Case X

 

“Are we ready to proceed tomorrow, Penelope?”

 

“We are, Madame.  Dominique and her team have rehearsed for the detainment of the older daughter, and Jennifer is ready to move with Susan at the hairdressers.  I have prepared the team for the centre of operations, and Jeanette will keep watch for the younger daughter and advise us on progress.”

 

The elegantly dressed woman was reading the documents Penelope had handed to her.

 

“What about our contact at the firm?”

 

“She merely awaits your call to start proceedings at her end.”

 

“Very well, then, we go tomorrow morning.  Please inform the teams that I wish them all good luck, and let me know if there are any difficulties.”

 

Penelope stood up and smoothed her red leather skirt down.  “Thank you, Madame – we hope that we do not disappoint you.”

 

 

 

8.00 am.  The grey van was parked in the main street, with a workman’s tent set up next to it.  Within the van, however, was a sophisticated electronic communication and monitoring system.  At the main control desk sat Penelope, with an earpiece in her ear, and next to her sat a team of four women.  All were dressed in blue boiler suits and dark sweaters, and wore black leather gloves.

 

“Team 2, are you in position?”

 

“We are, Control – is there any sign of the target yet?”

 

“She has just left central site now – she should be with you in 15 minutes.  Remember do not move until we give the word.”

 

“Understood – standing by.”

 

“Team 1, status report please.”

 

“We are ready to move at 9 am.”

 

“Confirm that – inform me when you are ready for reception.”

 

“Team 3, I can confirm that your target has left central site heading for you.  Watch and inform when she is ready to return.”

 

“Confirm that, Control.”

 

The driver of the van watched as a man drove away in a Jaguar XJS.

 

“Penelope, male target has left central site.”

 

“Thank you.”  She turned to the other three ladies in the van.  “We’d better get ready.  Post worker, get into your costume.  Everyone else, stand by.”

 

9.00 am.  Denise Rothman was getting ready to open her salon for the day.  Susan, her new assistant, would be here soon and although they only had one appointment for that day, they had a reasonably busy day ahead of them with stock taking and training.  Denise reflected on the fact she’d been lucky to get Susan when her previous assistant left at short notice, and how that had been a real life saver.

 

She took a swig from her mug of coffee before donning a white smock dress over her bra and panties, and sat down to pull on her favourite back knee length suedette boots.  As she stood up, she heard a sound from the kitchen of her flat and turned round to see if something had fallen.

 

Instead, she was greeted by the sight of two women, wearing boiler suits and ski masks, and pointing handguns at her entering from the kitchen.   Denise slowly stood up, staring at the sight before her.

 

“Don’t panic – this is a robbery.  Do exactly what we say and no-one gets hurt.  Fight us, and you will come off worst.”

 

The smaller of the two women came over to Denise, and sat her down in a chair next to her dining table.  The other women opened a rucksack she was carrying, and taking some lengths of rope out she passed them to the one with Denise.

 

“Put your hands behind your back and stay still” the women said in a deep voice, and as Denise did so her wrists were quickly crossed and bound together with rope.  The rope was then cinched, and the loose ends tied to the back of the chair so that Denise could not move her wrists at all.

 

“We just want your money and your valuables, both from here and the salon.” The taller woman said this as the other one took a long length of rope and lashed Denise’s chest and arms to the back of the chair, passing it above and below her breasts and securing it firmly to the base of the back rest.

 

“Take what you want, just don’t hurt me or Susan,” Denise called out.

 

“Who’s Susan?” the taller women asked.

 

“My assistant – she’s due here any minute.”  As Denise said this, her ankles were crossed, bound and secured to a leg of the chair, and more rope used to secure her lap to the seat of the chair as well as tie her thighs together.

 

The smaller woman stood up, and the taller woman checked her knots. 

 

“Go downstairs and wait for this Susan, then secure her when she arrives.”

 

As she left the flat and descended to the salon, the taller woman took a large scarf from the bag, rolled it into a ball and stood in front of Denise.

 

“Open up – it won’t be for long.”

 

“You don’t have to gag me – I’ll be quiet I promise.”

