Long ago, in the 14th century when Barons and Earls with their vast powers ruled the land not yet called, The United Kingdom, a group of men and women, not all of whom bore titles or status banded together to form a secret society.
The society’s main objective was to find and bring to light evidence that would hold the nobility accountable for major crimes they had committed. Of particular focus were crimes where members of the nobility had successfully evaded the law of the land because of their power, influence, and entitlement.
The first group of eleven operated successfully and unnoticed among the houses of the nobility as their hired help. These individuals were above suspicion as highly skilled and valued members of the households of Barons and Earls—as their tailors.
No longer in the haberdashery/dress-making trade, the surviving great-grandchildren of the original group of tailors still operate in secret, providing oversight, and gathering intelligence on criminal activity, or rumored criminal activity, linked to members of the nobility.
Needless to say, this is a highly dangerous undertaking…
Present-day…Inside a rundown mansion just outside London, England…
“It’s not a question…I just want to know what that pretty birdie is with the note taped around its right leg, Auntie?” Asked the three-year-old, tapping his tiny index finger against the dilapidated bay window in Nella (Lady Atherton)’s bedroom.
“I don’t know, dear sweet nephew. I am not an ornithologist. I am no more an ornithologist than James Bond was in the movie you insisted that we watch last night with Halle Berry… Uh…did you say: ‘a note taped to its right leg?'”
Nella stuffed her phone into the single frayed pocket in her onesie pajamas, flung her entire body out of bed landing on both feet with her knees bent (a move known as a “kip-up”), and said softly to her nephew…
“Let’s go outside and see this birdie, shall we?”
With a big grin, as Nella swung her nephew in her arms up onto her shoulders—his favorite place to be, Ashleigh squealed in delight…”Okay, let’s!”
Apparently mysteriously trained to respond to Nella, the blue peacock strutted towards her as she stepped over the front door threshold. The peacock let loose its blue-eyed feathered display and calmly lifted its right foot, while Nella removed the note from its right leg.
“This is a blue peacock—Mayura (in Sanskrit), from India, Ashleigh. Do you think you can remember that for Auntie?”
“Yes,” nodded Ashleigh enthusiastically, still hoisted atop Nella’s shoulders.
“It’s time for you to go home, Ashleigh. I do enjoy these sleepovers, little one.”
While Nella spoke to Ashleigh a Jeep Cherokee drove up the Atherton estate’s oak tree-lined circular driveway and parked behind Nella’s vehicle.
“Hello, Mommie!” shouted Ashleigh still atop Nella’s shoulders.
At which Nella swung her nephew down into the waiting arms of her sister, Triaca, now climbing the few short steps to greet Ashleigh with her arms outstretched.
Meanwhile, the peacock strutted away between the oak tree trunks that lined the secluded driveway, closing its plumage as it swaggered proudly out of sight.
“I hope your nephew did not suffer you to the Spanish Inquisition, Sis. He is at the age of reason: questioning everything. I run out of breath sometimes —trying to be his Socrates,” said Triaca chuckling.
“No problem Sis, you know I love his visits.”
Looking at the unread note clasped in Nella’s right hand, Triaca asked, “Duty calls? A paying gig, I hope? You could use the income…for the repairs, I mean. No offense Sis.”
“None taken. And, I am not sure what kind of “gig” if any, this is. Take care of yourself and Ashleigh, Sis. Let me worry about this house.”
Then, Nella and her sister hugged, with Ashleigh, sandwiched between them.
As Triaca and Ashleigh departed in the Jeep Cherokee, Nella unfurled the note wrapped in the familiar linen fabric with the letter “T” hidden as a hologram within its individual fibers.
The note read:
“Sackcloth and ashes.”
Nella raced into her half-boarded up twenty-five-room sprawling mansion at Comfrey on Kent. She dashed up the rickety spiral staircase into her boudoir. After a quick shower with no hot water, she dressed in the necessary kevlar body armor, before donning one of her Tom Ford business suits.
She grabbed her already packed bag with her precious surveillance camera—a Phase One XF IQ4, along with her other “toys” and “gadgets” and sped down the spiral staircase.
She dialed her phone as she raced down the fake chandeliered staircase (the original Maria Theresa Swarovski crystal fixture had been auctioned off years ago to pay overdue taxes and utilities.) Multi-tasking in her brain as she raced down the stairs, Nella tried to decide which of the six vehicles she owned still had enough petrol (gasoline) to start its engine.
The caller on the other end of the line answered almost immediately; Nella, out of breath spoke:
“Hello, old friend. How’s business?”
“Hey there, Nella. What can I do for you, this time? Do you need the house looked after?”
“Yes. Our usual “fee”?”
“Yes, please…and thanks, old friend.”
“Stay safe. You know how you are Nella—vaulting with all kinds of insanity moves, across Europe.”
“A Lady never ‘vaults’ she twirls,” Nella chuckled in response to her old friend Macho (retired MI6 field operative)’s tongue-in-cheek remark.
“See you when I return old friend. And, take good care of our guests. (Nella refers here to her long-standing arrangement with her friend Macho. He pays her for the use of her family estate as a low-budget pop-up bed and breakfast during her frequent absences.)
“I will do my best to keep the walls in one piece, Nella. Cheers.”
Hanging up from the call, Nella made a split decision. She decided that she would use her backup vehicle (the silver-green Genesis G70) already parked out front.
Racing towards the sedan in her oak tree-lined circular driveway, Nella pressed the remote. The Genesis G70’s engine purred. With another press of the remote, she opened the boot (trunk) and driver-side door.
Nella placed her bag with her favorite camera gently into the boot and ensured that it fit snugly in the compartment she had used precious funds to install for its protection. Confident that everything was in order, she closed the boot.
Then, she was about to get into the driver’s seat…when she exclaimed…
“Dang it…I forgot my go-bag.”
Nella, with the Genesis G70’s driver-side door open and its engine running, ran back into her home for the go-bag.
A few short moments later…the Genesis G70 Sedan exploded.
An orange and amber fireball shot flames violently upward—vaulting burning metal and composite plastics, high into the sky. The flames grabbed the nearby tall oak branches, licked their oxygen clean, and sped, belching hot coals towards Nella’s front door with her still inside the half-boarded-up mansion she called home…
One hour later, at London’s Baccarat Bar…
Two men meet—drinks in hand, they exchange furtive glances and sit in a secluded booth.
“Any word from Nella? She should have been here by now,” inquired retired Colonel Denali (aka “The Colonel”).
“Yes, I am concerned also—in light of present events..,” said Earl Wickham III, former Brigadier, British Naval Command (aka “The Earl”), nervously over-stirring his Wedgwood crystal glass of ice water and lemon as if it were a cauldron.
“Send Rooftop to make a flyby over Nella’s place and the nearby roads.”
“Yes, right away,” answered The Earl, removing his phone from his jacket pocket and texting a call to action to his personal bodyguard and helicopter pilot, Tamar Shofar (aka “Rooftop.”)
“I’ve just come from the hospital,” said The Colonel. As his words clung to the fabric of sound, sorrow suddenly gripped the atmosphere around the two men like a burial shroud. “His wounds were too severe…He did not make it, I’m afraid…”
“God, how did things get so out of hand under our watch? Jesus, our ancestors (the original “Tailors”) must be turning over in their graves at our ineptitude!”
***To Be Continued Next Sunday***