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April 26th, 1945
Paula kept the gun steadied on Betty's bulging stomach. "What are you doing here, Mrs. Sherwood?"
"I...I...was just closing for the night," Betty stammered. "I didn't know…"
"You should have kept it that way, Mrs. Sherwood," Pavla hissed.
"Paula," Scott whispered, "let Betty go. She has nothing to do with my work."
"Paula?" Betty frowned at her husband. "Your work?" She crossed her arms. "I knew it! You're still working for the government! You've been up to something ever since Victor left for Asia. I can't believe you didn't think I'd find out what you were doing!"
"Betty, you can't know what I'm doing!" Scott wailed. "It's too dangerous."
"But she does know," Pavla/Paula snapped. "Look, Sherwood," the woman agent said, "we'll make a deal. You go out there and expose yourself as a double spy," she pushed the gun at Betty's stomach, "or I'll kill your wife and her unborn child."
Betty shook her head. "What happened to your accent, Pavla?"
"My name is Paula Nelson," she explained. "The accent was for Hollywood. Besides, do I look like a Liverpool bar maid or Lizbeth Scott?"
"Do you want my honest opinion?" muttered Scott.
"The only thing I want you to do is get into that studio!" Paula growled. "Then, you and I will have a little talk about the things you've discovered. I found evidence that the codes we've intercepted in the past few months are false. We want to know what you've really discovered." She laughed. "Go ahead, Sherwood. Tell your wife what your code name is, the one that you've used during the last two years for your espionage activities. Tell her what you've been doing and why," she spat.
"I can't tell her," Scott whispered. "I can't put her life or our baby's life in any more danger than they already are. I love her."
"Scott," Betty said, "I love you, too, with all my heart. But you can't keep me in the dark forever. I worry about you. If you're going to be in danger, then I want to be in danger, too. We're a team, Scott. Instead of distancing yourself from me, we could have become closer."
Scott stood and rushed at Paula and the gun as well as he could. Betty saw her aim at his head and grabbed her wrist, deflecting the bullet into the wall. Paula pulled herself away from Betty. She kicked Scott's bad leg. He screamed and collapsed to the floor. Betty knelt beside him and took him in her arms. They looked up at the barrel of Paula's gun.
"My orders were to bring you alive, Sherwood," Paula squawked, "but they didn't say anything about your wife."
"NO!" Scott threw Betty behind him as a gunshot rang in the office. He opened his eyes and gazed into Betty's frightened brown ones. He didn't feel like he was shot. "Are you all right? You look a little green."
"I am," Betty said, "but I think Paula, or Pavla, is dead."
"What?" Betty and another arm helped him to his feet. He winced and leaned on a strong, lean shoulder. "Jeff," he said with a faint grin. "You're home."
Jeff nodded wearily. His limbs looked fine, but he his body was even thinner than before and his face was taut but triumphant. "I knew she was here, Scott. They told me. That's one of the reasons I came home early. She was the one who sent the sniper that wounded me." Betty gave him a worried look, but he smiled. "Don't worry, Betty, my limbs are fine. It was in my chest. I'm just going to have to be bandaged for a while."
The three looked down at the floor. Paula Nelson/Pavla Nemcova lay on the office floor. Her pasty complexion and her glazed expression were enough to tell Scott that she was no longer with them. "We can't leave Pavla, or Paula, or whatever, here all night," Betty said.
"Betty," Scott rasped, "call the FBI and the hospital. Tell them to get over here pronto. We have something very interesting to tell them." He sighed. "And," he added, "Jeff and I have something to tell you."
April 27th, 1945 - 8 AM
"...Scott and Betty Sherwood and Jeffrey Singer were taken in for questioning. The identity of the woman who was shot to death in radio station WENN will be revealed when permitted by national security. And now for the weather…"
Maple Comstock switched off the radio as a weary Betty and Scott Sherwood trooped into WENN, followed by Hilary Booth and Jeff Singer and Gertrude Reece. "Hi, guys," she greeted. "How did the questioning go?"
