TCSC Ep 18 – Pen Pals And Death Threats

Monty looked at all of us. “About a week before they attempted to kill Lottie, I got a postcard. It said that my family was more family than they seemed, and less crazy than they acted.”

“So I started investigating who sent it. Once I learned who sent the postcard, I started getting some answers, and a lot of questions. My pen pal couldn’t believe I had found them, but that was easy.”

Naive me, I asked Monty how he found them. He laughed as he answered. “Why the stamp dearest, what else?” He can be sweetly obnoxious when he wants to be. I’ll tell you more about Monty’s discovery next week, and the death threats too.

TCSC Ep 17 – Dangerous Uncles

“For the first few years, we were safe. I think the diplomat’s brother suspected something, but all evidence pointed away from us. Until I was about two, either Jim, or Will, the agent that helped Mom and Dad that night, gave us up. Mom and Dad were on the run with us after that.”

“They knew that, if the diplomat found out, he’d be looking for a couple, an agent and her handler. So , Mom became a single Mother on paper, Dad hid their marriage records, and pulled some strings. To the world, and to us, he became our Uncle, but that wasn’t enough.”

“They realized they couldn’t leave the game, they had to stay in, to keep close enough to hear information. That’s when Mom started her eccentric phase. She was painting a picture of an agent who was slipping, slowly into a nervous breakdown.”

“Dad had cooked it up. It was his way of staying in, and getting Mom to be blackballed off of duty. If she was free, and sane, then she could keep an eye on us, and he would worry less. Of course he sold Mom on the watching us part.”

“A couple of guys showed up at my high school when I was seventeen, but Dad got there right after them. He had no choice but to let me see him rescue us. That’s when I found out he was an agent. We got the two men to admit who they worked for, and that someone had given them our location.”

Brendan paused for a minute, and looked at Monty. “The next day they found both Jim and Will dead. Monty, Mom and Dad, and me wanted to keep you safe. They didn’t like it that I chose to go into the business, but now I knew. Someone needed to protect them, and you, and I wasn’t going to let you all down.”

“We thought it best to keep you in the dark, but the trouble is, you’re too smart. If we stonewalled, you’d figure it out. So, I gave you a believable fake story about me getting in trouble. From the outside, an agent can make his life look a lot like a crook’s life. “

“There was a couple of flaws with my plan, which is why Dad cooked up the dangerous Uncle angle. It gave my getting involved in things a backstory. Plus, if Dad was loaded, but the funds were under close scrutiny, Dad and I could keep an on any prying eyes that looked into them.”

“Also, it would push you away from us, meaning away from danger. It was the hardest thing we ever did, but it was meant to give you a safe, peaceful, quiet life. Only you chose an amazingly high profile career.”

Sven laughed. “I gave you a stamp collecting kit when you were nine, you were fascinated. When you decided to study history, art, science, and archaeology in college, our little genius, I figured you’d end up in a university or museum. Who knew you’d be the swashbuckling stamp guy.”

“Your work drew too much attention, and that’s how the diplomat’s grandson found you. That’s Who Charlotte’s client really is. Monty, you didn’t know all this til now, so I have a question. Who did you think he was, and how did you know Charlotte was in danger that night? Also, why did you call your Mother? How did you know she could save her?”

We all looked at Monty, including me. Apparently my Cinderella Stamp Collector had a few secrets of his own. I tell you more about that next week.

TCSC Ep 16 – The Diplomat

“A Chinese diplomat married an American girl. The man was a noble man, working to bring reforms for his people. He and his wife had two daughters, and raised them happily. He was able to work discretely for years.”

“It was no small feat, considering his brother was very much his opposite. His brother was also very powerful, and that influence and position grew over time. They were both grandfathers when it all happened.

The Chinese diplomat’s daughters had met and married in Canada where he served in the embassy. They each had a child, a boy. It wasn’t long after until the man’s brother learned the truth. He acted quickly and cruelly, even reaching through illegal channels across the sea to the man’s daughters and son-in-laws.”

