This'll be a piece of cake, thought Walter Ryan as he approached the Oakwood Mall, she looks like a Cabbage Patch doll. This comparison was being applied to one Bonnie Jo McIntosh and was unfortunately apt. Ms McIntosh sat perched on a low ledge in front of the mall, her feet dangling a couple inches from the ground. She had the thick body and chubby legs of a Cabbage Patch doll and a round face with freckles sprinkled across her nose, glassy green eyes and a mop of black cherry curls. As Walter drew nearer Ms McIntosh looked at her watch, then took out a cigarette and lit it. She was, he knew, waiting for the bus and he knew it was because her boyfriend, Cap Sutherland, had borrowed her car because his own was in the shop. It was the last bus going to the mall for the night; the mall had closed ten minutes ago. There was no one else around. A piece of cake.
"Bonnie Jo McIntosh?" said Walter. He was now standing in front of her with his hands casually in his jacket pockets. Ms McIntosh took a slow drag on her cigarette and looked up at him.
"Francis Latshaw?" she said.
Walter was taken aback. "What?"
"I thought we were playing a game," explained Ms McIntosh. "First you say a name at random and then I do. Your turn."
Walter was puzzled. "No, I mean, you're her, aren't you? Bonnie Jo McIntosh?"
"Look, Francis, this really isn't a very good game. You can't expect to guess my name right on the first try like that."
Walter's expression cleared. His eyes became dangerous. "Look here, Ms McIntosh, I have a gun." He opened his jacket and showed it to her. Ms McIntosh looked at the gun, still smoking her cigarette. Then she looked up in Walter's face again. "I see. So what's the deal, Francis? You want me to come along quietly?"
"That is exactly the deal. And stop calling me Francis!" Walter was nonplussed by the young woman's unflappability. She remained seated. "There is no way in hell," she said, "That I am going to go waltzing off with you so you can take me God knows where and do God knows what." As she spoke the bus was pulling into the far end of the mall parking lot.
Without another word Walter grabbed her by the right arm and yanked her to her feet. She put out the end of her cigarette on his face and he howled. Then she punched him in the groin and he doubled over, one hand on his face and the other holding himself. His howl became a scream. It didn't take much at that point to knock him down to the ground and sit on him, and Bon did just that as the bus pulled up and the door opened. "Call the cops!" she yelled to the astonished bus driver. "This guy just tried to abduct me and he's got a gun!"
"And you're sure you've never met this man before?" asked the policeman. Ms McIntosh shook her head. The cops had responded promptly and arrested Walter, who didn't put up much of a fight. He was still whimpering in pain when they put him in the squad car. The policeman continued, "But he knew your name?"
"Right. And what's weird is that he knew my full name-Bonnie Jo McIntosh. Nobody calls me Bonnie Jo. I've always just been called Bon. Well, Bon Bon when I was little, because I was so sweet." Bon mugged an adorable expression on her round face and batted her eyelashes, then was serious again. "So I'm stumped. I'm a poor struggling grad student from a totally not wealthy background. Why would someone want to kidnap me?"
"That's what we'll try to find out, Miss McIntosh. The guy had no ID on him but maybe his fingerprints will turn up a name."
"I know one thing. His name is not Francis Latshaw." And the policeman gave Bon the same confused look the kidnapper had, a look that Bon knew well.
"You are one gutsy lady, Bon," said Cap. They were sitting at a table for two at Woo's, having decided to splurge for Valentine's Day. Bon had told Cap about the incident on the drive over to the restaurant. Bon shrugged. "It's fundamental survival. You do not get into a car with a guy who's got a gun. I mean, you do that, you're pretty much dead for sure. He has all the cards." Bon forked in a mouthful of shrimp fried rice. "I saw it on Oprah."
Later, back at Bon's apartment, the two exchanged their presents. Cap opened a small box and looked at the pewter money clip with JTKS engraved on it in interlocking letters. Very few people knew Cap's real name. Cap was actually short for Captain, as in James Tiberius Kirk, his parents having been hard core Trekkies at the time of his birth. It was, he thought, both a cool and an embarrassing moniker to be tagged with because he was pretty much the anti-Kirk in looks and personality. Cap was what you might call lumbering; heavy-set and long-limbed both. He was also, to be blunt, a hairy guy. He knew that in college he had the nickname Sasquatch, the kind of nickname people use behind your back. He had been unpopular not because he was unpleasant but because his shyness had made people think he was weird. Not a starship captain type at all.
Cap looked at Bon and smiled an awkward smile. "It's great, honey," he said, and kissed her. "I need one of these." He pulled a small box out of his jacket pocket and gave it to Bon. "Now mine." Bon opened the box. It contained a slim gold bracelet with her initials, BJMcI, scrolled on it. Bon looked at Cap and they both burst out laughing. "Well, I guess we have each other properly identified now," said Bon, and she hugged Cap and gave him a big kiss.
