9:11 a.m…near the back wall to London’s Baccarat Bar…
The beleaguered dumpster now engulfed in flames crashed with a horrendous clamor…a stone’s throw from Nella’s right foot.
Meanwhile…on the rooftop of Louis Vuitton at Harrod’s— two hundred meters from the rear of the Baccarat Bar...
Peering through his super zoom lens digital binoculars, seeing the stone door behind the dumpster he just fired a missile upon, close sharply, Mr. Raptor Kaine said…
“Oh…good… you are still alive…Baroness Lady Nella…excellent! With that Mr. Kaine closed the lid to the guitar case with his still smoking Mk.153 SMAW, handheld shoulder missile launcher.
Getting a faint whiff of the patented high explosive compound from the missile he just fired, Mr. Kaine inhaled deeply and said…
“Ah! My morning aftershave, the smoke of deception!”
Still grinning with delight, Mr. Kaine dialed his encrypted cell phone…
“I think I have been made. Sooner than we had hoped. Nevertheless, let’s proceed. We’ll get ’em one way or another! And, go collect Chandala from jail, it has all been arranged. Good hunting my brother.”
“Okay, will do,” replied Chedola, Raptor Kaine’s twin brother. “We’ll meet up at Knightsbridge. And, we shall have what we need when she shows up there. Cheers.”
“And remember, if she does not show at the Knightsbridge tube bunker, then let’s regroup at our plan B location—near the old church estate. He said that that is her go-to place for backup support.
Meanwhile back inside London’s Baccarat Bar’s wine cellar…
In haste, Nella pulled her right foot back inside the vacuum-sealed machinations of the secret exit/entrance as it now closed with aplomb wombing her inside the cellar entrance to the Baccarat Bar.
She sped up the stone staircase back into the main bar and scooted into The Tailor’s private booth. The Colonel and The Earl were still seated in the booth, their usual “office” —both feverishly on their respective cellphones.
Nella waited for her two fellow Tailors to finish their calls.
“Well, I am sure you heard the explosion?”
“Are you hurt, we heard gunshots before the explosion?”
“I am fine. My ego is bruised though,” chuckled Nella.
“Yes, I made some calls,” said The Colonel “…about Mr. Raptor Kaine. I am afraid I have been duped. We have been so busy infiltrating others that we ourselves missed the mole in our own midst.”
“Apparently, Mr. Kaine as we know him…” The Colonel continued… “hires himself out as a “Defence Specialist” (aka an arms dealer) to the highest bidder. He is the great-grandson, one of a twin, and heir to the Umberland bitcoin fortune and title. A fortune that now has been seized and will be tied up in the courts for decades, if the charges stick.”
“So this is a vendetta?” asked The Earl, incredulous at The Colonel’s intimation.
Sitting quietly listening, Nella mused with her thoughts. She found the whole affair too calculated and craftily set up, to be the work of disgruntled, now penniless, Umberland family members out for blood.
She sensed that these assailants had access to money (lots of it), power, influence, and knew how The Tailors operated. However, Nella kept her thoughts and the keycard she had ripped from Mr. Kaine’s lanyard to herself. Then she asked.
“Any word on the shooter from earlier this morning. I feel that there is a connection worth investigating?”
‘I was just on the phone with my son,” The Earl replied. “The assailant was hastily brought before a judge—awoken from his bed, and bail set at one million pounds. Apparently, someone called in and will pay his bail. His brother, I believe.”
“What! How did that happen so fast?” asked Nella, shocked.
“I could not say,” The Earl replied.
“What are your next steps, Nella?”
“I have a few ideas. I will call Rooftop for assistance. I will keep you posted.”
“Please, get to the bottom of this. we owe it…to them,” replied The Colonel with concern and compassion registering in his voice as his eyes welled up. And by them, The Colonel meant all three Tailors who had been murdered in the last year and the memory of their ancestors— the original Tailors.
Nella departed The Tailor’s private booth and made her way back to The Baccarat Bar’s wine cellar.
Suddenly…an epiphany struck Nella’s mind…its clarity lifted the veil to hindsight. She uttered her thoughts out loud to the eight-hundred-year-old stone walls around her listening from the past in the morning stillness…
“You had me in your sights…Mr. Kaine, here in this wine cellar…why am I still alive? Thus far you have employed the art of misdirection. So…why do you want me to think you are heading for Knightsbridge…hmm. Is it because you already know where I am going and plan to ambush me?”
