Some time and another teleportation spell later, Gabriella and O’Neill found themselves in the London office from where Section 12, the part of MI6 that dealt with the occult, was run. They were gathered in a small conference room with Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6 as well as a representative from the American OSS Bill Casey, a young man who headed America’s nascent intelligence organization’s European operations. He wore thick glasses and a dark suit.
“The thing I want to know is what sort of creature are we dealing with,” Menzies said.
“Kurt Hesselman is a being of immense power, but it is raw, unfocused, and untrained,” O’Neill said. “He can protect himself from physical attack, to some extent. He can read and to some degree influence people’s minds.”
“Furthermore,” Gabriella added, “as he is vampire, he has enormous strength and agility. He cannot be killed except for having his heart penetrated by wood, either from the traditional stake or a modern wood tipped bullet. His skills of mental influence are enhanced. However he cannot tolerate sunlight and he has to feed periodically.”
“What about holy images? Or garlic?”
“That is a myth. He could enter a church as much as anyone living. Garlic is just an annoying, smelling plant, a reminder that he cannot eat food any longer.”
“So how do we catch him?”
“If he is being helped by locals, might I suggest we start there,” suggested Casey. “An undead Nazi coming out of the English Channel is going to cause some talk.”
“MI5 is already working on that,” Menzies said. “A lot of those groups have already been turned and should be good sources of information. It might help, though, if we knew what he was up to.”
“There are two possible options,” said O’Neill. “Intelligence gathering and assassination.”
“We’re assuming he’s still working for the Nazis,” Gabriella said.
“He sacrificed his vampire squad in order to get us trapped in that bloody bunker and presumably killed by the SS. He didn’t realize my ability to get us all out of there.”
“That could still mean he is working for his own agenda.”
“Whatever his motives, the fact remains that he is loose somewhere in southern England.”
“I’d like to make a suggestion,” said Casey. “We have our own version of Section 12. It’s not as extensive as yours.” He nodded to O’Neill. “But I have a few operatives who have been training here in anticipation of using them on the Continent. I propose we reassign them to help protect Hesselman’s possible targets, along with a detachment of soldiers with that wood tipped ammunition the Contessa mentioned.”
“I’d like to have our own people guarding the possible British targets,” said Menzies.
“That would be the Prime Minister and Field Marshal Montgomery,” O’Neill said.
“The Americans we’ll guard will be Generals Eisenhower, Bradley, and Patton,” Casey said. “Anyone else?”
No one had any other ideas. “We’ll maintain our Hesselman working group in this building,” said Menzies. “Mr. O’Neill, until the monster is finally dead for real, this is your section’s sole priority.”
“Understood,” O’Neill replied.
Gabriella took over a small office at the Section 12 building and used it to sleep in when the sun was up. She opened her eyes as the sun light still dimly shown through the heavily curtained windows. O’Neill was standing over her. “We’re going somewhere.”
Gabriella rose to her feet. “Where.”
A man in a British corporal’s uniform entered the office carrying a wrapped parcel. “Put it on the desk, Carstairs,” O’Neill said.
“Yes, Mr. O’Neill.”
He set the parcel on the desk and left the room, closing the door behind him.
“Open it,” O’Neill said. Gabriella opened the parcel. Within it was what looked like a British Army uniform, but with some Royal Italian Army insignia. “Congratulations, Captain Doria, You have just joined the Italian Co-Belligerent Army.”
“Your presence has been requested by General George S. Patton. You will be head of his special guard detail. Your cover will be a special aid and interpreter.”
“I was not aware that the general even knew of my existence.”
“He seems to be under the impression that he has met you before.”
“I have heard of the man, of course,” Gabriella said. “But I have never met him so far as I know. And I think I would know it.”
“He was likely going by another name when you met. Joachim Murat.”
Gabriella for once was speechless.
A little later, in the back of a car winding its way through the darkened streets of London, O’Neill passed Gabriella a folder marked “Operation Quicksilver.” The car had its headlights blacked out. Even though the blitz was long over, air raid decrees were still in effect. Gabriella could see perfectly well, though she wondered how the driver could navigate.
She continued to read the contents of the folder with increasing astonishment. “Just because he slapped a soldier?” she mused.
“Things are not done as they were in past centuries, Lady of the Night. The allied high command are now using General Patton as a decoy. An entire army group, fictional in every respect, had been built around him. The Nazis will concentrate around the Plais de Calais where they think the blow is going to fall.”
