Ten minutes later, after Marlee felt the coast was clear, she left MacDonald’s.
Suddenly and abruptly someone in a grey fleece Under Armour jogging suit with a hoodie, skillfully brush-passed her and pressed an envelope in Marlee’s jacket pocket with the speed of a javelin.
Without missing a step, Marlee made quick work of making her way to her car. Since she suspected that her step-uncle arranged to have her watched, she did not want to make it obvious that someone had passed information to her.
Breathing with measured exhales Marlee arrived at her rental car slightly winded.
She checked. Someone was watching her. They were good, but not good enough. From her scan of her rental BMW’s side mirror, she spotted a figure lurking. The figure’s reflection had bounced off a store window in the shimmering morning sunlight.
Marlee quickly got into her car and opened the enveloped missive.
It was a copy of the summary page of a police report. The single-page report was dated ten years ago, to the day. All names in the report were redacted. The photocopied page bore the very faint but still visible watermark of Vauxhall Cross (MI6 Headquarters).
Marlee read the censored police report:
On the night of November 5, 2008, at eleven fifty, two subjects…suspected agents of Her Majesty’s Service, later identified as …. and …, (a woman and her older son), perished at the scene, 110 Dartmouth Palace Way. Neither victim showed any signs of trauma. A portrait painting of S__C_______W___ was found removed from the wall. The painting was undamaged. The two persons appeared to have broken in to steal the painting and may have been interrupted. Several members of the nobility had been implicated and subsequently questioned. All evidence was later destroyed by a mysterious fire at the police records lockup at London’s Central Station. Current Status: Case closed and sealed as Top Secret, Eyes only. By order of…”
The hairs on the back of Marlee’s neck stood on edge. Her body quivered from the macabre details she had just read.
Marlee knew that her aunt Marj had arranged this “delivery.” No one else knew precisely where she would be at this time today.
She considered carefully the words surrounding the reference to a painting. Clearly, even with the named portions redacted, it was a reference to Sir Christopher Wren’s portrait.
And, it was only yesterday morning that a firebomb engulfed the house at 110 Dartmouth Palace. The same address as mentioned in the report.
“Perhaps,” she thought to herself, “They were not attempting to steal the painting but rather they hid something inside its frame!”
Marlee concluded that her aunt’s delivery of the police report was meant to inform her that something of great value had been hidden, at great cost (two lives sacrificed). And, that Sir Christopher Wren’s painting was somehow the constant thread in this mystery.
Marlee scanned her surroundings with a keen eye before driving off. She noted that a blue Porsche 911 slipped out slowly two cars behind her. She could hear its twin-turbocharged engine rumbling in her rearview, like the sound of many chariots running to battle with breastplates of fire.
Five minutes later, the Porsche continued to follow. It was now skillfully weaving its way through traffic trailing four cars behind.
Swerving swiftly, Marlee turned the corner at York Road and raced down the ramp into Waterloo Car Park’s underground lot.
Carefully and quickly, she drove through the underground parking lot and exited via its main entrance. One surprised driver entering the underground parking structure swerved violently out of her way, shouting unpleasantries.
Continuing on York Road, Marlee glanced in her rearview. The blue Porsche 911 was directly behind her, now—and coming fast.
Marlee dialed hands-free. speaking into her cellphone, the one phone number she knew at New Scotland Yard.
Acting Chief Adonis Zodek answered,
“What can I do for you, Lady Marlee?”
“I am being followed by a blue Porsche 911—partial plate ending C__578. I could use a bit of assistance.”
After a very brief silence, the acting Chief replied,
“If you can make your way to New Scotland Yard’s visitor parking. I will meet you, personally.”
“Thank you, I will be there in ten.”
Marlee drove to New Scotland Yard in haste. The blue Porsche 911 followed undaunted; it now made no effort to conceal its presence.
She drove into New Scotland Yard’s visitor parking and stopped. There were no other vehicles in the visitor section.
Marlee watched as the blue Porsche 911 stopped, executed a 180-degree turn, and parked across the street from New Scotland Yard. Its door opened slowly. She saw a dark shiny boot and the edge of a dark raincoat. Marlee “armed” herself with her “walking stick.”
She sat in the rental car and watched alertly. An unknown figure stepped out of the blue Porsche 911. He began walking from across the street towards Marlee’s rental BMW. His expression, emotionless and devoid of personality. He reached for an underarm holster now visible as he moved his coat to retrieve a weapon.
Then, the figure stopped his egress and swung around back to his vehicle to conceal his appearance, as Acting Chief Adonis Zodek and his Assistant, Detective Inspector Halifax Granger, ran full speed from New Scotland Yard’s entrance towards Marlee in the rental car.
It suddenly occurred to Marlee, as she watched the two Police officers racing towards her car. She asked herself,
“How did the Acting Chief know that she was close to New Scotland Yard’s address. She did not reveal her location, nor did he inquire, when she had called him a few moments earlier.
Marlee revved the BMW’s 425 horses underneath its TwinPower engine’s iron saddle and sped, tires screeching out of New Scotland Yard’s visitor parking lot.
***To be continued next Sunday***