Disclaimer is on the Introduction Page.
April 26th, 1945
"Do not forsake me, ma chere!" Giselle Bedeux exclaimed to Mackie Bloom. "Sergeant Gregory, you promised to take me back to the States with you!"
"And I will, my sweet Nurse Lisette, just as soon as the war ends. It's almost over, dear one. We have those bloody Japanese on the run," Mackie proclaimed.
"Here is something to remember me by," Giselle told him. Mr. Foley took a brass ring off of his finger and placed it in his handkerchief. "This ring has been in my family for generations!"
Mr. Foley blew a whistle. "That's my transport, love," Mackie said. "Here's a little something to remember ME by." Mackie raised his eyebrows as he silently read the next line in the script. Mr. Foley leaped up and gave his wife Eugenia, who played the organ, a big, passionate kiss. Their adopted daughter Mary, who sat at the organ with her mother, giggled. Her mother sighed and fanned herself. Giselle blushed.
"Ooohh lah lah!" gasped Giselle. "I shall never forget that!"
"Will Sergeant Gregory Underwood ever see Nurse Lisette Belleau again, or will his sweetheart in American make him forsake the faithful French R.N? You'll find out tomorrow on 'Twenty Miles From Paris.'" Giselle left to get something to eat and Eugenia to take Mary home as Mackie announced "Stay tuned for 'Rance Shiloh, US Marshall', followed by tonight's 'Book at Bedtime' and a news wrap up, here on WENN, Pittsburgh."
Giselle tossed her script over her shoulder. She really had to talk to Betty about changing the title of that show. With the war in Europe grinding to a halt, most of the plot lines of 'Twenty Miles from Paris' were based in Japan and the Pacific rather than the other shore. She was on her way to the green room when Mr. Eldridge stopped her.
"There's someone in the green room who wanted to talk to you," Mr. Eldridge reported. "He said that it was really important and that you should find out before the war department does."
"The War Department?" Giselle asked. Her face suddenly lit up like a Broadway marquee. "Is it Chris and Josh? Ooh lah lah, that might mean they're finally home!" She threw her arms around the old man. "Thank you, Monsieur Eldridge! I hope it is them!"
"There was only one man there," Mr. Eldridge added, but Giselle already fled to the green room.
There was only one person there. He sat at the table, sipping coffee. He wore a battered, too-big Army uniform and his arm rested in a sling. Giselle could see, even where she stood, that the man was frighteningly thin, like he hadn't eaten in years. "Bonjour, Monsieur," Giselle said. "The old gentleman said that you wished to speak to me."
The man stood and faced her. Giselle suppressed a gasp. His body was skeleton-thin and his face was badly scarred and disfigured. Something like a smile crept onto his burned lips. "Gis," he whispered, "I'm home. I've come home."
"I am sorry," Giselle managed to say, "but I do not recognize you. Your voice is familiar, though..."
Tears welled in the youth's eyes. "Gis, don'cha remember me? It's Chris, Chris Tracer! Josh and I used to hang around here." He hugged her hard. "Don' feel bad, Gis. My puss is so beat up that my own folks hardly knew it was me."
She touched the scars running down his cheeks. "Mon pauvre Christian! Who did this to you?"
Chris gritted his teeth. "Could we not talk about what's left of my face at the moment? I had a hard enough time explaining it to Ma and Pa."
The anger in his voice surprised Giselle. Chris rarely got angry about anything. "I am sorry, Chris." She peered around him. "Where is Josh? I have never seen you two apart before. Is he coming?"
Chris took Giselle's hands. His own trembled. "Gis, I dunno how I'm gonna tell ya this. I guess the best way is to say it plain straight." He looked into her anxious blue eyes. "Josh is dead. We got blown up by a bomb two weeks after the Liberation of Paris. I saw what was left of him...." The tears finally spilled over. Giselle held him and they both cried for the friend they loved and lost.
Hilary Booth held her daughter Lia's hand. "We eat dinner, Mommy?" she asked.
"Yes," Hilary said. "And maybe a treat, since you were a very good young lady today. Grandmaman Marguerite might have some of her special carrot cake left in the pantry."
Gertie leaned over her as Hilary buttoned Lia's coat. "Hilary, this telegram came for you from the War Department today." She retreated to the switchboard in case it was bad news. They'd just found out that Josh Manley, a private who used to volunteer for the W.E.N.N, died in France. C.J McHugh, who was WENN's daytime engineer until he joined the Navy, was killed in the assault on the Philippines.
Hilary closed her eyes. She dreaded getting this telegram. She didn't know what she'd do without Jeffrey. If only he listened to her when she told him not to go! She knew that his overwhelming patriotism would get him hurt or killed one day.
