A Tale of Three Cities – part 3
West Central Park
“There you are,” Katy said as Jan and Adam came back in, “how was the meal?”
“Depends,” Jan said, “I don’t remember you giving any of my boyfriends the third degree Mom.”
“Oh – that sort of meal was it?”
“Yeah –sorry, I know she can be a bit of a handful,” Adam said quietly.
"Adam,” Jan said,
“why when you talked about your mother did I get this idea she was a
stereotyped 'Jewish Mama' at home cooking, cleaning, and fretting about her son
being out there in the big, hostile, gentile, world."
know," he shifted his weight nervously from side to side. "I guess
because that's sort of the woman I wish she was."
this super-efficent former naval officer..."
"What did she do
in the navy?" Katy interrupted.
helicopters off of carriers, she worked in the Pentagon, she
retired after a term as an assistant dean of Midshipmen at Annapolis."
"Well let’s put it
this way,” Adam said as he rubbed the back of his head, “she's been a lot to
live up to."
"You are telling
me." Jan went quiet as she thought hard. "So why did you never tell
"Honestly? Because as a 'mere' FBI agent she thinks I'm
"Surely not Adam?" Katherine questioned.
“Oh yes Katherine,” Adam said with a rueful smile. “When I signed up to the Marines, she was so proud – so when I came back and joined the Bureau instead, she never really understood why.”
“What about Eve? Does she get on with her?”
“Not really – part of the reasons he married her first husband was to get away from her. Despite her career, her achievements, she’s still a Jewish mother – and shows it in some rather abrupt ways.”
“So that’s why you went for the lamb instead of the pork tonight?”
“Yeah – I’m meeting her for a drink tomorrow lunchtime. I’ll see what she’s really after...”
Sunday 7th February
9 am Pacific Time
Hilton Union Square
“Thanks again for coming out,” Mary said as she sat with Trina, Missy, Carina and Juliette in the booth, while Judith sat in the high chair and munched on some melon fingers, “I guess it really is beginning to sink in now.”
“Well, I spoke to Maddie yesterday, and she said Liz Applebee will come down and see you during the week, help you to get things sorted out.”
“I couldn’t be happier for you Mary,” Trina said as she finished her coffee, “but I need to get going. Got a week’s work to catch up on.”
"Trina I have some
news for you before you go?"
Trina stopped and
looked at her agent. "Oh
"Have you heard of
"New line of
clothing aimed at college girls?"
one...well this may or may not lead to anything but they want to shoot some
print ads featuring you as the model, and they'll send a crew out here to shoot
it on campus."
CONGRATS!" both Carina and Mary stood up and embraced her.
"So they will come
out to Palo Alto?"
"Nope, and this
you might not like," Missy smiled, "they want to shoot at
University of California."
"I know very well
what it is Missy, but my sorority sisters would kill me if I'm seen at THAT
"Pity, it could
lead to a spokesmodel role...mucha
"Mary you know
damn well I don't need the money, I'm not modelling for that."
"Well think it out Trina...this could be big for you."
“I’ll think about it – no more than that,” Trina said as she smiled and kissed Judith, then went off.
“When’s your flight?”
“11.30. We’ll see you on Friday, Mary...”
“There you are,” Doc said as she saw Chet, Sarah and H walking towards her. Like Sarah, she was wearing a padded coat, her winter boots covering her lower legs, while the boys had duffle coats fastened over their jumpers and jeans.
“Sorry – Blair was showing me some of her design work from her course,” Cher said. “Always got to keep big sis happy?”
“I know the feeling,” she said as she looked at H and Sarah. “How are you two?”
“We’re good,” Sarah said with a smile, “we had a long talk after the party, and we’ve cleared the air now.”
“Glad to hear it – anyway, I asked another friend to join us this morning, hope you don’t mind.”
“Good morning Chet darling – it is so good to see you again?”
“Kylie? Kylie Mitchell?”
“So I keep being told,” Kylie said with a smile. “Sarah, Harry – I don’t think we’ve met since the beach party last August, have we?”
“No – but you look good,” Sarah said, “How much longer do you have in Hong Kong?”
“I sit my exams in April and May, and after that – well, I’ll know the answer to that by the end of this week, so no need to worry about it just now. Shall we go and find some coffee?”
“Sounds good to me,” Doc said as they headed for the cafe.
“Hey,” Annie said as she opened the door and saw Jo standing there, “come on up. Want some coffee?”
“Thanks – hey Ama. Is your mom around?”
“She just went to get some things, she should be back in a minute,” Ama said as she looked up. She was curled up in the seat, wearing a pair of baggy white socks over her leggings and an Angels hoodie on.
“Hard at work?”
“Indeed – I have a Chemistry test tomorrow,” Ama said with a smile as Caroline came in.
“Is that fresh coffee I smell?”
“It is,” Annie called through from the kitchen as the doorbell rang. Ama went down, returning with Alice MacKinnon.
“Hey,” Jo said as Annie brought the coffee through, “so why did I get asked to come over?”
“Well, I’m going to see Diana and Abby after this,” Alice said, “to do the post-ball discussion, but I wanted to talk to both of you about Ireland, and likely dates.”
“Diaries out,” Caroline said with a smile as the three of them drew large black books and opened them.
“Well, there is an obvious time – the end of Spring Break,” Jo said, “after that it’s the wedding and then exams. When are you and Ama heading to Spain, Caroline?”
“On the 12th, Caroline said, “and we were due to fly back on the 17th, but we could rearrange, go from Madrid to Dublin, and then we can fly back on the Monday?”
“Sandy and the family are heading to the Seberg at the end of that week – I’d hoped to go with them, but i don’t think there is any other time we can do this. We’ll also miss Jeannie’s sixteenth, but if there is one person who will understand that, it is her.”
“I’ll combine the shoot with a survey of the castle,” Caroline said, “so if that’s fine with them, and with you Alice, we can book the dates. I’ll go to Dublin first, and then travel with Jo on the Friday.”
“Okay – I’ll let Missy know and get the paperwork sorted out,” Alice said with a smile. “I think this is going to be a marvellous visit.”
“Do we get to drink the Guinness as well,” Jo said with a grin.
“Yuck – horrible stuff.”
“I know you won’t like it Ama,” Caroline said with a smile, “although you didn’t mind it with the beef and orange stew the other day...”
The de Ros Mansion
“Mrs MacKinnon,” Edith said, Abby and Diana standing up as Alice came in.
“Well now, how are you two,” Alice said as she kissed both of them.
“Just about recovered,” Abby said with a smile, “did you see the show?”
“No, but I have seen the recordings,” Alice said, “I think they went down as well as, if not better than, Cari last year.”
“Where did you find the lace for my dress Alice,” Abby asked as Edith placed some cups of coffee on the table.
“A haul Heather found for me last Christmas – the vast majority of which is going on a dress for the first weekend in April,” Alice said with a smile.
“Oh? The main dress or all of them?”
“The main dress of course,” Alice said with a smile, “and I’m hoping you’ll get your first look at the bridesmaid dresses after you go to San Francisco. On which note – I saw the sketches of the outfit Kylie designed for Mary Clarke for that. She’s going to wow them – but don’t tell her I saw them.”
“You know Kylie is here this week?”
Alice nodded as she sipped her coffee. “I guess this is the week we find out exactly what she will be doing next year.”
“What do you mean?”
Alice looked at Abby, and then said “You haven’t been told?”
“The fact that Marina may be offered a position as one of Anna’s new team? I’d heard – but I had not appreciated that may make Kylie’s plans change as well. She may well stay in New York.”
“Well, if she did,” Alice said, “I’d be more than willing to take her under my wing as well.”
“Kylie – that girl has a good eye and a real future.”
The Altamont Hotel
Adam looked up as her mother came in, wearing a white blouse under a black trouser suit, and signalled to the barman.
“Casual day today, Adam,” Eleanor said as she looked at her son. Even though it was February, Adam was wearing a long sleeved rugby shirt and dark jeans.
“When you have to wear a suit for work, Mom, dressing down is a luxury,” Adam said as the barman came over. “Your usual?”
As Eleanor nodded, Adam said “Vermouth, on the rocks – and I’ll have the same again.”
“So,” Eleanor said, “you’re looking well, Adam.”
“Now that I’ve got over the shock of your arrival,” Adam said as he picked up his Whisky. “Well, you’ve met Janice now. What do you think?”
"Well having seen
her Adam I can understand why you are sleeping with her." Eleanor took her
drink. "She's rather attractive."
Rolling his eyes, Adam
said "It's about a bit more then sex Mom."
"Well of course it
is,” Eleanor said quietly, “but you have to understand as yet I have little to
go on about her."
"Oh like you
haven't run her through your friends in Naval Intelligence...just like every
other woman I ever dated."
said with a smile, “I'm only looking out for your best interests..."
"Well Janice is
the best thing ever to come into my life."
"You approve then
of her racing cars, and her blatant use of cronyism to better her life?"
"Oh like your
ring-knockers don't look out for each other?"
do?" Eleanor played with her Annapolis class ring. "But she takes it
to real advantage."
"Well she has very
good friends who like her and try and help."
"Having seen the
lease on her apartment it's a bit more then help."
"Why did you really come to visit Mom?"
“Can’t I come and see my son?”
“Of course you can, but the question still stands,” Adam said quietly, “why are you here?”
Eleanor looked in her purse, and unfolded a clipping from a magazine. When she opened it out and showed it to Adam, he saw a shot from the fashion show of him, Janice and Katy.
“When I saw this, I thought it was time I came and...”
“Interfered in my life again?”
“No,” Eleanor said quietly, “met this woman who had made you so happy. And having met her, I have only one thing to say.”
“Here it comes,” Adam muttered under his breath.
“She intrigues me – so many questions I look forward to asking her. And her friends as well – fashion designers, models, interior designers...”
“Teachers, florists, realtors, engineers,” Adam said with a grin. “You’re checking her out thoroughly, aren’t you?”
“Well, can you blame me, Adam darling?”
“Go on,” Adam said quietly, “she’s got nothing to hide.”
The Speakeasy, Buffalo
“The latest reports,” Rochelle said as she dropped a printout on Miss Panther’s desk. She looked down the text, and then smiled.
"Now she is interesting."
Miss Panther looked at the report from her agents.
woman who visited Janice Carter earlier...a retired naval officer of quite
said, “why would she make you curious."
"Because if Agent
Carter is a member of this nebulous group of women righting the world’s wrongs,
she is just the sort of person I suspect is higher up the command
she's her partner’s mother..."
"Can you imagine a
better cover?" Miss Panther looked up and closed her eyes.
"Get me whatever you can on Captain Eleanor Ball please."
Washington Square West
“It is very good of you to come with me today, Miss Abigail,” Edith said as she and Abby walked along the street. Abby was wearing a long coat over her jeans and hoodie, her blonde hair pulled back and her glasses on, while Edith had on a black greatcoat, her brown shoes and dark tights visible underneath.
“Well, I’m not sure if you can understand this Edith, but I have to be here,” Abby said quietly.
“Oh? In what way, Miss Abigail?”
“Mom told me Edith – Mom told me everything.”
Edith stopped and turned to look at the young woman. “May I be informal for a moment?”
Abby nodded, wondering what the woman who had been their housekeeper as long as she could remember was going to say. The last thing she expected was for Edith to smile, and say “good – it will make this so much more special. I owe your mother everything, Miss Abigail – and I will do anything for her. Shall we?”