The British Counter-Terrorism Unit had its headquarters at 6111 Quance Avenue, near the outskirts of London in a neighborhood dominated by abandoned warehouses and factories. The BCTU building had in fact at one time been a shoe factory and to most people passing by it looked pretty much like the other old decrepit buildings of that area. If you were to peek into one of the many broken windows on the ground floor all you would see was a dusty and neglected interior. But on the two upper floors and on three levels below it was teeming with personnel and bristling with high-tech equipment. The BCTU was unknown to the general public at all and even some law enforcement agencies didn't know about it. The need for secrecy was essential as most of what they did was undercover infiltration of terrorist organizations, specifically those who posed an imminent threat to the United Kingdom.
Mr. Grey was the director of the BCTU and had been for almost ten years. He no longer had an identity outside of that of "Mr. Grey." That was the kind of job it was. No one officially knew for sure who he was or where he came from. He had been in the field--mostly in Asia--for quite a number of years before becoming director and had been one of the very best operatives the BCTU had. Now, he was presiding over the daily debriefing.
"All right, then, moving on," said Mr. Grey after the report from the Middle East. "What about Fang? Any more specifics on what he's got up his sleeve?" Fang was their nickname for the leader of an Irish terrorist organization called Green Serpent. They were particularly radical in their sworn purpose to unite Ireland and get the British out of Ulster. So radical that the IRA disavowed any connection to them. An unpredictable sort, Fang was as mysterious in his origins as Mr. Grey, starting out in the IRA but becoming dissatisfied with what he considered the softening of its leadership over the years. Despite its place on the fringe, Green Serpent had quite a lot of support, with many secret affiliations in the United States and Canada. In fact, that was where a lot of their money came from.
"Agent Y has confirmed that Green Serpent has obtained a nuclear device in the Ukraine. We are hoping to intercept it when they attempt to bring it over here. Agent Y has gotten very close to Fang; we should be able to close in very soon." This report came from Mr. Brown, who was second in charge to Mr. Grey. Mr. Brown flipped over a page in his notes and continued.
"There is something rum going on in the States. GS there seems to have targeted a young woman named Bonnie Jo McIntosh."
Mr. Grey drummed the fingers of his left hand on the table. Most of the people at the table knew this meant that something had particularly caught his interest. "You mean they want her dead?" he asked.
Mr. Brown shook his head. "That's what's odd. They've made an attempt to abduct her. They seem to want her alive."
Mr. Grey nodded and his fingers became still. "Where did all this happen?" he asked.
Mr. Brown consulted his notes again. "Eau Claire, Wisconsin. There is no G.S. cell there. It was some of the Milwaukee cell who made the attempt. One man was arrested, a Walter Ryan. An American."
"Does this woman have some sort of special knowledge they could use? Is she a nuclear scientist, perhaps?" asked Mr. Violet, who ran the Middle East division.
Mr. Brown, who had been reading through the report looked up. "No. She is a graduate student at the university there, studying music theory."
"So she's quite a young woman, then," said Mr. Violet.
Mr. Brown said, "Her date of birth is January 31, 1972. So she's in her early thirties."
"Is this the Americans, or are they acting on Fang's orders?" asked Mrs. Yellow, the only woman on the council but the one with the most experience in the field.
Mr. Brown replied, "Agent Y has confirmed that it is Fang who wants this Miss McIntosh. But he is not in a position to know why."
Mr. Grey cleared his throat and resumed tapping his fingers. "It seems to me that it would be in our interest to find out what makes this woman valuable to G.S. Perhaps if we got to her first…"
"Pardon me, sir, but I don't see that it would be prudent." This came from Mr. White, whose particular area was the American G.S. "It could jeopardize our operatives in the States if they knew we knew about her at all. We really don't have enough to go on to take action. It could very well be that she has nothing at all to do with the London Mission. And that's what needs our efforts the most, it seems to me." There was a general sound of agreement around the table. All eyes turned to Mr. Grey.
Mr. Grey seemed not to notice the attention. He folded his hands and stared at them for a moment. Looking up he said, "Very well. What's next on the agenda?"
Shortly after that the meeting broke up. Mr. Grey returned to his office and sat at his desk. There were no windows in the room but there was a painting of the Scottish moors on one wall and he stared at it for some minutes. Then he reached for his phone and punched the button marked "Line 5," the one that bypassed his secretary, Mr. Blue. Mr. Grey punched in a number and when a man's voice answered he said, "I need to charter a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota leaving as soon as possible." He listened for a moment, then said, "It is in the United States, in the Midwest. I suggest you consult a map."
A few minutes later Mr. Grey strode out of his private office and paused at his secretary's desk. "Mr. Blue, I have a personal matter to attend to. I shall be out of the office for a while. Mr. Brown will be in charge while I am away." Without waiting for Mr. Blue to respond, Mr. Grey left.
