Julie Martin is the most unlikely of heroines in a struggle for supremacy which reaches to the very pinnacles of power within modern Britain. The letter, found among her recently deceased aunt's belongings, sets in motion a chain of events which had their roots in the death throes of Nazi Germany in 1945.
Roger Fretwell and Madeline Colson, two young lovers at the end of hostilities, are in possession of a set of files which fleeing survivors of the Third Reich would rather had lain buried. Now exposed once more, the secrets which they hold put their very lives in peril, and set in motion a chain of events from which there could only be one winner.
against the idyllic backdrop of the West Country, Roger and Madeline's
love story weaves its way into the dark and troubled waters of
espionage, as competing forces will stop at nothing to gain control of a
situation so vital for the future of democracy in modern Britain.
breathless pace of the story line is unrelenting, as the chase over the
length and breadth of the country comes to a shattering climax on the
platform of Nottingham's Midland Station.
Julie Martin’s aunt Molly was seventy-four when she died in April 1992 and it had fallen to her to take care of the old woman’s affairs at the end. She’d hated doing it when her own parents passed away some years before, and the fact that Molly had been her own mother’s identical twin sister didn’t help matters at all. It had been like living through the whole episode once more and although her husband Doug was a supportive as he could be, he had no real idea of the emotional turmoil that she had gone through during the weeks following the funeral. As sole executor of her aunt’s will it had been Julie’s responsibility to ensure that all bequests and instructions were carried out, but the most difficult side to it all had been sorting through Molly’s possessions. There had been all of the usual collections of memorabilia which she had accumulated, in addition to papers concerning the ownership of her house and all her savings, but the more personal items were confined to the recesses of her wardrobe, and that was where Julie found the letter.
Molly didn’t have a large collection of clothing, the deprivation suffered by many British people during the war had seen to that. The culture of ‘Make Do and Mend’ had applied across the entire strata of society in some shape or form. Nevertheless each item was searched through before being parcelled up for a variety of charitable causes which her aunt had favoured during her lifetime. Nearing the end of her clothing ‘safari’, and at the conclusion of a particularly tiring day, Julie had almost missed it in her rush to get the last of the stuff away from the house. Out of the back compartment of an old handbag with a broken clasp, a letter emerged. The envelope was cream, but must have originally been white and now faded with age. The writing on it was in fountain pen, something quite unusual nowadays, and beautifully written in a flowing style. What made it all the more intriguing was the fact that the stamp bore the head of King George VI. Julie was no philatelist, but realised that this would make the likely date of its writing between the years 1939 and 1953. Where on earth could Molly have come across it?
She sat down on the bed and stared at the envelope in her hands. It was still sealed and bore no post mark – a fact which meant that it had therefore never arrived at its destination. There was no return address on the other side and the writing was not that of her aunt, so it must have been an item of mail which had been mislaid in the street, possibly by the person sending it, and who was on their way to the post office. That’s it, they must have dropped it and Molly would have picked it up intending to post it on herself. Perhaps this intention was interrupted by some other event and she put it into her bag, intending to deal with it later. From that point in time it was probably forgotten and consigned to the back of the wardrobe along with the hand bag, possibly never to re-emerge. Molly had been born in 1918 and Julie reasoned that she would have been thirty-five at the latest time for picking it up. The question now remained, should she open it?
f she did, it would be abundantly clear when her aunt had come into possession of the envelope since there would have to be some date on whatever paperwork it contained, but did she have that right? On the other hand what harm could it possibly cause now, over fifty years later? What if the intended recipient were still alive? What would they say if their private mail had been read? These questions tumbled around in Julie’s mind for what must have been an age, and she was only aroused from her reverie by the sound of her husband coming up the stairs, presumably in search of her. She looked at her watch and realised that she must have been musing over this piece of correspondence for almost an hour.
"There you are, thought you’d run off with the milkman!” Doug was one of life’s men who firmly believed that he had a sense of humour and that the rest of the world just wasn’t on the right wavelength.
“You should be so lucky, have you seen the state of Stan Machin? I’d have to run backwards to even give him a chance of catching me. No, I got distracted by this.”
He took the envelope from her hand and turned it over. Even held up to the light it gave no clue as to its contents save the fact that it held a number of sheets of paper. She explained the circumstances of its discovery and was more than a little delighted when he suggested that they open it. It was, he said, highly unlikely that it held anything of great importance after forty or fifty years; anyway, he added, wasn’t she just the slightest bit curious as to what was in it? Still not entirely convinced, and bearing in mind the lateness of the hour, she put it into her own pocket intending to re-examine it once they got home. Parcelling up the last of the clothing, they loaded all that could be carried into their Astra Estate ready for distribution in the morning. All of the furniture was scheduled to be collected the next day by a house clearance company for a nominal fee in readiness for putting the property up for sale at the weekend. With one last look back at a house where she had spent so many happy hours as a child, Julie bade a tearful farewell to a host of fond memories and could almost see Molly standing at the door waving her off as she had done so many times in the past. She got into the car at Doug’s impatient prompting, and they drove home.
Once at home, and with the business of dinner together with unpacking the car in readiness for tomorrow’s delivery runs to the nominated charities, the letter was once more forgotten albeit this time only very briefly. It was just as they were locking up for the night that Julie rediscovered it in her coat as she was searching for her house key. She took it back into the kitchen where Doug was finishing the washing up and placed it on the table, still unsure of the ethics of what she was about to do. Her husband turned from the sink.
“You might as well open it. After all, who’s going to know if you do? There’s only me, and I’m not likely to grass on you now am I?”
Needing no more prompting, and with a conscience suddenly scoured clean of all doubt, she slit the top of the envelope carefully with a knife, taking care not to damage any of the contents in the process. Doug wiped his hands and came to sit beside her at the table as the faded packet revealed its contents to the world for the first time in over half a century. It smelled musty, but not unpleasant. It was the kind of smell you got from someone’s front parlour which was only used on special occasions or from a Methodist or Baptist chapel on Sunday school mornings. Molly had one of those kind of rooms and they had laid her out there in time-honoured fashion as neighbours had come to pay their last respects. Two crisp pages of notepaper dropped out on to the table along with a smaller, stiffer item in the form of a railway ticket – it was one way, Grimsby to Tewkesbury.
Julie started to read the letter out loud to her husband. It was poignant in its simplicity and came from another time, now long forgotten, when everything was much simpler. It revealed a the beginning of a story which had started in the midst of the worst conflict that the world had ever known, but which held out so much hope for the writer and, presumably, the receiver of its message. When she had finished and replaced the leaves of paper into the envelope, they both sat in silence for a moment almost in awe of the words of an individual almost certainly no longer alive. Those words were as fresh now as they had been when the envelope had been sealed, and Doug sat there nodding his head in silent resignation. His wife had that look on her face which told him that she would not rest until the mystery was solved, and it would appear that there was little that he could do to stop her in the quest.
That quest would cover an almost straight line from Gloucestershire through their home in Solihull to Cleethorpes on the east coast, and Doug had his doubts as to its advisability. Despite Julie’s wish to somehow ‘put right’ whatever wrong had been caused by her Aunt Molly’s omission in not posting the letter, he had questioned her desire on the grounds of possibly reopening old wounds. His concern was doomed to failure as his romantic wife clearly had other ideas, and in the end he gave in.