Best Served Cold – Part 1







Tuesday 19th April

8.45 am

St Angela’s


“Good morning everyone,” Ama said as she and Pepsi walked to the front gates, “are we ready for another day of learning?”


“I think so,” Becca said as Doc and Nikki came out, “so how is the last day of training going?”


“So far so good,” Nikki said, “I think this might actually be of benefit.  Where’s Jeannie?”


“I’m not sure,” Ama said as Abby and Letty walked over, “she is normally here by now...”


As the girls looked, John pulled up and got out, taking the wheelchair from the back and then lifting Jeannie in.


“Thanks Granddad – see you later,” she said as she wheeled over, a big grin on her face.


“And what has happened to put you in a good mood,” Abby asked.


“I need to go to Canyon later,” Jeannie said with a broader smile.


“You got the location?”


“Not only did I get the location,” Jeannie said, “they told me Jessica Long would be doing it with me.”


“Doing what,” Pepsi asked.


“Sports Illustrated – It is ON!”


“Well done that girl,” Doc said as Jeannie high fived each of them.  “So where and when?”


“Rio before the Olympics - so Copocabana here I come!”


“All right,” Abby said with a smile, “lessons first – on you go...”


9 am


"I'm looking forward to after school." Jeannie grinned as they stood at their lockers.

"Well we all know you aren't looking forward to Monday morning AT school." Doc laughed.

"Hey don't remind me," Jeannie groaned as she got her books, "but afterwards I get to go meet Esther Lowenstein to discuss my trip to Rio de Janeiro."

"You and Jessica Long get to be their first featured disabled models in the swimsuit really is progress." Grace smiled as she stopped to chat.

"Yes Miss, we aren't being hidden away anymore, disabled is the new chic."

"I thought being transgendered was the new thing?" Ama stood thoughtfully for a second.

"I personally think its diversity in all its forms." Becca collected her books.

"Hopefully you are right Rebecca," Grace nodded, "I did a shoot with Gigi Gorgeous on Saturday night."

"She's AMAZING!" Nikki smiled as well, "such a beautiful woman..."

"Who clearly was never really meant to be a man." Becca finished.


“At any rate, well done Jeannie – and go to your classes.”


3.15 pm Local Time

The Training Camp


Charlotte looked up as the door to the classroom opened.


“Forgive the interruption, Little Mother...”


“It’s all right, we have just finished,” the redhead said as Teacher, Poison and Liz looked over with Mindy.


“We have just received a radio message of a plane that will arrive in ten minutes – your eyes only.”


“A plane?  But John is coming tomorrow,” Charlotte said as she looked at the note, and then at the others.




“Oh yes – Poison, find Leader, inform her that the Strength is arriving with friends in a few minutes.  They will be attending the funeral, and also bring something else for the gathering tonight.”


“On it,” Poison said as she stood up and walked out.


“Helga, come with me,” Charlotte said as they made their way to the small landing strip.



“So this is Africa?”


“Part of it,” Maisha said to Lily as the plane touched onto the ground, and began to slow down, “but wherever I travel, this is my home, and I welcome all of you to it.”


The four women were wearing short sleeved blouses and shorts, Maisha without any shoes while Lily, Penny and Shirley were wearing desert boots.  “Where exactly are we?”


“This is the training camp for the Sisters,” Maisha said, “a secret location, hence we came in rather lower than usual.”


“Do they know we are coming?”


“I had the pilot radio ahead as we approached – they do not take kindly to unexpected visitors.  Do you have the boxes with the awards in Lillian?" Madame asked as the private jet taxied to a halt.

"I do."

"And Penelope, do you have the commendations?"

"All safely in their crate Madame." Penny smiled.

"I'm not looking forward to this overly," Maisha said as she undid her seatbelt. "Funerals are so sad."

"But these girls died for the most worthwhile of causes,” Shirley said, “and it will mean everything to the recipients to receive their medals from you darling."

"I know Aunt Shirley."


“One moment ladies,” the pilot said as he walked from the front, and opened the door, lowering the steps as the girls stood up.  Looking out, Maisha smiled as she walked down to be embraced by Charlotte and Helga.


“Welcome,” Helga said, “we are honoured you came.”


“It is good to see you Teacher, and you Little Mother,” Maisha said, “may I introduce my guardian, Shirley Xavier, as well as Lillian Harmon and Penelope Harker.  Aunt Shirley is a major supporter in financial terms of the Sisters, while both Lily and Penny work for her.  Penny in particular helped with the Mogola problem last year.”


“You are all most welcome,” Charlotte said, “as you know, you join us on a sad and also joyous day.”


“Indeed,” Shirley said, “may it be possible to see the compound Teacher?”


“I would be honoured,” Helga said as she and Maisha went off with Shirley, while Charlotte embraced Lily and Penny.


“So what the heck are you two doing here?”


“We’ll explain before the funeral later,” Penny said, “so what can you offer us?”


“Coffee – come and meet my good, good friend Poison.”






9.30 am

Complete Style


“Welcome back boss,” Janine said as she saw Juliette walk in.


“Good to be back Janine – can you and Alexis come in, bring me up to date?”


“Here we go,” Alexis said quietly as she followed Janine.  While she was wearing a black leather pinafore dress and white blouse, Janine was wearing a blue jersey and tight pants, while Juliette was wearing a white blouse and knee length skirt.


“Right,” Juliette said, “first thing first – how bad is the diary?”


“See for yourself Juliette,” her PA said as she handed Juliette the book, watching as her boss opened it and raised her eyebrows.


“Well, looks like I have some preparation to do...  Do I really need do this round of lunches Janine?"

"Sorry Juliette,” Janine said, “but the fashion trade has missed you, I could have had you doing two lunches a day for the next month if I'd tried.  I tried to schedule the most important first."

"Well there are certainly people on this list I do need to see." Juliette held up the piece of paper, and then looked at her assistants.

"The Fashion Week people insisted on being first up, they want your input for September."

"Yeah, they traditionally ask us writers our opinion...that's one I can't wriggle out of."

"Nor tomorrows with the Japanese Fashion Council," Alexis lifted her glasses to rub her eyes, "they've been plaguing me to get you to confirm you will write about Japanese fashion in the September issue."

"Yes I did promise," Ju ran her eyes over the list again, "see if you can get me sometime with Pippa Ashley before that.  Now, the FD Guild...why them on Friday?"

"You aren't supposed to know, but you get an award for services to the..."

"Okay Janine,” Juliette said with a smile, “I know to act surprised.  Now, can I have some peace and quiet in here girls while I catch up on my mail?"

"Only after you go to the and senior editorial welcome back," Janine said with a shrug.

"Uggh," Juliette groaned, "all right - let's get that over with."




The Inn on the Park


As Gale Callaghan came in, she looked over and smiled slightly as she saw Diane waving her over.


"Welcome back Gale cherie." Diana stood to kiss the latest arrival for lunch.

"It's good to be home," Gale glanced round, "No Ju?" she enquired.

"She has a work lunch." Sandy stood up and kissed her friend, "you look a little tired."

"I am still, but at least it's over."

"So did you hear about my daughter’s party?" Elaine asked as Gale slipped in next to her.

"I did, it sounds as though I really missed something."

"Mom and Dad threw a great shindig." Liz Lodge sat down.


“Did I hear John Travolta himself turned up to hand over a present?”


“He did,” Elaine said with a faraway look, “he was so dreamy?”


“I see our Pink Lady is still in love,” Kelly Rochermann said as she joined the party.  “Who else are we waiting on?”


“Claire called to say she is meeting with the re-election committee, so...”


“Hey everyone,” Jan Carter said as she joined the group.  “Gale – how are you?”


“Still trying to process a lot of things,” Gale said as the waiter started to take orders.  “It seems Grandma Lucia had a few things hidden away none of us knew about.”


“Oh – anything you can talk about?”


“Some I can’t talk about here,” Gale said before she gave the waiter her order, “but I can say one thing, given Elaine is here.”


“Oh?”  Elaine looked over and said “do I need to readjust my search parameters for you?”


“Let’s just say we may be able to afford something a bit bigger – Grandma Lucia apparently had set up a trust fund some years ago, and in her will she named me as the sole beneficiary.  She also left me the ranch, and Tom and I need to have a serious conversation about that in the future, but I think we can afford a better place now.”


“Oh?  Are you joining the ranks of the Countess here?”


“Not quite,” Gale said, “but comfortably well off.”


“So are you paying for dinner,” Rachel asked mischievously.


“Nope – Jan, how is Katy?”


“Very much better now,” Jan said with a smile.  “And if any good has come from this, we are much more friendly with Adam’s mother now.”


“I thought she was joining us today?”


“She was,” Jan said, “but she called to say she had to go on a foreign trip at short notice.”


7.15 pm Local Time

The Training camp for the Sisters of Maisha


“So these are the other invited guests,” Teacher said as she stood with Liz and Poison.  Both of the former Army officers were in dress uniform, while Helga wore a cream coloured jacket and pants.


“Indeed,” Liz said as the first plane came in to land, “and I for one am not looking forward to this first one.


“Why not Liz,” Sunburst said as she looked over.  “It’s Uncle in there.”


“Uncle I can cope with,” Liz said as Barb joined them, also in full uniform.  “It’s who is coming with him.”



"Well am I suitably dressed for an occasion such as this Colonel?" Marianne Vosloo asked her husband frostily, as the small SAAF airplane taxied.

"You look perfect my love," the colonel said as he looked at his wife, wearing a black jacket and skirt with a white camisole, and black flat shoes.  He smiled, but he knew he was still in the dog house.

"An awful lot of people have an awful lot of explaining to do to me."

"And don't we know it." John rolled his eyes as the plane came to a halt.  “Remain with the plane,” he said as the pilot came out, “refreshment will be brought to you.”


The pilot nodded as he opened the plane door, and John stepped out, putting on his hat as Marianne followed him.


“Colonel Vosloo,” Liz said as she saluted, “welcome to both you and Mrs Vosloo.”


“Liz,” John said with a smile, “thank you for inviting us.  I know it is a privilege for a man to be allowed here.  Please, introduce us.”


“Of course,” Liz said as she turned, “Major Barb Brookmayer, RAEME, who provided technical support to the operation, Captain Sunburst McRae, Formerly of the RAAC, and this is Helga Svenson, known as Teacher.”


“You honour us with your visit, Colonel Vosloo, Mrs Vosloo,” Helga said as she shook their hands.  “If you will come with me, we are gathering in the schoolhouse before the ceremony.”


“We will follow shortly,” Liz said, “we need to greet two more guests first.”


“So why are you known as Teacher,” Marianne said as she and John walked with Helga.


“I lead the training for the Sisters – I understand you only heard of us this morning, and I know it can be a shock, but when you see what happens tonight, I hope it goes some way to explaining who and what we are.


“In here,” she said as she opened the door, the two guests walking in as Marianne stopped and looked.


“Hello Uncle John, Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said as she came over, “Welcome.”


“Hello Little Mother,” John said as he embraced her, “very well done.”


“Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said, “you I am sure have questions.”


“Oh yes – and some more now,” she said as two women came over.  “Shirley – you are involved in this sisterhood as well.”


“I am – and please, forgive all of us for not telling you,” Shirley said, “but it was done for security reasons.”


“Still – just how big is this...”  Marianne stopped as the tall African woman came over, wearing tribal dress, and then curtseyed as she said “Your Highness – what are you doing here?”


“I also am a Sister,” Leader said, “but I wish to welcome you as well.”




“Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said, “I will explain, but I have someone here who wishes to speak to both of you.”




“Fergus – thank god you’re all right,” Marianne said as the big grey haired man embraced her.  “So you are here tonight as well.”


“These women gave their lives to save me and others – of course I will honour them.”




"So why am I in Botswana of all places Eleanor?" Veronica asked as the plane stopped, "and dressed in my best uniform."

"We are here for a funeral,” Eleanor said, “and for you to meet some people."

"Not my funeral I hope...”  Veronica looked out of the window, before she said “you said we go to France after this."

"Well it's not Paris, it's Marseilles."

"So I take it we are not going shopping?"

"No.  We need to track down the source for a new drug that is on the market."


As the door was opened, Eleanor and Veronica stepped out to be greeted by three women in uniform, one of whom saluted them as they walked over.


“Captain Ball, Commander Joyce, welcome.  I am Lieutenant Elizabeth Egwegwe, and these are my colleagues, Major Barb Brookmayer and Captain Sunburst McRae.”


“The Black Angel of Basra,” Eleanor said as they shook hands, “I am honoured to meet you.”


“For once, the honour is mine, Captain Ball – I heard of what you did in Baghdad during the first Gulf War.”


“Oh I like this one,” Veronica said, “so would it be rude of me to ask where we are.”


“This is the training camp of the Sisters of Maisha,” Liz said, “if you will come with us?”


“The Sisters of Maisha?  Good lord, Eleanor – are you telling me they really exist?”


“Oh yes,” Eleanor said as they entered, Shirley smiling as they walked over. 


“Eleanor – thank you for coming, and this must be Commander Joyce.  We are glad you could join us for this evening.  I am Shirley Xavier.”


“Have we met,” Veronica said as she looked at Shirley, “your voice sounds familiar.”


“We can discuss that later – Liz, it is good to see you again.”


“And you Shirley – I do not think you have met Sunburst yet?”


“No – a pleasure to meet you at last, Poison.”


“And to meet you,” Poison said as Marianne looked over.


“Are you and Fergus the only men here, John?”


“No – there are two or three others,” Fergus said, “and one of them is behind you.”


“Hello Mari you devil.”


“Rassie?  Good lord, so it was you I heard.”


“Welcome to an evening of surprises,” Rassie said with a smile.


“And the other man?”


“Is waiting where the ceremony will start,” Teacher said as she looked at the room.  “Ladies, Gentlemen, welcome from the Sisters of Maisha to this ceremony – a time to say goodbye, and to honour.  Before we begin, allow me to welcome our most special guest.




The room turned as Maisha came in, wearing a simple black dress, with Lily and Penny accompanying her.


“Oh my...”


“Welcome,” Maisha said quietly, “tonight, we are honoured you could join us for the ceremony, where we honour those who have given for the freedom of all.  Shortly, we will join the Sisters and begin, but first, I ask you to join my guardian and saviour in a toast.  Aunt Shirley?”


“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Shirley said, “the toast is the Honoured Dead.”


The room raised their glasses and said “the Honoured Dead” before taking a drink.


“And now,” Teacher said, “please, follow me.”


As the doors were opened, John took Marianne’s arm and said “We can talk after the ceremony with everyone,” before they went out.  Maisha went first with Shirley, followed by Charlotte and Helga, and then Liz, Sunburst and Barb.  The other guests made their way out after them, approaching the assembled Sisters as they stood around the freshly dug graves.


“Lucia,” Shirley said as the doctor stood with her nurses, “thank you again for coming out to treat the wounded.”


“It was our honour and our duty,” Lucia said as she looked at the guests.  “Colonel Vosloo, Major Erasmus.”


“Doctor Lucia,” John said with a nod, “my wife Marianne.  Marianne, this is Doctor Lucia Bianchini.”


Marianne nodded as well as Charlotte stepped forward.


“Sisters, Honoured Guests,” she called out, “today, as you know, we won a great victory over those who would oppress our families and the innocents in Zimbabwe.  But as you also know, the victory came at a price.  A price we would all willingly pay, to see justice delivered.  As the first of us did, and as we all do, in the name of the Heart and the Strength.”


“For the Heart and the Strength,” the gathered group said, Veronica surprised to hear Eleanor say it as well.


“And so tonight, we come together, to honour those who died for our cause.”


“John,” Marianne whispered, “is that a Bushman over there with his head bowed?”


“That is Xan,” Liz whispered back, “he teaches the Sisters tracking skills, and is also our unofficial protector.  He is one of the few men who know the secret of this place, and is revered in the Sisterhood.”


Marianne nodded as she looked towards the twelve freshly dug graves.  “I call upon the Strength, to read the roll of honour, as we lay our fellow sisters to their eternal slumber.”


Charlotte nodded as Maisha stepped forward, and took a pad from Teacher.  “My fellow Sisters,” she called out, “when we take the oath, we all swear to support each other, to trust each other, and to show that natural justice which is above all laws in the tasks we are assigned to do.  We swear to seek out those who will threaten the innocents, and bring them to that same justice.  Tonight, we say goodbye to these, your sisters, who did what we swore to do, and made the supreme sacrifice.  As we name them, and lay them to rest, honour them as well, and remember their names in your hearts.”


