Chapter 9: Mr. and Mrs. Delancey
The icy thrust of the water helped him keep conscious, but all the while he was sinking. The cold blackness of the river engulfed him and he struggled to surface and tore off his coat, which threatened to drag him to the bottom faster. The blast was sudden and enormous–he was surely clonked in the head by a piece of something or other. The boat wasn't very far out from the pier and he hoped Crystal wasn't caught in the explosion. The flames licked at his legs as he threw himself off upon hearing Crystal's heart wrenching screams to jump. A lot of good he did on this mission, at least the kidnapped people were safe from Akumba's vile slave trade.
'But too bad, too sad…no more weapons to kill people with.'
Mac wouldn't die the way he secretly hoped, in bed at ninety-five years old, surrounded by loving family and friends. But at least he went down doing what he did best, fighting for freedom and protecting the innocent. It was every hero's dream.
He had to fight harder while he could still hold his breath. Did he learn nothing in his Naval training? This was all much easier in a sealed tank and an Olympic sized pool. His muscles clenched from the frigid waters, they were soon ready to fail him. He glanced upward, watching the shadowy haze of orange and yellow fade, and then someone grabbed him. His rescuer wrapped their slender arm across his chest and started pulling him to the surface, but she still struggled.
'Damn! Why did you come after me, Crystal?' Mac thought. 'Move, Harper! Swim! Help her, dammit!'
Mac kicked with her. He thrust one arm out and shoved it up and down, to propel himself upward. She was a strong swimmer, but the cold also stalled her. They broke the surface with heaving gasps.
"Mac! I got you! Ughh...wait…wait…help me!"
Crystal flailed so much that Mac had to change positions from victim to rescuer and keep her above water. He kept a firm hold over her chest and drew her close, resting his chin on her head.
"Are…are you crazy?" He sputtered.
"Yes! Right now I most certainly am!" She said through small wheezes of air.
"Thank you! But yo…you…you could have killed yourself!" Mac shouted above the noise of the sirens and news helicopters that hovered above them like vultures.
"I had to! This was my fault!"
Crystal arched her body to face him. They stared at one another gently, supporting themselves afloat and shivering from head to toe. She brushed cold fingers over his mouth.
"Blue is de…de…def …definitely your color, Ha…Ha…Harper!"
"I've always wanted my…my lips to m…ma…match my eyes!" He laughed jittery and waded more to warm his self up. "Is…is…thi…this…your…idea of a second date? I…I th…tho…thought hamburgers were ideal?"
"Never a dull moment! Yes…but to…tonight I wanted fish!"
"Ooh…well, don't mind me, I'm just…tr…trying out for the…Po…Pol…Polar Bear club!"
A bright spotlight shone upon them and Mac waved his free arm. The Coast Guard at last found them.
"Over here! Hurry!"
The next fifteen minutes proved to be a freezing blur as Mac and Crystal were hoisted onto the Coast Guard's boat and immediately taken in the hull and given warm blankets and heating pads. The boat sped to the opposite side of the piers and when Mac and Crystal came off the ship, Mac was immediately embraced and flocked by Dani, Ricky and two of the models, who ran from Henry's car to greet him. Crystal smiled and hung back, amused at how Dani was able to show deep concern and scold him in the same breath. She wrapped the jacket the Coast Guard gave her tighter and glanced out again toward the water. The flames on the boat were being extinguished and what looked like a charred form was slowly being pulled onto the deck. Mac was right; she had to have a few screws loose to dive into the freezing water and dense darkness, but she owed it to him…and she couldn't bear to lose him.
She overheard the static conversation of Henry's walkie-talkie while the Coast Guard gave him the status report. Only one body was recovered and they would have to wait until morning to find the other in all the murk. A deeper chill than the one she already felt raced through her. Mac and Globenko were both on the top of the boat at the moment it exploded. It was possible Globenko could have jumped at the same time as Mac. If he did, then he might have gotten away with at least one stinger. As if he read her mind, Mac caught her staring fretfully at the water and then they locked gazes. This mission could very well get bigger and bigger. He wanted to approach her but then he saw someone who desired to even more. Mac smiled and stayed with Dani and the others.
"Hey little cowgirl, that was some rescue you made. Tom would have been super proud of ya."
Crystal turned at the sound of a very familiar, throaty voice. Her hands flew to her mouth with utter surprise.
"Uncle Patrick! You're here!"
Patrick held his arms open wide. "Give or take a few well deserved years in prison, but I never left! I couldn't find ya sweets! I missed ya, Crystalyn."
Crystal ran to him tearfully and they embraced. "I'm so glad to see you, Uncle Patrick!" She pulled away and gazed at him sternly. "But don't pull anymore crap! I love you and I don't you want you to get hurt, we only have each other now."
Patrick laughed and put his arm around her. "I'm clean as a whistle. In fact, I'm in talks to maybe get a certain position in this spy game."
Crystalyn rested her arms on the ledge of the castle wall and sighed pleasantly at the view. Central Park was beautiful and blooming in the late spring. In the distance she heard a large audience clapping. They were enjoying a Shakespeare in the Park rendition of Romeo and Juliet in the neighboring theater. The Belvedere Castle was her favorite area to meditate and relax in New York City on a warm day. She took a deep breath and watched groups of children playing catch with their dogs and each other. The birds and insects hummed and she inhaled the scent of the grass.
'I feel like a princess!' She thought giddily.
She was so caught up with the nature around her she didn't hear the person come up behind her until he whispered deeply in her ear.
"Hello, Mrs. Delancey."
Crystal smiled furtively and turned around slowly. "Hello, Mr. Delancey. You were almost late."
