Mar 3, 2014

Episode 1 - Part 2

     As his mind floated into consciousness, his thoughts raced to catch up with lost time. But the pain shooting through his head deterred him from becoming "fully functional". "I would keep lying still if I were you" said a woman, "you were given a concoction strong enough to knock out a horse. Well with the Holmes boys one can't really take a chance now can they". He heard the mockery in her voice even through the haze. As his eyes came into focus he saw her standing there with her back towards him. She seemed to be fixing a drink. Long black hair flowed down her back and skin the color of chocolate glinted in the fire light. She was encased in a gold dress which shimmered as she moved. 

     The was a menacing litheness to her movements. Mycroft was sure it was the same person who had abducted him in front of his club. He took a look around to figure out his whereabouts but found himself in a study like every other of its counterparts in London. There were no discrenible features which told him where he was exactly. "You are quite resourceful I will give you that. It took great planning and calculation on your part or maybe sheer madness to pick me off right in front of my club. I hope that too much damage was not rendered on either my car or my assistant. I'm quite fond of both. However intelligence is not something I can credit you with. You know who I am & I can assure you that by now the full force of the MI6 will be bearing down on this place any second now..."

     "Oh Mikey! Are you really gonna go with that!?!" she turned with a glass in her hand and a mocking smile on her lips. "You and your MI6 have not managed to capture me so far...heck! you don't even know my real identity. Did you really think I know nothing of your fail safe methods? I picked you off the street right in front of your club. Hmm what is the average recovery time of a British official....15 minutes tops by the last count. You, on the other hand, have been sleeping on that couch since the past hour. Maybe we should wait...London traffic you unpredictable! In the mean time you should drink this. It will help to clear your head".

     He took the drink from her and she sat down opposite him. "Smart man! I was expecting an argument about the drink but truthfully that would have been so disappointing!" "You had ample opportunity to kill me madam. But taking such a big risk in getting me here and the level of planning involved tells me that you need something from me." He took a sip and grimaced. "You need to take it in one go. It will clear the toxins from your system". He drained the glass and kept it to the side. Lounging back in the couch he took on his professional air and placed both hands on the arms of his seat. 

     "So shall we get down to business. Who are you and what do you want" he said. "Actually the question is what do you want from me. After all, it is you who called for me. Leaving a message in the wind...I got your message and was intrigued enough to answer it. So tell me Mikey....why did you call me? What can one of the most important member of the British government want from an expert like me?" she tilted her head slightly. 

     "The name is Mycroft and I would thank you to use it madam. As for calling for you I have no idea who you are! What is this nonsense about leaving a message..." he trailed off. A memory suddenly came through his addled brain. Mycroft was shocked! His eyes widened and his breath slowed down. There were not too many incidents that he could recall that took him so completely by surprise and this was probably among the top most. "No! It cant be! You cannot be...All these years we have spent chasing him. The world's greatest assassin...all the signs point to him being a man! Panther cannot be a woman!?!" he breathed. 

     Her rich throaty laugh filled the room and ignited his senses. "But Mikey darling! Isn't that what deception is about? All these years that we have played a cat and mouse game...did you really think that I would let you figure out even an iota of my true identity? I have gained my reputation for a reason. How could I let a simple detail like my gender be known to you. I am known as the Panther for a reason!" with that she lounged back in the couch and put her legs up on the arms of it. Seeing her like that he could truly say that the name was well earned but to be able to conceal herself so completely in the shadows for all these years told him of her skill and how truly dangerous she was. 

     "How can I be certain that you are THE panther and not a smoke screen". A whizz in the air cut him short. There was a knife sticking out from where he had placed his hand on the couch, less than an inch from his finger. It happened so fast that he would swear that she had not moved. And as he turned to look at her he found her in the same position as she had been a moment ago. Cold sweat broke and raced down his neck. "Would you like another demonstration? Maybe the loss of an appendage or two might convince you. I am known by many names...Ghost being the one that I feel is the most apt or Yurei as the Japanese call me" she twirled a strand of her hair between her fingers. 

     "Now shall we get down to business" she asked "Frankly I'm getting bored and I can assure you that my time is much more precious than yours. So tell me, why have I been summoned? Who is it that the British government wants removed from their path?". "Nobody" he sighed "it is not someone who is to be removed...rather someone who needs protection".

     Her eyes lit up when she heard that and that mocking smile was back in place. "My my my! protection?!? And that too by an assassin? I will say I'm very intrigued. Pray tell what prompted this mad idea and who is this person?" Mycroft felt uneasy and shadows of doubt started to creep on the edges of his mind. But he found himself saying "The person has been the target of an infamous organization and one of the most dangerous in the world. He has been targeted one times to many and I'm afraid that each attack hits closer to home. One of these days they just might succeed in their attempts."

