miss missing you
The more he repeated it, the more he was convinced. Freya was his wife, she was his partner, the mother of his child – she wouldn’t do something like this. “I’ll play along,” he said after a moment, “but only to prove you both wrong.”
The note had come sealed in an envelope, written in a cipher that only James Major, after years of being taught the code, could decipher. It contained a single message: Look for the goblin.
He already knew his task. His mission, if he chose to accept it (that was how they always begun, although he knew he had little choice – he was a spy, for God’s sake, he did as he was told) was to go undercover and masquerade as the husband of the other operative already working in Casablanca, infiltrate a base there, and carry out an assassination on the leaders of the organization they were working to take down. It really was quite simple in theory, but if anyone knew that plans weren’t as straightforward as they seemed, it would be him.
The unmarked car of the agency dropped him off in front of a dance club, and he entered in his stiff suit and took a look at his occupants for once. A goblin was a strange sign; usually it was a particular flower or bird, but this was something new. His blue eyes alighted on a handbag with a goblin design, and his eyes lifted to see a tall, blonde woman looking back at him. After a moment, he smiled.
The woman wasted no time. She stood and immediately stepped toward him, the look in her eyes changing from calculated thought to unbridled joy in a second. “Mon amour!” She wrapped her arms around his neck and placed a slow kiss to his lips that he returned without a second thought.
She broke away, turning to the others at the table. “My husband has finally been able to visit. How long did work give you off for, darling?” she asked him, still in French as she turned from the people looking expectantly round the table back to James.
“Six weeks,” he replied without skipping a beat, his French toned and as rapid as hers.
A woman at the table leaned forward in intrigue. “So you’re the mysterious scientist husband that Freya always tells us about but we never see. I was beginning to think that she’d made you up!”
James let out a low chuckle, slipping an arm around the waist of the woman beside him. “It was very nice to meet you all,” he added, and then gave the other spy – Freya, he reminded himself quickly of her name that had just been revealed – what he hoped was a sappy look and a very conspicuous tightening of his hand at her waist. “Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s been a few months and I’d like to get reacquainted with my darling wife here. I’ll be monopolizing Frey for the rest of the evening, I’m sorry to take her from you.”
There was a whistle at the table, just in time for James was already turning red at his words, and then Freya chuckled and allowed him to steer her from the room, stopping only briefly to pick up her handbag before they left and headed straight into his car.
There was near silence for several minutes as he drove the car in the directions that she pointed out, both of them knowing that the car wasn’t a safe place to talk with so many of their enemies around. He stopped in front of her apartment and she led him up and into her flat. They were silent a minute longer as she swept the place with a small sensor for bugs as he took in the furniture. At last, Freya gave a small nod. “Clean.”
James tugged off the jacket of his suit and dropped it around the nearest chair, asking without looking at her, “What do you go by?”
“Freya Johnston,” she answered.
“Is your name really Freya?” he asked, and when she nodded, asked, “What have you told them that my name is?”
“Noel, though it’s unlikely they’ll call you anything but Doctor,” she answered, “because you’re meant to be a scientist from Paris. Speaking of which, we must work on your accent. It might fool the people in Casablanca, but you sound more English than you do Parisian.”
“I am English,” protested James.
The witch turned to give him a sweeping ice-blue look before she replied, “Not here, you aren’t.” He could detect an Irish tone behind her words now that they were away from the public eye and the accent that she was trying so carefully to keep in front of her ‘friends’. “What’s your real name?”
He hesitated, and then, “James Major.” The man turned his attention from his partner to the interior of the room, taking in the bed and the couch that furnished the small flat. “I’ll take the couch,” he volunteered after a moment.
Freya shook her head at once. “You’ll take the roof. It’s where men in Casablanca go after sex,” she corrected.
James gaped at her. “Now you’re just messing with me.”
“No,” she shook her head and then pulled down the ladder and pointed him up it. “Go see.”
Sure enough, if he peered into the outline of the buildings he could see in the city, he wasn’t the only one banished to the roof. Unaware of this strange tradition and mentally berating himself for not preparing more on these minute details, he took a seat and lounged back.
