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The Lisbon Affair



Chapter Seven

Strictly Instrumental

Evie lounged on the main deck where first and third class passengers comingled. She glanced up from writing in the leather-bound journal on her lap and surveyed the sea. Fighting the bubbling fear of the dark abyss beyond the railing, she focused on the beauty of the rolling waves and white caps spanning as far as the eye could see, turning fear to poetry in her mind. Clear, crisp blue skies were only marred by the steam from the single white stack at the center of the ship. She snuggled down into her mink collar, enjoying the softness at her chin and smiled at the tranquil feeling it brought. Her imagination was now sparked by the thought of “Moonglow” the evening before. The musician was talented and handsome…and her notice of the latter made her uncomfortable.

   She thought she’d put these thoughts to bed last night after assessing her curious fascination with him. After tossing and turning for hours with the Artie Shaw song repeatedly playing in her head, she finally—successfully—convinced herself it was only the song that had affected her at a time when she was missing Richard the most. Had she believed otherwise, she would be hiding in her stateroom, avoiding the musician like the plague.

   Yet…her thoughts insisted on traveling to how his lips hugged the reed, the way his chest rose and fell, the black wave of hair above his eye, and the way he filled out a tuxedo. Would he stop tormenting her thoughts?

   Stop it, Evie! She sat upright refusing to allow him to enter her mind. The smile he had given her at the close of the song appeared sincere, and frankly she had missed a man’s attention—appreciation—for far too long. No. I’m only interested in his instrumental talent.

   “Whataya reading?” that recognizable voice broke through her musings, causing her to snap her head in his direction.

   It’s him!

   Defeated, her heart sank yet rejoiced much to her shame.

   Please go away!

   She promptly closed the journal on her fountain pen and looked up at the man’s unnerving grin she had just recalled. “Just a silly novel. Nothing too absorbing.”

   Wearing the overcoat he wore on the gangplank, the clarinetist looked dashing in new light, on a new day, with a new perspective. The sun kissed the pomade shine in his hair as it blew in the soft breeze. His cheeks were rosy from the brisk sea air, but his speech was warm with a hint of humor in it when he said, “You left early last evening. I hope my playing didn’t run you off.”

   “Not at all. You play exceedingly well.” Her heart pounded.

   “Then you enjoyed the orchestra…my clarinet?”

   “Yes, very much so. ‘Moonglow’ is a favorite of mine.”

   “I’m glad.” He craned his neck to look at the book cover. The grooved embossing of a ship’s anchor seemed to amuse him when he smirked. “Apart from luxury sailing, I wouldn’t have taken such a high-class dame as yourself to be interested in nautical novels.”

   “You are right. This is my first time on a steamship and this book isn’t really mine. It was…my late-husband’s. He is—was—a lieutenant in the Navy.”

   “Gee, I’m awfully sorry to hear that. Was it Pearl Harbor?”

   “His destroyer narrowly escaped the attack, only to later be sunk in the Solomon Islands in August of last year.”

   “My condolences—and thanks. Those navy boys sure are taking a lickin’. I guess this trans-Atlantic trip must be difficult for ya, huh?”

   Yes. It is. “In some ways. How is it you’re not in the armed services, sir?”

   “I’m not as young as the kids being called up now, but I did serve in battle for a short time,” was all he said, not elaborating on his service.

America had only been at war for fourteen months. Where had he served if not in the navy? Africa perhaps? How old was he? She promptly changed the topic from war, holding out her hand to him.

   “My name is Evelyn Somerset,” she greeted.

   He took her hand in his—Zap!—and she pulled it away as quickly as their flesh had met.

   “I’m sorry! Did I do that—that spark?” he joked.

   She rubbed her palm on the mink, panicked, yet trying to keep her composure as he continued to look down at her with a knowing smile, like he read her mind. Maybe he was thinking the same thing.

   “Nice to meet ya. I’m Carl Wilson.” He presumptuously sat on the edge of the empty lounge chair beside her before she could invite him to join her. “I hope ya don’t mind if I take a seat. We third class fellows playing with Dutch don’t have much opportunity to get up on C deck to converse with a beautiful first-class woman.”

