“Speaking of suspicion—does the Earl suspect who you are, little brother?”
“I don’t think so. You?”
“If he knows my agenda, he has not let on thus far. I would say it is okay to proceed with the next phase.”
“Okay. I will take care of it, Sis. Cheers.”
Thus, Agent Wendy Eveningstar ended the call to her only surviving relative, her younger brother, Agent Jazer Eveningstar, aka “Double 0 Nineteen.”
From her surveillance outside The Earl’s London residence, Le Sac de Ville House, Marlee noticed that a suspicious-looking figure in a Tommy Hilfiger hoodie entered the house through a side entrance where there seemed to be no visible door.
The suspicious figure, a gentleman, from what Marlee could determine, was a professional. With textbook technique, he scouted his environment, double-checking all angles to ensure that he was neither followed nor observed before he vanished into the mysterious wall.
Curious, Marlee scurried along the back of the property and crept to a hidden opening in the bushes near the wall in question.
There, she waited. An hour passed.
Suddenly, the wall where there was no door quietly swung open. Out walked Earl d’Rothchild. He stood with the door now visible and wide open. He was enjoying an afternoon cigar. Its vanilla and chocolate aroma wafted in the rain-cooled London air. His medium frame—a smoky shadowy outline in the afternoon mist. It was a grey mist rising from the nearby Thames River shrouding everything it touched in a veil of secrecy.
Marlee now had a glimpse into the home. She saw the Earl’s family shield, It was draped from the home’s grand chandeliered ceiling like a banner in the rafters at a sports arena. The shield had a motto in Latin inscribed on its bottom portion in immense bold lettering clearly visible. In English, the motto read:
“Look here, look there—the world is yours”
Marlee’s heart skipped a beat. Recognition and excitement pulsed through the helix of her investigative DNA. She realized that every word of the haiku pointed to The Earl… and more importantly to that house!
“Enquiring wren” was Sir Christopher Wren’s connection to this very property. A property where he once lived during his work on St. Paul’s Cathedral.
“Looking here looking there,” Marlee now realized, referred to the Earl d’ Rothchild’s family motto: “Look here, look there—the world is yours.”
And, “have you lost your bag” is an oblique reference to the house’s name, “Le Sac de Ville” or ‘city bag’ in English.
Marlee waited in cloaked silence listening to her thoughts racing. Finally, The Earl finished the slow savor of his cigar and returned indoors. As secretly as it opened, the wall closed without a sound, resuming its clandestine vigil.
Marlee crept back to the rental car and was about to drive away when her cellphone rang.
“Did you find the third clue Marlee?” inquired the now-familiar computer-synthesized voice.
“Who is this!”
“You better hurry now. Time is short.”
One a hunch, (based on the mysterious caller’s reference to Marlee’s family motto: tempus breve est — “time is short”), Marlee asked…”Please, can we meet? We are family after all.”
The caller paused.
“Hello are you still there?” asked Marlee following several minutes of pregnant silence on the line.
“Tomorrow, nine a.m., MacDonald’s near St. Paul’s. Make sure you are not followed!”
“How will I recognize you?”
“You are the investigator. Investigate!”
Then the caller hung up.
Marlee returned home with the rental car.
She opened the door to her flat. Iris “greeted” her with hissing, pretending to be displeased that she once again, had to share the flat with her. Yet, as was her custom when she missed Marlee, Iris followed her around curling her furry tail around Marlee’s feet at every step.
Following a restless night churning her thoughts as the rain pounded the sidewalk outside her flat, Marlee made her way to downtown London. She parked. The rain had stopped.
She walked carefully and cautiously―doubling back on her route, weaving through the narrow streets several times until she was certain she had lost the person on the silver-grey Ducati she noticed following her since she left home.
She wondered where her nephew Walter was. He was supposed to be watching her back. He had not checked in so far this morning.
Clearing worry from her thoughts, she ambled cautiously to the MacDonald’s near St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was now 8:45 a.m.
Comfortable that she could keep an eye on both the entrance and the back exits, Marlee sat, coffee in hand, and waited.
Nine a.m. came and went. No one showed.
At nine-thirty, her cellphone rang.
“You were being followed,” said the now familiar computerized voice.
“May I speak with my aunt Marj? That’s who is behind these calls isn’t it?”
The caller immediately hung up.
An hour later, Marlee’s cellphone rang.
Shuffling in her seat at MacDonald’s Marlee answered.
“Hello Aunt Marj, I remembered as a little girl when I played at being Sherlock Holmes, you would often say when I asked for your help, “You are the investigator, my darling girl. Investigate!”
“Oh, I am so sorry for the subterfuge my dear. I am afraid it is too dangerous to meet. He must not know I am involved,” replied Duchess Marjorum Neville Plantagenet d’ Rothchild.
“Aunt Marj, are you in some kind of trouble. Is it to do with the painting. Did you send me the haiku?”
“Oh no my dear, I am in no danger. Yes, I sent you the haiku. I found it hidden among his things. And Marlee…trust no one, especially your nephew Walter! Your enemies are hiding behind familiar avatars!”
Then, the phone call ended abruptly.
Meanwhile, far across the bridge from St. Paul’s Cathedral, frustrated at having lost Marlee, Agent Jazer Eveningstar, made a phone call,
“It’s me. I’ve been made, and I lost her. Can you take over surveillance? I am near London Bridge Station across the Thames from St. Paul’s.”
“Sure thing. I have to change my Peugeot for another vehicle, she knows what I drive. I’ll be there within the hour.”
***To be continued next Sunday***