Thursday photo prompt – Shore #writephoto
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Guinevere sank her Keds sneakers into the cool beige sands of a Scottish shore. No comparison whatsoever to warm, sunny, vibrant Miami Beach.
She’d traveled by car to Achnahaird Beach and quickly tired of the place. Too placid; she didn’t like the grass hillocks and calm waters. The sand at Balmedie Beach in Aberdeenshire suited her for a few days, but sand dunes become boring after a time and it was succumbing to the erosion by an active ocean.
She didn’t want to remember how effectively time erodes away a person.
Camusdarach Beach was her favorite. But one frigid truth formed a cloud over her dreams.
“Andrew, darling,” she sighed. “Scotland is indeed beautiful but it is much too cold for me.”
“You spent your childhood in the upper United States.”
“There is a difference between the cold weather in Indianapolis and the cold weather in Bonavista, Newfoundland.”
“What would you know of Newfoundland?” he chuckled.
“Unfortunately, I learned more about fish than I ever wanted to know.”
“My love for geography taught me of the place,” he said. Why would a woman of your stature go to a remote township to learn about fish?”
Guinevere gave him a wry smile. “I’m very good with a knife. I could filet one in under a minute.”
“The day I saw you leaning on the counter at that little place in Glasgow, I knew…”
“It makes the best lamb dishes anywhere,” Guinevere said.
He wrapped his arms around her, “Vera, darling. Why won’t you marry me?”
“You have a wife, Monique.”
“But… you make me feel alive! I’ll get a divorce!”
Guinevere wanted to slap some sense into him, but that wasn’t part of the plan. “You will never be happy with one woman. I’m quite happy to have monthly liaison’s that provide you with an escape from marital boredom and me with the man of my dreams. Neither of us will tire of the other.”
“I will agree to your terms on one condition,” he said. “You know every detail of my life. I know very little about yours. Tell me everything.”
“There’s not much to tell,” Guinevere said, frowning.
“Why would an elegant American woman find her way to a fishing village, move to Glasgow, and make me fall deeply in love with her?”
“You’re certain you want to know?”
“Yes,” he said emphatically.
“Stand next to that pine tree,” she ordered.
Andrew shrugged his shoulders, standing against the pine with no concerns about a lack of traffic along the hiking path. Guinevere opened her satchel, took out a knife, and embedded it into the bark above his head with one flawless motion.
“You can move now,” Guinevere giggled. “I was a spy during the war.”
“I…think…you chopped off a few hairs,” he said, dropping to the ground from shock.
“My parents died when I was very young. I grew up in an orphanage and married at 18. I didn’t know my husband was a Nazi spy. I was approached by the leader of an Allied spy ring and asked to join them. I said yes. Since that time, I’ve killed more Nazi’s than there are people in Bonavista. Any more questions?”
“Are you going to kill me?”
Guinevere chuckled. “Darling, if I wanted you dead that would have happened after our first time together in an Aberdeen hotel room.”
A mixture of admiration and terror hit his stomach. It felt a lot like the excitement of being on a high roller coaster for the first time as it chugged toward the top.
“Why would such a fascinating woman want a man like me?”
“My first husband was a bastard who taught me how to endure pain. My second husband was less interesting than your wife.”
“You are twice married?” he gasped. “That is…”
“Scandalous,” Guinevere said. “The one in Bonavista was hauling fish into a boat for days at a time. I worked in the cannery.”
“I take it you were never divorced?”
“His boat went out to sea and never came back,” Guinevere said. “I told the cannery owner I needed a week away from work, took the one suitcase I’d brought with me, and traveled down to Montreal on the same boat and in the same way I had arrived.”
He scowled at her, uncertain if she was as good at hand-to-hand combat as she was with a knife. Then again, what would it matter? “How did you make passage to Scotland on the wages of a fishwife?”
“A drunken man can be enticed into an alley quite easily,” Guinevere said. “I knocked 3 of them over the head with a bat before I had enough money to travel second class, afford some nice clothes and a hotel room.”
“You don’t want to kill me, you don’t want to marry me…what do you want with a representative for an armament company?”
“I was a week pregnant when my first husband died. After I was recruited as a spy, my feminine wiles were used to lure many a Nazi to his death. One of them had Syphilis. Did you know that the cure for the disease rendered you sterile?”
“Arsenic,” he said. “Some didn’t survive from the cure.”
“Had the infection happened a year later, penicillin was available to those of us on the front lines.”
“I had mumps as a child,” Andrew admitted. “No one knows we adopted.”
“After WWII, I broke into my former orphanage, located the adoption papers, and found that my supervisor had lied to me for 5 years. He was adopted at the age of 3 months by a couple who had been staying in the city for a year. His wife suffered from long and painful menstrual cycles and her family was very rich. She paid the Sisters of Mercy an obscene sum to provide a birth certificate naming them as his parents.”