The day after Valentine's Day Bon was watching the first hour of Good Morning America and finishing her bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios when she heard someone knocking on her downstairs door. Her apartment was the second floor of an old house, with its own enclosed staircase. She always kept both doors locked unless she knew someone was coming. Bon wondered who it was and hoped it wasn't her downstairs neighbor wanting to use the phone to score some dope. Not likely--no way were they up this early in the morning. Bon unlocked the apartment door and went out on the landing, turning on the light. The door at the bottom had a window in it and she could make out the figure of a man. "Who is it?" she called out. The man held up what appeared to be a badge. "My name is Kevin Dooley. I'm a U.S. Marshall. I need to speak to you, Miss McIntosh."
Bon walked slowly down the stairs and had a look at the badge. It looked official enough but then she had no idea what it was supposed to look like. "Do you have some ID as well, Kevin?" she asked. Dooley fished in his inside coat pocket and held up a card with his picture and name and a government seal. Satisfied, Bon opened the door, but remained where she was.
Dooley put away his badge and ID. "Miss McIntosh, I am here in regards to the attempt that was made to abduct you two nights ago. You are in very great danger, Miss McIntosh. The man who tried to grab you is a member of a terrorist organization. We aren't sure why you were targeted, but we are hoping you can assist us with our investigation of this group. If you would come with me now, I'd like to take you to our Madison office for debriefing. It may also become necessary to place you in protective custody."
Bon listened to all this with growing astonishment. "You mean the guy wasn't just some freak?"
Dooley shook his head. "I'm afraid not. We were able to identify him from his fingerprints as a Walter Ryan, known for his association with a group called Green Serpent. They're an Irish nationalist organization. Do you have any idea why they would want to go after you?"
"No," said Bon slowly. "I mean, I was born over there, but I'm American. I've lived in Wisconsin almost my whole life. I don't even know any Irish people. There must be some mistake."
"I understand how you feel, Miss McIntosh, but I really need you to come with me now." Dooley looked at his watch.
Bon looked at the U.S. Marshall. What a mess, she thought. What am I going to tell Cap? To Dooley she said, "Okay, I have to go up and get dressed and stuff. I won't be long." Before he could answer she closed the door and ran up the steps.
The first thing Bon did was call Cap and explain what little she knew about her situation. When she finished there was silence on the other end of the line.
Then Cap spoke, unable to mask his amusement, "If you want to break up, just say so!"
Bon laughed. "What, and have to give you back the bracelet? No way. Hopefully this thing will get straightened out and I'll be home tonight. I'll call you."
"Okay. I'll be pining by the phone. Unless my other girlfriend calls."
Bon laughed again. "You're such a jerk, Cap Sutherland. It's one of the things I love about you. TTFN."
"Ta ta for now."
A few minutes later Bon came around the side of the house to where Dooley was waiting by the car. It was a nice, sporty looking thing, not what she'd expect for a government vehicle. She wondered if it was his personal ride. Bon got in on the passenger side and fastened her seatbelt as Dooley got behind the wheel. They rode in silence up Main Street to the highway and then onto the interstate out of the city.
Dooley seemed disinclined to chitchat so Bon asked if they could listen to the radio and found the public radio station on the dial. A couple hours later Bon stirred restlessly. "You mind if I smoke?" she asked.
Dooley glanced sideways at her, then back at the road. "We're almost to a rest area," he said. "I'd rather you didn't smoke in the car."
A few minutes later they pulled off into a rest area. There were no other cars around and the place looked pretty shut down. Bon got out of the car and went up onto the sidewalk, which was slushy. The benches had melting snow on them but she didn't feel like sitting anyway. She lit a cigarette and walked a little way up the path to the bathrooms. She didn't really pay attention when another car pulled into the rest area. That is, until the shooting started.
Hearing two bangs in quick succession Bon turned around to see Dooley slumping to the ground by his car. Another man was getting up from a crouch by the car that had pulled in and parked a short distance from Dooley's. Dropping her cigarette in the snow, Bon ran to Dooley's body and picked up the gun. She had never even held a weapon before but she took a stance mimicking police officers on TV, holding the gun with both hands and shot at the marshal's assailant three times. At the first shot the man vaulted the trunk of his car and took refuge behind his vehicle. He did not fire back and now there was silence.
Bon's first thought was to get back in Dooley's car and drive away, since it was still running. Then she remembered that it was a stick shift, something she had no clue how to drive. "Great," she muttered to herself, "Just great."
Bon was relieved of the burden of coming up with plan B because the guy was suddenly behind her and with one arm around her chest he wrested the gun from her left hand.
"Easy there, Bonnie Jo. Easy there. I'm not going to hurt you," said the man. He had the generic British accent that Bon was familiar with from watching Mystery! on PBS. The man helped her to her feet, maintaining a firm grip on her arms, and looked her in the eye.
He looks, thought Bon, like Gandalf after a makeover. His iron gray hair came down past his collar in back and covered the tops of his ears on the sides; it was parted in the middle on top. He had a full beard that went a couple inches past the end of his chin, tapering to a neat point. His eyes were a bright brown that brought youthfulness to an otherwise rather craggy face. There was an unreadable expression in his eyes.