   He called me beautiful. She’d never felt particularly lovely. “Are you sure your wife won’t mind?”

   “Wife? I’m not married.”

   “Well, then your sweetheart.”

   “I don’t have a girl, but if I did, I’d be true blue. My attention doesn’t roam from the object of my affection.”

   Her palm tingled with perspiration at the intonation in his voice. What is he implying?

   “Well, what about Miss Kay Shaw?”

   Mr. Wilson laughed, and what a nice laugh he had, as he leaned back onto the wooden chair. “Kay’s a dish and has a set of pipes, I’ll give her that, but she’s not my girl. Not even close.”

   He turned his head to look at her straight on while it still rested on the back of the chair. A smirk played upon his lips as he assessed her. Heck, she didn’t even understand her intent on asking the question. This stranger’s love life was none of her affair. Oddly, he was exempt from her previous apprehension about making new acquaintances. It felt good to talk to someone other than herself in her boredom and miserable anxiety of sea travel.

   “What gave ya the idea that Kay and I are an item?” he asked furrowing his brow.

   “By the territorial way she hung onto you on the gangway, of course. Women are astute about those things, and I have a keen intuition about almost everything.”

   “Nah. She might be interested, but I’m not, especially after the way she treated you. I don’t like discourteous people.”

   “I survived—and thank you for your quick assistance.”

   “Glad to have been of service. Catching you was the highlight of my afternoon.”

   He turned his face away from her then closed his eyes, lifting his chin to the sun. In their silence, she truly tried not to stare at him from the corner of her vision, but she couldn’t help it. There was something comfortable about this man. The frank informality of their discussion and the way they had easily slipped into acquaintance was as if they’d known each other for some time or had been conversing much longer than one minute, and as though their social standing hadn’t been an impediment. He wasn’t refined like Senhor Purvis; in fact his manner was quite plebeian. But he wasn’t a smooth talker, not really. Yet, in his way, he was flirting with her.

   “Sure is a pretty day,” he said dreamily, eyes still closed.

   She admired his profile, enjoying how his lips rested in a tiny quirk, which fascinated her.

   “Yes, it is.”

   “A man can spend all day like this, so long as the company is good.”

   “A woman might say the same. A good novel is good company.”

   He laughed softly.

   Silence fell again and he folded his arms across his chest. Perhaps he was chilly. It couldn’t be more than forty degrees outside.

   She wanted to ask him about his music career and why he was headed to Lisbon, but the quiet between them was nice, too. She closed her own eyes, resting her head back on the chair, enjoying the sun and companionship just as he appeared to be.

   “Say listen, if I were you, I’d stay clear of that fella you were dancing with last night,” he said breaking the silence.

   “Oh? And why is that?” She turned her head to face him and he did the same, their eyes holding fast to the others. He had such expressive eyes; his soul burned evident in them.

   Mr. Wilson’s expression changed, no longer humored as before. Dead serious and clearly concerned he said, “For starters, because he and his friends are up to no good aboard this ship. And secondly, his hand was a little too low on your waist. I don’t like disrespectful people, either.”

   “I confess, I thought the same—on both accounts and that was why I left following our dance.”

   “Smart girl. Look, I don’t know why you’re headed to Lisbon, and it’s nunna my beeswax, but ya should be careful whose acquaintance you make. Both the city and the Serpa Pinto are crummy with spies and manipulators. A nice girl, with a lot of moolah, could find herself in a tight spot when traveling alone.”

   “I have considered that, Mr. Wilson. I fibbed to him, indicating my husband was ill in our stateroom where he would remain for the duration of the journey.”

   “That was quick thinking.”

   “Besides, do tell how you know the state of his affairs in Lisbon? How can you be so certain I’m not a crummy spy, just as Senhor Purvis also implied?”

   He chuckled a low rumble from his chest. “Because any spy would have known that Purvis would check with the porter about your story of a sick husband.”

   “I didn’t consider that.”

