Anna and the Prince of Siam









Wednesday 4th March

9.30 am

Xavier Holdings, New York


“All right – let’s review what we know,” Susan said as she sat in the conference room, joined by Dominique, Charlotte and Heather.


“We’ve just about got the IT system stabilized,” Charlotte said, “no thanks to the repeated hacking attempts.  I’d love to put a completely secure firewall up, but to do that would tip the wink we’ve got something to hide.”


“In the meantime,” Susan said, “two more shipments have been hijacked in Russia – which suggests they want our shipping details for that purpose.  The question is, who are they?  Heather?”


“No idea yet – whoever is doing it is using a network of home computers to coordinate the attack, which makes tracing them difficult.”


“I note you say difficult, not impossible.”


“Well spotted – I’ve got a Trojan horse waiting for when they next try to read your shipping schedule.  With luck, it’ll travel back down the wire to the source, and I’ll get a warning.  I’ve got my suspicions however.”


“And they are?”


“This method is favoured by former Soviet groups.  I think it’s one of them.”


“Have we upset any of the Russian families recently?”


“Not that I am aware of,” Susan said as she looked at Dominique, “but we were in a recent tight battle over the security for the Prince of Siam show.”


“It was a close run thing between us and Complete Confidence – we just lost out.”  Dom sat back for a moment and said “So close, I did wonder if they had some additional information.  At any rate, I have asked Heather and Jo to pay their offices a visit, once we’ve established where they really are – the Manhattan address was a sham.”


“Well, you’re going to love this then,” Heather said, “they’re part of a larger corporation, and if we want to find the real HQ, we’re going to have to pay that visit we discussed with Jo last night.”


“Oh – where to?”


“Brighton Beach Boulevard.”


“Little Odessa?  Don’t tell me both problems are connected?”


“I honestly have no idea, Dom – and I won’t know for certain until then, because nothing is on the web.  It must all be paper based.”


“You have to love the old ways,” Susan said.  “I need to get to my place and accompany Kylie to the airport.  Dom, Madame says she will see you on Friday afternoon at the new offices.”


“Understood – and good luck everyone.”


Friday 6th March

3 pm GMT



Landing at London at lunchtime was not Dom’s idea of how to start a working day, but she preferred to hit the ground running, and like it or not the Redeye from New York was the way to do it.  It meant flying at midnight, but at least you could land, get a shower and change, and arrive for a 3 o’clock meeting in plenty of time.


She looked out of the taxi that had collected her from her hotel in Knightsbridge, and was now making its way down through Piccadilly, past Fortnum and Mason and the chapel.  For a moment, she remembered her teenage years, when she had visited some of these streets in the small hours of the morning, and not necessarily for the best of purposes,   Now as she looked at the crowds walking past on the cool March afternoon, it was a pleasure to be home again.


She’d called Ama to tell her she had arrived safely, and talked about what she would do at Pepsi’s that night.  She hoped Annie and Jo would be all right – this was looking like a more difficult task then she had at first thought.


“Business trip luv,” the cabbie said as he made his way round Piccadilly Circus and onto Regent Street, heading to the river.


“Unfortunately yes – I rarely get to spend time back here,” she said with a smile.


“Here – I’ve seen you in some magazine haven’t I?  You a model or something?”


“Something most of the time, a model part of the time,” Caroline said with a smile.


“Yea – I knew I recognized you from somefin.”


He then went on to describe his last time with a reality star in his car, Dom looking out at Nelson’s column, turning to drive along the Strand and then round Aldwych.


“’Ere we go,” the cabbie said as he stopped around a corner, “this is where you want to be.”


“Thanks,” Dom said as he paid the driver, and got out, clutching her Gucci bag as she looked at the building. 


Not for Madame renting several floors in a steel and glass tower, the new headquarters was an 18th  century brick and stone building, one of the few in the city of London to have escaped both Nazi bombs and the successive waves of rebuilding that had so much changed the skyline even within Dom's own lifetime.  It was recently sandblasted, and on the outside wall by the glass doors was “Xavier International” in large gold letters.

The building gave just the impression the organization now needed to reflect, solid, prosperous, and a little conservative. Yes, as she entered the doors and looked round the reception area, Dominique approved totally.  The leather armchairs round small tables, a coffee machine with fresh coffee, and the long desk with a young blonde, wearing a jacket and blouse, manning the phones.

"Hi I'm Caroline Jameson from New York,” she said as she walked up to and smiled at the girl on the reception desk, noting the discrete security and surveillance items she had recommended have been installed. "I have an appointment with Shirley Xavier."

"Oh Yes,” the girl glanced at her screen. “I'll notify the top floor and someone will be down to fetch you, would you mind taking a seat please."


“Of course,” Dominique said as she sat down, adjusting the skirt of her grey woolen dress as she did so.

Two minutes later she heard a familiar voice.  "Caroline, how lovely to see you again."

"And it's lovely to see you Penny." she said as she kissed her friend’s cheek.  Penny was wearing a blue silk blouse over a grey jumper, with a matching grey skirt and pumps.


“If you will follow me, I’ll take you up to Shirley,” she said as she walked her to the lift, waiting for the doors to close before she said “What do you think?”


“I like it – the old place?”


“Our – less legitimate teams work from there now, and Madame still lives there.  We’re going to go there tomorrow before you fly on for equipment,”


“Well, Lily chose well,” she said, “how many floors?”


“Six – top floor is executive suite, other floors handle different areas.  First and second floor insurance, third is communal area, fourth shipping and fifth special projects, and – here is where we live.”


The lift doors opened on a tastefully furnished lobby, with meeting rooms to one side and named doors on the other.  Penny walked with Dom to a door marked “Shirley Xavier, CEO” and waited as she knocked.


“Come,” a familiar deep voice called out, and as Penny opened the door Dom walked into a large office, with a large desk by the window.


“Dominique,” Shirley said as she walked over and greeted her, “pleasant flight?”


“Not too bad – how are things here?”


“They have been better, but we make progress.  Susan has a meeting today with Janice and Phil Majewsky from the FBI Technical Department, but Heather reported while you were in transit that her Trojan horse has been picked up.”


“The next shipment?”


“Leaves St Petersburg on Sunday – I want you to travel with it.”


“We can discuss details at the briefing,” Penny said as she picked up the phone.  “Coffee for three please, Angela.”


“So who gets offices on the top floor,” Dominique said as the door opened and a young woman carried in a tray with three coffees.


“Thank you, Angela,” Penny said as the girl laid the tray on a coffee table between two leather couches, and left the room.  “Apart from myself and Shirley, Lily has an office up here, and Charlotte as well.  A small group of secretaries – and we have one of two guest offices here for when you visit.”


“Very nice,” Dom said as she sipped her coffee.  “So, what else do I need to catch up on…?”


"While you are taking care of business in St Petersburg, Dominique, I felt it prudent to send someone from the London office to assist Susan and the others in dealing with the local issues there."


Dominique sat back, her fingers under her chin as she said "Illyana?"


"Indeed - she is I think the best placed person to assist."


Dominique smiled, Illyana Teresa Kirkova was their Russian interpreter, and came from a family steeped in the Communist history of that land.  Unlike may others, however, with the fall of the wall her father had not turned to the criminal world, but instead worked alongside those who promoted Perestroika.   When he paid the price, his wife fled to London with Illyana, and joined the émigré community here.  Madame had approached her when she graduated in Business and Russian studies, and she had proved invaluable before.


“So when is she due to land in New York?”


Penny glanced at her watch, and said “Right about now…”



10.30 am EST

Xavier Holdings Offices, New York.


The tall, blonde haired woman walked into the front lobby, wearing a long silver fur coat over her camel coloured cashmere sweater and trousers, the legs of which were tucked into a pair of lace up tan leather boots.


“Good morning Madame,” the receptionist said as she looked at the new arrival, “How may I help you?”


“Madame Illyana Kirkova from the London office to see Mrs. Susan Walker.”


“One moment please,” the young girl said as she picked up a phone.  “Mrs. Walker?  A Madame Kirkova from the London office to see you?”


She looked up and nodded before saying “Please take a seat, Mrs. Walker will be down shortly.”


“Thank you,” she said as she sat in a chair, standing again as Susan came out of the lift.


“Illyana, welcome to New York – Penelope called to say you would be dropping by.  Please, come through.”


As they walked through, the Russian looked round, nodding as she said “you have done well, Susan – and you look wonderful as well.”


“I feel like my spine is being kicked out – come into my office,” she said, before calling out “Find Charlotte and ask her to come to my office, will you, and then fetch some coffee.”


“Black, and strong,” Illyana said as she removed her coat, and sat down.  “So, I understand you may have a Russian Mafia problem?”


“It looks that way – we’ll know for certain later tonight when some friends pay a little visit to Brighton Beach.”


“Ah – I have heard of it, but never visited.  I may do so during my visit.”


She watched as the door opened and an assistant brought the coffee in, leaving it on the table before departing.  As she did so, Charlotte came in.


“Hi Illyana – come to advise us?”


“I will do what I can – tell me what you know so far.”



4 pm GMT


“Good afternoon, Lily,” Dom said as the three women walked into the conference room.


“Hi Dom – I think you know everyone here?”


“Indeed,” she said as she nodded at the other attendees.


Shirley sat with her fingers under her chin, before saying “You may begin, Lily.”



"Heather has confirmed, after Jan and Susan briefed her on a discussion with Phil Majewsky of the FBI Computer Lab, that we are one of a number of corporations targeted in a similar manner.  The most likely suspect for the creator of this method of attack is known as Surok?”


“Isn’t that a Russian word,” Penny said quietly.


“Indeed – Heather recognized the name.  He claims to have been inspired by the Hidden Hand, but has known ties to a Russian family – the Boronov family.”


“I have heard of them,” Dominique said quietly, “not the nicest of people.”


“As far as I can tell the Russians have cast an envious glance our way covetous of our high end business, both legal and illegal, in the shipment and protection of high value cargos, and possessions." Lily said as she looked round the table.

"Our most profitable corporate activities in other words." Penny nodded.

"An area where we have been the world leaders for several years." Shirley said as she wiped her glasses.  “I suspect they think we have got soft – we must teach them a lesson.”


"My first thoughts were that there is enough business to go round, until I read more on these people. They accept no competition, you can't make an agreement with them as to market share, they are greedy bastards and try to take everything." Dominique spoke her thoughts.


“Indeed – and they have made their intentions perfectly clear.  Dom, I need you to teach them a lesson – starting with the shipment on Sunday.”


“I’m going to need a small team – experts, who speak Russian and know the area.”


"Well recruitment is you area Jayne." All eyes focused on the Director of Personnel, a medium height girl in her mid thirties with short brown hair.

"I'll go through the files and see if we have any Russian speakers, but beyond the chance I've missed someone, our best hope is to find former Russian Security women, not already working for the other side who can be tempted into joining us.

"Why not train up Russian girls from scratch Jayne?"

"Too time consuming Lily, we need girls who can work in Russia and Russian communities round the world like yesterday. If they are ex military, police, or security, we can at least skip weapons training, etc." Dominique nodded.


“There is one possibility,” Jayne said, “I have heard that Natalya Kosolov is back in the UK at the moment?”


“Kosolov?  I thought she had a run-in with some mutual friends a year or so ago?”


“She did,” Shirley said, “but her father died a month or so ago.”


“I heard – heart attack?”


“Ricin poisoning,” Jayne said.  “I could arrange a meeting later tonight – tell her we offer the chance for revenge on her father’s killers, see if she takes the bait.”


“Do it,” Madame said as she looked at her phone.  “Jayne, could you place the call from your office?  I need to bring in the American associates at this time.”


“Of course, Madame,” Jayne said as she stood up, and left the room, while Shirley logged into the secure area on her laptop.


“Good afternoon Juliette,” she sad as Juliette Huntingdown appeared on the screen.


“Good afternoon Shirley – I see Dom arrived safely.”


“I did Ju – what can we do for you?”


“Heather says to tell you she has confirmed the attack is based on a virus created by Surok.  The Trojan Horse has traced back to an address in Brighton Beach – Jo and Annie will visit tonight.”


“Good,” Dom said, “What else?”


“I understand you’re going to St Petersburg – want some experienced backup?”


“You know of someone?”


"Her name is Helen York, and to be honest I'd forgotten about her till we were thinking about Russian speakers."Juliette paused. "She works for Flashing Blades."

"The Hong Kong Assassin group?" asked Shirley.

"The same." Juliette smiled. “Huntingdown’s used her once to, shall we say, discipline some thugs were trying to extort tribute from us."

"She sounds perfect except York doesn't exactly sound Russian?" Dominique remarked.

"Her Mother was Elena Sharamatova."

"The prima ballerina who tried to defect with her daughter back in 88...okay now I get it."

"Helen still speaks Russian with a St Petersburg accent, she's a trained killer, and her loyalties are to people we know and trust."

"Juliette can you get her on a plane to..."

"She should be there in a few minutes. Catherine called her off a job in North Africa when I asked and she hopped a plane."

"I'll tell security to expect her." Lily made a call.  “George?  Inform the front desk a Helen York will be arriving shortly to visit Miss Xavier.  Have them call the conference room when they have verified ID.”




“I was not going to see him out of a job as a result of the relocation – he now heads our security team,” Shirley said.  “He’s hoping you’ll drop by and say Hi.”


“Right – Heather says she’ll contact Dom tomorrow before she heads for Russia.  She’s also sent you some information on Boronov.”


“My thanks Juliette – enjoy the weekend.”


Dominique sat back and said “So my task is to ensure the shipment makes it safely to the plane on Sunday – and after that?”


"Heather has pinpointed that a shipment of stolen paintings from Western Europe arrives in St Petersburg on Thursday," Madame smiled, "Wouldn't it be nice they got returned to their rightful owners Dominique?"

"Sounds fair to me."

"Do you think you can get a team in place in time?"

"With the girls we've mentioned I think so."

"You need a quartermaster/communications officer?" Penny leaned back and closed her eyes. "Someone who knows the local state of affairs, where to obtain things, where to deploy the team, etc."

"Do we know anyone?" Madame asked.

"The Weasel."

"That BASTARD!" Dominique's eyes blazed, “for all we know he's working for the opposition anyway."

"He's not," Penny opened her eyes, “I agree I trust him as far as I can throw him. But do we have another choice?"


“Probably not,” Dom sighed.  “Arrange for me to meet him tomorrow.”


"We can arrange a cover story for you quite easily." Penny smiled. "One welcome aspect of your modeling fame is that you jetting into town people assume it's for a shoot. Caroline Jameson attracts paparazzi not police."

"True.  So what about the rest of my team?"

"I'm sure Juliette can arrange credentials for Helen from Huntingdown's that she's there handling wardrobe, etc.”


"I'm ahead of you Madame. I'll get Catherine to get us outfits for a shoot, asap."

"Natalya can I think make a credible press assistant," Caroline nodded, "I'll phone Ju and get her to book a photographer...who knows we might actually get some pics for Huntingdown's to use in its marketing.”


The telephone rang, and Penny picked it up, before saying “she’s arrived.”


“Go and bring her to my office.  Lily, check with Jayne and let me know the outcome.  Dom, come with me please.”


Shirley and Dom walked back to the office, joined a few minutes later by Penny, who had with her a small, wiry looking women with short dark hair, dressed in a black tunic and leggings.


“Madame, may I present Helen York,” Penny said, Helen bowing as she stood in front of her.


“It is an honour to meet you Madame,” she said without raising her head.  “Mistress Lu sends her greetings, and has instructed me to serve you as best my small abilities can.”


“The honour is mine,” Madame said, “may I present my assistant, Penelope, who brought you to me, and my chief of security, Dominique.”


“A pleasure,” Helen said as she looked briefly at them, and then resumed her stance.  “Mistress Lu speaks highly of both of you.”


“Helen,” Dom said, “we have a situation in St Petersburg that requires my intervention, and we have need of your skills.  Will you assist us?”


“I am here to assist.”


"Helen,” Madame said, “I understand you have an equal background in dance and martial arts?"

"I do Madame."

"I've heard you combine both skills in a uniquely deadly fashion."

"So I have been told Madame." Helen kept her eyes down in the classic Chinese show of respect.


“Then we ask you to use these skills to aid our cause, and those who Madame Lu serves as well.”


“I will be honoured to do so.”


