Title: A Turbulent Peace
Author: Paul Walker
Following the armistice, Mary Kiten, a volunteer nurse in northern France, is ready to return home to England when she receives a surprise telegram requesting that she report to Paris. The call comes from her Uncle Arthur, a security chief at the Peace Conference.
Within minutes of arriving at the Majestic Hotel in Paris, Mary hears a commotion in the street outside. A man has been shot and killed. She is horrified to earn that the victim is her uncle. The police report the attack as a chance robbery by a known thief, who is tracked down and killed resisting arrest.
Mary is not convinced. Circumstances and the gunshot wound do not indicate theft as a motive. A scribbled address on Arthur’s notepad leads to her discovery of another body, a Russian Bolshevik. She suspects her uncle, and the Russian, were murdered by the same hand.
To investigate further, Mary takes a position working for the British Treasury, headed by J M Keynes.
But Mary soon finds herself in the backstreets of Paris and the criminal underworld.
What she discovers will threaten the foundations of the congress.
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I wrote a letter to Bonnet to outline why I suspected the involvement of Fournier and Crozier. I detailed how I chanced upon Crozier but offered nothing on the source of Fournier’s name. Surely, Bonnet would understand why. I sealed my note in an envelope, addressed it as, “Privé et Confidentiel”, and “Seulement Pour le Destinataire” on the reverse, then hand-delivered it by taxi during my lunch break.
I expected to hear back from Bonnet, but perhaps not so quickly. It was shortly after five that same day. Most had just left the schoolroom. Keynes, Pinchin and two others had departed earlier that afternoon to meet French and American finance teams at the Quai d’Orsay, leaving me to finish and tidy up the main office with Jack.
I heard Bonnet before I saw him. I turned and saw his bulky frame filling the open doorway, standing with sad, wide eyes gazing around our schoolroom, slowly rotating a bowler hat in front of his middle.
‘Chief Inspector Bonnet, this is a surprise. Welcome to the British Treasury’s temporary home, or as we like to call it, our “research library”.’
He nodded his head slowly, then started towards me with his curious, lumbering and unhurried gait. ‘I attended this school as a young boy.’ He shook his head. ‘More years have passed since than I care to count. Of course, it is a school no longer. I was thinking; the place had hardly changed until I opened this door.’ He lifted his head and circled a hand in a wide arc to encompass the entire space. ‘The assembly hall has quite transformed from my memories of morning worship, the headmaster’s daily oration and his… special punishments.’
I made no comment, not wanting to disturb his recollections and musings. The way his body appeared to shudder as he spoke the last words led me to wonder if he was the subject of one or more of those “special punishments”. When he finally directed his attention at me, I asked, ‘Did you receive my letter?’
‘Yes, of course. May we talk; somewhere more private?’
I signalled to Jack that it was alright for him to leave. I arranged a couple of chairs by my desk, and we waited in silence until Jack closed the door behind him, and we were alone. Keynes had got into the habit of locking his office when he wasn’t there. I apologised to Bonnet, explaining that I couldn’t get into Keynes office to offer him more comfort and a drink. He looked at his watch and shook his head vigorously as though a drink at that hour was an absurd suggestion. He was in no hurry and continued to contemplate his surroundings before delving into the ample folds of his suit jacket to retrieve a sheet of paper. I guessed it was my letter.
‘Thank you for the name and address of the photographer, Miss Kiten. Have you visited Mr Crozier in his studio?’
‘As I understand from your letter, you recognised this man when he came to the Majestic some two days past. Later that day, you came to my office, but you failed to mention him then. Was there a reason you delayed the disclosure of his name?’
‘I wasn’t absolutely sure it was the same man I had seen at the incident on Rue Lauriston. I had a half-formed plan to meet him again, to settle the matter one way or the other, but I thought it better to inform you now and delay no further.’
‘It is a great pity you did not advise me of your suspicions the same day.’
He placed the paper on my desk and smoothed it deliberately and gently as though stroking a lover’s hair. ‘An unnecessary death may have been avoided; a life saved.’ Finished with the paper, he directed his gaze at me. ‘When my men arrived at Crozier’s studio, they found him dead.’
‘Dead. How? How did he die?’
‘Crozier was known to be a morphine addict. An initial report stated that circumstances indicated a probable accidental overdose of the drug using a hypodermic syringe. I went to Crozier’s studio myself with a doctor and came away with a different interpretation. There was bruising around Crozier’s wrists and neck, with traces of blood and skin under his fingernails. Taking account of broken glass and overturned furniture as signs of a struggle, we were left in no doubt that an overdose was the cause of death, but it was not self-administered.’
‘A murder?’ I knew from experience how quickly addiction came and how easy it was to end a life with an over-generous measure of morphine. I had dispensed a fatal dose myself once, out of kindness to relieve horrific suffering when there was no chance of recovery. But why would anyone murder Crozier, and was his killing connected to the attack on Keynes? ‘You mean… he was murdered by… injecting with morphine?’
‘Exactly, Miss Kiten. You will understand now why you should have given me his name as soon as you were able.’
‘Yes, I see I was foolish, and I am sorry.’ I hesitated before asking, ‘Do you think his killing was linked in any way to the attack and entrapment planned in Rue Lauriston?’
He puffed air through his lips and looked at me as though I should be ashamed to ask. ‘Why not? Of course, it may have been a coincidence, and he was involved in another dangerous intrigue that led to his killing.’ He shrugged. ‘But until and unless we learn of an alternative explanation, we must assume he was murdered to make sure he could not inform on his partners in the crime against you and Mr Keynes.’
About the Author:
Paul lives in a village 30 miles north of London where he is a full-time writer of fiction and part-time director of an education trust. His writing in a posh garden shed is regularly disrupted by children, a growing number of grandchildren and several dogs.
Paul writes historical fiction. The William Constable series of historical thrillers is based around real characters and events in the late sixteenth century. The first two books in the series – “State of Treason” and “A Necessary Killing”, were published in 2019. The third book, titled “The Queen’s Devil”, was published in the summer of 2020.
Travel forward a few hundred years from Tudor England to January 1919 in Paris and the setting for Paul’s latest book, “A Turbulent Peace”. The focus of the World is on the Peace Conference after WW1 armistice. Add a dash of Spanish Flu, the fallout from the Russian Revolution, and you have a background primed for intrigue as nations strive for territory, power and money.
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Amazon Author Page: http://author.to/PaulWalkerbooks