~~~ A fictional tale ~~~
It was on fire!
As the taxi cab deposited Rhea (aka “Gatekeeper”) on the sidewalk to the prestigious tour Montparnasse, the planned home office of her new covert team, one of its upper floors was on fire.
Unexpectedly, a loud blast erupted from the burning window’s fiery plumes accompanied by the strong rotten-eggs odor of mercaptan. Emergency responders who were already onsite battling the building’s blaze, scampered from beneath their cranes, ladders and hoses, as glass chards jettisoned from the edifice’s windows like New Year’s confetti in Times Square.
The blast which appeared to be from either the twentieth or twenty-first floor shook the sidewalk where Rhea stood.
Just then, Rhea’s newly assigned encrypted cellphone rang. It was her superior, Europol Paris’ Covert Branch Chief (aka “Thor”).
He said, “Welcome to Paris, Gatekeeper!”
Rhea replied, “Thank you Sir. Are you aware that there is an emergency situation right now at ‘the nest’?”
Thor replied, “Yes, I have seen the news coverage. Nonetheless you have your orders. You have been given access to a great deal of resources. Use them as you see fit.”
Rhea replied, “Understood, Sir.”
Then, Thor ended the call.
Rhea turned around to the smiling face and beaming intelligent eyes of her taxi cab driver standing behind her. She assumed that he perhaps, wanted to offer her a ride back to her hotel. But, she was mistaken.
Instead, her taxi driver shook her hand and introduced himself,
“Please to meet yah boss, call me Avatar, good on yah for keeping your cool with the big boss there, he is fair but stern; A no nonsense kind of guy — so, would you like to met the rest of the team?”
Rhea, amused and surprised that he got all those words out in one breath replied, “Pleased to meet you Avatar. And, just call me Gatekeeper.”
He smiled adding a jolly sort of laugh and said, “Right you are, Gatekeeper. A real pleasure.”
Back in the taxi cab, Avatar gave Rhea a small package and said, “This is your life-line. It’s a wireless earpiece and fits almost invisibly in the ear.”
Rhea asked, “And – it’s range?”
Avatar replied, “Megahertz, our communications officer whom you will meet, monitors them using satellite uplinks. Range is the entire city, except the catacombs of course.”
Rhea, looking at the miniature object said, “Cutting edge! Amazing!”
Immediately as they pulled out into Paris traffic onto its busy narrow streets, another car suddenly followed them from the shadows.
They both noticed the vehicle following them surreptitiously. Rhea spoke first, “I think there is someone back there.”
Avatar replied, “Yes, the grey Peugeot 308, top speed at about 250 km, joined us at the fire scene. Looks professional. He is not keeping too close. Rival agency, I would say, keeping tabs on the competition.”
Rhea had read her team’s personnel files. She wondered why as a highly skilled transporter, with eleven years experience and numerous commendations, why Avatar had turned down several promotions.
As they wound their way through the sunny Paris streets, Avatar seemingly, made little effort to evaded the car following them.
Suddenly, they rounded the corner at Avenue Junot with a jolt. Then Avatar, with a continued calm demeanor floored the taxi-cab’s gas pedal, the engine responded with Le Mans-like performance. Rhea could not believe her eyes and ears at the scene ahead. A dead end street, with a brick wall at its far end — coming up fast, as the taxi cab’s final destination.
Miraculously, to Rhea’s gasping surprise, they drove through the brick wall unscathed. It was an illusion.
As the taxi cab drove through the “wall,” they arrived on the other side, into a large Victorian garden and similarly styled house. It was like stepping into London (yet, they were still in Paris).
Behind them, the “brick wall” reappeared in the same instance as an iron drawbridge closed the aperture. Its door was entirely of reinforced steel and its chains were pieces of rebar, inexplicable fashioned into links. In a herculean feat of engineering, the entire drawbridge, of clearly immense weight, closed in silence in the blink of an eye.
Avatar, still as calm as ever, turned around and looked at Rhea catching her breath in the back seat, and said, “Bienvenue à Paris, Gatekeeper, welcome to our new “nest,” as you no doubt have noted, our other proposed location was mysteriously scuttled. Come on in and meet the rest of the team.”
Meanwhile, about thirty meters away, three gentlemen waved, greeting Avatar from the front verandah of the Victorian style house. Avatar waved back communicating the all clear through his earpiece.
In response to Rhea’s puzzled expression, Avatar explained, “As a courtesy, rival agency teams follow one another around, to a point. Of course, not all information is shared.”
Rhea interjected, “I see, like the location of this place, for example.”
Avatar nodding in agreement said, “Come, let me introduce you.”
Just as the two made several short steps towards the house, from behind them, an armored truck outfitted with a tungsten steel battering ram affixed to the entire front of the vehicle, burst through the “brick wall” and the drawbridge, with a thunderous clamor.
From the impact, the iron drawbridge became a trébuchet hurtling its iron debris through the air. A large piece of the drawbridge’s rebar chain, pummeled the taxi cab, leveling its roof. The impact twisting the rest of the beleaguered car frame into origami folds, just missing Rhea and Avatar, who both fell to the ground motionless.
****To be continued next week****