Portrait of a Lady - Part 8
I have been away from this memoir for some time – for very personal reasons, which after you read what I place here I hope you understand. No matter what the exterior face may say, I do feel emotions like love, hate and friendship, and those can still be evoked when memories are recalled.
As I said previously, it was the 11th of January when we set off to pay a visit on Master at his private farm. We formed a convoy of 6 – Sandra having secured the support of the Burglar’s Association, who sent a number from their enforcement group. The information provided by Drusilla proved most helpful, as we turned into the quiet country lane and killed the lights on the vehicle.
We stopped half a mile from the gate that apparently led into the central compound. There were some lights on in the main buildings, and what looked like a guard standing by the gate that barred the entrance. We waited for a moment, and then made our move.
As Madame X sat in the rear of the lead car, Sandy and Maddie slipped out of the front seats. They were dressed in black from head to toe, with beanie caps on their heads, and moved silently up the darkened pathway, keeping to the side of the road as they moved forward.
She watched as they crept up to the fence, before grabbing the unsuspecting guard and dragging him into the side of the road. There was silence for a few moments, before the gate was quickly raised and the convoy moved silently into the courtyard.
In the darkness, they could make out a main farmhouse, with a number of outbuildings scattered around the perimeter. The group gathered around the front vehicle as Sandy turned to them.
“From what Miss Simpson has told us,” she said quietly, “Master stays in the main farmhouse. The barn over there is the main staff quarters, while the holding facility is in the old stable block over there.
“You two teams move out and secure the barn. I want maximum silence – use gas to subdue wall within.” Two groups of men nodded as they peeled off. “You,” she said pointing to a third group, “Take care of the security room – it’s here, in the corner of the stable block. Make no further move until you hear from me.”
As the third group moved off, Sandy turned to Madame and Maddie. “Are you sure you are ready for this,” she said as she watched her friend handling the shotgun she had brought with her.
“This has to be done,” she said as she held the gun up, “and it has to be us that do it. Let’s move.”
“How is he?”
Master sat on the edge of the table as the assistant examined Robert. He was still trapped in the chair, and there were singe marks on his chest where the paddles had been used.
“Still alive – just. I really do not think he is going to tell you anything.” As he said this, Robert’s head lolled to one side, his eyes open and his breathing shallow. Master walked over and lifted his head up.
“Take him back to his cell,” he said in a quiet voice, “and we will resume our little chat later. Right now I have other issues to deal with.” He turned and walked out of the room, leaving the assistant to call for one of the guards to lift Robert out of the chair and half walk, half drag him to a cell down the corridor.
As they did so, they passed the security room, the door slightly closed. As they walked away, the door opened enough to allow a hooded face to look out, before it retreated and closed the door to.
The main farmhouse was simply furnished, and as the three women made their way into the main room it was apparent that somebody had been there recently – the remains of a meal were still on the table. Looking round, they slipped back into the main corridor and started to walk up the staircase.
“Did you notice,” Sandy said as they crept up, “that the table was set for two?”
“I did,” Maddie said as she followed up, “and I saw the remnants of tape around one of the chairs. You don’t think he’s taking care of more than one piece of business, do you?”
“We shall find out in due course,” Madame X said as she panted at the top of the stairs, “but for now let us quietly examine the rooms.” There were three doors leading off from the top of the staircase. Behind one was a bathroom, the second was obviously the one Master was using, but the third door was locked. Sandy slipped a set of lock picks from her pocket and set to work.
“Brings the memories back, doesn’t it,” Maddie said with a smile as they heard the lock click open. Standing up, Sandy took hold of the door handle and gently turned it, allowing the three friends to look in.
In the centre of the room was a large four poster bed, and on the bed lay a blond haired woman, dressed in a silk nightdress that came down to just below her crotch. She was bound spread eagled to the bed, ropes from her wrists and ankles stretching up to the four wooden pillars, and her mouth and eyes were covered in white tape. As they walked in, she turned her head in the direction of the footsteps and mumbled “pls-nmr.”
“Hush, child,” Madame X said as she walked forward and stroked the forehead of the young girl. “We are not your captors. If I remove the tape, will you promise me you will not scream?”
The girl nodded, and as Madame peeled away the tape she took several deep breaths before saying “Who are you?”
“There will be time for introductions later child – for now, what is your name?”
“Kasey – Kasey Chisholm. Please, let me go home – my mother will be worried sick about me.”
Madame looked at her friends, before saying quietly “How old are you Kasey?”
“Kasey, I promise you, you will be home in a while, but for now you must...” The sound of the house door opening and closing caught her ear. “Kasey, I am afraid I must replace the gag. Whatever you hear, whatever happens, do not move and say nothing. Do I have your word?”
“All right,” the young girl said, and Madame quickly smoothed the tape gag back into place as the sound of footsteps on the stairs became louder. Retreating to the corner of the room, the three women watched as the door opened and Master walked in.