 

“I know you will,” the masked woman said as she gripped Denise’s nose, and when she opened her mouth stuffed the scarf in.  She then took an ace bandage from her rucksack, and wrapped it around her mouth to keep the cloth in place.

 

“I’m going to blindfold you now and cover your ears so you can’t hear us.  Don’t move or panic, and you’ll be fine.”

 

From downstairs, Denise heard the sound of Susan coming in the door.  “Denise – are you…..  Wha…. Who are you and what do you MMMMPPH.”

 

A set of earphones were placed over Denise’s ears, and another bandage wrapped around her eyes both as a blindfold and to secure the earphones in place.

 

The taller woman quietly left the room, and came downstairs where the smaller woman had removed her overalls to reveal a hairdresser’s smock over dark trousers.

 

“Nice acting, Susan.”

 

“Thanks, Jennifer.  There is only one appointment in the book for today – our target.  You had better hide in the storeroom until she arrives.”

 

As the tall woman hid in the back, Susan started to prepare the salon for opening.

 

9.30 am.  “Control, this is Team 1.  Salon is secured and awaiting client.”

 

“Confirm that, Team 1.  Your client has just left central site, and is due with you at 11.30 am.  Suggest you complete arrangements while waiting.”

 

“Confirm that, Control.”

 

Penelope turned to the back of the van, where one of the group was now dressed as a postal worker.

 

“Time for you to start your rounds – time yourself to arrive at the central site at 10.45 am.”

 

With a nod, she stepped out of the van and walked down the street.

 

10.45 am.  Vanessa, the housekeeper for the Bakerwell family, was sitting in the kitchen having a drink when the intercom rang.  Putting her cup down, she went to the small screen in the kitchen wall and pressed the speaker button.

 

“Yes, what is it?”

 

“Post – I have a registered letter that you need to sing for.”

 

She looked at the monitor and saw a woman postal worker stood there, with a baseball cap over her hair.

 

“All right, come up to the front door and I’ll meet you there.”

 

Vanessa pressed a button, and the front gate swung open.  Heading for the door, she failed to notice the delivery worker removing the cap and pulling a ski mask over her head as she walked up to the main entrance.

 

Opening the door, Vanessa said “All right, can you show me the letter pl….. oh shit.”  She realised that the woman standing in from of her in the Post Office uniform was also wearing a black ski mask, and pointing a pistol at her.

 

“Inside – now!” the masked woman shouted, and she pushed Vanessa into the house and back into the kitchen.  She then spoke into a microphone at her cheek.

 

“Control, I have access,  Have Team 4 ready to move when the gate opens.”

 

The woman pushed Vanessa into the kitchen, and pointed at the button that opened the front gate.  “Press that button now, so that my colleagues can join me.”

 

Terrified, Vanessa pushed the button, and watched on the CC camera as three more women in boiler suits and baseball caps carried workbags through the gate and up to the house.

 

“Right, as you may have gathered I am not a postal worker, and this is a robbery.  Do as you’re told, and you have something to tell your children.  Don’t do as you’re told, and it will be very, very painful for you.  Do you understand?”

 

“Yes, just please don’t hurt me,” Vanessa cried, “I’ll do whatever you ask.”

 

The masked woman looked at Vanessa standing there.  She was wearing a short sleeved black dress, and flat shoes, and was starting to physically cry.

 

“Turn around, and put your hands behind your back,” the woman ordered Vanessa, and as she did so she saw her take a number of lengths of rope from her postal sack.

 

The three women deposited their bags in the front room of the house, and searched quickly to ensure no-one else was around at that time.  Having satisfied themselves that they were alone, two of them began to search the upstairs room for valuables, while the third made her way to the kitchen.

 

By the time she arrived there, her colleague had sat Vanessa on the floor, and was tying the last length of rope around her thighs.  Vanessa was securely bound with her hands behind her back and rope around her chest, waist, crossed ankles and thighs.

 

“All right,” the postal worker said, “We need to gag and blindfold you now, so that we can go about our business.  Try not to struggle or panic, as you may end up choking and you won’t like what happens after that.  Do you understand?”

