TCSC Ep 51 – Cinderella?

“Sima Qin Tu, that’s who you are, or what you call yourself. A bit dramatic isn’t? I also know who is in there. I don’t have to go in there, because I know.”

His cousin laughed. “I only figured it out two weeks ago. How could you know?”

Monty grinned. “I actually think you’re going to like this. All through this little adventure, we’ve had ugly stepmothers, stepfathers, even stepbrothers, but there’s one person we haven’t seen, Cinderella.”

“I knew about Brendan and me. I eventually figured out you, and your little brother, but I only confirmed her identity on the way here. After his daughters were grown, my Grandfather remarried in secret.”

“Your Grandfather was already closing in on him. The woman was a wealthy Swiss Diplomat. Their daughter was much younger than Grandfather’ other kids. Young enough, to continue the Swiss Route for a very long time.”

Sima smiled. “Too bad she’s about to die. You are too by the way. That stupid Swiss Route. Do you know why I have to get rid of it?”

“Right now, I don’t care!” Monty dropped to the floor, and kicked Tu. “Your voice makes me angry.” 

Sima was stunned, but only for a second. He began fighting back, breaking Monty’s ribs with two punches. “Next, your neck.”

Monty groaned, but not from the pain. He was about to drop kick the villain, when a shot rang out.  Sima stood over Monty. Blood started dripping.  “Too little too late.” Then Sima slumped to the ground, as did his bodyguards.

A voice called out from behind him. “The problem with Cinderella is that she didn’t need the slippers, or the pumpkin. She needed the magic wand. Neither of you thought I might be armed?”

Her men secured the scene, handcuffed the Sima, and his men, and called an ambulance. She had shot all three, but not to kill.  One of her men helped Monty inside.  

“You know, traditionally, the villain tells his plan before he gets stopped. Since that didn’t happen, want to fill in the gaps Cousin?”

“My Dad knew he was going to die, either by old age, or murder. He also knew his memory wasn’t enough to keep the Swiss Route going. So he worked out a ponzi scheme that actually paid off.”

“He bribed the criminals to get their cover, and protection for the refugees.  Next, he allowed them to think they were smuggling contraband for sale on the last leg of the journey to Zurich. It was really a way of getting drugs off the streets of China, which is how he ‘persuaded’ Chinese officials of the day to go along.”

“Undercover spies from various countries would pay for the drugs on this leg, and destroy them.  The Intelligence Community did it because Grandfather helped them recruit members of the crime families as agents to infiltrate the Chinese Government for information. Usually it was low level, stuff they could have gotten anyway, but the opening was what was valuable.”

“The route traveled from China proper, to Hong Kong, and then to Zurich. Here the refugees received new identities, and disappeared. He did what was necessary. There’s more to it, but it’s all you need to know.”

“Audley went to China, to make contact with me.  Though she didn’t know who I was at the time.  Because of another back channel Dad had created, the details I won’t tell you, I gave her evidence on her partners, including proof of what they did to her first husband, and her family.”

“She used it to blackmail them into leaving them alone.  Once the deal was done, an anonymous tip from here got them all arrested for some of their dealings.  I was glad to do it. I have a lot of pull in several countries, and I try to help where I can.”

Monty stood up.  “Is my family safe now?  Or will the little brother be as big a pest as Sima?”

“The real Michael Wong just rounded Him, and your wife’s former boss, and all the others up.  It’s messy, but you are all safe.  Now, I have to ask you to leave.”

Like Sima, she had a gun in her hand. Also like him, it wasn’t a request.  “Do I even get to know your name?”

“No, not the real one. You see, to keep all this going, I’ve had to trade the glass slippers for running shoes, and masquerade a little. To the Chinese, I’m the head of a Hong Kong Crime Family. To the Intelligence Agencies, I’m a power broker. To some others, I’m a Haitian Banker.” 

“You can call me Cinderella. Were square now. This isn’t happily ever after, it’s just after this, we’re done.”

He bowed slightly and turned to leave. She stopped him. “One thing Montague. Don’t reach out again. I’m not the villain, but I’m also not afraid to chip a nail either.”

Monty told me all of this two days later. He slept from almost the moment he returned to the Safe House.  After he woke, and went through it all, I wasn’t satisfied. “I know that there are so many pieces left unknown.”

He kissed me. “Here’s what I know. We’re going to be parents. We’re all safe for the moment, and we will meet ‘Cinderella’ again.  All the details will be revealed.”

