My Name is Eva

Tim was reluctant to tell me at first, I suppose because it’s drummed into all of you that you can’t say a word about the operations. But after a few seconds, he said he owed it to you and to me and said it was Colonel Stephen Robinson.

I reassured Tim that you’d had your suspicions too and that you had almost told me just as much before you finally went that last time. He looked quite relieved after I’d said that and he looked so drained and famished that I felt I had to make it up to him for being so honest with me. And I thought we both needed cheering up, so I said we should run down to Horse Guards Parade to see the German Tiger tank that was captured in Tunisia. It’s just gone on display there and it’s been in all the papers and everyone’s so thrilled to get one over on Jerry. So, we headed off and had some decent fish and chips after we’d had our ‘gloat’ to make up for that awful tea.

And now I’m back in my billet, wondering what to make of all that Tim told me today. If what he said is true, then I can never forgive this Robinson man. I was just about coming to terms with the death of my darling husband as a consequence of conflict, but I cannot ever accept that your life was deliberately sacrificed.

I’m unlikely ever to meet this chap, I suppose, and there’s little chance I could ever tell him how I feel, but I shall do my damnedest to see if I can meet him face to face. I want to curse him to Hell and back for ever for the pain his orders have brought me. In fact, if I can ever meet him, he shall go to Hell.



All my love, darling,

Your Evie xxx

Ps I love you





13





Mrs T-C, 7 November 2016





Keys and Cases





‘I can’t possibly talk to you in here,’ Pat says when she bustles into the drawing room in the middle of the morning. Her mackintosh is stained, it’s missing a button and the loose belt is dangling down the back. She is holding a bulging carrier bag, which has split down one side and appears to be filled with paperwork. ‘We’ll have to go upstairs to your room or find somewhere else to sit. Somewhere quiet, where we won’t be disturbed.’

‘Nobody’s going to hear us in here if we talk quietly,’ says Evelyn. ‘They’re all quite deaf, you know. Anyway, the coffee and biscuits will be coming in soon.’

‘Then they’ll just have to come and find us,’ says Pat. ‘I need a word with you in private, right this minute. Now are we going to move or not?’

Evelyn grumbles and totters to her feet, steadying herself by gripping her walking frame. ‘Oh, very well then. There’s a little sitting room down the corridor. People hardly ever go in there.’

As they leave the drawing room, Evelyn sees the trolley laden with cups and flasks and calls to the carer on her rounds. ‘Mary, could you be a dear and bring us our coffee in the morning room? Thank you so much.’

Pat steers her aunt by the elbow into the quiet, empty room and shuts the door. Once Evelyn has settled herself in an armchair, after fussing over the whereabouts of her hankie and her pencils, Pat starts talking. ‘Auntie, I’m really trying to do my best sorting out the house, you know I am. But yesterday, I found some things I’m really not sure you’d like people to know about and I need to ask you some very important questions.’

Evelyn considers her flustered niece. Careful now, this is how it starts. From now on, choose your words and gestures with the greatest of care. And then she says, ‘Of course, dear. I’m happy to help if I can. But in the end, you know that everything at Kingsley is yours anyway. You really don’t have to ask my opinion about every little thing.’

‘Yes, well, that’s half the trouble. I’m not sure we’re going to want some of the things I’ve just found, unfortunately.’

‘Like what, dear?’ Evelyn studies Pat. Her cheeks are flushed and her hair could do with a wash and a good brush. ‘You do seem to be in an awful tizz today. Are you sure you’re not coming down with something? Are the boys well? And what about your lovely husband? How is dear Humphrey? I haven’t seen him in ages.’

‘Everyone’s fine, thank you. And I’m fine too. I’m just… well, just disturbed.’ This last word is practically spat out and Evelyn tries not to smile. She has been anticipating this moment ever since she came to live at Forest Lawn.

‘Well, take a deep breath, dear, and tell me what the problem is. I’m all ears.’