Freya joined him a few minutes later, explaining quietly, “We’re reunited for the first time in months, it’s expected I’ll come to tell you good night.” Her gaze twitched slightly from him before she muttered from the corner of her mouth, “my nosy landlady is looking at us from her window. Kiss me.”
He did, once more without hesitation, and drew back. “So what do we talk about?” he asked after a moment, his blue eyes on her steadily as he pretended he didn’t notice the woman peering from the window somewhere vaguely to his right.
She gave a small shrug. “I’ve briefed you on most of the mission already. Just be sure that you stay out of my way and stick to our story with the friends I’ve made here.”
“Do they trust you?” he asked.
Freya pursed her lips and then nodded. “I believe so. I keep the feelings real, and they believe me because of it. They have no clue what I’m here for.”
He nodded slowly, and she glanced past him. “The landlady’s gone,” she added, and rose, wrapping her arms around her shoulders. “Good night.”
She left without another word.
The next two weeks passed in a small blur of dinner parties and evenings out at fancy restaurants. Freya introduced him to all of her friends, artfully keeping him away from Parisians who would notice that his accent was that of an imposter’s at once. He did his duty in collecting information, although she’d already done the brunt of the work. His main duty was to carry out the final step of the operation, the assassination itself, and they were slowly biding their time and building up trust. The final hurdle was to actually get invited to the state dinner with all the government heads that they were meant to take out, but after beating an official in a game of cards (with Freya’s whispered advice in his ear), he’d managed to win them two tickets into it – even if she assured him that she would have had their invitations in the bag anyway.
“Do you know how to shoot?” he asked her one day as they drove out to the desert with a few of his guns and a target to practice with.
Freya tucked her pale hair behind her ears and rolled her eyes. “I’m an agent, of course I can shoot.”
“If you could shoot all on your own, then I wouldn’t be assigned to this case with you,” James pointed out, and handed her a gun. “From what I see of you, you’d be good at close, brutal combat, but you don’t know how to shoot from afar, and this will require sniper-like skill from you.”
She glowered at him. “There’s no need to point out my faults, you’re here as my partner.”
“I’m here because they needed me to finish up the mission and take out the officials,” James corrected.
“And I’m here,” Freya retorted hotly, “Because I can actually do undercover! If I had a dime for every time that your accent nearly gave us away or you weren’t quick enough to come up with an explanation as I would have liked –“ she cut off, muttering darkly under her breath, and he could hear her accent come out thicker when she spoke in English to him. “Undercover isn’t your specialty.”
“People aren’t my specialty,” replied James matter-of-factly, “but finishing missions is, and if we don’t do that tomorrow, we’re both dead.” He motioned with his gun to the target. “Shoot.”
She did, and he adjusted her aim slightly. She started off with a glare at him, but relented as he continued to guide her through shooting.
They returned to the car a few short hours later to return to their flat in the city, but no sooner than they had sat down, a sandstorm outside started and James pulled the key out and sat silently in waiting.
“If we get out tomorrow,” Freya said slowly, “What are you going to do?”
James shrugged slightly. “This war can’t last much longer, and after this mission, I’ll just go back to the agency for the next one.”
“You haven’t found anything compelling enough to pull you out of fieldwork and into a quiet desk job for the agency?” guessed Freya, and he shrugged again in return.
“Not yet,” he replied, and asked, “What about you?”
She stared silently outside into the sand blowing by. “Wherever I need to go next, I suppose. I’m not English, so I can’t go to the agency there. Maybe it’s time to take a break. I’ve been at this undercover job for nearly two whole years of my life when I could be out there doing something else.”
“You’re doing important work,” he reminded her, “this will get us a step closer to winning the war.”
“Yes,” Freya agreed, turning her icy gaze to him, “but at the cost of me giving up who I was for the past two years.” Her eyes roved over him slowly. “I haven’t said this, but thank you. I haven’t been able to speak in English or actually be myself until you came along to help me.”
