, sir?’

‘Carl von Deinim. That was easy enough because it’s routine to check foreigners.’

‘And what was the result?’

‘Carl is exactly what he says he is. His father, who was against the Nazis, was arrested and died in a concentration camp. Carl’s elder brothers are in camps. His mother died a year ago. He got to England a month before war began. Von Deinim said he wanted to help this country and his work in a chemical research laboratory has been excellent.’

‘Then he’s all right?’

‘Not necessarily. There are two possibilities. The whole von Deinim family could be deceiving us. Or else this is not the real Carl von Deinim but a man playing the part of Carl von Deinim.’

‘He seems a very nice young man,’ said Tommy slowly.

Sighing unhappily Grant replied, ‘They nearly always are. But what about the women in this place?’

‘I think there’s something strange about the woman who runs it.’

‘Mrs Perenna?’

‘Yes. There’s a young mother; an unmarried woman who knits; the invalid’s stupid wife; and a rather terrifying-looking old Irishwoman. All seem harmless enough.’

‘That’s everyone?’

‘No. There’s a Mrs Blenkensop - arrived three days ago.’

‘Well?’ demanded Grant.

‘Mrs Blenkensop is my wife.’

‘What? I thought I told you not to say a word to your wife!’

‘And I didn’t.’ With a quiet pride, Tommy told Grant what Tuppence had done. There was a silence. Then Grant laughed.

‘She’s wonderful! Easthampton told me not to leave her out. I wouldn’t listen to him. It shows you, though, how careful you’ve got to be not to be overheard. Yes, she’s a smart woman, your wife. Tell her the department will consider it an honour if she will agree to work with us.’

‘I’ll tell her,’ said Tommy with a grin.

‘I don’t suppose you could persuade your wife to keep out of danger?’

Tommy said slowly, ‘I wouldn’t want to do that… Tuppence and I, you see, we go into things together, always!’

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