The year 1942 saw many things change in beleaguered England. Evacuations and relocations, combined with deaths due to bombing and absences due to enlistment, robbed many villages of most of their young males. However, even in war the British love of sport held firm. In the village of Bletchey in Buckinghamshire, two little boys scurried across a field in imagined rugby glories.
The fair-haired youth Paul turned to his darker friend Brad and said, “This place is dead boring! Nothin’ ever happens here!”
Brad grinned. “You won’t say that when the Nazi troops come and we have to lead the Home Guard in driving them out!”
Paul frowned. “You’re daft! The only thing even close to exciting around here is the Burham Gang!”
Brad grew silent. He didn’t like to even think about the group of roughnecks who terrorized all of the village. “Ah, those blokes aren’t so much,” he said. “They should be fightin’ Axis like your brother! They just stay here and act tough ’cause of their pull with the local draft board.”
“I bet ya wouldn’t say that if Bullyboy was around,” Paul whispered in reference to the beer-swigging lout who led the group of thugs.
“He’s a right swine, he is,” said a pale Brad. “Me sister Amanda can’t stand the sight of him. He worries her all the time ’cause he fancies her! And with me old man dead, no one can stop him!”
The two became silent and began to play kick the can across the field.
In the local pub called Campion’s Crest, the blonde beauty named Amanda Allingham rolled up her sleeves in order to keep her clean white blouse out of the spilled ale she was wiping up.
“‘Manda! Would ya be ever so kind as to refill me pint?” asked a grizzled old man.
The blonde girl turned with a smile as she flounced across the pub, her blonde curls bouncing. “I think you have had enough, Gramps,” she said.
Before the old man could reply, in came a loud group led by a wiry, dirty man named Swithin. “Hey, luscious! Leave the geezer and serve me somethin’ warm,” he sneered. “I’ll be seein’ Bullyboy later, so you better play nice!”
Amanda grew pale and tried to serve the thugs as quickly and from as far a distance as possible.
“Sit on me lap, lass!” whined the fat man sitting next to Swithin. Loud laughter rang out through the pub as the gang pulled Amanda off her feet.
“Let the girl go. She clearly doesn’t fancy your company, and I can’t say I blame her!” said a soft-spoken blond man who had staggered inside, covered with dust from a long walk. He spoke softly, with a refined and educated manner to his American accent.
“You want to make us, Yank?” sneered Swithin.
The American spun and yanked the wiry thug to his feet with one gesture, even as he elbowed the fat friend in the neck.
A swift left hook knocked the dirty Swithin cold as he tripped the fat man and dropped a beer pitcher over his head. “Get out. You shouldn’t drink so much, anyway!” he said as the crowd stared in awe.
The blond American helped Amanda Allingham up with a gentleness and grace belying by the explosive skill at combat he had just shown. “Are you hurt, Miss Allingham?” he asked.
She smiled her thanks. “No, thank you. How do you know my name?”
“Your family crest on the blouse,” he said. “I recall the Allingham escutcheon from a book I read on heraldry.”
“Ah, this? It’s a bit of nonsense. We may be related to that noble house, but we certainly lack their money. That’s why we take boarders. Would you be looking for a place to stay? You are not from around here, I wager?” As she smiled, her eyes danced.
“No. I am from… elsewhere. I could use a place to stay, but I seem to be short on funds. Could I work off the cost of a night or two of room and board?” he asked.
“What are you good at?” she teased.
He spoke with a confidence that was as certain as it was free of any trace of vanity. “I believe I can do many useful things,” he replied.
“I’ll lead you to our house. I get off at ten. OK?” she said. He nodded.
The old men were tossing darts, and Amanda’s grandfather waved him over. “Lad, I saw what ye did for ‘Mandy. How about a pint on me?” he asked.
“Thanks. I don’t drink, but I’d be glad to sit with you while we wait on Amanda,” he said as the darts flew toward a battered target. “She is your grandchild?”
“That she is, and a beauty, too, eh? Are you single?” he said with a wink.
The American grinned and sat down with the old men, but he was not being evasive; he honestly could not answer the question. He recalled things like the Allingham crest or even the style of design of the old pub, but for the life of him, he could not remember his own name or why he was in this village. He only felt this inner impulse that urged him to fight against a black veil that seemed to close off his mind from something he needed to do that was of vital importance. “Of national security depending upon you — perhaps the entire war effort itself,” seemed to ring in his head in the golden voice of Winston Chruchill himself.
As Amanda joined them with her coat in hand, they prepared to leave.
“Drat! I forgot to leave the darts!” muttered her grandfather.
The American effortlessly picked them up and, in mid-stride for the door, whirled and sent all four to thud directly in the tiny center of the bullseye on the target.
“What is your name?” asked Amanda as they fluffed the pillows on the cot in the spare room of the rundown Allingham cottage.
“Campion,” replied the blond man.
“Go on! Like the pub, you mean!” giggled Amanda.
“Right. I was teasing, but why not call me that for now?” he replied.
Amanda drew closer, and her eyes darted merrily as she whispered in tones of mock delight, “Oooh! Top secret! Need-to-know basis only, eh?” she said playfully.
“Could you humor me and just accept that answer for now?” he replied.
She nodded and started to walk out when she turned and said cheerfully, “If you need some help here with whatever it is that brought you all the way from America, then I’m the girl for you! I’d make a proper second-in-command!”
