Catching the Wind(3)

By: Melanie Dobson


Signed,

The Hon. Mrs. Samuel McMann

Quenby’s finger hovered over the Trash icon on her iPad as she skimmed the e-mail one more time, but she flagged it instead. Not that she would forget the woman’s message. Her next feature for the syndicate was banking on an interview with the Honorable—and much-appalled—Louise McMann.

Sighing, she closed the iPad cover, and her gaze wandered past the kitchen table in her flat, through the patio’s sliding-glass window. Fog veiled the hills and trees of Hampstead Heath like a filmy curtain draped over a production on the West End. Any moment the curtain would lift, revealing the spring flowers and pond below.

Usually the beauty of the view energized her, but this morning she wished she could slip back into bed. Chandler Parr—her editor and best friend—was planning to feature the espionage story next week, but even though Chandler had asked her to focus solely on this article right now, Quenby still had nothing even close to ready for publication.

Her feet slid into her slippers, and she propped them up on the opposite chair, pressing her fingers into the back of her neck. If only she could knead away every tendril of stress that coiled under the skin.

Two weeks ago, without any sort of fanfare, the War Office had released more than a hundred detailed files related to espionage during World War II, held under lock and key by the curators at the National Archives in London. She’d recently written a series of articles on the influx of refugees in England, and a friend at the archives thought she might be interested in the espionage files as well. He was absolutely right.

Few people outside England knew about the seemingly ordinary, even upstanding British citizens who’d supported Nazi Germany during World War II, but hundreds of these sympathizers had been rounded up before or during the war for betraying their country. Many of the newly released files contained information about Nazi spies already known to the public, but she’d found a confidential inquiry into the background and character of Lady Janice Ricker—Mrs. McMann’s mother—who’d resided mainly in Kent. A woman whose story would interest both North American readers and those on this side of the pond.

Lady Ricker was an American citizen who’d married into a wealthy upper-class British family before the war, becoming the wife of an astute Member of Parliament, and according to a memorandum in one of the files, she’d admitted to being sympathetic to the Nazi cause. The British government suspected that her ladyship had assisted the Nazis during World War II, but so far, Quenby hadn’t been able to find any documents with solid proof that she’d operated as an Abwehr spy.

She’d located the obituary for Lady Ricker in the Kent and Sussex Courier. February 8, 1953. Lady Ricker was survived by a son and daughter at the time, but Louise McMann was the only child who remained now. Since Mrs. McMann refused to answer questions, Quenby would contact Lady Ricker’s grandchildren to request an interview.

Not that Mrs. McMann wanted the world to know her mother might have participated in German espionage, but she’d thought the woman might be willing to share her family’s perspective in the article, even if it was to declare Lady Ricker innocent of the accusations. Or perhaps give a reason as to why Lady Ricker had betrayed her country.

If Lady Ricker was innocent, Quenby would write a story about the difficulty deciphering who was innocent and who was guilty of espionage during World War II. An article about trust and deception and witch hunts—today and in the past—sparked by fear. Chandler might ax her story even before Evan Graham, the owner of World News Syndicate, saw it, but it would be the truth.

She took a long sip of the milky tea she’d brewed an hour ago. In her mind, journalism was a science that educated society about both past and present in hopes of bettering it, keeping people accountable for their actions and informing them about the past so they wouldn’t repeat mistakes. In the mind of Mr. Graham, it was more about keeping a dying industry alive and, of course, selling papers. If people stopped paying for news—online or off—Quenby wouldn’t have a job.

As president of World News Syndicate, Mr. Graham wasn’t afraid of a little conflict. Or a lawsuit. His family had been in the business of news for more than sixty years.