Corpus by Rory Clements
She turned again into the road she had been seeking. Narrow and cobbled with a half-timbered tavern, which must have been old when Otto von Bismarck was young. She looked around once more. The street was almost deserted, save for a boy of about twelve. She stopped three houses to the left of the tavern, outside the front door of a three-storey building. Number six, one of the flats at the top of the house. She pressed the button twice, waited three seconds, then pressed again.
A dormer window opened twenty feet above her and a face peered out. ‘Ja?’
‘Guten tag, Onkel Arnold!’
He hesitated no more than two seconds, then nodded. ‘Einen moment, bitte.’
Half a minute later, the front door opened.
‘Come in,’ he whispered. His English was heavily accented, but precise. He was a balding man in his mid-thirties and he was frightened.
Nancy stepped into the gloom of the hallway. On either side of her there were doors to apartments. In front of her was a staircase. ‘Here?’ she suggested.
‘No, please, not here. Come upstairs.’
As soon as he had closed the door to his flat, she removed her hat and tossed it on the table. Then she opened her bag and took out a brown envelope. She thrust it at him. ‘It’s all in there.’
He slid the papers out and studied them, then gave her a strained smile. It would take a great deal more than this delivery of forged papers to wash away the stresses of his life. ‘Thank you, miss. Truly, I don’t know how to thank you or repay you. You have risked a great deal for me.’
‘Not for you, for the cause.’
‘I thank you all the same. Can I make you a cup of tea? Or coffee perhaps? It is ersatz, I’m afraid.’
‘No, I must go.’ She hesitated. She was shaking. ‘Do you have a lavatory?’
‘Yes, it is shared. Across the landing.’
No, not here. It would be too risky. She had to get to safety. She tried to control her shakes. ‘Forget it. I have to leave now.’
‘I think if you were really my niece you would stay a little while, don’t you? Having walked all this way?’
‘No one saw me coming.’
‘My landlord would have seen and heard you ringing the bell and calling out my name. He sees everything.’
‘I’ll stay ten minutes.’ Nancy took a grip of herself. ‘I am thirsty. Perhaps you have something a little stronger than tea?’
‘Peach schnapps. It is the only alcohol I have, I’m afraid.’
She made a face. ‘Better than nothing.’
They sat together in the man’s sweltering, badly furnished sitting room, the ceiling sloping acutely beneath the eaves. The open window let in only warm, dirty air. Arnold Lindberg was a physics professor from Göttingen, but in this house he was Arnold Schmidt, unemployed librarian. She could smell the sweat of his fear. His pate was glistening and there were beads of perspiration on his brow and on his upper lip. He lit a cigarette and she could see that his fingers were trembling. As an afterthought, he thrust the packet towards her, but she shook her head. ‘A glass of water,’ she said. The sugary-sweet peach schnapps stood on the table in front of her, untouched. Perhaps she could wash it down.
He went to the basin and filled a glass. She drank it quickly, then asked for another.
‘So tell me, miss, what do you think of the new Germany?’
‘You mean the National Socialists?’
‘Who else?’ He gave a hollow laugh. ‘But please, do not name them.’
Don’t say the devil’s name for fear that he might think you are calling him. ‘I loathe them,’ she said. ‘That’s why I’m here.’ At last, she threw back the schnapps. It was not as sweet as she had feared. Not what she really wanted or needed, of course, but that would have to wait.
By Rory Clements
Published by Zaffre (26 January 2017)
Europe is in turmoil. The Nazis have marched into the Rhineland. In Russia, Stalin has unleashed his Great Terror. Spain has erupted in civil war.
In Berlin, a young Englishwoman evades the Gestapo to deliver vital papers to a Jewish scientist. Within weeks, she is found dead in her Cambridge bedroom, a silver syringe clutched in her fingers.
In a London club, three senior members of the British establishment light the touch paper on a conspiracy that will threaten the very heart of government. Even the ancient colleges of Cambridge are not immune to political division. Dons and students must choose a side: right or left, where do you stand?
When a renowned member of the county set and his wife are found horribly murdered, a maverick history professor finds himself dragged into a world of espionage which, until now, he has only read about in books. But the deeper Thomas Wilde delves, the more he wonders whether the murders are linked to the death of the girl with the silver syringe - and, just as worryingly, to the scandal surrounding King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson...
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