The Italian Hatmaker: Henri Knew

Henri knew the King’s Envoy, he was a legend among the royal heads of Europe. Outside of the families, only the closest aides knew who he was.  They said that no one could hide from him, but that he could hide from all.

He knew that his own skills were good, but they didn’t match the Envoy’s.  The only advantage that he had was that he knew what it was like to be a fugitive.  Henri knew that hiding in plain sight wasn’t only a ploy, it was an act of desperation.  Anyone who had enough time to get away, would do so quickly.

This is why that Henri took another approach when he arrived in Paris.  He went, not to the out of the way places, but to the busiest place in Paris.  At this time it was the market.  It was there he found two very unusual looking Frenchmen.  Unusual in the sense that they were doing everything they could to act normal.  Which meant it was not what they were doing that was awkward, but how they were doing it.

The movements were at times slow and precise, at others rushed, as if they had just given themselves away.  Henri would have normally waited until dark to approach them, but he couldn’t resist the Envoy reaching them first.

“Monsieur, if you and your friend wish to live, I suggest you follow me.  The Princess Royal of France is much more accommodating than her cousin the English King.  This is not to mention that His Majesty’s Envoy is the best swordsman in either country.”

The two followed him to a small cart pulled by a, very plain looking, gray horse.  Once outside the city, the horse revealed a speed that was masked by his appearance.  “Where are we going?” Giuseppe asked.  Henri looked at him, “To freedom, which in this case is in Champagne.”

The Flop: Attack

“She likes me? You’re crazy! What’s this niece business? What else don’t I know?” “You are ready for questions two and three, but I fear you are not ready for the first one.”

I should have said something, I didn’t. Instead I went to the store. When I was outside the front door, I heard nothing, I expected loud arguing, but that’s wasn’t their style.

When I returned, I acted like nothing happened, so did they. Well, so did she, Augustus was amused, Jean Luc seemed mad at me. Without words, he made it plain that my actions had angered him. Apparently he had taken a great liking to the Prime Minister.

I was cooking when Camille grabbed an apron. The two observers retired to the porch. “You’ve yet to tell me who’s the one pulling the strings.” “Honestly, we’re not sure. We hope you’re safety will smoke them out.” “Who knows I’m missing?” “Only the ones chasing us. The nation thinks you’re at Camp David with the President and First Lady.”

“How?” “A very good actress that will never win an Oscar, but may win a medal.” She sat down with a strange look on her face. “It’s ok ma’am, we will return you home safely. It’s for your own protection.” The Prime Minister looked at me somewhat distracted. “Of course, I just can’t help but feel that something seems off. What would happen if I was needed right now? What if my country was attacked?”

“Don’t you see Ma’am, it has, when they attacked you, they have threatened the country. Our job is to keep you alive long enough to answer that attack.” She sighed. “My answer as Prime Minister has to be balanced and responsible. As Camille, I want to practice my judo.”

It was then that she proceeded to attack a small table with one kick. I looked at the rubble, then at Augustus, and finally at her. “So you’re Augustus’ niece?” She laughed and left the room.

Cambridge’s: It Trumps Two Sacks Of Wheat

Winston remembered being heartbroken when he and his friend Chester arrived at the McCalister house. The initial announcement of the gift to her Grandmother was welcomed, but as they were carrying it up the steps, the strap tore. The clock went backwards, placing a huge hole in the back of the clock.

“That is when my son, I learned the amazing spirit of your Grandmother and Great Grandmother.  They could see that I was really disappointed.  Your Mother wasn’t home yet, so they went to work.  The two of them fixed the clock in a few minutes with a small cloth glued to the outside of the back of it.  It took a little longer to repair me.”

“They pumped me with tea and cookies, and talked about how wonderful the gift was.  ‘Ashley is sure to love it.'” Winston could see that day as clearly as crystal.  What he didn’t learn until some time after the Wedding was what happened next.

Ashley didn’t care for the expensive gift so much as the three of them had hoped.  “Mother, indeed, it’s presumptuous for a man that I’ve never spent ten minutes with to buy me an expensive gift.”  Her Mother stifled a laugh.  “Your Father brought my Father two bags of flour, you remember Granddad was a farmer, and asked if he could date me.   That clock, well, it trumps two sacks of wheat! Then I was informed we were going out.  It wasn’t presumptuous, it was nervousness.”

Now Grandmother laughed, “Ashley dear, Men are talkative, strong, and courageous until a pretty head turns them.  You turned young Mr. Cambridge in your direction, don’t expect him to know how to address you at first.  You have to give him time.”

