TCSC Ep 27 – An Explosive Response

The windows blasted open, glass went everywhere.  We would have been dead, had we been inside. That’s the beauty of a fake entry, if you live underneath it, and the first floor gets blown up, you’re as safe as the ground level’s roof, ours was titanium.

At least Sven said it was that strong. He had safe houses stashed everywhere it seemed. Monty told us this one was where his Mom had took them on vacation once.   

He had asked her why it was mostly underground, and she had explained to the eleven year old genius, “It’s safer during storms.” It was logical, so he accepted it. Now the type of storm she had really meant, was raining down on the top level.  

We used one of the tunnel exits to walk out two blocks down.  The news that night had some cover story about a small gas explosion.  We knew the truth.  I’m tempted here to use some cliche around the word Stamp, but instead I’ll tell you about our delivery to them.

It’s probably what caused such an explosive response, sorry, had to do it.  We sent a thumb drive containing old news reports about the death of a Chinese Ambassador, and a list of four names on it.  We suspect it was the third name that made them nervous, so much so they didn’t care how we knew, they just wanted us dead.

TCSC Ep 25 – Penny Black

Sir Rowland Hill, credited as the primary force behind the creation of the postage stamp, that was the name Monty left at the hotel. My husbands as a sense of humor, and history. 

What we were selling, no one knew, including us.  All we had said was that we had something of value, connected to the family of a certain deceased Chinese Diplomat. Since anything we sold was connected, because of family, we could sell a toothpick and it be the truth, or a postage stamp.

We weren’t interested in the sale, as much as the buyer.  Whoever contacted us, apparently also had a sense of humor.  When asked for a name, the person had left the name of Thomas Neale.

The first person, back when we were under British rule, appointed as a Postmaster in 1691.  The first part of the message was simple, an offer for a million three hundred thousand, but the second part was strange. 

“Tell your Dad I want my Penny Black!”  Monty immediately called Sven.  I thought this was weird, but it was going to get even stranger next week!

TCSC Ep 24 – Stamp Of Approval

We took a break from our struggles this weekend, to do something very special. Monty had it in his coat pocket when we slipped into the pew. We were near a little Church on the outskirts of town.

After the Easter service, which was wonderful, Monty handed the Pastor an envelope. He whispered quickly to him, and we left. Each of us couldn’t help smiling on the way to the car.

We read the story in the paper two days later. “Pastor sells rare Stamp, pays off Church mortgage.” When interviewed, they asked the Pastor how he had obtained it. His answer thrilled us.

“It was Easter. God reminded us through this, that He continuously watches over His people. From empty tombs, to unexpected blessings, God always opens a door. No matter the obstacle, He puts His stamp of approval on those who trust in Him!”

TCSC Ep 23 – Beautiful Trap

The next few days were blissfully uneventful. I called my real boss, told them I was in danger, dropping the case I had been hired for, and to fire our client. According to what I was told, it would happen, but I knew it wouldn’t.

I’ll explain why later, right then I didn’t care. I wasn’t a quitter, and the case would get wrapped up, but I couldn’t put the guy in prison while working for him. I had to be free to work against him. He had threatened my family, and thrown my husband and I out of a plane.

It was time to rearrange the pieces. Ironically it would take a stamp to do it, though not the kind I expected. Monty came in after the call, holding a piece of porcelain. He flipped it over, showed me the stamped underside of the piece, and began to smile. When it clicked, I did too.

This whole time, evil men were looking for their own version of Cinderella. Whether it was dominance, power, or a family treasure, they wanted something to slip their ugly foot in. We’d give them something to step into all right, a very beautiful trap.

TCSC Ep 22 – A Strange Combination

“It’s a horrible thing to find out your brother wants you dead, but that’s what it looks like. The hit originated in the same island Roger was last seen at. I’m not sure yet, but it points his way.” Sven looked heartbroken and tired.

Monty smiled. “Well, now we’re all out of secrets, what’s next?” His Mother laughed. “Montague we’ve both been spies for most of our lives, were far from out of secrets, or ideas. Here’s what we’re going to do.”

She spent the next half hour laying out the plan for the next few days. Then Sven, an excellent chef, cooked an early dinner and we all crashed for the rest of the night. Monty and I talked over all this late into the night.

Monty had a lot to process. I mostly listened. Finally he drifted off to sleep. He had his family back. In the middle of people trying to kill us, he was happier than I had ever seen him.  There was happiness, and there was danger, what a strange combination!

TCSC Ep 21 – Love, Not Money

Monty continued his explanation. “The man said the people who wanted us dead were no longer worried about the Chinese Diplomat’s influence, they wanted his treasure. That it was the real reason everyone wanted us dead. That’s why I was wondering about where our finances came from.”