With that said, Nella took a closer look at the keycard she had pulled from Mr. Kaine’s lanyard. It was not a valid card. The printed string of numbers on the back of the card was three months old. She and The Colonel had changed all the security measures for the bunker two months ago before his trip to Monaco. The new keycards have a different number sequence than the card now in her hand.
Nella discarded the key card on the stone floor of the Bacarrat Bar’s wine cellar.
Then, Nella fished in her sogged go-bag praying that the dampness and moisture covering everything inside the heavy canvas leather-lined bag had not damaged her spare encrypted Sat-phone still sealed in its manufacturer’s packaging.
She fired up the phone. To her delight…it was alive. She had no signal for now; but, once she was out of the wine cellar that should be sorted.
Nella crawled around the walls of the wine cellar under the Baccarat Bar looking….then she found it.
She found the secret crawl space made hundreds of years ago that led to an old church behind Harrods. In modern times, the Church had been sold and subsequently remodeled into a posh private residence. Nella knew the homeowners well.
She donned her headlamp from her go-bag trinkets. She strapped her go-bag to her back and arms. Then she knelt down and pushed the heavy stone door away. She crawled commando-style in the narrow, dusty, and damp catacomb shute. Her only companions in this tomb-like passageway—the occasional rat scurrying out of her way.
After over an hour of arduous crawling in the very tight quarters of the catacombs leading from The Bacarrat Bar wine cellar, Nella arrived at the grate under the remodeled old church now a private residence.
She took a deep breath and pushed with all her strength on the stone door. She now had enough head-room within which to crawl on her haunches.
Nella could hear the quiet water rippling above —of the Olympic-sized pool overhead. She turned the corner under the swimming pool and made her way to the catacombs’ garden exit. Using her feet to push the single stone away, Nella dove headlong into the rose bushes and landed on the wooden trellis slats in a heap of broken rose bushes rattling with a crunching clamour.
Startled, the homeowner seated on a beach blanket with her young son building sandcastles from Leggo blocks said…
“Normal people just ring the front doorbell. It does work you know!”
“Hello Sis, how’re things. Long time no see…” chuckled Nella—while she spoke, a tiny rat crawled out of Nella’s dusty overall’s breast pocket and scurried away into the garden hedge.
Three years old, Ashleigh dashed from his mother’s side on the beach blanket in the lavish garden of “The Grandamme II” estate and flung himself on Nella, hugging her tightly… “Auntie!”
Smiling at her son’s disregard for his aunt’s disheveled attire, her sister Triaca, picked up Ashleigh gently and said to Nella:
“One of your Head Gardners, Chelsea found your Tom Ford suit in their potting shed. She brought it over. I have cleaned it and reenergized the nanobots in its hologram chainmail fibers. Get cleaned up and suit up Sis!
“I could not reach you; therefore, I phoned Rooftop,” Nella’s sister Triaca continued while Nella made her way to the estate’s outdoor showers. “She informed me of the fire at The Grandamme. I have invited Rooftop and her big brother, Ridder to stop by of course, under the circumstances. And…am I to assume then, from your undignified entrance that we are about to have visitors…?
“Yes, the lethal kind. I suspect one of us (The Tailors) is not who he appears to be. I was giving a false clue about an hour ago pointing me to the Knightsbridge tube bunker.”
“Okay, but why did you say ‘false’ ?”
Following a long pause, Nella replied,
“The real Colonel would have known that he and I agreed two months ago that we would switch to new key cards. And, one more thing…he and I agreed to retire the centuries-old “sackcloth and ashes” distress signal in favor of a new one “out of pocket.”
“Let me get this straight…You are saying that based on an expired keycard and a retired distress signal, you believe that the person claiming to be The Colonel is not the real Colonel?”
Removing her Satellite phone from her go-bag, Nella dialed Rooftop.
“Hey, it’s me…What do you mean…”which me?”…Seriously though, can you have your contacts check on The Tailor who passed earlier this morning at a London City Hospital? I would rather you not let The Colonel know you are checking. Just a hunch I have that something about The Colonel is not quite right. Thank you, Rooftop. See you in a bit….”
***Continued Next Week Sunday ***