Mac pulled her close for a long, full kiss. When they finally parted, he wrapped his arms around her waist and they stared at a line of ducks floating across the moat. "We have to work on some of those surveillance skills. I could have been a nut job out to attack you or push you off the ledge." Mac teased her.
Crystal blushed. "Oh, I…I knew it was you! I'm jealous at your stealth skills though. I didn't hear those tan boots clomping behind me at all."
"Ehh, that's because the heel is worn out, I love these babies!"
"So I see, one can never have too many Polos and Levis either. What do you got for me, cowboy?"
"The Citadel finally confirmed the Intel. Globenko's still out there, but everyone's on him, METKA, MI5, MI6–they all have reason to believe that he's being kept hidden in the cellar of Lubyanka prison."
"The cellar? I thought they stopped using that torture hole after World War two?"
"Yeah, but instead of executing him as a traitor, he's probably getting the royal treatment. Globenko's more powerful than I thought…than anyone thought."
"So what's the plan? Mr. Randolph's back in Britain, Akumba's exiled, Marciano's burnt toast, Jordan's rolled up in prison, Uncle Patrick thinks he's Maxwell Smart, and the Depot is dissolved." She counted off and let out a sad, dramatic sigh.
"I feel like an orphan!" She leaned against Mac's chest.
"Aww, but Uncle Henry adopted you, didn't he? He told me that Globenko is only the tip of the corruption iceberg, and right now, he'll have to stay where he is. It's unfortunate, but they don't know if he ever escaped with a stinger or not. We knocked out Akumba and Marciano, but it doesn't end there. There's still a bunch of double-dipping diplos living right here in New York. They're a network–up to their ears in all kinds of shady business. We'll eventually get them all."
"So what's the official assignment going to be called?"
"Operation Immunity…and Henry wants us to spearhead it…as a couple."
"That's so exciting!" Crystal perked up.
"Mr. and Mrs. Delancey are rich socialites that hobnob with all the powerful people who have their fingers in the Government's pie. Look, I still have my qualms about this 'Mr. and Mrs,' action, but I think it's gonna work out."
Crystal stifled a laugh. "Believe me, you'll have a ball. And speaking of a which, don't tell me we're going to crash the President's ball? How tacky!"
Mac shrugged. "I leave all the snazzy invitations up to Henry. That man is more connected than a Rubik's cube, and by the way, I finally mastered it last night!"
Crystal pinched his cheek. "Aww! I know you've been working so hard on that, your brain must hurt."
"It only took me a week!"
Crystal put her arms over his neck. "Mac, how's Dani taking it, now that you have this new assignment?"
"She took it better than I imagined. She had the nerve to say she needed new blood for her portraits, that my face was getting stale!"
"That's her way of saying she'll miss you and doesn't want you to go."
"Henry is not finished with her, in the meantime he's sending in the second best of the best, Jack Striker."
"Ooooh, I hear he's an Aussie. He'll make her Magazine prints sizzle! Wait a minute, wha? Did you just say that he's second best? May I ask who's first?"
Mac cocked an eyebrow and wagged his head nonchalantly. "Why me of course! But don't tell him that, he's very competitive, in a good way."
Crystal playfully shoved him. She stuck her hands in his blue plaid shirt pocket and pulled out two small and elegant black envelopes.
"Sure. What's this, funeral invitations?"
"Tomorrow night, black tie at the Waldorf hosted by Langston and Ophelia Widmeyer, two of the most richest, under the radar jewelry collectors in the world-who also happen to be diamond smugglers." Mac noted.
"Ahh, so we work the bar, have a few tangos…"
Mac grabbed her in a tango position and glided her across the stone floor. "Eat free shrimp cocktails and caviar till we pop." He dipped her low.
"And scope it out top to bottom." Crystal finished breathlessly as he brought her up slowly. He smiled and kissed her cheek.
"After hours, it's a black bag job–we need to replace the recently discovered 'Faith' diamond on display."
"You gotta be kidding me, they're inviting everyone to goo-goo gaga over a fake?"
"Yup, Outriders stationed under Mr. Randolph in Britain picked up the real deal in London, with a couple of rare rubies and emeralds thrown in the mix. Henry expects the Widmeyers to be ready for take-down by morning, Mrs. Delancey."
"He doesn't waste any time does he?"
"Nope, when he gives out a mission, he wants it completed yesterday. Before we actually start Operation Immunity he's throwing a bunch of fairly simple assignments or way. He wants to evaluate how well we work together."
Crystal winked and kissed him again. "Does he really want that report?"
"Heehee…I didn't get around to typing those yet."
"So, I guess we're a Romeo and Juliet tale with a happier ending. Our spy families reunited as one. 'What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Mac spun her around in a warm hug. "And the lovers got to stay together. I take thee at thy word. Call me but love, and I'll be new baptiz'd; Henceforth I never will be…Mac Harper."
Crystal smiled gently at him. "No. I want Mac Harper. He's finer than Romeo. But, that all remains to be seen."
Mac jokingly stooped on one knee. "Are you doubting my affections, or that I'm fine?"
"Neither, my dearest! But you know how it is in these situations, Mac. They'll figure we're too emotionally involved and that the operation will suffer. Let's just, take it a little slower."
Mac rose and then stepped back with a wounded expression, but he gallantly swooped her hand up and kissed it. "Very well, madam, but I do think we make quite a happenin' pair."
"So do I. And I want us to stay that way for as long as we can."
"I can accept that. Working with you is going to be some escapade. I'm starving, I got another surprise for ya in my left pocket."
Crystal stuck her hand in his jeans pocket and pulled out a rumpled coupon. "Mac! You shouldn't have! A two for one meal at Jack in the box!"
"And you thought I only ate at Dennys!"
They laughed gaily and bounded down the stairway of the Castle; ready to take on the world of corruption and whatever new clandestine missions were thrown their way.