At this point we were all in tears, especially Monty’s Mom, who had been explaining all of this. Sven hugged his wife. He cleared his throat, and finished out the story.

“A friend of mine in Canadian intelligence contacted me. They had the family under surveillance when the diplomat was recalled, but no one expected this from family. The day the unexpected happened, the agents immediately moved in to rescue the children.”

“Jim knew the story they invented about the children wouldn’t deter anyone, and that he had to get them as far away as they could. It had to be done outside of official channels, backwater all the way. You two were driven to the orphanage in a fur store van. The two people caring for you were nurses from the local hospital.”

“Your Mother went in to make sure the records the orphanage had were solely the story that needed to stay there, and to speed safe adoptions for each. We had to make sure the nurses hadn’t added what little they knew. The idea was to let these two cousins get adopted quickly, preferably to different coasts, move all the children to safe homes, and destroy all records.”

“Then, your Mother saw you, and she sent me a picture. I hadn’t looked at either, trying to separate myself from the work. I knew when I got the photo, our lives had changed forever.”

Brendan finished out the rest. “It turns out, Mom wasn’t the only one snooping in the orphanage. Thankfully Mom got there first, but just barely. Two agents showed up, pretending to be a couple wanting to adopt a child.”

“This is where drama and creative writing earned more than college credits. Dad’s contact and quick information filled in the gaps. Mom invented a history for two non-existent boys, had them funneled through this orphanage to another in the state.”

“Then she switched some records around to make us look like the children of a runaway that no one knew much about. None of this had to be immediately air tight, just enough to convince the agents when they started sneaking around. While they were still laying out their act to the people at the orphanage, Mom slipped out of the office.”

“She snuck into the nursery, grabbed us both, and handed us to Dad and another friend out the window. Dad filled in all the trail that the agents would follow up on, and they began following a phantom trail for two important children.”

“We weren’t supposed to be important. Mom and Dad planned to leave the agency, raise us to be something successful but low profile, and live happily ever after. Things didn’t turn out that way, thanks again, ironically to family. We’re just not sure if it was Uncle Will, or Uncle Jim.”

Find out more next week in The Cinderella Stamp Collector!

TCSC Ep 15 – Hospital Shoes

How does a helicopter tell you why I didn’t refer to the client by any phrase other that “the client”? Because, as it turned out, Monty and I didn’t know anything. The person who hired me, was not who I thought they were. The problem was, I didn’t know who he really was yet, just who he wasn’t. Or anyone else either.

Brendan landed the helicopter at what appeared to be a small gas station. Sven was sitting inside when we walked in. “Hello, well Monty now that you’ve stirred all this up, are you satisfied?”

Monty didn’t respond with annoyance, or anger, both of which I was feeling. Instead he walked over, hugged his stepfather, and sat down. “How’s Mom?” Sven laughed. “She’s fine son, she’s resting downstairs. You were always both smart boys, when did you figure it out?”

“Actually Dad, that’s going to take getting used to saying, it was Brendan who caused it. He kept mumbling a phrase, we weren’t supposed to be important. That meant we were accidentally important, the question was how?”

“ Before you tell me who we really are, let’s talk about Lottie’s client. Who is he really?” Sven looked at Brendan, and Brendan laughed. “I knew when he was ten that stamp collecting wasn’t a good idea. Of course, back then I just wanted him to play baseball.”

Brendan filled Sven’s Coffee, and he started his story. Once, many years ago, there was a girl. Her dad had been a diplomat, who knew his daughter wanted to be a spy. On her first mission, her handler got some bad news, he had to pull her in from the mission to break it to her.”

“It was the first time I saw your Mother cry, and the moment I knew that I was in love with her. The problem was, I was her connection to the agency. If we were to date, I couldn’t protect her, so I didn’t tell her.”

“We went on working together for a couple of months after that, and I was cold, and distant. Then, she got shot in what was supposed to be a routine mission. I panicked, and got her to a hospital. She put two and two together, and asked me about it.”

