Prepare Victoria for the Meeting
Our vehicle pulled up outside a women’s clothing boutique in Wooster Street in the Soho district, not far from Washington Square, a prime location for on-location filming and photo shoots, with low traffic, flagstone sidewalks and cobblestone streets which give it an old gritty feeling. A door opened inwards and a person stood inside waiting and I told Victoria to follow me into the building, she did so without complaint. I greeted the smiling owner like a long-lost friend with a big hug and a kiss on both cheeks before introducing Victoria who looked shell shocked and incredulous.
I apologized for the imposition, but I needed a massive favor and said that Victoria needed the full treatment, shower, hair, nails and a fresh suit of clothing, whatever was necessary I would cover the costs and some. She replied that there would never be any costs, because she could never fully repay the debt that she owed to me for her life. I ignored the kind words and pressed an envelope into her hand and said that business was business and she should not work for nothing.
I whispered into her ear that she had an hour and that I needed her basic body measurements for a special order and would need them asap, then gave her my number, and asked for an air freshener to be sent down. Charlie proceeded to take Victoria’s hand and lead her to the waiting lift which took them to the top floor where she had a beautifully furnished apartment, and I knew that Victoria would not only be safe but Charlie would deliver whatever was necessary, I trusted her completely.
I remained in the entrance to the store and closed the door and called the guys on my cell phone. I told them to hide the vehicle in a parking lot a few blocks away and listen in to the news channels and satellite frequencies to and from the agency. It was imperative that the guys listened amongst the airwaves for anything that seemed odd or out of place, in particular anything that could be intercepted from the director, it could be invaluable.
Charlie was a smooth operator, the air freshener had arrived and she sent me the measurements only a few minutes later, she could undress anybody in no time, I only wished that I had the same level of skill, it would have been a very useful asset in many circumstances. I called a number and they guaranteed a deliver within half an hour.
I checked my old faithful tin, it was empty of prepared cigarettes so I had to roll a few more and then a few more for luck, I was going to need them and would not have the opportunity to roll any more later, I was quite sure of that. The guys called for me to check the news channels because there was the expected breaking news on the hostages. I did so and just caught the briefing from Cormack Walsh who was explaining how and when the hostages had been released but was very frugal with the truth as the cameras flashed at the reunited families who were tearful and smiling and thanking the all those around them.
My package arrived and I sent it up to Charlie with a few strict instructions that she needed to carry out to the letter.
Cormack iterated that every effort would be made to get justice for the families and that the perpetrators would pay dearly for their actions and thanked the law enforcement officers for their brave actions before closing the briefing. It was another presidential election year and everybody who had ambition within the Government or Law Enforcement wanted to be seen to be the person of action and delivery and Cormack had succeeded on that score without having to get his own hands dirty.
The director had been right about the cover up and the news channels were not pushing for answers in the way that they would have done in the past, which could only mean that ranks were closing together and that there was another bigger story underneath which the News Channels could ill afford to chase. In election years all the dirt gets bargained away and the people end up, as usual voting for the usual two faced, lying, hypocritical politicians who would sell out their own kin to get into power. Nothing changes really and that was why the n
News Channels almost immediately stopped reporting the kidnappings.
The guys called and had some great news about Susanna. She had been to Harvard and they had done some research accompanied by a few necessary verbal threats which in this case was entirely justified. I read the brief details:
- 1953 – Veronica, Susanna’s mother was adopted by a wealthy family from Boston who were both late middle aged and childless and wanted an heir.
- 1976 – Veronica marries John Bancroft
- 1979 – Daughter, Susanna Bancroft born
- 1982 – John Bancroft dies in a RTA
- 1997 – Susanna passes entrance exam into Harvard
- 2006 – Veronica Bancroft dies of cancer
- 2009 – Susanna headhunted for Zodiac Program
This was not enough we needed to know the details before 1953, we were getting close and there was mud out there and it was sticking! I told the guys to do some serious hacking, because the information was out there and it was there to be found. There were stones that had not been overturned and I gave an extra incentive, a $10k reward to whoever gets the information before 1953. I had access to the funds after stealing them a while back as a precaution.
That was the catalyst and I left them to it. The director called to tell me the news hounds would draw a blank with the hostages and that Smythe and Jones had been dealt with in a suitable manner that I would have been proud of. They had been allocated places in two of the worst penal penitentiaries in the U.S. and would have their butts banged for the next few years, a living hell indeed! I was shocked to hear the director speak in such terminology. I only wished that I could have done some serious and permanent damage to them before they had been dragged away. My senses told me that the director was telling me what I wanted to hear and there were major deviations to the truth in the words that he spoke so eloquently.
