Welcome to New York
“Well, I have to admit, it’s different from the old place, but I like it.”
Susan smiled as her husband Clint walked round, looking out of the window in the main living area that looked out over Central Park. “Madame managed to do well for us this time,” he said with a smile.
“Not her doing – I paid the deposit form my fee for the job I did here. The mortgage is through Madame’s financial office. So, do you think you will like it here?”
“I still can’t get over it – you as Madame’s head official here. Should I be jealous?”
“Of course not, you daft idiot,” Susan said as she put her arms round Clint’s neck and kissed him. “Besides, your new job makes you just as important as me.”
“Yeah – official driver at the United Nations. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I was told – how did she fix that?”
“Actually, that was a friend of a friend,” Susan said with a smile. “But Madame I am sure will be interested in anything you may learn as part of your duties. I understand there may also be – additional responsibilities. Dominique is arriving tonight, and she will brief you in the morning.”
“Dominique? So Security?”
Susan nodded, as she opened a bottle of champagne and poured some into two glasses. “I know you’re going back out to LA to see Maddie before you come over at the end of the week. But I’ll be counting the days until you get back.”
“So will I,” Clint said as they clinked their glasses, and the two delivery men continued to bring boxes in.
The third floor window did indeed afford a magnificent view over the park, as Susan stood there in her jumper and pants. Clint was safely on his way back, and the essentials had been moved in and unpacked. The rest of the new furniture would be delivered in the morning, and the remaining utilities connected at that time. Then the next day, she would open the office for Madame, and begin her new job.
She would have liked the opportunity to meet with Juliette, Carina and the others, but they were all on holiday – in Carina’s case, waiting for the safe arrival of the baby. Funny, such a lethal killer as a mother. Still, that was the future, this was the now.
Sipping her wine, she suddenly found herself feeling very, very tired. Stretching and yawning, she took her glass and the bottle into the kitchen, the glass by the sink and the bottle back in the icebox, before she headed for the bathroom and started to run the shower.
A short while later, feeling refreshed and cleansed, she slipped into a white nightdress, before lying on her new bed and pulling the covers over herself. She looked over to the table, and her purse on it, before her eyes slowly closed, the wind blowing gently through the open window.
As she opened her eyes, something told her that everything was not quite as it should be. Turning over, Susan’s suspicions were confirmed as she saw the figure standing over her, the small gun in her gloved hand pointed at her temple.
“Hi,” the figure said, the voice telling Susan it was a woman, “Do me a huge favour by staying quiet, rolling over and placing your hands behind your back. Once I have you nice and secure, then I can be done and gone quickly.”
She looked at the stocking covered face, then nodded lowly as she turned over, placing her wrists together as she felt some sort of thin rope being wrapped around them, pulling them together and securing them.
Whoever this woman was worked quickly, as she felt the rope between her wrists, and then as forced up onto her knees, the rope wound tightly around her arms and body above and below her chest. Her arms were pinned tightly to her sides before the rope went under her arms and around the back of her neck.
“Just moved in?”
“That obvious,” Susan whispered as she looked at the boxes still stacked in the corner.
“Not your lucky night then – it is mine though,” the masked woman said as she gave the rope a last tug, then tied it off, before taking a folded cloth and holding it in front of Susan’s mouth.
“I guess you mean me to be quiet,” Susan said, before she opened her mouth and allowed the intruder to push the cloth in. A tearing sound came from behind her, and then she felt the tape pressed firmly down over her lips and jaw, sealing them before she was helped to lie on her side.
She felt the leather gloved hands on her ankles, crossing and securing them together, and then binding her legs below her knees, before the woman stood back. “Don’t move,” she said quietly as she put the pistol in her jacket pocket, and turned away.
Susan lay still on the bed, not struggling at her bonds. It was strange to be on the other end of this kind of situation, the victim, not the perpetrator. She watched the girl in the black sweater; jeans and tennis shoes go about her work. To Susan’s trained eye she looked very competent, checking everything and taking just what she knew was worth fencing.
Under the girl’s stocking mask she could see red hair, but as Susan herself knew that meant nothing, any competent female thief wore a wig on a job. The little black .22 the girl had used to subdue Susan when she woke her might be a bit underweight to the likes of Dominique and Carina, but Susan was professional enough not to argue with an armed woman at any time.
The girl had found Susan’s jewellery box and was forcing the lock with a small steel rod. “Crude,” Susan thought to herself, “But I guess effective,” she groaned inwardly as the lock gave way and the lid was opened.
As the thief quickly emptied the contents into her holdall, Susan cursed herself inwardly. She’d been casual enough and tired enough that in the process of moving into the new apartment she’d not yet put things in the safe.
She saw the woman take out her engagement ring from Clint - it wasn’t worth a fortune, and it could be replaced, but the sentimental value was immense. She thought about the wedding in Ireland, and was glad her wedding ring with the Celtic design was still on her finger.
