Facing A Hungry Old Lion
Inside Collier’s jacket pocket was the blurred photo of Werner Gruener, given him by Captain Hall, along with two sketches. One drawing was based on the description provided by the train baggage handler and the other an attempt by Andre Bertillon, his forensic artist, to capture Werner’s present appearance sans disguise.
The murder of the three Russian agents earlier that morning was too close to home. Collier cringed with the thought that if it had occurred two hours later, innocent children on their way to school could have been caught in the crossfire. As a result of that incident, he was now fearful for Lila’s safety.
He peered at the headline of The Echo lying on Captain Hall’s lap: Queenie Found Murdered. He hoped their ruse worked. Time was at a premium. The lives of his son Richard, and Elsa, his fiancée, and her family depended on everything proceeding according to plan. Captain Hall’s game plan had missing pieces. And that haunted him. Though she had ensured him that the children in Elsa’s family would soon be delivered safely out of Germany to Bournemouth via kindertransport, her silence on the remainder had left him with a deep sickening feeling.
When the Ringwood Pub came into view, Sergeant Snowden slowed the vehicle.
Sweat formed on Collier’s forehead as flashbacks to the horrific events in the trenches hammered at his mind’s door. He felt queasy. It had been more than two years since he last fell off the wagon. The gift of sobriety was a clarity he had no intention of losing. The pub’s owner and many of its patrons shared a common bond. Like him, they were all veterans. But he had no intention of sharing war stories. Revisiting that nightmare was a non-starter for him. Captain Hall’s hand pressed gently on his forearm. The past is like a hungry old lion. You can ride its back only so long before it decides to eat you. Maybe it’s my day to be eaten...