A/N: This is a very very AU Thorn Birds fic. I may have changed the real version of historical events and such but this is fan fic so please bear with me. Any mistakes are my own as I do not have a beta. With that being said, please read, enjoy and review!
July 20th 1941
"You sit tight here, Meggie. We'll be back before you know it," said Jim, grinning despite the gravity of their situation. He and Patsy were about to depart for their barracks in Lakenheath, just seventy miles northeast of London.
She rolled her eyes with mock exasperation at the twin's optimistic faces.
"I will be just fine. It's the two of you I'm worried about, what with the ferocity of these airborne attacks from the Germans. Promise me you'll be careful, please."
Both replied affirmatively for the thousandth time before they lumbered out of the apartment and down the stairs. Just before getting into their car, Meggie kissed them both goodbye. She knew not to spout anymore frivolous farewells. There was simply no way to say goodbye to a loved one if one was not sure they would ever see them again. Meggie kept silent and waved, hoping with all of her heart that her brothers would survive their tour and return home to Australia. The blitz had just begun in London and morale amongst the civilian population was steadily declining. Meggie watched as the car disappeared around the corner until she could no longer see the youthful, smiling faces of her brothers.
It was only noon, but Meggie had no appetite. She had made a habit of missing meals and it showed in the way her clothes hung a little loosely off of her already slender frame. Anxiety that she thought she learned to control still dictated her food intake.
She went back inside the apartment and decided to try and eat something when she heard a faint rustling sound coming from the second bedroom. Her blood froze, as it was prone to doing in times of stress, and she proceeded slowly into the apartment, silently reaching for the small dagger she always kept sheathed in a garter around her thigh beneath her dress.
"Ah, there you are, my dear."
Meggie breathed an audible sigh of relief when she caught sight of the intruder in her home. It was Virginia Hall who managed to visit Meggie at the most unexpected times. Meggie greeted the older woman respectfully and invited her to sit down on the sofa.
"Do you have something for me?" Meggie asked tentatively.
"Yes. You are aware of the crowning of Pope Pius XII I assume?"
When Meggie nodded, Hall continued.
"I have received intelligence that reports of His Holiness's intentions of throwing Il Duce a luxuriant gala of sorts for his birthday. The gala is to be held in Vatican City on July twenty seventh. I have orders for you to attend this gala under an alias."
Meggie swallowed imperceptibly. She felt her blood rush with adrenaline at the thought of being sent into the field, it had been a long time of waiting and silence since her last mission.
"We want you to eliminate Roberto Farinacci," At this point Hall had taken out a leather portfolio and multiple sheets of paper including a photograph of Farinacci.
Meggie glanced at the photo and analyzed what she saw. He was a middle aged man with a cruel face and deep set coal eyes. She repressed a shudder when she thought of his reputation; he was a brutal and violent man responsible for the deaths of many as Farinacci was the head of the Fascist paramilitary groups known as 'Blackshirts'.
"Once he is gone, we predict Mussolini will dismantle the Blackshirts for good because he's focused so much more with OVRA. He has always thought Farinacci's methods are too extreme and will be glad of the riddance."
"But how do you propose I execute him? I can't exactly waltz up to him and shoot him in the middle of a black tie affair."
"That's why I brought this." Hall handed Meggie a small brown box.
"Inside it you will find a pill that will induce a severe heart attack. His death will arouse no suspicion of foul play since his diet consists of many rich foods. He will hardly be missed."
"However, before you eliminate him, you must gain access to Farinacci's residence in Rome. Use any means necessary to invite yourself to his home, lure him into thinking you are letting him take you to bed after the gala. Slip the pill into his drink when he is not paying attention and then find his study. We want you to retrieve any documents that may be of use, strategic maps, plans, letters, anything you see that may interest us."
"Yes ma'am." She replied carefully, the information rolling around in her brain.
"We are to leave by six o'clock tonight. We will arrive in Rome by the middle of the week approximately, if all goes well."
She did not need to elaborate on what she meant by the latter statement. Travelling great distances was always a challenge especially since the blitz began. Going through multiple countries guaranteed that Meggie would need at least three aliases.