“He will learn, but you, like every woman before you, has to be patient with them.  He’ll wait for you, you must wait for him.  You see, God intended it this way, love isn’t only about romance, it’s about instruction.  You spend the rest of your lives learning about the person you love.”

“Grandmother, Mother, you act like I’m going to marry this stranger.  I do not intend to marry anyone until I’m at least 25!”  They were married the next spring, and were still madly in love.  Their courtship though was very rocky, especially the next 72 hours after the clock arrived.

It’s not often that the woman you intend to marry backs over you with a refrigerator.  Find out how and why in our next installment of Cambridge’s.

140 Mile Stretch: Smoke And Mirrors

Meyer Coppolini was a magician, perhaps the greatest magician that Tom had ever known.  He had been a friend, and teacher for a much younger Thomas.
Meyer would know nothing of this type of adventures.  What he did understand was misdirection and strategy.  Meyer had been a soldier as well as being a magician.   He could read people’s intentions easily.
He had retired to Florida, but Tom could reach him by phone.  “Mr. Coppolini, you won’t remember me, but I was a student of yours.  I need to ask a question.”
“Thomas, you sound a little horse, but I recognize your voice.  How can I help you?”  Tom thought, he thanks he’s talking to a younger me.  “I think someone is playing a trick on me.  I think they are using misdirection.  What would you say about a man who walks in expensive clothes, well to do everywhere, but has a badly dyed head of hair?”
Meyer smiled, “I would say two things.  Either, you know him and he is trying to mask his identity.  Or he is not as rich as he may want to appear.  Clothes can be borrowed, much like coins.  Hair is a little harder to fake, not impossible, but harder.”
“Thank you Mr. Coppolini.  One more question, if that same person tried to focus your view in one direction, what direction would you look at?”  Coppolini laughed.  “Why, in exactly the opposite one.  Most would say that if a man points to his left hand, look at his right.  I say don’t look at either hand, that’s too easy.  Instead, look at his feet.  He is walking towards what he is pushing you away from.”
Tom thanked him and ended the call.  His words echoed through Tom’s head.  “He is walking towards what he is pushing you away from. The two words he used were family and power.  He wants me to focus on the family aspect, while he grabs for power.  Why?”
It hit him like a bolt of lightning.  “1918, He’s trying to get me to forget 1918.  That’s why he blocked us from getting there to start with.  Minnix wants me to think this goes back to the revolution, it doesn’t.  1918 is the key to it all.  When in 1918?”
Tom reviewed his mental notes.  He had crammed his head full of dates relating to 1918.  He stopped.  “It’s got to be, it’s brutal, but it has to be the answer.”  He rushed to Cameron’s room and knocked until he answered.
He started explaining as soon as he was inside.  “In 1918 The United States Post Office Department started the world’s third regular airmail service.  It ran between New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., that’s his strike zone.  It’s also why he’s trying to prevent us from getting there.  He just contacted me and tried to convince me it was about the 1790’s.”
“Why try and stop us, why not just make his move?”  Tom looked out the window and pointed.  “He can’t until that’s taken care of, and Minnix can’t take care of it, until he stops us.”

The Italian Hatmaker: Reach Them First

“I did not think you were ugly.” Laura told her husband every time he recounted the story to his children in their cribs.  Now the children were much older, but her mind wondered back to that time often.  She did this as much as all parents do as their children grow bigger.  Laura smiled at the memory.  She thought his mustache had been ugly.  It was like a smear on his handsome face.

Once they were married, her first act was to shave it off.  Guiseppe never wore it or his beard again.  His face looked entirely different without it.  “Some men look grand with them, but you are not one of them.  You look incredible without it.”  That was the only persuasion it had taken.

This lead to the memory of what she was doing when the news of the escape came to her.  Laura turned red, embarrassed by her reaction.  That reaction was to laugh in the King Of England’s face.

“Laura, this isn’t funny.  Our entire plan hinges on these two!”  “Our plan?  This is not my plan.  This is your feeble attempt to hold on to the throne, I’m not concerned.” He never reacted in anger, so he left without speaking.

Laura looked at her servant Henri.  “Get a message to Paris.  Tell these two escapees to run.”  “Your Highness, why would they go to Paris? How would I find them?”  She looked frustrated.  “If anyone can find them you can.  Where will they go other than Paris?  It’s the closest port a stranger would migrate too.  It is there that they will meet the King’s Envoy.  You must reach them first before he does, now go!”

The Flop: Board Games

“You win again Ma’am.”  I was really tired of saying this.  For two weeks Mr. President, two infuriating weeks, the Prime Minister has beaten me in every board game we’ve played.  Between that and arguing about the sports of Curling versus Hockey, I’ve not had a moment’s rest.

