"I've got Mzimu."
A few days after Mikiko had last seen Timothy Fleming, he had sent her a text with his (untraceable) number so she could contact him when she had evidence the Organization’s leader was dead. Colins said it probably had been easy for him to pick up her cell’s number remotely as long as he was in close proximity, even from the phone issued to her by the Agency. It had likely happened when they spoke in the church.
"You have proof of his death?"
He was using a secure text app so even though Mikiko and Fleming could exchange messages, Colins, or rather his computing and electronics expert Danae Parker, couldn’t locate him. Colins told her that should be immaterial since they’d located the farmhouse on the Romney Marsh where he was holding Sienna Thomas over a week ago.
"I have Mzimu in person. Do you want to meet?"
“He’s got to be thinking this one over hard, Mikiko. It’s the sort of trap we’d set up for him. On the other hand, he did say if possible, he’d like to meet Mzimu face-to-face and finish the job personally.”
“But it is a trap, isn’t it, Geoffrey?”
The two of them were alone in a private room in a rented flat in Dover. Colins and his team moved their base of operations from Ashford, even though it put them slightly further away from both Dymchurch and Romney Marsh. The key to remaining undetected was staying mobile.
“Yes, and while he can be suspicious, he can’t possibly pass up this opportunity. Now we’ll see what he proposes.”
The full team was there preparing the op to finally capture the notorious international assassin known as Hellspite. Originally, they’d thought to take him right away, but upon a full recon of the area Fleming was believed to be hiding with his prisoner, they realized it was impossible to approach unseen. The farmhouse lay in the middle of an open pasture with a creek on the property. Low bushes and some water foliage, but nothing concealing except the all too frequent fogs. Occasionally herds of sheep would ramble in the area and the occasional shepherd would move them along, but even a small heavily armed force would be impossible to hide.
True, it would also mean Fleming couldn’t get away without being observed, but he’d vanished before under similar circumstances, so they couldn’t take a chance he might escape them again.
"Who is he? How did you take him?"
She looked up at Colins and seeing him shake his head, she replied,
"Not part of the deal. I'll deliver the information and Mzimu in person. You pick the time and place."
There was a long pause. Colins had agents at both roads leading out of the area of the farmhouse plus high-altitude drones monitoring from above so it would be interesting to see how Fleming was going to handle this. Most likely, he’d have to break cover with Sienna, but that didn’t help them. If he sensed a trap, her life could still buy his freedom.
"I'll think it over and contact you when ready."
“Damn, he didn’t take the bait.”
“That’s not necessarily true, Mikiko. He certainly didn’t expect you’d take Mzimu alive so no doubt whatever he had planned before has to be adjusted. Give him time.”
“I think we should tell him the truth, Geoffrey.”
“He won’t believe you. He’ll think you’re lying. His entire existence is built upon what his mother told him about Mzimu, his father, the Hawkhursts. It would all fall apart if he accepted what we know actually happened.”
“Maybe you’re right, but if he could accept it, he’d realize the futility of what he’s been trying to accomplish. His entire career as Hellspite, everything has been built on a lie.”
“I told you this would happen, Sienna.”
“And I told you, Timothy. You can’t hold me forever.”
“It won’t be long now. Everything is just about in position.”
“You sure you can trust them.”
“They are the only ones I can trust half-sister.”
“Don’t pretend that means anything to you. You hadn’t even met me until you had me kidnapped and brought to your flat in Chicago.”
“Condo, Sienna. You’re right. It’s not a matter of family relationship, it’s a matter of getting what I want.”
“You think this what you want?”
“It’s all I’ve got left.”
He looked to his right out the window momentarily taken in by the view. He stood, closed the curtains, and then returned to his seat.
“Now here’s your part in all this.”
"I'm sending you instructions on uploading your files proving the identity of Mzimu and that you have him in custody. Give me the information or there is no deal."
“I’ve got something, Colins.”
This time they were all gathered together in the rented flat’s central room. It had been twenty-four hours since Fleming’s last text to Mikiko.
