Comings and Goings – part 2
Saturday 29th August
7 am PT
The house was in an area of town a little off the well known tourist track, a place most people would not take a second look at. Cassandra had rented it secretly when she had spent some time walking the streets, as a place to be based in – and it had proven useful since then as a place she could go to rehearse in private, and try out ideas for her roles.
And today she was undertaking a role of a lifetime, as she finished applying her makeup, and then slipped the green contact lenses in place.
“Looking good,” she said to herself before she made sure her hair was hidden under the net, and then put on the red wig, cut short and making sure it was perfectly placed.
Standing up, she looked at herself in the mirror, her tight leather trousers and the four inch stiletto ankle boots, with the tight red sweater on her upper body. “Yes, this looks good,” she said as she put on the leather biker jacket, and fastened it before she went through to the garage.
The Kawasaki was there, in perfect working order, the black helmet sitting on the seat. Running her gloved hand over the metal, Cassandra smiled to herself, and then put the helmet on, before using a remote to open the garage door.
As she prepared to mount the motorbike, Cassie smiled at her good fortune. Rick, Brian, every movie studio in town had look since forbade her to ride bikes. She’d kept this one in hidden in the garage of her secret hideaway, out of prying eyes.
What had long since possessed her to grab false number plates for it from the studio she didn’t know, but really it was perfect. She could arrive and disappear, as Consumpta and no one would ever be the wiser.
For a few seconds she closed her eyes as she transformed herself from Cassie to Con. Smiling she pulled the visor of the helmet over her face. “Con me girl it’s time to go to some work.”
The bike started first time, as she rode it onto the driveway and then closed the door using the remote. Tucking the control into the pocket of her jacket, she gunned the engine and rode down the road, the feel of the air as she sped down the road bringing old memories back…
8.30 am PT
West Beverley Hills
“How is Daisy this morning?”
“Still a bit tired and light headed – she really wishes she was here,” Rose said as they checked the pump action shotguns, “but she understands and wishes us well.”
“She’s doing the right thing,” Maddie said, “but she gets an equal share of today’s take.”
“So who is this mystery woman you’ve called in as a backup boss,” JD asked as she and Darlene looked on.
“She’ll be here in a minute – Tracey, Rene, car ready?”
“Ready and waiting Maddie – so when do we go?”
“As soon as…” Maddie stopped talking as she heard a motorbike approaching. “Tracey, with me,” she said as she picked up a Mauser, Tracey nodding as she collected a gun and walked to the front entrance of the warehouse.
As Maddie stepped out, she saw the Kawasaki approaching, and signaled to Tracey to open the main door. As it swung in, the bike entered the warehouse, coming to a halt in front of the other four women as they looked on.
The helmeted woman looked at them before she turned the engine off and dismounted the bike, reaching up to remove her helmet.
“This the woman you were expecting Maddie?”
“If not,” Rene said as she pumped the shotgun, “she doesn’t get out of here alive.”
“Oh I’m her,” they heard the new arrival said as she unfastened the strap of the helmet.
on in total surprise as the woman pulled her motorcycle helmet off and revealed
herself as a shorthaired redhead with green eyes, wearing full makeup. She knew Cassandra was an actress, but this
vixen in her leathers and spike heels was so totally unlike the Cassandra she
had met that for a few moments she doubted it was the same woman.
she finally said, “meet Consumpta, Con meet my crew."
meet you ladies," Consumpta replied in her soft Irish brogue, “I hear you
need an extra woman today?"
a face you need to forget you ever saw after today girls, she's just a little
bit like radioactive back in Ireland at the moment, so not a word she's ever
been in LA."
the picture Boss." JD smiled.
"Now everybody get changed, the Galleria is going to be visited by several Miss Holly Golightly's?" Madeline chuckled.
“Gotcha – this way Con,” Tracey said as she took the new arrivals arm, “this is JD, Darlene, Rose and Rene. Has Maddie explained the plan to you?”
As Con nodded, she grinned – this was going to be a fun day.
9.30 am PT
“These look good Madeline.” Con smiled as she looked at her reflection wearing the little black dress, the long black gloves, the high heels, the Audrey Hepburn wig, and all the costume jewellery. With the dark glasses on they all looked exactly the same, a perfect disguise.
“Hollywood sometimes comes up with a few creative ideas,” Madeline fixed her earrings in. “Alright who is carrying the sonic device that is supposed to shatter the cases?”
“I am,” Darlene said, “whoever your friend back east is that created this boss is a genius, we never even thought of such things at MIT.”
“I’ll pass on the thanks. All right, we drive in the limo to Rodeo Drive. Con, Tracey, Darlene, I drop you off on S Santa Monica Boulevard, Rose, Rene, JD on Brighton Way. Take your time, I will drop you off at different locations, but time your arrival outside the Galleria di Gioielli for 10.30 am. Each of you will have a bag and a cigarette holder – and I want you all to channel your inner Holly as you approach.”
“In each bag,” Tracey said, “you will have one of the shotguns. Darlene, you have the device. We enter the building together, and Maddie announces our intention. JD, you get to the security room, and disable the system.”
“Gotcha,” JD said with a smile.
“Once everyone is on the ground, Darlene sets off the device. Each of you, put in these earplugs before we head off – just in case.”
“Remember, anyone causes any trouble, shoot – to kill if necessary. Take no chances – security guards head shot, anyone else decide there and then.”
“Once the cases are opened, take as much as you can in your bags. I will have the limousine outside, and I want us back in the car twenty minutes after we start. Like before, if there is anything left it stays. Rose, you take the manager into the back room, and persuade her to open the safe.”
“Total control ladies – we go in hard, we leave fast.”
The girls all looked at each other and shook their head as Maddie said “Right – load up and let’s go.”
Cassandra glanced at her colleagues as they sat in the car, something in the way they carried themselves told her that these were women used to and comfortable with both stealing and killing. Carefully she noted the minutest details, absorbing them, schooling herself to use them.
“So how hot is hot back in Ireland Con?’ asked Tracey.
“You didn’t read about the Navan job over here?”
“No, foreign crime doesn’t get mentioned much in the news.” Tracey shook her head.
“Well I sorta left a couple of dead cashiers, and ma hostage was real stupid. It wasn’t till later I discovered he was off-duty Garda, that’s a cop to you. They don’t like it when you off one of theirs you know?”
“I know,” Daisy said, “the NYPD will always hold a grudge against me.”
Maddie smiled, Cassie had established her bona fides. It might have been fiction, but she was pretty sure if things happened this morning that Con would not hesitate to use her shooter.
“Darlene – here.”
“Enjoy the walk ladies,” Darlene said as she got out of the limousine, and waited until the car drove a few blocks down, stopping to allow Tracey out.
Inside the car Cassandra smiled. The Boston diamond heist had in large part been an unreal experience, but this was the real thing. She did this and she was now a professional armed robber, and as these things had a way of going she would probably be a murderess before the morning was over as well.
Neither thought worried her; in fact both made the itch between her legs a touch stronger. Cassandra Strong from this day would be a professional bad girl; with she hoped a long criminal career was stretching in front of her.
“Con, you’re up. Take it slow; act like you don’t know anyone. We’ll see you soon.”
Consumpta nodded as she stepped out, looking round behind her dark glasses before she raised her right hand, the cigarette holder in place, and the bag over her left arm as she walked slowly down the street.
They approached from both sides of Rodeo Drive, six women looking like the iconic image of Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the cocktail dresses moving as they walked, the air of easy sexuality making people turn and look briefly as they walked down the road.
As they came together, they nodded to each other while a long limousine pulled up outside the main entrance of the Galleria, a seventh Holly stepping out and nodding to the other six as they approached. They stopped for a moment, looking to the door, and then as one moved to the doorway.
The doorman inside looked at the group of women approaching, and said over his shoulder “hey, is there a publicity event due here today?”
The woman came over and smiled. “We haven’t been told but this is Hollywood – let them in and let’s see what this is all about.”
The doorman nodded as he opened the door, the seven women smiling as they walked in, and reached into their bags. “Good morning,” Maddie said as she looked at the doorman, “we come with a special message for you and your customers.”
“Oh – and that is?”
“Get on the floor asswipes,” Tracey called out as she pulled her gun out and fired a shot into the ceiling, the other six drawing their guns as well, “this is a fucking robbery!”
“You heard the lady, mother fuckers,” Rene said as she fired a shot into the wall, “on the floor NOW!!!”
“Eat the fucking floor,” Each of the raiders repeated the words as Con, Rose and Darlene made their way round the room, pushing customers and staff to the floor. In the meantime JD shouted out “if any of you fuckers go for an alarm, I’ll shoot you before you move an inch.”
She looked at the three clerks behind the counter, two women and one man, and shouted “out here – now!”
As the women went out, the man suddenly tried to reach under the counter – only for him to hit the wall and slide slowly down, the blood seeping from his chest from the holes made by JD’s bullets.
“You were fucking warned,” Maddie called out, “anyone else feeling brave?” Maddie stared hard at the people on the floor through her dark glasses, before she called out “stage two, ladies.”
JD nodded as she walked behind the counter, and opened a door, while Rose and Rene shot the lenses from the security cameras. Con looked at the customers and staff, before saying “all of you just stay fucking down on the ground, hands on your fucking heads, faces on the fucking floor.”
The stream of obscenities coming from her mouth surprised Cassandra, but it felt right, it felt in character, and what was more with every swear word the feelings inside her increased. Armed robbery was like a drug; it was no wonder her friends had never given it up.
Darlene placed the small box on the floor in the centre of the room, pressing a button and standing back as she said “FIRE IN THE HOLE!”
The piercing sound filled the room for five seconds, shattering the glass display cabinets as it did so. From the corner of her eye, Consumpta saw the doorman reach for his pocket, and walked over, firing twice into his back before she reached down and removed the gun from his grip.
“Honestly some people are just so fucking stupid,” Consumpta said in her soft Irish tone, while inside Cassandra smiled that as she had predicted to herself she was now a killer.
“I said are there any more fucking stupid idiots?” Maddie shouted out as she looked round, “Now if anyone wanted to scream, I’ll just say shut the fuck up or you’re next.”
“Security system taken care of,” JD said as she came back in.
“Like what you see?” Rene said as she caught a man looking under her micro skirt. “Well I hope you enjoyed it because it’s the last thing you will see.” She smiled as she calmly squeezed her trigger, the shot causing his head to explode, and his brains hitting the wall behind where he had lain.
“Right – do it,” Tracey said as she and Con stood guard, the other girls scooping as many jewels as they could into their bags, and then taking those of the two guards and filling them as well.
For what seemed like ages the girls did a strange dance round the hostages laying on the ground, their shotguns and bags in one hand, the other scooping gems out of the shattered cases.
Coolly, calmly, the robbers went about their business. Diamonds, rubies, emeralds, all being scooped up in black-gloved hands and dropped into the bags. Thousands of dollars in each handful, the bags all eventually full of several million dollars worth of jewellery.
Maddie looked round, directing, making sure nothing was missed. Totally calm, but with a ruthless tone to her voice as she gave out orders.
“Do we have it all?” Con called out.
“I think so, I just emptied the safes.” Rose yelled back. “I had to leave a couple more dead back there though.”
“See what happens when you don’t do as you are ordered?” Maddie called out. “Now, we’re going to leave in a minute, and you are all going to remain on this floor like good little shitheads. If anyone moves, we will know, and we will come to your fucking homes, and kill you and fucking everyone there, just like we killed all these people here.”
“Please,” one woman said as she looked up, “Don’t…”
“Did we say you could talk,” Darlene said as she discharged her gun into the woman’s head, the people either side of her covered in her blood.
Looking at the clock on the wall, she then shouted, “Move out – we’re done here,” as the seven Hollies moved to the doorway, JD opening it and looking out as they walked quickly to the limousine.
As they climbed in, Con stayed behind, watching the door and the people watching before she got in, sitting down as the car moved off.
“You did good Consumpta,” Tracey said as they sat back, Con nodding as the feeling of total power washed over her, and she orgasmed in her panties.
“Yeah – we feel the same way,” Tracey smiled and sighed as Con looked round the rear of the car, seeing the way the girls looked.
“All right ladies,” Maddie said as the group got out of the back of the car, “get changed, outfits in the black bags provided, everything else in the secure lockers. Bags in the box on the table please.”
“How much do you reckon boss,” Tracey said as she placed her bag in the large container.
“Enough – we’ll have the final total after costs in the next few days. Now change – I have to meet with others at 2, and I need to be out of here in time.”
As she stripped out of the dress, Consumpta asked “why put the outfits in the black bags? This dress is amazing.”
“Standard operating procedure – all outfits destroyed after the job,” Tracey said as she put the gloves, dress and shoes in the bag, “but the reward far outweighs the cost.”
“I do so agree,” Con giggled as she slipped back into her leathers. “Perhaps I may get the chance to work with you ladies again – if the gods allow it.”
“We’d be honoured – you’re a real pro,” JD said as she looked at the redhead. “So where do you go from here?”
“OH here and there – but I’ll leave Maddie me phone number, if she ever needs to call.”
“Con, can I have a word please before you go,” Maddie said as she slipped into her heels, Consumpta nodding as the two of them went out into the main warehouse.
“So, how do you feel,” she said as they walked over to the motorbike.
“If I said fantastic, would that sound bad?”
