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The Storm Breaks

By Emma Redmer

Disclaimer is on the Introduction Page.

June 6th, 1944

Scott closed the door and faced Jacqueline Bedeux. She sat in the visitor's chair and observed him as he limped to his seat. "Scott, I am here on business."

"I know. They told me."

"What did they tell you?"

"Not much. Only that they were sending help." He looked into her deep blue eyes. "Why did they send you, Jaquie? You have a grown daughter and a good job..."

"...And you have a good job, a wife, and a baby daughter," Jaquie reminded him. "I owe Geraud this much," she whispered. "He risked everything to help those still in need in France. I love ma Giselle, but I cannot sit idly by while Gerry's job is left unfinished." She took his hand. "What about you? Why are you doing this? You, too, are taking risks."

"Taking risks is part of the Sherwood way of life," Scott flatly told her.

Jacqueline frowned. "Yes, but there must be something else. You have changed from the last time I saw you."

He nodded. "I know I've changed." He swept his arm to take in the office. "Most of it had to do with working here. I've never had a real family, Jaquie. These people became my family."

"And Betty became your wife," Jaquie finished.

Scott smiled. "It wasn't as simple as that. I had to fight for her. Fortunately, one guy married a friend of mine and the other got himself killed in Guadacanal." He sighed. "I'm still amazed that I married her at all. When I look into her eyes, Jaquie, I feel as if I've found heaven. And little Aggie's wonderful. She's a real Sherwood. She can charm a meal or a bottle or extra time out of her crib out of anyone. She tried to lift the radio in the green room earlier today, and she wanted to play with my cane."

"Scott, the people in Washington told me about Trina and Perrey and your injury. I'm truly sorry that we were unable to get there in time to stop them," Jaquie apologized.

"There wasn't anything you could have done. It all happened too fast. They kept me here to make sure that history doesn't repeat itself again." He smiled again, but the old sparkle seemed to have momentarily faded. "It makes a nice cover. You know the old story. Hero hides his profession by acting like a weakling and a fool. You'll find it everywhere from the Scarlet Pimpernel to Superman."

"Only your leg is weak, Scott," Jaquie assured him. "Your heart has always been strong."

"Jaquie, I don't think I can keep doing this. Maybe I could when I was younger, but this is a whole different ball game."

All Jaquie could think was My God, what did Perrey and Trina do to him? This wasn't the Scott Sherwood she remembered. That one was always confident of everything, always devil-may-care. Jaquie was the first one to find the chivalrous gentleman hidden beneath the self-assured con-artist.

"Scott, we need you. You're the right man for this job. You're good at this spying business, not to mention one of the best cryptographers in the US."

"I'm not doing it for the government. Well, not entirely. I don't want people like Pruitt and Perrey Dawson to constantly threaten the airwaves, the stations, or my family. I'm afraid that the next time the Nazis decide to attack WENN, Betty and Agatha could be the ones who get hurt."

"Do you think I don't worry about ma Giselle? She is so innocent, so trusting. Geraud's death was a huge blow to her. She was never as close to me as she was to him. I cannot get her to talk about Geraud, and perhaps it is for the best." She closed her eyes, then went on. "And now, it is happening again. Giselle is stuck on this American soldier, Josh Manley. I told her that soldiers were a bad lot to fall in love with. He could be dead as we speak. It would break her heart to lose another man so soon."

"Josh is a nice guy," Scott said in defense. "He puts on a mask of sophistication, but under that smooth voice of his, he's just as much of a rube as Chris is."

"In a way, it is rather like us when we first met," Jaquie stated.

Scott frowned. "What do you mean?"

She laughed. "I remember the first time I saw you, in your uniform, swaggering like a peacock looking for a mate. Your French was horrible, but you thought that you were the Valentino of the Marseilles waterfront."

"I was dared to go to that bar," Scott explained. "My bunkmate, Eddie Hammad, was a snotty rich kid from Oklahoma who fought in France during World War I and acted like he'd seen it all. I volunteered as a nurse in Nantucket, but joining the Merchant Marines was my first time out of the States."

"I recall Eddie. He was handsome, in a rather gentlemanly way."

"Well, he was no gentleman. He made me look like Mickey Rooney. He kept pushing the drinks and the women at me, and I didn't have a problem with either, especially at the time. The training was intense and we all needed to blow off some steam."

"You have an interesting way of blowing off steam."

"Getting up on stage and dancing with the chorus girls wasn't my idea. At that point, all I cared about was showing Mr. Big-Shot Soldier Hammad that I could get as many European women as he could."

"Well, it worked. I fell in love with you the moment you stepped on my foot and knocked me over. You look good in uniform, Scott."

He grinned. "You looked pretty darn good in your uniform, too. What there was of it."

