#writephoto #prompt : Enigma

Avebury,” Guinevere sighed, pushing her tinted wire rim spectacles closer to her eyes.  “Why would anyone want to come to this dreadful place?”

She examined the Neolithic stone towering above her, thinking about how greatly it resembled her present dress. 

All those years spent in an orphanage might save her life today.  All those years wishing to be anywhere but in the same room with a nun holding a ruler.  All those years learning when it was prudent to be elsewhere or when she could shrink into the background, unobtrusive as the wall paper, to survive another day.    

She’d left the orphanage at 18 to work as a kitchen helper and married exactly 3 months and 2 days later.  She didn’t understand why her boss had said, “Marry that guy and you’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”

Sinister ghosts of the past; that’s why she hated Avebury!  These stones reminded her of the two years in hell that defined her marriage.  At the orphanage, she’d learned to stay out of the way, but she had to learn how to avoid the attacks of a man skilled in mental and physical torture.  Understanding the innuendo’s of his face and the intonations in his words had saved her from death too many times.

Death watched her from the trees, reading her lips with binoculars.  Death watched her back from a museum and…

Footsteps moved toward her.  Out in the open with only these blasted stones for cover.  Not a good place for a confrontation.

 She turned at an acceptable speed – careful — not too fast.  Trouble wrapped in pleated pants, a cardigan sweater, and suave Fedora.  If he weren’t a threat she might have passed along her room number at that dreadful 16th century inn her supervisor had booked just for this occasion. 

Damn if he didn’t look just like Sterling Hayden! His skills as a tracker far exceeded most.  Beauty and brilliance.  The children he’d produce…but that was Nazi talk.

This delicious piece of manhood had followed her from the arches, where her husband met his demise, to New York City and Pennsylvania.  She’d traveled by train to the Pacific west coast pretending to nurse the poor for a month, not her finest assignment.  The masquerade left her face red for two days, but she would have risked getting hives for a week just to slip out of that hospital!  No one cared about a stooped-over 90-year-old woman in a wheelchair being driven by ambulance to another hospital for surgery during the early morning hours.  

She stifled a snicker, thinking of Vivian Leigh’s Scarlett O’Hara raising her hand in the air to shout,  “As God is my witness, I will never empty another bed pan again!”  

Her handler believed a transfer to a new post several kilometers East of Bristol might shake him off her for good.  He stopped four feet away, looking down at a woman whose head would fit perfectly into his chest.

“Mrs. Knight,” he said.

“I’m Sister Mary Theresa,” she replied, her voice soft.

“You were Guinevere Edwards married to Arthur Knight. Arthur was found floating in the sea by fisherman an hour after death.  His mother has a life insurance policy and cannot collect unless you are dead.”

The Sisters had traced this man’s known whereabouts for the 3 years since collecting the life insurance on Arthur.  Did this man know she had been a week pregnant from her husband’s last attack when he fell to his death?  She didn’t care that the spawn of Satan lived in the same orphanage she’d once called home.  He was alive and no one had, of yet, tried to adopt him.  It simply told her one important piece of information:  He knew her husband well, and he knew her well before her husband’s death.  He’d found her again a year later, after she’d begun her work as an agent for the Sisters of Mercy and he wasn’t going to stop chasing her until his quest was complete. 

“Herr Gunderman,” she said, her blue eyes rolled into a sharp upturn.  “The Sisters of Mercy are warned of your penchant for stalking us.”

“Do the names Heinreich Frey, Erich Delbert, or Johannes Fuchs ring a bell?”  he demanded.

While her face portrayed puzzlement, she reviewed how easily all 3 had succumbed to a lovely woman slipping poison into their drinks.  Idiots!

“They are all German names,” Guinevere said.  “I have one more day of leave from my duties.  I do not want to spend it being ravished by a man who preys on nuns.”

“I have no desire to touch a nun,” he said.  “You and your so-called Sisters are spies dressed as nuns.”

“Why would you think that?”

