Marie Wyatt, an Allied courier in England, witnessed someone fall from her contact’s second-floor flat. Before she could respond, a stranger insists her life is in danger and leads her away from the tragic scene.
The German hurried Marie inside a sparsely furnished room and locked the door behind them. He set her bag on a bare wooden table then strode to the window. With only the slightest touch on the curtain, he studied the street outside, then smacked the wall.
“What is it?”
He stared at her beneath his cap, his mouth grim. Even though she couldn’t quite see his eyes, she sensed their sharpness, and her stomach roiled.
“Twist is dead.”
“He can’t be.” Barely moving the curtain, she peeked outside the window. Somehow, they had ended up diagonally from Twist’s boarding house. Shards of glass protruded from the frame of his window.
A distant siren screamed, and a gap appeared in the crowd gathered outside the boarding house. Broken glass sparkled upon the pavement.
“There’s someone . . . a man . . .” She closed her eyes, shutting out the image of contorted limbs awash in dark red. “It’s not Twist,” she whispered. “It can’t be Twist.”
“The men who did that are still out there.” The German slid the scarf from her hair. “They’re looking for you, Marie. The spinster you.”
She glared at him. “You know my name.”
“But they don’t.” He peered through the window again, then gestured at a dressing screen angled across one corner of the dingy room. “There’s a washstand and clothes behind there. Change quickly. We may not have much time.”
“My stockings are torn.” She flushed at the frivolity of her words. Only an hour or so ago she’d been so self-assured, so confident, as she recited her instructions to Colin. But now she shivered in fear.
“You’ll have to go without. Now please.” He waved toward the screen.
The last time she came to Hatfield, only a week ago, Twist had been ill. He blamed his stomach pains on a bad piece of mutton. But what if—
Her reverie broken, she stepped behind the screen. A black pencil skirt and emerald green sweater set hung from a nail. On a worn-out washstand rested an enamel basin half-filled with water. She splashed the tepid water on her face and scrubbed away the heavy makeup with a ragged cloth. Her hands shook as she dabbed at the patches of dried blood on her knee. The cloth felt clammy against her skin, and the moistened blood left dark stains.
“We need to hurry,” the German urged from the other side of the screen. From the sound of it, he was changing his own clothes.
With shaking hands, Marie reached to unbutton the back of her skirt. Her fingers brushed against something stiff at her waist. The stinger. Cradling the pencil-like cylinder in the palm of her hand, she frowned. Not much more than a toy really. Her brothers’ BB guns were more lethal. Yet somehow it steadied her. She wasn’t as helpless as he might think.
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