tagNon-EroticNot Passing Go! Ch. 08

Not Passing Go! Ch. 08

bySpencerfiction©

Chapter 8: A new order

"You could have been killed, Agnes."

"Agnes is a dead woman." Agnes replied.

"No, sweetheart, I told you I wouldn't kill you."

"Danny, Agnes is already dead."

I look at her. "You can't be dead. If we are talking, and if you're dead, then so'm I."

"Hadn't you ever considered?" Agnes ended the conversation with a question that send me off on a tangent, "That twins run in families?"

The dream ended with a smile on her cute face.

I had this dream running over and over in my head like a broken record. The noise of the US Navy helicopter, where I am lying, is deafening but I can read her lips and she can read mine. And then I sleep again and, all the while I sleep I dream, that same dream all over again.

Then I woke up in a hospital side ward. I was connected up to various monitors, so I tried to relax and not set off any alarms. I had a saline drip in my arm, which was understandable, remembering what I had just been through. It was quiet and dark. It was night-time, but it was not as dark as it was in that freight container. I could quite easily see someone sitting quietly in a chair.

I sensed it was Agnes. I knew it would be her. I lifted my head and called out.

"Agnes?"

She sat up immediately and then rose from her chair, moving to the side of my bed. "Take it easy honey, you are in a hospital in Salonica. They say that, if you respond as well as you have, you will be released in the morning, not straight away, but after tests and when the doctors do their rounds. We have a plane standing by to take us home."

"Which home?" I smiled.

"The Manor House near Slocombe's of course. The kids are in school and home is where the family is, right, honey?"

"Right, sweetheart." I relaxed back into the pillow and she grabbed my hand.

"So, you are going to be under my orders for once, Mister Matthews, OK?"

"Yes, dear."

"Good. You are going to stay at home, you'll train our kids to be swimming champions and confident teenagers and young women, and no more chasing around the world beating up whoever you feel has wronged you, are you?"

"That depends on whether they stop wronging me, my dear."

"I think they have, honey. Simon Smithers will be put away for thirty years, and the intel on Wrongturn is that he has disappeared for good, probably in a shallow grave somewhere. I hope he's resting in peace."

"I hope so."

"One day, however, first PJ and then the twins, will be old enough to be attracted to boys of their own age and boys will in turn be attracted to them. If you are just as vengeful as a father as you have been a husband, what do you think family life is going to be like?"

"It'll be hell for me, I know that!"

She laughed, "Danny, it is going to be hell for all of us!"

I laughed too and playfully slapped the back of her hand. She frowned, played hurt, and rubbed it vigorously, so I pulled her hand down to me and kissed the back of it to make it better.

She stretched over to pull her chair closer so she could sit down, without releasing our holding hands.

"Ahh," I said. "Is it time to talk?"

"No honey, it is time to conserve your strength, for you to fall asleep with me waiting by your side, and, when it is time to wake up, we will fly home. Only then will we sit and talk about the rest of our lives."

"I'd like that, sweetheart." And with that I fell asleep.

It wasn't long, but I was living my helicopter dream once more.

***

The executive jet was waiting on the apron ready to take us home smoothly. At Salonica airport I met up with my old Major Forest, now a Lieutenant Colonel, although he was dressed in civvies. We just exchanged pleasantries rather than ask any questions on either side about how or why we were there. In the car to the airport, Agnes mentioned that the Colonel and his good lady were joining us for Christmas in the Caribbean. I nodded, not wanting to mention to her that that I remembered that Forest's only son, a young officer, was victim of a UID in Afghanistan.

Another man at the airport, an American who I never knew before, didn't even bother to introduce himself, but he shook my hand with the impression of genuine warmth and pleasure. He thanked me for drawing Simon Smithers out of hiding, telling me that my old mucker had been a thorn in the side of financial institutions worldwide for almost a decade.

On the flight home I heard that Polly had stayed behind with the kids. Freddie had joined up with Colonel Forest and volunteers from his new unit, from which the volunteers were unanimous. Freddie returned home to Polly and the girls immediately the mission was over. By the time we reached the Manor House, I was more than ready to nap in bed for a couple of hours, before the kids got home from school.