“Excellent – I will have a room arranged for you for tonight, and I ask you to be here at 1000 hours tomorrow to go to St Petersburg.  In the meantime, someone will come and take you for some refreshment.”


The door opened and Lily entered with an assistant.  “Please, go with my friend here,” she said as Helen bowed again and walked backwards from the room.


“Jayne says Kosolov is willing to help, and will call tomorrow at 8.”


“Excellent – well, I think we have nothing further to discuss until then.”


"Do you have plans for tonight Dominique?" Lily asked.

"Well in the old days I'd have gone home," She smiled, "But seeing I have a tenant, I’m driving down to my Grandfathers and spending some quality time with him."

"That sounds nice Dominique." Madame said as she collected her coat.

"And you guys are doing what?"

"John and I have a couple of houses to look at."

"Oh I meant to ask how house hunting was going."

"Not as easy as it was in New York..."

"And you Penny?" Dominique nodded.

"Going to battle the Friday night traffic down to my little country retreat, tonight I have in mind a very good bottle of wine, a quiet supper, and 'Slasher Dominatrix 6' on dvd."

"Sounds Fun." Dominique laughed out loud.


“Until tomorrow ladies – the place is closed.”


9 pm EST

Little Odessa, Brooklyn


“Interesting place,” Susan said as she, Illyana, Heather and Jo walked down Brighton Brach Boulevard.  All four were wearing long fur coats and matching hats, as they looked round the stores and shop fronts.


“I’m glad we decided to walk,” Jo said as she looked round, “Somehow trying to drive round here to do a recon would not be right.”


“Indeed,” Illyana said, “the only way to truly find what you wish to locate is to go at street level.  Now, my dear Heather, what was the address you said the electronic trial led to?”


“Here,” Heather said as they stopped opposite a bar, the Russian script over the door, and ordered some pastries from the roadside booth.


“Typical set up – I suspect if we went in, the bar would be friendly enough, but head up the rear stairs, and you would not only find a very sophisticated set up, but also three or four armed guards.”


“And it is a little too busy to discuss security measures with them,” Janice said as she looked round through her dark glasses.


“Well, we postpone visiting here for tonight – but I left a little present for them in that Trojan horse.  Now, we need to pay the visit to the other address.”


They nodded as they walked a little way further down the road, and then walked into a Russian bookstore.


“Good evening, honoured mother,” Illyana said to the woman standing by the front desk, “may I ask an indulgence of you?”


“Of course – what is that?”


“To very slowly,” she said as she drew a gun from her coat and pointed it at her, “lie face down on the floor and place your wrists behind your back.”


As Illyana walked behind the counter, Jo closed and locked the front door, while Janice and Heather walked through to the back of the store, and up the stairs.  Opening the door, Heather pointed her gun at the young man sitting in the office, and said “Move an inch and you die.”


“No,” he said as he moved – and then slumped in the seat, the silenced shot through his head killing him instantly.  Janice went to the filing cabinets and quickly worked through them, eventually taking a file and removing it and several others before she pushed them into her large bag.


“Let’s go,” she said as the two women walked back down, joining Jo and Illyana as the Russian smoothed a length of tape over the store clerk’s mouth.


“When they ask, tell them they have woken the sleeping bear,” Illyana said as they walked out.


“Care to explain that term?”


“A traditional Family warning – let them think it is a warning of another family for now.”




Saturday 7th March

8 am GMT



Dominique looked up as the door to the meeting room opened and a tall, dark haired girl walked in, dressed in a black leather jacket over a white jumper, jeans and black quilted effect leather boots.


“Dominique,” Madame said as she followed her in, “May I introduce you to Natalya Kosolov.  Natalya, this is Dominique, aka Caroline Jameson, and the team leader for this mission.”


“An honour,” Natalya said as they shook hands.  “I have heard of you and know your reputation.”


“And I you,” Dominique said as the door opened again and Helen walked in – but unlike the woman last night, she reminded Dom of Janine, in her fashionable clothes and ankle boots.


“Sorry I’m late,” she said in a Californian drawl, “but I had the most Wonderful night out.”


“Quite a different look,” Dominique said, laughing at how well Helen had transformed herself into the stereotypical 'valley girl' complete with the accent.

"The great dancer my mother always said must of needs be also be a great actress." Helen smiled shyly, "Thus to appear inconspicuous I must appear to be what people expect me to be"

"Do you have the documents created for you by the Hidden Hand?"

"I do,” Natalya said, “Madame X gave them to me at our meeting."

"Both of you need to remember your covers, to the Russians we must be just another model going in to be photographed against the glories of St Petersburg, and her associates."


“The trunks are waiting for you at the Four Seasons, and your flight leaves in ninety minutes – check in on your arrival, and good luck.  The car is waiting downstairs.”


“Let’s go,” Dom said, “we can talk on the plane.”



4.30 pm Local Time

St Petersburg.


Caroline looked out of the car window as they approached the classical architecture of the hotel.


“I don’t like this,” Natalya said as she saw the crowd of photographers at the entrance, “it is not secure.”


“I think we need to do this once, and then find out about alternative ways in and out – take a deep breath, and just follow my lead as we walk out.”


The driver pulled up outside the main entrance, and got out, opening the door as Natalya got out and walked round, watching the photographers as Caroline and Helen got out.  Caroline smiled and waved as she walked up the stairs, followed by Helen and Natalya, while the driver collected their bags.


As she walked in, she was greeted by a large gentleman in a dark suit, blue shirt and white tie.


"Welcome to our hotel," the concierge said as he greeted them personally, "Can I say what a pleasure it is for us to host you Miss Jameson on this visit to our city?”

Caroline took off her sunglasses and smiled.

"Can I introduce my two associates, Helen here is from the designers, can I beg your full co-operation with her in moving the trunks?"

"Of course.”

"Natalya is here to handle the press, publicity, security, etc....again can I ask for full co-operation with her needs?"

"We've already set up the computers and other equipment in her suite for her."

"Thank you....Now did Dimitri Amkov phone?"

"Yes he says how about you and he have dinner tonight to discus the photo-shoot."

"Tell him I'll meet him here at 7.30 please." Catherine put her glasses back on, "Any other messages?"


“Not at this time, but if anyone arrives we will of course call your suite immediately.”


“Excellent – my friend Jeannie Brewster said you were most accommodating to her, and I can see she was right in what she said.


"Oh and one last thing sir, you saw the crowds of photographers outside, is there a more private exit we can use so that we can actually slip out unnoticed and see this lovely city."

"There is a secret entrance for very Important Guests Miss Jameson, I will get hotel security to show it to you and give you a pass key."

"I'm sorry for putting you to such trouble."

"For someone as famous as yourself it is no trouble I assure you."


“Excellent – well, if you can show us to our rooms, starting with mine?”


“This way,” he said as he led them to the lifts, the porter collecting their bags into a trolley.


“I trust this will meet your needs,” the concierge said as he showed Caroline into the large suite, standing back as she looked out over the river and smiled.


“This is most acceptable thank you.  My staff?”


“They have rooms opposite you,” he said as he took Natalya and Helen out for a moment, both of them returning and nodding as he said “If there is nothing else?”


“No – Thank you for everything,” Caroline said as she paid the concierge a tip, and then showed him out, turning and looking at the other two.


Nodding, she watched as Helen took out a small tablet and started to move round.


"Well?" Caroline whispered as Helen swept the room.

Helen paused and held up four fingers.

From her bag Caroline removed what looked like an ordinary camera, she turned on a switch, relaxed, and then spoke.

"Never leave home without a good bug suppressor....Sweep yours and Natalya's rooms as well Helen.”


“Let’s do it now,” Helen said as she collected two more cameras, and left Caroline to unpack.


When they returned a few minutes later, Natalya said “It is good to visit here again, I came a few times with my father.”


“I was sorry to hear of his passing, but hopefully this will provide some closure.”


“If it is the Boronov clan responsible, it will help,” Natalya said.  “So what is our plan?”


“We have two confirmed tasks – tomorrow, we need to accompany a shipment and send a message to those who have been – inconveniencing Madame.  For three days after that we do the shoot, and then Thursday we have a small shipment of stolen art to liberate.  At the same time, some associates of ours in the United States will strike there.  Hopefully, by then they will have seen sense.”


“And if they do not?”


“I am empowered to take all appropriate measures, including sanction.”


Helen and Natalya nodded, understanding the implications.


“We will need equipment, transport, local knowledge.”


“Agreed – and that should be arriving soon.  Excuse me, I need to…”


“Of course,” Helen said as Caroline went to the bathroom. 


“An unusual team, no?”


“I agree,” Helen said as she looked at Natalya, “but Dominique is known internationally, as are you.  My own humble skills are…”


The knock in the door made both Helen and Natalya look at each other.  Helen took up position behind the door, a knife ready as Natalya said "yes?"

"Room service."

She opened the door, standing to the side as a thin, dark haired man pushed a trolley in.  Helen closed the door and grabbed him, the knife against his throat.

"Who are you?"

He looked at Natalya and said "you have spirit.  I like it - can I buy you a drink?"

"Down Weasel, they are way above your class."

"My dear Dominique, how long has it been?"

"Budapest and I haven't forgotten.  Sit down and let's talk."


As he sat down, Helen raised the dome from the plates on the trolley.  “Caviar, blintz, and vodka – very thoughtful.”


“A small welcoming gift – please, tell them I mean no harm?”


“Helen, Natalya, meet Viktor Kornyak, aka The Weasel.  He is the local contact I said would call.”


“I do not find him amusing,” Helen said quietly.


“While I find you most attractive…”


“Oh be quiet, Weasel – you can help us?”


“That depends - what brings you to our Venice of the North Dominique?"

“Helen, pour four drinks,” Dominique said as she sat down, Helen pouring the vodka and handing the glasses round.  “Cheers.”


She drained her glass, and then sat back.  "Madame has been losing cargoes being shipped westwards, and she's not best pleased. I'm here to teach whoever has been responsible the error of their ways."

"Just the three of you." The weasel snorted.  “I think Madame has perhaps lost her senses – I expected you to be sent, Dominique, but only two others?”


Dominique sat forward.  "Did you ever hear of the woman they call Wúshēng de Sǐwáng Weasel?"


"The Silent Death, yeah who hasn't heard of her, works for The Triads."


"Well her name is really Helen." Dominique smiled


"You mean she's...?


"Precisely."  The Weasel turned and looked at Helen, who smiled as she spun the knife in her fingers.


"Fuck!" the English word escaped his lips.


"My other friend is Natalya Kosolova, you just might have also heard of her."


The Weasel nodded.  “Your father was a great man – he is much missed.”


Natalya nodded as Dominique smiled.  "Still think we are undermanned?"


“My dear Dominique, you as always surprise me.  I wish we could work together more often.”


The three women looked at each other as Natalya shook her head.


“So apart from what has already been communicated, what else do you need?”


"Did you get both the Cobra Magnums, and the shotguns Weasel?" Dominique asked suspiciously.

"I'll have them for you in the morning."

Dominique briefly reflected how dealing with The Fish had spoiled her for other less meticulous merchants.


“Let me put it this way, Weasel – you will have the items here tonight, or I let Helen use you as a warm up for the main event.  I am sure she could find all sorts of interesting ways to amuse herself before she kills you.”


The Weasel looked at Helen, before saying “I will have them here by midnight.  What else?”


“We will require a car for tomorrow night – but first the weapons.”


“Then I must be about my business,” he said as he stood up.  “I will bring them later.”


“Leave the food and drink – that was most thoughtful,” Natalya said as she opened the door, watching as he left and then closing it again.  They looked at each other, and then burst out laughing as Helen sat down.


“Oh that felt good,” she said with a smile.  “You are an impressive woman, Mistress Dominique.”


“Please – it’s Dom in Private, Caroline in public.  Cathy won’t mind if you relax a little.”


“I notice you have not asked for a gun, Helen?”


“I do not need one,” Helen said as she stood up, “Come with me.”


Natalya and Dominique followed her to her room, as she walked up to a trunk in the middle of the room.


"This trunk appears completely innocent, an old but attractive piece. Look what happens though when I pry off some of these decorative details." She pulled away one of the inlaid stars.

"Your very own Shuriken." Caroline looked impressed as Helen removed the throwing stars.


“I find them most useful,” Helen said as she laid them on the bed, and opened up the trunk.


"I remove this carefully,” she pulled at a length of wood, easing it free, “and I have a bow. The wood lengths of the traditional Chinese hangers are my arrows, the feather ornamentation on one of the gowns my flights."

"Your bowstring? asked Dominique.

Helen pulled at something on her bracelet and pulled out a length that let her string her bow.

"Impressive." Natalya smiled.


“These, my knives and my hands are all I need,” Helen said as she smiled.


“Good – we can discuss our plans for tomorrow after dinner.  Take time now to unpack and change.”




10 am EST,

The Richmond Mansion


“Good morning,” Sandy said as Jo came in.  “Late night?”


“I was sitting up with Annie until late – Where’s Heather?”


“At Susan’s place with Janice.  It seems she was right about who was behind this – and it also seems they outbid Susan for security at that gem exhibition.”


“Curiouser and curiouser,” Sandy said.  “So what’s next?”


“We visit a bar tonight, and deal with this computer geek first.  Can you round up some Sinners to go slumming in Brighton Beach tonight Sandy?"

"Probably, can I ask why?"

"Because with a large party down there it might just make our activities a little less noticeable.”


Sandy nodded.  “So tell Ally and Nell they can let their hair down."

"That's the sort of thing I had in mind." Jo smiled.

"And if some kind of fight might break out over a girl, and attract even more attention?"

"That might be even more of their sort of thing."

"So who is in your crew?"

"Me and Annie inside, Janice driving, Doc up on the subway station as our eye in the sky."


“All right – let me make some calls, make sure everything is in place.”


4 pm GMT



“As you can see, Mister Hammond, there is a stunning view over the Thames, and you have your own private terrace.”


“Very nice,” John said as he looked out, “what do you think Shirley?”




Shirley looked over from the fireplace and smiled, saying “sorry” as she came over and looked out over the river.


“You all right?  You look like someone with a problem on her mind?”


“Oh it’s nothing, just a staff issue,” Shirley said with a smile.  “What is the flood risk?”


“Minimal – the flood wall there has not been breached even during the heavy rains over the last few years.”


“Impressive,” Shirley said with a smile.  “Tell me something of the local amenities.”


“King’s Road not too far away, as is Fulham Broadway.”


“What about match days?”


“Match – oh, the football team,” Shirley said with a smile.


“The road is gated access for residents only, and the police keep the fans away from here.”


“So what do you think,” John said as he put his arm round Shirley’s waist.


“It has possibilities, may we see the rest of the rooms?”





7.30 pm local time

The Four Seasons Hotel



""Miss Jameson." The bald headed man stood up and kissed her hand as she approached the table.

"Good evening Mister Amkov, this is Helen, who's our wardrobe mistress and here to make sure we make Huntingdown's look good, and this is Natalya, who's press, public relations..."

"General dogsbody." Natalya laughed.

"Girls,” he said with a smile, “my name is Dimitri and it's a pleasure to meet you...  Can I ask though, why the last minute booking?"

"We were going to Turkey, but well you know how things have blown up in Istanbul."

"I do." Dimitri nodded, “well their loss is my gain." He signaled a waiter." "What drinks ladies?"

"Well when in St Petersburg," Dom looked at the other two, "Vodka for each of us."


Dimitri signaled to the waiter, and said “Vodka, four glasses.”


As he nodded and headed to the bar, Dimitri said “so, the purpose of the shoot?”


"It's the new range of hats, boots, gloves, bags that are the main focus Dimitri." Helen had clearly read her brief. "The coats, and dresses are to harmonize with the accessories..."

"But it's the range of accessories that we can manufacture now in our Chinese workshops with the highest possible quality that we are showcasing." Natalya finished.

"And I'm just supposed to look good while you make them look even better." Caroline laughed.

"We photographers and models do as we told,” the old gentleman smiled, "they do the telling."


"Maybe but like who gets paid the big bucks here? Not Natalya and me."

"True." Caroline laughed.  “You are beginning to sound like Mary.”


“Ah, the inestimable Ms Thomas – I have not seen her for some years, but she always was kind and welcoming.”


“She still is.  So, Dimitri, how difficult will it be to sort permits and other matters?”


“I see no difficulty – I will liaise with Natalya and the authorities, but I regret to say it will be Monday before we can begin.”


