Michael sat up in bed and lit an oil lamp. He hadn't been sleeping, only waiting. He picked up his wristwatch from the small table beside his bed, though his sense of time told him it was after three. It was three-oh-seven.
He sniffed the air, and his eyes narrowed. a smell of tobacco smoke. Burley and latakia, a potent blend. He knew that aroma, and it called him.
He was still dressed, in his khakis and black sweater. He slipped on his loafers, picked up the lamp, and followed its yellow glow down the circular staircase.
a couple of fresh logs had been added to the hearth, and a polite fire burned. Michael saw a haze of pipe smoke drifting above the high-backed leather chair that faced the flames. The cot was empty.
"Let's talk, Michael," the man who called himself Mallory said.
"Yes sir." He drew up a chair and sat down with the lamp on a table between them.
Mallory-not his real name, but one of many-laughed quietly, the pipe's bit clenched between his teeth. Firelight glinted in his eyes, and now he didn't appear nearly as old and unsteady as he'd been when he first entered the house. " 'Stay in your room,' " he said, and laughed again. His real voice, unmasked, had a gravelly edge. "That was good, Michael. You scared the balls off that poor Yank."
"Does he have anyi"
"Oh, he's quite a capable officer. Don't let the bluff and bluster fool you; Major Shackleton knows his job." Mallory's penetrating gaze slid toward the other man. "and you do, too." Michael didn't answer. Mallory smoked his pipe in silence for a moment, then said, "What happened to Margritta Phillipe in Egypt wasn't your fault, Michael. She knew the risks, and she did her job bravely and well. You killed her assassin and exposed Harry Sandler as an agent for the Nazis. You also did your job bravely and well."
"Not well enough." This still made the sick sensation of grief gnaw at his insides. "If I'd been alert that night, I might have saved Margritta's life."
"It was her time," Mallory said flatly, a statement from a professional in the arena of life and death. "and your time of brooding over Margritta should end now."
"When I find Sandler." Michael's face was tight, and heat rose in his cheeks. "I knew he was a German agent as soon as Margritta showed me the wolf he said he'd sent her from Canada. To me it was perfectly clear it was a Balkan wolf, not Canadian. and the only way Sandler could've killed a Balkan wolf was to go on a hunting trip with his Nazi friends." Harry Sandler, the big-game hunter from america who'd been written about in Life magazine, had vanished after Margritta's murder, and left no tracks. "I should have made Margritta leave the house that night. Immediately. Instead I..." He clenched his hands on the chair's armrests. "She trusted me," he said, in a hushed voice.
"Michael," Mallory said, "I want you to go to Paris."
"Is it that vital that you be involved with thisi"
"Yes. That vital." He puffed smoke and removed the pipe from his mouth. "We'll have one chance, and one chance only, for the invasion to be successful. The time frame, as of now, is the first week of June. That's subject to change, according to the weather and the tides. We have to make sure ail potential disasters are dealt with, and I can tell you that watching these commanders hash things out leaves a lot of room for the damnedest mistakes you could imagine." He grunted, and smiled thinly. "We have to do our part to give them a clean house when they move in. If the Gestapo's watching adam so closely, you can be certain he has information they don't want getting out. We have to learn what it is. With your... uh... special talents, there's a possibility you can get in and out under the nose of the Gestapo."
Michael watched the fire. The man sitting in the chair next to him was one of three people in the world who knew he was a lycanthrope.
"There's another facet to this you should consider," Mallory said. "Four days ago we received a coded message from our agent Echo, in Berlin. She's seen Harry Sandler."
Michael looked into the other man's face. "Sandler was in the company of a Nazi colonel named Jerek Blok, an SS officer, who used to be commandant of Falkenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. So Sandler's moving in some high circles."
"Is Sandler still in Berlini"
"We haven't had word from Echo to indicate otherwise. She's keeping watch on him for us."
Michael grunted softly. He had no idea who Echo was, but he remembered Sandler's ruddy-cheeked face from a Life magazine photograph, grinning as he rested one booted foot on a dead lion on the Kenya grassland.
"We can get you dossiers on Sandler and Blok, of course," Mallory ventured on. "We don't know what their connection might be. Echo would contact you in Berlin. What you might decide to do from there is up to your own discretion."
My discretion, Michael thought. That was a polite way of saying that if he chose to kill Harry Sandler, he would be on his own.
"Your first mission, however, is to find out what adam knows." Mallory let a trail of smoke trickle from his mouth. "That's imperative. You can relay the information through your French contact."
"What about adami Don't you want him out of Parisi"
Michael mulled that over. The man who, in this instance, called himself Mallory was as infamous for what he left unsaid as for what he spelled out.
"We want to tie up all the loose ends," Mallory said after a moment's silence. "I'm intrigued by the same thing you are, Michael: why is an artist involved in thisi Von Frankewitz is a nobody, a hack who does sidewalk portraits in Berlin. How is he involved with secrets of statei" Mallory's eyes found Michael. "Will you do the jobi"
Nyet, he thought. But he felt a pressure in his veins like the power of a steam furnace building heat. In two years he had not gone one day without thinking of how his friend, the Countess Margritta, had died while he slumbered in the embrace of spent passions. Finding Harry Sandler might wipe the slate clean. Probably not, but there would be satisfaction in hunting the hunter. and the situation with adam and the impending invasion was a vital issue on its own. How might adam's information affect D-Day, and the lives of the thousands of soldiers who would storm ashore on a fateful morning in Junei
"Yes," Michael said, tension in his throat.
"I knew I could count on you at the eleventh hour," Mallory said with a faint smile. "The wolf's hour, isn't iti"
"I have one request to make. My parachute training's rusty. I'd like to go over by submarine."
Mallory considered it briefly, then shook his head. "I'm sorry. Too risky with German patrol boats and mines in the Channel. a small transport plane is the safest alternative. We'll whisk you to a place where you can sharpen your skills, do a few practice jumps. Piece of cake, as the Yanks say."
Michael's palms were wet, and he closed his fists. Only two things frightened him: confinement and heights. He couldn't stand the roar and sputter of airplanes, and with his feet off the earth he felt diminished and weak. But there was no choice; he would have to bear it and forge ahead, though the parachute training would be sheer torture. "all right."
"Splendid." Mallory's tone of voice said he'd known all along Michael Gallatin would accept the task. "You're doing well, aren't you, Michaeli Getting enough sleepi Eating balanced mealsi Not too much meat, I hope."
"Not too much." The forest was stocked with a large herd of deer and stags, plus wild boar and hares.
"I worry about you sometimes. You need a wife."
Michael laughed, in spite of Mallory's well-intentioned seriousness.
"Well," Mallory amended, "perhaps not."
They talked for a while longer, about the war, of course, because that was their crossroads of interest, and as the fire gnawed quietly on oak logs and the wind keened before dawn, the lycanthrope in service to the king stood up and ascended the stairs to his bedroom. Mallory slept in his chair before the hearth, his face in repose again that of an elderly chauffeur.