“Not really no,” Maddie said with a smile. “The feeling can be amazing, as I know you discovered. I will be sure to tell our mutual friend about today.”
Cassandra nodded as she looked round. “I looked you up, your public face at least. Why do I get the feeling Xavier International covers a lot more areas of business than the impressive list?”
“A question I’m not prepared to answer – yet,” Maddie said with a smile. “But how did it compare with Boston?”
“Boston was amazing – but compared to the feeling today, it was like a first course,” Cassie said quietly. “This… This touched a nerve I barely acknowledged before, and it was fantastic.”
“I can understand – it’s like that little hidden part suddenly gets filled to overflowing,” Maddie said as she closed her eyes. “Any regrets?”
“No – I had steeled myself for the possibility I may have to shoot and kill someone, and I now get exactly why they feel the way they do when they do it.”
Maddie nodded as she looked Con in the eyes. “It’s never a frivolous thing, to take a life, no matter how it makes us feel. Please, remember that – the day you forget is the day you become a danger to yourself and others. For that sort of job, fear and the fear of dying are needed – and those who were killed were killed for trying to stop us.”
Con nodded as she said “I understand – and believe me, I will not do this outside these scenarios.”
“Good. Well, for now,” Maddie said, “we continue to talk about Ladydown – on which note…” She opened her large shoulder bag and took out a clear plastic file. “Schedules for Emma and the girls over the next month. I’ve highlighted some suggestions for when you and Rick can talk to all four of them.”
“Good – this keeps Rick happy as well.” She placed the file in a small compartment of the bike, and then climbed on.
“Any instructions for your cut?”
“I’ll tell you later in the week – once we know more. Shall we say ten am Tuesday in my office?”
“Sounds good – I look forward to seeing you then,” Consumpta said as she put on her helmet, and gunned the engine of the bike, Maddie opening the door as she rode out.
“Nice girl,” JD said as she came out, “Wonder if we’ll…”
Her cell phone ringing made her raise an eyebrow as she looked at the caller.
“Olivia? What’s my agent doing calling me on a…”
“No – no I understand. They really want to see me?
“Okay – Monday at eleven at the studios then.”
“No – surprise. Brian Goldstein and Cassandra Stone want to see me at the studio Monday for a screen test.”
“Interesting – you may have the morning off in that case,” Maddie said as the others came out. “I need to see you all tomorrow in the office at ten – there’s a possible matter I need to brief you all on.”
“Welcome back, Miss Cassandra,” Eleanor said as Cassandra walked into the house, taking off her glasses as she did so. “Master Rick is in the drawing room, and the children are in the pool outside.”
“Thanks Eleanor – any chance of getting some coffee?”
“I’ll bring it through,” the housekeeper said with a bow as Cassandra went into the room.
“Hey,” Rick said as he looked over from his seat in front of the couch, “how did the meeting go?”
“Very well,” his wife said as she sat down, and handed him the clear file, “some suggested meeting dates.”
“Okay – I’ll check our schedules and set up some time to talk to them,” Rick said as Eleanor brought the coffee in, setting it down on the low table in front of them.
“So what’s happening in the world?”
“Not sure – something seems to have gone down in Rodeo Drive though,” Rick said as he turned the volume up.
“… according to eye witnesses, a group of women all dressed in the same manner as Audrey Hepburn when she played Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s approached the main entrance to the Galleria di Gioielli at ten thirty this morning, and entered the store together. What happened next has been described as one of the most violent and unexpected robberies in the history of this town.”
“What,” Rick said as he looked at the screen, where a woman who was clearly still in shock was interviewed.
“They walked in… produced these shotguns and started shooting… I saw one man shot in the stomach and chest, another shot in the back… They then used something to break all the glass in the cabinets, and just emptied everything into their bags before they walked out…”
“Ella, what do the police have to say?”
“Jack, they confirm that five people were killed during the raid. Although no names have yet been released, it is rumoured that one of the fatalities was Antonio Corelli, the owner of the jewel emporium. The security system of the galleria was also destroyed during the attack, while many of the remaining staff and customers have been taken to local hospitals for treatment for minor injuries and shock.”
“Ella, could this possibly be linked to the raid last June?”
“Police are not saying anything at this time, Jack, merely that they are pursuing all inquiries.”
“Thank you Ella – and to recap the story of the hour, a group of armed women raided the Galleria di Gioielli on Rodeo Drive this morning, killing five and taking a fortune in jewels and gems from the store. Coming up, Bob is in the Eye in the Sky, looking at…”
Turning off the television, Rick looked at Cassandra.
“What is it?”
“Thank god you had that meeting this morning – you might have been down there instead, and I would have hated for you to get caught up in that.”
“Hey – I’m only playing a sadistic and vicious female bank robber,” Cassandra said as she leaned over and kissed her husband. “Have you eaten yet?”
“Yeah – you?”
“I had some lunch with Maddie Moore. Why don’t we take the kids somewhere this afternoon – a last treat before the school year begins?”
6 pm EST
Shirley took a sip from her mug and smiled as her connection to Hong Kong was established.
“Hello Catherine,” she said as Catherine Lu appeared, “how was your flight?”
“Tiring as always Shirley,” Cathy said with a smile, “but I have recovered, and it is nice to be back in my own home,”
“How are the girls?”
“As always seems to be the way with youth, they recovered more quickly. They are undergoing their usual morning session with Helen as we speak.”
“This is good news,” Shirley said quietly, “and I must say, things are quieter here as well.”
“I can imagine so. So how may I serve you today?”
“I have a couple of bits of news for you, first is that you will be receiving a large consignment from the Los Angeles office.”
“I caught something on CNN.” Catherine smiled. “I am sure we can do something with the goods.”
“The second matter will require more direct action. From one of our intercepts we have word that a Mogolan businessman with ties to the mining industry is in Hong Kong to meet with an official from the Chinese Ministry of Overseas Trade, and what did surprise me, someone from a large Taiwanese corporation.”
“Now that is indeed news.” Cathy sat at attention. “Co-Operation between the two China’s is both difficult, and rare.”
“I wondered if they might be seeking a non Japanese source of funding?”
“That might make sense Shirley.”
“Could you maybe arrange to ‘interview’ the principals involved, maybe make it look like our Japanese friends got wind of the meeting and attacked it?”
“That might be possible…Hmmm…I will need to consult with Helen and Marina.”
“Good, in the meantime you’ll find a file with all relevant information in your e-mail.”
“I understand. What word from our friends in Africa?”
“John Vosloo returns today, but we have discussed matters, and we will coordinate plans. Let us have our fun first, though.”
“And when the word gets back to Japan?”
“Then our contacts there stand ready to strike.”
Ocean Grill, 384 Columbus Av
“Well, how has it been with a quiet house, Kerry,” Juliette said as she looked at Kelly Rochermann, sipping her wine.
“Very, very strange – I envy you Claire. At least you still have Becky around the place.”
“Well, you’ll be seeing plenty of them this year for the Debs line anyway,” Claire, said with a smile. “How was Heather when she got back Nessa?”
“Better than I thought she was going to be – apparently Jo’s getting on fine with her roommate, and she’s talked to her again tonight.”
“So who is designing Abigail’s debutante wardrobe Diana?” Eve asked as she ate her lobster in as ladylike a manner as she could manage.
“Bats, she did such a marvelous job with Carina…”
“She’s also doing most of Angel’s darling.” Mandy interrupted.
“I take it you’ll both be getting friends and family prices?”
“I almost suggested to Alice that she should do them for free, considering the advertising value of both girls being top models.”
“And did she bite?”
“I think she thought about it…but no we are paying.” Diana laughed.
“So I hear on the wind that you are going to do a ‘Night with Eve Stone’ at St Angela’s Eve?” Tonia said to change the subject.
“Well Jeannie it seems can’t get enough of my modeling stories, and she thought that maybe I could do a sort of open house talk as a fundraiser for both the Kirkham Fund, and for Parkinson’s research.”
“Well I for one think it’s a marvelous idea.” Nessa spoke up, “put Paulie and me, plus escorts down for four tickets.”
“Well we are still organizing a date, etc. But yes I’ll reserve tickets.” Eve smiled.
“Just do not tell that story about me and Sigi.” Diana shook her head.
“Oh yes,” Eve chuckled, “I bet even Juliette doesn’t know that story.”
“Scandal yet?” Kelly looked up from her crab. “Definitely count me in for tickets as well then.”
“I also hear that Grace had given Abby and Jeannie an idea for a Christmas event.”
“Oh yes, Kelly,” Diana said with a smile, “I heard Abby on the phone to Casey and saying she would tell her more on Monday.”
“Oh? What is this idea,” Juliette said as she cut into her tuna.
“The St Angela’s Fashion Contest.”
“The whaty what?”
“They are going to challenge the girls to design a gown for a Christmas party, with a prize to the winner, and a fashion show on the last week of term.”
“Oh man, this is going to be good…”
The ladies looked at Juliette as she sipped her wine, and laughed. “Good in a good way,” she said as she put her glass down.
Sunday 30th August
6 pm Local Time
The tall dark skinned man walked into the building, flanked on each side by well dressed men with bulges in their jackets, and looked round. The only other person was a man in a military style uniform, who walked forward as he saw the three men.
“Mister Gubame? You are expected – if you would come this way please?”
“Of course,” he said in a cultured English accent as he followed the man, his two escorts two steps behind as they walked across the floor to a door on the far side of the room.
“In here,” the uniformed man said with a bow as eh opened the door, allowing Gubame and the two men in.
“Ah Mister Gubame,” one of the two Chinese gentlemen inside said as the door was closed, “a pleasure to see you again. May I introduce my friend Sung Ho from Taiwan Securities?”
“A pleasure,” Sung said as he shook Gubame’s hand, “I hope we can be a new and profitable partner in your business.”
“Perhaps you can explain why your friend is here, Mister Po,” Gubame said, “is there a problem with the Japanese?”
“Relationships are strained, and it makes good business sense to explore possibilities if we arrive at a point where we need alternative sources of support,” Po said as they sat in the leather armchairs. “But first, perhaps we can enjoy some refreshment.”
Picking up a hand bell and ringing it, he waited as a second door opened and a woman came in, dressed in a robe and bowing respectfully.
“Drinks for all three of us,” Po said, the woman bowing as she walked out again.
In the hall outside, the young man suddenly looked round from his position. He was sure he had heard something, but could see nothing. He took one last look round, and then resumed his vigil.
The first he knew of the fact he was not alone was the thin wire as it was pulled tightly round his neck, crushing his windpipe as he slowly choked to death, the last thing he saw two females in dark clothing as the life drained from him.
“Thank you,” Po said as the woman laid the tray down on the low table, “you may leave us now.”
She bowed and walked out backwards as Po poured the rice wine, moving into the ante room as she did so. The hand that placed itself over her mouth took her by surprise, as did the female voice that said “you are safe, but you must sleep.”
That was the last thing she heard before falling unconscious, two of the three black clad women laying her on the floor before they looked through the door.
“I was unaware that Taiwan and Mainland China agreed on anything,” Gubame said with a smile.
“We do occasionally have mutual goals,” Po said as Sung Ho smiled. “I have briefed him on the general details, and also of some of the issues we have recently experienced.”
“A small way of putting it,” Gubame said. “Whoever this force is are highly effective, and can move in the jungle undetected.”
“Skilled, but not unbeatable,” Po said quietly. “The reinforcements we are sending will soon…”
He suddenly looked intently at the door from which the drinks had come.
“Is there a problem,” Gubame said quietly.
“I am not sure,” Po said as the African clicked his fingers. “Check it,” he said quietly.
And then clicked his fingers again.
All three men turned to see his escort sitting on the floor, their eyes vacant, and the deep gash across their throats the evidence of their fate.
“What the…” Sung Ho reached into his pocket, only to freeze as a shirukan hit him in the neck, his eyes darting as he found himself unable to move.
“A simple neurotoxin,” a voice said in a Japanese accent, “both of you will remain where you are, save to remove your weapons and toss them to the far side of the room.”
Gubame saw the two women standing in front of him, dressed in black with only their eyes showing, one of them with a bow strung and an arrow aimed at Po, at the same time feeling the cold steel of a blade as it pressed against his throat.
“Who are you,” Po demanded as he looked at Sung Ho.
“Master Yoshimi sends his regards,” the masked woman said, “and wishes to understand why you would dishonor him with this meeting.”
“Yoshimi… Why does he think we dishonour him?”
“You are here, with him,” the woman said as she looked at the paralysed man. “Why does Xia Feng sanction this meeting, if not to begin to freeze him out?”
“He… He meant no disrespect,” Po said, “but the recent problems…”
“Including your attack on his girlfriends? That was uncalled for, and restitution must be made.”
“Restitution? What do you?"
The woman with the bow turned and fired, a new arrow in her bow as the first one pierced Sung Ho in the heart, killing him instantly. Po looked at the woman, who stared back at him with eyes clear, as the woman behind Gubame said “You are the alien here – give me one reason why I should not kill you as your escort died.”
“If I do not return, the workers will die.”
“Untrue,” the other woman said, “we know you are merely the mouthpiece, and a mouthpiece can be replaced.”
“How dare you, I…”
“Did we say you could speak,” the woman said as he felt the edge of the blade gently stroke over his neck.
