The 9:45 To Bletchley. Book 4 in the Dudley Sisters Saga – and Book 1 in Ena Dudley’s Series

THE 9:45 TO BLETCHLEY – Book 4 in The Dudley Sisters Saga

The 9:45 To Bletchley: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GEVW3Z8/

In the midst of the Second World War, and charged with taking vital equipment via the 9:45 train, Ena Dudley makes regular trips to Bletchley Park, until on one occasion she is robbed. When those she cares about are accused of being involved, she investigates, not knowing whom she can trust. While trying to clear her name, Ena falls in love.

Excerpt from Chapter Seven

A squally March wind gusted along the platform of Rugby’s railway station. Ena turned her back on it, dropped her head, and peered under the brim of her hat. What had begun as drizzle when she arrived at work that morning had turned into sheeting rain.

      The railway tracks started to whine and Ena looked to the north. A black steam engine blundered into view, its brakes screeching as it slowed down before coming into the station. She looked across the concourse to the ticket office.  Mr Silcott was next in the queue. She watched him bend down and speak into the round porthole in the glass window. Above him the clock said 9:40. They would make the 9:45 to Bletchley.

      Ena stepped back from the platform’s edge as the hissing train clunked to a halt. Before steam from its engine engulfed her, she looked at the ticket office again, Mr Silcott wasn’t there. She scanned the concourse, looked up and down the platform, he was nowhere to be seen.

      The reinforced suitcase containing her work was heavy. She swapped it from her right hand to her left and rolled her right shoulder. Going to Bletchley Park with the boss was important. And thinking about her work; the rotors and the complicated wiring, the casing on the X-board that only she was trusted to fit, made her feel important. Nervous too. Her stomach was doing cartwheels. She wished Mr Silcott would hurry up.

      Ena swapped the suitcase back to her right hand, looked through the steam and rain, and there he was. In his camel coloured overcoat and brown trilby – Mr Silcott was coming out of the Gentlemen’s lavatory.

      ‘Here we are, miss,’ the station porter said, opening the door of the carriage. ‘Can I take your case?’

      ‘No thank you, I can manage.’ Ena hitched the string of her gasmask box further onto her shoulder and, holding her handbag in one hand, the suitcase of work in the other, struggled up the steps.

      Standing in the doorway of the train, she saw Mr Silcott running across the platform. She needed to attract his attention so, putting the case down gently, she waved out of the window. He didn’t see her. Shielding his face with one hand and holding the brim of his hat with the other, he turned his back to the wind, wrenched open the door at the other end of the carriage and disappeared inside.

     Ena picked up the suitcase and heaved it along the narrow corridor, resting it every now and then on her knees to peer through the glass in the doors. In the last compartment she spotted Mr Silcott sitting by the window reading his newspaper.

      Breathing a sigh of relief, Ena pulled open the door. ‘Thank goodness I’ve found you.’ Hauling the suitcase into the compartment she stood it down beneath the window, flung off her handbag and gasmask and, exhaling loudly, dropped onto the nearest seat. ‘Oh!’

      The man looked up from his newspaper, his fair eyebrows raised with surprise. ‘Hello.’

      ‘Hello?’ Ena felt her cheeks blush with embarrassment. The man sitting opposite her was not her boss. Ena studied his face. His square jaw, blond hair and pale grey-blue eyes looked familiar. ‘Excuse me, have we met?’

      ‘Yes, some time ago. You were with a fair-haired young woman. I was going to my company’s head office in Bletchley.’

      The only female Ena had travelled to Bletchley with was Freda. She traced back in her mind the times she and Freda had travelled to Bletchley. Then she remembered him talking to Freda. Distracted, concerned about Mr Silcott, Ena nodded.

      ‘You look worried; is there anything I can do to help?’

      ‘No, it’s all right. I saw my boss get on the train at this end of the carriage and, as this compartment is the nearest one to the door, I thought he would be in here.’

      ‘What does your boss look like?’

        There was something about the man that Ena didn’t like, but she needed to know if he’d seen Mr Silcott. ‘He’s in his mid-fifties, about five feet ten inches tall. black hair with grey in it, and he’s wearing a camel overcoat and brown trilby.’

      The man shook his head. ‘Sorry.’

      Ena blew out her cheeks. ‘He’s got my ticket. I’d better go and find him.’

