The meeting was getting to be long and Ray had trouble focusing. He craved another cup of coffee but then he would get desperate to use the restroom, and they were at a critical juncture.
“One city in each of our countries,” the speaker was saying. He was the American, the hosts for this little get-together. “In the States, possibly more than one, but we can’t be sure. We’ve heard New York, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, although the latter doesn’t seem likely. Then there’s Manchester, Christchurch, Perth, and Calgary.”
Ray’s ears perked up, although he had already heard about Calgary. He spoke. “There seems to be a common theme, at least outside of the States,” he said. “Important cities, but not the major cities of each country.”
“We’ve noted that too,” the speaker said. At the start of the meeting, he had given his name as “Bill” and didn’t offer a surname, and no one believed his given name was really Bill.
Ray’s thoughts drifted for a moment, to Paulie. If it was really Calgary, and if something wasn’t done in time … she had an aunt in Halifax. That was far enough away. Maybe he could somehow get her to go there.
“Ray … you listening?” Bill said. “I asked you if you’re okay with the Canadian part of the game plan.”
“Uh, yeah, sure,” Ray muttered. “I suppose I should run it upstairs … I mean, well, we all have to do that … but there aren’t any options.”
“Nothing like an enthusiastic endorsement,” Bill said sourly. “But I hear you.”
“Okay, that’s it for today,” said the meeting host, a high-ranking American military official. “We’ll meet tomorrow morning to confirm things. That will give you all time to ‘run it upstairs.’ The official was staring directly at Ray. “Then we’re done for now and we can all go home.”
The meeting broke up. No one was saying very much to one another. Down in the lobby, Ray retrieved his cell phone from the bank of lockers and went out into the Hawaiian sun.
He’d have to call Paulie tonight, but he wasn’t sure what to say. His phone was in any case likely to be monitored, and using his New York number wouldn’t make any difference.
Kate was angry. She had literally torn apart Paulie’s apartment, emptying drawers and cupboards, even dumping the flour bin out on the floor. But there was nothing. In her rage, she had shredded Paulie’s clothes, smashed some lamps and kicked holes in several walls. It was a good thing for Paulie that she had not been present. Well, at least then Kate would have made Paulie give up the book before dispatching her once and for all.
But Kate knew that would have been a mistake. The damage she had already caused was probably a mistake. If only upline would give her the green light. There were risks to the continuum, but the risks to the plan were greater. Still, it wasn’t Kate’s call.
But she was an Assassin. Why not give her the freedom to do what she did best, what she did better than anyone else?
She’d get in touch with her upline bosses at once. She’d make them see it her way. And then, nothing would stop her.
Julianna didn’t like the way men controlled the lives of women, and right now, that unfortunate societal norm was threatening to upend her life completely.
As long as she lived as a single woman in her father’s house, she was under his control. Of course she loved her parents but her father was being very unreasonable about this Mr. Briston, a wealthy banker who would be considered a “catch” by many a young lady.
Both her father and mother pointed out that Julianna would soon no longer be considered “young” and would be disadvantaged in the marriage market.
Ugh. How she hated that term.
She had pointed out that Mr. Briston was twenty years her senior. Her parents reminded her that Admiral Grey was older as well, even though the difference was less than half. And Mr. Briston could marry her now and would be able to support her now, not at some indeterminate future date. Furthermore, Mr. Briston would be home every night and not somewhere on the high seas for months and even years at a time.
He was, they said, a “safe” option. And Julianna knew they were right.
Of course, she would just be moving from one master to another. Her father would no longer control her life, but her husband would.
That was true of Admiral Grey as well, but at least he was different.
But then a frightening thought struck her. Was he really different?
He was controlling her life, not through being her overlord or master, but through his actions. Making her wait for him. Continually promising things that he in the end was unable to deliver. Yes, it wasn’t his fault; in the Royal Navy, one’s life was never one’s own.
No. It was his fault, it is his fault. He could have retired. He would have enough of a pension for the two of them to live modestly on, and he could take up her father’s offer to manage one of his factories.
But she knew, even as she thought it, that a man of his nature would never be able to pass his days in a factory office. He’d want something more, something with a thrill, something vibrant and living. Julianna loved that about him, but at the same time it caused her pain.
Maybe she should take a second look at Mr. Briston. Her life was passing by and the waiting had been long and hard and showed no sign of ending.
“I hope you weren’t terribly uncomfortable, your Highness,” said Admiral Grey. They were aboard the Sovereign in the Admiral’s ready room, and King David Kālakaua had just been helped out of the large trunk in which he had been smuggled out of `Iolani Palace.
The King brushed off his clothes as he stood. “My goodness,” he said, “that was quite the trip.”
“All for your safety, Your Highness. You can remain aboard ship until we are certain it is safe for you to return.”
“But I will soon be missed,” the King said.
“All the better. Your enemies may think they have succeeded, that your absence is intended to cover your demise, if you will forgive my even mentioning it.”
