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 thing 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.”

TCSC Ep 41 – The Swiss Route

“Welcome to China, my name is Ping Jin, it is good to meet you. Please sit here. May I get you some tea?”  

“Thank you Pastor Jin, but I’d rather talk. I am Monty, and this is my Wife Charlotte. I understand you’re continuing my Grandfather’s work?”

“Yes, he rescued many from a very real danger. He setup a means of transporting people safely, under the radar.  They tried to stop him, but we continued his work.”

“Pastor Jin, I don’t want to know anything that would compromise that work. I was wanting to ask only two questions. First, where does our opponents interest lie in this, besides trying to stop it? Second, how could my Aunt Audley use it to benefit her?”

“Your Grandfather’s measures involved strong arm tactics, he blackmailed the different criminal elements to look the other way.  We have no leverage over them now, but they continue to assist.  Care to guess why?”

Monty thought a minute. “Because at first it cost them money not to do it. Now it makes them money to participate, but how?”

“That I do not completely know, but I suspect.  The people are moved safely, without being exploited.  They travel a route that is deeply secret, with no apparent financial benefit.  Yet, they continue to do so, because, as they say, it is an interest earning venture.”

“In other words, they are getting paid to do so.  They call the route, The Swiss Route, which is an odd term for China. I taught at a college in Switzerland when I was younger.  There’s only one connection between this venture and the Swiss I could see.”

Monty’s eyes lit up. “A Swiss bank account. Someone is paying them to continue, and well, if it’s paying all the criminal organizations in China.  So Audrey’s partners want to know who’s paying.”

Pastor Jin smiled. “An this Audley, I suspect, wants both the money, and whatever power the person with the account holds.  She reasons that person either has power, or cannot risk his activities being exposed. It seems to me that plan is either flawed, or there’s elements about it I do not know.”

“Pastor Jin, I have a different question than Monty.  My question is, what does she think she can get from you?  You’re not involved in any of that part. Why come to you?”

“Pastor Jin smiled.  I suspect Audley is not a person of faith. She views me as the head of a Christian movement. She thinks if she either captures me, the Churches will help her in leveraging all this, but that will not happen.”

“Or she thinks if she kills me, the Christian mission would collapse, but that will not happen. A Church is ordained by God, not man. If God saw fit to use this as my chariot to Heaven, He has another picked to Shepherd His people here.”

“The same if I were imprisoned, unlike individuals, governments, and organizations, you cannot blackmail God. He isn’t concerned with the interests of greed, and power.  Christ’s concern is the salvation of mankind.”

“He wants to rescue us all from something much worse than death. Our hope isn’t founded on the affairs of today, but the sacrifice at Calvary.  His goal, our goal, is to point to a higher freedom than welfare and safety.”

“The kind of freedom that can make a man free, even in a prison cell. The Apostle Paul wrote most of The New Testament from a cell.  So you see, I’m not afraid to die.”

After that powerful statement, we promised Pastor Jin we would do our best to see that his Christian mission would continue. That was all he really cared about. A man, not concerned with his own welfare, but the welfare of others.

Monty and I drove back quietly to the Embassy.  Each of us determined to help this man keep his people safe. Pastor Jin turned out to be a very powerful man indeed, but not in the ways we expected.

TCSC Ep 40 – The Most Wanted Man In China

Well, Monty’s plan appears to have gone out the window.  I suspected the most wanted man in China, to be the head of a criminal empire, or an anti-regime combatant. What I didn’t expect, was a Pastor.  Apparently we had misjudged Michael Wong.

The driver, who was more than a driver filled us in. “Michael sent me to protect him and the two of you.  He won’t leave China, because of his congregation.  He can’t be with them right now, but he’s close enough to act on their behalf.”

“He has a network of underground Churches in China that keep people safe. He started years ago, sort of inheriting your Grandfather’s legacy by filling the void. Which is what Audley wants to know, the threads of the organization.”

“Why?  What could he possibly have that she wants. It’s an organization with no money, and nothing to gain.”  I asked, puzzled by it all.

“The organization now, is primarily a Christian mission, she doesn’t care about that. Her partners want to destroy it. What they want is the network it was built on. Your Grandfather had a noble purpose, but unlike the Pastor you’re about to meet, the Diplomat was not above using leverage.”