“Let’s see.” He read the instructions Fleming was sending. “Danae, you should probably have a look at this.”
Mikiko looked at the team leader. “Are you sure you want to give him the information ahead of the exchange, Colins? In the other text I sent…”
“A calculated risk, Mikiko. He still wants Mzimu and we have him.”
Parker put down her cup of tea on the end table near where she’d been relaxing and walked to a chair by the fireplace where the Japanese agent was sitting. She stood next to Colins and looked over Mikiko’s shoulder.
“Anonymous cloud storage. Seems pretty straight forward. I’ve already encrypted the files as he asked. He probably created the account using proxy or Tor and I can do the same to connect. No sense letting this information get out into the open although I guess we don’t care now about Fleming seeing it.”
“Think he’ll accept it, Mikiko?”
“It has the benefit of being the truth, something even we didn’t know a week ago.”
“Okay, get to work Danae. Mikiko, tell Fleming we’re setting things up now and will text again when we’ve made the upload.”
Mikiko finished her text and Fleming replied,
"I'll be waiting. If it checks out, I'll send further instructions."
An hour later, Timothy verified the data for the third time. He’d only get one shot at this and he didn’t want to waste it. Yes, it all checked out. Dame Evonne Whitemore was the key though she’d never have willingly given anything away. There were twelve and then there were three. Fleming chuckled at the cleverest part of it.
“Oh yes, Mzimu. You are a crafty bastard, aren’t you. So were you, dearest Mummy. Didn’t you think I’d find out? Your old friend Sean Billingham couldn’t trust his fool son Roger to keep a secret, but he did tell the lad about a strong box they’d kept for me hidden in the tunnel between the church and the house he grew up in, the one with Mum’s papers. We’d even played together in that house once.”
He checked the documents one more time. The data Mikiko and her associates provided matched up perfectly with what he now had in his possession, like two parts of a jigsaw puzzle. Together the picture became complete. Now Hellspite was certain of what he had to do.
“You’re not going to believe this, Colins.”
“You’ve heard from him?”
“Just now. Here’s where he wants us to deliver Mzimu, time, date, circumstances.” She turned the screen of her cell toward him.
“Unbelievable. Well I guess it makes sense. He could take a shot at him from any one of a hundred places. Very well. I’ll call unit two and have the package wrapped and ready for delivery.” Colins stood up and addressed the team. “Okay, we’re packing up here. Time to move out. I’ll contact the team at Romney.”
Six a.m. the next day in London, specifically on Westminster Bridge Road in front of the loading dock of the Park Plaza Westminster Hotel. It had been weeks since Mikiko had attended the World Nuclear Association Symposium here and met some of the first “players” in the game. Sebastian Wright and Colleen Merchant worked here, two of Amanda Thomas’s lieutenants and the only two of six who knew her true identity. It was here that Mikiko also met the Plaza’s Chief of Security Charles Smythe, who later proved to be working for Fleming as well as the Sebastian when he was discovered to have transported Sienna from Paris to Chicago.
Everything made sense now. Many subordinates, a core set of cells above them with only a few members in each knowing how to contact their superiors, and so on up the chain. Finally what Colins called the Inner Circle, the twelve individuals closest to Mzimu and finally only three of them knowing the full truth.
It was that truth that Danae’s dogged detective work had turned up using a combination of the information they had gathered from the Organization’s sources in the UK, data Fleming had stored in Chicago, and finally what Dame Whitemore had given them. Even then it took some time to validate the information and make sure they had their man. Now the Agency knew who Mzimu was and so did Fleming.
He didn’t suspect his cover had been blown so it was easy to take him. His lawyers were going to have a hell of a time in court and he’d fight bitterly, however Whitemore had been willing to make a deal which included immunity in exchange for her testimony.
“Fleming wants me to be the only one with Mzimu.”
“He could easily kill you both, Mikiko. Even you can’t dodge a rifle bullet.”
