Sneak Peek #2: The Alice Network
A few weeks ago I posted a snippet from Chapter 1 of The Alice Network, which introduced you to the first of my heroines: Charlie St. Clair, a pregnant American college girl in 1947. Today I’d like to introduce you to my second heroine, whose narrative will entwine with Charlie’s in ways surprising to them both.
Meet Eve Gardiner. I hope you like her!
May 1915, London
“So, Miss Gardiner,” Captain Cameron said. “Can I get a straight answer out of you if I ask a question?”
Don’t count on it, Eve thought. She lied and evaded as easily as she breathed; it was what she’d had to do all her life. Lying, lying, lying, with a face like a daisy. Eve couldn’t remember the last time she’d been completely straight with anyone. Lies were easier than the hard and turbulent truth.
“I am thirty-two,” the captain said. He looked older, his face lined and worn. “Too old to fight in this war. I have a different job to do. Our skies are under attack from German zeppelins, Miss Gardiner, our seas by German U-boats. We are under attack every day.”
Eve nodded fiercely. Two weeks ago the Lusitania was sunk—for days, her fellow boarders dabbed at their eyes. Eve had devoured the newspaper accounts dry-eyed, enraged.
“To stave off further such attacks, we need people,” Captain Cameron went on. “It is my job to find people with certain skills—the ability to speak French and German, for example. The ability to lie. Outward innocence. Inward courage. To find them and put them to work, ferreting out what the Boches have planned for us. I think you show potential, Miss Gardiner. So, let me ask: do you wish to stand for England?”
The question hit Eve in a hammer blow. She exhaled shakily, setting the cat aside, and answered without thinking. “Yes.” Whatever he meant by stand for England, the answer was yes.
“Why?” She began to pull together something pat and expected about the vile Fritzes, about doing her bit for the boys in the trenches. She let the lie go, slowly. “I want to prove myself capable, to everyone who ever thought me simpleminded or weak because I cannot speak straight. I want to f-f-f—I want to f-f-f-f—”
She hung on the word so badly her cheeks heated dully, but he didn’t rush to finish her sentence in that way that most people did, the way that filled her with fury. He just sat quietly until she slammed a fist against her skirted knee and the word broke free. She spit it out through clenched teeth, with enough vehemence to startle the cat out of the room.
“I want to fight.”
“Yes.” Three straight answers in a row; for Eve it was a record. She sat under his thoughtful gaze, shaking, close to tears.
“So, I ask for the fourth time, and there won’t be a fifth. Do you speak German?”
“Wie ein Einheimischer.” Like a native.
“Excellent.” Captain Cecil Aylmer Cameron rose. “Evelyn Gardiner, would you be interested in entering the Crown’s service as a spy?”
Want to find out her answer? Enter the Goodreads giveaway; 75 copies going out before June 6!