Lia watched her mother collapse into a chair. "Wat wrong, Mommy?" the toddler asked. "Are you sad?"
Hilary ignored her queries and opened the telegram. She breathed a huge sigh of relief and hugged her daughter close to her. "It's Daddy, sweetheart," she told Lia. "He's coming home." She got up and gave Gertie a big hug in the middle of a switchboard call. "Oh, Gertie, isn't it wonderful? My Jeffrey's finally coming home!"
Lia jumped up and down. "Daddy home! Daddy home! Daddy no war!"
Hilary happily swung her daughter into her arms. "Yes, Princess, Daddy's coming home! You'll finally get to meet him and find out what a marvelous man he is." She lifted her daughter's chin to her face. "This does mean, however, that you'll be sharing Mommy with Daddy from now on. It won't be just the two of us and Grandmaman."
"'Kay, Mommy," Lia said. "Daddy like me?"
Hilary smiled and kissed her daughter on the nose. "He'll love you, just like I do." She walked to the elevator. "Come on, Princess, this calls for a celebration. We'll both have a big slice of Grandmaman's carrot cake."
"Yeah!" exclaimed Lia.
"He's coming here?" Scott Sherwood gave Jacqueline LeBroque Bedeux a strange look. "They told me that he was going to stay in that hospital in Manila for another two weeks!"
"He recovered better than anyone would have guessed," Jacqueline explained. "He is on the next transport back to the States."
"What does this mean to the operation?" Scott asked. "Only one of our men is in Asia now, and we haven't heard from him in nearly a month." He gulped. "I'm worried, Jaquie. I don't want the cover blown off of this. They managed to separate our men and wound one of them. I don't know how much of those fake codes we sent they believed, but if they find out..."
"Hush, Scott," Jaquie quieted him. "They will not find out. Those faux coded messages are too good to be found out. They are the best work you ever did for us."
"Thanks, but nothing is ever too good that it may be cracked eventually." Scott looked up at a knock on the door. "Who is it?"
"It's me, Scott," Betty Sherwood said as she poked her head in the door. "I'm going to read 'The Scarlet Pimpernel' for 'A Book at Bedtime' and finish up some scripts."
Scott nodded. "I have a few things to do here myself, but I'll probably go home with you. Did you remember to call Molly?"
"Yes," Betty said. "Aggie was a little rambunctious earlier, but Molly said that she got her right to sleep after dinner. She's going to do homework and listen to the radio until we get back."
Scott grinned. "She's a good kid. Between Hilary, the Foleys, and us, that girl's making a mint."
"I'll see you after the show." She reached over the desk as far as her pregnancy would allow and gave him a kiss. He kissed her back and watched as she closed the door and went to Studio A.
"Jaquie, I think Betty knows who I am," Scott said. "Or at least, has some idea."
"Of your work?"
He shrugged. "Betty's a brilliant woman. I should have known better than to attempt to keep this kind of big, big news from her." His look hardened. "I can't let her find out anything else. I'll tell her what I can after the war is over."
She looked at her watch. "Scott, I must leave. I will return tomorrow."
"Your official reason for being here is still that you want to help coach more interns from the Giels Aldrych Dramatic Academy, right?"
"Right." She blew him a kiss. "Aurevoir, Monsieur Sherwood."
"Oh reservoir!" Scott said with a laugh. He turned to the record he was working on and set it spinning on the turntable. The deep, sincere voice of Victor Comstock poured forth. Scott sat down and started writing out the codes in the heartfelt speech about the war in the Pacific. Jeff stopped doing the broadcasts a month ago when he was shot by a sniper. He was sidelined in a hospital and sent home. Victor, however, was still in a major war zone.
Scott listened intently. He didn't notice the time pass, and only vaguely paid attention to the knock at the door. "Come in, Betty," he said as he quickly closed the notebook and switched off the record player.
"Hello, Scott Sherwood. Do you not remember me?" Scott looked up from his notes and into the exotic eyes of Pavla Nemcova. "We are old acquaintances."
Scott started to stand but saw a gun in Pavla's hand. "I would not do that, if I were you. Our people already damaged one of your legs. It would mean nothing to me to damage the other one."
"What do you want here?" Scott asked. "If you're after one of the male staff members, we're all legally married by registered priests, including Jeff, and none of us make enough money to suit your taste."
"Money is not what brought me to this God-forsaken little place, not this time or the last time," Pavla snapped. "I'm here on important business."
"You don't have to hold the gun on me if you want to sponsor a show," Scott quipped.