“Excellent – that gives us tomorrow to plan locations and which outfits and accessories to take.”  Caroline raised her glass and said “to a most productive shoot.”


1 pm EST

Inn on the park


"Illyana is one of those girls who reminds you that the original Rus were Viking conquerors." Susan shared the info with Diana as they ate lunch. "I think the word to describe her is striking rather then beautiful as such, she dresses with a style that rivals even you."

"I look forward to meeting her." Diana looked up from her Steak Tartare.


“Then the opportunity has arisen – a pleasure, Countess de Ros.”


Diana looked to her side and stood to welcome the tall blonde, dressed in a grey dress coat and knee length boots.


“I see what you mean,” Diana said coolly, “welcome to New York Illyana.”


“May I have the tuna nicoise and a vodka martini,” Illyana said as she sat.


“So what did you and Susan learn from the files retrieved last night,” Diana said quietly.


“We do have a problem with the Boronov family,” Susan said, “but our first job must be to disable their hacking network and get Surok – Jo and Annie are on that tonight.”


“I intend to talk with all of you tomorrow, to brief you on what the next step will be – at that time, Dominique and her team will be defending the next fur shipment.”


“We would like you to come with us tonight, Illyana,” Diana said, “to provide expert advice on possible issues.”


“Of course – I presume we dress for a night out?”


“We do – and thank you.”



2 pm

The Village


“Hello Anna,” Ama said as she opened the door, “go on up, Annie is expecting you.”


“Thanks,” Doc said as Ama headed to Pepsi’s place, and she went up, finding Jo and Janice there as well.


“Hey,” Jo said as she took her coat off, “thanks for volunteering to help with this.”


“I guess it’s part of the training – whatever this is,” Doc said as he sat down, “so what is it?”


“We’re going to take a trip down to Brighton Beach,” Annie said.  “Some friends of ours have been having some trouble with hackers, and we’re going to see what we can do to stop it.”


“And at the same time,” Jo said, “Confirm a few suspicions.  Janice will drive, Annie and I will go in.”


“Some friends of ours will be in the bar having some fun, but they won’t recognize us,” Annie said.


“Why not?”


“Trust us,” Janice said.


"Your role in all this is simple but crucial Doc." Jo looked at the youngster. "You find a place up on the station where you can see everything and you keep us informed."

"Just try not to attract too much attention." Annie smiled.

"Your escape route should things go south is on the train, you take the subway straight into the city and make your way home, do not come down to street level, do not try and intervene, just leave and get home safely."

"As Jo says, no stupid bravery, no rescue attempts, things go wrong you leave Anna....Understand?"

"I understand, I don't like it, but I understand."

"All goes well, you take the subway back and we meet at my place." Annie tried to smile reassuringly.


“So how will I know it is you?”


“How much do you know of the area?”


“I know it’s called Little Odessa, and large Russian contingent.”


“Well, we’ll give you a lift to a nearby subway station, and you can go on from there.”  Janice looked at the teenager, in her sweatshirt and jeans, and said “I’ll loan you a padded jerkin, and hat, and you’ll blend in just fine.”


“Okay,” Anna said, “so when do we go?”


“Not for some time,” Jo said, “but I need you to come with me and then Janice will pick you and me up.  It’s time you met our Tech expert.”


“I’ll swing by to pick you up later,” Janice said as the two young girls headed out.


“So who is your mysterious tech expert?  The same person who wiped my files?”


“Yup,” Jo said as they set off, “you may have heard of them.  They are commonly known as the Hidden Hand.”


Doc slowly turned and looked at Jo as they drove down the road.  “The Hidden Hand?  THE Hidden Hand?  The person who revealed…”


“The very same – we work with the very best,” Jo said as they headed uptown.


“No wonder I couldn’t trace who did it – I don’t know whether to be honoured or scared shitless?”


“A little of both helps,” Jo said as she made her way to her home.  Pulling up outside, she said “come on in – they’re going to call us here.”


“I probably should not ask,” Doc said as they walked up the stairs, “but who else is going to be in that bar tonight.”


“Friends,” Jo said as she let Doc in.  “Hey Sandy – so who’s up for your night out tonight?”


“Kelly’s bringing the girls, Diana is in, and Tonia and Clare as well.”


“Well, I hope you have a great night.” Jo said, “I’m taking Doc in to have some coffee.”


“Have fun, I need to get a car sorted,” Sandy said as she went to her office, as Jo took Doc into the kitchen.


“You know,” Doc said as she sat at the breakfast bar, “I still can’t believe that you hide so openly.”


“Well, always remember the golden rule, say nothing in public,” Jo said as she poured two coffees, and handed one over.  “Now, about…”


Anna nearly jumped as her cell phone went off, and she looked at it.  “What does Nikki want,” she said as she answered the call and said “yes?”


“Good afternoon, Miss Carlton.  It is such a pleasure to finally talk to you.”


The voice was deep, and Doc could almost hear the purr as she said “who is this?”


“Surely my friend Joanne told you I would be contacting you today?”


“You,,, you’re the Hidden Hand?”


“That is right – my compliments on your protection on your computer systems, Miss Carlton.  I was very impressed, but as you doubtless know by now, I managed to get through.”


“Yeah – I’d love some tips from you to make it more secure, if that is possible.”


“Oh I would be happy to,” The Hand said,” “but I can offer you one piece of advice now, if you are interested?”


“Of course – what is it?”


“For tonight, you may wish to borrow the scarf on the breakfast bar beside you.”


Doc looked at the peach wool scarf beside her, and then at Jo, who said “Well, I did say they had something for you.”


“But…  But how did they…  How did she…”


“And that, Anna Carlton, is payback for the headache you gave me over the last few weeks.”


Doc spun round to see Heather in the door, a cell phone in her hand and a smile on her face.  “There now,” she purred as she ended the call, and removed a small disc from her throat, “another secret for you to keep.”


Anna stared at her, and then at Jo, as she said “Yeah, everyone has that reaction.”


“Now then,” Heather said as she walked over and poured herself a coffee, “let’s get you miked up for tonight.”


“I’d listen to her,” Jo said with a smile, “she knows what she’s talking about.”



8 pm

Little Odessa


"I've not been out here in years." Claire Morse looked round, “in my day this was a German Jewish neighborhood, I had several relatives lived here, now it's Russians"

"Which is why we are here, to try what I'm told is the best vodka in NYC and to eat their renowned Golubtsy and Shashlik." Sandy laughed.

"We really are turning into culinary adventurers you know." Kelly Rochermann looked out the windows.

"Well Manhattan doesn't have the monopoly on great food, and it's nice to try new experiences."

"You're right darling." Tonia looked out of the car, "And he I could sample in this back seat any time." She pointed to a man walking.

"Only after I've finished with him Aunt Tonia." Ally licked her lips.


"Are you sure this is the place?" John asked suspiciously as he pulled the limo to the curb.  He looked at the front of the bar, and the sign over the front.


“This is the place John,” Sandy said as she got out, her tight jeans hugging her legs as the others got out.


“What is the name of this place,” Diana asked Illyana.


“Literally, the dance and drink palace,” the Russian said as they walked into the bar, the locals looking round at the group of women.


“So this is the best bar in the area,” Nell said as she stood, her hips swaying as the side split in her leather skirt revealed her thigh.


Illyana walked up to the bar, and said “My friends wished to visit a good bar, and I recommended yours.  Will there be trouble?”


The barman shook his head as she said “Good – Vodka, the proper stuff, and nine glasses.  Food as well – I will let you choose.”


He nodded and put out nine shot glasses, as well as a bottle of Russian vodka on a tray, Illyana bringing it over as her red leather dress moved under the lights.


"I would love to know where Illyanna got that dress from." Kelly whispered in Diana's ear.

"London or Paris I presume."

"Probably..." Kelly sighed, "You say she works for Shirley?"


"I should have guessed that just by her clothes, Shirley's people always just dress so damn well."



8.30 pm



"You know that discovering Heather is the Hidden Hand is like finding out the secret identity of God." Anna shook her head, "I have idolised her for so long."


“You should see some of our friends around her,” Janice said as she pulled in.  “Right – you get out here.  The microphone under your scarf goes direct to our earpieces, and you’ll hear us as well.”


Doc nodded as she got out of the car.  “Remember, go to the station, stand and watch – if you see any trouble approaching, tell us and get out of there.”


She looked at the three women, in their furs and dark glasses, and nodded as Janice drove off, climbing to the platform.


“Well, here we go,” she said to herself as she put the token in the turnstile, and boarded the train.




9 pm


"The locals don't overly like us," Illyana whispered in Diana's ear, "References to uptown bitches, and far ruder coming out of some of these women's mouths.

"Well Nell and Ally seem to have captured 6 of their best young men on the dance floor."


“Indeed,” Kelly said as she watched the girls dancing with the young Russian men.

"Oooh I love a man with tattoos," Ally ran her hand up and down the man’s arms. "Do they mean anything?" she asked as she ground her body up against him."

"He has great tattoos." Nell licked her lips as she watched her twin dance with the other guy.

"Those aren't a real mans tattoos, look at these." The guy with Nell pulled off his shirt.


“Oh well then,” Nell said with a smile, “We have a contest on our hands…”


“Do you think we should step in,” Tonia said as she looked on the dance floor.


“No, they will be fine,” Sandy said, “they’re big girls and can take care of themselves.”


"What is the point of our being trendsetters and style leaders if we don't get off the beaten track occasionally?"

"That's logical Sandy." Illyanna smiled.

"Are we trend setters?" Rachel McNally mused.

"Well if we are it's a whole lot better than being Irish Setters." Tonia giggled.


The group burst out laughing as the doors to the bar opened, and three men in leather jackets walked in.  Illyana looked at them and said “ah.”




“Ah – we need another bottle of vodka.  Allow me,” she said as she walked over to the bar, the three men looking at the twins.




“This is the place,” Janice said as she pulled up.  “Pigeon, are you in position?”


“I can see you,” Doc said as she looked over the railing, before turning round and looking at her watch.


“Okay – how does everything look?”


“Busy, but nothing unusual.”


“Good – that’s what we want,” Annie said.  “Let’s give it a few minutes.”


Anna took a few deep breaths as she took up her position. This wasn't a training exercise, this was an actual operation and she had a role to play.

She looked down into the street below, trying to observe everything, to see anything that was obviously wrong or out of place. The traffic was light and she couldn't see anyone obviously doing the same as her and keeping watch.

"I'm glad I wrapped up warm." she told herself as she shivered slightly.

"Okay it all looks good from up here," she whispered into the mike tucked in her scarf.

"Copy that Pigeon."




“Hey, come dance with a real man.”


Ally looked at the leather jacketed man, and smiled as she said “I’ll dance with anyone who asks so nicely.”


“Good,” he said as they started dancing, the two girls not noticing the two women who walked in.  They were wearing floor length brown fur coats and large hats; Rayban’s covering their eyes and their hands in fur muffs.  As Kelly and Rachel glanced over to them, they saw the black leather boots under the hem of the coats, as they walked over to stand at the bar.


“Hey – we were dancing with them,” the first two men said as they walked over.


“Now boys,” Nell said, “there are plenty of us to go round.”


“Di, I think there may be trouble brewing,” Sandy said as she looked over.


“Let’s just see what happens,” she said as the two fur coated woman walked slowly to the far side of the bar, and as the room looked the other way slipped through a door.


They looked up the staircase and nodded to each other, before Jo said “We’re going in.”


“Keep your eyes peeled Pigeon,” Janice whispered as the youngster looked at her watch again, then stood and leaned against the rail, looking for her boyfriend.


Annie and Jo slowly walked up the stairs, reaching the top before a door opened and a swarthy man walked out.


“Hey,” he said, “what are you two ladies doing here?  This is a private area – you need to return to the bar.”


“Actually, we come with a message for Surok from Boronov.”


He looked at them, and said quietly “and the message is?”


“Die,” Jo said as she drew the sawn off shotgun from her muff and fired it into the stomach of the man, Annie walking past him as he crumpled to the floor and pointing it at the two other men in the room.


“Unless you want what he got,” she said as she raised the gun, “sit the fuck down and behave yourselves.”


There was a bank of computers at one end of the room, which Jo walked over to and pushed a USB stick into an open slot.  She then typed at the terminal, watching as the stick blinked.


“A little present for Surok,” Annie said as she looked at the two young men.  “Where is he?”




“Fuck this,” she said as she jammed the gun into his stomach, and then fired it, the second man literally pissing himself.  “Where is Surok?”


He pointed to a second door, Jo nodding as she walked over and kicked the door in.  There was a teenage boy sitting on a bed, staring at her as he said, “Who the fuck are you?”


“Are you Surok?”


“Yeah – why?”


“The Hidden Hand sends their compliments, and a warning.






The boy sprinted for the door, Jo barely managing to slip a small disk into his pocket before he sprinted down the stairs and out of the door.


“What…  What are you going to do to me?”


“Give Boronov this message – if he pulls a stunt like this again, the family will come looking for him, and he will be like your friends.”


He nodded as Annie said “Good night” and hit him on the head with her gun, his body falling limply to the floor.


“How come nobody came up,” Jo whispered as they walked down the stairs.  Their question was answered when they opened the door to see a fight raging between some young men, Ally and Nell standing at the far side with the others as they tried to stay out of the way.


“What the hell…” Doc said as a man came flying out of the bar window.


“Stay calm Pigeon,” Janice whispered as Annie and Jo walked out, and climbed into the car, Doc breathing a sigh of relief as she turned and got onto the train.




“Hearing you loud and clear Jo,” Susan replied, “we have the tracker signal, and a team closing in on him.  We’ll invite him for a little chat.”




“Heading back to the rendezvous.”


“Trouble,” Janice said as she looked in the rear view mirror.


“Nothing we could not handle.”




"Does this happen every time you ladies go out?" Illyana laughed.

"It's pretty like even money some guy is going to end up fighting over the girls." Kelly laughed.


“Although having one thrown through a window – that’s new even to us,” Ally said as Sandy looked at her cell phone.


“John’s outside – why don’t we head back to my place and have a nightcap there?”


“Sounds good,” Diana said as the nine women stepped out and into the limousine.  As they drove off, two black limousines pulled up.


“Must be the owner,” Rachel said as the tall, broad shouldered men went in.


“Well, I must apologise to them for taking this with us,” Illyana said as she held up the vodka bottle, “but I did pay for it…”



At the mansion, Sandy was handing drinks round.


"So the tattoos, Illyanna - I'm told if you know how you can read them like a book, what were those men in the bar tonight telling us?" Sandy asked as she handed the Russian woman a brandy.


“In their case, that they belonged to a particular Russian crime family – two separate ones, in fact.”


“What – they were gangsters,” Ally said quietly.


“Yes – but they treat women fairly.  In fact, the fight started when one of the other group were less than polite about you two.”






Sunday 8th March

2 pm Local Time

The Hermitage Museum


The crowds walking through the halls glanced at the three blondes, in their fur coats, wondering where they had seen one of them before.


“Well I know someone who will be envying me right at this moment.” Dominique said as she and the other two women walked through the galleries of The Hermitage.


“Oh who?” Natalya asked.


“I have a friend who is an art historian and she’d be able to tell us about each and every painting and its history.” Dom laughed lightly, “I know this place is on her must visit list.”


“You had better buy her something nice at the gift store to take home then.” Helen stood and admired a Raphael.


“I must.”


“That guy is still following us.” Natalya whispered as they all contemplated the beauty of the Raphael.


“Well, he has certainly been most persistent – all the way from the hotel and over lunch as well?”


“I know – it is a trifle worrying, yes?”


“Yes – Helen, can you contrive an accident and get a look at his id?”


“Shouldn’t be too hard Dominique.”


“Stand back and watch Natalya this should be a thing of beauty as wonderful as any of these paintings.”


Casually Helen had stepped backwards as though she was admiring the picture and suddenly she appeared to completely back into the man as though she hadn’t noticed he was there.


As he helped her up, she murmured a million apologies; all while her hands as lightly as the touch of butterflies took out his wallet, flipped it open and replaced it without his realizing.


“I’m so sorry, just so sorry.” She turned to rejoin her friends.


“You were right, it was a thing of beauty Dominique.” Natalya whispered.


“Well?” Dominique asked Helen.