Edith walked up the steps beside a ramp, and pressed a button on the wall, the doors swinging outwards before she and Abby went in. The entrance looked like the entrance to a hotel, as Edith walked over to the reception desk.
“Good afternoon, Miss Hargraves. If you could sign the...”
The woman behind the desk looked at Abby, as Edith said “we are both visiting my sister today. My friend here is in the way of a surprise for her, however – please, do not let anyone else know.”
“Of course,” the woman said as Abby smiled at her, Edith leading the way to the elevator. They made their way up to the third floor and then to one of the doors, Edith knocking as she said “may I come in Coleen?”
“Of course you can,” a voice called out, “the door’s open.”
As they went in, Abby saw sitting in a wheelchair a woman, a few years older than Edith, wearing a long skirt and blue blouse. She looked up and said “hello Edith – and who is this you... Oh my, are you Abigail de Ros? I’ve seen your picture in the magazines.”
“I hope you don’t mind,” Abby said as she unfastened her coat, “but I realised I had never been to see you, so I asked Edith if I could accompany her today.”
“Well, I’m honoured,” Coleen said as she used a small handle to power her wheelchair forward, “coffee?”
“I can get that if...” Abby stepped forward, but Edith gently held her arm and shook her head as Coleen went to a low work surface, taking three mugs from a rack and switching on a coffee maker.
“Edith tells me all about you, and your travels,” Coleen said, “you’ve just come back from Vienna, right?”
“That’s right – I have with me a recording the Opernball. Perhaps you would like to see it?”
“if you don’t mind leaving it, I will watch it later tonight and return it via Edith,” Coleen said. “When she visits, we have a drink, and then go for a walk in George Washington Park. Would you care to come with us?”
“I would be honoured,” Abby said as she took a mug of coffee from Coleen. “May I take a seat?”
As she sat down, Abby looked round the small apartment. “You have a nice place here, Miss Hargraves.”
“Oh call me Coleen,” she said as she came back over, “well, it does. They allow me a few home comforts, but it is still just a glorified hospice room really. Having said which, there is a lot worse out there.”
“I can imagine – and this is good coffee,” Abby said.
“Mrs de Ros is kind enough to send me some every so often,” Coleen said. “So what have you been up to recently O sister of mine? Running around that big place by yourself...”
“It has kept me busy – with Madame and Miss Abigail away, I took the opportunity to spring clean the bedrooms.”
“You know, if anyone had told me twenty years ago you would be a housekeeper, I would have never believed it.”
“Oh – and why is that,” Abigail said with a raised eyebrow.
“Oh – has Edith been keeping her light under a bushel from you dear? Well, far be it for me to tell...”
“I would rather you did not here,” Edith said, “let’s wait until we go outside.”
West Central Park
“Thanks,” Adam said as he took the coffee mug from Katherine, “did you slip some in?”
“Oh yes – you looked like you needed it,” Janice said. “How was lunch with Mom?”
“A grilling worthy of the second Gulf War – she’s really checking up on you Jan, and I apologise for that.”
“Well, I’ve nothing to hide,” Jan said with a smile.
“Someone checking up on Jan? Inform the Hidden Hand – she’ll want to know.”
“Anyway, I get the feeling she’s going to be around for a little while,” Adam said, as Jan saw him shudder.
"Why didn't you go
to the Naval Academy yourself Adam?"
"I had an
appointment,” Adam said as he held his mug, “and it was expected that I'd do
so, but I guess that was the problem...Mom 'expected' it."
"So instead I
enlisted directly in the marines...I'm not sure what mother hated most, that I
was ducking out on Annapolis, or that I was a mere enlisted man."
"Well I've told
you something about my time in the corps...I took college courses in my spare
time and eventually they sent me to finish my degree at the University of Maryland."
"That was in
between tours of duty in a few hot spots round the globe?"
“So you’re a decorated Marine, an agent in the FBI, wounded in the course of action – and that’s not enough for her?”
“Never was going to
be.” Adam shook his head, and then said "I
guess I've spent a lifetime escaping the fact that I'm "Iron Balls"
"They call her
'Iron Balls',” Jan said as she laughed.
“I bet they only said that behind her back."
"No actually she
will answer quite proudly to it... It's proof in her mind that she's just as tough as any
Goddess...and to think the biggest thing I worried about was what she'd think
of you dating a Roman Catholic, Irish, Single
"Well now you know better."
Monday 8th February
FBI Field Office, Buffalo
Andre Baughman looked up as he heard the knock on the door, and saw Enid Corben standing there.
“Enid, come away in,” he said as he closed the file on his desk, “How are you?”
“Wondering what’s going on – I’ve got the all clear to come back into the office, but I need to know where I stand with you and the other agents, boss.”
“Close the door,” Baughman said, Enid nodding as she did so and sat in front of her. “I can’t tell you too much about Welch, mainly because they’re not telling me, save that he is being charged with interference in an ongoing investigation, and has been ordered not to have contact with any of us.”
Enid nodded and said “so, where do I stand?”
“I got your clearance this morning, which means they don’t believe you had anything to do with whatever he was up to,” Baughman said, “and I’ll spread the word around the room. It looks like the root of the investigation is in New York.”
“New York?” Enid shook her head as she said “is Agent Carter involved?”
“No comment – but it will help you round here if you have no contact with them for the far distant future.”
“Understood boss,” Enid said, “so what do you want me to do?”
“Catch up on the paperwork – we’ll sort out your reassignment once the dust settles.”
Enid nodded as she stood up and left the office, and Andre went back to the file, a picture of Eleanor Ball in dress uniform at the top.
“You are a fascinating woman, Captain Ball,” he said to himself, “decorated, and time in Naval Intelligence. Very fascinating indeed.”
Janine and Alexis looked up as Marina came into the office area with Catherine and Helen.
“Hey – welcome back to the big apple,” Janine said as she hugged her friend. “How was the flight?”
“Long – listen, can you give me and Helen an hour right now? We want to discuss the import arrangements from the new supplier in Tokyo.”
“Sure – Alexis, can you hold the fort here for an hour or so?”
“No problem boss.”
“Come on – we’ll use the conference room,” Janine said as Alexis knocked on the door.
“Catherine Lu to see you Juliette.”
“Oh hi Cathy,” Juliette said as she looked up, “are the others with you?”
“Kylie has gone to see Mary, and Marina and Helen are in conference with Janine on a matter for Huntingdowns,” Catherine said as she came in and hugged her old friend.
“Alexis, coffee for two please?”
“Coming up boss,” Alexis said as she closed the door.
“How was San Francisco?”
“Tiring – Judith had a great time on the cars, while Missy and I made Mary Clarke a multimillionaire on paper overnight.”
“A productive trip then,” Cathy said with a smile as Alexis brought the coffee in. Setting the mugs down, she left, closing the office door behind herself.
“How is Marina?”
“Nervous, uncertain – why do you ask?”
“Because Anna knows she’s in the building – she called me a moment ago. She’s going to invite her up for a chat later.”
Cathy nodded. “I expected this would be the case. Susan talked to the girls when they arrived, and I know Kylie and Marina have talked to each other.”
“What are your thoughts?”
“As before – the choice must lie with Marina, and I am prepared to support her decision, as is Helen. In fact, should she decide this is a path she wishes to walk, I see a positive advantage that only occurred to me recently.”
“Anna has been the subject of death threats before,” Cathy said, “and I feel, if she is going to be spending time in Russia and China, the threats could be just as real.”
Juliette nodded, and then looked at Cathy. “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting?”
Cathy nodded slowly. “I understand we are having lunch with Shirley at one. I will outline my thoughts then.”
Juliette nodded as the telephone rang.
“Juliette? Alice MacKinnon on Line 2.”
“Thank you, Alexis,” Juliette said as she put on the speakerphone. “Bats – let’s talk.”
“Thanks, Janine,” Marina said as she closed her laptop, “I think that puts everything in place, do you agree Helen?”
“I believe so, yes,” Helen said as the telephone rang. Janine picked it up and said “conference room?
“Oh hi Anna.
“Yeah, she’s here.
“Okay – I’ll bring her up.”
As she ended the call, Marina and Helen exchanged a glance.
“I promised Kylie I would go and see her and Mary when we had finished,” Helen said as they stood up. “I will find you at Juliette’s office at lunchtime, Marina.”
“I’ll make sure she is there,” Janine said, “Marina, will you walk with me for a minute please?”
“Sure,” Marina said with a smile as they left the office, “where to?”
“Anna Mitchell called down – she’d like a word with you,” Janine said as they got into the elevator.
“You know why she wants to have a word with me?”
“Officially or unofficially?”
Janine looked over at Marina, before she said “talk to her, then come find me, all right?”
“All right,” Marina said as she brushed some imaginary lint off her jacket, and then stepped out of the elevator.
“Hey Jan,” the secretary said as she looked up, “and you must be Marina. Go right on in.”
“Good luck,” Janine said as she knocked on the door, and both heard Anna say “come.”
As they walked in, Anna Mitchell stood up and came round her desk. “Anna, this is Marina Sowkowski. Marina, Anna Mitchell.”
“Thanks for coming up at short notice,” Anna said as she shook Marina’s hand. “Take a seat. Janine, do you mind?”
“Of course,” Janine said as she stepped out, closing the door behind herself. As Marina sat down, Anna moved to the side of the room and poured two cups of coffee.
“I never got the chance to properly thank you for the assistance you and Helen gave to Juliette on the recent St Petersburg shoot,” she said as she handed Marina a cup, and sat down opposite her.
“It was a privilege,” Marina said, “and a learning opportunity for me as well.”
“How are you finding Hong Kong?”
Marina sipped her coffee, and then put the cup down. “At first, I was a little overwhelmed, but I am enjoying the experience. I’ve a working knowledge of Cantonese and Mandarin now, and I’ve managed to learn a lot about international working practices.”
Anna nodded as she sipped her own coffee. “So as well as that, you speak Polish, Ukranian and Russian, correct?”
“To a greater or lesser degree, yes.”
“And before that you worked for Shirley Xavier in London?”
“That’s right,” Marina said as she reflected on her cover story, “she spotted whatever little talent I have, and sent me on this secondment to develop my skills.”
“I hear that has been a great success,” Anna said with a smile.
“Forgive me Anna,” Marina said, “if I ask a forward question.”
“Go ahead,” Anna said with a smile.
“I know you’ve talked to Catherine, Janine and Juliette, as well as to my tutor at Oxford. I also know you are taking on a new position within Complete Style.”
“Did Janine tell you?”
“She did – and I want to offer my congratulations on that.”
“Thank you,” Anna said with a smile, “so allow me to be equally forward. All I have heard of you, Marina, tells me that you are a skilled administrator, and that you communicate well in Russian, Cantonese and Mandarin. Part of my new role will involve dealing with people at a high level in Russia and China, and I need someone on my team with the skills necessary to support that.
“Now, I know your plan was to return to London, but I would be honoured if you would consider changing your plans, and coming to work for me instead here at Complete Style.”
Marina sat in silence for a moment, before she said “Wow. Forgive me Anna, but I did wonder if this was what was coming. It has still come as a bit of a shock however. What are you considering?”
“I already have two PA’s,” Anna said, “but I have budget for two more. If you came to work for me, you’d be my point person in dealing with Russia and China, liaising with senior staff and editors in terms of my work with them and making sure I understand what they are saying. In return, I can offer what I think is a very competitive package.”
Standing up, Anna went to her desk and picked up an envelope, which she handed to Marina. “Don’t look at it yet – leave that for later. I do want to say one other thing however, which you cannot included in a package statement.”
