‘It is simple.’ The Nazi officer was one of a list that Lord Halifax had seen over the past months. Although he was no longer Lord, or prime minister, now he was just Edward Frederick Lindley Wood. Pawn and puppet.
He had stayed when the others fled. He had hoped to reason, to negotiate. He had hoped to buy them time to reorganise. He had to believe it had not been in vain. The German war machine had rolled across the Home Counties in a matter of days. The efforts put into the sea defenses were the barrier that could not break, but it had.
They had found him in his office, alone as Prime Minister, something he had been since that fateful day in 1940 when he and Churchill and Chamberlain had reached their arrangement.
Now he was in a stark, dank cell. A wooden table and a German officer. The only other man was a sole SS guardsman.
‘It is simple Herr Wood’ the officer repeated.
‘It really isn’t’ Edward cradled his withered arm. He would kill for a cigarette.
‘Your co-operation is now needed. You will need to call for calm, for peace and for an end to the resistance.’
‘And if I don’t old boy?’ he scratched at his shoulder, ‘what then?’
‘We are civilised men’ he officer leaned forward, ‘your status, your title, perhaps a role in the government of the British protectorate?’
They were promises he would never keep.
‘Is Winston still giving you a hard time?’ The pit of his stomach was growling again. The food had been bad enough at Eton, but at least plentiful.
‘Churchill has been caught and killed’ the officer said, but it was too nonchalant. Edward forced himself not to smile. Winston was still alive, and no doubt at large in the North.
‘I am here with a final offer’ he paused, ‘or’
Edward finally realised why they had been going at it for so long this time. The SS guardsman’s hand clenched on his rifle. He sighed.
‘Well I’m sorry it has come to that’ Edward said finally, clenching his jaw, forcing himself to do it, to sign his life away. ‘But I cannot accept your kind offer.’
‘Know this’ the officer lowered his voice. ‘You will just disappear; there will be no martyr’s death.’
Edward said nothing. The Officer waved his hand and the guard opened the cell door. Outside were too more soldiers. Edward stood.
‘The Lord will forgive you for what you do’ the gaunt prisoner smiled at the officer, ‘but if I were you I would ensure that I really do disappear and that no trace of your hand is left in this.’
He cradled his arm again.
‘The Lord will forgive you but Winston, no’ he looked the officer up and down, ‘Winston never forgives anyone.’
The trooper gestured to the door and Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax walked as purposefully as he could towards it.
‘Good luck old boy’ Halifax said loudly as he limped away, ‘good luck.’