Setting the trap
Bekkah packed enough clothes for a week. Gordon had carefully, and with some difficulty, removed her wedding band. She tucked it away in a velvet pouch and put it in her jewelry box. The diamond solitaire that Terrence had given her now sat with her other rings. She pulled out the large cubic zirconia solitaire. It was white gold, as were her favorite rings, and was ostentatious enough to draw comment. She looked at it there on her left ring finger. It looked odd, and didn't cover the patch of skin worn smooth by fifteen years of a wedding band sitting there.
Chell knocked on her door.
"Come on in, honey."
Chell came in, followed by her brothers. They climbed up on the bed and peered at her suitcase. "Where are you going, Mommy?" Joey asked.
Bekkah sighed inwardly. She knew this moment would come and it would be hard to explain the goings on to her children. "I'm going to London for a few weeks," she told them.
"Why can't we come?" Terry wondered.
"Because I'm going there to teach. I wouldn't be able to take care of you and teach at the same time," she explained.
"Why do you have that ring on your finger? Where's your wedding ring and your diamond?" Chell demanded to know.
Bekkah thought for a moment, then decided on what to say to her kids. "I took off my wedding band and diamond and have put them away. I should have done it long ago, but I missed your daddy so much and I wanted always to remember him. While I am in London, I have to pretend to be engaged to your Uncle Hiram. I couldn't wear my wedding band and still pretend; people would ask difficult questions. So they are in storage for a while." Bekkah could hardly keep the tears out of her voice. Removing the wedding band had been so very, very difficult. She was glad she had Gordon there for comfort.
"Will you put them back on when you stop pretending?" Joey asked, a bit confused.
"I might put the diamond ring back on, but on my other hand. I won't be putting the wedding ring back on. Uncle Gordon had to cut it so I could get it off," she explained.
"Can't you have it repaired?" Chell asked, a worried tone in her voice. "It's not right that you took your wedding band off! It make it look like you and Daddy were never married! Like you didn't love him any more! It's just not right!"
"Chell, I know it doesn't make sense to you. But a marriage isn't dependent on a ring. I will always love your Dad, and I carry his name, as you do. That alone tells the world I was married. If I were in the hospital and had to have surgery on my hand or something, the doctors would have to cut the ring off. Would that make my marriage to your father any less?"
"No, but you're taking it off now because you want to, not because some doctor somewhere says you have to!" Chell was getting more and more upset.
"I'm taking it off because of the play acting I'm going to be doing. Keeping it would attract the wrong kind of attention. And I can't put it back on without having it resized completely by a jeweler. Please understand, hon. I'm doing this as part of my work for International Rescue." Bekkah was at her wit's end. She just didn't know how to get her daughter to listen to reason.
Terry now pulled on her sleeve. "Who's going to take care of us while you're gone?" Terry was upset that his mother, who had just gotten back from a conference, was going away again so soon.
"Your uncles, your Auntie Tin-Tin, Mrs. Tracy, and Kyrano, that's who. And maybe even Mr. Tracy, if you ask him politely. Uncle Gordon will be your special sitter this time. He can't go out on rescues, so he'll have time to watch you. You'll have to be extra good for him because he's hurt and needs rest." Bekkah hoped the time would help cement the relationship between Gordon and the children. They had not forgotten how stand-offish he was when they first came to the Island.
"When do you leave?" asked a sullen Chell.
"In the morning. Mr. Tracy himself is flying us to London. We'll meet Lady Penelope later in the day."
"And Uncle Hiram is going, too?" Terry asked. "I don't want to miss science."
"Yes, but Auntie Tin-Tin will be here to help you with your science homework."
"Will you be home for Christmas?" Joey asked plaintively.
That's their biggest worry, she realized. Will I be with them for that most special holiday. "I plan to be here, with you, for Christmas." she responded. Now if only she could keep that promise!
Bekkah had finished packing. She moved the suitcase off the bed and pulled out the current book.
"C'mon. Let's read another chapter or two in Ivanhoe." The children curled up on the bed with her and listened to her read.
Sir James pointed out the particular images that Heimana was looking for.
"There. That's the blueprint for the third component." She superimposed the recording she had taken from Gregory Martin over the one before her. The little changes to the design stood out clearly.
"You see. What did I tell you? They changed the design once they fired me." Sir James smiled at her. The edges of her mouth twitched upward in pleasure.
"Good. Just one more piece of the puzzle to obtain. I wonder if my men have found Ms. Campbell yet?"
Sir James cleared his throat. "Actually, my dear, you will need two more blue prints. The one from Ms. Campbell. And the key."
Heimana rounded on him, a long fingernail pressed up against his Adam's apple. "What do you mean, the key?"
Sir James was unfazed by his companion's irritation. He had the upper hand and knew it. "The committee who commissioned this device put in a fail-safe. Just in case someonehijacked the plans. There was a sixth engineer, the one who designed the fail-safe. The one who was supposed to be so deeply under cover that no one would know he existed. But I know who he is. And I know where to find him."
Heimana removed her sharp nail from his throat, and pulled his tow head down to her dark one. She kissed him, once, twice. Then she whispered, "Tell me all."