“As I was saying – Master Yoshimi is most displeased, and wishes to send a message to you and your leaders.”
Po was starting to sweat, as he said “and what is the message?”
“First things first – Master Yoshimi wishes to know when the next delivery of supplies is due – is it Tuesday or has it been brought up, given the extra manpower coming?”
Po twitched slightly as he said “No, it is sti…”
The arrow pierced his throat, as Gubame watched.
“Wednesday – the mine is expecting them Friday, so Wednesday.”
“Better – you have been honest, so we will be honest with you.”
“We have no respect for a man who profits from innocents,” the woman behind Gubame said as the knife sliced through his throat, his eyes rolling back as he bled out.
The masked woman took a brush from her outfit, and dipped it into the blood, using it to paint a symbol on the forehead of the two Chinese corpses -死竜
The sign of the Death Dragons, as the three figures left the room, disappearing into the darkness.
9 pm Local Time
“Well our friends in Hong Kong should be about their business right now.” Natalya said as she looked at her watch.
“To have access to as renowned an assassin as Silent Death, is indeed an asset.” Tamiko smiled.
“Indeed – we employ her services only for very special occasions, such as these,” Natalya said, remembering Helen and her with Dominique in St Petersburg.
“Well how long before the dung hits the fan here?” Niki asked as they watched Victoria and Louise parading their latest finery to their man.
“Well, we thought we might prime him for the news from Hong Kong,” Natalya said as she saw Yoshimi clap his hands in joy.
“I need to get myself a gown like that.” Jill mused as Louise posed in the fishtail evening dress.
“Mind on business, Jill dear.” Natalya chuckled. “But yes I do see what you mean.”
“I wish I had an expense account so that I could afford it.” Jill pursed her lips. “If I wore it to the Embassy ball, could I write it off as a business expense do you think?”
“With the British taxman?” Natalya laughed.
“True.” Jill sighed.
“Hold on, what is happening?” Niki was suddenly alert as two of the Yakuza’s major aides rushed into the room.
They started talking excitedly to Yoshimi, who looked at Louise and Victoria.
“Girls, please allow us some time alone – I will join you shortly,” he said quietly, Louise taking Victoria by the arm and walking her out.
“What are they talking about,” Natalya said as they looked at the screen.
“To use an American colloquialism, the shit has hit the fan,” Tamiko said. “They have received a report of the death of three business men, a Red Army guard and two bodyguards, the bodies found by police in Hong Kong. There was also a woman there, who reported she was knocked out by someone dressed in black.”
“How very interesting,” Natalya said, “and why, pray tell, are they upset?”
“Partly because one of the business men was the senior official under Xia Feng,” Tamiko said, “and another was one of the Mogolan contacts. But that’s not the kicker, as you put it.”
“Do tell,” Niki said quietly.
"The Chinese think it was our friends here." Tamiko translated. "The police found a mark painted in blood on the forehead of the two Chinese and the Red Army officer – the sign of the Death Dragons.”
“Only on the Chinese bodies? Why?”
“Because, Jill,” Natalya said, “they regard the Africans as unworthy, and would not mark them in that way. It appears Silent Death has researched this well.”
“Indeed – but Yoshimi is now demanding to know who sanctioned this hit.”
Natalya watched as Yoshimi walked round the room, gesticulating as one of his aides checked on the tablet, and then looked up in shock.
“He’s asking what he has found out,” Tamiko said as Yoshimi took the tablet, and then looked at the other aide.
“Just out of interest, my dear Natalya,” Tamiko said, “did your colleague plant something in their records?”
“I have absolutely no idea,” Natalya said, Niki watching as Yoshimi gestured to the other aide, who grabbed his colleague and dragged him out of the room, screaming and protesting.
“That should reduce his forces considerably – he is honour bound to remove anyone who reports to him,” Tamiko said with a smile. “I could not have done better myself.”
“So what now,” Niki asked.
“It is time for some of the Chinese scum my father keeps round for such dirty work to hit one of the Death Dragons drug fronts.” Tamiko smiled. “We will make sure it looks like retaliation for what happened in Hong Kong.”
“That should bring the pot to the boil.” Niki laughed.
“Indeed - the Death Dragons may be angry now, they will be incandescent though after this hit.”
“All the while that they fight each other gives our friends in Mogola time to organize and prepare to strike there as well.” Natalya watched the screen.
“Are we missing any tricks?” Jill stood hand on hip thinking, “Is there anything else we can do to make things worse?”
“Oh I have a couple of ideas.” Natalya smiled, “but they can wait till after the raid on the drugs place.”
9 pm Local Time
“How did it go?” Catherine asked as the three black clad women appeared from the kitchen of her home.
“As you ordered Mistress.” Helen removed her black mask and bowed. “The targets were neutralized, and the message sent.”
“We did just what you asked of us.” Kylie similarly removed the black scarf from her face.
“It was our honour to serve you Mistress,” Kylie and Marina said as they both bowed formally.
“And how did your pupils perform Helen?”
“Totally to my satisfaction,” Helen said with calm pride. “They were cool, collected, and efficient. I could have asked for no more.”
“Then that is indeed good news.” Catherine smiled. “You have served me and the cause well tonight.”
All three bowed down as Catherine picked up several pieces of paper.
“Now getting back to normal – Kylie, your friend Natalia has been calling all night about you two going shopping tomorrow.”
“I had better ring her then, if I may be excused?”
Catherine nodded as Kylie bowed once more, and then left the room.
“Helen, Penny has phoned three times for you. Oh and Marina there was a call from New Zealand for you. Sometimes I feel like you girls consider me your personal message service.”
“Forgive us, Mistress – it will not happen again,” Marina and Helen said as they bowed and left the room.
“I think it will,” Cathy said quietly as she shook her head and went back to her book.
Monday 31st August
9 pm local time
“We told them they can keep anything they find, cash or drugs.” Tamiko said as the four of them sat in a window booth in the third floor restaurant opposite the dry cleaners. All four were casually dressed, not wishing to draw attention to themselves as they looked round.
“So tell me how the Death Dragons operation works again?’ Jill asked.
“You take your clothes in and by code order your drugs. You pay, and when you return for your cleaned clothes, your narcotics of choice are discreetly hidden in with your clothes in the bag.”
“It’s an old school trick.” Natalya remarked, “Capone’s bootleggers were doing just the same back in the twenties.”
“Well it might be old fashioned,” their Japanese friend said as a customer came out, “but it still works quite well.”
“That it does Tamiko.”
“So from up here we should get a good view of the action?”
“Niki you make this sound like a private box at the Tokyo Dome for a Giants baseball game.” Tamiko shook her head at the Hawaiian.
“Well in a way it is?”
“Except if you are out in this game, then you will be dead.” Natalya said solemnly.
“Well while we wait for the game to start, what does everyone fancy to eat?” Jill turned her attention to the menu.
Tamiko gestured the waiter over and whispered in his ear, Natalya watching as he nodded and then hurried off. “I have suggested we have an off-menu banquet – a selection of foods that I think you will enjoy,” she said as she looked at the others.
As the waiter returned with a selection of tempura battered snacks and dips, Jill nodded and said “excellent choice – looks as if it is getting busier over there.”
“Indeed,” Kimi said, “quite a few customers coming and going now.”
“It is getting close to peak time – all those tired executives and young bored people needing their nightly fix. Please give my compliments to the chef, the prawns are magnificent.”
“Of course, Miss Tanaka,” the waiter said as he bowed and turned away.
“You don’t own this restaurant, do you,” Natalya said as she dipped the batter coated vegetable into the sauce.
“No – but respect is, as I am sure you know, so important in our society,” Tamiko said with a smile.
“Hang on,” Jill said, “something’s happening.”
The four women looked out of the window as four jeeps pulled up, two blocking the road either side of the dry cleaners as the other two pulled up outside.
“Indeed,” Tamiko said as she wiped her lips, “they have strict orders not to fire in this direction, and to dissuade any intentions of the residents of that building to do so. Note the blacked access – unworthy as they are, they also know if they cause the death of innocents, they will pay.”
Natalya watched as ten men got out of the two jeeps, and entered the store. Six more men walked from the other cars and followed them in, but as the last of them entered there was the sound of gunfire, as the window of the business was blown out.
“Tsk – no finesse,” Tamiko said as the girls watched the Chinese gangsters through the shattered window, four of them holding guns over some customers as the rest forced their way into the back of the building.
The sound of gunfire got louder, other customers looking out of the windows as there were flashes of light and bursts of sound.
Suddenly, a Japanese worker jumped out of the window, brandishing a katana as he faced some of the Chinese gunmen.
“How fascinating,” Tamiko said, “one of the Death Dragons fancies himself a swordsman. Observe the way he stands, taut, ready to defend himself.”
“You have to admire his courage,” Natalya said as she looked at the four Chinese gangsters facing him.
“Indeed, but what is that saying they have in America – never bring a knife to a gunfight?”
One of the gangsters glanced up, Tamiko nodding slightly as the man shouted, and the swordsman was cut down in a hail of bullets from the side.
“I mourn the passing of a brave man,” Tamiko said quietly, as the gangsters went back in, returning with large canvas bags that they loaded into the jeeps.
“What of the customers?”
“They will be unharmed – they may be addicts, but they are not Death Dragons,” Tamiko said as the last gangster came out, chasing the customers away and getting into the jeep as they drove off, flames starting to lick the inside of the store.
“Waiter,” Tamiko said as she called him over, “kindly place a call to the Tokyo Fire Department. The dry cleaners opposite seems to have caught fire.”
“Of course, Miss Tanaka,” he said as the table was cleared, and the main courses delivered.
“Have a good day,” Denice said as she waved Erica away from the door of their apartment building, feeling an immense side of pride as she ran to the waiting vehicle.
“Hey!” Erica grinned as she climbed into the back seat of Caroline’s car alongside Pepsi and Ama.
“Sorry I’m a couple of minutes late,” Caroline said, “but someone, and I’m not naming names, was on the telephone to her boyfriend in England and delayed us.”
“Alright, I’ve already apologized.” Pepsi grinned at the other two girls. “If it’s any consolation, I made him miss his lunch.”
“Okay,” Caroline said, “this cross town traffic isn’t too bad, we should make it easily.”
“Looking forward to day one proper Erica?” Ama asked.
“Yes, at least I start with Math with Miss Kelly, that should be fun…”
“Fun?” Ama and Pepsi both shook their heads as they looked at Erica.
“Oh dear God don’t say that you are a genius like Anna?” Pepsi looked pained.
“I’m not bad,” Erica said, “and anyway I like problem solving.”
“Oh pity the other girls in your class.” Ama looked skywards. “At least we are spared the weekly prayers to the gods from Jeannie to be spared Math.”
“What do you start with girls?”
“English Lit with Coach Nightingale,” Ama said as she looked out of the window.
“Chaucer in Middle English yet,” Pepsi looked pained, “I’ve started reading it and it’s like a foreign language, I thought it was supposed to be ENGLISH literature.”
“Don’t worry, Chaucer is good bawdy fun.” Caroline called from the front seat, “I think you’ll end up enjoying it.”
“If I ever understand it.”
“Pepsi, just wait until you try some Romantics poetry – or even better, Burns.”
Burns. O wad some
Pow'r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us, An' foolish notion:
What airs in dress an' gait wad lea'e us, An' ev'n devotion!”
All three girls looked at Caroline, who shook her head as she said “Put it this way – understand Chaucer, and Shakespeare is much easier.”
As she said this, Caroline pulled up behind Abby’s car. “Right – all out that are getting out,” she said as the three girls stepped out. “The girls have football practice after school Erica – what about you?”
“I have this Mathletes meeting, so we should be finished at the same time,” Erica said.
“Good – see you all then,” Caroline said as Ama closed the door, and then drove off.
“Hey gang,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself from her grandfather’s car, Becca and Nikki walking with her, “ready for the sophomore year?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be – where’s Doc?”
“Right here,” Anna said as she appeared with Letty, who high fived Abby.
“Good morning Erica,” Jess said as she arrived with Dawn and Lynn, “ready to begin.”
“Oh yes,” Erica said as Poppy walked right past them, “let’s roll.”
They joined the throng of girls going through the gates and into the main hall, taking their seats as they talked with each other about the holidays and the year ahead,
The hall then fell into silence as the doors opened and the faculty walked out, with Kate Hardisty in her jumper, waistcoat and trousers, Wilhelmina Tennant in her tweed jacket and skirt and high collared blouse, and Grace Brand in a black jacket over a green jersey dress, and heels.
The room stood as they came in, before Miss Tennant said “please be seated” and the school sat down.
“Welcome back from the summer vacation,” she said as she looked round the room, “I trust you are all rested, and looking forward eagerly to the year ahead.
“As you will have heard, there have been some staffing changes during the summer, and the freshmen were introduced to them on Thursday. For the rest of you, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Mrs. Grace Brand, our new Dean of Students.”
Grace stood and smiled as the room applauded her, Jeannie most of all.
“Mrs. Brand will be taking charge of student matters, including discipline and events, so if you have an issue to discuss, approach her first. I also welcome our two new teachers, Miss Nightingale for English Literature and Mrs. Craig for Chemistry. Please join me in welcoming them to your faculty.”
Sarah and Harriet blushed as the room applauded them.
