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فصل 21

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Chapter twenty one

Victoria sat on the balcony of the Tio Hotel, once more in the role of a modern Juliet, waiting for Romeo. And soon enough Romeo appeared below, looking around.

‘Edward,’ Victoria called.

Edward looked up. ‘Oh, there you are!’

A moment later he came out upon the balcony - and stared at her in a puzzled way. ‘I say, Victoria, haven’t you done something to your hair?’

Victoria gave a troubled sigh.

‘I liked it better as it was,’ said Edward.

‘Tell Catherine so!’

‘Catherine? What has she got to do with it?’

‘Everything,’ said Victoria. ‘You told me to make friends with her, and I did, and I don’t suppose you’ve any idea what trouble it got me into!’

‘Well, Catherine said you’d told her to tell me that you’d gone off to Mosul. It was very important and good news, and I would hear from you as soon as you could manage.’

‘And you believed that?’ said Victoria. How could he be so silly? ‘You didn’t think that Catherine might be lying, and that I’d been knocked on the head.’

‘What?’ Edward stared.


‘Good Lord!’ Edward looked quickly around. ‘I don’t think we should talk out here. Can’t we go to your room?’

‘All right. Did you bring my luggage?’

‘Yes, I left it with the porter.’

‘Because I haven’t had a change of clothes for two weeks…’

‘Victoria, what has been happening? I know - I’ve got the car here. Let’s go out to Devonshire.’

‘Devonshire?’ Victoria stared in surprise.

‘Oh, it’s just a name for a place not far out of Baghdad. It’s lovely this time of year. Come on. I haven’t been alone with you for so long.’

They ran down the stairs and out to where Edward’s car was parked. Edward drove south along a wide road. Then he turned off and they bumped through the fields of palm trees and over little bridges. Finally they came to some fruit trees which were just beginning to flower. It was beautiful - and beyond the woods was the Tigris.

They got out and walked through the flowering trees.

‘This is lovely,’ said Victoria sighing deeply.

The air was soft and warm. After a while they sat down on a fallen tree with pink flowers above their heads.

‘Now, darling,’ said Edward. ‘Tell me what’s been happening to you. I’ve been so horribly miserable.’

‘Have you?’ she smiled dreamily.

Then she told him. Of the hairdresser, the chloroform - and waking up. Of how she had escaped and her lucky meeting with Richard Baker, and pretending to be an anthropologist arriving from England.

At this point Edward shouted with laughter.

‘You are marvellous, Victoria! The things you think of- and invent.’

‘I know,’ said Victoria. ‘My uncles: Dr Pauncefoot Jones and before him - the Bishop.’

And she suddenly remembered what she had been going to ask Edward at Basrah when Mrs Clayton had called them in for drinks.

‘I meant to ask you before,’ she said. ‘How did you know about the Bishop?’

She felt his hand go tense. He said quickly, ‘Why, you told me, didn’t you?’

It was strange, Victoria thought afterwards, that one silly mistake should have done what it did. For he was taken by surprise, he had no story ready - his face was suddenly unguarded and his hidden lies were so easy to read.

As she looked at him, everything changed and she saw the truth. Perhaps it was not really sudden. Perhaps, pushed deep down in her mind beneath all the excitement and glamour, the question had been worrying her - How did Edward know about the Bishop?

And she had been slowly arriving at the only answer - Edward had not learned about the Bishop of Llangow from her. And the only other person he could have learned it from was Mr or Mrs Hamilton Clipp. But they had not seen Edward since her arrival in Baghdad because Edward had been in Basrah, so he must have learned it from them before he left England. He must have known all the time that Victoria was coming out to Baghdad with them - and the whole wonderful coincidence was not, after all, a coincidence.

It had been planned.

And as she stared at Edward’s face, she knew, suddenly, what Carmichael had meant by Lucifer. She knew what he had seen that day as he looked along the passage to the Consulate garden. He had seen that young, beautiful face that she was looking at now - for it was beautiful, just like Lucifer, Son of the Morning, was also beautiful.

Not Dr Rathbone - it had been Edward! Edward, playing the part of the secretary, but controlling and planning and directing everything, using Rathbone as a cover-up.

As she looked at that beautiful evil face, all her silly, childish love slowly disappeared, and she knew that what she felt for Edward had never been love. It had been attraction and excitement. And Edward had never loved her. He had used his charm deliberately. He had chatted to her that day, using his charm so easily, so naturally, that she had believed him immediately. She had been a fool.

It was extraordinary how much could flash through your mind in just a few seconds. You didn’t have to think about it. It just came. Full and immediate knowledge. Perhaps because really, underneath, you had known it all along…

Suddenly Victoria knew, instinctively, that she was in great danger. There was only one thing that could save her, only one thing she could say. ‘You knew all the time that I was coming out here! You must have arranged it. Oh Edward, you are wonderful!’

