The Second Earl d’ Rothchild left the secret meeting he had called in Scotland Yard’s basement empty-handed.
Moreover, his subsequent meeting with the National Security governors at Parliament House did not go well.
Now, he was under pressure to retrieve the painting and its secrets in the next 72 hours or else…as the chairperson of the National Security governors put it:
“We will give you 72 hours to come up with a resolution to this debacle. It is the best we can do for you, your grace, out of respect for your distinguished service to the Crown.”
The Chairperson’s reference to Earl d’ Rothchild’s “distinguished service” meant one thing. If he failed to recover the secrets stolen with the painting, he would be forced to retire, quickly and quietly. If he was lucky.
Leaving Number 10 Downing Street, getting into his car, he dialed his cell phone.
“Do you have anything for me?”
“Yes, I nicked her bag. She is going to St. Paul’s to his crypt,” said a young man’s voice on the other end of the line.
“Follow her! Report only to me. Stay out of her sights. She used to be one of you. So up your game or we are done for.”
“Yes, your grace.”
Marlee arrived inside St. Paul’s Cathedral just as the heavens opened up and poured more rain on London’s streets from its’ chalice.
As she was about to make her way to the security checkpoint, her cell phone rang again. This time, it was Earl d’ Rothchild.
“Hello uncle, is Auntie Marj okay?”
“She is quite well. No this is not a family matter. I am calling to ask you a personal favor. Can we meet in thirty minutes? Where are you now?”
Puzzled, because it was out of character for her step-uncle to call her…and to ask a favor?
“Well, I am at Saint Paul’s right now on a case but…”
“Okay, I will meet you out front shortly.” He said as he ended the call.
Still determined to investigate whether a visit to Sir Christopher Wren’s crypt offered any clues, Marlee rushed further into the Cathedral and hustled downstairs to the crypts. It was early in the morning, so the crowds of usual visitors were few.
She walked carefully around Sir Christopher Wren’s crypt and its general vicinity, looking for anything out of the ordinary…anything at all.
Then she saw it.
Someone had used duct tape on a portion of the signage pointing to a sightseeing tour of the crypts.
She removed the duct tape to reveal a key with a small slip of paper taped to it. She took a moment to read the note on the small slip of paper on the strange-looking key. It read.
“For you Marlee, 17-Syllables“
In utter dismay, Marlee looked around. She saw no one suspicious.
With no time to spare, she pocketed the key with its above-top-secret reference and rushed to make her meeting with her step-uncle.
In her haste, Marlee failed to notice a diminutive figure in a Tommy Hilfiger hoodie lurking around the Cathedral columns, shadowing her every move. The figure was none other that the youngest person to achieve double “0” status, Special Agent Jazer.
Outside St. Paul’s, Earl d’ Rothschild stood leaning on his walking stick in the pouring rain. His coat was unbuttoned. His thoughts, decades away.
He was thinking of an above top-secret initiative. One in which, seventeen children of superior abilities in every area were unwittingly involved in a program that began in 1995. These children were to be watched but, not otherwise interfered with whatsoever. And, when they grew up: they were to be offered secret assignments at the highest levels in governments across the United Kingdom.
The list was originally prepared on microfiche, and in two parts for obvious security reasons. One list contained the children’s names, ages, and that of their parents’ identities. The second list, updated in 2010 contained each child (now adult)’s current posting/occupation. The lists along with any hard paper copies were thought to have been destroyed when the 17-syllables project was disbanded in 2011 for fear of a public outcry.
Recently, during a random authentication of privately held paintings at a government safe house, the original two pieces of microfiche were found laminated and in an envelope duct-taped on the inside back canvas of Sir Godfrey Kneller’s portrait painting of Sir Christopher Wren.
Before Earl d’Rothchild could retrieve them from the safe house at 110 Dartmouth Palace Way, the painting and the microfiche containing the two lists, were stolen. The painting’s frame was left behind with a haiku/poem typed on cardstock tucked in its bottom right corner. It read:
Looking here looking there
Have you lost your bag
Moreover, the entire government safehouse at 110 Dartmouth Palace Way was spray-painted with graffiti: the same phrase was repeated on every inch of wall space in dripping blood-red paint: “Old sins cast long shadows!”
****To be continued next week****