“Very well, I believe that is all the scheduled business for today,” Madame said in her deep, mellow voice as she sat in her office, “thank you everyone?”
“Thank you Madame,” the senior staff said as they stood up and made to leave, but as Lily Harmon stood up Madame looked at her and said “A moment, if you would please Lillian?”
“Of course,” the young blonde said as she sat back down, crossing her legs as her black skirt moved to the side. Since taking on her new responsibilities as Penny’s number two, she had become more the successful young business woman she needed to be for the public facing aspects of her role.
“Our contacts in Hong Kong have informed us of certain papers that are currently in the possession of a young Chinese lawyer in the greater London area,” Madame said after the door had closed, “papers which may help clear the last few details of the recent unpleasantness in Mogola. In the spirit of full cooperation under our newly acquired detente with the South African authorities, she asks if we can acquire those documents and forward them to the appropriate people.”
“I understand, Madame. I shall select and prepare a team to visit the location later tonight, if the details are available.”
“You will find all you need in here,” Madame said as she handed over a slim manila folder, “report back to me at home when you have the information.”
“Of course, Madame – will you be at home for the evening?”
“I will – and John is in Rome, so call in person.”
Lily nodded as she stood up and walked out, returning to her own office as she consulted the staff rota.
Picking up the telephone, she smiled as she dialled an extension number.
“Sam? I want you and Linda to meet me in briefing room 2 in one hour – and clear your schedule for tonight.”
Kim took the plates through to the kitchen and placed them in the dishwasher, bending her knees as she carefully put them in before closing the machine and starting the wash cycle. She was wearing a purple silk tie neck blouse, and a long black skirt, the chiffon hem of which came over her knees as she stood up. Her dark hose covered her legs, while she had a pair of kitten heel purple leather shoes on her feet.
She shared her flat with Ann, both of them hailing from the same district in Beijing originally before they came to this country to study. She worked for HSBC in the city, while Ann was a junior barrister for one of the larger law firms. At that moment, Ann was in the front room of the flat, poring over some papers she had brought home with her to work on, so Kim was left with the washing up.
As she stepped back, Kim was therefore surprised to feel a leather gloved hand clamp over her mouth, as a woman dressed in black, including the balaclava covering her head, stepped in front of her, and put her finger to her lips, indicating the young Chinese woman should stay very, very quiet.
Nodding, the woman watched as he gloved hand was removed from Kim’s’ mouth, and then ropes draped over her shoulder, before they were wound in a spiral down both arms, and they were pulled behind her back, her arms folded behind her as they were quickly, but tightly, bound together.
She felt her arms been pulled up her back, and then the ropes passed over her shoulders again, crossing between her breasts as they were taken around her back, and then tied before they were passed round her waist and secured again.
“Open wide,” the masked woman said in Mandarin, and as Kim opened her mouth she felt a cloth been pushed in, and then a white scarf pulled tightly over her mouth, taken around her head and then tied under her dark hair.
She was turned round and saw two other masked women behind her, both also dressed in black, one slightly taller than the other two. “Bring her,” the taller one said as Kim felt the gloved hand on her arm, and then was frogmarched out of the kitchen, along the hallway and into the front room.
Ann was sitting at the table, looking at the papers in front of her, oblivious to what was happening as the door to the room opened. She was still in her work clothes from that day – an electric blue silk blouse over a dark knee length skirt, natural hose and black heels. Her black hair was combed up and back on her head, the ends falling over her shoulders.
“Good evening,” the tallest of the three masked women said as they came in, Ann turning and looking at them as she did so.
“Ah – are you all right Kim?”
The other girl nodded as she was forced to kneel on the floor, one of the other two masked intruders kneeling behind her as she started to bind her ankles together.
“I must ask you, with all due respect, to stand up and move away from the table,” the tall masked woman said, “and stand facing me, with your arms by your sides. No sudden movements, no loud screams or noises, or with deep regret it will be your flatmate who faces the punishment.”
Nodding, the young Chinese girl moved from the table and stood in front of her, feeling the rope as it was draped over her and wound tightly down her arms, unresisting as they were pulled behind her back and secured together, before the masked woman indicated an old seat against the opposite wall.
It was made with dark mahogany wood, with purple leather upholstery, and as Ann sat down one of the other two women folded her legs in front of her, before binding them with more rope, ankle to ankle.