"You will go on without me from Milan. I have unfinished business there." Hall added mysteriously.
Meggie dared not ask what that business may be. She had long since learned not to question her superiors.
"Any questions, my dear?"
Meggie's eyes danced as she replied, "Do you think Farinacci likes a woman in red or gold?"
Hall shared a rare laugh with her protégée.
"Meggie, most men would die to even talk to a girl like you."
Later on that evening when she was finally alone, Meggie allowed herself time to sit and simply think about her upcoming tasks. She had all of the papers containing information on Farinacci and his house spread out on the bed in front of her. She was proud to have memorized the floor plan of his house and to have brushed up on her basic Italian.
The gala itself was to take place in Vatican City, a place which harbored a man Meggie had been able to put out of her mind for the better part of two years. She sat with her knees pulled up to her chest on her bed. Would he be present at the gala as well? Meggie cursed, she should have warned Hall that her cover might be compromised if he recognized her.
On the other hand, she had perfected all of her aliases to a tee. If anyone could recognize her as the simple girl from Drogheda then she deserved to be caught.
Meggie smiled sadly, wondering what her mother Fee would think if she knew what her daughter was really involved in. Fee might not have shown emotion outwardly but Meggie knew her mother would be shocked. Her own two brothers whom she lived with did not even know of her job as a spy. They believed she worked as a maid for a newlywed couple and that's how she earned enough to pay the rent for their flat.
Archbishop Ralph de Bricassart was a name that used to cross her mind frequently. Not any longer. With every man she seduced for the cause of the Allied forces, the once cherished memory of the Archbishop faded until her love for him became just a shadow of what it used to be.
It was the perfect job, really. When Meggie came to Europe she had no purpose. She filled her days with mindless tasks, cooking, cleaning and waiting for Jim and Patsy to return from duty. She had no interests in making any friends, no real hobbies. She was still reeling from the emotions she felt after leaving Matlock Island. Those were the days when Ralph ruled over her every waking thought.
That was when she was approached by an acquaintance of Jim's from the RAAF. Australian intelligence wanted to offer her a position as a spy.
She recalled that she laughed in their faces. After a moment or two she realized they were serious. They explained to her that the risks were unbelievably high but the reward was even higher. Any espionage gained would undoubtedly benefit the Allied resistance in Europe. She would be one of many female covert agents based in Britain, but the chances of her being assigned to other countries were fairly great too.
Clearly, Meggie agreed. She had nothing to lose after all. Luke O'Neill was back in Australia, blissfully unaware of the turmoil brewing in this part of the world. Fee and everyone on Drogheda did not seem to care for her situation. She had no one to disappoint, and no one to return home to. She would do this because it would save lives, because it was something that would ensure the defeat of evil men.
Her training was a rude awakening. Meggie learned very quickly that the world was a pitiless place. Her mentor was Virginia Hall, a shrewd and intelligent woman who knew exactly what she was doing. Meggie learned to fight and think like a man, to dance and flirt like a courtesan and to anticipate her potential enemies all from this woman.
Fast forward eleven months and she was on her first mission: discovering the location of a pack of U boats in the Atlantic. She was ordered to get into a German military official's home in Berlin to find the coordinates of the U boat fleet. Her first alias was Elsa Reiner and she posed as a prostitute to insinuate herself into her target's life. In spite of all of the adrenaline pumping through her veins, she succeeded in obtaining the information and passed it back to her superiors. The U boats were ambushed and destroyed, allowing merchant convoys carrying supplies from the United States to pass more easily to Great Britain.
Since then, Meggie became whomever she needed to be to achieve her endgame. Her sensibility became stronger but she learned to compartmentalize what she was going through. It was this skill that allowed her to tuck her love for Ralph away when she needed to.
But now that she was heading into the very territory that threatened her emotional state, Meggie found it even more difficult to refrain from thinking of him. She thought of him with a mix of marked hatred and profound adoration. This would not do. This would not do at all.
"Meghann? Are you ready?"
Hall stood at the door, an inquisitive look on her normally stern face.