   “And given that Lieutenant Somerset died for the cause, I’m pretty sure ya aren’t a fascist or socialist secret agent.”

   “Yes, he did. We are both patriotic Americans, and my brother…Senator Albert Rousseau is on The Truman Committee. He would have a fit if anyone he knew was a fascist, let alone a spy!”

   “A senator, huh?”

   She sighed, regretting the slip of tongue. “Yes. Forgive my name-dropping. I’m not prone to grandstanding, I assure you.”

   “No offense taken. But there is also the obvious fact that no spy I’ve ever heard of would openly write in a journal then try to pass it off as a maritime novel. Spies are people of action who operate either in the shadow or behind a carefully contrived persona, a cover profile. They don’t take notes as they go about their espionage acts, Mrs. Somerset. It could cost them their life.”

   He raised an eyebrow, and she slid the journal under her coat. “I’ll have to remember that if I consider the spy business,” she joked. “Do…do you know very many spies then?”

   “In my line of work, I meet a lot of people.”

   “Really? Then how do I know I can trust you? Maybe you are a German agent. Perhaps your clarinet is the perfect subterfuge.”

   He paused, and she thought she saw his lips twitch and something flicker in his eyes before he said, “I suppose it could be—but it’s not. Like I said, I’m true blue and all-American. Not to mention if I was a bad hat, the spark between our fingers, followed by the beguiling blush to your cheeks, wouldn’t have happened. Like you said, women are astute about those kinds of things.”

   “Boy, you are sure of yourself, aren’t you?”

   “No, just a believer that there is a reason for everything. I try not to waste time when fate points the way.”

   “Fate and time…horse feathers.” Did it always have to come down to those two things? She shook her head. “The spark between our fingers, Mr. Wilson, was nothing more than a net electric charge caused by the salt air and the fur I am wearing. Charged particles ignited into static electricity when we came into contact.”

   There was that chuckle again before he stood towering over her. “Exactly what I said.”

   Backlit by the sun, he gaped down at her, his expression filled with mirth. “Don’t kid yourself with some fancy science explanation. We both know you and I felt that same spark the first time we made contact—at the end of my clarinet over ‘Moonglow’—and we hadn’t even touched. Fate, I tell ya.”

   She laughed trying to make it sound convincing. “Poppycock. I don’t believe in destiny. Besides, I’ve only just met you! And, I am a married woman.”

   “I beg your pardon, Evelyn, but you were a married woman up until the Solomon Islands.”

   He’d informally called her by her first name then stuck a knife in a still open wound. Speechless and struggling for a retort, her chin dropped, and the man turned from her.

   “Will I see you in the ballroom tonight?” he cheekily asked over his shoulder, taking his first step in departure.

   “Not in your wildest dreams! You, sir, are impolite and for a man who has little tolerance for disrespectful people you should look in the mirror!” she declared in a huff.

   He stopped and turned to face her full-on with a beaming, smug smile. The wind blew the wave of hair at his forehead revealing a thick scar above his eye.

   “I didn’t mean any disrespect, but I am confident I’ll see ya in the ballroom later. Men are astute about those things.”

   “Then prepare to be disappointed.” The gall!

   “Just out of curiosity…what does your keen intuition say?”

   “About you?” she twisted her lips. “My common sense tells me you are trouble with a capital T.”

   “I didn’t ask about your common sense. I asked about your gut.”

   “My gut…is queasy from sea travel,” she prevaricated.

   He laughed, “And how do you feel about Cole Porter?”

   “That depends.”


   “Whether or not there is a clarinet solo, Mr. Wilson.”

   “Oh yeah? Well then ya better start calling me Carl ’cause—trouble or no—I’m gonna sweep you off your feet—for a second time.”

   “I wouldn’t count on it, sir. I only admit to enjoying your performance, not your manner, nor your presumption to know me.”

   “We’ll see about that, Red.”

   He turned, leaving her alone on the deck. His whistle carried on the sea air, trailing behind him straight to her. It was “Moonglow.”

Red? Did he call me Red? The nerve!


