Now this was getting a bit showy. Alter the entire war? I found that difficult to believe. "I should've brought popcorn." I folded my arms. "I didn't realize the conversation would turn theatrical."
"No exaggeration." He was silent for a few heartbeats, then heaved a sigh. Which sounded very much like resignation. "Niels Bohr, the scientist King Gustav mentioned, is an atomic physicist. The Germans were after him, but he escaped Copenhagen. With Bohr's extensive knowledge of nuclear weapons, it would've been a disaster for our side if the Germans succeeded in their capture."
Look who finally decided to get talkative. "It seems we dodged a bullet there." More like an atomic bomb.
"Dr. Bohr arrived safely, but his research did not." His gaze remained steady upon me. "We're sending you to recover Dr. Bohr's manuscript."
My hand flew to my collarbone, my heart pounding wildly beneath my fingertips. So that was the treasure. Not precious stones or metal but paper and ink. Yet the knowledge within those pages held power to destroy. "Do the Nazis have it?"
"We're not entirely sure but suspect not yet." He dotted his brow with his handkerchief. "If you accept this assignment, Bill Donovan will tell you more about it."
My guess was correct—the OSS was behind all of this.
"I don't have to explain how this could affect the outcome of the war. Dr. Bohr said this would be tragic if his work fell into Nazi hands."
"No pressure or anything," I mumbled. But there were more problems than just finding a missing manuscript. "I haven't been able to get into Sweden for four years. It'll look suspicious if I just show up."
"Donovan just sent a man over to promote the business interests of the States. You have a better reason than that." He met my gaze. "You'll be visiting your dying mother."
"What?" The word barely scraped out of my throat. What was he talking about? I'd just received a letter from her. Henrik must be wrong. "It can't be."
"She's fine." He flashed his palm and shirked away as if unprepared to handle an emotional female. "She's fine, Amelie. It's a cover we created."
"You could've led with that." Then my heart rate wouldn't have spiked. I took a calming breath. Mamma was fine.
"You more than anyone understand the power of the press. Thanks to some well-placed tips to the prominent papers, all of Sweden thinks the famous starlet's mother is at death's door."
My head spun, trying to place all this new information. The OSS had invented a reason for my being in Sweden, but Mamma was okay. If I agreed to this crazy mission, I'd get to see her. My heart ached at the thought. But another question surfaced. "You said many are after this treasure, Bohr's work. Do you mean—"
"The Gestapo? Yes." He nodded solemnly. "There are many in Sweden. Along with Swedes who are Nazi sympathizers. Swedish soil may not be stained with blood, but there's war there, nonetheless. Stockholm's currently a hotbed of spies and counterspies. Propaganda warfare." He fixed his gaze on mine. "In your language, it's the Casablanca of the north."
A frustrated breath parted my lips. What did I know about being a spy? Nothing. This would be dangerous work. If I messed up, there were no retakes. Failure meant the Nazis possessing notes from a man who could construct a powerful bomb. That weapon could secure Germany's world domination. It sounded dramatic, even for one whose entire life was drama.
Yet it was possible.
"You really can get me there?" I couldn't believe I was considering this. But... when was the last time anyone asked me to do something worthwhile? I'd placed a call to King Gustav on the Danish Jews' behalf, but it seemed effortless compared to the thousands who forfeited their lives to protect mine. Was I worth dying for?
Henrik nodded. "Like I said, there's a window. We'll fly you to Scotland, where you'll meet our Swedish pilot who'll take you into Bromma."
Bromma was less than ten kilometers from Stockholm. Could I do this? There was a chance of leaving here and never coming back. "You're asking the unthinkable."
He considered me for a long second. "I remember a story of another young lady who was asked to do the unthinkable to save others from destruction."
I stilled. "A true story?"
He nodded. "I'll paraphrase what someone told her." A spark entered his dull eyes, lightening the gray irises with sudden brightness. "If you choose to remain silent at a time like this, deliverance for the Jews will come from someplace else. But who knows? Maybe you were brought to this place for such a time as this."
This excerpt ends on page 18 of the paperback edition.
Monday we begin the book Snow Place Like Home by Lacey Baker.