“So where is the blow going to fall?”
“That not even I know.”
Gabriella shook her head. “I’ll bet it’s Normandy.”
“What makes you say that?”
“I can read a map, Old Mage.”
O’Neill did not deign to reply.
The car pulled up outside a quiet townhouse where Patton stayed when he was in London, which he frequently was even though he real headquarters was in the town of Knutsford in Cheshire to the North West of England. Two uniformed guards stood outside the house, snapping to alert as the driver opened the door and let them out. O’Neill was dressed, as usual, in civilian clothes. Gabriella felt quite jaunty in her military dress, with a brown beret covering her dark hair.
O’Neill presented their identification to the guards. The soldier nodded, picked up a bulky walkie, and said, “Sarge, they’re here.”
A minute or so later the door to the townhouse opened and a young American sergeant appeared. “Mr. O’Neill, Captain Doria, I’m Sergeant D’Amato.”
“Bona sera, Sergeant,” Gabriella said.
“Bona sera, Capitaino,” D’Amato said, cracking a smile. “Could you follow me inside, please? The general is waiting.”
They were ushered into a parlor where the general waited them, standing by a roaring fire. He was a formidable looking man, Gabriella noted, in his late 50s, standing ramrod straight in his uniform. He wore, she noted, an ivory handled pistol at his hip. His face was emotionless as they entered the room. All he said was, “Close the door behind you, Sergeant.”
“Yes, sir.” The sergeant left the room leaving them alone with the general.
Patton looked at Gabriella, seemingly appraising her in a manner that she did not recall ever experiencing, and plenty of men had looked at her with a variety of expression, ranging from horror to lust depending on the circumstances.
Finally Patton advanced with his hand outstretched. “Bon soir, ma chere comtessa.”
His French was fluent, though with an accent. Gabriella extended her own hand and allowed him to bow and kiss it. She suddenly flashed back to the moment she met Murat. He had greeted her with an identical gesture.
“Bon soir, mon general. Enchante.”
They sat down. A steward brought in glasses of wine for O’Neill and Patton and a goblet of warm, human blood for Gabriella. “That was requisitioned from medical stores,” the General explained. “My steward warmed it up a little for you.”
Gabriella sipped at it. The blood was astonishingly delicious. “Thank you,” she said, in English.
“You’re quite welcome,” Patton said. “Now to the business at hand. When Beedle Smith first told me of this assassin I thought he had finally gone nuts. It seemed to me to be a bunch of movie nonsense. Then – Captain – I saw your name in the briefing papers.”
“I understand you believe yourself to be the reincarnation of Marshal Murat,” Gabriella.
“No, I know that I am,” Patton said evenly.
“How, if you do not mind me asking?”
“Do you remember when Napoleon – he was not the Emperor back then – came to visit you? I was with him. You were wearing a dark purple dress with blue lace. We were engaged in conversation at one point. You asked me whether I thought that the French had conquered Venice. I replied that there was one Frenchman who felt conquered by Venice.”
Gabriella was very still. It happened exactly as Patton described. There was no recorded account of the visit and she was the only person who was left who remembered it. “You were very gallant, as I recall.”
“Oh, I don’t remember everything about my past lives. It is as through a glass and darkly, as the Poet said.”
“Which poet, General? I’m not familiar.”
“Me. I am the poet.
“So as through a glass, and darkly
The age long strife I see
Where I fought in many guises,
Many names, but always me.
“And I see not in my blindness
What the objects were I wrought,
But as God rules o’er our bickerings
It was through His will I fought.”
Gabriella glanced at O’Neill. “Don’t look at me,” he said. “I was in Ireland plotting against the British at the time.”
“Now you’re plotting against the krauts on behalf of the British,” Patton said.
“When you are old as I am you know how changeable history can be.” O’Neill rose to his feet. “Captain Doria will brief your men about the Hesselman threat and how to use the wood tipped ammunition. Is there anything else we need to discuss or reminisce about?”
“Plenty,” Patton replied. “But that can wait.”
O’Neill took his leave. When they were alone, Gabriella said, “Shall we have a chat with your staff?”
“By all means.”
Back to Dark Invasion — Chapter Twelve
Forward to Dark Invasion — Chapter Fourteen
Gabriella’s previous World War Two adventure was recounted in Dark Sanction
Gabriella fights in the War in Terror in Dark Hunt