Rendezvous in Berlin



Chapter Seventeen

I Know Now

Plagued by long delays through France and at the Alpine border, the train ride’s tedium to Berlin only exacerbated Evie’s fears for her unknown fate. During their travel, Erika had insisted they mingle over cocktails with Wehrmacht officers and their wives traveling back to Germany. Jack’s sage advice ran through her mind, and she checked every word from her mouth before speaking. The mental strain exhausted her, but, once in her cabin, mindless recitation of the German National Anthem finally eased her restlessness until half-falling asleep for the night.

   Arrival into Anhalter Bahnhof sobered her. She may have been tired, but her vision had neither failed nor lied to her. All the instruction in the world could not have prepared her for the sight of at least fifty men, women, and children embarking onto third class train carriages on one of the far platforms. Wide-eyed, terrified children clung to their mothers. The elderly shuffled along under a barrage of shouts by armed soldiers over the train announcements. All that combined with the yellow Jewish star badges on their chests confirmed what she’d been taught at Beaulieu—and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about any of it. Internally, her temper burned bright against the darkness. The open display of oppression in broad daylight highlighted the normalcy of it all—a form of the regime’s propaganda.

   When pressed, Frau Canaris simply waved away her inquiry with an insufficient explanation. “The transports must be running late today. A small sacrifice for tomorrow’s great celebration for Herr Hitler’s birthday. Normally, the feeble are re-located from the capital in the early morning.”

   “Relocated where?”

   “The Führer is so very considerate to transport them to a retirement settlement for the aged, far from the inevitable bombing. Do not pay them mind. Come, we must process our paperwork.” Clearly, the very presence of children confirmed the regime’s well-crafted lie that “the aged” were being cared for. Could Erika not see what was in front of her? How could the populace so easily believe the obvious deception?  Perhaps the old woman was not a fellow traveler to Inga or her husband’s work after all. And if the “for the ageds’ protection” was truth, why would she not be included among them? Perhaps, Erika believed the evil ideology of forced labor and eradication of Jews. In fact, where was the outrage or even the deserved attention of passersby?

   Thirty minutes later, Evie still despaired believing “retirement settlement” was a euphemism for something sinister. Her heart sank imagining the worst: the purported camps.

   Already chilled by the inclement weather, she shivered at the thought.

   “This is where we must part ways, my dear,” Frau Canaris said with a tired smile. “Ah, good, there is the von Bismarck chauffeur to transport you,” Erika waved to a portly man standing beside a town car.

   “Dear Erika, I am indebted to you for taking the journey a day ahead of schedule and without the admiral for my benefit. It has been lovely to get to know you.” She would have truly meant the sentiment at breakfast for they had discussed music and the opera for most of their travel, but now witnessing the woman’s ambivalence toward the plight of Jewish Berliners—how could she think favorably of her?

Jack’s advice came back to her in resounding caution. “As difficult as it is to put our personal opinions aside, we must. It’s no different than newspaper reporting.” Yes. She was Eva, and as such she would adore Erika Canaris, wife of the Chief of the Abwehr.

   “Don’t forget your promise to attend tomorrow night’s house concert in honor of the Führer. Our home in Zehlendorf is not very far from Potsdam.”


   “Ja. The von Bismarck estate is in the country.”

   “Of course! Silly me!”

   Erika laughed. “You will be safer in Potsdam.”

  “Safe from bombing air raids?”

   “Indeed.” Erika winked.

   “No matter the risk, I should be delighted to attend the festivities.”

   “Good! You will meet my daughters and several distinguished friends. I will invite the count and countess as well.”

   They hugged, and any morsel of sanguinity she had vanished along with Erika’s departure toward her porter.

   Left alone at the entrance to the train station, she acknowledged she was more than terrified to move from where she stood. Her gaze traveled upward to the tethered swastika flags; the wind pushed and pulled at them between the columns. She turned to face the blacked-out windows; painted in every color of the rainbow, the contrast between them and the harsh colors of the flag of the German Reich was striking. Everywhere she looked, Nazi symbols violated her peace-loving sensibilities. The surroundings, coupled with the gloomy weather, matched the ominous feeling crawling up her spine.