As the crowd watched on, Maisha looked at the pad.


“Akatendeka N’Gala, we honour you.”


Two of the sisters carried the body, wrapped in a white shroud, towards the first grave, the Sisters starting to sing as John and the other officers removed their hats.  The Sisters stopped by the grave, and then gently lowered the body in on ropes.  As they did so, Xan stepped forward and sprinkled a handful of red dust onto it, while Teacher pushed a simple plaque into the ground at the head of the grave.


“What did they do today,” Veronica whispered to Eleanor.


“The gentleman there,” Barb said as she looked at Fergus, who stood with his head bowed, “was making sure opponents of Mugabe managed to escape.  Today, he tried to have him killed.  The Sisters prevented that – at great cost.”


Maisha read out a second name, the sisters carrying the next body out.


“What are they singing,” Marianne asked John, “it is beautiful.”


“They call it the Song of Maisha,” John whispered back, “it is their battle cry, their anthem – and tonight, their requiem.”


Marianne nodded, surprised to find herself crying as one by one the bodies were laid to rest.  As the last one was settled into the grave, and Helga added the name marker, four of the sisters walked forward.


“They led the rescue mission,” John whispered as Mindy took a handful of dirt and threw it into each grave, Artemis, Athena and Aphrodite following suit.  As the last one went in, the Sisters stopped singing, as Maisha looked over at them. 


“If these are the Sisters of Maisha,” Veronica whispered to Eleanor, “is that the Maisha they are the sisters of?”


“She is indeed,” Eleanor said, “she was one of the first of the Mazengwean slave girls to be freed.”


“Sisters,” Maisha said, “even as we mourn, we honour the sacrifice these, our friends, our comrades have made.  They will not be forgotten. 


“But we also wish to mark the heroism that many of you have shown in past campaigns – even as we mark their heroism today.  For this reason, I am here tonight not only to mark those who paid the price today, but those who both paid the price and led in the past.  In consultation with the Heart, and Little Mother, we wish to honour those who have led you, and continue to lead you, to victory over the oppressors.


“May I ask the one known as Leader, and Mindy, Sister of our honoured Sister Red, to come forward please?”


The Sisters watched as both Leader and Mindy stepped forward.


“Last year,” Little Mother said as she came forward, “Leader led your Sisters to overthrow the most insidious evil that had settled in Mologa.  In this place rest those who died to achieve that, including Red.  With this in mind, and to mark their leadership in that campaign, I wish to bestow upon you, Leader, and ask you to accept for your Sister, Mindy, the Cross of Valour.”


She stepped back as Maisha took from Lily a small red box, and from Penny a certificate, before she handed to Leader both, saying “without your leadership, many would still be in slavery.  This marks our thanks to you for your effort.”


Turning to Mindy, Maisha said “I never knew Red, but she was a true leader, and gave her life so others would live.  Please, allow us to remember her with this.”


Both women nodded as they bowed to Maisha, and then returned to their places.  As Leader came over, Liz saw the tear in her eye, and said “congratulations.”


“This is for all who fought,” she whispered back as Little Mother said “we also wish to acknowledge and honour all those who led with Red and Leader to free our Mologan sisters.  I ask the stick leaders from that campaign who are here to come forward, along with Major Erasmus and Doctor Lucia.”


As the crowd watched, two of the Sisters came forward, alongside Lucia and Rassie.


“For your leadership, and for your bravery,” Maisha said, “we ask you to receive this Meritorious Service Medal.”


Each nodded as they accepted the black box and certificate, and then stepped back.


“This award,” Charlotte said, “will also be awarded to those stick leaders who are not here, as well as Captain Shelby MacKay and Sergeant Petra Nguyen.  Finally, we wish to acknowledge those whose leadership and devotion to duty provided invaluable support to that campaign.  Doctor Lucia, we ask that you take with you Distinguished Service Awards for those nurses who worked with, both here and in America, to heal both our Sisters and those they liberated.”


“We are honoured,” Lucia said as they stepped back.


“We also wish to honour those who have taught you and led you.  Please, come forward Teacher, Little Teacher, Poison, and Liz.”


The four of them looked at each other as Maisha said “for the way you have taught and inspired all of the Sisters, and myself, we award each of you the Distinguished Service Medal.”


"Who is the one legged Australian Aboriginal?" Marianne whispered as Maisha handed her the green box and certificate.

"Sunburst McRae," John whispered back.

"Why do I know that name?"

"She's the girl who won a George Cross rescuing those children and their teacher from a minefield in Basra."

"Oh dear Goddess... now I do remember."  Marianne nodded as she saw Poison step back.

"They call her Poison because as well as being a training officer she's also the camp cook."


“Oh the poor woman.”


“Allow me to say one more thing,” Charlotte said.  “There will be awards based on the actions of today, and in the future, when the time is right.  But because we have highlighted the work of some does not mean all are not important.  We are a Sisterhood, so rejoice with those we have honoured today, because we are one family, one sisterhood, regardless of country or faith or colour of skin.


“As we cover our Sisters in their slumber, let us now honour and celebrate them and the work that we do.  Let the bonfire be lit, and let the feast begin.”


They started to sing the song again, this time in a brighter, tuneful manner as some went to start to cover the graves.


“I don’t think I’ve ever been moved by a ceremony so much,” Veronica said, “but I still don’t understand why you brought me here Eleanor?”


“Isn’t it obvious,” Eleanor said with a grin, “look at who is here.  Senior officers from the SAIS and other groups, officers from armies across the world, and those who seek to end injustice and oppression of women.  I am a Sister Veronica – as are these officers.”


“Oh,” her old friend said, “and now…”


“And now,” Shirley said as she joined them, “we wish to extend the hand of fellowship to you, Commander Joyce.  Please, enjoy the celebrations – and we will talk later.”



“Did ye know they were doing this,” Sunburst said as she looked at the medal.


“No,” Liz said, “I’m actually quite moved by it.”


“Well, it was well deserved – congratulations Liz,” John said as he kissed her.


“John and Marianne Vosloo, allow me to introduce Sunburst McRae.”


"Sunburst it is a very real honour." Marianne smiled as they shook hands.

"Why does everyone say that," the Aboriginal laughed her jolly chuckle, "I was just too rash for me own good..."

"No," Eleanor smiled as well as she came over, "you were a genuine heroine Captain, there is very good reason they call you The Black Angel."

"Well tell this bloody lot that when they are complainin' about me cookin'."

"And undermine the right of all troops to moan about the food." Veronica laughed along. "I'd get lynched."


“Fair dues,” Poison said with a smile.  “Still – I think I rate this more than that gong.”


“I can understand why,” Marianne said as Charlotte came over.


“Aunt Marianne, why don’t we go and have a talk,” she said as she took her to one side, Liz looking at them.


“Did she listen in this morning?”


“Oh yes – and believe me, she’s still mad as hell at me for not telling her.  Hopefully, Charlotte can talk her round – but she was truly moved by the ceremony.  Maisha – you spoke very eloquently today.”


“Thank you Colonel Vosloo,” Maisha said with a smile, “it is sad, but also an occasion to mark their work for those who need to free others.  I suspect it is also the first time so many men have been on the camp as guests.”


“Tell me about it – Colonel sir!”  Josias Swart snapped to attention and saluted the senior officer.


“Josias – where were you?”


“Helping to set out the feast – I felt staying in the background was a wise move.”


“Indeed – good work in Bulawayo, by the way.  Duff beer?”


“Amongst other things,” Josias said with a smile.  “You should get a report on their reaction to what happened tomorrow.”


“Excellent – always helps to have a secure bug in place,” John said with a grin.  “So you return to London from here?”


“Indeed Sir, as per your orders.  But it had been good to help out here.”


“Well, I need you there as well…”




“Look, Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said as she handed her a drink, “you cannot stay mad at Uncle John forever.  If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at me.”


“I know – but hearing you direct that fight today…”


“This,” Charlotte said as she looked round, “is a very important part of my life, and I keep it secret to protect them.  Shirley knows – in fact, she is one of the backers of the movement – and a few others, but that is all.”


“But all this…”


“Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said quietly, “there is a lot of evil in this world, and sometimes the authorities cannot do the right thing.  When that happens, and when innocents are threatened, that is when we come in.  By being independent, we can get in and work where others cannot.  Uncle Fergus was in real trouble, and we had to get him out.  End of story.”


“I think I understand – and all this came from Mazengwe?”


“Indeed – but as you can see, we cover many places now, and we have eyes and ears everywhere.”


“What would your father say?”


“I hope he would be proud,” Charlotte said, “and approve, in his own way.”


“I think he would,” Marianne said quietly, “I think he would.”


"So Barb,” Rassie said with a smile, “back to the Aussie army?"

"No Sir," the Electrical Engineer looked up, "I'm on sick leave pending discharge...bloody budget I go from being Major Brookmayer to Doctor Brookmayer and transfer my research to the University of Western Australia.'

"Yeah they are cutting back all over the world." John nodded. "I take it you build drones and similar systems?"

"That I do, but in their wisdom my bosses are buying off the shelf from the bloody Yanks...No offense Ma'am." she nodded at Eleanor, "and abandoning my work to what I can use it for in civilian life."

"None taken Major."


“I hope, however,” Shirley said, “you will join us in helping whenever you can.”


“I would be honoured,” Barb said, “how many of us are out there?”


“More than you realize,” Shirley said quietly.  “Will you excuse Eleanor and I for a few minutes?”


“An impressive collection of minds, Madame,” Eleanor whispered as they walked to where Veronica was talking to Liz.


“Indeed - and I hope to add now to that collection of minds Mermaid.”  As they walked over, they heard Veronica say “Good lord – to have seen that…”


“It stayed with me, and it brought me here,” Liz said as she nodded to the other two. 


“Indeed – can I ask a question Shirley?”


“Of course you may, Veronica,” Shirley said with a smile.


“We have met before, haven’t we?  Only then you and your friend wore a veil, and the next thing I knew I was in the back of a refrigerated lorry, looking at Salmon and Heroin.”


“Well, this is a place that requires total honesty,” Shirley said, “so yes, we have met before.  I help ensure funding is provided to the Sisters, and also arrange support when needed.”


“Perhaps I should enquire no further – so why are we going to Marseilles, Eleanor?”




“Without going into the details, we found evidence last week of a new date rape drug on the market – a mixture of three known ones in low doses, and highly effective.  It was used to make a young girl incapable of being able to resist as she was repeatedly raped.”


“Dare I ask how young the girl was,” Veronica asked.


“Too young,” Eleanor said.


“But how were you approached?”


“I heard how they had worked in Mologa, and offered my services.  Veronica, there is a need to fight this sort of terror, wherever it raises its head.”


“Eleanor, or Mermaid as she is known in the Sisterhood,” Shirley said, “is one of a select few who work outside the main organization, keeping their eyes and ears open, and helping where their specialist skills are needed.  Veronica, with all you have seen, all you know we now do, I need to ask you a question.


“Will you join and help us?”


“That depends – what if I am asked to do something illegal?”


“You already have,” Eleanor said, “we all have for the greater good.”


"We are able to extraterritorially, and yes extra-legally Veronica,” Shirley said, “to try and uphold some standard of decent treatment for women and children."

"How often have I complained over the years about what I was and wasn't able to do within the system Veronica?" Eleanor added, "And how often have I heard you complain about the really big villains of this world getting away with it?"

"I know, but..."

"The Sisters bend the rules to try and observe that a higher good just sometimes wins Veronica." Shirley looked serious, "just think of all those poor girls like Maisha suffering until we took 'direct action'."


Nodding, Veronica smiled and said “when you put it that way…  How can I refuse?  What do you need me to do?”


“Tell no one,” Shirley said with a smile, “go with Eleanor, do your work, and we will talk when you return.”


“Do I have to come here to train?”


“No,” Eleanor said, “but to offer training at a future date?”




“Are you all right,” Charlotte said as she joined Mindy, who was sitting on a rock


“In a way, yes.  In a way no.  Did Red ever tell you what drove her to the Sisters Little Mother?" Mindy said as she looked down at the medal in its box.

"Not really,” Charlotte said, “I know she had been a music student at the conservatory in Harare, and that she loved Handel."

"That she did," Mindy smiled.

"But she never really said what drove her to seek us out."

"I can tell you,” Mindy said quietly.  “She was raped and used by a dozen drunken bastards from the ESU..."

"Oh dear Goddess Mindy,” Charlotte said, “so today was...?"

"Personal," the black girl nodded.

"So what happened?"

"They found her walking home from the part-time job she had, just as they came out of a beer house. From what I later learned, they had been there all day and night.  Anyway, they dragged her into an alley and just abused her in the worst way," Mindy said as tears started to roll down her cheeks.

"And the police?"

"Initially they tried to help,” she said, “but they soon backed off when word came down from on high who had done it."

"BASTARDS!"  Charlotte spat the word out, and then said “sorry” rather sheepishly.

"Well my family tried to complain, but my father was dismissed from his job at the Taxation Department...  The police Superintendent actually admitted that the orders came down from the very top that Red's name must be blackened, her reputation as a 'good girl' destroyed, and that if my father didn't want more then to just lose his job, that we should all shut up."

"That is terrible Mindy," Charlotte shook her head.

"That was the night Red left home, where for we only found out later.  We only discovered the truth when Leader came and told us in person.  She said she had died to save others, and that while she regretted the death, she had saved many.  My parents thanked her – I followed her out and said I wanted to follow her."


“So tonight, you will sleep well – and so will she.”


“Charlotte, may I have a word please?”


“Of course,” Charlotte said as Maisha sat with Mindy.


"Charlotte an evaluation please,” Shirley said, “should we be funding Barb Brookmayer's research?"

"Well I'm no expert Shirley, but that little bird of hers proved its worth to me."

"I'd very much got that impression," Shirley paused, "I think I will have a quiet word with her about commissioning a couple, or more, of her little toys.  She has already indicated she will help if asked."


“And Veronica Joyce?”


“Is also joining, at the same level as Mermaid.”


“Excellent – Penny, thank you for bringing the medals out tonight.”


“It was my pleasure.  I have Helen's medal for her," Penny whispered to Charlotte.

"For her work at the airport in Mogola...she won it the honest way."

"And do you have Blondies?"

"I do, I'm seeing her in London later in the week."

"What are you two whispering about?" Lily asked.

"Absent colleagues Lil," Charlotte smiled.

"Well talking of colleagues, I just checked my secure computer...word is Juliette wants to retire..."

"WHAT!" Charlotte hissed.

"And that she wants to go out making a huge statement."

"Oh shit," Penny giggled, "are we invited?"

"I get the impression from Susan it will be all hands on deck."


“I don’t believe it – I just can’t see it happening…”





"So this date rape drug we are investigating Eleanor?"

"Is a question that almost got personal, the girl who got raped is a friend of my granddaughter."

"Granddaughter?" Veronica looked perplexed, "You mean Katy Carter?"

"I do," the former Naval officer nodded seriously.  “As I said, we target those who target innocents.”


“But Marseilles – you thinks it’s Rey, don’t you?”


“It’s a possibility…”


"So what is our cover for Marseilles...Is it a wigs and different makeup job?"

"No," Eleanor smiled, "thanks to a colleague of Adam's I have a perfectly legitimate reason to be there and sniffing round."

"Oh? and that is?"

"Have you met Guy, the Duc de Grechy?"

"I don't move in quite the exalted circles you do Eleanor,” Veronica said quietly, “so no."

"Well he's a prominent racehorse owner and breeder."

"Alright – carry on..."

"Well recently some of his horses were in Marseilles to race, and he has some reason to believe they were doped."

"Did he ask the French Racing people, the police...?"

"Guy is a bit more direct then that," Eleanor smiled again, "he went instead to Jeanne Marais who works for Interpol in NYC..."

"And who I have met," Veronica interrupted.

"And asked if she knew someone could investigate his suspicions quietly..."

"And your name came up," Veronica interrupted again.


"Well I have to say a discreet enquiry regarding horse doping does give us a good excuse to be nosing round."

"It's just what I thought, and who knows we might discover leads in both cases."

"Fingers crossed."

"Ladies may I offer you some wine?" Teacher circulated carrying bottles and glasses on a tray.


“Why thank you – may I ask a question Teacher?”


“Of course.”


“I look around, I see former Army officers, intelligence personnel – what is your story?  How did you become Teacher?”


“Well, I was a teacher,” she said, “in Northern Nigeria.  It was a good life, and then…”


“Boko Haran.”


