SHE turned to the coastguard, shaking her head in bewilderment.
“Roger and Clive saw you with a radio at the boathouse. Speaking in German. So did I.”
“I was broadcasting false information to the Hun. You and the boys caught me at it. I tried to tell you that night at the boathouse.” He smiled ruefully. “But you put me out of action with your torch.”
“Was it you standing outside the pillbox?”
“Yes. Making sure our two Nazis didn’t harm you. Schmidt used it when he was sending information to Germany. Safer than the surgery. The hank of wire you found was his aerial.”
The colonel looked quite grandfatherly.
“Do the honours and give Miss Merriel a little top-up, Walker.”
Joan stared as he walked across the room.
“You’re not limping. You’ve not got a stick.”
“My legs are solid as rock. The stick and limp were cover. So people wouldn’t be curious as to why I wasn’t fighting.”
The colonel sipped his drink.
“Walker is one of our top undercover agents, Miss Merriel. I’m his boss. All hush hush, of course. When you started investigating, it put us in a tricky corner. We didn’t want you to get harmed and we couldn’t give away secrets until we were sure who the enemy was. I told Walker to follow you and keep you out of harm’s way.”
“Oh, Lord,” she said, collapsing into a heap in the chair. “I thought you were a German spy out to kill me, Les.”
He knelt on the colonel’s thick hearthrug and took her hand.
“I’ve been worried sick about you, Joan. I haven’t stopped thinking about you since that day I frightened you off from the barbed wire.”
A warm smile flitted across the colonel’s face.
“Quite so, Walker. Well, I think I’ll leave you two to sort things out.” Clearing his throat noisily to hide his embarrassment, he opened the door.
“Make sure you see the girl safely home, Walker.”
Les Walker didn’t waste any time. The next day he was waiting outside the school.
“Would you come out with me tonight, Joan? To make up for all the stalking and scary talk I’ve bothered you with.”
She smiled back.
“It’s only fair, since you saved my life.”
His face lit up.
“You’ll come? I’ve been longing for this for weeks.”
Hand in hand they walked out on to the promontory. The lighthouse stood there as it had for the last half century, but the darkness had gone from it and the view over the breaking waves was enough to lift their hearts still more.
* * * *
Six months later the Fuhrer committed suicide in his bunker and the war ended. Stonecliff has settled down contentedly and the wartime beaches have their old beauty again.
Trafalgar House has decided that the lighthouse is redundant and it has been put up for sale. The coils of barbed wire have gone and only a lone pillbox remains.
As for the surgery, it is occupied by young Dr Michael Franks, and he is proving to be highly popular with the ladies of the village. Yesterday, a young engaged couple walked into estate agent Jonas Crayford’s office and put down a deposit on a coastguard’s cottage a mile up the coast.
They hugged as the junior clerk completed the paperwork, faces flushed with excitement at the thought of the life that lay ahead.
As Colonel Winthrop said over a pint of bitter in the saloon bar of the inn, “You couldn’t have a better ending to the war than that.”