Saturday 2nd July 2016
Pump Court, Middle Temple, London
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed,
To see such fun,
And the dish ran away with the spoon
Catriona Cuthbertson was having one of… Well, what she was in the habit of describing as one of ‘those’ nights. She didn’t know why, the news that her old friend Shirley Xavier, aka Madame X, had worked out that she was Lady C, her great adversary and rival didn’t worry her as such. She knew that they both could trust each other entirely to keep each other’s secrets. No something was nagging at her and for all her skills at fathoming out motives she couldn’t identify what was worrying her so much.
She stood up and looked out onto the darkened courtyard, playing with the lapel of her dark blue jacket. Even though it was a Saturday, she was in the office, so it was professional dress. The knee length skirt, white blouse, black pumps. Even in a place like this, the protocols held sway.
Her next major trial was on hold as the prosecution had asked for more time to prepare its case. It wasn’t going to do them a lot of good anyway. Fraud was very hard to prove at the best of times and there were enough circumstances surrounding this case that she believed the jury would have a very hard time determining guilt.
She had shown most of the evidence to Agnes McAdam, and even she had been unable to determine if what happened was merely sharp business practice, or if her clients had committed the offences they were charged with. Cat reasoned that if with all her brainpower Agnes could not decide then there was no way a jury would.
So why at ten o’clock at night did she find herself sitting in her office staring at the wall? Most women her age were safely tucked up in bed by now with their husbands, or at least someone else’s husband. But she was a widow and today would have been Jamie’s fiftieth birthday.
In silence she picked up the framed picture of she and Jamie on their wedding day, her in white, him in his uniform as a captain in the Scots Guards.
Catriona looked at the other picture on her desk, the blonde haired girl smiling back at her. Elizabeth… her daughter was so much like her father to look at, that to Catriona it was heart-breaking.
She and Jamie might not have planned out their lives in the intricate detail that Donald Fitzstuart and Agnes McAdam had done, but they had a series of things they had wanted to achieve. She had been appointed as a Queens Counsel at an unusually early age in 1998. Jamie had got his captaincy at least a year earlier than was normal.
Everything though had changed from their plan though approaching Christmas in 1999 when she had realized she was pregnant. Not that the news was unwelcome, they had planned on having children one day, but after Jamie had left the army.
He had tendered his resignation in January 2000, effective March 17th, but then Jamie’s unit had been assigned to take up peace keeping duties in Kosovo. Torn by duty, and despite her tears and fears Jamie had delayed his resignation and shipped out. She still remembered that last morning when they had talked, him in his fatigues, her crying softly as he walked to the car…
Inwardly Cat had known he would never return and the news that he had been awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in rescuing Kosovan civilians from armed attack by Serb paramilitaries, before dying from his wounds, had merely made the hurt of losing him the worse.
Elizabeth had been delivered by C Section at the beginning of June 2000, and from the start Catriona had difficulty in being the mother she had always thought she would be. She had always loved her daughter, but in a way she also resented her, that she was here, and that Jamie wasn’t.
Things had got worse as Liz had grown to look so much like her father, that at times it broke Catriona’s heart just to be in the same room with her. Boarding schools, long holidays for Liz at her grandmothers, and the excuses of the time she needed to devote to her career had all helped her keep Liz at arm’s length. So had her secret game with Shirley.
Somehow she knew she had to make it up with Liz, but she had spent so many years shutting her daughter out of her life, she really wasn’t sure how she could let her in, how she could ever tell her how much she truly loved her. Tears came as she looked at the two photographs.
“What am I going to do, Jamie,” she whispered quietly before she kissed his image, and put the two photos down. As she tried to calm herself down she heard a noise from the outer office.
“Ted is that you?” she yelled out thinking her clerk had come back to pick up something he’d forgotten. As she sat down however, the door was thrown open, and Catriona stared at the sight before her.
“What the fuck are you doing here bitch…You were supposed to have left hours ago?” a bulky man with two black nylon stockings entirely covering his head burst through the door brandishing a very lethal looking gun in a leather gloved hand. Behind him, she could see a second man, both dressed in boiler suits with jumpers, heavy boots and leather gloves.
