Chapter Two Thousand One Hundred Eighty-Four
20th October 1972
Baltic Sea, off Bornholm
It was a rare, nice autumn day on the Baltic, though there were dark clouds visible on the western horizon. That meant that the ship might get tossed around a bit before they made port in Kiel.
SMS K24, newly named Grindwal by her crew, was racing west at two-thirds speed ahead. Louis was tempted to order them to flank speed, but the crew was still getting to know her habits. That included getting to know just what would stress the Grindwal’s engines over the course of a nine-hundred-kilometer voyage. So far though, the Grindwal was like a dream as they made good time on the journey from Danzig to Wilhelmshaven. Louis had spent as much time as he could on the bridge just enjoying it. His understanding was that once they joined the Atlantic Division of the High Seas Fleet, they would be spending a great deal of time training for their primary mission. That would involve a great deal of plodding around hunting for errant submarines in the North Atlantic. Louis remembered how the old American Destroyer, the USS Blue, had not minded a break from that mission to keep an eye on what he was doing. Last Louis had heard the Blue had been decommissioned and her Captain, Jimmy Carter, had taken command of a different ship based out of San Diego. He knew that it would be nice to run into Carter again. Despite his being tasked with spying on Louis, the American Captain was someone who hadn’t allowed national or professional rivalries to get in the way of friendship.
Looking out at Bornholm, Louis was reminded of the speculation about his sister’s involvement with Lars Vangsgaard over the last year. There was a bit of confusion for the tabloids as a result. They had wrongly assumed that Rea was gay for years, mostly it was because as an adult she was far worse than Kiki as far as not looking like anyone’s idea of a Princess. She preferred men’s suits and wore her hair cut short, not because she was a lesbian but because she liked to be practical. Rea also considered her role as the Queen of Galicia-Ruthenia to be a complete load of manure. So, her taking up with a fake Prince was perfectly in keeping with that.
The truth was that Louis considered almost all Titles of Nobility to be fake to a greater or lesser degree, not just the one that his younger sister had found herself in. His role as a Ship’s Captain, couldn’t be more different. He had earned it over the twelve years he had spent in the Academy or at Sea and the Navy made a point of not playing favorites. Receiving a position because of who your great, great grandfather had been, wasn’t nearly as tangible. There were exceptions, those like Kiki’s husband who had earned his title behind the controls of an airplane. Most of the Princes, Dukes, and other Grand Poohbahs he had met were people who he figured couldn’t manage to wash dishes for a living much less fly a fighter-bomber.
All of Aunt Marcella’s friends were elsewhere this afternoon. It was much to Sophie’s relief, not that she could enjoy the quiet too much. She had her studies spread out on the kitchen table and it was a source of increasing frustration for her. She had always found school to be easier than the rest of her life. This year though, things had grown more difficult as her school’s stated aim was to challenge her. The trouble was that she had several teachers who had taken that to heart. It had left Sophie feeling like she was treading water with just getting passing grades.
“Why don’t you take a break from that” Marcella suggested as she sat down across the table.
“And do what?” Sophie asked.
“Tea” Marcella replied, “A chance to talk for a few minutes.”
Sophie noticed that Marcella had put out a plate with biscuits on it as well as a pair of teacups. It seemed that she was really taking this seriously and she owed her to take part.
Sophie put her books and papers aside as Marcella poured them tea. It was bitter, but Marcella seemed to like it. Tea was one of those things that adults liked, but left Sophie cold.
“Katie told me that she is paying you to come here” Marcella said, “I find it a bit odd because she would just give you the money if you asked.”
“Why would I ask for money?” Sophie asked in reply.
“Because you are a thirteen-year-old” Marcella replied, “Most girls your age always have their hand out.”
The memory that came immediately to Sophie’s mind was of her mouth filling with blood as her lip swelled. She had asked for money, she couldn’t remember what it had been for, but she had been hit for having asked.
“I would never do that” Sophie said.
“I know” Marcella replied, “That is why Katie worries about you, she knows you don’t trust her. That really does bother her.”
That gave Sophie pause. She was unaware that Kat did anything more than keep an eye on what she was doing and providing a roof over her head. Kat worrying about her seemed unlikely.
“Why?” Sophie asked.
“Because she welcomed you into her house and made you a part of her family” Marcella replied, “Part of being a mother is worrying over your daughters as they reach a certain age where they are no longer children anymore.”
Marcella paused for a moment.
“Or at least that is how it should be” Marcella continued, “Katie isn’t like that other woman, not at all.”