“I wish us to start this year promptly, so allow me to remind you that societies and after school activities may be signed up for throughout today. In particular, Miss Nightingale and Mrs. Craig are holding open trials for this year’s soccer team and for the new jazz band after school today, so report to the gymnasium and music room if you are interested.
“And with that, let us start our journey with the school song.”
“Well, here we go,” Jeannie said as she wheeled her way into the English class, moving herself behind a chair as Becca, Ama, Doc, Pepsi and Nikki sitting alongside her.
“Have you tried to read this,” Pepsi whispered to Doc as she took her book out.
“Yeah – a real challenge. I like it,” Doc said with a smile, Pepsi shaking her head as Sarah came in.
“Right – books away for this first lesson girls,” Sarah said as she looked at the class. “Be honest – how many of you have started to read the prologue and start The Knight’s Tale?”
Pepsi and a few others, including Doc, raised their hands.
“Good – and how many understood it.”
All of them lowered their hands.
“Don’t worry – that’s to be expected,” Sarah said, “because like Shakespeare, to fully understand it you need context. I want you to watch this short video about Chaucer and the background to the tales, and take notes – there will be a short quiz afterwards.”
“All right, I get the feeling Chaucer might not be that bad,” Pepsi said as she sat at the table. “Now I get the idea, all I need is a translator program.”
“Good luck with that,” Jeannie said, “I know Miss Nightingale of old – there’s a but coming down the line.”
“And that but would be,” Ama said as she took a forkful of salad and put it in her mouth.
“I don’t know – Chaucer was not on the National Curriculum in my old school. But when we did To Kill A Mockingbird, we went to see it at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park – and had to criticize it in class the next day.”
“So this is going to be interesting,” Nikki said with a smile as Erica walked by with Jess, Dawn and Lynn.
“So Erica seems to be settling in,” Pepsi said as they sat at a nearby table.
“So the new girls seems to be settling in,” Letty said as she sat with Abby and Brooke Paget.
“Certainly looks like it – they all seem to be mixing with a couple of exceptions,” Brooke said as she looked at a group of six girls sitting at a side table.
“Hmm – the Poppy Posse,” Abby said, “Mrs. Brand told me about them this morning. She’s worried they may become another group that consider themselves superior.”
“Any thoughts,” Letty said.
“Have they signed up to any groups or clubs yet?”
“Not sure, but I’ll find out,” Letty said quietly.
“It is strange,” Kate said as she sat with Grace, “how the school seems to change with each new year.”
“How do you mean,” Grace asked as she sipped her drink.
“Two years ago, when Judy McNally was one of the head girls, there was an almost anarchic feel to the school at first. Then we had the Kirkham tragedy, and the school joined together in mourning – and then it was almost war between us and Sacred Heart. It was touch and go if that year would graduate at one point – and now they are Sophomores in college, and we’re going to a concert at Yale where Judy is a soloist.
“Then last year, the school took on a calmer air, with a lot more self discipline – and it showed. You saw the commencement video for the 2015 class – an amazing array of talents and college admissions.”
“So this year?”
“I don’t really know – yet. Give it a week, and I’ll have a better idea,” Kate said, and then she turned and looked across the refectory.
“Or maybe not that long…” she said quietly.
“I beg your pardon,” Jeannie said as she turned her wheelchair round and looked at the young girl, her friends sniggering behind her.
“You heard me,” Poppy said quietly, “she may be very clever, but she’s still a little girl from the projects, and she does not belong here.”
“And I come from a council estate in England – are you saying I do not belong here?”
“No – you pay your fees, but she has to rely on charity to…”
“I know true poverty, true desperation,” Ama said quietly as she stood up, staring at Poppy, “you have no idea, and no right to say that.”
“I will say what I believe – I have the right to do so – and Kirkham scholar or not, she will never be welcome in my home.”
“She will always be welcome in mine,” Pepsi said as she stood up.
“Well, she would be – you’re the very lucky daughter of a florist.”
“And you Poppy are a nasty little snob.” Doc said as she stood up and glared at her. “But two play this game you know. I would guess that you’ve heard of the Saints and Sinners, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” Poppy said as Annie and Ingrid stood with Grace and Kate, “but I’m surprised that a gutter snipe like you has.”
“Well,” Doc said with a smile, “it might come as a surprise, that scholarship girl or not, both me and my family are members in good stead, as are Pepsi’s family…Oh and by the way her boyfriend Jack is also Viscount Millingham, the heir to the Marquess of Ordford.”
“He is?” Poppy looked at Pepsi with genuine surprise.
“Yes,” Doc said as she walked up to the young girl, “and I should add that the whole extended Fitzstuart family are close friends of all ours.”
“Still doesn’t make her anything,” she said as she sneered at Erica, “but a poor little nerdy creep from the projects.”
“Oh I think you’ll find that Erica and her mother will soon be absorbed into our little coterie…” Doc said quietly, “which is more then will ever to happen to you Poppy.”
“We will see.” Poppy hissed as she and her friends turned and walked away.
“Was all that true?” Erica whispered.
“Yes,” Doc said as she sat down, “and I sort of forgot to tell her that my boyfriend is a van Roon.”
“Who are they?”
“Oh you’ll find out.” Anna chuckled.
“Yeah – welcome to our group,” Pepsi said as she looked at Jess, Dawn and Lynn, “all of you if you want. Busy on Saturday?”
“What just happened?” Grace asked Annie.
“I think Anna just blackballed the entire Ashley family from ever joining our social group.”
“Oh that might disappoint Pippa.” Grace smiled wickedly.
“Well I think the group was waiting on you to yay or nay her Grace, but I think Doc just deprived you of that chance.”
“Indeed – makes it a less difficult thing to handle, but we need to do something to nip this in the bud now.”
11 am PT
Warner Brothers Studios
“All right,” Brian Goldstein said as he looked at Cassandra and Mike Babbage, “send her in.”
The assistant went to the door and opened it, saying “you can come in now” as JD walked into the room, wearing a black leather jacket over a blue blouse and jeans.
“Right then,” Cassandra said as she looked down at her notes, “name please?”
“Jane Donatella Carlucci – JD for short,” she said as she sat down.
“Your agent was kind enough to send us your resume,” Mike said as he looked down it, “you’ve appeared in a number of television shows I see.”
“Indeed – CSI New York, things like that.”
“I’ve reviewed your work on that extensively,” Cassandra said, “and I was impressed with your presence, even in a mainly non-speaking role. What have you heard about this project?”
“I’ve read the announcements in Variety – you are doing a film based on the so-called Pussycat Gang,” JD said quietly.
“Indeed – while we have most of the main roles cast, I wonder if you would do a reading for me,” Cassandra said as she held a few pages of script up, JD standing and taking them before she glanced over the typed words.
“In this scene, the gang leader, Miss Panther, is talking to the latest recruit to the Gang, codenamed Miss Bobcat – a Southern girl. Read through, and let me know when you’re ready to begin.”
“Can you tell me something about the character,” JD said, “Height, age?”
“In the film, she’s in her early twenties,” Brian said, “improvise from there.”
Nodding, JD took a deep breath, and stood up, turning the chair and sitting across it as she said “”Shur ah’ve head of you, dahlin. Ah guess Ah should thank you for getting me out of that hellhole.”
“Well,” Cassandra purred, “I saw the way you dealt with that fat little idiot who thought you were his property.”
JD grinned as she leaned forward. “The look in his piggy little eyes when I popped him between them – Ah’ll sleep well with that. So what do I need to do, sugah?”
“Stop calling me sugah would be a good start,” Cassandra said coldly, “we address each other by name. I am Miss Panther – and what shall we call you?”
“Wahl, if ah’m going to be called after a cat,” JD purred as she stood up and walked in front of Cassandra, “Ah think ah want to be one from home. Do y’all have ah bobcat in the group?”
“Not yet,” Cassandra said as they stood eye to eye, “interested?”
“Do bears do that thing in the woods, Miss Panther, dahlin?”
“Good – the others will meet you when we prepare for our next target – but they may wish to see your worth. We have a simple test – kill or be killed. What do you say to that, Miss Bobcat?”
“Mah daddy had a saying – never bite the hand that feeds ya. Ah’m in if yu’ll have me.”
“Welcome to the group,” Cassandra said as they shook hands, Brian and Mike watching.
“So,” JD said with a smile, “what do you think?”
“Not bad – where are you currently employed?”
“Xavier International, in their Media Training and Production Group.”
“Well, JD,” Brian said as he looked at Mike, “we’d like to invite you to do a screen test for us for one of the secondary roles. Can you come later today – say four o’clock – and we’ll do it then?”
“I can arrange that – and thank you for considering me for the opportunity,” JD said as she shook their hands, and then walked out.”
“So what do you think,” Cassandra said as she looked at the other two.
“Oh, she has the talent and the presence – let’s see how she does later, but we may have our Miss Bobcat.”
Wilhelmina looked out of her office window as the girls left the school, laughing and talking to each other.
“So, how did day one proper go ladies?” Wilhelmina asked as she turned and walked back to where Kate and Grace were sitting.
“Pretty well,” Kate Hardisty looked up from her coffee. “The usual problems with some students timetables, etc, etc. But all in all I’ve known a lot worse opening days.”
“And how was your day Grace?” The Principal asked her new dean.
“Not bad,” Grace said as she checked her notes, “it was a bit hectic at first, and I suppose there was some culture shock, but I think I’ll soon get the hang of things.”
“Well even on day one we have some decisions to make ladies.” Wilhelmina looked down at her notes. “First Abigail and Jeannie have asked if we can stage an event with Eve Stone to raise funds for the Kirkham Scholarships and for research into Parkinson’s disease.”
“Why for a second charity as well?” Kate asked.
“Eve’s husband Stephen has Parkinson’s.” Grace spoke.
“Ah, that explains it…well I certainly approve.”
“I agree with Kate,” Grace nodded, “Eve has had a fascinating life and she certainly has that Irish gift of the gab, it will probably be a highly entertaining evening.”
“So we agree, and I’ll set a date?” Wilhelmina enquired.
“Yes,” the two other women nodded their approval.
“Next thing is the refectory. After last year’s catering problems I think at least one of us should eat lunch there each day.”
“Agreed, I think its good for the kids morale to see us in there.” Grace nodded, “and besides compared to my old school, eating there is like eating in a quality restaurant.”
“That sounds like a school I once taught at,” Kate smiled. “I agree though it is good for the students.”
“Alright that is agreed then.” Wilhelmina marked her notes. “Next is the Freshman dance…”
“Which I understand is part of my remit.” Grace looked up from her coffee. “I’ve asked the home room teachers to ask for student volunteers to help organize it. I will hold a meeting with them Thursday lunchtime.”
“That should be perfect.” Wilhelmina smiled to herself; Grace was going to fit into her team beautifully.
“One concern – there was a small disagreement at lunchtime with some of the students. They dealt with it amongst themselves, but I am concerned it may lead to problems later.”
“On the first day? That suggests some of the new intake disagreed with the more senior girls.”
“As I say, it was dealt with by the girls in a mature manner – but I will still keep an eye on matters.”
“All right, but if we need to get involved you will do so?”
“I hope it will not need that, but I will keep you informed.”
“Well, that’s the year really underway,” Grace said as she put her bag on the chair.
“Hi how did the management meeting go?” Sarah asked as she pressed a cup of tea into Grace’s hand.
“Not at all bad, and you were right Harriet, Wilhelmina’s style is very collegial, she likes decisions made by consensus.”
“I thought I’d judged her right.” Harriet spoke as she came out of the kitchen. “Dinner should be in about 30 minutes.”
“Sounds good to me.” Grace sat down, took a deep drink, and said “so how did recruiting go?”
“Not bad Grace,” Harriet said as she sat down, “I will maybe need to share some girls with the school orchestra, but I found a few others who play instruments but have never wanted to play in the orchestra.”
“Oh like whom?”
“Lyssa McBride, she plays a very mean Tenor Saxophone. A drummer called Cartney Floyd, and a girl called Melody Hardy, who is most appropriately named since she both plays clarinet, and can sure sing a sultry solo as well.”
“What about your soccer squad Sarah?”
“Well we had a quick meeting, the exciting thing is I have three years of Ama, and four of Jess. But my best news is that a Junior girl called Sunny Adamson came to the meeting only to wait for her ride, but she’s a big tall girl, and I asked her to just try stopping some shots, and I think I have a goalkeeper.”
“Nice.” Grace finished her tea. “Now for a quiet evening…”
“Now if he was here to explain it to me, then Chaucer might be fun.” Pepsi laughed as she, Ama and Erica watched Paul Bettany playing the poet in the movie A Knights Tale. The three girls were sitting in Ama’s apartment, a pile of cushions behind them as they stared at the screen.
“What are you talking about?” Caroline asked as she came in and found the girls laughing.
“We were discussing Chaucer Mom.” Ama smiled.
“Are you sure you weren’t rather discussing his…”
“Caroline! What kind of girls do you think we are?” Pepsi said in mock horror.
“Oh I think I know very well.” Caroline laughed.
“It was lovely of you to bring me here for dinner tonight Caroline.” Erica thanked the Englishwoman.
“Well with your Mom working late, it makes sense you both eat here…it’s not that we don’t have enough, Pepsi probably eats here more often then she does at home…Don’t you?”
Caroline began to laugh again as Pepsi stuck her tongue out at her.
“Hey – what’s so funny,” Annie said as she came out of her room.