"More to the point," Gertie added, "what happened last night that you can tell us without revealing state secrets? The FBI and the police wouldn't give us any details."
"Why did you kill Pavla, Pumpkin?" Hilary complained. "I told you I wanted that job!"
"It was my job, too, Hilary," Jeff explained. "They knew that Paula was after Scott and the information we sent him. I was told to do anything I could to stop her. Besides," he added grimly, "I've wanted to pay her back for almost destroying my life and my marriage for a long time."
"Well, I think death is the perfect payment in Pablo's case, don't you?" Hilary asked. "I've been waiting for the day I could say 'the late Pavla Nemcova' since she shoved that marriage contract in my face."
"Actually," Jeff corrected, "it's the late Paula Nelson. According to the government, she was a spy for her native England and for Czechoslovakia."
"I knew that accent was as fake as the first Jonathan Arnold's Houston by way of Berlin was," Maple grumbled. "There was something about Pablo that I couldn't put my finger on at the time."
"I figured that out myself the first time I heard her," Hilary added. "But, why pose as a Czech, especially with all the animosity most Americans hold toward the Eastern European countries right now?"
"Hollywood," Scott said simply. "What she said about wanting to become the next Marlene Dietrich was true. Her looks and talent leaned more toward Greta Garbo exotic than Madeline Carroll elegant, and she knew it. So, she used the accent and her name in Czech for the stage and screen."
"What does Paula or Pavla or whatever have to do with you, Scott?" Gertie asked.
"She was after my work," Scott said carefully. He still couldn't say much about his role in the operation. "I found out some things that interested her superiors."
"What did you find out?" Betty asked. "In fact, this would be a good time to tell us what all these locked door phone conversations and hiding things from us is about."
"Yeah," Maple added. She turned to Jeff. "Especially you. Is Victor ok? He hasn't written me in nearly a month. I'm scared to death. I know that things are really getting bad in Asia."
Jeff lowered his head. "I don't know what happened to Victor. They separated us. He went with the rest of our patrol and I went after a sniper. I got the sniper, but I couldn't tell you the rest. All I know is that he must have hit me in the chest. I would up in a hospital in Manila."
Hilary snuggled against her husband. "And all I know is that I'm late for 'Bedside Manor'." She kissed her husband, promising him a homemade lunch with their daughter. "I'll talk to all of you later."
"And I have to get back to the switchboard," Gertie added. "You can tell me what's going on later. I'll keep my lips sealed, I promise." She, too, left.
"I don't have another show until 'World of Tomorrow'," Maple said pointedly. "So, would you fellows mind telling me and Betty what happened to my husband and what in the heck you two have being doing for the past three years?"
Scott sighed. "It's a long story..."
"What isn't around here?" Betty reminded them.
Scott stood and turned on the record he was listening to before Paula so brutally interrupted him. "It all has to do with these recordings."
Betty nodded. "The ones Jeff and Victor sent for the newscasts. How are they connected with spying?"
Jeff went on. "Betty, they're in code. Victor and I were in Japan and the Philippines, getting information for the Allies. We posed as correspondents for WENN in order to infiltrate the front lines. Scott couldn't come with us, because of his leg injury, so he was our contact here."
"Jacqueline Bedeux is my assistant," Scott added. "I asked for help after the D-Day campaigns, and she was the agent they sent." He shrugged. "We decoded the records and sent them along to Washington."
"Victor and I ran into some vital information last summer regarding several important Japanese assaults and plans," Jeff continued. "Unfortunately, the Axis were onto us by then. That's where Paula came in. She was part of a team of spies who were sent to capture and torture us until we told them what we knew."
Maple looked upset. "And you don't know what happened to Victor?" She glared at Scott. "What about you, Mr. Contact?"