Marina took the envelope, and said “that is?”
“Kylie – I know you two are close, and she would need to be involved in any discussions you have. What I can say is if you took this position, and Kylie decided to relocate to New York as well, both Mary and I would provide all the support she needed, both in terms of schooling and other arrangements.”
Marina nodded as she looked at the envelope. “Anna, I am honoured you would consider me for such a position, but you should know whatever my personal feelings, I would want to discuss this with others before I gave you my decision.”
“Of course – but please, don’t take too long. We have a window of opportunity this week to start the ball rolling if you decide to accept.”
“Of course – give me a day or two and I’ll let you know one way or another.”
“I ask no more than that,” Anna said as she stood up, “let me walk you to the elevator.”
As they left the office, Anna said “talk to the others, and let me know soon.”
“Of course,” Marina said as she walked into the elevator, letting the doors close before she leaned against the wall and let out a low whistle.
“Hey,” Janine said as she saw Marina walk in, “how did it go?”
Marina looked over to the door, as Juliette looked out of her office, before she said “can I talk to both of you, in private?”
“Come in,” Juliette said as Marina and Janine came in, closing the door behind them. “Take a seat, and a deep breath.”
“She offered you the position, didn’t she,” Janine said. Marina nodded and held up the envelope.
“Okay,” Juliette said, “I’m going to have lunch with Shirley and Cathy. Janine, take Marina out for a long lunch. I’ll call Mary and get her and Helen to look after Kylie.”
“We’ll talk later – all three of us – with you and Kylie.”
“Got it,” Marina said as she stood up.
“Come on,” Janine said as she put her arm round Marina’s shoulders, “I think this needs a sit down somewhere.”
“Here they are,” Brooke called out, “the two most famous girls in this school at the moment!”
Both Abby and Letty blushed as the room applauded them to their table.
“Seems I missed a hell of a night,” Abby said as she unwrapped her sandwich.
“”Oh I don’t know – from what I’ve seen on the web, you did fine yourself,” Letty said with a smile.
“Touche – but it was so good to see that trophy on the stage again this morning,” Abby said with a grin.
“Anyway,” Letty said, “the girls wanted me to give you something.”
She reached into her jacket pocket, and took out a badge, handing it to Abby.
“Well, you virtually have been,” Letty said with a smile. “So, what did you do this weekend while I was coming down from the ceiling?”
“Learning some family history,” Abby said.
“Oh you have no idea...”
Bishop Walden School
“So how was the weekend for you Katy,” Cassie said as she sat between Katy and Laura.
“Quiet – for once. I got caught up on my assignments, but there was a bit of a surprise on Saturday when...”
“Well hello again, Katy.”
“When this lady appeared at home,” Katy said as the girls looked at the woman standing in front of them, wearing a leather jacket, blouse and pants.
“So aren’t you going to tell them who I am?”
"Okay,” Katy said
with a smile as she kicked her legs out.
“Girls, this is Captain Eleanor Ball, formerly of the United States
Navy...Captain these are my friends."
"So,” Eleanor said
with a smile, “should I ask why you girls are sitting on the school wall?"
about the only place on campus you can get any of this February sun." Liz
"And besides every
other girl in school knows that its 'our' spot."
Shawnee tilted her head.
"Are you Uncle
Adam's mother?" Sands said as she climbed down and shook hands. "I'm
Alexandra Richmond, your son is a friend of my
"It's nice to meet
you Alexandra," Eleanor smiled.
"And to meet you,
and please I'm Sandy or Sands."
“I’m Laura, and this is Cassie,” the other two girls said as she shook their hands, “the girls too cool for school are Liz and Shawnee.”
“So,” Katy asked with
her head to one side, “why were you walking by Captain?"
"I was being nosey
Katy,” Eleanor said with a smile, “I was just going to see if I could see you
and your friends."
"Well for all our
faults we are just pretty normal." Katy giggled.
"I can see that. So tell me how you spend your days..."
The Inn in the Park
“So it is now, as you so quaintly put it, on the table,” Cathy said as she sat with Juliette and Shirley.
“Anna made her the offer this morning. I know her – she will have said take a couple of days, talk to who you need to talk to, and then let her have her decision.”
“Which means she will wish to consult with us,” Shirley said as she looked round. “The decision has to be Marina’s, but whatever it is, I will support it.”
“As will I,” Cathy said, “but as I said to Juliette this morning, should Marina choose to accept this opportunity, we can use this to our advantage.”
“What exactly are you thinking,” Juliette said as their food arrived.
“Well,” Cathy said, “as I said to Juliette, Anan will be dealing with people in areas where it is known there is an increased risk of criminal activity. You yourself experienced that when you went to St Petersburg, Juliette.”
“True – and she, Helen and Caroline were incredibly...” Juliette looked at Cathy and said “now I think I’m thinking what you are thinking.”
“So am I,” Shirley said, “is she ready for that?”
“Helen believes she is – she would wish to have a supervisory role, albeit from afar, but it is a logical extension of what she is currently doing with her and Kylie.”
“It would be in addition to her other duties, of course, and totally unofficial.”
“Naturally,” Shirley said, “and she would remain part of my organization as well. Which raises the other question.”
“Kylie – I said we would talk to both of them tonight.”
“Agreed Juliette – I’ll talk to Susan, and ask her to bring them over to the apartment tonight.”
“We can do no more until then,” Cathy said. “So, how are things in the business world for you, Shirley?”
“I have a meeting tomorrow, where I have to tell a very large multinational conglomerate no part of Xavier International is for sale.”
“Sounds fun,” Cathy said with a grin.
FBI Field Office
“You did WHAT!”
Janice was staring at Eleanor as she stood at the side of their desks, Adam watching in disbelief.
“I went past your daughter’s school and talked to her and her friends. What is wrong with that?”
“Mother you went and
spied on Katy and her friends at lunchtime?" Adam shook his head.
"Calm down dear, I
only chatted with them while they sat on the wall."
"Mom you are poking your nose in TOO FAR this time."
“Maybe, maybe not...”
“Someone want to introduce me?”
Janice and Adam turned to see Tom and Jeanne standing there.
“Tom, Jeanne – meet my mother, Captain Eleanor Ball. Mom, my boss Tom Callaghan, and our colleague Inspector Jeanne Marais from Interpol.”
“Captain Ball,” Tom said, “a pleasure, but I need to take your son into a briefing. Jan – Jeanne needs to go over some briefing material from Paris with you.”
“Sure – can we use that office over there?”
“Of course,” Jeanne said as Adam said to his mother “wait there” and left with Tom.
“Thanks for the save,” Jan said as she closed the door.
“Adam’s mother? Is it my imagination or does she scare him?”
“Tell me about it – I need to talk to an expert,” Jan said as she looked at her watch.
“No – I need to call the UK. Can I get the room for a few minutes?”
“You got it,” Jeanne said as she went out. Jan quickly dialled a number.
“Hey Jan – what’s up?”
“Get me all you can on someone, and in particular if they have any connections with Buffalo.”
“What’s the name?”
“Ball – Captain Eleanor Ball, USNR.”
“Oh yes – I’ll come and see you in a couple of hours,” Jan said as she ended the call, then dialled an international number.
A few minutes later, a cultured English voice said “Leventhal.”
"Hello is that
"Oh good, my name
is Janice Carter, I'm not sure you remember me, but I'm ringing from New
York...Sorry to disturb you at home this late."
"Of course I
remember you Janice, you are the Irish girl with the
gorgeous FBI Jewish boyfriend."
Janice laughed lightly. "You know we were talking about Jewish
mothers-in-law and you were telling me you were an expert?"
me...you finally met his mother?"
"Yes...and can you
please tell me how I cope with a Jewish lady who totally intimidates me."
She heard the laughter
before Yvonne said "I find it hard to believe any woman could intimidate
"Yvonne she's a
retired US Navy Captain, she used to fly choppers off carriers."
"Oh dear God, you
have a 'special category' Jewish Mum." Yvonne went quiet a second.
"I've met a couple and believe me these are the worst to deal with."
"So any tips how before she drives me insane?"
“Well, you could try meeting her halfway – has she met your mother?”
“Yeah – why?”
“Well, perhaps getting those two together may help. But let’s review the facts, Janice.”
“Okay – let’s do that.”
"Well fact one to
remember is that in her current thinking you'll never be good enough for her
"Oh that is
"You could be Head
of the FBI and she'd still think her son could do better."
"So you need to
accept that, because it means you’re free to show her how wrong she can
be. Fact two is that your religion, even
if purely nominal will be a thing to her."
"Because he's her prince...she's
always thought of him making a major Jewish dynastic marriage."
“So if I told her about his love of bacon sandwiches and pork sausages?”
“Keep that fact
hidden,” Yvonne said with a laugh. "Fact
three, you having had children out of wedlock..."
"Child,” Jan said,
“I just have Katy."
"Janice most of New York Society knows about Pepsi...and you can bet SHE has already found that out."
“In which case, she needs to know she’s stepping on very, VERY dangerous territory. Not just with me either.”
“Janice, if she is a ‘special category’ mother, she won’t care. There is only one way to deal with that, I’m afraid – total honesty. Tell her the circumstances.”
“Are you seriously telling me she would drag Pepsi into this? Maybe I’d better warn her parents.”
“It may be wise – Jan I have to go, but call me tomorrow. We can talk then.”
“Got it Yvonne – and thanks.” Ending the call, Jan thought for a moment, and then walked back to her desk, not surprised to see Eleanor still there.
“Eleanor,” she said with a smile, “I think you and I need to get to know each other better. Do you have dinner plans for tonight?”
“No – why?”
“Good – let me call home, tell them I’ll be eating out, and then let’s find a steakhouse somewhere – have a real woman to woman chat.”
“Okay – when?”
“I’ll pick you up at your hotel at seven – I need to pay a visit first.”
The Richmond Mansion
“Hey,” Heather said as she looked up, “coffee’s fresh if you want some.”
“Thanks,” Jan said as she poured herself a cup, “but I may need something stronger by the end of the day. Where’s Katy?”
“Talking to Sands in her room. They told me about lunchtime – that why you got me on the job?”
“Yeah – and I’ve agreed to have dinner with her tonight, hence the feeling I need something stronger. Adam doesn’t like talking about her – I think he’s actually intimidated by her.”
“I’m not surprised,” Heather said, “Captain Eleanor Ruth Ball, nee Abrahams. Born 1958 in Cleveland, Ohio, to a military family. Only child. Went through High School, then Annapolis – graduated primus inter pares, class of ’80.”
“First among equals?”
“Oh yes – anyway, went to flight school, then served as a helicopter pilot before getting the rank of Captain. Sorties in the first Gulf war, and Afghanistan.”
“Adam was born in ’86 – so she flew the war sorties while he was at school?”
“Oh yes – Adam’s father was a civilian instructor in Annapolis, so he grew up there while she was deployed. Then she was assigned to the Pentagon, and from there to the role at the academy.”
“What did she do at the Pentagon?”
“Now that’s where we get into speculation – I haven’t had time to get into their servers, but she spent a couple of years working for Naval Intelligence.”
“Oy – hence how she’s managed to dig up...”
“Heather, has she any connection with Buffalo?”
“No – so relax on that score. I think you’re dealing with the Yiddish Nightmare.”
“One with frighteningly high up connections,” Jan said with a sigh. “I spoke to Yvonne Leventhal – have a lot of people really figured out the connection between me and Pepsi?”