“Where was the orphanage,” he asked, his voice trembling slightly.
“I love the man who asked to be his father, and honor the woman who chose to be his mother,” Guinevere said. “Would you honor his birth mother by allowing her to become a relative, whom you might drop in on once a month when you’re visiting one of your clients in a South English town of Pett Bottom?”
“Do you really love me?” he asked, his eyes softening, his body relaxing.
“I love you the best I know how,” Guinevere replied. “You have one flaw, you are a womanizer. Your wife and son provide stability and contentment. I can provide the excitement that you crave.”
“Do you want to see your son?”
“I’m content knowing he’s well cared for. I’ve watched Monique with him when he visits from boarding school. She doesn’t want to be away from him, but I understand that sending a child with his parentage elsewhere for a stellar education is expected,” Guinevere said. “I’m curious as to why you chose to name him James.”
“My wife and I met while watching birds with binoculars. We both chose the name of a bird expert we admired.”
“Most of your family was killed during the war. Your sister is missing. I do so like the name Charmain.”
“You want to pretend to be my sister?”
“Only to the world,” Guinevere said. “It will provide a viable reason to a small community for your monthly visits and our drives out of town.”
“I’ll tell my wife of your miraculous resurrection from the missing, but there’s a problem. My sister wore spectacles, and you can’t be stunning when Monique sees you.”
“Did you know that I was recruited by the Sisters of Mercy?”
“No!” he laughed. “You?”
“A great place to hide a spy ring, don’t you think?” Guinevere asked. “It’s the closest thing to being invisible that I can think of. I still have the spectacles I used to wear with my habit and I’m well versed in several dowdy hairstyles.”
Endeared by her humor, Andrew offered her his arm. “Shall we walk to the car?”
“With pleasure,” she said, slipping her hand over his bicep.
She smiled up at him, her thoughts elsewhere. She’d come so close to killing him. The knife was supposed to imbed into the bark 2 inches above the head. It missed his scalp by no more than ¼ inch. She was losing her touch! If she was to talk him into helping her hunt down Nazi’s scattered all over Europe, she couldn’t afford to aim badly.
Guinevere had omitted a few important parts out of her story by design. Too early in their relationship.
She’d located a woman of her size and shape in NYC during one of her assignments. Months after she’d broken into the orphanage and pinpointed her son’s location, she returned to NYC for a few days, made friends with the woman, and lured her onto a boat for a day of sailing.
The woman wore gloves, a custom that had helped Guinevere many times during her clandestine days. But on that day, she plastered her fingerprints all over the boat, the wine bottles, glasses, steering wheel, anything that might make it easy to lift them.
The opiate in her friend’s drink made it possible for Guinevere to dump her overboard 30 miles out to sea, and abandon the boat at a secluded pier on Long Island. Police would never believe it was stolen, Guinevere had been seen with the owner the night before, and he was on the list of Nazi sympathizers she’d lifted from her target in NYC months before.
She’d planned to lay low for a year, then travel to Glasgow after the trial. She took a train to Montreal, seduced a naive fishing captain who wasn’t too bad to look at, and had traveled to Bonavista with a 10 carat gold wedding ring on her finger.
Guinevere had scoured the small community for newspapers left behind by crews from Montreal, pleased that her plan unfurl better than expected. The sailboat owner ‘s murder trial proceeded with the discovery of a woman’s body washed up on shore…missing her head.
Guinevere smiled at a thought, Did opiates make the meat too bitter?
The Sisters of Mercy couldn’t doubt her death if they had no teeth to inspect. Dental records were out of the picture, fingers were too decomposed for prints, but the height and body build matched.
The yacht’s owner faced life in prison on circumstantial evidence. His rich parents were paying off every public official who would take a bribe, but all the money in the world couldn’t keep a traitor alive. She’d sent a note to her handler telling her about a lead. The papers in her hotel room pointed to the defendant as a Nazi. That last piece of information ensured his death.
“A penny for your thoughts?” Andrew asked.
“I was thinking about the time I went sailing.”
“Want to see the shore one last time?” he asked. “There may be a few sailboats close by.”
What was it about shore lines that heralded every major change in her life? Her first husband plunged into the sea. Life as Guinevere Knight ceased when she threw an innocent woman over the side of a boat. Her second husband never made it back home, possibly due to the explosive device she’d hidden at the rear of his trawler. Or it could’ve been an iceberg. She’d never know.
“I’ve seen enough shores to last me 3 lifetimes,” Guinevere said, walking toward a new life with a new identity and a nephew who was her son.
© Joelle LeGendre