“His name is Sergei Putov, he has an id and security pass from Neritko the big box warehouse chain, he manages one of their branches.”


“And since we know Neritko is mob controlled.” Natalya nodded.


“It’s safe to assume the competition knows we are in town.” Dominique smiled.  “Excellent – I do hate it when we completely surprise them.”  Glancing at her watch, she said “all right – let’s complete our visit and head back to the hotel.  We have a conference call to take at four, in your suite Natalya.”


4 pm

Four Seasons Hotel


Dominique started her laptop up, and then opened a video chat window.


“Good afternoon Madame,” she said as Shirley appeared on the screen.


“Good afternoon Dominique – is all in readiness for tonight?”


“I believe so, but we have been identified.  The Boronov family knows I am here, and I work for Huntingdown’s, who deal with you.”


“I see – and do they know you know?”


Dominique shook her head.  “Them having someone follow us was a big mistake on their part Madame, it just gives us even more evidence as to who exactly we are dealing with, as well as an idea just maybe how they store and then dispose of their stolen goods.”


“I agree.” Shirley smiled, “It was a trifle clumsy on their part.”


“Well I now have access to the VIP exit from the hotel, so we should be able to come and go as we wish.


“That’s good, and what of your team?”


“Natalya is great, but Helen, to see her pick that guys pocket, I’ve never seen hands that quick or good.”


“That’s why they call her Silent Death.”


“Well I’d like to have a team of girls just like her within the organization.”


“That might be something to ponder on you know.” Madame looked thoughtful.  "Oh by the way I was talking with John about you working with Dimitri Amkov, John asks you to pass on his best regards."

"I will, does John know him?"

"Only slightly, did you know Dimitri is over 80 years old?"

"I'd not have guessed, he's remarkably spry for his age."

"John says that his work in the Soviet Era was amazing, advertising and fashion were seen as marginal by the party hierarchy, but Dimitri still produced images that had amazing quality...John showed me some of his work and I can see why John considers him one of the greats."

"Well I'm lucky to be working with him then." Dominique smiled.

"Trust Juliette that even when the shoot is just a cover really that she arranges the best."

"That's her."


“Very well – inform me of the outcome of your mission as soon as you return.  I will be working on some information we uncovered over the last two days.”


“Relevant to our task?”


“Only to confirm their involvement in the hacking.  An involvement that has now been terminated.  We have Surok in a holding room in New York, and Heather is going to speak to him later.”


“Very well Madame – we will report in later.”


“Good luck,” she said quietly as the call ended, and Dom closed her laptop.


“Right,” she said as she stretched, “Time to go to work.”



9 am EST

The Carlton home


“Well I guess I’m now an accessory to murder and kidnapping.” Doc whispered to herself as she read the newspaper reports of the previous evening’s events.  One article talked of a double slaying at a bar in Little Odessa, and another of a man being snatched at gunpoint off the Brooklyn streets.


That the Pussycats sometimes acted in the interests of Madame X’s organization had initially surprised her, but given the mutual benefits accruing to the pooling of talent within the New York area it made perfect sense to her now.


She might never know the exact purpose of last night’s operation, but it pleased her that she’d been regarded well enough to play even a small role in the affair.



8 pm Local Time

The Four Seasons


Caroline, Natalya and Helen slipped out of the VIP entrance and looked round.  Caroline was wearing a leather jacket, black jeans and mid length leather boots, while Natalya had on a black fleece and leggings.  Helen wore a dark grey hooded top and trousers, with short heel boots on her feet.  She also carried a canvas bag.


“Where is he,” Natalya said as a car came round the corner and stopped in front of them, The Weasel getting out from behind the driver’s wheel.


“Well – I said I would find you suitable transport,” he said as he closed the door, “what do you think?”


"You know Weasel,” Caroline said quietly, “your idea of an inconspicuous car and mine don't exactly mesh."

"Hey Dominique, this is St Petersburg, three beautiful girls like you wouldn't be seen dead in anything else."

"I don't know." Helen shook her head at the scarlet BMW, "We are going to be standing out like sore thumbs."

"I'll toss you for who gets to kill him right now." Natalya got a coin out.

"Hey pretty ladies, there's no reason to over react here," he said as he held his hands up.

"Heads." Helen called as Natalya flipped the coin.

"Heads it is, he's all yours Helen."

"I'm going to enjoy this," Helen smiled as she pulled a length of high strength wire out of her watch.

"Now ladies...LADIES!" the Weasel screamed as Helen grabbed him.

"I do have another car, a nice black Skoda."

"Keep talking." Dominique smiled as Helen held the wire to the man’s neck.


“I’ll – I’ll take you to it.”


“Good – and remember, Weasel, Helen really is not happy with you.  Get in – and drive carefully.”





10 pm


Dom looked out from the front of the car.  “The lorry should be here any minute,” she said quietly, “and you think it likely they will hit here?”


“It is the most logical place,” Natalya said as a car drove past, and then pulled in.  “In fact, I believe that is them now.”




“Gone,” she whispered as the car door opened and closed, while Dom reached up and pulled the rim of her hat down, covering her head so that only her eyes and mouth showed.  She glanced at Natalya, who had also pulled her mask down, and watched as a set of headlights appeared and grew brighter.


“Showtime,” she whispered as the lorry approached, and two men stepped out of the car, brandishing shotguns as they stood in front of the van.  It screeched to a halt, as Dom and Natalya slipped out of the car and walked over, drawing their guns as they did so.


“OUT!!!”  They heard one of the armed men order the driver, who jumped down from the cab, his hands raised.


“Hey, asshole,” Natalya called out in Russian, and as the man turned she fired a shot from the Magnum, hitting his arm and making him drop his weapon.


“You fucking bitch,” the second man said as he turned, but before he could raise his gun an arrow went through his throat, and he dropped to the ground, gurgling before he keeled over.


Two more men got out of the car, but they stood still as Helen appeared, walking towards them as Dominique walked to the wounded man.


“Watch,” she said as she turned his head, forcing him to watch as Helen pirouetted and landed her left foot in the stomach of one of the men, and threw a shirouken into the hand of the second man.  He let go of the pistol and dropped to his knees, holding his wrist before Helen jumped and drove the toe of her boot into his throat, crushing his larynx.


“You…”  The other man raised his gun, only to fall as Dom shot him in the head.  The three women then walked over and stood in front of the wounded man.


“Are you… Are you going to kill me as well?”


“No, you will deliver a message to your employer.  Tell him the raids are over, or it will be him next, understand?”


“But he will kill me…”


“Not my problem,” Dominique said as Natalya hit him on the head, sending him sprawling.  “Are you all right,” she said as she looked at the driver.


As he nodded, Natalya said “I will ride with you for the remainder of the journey.  My friends will follow.”


They climbed into the truck, as Helen quickly checked the wallets of the hijackers.


“All work at the same branch of Neritko.”


“Well isn’t that interesting?  Would you like to go and pay them a visit while I follow Natalya, and then we’ll swing by and pick you up?”


“It will be a pleasure,” Helen said as she backed up, disappearing into the night as the truck moved off.  She got behind the wheel of the car, and smiled as she set off, following the truck on the route.




9 pm GMT



“Hey, you sure you’re all right,” John said as Shirley sat in the chair, swirling her brandy round.


“I’m fine,” she said with a smile as she looked over, “just wondering about…”


She looked at her mobile phone as it went off, and said “excuse me a moment,” heading to the kitchen.




“All well, Madame.  Three hijackers dead, and the fourth left to deliver a message.”


“And the other suspicion?”


“I’m watching Helen drive a truck out of the storage facility now – we’ll get it to the shippers.  Phase 1 completed.”


“Excellent – enjoy the shoot tomorrow, and I will talk to you later.”


“Everything all right,” John said as she put her phone away.


“It is now,” she said as she turned and put her arms round her neck, looking into his eyes.  “That house in Chelsea – like it?”


“Needs some work, but it would be good.”


“Let’s talk about it over dinner – I’m starving.”


3 pm EST

The Farm


“I never thought I’d be back here so quickly,” Doc said as she applied the lipstick, “but why do you need me?”


“One of the secrets to success in this business is making sure the right people are in the right place at the right time,” Heather said as she adjusted the short red wig on her head.  “In this case, downstairs we have a sixteen year old boy who is very scared, and unsure of where he is.  The one thing we know of him is he is Surok, which means he is about to meet his idol.”




“Me,” Heather said as she pulled on the white go-go boots, and stood up, smoothing down her satin hot pants before pulling on a pair of soft black leather gloves.  “He idolizes the Hidden Hand, so she is going to have a nice little chat with him – and she needs help.  So you are about to become the new, improved, re-focused Angel.”


“Sounds fun,” Doc said as she pulled up the leather bustier top of her dress, and then pulled up her leather boots.  “So how do we play this?”


“By first disguising our voices,” Heather said as she picked up a jeweled choker, and fastened it round her neck.  “Put this on.”


Doc took the leather choker, and fastened it so that the brooch settled over her throat.


“Now what?”


“Press the sides, and follow me.”





The young man stood up as the door to the room was unlocked, and then stared at the two women who came in.  The tall, thin redhead was wearing a pair of red satin hotpants with a matching blouse, the front tied under her chest to reveal her midriff, and knee length white leather boots.  The smaller girl had black hair, and wore a black leather strapless dress and knee length boots with a four inch heel.  Both women wore leather gloves, as well as chokers around their necks.


"Well now, how did a nice boy like you end up working for an organisation like that?" Heathers voice modified by the component in her diamond choker was deep and seductive.

"You co-operate with us and we will see you are protected and looked after." Doc sounded a little like Marilyn Monroe.

“I… I have no idea what you are talking about…”


“Oh come,” Doc said as she walked forward, Heather closing the door behind her, “our friends visited the bar you were being kept in last night, you ran out, and another group of friends collected you and brought you here.  We know who you were working for…”


He could feel the cold swat on his palms as he said "How do I know you won't just kill me?"

"Now do we look like killers?" Doc purred.


“Frankly – yes.”


“Well, perhaps we should introduce ourselves,” Heather said, “my friend is known as Angel, and as for myself,” she said as she stood in front of him, “they call me The Hidden Hand.”


He sat down hard on the bed, panting hard as he looked at them.  “You… You are Van Gogh?”


“You know, Angel,” Heather purred, “One day I will lose that name.”


“Still, it must be nice for him to meet his hero – is it nice to meet me, Surok, or is there another name you will prefer?”


“Who is…?"


“Listen, youngster,” Doc said as she sat next to him, her hand on his knee, “we know who you are, and we know what you did.  That’s why you’re talking to us instead of someone more – aggressive.”


He gulped as he felt the gloved hand on his thigh, and looked round.


"Darling are we disturbing you." Heather laughed as she let the boy sense her perfume, that rich seductive smell that she knew drove Sandy wild.

“What…  What do you want from me, Mistress Hand?”


“Now isn’t that nice, he called me Mistress.”  Heather could not believe she was doing this, with this young man.


"We just want to know why you were hacking into the Xavier Industries computers?" Doc stroked the boy’s cheek with her black gloved hand.




“Let me try a different way of asking the same question,” Heather said, “why did you write the virus that allowed your employer to use home computers as a hacking tool?”


“It was a challenge,” he said with a smile.  “And it worked – they were very happy.  They even brought me to this country as a reward.”


“I can understand that,” Doc said quietly as she looked in his eyes.


“Are all the girls here like you?  The only one I have seen since then is the wife of the bar owner.”


“Oh you poor thing,” Heather said as she looked at him, “you must have been so lonely.”


“Why…  why did those women kill my minders?”


“Well, this is the problem,” Doc said as she turned his head to look at her.  “One of the companies you hacked is run by someone who does not like being robbed.  They have employed our services to strike back at your clients, as part of a wider operation.”


“Oh my god…”


“Oh don’t worry darling,” Heather purred as she moved her hand between the boy’s legs, “I always wanted to meet an admirer, and I believe in sharing, don’t you, Surok?”


“Yes,” he whispered as he started to sweat again.


"I want full details on passwords for accessing the Borisov computer networks." Heather squeezed the boy’s scrotum in her hand, the black of her gloves against the pink of his skin as she hurt him and at the same time excited him.


“BUUUTTTT they will find me, they will kill me…”


“And if you do not help us, young man, it could be worse for you.  If you do, we will offer you total protection, and new employment in a productive place.”


Doc watched Heather closely, fascinated at the way she was playing the femme fatale.  As she looked at the young man, however, she realized this was an area she could help with.


"Why do I think you are a virgin darling?" Doc purred the words.



“What makes you think that, Angel,” Heather said as she looked at the younger woman.


“Look at him,” she said, “he’s sweating, unsure of what he is meant to do.  I’m willing to bet he has never ever been kissed.”


To his complete surprise, Doc leaned over and kissed him, the scent of her perfume filling his nostrils as he tentatively tried to kiss her back.


“I was right – although you are a natural kisser,” Doc said as she stepped back.


“I could tell,” Heather said as she removed her hand and looked at him.


“I think we need to try a more – fundamental approach,” Doc said as she stood back, and reached behind her.  The boy looked stunned as Doc slipped out of her dress.

"If you are a good boy and tell us all we want to know you'll get a prize...ME!"

"You mean...?"

"I do, you co-operate and tell us all we want to know and I'll fuck your brains out." Doc smiled as she saw his crotch jump involuntarily at her words.


Heather watched as he shivered, and licked his lips, before he said “I’ll tell you everything.”


“That’s a good boy,” Heather said as Doc moved behind him, kneeling on the bed as she started to nibble his ear, “the passwords?”


“You have to get past the firewalls, the security measures…”


“Darling,” Heather purred, “I am the Hidden Hand.  You have admired me for a long time – do you think a little thing like firewalls will bother me?”


She watched as he closed his eyes and sighed, and then shook his head.


“No – so tell us what we need to know…”


“You need… O Bozhe…  You need a three level password.”


“Level one,” Heather said, and as Surok gave it Doc kissed his neck.


With the level two password, she pushed him onto the bed and started to unbutton his shirt while he moaned.


And with level three, she kissed his chest as her hand moved between his legs.


“YA vam vse rasskazhu, prosto prodolzhat' delat’, chto mne,” he called out as he moved in response to her touch.  Doc reached round and unfastened her bra, removing it as she said “Now, tell us about the fail-safe, and you get to touch these.  Tell us all we need to know, and you can do whatever you want to them.”


His eyes widened as he stared talking, Heather taking notes as best she could as his talking turned to moaning as he placed his hands on Doc’s chest.


“I think I can leave you to ask the rest of the questions,” Heather said as she stood up.  “I will leave the recorder here.”


“Now,” Doc said as she leaned down and kissed his neck, “tell me all about the hidden files…”





Heather sat in the kitchen and looked at the screen, listening to the conversation until she could do no more and turned away.  She stood at the sink, collecting her thoughts before she picked up her cell phone.




"Now how can I tell if you are lying to me or not?" the teenage femme fatale whispered in the boys ear.

"I'm not..."

"Well tell me your real name, where you are from, who recruited you, what they exactly what wanted you to do, and why you think they wanted it?" Anna rubbed her own hands over her dripping slit as she looked at the boy.  “Don’t I look attractive to you?”


She looked at the bulge in his pants as he slowly nodded.


“Don’t you want to be a real man?”

"Well little boy are you going to tell the sexy lady?" Heather whispered as she came back in.

"He might in a minute." Anna stood up.

"What are you doing?" Heather whispered as the younger girl kissed her hard on the lips.

“Look,” Doc whispered into her ear, “I know you love Sandy, but we do a lesbian bit, this kids balls are going to hurt so bad, he'll tell me anything."

"Okay here goes nothing." Heather caressed Doc's breasts with her gloved hands, feeling her own excitement rise as the younger girl moaned.


“Sergei – my name is Sergei, and I come from St Petersburg.”


“Good Sergei – now, why did they recruit you?”


“I was in an orphanage – I liked to hack computer systems, and one night I hacked theirs.  They traced me, picked me off the street, threatened to…”  He moaned as he watched Doc kiss Heather’s neck and put her hand between her legs.


“Yes,” Doc said as she looked at him.


“To kill me if I did not do to others what I did to them.  I created the Surok virus, and it went on the e-mail network…”


“And embedded in a network of home computers,” Heather gasped as Doc unfastened her blouse and started to kiss her chest.  “I have wiped the virus – they will not be able to use it again.  So they wanted the information of other companies for?”