“We merely need the files you have here, nothing more,” the taller intruder said as she looked at Ann. “I am sure someone will come to your aid in due course.”
Kim looked up at her flatmate and nodded slowly, as a cloth was pushed into Ann’s mouth and secured in place with a scarf tied tightly over her mouth.
“Thank you for your co-operation – search the rooms, take all you find of value.”
The tall woman then tied a length of rope around Ann’s body and to her legs, while both women watched the two women leave the room. As she walked over to the table, and picked up the files, she allowed herself a smile before placing them in the bag she was carrying.
Picking up a second file, she looked closely at it, and then looked at Ann.
“My my – this person really is playing with fire,” she said as she packed the rest of the files, and then waited for the other two to return.
“Good night ladies,” she said as they left, Ann and Kim twisting in a vain attempt to free themselves from the ropes.
Outside, Lily removed her mask and then looked at Sam and Linda.
“Take the valuables back to the base for distribution,” she said as they nodded, “I need to see Madame – urgently.”
Shirley opened the door as the blonde walked in, carrying her leather shoulder bag.
“The files you requested, Madame,” Lily said as they walked into the drawing room, handing over several papers.
“Excellent – I’ll inform Catherine we have these in due course,” Shirley said as she went to the drinks cabinet, and poured two brandies.
“There was something else I found that may interest you,” Lily said as she sat down. “It’s related to recent events.”
“Oh – and what would that be,” Shirley said as she sat opposite her.
“You remember one of the unanswered questions was who was supplying the forces that protected the mine?”
Shirley nodded. “We thought it was sources with the Red Army, but the information we finally obtained pointed in a different direction, that of a former party official who had disappeared and was rumoured to be in the West.”
“Indeed – what of it?”
“Want to know how to find him?”
Shirley looked at Lily and said “what did you find?”
“The legal documents to support his daughter, Minh, who is a student at LSE. Her address, and the place of business cited as the legal residence of the signatory.”
She passed Shirley the file, who read it with a smile.
“Well, now it gets interesting – Lily, arrange to invite young Minh to stay with us a while. No sense in her being involved in what must inevitably follow. I will consult with Penny in the morning.”
Minh threw her bag into the corner of her living room and looked through the letters that had been waiting on her doormat. The morning tutorial had been – boring, and she was looking forward to kicking back with her friends later.
She was a typical Chinese student – wearing a sleeveless pink top with white polka dots, black leggings under a pair of cut off denim shorts, and grey knee length cloth boots that had a two inch thick heel, and ribbons tied around each boot near the top.
“Bills, bills, bills,” she said to herself as she turned round, her long brown hair following her head movement, and then stopped still. A woman was standing in the doorway, dressed in a blue jacket and skirt, with a white blouse underneath, dark hose and heels. The striking thing was the extra stocking pulled down over her head, keeping her blonde hair down as she looked at her.
“My apologies young lady,” she said as she pointed a gun at Minh, “but you need to come with me. First, though, kneel on the couch, facing the wall, and put your arms by your side.”
“Who are you," Minh said as she stood there.
“Merely a lowly functionary,” the masked woman said, “whose employer extends an invitation for you to stay for a while. Now, do as I say, or you may not like the consequences.”
“All right, don’t do anything stupid,” she said as she walked over the room, and knelt on the couch, resting her head on the back as her hair fell over her shoulder. She watched as the woman tale some rope from a large bag, and walk up to her, before she pulled her arm behind her and started to bind her forearms together.
“What is this about,” she said as she tried to look at the woman, who was now wrapping the rope around her arms and upper body, forcing them into her sides and holding them firmly in place.
“Now,” the masked woman said as she pushed a cloth into her mouth, and then covered it with duct tape, “walk with me.”
She helped Minh to get off the couch and walked with her to a dark windowed car, amazed that nobody saw them. Sitting in the back, she was strapped in before the captor got behind the wheel, and drove off.
“Relax, you are in no danger,” she said as they made their way onto the main street, “my employer merely wishes your safety to be assured...”
The deep, rich voice took Minh by surprise as she looked to the door of the room she had been left in. It was a well furnished room – although the lack of windows and no handle on the inside of the door made it a little less homely.
“You must be my host,” she said as she sat down, “I should thank you for the invite, but the manner of delivery was rather – abrupt.”
“My apologies for that,” Madame said as she sat down, “but when I explain the reason why that method was employed, I hope you will understand.”
