On his way back toward the hotel, David visited William Evans in Pall Mall across from St James Palace. He purchased two hundred rounds of 7.63 ammunition in clips of ten for his Mauser. As he left the shop, he glanced at his new watch. Quarter past noon. Errands done much more quickly that I had thought.
As he walked along Pall Mall toward his hotel, he looked at the imposing façades of the buildings and read their bronze plaques. More private gentlemen's clubs. Even more impressive than the ones along St James. I must ask William about them.
Back in his room, he put Maria's watch and the ammunition into satchel pockets, then looked at the wrapped briefcase. I'll leave it for her to unwrap. He opened the portmanteau, pulled out his casual clothes and changed from his uniform. White feather ladies be damned. I want to relax.
As he dressed, he planned his afternoon. Lunch first, then a walk through St James Park and Green Park to settle it. Then a look at the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey and a visit to the National Gallery. He pocketed his map and headed out.
Shortly past eighteen hundred, he returned to his room and sat to relax for a while, luxuriating in the lack of schedule. Then he undressed, bathed and changed into his lounge suit and evening shoes, locked his room and headed down. As he walked across the lobby, he saw William arrive at the entrance to the dining room.
"I like your promptness, David," William said as he extended a hand to shake.
"Thank you, Sir, and yours."
"Promptness is respect. Please dispense with the sir."
The maître d' led them to a table in the corner of a small room and they sat looking out into it. "That's a superb team you've assembled, David."
"They continue to amaze me with their dedication and their abilities to learn new skills. Great initiative in each of them. They're on leave now, but all should be in Switzerland by Tuesday. Has the van..."
He paused as the waiter presented them with menus and the wine list, then left. David looked around the room. "A splendid setting and atmosphere. I must thank Bryce for telling me about it. The food is in the French style. Are you familiar with it?"
"It's my favourite in London and has been since Escoffier left the Savoy and came here. His creativity seems to have no bounds, and he always has something new." He scanned the menus, then looked again at David. "You were mentioning the van. The War Office has informed me the new Daimler will be delivered to the Embassy on Monday afternoon."
"Great! That'll make it easier to pick up the seven."
"Get a full debrief on Marcel. We've not used him before, but the French have told us he keeps track of the Swiss patrols and has several routes. They've not had problems with him. He seems our best option, nonetheless, we need to determine whether he's suitable for the Sappers the following week, or whether we need to find an alternative."
William scanned the menu again. "Bryce has told me of your frustration with British food. I empathise with you on it. Since my first travels abroad, I've had difficulty with it myself." He laughed. "This war will surely bring changes as our lads come home. I hear that even in the battle-ravaged areas of France, the people eat better than we do here."
"My mother reveres Escoffier, and she uses his Guide Culinaire as her cooking bible. I'm excited to find he's the chef here."
"He began changing London's dining scene a quarter century ago when he and César Ritz were brought from Monte Carlo to add life to the Savoy."
"So he's been in London ever since?"
"Almost. After he was dismissed from the Savoy, he spent a year in Paris setting up the kitchens of the new Ritz. Then César brought him here to his new Carlton to set up the kitchens. He's still here, and the Savoy has declined."
"I'm salivating in anticipation."
"We should concentrate on the menus, then. I recommend we take the table d'hôte. That's where he lets loose his creative flair. The seven-course one will allow ample time for us to talk and to examine the contents of a couple of bottles."
David nodded and smiled. "I'm pleased I had little for lunch."
William signalled to the waiter. After he had ordered, he requested the sommelier, then turned to David. "What are your preferences in wine?"
"The Weißburgunder and Blauburgunder my aunt and my grandparents make have captivated me. They say they're made in the Burgundian style and are similar to Montrachet and Musigny."
"That's simple then, let's do one of each so you can compare. Oh, and I must tell you, Evelyn has said he's delighted with the wines your wife has organised for the Embassy."
After the wines had arrived and were opened and poured, William raised his glass of Le Montrachet toward David. "To a fruitful mission."
David raised his glass and nodded. "The first of many, I hope." He swirled the wine and nosed it. "Very similar to Tante Bethia's. Amazingly similar."
"She's making superb wine, then." William nosed his wine and took a sip. "This is one of the greatest whites in the world."
"The tunnel will pass under her vineyards."
"We'll have the Sappers go deep to not disturb the roots."
As they paused after their third course, David took the Hans Wilsdorf watch from his pocket. "I have two things I must resolve before I head to Switzerland. I took this watch from the dead German soldier when I changed into his uniform." He turned it over and passed it to William. "It appears he had taken it from a dead Irishman."
William read the inscription:
on Retirement to
Major Corcoran O'Byrne
from the officers of the
Royal Dublin Fusiliers
30 August 1912
"It appears the Major re-enlisted," David said. "Or he gave his watch to his son before he sent him off to Belgium."
"We can have the War Office return this to the O'Byrne family." He put the watch in his pocket. "You said there are two things."
"I used the identity tag of the young soldier to have my wounds treated and sutured. I was given a week's sick leave, and the soldier has been reported as a deserter. Can we find a way to inform his family and the German Army that he had been killed outside Saint-Julien on 25 or 26 April? I collapsed the wall of a shell crater to bury his remains."
William tapped his steepled his fingers to his lips as he thought, then after a long pause, he said,. "Unfortunately, that must wait until the end of the War. To inform them now would compromise our use of their sick leave passes and trains. We've had several travel that way since you told us about your unchallenged use of them."
David nodded slowly. "It must be so difficult for the families. It's not only the soldiers who suffer."
YOU ARE READING
Back In ActionHistorical Fiction
In the early months of the First World War, a young Canadian soldier uses quick thinking and ingenuity to evade capture after being wounded fighting in Flanders. While escaping through Germany to the Swiss border, he becomes intimately entwined with...