“She wants the leverage, the people and families he blackmailed to build the network.  If they can control that, her partners can take over China. It would be a variant of what’s in place now, but more dangerous.”

I could see Monty’s mind was racing, restructuring his plan.  “What does Audley get from them for this? It has to be more than money.”

The driver agreed. “She essentially becomes the Unofficial Queen Of Hong Kong underworld. It would function as her personal empire, granting her a massive fortune, and power.  Since the new government would back her, she’d be unstoppable.”

“At least that’s what they’ve promised. My guess is they’ll kill her after she gets what she wants.  I doubt she has any leverage of her own.”

Monty laughed. “Never underestimate the wicked Stepmother friend. She’s got some bargaining chip, otherwise she wouldn’t have brought her kids here.  My question is, what did she tell them to get them to make the trip?”

TCSC Ep 39 – A Bad Stamp

Michael Wong, Monty, and I were huddled in a room in the American Embassy in Beijing, exhausted from escaping the sinking ship, and the rescue.  The Chinese officials were able to rescue all the passengers safely.

The American Ambassador was waiting for us on the dock, by the time we were rescued.  He took us to the Embassy to recoup, before a meeting with Chinese intelligence later that afternoon.  They wanted to know where Audley was just like we did, but that wasn’t what they were going to talk to us about.

Michael Wong said they were more interested in the “Diplomat’s project”. Michael Wong had a Diplomat’s project of his own, that he had failed to mention.  He wanted us to meet someone, but we couldn’t at the Embassy.  

This was because the person he wanted us to meet, couldn’t be seen at the Embassy, and live.  The Chinese would frown on us meeting one of the most wanted men in China at the US Embassy. I was having trouble following why we were supposed to meet a wanted criminal in a strange country.

His response was three simple points. “He’ll have information Audley wants, that we have to get first. He won’t talk to us, only to Monty.  The Diplomat rescued his Grandfather, so he trusts the family.”

Monty looked at me, and I nodded. He looked back at Michael Wong. “What do we ask Beijing’s Most Wanted?”

“You tell him you’re story, that’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. He’ll probably invite you to eat, stay for dinner, be pleasant. If he gives you something, bring it back to me.”

Monty agreed, and we were funneled, first to the hotel to freshen up. With substitute clothes provided, since anything we had brought was underwater. Before long, we were on our way to meet a criminal, and it occurred to me. They never told us his name.

My husband wasn’t fazed. “It doesn’t matter really. All tonight is, if you’ll forgive me love, is the stamp on the envelope. We aren’t part of Michael Wong’s deal, we’re just the sign of goodwill for whatever he promised the person were going to meet.”

This irritated me. “Then why are we agreeing to it? What will it benefit us?”

“That’s simple darling. Michael Wong isn’t part of the deal we’re going to make. He’s just the envelope that got us here. I didn’t know all the particulars, but this has been my plan since we jumped out of the window. Audley’s a villain, were going to use a villain to stop her, he’s our bad stamp.”

TCSC Episode 38 – The Pumpkin Just Blew Up

Eric surfaced for air. It wasn’t the way he wanted to do it, but it was the only way. I don’t know everything, that’s all the message he sent said. Michael Wong was surprised, but Monty wasn’t.  

We were pulling in to Chinese waters when the message arrived. Monty’s Dad had picked him up. What we didn’t know was where Audley and their children were. Also, we had no idea what we were getting into.  

Especially when the boat started blowing up.  If we get through this, I’ll tell you what happens next, but the pumpkin just blew up!

TCSC Ep 37 – Perforated Stamps

“I see, well, keep looking. Check the usuals, they had to go somewhere.” Michael Wong closed his cell, and looked at us. “Your Uncle’s family, and all the staff have disappeared. No one knows where anyone has went, which probably means a private plane from the airport.”

Monty seemed to only here half of what was said. He was looking out at the water.  I asked as many questions as I could think of, but nothing seemed to make sense.

Finally Monty spoke, still looking out at the water. “What did the air control records say? How many private planes the last two days?”  