James inclined his head at her, and ventured a glance outside. The sandstorm was still whipping grains at their window, effectively trapping them in. “I guess we’ll be in here a little while longer.”
She nodded, and he turned to her in alarm when he noticed her sidling closer. “What are you doing?” he whispered as if there was someone around, “There aren’t any people around, you don’t have to act like this.”
“I want to,” she added after a moment, her fingers moving to the top button of her shirt. James stared, transfixed, and then looked away with some difficulty.
“You and I have both been at this too long to believe that this is a good idea,” he replied stiffly, “I know dozens of partners who have fucked up by fucking, and now they’re dead.”
Freya turned his face toward hers with a gentle touch of her fingers to his cheek, and when she had his attention, she replied, “We may well die tomorrow, and if we do, no one will know about it.”
He considered this for merely a few seconds, the sirens in his mind going off even as he used reason to work his way through it, and then finally replied by wrapping his arms around her waist and kissing her, while the storm continued to rage on beyond the shelter of the car.
The next night, they found themselves dressed in their best and in the embassy building, ready to meet with the German ambassadors. James kept an eye on the clock and the other on the refreshment table that he was behind; at precisely nine, according to their plan, there would be a loud signal from outside that would spur them into action. Their guns were hidden beneath the refreshment table.
Freya smiled that simpering smile as she chatted with one of her ‘friends’, and then waited until the other woman had left before she returned to James. “Are you ready?” she murmured in English under her breath. There was something different in the air between them, something charged with electricity since the events of the day before, but he chalked part of it up to nerves. This was the last point of their mission; if they survived today, then they would be out of Casablanca.
“Yes,” replied James shortly, using an arm around her waist to guide her close to the refreshment table as if he was deep in conversation and accidentally steering her toward the food. “One minute.”
The signal came just on time, a blast from the outside. In synchronized ease, James and Freya flipped the table and took cover under it as the others in the room realized that they weren’t who they appeared to be, but before they could act, they’d already shot all of the officials that they’d set out to kill.
“Behind me!” James ordered Freya, and she did as he said as he fired a round at the bodyguards about to descend on them before they both sprung out of the building and into a back alley, where his car sat ready. It took them scarcely a minute to get in and for him to be off, zig-zagging dangerously through the narrow streets to throw them off of his trail if they were following.
“We’re almost there,” urged Freya, her blue eyes calm, but her fingers tightened on the car door as they zoomed by, nearly out of the city limits. From there, it would be impossible to track them. A few minutes of terse silence later, they were out. James let out a whoop and the woman gave a hearty laugh.
“Next stop, England,” he declared, only to see the smile fade from her lips. The man glanced to the side in confusion, sparing only a moment to marvel at the continuing twitch of electricity that seemed to flicker between them when they looked at each other.
“Congratulations, Mr. Major,” she added after a moment, “We lived. It was a job well done. I’ll see you again if the agency assigns me to any case with you again.”
“It was,” James replied absently, “but I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t you come to England with me?” Perhaps it was the adrenaline speaking, but his words came out faster – even commitment-phobic James Major could feel that something had shifted, “You can be my wife for real this time. I’ll keep you safe. You won’t have to be a spy during wartime again.”
He didn’t dare smile, and the expression on her face shifted into thought. “You don’t want to go straight back into fieldwork, then? What changed?”
“I guess I found something compelling enough to change my mind,” James replied, and was rewarded by a brilliant smile that lit up her face.
After he returned to England, he immediately put in a request for Freya’s transfer to England so that they could be married. His superiors thought that he was crazy to get married, and even crazier to pick an Irish spy, but he didn’t care. His mission was over and he would soon be transferred to a desk job.
They were married in a small ceremony a few months later. Several months after that, in a hospital under attack by bombs, Freya gave birth to a daughter who they immediately named Kennedy. While the war continued, Freya gave up her days at a spy and adapted to motherhood in their small London house while James switched entirely from fieldwork to running operations from his desk in the agency office.
