Marlee rushed to the Cathedral entrance, its massive open doors like angel wings floating upon hewn bark, framed her exit. She found Earl d’ Rothchild leaning on his walking stick deep in thought.
“Uncle are you okay?” She asked. The two figures were now both rain-drenched standing on St Paul’s front steps.
“Let’s get out of the rain.”
“No this won’t take long dear girl. I am asking you to cease snooping into the painting. I am asking as one who cares for you. Not as your former employer. Understood?”
“Snooping, me? I wouldn’t dream of it!” said Marlee as the two quickly parted company.
Marlee side-stepped her way to her car dipping in and out of storefronts pretending to seek frequent shelter from the rain.
Her efforts were more to see who was following her, than any attempt to remain dry.
She knew she was on to something big when interim Chief, Adonis Zodek of Scotland Yard warned her off. Now, she knew who was behind it all—her step-uncle, the Earl, former head of Clandestine Operations, MI6.
She did not see the young man in the Tommy Hilfiger hoodie; but, she now knew that her uncle would have her watched to ensure her compliance with his request. Marlee quickly decided that she needed some backup of her own, on the rest of this case.
She sat in her Mini Cooper and shook the rain from her hands. She dialed.
“Hey, it’s me. Can I hire your services as per usual? Watch my back. Do not engage. This is big. I will double your usual fee?”
“You got it, auntie. It is my pleasure to get back in the family snooping business. Unemployment was getting boring.”
“Stay safe. Uncle you-know-who is in involved. Therefore, to us both: safe travels and God’s speed. I am near St. Paul’s. You can start tracking whoever is following me from there. I will wait until you are in position before I drive off.”
“You know you are my favorite nephew right?”
“Love you too auntie. Cheers.”
Thirty minutes later, Marlee’s nephew, Walter casually drove past her and parked his hunter-green Peugeot Gti.
Then Marlee drove off.
In response to Marlee’s sudden departure, the young man in the Tommy Hilfiger hoodie, Jazer—British Intelligence’s youngest double “0” agent, raced a brief distance to his silver-grey Ducati, remote-starting its 234 horsepower engine.
He donned a dark blue biking jacket and his Arai-X Ghost helmet. His signature mark, a crusader cross, like that of the Knights Templar emblazoned on its front, above the riding helmet’s face shield.
Carefully weaving in and out of traffic, Jazer followed Marlee’s Mini Cooper through London’s narrow streets, expertly staying out of her rearview and side mirrors’ sightlines.
No stranger to surveillance tradecraft, Marlee’s nephew Walter followed the silver-grey Ducati, from a safe distance.
Driving along London’s Fleet Street, Marlee had an idea. Now that she knew that her uncle was involved she would need some alleys of her own— if she were to locate the painting before him, and or his “people.” Her uncle never worked alone. He stayed in the shadows and let others take the heat or worse. That way, his hands were always “clean.”
She pulled up and parked in the back lot at Lloyds of London. Entering the building, she marched to the Front Receptionist—a pleasant and polite young man.
“Good morning, may I see Wendy Eveningstar? I work freelance Retrievals under her supervision.”
Checking his computer terminal the Receptionist replied, “I am sorry, no one by that name works here.”
“Can you double-check?”
“I am sorry Miss, there is no one by that name. I have to ask you to leave now, please.”
“I am not leaving until I see someone in charge, to get to the bottom of this.”
“Miss, I am sorry, please do not make me call Security. Please exit the building.”
Pointing to a lifesize portrait painting of her Aunt Marj on the wall behind the Reception Desk, Marlee said, “Yes, my all means, call Security, I want it on record that you threw your company’s board Chairperson’s niece off the premises. Go ahead call them, please.”
The Receptionist now turned several shades of red as he said, “I am ssoo sorry Lady Marlee Plantagenet, I did not recognize you. Please have a seat, I will call someone to speak with you, immediately.”
Marlee waited a few brief minutes and then, into the Reception area walked Wendy Eveningstar. Her employee badge clipped neatly onto her belt read: “Jane Smith, Public Relations.”
Whispering as softly as possible, Marlee said to her,
“Forgive me, surely you could have chosen a more unique cover name than Jane Smith—Agent Eveningstar?”
The two women smiled as they walked out of the building to Marlee’s Mini Cooper parked out back.
“Let’s chat, off the record, Lady Marlee. Shall we?”
In the brief seconds that followed, neither of the two women noticed the shooter lurking on the silver-grey Ducati in the well-maintained bushes; nor heard the silenced Walther PPK/S .38 caliber bullet whiz past Agent Eveningstar’s head, just missing her right temple.
But in the next moment, the two women did hear Marlee’s nephew Walter yelling from across the parking lot, “Gun, get down, get down!”
The two women both, with razor-sharp reflexes, dove to the ground near Marlee’s Mini Cooper. Marlee opened her car door with her remote, grabbed her “walking stick,” and opened its bulletproof parasol over their bodies as two successive sniper bullets shattered the windows on her Fiat Mini Cooper’s driver side.
**To be continued next Sunday**