The Prime Minister seems to be fond of winning.  Augustus and Jean Luc keep staring at the computer screen.  I’m not sure which of the two of them has consumed more coffee.  Have you ever seen two people pumped full of caffeine, yet curl up and take a nap at a moment’s notice?

“I’ll ask you for the hundredth time, where are we?”  The Prime Minister sighed after winning again.  I frowned.  “Miss Prime Minister, I’m afraid that for your own safety, I’m not allowed to provide that information.”

We went through this routine at least twenty times a day.  This time though, she paused for half a second.  Then continued on as if nothing was different.  I was on guard, but didn’t say anything.  She was up to something.

“I’m hungry, want something?”  I shook my head no.  “Ma’am, if you are hungry I can cook whatever you require.  My Grandmother was a chef.”  “I may be a politician, but I’ve never liked to let someone else cook for me when I could. Cooking relaxes me.”

She’s a great cook, almost as good as me, maybe better. She started cooking everything in the cabinets. This lasted for about four days. We we’re actually enjoying each others’ company. Until she sweetly looked at me and said. “We’re out of food, can you go to the store for some eggs?”

I thought I had her. “No need, I have a supplier close to here. What else do you need?” She was rattled, but not allowing it to show. Then she smirked. “Milk, butter, cheese, and chicken.” I matched her smirk.

“I can get all of those in a half hour.” To which she replied. “It took us a day to get here. That narrows it down. You wouldn’t risk a city, it’s an easy target. So we’re on a farm?” I frowned, she laughed. “Why do you think I’ve fixed so many meals the last few days? Surely you really didn’t think I was enjoying your company?”

Augustus spoke up. “No you don’t Camille. Normally I address you as Prime Minister. Now you are behaving as my sister’s child. Tell the man the truth.” My brain was hurting.

As you probably know, it was beyond my clearance, Camille’s Mother was Augustus’ half-sister. This was hidden to protect his family. Augustus’ enemies may have attached family members to get to him. This was the second most important revelation of the day.

The first was a bit more personal. “Tell the man the truth Camille!” She pouted like an eight year old, went to her bedroom, and shut the door. I looked at him. “What is the truth?”

Jean Luc purred oddly. “You’re right Jean Luc, to be so smart, he is a little slow. She likes you my boy, that’s what makes her so furious. Camille is angry at herself every time she sees you because she likes you.” Now I was angry.

Cambridge’s: The Olsen Clock

Winston Sr. was transported mentally all those years as he narrated to his son. “This was old Wilson’s store when I was young.  He had good merchandise, but nothing like we have been blessed with, save one item.”

“There was one piece that was the most exciting thing in the store.  I loved it, you might say, it helped point me in the right direction, for all the wrong reasons”  Winston hadn’t heard all this story before, but he knew what the item was.  “The Olsen Clock.”

His Father smiled.  He saw her outside across the way.  She was helping her Grandmother with shopping.  Ashley McCalister was home from college visiting.  Winston worked for Kent Wilson, and knew that Ashley would be in the store any minute.  He looked at the clock.

Winston was scheduled to leave early to go on a trip with his friends.  Kent was encouraging him to go on and have a good time.  Mr. Wilson stopped when he saw the look on Winston’s face.  It was during that visit that Ashley and her Grandmother remarked how beautiful the old clock was.

It was an heirloom from the early 1900s, that had seen better days.  It had an oak cabinet, sterling silver casing. It was made with copper gears, and had a jeweled face.  Time had weathered it, and conditions had damaged it.  Even though, it was in far less condition than it should have been, it was a treasure.

Kent had bought it as the talking piece of his shop, and it had served it’s purpose well for years.  A fleeting comment from Ashley would alter both their lives.  “Grandmother, when I marry, I want to buy this clock to remind us how precious time is.  I want to use it to cherish every moment of my family’s life together.”

Her Grandmother Linda smiled.  “Time is precious, when it’s used to treasure loved ones.”  Neither one of them paid any attention to the young clerk sweeping a clean floor.  They made their purchases and left.  He called his friends, cancelled his trip, and made an agreement with Mr. Wilson to use the money to purchase the Olsen Clock.

Find out what happens next in the upcoming installment of Cambridge’s next month.

140 Mile Stretch:It’s About Family

One moment Tom was in his hotel room folding the new shirts that he had sent up. The next minute, he was in Oscar Minnix’s office. “Hello Tom, I’m glad to finally meet you.” He had seen pictures of the man, but this was their first face to face meeting. The previous, heated communications had been by computer.