   Travelers leisurely strolled past her, and the chauffeur closed the gap between them in painstakingly slow motion. This railway station experience was unlike Lille or Paris.  Having lived under tyranny her whole life, she had recognized the same fear in those travelers hurrying alongside their German occupiers. Here, in Berlin, she was terror-stricken—even if the denizens seemed none worse-for-the-wear. This experience was worse than facing her mother, sailing across the Atlantic, or even captivity on the Beaulieu River. She trembled, tucking her hand into her pocket.

   “Your baggage, Fräulein,” the porter interrupted behind her, pushing the cart forward.

   “Wunderbar.” She waved and smiled to the driver.

   “Heil Hitler,” he greeted.

   “Heil Hitler,” she replied.

   “You are Fräulein von Lamberg?”


   “Welcome to Berlin. The Graf and Gräfin extend their apologies for not greeting you personally, but Herr Graf had important business to attend. They expected you at daybreak, but such are the trains these days.”

   “I understand. It is good of you to come and collect me.”

   As they walked to the vehicle, the porter followed behind them and she tried not to blatantly stare at Berliners who, like those on the train—herself included—appeared the “same,” so very unlike the cultural diversity of New York City or within America for that matter. She attempted to appear convivial yet aloof to the ordered chaos of Germany’s common volk and their uniformed oppressors. Do they consider themselves subjugated? Is compliance to the suppression of liberty an accepted fait accompli?

   Just as when Chandler, the Rousseau family driver, opened the door for her, the man offered her a reassuring smile. While anxiously awaiting the loading of the baggage and their departure, her gaze wandered to a truck stopped at the end of the station. Several SS opened the back doors, revealing a dozen terrified faces and the haunting whites of eyes cautiously gazing out. Like those third-class passengers, they were “different” than other travelers: more Jews.

   Her eyes watered but she turned away before the tears fell. Now she understood the Germany the Druckers had run from.

   Due to street closures in preparation for the Führergeburtstag national holiday, the car ride through Berlin was an illuminating sight-seeing tour around the city. Although the SOE had shown Pathé newsreels of military processions down Unter den Linden toward Brandenburg Gate, to see in person the avenue lined by towering columns and blood red and black flags and the Nazi eagle and swastika at every turn, stunned her silent. The busy metropolis was filled with electric trams and parks as well as a zoo, which, the driver informed her, had been bombed two years ago. He also drew attention to the neighboring flak gun tower meant to deter air raids. Evident by the RAF’s destructive accuracy of the zoo, it had served little purpose beyond eyesore.

   “Do you know where Alexanderplatz is located?” she asked, eyes burning with disgust.

   “Of course. It is the eastern center of the capital and easily accessible via the S-Bahn and trolley. Will you be interested in shopping or the lively nightlife?”

   “Shopping, of course. A friend recommended Schröder bookseller. Do you know it?”

   “Ah, a worthy visit if you are interested in rare volumes. Collectors have patroned the Familie Schröder for over a hundred years. If the Gräfin directs, I will be happy to drive you there whenever you wish.”

   “Danke schön.”

   Passing lush gardens and extravagant palaces beside the gentle river, driver and passenger sporadically spoke until turning up a tree-covered drive surrounded by woodland. Through wrought iron gates, the car entered a stone courtyard, coming to stop in the circular drive of the estate.

   Old habits hadn’t entirely disappeared with discipline. Instinctually, she raised her hand to the fur around her neck, petting it for comfort. Although her Manhattan milieu included aristocrats and peerage—and she had even interviewed monarchy—Evie was anxious about meeting the Bismarcks. Her hosts were no ordinary gentry, even if German royalty and nobility had been officially abolished long ago. The count was the grandson of the late Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg, Iron Chancellor of the German Empire, the Prussian statesman who had unified Germany. The count and countess were willing to shield her secret service for the King of England, despite the great danger their support of her was to them.

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