"Yes, ma'am. I apologize for my inattention."
"No matter. It's time to go."
Meggie nodded and got up. She tossed all of the papers on Farinacci into the fireplace where they were incinerated completely. She took hold of her single suitcase and followed Hall out of the flat and into the awaiting car. Staring out the window, Meggie wondered if it would be the last time she'd ever see her building as she tended to before every impending mission.
July 27th 1941
The night air was heavy and thick, there was no reprieve from the stifling humidity. Most of the guests were sipping cool drinks, a few were dancing, but most were socializing in large groups all over St. Peter's Square. Il Duce was presumably somewhere in the crowd but Meggie had not seen him other than when he gave his thank you speech at the beginning of the party. She spotted Farinacci fairly easily, he seemed to be the center of attention.
It was definitely the grandest birthday celebration Meggie had ever seen. Mary Carson's birthday was laughable compared to Il Duce's. There was an orchestra who supplied the evening's music and the guests included all of Italy's finest. Meggie made sure to dress extra carefully for the occasion. She wore a red dress that was very form fitting. It was strapless and backless and ended at her shin. Her red gold tresses were arranged in a loose chignon and her lips were painted with an alluring rouge.
Meggie got Farinacci's attention the way she knew would immediately attract his scrutiny. She ordered him a scotch and soda and watched as the waiter served him a drink he didn't ask for. He looked mildly irritated until the waiter pointed out it was "From the lady, over there."
She grinned invitingly when Farinacci's entire countenance changed. He dragged his eyes from hers down her body and then back up none too subtly and accepted the scotch and soda from the waiter. He abandoned his clique to approach Meggie who leaned against a pillar alone.
"To what do I owe this thoughtful drink, Miss…?"
"Simonetti. Sophia Simonetti."
Coal eyes widened.
"So you are the painter we hear so much about. Il Duce is an avid admirer of your portraits."
Meggie flicked her eyes from his to his lips and back. There was nothing like the satisfaction of playing a stupid man, it was almost too simple.
"I thank you for your veiled albeit sincere compliment."
This drew a boisterous chuckle from the man. He shifted his weight and leaned in closer to her, until she could smell the alcohol on his breath.
"You are a beautiful woman. Surely you must have some sort of ulterior motive."
"Perhaps I wanted to dance with you. You looked like you know how to hold such a woman."
Again, he laughed at her audacity and motioned for a waiter to take away his empty glass. A waiter scurried forward to take the glass and Farinacci stepped back from her, extending his hand like a gentleman.
"Would you care to dance, Miss Simonetti?"
She stood straight and accepted.
"I would love to, Signore Farinacci."
He led her to the middle of the dance floor and pulled her close. The orchestra played a lilting waltz. Meggie knew Farinacci was intent on having her then, his eyes kept wandering down to her décolleté and she could tell he was growing restless. They could not leave just yet though, for the night was still young.
"Tell me, Sophia, how is it that you know who I am?"
"I'd have thought anyone would know Il Duce's most important official."
After every time she spoke, she could see the growing lust in Farinacci's eyes flare up. Hall had taught her well, Meggie was the consummate seductress.
They continued to make small talk but as the minutes passed, Farinacci was more focused on running his hand lightly up and down the bare skin of her back. They soon stopped talking all together and Meggie was subjected to his roaming hands. She ignored the tingles of disgust that ran down her spine, telling herself that in a matter of hours this man would be dead by her hand.
It was successful. The newspapers reported Roberto Farinacci's death as a tragedy, that he succumbed to a fatal heart attack the night of Il Duce's birthday celebration. There were no questions asked and Il Duce did away with the blackshirts as was the predicted outcome.
Meggie waited in a safehouse for three days after the event. She received no word from her superiors until the fourth day. It was delivered by a young paper boy, who ran as soon as he passed her the paper.
Meggie unrolled it and found a small slip of paper containing a message written in code. She quickly deciphered it and was disturbed by the meaning.
"DISCOVERED. GET OUT."
A/N:Please tell me what you think! This is one of the craziest fics I've ever written. Also, Virgina Hall was a real spy during WWII, I did not make her up.