“Well now, Kasey,” he said as he stood in the illuminated doorway, taking his jacket off. “I have had a very frustrating day, and I think it is time I had a little fun. You don’t mind do you?” He walked forward, his hand starting to unbutton his shirt, but stopped short as a voice like warm treacle said with more than a hint of venom “Good Evening, MASTER.”
He stopped for a moment, before saying “Is that you Shirley? I had heard you had met a most unfortunate demise – I must say, I’m glad to see the reports were wrong.”
“There is no Shirley – not anymore,” Madame said very quietly as she walked forward, the shotgun in her hand pointing straight at him, “she died nearly fifteen years ago now, as you well know. I came back then however – and I have returned now.”
“I never did thank you for that incident in Paris,” he said as he slowly turned round, “but I’m sure Robert has paid more than enough for both of you. Now, put that gun down – it was very stupid of you to come alone, as my men will soon show you.”
“Your men?” As he looked to one side, he saw Maddie walk forward, her gun pointing at him as well. “I think you’ll find your men are in no position to do anything to help you, master.”
“Maddie as well? I’ve missed you my dear, but tell me, how do the two of you seriously expect me to believe that you have overpowered twenty men on your own.”
“We didn’t,” Madame X said as she walked up to Master, “we came with a few friends. Sandra?”
Sandy stepped forward and spoke into her head set. “Teams 1 and 2, are the opposition subdued?”
“Roger that,” a voice replied over her radio.
“Team 3, Security room?”
“All monitors and cameras under our control – and we found some interesting surveillance tapes as well.”
“Very well, two stay there, the rest move out and search the building. You know what you are looking for.”
Master looked at his three former employees, and slowly clapped his hands. “Bravo, ladies, bravo – so what happens now?”
“Get on your knees.”
Madame walked forward and pointed the shotgun at his stomach. “Get on your knees, and out your hands behind your head. Madeline, release the young lady and take her downstairs – she does not need to see what is about to happen.”
Maddie nodded and walked over to the bed, removing the ropes from the four posters and helping the young girl to walk out of the room. As she did so, Sandy watched Madame as she stared at the man she had called Master.
“I said,” she growled as she pulled back the hammer on the shotgun, “Get on your knees and put your hands behind your head.”
“You haven’t got the guts,” Master said as he dropped to his knees, “you never did have, Shirley.”
“Shirley is dead,” she said as she stepped forward. “I am Madame X, and I swore one day I would kill you. Open your mouth.” As he opened it, she pushed the barrel of the shotgun between his teeth and looked into his eyes. “I am not the innocent girl you took that day,” she said as she stared at him, “I am so much more. Any last requests before I send you to the fiery pit you so well deserve?”
She looked into his eyes, expecting to see some sort of response, but he simply stared back at her. She whispered “Goodbye” and watched as he closed his eyes, waiting for the end.
Madame looked over at Sandy, who was standing next to one of the assault crew.
“Shirley, they found Robert – you’d better get downstairs quickly. Leave him with us.”
She looked at the man in front of him, before removing the gun from his mouth and handing it to the masked man. Walking out of the room, she descended the staircase, noting in passing Maddie as she handed the now freed Kasey a drink of water, and made her way out to the now fully illuminated courtyard. At the far side, a stream of men were been led out at gunpoint, but that did not take her full attention.
She walked towards the two men who were standing by the stable block. “This way,” they said as they escorted her past a series of heavy wooden doors, before stopping outside one. “He’s in a bad way, Madame,” one of the men said as he opened the door. “We’ve sent for medical assistance, but it’s going to take a little while to get here.”
She nodded as she walked in and saw Robert lying on a cot, covered in a blanket. As she walked forward, he opened his eyes and looked at her approaching. “I thought I told you to run,” he whispered as she knelt next to him. “You look as if you didn’t get very far.”
“I survived,” she said as she moved his matted hair away from his eyes, “because I knew I would see you again one day. It’s over, my love – he won’t bother us again.” She watched him smile briefly before his face creased with pain. “Hush, hush,” she said as she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead, “You will recover, I know you will.”
“We have a wedding to plan, don’t we,” Robert said through gritted teeth. “Don’t want to be late for that, do we?”
“No, no we don’t” Madame said as she looked to the doorway, where a man in a paramedic uniform was standing. As he walked in, she stood up to go, but Robert held her hand tightly and said “Come closer.” As she leaned over, he whispered into her ear “I love you, Shirley, and I always have done. Never, ever forget that.” With a great effort, he raised his head enough to kiss her gently on the cheek, before he fell back onto the cot. As she stood there, Madame felt the grip on her hand loosen as she gently laid it on his breast.
“Good night, my love,” she said quietly as she leaned over and kissed him again, before closing his eyes and looking at the men in the room. “See he is treated with the greatest respect – he deserves that,” she said quietly before walking out of the room and back down the corridor to the courtyard.
As she came out, she saw Master been taken out by two armed men, each holding one of his arms. “Wait,” she commanded as she walked slowly towards them, as Sandy emerged from the farmhouse.