“When are we?” Tom asked, not expecting the truth. Minnix laughed, “I’ll tell you where, I’ll tell you why, but you don’t get when.” He was a short man, his hair had been dyed black. It had been dyed, and poorly so. Tom remembered thinking that someone like him could have afforded better. His eyes were blue, he was of average size. His suit was expensive, so was the rest of his outfit. That’s why the hair didn’t make sense, Tom filed this away in his mind.

“Ok, where and why?” “The top of the Flat Iron building in New York. Why is that I want to know what you know.” Tom laughed. “This is where you’re supposed to give me the clue on how to stop you.” Now Minnix laughed. “We know that isn’t going to happen. I’m not expecting you to tell me either.” It clicked.

“You’re keeping me here so your operatives can search my hotel room. That explains Sykes’ real purpose. You won’t find it there.” Minix shrugged.  “It’s worth a try. It also gives me something else. I can test your nerves. I wanted you to stare me in the face and see just how tough you really are. “

Tom shook his head. “If you’re expecting me to lunge at you don’t. You already know that I’m not easily frightened. You found that out when you burned my home down. I’m also not crazy enough to attack you physically. When I hit you, it will be silently, it will be fierce, and it will be significant.”

“Then it’s a battle of equals is it? Or, are you just wanting me to think you are as powerful as I am?” Tom leaned across the desk. “It’s not a question of how many strings I can pull. It’s a matter of patriotism. To me, this is a war for the history of our country, to you, it’s about power.”

Minnix laughed.  “It’s less about power than it is about family for me.  You and I will do almost anything for family won’t we?  If the 140 mile stretch is destroyed, it will alter the balance of power, but that’s an afterthought.”

“New York  will remain the nation’s capital.  My family’s history will be forever altered.  Sadly, you won’t figure out how until I’ve won.  Goodbye Tom.”
Tom set down on the bed in his hotel room.  Minnix wasn’t stupid.  Had his ego let him slip up? Was the comment about New York a red herring?
It was Tom’s chance to laugh now.  He couldn’t have made contact a year later than this one.  Now though, he was very much alive, and it was time to make a phone call.

The Italian Hatmaker: The Jailer Won’t Need

How do you escape a locked prison without a key?  That was the question that Guiseppe and Ethan had to answer.  Fortunately, Ethan was in prison with a hat maker.  If he had been in prison with a tailor, or a cook, he would have been in trouble.

A hat maker fashions hats out of very strange items at times, especially Guiseppe.  It was nothing unusual for him to have had to make a metal ornament for a wealthy client’s hair.  So it wasn’t that hard to fashion a key out of a cot wire.

Guiseppe always kept a spare tool hidden in his shoe.  His Father had taught him this trick. Although he failed to explain to Guiseppe how he had learned it.  Guiseppe figured that out years later when he discovered what his Father had done for a living.  A spy from Milan who vacationed away to spare his life.  So this innocent hat maker was not far removed from the intrigue of court after all.

The two fugitives hid in the best possible place for them.  One where no one would have guessed.  The jailer’s room in the castle.  They reasoned that he would either be searching the grounds or occupying their cell.  This meant that he would have no need of his quarters.

The dock was just under his window.  At midnight, the two stowaways commissioned the king’s ship, and sailed away from their castle prison.  They knew that all of the land exits would be patrolled, and that this was their only way of escape.

It wasn’t until the next day that they figured out that they were actually imprisoned on a small island off the coast of France.  “We have to get rid of this boat.  The king will chase us as soon as he gets to another ship.”  Guiseppe grinned, “Of course my friend, when we dock in Paris!”

Find out what the Italian Hatmaker and his friend find waiting for them in France’s capitol next time.

The Flop: The Cat’s Eye

Jean Luc jumped into her arms.  He was pleased to meet another person who simply adored him.  The Prime Minister was happy to meet someone whom she didn’t have to worry about how they would vote.

“Hello Augustus, how are you?”  “I am well Madame Prime Minister, how are you?”  She finally looked at me.  “I have a feeling that I am better than I will be in a few minutes.  Why are you with him?”

“Allow me to answer that by first showing you what I found in the cat’s eye.”  Augustus held up the small contact lens that Harris Patel had made.  Inside it were the plans for project Eagle.  It laid out all the protocols, but it’s value wasn’t in the information it held.

The lens was a message to his niece.  It was the only way that she would agree to a, if you’ll forgive me Mr. President, crazy last resort sort of action.  She sighed, “All right, it appears that I have no choice.  One question Augustus, why did the President have to send him?”

Augustus laughed, “He knew how much that you like him.”  She actually smiled.  I smiled back, and then she frowned again.  This was going to test my patience.  We left the hotel room through Augustus’ “special exit”, through the ceiling, just in time.  This was right before the guns went off.