Today's Reading

"How am I qualified for this case in particular? You're going to have to work hard to persuade me, Robbie."

MacFarlane drank the entire cup of hot tea in several gulps, placed the cup on the saucer, pushed it away from him on the table and brought his attention to Maisie.

"You'll scorch your gullet if you keep doing that."

MacFarlane waved away the comment. "It's like this. We have a delicate situation—American correspondents in Britain, citizens of another country telling their fellow countrymen about our war over here. They're walking a fine line, taking what we're going through with Hitler and his bloody blitzkrieg, and putting it into the homes of their fellow Americans." He lifted his tie and rubbed at an invisible stain. "You could say that Murrow and his ilk are probably the best propaganda tool we have to get the Yanks on our side."

"But they are on our side," said Maisie.

"You're being deliberately obtuse. You know very well what I'm talking about. Yes, they are on our side—but they don't want to be in any wars over here or anywhere else in the world. It's not that we want to twist anyone's arm, but a little support from the citizenry for the help the American president wants to give us would be handy. Money, materiel, that sort of thing. A bit of sugar." He sighed. "Their reporters are doing a good job, and so are ours. Anyway, back to the delicate situation. Catherine Saxon was murdered. She had been reporting here for a press concern in the USA, and she was about to be a lot better known than she was—Murrow had her pegged to do more broadcasts to appeal to women, and as you know, she was pretty good at that. Didn't gloss over anything, but as you no doubt heard, she went to the heart with that broadcast last night."

"You still haven't answered my question," said Maisie. "Why me, and why the secrecy."

"We're keeping the lid on the story inasmuch as there will be a limited announcement in the press, and though her death will be reported in the USA it will be very low down in the papers. Here are the problems. Her father is a politician. A senator. Last thing he wanted was a daughter running toward trouble—and that's what Miss Saxon did. France, Spain, Berlin. You name it, she's been there. Now London. The good senator is what they are calling an 'isolationist'—he's built a following by pointing out that one hundred and twenty-five thousand doughboys were lost in the last war, and saying enough is enough, and that Americans want to stay out of foreign wars. The second thing is the way we have to play this one. The American embassy is involved, so is their Department of Justice. They want someone on the investigation from their team, and we don't think Caldwell or anyone at the Yard can quite do what is really a job requiring the skills of a detective and an ambassador."

"Of course they can, Robbie—they know what they're doing," said Maisie.

"They do, but we—and the Yanks—want to know there's absolute confidentiality, and we want someone who can work with their investigator."

"What makes you think I can work with one of their investigators?"

"You've worked with him before." MacFarlane stared at Maisie. "In fact, you almost killed him."

Maisie was silent. She met MacFarlane's gaze.

"Well, that did the trick," said MacFarlane. "Never thought I'd be the one to strike you dumb."

"There are other investigators you could call upon," said Maisie.

"But he doesn't want to work with the others. He wants to work with you. He's a lot more important now than he was in Munich, and he's here, in London. And it's not a flying visit." MacFarlane looked at his watch. "In fact, any minute now—" He was interrupted by an insistent ringing of the doorbell. "As I was about to say, any minute now he'll be here in your office."

Maisie was silent. She heard Billy leave the office, followed by voices in the entrance hall and on the stairs, and then a knock on the door of her private office.

"Robbie," she whispered. "It's Anna's adoption panel in a week's time—I can't put a foot wrong. I cannot get into any trouble, and I cannot be mentioned in the press." She felt tears rise.

"Don't worry," said MacFarlane. "I know. I won't put you in any situation that would risk little Anna's future."

Maisie nodded, then called out. "Yes, Billy?"

The door opened, and Billy entered, followed by a tall man of about forty-five years of age. At over six feet in height, with dark hair and pale blue eyes, he wore a charcoal gray suit, a white shirt, and a tie with diagonal stripes of black and gray. His black shoes were polished, and he carried a gray fedora with a black band, along with a well-worn nutmeg brown briefcase.

"Thank you, Billy," said MacFarlane. He turned to Maisie. "I believe you know Mr. Scott."

Mark Scott smiled as he held out his hand to Maisie. "I hope you're not going to hold a gun to my jugular this time, Maisie."

She took his hand. "Hello, Mark. Lovely to see you again." Feeling the color rise in her cheeks, she turned away and took up the file that MacFarlane pushed toward her. She drew a hand across her forehead. "Well then, we'd better get on with business. Gentlemen, please sit down."


This excerpt ends on page 18 of the hardcover edition.
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