“What scares me is this. I knew it before I met her. Cinderella isn’t a good guy. “

She’s continued her Dad’s work, but her nails aren’t only chipped, their dirty. She was protecting the Route because it’s become her life’s work. She spared us against her Uncle’s clan, because of a family vendetta. She’s willing to do anything to keep it going, and we have to let her.”

“What she didn’t do, is intervene when Brendan and my biological parents were killed. She didn’t try and help Audley until she cane knocking, and giving her whatever she traded for her help.  Mom and Dad weren’t important enough to her to try and fix anything.”

I shook my head. “Aren’t you assuming a lot? I mean what evidence do you have that she has done anything wrong?”

He handed me a document. “It’s in this. Remember me saying that either Uncle Jim or Uncle Will betrayed our location?  I still don’t know which, they both ended up dead.”

“What I do know, what I found out, is the location of where the hit came from. It wasn’t China, it wasn’t from your client. It’s was from Zurich.”

I shook my head no. “It doesn’t make any sense. If she helped you now, why try to kill you then? If that’s the case, why did you just leave her to continue?”

“She didn’t. It was never about killing us, only protecting herself.  We weren’t the only ones hurt. Her Mother died mysteriously.”

“In The Bible, God used a Babylonian king named Nebuchadnezzar to do His will.It wasn’t that Nebuchadnezzar was a good man, but that He was doing what was right in one area. An area that, in the end, kept God’s people from total destruction. That’s where the Prophet Daniel came in at. What she’s doing, the lives of so many being spared, that’s why it must continue.”

“I never said she wouldn’t find her stopping point. Eventually Nebuchadnezzar ended.  We will stop ‘Cinderella’ eventually but I can’t now.  No, we will end this adventure like we started, with a relative out there we can’t trust, then, one day, we’ll turn her into a pumpkin.”

TCSC Ep 50 – Almost Over

“We were raised with love, shielded from the hurt our family faced. We were taught people could be better. That pain did not have to reproduce itself. What were you taught?”

“I was taught that pain reproduced power. Which is why I sent my little brother to masquerade as your wife’s client. You see, unlike my Grandfather, I know how to keep siblings in check.”

“Is he still alive? Or did you kill him the way your Grandfather killed mine? It seems to run in the family.”

The man smiled. “He’s alive, though not for long. I’ve found he’s become a nuisance. Much like the person behind the Swiss Route. You see Montague, like you, I’ve figured out who’s behind it. That’s why I’m here.”

Monty looked at his cousin. He was about Monty’s height. They shared some features, although the man’s face was harder, and his hair was graying slightly.

“I waited until you arrived. I wanted to face you both together. I think you may be surprised, as to who is on the other side of that door. It’s almost over. Shall we go in?”

He asked it as a question, but Monty knew the gun in the man’s hand made it a command. Monty would have to think fast, to live, and to save the person behind the Swiss Route. If not, more than just the two of them would die.

TCSC Ep 49 – Definitely Not Cinderella

“It’s all been about family, since the beginning. At first I thought it was about Monty and me, then Monty’s parents. After that it seemed a brother theme, Monty and Brendan, Sven and Erik, The Chinese Diplomat and his brother who killed him.  Then Audley and her stepson, and other children, but none of these were a true view.”

“It was, like many other conflicts, a tale of one family tree, and two massive branches. The Chinese and American branch of the Chinese Diplomat, and the shadow branches of the mysterious brother who killed him.”

“Our side had the biological family of the Chinese Diplomat, a noble man who saved thousands, and the adopted family of Monty and Brendan. Their adopted American Grandfather who gave his life for what was right, also a noble man.”

“Your side had the man who killed his brother. His children and grandchildren no doubt, which we don’t know all about yet, and those who helped them. The people his family hired to infiltrate and destroy his brother. That’s where you factor in.”

Brendan’s tears fell as I continued to talk. “Including a young agent, who had skill, and high hopes for the future. One who also had a secret, one that threatened to destroy that agent. A gambling addiction, one that could derail her future, until someone bought up her debts.”

“They did so with a price, make Prince Charming fall in love with her. Get him to trust her. Get him to take her, the one place he would take no one else, his family safe house. Was it the attempt on your lives that sealed the deal? The one thing that made him completely trust you?”

Maxine Winters smiled. “It was my idea, though I hoped they would accidentally kill him in the process. I wouldn’t have to pretend to adore him. He gets boring. His idea of fun, is a quiet night, away from the action and excitement.”

“I was hoping he’d die, but he didn’t, and I had to get him to lead me here. I finally got the ring back, thanks to you and your pregnancy hormones.  You even helped me survive the disapproving looks of Mommy here.”