“Crap,” the thought raced through Cat’s mind, “who the hell are these bastards, and what do they want?” Carefully she tried to reach for the silent alarm on her desk, only to feel a hand slap her round the face.
“Not so fast Lady,” the bulky man growled, “keep away from the fucking alarms…and yeah we know where they all are.”
“What do you want?” Catriona remembered that in this situation it was best to remain calm and try and keep the attackers calm as well. She’d taught her operatives this lesson, but she’d also been on the other side of the gun as well, and she knew that aggression designed to make the victim scared worked as a tactic.
“We heard you kept some rather tasty antique silverware here…”
“And if I do,” Catriona said as she glanced at the locked cabinet doors, while the second man came in.
“Shit - This should have been bleedin’ simple, but you have to be a stupid bloody cow and be working this late at night.”
“How did you get past the porter anyway,” Catriona said as she looked at the two men.
“Not important – where are the keys to those cabinets?”
“I will not…”
All three of them suddenly looked round as they heard the outer door to the office open, and a young voice called out “Mum? I know you’re in here – we need to talk.”
“Shit – Liz,” Cat thought as the gloved hand was clamped over her mouth, the armed man pointing the gun at her head as his partner stood behind the office door.
“Mum?” The door to the inner office opened as a blonde haired girl came in, wearing a royal blue sweatshirt, dark jeans and short brown leather boots. She came in, took one look at her mother and the man behind her, and opened her mouth to scream – only to have it covered by a gloved hand and a deep male voice say “don’t. You will regret it if you do.”
Cat was shocked as she mumbled into the leather gloved hand “pllssltmmtlkthr.”
“Quietly,” the man said as he took his hand away. Nodding, Catriona looked at the teenager and said “Elizabeth… Liz… What are you doing here?”
“Yeah, I guess we do – but this is timing of the worst kind. Liz, I know you’re scared, but I need you to calm down, take deep breaths, and then he will take his hand away, all right?”
Liz’s eyes narrowed for a second, and then she slowly nodded as the second man took his hand away. From behind her, Cat heard the words she had been dreading.
“Oh goody – your daughter. Looks more like her dad!”
“Mum, what’s going on,” Liz said as she felt her arms in the grip of the man behind her.
“They’ve decided they want the silver in the room,” Catriona said quietly, “and I was going to refuse…”
“And now we have some leverage,” the second man said as he pulled Liz’s arms behind her back, the young girl looking over her shoulder as he wrapped cords around her wrists and forced them together.
“Don’t hurt her,” Cat said as she started to stand up, only to be forced back down into the chair again.
“Do as we say, you’ll both be just fine,” he growled as Liz felt the cords rubbing on her bare wrists, going around and between them as they were bound.
“That bloody hurts,” she said loudly as he tied the ropes off, only to have her head pulled back as he said “do that again, and…”
“NO!! No – she’ll talk quietly, won’t you Liz?”
“You want to start been the concerned mother now,” Liz said as she looked over.
“I know you won’t believe it,” Catriona said, “but I do worry about you, and I am concerned for you, Liz.”
“That why you missed my birthday,” Liz said in a dangerous voice as the second man produced a longer length of rope, and wrapped it round her arms and body, pulling them against her sides under her chest and then wrapping it round a second time above.
“No… I missed it because…”
“Go on – what’s your excuse?”
Cat watched as her daughter’s arms were pulled against her body, the rope forming the bands she knew would make it next to impossible for Liz to move them, and as the masked man fed the rope under the lower band on her left side, pulled it pup and around the back of her neck, and then under the other side, she slowly said “I’m sorry Liz…”
“For what? Me walking in on a robbery?”
“No – for being a mother who could never say why she was so distant…”
“Well, at least that’s true,” Liz said as she tried to move her arms with little success, while the second man forced her to sit in the chair on the other side of the table.
“So here’s the deal, bitch,” the man next to Catriona said, “you do as we say, or kiddo there gets hurt.”
