Paris July, 1944
Round midnight. There was an air-raid siren in the distance. He entered through the alley door, climbed three flights of stairs and walked the corridor maze to her door. He was a tall rangy man whose face seemed always to be in shadow. He knocked.
“Oui?” came the quiet pensive voice from within.
“What the hell…?” She opened the door part way. “Your can’t be here. Beat it.”
The tall man, Henry Caine, American OSS, pushed his way in. The apartment was dimly lit with candles and a Tiffany desk lamp. There was a Boldini on one wall, a Picasso on another. “Ah, my Soho,” he said, removing his hat. “So distant and haunting. Please close the door. We have to talk.”
“No, we don’t,” said Trudy Parr. She was dressed in a pale blue silk kimono. She closed the door. “I’ve been instructed not to talk to you. We shouldn’t even be seen together.”
“Those instructions are dated,” Caine said, lighting a cigarette and handing it to her. “The Nazis are old news in Paris. The elephants are in the trees.”
She accepted the cigarette. “Perhaps the Nazis don’t share your point of view.” She drew on the cigarette then looked at it. It was a Camel.
“They wouldn’t, would they,” he said. “But isn’t that always the way with an extinct species. They’re already looting the city. The swag trains heading into Switzerland are overflowing.”
“You’re risking our lives to tell me that?”
“No,” he said. He lit a second cigarette for himself, removed his coat and sat in a Royère chair. “It’s about Doppelgänger. That thing the Nazis are doing in Lyon, at the École polytechnique, with anomalistic microwaves. You know what I mean. Anyway, I understand the Russians want it when the fracas ends. Just because the Germans stole it from them, like that still means anything now. Point is, the English are willing to role over and let them have it. Something about sharing the spoils and all that. But I’ve decided that ain’t in the cards.”
“What have I got to do with it?”
“Two things, actually. First, in time, you’ll tell them in London that I’ve decided that the Russians can’t have Doppelgänger. We’re probably going to give them a piece of Germany and Berlin. And they should be damn glad we are. The US army’s rolling now. We could take it right into Moscow if we liked.”
“Tell them yourself,” said Trudy Parr. “Have someone stateside do it. I’m not your monkey.”
“They don’t know stateside,” Caine said. “Maybe I don’t want them to know, not yet anyway. I just decided this last night. It’s a field decision, get it? When things start happening round here in a few weeks, they’re gonna happen fast. I don’t have time to run to daddy. The second thing is that I want you and Dillinger to help me infiltrate the Doppelgänger operation so it’s ready and in our possession when our tanks roll in.”
“Screw you, Caine. We don’t work for you. Get your own people to do it.”
“We’ve taken casualties. My numbers are down and everyone’s already assigned. Besides, no one would ever guess we’re working together. That’s the genius of the plan.”
“What plan?” said Trudy Parr. She knew Henry Caine well enough to know that likely no plan existed. “And you’ve taken casualties because you’re reckless. You treat everyone like they’re disposable. Working with you is a death sentence.”
“Look, Trudy,” Caine said, standing up from the chair. “Patton’s on his way. You and Dench are foreign spies in what’ll damn soon be American territory. You wanna come down on the right side, don’t you? It’ll cushion the fall.”
“What fall? I thought we were all on the same side.”
“Hey,” he said stepping closer, “this is war, sugar. Nothing’s for certain. The world bleeds, but the US hasn’t even reached its full war production capacity. We could take it all, baby.”
“Why would you? Most of it’s yours for the asking.”
“Don’t ask me to make it sound rational, doll.” He reached out and tugged gently on the lapel of her kimono. “It’s just what people do. They kill each other and steal their stuff. Why should the states stop now when we’re on a roll? The banks are loving it and everyone has a job.”
Their eyes met and then she looked away. There were bombs falling in the distance now. “You’re not making sense.”
“We’re Americans, Trudy. We’re God’s switchblade children. Never tell us what we can’t do, or we’ll push the Apocalypse button and eat popcorn while we watch you burn.” He took her hand and tenderly kissed the palm. “I’m bringing you in on this so you don’t get hurt. We’re allies tonight; by tomorrow that could all be over.”
She pulled her hand away. “Don’t,” she said. “That part of this war’s over.”
“No,” he said embracing her. “Not over. We never really got started.” She struggled as he kissed her. “That’s right, baby,” he whispered. “Fight it. That’s how it goes with us, isn’t it. We scrap, and you lose. Then I take what I want.”
Struggling to free herself, she brought the heel of her hand up hard and sharp under his chin. His jaw slammed shut with a loud blunt thud. He stumbled backward, dazed and shaking his head. In the second that followed, Trudy Parr opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pistol. She stood and took aim. He grinned as he regained himself, rubbing his chin.
“This is bringing back some very fond memories, baby,” he said.
“Yeah, well come on over for some more.”
“Ah, honey. You’ve never pulled a gun before. This ain’t part of the game.” He stepped towards her. “You’re not gonna shoot me, anyway. Wadda you gonna do with the body?”
“There’re plenty of corpses in Paris right now. Yours would blend in just fine.”
“We had a good thing once.” He tried to look wounded. “Remember London?”
“I remember you were a stinker.”
“But we had fun.”
“You did. I got bruises.”
“Maybe I was falling in love.”
“You can’t love anything in this world and neither can I.”
“Oh, I get it,” Caine said, as though he’d just solved a puzzle. “It’s Dench, isn’t it? He finally jumped your bones and now you’re doing the boogie woogie. Well ain’t that precious. You’re his little quail.”
“You know better than that, Henry. I ain’t nobody’s quail.”
“Then let’s do this.” He threw his cigarette onto the Persian carpet and attacked.
She knew she’d never look back to ask herself why she didn’t fire the weapon. Killing Caine would have just been plain wrongheaded. He wasn’t really bad, just an asshole. Like all Americans. Besides, she figured romance had rules – even their kind of romance.
He batted the gun away and pulled her close, grabbing her viciously by her hair. Her hand went down and caressed him. He kissed her hard, no hope of tenderness now. Then he tore off her kimono.
“Where’s the fucking bedroom in this museum,” he said. She smiled and nodded over her shoulder, never losing contact with is his hard hazel eyes. He pushed her towards it.