“Everything was going perfectly, until you went to the bathroom. If you hadn’t come back when you did, I would have killed you all in the next five minutes. What triggered you to put it all together?”

I was amazed at the evil, calculating person standing in front of me. I held the gun tighter. “Ironically it was what I thought was love that triggered it. I went to the restroom thinking about you and Brendan. That caused me to think about Monty.”

“A person in love, when they think of their loved one remembers things. I remembered Monty and how all this started. I thought of him talking about how Kurt, the man who hired him hated him, but then came to him to get what he wanted.”

“I remembered him saying that Kurt was only the instrument, not the brain. I thought of him going through the internet researching answers. Then I thought of a picture, and I remembered a face, which brought me back to you.”

“I looked it up on my smart phone, before coming back. It was a photo of Kurt, at a dinner party. There was a woman on his arm. The hair was different, but the face had such a look of love, admiration, and passion on her face. It was the same way you looked at Brendan a few minutes before. It wasn’t just the same look, it was the same face.”

“I had seen versions of it other places too. You were one of two, what we thought were strangers, that we gave the plane tickets too.  The night I went to meet the client, I saw you walking out of the building. Again a different hairstyle, a different look, but the same face.”

“You have been in the background all the time. That had to be not a coincidence. The gambling aspect was easy. I sent a text with your picture to an Ambassador Wong, and he confirmed enough for me to act.”

She rolled her eyes. “If you’re done, get it over with. I’m tired of your voice. I’m tired of all of you. Anything else?”

“One thing. After all those you’ve outsmarted, a lot of powerful people, how does it feel to have been stopped by a pregnant woman with a gun?” She didn’t answer. The authorities took her away about thirty minutes later.

Next week, Monty faces his nemesis.

TCSC Ep 48 – A Rubber Stamp

“That phone call, was from the last person you’d expect, Aunt Audley. I don’t know everything, but I know that she saved Maxine, and my life. I don’t know why, but I do know I’m second guessing everything.”

Sven looked at his brother. “I think it’s time you told us what you told me.” Erik rubbed his eyes.

“Everything I told you before, I believed to be true, but I didn’t know everything. What I thought was insanity, was something very close to it, obsession.  I had her motives wrong. She wasn’t obsessed with money, or power, it was something more determined than that.”

He paused, and as he stood there watching, it all fell into place. “Erik, she wanted revenge didn’t she? For her husband’s death, even though he wasn’t what he seemed.”

Erik shook his head. “No, she came to grips with the fact he used her too. She loved him, but she had buried him. She wanted revenge for our son, technically my stepson, though I look at him as my own. As well as keeping all our kids safe, and Audley wanted revenge for them using her.”

“She knew we would not be safe until she had stopped those behind all this. That’s why she let me take her to the island, and to build a power base. It wasn’t for what I thought.” It was obvious Erik felt guilty for misjudging the woman he loved.   

“Charlotte, that night, on the island, she was playing an act. One of, what I thought, was her bodyguards, was part of the Chinese group connected with all of this. She reached out to me after, everything went down.”

“Her intent in having me admitted wasn’t to neutralize me, but to protect me. The people she was working with, would never have let me live, unless they believed I couldn’t hurt them.”

“She wanted to leave our children behind, but they forced her to bring them with her.  She did, but as soon as she had what she needed, she sent them safely away. In the process, the people she had in place at the sanitarium, who had ‘caught’ me, helped me fake my death, to get off the island. Audley had it all planned out.”

I stood up. “We thought she wanted to be some criminal mastermind in Hong Kong. What was she really after in China. How did she turn the tables?”

Erik grinned. “Among other things, by finding out what connections the person behind the Swiss Route had. An using that knowledge to blackmail them.  I’m sure my nephew would roll his eyes at this, but she gave herself a rubber stamp at that point.”

TCSC EP 47 – A Routine Investigation

“Dad mentioned it when he was explaining it to Monty. It seemed unimportant at the time, but it was, just like us. Mom was also the daughter of a diplomat, not the same one, but a diplomat.  He was connected, and he knew The Chinese diplomat, and his brother.”

“When Mom and Dad adopted two little boys, her Dad put two and two together.  He knew our biological Grandfather, and discovered that his brother had killed him.  He spent the last years of his life, trying to protect us with one hand, and attack the man who had killed his friend in the process.”

“Along the way, he discovered a few things that weren’t quite right. When he realized that I was following Mom and Dad into the business, he called me.  The last time I saw him alive, he handed me a list of diplomats. It was a list of ones, he said were dangerous, and he told me why.”