Her face showed one emotion - adoration. And she saw the scorn, the relief. She could almost feel Edward saying to himself, ‘The little fool! She’ll believe anything! I can do what I like with her.’

‘But how did you arrange it?’ she said. ‘You must be very powerful. You must be quite different from what you pretend to be. You’re - you’re like a King of Babylon.’

She saw the pride in his face. She saw the power and strength and beauty and cruelty that had been hidden behind his mask of a modest, likeable young man.

She said quickly and anxiously, as a final artistic touch, ‘But you do love me, don’t you?’

His scorn was clear to see now. This little fool - all women were fools! It was so easy to make them think you loved them and that was all they cared about! They had no idea of greatness, of a new world, they just wanted love! They were slaves and you used them as slaves.

‘Of course I love you,’ he said.

‘But what is it all about, Edward?’

‘It’s a new world, Victoria. A new world that we can create from the ruins of the old.’

‘Tell me.’

He told her the dream: how the old powers must destroy each other. How the fat capitalists holding on to all their money and the stupid communists who hated all ideas but their own, must destroy each other. There must be total war between America and Russia - total destruction of both. And then the new Heaven and the new Earth would appear. The small chosen group of superior beings -the scientists, the agricultural experts, the administrators- the young men like Edward - the young men of the New World. All young, all believing in their rule as Supermen. When the destruction was complete, they would step in and take control.

It was madness.

‘But think,’ said Victoria, ‘of all the people who will be killed.’

‘That doesn’t matter,’ said Edward.

But surely, Victoria thought, all the ordinary people working quietly, bringing up families and laughing and crying, they were the people who did matter. Not these angels with evil faces who didn’t care who they hurt.

And carefully, for she knew that death might be very near, Victoria said, ‘You are wonderful, Edward. But what can I do?’

‘You want to help? You believe in it?’

She had to be careful. A sudden change would be too much.

‘I think I just believe in you!’ she said. ‘Anything you tell me to do, Edward, I’ll do.’

‘Good girl.’

‘Why did you arrange for me to come out here? There must have been a reason.’

‘Of course. Do you remember I took a photo of you that day?’

‘I remember,’ said Victoria.

‘I couldn’t believe how much you look like a woman who’s been causing us a lot of trouble. I took that photo to make sure.’

‘Who is it?’

‘Anna Scheele.’

Victoria stared at him in surprise. Whatever she had expected, it was not this.

‘You mean Anna Scheele looks like me?’

‘Quite remarkably so - and you’re alike in height and size, though she’s five years older than you. The real difference is the hair, you’re a brunette and she’s a blonde. Your eyes are a darker blue, but that wouldn’t matter with sunglasses.’

‘And that’s why you wanted me to come to Baghdad? Because I looked like her.’


‘So you arranged the whole thing. The Clipps - who are the Clipps?’

‘They’re not important - they just do as they’re told.’ Something in Edward’s voice made Victoria shudder. Edward, she thought, believes he is God. That’s what’s so frightening.

‘Anna Scheele is incredibly good with finances,’ Edward was saying. ‘She’s found out about our financial operations. She knows how we are moving our money and what we are using it for. Three people have been dangerous to us - Rupert Crofton Lee and Carmichael - well, they’re both dead. Anna Scheele is the only one left. She said she would be in Baghdad for the Conference in three days’ time. But she’s disappeared.’

‘Disappeared? Where?’

‘We’ve an idea,’ said Edward. ‘We’ve got someone watching every entry into this country. We know she won’t use her own name - but there is a passage booked by BOAC in the name of Grete Harden. We’ve checked on Grete Harden - and there’s no such person. The name and the address are fake. We think that Grete Harden is Anna Scheele.’

He added, ‘Her plane will land at Damascus the day after tomorrow.’

‘And then?’

Edward’s eyes looked suddenly into hers. ‘You’ll take her place, Victoria.’

Like Rupert Crofton Lee, Victoria thought - and he had died. And when Victoria took her place, Anna Scheele would die.

And if for one moment Edward doubted her loyalty, then Victoria would die.

She must agree - and then find a way to report to Mr Dakin.

She took a deep breath, ‘Oh, Edward, I’d be discovered. My voice won’t sound the same as hers.’

‘Anna Scheele will be suffering from a serious throat infection. Our doctor will say so.’

‘Then what would I have to do?’ Victoria asked.

‘Fly from Damascus to Baghdad as Grete Harden. Go to bed immediately. Then the doctor will give you permission to get up just in time to go to the Conference. There, before the world’s leaders, you will present our papers in place of Anna Scheele’s.’