It wasn’t an extravagant life like the one that they were more used to leading in Casablanca, but it was a comfortable one filled with laughter and kisses and adapting to changes in their lives and careers even in the war. With his wife and his daughter and the work he was doing to end the war – though it was from his desk – James didn’t think that he’d ever been happier.
On one of his days off, James received a call at home from the office, asking him to come in. Freya scoffed at him as he put on his jacket, watching him from the kitchen where she fed their daughter her lunch. “Make sure that they don’t drag you in for too long. Remember, I’m throwing that party tonight. I feel as if I haven’t seen anyone since I’ve become a mother.”
With a promise to be back soon, he drove to the agency and stepped down the stairs. His brother, Charlie, intercepted him on the way.
“Not your office, they want you all the way downstairs,” he corrected his brother as James nearly stepped onto the third floor.
“Special Operations?” James asked in doubt. “Why would they want me down there? I’m doing my job running the normal surveillance from my desk.”
Charlie gave him a shrug. “I saw Harris on his way down and he said that if I saw you, to tell you to meet him there. Do you know what it’s about?”
“No idea,” admitted James with a shrug, “I was just told to come as soon as I could because they needed me.”
Charlie glanced around and then lowered his voice to his older brother. “I think you might be up for a promotion. That’s really the only reason that you’d be called down there, right?”
James considered this; the department in the basement had an infamous reputation of being the bearer of great news, whether good or bad. He’d been doing well in his work recently – in fact, his superiors had commended him for the way he’d been carrying out his operations. Perhaps it was a promotion after all. “Possibly,” he allowed, and then started down the stairs. “I’ll see you at the party later tonight.” He waved off his brother and continued down.
The first thing that tipped him off that something wasn’t right was seeing Lachlan’s grim face at the bottom of the stairs. James nodded at him in greeting, but there was something faintly guarded and stiff as Lachlan nodded back and guided him to a room at the end of the hall. He wasn’t left alone with his superior, however; a small, severe-looking man sat at a desk with a file in front of him, looking very seriously at James. He motioned for James to sit, and the man did so, bemused.
“If this is about the promotion,” he started, but then abruptly stopped speaking when the man at the desk pinned him with a look.
“Mr. Major,” the man started, with a perfunctory glance at Lachlan in the room, “Your boss tells me that you’ve been married for almost a year and a half now.”
James too glanced at Lachlan and then back at the man, confused.
He went on, “It says here that Freya Cavanagh was a spy working with the Irish government in conjunction with ours to take down several high-risk officials in Casablanca, is that correct?”
“Yes,” James stated, unsure why he was being relayed information that they already all knew.
The man sensed his impatience and put down the file with a small thump on the desk before he stared at James for a moment longer. Finally, he explained slowly, “We have reason to believe that your wife is a German spy.”
James’s dark blue eyes fixed without comprehension on the man’s face. “You’re joking,” he said after a moment. “That makes no sense. She’s Irish. She speaks Irish. She’s a loyal operative to our cause who took a break after she had a baby – my child, for God’s sake, you think that a spy would go so far as to marry me and have a child with me and still be loyal to another side?”
“Don’t lose your temper,” Lachlan warned him quietly from behind.
“I’m not,” James snapped back, “I just want to know what right you have to accuse my wife of this when it makes no sense in the slightest.”
The man across the table cleared his throat and turned a paper around. “A series of encoded messages of sensitive information were intercepted from the region of London that your flat is in.”
“Then why not accuse me of being the spy?” James asked flatly.
“The messages are German,” explained the man further, “and they clearly are signed off by a woman, look,” he pointed at the bottom of one of the messages that he had with him. “You are the only operative who lives in that area, and so suspicion fell off of you and shifted to your wife instead.”
James glared at the man. “I know my wife, she wouldn’t be a spy. She’s given up being a spy to be a mother, she’s not going to go behind my back and betray me like this.”
The man pulled back the message. “Perhaps not,” he replied tightly, “but maybe the Freya Major you think that you know is a better actress than you think. In either case, I have to inform you on the procedure for this.”