“Bettany envy – how’s Cari?”
“Settled back at Yale – apparently Judith is now the star walker of the nursery.”
“She’s going to be a charmer that one,” Caroline said as Erica looked round.
“Miss Kelly, I’ll give mom that letter later tonight,” she said with a smile, “and thanks for considering me.”
“No problem – I’m sorry you had that trouble at lunchtime though.”
“I was expecting it – someone was bound to use the Heights to belittle me at some point. They’ll have to do better than that though.”
“Quite right,” Pepsi said as the girls high fived each other.
“How bad was it,” Caroline said to Annie as they went into the kitchen.
“Poppy Ashley trying to assert her authority and failing – Doc laid into her verbally.”
“Hmm – never a good idea to provoke Anna Carlton…”
The Richmond Mansion
“So how was the first day,” Heather said as she looked at Jo in her college room.
“Busy – opening lectures all day, and then training tonight,” Jo said as she smiled back, “so I’ll grab some food in a little while, and then turn in.”
“So the joys of college level math?”
“A burden I have to bear with fortitude and dignity,” Jo said with a smile, “plus a very good book Annie recommended.”
“Hello Jo’s Sister,” Hope said as she waved and walked past.
“And the roomie?”
“We’re working out our rules – she prefers to work in the library, so I get the room to myself a bit of the time.”
“Well that’s something…”
“Enough of me though – how are you sis?”
“I’m good – the doc was in town today, so we had lunch, and Shirley’s keeping me busy at the moment as well.”
“I’ll check the traffic later, when I have a chance to read the e-mails. How was the school run today?”
“Fun,” Abby said as she appeared in a second screen. “The place is going to be different this year.”
“Good first day?”
“Not bad – we had a little fun at lunch, but Doc took care of it.”
“Oh – anything you need to worry about?”
“Nah – it’ll blow over hopefully.”
“Tired?” Carina looked up as Judy closed the door, removed her coat and slumped into the other armchair.
“Well the performance is soon, and at least you won’t be rehearsing every night.”
“I know,” Judy said as she rubbed her eyes, “and maybe David and I will be able to have a real date, and not just a quick meal before, or after, I get to play the organ.”
“Yes you’ll be able to play his organ…”
“Carina von Furstenheim you have a very dirty mind for a princess.” Judy laughed loudly.
“Pure little me?”
“I will not even dignify that…” Judy giggled. “So did you talk with Ingrid?”
“Yes, I did,” Cari said as she put her book down. “She seems to be settling in quickly down in Tigerland. Her roommate sounds like she’s rather overawed at sharing with a princess, but I’m sure they will work it out.”
“So what other news?”
“Not much. Jo was getting ready to go out on a team run when I phoned, Annie was plotting a pop quiz for her freshman class…”
“Ouch! Poor kids!”
“Judith went to sleep almost as soon as I tucked her in, everyone seems to be getting back into the routine very quickly.”
“So what are you reading?”
“Wilson’s book on the Holy Roman Empire, required reading for my class in German History.”
“Aren’t you being conscientious?”
“I guess, but visiting Furstenheim this summer made me realize how much I don’t know, and yes that includes the small part my family plays in this history.”
“Well I personally think knowing people mentioned are your ancestors makes it all very relevant.”
“I guess it does.”
“Harriet it’s bed time.” Grace said as she brought her friend her cocoa.
“Oh sorry…Good Lord is it that late?” she glanced at her watch.
“Yes it is…” Grace glanced at the sheets of music in front of Harriet. “What are you doing?”
“Working out an arrangement of Blue Moon to use the talents of the girls. Just writing up the parts.”
“Well I can’t read music so I cannot tell you if this is good or bad.” Grace picked up a sheet of paper, “but I do know you have a sophomore chemistry class to teach first thing, and that you need some sleep.”
“I know. I know.” Harriet stood up, took off her glasses, and stretched. “You know Grace, this move is maybe the best thing I ever did, and maybe that we all did. We were getting stuck in a rut at Downwood, new challenges are certainly rejuvenating me.”
“I agree – think I should send the Doctor a thank you gift?”
“Nah – let’s just make a success of this…”
Tuesday 1st September
“Good morning girls,” Harriet said as she came in, her new lab coat matching her jumper as she looked round the room.
“Good morning Mrs. Craig,” Jeannie and the others replied in unison.
“Okay class,” she said as she looked at the girls, “let’s start with some elementary chemistry. In what three states can all matter be found?”
“Gas, Liquid, and Solid.” Anna said as her hand shot up.
“And the primary factor determining what state matter is found in is?”
“Temperature.” Anna again replied
“Anna,” Harriet said with a smile, “it might be nice to let some of the others reply…”
“Oh we are used to it Miss.” Jeannie smiled cheekily. “We just let Doc do all the work for us.”
“Well it would be good for my morale if I knew at least some of the rest of you knew some chemistry as well.” Harriet smiled at the class as they laughed.
“Now what is the substance we most frequently encounter in all three forms?”
“Water.” Ama answered as Doc held her hand down. “We see it as ice, a solid, water. A liquid, and steam, a gas.”
“That’s a good answer Ama, and it’s in reference to water that we have made most of our temperature scales…Can you explain Chuyo?” Harriet pointed at a student.
“Well on the Celsius scale water freezes at zero degrees, and boils at one hundred.”
“And on the Fahrenheit scale?”
“Water freezes at 32 degrees, and becomes gaseous at 212 degrees.” Nikki answered.
“Good, you do seem to know some basics. Well this week we are going to design experiments to test at what temperatures other substances pass from solid to liquid to gas. And no this time you can participate as well Anna.” Harriet smiled.
“What substances will we look at Mrs. Craig?”
“Very good question – you may choose two from the list I am passing round now to design experiments for, or to discuss why we cannot do an experiment here.”
As she handed the list round, she said “As well as this set of experiments, we will try to answer the question of what are the chemical properties that cause substances to behave differently to each other."
“Sugar? Can you get a sugar gas?”
“Consider the problem, and then explain why not. Split into groups of four for this – you have forty minutes to choose your substances and prepare your ideas.”
“Miss, will pressure play a part in this?”
“Only to find the right answers,” Harriet said as she looked at Anna.
Eventually, Harriet said “right – each team, give me one substance and what you plan to do?”
“We’re going to take sugar,” Chuyo said as she looked at her friends, “find out when it goes from solid to liquid, but the question becomes why it never seems to evaporate.”
“The boiling point is far too high?”
Harriet nodded as she said “What about your group Anna?”
“We wondered about alcohol – why does it seem to evaporate at a lower temperature than water?”
“And you know this because?”
“Cooking,” Pepsi said, “when mum cooks with wine, the alcohol burns off before the liquid.”
“Now that is an exceedingly good question,” Harriet said with a smile. “Here’s a different one – we discussed earlier the fact that at room temperature, water is liquid, correct?”
The room nodded as Harriet picked up some chalk. “Now, the chemical formula for water is?”
“H2O” Ama said as Harriet wrote it on the board.
“Correct – and in essence, it is Hydrogen and Oxygen – which are gas at room temperature. So if they are gases, why is water a liquid?”
“Oooohhhh,” Doc said, “you’re talking about covalent bonds.”
Harriet looked at the young girl and said “explain.”
“When Hydrogen and Oxygen combine to form water, the atoms bind together by sharing electrons, and making a more stable compound. Temperature causes the atoms to separate, but if it is a covalent – a stable bond, then it needs a higher temperature to break the bonds.”
Harriet leaned against the bench and looked at Doc as the other girls looked round. “Very good, Anna,” she eventually said, “but I think the rest of the class need to play catch up. So, for the next class, I want you to discover the chemical formulae for the substances you have picked, work out the elements involved in the substance, and consider why there may be differences between the individual items and the substance.”
“Can I have that in English please, Mrs. Craig,” Nikki said.
“Find out what elements are in sugar if you picked that, compare and contrast.” As the bell rang, Harriet said “I want your reports on my desk in a week, next class we look at your experiment plans.”
“Coffee,” Sarah said as Harriet came into the teacher’s lounge,
“Oh yes,” Harriet said as she sat down, “for I have seen the future, and it has scared the hell out of me.”
“Let me guess,” Sarah said, “you have encountered the phenomenon that is Anna Carlton.”
Harriet slowly nodded as she took the mug. “She quoted the theory of covalent bonds as if it was nothing. That’s senior level science, and she gets it?”
“Is that fresh coffee,” Annie said as she came in.
“Yeah – Annie, what about Anna Carlton…?”
“Scares the hell out of you, doesn’t she?”
“How is she in maths?”
“You know you’ll call it math eventually,” Annie said, “but she’s a sophomore doing AP level classes. In all my time here, only one other pupil did that – Abby de Ros.”
“Really? I did not know Abby was that bright.”
“Oh she is – but Anna is off the scale. Even things like English she regards as a challenge – how was she with Chaucer?”
“It made her think,” Sarah said.
“Well, she’s got me thinking as well,” Harriet said as she sipped her coffee. “I’ll need to find something to challenge her as well…”
The Huntingdown Apartment
Juliette looked up as she heard a knock on the front door of her apartment. Putting her book down, she walked over and looked through the spy hole, smiling as she opened it and let Susan in.
“Hi Juliette,” she said as she came in, “I hope I’m not intruding.”
“Of course not – Klaus is out at the moment anyway at a meeting. Can I get you a coffee?”
“I would love one, if it’s not too much trouble?”
“Of course not – we’re going out with John and Shirley later, but I don’t need to get ready for a little while. Come on through.”
The two women went through to the kitchen, Susan sitting at the breakfast bar while Juliette put the machine on.
“It must be quiet here again with Cari and Judith back at Yale?”
“It is a bit, and with Ingrid down at Princeton as well – but it means I get to do some other things. Here.”
“Thanks,” Susan said as she took the mug.
“So to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit Susan?”
“To be honest,” Susan said as she held her mug, “I have an itch that needs to be scratched.”
“Oh?” Juliette lifted a sculpted eyebrow.
“Without Marina and Kylie, or my Mum and Aunt Maeve, life is looking pretty routine. I have Clint and April, I have my work, I’m enjoying my course at NYU, but it’s all just a bit too routine and dull…”
“You are looking for some excitement?”
“Well I have nothing directly in the works, just some vague ideas.”
“Damn! I was hoping you maybe had something ready to go.”
“Boston has made us extremely hot again, I was rather thinking of letting the heat die down a while.”
“Oh well it was just an idea.” Susan sipped her coffee.
“Of course,” Juliette said quietly, “does it matter to you that it is a Pussycat job?”
“I suppose not…Why?”
“Well, Shirley’s action in New Jersey showed there is still good money to be made in an old-fashioned direct hit on a bank.”
“So use George’s brain to find a target, and then put yourself together a crew. I’m sure Shirley will not mind, after how I hear she felt after Princeton she might even join you, and I’m sure you can find recruits in both groupings.”
“It’s a thought, It’s a real thought.” Susan concentrated hard as she finished her drink.
“After all, things don’t have to be dull when the family are away, do they?”
“April, do you want to check this arrangement for the Brookes delivery?”
April Broadhurst walked over and looked at the bouquets, her hands in the pockets of her brocade waistcoat.
“Looks good – let’s get them over to the hotel,” she said as the door to Greenwich Florists opened, and Janice Carter came in, wearing a black trouser suit and white blouse.
“Hi Jan.” April hugged the FBI woman as she came to the counter. “What can I do for you?”
“Well other than a bunch of flowers to decorate my home, I was going to ask what are the plans for Pepsi’s Sweet Sixteen?”
“Well, I was waiting to talk to you if truth be told.”
“Does Grant still not know?”
April looked at Jan, her arms folded over her jumper, and said “Do your mother and Adam?”
“Good point.” Janice paused for thought. “I know Nicola wants me involved in her life, but this really is about what you and she want, you are the real mother and daughter in this.”
“You are forgetting Jack plays a role in her life as well Jan. We told him when she’s 16 they can start dating openly you know?”
“Well okay - I take it the young lord will be flying over?”
“It’s going to be a surprise, he’s told her he’s too busy with his work up at Cambridge to come.”
“Oh I bet she liked hearing that?”
“Not overly,” April said with a smile, “but what are you going to do?”
“So what are you guys buying her?”
“Well,” April said quietly, “I’ve saved enough from my landscaping commissions, and with Grant’s share of Saintz’s winnings we’ve scraped together enough to buy her a little car.”
“Is New York ready for one of the girls in her group with her license and her own wheels?” Janice laughed.
“I think this is a case of light the blue touch paper and stand well back,” April said with a smile. “So do you want to chip in and contribute to giving her a party to remember Jan?”
“I do.” Jan smiled as she said, “I got a bonus dividend from my investment in Huntingdown’s, and I’ve put a part of that away for just this.”
“Alright, then the questions become what sort of party and where?”
“Has she given any hints?”
“She has been talking about a club night somewhere – perhaps we can book a place out for the night?”
“I can make some enquiries, and you ask some questions – we can work it out between us, I’m sure,” Jan said with a smile. “Listen – can you ask her to come round to my place tomorrow night? Tell her I want to offer her something.”
“Sure – she’s actually eating at home tonight, for once.”
“That was a beautiful evening.” John smiled as he hung Shirley and Juliette’s coats in the closet.