The hour was up and Charlie called to ask me to go up in the lift, she was ready, she being Victoria, I was impressed and pushed the button. The lift came down and I entered the small compartment and pushed the top button and headed for the top floor. The door opened and I stepped into a beautiful entrance hall and Charlie was waiting at the door to her apartment. She was smiling with a smugness that only professionals could portray and I smiled back and I hoped the $5k in the envelope would suffice. I entered the apartment which was in simple terms absolutely delicious, a paradise of warmth and beauty in the heart of the Manhattan clothing district. I was in awe, and wrapped in the moment as Victoria appeared from the side door and I was almost knocked over in shock. She looked absolutely amazing, and I for one would never have assumed that she was a senior figure in the world’s most powerful slave trade operation. I could see why Kirill had fallen for her, even though she had never returned the same ambitions.
The Zodiacs were due to have another meeting in just over two hours, so me, and Victoria needed to have a very private dialogue. Charlie had prepared an area on the roof top terrace that was warm and comfortable that allowed smoking, foul language and alcohol and I probably needed to use all three! Charlie left us alone in the sumptuous delights on the terrace and Victoria sat down on one of the wide sofas waiting for instructions.
I opened my tin and took a cigarette, as I did so Victoria asked if she too could have one, I obliged her and said that they were not what she might expect, but she insisted and I hit the Zippo. Smoke filled the room and I poured and large measure of Jameson onto a giant ice cube in a crystal glass tumbler, and forgetting my manners turned and asked Victoria what she would like and she replied, the same as you, and that includes the ice please, if that’s okay? She was not the prude that I had thought, she was growing on me and we chinked the glasses together with a whispered cheers! Anyone observing could have mistaken the small conservatory as an old-style Irish pub with the smoke and the whiskey, the only missing element was the infectious laughter, and maybe that would happen on another occasion.
We had little time for small talk, because I needed to explain a few things that were entirely for her benefit before the Zodiac Meeting. Then we discussed everything that had happened to Victoria over the past few days and I tried to understand more about Susanna’s motives. I had to be careful and smart because I had too much that could mess up our present mutual trust. Had Susanna planned the whole episode, or had it been an unfortunate chain of events that had escalated out of control. The whole Zodiac Program was in severe jeopardy, but the news channels had almost stopped their coverage of the hostage situation and normality was returning. However, the families were not aware of the who and the why and the director together with Cormack Walsh had calmed the situation and they would not be allowed to know the truth.
Susanna was at this time in a state of absolute panic, because the hostages had been released and that meant Victoria should also be free, but where the hell was she? Was she with the law enforcement agencies in Savannah or on her way back to NYC or could she have been maimed or killed in the release operation? There were so many possibilities, but she needed to decide on a course of action and stick with it. In a very short while she would have to stand in front of the Zodiacs and do some explaining and somehow get herself out of the life-threatening position.
She had thought long and hard on how to get out of the situation and in the end the only option she had was to try to convince the others that Victoria was a mole and shoot her in the meeting room. She convinced herself that the others would have little choice in the circumstance but to believe her and work on building the bridges with the Industrial Partners.
She double checked her small weapon, which was a Baretta 950 Jetfire, a very quiet pistol made in the USA from 1970s to 2003. It was less then 5inches long with a capacity of 9 rounds, 8 in the magazine and 1 round in the tip up barrel. She checked that it did indeed contain 9 rounds and put it in her purse, then started on her pre-meeting rituals.
I briefed Victoria on a few possible courses of action when she finally attended the meeting, it was imperative that she arrived at a time that would most embarrass Susanna. My team would be monitoring everything, but she did not need to know any more than the basic details, I had been very economical with the truth.
We had to leave the apartment and prepare Victoria for the meeting. The team was waiting in the support vehicle which then headed for the hotel and a safe parking location. Whatever happened inside the hotel when Victoria left our protection was no longer our concern, we could not jeopardize our position of knowledge, but I had not divulged that small detail to Victoria, simply the fact that she would be on her own due to the security surrounding the meeting.
The guys were monitoring the hotel and the meeting room, all the conversations were being recorded and there was a very real trepidation amongst all the Zodiac Members who had been in constant contact with their own national associates since arriving in NYC. The guys were also conducting their own research into the history of the family members related to Mary Smith before 1946. They were beginning to make a few breakthroughs, because serious threats and allocations had been made to several Government departments from bogus sources in the names of senior Government figures and they would deliver, it was election year!
The Zodiacs had gathered for probably their final meeting under the present circumstances. Kirill was unusually flustered because an intercepted call had almost threatened him with termination if anything else should go seriously pear shaped. The communication channels were buzzing with activity and the guys were sending me everything that was coming through, it was almost overwhelming.
So much was going on that I had failed to gather all the details flashing up on my screen and missed a few small but possible major pieces of information, but time was moving on and all the relevant persons were gathering in the meeting room and Susanna was ready to deliver her self-preservation speech.