The girl had found Susan’s purse now, and again she cursed her own laziness. The burglar opened the bag and saw the wad of cash and whistled in happiness. Susan had got $3,000 from the bank to pay the moving men when they finished tomorrow, the guy from the utility company, the cable guy and others. All she’d done though was give the burglar a nice easy score.
Susan watched as the thief cleaned out her handbag, credit cards, her watch, even her diamond Jaguar brooch. The girl looked at it closely, then looked at Susan, but then shook her head at her silent plea before she put it in her bag.
“Anything else?” the redheaded thief asked the question aloud as she glanced round.
“Nnnnnno” Susan mumbled into her gag.
“Now if I thought you were holding out on me, can you guess what I would do?” The woman again held the .22 to Susan’s head.
“Nnnnnno” Susan repeated as she shook her head.
“Okay, you look like an honest woman. Enjoy your night.” The thief laughed as she turned round and headed out the window. Susan looked at the gently billowing curtains, and tried to make herself as comfortable as possible before falling asleep.
The knock on the door of the apartment made Susan wake suddenly, wondering who it was.
“Ooooohhheeerrrrrr” Susan screamed as loud as the gag permitted.
The visitor knocked again.
Again Susan screamed, “Hhhhheeeerrrrrrreeeeee!”
This time the visitor obviously heard as she heard a female voice cry out “Susan are you okay?”
“NNNNNNOOOOOOO!” Susan screamed as loud as she could.
Susan held the telltale sounds of the lock being manipulated, and suddenly the door opened and footsteps approached the bedroom. A moment later, Dominique and another young redheaded woman she didn’t know stood in the doorway, looking at her.
“Oh my Goddess!” Dominique breathed in the words.
“Ddddooommmm” Susan yelled into her gag.
“Water,” Dominique said over her shoulder, the other girl walking off as she came over and helped Susan to sit up. “Okay,” she said as she peeled the tape away and removed the soaking wet cloth, “What happened?”
“I got burgled, what do you think happened.” Susan said before she drank greedily from the glass of water the redheaded girl brought in from the kitchen.
“In the night Dom, she must have climbed up the back of the building and through the window”
“Pheww.” Dominique went to the window and looked out, “that’s a climb even I’d think twice about… and you say she?”
“Yeah, a bitch in a stocking mask, she had a nasty little .22 to back up her arguments with.”
“You’d better free her,” Dominique said as the stranger untied her. “Thank you,” Susan said as she stretched and stood up, “That feels better.”
“A .22 and a stocking mask, that sounds like this girl they call the black cat.” Dominique observed. “I’d heard she was a climber.”
“Hi I’m Charlotte Gordon.” The stranger held out her hand and introduced herself.
“Oh yeah where are my manners, Charlotte meet Susan, Susan meet Charlotte, she works in the London office.” Dominique did the formalities before she looked round.
“So what did she get?”
“Oh my jewellery, my credit cards, some cash I was carrying, my diamond Jaguar pin.” Susan gave Dominique a knowing glance.
“Whoops,” Dominique said as she raised an eyebrow, “very casual of you Susan darling, why wasn’t that all in the safe?”
“Because I got lazy, and I jumped under the covers without doing it. After all, who expects to get burgled their first night in a new place?” Susan rubbed her arms and looked round
“Shall I ring Madame and inform her?” Charlotte inquired.
“Yes, I think you had better Charlotte.” Dominique looked at the young girl as she walked out of the room.
“And I guess I probably need to speak to her.” Susan sighed. It wasn’t something she was looking forward to doing.
“Yes, you will have to,” Dominique said quietly, “in person.”
“That was why we came to see you this morning – something has arisen that will require your input. She’s expecting us at noon at the Waldorf.”
“Oh great,” Susan said quietly, “I am not looking forward to that.”
“I see – a most regrettable sequence of events,” Madame X said as Susan stood in the lounge of the suite. “I expect much better of my associates, Susan.”
“I know Madame,” Susan said as Dominique and Charlotte stood in the corner. Susan was wearing a lilac skirt and jacket with a cream camisole underneath, while Madame was in a long skirt and silk top, a scarf tied over her shoulders. “I regret what has happened, and accept your sanction.”
“No sanction required – this Black Cat intrigues me. We will make good the financial loss, and I will arrange for the stolen items to be replaced. Charlotte, will you allow us a moment?”
“Of course Madame,” Charlotte said as she stood and walked out, leaving the three of them alone.
“Madame, what grieves me most is the loss of the pin. Shall I inform Juliette?”
“No – do not do that,” Madame said quietly, “as talented as this woman appears to be, that may be her mistake, and the last thing I wish to do is raise Juliette’s animosity to her any more than it already is.”
“I’m sorry – what would Juliette be angry with her?”
“She robbed Sandy Richmond the night before last,” Dominique said with a smile. Susan looked at both of them, and shook her head. “Whoever she is, I wonder if she realises what she has done?”
“I suspect she will find out some day – unless we find a way to bring her under our wing and rectify the situation. Now, to other matters – Clint will arrive tomorrow, and then we must to work.”