"Now then," said the man, but just then Bon stomped as hard as she could on his foot, kicked him in the shin then tried to knee him in the groin. Although the attack was enough to cause him to let go of her arms, the difference in their height had made it difficult for Bon to make full contact. Bon took off toward his car, which sat running with the driver's door open. Just as she reached it though she felt hands on her shoulders and she was shoved to the ground. The guy sat on her back.
"Now then," he said, breathing heavily, "We have established that I am faster than you and stronger than you. Are you going to be sensible or am I going to have to tie you up?"
Bon seemed to consider this for a second. "I'll be sensible," she said reluctantly.
The man got up and helped her to her feet, maintaining a firm grasp on her left arm. Bon took a swing at him with her right fist. In an instant she was back on the ground, the man on top of her again, fishing in his coat pocket.
"You said you would be sensible," he said wryly.
Bon, struggling under his weight, managed to retort, "It is perfectly sensible to avoid being made off with by some murderer."
The "murderer" smiled grimly, and fastened handcuffs on Bon's wrists behind her back. Once again he helped her to her feet, maintaining a grip on her arm. She looked up at him defiantly and said nothing. He saw no fear in her pale green eyes. It evoked in him a mixture of exasperation and admiration.
After fastening her seatbelt and his own the man pulled out of the rest area. At the next exit he got off and came back on the interstate headed back towards Eau Claire. Finally he spoke.
"See here, Miss McIntosh, I am not going to harm you. That chap back there was working for an Irish terrorist group called Green Serpent. For some reason they want you out of the way, whether dead or alive we're not sure."
"Who's we?" Bon's face was expressionless, her eyes fixed on the road ahead.
The man puzzled this. "I'm sorry?"
Bon's gaze met his briefly, her expression curious, then returned to the road. "You said, 'We're not sure.' Who's "we"?"
"Oh, right. The British Counter-Terrorism Unit. It's a government agency; the title pretty well explains its purpose."
"You're a little long in the tooth to be James Bond, aren't you? And by the way, "that chap" that you just shot down was a U.S. Marshal. And he told me about Green Serpent. It seems to me that if you are who you say you are, there's a serious failure to communicate between law enforcement agencies going on here."
"His name, whatever he might have told you, was Bruno Lutz. He was the sort of chap people hire to do dirty work for them. Green Serpent used him regularly. He was a master of disguise and very convincing at role playing. Jolly good at his job actually. We have even used him a time or two. That's how I recognized him when he was waiting at your apartment."
Bon's face remained expressionless. The man continued, "And no, I'm not James Bond, or at least not anymore. I guess you would say that I am M. But actually I am called Mr. Grey."
"So what are you doing out in the cold, M?" Bon was looking at him now but Mr. Grey kept his eyes on the road.
Indeed, he thought, what am I doing out in the cold? Aloud he said, "That is not your concern."
They rode on in silence for several minutes, then Bon spoke. "Proceeding on the premise that you are telling the truth about all this, what happens next? I mean, you say that this Green Serpent bunch are after me but you yourself are taking me by force somewhere or the other. How am I to distinguish who the good guys and the bad guys are in this situation?"
"I can see where that would be a dilemma," replied Mr. Grey. "All I can say is that as circumstances unfold you will discover that for yourself."
"Fair enough. Well, M, if you want to keep me alive and well you're going to have to feed me. I'm diabetic and I need to eat regularly to maintain a proper blood sugar level. It's time that I eat."
Mr. Grey looked doubtful. "You seem fine to me," he said, "How do I know you won't try to escape? And anyway, if you're diabetic don't you need a shot or something?"
"I have type II diabetes, non-insulin dependent. I'm wearing a med. alert bracelet to that affect, if you care to check it out." Bon tried to twist in her seat to show him her wrist, then sat back. "Or just wait long enough and I'll pass out."
Mr. Grey pulled off at the next truck stop and bought a sandwich and a soft drink for Bon and coffee for himself. When Mr. Grey brought the food out to the car, he refastened the handcuffs in front, around the shoulder strap so Bon could feed herself. They set off and Bon ate in silence as they drove around the city of Eau Claire on the interstate. After getting Mr. Grey's permission Bon smoked a cigarette. Shortly after that her eyelids got heavy and she leaned back.
"I'm ready for a nap," said Bon. She closed her eyes. Then with an effort opened them again and asked, "Where are we going, anyway?"
"To the Minneapolis airport," said Mr. Grey, adding to himself "and points beyond." Bon didn't respond; she was already asleep. Which was no surprise, considering what he had put in her soft drink.
It was a vaguely familiar sound that finally woke Bon up. She opened her eyes and looked around. She was covered in a blanket, lying on a bed in what appeared to be a small, narrow room. Then she recognized what the sound was--jet engines! There was a small window over the bed and she got on her knees and looked through it. The light was fading; she'd apparently been asleep for several hours. Looking downward she could make out a vast dark expanse. The ocean. Leaning her head against the window, Bon closed her eyes. This is just swell, she thought.