“Oh it was, that was an amazing production.” Juliette smiled contentedly as she removed her long black gloves, and sat in one of Shirley’s Second Empire armchairs.
“Brandy everyone?” Shirley offered as she too removed her opera gloves.
“Please.” Klaus and John responded together.
“I know The Rite of Spring is not Stravinsky’s most melodic score,” Juliette said, “but as Shirley was saying earlier it was a magnificently danced production.”
“That it was.” Klaus smiled as Shirley passed him his drink. “And it’s lovely to have such good friends to double date with at such an event.”
“It’s so much better than going on my own.” Juliette agreed as she sipped her drink.
“I was remembering while we watched,” John said as he sat on the couch, “that at its first production Rite of Spring was considered far too avant garde by most people, and the costumes and dancing almost obscene.”
“Didn’t the first night in Paris end in a riot?” Klaus asked.
“Yes, and then the critics proceeded to fight out the merits of it in the press for weeks.” Ju nodded.
“Can you dream of any ballet being taken that seriously today?” Shirley asked.
“Probably not, and while I will sound like a snob, I think the world is a little poorer for that.” John observed.
“The twentieth century was an era where culture passed into the hands of businessmen.” Klaus reflected.
“Are you quoting me again darling?” Juliette smiled.
“Well,” Klaus said with a smile, “it is an apt line.”
“I agree,” Shirley spoke seriously, “we saw things dumbed down to fit the tastes of the majority. And while I do love popular music, I do sometimes think that as a whole we gave up an awful lot in the name of commercialism.”
“Not least in fashion…”
“True John.” Ju nodded.
“As I’ve been researching this tribute shoot I really have come to see that the fifties were the last great outpouring of couture taste.”
“Oh I certainly agree.” Shirley smiled. “You know you were right my love, we probably would sound horribly snobbish to most people.”
“Or at the very least totally elitist.” Klaus added.
“On the other hand, is it so wrong to appreciate fine art, fine music, fine company?”
“No – it’s the best thing possible,” Shirley said as she sat down, and sipped her drink.
Wednesday 2nd September
3 pm local time
“My thanks,” Louise said with a bow as she took the formal gown from the assistant.
“A dresser will be with you shortly, my lady,” she said as she bowed and stepped away, Louise stripping and donning the main part of the formal gown.
“Allow me, madame,” a familiar voice said, Louise smiling as Natalya wound the sash round her body.
“There,” she said as Louise turned round, “fancy meeting you here.”
“We had no choice. He’s not letting us out even for a moment unescorted.” Louise looked at her reflection in the mirror. “The apartment is beginning to resemble a prison, the only reason we are allowed out today is he wants us both to wear kimonos to help entertain some bigwig tomorrow night.”
“I got your hint about meeting you here as you talked to him.” Natalya replied.
“Well, I sort of figured the ladies changing room might be the only place we could perhaps talk safely.”
“It was a good thought,” Natalya said as she stood back, watching Louise as she turned round.
“So do you think he will like me in this?”
“You look great,” Natalya smiled, “I wish I looked that amazing.”
“Thank you, I’ll take that as a compliment.” Louise giggled. “So what do I need know ahead of this meeting?”
“It’s an attempt at peace talks. We think a couple of the senior Chinese bosses are coming to Tokyo, and both sides are going to hammer out their grievances.”
“And the chances of success…?”
“Are minimal if we have anything to do with it.”
“Do I need a bullet proof obi?”
Natalya smiled and said “If you do, it won’t be us doing the shooting.”
“I’ll keep my handbag close, and find a place to dive for cover.”
“Tamiko is arranging another raid on one of their drug fronts. The news should break just about as the meeting is starting.”
“The one a few days ago really rattled him.”
“We will also arrange,” Natalya said, “that he gets a message that the Chinese have been cheating him on the accounting for the gold, from his man in Mogola.”
“That will not make him happy.”
“At the same time, Chinese prosecutors will be serving warrants to look at records regarding the movement of certain Peoples Army assets. I hear their source was a disgruntled Japanese…”
“Oh that is wicked.” Louise laughed aloud, “I think I better definitely see if this comes in Kevlar then.”
“You are a very brave woman,” Natalya said as she helped Louise to disrobe, “I pray you find a place to serve when this is done.”
“Oh I hope so too,” Louise said as she donned her dress again.
Midnight local time
The South Africa/Mogola border
The Leader looked over as the party emerged from the bush, walking over to embrace the women.
“I was able to talk with them through the fence as you guessed I could. They are prepared to proceed with Operation Spanner.”
“They know the risks they will be taking?” the Leader asked.
“They are old women, they told me death was preferable to living any longer inside that hell hole.”
“You told them to be careful?” Green asked.
“I told them just to do little things, a few minutes delay here, an hour or two there while a machine is fixed. I told them that any little act of sabotage inside helps delay them and gives us time to gather our strength out here.”
Leader smiled as she said “So we might see an actual spanner in the works?”
“Who knows?” Marigold smiled, “but at least the old ladies are able to move around more than anyone else and can perhaps do these things.”
“Let us hope the Orientals do not get what is happening quickly.”
“Well,” Marigold said after she had drunk from a canteen, “did I miss any news while I was talking?”
“The Little Mother radioed with a task we will need local help with. She wants us to clear an area in the jungle that can function as a helicopter base.”
“That will need a lot of people.” Marigold nodded. “I will ask The Oracle to find us workers prepared to help clear the forest and bush away.”
“Good, can you get to her and back this night?”
“I can try.” Marigold nodded.
“And that is all we can ask.” The Leader smiled. “Green detail a four to escort Marigold please.”
“Will do,” the section leader nodded.
7 am local time
“Firefront to Little Mother, Firefront to Little Mother, do you hear me?”
The Leader stood by the radio as she listened, and then heard, “Firefront, this is Little Mother. Is the Leader there?”
“Present for morning briefing, Little Mother.”
“So how is it going Leader?” Charlotte asked from Johannesburg.
“Not bad, locals are just coming out of the jungle like magic, and we have started felling the trees, and clearing the undergrowth.”
“How long will it take?”
“We think it will take a minimum of four days Little Mother.”
“Okay - Teacher thinks she may have some more students ready for you by then.”
“We really could do with something to tell us when their helicopters are nearby you know, the advance warning from the two hilltops between us and their compound barely gave us enough time to get everyone under cover earlier.”
“I know…It’s a very huge problem we are trying to work out Leader.”
“I also hate to raise the question, but do they also have satellites?”
“They did, but we have neutralized that threat…”
“I am not even going to ask how you did that.” The Zulu princess laughed to herself.
“Did our little teacher manage to communicate with those inside successfully?”
“She did, they are willing to try. My admiration for their bravery knows no bounds.”
“I agree Leader,” Charlotte said quietly, “they are maybe even braver then our fighters in that they carry no guns in this battle.”
“I will call again in four hours with an update on what we can do about the helicopters, but just be very thorough in your patrolling, that advance fire base is crucial to our strategy.”
“Understood Little Mother…Leader out.”
Ending the call, Charlotte thought for a moment, and then retuned the radio.
8.30 am local time
The Training Compound
“Liz? Liz, wait up a minute.”
“What is it?” Liz said as she stood up from the group she was showing tactics to.
do ya know how to play with SAM's?" Sunburst asked as she hustled across the base as fast as
her prosthetic leg allowed.
the basics, the theory at least. We covered them during my junior leaders course...Why?"
firebase, they keep getting looked at by enemy choppers. Charlotte is looking
forward to a time they need to be bloody well taken out."
said Poison I know the theory, but it really is a specialist thing." Liz
shook her head. "If we are going to deploy that sort of thing we need an
we can get here?"
female, you've noticed a lot of the ladies aint exactly thrilled at the pilots
“Fair Dinks I did,” Sunburst said with a smile.
"Hmmm?...let me think...Shit Poison you don't ask easy questions
do you?" Liz squatted for a second.
come to mind?"
was a New Zealand army captain who was seconded to us for a while...I'm trying
to think of her damn name...Mackie...No it was MacKay...Shelby Mackay, she's a
where in the world is she to be found Liz?" Helga joined the conversation.
there is sunshine and big waves Teacher, I heard she
retired and joined the pro surfing tour."
she come if asked?" Sunburst asked.
"Alright I'll ask Charlotte to locate and approach her." Teacher nodded.
1.30 pm local time
Pretoria, South Africa.
“Your meal, sir,” the waiter said as he put the red snapper in front of John Vosloo, the intelligence officer casually dressed as he sat opposite Charlotte in the quiet restaurant. The redheaded woman was wearing a blue sundress and white shoes, smiling as she poured the wine.
“So how was New York Uncle John?”
“If I wasn’t pretty sure you’d not already had daily reports Charlotte,” John said as he raised his glass, “I might give you an answer.”
“That obvious eh?”
“Yes…your boss is a very superior kind of lady.”
“That she is Uncle John. She’s a very supportive one too.”
“Can I ask,” he said as she put some of the fish on a fork, “is she the big boss?”
“She’s one of them,” Charlotte said, “but to say there is a boss implies a far more organized structure then actually exists.”
“Are you being coy Charlotte?”
“No, I’m actually being truthful.” Charlotte ate a piece of her steak. “What exists is a network of women in places where they think they can do good and help. Cops, Spies, Bureaucrats…”
“A few.” Charlotte smiled. “Some of our work needs serious funding and we can’t just go to a government like you do and ask for money.”
“So you have people steal it.”
“That’s one way of looking at it. I prefer to say liberate funds that would have gone to further this evil.”
“How deep do you penetrate Charlotte? An honest answer please.”
“We have connections deep enough to help operationally, but not to influence policy.”
“Okay I think I get that. You are fire fighters then as we used to call ourselves back home?”
“Yes, unfortunately that is all we can do - fight fires as they break out. One day though maybe we can seriously change hearts and minds. When that happens we can all go back to just doing our ordinary jobs.”
“But until then?”
“Until then, the Sisters watch, they learn, and they strike where they can. And those who can support their work. Uncle John, you have nothing to fear from us, I promise you.”
“The lovable goofball that he is, he plays an important part in his way, but he follows our hints. He has no other active role.”
“And you prefer it that way.” John wiped his chin, and said “you know he’s still madly in love with you?”
“Might be a two way thing,” Charlotte said with a smile, “some day, they might even meet in the middle.”
“But not yet?”
“Not formally no.”
“So what are you doing for the rest of the day?”
“Believe it or not,” Charlotte said with a smile, “I’m heading to Durban. There’s someone there I need to see…”
5 pm local time
“We’re fast approaching the final of this afternoon’s competition, ladies and gentlemen, out on the water at the moment, the current leader of the ladies competition, Shelby Mackay!”
The crowd watched as the tall dark haired woman went further out, paddling on her board, waiting for the right moment. From the road running along the beachfront, Charlotte watched through her binoculars, as Shelby found a wave, she liked the look of, and crouched on the board.
“Looks like she’s found one she likes… And yes, Mackay is on her way!”
The crowd cheered and clapped as they watched the surfer ride the wave, moving through it with ease and grace, maneuvering her way under and along the wave front, the images appearing on large screens and the commentator described the action.
“And that is a stellar performance by Shelby,” the commentator said as the surfer came to the beach, waving as the crowd applauded. “It’s very hard to see how anyone can catch her now…”
“Hey Shelby – fantastic run,” the tall blonde said as she held her hand out.
“Thanks, Daize,” Shelby said as they clasped hands, “You had a good one yourself.”
“Not like yours – this one’s in the bag for you.”
As the fellow surfer want to talk to Malia Jones, Shelby finished drying her hair and put the towel in her bag.
“Hi – Shelby Mackay?”
Looking up from her seat, she saw a redheaded woman standing in front of her, casually dressed in shorts and a blouse.
“You’ve got me at a disadvantage, Miss…”
“Gordon – Charlotte Gordon. I’m sorry to appear without any forewarning, but I need some help, and a mutual friend suggested you may be able to help me.”
“Oh? Well, unless it has something to do with professional surfing…”
“I truly wish it did, but no – this is a different professional matter.”
Shelby looked again at Charlotte, and said “You never mentioned the mutual friend’s name.”
“No I didn’t. It’s Liz – Elizabeth Egwegwe.”
Shelby stood up, looking at Charlotte before she said “Liz? In that case, perhaps you can buy me dinner – I haven’t decided where I’m going to eat yet.”
“Tell you what – collect your winner’s trophy, and then meet me at this restaurant,” Charlotte said as she passed Shelby a piece of paper. “I’ll see you there.”
An hour later, Charlotte looked over from the bar as Shelby came in, now wearing a white sundress and high heels.
“Shelby – thanks for coming,” Charlotte said as the tall Kiwi joined her.
“Well, it was an intriguing invite,” Shelby said quietly. “I haven’t seen Liz in a while – I was going to meet up with her here, but when I called I was told she had resigned her commission, and gone walkabout or something.”
“Or something is the correct answer,” Charlotte said as a waitress came over.
“Your table is ready, Miss.”
“Thank you,” Charlotte said as the two women walked to a table in a corner of the restaurant.
“So,” Shelby said as she looked at the menu, “where do you know Liz from?”
“Actually, I only met her a few weeks ago – her former commanding officer, John Vosloo though is a family friend. I count her as a friend now though. I’ll have the swordfish please.”