“We have to get Sienna back. He says he’ll text us her location when he’s finished with Mzimu.”
“And you believe him?” Colins shook his head in wonder. This had become something of a joke between them.
“What choice do we have? Besides, you have the both of us wearing enough body armor to stop a missile, plus fake blood packs to make it look as if we’ve been shot.” She grinned at him but she was nervous. Since joining the team, she had learned things about herself she hadn’t imagined, including the ability to temporarily malform her body. She also learned she could become a cold and efficient killer. But no matter what she had demonstrated, she was still mortal. Both Mikiko and Mzimu could be dead fifteen minutes from now.
“We’ve got the most likely spots a sniper could use covered but like I said, he could be anywhere.”
Colins and Mikiko were on either side of the prisoner in the backseat of a dark sedan several hundred meters from where Fleming requested they stand and wait. Carstairs was driving and Ellis was in the passenger seat. Moore was leading the detail just inside and on this side of the hotel with his people deployed like commandos. It was early enough to where rush hour hadn’t nearly approached its peak although in London the streets were never empty.
Mikiko got out of the car and looked back in. “Step out please, Mr. Smythe.”
Charles Smythe, the now former Security Chief of the Plaza got out and faced her. “I must admit to misjudging you when we first met. Your disguise or rather disguises are most ingenious, Ms. Kojima.”
“High praise from the master of disguise, Mzimu.”
“You mean to carry this out do you? You’ll get us both killed.”
“He has a hostage, Smythe.”
“You know she’s already dead, don’t you?”
“Actually I don’t. I do know she’s not where I thought she’d be and for that matter, neither was Fleming.”
When Colins was informed that the transaction was to take place in London, he thought that either Fleming had a secret way of getting himself and Sienna out of the farmhouse in Romney or they had never been there in the first place. Roger Billingham, Fleming’s Hawkhurst contact in Dymchurch, believed he was there when the Agency questioned him, but the other Hawkhurst gang people must have been given new instructions after his capture.
Sure, they made covert trips to the farmhouse to deliver supplies, but the house had only been occupied for about a day according to other gang members they had since arrested. By the time Colins had people in place to provide surveillance, their quarry had already gone. They did find a couple of locals who had been paid to live there temporarily, a man and his wife. They were clueless thinking it was part of some sort of reality TV show.
The original 18th century Hawkhurst gang used Romney Marsh very effectively for their work keeping hidden from the authorities, and Fleming proved the validity of his legacy by doing the same. Colins cursed himself for not having Mikiko go out to the site personally to verify that Fleming and Sienna were present. Now they had lost them both and their only chance of recovering the hostage was to take a chance, no matter how slight, that Hellspite was a person of honor and would tell them where Sienna was being held, but only after he’d killed Mzimu.
Mikiko knew that Smythe could very well be right, but something about her contacts with Fleming gave her a sense of him though nothing tangible. Perhaps she was responding to a collection of subliminal cues provided by her enhanced senses, bits and pieces of information she couldn’t specifically identify but that added up to an intuition about him. Colins probably thought she was a fool, but Mikiko knew Fleming wouldn’t kill Sienna, not if they kept their part of the deal.
So far she’d botched the whole operation. She managed to track Fleming down in Chicago but was captured and taken prisoner in the process. She had to kill five men and maim one just to escape but in the interim, Fleming had gotten away. She found him again in Dymchurch but then he eluded her. Finally, just when it seemed certain they had found where he was holding Sienna on the Marsh, he pulled yet another vanishing act. Mikiko had to find a way to save the teenager and redeem herself. This was the only way left.
She positioned Smythe where her instructions said to and then they waited. It should only be a few minutes now. Her cell chirped.
"Change of plans, Mikiko. Take Mzimu on foot across Westminster Bridge. Don't notify anyone by voice or text. I can see you and Smythe both. I'll text you when I want you to stop. Go now."
“Let’s go, Smythe.” She took him by the arm. “We’re going for a walk.”
