Beverly Bensen’s shaky hand grabbed the glass of whiskey her sister had poured. It was supposed to be a nerve calming agent. It was not working. Beverly had just finished listening to Margot’s story. It was an unbelievable tale of the last 24 hours.
“But...if he’s dead, How can he write you letters?” She asked hoping that there wasn’t an important fact that she had overlooked.
Margot shrugged. She lit another cigarette, and plopped down on the couch next to her sister.
“It is good to see you Bev” Margot smiled and exhaled smoke. “Apparently I’m being erased from the world, so it’s nice of you to stop by.”
“Actually,” a high and officious voice added, “unfortunate would be a more appropriate word.
The man with the voice stood in the doorway of Margot’s apartment. He was dressed similarly to Margot which was similar to the mysterious Gerald Munk. He wore the burgundy driving gloves and well worn trench coat that were the trademarks of the Mystic Trading Emporium.
The Bensen sisters stared at the visitors. Mr. trench coat and his red suited entourage of 3. They watched as he turned the orangutan statue back to its proper direction.
“You are a bit of disappointment Agent Bensen. You still have not delivered the package.”
Margot stood. “You have a lot of nerve popping in to my apartment, drugging my sister, rearranging my furniture. Who do you think you are?” She was breathing heavy from all the yelling.
“I am Felix J. Ledbetter, director of field operatives and the crimson messenger corps. I work for the MTE.” He held out his calling card.
“So,” Beverly added as she poured some whiskey into a glass of ice. “Are you, like, Margot’s boss or something.”
“You are Beverly Bensen,” Felix said. “designated as liability 2319/x.15. You are a security breach slated for elimination. Liabilities do not speak.”
Margot did not like Felix Ledbetter. He was short, greasy, and unpleasant. He was the kind of man she had worked for most of her life. The kind of man who was good with details, especially details when things go wrong.
“Listen Mister,” she sniped. “no one comes into my place and insults my family, or tells me how to do my business.”
“The trouble with you Ms. Bensen is that you don’t know your business. You haven’t broken ties with your old life, you have broken protocol by taking your sister into your confidence, and you have not, as of yet, delivered the package.” Felix sat down in the oversized leather chair. He looked judgmental and callous.
Beverly wanted to punch him. In Atlantic City that is what you did to assholes. You punched them and kicked them in the ‘ping-pongs’. Margot raised a hand, calling off her sister.
Margot picked up the letters and shoved them into Felix’s face. “I lent a guy a quarter for a cardboard wishing well and then my life went to Hell. I curse the day I ever met Gerald Munk!”
“Gerald Munk is dead.” Felix said matter of factly.
Margot said nothing.
“She knows that.” Beverly butted in. “He died in her arms yesterday morning.”
“No,” Ledbetter said. “Gerald Munk, founded the Mystic Trading Emporium is 1934. He was killed en route to delivering a leaden figurine of a British soldier. It was 1959 and it was the only delivery he never completed. The body and the figurine were never recovered.
“Then who did I meet in the Plaza? Who has been leaving me notes? Who the Hell got me into this?” Margot shouted. She was exasperated and exhausted and really just wanted to cry.
Ledbetter looked at Beverly and whispered something to one of his red suited compatriots.
“It seems,” His voice slightly more gentle now. “that we have a similar situation. We have no official record of you at the central office, and yet all of the paperwork and orders have been filled out accurately and within parameters outlined in the Emporium Regulation Manual. All papers were signed by Director Gerald Munk.”
“Are you sure he died in 1959?” Beverly was trying to drive the conversation. Margot was on the verge of shutting down.
Felix stared at Beverly again. He snapped his fingers and one of the Red Suits bolted from the room.
“According to the regulations every Agent is required an official member of the Crimson Messenger Corps. I was Agent Munk’s CM. I saw him take the bullet. I saw him fall into the river. I, like you, watched him die, Ms. Bensen.”
The Red Suit rushed back into the room carrying a hanging bag. He placed the bag carefully on the couch, smiled slightly at Beverly and left the room.
Felix cleared his throat and continued. “Let us deal with our many issues, shall we Agent Bensen. Firstly, do not attempt to contact any of your past associates. You will find that they do not remember you. Anyone recognizing you is, most likely, trying to impede your delivery. Secondly...the liability,” He stared at Beverly. “I’m assuming that you are against her elimination.”
“I’d like to avoid it.” Margot said as she recomposed herself.
“Good.” Felix said.
Beverly sighed in relief. She took a sip of her drink and relaxed her posture.
“Agent Bensen.” Felix refocused his attention on Margot. “Do you trust this woman?”
“She flew all the way here because she thought I needed her. We have had our issues, but yes, I trust her.” Margot smiled at her sister.
“Beverly Bensen, considering all other alternatives,” Ledbetter cleared his throat. “Do you accept the challenges and responsibilities of the Crimson Messenger Corps. Chiefly among these, the protection of your agent, delivery and receipt of all Emporium related messages, and vow to complete all deliveries of said Agent due to disability or death.”
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Beverly stole a cigarette from the pack on the coffee table.
“Not unless you want a blindfold to go with that cigarette.” Felix smiled for the first time since he entered the room, perhaps for the first time since 1959.
‘I’m in.” Beverly answered.
“Uniform is on the couch.” Felix pointed with his head. “And now the third thing...What is it you are meant to deliver.”
Margot was suspicious. “You don’t know.”
Felix turned a little red. “It’s the one thing missing from the records. It was an old security protocol that deliverable items are not cataloged in mission records. The only persons aware of the item’s identity are the shipper, the receiver, and the delivery team.”
Margot ran down the checklist. Ledbetter wore the Burgundy Gloves, he had presented his card. He did everything right. She reached into her coat pocket and produced the paper wrapped thing.
Carefully, she handed the package to Ledbetter. He opened it slowly. He held it up to the light. “Ladies,” He said dramatically. “May I present the object FGerald Munk gave his life for.”
It was just a lead soldier mounted on a wooden base. It was certainly old, but it didn’t appear to be worth sacrificing a life.”
“Why is it important?” Margot asked, “Why would people kill for that?”
Felix puled a metal cap off the base and revealed a seal for official documents. “This is the seal that Cornwallis handed to Washington. This is they symbol of British surrender. Some believe that it was imbued with ancient sorcery. Collectors have sought it for generations.”
Beverly was busy trying on her red bellhop jacket. She hadn’t been paying much attention. “What’s a thing like that worth, arw we talking thousand or millions?”
Ledbetter looked at her. “More than millions. Legend has it that whoever has the great seal can lay claim to the title ‘Emperor of America’.”