The Plantagenets (Marlee’s heritage), and the Eveningstars were once close allies, back in the days of galloping knights and thundering crusades to Jerusalem.
However, when the world of the Knights Templar crumbled in the early 1300s; before the ink was dry on history’s unwritten pages, their allies and benefactors, withdrew financial support. The Eveningstar family line (not their original name) lost everything. Moreover, they were shunned forever and, they never recovered.
Once themselves nobility with a peerage from The King, their coat of arms was revoked on November 8, 1418, six hundred years ago. Shortly thereafter, fearing persecution, they changed their name to Eveningstar as the family fled with their children and with only the clothes on their backs, one evening at sunset.
Now, centuries later, Agents Wendy and her younger brother Jazer Eveningstar were all that remained of their family.
The redacted police report which Marlee received, referred to a mother and her older son. They were Beth and Caleb Eveningstar—Wendy and Jazer’s mother and their older brother.
The two perished ten years ago, under dubious circumstances while on a secret MI5 mission to uncover evidence of a top-secret MI6 project involving the reprehensible use of young children as British spies. A project named “Seventeen Syllables.”
Three years later, their father Anthony Eveningstar, a longtime garden laborer at St. Paul Cathedral’s grounds was the third person found dead at the scene of a mysterious fire, along with The Duchess Marjorum’s first husband and Marlee’s father.
“Yes, this mystery was not about a painting, it is about revenge,” replied Marlee to Former Navy Seal, Phoenix’s obvious non-verbal question from his quizzical expression, as they sat at Starbucks sipping expressos.
“The police report confirmed what I already knew to be true. The Eveningstars had suffered much, at the hands of many over the centuries. My grandfather told me their story when I was a little girl. Now, I believe they want someone to pay.”
“I believe they want The Earl’s clandestine activities exposed?”
“So, what’s your next move, Marlee?”
“I can’t help but wonder why all this is happening now?”
“Oh, so you don’t know? It’s in all the newspapers?”
“Know what? I have not kept up with the news lately. One never knows whether the news is truth, or a golem—hiding veracity’s living instruments: its eyes, its feet, and its fingers, in beguiling finery.
“London’s news outlets have reported that Earl d’Rothchild will be installed tomorrow morning as a permanent member (life peer) in the House of Lords. There will be a private gala at his home tonight in celebration of his upcoming appointment.”
Marlee paused at Phoenix’s words and mulled over silently the events of the past two days.
In the midst of her musings, shuffling uncomfortably in his seat Phoenix asked,
“Forgive me, M’Lady, The Earl is your step-uncle, why did you not know of his appointment. I would imagine this is great news for your family?”
“Since my step-uncle, The Earl fired me from Her Majesty’s Service, we have not been close—not that we ever were, to be honest. But, enough about me…Mr. Phoenix, I fear that something horrible is about to happen at Lord d’ Rothchild’s home. We must stop it.”
“But, there is something I wish to unlock first. We shall regroup at your car, shortly. We must hurry!”
“Of course, I will be outside.”
“Thank you, Mr. Phoenix. Thank you for everything.”
Marlee hastily made her way upstairs to her Aunt’s hideaway apartment.
Frantically, excitedly she rummaged through her surveillance bag for the strange key she found at Sir Christopher Wren’s crypt.
Gingerly, she tried the key in an odd-looking antique trunk she noticed upon her arrival earlier today.
The trunk, an early 18th-century piece lay at the foot of her aunt’s Egyptian canopied four-poster bed. The trunk was in the shape of what one might imagine the biblical Ark of The Covenant to look like.
Oddly, the trunk had been hand-painted with an image of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Marlee knew that her aunt would consider it sacrilege to paint an antique. Therefore, of one thing she was certain, this trunk did not belong to her aunt Marj.
Marlee thought to herself as her hands felt the bullet holes hidden in the artist’s brushstrokes of St. Paul’s Cathedral’s famous dome, “Artwork, to cover up mystery… fascinating.”
The odd-looking key fit in the trunk’s solid brass lock. It turned the antique tumblers inside with ease.
Inside the trunk was a long tubular carrying case. As she suspected, the long tubular case was empty. Next to it, was a paisley patterned soft leather bag, about the size of carry-on luggage. Its zipper, made from antique brass ended in sturdy chains held together by a bronze clasp with a lock. The odd-looking key also opened the lock on the bag.
Inside the bag, along with a very large sum of old British pound notes bundled in thousands, Marlee found the original microfiche of the “Seventeen Syllables” project. It was laminated.
Holding the microfiche up to the light, Marlee saw the reason for its lamination. Several bloodstained fingerprints were clearly visible on both sides of the microfiche.
Apparently, the prints, now entombed in the laminated microfiche, were to be entered into evidence. A case number and an exhibit number were handwritten on white masking tape affixed across the microfiche’s topmost edge.
And, duct-taped to the laminated microfiche was a photocopy of fingerprint analysis. The report revealed that five sets of prints were found on the attached microfiche.
The first name on the list was Earl d’Rothchild. The second name, was Duchess Marjorum Neville Plantagenet d’ Rothchild, Marlee’s aunt Marj.
Marlee, shocked at the depth of her aunt’s apparent involvement in this whole affair wondered suddenly if she really knew her aunt at all.
Pacing the floor, Marlee pondered;
Was the “gift” of the haiku clues, and her subsequent assistance on this case, her aunt’s attempt to come clean?
Or, had her aunt Marj stumbled innocently upon evidence that implicated her husband Earl d’ Rothchild, in a scandal that could bring down his house—a house, built with tombstones?
“So what do we know, and what’s next?” asked Agent Wendy Eveningstar addressing her four allies in skulduggery around the boardroom in New Scotland Yard’s basement.
“We have the painting and the original fingerprint analysis of the microfiche. Proof that our mother tried to expose the Seventeen Syllables project,” replied Jazer Eveningstar, resting his right elbow on his bike helmet with its Knights Templar cross emboldened above the face shield.
“But that is not enough. We need that microfiche with the list of names. Where is it?”
“My original plan failed. I had hoped that by employing Lady Marlee to find Sir Christopher Wren’s painting she would have done our work for us, and located the microfiche as well. But, The Earl has been working against us all along. “
“Lucky for us brother, unbeknownst to The Earl, he was working against us with you as his supposed ally. Nevertheless, I think I know where to look.”
“Sis, The Earl is busy washing his hands of all his clandestine dealings, getting ready to take his seat in the public arena. He won’t be keen to offer up help to uncover evidence to his detriment.”
“Oh, I did not say, I was going to pitch up to The Earl’s front door and politely ask him.”
“You are talking about breaking and entering, I will not get involved. This has gone too far. I am out!”
“Chief, you are involved and you will help, or else__. You can fill in the blanks!!”
“All you have to do is your job. You and your Assistant here (pointing to Detective Inspector Halifax Granger seated next to the Chief), will be providing security for The Earl’s private gala tonight at Le Sac de Ville House. Just open the secret door, and let Jazer and me in. Jazer knows his way around, once we are inside.”
“Very well. I am doing this under duress. I want it noted.”
“Tell yourself whatever makes you sleep at night Chief. You have been complicit in concealing evidence of murder. This is not some afternoon tea party where you can come and go as you please. Deal with it!”
“Let’s move everyone. And, to avoid suspicion, please resume your daily activities, as usual. Then, at six p.m. precisely, we shall meet in the bushes at Le Sac de Ville House. Each of us will arrive separately and prepare our individual scatter point (escape route).”
“And shortly thereafter—we shall serve The Earl d’ Rothchild his just desserts at his own gala party.”
***To be continued in the Finale next Sunday ***