Tapping his dark patent leather boots on the brake pedal, Phoenix waited anxiously for Marlee to join him on their mission of mercy.”
Then, he dialed his cell phone, “It’s me.”
“Why are you calling me on my private number? I told you to call me on my burner (untraceable disposable phone), and only when it was done!”
“I am sorry Duchess, I cannot go through with it. Marlee does not deserve what you are planning for her.”
“You owe me Phoenix!”
“I know, I know, but I cannot in good conscience do this. I will not help you. Goodbye!”
“Don’t you hang up on me! You do not want to cross me, Mr. Phoenix.”
“And, you know better than to threaten me, your Grace. I know where several of your skeletons are buried.”
Duchess Marjorum Neville Platagent d’ Rothchild, hung up the phone fuming; but also in a panic.
Her plan was unraveling. Hurriedly, she packed and made a hasty exit from her summer cottage in The Hamptons of Long Island, New York.
Moments later hunkered down in her rental car, The Duchess dialed on her burner cellphone. She whispered,
“Hey, did everyone get away clean? Nothing can be traced back to me, right? You made sure?
“Yes your Grace,” replied Marlee’s nephew, Walter.
“I need you to make the call to Scotland Yard—my other confidant apparently lost his nerve.”
“Okay, should be no problem.”
“I am going to lay low for a while. You may wish to do the same after you deliver the painting to our contact at Lloyds of London. I have arranged for your payment in the usual manner. I must get going, take care, Walter.”
Meanwhile, continuing to pace back and forth in her aunt Marj’s apartment, Marlee entertained her own counsel with the suspicion that suddenly, everything on this case, fitted far too perfectly.
Every clue neatly culminated in the trunk at the foot of her Aunt”s bed. Something was afoot.
She suddenly had that feeling in her gut—one that reverberated up her spine in shivers, like the thought of fingernails on a chalkboard.
Marlee plucked the fruit of her deductive reasoning with a gasp,
“I played right into her hands,” whispered Marlee chiding herself. Oh…”
“Oh my God…this is a trap. Bloody hell—and I took the bait, one skewered morsel at a time, from a dish my aunt served—cold.”
No sooner had Marlee climbed the Everest of her worst nightmare— betrayal; there were several loud bangs at the door. Their sudden, urgent, and cavernous pounding shook her to the core—an authoritative voice punctuated the void in between the “knocks” with—,
“Police, open up right now Lady Marlee. We know you are in there!”
Before Marlee could walk from the bedroom to the entrance door inside her aunt Marj’s sprawling apartment, the police bludgeoned the door open with a battering ram.
Wood splinters and the remains of the unwilling door fell with a thunderous clang. Outfitted in S.W.A.T gear, one Constable, clearly in charge, hurled words—their syllables, like a haiku gone wrong,
“On the ground, face down, hands behind your head, interlock your fingers now!” commanded Constable Filigree, “Marlee Plantagenet, you are under arrest for conspiracy to commit murder. Detective Inspector Granger (The Acting Chief’s Assistant), please get forensics in here straight away, fingerprint everything, and check the place for concealed weapons!”
And so it was that Marlee was led away in handcuffs.
Confident of her righteousness, Marlee refused her call to her family’s solicitor. In painstaking detail, she told the authorities all that had transpired since the haiku had been left duct-taped to her flat’s door several days ago, in the pouring rain. The authorities were not moved by Marlee’s soliloquy.
Half an hour before Marlee’s arrest, despite heavy security, an attempt was made on her step-uncle’s life. A shot was fired from a sniper’s rifle while The Earl prepared for a gala in his honor, at his home. The only evidence, a single sniper’s bullet—”disappeared,” before it could be entered into evidence at the scene. The Earl was not harmed in the incident.
Shortly thereafter, Scotland Yard received an anonymous call claiming to have details of a recent crime. The computerized voice (Marlee’s nephew, Walter) told police of a plot to kill The Earl. Marlee was fingered as the mastermind behind the dastardly deed. According to the caller, Marlee was distraught over The Earl’s role in forcing her to relinquish her command at MI6 several years ago. The caller generously informed the police of Marlee’s precise location, and hinted charitably, that she might be armed. This information prompted Marlee’s subsequent arrest by an armed police assault team.
Then miraculously, it seemed, several hours later, Marlee was released and the charges against her dropped.
Waiting outside the police station Phoenix met Marlee.
“Want a ride home M’lady.”
On the drive to Marlee’s flat, Phoenix introduced himself formally. He had been working undercover for Scotland Yard on a year-long sting operation. Marlee’s aunt Marj was the key suspect in several crimes including murder.
Phoenix’s testimony to the DCS (Detective Chief Superintendant) at the London police station where Marlee had been detained, secured her release from prison.
“What do you think was your aunt’s motive?” Phoenix asked.
“It’s the inheritance you see,” said Marlee, still reeling from the thought of having been led away in handcuffs.”
“As the Executor of my late father’s estate, my aunt thought that she would inherit great wealth. However, my father left his estate in trust to me; with the bulk of the family’s holdings to be released to my nieces on their twenty-seventh birthday, decades from now.”
“However, as my nieces’ legal guardian if I were to be… oh say, in prison for life, then my aunt as the Executor could seize control of a great fortune, uncontested.”
“Do you know what happened to my aunt Mr. Phoenix? Did she escape?”
“To your second question—No, she did not escape. She was arrested at the Niagara Falls New York border, attempting to flee into Canada, with a large sum of undeclared cash, and a concealed weapon.”
“I feel sorry for her,” sighed Marlee, with heartfelt concern for her aunt Marj; the woman who had helped raise her.
As the two souls made their way through London’s streets in Phoenix’s blue Porsche 911, the windows of heaven opened and poured out rain to thunderous applause.
Watching the rain pitter-patter on the windshield, suddenly Marlee broke out in extemporaneous verse:
“A rainy dawn knocks
Duct-taped to a mystery
Bringing down houses“
“That was nicely said,” remarked Phoenix, “What’s that, a poem or something?”
** Coming Next Week – Lithium, A Sunday Short Story **