Camille Dupont noticed Jon Preston’s gaze move from her to the entrance of the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. She turned her head and saw a party of six entering the room, three men and three women. Camille tensed when she recognized the face of one of the women as a suspected Japanese agent, as she entered with the Indochinese delegation. The agent was more beautiful in person. Her hair was short and matched her oval face. Either she was a mix of Japanese and French, or her eyes had been altered surgically, because they were not typically Japanese. Camille guessed the later.
Camille and Jon were Allied intelligence agents. Camille was a member of the Office of Special Services, or OSS, the U.S. version of British Intelligence. Jon was a member of the U.S. Army’s Counter-Intelligence Corps, or CIC. Both were skilled agents, but Jon trained as an agent for four years while attending Ohio State University and he was a walking killing machine.
Jonathan “Jon” Preston grew up in a middle-class family in Columbus, Ohio, where his father was the leader of a major labor union. He met Camille, a strikingly beautiful redhead, on a joint mission between the British Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its American counterpart, the OSS. Jon was on permanent loan to the British Intelligence Service and was a member of an elite team of agents, code name King Cobra, which conducted special operations behind Japanese lines in Burma, China and Southeast Asia.
Camille grew up in French Indochina, where her French parents owned a mining company, a rubber plantation and several bakeries in Hanoi. She had been educated in the United States, earning a degree in education from the University of Southern California.
Camille turned her head back towards Jon and watched his eyes drink in every detail of the three men and three women of the Indochinese delegation.
“She’s beautiful,” Camille commented.
Jon nodded his head and continued to watch as the delegation was seated four tables away from the guest-of-honor table where the Supreme Allied Commander of the Southeast Asia Theatre, Admiral Louis Mountbatten, was talking to several people. Seated next to Mountbatten was Ralph Block, the special assistant to the U.S. commissioner in India. Despite this title, Jon knew that Block’s real job was as the head of overseas operations for the U.S. Office of War Information. In this capacity Block supervised as many as 150 men who were conducting psychological warfare and disseminating disinformation in China, Burma and India. This fit with Block’s background, as before the war he was the director of publicity for Samuel Goldwyn in Hollywood.
So, Mr. Block, you’re in counter-intelligence, too, Jon thought.
During the meal, Camille noticed Jon smile and nod his head in the direction of the female assassin sitting with the Indochinese delegation.
“Did she just smile at you?” Camille asked.
“Actually, I think she’s flirting with me. Then again, she could be taunting me. After all, they have our photographs too.”
Two of Jon’s fellow agents and members of his King Cobra Team, Miles Murphy and Henri Morreau, were posing as ballroom staff; both men were highly skilled members of the British SOE and just as deadly as Jon. Henri was working as a wine steward, serving wine to the head table and the tables nearest the guest of honor, Admiral Louis Mountbatten. Miles was mixing drinks at the bar in the back of the room near the entrance to the kitchen. Each man was assigned a quadrant of the ballroom to monitor.
After one of the native servers finished serving a table near the head table, she turned and passed Henri on the way back to the kitchen. Henri recognized her as of one of the suspected assassins from the photographs he had memorized. Henri turned and followed the server and walked through the two swinging doors into the kitchen, ten steps behind the woman.
Sitting next to Camille was Kathleen Lauren, who, like Camille, was an agent with the OSS. Kathleen recognized the second female assassin at nearly the same time that Henri did. She hurriedly excused herself and moved toward the kitchen. Camille was facing the opposite direction and didn’t notice the second assassin or Henri’s actions.
Jon had also recognized the second assassin as she passed by their table on her way to the kitchen. A minute after Kathleen left, he got up and walked toward the back of the hall, where servers, carrying large trays of food, were still moving in and out of the two swinging doors.
“If she flirts with you again, I’ll kill the bitch myself,” Camille responded.
“It may come to that. Stay put, I need to check on something,” Jon said.
Camille turned and followed Jon with her eyes until he disappeared behind the two kitchen doors. A short time later, Kathleen came out of the kitchen and returned to her table; she was visibly shaken.
“What happened?” Camille asked, noticing the tears streaming down Kathleen’s cheeks and the smell of cordite from the discharge of a weapon lingering on her clothing. Camille’s attention was so focused on Kathleen that she didn’t see Jon exit the kitchen looking extremely concerned. His eyes moved left and right with the precision of a leopard searching for its prey.
“One of the assassins; she nearly killed Henri. I shot her.”
“Is anyone else hurt?” Camille asked.
“Yes, one of our agents was stabbed.”
“Who?” Camille questioned, anxiety welling in her voice. “Not Jon or Henri?”
“No, one of the other agents working in the kitchen.”
Relieved that Jon and Henri were okay, Camille returned her gaze to the Indochinese delegation. It was at that moment she realized the female assassin was missing from the delegation’s table. She looked back to where Jon was standing near the restrooms and was startled to see the woman pointing a gun at Jon. Camille tensed, holding her breath and reached inside her purse and withdrew her automatic.
Akemi Nakada, an assassin for the Japanese intelligence service, was walking past the entrance to the kitchen, heading toward the women’s restroom, when the kitchen door opened far enough for her to see her sister, Akiko, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. With anger in her eyes and tears streaming down her face, she continued walking towards the ladies room. Several paces before entering, she turned around just in time to see the American agent she had made eye contact with earlier, walk out of the kitchen and stop. She moved to within ten feet of him before speaking.
“You killed my sister, didn’t you?” Akemi asked.
Jon turned his head to the left. He was not startled to see the assassin, but he was concerned when he notice the small caliber automatic weapon in her right hand, tucked close to her evening gown.
“Death is an occupational hazard in our business,” Jon replied.
“I tracked you from Chittagong to Fort Fredrick and then to Calcutta. I figured you and your team would be here tonight. You are very clever, Agent…?”
“Preston,” Jon answered. “And you are?”
Akemi raised the small-caliber automatic and pointed it at Jon’s heart.
“Well, Agent Preston, I’m going to kill you now.”