Teacher nodded.  “I managed to survive physically unharmed, but seeing so many of my charges taken changed me.  In time, I found my way to the Sisters, and was sent here to train.  I guess I never left – here, I found the purpose I needed, and a way to help others to seek justice as well.”


“Have the Sisters ever thought of looking there?”


“We have eyes and ears there – if they are ever found, I want to be with those who liberate them.”


“You know,” Veronica said, “I hear that a lot here.  The need to seek closure and resolution.”


“We all have the things that drive us,” Teacher said, “I hope you find yours.”


"All these people contribute John,” Marianne said as she held her glass, “looking round I feel so inadequate."

"Marianne darling you fought your own little war...remember?"

"What is he talking about Aunt?" Charlotte enquired.

"Well,” John said, “you know I was in the Selous Scouts during the Bush War?"

Charlotte nodded.

"Well,” John said as he sipped his drink, “your aunt was in the Rhodesian Women's Services."

"I've seen her picture in her uniform."

"But did you know she served in Grey's Scouts."

"Hey no one ever told me that," Charlotte broke into a smile.  “You have some skills, Aunt Marianne.”

"Not as a combatant," Marianne smiled, "Rhodesia was too sexist to put women in the line of fire, but I did teach riding and break horses for the Scouts."

"You knew she won all those three day eventing trophies Charlotte?"

"I remember Uncle John," Charlotte smiled again.


“Well, that’s how she learned those skills.”


"You know Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said, “we have thought of putting together a mounted reconnaissance stick...want to get involved?"

"You try stopping me," Marianne grinned.


“Now hold on a minute…”


“Hey Josias,” Rassie said as he called the sergeant over, “want to see a rare sight?”


“And what would that be,” Josias said as he came over, Fergus watching as well.


“John Vosloo getting into an argument he will not win – watch…”


“I’m sorry John,” Marianne said quietly, “is there something you wish to say?”


“It’s just – Marianne, it’s been years since you were on a horse in that way.”


“It’s like riding a bike, John – you never forget.”


“You’re not getting any younger…”


“Neither are you and you still get involved.”


“But it’s dangerous out there!”


“So it’s all right for Charlotte, but not for me?  I can take care of myself – and I always have been a better shot than you John.”


“She has actually,” Rassie whispered as John said “Marianne please – you’re not exactly a spring chicken…”   He instantly realized his mistake as his wife stared at him.


“Listen,” Charlotte said, “let’s table this for discussion when we see you in a couple of days, but honestly Uncle John – can you think of a better person to teach the Sisters to use horses…”


John looked at her and Marianne, before he said “All right – we’ll discuss this later.”


“Good – because you know it’s the right thing.  Now, how about you introduce me to some of the others Charlotte…”



Shirley stepped outside to find Maisha staring into the clear dark blue sky, the lights from the stars twinkling.


“You did very well today,” she said as she stood with him.


“Thank you Aunt Shirley,” Maisha said quietly.  “But I only spoke the truth – I do desire to honour them for their sacrifice, and also than those who free my Sisters.”


Nodding, Shirley said “tonight we may have recruited three new specialists to the Sisters.  If they do join, like Mermaid and others, they will help with their specialized skills as and when needed.”


“We are truly building a remarkable force for good, Aunt Shirley.”


“Indeed we are – and the work, sadly goes on.  Two are going to Marseilles to find the source of a drug that has been used to make true innocents the playthings of those who think they can have anything.”


“Excellent – so the fight goes on.”


“The fight goes on…”





8 pm

The Brewster Brownstone


John looked out from the kitchen as the door opened, and Jeannie wheeled herself in, followed by Barbara.  He smiled as they closed the door and came into the kitchen.


"You girls are late," John said as he started to reheat supper.

"I know Granddad," Jeannie answered as she stopped at the table.  "Esther Lowenstein had us both trying on a pile of costumes."

"She eventually narrowed down the list that the girls will wear in Rio." Barb undid her jacket then slumped into a chair at the table. "Sorry you had to cook tonight Dad."

"Well it's not every day our Jeannie gets invited to join the true elite of modeling and appear in Sports Illustrated."

"That's true..."

"But it soon turned into just pure work," Jeannie wheeled her way back from the fridge carrying cold drinks, "try this on, try that, let Stu take some shots..."

"Still you get to go to Rio de Janeiro love," John started dishing up, "somewhere I always wanted to go."


"Well come with us Dad." Barb picked up her knife and fork, "I know Nessa said you are due some vacation time."


“Why not?  I could do with some down time.”  As he doled out the pasta and sauce, he smiled and said “I’ll ask her in the morning.”


“Grace told the girls earlier about the extra shoot she did Saturday – after we had finished rehearsing, she went and did a shoot with Gigi Gorgeous.  By all accounts, it was after two by the time she got back to the hotel – and yet eight o’clock she was there, fresh as a daisy.”


“Remind me to ask how she did it,” Barbara said as she started to eat.


“Later,” Jeannie said, “I still have to get my assignment for English Lit finished.”



8 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


"So how was work?" Klaus said as he brought Juliette an aperitif into the drawing room.

"Tiring,” Juliette said as she accepted the glass, “I hate working that late."

"Had the girls been slacking?"

"Far from it, just so many people wanted a piece of my time today."


“The joy of the high ranking fashion writer,” Klaus said with a smile.  “But are you glad to be back?”


“I’ll be glad when this week is out of the way – so what are we eating?”


“I ordered some food in – I figured it would be easier that way.”  As he sat down, Klaus said “only a few weeks, and the girls will be back.”


“True – and then they go off to Munich for a few weeks.  Annie is looking forward to it as well.”


8 pm

The Village


“Are you going to be safe to travel,” Ama asked as she sat curled up on the large chair.


“If I left it much longer, than no,” Annie said as she held her mug, “but the Doc assures me I will be fine with Cari alongside me.”


“Well, I said she would kill me if I let you come to harm,” Dom said quietly, “so I guess I just have to get through the next few weeks.”


“You still have not told them, have you?”


“Oh no,” Annie said with a smile, “I think this will be a shock to both of them.”


“Well, life should have surprises,” Ama said with a smile.  “On which note, Mom – Jess has said should both our teams make it to the final, I should join her for the game that afternoon.”


“Fine by me,” Dom said with a smile, “it looks as if we are all in for a summer of changes anyway.”


As she laughed, Ama looked at her phone.


“A message?”


“Yes – Maisha.  She was at the training camp today, to give out some awards – but also some of the Sisters who died were buried.”


“Ah – and Charlotte?”


“She is safe – apparently she will be coming over with a friend…”



Wednesday 20th April

9 am Local Time

The Training Camp


“Good morning,” Charlotte said as Marianne appeared from the tent.  While the young redhead was wearing a blouse and shorts, Marianne was wearing a pair of pedal pushers and a polo shirt.  “Can I get you some coffee?”


“Is that Turkish?”


“It is – we are not uncivilized,” Charlotte said, laughing as Teacher and Poison brought over platters of bread, meat and cheese.


“A beautiful morning,” John said as he came out and stretched, “where are the others?”


“Eleanor and Veronica left a short while ago – they are flying on to Marseilles,” Charlotte said.  “I haven’t seen Shirley or any of the others yet, but the Sisters are long since up and at work.”


“So I see,” Marianne said as groups of the girls walked past, some with tools, others pushing wheelbarrows.


“So I hope you’re not still mad at me, Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said as she passed the cup over.


“Of course not,” Marianne said, “it just took me so much by surprise yesterday.  But when you see the way they buried their friends, and then the celebration afterwards.”  Sipping her coffee, she said “just how far does the Sisterhood stretch?”


“Worldwide – you met Doctor Lucia last night?”  As Marianne nodded, Charlotte said “she works in Victoria, in Canada, but came when we – well, we liberated a group of Mologan women being carried like cattle to the US to be sold into slavery.  They needed medical attention, we asked her to come – and now, she is a Sister.  Little Teacher – Marigold, she was one of those women, and now she works here as a counselor.”


“Have all of them?”


“In one way or another,” Charlotte said, “so that adds to the bond as well.  I understand where they have been.”


“I remember your father telling us about that raid in Zambia,” Marianne said quietly. 

"You were serious last night about me teaching riding weren't you Charlotte?"

"Perfectly Aunt Marianne,” Charlotte said quietly, “it might seem out of date in this age of drones, and helicopters, but there are still places and situations in which horses are the ideal transportation, especially for scouts."

"Well that's why they formed Grey's Scouts in Rhodesia."

"You know, I read the unit history by Alexandre Binda a few weeks ago, funny but I would have checked for your name in the list at the back if I'd known you served."

"Well a few of we better women riders did." Marianne smiled. "Look Charlotte if you want this done I'll need some support staff you know?"


"Well a good vet for starters."

"Alright, I better take notes," Charlotte pulled a little pocket book out as she and her aunt talked.


"Charlotte's been thinking about this a while hasn't she?" John Vosloo said as he stood drinking coffee with Poison.

"We all had actually Colonel, but she was going to leave it a few more weeks.”  Sipping from her cup, she said “well last night I think she just moved things on quicker and asked your wife."

"Well Marianne has only really been social riding as she calls it the past few years, I just hope she isn't taking on too much..."

"John she will be fine," Shirley said as she came out of the tent behind them.

"Well there is a lot of difference between riding at the club with her friends, and out here in the bush. I'm not sure I can allow..."

"You finish that sentence John Vosloo and I'll tell on you," Shirley chuckled.

"She'd not like to hear it yer know." Sunburst laughed as well.

"Okay...I know when I'm least for now."


“John, you know we look after our own,” Shirley said as Maisha came out.  “We are going to fly back to London later – shall I pass on your good wishes to Piet when we see him?”


“Yes, thank you – and you know sooner or later he may figure this out?”


“We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Shirley said as Lily and Penny came out.


“Did you both sleep well,” Charlotte asked.


“Took me back to my days in the Guides,” Lily said.


“You were never in the Girl Guides?”


“No – but I still liked to steal from them from time to time…”


8 am

The Morse home


“There you are – come on Ms Morse, much to do today.”


“All right, all right,” Becca said as she ran out and climbed into the passenger seat of Jeannie’s van, “Want some candy Jeans?”


"No way Jose," the model smiled as she shook her head, "I'm on a strict diet till after Rio."

"Oh like YOU need lose weight."

"If I'm showing this body off in swimwear, it's going to be as slim and sleek as I can get it."

"You are serious aren't you?" Doc spoke as she and Nikki sat in the back.

"Perfectly.  I need to be as fit as possible."

"Well maybe you need to see Helen tonight,” Doc said, “see what she can suggest to get those final few ounces off."

"Doc's right, Helen would probably be intrigued to work with someone disabled." Nikki added, "we film our commercials this week, but she's staying in New York for at least a few days to be with Penny when she flies in."

"That is a definite idea," Jeannie smiled as she looked in her mirrors, before pulling out onto the street.


10 am

Complete Style


“Okay Pippa – come round tonight and I’ll get the girls on a Skype call to confirm the arrangements,” Juliette said as there was a knock on the door.


“Do you have a few minutes, Boss?  Helen and I need to talk to you,” Janine said as she looked round.


“Of course,” Juliette said as she put the telephone down.


“Come on in,” Janine said as she stood to one side.  "Good Morning Helen, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Juliette asked as the Russian woman came in, and Janine closed the door.

"I wish I could say pleasure Juliette," Helen said as she sat down, straightening the legs of her trouser suit.

"I thought you were having fun torturing Nikki and Anna?"

"Oh yes, that I am enjoying...  No this is work."

"Alright fill me in," Juliette put her glasses on.

"Well,” Helen said, “you know the Japanese silk factory we bought."

"Yes.  What’s happened?"

"We have been experiencing severe delays and troubles with US customs on our deliveries."

"Helen and Marina have been working with me on it for weeks from HK." Janine added.

"So why haven't you told me of this?"

"Well we thought we could sort it out at our level." Janine looked at the file she carried, "but despite letters, phone calls, etc, etc, we have got nowhere."

"I've had a variety of meetings while I've been here," Helen pulled her file out of her bag, “but I've hit the same wall. Either we are just having extreme bad luck, or we are being targeted."

"Who by?"

"The government, someone with influence, Janine and I are not sure...That's why we are in here right now...”  Leaning forward, she said “we need help Juliette."

“What sort of help do you think we need?”


"We need a banker/lawyer who knows their way round the bureaucracy and can help sort this out."

"Hmmm…”  Juliette looked thoughtful, and then sat back.  “Have either of you met Alan Kennedy?"

"The names familiar - why Juliette?" Janine asked.

"He's the banker who helped Shirley and Susan see off a hostile takeover bid...he might be just what we need."


“Can we arrange a meeting?”


“I’ll call Susan, and see if it can be done in the next couple of days.  Shirley flew to the UK the other day, and I’m not expecting her back until the weekend.”


“I know – Penny will be coming as well,” Helen said with a shy smile.



10 am

FBI Field Office


As Adam and Jan came in, they both saw Tom sitting in his office.


“Hey,” Adam said as he looked in, “how are things?”


“Well, they are – interesting,” Tom said.  “Turns out Gale’s grandmother was a lot – a LOT richer than even she knew.  It’ll take a little while to sort that out.  Anyway, what do you want?”


“To see how you were,” Jan said, “and also to let you know we’re putting in for some leave in June.”


“The de Ros birthday?  Gale and I have invites – so we’ll be part of the party as well.  I guess the office can do without us for a few days.”


“Listen – you remember that business in the Fulton Market a couple of months back?”


“Yeah – what about it?”


“Well,” Adam said, “we’ve been hearing rumours of a new date rape drug on the market – a new combination.  It may be nothing, but the SVU asked if we could share our files with them and Roi de Mer.”


“I’ve no problem with that.  Let them know they can call round any time.  I need to talk to both of you anyway.”


“What about?”


“Morganstern’s lawyer wants to interview you and Katy Jan.  I know it’s asking a lot, but…”


“I don’t think Katy is up for that,” Adam said quietly.


“Tell him he can talk to me first – then we’ll see,” Jan said quietly.





11 am

St Angela’s




“Grace,” the principal said as she looked up, “we have a meeting scheduled, right?”


“Right – but I need Diana to join us for this.”


“Of course – can you ask Elaine to bring some coffee please?”


“On the way,” her secretary called out as Diana walked in, wearing a grey dress coat and heels.


"Countess to what do I owe this visit?" Miss Tennant asked as Grace ushered Diana into the Principal's office.

"Well, we have a few problems with this year’s Kirkham scholarship nominee Wilhelmina." 

"Oh,” Wilhelmina said as all three sat down, and Elaine brought coffees in, “and what might they be?"

"The trustees have nominated a truly outstanding young girl called Melinda Eckholm."

"Alright,” Wilhelmina said as shelooked at the papers Diana placed in front of her, “so where is the problem?"

"She and her family live in Tottenville?"

"They live where?" Wilhelmina looked up.

"Tottenville – it’s at the very south tip of Staten Island," Grace broke in, "I had to look it up myself. It's about as far as you can go and still be in New York City."

"And in that lies our problem," Diana spoke, "how can the poor child possibly commute all the way here?"

"It's a drive to the train station...”  Grace looked down at her own notes, “a 42 minute ride to the Ferry Terminal, then a 30 minute ferry ride, then a subway ride uptown, and that's without waiting times at stations and terminals."

"If we give her the scholarship,” Diana said, “the poor child will spend half her day traveling to and from school."

"I can see that Countess...But if she is the best candidate, what should we do?'


“Well, the most obvious solution is to try and find some way Melinda can board during the week.  The scholarship, sadly, does not cover board while at St Angela’s, but it may be possible to find a family she can stay with during the week, and then we can fund transport to and from her home on a Friday and Sunday evening as part of the scholarship.”


“It would solve the problem,” Wilhelmina said, “but it would require finding a volunteer to take on the role of the responsible adult during the week, as well as providing a place to stay.  I would also say it has to be someone who has a daughter at St Angela’s next year.”


“I agree,” Grace said, “which rules out a number of possibilities.  But we’d like your permission to approach a couple of people, to see if they would be willing.  If it is possible, then I will go and visit the family to deliver the offer, and explain the way this can be handled.”


Nodding, Wilhelmina said “I approve – let us see what can be done.  If she accepts and comes here, then she will need that extra support in a family environment.”


“Excellent – we will get back to you as soon as possible,” Diana said as she and Grace stood up.  Leaving the office, Grace said “so who do we talk to?”


