“Bloody hell, who is shooting at us!
“Can you see where the shots came from?”
While they were speaking, Walter raced his Peugeot to Marlee’s parked Mini Cooper where the two women lay hidden. He slammed on his brakes. Straining his head out his driver-side window he asked with deep concern in his voice,
“Are you two okay? Auntie, are you hurt?
In the next instant, the sound of a Ducati’s 234 horsepower engine could be heard driving speedily away.
Brushing herself off and closing her “walking stick” Marlee said as they both stood,
“We are both fine. That sniper was either a very poor shot, or…”
“Or what?” asked Wendy Eveningstar.
At which, the three (Marlee, Agent Eveningstar, and Walter) said in unison, at that sublime moment where epiphany illuminates clarity,
“Or…this was a warning!”
Marlee, strolling around her car extrapolating the bullets’ possible trajectory from the damage to her car windows, chimed in,
“And from the looks of it, by a highly-skilled shooter.”
“I am sorry, my meddling has brought danger to you. It would be wise perhaps if I kept my distance from you on this case, Wendy.”
“Nonsense! All of this is the nature of the job in Her Majesty’s Service, as you well know, Lady Marlee.”
“Okay, thank you. My step-uncle, Earl d’ Rothchild is in pursuit of the painting…for some reason. The race is on!”
“I have never met the Earl but his reputation precedes,” said Agent Eveningstar.
Leaving Marlee and turning in the direction of the building, Agent Eveningstar added,
“You can trust me. Let me know the moment you uncover anything at all.”
Marlee did not let it show. But, she did not believe a word Agent Eveningstar had just spoken. Specifically, when she claimed not to know Earl d’ Rothchild.
Agent Eveningstar’s silky smooth voice had the distinctive ring of one who had been trained to speak untruths, convincingly, and with ease. Marlee however, had received the same training.
Addressing her nephew Walter, Marlee asked,
“Can you look after my car? Something has come to mind. I have a few errands to run. I should be home by this evening. And, don’t worry. I will be fine.”
“Sure thing Auntie.”
After outfitting her large bag with her surveillance supplies, Marlee walked a short distance from her car onto Fleet Street and hailed a taxi.
Making her way to Hertz-London, Marlee rented a late model beamer (BMW).
Then, she made two trips. First, she made a quick visit to London’s Metropolitan Archives (city records). There, she found what she sought.
Next, Marlee drove to the London residence of her step-uncle, the second Earl d’ Rothchild, her aunt Marj’s second husband—following the demise of her first husband along with Marlee’s father. The two men plus one other individual died altogether, under still unresolved mysterious circumstances, seven years ago.
Marlee had concluded from the recent sniper event that no one shoots at an investigator tracking down a painting, no matter how famous. This case was about something far more sinister.
The haiku pointed her to Sir Christopher Wren. His crypt held a key to an above-top-secret, now defunct MI6 initiative. The disbanding of which, was her final top-secret mission while in Her Majesty’s service.
In addition, Marlee discovered two things from her trip to city records. First, that Earl d’ Rothchild’s family now owned the property where Sir Christopher Wren once lived during his work on St. Paul’s Cathedral.
And second, the home at 110 Dartmouth Palace Way which exploded early this morning, was once owned by her step-uncle’s father, the first Earl d’ Rothchild.
Marlee parked her rental car in the bushes at a distance from her step-uncle’s home, made a strong cup of coffee with her car coffee kit, and settled in.
There, she waited, watched, and photographed everyone who came and went from her step-uncle’s London residence, Sac de Ville House.
Arriving back at her non-operational cover (NOC) job at Lloyds of London, Special Agent, Wendy Eveningstar dialed the encrypted phone she hid in her desk drawer.
“Great shooting, little brother!”
“No worries, Sis,” replied the young man’s voice at the other end of the line.
“Do you think that she suspects? I mean she and her family are legends in the spy trade. Her great grandfather wrote the book we were all trained from, remember?”
“No, I don’t think she suspects,” replied Agent Wendy Eveningstar, “After all, ‘no one can outwit the ghosts of their ancestors.'”
****To be continued next Sunday****