Scott shook his head. "I've wondered the same thing, Maple. The records stopped coming a month ago, after Jeff entered the hospital. Jacqueline went to see what we could do to help find him." He took Betty in his arms. "I'm sorry I had to leave you out in the cold, Betty. I was afraid for us. I couldn't let them hurt you or Aggie. Not to mention the fact that Hilary and Maple would kill me if any mishaps befell their husbands."
"Don't start celebrating yet, Scotty," Maple reminded him morosely. "Victor seems to have vanished off the face of the earth. I may just do something ugly to you after all."
"Betty," Scott added, "I never meant to hurt you. After what happened with Perrey Dawson and Trina Gordon, I didn't want you getting involved with Nazis and spying anymore. I don't know what I'd do to myself if I lost you."
"Scott," Betty said, "there's one more thing I want to know."
He hugged her as well as he could. Jeff grinned and Maple sighed. "Name it. I'd do anything for you, Bettybettybetty. You know that."
"Why did you call yourself 'The Falcon'?"
Scott looked at his wife in surprise. Jeff frowned. "Betty, how do you know?"
"You thought I wouldn't figure it out?" Betty asked. "There's been something odd going on for months, and it's all revolved around you."
"I'm not very good at hiding things from you, am I?" Scott asked.
Betty laughed. "I know you, Scott Sherwood. I can see through every fib you tell and every scheme you concoct. You can keep things from other people, but not from me."
"Well," Maple grumped, "how did you figure it out?"
"Scott was the first person I ever heard mention 'The Falcon', and everything that went to 'The Falcon' came to this office," Betty explained. "Scott, I know darn well that whoever Angelo was didn't use your face for a punching bag because he wanted to settle an old score. He was a spy or a Nazi, wasn't he?"
"Right on both counts, Betty," Scott admitted. "Angelo and his buddies were the other part of Paula's team. They roughed me up and tried to scare me out of doing my job. Jacqueline is lucky that they let her off easy because she's a woman and they didn't know her like they know me."
"Where did you come up with 'The Falcon'?" Maple inquired. "It sounds so noble, like the name of the hero in one of those big, gushy romance novels."
"I'm surprised you don't remember, Maple," Scott said with a familiar grin. "The Falcon was the name of my schooner, the one that went down off of Samoa." Scott got a far-away look. "I loved that boat. She was beautiful. We sailed around the world together, me and The Falcon."
Mr. Eldridge entered. "Maple, there's a messenger here to give you something. Says it has to do with Victor. How they managed to fit Victor in that little envelope, I don't know." The old man walked off, muttering about modern science.
Maple shot up like a rocket. "Oh, no," she gasped, "don't let it be what I think it is." She hurried out into the hallway and bumped into a man in a Western Union uniform. The others followed her.
"Are you Mrs. Maple Comstock?" the man asked.
"Uh, yeah," Maple said. Her voice sounded wobbly. She was so afraid. Please, God, she silently begged, if you have any mercy left at all, let this be good news! She signed for it and tried to ignore the pitying expression on the carrier's face. The man left and Maple walked back into the office. She ripped open the envelope as she walked into the office.
Scott watched his friend's face turn from quizzical concern to shock and heartbreak in a second. She slumped onto a chair, sobbing. "Oh, no," she cried, "no. This can't be happening!"
Betty took the telegram from Maple and read it out loud. "We regret to inform you that Mr. Victor Comstock has been declared missing in action. Stop." The only noise in the room was Maple's wailing.
"No! Victor, you can't die again! Please come home! Please!" She grabbed Scott by his lapels. "This is your fault! You and Jeff were supposed to make sure he came home, and now he may not be coming home! Make him come home!" Scott didn't know what to do or say, so he just held her.
This war won't last forever...
What happened to Victor? Is he dead, missing, or what? How will Maple handle his disappearance? What does this mean to Scott and Jeff's "operation"? Is this the full story of what Scott, Jacqueline, and the other men were doing, or is there something they aren't telling (or can't tell)? How will Jeff get along with the daughter he's never seen?
On the Edge of the Precipice Series
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