 

“Yes,” Vanessa whispered, and the masked woman produced a scarf which she rolled into a band and tied a knot in the middle of.  She then used that to gag Vanessa, before taking another scarf and blindfolding her.

 

“All right, get on with stripping the place,” she said as she sat down opposite the terrified housekeeper.  “Control, team 4 have secured the central location and we are ready to proceed.”

 

“Confirm that, Team 4, Team 1 will be moving in a little while.”

 

11.30 am.  “Hello, Susan, I hope I’m not too late?”

 

“Not at all, Mrs Bakerwell, please take a seat.”

 

“Where’s Denise today?”

 

“She’s upstairs, tied up with some paperwork, but she said to get you started and she’ll be down as soon as she can.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell was wearing a light blue summer dress with matching patent leather heels, and a wide darker blue belt around her waist.  She placed her handbag on the counter, and sat in one of the salon chairs as Susan came over to start washing her hair.

 

Or at least, that was what Mrs Bakerwell thought was going to happen, when a large woman wearing a boiler suit and ski mask burst through from the rear of the salon, pointing a pistol at both women.

 

“This is a robbery – nobody move or make any loud sounds, and nobody gets hurt.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell threw her hands up over her mouth, while Susan stood there in stunned silence.  The masked woman tossed a roll of duct tape towards Susan.

 

“You – tie her hands together in front of her, then  wrap it around her chest so that her arms are held in place.”

 

“Whh – what do you…”

 

The pistol was pointed straight in her face.  “Just do it, young lady, or you’ll get an extra hole in your head!”

 

Susan turned towards Mrs Bakerwell.  “I’m sorry, I don’t want to do this, but I don’t want to die….”

 

“It’s all right, dear, do as she says and we’ll both get through this.”

 

Susan took the tape, and as Mrs Bakerwell held her hands up in front of her she bound them securely together, then wrapped the tape around her upper chest and arms so that she couldn’t move her upper body.

 

“Right, now take the tape and tear three strips off to gag her with.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell paled at that.  “Please, don’t gag me, I’ll be quiet.”

 

“Yes you will,” the armed woman said pointing the pistol at her now, “just sit still and let yourself be gagged.”

 

Susan tore strips of tape off, and smoothed them over Mrs Bakerwell’s mouth.

 

“Now take a long strip and stick it over her eyes”

 

Again, Susan tore a strip of tape off.  “You’d better close your eyes, it won’t hurt as much then.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell closed her eyes, and Susan used the strip to blindfold her.

 

“Where’s Denise?” Susan asked the masked woman.

 

“Never you mind – you come with me and open the safe”, and with that the two women went into the back room.

 

“Nicely done, Susan,” Jennifer whispered as she emptied the contents of the open safe into the bag.  “Are you ready for the next bit?”

 

“Yes,” Susan said as she tore a strip of tape off, “Just be gentle with it.”

 

She closed her eyes, and smoothed the tape over her eyes.  Jennifer then pulled her hands behind her back, and taped them together before taking the tape around her waist to ensure they were held in place.  She then gagged Susan with the tape, and pushed her into the salon.

 

“Lie down, Bitch”

 

“mmphhhh – mmmmprehhehw!!”

 

“Oh stop complaining, it’s only for a while.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell sat still as she heard the sound of tape being wrapped around something, in this case Susan’s ankles and legs.

 

“You don’t move for one half hour” she heard the masked woman say, and then she felt her arm being grabbed and herself being lifted up.

 

“You’re coming with me in case the police get too nosey.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell was taken out of the rear of the store, and pushed into the rear seat of a car.  She then felt her ankles been taped together, and her legs after that.

 

“Don’t move, and you’ll be just fine!”

 

The masked woman got into the driving seat, and removing her ski mask she dialled a number on her mobile phone.

 

“Control, this is team 1.  We have our prize, and will arrive in approximately twenty minutes.”

 

“Confirm that, team 1.  Assistance will be ready when you return to the central location.”

 

“Team 4, this is control.  First package will arrive in approximately twenty minutes.”

 

“Confirm that, control, we will be ready.”