“Very smart. He knows this area has been secured. Taking no chances. The bridge? He’ll have a cleaner shot that way.”
Mikiko made it a point not to make eye contact with anyone in the car or the deployed personnel in or around this side of the hotel. Colins had discussed this possibility so he wouldn’t be surprised when they moved. She had to make this look good.
When they were almost at the bridge, Smythe tried to pull away. His first surprise was that he couldn’t break Mikiko’s grip. His second was that she slammed him against the stone rail of the bridge and then pressed the barrel of a pistol she kept in the pocket of her overcoat against his groin.
“You try that again and Fleming won’t have to kill you.”
The face of the leader of one of the world’s largest crime cartels expressed shock. Then she pulled him back upright and they continued.
Even under such grim circumstances, Mikiko couldn’t help but admire nearby Big Ben, the London Eye, the Palace of Westminster, and so many other sights that foreigners including herself commonly associated with London. If was as if she were in a spy movie filmed to show off the most spectacular parts of the city, all while waiting for the sound of a rifle shot, a sudden pain, and death. She’d escaped death once before but it had taken years and millions to rebuild her. If it came down to it, could Daniel Hunt give her life back again?
Nearly halfway across the bridge her cell received another text.
"That will do, Mikiko. Now stand there and wait. My little game will be over soon enough. Thank you for playing."
The wind was cold on the bridge. The sun wouldn’t be up for over an hour. It was the perfect time for murder. Mikiko reached out with her senses but there was nothing. She thought that she might pick up the hint of his scent or maybe even Sienna’s if he kept her on hand.
Cars, buses, and trucks passed. There were even some pedestrians out. It was after 6:30. What was he waiting for? Then another text.
"By now, Sienna has met her brother Oliver in Paris. I've given him your number. Thank you for participating in my charade. You have Mzimu in custody and have broken his human trafficking ring and I have my freedom. By the way, I'm nowhere near London either, though my spotter who's been watching you should be leaving his perch by now. Farewell."
She quickly tapped her Phone. “Colins, it’s a trick! Fleming’s not here. Move to us now!”
Less than a minute later, Carstairs steered the sedan like a maniac onto the bridge and up next to the waiting pair. Colins threw open the door and they almost fell in. He’d already given the order for the rest of the team to regroup.
Carstairs peeled away from the curb as Colins said, “You might was well take it off now, Martins.”
The man disguised as Charles Smythe pulled off his expertly applied latex mask with all the florish of an agent from television’s “Mission: Impossible” show revealing Alan Martins worried face beneath. “What went wrong, Mr. Colins?”
Mikiko had met Martins for the first time in an underground garage when Colins took her to examine the rental car Amanda Thomas had used first to meet with Wright and Merchant and later for her clandestine rendezvous with the “the Shadow;” the man who later proved to be her confederate and former lover Richard Singleton, Timothy Fleming’s father.
“It wasn’t a trap after all, but we still need to know…”
Mikiko’s cell rang. The caller ID said “Oliver Thomas.” She put the phone on speaker.
“This is Mikiko.”
“It’s me, Sienna. I’m alright. He let me go. I’m at the Paris train terminal with my brother, just off the Eurostar from London.”
Mikiko looked at Colins who nodded. “First train leaves London at four. It fits.”
“Where is he, Sienna? Where’s Timothy?”
“Here in Paris somewhere I think. Not sure. He could have gotten on another train.”
Colins was on his phone calling their contact in Paris, barking orders about reviewing the terminal’s cameras for any sign of Hellspite and also telling them to pick up Sienna and Oliver Thomas for questioning and debriefing.
“Sienna, you and your brother stay where you are. Make yourselves visible. Some of our people are being dispatched to contact you. It’s for your own safety.” Mikiko thought she was beginning to sound like Geoffrey.
“Mikiko, we’ve got local security on site. They’ll contact Sienna and Oliver and hold them for our people. I’ve got them on the line so you can ring off now.”
“Okay, Colins.” She said good-bye, confirmed that they were safe and then broke the connection.