“There was a name that scared me, because he was more than an appointee. He was also high up in the intelligence agency. I knew him, because he was the head of my division. I had no way of tackling him.”

“So I watched, I was quiet, and I did my job. As I rose in the ranks, I tried to find some proof, evidence that Granddad was right. I couldn’t find it.  Then one day, suddenly he retired, and twenty four hours later, he was dead, murdered.”

“I was part of the team that did a routine investigation of his house.  What I found, was not routine, and it went into my report.  My superior issued his report, and nothing in my report was in his.  I was transferred the next day.”

“I was angry, but I also had my first lead. So I went to work, and started tracking down information. What I discovered almost got us killed, but now I know who is behind it.”

“There is a ring of people involved in manipulating international affairs for their own personal gain.  They’re not all united, it’s not a take over the world play for most of them. It’s a personal agenda, they’re wanting to be power brokers through any means, legal, illegal, and paralegal.”

“The only unity they have, is to kill anyone who gets in their way, or tries to desolve it all. They knew about the the death of our biological Grandfather, and they didn’t care.  What they did care about, was my adopted Grandfather’s attempt to try and expose them. That’s why they killed him too.”

“It’s also why they tried to kill me, when I tried to present evidence to the authorities of four countries last week.  Friends that I trusted, turned out to be connected to them, and tried to kill us both. They almost succeeded, had it not been for a phone call.”

TCSC Ep 46 – Stamp Out

You can get so wrapped up in your own troubles, that you can miss someone else’s. That had happened, for me at least. Monty was keeping up with his brother’s actions, but they felt it safer to keep me in the dark, until now.  

Isla wasn’t alone when she arrived, Brendan joined her.  Sven helped him out of the car.  I had never noticed how much the two actually favored each other until now.  I guess it was the anger I felt when I thought he was against Monty.

Now of course, I knew better. I knew he was protecting him, and the family. It had cost him, and dearly. He was battered and bruised up, walking with a cane, and a sling around his arm, his hand all bandaged up.

Along the way, I also missed something else. Brendan wasn’t alone either, a woman was with him.  She introduced herself as Agent Maxine Winters, but she wasn’t there as an agent.  I smiled to myself, she looked at him the way I feel when I see Monty.

I hugged her instinctively, which isn’t normally me. “How long have you two known each other?”  They looked startled, and I was afraid I had misread.

Isla intervened. “Oh come on you two. You just got out of a death trap. You’re here to face another one. I know my boy is shy, but hasn’t he told you he cares about you yet?”

Brendan looked like an embarrassed teenager at that point. “Mother!” Again I stifled a laugh. I’ll have to remember this trick in a few years.

Maxine explained. “He’s told me Mrs. Lindsay, we even were briefly engaged, until this mess started. He didn’t think it was fair to plan a life together before we knew if it would be cut short, or involve incarceration.”

Isla was on a role, and seemed a little irritated. I think it was because, my guess is, she knew he liked her, but not about the engagement. “Do you feel that way? Or are you more sensible than my sweet, stubborn boy?”

Maxine hesitated. “I respect his wishes. He’s been through a lot.”

I heard Sven mutter “uh oh” from behind me.  Then caution Isla, “He’s been through it honey.”

She wasn’t having it. “Yes, and he will see even more. Brendan what do you think we were going through when we chose you boys?  Life doesn’t wait for pleasant skies. If you two love each other, and a blind egg can see that you do, don’t wait.”

“Marry her before she comes to her senses and chooses somebody only half as good, who isn’t afraid tomorrow might be cloudy!” At that point, Sven took his wife and daughter in law by the hand, and walked out.  

The conversation lasted about five minutes, and Maxine walked out wearing the engagement ring Brendan had been carrying around for three months.  She leaned in to Isla and me, and whispered. “Thank you both for talking some sense into him. He tries to manage the world’s troubles all on his own.”

I didn’t comment on it being a family trait. I had pushed my luck enough that day.  Instead Maxine helped Brendan set down. It was his turn to tell what was going on while my Monty had been trying to stamp out our troubles.

TCSC Ep 45 – Expecting The Unexpected

When we landed in Zurich, I was surprised to see Eric waiting for us.  “Hello Sven, Charlotte.  It’s good to see you both. The ‘hotel’ is ready.”  The brothers hugged, and asked how each was.

“I’m all right Sven, at least as much as possible, the kids are all safe. Audley put them on the plane herself, all of them.  She’s still in China, at least as far as I know.  As I understand, she never wanted them to go, but it was part of the deal.”