 

 

12.45 pm.  Jennifer drove up to the Bakerwell house, and the postal worker watching Vanessa buzzed for the main gates to open.  Driving up to the main door, she parked as one of the other team come out to assist in removing Mrs Bakerwell.

 

“Out you come, my hostage, and come with us.”

 

The two women carried the taped woman into the front room of the house, where she was laid on the couch.

 

“Now, don’t move and you’ll be let free in a few hours.  Nod if you understand.”

 

Mrs Bakerwell nodded, and tried to squirm round on the couch.  A pillow was placed under her head, and Jennifer left her with one of team 4 watching over her.

 

“Control, this is team 1, package successfully delivered and requesting permission to leave.”

 

“Permission granted, team 1 – return to base for debrief.”

 

Jennifer left the house, got into her car and drove off down the road.  As Penelope watched her leave, another message came through.

 

“Control, this is team 2.  Target has left the premises – request permission to go.”

 

“Confirm that is a go, team 2 – good luck,”

 

1 pm.  Rosemary Bakerwell had had a hell of a morning.  She worked as a PR assistant for a lawyer, and the entire day so far had been fending off his clients while he took an “extended coffee break” with his secretary.  Not her idea of how a day should go, but at least she had the afternoon off to relax. 

 

She pulled into the car park at the local café, and stepped out with every intent of getting her usual baguette and drink for lunch.  As she took a moment to smooth her asymmetric cut silk skirt, however, she failed to notice the unmarked grey van that was approaching her car.

 

Rolling down and buttoning the cuffs on her white blouse, she swung her handbag over her shoulder and set off for the shop.  She had gone too far, however. The van pulled up beside her and the side door was flung open.  Two women in black sweaters and slacks, and wearing clown masks, jumped out and pushed Rosemary into the back of the van, at which point the door was slammed shut and the van drove off.

 

“Down on the floor, hands behind your back.”  One of the clown-faced women ordered Rosemary to do this, and she did so as much out of shock than anything.

 

“What’s going on?”  She asked as her wrists were crossed and tied behind her back.

 

“You’re been kidnapped is what is happening, and you need to be quiet for now.  Do as you’re told and you won’t be hurt.”  The driver of the van called over her shoulder as Rosemary was sat up and rope tied around her arms and chest in a harness.

 

“Kidnapped?  Why?”  Rosemary cried out as her ankles were crossed and tied over the knee-length brown leather boots she was wearing.

 

“We need something your boss has, and you’re our negotiating chip.  Now shut up and do as you’re told.”

 

The other clown took a ball of cloth, and stuffed it into Rosemary’s mouth, followed by a scarf tied over her mouth.  A second scarf was used as a blindfold, as Rosemary’s legs were tied at the thighs and calves.

 

The first clown took a phone and called a number.  “Control?  We have our package – heading your way now.”

 

“Confirm that.  We await your arrival.”

 

“Right – you sit still now and you’ll have something to tell your friends.”

 

Rosemary tried to struggle free, but the rope bonds were too tight and the gag prevented her calling out.

 

1.45 pm.  The grey van pulled up outside the Bakerwell house, and Rosemary was carried up to her bedroom and deposited on her bed. 

 

Mrs Bakerwell could hear the faint sounds of people moving about, and tried to call out, but the masked woman put her hand over her taped mouth and said “You keep quiet – that’s the police, and we don’t want them to know I’m here, do we?”

 

As Rosemary’s ankles and wrists were tied in a loose hogtie, one of the clowns whispered into her ear.

 

“We’re going to contact your boss now.  One of us is watching you at all times, so don’t try to get free or call out.  Once we’ve done our business, you’ll be released.”

 

Rosemary raised her head to try to speak, but put her head down again when she realised the futility of such an approach.

 

“Control, this is team 2.  Package delivered and departing now.”

 

“Confirm, team 2.  Head back to HQ for debrief.”

 

2.30 pm.  After over five hours of trying, Denise finally managed to get her wrists free from the ropes that had been binding them to the chair.  Wriggling her arms round, she was able to start to untangle the ropes that held her to the back of the chair.

 

A few minutes later, she removed the blindfold and gag that had been troubling her for so long, and took several deep breaths.

 

“Susan – Susan, can you hear me?”

