- Author: Madalyn Morgan
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The 9:45 To Bletchley
Chasing Ghosts @ 2018 by Madalyn Morgan
Published Worldwide 2018 @ Madalyn Morgan
All rights reserved in all media. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic or mechanical (including but not limited to: the Internet, photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system), without prior permission in writing from the author.
The moral right of Madalyn Morgan as the author of the work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
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Thanks to my mentor Dr Roger Wood for his in-depth critique and advice - and for writing the book blurb on the back of the cover. Thanks to Maureen Vincent-Northam for proofreading and to writer and poet Fiona McFadzean, my beta reader. To my family and friends for their love and support, to author friends Theresa Le Flem and Jayne Curtis, and to readers and writers on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks also to the authors of the Leicestershire RNA chapter - The Belmont Belles - for their friendship and encouragement. Thanks to W.H. Smith and Hunts Independent Bookshop in Rugby, and to the libraries in Lutterworth, Rugby and Markfield.
Chasing Ghosts is dedicated to my mother and father,
Ena and Jack Smith.
OXFORD - ENGLAND
December 22, 1949
Claire turned the key in the lock on the front door. It swung open and she stumbled over the threshold. The late afternoon light crept into the house behind her, casting a gloomy shadow on what was already an unhappy homecoming.
‘Excuse me, ma’am?’
She stepped to the side to allow the young sergeant who had driven her from Brize Norton aerodrome to pass. He carried two large suitcases, which he placed in the alcove under the stairs in the narrow hall. Returning to Claire, he took the holdall out of her hand and the small vanity case from under her arm and set them down next to the suitcases.
‘Thank you,’ she whispered. Dropping the house keys on the hall table next to the telephone she pushed open the door to the sitting room. It felt cold.
‘Is there anything else, Mrs Mitchell?’
Claire turned and, grateful for the help he had already given her, said, ‘No, thank you.’
The airman hovered for a couple of seconds before standing to attention. ‘If there is anything, ma’am?’
‘I’ll telephone the base. Thank you, Sergeant.’
Claire closed the door behind the young airman and, ignoring the luggage, went into the sitting room. Dust, and the musty smell of a room several months without heating filled her nostrils. She switched on the light, walked over to the window and stared out. Thick low-level grey clouds covered the sky, blocking out what was left of the pale winter sun. The day had almost gone. It would soon be dark. Shivering, she drew the curtains to shut out the onset of the cold night.
She yawned. The flight from Canada, which had taken longer than the estimated ten hours because the aircraft had landed to pick up military personnel in several cities en route, had taken its toll. The endless and repetitive questions that followed during a three-hour interview with her husband’s base commander when she arrived at Brize Norton, had exhausted her. She knew the questions were to enable Commander Landry and the Canadian Airforce to help her - and, more importantly, to find and help Mitch. All the same, she felt as if she had been put through a full-scale interrogation.
She dropped onto the settee shivering. Thank God she had left her daughter with Mitch’s grandmother. At least Aimée would be warm. And Esther always had plenty of food in.
She looked at the clock above the fireplace. It had stopped. Of course it had. It hadn’t been wound-up during the three months she had been in Canada. She pulled back the sleeve of her coat and glanced at her wristwatch. Ten past six. Esther would have given Aimée her tea by now.
Claire wondered if her neighbour had remembered to buy her a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. She had telephoned her from the airport, before she and Aimée had been hustled through passport control and bundled onto an aircraft bound for England.
Tears fell onto her cheeks. What had happened to him? He knew the time of the flight to England - had known it for weeks - so why did he miss the plane? Did something unforeseen happen, like an accident? Or was he absent without leave by choice, as the sergeant from St Hubert Airbase in Montréal had intimated? If he had chosen to stay in Canada, was it to be with the woman he dreamed about, who he talked to in his sleep? The woman called Simone?
Claire was driving herself mad. She took a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped her tears. Surely if Mitch was having an affair she would have known, sensed something was wrong with their relationship. She took a sharp involuntary breath. Was Simone one of the nurses at the hospital where he’d been having treatment? No, she couldn’t be. Mitch had said her name in his sleep months before they went to Canada. But, Claire recalled, he had been to Canada on military business several times in the last couple of years. Perhaps