“I am confident the ladies from the Friday circle will help.  In the meantime, why don’t we go and see young Melinda and her family tomorrow, and formally offer her the place.  In fact, why don’t we take Abigail with us as well?”


“I like the way you think Diana,” Grace said as they walked to her office.



7.30 pm Local Time

Pretoria – the Vosloo home


“Well, here we are,” John said as he opened the front door, Fergus alongside him as Marianne followed with Charlotte and Liz.  “Let me show you where you can put your head down for the next few days, while Marianne and the girls get a drink.”


“So,” Marianne said as they walked to the kitchen, “I asked Helen to leave some food for us when we got back tonight – and by the smell of things there is a casserole in the oven.”


As they walked in, she stooped down and opened the door to the oven, smiling as she said “she has as well.  Why don’t you open a bottle of wine and pour some glasses out.”


“So are you and Uncle John talking again,” Charlotte said as she opened a bottle of Vallenhuis Chardonnay.


“Oh we are – it was just the shock of hearing you on the radio, and then realizing that in a marriage with no secrets, apart from those he has to keep, he had kept this one from me…  But last night, I realized you were doing a good thing.  I do have one question though – why the Sisters of Maisha, and why is Maisha the figurehead?”


“Well,” Liz said, “we serve the Heart and the Strength – Maisha is the Strength.”


“Let me go out on the limb here – Ama Jameson is the Heart?”


Charlotte nodded as she said “as for why her – she was the one who killed Kimba.”


Marianne turned and looked at Charlotte, before she said “she killed Old Man Kimba?  How?”


“A knife in the throat – does that scare you?”


“No – in a way, she deserved it – but if she did that to him, why not do it to the Old Man?”


“Oh we have been sore tempted,” Charlotte said, “but we stay out of politics as a rule.  As Shirley said, we sit above governments, and act when the law cannot.  The problem with him is, he is a head of state – and bad as it may sound, it would cause far worse problems if we did do that.  In Mazengwe, the government could survive and thrive – there, my fear is if we killed him, the retribution would be too swift and terrible.”


Nodding slowly, Marianne said “I can understand that.  I don’t like it but I can understand it.  I take it Shirley knows?”


“She does – she is Maisha’s legal guardian.  Aunt Marianne, I can tell you more – but only if you are in all the way.”


“One question – have you…”


“Yes, in defence of the Sisters.”


Nodding, Marianne said “right – some rice on the boil…”




“Here,” John said as he handed Fergus a glass of whisky.


“Thanks – well, I guess I need to find another way to help the others now,” the big man said as he swirled the amber liquid round.  “Pity – I was doing a lot of good there.”


“I know – which is why we had to get you out.  But I’m sure you can find another way.  So – what now?”


“I need a holiday,” Fergus said with a smile, “but first I need to set up home somewhere else.  So I’ll head back to Munich – I bought an apartment there, and I transferred as much of my assets as I could before they came.  After that – I hear New York is nice this time of year…”


"And I suppose it’s irrelevant that a certain glamorous blonde model is also a teacher there?" John's eyes twinkled.


“There is that added attraction,” Fergus said, “although I may also have to deal with her friends.”


“Oh – who?”


“Pippa – Phillipa Ashley.  When I was at school and dating Grace, there was an incident.  Nothing major – I maybe went a little too far – but Pippa saw us and dragged Grace away.  I had to come home soon after that, so I guess she’s been protective.  Given the life Grace had after that, I can see why?”


“What was it – drugs?”


“Weed – and cheap cider.  Like I said, nothing major, but still…”



“John – we’ll be ready to eat in ten minutes.”


“Which just gives us time to wash up – shall we?”




8.30 pm Local Time


“Now that was a good meal,” Fergus said as he pushed his plate away, “just what was needed.”


“I’ll see if there is anything in the refrigerator for dessert,” Liz said as she stood up.


“So when do you go back to London Charlotte?”


“Day after tomorrow – I need to take care of Xavier business in the new local office first.  Going to be good to see Piet again.”


“I’m sure he’s missed you as well,” Liz said with a smile.


“And you Liz?”


“Back to the camp, see where I am needed next.”


"So if we put together a mounted unit,” Charlotte said, “where would you base it Aunt Marianne?"

"Well not at the Sisters main base Charlotte,” Marianne said, “that's not good country to run horses on and keep them fit and well fed."

"How about at Meyerskop?" Fergus offered, "I'm never at the damn place, I've even tried selling it, but I'd donate it to the sisters willingly."

"Meyerskop?" Liz enquired.

"It's a much smaller version of Bavaria out west of here Liz."

"With excellent water and grass, a mixture of terrain, and it is very private," Marianne spoke softly.

"The buildings would need licking in to shape."

"I'm sure I can find volunteers to do that Uncle Fergus." Charlotte added.  “We’d also need a cover story…  Tell me Uncle Fergus, what would people think if you had created a stud farm out there?”


“Well, as a cover story, I’ve heard worse ones,” John said, “or a training stable as well.  We build it up slowly, and start with a team to renovate the buildings.”


“Okay – we have some people we can call on to help with that.  We’re also going to need a vet – I’ll put some feelers out.”


5 pm

Media Production Studios, Battery Park


“Ah there you are,” Ed said as Doc and Nikki came in, “you need to go straight into makeup and costume and…  Jeannie Brewster?”


Olivia Duchamp looked up from her tablet and almost let her dog drop from her lap.  “Ms Brewster – we were not expecting you tonight…”


“It’s all right – I won’t be staying long, I just gave the girls a lift here,” Jeannie said, “but I do want a quick word with your technical adviser, if Helen can spare a few minutes?”


Helen looked over from where she was talking to Ed, and said “Me?  Sure I can spare a few minutes.  Would you like to talk over here?”


“Thanks,” Jeannie said as she followed Helen to the far side of the room, Helen sitting on a packing crate.


“Okay – what can I do for you, Jeannie?”


“Well,” the young model said, “I’ve been asked to go to Rio to do a shoot for Sports Illustrated.”


“Ah yes – the infamous Swimsuit edition.  Well, I congratulate you, even if I’m not quite sure of the appeal.”


“Well – I feel as if I could do with losing a few ounces…”


“No you don’t.”


Jeannie looked at Helen as she appraised the young woman.  “Yes you’re in a wheelchair,” she finally said, “and I can understand the feeling you have some areas you could tone up on, but – look, Jeannie, do me a favour and look at yourself in the full length mirror.”


Jeannie looked at Helen for a moment, before she wheeled herself over.


“Look at your body – can you honestly tell me you need to lose any weight?”


“I guess not…”


“Do you have any concerns over your diet?”


“Well, I have been cutting down a little…”


“Not a good idea for you – you have to remember you are physically more active than the other girls – in terms of upper body work, before you say anything.  Those wheelchairs don’t move themselves.  Now, if you are asking me if I can help with muscle toning, that’s a different question, but honestly Jeannie – you have a fabulous body and it is developing nicely.”


“Okay – but if I want help with toning…”


“Come and see me tomorrow in Merlin’s cave after school – we can talk then…”


“Thanks – it’s important to me.  How do you keep so trim anyway?”


“Diet and exercise – Kylie and Marina likewise do not have a particular diet, but their exercise regime helps the body to cope with what they eat.”  Looking round, Helen said “Jeannie, I have something private to tell you that might help you understand where I'm coming from."


Sitting down, Helen paused, and then said "you know my mother was a prima ballerina?"

"People have told me that."

"Well like most great dancers she was obsessive about her weight," Helen paused for a second again. "Everybody told her she was fine, but she dieted incessantly, and would only eat certain high energy foods so she could dance."

"Alright," Jeannie looked up.

"Well, she also smoked obsessively, up to two full packs of cigarettes a day."


"I know, but she grew up in Russia where everyone smoked far too much in those days...she claimed also it deadened her appetite, and took her mind away from eating," Helen looked very emotional.

"She died of cancer didn't she?" Jeannie asked quietly as she put out a hand to touch Helen's.

"Yes," Helen nodded as she started crying, "if only she hadn't been so obsessive about her weight..."

"I understand."

"You know Jeannie before she found it was cancer she was actually pleased she was losing weight?"

"Oh that is just wrong." Jeannie let a couple of tears escape herself.


"Bruce my stepfather tried to get her to quit saying she was ruining her health. I was too young to understand, because I would have somehow made sure she gave up if I'd have been able to."

"I'm just glad I have never even taken a single puff."

"Good for you Jeans," Helen sniffed back tears, "just be proud of your amazingly beautiful self, tone up like I said, but really, no you don't need lose even ounces."


“Okay – I guess I just needed to hear that.  Thanks Helen.”


“Good – now, where are the two MagniLash Ninjas?”



7 pm

The Huntingdown Apartment


“So where is Klaus tonight,” Diana said as Juliette closed the door behind her.


“He went out for dinner with John and Alex – giving me a chance to unwind and have a couple of meetings,” Juliette said as she took Diana’s coat.  “I just spoke to Cari by Skype – she’s deep in final revision for her exams now.”


“And Annie?”


“Growing – do you know they’re not telling anyone if it is a boy or a girl?”


“So I have heard – and they head to Munich once school has finished?”


“Indeed – much against my better judgement, but Klaus is pleased.  We just have to be ready to fly on a moment’s notice.  Anyway, how did the meeting go with Wilhelmina Diana?" Juliette said as she passed her friend a glass of red wine.

"Very well, she approved of Melinda academically, and she came to the conclusion we already had that she maybe needs to board with a local family in the week."

"Well as I said if needs be I'll pay a stipend to let her do so out of my own pocket."

"I think the school can get round it." Diana sipped her wine. "Grace and I have arranged to go see her and the parents to talk about it all."

"Sounds perfect, just tell me which night.  We also need to have a 'group' meeting you know, but I'll arrange it for a night that you are free."

"Thank you Cherie.  I know we have much to discuss – and your decision makes it all the more important."


“Also, Cassandra called – she would like us to see the film in advance of the premiere.”


“Good – I am curious to see what she has done.”


“I spoke to Maddie this afternoon – she has seen it, and says it is a powerful, strong and emotional film.”


“She liked it?”


“She liked it…”



7.30 pm

The Village


“So young Melinda Eckholm is the lucky girl to receive the Kirkham scholarship,” Sarah said as she sat at the table.


“So long as we can sort out the logistical issues, and find someone who would be willing to take in a border, then yes,” Grace said, “so it becomes a question of finding someone.  A question we’ll start considering when we meet her and her parents.”


"By the way it occurred to me that it is ironic that St Angela's, nominally a Catholic school, can go to Tottenville, the most heavily Catholic suburb in the city, and somehow find a Protestant of Swedish descent to award its most prestigious scholarship to." Harriet chuckled as she served Sarah and Grace supper.

"Now how did you know that Tottenville was Catholic Harriet?"

"I googled it Grace, isn't that what we all do nowadays?" Harriet sat down, "and I read the article on Wikipedia."

"That's cheating..."

"Oh as if you didn't do it as well Sarah?"

"Hey,” she said as she swallowed the food, “I'm not that involved in the process."

"But the fact that Melinda has been an All City goalie at Tottenville Intermediate School didn't jump off the page at you when I showed you her information?" Grace asked.

"Well,” Sarah said with a smile, “it was kind of interesting."

"Just as I saw she has been doing high school chemistry already at the local parochial school," Harriet tucked in.

"You might be getting another Doc Colman you know..."

"Oh never say that Sarah...PLEASE!" Harriet’s face blanched.


“Still, she is the right girl – now we have to persuade her…”



8.15 pm

The Huntingdown apartment


As Juliette walked from the door, she was surprised to hear the bell again.  Walking back, she smiled as she opened the door and saw Pippa Ashley there.”


“Come in,” she said as she held the door open, “would you like some wine?”


“I would not say no,” Pippa said, “did I interrupt something?”


“No – but Diana leaves and you arrive," Juliette smiled as Pippa sat down.

"Oh?  What was Diana here for?"

"This year’s Kirkham Scholarship,” Juliette said as she poured wine into two glasses, and handed one over, “we were discussing the winner."

"I forget you are a trustee of what is the winner like?"

"She's a VERY bright girl from Staten Island who one day wants to treat Infectious Diseases."

"Sounds impressive."

"She is right up to the standard of Anna and Erica."   Juliette took a sip, and said “the only problem is, she will need somewhere to stay during the week if she accepts.  It would need to be with one of the current girls, which means a Sophomore or Junior next year.”


“Got any ideas?”


“One or two – anyway, what can I do for you?”


“My farewell to New Mode – did Adam explain my plans?”


“He did – and the girls are certainly up for it.  He’ll liaise dates with them – and I look forward to seeing what you say.”



8.30 pm

West Central Park


“Uncle Al,” Katy said as she looked out of her room to see who was arriving, “what brings you here?”


“Seeing yer ma,” Moletti said as he and Morgan took their coats off.  “Work?”


“Nearly finished.”


“I’ll do some cocoa in a little while,” Jan said as she showed the two detectives into the front room.  “Thanks for coming round – how have you both been?”


"Did your friend Grace Gresham tell youse we went out to dinner last week Carter?" Moletti said with a grin as they sat down.

"Grace went out to dinner with you Moletti?" Jan looked up in surprise. "she went for a date with you?"

"He wishes,” Bobby Morgan laughed, "she was getting background on the family of a sergeant in the 123rd precinct who Moletti knows."

"Grace? Background?"

"St Angela's is going to offer Andy Eckholm's daughter some kinda big scholarship.”  Moletti smiled as he said “somehowse she knew he'd served with me..."

"So he invited her for a burger at Micky Dees."

"Hey still the big spender on dates Moletti," Jan laughed.

"Yeah yeah, Carter laff it what did youse ask us down here to talk about?"

"Morgernstern's lawyer wants to talk to me and Katy..."




Thursday 21st April

10 am

FBI Field Office


“Thanks for agreeing to do this,” Jan said as she looked at Tom.


“Well, I admit I asked Brooke, but she says there may be a conflict of interest – the level of the crime means it may cross her bench, and if it does she has to excuse herself.  That’s the same reason she’s not here.  So, for better or worse, I’m one of the two witnesses.  The other is your lawyer – who’s representing you.”


“Tom, Jan?”


They looked over as Erin stood at the door.  “I’ve got a Bernard O’Dowd outside?”


“Family lawyer,” Jan said quietly.


“Let him come in,” Tom said, as Erin stood to one side and a tall, red haired man came in.  “Jan – how are you feeling,” he said as he kissed her on the cheek.


“Scared – Bernie, my boss Tom Callaghan.  He will be the independent witness.”


“Pleasure,” he said as they shook hands, “you know the rules?”


“I observe, say nothing, and then provide my notes to both parties for comparison against your records?”


“Quite so – now first thing Jan.  This is an initial interview.  Based on what happens, I may suggest a different counsel, based on the way I see the case going, and I am legally required to inform the DA’s office of the conversation once the record is agreed.”


“Understood,” Jan said as she stood up, brushing down her trousers.  “Where is the attorney?”


“Waiting in Interview Room 1.”


“Good luck,” Adam said as he watched them walk past, and then into the interview room.  She was shocked to see a woman sitting there, dressed in a black jacket and skirt, her grey hair held back by a pin on the side.


“Agent Carter,” she said as she stood up, “Rhoda Perez, I have been engaged by Ida Morgenstern to represent her son Daniel.”


“Of course – my attorney, Bernard O’Dowd, and my supervisor, AD Tom Callaghan.  He will be acting as an independent witness for this conversation.”


Rhoda nodded as Tom said “I will share my notes on the meeting with both parties.”


“Agreed.  Mrs Carter.”


“Miss – it’s Miss Carter.”


“Sorry,” Rhoda said as she sat down, “Miss Carter, I want to thank you for allowing me to ask a few questions of you.  I also want to share Mrs Morgenstern’s deep regrets about what happened between her son and your daughter, and the subsequent events.”


“Please, thank her,” Jan said as she sat opposite her, “but that does not excuse what happened.”


“No – tell me, did you or Katherine have any contact with Mister Morgernstern prior to the events he has been charged with.”


“No – we never met him,” Jan said.  “Katy was aware of someone following her, and asked for security advice from Jameson Security – Caroline Jameson is a family friend.”


“I see,” Rhoda said as she took a note.  “What actions did Miss Jameson take?”


“She arranged for one of her employees to act as Katy’s cousin and shadow her.  She saw someone hanging around, but we were never able to identify who it was.”


