Maria was beaming when she opened her door to David's knock. "Six days late, David. Six whole days and a bit." They merged in a tight hug. "All the doctors at school are convinced I am. With my regularity, they see no other explanation, not even the emotional one Edith had suggested, that's only a day or two, not six."
They kissed deeply for a long while, then Maria squeezed him tighter. "Come. Into the tub, then into bed."
Later, as they lay entwined under the duvet, still connected, David asked, "So when is our baby due?"
"The standard calculation is forty weeks from the beginning of the last bleeding. That would make it due the eighth of August. School finishes the first week of June, so I'll be able to relax during my last two months."
"Eight eight. A very lucky birthday." He gave a gentle thrust. "Eight is the luckiest number to the Chinese. To them it means prosperity and wealth. Double eights add joy and happiness to that. There's a large Chinese population in Vancouver and Victoria, and they are very delighted with eights."
"Do you miss those places? Do you miss Canada?"
"Haven't had time to even think about them these past months." He gave another gentle pelvic thrust.
She began tilting her hips and purring. "Let's do another, before we dress for lunch."
"I talked with your mother a few days ago about Georg, then talked with Georg yesterday afternoon, and again with your mother last evening. They really have it strongly for each other."
"Doesn't he have family? A wife, some children back home?"
"He told me he lives alone in barracks."
"A widower? Never married?"
"His fiancée jilted him. He moved to England, joined the Army and went to South Africa to fight the Boers. Never took up with anyone else after that. Stayed in England after the African War."
"He's from here, isn't he?"
"From Zermatt, foot of the Matterhorn."
"One of my favourites."
"Getting close again... Join me?"
"Love to." David reached down and pulled back his skin, and together they climbed their own splendid peak.
As they lay luxuriating in the afterglow, David said, "He wants to stay, and your mother wants him to."
"That'll be tough once your project is over."
"I'm looking into having him remain in Switzerland and work with me on whatever goes with selling watches."
"Would they do that?"
"He has a huge amount to offer here; his inventiveness, his intelligence, his explosives expertise. His eagerness to play saboteur and spy, plus his having Swiss papers, makes the argument stronger."
"We should start cleaning up. What do you think the chances are?"
"Very strong. Look at the support I received when I conceived this project. Thirteen saboteurs, ten Sappers and two cooks." David finished wiping and stood to begin dressing.
"I've always loved the way you flip that in into your trousers."
"And I love the way you dress. One layer. I never could understand what all the layers were about."
"Grandmama told me that in England some women still consider wearing fewer than six petticoats and underskirts is indecent and unhygienic."
"Cumbersome is the word that comes to my mind. Now with the shortage of many things because of the war, wasteful is also an appropriate term." He paused to watch Maria as she quickly tidied her hair, then slowly spun to check her reflection in the mirror. "Absolutely gorgeous. Come, lunch awaits."
David sat between Edith and Maria, and their conversation was mainly on the Prisoner of War programs. "Our little Bern Bread Bureau now has over a hundred and fifty workers. I'm delighted how it's grown. We started with three people, and now we're sending nearly two thousand loaves of bread every day to the British prisoners in Germany."
"Two thousand loaves. That would require a lot of flour."
"It's nearly ten tons a week now, sent to us by France."
"How's the bread distributed? How do you know it gets to the prisoners?"
"It goes by marked vans from here to the Red Cross in Frankfurt, and they handle the distribution. We've never been stopped at the border; the Germans welcome us feeding our prisoners, so they don't have to. Other items are sent in also, tinned meats, condensed milk, chocolate, tobacco, soap, clothing; but we do the bread."
"I can see they'd welcome all of that. The Germans. It relieves them from having to supply as much for the prisoners. Do they do the same for their prisoners in Britain and France?"
"Almost nothing so far." Edith sighed. "But that doesn't matter. We don't give to get, we give because we're human. But you, I understand I must congratulate you. Maria's been sharing much of her experience with me."
"I had the easy part." He smiled, then patted Maria's hand. "I simply started it. She has to complete the job."
After lunch, David sat with Colonel Picot in a quiet corner. "We're expecting a courier from London tomorrow with a package of identity papers for the Sappers, birth certificates, mostly, but one for each. The clerk is contriving a variety of travel arrangements for them to cross into France, separately and by different routes."
"What about the papers for my team, the seven non-Swiss ones? We haven't used those men in Germany yet, and they're wondering if we ever will."
"I'm told they are nearly complete. There's a lot more riding on their accuracy. The consequences of being caught at the German border are much more serious than with crossing from Switzerland into France."
"But we're nearly finished, and I see no need for them to cross into Germany now."
"You don't, but London does. Not immediately, but..." Picot paused and peered into David's eyes. "You've assembled a fine team. It appears you'll accomplish your task with only half of them going across. But, David, these rail lines are small potatoes. Very small. You've the tunnel, the men, the skills. We'll find the projects."
"So this means Georg will be staying?"
"Yes, we didn't want to mention this with Wallinger there. He has no need to know."
David smiled and nodded. "And the others?"
"Are there any you feel don't fit?"
"No..." He ran images of their faces across his mind as he slowly shook his head. "No, they all belong."
"Sit and talk with each of them the next couple of days. Get their feelings on wanting to stay. Wanting to move into potentially more dangerous things. If any waver, hesitate... Allow them an easy out. We need full, enthusiastic commitment."
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...