“To put their competitors out of business – oh god Mueller will kill me now…”


Doc looked at Sergei, and walked over, unzipping and pulling his pants down now.  “oh – very nice,” she said as she stroked his member, and kissed the tip with her lips, before she knelt in front of him and started to suck.


“Do you want to go back to him,” Heather said, Sergei closing his eyes and shaking his head as he moaned.


“Enjoy your reward,” she purred as she stood back, Doc purring as she brought him on with her lips, and then pulled back, smacking her lips as she said “We need to put some protection on you…  But first, what did they promise you?”


“Freedom – a place in Mueller’s team.  But I do not want that now…”


“Tell us why he targeted Xavier International?”


“He saw theeeemmmm as a threat – wanted to eliminate them, so he made me direct the network to their systems.  Get their shipping schedules and the security bids…”


“Did you find anything else,” Heather asked.




"Is that everything?" Doc asked as she straddled the young man, licking her lips at the feel of his large penis rubbing up against her.

"Yes...that's everything....PLEASE....NOW....YOU PROMISED!"

Doc laughed throatily as she carefully inserted the boy in herself, sliding down on his pole, letting him feel what it was like inside a woman.

“Bolshe…” Sergei moaned as he felt the grip of Angel’s body on him, and the throbbing as she started to move.


"Ride him Angel." Heather laughed as Angel rose up, then sunk down on the cock again, her eyes closed as she pleasured herself.

"That's the way to do it." Angel's words came in short breaths while she noticed Heather starting to masturbate herself.



"Up, down...Up, DOWN!" Angel started to fuck herself hard on the young man’s engorged member.


“Chto ty delayesh' dlya menya,” Sergei moaned loudly as he felt the pressure start to build in himself.


“No, enjoy this, let me feel you – AAHHHHHH!”


Angel felt her orgasm start to flow as Sergei called out “Sladkiy milost' , chto proiskhodit so mnoy” and then gasped, arching his back as he started to cum, Angel throwing her head back and screaming as well.


She was joined by a third scream, as Heather came too, the three of them gasping as the sensations washed over them.


“There now, young man,” Doc said as she moved off him, “wasn’t that a lovely reward?”


“Yes,” he whispered as he looked at both of them.


“Take a moment, we will have food brought to you,” Heather said as the two women walked out, and to the bedroom.  Doc sat on the bed while Heather went to talk to the babysitter, and then came back in.


“Holy…   Is that how it feels for you when you are working?”


“Yeah,” Heather said with a sigh, “and we got the information we need.  Forgive me for leaving when I did  - it’s not a role I play very well.”


“Somehow, I think you play it well with the right partner,” Doc said as she looked at Heather.  “But my god – that rush…”


“It must always be looked at as a bonus to the achievement, not the achievement itself – otherwise you lose focus.  Lesson for today, young padwan.  Now, get cleaned up and changed – the Hand needs your technical help.”






4 pm EST

Upper West Side


Illyana looked up as Sandy, Diana and Juliette came in.


“Thank you all for coming,” she said as Susan closed the door and sat down.  “Madame has asked that I talk with you and brief you on the current situation.”


“The girls are taking some additional driving lessons with Janice today,” Diana said as she sat down.


“Carina will talk to Annie later,” Juliette said as the young teacher brought in a tray of coffee mugs, Clint closing the door behind her.


“Very well then – based on the material we have retrieved from our two visits in the US, and what happened earlier this evening in St Petersburg, I am confirming that Madame is engaged in a heated discussion with a branch of the Russian Mafia.”


“Oh wonderful,” Diana said with a wry smile, “this just became very interesting.  Do we have any idea which family?”


“The Boronov branch of the Bratva,” Illyana said.  “When I saw the tattoos in the bar the other night, I saw three of the men had a sickle with a number of dots in the curve – that is their sign.”


“So how are they organized?”


“Boronov himself is the Pakhan – the Capote if you will.  He had four main leaders under him, two based in Russia and two in the US.  I am fairly certain the group that had interfered with Madame’s shipments were some of the Russian Brigadier’s men.  The shipments have now been retrieved.”


“So how does this Surok and Complete Confidence tie into the group,” Sandy said.


“Although there are four main group leaders under Boronov,” Illyana said, “there are two others you need to be aware of – known as the Sovietnik and the Kassir.”


“And they are?”


“The Consigliore and the bookkeeper, if you will.  The Sovietnik is responsible for security, the Kassir the money flow.  For Boronov, the Kassir is one Karl Mueller – German father, Ukrainian mother.”


“And the CEO of Complete Confidence,” Susan added as she sipped her coffee.


“Okay – that explains that angle.  Aren’t they responsible for security for the Prince of Siam show?”


“Indeed – we suspect they outbid us because they knew what Caroline had assessed the risk and cost as.


“Last night, you noticed the men had one or two dots in the sickle.  One represents the grunt worker – called the Shestyorka or more simply the six.  Two is a Boevik – they have earned a place of trust and respect, but don’t lead unless directed to.”


“So this Mueller will have been responsible for the hacking?”


“Almost certainly – and I understand someone is talking to Surok to confirm this.  Our difficulty now is that the Sovietnik will get involved, and things could get messy.”


“They have never dealt with us before,” Diana said quietly.


“That is to your advantage – Madame feels your anonymity, despite some of you being in the bar yesterday, is the saving grace.  Which is why she asks your help with a job – and yours Annie.”


“Oh – what’s the job?”


“Steal the Prince of Siam as part of a robbery of the gallery – but not to keep or sell.  It is too much of a national treasure for that.”


“A bargaining chip then?”


“Precisely – in the meantime, I suggest caution.  Be armed at all times – do not follow the same routes to and from familiar places, and check you are not being followed.”


“By any chance, were the schematics of the gallery floor and the security plans amongst the things you retrieved, Annie?”


“Why my dear Juliette, I thought you would never ask,” Annie said as she laid some plans on the coffee table.  “Shall we have a look?”


As they looked at the plans, Sandy heard her cell phone ring and stepped out.


“Hello lover – how goes it?”


“We’re getting the information – Doc is proving especially persuasive.”


“Oh – how?”


“Do me a favour, Sandy – hold me tonight, all night.”


“What happened?  Did she upset you?”


“No – I just need you to hold me tonight.  Please.”






Monday 9th March

11 am Local Time



"That looks wonderful Caroline,” Dimitri Amkov said with a smile as Caroline stood on the wall of the Peter and Paul Fortress, her hair blowing in the wind, dressed in the camel coat and boots, but with the soft as butter leather gloves and shoulder-bag that Huntingdown's were producing fully on display.

"Looking good Caroline." Helen shouted to encourage her, as she prepped the items for their next setup.

"It is a great pity this is strictly for trade publications," Dimitri mentioned as he hopped up to change his angle, looking very fit for a man his age, "these would look good in the glossies as you call them."

"Well if we sell enough of them, we can come back and do a real fashion shoot Dimitri." Natalya spoke as she answered the phone.

"That would be nice." Dimitri hopped down.  “Okay, for this selection, we are done.  Helen what is next?"

"The fur hats and the clutch."

"Okay Caroline, wardrobe and makeup change darling."

"Dimitri, that was Catherine she's okayed you doing some pics to release to the local media publicizing that Caroline is in the city."

"Good," the old gentleman smiled again.

"I'll start making the phone calls, at least that will get them off my back." Natalya looked happy.

Caroline smiled as she entered the caravan to change, impressed at how well the girls were acting their covers.


She removed the coat, hanging it on the rack as she slipped into the fur coat and slipped out again.


“Perfect for the time of year,” Dimitri said as Helen put on the fur hat and handed over the clutch bag.  “Now, just over here please…”


9 am GMT

Xavier International


“Good morning Shirley,” Penny said as she came in, “you look a lot happier today?”


“I am – we have retrieved the vast majority of the fur shipments, shut down the hacking network, and also we have Surok under our tender care.”


“So good news?”


“We expect the backlash, however – but Juliette and the ladies have a plan for that, which will be executed in the next 48 hours.”


“Do they require our assistance?”


“No – we need to support the Russian team…”



2 pm Local Time



"Okay I win the lottery I'm getting an apartment designed to look just like this room." Helen looked round adoringly at the vast salon.

"The glories of the Winter Palace," Dimitri nodded. "Alright Caroline by the window please, and remember it's the gloves and shoes we are pushing, not the gown."

"Gotcha." Caroline said as she walked over, her cream silk gown rustling in the movement as she posed by the line of windows.


"Sonya I'm getting a reflection."

"Sorry Boss," the makeup girl hurried forward and touched up Caroline's face.

"That's better."  Dimitri started to move round the blonde, taking photos as he did so.

"So what do you spend all your money on Caroline?" Helen asked.

"My daughter." Caroline laughed, "Do you know how expensive New York teenagers can be?"

"Laugh again Caroline please, that looked delightful." Dimitri switched cameras.

"What with her school fees, her clothes, her DVD collection, is it any wonder I need work two jobs?"

"Just wait she'll want a car next year." Natalya spoke.

"Don't remind me,” Caroline sighed.

"Well I'm just glad that at my age I can just be a grumpy old grandfather and great grandfather." Dimitri laughed aloud.

"Okay can we do these gloves in the other colours now?" Helen enquired.


“Of course – swap over and we’ll take some more,” Dimitri said as Helen fussed over Caroline.


“So what plans have you for tonight, Caroline?”


“No real plans yet.”


“Ah – so a night on the town?”


“Indeed,” Caroline said as she smoothed the red leather gloves up her arms.  “Right – shall we?”



8.45 am EST

St Angela’s


"So where were you the other night Doc?" Jeannie asked as they collected their books from their lockers.

"On the worst blind date of my life."

"The guy was that bad?"

"The guy was a total no-show...I trek out all the way into the wilds of Brooklyn and he never turns up, I get home to find an apology on my answer machine."

"I hate when that happens." Nikki smiled.

"Tell me about it." Doc grimaced as she sat in her seat.

"Once again Monday morning Math," Jeannie eased herself behind the desk.


“Good morning girls,” Annie said as she walked into the classroom.


“Good morning Miss Kelly,” they replied in unison as she stood at the front.


“Right – I want you to take out your books and turn to page 217.  Today we discuss- surds.”


5 pm Local Time

The Four Seasons Hotel


“I see – thank you mistress, I will take care of it.”


“Problem,” Dominique said as she looked at Helen.


“Mistress Lu regrets to inform you two of her associates were killed today – she asks us to press the message home.”


“And we shall – get a message to the Weasel to meet us here at seven.



“Well hello,” Caroline purred as she opened the room door. 


“Hello, my dear,” Weasel said as he smiled, “what is your desire?”


"Weasel you are taking me and the girls out tonight." Caroline smiled.

"After what you did last night? I don't even know you girls, and I'm certainly not being seen in public with you."

"And I thought you were after our bodies Weasel." Natalya ran a fingernail across his face.

"No offense sweetie, but I get seen with you, it’s my body I'll be worried about not yours."

"Typical man," Helen gave him a sexy look, "First they say they will give you the moon, next they want to dump you in the trash."

"Caroline you know I love you, but as Dominique you are pure poison right this minute...besides where do you want to go?" he asked suspiciously.

"The Europa Bistro."

"WHAT?" Weasel headed towards the door. "You know who owns that place?"

"Yes and they obviously didn't get our message clearly enough last night. Two associates of Catherine were killed in Hong Kong today..."

"For each of ours they kill, we kill five of theirs." Helen spoke quietly.


“So just so I am clear – I take you three girls on a date to one of the centres of operation of Boronov, and then what – hide under the table?”


“If you feel safe doing that – if I was you, I’d go to the toilet…”


“Oh well – who wants to live forever anyway?  Just make sure we have time to eat before you do anything…”  He then stopped and said “But if you are coming as Caroline, how do you explain me?”


“Who says we’re coming as us – sit down Weasel, we won’t be long.”


As he sat down, he wondered what he had got into, before he saw Dominique return wearing a red wig over her black hair and a long fur coat.  Helen and Natalya followed, Helen with a short brown wig and Natalya a black one.  They also had long fur coats on, and he could see their boots under the hems of the coat.


“Did you bring the red car tonight?  I feel like showing off,” Dom said as Helen and Natalya walked the Weasel between them.




8 pm local time

Europa Bistro


The large restaurant space was filling up as the quartet arrived, the Weasel grinning as he escorted his three charges to a table.


“Good evening Mr. Kornyak,” the waiter said as he came over, “some new companions?”


“Cousins from Lithuania – they wanted to see the best place to eat in the city.”


“Very well then,” the waiter said as he handed over the menus.


“Thank you,” Natalya answered in Russian, “bring vodka for all of us as well.”


The waiter bowed and walked off as Dominique said “Well?”


“There are a couple of tables over there crawling with Boronov’s men,” Natalya whispered back.  “No sign of the man himself, however.”


“Unlikely he will show himself,” Helen whispered, “more likely to be his brother, the Enforcer.”


Natalya nodded as the waiter brought over the bottle and glasses, and then took their orders.


“Relax, Weasel,” Dominique said quietly, “nothing’s going to happen while we eat – and watch…”





“I have eaten worse,” Dom said as she pushed the plate away, the remains of what had been called a Weiner Schnitzel on it, “but not by much.  Are you seriously saying this is the best this city has to offer?”


“If you want to cause trouble for the right people, yes,” the Weasel said, “people like him.”


Helen looked in the direction he was looking, and saw the large, well built man walk in, smiling and talking to some of the guests before he walked to the groups of men around the table.


“So that’s Boronov’s younger brother?”


Natalya nodded.  “The Sovietnik.  He seemed warm enough coming in, but look at the expression on his face now.”


Dom nodded as she saw the grim, hard faced look etched into his face as he sat down.


“Well, if you are going to seek retribution, best to do it at the right level,” she said quietly before looking round.  “How long do you need Helen?”


“Ten minutes,” she said before she stood up and shouted “You worthless little maggot of a man, how dare you think you can treat me in that way.”  Slapping the Weasel hard across the face, she turned and stormed out of the restaurant, the men laughing quietly at the obvious insult.


“Did she have to hit me quite so hard?” he said as he looked at Natalya and Dominique.


“Better cover story,” Natalya said before she leaned over and kissed him hard on the lips, and then stood up, taking him by the hand as she led him towards the toilets.


“My sisters – argue over everything, including men,” Dom said to the waiter, as she paid the bill for the meal.  “Leave me with the money side and the long car ride home.”


She could see Bolokov looking at her as she stood up, and walked over to him.  “Have we met before,” she asked as she looked at him.


“I do not believe I have had the pleasure,” he said as he stood and took her gloved hand.  “I am Gregor Bolokov.  May I know your name?”


“Of course,” Dom said with a smile, “my name is Death, and I have come for you tonight.”


Bolokov stared at Dominique, as the arrow sailed through his neck, piercing his jugular vein as he fell to the floor.  Before the men at his table could react, a series of metal stars spun through the air and hit them, the men dropping to the floor as they sank into their flesh.


“GET DOWN!” Natalya shouted as she fired shots into the air, the diners diving to the floor as she pointed the submachine gun at the tables and fired at the men standing there.


Most fell at the tables, one or two managing to get to their guns before Helen fired off more arrows, piercing their gun hands as the weapons fell to the floor.


“Is it your night to die as well,” Dominique said as she stood up, Natalya and Helen walking over as she kicked Bolokov over.


The other men looked at each other, as Helen said “it was a rhetorical question.”


She sailed through the air and hit them, killing them with her hands and feet as she broke their necks.  Dominique turned and walked over to where the retaurant staff were cowering.


“Give the Pakhan a message,” she whispered as she looked at them.  “Tell him this vrashda ends now, tonight, or he will be destroyed utterly.  Tell him this is his last and final warning.”


The three women walked out of the bistro, getting into the car and driving off as the Weasel came out of the toilet, rubbing his neck and looking round.


“How many?”


“Twenty five at the tables, plus his Sovietkin.  We’d better warn the others this just became very serious.”


“I already did – now we wait for our US contacts to do their part.”



4.30 pm EST

The de Ros Mansion


"All go well at school Darling?" Diana hugged her daughter.

"Pretty much," Abigail said as she threw her car keys into the bowl.

"Did you take precautions?"

"I did." Abigail took the .38 out of her purse. "I did what Janice taught us on the driving course to make sure I wasn't being followed. I treated the girls to ice cream, no one stopped, and no one followed as we left. I also varied my normal route."