Nodding, Rhoda said “I will talk to Miss Jameson as well.  When Katherine was taken, how were you told?”


“Adam Ball – my partner – was called when another friend went to collect Katy and she had disappeared.  He called in the police, and then when they confirmed the abduction, he came to tell me at the office.”


“And there are people who can confirm this?”


“The DA has access to our records – you will need to apply to them.”


“Of course – and you played no active role in the investigation?”


“Both Adam and I were ordered to go home by Director MacKay – we stayed at my apartment until Katy was found.”


“And when Katy was found, you left the apartment the next day?”


“We were advised to get Katy away to give her a chance to start to recover from the abduction.  Adam’s mother offered her place, so we went there, but we did not announce we were doing this.  Instead, to distract the press, a false trail was laid by Caroline Jameson, and her associate stayed at the apartment with my mother on her instructions.”


“So when the alleged assault…”


Jan raised an eyebrow as O’Dowd said “stick to the facts please, counsel.”


“My apologies – when my client allegedly broke in, only your mother and this associate – Sharon Kennedy – were in residence.”


“That is correct.”  She watched as Rhoda and Bernard both made notes.


“Miss Carter, are you aware of the circumstances in which my client was arrested?”


“Only in terms of what was reported – I heard someone had assaulted him?”


“And you had no idea who may have done this?”


“Why would I?”


“You appeared on the radio the day after Katy’s release to answer questions from Tom Julian?”


“Correct – he was instrumental in helping to identify the suspect for Katy’s abduction, and in return I agreed to be interviewed on his regular show.  I am sure you have heard the transcript?”


"We have requested all recordings of so-called suspected conversations between my client and Tom Julian the radio host."

"That's to be taken for granted," Bernie replied.

"We have also requested all other talk shows that may have covered your daughter’s modeling career to search if they have any tapes of the public response."

"Again that is natural,” Bernie said as Jan nodded.


“We are also requesting coverage from the Fashion Channel of her recent catwalks.”


Jo looked at Bernie, who made a note and nodded.

"We are also applying,” Rhoda said, “to have taken into evidence the 'total' correspondence received by the Norstar Agency for Katy."

"I'm sure Missy Auerbach and her staff will cooperate totally." Janice nodded.


“You have one problem – certain specific letters are been held by the DA.”


“They will be disclosed to us in due course,” Rhonda said as she wrote on her pad.  “I need to ask some questions about Katy now.”


“I can answer some, but those of a personal nature cannot be answered by me.”


“Oh – and why is that Miss Carter?”


“Because they need to be addressed to Katy, in the presence of myself or my mother, in accordance with NY rules on the interviewing of minors in investigations.”


Rhoda looked at Bernie, before she said "Why did you allow your daughter to become an adult model at the age of just 13 Miss Carter?"

Jan looked across the table, before she said "I'm not sure I understand the reason for that question?"

"Weren't you aware of the potential for attracting...shall we say 'undesirable' people towards your daughter?"

"I can't see the relevance of that question." Bernie challenged the woman lawyer.


“I hope to make that clear in due course – will you answer the question Miss Carter?”


Jan shifted in her chair, before she said “as I am sure Missy Auerbach and others, such as Juliette Huntingdown will tell you, I was actually against Katy doing this at first.  It was only when I had written assurances from them that Katy would not be exploited in any way I signed the contract.  As for the risk of, as you put it, ‘undesirable’ people, the models I know tell me that is a risk for all of them.”


She smiled sweetly as Rhoda made a note, and then looked over.  "Is it true that to enhance your daughters career as a model that you authorized breast augmentation surgery for her Miss Carter?"

"WHAT?" Janice exploded.

"I think my question was clear enough..."

"I'm sorry this is not to be tolerated," Bernie interrupted.

"No I'll answer Bernie,” Jan said quietly.  “No, it is not true.  Katy's breasts are purely natural, she was an early developer, and I can call witnesses ranging from bra sales associates, to people in the fashion trade can testify to how quickly they grew."

"Now Miss Carter,” Rhoda said, “for an FBI agent you live shall we say a rather 'expensive'  lifestyle?"

"Is my client’s financial situation relevant?"

"Oh I think it is if Katy's career is the key to maintaining her lifestyle, and that she'd do anything to boost her career, including setting up various controversies to gain Katy publicity."


“I’m sorry,” Jan said, “but are you saying I would stage all this for Katy’s career?”


“Did I say that?”


Shaking her head, Jan said “my expenses are a matter of public record.  The apartment I live in is a goodwill rental under the auspices of the Richmond Trust, and I also declare all my income as a director of Huntingdown Silks – all of which was cleared by the FBI before I invested in the company.  I will authorize access to my tax records, which include all my clothing expenses, if that will help.”


“And any winnings as a member of RCM Racing?”


“Are plowed back into the team expenses.”


Nodding, Rhoda sat back.  “One last question Miss Carter.  At any time before your daughter’s abduction, did she see my client or give any indication to him she had feelings for him.”


“I believe I already said she felt she was being followed,” Jan said quietly.  “None of my family saw clearly whoever it was at the time.”


“Just checking,” Rhoda said as she stood up.  “Well, I think I have all I need for now.  I will contact you if we need to talk again.”


She stood up as Erin opened the door, and showed her out.  “You’ll have my notes later today,” Tom said as he left Jan with Bernard.


“She’s going to defend him by attacking me, isn’t she?”


“Looks that way,” Bernard said, “I’ll make sure she gets any papers requested, and advise the DA as well.  I’ll speak to you later Jan.”


“Sure – and thanks for coming today, Bernie.  Let me show you out.”



5.30 pm

Aspinwall Street, Tottenville


“Thanks for the lift Gail,” the blonde haired girl said as she got out of the SUV, and waved to her friends as they drove off.  She was wearing a soccer strip, with long white socks and her boots on, while she carried a large satchel over her back.


Smiling, she made her way up to the front door of the house, and walked in, taking off her boots as she called out “Mom!  I’m back – have we got visitors?  I saw the car parked outside.”


“We do Melinda – would you come into the front room please?”


“Sure – just let me wash my hands first,” Melinda called back as she went to the bathroom.  When she came out, she walked through – and then stopped as she saw the three visitors, sitting opposite her mum and dad.


One had long blonde hair, and was wearing a grey jacket over a dark blue jersey dress, and grey shoes.  The second older woman also had blonde hair, with a hint of grey, and was wearing a light blue jacket and skirt with natural style and elegance.  But it was the third person, an older teenager, sitting there in a red jacket, tartan skirt and white blouse, which had Melinda staring with her mouth open.


“Mom,” she said quietly, “is that Abby de Ros in our front room?”


“Yes it is Melinda,” her mother said as her father, still in his NYPD uniform, smiled.  “This is her mother, Diana de Ros, and the other woman is Grace Brand.”


“It’s a real pleasure to meet you Melinda,” Grace said, “I hope you don’t mind that we called to see you and your parents today.”


“Sorry, but you’re Abby de Ros?  Can I get you to sign something for me?”


“I’d be delighted to,” Abby said, “but I wonder if you can sit down for a moment Melinda?”


“Oh – oh sure,” the young girl said as she sat down.  “What’s happening?”


“Well,” Grace said, “we’re actually here tonight on behalf of St Angela’s Academy for Young Ladies, and the trustees of the Jamie Kirkham Scholarship Fund.  Diana is the chair of the Board of Governors for St Angela’s, and Abby is one of the spokespeople for the Fund.”


“I see – and you want to talk to me because…”


“Melinda,” Diana said, “we wish to award the 2016 Jamie Kirkham Scholarship to you.”


“To me?  ME?”


Melinda looked at her parents, before saying “Oh my…  I mean, I knew I was being put forward, but…”


“Do you mean it,” her mother said.


“We do – as you will know, the scholarship will cover her fees and expenses for the full four years at St Angela’s, and then all fees for her study for a medical degree.”  Diana smiled as she said “Grace and I met with the trustees last week and with Wilhelmina Tennant yesterday, and we all agree you are a truly outstanding candidate.”


“Mrs Brand and Mama asked me to come along today to assure you this is genuine, and to see if you wish to accept.”


Melinda looked at her parents, who were smiling as her father said “Mel, we could not be more proud of you.”


“But St Angela’s…  That’s upper Manhattan.  I mean, I would love to, but the travel…”


“Which is the other reason we wanted to call and tell you in person,” Grace said.  “We do recognize that, if you accepted the scholarship, there is an issue with travel.  For that reason, we wish to make one addition to the offer.  If you accept, we will arrange for you to board during the week with the family of one of our students, and arrange transport to and from your home on a Friday and a Sunday.   I know it means living away from home during the week, but we believe we can ensure you are kept safe, and soon make friends there as well.”


“Oh my,” Melinda said quietly.


“Listen,” Abby said, “would it be all right if you and I went to have a drink, and let our parents talk?”


“Go on Melinda – you go into the kitchen and then we’ll call you through in a few minutes.”


“Sure – come this way,” Melinda said, staring as Abby stood up and then followed her through.


Grace sat forward as the door was closed, and said “I know this is a surprise for all of you, and that you have a lot to talk about as a family, but I hope that, in principle, you would be open to the idea.”


“Can you say who she would stay with?”


“At this stage, we’re not sure,” Diana said, “we are asking the current Freshmen and Sophomore years if anyone would like to volunteer.  We would, of course, invite all of you to visit the family once we have found them.


“We’d also like to invite Melinda and you to come and visit the school, so you can see what we have to offer,” Grace said as she took a letter from her briefcase.  “This is the formal offer letter, with all the details.  Please, take the time to read it, and then ask any questions you have.”


“Andy,” Mrs Eckholm said as she played with her wedding ring, “this is an amazing thing.”


“I know Eva,” the NYPD officer said, “she is a very special young girl.  Thank you – thank you for the offer, and for coming out to tell us in person.”


“I still can’t believe it,” Eva said quietly.


Andy sat forward and said "What financial contributions might we be expected to make ladies?"

"The scholarship covers most things Sergeant Eckholm,” Grace said, “including both pocket money for the recipient, and a clothing allowance."

"I understand that Mrs Brand, and its Andy..."

"And I'm Grace," the model/teacher smiled.

"Well,” Andy said as he rubbed his head, “it’s just I don't make a fortune as a cop, and my wife works as a Librarian, and we have two other kids."

"What Andy is saying is that we make ends meets, with a little left over, but not a lot."

"We understand Mrs. Eckholm." Diana nodded. "No, I would suspect that you'll incur no financial penalty from Melinda taking the scholarship.  Certainly, the parents of both Anna Carlton and Erica Burton, the current scholars, have not had any additional expense."

“Where do they come from?”


“Anna lives in Riverdale, and while Erica originally lived in Washington Heights, she now lives downtown.  They are just ordinary girls, like Melinda, with a desire and a passion to help others.”

"I have to say, as well, that one of my roommates is Sarah Nightingale, the St Angela's head soccer coach, and she's very excited about adding Melinda to her squad for next year."

Eva smiled and shook her head.  "Mel gets her love of soccer from her father."

"Yeah I was born and raised in Sweden, and I played the game growing up," the policeman smiled, "I had all the kids kicking balls almost before they could walk."

"Lieutenant Moletti told me that," Grace chuckled.

"You talked to Albert about us?"

"We did background checks just to ensure that there might be no embarrassing problems should Melinda get the scholarship," Diana answered, "we do it all for all the finalists."

“Yeah – yeah I can understand that.  Look, I think it would be amazing if Mel did this, but we need to be sure she would be safe as well.”


"So Miss de Ros...Why me?" Melinda asked as she sipped from her coke.

"Because you are the best person to receive this Melinda,” the tall blonde said, “and just call me Abigail or Abby...please."

"Alright, but again why me Abby?"

"Look Melinda,” Abby said after she had taken a sip, “Jamie Kirkham was a friend of mine, she was sweet, loving, kind, and above all she wanted to help people. I read your scholarship essay and it's almost like reading how she used to talk.

She saw the surprised look on Melinda’s face and nodded as she said "Truly!"

"WOW! I thought I was some kind of freak because I've always wanted to be a doctor and help the sick."

"No Jamie was the same,” Abby said quietly.  “I listen to you I hear her, the biggest difference is that you are tall like me, whilst she was short."

"Helps to be tall to play in goal." Melinda grinned, "I get it from Dad."


“My point is, I think you are perfect for this – and I know it would mean living away from home, but I am sure you would slip right in.”


“I just don’t believe it,” Melinda said as her mother called “Will you come back in please Mel.”


As the two girls walked in, Eva said “Melinda, so you want to do this?”


“I think I do Mom – if you will let me?”


“Why don’t we arrange to go and see the school next week,” Andy said, “and we can decide then?”


“I think that sounds like an excellent idea,” Grace said as she and Diana stood up.  “I’ll call tomorrow to make the arrangements.  In the meantime, read the letter, and see if any more questions come to mind.”


“Before I forget – you wanted something signed Melinda?”


“Oh yeah – wait there,” the tall girl said as she ran out, her parents shaking their heads.


"You might also want to get Mrs Brand to sign that copy of Vogue in your magazine rack Eva." Diana smiled, "away from her role of Dean of Students at St Angela's she's Grace Gresham the model...just open it up to the spread at page 185."

"Oh my God, it is you Mrs Brand," the Librarian shook her head..."Yes...can you please sign so I can show the girls at the library?"

"Diana de Ros, you are a rat," Grace whispered as she reached into her handbag for a pen, just as Mel arrived back.

"It seems Miss de Ros is not the only famous model," Andy Eckholm grinned at his daughter.


“She isn’t – oh my, you’re Grace Gresham?”


“Guilty as charged.  So I’ll see you next week Melinda?”


“Oh yes – I want to see this place…”


6.30 pm

Media Production Studios, Battery Park


“And – action!”


As the director watched, the camera turned on what had been set up as a Japanese room, complete with paper screens.  As music played in the background, the window opened quietly and two black clad women crept in.  The only thing you could see of them was their blue eyes, the lashes prominent as they stood silently at the window.


One of them sprayed a can of smoke across the floor, revealing the red lines.  Looking at each other, they started to move across the floor, avoiding the red lines as they twisted and turned, eventually reaching the other side.


“Keep filming,” he said as they moved along, and then lifted a picture from the wall, revealing a safe.  As one of them watched, the other put their ear to the safe, and turned the dial, nodding as she opened the safe and drew out the box with “MagniLash” printed on it.


“Good, good, remember to show the box to the camera,” the director said as the two women looked at each other, and then turned a hand each on the box.


“And cut!  Great work girls,” the director said as Doc and Nikki removed their masks, “now let’s set up for the next scene.”


“What’s this one,” Nikki asked.


“Where we surprise the Japanese girl – should be fun…”


7.30 pm

West Central Park


“Katy, come and sit down a minute will you?”


“Sure Mom,” Katy said as she came through from her room, and sat next to her as Katherine sat opposite, “what’s up?”


“I had to talk today to the attorney representing Daniel Morgenstern,” Jan said as she looked at Katy, “she asked a lot of questions about you, and I told her Caroline had assigned someone to watch you when you thought you were been followed.”


“Well, I was been followed – by him!”


“I know,” Jan said, “but it’s clear part of his defense is going to be you led him on, and you knew he was there.”


"Katy love,” Katherine said, “are you sure you never saw him before?"

"Gran like I said at the time, just out of the corner of my eye, it was like a shadow, always there, but I couldn't say I quite saw clearly."

"Katy, now this is very important," her Mother held her hand, "are you sure you never met him, sure you never encouraged him..."

"Talked to him on the phone...even smiled at him?" Katherine added.

"Gran I smile at a lot of people,” Katy said, “one it’s part of being a model, but two I like being friendly to people."

"But they are going to say darling,” Jan said, “that you are deliberately sexually provocative."

Katy paused and thought, "well I guess in a way I am Mom, but I know girls who are worse."

"But are they in the public eye as you are," Janice momentarily closed her eyes. "His lawyer is going to try and say that you encouraged and led him on."

"Mom how could I have, I didn't even know who he was?"


“I know that – but we need to look back at films, photos, everything…”


“Do I need to talk to her Mom?”


“I think so – but your gran or I will be present if it comes to that.  Look, we’ll get through this all right?”


Katy nodded as she hugged her mom and grandmother, and then went back to her room.


“You’re thinking of what happened to you, aren’t you,” Katherine said quietly.