      ‘If you want to leave your case here while you look for him. I’ll keep my eye on it for you–’

      ‘I can’t do that. Thank you anyway,’ she said, picking up her belongings. Ena walked the short distance back to the next compartment. Mr Silcott wasn’t in there, or the next. She described him to everyone she met. No one had seen him.

Excerpts from Foxden Acres. Book 1, Chapter 1, The Dudley Sisters Saga.

Meet Margot, Claire and Ena in Bess Dudley’s story about friendships, loyalty, love and loss – and starting again.

 


An excerpt from Foxden Acres, Chapter One.

Bess fled down the stairs and ran across the marble hall to the front door.  She turned the handle, flung open the door and was through it in a flash.  She spun on her heels and pulled the large brass knob, until she heard the door click shut.  Holding onto the doorknob to steady herself, she caught her breath.  ‘Done it!’

     ‘Done what?’ someone standing behind her demanded. 

      Bess froze.  A wave of panic went through her.  She needed to compose herself – and quickly.  She lifted her head, stood as tall as she could, and turned to face her inquisitor. 

     ‘Who are you and what are you doing?’ he barked. 

     Bess opened her mouth, but was too shocked to speak.  The man standing in front of her was James Foxden, her brother Tom’s childhood friend and heir to the Foxden Estate.  She made a dash for the semi-circle of stone steps that would take her down to the drive, but James Foxden sidestepped and blocked her passage.  He threw down his cigarette, and without taking his eyes off her, ground it beneath the sole of his shoe.  ‘I asked you a question.  Who are you and what are you doing here?’ 

     ‘That’s two questions…  Which would you like me to answer first?’  

     James Foxden didn’t reply but kept looking at her, the frown lines on his forehead deepening.   ‘Just a minute…?’ 

     Bess watched the expression on James Foxden’s face turn from a scowl to a look of surprise. Then he roared with laughter.  ‘It’s young Elizabeth, isn’t it?  Tom’s sister?’  He extended his hand in formal greeting.

     Bess’s eyes flashed.  ‘Yes, I am Tom’s sister.’  Taking his outstretched hand, she thought how full of himself Tom’s old friend had become.  ‘Bess Dudley, how do you do?  Your father invited me to study in the library,’ she exaggerated, ‘and I lost track of the time.  Goodbye.’ 

    ‘Don’t go.  I haven’t seen you for years, not since I moved to live in London.  I hear you’re down there too, at a Teachers’ Training College.  How are the long and lonely corridors of academia?  How are your parents, your sisters?  How’s Tom?  Father tells me he’s doing a terrific job in Suffolk.’ 

     Bess wasn’t sure whether James Foxden was being patronising or whether he was genuinely interested in her family.  She gave him the benefit of the doubt.  ‘My parents are well, thank you, so is Tom.  He’ll be at home now; he’s here for the New Year.’

     ‘Good, perhaps we can–?’  At that moment an elegant young woman with black hair styled in a fashionable bob, wearing an evening gown of cherry-red velvet, appeared at the door – and James let go of Bess’s hand.

     Acknowledging Bess with a smile, more polite than friendly, the young woman looked coquettishly at James. ‘James, you promised me this dance.’  Then, without waiting for a reply, she half-walked, half-waltzed back to the ballroom, but didn’t enter.  She stood in the doorway, swaying to the music. 

     Bess turned to leave.  ‘Do you have to go?’ James asked. ‘Come and join the party.’ 

     ‘Thank you, but I’m not dressed for a party.’  Bess held her only winter coat firmly in place so the simple grey shift beneath it couldn’t be seen.  ‘Besides, my parents are expecting me.’

     ‘Of course.  Wish your family a happy New Year and give Tom my best.  Tell him to come up when he has time and we’ll go to the Crown for a drink – it would be good to catch up.’  James stood aside to let Bess pass.  ‘Will you be safe walking home on your own?’ he asked as she drew level.

     Her heart was thumping so loudly in her chest, she felt sure he’d hear it. ‘Yes, I’ll be fine.  I love walking home on nights like this,’ she said, gazing up at the full moon in the clear winter sky.  Sensing James was watching her, she brought her focus back to earth and for the longest moment found herself looking into his eyes. 

     Embarrassed by the intimacy of the situation, she said, ‘Happy New Year,’ which broke the spell, and she ran down the steps. 

     ‘Happy New Year… 

     By the way,’ he called after her, ‘what was it you’d done?’

     ‘Done?’