"Good, because there was trouble in Hong Kong - one of Catherine's nephews and another associate were killed."

"Crap...okay I'll be doubly careful."

"What's this darling?" Diana held up a small trophy.

"It's a replica of the Vanderbilt Cup, the alumnae association had them made. We had a special presentation at lunchtime, all the team, and the support team like me got one." Abby grinned happily.

"Well that's a lovely souvenir..."

"All the better because it's a school thing and not because of my looks."

"Did you register...?"

"For next year’s yearbook, you bet I did, it's going to be fun."

"Well John says he will give you some tips when he is next over."

"I know. That's just so brilliant."


“Listen, why don’t you go and get changed – Juliette and the others are coming round later to discuss what we’re going to do tomorrow.”


“Oh?  What are we going to do tomorrow?”


“Pay a little visit to someone, pick up a few gems…”


Abby grinned.  “Sounds fun – a little old fashioned larceny.”



8 pm


“All right,” Juliette said as they sat round the room, “what do we know?”


“There is a private viewing of the gems collection tomorrow at the hall,” Heather said as she looked at the laptop, “strictly invitation only, but none of our friends are going.”


“Who is?”


“Friends and client of Complete Confidence and Boronov – including, according to the guest list I saw on their servers, the man himself.”


“How convenient,” Diana purred as she sat with Abby.  “So what do we know?”


“Security is minimal, but discrete,” Heather said.  “Controlled from a security room at the rear of the hall.  Which, of course, makes it very easy for us to take control of the control.”


“So timings?”


“The party begins at seven – Boronov’s diary says he is due to arrive at about nine.”


“So we time our arrival for about nine fifteen,” Juliette said as she sat back. 


“We need some crowd control – I’ll ensure we have some suitable weapons from the store at the farm, and then place an order with Tommy to replace them after disposal.”


“Remember,” Juliette said quietly as she sat with her eyes closed, “we need to be able to get in and get out within thirty minutes, Just load whatever you can into the sacks, while everyone stays down.”


“Think that will satisify your lack of real robbery skills recently,” Heather said as she nudged Jo.


“It will scratch an itch – so when do we meet?”


“Everyone at the farm for six tomorrow – Cari?”


“Babysitter already agreed – And her?”


“If there’s a guard that causes trouble, she’s free to do whatever she desires.”


Carina grinned on the laptop screen – a good night was coming.



Tuesday 10th March

11 am Local Time


"Well I'm glad after out little 'night out' yesterday that we are out here today." Caroline whispered to Natalya as they sat waiting for Dimitri to be satisfied with the lighting outside the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

"Yes it might just be a little noisy and troublesome in St Petersburg today."

"Just a tad..."

"You British and your understatement." Natalya laughed.

The local news and papers had been a little more forthcoming, talking of a massacre at the Europa Bistro perpetrated by three women, killing a number of local businessmen and other diners.  Helen had pointed out that no mention had been made of the actual role of those who died, or to link it to the four deaths the previous night.


“But they know,” Caroline had asked as they ate breakfast.


“They know – everyone is on high alert at all areas.”


"Alright here is the Jameson Bag." Helen called out as she pressed the black leather bag into Caroline's hands.

"The what?"

"Oh that's right no one told you." Helen laughed, "Alice has named this bag in your honour.  It’s going to be the signature product for sales to retailers."

"Miss MacKinnon and I are going to have words." Caroline mumbled.

"She knew you'd be nervous - that's why we were under instructions not to tell you."

"There are times I hate my friends...”  She turned it round and opened it, before saying with a smile “still, it's a beautifully designed bag, just perfect for hauling round all my things."

"I agree." Natalya inspected the bag.

"Alice thought we'd all think that, it's why I have one for each of us, and for the girls in Dimitri's crew." Helen smiled again.

"I like this hidden compartment." Caroline smiled broadly, "Who knows what one can carry in there secretly?"


“Who indeed,” Helen said as Dimitri called over.


“Caroline, we must begin – the weather is not conducive to too much shooting outdoors, and I wish to catch the best of the sunlight.”


“I am all yours, Dimitri,” Caroline said as she stood on the steps, looking to the side as she held the bag over her arm.  “Wonderful, let us work with this,” Dimitri said as he began to shoot…


3 pm local time



"You two still up for a little late night shopping?" Dominique asked while they waited for Dimitri to finish getting set up for the final pictures in the Amber Room.

"If the Weasel was able to get me what I asked for." Helen smiled.

"If he knows what is good for him he will have." Natalya lowered her voice.

"Boronov needs to take a cash hit as well as the manpower hit we've delivered, so a couple of his stores burning to the ground and all that inventory gone should certainly hit his bottom line."  Helen smiled as she considered the prospect.

"By the way Helen I thought you were Silent Death?" Natalya asked.

"Hey every girl has to have a hobby...explosions are mine."


"Happy Dimitri." Caroline asked.

"Not totally darling, this room is so difficult, all that amber color is very hard to prevent from overwhelming the model and the product."

"Well I'm sure you can do it." Caroline paused while Helen played with the silk scarf round her neck deciding on how it looked best.

"I'm glad we chose to dress you in black, at least the silks pop out against that background color." Dimitri looked round. "Do you want to try a few trial shots Caroline?"

"If you want."  She walked over and posed by the marble fireplace as he went to work.


Dimitri started to take pictures, and then went to his computer and downloaded the images.


"NYET!" Dimitri screamed at the top of his voice and stormed out of the room.

"Was it something we did?" Helen asked Caroline.

"No it's technical...that last set of pictures the reflected yellows made me look like I had jaundice." Caroline slumped in her chair. "This is going to take longer then we thought."

"I had better tell Weasel to drive out here and meet us, not in town." Natalya reached for her phone.

"That might be wise, we are going to be here quite a while yet."

Suddenly Caroline's phone rang.

"Hello Shirley," she recognized the deep voice instantly. "No we are hung up in the Amber Room doing the silks...No lighting and technical difficulties...yes we will still be going out later...sounds good...they did learn a lot didn't they? ...You can tell me more later please...Before you go though Shirley is John there? ...Why? ...I think Dimitri could do with talking to a fellow expert...yes...Oh hi John, it's Caroline, we are having some problems, can you talk to Dimitri? ...Thank you...hold on I'll call him....Dimitri. It's John Hammond on the phone." Caroline smiled as the two photographers started talking about filters, lenses and the other aspects of their magic.


“So what do we know?”


“They have Surok,” Caroline whispered, “and our tech group has access to their servers.  Such a lot of wonderful information – such as his three most profitable stores in this city.  Ladies, we are going shopping for furs and boots – using my card.”


“And we get to leave a present behind?”


“And we get to leave a present behind.”


“John, you are a miracle worker – I thank you a thousand times a thousand,” Dimitri said as he adjusted the filters on his lights, and then said “Caroline – a moment please.”


“Here we go again,” she said as she walked over and allowed the photographer to take some shots, and then go back to his computer.  “Yes, that is better, much better,” he said, “come we do this now.”




7 pm Local Time


“And we are done,” Dimitri finally said.  “Caroline, my dear, I will meet you tomorrow in your hotel to review the portfolio with your staff.”


“I look forward to that,” Caroline said as she came back out.


“Do you need transport back?”


“No – we have booked a car to take us to a small lakeside restaurant, but thank you for the offer.”


Dimitri bowed and walked off, the three girls watching as Helen completed her packing.


“Make sure these are returned to the hotel,” she said to the assistants as Natalya looked at her phone.


“He’s outside,” she said as they walked out, The Weasel standing by the black car in a dark suit, white shirt, dark tie and black eye.


“Oh dear,” Caroline said, “did you get into a fight, my dear boy?”


“You damn well know I did,” he replied as he put on some dark glasses.


“Did you get the presents?”


“In the boot – where to first ladies?”


“Boronov Furs – I’m in the mood for a new ermine coat…”




9.30 pm local time

St Petersburg


“Oh I have to have these,” Helen said as she tried on the brown high leather boots, feeling the fur lining hug her skin as she walked round.


“They suit you, especially with that soft burgundy leather dress,” Natalya said as she slipped on her shoes, and handed the black over the knee boots to the assistant.


“Then I will take them,” Helen said as she slipped them off and handed them over to the second assistant.


“Have all our purchases sent to our suite at the Four Seasons,” Caroline said as she signed the chitty.


“Of course Miss Jameson – and thank you for favouring our store with your custom.”


“It was our pleasure,” Caroline said as the assistants walked off.  “Right, time we went back to our hotel.”


“One minute,” Helen said as she put her bag on her shoulder, “I need to visit the little women’s room.”


As she walked off, Natalya looked out of the store window.  “Look at it – I barely remember the days before Gorbachev, but my father and grandmother would tell me of the bare streets, the empty stores.  Now look – we are as much a monument to the decadent West as New York or London in their day.”


“Would you have it return to the old ways?”


Natalya said nothing, but shook her head.  “Change is good – so long as it is done for the right reasons.”


“And do you believe we act for the right reasons?”


She nodded again “and for personal revenge – I am still Russian after all.”


Caroline nodded as Helen came back.  “All done?”


“I am – shall we head back and order something from room service?”


“Sounds good – I have a call to make anyway.”



8 pm GMT



Shirley sat in her penthouse, a glass of wine by her side as she logged into the secure system.


“Good evening Dominique, ladies,” she said as she looked at the video call, “I understand the shoot has gone very well.”


“Indeed Madame – and I understand Heather has discovered new information we have been able to use.”


“She has – some of which is most disturbing.  It appears Boronov has been using blood diamonds as well – amongst other things.”


“Such as?”


“A number of brothels in Hong Kong for one thing.”


“So what is the plan,” Helen said as she looked over.


“The actions we have taken so far have dealt a blow to him.  His computer hacking network has been crippled, and you have with one blow ended both the hijacking of our furs, and also dismantled much of the upper echelons of his internal security.  Now we deal with the heart of the problem.  A coordinated attack on his financial setup.”


“What will happen?”


“You have played your part.  At the same time, Catherine will attack and shut down his brothels, Charlotte is using the information to liberate the diamond mines, and the ladies in New York will rob the exhibition and steal the Prince of Siam.


“There is one other issue – it turns out Surok is Boronov’s nephew.  He has proven valuable, but he needs to be terminated.”


Dominique nodded as Natalya said “who will deliver that blow?”


“It is time for Angel to prove she can do this.”


“Anna?  She has only just become part of our group – are you sure?”


“I discussed it briefly with the ladies – they are in agreement.”


Dom looked at the other two women, and nodded.


“Okay - we do this right, we deliver Boronov a death blow financially.” Madame continued as she looked into the computer screen.


“The loss of the three St Petersburg stores will be pretty bad, their legitimate trading profits, plus the fact he uses them to launder a huge segment of his illegal income, that’s going to be a hard hit to swallow.”


“Agreed Helen – are the devices primed?”


“They are due to go off at 4 am local time, 1 am your time, 8 pm EST.”


“Equally the insurance payout on the Prince of Siam will be immense Madame,” Natalya said.


“Hopefully bankrupting his insurance business, and after that happens we will ransom it back at a reasonable price to its owners.”


“Add to that the actions of Catherine against his allies in Hong Kong, and Charlotte’s team’s action against his illegal diamond operation in Africa…”


“Then hopefully Boronov will find himself without a rouble to his name, and we can rely on his competitors and compatriots to take advantage of the situation and fight over the scraps.” Madame smiled.


“Everything depends on timing though Madame.” Dominique paused. “Is everyone sure of their timing?  He must get an avalanche of bad news so that he doesn’t know which problem to confront first.”


“As someone we know well Dominique says ‘the bovine excrement will hit the whirling blades all at one time’.”


Dominique nodded as she thought things over.  “The only thing I’m not totally happy with is Anna terminating the nephew, the hacker.”


“He cannot be allowed to live Dominique, and from the report from Heather regarding her role in his interrogation, it seems fitting she should be the one.”


“As always Madame I bow to your judgment.”


“You deliver the first blow – Catherine and Charlotte move thirty minutes later, and the ladies strike at 9 pm EST.  Illyana will be in place as an invited guest to gauge their reaction.”


“How did she manage to obtain an invitation?”


“The Hidden Hand can arrange all.”


Dominique smiled as she said “then we go.  I wish you good luck Madame.”


“And you Dominique.  We will talk tomorrow.”




Wednesday 11th March

4 am Local Time

St Petersburg


The patrol car was slowly driving down the road, the two officers looking round as the passed the front of Boronov Furs.  As the vehicle moved on, in the back of the store the acid from the package had slowly eaten through the gas pipes, the contents slowly filling the floor space before the two metallic elements were forced together.


“Kakogo cherta ...” the driver suddenly called out as the fireball exploded from the front of the store, sending glass and masonry flying as the store caught fire.  He executed a handbrake turn and parked, the two officers looking on as his companion radioed in the explosion.
They then heard the second explosion…

Five streets away, the bomb secreted in the fitting room of the luxury fashion store exploded, sending the burning liquid flying through the store area as the material went up in flame.


In the third store, the explosion ripped through the wall and exposed the gas main, sending a plume of flame high into the sky as the building started to collapse around them.


In the main police control room, the camera operators stared in disbelief at the sights in their screens, one of them saying “YA dumal, chto posledniye dva dnya byli postel'nyye dostatochno” as he stared at the screen.


“Pozharnyye nakhodyatsya na stsene - net nichego, chto oni mogut sdelat'”


“Der'mo - kto delayet eto?”


“Net chertovski ideya - no Boronov ne budut rady ...”



9 am Local Time

Hong Kong


The morning rush hour was in full motion as the two black vans pulled up outside the non-descript building.  As the back doors opened, two men in black overalls stepped out and set up a tent, going inside and starting their appointed task.


A third man, dressed in a smart suit, shirt and tie, stepped out of the van a few minutes later and walked up to the front door of the building.  Pressing the doorbell, he waited a few moments before the door was opened and he was admitted.


The man who opened the door was a tall, well built gentleman wearing an ill fitting jacket, who looked at the new arrival as the woman at the desk said “Good morning Sir – who do you have an appointment with?”


“Allow me to show you,” he said as he pulled out a silenced pistol and shot the second man, his body dropping to the floor noiselessly as the woman stared at him.


“If I was you,” the man said as he walked over and opened the main door, “I would run.




She did not need to be told twice as she ran out of the door, and a group of black clad and masked people came in.


“Spread out, secure the building, kill all who resist,” the smartly dressed man said as the group moved past the entrance.  He waited a few moments, hearing the screams before he moved in.


“Take the women into one room,” he said as the masked people herded a group of scantily dressed Chinese women along the corridor, and looked in, seeing the dead bodies in each room.


Nodding, he walked through a set of double doors at the end of the corridor, looking round the casino floor as three of the masked people herded croupiers and gamblers against the wall.


“It would appear we have two businesses going on,” he said quietly as his cell phone went off.


“Good morning Mistress – how goes the attack on the other fronts?


“Indeed – we have found one as well.


“I understand – we will do as you ask.”


Ending the call, he looked at the masked intruders and nodded.  The women were brought over to him as he said “Join the others outside – we have other employment opportunities for you.”


As the women were escorted out, he looked at the men and nodded, turning and walking away as they cowered…



2 am Local Time



The dirt track leading up to the mine was quiet, still and dark, offering no relief for the guards positioned either side of the track and entrance.  Night watch duty was always the worst, unless one of the workers tried to use it as a cover to escape.  If that happened, they had carte blanche to do what they wanted with them.  Sadly, the lesson had been learned, so for these four it was promising to be another long, boring night.


They never heard them, never even sensed them until the covered hands went over their mouths, and the long thin knives were pushed into their backs, piercing their hearts and killing them instantly.  Their dead bodies were laid gently onto the forest floor, as their attackers moved on and round.


In the tented village, the mine boss was sleeping in his tent, confident in the security of his mine, and of the workers keeping in their places in the mine entrance.  He didn’t hear the cries as his men were brought down one by one, or the muted talking outside his tent.


The first he heard of what was happening was when somebody poke him in the side, and he turned to see who it was, opening his eyes before he prepared to give them a piece of his mind.


What he saw instead were three females, dressed in black with hoods over their heads, one of whom had a shotgun pressed into his side while the other two held large machetes in their hands.


Machetes that had been in the hands of his guards.