“Yeah – having to be questioned like I was…”


The sound of the doorbell ringing took Jan out of her dark thoughts, as she stood up and walked to the front door.  Looking through the security eye, she stood still for a moment, and then opened the door.


“Hello Janice,” Carmen Dell’Oriface said, “may I come in?”


"This is an unexpected pleasure Carmen,” Jan said as she stood to the side, “to what do I owe this visit?"

"Look Jan I'll cut straight to the chase,” the veteran model said as she removed her coat, and they walked into the main room, “I heard on the rumor mill that the lawyer representing that punk kid is going to attack you and Katy as his defense."

"Would you like to sit down Carmen," Janice gestured. "I don't know how you heard, but yes that's true."

"Alright," the glamorous old lady sat and crossed her still amazing legs. "I sort of wish Annie Miller was still with us, coz she'd tell a similar story, but I wanna talk about young girls gettin' themselves noticed and in the public eye."

"Annie Miller?"

"Ann Miller, the famous old time Hollywood star and dancer."

"Oh yes - I think I've seen her in old movies.  Wasn’t she in Kiss Me Kate?"

"Oh don't make me feel even older Jan…  You think you've seen her?" Carmen rolled her eyes.


“Sorry – sorry.  What about her.”

"Look,” Carmen said, “in Annie's case she was working as a showgirl in San Francisco when she was just 13, but she told everyone she was 18, and looking as she did who questioned it?”


"I guess so."

“Lucy Ball spotted her there, and got her signed to a film contract, again at age 13 – complete with a fake birth certificate saying she was 18.  She worked her way through the system, got noticed as a singer and dancer, and then whammo – film success.”


“I remember hearing John Hammond talk about how models used to be scoped out at schools as well.”


“All true - In my case I was a working model from the age of 13, I posed nude for Salvador Dali, I was his muse, and I was his lover, all at ages the law would consider appalling... but back then people had more of a don't ask and we won’t tell attitude."

"And you are telling me this Carmen because?"

"You and Katy,” Carmen said as she held Jan’s hands, “have done nothing wrong, compared to girls like me and Annie, she was and is an angel. She's in school, she works hard, she has fun, and yeah I know she has a sex life with young George Richmond, but she hardly is like we were putting out for older guys."


“Thanks – I needed to hear that.”


“Also, Mother has heard – expect to hear from her soon.”



8.30 pm

Media Production Studios, Battery Park


The young Asian girl was sitting at her dressing table, carefully applying the mascara to her eyelashes as the wind from outside blew the lace curtains into the room.  She was concentrating on the mirror, and did not see the black clad figures as they slipped into the room.


They crept silently across the room, until they were standing behind the young girl.  When she finally noticed them in the room, she opened her eyes wide, the lashes even more prominent as one of the masked women hand gagged her, the second putting her bottles of MagniLash into her satchel.




The two masked women turned sharply as three armed men came in, and struck a fighting pose as they looked at each other.




Nikki and Doc looked at the director as Helen came in, dressed in the same way as them, with only her made up eyes showing.


“Okay girls – come off and we’ll film the action sequence.”


As they walked over, Helen looked at the monitor, and then went on the set, striking the same pose as Nikki.


“And – ACTION!”


They watched as Helen, literally from a standing start, sailed over a table at the three men, the three of them falling back as she just failed to make contact with them.  She then used her hands with karate chops, again just stopping from actual contact as they slumped to the floor.


“CUT – girls, back in.”


Helen unwrapped the scarf from her face and smiled as Nikki took her place, Doc going next to the girl.




They looked at each other, and then ran to the window, jumping out as the girl watched.


“CUT!  Well done everyone.”


“You did well Girls,” Helen said, “very well indeed.”


“So can we sleep in now?”


“Oh yes Nikki – after school tomorrow…”


"Missy has rushed through my membership of actors Equity you know?" Nikki called out as she started to undress, "I guess that really means I'm a professional actress now."

"So acting rather than the US Navy Nikki?" Helen asked.

"Oh no way, I have my first flying lesson on Sunday, I'm more determined than ever to be a jet jockey."

"Acting and modeling will just be her fall-back careers if she needs them."

"And they are sort of fun to do as well Doc."

"You say that now," Helen shook her head, "I should have trained you harder..."

"It could have been HARDER!" Nikki dropped her shirt.

"Just ask Marina and Kylie." Helen laughed.

"Well changing the subject," a voice spoke from the doorway, "I came over to say we have an appointment to see the banker tomorrow Helen?"

"Hey Janine." Doc kissed the newcomer.

"Oh Good, we might finally make some progress."

"A problem?" asked Nikki.

"A work related one," Janine spoke, "Huntingdown's business."

"And on that line of thought, I better quickly ring Kylie and see what she thought of my ideas." Nikki reached for her mobile.





Friday 22nd April

9 am CET

Radisson Blu Hotel Marseille Vieux Port


Eleanor stretched as she came out from her room, and picked up a pastry from the breakfast tray that was on the low table.  The suite that had been arranged was excellent, with two bedrooms and a view of the harbor.


“Have you been here before Eleanor?” Veronica called out from the balcony.


“Several times.”  Pouring herself a cup of coffee, she took a sip and smiled.


“On what I call wig and makeup jobs?”


“If you mean undercover Veronica,” Eleanor said with a smile, “just say it.”


“Alright,” Veronica said as she stood in the door, her arms crossed, “have you worked undercover here?”


“If I told you,” Eleanor said as she put her cup down, “I’d have to kill you.”


“Hey!” Veronica threw a cushion from off the nearest chair at her friend, “who is resorting to cliches and innuendo now?”


“I am,” Eleanor laughed as she ducked, “but honestly I did some super-sensitive work here, and I really can’t tell you about it.”


“Okay,” Veronica said, “does that mean you have no workable contacts we can use?”


“Actually it doesn’t…”  Eleanor poured a second cup of coffee and handed it to Veronica.  “I know a man called Yusuf Ibrahim who will I think help us unhesitatingly.”


“And why?”


“He’s a very moderate secular Moslem,” Eleanor said, “but he has a very strong prejudice against the drug trade, and in particular when he hears this is about date-rape I think he will open his arms to us.”




“His daughter Yasmin was date-raped by some rather nasty guys who thought they were entitled to rape virgins because of the fervency of their faith in the Prophet.”


“Oh they sound like angels…”


“Exactly,” Eleanor jumped in, “so he has a big thing against all the drug traffic.”


“I understand,” Veronica said, “but how can he help us?”


“He’s one of the biggest fences in this part of the world.”


“Uh huh, a principled underworld figure, but still a crook.”


“Yes.” Eleanor stood up, “so treat him fairly Veronica, he knows who we both are and he’s doing me a favor helping us.”


“So just as with the Sisters, I have to look the other way at times.”


“You’ve got it.”


“So,” Veronica said as she sat down, “when and where do we meet Mr. Ibrahim?”


“Out at the race track this afternoon, Guy has another horse running, and it should win easily…if it doesn’t then he’s not going to be happy.”


“Alright so we monitor the betting market to see if there is a sudden movement away from the Duke’s horse?”


“Yeah,” Eleanor said, “let’s see if some so-called smart money knows it is going to lose.”


“Alright,” Veronica said as she finished her coffee, “if I’m going to the races I need to get changed.”


“I think we both should Veronica dear.” Eleanor smiled, “and I do have a divine new hat to wear.”


“As always – do you claim this on expenses?”


“No comment,” Eleanor said with a smile.


10 am BST

Xavier International, Aldwych


“Ah – welcome back Charlotte,” Shirley said as her IT head came into her office, “how did the meeting go?”


“Fairly well – We may have a base now for the horse stick we discussed, and I left Fergus and Marianne discussing arrangements.”


“Excellent – And so to work.  I wonder if…  Are you all right Charlotte?”


“Yeah – sorry,” Charlotte said as she sat slowly down, “I think the last few days are catching up with me.  I suddenly felt a bit faint…”


“Would you like some water,” Shirley said as she stood up, poured some from a carafe, and handed it to Charlotte.


“Thanks – maybe I should take the day off.”


“No – Doctor Lucia is calling later.  I’ll get her to examine you…”


3 pm CET

Marseilles Borely Racecourse, VIP Enclosure


“Well, I will say this – you do know how to get into the nicest places,” Veronica as she and Eleanor put on their access passes.  Eleanor was wearing a knee length cream dress with black trim, black soft leather heels and gloves, and a black hat with white trim as well as a black purse.  Veronica had chosen to wear a dark blue dress, with a white jacket and shoes, white gloves and a white hat.


“Very kind of you to say so,” Eleanor said with a smile, “all we need now is to find…”


“Do these aging eyes deceive me, or have you stood still in time, my dearest Eleanor?”


Both women turned to see Guy, Duc du Grechy, standing and looking at them.  He wore a dark grey suit, with a white shirt and grey tie, and carried himself with his usual poise and grace.


“Bonjour Guy,” Eleanor said as she let the Duc kiss her on the cheek. “Is Valeria not with you today?”


“No,” Guy said, “she is at home in the Medoc starting to make arrangements for our Granddaughter’s 18th birthday party.”


“Which along with the whole Carter and Ball clan,” Eleanor said, “I must say I’m looking forward immensely to attending.”


“I’m glad you are all coming…”  Guy looked at Veronica, before he said “now if I’m not being rude, who is your RAVISHINGLY beautiful friend?”


“Oh my,” Veronica blushed as he kissed her gloved hand.


“This is Commander Veronica Joyce from United States Coast Guard Criminal Intelligence, an old, and suddenly a very girly, friend.” Eleanor laughed.


“Elly you dare spoil this moment…  After all, how often do I get flattered by a real-life French Duke?”


“If you get to know Guy, then it will be pretty often,” Eleanor laughed again, “how does Valeria dare let you out in public Guy?”


“Ah, but she knows that nowadays all this old body can do is look and talk.”


“Well she has more trust in you then I would.”


“Eleanor you are as sharp tongued as ever.” Guy stood leaning on his ebony cane. “Why did I never connect you to young Adam when I first met him?  It never occurred to me he might be ‘your’ son?”


“I don’t know, but I’m glad you didn’t you old devil,” Eleanor gave the Duc an affectionate peck on the cheek.  “It may have raised some awkward questions.”


“Ummm,” Veronica said with a smile, “can I take it that you two once…?


“Veronica my darling do not ask such questions,” Guy said as he linked arms with both women, “now shall we go try some fine champagne?”


“And where do we find this?”


“In the Owner’s Marquee of course,” he said as they entered the large tent, “have a seat, and I will return shortly.”


"So,” Veronica said as she looked at her old friend, “when and how did you get to know someone like Guy Eleanor?"

"During my term as Assistant Naval Attache at our embassy in Paris."

"And how come I never heard about him?"

"Have you told me about all your gentlemen friends over the years?"

"No... but him, him I would have boasted about." Veronica smiled as Guy came back carrying a bottle of Dom Perignon and three glasses.


“So my dear,” Guy said, “the delightful Jeanne tells me you might be able to help with my little difficulty?”


“Well, I can certainly make a few inquiries, or rather both of us can,” Eleanor said as she accepted a glass.  “I hope you are wrong, but still…”


“Well, I will be coming to the Kentucky meet in two weeks, along with the other owners of SaintsAndSinnerz, and it would be nice to travel with full peace of mind.”


“Well, we will see what we can see,” Eleanor said as she stood up.  “Will you both excuse me - I wish to place a bet on the next race.”


“Of course my dear Eleanor – I am sure Veronica and I will find something to talk about.”


Eleanor walked off, shaking her head as she went to the bookmakers.


“Cent euros sur Alloise dans le Prix Georges Trapaud à placer.”


She handed the notes over, picking up the slip and smiling before she turned round, and made her way out.


“Looking to place money on a certain outcome, Commander?”


"Mr Ibrahim it's a pleasure to meet you again." Eleanor smiled at the small, slightly rotund figure in the immaculately tailored blazer and khaki trousers.

"As it is a pleasure to meet you again Commander Ball," he kissed her on the cheek.

"Well technically it's Captain Ball nowadays Mr. Ibrahim."

"Congratulations on your promotion Captain..."

"And at least in theory I'm retired from what I used to do."

"Ah,” he said with a smile, “but you still maintain a presence though?"

"You might say so." Eleanor looked down at her race card, "in part I'm here doing a private investigation into the recent running of the Duc du Grechy's horses at this track."

"Oh?" the Arab man lifted an eyebrow, "there have been problems?"

"Some rather sub-par performances, the Duc has asked me to find out if there has been any funny-business going on...have you heard anything Mr Ibrahim?"

"No - that I haven't," he looked rather unhappy, "and I have had a rather substantial bet myself on Alloise to win this afternoon."

"Well we don't know anything for sure, but let’s watch the race, and if you hear any rumors?"

"I'll alert you immediately Captain."

"Now as to the other business...?"

"I received your message,” Ibrahim said quietly, “I will of course do all I can to help."

"Thank you,” Eleanor said quietly, “I hoped you might."

"Now tell me do you suspect this originates in 'my' community?"

"I'm not sure, but if I was having a bet then in my opinion the Corsicans would be as hot favorites as Alloise is."

"I understand.  How did you hear of it?"


“A young friend of a friend unfortunately was drugged by some young men who thought they could do this.  If I give a name for you to consider?”


Ibrahim nodded as Eleanor said “Kingman – Bartholomew Kingman.”


Nodding, Ibrahim said “I have heard the name – allow me to ask around.”


“Well, perhaps we can compare notes after the race – and thank you,” Eleanor said as she walked off.




“Well, she seems to be walking well,” Guy said as he watched Alloise been walked round the paddock, “any change in the betting patterns?”


“Not the way I was expecting,” Veronica said, “the odds have significantly shortened on your house, Guy.”


“Which means a lot of people are suddenly backing it,” Eleanor said, “what about any other horses?”


“It seems to have shifted from the previous favourite – La Ronde.  Which horse is that Guy?”


“Chestnut, white flash, 14 hands – over there,” he said as he raised his cane and pointed at a horse on the far side of the paddock.  As Eleanor looked over, the horse turned and looked in their direction.


“Is it my imagination,” Veronica said, “or are the eyes of that horse dull?”


“Are they,” Guy said, Eleanor looking at the horse, and then at the others.


“Possibly,” she said quietly, “but not enough to raise suspicions at this case.  And besides, I am not a vet.”


“Well, we cannot do anything anyway,” Guy said as the horses were led out, “save to go and enjoy the race.”



As they made their way towards the viewing gallery, Eleanor suddenly ducked over the other side of Guy and Veronica.


“What’s wrong,” Veronica asked quietly.


“Someone I don’t want to see me,” Eleanor said quietly as they walked past the small, grey haired and sharply dressed man, walking between two much taller and broader men wearing dark glasses.


“I have seen him around,” Guy said quietly, “do you know him?”


“In passing,” Eleanor said as they entered the gallery.  As Veronica went to get drinks, Eleanor said quietly "Alright Guy I need to ask you a couple of questions and quickly."

"Fire away dearest Eleanor."

"Whose idea was it for you to send a string of your horses to the south of France this spring?"

"My assistant trainer Jules...Why?"

"Because like most top owners you usually race all your best horses only on the Paris circuits..."

"I have been known to venture out into the provinces you know." Guy smiled as he interrupted, "and the slightly lower quality fields down here, it's a chance to pick up some nice prizes with my 'lesser' horses so to speak."

"That I understand." Eleanor nodded.

"Also the better weather can help bring along a horse."

"Yes, like American trainers going to Florida in the winter."

"Just so,” Guy said with a smile, “Toddy does it each year."

"Well,” Eleanor said as she looked over the course, “has it been a success coming down here?"

"Yes and no - as I told Jeanne,” Guy said, “there have been some extremely poor performances that I cannot explain."

"I looked at the form books," Eleanor nodded, "I noticed a pattern recently.”




“Yes - that several good horses from Paris running for a variety of top owners have run stinkers here, also at tracks like Cagnes sur Mer, and the other main tracks down here."

Smiling, Guy said "do you think we have maybe some unknown virus hitting Parisian horses?"

"That I cannot say Guy,” Eleanor said quietly, “I'm no vet, but I have suspicions that just maybe away from the head trainers watchful eyes, certain people might be fooling with horses."

"MERDE!”  Guy turned sharply and said “are you saying someone in my stable?"

"Probably not just your stable Guy...”  Sighing, Eleanor said “do you know the local stewards?"

"I do,” Guy said quietly, “and the local France Galop officials."

"Can we arrange a quiet word with them after racing finishes?"