“Steak,” Shelby said, waiting until the waitress left before she said in a low voice “you say Liz is doing something. What exactly?”
“Shelby,” Charlotte said, “I have a story to tell. If, after you hear it, you wish to walk, I understand, but allow me to tell it.”
“Okay, now you’ve got me interested.” Shelby said as she sipped her wine.
“You heard about the slave girl scandal in New York last year?”
“Yeah – followed it, whoever helped that story break and took down that cartel deserved a medal.”
Charlotte smiled as she said “Have you heard of the Sisters of Maisha?”
“Rumours – a group unaligned to any country or government. I hear they had something to do with freeing a bunch of enslaved workers a while back.”
“Well, Liz has joined them,” Charlotte said.
“And you know this because?”
Charlotte smiled as the waitress brought their meals, cutting into the swordfish as she said “The sisterhood is very real, Shelby – I play a role in the group as well, and right now that role is to give you a message.”
“From Liz and Sunburst McRae.”
“Sunburst? So that’s where she ended up – I heard she had just up and disappeared some day.” Shelby cut into her steak and said “so this is about my other professional skills.”
“It is – we are currently dealing with a very serious situation in Southern Mogola. The people there are being forced to strip mine for gold – or else are being sold into slavery. But the people who are doing this have some heavy weaponry – including armed helicopters.”
Shelby put her knife and fork down, and slowly chewed her steak as she looked at Charlotte. “If the Sisters are there, what are they fighting?”
“A guerilla war – but the people I work with are planning a major offensive to end this on all fronts. For the Sisters to play their part, however, they need someone who can deal with the helicopters.”
“In a permanent way?”
Charlotte nodded as Shelby cut another slice of steak. “So, let me see if I have this right. You represent a group of freedom fighters, effectively; who are trying to bring down some heavily armed opposition with helicopters? Why?”
“Because all of them have gone through hell at the hands of others, and never want it to happen again. Shelby, they need your help – will you come?”
“If I come, what will I have?”
“Tell me what you need – it will go with you.”
“Care to tell me how you can get ahold of SAMs?”
“A gift from a concerned citizen – but they need to know how to use them.”
Shelby put her knife and fork down, and wiped her chin. “Liz asked for me?”
“Oh well – I have a few weeks off anyway. All right – I’m in. When am I going?”
“As soon as you can. Come with me to Joburg – and we’ll get you the rest of the way.”
“When’s the last flight?”
“Eleven tonight – how long do you need?”
“Half an hour to grab my bag, talk to someone about watching my boards, and check out.”
“Good,” Charlotte said as she stood up, “I’ll brief you on the way.”
Jo was chatting with the students from her English Lit class, sitting on the green when her mobile phone went off. Looking at the caller ID, she smiled and said “excuse me a moment,” before she walked a short distance away.
“Hey Abby – how’s the alma mater?”
“All quiet so far – I’ve got a free period, so I’m helping Annie with prep for the first training session. How’s the academic life?”
“I can’t complain so far – Coach Waterman seems happy enough with what I did over the summer at any rate. So when are you visiting a certain McNally?”
“Judy? No plans…”
“You know what I mean, Abigail.”
“I know,” Abby giggled, “but he’s coming down this weekend. Angel’s parents are visiting, so they and Mom are laying out the timetable for next year, while we go out with Angel. I hear the tickets have been bought for Judy’s recital?”
“Oh yes – three line whip in place for that one. So what are you up to now?”
“Informal study group – we need to pick a book we’re going to do an in depth study on for English Lit.”
“Sounds like you at least get some choice – I heard Doc and the others discussing Chaucer and how to understand the original prose.”
“True – I need to get back to it though. You talking to Cari later?”
“I’ll get her on line at eleven – three way chat?”
“Sounds good – I’ll see you both then.”
Ending the call, she went back and said “Right – what am I bid for some Trollope?”
West Central Park
“Katy, would you see who is at the door please,” Jan called out.
“Sure mom,” Katy said as she came out of her room, adjusting her top as she opened the door to the apartment, seeing the teenage blonde in her jacket, jumper and jeans.
“Hi Pepsi.” Katy said as she stood with her head to one side, smiling.
“Hey Katy.” Pepsi smiled back, “Your Mom asked for me to drop over.”
“She did?” Katy said as she took the visitor’s jacket. “Mom, Gran, Pepsi is here.”
“We are in the kitchen.” Janice shouted back. “Come through.”
“Looking forward to your birthday Pepsi?” Katy asked as they walked towards the kitchen.
“Not as much as I was…Jack can’t come over, his college work is keeping him in England.”
“Oh that sucks!”
“Tell me about it.” Pepsi rolled her eyes.
“You know a few weeks ago I’d have probably said ‘Yuck’ at you having a boy at your party.”
“I know you grew up a lot over the summer,” Pepsi said, “and in more ways than one. You know you are nearly as big up top as I am?”
“I’m the biggest girl in my class currently.” Katy said with more than a touch of pride.
“And the only one with a boyfriend?”
“Pretty much.” Katy giggled. “Come on in.”
“Hey Pepsi.” Katherine greeted the newcomer.
“Hi.” Nikki said as she kissed the older lady on the cheek.
“Have a seat Pepsi,” Jan said, “there’s something I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Sure – what is it Janice?” Pepsi said as Kathleen worked on the stove.
“Pepsi,” Janice said as she sat opposite her, “I know you do drivers ed at school, but your Mom has asked me to take you out for a few lessons…will that be okay with you?”
“Lessons from a racing driver? You need to ask?” Pepsi grinned.
“Well how about Saturday and Sunday? We don’t have a race, and I know a great place near where I grew up to go learn.”
“Sounds Dolls to me!”
“Listen, while you are here do you want to have supper with us?” Katherine asked.
“That sounds good…and makes a change from me freeloading at Ama’s place…”
“Yes I heard you tend to eat out a lot.” Jan smiled.
“Let me call home and let Mom know,” Pepsi said as she took her cell phone out. Katherine looked at her, Katy and Janice, shaking her head as she tasted the food.
“When you’ve done that,” Katy said, “can I ask your advice about make-up and things?”
“My advice? Abby or Jeannie would be better,” Pepsi said with a grin.
“I know – but I want your advice.”
“All right – let me make this call and we’ll go to your room.”
“You have got to be joking,” the male voice said from the speaker phone as Shirley sat with Susan.
“General, in the years we have known each other, have you ever, ever known me to joke?”
“Madame,” the voice said, “what you ask for - that might not be the easiest thing even for The Pentagon to mislay…let alone to mislay it in South Central Africa?”
“General,” Shirley said in her deep melodious voice, “I’m sure that if anyone can lose such high tech stuff it’s you…It was, after all, mislaying those warheads crossing Germany that led you to approach my organization originally.”
“Which debt I have cleared off…”
“Oh General, General - I suspect your superiors even now would take a pretty dim view of those events.”
“This is blackmail Madame.”
“Yes it is,” Shirley said with a smile, “but if those things aren’t delivered to where I specified within 36 hours, a complete dossier will find itself on the desk of the Chief of Staff.”
“I wish I’d never come to you fuckin’ bitches…”
“Ah but you did General…Thirty Six hours remember.”
“Go to hell…”
“The clock is ticking.” Shirley hung up.
“He may be a decorated war hero, Susan, but at heart his loyalty is to himself. Please tell Charlotte to tell the Training Base to expect a shipment of radar equipment and air defence missiles within the next 36 hours.”
“Yes Madame.” Susan stood up and left smiling.
Picking up the phone, Shirley dialed a number, waiting before saying “Maisha? I am heading home now – I think some Bolognese tonight…”
“Everyone had enough?” Katherine asked as they all sat round the kitchen table finishing their meal.
“If I have any more of that stew I’ll burst.” Pepsi laughed. “You have to teach my Mom how to do that?”
“I did many years ago Nicola.” Katherine smiled as she collected the plates.
“How did you teach Mrs. Broadhurst Gran?” asked Katy as Janice sat, the colour paling from her face.
“But you said you taught my Mom, Mrs...?” Pepsi suddenly looked stunned as she realized what Katherine was saying, and then slowly turned her head to look at Janice.
“When… When did you guess Mother?” Jan said quietly.
“At Christmas.” Katherine sat at the end of the table, looking at all three of them, before she said “you know you said your locket didn’t open, I thought I’d try and see if I could do it…”
“And you saw both pictures?”
“Yes,” Katherine said as she sat back.
“What both pictures?” Katy asked.
“You better tell her darling,” Katherine stood up and walked behind Pepsi, as she said, “I think it’s about time she really met her sister.”
“My sister? What are you talking about?”
Janice looked at Katy, swallowing as she said “Katy, there’s something I need to tell you. When I was not much older than you, I – I had a really bad experience, when some men…”
“Mom? Did the men hurt you?”
“Yes, they did,” Janice said quietly, “and they also left me expecting a baby. But I was too young to look after a baby, and when she was born, she was given up to be adopted.”
“Gran? Is this true?”
“It is, Katy darling,” Katherine said, “and believe me, it was the hardest thing me or your mother have ever done. It was impossible for her to stay, however – all we could hope for was that she was adopted by a couple who love her as much as we wished we could have.”
“It’s all right Janice,” Katherine said with a smile, “I know how much you hurt that day, and I never really agreed with your father’s decision.”
She put her hand on Janice’s shoulder as Katy looked at her mom and grandmother. “So I really do have a big sister?”
“Yeah, you do Katy,” Pepsi said quietly, “and I was adopted by some very loving and caring parents. I’m sorry if you think I or your mom lied to you, but…”
“I know you never lied to me mom,” Katy said as she stood up, walked over and hugged Jan, her mother putting her arms round her. “I know you and Gran love me more than anything, and I can’t imagine how much what happened hurt you, but two good things came out of it.”
“Two good things?”
“A mom who loves me more than anything – and my big sister,” Katy said as she went and hugged Pepsi. “Does this mean I can ask you for advice on anything?”
“Well, I’m not sure about that,” Pepsi said as she hugged Katy, tears in her eyes, “but I will look after you if I can.”
Jan put her hand on her mother’s as she watched, a tear flowing down her own cheek.
I call you Gran now?" Pepsi asked Katherine.
private you can Kimberley." Katherine smiled "and now you want to
know how I know that name don't you?"
"Kimberley?" Katy looked bemused.
“That’s what Janice called me before I was taken for adoption,” Pepsi said, “but how did you know?”
“When your mother came home from the hospital,” Katherine said, “she wrote a letter saying what she wanted for her daughter.”
“I did,” Janice said, “but I threw that letter away in anger.”
“I know – I found it and read it, and kept it. I could never turn the clock back on what we did, and on what caused it, but I swore on that to be there for you no matter what.”
“Did... Did Dad ever see it?”
“No – you weren’t exactly complimentary about him, were you?”
“I was angry,” Jan said quietly.
Pepsi said as she looked at the young girl, “you know that me being your sister
is a secret, you can't even tell George and Sandy"
could get in trouble if they knew that my adoption records had been looked
understand, I'm not a baby still you know?"
"I know you aren't." Pepsi hugged the younger girl.
“Jan,” Katherine said quietly, “at some point, you need to tell Adam.”
“I know, but not yet – Grant still doesn’t know Pepsi knows.” She then turned and said “you’re not mad at me, are you mom?”
“No, of course not – I knew some day you would track her down. I just never thought it would be someone so close.”
“Neither did I – but I’m glad I know now,” Janice said as she watched her two daughters talking.
Geneva, William Smith
“Hey there,” Jo said as she sat with her laptop, the headset on as she looked at Carina and Abigail.
“Hey yourself,” Abby said from one of the windows, “where’s your roommate?”
“Went out with some girls from one of her classes – I get the feeling she’s enjoying her new found freedom.”
“So how is life upstate Jo?” Carina asked.
“Tough…” Jo shook her head. “I never thought I’d say I miss Central Park, but Coach Waterman has a favourite hill to have us run up, and it’s a killer!”
“I’ll pass that along to Annie.” Abigail laughed.
“They place a lot more emphasis on cross country here, then we did at St Angela’s. Not so much indoors track.”
“Hence why she has you running up that hill.” Carina smiled.
“I guess so…Anyway how are things in New Haven?”
“Routine…I’m just waiting for Judy to get home from rehearsal.”
“I’m actually looking forward to the concert a lot.” Abby spoke.
“Well I know Jude can’t wait for it to be over so she and David can have a normal social life again.”
“I can imagine that Cari,” Abby said as she stretched her arms up.
“Talking of social events did you get an okay from the Tennant on your Eve Stone idea Abs?” asked Jo.
“Yeah, the first Saturday in October, Eve has said that’s fine, and we have a few surprise guests coming.”
“Like Twiggy, and Lauren Hutton, and a few other celebrities Jo.”
“Wow they do know Eve will be telling stories that might include them?” asked Carina.
“They’ve been warned, and it sounds like they are all prepared to be good sports.” Abby laughed.
“Well tell Annie to get she and me some tickets before they sell out.”
“Will do Cari.”
“By the way, and changing the topic, did you hear Penny and Helen are now a couple?”
“No shit Jo?”
“So Jeans was telling me when she rang, and she got it from Kylie.”
“Well good for them.” Carina grinned. “They are two lovely people.”
“Why did Jeans phone you Jo?” Abby asked.