It was wonderful seeing PJ, Tina and Mickie again, and it was both a tearful and happy reunion. To hear them say how they reacted to me suddenly disappearing and gone for ten days, and then with the twins' mother and 'Uncle' Freddie following me almost immediately, was too much for us to bear, and we were all very emotional. Although they had Polly with them, the twins had only known her for a couple of weeks. They also hinted during their conversation that others, some form of protection in the form of shifts of grim, unsmiling, but ever watchful men and women, had also been present.

Soon the children got their reassurances that they were still at the centre of our world, so they went off to do their own things, leaving Agnes and me to retire to one of several intimate drawing rooms that the old Manor house was blessed with.

She made sure I was comfortable in an easy chair, while she sat immediately in front of me in a straight-back dining room chair, and took a hold of my hand.

"So, ten days on, we are finally having that talk, huh, sweetheart?" I asked, "Are you now going to tell me why the hell you were there in the middle of a ferocious fire-fight in a bullet-proof vest and helmet?"

"Yes, I will. But first I want to tell you a story about a set of twins, twin girls actually, just like our twin girls. It is supposed to be true this story, but who knows, maybe you can fill in the gaps that I am not sure of?"

"Maybe," I replied, "we may have already had this conversation, but I'm still hazy on it, it's your story."

"OK. Anyway, one very strange thing about these twins was that they were born on different days, different months and different years, which gave the eldest twin a disproportionate sense of domination of her young sister."

"Mmm. How many minutes were they apart?"

"About an hour, 60 minutes or so. They weren't precisely timed, just rounded to the nearest quarter hour on the official birth certificates. The eldest was born at half eleven on New Year's Eve and the youngest at half past midnight on New Year's Day."

I grin, "I bet that story was told to everyone who knew them. Were these twins you are talking about as cute as ours?"

"I assume people thought so. Like ours, although they were so identical in looks that only a mother could tell them apart, they were very different in how they progressed in life, one was very bright and the other rather dumb."

"Ours are 'loud' and 'quiet'." I laughed. "And I was always able to tell our twins apart right from the beginning."

"Yes, you did, which I felt was strange at first, as it took me a few weeks to be certain, but then I learned that you have very good powers of observation. I agree, Tina and Mickie are nearly identical in looks but quite different in the way they interact with the world, as were the identical twins in my story. If I may be allowed to continue..."

"Go on."

"Thank you. The eldest we will call 'A' and the one who was an hour younger, we will call 'B'."

"So who was the bright one?"

"The youngest, 'B', but she was also very quiet, timid, submissive even, especially to her sister. 'A' was both the boldest and the bossy one. She was the trailblazer, the one that was first to everything, first walk, first to talk, first to climb a tree and the first to fall and break two bones. She was also the first to kiss, first to date, the first to fall in love multiple times, the first to lose her virginity, and the first to marry. In fact 'B' was never married, and, well it turned out she was last in everything."

"Poor 'B'. Was she the girl that had never been kissed?"

"Of course not, well not entirely, but this is not a fairy story, Danny." Agnes said with some exasperation in her voice. "I do wish you wouldn't interrupt."

I breathed a silent 'Sorry' and pulled her hands to my lips and kissed them, all the while holding eye contact with her.

Her returning glare softened to a smile. "Don't you think it strange that two of your three children are twins?"

"Never gave it a thought, sweetheart."

"Twins run in families, honey, the twins A and B that I speak of were called Agnes and Berta." She paused. "And Agnes died in childbirth. In London. Five years ago. Giving birth to twins. I was there with Agnes because she told me she had no one else to call on. I was working in America, but I came immediately she asked me to come."

"And you are Berta?"

"Yes, Daniel, I was Berta. I was not the Agnes you married. I was not the outgoing twin, the one you made love to, fell in love with, and asked to marry you. I was Berta, the quiet and studious one, locked away in airless rooms. Did you not notice that my English had improved so much, in the five years you were away? I hardly have an accent, compared to my sister."