Pat does as she is told and takes a breath, then her words spill out in a rapid jumble of gabble. ‘I found some keys in the kitchen drawer, like you said, and I tried to unlock the bookcase, which I still haven’t been able to unlock, by the way, and which is still a problem, because it’s such a valuable piece of furniture and the keys I found, well, I suddenly realised that on this bunch of keys were a couple of small keys, which I thought might be for the suitcases I found in one of the spare bedrooms. There was one on top of the wardrobe and one on the floor, so I took the keys upstairs and opened these heavy cases and was horrified by what was inside, absolutely horrified, I tell you. I couldn’t believe my eyes.’

‘Really, dear? Why don’t you slow down and tell me properly? I don’t remember any cases. I probably hadn’t been in that room for years. I’ve absolutely no idea what was in them.’ So why don’t you tell me what you think you’ve found and then we’ll see whether I should be worried?

‘Guns, Aunt, guns! And I think there was ammunition in there as well.’

‘Really, dear? But at Kingsley, we always kept the guns locked in the gun cupboard. Papa was always very particular about it. We never allowed guns anywhere else in the house.’

‘Well, that’s exactly what I thought. But then I looked at these guns and realised these aren’t the sort of guns that the family always used for shooting. And I don’t know anything about guns, you know I don’t. I hate blood sports. And I never got involved in any of the shoots you used to have at Kingsley years ago when I was young, but even I can see that these are not sporting guns for shooting pheasant or ducks.’

‘Aren’t they, dear? What sort of guns are they then?’ Ooh, I am enjoying this. I didn’t realise it would be such fun.

‘I think they might be army-issue guns.’ Pat heaves an exasperated sigh. ‘Guns, uniform, papers and there’s other stuff in there as well. Where has it all come from?’

‘Well, I wonder who put it there?’ Evelyn’s head turns at the sound of a light knock on the door and Mary appears with a tray laid with cups of coffee and a plate of biscuits. ‘Thank you so much, Mary. Ooh, you’ve brought us some Jammie Dodgers. Yummy, my favourite.’ She smiles and takes a biscuit.

Pat waits until they are alone again, then says, ‘But what am I supposed to do with all these guns? I can’t exactly send them off to house clearance or the charity shop, can I?’

‘Can’t you just throw them all away, dear? There’s that awfully useful council refuse dump in Milford. I always took all my unwanted things over there when I could still drive my old Volvo estate.’ Evelyn looks wistful, then says, ‘I do miss driving. It was so nice being able to pop down to the shops whenever I needed something.’

‘I’m sure you miss it, Aunt, but that’s not the point. These guns and all the other things I’ve found… I don’t even know what they all are… they must be illegal. I’m pretty sure I’ve got to take them to the police or somewhere and explain how they got there in the first place.’

‘Oh, what a nuisance for you, dear. Here, do have a biscuit.’

‘So, what am I supposed to tell them? They will want to know how these weapons came into your possession.’

‘My possession?’

‘Yes, yours. Until you shuffle off this mortal coil, everything at Kingsley is deemed to be part of your estate. I know it’s held in trust, but legally, it’s all yours so the police are bound to ask me where these guns came from.’

Evelyn frowns, then says, ‘I think Father might have had a gun. And I wonder if perhaps Charles brought one back with him from his time out in Africa?’

Pat sits back with her arms folded and sighs. ‘But all of this stuff must be yours, not theirs. I’m absolutely sure of it, because there’s even a uniform, just like the one in that photograph we found in the tin the other day, and there’s personal correspondence with your name on it in the cases as well. Look…’ She leans forward and fishes around in her tattered carrier bag, then pulls out some papers. ‘How else do we explain these?’ She holds out the first piece of paper, a letterhead with some typed wording. ‘It’s addressed to you, isn’t it?’

Evelyn looks at it and adjusts her glasses. It’s her transfer to the interrogation centre at Bad Nenndorf. But it means nothing, unless someone finds out who else was there at the same time.

‘And look, there’s an old passport in your name.’ Pat shows her the out-of-date passport with her young face, so young, so innocent. ‘And there’s another one here as well and that’s also got your picture, though I don’t understand why it’s got a different name. Eve Kucha or something.’

‘Eva Kuscheck,’ murmurs Evelyn.

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