Martins casually waved his now torn mask. “By the way Mikiko, you played your role very convincingly and I’ve got the bruises to prove it.”
“Sorry, Alan. I had to make it look good. For all I knew, he could have had someone nearby watching to make sure you were actually Smythe. He might have even planned to shoot us from a passing car. Come to think of it, he did say there was an observer. Probably how he could be in Paris and still direct us by text.”
“Just be happy you didn’t get shot, Martins. By the way, I appreciate you putting your neck in a noose, so to speak.”
“Thanks, Mr. Colins. All part of the service. Besides, I wasn’t in too much danger unless he decided to go for a headshot.”
“Mikiko, isn’t that how he got Singleton, and at considerable range, too?”
She could see the slight grin on Colins’s face. One of the few times he decided to display a sense of humor and it turned out to be ghastly.
The group had assembled at their current temporary base when one of Danae’s team waved her over to a computer terminal. “I think you’re going to want to see this. Colins, too.”
Danae’s senior cyber-team member Beverly Candler stood up to make room for them.
“You too, Mikiko.” Colins waved her over.
The three of them looked at the screen and saw the anonymous cloud storage set up for them by Fleming had a new directory.
“Let me drive.” Danae sat down and started keyboarding.
“It’s all here. He found out what we did. His own Mum was playing him like a pawn in a game of revenge. She knew Mzimu was going to track her down eventually but she never told Fleming why. Eileen Fleming was planning to assassinate Mzimu and his UK top echelon all along and use her connections with Hawkhurst to take over. She knew it would be too obvious if she took a direct hand, so she trained Timothy to do it. Problem was she was found out and killed before she could implement.
“According to what both Fleming and Marquessa O’Shaughnessy told us, Fleming’s Mum tried to call him off on her death-bed the plan being ruined and all. Probably didn’t want her son to risk his life. She told him she wanted Singleton and ultimately Mzimu dead but not about her plot to take over the UK Organization.”
Colins had been listening to Danae while checking his cell. Still no sign of Fleming in Paris or on any of the departing trains. The search was expanded to all other means of leaving the area.
He found out from their people in Paris that Fleming had contacted Sienna’s brother in Milan and told him his sister was fine and he could meet her this morning, but that she’d be killed if he told anyone about it before they connected.
In the debriefing, Sienna described the kind of disguise Fleming had been wearing and under what names they’d traveled, but they had to assume he’d changed out all of that the minute he was out of her sight.
“Do you think this was Timothy’s plan all along?”
“Who knows, Mikiko? It’s possible he wanted to kill Singleton and Mzimu in revenge for his Mum’s death but when he discovered this new information provided by the senior Billingham, he could have changed his mind.”
“Says here in the data he left for us that we should be thanking him for giving us the final clues that led us to Mzimu’s capture and that he made it possible for us to take down one of the largest human trafficking organizations in the world.”
“That may be Danae. We have our man. He had his fingers in every dirty little pie in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and all run very quietly right under our very noses here in London.”
“Has Charles Smythe always been Mzimu, Colins?” After all, Mzimu has been around a long time and while Smythe is old enough, he might not have been the first.”
“We may never know for sure, Mikiko. We had to turn him over to conventional law enforcement. Even slavers and murderers like Smythe have rights it seems.”
“Every time I thought we had him, he managed to escape.”
“You mean Fleming, Mikiko?”
“He could be anywhere by now, Geoffrey.”
“Not quite. It’s only been since this morning. He was in Paris at 6:30 and it’s barely lunchtime.”
He was sitting at a table nursing one of the ales for which Blakes of Dover is noted. Timothy Fleming had taken a train from Paris to Calais and then the ferry back over to Dover. It was a bit of arrogance on his part, doubling back as it were, but then he rather enjoyed the game of misdirection and disinformation. Of course he had absolutely no intention of getting any nearer to Dymchurch or New Romney, but it was a thrill to be so close and yet completely unsuspected. Pity he could never go back. He wished he could attend the “Days of Syn” festival at least once. It was supposed to be fun.