“Well, the resemblance is becoming more pronounced, but our friends won’t say anything,” Heather said, and then she sat back. “You think she might approach Pepsi?”
“Yeah – is April here?”
“In conversation with Sandy about a job – you want to warn her?”
“No not yet – but warn Doc and Ama, just in case she’s hanging around St Angela’s tomorrow.”
“I’ll let Caroline know, and give Doc a buzz,” Heather said. “So what are you going to do tonight?”
“Fight fire with fire.”
“Want Sandy to run a book?”
“Not on this one, no. This... This is personal.”
Gallagher’s Steakhouse, 228 W 52nd Street
“Thank you,” Jan said as she and Eleanor were shown to a table.
“Can I get you ladies a drink while you choose?”
“Bourbon on the rocks,” Eleanor said.
“And for you, Madame?”
“Whisky sour,” Jan said as the waiter went off. “I’m glad you agreed to join me tonight Eleanor. It gives us the chance to talk without anyone else hearing.”
“By which you mean Adam?”
“By which I mean anyone,” Jan said as the drinks were brought over. “I have the feeling there are things you want to say to me, and there are things I want to say to you, that both of us would feel more comfortable saying with only us here.”
“Hmm,” Eleanor said as she looked at her drink, and took a sip. “Well, if nothing else I admire your courage, Janice. Shall we order first?”
“Why not – I’ll have the lobster bisque and the salmon with Lyonnaise potatoes. Eleanor?”
“Green salad and Tuna with a baked potato.”
“And a bottle of Chardonnay – de Ros if you have it.”
“You have good taste in wine, Jan – something you learned from your friends?”
“One of many things,” Jan said with a smile. “So, would you like to go first, or shall I?”
“Well, may I ask a question – the father of your children?”
“Katy’s father never knew I was pregnant – he was dispatched to Afghanistan, and died over there.”
“Ah,” Eleanor said quietly, “and you never married after that?”
“I had a lot of anger issues to deal with – and a very supportive mother. You and she should have lunch together tomorrow – I’ll set it up if you want.”
Eleanor sat back and looked at Jan for a moment. “And your older daughter?”
The waiter brought their starters over, as Jan waited until he had gone. “May I ask how you found out about Nicola?”
“Is it important?”
“Well, I would hate to think that you broke the law by opening sealed adoption papers.”
Jan smiled as she saw Eleanor blink for a moment. “I am sure by now you will have researched me as well,” she finally said, “so you will know I have some resources.”
“Indeed,” Jan said as she wiped her chin. “Well, since you asked so nicely – I was gang raped when I was 13, and was forced to put my baby up for adoption by my father.”
This time she knew she had taken Eleanor by surprise, so she smiled as she said “and if I find out you have approached her or her family, I will report you. She is off limits – do I make myself clear, Eleanor?”
“Perfectly,” Eleanor said with a smile as she sipped her wine. “de Ros – the same family as your friend Diana?”
“Her mother in law – I do find it very acceptable.” Taking another spoonful of her soup, Jan wiped her chin again and said “to answer your next question, my mother came over from Ireland before I was born, and I’ve lived in and around the city my whole life. But then, you know that already don’t you?”
“Well, you and Adam do have a habit of appearing in the social pages, both on your own and with the group of friends you have,” Eleanor said with a smile.
“Well, Adam is the extrovert, Eve the introvert – have you spoken to her recently?”
“Not recently no,” Eleanor said quietly. “With her living in Seattle...”
“But her son Harry is at Yale – have you spoken to him?”
This time there was no reply, as their plates were taken.
“My apologies – I did not mean to upset you.”
“No, it’s all right,”
Eleanor said as she took a sip from her wine.
"Janice,” she eventually said, “if I'm
being honest I was hoping for more for Adam."
"This might not
mean a lot to you,” she said as the main courses were laid down, “but both my
husband’s family and my own have produced many rabbis. In Jewish terms that
makes us members of an unofficial aristocracy. My dream was always for my
children to consolidate our social position."
"Well Adam is a
Saint...I'm a Sinner."
"Which might mean a lot in gentile circles..."
"I hear a but coming."
"The fact is”
Eleanor said unquietly, “that you are an unmarried
Roman Catholic Irish mother."
"You know I didn't
have you pegged as a snob Eleanor."
"I'm not as such,”
Eleanor replied as she looked at Jan, “but I had hoped at the very least for a
daughter-in-law of my own faith."
"He hasn't asked
me to marry him...yet."
"Which is why I'm here."
"To break us up
before he does?"
“Don’t you think that is a decision Adam needs to make? After all,” Jan said quietly, “he has made a success of his chosen career. Besides...”
“Yes, Janice,” Eleanor said quietly.
“I know of only one ex-marine who has made a success as a minister of faith – Alex Richmond. It may be he is unique.”
“That would be Father Richmond, the uncle of your friend Alexandra?”
Jan nodded as she ate some more of her salmon. “I can understand you wanting only the very best for Adam, but it has to be his choice. If some day he asks me to marry him, then I will give him his answer, and then it will become a question of what, if any faith I choose.
“Or, indeed, he chooses.”
Eleanor smiled as she held her glass. “I like you Janice – it’s just such a pity we are going to disagree on this.”
“May I say the feeling is mutual,” Jan said as she raised her glass. “So – shall I arrange lunch for you with my mother tomorrow?”
“Please, come in,” Maisha said as she opened the door to the apartment, allowing Susan, Marina and Kylie to come in. “Aunt Shirley is in the drawing room.”
“Thanks,” Marina said as she hung her coat up. “How are you Maisha?”
“I am well, but looking forward to returning to London for a few days. Please, go on through.”
Kylie nodded as she opened the door, allowing the others to come in as she saw Juliette and Cathy sitting on the couches, and Helen standing behind Cathy.
“Come in,” Shirley said as she stood up, “sit down, please. Would any of you like a drink?”
“Not for the moment, thank you Madame,” Marina said, “I wish to discuss matters with you, Juliette and my Mistress with a clear head.”
“As do I,” Kylie said quietly.
“Very well then,” Shirley said. “Marina, Juliette had already told me that you had a meeting with Anna Mitchell today, and that she has offered you a position on her staff. You also know that Cathy, Juliette and others have had discussions with her, and she has also had a conversation with me this afternoon, to inform me of her offer to you.”
“All that is true Madame, but I told her I needed time to consult with others.”
“As is right and proper,” Helen said, “so we are here now. Ask your questions.”
“Mistress Cathy, Mistress Helen,” Marina said quietly, “you have been mentors to me and Kylie this last year, and have helped us both to discover our true potential. For that, both Kylie and I thank you, but I would value your thoughts as to this offer.”
“We will share our thoughts in due course,” Cathy said, “Juliette and Shirley should give their thoughts first, as they are technically your sponsor and your employer.”
“For my part,” Shirley said, “it would be a wrench on a personal level if you took up this position. From the perspective of your career and your future, however, it cannot be denied this would be a good move for you.”
“I have to agree with Shirley,” Juliette said. “From what I have seen in the last year, your business and language skills have grown exponentially. The role you would play if you take this role is similar to that Shirley had in mind for you.”
Marina nodded, and then she looked at Kylie. “What about you kiddo – you had your heart set on going back to London.”
“True darling,” Kylie said, “but I have learned a lot this past year as well, in every way. One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is, in the great scheme, not so important what i want, as where I can be happiest and of the most use to those I serve.”
Standing up, she turned and bowed to Cathy and Helen, before saying “so, as with Marina, I seek the counsel of you, Honoured Mistresses.”
“Very well then,” Cathy said, “As with Madame and Juliette, we want the best for both of you, and for you both to continue to serve us and Madame wherever your path takes you. Marina, do you remember what I said to you as we watched Helen dance at Curragh last April.”
Marina nodded. “You said that whatever life deals you, you take it and make it work for you.”
“Indeed – so let us consider the offer of this position. If you accept it, what do you see as the barriers to making it work for you?”
Marina sat for a moment, and then said “I see three, honoured mistress.”
“Please, name them.”
“Firstly, that in some way I will have failed to repay Madame for her generosity and support for myself and Kylie.
“Secondly, that I will have failed Kylie, and that she will return to London, thus ending what I hope has been a faithful and useful partnership for you, honoured mistress.”
“And the third obstacle,” Helen said quietly.
“That I will be unable to continue on the path you have set both of us on, Sensei.”
“May I speak?”
“Of course,” Susan said as she looked at Kylie.
“I have been aware for some time of this possibility,” Kylie said, “and I have had similar questions to Marina. In particular, that I may have failed you in some way.”
The four women looked at each other, before Shirley said “The doubts you have both aired are perfectly natural and normal. For my part, you have not failed me, either of you. Indeed, you have exceeded the most optimistic measures I could set for the success of the transformation you have both undergone.
“The most obvious sign of that in your case, Marina, is the fact we are discussing this offer tonight. And in your case, Kylie, you have transformed yourself into a young and talented young woman, with a growing reputation in the fashion world. So no, neither of you have failed me.”
“Or me,” Cathy said quietly. “The Mongoose and the Swan already have a place of honour in the family of the Honoured Father, and in my home – and I speak for Helen as well as myself when I say that.”
“Thank you honoured mistress,” both Marina and Kylie said as they stood and bowed.
“So,” Juliette said, “let us turn to you Kylie. Should Marina decide to take this position, what would your decision be?”
“I have given this a great deal of thought today,” Kylie said, “and I do not wish for the Mongoose and the Swan to be separated either. If, that is, Marina is willing to put up with me for a while longer.”
“Of course I am,” Marina said as she hugged Kylie, “but what about schooling?”
“Cathy, what are her current predicted grades?”
“All been well, a B for Mathematics, and A or A* on the rest.”
“Good – Kylie, we’ve already made some discrete enquiries on your behalf. A place awaits you at St Angela’s, should you decide to stay, with a timetable tailored to you taking International A-levels as opposed to the HSD. You would sit the same classes in many cases as Doc and your other friends, with some additional tuition.”
“How would I pay the fees?”
“Your fees would be taken care of in the same way as they would be in London,” Susan said with a smile, “because wherever you two would be placed, you would still be a part of our organization.”
“Which brings me to the thoughts of myself and Helen,” Cathy said, “should you choose to accept the position with Anna. We have no desire to see the progress and good work you have done end, my child. Indeed, we feel it is time for you in particular, Marina, to move to the next level.”
“May I ask in what way, honoured mistress,” Marina said with her head bowed.
“I have been honoured to call you my apprentice, Marina, and you Kylie. I wish that to continue, but for you Marina, should you take this position, Mistress Catherine and I have an additional task for you to perform.”
“And that would be?”
“To be to Anna what Helen is to me,” Cathy said quietly. “Her bodyguard, her protector, the ever watchful and vigilant keeper of her safety.”
“This is the sign of our belief and faith in you and your abilities,” Helen said. “You will continue to train – both of you – and you will support Madame from time to time if she needs your skills, as I do.”
Marina looked round the room, and then said “your faith and trust in me are truly humbling, honoured mistress, sensei.”
“As for you,” Cathy said as she looked at Kylie, “your training will continue as well, and I look forward to watching the Swan spread her wings as well.
“If Marina does decide to accept the position.”
“What about accommodation, other things...”
“Matters to be discussed later,” Juliette said. “You asked for their counsel, so here is mine, for what it is worth. I think you will be a perfect fit for Anna, in all those roles, and as for you Kylie you will have friends here to help you, as well as the support of myself, Mary and Alice. We see the talent as a designer in you, and we wish to help you to develop that.”