"I think so." Guy nodded as Veronica came back with more champagne and glasses.  “For now, let us watch the race.”


They sat at the table and watched as the horses made their way to the starting stalls, and were led in.


Looking through his binoculars, Guy smiled as he said “Excellent – and they are away.”


“He seems to be taking the first bend well,” Eleanor said as she watched as well.


“Indeed – he is holding his own with La Ronde, and going well.  As things stand, I think the race is between the two of them.”


“So it appears,” Veronica said as the horses made their way along the back straight, and then started to come round again.


“Yes – Alloise and La Ronde,” Guy said quietly, “come on, come on…”


“Is it my imagination, or is La Ronde fading?”


“It is not your imagination,” Guy said, “I see his jockey is trying his best, but it is as if the horse is running on empty.”


“Is this what you saw with your horses,” Veronica asked.


“Indeed,” Guy said as he looked to where the owner and trainer of La Ronde were watching, talking together.


“Well, Alloise is certainly getting ahead now,” Eleanor said as all three stood up, cheering as his horse came over the line in first place.


“Well, I must go and talk to the trainer,” Guy said, “but there is time.  After all, a victory must be savored.”


“And I have winnings to collect,” Eleanor said, “coming with me Veronica.”


“No – I’ll wait here for both of you,” Veronica said, sipping her drink and looking round as Guy and Eleanor went in different directions.  She noticed the small gentleman talking with another man, before Guy returned and said “well, that was a success at least.”


“In more than one way – a very good pay day by all accounts.”


“We can talk to certain people at six,” Guy whispered as Eleanor nodded, and then heard someone calling her name.


“Now who was that…”


"Eleanor!" an accented woman's voice called out as she sat down.  Looking round, Eleanor smiled and waved, Veronica seeing Guy smile broadly as a tall woman, wearing a yellow dress with a white jacket and heels walked over.

"Francesca! Come va?" Eleanor said as she stood to kiss the striking blonde woman.

"Very well, especially after seeing long has it been?"

"Too long, far too long.”

"Are you still?" the blonde discreetly touched her nose.

"No, I'm retired, and yourself?"

"Would you believe they've made me an of all people." Francesca shook her head and laughed as Veronica raised an eyebrow.

"Well it's overdue." Eleanor laughed. "Now you know Guy of course...but this is Commander Veronica Joyce of the US Coast Guard, an old..."

"Hey not too old," Veronica laughed.

"Alright,” Eleanor said, smiling as she shook her head, “a not so old, but very dear friend."

"Guy si guarda bene tesoro." Francesca smiled as she looked at the Duc, "settling down with the divine Valeria seems to have agreed with you."

"It has." he smiled brightly as he kissed her.  “I am a reformed man, my dear.”

"And it is nice to meet you too Commander," the admiral shook hands.

"And you Ma'am."

"Commander we are all off duty,” she said as she shook her head, “please call me Francesca."

"Alright, and I'm Veronica."

"Eleanor is here looking at my horses for me Francesca,” Guy said, “I have suspicions about how they have been running."

"Oh,” Francesca said as she looked over, “I thought you just said that you were retired darling Eleanor."

"Oh this is MOST unofficial,” Eleanor said, “it’s really just a favour to Guy as an old friend."

"Ah, because you know something of the dark corners of this part of the world?"

"Yes...and what has drawn you over here from Genoa Francesca? Work?" Eleanor discreetly touched her own nose.

"I cannot say," the blonde laughed in a gay matter, "just let me say that I'm interested in certain ships plying the coastal route to our Italian ports."


“I see,” Eleanor said as she stood.  “Why don’t Veronica and I get some more drinks?”


“Of course – I will be in town for a few days Eleanor.  If you are free for lunch tomorrow?”


“You have my number,” Eleanor said as she and Veronica walked to the bar.


"I take it Francesca is..."

"Italian Naval Intelligence," Eleanor whispered back. "In our day we...well I can't tell you, but we did some wig and makeup work as you call it together."

"And she also knows Guy?"

"Guy knows half the world’s beautiful women," Eleanor chuckled as she looked from the bar to where the two old friends were sitting, "and I know for sure the Marchesa di Cambrello was one of his conquests once."

"She's a Marchesa as well as an admiral? WOW!"


“Just how high do your contacts go Eleanor?”


“Well, you met the princess earlier in the week,” Eleanor said with a chuckle as she signaled to the barman.


A few moments later, as she carried a bottle of wine over, and four glasses, an official walked over and whispered into Guy’s ear.


“Ah – will you excuse me please dear ladies – a matter I must deal with personally,” he said as he stood and followed the official out.  As Veronica poured the wine, Francesca said quietly “a favour for an old friend?”


“Indeed – well, as far as the business with Guy is concerned.  Inspector Jeanne Marais asked if I would come and look into it after he talked to her.”


“The Princess de Aucigny – I had heard she was based in New York now with her father.  Is it true she has just given birth?”


“Indeed – a baby boy she has named Adam Henri.”


“I see – is not your son also called Adam?”


“Yes – she named him after my son.”


“Hang on, back up,” Veronica said, “Jeanne Marais is a Princess?  Eleanor, are you by any chance...”


“No – not officially anyway,” Eleanor said with a smile.  “She tends not to use the title.”


“And how are your children?”


“Adam is a FBI agent in New York – we recently cleared the air between us, and I’ve become good friends with his partner and her family.  Eve – she lives in Seattle now, but I went to see her and her family a few weeks ago.”


“Good – so if it is not just looking into some shady horse racing business...”


“Veronica and I,” Eleanor said, “are also trying to trace the source of a new date rape drug that has appeared on the market in New York.”


“And you suspect the source is here?”


“There is evidence to suggest that,” Veronica said, “and we are exploring some local sources as well.  If you have heard anything...”


Sipping her wine, Francesca said “off the record, we have heard of a similar drug.  There have been some – unfortunate cases in Italy as well.  My friends in the Guardia di Finanza and the Carabinieri have had little luck in tracing the supply line, however.”


“Want to share if we learn anything?”


“I think we can help each other out,” Francesca said with a smile.  “I can understand why you would wish to end that trade in particular.  How long will you be here for?”


“As long as it takes.”


“Excellent – I must go and say hello to the Contessa de Medici.  Forgive me ladies.”


As she stood and walked off, Eleanor saw Veronica’s expression.


"I really need to get you a book on the world’s aristocracy Veronica." Eleanor laughed, "so you know who these people are."

"My beat is CRIMINAL intelligence remember, now ask me on the family relationships of the Mafia, the various cartels, and the damn Russian Mafia, and I can give you chapter and verse."

"I know you can darling," Eleanor smiled.

"I do have to say though you mix with a better class of people Elly, and certainly the food...and the drink," she sipped her champagne, "is better than I get meeting contacts say in a low-life trattoria in Brooklyn."


“Well, you have to live the life to get the information – although I suspect Adam would be shocked.  Now, where shall we eat tonight?”


5 pm BST

Xavier International


“I’m telling you I’m fine,” Charlotte said as she sat with Natalya and Penny, “I just felt a little faint, that’s all.”


“You were in the bush for two weeks,” Penny said as she looked at her friend, “so we’re taking no chances.”


As the doors to the meeting room opened, they turned to see Shirley walk in with Lucia.  “Well,” Charlotte said with a smile, “do I need a few days off?”


“Well, yes you do,” Lucia said as they sat down, and she opened a file, “but not yet.  I am going to suggest some vitamin supplements for you, but if I am being honest Charlotte, I’m not the doctor you need to see after today.”


“Why?  What’s wrong with me?”


“Well,” Lucia said as she looked around the room, “I am afraid the condition is life changing, but you have time to prepare.”


“Prepare?  Prepare for what?”


“Depends if you want to know – I’m going to suggest a couple of top grade obstetricians…”


Penny and Natalya looked at each other as Charlotte stared at Shirley and Lucia.  “An Obstetrician?  Are you telling me I’m…”


“I’d guess at about six weeks, but as I say you really need to see an expert.  One thing – no more field work for you for the foreseeable future, and I say that as a doctor and a Sister.”


“I’m pregnant?”  Charlotte stood up and said “that must be what Karen was talking about…”




“I will tell you later – Madame, I must formally inform you of my pregnancy, it seems.”


“So noted – Penny and I will work with you once we know more, but let me offer my own congratulations.  For now, I think you need to go and tell Piet.”


“Oy – Piet.  I hope he’s ready for this…”


6.30 pm CET

Marseilles Borely Racecourse


“Thank you for meeting with me,” Guy said as he came into the Stewards Room.


“It is an honour, your grace,” Philippe Aquillon said as he stood up.  The chief steward, he had been intrigued by Guy’s request for a meeting.  “May I introduce Robert Donat, of France-Galop, and Marie-Louise Aumont of the PMU?”


“A pleasure,” Guy said as he shook their hands, and then sat down.  “Thank you for agreeing to meet at such short notice.”


“Congratulations on your win today,” Robert said.


“Thank you – but that is not why I asked to meet.  Today was a good day, but recently a few of my horses have experienced an unexpected dip in form at this and other tracks in the area.”


“That is the nature of the noble sport, your grace.”


“Indeed,” Guy said as he looked at Philippe, “but I have not been the only one recently to experience this.  I have been discussing this with some of my fellow owners, and they have asked if i would convey our concerns to you.”


“Do you believe there has been some form of underhand activity,” Robert asked.


“I pray that is not the case – but the number of recent cases is alarming.  Tell me, has there been anything to give you cause for concern on recent races, in terms of placings or betting activity?”


“We can only speak for here,” Philippe said, “but we have noticed some unexpected results.  We had our veterinary officers inspect the horses, and interviewed the jockeys, but we found nothing.”


“I did look at betting patterns for today,” Marie-Louise said, “and at the time nothing seemed unusual, but...”


“Yes, dear lady,” Guy said with a smile.


“We did note a number of large bets for your horse against La Ronde in the hour before the race.  I can go back and check betting patterns before your other recent races, if you feel that would be of use?”


“Do so,” Robert said.  “Your grace, if you can provide a list of the races and the horses?”


“Of course,” Guy said as he took an envelope from his jacket, and handed it over.  “In the meantime, I and the other owners will be only too glad to discuss our notes with you.”


“Very well – shall we meet tomorrow at this time, and brief on what we have discovered?”


“Acceptable,” Guy said as he stood, the other three standing as he left the room.


“I told you something was wrong with that race,” Marie-Louise said, “and the recent ones.”


“Enough,” Philippe said, “we do our research, we meet tomorrow – and we pray he is wrong.”


7 pm BST



Piet looked up as he heard the door to the flat open, and called out “that you Roo?”


“Yeah,” he heard Charlotte call back, “what are you up to?”


“Reviewing the text for my article – want a drink?”


“Sounds good,” Charlotte said as she came in, looking at the man mountain as he closed his laptop and laid it on the coffee table.  His hair was short, his beard trimmed – a sign he had been in his office for a few days.


“Hey – I saw that your Uncle Fergus had turned up in Pretoria.  My old paper had an interview with him – apparently he got wind the old man in Harare was after him, so he was spirited out of the country.”


“He was?  Remind me to ask Uncle John about that when we next see him,” she said as Piet stood up and walked to the cabinet, pouring two glasses of red wine.


“There you go,” he said, “so how was it briefing Shirley on her African interests?”


“Interesting,” Charlotte said quietly.  “Piet?”




“Are you free next Monday morning?”


“Well, apart from Sarina arriving for her visit in the afternoon, my Monday is free.  Why?”


“Well,” Charlotte said as she put her glass down, “I’d like you to come with me for an appointment.”


Putting his own glass down, Piet said “what sort of an appointment?”


“With a doctor.”


“Roo, what sort of doctor?”


“The type that looks after women who are expecting.”


She watched as he heard that, and stared blankly at her for a moment, before a grin broke out on his face.  “You’re...  We’re...  I’m going to be a father?”


“Well, looks that way – between us, do you think he or she will be normal height?”


“Oh my...”  Piet stood up, and then held Charlotte’s hand.  “So Monday?”


“Is to confirm if my doctor was right – so, think you can clear your calendar, and then we tell your family that night?”


9.30 pm CET

The Waterfront, Marseilles


“Thank you,” Eleanor said as the waiter brought her and Veronica their coffee and drinks, “so still think it was a crazy idea to come here?”


"Arab-French fusion cuisine,” Veronica said as she sat back, “it sounded awful when you suggested it Eleanor, but it was actually marvelous."

"I enjoyed it certainly," Eleanor nursed a glass of brandy, gently warming it in her hands. "Their new chef is deserving of the reviews I'd heard."

"Agreed," Veronica smiled as she looked up, "Why is that little man over there watching us?"

"He's waiting for an excuse to come talk...”  Eleanor glanced over and said “that is my source."

"Ah, I get it."

"That he has come here means he had learned something urgent." Eleanor sipped her brandy, "this is a bit too obvious otherwise."


“So what are you going to do?”


“Enjoy my brandy,” Eleanor said as the door opened, and a young couple came in, “and choose the right moment to visit the rest room.”


She watched as the couple took a table, and started talking to each other, before she said “well, I suppose now is as good a moment as any.  I shouldn’t be too long.”  Putting her glass down, she stood up and made her way to the rear of the restaurant, Veronica watching as the man stood and followed her.  As she took a sip from her glass of whisky, the young woman stood and followed as well.


“Well Mr Ibrahim,” Eleanor said quietly as they stood in the alleyway outside, “what have you learned?”


“The name you mentioned – Kingman – some very bad connections Captain, very bad connections.”


“What sort of connections?”


“The Corsican variety, Captain Ball,” Ibrahim said as he looked round, “and they are interested in the races as well.”


“Damn – I knew I recognised him,” Eleanor said quietly.  “Ibrahim, my old friend, I thank you.  What else can you tell me?”


“Not here – I need to meet you tomorrow.  Shall we say ten in my office?”


Eleanor nodded as she said “of course – shall we?”  As she looked over, she suddenly said “GET DOWN”, the shot ringing out as she pulled Ibrahim to the ground.  A second shot rang out as they hit the ground, Ibrahim grunting as they did so.


“You’ve been hit!”


“In the arm – praise be to Allah.”


As Veronica looked up and saw the woman walking back, on instinct she took her phone out and took a picture of her, and then of the young man as they walked out again.


“Did someone just come in,” Eleanor said as she walked over quickly.


“The young woman – they just left.”


“Did you get a photo?”


“Yeah – why?”


“We’re leaving,” she said as she left money on the table, “they just tried to kill me and Mister Ibrahim.”


10.30 pm CET

Radisson Blu Hotel Marseille Vieux Port


Veronica walked over as she heard the tap on the door, and looked through the spyhole.  As she opened the door, a tall, dark haired woman walked in, wearing a blue smock and a pair of pants.  She looked at Yusuf, sitting on the bed with a towel wrapped round his arm, and said “papa – what happened?”


“Someone shot at me,” he said with a grin.  “My friends – Captain Eleanor Ball and Commander Veronica Joyce.”


“Let me see,” she said as she knelt next to the bed, and unwrapped the towel.  She looked at it, and said “you were lucky Papa – the bullet is through and through.  Let me treat and close the wound.”


“My darling daughter is a medic in the local Emergency department – she does sometimes do, how you say, off the book work?”


“He means I treat his workers from time to time – I’m Yasmin,” she said as she helped him take his short off, and then cleaned the wound before she started to stitch the entry and exit wounds.


“Captain Ball,” Ibrahim said, “I fear you are dealing with dangerous people.”


“So what’s new,” Eleanor said, “so when you say the Corsicans...”


“Kingman was a visitor here a few months ago, sealing a deal with a company called RoideMer.”


Veronica and Eleanor looked at each other, before Veronica said “Damn – that’s a name from the recent past.”


“You have had dealings with them?”


“Oh yes – Yusuf, you and your daughter may stay here tonight with Veronica.  I am going to your offices – just in case...”


4 pm

The Richmond Mansion


“Diana,” Heather said as she opened the door, “this is a rare treat.”


“Well, I wished to talk to the ladies about something,” Diana said as she came in, “and this is the best opportunity to start the conversation.”


“Is this to do with the new Kirkham scholar?”


“Ah – news travels fast then,” she said as she came into the kitchen.


“Hey Diana,” Denice Burton said as she sat next to Emma Carlton, “What brings you here?”


“The allure of good coffee and good conversation,” Diana said as she sat down, “and to ask you to consider if any of you have a spare room.”