“I doubt anything you say could...”
“Your father is paying your accommodation and university fees.”
Minh stopped and looked at the tall brunette. “My father is dead,” she said quietly.
“So you believe – but please, examine this.”
She handed Minh the documents Lily had brought the previous evening, the young girl’s eyes narrowing as she saw them.
“I had nothing to do with what he has done,” she finally said.
“I know and understand – as I was one of those who ended his activities in Mogola.”
“You? Then I should be thanking you.”
“The only thanks I need,” Madame said as she stood up, “is for you to remain my guest over the weekend. In that time, your father will no longer be a concern.”
“Will you kill him?”
“No – I will do worse,” Madame said as she looked at Minh. “Please, relax, if there is anything we can bring you, merely use the red button. For your own safety, however, you must remain in this suite for the time being.”
“May I know your name?”
“I am known as Madame X.”
Minh stood and bowed, before saying “My apologies for my manner when you entered.”
“No apologies necessary – please relax,” Madame said as she left and closed the door, before making her way to the main lounge of the farm.
“Well,” Penny said as she came in.
“She will stay – ensure she has anything she needs,” Madame said.
“Tracy, Beverley, ensure our guest is looked after.”
The two girls nodded as they left, Lily sitting with her seniors.
“So, I wonder if anybody would like to join me in Chinatown tomorrow? I intend to have lunch, and kick ass.”
“Not this time, Penny,” Shirley said, “but I look forward to seeing the results.”
The restaurant was busy, the staff rushed off their feet, as the three women walked through and towards the private dining rooms. The Chinese women were dressed in traditional Cheongsams, of red, blue and grey, with high heels and natural hose.
They paid little attention to the rest of the customers, not even acknowledging the staff as they went through the doors, and joined the middle aged man sitting at the table.
“Ah ladies,” he said in an Oxbridge accent, “Please, sit, I am so glad you could join me for lunch.”
On the main shop floor, Penny wiped her mouth and stood up, the three women with her doing likewise. All wore black jumpers and slacks, taking their leather jackets with them as they went to the cloakroom.
“So, how may we serve you,” the woman in the red cheongsam said as she looked at the man they were with.
“Oh I am sure I will think of...”
“Forgive the interruption – but we need you.”
The group looked up to see a quartet of women standing there, armed ad looking at him.
“Madame X sends her compliments,” Penny said as she walked forward, “now be a good boy, and do something really stupid.”
“Madame X? Ah...”
He made a move for the door, only to be brought down by another of the women, who flipped him onto his back and then put her foot on his chest.
“Keep him there, Natalya,” Penny said as she looked at the three women. “Tell me ladies, are you familiar with the phrase Kun Bang?”
The three women looked at each other, and then shook their heads.
“Don’t worry,” Penny said with a smile as the other two women produced length of brown rope, “you soon will be...”
Half an hour later, the woman in the blue cheongsam was wriggling on the floor, the rope spiralling down her arms and holding them together behind her back, before it was crossed between her breasts and around her waist. Her ankles and legs had been bound with another length of rope, and were to her side as she sat, with a large red silk cloth stuffed into her mouth, the ends sticking out from her rouged lips.
Her two companions were standing either side of a pole running from floor to ceiling behind her, both with their arms bound in the same way as the first woman, but with bands of rope holding them together and against the pole at their waists and shoulders. Their ankles and legs were also secured, the lady in grey gagged with a blue cloth, and the third woman with a grey cloth sticking out from between her lips.
“Hrruuu,” they said as two of the women lifted the now unconscious man and walked him between them.
“Unimportant – merely know you have done your country a service,” Penny said as she left, the two women taking the man to a car waiting outside.
“You have done us a great service,” the Chinese diplomat said as he was put into the rear of the car, “inform Madame X we are most grateful, and also thank Miss Lu for us.”
“It shall be done,” Penny said as the diplomat climbed into the front of the car, and then drove off. Taking out a cell phone, she dialled a number.
“My thanks, Penny,” Shirley said, and as she ended the call she walked to the rooms where Minh was.
“It is over,” she said as Minh stood up. “We must blindfold you, but we will return you home.”
“And my father?”
“Will no longer plague this world.”
She nodded, and then said “I will not miss him. So, do what you must.”
“One more thing – I would repay your kindness.”
“If you so desire,” Shirley said with a smile, “I know a friend who may value your skills...”