     ‘Yes, when you left the Hall you said, “Done it!”’

     ‘Oh, that!’  Bess didn’t stop.  ‘I’d left without being seen.’

     ‘But you haven’t…’ His words were lost in the cold night air.

An excerpt from Foxden Acres, Chapter One.

Bess fled down the stairs and ran across the marble hall to the front door.  She turned the handle, flung open the door and was through it in a flash.  She spun on her heels and pulled the large brass knob, until she heard the door click shut.  Holding onto the doorknob to steady herself, she caught her breath.  ‘Done it!’

     ‘Done what?’ someone standing behind her demanded. 

      Bess froze.  A wave of panic went through her.  She needed to compose herself – and quickly.  She lifted her head, stood as tall as she could, and turned to face her inquisitor. 

     ‘Who are you and what are you doing?’ he barked. 

     Bess opened her mouth, but was too shocked to speak.  The man standing in front of her was James Foxden, her brother Tom’s childhood friend and heir to the Foxden Estate.  She made a dash for the semi-circle of stone steps that would take her down to the drive, but James Foxden sidestepped and blocked her passage.  He threw down his cigarette, and without taking his eyes off her, ground it beneath the sole of his shoe.  ‘I asked you a question.  Who are you and what are you doing here?’ 

     ‘That’s two questions…  Which would you like me to answer first?’  

     James Foxden didn’t reply but kept looking at her, the frown lines on his forehead deepening.   ‘Just a minute…?’ 

     Bess watched the expression on James Foxden’s face turn from a scowl to a look of surprise. Then he roared with laughter.  ‘It’s young Elizabeth, isn’t it?  Tom’s sister?’  He extended his hand in formal greeting.

     Bess’s eyes flashed.  ‘Yes, I am Tom’s sister.’  Taking his outstretched hand, she thought how full of himself Tom’s old friend had become.  ‘Bess Dudley, how do you do?  Your father invited me to study in the library,’ she exaggerated, ‘and I lost track of the time.  Goodbye.’ 

    ‘Don’t go.  I haven’t seen you for years, not since I moved to live in London.  I hear you’re down there too, at a Teachers’ Training College.  How are the long and lonely corridors of academia?  How are your parents, your sisters?  How’s Tom?  Father tells me he’s doing a terrific job in Suffolk.’ 

     Bess wasn’t sure whether James Foxden was being patronising or whether he was genuinely interested in her family.  She gave him the benefit of the doubt.  ‘My parents are well, thank you, so is Tom.  He’ll be at home now; he’s here for the New Year.’

     ‘Good, perhaps we can–?’  At that moment an elegant young woman with black hair styled in a fashionable bob, wearing an evening gown of cherry-red velvet, appeared at the door – and James let go of Bess’s hand.

     Acknowledging Bess with a smile, more polite than friendly, the young woman looked coquettishly at James. ‘James, you promised me this dance.’  Then, without waiting for a reply, she half-walked, half-waltzed back to the ballroom, but didn’t enter.  She stood in the doorway, swaying to the music. 

     Bess turned to leave.  ‘Do you have to go?’ James asked. ‘Come and join the party.’ 

     ‘Thank you, but I’m not dressed for a party.’  Bess held her only winter coat firmly in place so the simple grey shift beneath it couldn’t be seen.  ‘Besides, my parents are expecting me.’

     ‘Of course.  Wish your family a happy New Year and give Tom my best.  Tell him to come up when he has time and we’ll go to the Crown for a drink – it would be good to catch up.’  James stood aside to let Bess pass.  ‘Will you be safe walking home on your own?’ he asked as she drew level.

     Her heart was thumping so loudly in her chest, she felt sure he’d hear it. ‘Yes, I’ll be fine.  I love walking home on nights like this,’ she said, gazing up at the full moon in the clear winter sky.  Sensing James was watching her, she brought her focus back to earth and for the longest moment found herself looking into his eyes. 

     Embarrassed by the intimacy of the situation, she said, ‘Happy New Year,’ which broke the spell, and she ran down the steps. 

     ‘Happy New Year… 

     By the way,’ he called after her, ‘what was it you’d done?’

     ‘Done?’

     ‘Yes, when you left the Hall you said, “Done it!”’

     ‘Oh, that!’  Bess didn’t stop.  ‘I’d left without being seen.’

     ‘But you haven’t…’ His words were lost in the cold night air.