Chapter Twenty-six

David Wyn Evans was waiting in the Hole-in-the-Wall cafe near the bridge on Regent’s Park Road. He got up when Denham entered, took off his hat, and muttered something, which may have been an oath in Welsh, on seeing Denham’s face.

‘You’re getting that seen to, I hope?’

‘How did you find me?’

‘Ah.’ Evans smiled with regret, as if he were a magician being asked to reveal his tricks.

They sat down just as the waitress placed a fried breakfast on the table. ‘Full English?’ Evans said to him. ‘They do kidneys here, and kedgeree.’

‘Just tea,’ Denham said to the girl, reaching into his jacket for cigarettes and finding with a shock the full packet of HBs Rausch had given him in the cell.

He and Evans were the only patrons. The sign on the door had been changed to CLOSED without him noticing, and Bowler Hat Man stood guard outside next to a black government car.

‘I’m glad to see you at liberty,’ Evans said, giving his plate a liberal sprinkling of salt. ‘Sir Eric kicked up quite a fuss to get you out of there, I can tell you.’

‘They thought I had something that they want as much as you do.’

‘Ye-es, that’s what worried us.’ He heaped scrambled egg onto a slice of fried bread and took a bite, watching Denham as he chewed. ‘Let’s hear it.’

Denham explained what had happened in the interrogation, and what little he’d learned of the resistance group. The Welshman listened with keen attention.

When he’d finished, Evans said, ‘So, evidently you weren’t the chosen reporter…’

‘Good God, man. D’you think I’d have gone through this’-he pointed at his face-‘if I could have told them where it was after the first blow?’

‘Hmm… quite so,’ Evans said, and gestured for the bill.

‘I think I’ve earned the right to know what’s in this bloody thing

… this dossier.’

Evans dabbed his mouth with his napkin, his cheek bulging as he probed his teeth with his tongue, trying to dislodge some bacon. ‘What we know is only from hearsay and rumour. Nothing precise. But forgive me, Mr Denham-it’s best if I don’t tell you even that. People with knowledge of the List Dossier have a habit of dying.’

The List Dossier.

‘So you’re not even sure what it is?’

‘It’s valuable intelligence all right. That much we know. A unit within the SD has been going to extraordinary lengths to track it down, and in secrecy, without using the police apparatus. That alone gives an idea of its worth…’

He paid for his breakfast and stood up. ‘I thought you might like Saturday’s newspaper,’ he said, passing a folded copy of the Daily Mail across the table. A photograph of Hannah’s nonsalute on the podium filled most of the front page. ‘Goodbye, Mr Denham.’

‘Before you go-I’d like to ask…’

Evans stopped, standing over him, lean and angular in his wing collar and black homburg, like a Mafia undertaker.

‘… Would you find out what’s happened to Hannah Liebermann and her family?’

He studied Denham for a moment and gave a curt nod. ‘I’ll do what I can,’ he said, making towards the door. He put his hand on the door handle, then turned and said, ‘A word of advice. The press think you were detained for interviewing Liebermann, so leave it at that. Mention the dossier to no one. If Heydrich still believes you know something… you are not beyond his reach.’

W hen Denham got back it was still early. Eleanor’s shoulders rose and fell gently in sleep, the hair across her cheek golden in the dusty light. He looked around the room, with all its reminders of his father. A pile of technical manuals, drawers filled with odds and ends. But it was the picture above the nightstand that sent a tingle over his scalp. He hadn’t noticed it last night: a framed photograph of the project engineers at Cardington, posing beneath the control car of the R101, one of two gigantic airships built to link the capitals of the empire by air. Must have been taken sometime in 1929. His dad, hands behind his back, neat and trim with his Fairbanks moustache. His colleagues with serious smiles. The mighty ship behind them nearing completion.

‘Where were you?’ Eleanor’s voice was thick with sleep.

‘Just talking to a neighbour.’ He sat on the bed, facing the picture. She brushed the hair from her eyes and stretched lazily, reaching her arm towards him.

‘Did he help build that Zeppelin, your dad?’

‘Yes… he died on it, too.’

‘Oh gee, I’m sorry,’ she said, sitting up.

‘Took off for India in bad weather. Crashed over northern France and burned. On its maiden flight.’

D enham sent Tom out for some pastries, and told him there was a shilling for him if he could get hold of any more of the weekend’s newspapers from Mr Blount’s shop or the neighbours. In the meantime Eleanor got the mains water running.

The boy excelled himself, returning in fifteen minutes, beaming, with the Manchester Evening Guardian, the Times, and the Daily Express. This last one carried a long feature on Hannah by Pat Murphy, using the news agency snap of her standing, tight-lipped, on the podium. There was plenty of backstory, but news of what happened was thin, posing the question ‘could she have been coerced?’ rather than taking the words of her dynamite broadcast at face value. It cited a German press report that she had suffered a breakdown and mixed in some conjecture that this may have stemmed from the strain she felt over German policy on ‘the Jewish question.’

Oh, Pat, Denham thought, guessing that his friend had been leaned on by Lord Beaverbrook. Go and work for someone else.

Laughter came from the kitchen, where Tom was giving Eleanor his tips for winning at conkers.

The Times scored far higher, with an article on page two by Rex getting most of the truth across. Must have cost him a fight with his editor. The bare facts were so startling that the lead column felt obliged to comment, albeit in an exculpatory tone: ‘Hannah Liebermann, an Olympian not noted for outbursts of an emotional kind, has revealed the brutality and coercion surrounding her decision to participate; further evidence, if any were needed, that the German government is prepared to back policy with force, and that its grievances resulting from the Treaties of Versailles and Locarno must be taken seriously

…’ He would cable Rex later to thank him.

He put the papers down and stared at the frayed pattern of the sitting room rug, his mind working. He hadn’t a day to lose. If somehow he was going to get the Liebermanns out of Germany, he must publish his interview with Hannah now while everyone was talking about her. It would be his biggest and best shot.

W hen Tom had eaten his breakfast Denham took him on the bus up the hill to Hampstead and delivered him to the gate. Anna rushed from the front door in a sort of crouching run, her arms wide, crying at the sight of Tom’s face, hugging him on the garden path. She didn’t invite Denham in.

It started to rain as he hobbled back towards Rosslyn Hill, wishing he were recovered enough to make the walk down.

He’d almost reached the bus stop when a wave of dizziness hit him.

His left shoulder was seized with a bolt of pain that almost made him faint. By the time he was seated on the bus and heading towards Fleet Street, the pain was so intense, his head spinning so violently, that the lower deck rolled like a raft on the high seas.