“When she is ready, we’ll get her back out here with your aunt,” Susan said, “as well as Rose and Maeve. But the final decision has to lie with you two.”
Marina looked at Kylie, and said “Well, what do you think?”
“I think I’m thinking what you’re thinking?”
“Have you looked at the package yet?”
“No – I made it clear I wished to consult with you all first, and now that I have, I understand what my decision is to be, and thank you all for your wise counsel and words.”
“And that decision is,” Cathy asked as she stood up.
“To accept your commission, honoured mistress, and become the assistant and protector to Anna.”
She stood again and bowed to Cathy and Helen, before adding “although i wish to continue my time in Hong Kong to completion.”
“Of course – Kylie has examinations to sit, after all, and we have much still to teach both of you.”
“Thank you,” Kylie said as she also stood and bowed, “and thank you, Madame, Juliette, for your trust in both of us.”
“So what happens now?”
“Well, tomorrow you need to give Anna your answer,” Cathy said, “and then she and I can discuss dates for your transfer.”
“As for you,” Susan said as she looked at Kylie, “I made an appointment for both of us on Wednesday to visit St Angela’s, and discuss matters with Miss Tennant, Mrs Hardisty and Mrs Brand. For tonight, however, relax – now your decision is made, do you want that drink?”
“Oh yes,” Marina said, “right after I read this.” She opened the envelope Susan handed her, and sat down to read through the package.
“It – it is a very generous package,” Marina said. “I’d better not show you it though Juliette – Janine might get upset.”
West Central Park
“Hey,” Katherine said as she looked out of the kitchen, “how was the dinner?”
“Tough – she really does not like me,” Jan said as she hung her coat up. “I asked if the two of you could meet for lunch tomorrow, as you suggested. You’re a braver person than I am.”
“Not really,” Katherine said with a smile as the telephone rang. Jan picked it up and said “Hello?”
“Jan, it’s Claire. I heard you had an interesting dinner invitation tonight?”
“The Sinnerz network?”
“Yeah – want to talk?”
“I would actually,” Jan said as Katherine indicated she would make some coffee. She went into the front room, sat down and said “so you’ve heard Adam’s mother is in town?”
“Oh yes - did you speak
to Yvonne Leventhal?"
"I did Claire. She gave me some very good advice."
"Well she is a
convert,” Claire said, “I was born in the faith, so she has a different
"I suppose the
Morse's saw you as perfect for Tom?"
really..." Claire halted a second. "My family is Sephardic,
his is Ashkenazim, that's sort of like me being Catholic him being
"Okay...” Jan sat back, rubbing her eyes as she said “Go
"Well my family is
OLD New York Jewish, we were originally of Portuguese descent. His family were
late 19th century arrivals from the Pale."
"What does that
"The two groups never really mixed - his family were like a lot of German/Russian families and got rich in banking, my family as it has for 300 years are reasonably comfortably off merchants. We attended different temples, we spoke different languages. We were already well assimilated when his people arrived."
"So there were barriers even in the late 20th century."
"There were, neither family thought the other good enough for their child."
“So how did you cope?”
“Ignored them,” Claire said with a laugh. “Went our own way, started to attend a more progressive temple. They came round – eventually.”
“Ball Senior is convinced her darling little boy is going to pop the question one day, and that she does not want.”
“She’s not the only one – do you know how close Sandy is to opening the book on you two?”
Jan laughed before she said “she did say one thing I didn’t know – apparently a lot of Adam’s ancestors really were Rabbis?”
“The Soloveitchik dynasty? Adam said once his family was of Polish heritage, and his great-grandmother was saved from Auschwitz by Birgitte von Furstenheim. Sounds like she carries that tradition, that desire to be seen in the elite.”
“Well,” Jan said as she took a mug of coffee from her mother, “I’m bringing the two moms together tomorrow, and I’ll let you and Yvonne know what happens after that.”
“Good luck – we’re rooting for you,” Claire said as she ended the call.
“So what do I need for tomorrow?”
“Pads and gloves – and a big stick...”
Tuesday 9th February
Janine and Alexis looked over as Marina came back into the bullpen, and sat down at her desk, rubbing her eyes.
“Well,” Marina said with a smile, “I just told Anna I was accepting her offer, and I hoped I would be as good as she thinks I can be. She’s going to talk to Shirley and Catherine now to organise a handover schedule.”
“Welcome to the family,” Alexis said, “even if it’s the top floor branch.”
“Marina, can you come in a minute,” Juliette said as she looked out from her office, Marina nodding as she came in.
“So, how do you feel now?” Juliette asked as she closed the door.
“Petrified – almost as scared as I was when we flew out last March.”
“Well, I’m not surprised,” Juliette said as she sat down. “Susan is going to call her mom and aunt later, tell them the news, and ask them to talk to Sami and Kerry. In the meantime, I’m talking to Sandy to see if an apartment under the Richmond Foundation umbrella can be found for both of you.”
“Thanks – I think we’re going to need it,” Marina said with a smile. “Well, at least we know what’s going to happen now.”
“True – now, I need you to get the contracts from Tokyo for me please. One or two things I need to check on them.”
“Yes, boss,” Maria said with a smile as she stood up and left the office.
Katherine Carter looked at the people as they walked past, wondering how much longer she would have to wait. It wasn’t as bad as the snowstorm in the last few weeks, but there was still a distinct chill in the air.
She wrapped her shawl more tightly round herself as she heard Eleanor say “good afternoon Katherine – my apologies for being slightly late.”
“That’s all right,” Katherine said with a smile as she looked at the retired captain. She was wearing the same long coat as the other day, her black boots visible under the hem. “I wanted to meet with you away from all the others. I think we can talk to each other, mother to mother, hopefully without anything else getting in the way.”
“So where do you suggest?”
“Well, I know a nice little deli round the corner from here. They do corned beef and Lux.”
“Sounds intriguing,” Eleanor said as they walked along, not noticing the helmeted motorcyclist as they did so as they started their bike up.
“So tell me,” Katherine said as they turned the corner, “how do you spend your time now that you have retired from Annapolis?”
“Oh I sit on a few boards, offer...” Eleanor heard the sound of the motorbike, and stopped for a moment, turning her head for a moment and then looking back.
“Something wrong, Ele...”
Before Katherine could say anything else, she heard the motorbike speed up, and then she gasped as Eleanor pushed her to the ground, and a bullet passed over both their heads.
“What the hell...”
“STAY DOWN,” Eleanor shouted as she jumped up and looked at the rapidly disappearing bike. As she did so, she reached inside her coat, and then drew her hand out as two police officers ran up.
“What happened,” one of them said as the other helped Katherine to her feet.
“Drive by – got a partial plate number for you to work from,” Eleanor said as she looked at the officer. “You all right, Katherine?”
“Yeah – thanks to you,” Katherine said as she rubbed her arm. “Who was that?”
“That, Katherine, is a very good question. May I suggest we go to that bar over there, and we get you a stiff drink?”
As they walked to the bar, a woman watching from the other side took out her cell phone.
“Susan? Alice – we have a situation. You need to trace this licence plate, and get the information to Madame...”
FBI Field Office
“Sounds like a good idea,” Jan said as she looked at Jeanne. “You’re going to have to tell me where you get your maternity clothes from at some point.”
“I’d be delighted to,” Jeanne said as Tom opened the door to his office.
“Jan – step in a moment please.”
“Sure Tom,” Jan said as she came in, “what’s up?”
“I just got a call from the NYPD – there’s been an attempted drive-by shooting off Times Square. Someone on a bike opened fire on two women on the street.”
“Jan – one of them was Katherine, the other was Adam’s mother.”
Jan stood still for a moment, before she said “where are they?”
“Captain Ball took her to a local bar – here’s the address.”
Jan turned and looked at Adam, as he stood up.
“Thanks,” she said quietly as she ran out, and grabbed her coat. “Adam – with me now. I’ll explain on the way.”
“Susan? What is the matter?”
Shirley looked at her friend as she came in, and closed the door.
“Someone tried to kill Katherine Carter – our shadow got the licence plate, and we’re running it now.”
Shirley suddenly stood up. “Jan?”
“She’s on her way to meet her and Eleanor Ball now – with Adam. Instructions?”
“Get the team at the apartment block to check Janice’s place, inform Katy’s shadow – and call Juliette.”
Susan turned as Pamela handed her a slip of paper. She looked at it, and said “damn.”
“The motorbike licence plate – stolen from Buffalo yesterday.”
“This is now personal,” Shirley said quietly. “Do as I have asked Susan – I need to make a call.”
As Susan and Pamela left the room, Shirley moved to the secure web on her laptop, and then started a call.
“Madame,” Louise said as she looked out from the window, “how can I help you today?”
“I need schematics for the Speakeasy Louise – and I need you to be armed at all times.”
“To use the vernacular Louise – they just pissed off the wrong person.”
Katherine looked up as Jan and Adam ran into the bar, Eleanor sitting next to her.
“I’m all right Jan,” Katherine said quietly, “Eleanor pushed me out of the way.”
“Thank you,” Jan said as she nodded to Eleanor, and Adam sat with her.
“We’ve got all we need agents – will they be all right with you?”
“Yeah – thanks officer,” Adam said as the two officers went off. “Mom – what happened?”
“A lifetime of training,” Eleanor said quietly, “I sensed something was wrong and reacted.”
“Well, both Jan and I are glad you did,” Adam said as he looked over. “You didn’t see who it was?”
“Sorry – I gave the officer a partial plate, but they had a helmet on with motorcycle leathers.”
“Well, I for one am glad you reacted so quickly,” Katherine said. “Let me buy you another drink.”
“Look,” Adam said, “let’s have lunch together. Make a new start. Sound good to you?”
Jan nodded as she looked at her cell phone. “Give me a minute – and get me something strong,” Jan said as she stepped out.
“Jan? Is your mother all right?”
“Yeah she is Heather – Katy?”
“She’s safe – this has gone on long enough.”
“I agree,” Jan said quietly as she looked at her mother. “Gather the troops – we need to end this.”
Bishop Walden School
Sands and Katy looked over as they left the school, to see Heather standing by the car.
“Hey Heather – what brings you here?”
“I was dropping something off for your mom, so I thought I would give you both a lift back,” she said as she opened the door. “Get in.”
“Thanks,” Sands said as she got in, and Katy looked at Heather.
“I’ll tell you later,” Heather whispered, “get in.”
The Richmond Mansion
“We’re going up to my room to do our assignments mom,” Sands called out as she and Katy ran up the stairs.
“Any problems?” Sandy asked as Heather came into the kitchen.
“No – whoever tried something earlier didn’t turn up. Where’s Jan?”
“Still with her mother – we need to know who we’re dealing with.”
“Well, thanks to Louise’s help, we have names, and we have addresses for all except their Miss Panther. Now, we strike back.”
“Ju and the others are coming over later, but Jan talked to me earlier.”
“What did she say?”
“Bring those bastards down.”
The Speakeasy, Buffalo
“You did WHAT!!!”
Louise could hear the shouting through the door, as Miss Panther said “have any conceivable idea of what you’ve done? I wouldn’t be surprised if Carter and her friends are outside right now!”
As she opened the door, she saw Rochelle saying “we had to do something – Lynx dying was a warning. You said it yourself, Miss Panther – we need to take her down.”
“Not like this though!!” As she closed the door behind herself, she saw Miss Panther pacing the room, her heels clicking on the floor.
“Find Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat, get them here ASAP. As for you,” she growled as she looked at Rochelle, “get out of my sight, and pray they haven’t traced that bike.”