She laughed. "There wasn't much left of it by the time that riot was over."

"Who started that, anyway?"

"I believe it was Maurice, the boyfriend of the woman that Eddie was making brazen overtures to. He was a very large fellow, with a very large temper and big red cheeks. He's in the French Army now, by the way, and he did marry Linette. They have seven children."

Scott closed his eyes in an attempt to remember the night they'd met. "That was one of the happiest nights of my life. We wound up in your apartment near the club and Eddie wound up spending a night in the local jail. His dad had to pay big bucks to bail him and keep him in the Merchant Marines. I was thrilled when he got in trouble and I didn't even get a fine."

Jaquie nodded. "Yes, it was a wonderful night. Do you recall the sunrise? We sat together and looked out the window of my flat. You gave me your ring as the sky lit up and gold and blue and violet blended into one another, and I gave you mine, and you swore that you would return to Marseilles and marry me after you saw the world."

"I don't remember much of that part," Scott chuckled. "I had other things to distract me." He gazed at Jaquie's exquisite figure. "Lots of other things."

"You must have been distracted," Jaquie burst out. "You never came back. I waited for you. I searched every ship in the Marseilles waterfront and eagerly read every letter I received, hoping for some word from you. I kept turning down Geraud Bedeux's proposals until I realized that I was pregnant..."

Scott's eyes widened in shock. "You were me?"

Jaquie shyly nodded. "Yes. But it is not what you think. The child was not Giselle. I was a month into the pregnancy and two weeks engaged to Gerry when I miscarried. There was nothing I or anyone could do. Gerry knew about the baby, of course, but all I told him was that the father was one of the soldiers from the cafe. I didn't become pregnant with Giselle until nearly a year after Gerry and I were married." She met his bewildered gaze. "Scott, why didn't you at least write me? I didn't even know you were alive until Giselle told me who her boss was."

"I didn't think that you'd want an unemployed con-artist for a husband," Scott countered. "I had no way to support you after I was kicked out of the Merchant Marines. I could barely support myself. The Depression only made things worse. I did some acting for a little while in a Brooklyn vaudeville theater, and when the family caught onto that, I moved out west, worked as a private eye for a year or so, then ran a few cons in California and the northwest before I bought a schooner and sailed around the world." He took a deep breath. "I stopped in Marseilles while I was on that world trip and looked you up." He looked at her. "I'm sorry I didn't visit you, but I thought it would be a little, you know, awkward. The people I questioned told me that you were happily married to a radio station manager named Geraud Bedeux and had a small daughter."

"Yes, by that time, I was. Giselle was, and is, such a beautiful child, but she was so shy and quiet, just like her father. Geraud would rather hide behind a microphone or a script than face the world head-on. I faced everything for him - the debtors who came to collect on the radio station, the teachers who claimed that Giselle needed more social activity than spending all her time at the station or at home, the sponsors who demanded more and more of our time - until the Nazi invasion."

Scott saw Jaquie's face harden. "That must have been tough on you," he said softly.

"It wasn't so bad for me," Jaquie explained, "but it was difficult for Gerry and Giselle to be separated. Some of Gerry's friends got us out of Marseilles and to America, but Gerry stayed behind. He said that he was tired of avoiding confrontation and wanted to join the underground resistance. The day we left broke my heart. Giselle clung to Gerry and cried for hours after we left France." Her voice cracked. "That was the last time either of us every saw Gerry. He promised me that he would call us to France as soon as it was free of Hitler's Nazi regime." She struggled to hold back the tears. "The next time I heard about him was when the very same people who helped Giselle and me escape to Pittsburgh contacted me and told me that Gerry was murdered in a Nazi death camp."

She managed to get a hold of herself. She had no intention of breaking down now. Not in front of Scott Sherwood. Her manner became more brisk and professional. "What is it that you need help with? They were very vague to me about the whole thing."

"They haven't told me much, either, but I've found out some interesting things." Scott got up and began to pace slowly.

Jaquie watched him. "Scott, I do not mean to be rude, but, about your injury..."

"Is it real, or am I just faking it and using it for my excuse to stay in the US and continue my work?" He emitted a short laugh. "Oh, it's real, all right, and it hurts like the dickens. I walk with a permanent limp now. I tried not to show it much before, but lately, I've been emphasizing it. I've even used my cane, which Betty's been after me to do for months." He bitterly smiled. "It's all part of my Clark Kent disguise, Jaquie."

"Why do you need help?"

He leaned over her. "Jaquie, I think I've hit on some big, big news, and I need to tell someone I can trust about it, someone who would understand. The two agents I've been following through their recordings are in Japan." Scott dropped his voice to a hushed whisper. "Tojo is on the way out. According to the coded messages in the records, he should be gone by next month. There's also talk about MacArthur attempting to re-capture Manila and snag some other islands near Japan, too..."


