Meg Larsen thought it would be a great idea to take her aging grandmother on a trip to Great Britain, to revisit places she hasn’t seen in many years, including her ancestral Irish home. What Meg hadn’t counted on was being so instantly attracted to a fellow member of their tour. Jake Bernstein is certainly easy on the eyes, and she feels comfortable with him. As if she’s known him forever. But when he starts asking some very strange questions, she begins to wonder what his real motives for being there are.
Jake’s growing feelings for Meg are quite the complication. Can he objectively carry on his assignment, knowing he is trying to expose Meg’s beloved grandmother as a Nazi criminal? Or will he be tempted to cross a line he very well knows he shouldn’t cross? And for what? After sixty years, can the sins of the past ever be forgotten or forgiven…and should they be?
FBI Headquarters, the Hoover Building
Jake Bernstein plopped down at his desk, having wolfed down his lunch in ten minutes. The tuna sandwich and Coke bunched like a hard knot in the pit of his stomach. With his fist, he pounded his sternum and gulped down the last of the Coke.
Well, too friggin’ bad. Anger simmered just beneath his calm exterior. Every night he fought an urge to run the dark streets until he dropped. Usually his limit was five miles, but lately that wasn’t enough. His life was out of balance again, but his ol’ damned work ethic kept him at the ol’ damned grindstone.
All work and no play made for a repressed libido. His pal Eric’s mantra.
Libido? It was there all right, pacing like a caged animal, making him tense and restless. When was the last time he’d slept with a woman? A quick mental check--ah yes, two months and three Saturdays ago. After a couple of calls, the woman--what was her name? Nicole--had given up on him. A pang of guilt added to his queasy stomach. Wasn’t so cool to have sex with a woman then dump her. Though he didn’t really dump her. You had to have a relationship with a woman to call it dumping. One date was not a relationship.
Jake pondered his predicament. What was more reprehensible? Ditching a woman you just slept with, or stringing one along just for the sex? There’d been no chemistry, no spark there, and he’d made one excuse after another to avoid seeing her again. Leading a woman on just for sex always came back to bite you in the ass.
But damn, he needed a change or he was going to go nuts. The old stirrings of cabin fever, the need to escape the office confines and just explore the world...explore women...were pulling him apart.
He’d even lost interest in having loveless sex...
Damn strange, but there it was.
Eric, a bachelor like himself, thought he was bonkers to turn down free sex.
Not so free, Jake thought. The guilt, sense of obligation—all that discouraged him from putting on a front. Ironic, since putting on a front—or cover—was what he was sometimes paid to do.
His inter-office phone rang. He flushed his mind of thoughts of women and sex. His boss, Terry Thompson, was old-school, and preferred to use the phone over office email.
“Yeah, Terry?” Jake sat up in surprise as he listened to his supervisor. The Assistant Deputy Director of Investigations was giving him a heads-up.
MI5 would be contacting Jake today. As his boss, Terry had already given British Intelligence the okay on an ongoing investigation of theirs. A naturalized American woman was their target. She was suspected of World War II espionage and possibly a truckload of other war crimes.
“So I recommended you, Jake. You’ve got the qualifications for this job. It’s undercover field work. You need a break from the paper mill. Clear the cobwebs, see the world. Shouldn’t take more than a week or two. Check your email.”
Jake was digesting this as Thompson rang off abruptly.
“Okay…” he said aloud, turning to his computer. While it was typical to receive communications from other intelligence services, domestic and abroad, an urgent request directly from MI5 was rare. Usually the legate at the American Embassy in London was their liaison. The encrypted message was directed to him personally: Special Agent Jacob Bernstein, Intelligence Division, FBI Headquarters. Followed by a name and phone number in London. Steeped with curiosity, his heart pounding, Jake punched in the number on an outside secure line. Several clicks later, a deep baritone voice answered.
“MI5, History section. Major Phillip Temple, Case officer.”
The stilted British accent made Jake smile. He introduced himself and added, “How can I help you, Agent Temple?”
“Call me Major, Agent Bernstein. I’m retired army, but the moniker has stuck.” The man then spoke for over five continuous minutes while Jake took copious notes on a legal yellow pad. At the first prolonged lull in Temple’s narrative, Jake jumped in.
“Major Temple, let’s see if I’m getting this. An old Irish guy, a veteran WWII sailor, has been writing and calling your office for the past ten years...claiming his cousin”--Jake consulted his notes--”this Mary McCoy vanished around 1940...and he suspects foul play. He thinks someone killed her and assumed her identity in order to gain access to Churchill’s War Department. That whoever did this might’ve been an old Third Reich spy. Is this correct?” To Temple’s affirmative, he added, “Does this WWII sailor have any concrete evidence? Other than conjecture?”
“A smattering of inconsistencies, mainly. Relative to my own investigation, there was only one Mary McCoy, a Dublin College graduate with a gift for foreign languages, fluent in French and German, who worked for the War Office from mid-1940 to early 1945. Ten years ago this Mike McCoy tracked down and met this woman, thinking she was the cousin he’d grown up with. She turned out to be living in Texas, the widow of an American Air Force officer. According to this old veteran, biographical details matched, but this tenacious old chap was convinced after meeting this woman that she couldn’t possibly be his long-lost cousin.”
“Oh yeah? What convinced him?”
“Her eyes. They were a different color of blue than he recalled. His cousin’s eyes were an unusual shade of turquoise. The Texas widow had dark blue eyes. Also he claimed his cousin, this Mary McCoy from Killarney, Ireland, was fluent in French but knew no German. The Mary McCoy in the War Office was a transcriber of radio messages, which required fluency in both French and German. She handled secret communiques from our undercover agents abroad, many of whom were French and German citizens working for the Resistance.”