"I thought that you had picked it up during my time in prison. I had no connection with you, I mean her, during all that time. Where were you and why did you not return back home to America after the twins were born? Why did you pretend to be Agnes, even after I came back?"

"Several reasons, honey. I had already been away at college on a scholarship in the States for three years when you met Agnes and I only returned to Norway for short stays between semesters. I graduated with a top master's degree in computer programming and I specialised in banking systems and protocols, so I attracted the attention of the CIA."

"God, even though you were a foreign national, why?"

"Because I was top of my class and wrote a highly regarded paper on banking crime and money laundering. The unit I joined was not about US national security but international financial security, which threatened the world's ability for banks to provide secure commercial transactions. I was transferred to an international division and worked on solving money laundering challenges. However, I was compromised by a drugs lord when I hacked into his system, after some mole at our end revealed who I was. I was about to be reassigned when Agnes urged me to help her with the birth of the twins. So I took the leave owing me and came over to London."

"And then Agnes died?"

"Yes. I arrived about a month before the scheduled birth date, to support her in her exercises leading up to the birthing, but the babies arrived three weeks early. That is common in twins and the midwives and doctor was comfortable with that. But, she had a weak heart, Daniel. Nobody knew, and the strain of giving birth stopped her heart. They tried their best to save her. But her body gave up and she died, even while Mickie was being born. Poor Agnes, she could never stick at anything, except I think she did try to change her nature for you, until you abandoned her."

"I suppose I did." I admitted sadly. We were still holding hands, me and this woman, a stranger who was now my sister-in-law. "So, why stay here?"

"Two main reasons, the girls needed a mother, and who better than the nearest copy of her in existence. My visa from Norway was a non-residential one which would run out in six months and you still had at least a year, maybe eighteen months in prison, assuming you got maximum time off. In fact you ended up doing another three and a half years. So I hid the death certificate until now. It is in that brown envelope with the DNA papers that you decided you didn't want to see. At that time I was happy to leave it unseen. Besides, the death certificate says that Berta died no Agnes lived, which helped deflect the drug lord that was searching for me."

"How did you manage that?"

"Well, if you had seen the death certificate a couple of weeks ago and asked me, I was under orders to lie to you and say that I threw myself on the mercy of the hospital authorities, who worked a fiddle, I think you call it, so I that could stay in the UK with the twins."

"So what are you going to tell me instead?" I hoped my forced smile looked natural, as I wondered who I had been living with for the last six months.

"The truth? The British secret service arranged everything, after a strong request from my boss's organisation. So the legal paperwork that turned me from Berta into Agnes followed without any difficulties. I had the twins to look after and, although I lived in Agnes' old apartment, I did have Federal help to pay for childcare when I had to work and your Mum wasn't available."

"Out on Agency fieldwork, like the other day?"

"Oh, no Danny. I was never risked on fieldwork. I demanded to be there at the end, and I had Freddie and Colonel Forest's men covering me. Occasionally, when I was based in the States, and only twice since based in London, I would be flown in to check on a tax haven bank, even once to near where we now live, honey," she laughed, "it's a very small world."

'It is, but did she still call me honey?' I thought. 'And she is still holding my hands. And she called "home" the 'place where we now live'.

"So, you mentioned my Mum earlier. How much does she know of all this?"

"Most of it. She was present at the hospital when Agnes died. She helped with childcare when she was able to and offered to pay for as much childcare as I needed, which I was able to turn down. The childcare supplied by my bosses had to have security clearance, you know. Your Mum agreed that if there was a chance of you building any meaningful relationship with the twins, it was best that 'Agnes' was still around. She couldn't tell the difference between us and was sure you wouldn't, especially after more than five years apart from Agnes. At the time you didn't want to discuss the twins or Agnes, and you failed to answer my letters or any of my sister's earlier notes."

"I did read them, every one, I still have them. I felt betrayed by Agnes, along with the rest of my gang. I was angry and those letters made me even more determined to get through this and find out from Agnes who, what and why, but I had no means to do so. Then, I think it was the day after my release from prison, when I met the twins at Mum's, where I was staying. She was minding them but then had to answer an emergency at work and I couldn't help getting involved with communicating with them as I was in charge of the twins for the rest of that day."