“I’ll need to contact my senior staff, though,” the King said.
“I do advise against giving away your location,” said the Admiral. “Perhaps we can arrange communication through an intermediary, if you really must.”
“There is an assistant pastor at the Kawaiaha`o Church who may do for that,” said the King. “He is someone I trust.”
“Very well, then, we will facilitate that. But still, we might be best advised to keep it to a minimum. Now, perhaps some refreshment before we show you to your quarters? I am afraid our accommodations will be humble …”
“No matter. But indeed, some tea would be nice.”
“At your service, Your Highness.”
They were meeting again in that strange place out of time known to their subordinates only as “upline.” They sat in a semicircle, three of them, cups of the usual steaming tea in front of them.
“It is not going well,” First Man said. “Your Assassin has not completed her work in the Calgary reference frame, Second Woman; and Third Man, your staff in the Honolulu have yet to succeed as well. The success of everything is in jeopardy. You both know the delicate balance here.”
Second Woman replied, “We sent our top Assassin. You know who that is.” She shivered a little. “I don’t know what’s wrong.”
“She has requested authority to be … more direct … in her actions,” said First Man, “and I am inclined to agree.”
“But surely she must not to disturb …”
“We can tolerate the disturbance. We can make allowances and correct for it. What we cannot tolerate is a threat to the plan. You know what happens if we fail.”
“And you, Third Man,” continued First Man, “you have one more chance. See that you use it well.”
“But they are now one short,” said Third Man. “How can they … “
“It would take too long to send a replacement. Your remaining staff downline will have to manage. One more chance, do you take my meaning?”
Third Man just nodded, not wanting First Man to hear the terror that would have been in his voice.
Paulie knew at once that something was wrong when she arrived home that evening and found the door to her apartment ajar. Cautiously, she pushed it open.
She couldn’t believer her eyes. It was as if a tornado had struck. The sofa cushions were torn apart, the bookcases upended and the contents tossed everywhere; the curtains were ripped off the windows and her television screen smashed.
Dazed, she walked into the kitchen. It was no better, littered with broken dishes and everything in the cupboards thrown to the floor. The bedroom … when she saw her best clothes in tatters on the floor, she began to scream.
A neighbor heard her and called the police. Some while later, Paulie was talking to a sympathetic police sergeant.
“So you say nothing’s missing?” he asked.
“No, officer, nothing at all that I can see.,” Paulie replied. “Even my best jewelry was thrown around, but not taken.”
“It’s odd for someone to ransack a place and take nothing,” the sergeant, whose name was Al, said. “What’s the point, unless it’s some kind of revenge? Is there anyone who would want to do this to you? Or do you suppose they were looking for some particular thing?”
“No … no one. I can’t imagine anyone I know …”
“Ex-boyfriends? Jealous ex-girlfriends?”
“No … no, unless …”
A thought had occurred to her. Not a person … but, what had the Sergeant said? A particular thing? No … best not to mention it.
“Oh, nothing. Just a silly thought.”
The Sergeant looked a her curiously. “Well … look, is there anywhere you can go tonight? You might feel better if you were with someone, at least until you can get things put back together a little. I hope you have insurance.”
“I do … I guess I can call Joan and go to her place for now.”
“Good. And we’ll need you to come to the station tomorrow to file a report. I know it’s a hassle, but you’ll have to have the paperwork for your insurance company.”
“Okay, I … yes.”
The police would be on scene for a while longer, looking for evidence. But they wouldn’t find any. Paulie, more frightened than she had realized, called Joan and took a cab to her apartment. She made sure to take the logbook with her.
Elder chuckled. That Admiral Grey was a serious nuisance, but he wasn’t as smart as he believed himself to be.
So the King disappears just after this Admiral visits? How convenient. Eldest wasn’t quite sure how it had been done, but it was terribly obvious that the Admiral was protecting the King, very likely aboard his ship.
And that ship lay not far ahead, in Honolulu’s harbor. “Just a little further,” he said to Middle, who was manning the oars in the small dinghy that they had stolen.
The night was black, clouds obscuring the moon and stars. Dark skies over Honolulu. It was perfect. Eldest looked down at the long metal tube that lay on the deck of the boat. Admiral Grey’s ship tonight would go to the bottom of the sea with all aboard, from Admiral to King to lowliest seaman.
To be continued in February, 2021.
Admiral Grey was never without his favorite teas, even while on a long voyage. He kept small stocks of special teas for special occasions … such as serving tea to a King! One of his best was a rare tea today known as Golden Monkey, which is fit for Emperors and Kings alike, and is a great treat for us commoners.
This striking black tea (resplendent with large golden buds reminiscent of curled monkey paws) is rich, smooth and full bodied with deep earthy notes and an underlying sweetness of cedar and honey thrown in. Of course, it can be obtained from Tea Trader. If you’re in the Calgary area, you can call ahead for pickup at the shop. Elsewhere, you can easily order online. Enjoy your tea!