James stared back dumbly. “What procedure?”
From behind him, Lachlan cleared his throat. “We’re running a blue die mission on Freya,” he explained almost sheepishly – James wondered exactly what his part in this was as he was James’s superior but he also looked tremendously sorry. “You’ll get a call late tonight with fake sensitive information. Write it down somewhere where she can see it. If she passes it on, by Monday, we’ll be able to intercept the correspondence and tell if she’s working for the Germans or not.”
“If she’s not,” the other man said, “then this whole incident is forgotten. If she is, this constitutes an act of intimate betrayal. You have to kill her yourself, or else you will be charged with being an accomplice in treason and hanged yourself.”
James stared at the two of them. “This is a sick joke,” he declared, and stood abruptly. “You’re both wrong. She’s not a spy. I know my own wife, she wouldn’t do this.” The more he repeated it, the more he was convinced. Freya was his wife, she was his partner, the mother of his child – she wouldn’t do something like this. “I’ll play along,” he said after a moment, “but only to prove you both wrong.”
He turned and strode out of the room.
Their house later that night was filled with guests and laughter, the usual wartime short-live cheer. This was the type of the world that took their merriment very seriously, because in London, they knew that every night might well be their last as long as the war dragged on.
It was a different war that raged on inside James. He had never been very good at disguising feelings, but he tried to brush them aside and socialize with his friends – real friends now, not the fake ones that they’d made in Casablanca. After a while, his sister, another agent, pulled him aside when she noticed that something was off.
“It’s Freya,” he confided, “they think that she’s a German spy.”
Penelope looked outraged. “Freya? No, that can’t be true.”
“That’s what I said too,” James replied, “but they want to run a blue die on her anyway. I had to agree, what else could I do?”
“It’ll turn out negative,” whispered back Penelope as another party guest passed by them, and gave her brother’s hand a quick squeeze.
Everything appeared suspicious to James that night. He regarded the guests with suspicion and then when he noticed an unfamiliar man speaking to his wife, he started over toward them. The man departed when he was only halfway there.
“Who was he?” James asked of Freya immediately. He had never been the jealous type, and she immediately lifted her eyebrows at him in shock.
“He’s a friend of a friend who owns a jewelry shop nearby. He wanted me to buy a pair of earrings,” replied Freya.
James spared her a glance and then followed the man out the back door down the garden. “Stop!” he called out, and the man paused and turned.
“Oh, your wife changed her mind?”
James blinked, and then replied, “about the bracelet?”
The man shook his head. “I was selling her diamond earrings, but she said she wasn’t interested. Does she want them now?”
James simply shook his head and watched the man walk away before he let out a deep breath, ashamed. Of course he was wrong to suspect Freya of lying to him. Her spy days were over – he didn’t think it likely she’d return to her job before the war was over.
Just then, she caught up with him. “What was that about?”
“Nothing,” he replied, turning to her with new affection when a cry from above made him turn that direction instead. “It’s Kennedy, I’ll go check on her.”
He took the stairs to the nursery and had just picked up his daughter when a slightly drunk Charlie stumbled in.
“I was thinking,” he started off loudly, and James quieted him with a finger to his lips, and Charlie dropped the volume of his voice, “If you’re really up for that promotion, it’s not that simple. Special Operations is a really important division; if they’re really giving you a job there, then it’s something serious. They’ll test you first?”
“What kind of test?” James asked suspiciously.
Charlie hiccupped and then pressed a hand against his mouth. “I don’t know,” he replied, “but probably something that’ll make you prove your loyalty. Have you had to do anything yet?”
With Kennedy now dozing in his arms, James considered this. If this was what all of this business with Freya and the blue die was, then it was simply a test of his fortitude. The game he was playing might not be as serious as he thought. He let out a sigh. “I’m not sure yet,” he said, and placed Kennedy back down into her crib.
The party began to clear out a little bit later, and as he started handing people their jackets, he came face to face with Lachlan.