"Not that business," Pavla said. "I've had my fill of that business."
"What, show business?" Scott snickered. "By the way, how's Cribby?"
Pavla's cheeks turned as red as the dress that showed off every one of her considerable curves. "He left me in Hollywood, if you must know. He ran off with every bit of money I had at the time. Thank goodness I kept him from finding out what my other job is."
"What's your other job," Scott questioned in mock innocence, "working every man with green in the red-light district?"
Pavla hit him across the cheek with her gun. "Next joke from you and I shoot something a bit more important than your leg."
She hadn't hit hard, but it hurt enough for Scott to nurse his cheek. "What is this all about? I had nothing to do with Cribby and Hollywood. It's him you should be seeking out, not me."
"I'm here on orders."
"Whose orders?" Scott asked. "Cribby's? Those warrants for my arrest can't still be standing."
Pavla narrowed her eyes at him. "If you do not tell me what I want to know, I will go to the studio and I will tell your entire audience and any government officials who are listening that you are a double agent for the Japanese and the Americans."
Scott laughed. "That's very funny, Miss Nemcova, but I'm not a double spy. I'm not even a single spy. I've worked at WENN and the W.E.N.N since 1940! Not to mention," he gestured at his cane, "that my injury obviously makes me 4-F."
"Yes," Pavla said, "but it is well known that you're one of the Allies' leading crytologists. You broke a large spy ring before America entered the war. Several other members of this station were involved as well."
"How do you know about all this?"
Pavla smiled. "Simple, old chap," she said in a natural sounding British accent. "Because I happen to be a double spy myself."
Scott's jaw dropped. "You're WHAT?"
Pavla laughed. "My real name is Paula Nelson. Your Miss Booth came close to the truth when she said that my Czech accent is stagy. It is a stage accent. Mum was Czech, but I mostly grew up in Liverpool."
"Think, chap, who gets all the glamorous vehicles, Marlene Dietrich or Wendy Hiller? I wanted to take on Hollywood, and I knew darn well that I wasn't going to do it sounding like Gracie Fields."
"How did you figure out all this?"
She laughed. "We have our ways, Scott Sherwood, just like you have yours. I was the contact for Rolliegh Pruitt and his group. You may recall him?"
"Like I recall Pearl Harbor."
"I found out about Jeffrey Singer being Victor Comstock's contact from Pruitt." She prodded Scott's neck with the gun. "It was easy to get Singer to marry me. All I had to do was threaten to expose Comstock's little ruse and he broke down like a frightened child." She laughed bitterly. "And your question is," she said in her Czech accent, mimicking herself in the phony interview with "Mr. Zanish", "do I love my husband?" She pressed harder on the gun. "No, I never loved Singer. I wouldn't have married the simpering idiot if I didn't need a working permit and a legitimate visa."
"You're all such fools. You trust anyone who walks in and says they're radio. Your wife gave me that monologue book without a single question, and Miss Hoity-Toity stage star Booth didn't think for one second that the letter I gave her wasn't real." She moved the gun to his chest. "I knew darn well whose idea it was to set up that interview. You did give me a scare, you know, old chap. I genuinely thought that Singer was going to find out that I'd gone to America. He thought I was visiting officials in Czechoslovakia." She laughed again. "Don't worry, Sherwood, it wasn't your fault I told the Germans about Comstock's double identity. I planned on doing it anyway. I knew from the moment I saw him in Berlin that Comstock was no Texan."
"So, you were the one who tattled on Victor," Scott hissed. "How sporting, as you British say. How long did it take you to go against your own country? Or both of them? You know what they do to double spies."
"Keep talking, Sherwood, and I'll reveal your own identity to the entire city!"
"And what identity would that be? Who do I look like, Superman?"
She snorted. "Hardly. We know what you've been doing. I found out about the codes from those men who beat you to a pulp last year. You called the leader Angelo. I told the wretch he should have finished the job that night, but he said we needed you alive."
The door swung open at that moment. "Scott, I just finished 'A Book at Bedtime.' I'm going to do the news wrap-up and then..." Betty stopped prattling when she noticed the woman who leveled a gun at her growing stomach. "Pavla!" She exclaimed. "What are you doing here?" She gazed over the female spy's shoulder. "Scott?"
This war won't last forever...
To Be Continued....
What's Scott's "other identity"? How will Betty and Scott get out of this mess? What vital information did Scott find out that Pavla/Paula wants so badly? When will Jeff come home? What condition will he be in? What will he and Lia think of each other? How is Victor faring in Asia? How will Giselle cope with losing Josh and Chris cope with both the death of his life-long best friend and his disfigurement?
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