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London, 7 September 1940

Putting on an American-style hat, my partner Albert chewed an unlit cigarette.

“The matter is as clear as daylight, Mike," he said good-naturedly. “A German agent sends information to Berlin, and it is high time to put our Nightingale in a cage.”

He snapped his thick fingers.

The light of his match illuminated the drab walls of the tiny room, from where we have been observing a seemingly uneventful life of one Miss, or rather Fraulein Regina Goldberg. The object of our interest appeared in London before the outbreak of the war, having received her visa at the invitation of her uncle, who died a month after her arrival.

“How convenient,” I muttered, perusing the girl’s photographs.

Ms. Goldberg sported an excellent figure, though hidden under dull outfits reminiscent of a teacher's dresses. The girl led an outwardly boring life, working from home for a respected London publishing house. Miss Goldberg's late uncle, who moved to England after the first war, owned a printing press and could have put a word for her.

“Although she has already worked as a translator in Berlin,” I remarked at our last meeting. “In the request for a visa, she mentioned her studies at Humboldt University.” I waved my hand, “It seems to me that she has nothing to do with the radio transmissions because she is a woman of letters and...”

Albert unceremoniously interrupted me.

“Anyone can learn to work with a radio, even if it is not taught in your Oxfords and Cambridges.”

He pronounced the last words in a mockingly aristocratic accent, although Albert, a cockney, usually spoke with his signatory sing-song lilt. Having been accustomed to my colleagues’ jokes, I did not react to them, but my partner was not going to calm down.

"You are on familiar ground here," said Albert, finally lighting his cigarette. “You can pop around the corner for tea with Mommy and Daddy.”

I deliberately neatly arranged the papers in the folder.

“My father was killed on the Marne in 1918, and my mother died of a Spanish flu, leaving me an orphan,” I answered. “My uncle, the Duke of Devonshire, does live around the corner. However, I am not the heir to the title but a simple lord.”

Albert just rolled his eyes expressively.

The heir to the title was my cousin Archie, who served at an air base near the North Sea. After the August bombing of Berlin, Archie confessed to me that the RAF was preparing for more attacks. 

“However,” he paused meaningfully, “the more spies you catch, dear Michael, the fewer bombs may fall.”

Leaning out the open window, I admired the evening sky. Somewhere nearby, a nightingale sang in the lush foliage.

“There was magic in the air that night,” I muttered.

“No more magic,” Albert picked up his Enfield from the table. The revolver gleamed in the golden sunset.

“You are right,” I agreed. “It's high time to visit our Nightingale.”

Miss Goldberg lived in the house next door, and we didn't need to go out into the square because the attics of the buildings were connected. Climbing the creaky stairs, I slowed down.

“Something is still strange,' I said to Albert. “Firstly, we cannot decipher her transmissions. Secondly, the Nazis would hardly have sent a Jew here.”

My partner shrugged.

“The first commandment is never to trust the documents, especially those issued by the Nazis, and as for her transmissions, the technical department would sooner or later break the code. “

Conjuring over the attic lock, he added, “Soon the Nightingale will sing in our cage, and everything will become clear.”

Having moved to Miss Goldberg's house, we found ourselves in the top floor corridor. Previously these were the servants’ quarters, but now those who preferred style over substance rented their former rooms.

Light footsteps sounded behind the flimsy door of her flat. Inhaling the whiff of perfume, I remembered Miss Goldberg's raven curls, covered with a modest hat, and her scarlet lips, untouched by lipstick.

“Don't stand still,” I snapped out of my stupor. “She is a spy and nothing else.”

The door hinges cracked, and Albert yelled, “Don't move! It's the police! Hands up!”

The otherworldly radiance seemed to envelop her slender shoulders. Miss Goldberg, in her underwear, also held a gun.

The window overlooking the courtyard was open. The evening breeze rustled the loose corner of paper pinned to the wall.

“Bulletin,” I read. “God, what's that on her face?”

The girl was wearing what looked like a Venetian carnival mask, covering her mouth.

“Mike, hold her.” Albert lunged forward. “She can jump out of...”

The walls oscillated, and the cracked floor swayed under my feet. I haven't heard of earthquakes in London yet. The cheap table reared up, and the chairs rolled in all directions. A bright flash blinded me, turning into an impenetrable blackness.


I ended up at Waterloo Bridge late in the evening when the doctors allowed me and Albert to leave the hospital. We escaped with slight concussions, but I was still feeling a tad dizzy. 

The neighbors of the so-called Miss Goldberg, who also felt an unexpected jolt, alerted the police, which searched the mansion and its surroundings. The Nightingale disappeared without a trace. Albert believed we became the test subjects for the Nazis’ new weapon.

“Maybe even psychic,” I sat on the bench.

I was not going to argue with Albert, just as I was not planning to admit to an unexpected item found in my jacket pocket while already in the hospital. I had no idea how the object ended up in my possession. 

 The gray screen of the thing remained impenetrable. Finding two buttons on the side, I randomly pressed the first one and almost dropped the device into the Thames. Miss Goldberg was looking straight at me from the screen.

“Are you in Berlin?”  I managed to ask, realizing the utter stupidity of my words.

The girl smiled faintly.

“No, Lord Darley,” she spoke with an unfamiliar accent. “Please remain where you are, and I'll explain everything.”

It took me a couple of cigarettes to digest, as my uncle would say, Miss Goldberg's words.

“Wait,” I interrupted her. “You are two hundred years younger than me?”

“Two hundred and three, to be exact,” Miss Goldberg corrected. I decided not to ask how she knew about my age.

“But you want to know something completely different.”

  Her dark eyes were saddened. A pale lollipop of the moon hung over the Thames, and I caught some noise in the east.

“For you, the war may end now, Michael,” said Ms. Goldberg. “Press the second button, and don’t be afraid of anything. In a moment, we can meet at Waterloo Bridge two hundred years from now.”

I didn't have time to answer. The volleys of anti-aircraft guns tore the sky apart, and a siren howled.

“Air raid! Air alert!”

Searchlights crossed over the bridge. The blast wave, rolling along the embankment, knocked me down, and the device, flying over the water, sank into the Thames.

Getting up, I limped to the police cars that had appeared on the bridge. It was time to do my duty.


  • Nelly Shulman is a writer currently based in Berlin. Her work has appeared on and in the various literary magazines. She is a winner of three writing awards.

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