“If this is just some kind of test, Sir,” he started, “then I don’t appreciate a joke like this.”
Lachlan’s eyebrows lowered. “This isn’t a test,” he replied with a shake of his head.
“But they wouldn’t tell you if it was, would they?” questioned James, and Lachlan shook his head slowly. “In that case, have a good night.” He handed him his jacket and continued to pass them out.
“I’m so glad they’re all gone,” declared Freya as he closed the door on the last person. She took a large swig from a bottle of wine that she’d been serving earlier, drained it, and then started up the stairs. “I’m exhausted, now I know why I didn’t do that earlier. Hosting a party and constantly running up to check on Kennedy is more exhausting than I imagined. We’ll do it again in a few months when she turns one, but maybe we shouldn’t buy alcohol for that party. I kept finding people making out in our closet.”
James shuddered and started up the stairs, untying the tie that his wife had made him wear. She headed into the nursery again to check on Kennedy, while he got ready for bed. A glance at the clock told him that it was getting late; he could expect a call from the agency sometime soon with the false information that they wanted him to pass on. Although he was still uncertain about the nature of the task, James was a soldier. He would do it, even if he was reluctant.
The phone rang, and he pounced on it as soon as it did. Freya entered the room but paid no attention to him on the phone and scribbling down a note on the notepad next to the bed. She merely waited until he was done before she slid under the covers and placed an arm on his chest.
“You’re always working,” she complained, “You don’t spend enough time with me anymore.”
“I’m trying to, but work just keeps getting on my back. You know how it is,” James replied with what he hoped was an easy smile. He noticed that her attention was solely fixed on him. She didn’t so much as glance at the notepad behind him before she pulled him closer to her, demanding his focused attention for the rest of the night.
He rose before she did the next morning and glanced at the note on the stand. His wife was not a spy, he thought again in determination, and then resolutely crumpled up the paper and threw it in the trash can. Another thought occurred to him and he rose and began to gather a few things. His wife stirred as he began to open the doors of their closet and opened one eye at him. “Where are you going? It’s Saturday.”
“Work,” James answered shortly. “Something’s come up. Don’t expect me back until later.”
She blinked then frowned, sitting up. “We were supposed to have a picnic with Kennedy in the park today,” Freya complained.
“Tomorrow,” James promised. Impulsively, he leaned over and planted a quick kiss on her cheek before he left.
Before Casablanca, James had been quite a skilled pilot. He headed to the airfield now, pulled rank on a junior officer, and flew the plane to France.
After the mission in Casablanca, he had done his research on what had happened before it. Freya had been the only operative with that specific objective, but there had been another agent stationed in Morocco who, according to records, Freya Cavanagh had corresponded with nearly two years before he showed up. If there was someone who might shed light on this situation of her being a spy, it would be him – the only problem was that he now had a terrible habit of ending up in small local prisons for public drunkenness.
Fortunately, a year and a half of a desk job aside, James still knew how to be field agent. He snuck past the guards and found Frankie Baudelaire’s cell. “Get up,” he told the man who was sitting on the floor drunkenly. From his pocket, he pulled out the picture of him and Freya from their wedding that he’d pulled from the closet this morning. “Do you know this woman? Is this Freya Cavanagh?”
The man opened an eye, gave a grunt, and leaned back against the wall.
With more persistence, James pushed the picture closer. “Freya Cavanagh. Her life is at stake, do you recognize her?”
Frankie opened his bloodshot eyes and stared blearily at her. James wasn’t quite sure if he knew what he was looking at, but he replied, “Cavanagh? Yeah, I knew her. Tall, blonde hair, brown eyes.”
James cut him off. “Her eyes are blue,” he informed the man coldly.
Frankie waved his hand. “That’s what I meant.”
Unconvinced, James handed him a glass of water to try and clear his head, and once the man had finished it, showed him the picture again. “You met Freya Cavanagh. Is this woman her? What do you know about her?”
Frankie stared at the picture and then nodded slowly. “I think so. That must be her. She… is very fashionable. The life of the party. Had this little bag patterned with… goblins, I think?”