“I was helping her slip her shoes on to leave the hospital after the Dr had released her. When she asked me when I was going to kiss her? I told her I loved her too much to try.”

“She told me I had read too many novels. Then said she was scheduled for a blind date the next night, and if I didn’t want her to keep it, I’d better act quick. She cancelled the date.”

Monty took the coffee Brendan handed him, and started to talk next. “Well that takes care of the ball, and the Prince. Does that make Brendan one of the mice? After all, if Mom’s Cinderella, he can’t be the wicked stepsister.”

His mother spoke as she got off the elevator. “You and Brendan are no fairy tale, neither is the family we’ve built. That started in an orphanage six months after we were married.”

“I was supposed to go in, get some information, and leave. Then I saw two beautiful little boys, two cousins who needed a home. It wasn’t rationale, it wasn’t safe, and it didn’t make sense, but I didn’t care. I knew I couldn’t leave you two, regardless of what the costs were.”

Monty hugged her. “Why all the secrecy? Why did you raise us with a stepdad we thought was an Uncle? An Brendan why when you figured it out, didn’t you tell me?”

Brendan kneeled down beside his adopted brother. “Because little brother, it turns out, we were more important than we were supposed to be. An this whole thing, was designed to keep this family together and alive. It was about protecting us, and our family.“

I was tired of riddles, and half answers. “You’ve all put both Monty, and Brendan for that matter, through an emotional roller coaster. What was worth doing that? Who were you protecting this family from?”

Monty’s Mom looked at me. “Ironically, from family. Relatives who would very much like to kill both of these boys. They’ve been on the run all their lives. That’s how they ended up in the orphanage. That’s why all of the charades, and antics. It was the only way to keep them alive!”

TCSC Ep 14 – It Wasn’t The Afternoon

When I first started telling you this story, I made one mistake, I referred to the fall as happening this afternoon. Sleep deprivation will do that to you. It’s also probably why I’m mentally telling a story to someone who isn’t there.

“Monty, we’ve been running for two days straight, with no sleep. Where are we going? We’re in the California desert, there’s nothing here!”

Monty kissed me. “You’d think that wouldn’t you old girl? Then, as Brendan would say, we weren’t supposed to be important.” He finished this as we came to a small clearing, and a helicopter!

The pilot looked familiar. When we got closer, I knew why, once I saw it was Brendan. “Monty, Charlotte, why couldn’t you have been a normal, everyday stamp collector?”

To which my Monty replied. “The same reason you had to be a spy.” Then his legs almost buckled under him from exhaustion. Brendan helped us in the helicopter, handed us water, and told us to drink it slowly.

We lifted off and flew to… Well, you’re not going to believe it. So I’ll tell you next week.

TCSC Ep 13 – Overkill

We didn’t end up meeting immediately after all. He called me back, saying the flight had been postponed, due to business. That he would meet me there for a conversation late on New Year’s eve. I thought it was abrupt, but with Monty on his own investigation, I had no plans for New Years.

When I showed up, the airport wasn’t festive. Who flies New Year’s Eve? My client had a small entourage on his private plane, including, it turns out, a late arrival.

“I heard you had some concerns about the investigation.” My client was interrupted by his business partner’s security man. “I’m afraid this conversation will have to wait. Your partner found out about your little investigation, and it’s very upsetting to my employer.”

The bearded man pulled out a knife, which should have clued me in, it didn’t. My reflexes kicked in, and I kicked the knife out of his hand, and knocked him to the ground, holding the knife defensively against his throat. My client sighed, and pulled out a gun.

“This was meant to simply arrange things, now it’s going to escalate. Mr. Lindsay, please remove the disguise, and you and your wife take a seat. Pilot, start the plane.”

I looked at the man, I wasn’t convinced it was Monty, until the disguise came off. His only response to my shock was, “Look At the knife.” It was the knife from a similar adventure when we first met. He had retrieved it after the investigation, had it engraved, and given it to me as a gift.

That knife had a long history with us, and it would continue to. Right now, it was in my pocket. Our client wasn’t concerned about it. He was more interested in our elevation.

