**A fictional mystery – Part 1**
Marlee watched as Chief Adonis Zodek, opened her car door. He plunked himself in the front seat beside her.
“To what, might I ask, do I owe the pleasure of your dripping visit, Chief? You are not one to step from the shadows!”
Ignoring her polite dig at the fact that he was dripping all over her car’s interior leather, the Chief said softly, which he does when he is making a powerful point:
“Lady Marlee, you are about to rifle through a bag of mystery, which has long been snapped shut. I advise you to decline this job. Your nephew went snooping in our territory when he traced that call just now. His electronic footprints tripped top-secret alarms. Not good!”
Waving his index finger, as if gently scolding a naughty offspring, who had just stolen a cookie, he chided her,
“Your powerful allies and your family influence will not protect you if you go snooping in this one, Milady.”
Smiling politely at Scotland Yard’s interim Chief, Marlee finally spoke,
“Snooping, me? Absolutely not Sir, I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Very well,” he said, heaving his tall slender frame sideways slightly, as he squirmed athletically, out of Marlee’s Mini Cooper’s passenger seat.
As he got out of the car, the rain stopped.
The Chief waved his arm at a young man holding a remote control console with a long antenna sitting in a vehicle across the street.
As suddenly as it began, it was over. Marlee’s car started up; its turbocharged 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine’s almost imperceptible hum was back as usual. Her doors locked in unison. She had control once again. She drove off, continuing on her latest quest, unperturbed.
Arriving outside the home of the stolen artwork at number 110 Dartmouth Palace Way, Marlee opened her large bag and extracted her snacks and car coffee-making kit. She was poised for a long day in her car. She dialed on her cellphone:
“Hello, may I speak with her grace, if she is available, it’s her niece Marlee?”
A long pause followed as Marlee waited on hold.
Then, a familiar voice answered, “Marlee, my darling girl, how good to hear from you! Are you on a case?” she whispered, “You only call when there is excitement!”
“Hello auntie Marj, how are you?”
“Just marvelous. I am getting ready for a trip to warmer climates. There is only so much rain my bones can take, you know, before they make a fuss in my ears. What can I do for you, my dear?”
“I just had a polite talking to, by Scotland Yard, I take it that they had me under surveillance for a couple of days now…”
Before Marlee could finish her sentence, her aunt, Duchess Marjorum Neville Plantagenet d’ Rothchild, said:
“We will have none of that. I will take care of it! They shan’t bother you again! I will chat with you when next I am in London, then, you can tell me all about your adventure. And, thank you for the touching poem you penned in the card you sent for my birthday. Hugs and kisses to you my little Marlee.”
“Thank you, auntie, love you, bye.”
As she settled in her Mini Cooper S, having maneuvered her vehicle, across the street from the home of the missing artwork, Marlee admired the understated beauty of the quiet cul de sac. The stately home was a modern revival of the Victorian style with white stucco Roman pillars out front. It was nestled several hundred meters in from an impeccably maintained sidewalk. The next closest home was some distance away from the circular entrance to the cul de sac. In other words, the homeowners at 110 Dartmouth Palace Way clearly loved their privacy, and, had paid handsomely to acquire it, in this otherwise tightly crammed upscale neighborhood of London’s powerful elite.
There was a strange quiet in the air. The kind of quiet which, only years of experience as a former spy could interpret for what it was. It was that silent clamor of pending catastrophe; as if the whole world had stopped everything to signal a coded SOS to anyone with discerning ears to hear it.
Hurriedly, using her car door frame to steady her arm, she set up her camera and video equipment from her large bag. As she began taking several photos, and with her video camera rolling, an unusually strong smell of gasoline drifted on the morning air. At the same moment, Marlee suddenly had the strange queasy feeling on the back of her neck, of being watched.
She opened her car door and stepped out into the damp air laden with moisture from the recent rainfall. Her brown fall coat unbuttoned, afforded her movement but kept her warm enough. She drank in the air in a deep inhale.
Her heart skipped a beat. She recognized the aroma stabbing the air with its unique signature. It was the gaseous smell of homemade napalm! It emanated, it seemed, from the house under her scrutiny. Then, sixty seconds later, with a horrendous deafening bang, stopping Marlee in mid-stride, the house at number 110 Dartmouth Palace Way, exploded in a fireball.
**To be continued next Sunday**