“She wanted my advice about some snobby bitch called Poppy Ashley…”
“Oh that!” Abby rolled her eyes. “That little bitch is more trouble than she’s worth.”
“Jeannie is that bad…”
“No Poppy is Carina. The kid is a total snob.”
“Jeans was saying a lot of people were wishing I was still there to show her the error of her ways.”
“That’s for sure Jo.”
“And I’m sorry Abs I forgot about you having a little thing with Penny...I Shouldn’t have said anything.”
“What gave me away?”
“The look on your face…I just texted Jo to tell her to apologise.”
“I’m okay Cari, I have Tony, but I guess Penny also had a little bit of my heart. But I really do wish she and Helen all the best…sincerely.”
“So how are the new teachers – met any of them yet Abby?”
“Nope – apart from Grace. I was in her office today to discuss the Debs season, and when I won’t be in school.”
“How’s that shaping up?”
“Half of January gone, a bit of the end of November – I’ll know more after this weekend.”
“Oh yes – the grand conference. Valeria, Mandy and your mother on the same room.”
“I am SO glad I’m taking Angel out with Tony. I hear Guy and Uncle Willy are also offering Will relief.”
“Well, Curt is taking me on the lake this weekend, and then I have the joys of a math assignment to complete.”
“Could be worse – could be raining.”
“Cari, if you weren’t several miles away, you’d be so getting the pillow about now…”
Thursday 3rd September
8 pm local time
Louise and Victoria bowed as Yoshimi walked in, smartly dressed as he bowed in return. Both women had their hair in the traditional style on their heads, and pale make up, as he smiled at both of them.
“Magnificent,” he said, “you make the finest of hostesses tonight.”
Both girls bowed as one of his men came in and whispered into his ear.
“It would appear our guests have arrived, Yoshimi said with a smile, “do as I have asked, and hopefully we can put this unpleasantness behind us.”
The two girls smiled and bowed as they made their way to the door, waiting until there was a knock and the guard opened it.
“Yashimi-San welcomes you to his humble abode,” Louise said as she and Victoria lowered their heads, “and bids you enter.”
“Thank you,” the Chinese diplomat said as he too stood to one side, and Xia Feng himself entered, dressed in a silk suit and light blue shirt.
“If you will follow me,” Victoria said with her head still bowed, “we have refreshment for you and your assistant.”
“Most kind,” Feng said as they walked into the main room of the apartment, unaware they were been watched.
“So that is Xia Feng,” Natalya said as she sat with Tamiko, Jill and Niki. “It is always good to see the face of the enemy.”
“So what happens now,” Jill asked.
“As before, formalities,” they said as they watched Louise kneel and offer sake to the two guests. Taking out a cell phone, she dialed a number and simply said “Go.”
“How long until he finds out?”
“It will take a little while, but let us see how the other information we have planted flavors the discussion…”
“Honorable Xia Feng,” Yoshimi said as he entered the room, “I am glad that you chose to visit me on this night.”
“The honor is mine,” the Chinese diplomat said as he stood. “It appears there has been some – unfortunate events recently, and I wish to express my regret that we have all been hurt by them.”
“So you were not responsible for the attack on my girls?”
“A lieutenant who overstepped his authority,” Feng said quietly, “he has been reprimanded most severely.”
“I trust it was painful,” Yoshimi said as Louise and Victoria stood respectfully to one side.
“Indeed – and ultimately, fatal. What of the incident in Hong Kong?”
“A similar situation,” Yoshimi said as he looked at the two men in the room with him. “The person responsible has been eliminated, as have all those who served him.”
“As it should be,” Feng said quietly. “We have a very profitable arrangement, Yoshimi – I hope we can rebuild the trust we had in each other.”
“As do…” Yoshimi stopped as one of the men whispered in his ear. “Forgive me a moment,” he said as he stood up, “I need to deal with an urgent matter which has arisen.”
As he left, the other Chinese diplomat took out his cell phone, and looked at a message, before he showed it to Xia Feng. The Chinese official frowned, and then whispered to the other man.
“Well, Feng will have just discovered that his activities are under investigation,” Natalya said, “and I am prepared to bet Yoshimi has just discovered the message from Mogola. I wonder who will snap first?”
“We’re about to find out,” Tamiko said as Yoshimi came back in.
“Honorable Xia Feng,” the Japanese man said, “I have heard from my contact in Mogola that certain accounting errors have come to light. Would you happen to know what may have happened?”
“Several million less than the mining yields would suggest have been placed in my accounts.”
Xia Feng looked up, and then at his official, before he stood and said “is that why you have informed the Council of my country that assets of the People’s Army have been misappropriated?”
“I have not done this…”
“And I have not reneged on any part of our agreement…”
The two men stared at each other as Louise and Victoria looked down, Louise discretely holding her companion’s hand.
“WHAT,” Yoshimi said angrily as he turned round.
“Forgive the interruption, but it had happened again.”
“The store in the Western district – it has just been hit.”
“By the same group?”
The associate nodded as Yoshimi glared at Xia Feng. “Is there an explanation for this, honorable Xia Feng?”
The Chinese official stared at him, before he said “I was promised safe passage in and out, Yoshimi-san – may I take advantage of that now?”
Yoshimi nodded to the two men, who stood either side of the two Chinese men.
“I am a man of my word – unlike you. Leave – I must consider what has happened here.”
“As must I,” Feng said as the two men bowed, and left the room – Yoshimi watching as the two guards left. Louise and Victoria looked up as he took them by the arm.
“Come ladies,” he said as he led them to the bedroom, “I would ease the tension with you.”
As he led them to the bedroom, he closed the door, the four women watching as his two men returned, carrying swords with bloodstains on them.
“I think war has just been declared,” Tamiko said quietly, the other three nodding in agreement.
The Brewster Brownstone
“So how is the research and training going love?” John asked his granddaughter as they sat having breakfast.
“Pretty well Granddad.” Jeannie ate some toast, and said “I’ve been swapping ideas with Stephen, and I think we have come up with a plan.”
“I hope it doesn’t involve a lot of balancing.” Barbara asked as she poured her father another cup of tea.
“Very little mum, so stop worrying. It’s obvious I can’t do anything like that famous Dovima and the Elephants picture…”
“But pictures like the one of her sitting at a table with the Afghan hound sitting next to her, well I can certainly sit upright.”
“That’s true Babs, no danger there.” John sipped his tea.
“Richard Avedon liked his models to extend their arms out…Like this.” Jeannie posed. “And he liked a lot of over the shoulder looks.” She showed the pose.
“Well you can’t hurt yourself doing that.” Barbara looked somewhat relieved.
“Will you relax Mum – he’s not the Maestro after all. Grace gets that pleasure.”
“Even so… Oh Christ is that the time? I’ll be late for work.” Barbara grabbed her toast and cup of tea, and ran out of the kitchen.
“And when are you planning to tell her about some of the other poses I heard you and Stephen talking about?” John asked quietly.
“At the actual shoot, what Mum doesn’t know, can’t hurt me.” Jeannie giggled.
“Hey Abby, she’s in the back.” They heard Barbara shout as she rushed out the front door.
“Hey BS,” Abby said as she came in, “ready to roll?”
“In a minute – I need to grab something from the front room first,” Jeannie said as she wheeled herself in.
“So how are the arrangements coming with Stephen?”
“Well, from what I can tell – although I think Barbara may need something after the shoot.”
“What’s she planning now?”
“Not to be late for school,” Jeannie said quietly. “Let’s roll.”
The assembly hall
Grace sat on the stage as she looked at the six Freshmen who had been sent by the home room leaders.
“Thank you all for volunteering,” she said quietly, “as you know, each year we have a dance for the Freshmen, but as I’m as new here as you are, I’m going to need some help with setting things up.”
“I’d be delighted to help, Mrs Brand,” Poppy Ashley said as she gave her sweetest smile, Dawn and Lynn shaking their heads as they looked at each other.
“Well, this has to be a group decision, and I expect you all to come to a consensus,” Grace said quietly. “So if you are willing to come to a joint decision, good. If not, then this is not the place to voice those issues. So, first things first – a theme?”
“I was wondering about a dress theme – perhaps we can…”
“I think it should be a chance to show how fashionable we are,” Poppy said, cutting Lynn completely off. “After all, this is the fashion centre of the world.”
“I think Paris and London may have something to say about that,” Lynn said quietly.
“And you would know that because?”
“Because I have lived in both cities,” Lynn said, “and besides, Mrs Brand herself may have something to say on the subject.”
“Setting that aside for the moment,” Grace said quietly, “In principle, do you like the idea of a fashion dance?”
The girls looked at each other and nodded as Grace sat back. “Good – now, let’s discuss the date…”
Poppy turned and smiled sweetly at Lynn, who smiled back.
“What are you thinking,” Dawn whispered quietly.
“Wondering what she is thinking,” Lynn whispered back.
8 pm local time
The Training Compound
“Okay – they’re under cover now,” Sunburst said as she and Liz joined Helga in the main lodge. “How the hell they arranged delivery I don’t know, but the men said they had been paid.”
“Where are they now?”
“Gone – these are US Ordinance, so our backer must have pulled some heavy duty strings.”
“We still need someone to show our troops how to use them tho…”
Liz was interrupted as one of the students came in.
“Apologies Teacher but a car approaches – you will want to come and meet it.”
The three women looked at each other before Helga led the way out, watching as the pick-up truck came to a halt just inside the compound. The trainees surrounded it, bearing arms as Helga stepped forward – and then broke into a broad grin as the redhead got out from behind the driver’s wheel.
“Rejoice, sisters,” she called out, “we are highly honoured. Little Mother has come to visit.”
The murmur went round the group as Charlotte said “Greetings – I come from the Heart and the Strength, to see how training progresses, and to consult with Teacher and your other instructors. Your efforts have not gone unnoticed.”
The group started to break into song as she embraced Helga, Sunburst and Liz.
“What are you doing here,” Liz said as she looked at Charlotte.
“I was told you needed someone in a hurry – and the easiest way to get her here was to drive her myself from the airstrip,” Charlotte said as the tall, dark haired woman got out of the other side.
“Liz? Liz, is that you?”
“It most certainly is, Shelby,” Liz said as she embraced the Kiwi, “my thanks for answering the call so readily.”
“Charlotte told me of what you and the others have been doing – Are you sure you wouldn’t rather stick to rugby?”
“We’d wipe your bottoms every time.”
“And we’d deal with both of ye easily,” Sunburst said as she stepped forward. “Captain MacKay – an honour.”
“The Honour is mine, Captain McRae,” Shelby said as they shook hands. “So, what exactly is this place?”
“Our training camp,” Helga said as she shook Shelby’s hand.
“Helga is known as Teacher – she ensures the Sisters are fully trained,” Charlotte said. “Did they arrive?”
“Two hours ago – we’ve got them under cover, but you must be parched. Come – Poison was about to serve supper.”
“Ignore the yabbo,” Sunburst said with a grin, “come and eat.”
An hour later, with plates cleared, Liz, Helga, Sunburst and Shelby were looking over the items on the desk.
“Okay I think I get the lay of the land.” Shelby said as she looked closely at the satellite images and the maps.
“Can you create an air defense screen round the firebase then?” Helga asked.
“With what your anonymous donor has given you, oh I think so,” the New Zealander looked through a magnifying glass. “How the hell did the other side get so much stuff in there without anyone noticing though?”
“That’s a question for others to sort out Shelby.” Charlotte nodded. “Let’s just say we know how, and between the Leader’s group and some other help, we’re dealing with that.”
“I can see why this base is so important,” Shelby said as she stretched, “supplying the troops currently must be a nightmare.”
“It’s certainly not easy.” Liz looked up from her coffee. “But we have some help now, once we have the prep done. With luck, you and the equipment can be on the first run.”
“Alright, well in the morning I’ll start unpacking equipment, and checking it is in working order.” Shelby paused. “Your donors did supply enough portable generators didn’t they?”
“You tell us. I’m sure that Pretoria can let us have them if we need extra.” Liz spoke again.
“Well, you run a tight ship here,” Shelby said as she looked round, “and all women?”
“With the exception of Xan – and the students love him.”
“We’ll introduce him later – for now, you need rest. I have a spare billet for both of you.”
“Hey – they get a bed and I built my own shelter?”
“It’s out the back of my hut,” Helga said, “under the stars.”
Friday 4th September
11 am local time
Helen was going through her morning workout when she saw the door open. Stopping, she grabbed a towel and watched.
“Do you fancy a couple of days in Tokyo Helen?” Catherine asked as she came into the room Helen used as a dance room.
“Work or pleasure?”
“Work I’m afraid,” Catherine said with a smile.
“My work is my pleasure Mistress.” Helen bowed formally.
“It’s an extraction, we need to get our person inside Yoshimi’s apartment out, but we need it to look like she and her colleague have been kidnapped.”
“That will require more than this humble servant to be achieved successfully.”
“I realize that Helen,” Catherine said quietly, “I’ll send Marina with you, but Kylie has school…”
“But you’ve worked with Natalya before.”
“I have, and it will be nice to renew our acquaintance.”
“I hoped it would. She will provide all you need in addition to your usual supplies.”
“May this unworthy one ask when she is required to leave?”
“Your flight is in two hours time.”
“I will go pack.” Helen bowed and backed out of the room. Catherine smiled as she took out her cell phone.
“Marina? Report to the house – I have an assignment for you.”