“She doesn’t really care…”
“That’s not true,” Cat said as she looked at Liz, while the masked man knelt and started to tie her booted ankles to the front legs of the chair. “I do care Liz, it’s just…”
“Just what Mum – your work is more important than me? I am a huge disappointment to you? I…”
“enough talking – make sure she can’t get out of that chair.”
Liz looked over, Cat struggling to stay calm as she was pulled back against the chair, rope wound around her and through the elaborate latticework until she felt her wrists and hands pushed firmly into the small of her back.
“Now,” the first man growled, “open those cabinets bitch…”
Slowly, Catriona opened a drawer and took out a set of keys, her eyes fixed on her daughter before she stood and walked over to the cabinets.
“You are not, and have never been a disappointment to me Liz,” she said as she unlocked the cabinets, and was forced back to her own chair.
“Then what is it Mum?”
Catriona was pushed back into the seat, and ordered to sit with her hands on her head as she was lashed to the back of her own chair. “I’m sorry love,” she finally said, “it’s just you remind so much of Jamie these days…”
“Daddy,” Liz said as she wriggled round, “what about him…”
“Do you know he would have been fifty today?”
Liz looked over and said “I know you miss him, Mum, but…”
“Liz – you look so much like him it hurts…”
“THAT’s the reason? That I remind you of Dad? But he was a hero, a patriot, a…”
“A man who should not have been there,” Cat said as the masked man put her arms on the rests of her chair, and started to tape her wrists and elbows down, while the second man started to put the silverware into a holdall. He then knelt down and crossed her ankles before starting to bind them with rope.
“What do you mean Mummy?”
Catriona smiled as Liz called her mummy, before she said “he had resigned his commission, but felt he had to go back, to do this last tour. Liz, I did not want him to go, and when I heard the news…”
Catriona then did something she had not done in a long time – she started to cry as she was bound to the chair. Liz looked over and said quietly “Mummy?”
“It’s all right Lizzie,” Cat eventually said. “I just realised I needed to say something I have not said for far too long. I love you, I am so proud of you, and I am so sorry you had to be caught up in this.”
“It’s all right Mummy,” Liz said quietly, “I justwweentduyttknnnwhhynw?”
“Because we need you to be quiet,” the large man said as he pulled the white cloth between Liz’s lips, forcing the cloth into her mouth as he pulled the corners of her mouth back, tying the ends at the base of her neck. As she looked over, she watched as Cat was gagged in the same way, the two masked men looking at them as one of them picked up the holdall, and they walked off.
Cat looked over at her daughter, and mumbled “bbeebrrffflessse. Hlpwllbhrssnnn.”
Catriona sat for a few minutes, listening as Liz looked to the door, and then pushed her chair to the side of the desk, raising her feet as she pressed with the soles of her feet on the corner. She then stated shake her head from side to side, using her tongue to slowly ease the cloth out of her mouth while Liz watched.
It took nearly twenty minutes, but eventually Catriona managed to force the cloth from her mouth, the damp grey mass falling on her chest as the door opened, and two policemen came in.
“Apologies for the delay,” one of them said as the other removed the cloth from Liz’s mouth, “there’s been a major incident across town.”
“Not a problem,” Catriona said as she was untied, and immediately walked over to Liz, stroking her hair as she knelt next to the chair while she was untied. “I’m sorry Liz, for everything.”
“I think I understand Mummy,” Liz said, “and I see how you were hurting, but I was hurting too.”
“I know – and I’ll try and make up for it, if you’ll let me. Why are you here anyway?”
“Aileen and Eve Gaunt invited me to Ireland with them and Kit this summer – I wanted to ask you in person, so I got a weekend pass at short notice.”
Cat nodded as she said “of course you can – and I may join you for a few days as well, once a trial is done. I need some time off to sort a few things out anyway…”
From the grey van, the two men watched as Catriona and Liz walked to an ambulance.
“That seemed to work,” the taller of the two said as he removed the wig, and the device from his throat.
“Yeah – an idea some friends of mine in the US gave me,” the other man said – but in a female voice as the wig came off, and her red-brown hair fell down.
“Scare them into talking,” Kay said as she looked at Penny. “What about the silver?”
“We’ll get it back to her – eventually,” Penny said as she drove off…