"Well, well, look who's up." It was Mr. Grey, sitting in a comfortable looking chair on the other side of a narrow aisle. There were four of the chairs, grouped around a small table. All the furniture was bolted in place. Bon got off the bed and sat down in the chair opposite Mr. Grey. Without a word she took out her cigarettes and put one in her mouth. Mr. Grey opened a drawer under the table and pulled out an ashtray and watched as Bon lit up. He asked, "May I have one of those?"
Bon tossed the pack and lighter onto the table in front of Mr. Grey and he lit one and took in a deep drag. The two of them smoked in silence. Finally, Bon spoke. "So what, now. We're off to jolly old England?"
Mr. Grey nodded. Bon put out her cigarette and yawned. "I take it you spiked my Diet Dr. Pepper."
Mr. Grey didn't respond, putting out his cigarette and then drumming his fingers on the table. He cleared his throat. "Miss McIntosh, I will turn this plane around if you request it-after you hear me out."
Bon said, "Okay. Go for it. But I'm a tough sell. And call me Bon. Anyone who tucks me into bed gets to call me Bon."
"Bon? You don't go by Bonnie Jo? I think Bonnie Jo is a lovely name." said Mr. Grey.
"It's too Petticoat Junction," said Bon and Mr. Grey looked bewildered. "Never mind. Everybody calls me Bon."
"Very well, Bon. This is the situation: The Green Serpent group has acquired a nuclear device which we believe they intend to detonate in the city of London sometime very soon. Obviously it is imperative that we stop them. Anything that might impede Green Serpent in achieving their goal would be of help to us. For some reason, you are important to them. Therefore you are important to us. If we have you then they don't and maybe that will buy us some time."
"A nuclear device. Do you mean a bomb?" asked Bon.
'Well, it's rather small as bombs go, but it would certainly be devastating to London were it detonated in the city. At any rate, you can help us, Miss-Bon, just by cooperating with this, er, abduction on my part." Mr. Grey paused.
"Right. Well, Mr. Grey, you know, I do have a life. I have a job, a boyfriend, a master's degree to complete. I can't just disappear!" Bon ran her fingers through the dark red curls on her head. She continued. "Did you mean it when you said you would turn the plane around?"
Mr. Grey sighed and said, "Yes, I meant it, but I'm not finished with what I have to say. It is most unfortunate that you have been involved in this matter, Bon, most unfortunate indeed. But you must face the facts. You are in danger from Green Serpent wherever you are. If we go back you would almost certainly become their victim, one way or another. This way you will be under protection."
Bon nodded and looked out the window, although by now it was too dark to see anything. Finally she turned back to face Mr. Grey. "I have to make a phone call," she said.
"Hey, beautiful. You home?"
"No. Things are kind of up in the air right now." Mr. Grey gave her a withering glance but Bon remained unwithered. "Looks like it might be a few days before I can come home."
"Are you in protective custody? Whatever that means anyway."
"Something like that. The less you know the better."
"Whoa. Sounds serious."
"That's why I called, so you would worry about me."
"You've always been the epitome of consideration, dear. So, are you in trouble? Blink once for yes and twice for no."
Bonnie laughed and said in her best Monte Python voice, "A wink's as good as a nod to a blind man, say no more, say no more." Mr. Grey was pointing at his watch. Bonnie sighed, "Okay, I guess I have to go, Cap. Just wanted to call and tell you absolutely nothing."
"Okay, honey. I'll be pining by the phone until you call, unless…"
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. See ya, you turkey."
"Ciao, my sweet."
Mr. Grey went to the tiny galley at the back of the plane and returned with some sandwiches. "Would you care for a drink? Or is that something you're allowed, with your diabetes?"
"I'd love a beer right now. I read somewhere that your glucose levels can plummet if you really get drunk, so I've been careful since I was diagnosed a year ago. I was quite the partyer in the days of my youth, but I don't really miss it. A couple beers or a glass of wine occasionally and I'm good.
After they had eaten Mr. Grey cleared the table and came back with fresh beers. He sat down and looked meaningfully at Bon and said, "Bon, we need to try to figure out your connection with Green Serpent. Can you think of anything at all?"
"Just that I was born in Belfast, but I was just a baby when my parents died and I came to the states to live with my grandparents. My father wasn't Irish though, he was Scottish. I can't imagine that just being born there would matter. My theory is that there is another Bonnie Jo McIntosh somewhere who knows how to make nuclear weapons or something. I can't even nuke popcorn in the microwave without scorching it half the time."
Mr. Grey asked, "How did your parents die? Was it a car accident or something?"
"No, it was rather more dramatic than that. My father was commander of a British garrison. He and my mother were shot while they slept. Their killer was never apprehended. It happened when things were pretty hot over there." Bon paused and took a swallow of beer. "Do you suppose it could be the same people after me now?"
"There's no sense to it," said Mr. Grey, his face thoughtful. "What was your father's name?"
"Ian James McIntosh. He was from Aberdeen, that's all I really know about him."
"What about your grandparents? The ones that raised you?"
Bon laughed and said. "Oh, sure, Carl and Ingrid Swanson, Swedish Mafia. The most dangerous character my Grandpa ever faced was a grass snake, with his hoe. Anyway, they've both passed away. Grandma died almost ten years ago and Grandpa last year. Both of cancer."
