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Freefall: Chapter 31

Miriam Zakon

Abe shocks Annie when he tells her he’s enlisted as a paratrooper. Colonel Cohn offers Moe a top-secret post in the army, and Moe accepts

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Colonel Cohn jumped up and slapped Moe on the shoulder. “Good boy,” he said. “And you’ve made a good decision.”

He walked over to a corner of the room, opened a brown briefcase, and pulled out several papers. “This is an Official Secrets Act document from the British government. Since this project is under the aegis of Britain, you will have to sign it. And here,” he said, holding out another paper, “is the American equivalent, the nondisclosure agreement.” His voice was low and serious. “Both of these documents say the same thing: Everything you see and hear during your posting is top secret and not to be shared by anyone who is not part of the project. That includes family members. This is not for the duration — this is forever. Breaking that silence renders you liable to criminal charges and imprisonment. Is that understood, lieutenant?”

Moe’s voice, too, was somber. “Yes, sir.”

The colonel pulled a Shaeffer military clip pen from his pocket and handed it to Moe. Moe carefully read through each paper and scrawled his signature on the bottom line.

He was committed to… what? He had no idea.

Cohn returned the papers to the briefcase. He took a long sip of the bottle of ale that the waiter had brought. “Okay, Moe, let’s start talking about your new posting. Station X.”

Moe’s face brightened. Station X? This sounded like real spy stuff. Maybe he’d be carrying secret documents? Going behind enemy lines in disguise? Helping resistance workers?

“We’ll be traveling to—”

The colonel’s voice trailed off at the sound of a knock. They could hear a key scraping the keyhole and the door slowly opened.

The colonel and the second lieutenant both jumped up, as a woman wearing a stylish lavender coat and hat walked in. “Hello, my dear,” Colonel Cohn said, “I believe you met Moe Freed at Harry’s graduation. Moe, this is my wife. Moe and I have been talking”—he sent Moe a meaningful look—“about Harry and how well he’s been doing.”

Mrs. Cohn had her son’s smile, and she beamed it onto Moe. “I have so wanted to meet you, Mr. Freed. There are just no words to thank you for your bravery and heroism, and for saving our boy.”

Moe’s cheeks flushed scarlet. “Harry’s a great guy,” he muttered, berating himself inwardly for saying something so inane.

“I can’t wait to see him,” Mrs. Cohn said, settling herself comfortably onto an embroidered loveseat.

“Mrs. Cohn is traveling back to the States,” the Colonel explained. “She’s anxious to see just how Harry is doing, and our daughter is expecting our first grandchild.”

“And Granny’s got to be there for the great event,” Mrs. Cohn laughed.

Moe began to feel a little more comfortable; Harry’s mother sounded more like a Jewish bubby than a military wife. “When are you leaving?” he asked.

“This Wednesday. And Mr. Freed…”

“Please, call me Moe.”

“Moe, I’m going tomorrow morning to Bath to pick up the children. Could you possibly join me?”

“The children?”

“Yes. Your cousin’s children, poor little things.”

Moe’s cheeks grew even redder. How could he have forgotten the orphaned children and his mother’s cousin — what was her name? — who’d been killed in the Blitz?

“Oh, yes, of course,” he said, trying to hide his surprise. “But why are you picking them up?”

Mrs. Cohn cast an impatient look at her husband. “Haven’t you told him?”

“I didn’t get the chance.”

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