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Nest Egg

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Mallory was escorted from his interview with Jensen back to the hotel room where his compatriots waited. The two military policemen edged past the squad of Royal Commandoes stationed on the landing and seemed positively relieved when he disappeared into the smoky room without attempting to either attack them or escape.

Had Mallory known of any reason why he should attack them or escape, their nerves would have been more reasonable. But Mallory didn't know, and even if he had, the reason would have had to be dire indeed to make him attack Commonwealth troops. This not-quite house arrest in a hotel was annoying, but not worthy of violent reaction.

He supposed the MPs and the commandos were a compliment, in a way, to his group's success -- they did seem to leave trails of destruction in their wake -- but a bigger compliment would be a few weeks of leave. It did not seem to be forthcoming.

Andrea had procured a Greek newspaper from somewhere and sat reading it by the window. He raised an eyebrow at Mallory.

Mallory shook his head: "The weather off the coast of Spain is still foul. They've had no visual confirmation that we sunk the submarines."

Dusty Miller's voice echoed out of the ensuite bathroom, "And what does Mr. Ambassador in Madrid have to say?"

"Nobody's told me, but I don't expect it makes any difference to him. If the Spanish acknowledge that we destroyed three U-boats that were in the harbor at San Eusebio, then they'd have to acknowledge that there were U-boats in the harbor to be destroyed."

"But what about all the navvies?" Miller asked. There was a great deal of splashing coming from the tub. "The dockyard workers? The guards? Their ships are stuck in the harbor."

"A few discrete overland convoys up to Bayonne? How the hell should I know? Herr General's second in command will figure something out." It would not be a problem solved by the German general in charge of the illicit base, they knew. Mallory had killed Herr General not a week earlier.

Miller, he recalled, had had a long and luxurious bath that morning. "What are you up to in there?"

Miller opened the door. He wore no shirt and he was drying his hands on a towel. "Washing my clothes. Pants and socks now, trouser and tunics later."

"Good," Mallory said, sitting to untie his boots. "I'll pass mine in to you."

Miller looked less than thrilled. "This is one of those times you're going to remind me that I'm a corporal and you're a lofty captain, isn't it?"

"You signed up, soldier." Mallory had no sympathy. He looked across at Andrea who showed no sign of moving. "Laundry?"

Andrea waved his pipe languidly. "He did mine first."

A few moments later, Miller said, "Andrea's pair of yellow silk underwear, fine, whatever. Greeks, you know." If Andrea took this as an insult, he gave no sign of it. "But," and here he held up Mallory's pants, "two pairs of yellow silk underwear? What gives, you found a special in a kinky knickers shop?"

"Parachute silk," Andrea explained. "The women on Crete use the air drop parachutes to make clothes, but they cannot wear this fabric where the Germans will see it, so..."

"Okay, but you?" Miller asked Mallory.

He shrugged. "I gave them a parachute, a few months later one of the grandmothers gave me a couple pairs of pants." It wasn't the most embarrassing gift he'd ever received -- and he had needed it.

Miller shook his head and disappeared back into the bathroom.

Mallory considered a cigarette, but decided a drink was better suited to the moment. The brandy was on the table, which was notably tidier than when he'd left. Someone had emptied the ashtrays and removed the empty bottles. There were even clean glasses and a pitcher of water. Mallory reached for the water -- they were in Plymouth where drinking water was plentiful, but he had spent the last several years in Crete or Africa. Where water was more valuable than ammunition. He'd heard Miller once explain to a green recruit that water more important than motherhood.

Speaking of which, "I wonder how Lisette and the baby are doing?"

After destroying the U-boats and before being picked up by a destroyer Masai, their only surviving companion from the French Resistance, Lisette, had given birth to a fine baby boy.

Miller had helped her in the tiny cabin. After the birth, Andrea had insisted on performing a field baptism for the child, although he was Greek Orthodox and Lisette was Catholic. She had named the baby Jean-Michel Andrea. Jean-Michel, she explained, had been the real name of the man they'd known only by his codename, Hugues. Mallory had been steering the Stella and had missed the proceedings. And now she and the baby were two more refugees in a strange land, with no family and no money.

"A baby with two godfathers and no godmothers," Mallory mused. "And why did she only use Andrea's name?"

From the bathroom, Miller drawled, "Because 'Jean-Michel Dusty' didn't sound right."

Andrea poured Mallory a brandy. "Because I had nothing to give the baby but my name."

"Whereas Dusty...?"

"Had a spare piece of luggage that he thought mother and child could use."

It started out as only a small smile, but as Mallory thought about it, his face slowly bloomed into a full grin.

During the debriefing, Jensen had asked what became of the suitcase full of money -- a thousand British pounds -- that they'd been sent with. Mallory had truthfully replied that, as planned, they had used it to buy the location of the U-boats from Guy Jamalartegui. Guy had endeavored to take them to the Spanish harbor on his fishing boat, the Stella Maris, but he'd been killed by the Germans and the Stella had gone down soon after. The suitcase hadn't been in his men's luggage when they came aboard. Jensen's aide had marked it, "Lost at Sea" and that had been the end of that, so far as the military was concerned.

Mallory stood up, poured another brandy, and took it in to the bathroom, where Miller was on his knees, scrubbing clothes in the tub. He leaned back and took the glass. "Thanks. What's this for?"

"I just wanted to toast the baby and his nest-egg."

Miller grinned, drank, and got back to washing socks.