Michael blinked, then said that 8 planes had.  Monty sighed. “Care to tell me why you’re lying to us?  We’re on a boat with you, going into certain danger, planned chaos. I’m not in the mood for games, so why lie to us?”

Michael Wong grinned. “I did not lie in what I said, i just didn’t believe them. Here’s what I suspect, but I’m hoping I’m wrong. My replacement, a trusted colleague, has been bought off.”

“He knows how they left, and where they’re going, but has been paid not to tell me. I suspect, if he survives, he’ll disappear soon too.  I can’t do anything without proof, and I’m in no place to investigate from here.”

Monty was still on guard. “You haven’t answered my question. I asked why you’re lying to us? You just told me what you didn’t say, not why you kept it from us.”

Michael looked out at the water. “To spare you actually. I suspect that Audley didn’t leave the island with her husband. She’s insane, and plotting. I’ve got my other men, looking for any turned over dirt on their estate.”

“A woman, matching her description, and their grown children’s descriptions arriving at the airport. No one reported seeing anyone who looked like your Uncle. I’ve had no reports of anyone matching his description at any exit port off the island.”

Monty grabbed the railing. “Around 1854, thanks to a man named Henry Archer, stamps got perforations.  A way to separate stamps easily, it was a huge success.”

“I suspect Audley is crazy, but she also is calculating. She was with her grown children you said. She could explain to them why their Dad wasn’t going with them, but couldn’t explain his sudden disappearance.  He’s still alive, he may be roughed up, but he’s still alive, he’s a Lindsay.”

TCSC Ep 36 – The Real Michael Wong

“Many years ago, I was recruited out of college into US intelligence. My specialty was financial investigations. I got too close to the truth on one search, and the people we were after retaliated.”

“The next morning my house was gone, burned down. Only I made it out, called my superiors, and they picked me up. We allowed them to think they won. I was no longer Michael Wong of Oak Ridge Tennessee.”

“When someone stole my identity, it was looked into, and since it was in another part of the country, they sent me. My beard and mustache gave me a different look, in case whoever had bothered to look at pictures. Apparently they hadn’t, he looked nothing like me, nor did he try.”

“He was very intelligent, and meticulous. We were getting very close to finding out his plan, when his own group killed him. We were faced with a dilemma, tell the widow, or let her grieve her husband.”

“She had loved him, and the baby knew nothing of course. The more we found out, the less we wanted to reveal to them, to spare them.  From a distance, I monitored things. When Erik married her, and they moved here, I was sent to follow.  That’s how I eventually became the head of our Embassy on this island.”

“Five years ago, I reported on the activity you now know about, and we made a discovery. We weren’t the only government unhappy about it.  It turns out, the Chinese government considers this group a rogue coalition. They claim they are acting independently of them.”

Michael Wong paused to let this sink in. So I asked what I was sure Monty and I were both thinking. “Do you believe them?”

He smiled. “I don’t completely, but for them to ask for our help, there is at least an element they don’t have control of. That scares them, and they want something to change. In espionage, you don’t trust anyone but your handler, and you check up on them.”

“However, I do know we’re safe as long as we’re on their boat. It’s an acknowledged mission in both capitals, so enjoy the cruise.  Get some rest, it may be the last you get for some time.”

TCSC Ep 35 – Slow Boat To China

“His family worked for the same man that started all this, the Diplomat’s brother. Apparently they felt they were getting close to the treasure, but needed to get closer. His original plan was to marry Audley, she worked with Uncle Erik.”

“He would get close to our family, then take us down. That was his plan, but he didn’t know what his superiors had in mind. After his death, Audley kept the child. She was struggling to raise him herself. Uncle Erik saw, and started helping. They fell in love, and he married her.”

“Her stepson is innocent, as far as we can tell. Five years ago, the family of the Diplomat’s brother made a visit to Audley. They told her how much was at stake, what it would be worth. She set all this in motion, with their help.”

The car stopped, and we went inside. I couldn’t believe where we were, but it was nothing compared to where we were going. I also couldn’t believe who we’d be traveling with, the real Michael Wong. Monty shook his hand. 

“Mr. Wong, care to tell my Wife your story? We have time. It’s a slow boat ride to China. We won’t reach Beijing for several days.” He started in on a story even crazier than even the wicked Stepmother.