‘What will the documents say?’

Edward smiled. ‘Details that prove the most terrifying and huge communist plot in America.’

Victoria thought: how well they’ve planned it.

Victoria asked, ‘What about Dr Rathbone?’

Edward smiled in cruel amusement. ‘Rathbone has been stealing most of the money which comes to him from all over the world. He’s dishonest - and completely in our control. All things work towards our New Order.’

Victoria thought to herself, ‘Edward is mad! You get mad, perhaps, if you try and act the part of God. Humility is what keeps you human…’

Edward got up. ‘Time to go. We’ve got to get you to Damascus.’

In the suburbs of Baghdad, Edward drove into a side street of modern, European-style villas with balconies and gardens round them. In front of one house a big car was standing. Edward stopped behind it.

A thin, dark-skinned woman came out to meet them and Edward spoke to her in French - it seemed that Victoria’s clothes must be changed at once.

The woman turned to her and said politely in French, ‘Come with me, please.’

She led Victoria into a bedroom where, lying on a bed, were the long, black clothes of a nun. The woman made a sign, and Victoria undressed and put them on. The French woman put a string of wooden beads over her head. Then Victoria was sent out to Edward.

‘You look all right,’ he said in approval. ‘Keep your eyes down when there are men about.’

The Frenchwoman joined them, dressed in the same way. The two nuns got into the car which now had a tall European in the driver’s seat.

‘Do exactly as you are told now, Victoria,’ said Edward.

There was danger behind the words.

‘Aren’t you coming, Edward?’ Victoria begged.

He smiled at her. ‘You’ll see me in three days.’ Then, in his charming way, he said quietly, ‘Don’t fail me, darling. Only you can do this - I love you, Victoria. It’s too dangerous to kiss a nun - but I’d like to.’

Victoria dropped her eyes like a good nun should, but actually it was to hide her anger.

‘Horrible traitor,’ she thought.

‘Don’t worry,’ Edward added. ‘Your new name is Sister Marie. Sister Therese here has all the papers for the Syrian border.’

He stepped back, waved cheerfully, and the car started off.

Victoria had noticed that ‘Sister Therese’ had hidden a small gun in her sleeve. But there would be a moment Victoria could no longer be controlled - when she was standing with her fake documents in front of the Conference - and Edward would not be there.

No one could stop her then from saying, ‘I am not Anna Scheele and these papers are untrue.’

She wondered why Edward did not fear her doing just that.

The big aeroplane made a perfect landing. The passengers going on from London to Basrah were separated from those who were catching a connecting plane to Baghdad.

There were four of these: a rich-looking Iraqi businessman, a young English doctor and two women. A dark-skinned woman with a tired face answered the airport officer’s questions first.

‘Mrs Pauncefoot Jones? British. Yes. To join your husband in Baghdad, please? What money have you?’

A thin, fair-haired young woman wearing dark glasses took her turn next.

‘Grete Harden. Yes. Nationality? Danish. From London. Purpose of visit? Nurse at hospital. What money have you?’

The passengers were told that the Baghdad plane would leave that afternoon. They would be driven now to a hotel for a rest and lunch.

Grete Harden was sitting on her bed when a knock came on the door. She opened it and found a tall, dark-haired young woman wearing a BOAC uniform.

‘I’m so sorry, Miss Harden. Would you come with me to the BOAC office? There is a difficulty with your ticket. This way, please.’

Grete Harden followed her guide down the passage. On a door was a large board lettered in gold - BOAC office.

The air hostess opened the door and directed her inside. As Grete Harden went through, she closed the door and quickly took down the board.

As soon as Grete Harden entered the room, two men put a cloth over her head, forced a ball of cloth into her mouth, and one of them, a doctor, gave her an injection.

Her body relaxed immediately.

The doctor said cheerfully, ‘That will keep her unconscious for about six hours. Now then, you two, hurry up.’

He nodded towards two other people in the room. They were nuns. The men went out and the elder of the two nuns went to Grete Harden and began to take the clothes off her still body. The younger nun, shaking a little, started to undress. Soon she was wearing Grete Harden’s clothes.

The two men came in again, and now they were smiling.

‘Grete Harden looks just like Anna Scheele,’ one said. ‘And she had the papers in her luggage to prove it. Now then, Miss Harden,’ he bowed to Victoria, laughing at her, ‘come with me.’

The Baghdad plane left at three o’clock. The flight was short and for the second time, Victoria saw the city below her, the Tigris dividing it in a line of gold.

In two days the two great powers of the world, Russia and America, would meet to discuss the future.

And she would have a part to play.

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