**A fictional tale**
It was a cold rainy November morning. Last night, Halloween, was exhausting running her nieces around to every door in her Chelsea neighborhood.
Marlee was getting ready to make her four am coffee when came a bang on the door, not a knock that would be too civilized a word for the racket the caller made. She opened the door to a note taped with duct tape to her rain-drenched doorbell. It read:
“A haiku mystery for you Marlee.”
She pulled the note from her doorbell, the fresh morning air and the rain dripping down her fingers waking up her senses to a new day. Marlee closed the door and rushed back to grab her kettle before it began to whistle, lest she awaken Iris. Iris would make quite the fuss for an hour if her snoring was interrupted.
Marlee opened the soggy envelope to find a laminated piece of cardstock on which was printed a haiku written by one of the four haiku masters, Kobayashi Issa. It read:
looking here and looking there
Have you lost your bag?”
Marlee, a fledgling poet herself, when she was not freelancing, locating lost or stolen insured artifacts for Lloyds of London, was intrigued. Nonetheless, with nothing more to go on than a haiku, she could make head nor tails of the “mystery” to which the soggy envelope referred.
That was yesterday.
Today, she received a call from Wendy Eveningstar, her supervisor at Lloyds of London. Apparently, a large priceless painting was stolen from their client’s home in Chelsea, not far from Marlee’s home, in fact. The stolen item was the life-size famous painting of the renowned architect, Sir Christopher Wren.
Oddly, her assignment on this job, in addition to her regular task of locating the stolen item, Marlee also was required to uncover how the item was stolen from a locked room with twenty-four-hour live-monitored camera surveillance.
“I would have to double my fee for this job Wendy.”
“No problem, there is also the matter of the finder’s fee of twenty percent which will be paid to cover your expenses,” replied Wendy.
“Okay then, I will get right on the matter. Who is my contact?”
“We have none. The house was empty at the time. The family uses the home in the Summer, only. Off-site security monitors everything. The security guard on duty watching the cameras has mysteriously disappeared.”
“Authorities went to his last known address,” her supervisor, Wendy continued,
“All that was found in his former flat was a roll of duct tape, no prints were found on it. I have no other information for you. This one is high profile requiring discreet investigative techniques, your specialty. Good luck on this one Marlee.”
Marlee hung up the phone to Iris rolling on the floor playfully trying to grab her tail, and purring loudly. She does that when she senses that Marlee will be out of the house, so she can have the run of the place to herself.
Marlee got up, picked up her large overnight bag with her surveillance equipment case inside, a change of clothes, her handbag, shoes, her car coffee-making kit, and snacks. Her walking stick (which is not really a walking stick) was also poised near her large overnight bag.
She left the automatic feeder for Iris’ meals turned on. Iris’s water bowl was on a drip system to give her fresh water on demand.
Looking down at Iris purring non-stop, Marlee said,
“How do you always know when I am about to head out on surveillance for a few days. I don’t get it. I don’t think you’re a cat at all. Take care of the place, Iris.”
With that said, Marlee left her Chelsea flat, her large overnight bag, slung over her shoulder. As she walked from her home, she unfurled her walking stick into its true form—an umbrella shielding her from the merciless London downpour. Her umbrella/walking stick is also bulletproof. It was a gift, courtesy of British Intelligence MI6.
Just as Marlee, got into her Fiat Mini Cooper, and started its engine, her cellphone rang.
Her call display quipped curtly, “unknown.”
Marlee did what she normally does when she is on a job and she receives a mysterious call. She uses a disposable/burner phone, to contact her favorite nephew Walter, a tech expert formerly with British Telecom.
She dialed. Walter answered, and, as always, he was alert whenever she called.
“Hey, auntie, what you need?”
“I have a call on my regular cellphone, can you trace it?”
“Okay, no problem auntie.”
“Thanks. You know you are my favorite nephew, right.”
“I am your only nephew auntie. Love you too. You are welcome.”
Then, Marlee answered her cellphone,
“Did you get it?” asked the caller, using a computerized voice synthesizer.
“Who is this?”
“Did you get the haiku?”
“Oh yes, I read it, if that is what you mean.”
“No, did you understand the clue?”
“The clue? To what?”
Then, the caller hung up.
Switching to the disposable phone with Walter still on the line, Marlee asked expectantly,
“Walter, did you get enough for a trace?”
“No, the call was bounced all over Europe. I got nothing for your auntie except…”
“Except what Walter?”
“Except that someone was “watching” my trace of the call, electronically following my keystrokes. It was creepy, I think this is high-level skullduggery, as in secret government trade-craft. Be very careful auntie.”
No sooner did she end the call—Marlee’s car engine shut off, on its own. And to her dismay, the doors which were locked, suddenly and inexplicably, unlocked all at once. She attempted to manually lock the doors, but her efforts failed. She tried starting her car but the electronic display menu, the only thing that still worked in the car, reported that her ignition key’s program was “unknown.”
Suddenly, a looming male figure in a dark trench coat walked out of the shadows towards her passenger-side door. Outside, heavy rain pummeled the street like a hail of bullets pounding the cobblestone. The raindrops bounced off the dark figure’s London Fog coat like it was body armor. Then, with Marlee inside the car watching his every move, he reached out his hand and opened her passenger-side car door.
**To be continued next week**