"How much do you know about Cap? Are you sure he might not somehow be involved?" Mr. Grey leaned forward, his own beer seemingly forgotten on the table.
Bon smiled. "I've known Cap since we were undergraduates. We got to be friends back then and then about six months ago we ran into each other and started dating. He's the gentlest man I know. I don't think he would even take on the grass snake unless it was menacing his loved ones." She paused thoughtfully, "Or his chili cheese fries."
"Is he, that is, do you live together?" asked Mr. Grey.
Bon shook her head, her eyes twinkling. "No, that's not our thing. So I can't tell you if he has "Sinn Fein" tattooed on his butt, or if he talks Gaelic in his sleep."
Mr. Grey cleared his throat and spoke, "There seems to be nothing in your life to explain why Green Serpent would want you. The only connection I can see at all is the circumstances surrounding the death of your parents. But that was, what, thirty years ago?"
"A little more." Bon finished her beer. "I think you're right, M. I think it has to do with my parents' death somehow. That's my only connection with Ireland."
"When we get to London I'll have the incident looked into. What did you say your father's first name was? And your mother?"
"Ian. And Louise."
Mr. Blue was on his feet as soon as Mr. Grey came into the office and said, "Mr. Brown asked me to inform you at once that the council is having an emergency meeting at this time and urgently requests your presence."
Without a word Mr. Grey turned and left the office, going into the adjacent room where the council met. Mr. Brown, who had been speaking, went silent when Mr. Grey entered and all eyes were on him as he took his place at the table.
"I have just been explaining, Mr. Grey, that Agent Y's body was fished from the Thames earlier this morning. We had not received word from him since yesterday morning and feared the worst. Our attempts at locating Fang's cell failed as no doubt whoever tipped them off about Agent Y gave them ample time to relocate at one of their many hideouts. This circumstance has very grave implications, very grave indeed. Only those of us sitting here at his table knew Agent Y's identity, which means that one of us must be a mole."
This statement caused a stir of unease from those seated at the council table. Mr. Grey couldn't help thinking of the disciples at the Last Supper, "Is it I, Lord? Surely it is not I!"
Mr. Grey spoke sharply, "That's enough! Mr. Brown is overstating things. It is clear that there is a mole in our organization but one cannot jump to the conclusion that it is a member of the council, nor that we are the only ones with access to that information. What we need to focus on now is, what ramifications does Agent Y's exposure have to our pursuit of Fang?"
Mr. Brown, somewhat abashed by the rebuke, remained silent-almost sulking. Mrs. Yellow spoke up first. "They'll have changed their plans, certainly. Perhaps moved up the date of the attack. And they'll be doing whatever they can to make any information Agent Y provided no longer relevant. Like all their known locations, their sources of supplies. They'll have to find other avenues."
"I agree, Mrs. Yellow," said Mr. Violet. "Except in that case perhaps it will delay the attack."
"Not necessarily," said Mr. Green, "They may be more reckless, willing to forego some of their safety measures."
The discussion continued for some time.
Mr. Grey knocked once, then entered an unmarked door on the second floor of the BCTU. It was the office of Dr. White, with whom Mr. Grey had a long friendship from before his days as director. Dr. White turned from his computer and seeing who it was, beamed all over his red face. "Old friend! You haven't been down here in ages! Let's have some of the good stuff."
Mr. Grey didn't protest as Dr. White took a decanter and two glasses out of a cupboard and poured them each a drink. Dr. White took a sip, then yawned and rubbed his face. "I was overdue for a break anyway. What brings you here?"
Mr. Grey pulled a piece of paper out of his coat pocket and handed it to Dr. White. "I need you to get these things for me, Doc," he said, "And it's strictly on the q.t. No one else is to know about it."
Dr. White looked at the list and his face sobered. He leaned back in his chair. "These medications are for someone with type II diabetes. Who are they for?"
Mr. Grey shook his head. "I can't tell you, Doc."
"See here, mate, this isn't like you at all. Asking me to, to procure for you-although I admit it's rather a strange request."
"That's right-I've never asked you for this sort of thing before. So you must know that I have very good reasons for doing it now. Will you trust me?"
The doctor nodded and his face brightened again. "Of course, mate. You just caught me off guard. It's no trouble at all."
Mr. Grey's quarters were located in the first sub-basement of the BCTU building. They were, thought Bon, about twice as big as her apartment and twice as nice. Besides a living room and kitchen there was a spacious bedroom and a smaller study with a fold-out sofa. One wall of the study was filled with bookshelves and the books were of quite an eclectic assortment. As the day wore on Bon found the television fare to be rather dull and she settled down with a collection of Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey stories.
It had been relatively easy for Mr. Grey to smuggle Bon into his quarters unnoticed. She hid on the floor of the back seat of his car from the airport and into the underground garage that served the employees of the BCTU. His own parking spot was located at the innermost end of the lot where there were no security cameras. The same was true of the private elevator that was for his exclusive use. Requiring a four digit code, the elevator opened directly into his quarters. Mr. Grey had insisted when he took the position that he be afforded some little privacy.