“She’s talking to you? After trying to kill you? Eric, hasn’t she cost you enough?” It wasn’t my business but I was stunned.

Sven spoke before his brother. “Remember Charlotte, things, and people aren’t always what they appear.  Let’s table that for now, we’ve got someone to meet.”

The night was uneventful, except for seeing our accommodations.  It was more mansion than a hotel, complete with a small army of caretakers.  I felt severely out of place, but it was beautiful.

I would have enjoyed it, if I wasn’t worried sick, literally sick.  I had been for a few days, but I was hiding it pretty well. Until the next morning, when Isla arrived. She had come straight from the airport, exhausted, and worried.

When she saw me, she looked funny, then smiled. She hugged me, and held my hands. “I’m so happy for you dear, but you know you can’t go now. He would never forgive me. Does he know?”

I shook my head no. Sven and Eric looked puzzled, so she explained. “Grandpa and Great Uncle, we now have a whole new reason to wrap up this mess. Our Security Expert and her Stamp Collector are expecting.”

TCSC Ep 44 – An Ace, A Rook, And Trouble

We were gearing up for a showdown. Monty felt he knew who was behind the Swiss Route, or at least a good idea. If my guess was the same as his, then we were heading into a bear trap.  Sven was with me, but I didn’t know where the other players were then.

I found out later, that each of them were playing a part. Audley was tightening the noose, not on the Christian Pastor, but on her partners. She had an ace after all.  Isla was uncovering the backstory to all of this, we weren’t the only ones who had been to China.

Eric was working to rescue his children, and recover from his own wounds.  Brendan was fighting his own battle, against corruption.  He was playing another type of game, one that involved rooks and knights, and possibly a wicked queen.

My “client” was also a factor, though I had no idea where he fit in then, but he was part of it.  This was not a game, but I couldn’t help but think of them right now, for my own reasons.  So you’ll forgive the analogy, but we were all slowly heading to Zurich, and all of us were heading for trouble!

Ep 43 – Protect Your Local Stamp Collector

I’ve seen fear in my husband’s eyes, whenever he thought I was in danger.  I’ve seen concern over what we were facing. What I saw on that phone call wasn’t fear, or anger.

His face had a look of astonishment.  Monty rarely looks unsettled, but he did at that moment.  He moved quickly after he hung up the phone.  We met with The Chinese, but he explained that I was needed back in the states.

He told them I would be flying home.  He could stay for two weeks, and no longer himself.  He but up a somewhat matter of fact personality that was irritating.  It had the effect he had hoped, they rejected our help entirely.

I left feeling like we had wasted their time.  He had trouble containing his relief.  Monty still would not tell me who was behind the Swiss Route.  

We made it, not home, but the family’s secure bunker in the Alps! Another surprise of Sven’s.  That night Monty left for Zurich.  I had a long talk with Sven.

“He knows something, and he’s terrified for me to know it. I need to know why, and for you to arrange all of this, you know.  Sven, tell me who is behind the Swiss Route?”

“Charlotte I can’t tell you. Monty specifically asked me not to, but you knew that.  You’re real question is, is he in danger. I’m sorry to say, I don’t know that.”

“If things are as they appear, then the answer is yes.  If Monty’s other theory is right, then he’s in extreme danger.  Ask yourself something Charlotte, from the beginning what theme has ran through this mess?”

I made a weak joke about Cinderella and a Fairy Godmother. He laughed, then shook his head. “Our Cinderella is a stamp remember? Think about it.  Monty and Brendan, the Chinese Diplomat and his brother, me and Eric.  It’s been a theme.”

I stood up and started packing.  Sven called over my shoulder. “I’ve got two tickets booked. I promised him I wouldn’t tell you who. I also pointed out I couldn’t stop you from following. Let’s go protect our Stamp collector!”

TCSC Ep 42 – French Prince Swiss Mystery

We reasoned that the man or woman paying to keep the “Swiss Route” open, was an ally.  Neither of us could see any way he could profit from the venture.  So, with that viewpoint we made a calculated risk.

Monty isn’t only a expert in stamps, he has other talents. One of which, is connecting with people.  One of those people, happened to rule a small Principality near France, and he had a rather large Swiss bank account.

A few hours later, Monty received a follow up call. The Prince had a name. I’ve seldom seen my husband the way he looked when he had heard the name.

I asked Monty the name, but he would not tell me.  “Lottie, because I love you, I’m not going to say.  What I am going to do, is get you out of China as fast as I can.”