Betty rocked Agatha to sleep. Aggie was rather upset when her daddy wasn't there for lunch, but the sound of her mother singing "We'll Meet Again" soothed the baby. Betty placed the small girl in her crib when she finally nodded off. She put the soft cloth football and hard rattles that Aggie played with in the box that was used for the children's toys. Maple sat at the table, listlessly sipping her coffee and listening to Mackie and Giselle read the war news on the radio. Betty knew that she was hoping for some word of the Pacific campaigns and wondering where Victor was sleeping tonight. Maple didn't hear Betty when she reminded her that she was doing "Amazon Andy" in five minutes.

Betty stopped by the office. She could hear muted whisperings coming from the room. She opened the door and saw Jaquie and Scott leaned together, whispering conspiratorially. Betty felt her cheeks flame. They made an attractive couple. She collected herself and cleared her throat. "Excuse me," she started, "I hate to interrupt you two, but Gertie told me that there are several men waiting for Scott in the hallway."

Scott and Jacqueline both started as if they'd were two kids caught doing something naughty. Scott immediately turned on his sly grin. "It was great fun seeing you, Madame Bedeux." He shook her hand. "Come around again some time. Maybe you can watch our new show, 'Twenty Miles from Paris'."

"Oui, Monsieur Sherwood. I will most certainly be returning. I have not seen ma Giselle act since we worked together in Geraud's station in Marseilles." The petite blonde woman left the room but stopped suddenly before the men. She emitted an exclamation of surprise. "Monsieur!" she gasped.

Betty and Scott joined her and Gertie in the hallway. Gertie appeared to be worried. "They wouldn't tell me who they are, Mr. Sherwood. They just said that they need to see you." She took one look at the men and hurried to the green room to get some coffee before returning to the switchboard.

Scott, too, gasped, but he caught his breath and plastered a phony smile on his face. "Angelo, old boy, what are you doing here?"

The man wasn't playing along. "We're here to collect, Sherwood," he snarled.

Scott flung his arms around the tallest man, the one he called Angelo. He leaned over to Jaquie and whispered "Who are these people?"

Jaquie shook her head. "I have no idea," she mouthed back. "They aren't our men."

Betty frowned at him. "What's going on?"

Scott thought fast. "Angelo and his buddies are, um, here to collect some money that I owe them. I...I, well, I...told these men that I'd sell them Jeff and Victor's recordings after you'd transcribed them for the news and for 'Twenty Miles to Paris'. They're writing a series of inexpensive war novels about life in the trenches."

The men looked confused and Jacqueline looked surprised. Betty just looked angry. "Those recordings were made for us, Scott, not for men who look like they couldn't spell their own names." She gazed into her husband's sorrowful brown eyes. "You're trying to profit off of real soldiers who're facing gunpowder and bombings and Nazis. That makes you no better than the people we're fighting against."

Scott shook his head at first. "No, no, Betty, it isn't that..." Then, he changed his mind. "Betty, I'm sorry. The stations both need the money. These novels are important..."

Betty angrily slapped her husband before he could finish and fled to the writer's room. Scott watched her, trying to keep the tears from rolling down his cheeks. The lie he'd just told caused him more pain than the gunshot that crippled him, or Betty's discovery of the fake letter of recommendation three years ago.

Jacqueline Bedeux witnessed the whole incident. Unlike Betty, she'd already guessed that Scott was lying through his teeth about the recordings. What she couldn't figure out was why he'd tried to make the woman that he loved more than life itself detest him.

The three big thugs didn't give Jaquie a chance to wonder. "Angelo" took Scott by the arm. "You're comin' with us, Sherwood," he snarled. "We wanna ask you a few questions." He nodded at his men, who grabbed Jaquie. "And if ya don't come, da Frenchie lady and your wife and kid are gonna be the ones who git hurt." "Angelo" drew a softly glittering steel knife. "We got ways of doin' that, ya know."

Scott gulped and tried to smile. "Now, now, we don't have to resort to violence. I'll come." Scott limped out of the station, and the three men followed with a struggling Jacqueline.

This war won't last forever...

To be continued...

Why did Scott lie to Betty about the men and their reason for coming to WENN? Who are these men, and why did they threaten Scott? What else has Scott discovered? Will Betty forgive her husband once she knows the truth about his work? Who's "the Falcon" that Scott mentioned earlier? What have Scott, Jeff, and Victor gotten themselves into?

On the Edge of the Precipice Series

Go to On the Edge of the Precipice#19 - Tea for Two...or Three!
Go Back to On the Edge of the Precipice#17 - The Gathering Storm!
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