Sometime after seven the elevator doors opened and Bon looked up to see Mr. Grey emerging. He was carrying a large bag, which he brought over and set down on the coffee table in front of Bon's chair. From his coat pocket he took out a small white bag and set it down as well.
"Here are the things you need for your diabetes," Mr. Grey explained, indicating the small bag, "And I brought you some other things as well." Having said that, he got up and went into the kitchen.
Bon opened the white bag first, which contained the two prescriptions she needed as well as a glucometer and supplies for testing her blood sugar. The big bag had toiletry items, underwear and socks, pajamas, a couple of sweat suits and something else in a shrink wrap package. Bon took a closer look. It looked like a palm pilot and according to the package contained a thousand easy, medium and hard crossword puzzles. "Cool," said Bon under her breath. She had mentioned to Mr. Grey on the plane that crosswords were a pastime of hers.
Bon got up and went into the kitchen, where Mr. Grey seemed to be assembling ingredients for stir fry, judging by the wok that was sitting on the center island counter. Bon held up the electronic game.
"Thanks, M! I mean for all of it of course, but especially this," she said. "I can chop up vegetables, if you like. I'm pretty good at it." Mr. Grey just nodded toward the cutting board and freshly washed veggies. Bon put her new toy on the table and went to work.
Once they sat down to eat, Mr. Grey was more convivial than he had been previously. He asked Bon a lot of questions about her life-growing up on a farm, school, work, her boyfriend. It turned out that he had also grown up on a farm, so they chatted mostly about what that was like. When Bon asked him where the farm was, Mr. Grey hesitated to answer. "Up north," was all he said and changed the subject. "You must have gotten to know quite a lot about your parents, growing up with your mother's people."
"My grandparents had lots of pictures of my mother of course. She was a Swedish beauty with a dancer's body. My father was tall dark and handsome-I just have the one picture of him, their wedding picture, which I've had by my bed my whole life. I don't know how I turned out short and squat or with this ridiculous head of hair"-she pointing at her head-"and yes, they told me all about her. But I don't know anything about my dad. They met when she was with a touring company over here. I just know his name-Ian James McIntosh-and that he was from Aberdeen. I don't know anything about his family or background at all. I tried a search on the internet once but McIntosh is a pretty common name in Scotland, even just in Aberdeen, and I didn't have the money to pay someone else to track down my relatives there, if I even have any."
Although Bon realized later that she had learned very little about Mr. Grey's personal life she felt that she had gotten to know him some. He was more relaxed and even smiled occasionally, which hadn't been the case when they were on the plane. But he sometimes looked at her with a strange intensity that made her uncomfortable, his dark brown eyes bright with an unreadable expression.
The next day went pretty much the same as the first except that Bon had her crossword game to occupy her. She also had discovered Mr. Grey's CD collection, which contained quite a number of baroque masters, her own particular field of study. So her day passed mostly in the company of Bach and Pachebel and other old friends. It was not yet six when the elevator door opened as it had the evening before. But this time it wasn't Mr. Grey. Bon jumped to her feet. Mr. Grey had said nothing about what to do if someone else came to the apartment. It was her understanding that no one else knew she was there.
The man who stepped out of the elevator was fortyish, with short black hair and keen blue eyes. Not handsome, but with a very nice build revealed by his carefully tailored suit. He took two steps into the room, then stopped, seeing Bon tense up.
"Miss McIntosh, don't be alarmed. I am Mr. Grey's secretary, Mr. Blue. I'm afraid there has been a security breach and you are no longer safe here. Mr. Grey is himself occupied with a very grave matter and could not leave the office at this point without raising a lot of questions, so he confided in me your situation. He's asked me to take you to a safe house outside the city." Mr. Blue paused. He could see doubt written all over Bon's face. He continued, "This next bit doesn't make any sense to me, but Mr. Grey said to tell you, 'M sent me.' Does that mean anything to you."
Bon's face relaxed. "Yes, it does. I'll get my jacket."
Minutes later they were getting off the elevator at the parking level. Mr. Blue approached Mr. Grey's car. He explained, "Mr. Grey thought it best that I take his car. You'd better get down on the floor in the back seat until I tell you it's safe to be seen."
Bon did as she was told and soon they were on their way. As the car made its way slowly through the city traffic, Bon considered the irony of her situation. "I've always wanted to see London," she said to Mr. Blue, "Now I'm here and I still haven't seen it."
They were well out of the city before Mr. Blue said it was okay for Bon to sit up. It was too dark to see much of the countryside whizzing by. Eventually they came to an area with quite a lot of trees. Finally Mr. Blue turned off the main road and onto a narrow lane and then again onto an unpaved road that led to a small clearing with a rather rundown looking house and a collapsing barn. An RV had been backed in and was a little way from the house; a small white car was parked in front of the house.