Satisfied, James lowered the picture, his faith restored, before Frankie mumbled, “Shame what happened to her.”
“What happened to her?” James asked immediately.
Frankie gave a drunken shrug. “Not sure, my mission changed from Morocco to Austria right after she was stationed to Casablanca. I only met her a few times. Nice girl. I heard that her entire team was killed and that they had to send in a replacement for her to carry out her task. Someone else who fit her description.”
“Are you sure this is true?” James asked, fervently hoping that it wasn’t.
The man paused uncertainly. “All my information comes from a long chain of people. It’s possible something got twisted in there.” His lips curved up suddenly. “I remember meeting her for the first time. She was such a fantastic piano player. We were in a pub full of people complaining about the UK and she just went straight up to the piano and started playing God Save The King. Can you believe that?” He let out a laugh and then began to sing it raucously himself.
Knowing the jailer would be there soon because of the racket, James was quick to slip away and return to his airplane parked a field over. Vaguely, he recalled something she’d said once, about people believing her because she kept the feelings real, and his sense of unease settled further into his stomach. James returned to his airfield, unsettled, and barely taking in the rain as he stormed back home and pushed open the door.
Freya was at the stairs, clearly just coming down from having put Kennedy down for her late afternoon nap. “You’re dripping wet!” she protested as the rainwater ran in rivulets down his jacket and sodden hair and onto the rug.
He ignored the rain. “Come here.” He tugged her hand over to the piano that her mother had given him as a gift when he’d bought the house. As far as he knew, the only time it was ever played was when Penelope came over and wanted to set a dinnertime mood.
“What are you doing?” Freya asked him uncertainly, and then added, when he didn’t answer, “You’ve been odd the whole last day. What’s going on? Is it work, did something happen?”
He didn’t answer. Instead, he pointed at the piano. “Play God Save The King.”
“Almost four years ago, Freya Cavanagh played God Save The King in a bar in Morocco full of people who hated the English. Play that for me.”
Freya hadn’t moved from where she’d sat down. Slowly, she placed the cover of the piano down. Without looking at James, she replied slowly. “They told me the real Freya Cavanagh’s story. She was very brave… but I’m not her. I simply took her name and took up her mission when it was required.”
James stood very still. He could feel his entire world coming crashing down as she spoke, and yet he had to ask, “What about the messages? Special Operations in the agency thinks that you’re a spy for the Germans. Is it true?”
She looked up at him, and he knew the answer before she even spoke. “It isn’t like that,” she protested as he took a step back from her, “I was loyal to the agency when I was in Casablanca. I was loyal to them afterward. It’s just a few months ago… some of the ghosts from my past caught up with me. They threatened me – they threatened Kennedy!” she added desperately as if that would make James stop stepping away from her.
It did. He paused. “They threatened our daughter?” he asked slowly. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I didn’t want to put you in danger too! I loved you, both of you, and I wanted to keep you safe,” Freya explained with wide eyes. “I was a spy too, I could handle them. I just did as they asked, and they left us alone.”
“What about the message I received last night? Did you pass that on to them too?”
She nodded slowly, tears threatening to spill from the corners of her eyes. “I had to,” she said, her words coming out choked now. “It was either do that or risk them hurting Kennedy. They have their own spies here who could get to her if I didn’t cooperate.”
The man let out a strangled breath. “Freya, they were tracking that! They were running a blue die on you! Now they’ll know that you’re a spy – do you know what that means? They expect me to kill you myself!”
They stared at each other, and at last, James shook his head. “You’re my wife,” he said at last. “And the mother of my child, and my partner. I truly cared for you – God, I loved you too, even if I never said it. I could never kill you.”
She let out a small breath. “Now what, then?”
“We have to leave,” James decided quickly, already in motion. “The agency will know soon, if they don’t know already. They’ll come for you – and for me. We have to take Kennedy and get out now while we can.”