The flight to London was a quiet one. Bekkah did not feel inclined to talk to any of the men that accompanied her, including Gordon, who had come along for the ride. She kept her silence, her right hand playing with the unfamiliar ring on her left hand. She just wanted to get there and get it over with.
They were met at the airport by Penelope and Parker. Jeff had told her that Penelope would be hers and Brains' backup. Bekkah was not impressed.
"You don't know Penny very well, Bekkah. You'll be surprised at her expertise and just plain sang froid," he had explained. Bekkah hoped he was right. She knew how poorly equipped both she and Brains were for this cloak and dagger work.
Penny led them through the airport, having told Parker to get the bags, then pick up the car. The little group waited for him just inside the airport. When the pink Rolls Royce pulled up to the curb and Parker got out to open the doors, Bekkah was amused.
"Is this really your car?" she asked.
"Yes, it is. Do you like it?" Penny replied, a touch of pride in her voice.
"Well, it's an original. I bet you never have trouble finding it in the parking lot." was Bekkah's wry comment.
"No, I suppose not," was Penelope's confused answer.
Parker drove them to Tracy Industries' London offices, first. On the way, Penelope opened the society pages of the London papers and showed Bekkah and Brains their engagement notices. Bekkah's cheeks flamed red reading them.
"Won't the people we are after be suspicious that these notices are in the London papers when neither of us live in London?" Bekkah asked.
"Brains has a house in Cambridge, so he has ties here in England. We are setting you up in a flat in the City. After we make an appearance at the London offices, we'll go on to your new place," Jeff explained.
"Does this mean that Brains will be at his house while I'm here in town?" Bekkah asked.
"Actually, no. Brains will have a place in London, too. Not too far from where you will be living. Tracy Industries keeps a couple of flats open for visiting dignitaries and such."
Bekkah nodded. I'll at least have a place to myself, she thought.
Tracy Industries had its London office in a rehabilitated warehouse by the Thames. The whole place was spit and polish gleaming for the visit from the CEO and owner. Bekkah and Brains were greeted with enthusiasm by the engineering staff there, and all the ladies insisted on seeing Bekkah's "engagement ring" and asking the usual questions of a newly-engaged bride-to-be. Bekkah made sure she was the one answering and that Brains heard her so he could give the same answers.
"No, we haven't set a date yet."
"Actually, I'm planning on keeping my name as it is. For professional reasons."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to the wedding. We'll probably have it in a church near my parents' home in South Carolina."
Finally, Jeff steered the 'newly engaged' couple out the door and into a limousine. Penelope waited in the limo for them. Parker had gone on ahead to deal with the luggage. Jeff tapped the glass between them and the driver and gave an address. The limo pulled out and headed confidently towards the more residential areas of London.
"Well, we have a bit of a problem," Jeff began, nervously. Bekkah didn't like his tone of voice.
"What is it?" Brains asked.
"One of our flats is occupied by some visiting bean counters who are interested in our accounting methods. So.....you're going to have to share the other flat." His words came out all in a rush at the end.
Bekkah groaned. She had just known something like this would happen!
The flat was on the street-level floor of an older, refurbished home. Bekkah looked around carefully. The apartment was furnished comfortably, with overstuffed chairs and sofa, a cozy eat-in kitchen, a bath with a clawfoot tub and a shower head. But all of these amenities were erased from her mind when she saw the bedroom. She came out, fuming.
"Jeff. There is only one bedroom here. Only one bed. Granted it's a full-sized bed, but there is only ONE. What are we supposed to do?"
Jeff had the grace to be embarrassed. "I'm sorry, Bekkah. One of you will have to sleep on the couch, that's all."
"Uh, M-mr. Tracy. C-couldn't I g-get a h-hotel room? Or go out t-to my h- house?" Brains asked.
"Well, Brains, there aren't any hotels nearby, and your house in Cambridge is too far away. I want the two of you close enough to keep an eye on each other. Besides, it will make this charade look more realistic. Like you are setting up housekeeping together before the wedding. If for any reason, one of you is still dissatisfied after tonight, we'll look for another flat nearby to rent. For tonight, though, could you please stay here together?"
Gordon was looking daggers at Brains. He knew he and his father would go to Penelope's to stay the night, but he didn't like the thought of Brains staying the night with Bekkah. Alone. With just one bed.
In the meanwhile, Bekkah had been looking through the cupboards and into the refrigerator. "We will need groceries," she proclaimed.
Jeff groaned and held up his hands. "Okay, okay. We'll go out for dinner, and pick up groceries on the way back. Make a list of what you need. And keep the list handy; you can always get the groceries delivered." He pulled out his wallet and handed her a card.
"I should have given you this when you went home for Thanksgiving so you could replace the things that were destroyed at the conference." It was a corporate credit card with her name on it. She stared at it for a minute, then looked over at him.
"While you are working for Tracy Industries, you can use the card. Anything you need to buy while at a conference or during a situation like this, use it," he said.
Bekkah opened up her handbag and put the card away safely. "Thank you, Jeff," she responded.
"Well, now that everyone is settled, let's have dinner, shall we?" Penelope said brightly. She tucked her hand in Jeff's elbow and led him from the room. Bekkah followed them out, oblivious to Gordon's proffered arm. He raised an eyebrow. She's pretty shaken up by this whole situation, he thought, as he trailed behind the group and got into the limo.