He shook hands with the girl and said, “I’m sure you would.”
Laying back on the cot, he fought fatigue and a painful black veil that seemed to smother his memory and theatened to rob him of awareness itself. “I’ve been hurt, yet no swelling, no frontal lobe damage. Nothing to indicate concussion around my eyes,” he said with the prompt skill and assurance of a medically adept man.
“Amnesia can be temporary or can last for long durations. I know I need to do something here, but what could it be?” he said as he sat up and put his head in his hands. “Hands strong, yet limber with a musician or sculptor’s dexterity, and capable of violence when needed,” he noted almost clinically. “Who am I? That question may spell the difference between victory and defeat for the Allies,” he said softly as he fought a battle within against his own injured senses.
The next day he walked out to the field where he spotted Brad at play. “Hullo! I hear you saved my sister last night from the Burham mob. That’s all right of you!” said the smiling boy.
“She is a delight. Any man would be glad to risk all for her,” he said.
“Amanda? Yeah, but she can be a bit spoiled at times!” said the brother with all of a brother’s assurance that his own sister was not so great.
“What are you playing? Cricket?” asked the man calling himself Campion.
“Righto! How’d ya know? I thought you Yanks couldn’t tell cricket from rugby!” said Brad.
“I have played a bit of both in my time. You need to hold the bat a bit higher. Turn your wrist just so,” he said, bending down over the boy.
“Cor! You do everything well!” chimed in a happy Brad. “Gramps said you made four bullseyes without tryin’! Amanda said you fought like a knight of old!”
Campion worked with Brad and Paul the rest of the day, then waited for the evening meal to end before he could really get to work.
Amanda’s grandmother smiled as the dashing American guest brought in a dish he had prepared. “Lah! He cooks like a right chef!” she said.
“I just want to pull my weight,” he said later as they ate. “I may be leaving soon. I need to pull myself together and get my job done.”
Amanda gazed across the table at him between bites. She had a puppy’s look of love on her pretty face.
“Amanda, have you any idea about what makes Buckinghamshire special? Aside from your Granny’s cooking and your beauty, of course!” he asked suddenly as they walked alone behind the cottage later that evening.
She smiled and said, “You talk like a poet, and you seem so good with kids. Brad fairly talked himself to death braggin’ about how you taught him and Paul so much!”
He gazed at the girl and wondered just how old she was. He wondered at his own age, too. “Amanda, I must say something. I don’t know who I am. I can’t…” he began, when his keen ears caught the approach of footsteps.
“‘Ere now! What’s some fancy American doin’ with me girl?” croaked a bullnecked thug who appeared from the fields and cracked his knuckles.
“Bullyboy! Oh, no!” cried Amanda.
Campion stepped in front of her protectively and said, “I’ve heard much about you. Your gang thinks it can threaten and bully everyone here about because most men are in the service, and you and your pals have connections with the local draft board. That ends here. You stay away from Amanda and leave the rest of the villagers alone, or I’ll personally make you regret the sad fate of creation that you were ever born,” he said with steely determination.
Bullyboy launched himself at the smaller man, only to miss when the American sidestepped and connected with three short, snapped blows.
He danced aside again and clipped the British thug in the nose. As blood spouted, Bullyboy roared and tried to choke the blond. However, with a polish born of years of experience, he dodged and blocked all the thick, heavyset man’s punches before dropping him cold with one well-placed punch.
The thin Swithin and fat Burke watched, only to step back when their leader fell to defeat before the blond. Brad and Paul cheered, as did other village lads who gathered and saw the infamous Bullyboy get a sound thrashing.
The two thugs carried off their fallen boss in shame while Amanda embraced Campion and kissed him on the cheek. He hesitated for a minute, then kissed her on the lips.
After that sudden, impulsive kiss, he led Amanda back to their first topic. “I was trying to tell you that I can’t recall my name,” he said, holding her. “I was hurt somehow. I have no idea who I am or why I can do these things. I just know that I am here for a reason. A question mark! That keeps popping up in my mind. Does that suggest anything to you?”
Amanda thought for a minute. “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t know why you came, but I think you’re wonderful! Could you stay here? Could I work with you on this mission? It must involve the Park!”
He froze. “The park? That I don’t understand. What park? There is no public park in all of Buckinghamshire.”
Amanda smiled up at him adoringly. “Not a park park, silly. A house called Park — Bletchley Park. We don’t know what goes on there, but it is under use by the government. Hush-hush stuff, don’t you know!”
He grinned. “That has to be it. I can sense that is where I am needed… for some purpose.”
Amanda held his hand. “But you think someone hurt you, and you can’t remember what it is you need to do at the Park. You could just stay here with us, or let me go scout around there first.”
He shook his head. “‘But all the pleasure that I find is to maintain a quiet mind. My wealth is health and perfect ease; my conscience clear my chief defense; I neither seek by bribes to please, Nor by deceit to breed offense: thus I do live; thus will I die; would all did so as well as I!’ That is from Sir Edward Dyer, and in spite of the code of ethics, of fairness that it speaks of, I cannot say I have a quiet mind! I can’t recall anything about my mission or my accident, but I must go there, and if I fail, then I feel like the Allied cause may well be lost.”
They sat together as night fell, and he fought to free his mind of the mental block that held him a prisoner in a jail far more frustrating to this particular hero than any cell would ever be.