“This is what’s going to happen. You two are going to die. You can either be shot First, and then dropped. Or you can delude yourself and exit the plane on your own power. I don’t care which, so are you realists or delusional.”

Monty answered for us. “I’ve never been a fan of the word overkill, we’ll jump.” My former client only laughed, shook his head, and motioned us to the door. He did say two words as we exited the plane that Dec 31. “Happy New Years!”

You may have noticed, I kept saying my client, instead of giving a name.  There’s a reason for that.  I’ll tell you next week, after I catch my breath.

TCSC Ep 12 – Way Passed Mrs Kelly

How did I go from being kidnapped by my Mother-in-law on December 28, to falling from a plane New Year’s Eve? I’ll tell you, but it’s a blur to me too. I was so used to a eccentric, almost disconnected version of Isla Lindsay, that this sharper version made me feel disconnected.

“Mrs. Kelly, what’s going on?” I asked, remembering her pseudonym. She laughed, then sighed.

“Dear, I think we’re way passed Mrs. Kelly. Monty’s piecing things together, much to Sven and Brendan’s dismay. Now it’s up to me to step in and mop it all up.”

She offered to drive me to where I was staying. I agreed, and thought I’d ask a few questions, since she was in a talking mood. “What are the three of you all involved in? Why the big act? You can’t be trying to go unnoticed, the eccentric bit draws to much attention.”

She smiled. “Honey, there’s more than one way to keep a secret. The important thing is we’re all still alive to keep it. Although you almost couldn’t say that. Your investigation is much bigger than you know. Do me a favor, keep safe, Monty needs you.”

With that, she dropped me off. I spent the next few hours, gun in hand, my bedroom door locked, and trying to piece together this mess. After dozing off for a few hours, I got ready, and went to confront my client.

I called from the car. “I need to see you. I have some questions. Where can we meet?” When he said he was heading to the airport, I should have refused, I didn’t. Next week, I’ll tell you how a crash landing leads to my dropping into New Year’s.

TCSC Ep 11 – Bullets For An Appetizer

It’s a funny how your mind works in a crisis. I imagined a conversation with my supervisor. “How did you spend New Year’s Eve? You watched the ball drop you say? My spouse and I were pushed out of a plane over a canyon.” I told you I’d get back to that.

Monty and I, through his amazing surprise, we’re able to celebrate Christmas, but New Years was another story. He said goodbye December 26, and I went back to my undercover work. The next couple of days, I thought I had hit a breakthrough.

I had found something that would give me the leverage I needed to turn one of the minor players against one of his bosses. It turned out, it was a setup. Although I didn’t know it until we were to meet in a small restaurant outside of the city. It was an ambush.

Before I got to the door, I was hit on the head, muffled, and blindfolded . Then thrown into the passenger side of a car. It took off at a high rate of speed, and I heard shots, and felt swerving. I was angry, tired, and confused. When the blindfold came off, and I saw my captor, I was thoroughly surprised.

A lot of Mother-In-Laws have wanted to tie up their daughter-in-laws, mine had actually followed through with it. “Don’t look so surprised dear. It was either this, or let them serve you bullets for an appetizer.”

TCSC – Christmas At The Fairmont

The thoughts of spending Christmas with your husband hours away is very sad but, days had turned to months, and here I was. Two days before Christmas, trying to decide what to do on Christmas by myself. My family understood, I was on assignment, and we’d talk by phone.

Yes, I knew it was not the same, but there was nothing I could do. Monty had made it safely out of the last gunfight with his Stepdad, but I hadn’t heard from him since yesterday morning. All of the sad Christmas songs I refuse to sing were echoing through my mind.

Then there was a delivery and at the door. It was a small package, very light. On it was a label which read, “Do Open Before Christmas!” While the kid in me was arguing with the detective in me whether or not to open a strange package, I got a text from Monty.

“Open it all ready Lottie! An no I’m not there.” Puzzled, but curious, I opened it. Inside was a Christmas red envelope with a Christmas green stamp. A yellow post it on top broke the Christmas shading with a handwritten note from Monty. “Take to the Fairmont Olympic immediately!”