“Up,” the armed woman said as she poked him again, the man slowly rising as he was pushed out of the tent and into the open area.  As he came out, the first thing he saw were the bodies of his guards on the ground.


The second was the mine workers, standing and staring at him with unmitigated hate in their eyes.


And the third was a small, red headed European woman standing in front of him, a gun in her hands as she stared back.


“Listen, and listen well,” she called out in their language, “I am one of those who fought to free you from the tyranny of Kimba, and I promised those we freed then we would not abandon you.  When word reached us of what had happened, we took action – and we are here now to tell you we continue to support and fight beside you.


“Your liberators fight in the name of those who cannot return, and give you this mine to run, and feed yourselves and your families.  You will not see them, but they will protect you – and those who profited from your misery are paying the price tonight.


“All of them.”


As she spoke, more figures in black appeared from the trees, encircling the encampment as the boss was pushed towards the workers.  They picked up rocks, abandoned knives, and whips as the figures encircled them and the boss screamed.


“Medical and food supplies will arrive at dawn,” the redhead said to the armed woman, “I ask you to stay until they come, and then you may fade.”


“We will do this for The Strength and The Soul.”


“I thank you on their behalf,” the redhead said as she bowed, and walked to the waiting jeep, the headlights piercing the night as she drove off. 




Tuesday 10th March

8 pm EST

The Russian Art Pavilion


Illyana walked round the displays, her grey silk dress moving in soft waves as she sipped her champagne and looked around.  As she had suspected, the guests were of the great and good of New York Russian society, but her eye was especially drawn to the two men holding court at the far end of the room.


One was large, both in height and in breadth, wearing a tailored grey suit with a white silk shirt and a grey tie.  Boronov was laughing and joking as he talked to the ladies, the two armed guards with him discretely keeping watch.


The second was dark haired, darker skinned, and seemed to have his cell phone glued to his ear as she talked rapidly.  Karl Mueller was obviously conducting business, and as she walked past she caught him saying “I politsiya uvereny, chto eto bylo tri zhenshchiny? Mozhet byt' to zhe samoye tri kotoryy ostanovil ugon?”


“Ladno, derzhite menya v kurse.”


“Smart man,” she thought as she made her way round, and glanced at her watch, “and now begins the fun…”


She stopped to admire the massive Prince of Siam ruby, the red jewel nested in a gold cloth cushion and with a Complete Confidence guard standing by it.  He yawned as she looked on, something she took as an encouragement as she saw Mueller take his cell phone out.  Positioning herself, she heard Boronov say “Of course, I paid the man handsomely for the inconvenience, but she was truly a beautiful woman.”


“Ty uveren? Vse tri?


Boronov turned as he heard this and looked at Mueller.  “What is it,” he said in English, his aide blanching a little as he put his phone away.


“Forgive us, ladies, gentlemen, I need to talk to Mister Boronov alone,” Mueller said as he took the large Russian to one side and whispered in his ear.


“All three of them?  Destroyed beyond repair?  Stock and all?”


“I regret to say that is the case sir – our agents are trying to find out what happened.”


“It has to be the trio – whoever they are, they are highly skilled and highly trained.  We must find them and eliminate them.”


“And we shall, but with the unfortunate passing of your brother…”


“Moy brat byl bumblign olukh, i yego trusom syna nemnogo luchshe.”


“My naydem Sergeya i prinesti yemu bezopasnoye spinoy k vashey grudi...”


The ringing of his cell phone made Mueller stop as he took it out and answered it.  “Strike two,” Illyana thought to herself as she walked round the rest of the exhibition, admiring the ornate jewelry and other items.


She glanced over to see Mueller put his phone away, and then whisper again into Boronov’s ear.


“ALL OF THEM,” he roared as he looked at his chief accountant, who merely nodded before he said “Please, Ivan, you must keep calm…”


Boronov slowly nodded, adjusted his toe and said “My apologies, ladies and gentlemen, please ignore my outburst.  I just heard my brother had died, and – well, they say bad news comes in threes.”


“Oh you have no idea,” Illyana said as she checked her watch again, and went to a waiter, taking a second glass of champagne.


At the rear of the building, a dark SUV pulled up, the windows blacked out.  For a few minutes, there was no movement, there was no movement, before the side door opened and two women got out.  They were wearing long black fur coats, and long leather boots as well as the gloves, while a black scarf was visible under the front of the coat.  Their faces seemed obscured, their short black hair pressed down by something as they walked to the door and opened it – three shots later, the side of the van opened again and six more women walked out, carrying shotguns, bags and determined faces.




Mueller was shaking as he said into his cell phone “Who are you?”


“Unimportant,” the female South African voice said, “just tell your boss the mine is under new ownership, and any previous business arrangement with the owners is terminated with immediate effect.”


“I’m telling you, little missy, you are messing with the wrong man?”


“OH you think so?  Kimba thought that too – what happened to him?  Pass on the message.”


Trembling, he ended the call and whispered into Boronov’s ear “Almaznyy rudnik v Mazengwe - on byl prinyat, I oni razorvali kontakt.”


There was no mistaking his anger now as he bellowed “Kto neset otvetstvennost' za eto? Kto obidel do takoy stepeni, chto oni sochtut eto neobkhodimym? Eto mest’, chistaya I prostaya...”


“YA ne znayu, no ya budu uznat' pravdu, i ya budu...”


The sound of the automatic rifle firing into the air made all turn round, as seven women, dressed in black fur, black boots, black gloves, black scarves and black stockings over their heads, stood in the doorway.


“Good evening, mother fucking whores,” the one at the front of the group said, “My name is Miss Panther, and we are the Pussycat Gang.  I strongly urge you to drop to the floor and lie down, or your shit filled lives are about to come to a very messy and explosive end.”


“You heard the lady, dahlins,” Miss Tigress called out as she fired a round of bullets into the air, “all of you fine people, get on your fucking bellies, NOW!”


The women screamed as they dropped to the floor, the women fanning out and two of them taking up position by the main door.  One of the taller women turned as she saw a guard go for his gun, and fired a sawn off shotgun, making him fly across the room.


“Anyone else feel like being a hero,” another woman called out as she looked around.


“If they do, Miss Lynx, kill them,” Miss Panther said.  “Miss Puma, Miss Cheetah, start loading up the gems.  Miss Tigress, crowd control if you please.”


The last woman nodded, as if she was hearing something, and then walked quickly to the side, the screams coming again as she fired and a guard collapsed behind a pillar, blood seeping from her chest.


“Oh shut the fuck up,” Miss Lynx said as she kicked over one woman, and placed the barrel of her shot gun between her legs, “or I’ll give you something to scream about.”


“Thanks for the warning, Miss Bobcat,” the final woman whispered.


“My pleasure dahlin,” Miss Bobcat said from the security room, before she turned and looked at the young man sitting whimpering, the tape round his head silencing him as he looked at his two dead colleagues.


“Now sugah,” she said as she moved her booted foot over his crotch, “Where were we…”




“I have heard of you,” Boronov called out across the room, “and I am not afraid.”


“Oh you are not afraid,” Miss Lynx said as she walked seductively over.  “What is it you are not afraid of, big man?”


“Miss Snow Leopard,” Miss Panther said, “please take especial care of the star exhibit.”


“NOOO!!” Mueller said as he started to run forward – straight into the shot from Miss Leopard, sending him to the floor with a gnarled mess where his face had been.


“Now, as I was saying,” Miss Lynx purred as she stood in front of Boronov, “What is it you are not afraid of?”


“Vy Ozornyye ne pugayut menya”


“Oh but I think we do,” Miss Lynx said before she slapped his face.  “If we did not, you would not be sweating, and your body would not react when I did this.”


“Did what?”


“This,” Miss Lynx said as she grabbed his crotch and squeezed with her gloved hand, making him drop to the ground and open his mouth to call out.  Before he could, however, Miss Lynx put the barrel of her gun into his mouth and smiled.


“So tell me, little man, are you still unafraid?”


She looked down and took a deep sniff, before saying “no, you are afraid, I can tell.”




While this was going on, Miss Snow Leopard had carefully opened a small box, and was placing the Prince of Siam inside, closing it before she kicked the security guard on the balls where he lay on the floor.


“Told you to behave,” she purred as she walked off, and joined the other women, Miss Puma and Miss Cheetah carrying large bags with them.


“All of you bastards, you cock sucking little whores, you mother fucking inbreds, ALL of you,” Miss Panther called out, “stay on the ground for the next ten minutes.  If anyone moves, they die.”


One of the women raised her head at this point, a woman with grey hair in a brown dress – then speckled with red as Miss Tigress killed her with a shot to the head.


“Do we have to fucking demonstrate again?”


Miss Panther looked round the room, and said “Good – Miss Lynx?”


“Have a nice night, pissant,” the woman said as she kicked Boronov in his damp crotch, and then walked over, the women leaving by the rear exit.


Illyana had been flat on the floor the whole time, and slowly glanced at her watch.  Fifteen minutes – that was all it had taken for them to strip the exhibition of the gems, and especially the Prince of Siam.


She had to admit, she was impressed.




9.20 pm

The Farm


“Roger that – we’ll expect you within the hour.”


Susan turned and looked at Anna, smiling as she said “they’re done – and very successfully I might add.  I’ve also been authorized to tell you that you will get an equal share of the profits tonight – well, a trust fund in your name which has been set up will get an equal share.  Same deal as Cari, Abby and Jo.”


“Outstanding,” Anna said as she sat in her black leather dress and boots, “but I guess I have to play my part now.”


“That’s right,” Susan said quietly.  “It’s something we have all had to face, at one time or another, and tonight it is your turn.  Ready?”


“As ready as I will ever be,” Anna said as she picked up her purse, and then made her way to the room the young man was being kept in.


She nodded as she stood outside, then unlocked and opened the door.


“Hello Surok,” she purred as she walked in, “how are you?”


“I…  I am well, Angel,” he said as he looked up from the bed, “is there something I can do for you?”


“Actually,” she said as she walked over, “I was wondering if there was something I could do for you.  You have been so very helpful to me and my friends, that I think you deserve a reward.”


She sat on the bed, smiling as she patted the mattress and watched him sit next to her.  “You do find me attractive, don’t you?”


He nodded slowly as Angel said, “Well then, let me find out for myself,” and placed her gloved hand on his thigh, slowly stroking up and between his legs, smiling as she felt him harden at her touch.


“You really are a very virile young man, Surok,” she said as she knelt over and nibbled his ear, “and you are a great lover.  I want you to know that?”


“Am I?  I would not know, as I have only done it once…”


“And didn’t you enjoy it?”


“I loved it,” he said as he closed his eyes and felt her hand on his cock, rubbing gently before she pulled down the zipper on his pants and pulled his member out, her gloved hand stroking it as it expanded under her touch.


“Oh that is good,” he sighed as she wrapped her gloved hand round it, and kissed him on the mouth, feeling him throb as she moved her hand up and down.  With her free hand, she opened her clutch bag and drew something out.


“Are you ready for your special surprise?”


He nodded as he closed his eyes and moaned.


“That’s a good boy, stay just like that,” she purred before she kissed him, and then pressed the 9 mm against his head, smiling as she pulled the trigger and his head jerked back.


She stood up and stepped back, breathing heavily as the door opened and Susan came in.


“Is it done?”


“It is done,” Anna said quietly.  “Does it…  Does it always feel like this?”


“Sometimes,” Susan said as she took the gun and put it into a clear bag, ”come – you need to change and have a shower.”



Wednesday 11th March

11 am Local Time

The Four Seasons, St Petersburg.


“Dimitri, you are a living genius,” Caroline said as she reviewed the shoots so far.  “So this will be our last day?”


“Sadly yes,” the older Russian said, “at least for this visit, and with the kind permission of the hotel we can use your magnificent suite.”


“Which means we can open the trunks here,” Helen said as she laid out a variety of scarves, while Natalya talked with a number of the local journalists.


“You will have to forgive me, Dimitri, while I deal with the local news,” Caroline said as she walked over and sat demurely, saying “May I just say what a pleasure it is to visit your wonderful city, especially in the early spring?”


“What have you enjoyed most about the visit, Miss Jameson?”


“The people – you are all so warm and friendly, and it has been a pleasure to talk however briefly with some of you.”


“Miss Jameson, this week has seen a number of violent incidents in the city.  Do such things concern you?”


“Only as a professional, in the sense of as a security consultant I look at them and wonder how they could have been avoided.  But I have lived in London, and New York now – worse things happen all over the world.  I condemn the loss of life, but the risk seems no worse here than anywhere else.”


“All right, gentlemen, we have time for a few photos, and then Miss Jameson must return to her modeling duties,” Natalya said as Caroline posed for some pictures, and then thanked the press before they left.


“Now – we start with the cream and gold fleur de lis,” Helen said as she picked it up and draped it over Caroline’s shoulders.




3 pm Local Time


“Good afternoon Madame,” Dominique said as she looked at the computer screen, “What news?”


“All went according to plan,” Shirley said as she sat at her desk, “I understand you may have been woken by the explosions?”


“Actually no – I used earplugs, and Helen had to wake me.”


“Not an easy task,” Helen said, “but I did not sleep, Mistress X.  I required proof all had gone well.”


“And what of elsewhere?”


“Catherine and Charlotte were exemplary – and in my brief chat with Illyana this morning, she informed me that Boronov is a shell of himself.  Especially since Mueller was killed as part of the raid.”


“How unfortunate,” Natalya said.  “And the nephew?”


“Dead – I understand the ladies are going to formally induct someone to their group tonight.”


“Then I must be sure to ensure they are rewarded – how fortunate we went shopping yesterday.”


“Indeed – on which note, Boronov is going to depend on that shipment of paintings.  Your plans to liberate them?”




“Good – I have one last task for you before you return home tomorrow…”



Thursday 12th March

4 am Local Time

St Petersburg


The private airstrip was dark, quiet, save for the sound of the van as it approached the runway, the lights off. 


“What sort of mood is he in,” the guy next to the driver said.


“Devastated, and angry as hell – did you hear the rumour?”


“That he pissed himself when the armed woman squeezed his balls?  I’m told it was excruciating to watch.”


“It’s excruciating to think about,” the driver said.  “Whoever’s been doing this has him by the balls in all ways – his brother, Meuller, the higher echelons, all gone.  He personally ordered this – he hasn’t done that in…”


“In what?” 


As he turned to look at the driver, he saw him look straight ahead, and then fall slowly to the side, as the masked woman stood there with the blooded knife in his hand.


She put her finger to her lips as he felt the cold metal against his forehead, and then the blinding white light filled his eyes and his mind…





The plane came down through the night sky, landing and coming to a stop alongside the van.  As the propellers came to a stop, the side door of the plane opened and a set of stairs came down, two men stepping down and looking round – then dropping to the ground with thin arrows sticking through their necks.


Two black clad figures slipped into the plane, and for a few seconds there was the soft phut of a silenced pistol, before one of them came out and waved, the third figure coming over as they started to unload a number of thin crates into the van.  It only took a few minutes before the three came out, two getting into the back of the van as the third drove off, the bodies left on the ground.


Fifteen minutes later, they pulled into a second airfield outside the city, where the Weasel was standing by a small jet plane.


“All fuelled and ready to go,” Dominique said as she got out from behind the wheel of the van.


“Good – better load them up.  I need to be on my way to Macau.”


Natalya and Helen helped two other men to load the paintings in the second plane, as Dominique stood with Weasel.


“The men?”


“All waiting for someone to find them.  This is the killer blow, Weasel – and Madame thanks you for your help.”


“Great – will she keep me safe from the others?”


“The other Pakhans?”


“Lord no – those two,” he said as he looked at Helen and Natalya.


“Oh they’re just big puddy cats,” Dominique said, “whereas I’m a real pussycat.”


“Oh…  OH!”


“So you see, I’m the one you really need to be scared of,” Dominique said.  “But for now, you have done well – and we ask only one thing more of you?”


“Whhhhhhh What’s that?”


“Organise a meeting – tomorrow, noon.  I wish to address the leaders.”


“All the Pakhans?  Are you out of your…”


“Do it Weasel – or I do it and I tell them your part in all this.”


“Okay, okay – I’ll set it up and call you,” he said as the plane started to taxi to the runway.


“Now, back to the hotel – I need to make a call.”




