My Name is Eva

‘I’m not sure. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten it.’ WPC Thomas stops taking notes and frowns at Evelyn.

‘Oh, it’s marvellous. But you must let it hang for a few days; no more than a week, though, or it will get a bit too high. The flavour is vastly improved with hanging and that makes the meat more tender too. You must check, mind, that none of the shot is left in the bird. That can make them taste a bit off, you know, and you don’t want to go biting on a bit of lead. That won’t do your teeth any good. Our cook used to roast them and sometimes she made the most superb game pie, with a mixture of rabbit, pheasant and pigeon. Absolutely delicious.’

‘It sounds wonderful. Now, these guns—’

Evelyn waves at her niece. ‘Pat, I want you to check the freezer at Kingsley. I’m certain I left a couple of brace there and this young lady would like to try pheasant, I’m sure.’ Evelyn beams at the young officer. ‘You’re in for quite a treat, dear.’

‘The freezer is totally empty, Aunt.’ Pat is rolling her eyes again. ‘In fact, it’s not even there any more.’

‘Not there? Why ever not? It was a perfectly good freezer. Served me well for the last twenty years.’ Evelyn turns to pat WPC Thomas’s hand. ‘I bought the pheasants from that excellent butcher in Petworth. I used to shoot them myself when I was younger too, but in later years, I bought them in, ready dressed.’

‘Aunt, there are no pheasants at Kingsley. You’re getting confused again.’

‘What nonsense, Pat. Of course there are pheasants at Kingsley. Our gamekeeper saw to it. Papa would have had words if he hadn’t done his job properly. There were always plenty of birds for the shoots. You can’t invite people along to a shoot and not give them a decent day’s shooting. Whatever would they think? Of course there are still pheasants.’

‘But not in any freezer, there aren’t.’ Pat shakes her head in exasperation. ‘Not any more.’

WPC Thomas closes her notebook and turns to Pat. ‘I think that’s all I need. I’ll have to write a crime report, just for the record, but I don’t think you’ll have any more trouble. The firearms people will have to take a look at the guns and the serial numbers, just to be sure, but I shouldn’t think you’ll have to come down to the station again.’

‘Thank goodness for that. I’ve got more than enough to cope with, as you can see from today’s performance. But do you think they were her guns? And were they still working?’

‘I really couldn’t say. It’s not something I know much about. If the guns are still usable, they’ll eventually be decommissioned, put out of action, once the firearms boys are satisfied.’ She looks down at the forms in her file. ‘But I’ll include some information in the report about all the other items that were found in the cases, just in case that’s relevant.’

As WPC Thomas starts to leave, Evelyn calls out, ‘Goodbye, dear. Do come again, won’t you? I’ve so enjoyed our little chat.’





16





10 February 1944



My darling,

This will be quite short, as I am so excited to be starting in a new, and, I hope, much more rewarding role, both for me and for the nation. I was sent to an address in Broadway Street, opposite St James’s Park Underground station. While I was waiting in the corridor, I could hear a man and a woman saying, ‘She should be all right. She’s got the right background.’ I think they meant me, but I don’t know who had been telling them about me. Maybe they knew Charles. Then, after a short interview, I was told they would like me to join a unit that interviews evaders and escapees who have managed to return to this country from enemy occupied territory.

I said I didn’t really want to just sit safely in an office, when others, like you, are out there risking their lives. I said I would rather be playing an active part in the war. They said they might review my position in due course, but at least I feel I will now be used properly and be close to the action!

I believe evaders are those service personnel who have avoided capture after being involved in action of some kind. I am well aware that some of their reports will be full of ghastly harrowing details, so I know it will remind me of that awful business that finished you off, darling, but I am determined to be calm and strong for your sake.

I was so excited by my success at last that I celebrated by walking through the park to Fortnum’s for tea and before I left, I bought a chocolate bar they have produced specially for serving military personnel. I’m going to send it out to Charles, assuming his influence helped me get this position. I’d have bought some for you as well, of course, darling, if you were still here, as I know you would have loved such a treat.

I’d better keep news of my little shopping trip from Mama next time I visit, as she will be rather miffed that I didn’t buy any delights for her from Fortnum’s. She still seems to think having me in central London is for her benefit and is always thinking I can run her errands. Poor Mama. She can’t quite fathom the mysteries of rationing and leaves it all to Mrs Glazier, who seems to manage awfully well. Perhaps they are both in cahoots with a local black-marketeer? I find the idea of the two of them dealing surreptitiously in illegal goods frightfully amusing! I shall definitely feel the need to check their stockings next time I am there!



With love, Evie xxxx

Ps I love you





17





Mrs T-C, 11 November 2016





A Few More Questions





‘Her memory isn’t too good these days, I’m afraid,’ Pat is saying to the suited man who follows her into the morning room. He’s not Humphrey, Pat’s husband, and he’s surely too old to be one of her two sons. He has brought a large file with him and a sweet smell of aftershave.

‘Auntie,’ Pat says, ‘this nice man is Inspector Williams. He just wants to ask you a few questions. It won’t take very long.’

Evelyn gives him her best smile. She has been expecting such a visit ever since Pat left the other day in a flurry of dishevelled impatience, after that little policewoman had been. Bad Nenndorf. It’s a link I can’t avoid. Once I’m placed there, the connection is obvious, but then anyone digging into service records could easily find out where I had been stationed during those years.

Evelyn shakes the Inspector’s hand. ‘How nice to meet one of Pat’s young men. Would you like to stay for coffee?’ She presses the buzzer hanging on a long ribbon round her neck and Mary immediately appears in the doorway, looking very concerned, as if it’s an emergency.

‘Mary, dear, we have visitors today. Can we have coffee in here this morning?’ Evelyn waves her out, then calls out after her, ‘And bring a nice selection of biscuits for the young man too, won’t you?’

‘Really, Aunt,’ Pat says, ‘you treat everyone just as if this was a hotel.’

‘Don’t be silly, Pat, of course I know my home’s not a hotel.’ Evelyn looks around the bright morning room, with gold brocade curtains and a Regency stripe of burgundy and cream on the walls. ‘Do you like the way I’ve had this room decorated? I chose the wallpaper myself.’

Pat leans across to the Inspector and whispers, ‘Don’t take any notice of her. She does this sometimes. She forgets where she is and starts thinking it’s her own house. I don’t know whether you’re going to get anything useful out of her today.’

‘Don’t worry, it’s just a formality,’ he says. ‘For the record.’ Then he turns to Evelyn. ‘Mrs Taylor-Clarke, I’d like to ask you a few questions about the weapons that were found at your previous address, Kingsley Manor. Firstly, can I confirm that you are the legal owner of the property and were the sole resident there until you came to live here, at Forest Lawns?’

‘My parents lived at Kingsley,’ Evelyn says. ‘Such beautiful gardens. Have you been there? Did you go to see the snowdrops?’

‘They aren’t out now,’ Pat says. ‘It’s the wrong time of year. It’s November, not spring.’

‘What a pity,’ Evelyn says. ‘Then you simply must go back in January or February. The snowdrops are wonderful at that time of year.’ She waves her hand in a sweeping gesture. ‘Great carpets of them. The Kingsley gardens are quite famous for their snowdrops.’

‘I may well do that,’ says the Inspector. ‘But what I want to know now is this – did you pack items into these suitcases that were found in one of the bedrooms? There was one on the floor and another on top of the wardrobe.’ He holds out a photograph of the two cases.

Evelyn stares at the picture. ‘Those cases look awfully heavy. You must be very careful lifting heavy cases, young man.’

‘Of course, madam, I’ll bear that in mind. But do you recognise these suitcases?’

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