Louise stood to one side as Rochelle stormed out, and then poured a drink, handing it to Miss Panther.
“Is it going to get bad, Boss?”
“Not if I can help it,” Miss Panther said, “not if I can help it...”
West Central Park
“Are you sure you are going to be all right,” Eleanor said as she sat with Katherine, looking up as Katy came in with her mother.
“Gran – are you all right?”
“I’m fine,” Katherine said as she was hugged by her granddaughter, “really I’m fine.”
“Look, I’m going to run Mom back to her hotel,” Adam said, “and then I’m coming back. What are your plans for tonight Jan?”
“I need to go and see Sandy later to finalise something for the girls weekend away.”
“Well, I’ll come straight back, and sit in until you return.”
“Thanks – and thank you again Eleanor.”
“Well, I was there,” she said with a smile as she left with Adam.
“I need to get dinner started,” Katherine said as she went to the kitchen, Katy watching as her mother closed the door.
“What’s going to be done about this?”
“I don’t know yet, but i will later,” Jan said quietly.
"Mom I want in on the revenge." Katy stared hard at her mother then jumped as there was a knock at the door.
“Katy,” Jan said as she put her hands on her daughter’s shoulders, “trust me – this is something you need to steer well away from.”
Katy stared at her for a few moments, as there was a knock on the door again.
"Should I go see
who that is?"
"Just be careful
Katy nodded as she walked slowly to the front door of the apartment, and looked through the spyhole.
"Okay let her
in," Jan said as she took a deep breath.
Katy opened the door and stood to the side as Pepsi walked quickly in.
heard...how is Gran?"
"She's fine darling."
“Is that Pepsi?” As Katherine came out, she was nearly floored by the young teenager’s hug.
“Thank god – what happened?”
“A lone madman, that’s all. But I am fine, honestly – want to stay for dinner? I’m cooking Irish Stew...”
“Let me call Mom...”
Shirley looked at the telephone as the red light flashed, and then picked up the handset.
“Shirley Xavier speaking.
“Good evening, Mermaid, I was wondering if you would call. I was briefed on what happened this afternoon.”
Shirley sat back and smiled as she listened to the voice on the other end of the line.
“Be assured, we have traced who is responsible. I've already arranged teams Mermaid...revenge will be ours."
Shirley listened for a
few seconds to the voice.
"I know you'd like
to be there, that this is all a bit personal...And are
those any words for a lady to use?"
Susan knocked and
entered as her boss looked up.
"Susan not now please?" Shirley looked at her as she held her finger
over the phones mouthpiece. “I’ll come
and see you in a few minutes, once I’ve completed this call.”
Susan said as she left, and then heard the door lock.
“My deepest apologies for the interruption – please continue.
value to us is that I alone know of your existence as a deep cover agent. I let
you go north and your cover is blown, and so is most of your use to the
For a few more seconds
"No I have no idea
how they blew your cover,” she said quietly, “but I'm pretty sure it might have
been your lunch guest they might have been after...not you."
Shirley listened to
"You know very well I cannot and will not say anything Mermaid, identities as you yourself have always stressed are on a need to know basis.
"Yes, I know it's
one of your children who is in the firing line
Mermaid. As are some very dear friends
Shirley listened to
more emotional outpourings.
"You know better than to ask that don't you. No you must NEVER, or at least till I give you permission reveal what you know."
“I agree we should meet – shall we say tomorrow, at the usual place and time? By then, I should be able to tell you this has been dealt with.
“Very well – you have put your trust in me before Mermaid. Please, do so again.”
Putting the receiver down, Shirley took a deep breath before she unlocked her door, and went to Susan’s office.
“My apologies Susan – what did you need?”
“Catherine wanted you to know they’re on their way, and we need to leave now for Sandy’s.”
Shirley nodded as she turned round. “Let me get my coat.”
“Do I need to know who you were talking to?”
“No – not this time, Susan. Come – we have a meeting to go to.”
West Central Park
"Okay Gran the
stew is boiling nicely," Pepsi smiled as Katherine came back in.
"Sorry I needed to
make a private phone call...to one of my sisters."
"That was Sisters
of Erin business?" Katy asked, "We heard you shout a few choice words
"Oh did I get loud? I apologize." Katherine quickly checked on her cooking, "anyway it's nothing to worry you girls."
Smelling the stew, she smiled and said “needs pepper...”
The Richmond Mansion
“How’s your mother,” Sandy asked as Jan took her coat off.
“She’s fine – Adam is sitting in with her and Katy. Give me someone to kill.”
“No,” Shirley said as she handed Jan a glass of wine, “you cannot be part of this, Jan. We have something else in mind for you.”
Juliette nodded as Diana and Abby came in. “Are you all right, Cherie,” she said as she looked at Jan.
“No – so who are we dealing with?”
“Let’s deal with the three we know for certain. First up – Rochelle Andersen. She’s the one who came in late, and Louise confirms she invited herself into the inner circle.
“And we think she’s the one who tried it on today, Jan, based on feedback from the bug at the Speakeasy. Miss Panther sent her packing.”
Jan looked at Susan as she said “what are you going to do to her?”
“We’re not going to do anything – Helen is on her way to her home in Geneva.”
“So who is in Buffalo?”
“We have first up Elaine Baughman,” Heather said, “20 years old, already pegged as their Miss Tigress. Lives with Orlagh Cummond, fellow student. I have an address for both of them.”
“Sandy, Diana, they are yours,” Juliette said. “Leave as soon as you can, make sure they know your displeasure.”
“Which leaves Miss Panther herself,” Heather said. “I’ve been running voice recognition, facial recognition, and I think we have a match. But you’re not going to like it Jan.”
“Why – who is it?”
“Jan,” Shirley said, “we believe she is Andre Baughman.”
Jan looked up and thought for a moment, before she said “damn – Enid Corben!”
“We have the same thought,” Shirley said, “and we have taken steps. She is safe,”
“Right,” Jan said, “so how are we going to deal with him?”
“You and I are driving to Buffalo in the morning,” Juliette said, “once you have all completed your tasks, this is what we’re going to do...”
Wednesday 10th February
Rochelle Andersen suddenly sat up, and looked round herself. She was sitting in the front room of her house, a half empty bottle of bourbon on the coffee table in front of her.
“Fucking bastard,” she said to herself as she stood up, and staggered towards her kitchen. Stopping at the kitchen sink, she ran the water for a moment before filling a glass, and swallowing it in one go.
“Next time, I won’t miss,” she mumbled as she turned round – and stared at the black clad woman standing in front of her, her clear blue eyes the only thing visible.
“What the hell...” Rochelle let the glass dropped to the floor, as it smashed in the second she used to reach for her gun. The gun she had left on the kitchen table.
The gun that was snatched away even as she reached for it, and she saw the second black clad woman empty the clip and the round in the chamber, before throwing the gun to one side.
“You are Rochelle Andersen?”
She turned again to see the first woman, who was staring at her.
“Who wants to know?”
“I am called Silent Death – my protégé Mongoose. We come with a message for you from my master, the Honoured Mistress, and her friend and colleague Madame X.”
Rochelle blanched at the mention of the name of Madame X, before she said “and that message is?”
“You attack one of ours, you must pay the price.”
“What do you...”
Rochelle stared straight ahead, her lips making a small O before she slipped to the floor, the second woman removing the knife she had used through her heart as she did so.
“Good work,” Helen said as she looked at Marina.
“It was too clean,” Marina said quietly, “but why were we sent rather than one of the ladies?”
“Madame took what happened personally – I think Katherine Carter has a special place in her thoughts and her friendship. Why is not ours to question – ours is only to do the will of the Honoured Mistress, and this we have done.”
Marina nodded as they left the house, and walked back to the car. “Come – we must get back to support Kylie this morning.”
West Central Park
“I’ll get it,” Katherine said as she heard the telephone ring, Jan looking out as Katy finished her breakfast.
“Hello, Carter residence?”
“Oh my – Michael? Big Mike Conlon? How did you get my number?”
“Who is it,” Jan said as she came out of her bedroom, putting on her jacket.
“Michael Conlon – her mother and I used to go to school together. He runs an import/export business in Dublin now.
“No, I was telling my daughter Jan who you were.
“Oh, the news reached there? No I’m fine...”
As she went into the drawing room, closing the door behind herself, Katy came from the kitchen.
“I’ve heard Madame speak of a Big Mike – could that be him?”
“Who knows – come on, I’ll drop you at school, and Heather will pick you up. I’ll be late home tonight...”
The Speakeasy, Buffalo
Miss Panther looked at Louise, Miss Tigress and Miss Bobcat. She was looking tired, and yet at the same time impeccable.
“Okay – you head back, collect what you need, and then come straight back here. Louise, ensure I am not disturbed for the rest of the day.”
“Got it Boss,” Louise said as the three of them left the room. As she closed the door, Miss Tigress whispered to Louise “keep an eye on her – I’m worried she may do something stupid.”
“Like what,” Louise whispered back.
Louise nodded as they went downstairs, and walked back over to the bar.
“What’s going on,” the manageress said as she poured Louise a drink.
“I’m not sure,” Louise said, “but something’s going to go down...”
“Well, at least I didn’t totally flunk the Chemistry paper,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself out of Mrs Craig’s classroom, Ama and Pepsi following her.
“How is your grandmother,” Ama whispered as they made their way down the corridor and Doc came up on the other side.
“We heard – is she all right?”
“Yeah – if anything, she’s in a fighting mood. You should have...”
The three girls stopped behind Jeannie, and then looked in the same direction as her as they saw Susan and Kylie sitting in reception. Susan was wearing a grey jacket and trousers, with a light blue blouse, while Kylie was wearing her school uniform.
“What’s the hold up,” Becca said as she and Nikki came alongside, and then looked in the same direction. “Kylie? What are you doing here?”
“Funny story, darlings,” Kylie said with a smile. “It appears as if my plans for the next few years may have changed, and so...”
“Susan, Kylie,” Grace said as she came along the corridor, “thanks for coming in this morning. If you would follow me?”
As they stood up, she looked at the group of girls, smiling as she said “don’t you girls have somewhere else to be?”
“Yes, Mrs Brand,” Pepsi said as they watched Susan and Kylie follow Grace, Kylie turning and winking as she did so.
“She’s coming here, isn’t she?”
Jeannie turned to the others and smiled. “It would appear that way, wouldn’t it? An English Rose amongst the Angels. I wonder if they know what they’re doing.”
Ama and Doc looked at each other, the same thought occurring to both of them.
“Take a seat,” Grace said as she closed the door to her office, “can I get you some coffee?”
“Thank you,” Susan said as Grace pressed a button on her telephone. “Coffee for three please,” she said, and then she sat down. “Right – let me explain what is going to happen today Kylie. I am going to have a chat with both of you, then Kate Hardistay is going to talk to you about what you have done so far, and your plans for what you may wish to do if you come here. At the same time, Susan will have a meeting with Wilhelmina Tennant, to discuss the boring financial matters. I’ll then get one of the girls to take you both to the refectory for lunch, and then I’ll give you a tour of the school.”
“That sounds wonderful dar... Mrs Brand,” Kylie said with a smile.
“Good – so let me say something else before we start. Pass on to Marina for me my own congratulations at her new post, and my own good wishes for the next few months. I know it is going to be an exciting and very different time for both of you.”
“Tell me about it,” Susan said with a smile. “So, where would you like to start Grace?”
When Peter Welch opened the door to the hotel room, Janice Carter was the last person he expected to be standing there.