Mr. Blue parked the car and got out, opening the back door for Bon. Taking her by the arm, he led her to the RV. Bon could see the curtain on one of the small windows move and assumed someone was peeking out. As they approached, the side door on the RV opened and a man came out, holding the door for them. Bon couldn't really get a good look at him in the darkness.
Bon went in first. It wasn't a top of the line RV, but close. There was a low sofa against the far wall from the door; a man was sitting on it. To the right of the door was a kitchenette that had a small table and two chairs crammed into it that didn't look like they belonged there. Two men sat there, one was working on something that looked like a small clock radio. The other man smiled at Bon in a way that made her uneasy. He nodded toward the sofa and Bon took a seat, as far away from the fourth man as possible. Then she noticed that all the men were armed.
"If she moves, shoot her in the knee cap," said the one who had smiled at her. His voice was husky and his accent was almost comically Irish; it reminded Bon of the Lucky Charms leprechaun. The man rose slowly. He was of an indeterminate age, with a weathered face and brown hair heavily salted with silver. The look in his hazel eyes belied the smile, it was cold and angry. Walking over to the sofa he bent down and took Bon's face in his hands, not gently, forcing her to look at him.
"You have caused me a great deal of trouble, Bonnie Jo McIntosh. But now we've got you and you'll more than repay that debt." The man let go of her face suddenly, so that Bon fell back against the sofa.
Bon sat up carefully, mindful of the gun trained on her by the guy sitting next to her on the sofa. She spoke carefully, "So, to call this a "safe" house would be, perhaps, a misnomer, Mr. Blue?" Mr. Blue wouldn't look at her. He was nervous, seemed to be waiting for something. Bon continued, "I take it I am in the lair of the Green Serpent. And that would make you…?" This time she addressed the hazel eyed man.
"Fang," he said. "Or so the BCTU calls me and it will suit your purposes as well." He turned to Mr. Blue.
"Well, why are you still here, mole? Oh, of course. You want your thirty pieces of silver." Fang motioned to the man still seated at the table, who retrieved a box from under the table and got out an envelope thick with money.
Mr. Blue took the money and looked at Fang. He seemed confused by the hatred in the terrorist's eyes. He started to say something, then thought better of it. Without a word, he left the RV.
"Now then, why don't we give your daddy a call?" said Fang, taking a cell phone out of his jacket pocket. He began to dial a number written down on a piece of paper. It didn't have a chance to ring more than once and he handed it to Bon. "Say hello to Papa."
Bon took the phone, utterly bewildered and said hesitantly, "Hello?"
"Bonnie Jo! Thank God! Are you safe?" It was Mr. Grey.
"Safe does not begin to cover it," was all she had time to say before Fang took the phone away from her.
"So, Colonel. This is 'Fang.' As you have heard, we have your daughter. You just see to it that the BCTU makes no more headway in finding us or stopping us, and she will live. You have my word." He clicked off without giving Mr. Grey a chance to respond.
Bon spoke up, "What the hell is going on? Mr. Grey is not my father! My father died over thirty years ago."
Fang laughed. "Yes, that's what I thought, too, until recently. You see, I was the one who shot your parents. I was supposed to have killed you too, but was only a boy of seventeen and didn't have the stomach for it. No, your father survived though his identity didn't. That rat Mr. Blue uncovered the truth for us and tracked you down too."
Bon put her face in her hands and sat motionless for a moment. When she uncovered her face there were tears in her eyes. "Could I have a drink?" she choked out.
"Of course, dearie, of course." Fang sounded genuinely concerned, though his eyes were still cold. "This must be a terrible shock to you." He motioned to the man at the table who reached behind him on the tiny counter for a full bottle of whiskey and a glass. Fang brought them to Bon and poured her a stiff belt. He set the bottle down on the flat armrest of the sofa, next to a used ashtray. "There you are my dear. Would you care for a cigarette?"
Bon nodded and Fang gave her one and lit it, leaving the pack and matches next to the whiskey bottle. Bon took a swallow of the whiskey and went into a coughing fit. The second swallow went down smoother. She poured herself another belt, setting the open bottle on the floor next to her. Fang raised his eyebrows but said nothing, returning to the table.
"It's ready," said the man who had been working at the table. He held up his handiwork, the thing that looked like a small digital alarm clock.
Fang took it in his hands and grinned. "Good work, Sean. You just need to wire it to the bomb, then?" he asked.
Sean nodded. "It'll be tricky, though. So it can't be tampered with."
Fang put the detonator back on the table and stood up, looking at Bon. Bon was leaning back, staring into space, a fresh drink in her hand. Fang addressed the man on the sofa. "Seamus, you stay here with her. Do not take your eyes off of her! If she tries anything, you know what to do."
Seamus looked at Fang blankly. Fang sighed, "Shoot her in the kneecap. We need her alive until the mission is over. Have you got that, Seamus?" Seamus nodded. Fang said to the other two, "We've got to get going. The Brotherhood is expecting us at the meeting in the city. We have to apprise them of the change in plans." The three men left, leaving Seamus with a fresh warning to be on his toes.