“Allow me to enlighten you about your husband’s past history.  He was born Archard Knef.  His mother, born Helga Knef, was known as Mrs. Helen Knight when she worked for Army intelligence in London during the first great war. No one questioned the paternity of her son, nor would a spy of her caliber know his identity.”

“You are saying that Mr. Knight was a German spy planted in the US of A knowing Germany would go to war with us?”

“I was his superior officer, Mrs. Knight. I scouted the area for a meek woman with no ties as his window dressing.  He married you because I ordered him to do it.”

“I am very sorry for any woman who would fall into your clutches,” Guinevere said.  

“Had I known the depravities you were capable of committing you would still be serving food instead of killing men of greater importance than you!”

The growl that came out with his words meant that the time for talk was over.  A hand reached into his pocket.  His size, strength, knowledge of combat far greater than hers, Guinevere glanced around, looking for salvation.

This place drew few people during the second great war, with its owner away serving as an inspector for the military.  What were two British officers doing in the middle of this lonely place?  Their approach from behind Herr Gunderman couldn’t be a coincidence.

“You have the vengeance of a lover in your eyes,”  Guinevere said.  “Was Herr Knef attracted to men?”

“I will kill you for taking him from me,” he said, opening a switch blade.

“Help me!” she yelled out, her voice a tremble, dropping to a sitting position on the ground to escape a slash to her throat. 

One shot through his head from an excellent marksman…eyes, mannerisms as he held out his sidearm…more like SS than American.  The younger of the two looked like a hayseed who had seen too much death.  She fell to the ground, sobbing…hysterical…convincing.

“Sister, are you hurt?” A gentle voice asked.

She looked up at the hayseed doe-eyed.  “He was going to…he wanted…”

“Sister Judith said you might need help. Allow us to accompany you to your mother superior,” he said.

She walked demurely, her head down, hands clasped in prayer.  The marksman seemed slightly amused at her, but the hayseed gently helped her sit on a bench outside next to Sister Judith.  

“Thank you for intervening in our beloved sister’s predicament,”  Sister Judith said.

“We are proud to have saved a woman of such purity today,” he replied.  “The Sisters of Mercy have been helping others since 1851.  You saved my mother’s life…”

“Any debt you may feel toward us has been repaid today,” Sister Judith said. 

The two men strutted off to summon a hearse.  Guinevere breathed out her relief.

“Why did you disobey orders?” Sister Judith whispered.

“Did you know my husband was born Archard Knef?  Did you know his mother was a spy during the first great war?”

“He told you that?”

“Did you know they were sent to America as spies?”  Guinevere insisted.

“We had our suspicions.”

“He wanted to find out if Guinevere Knight killed her husband.  If so, he wanted retribution.  That’s why he’s been chasing me all over the world.  He thought I become a Sister of Mercy to hide from the law.”

“Then…he didn’t know our true purpose?”

Her back had been to the lip reader with the binoculars.  She quickly reviewed her conversation with Herr Gunderman to formulate the best answer.

“No,” Guinevere said.  “He admitted to being my husband’s lover.”

“Then he was no use to us. You think on your feet.  The officer who shot Herr Gunderman…”

“He finds my act as a nun amusing, but I doubt he has seen me before today.  I believe he is a double agent sent to kill off a liability.  “

“The man who just saved your life?”

“I’ll dispatch with him as easily as any other Nazi spy,” Guinevere said.  “We need proof he’s a double agent.”

“Ready to play the ditzy American stranded in a Bristol hotel by her paramour?”

“One of my favorite games,”  Guinevere said. “Who is my mark?”

“The man who just saved your life,” Judith chuckled.

Guinevere’s eyes sparkled. “I love being a femme fatale.”

“Mrs, Knight, you are an enigma,” her handler said.  “I never fail to be impressed with your ingenuity.”

Guinevere walked toward the hotel, ready for a good night’s beauty sleep.  It wouldn’t due to have dark circles under her eyes for her next assignment.




© short story by Joelle LeGendre