“Jan? What are you doing here? Where are my minders?”
“I convinced them to let me in,” Jan said quietly, “you and I need to talk.”
“You,” Jan said with a smile as Peter stood to one side, and let her come in. She looked at him, in an old t-shirt and jeans, and waited until he closed the door.
“Well, I have to admit, you were the last person I expected to see. Have you seen them?”
“Colby and the kids? I’m going to see them after this, tell them the news. They deserve to hear it from a friendly face.”
“Seems a dossier was passed over to IA last night – giving a very detailed account of your involvement in a group that has been operating in the local area, claiming to be the Pussycat Gang. You’re finished Peter – I just want to know why.”
“Why you targeted me and my family – why you sent at least two people to try and harm or kill them.”
“Two? Two people?”
“Now that’s interesting,” Jan said as she walked round the room. “You didn’t know there had been two attempts, did you? Which means you knew about the one who tried to hurt Katy at the birthday party.”
Peter stared at Jan, before he said “you cunning little bitch. You cunning little fucking bitch.”
“Thank you,” Jan said quietly, “I want you to remember something Peter, or Miss Puma or whatever the fuck you call yourself, in the months and years that lie ahead.” She walked over to where Peter was sitting, and whispered “nobody threatens me or my family – nobody.”
“Oh yeah,” Peter sneered, “and what about you, Janice Carter? What dirty little secrets are you hiding?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Janice whispered as she turned and walked away.
“You little cow,” Welch said as he jumped up and ran towards her – only to stop as she levelled her gun at him.
“Go on. Go on Peter – give me an excuse. I would like nothing better than to blast you tiny little perverted brain over the walls of this room, and then claim I had to shoot you in self defence.”
Peter stared at her, as she slowly lowered the gun. “That would be too easy however. You need to pay the price for everything you have done – and I mean everything.
“Oh – and one more thing. I warned you about what would happen if you continued to threaten me, and I keep my promises. Deakin has talked, and so have I.”
Walking to the door, she opened it to see Special Investigators Jarvis and Kirby outside.
“I trust you have said all you need to say, Agent Carter?”
“I have, gentlemen – he’s all yours,” Jan said as she turned round and looked at Peter Welch, kneeling on the floor. “Goodbye Peter – rot in hell.”
Walking out of the hotel, Jan got into the car and let out a sigh.
“Where to now?”
“His home – I need to let his wife and children know what’s going to happen, give them a chance to pack. They need to be out of this town before we’re finished today.”
“We had it – we had in the palm of our hands,” Miss Bobcat said as they ran up the stairs of the apartment block, “and they brought it down. How the hell did they do it?”
“We thought we were fighting the mob,” Miss Tigress said as she opened her apartment door, “and we ended up fighting a bloody army. I love him, but I think we need to get the hell out of Dodge. Agreed?”
“Fucking right I’m agreed,” Miss Bobcat said as they walked into the front room of their apartment.
“Oh good – we were beginning to wonder if you were ever going to come back.”
They stared at the two women standing there. They wore black tailored jackets and knee length skirts, with dark silk scarves tied as cravats around their necks. Their legs were encased in sheer silk hose, and their feet nestled in black leather pumps with four inch heels.
The thing that really caught their attention, however, was the black stockings that covered their heads, pressing their short black hair down, the jewelled cat shaped brooches on the lapels of their jackets – and the sawn off shotguns that they cradled in their leather gloved hands.
“Who... Who the hell are you...”
“Well, Elaine, Orlagh,” the taller of the two said in a soft, menacing voice, “I do think some introductions are in order. I am Miss Leopard, this is Miss Puma, and you two little cocksuckers have been misusing the good name of two of our friends.”
“We don’t like it when people do that,” Miss Puma said, “it makes us – very very unhappy.” She pumped the shotgun and pointed it at the two girls.
“Very, very appropriate choice of words,” Miss Leopard said as she looked at Elaine. “This is hell, and you are the guests of honour. Get on your knees, fuckers – we wish to show you our displeasure.”
Elaine and Orlagh looked at each other, and dropped to their knees as Miss Puma put her shotgun down, and picked up some lengths of rope. “Let me get you ready first,” she said quietly, “and then we are going to have a nice, little chat...”
“Come in Kylie,” Kate Hartisdy said as she held the door open, “please, take a seat.”
“Thank you,” Kylie said as she sat down, her ankles together and to the side, holding her straw hat on her lap. “It is very kind of you to agree to meet with me and Aunt Susan today.”
“Well, when Grace told us of the possibility this might happen, we wanted to take the opportunity to meet with both of you while you were here. It’s important that we have an idea of your current educational targets and aspirations, so that we can see how we can help you achieve your goals.”
“Of course,” Kylie said with a smile.
“Now then – I understand your past education record is somewhat mixed?”
“If you mean it is only recently I have begun to find my potential, then that would be true,” Kylie said with a smile. “It was only a year ago I discovered I had a problem with my eyesight, but since then I have made every effort possible to – if you will forgive the slightly vulgar phrase – play catch-up.”
Kate smiled as she said “that is certainly reflected in the report I have received from your school in Hong Kong. Your form tutor speaks very highly of your drive and determination, as well as your abilities. I understand you will be preparing to take formal exams when you return to Hong Kong?”
“Well, I am preparing for them now,” Kylie said with a smile, “but yes, I will be sitting the International GCSE exams this April and May.”
“Now, let me see if I have this right,” Kate said as she consulted a sheet, “you will be sitting examinations in English Language and Literature, Mathematics, History, Geography, Graphic Design, Combined Sciences and French, correct?”
“That is correct,” Kylie said with a smile.
“Good – and I would imagine you have a conversational knowledge of Mandarin and Cantonese as well, correct?”
Kylie nodded as Kate sat back.
“Your original plan was to return to London to attend a school there to undergo further exams. Had you given any thought to what those exams would have been?”
“Under the English system, Mrs Hardisty, you study four subjects to the AS level and then take three to the full A level. My plan had been to continue with English Literature, History, Geography and Graphic Design, and then progress from there.”
“Okay,” Kate said, “as you will be aware, the American system is somewhat different, in that pupils are expected to attend classes in a broad curriculum, to obtain a Diploma, and then move on to college from there.
“If you come here, Kylie, you will be expected to continue with classes in Math and Sciences, but we would be open to considering your needs as well.”
“If I may ask a question therefore, Mrs Hardisty?”
“Of course,” Kate said as she nodded her head.
“I understand the curricula I have followed would not be the same as the other girls here – particularly when it comes to History – but would there be room to find a way to blend the two sets of wishes and requirements together?”
Kate smiled and nodded. “Now that is a very mature question to ask. Mrs Brand and I have had some initial discussions with some of the relevant teachers, and have looked at the required syllabi. There would be no problem with Graphic Design – and we have already heard form Juliette Huntingdown that there would be a place at Complete Style Magazine for you to undergo the practical side of that course. As for English Literature, Miss Nightingale is fully conversant with the requirements, and her proposed lesson plans for the Junior year next year will take that into account.
“For History and Geography, you may require some external tuition, but that can be arranged by us for you as part of your learning plan. In return, we would expect you to work alongside the other Juniors in Math, Sciences and other classes.”
“That would be a good way forward,” Kylie said with a smile. “What would happen in terms of languages?”
“Well, we would encourage you to continue with French – but I think we can find other things to occupy your time instead of Spanish or other languages. Besides, you already have a language only a handful of our students speak.”
Kylie smiled as Kate said “I think what I am trying to say is I believe you would fit in very well here Kylie, even if your personal syllabus differs a little from the rest of the Juniors. I know you count a number of them as personal friends, so I do not believe you would have a problem integrating into the year.”
“I am very pleased to hear that, Mrs Hardisty,” Kylie said with a smile, “and for the exams?”
“Mrs Craig, Mrs Brand and Miss Nightingale will act as your mentors for the International version of the exams, and ensure you progress towards attaining them. We will credit your personal grade score with the results of your exams, alongside other reports from your school. Looking at the initial report, however, I think we look at you doing some AP classes next year, especially in English Literature and Geography.”
“Forgive me, but what does AP mean?”
“Advanced Placement – effectively, A-level classes in all but name, but our American universities place great credit on them. If you come here, one of the jobs of your Student Counsellor will be to advise you on where you can attend with your own qualifications.”
“Ah – I have heard my friends, especially Anna talk of them, but never quite understood.”
“Indeed – Miss Carlton is a unique case in point,” Kate said with a smile. “So the question is Kylie – do you believe we can meet your educational needs?”
“I believe you can Mrs Hardisty, dependant on the usual formalities.”
Kate smiled as she reached for the telephone. “Would you ask Anna Carlton to come to Miss Tennant’s office please?” Replacing the handset, she said “why don’t we go to Miss Tennant’s office now, and then Anna can take you and your aunt to the refectory for lunch once she has had a chat with you.”
Elaine screamed again as she felt the gloved hands of Miss Leopard squeeze her chest, her nipples almost exploding as they were squeezed out. She was kneeling on the floor, naked, ropes biting into her flesh as they held her arms tightly to her body above and below her chest. Her arms were folded behind her back, her wrists tied to her elbows, a rope running from her arms down and between her butt cheeks, pulled tightly up between the lips of her sex, and then secured to the chain that ran between the heavy metal nipple clamps, pulling them down as the ropes tied round the base of her breasts was pulled tighter and tighter.
She looked over at Orlagh who was in a similar state, their legs bound at the ankles, legs and thighs, their mouths forced open by a metal ring that was pushed behind their teeth, and strapped tightly round their heads.
“What’s the matter, shitheads,” Miss Puma said quietly as she pinched on Orlagh’s nipples, “can’t take what you dish out?”
She pulled on the crotch rope, grinning as she heard the pathetic whimpers of the redhead as she squirmed, and then started shaking.
“Is that fear, or something else,” Miss Leopard said as she looked over.
“Both, I think,” Miss Puma gasped as she stood up. “What do you think Miss Leopard?”
“I think we give them joy.”
Both women screamed as the dildos were forced into their rear passages, and then began to whimper as the built in vibrators started, making them shiver as they fought off the overwhelming sensations.
“Now, aren’t you glad we decided to come and teach you both the errors of your ways?”
“Pllssmktstpppp,” Elaine said as she looked at them, tears running down her cheeks, “llldnfnnggg...”
“Oh I know you will, but there is one small problem,” Miss Leopard said, “you tried to hurt one of us, to harm them and cause them pain. What is worse, your actions made a good, close friend of ours angry – and that requires payment.”
Orlagh watched as Miss Puma picked up the shotgun and pumped it, then looked at Elaine.
“Clssyreelfr – llsseusn?”
Elaine nodded as the two masked women put the end of the barrel into the rings in their mouths, and then screamed in ecstasy as the orgasm overwhelmed her – and then the blinding white light...
Diana blew the smoke from the end of the barrel as Sandy removed the mask and wig. “We need to change and slip out of here,” she said as she removed her own disguise, “we have to meet the others.”
They watched the two bodies fall to the side, before heading to the bedroom, their heels clicking on the floor.
“The girls are sitting over there,” Doc said as she led Kylie and Susan down the line, both of them selecting some food as they did so. “So long as you don’t mind sitting with the younger generation Susan.”
“I think I can live with it,” Susan said as some of the other girls looked round, Kylie drawing a look in her white skirt and blouse and green jacket.
“Please tell me I am not causing friction with my outfit, darling,” Kylie whispered as they approached the counter.