Wednesday 11th March

7 pm EST

The Richmond Mansion


“Hey – come on in,” Jo said as she held the door open, allowing Annie and Doc to come in.  They took their coats off, and hung them up, before they went into the main room.


“Hey – thanks for coming round for dinner,” Sandy said as she sat with the two children.  “I’m just checking their homework, and then they can head upstairs to their bedrooms.  We’ll eat in about half an hour.”


“Something smells good,” Anna said as she sat down. 


“Come on through and we can give Heather a hand,” Jo said as they went through, leaving Annie and Sandy to talk.


“Hey there,” Heather said as she looked up, “can you wash and prep the vegetables please?”


“Sure,” Doc said as she and Jo started to peel and chop.


“So how do you feel today,” Jo said as she looked at the younger girl.


“Strangely all right – when the time came, I imagined it was Burton, and – pop.”


Jo nodded.  “All of us faced it in different ways, Doc.  But it’s something we all had to do.”


“Because if you carry a gun, you have to accept some day you will need to use it?”


Jo nodded as she put the beans into the pot.  “When you killed that deer, it showed you were willing to take a life for a purpose – and when we do it, it is usually to serve a purpose, even if that purpose is to protect ourselves.”


Doc nodded as she threw the carrots into the other pot, and they turned them on.  “Does it get easier?”


“Yes but you never quite forget,” Jo said quietly.


“Is this why Criminal psychology interests you so much – because it helps you understand?”


Jo only nodded as Heather dried her hands.  “All right – enough morbidness you two.  Help me set the table.”




“That was delicious,” Doc said as she pushed the plate away.


“Right – come in the front room, the others will be here soon.”


“The others?”


“Come on through,” Jo said as she took Anna through, the two sitting in their Angel hoodies and jeans.   As they sat down, Heather showed Diana and Abigail in.


“Hey there,” Abby said as she sat down, “sleep well last night?”


“Yeah – how did you know?”


Abby just smiled as Carina came in with Juliette and Judith.  “Hello, Anna,” Carina said as she waved Judith’s little hand at her, “well done, big sis.”


“Big Sis?”


“We’re family Doc,” Juliette said as she sat down, crossing her legs as she looked over, “so yes, Big Sis.”


Anna blushed as Janice and Susan walked in, taking off their leather jackets and sitting down as Annie, Heather and Sandy came in.


“Right,” Juliette said as they sat down, “before we get to the main business of the night, Susan?”


“The gems last night have raised a total of 13.5 million dollars,” Susan said, “not counting the proposed ransom for the Prince of Siam Ruby.  That will be determined by Madame through her own channels.”


“Expect the money to be distributed as agreed,” Juliette said quietly, “after we replenish the weapons used.  What other news?”


“You may have heard of the gas explosions in St Petersburg last night?”


“I saw that on the news – a whole shopping area devastated,” Anna said.


“Three actually – such a shame the structure wasn’t strong enough to stand the gas explosion.  Although it has to be said, the bombs helped.”




“We will explain later,” Diana said.  “What of the other targets?”


“Catherine and her contacts shut down the Hong Kong side, and whoever it is Charlotte knows took over the mine.”




“The owners have been very quick to claim the insurance – ten million dollars.  The only way Boronov can raise that now is the paintings.”


“Which Dominique is taking care of – now,” Susan said as she looked at her watch.


“Who is Dominique?”


“Caroline,” Susan said, “time for the first secret you are going to learn tonight.  Caroline Jameson, security consultant and part time model, is also Dominique, the chief enforcer for Madame X.”


“The chief…  So that’s why she was able to help out!”


“Do not tell anyone else,” Annie said.  “Both Ama and I know, as well as the others – and that is it.”


“Oh my,” Anna said as she sat forward.


“Which brings us to the main reason we’re here tonight,” Juliette said as she stood up.  “Anna, last night you did a very important thing as part of our plan, for which we thank you.  It also means it’s time to bring you into the group properly.  Stand up please.”


Anna slowly stood up in front of Juliette.


“You already know Jo is Miss Bobcat, and Abby is Miss Tigress.  For the rest of the core group, I am Miss Panther, and Diana is Miss Leopard.”


She turned and looked at Sandy, as she said “Miss Puma, and Miss Cheetah,” putting her arm round Heather as she did so.


“Which leaves me – Miss Lynx,” Carina said quietly.


“I had figured out – but the descriptions of Miss Lynx and Miss Tigress do not match you two physically.”


“Extra high heels in my case, and – well, you’ll see The Thing one day,” Cari said as she looked at Abby.


“So you’re the core – how do the rest of you fit in?”


“We’re the Auxiliary,” Susan said with a smile.  “I use the name Miss Jaguar, and Dom – sorry, Caroline is Miss Civet.”


“I’m Miss Ocelot,” Janice said, “and Annie is Miss Snow Leopard.”


“The others we will talk about later – but for now, Anna Carlton, we have something to give to you, to welcome you into our family.”


She took from her purse a black box, and handed it over to Anna.  “You’re one of us now Anna – a pussycat, and this is our sign.”


Doc watched as Juliette slowly opened the box and took out a cat shaped diamond and gold pin, the others standing as well.


"We have decided to call you Miss Oncilla, after your previous activities Anna. It too does its best activities in the twilight or at night." Juliette smiled as she handed her the jewelled pin. "Always keep this safe sweetheart, it's more than just a symbol."

"I know." for once Anna looked totally lost for words. "This is the greatest moment of my life.  Thank you – thank you so much."

"Well hopefully, Cherie, there will be many more just as good." Diana said as she hugged her, followed one by one by the others.

"You do realise that now you are bound by the collective loyalty of the group Anna?" Jo looked her hard in the eyes.

"I do,” Doc said quietly, “one falls or makes a mistake she puts everyone else at risk."

"Exactly." Annie said as she hugged her student, "And you have a wonderful career ahead of you as a doctor to look forward to, helping and caring for people, as well as your other career with us."

"Just remember what I've learned Anna," Janice said as she smiled and looked at her, "Any time, whatever the problem, you now have a band of sisters to back you up, and whose advice and help is given freely, unconditionally, and with real love."

"Now I think champagne is in order." Heather started passing round glasses and opened a bottle, filling the glasses as she said “a toast – to Anna, the newest pussycat.”


“To Anna!”


As they drank, Juliette said, “sit down, relax – we have other things to do, but for now, ask your questions.”


“I’d love to know how you got together in the first place, one day,” Anna said, “but I have other things on my mind.”  Taking another drink, she put her glass down and looked round the room.


"So how did the original Pussycat gang become so much larger?" Anna asked with a curious look on her face.

"Well, I was taken as a hostage." Susan giggled.

"I'd hardly say you were a hostage Susan." Carina looked up from playing with Judith.

"Well let’s put it this way, the Pussycats asked for someone to join them from Madame's people when we were working the same target, I went to join them as a symbol of good faith.  At the time, I was working out of Los Angeles, and was here as part of a team including Penny and Dom."

“So that’s how you met them all?”


“It’s certainly how Shirley and I met,” Juliette said, “she called in on my at home one night – unexpectedly.”


"A while later when I got kidnapped, Madame offered us support, so Susan and Dominique both helped free me." Jo smiled.


“And a few months later Dom – sorry, Caroline – settled in New York and adopted Ama.  You met Ama at the same time, you said Miss Kelly?”

"I just made mistakes,” Annie grimaced, “I burgled both Sandy and Susan, and eventually ran into Dominique on a job...well one thing led to another...  Then Susan took me to see Jeannie in Manchester, and I found out about all of them then."


“Just before you decided to arrive, you beauty,” Carina said as she tickled Judith.

“Then we all got involved in that business over the summer,” Susan said, “which is how Jan came in.”


"I was, as I look back, tested and invited in, the whole Walrus thing proved to me that acting outside the law is often no worse then what is being done inside the law... plus I like nice expensive things." Janice giggled.

"Don't we all." Annie laughed.

"Charlotte worked for Madame, but has also fit in perfectly with us, and even our contact in Hong Kong Catherine, and Madame herself have worn the jewelled cat." Juliette summarized.


“So you all have independent funds?”


“Managed off shore – but our doctrine is we hide in plain sight,” Abby said.  “Besides, like us, anything you earn as a Pussycat goes into a trust fund.”


"Your lifestyle, Anna, must reflect that of a 15 year old scholarship recipient, so no spending sprees like when you were hooking. If Anna can't afford it, then Anna doesn't get it."

"That sucks."

"I know." Annie put her arms round her student, "but remember - hiding in plain sight, no obvious clues that you have far more money then you should have."

"For example I'll be shopping the bargain racks for my prom dress, even though in reality I could afford anything I liked." Jo pouted for a second.


“Oh I think I might be able to help you go a little better – Sandy just paid me a bonus for the New Jersey job,” Heather said with a smile.


“Thanks, Sis,” Jo said with a smile.


"So who do I take orders from?" Anna looked up as she sipped her champagne.

"On a general level, Juliette is in charge, and Diana functions as the 2IC. Heather is Tech and Communications Officer, but really we function more as a collective group." Sandy said as she sat next to Heather, “we all discuss and we collectively decide about work and targets, everyone who works a job gets an equal share of the profit."

"Equally anyone can bring an idea to the group for discussion, and if we all agree we then proceed." Juliette lifted her granddaughter up onto her lap. "We just have one strict rule, we don't steal from, or hurt, friends and family, and that includes extended family, doesn't it Carina?"

“Hey I've apologized before,” Cari said as she held her hands up, “the Beast shouldn't have done that to Kelly, but someone should have told her specifically."

"Who is the Beast, I haven't met her have I?" Anna looked round the room.

"Anna I think it's time you learned the deepest and darkest of all Pussycat secrets." Juliette looked round the room as each woman nodded in turn.

"The Beast is Miss Lynx, who is Carina sometimes." Carina explained herself. "I'm a split personality Anna, and the half who hides is a Psychopath who revels in murder, horror and torture...."


Doc stared at Carina, as she slowly said “Oh my god – the stories of what you do…”


“All true, and much of it is led by me,” Carina said, “for the longest time we struggled with each other, but now we have an accord – for there are two people we both love.”


Doc looked at Annie and Judith, and then said “so I will meet this beast…”


“You have already met her in passing – when you came to the Farm with Burton.”


“You – it was you in the mask.”


“Yeah – but I didn’t kill him.  Anna, you and yours are perfectly safe – the Beast does not hurt those it considers immediate family, or those it is told not to hurt – specifically.”


Doc looked round, and said “anything else I need to know about?  The rest of you…”


“Are perfectly sane – homicidal, but perfectly sane,” Annie said.


“Now we need to let you know of our communications grid,” Heather said as she took out a retinal scanner.  “Look straight into the lens please with your left eye, Anna.”


“Why,” Anna said as she watched the red light scan her eye.


“For this,” Heather said as she produced an exact copy of her laptop, and worked on it for a few minutes.  “I’ve already pre-loaded it with the contents of your hard drive – your music tastes…”




“All right, all right – but the thing is, look what happens when you look into the key fob.”


As Anna looked at the fob, the screen changed and became a grey background with a jeweled cat on it, and some windows for mail and chat.


“This is our secure communications network, Anna – with it we can send messages, chat and do video calls with complete security.  Login is achieved using the keyfob, and only you can use it.  If this ever gets damaged, bring it straight to me.  If it is stolen, call me immediately.”


“Wow – and you…”


“It’s your laptop now – use it as a fifteen year old would, save for Pussycat business.”


“Why is that window flashing,” Anna said as she pointed to the camera icon.


“Someone wants to talk to you,” Heather said as she double clicked on the icon.


“Well now, I see Heather has given you a laptop – welcome to the sisterhood.”


“Caroline?  Since when have you had dark hair?”


“When I am Dominique, I remove the wig – most of the time,” Dom said from her hotel room in St Petersburg.  “I called to congratulate and welcome you.”


“Thanks, I think,” Anna said, “do you mind if I stick to Caroline though?  I have enough to wrap my mind round at the moment.”


“Not at all – Susan, you there?”


“I’m here – how did it go?”


“All off with the couriers – I fly back to London tonight, and New York on Saturday.  Jan, Annie, tell Ama I have the biggest hug waiting for her.”


“I will do – and we’ll eat out Saturday,” Annie said.  “What do you have left to do?”


“One last meeting to take care of, and then I can relax.  Take care all of you, especially you Doc – and welcome.”


The call ended, as Doc looked at them all.


“This connects to anyone on the network?”


“If they are online yes – it’s a little late for Shirley, but the chat window shows who if anyone else is around.”


"Oh by the way I've forgotten there are three other women with pussycat pins, Penny, Lily and Maddie are all people we trust, have used in the past, and will no doubt make up teams for future jobs." Juliette spoke again.

"What about Clint, or John, or Klaus?"

"Clint knows Doc, but the others do not, you have been told each name that is an insider, just remember that list, only they are in the closed group.” Juliette nodded.


“The one exception is Ama,” Annie said, “she knows most of us, because she stayed with Shirley when we first freed her.  But she says nothing – as you have realized by now, Doc.”


“Yeah - she says nothing and sees everything.”


“Exactly – she is a good friend as well, so use her.”




Thursday 12th March

Noon local time

St Petersburg


Where they were was not important – it was well furnished, and good food and drink had been supplied, as befitted the leaders of the main families in St Petersburg.


“So why are we all here,” one large man with an ill fitting black wig said as he picked up a spoonful of caviar.


“All I know is we all had a request to come here,” another said as he sat at the table, “but I suspect it had something to do with Boronov.”


“He is ruined now, nothing,” a third said, “we should be deciding what to do with what is left of his holdings.”


“Ah, but the way it was done,” another said, “taking his business apart piece by piece, taking out his brother and lieutenants, destroying his sources of income…  Did you hear about the Hong Kong interests?”


“He should never have tried to take on the Tongs – but there was someone else at work here.”


“I agree – but who?  It was not me – nor one of you I suspect, so who did he upset so much?”


“Good afternoon gentlemen – thank you for meeting me here today.”


All faces turned to the doors, where The Weasel was holding it open for a tall, thin, black haired woman, wearing a dark trouser suit, and high heels, with a black scarf round her neck.


“Please, be seated,” she said.  “thank you Viktor, see we are not disturbed.”


“Who are you?”


“Allow me to introduce myself – I am Dominique, and I am here today as the voice and representative of my employer, Madame X.”


The men all stopped and looked at her, as Dominique said “I trust no further introduction is required.  I also come today as the representative of the Honoured Father, Fung Chen.”


“Speak your case,” one of the men said.


“Your equal, Boronov, made a grave mistake when he tried to interfere in the business concerns of both Madame X and the Honoured Father, and I was dispatched to show their displeasure.  Had Boronov accepted my initial rebuke, that would have been the end of the matter, but he did not.”


“The incident on Sunday Last?”


Dominique nodded, and said “As a result, at their direction, I and others have taken action to, simply put, ruin him.  I believe you saw the results over the last few nights.”


The Pakhans looked at each other, as Dominique said “the people I represent have no wish to continue this now that honour has been satisfied.  What remains of Boronov’s empire, we leave you to deal with as you see fit.  In return, we ask that you remember the lesson, and leave the business concerns of both Madame and the Honoured Father to them.”



“And if we refuse?”


Dominique smiled and said “you have seen what I have managed to accomplish in a short while.  Do you really wish to know what we can do if we bring our full resources and planning to bear on you?”


The men looked at each other before one said “and in return?”


“In return, we leave you to conduct your business, secure in the knowledge our eye will not turn your way again – unless warranted.”


Looking at each other, they nodded as their spokesman said “you have our word.”


“And that is sufficient for them.  Good day gentlemen – please, continue to enjoy the entertainment.”


As she turned to leave, Dominique looked back and said “oh yes – Viktor. I wish no harm to come to him – he can be most valuable to you all as a go-between.”


“We understand and acknowledge.”


Dominique smiled as she left the room, The Weasel looking at her.


“How did you manage that?”


“Your safety? Our reward – and a fee will be with you in due course.”  Dom looked at him and said “despite all appearances, I like you.  Now, get me out the way we came in – I need to check out with my colleagues.”


“So when is your plane due to depart, dear lady?”


“At five -  I have enjoyed my visit and my work here, but the time had come to return to my other duties.”


“Such a glamorous life you live, my dear.”


“You have not seen me in pyjamas up to my elbows in muffin mix,” she said with a smile.  “Come – take me back.”









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