Otecko stood up, and with all the air of a showman pulled back the curtain that separated the two hospital beds. “May I introduce you Michael’s Bride To Be, and the other lady, you do not know.”
I barely heard their names, I was so confused at the time. Otecko paused, I think just to annoy me, then unraveled his story. “I told you that many have protected the artifacts from men like the Professor, and what we thought was true about Ambassador Rastilav, although he was a hero in disguise.”
“Many times, heroes work in the shadows, not because they have any darkness in them, but to illuminate the black around them, and reveal the truth. Early on, two things occurred to me. One was that if Rastilav was a candle in the middle of blackness, perhaps there was another.”
“Sam stated that there was not, and to his knowledge that was true. However, there was another. Would you be kind enough to join us?”
I promise you, my blood ran cold when I saw the face! “I believe you call her Grandma Assassin Tomás.” She smiled at me.
“I’m sorry for shooting you young man, but it was better than the group wanted to do. They wanted far worse, I rationed a bullet was better than what they would have done. You see, I convinced Rastilav, to let me be the attacker, to manage the danger.”
My head was spinning, and this time it wasn’t from the coffee. “You two were working together? I don’t understand.” She nodded for Otecko to continue.
“Rastilav was the only agent of the government, as Sam had stated. Grandma as you affectionately call her, was the young lady who stood across from me all those years ago as an alternate protector. Two are always assigned, one to guard, and the other to fight, if and when necessary.”
“She, it turns out, has fought many battles to keep the treasure, and our family safe over the years. Though at the time, I was unaware, as I was supposed to be. When you first showed me her face, I recognized her. I knew, I would receive a communication, now that we were in the same orbit, you might say.”
“When she did, we decided to allow events to play out, until we saw an opportunity. However, my precious Grandson, you almost ruined everything. At every turn when we were getting close to tightening the noose, you would accidentally create the slack the Professor would need.”
“At those points, we would postpone our attack. Finally, I realized that you were not an interruption to our plans, but a vital part of it. You see, all the while, my goal was to keep you children safe. I realized the only way for this to happen, was to allow you to play the hero.”
“When you went rogue and boarded the flight here, I contacted Sam and ‘Grandma’, and we hatched a plan. At the right point, you would be pointed towards the Professor’s doorstep, and while heavily guarded, you would be allowed to knock.”
Sam laughed, and so did Michael. “I’m sorry cousin. I just found all this out after lights went out for you, but Otecko’s pretty swift for an octogenarian. Sam and ‘Grandma’ aren’t too shabby either.” As he hugged his bride.
“Sadly, it was the Ambassador’s noble sacrifice that confirmed the second of my two thoughts. Much like Michael, and his young bride Nada, in every life, there is always a love story. For a good person, or a bad one, the heart looks for company. I knew that even the Professor must have someone in his life, or had someone in his life.”
“She showed up at the Ambassador’s funeral, the only person not seemingly connected to a group. She did not know him. Sam could tell by the look on her face when she viewed his picture from the pictures at the funeral home. This is Ruzena Kľúčiar.”
She was a tall willowy woman, no longer young like Michael’s fiancé, but there was beauty there. I wondered what she had been through, and without asking the question, Otecko proceeded to answer.
“For the last seventeen years, she has ran for her life. Afraid that the man she once loved, would kill her. He made promises that he would never harm her, and yet, allowed her to stand guilty for his crimes. Had it not been for her Father’s orchestration, she would have never escaped.”
“On the day of sentencing, he arranged for the jailer to disappear just long enough for her to walk outside. From there, a car took her to the airport. Though she never met the Ambassador, it was his work that secured her Father’s bribe went to an honest jailer.”
“A dishonest man would take the money, and not allow her to escape. An honest one would report the bribe and refuse it. The Ambassador persuaded the government to convince the man to go along with the scheme. Even then, there were men who knew the Professor was dangerous, but they could not prove anything.”
“So like a cat and a mouse, they played a long game. One that, much like ours, seemed to lead nowhere. Then, the woman who had been saved by the orchestrations of the Ambassador, now would repay the favor.”
“Why couldn’t she just testify about what happened seventeen years ago?” I asked, thinking this whole thing sounded a lot simpler than Otecko was making it seem. He smiled without making me feel naive, and kept talking.
“Her testimony would do no good, it was her word against his, now, as then, there was no proof. What we needed was someone to knock at the front door, while someone else unlocked the back. You Tomáš were our knock, and Ms Kľúčiar, who is appropriately named, was our key.”
“After the Ambassador’s death, we contacted her through Sam. She agreed to begin a series of threats to the Professor. Each time, more and more intense. At first by mail, then email, and then by phone. With every conversation, he was careful not to incriminate himself.”
“The day we allowed you to pull your little stunt, and had prepared the way to safely extract you, she was there. Ruzena confronted the Professor from the crowd, and threatened him. From her purse, she produced an old love note that the wicked man had once written, and with that he realized he had a problem.”
“She told him the note had been written at the very hotel he had claimed never to have stepped foot in. The scene of a robbery of artifacts where her prints had been found. She had always said the prints were planted, but she had no proof. Now she had a seventeen year old note that could result in a retrial.”
“He grabbed her arm, the wolf forgetting his smile, and threatened her. He ripped the note in to pieces, and told her that she would never prove a word of her accusation. On top of destroying evidence, he said one sentence that led to his unraveling.”
“The Professor said something very unscholarly. ‘I should have eliminated you a long time before the Milan job.’ He realized too late that the words slipped his mouth, as the smile came from hers. His eyes darted to see if anyone had heard the whispered phrase.”
“As he exited the building, he thought his momentary slip was safe. He relayed to his driver, in the privacy of his vehicle, of what he had not only said, but had almost said. As he chided himself for almost admitting to a myriad of crimes, that he detailed, I listened happily as he, you’ll forgive an obvious joke from an old man, spilled the beans.”
“When we arrived at his home, I turned from the driver’s seat, and took off my hat. Sam opened his door for him, as Interpol arrested him. By now, the entire conversation he had with his driver, has been replayed to him. He will miss his class on Monday. Now, who wants coffee?”