It took them only a few minutes for Freya to gather their sleeping daughter and her diaper bag while James scrambled for money, a bit of food, and a loaded gun. He wasn’t a spy, and he was loyal to his country, but above that, he had a duty to his family. He didn’t care that his wife was a spy. She was still his wife, and he would do everything that he could to protect her.
They took his car to the same airfield he had just come from, James hissing out a curse in frustration every time the traffic was too slow. They finally made it to the airfield and James drove into the grass to his plane and immediately got out to try and start it with a quick instruction for Freya to stay in the car with their baby and everything they’d brought with them until he could turn it on.
Evidently, they had anticipated him coming there. His plane was jammed; James turned the key over and over again to no avail, and then when he heard the sound of an engine, he turned to see a car coming his way. Lachlan Harris ran out of it as soon as it stopped with a gun out, calling for James to stop. James reached for his own gun but found his hands reaching for only empty air – he’d left it in the car, a few feet below.
James clambered out, but Lachlan was at the base of the plane. “We got the results back,” the redhead informed him. “The blue die is positive. I’m sorry, James, but she’s a spy.” He paused. “But you know that now, don’t you? That’s why you’re trying to escape?”
“She’s my wife,” James pleaded with all the emotion that he could manage. “Could you kill your wife even if she was a spy? She was only doing it to protect our daughter!”
He thought that he saw a twinge of emotion pass through the man’s eyes; of all his superiors, Lachlan was the one that he was the closest to, and he was also the one that James knew he could best appeal to. If there was any scenario in which he could fly from the country with his wife and daughter and get them all out safely, it was dependent on Lachlan Harris’s good graces.
“I know this is hard,” Lachlan started, “but if you don’t kill her, you’ll be hung as well. You’ll leave Kennedy without both of her parents. Please, James, be sensible. You’re a rational man.”
“How do you expect me to be rational –“ James started venomously when the car door opened and Freya climbed up. Kennedy sat inside, swaddled in her blanket in the seat of the car. The blonde woman’s hands were raised, although in one of them, she held James’s gun that she’d taken from the car. The soldiers who’d come with Lachlan all raised their guns suspiciously at her, but her attention was fixed on James.
“I’m sorry,” she said at last. “You know why I did it. I’d do it again for her and for you.” She paused. “I love you. Tell her how much I love her too.”
“Frey—“ James started, but before he could get a word in edgewise, she swiftly turned around, pulled the gun just beneath her chin, and pressed on the trigger. The shot echoed through the air, and he found himself rushing forward at her side. “NO!”
He cradled her head in his arms, but she was thorough in what she’d done. She’d always been thorough. He could feel a sob starting up in his throat that came out only when he could hear Kennedy begin to cry from the car, awoken by the loud noise. She didn’t know what had just happened, but the weight of it settled on James’s shoulders – in one day, his wife, a constant he had depended on, had suddenly been taken from him by her own hand.
“I promised I’d keep you safe,” James murmured to her, even if the logical part of his mind reminded him that her eyes stared sightlessly above and that she couldn’t hear him. For once, he didn’t move even as his daughter cried, even as his wife’s blood stained his hands and his shirt from where he was holding her. He couldn’t bring himself to do anything but take a good, long look at what he’d lost and try not to break even more.
Distantly, behind him, he could hear Lachlan telling the soldiers sternly, “When we get back to base, you tell them that James Major did his duty, alright? He faces no consequences. Our official story is that he did what was asked at him when he found out his wife was a spy.”
James had never been good at being undercover. He had never learned to hide the few emotions he had – so when they all gathered in his chest at once, overwhelming him, he was left with only one choice. He cradled his wife closer and cried, letting them all out, before he finally heard his daughter’s cries, getting louder. He stood shakily, moving to the car, and lifted her out carefully. “I’ve got you,” he murmured into Kennedy’s hair, trying to soothe her against him while wondering if there was any way for them to move on from here. “Daddy’s got you. He’ll keep you safe.”
But perhaps that promise was as empty as the one he’d made his poor dear Freya, and all he could do was hold Kennedy tighter and murmur empty promises into her hair to calm them both down.