"Why do you think we left them with you?"

"Mum and you plotted that?"

She nodded, "And before you ask, Agnes never told me who she slept with and I never asked her. She never could go without sex for long, even as a teenager, so she could have picked up anyone. I don't think we will ever know."

"I am their father, the only father they know, and I want to remain doing that job."

"Good!" she said, "That is what your Mum and me wanted."

"I will have to have words with Mum, though."

"Yes you must, because the twins really miss her. But she told us both that she will stay out of our lives until our situation between us is resolved. Is it resolved, can it be?"

I nodded. "Yes it can. We are working on it, aren't we?" I had been aware of this for a long while.

"I guess so,"

"So you are this whizz computer expert for the CIA?" I asked, "Are you better than Freddie?"

"I don't like to boast, but I found you, didn't I?'' she grinned.

"How?"

"Firstly, I had a GPS device hidden in your shoe."

"But they took my shoes off straight away."

"But not discarded at first. Your shoes were still in the car for at least a couple of hours. We assumed they were still on your feet. Eventually your shoes stopped moving and they were found in a litter bin, discarded at a garage forecourt when your captors refuelled."

"Looks like they knew that I wouldn't need my shoes after meeting Simon."

"Apparently so. Freddie and I worked together, searching for you on our separate computers. We knew where you had been at every second in the past two hours, so Freddie hacked into the traffic light cameras until we worked out comparing timings on the recordings until we found which car was the common factor. They almost threw us but they changed cars once, which Freddie spotted. Once we had licence plate numbers, we tracked the number plates through police speed cameras fitted with number plate recognition. We found where you went, and discovered which port you departed from. Freddie hacked CCTV at the port and on playback found the container number and the ship it sailed ok. I hacked the bank account of the shipping agents and found the manifest was charged to one of Simon Smithers' many bank accounts, one we knew of in Greece. We didn't quite know where."

"So you knew who you were up against. Why didn't you just let me go?" I asked, "You had the twins, your new identity, even without a will or a body, you would have been better off without me."

"Because you are not just family, honey, you are the head of this family. I am supposed to be the quiet, timid twin, remember?"

"You seem too self-assured to be that timid, Berta."

"I think I was under the thumb of my sister's dominant personality all the while she was alive. She didn't allow me to consider anything without hearing her opinion. She would vet anyone I liked or anything I wanted to experience. It seemed easier for me to acquiesce as she took all my potential boyfriends and captivated them, keeping them for herself. Now, I prefer to be called Agnes, or honey, and especially 'sweetheart', honey." She smiled in reflective pleasure. "Besides, my bosses now call me Agnes, as does all my documentation. It would be troublesome to change any of them back, and I am not sure I want to go back. I feel a different person, stronger."

"So, you still work for your bosses?"

"Yes, but only part-time, easily fitted in when you are at school training the girls, honey. Most of it is computers running automatically sifting through millions of transactions, searching for patterns and reporting back to me anomalies to investigate."

"And you are paid for this work?"

"Yes, quite handsomely, into an account under Agnes' name. A copy of the last online statement is enclosed in that Manila envelope. You do not quite have to fall back on your criminal career, honey, although my bosses would actually like a word with you when you feel you are up to it. They provided back-up at my request when you were dealing with Kollikov and my boss was impressed with what you and Freddie organised to get Kollikov off your back. I've told them you might be prepared to speak with them next spring break."

"So, does this mean my ill-gotten gains from the Kollikovs are going to be confiscated?"

"Oh, no, honey. As soon as I found out about your Swiss bank account and other deposits, I investigated the contents and reported officially that the sources could not be traced to any specific crime or victim. I was allowed to declare no personal interest at that time, as my bosses regarded that on the one hand we had never met before, on the other hardly knew each other and for most of the preceding four years we had been estranged of all contact. Perhaps there are some bonds, deposits, investments and deeds that you referred to in confidence with Polly, Freddie and me recently, which may be liable for confiscation but, as I heard about these in family confidence, I could not be expected to report it to any outsiders."

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