Tried in the Fire: Inimical (episode twenty-five)
Greta walked ahead, then stopped in front of a bookshop, reading the titles on display.
“I think,” she told him, “one day you’re going to meet someone…a lady reporter maybe—probably. You’ll walk with her along a city street, talking about books and speaking French. And she’ll say, ‘I’ve never really felt I’m making a contribution. I ought to be in Spain, visiting the refugee camps’.”
She startled him by voicing this character’s―this putative lady reporter’s―line, in a high-toned Mayfair accent that sounded flawless. Greta could not have spent enough time in London to have picked up the nuance; Malcolm-Webb’s memory fingered as chief suspect, that music hall blighter. Worse, he found the effect disturbing…Greta, without the gaudy finish; Greta transfigured by British refinement. She had called him a snob and he’d taken it indignantly. He shouldn’t find this mirror-image Greta attractive. But she could be shrewd. Of the various points of offense she had touched on, the safest to answer was her cavalier reference to Spain. He began, knowing he sounded like Wrentsley addressing the Lords:
“There is something to be said for…”
A black saloon car pulled up close to the curb, inching along the sidewalk behind them. A moment ago, Greta and Malcolm-Webb had shared the walk with a crowd of shoppers. As the car approached, people began discreetly to back away. A second, identical car, came up the street, slowed to a crawl as it passed the first, then sped off. The black car came to a full stop. Greta and Malcolm-Webb stood isolated and apprehensive. An officer exited the driver’s seat, walked around and opened the rear passenger door. He addressed them by name.
“Fräulein Freund. Herr Webb.”
He pointed; they understood. They got inside the car. The interior was not outfitted for the transportation of prisoners. Either of them could have opened a door and run up the street. Fear kept them obedient.
Hauptsturmführer Martin Winter turned from the front passenger seat, making eye-contact with Greta and Malcolm-Webb, each in turn; he then sat forward so that he might contemplate the traffic while questioning them.
“Is it sense?” he asked, in English. “You have questions. Not, you should suppose, that we are not always helping.”
“Are you?” asked Malcolm-Webb.
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)