 

Denise could hear low groans from downstairs, and she hurriedly undid the ropes around her ankles and legs before slowly going down.

 

The salon was a mess – books and hair care products were strewn around the floor, and Denise could clearly see that the safe had been emptied.  She could also see Susan on the floor, wrapped at several points on her body with duct tape and with tape over her mouth and eyes.

 

Denise knelt down and gingerly peeled the tape away that was acting as a blindfold.  Susan looked up wild eyed, and began to try to call out, but nothing legible came from her mouth until Denise had removed the gag as well.

 

“My god, Denise – what happened?  As soon as I came in I was grabbed and tied up – who did this?”

 

“I’ve no idea Susan, and I’m sorry this has happened to both of us.  Let me get you free, and I’ll call the police.”

 

By 3 pm, the police were at the salon taking statements, blissfully unaware of what else was happening in the town.

 

3.30 pm.  “Control this is team 3.”

 

“Confirm team 3 – go ahead”.

 

“There is an extra guest for dinner.  I repeat, there is an extra guest for dinner.”

 

“Understood Team 3.  Follow at distance and keep us informed.”

 

“Team 4, this is control.  Contingency plan beta is in effect – do you confirm?”

 

“Confirm that, control – we will be ready.”

 

4.10 pm.  “Pity we had that extra assignment handed out, Jenny – we could have had some fun this afternoon instead.”

 

“I know, but if we get this done quickly we can still watch a DVD or something.”

 

Jenny Bakerwell pressed the intercom button, and the front gate opened to allow her and her friend Corinne to enter the house.

 

The two girls walked up to the front door.  Both were wearing the school uniform of a white blouse, grey skirt and blazer, and white socks with black shoes. Taking a set of keys from her pocket, Jenny opened the door.

 

“Come on, Corinne – let’s get this boring French work over with.”

 

As the two girls walked in however, they were grabbed and pulled into the hallway.  They saw three women, armed and dressed in boiler suits and ski masks, standing there.

 

“Don’t say a word, either of you.  You’ve walked into a robbery, and we can’t have you under our feet.  You will do exactly what we say – understood?”

 

Both girls nodded in mute shock.

 

“Right – upstairs with both of you and take your blazers off.  Not a sound out of either of you!”

 

The other bound women in the house could hear the whispered sounds and noises, but all three were in no position to do anything about it.  Vanessa was too scared; Mrs Bakerwell knew from the sound of breathing her captor was still with her; and Rosemary heard her guard say “That’s one of our group coming back from seeing your boss – don’t start trying to raise the alarm, as no-one will hear you.”

 

The two girls were frogmarched up the stairs and into Jenny’s bedroom.  There their blazers were taken off them, and the two girls sat on the bed with their hands on their head.

 

“You,” one of the women said pointing at Corinne, “do you have a mobile phone?”

 

Corinne nodded.

 

“Use it to call your mother.  Tell her you are staying here for dinner, and will call her later.  Make it sound convincing, and don’t mention the fact that there is a robbery going on here.”

 

As Corinne dialled her home telephone number, Jenny was pushed face down onto the ground, and her wrists crossed behind her back.  Another of the women started to wrap rope around them as Corinne spoke.

 

“Hello, Mum?  I’m round at Jenny’s house – the two of us need to work on some French homework for tomorrow.  Do you mind if I stay here for dinner tonight?

 

No, there’s no need for you to come and pick me up later – Jenny says her mother can give me a lift back.

 

All right, Mum – I’ll see you later.  ‘Bye for now.”

 

As Corinne hung up, she looked down to see that Jenny now had her ankles crossed and tied, and her legs tied together below her knees.

 

“Very good – now you get down on the floor next to your friend.”

 

Corinne lay down next to Jenny, and she too was soon bound by the wrists, ankles and legs.  The masked women then rummaged through Jenny’s drawers, and produced two pairs of her panties.

 

“Right girls – open up and let’s get you silenced while we finish off here.”

 

The two girls fought, but in the end both had a pair of panties stuffed in their mouths, with their own ties used to hold the gags in place.  They were then hogtied, and one of the masked women stayed behind as the other two left.