“Something wrong,” he said with a smile as Madame walked up to him. She stood in front of him, saying nothing until she spat directly into his face. “You have taken all I ever had,” she said very quietly, “and now I’m taking all you ever had. I will take control of your assets, your companies and your fronts, and I will make them an honourable operation, not one that descends to depravity. As for you,” she said as she looked at Sandy, “I leave you to the tender mercies of these people. Goodbye, scum.”
As he was escorted away, Madame walked up to Shirley, who looked directly at her old friend. “Then...” Her silent nod was enough as she watched Maddie escorting the frightened young girl out of the house.
“Your ordeal is over,” she said quietly as she put her hand on Kasey’s shoulder, “And we will ensure you are returned safe to the bosom of your family.”
“Are you the police,” Kasey said as she looked round.
“No,” Madame said quietly, “but be assured your captor will get all that he deserves. We will take you to be treated and allow you time to tell your story and recover – be assured, you are safe now.” She nodded to Maddie as she helped Kasey to a waiting private ambulance.
As it drove away, she watched as dour of the squad carried Robert out to a waiting black ambulance, the others standing as he was carried past. “I’m sorry,” Sandy said as she stood next to Madame, “I wish we could have got here sooner, but...”
“I am told he did not break, did not say anything, even after they tortured him.”
Sandy nodded. “We have the assistant who carried out the interrogation. Do you...”
“No,” Madame said shortly. “Just – just get me back to the flat. Ask John to meet us there – he needs to be told what has happened.”
20th January 2000
It was a cold day, with frost still visible on the ground as the party stood round the open grave. The vicar was talking, using words Madame had heard all too often before.
“And so we commit the body of our brother Robert to the grave, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust...”
As the coffin was slowly lowered into the ground, the assembled group bowed their heads in silent respect. Madame stood next to the grave, Sandy and Maddie next to her and John behind, as they saw the man who had saved them more than once laid to his final rest. As the coffin came to a halt, Madame stepped forward and threw a single rose onto the lid.
“Goodbye, my love,” she said quietly as John stepped forward, took a handful of dirt and threw it into the hole. Taking Madame by the arm, he led her away as others came forward, one by one, and paid their own respects.
As she walked back to the car, she saw a tall, thin woman with white hair standing next to it. “Forgive me of interrupting,” she said as Madame X came closer, “but I wanted to see you. My name is...”
“You are Drusilla Simpson,” Madame X said as she came to a halt, “and I believe I have you to thank for leading us to Robert. I also believe I have you to thank for certain other things, but for what you did I consider them to be in the past.”
“Well, I do regret taking this contract,” Drusilla said, “and I am sorry for your loss. I just wanted to say I am leaving, and I hope our paths do not cross again.”
“As you say, this was business – but be assured, if our paths cross again, I will not forget all that has transpired these last few days. Goodbye, Miss Simpson.”
The chauffer opened the car door and stood back as John helped Madame X to sit in the seat. As the door was closed, he nodded at Drusilla, before walking round and sitting himself beside Madame.
“Where to,” he asked quietly.
“To the reception,” Madame X said wearily, “and then to pack. I need to go away for a few weeks, and mourn myself. Inform Sandra and Madeline once I have gone that I trust them to complete the audit of his accounts, and I will meet with them on my return.”
As it was, it was some considerable time before I returned – I initially went to France, and there I gave full vent to my feelings. From there I travelled to the United States, at the request of Madeline, to look into some of his ventures over there. I returned in May, and was soon back in what was to become my permanent home.
10th May 2000
“Welcome home, Madame.”
George stood to attention as Madame X walked into the hallway. “Thank you George,” she said as she accepted his outstretched hand, “It is good to be home. Are they waiting upstairs?”
“They are indeed, Madame,” George said as he walked her to the elevator. “John has also called to say he will be coming tomorrow night as requested.”
“Good,” was all she said as she stepped into the lift. As the doors closed, she stood in silence, waiting for the doors to re-open and for her to step into the penthouse. It had been five months, and she was anxious to see what had happened.
As the doors opened, she saw Maddie standing there, in a red jacket and skirt and knee length suede boots. “Welcome home, Madame,” she said as her friend stepped out, “I trust you will find everything to your satisfaction?”
The room had been completely re-fitted, with a thick carpet and tasteful furniture laid around. On the wall hung a number of paintings, including one of a Regency lady that caught Madame’s eye.
“A present from Sandra,” Maddie said as she walked behind her. “She felt it would be a good welcome home gift.”
“I am impressed,” Madame said as she looked at the smiling face, “Who did the copy?”
“She would not say,” Maddie replied with a smile, “but this is not the copy. That is hanging in the National Gallery.”
For the first time in months, Maddie saw a smile on her friend’s face. “Thank her for me,” she said, “and tell her I wish to see her tomorrow. There is much for the three of us to discuss. For now, however, I wish to rest a little – it has been a long flight.”
“Of course, Madame,” Maddie said as the lift started to head back down. “We will have your luggage brought up. Any other requests?”
“Yes – have the staff gather tomorrow at eleven. I have an announcement to make.”
To Be Continued