“No – it’s just a complete contrast to our uniform,” Doc said as she paid for all three. “I think you’ll look good in our colours though.”
As they walked across, Susan smiled and nodded at Abby as she sat with Letty and some of the other seniors.
“So, young Miss Mitchell,” Jeannie said as the three of them sat down with her, Pepsi and Ama, “spill. What brings you through our gates?”
“Well, I thought I would like to see where my dear friends studied darling...”
Kylie smiled at Pepsi, before she said “because my plans for the next two years have changed. Marina has been offered a position at Complete Style, and has offered to act as my guardian alongside Aunt Susan if I stay with her. As a result, I need a school to attend – and I heard St Angela’s was indeed the place to attend.”
“It does have certain attractions,” Ama said with a smile.
“So, do you think the possibility of me wearing the uniform is appealing, darlings?”
“So it’s true – you are thinking of coming here,” Nikki said as she sat down with Becca.
“Well, following this morning, i think it is a bit more than thinking about it,” Susan said with a smile.
“So that is The Speakeasy,” Juliette said as she sat in the car, looking at the rear of the building with Jan.
“It is indeed,” Jan said as she looked over. “Looks quiet at the moment, doesn’t it? What is the word from Louise?”
“She’s still in situ – we just need... Ah, here they are.”
The two women watched as a grey panel van pulled up, and the side door opened.
“Let’s go and get ready,” Juliette said, “Madame should be placing the call now, and we have a timetable to keep to.”
“It’s quiet,” Louise said as she stood by the bar with Carl.
“Too quiet – we need a little excitement in...”
They both looked to the rear doors as they were pushed open, and four women walked in, dressed in black jackets and skirts, the brooches gleaming on the lapels of their jackets, the sawn-off shotguns in their gloved hands pumped and primed.
“Good afternoon pissants,” one of them said as she fired the gun into the air, “my name is Miss Panther, and we are some of the Pussycat Gang. If you want to live to tell your folks about this afternoon, don’t say a fucking word, get on the dance floor and lie down.”
“The lady asked you fuckers to do something,” Miss Puma shouted out, “and she’s angry. Save yourself some bother, and play fucking nice!”
The customers and staff moved quickly, Louise joining them as she lay down with her hands behind her head. Miss Panther stood over them as she said “Miss Leopard, Miss Ocelot – invite her to join us, will you?”
“Of course Miss Panther,” one of the other two women said as they walked to the stairs that led to the upstairs office. They stood either side of the door, Miss Ocelot nodding as Miss Leopard pumped her shotgun and blasted the lock away from the door.
“You know who we are, you know why we’re here,” she called out as the dust settled, and the door slowly opened. “You can die here, like a coward, or be the strong woman you’ve always pretended to be.”
Miss Ocelot and Miss Leopard stood back as they heard the clock of heels, and then the door opened. “I am not afraid,” the blonde haired woman said as she walked down the stairs, her bottom swaying as the two armed and masked women followed her.
“Ah, here she is,” Miss Panther said as she walked onto the floor of the nightclub, “we never really got the chance to speak properly that night in Niagara. I hope you don’t mind me dropping in without an appointment.”
“I could hardly refuse,” the faux Miss Panther said as she looked round. “So what has happened?”
“Let me be brief,” Miss Panther said, “all except Miss Puma are dead – and he may as well be, because where he is going, he will not survive long.”
The room looked at the owner of the Speakeasy, as she smiled and said “so you figured it out.”
“Yes, we did,” Miss Ocelot said as she walked behind her, and hit the woman across the base of her spine with the gun, making her drop to her knees before she pulled her head back, the cold metal of the barrel pressing on her throat.
“Perhaps your staff should see you as you truly are,” Miss Panther said as she walked over, and pulled the wig away from her head, revealing the bald head. “Ladies, Gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Assistant Director Andre Baughman of the FBI.”
“What the fuck...”
“Did we say you could talk,” Miss Ocelot growled as she pressed back with her gun, Andre looking up as she stared at him, and saying “oh shit – you are one of them.”
“Listen up,” Miss Panther said, “this dickwad has taken ownership of this nightclub under false pretences, and this business will be under new ownership effectively immediately. As for him...”
She walked forward and waited as Miss Ocelot put her knee into his back, and placed the end of her shotgun into his mouth, “as for you, you have not only upset me, you upset Madame X with your actions. Bear that in mind when what is about to happen happens. Miss Leopard, invite our special guest in.”
“Of course, Miss Panther,” the masked woman said as she walked to the rear door, and opened it, standing to one side as Victor Sporetti came in, two of his associates behind him.
“Miss Panther,” he said as he nodded in her direction, “I see youse have kept yer promise.”
“Indeed, Mister Sporetti – this specimen here is the one who called herself Miss Panther.”
“And de others?”
“We and other associates have – eliminated them all, save one.”
“If you wish me to pull the trigger, and save Mister Sporetti here some effort, please, do that again,” Miss Panther said quietly as Baughman looked at her with pure hatred.
“And de one youse have let live...”
“You are a student of law, Mister Sporetti – if I said the name Arthur Deakin to you?”
“I would know whose ye talk of.”
“Then know the one who called himself Miss Puma was an associate of Deakins – a fact the authorities are aware of, as I am sure you will hear on the news later. I am sure you know who to contact on that count?”
Sporetti nodded as he looked at Baughman.
“What is your desire, Mister Sporetti?”
Victor said nothing, but indicated to the two men, who came and lifted Baughman up between them, dragging him outside as he cursed and swore.
“And dis lot?”
“The staff and customers of this fine establishment? We have no issue to discuss with them, and I am sure you will find this a most profitable establishment. I believe our business is concluded, Mister Sporetti?”
Sporetti looked around and said “I trust youse understand what dis lady is saying? Which of youse is de manager?”
Louise watched as her boss slowly stood up.
“We needs to talk – Miss Panther,” Sporetti said as he took her gloved hand and kissed it, “youse are in my debt. Please fank Madame on my behalf as well.”
“We shall – ladies?”
The group watched with Louise as the four women walked out, and Sporetti looked round.
“Drinks for everyone here on de house – come, we will talk up there?”
“Louise – serve the customers,” she said as she went with Sporetti, Louise nodding as she looked at Carl.
West Central Park
“I’m back,” Jan said as she came into the apartment, smiling as Katy and Katherine stood up with Adam.
“They’ve formally charged Peter Welch – I spent some time today making sure his family got away before the announcement was made. Turns out he was involved in some child kidnapping and assault cases a few years back. There’s something else Adam.”
“AD Baughman, there’s a warrant out for his arrest. Welch implicated him, said he was the one posing as Miss Panther. I stopped in on Tom and told him before I came home.”
“Oh crap – Buffalo is going to be a fun place for the foreseeable future.”
“Yeah,” Jan said as she sat down. “Guys, how about we order out tonight?”
“Sounds good – I have to go and meet someone later, sort out some business,” Katherine said, “so I’ll find the menus.”
“I’m going to go and get some wine from the merchants – we need to toast the fact this is over.”
“Yeah,” Jan said with a smile as Adam and Katherine went out, and Katy looked at her mother.
“We took revenge,” Jan said quietly, “they will never threaten any of us again.”
“Good,” Katy said quietly, “I still wish I had been there, but...”
“Don’t worry – when Baughman was about to be taken away, he realised who was crushing his throat.”
Katy nodded and smiled as Katherine came back in. “Let’s pick...”
“Ah – do come in,” Maisha said as she opened the door, “Aunt Shirley is in the drawing room with Susan, Kylie and Marina.”
“Thank you Maisha,” Juliette said as she came in.
“Ah – what news do you bring Juliette,” Shirley said as she looked up.
“Victor Sporetti sends his greetings and his grateful thanks – it’s over,” Juliette said as Susan handed her a drink.
“All loose ends tied up.”
“Well, Welch faces a trial, and Sporetti – well, he has the faux Miss Panther to deal with.”
“Honour satisfied – so how did it go today Kylie?”
“I’ve registered her to start this August,” Susan said, “using my address for the moment. On which note, we need to get back. I will see you tomorrow Madame?”
“Of course – Marina, Kylie, I leave for London on Friday, but if you could see your way to call at the office tomorrow at 3, I will talk to you with Catherine and Helen then.”
“Of course, Madame,” Marina said as the three of them stood up and left.
“I cannot stay for long either – Klaus is expecting me,” Juliette said. “What are your plans for tonight?”
“Well, John left today – but I am meeting someone later...”
The New Calabria
Tommy looked over as the tall, dark haired woman walked in.
“Hey,” he said as she came over, “what can I get youse?”
“A large glass of Chardonnay,” she said with a smile, as Annie came in from the back. Tommy opened the bottle and poured it out, handing it over as she paid and took it to a quiet booth at the back of the bar.
“May I join you?”
She looked at the fair haired woman standing there and nodded as she sat down. Unlike her light coloured coat, the new arrival was wearing a black leather jacket over a grey dress.
“Mermaid,” Shirley said with a nod of the head, “thank you for coming. May I get you a drink?”
“Already taken care of,” Mermaid said as Annie brought over a Bushmill, and placed it in front of her.
“So, what news do you bring me?”
“We have had a busy, but productive day, Mermaid. The person who shot at you yesterday has been eliminated, and the people behind the attempt have all been neutralised.”
“Do I want to know how?”
“I am sure it will come out in the news eventually – let us just say it was not, and will not be, pleasant.”
“Good – they deserve everything they get,” Mermaid said as she sipped her drink. “My apologies for my outburst yesterday.”
“Understandable,” Shirley said, “as I said at the time, you had a personal involvement in what was going on.”
“Still, when I was preparing for our scheduled get together, I never expected I would get involved in this.”
“Be assured, we have been watching them ever since we were made aware of the threat, and we did not seek to involve you. Events, as they often seem to do, conspired against us.”
Mermaid nodded as she sipped her drink. “Still, I wish I had been able to help more.”
“As I said yesterday, Mermaid, you are too valuable a resource for me to allow you to do that.”
“I have no doubt, had you been there, you could not have done more than my teams did, Mermaid.”
“Oh, I don’t know...”
Shirley smiled as she looked at Mermaid. “A bad choice of words perhaps. But I do not wish to lose you, or the work that you do.”
“I am glad you appreciate it – when I heard about what happened last summer, I knew this organization was one I had to be part of. I was surprised you did not approach me directly.”
"I did not know of
you then. Remember it was you who got
Major Erasmus to contact me on your behalf." Shirley smiled as she took
"Well he and I go
back a long way. He told me of Mogola, and..."
"Well when you joined us we laid out a strict set of protocols for your activities Mermaid...let's stick to them."
“Of course,” Mermaid said as she emptied her glass. “Another?”
Shirley nodded as she went up to the bar, returning a few minutes later.
“I have to admit, however,” she said as she took another drink, “when I was checking up on Adam and Jan, I never realised...”
“Do you still think she is wrong for him?”
“No – but I have to maintain the facade of the disapproving mother, don’t I?”
“So what is the truth?”
“The truth? Do you mind if I keep that to myself? It is, after all, outwith our protocols.”
Shirley smiled and nodded. “The supplies to our training camp?”
“Will arrive next week – the couriers will also be undergoing training while there.”
“Good – do the CIA still try and keep watch on us?”
“Oh yes – I can confound them a little, just as the other sisters do.”
“Good – I do like to keep them on their toes.”
Eleanor Ball smiled as she sipped her drink. “Well, they need to be kept occupied, don’t they? Now, what orders do you have from the Sisters...”