Destination unknown – Agatha Christie
“Yes,” he said, “there is that. One can’t tell really.”
The older man went on with a kind of machine gun volley abruptness.
“Reports from Rome; reports from Touraine; seen on the Riviera; noticed in Antwerp; definitely identified in Oslo; positively seen in Biarritz; observed behaving suspiciously in Strasburg; seen on the beach at Ostend with a glamorous blonde; noticed walking in the streets in Brussels with a greyhound! Hasn’t been seen yet in the Zoo with his arm round a zebra, but I daresay that will come!”
“You’ve no particular fancy yourself, Wharton? Personally I had hopes of the Antwerp report, but it hasn’t led to anything. Of course by now…” the young man stopped speaking and seemed to go into a coma. Presently he came out of it again and said cryptically, “Yes, probably… and yet – I wonder?”
Colonel Wharton sat down abruptly on the arm of a chair.
“But we’ve got to find out,” he said insistently. “We’ve got to break the back of all this how and why and where? You can’t lose a tame scientist every month or so and have no idea how they go or why they go or where! Is it where we think – or isn’t it? We’ve always taken it for granted that it is, but now I’m not so sure. You’ve read all the last dope on Betterton from America?”
The man behind the desk nodded.
“Usual Left Wing tendencies at the period when everyone had them. Nothing of a lasting or permanent nature as far as can be found out. Did sound work before the war though nothing spectacular. When Mannheim escaped from Germany Betterton was assigned as Assistant to him, and ended by marrying Mannheim’s daughter. After Mannheim’s death he carried on, on his own, and did brilliant work. He leaped into fame with the startling discovery of ZE Fission. ZE Fission was a brilliant and absolutely revolutionary discovery. It put Betterton absolutely tops. He was all set for a brilliant career over there, but his wife had died soon after their marriage and he was all broken up over it. He came to England. He has been at Harwell for the last eighteen months. Just six months ago he married again.”
“Anything there?” asked Wharton sharply.
The other shook his head.
“Not that we can find out. She’s the daughter of a local solicitor. Worked in an insurance office before her marriage. No violent political affinities so far as we’ve been able to discover.”
“ZE Fission,” said Colonel Wharton gloomily, with distaste. “What they mean by all these terms beats me. I’m old fashioned. I never really even visualised a molecule, but here they are nowadays splitting up the universe! Atom bombs, Nuclear fission, ZE fission, and all the rest of it. And Betterton was one of the splitters in chief!