     "I think I can guess who you are speaking off and you are right to fear it. But tell me, what has the crown prince done to be the target of Moriarty's anger?". Mycroft lowered his voice, "It is not the prince rather it is not any member of the royal family. It is someone who posses the greatest threat to Moriarty and his organization. Her eyes widened as realization sunk in and she sat upright. "You don't cant be serious! You want ME to protect". Mycroft saw that he had managed to shock her for a change. Whatever it is she had expected this was not even close to what she could have imagined.

     "Yes I do. He has been a target for more times than I would like to count and each time it gets worse. It is beyond me and the powers I wield to protect him anymore. He needs the skills, mind and resources of a criminal if he is to come out of this war alive". She leaned back in her chair and crossed one shapely leg over the other. Her sharp eyes assessed him and he could see her brain processing the various angles. "Say I do take you up on this offer. What is in it for me? You are asking me to take on and become enemies with one of the most powerful criminal organizations the world has ever seen. What can you offer to make me accept such an absurd thing?"

     Mycroft pulled out the knife from the couch and looked at it. He watched the light glint off the fine blade as he answered "A safe haven". She laughed and said "What?!? I think I misheard you...a safe haven? You are offering the most dangerous assassin in the world....a safe haven?!? Good God man! Do you think I live under a rock and you are offering me shelter to come out of the rain? I can assure you that I don't need that at all!". "A safe haven comes in many forms madam" he said, "What I will give you is total anonymity and a place to hide. You will have the full protection and discretion of the British government. Should you decide to retire, you can make your home here and live a normal life. No one can or will be able to find or touch you. I understand that with each passing day the agencies of the world are getting closer and you have had to flee from your numerous strongholds. But you can set down your roots here and no one will ever find out."

     She got off the couch and slowly paced the room. Then she stood in front of Mycroft and braced her hands on either side of him. "Mickey I must say that you amuse me. What makes you think that I cant take care of myself? The agencies, as you call them, don't even know my identity or anything else of consequence. And as for the places I supposedly fled from were all decoys, meant for that very purpose. None of which can be traced back to me. The only hurdle is you...but that can be taken care of very easily. So you don't have a bargaining chip after all". She gave him her mocking smile and sat down again.

     "I'm sure you had reached that conclusion as and when you first heard that I wanted to meet you. Yet you still choose to reveal yourself to me. So that tells me that there is something that I have that you want...Name it! I shall give it to you! Sherlock must be protected at all costs. If he had the sense to listen to me then we wouldn't be in this mess the first place...but then Sherlock wouldn't be would he" it was his turn to put on the mocking smile now.

     "I had guessed that it had to do something with Moriarty as I had heard about his sudden activity and interest in your town. You are right of course...our paths have crossed many times and I find that man vile! Ridding the world, especially the criminal one, of that scum would be a great service rendered and frankly anyone who can accomplish that would become the undisputed ruler of the world I come from. And...I have heard so much about the famous detective. I do want to see for myself the person who got Moriarty's panties in a bunch. Oh yes! I would pay a pretty penny to see that...but I will decide the terms of arrangement of this situation and that too only after meeting your brother. I like things to fall my way or I don't work at all. Do you understand? Except for you and him no one else must know about my true identity. You will pay the price for any deception..."

     She got up and went to pick up a remote from the table nearby. "I don't take well to being deceived and trust me I will know if you think of doing something even remotely stupid. Your family will pay the price for it!" Three screens, that he hadn't noticed, flickered to life near by. Each one showed a member of his family in their favorite spots - his father in the living room of their house, mom bustling about the kitchen and then Sherlock in his apartment in 221B playing the violin. "How..." he began. "Really Mikey! Did you think I would come unprepared? Let me remind you again that I have not gained my reputation for naught. If you trick me then they will pay for your treachery".

     "I picked you coz I know you have a moral code. It is laughable actually to think of an assassin would have any morals...but you do. In all these years you have never targeted anyone who was weak or innocent. All your victims had it coming to them. My family is innocent and you will never harm them" Mycroft relaxed back into his seat. "You forget the old adage...survival of the fittest" she said. "I exist coz I know how to survive. But I know you Mycroft Holmes. Anything happening to your family will be...a mere inconvenience to you and nothing more. You will just shake it off and move on. No they were just to grab your attention...a smoke screen if you will. These are people that will be on the receiving end if you deceive me!"

     With that six more screens came to life on the other side of the room. Mycroft Holmes, for the second time in his life in the same day, was left at a loss. The scenes took his breath away and his heart skipped a beat. "How was this possible?" he thought. It couldn't be! They had the top most level of security in the country with round the clock surveillance yet six of the most powerful members of the British structure could be seen at their most vulnerable...their safe haven. His mind shut down completely.

     "If you even dare to so much as think about tricking me at any point Mikey...these are the people who will be targeted. And I can assure you that neither of them is weak nor innocent! Your entire empire will come crashing to its knees if something happened to even one of them and I intend to take out all six in one go. So keep this image in your mind from this point forward. I accept your proposal. Shall we meet at Baker St. tomorrow...say at noon?". He just managed to nod his head barely. "Splendid! I shall see you then" with that she jabbed another needle in his arm and he never saw it coming...

Good heavens! What have I done!?!

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