There’d be another ferry back in a couple of hours and then from Calais he’d continue his journey.
“Your order, Sir.”
He looked up as the elderly proprietor came with a second ale and placed it on the table along with his Beef and Chips.
“My pleasure.” She smiled at him and paused momentarily. It was a smile she probably offered up dozens of times a day and he supposed it didn’t mean anything.
Timothy enjoyed his meal in peace but was this really the end of Hellspite? Almost everyone he’d ever trusted including his Mum had kept secrets and lied to him. He thought eliminating his Dad and Mzimu would bring some closure but then he realized he needed the game more than he needed it to end. He had established a dozen identities and had hidden accounts available to each of them. He could disappear and lead a quiet life, perhaps marry and raise a brood.
He could do that, or he could forever retire Timothy Fleming and let himself continue to live under the name and mask of the Hellspite.
Suzanne Billingham and her husband Sean had divorced years before and she moved back to Dover and in with her brother’s family. After he died, his Missus wasn’t up to running Blakes and asked her to manage it for her.
The former Mrs. Billingham may have left her husband but once you are initiated into Hawkhurst, it leaves a mark. Suzanne had a few friends left among them. She’d heard about her Roger and most of the others being picked up, that nasty affair involving Eileen Fleming’s boy. She remembered Roger and Timothy playing with those Pokemon cards in the old place in Dymchurch all those years ago. Now lo and behold, he walks into Blakes bold as you please and orders an ale.
Word was Timothy Fleming was a wanted man. It was all because of him Roger was in jail. She was glad the Hawkhursts caused her no trouble after she left Sean and had no love for them except a few, but poor, dear Roger always thought he could follow in his Dad’s footsteps. Now look what it’s done to him.
She stepped back behind the counter and picked up the phone.
This story is the immediate sequel to The Hawkhurst Gambit and except for an epilogue to wrap up all the loose ends, officially concludes the pursuit of the Hellspite by Mikiko, Colins, and the Agency. I tried my best to disguise the identity of Mzimu, suggesting in the previous tale that the notorious leader of the Organization was actually three people among the inner circle of twelve. In fact, it was only those three who knew the true identity of Mzimu, Charles Smythe. Smythe was never on Fleming’s suspect’s list because he was such an unlikely target.
To the best of my ability, I tried to accurately represent all of the details. It is possible to capture a cell phone’s number remotely under certain conditions and I did find that for a fee, you can set up an anonymous cloud storage account. There is also an app that allows anonymous texting. The area around the Plaza and on the Westminster Bridge should look as I described it, at least if I can trust Google maps and images.
The first train from London to Paris through the tube leaves at 4 a.m. and the trip takes just under two-and-a-half hours so Timothy and Sienna would have arrived in Paris before 6:30. Timothy could have hired a spotter in London who positioned himself to overlook the area occupied by Mikiko and Smythe (Martins) and then relayed that information to Fleming. Fleming then texted Mikiko as if he could actually see them.
Oh, from Paris, Fleming would have had time to take the train to Calais and then the ferry from there back to Dover in time for lunch. I leveraged a small part of a story I’d written called A Last Ale at Blakes. I couldn’t think of a way for Mikiko to track him down as that story describes and Fleming is an accomplished escape artist. However he couldn’t have possibly have anticipated that Roger Billingham’s Mom was the manager of Blakes and would recognize him. Now who do you suppose she’s going to phone?
Here are other stories in Mikiko’s overall saga in the order I wrote them but not in chronological order:
- The Reconstructed Woman
- Burn Victim
- Woman Under Repair
- Five Years On
- Woman in the Shadows
- The Search for Armageddon
- The Swimmer
- Murder at 900 North Michigan
- First Flight
- The Man in the Dark
- The Vengeful
- The Most Dangerous Predator
- The Protector.
- Night of Syn.
- The Hawkhurst Gambit.
See you for Epilogue One: Mikiko’s Race.