 

5 pm.  Penelope noticed that her phone was ringing.

 

“Hello?”

 

“Penelope?”  A voice like dark velvet could be heard at the other side.

 

“Madame – all is in readiness.  Our guests are all secured, and I have forwarded the necessary documents to our contact to pass to you.”

 

“Excellent work, Penelope – I shall be in touch shortly.”

 

5.30 pm.  At Bakerwell Traders, the company owner was sitting in his office when there was a knock at the door.

 

“Yes?”

 

“Your 5.30 appointment is here, Mr Bakerwell.”

 

“All right – show her in.”

 

A tall, dark haired woman in a Versace trouser suit entered and sat down at the desk.  When she spoke, her voice was like velvet.

 

“Mr Bakerwell I presume”

 

“Ms Xavier – how can I be of assistance?”

 

“Well, it’s very simple really – I want you to give me all the precious coins and metals you hold in your storage area, or else you will never see your family again.”

 

“I beg your pardon?”

 

“Please, take a look at these photographs.”  The woman handed Mr Bakerwell a set of photos, and as he looked at them he recognised the gagged faces of his wife and two daughters.

 

“I assure you they are quite safe – for the moment.  If you do not co-operate, however, I cannot be held responsible for what happens to them.  Am I perfectly clear?”

 

Mr Bakerwell nodded and handed the photographs back.  “What do you want me to do?”

 

“Leave your office in ten minutes, and get into the black BMW that will be parked outside.  The driver knows what to do.  When you have given us the coins, your family will be released.  Do not contact the police or any other authority – we will know and your family will never see you again.  Any questions?”

 

The broken man looked at the woman sat there, and nodded his head.

 

“Very well, thank you for your time Mr Baskerville.”  The tall woman left the office.

 

Ten minutes later, Mr Baskerville was seen leaving his office, and getting into a car which had the door held open by a chauffer.  Watching from the other side of the road, Madame X followed as they set off for the storage area.

 

7 pm  “Penelope?”

 

“Yes, Madame?”

 

“You may withdraw now.”

 

“Thank you Madame.  Team 4, instigate evacuation procedure.”

 

In the kitchen, the false postal worker opened the gates and watched as the grey van was driven back in.  “We’re going now,” she told Vanessa as she sat on the floor, “Don’t move for one half hour.”

 

In the main room, the ski masked women bent over Mrs Bakerwell and whispered in her ear.  “I think you’ve been my hostage for long enough.  Don’t move – someone will find you here eventually.”

 

In Rosemary’s bedroom, the clown faced women spoke to the hogtied girl.  “Your boss has come through with the goods.  Don’t move – we’ll call and tell him where to find you.”

 

In Jenny’s room, the last woman turned to the girls.  “We’re done here now – don’t move for one hour or we’ll come back and get you.”

 

Within five minutes, all the team had entered the van and they drove off with the rakings from the house.

 

Jenny and Corinne lay quietly, trying to work out if they were alone.  Sounds were coming from other rooms, but unless they could get themselves free they had no chance of finding out what was going on.  They turned over and tried to undo each other’s bonds, but the knots were too small.  Eventually, Jenny began to wriggle across the floor towards her desk, and managed to knock off a pair of scissors from the edge.  Grabbing them with her fingers, she indicated to Corinne to come over and join her, and then started to saw through the rope hogtying Corinne with the scissor blade.

 

Twenty minutes later, Corinne had managed to get out of her hogtie, and free her wrists from the ropes around them.  Stopping only to remove her gag, she freed Jenny and the two girls stood up.

 

“We need to find out if there’s anyone still here – come on.”

 

Quietly opening her door, the two girls crept along the landing.  As they approached her older sister’s room, Jenny realised that some of the sounds they had heard were coming from there.

 

Opening her door, they saw Rosemary on the bed, bound gagged and blindfolded.

 

“Rosie?  Hang on and I’ll get you free.”

 

Rosemary raised her head when she heard her sister, and began to try to call out.  The two younger girls raced to the bed, and undid the ropes that held Rosemary in place.  As the gag was taken from her mouth, Rosemary coughed and called out “Jenny – did the kidnappers get you too?”