“Oh – for what,” Barbara asked as she came in.


“We have – or at least have approached – the next Kirkham scholar, but if she accepts, there will be a need to find somewhere local for her to stay during school weeks.”


“Oh?  Where does she live?”


“Tottenville,” Diana said as Sandy handed her a mug.


“Staten Island?  I see why you need to arrange some more local accommodation,” Heather said as she sat down.


"So what are they like Diana?" Barbara asked as they group settled down to drink their coffee.


"The Kirkham winners family...especially the mother?" Emma Carlton asked.

"Is that important?"

"Well she might not be a Friday Afternoon Coffee Club candidate," Emma smiled at her fellow members, “but she'll certainly be a Sinner."

"Says whom?" Diana looked perplexed.

"Says me for one," Denice laughed, "Somehow we Kirkham parents seem to get an automatic pass for the club."

"She's right you know Diana," Sandy sipped her coffee.

"So, Madame de Ros, what is she like?" Elaine Colman re-asked the question.

"She's very pleasant, she works in the Library down there, I suspect Melinda gets her brains from her, and her Viking stature from her father."

"Okay, getting a picture." Barbara laughed, "what does he do?"

"He's a police sergeant, he runs the traffic division down there."

"Oh one strike for sure," Sandy laughed, "you know how traffic cops and me get along?"

"You never go to Staten Island lover," Heather laughed.


“Anyway, nice couple, completely overwhelmed by what’s happening I think.  We’ve invited them to the school next week to look round the facilities.”


“Good idea – but you say she needs a spare room to stay in?”


“Preferably with a current Freshman or Sophomore family.  So get your thinking caps on girls – who might be suitable?”


Looking round the table, Barbara said “sorry folks – even if we had the room, because Jeannie and I travel so much, it’s not a good idea.”


“I ruled out asking Annie and Caroline for the same reason – plus they will have a young one soon,” Diana said.


“What else can you tell us about her,” Denice said.


“She’s a good goalkeeper – apparently Sarah is looking forward to working with her.”


“One to add to the Ama/Jess/Pepsi grouping then,” April said as Caroline came in.


“What are you talking about,” she asked as Heather passed her a mug of coffee.


“The new Kirkham scholar – Diana was saying they need to find her a family to stay with during the week while she studies.”




“No – she needs to really be in a family with another girl there,” Diana said quietly.  “Otherwise I agree, Mercy would have been a good idea.”


“Hi Mom,” Sands said as she came in with Katy, “we’re going to grab two bottles and then head up to my room.”


“Are you all right for swimming tomorrow girls,” Abby said as she came in.


“We are,” Katy said as they left the room.  Abby smiled as she said “Mama, the Prom tickets were available today, so I ordered two.”


“Excellent – I have no problem with that Abigail.”


Smiling, Abby went through to the front room where Letty was sitting with Doc and Ama.  “They’re talking about the next in line with you and Erica,” she said as she sat down.


“The next Kirkham scholar?  What’s the problem?”


“Logistics – she lives in the south tip of Staten Island, so she needs lodging for the week.”


“Oy – let’s hope someone comes forward…”


“We’ll find someone,” Abby said with a smile.


“Abby,” Heather said as she looked in, and Pepsi came past with Erica and Poppy, “can you come back in for a few minutes?  We need to pick your brains.”


“No problem,” Abby said as the two seniors came back into the kitchen.


“Thanks for coming in girls,” Barbara said, “we need to toss some names around and you can help.”


“Sure,” Letty said, “who are you thinking about?”


"What about the Marcopolis family?" Sandy asked.

"They might not be a family much longer," Heather looked over from making fresh coffee, "rumor on the nanny circuit is she caught him fooling round with Jacey Erringer."

"Well strike the Erringer's off my list as well." Diana produced her notebook.

"Don and Emmy have a strong marriage," Elaine remarked.

"But you don't want to expose a nice kid like Melinda to Honey MacKinnon," Letty smiled, "that girl is trying both the prefects and Mrs Brand's patience, and she's only a sophomore."

"Weak panty elastic." Abby added.

"Okay that rules them out."


“The thing is,” Mercy said, “the more I hear of this, the more I think it has to be one of us.”


“A Sinner?”


Mercy nodded as Denice said “that makes sense, but which of us has got the room?”






7 pm

The Kennedy Apartment


“Can you see who is at the door,” Alan called out as Sharon came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands as she went to look through the spyhole.


“Hey Boss,” she said as she opened the door to Caroline, “what’s up?”


“Sorry to disturb your Friday night,” Caroline said as she came in, “but I was hoping you had a couple of hours to spare tonight.  There’s something I need to talk to you about in private.”


Nodding, she said “Dad – work calls.  Will you be all right with the kids?”


“Sure – I need to prepare for this meeting tomorrow anyway,” Alan said as he looked out from the front room.  He smiled as Caroline said “I promise she won’t be out too late” before Sharon put her coat on, and followed Caroline out of the apartment.


“So where are we going,” she asked as they climbed into Caroline’s car.


“A bar I know – I want to introduce you properly to someone.  But first, I need to do something.”


“And that is?”


“Become Dominique for a couple of hours.”




As the bar door opened, the waitress turned and saw two women walk in – a tall, black haired woman, and a slightly smaller brunette.


They made their way over to a side booth, the waitress coming over and saying “whatwillitbe?”


“Whisky, straight up.”


“Coors,” the brunette said as the waitress walked over.


“Okay, so I take it this is to do with the other side of the business,” Sharon said.


“Yes – and no,” Dominique said, “I genuinely want to have a chat with you and a third person, but it has more to do with what happened at the party.”


“Oh yes,” Sharon said quietly, “that was an interesting workout.  I haven’t had the chance to talk to you about that yet.”


“I know – hence meeting here.  I was impressed with what you did.”


“I imagined what I would do if that was my sister.  But Katy Carter…”


“She needed to let off some steam from her own kidnapping.  As for Heather, she gets very upset when girls are hurt like that.  Madame had started enquiries as to the source of the drug the boys used on Louise – but…”


“Dominique felt it would be good if we met.”


Sharon looked at the petite redhead who had appeared next to their booth, and whispered “Carina?”


“In the flesh,” Carina said as she sat down.  “Sorry about the subterfuge Sharon.”


“But you know Dominique – that means…”


“Not the place to discuss it,” Dom said as the drinks were brought over.  ”I asked Carina to come tonight because you and she need to meet – and then we need to discuss those young men.”


“Okay,” Sharon said as she sipped her beer, “why do I get the feeling this is important.”


“Because it is,” Carina said quietly.  "I probably need to start by saying I have what psychiatrists would consider an extreme mental illness Sharon.  It's hereditary, and while I don't make excuses for myself, I have suspicions regarding you since I happen to know we are distantly related."

"We are,” Sharon said as she raised an eyebrow.  “Why did no one tell me?"

"Because the relationship goes back many generations,” Carina said, “and it needs a huge knowledge of family history to trace."

"And you have that skill Cari?"

"No,” Carina said as she shook her head, “but my Aunt Natalya does, we were having a problem last year and she did some extremely detailed research on our common family tree."


“Your Aunt Natalya,” Sharon said as she held her bottle.  “I met her last year – a woman who commanded respect.”


“Oh she’s that all right,” Carina said with a smile.

"Okay, so what is this hereditary illness I may or might not have Cari?"

"Sharon,” Carina said with a smile, “I'm a high grade psychopath..."

"You are what?" Sharon hissed.

"I'm a psychopath," Carina continued calmly. "I get pleasure from hurting people."


"Sharon," Dominique warned her.

"Sorry," Sharon nodded to the other customers who were looking at her.  “But to hear you say that so calmly…”


“I came to terms with who I am a long time ago,” Carina said with a smile.  “"Sharon I think you know precisely how hard I have always found it to contain what is inside. You have a demon in you, and I don't know you might even call her by a name...I call mine the Beast."

"How did you...?" Sharon looked shocked and then sat back for a moment...  "I do have a name for her - I call her 'Bad Sharon'."

"Well you've let her out to play a few times haven't you?"

Sharon looked round the bar, and then took a drink from her bottle before she said "I guess..."

"From what I've heard,” Carina said, “you have an awful lot of fun hurting other women."

"Who told you...?"

"Just take it as granted," Dominique intervened.


“Sharon, I get the same sort of fun hurting men.”  Carina took a drink from her glass, and then said "Do you remember at the same time your step-mother was killed, there was a smaller story about two teenage boys from the Philadelphia suburbs who simply disappeared?"

"Very vaguely," Sharon shook her head, "we had a lot else going on as a family...why do you ask?"

"Because they both met me." Cari spoke without any emotion.

"Met you? Meaning what Carina?"

"Use your imagination Sharon, you aren't a dumb kid." Dom urged gently.

"Oh dear God," Sharon covered her mouth as she got the full implication of what Carina had said.


“Carina,” Dominique said quietly, “is the direction you were heading in Sharon.  You needed to hear this, to understand fully why we brought you into our group.  We did it to help you find your medium.”


“Which brings me,” Carina said, “to the five boys.”


Sharon listened, and then slowly nodded…



Saturday 23rd April

2 am CET

Ibrahim Holdings, Marseilles


As Eleanor looked up at the two storey building, she smiled to herself.  Having left Veronica with the Ibrahims, she had changed into something more suitable for the work at hand – a black jumper and leggings, soft gloves and trainers, and a hat over her hair.  She had the key to the offices, but even so, some caution was required.


She was glad her training had kicked in as well, as she saw the torchlight on the inside of the upper windows.  Someone had beaten her to the place, so rather than coming in the front door, Eleanor walked round the back and found the fire escape lowered.


“They must have come this way – so they must have cut the alarms,” she said to herself as she walked noiselessly up, “which saves me a job.”  At the top of the metal stairs, she looked through the window and then slipped in, staying quiet as she made her way to the office door.


“Have you found it yet,” she heard a male voice say.


“No – he must have hidden it somewhere,” a female replied – and as she looked throught the crack in the open door, Eleanoe saw the young couple from the restaurant as they looked through the filing cabinets.


“So what did the contact say?”


“Trash the place – leave nothing.  I think they were upset he was asking questions about some of the activities they manage.”


“Pity – he has been useful in the past.”


“And he has outlived his uselfullness.”  The woman looked round the office, and the papers on the floor.  “I know he was saved by that woman at the restaurant, but we will find him eventually – and if we don’t find him, we know where his daughter works.”


The man nodded as he said “so what do we do now?”


“Well, if I was you,” Eleanor said as she walked in, “I would put my head between ym knees and kiss my ass goodbye.”


“What the…”


“Hands where I can see them,” Eleanor said as she produced the pistol she had hidden in the back of her pants, “we don’t want any nasty surprises, do we?”


“It would appear you are a surprise,” the young woman said, “I never got your name earlier tonight.”


“You’re right – I didn’t give it,” Eleanor said quietly as she walked round the room.  “so please, make this easier on all of us, and get your hands where I can see them.”


The younger woman smiled, before she started to raise her hands – and then threw her hand forward.  Eleanor dove to the floor as the blade passed over her, embedding in the wall, before she fired two shots off.  Jumping up, she saw the young man slump to the floor, as the woman held her hand to her shoulder, blood seeping out.


“Really, really stupid move on your part,” Eleanor said quietly as she walked over, looking into the man’s lifeless eyes as the woman backed against the wall.


“You’re special forces,” she said and then grimaced.


“Oh I’m much worse than that,” Eleanor said quietly as she pushed the woman against the floor, pressing her gloved hand to the bullet wound as she grimaced.  “You’ll survive that – a flesh wound – but I have a few questions to ask of you, and I expect some answers.”


“You can go to hell.”


“I’ve been to hell,” Eleanor said quietly, “and trust me, compared to that, this is paradise.  Now, who sent you?”


The young woman stared back at Eleanor, determined not to say anything – and then grimaced, biting her tongue as Eleanor pressed the muzzle of the gun against the open wound.


“Let’s try again,” she said quietly, “who sent you?”


“They will kill me…”


“So will I – or those who come after me – so one last chance.  Who…  Sent… You.”




As Yusuf Ibrahim came into the office, with two of his workers, he saw Eleanor sitting on his desk, the man on the floor, the woman taped up and staring at him as the red patch sprad over the sloth taped to her shoulder.


“Sorry about the mess, Mister Ibrahim,” Eleanor said, “but at least it can be reasonably quickly cleared up.  I need to get some sleep – we shall talk tomorrow?”


“We will, Captain,” Ibrahim said, “so who was responsible?”


“RoideMer – not the first time I’ve dealt with them either.  Come and have breakfast tomorrow – we can talk then.”


10 am CET

Radisson Blu Hotel Marseille Vieux Port


“Are you sure about that,” Eleanor said into her telephone as she made some notes on the pad.


“All right then, and you can let me have that as soon as possible?


“Good – I will be meeting with my contacts later, and will let them know as well.  The other matter?


“Understood – and my thanks for your help,” she said as Veronica came in.  “We will talk later.”  Putting the telephone down, she looked at her friend and said “what did the gendarmerie say?”


“She’s not talking,” Veronica said as she sat down.  “So who was that call from Eleanor?"

Looking over, Eleanor shook her head as she said "You are better off not knowing Veronica."

"Oh why?" Veronica looked up from her breakfast.

"It was someone back in the States," Eleanor poured her coffee, "and it's safer that we draw a veil over the conversation."

"A veil?" Veronica looked puzzled till the penny dropped, "you mean it was The Hidden Hand?"

"Now did I say that?"


"Well anyway the person I spoke to has analyzed the betting markets for a lot of the races this spring here in the south of France..."

"And?" Veronica interrupted.

"She thinks she has found definite patterns...she's arranging that her findings will be delivered to us."


“So we need to talk to Guy later?”


“I think so – but I want to get a look at the lab records at the racecourse as well.  See if they still have the samples from yesterday.”


“Why?  You said Guy had confirmed no sign of doping.”


“No obvious sign,” Eleanor said, “but I wonder if we are seeing the same thing here as with the date rape drug.”


“More than one compound in small enough levels to escape detection?”


Eleanor nodded.  “If we can get the sample from La Ronde yesterday, we can send it for more detailed analysis.”


“I see what you mean – and if you are right, it confirms the same group may be responsible for both.”


“Indeed – so now we eat, and await our guests…”



9 am

The Huntingdown Apartment


“So what are you doing today,” Juliette said as Klaus sat opposite her.


“While you are at work?  I need to see what can possibly be salvaged from the Breitz project.  We have managed to obtain what film he did shoot, and I am meeting John and a friend fo his at the arts Club to see if anything can be done.”


“I wonder where he disappeared to?”


“Given what they apparently discovered about him, as far away from me as he can – when I realize Judith was so close to him…”


Juliette was about to say something when they heard the sound of an incoming call on her laptop.  “Now who could be calling this early,” she said as she opened the computer, and then accepted the incoming call.


“Ingrid,” Klaus said as he looked at the screen, “this is unexpected.”


"To what do we owe the pleasure of this call?" Juliette smiled.

"Poppa, Moms,” Ingrid said with the biggest grin, “I have HUGE news!"

"You look like the proverbial cat who got the cream Ingrid darling," Klaus said as he sat next to Juliette.

"Oh it's better then cream...I got accepted for Professor Krugman's seminar group next year...Isn't that AMAZING?"

"CONGRATULATIONS!" Juliette positively beamed, "I know that was a huge aim of yours Ingy."

"It was Moms,” Ingrid said proudly, “I'm one of only three juniors accepted to do the class next year, the rest are all seniors."

"I'm proud of you darling." Klaus smiled happily.

"Did you tell Cari yet?"

"I did Moms, she practically shouted loud enough I could hear her without the computer."

"I bet she did."

"She said she was driving out to the rowing center to go out with her friends and then study in the sunshine."

"She and little one will enjoy that Ingrid." Klaus nodded.

"What are you guys doing?"

"Magnilash has asked us to look at the new 'masked' commercials, so we are going in to watch them." Juliette nodded as well.


“While I meet with John and others to discuss the Breitz project.  You darling?”


“Hitting the library.  Exams start in a week’s time and I want to be ready, and then forget about everything until August.”


“A worth cause my dear – so we will delay you no further.  Will you tell your aunt or shall I?”


“Calling her next – talk to you guys later,” Ingrid said as the call ended. 


“So,” Klaus said as he finished his coffee, “I will see you later?   Diane has invited us to dinner.”


“No problem,” Juliette said before they kissed…







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