Sven looked at his wife, then sighed. “I was hoping to keep you boys safe, but you have to know. There is no porcelain treasure, or ancient artifacts. What the Diplomat called an imperial collection, was the burden and responsibility he felt, for all those innocents hurt by people in his family. He came from a long line that had worked in the different forms of his government from ancient time.”

“He felt his responsibility was to rescue as many as he could, protect, and free everyone in danger that he could. He sold piece by piece, the family collection to pay for operations to move people to safer situations. Over time, he decided to use the names of the collection as code.”

“This way, if anyone outside of his team discovered any paperwork, they’d assume he was smuggling artifacts, and not people. Hiding his most precious treasure in plain sight, the lives he saved. Those lives are still in danger, and your Mother and I, along with some others, sort of inherited the job.”

“Our money doesn’t come from anywhere exciting, or dangerous. The fact is, your Grandmother, my Mom, was loaded. She made several bundles in the stock market, and those bundles continue to make more.”

“Mom worked as a secretary for twenty five years for a company. She believed in it, and invested in it early. Then she started using it to make more purchases.”

“At her retirement party, she bought the company. The only mistake she made, was telling my brother we were wealthy. He never worked another day, and wasted his life. I wanted you boys to have what you needed, but I wanted you to have initiative too.”

“My brother was a genius, we’ve got the IQ tests to prove it, but he stopped trying. Last I heard of him, he vanished after a week in a little island off the coast of the Caribbean. I loved you boys too much to let money ruin you.”

“That’s also why I was so cold and distant the last few years. There was a hit out on me, and I couldn’t risk being near you all. Telling you would have meant you wanted to protect me, and I couldn’t have that.”

“Brendan didn’t even know that part til now. I used other excuses to keep him away. They bombed a hotel I was supposed to have been in when you were 17. My plane was late, it’s the day I decided to play the heavy to keep you away.”

“I couldn’t risk your Mother, or you all. So I advised a plan to root out the money behind who was trying to kill me. I recently found the answer, and I didn’t like the news.”

TCSC Ep 20 – Scribbled In Fear

“I’m still putting it all together, but what he showed me told me enough. I expected to see a photo of some ancient porcelain, instead he showed me a list. Scribbled beside the typed list, was a name, with the word Agent  in front of it.”

“It looked familiar, but it took a second. It was one of Mom’s earlier aliases. On the last line of the list, scribbled in another color ink, was kill Charlotte Lindsay. I called Mom, told her enough, and she started following Lottie. Then rescued her.”

I squeezed my Mother In Law’s hand. The woman I had totally misread for years, smiled in a kind, quiet humility I liked. I could see now, the difference in the grandiose act she had put on, though at the time totally believable.

Then a thought occurred to me. “Monty, how did a list of names tell you it wasn’t just a threat? I mean people have threatened to kill me a lot in the past.”

He didn’t laugh. “Because all of the dead people we’ve encountered through this, were in the middle of the list. Nearer the top, were Uncle Will and Uncle Jim. Then farther up, I saw my name, and Brendan’s, scribbled beside of the words two orphans, in the same color ink as your name.”

Sven spoke next. “How did you convince the guy to listen?” Monty smiled. “I showed him my ID. When he knew I was Montague Lindsay, he figured he was safe. His name was scribbled above Lottie’s. He figured he I could help him.”

TCSC Ep 19 – Trust And Help

“It turns out that our, the Chinese diplomat, our Grandfather, though I did not know it at the time, was a man of surprises. In addition to trying to protect his family, he was a protector of artifacts.”

“His family had a collection of rare Chinese imperial artifacts. One that he inherited, and his brother wanted. Apparently it was never recovered. My first guess was that it was being sought out by the Chinese government, but I learned that it wasn’t.”

“Sven, Dad, I guess, is that where the family money comes from? Is that why the purse strings are so controlled, to give time for liquidation? You’re and Mom’s story didn’t explain where the money comes from.”

Sven was tired, but he knew his son was just trying to find some answers. “No son, we never had it. I assumed the diplomat’s brother got ahold of it. Our money comes from something else. I’d rather not explain that right now, I’m going to ask that you trust me.”

Monty stood there a few seconds as if deciding. I saw the lines smooth in his face, he had decided to trust. Later that night, he told me that they had risked everything for him and Brendan, how could he not believe in them.

“I do trust you. Anyway, the person who sent me the postcard almost broke his neck trying to get away from me. He thought I was the guy sending him the death threats. When I finally convinced him otherwise, he showed me what he had that they wanted. That’s when I knew Lottie was in danger, and that Mom could help.”

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.