 

“Kidnappers?  What kidnappers – we’re at home and I thought the burglars had caught you as well!”

 

Rosemary reached up and removed her blindfold, and realised she was in her own room.  “But…. But I was taken from a car park and told I was been held while my boss got some papers.  What am I doing here?”

 

A sound from downstairs could be heard, and the three girls raced down to the main room.  On the floor, Mrs Bakerwell was lying on her side, trying frantically to get the tape off from her mouth and eyes.

 

“Girls?  What’s going on – I thought I’d been taken hostage by a robber at the salon, but why are you here?”  She managed to blurt this out as the tape was removed from her mouth, and as the blindfold was taken off she blinked and saw the three young women standing there.

 

“I’ve been home the whole time?  What’s going on here?”

 

“I don’t know, Mum,” Rosemary said, “but you’d better call the police while I see if Vanessa is all right.”

 

Rosemary ran to the kitchen, where she found Vanessa lying on the floor.  The blindfold had slipped down, and she looked up at the older daughter trying desperately to call out to her.

 

As Rosemary freed the housekeeper, Jenny looked out of the window.

 

“Damn it,” Mrs Bakerwell said, “They disconnected the phone.  Now how do we call the police?”

 

“No need, Mum,” Jenny said, “The police are coming in the driveway now.”

 

“What the hell has been going on today?” Mrs Bakerwell said.  The truth took some time to be settled, but all realised they had been part of a very, very big robbery.

 

 

Some hours later, the teams were gathered around a large mahogany conference table, having completed an exhaustive review of the events that had taken place.

 

At the head of the table, Madame X sat with Penelope by her side.

 

“Ladies – and gentleman – you are all to be commended for your part in what has been a truly momentous day on our part.  I am grateful to all of you, and offer you my most heartfelt thanks.”

 

“Suitable recompense will be forwarded to each and every one of you in the usual manner.  Please go now and rest – you all deserve it.”

 

The women stood up to leave, but as Susan went to leave Madame X stopped her.

 

“Susan – would you please stay behind for a moment or two?”

 

Susan sat back down at the table, while the other women left.  Jennifer looked back and smiled as she left.

 

“Susan,” Madame X started in her rich voice, “Jennifer has informed me that you played your part particularly well today, and I have to say that I am impressed at your resilience in the face of what you had to do.”

 

“Thank you, Madame,” Susan replied, “From you that is indeed praise.”

 

“There is, however, one slight difficulty.  As I am sure you will appreciate, the fact that you were seen for some time by the owner of the salon, as well as interviewed by the police, means that you could be identified as the weak point in our plan, and I am afraid I cannot allow for that possibility.”

 

Susan looked worried.  “Madame, I assure you I told the police nothing that could lead them back to you.  At worst, they will think I was an unwilling dupe of a bigger plot.”

 

“I appreciate that, Susan, but I do think that you should – disappear for some time.”

 

“Madame, no, please, I have not let you down in any way, please don’t….”

 

“Calm yourself, Susan; I am not displeased with you.  Indeed, I believe the time has come for you to be promoted.  My team based in the United States is in need of a new deputy leader, and I think you would be ideal for the position.  That way, the police here will not be able to trace you.”

 

Susan blushed – she knew that this meant Madame X had marked her as a future senior associate, and was grateful for the opportunity to prove herself.

 

“Penelope, give Susan the envelope please.”

 

Penelope handed Susan a large envelope.  Inside it, she found false documentation and papers to allow her to work in the US incognito.

 

“My personal beauty team are waiting downstairs to make sure the photographs in the document are accurate, and a private jet is waiting to take you.  Madeline, the head of our team, will personally meet you. Your luggage and possessions are already in transit to your new home”

 

“Madame, I don’t know what to say.  Please forgive me for my earlier comments.”

 

“Of course I do – it has been a long day, and you will be able to relax soon.  Thank you again, Susan, and good luck.”

 

“Thank you again, Madame.”  As Susan left the room, Madame X looked at her with a smile – this was certainly a girl to watch in the years to come.

 

“Now, Penelope, what is next for our consideration?”

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