Two unanswered calls, and five unresponsive text attempts later, I gave up, and drove to the Fairmont. I presented the red and green Christmas package to the Concierge desk. Without opening, he smiled, asked me to follow him, and we went into a private elevator.

It opened to the most beautiful Christmas tree I ever remember seeing, with my Mother standing beside it. Dad was carrying gifts to the tree. All of my family, including siblings, were there. I hugged them all, knowing Monty had done all of this.

After a few greetings I asked Mom where he was. She smiled sadly. “He isn’t here dear. He sent us the tickets, and had your Dad arrange the invitation to you. He said to tell you no one knows any of us are here, and your cover is safe.”

It was bittersweet. He had made Christmas happen for me, but it wouldn’t be the same with him miles away. I had changed for dinner, he had clothes bought and everything, and we were setting down to eat. Dad was saying Grace, and I was praying for the one Christmas gift I knew I wasn’t getting.

A familiar voice from behind me echoed the Amen when Dad was done. “Sorry love, there was a delay at baggage claim. You didn’t think I’d miss Christmas did you?” I hugged him, holding on to him even when he sat down. I’d ask him about the bruises on his face later. I was just glad to have my stamp collector home for Christmas!

Merry Christmas from The Cinderella Stamp Collector And PruittWrites!

TCSC Ep 9 – Danger Is A Family Trait

“Half of my life is classified, and I don’t have enough clearance to know what it is.” Monty was joking through his frustrations, but he was upset. Apparently, most likely for safety, he has been kept in the dark about his life for almost the entirety of it so far.

He had a Stepfather that he didn’t know he had. He didn’t know how his crook of a relative , Brendan, figured in, if he was a crook that is. His line over, “We weren’t supposed to be important.”, kept rolling through our brains.

Now, he finds out just enough to create a thousand questions without answers. Sven had been at the prison when Monty got there. He wouldn’t let him talk to the man. Apparently he had a court order that changed everything.

The two of them argued. Monty wasn’t getting anywhere. Until Monty suddenly stopped, smiled, and asked to use the Warden’s office a minute. The man agreed, they both waited at the closed door to keep Monty from trying something. A half hour later they opened it, to make sure he was still there.

He was, and was just ending a call when they did. Monty had found a loophole. The order barred Monty from seeing the man, not talking to him. He had called the man’s lawyer back, and asked for him to conference in his client.

The man agreed, and Monty got his answers. He didn’t tell the Warden, but Sven insisted Monty leave with him instead of the Warden. An Monty shared this story with Sven as they were walking to the car. That was when the argument started, right before a vehicle ran them off the road.

Then the three men in the suv started shooting at them. Monty took out his weapons, yes he carries two when necessary, and is a sharp marksman. He’s almost as good as I am. What surprised him was the gun Sven took out.

It wasn’t the fact that he had a gun, but the kind it was. Once they had wounded the three men, they forced them to switch cars, Sven’s being no longer mobile. Monty held his weapons on both until they pulled away.

After this Monty asked Sven what government agency he worked for. Sven made some joke about no one that knew him believing he worked for the government. Monty’s reply let him know he wasn’t falling for it.

“Exactly what an agent would want people around him to think. What’s so important that you’ve kept secrets from me my entire life. Do I ever get to know why my family is crazy?”

Sven looked at him, smiled, and responded. “My boy, didn’t you know, all families are crazy. You’ll learn the truth one day, but I’m hoping able to put some distance between the parties involved before you do.”

That’s when another vehicle rammed into them head on. This one, Monty had to help Sven limp away from. The other driver took a little while to extract himself from his overturned vehicle. While they did, they looked for cover. It was during these events that Sven shared just enough to make Monty want to know more.

All of this he told me after at least two more gunfights. It was a long day for him, and would be a long night for me. I had just discovered something when Monty hung up the last time. If it was true, Monty wasn’t the only one in trouble, my employer was too, from me. Apparently danger is a family trait!